Picking Them Off: A Guide to Sniping
January 4, 2015
Hello, and thank you for choosing to read my guide to playing Sniper, a very simple and unique hero! I appreciate your desire to understand the hero more, whether he is on your team or the enemy's. Most people overlook Sniper and consider him a "noobish" or horrible player, but I'm going to explain how he can be extremely useful in team-fights and how he works overall. I don't want this to come across as a, "This hero only works this way," guide and I want to make it clear that this is just how I learned to play Sniper and what I figure is the best way. If you feel that there can be modifications to the build, play-style, or otherwise consider this guide ****ty, more power to you!
How Does Sniper Work?
More often than not, a team will exclaim that Sniper is a horrible hero and that you shouldn't play him because he's what they would consider useless. However, they couldn't be farther from the truth. Sniper is, if not a heavy damage hero, useful to any team that needs damage against an initiator or a counter to hard-carry melee heroes. Although he doesn't have any abilities that would make him highly supportive in a team-fight, it's because he has personal advantages that make him supportive in a different way.
Although not being able to provide a stun, Sniper can effectively change the entire course of a team-fight because of his advantages. The most-important and first advantage is his range. Take Aim
allows Sniper to have an attack range of 950 units, which is a safe distance from most spells and abilities that would otherwise hit Sniper and cause him a great deal of harm given his rather low health. His next and almost-equally-important advantage is his ability Headshot
, which allows his normal attacks to have a 40% chance to deal extra damage, along with a great slow. This makes him very potent against moving targets, because he can stop most heroes from escaping just with his auto-attacks.
But that's not everything that makes him truly supportive in team-fights. His ultimate ability, Assassinate
, gives him the advantage of taking out fleeing targets that would otherwise escape with low health and live to fight another day, and more often than not come back even stronger than before. The reason this is so powerful is because it has a ridiculous range (3000 Units) and provides instant magical damage. In team-fights, other heroes will often run away when low on health, in which case the player playing Sniper should tell his allies that he is targeting the fleeing hero, and that they should focus on another enemy. This maximizes the damage the entire team will output in terms of team fights, which could ultimately end in a full enemy team wipe because their most powerful damage hero just died when fleeing. Sniper's items also ensure a great deal of support in team-fights, because Desolator
will reduce the enemy hero's armor a great deal, combined with the fast attack speed from Sniper's items, 25% chance to crit for 2.4x damage from Daedalus
on every attack, and the 25% chance to hit almost every enemy hero with 150 damage of electricity from Mjollnir
on every attack makes him very powerful in team-fights because he can dish out a heavy amount of damage in a short time.
But why do I consider this supportive? Why is there so much significance being focused around Sniper's DPS and range?
Simply put, Sniper is able to take out the weak, strong, heavily-armored, evasive (if he has Monkey King Bar
), and escaping targets. He has no hero that he counters perfectly because every hero is subject to his damage, range, and abilities. Unlike other heroes that're more suited towards taking out other carries or initiators, Sniper is suited for any combat situation. You don't need to change an entire build because Sniper is built to destroy, not counter specific heroes based on his items.
Contrary to popular belief, Sniper can fit in any lane. He doesn't absolutely need to take mid in order to become stronger, but it is optimal. Instead, which lane you pick and who you choose to lane with changes the outcome of the game dramatically based on your survivability.
Provided you know how to handle soloing mid-lane with practically any hero as your enemy mid, you can survive just fine. Mid-lane is a huge responsibility because it's only you defending against someone else, all while gaining a huge amount of experience and gold. It's practically like a 1 v 1 mid match, but with more variables. It should be noted that it would be wise to buy both kinds of wards should you be up against frequently invisible heroes, which I will specify later.
Sniper can also fit in with top and bottom lane, and in most cases can shut a lane down in a few minutes if he is paired up with some great offense/defense. Although this does technically increase his survivability, it will decrease his growth during the match, so it is expected that Sniper should take as many opportunities as possible to gain more gold and experience, should he lane top or bottom. Remember that he needs to stay as far back as possible, or else things can go wrong very quickly.
It should also be noted that Sniper should help secure at least one rune at the very beginning of a match because that is an instant 100 gold and experience for anyone on the team. If nobody else needs heavy farm, Sniper should be the one to take at least one rune. In the rare instance that your team can secure both and plan for Sniper to dominate as their main carry, the team should consider Sniper getting both runes for an instant level 2 and 200 gold.
What Items do What?
Late-game Sniper is, without a doubt, nothing without his items. They provide him with everything that makes him extremely deadly. Here's what's important:
allows Sniper to have a little more mana, health, damage, and attack speed at the very start of the game. It also allows him to build Ring of Aquila
, which gives him slightly more damage, attack speed, health, and mana; in addition to slightly more armor, a massive mana regeneration boost, and an aura for the creeps to enable his pushing potential. The Tangos
give him the early health regeneration if he gets particularly harassed or makes some mistakes, such as soloing a wave of creeps without his creeps.
enable Sniper to have a necessary increase to his movement speed and give him the ability to have a little extra health regeneration, mana regeneration, or damage and attack speed whenever he needs them; all while providing a constant 30 point boost to his attack speed. If you can successfully hold a lane down or shut it down entirely, you'll never need to switch from the agility attribute bonus.
gives Sniper additional attack speed, damage, and a much-needed escape plan for those situations in which he would otherwise be surrounded by enemy heroes and ganked, or killed during a failed team fight. It should also be noted that you should always buy Shadow Amulet
first and get it in your inventory as soon as possible, as it can be used to ambush, escape, or gank an enemy hero with your Assassinate
because the ability will not cancel your invisibility until after it is cast. Once you have the full Shadow Blade though, you can freely move and escape, with an additional 150 damage added to your attack during your invisible state. This can also be used as an effective ganking tactic for those enemy carries that decide to get free farm from a lane, only to find out that you were invisible and sneak-attacking them; use it before enemy creeps have sight on you for maximum potential.
(An additional note is that Shadow Blade also provides a movement speed increase.)
not only adds a massive damage increase to Sniper, but also provides a debuff on the enemy every time he lands a successful hit, decreasing their armor. This will practically shred enemy carries and initiators with armor-providing items.
Monkey King Bar
provides a massive damage increase, slight increase to attack speed, and you'll never miss a shot against anyone ever again (this does not apply to towers and buildings, should you not be on the same ground level as them)! Perfect for evasive heroes!
provides Sniper with a damage boost, attack speed increase, and a chain lighting effect that will enable Sniper to solo creep waves. The chain lightning will damage all creeps and heroes it jumps to. This unique-attack-modifier stacks with Desolator, meaning you can challenge hordes of creeps while still targeting a hero standing in the middle of a creep wave!
Crystalys gives a damage boost along with a chance to critically hit for 1.75x your normal damage. This does not stack with Headshot
, so don't expect a massive damage increase, just a substantial one.
is the upgraded version of Maelstrom
, giving a higher damage increase, massive increase to your attack speed, higher change to prock a more potent chain lightning, and gives you the ability to surround yourself or an ally with lightning that has a chance to damage enemy attackers. This makes Sniper lethal to hordes of creeps of any level and heroes alike, so team fights will become much easier.
(After buying Mjollnir, you should no longer require your Ring of Aquila)
is the upgraded version of Crystalys, boasting a much higher damage boost, along with a slightly higher chance to critically hit for a massive multiplier of 2.4x!
provides Sniper with a massive attack speed boost, damage boost, passive evasion, and the ability to switch from his evasion to a movement speed increase. This stacks with shadow Blade, giving Sniper movement speed beyond most heroes late-game, meaning he can escape from most fights should he need to!
Mask of Madness
provides Sniper with additional attack speed, lifesteal, and movement speed, all for a short duration! However, it does increase the damage he receives by a substantial amount, meaning this items becomes a double-edged sword late-game! Great care should be taken when using Mask of Madness, at it could make you a primary target that is easily taken out in less than a second! I do not recommend getting this item at all, but it does have potential.
provides Sniper with a silence and additional damage during the 5 second silence, as well as a massive mana regeneration boost, damage, attack speed, and intelligence so that he can continue casting without a problem. It also amplifies the damage taken on the silenced target by 30%. I want it noted that I never buy this item, but it has great potential as an item against frequent casters that would otherwise destroy everyone in a team fight.
provides you with a plethora of applications in team fights. For starters, casting on yourself will give you a semi-escape. Casting it on a teammate provides both of you with a semi-escape. Casting it on an enemy provides them with increased magical damage, along with instant damage that is 2x your primary attribute +75 damage. Not only that, but it provides a massive slow, additional health and regen, additional mana and regen, damage boost and attack speed, and can make your Assassinate even more deadly. It should be noted that the magical weakness is also applied to you, your allies, and enemies you cast it on, meaning that you can be taken out quickly by heavy magic damage heroes. I never buy the item, but it's potential can make a team fight easy to win!
Sniper's abilities make him almost unbeatable in some situations. If you get comfortable with using Sniper and understand what other heroes will go for first in terms of abilities, you can even get level 6 before 5 minutes and kill a mid-lane enemy hero before they have a chance to get to you across the river!
His first ability (Shrapnel
), however, isn't as useful as many will think. Due to the recent update, the ability costs less mana, has three charges, bot no longer does damage to towers and lasts a second less than it's previous AoE time. It does provide, at level 4, a decent slow, decent ticking damage, and can cover a wide area with it's 3 charges. It is useful in team fights and taking out large waves of oncoming creeps as you stand there and shoot the oncoming enemies that're slowed down. Although this ability does provide additional sight in an area, do not use this ability to stop running enemies, because by the time you get into position and want to slow them down and get additional sight on them, they will have the time to run out of the area. It can, however, be used to sight out enemies that frequently hide in trees or on raised elevations in which you can continue to see them. It can also aid in an escape, should you have enough of a lead in front of the enemy for them to not catch up significantly.
Sniper also has two passive abilities, one being Headshot
, which allows his normal attacks a 40% chance to deal additional damage, along with slowing the attack speed and movement speed of the target for a short period of time. This should always be your first ability!
Sniper's second passive ability is Take Aim
, which dramatically increases his range to the point where he can be safely out of harm's way in a team fight, attack a tower outside of it's range, kill a low-health enemy from a distance that they did not anticipate as they ran away, and last hit with ease. Combined with Headshot, this ability can enable Sniper to hit an enemy from across the river, maintaining his safe distance and providing him the time needed to lower the enemy into the range of Assassinate's instant kill damage. Not to mention that it also enables Sniper to attack an enemy's first tower in a lane and deal damage safely regardless of creeps.[b/]
Note that Assassinate has a rather long cast-time, and should be used with some precaution.
Heroes to Watch out For
I'm not going to sugar-coat it, Sniper is targeted by every hero out there. However, here's the one's to be extra watchful of:
because of his long-range Meat Hook
and disabling Dismember
, as well as his ability to follow you with Rot
. Playing against Pudge requires you to be very paranoid to avoid his hooks! Never fight him without having a plan and being ready for any hooks he may throw at you! It will help to stay behind creeps at all times.
will constantly be invisible and can strike you from behind with massive damage, not to mention his Smoke Screen
, which will slow you and give you a percentage chance to miss should you not have Monkey King Bar. It also silences, which prevents you from using Assassinate should he run away. Buy wards to prevent him from getting the advantage!
is equally as powerful as you, and if you're not careful, can gank you repeatedly should she grab Shadow Blade faster than you can. Remember to stand as close as possible to her in order to cancel her Marksmanship
and do not run away from her.
Heroes to lane With
Instead of giving you a list of the heroes that are great buddies to lane with, I'm going to tell you that any hero is good to lane with, even other carries. Yes, you get potentially less gold and growth, but you get a dramatic increase in survivability and ganking ability. You should lane with those who can lock down a target with a disable, slow them down with a slow, or otherwise deal massive burst damage to make way for Assassinate. Any hero is good with Sniper, because Sniper can make use of any situation, even if it means running away to fight another day.