A few weeks ago, I was approached by a redditor curating a Dota magazine who wanted to see if I was interested in contributing to the inaugural issue of Feeder’s Digest. Witnessing successful efforts towards constructive content creation on /r/dota2 is about as rare as a Team Secret LAN victory, so how could I say no?
I had some archived article ideas I never got around to publishing when I was writing for Team eHug, but most of them didn’t seem to fit the tone of the magazine I’m lazy, so I decided to remaster one of the most popular articles I had written called ‘Making Money as a Support.’ I’m republishing it here for posterity, but you can view the article and the rest of the magazine here. I’m the cover story, ma!
Around two years ago, I wrote a well-received article on how to make money as a support.
That was during the heady days of 6.80 when: TPs cost 135 gold, couriers cost 150 gold and the flying upgrade cost 220, smoke cost 100 gold, wand had a 150 gold recipe, there were no bounty runes, observer and sentry wards didn’t stack, you could uphill miss them, and Pit Lord wasn’t released. Oh wait.
There have been plenty other support oriented changes since then, but the crux of the matter is life has gotten far easier for five positions since those dark days. So I figured, why not remaster that guide to keep up with the times? I also figured I should change the title to be more fitting as a magazine submission.
Many of the tips I gave in the previous article are evergreen, but I have some updated knowledge that I’d like to share with the class.
1. Don’t stare at the cliff when you’re warding
This is how I started off last time and, damn it, I’ll do it again. There have been a massive number of map changes made over the past two years and nearly all of them have yielded cute new ward spots. As a result, the usage of more ‘creative’ warding spots have dropped off a little bit in lower level games since these new cliffs are just too strong not to use.
Oh don't mind me
Never stand in this position when you’re warding. Besides making it blatantly obvious where you’re placing your ward, you’re also setting yourself up for Mirana arrows, Pudge hooks, and plenty of other spells. So how should you be warding? By shift-queuing, of course. Target the ward, then shift+right click somewhere else along the same path. This makes your warding motion practically seamless from normal movement. It seems like a small gesture, but it’s surprisingly effective at masking your warding locations. If you want to step it up a notch, intentionally stare at cliffs and don’t ward them for next level mind jukes.
2. Smoke deceit every day
Smoke is secretly a support’s best friend in lower level games. They’re cheap as duck™ and the stock never gets touched because teams seem to only use them 50 minutes in when they’re two raxes down and want to go for a hail mary. Selfish smokes serve two purposes for supports.
First, they’re sleeper-amazing when putting up wards. You can sneak deep into enemy territory without risking walking into vision under smoke. Super useful when warding behind towers or in enemy jungles. The fact that using items while in smoke doesn’t break the invis is just gravy. If you don’t have the cash to drop on sentry wards to verify that a spot you’re about to ward is free from enemy vision, just smoke over there and place the ward. You can’t guarantee that the area doesn’t already have a sentry there, but the odds of a smoke-placed-ward getting countered are much lower. As you get into higher and higher level games you’ll get better at using smokes with the team as an excuse to place deep wards.
The second perk is the free 15% bonus movespeed for 35 seconds while Concealed. If you have a Drum and you use the active, you get a total of 18%+ movespeed, and that only lasts for 6 seconds. Obviously this is also valuable when warding, but the main reason I love selfishly smoking on supports in the fountain is because when you respawn and want to get back to lane, you should really…
3. Avoid TPing out of the fountain every time
When you TP to a lane early game as a core, you’re thinking, “Can I get ~2 last hits that I wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t TP’d?” When you TP to a lane as a support, you need to think, “
WHY IS THIS BOUNTY HUNTER LITERALLY FOLLOWING ME 24/7 DOESN’T HE HAVE ANYTHING BETTER TO DO WHY IS ORB OF VENOM SLOW SO STRONG Will my team be safe for the next 60 seconds or will I get a kill in this lane in the next 30 seconds?”
As tempting as it can be, supports need to resist the urge to reflexively TP to a tower immediately after respawning. Walking back to lane may take a while, but if there’s no urgent need for your services, you’re better off keeping the cooldown fresh for when you are needed somewhere else.
4. Buy before you die
Last time I wrote this, TP scrolls were 135 gold. 135 gold! Now they’re 50. This kind of currency deflation is going to catch up with the Dota economy eventually, but right now just let the good times roll.
Passive/Periodic gold comes out to 100 unreliable gold every minute. Gold lost on death is 3x your hero level and will only take out of your unreliable gold pool. So unless you’re feeding relentlessly, you probably made at least two TPs worth of gold that will be lost when you die. Make a habit of looking at the bottom of your screen to check your Quick Buy (also make a habit of using Quick Buy) and your gold when you think you’re about to die. If you can’t cash out on a component of an item you need, buy two or three TPs while that Lifestealer is pawing away at you. To me that still feels like a lot of gold since my support instincts were battle hardened in ‘nam 6.7X, but really, that’s less than two minutes of being alive in terms of passive gold.
I also highly recommend supports get familiar with using appended Quick Buy which was introduced in Spring Cleaning 2016. If you Ctrl+Shift click on an item in the shop, it’ll quietly linger on the side of your Quick Buy panel without overwriting anything you put on Quick Buy. Wards, Smoke, Flying Courier, and Tome of Knowledge are all good candidates to shove in there.
Fastest Tome buyer this side of the Mississippi
5. Buy generic
The past few patches have introduced a bevy of knock-off counterparts to old support item standbys. Back in the day, a five position’s first major item was a trail of tears towards one of three items: Force, Eul’s, or Mek. If you were constantly dying on the way to those items, too bad, stack Bracers and sip some juice in the corner. Now, instead of actually really buffing support heroes, IceFrog has taken the complicated route of adding more early game item choices.
Welcome to the Wal-Mart age. Getting blown up by magic nukes or need some mana regen? Buy Infused Raindrops. Cloak used to be the RC Cola to Glimmer Cape’s Coke, but it only really works if you have raw HP to back it up. Sure Cloak leads to bigger items, but those are for supports who aren’t clipping coupons. Want to help push, but can’t afford a Basi for some reason? Blight Stone’s Lesser Corruption works on towers. I wouldn’t ever recommend skipping Boots in place of Wind Lace, but the item still has its place in the early game survivability entourage if you’re against enemies who are easily kited. Lastly, if you’re one of those Phoenix or Ancient Apparition type heroes who dropped 2k on Midas who did literally nothing with the +30 AS, raid your team’s Tomes of Knowledge.
Mango for regen and emergency mana, Faerie Fire for emergency HP, you no longer have to Sisyphus your way to a major item. Buy stopgap items that keep you alive so you can…
6. Stick around for kills
Two years later and players still understand the assist system about as well as they understand AA’s ult tooltip. 6.87c brought some attention to the math, but most people were just like, “Well these numbers are smaller than the other numbers… so it must be… a nerf… to assist gold.” It was. But assists are still the easiest way for supports to earn cash money. These are the mechanics governing assists:
1. Every allied hero within a 1300 radius of a kill will receive a portion of assist gold (and experience).
2. The value of gold awarded for a kill assist is calculated from a very complicated equation that factors:
* Number of assisting heroes in the radius * The dying hero’s level * The dying hero’s net worth * The teams’ net worth differential
3. The scoreboard assist counter will only go up if you did something to the dead hero.
4. The scoreboard assist counter means absolutely nothing other than helping you make your way to the Dotabuff Top 100 Dazzles with padded KDA stats.
When you’re getting ganked and you narrowly escape, don’t run back to base immediately. Besides the possibility that you may be able to toss out one more stun or nuke, you are awarded with reliable gold if the target dies just for standing around. And if you see someone else getting ganked…
7. Rotate early
Many players seem baffled at the concept of using TPs pre-10 minutes for anything besides TPing immediately back to lane after dying. You know what everybody expects? Pudge leaving mid on an even numbered minute. You know what nobody expects? A level 4 Lion showing up out of nowhere even though he was just in a different lane. That’s a free kill. You know what else nobody expects? TP reactions on early tower dives. That’s a free double kill.
With cheap items like Wind Lace, Blight Stone, Orb of Venom, and Mango, early support rotations are more lethal than ever before.
8. Check enemy items often
This is something every role should do, but supports are the first line of defense. You see carry players only really alt-click enemy items after they die discovering them. Support players are supposed to announce these pickups before that happens. Why I think it’s especially important on support players is because you get a lot of information by clicking on enemies at all stages of the game. The most useful application is to track ward usage.
Click on an enemy and see an observer or sentry ward in their inventory? Okay, they haven’t placed it yet. Keep clicking on them every time they exit and re-enter fog. If they suddenly don’t have it anymore, well now things are very obvious.
The other reason is that you can better preempt enemy plans. See a Shadow Amulet in Slark’s inventory? Better buy Dust and Sentries now. See a smoke in a support’s inventory? Be extra cognizant of missing heroes. See 10 stick charges on someone? This guy’s probably going to play aggressive. See a Blink Dagger on… anyone? Back the hell up because squishy supports are the #1 victim of Blink Dagger reveals.
9. Tailor your build
Not only have the past few patches introduced lots of early game items, but the mid/late game repertoire has expanded significantly as well. Here are some support pickups that are roughly around the 2k gold mark: Blink Dagger, Hand of Midas, Aether Lens, Veil of Discord, Ghost Scepter, Drum of Endurance, Force Staff, Glimmer Cape, Mekansm, Vladmir’s Offering.
Now, you’re probably going to build one, maybe two, of these items in any given game. When 6.86 dropped, Aether Lens and Glimmer Cape were the choice seemingly 99% of the time, but 6.87 has since leveled the playing field a bit more. Don’t just build ‘whatever you always build,’ think about what fits the game best. Which team has more physical and magical damage? Is your team more early game or late game oriented? Do you need to play defensive or are you playing offensive?
The 3k gold range is equally decisive: Solar Crest, Eul’s Scepter, Pipe of Insight, Crimson Guard, Rod of Atos, Diffusal Blade. All of these items are useful in a specific context, but none of them are really one-size-fits-all-games.
10. Single pull
Has your relationship with your one position gotten stale? Blow his mind and spice up your sexy laning phase by single pulling the sexy small camp in the first sexy 60 seconds. It’ll drive your carry crazy.