Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Basics of Playing Solo Mid

Who Should Solo Mid?

Given the right situation, any hero CAN mid. Some heroes are naturally better at it though, others need it more, and others might be situational picks.

Let's look at a few different areas that are associated with mid and break them down:
  • Dependency on XP
    • Mid is typically a solo lane, in which you get a lot more experience
    • Some heroes are more dependent on XP than others (e.g. Invoker - his abilities level differently, so to get one maxed out, you need many more levels than a traditional hero)
    • Sometimes, getting to a certain level (e.g. 6) or having spells that are more effective early game is a reason to be at mid
  • Dependency on Gold
    • As a solo mid, you have access to full waves of gold from creeps
    • If you cannot make use of that gold, there is less reason to put you mid
    • Having a good attack animation can play into last hitting
  • Ability to Control the Lane
    • You generally won't have a hero pulling creeps so that you can control where the creep wave collides
    • You need to be able to manipulate the wave via quick bursts of damage to wipe a wave
    • This aids in controlling the rune
  • Ability to use all Runes
    • As mid, you have a high level of access to the runes
    • Being able to make use of them all is an asset (e.g. a support hero might not have high DPS, so a DD rune would be wasted)
  • Survivability
    • Good supports will gank mid
    • Being able to survive ganks via escapes or other spells is  a core piece of many mid heroes because you may not have anyone come to help you
  • Ability to Gank
    • Mid heroes are incredibly helpful for controlling the game, ganking is a mechanism in which you can manipulate a game
    • Having good spells for ganking can be a reason to pick a hero at mid (e.g. stuns, slows, burst damage)
    • Some heroes can gank without leaving lane (e.g. Invoker w/ Sun Strike, Ancient Apparition's ult)
These are just some starting points for thinking about which hero you want to go mid, or what makes a good mid hero. Generally, the more of these aspects a hero has, the better they are going to be at mid.

However, you have to take into account the lineup you're running. Maybe getting Magnus to level 6 quickly to have his ult is more beneficial than picking a Queen of Pain that might fair better against the opponent, but is less useful overall in the particular lineup.

The player themself is also going to be a piece of the puzzle. Mid is one of the most mechanically demanding positions because you need to be able to last hit extremely well, know how to manipulate creep aggro, and determine when to gank.


Starting Items

When picking starting items, you'll usually have to take into consideration what hero you're up against. Generally, you'll want to get your Bottle quickly (if you're a bottle hero), but you don't want to jeopardize your ability to last hit, and some heroes have higher base damage than others.

Your options boil down to two main strategies: rushing Bottle or stacking stats and regen to gain an early upper hand.

Some things to consider:
  • If both you and your opponent Bottle Rush, one of you will have to bottle-crow
  • If you stack stats & regen, then you MUST get the early advantage, otherwise your items were not worth it

Here are a few builds you might see:

The Bottle Rush

  • 1 x Tangoes (90g)
  • 3 x Iron Branch (53g x 3 = 159g)
  • Left Over = 354g
Going with this approach, you'll have a bit more than 300g left over from your starting gold. This allows you to almost always get your Bottle before the 2 minute rune spawns. You get the benefit of the stats from the Iron Branches and some sustainability from Tangoes. All of your components will eventually be used if you make a Magic Wand, making this a very optimal starting build.

However, you're also going to be prone to losing out in last hits against an opponent with higher base damage. If you're worried you cannot get 6-7 last hits in 2 minutes, that you'll get harassed out of lane, or otherwise, you may consider a different build.

INT Stack

  • 2 x Mantle of Int (150g x 2 = 300g)
  • 1 x Tangoes (90g)
  • 3 x Iron Branch (53g x 3 = 159g)
  • Left Over = 54g
This is something you see on INT heroes moreso in pubs than pro games. You maximize your damage output by doing this build because you're not only getting base damage from the INT, you're increasing your mana pool so you can spam more spells.

With each point in INT, you get 13 mana. Between 2 Mantles and 3 Branches, you get 9 INT and 117 Mana. On a hero like Death Prophet, that's another spell you can spam to wipe out a wave and/or harass a hero.

However, you're going to be set back quite a bit for getting an early Bottle. It might be a struggle to get one before 2 minutes (rune spawn) without having excellent last hitting or getting an early kill. Also, you're not going to make use of both those Mantles. Building a Null Talisman is questionable at best if you're not planning to go for Dagon. However, it is only 300g that you're going to be throwing away (or selling for 150g).

NOTE: you can vary this quite easily by getting 2 Iron Branches and buying a Salve or 2 Clarities instead. Alternatively, some players opt to only get 1 Mantle, giving them a bit more base damage and mana, while not throwing away as much money.

Melee vs. Range

  • Stout Shield (250g)
  • Regen
    • a) 2 x Tangoes (180g)
    • b) Tangoes (90g) + Salve (100g)
  • 2-3 x Iron Branch (106g - 159g)
  • Left Over =  4g - 67g
When you're a melee hero up against a ranged hero, you have to expect a lot of harass if you want to get any last hits. Getting last hits here isn't just about the gold, it's making sure you don't get denied. By default, the ranged hero has an upper hand in 1v1, particularly if you're a hero like Night Stalker that has very low kill potential until night.

Therefore, you'll need Stout Shield to mitigate a lot of the damage you take when going for a last hit. Deducting 20 damage from a ranged hero is 1/3 to 1/2 their overall damage from auto attacks. You'll also need plenty of regen so you can stay in XP range.

Bottle rushing might not be as important here because you want to guarantee you'll stay even on levels (and farm if able).

Melee vs High Base Damage Melee

  • Quelling Blade (225g)
  • 1 x Tangoes (90g)
  • 2-3 Iron Branch (106g - 159g)
  • Left Over = 129g - 182g
This is more or less referring to going up against a hero like Tiny or Treant who have incredibly high base damage. Your options become to harass them out of lane or to try to match their last hitting ability by getting a Quelling Blade.

If you're able to harass them out, then that's the better option because most mid heroes aren't there to farm for lengthy periods of time. Plus, Quelling Blade is only useful against creeps, so your ganking ability is reduced.

However, if you're not confident in being able to harass them out of lane, you'll need something so that you can actually last hit. Otherwise, a hero like Tiny will be able to get everything because he can last hit before the creep is low enough for you to 1-shot deny/kill.

Other Stat Stacks

  • Big Stat Items
    • 1 x Slippers/Gauntlet (150g)
    • OR 2 x Slippers/Gauntlet (300g)
  • 1 x Tangoes (90g)
  • 2-3 Iron Branch (106g - 159g)
  • Left Over = 54g - 257g
These aren't as standard of starts, but can be good if you plan to get Urn of Shadows (makes use of the 2 Gauntlets), Drum of Endurance (makes use of 1 Gauntlet), Poor Man's Shield (makes use of the 2 Slippers), or Ring of Aquila (makes use of 1 Slipper).

There are various benefits to each. If you go for an AGI stack (not really recommended), it can help with last hitting, but your HP might be at stake. Also, many popular mids don't need to stack AGI. Templar Assasin has plenty of damage from her spells. Gyrocopter needs survivability or regen more.

Stacking Stats in general does not seem to be that common. Early game stat items don't build into much, and as mid you have plenty of farm. The exception might be a hero like Nightstalker that wants to rush Urn of Shadows for ganking.

You do see a casual +3 stat item for help in last hitting and survival/spam (i.e. STR/INT), but most heroes are going to rush Bottle quickly unless they know they will lose the lane otherwise.

Specialized Builds


Invoker Damage Rush

  • Blades of Attack (450g)
  • Tangoes (90g)
  • Iron Branch (53g)
  • Left Over = 10g
Around 6.74-6.75 ish, Invoker's base damage was reduced. This essentially forced him to go Exort Builds to compete at mid, otherwise his damage was too low and he'd quickly lose the lane due to inability to last hit or deny.

Picking up Blades of Attack (+9 damage) gives him some versatility. Exort Builds become powerful for harass and last hitting. Alternatively, it opens up the possibility of going Quas/Wex (still not as viable in pub games, but can be done). The Blades of Attack can later be used when building Phase Boots (pretty common pick up on Invoker).

As a hero that does not necessarily get a Bottle, Invoker doesn't have to worry about Bottle rush and can focus on levels and getting gold, ganking when there's an opening.


Early Magic Stick

There's not necessarily an exact build for this, it's just swapping items out and getting a Magic Stick instead. It's a risky move, but can be useful against a hero like Batrider or Zeus who typically spam spells like Sticky Napalm or Chain Lightning.

However, good players will be wary of this and avoid letting your stick get charged. If they do so, then your 200g did not help you much and you'll lose the lane. But, if you are able to outplay them and get the Magic Stick charged, you can engage in risky play because you have a burst heal to save you.

Things to Avoid

  • Bottle First
    • The regen is easy to cancel
    • If you only need HP regen, you'll have to waste the mana regen
    • If you miss the rune, you'll need to bottle crow
    • You have less HP, Mana, and auto attack damage than the opponent
    • Easy for your opponent to harass you into using all 3 charges
    • Susceptible to ganks
  • Getting Both a Quelling Blade and a Stout Shield
    • Too many passive items - you have no killing power
    • You'll be lacking in stats and regen
    • Basically portrays "I'm here to rice and nothing else" to your opponent
  • Building Full Items
    • Too much money when you could have stacked Iron Branches
    • Soul Ring can situationally be good, but you are susceptible to ganks and you cannot use Soul Ring if you are low on HP


Lane and Rune Control


Your general priorities will be something like:
  • Last Hit - gold and XP are very important at mid
  • Deny - getting an XP advantage will lead to more kills and more lane control
  • Harass - forcing your opponent out of lane is very good, but hard to do; it will also set up kills later on
There are exceptions to this. For instance, if you're up against a Bloodseeker, harassing him down and forcing him to use his regen will lead to him  backing off and having to wait for a courier to bring him regen.

Likewise, if someone has only a Bottle, or has no regen, then harassing becomes a high priority. If you can force them down to low HP with no regen, they have to leave the lane or spend money on regen items.

Lane/Creep Control

Creep Block

At the start of the game, it's important to creep block. Doing so will force the creep waves to collide so that you're on high ground and your opponent is on low ground.

Being in this situation is highly beneficial. You have better vision of your opponent. If they're Ranged, then they have a miss chance when shooting uphill.

Ideally, you'll want to block so that the Ranged Creep is in the front. This will lead to the Ranged Creep dying first and quickly (he has low HP and does more damage than Melee Creeps). The lane will then push further towards your tower and you'll have more control of the lane.

Wave Nuking

If you're a hero like Death Prophet, Queen of Pain, or Storm Spirit, then you have the option of nuking a wave down in one blast. You'll want to harass and deny while also evening out the enemy creeps. When they are all fairly low, you can use your nuke to take them out all at once (ideally hitting the opposing mid player as well).

The benefits of doing this are:
  • Ensuring you get all the last hits
  • Forcing your opponent to last hit under the tower (marginally harder)
  • Giving you time to creep block

Rune Control

Rune Control is heavily tied into Wave Nuking. When the timer is about 10-15 seconds before Rune spawn, you want to nuke down the creep wave.

Doing this forces your opponent to make a decision:
  • Contest the Rune
  • Get the XP and Gold from killing creeps
More often than not, they'll forfeit the rune because becoming underleveled and not keeping up in GPM can be much more devastating than missing a rune. You, on the other hand, get the best of both worlds.



Ganking is always a tough decision. You really cannot just go gank whenever someone asks for a gank (as demoralizing as that can be). If you go to gank and end up not getting any kills, waiting a long time and never getting the chance to initiate, etc... you wasted a lot of XP and GPM while giving the opposing mid an advantage.

Gank when you see a good opening. This usually involves a Rune or opponents being overextended. For instance, if you pick up Invisibility or Haste, you can usually go setup a nice gank.

Make it Quick. If you're gone for too long, players start to notice. A good opponent will be calling out MIA status, so your time is very limited. And, to reiterate, the longer you're out of lane, the more behind you get. If you can't make something happen in 15 seconds or less, then odds are it's not worth waiting for.

Your team has to help you. You can't just show up and gank most of the time. Your allies need to help set it up by letting the creep wave push out. If they start playing aggressive, it will tip off your targets that something is wrong (why would they play so carelessly otherwise?)

Sometimes you need items to aid you. Buy Smoke of Deceit or TPs. Ganking when it's unexpected or from an unexpected angle is highly advantageous.

Some mids don't gank much. Heroes like Shadow Fiend and Exort Invokers are at mid to get solo XP and gold more than they are to gank. Shadow Fiend doesn't really have a great ganking kit either given that he lacks stuns and slows, as well as any form of initiation. An Exort Invoker, on the other hand, can gank without leaving the lane by using Sun Strike.

Sometimes, ganking a winning lane is better than ganking a losing one. It's a situational call, but sometimes winning two lanes is better than spreading thin. An example might be if your carry is farming well, your offlane isn't doing well, but they aren't dying a lot and you're winning mid. It could be more beneficial to gank your carry's lane and make it a complete shut out victory there and at mid, then help your offlane come back later on in the game.

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