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Preface: This is a guide to early game lane dominance. I assume the reader has a basic knowledge of DotA and can refer to other sources to look up heroes/items/abilities. If I use an abbreviation or term you do not understand please refer to Malle's excellent DotA game commands and common abbreviations list. I will be focusing on non em since lane control in em is less important, although I will try to point out some points for em as well. If you disagree or have something to add please post and back up your points with a valid argument, I'll try to include other's view points with credit if they are good even if they disagree with me. Sometimes there is more than one right way, or different things work in different situations. Please post your comments, opinions, and disagreements, constructive criticism is welcome! Anyway, on to the guide.
What will I learn from this guide?
This guide is an effort to comprehensively cover every aspect of lane control and early game strategies within reason. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of lane control I suggest you read all of it. However more advanced readers will certainly be familiar with some or many of the ideas covered so if you belong to that group feel free to skip sections. If you wish to explore a certain aspect of lane control use the table of contents - hit ctrl-f and type in the section you wish to go to.
- What is Lane Control?
- Your Hero
- How to Build a Lane Controller
- Choosing your Lane Control Style
- Map Awareness and Ganks
- Creeps and Towers
- In-Depth Scenarios
- Secret Paths and Juking
- Replays and Other Reading Material
What is Lane Control?
I'll define lane control as keeping your opponent away from the creeps while you last hit and deny. Please note that autoattacking is almost always a bad choice unless you need to push up quickly. You should either focus on last hitting and denying or on keeping your opponent away from the creeps so they cannot last hit, deny, or gain xp. If you farm up or hold your opponent down you will have a significant advantage throughout the game, especially in non em games. For people who just autoattack, trust me, last hitting and denying is worth it. You will farm much faster and stop your opponents. For more info on last hitting and denying check out inDe_eD's Guide to Micromanagement
The key factor in how you lane control is what hero you have. Ranged heroes with a good attack animation and some form of harassment (for example, Tinker or Viper) are usually the best at laning. The worst are low hp melee heroes with no form of harassment (for example, Naix). If you think early game lane control is worthless compared to a great late gamer you've never laned against someone who is good at lane control. Here is a list of some pros and cons for lane controlHow to Build a Lane Controller
Pros (good for lane control)
- Fast Attack Animation
- High Base Damage
- An Autocast (orb) ability
- Direct Damage Spells (from now on referred to as nukes)
- Damage over Time spells (from now on referred to as DoT's) (note some are useless, do the math on how much damage they do)
As you can see, fragile melee agi heroes struggle the most early game, especially those with no means to defend themselves or harass. A lategame hero like Troll or Phantom Assassin can be outlaned so badly that it takes them the rest of the game to recover and catch up. Generally, better lane controllers go mid because most pushes are focused mid. Sometimes better laners will go to the side lanes so they can dominate a lane and farm up so be careful and always be ready to face against a strong laner. If you find you can't handle your lane then ask for a gank or switch lanes. If your teammates are smart they will help you, rather than letting you get destroyed while your opponent farms. It is just important to LET THEM KNOW you are in trouble, rather than they get the fun surprise of a farmed out Juggernaut (or any other item dependent hero) at the 30 minute mark.
- Slow/Awkward Attack Animation (Lina, Razor, etc...)
- No Escape Method (Blink, Waveform, some sort of disable)
- Low HP
In any case, if you have a potential good lane controller then you should aim at controlling your lane, otherwise you want to survive until your hero becomes effective. In EM you should lean more towards late game since early game is vanishingly short.
Once you have your hero there are 2 important parts to creating your ultimate lane controller (or surviving to late game): Item Build and Skill Build. Your goal here is to get harassing skills and hp so you can survive nukes/chain nukes so you can stay in your lane and continue to gain exp/gold.Choosing your Lane Control Style
Someone on your team should buy a chicken, if no one else does you should get one. The advantage of being able to stay in your lane while items and consumables are delivered to you is just to good to ignore. In any case, there are 4 types of items which are commonly bought before going to a lane: items that boost strength (for hp), items that regenerate hp, items that boost int (for mana), and items that regenerate mana.
Note: There are almost NO situations in which you should get boots as your first item. Good job, you can run back to the fountain faster to miss out on exp.
The prime choice for boosting str and int are bracers and nulls respectively. Items which give lower stats are more efficient, that is, the more stats an item gives the more gold you pay per stat (ie gg branches are 57 gold per 3 stats while Ultimate Orbs are 2300 for 30 stats, or 230 per 3 stats, approximately 4 times as much). Getting early items like bracers and nulls is cheap and effective, giving you an advantage from early to mid game over people who try to save straight up to high cost items. This is definitely worth it, even if an extra bracer saves your life or helps you get a kill just once. Consider that four bracers gives one less strength than a reaver, costs 2/3's as much and also gives +12 to int and agi. Simply sell the bracers off as you run out of item slots for bigger cost items.
Items for regeneration are a bit more complicated. There are a couple of options here, ring of regen, tangos, or flasks, all of which have ups and downs. A ring of regen gives constant regen but it is still risky to hang around one if you are in red. Flasks on the other hand give you a big hp boost over a short period of time but can be canceled if you take damage. Tangos provide a good intermediate without the risk of cancellation.
At this point, I pretty much use tangos on every hero. Flasks require you to dip dangerously low in hp in order to get the full healing effect, and in the mean time you have to sit back out of combat or risk being canceled. I would only recommend buying them in the case that you are low on hp, but you aren't in great danger, but you want to be full hp soon (then have your chicken bring one to you). This situation is pretty rare though - you aren't in danger but need hp soon?
Ring of regen is only better than tangos if you are going to make something out of it, like a Headdress or a Hood of Defiance. Otherwise the burst regen of tangos is more useful than the slow constant regen of the ring.
For mana regen, things are pretty much the same with clarity potions and sobi masks. The only difference is that sobi masks increase your mana regen by a percentage rather than a set value like ring of regen. This means that if your hero has low int and thus crappy mana regen buying a sobi mask (or a void stone) is going to be less effective (increasing terrible mana regen by 50% is still pretty terrible mana regen (The exception to this is brilliance aura which increases mana regen by a set value)). This is usually the case for caster str heroes (earthshaker, tiny, etc), who are better off with an arcane ring which will greatly boost their base mana, provide decent regen and help teammates. A sobi mask will provide more mana regen than the RoB Brilliance Aura when you have at least 31 intelligence, so keep that in mind when you are buying your items. When will you pass that mark? In a few levels, or not for a while.
It is viable to rush Arcane sometimes, but you will have to sacrifice things like bracers which can be tough. A RoB can be disassembled in your Circle of Power (behind Taverns) so you can use the Ring to make Arcane Ring and have an extra Sobi. Arcane Ring is a great team item, and its not just about the mana regen; the 300 extra mana can really help low mana pool heroes.
Arcane Ring is coming more and more into use on spammer heroes and strength casters. It isn't to hard to farm up and provides enough mana to spam most "spammable" spells constantly, while also being useful for nearby ally heroes. I would definitely recommend it on Zeus, Death Prophet, and other spammers who are only limited by mana.
The bottle is a great item for ganker heroes. The charges let you quickly replenish hp and mana to move onto the next gank without having to return to the fountain or wait for consumables that take longer. Another great benefit is that you can store runes in it, and once you use the rune the bottle is refilled. This means that when you switch lanes to gank, you can grab the rune, use it at your leisure, heal up with the bottle, and move to the next lane to gank. A good idea on heroes like Bounty Hunter, Night Stalker, and Pudge, who need hp and mana to gank, frequently moving from lane to lane. Runes spawn every 2 minutes starting at the 2 minute mark (unless there is already rune in existence). The deal maker is that you can now buy a bottle in the new secret shops in the side lanes, meaning you can easily grab it at any time once you farm up the 700 for it.
Hood of Defiance
It is generally not a good idea to rush Hood of Defiance on most heroes. The regen is nice, and the spell resistance is also nice once you complete it. However in the mean time you are vulnerable with lower hp compared to a bracer build. Also bracers are more effective early/mid game for survivability, even against purely magic attacks. Before you decide on a skill/item build on a hero with a magic resistance skill and Hood of Defiance you should check out gradenko_2000's Spell Resistance Stacking Guide.
Hand of Midas
This helpful farming item can really help a late game hero jump start themselves. However, to often I see people struggling in their lane just to farm it. If you cannot get Midas in a decent amount of time the net payoff isn't worth it. If you are getting destroyed in your lane then get items that will help you lane - bracers, etc. It is of no use if you get a midas but it took you 25 minutes and you died 3 times, you are going to be behind. You should consider midas if you are a late game hero but you are controlling your lane easily. In this case you should be making plenty of money from last hitting so you can farm Midas quickly. However this doesn't mean you should always get it. If the enemy pushes down mid and ends the game before you've farmed anything there is no point. The recent changes to the game have made it generally shorter (no tower regen, siege creeps, etc) so midas has become even less useful (shorter game means midas has less time to pay itself off and start making you money). Basically, there are many factors in choosing when to buy Midas, but don't do it if you can't get it quickly and without sacrificing lane control. You should aim for a midas in 10 minutes, 15 minutes at most. After 15 minutes you should really just buy another item instead.
The items you buy should focus on helping you survive against your opponents and ganks. If you need mana focus on nulls and mana regen. Otherwise go for bracers and hp regen to survive burst damage. Wraith bands are mostly useless early game despite the lower cost. Consider for an agility hero, the difference between a wraith band and a bracer is the wraith gives 3 extra damage while the bracer gives 57 extra hp. Lastly, do not be afraid to buy and use consumables. You are not throwing money away just because you only use the item once. If you eat a tango and it lets you get even one more last hit it has more than paid for itself in gold and exp.
Of course every hero has a different set of skills but there are some which are generally useful early game and some which are not. Usually most skills which scale over time or are percentage based are useless early game while skills which do a set amount of damage (or boost stats by a set amount) are more useful early game (note that this means stats are more useful early!). Stuns and disables are pretty useful all the time but are really great to get early game if they also do damage. So while Vengeful Spirit's Magic Missile is great early for its damage and stun, Naga Siren's critical (or any other number of criticals) should be put off until later because stats or other skills are more useful. Let me say this one more time in case I have not been clear enough, sometimes it IS better to take stats over skills early game. The best skills for early game let you harass, or survive, or both (stats falls under "both" since it boosts your hp and mana), choose your skills carefully. There is not much more for me to say about this because every hero has different skills.Some examples of what skills to get and and which not:
Leoric the Skeleton King
Recommended Build: Storm Bolt and stats
- Storm Bolt(Recommended) - Ranged stun with constant damage, great for early game harassment and disabling
- Vampiric Aura(NOT Recommended) - Useless early game because your damage is low and you don't want to be autoattacking (which will make you push up, more on this later).
- Critical Strike(NOT Recommended) - Useless for the same reasons as aura - low base damage makes for crappy crits and you shouldn't be attacking anyway. If you get in a slug fest with another hero the bonuses from stats will help you more.
Yurnero the Juggernaut
Recommended Build: Bladefury and stats
- Bladefury(Recommended) - Great constant damage harassing tool. Magic immunity is also nice for escaping.
- Healing Ward(NOT Recommended) - A heal would be nice for staying in lane, but the fact that this is based on a percentage of your max hp (which will be very low early game, especially the fragile Juggernaut's) and has a large manacost makes it subpar
- Blade Dance(NOT Recommended) - Another critical. Low base damage and you shouldn't be hitting things.
Shendelzare Silkwood the Vengeful Spirit
Recommended Build: Magic Missile and stats
- Magic Missile(Recommended) - Nice ranged stun with great damage and decent mana cost. What more could you want for early game?
- Terror(NOT Recommended) - Lowers enemy offense and defense by a percentage (armor adds a percentage amount of hp per point). Useless again in that main source of damage early game is nukes.
- Command Aura(NOT Recommended) - On top of the fact that you shouldn't be hitting things, Vengeful Spirit's base damage is crappy anyway. Raising a crappy amount by a crappy percent is still a crappy amount.
So now you are in your lane with some items and a plan for a skill build. Your objective in your lane is to gather exp and gold while preventing the enemy from doing so. This is your primary objective. Getting kills is great, but that is secondary. Do not go charging the enemy hero at level 1 unless you know what you are doing.
There are two ways to play a lane, offensive and defensive (as far as pushing to the enemy tower goes). Most of the time (and with most heroes) you should opt for a defensive style. Do not autoattack, only go in for last hits and denies, keep your opponents away if you can, do not push up to the enemy tower. This style is safe, effective and more common. The other, more dangerous and reckless, style is offensive, where you try to push the enemy tower and take it down for that sweet, sweet bonus gold. In either case you should harass the enemy if you can. If not then stand back and try not to take to much damage...
The preferred method of laning keeps you safe while allowing you to farm and harass. The idea here is to not push up because pushing up puts you against the enemy tower, leaving you vulnerable to ganks from the river, no room to chase, no nearby safety, and making denying and last hitting difficult because of the enemy tower. Harassing your opponents with nukes, orb walking, or just straight out hitting them to keep them hiding at their tower, unable to get exp or gold.
This means you should not get pushy skills or items (if you are choosing this style). If you get a RoB, turn off the armor aura for the creeps (you and other heroes still get it) by clicking on the item. Heroes with pusher auras (SK's Lifesteal, Troll's Fervor and such) should not get those skills unless you really need it. And no, you don't really need lifesteal or ias early game - you shouldn't be autoattacking! Also consider your skills. For instance, with Lina dropping both your nukes is great for harassing but it also tends to clear the creep wave. While I am all for harassing, just be aware of these factors.
This method should only be attempted if you can easily push up and take down the enemy tower while dealing with the enemy heroes. It leaves you exposed to ganks and lets the enemy hide under the protection of their tower if you can not take it down quickly. The point is to get the bonus gold from destroying the tower (about 500ish gold for the person that gets the last hit, and 200 for everyone else on the team). Only a few heroes have the power to do this consistently, here is a brief list
- Keeper of the Light
- Alchemist (questionable after nerf)
- Broodmother (not recommended)
There is actually a 3rd way to play a lane - by not laning at all! The term "jungling" has recently been coined to mean primarily neutraling (in the "jungle") rather than laning. Only a few heroes have the skills needed to jungle well. Generally a hero should be able to clear creeps quickly, mitigate damage (through summons or some other means), or both in order to jungle effectively. Furion and Undying are prime examples of summoning junglers while Axe and Dark Seer can clear creeps quickly with Counter Helix and Ion Shell respectively. The great thing about jungling is it gives your team two solos while allowing a hero with crappy lane control to still farm and level. Junglers can also easily gank nearby lanes. I highly recommend any jungler that is going to be taking hits (besides leviathan) buy a stout shield! Anyway, here is a guide to jungling by DarkMilkShake. While I don't agree with everything he says you can get a good idea of jungling from it. Also, here is a link to the MYM replay in which they have 2 junglers, pretty amazing.
So I'll assume you are going to go defensive since offensive is highly situational and doesn't require a great deal of lane control anyway. From here on I'll go over some laning advice.
If you are melee...
Melee heroes definitely have a disadvantage to ranged heroes in lane control. Almost all of the best lane controllers are ranged. In order to balance this a bit, the amount of experience you get when the enemy denies you is different depending on if you are melee or ranged (basically, melee get double what ranged get). For more info check out Nova's Guide to Experience.
Now you have to understand that as a melee hero laning against a ranged hero you are at a disadvantage. It is just much easier to last hit, deny, and harass with a ranged attack...especially because you have to be up in the fray to last hit and deny. If you have no means of harassing and your opponent is skilled at lane control you probably want to hang back or you are just going to be sent back to the fountain. In order to get close you are going to want to let them push up then come at them from the woods so you are on top of them before they know you are there, removing the ranged advantage.
Laning against another melee is a bit more interesting. You have to be very alert here as well because you are both in the fray so it only takes the opponent a step or two to hit you with a stun or slow and start whacking you. Of course you also have the same advantage - use it!
If you are ranged...
It is always nice to be ranged for lane control (unless your hero has an awful attack animation). Standing back with your ranged creep, easily picking off last hits for gold. Against another ranged hero things are usually pretty tame. You both stand back, exchange nukes once in a while, focus on last hitting and denying. Just be ready for when they make their move (or for when you should make yours).
Ranged vs melee is pretty easy. All of their dives are telegraphed to you by them having to run across the creep wave to you. If you can, hit them whenever they step in to last hit or deny, or give them a good nuke. If you let them know that they are going to be punished every time you will train them to stay back. Be wary if they disappear though - they are possibly trying to gank you from the woods.
Cooperating with a Partner
When you are paired with someone in a lane you need to coordinate. Find out how much damage your combined nukes do (remember magic resistance!) and see if you can get an opponent to within that range then dive them and finish them off in a flurry of chain nukes. Also make sure your style is the same, if your ally is autoattacking and trying to push and take down their tower while you are playing defensive you are going to be at odds. There's not much you can do about a nooby partner, you don't want to leave them with solo but nor do you want to lane with them. In any case a good synergy and communication between lane partners is key and definitely makes a huge difference. If you are laning 2v1 you are against the other team's solo (assuming its 5v5) and it is vital that you prevent the solo from farming.Solo against 2 opponents
When you are solo you are going to be (at least, should be) the team's strongest member for mid game. It is important for you to grow strong so you can dominate and carry the team. However against 2 opponents it is much more difficult. A good chain nuking can take you down quickly, and killing one of them without the other one taking you down afterwards is difficult. Be more cautious but also don't allow them to control the lane and deny you exp and gold.
Edited by Blaow, 09 January 2008 - 02:27 PM.