The significance of supports in the later stages of the game has been increasing steadily over the years. Despite that, many players are too accustomed to their sacrificial role in the game and it prevents them from having an impact and winning their games. Today we would like to have a look at three different supports who have a respectable winrate, but are still often misused in pubs.
Crystal Maiden is an iconic Dota 2 support, yet she isn’t particularly popular currently. There are no good reasons for it, other than that the hero feels kind of sluggish and her impact is not immediately apparent in lane or throughout the game.
Her global Arcane Aura is definitely a far cry from what it used to be back in the day in terms of team sustain, but for Crystal Maiden herself it is still almost as good as it was. That naturally led to a playstyle that is slightly more egoistical, but the one that is considerably more successful in both high level pubs and the professional scene.
The amount of damage and slow the hero provides should not be underestimated. Crystal Nova might not be the most powerful of nukes in the game, but it is on a relatively short cooldown and the utility from it is close to unparalleled. 50% movement slow and 50 attack speed slow for 4.5 with a respectable range can heavily impact the outcome of any battle.
To get there and to do it when it matters, before the enemies get their BKBs, Crystal Maiden typically needs to prioritize maxing out Crystal Nova. Not only does it increase her outpush potential in lane, once your carry goes jungling, but it also allows her to be stronger in teamfights, which are still incredibly important in the new patch. Crystal Maiden in a high level game should generally go for a 4-1-2-1 build by level eight.
In the later stages of the game the hero also gets surprisingly tanky: the level 15 talent that gives all your teammates +8% magic resistance is not flashy, but it is very effective. It also gets tripled on Crystal Maiden herself, which raises her overall magic resistance to roughly 40%. This magic resistance and the bonus armor from her ultimate make her a deceptively hard to focus down target.
While Crystal Maiden is played more or less the same in pubs and the professional scene, we feel like Ogre Magi really needs to be adapted to pub realities better. Bloodlust is an amazing skill and it helps both in teamfights and during calm farming periods, but Ignite is currently close to overpowered.
Patch 7.23 changed Ignite so that it no longer refreshes the duration on multiple casts, but rather extends it. That means a lucky Ignite in the late game can deal close to a 1000 damage. But even during the midgame, the slow, the damage, and the psychological factor make it a worthy skill to max out. Especially if you are going for an Ignite talent at level 10.
Sure, most professional players still tend to go 4-0-4-1 build by level nine, for maximum burst damage and maximum farm efficiency, but in pubs, which typically last longer and aren’t as coordinated, being a bit greedier definitely pays off. 1-4-1-1 by level seven makes a lot more sense in most games, where you aren’t as confident in your teammates and will need to do a fair share of damage yourself.
Warlock is completely absent from the professional scene and isn’t particularly good in high level pubs either, but he is a very strong support in lower level brackets, if skilled correctly. Warlock isn’t a healer past the laning stage, he is 100% a teamfight hero and one that has a very high potential.
Golem is nice, but it is Fatal Bonds that make the hero so good in games where you can reasonably expect your enemy to make positioning mistakes and stack up. That is any pub game, really, except for maybe top-5000 lobbies. Fatal Bonds should be maxed out, Shadow Word shouldn’t be skilled past level two and Upheaval should be maxed out second.
If you look at the actual numbers on Shadow Word, it becomes clear why it is less of a priority past level two: the skill gets 120 extra damage/heal per level and while the move from 180 to 300 is significant, the move from 300 to 420 is decidedly less so. You aren’t killing anyone with this spell and since it is a pretty slow heal, you are unlikely to save a teammate with it either. It is a lane sustain tool and a heal for in-between fights.
Fatal Bonds, on the other hand, scales incredibly well. It is a 4% increase at each level, but it also scales with the amount of HP the enemies have and the overall damage output of your team, which tends to rise as the game progresses. Taking the Fatal Bonds talent at level 10 is also typically worth it, since it is more or less an extra level of the ability, but the +150 cast range is also pretty good
Finally, by skipping extra points in Shadow Word, you also get access to one of the most annoying and demoralizing slows in the game. Upheaval starts out slow, but once it gets going, most heroes without a BKB simply can’t fight, period. It might not work against something like Anti-Mage or Storm Spirit, but heroes like Wraith King or even Troll Warlord are completely neutered by it and it becomes trivial to kite them.
Hero skill and item builds are always an interesting topic to discuss: there is rarely a 100% catch-all correct answer and even the builds we discussed today might be a wrong decision in some particular games. At the same time, when playing default Dota, they work better than most other builds, at least in pubs.
What are your thoughts on the topic and do you have any insights into what heroes community still skills up incorrectly in your opinion?