I can’t stand players who insist that a draft needs a ‘tank’
Players tend to mix up tanks with offlaners because they suggest picking one when there are already two cores and two supports. They’re wrong, tanks and offlaners are different, and here’s why.
Basically, tanks are heroes who have massive health points, and can survive after being inflicted with high amount of damage. Offlaners, on the other hand, are heroes who stay in the lane where creeps meet farther from their tier one tower.
Technically, there are no ‘tanks’ in Dota 2. The MOBA, instead, uses the term Durable to refer to heroes who possess the potential to sustain huge amount of damages from enemies. Along with Carry, Disabler, Initiator, Jungler, Support, Nuker, Pusher, and Escape, Durable is one of Dota 2’s official roles in the actual game.
Durable heroes generally have high health points, health regeneration, armor, and/or magic resistance. Heroes like Centaur Warrunner, Tidehunter, Bristleback, and Axe fall into this category. On the other hand, heroes with abilities such as crowd control, damage reduction, and/or damage negation can also be considered durable. Bane, Enchantress, Medusa, and Razor are examples of these heroes.
Offlaners are heroes which possess the ability to survive the hard lane (Radiant’s top lane and Dire’s bottom lane). Despite the term being used rampantly in the professional Dota 2 scene, an offlaner is actually an unofficial Dota 2 role, according to the Dota 2 Wiki. It’s purely a creation of the meta, and is an invention of the pro scene and the community at large.
These types of heroes are commonly faced with an aggressive tri-lane during the game’s early stages. The choices for offlaners are supposedly bigger compared to Durables, but this depends on the meta. According to Dotabuff, 87 unique heroes have already been picked for offlane so far into the Dota Pro Circuit. The five most picked offlaners this season include Brewmasters, Omniknight, Tidehunter, Puck, and Beastmaster with Omniknight being the most effective as the hero portrays a 70.5% win rate.
To be clear though, there are no “official” offlaners since it is not really a role that’s been coded into the game. Almost any hero can be played in the offlane, even if not all of them will be good in it. To call a hero an offlaner simply means that that hero is being played to survive harassment solo in the short lane.
The two terms can be confusing because most of the time, you do want a Durable hero in your offlane. Not all Durable heroes, however, are for the offlane and not all offlane heroes need to be Durable types.
In hero pick rate data released by OpenDota, it shows that players who are categorized in a higher skill group are less likely to draft Durable heroes compared to players who are categorized in a lower skill group.
Based on the relationship of offlane heroes and durable heroes, I would say six heroes, Axe, Brewmaster, Bristleback, Centaur Warrunner, Omniknight, and Tidehunter, are both Durable and can be drafted as offlaners.
This has been proven by the competitive meta trend. These heroes can both serve the purpose of a tank and an offlaner due to their naturally high health points and ability to survive and contest aggressive tri-lanes.
Aside from their attributes, these heroes also have area-of-effect abilities which, when used effectively, can be used as a way to rally back from the economic deficit the hero may suffer during the game’s early phases.
I then looked into how often Archon players pick these heroes compared to Divine players.
The data does not only depict how high-level players shy away from picking durable heroes, but it also establishes the preferences of players when it comes to durable heroes. Axe and Bristleback, two of Archon players’ most-picked durable heroes, are Divine players’ least-picked durable heroes.
The pick rate also gives a glimpse of the apparent play style on both skill groups. Archon players would rather pick durable heroes with high killing potential like Axe and Bristleback, compared to Divine players’ Omniknight and Tidehunter who specializes in utility and team fights.
Take for example the 7.06 meta could be a good example on why durable heroes are not the only choice for offlaners. Squishy heroes like Puck, Venomancer, and Necrophos, flourished as offlaners while Tidehunter, Centaur, and Brewmaster were ignored.
‘What should I do with this information?’
Do you wonder why more than 10 minutes are allotted in the drafting phase of every competitive Dota 2 matches? It’s because the draft makes up 50% of the game. Knowing what to pick and when to pick it almost always equates to victory.
Durable heroes are best picked when your enemies lack area-of-effect abilities and are rich in right-clicks. This commonly goes for physical damage-oriented drafts where team fights are focused on the vital positioning of the hard carries. Durable heroes can lead the charge, absorb a significant amount of damage, and waste valuable enemy spells to help its team clinch the advantage.
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Also, don’t forget that durable heroes should not be automatically picked simply because your draft is composed of four squishy heroes. Dota players above a certain level of skill already know not to target Durable heroes if they can kill a valuable carry or support instead. Just always pick what your team needs in terms of synergies, farm distribution, or utility.