“Core” versus “Carry”

An interesting addendum to the warlock post last week is that I saw a professional game last night (Team Tinker vs Fanatic in season 4 of the Dota 2 CL) in which warlock was played as a “core”. That is distinct from a “carry” hero, and made me think about the distinction between the two roles.

A carry hero is, obviously a lategame hero who wins you the game after say 45 minutes. A core hero could be any other hero who needs levels or farm but can affect the game at an earlier time. I play a lot of Jakiro games as hard support where I don’t get items, spend lots of gold on wards, and basically sacrifice my levels and farm for the team – that is the standard way to play Jakiro. But Na’avi have been playing a core Jakiro in recent games, where he either gets the safelane or the offlane farm.

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The idea with a core Jakiro is that when you get him to level 7 and rank 4 liquid fire he is excellent at pushing down towers and sustaining pressure at little mana cost, and with the mek he has the tankiness to support a long fight at the opposing tower.

We have a player in our group who normally plays carries – bloodseeker, sniper, PA – but his only non-carry is witch doctor, who he plays as if he is a carry hero. We have sometimes been quite critical of his “greedy play” – he doesn’t get wards, takes last hits, and basically needs to be babysat by another support throughout the laning phase, but annoyingly, he does rather well at this role and the “carry witch doctor” has been a relatively common sight in our games.

The reason for his success is probably because the witch doctor is yet another support who can be played as a “core”, So what is the benefit to running a core instead of a carry?

The answer is probably that a “core” hero comes online much earlier than a carry, and if the core allows you to take objectives – whether that be towers, teamfight wins that lead to Rosh kills, – then your whole team can snowball to a win. In the case of witch doctor, a fast level 6 and Sceptre mean that you have a teamfight monster very early. The issue is that the warlock loses effectiveness late on, but the idea is that he creates enough chaos during the time he is strong such that the team has a level and farm advantage to turn into a win.

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I suppose the same is true for warlock – refresher orb and fast levels in golem make a strong teamfighter. Other useful cores might be:

Silencer (get aghs early for excellent teamfight power)

Tidehunter (a fast level 6 means early ravage ganks)

Venomancer (pushing power and an aghs upgrade)

So what are the hallmarks of a good core? A strong ultimate, particularly where there is a aghs upgrade, is a definite giveaway. Otherwise you might consider a strong initiation potential with blink to be important – this would include heroes like Centaur. I’ll need to watch more games to try to think of others.

I guess that the important difference between cores and carries is that when running a non-carry as a core, you need to have an objective and play together to get that. So for witch doctor, for example, you want to get to level 6 and get Sceptre, and then stop farming and go gank – having achieved that early advantage you then  need to leverage it when it is greatest. Likewise for Jakiro the idea is to start knocking down towers from level 7. Waiting around and farming in those circumstances is just letting the opposition’s carries catch up.

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The warlock team won the game I watched, by the way, with the warlock finishing 10-1-11.

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