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Position five heroes are the backbone of any team. They are often a sacrificial role with lowest gold and experience priority, but their impact is not limited to the first 15 minutes of the game.
Current meta really rewards proactive play. As such, most of the time it is hard to justify going for greedier heroes in the fifth position. Supports need to either bolster your lanes, provide teamfight potential or offer pushing capabilities, all before level 10.
For this Blog Post we are going to look at three most successful position five supports in the pub meta in the very high skill bracket and analyze what exactly makes them so good.
Seeing Chen as a game-winning hero in pubs is a rarity. The hero always had one of the highest skill ceilings in the game, but required both deep understanding of the map and good micro execution. Right now, it seems, the gap in effectiveness between the highest and the lowest skill Chen players is a lot smaller.
We believe there are two main factors that led to Chen becoming a better support: flexibility after the latest changes and the meta with more self-sustaining, proactive cores, such as Sven.
Flexibility comes from the ability to play Chen in lane. The hero still absolutely needs to rotate to jungle once in a while to get a creep, but most of the time staying in lane, playing somewhat passively is possible. Divine Favor is usually maxed out or skilled three times when your position one carry really needs some babysitting and can increase the sustainability of the lane enough to turn almost any losing lane into a draw. For some heroes it is often enough to get early levels and rotate to jungle.
When played with self-sustaining, more active cores, Chen is free to rotate to the jungle and max out Holy Persuasion to greatly increase the size and effectiveness of his army. Extra movement speed for dominated creeps granted in 7.22 made this army considerably more effective and capable in all aspects: potential lockdown from Centaur, slow from Hellbear or simple extra damage output from any creeps.
The end result is a versatile hero who can either prevent the lane from losing or turn a stalemate into an almost definitive win. Identifying the lane is often a priority, but most high level players will already know how to assess the situation and can act accordingly.
Warlock doesn’t need any introductions. The hero offers decent sustain in lane and now, since players finally started maxing out Fatal Bonds again, he also offers quite a bit of damage on top.
Warlock is probably still better in defensive lanes, when paired with a greedier core. If the hero wants to become a teamfight-winning engine, he really needs to max out Fatal Bonds and it means less or no skill points into Upheaval. This limits potential for early aggressive plays for the hero and most of the time the better option is careful, efficient trading, in an attempt to force a mistake out of opponent.
Later on, giving one second of breathing room for your team in engagements and following it up with Fatal Bonds is what the hero is all about. Do mind that dropping the golem if your team is initiated on is still a priority. This one second of BKB-piercing control often means the difference between allowing your teammates to use mobility spells or press BKB and them dying.
Yet another surprising addition to this list, Crystal Maiden currently holds the third position in the list of the most successful position five supports. The buffs the hero received in 7.22 were quite interesting—her attack speed was increased, while her attack animation duration was decreased, allowing her to be a lot more efficient when it comes to harassing or when contesting creeps.
Is this what propelled the hero back into the meta? Not necessarily, but it is definitely a big part of it. The other big reason is the return of frequently mana-starved strength cores who generally benefit from Arcane Aura the most. Allowing your teammates to continuously cast Storm Hammer or Wraithfire Blast ensures much higher pressure in lane which in turn leads to higher kill potential.
The hero is still very squishy and is among the slowest in the game, but through good positioning and continuous spell usage she can stay relevant for a very long time. Make sure you get the cast range talent at level 10 and max out the aura first—there are games where the extra aggression from levels into Crystal Nova can pay off, but most of the time going for aura is a safer bet, especially if your team is mana-dependant.
Two out of three heroes in this list came as a surprise to us. Chen used to be a ~42% win rate hero in pubs and was still a top pick in the professional scene and we hope that it is, indeed, a shrinkage in the skill gap difference that led to the hero's rise in public matchmaking and that he isn’t actually broken. Or at least not broken enough to be a 100% contest rate hero in the professional scene.
Crystal Maiden more or less came out of nowhere and we strongly recommend her to all players. Not only is she highly effective in higher level pubs, but she is also quite easy to utilize effectively: her win rate is actually higher in lower brackets. On top of it, she is also the absolute best heroes to hard-train your positioning and use the skills gained when playing other support heroes: CM is the one of the squishiest and slowest heroes in the game and unless you want to die repeatedly, you will be forced to develop better habits for playing supports. Remember, it is cores who are playing an action-RPG. Supports are playing survivor horror.