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Cuttleboss’ Guide to Ruling the Sands [6.86]

January 20, 2016 by Cuttleboss
Comments: 14    |    Views: 130321    |   

Build 1
Build 2
Build 3
Build 4
Build 5
Build 6
Build 7

The Earthquake Emperor (Midgame Teamfight Oriented)

DotA2 Hero: Sand King

Purchase Order

Starting (Courier or Stout)

Early (OoV in lane)

Core Item


Alternate Start (Roam/Jungle, Tango or Courier)


I am the Cuttleboss, I have been familiar with Dota for several years and recently moved to Dota 2. I've always been a public player and have not played on the professional level, and this is my first guide I have ever written. The hero I'm introducing here is Sand King, the biggest, baddest, strength hero to ever hit the ring.

No, Crixalis is not The Rock Axe, but instead, he is many things. Sand King is a hybrid hero who can take many roles the team requires. He is not that item dependent, but still has a definite need which lets him play as a very greedy support which is the role most associated with him. His strength against other melee heroes in lane allows him to be a decent solo mid as a counter pick towards enemy melee mids. Because of his amazing ability to survive and yet bully melee heroes in lane, he can be run in the offlane, whether alone with stacking supports or with allies to shut down a melee carry. As with any hero that is heavy on their mobility, Sand King is an excellent snowballing hero, which makes him a good semi-carry since he scales decently, but not extremely well with farm.
However, remember that no matter how you play Sand King, your job is to participate in teamfights, either as the primary/secondary initiator, or the counter initiator. For you people who use the farm priority system, he is best either 3 or 4. In riskier games he can be a 2. He doesn't scale well enough with farm to be 1 and is too item dependent to be a 5.

Oh, and by the way this guide is not concise, if you randomed Sand King and are looking at this for help, you are S.O.L.


January 4, 2016: Updated for 6.86, partly rewritten, putting new emphasis on his laning, de-emphasis on jungle, and putting a lot of new value onto SK as a position 3 hero, and removing all the right clicking items to his item build, as well as removing the right clicking build. Added Aghs to items. Added Escapers to prey. Changed ART, added art sourcing. Removed the ES section.
October 15, 2015: Updated for 6.85, now with more emphasis on SK countering melee heroes. Added offlane sand king to the stages of the game. Pub and Comp section updated.
July 16, 2015: Altered most of the builds. Removed Raging Fire Build. Added Return of the King and I Tink I am Therefore I am I Tink Builds. Added 3 Spirits to Enemies.
May 18, 2015: Added Magic Resist Heroes to Enemies.
May 3, 2015: Updated for 6.84 update. Updated skills section. Updated starting items. Lowered recommendation for Hand of Midas and Diffusal Blade. Added Glimmer Cape, Lotus Orb, Solar Crest, Guardian Greaves, Orchid Malevolence and Dagon to mid game options. Added Octarine Core, Silver Edge, and Moon Shard to late game options. Removed Butterfly from Late Game Options. Updated Builds.
April 1, 2015: Minor writing changes.
January 15, 2015: Updated the guide for 6.83, the turtle patch. Primary boot recommendation changed from Arcanes to Tranquils. Jungling recommendation is increased. Diffusal Blade moved from "Do Not Buy" into "Midgame Options"
November 15, 2014: Moved Hand of Midas from "Do Not Buy" into "Mid Game Options". Added more info about Sand King's role, enemies, and when to pick.
October 5, 2014: Updated guide for 6.82. Added one more build. Added Crimson Guard to mid game options. Removed Vanguard from Rejected items. Sand King indirectly nerfed by the increased cost of Dagger.
September 5, 2014: Updated the writing of the guide to be less sloppy. Added which positions can use which builds to Major Extension Builds.
August 31. 2014: Added Puck to allies. Added a section comparing Sand King to Earthshaker. Updated the visuals of the guide. Updated the visual story section.
August 11,2014: A major update to the guide. Added new section on Competitive and Pubs. Added more input in Stages of the Game and items. Added Axe to Enemies.



By letshuggrenades
"It's not easy being the King"

Sand King is not beginner friendly, despite what many people say. The main skill required is positioning, you have to know where to be at all times. You need to find safe places out of enemy sight to epicenter. You need to line up your burrowstrikes to hit more than one person as often as possible. Burrowstrike can often put you right in danger, so it requires exercising more judgment than Lions Earth Spike or Nyx Assassins Impale. Epicenter initiations are less straightforward than just blinking in, as it requires a little bit of planning and you do not disable all opponents, making you more vulnerable than say Earthshaker, as he has no option at all if he gets jumped on. Sand King is also melee with low armor and little lane control against ranged heroes, making him very easy to harass, which can wear down newer players. Sand Storm and Burrowstrike can be tough to time in order to disjoint projectiles for newer players.

Item choices are incredibly open, so you need to have a good understanding of hero interaction in order to decide what is best to buy, as opposed to heroes who will almost always buy the same items (hello Timbersaw).

All this puts Sand Kings difficulty higher than a Lich, Viper, or a Wraith King, but he is still not nearly as difficult as the micro from Visage, the map awareness and farming skills of Spectre, or the quick thinking of Invoker.

Strengths and Weakneses

So, let's look at a list of Sand King's strengths and weaknesses:

Pros: What the Kingdom loves about Crixalis
+ Very well rounded, able to take many roles from greedy support, offlaner, semi-carry to counterpick melee mid.
+ Solid Semi-Carry with Farm Speed and In Battle Mobility (Like Queen of Pain)
+ Strong Utility because he can farm items easily and has a highly useful stun
+ Very High AOE Burst throughout early and midgame
+ Two soft escape mechanisms
+ High Mobility
+ No cast delay on spells not named Epicenter
+ Disgustingly fast farmer
+ Farms and pushes without using much mana
+ Incredibly powerful in lane against melee heroes
+ Voice that resembles Clancy Brown

Cons: Why people want to overthrow Crixalis
- Melee, Low Base Damage, and Armor, Making you easy to harass thus can have a hard time controlling a lane, only advantage is against melee lanes with Caustic Finale
- Is actually very item dependent as a support, he needs blink, and he's very fragile as his play style involves diving right into the enemies and staying next to them.
- Damage and Stuns/Slows fall off late game compared to other Initiators if you do not have farm or momentum
- Ultimate must be channeled, making it hard to use, especially on short notice
- Level dependent, requires many points in his burrowstrike to be useful unless he's in a killing trilane.
- Has a very short timing window to snowball, one of the smallest in the game.
- Hard countered by many things: silence, aoe stuns, BKBs, and dusts
- Requires good understanding of positioning or else you are ineffective
- Makes worse puns about sand than Mr. Freeze about ice.

When to Pick?

So, with all these in mind, this is a list of when to and when not to pick Sand King:

    Pick him if:
  • You need aoe damage (oh really?)
  • The enemy team is not full of very tanky heroes (If no heroes die to your epicenter-strike combo, your midgame potential falls a lot)
  • The enemy team has many melee heroes, since you lane well against them and its easier to hit multi man epicenters.
  • Your team lacks teamfight or pushing power (Also works if there is a lot and you just add to it)
  • Your team needs a team player that can be melee (You can't harass a lot of heroes in lane, keep that as a consideration)
  • The enemy team has an illusion carry
  • Scorpions are awesome to you
    Do not pick him when:
  • Foes have an easy way to deal with his sandstorm (silence, aoe stuns, track)
  • Your team needs a real carry (Sand King is not Terrorblade)
  • Your team needs a hard support (Sand King needs his dagger to be useful, he cannot spend too much time or money warding in the early game, though he can take the duties if needed after he does get the dagger)
  • Enemies have mostly ranged heroes
  • You do not have a firm grasp of the importance of positioning
  • You get stung by a scorpion because they are so awesome and you wanted to touch it, and now you can't focus and need to call a poison control center

Important Note: Sand King is very draft dependent, almost to the extent of a hero like Chaos Knight. Against a team with no way to easily stop his sandstorms early, he can snowball pretty easily (example draft SK is good against: Terrorblade, Necrophos, Ogre Magi, Vengeful Spirit, and Bane). Conversely, against a team who can easily stop his epicenters and sand storms, Sand King has very little use and will struggle the entire game. (example draft SK sucks against: Spectre, Zeus, Centaur Warrunner , Silencer, Mirana)

Skill Build and Abilities

Skill builds are fluid, unless you're Pudge. Generally, with Sand King, you are maxing Burrowstrike first. In some lanes that seem like they'll be aggressive but have nothing that can stop Sand Storm, take that at level one instead. If there is a double melee lane that does not look like it will go for first blood, get a point in caustic finale, as you will heavily disrupt the farm of the enemies. Most of the time, you are maxing Burrowstrike and Sandstorm for maximum damage. If you are going for a heavier support role, getting stats over caustic can probably do you good if there is no need to push or farm. You can also max sand storm first for quicker jungle farming, as level 3 and 4 sand storm are extremely powerful. You also don't always have to get epicenter at 6. If you don't have the mana to support it or if it's just not needed (like if you don't have Blink yet), you don't necessarily have to have it.

Skill Build A: Standard Laning Build (Just another day in the life of the King)
1 Burrowstrike/Sand Storm
2 Sand Storm/Burrowstrike
3 Burrowstrike
4 Sand Storm
5 Burrowstrike
6 Epicenter
7 Burrowstrike
8 Sand Storm
9 Sand Storm
10 Caustic Finale
11 Epicenter
12-14 Caustic Finale/Stats
15 Stats
16 Epicenter
17-25 Stats/Caustic Finale

Skill Build B: Laning Against Melee Heroes ("Oh hey, a lane against Ursa and Tiny, Sweet")
1 Burrowstrike/Caustic Finale (Depends on how easy the lane is from the beginning)
2 Caustic Finale/Burrowstrike
3 Burrowstrike
4 Caustic Finale
5 Burrowstrike
6 Epicenter
7 Burrowstrike
8-10 Sand Storm
11 Epicenter
12 Sand Storm
13-14 Caustic Finale
15 Stats
16 Epicenter
17-25 Stats

Skill Build C: Jungling/Trilane Ganker (You gotta destroy that jungle, trees are bad, just ask Timber)
1 Sand Storm/Burrowstrike (if FB)
2 Burrowstrike/Sand Storm
3 Sand Storm
4 Burrowstrike
5 Sand Storm
6 Epicenter
7 Burrowstrike
8 Burrowstrike
9 Sand Storm
10 Caustic Finale
11 Epicenter
12-14 Caustic Finale/Stats
15 Stats
16 Epicenter
17-25 Stats/Caustic Finale

Let's briefly look at his abilities. If you want numbers, go view his wiki page.

Usage: Nuke, Escape, Initiation, Chase, Disable.
[With Aghs]: All the above, but with mass explosions
Notes: Very short range on low levels.
Stun at level 1 is quite long compared to other similar stuns such as Fissure or Earth Spike.
Rather long cooldown of 11 seconds, not long for a stun, but long compared to Blinks for mobility.
Amazing synergy with Dagger
Combo this in lane with Caustic, poke all the creeps, and then explode them in a chain reaction with burrowstrike.
This ability is instant stun, which makes it rather good for catching heroes with fast escapes like Ember Spirit, Storm Spirit, and Anti-Mage, but it has a travel time, so you have to blink close to them before you can get that instant stun.
With Aghs, it can be chained with heroes on its own, and more importantly, illusions, making his Aghs excellent against illusion carries.

Sand Storm:
Usage: AOE Damage over Time, Farming/Jungling, Pushing, Harassing, Dodging Projectiles
Notes: Very weak at low levels.
Has zero fade time, so it can be used to dodge stuff
Does a deceivingly high amount of damage once leveled to 2+
Easy to counter with right heroes and items, do not be over reliant on it
Remember that the invis delay only works if you walk out, not if you use any items or spells.

Caustic Finale:
Usage: Harassing, Farming, Pushing, Chasing
Notes: Pushes the lane, which might not be good in laning phase, but does wonders against multi melee lanes, or against a melee solo mid
You can poke the enemy hero with this and they will take some significant damage in some time
The slow is useful for catching enemies and just annoying them, comboing well with a ranged hero with right click damage in lane. Stack it with Orb of Venom for a heavy slow.
Excellent at clearing waves later in the game
Allows Sand King to farm at a very high rate, but needs at least 2 levels to really do the job

Usage: Initiating, Counter Initiating, AOE Nuke, Early Ganks
Notes: Requires stellar positioning to get this off
Do not use unless you are almost certain it can come out and kill at least one opponent
If without dagger, requires baiting out enemy stuns and silences
Deals the damage of a Laguna Blade in an AOE over 5 seconds.
Better used as a secondary or counter initiation tool than the primary, as it provides no stun or major slow, remember that it has more in common with Requiem of Souls than Ravage

The Stages of the Game

Early Game:


By Karzahnii
"Can't blink yet"

The goal here is to survive, kill the opponent(s) if they overextend or if an ally comes help you gank. You can be put on a dual lane with a ranged hero, a trilane as a support, a situational solo mid, a solo safe/offlaner against another solo preferably, but can be solo against multiple if he has stacking supports, or jungler (not recommended). What separates normal and good Sand King players is how they handle themselves before they farm that dagger, thus, the section on laning is the most important part of this guide.

Defensive Trilane: You are obviously not going to be the carry in this setup (though that would be an interesting experiment). Just go in for stun ganks, pull and stacks creeps when you need to, force out the offlaner best you can, maybe try to gank mid. This is straightforward, just don't be selfish if you play this role. You can have some trouble against an aggressive trilane that tries to shut you down because you lack a very solid early game presence without a long range stun. If you can't do any ganks, just stack camps and farm them later.

Jungle Guide:
This requires a bit of practice to get right, be very aware if your jungle farm is going to be disrupted.

Sand King jungles rather slowly until he's at least level 3. Obviously, you don't do this if it will leave your lanes understaffed (like leaving a Spectre to solo the offlane). You can start with boots if you want to stack and pull. You are generally stacking the hard camps while pulling towards your easy one in order to get to level three as soon as possible. It takes 4 easy camp creep waves in order to reach level 3. With level 2 sand storm, you can go clear the stacked hard camps. If you need to gank your safe lane or mid lane, do not hesitate to do so. However, large stacks of big creeps may require at least level 5 to clear them due to their magic resistance. Due to the amount of effort it takes to jungle SK to not jungle that quickly, its only recommended you do this as a last resort.

Dual Side Lane: If you take these, go with a partner who can control the lane, because you are really not good at that. You can only attempt a kill or be harassed, there is no in between.

Against Dual Ranged: You might want to call in allies for a gank. If they are harass heavy, which is likely, you may want to get some defensive items like Ring of Regen or Stout Shield if you do not have one already and soak exp.

Against 1 Ranged, One Melee: Decide whether it would be better to play passively or actively try to kill them. If they are harass heavy but have no kill power until you're low on health, call for a gank or just try to kill them with your partner. Gauge the strength of laning of all four heroes. If yours is lower, for example, they have a Timbersaw and Vengeful Spirit against you and Drow Ranger, you probably want to be passive. But if your ally is Rubick and you're against a Zeus and a Spectre, go for aggression.

Against two melee: Get Caustic Finale and harass the hell out of them. Just make sure you hit their creeps so their creep last hits will be much lower, and you can easily get kills with burrowstrike combos and your constant slows. Be careful if they have a combo lane that gets kills like Centaur Warrunner and Tusk. Still get Caustic, just put it off and beware not to overextend, Melee laners can usually punish you hard if you do that. Otherwise, this should be a very easy lane.

Against a defensive trilane (if offlane): This can be won with a strong laning partner. If the dual lane is getting kills against a trilane, you win. However, if the trilane just owns your dual lane too hard, you may have to rotate to jungle, or have you ally rotate to a trilane if they're a support.

Against aggressive trilane (safe): Switch out into jungle or call for backup. Do not feed that trilane no matter what. If they try to take tower, then get some reinforcements to defend it with sand storm, as long as you are within tower range with help, it will be hard for them to drive you out.

Solo Mid lane: It is very rare you will go here. You only go if you know the opposition will be a solo melee hero like Pudge, Nyx Assassin, Tiny, Night Stalker, Ember Spirit, Brewmaster, Kunkka, Clockwerk, Elder Titan, or Dragon Knight. Caustic Finale will allow you to control the lane against most melee heroes. A bottle is not required on a mid SK, since he's only run with Caustic which barely costs mana and Tranquil boots will sustain you. Once you hit 6-7, you can go gank the sidelanes and work towards that dagger. This setup should give you decent farm if you have a melee matchup. Any ranged matchup is disadvantageous for SK.

Roamer: Start with a Boots instead of the normal build, get Burrowstrike, and find lots of lanes to gank. Be sure to carry a Smoke of Deceit. Do lots of support things if you go roamer SK, place wards, have clarities, the goal is to disrupt the enemies. This sacrifices a lot of farm to give your team a lead if you are successful, though you can still stack camps in your spare time. This is highly risky.

Aggressive Trilane: Not a common setup for Sand King, but can work to disrupt enemies. You'll likely find a few kills if you line up multiple foes with your burrowstrike. Make sure you disrupt their jungle farm, which you can likely take yourself with sand storm. SK can run as the farmer of an aggro tri with his excellent lane control in the form of caustic finale, at least against melee carries.

Solo Safe/Off Lane: Sand King struggles to solo against a trilane, or many times, even a dual lane, with Sentry Wards, his most solid escape is gone, and burrowstrike's range is just too poor at low levels. However, if against a melee carry, and if you get some regen, they will have to keep 1-2 supports on you at all times or else you'll kill their carry, you can still recover, especially if you have a support to stack large camps for you in your jungle. If your team anticipates that there will be a trilane vs trilane setup, you can take the solo safe or offlane to face against that other safe/off laner. Sand King is a good match up for heroes that are popular here, such as Nature's Prophet, Doom, Faceless Void, even Weaver and Windranger he can do fine against with caustic finale and sand storm. Sand King could also use the extra levels because he is quite level dependent, and the farm can help him too. You'll struggle against Centaur Warrunner and Bristleback however.


by Bananamannen
"Now they will drown in sand"

The main goal here is to gank. If you farmed well enough and have dagger, you can start a gank from almost 2000 distance away. If you do not have dagger, if your team is getting plenty of kills, just follow them, get assists with your stun, and get your dagger that way, or if the game is quite stagnant, go hang out in the jungle and farm up your dagger there. If there are pushes, you can slow them down with sand storm if they do not have detection, and if it is committed push, you can counter it with your Epicenter initiation. You want to gain a lead in the mid-game, because if you do not, you will be weak late. Remember that you are stronger at counter initiating or follow up initiating than primary. Also, if you don't have your dagger yet and there is a team fight, don't go in first, you have to survive for a bit. Once all the enemy stuns and silences and used and you still have them close together, you can channel epicenter. You have a very short timing window to snowball here. If against melee heroes, you can do it right from lane, but against most teams, the snowball window is about 5 minutes after you acquire your blink dagger to take control of the game.

How do I epicenter initiate?
Okay, start channeling the ability where the opponents cannot see or reach you in two seconds (up a cliff, behind a tree, just far away) then hold shift, press your dagger, and then press the area with the highest density of enemy heroes. Once you teleport in, you want to perform an immediate burrowstrike and follow up with a Sand Storm. This does a large chunk of damage and creates an opening for your team. You will be doing this in both mid and late game, but epicenter is not as powerful late, so keep that in mind.

Late Game:

Teamfights and Splitpushing is all over the map now. You generally do not want to lead the charges against the enemies, as you need time to charge your epicenter. Your effectiveness is lessened at this point, especially if you did not snowball. Keep in mind that you want to survive the teamfight as long as possible, if you manage to survive for over 8 or so seconds after initiating, you've generally done your job, and your team will likely win that clash. As for ratting, just keep up your map awareness, your late game contribution is the ability to clear creepwaves extremely fast, even super creeps that were upgraded. In fact, if you have a Vanguard or Heart of Tarrasque, you can defend against creeps extremely well for a lower position hero. Push, win, make good choices, the longer the game goes, the bigger the penalty for dying. Also, be sure to save some buyback money, it could mean the difference between winning and losing. (See the visual story below for a demonstration of a late game fight)

Item Build


2 Iron Branches Circlet, Stout Shield or Animal Courier, Tango
This gives you everything you need to take the harass you're gonna get in lane or damage from the jungle. If you anticipate more harass, try to get another set of tangos.

Boots of Speed, Animal Courier/ Tango
This is a roam/jungle build. At level 1, you are likely one of the only heroes in the game with boots, so it's easier to first blood with this, but additionally, this allows you to stack a deep big camp while running back to pull a small camp. Very nice to have as well.

Early Game:
Boots of Speed, Magic Wand, Town Portal Scroll, Orb of Venom, Soul Ring and Observer Ward as needed)
Boots is obvious, Wand is very good to get you out of situations with a burst heal and mana. Scrolls are needed as for every hero. Wards too if your 5 is too poor to pay for them. Orb of Venom is an important item if you're in a matchup where you can bully the other guy with your caustic finale, since 42% permaslow early game is pretty big.
If you go Tranquils, Soul Ring is often necessary to sate your mana needs.

Blink Dagger: You will need this in every game you play, it is the only way to make use of your ult to its full extent, and it has synergy with all your skills. It gives you an 1800/2500(with aghs) distance to strike a target, lets you escape in the middle of a sandstorm to elsewhere, and Epicenter becomes the scariest thing with it to the point that smart opponents will not be able to push until about 20 minute mark. You can delay this for one of the upgraded boots or possibly a Blade Mail or Hand of Midas first, but nothing is worse than a team fight where you can't properly initiate, so look at opponent's strategy and adjust accordingly. Rush this is you need to make space, as once you have this, you're going on the offense.

Boots Choices:
Tranquil Boots: Very powerful boots on Sand King. Armor and out of battle regen is nice since you move in and out of combat,. You are also the only hero who can heal with tranquils while jungling too. Works well for a very roam heavy build or a jungling build. The extra movespeed lets you land your stun before you have your dagger as well, like Centaur Warrunner . To cover your mana issues, Soul Ring is usually required to combo with this, but a few Claritys until you have a casual Void Stone will also do the job.
Arcane Boots: A solid choice. With this, you have enough of a mana pool to cast a second burrowstrike after your epicenter burrow combo, and the mana restore makes it so you minimize time home and sustain early pushes. You can keep your brown boots if there are enough arcane boots on your team already. This item is mostly for early pushes and to supply mana hungry allies.
Power Treads: Attack Speed is mostly wasted, and the extra health will not do you too well. If you are gonna play with them on Int, just get Arcane.
Phase Boots: It seems nice, and it can help chase and 24 damage means a lot, but you will often be mana starved if you go this path. You can get a soul ring, it's worth a shot.
Boots of Travel: Excellent choice in mid and late game. The amount of movespeed it adds is great, and the teleport can be quite effective in late game if you need to be somewhere immediately, I've managed to turn many games around just with a buyback-travel combo. Also, it is good to be able to provide instant backup across the map, with your massive mobility, you can turn ganks around, so getting this early is also feasible. Upgrade this if the game gets really late or if its super splitpushy and you can't provide backup with the normal BoTs.

Mid Game Options:
Veil of Discord: Teamfight oriented item that is the best way to increase the amount of damage you deal in a teamfight. One of the safest options.
Aghanim's Scepter: A very useful item, as it gives Sand King even more mobility, and gives burrowstrike the range of an actual blink. The effect of putting caustic is not that noticeable unless they are all very close, or if they happen to have a lot of illusions. These are good stats too.
Force Staff: Extra mobility can be useful against certain heroes like Clockwerk or Natures Prophet, but if your team severely lacks mobility, this is a good pickup. Also works with epicenter decently if your dagger is on cooldown.
Blade Mail: Good against dpsers and nukers. Gives you a more solid initiation, as it dissuades people from wanting to kill you immediately. Good synergy with Heart or Octarine later. Get this if you're losing really badly.
Hood of Defiance: Do you specifically want to protect yourself from magical nukers while someone else actually builds the Pipe? No really, this item is very useful against heroes like Zeus, Venomancer and Jakiro.
Mekansm: If your team does not have one and you went Arcane Boots, this item does wonders in team clashes on a defensive level. Many times, you can't get it very early however, and the mana cost is pretty high for you, so often it's best to leave it to someone else. It is good for building into Guardian Greaves, since you farm fast, but check with your team.
Hand of Midas: Basically, if it seems like your opponents are not going to push tier 2 in the first 15 minutes (which is a major reason why you get dagger early, it's to stop opponents from pushing), this item is a good investment for a Snowballing Sand King. By the time you get this item, you can get the dagger in an additional five minutes. This can also be bought after dagger, but do it before minute ~16. In other words, if there is space on the map, and you are in no rush to create more, Midas is a good choice.
Pipe of Insight: Extremely good for pushing and mid-game teamfights where a lot of magic damage is being thrown around. It is very nice because it greatly increases Sand King's survival, especially against nuke based teams.
Vanguard: Useful item for early and midgame clashes. It is mainly for you to upgrade it to Crimson Guard. If enemies took a rax and you need to defend against super creeps and you don't have heart, this is also a good pickup.
Crimson Guard: Very strong midgame teamfight item that is effective against many instances of right clicks teams ( Troll Warlord can suck it). Be sure to get this early, and beware of its cooldown. It does make you quite tanky for its price, but be sure to make a major play without taking too long. A logical upgrade to Vanguard if you had to take it to defend or push.
Eul's Scepter of Divinity: Great mana regen that will solve all your issues, and this active takes off silences, so this is an item that has uses situationally. +40 Movespeed is also a lot, make use of it. It can easily be used to set up a stun too as the target falls.
Aether Lens: A decent situational item as the mana pool and high health regen can prove useful. The cast range increase on burrowstrike is not that big, since it doesn't affect other spells (but it does affect blink), but the 8% damage boost is actually quite nice for SK's burst.
Rod of Atos: Greatly increases your ganking power, while heavily expanding your mana pool and granting you as much health as an Aghanims Scepter. Make sure you get it against opponents it'll work against and not Queen of Pain. Do not get this is you're losing by a lot, despite it being cost efficient.
Necronomicon: For pushing builds, this item is quite useful given that you have an AOE slow and stun, so your guys can get plenty of hits in. This item falls off hard late game against heroes (but is useful against buildings all game). Do not feed the minions, they give lots of gold.
Ghost Scepter: Once in a while, it can be hard to deal with a fed Lycan or Phantom Assassin, and Blademail will not cut it. The upgrade is also an excellent item on SK.
Vladmir's Offering: If your team does a good amount of attacking, the auras help them a lot, but be sure you don't die before your team can make use of them. Do not get if allies already got one.
Glimmer Cape: It's a nice cheap source of magic resistance, and is pretty much a middle finger towards heroes like Venomancer and Necrophos. Since you have Sand Storm, usually Pipe is better on you, as having 2 invis makes you and your team more easily countered by detection.
Black King Bar: Sometimes, a dagger is not enough, and you want to be able to epicenter and sand storm without being interrupted. Also, gives you the option to epicenter even if you get initiated on. A required pick up against key opponents (mainly Zeus)
Radiance: This is a great item if you snowballed hard as it makes you still do stuff when all your abilities are on cooldown and the enemies are out of your sandstorm. 150 damage per second with Sand Storm is very high. Good if you're tanking up, and it disables the daggers of heroes like Earthshaker. Also, is pretty good in teamfights too with a miss chance applied.
Diffusal Blade: Omniknight? No Problemo. If you just need a way to purge silences from yourself, Lotus Orb is far superior, speaking of which...
Lotus Orb: Good way of surviving your own initiation. Most player's first instinct on seeing the SK with quakes coming out of him is to kill it, so many spells may be thrown at you which you can reflect back. Also, the active is fantastic for removing silences from yourself, or Hexes from your allies. Also, in Sand King's book, any item that gives armor is valuable to him.
Orchid Malevolence: This silence is useful against heroes like Queen of Pain or Storm Spirit, although this item loses a lot of effectiveness as the game goes on and more purges are available, so try to get it early after blink if you need it. The damage amp with epicenter has a lot of potential for killing.
Solar Crest: This item is very useful for tanking up SK in a very cheap way, as the amount of armor and evasion lets him take hits with very little penalty. The active is not particularly useful on him, but the utility of being able to buff a tank/carry or make any hero fragile will always have a use.
Guardian Greaves: Very strong item, pretty much keeps everyone healed. Sand King is not the best carrier of it due to needing a dagger first, but can do it due to his great farm rate. It also comes with a dispel for those nasty silences.
Dagon: If you need just a little more burst damage this is the item to buy, and it pretty much makes you king of pickoffs. It falls off, but it can help you establish dominance over the enemy team in the midgame if you get it at a decent time before the enemies tank up or get BKBs.

Late Game Options:
Octarine Core: A well rounded late game choice for SK. Lots of survival. Good mana sustain. Also lowers SK's epicenter CD to 75, and also burrowstrike to 8.25, so it benefits both in how often you can fight and how much impact you have on fights. Spell Lifesteal is a bit useful, but you're usually using Epicenter at full hp, so not full usage there, only reaching its potential with Blade Mail.
Heart of Tarrasque: As a hero who moves in and out of combat a lot, this item's regen is great, and the 1000 hp is really helpful for your squishy self. This item is very useful because it lets Sand King tank towers without any worries.
Shiva's Guard: Very good against right clickers, and greatly improves your initiation from epicenter to keep enemies close. This item provides a large amount of armor as well, which greatly boosts survival. Do not get if allies already got one.
Linken's Sphere: Situational, but potentially useful if there are key spells you can avoid from the enemy. One less stun hitting you in a teamfight can do wonders, and the stats are really quite fancy. Due to the instant escapes SK has, the sphere can save you from being destroyed by deadly initiation spells and makes SK very hard to kill.
Assault Cuirass: A powerful, balanced item that increases the power of physical strikes and weakens the defense of the enemy team. You are not the best carrier of this aura, but if your team needs it, do not hesitate. Do not get if allies already got one.
Scythe of Vyse: Great late game item against fat carries. You will have no more mana problems for the rest of the game. Good on SK because he gets Blink so he can easily use it as a safe initiation to a gank.
Heaven's Halberd: Alternative to scythe with easier buildup and far more survivability, but has less utility because it cannot interrupt channeling, but is still a great pickup on Sand King, especially against non-BKB buying carries, like Medusa, Sniper, and Terrorblade.
Ethereal Blade: A third alternative to the above 2 items. Good against physical dps based teams for defensive usage. Aggressive, Epicenter can really hurt them with this. Pairs well with getting a Dagon; you can max out your burst damage to like ~2k.
Silver Edge: Another way to look for pickoffs, and its tanks you up. But you are getting this for those late game fights where the enemy carry has burned through their BKB, and now you can cripple the hell out of them by disabling their passives and lowering their damage. Good against Phantom Assassin, Spectre, Troll Warlord, and Bristleback in particular.

Do Not Buy:
Desolator, Satanic, Eye of Skadi, Mjollnir: Caustic is way too good for pushing and defending, which scales into late game, so you don't want to replace it. Mjollnir does stack with Caustic, but SK is not much a right clicker. Also, if you're thinking of buying Mask of Madness, you should just stop playing the game for the rest of the day, go sit down for a bit.
Armlet of Mordiggian: Even if you are building yourself as a semi-carry, this is not the way to do it. You need either lifesteal or rapid regen to properly use this, which you do not have, plus, when you would get it is not when you would be auto-attacking anyway because your sand storm does more damage until about 30ish minutes into the game, where you would not buy this anyway. Core Sand King do one of two things: utilities and auras or tank up so he can cast more burrowstrikes.
Daedalus / Monkey King Bar / Moon Shard : You do not benefit much from attacking. Your autoattack is not that powerful, and at this point, Sand King can semi carry without building any right click items.
Sange and Yasha: Not fit for you. Atos if you want slow and hp. Euls if you want movespeed and much more utility. Mjollnir or AC for the attack speed. This item has no function whatsoever on Sand King.
Battle Fury: Really quite underwhelming, and Sand King does not need a farm accelerant, he farms really fast already.
Refresher Orb: This seems like a great item to get for a hero with such a strong ultimate, which is why it is bought on Enigma, Tidehunter, Warlock, and Earthshaker. The problem is that epicenter takes two seconds to cast, meaning using it twice in succession is impractical, because unless you are utterly owning, you will not be able to do so. Perhaps for being able to epicenter 2 fights in a row, but 100 seconds is far from prohibitive, and epicenter is not that strong in fights anyway late game, just get Octarine Core instead.

Major Extension Builds

Here are some item paths to consider once you have your Boots and Dagger.


Midgame Teamfight Oriented (The Earthquake Emperor)
This build is for when your team needs more teamfight presence and need to win the fights in the mid game. This build falls off quite a bit late game, but you still have some presence with your lane ranged stun

Midgame Aura Man (The Stinging Chariot)
This build is a counter to late game teams that need to be stopped. With a Mek and/or Pipe, it is very difficult for the opponents to stop your push power because of the raw power of this build. This is a risky build if it fails, because then you have very few options once the game gets late.

or or
Hard Snowballer (The Sun Scorpion)
This semi-carry build is best if you got a huge lead. With Radiance, Sand King becomes quite dangerous in fights, as he still deals damage when his skills are on cooldown. After boots of travel, you have a few items choices. Octarine Core is the item choice if you want to cast more burrowstrikes and tank more, Shiva's Guard is the choice if you want to make your initiation stronger and more likely to kill opponents quickly, and Necrobook is the item choice if the teamfights are easily won and you want to take some towers afterward. Whatever comes next is up in the air, with Aghs being the safest option.
Avoid this build if you already have a Radiance carrier like Naga Siren or Spectre.




Midgame Utility (The Elusive Arachnid)
If your team does not need teamfight power or pushing, this is probably the best build to go with, as it gives increase mobility to hit your burrowstrikes even better and just some items that can help out your team outside of team battles. This build is excellent at ganking, as picking off opponents has never been easier with this build.


Lategame Tanky Utility (The Armored Lord)
This build is similar to the first build, except without Veil, since it focuses more on control and less on damage. You come to a crossroads, Heart if you're winning and just need to tank more, and Scythe if you're not and need to stop a key enemy hero. Then afterwards, Lotus or Halberd both serve a nice function and decide on which of the 2 suits your game better. The build offers a strong mix of tankability and utility.

then choose between
Blade Mail Octarine Core Tank (Return of the King)
This semi-carry build is one that looks to tank up the Sand King with usage of Blade Mail and its synergy with Octarine Core to functionally reduce all damage dealt my non-magic immune targets by 25%. The cooldown reduction also significantly increase's SK's danger in teamfights, since every 8.25 seconds he can release an AOE stun on the enemies. Aghs comes after Octarine in order to deal even more dangerous stuns. Afterwards, utility items that tank up SK are the way to go.

Dagon 1 ,

Upgrade to Dagon 5

Focus Killer (I Tink I am Therefore I am I Tink)
This is the Sand King build that is derived off the most popular build for Tinker and it seeks to maximize nuking potential against key squishy heroes. With this, he becomes excellent at both picking off and at focusing down key targets in a teamfight, as with these items, you can inflict somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000 damage. After that, other late game ganking items are good, as is Octarine Core, which lets you do it more often. It is quite vulnerable to Glimmer Cape however.

Hero Interaction

Sand King's Court: A King can only do so much on his own.

These heroes let your epicenter work to its full effectiveness, hitting as many pulses on as many heroes as possible.

These lovely heroes greatly remedy your mana problems throughout the early and mid game. CM is also a great gank partner, and Ezalor a great push partner.

What we have here is the best aoe amplification damage there is, and he also possesses an extremely powerful stun. With him, you can expect to win almost every teamfight.

He can heal and protect you from across the map from that harass you hate so much, and his AOE disable makes epicenter much scarier than it would be normally since a team can normally disperse to avoid a sizable amount of SK's damage. He also tends to pick up those hard support duties from you.

Puck's dream coil is a strong combo with your Epicenter for initiation, and allows it's usage in it's most ideal form (outside of Magnus and Enigma). Puck goes in first and does their thing, and you follow up, either wiping the enemies or setting them up to be wiped.

Sand King's Peasants: Here are the opponents you will oppress with your superior power.

Fragile Heroes: Its nice when an opponent goes down to your nuking, which is the main means which you initiate, it lets you getting a ball rolling with the kills you get.

Escapists: These heroes easily dodge many a stun due to their very quick escapes, however, SK has stun with no cast point that cannot be disjointed, so if he blinks next to them, he can stun them before they can use their escape spells, making it much easier to chain stun and kill these heroes. These heroes can become very troublesome late game, especially since SK wants to prioritize multi-man burrowstrikes later, so try to kill them a lot earlier in the game.

Illusion Heroes: Your epicenter-burrowstrike combo is almost guaranteed to dispose of any illusions even late game that have a heart. Burrowstrike's stun is almost always going to hit all the illusions in a teamfight. Get an Aghs for extra fun, since it applies Caustic to all the illusions, which can add up to a ton of damage on each of the illusions (against a PL, you can do upwards of 1800 damage with a single aghs burrowstrikes if he's with his illusions).
You are better suited for the fighting illusion heroes and not the splitpushing ones, who will rarely push together with their team, in which case, you go hunt them with smoke and jump on them.

Sand King is one of a handful of heroes who can lane against Broodmother (preferably solo). It requires odd itemization and a very different skill build, one that puts points in Caustic, Sand Storm, and probably only 1 point in Burrowstrike, but you can stop her from pushing your lane and farm her spiderlings very easily. Once you have Blink, Brood will not be able to push at all, and you can jump on her instantly before she flees into the trees.

Sand King's Conspirators: Some heroes make Sand King into Sad King (You can kill me for that pun)

True Sight: Sand Storm is valuable; losing its advantage is not good. Clear it with a Euls/Lotus, or just make sure they cant beat you even with that true sight anyway. Bounty Hunter is good for disrupting you in jungle early as well.

Silences: You are very spell reliant, you cannot fight well without them, so these heroes are awful. Remove it with Euls or Lotus. Force Staff away, Ghost Scepter until youre safe, figure it out. If you're jungling at low health, BS's thirst also reveals you to the creeps, which pretty much forces you to get tranquils asap.

Harassers: You have a hard time against ranged harassment in lane, as you have no means to protect yourself and your low armor makes it tough to deal with. Attempt a kill in some way or go to the jungle if it is too bad.

The Three Spirits: All three of these heroes are troublesome for Sand King. Sand King relishes in bullying heroes that are less mobile than him, and all three of the spirits are really mobile themselves, more than SK. They all also have long ranged means to disable blink dagger and interrupt epicenter, whether by Boulder Smashing, Slight of Fist + Searing Chains, or Ball Lightning + Electric Vortex, making them some of Sand King's worst enemies.

Magic Resistance/Protection: Sand King's damage is almost all magical. Individual reducers are generally not a big deal, since Sand King can still buy his own utility items and throw lots of disables at them, even if he can't kill them, and Medallion/Solar are fantastic against them, since they tend to have low armor. However, Rubick and Pipe have the power of magic resistance auras, which does significantly lower your impact in fights. However, since Sand King's items are quite flexible, this doesn't wreck Sand King as badly as it would Zeus, speaking of which...

True sight, nuking, a mini stun, and a global nuke that completely ruins your initiation. This guy is just awful. Counter with Hood/Pipe or BKB. It much easier to repick though, he counters you really hard.

Nether Ward will damage you when you channel epicenter, preventing you from blinking. BKB beforehand will allow you to initiate properly.

Not only does he silence through BKB, he can do it from global range, so you have to ult before he even sees you or your team. He is also a giant pain in lane. You can remove the silence with Euls Scepter or Lotus Orb. The amount of effort it takes to beat this guy with SK is insane. You should probably repick.

Glimpse minimizes the effects of your ult since he sends you back, Kinetic Field cannot be escaped from with Burrowstrike, and Static Storm ends up silencing items with Scepter which screws you really hard. Prioritize him as a target.

Axe is pretty good at shutting you down early game because his helix does massive amounts of damage to you. His Call will take you out of Sand Storm in lane too. Battle Hunger hurts in lane and ends up hurting even more later to disrupt your blink dagger. This guy is your rival in many ways, he jungles better than you, he can farm at close to your rate. Also if you're in jungle, he is fully capable of stealing your stacks. However, your advantages over him is that he's even more momentum dependent than you are, so if he makes a mistake, it punishes him really hard.

Sand King in Competitive and in Pubs

By Halmtier
Here we see the King in his natural environment

Sand King is a fairly popular hero in pubs because he is very fun to play with his mobility, but not quite as difficult as other high mobility heroes such as Storm Spirit. Sand King has a decent win rate, as he's decently high skill and he lacks scaling skills and pubs love to take their sweet *** time but he is also stunningly good against bad players due to having a bunch of AOE skills and being hard to kill. He is simply a nuker initiator type who can get away with a lot due to his Sand Storm invis and the fact that there are lots of teamfights in public games, where Sand King contributes a lot.

In competitive, he has been used as a greedy support aiming for a quick dagger, or as an offlaner to bully enemy melee laners because he has supports stacking for him. He has a very high dagger dependence, often needs a BKB too against smart opponents and he is also extremely hard countered by Black King Bar which will be bought later in these games. However, in competitive, he is more likely to be chosen for the proper draft, and he is more likely to hit his timing window, but he also will not get bad players that he can exploit to a comical level.

The Battle of the Mid-Lane: A Visual Story

This is an example of a particularly exciting late game fight with Sand King, told through screenshots, because I do not have a strong enough computer to record.

Over 50 minutes in, our farmed hero runs with all 4 of his allies, Bounty Hunter, Rubick, Slardar, and Lich. They run into the mid lane in order to have a battle against the enemy team. Whoever wins now will likely take a rax.

Slardar initiates for Sand King on Tusk and Abaddon, saving the King the trouble.

Capitalizing on Slardar's bravery, Crixalis charges his epicenter towards his opponents, who are gathering chaotic, giving a perfect setup.

Sand King teleports in releasing a massive quake and burrowstriking Abaddon. Also, a meteor falls from the sky and no one really notices, as Bounty Hunter takes down Invoker.

Sand King is hexed by Lion and moves backwards, allowing the Scepter wielding Lion to release a 4-man finger of death, taking down Rubick.

Lich finishes off the cowardly Lion, and Sand King lines up a three man Burrowstrike after the three strength heroes brutally beat Bounty Hunter to death.

Sand King is cornered by the three heroes who are striking him, but he managed to get down one of Wraith King's lives. Will our hero make it!?

No!! Despite killing Abaddon, the King is dead!! What chance is left!? Long live the-

Sand King's not done yet! Slardar goes to engage the two remaining foes will all his bravery.

Using his Boots of Travel, Sand King starts teleporting. Meanwhile, Slardar and Tusk reached a stalemate, leaving only the malevolent Wraith King alone with the clever Lich.

Sand King arrives in time, Burrowstriking Wraith King and activating his Blade Mail. Wraith King refreshes himself to reincarnate again. Who will win in this Clash of the Kings!?

Crixalis takes a beating, while Wraith King still has one more life left! Sand King uses a moment to try to recover some health in his Sand Storm with his Heart that he stole from a tin man.

Finally, after weaving away from Wraith King, Crixalis gains the upper hand over the rival king, thanks to the help of his Lich.

As Wraith King retreats, Sand King finishes him off. The battle is won, and now the two remaining heroes will take the enemy barracks!


Sand King is very powerful and versatile. He offers much to his team in the form of AOE damage and a powerful stun. His talents lie in his ability to push and farm, but also in his lack of reliance on most items if his team calls for it. Sand King is a powerful pick in many lineups and is simply a force to be reckoned with.

If you enjoyed reading this guide, you may also enjoy my other guides:


Thanks List:
My fans on youtube
Zotmaster and CrimsonQueso inspiring me to write a DotA guide
All the artists whose art I used for this guide
and David Scully for voicing this sexy beast.

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