After you’ve learned the basic elements of Dota 2, such as the items, hero abilities and so on, the next step is to learn how each role is supposed to be played, in order for you to be effective within your team.
These roles are almost a given and they’re similar to what you see in other team-based sports. For example, you wouldn’t play as the goalkeeper in football (soccer) and then leave your post every time an attacking opportunity arises. Otherwise, your teammates would assume that you’re simply trolling them or don’t understand how the game works.
Every position has its own set of requirements, in the sense that there are specific things expected of you during the game and specific qualities you must possess for doing well at playing the role. Both the actions involved in playing each position, as well as the qualities that you must develop to thrive at it, will be presented in this guide. You should expect to achieve a much better understanding of what you’re supposed to do in every given role as a result of reading this. And the lower your current MMR, the greater the results that you’ll experience immediately after gaining the knowledge that I’m about to give you. Players who have a significantly higher MMR than you, also have a significantly better understanding of the game. And that includes the principles and ideas presented in this guide.
Table of contents
- Carry (or Hard Carry)
- Mid (Ganker or Semi-Carry)
- Position 4 Support (Roamer)
- Position 5 Support (Babysitter)
Carry (or Hard Carry)
The Carry position is well suited for people who have a thorough understanding of farm efficiency, item choices, timings, power spikes, hero matchups and team-fighting. It’s a very difficult role to play and constitutes a double-edged sword: succeed at it and your chances of winning are much higher, fail at it and you’re almost guaranteed to doom your entire team.
Dota 2 players tend to hate their Carry because a lot of times, he doesn’t do a very good job but insists on playing the role at the start of the game. So keep in mind that if you go for the Carry role, people will expect you to make a lot of good decisions and actually carry them to a victory.
Playing well from the Carry position requires you to have at the minimum the following qualities:
- Good communication skills: this is essential because you constantly need to coordinate with your team and let them know what they need to do to set you up for success. This is true not only in the start of the game, when you are usually helpless and totally dependent on your supports to give you an easy lane to farm on, but also throughout the match.
- Patience: the last thing you want to do as a carry is to fight needlessly or go head-first into every battle without any kind of setup from your initiators. You’re supposed to be the main farmer and damage dealer in your team, so making either of these mistakes will often lead to defeat. In the first case, because you will fall back in farm. And in the second case, because you’ll become the focal point of the enemy team’s hero abilities and die at the start of every fight.
As a Carry, your team expects you to farm creeps whenever there’s no need for you to fight along with them in order to attain or defend a goal such as a Tower, a set of Barracks, Roshan and so on. You’re the main investment of the lineup, which means you’re being given farm priority and protection in the early game, so that you can become as strong as possible, as fast as possible, and outfarm the enemy cores. In turn, this allows you to impose your own rhythm on the game and dictate where fights take place and around which objectives.
If you play the Carry role, you have a responsibility to know when you need to fight and when you need to farm. And then you should absolutely know how to do both properly and invest your gold in the right items. Any mistake that you make will translate into a big disadvantage for your team.
Among the most common heroes being played in the Carry role these days are Spectre, Phantom Assassin, Slark, Gyrocopter and Juggernaut. There are many others of course, and what you choose is often a matter of personal style. However, keep in mind that some heroes are very weak against others and that based on the game meta, some are at a disadvantage right from the start, regardless of matchups.
The main thing to remember is that a naturally strong hero will be much stronger in the right hands. So playing one or two or even three heroes over and over until you’ve mastered them is much wiser than playing 20 heroes at a poor level.
Best players to learn from
Some of the best Carry players in the game are Arteezy, Nicha, Miracle, ana, RAMZES666 and Ace.
Mid (Ganker or Semi-Carry)
The Mid position is the most intensive role in the game from a mechanical perspective. Especially in the laning phase, when you need to block the first wave of creeps and then approach the mid-lane battle the with an excellent understanding of what you need to do in order to get as many last hits and denies as possible, harass your opponent or at least, don’t get harassed out of the lane. Not to mention the ganks that often come your way and require you to constantly keep an eye on the minimap.
As the Mid of the team, you’re expected to win your lane (in other words, have more networth than your opponent at the 7-10 minute mark) and then help your team in making plays, killing enemy heroes and taking objectives around the map. You shouldn’t do this more than your hero allows you of course, but you shouldn’t assume that you are the carry in most cases. Your team needs to be active, push out lanes and participate in the action as often as possible. Otherwise the other team will constantly pressure your carry and your towers. In Dota 2, in order for one player to have the space in which he can farm, others have to create that space and keep the enemy team busy.
This is a mechanically intensive role, as every last hit, deny or act of aggression against the enemy hero in the mid-lane creates a constant need to make decisions in the blink of an eye. So one thing that you certainly need as a Mid player is a healthy APM (actions per minute) and excellent micro-decision making. All of this can be developed of course and there’s a huge difference between strong players and average ones. It may not be visible for the untrained eye, but the battle for creeps in the mid-lane is very technical during the laning phase.
Another key quality that you must have is awareness. This is not easy to develop however, simply because your mind is constantly occupied with taking all of those small decisions mentioned previously. So in the midst of that, keeping an eye on the minimap and figuring out when you might get ganked is quite challenging.
The responsibilities you have as a Mid player are varied. But they mostly revolve around pushing out the lanes, assisting your team in claiming or defending objectives, and making space for your carry. So you’re a part-time farmer and part-time ganker.
As the Mid-laner of your team, you are expected to put pressure and partly carry the game. You may not be given the number 1 farm priority during the game, but you’re still expected to be one of the most farmed heroes on your team. If you play the role properly, you will often be the most farmed hero during the majority of each game and secretly, the real carry of the team.
There are dozens of different heroes that can be played in the mid-lane. And each of them has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. If you want a solid ganker, get a Queen of Pain or a Shadow Fiend. If you want a hero that’s difficult to kill after the first 5-10 minutes of the game, get a Storm Spirit, an Ember Spirit or a Dragon Knight. If you want something that farms really fast, get a Templar Assassin or an Outworld Devourer. The options are very numerous and it’s all a matter of personal skill, preference and the needs of the matchup. For example, picking an Invoker into a Broodmother or a Visage is not the best idea, unless you’re incredibly good at playing him.
Best players to learn from
Some of the best Mid players in the game are Miracle, No[o]ne, SumaiL, Sumiya and Topson.
As an Offlaner, you’re the abandoned cause during the early game and the initiator, sustainer and space creator during the rest of the game. Of course, being an abandoned cause doesn’t mean you won’t get any help, but it does mean that your supports will leave you to your own devices most of the time. And that’s because they need to prioritize your Carry’s farm and then the Mid’s. You come 3rd in the hierarchy and that means you’re almost always on your own.
Playing as an Offlaner is more than often a grueling experience. Doing it properly requires you to have an immense amount of patience and mental fortitude. And that’s because the role will feel like torture during the first 3-5 minutes of the game. You will fall behind and have a feeling that you’re becoming useless. Sometimes you will get killed repeatedly and forced out of the lane. All of this beat down can make people fall into despair, a feeling of helplessness and so on.
What you need to do as an Offlaner is look for ways to get as much as you can out of your lane without getting killed. If you can at least get some levels and a few last hits here and there, you’ve pretty much done your job as long as the enemy supports are kept busy. You should cause enough chaos so that the Position 4 and Position 5 Supports from the other team must stay with their Carry and prevent you from ruining his early game. In turn, that gives your Mid and your Carry easier and more predictable lanes. But if you rush to the jungle and abandon your lane immediately after you encounter challenges, these 2 supports will give their carry solo experience in the lane and will start to roam around the map, putting pressure on your other 2 cores.
In the early game, your main responsibility is to get levels and be annoying. Think of a Tidehunter or a Bristleback who’s always in the enemy carry’s face, obstructing his ability to farm, keeping his supports occupied and making space for the other two lanes, so that they may be won.
Later on, you will want to farm when you can and what you can, use your gold to buy sustainability items (such as Crimson Guard, Pipe of Insight, Vladmir’s Offering, Mana Boots, Guardian Greaves and so on) and initiation items (Blink Dagger and Force Staff) for your team, and play the role of the initiator during fights. You’re also supposed to be the tank of the team in most cases, in the sense that you should actively seek to force the enemy lineup to unload their crowd control abilities and most of their damage on you. The last thing you want to do is to stay back, play like a coward and let your Carry, Mid or supports to absorb the damage. If you do that, you will lose key members of your lineup early on into every team fight, and then stand no chance of winning it because there’s nobody left to do damage, stun, slow and so on.
As the Offlaner, you should think of yourself as the real hero of the team and be ready to die for the cause whenever fights break out. It’s much better if you get killed than to lose your Carry or Mid. They need to survive as often as possible and grow stronger with every battle. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should jump right in regardless of the situation. It simply means that you should play with more courage than the rest of your lineup.
The most common heroes being played in the Offlane (also known as the Hard Lane) are those who are very durable or mobile right from the start of the game. You are usually asked to fight in a 1 v 2 or even a 1 v 3 situation, so you’d better pick something that can match multiple heroes, survive their harassment and still get enough experience and farm to grow stronger as the game progresses. Examples of heroes that are perfect for this role are Tidehunter, Timbersaw, Legion Commander, Dark Seer, Underlord, Faceless Void, Weaver (sometimes), Lone Druid, Phoenix and Bristleback. Whatever you pick, be prepared to be left alone for the majority of the laning phase. A good Offlaner is one that is self-sufficient.
Best players to learn from
Among the best players to learn from when it comes to playing as Offlaner are UNiVeRsE, AdmiralBulldog, MinD_ContRoL and iceiceice.
Position 4 Support (Roamer)
In the early game, the Position 4 Support, also known as the Ganker or Roamer, has a very simple but often quite challenging mission: to anticipate where the enemy team will put pressure and prepare with a counter-initiation or, to identify weak spots and help create kills in those spots. Very often, a Roamer will make his presence felt in the mid-lane and safe-lane (his own) and hit there as often as possible when the enemy team doesn’t expect.
The most important quality for this role is patience. Coupled with an excellent map awareness and the ability to read what your opponents are trying to do, you can figure out where the strength of his pieces (heroes) will be and where you need to be in order to make sure that your lanes can withstand the pressure or, even better, that the enemy lanes collapse under yours.
What you need to do is similar to what the Offlaner needs to do: create space for your cores. But the way in which you do this has to lead to kills or other advantages. At the very worst, you must be there for your Mid and Carry when they themselves get ganked, and have a way of protecting them.
Another thing that you should do is known as rune control. Every time a power rune spawns, you should be there and at least check to see what it is. Even if you can’t pick it up yourself or secure it for your Mid, knowing that it’s an Invisibility rune or a Double Damage rune can often prevent the loss of one or more team members. At the same time, it can allow you to secure a kill if you pick it up.
The Position 4 Support buys some of the utility items for the teams, such as Observer Wards and Sentry Wards, but only when required by the Position 5 Support and the rest of the team. From this role, you should aim to become a semi-core as the game progresses, and prioritize your ability to roam successfully to the detriment of spending essential gold on consumables.
Some of the most common heroes that are played as Position 4 Support are the following: Earth Spirit, Earth Shaker, Elder Titan, Bane, Pudge, Undying and Wind Ranger. There are many others of course, so it’s entirely up to you.
Best players to learn from
Some of the best players to learn from when it comes to this role are GH from Team Liquid, RodjER from Virtus.pro and YapzOr from Team Secret.
Position 5 Support (Babysitter)
In spite of seeming to be the least impactful role of the five, Position 5 Support is just as essential as the rest and at the highest level of Dota 2, team captains always play this role. The reason is simple: since it’s less intensive in terms of mechanics, it allows you to take a much deeper look at the game and figure out the big picture: what needs to be done to succeed? Captains always think about the macro elements or the overall strategy. They are the ones who do most of the communication within the team, and guide people along the way. Without this guidance, instead of having a cohesive and synchronized lineup, you have 5 players doing completely random things on the map. And the results are often disastrous.
The qualities you need to play this role are quite sophisticated and difficult to develop: selflessness, the ability to communicate with your team and make them listen to you, the ability to read the game and strategize for success, the ability to call the shots in key situations and so on. All of these are traits of a good Position 5 Support and a good captain.
Initially, you will be tasked with buying most of the wards and consumables in general. And your main objective for the first 5-10 minutes of the game will be to babysit your carry, pull creeps and make sure that everything goes well on your safe lane. Give your carry as much solo experience as possible, but don’t go too far away. Because you never know when you’ll be needed.
Examples of heroes being played in this role are Dazzle, Witch Doctor, Shadow Shaman, Rubick and others.
Best players to learn from
The best players to learn from when it comes to this role are the captains of the best teams in the world: Puppey from Team Secret, Fly from Evil Geniuses, ppd from Ninjas in Pyjamas, Solo from Virtus.pro, KuroKy from Team Liquid and so on.
Dota 2 is team based game and also a role based game. Understanding your role within your team and playing it to perfection will inevitably lead to improved results and a much better win rate. If you want to become a better Dota 2 player, don’t try to master everything at once. Play one or two roles that are connected to each other in some way (such as Mid and Carry or Position 4 and Position 5 support). And in those roles, play 3-5 heroes until you’ve mastered them. If you want to increase your MMR, this is the surest path to success.
GOSU.AI is grateful to Radu Muresan for this article!
March 14, 2019
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