Supports frequently go unnoticed in Dota. It takes a lot of practice and dedication to make flashy, effective plays. Some pro teams give their star support players farm priority, which is rare to find in pubs. With that in mind, we’ll dive into what support heroes work well in the current meta, with some strong enough to be useful regardless of other picks.
Keeper of the Light and Chen are great heroes, if you are a well-coordinated team of professional players who are on the same page from the very beginning and can abuse Chakra Magic in lane and Holy Persuasion in the midgame. Otherwise, they are a liability.
Neither hero wins more than 50% of their games, regardless of the skill bracket. Neither of them is self-sufficient as a support, requiring way above average team coordination and game understanding to be effective. Neither of them is particularly good in lane and neither is a good first pick.
You can make an argument for KotL if you are sure the enemy won’t be able to pick Lifestealer or Juggernaut— Will-O-Wisp is a very powerful teamfight ability, but long cooldown and the ability for the enemy to play around it makes KotL not as appealing as many other supports in the meta.
Io was the pick to leave to the pro-scene as well, but things are changing. Well, technically the hero didn’t get a lot easier to play or change that much, he is just absolutely and utterly overpowered.
Overcharge bonuses pretty much doubled, providing 140 Attack Speed and 30% damage reduction, while Tether now gives extra HP and Mana regen to your ally, regardless of how much Io is getting himself. The hero is broken and right now is the best time to abuse it.
Io starts winning more than 50% of his games only in the 4k+ bracket, but he is the second strongest support in Divine and above this week. He needs getting used to, he needs good understanding of the game and map awareness. He needs two people to be able to coordinate, but it pays off massively.
With an Urn and a Healing Salve on himself the hero can easily provide 120+ HP regen to his ally and that can start happening as soon as minute ten. Nothing will come even remotely close to being able to kill through this much heal, while focusing Io means the enemy will have to ignore the main damage dealing carry who has a +140 AS bonus. Io is not unbeatable, but he is certainly unfair.
Lich and Grimstroke are the most picked supports in the game this week and for a good reason. Frost Shield is still an amazing ability, while Soulbind opens up a lot of interesting plays, while being a great situational counter to melee DPS heroes popular in the meta.
These heroes together make for a truly incredible midgame duo and that probably explains their popularity: players should strongly consider going for the remaining part of the duo, if the enemy opens their draft with either Lich or Grimstroke. They are not unbeatable by any means, but there is simply too much damage, utility and control coming from two supports, even with zero items.
Of the two, we believe Lich to be the priority—mitigating physical damage will always be relevant, even in a 45+ minute game, while Chain Frost is at least psychologically intimidating, frequently forcing the enemy to split even when they don’t really need to. Sinister Gaze is also a lot better, than I initially assumed—zero cast-point can come in incredibly handy against heroes like Slardar, Magnus, Axe and Tide.
Bane is probably among the most boring heroes to play, but he is worth it. He trades better than any other support in the game, has a spell immunity-piercing disable and a pretty niche, but powerful catch and set-up.
The hero is great with or without items and remains relevant throughout the whole game. Just make sure you pick +100 cast range at level 10 and get Aether Lens in a timely manner and you will force the enemy to play 4v5 most of the time.
Of the two, Shadow Shaman is definitely a stronger one. He is better in lane, courtesy of high attack damage and starting stats. He is better at pushing and split-pushing, since he can not only nuke out waves, but also deal significant damage to the enemy structures. He also does more with money and levels and is a better Refresher Shard beneficiary.
It doesn’t mean Lion is bad, but he is certainly riskier. We do believe that in the right game and in the right hands he can be better than Shadow Shaman, providing AoE disable that can turn fights around, but for this to actually come into play you need to have excellent positioning, good reaction time and the ability to predict enemy movement. You also almost definitely need to be a position four support, rather than position five.
Vengeful Spirit is the most successful support in the game this week, winning almost 55% of her games. The hero is decently tanky, has a reliable stun, provides a strong aura and can reduce enemy armor. That makes her decent in lane, with the only thing stopping her from being great is her low starting damage.
The hero also scales very well, courtesy of high stat gain and doesn’t lose her relevance until the end of the game. Her ability to save her allies through Nether Swap comes very handy in games against currently popular Chaos Knight and Lifestealer.
She can allow her DPS carry to survive, turn around the fight and then bolsters the pushing power of her team, even if she herself dies in the middle of the enemy team. We believe the hero is currently underrated and should be picked more often—her game impact is undeniable, regardless of the skill bracket.
10 armor is massive and she does get very tanky during this period. We didn’t think it was going to be enough to propel the hero back into the meta, but we were wrong. In any given teamfight she creates an unignorable threat that requires your team to waste a disable or leave the AoE—until the later stages of the midgame focusing down a support with 15+ armor with physical attacks is going to take more time than most heroes can afford.
While the hero isn’t amazing in lane herself, she does provide a global aura that can change many matchups. Your typical offlaners, mids and position four supports will be able to trade blows more efficiently and use their spells more frequently with at least 60 extra mana every minute. That can make a huge difference in the first 10 minutes of the game, enough to either win lanes that should have been a draw or stabilize lanes that would be lost otherwise.
First pick support meta looks a lot more open right now, with new additions on top of the still viable staples of the previous patch. There are still heroes not on this list we believe to be underrated, but statistics disagrees with us and we can’t go against it.
Going forward we would like to see how exactly Tier 1.5 and tier 2 teams are going to be trying to surprise each other in the Minor qualifiers. Maybe there are still heroes or combinations of heroes that are flying under everyone’s radars.