Slark is notorious for being one of the most difficult heroes to kill in all of Dota 2. He is slippery to the core, living up to his name as the Nightcrawler—being a hero that constantly evades capture and death itself. For the uninitiated and unprepared, Slark will seem like a totally broken character, able to strike without warning at any given moment—and get away from danger in the blink of an eye.
His first ability Dark Pact purges his body of poisons, curses, and even effects that completely incapacitate him—all at the cost of a trivial amount of health and mana. Pounce allows him to quickly close the distance between himself and his target, binding them to the ground for an easy kill. Should they survive the initial onslaught, Slark can finish them off with bonus agility from Essence Shift, which steals the target’s attributes and transfers them to Slark as agility. And if those three still aren’t enough, Slark can make himself totally invisible—even to detection—with his ultimate Shadow Dance. Shadow Dance likewise gives him a massive bonus to health regeneration, so long as he is not within the enemy team’s field of vision. All in all, his kit is designed for those that like quick hit-and-run playstyles.
Image via Valve
While this all sounds amazing on paper, however, there is much more to Slark than meets the eye—much to the relief of his would-be enemies. Slark’s below average stat gain per level keeps him from being useful without items, making it critical for him and his team to secure a significant lead early on. Also, though his kit allows him to be very mobile, he is actually fairly easily kited as long as players protect his initial targets well. He also doesn’t do particularly well against illusion-based carries such as Phantom Lancer and Terrorblade, who can confuse him with their own personal armies.
But despite his weaknesses, he is still one of the most terrifying heroes to face in public matchmaking, primarily due to the lack of coordination between teammates in pub games. Beware the deeps at night, for the Nightcrawler is ready to pounce at the unsuspecting.
Slark Skill Build
Dark Pact and Pounce should be maxed out first, due to Slark’s reliance on having a great (yes, great, not just good) start in order to begin snowballing. Both of these abilities deal a decent amount of early game damage, and serve the double purpose of protecting him as well against gank attempts in lane. Eventually, Dark Pact will evolve into a near-substitute for magic immunity, rather than just an early game nuke. Pounce will become less impactful as the game goes on, but it will still be useful for getting away from enemy heroes.
Quite a lot of players, new and old alike, make the mistake of investing into Essence Shift in the early game. This is generally a bad idea, considering that Slark doesn’t really have the attack speed to justify gimping his other abilities in favor of one or two “value points” in Essence Shift. Instead, we highly recommend focusing on his two main skills first, and leaving Essence Shift for the mid game and the eventual transition into the late game.
Shadow Dance, of course, should be skilled into at every opportunity. Its scaling and increased health regeneration are just too good to pass up. A quick tip on this ability: make sure to pay attention to your buff and debuff icons when going around the map. If your Shadow Dance passive isn’t on, it means that the enemy team can see you—either through natural vision or with Observer Wards. In the case of the latter, be sure to let your supports know so they can take the wards down.
Thus, our recommended skill build is as follows:
- Dark Pact
- Dark Pact
- Dark Pact
- Shadow Dance
- Dark Pact
- Level 10 Talent: +10 Strength
- Essence Shift
- Shadow Dance
- Max out Essence Shift
- Level 15 Talent: +30 Attack Speed
- Shadow Dance
- Level 20 Talent: +3s Pounce Leash
- Level 25 Talent: +120s Essence Shift Duration
Slark Item Build
Slark’s item progression is practically the same every game, with only minor varations in between. The first item you should aim for is Shadow Blade, as it gives Slark everything he needs to start terrorizing the lanes. The invisibility allows him to sneak up to unsuspecting targets, which will typically be supports due to their natural fragility and inability to fight back in the face Dark Pact’s purge effects. Once purchased, Shadow Blade presents a massive power spike for Slark, so be sure to make the most of the timing window.
The rest of his inventory should typically contain stat-boosting items to shore up his mediocre attribute gain per level, as well as equipment that protects him from getting disabled before being able to start Dark Pact. Lockdown items such as Basher are also highly desirable, as they help Slark build up Essence Shift stacks and dish out consistent physical DPS.
For protection, Black King Bar comes to mind first and foremost. Even though Dark Pact’s cooldown is short for how much utility it has, nothing beats the sheer duration of BKB’s magic immunity. Against heroes that don’t care about it, though, you are better off purchasing a Linken’s Sphere—considering that most spells that fall under this category happen to be single target only. Otherwise, Manta Style will take care of your needs, such as against Silencer’s ultimate ability.
Heroes that counter Slark will typically have some form of silence effect or hard disable that comes out instantly, rather than having an obvious cast animation that Slark players can react to. Axe and Silencer jump out immediately in this regard, with Axe’s ability to blink in and immediately use Berserker’s Call and Silencer’s Global Silence.
Disruptor is also another fantastic counterpick to Slark for the very same reason. Slark can do nothing once caught inside Static Storm and Kinetic Field, unless he already has a BKB in tow. Glimpse sends him straight back after using Pounce, preventing an easy escape.
Funnily enough, Town Portal Scrolls are great against Slark’s solo gank attempts before Basher or Abyssal Blade are online. He has no way to stop the teleportation effect by himself, after all, and will have to hope that he can deal enough damage to kill you before the teleportation completes.
Slark’s ability combo is very simple and straightforward. Approach your target under the cover of Shadow Blade’s invisibility, then strike them once to get the bonus damage. Use Pounce immediately after to lock them in place, then cast Dark Pact to tack on damage as you hack away at their health. The Dark Pact pulses should keep you from getting disabled as well. If they are still alive and/or are fighting back effectively, use Shadow Dance to give yourself health regeneration and the ability to avoid single-target spells. After your initial target falls, move on to lower priority targets with your Essence Shift stacks.
Naturally, Slark requires quite a bit of advanced game sense and decision-making. Dark Pact doesn’t last forever, and skilled teams can play around it rather than pour all of their cooldowns into it. He is also fragile and borderline useless in the laning stage unless paired up with the right supports.
Used correctly, though, and Slark becomes an immovable force capable of slaughtering squishy heroes left and right. This, in turn, makes them afraid to leave the safety of the lanes and their teammates, which opens the map up for farm-dependent heroes on your side. Take the time to master the Nightcrawler. We’re sure you’ll find it to be sinfully enjoyable.
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