The days of “Ho-ho, ha-ha” are over, but even though Sniper isn’t as horrifyingly overpowered as he once was, he still has the power to devastate pubs. The third most popular hero of all time in Dota 2 isn’t just going to go away and with pro players tentatively beginning to draft the hero again after his lengthy absence, wild Sniper pickers are becoming emboldened and Sniper has jumped to a 25.4% pick rate, making him the fourth most picked hero this month.
If you take a look at Sniper’s base stats, he’s very weak but if he’s allowed to farm a few items he becomes harder and harder to kill. To start off, Sniper has just 520 health, two armor and 39 damage at Level 1, poor strength and intelligence gain per level, and enough mana at Level 6 to cast his ultimate twice, but nothing else (even with Power Treads and a Ring of Aquila picked up). Playing against a fully farmed Sniper in the late game is incredibly challenging, even as the team in the lead because his creep wave clearing and high ground defending abilities are nearly unmatched. As with many snowball heroes, it’s best to stop Sniper early on but if you’ve got the right heroes for the job, he can be dealt with later on as well.
Nyx Assassin, Phantom Assassin, Spectre, Ursa, Vengeful Spirit
Shadow Blade, Eul’s Scepter, Blade Mail, Blink Dagger
There are many, many heroes that can deal with Sniper, so if your team has a chance to counter pick, you’re in luck. Be careful not to fall into the trap of using all or almost all five of your picks to counter one feared hero, because that’s an excellent way to end up with a team that isn’t well rounded and can’t deal with Sniper’s four other teammates. This is, of course, true for counter picking in general.
The key thing when it comes to countering Sniper is to get up in his face. Sniper is happiest when he’s standing really far away from a fight, taking potshots at everyone but not getting involved. There are many ways to get up in Sniper’s business. Some heroes have specific abilities that are ideal for this purpose, such as Phantom Assassin, who can use Phantom Strike to leap directly onto her enemies. Spectre’s Haunt achieves much the same thing, albeit on a significantly longer cooldown (140/130/120 seconds depending on level).
Invisible heroes like Bounty Hunter, Nyx Assassin or Clinkz (or a hero that naturally builds Shadow Blade) are good at catching out Sniper. These heroes alone will only excel if the enemy Sniper is frequently out of position without any backup and if his team isn’t on top of their true sight game, so it’s best to try to pick him off only when you have enough vision of his teammates to be sure he’s not juicy bait. Be careful when using invisibility to escape a fight, because if he casts Assassinate before you go invisible, it grants him True Sight over you until the ult hits.
Unlike the heroes that go to Sniper, Vengeful Spirit can bring Sniper to the rest of your team. Nether Swap is perfect for catching out Sniper and delivering him into the waiting arms of your teammates. A good item to pick up in this scenario is Aether Lens, which significantly increases the range of Nether Swap, so even if Sniper has already built a Dragon Lance and is plinking away at towers with Take Aim maxed out, your swap will still have a slightly longer range (at Level 3 at least).
Even if a hero doesn’t have a way of getting on top of Sniper with their spells, many heroes commonly build Blink Dagger, the perfect tool for getting a jump on that pesky sharpeye. There are many, many Blink Dagger core heroes, but when it comes to dealing with Sniper, Ursa has some advantages. Sniper’s Headshot passive reduces attack speed when it procs, but Ursa’s Overpower, which gives him bonus attack speed for a number of attacks combined with the increased damage on a single target from Fury Swipes means Ursa can melt Sniper in an instant without ever worrying about a Headshot or two. When picking Ursa to ruin a Sniper’s day, Phase Boots will help you to stay on him if the initial burst doesn’t finish him off.
Two good all-purpose items to pick up against Sniper are Blade Mail and Eul’s Scepter of Divinity. Blade Mail is very useful to stop Sniper from focusing you because it returns 100 percent of the damage he deals to you during the item’s 4.5 second duration (plus it’s on a short 18 second cooldown and costs just 25 mana to use). Sniper doesn’t have a whole lot of health to begin with, so he’ll be very reluctant to hit anyone with Blade Mail active. Eul’s Scepter not only provides a respectable 40 movement speed boost, but the active makes it easy to dodge Sniper’s ultimate, Assassinate. Once he’s cast the spell, the projectile travels slow enough that as long as you’ve got your wits about you you’ll be able to use Eul’s on yourself to disjoint the bullet. Unfortunately, Eul’s can’t be used to save your teammates, as it can only be cast on yourself or enemies.