Getting The Most Out of Sand Storm

This is my first in an intended series about getting the most of abilities, pushing them to their limits. Starting with Sand King’s Sand Storm, a very obnoxious and annoying ability to verse. Dota 2 is an evolving discipline which requires a lot of game knowledge, so lets get started on Sand Storm.


Fading Away

– After the channeling is stopped, you get 1.5 seconds of Fade Time. It’s important to note that this fade time is remove almost instantly after using another ability. So obviously you can’t Epicenter under the fade time, which is quite well known. What isn’t quite as known is that items cancel the fade time. Something like using a Magic Stick or Wand is something that you need to avoid doing until after the fade time is over. In desperate situations people often Sand Storm for the fade, such as to dodge projectiles, but then use an item such as a Wand, and their Fade Time is removed. This can cause a projectile that should have been dodged, to hit. So be wary of this.

– As soon as you stop channeling your Sand Storm, the damage from Sand Storm stops. Even though there is the Sand Storm visual/audio effect (VAE) in the original location, this is purely an effect, and will not do any damage at all. So there’s no chance of being fancy and killing someone with Sand Storm in the fade time, it just doesn’t work like this.

– The Fade Time isn’t removed instantly when you use items, it’s about 0.1 seconds after, which is a small delay (in laymans). You can use this delay to use a bug, a bug that the some Sand Kings are already exploiting. Dota has a rich and ethically dubious history of people using bugs/exploits to their advantage, so it’s up to you if you want to use it – but you should at least be aware of it. The bug is that only one instance of Sand Storm VAE can occur at a time for the same unit, in the sense that a second Sand Storm doesn’t create a new effect, but just uses the old one.

You can do this by either blinking out of Sand Storm and instantly creating a new Sand Storm, or, running out of a Sand Storm and creating a new Sand Storm in the 1.5 second Fade Time.

Sandstorm 3 visiual stacking1

So in the above image I used a Level 4 Sand Storm for 10 seconds, I then moved away and created a new Sand Storm while I was still in the Fade Time. This has resulted in my New Sand Storm not having the Sand Storm VAE in the correct location. The Sand Storm looks offset, but it’s just the location of my original Sand Storm. A Lina for example is likely to stun the center of the Sand Storm visual effect, but you aren’t in the center of it due to the bug. The Sand Storm DOT however is where the hero is, which means people will get hit by the Sand Storm damage even though they aren’t in the Sand Storm visual. There is no Debuff Icon when you are being damaged by Sand Storm either, which causes added confusion and can really mess with the enemy.

A similar situation arises if a Sand King Force Staffs himself and then Sand Storms during the travel time. The VAE will occur where he was when he started the Sand Storm, but not where he actually is, which can be very handy in escape scenarios. You see heroes such as Timber or Storm creating a similar situation by using a Teleport Scroll while they are zooming across the map, causing the TP scroll effect to be where they were when they started it, not where they are currently. This also occurs when other heroes move Sand King, such a friendly Pudge’s Meat Hook.

Most Optimal Positioning

– While Sand Storming neutral camps, you want to have the most optimal Sand Storm positioning.

Sandstorm 2 Bad place

The above Sand Storm positioning is very poor. The primary problem is that the neutral creeps are hit by Sand Storm for a very brief amount of time. The secondary problem is that the further the Sand King is into a camp, the less vision he has outside the camp, which means he is less likely to see an enemy approach (wards are placed in the image above, in a real game this Sand King would have far less vision). A tertiary problem is that I’m also bottled in the end of a cul-de-sac, so if someone does come and find me, I find myself with less/slower escape routes.

A better Sand Storm is the one below.

Sandstorm 2 loop

As the creeps get aggravated by my Sand Storm damage, they run from the camp. But my positioning is well enough that I actually damage most the creeps continuously. Creeps seem to leave camps in patterns, which each camp having a couple of ways the creeps will run when damaged by an invisible unit. This particular camp, the creeps like to loop around the sides, or run out straight. The never actually go to the far left of the image, it’s not a path the creeps seem to ever take. The main factor to consider is getting the most amount of damage on creeps, in the shortest amount of time. This will improve your jungle efficiency, especially try and focus on the bigger creeps. A big creep that is in a Sand Storm 90% of the time, might die at the same time as a small creep that is only in it 75% of the time – due to the difference in HP.

Another major factor to consider when Sand Storm jungling is the enemy. People jungle all the time, and you have to try and put yourself in advantageous positional situations. For demonstrative purposes the above image has a few wards placed in order to see the neutrals, but that positioning might not be best. That position gives me a lot of vision towards Radiant’s base; I can see if someone is coming from Radiant’s bot T2, or looping around the jungle via Radiant’s Mid T1 the instant they poke around the trees. I won’t however have any vision if someone is coming from the right side of me, and they can easily come out of nowhere from that side. I would thus say positioning myself towards the right is better if I am on Dire, since I have more vision from the area Radiant are likely to come from, which is a very important thing while farming the enemy jungle.

I am also facing towards the neutral camp, which might be a bad decision. If I see someone and wish to run away, I would have to turn first, losing valuable ground in the chase. If I am on Radiant it would be better for me to be on the far left, and facing more towards left/down. If I am on Dire however, I can Burrowstrike over the treeline which I am looking mostly towards, and then walk away.

Thus you should be able to gather that the most optimal Sand Storm positioning while farming the jungle is a balance between efficiency and safety. Generally speaking, the most efficient positions are as far out as you can (about the max AOE of Sand Storm) and covering as many paths the big creeps take as possible. The most safe positions are the ones that give you vision in areas the enemy are most likely coming from, and face your hero in the approximate fleeing direction. There are a few other points, but these ones are key.

sand kingtrees

Thinking Outside the Dune

I’ve also got a couple of smaller points that I feel are worth mentioning.

– Occasionally I will get Tranquil Boots on Sand King, as it has a couple of neat perks. One of these perks is that you can heal up during Sand Storm, which can be a really nice thing to be able to do.

– Sand King can farm Ancient Creeps. The Black Drake will take Sand Storm damage and if it does so, will agro all the creeps in the camp. It only gives about 50 gold though, but there is two of them.

– Sand Storm is purgable. For example, Brewmaster’s Dispel Magic will stop the Channelling. Most Brews might not know this though, so you still may be able to get away with a Sand Storm.

– Sand Storm damage is also truncated. It doesn’t do 25/50/75/100 damage per second like the tooltip says, it actually does a bit less. This is because Sand Storm damage instances are in 0.5 second intervals and you can’t do half a damage point. After the base 25% magical resistance, Sand Storm does 18/36/54/74 damage per second. This means Levels 2 and 3 improve the damage by 18 per second, where was level 4 adds 20 per second, and ultimately the ability does less damage than it should overall. This also applies to neutral creeps, where Sand Storm will do 24/50/74/100 damage per second, with levels 1 and 3 of the skill being 1 damage per second short of the intended value. Very minor differences, but can contribute to the value of a Skill Point on the hero.

– Bonus Sand King Fact: The enemy won’t hear the sound effect for channeling Epicenter. The enemies will only hear something once the ability has finished channeling. So if you wiff it, some enemies might not be aware of it. Not Sand Storm related, but a nice bonus for coming this far.

Using This Practically

Using all this information in a game is something that will help improve your Sand King play, as well as versing one. Perhaps using the Sand Storm fade time bug will save your life, while using Brewmaster’s Dispel Magic to purge the Sand Storm might net you a kill you wouldn’t have got otherwise. Similarly, Sand Storm jungling positioning is important and should be taken into consideration. Sand King can stack two camps at once with Blink; combine this with good positioning as described above and your Sand King will become more potent and increasingly a flash-farmer.

The point of this post series is to dump a load of information into your lap, which you can than utilize to improve your decision making process in the future. How you utilize it is up to you – and some of it is more important than other parts – but I hope you are able to get more out of your Sand Storms after this post.