Skill School: How to last hit with Dota 2's Sniper
Builds and items
I’m not going to walk you through an all-purpose build guide for Sniper here. There are plentyofsitesforthat if you’re interested. This guide is about learning to last hit well, so I'm going to give you a basic gameplan for building Sniper to practice last hitting in casual environments: co-op matches vs. AI or practice maps by yourself. This build is not meant to be your new secret to success in PvP games.
Put your first ability point into Headshot, and then work on maxing out Take Aim as soon as possible (level 7), while dumping the leftovers into Headshot. This will maximize your auto-attack range and damage, allowing you more wiggle room when last hitting. Don’t even worry about Shrapnel (an AoE DoT and slow) until later—the damage is negligible for our purposes.
Attack speed is a huge help when learning how to last hit on a new hero, because it reduces the punishment for attacking too early and will often let you swing a second time before the follow-up minion attack hits.
You want to balance it out with attack damage as well, though, which gives you a larger health margin to aim for. Start with Slippers of Agility to boost your low base damage and a Boots of Speed to help you duck in and out of harassment range while last hitting.
Build up towards Power Treads (switch it to Agility stat, unless you’re facing heavy pressure and need the Strength), and go for Butterfly as your first big item. It’s a beautiful blend of everything you want: attack speed, attack damage, and survivability. Shadow Blade is another very fun Sniper item that’s incredibly useful in teamfights or in situations where you really need an escape tool, but you can leave it in the bin during solo practice.
Sadly, you won’t be able to simply sit in place and blast at minions all day. The battlefield is constantly in flux and you need to react to it.
If you find yourself trapped under a friendly tower, don’t try to outshoot it. It will kill most creeps in 3-5 hits. Watch the amount of health it’s taking off the creep it’s targeting and wait until you know the creep won’t survive the next tower hit to shoot it. It’s impossible to give a catch-all solution for how to beat a friendly turret, but the easiest mistake is to simply blast it willy nilly. If you’re really worried about it, just last hit minions that the turret isn’t currently focusing. It’s not too bad to burn down half-health creeps at that point because you can push the lane a bit without getting into enemy territory.
Likewise, it’s tough to deny your allied creeps under an enemy tower, but keep in mind that you don't necessarily need to get the last hit—you just need to make sure the enemy hero doesn't. It also doesn't hurt that you outrange turrets by level 7, so just keep the auto-attack pressure on any enemy melee heroes to let the turret eat the minions and be content with the draw.
If you find yourself under heavy pressure from constant ganks, narrow your focus to only getting last hits and run back towards your turret when there are none to be immediately had. There’s no reason to stand in the open waiting for the next creep wave when the enemy team is roaming.
Once you feel like you've got the general hang of last hitting and can regularly amass 50% of the lane creeps in last hits, it's time to add some finesse to your play.
It’s easy to put yourself out of position while last hitting. Left untouched, the creep waves will hover near the middle of the map. But if you’re making bad last hits and sniping every enemy NPC two times before it dies, the flow of battle is going to shift towards the enemy base. And, contrary to your gut impulse, that's bad because it means you're going to be fighting on their home turf, where every tree hides a ganker hungry for your delicious dwarven flesh. A good rule of thumb is that you want to keep the creep conflict on neutral or friendly ground so you don’t overextend yourself. If you need a guideline to follow, make sure that you take a shot at one of your own creeps for every shot you take at an enemy creep.
There will often come a time when you have to choose between last hitting the enemy’s creep or denying your creep. There can be a lot of factors involved, including where the enemy is, what abilities they have at their disposal, and which direction you want to move the creep wave, but my default preference is that I will always take an enemy creep kill over a deny. The reason is straight greed: killing an enemy minion nets me gold, denying doesn’t.
Outside of practice matches, it's just as important to last hit enemy heroes to score the sacks of gold and XP that comes with their bounty. Thankfully, Sniper excels at that as well courtesy of his death-summoning ultimate ability, Assassinate, which locks onto a target and puts a bullet through their head/shell/membrane/metal casing from long range.
Now here comes the tricky part. All of the hundreds of heroes in all the many MOBA games have different ranges, animations, and particle speeds that will affect the timing of your last hits. You may have mastered Dota 2’s Sniper, but you’ll need to learn each hero individually and practice them until it becomes a sort of muscle memory. You’ll know you’ve truly mastered a hero when you aren’t constantly thinking about last hitting while playing them.
Good luck out there this week, Snipers! As always, you can download Dota 2 on Steam, although you'll need a beta invite if you aren't already in. Hopefully some friendly folks can help out by offering friend invites in the comments below. Once you're in, all of the heroes, including Sniper, are 100% free, so there’s nothing stopping you from joining the PC Gamer community in-game this week.
Five goals to aim for as you learn to last hit with Sniper:
1. Hit level 6 without using any healing items or returning to base to heal.
2. Deny an entire creep wave by yourself while laned against enemy players.
3. Don’t let your opponents deny any creeps in a single wave.
4. Get 200 creep kills in a game.
5. Have the most creep kills on either team for two games in a row.