Dota 2 Diary: Going on the pull
One of the reasons why the MOBA genre sits so far away from the rest of the games community is that it's full of skills that don't have much crossover with other game types. A veteran FPS player, with thousands of hours of Counterstrike under his or her belt, will be as flummoxed by a game of Dota 2 as someone who's only ever played the Sims.
One of the weird skills inherent to the genre is pulling. This isn't like MMO-style pulling, where you aggro a group of monsters and run back to your team who rip them apart. Instead, it's the process of dragging your creeps into the jungle to be killed by neutral camps of monsters that'll attack anything that moves.
The idea is that by killing your own units, you're preventing the enemy from getting the xp they would otherwise have got for killing them. It also has the side benefit of letting heroes in the early game kill tougher neutral enemies than they would be able to normally.
It's one of the skills that elevates a Dota 2 noob up to the level of intermediate, and in pro games it's used constantly to keep the balance of power in a lane in a team's favour. If you've over-pushed your lane, then you can bring the battle lines back to a safer spot with a well-timed pull.
It's also often combined with stacking, where you pull neutral creeps away from their den just as they respawn, doubling the amount present and increasing the amount of xp a jungler can attain at once. A good support laning with a carry will be repeatedly stacking creep camps so that the carry can later stomp through the jungle racking up vast amounts of experience in a short space of time.
I've never been too good at pulling. It requires pinpoint precision with timing, smart positioning awareness, good communication with your team (which is a rarity in public games), and deep knowledge of the map. So to improve my skills, I've been trying to follow a guide, produced by Reddit user Theloniusdotmonk, which describes the timings and methods necessary to pull almost every creep on the map.
The middle camps are easy -- they can be pulled directly into a lane at the :15 and :45 second marks. If they're not stacked beforehand, then your creeps will likely win the fight and head back out into the lane, but if you stack the camp then a whole wave of your creeps will be denied to the enemy.
The difficult part comes when you chain-pull the other two nearby camps into your creeps just as they win that fight. Timing is crucial here -- too early and your creeps will die too quickly. Too late and they'll have headed back into the lane to give their juicy lives up to the enemy.
Then there's the Radiant mid-lane. By removing a couple of trees (using a quelling blade or some tangos) you can fairly easily pull the uppermost camp, but the lower hard camp is more tricky. Try as I might, I couldn't quite get the attention of my creeps, as the neutrals got bored of wailing on me and headed back home.
But the best pulls that most new players don't know about are in the top left of the map. The left-most camp can be pulled by either team at :23 or :53 (the later automatically stacking the camp as a bonus), allowing easy territorial control. If your creeps are killing those too easily, then it's a trivial task to chain-pull the next-nearest camp in too.
If you're constantly finding yourself with a lane pushed up against enemy towers, dying to ganks from the jungle, then use a well-timed pull to bring your lane back under control. You'll be surprised how effective it can be.