Sniper / Valve

How to play Sniper and dominate both the game and the map

Sniper has long been a favorite hero in Dota 2 pub matches, despite never being popular in pro play. The gunslinging hero has peerless range on his attacks, making him tricky to deal with for any team that doesn’t have strong coordination. There aren’t too many effective counters either, with just a few heroes standing as serious checks.

Because of that, it’s worth taking a look over how to play as Sniper and how to counter him. After all, there are reasons that he’s so popular in pub games and less popular in pro matches.

Where should Sniper lane in Dota 2?

Sniper is oftentimes played as a carry, but the hero is by far better off being run as a mid laner. Though he’s a classic right-click carry and would theoretically fit into the safe lane as a result, Sniper has is in the same bot as an Invoker in that there is only a strong snowball threat when he gets an early level advantage.

Running him in the safe lane can still be done in pub games, but it greatly undermines his potency in the mid-game. A safe lane Sniper will be put into an awkward position of either having decent damage with maxed Shrapnel and standard attack range, or having no damage with an added bit of survivability.

Support Sniper does exist, but it’s not something that held up well over time. More on that later, though.

How to play Sniper in Dota 2

This is a good catch-all build for Sniper, but the hero is different from most in that how he is leveled and built should be highly dependent upon who he is laning against and what sort of farm he's getting.

Shrapnel is Sniper’s best tool for farming and is a solid weapon in team fights. It’s utterly critical to have a few levels in it before the mid-game in order to ensure Sniper can efficiently farm.

In most cases, Sniper will be best served by focusing on Shrapnel early. Against heroes with strong wave clear and the ability to effectively jump onto Sniper at range, it may be better to instead prioritize Headshot and Keen Eye in the early goings to chip away at their health to the point that they’re not comfortable with an all-in initiation.

Itemization is another thing that ends up being quite flexible for Sniper. Doubling or even tripling up on Wraith Bands in the early game gives Sniper a lot of extra stats to work with, and getting Power Treads into Maelstrom or Dragon Lance from there is the norm.

There’s still plenty of room for creativity there. Pro players have taken a variety of approaches to Sniper in both pro and pub matches ranging from early Hand of Midas to Blink Dagger. There are plenty of options there for the hero, so long as players focus on attack speed and damage.

Who counters Sniper in Dota 2?

Sniper’s greatest strength is his ability to deal damage from afar, so it’s only natural that heroes that can take that away from him are the best counters. Any hero that can quickly and easily crash into a team’s backlines will be able to give Sniper fits, all the better if it’s a hero that can get the better of him in a one-on-one situation.

The best option by a significant margin is Spectre. The carry hero’s ultimate allows Spectre to effortlessly start engaging Sniper directly, and a built-in Blademail effect in the form of the Dispersion passive allows Spectre to get the better of their fight even with a farm disadvantage.

In skilled hands, Storm Spirit, Ember Spirit, Nature’s Prophet, Morphling, and Phantom Assassin also have the ability to close the gap and take out a Sniper, or at least keep him occupied enough to help swing a team fight. Arc Warden’s Magnetic Field also does a great deal of work against Sniper by forcing him to fight up close.

While those heroes are a big reason why Sniper has never been particularly viable in pro play, there are a number of strong options for dealing with him in pub games too.

Strength heroes with the ability to pounce on Sniper from afar and keep him from attacking have a distinct advantage over him. Axe and Centaur Warrunner are very strong options after they purchase Blink Dagger. Clockwerk is also a strong choice in the early and mid game, but doesn’t necessarily hold up after Sniper builds up enough attack speed.

And of course, the ultimate pub game counter to a Sniper is a skilled Pudge. A Blink Dagger and an accurate Meat Hook lets him tear apart Sniper without having to worry about getting shot to pieces on the way in.

What is Sniper’s Dota 2 lore?

Sniper is a part of the Keen Folk in Dota 2. They share many similarities with the Dwarves of WarCraft 3 who they are based on. Instead of relying on magic, bloodlines, and cosmic power, the Keen Folk are technologically advanced and bring rockets and guns to the battlefield. Snapfire, Clockwerk, Tinker, and Gyrocopter are also among the Keen Folk. 

Sniper, full name Kardel Sharpeye, has a very straightforward backstory. He was a very skilled shooter among a village of hunters and had to kill a creature as part of a coming-of-age ritual. He succeeded, but the killshot tied into a prophecy that demanded he be forced out of the village and onto battlefields.

Can Sniper be played as a support?

Support Sniper isn’t especially strong in high-level play, but has been used on a few occasions. The most notable example is Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi playing support Sniper in early 2020.

Instead of building up attack speed and damage as one would expect, the build instead focused on maximizing Shrapnel’s power with talents and getting an Aghanim’s Scepter in order to build the hero up as a strong magical nuker.

That approach was largely patched out of the game in 2020, with Shrapnel and the Aghanim’s upgrade to Assassinate both getting heavily nerfed. Today, Sniper is a generally underwhelming support option and should only be looked at as a carry.