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5 Votes

Sando's Guide to Sniper

June 12, 2017 by Sando
Comments: 6    |    Views: 50574    |   

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Possible Core

DotA2 Hero: Sniper

Hero Skills


1 3 5 7


4 13 14 16

Take Aim

2 8 9 11


6 12 18


Hero Talents

+6 Shrapnel Charges
+100 Attack Range
+24 Shrapnel DPS
+28 Knockback Distance Headshot
-14% Shrapnel Slow
+30 Attack Speed
+15 Damage
+1s Take Aim Duration


Sniper is a core hero famed for his long ranged attacks and abilities.

If left to chip away at enemies he's incredibly dangerous, but is also vulnerable to heroes who can get close to him or pull him out of position.

This guide is focused on how to build and play Sniper to best effect.

What you should know if you're ally is Sniper

+ Try to keep the focus away from him in fights
+ Defensive items like Glimmer Cape, Force Staff and Solar Crest are very useful to help him
+ He'll generally want to fight high ground where possible

- He's very slow and vulnerable early game
- He's useless if caught out of position, good warding is essential

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ Longest attack range in the game once levelled
+ Good mix of long range nukes
+ Great stat gains
+ Two right click passives make for a strong late game

- Slow movement speed
- No escape or mobility skills
- Weak attack damage early game
- Farm and level dependent


Shrapnel is a powerful AOE nuke that slows and damages over an extended period. You gain up to 3 charges for it over time, and can potentially rapid fire it when you have multiple charges available.

It has a wide range of utilities:







Yes, you can use it for almost anything, and the range allows you to do so with minimal risk to yourself.

Once you start to level up and get items, you'll often find mana is not a problem, so the main challenge is managing your charges to make sure you have it available when you need it. Always try to keep at least 1 charge in the bank in case a team fight breaks out.

Bear in mind that Shrapnel instances DON'T STACK. So there's no point casting 3 of them in the same place - spread them out over a wider area.


There's not an awful lot to say about this - it's a passive that helps you inflict extra damage, and control opponents. It can be ferocious and annoying for focused enemies once you have some power in your right click.

On average this works out at 6/16/26/36 per shot (40% of proc damage), as of 7.06. You can lifesteal from this damage, but it doesn't contribute towards crits.

When it procs, it causes a 0.5 second 'pseudo-stun' which decrease enemy movement and attack speed. It doesn't break channelling or stop them using items or abilities though.

You get the most out of this skill by simply increasing your attack speed (and/or agility) as much as possible. More shots = more headshots.

Take Aim

In many ways this is Sniper's signature skill - ever increasing range on your right click. With multiple levels it can easily reach the point where you can hit towers from outside their range, making it very difficult for enemies to stop you without committing to the attack.

You're also very dependent on this to allow you to take up safer positions to attack from.

Fully stacks with the range boost from Dragon Lance.


Sniper's other signature skill is a long range nuke with significant power and relatively low cooldown. It's pretty easy to use - lock on to an enemy, wait, and you'll automatically hit them unless they manage to use an item or skill to dodge or block the damage.

Examples: Astral Imprisonment, Eul's Scepter of Divinity, Black King Bar

A few things to note about usage:

- Generally don't use this skill if you could be auto-attacking instead, the DPS is lower compared to your right click

- Lock on to fleeing targets on low health before they move out of vision

- You can use Shrapnel to see juking enemies and target them quickly

- Later on, feel free to harass sieging enemies who are outside right click range. At level 3 the cooldown is very low and your mana pool big enough to handle it.

- Ability inflicts a mini-stun that breaks channelling

The Aghanim's Scepter upgrade for this skill is interesting - locking on to an area and potentially inflicting multiple headshots. However, like many hard carry Aghs, it's not really suitable for mainstream builds as it focuses more on your nuking than right click abilities.

Skill builds

The common builds for Sniper are relatively well defined - you max Shrapnel first to give you early game presence, while levelling Take Aim up.

A value point in Headshot is often taken, but adding more makes you vulnerable and item dependent. Shrapnel and Take Aim are what allow you to stay safe and influence the game.

Assassinate is a very useful skill and worth upgrading at every opportunity.

So no support Sniper?

I think there have been a few experiments with this to try to leverage the power of Shrapnel and Aghanim's Scepter Assassinate.

At present (7.06) however there aren't really any viable builds as your two passives don't offer much without additional items, and the long charge cooldown on Shrapnel means you can effectively only use it about once per minute.


Level 10

My choice here usually rests on how well the game is going. +15 attack is ok, and will give you the most benefit in the late game as a little extra edge.

If you're getting a lot of action and getting plenty of use from Assassinate and Shrapnel then +5 mana regen essentially fixes your mana issues. However, once you have Force Staff you don't particularly need this.

Level 15

This is a straight choice between survivability and more damage on Shrapnel.

Potentially you might get an extra 220 damage out of a Shrapnel cast with this boost. However, 200 hp for free is not to be refused lightly - you don't do any damage when you're dead, and right click is your bread and butter later on.

Take the damage if you think you get away with it, otherwise take the health.

Level 20

Another choice between damage utility and survivability. You have good agility growth so armour is not particularly a problem, but more is better and can help you a lot against late game carries.

25% cooldown reduction is useful though - it effects Shrapnel charge replenishment, Assassinate AND any item actives you have.

This is another choice that is about how effectively the enemy team are getting to you during fights - pick the armour if you need it, the reduction if things are going well.

Level 25

Both of these skills are very useful - even more attack range, or a disgusting ability to spam Shrapnel around the battlefield.

My feeling on this choice is around whether you've picked Shrapnel focused talents already (i.e. extra DPS and cooldown reduction). If so, 7 instances is worth taking.


Sniper is what's generally known in RTS games as a 'Glass Cannon' - very powerful at dishing out damage, but very vulnerable too.

The key to playing him well is positioning. This goes for all phases of the game, every moment. You need to constantly be assessing where the safest place to be is, while still farming and fighting.

You want wide sight lines where you can see enemies coming and can engage them at long range. Combine this with difficult to reach positions of your own - use trees, high ground and other natural obstacles to make you hard to see and reach.

Your team is very important here - you need to use them as another barrier to make you hard to get to. They can hopefully provide control and additional protection for you too. Smart enemies will try to flank or jump you, and you'll need your team to help out.

It should be pretty obvious from reading this that it's very important for you to have a good sense of where the enemy are - and what direction they're likely to come from.

Sieges (especially defensive ones) are a real strength for Sniper - you have 99% certainty where the enemy will attack from, and can stand very defensively while spamming attacks and abilities.

Early Game

This can be a tricky time for you, but also one with opportunities. Without levels you have a small attack range, and this is combined with your extremely poor right click damage.

You have an almost instance projectile speed however, so try to build as much extra damage as you can early on, and practice your last hitting with him.

Technically Sniper can be played as a mid or safe lane carry, and your success will very much depend on who you're up against. See later in this guide.

You tend to suffer against multiple, aggressive opponents who can squeeze your early farm and potentially kill you before you get the levels you need to stand more safely.

However, bear in mind that Shrapnel is very potent, especially if you have multiple charges and support(s) available.


As Sniper you need to find a good balance between farming and fighting in the midgame. You need to be constantly active and maximising your farm to get those big ticket items flowing in.

Bear in mind that your abilities are actually very potent midgame - Shrapnel and Assassinate are great for tower defence and pickoffs.

My advice would be to concentrate on farming, but keep a TP scroll handy. If the enemy team are attempting to push a tower and your team wants to fight - go. You can often TP into the tier two tower, help the defence and quite possibly grab a few kills and assists. This is well worth your time for the gold/xp boost alone, but more importantly how much it can effect the balance of power between the two teams.

From here you can quite often then push on and grab a tower from them while they respawn. Always keep in mind that you need to stay safe though.


By now you should have a very potent right click, and can cause massive damage and disruption to a focused target.

The key here is still your positioning - you need to be laying down constant fire and you can't do this if you're stunned or dead.

In most team compositions you'll be the main target of the enemy team, so use this to draw them out of position and into the rest of your team.


We've covered this already, so in summary:

- try to maintain optimal distance to your enemies - for you this is about 1000 units. Hit them without them hitting you.

- use the terrain to hide you from enemy sight as much as possible. Stop firing if necessary.

Vision - it's very important to see them before they see you.

Relocation - try to be elusive and unpredictable. Change positions when appropriate.


In a break from tradition, I'm going to split this section into several different builds as it probably makes more sense this way.


Some sample starting items - some regen, combined with as much attack damage as you can muster. The most common choice is Tango and Wraith Band for good regen, plus as much stats and damage as possible.

You may be able to get away with a Ring of Basilius in an easy lane, with the mana regeneration boost helping you and any nearby allies with spell harassment.

Build 1 - Battle Sniper

This is a relatively balanced build designed to provide a good mix of escape, stats, farming speed and damage.

The timing and order of the middle two items are important - Force Staff provides you with an important mobility/escape boost, while grabbing an early Maelstrom can boost your farming speed.

Eye of Skadi and Daedalus are potential trade ins. Moon Shard and Boots of Travel provide the finishing touches.

Build 2 - Racecar Sniper

A more unusual build, it aims to boost your poor mobility through all the various speed buffs in these items. It's pretty situational, and depends on what abilties the enemy have to control you.

Build 3 - Control Sniper

This build is based less around damage, and more about the crippling slow of Eye of Skadi combined with Headshot. It's very viable when you have another primary damage dealer on the team, but can leave your team lacking punch otherwise.

Build 4 - Raw Damage/Lifesteal Sniper

A powerful but risky build - you're almost a full glass cannon, relying on damage and lifesteal to stay alive. Avoid when the enemy has a lot of lockdown.

Build 5 - Pug Sniper

I wouldn't particularly advise this build outside knock about pub games as Shadow Blade isn't a very good escape, but in games where the opposition doesn't buy detection Sniper can seem ludicrously overpowered like this.

Key Items

As you can probably tell, this is a really important item on Sniper. It's pretty much everything you want in a single item - range boost, good stats, mobility skill and an active that lets you move enemies to a safe distance while you keep shooting them.

The only real question around this item is in what order and how quickly you get it. Generally Dragon Lance first makes sense if the game is going well and you have space.

Force Staff first is when the enemy is hunting you actively and you need the ability to get away from them.

This tends to be our raw damage item of choice - it hits hard, it negates evasion and it combines well with Headshot to inflict maximum disruption to targets.

Daedalus is the best raw damage output item you can buy - so no problems recommending it either. However, be aware that Sniper tends to output consistent DPS rather than huge crits.

Desolator is another option, and powerful for pushing buildings and killing enemies alike.

Whether to pick up one of these or not is an important question for Sniper players. Since we can only use Shrapnel so much, boosting our farming speed is often a priority.

Maelstrom is probably the best way of doing it, and the occasional chain lightning proc can offer a lot of extra damage in the early-midgame during fights. It also has the advantage of diversifying our damage type, outputting magical as well as physical damage.

Mjollnir is a worth upgrade - the attack speed boosts our Headshot procs considerably.

The downside is that we limit access to other unique attack modifiers - they're not quite as much value when you can lose 25% of their effectiveness.

An excellent midgame damage item which can also help team mates with physical damage inflict considerably more. It also allows you to push more quickly.

It's a very viable pickup, with the main limiting factor how similar it is to Monkey King Bar in terms of price and effect. For a little more gold, you get the additional control and evasion counter of MKB.

However, Desolator is still worth thinking about returning to, and situationally very powerful.

Whether to lifesteal on Sniper or not is another key question. The answer is generally no, but situationally it can be very powerful.

First of all, we need to build some other items before moving on to lifesteal - otherwise our puny early damage makes it very weak.

Mask of Madness is an option here as it can boost our farming speed a little, and provides a risky way of boosting our DPS or outrunning enemies. Fire off as much Shrapnel as you can, then hit the active. The downside is you might miss Assassinate opportunities.

Satanic can be a very powerful super-late option, giving you the ability to rapidly heal when jumped on. However, you need a lot of damage first to make this worthwhile, and sometimes just want more outright damage instead.

Vladmir's Offering is generally not worth it, lacking impact for the slot. Great if somebody on your team can get it though...

It wouldn't be right to talk about Sniper without at least some discussion of Blink Dagger. Hero has mobility problems => examine best mobility item in the game.

It's a tricky choice - I've seen players use this to really good effect. You can relocate almost invisiblity to another spot. I've also seen no impact Snipers struggling to do anything as they have no damage or it gets countered.

I'd rule it out as soon as you're against invisible enemies, Radiance carriers and/or spells like Thundergod's Wrath - if it's on cooldown, you can be in big trouble.

Personally I tend to prefer the all-round utility and stats of the Hurricane Pike, but it's a very valid choice situationally.

A popular choice amongst low level pubbers as it provides both an escape and extra damage. However, at higher levels of play you're unlikely to get away as opponents will bring detection, and know you don't have any other way of leaving the area quickly.

Potentially you can combine this with Manta Style to allow you to purge dust, but overall this is not a good Sniper item.

Shadow Blade is actually most useful for initiating ganks - you can sneak up on opponents and get an extra burst of damage. This isn't really Sniper's playstyle - best off leaving it to Slark.

Good Allies

Defensive supports are your best friends - keeping you alive in those clutch moments when an enemy jumps you.

I'd put these guys in the category of 'Bodyguards' - they're very good at disrupting enemies ability to get to you, or dragging them away before they can kill you.

The aura bonus to your right clicks makes laning and last hitting a whole lot easier, and provides considerable extra damage later on too. The problem is that the two of you have very similar strengths and weaknesses.

Bad Enemies

These guys are natural 'space closers' and don't even need to get a Blink Dagger to jump on you. They're difficult to play around and should be avoided where possible.

Fast, tanky and in your face. These guys are dangerous, especially once they have a Blink Dagger. Try to make it as difficult as possible for them to both spot you, and reach you. Be careful of Blade Mail and not hitting yourself.

Invisible heroes are not fun for you. They're often good at flanking the team and can appear unexpectedly, even when you have good vision of an area.


Hopefully this guide has given you some insight into how to best utilise Sniper. Picked and played correctly he's a real thorn in the side of the opposition and they'll be cursing both you and Icefrog as they flounder under a barrage of Shrapnel and Headshots.

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