Position four or soft support is a very interesting role in the current patch. We’ve touched on the reasons for it in our offlaner discussion: independent offlaners are very popular and effective right now, allowing position four heroes to rotate around the map. This creates a very distinct gameplay loop that doesn’t necessarily conform to the ideas of a laning stage and this is directly reflected in the top tier fours in the current meta.
Mirana has the strongest single-target follow-up stun in the game and that immediately makes her a threat. Between 240 potential magic damage and 3.2 seconds of stun level one Sacred Arrow is incredible value. It is a kill condition on its own, as long as it lands.
It is also a bit of a farming tool: securing a ranged creep or occasionally getting a neutral one allows Mirana to progress slightly faster than most supports. When coupled with any setup heroes in lanes, she also typically gets quite a bit of extra assist gold.
Because the hero has a very strong built-in Stun as well as a decent teamfight AoE Nuke, she doesn’t really need any specific items. As such, her builds are incredibly flexible.
For the most part we are seeing Guardian Greaves if the offlaner can’t build it or needs to rush Pipe of Insight. Other options include Eul's Scepter of Divinity, Spirit Vessel or Force Staff. All of them are aimed at solving particular problems, so a player evaluation is necessary.
If understood and built correctly and when the player is patient enough to wait for a good setup, Mirana is the most reliable and among the most effective soft supports in the game.
Dark Willow can’t really boast the same level of single-target threat as Mirana, but she more than makes up for it in terms of teamfight potential. Between Bramble Maze and Terrorize, she has enough tools to be a massive contributing factor even in the later portions of the game.
Granted, all her abilities are dispellable, but she is possibly one of the few heroes that can actually make her soft disables stick. The quantity of Brambles on the field can get insane with Dark Willow’s Aghanim's Shard. Nothing short of spell immunity will help dealing with it.
The hero also deals a tremendous amount of damage when positioned correctly. It doesn’t mean you need to prioritize dealing damage early on by maxing Shadow Realm and ever since the 7.32e buffs most good Dark Willow players max out Bramble Maze, but in the later portions of the game killing enemy supports solo is very much an option.
The itemization on the hero is similarly flexible to Mirana, with the only mandatory item being the Aghanims Shard. Going Eul’s for extra survivability or an extra setup is usually what high level players opt for, but depending on the circumstances getting Spirit Vessel or defensive support items should also be considered.
Bounty Hunter is one of the best traders in the game. Not only does he steal enemy gold with Jinada, but he also has ~9 starting armor with ~3 starting regeneration and 60+ attack damage. There are very few heroes better at harassing the enemy.
This is what is usually leveraged when high level players play Bounty Hunter — his ability to pressure and win his lane, while also simultaneously stealing enemy gold and delaying their progression. Moreover, Bounty Hunter is very powerful when it comes to controlling runes and his absence in lane isn’t as obvious, especially if he controls the vision in it.
We are a bit hesitant about recommending Bounty Hunters for your everyday pubs for one big reason: his itemization. Bounty Hunter can theoretically have the most gold out of all position four supports. That said, unless this gold is spent wisely, the hero is wasted.
While you can technically build Aghanim's Scepter decently early and deal damage with it, we don’t believe it is worth it in every game. Most of the time rushing support items is a better play. Also keep in mind that Bounty Hunter is one of the few supports who can reliably get his hands on time-sensitive items in a timely manner, be it Pipe of Insight or Lotus Orb.
One other underrated mechanic comes from his Aghanim's Shard. For 1400 gold it can give your teammate a Shadow Blade and there are many heroes who can greatly benefit from having a couple of unexpected initiations. It can work wonders with heroes like Wraith King, Ursa or Slark, who will eventually get their hands on a Blink Dagger or other form of mobility, but won’t mind some extra help accelerating to those items.
Once again we are impressed by how much a little patch like 7.32e actually impacted the game’s meta. Mirana was a staple for a while, but the other two heroes are new additions to the field and considering how ignored they’ve been for a while, it is definitely a welcome addition.
What are your thoughts on position four role in the current patch? Do you feel like there are other heroes who should have been highlighted? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.