The Hard Life of a Carry

Aren’t they adorable. (Art by


When you were young and innocent, were you told that all you had to do to be a succesful carry was to kill creeps for 40 minutes, then proceed to right-click Heroes and/or buildings?

Well, I got news for you.

After years in this position, I’ve noticed a few common mistakes, both on myself and on others, and today I’d like to share. This will by no means be a pro guide or anything deep like that, merely a few tips to improve our gameplay a bit, and to show that there’s way more to playing carry, exactly as playing support is more than just buying wards and feeding.

Here goes:

-Your purpose is NOT to farm.

Wait, what.

Trust me, I know. I’m a hardcore farmer,  yet farm is simply a means, and many of us tend to forget. What carries do best is that they generally multiply their damage output through items. That, however, doesn’t guarantee anything by itself; we’ve all seen Ursa’s damage capabilities, and yet he can’t carry even if his life depended on it.

Your purpose is to strike and complete your OBJECTIVES when you’re stronger than the enemy. That’s what tells you apart from other roles. Others focus more on making space, creating opportunities, generally playmaking. They mostly need to outplay the opponent, while you,simply need to be strong enough to bully them. You’re all about macro, not micro.

Farming first then fighting isn’t always the way to go; that depends on all 10 Heroes of the match. A safelane Juggernaught is actually one of the strongest early game fighters; take advantage of that before getting lost in the woods and split pushing. A Slark is strongest when getting an early Shadowblade, so people generally choose to farm with Dark Pact for 10~ minutes then roam around the map killing everything in sight. The feared Spectre makes team fights completely different the moment she gets her Radiance.

Think like a ninja. You don’t care about honour, or showing your skills off. All you care about is to see 5 heads on pikes and a big statue in rumbles. Strike when you have the power advantage!

-Never sacrifice your lane control for greedy farming items.

I can’t describe how many times I’ve screwed myself over because of this. It’s one of those times when you really want an early Midas, save up slowly to reach that 2k gold, and eventually you end up losing your lane AND the Midas.

If you simply trade farm with your opponents, you’re getting nowhere. You need to be stronger than all of them. A few early game items will make sure you have the space to farm while they’re getting their butts kicked.

I’ve tried a lot of builds for Lifestealer, and feel that getting a Midas works the best. However, 99% of the time, you want to get your Phase Boots+Stick+Orb of Venom before that. With that build, there aren’t many offlaners that won’t have trouble against you.

-Make sure you’re always doing something.

Yes, I know this sounds obvious. It’s even more important when playing carry; people generally make the mistake of sticking around the action too much (often resulting in the infamous middle lane 5v5 Mexican standoff). Be an opportunist. Keep your farm up and just tp in if you see a good opening. After a fight, if you still have some HP/mana to spare and aren’t in any danger, go deplete them to clear a neutral camp before going base. Try to rotate between lane, woods and pushing, while not missing a single lasthit.

Generally, the idea is that if you catch yourself simply waiting for something to happen or roaming aimlessly for too long, you’re doing something wrong. If you master this, your XPM and GPM will skyrocket.

-Be a bit flexible with your builds.

You’re gonna get flamed for that, but there’s always the mute button. People tend to copy what they see in pro matches, while failing to understand that these matches are quite different from their pubs.

Level up the skills you intend to use, not the ones you saw on that replay yesterday. If you want to farm until level 11, level your Hero’s passives/farming tools rather than the nukes. Luna, for instance, gets 6 bounces from a level 4 Moon Glaive, while a level 3 only bounces 3 times. You can get 2 levels in Lucent beam early on for your laning stage and to have a decent ult, and focus on Moon Glaives. You’re going to farm way faster, instead of having that level 4 Lucent Beam which will do absolutely nothing.

Same goes with items; can your team boost your damage a lot? Get an early BKB. Do the opponents have too much sustain/mobility for you to fight head on? Get something to clear creep waves fast and split push (Arteezy with Chaos Knight Battlefury+Vlads comes to mind). Is there a freaking Omniknight making everyone immortal? Diffusal is obvious, you can also try an Orchid. Do they have 13948 ways to pierce spell immunity? BKB is NOT mandatory, contrary to popular belief. Tell your allies to get a Lotus Orb or something, and boost your own effective HP.

-You’re supposed to carry them, not the other way around.

It’s natural to expect some babysitting when you’re small and weak, it’s natural. When you become a strong and independent carry though, you still need to be useful and carry your own weight (pun not intended). Even if you don’t participate in fights, draw some attention to yourself by pushing a tower or two. Woods are fine as an extra source of income, but remember, neutrals don’t bring you closer to the enemy Ancient.

-Your life is more important than theirs.

Of course, simply getting caught and dying is bad, and even worse for you, since you (should) have the highest Net Worth. Even when you think about trading kills though, you should be very, very mindful. Your respawn time will be longer and you could’ve used that time to farm. I know it can be tempting, but you really need to know what you’re doing. It depends on how much reliable and unreliable gold you have at that moment, both the streaks of you and the opponent, etc. If you don’t have all those cleared in your head, you’re probably better off not trading your life, unless it’s an obviously high priority kill.


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