Skill School: How to last hit with Dota 2's Sniper
We love games like Dota 2, League of Legends, and Smite, but the myriad skills needed to master their complex gameplay can scare new players away. That’s why, twice a month, we pick a key skill and teach you how to master it, using a character that particularly excels at or relies on that skill in-game.
This week, we’re tackling the most basic and rewarding skill, last hitting NPC creeps. And there's no better hero to learn the ropes with than Dota 2’s long-range, kill-master Sniper.
Last hitting is the most fundamental skill in games like Dota 2, often called ARPGs or MOBAs. Like any mechanic worth its bytes, it’s easy to understand—deal the killing blow to NPCs by timing your attacks so that you're the last person to hit it—and yet impossible to execute perfectly 100% of the time.
The ideal we're striving for is getting the last hit on every single NPC creep (those little minions marching down the lanes) that we encounter in every match. Perfectionists beware: you will never achieve this lofty goal. Instead, this week we're focusing on simply getting closer to the ideal than we were before.
Every worthwhile skill needs a good motivation for learning it. In the big three—Dota 2, LoL, and Smite—nearby players get a pump of XP every time a creep dies. But you don’t score any of the delicious gold coins stuffed inside that pixel piñata unless you're the last person to hit it. That means last hitting is the fastest way to boost your character’s power.
In Dota 2 specifically, it’s also the most reliable way to stunt your opponent’s growth, thanks to the unique deny mechanic that allows you to last hit friendly creeps as well. Killing our own troops may go against every international treaty, but it denies our rivals XP and gold, so we do it happily.
It’s not really surprising that a hero named Sniper is really good at taking pot shots at minions. His Take Aim passive ability gives him the longest auto-attack range of any hero in the game, letting him finish off minions from a safe distance, so enemy players can’t harass him very easily.
He also has a 40% chance to score a Headshot on each of his attacks, adding bonus damage that can make up for your mistake of accidentally shooting a bit too early. And, trust me, that will happen a lot as a you try to master last hitting this week.
Usually, ranged heroes are more difficult to last hit with because you have to account for the time it takes for their attack projectile to travel as well. It’s a big enough of a challenge that I normally recommend a melee hero for learning to last hit, but Sniper’s shots are near-instant, thanks to a quick wind-up and super speedy projectiles.
On top of all that, Sniper is a Carry hero, meaning that he scales well with gear and will need a lot of last hits to earn the gold he’ll need to be effective. There’s nothing more depressing than a gold-starved Carry, so you absolutely need to last hit if you want to pull your weight.
Wouldn't it be great if you could be a pro at last hitting just by reading this article? Well, you can't. Sorry. Even professional players miss at least one last hit in every game they play.
For your first game as the Sniper, let’s keep the focus simple and the goal low. Aim to last hit 50% of the creeps in your lane (start with 30% if you’re new to Dota 2). Sniper is better than most heroes at last-hitting, which is why the percentage is so high—even on your worst days you should be able to get 1 or 2 per creep wave. As Sniper, you'll usually be in middle lane by yourself, so the only player you’re competing with for last hits is the enemy carry.
Remember that you can kill your own creeps in Dota 2 by attacking them (hit A then left-click) to deny the enemy the gold that it drops. That means you have twice as many health bars to monitor as you do in League of Legends and Smite, both of which do not have a shoot-your-friend deny mechanic.
Our ultimate goal for the week is to last hit 80% of the minions in our lane. We’re going to build up to that, but keep that long-term goal in mind when starting to practice.
As Sniper, we’ve got a few advantages in our corner. The biggest is that our attack range is outrageous, so make sure you hang back as far as you can behind your troops. There’s no need to get close and expose yourself to potential ganks when you can safely last hit from a mile away.
Start off by making last hitting enemy creeps your top priority, and deny only when you have free windows of time in between. However, if the enemy hero is melee, they’re going to have to run into the danger zone to score their own last hits. When you find yourself in this situation, definitely take free potshots at them whenever they rush in to make them have to think twice about whether getting that last hit is worth it. In the extreme, your quick shots can even force them back to base to heal, giving you time to farm without opposition.
Even against ranged heroes, you will always out-range them if you need to harrass. But for now, play it safe and hang back against anyone that can engage you easily. Remember, we’re just focused on improving our last hit skills at this point.
At the start of the match (and then whenever you buy a new item), it’s a good idea to take a few practice shots at full-health creeps to get a feel for how long your hero's animation is and how much damage he or she character is doing.