Editors Note: This article was originally written for TheMittani.com by Parliament
With the growing popularity of Dota 2, there are many players new to the game and genre. While many of Dota’s features can be witnessed in-game, some of the more nebulous details that get tossed around as gospel by more seasoned players, such as the structure of the competitive metagame, can be hard for newcomers to pick up. Terms like a 1 player versus a 3 player or a roaming support versus a hard support can be confusing for the uninitiated. The purpose of this guide is to introduce newcomers to Dota 2 to the common terms and positions used in competitive play, which will help to make it easier to both watching professional play and improve your personal play using guides that use this terminology.
It is important to remember that no two Dota games are the same, and teams’ strategies between games can vary wildly in regards to things such as lane composition (trilanes, dual lanes, jungling, etc.), focus (pushing, ganking, farming), and known opponent strengths and weaknesses. While terms regarding the lane positioning (off-laner, solo mid, trilane support, etc.) and hero roles (hard carry, semi-carry, roaming ganker, etc.) are frequently used when discussing individual games or laning setups, these descriptions can be lacking when used more generally.
Thus, the most common system of naming positions in competitive Dota consists of a numerical scale from 1 though 5, each number representing a player’s farm priority, with the 1 player having the highest farm priority and the 5 player having the lowest. Below is a detailed description of each position, with example heroes, notable professional players for that position, and the ideal player characteristics needed for that position.
POSITION 1 (AKA THE HARD CARRY)
As mentioned above, position 1 receives the highest farm priority on a team. This position is most often found in a tri-lane in competitive games, with two allied heroes nearby to support and ensure the 1 position player’s early game farm. Due to the frequency of tri-lanes, heroes in this position tend to be more gold dependent than level dependent. Position 1 is almost exclusively filled by hard carry heroes, with the rare exception being very aggressive pushing strategies. This player’s position is to survive the early game while securing as much farm as possible, and then to make smart decisions in the late game to survive and dominate engagements, as their team’s success frequently depends on the 1 staying alive and controlling the flow of the game.
Notable 1 Players: DK.Burning, iG.Zhou, LGD.cn.Sylar, LGD.int.Pajkatt, Liquid`TC.
Common 1 Heroes: Luna, Anti-Mage, Phantom Lancer, Lifestealer.
Characteristics: Ability to eke out early farm in any situation, a cool head and good game sense to not die unnecessarily, refrains from joining in team fights early unless absolutely needed.
POSITION 2 (AKA THE SOLO, GANKER, OR SEMI-CARRY)
Position 2 is one of the more versatile positions in terms of role played for the team, but the laning setup is the most static: solo mid. Heroes in this position tend to be equally gold and level dependent, and are chosen for their mobility, their ability to excel in 1v1 situations, and their ability to strongly impact other lanes through ganking or quick scaling into the mid-game. This player’s primary role is to outlane the opposing team’s solo mid, giving their team an advantage in the mid game through mobile ganking and rune control, or through early solo farm to produce a strong mid-game hero. Heroes at this position tend to be strong and relevant throughout the entire duration of the game.
Notable 2 Players: Na’Vi.Dendi, iG.Ferrarri430, [A] s4, Liquid`Korok, QPAD.SingSing, Empire.Scandal.
Common 2 Heroes: Queen of Pain, Templar Assassin, Puck, Brewmaster, Batrider, Magnus.
Characteristics: Ability to dominate a 1v1 laning situation, aggressiveness to gank sidelanes successfully, strong map awareness to avoid incoming enemy ganks from the sidelanes.
POSITION 3 (AKA THE OFFLANER OR SUICIDE SOLO)
Position 3 is played in two primary ways. The first, commonly referred to as the suicide solo, is to go solo in the hard lane against an enemy’s defensive trilane. As the name indicates, going up 1 versus 3 in the hard lane is a tough proposition, so the primary focus in this situation is simply to survive and absorb experience and farm when possible. Not dying is one of the primary roles of this position in the early game, and heroes in this role tend to be more level dependent than gold dependent (generally only remaining in the lane until their ultimate or a certain level is acquired, at which point they transition into more of a roaming ganker or initiator). Heroes in this role almost without excpetion have a strong set of escape or tank abilities, allowing them to survive the tough environment in which they’re placed (though some exceptions such as Lone Druid and Nature’s Prophet can instead use their summoned creeps and jungling capabilities to farm well despite being in a tough situation).
The second, commonly referred to as a farming offlane, is to go solo in the safe lane against the opposing team’s hard lane solo while an aggressive tri-lane is employed. In this situation, the heroes played tend to fit the role of semi-carry and benefit from good farm, and the position 3 role becomes much more similar to the position 2 role (in fact, when aggressive tri-lanes are used, it’s not uncommon for a team’s position 2 player to take over the offlane farming position while the position 3 player takes over the solo mid role).
Notable 3 Players: iG.YYF, Liquid`Bulba, LGD.int.Brax, Na’Vi.Funn1k, Empire.LightOfHeaven, [EG]SexyBamboe, [A] AdmiralBulldog.
Common 3 Heroes: (Suicide) Dark Seer, Clockwerk, Bounty Hunter, Tidehunter, Beastmaster, Windrunner; (Farming)Weaver, Clinkz, Lone Druid, Nature’s Prophet, Broodmother.
Characteristics: Ability to survive and soak up experience regardless of the laning situation, great game sense to know when opposing teams are going for a kill, aggression to capitalize on opportunities presented in lane and elsewhere on the map.
POSITION 4 (AKA THE ROAMING SUPPORT OR JUNGLER)
Position 4 is generally played either directly in the tri-lane, or nearby in the jungle, poking their head into lane occasionally to provide ganks. This role is also generally in charge of pulling jungle creeps when possible to help maintain lane control in the safe lane for the carry. These heroes tend to gain a bit more farm than their position 5 support counterparts, and generally will build towards mid-game support items (Drums, Mekansm, Pipe) while the position 5 support tends to spend their little bit of gold on consumables such as wards and pooled regeneration items. Players in position 4 generally have more of a hand in early game kills (either in their own lane or mid) than any other role, and frequently are the key heroes involved in putting early pressure on enemy towers.
Notable 4 Players: [A] Akke, Na’Vi.Puppey, iG.Chuan, LGD.cn.xiao8.
Common 4 Heroes: Chen, Enchantress, Enigma, Keeper of the Light, Nyx Assassin, Lina.
Characteristics: Ability to get by with less farm than other heroes, strong understanding of the jungle, good sense of the opposing team’s vision and positioning, (frequently) good micro skills.
POSITION 5 (AKA THE HARD SUPPORT OR BABYSITTER)
Position 5, as indicated by the number, is the least farm-dependent role on the team. Heroes in this role are largely item and level independent, and it’s not uncommon to see a position 5 hero with only boots and a few branches 3-4 levels behind other heroes well into the game. Not to be underestimated, the position 5 player is often the backbone of their team, pooling their resources by buying consumables for the carries to use and maintaining map control through warding and counterwarding. In addition, the position 4 and 5 heroes have the strongest impact out of all roles in the early phase of the game. On top of spending their gold on team-wide consumables, position 5 heroes are also invaluable for protecting the position 1 player in the early phases of the game when the 1 position is vulnerable, and are frequently relied on for key disables to begin ganks or save teammates.
Notable 5 Players: Liquid`FLUFF, Na’Vi.KuroKy, MUFC.Winter, LGD.int.1437, Maelk (formerly of [EG], search for “The Maelk Award”).
Common 5 Heroes: Leshrac, Shadow Demon, Rubick, Io, Crystal Maiden, Bane, Venomancer.
Characteristics: Strong decision-making in the early game, ability to get by with next to no items, ability to produce enough gold to buy wards and other consumables without taking away from other player’s farm, strong map awareness and knowledge to properly ward and de-ward.
It is important to stress that these positions and roles are not set in stone, as the Dota metagame is very fluid. Many players regularly play multiple roles on their team and rotate based on what the situation requires. In addition, these heroes are merely suggestions, and many heroes are capable of filling many different roles, and can even change roles as a game is in progress. However, these general guidelines are how professional teams tend to draft and fill their rosters. Knowing these positions can help you not only to better understand professional Dota, but also to understand how teams and heroes in public games are supposed to work together as a cohesive unit, as opposed to five individual players all trying to obtain their own farm.