Last time, we took a deep dive into laning convention in DotA 2. Today we’re going to go a bit further and talk about the Position System. Although a bit antiquated you will still hear casters and players talk about a player playing “Position 1” or “Position 5”. While the metagame of DotA 2 is so diverse, the Position System is important when discussing what heroes are viable. But you said all heroes are viable, Corposant! They are, but not on the same team.
An alternative to the Position System is calling players “Cores” or “Supports”. We see this in the in game client around the time of Compendiums. There are 3 Cores on a team (Positions 1, 2 and 3) and 2 Supports (Positions 4 and 5). The Cores on the team will get the majority of the gold distribution where the supports will get just a sliver of it.
This position is typically your Middle Lane or Safe Lane carry player. The hero in your team’s Position 1 will receive the most gold. This means the hero needs to be able to utilize gold well. Giving a character like Ancient Apparition all the team’s gold would not be a good idea. This hero has a lot of utility, but has no good way of fighting an enemy. Position 1 heroes can be hyper-carries, or heroes that scale all the way into the late game. Giving the Position 1 carry the middle lane will ensure they have the most gold and experience in the early/mid game.
It is unwise to have more than one Position 1 tier carry on your team. These heroes include Morphling, Medusa, Anti-Mage, and Naga Siren just to name a few. These guys require both offensive and defensive items to be viable but pack a huge punch. You will not have enough gold to gear up two of these on your team.
This player is your Safe Lane or Middle Lane carry. Heroes that excel after a few key damage items will succeed in Position 2. Position 2 carries do not receive the same amount of gold as Position 1 carries, but they do not need them. Casters are good examples of Position 2 carries as they don’t need the items to bolster auto-attacks. With the exception of Aether Lens, spells do not scale into the late game and it is not viable to have a caster as a Position 1.
Position 2 Carries will come online in the middle of the game and have the potential to completely close out of the game in that window. A team can draft multiple heroes that excel in this role to push out a victory against a team who is trying to win with a hard carry. Tinker, Queen of Pain, and Invoker are very popular heroes for a Position 2 carry.
The third position is the Offlane player, who will have to face off against the enemy Safe Lane. The Offlane is hard. Offlane players will have to face off against the most adversity during a DotA game. Some games will go well and you will have a decent amount of gold. However, most of the time you will be scavenging for gold. Offlane heroes will prioritize picking up expensive utility and support items for the team. They are the team members that carry Pipe of Insight or Lotus Orb.
In the current metagame, tanky heroes with initiation are the most popular Offlaners. Good examples of these heroes are Tidehunter, Faceless Void, Axe and Dark Seer.
There are a lot of things going on at Position 4. Position 4 supports are characters that provide great utility, but may need a few items to get them there. Sometimes the Position 4 support is a jungler or a roaming support. Sometimes they team up with Position 2 and 5 and form an offensive tri-lane against the enemy Offlane.
Position 4 is the flex player on a team. You do what your team needs to counter the enemy team’s actions. You also want to pick a hero that does not need many levels or items to be successful. After the Core players, gold tends to run dry for supports. Position 4 is there to soak all the remaining gold and experience available for the team.
Examples of junglers are Chen and Enchantress. Examples of roaming supports are Mirana, Riki, and Bounty Hunter.
Least glorious position in the game of DotA, the Position 5 support will spend most of the game with few items. Position 5’s job is to ward and control vision on the map. They will also purchase Smoke of Deceit and Dust of Disappearance to help set up ganks. Good Position 5 support heroes require very little to no gold. Actually, most of these supports will scale poorly with gold as well. Shadow Demon is a great example as he can clone enemies and use their gold against them.
Other supports that excel in Position 5 are Lich, Ancient Apparition, Crystal Maiden and Dazzle.
I hope this served as a good overview of the Position System some use in DotA 2. While a bit obsoleted, we can see why it is important that you don’t stack too many heroes that excel in a particular position. For example, Dazzle will never deal as much damage as Anti-Mage if you put him as a Position 1.