Because You Want to Thrust Your Dagon At The Enemy
November 13, 2016
Hello my name is HarpyBane, and this is my guide on how to play sniper, and have fun doing so.
First, a bit about my philisophy. I'm a 3k player, which means some of my playstyle and items might not work at a higher skill level. Or they might have to be played differently.
This is fine.
I am not one to say that a single build is effective 100% of the time. While I'll try to cover every scenario, I also expect that if you're contesting mid with another player, you might considered going a more support-oriented build that buys wards. The flexibility this build enables is its strength- you are an effective damage dealer at most stages of the game, besides the ultra-late game where heroes start to have greater than 3k hp.
-Combo is very satisfying
-A surprising amount of survivability
-Can claim to be a "space creator" not a carry
-Pretty good against most of the usual sniper counters
-Really good against the 5 core lineup pubs like to pick
-Very easy to control the field in mid-game fights
-You're a sniper, which means below average movement speed and damage
-Pudge and Venge can still have their way with you
-People often assume you're a hard carry, even if you say otherwise
-Mid is the most contested lane in DotA2
-Using shrapnel to farm means you have fewer up to fight.
So, having made it past the pros/cons, and the erratic and unreadable introduction, I'm assuming for some strange reason you still want to play Dagon/Ethereal Blade Sniper.
At first I was going to simply go over all the skills, but I quickly realized there's one skill that stands thick and tall compared to the others:
The damage starts out at a relatively low 15 damage per second, but scales linearly, gaining 20 damage per second per level. Since melee creeps have 550 at minute 00:00, a level 3 shrapnel can clear out creep waves up until minute 45- assuming all ten seconds land on melee creeps and assuming that we leave our shrapnel at level 3. We won't, but it's good to know the power that a full duration shrapnel has- someone standing in your shrapnel is taking more damage than a both Lina
non-ultimate spells. That's right- you're hotter than Lina
At level 4, shrapnel becomes even more of a beast. It does 825 damage over the full duration, clearing out melee creeps in 8 seconds assuming no other damage. One of the strengths of sniper is his ability to safely get farm even in a stalemate situation- with an 1800 range and a movement slow, Sniper should always be able to find farm on the map. Be warned however, that using shrapnel to farm means having fewer to put down in a teamfight, which can drastically weaken your potential damage output. The 55 second charge timer means that, while you don't usually want to sit at three charges, going down to one or zero will take quite some time to recover from.
If someone chooses to engage you under a shrapnel, kindly oblige them. You are stronger in melee than many other ranged heroes, simply because the damage output from Shrapnel. It's like a Rot
that doesn't damage yourself.
Do Not Use Shrapnel on Towers
There will be times where you put a shrapnel over a tower to try and cut off a choke point. However, that is about the only reason shrapnel should be placed on top of a tower. Shrapnel does not do damage to towers, and should instead be placed to either zone/break blink daggers, or to clear the creep-wave. If the creep wave is on top of a tower, go ahead. But Shrapnel is a powerful scouting tool as well, so consider whether the farm under a tower is worth it compared to placing it where it will scout out possible ganks.
Don't blow your load early. Wait, patiently, for the optimum moment to release your shrapnel- dropping one at the start isn't bad, but almost never drop all three, or two. Shrapnel is a very powerful zoning and chasing tool. Shrapnel also doesn't stack. Enigma's Midnight Pulse
scales with HP, which makes it better late game and a lot worse early game. It takes approximately 1071 hp for a rank 4 midnight pulse to deal a similar damage to Snipers Shrapnel
(taking into account magic resistance), and Midnight pulse covers a 50% larger area, and goes through black king bar. But you have three charges of shrapnel, shrapnel slows, and finally, casting shrapnel doesn't tell the enemy team that there's a Black Hole
waiting for them. Your strengths are flexibility in how and where to place your Shrapnel
, so use that advantage to its fullest- strategy and positioning are much more important than size or damage.
Ideally you would drop a shrapnel in support of a strong crowd control ability: Black Hole
, Even weaker CC like Slithereen Crush
and Smoke Screen
. Any successive casts should be to cut off paths that the enemy could take, or to prevent reinforcements. Again, balancing shrapnel between farming and fighting is going to be a decision you'll be constantly making through the game.
I guess I had to cover them at some point, so here they are:
It's an attack steroid, but not too exceptional. I favor leveling it second because the increased damage can really hep in situations where you're looking to fight. Trying to maintain extreme range with take aim is more useful for some sniper builds, likely, but in this particular circumstance you want to fight, kill, and maim. You are the mighty midget, Dagon
swinging low between your legs, Ethereal Blade
in one hand and Assassinate
in the other. The support ladies will come running at your manliness.
Obscene range on a stick. It's a nice skill, and I can potentially see leveling it up in order to gain a range advantage in the early laning stage, however it's not worth sacrificing shrapnel for this ability, and sniper hits like a used towel without items or Headshot
Here we go! This is our bread and butter- building Arcane Boots
lets us spam non-stop, while Phase Boots
and a Bottle
means it has to be used a bit more sparingly. 20 seconds seems like a short cooldown, but usually it's a long enough period to give your opponent time to figure out their next move. I have never been able to kill someone using only spam assassinate. Raindrop also neuters this spell, though Shrapnel
wrecks raindrop. Assasinate also forces you to stand still for two seconds without interruption, so try not to cast it in the middle of the enemy team. A fleeing support is more likely to be caught by Shrapnel
than attempting an Assassinate
in a chaotic teamfight, though if your hero is safe from attacks or spells (say by using a Ghost Scepter
or a Black King Bar
), then you can attempt it.
Counters and Synergies
Well, you're building ghost scepter, so would you be surprised if I told you high magic damage heroes kind of suck to play against? These include Lina, Lion, Shadow Demon, and others of that ilk. The fact that shadow demon in particular can save someone from your combo if he has fast hands particularly sucks. Pudge remains a good counter to Sniper, since he innately builds magic resistance. Centaur is another annoying hero to face, as is Vengeful Spirit, and Earthshaker since all have ways of running in and stunning. These heroes are the primary counters to sniper, though a few honorable mentions are:
Zeus: He does a lot of damage that goes through ethereal blade. That's it really.
Leshrac: Likes to get up close, so we really don't mind him too much, but if he catches us out we're usually dead. This is contrary to heroes like Slark or Lifestealer who we can either escape, or turn the fight against.
Skywrath Mage: Falls into the same category as Zeus
As I've already mentioned, you get along great with other heroes that teamfight, but he also gets along with roaming gankers, especially things like Riki, Earth Spirit, or Mirana. The kinds of heroes we're bad against are also heroes we often do great against, including those above. Some special mentions:
Pugna: With his innate ethereal, you can sometimes forgo finishing the ethereal blade till later. He also pushes very hard, which synergies well with shrapnel's ability to zone out enemies. Also, he's got pretty impressive bones. Er...anyways.
Lina: Anyone who can help hold someone in place under your shrapnel is a good pairing, and Lina is a sexy lady too boot. I'm sure you'll get along great.
Alchemist: Enduring radiance slow-sieges work remarkably well helping to clear out the creep wave, and push down towers, while Alchemist is more than eager to wreck face with a low BAT if the enemy chooses to try to jump on you. Unfortunately, the aghanims scepter upgrade from Alchemist does nothing for you. (Yet.)
I personally start with Wraith Band
and Tangos. Ideally I'd grab the bounty rune, but it isn't necessary.
Usually I start with buying my boots- Phase Boots
or Arcane Boots
, depending on the game- then move to finishing the Ring of Aquila
before trying to get my Bottle
or wand. However all of this depends on the game.
If I'm being completely shut down mid, I would aim for the Arcane Boots
+ Magic Wand
. They give full assassinate spam, and if you're shut down, that's about all you'll be able to do. Going something like power treads won't solve the low movement speed, while phase boots won't do anything to fix the fact that without items, you're limited to 3 Assassinate
in the early game.
If they're ganking me, but I'm getting rotations in from a support or from another lane, I'll go Phase Boots
. This build lets me fight, and the +24 damage from the boots adds quite a bit of "oomph" to Snipers right clicks.
: Is the basis of this entire build. Activating it doesn't slow you down, so don't be afraid to use it while running! You can also teleport while ethereal, though if someone has been saving a stun, uh, well, good luck.
The self-ethereal lasts 4 seconds, which is forever in a fight. 4 seconds of a Slark
, or Phantom Lancer
trying to hit you is just beautiful to see. With the recent change to Diffusal Blade
, Ghost Scepter is even better than before. If they slow you with the Diffusal Blade, activate it immediately for the largest effect.
: I tried skipping Dragon Lance
and going straight for Dagon
quite a few times, but you need the stats from Dragon Lance
, and it's either Force Staff
or Blink Dagger
for mobility. I prefer Force Staff
because it's both usable on enemies (for breaking Linkin's Sphere) and it nicely combines with the Dragon Lance
for only a few hundred gold.
: Like Ghost Scepter, but better! It also auto-combines, and gives you 33 extra damage over Ghost Scepter. An important note: When you use your combo, be sure to do it in Ethereal Blade
order, because the Dagon
has a much shorter cast range than the Assassinate
and it's possible your target has moved out of reach. Just remember you have to double click it instead of single clicking it to target yourself.
Boots of Travel
: As the game grows later, and the fights become more spread out with fewer towers to both TP into, and to take, Boots help ensure that you'll always be there. Maybe someone with better positioning can get along without these for a longer period of time, but usually by the 35 minute mark I'm wishing I had purchased them sooner.
: Usually I'll replace my Bottle
with a Dagon
Level 1. I leave it at level 1 because without the bottle we start hurting for sustain, and level 1 is enough to do a total of 1,400 damage ignoring any possible damage from dropping a shrapnel on them first. Plus, I mean this item is the whole reason you're playing Sniper.
: While expensive, this item should show up right when you're feeling a bit squishy, often replacing the Phase Boots
for me (though Ring of Aquila
may be a better choice depending on whether someone else has one). It also reduces the recharge timer of Shrapenel, meaning more farming and more fighting power, reduces the cooldown on Ethereal Blade and Force Staff for even more mobility and survivability, and makes Assassinate
look like a non-ultimate skill.
Black King Bar
: Honestly, this is just a good item. I can easily see it gotten sooner depending on what the lineup you're going up against is, but it's generally a good item to have when you're getting into the super late game. A linkins sphere is more situational, but potentially more useful since you can put it on your hard carry.
: I personally prefer force staff, but that doesn't mean Blink Dagger
is bad. If you can make it work, or you feel it's particularly good in your game, go for it.
: A possibility, but since you're running Ghost Scepter, you probably shouldn't need this. It's never a 'bad' item, and if your team doesn't have one, more is always good.
Scythe of Vyse
: Need I say more? Well, I will anyways. Turning people into sheep is never bad, and I think Sniper is welsh, too.
: At this point you're getting desperate because no one on your team can actually break high ground. Good luck, you need it. At least the two minions can keep you company while you're dead.
/ Orchid Malevolence
: It certainly solves the mana problems Sniper might have, and could possibly replace the Octarine Core if you have trouble getting lockdown on a certain someone. Still, with the frequency manta is built nowadays, and the lack of any Hit Points or Strength on this item, I haven't found it to be super successful.
Town Portal Scroll
: Until you get Boots of Travel
You should always have one of these.
Infused Raindrop: Really good item. But if you find yourself burning through them, consider getting a Black King Bar
earlier than I previously suggested. I like to think of my raindrops as coming from the tears of those I combo'd in previous games.
: If you ever ping a support and say "We need wards!" and they don't buy them, then buy them. Vision is good, and that's one of the reasons shrapnel is as good as it is. Don't underestimate how useful these things are. There's no item on your build that you need to have more than wards. Besides, wards are the ultimate voyeuristic pleasure.
So we have most of the basics down. But how do we actually play?
Get those last hits, son. But that's not all. This is the stage where you can bait the opposing team the most. Shutting down a mid sniper has a relatively high priority in the enemy team- after all, he comes online as a hard carry in most cases.
You are not a hard carry.
You want them to fight you, and trade with you. If there's a Slark
especially, you want to "trade" with them, because they are either worse at farming than you, or building items that don't let them fight as well, like battlefury. Don't recklessly throw yourself in, but, by the same token, don't expect to passively out-farm them. Shadowfiend is a hero that's used to dominating the lane, but in the early game, you can engage him if he walks up your hill. Fight. Fight. Fight.
Carry a Town Portal Scroll
. Teleport to other lanes, and contest them. If they group up as 5 to push a tower, sniper is one of the heroes that can actually contest that push. They'll get the tower down eventually if they commit, but Shrapnel
does a number on creep waves, and pushes the heroes back, all while allowing you to remain at an unengagable range.
As the laning stage starts to break down, usually one team will commit to a series of 5 man pushes. It's important to understand your role. Your damage against towers isn't abysmal in the early levels, though waiting to skill Take Aim
means that you will be relatively out of position compared to more risk-adverse snipers.
But, you're also tankier. Ghost Scepter gives all stats, and is remarkably good in the early game versus the common heroes such as slark, rikimaru, and legion commander. You can afford to be out of position relative to the expected sniper's positioning- and this will throw off the enemy team. Expect to be gone on, but also expect to survive. You're the ultimate bait- a rich, farmed core sniper. Only you're much harder to kill than the usual core sniper, and you should be able to out-team fight any carries at this stage of the game (sub 20 minutes)
Okay we won the fight! What now?
Keep winning them! Sniper's strength is that (besides mana) he can always fight. I've tried rushing dagon earlier than listed, and it's fun, but lackluster. There's no consequence to winning a fight. Assuming that you've managed to have a good game, you should have the following items sub minute 30 (Milage may Vary with MMR):
Ring of Aquila
and Town Portal Scroll
These items, when combined with the base states on a sniper, give us an attack damage of on average 184 at level 16. A tier 3 tower has an EHP (ignoring misses) of 3712. Assuming one attack per second- and in reality, sniper will be slightly above that- gives us an Estimated Time to Tower Kill or ETTK, of just above 21 seconds. This isn't the fastest tower kill in the game, but it's fairly respectable for a sniper that in reality wants to ethereal blade, dagon, assassinate. Killing from below ground should take about 26 seconds, or just under one creep wave. Expect to add around 5 seconds to this time for going Arcane Boots
instead of Phase Boots
. As a result feel free to split push, but only when you know the enemy team will engage your team in a position where you can easily join in. If you have Boots of Travel
, of course, you can split push that much more effectively while still being there for the fight, which is why I usually end up getting them before a Dagon
Part 3: The Late Game
So ideally by this point your carry has been protected from fighting for a long time, and you and your team only have to continue to make space. This is where the dagon really comes in handy.
As I mentioned above, your full combo, executed correctly, will deal around 1400 damage, adding ~105 per level of dagon, to a maximum of around 1800 damage. For comparison, a Morphling
requires over 308 agility to hit for a similar amount of damage, including both Ethereal Blade
and wave form. Speaking from experience, the end result if morphling goes Eye of Skadi
is usually an awkward mexican standoff where neither of you can kill the other. Still, it should give you an idea of what this build is capable of.
Since you aren't exclusively building passive right-click items besides the ethereal blade, Sniper is much less vulnerable to linkins Sphere than morphling, or other burst damage heroes. A morphling going up against a Linkins Sphere has to sacrifice a significant chunk of damage.
I've also found that saving the ethereal blade occasionally and using it on my own carry is often a way to let him escape after being hit with an Abyssal Blade
, or other painful stun- but beware! Ethereal Blade
does not go through Black King Bar
, in fact, none of your spells do.
Don't be afraid to trade in the late game, especially since due to your item build, you should always have buyback up. This, combined with the not-insignificant threat of your pushing, means that while you can't always trade to an advantage, there is always something for you to do in a game. You're never shut down to a point that you're completely useless, even if you had to support. You still have a very short cooldown nuke, Assassinate
, and a way of ruining most initiator's lives with Shrapnel
Ideal Build Order:
Wraith Band, Phase Boots, Ring of Aquila, Bottle, Ghost Scepter, Hurricane Pike, Ethereal Blade, Boots of Travel, Dagon, Octarine Core, More Dagon until your enemy finally submits beneath your superior build!
Skill Shrapnel, Assassinate, Headshot, and Take Aim, in that priority.
Do: fight, push with your team, split push, help your carry, help your supports ward/deward
Do Not: AFK farm the jungle, ignore the mini-map, ignore your team, take last hits from the carry, ignore wards, Ethereal Blade your carry every time he tries to farm, drop all three Shrapnel at the beginning of every fight
And with that, Good Luck, Have Fun!