Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Elements That are Important in a Lineup

Lineups can be difficult to construct. There are a lot of elements that are valuable. Some are more quantifiable than others (e.g. Farm Dependence vs. Synergy, respectively). Here, I am going to talk about many of the elements that make a difference in a lineup.

In Brief:

  • Farm Dependence
  • Initiation
  • Vision
  • Laning/Synergy
  • Crowd Control
  • Damage
  • Hero Peak
  • Teamfight, Solo Kill, and Gank

Farm Dependence

Having a spread of farm dependence is important. That's why you have things like the number system, where:

  • 1 = Carry
  • 2 = Solo Mid / Solo Farmer
  • 3 = Offlane / Semi-Carry / Jungler
  • 4 = Second Support / Roaming Support / Jungler
  • 5 = Support
Gold is a limited resource, so it's important to think about how you want to split it up. A hero like Shadow Demon can be very effective at any stage of the game with limited farm. In contrast, a hero like Anti-Mage is almost useless without any farm.

Depending on how you run your lineup, you need to adjust how gold is distributed. When you have a 4-protecting-1 strategy, then the Carry is going to have very high farm dependence and most of the other heroes should be able to function with less farm and shared experience.

In something like a dual or tri-core (2-3 semi-carries / farmers), then farm will be more spread and your supports will likely be roaming or stacking the jungle for farm.

The Goal

Just take into account how much farm dependence your team has. If it is too top heavy, it won't work. Similarly, if you stack too many support heroes, then the farm may not be put to optimal usage.


Being able to start a fight is incredibly important. You need someone who can jump on the other team when there is an opening and set up the rest of your team. Being able to reliably initiate is another important aspect of the initiator.

Take Pudge, for instance: he can really punish a player for being out of position and initiate to some extent by making the fight into an immediate 4v5. However, if he misses hooks, your team is now lacking initiation.

We'll use Batrider as another example. His initiation is generally pretty good once he has a Blink Dagger. He's able to jump in, secure a grab, and Firefly out. However, at some point, his initiation will be reduced because is he gets stunned, he turns into a free kill. As long as you can guarantee he has enough farm to keep initiating (e.g. get a BKB), then you'll be ok. Enigma is a hero that faces similar issues. If he gets a 5-man Black Hole, you're golden. Anything less, and he's in trouble until he gets BKB.

Heroes like Clockwerk, Magnus, and Warlock will all be generally fine unless there is no followup. Clockwerk can tend towards being suicidal if he's underleveled. Warlock faces the issue of the enemy seeing him and knowing the ult is coming. Magnus is generally fine as long as he gets a good opening and has Blink Dagger.

The Goal

Ensure your team has some form of initiation. The more reliable, the better. If you can't start fights, you'll have trouble winning them.

On a side note: having vision makes a huge difference in team fights because you can get setup, have some idea of what to expect, and have a surprise aspect.


Heroes that provide some sort of vision can make a huge difference in games too. Information Gathering is an incredibly important aspect of any strategy game. The more well informed decisions you can make, the better you'll do overall.

There are a few different categories of heroes that give vision (and a few examples of each):

  • Summon Vision 
    • Beastmaster's Hawk has a huge vision radius and is great for scouting or providing vision in hard to reach areas
    • Venomancer's Wards give enormous vision, are great for scouting, but can also become food if they are poorly placed
    • Naga Siren's illusions can let her scout out dangerous areas (and potentially have opponents waste spells on them) while posing little threat to her (they may be able to tell what side of the map she is on because her illusions do expire after a period of time)
  • Hero Vision 
    • Luna's night vision is greatly amplified by getting one level of her passive spell
    • Nightstalker has greater night vision than the average hero. With Aghanim's Scepter, his vision can see over trees (a.k.a. the legit map hack)
  • Hero Spells
    • Clockwerk's Rockets can scout out areas (great for checking level 1 Rosh attempts)
    • Batrider's Firefly gives him flying vision
    • Clinkz has the advantage of  going invisible, and thus is able to scout out areas or find targets.
      • Note that this can backfire if the enemy team has a Gem or Sentry Wards
    • Slardar is able to keep vision of a hero with his Ultimate 

 The Goal

While it's not necessarily critical to have an extra source of vision, it can make a huge difference. Many heroes have vision fringe benefits, so it's not hard to work into your lineup.

It's also important to note that having an invisible hero forces the other team to buy items they normally wouldn't (e.g. Sentries, Gem). While this can be a strength, if you lose map control early on then your invisible hero ends up being more of a liability than an asset.


This is probably the most important aspect of a lineup. You need to have lanes that make sense, and a team that can come together for a greater overall strategy.

There is a lot to talk about here, so let's look at some of the overall basics:

  • Lane Synergy - heroes that go well together or set each other up, or a lane that does what it is intended to do (e.g. an aggressive trilane should be able to get kills / have high early game damage)
  • Strategy Synergy - this can be anything from building up a wombo-combo, making an effective split-push team, or having heroes that can come together late in the game for an amplified effect (e.g. the offlane Lone Druid gaining benefit from the trilaned Ogre Magi in mid-late game teamfights)
  • Lane Balance - making sure that your lane has a good balance of farm dependence, ability to face off against the opposing lane, or is able to come together in a way that works (e.g. jungling supports)

Lane Synergy

Many of the common synergies are well known and picked up a lot in competitive matches. For instance, Shadow Demon combos well with Stuns and Burst Damage. You sometimes see him paired with Kunkka for a dual mid because Disruption makes landing Torrent easy. Gyrocopter also has natural synergy with Shadow Demon because Rocket Barrage deals a ton of damage, while Soul Catcher amplifies it. Leshrac & Lina are other natural options because they can easily land their delayed AoE stuns, Clockwerk also falls into this category for landing easy Cogs.

Lane Synergy is most important for Trilanes and Dual Mids. If you have a jungling Chen, you want to make sure your Lane is setup for pushing early on. That means your carry shouldn't be reliant on static farming for an extended period of time.

Strategy Synergy

Your lineup should come together in some way as a team. Sometimes you see individual elements coming together after the laning phase. Ogre Magi and Lone Druid are one example of this. Lone Druid usually offlanes (at least in the Western Scene), whereas Ogre Magi would Trilane. However, Bloodlusted Spirit Bears are nothing to be taken lightly.

Wombo-Combo and Split-Push are two strategies that often come to mind and are pretty easy to build around. However, most lineups tend towards more balance and versatility. If either of those strategies gets hard countered or doesn't work as intended, then there is no fall back plan if you went all-in on them.

You'll often see things instead like a Nature's Prophet that is able to Teleport in, help secure a kill, then push with the team before going back to farming. Having him there to turn a 3v3 into a 4v3 is part of the Strategy.

Lane Balance

This ties in a lot with Farm Dependency. But basically, just make sure your lanes are lopsided in terms of farm dependency, or that you don't weaken your lanes too much by running a Jungle Trilane.

You want to make sure your lanes can get farm, and that they have enough damage when necessary. Placing a Disruptor, Faceless Void, and Treant Protector may fulfill the general Trilane requirements of a #1, #4, and #5 farm dependency requirements. However, they have no kill potential and limited zoning potential. Up against an aggressive trilane, or even something like a Dark Seer they may not have what is necessary to win the lane.

Crowd Control

Being able to control the flow of a team fight is a huge advantage. I've read before that the highest win-rates for number of stunners on your team tops out around 4. Being able to lock down the opposing team is a big deal if successful fights, ganks, and in general.

There is a variety of Crowd Control though:

  • Stuns - the obvious source, usually dealing damage while preventing the usage of the hero.
  • Silence - can be incredibly effective as well, preventing the usage of spells. There are variants on this like Doom's ult, which prevents casting spells and using items.
  • Polymorph - a.k.a. "Sheeping" or transforming an opponent into a critter briefly. This is actually a huge deal because many heroes lose passive abilities too (e.g. Phantom Assassin cannot evade while Polymorphed)
  • Grips - like Bane's ult, or Shadow Shaman's net are very important as well. They may take your hero out of the fight, but they also take another target with them.
  • Disarm - though not always the most reliable (can be dispelled by Magic Immunity), it can make a dent in DPS if timed correctly. Items like Heaven's Halberd also supply this effect, in addition to spells like Silencer's Last Word.
  • Blind - causes a miss chance, which is effective in the way Disarm is. Spells like KotL's Blinding Light will apply this to opponents.
These are just some examples. You still have spells like Bane's Nightmare which can't be properly placed. Slows also help to some extent, but aren't necessarily as useful as other forms of crowd control.

On another note, spells like Shadow Demon's Disruption can be used defensively to prevent a hero's death (causing some sort of crowd control), or to take a hero out of the fight for a few seconds while your team sets up.

The Goal

Making sure your team has the ability to control through stuns, silences, etc. is absolutely necessary. Supposedly, 4 Stuns could grant the highest chance of success (again, not sure of the source, but I've seen that statistic somewhere).


It sounds silly to mention this, but it is crucial. Often, it's important to have more than one hero that can dish out damage . I've seen lineups like Treant, KotL, Gyro, Ancient Apparition, and Dark Seer that fail because they let the game make it to late game and the other team has more carry potential then. While KotL and Treant are very effective early game (in terms of dealing damage and preventing damage, respectively), late game they fizzle out for the most part. The above lineup is essentially relying on Gyrocopter as their only source of damage (with Dark Seer's Wall supplying some as well). Up against something like a Lifestealer, Lone Druid, and Queen of Pain - they just won't have enough damage output.

The same issue can happen early game. If your lane is pressured and you don't have enough damage, you won't be able to do much but hug the tower. This can be attributed to lane composition and build choice. For instance, if your Defensive Trilane with Alchemist maxing Goblin's Green, a Disruptor, and Wisp faces off against an Aggressive Trilane - the Defensive Trilane won't have enough damage to really do much to defend themselves and secure farm for Alchemist.

The Goal

Make sure that your lineup has enough damage to defend itself at each phase of the game. This can change to some extent based on your goal.

A fast push lineup might feature heavy push and lots of early game damage. In contrast, a late game lineup might feature a farmer like Faceless Void, while a hero such as KotL provides the early game damage to make space.

The bottom line is: Don't leave yourself helpless.

Hero Peak

Heroes all max out in effectiveness at some point in the game. Items help them scale better, but with some heroes you cannot avoid it.

Take Treant Protector, for instance: Living Armor and Leech Seed are both amazing early game spells. However, in late game, neither will help you that much - there is too much damage and too much HP to heal for either to make a dent.

A hero like Drow Ranger is said to peak at level 16, when her ult provides the biggest gap against her opponents' DPS. As the game goes on, a static bonus of AGI does mean as much as something like a percentage.

Heroes like Anti-Mage are said to have a peak time (usually around 40 minutes). Anti-Mage's specialty is farming up quickly and abusing his better than avarage Base Attack Time (BAT). When he has a Battlefury, Manta Style, and BKB against his opponent that has much less, that's when he takes advantage of the situation. However, an Anti-Mage at 60 minutes against a hero like Spectre is not as formidable.

The Goal

Simply to take peaks into account. If your entire lineup peaks at mid-game, then you sure as hell better not let the game go late. Likewise, if you pick a team that has several late game carries, you will have to expect to lose the laning phase.

Spreading out hero peaks is a popular strategy. Supports tend to be most intimidating early game, whereas semi-carries dominate mid game, and hard carries win late game. By spreading out your hero peaks, your team has something to handle each phase of the game. However, all-in strategies can exploit this if you're not careful.

Teamfight, Solo Kill, and Gank

This is a category that I like to look at personally. It may not be a big deal to some, but I like to have lineups that feature heroes that encourage a team to group up, as well as heroes that encourage a team to spread out.

For instance, Enigma provides a lot of teamfight and punishes grouped up heroes. In contrast, Juggernaut can destroy a hero caught out alone with his ult, and thus incentivizing heroes to travel grouped up (to spread out Omnislash's damage).

Being able to do multiple things well is always good for a lineup. If you feature a lot of wombo-combo, the other team can try to pull off more hit-and-runs or split-push. Likewise, team that features a lot of gankers might find themselves lacking in teamfights.

The Goal

Either spread out your team's strengths or strategize around forcing the other team to play to your strengths. If your team has a great wombo-combo, but you're unable to force a team fight, then you're in trouble. You either need to choose differently to have a multitude of strengths or force the other team to confront you in a team fight.

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