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Supports 101, a guide from A-Z
By bad player
This guide aims to cover all the basics for a new player to familiarise themselves as a typical Support in a MM/Pub environment. It covers item choices, timings, what to do during all phases of the game, and some easy to use supports that are aimed at all new players or players wishing to realign their thoughts with what a support does.
Firstly I want to clarify that supports carry games. No, you did not read that wrong. My aim is to prove this point. You WILL be underappreciated and abused at some point in your career, disregard them and know that you are the cornerstone for your teams victory. A good support leads to a good carry. Do not forget this.
What is a support hero?
A support hero is generally one that is incredibly strong early on in the game, does not require farm(gold from killing creeps) to perform their role in the team, usually does not require a great deal of levels to be of use and brings alot of flexibility and sustenance to the team which holds them. I’ll use Venomancer(Veno)[] as a typical safe lane support that fulfils all of these points.

If you are unfamiliar with Venomancer or his abilities please review them here[]

Here we can see that Venomancer is:
  • Incredibly strong early on in the game – 2 slows as well as extremely strong harassment, sets up ganks well, which free up space for your carry.
  • Doesn’t require farm – Venomancer uses his abilities to bring things to the table, a Venomancer at level 7 with half a magic wand, some wards and maybe some boots is still super useful.
  • Flexibility – A Veno can lane with any other hero, or even by himself, as a solo. He can be the ward ♥♥♥♥♥, or the mek rush, he can even be played as a semi carry. He can tri-lane or roam, he can even jungle if he HAS to, even as a pusher. This allows “lane dependant” (No hero is lane dependant) heroes such as Invoker, Tinker, Anti-Mage, Nightstalker or Windrunner to jump into that spot, or if there is no suitable laner, he can get into there, such as a solo mid Veno.
  • Sustenance – A lane support veno is absolutely superb in protecting your farm dependant uber carry. Firstly, he can constantly throw out poison wards in the fog below/above your safe lane. This allows the carry to go out a little more and not be afraid, securing vital farm. Secondly, if the carry does get jumped on, he can attack a hero or two to get an easy 11% slow in addition to the gale to slow the pursuers down to a crawl, and perhaps initiate a counter gank. Lastly, as a ranged hero with an inbuilt DoT he can get out a lot of harass onto an enemy hero forcing them back, he can then use his wards in lane to get out a quick right click onto an enemy using their clarities or salves to make them head all the way back to base. A veno played well, will open up so much room for your carry. All of these reasons will allow your carry to be sustainable in lane allowing them to get more exp and gold.

So, what does that all mean?

“A support, in theory, should be able to utilise the strengths of their hero early on to secure an excellent early game presence to allow the mid game to go more favourably for their team”

I’ve been focusing a lot on the early game here and rightly so, as the early game is when Supports should be playing their best, and really focusing on timings and lanes.
What should you do in the early game as a support hero?
  • BUY 1 SET OF WARDS[] AT THE START FOR AT LEAST ONE RUNE, OH GOD – This helps your bottle mid hero SO much, unbelievably much, indescribably. Seriously, we’ve all died to the mid TA or Tinker or Storm Spirit that gets every rune and ganks side lanes like a champ and wrecks your day. 9/10 times, that mid that destroyed you had wards to check every rune. You can use the other ward high ground ward on mid, a defensive/offensive jungle, the other rune or to ward the pull spot. Keep in mind the courier is likely more important. So if you already have a courier get wards. If you already have a courier and wards, upgrade the courier, if somehow all of that is done, get the other set of wards. A typical safe-lane support item build should be something similar to this:


    Iron Branches[] and Clarities[] are interchangeable

  • It is your job to gank mid, not mid’s job to gank side lanes – Your mid will likely be a level dependant mid game carry such as Invoker or Nyx Assassin. So will the enemies mid. As a support YOU should be the one making the most sacrifice for the team, spend 100g on some smoke[](Used to avoid the enemy teams wards) and secure yourself a kill on mid, this will open up a bunch of space for your mid hero, net you some oh-so-rare gold and exp and allows you to buy more support items. Also you will feel good for helping out your team! This will then allow your mid hero to come out of mid at around 15mins and wreck up the sidelanes allowing your late game carry to finish farming and make sure the enemy team has no fun.


  • Try to hold onto a TP[], if you can afford it – This is important as if your mid or hard lane hero gets dived on, you can tp in and turn a gank completely around, you must be particularly aware of other lanes.


  • Keep your timings in check – Timings of importance are as follows:
    X:53 – Where X is any minute of the game. This is the time to attack the pull camp and run off to the side to stack them. You should always stack before you pull, unless you’re pulling a pack of wolves.

    X:16 / X:46 – Where X is any minute of the game. These are the times to pull the neutrals into the lane creeps, this is a pretty important way of getting xp as a support.

    5:30 – The wards you bought at the start(You did buy them, right?) and placed down will be going down soon, replacement time.

    ~Y:55 – Where Y is any UNEVEN minute. After stacking/pulling you should go and check/guard the rune if both mid players are going for it. This is especially important for the 6 minute rune, as your wards may be down for a few moments while you replace them (You bought new ones, yeah?)

    5:45 – The first night time, this is an excellent time to smoke gank, or just gank normally, both sets of wards will be down for either team(if they were placed before the 0:00 mark)

    0:00 – Check the rune closest to your lane, your mid hero will need to block and so cannot check, you can use this rune to gank mid/your lane for an easy first blood. Illusion/DD/Haste are particularly useful.

  • Your pull is blocked? Buy sentries – Sentries should be your first item if your pull is blocked, the pull spot is CRITICAL in maintaining creep equilibrium if your carry sucks at denying (Which, lets face it, most do) and netting you some xp. MOST wards are right in the middle of the camp, so throw it a bit out and you should be right. You will learn the other spots people put them as you play the game more. There are other guides for ward spots and you should study them. You can also use the other sentry to counter ward their observer at the rune. Use your poison ward to see uphill.

  • Try to give your carry as much solo xp as possible – This will maximize each persons xp, as you’ll be getting some from the pulls and they’ll be getting it from creeps. After a pull try and jump behind the creep line and backstab the heroes for a bit of harassment. You don’t have to overcommit, just play some mind games and let them know you’re there. A massive part of the laning phase is psychology, try and faze your opponents with aggressive plays.


  • As a support you generally peak early – Use that to your advantage. You should be aggressive with your lane partner, you should be able to kill enemies easily as long as you don’t get too much creep aggro.

  • If you can afford them, get bracers[] – Seriously, they improve your survivability so much, allowing you to spam off your spells in a fight! Best of all they go into the most cost efficient support items ever! Drums[], which are damn good on any hero. +9 All stats, 5 Attack Speed and 5% Movement Speed as well as activation for more speed. For only 1725? Just awesome.

  • Lastly, wards!
What about the mid-game?
At this point in the game you are still a force to be reckoned with, however it is not uncommon to head into this point of the game with only boots and a magic wand, maybe a bracer. At this point in the game your power in waning, make sure you get every last bit of it!

  • More wards! Dust[] if they have an invis hero!
  • Do not underestimate Tranquils[] – These will allow you to be much more sustainable, and require fewer tp’s back to base, best of all, they can be disassembled.
  • Try to get some gold to get your support items – This can be from snagging a few CS/Lash hits(stands for creep stats, means the same as Last Hits) here or there, but mainly its from ganking like a champ. Support items are varied but include but are not limited to:
    Force Staff[]
    Arcane Boots[]
  • Attempt to counterward – Some obvious spots for the wards are around rune spots on the eyes or any other nearby cliffs however you should try and look at your jungle, the uber-wards (The massive cliffs that give you unhindered sight), ancients and their own jungle.
  • Carry TP’s – For counter initiation and pushing lanes!
  • And lastly, gank & push! – Ideally your midgame hero will be ready to go and you guys can start making space for your late game void/spec/am etc. If you push a lane you will force people to come and defend, this is an excellent way of allowing your carry to farm. Try not to overextend this push however and feed kills. At this point it is just allowing your carry to farm. SMOKE GANK THEIR CARRY.
How about late game?
At this point you are being a bit more than a nuisance for the enemy team, your ulti is likely your only big impact in team fights, your late game hero is good to go and you need to start making a push to win! Generally you come into this phase with 1 or 2 support items as well as some advanced boots. If all is going well.

  • Keep track of rosh timer!
  • Wards!
  • Smoke ganks!
  • Buy more support items, if things are going super good get a bigger item such as Scythe of Vyse[] or Orchid[].
  • Keep pushing!
  • Wards!
  • Keep warding and counter warding!
  • Win the game!

Incase you couldn't tell guys - WARDS WIN GAMES
Some supports I would recommend would be:

  • Click on the hero name to go to a brief YouTube video which gives an overview of the hero

So, with all this in mind, does it occur to you that supports are infact carries? I like to call them early game carries. Here’s a super awesome graph I made:

Hopefully this sort of helped you guys, it was more of me collecting my thoughts on supports, I guess I rambled on a bit and I've typed far too long to delete it all. C&C Welcome! Feel free to shoot me a friend request on steam, you can view my DOTABUFF history here[]. Thank you for reading, I hope you learnt something new and had fun doing so. Have a good day.
Commentated Video - Typical Support Game
If you have any feedback at all please leave it below this guide or in the youtube video comments.!
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pordeus Jan 20, 2013 @ 6:09am 
if you are a monkey playing with a good support hero trying to carry, don't blame the guide guy ._.
pordeus Jan 20, 2013 @ 6:08am 
actually, he is saying that venomancer is a good hero without farming too... You really don't need good items to own with him...
Chaosmaster Jan 20, 2013 @ 3:18am 
and modify drums, they dont give 5% atk speed. only 5 fixed value
Chaosmaster Jan 20, 2013 @ 2:25am 
a lot of wrong statements, for example that veno doesnt need moneyz. u will be 1hit monkey without hp items.
The Incredible Mr. Satan Jan 19, 2013 @ 6:11pm 
woha, awesome - this really helps a lot! cant wait to ward :)
[mb add some useful ward locations/link to a ward guide/ make a ward guide)