Last week we had a look at the most popular supports in the current professional metagame. In many cases, as we have found out, it was versatility what made the supports really popular, not their actual utility in a given game, hence all of them were a first pick/ban material. Today we will have a look at the support heroes, which do not necessarily get drafted early on or get as much attention. We believe that in many cases they can be a better addition to a team where all other heroes are already picked, since these supports not only suffer, but also benefit from being situational.
Earthshaker can be considered somewhat greedy since he needs levels and gold to reach his maximum utility. However, one should never underestimate the power of Fissure even at level 1. The post-effect of this spell is probably among the most devastating ones for the heroes with no innate mobility. On top of that it has a massive 1400 range, which means it can be used from smoke without breaking it, making it the second longest range stun in game after Sacred Arrow.
It is also among the better abilities to use defensively, when your teammate is getting ganked, having potential to split the ganking formation of the enemy and allowing for a turn-around and pick-offs on overextending heroes.
The scaling on the hero can be considered pretty good, with high burst AOE magical damage even by the late-game standards as well as potential for a single target physical burst. Even without damage items, he still has a pretty high Str gain of +2.9 per level. Top that with all of his active abilities leading to a potential 1.5 sec. stun, which never loses its relevance as a hard disable.
But there is always a price to pay. The hero is extremely mana starved. At level 1 he can use a single Fissure meaning that if you use it, it has to be for a good reason. Him being melee also does not help his lane presence - he is an awful harasser and generally favours lineups with an additional support for you core. On top of that, his main strength requires him to have a mobility item, meaning that he requires either a great start or some space to get to the point where he can be a relevant threat in a timely manner.
So when should you pick him? For one, you should always be sure that your greediness will not lead to a lost lane, hence your lane partner either has to be capable of sustaining himself in a lane, while finding farm, or there should be another support hero (preferably ranged) in your lineup.
An excellent lineup to pick Earthshaker into would involve a core that can rush MoM/HotD and farm jungle, creating an opening for you to farm in lane (e.g. Troll Warlord, Juggernaut). In this scenario, it is also good to stack/pull the small camp initially to utilise more resources as Earthshaker, only showing up for ganks. As I said, he is a terrible lane harasser and the team will not benefit as much from his presence in lane. Regardless of your plan for the early game, always carry a TP, though, since, as stated previously, it can allow for excellent saves and turn-arounds in other lanes.
To a lesser degree, but Earthshaker is also a suboptimal pick in games where the enemy has a way of disabling Blink Dagger globally. Spectre is probably among the most annoying ones, since she can render your initiation useless for good 10 seconds. She is also nearly immune against Fissure blocks.
Heroes Earthshaker is good against would involve pretty much any hero without mobility or the heroes that heavily rely on positioning. He is also godly against anything illusion-based (except for Spectre) and anything that involves creating/dominating extra creeps. Earthshaker has a rather high skillcap in terms of landing proper fissures as well as having good decision making in many stages of the game. Use him responsibly and try not to block your escaping teammates.
Cask it! Personally, I've seen two equally good professional builds for the hero - with a higher priority on Voodoo Restoration or on Maledict. Each of this builds nonetheless maxed out Paralyzing Cask first, and for a good reason.
There is a major outcry related to the popularity of the hero on the internet how this ability is overpowered. There is also belief that it introduces too much random into the game, where you can get continuously stunned even if surrounded by allied creeps. But as any good CCG player will know - you cannot get rid of random, but you can always minimise it. Play around it (or play along with it) and in the long run you will emerge victorious.
Witch Doctor is another relatively greedy support. Unlike other supports featured today, however, he does not have this "core" item that suddenly makes him disproportionally stronger, hence he feels perfectly fine being a 5 position support.
Both his damage output and heal can be extremely high, depending on the build, but rarely can he have benefits of both worlds at the same time. This introduces a lot of versatility into the hero - depending on your and enemy lineup. With that in mind, it is really hard to make him completely useless.
That said, there are still counters to the hero, which can make him a very suboptimal pick. Since for the most of his damage output he relies on the team setup, Silencer will make your life a nightmare. High mobility heroes, such as Storm Spirit are also hard to deal with, since your disable and Death Ward relies on the enemy remaining stationary.
The projectile on Paralyzing Cask is extremely slow and easy to avoid. It also doesn't really do much if used on a single target. Though, it is probably the only projectile-based disable which cannot be completely ignored with a Manta Style.
Given how he is a sub-par ganker, his main strength lies in chaotic teamfights, where he can either sustain his team for long enough if the enemy has no burst, or can bring a lot of pain, even after his death. But because of the requirement to be in the centre of the action, he, being a squishy support, needs to be extremely careful to not get caught in AoE nukes/disables ( Lina is among your most hated enemies).
The hero is best played with some sort of AoE disable in the team. Tanky damage dealers are also quite good in conjunction with the hero, since they can soak most of the burst damage by intentionally overextending and draw attention to themselves, while remaining relatively healthy with the help of Voodoo Restoration.
The hero is pretty good against teams with little disables and can make really annoying plays against anything Io related. He can also be a great counter to heroes which have high HP pools, but lack armour (mainly Str carries/initiators), since his ultimate deals physical damage. Overall, Witch Doctor is rather well-balanced versatile hero which can be extremely great with a setup or really good without it.
Ancient Apparition is probably among my favourite supports, due to his immense presence throughout the game. He is also the strongest counter to any hero, which relies on Lifesteal or Regeneration for sustainability and it is exactly the reason for his recent popularity spike.
Despite the popular build of maxing Cold Feet first, I think it is not the most optimal way to go. The skill does its job of preventing the enemy to attack and force him to move regardless of the level and maxing it out will yield lower utility in most higher-skilled games. Maxing Ice Vortex is my personal favourite way to play, with value points in first and third skill. I usually finish Chilling Touch next, sometimes opting for stats instead of extra levels in Cold Feet.
His lane presence is immense, with a somewhat powerful slow and a great "steroid" for early levels. The hero can win trilane vs trilane scenarios with the burst damage he provides, while making sure no exchange is happening with one of the enemy heroes forced to flee or get stunned. He also makes any nukers on your team a lot more potent.
There are a lot of weaknesses on the hero. His ultimate is a skillshot, which has a relatively low radius if used in a fight. If used as a long-range projectile it can be tricky to land occasionally, and will not necessarily yield results if there are no teammates in the proximity. Additionally, if used from far away, you can sometimes be too late to join a fight with your other potent skills.
He also falls into the category of somewhat greedy supports. He absolutely needs an Aghanim's Scepter and skipping upgraded boots altogether is not uncommon. It sometimes leaves your team with less Arcane Boots it needs for sustainability.
Finally, he is an extremely squishy hero with terrible Str growth. If focused in the beginning of the fight, he will not be able to do anything and an optional, but probably the most optimal requirement of rushing Aghanim's Scepter leaves him with no survivability/mobility items.
In many cases I saw players just standing in the fountain are and throwing Ice Blast, and not only do these long-ranged projectiles take time to reach the target, but they also leave your team in 4v5 situation, which is never optimal.
Given that his positioning in teamfights should be somewhere not far behind his team, to ensure a higher radius ultimate yet still allowing for joining the fight, he is not necessarily a good pick against invisibility heroes or heroes with strong long-ranged gap closers ( Clockwerk, Spirit Breaker). Under no circumstances should you allow yourself to get picked off easily. Positioning is key and you need to prevent the enemy from having information about your position as well as having information about where the enemy is.
So when do you pick him? Generally speaking, he fits well in most lineups, but he truly shines in the global strats. Having a competent Spectre on your team is almost an auto-win. As mentioned previously, he is also godly against anything heal-based, hence having him against heroes such as Dazzle or Omniknight can yield really great results when it comes to countering supports. He also counters a lot of lifestealing autoattackers and is really good against the plague of current pubs - Juggernaut.
I have initially planned to cover 6 heroes in today Blog Post, but due to a rather situational nature of the heroes, it required more attention to cover possible scenarios, making the post rather long as it is. Next time I will have a look at the remaining three supports: Skywrath Mage, Dazzle and Rubick I wanted to cover initially.
We would also like to hear some feedback regarding Blog Posts akin to this one - I am planning on making a similar series for offlane heroes and would like to know whether you would prefer to have more heroes covered with less depth, or higher depth and less quantity. Leave your opinion in the comment section.
As always, Thank You for reading.