Watching the ESL LA Online EU/CIS League Playoffs, I have seen Kuroky and Nigma play a Sniper support against Chicken Fighters in the first round of the Playoffs. They lost the series and were eliminated, so I dismissed the possibility of a Sniper support as a one-time thing.
But recently, Secret's Yapzor have shown interest in the support Sniper. He even played and won with it in the WePlay Pushka League Grand Finals against VP.Prodigy. And again, he played it in the OGA Dota PIT Groups against Ninjas in Pyjamas. Aside from him, TNC Tims also played a Support Sniper in the ESL One Birmingham Online yesterday. With the sudden rise of this pick, it now begs the question whether Sniper is transitioning into an unconventional support pick.
Laning and Items
Sniper is a slow and squishy hero, so in the early game, it is important to have Boots and a set of Regen. At level 1, Headshot will be your harassment tool. The additional damage and knockback from it makes Sniper a great support when trading at a distance. Then before you reach level 6, you should also have a single point in Take Aim and 3 points for Shrapnel. After prioritizing Shrapnel, Take Aim should be levelled next so you can have increased attack range.
In the early stages of the game, you can bait the enemy into trading with your lane partner and when he fully commits, you can blast him with some Shrapnel charges. Along with the slow, the extended and activated range from Take Aim and additional damage from Headshot also helps you take the last hit when the enemy attempts to escape. By this point, you should have completed your Tranquils and start saving up on some Aghs.
Like other supports, you should also spend gold to buy Wards and help yourself with some Clarities and Rain Drops. When both teams are farming, you should look for lanes that are safe to farm and you can also clear up some stacks when your cores are farming other lanes. You can also use Shrapnel to secure vision around the side of the enemy during your pushes. Although Aghs has a long build up and requires tons of farm, it is still important to join your team in fights.
Shooting in fights
As you build up your Aghs, it is also great for a Sniper support to join in fights. The damage and slow brought by every charge of your Shrapnel guarantees at least 1 kill in fights. Aside from that, your extended range also allows you to position yourself away from danger which will allow you to cast Assassinate on fleeing enemies. You can also use Assassinate as an initiation tool because of the vision it brings to the target. On top of that, its damage is a great way to set up combos when you need to burst a tank enemy.
As a suggestion, you should build your Aghs in this order: Point Booster, Ogre Axe, Staff of Wizardry, and Blade of Alacrity. With this build up, you get to maximize the start bonuses each item brings before you complete your Aghs. Having Tranquil and Aghs, your Talents should now focus on increasing the efficiency of your Shrapnel since this will be your source of damage outside of your ult.
As you approach the mid to late game, building Blink and Ghost Scepter into Ethereal helps you protect yourself. Furthermore, you can use these items to setup a nuke with Ethereal and Assassinate. With your Aghs, you can now setup long-range stuns by casting Assassinate on the target. The 1.5-second stun upgraded by the Aghs gives your team enough time to cast their own disables or simply catch up with the enemy. After stunning the target, you could easily follow up with Shrapnel and use your Take Aim to try and proc some Headshots as much and as safely as you can.
Will we see more of Sniper support in our pubs?
First, Sniper is a relatively easy hero to play, but what makes him a difficult support to play is his items and stats. As a support, it is not easy to secure 4200 gold, so each death you get declines your contribution in the game as Aghs is the first core item to make Sniper support effective. So if you plan to play him, you should have at least decent knowledge in farming patterns and good positioning as a support. Until he gets his Aghs, Sniper will depend on Shrapnel to set kills for his team and what distinguishes him apart from other conventional supports is that in every Talent level he has something that will improve his non-ulti damage source. His Talents still give a boost to Shrapnel even though its values are recently adjusted in 7.26c.
Like most metals developed by pros, Sniper support became viable because it had helped a team confuse the enemy with their drafts. Not everyone expects a support Sniper, so drafting him into a well-rounded lineup gives you an edge. However, if a draft is not balanced enough, a Sniper pick may have given your team more liability than assets.
All in all, I can see support Sniper manifesting in our pubs soon enough. His low-cooldown nukes and disables are an advantage in non-stop fights. He has mana and health issues, but Clarities and safe distance from the fights will still make him an effective support, especially when he gets his Aghs.
Similar to Weaver, we may be seeing Sniper develop into a support. I am sure that it will take pubs a long time to get used to him, especially when players don't play them as effective as Yapzor. So before you try one out, make sure to practice it in bots or unranked. Do you have any experiences with the Sniper support in your pubs? Share your thoughts on the comments and stay tuned for more!