It’s a rough time to be an offlaner, especially when it comes to pub play. Though it depends on the skill bracket, pub players aren’t keen on switching lanes depending on matchups, and often enough there aren’t prompt rotations when an offlaner gets ganked. Trilanes run amok in today’s meta, and without Iron Talon, without PMS, and reduced jungle XP, playing the offlane successfully often means to just not die. But there are a few approaches that can make your life in the offlane easier and more manageable.
Sometimes it’s better to just accept the fate that you’re facing a trilane, and your impact in the early game will be extremely limited. What happens too often is the mounting pressure to do something, anything, and that leads to mistakes—namely feeding. Playing the offlane can be often a lonely, powerless experience. You’re getting zoned by supports, all the while watching the enemy grab last hit after last hit, and deny after deny on XP and Gold you’re so desperately starved of. You’re pleading to your teammates about a situation you have no control of, and you feel that the outcome of the game is in their hands. Hopefully, they’re dominating their side of the map, because you feel that most definitely you’re losing yours.
The stipulation here is that it’s okay to be level one, provided you’re against a trilane and occupying the opposing supports. If you have no impact in the offlane, and you’re still level one, you would have probably been better off jungling or attempting a gank in the mid lane. The prevailing rule should be don’t die, and if you do die, die with purpose. Don’t die because you were trading hits on the enemy support, frivolously calculating their regen—when it’s already 2v1—and then dying to an errant gank. Perhaps your lane opponents dived too far, leaving them vulnerable to your team’s response. Or you died while contesting a pull or messing with the creep equilbrium, and the death netted you a few creep waves of experience at your tower when you revive.
There’s plenty you can do if you’re not getting XP or Gold. You can rotate to the mid lane, grab runes, and most of all, you can still disrupt the safe lane by harassing creep pulls. If you’re level one still because you’re keeping the enemy supports busy, then that’s essentially creating space for your team as well. It means their supports aren’t bothering your mid hero, and it opens a window for your own supports to rotate to the mid lane.
You’re only going to be at level one for a short window. Eventually, usually sooner than later, you’ll be able to grab a few creep waves of experience. And for most offlaners, that’s just the threshold they need to vault themselves into a bigger role in the game.
Though players can be too reckless in trying to make something happen, sometimes it’s just misplaced effort. Offlaners can still be proactive to be effective, but what it should involve is disrupting the safelane’s carry, and one effective way of doing so is disrupting the creep equilibrium. The equilibrium is the point that both creep waves settle in the map. The closer it is to your tower, the safer you will be.
This can be done at 0:00. You can run to their T3, aggro the creep wave for 10 seconds, and either make your way back to your own tower, or just TP back to it. Another usual route is to just pick up the enemy creep wave between their T1 and T2. This can be countered, as with many pull tactics, but for most pubs it’ll be quite effective in shifting the equilibrium your way and getting at least one wave of experience.
If you don’t feel like you can safely navigate the enemy jungle without getting picked off, then one recourse is to block your own creep wave. It’s much like blocking as a midlaner, except you’ll be able to block for a longer period of time. Letting the ranged creep advance near the end is also a good way to get the creep equilibrium moving in your direction.
Then there are the other usual offlane tactics: warding the pull camps and pulling the hard camp yourself. Both Radiant and Dire offlanes have their own pull camp, which opens up another area for supports to contest, or else risk their carry losing a wave of creeps.
Watching pros play pubs is a humbling experience. Though the simple advice to winning at Dota is to just “get good,” observing how pros manage playing with and against lesser opponents is an object lesson on how to make the most of what you have. There’s Khezu, who often has educational streams, as he’s climbing MMR through the offlane. Admiral Bulldog kickstarted a generation of Nature Prophet players by showing them how to annoy a trilane with just two summons to simultaneously manipulate creep waves and stack your own jungle. Even though he mixes his pub play with safelane and carry nowadays, iceiceice’s calm demeanor in his streams and his habit of voicing his thoughts out loud, as he’s outplaying his lane opponent, offers many teachable moments for viewers.
Sometimes, only the offlaner knows how difficult it is to offlane. Communicate to your team that you’ll probably be playing against a trilane. There’s no need to say “AM free farm, gg.” We already know. So stay focused on your game.
Call out supports when they’re missing, and if they’re not missing, let your team know as well. The cards are stacked against the offlane, so you shouldn’t feel like you can win 1v3. Be proactive, positive, and don’t let the failures of the first 10 minutes affect how you perform for the rest of the game.