Improve your offlane play - learn from the professionals

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Nov 3, 2014
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The offlane is perhaps the most misunderstood position in Dota 2. As a carry, you farm creeps and get items until your hero hits a peak and you start to fight with your team. Supports help the carry get farm, gank around the map, buy wards and courier, and generally make sure the game doesn’t fall apart before it has really begun. Mid lane players have a variety of responsibilities, but first and foremost is to outplay the other person in their lane, whether it is through superior farm or by racking up kills.

Offlane players’ objectives are not as clear. The most common advice offered by both high and low-skill players is “don’t die.” While this is certainly an important aspect of playing in the ‘suicide lane’ – as if the free farming carry needs even more gold – there are many more aspects to consider.

A lot of ‘research’ that went in to this article at its inception involved playing offlane myself, and trying to find out what worked, but there is only so much that can be learned from someone with a decidedly average skillset such as myself. So I went to the one percent. The professionals. Players who have dedicated countless hours to learning their craft and maximizing their efficiency in the offlane. In this series I hope to bring you insightful tips and tricks from the pros on how to best perform your duty as the team’s sacrifice to the mighty and mysterious offlane.

Today’s players:
  • Braxton ‘Brax’ Paulson of Summer’s Rift
  • Michael ‘MJW’ Nguyen of Team EHUG
  • Andrew ‘Jenkins’ Jenkins of Team Leviathan
  • Turtoi ‘Ar1sE’ Ionut



Q: What do you feel is most important about playing the offlane position, besides the common advice that you shouldn’t die?

Brax: Finding the space to acquire the necessary farm is vital to how impactful the offlaner will be.

MJW: I think that it is super important to always try to keep tabs on where the other team supports players are. When you are able to keep tabs on the supports players, you make the game easier on your mid and your supports to react to a possible rotation on your mid or your safe lane.

Jenkins: Either disrupting the enemy supports and carry--wasting as much time as humanly possible for them, or to be efficient and still get farm with another mechanism (Pudge jungle, Doom, Tide ancients, etc.). Either way, you'll have an impact on the game. If you pick an offlaner who sits and gets zoned, you're giving the supports and their carry so much and yet not making up for it with your impact.

Ar1sE: I think the most important thing on offlane is to NOT die for dumpster reasons, like if you can’t avoid a death it’s fine but if you go on the lane and you just chain feed because you want to be greedy it’s really bad. It’s really important not to die on offlane, but it’s also good to die if you, for example, force a lot of spells from the opponents, force their regen, tangoes, salves, etc. their support have to go base while you TP and get some XP and farm.


Q: Is there any particular aspect of playing the offlane that people put too much importance on? If so, why do you think that it isn’t as important as some might think?

Brax: The lane itself, in some senarios you can't even lane the carry along with the support. In some situations, an offlaner can sit near the midlaner to cover them from attempted smoke ganks, just showing up there will make the enemy think twice about going for the kill.

MJW: I think a lot of offlaners feel it is important to CS when they see a big wave coming to the T1 tower. Sometimes it is better to play it safe and soak the experience rather than try to farm a bit more gold and die cause of it.

Jenkins: No, I think it's a role where you have a lot of options to choose from but you can only choose a few of them (getting a bounty rune, disrupting pulls, jungling, stacking ancients), so it's honestly a pretty basic role at the moment. If you choose any of these things you're doing it right, but you can't do everything, so there isn't really anything considered more important than the others. I suppose it depends mostly on the game.

Ar1sE: People who don’t play a lot of Dota and don’t play that much flame when they see some guy feeding, I mean I can understand their opinion, but when you play at a high level many things can happen. You can have a bad day or a really bad day and u can have good days of offlane games.



What mindset or traits are needed to perform well mentally in the offlane?

Brax: Patience.

MJW: A great trait is to know your limitations of the hero you are playing. When you know how well your hero is going to perform or match up in a 1v1 or 2v1 or 3v1 it makes it easier for you to get experience and farm without giving your opponents opportunities to kill you.

Jenkins: Don't take things personally. If you do, you'll feed, tilt, and ruin the game for your team. Think of everything mathematically and you'll do just fine.

Ar1sE: When I played offlane in Team Tinker it was hard for me to accept that I won’t get any farm, I’ll get levels very hard and I’ll get sacked because I play mid and I’m used to 1v1 scenarios or to scenarios where I get farm and I go make space. So yeah the mindset is that you need to accept that you won’t get as much farm or space as you get from other roles

Q: Which heroes would you say are your favorite to play in the offlane right now?

Brax: Batrider, Clockwerk, Tidehunter, Phoenix, Axe.

MJW: My favorite hero in the offlane is Bristleback because he is one of the few heroes that can play aggressive in the offlane and I like playing Batrider because he farms so fast in the jungle.

Jenkins: Pudge… Clock, Axe, Bristle. Super tanky, can fight early, can deathball, can gank, can go late, huge amount of utility. But honestly it depends on the specific hero. Clock has a ton of utility. Axe is... Axe.

Ar1sE: My favorite heroes for offlane are: Magnus, really dangerous if you can work around the skewer. Supports like Vengeful Spirit with shorter range can easily get skewered into tower, even carries. So yeah, Magnus, Tidehunter, Nyx Assassin, Centaur Warrunner and Axe. I like these heroes who stay on the lane and pressure the safelane. Nyx can’t really pressure but he can be annoying by mana burning the enemy support.


Q: Does Phantom Lancer have any potential as an offlane hero, now that he’s enabled in Captains Mode?

Brax: No, I think he suits a different role.

MJW: Yeah with the right matchups I feel PL can do really well in the offlane because he has an escape to fall back on and he is able to jungle really easy if he needs too.

Jenkins: I don't think so. I think he needs too many items for the mid game because he's not as stellar late game as he was before, so you can't really do the whole throw some poor guy to the wolves and expect him to come back later. He's a mid-game hero, if he doesn't hit his timing, he's not as strong as he used to be.

Ar1sE: I think PL is very strong as a hero, but the problem is that you want the hero to free farm or just farm so I don’t know about offlane PL.

Are there any heroes that you feel are underrated for the offlane?

Brax: Phoenix.

MJW: I feel Anti-Mage is a really good offlaner but no one ever picks it for the offlane.

Jenkins: Skywrath Mage, Kunkka, and Pudge.

Ar1sE: Yeah, I think Magnus is underrated, not many teams run him, only Empire and Cloud 9 sometimes run him.




How about overrated heroes, or just heroes that you’re sick of seeing in that position?

Brax: Legion Commander.

MJW: I do not think there are any overrated heroes in the offlane, but I do get sick when I see a Brood offlane because I feel that hero is broken.

Jenkins: There's like three offlaners right now, Bristle, Axe, and Clockwerk so it's kind of hard to say, I think they're all good. I wish there were more, I'm getting a tad bored of offlane.

Ar1sE: Hmm, I think Lich offlane is overrated by some pro players, and also Phoenix. Phoenix has his strengths of course but he’s easily countered.

If you have one observer ward to use in the offlane, do you think it is more important to block the enemy’s pull camp (even if it might be de-warded), get vision of support movements for yourself, or establish rune vision for your team?

Brax: Vision.

MJW: If I feel it is important to ward the pull camp, my team would 5-man the jungle and have observers and sentries to place so it would make it harder for the other supports to de-ward the pull. If I just had one observer I would rather get vision on the supports or rune vision than have it de-warded at the pull camp.

Jenkins: Blocking the pull camp isn't necessary anymore. You can just disrupt it or jungle, or ancient, or get the rune, etc.

Ar1sE: Sometimes it’s good to block their camps if you know you can’t contest pulls without giving up kills, and sometimes it’s good to just get vision on them and go leach XP. I like to get vision over supports, but they can also deward it so it can turn ugly.


Source: dota3s

When do you usually make the decision to stop going to lane and instead farm the jungle if it is possible for your hero to do so, or just switch lanes entirely?

Brax: Going to the jungle is just done whenever it’s efficient; when the lane pushes some hero with no place on the map will usually go there. Sometimes it’s the support but if the support cannot then usually the offlane will return or just the tower will be sac'd.

MJW: It all depends on the matchups. If I am a Batrider and I feel I cannot get experience or gold without dying I would go to the jungle as soon as I hit two. If I feel I stay in the lane as Batrider without dying I would mess with the supports, disrupt the pull camp and try to scout and get every rune.

Jenkins: Whenever there are supports that can kill me extremely easily and a carry I don't want to feed.

Ar1sE: If you have a hero that can jungle, for example, Batrider, you go on lane you take level 2 and if you can’t be annoying and you’re getting almost killed, you go jungle and get a 7-8 min blink. Same goes for Axe.

Sometimes we’ll see teams run two players in the offlane, what is the purpose of doing so and how does it affect your playstyle?

Brax: It's mostly to pressure weak lanes. It indirectly protects mid lane by attempting to funnel the enemy teams focus into that lane. Typically if both supports zone and don't attempt to pull the 2v3 will have no effect.

MJW: When my team runs two players in the offlane it is to make sure one of our heroes gets farm and to stop the safe laner from farming. My playstyle would to try to lane control and just play aggressive enough to make sure we are doing our job and winning the lane.

Jenkins: Dual offlane is great. It's entirely to disrupt the enemies' safelane. Even if you don't get farm, if you're shutting down their trilane your other lanes will be really easy, and your second support can get huge in the jungle. It puts a lot of pressure on the trilane but they can't leave the lane because then their carry will get demolished. It kind of forces their hand and sometimes they don't like that.

Ar1sE: Yeah, I was talking to my last team as well about running these dual lanes like Empire do and they make sure all their cores are getting farm in the start and that’s really really big. For example, Tidehunter and Omniknight. How are you gonna kill them?




How about playing in 1v1 match-ups? What adjustments to your play do you need to make for that unique situation?

Brax: Usually when an offlaner is left to a 1v1 it starts out as an unfavorable matchup. Get what you can without dying to inevitable support rotation.

MJW: In a 1v1 matchup I would make sure I get the better of the harassing and CS-ing because when the other team rotates a support top I would still want to lane top and have the regen to do so.

Jenkins: It's fairly rare to get a 1v1 nowadays, but 1v1s are MUCH easier than 1v3s. Usually when a 1v1 is picked it's because it's hugely favorable for the enemy team, like Batrider vs Slark. Your playstyle needs to change depending on the particular matchup, but usually you get a lot more.

Ar1sE: 1v1s on offlane are rarely seen lately, but it’s good to practice. 1v1 practice for mid is different.



Photo by ESL

Who do you think are the best few offlane players in the world right now? What makes them so good?

Brax: Universe. The best teams will have the best offlanes, the relevance of the offlaner usually comes into play faster when they're given space.

MJW: It has to be Universe and iceiceice. I feel that they have a ton of experience playing a lot of different matchups and are very good decisions making players.

Jenkins: Universe obligatory. I think Funn1k is really good he always makes ridiculous plays from the offlane with nothing. ixmike88 is the king of space creation.

Ar1sE: Universe, BuLba, Zai

What is the best way for aspiring offlane players to practice?

Brax: Study how to force situations that allow you space.

MJW: For me it is to see how much your hero can do in the offlane with different matchups. In pubs I would play aggressive and see how long I can last in the offlane before I die. I do not care that I died because I was testing to see how much my offlaner hero can do and I gain experience playing that certain type of matchup.

Jenkins: Offlane pubs are fine. People always do defensive trilanes or a ganking jungler in pubs. At least on US East.

Ar1sE: Watch Universe.

Are there any other small details that you feel most players need to work on?

MJW: To always play 1v1 matchups because you never know when you are going to be put in a tough 1v1 matchup and you have to make the most of it.

Jenkins: Attitude. It's really difficult but if you focus on only your own play and not your team-mates you'll improve your game by a huge amount. I mean GENUINELY focus on your own play, not just muting your team mates when they piss you off. You HAVE to be self-critical. Oh boy is it hard, but when you can get in that mindset you do so much better.

Ar1sE: Yea, attitude. I flame in pubs as well. Most of the times I’m trolling, but you need to have a good attitude and be professional to do something, you need to respect your opponent and your teammates.





What’s the state of the offlane now compared to the past? Is it easier or more difficult to play than before?

Brax: Much easier.

MJW: I feel it is more difficult because everyone is getting better, so you are going to have a tougher time in the offlane when you are getting zoned out by experienced players.

Jenkins: It's way easier. Offlane used to be the hardest position. Honestly it's pretty boring now. It's very formulaic.

Ar1sE: I think it’s easier because of bounty runes as well but I still think it’s the hardest role in the game.



If you could ask Valve to change one thing in particular about the offlane, what would it be?

Brax: I think it's fine as it is.

MJW: I like everything the way it is.

Jenkins: Well, Valve doesn't control the meta, that depends on the players, but I'd love to see more dual lanes.

Ar1sE: Hmm… nerf Skywrath Mage’s Arcane Bolt so he won’t smash offlane heroes Kappa.

Image by Dota2.ru, formerly logo of Relax

If you had to boil it down to one sentence, what advice would you give to anyone looking to improve their offlane play?

Brax: >Relax, you're doing fine.

MJW: To have fun, play games, gain experience, and practice hard.

Jenkins: Don't fucking feed.

Ar1sE: All I can say is watch replays from other offlane pro players and try to do what they do, at least the basics. Also play offlane in pubs.

Thank you for taking the time to fill this out! If there are any shoutouts or people you would like to thank, list them here.

MJW: Shoutout to the trill chat, the ape chat, my teammates and my manager Naerok.

Ar1sE: Shoutout to my dumpsters friends, my dumpster viewers, shoutout to me, The Dumpster Player. Thanks for having me, I think my small opinions are decently placed.
 

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