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DOTA 2 Laning Strategies

DOTA 2 Laning Strategies by Sheldon

DotA 2 Guide by sheldon_
Understanding and executing lanes and laning strategies
Table of content
1. Introduction
2. General information on lanes and team composition
2.1 Easy lane
2.2 Middle lane
2.3 Hard lane
2.4 Jungle
2.5 How to fill your lanes according to map design
3. How to play different lane combinations
3.1 The 3-1-1 strategy
3.2 The 2-1-2 strategy
3.3 The 2-2-1 strategy
3.4 The 1-1-3 strategy
4. Conclusion and final words

1. Introduction
Welcome to my guide on laning and the strategical aspect of lanes and laning strategies. In this guide I am going to explain the different lanes, what type of hero should go to which lane and how you pick good lanes to get an advantage

Every team consists of five heroes, who have got different roles. Many people pick their heroes just according to their mood and personal favor, but in games of higher skill level, people are picking heroes to create synergies between the team’s heroes, to counter enemy heroes and to fill their lanes in the best way.

What advantage do you get from picking your heroes according to a plan with the aim and to have good lanes?

Good lanes are the backbone of every victory, because the lane is where you start into the game. You get the first levels and lasthits of the game, and if you picked your lane so that you get more of this than the enemy, you will most likely get an advantage you can take into mid- and lategame to win the match.

If you see a good player with way fewer gold and levels than he should have in any stage of the game, this can usually be tracked back to the lane he was in, where he got dominated by the enemy who had a better lane and could outplay him.

Good lanes as such are a very difficult topic to explain in one guide, because every hero is different and thus has got different strengths in lane compared to the enemy hero(es).
In this guide I am going to explain what type of heroes should go to which lane, which will prevent you from making the worst mistakes. Although it is a difficult topic to explain and usually requires quite a bit of experience to understand, I am trying to explain everything in the most basic way I could.

2. General information on lanes
There are three lanes in the DotA map, top, mid and bot. What defines a lane?
A lane is a path that connects the Radiant and Dire base. It is also the way the creeps take, and where you farm said creeps during the earlygame or also called laning phase.

The jungle is seen as a lane itself by some people, because you can farm it like a lane and get an advantage from this if your opponent isn’t doing the same. For myself, I don’t think of the jungle as a lane, because both are really quite different.

Why do I mention this?
The jungle can be a big part of your earlygame farm, and if you get a jungler to rush an important item really quickly, your midgame will be a lot more effective. This requires your team to have a jungler, which is simply a hero who is farming the jungle, and not the lane. This is the part where we get to team composition and laning strategies.

If you pick a jungler to get some extra farm for your team as a whole, you need to make sure you don’t lose your other lanes!

This would for example be the case if you take a jungler instead of a support, and your hard carry dies two times because he has to play a solo lane against two enemy heroes.
What the thought process between safe lanes and good team composition is, and how you can make the split between running a jungler and still having safe and stable lanes will be explained in the further parts of this guide.

2.1 Easy lane
The easy lane is bot for Radiant and top for Dire.
Why is this you might ask? First of all, the creepline (the spot where the creeps meet and fight) is naturally closer to your tower than on other lanes. This makes you hard to gank when you are lasthitting, because you have a short distance to your tower, which can be considered a safe area.
You can pull the neutral creepcamp into your lane to draw your creeps off their path and fight the neutral creeps, causing your support to get easy lasthits, denying the enemy team experience and gold, and drawing the creepline closer to your tower (if done correctly!).
There are a few more aspects which make this lane safe for you, I won’t list them all. The image shows both easy lanes (red lines) and both pullcamps (yellow X’s).

Who should farm the easy lane?
The hero who needs the most farm to fulfill his role should take the easy lane. In many cases, this will be the hard carry, who ideally farms the entire early- and midgame to carry the team lategame with the items he farmed. If your team hasn’t got a hard carry, you want to put a semicarry in this lane, to get him to his respective items as quickly as possible.

You always want to couple your easy lane farmer with a support!

The support has to make sure the farming hero has a good time and can achieve his goals. The support is also the one to pull the neutral camp, because leaving this possibility open would a) be a waste of farm and thus a gift to the enemy team and b) leave your support with nearly no gold at all, which makes him it hard for him to even afford the wards your team desperately needs.

Why would your support be left without hardly any gold if not pulling? You could let him get some lasthits on lane …

You want and need your hard or semicarry as big as possible, and for this, you want him to get the entire gold a lane gives you. If you let your support have some lasthits he will have an easy time affording wards and getting maybe Arcane Boots and a Bracer, but your carry will be weaker to a carry who gets all the lasthits in lane.

The support has to get his gold by pulling and maybe ganking, and the true art of good support play is to keep your carry alive and farming, constantly afford wards and still get upgraded boots at around 15 minutes into the game.

Something new players tend to not get is the fact that the jungler is not counted as the support for the easy lane farmer. If you have a jungler and an easy lane farmer they don’t form a dual lane, but a jungler and a solo!

2.2 Middle lane
The middle lane is the path in the middle of the map, connecting both bases in a straight line. The river marks the spot of the creepline, which is located the same distance to both towers. From middle lane, you can access both runes very easily, as their spawn locations are in the river north and south of the middle lane.

All this makes the middle lane a lane where the heroes fight on even preconditions!
Usually, you will have a hero soloing the middle lane. In some cases teams put a dual lane mid to achieve a guaranteed shutdown on the enemy mid-laner, but you will rarely see this done in pubs.
As the solo mid hero doesn’t have to share the experience from the creepwave, he gets to level 6 quicker than anyone else on his team. If your solo mid hero has got an ultimate which has a lot of impact, it can mean a big advantage if this hero gets his ultimate early and can use this to get an advantage for his team, be it in killing the enemy mid hero or ganking the sidelanes.

The solo mid has also got easy access to both rune spots at the same time, whereas the sidelanes can only access one of them quickly. This makes the mid hero an ideal candidate for the bottle, an item which lets you regenerate health and mana, and can pick up runes to activate them at a later point, the bottle also gets completely refilled when picking up a rune.

If your solo mid hero has got an ultimate with a big impact, and can use the technically infinite regeneration of the bottle as well as the runes to a big impact, you are in a great position.
Conclusion: You want to pick a solo mid hero who has an ultimate of great impact, and who can use the runes to get an advantage for himself or his entire team.

I’ll make a guide on playing the middle lane in the future, where I will go over everything with a lot more detail.

2.3 Hard lane
The hard lane is top for Radiant and bot for Dire, and the name of the lane is self-explanatory. The creepline is really far away from your tower, and people will have an easy time ganking you, because they have a lot of space to cut your retreat path.

If you are lucky, people will be content with forcing you out of experience range, and you have to be creative to get your levels (against good players of course). If you are unlucky however, people will try to kill you at every chance they get, and if you are not playing cautious you will feed the enemy carry a lot of gold, which he will be thankful for and destroy your teams ancient before the 30 minute mark.

You ideally don’t want to send a dual lane top, but only one solo hero. This is because you are at such a disadvantage just by the map design, that you won’t be able to do a lot even when you are two heroes on the hard lane. Also, if you manage to get some experience, you will have to share it between your two heroes. This causes you to have two heroes who are underleveled and undergeared, and this is not what you want!

The best hardlane solos are the ones who can get their gold and experience back after they reached a certain point, or even better give some of this gold and experience to the team as well.

The hard lane hero needs to be a hero who can get his experience even if the enemy is trying his best to avoid this, and can escape death while doing this. He should also be able to get his experience and gold back after a certain point, or give his team some form of advantage that pays off on the long run.

2.4 The jungle
The jungle is the area between the easy lane and the mid lane of each side. It is a large area of forest run through by paths and filled with five neutral creepcamps. Certain heroes can farm these neutral creeps very effectively, and can create an advantage for their team, because the team is farming not three, but four sources of income and get items for four heroes instead of just three.

What effects does a jungler have on the team?
Easily listed, you will get gold and experience on an additional hero, who can rush a core item like a Mekansm to help your team fight and/or push. You will not be forced to play a dual lane top and possibly get very low experience and farm for two heroes, and can instead run a good hardlane solo who can get everything he lost back, and is still useful for the team.

You might think running a jungler is always a positive thing, but you will have a problem if you pick a jungler and for example nobody on your team picks a hero for the hard lane.
Communicate with your team and make up your mind what lanes you want to run. If you have got a good dual lane on your hard lane, you might be able to get a kill on the enemy hard carry or his support and fight the enemy lane for gold and experience.

You can also run a an aggressive trilane, which is a trilane on the hard lane, to seriously challenge the enemy’s carry for farm, all while having your usual solo mid but also farming a solo hero on the easy lane. This hero might not have been good on the hard lane, but because you are running an aggressive trilane you can give him relatively safe farm on your easy lane.

As you see, there are many viable options how to set up your lanes, and I will talk about all the different combinations later on.

2.5 How to fill your lanes according to map design
When talking about map design, I always mean the fact that by nature there is an easy lane, a middle lane and a hard lane for each side.

If you want to fill your lanes according to this, you need three heroes farming the lanes, one jungler and one support.

The three farming heroes should always be able to work under the circumstances the lane proposes. The safe lane farmer doesn’t need to fill a lot of criteria, he is ideally enjoying freefarm. This lane should be taken by a hard- or semicarry who needs the gold.

The middle lane farmer should profit from quick levels to give himself or the team an advantage. He also should be using a bottle to get (technically infinite) regeneration and runes to use in ganks. If your mid laner profits from a level advantage, but doesn’t need the runes, you should probably put another hero mid, just to deny the enemy the runes. If you let your enemy mid laner get free rune control, he might get some early kills when ganking with the runes which you would have fought for if you sent a different hero middle.

Your hard lane solo needs to be able to get his experience in some unconventional way, because he will be at least forced out of experience range against good players, if not even killed. This requires a special skillset, usually involving invisibility or an escape spell. The hard lane solo should also be able to get his gold and experience back after he reached a certain point, all while still being useful to the team through ganks or something else.

Your support will assist your easy lane farmer by harassing, denying, pulling and whatever the situation requires. He has to do his best to be useful to his team, but is generally the easiest hero role to play during laning phase. Personal experience has shown the support needs to focus on the game way less than for example the solo mid.

Your jungler is farming the jungle, as the name says. There are different heroes who can farm the jungle, all with different kinds of impacts on the rest of the game. There are junglers who gank, junglers who push, or junglers who just farm some items to fight. The jungler should always fit the general playstyle of a team, but that is most often served.

If you fill your lanes like this, and avoid complete anti-synergies in your team, you are set up well. You will be able to farm your lanes effectively and are in a good spot for midgame, where your personal decisions and play will decide about the outcome of the game.

3. How to play different lane combinations
As I hinted earlier, there are different lane combinations you can play. The previous part covered how to fill your lanes the most classic way including a jungler. This part will more focus on what different lane combinations are viable, and what goal they serve.
The lane setup worked out in part 2.5 of this guide can be described in a numeric system with the code 2-1-1-1.

The code describes how many players are playing on each lane, going from easy lane to middle lane to hard lane and adding the jungle last.

As you have a carry and a support playing on the easy lane, this lane is represented by the number 2. One hero in the mid and hard lane each add two times the number 1, and the jungler makes the last number 1 in the code.

I will be using this system to describe the different lane setups explained now.

3.1 The 3-1-1 strategy
Let’s start with a slight variation of the 2-1-1-1 strategy. This laning setup leaves out the jungler, but includes a second support for your safelane farmer.

What does a second support give you that you would leave out a jungler for him?
First of all, your carry will farm in maximum safety, which can only be broken if the enemy decides to run an aggressive trilane to disrupt his farm. In this case, you are in a fairly good situation with a second support, but would probably be in a lot of problems if you ran a jungler who wanted to farm and couldn’t protect your carry.

You will also have a much easier time for your first support, because he hasn’t got to do all the tasks alone by himself anymore. You can now let one support stack and pull, and let the other one focus on denying and harassing the enemy hard lane solo.
You will still get a certain level of farm on the support who is pulling, but not as nearly as much as on certain junglers.

Choose this strategy when your enemy is running an aggressive trilane, or when you desperately need to shut down an enemy hard lane solo.

3.2 The 2-1-2 strategy
Everyone will know this setup, because it is the most played laning strategy in pubs. You run two heroes on your easy lane, one hero solo mid, and two heroes on your hard lane.

This strategy works because most pub players are not able to punish enemy mistakes with the precision and dedication of more experienced players. In said pubs it is not uncommon to see two farming carries share one lane, something I want to desperately advise to not do! Most often this laning setup is chosen in games where a lot depends on how many of the mistakes are actually punished and on pretty random stuff, rather than on thought process and strategy.

There is a way to run this setup in the context of a strategy, and often times with great success.
You have your carry farming the easy lane, guarded by a support, and your solo mid farming the middle lane. You are still running a hero that would normally be the hard lane solo on the hard lane, but you give him a defensive support to assist him. This has been the usual laning combination in professional games before trilanes became popular and has worked to great success, with Windrunner and Earthshaker being one example of a successful dual hard lane.
What effect does this have?

Your hard lane hero can actually get close to the creepwave and get experience without getting harassed out of lane. The enemy support won’t be able to harass two people out of lane by himself, because you could easily turn on him and deal severe damage.
If you extend this thought and play, your HARD LANE HERO becomes a HARD LANE FARMER, as he can’t get harassed out of lane that easily and is able to get a some lasthits which he wouldn’t have gotten if he was alone.

If the enemy team is running a jungler and you have got balls you can leave the lane to hunt the enemy jungler and kill him. This is risky because you will not always be successful, and can easily find yourself cornered in by the jungler, the dual lane you were laning against and the enemy’s solo mid hero, who came in to get easy kills.

If the enemy is running a defensive trilane, you should probably not play this strategy, because their lane will almost always be stronger than yours and leave you underleveled and undergeared on two heroes.

All this concludes in a lot more experience on your hard lane hero, who can help his team way quicker than he would be able to if he was alone. This comes at the cost of not running a jungler.

3.3 The 2-2-1 strategy
This laning composition is build out of a dual easy lane, a hard lane solo and a dual lane in your mid lane. This dual lane mid usually has got a semicarry with a nuke or stun, and a support who owns the counterpart.
The goal of this laning setup is most often to shut down the enemy mid-laner.
This lineup was run a lot around the time of TI2, where Morphling, Chaos Knight and Antimage where the most common farming heroes in the dual middle lane. This laning setup allows you to lasthit and deny almost every creep, harass the enemy mid-laner and control the runes with the support hero without leaving out lasthits.
This comes at the cost of splitting the experience between your two heroes, but the three heroes I mentioned don’t need the experience so badly. You also will also not be able to control the enemy hard lane solo that easily anymore, and you will have one hero with no income at all, this being your mid support.

As you are 2v1 in middle lane, you will probably get some kills going your way, and this is how your support gets a bit of gold himself. Also you might have a hard carry farming the middle lane with this setup, you want to play aggressive and shut down the enemy, even more so if your second support leaves the easy lane to gank the middle lane.

Run this lineup when you need to shut down the enemy mid-laner and can afford to play a more aggressive style because you don’t depend on a lategame carry that much.
Don’t run this lineup when your enemy is playing an aggressive trilane to shut down your carry, because you will be at a disadvantage in this lane, which you can’t afford to happen!
Having become more unconventional at the time I am writing this guide (Patch 6.76), this laning strategy is still pretty good if you need to shut down the enemy mid-laner and can afford to have your easy lane a bit weakened.

3.4 The 1-1-3 strategy
This strategy works around the so called aggressive or offensive trilane. You are running one hero on the easy lane, one hero in middle, and three heroes on your hard lane.

This setup is based upon aggression and kills, and you need at least 3 stuns and/or nukes added in your aggressive trilane to be successful.

When running an aggressive trilane, there is no way around getting good wards. Ideally you want vision behind the enemy tower and in the jungle next to your hard lane. You can also leave out the ward behind the enemy tower and block the enemy’s pullcamp with it, but don’t be surprised if your enemy counterwards it very quickly.

If you can’t get kills even on the enemy supports, don’t get lasthits for your carry and maybe even get killed a few times yourselves, you should abandon your plan and switch your trilane into your easy lane, because you will lose too much if you stay and get killed over and over again.

The aggressive trilane comes at the cost of a farming hard lane solo for the enemy team. Your safe lane farmer, who would normally have played the hard lane, is not able to shut down the enemy hard lane solo. On the other hand, your easy lane solo is way safer compared to a hard lane solo.

You can also pick a hero for your easy lane which you would not be able to run on a hard lane solo, because you will almost always get farm on this hero. You could pick for example a Brewmaster for the easy lane, and get him to a quick Blink Dagger. However, if you fail your aggressive trilane and need to switch it to the easy lane, your Brewmaster will have no chance on the hard lane and will be useless for the rest of this game.

You need to make the balancing act between having a good offensive trilane and being able to switch to a safer strategy if you are not successful. When picking this strategy you are gambling, but if you play well you can be very successful with it!

4. Conclusion and Final Words
There is no completely right laning setup for a team composition, and there are no completely wrong laning setups, as ridiculous as this might seem. Laning strategies are not only determined by numbers, but also by heroes, playstyles and decisions, of which I can only cover the first.
If you play a lot and watch a lot of games and/or replays you will be able to work hero combinations and playstyles into your laning strategies, but the decision-making is always gonna be unpredictable, for you as well as for your opponent.

I hope I could teach you a bit more with this guide, and encourage you to play more experimental laning strategies to (hopefully) win your games. I know I didn’t answer a lot of questions in this guide, but I will be creating more guides in the future and also explain how to play each lane precisely.

If you liked this guide please leave me some feedback to help me improve my future guides.

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