Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tip: Play Aggressive Early Game

One of the biggest problems I see in newer players is not knowing how and when to play aggressive. Actually, it seems that most players don't know how to respond to aggression. It's a fundamental part of the game and improving.

The thing is that it's scary for most new players. There are a lot of things to take into account, like:
  • You do not have a large mana pool. What if you need those spells later?
  • What if you feed?
You're not going to just blindly throw spells down. You want to use them intelligently. Aggression applied at the right time leads to lane control. If you can get an opponent to use all their regen and get them to low HP again after that, they are pretty much helpless (this is also basically how you deal with Bloodseeker mid).

I'm going to walk through a few common places where people should exercise more aggression early on.

The Opposing Mid Got a Bottle First (With No Other Items)

Getting a bottle first is like begging to be abused. There are many issues with getting bottle first:
  • Minor Stats: they don't matter a whole lot, but anything that helps you get last hits is good. You'll be able to take about one more auto attack and maybe cast an additional spell.
  • Bottle regen can be cancelled, Tango regen cannot
  • If you fail to get the first rune, you're sitting there with a 600g item that does nothing for you
  • If you need to regen HP, you ideally should need to regen Mana

Contextual Example: Tiny (You) vs. Pudge

To put this in context, let's say you're Tiny and you're against a Pudge that bought Bottle first.

Pudge will generally have Rot at level 1. He gets bottle because Meat Hook takes a huge amount of mana (he can only cast it once before needing to regen).

If you get a few auto attacks in on him, then he's going to need to use a bottle charge (because at level 2, your combo could potentially kill him). The problem with this for him is that he gets 50% efficiency from the bottle. It heals him, but his mana is already full.

At level 2, let's say he's at full mana, but has low HP. Now he has to decide: do I want full efficiency from Bottle, or do I just want the heal? If he chooses to throw a hook and actually hits you with it, then you're next to him while he's at low HP. You combo him, and he dies. If he just sips the bottle, then he misses out on casting a spell.

Contextual Example: Queen of Pain (You) vs. Viper

Here's another example where Bottle is terrible first and you should be aggressive. If you're both sitting at level 2. You play aggressively against Viper and he gets very low. He retreats up the ramp so he can regen, but before that, you manage to hit him with Shadow Strike.

Now he has to wait ~15 seconds to use Bottle because of the DoT. That's plenty of time for you to finish him off, pop a Salve, use your own Bottle, etc.

You Bought Clarities (and Regen)

If you bought something at the start, you should use it. Especially clarities. They allow you to use more spells than you normally would be able to.

Try to attempt level 1 kills. If it fails, who cares? You have mana regen.

A lot of players don't realize how potent your spells are at level 1. They don't need to do a lot of damage at level 1 because your opponent doesn't have much HP, they won't have boots, and they won't have stats from items or levels (you get some minor stats each level).

The basic message here is that if you bought something, make sure you use it.

Your Team Has More Heroes in a Lane

If you're running a 2v1 or a 3v1, then there is no reason not to be aggressive.

Passive play here leads to:
  • The solo outleveling you (you're splitting XP with others in lane, they are not)
  • The solo getting gold
  • The solo getting kills and being useful later on
Here are a few examples:

Contextual Example: Crystal Maiden (You) + Anti-Mage vs. Windrunner

In this example, Windrunner is solo in the hard lane. You're babysitting Anti-Mage.

Get on the other side of the creeps and chase Windrunner out of XP range. If she's smart, then her first spell was Windrun. Meanwhile, you might have Frostbite or Nova, which both do damage. You can exchange blows with her, use spells for harass, or whatever.

If you get hurt or need mana, use a Tango or use a Clarity. Meanwhile, your Anti-Mage is getting free farm and Windrunner is not getting any levels. Pretty soon you and Anti-Mage will be higher level than Windrunner and can get easy kills on her. Just be careful to not draw creep aggro at first (chase Windrunner a bit before attacking her, or use the trees to your advantage)

Some players will tell you to go pull. But you're a 2v1 lane. If you go to pull, the result is:
  • Anti-Mage is solo versus a ranged hero that can harass him out of lane
  • Windrunner can easily contest the creep pull
  • Windrunner is in XP range, so she'll level faster than you and Anti-Mage (or at least at the same pace)

Contextual Example: Venomancer (You) + Sven vs. Drow

Let's say you're in the hard lane while Drow is solo in her safe lane.

Drow is a hero that will stomp if she outlevels you significantly. Once she gets a few levels of aura + her ult, she's doing a ton of damage.

So many players are passive against her and just try to farm and deny. Why not just kill her? What is she going to do at level 1? Frost arrow you? She cannot do anything. She's very slow and has low HP.

Just have Sven stun her, then Venomancer can easily land a Gale. A few auto attacks and she's dead. Now the both of you are level 2, she has no money and has to walk back to lane. After that it's smooth sailing.

Why would you wait? It's like a time bomb.

Worst case scenario is that she hugs the tower. However, at level 1, you should be able to kill her pretty quickly the second she oversteps. You can also do something like push the lane into the tower, then go and block your creep wave. At a certain point you can also dive her.

Your Opponent Skilled a Passive Ability

I see a lot of newer players who lose to Necrolytes that skill their aura at level 1, Silencers that get Curse of the Silent at level 1, and so on.

Skilling your abilities this way is like putting a target on your head.

If you are against them, you have two options:
  1. Do nothing - you'll take a lot of damage over time and find them controlling the lane
  2. Kill them - they have nothing else to offer. Necrolyte doesn't have his heal/damage at level 1 if he got aura. Likewise, Silencer doesn't have his silence/disarm
There is virtually nothing they can do to stop you. If Silencer casts Curse, then stun him and have your ally go on him at the same time. Boom. He's dead. He has low HP, low movement speed, and low armor. He might have an ally that can stun or something, but now Silencer has to use all his regen to get back into lane or risk getting killed.

Likewise, Necrolyte can't do shit. If you kill him, you've removed the annoyance of his aura for a while as he walks back to lane (unless he has money to TP). You get bonus gold and XP (plus a morale boost).

The Exception

Not every passive merits going for a quick kill. Say a Luna skills her passive first. If her lane partner is also ranged, now they are able to output a significant amount of damage through auto attacks (and besides, Luna's other options are shit like a weak nuke/mini-stun, and glaives which aren't useful in lane).

Your Opponent is Weak Early Game

Some heroes are naturally dead weight early game. Take Anti-Mage for instance. He will either grab Blink or Mana Burn early on. neither of which is very useful compared to a Stun, Slow, or Nuke.

When you see a dual lane with a combo like Lich + Anti-Mage, just kill the Lich early on (lvl 1-3). Anti-Mage can't do anything to stop you. Kill the support and the carry is helpless. And if you control the lane the carry is in, then it's less likely he'll become scary early on (e.g. 30-40 minutes, where Anti-Mage usually peaks in usefulness).

Your Spells Scale Poorly

No matter what point you're at in the game, you can contribute something. But, not every hero has damage that scales the same.

Two examples I can quickly think of are Crystal Maiden and Timbersaw.

Crystal Maiden
  • She has powerful slows and semi-stuns that are great all game
  • Her spell damage quickly tapers off and is not very effective
  • Instead of getting lots of levels of her passive spell (mana aura), get 0-1 level of it and go for your damage spells
  • Get lots of kills early while you have the great combination of:
    • Good Damage
    • Powerful Slow
    • Powerful Stun
    • (Hint: Not many heroes offer all that early game)
  • Also, look at Crystal Maiden: she's slow, has low HP, and can't really auto attack well
    • She is an aggressive hero. If she is forced to run or take damage, SHE WILL DIE
  • His spells don't scale that well past mid game (yes, his ult is PURE damage, but it's still going to fall off in DPS)
  • He thrives in the lane when heroes have low mobility and HP (easier to land has spells and kill with them)
    • Also, there are a lot of trees in the lane that he can latch onto
  • You NEED to get early kills so that you get the money to get items that give you the regen that lets you do marginally better late game via spamming

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