Forum version and the Guide Version
This guide is dedicated to anyone wishing to play Slark. Due to the hero difficulty he is not recommended for total beginners. This is a community guide, which means that I will need your help to make this guide better ^^ Feel free to add sections and graphical additions - I will credit them if necessary.
Information about Slark's skills and stats can be found Here(Click me).
Additional mechanics details of his skills can be found Here(Click me).
+ The best heal for free
+ Great counter against heroes relying on stats/raw damage
+ Ridiculous ganker, especially 1vs1
+ Able to counter debuffs
+ Built-in counter-ward skill
+ Does not need regeneration
- 2nd lowest HP in game
- Item dependent late-game
- Easily counter-picked and easily counterable
Slark the Nightcrawler is a ganker, meaning that he gets cheap items and kills heroes so that carries meaning those the most item-dependent for fullfilling their role can farm in peace. He does that mostly mid-game. He can shift to be a carry-late game although that's not his natural role.
He has all that a ganker needs - burst damage provided by Dark Pact, an escape mechanism and pin down skill - Pounce and a skill to hunt - Shadow Dance.
What separates Slark from other gankers is the way he does it. He is a hit-and-run type of hero - he quickly runs in, eliminates an enemy or two and runs away, only to strike back again, hitting stronger. Imagine him on the basis of a cavalry knight. The only difference is that he's a parasite, meaning he gets stronger with each skirmish unless you kill him outright.
His secondary role is to nullify the potential of tanks and carries in team battles. Essence shift, reduced stats, easier to kill and they deal less damage. Simple.
To master Slark you need to master three things - Chasing, Escaping and Surviving.
Slark is recommended against physical-based lineups, as well as lineups lacking in nuke spells. 2 or 3 carries relying on DPS to kill or/and tanks should make your day. The reason is because you can kill all heroes alike, but you're also nullifying the threat from enemy carries. It is best to take Slark as one of the last heroes of your team, as Slark can be easily counter-picked.
Do NOT pick Slark against nuke and disable-heavy lineups. This is because your paper HP does not allow you such encounters.
Looks might be deceving. This may look like a weak AoE tool but in fact its uses are much useful than they may seem initially.
a) As a farming/pushing tool - Once it hits level 4 feel free to use it to push or to farm in both jungle and the lane. Be aware of enemies that might abuse the loss of HP and gank you though. Safest way to use it is to use it as far away from your enemies as possible when farming.
b) As a ganking tool - Your early-mid damage isn't too shining so this helps you net a kill or two.
c) As a defense tool - WHAT? Yes. After two seconds, you lose most of the most annoying debuffs in the game. The key is to predict when some of them will be cast on you 2 seconds later. Practice makes perfect. Here's a list of the debuffs:
As you may notice, by your Dark Pact you may remove such annoying spells as Rhasta's Shackles, Venomancer's Poison Nova, Slithice's Ensnare, Rooftrellen's Overgrowth, Gondar's Track or even Dust of Appearance, Amplify damage(as of 6.66b) and Bane's Fiend's Grip. Most specifically, STUNS! ABUSE IT! I cannot stress this enough.
Tip 1 - Use Dark pact right before Shadow Dance ends. The natural instinct of your enemy is to stun/disable Slark the moment he shows up again. Dark Pact triggers and the disables/stuns are off, allowing you to escape or continue your pursuit.
Tip 2 - Use mindgames in pubs. An early Dark Pact can make you look the one dying while a moment later the tides might turn around.
A combination of Pudge's hook and Mirana's leap.
You use it for ganking and for escaping. This skill may be a bit difficult to beginners. Imagine being an animal and you have to jump directly on your foe. The leash area of effect is only 110 which means you must be accurate enough to be right at your foe(melee range) for the leash to attach. Be wary that the leash also applies to creeps. The most guaranteed way to leap is to leap on a target hero just after you striked them once or when they run away in a straight pattern.
Running away is simple. Jump away from your enemies, preferably not into another enemy unless intended to keep him/her from not chasing you.
Make use of the terrain. You can jump over cliffs and jump into places people won't go, allowing you to teleport back to base or shorten your way from one place to another. Or should I say, from foe to foe.
Tip 1 - In a bit narrow areas or when with a teammate, feel free to use the Pounce time to get ahead of your enemy and block his route of escape.
Tip 2 - Abuse this against low-hp heroes just wanting to leap/rofl out/go invisible/etc. In the case of invisible heroes, have a habit of using Dark Pact right before they go invisible. As Dark Pact works against invisible heroes, this might net you a kill in close situations.
Tip 3 - Try to use Dark pact in combination with either Shadow Dance or Pounce. Try to predict when you'll be most likely stunned/disabled in 2 seconds.
Tip 4 - Self-damage of Dark Pact is non-lethal. You CANNOT suicide.
Mini-tip - At the start of the game, feel free to block creeps. If they come quicker due to their speed, jump over them.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but there is the importance of priority. You should focus on Strength heroes first, dps/carry heroes second and nukers/spellcasters last. Convince your teammates to prioritize the reverse.
Tip 1 - Slark's damage early-game is really deceiving. While you might deal 50sh damage, remember, that you take 1 strength from non-strength heroes and 2 strength from strength-based heroes. This gives you additional19/38 damage against them as early as level 2.
Tip 2 - The length of Essence shift is 60 seconds for a reason. Use all of it. If you lack an enemy hero to gank nearby, unload the massive dps on some jungle creeps or towers.
The skill has 2 sides, the active part and the passive part.
You use the active part(invisibility) similarily to Pounce, meaning you can use it for both escaping and initiating. The smoke might seem like an overkill, but the truth is that the smoke as well as you moving like a swarm of parasites adds chaos to the battle.
Abuse Dark Pact and Pounce during your ultimate, it's only 5.5 seconds!
The passive part is much more interesting. Until level 6 you are more or less like a piece of garbage unable to do much in the lane. Once you hit level 6 though, you are able to sustain your life with more or less ease.
To regain your life BUT to be in experience range of creeps(1000) you got two methods:
A) Is to wait until night and make use of the fact that creeps have a vision of 800(1400 during day) so be between the 800-1000 range of creeps
B) Or, much easier, is to hide between trees and juke spots.
To gain the passive bonus you have to OUT of sight of your enemies. This means you don't have to be neccesarily outside their circular day/night range, but to be in the enemies's fog of war. This is very intuitive and might take practice to master but if you do, you're really likely to escape your pursuers, unless you run into an unexpected enemy.
This skill is what makes him a hit-and-runner ganker and not a carry.
NOTE: The passive bonus also wears off when seen by towers.
NOTE 2: The passive bonus does not wear off near neutral creeps, only unless attacked by them. Abuse it during jungling.
Tip 1: You should get to know how to juke if you want to remain out of vision. Juking means manouvering between trees and paths to be able to remain out of sight, confuse your enemy and escape. In Slark's case, this is vital, as a few seconds out of sight can get you back in the heat of battle and maybe even score a kill or two.
Here is a map of juking paths made by Lycan. Feel free to use it as reference.
A more extensive read on this and other DotA strategy tips can be found Here(By Lycan, click me!)
Tip 2: Some targetted spells(mostly those that throw a projectile) can be avoided(or some of their effects), such as Hellfire Blast, Storm Bolt etc. if you activate your invisibility while it's thrown at you. In a team battle it may be difficult but in 1vs1 situations the projectile is usually slow enough to dodge in time. Have your fingers on the skill hotkeys at all time.
Tip 3: When ganking and not focused, a good idea is to wait out until you lose some health. You gain approximately 12/18/24% max HP in 5.5 seconds just by this ultimate.
Tip 4: If any enemy has sight of you, your passive gets removed. Use this to tell your teammates if there is an invisible hero or a ward of any kind nearby.
Tip 5: There is a 0.7 second casting delay between removal and activation of the skill. Hide in a juking spot and you'll have a temporary charge upon your enemy, often giving you an element of surprise.
Tip 6: You may use all sorts of items without revealing yourself. Most notably, this involves the teleportation scroll.
Here is a picture by Lycan depicting the range of your skills.
The Dark Pact AoE is 350. That's how far your damage goes after 2 seconds. Remember though that it's dealt in intervals.
The fat line shows your Pounce range, while the small circle shows just how close you should be to your enemy upon landing for the 3.5 sec leash to attach.
Click the real-size picture to see the real range.
Level 1 - Pounce/Essence Shift
Level 2 - Essence Shift/Pounce
Level 3 - Dark Pact
Level 4 - Dark Pact
Level 5 - Dark Pact
Level 6 - Shadow Dance
Level 7 - Dark Pact
Level 8 - Pounce
Level 9 - Pounce
Level 10 - Pounce
Level 11 - Shadow Dance
Level 12 - Essence Shift
Level 13 - Essence Shift
Level 14 - Essence Shift
Level 15 - Stats
Level 16 - Shadow Dance
Pounce is taken at level 1 for escape purposes. Don't let the small distance fool you - you can e.g. dodge being trapped by an Earthshaker's fissure.
Dark Pact is maxed first due to the fact that your priority is getting your offensive potential up as quickly as possible.
One level of essence shift is required for early-mid game ganks. Any more is not needed until later due to the 15 second duration being enough. If you find your lane to lack disables and you got the proper environment to be aggressive, feel free to get Shift first.
Pounce is maxed second because of the range bonus is required to adjust to enemies speeding up.
Essence Shift is naturally maxed last and Shadow Dance is taken when necessary due to its usefulness.
For a more defensive build, max Pounce first with only one level of Dark pact at level 4. For an offensive build, max Essence shift first with only one level of pounce and dark pact early. This build is highly efficient against melee/short range lanes as well, because the essence shift provides you a means of harassment and lane control, while dark pact is not so efficient.
Slark has two issues. He needs to pump up his offensive potential to start ganking as quickly as possible but he needs to boost his HP as quickly as possible not to die, as well. This item build also reflects and keeps to his hit-and-run playing style. This item build is meant to be as all-round and as for many uses as possible. This does not make this the item the best for YOUR specific game, but to make it as good as possible for an average, non-competitive game.
Early Game Items:
You take the branches for a Good Game and a later Magic Stick, while the Shield protects you against early harassment and improves your lasthitting. The heals are necessary in non-public. Feel free to exchange the branch/heal with 1 or 2 clarities if necessary. Competitive games don't require heals as you would rather go with a babysitter with extra heals or a healing spell.
The moment you use your heals(trust me, you WILL), get your hands on the Magic Wand and 1-2 Wraiths. Don't take any more Wraiths as you will have issues with your inventory space. The Magic Wand solves your mana problems while the Wraiths provide a cheap bonus.
The next Item you're going to get are the Power Treads, all pieces of which can be bought in the side shop.
We choose these as Slark desperately needs attack speed and stats to do what he does best. Set them according to your needs. In a majority of cases, strength is the best option.
Core item and orb choice discussion
Sange & Yasha or Diffusal Blade
Pin-down items. These 2 items fit to the largest amount of situations. Both orbs are equally good for him.
S&Y is known to be a pretty mediocre item but Essence Shift makes it actually worth it on him and make the maim almost reliable. Also, both Yasha and Sange increase his offensive and defensive potential at the same time.
The Diffusal Blade on the other hand quickly burns the target's mana, often rendering your foe unable to use their escape skill.(e.g. Blink)
S&Y follows the rule of "hit and run", while Diffusal Blade follows the rule of "kill before they kill you". The slow from Purge is comparable to that you gain via Maim, with the difference that Purge is instantaneous, removes buffs and is ranged BUT it is limited to a cooldown and charges, while S&Y lacks the above pro's but it's more reliable as a general slow. Bear in mind the lack of survivability on Diffusal Blade. Depends what you need, really.
When to choose which, then? Diffusal Blade is suggested for competitive games where mana is key and the Purge could be helpful to your allies and as a counter versus summons. Additionally, you are more quickly fit for team battles do to your offensive potential. S&Y on the other hand works great as a whole rather than in parts, so it is suggested for pubs where you got more time to farm.
How about other orbs?
Carry items. HotD and Satanic is especially effective versus hard carries. Feel free to use Dominate of HotD for more ganking options. The minus of HotD/Satanic lies in the mediocrity of HotD in midlate game until you get Satanic, making you resolve to other items and your allies for your all-round potential in that time.
Helm of the Dominator/Satanic and Eye of Skadi
Skadi on the other hand is a luxurious alternative to S&Y so if you can farm it up, there is no orb superior to it. The minus here is the cost.
Mjollnir and Desolator
Glass Cannon Items. You gain no direct survivability whatsoever through them and only Mjollnir is situational due to Static shield's use - use if applicable(e.g. Axe in your team). Thus Desolator is the weakest option due to bad build-up and no survival boost.
Verdict: Take a pin-down orb if you can rely on your team for your survival. Carry items are better when you can't rely on your team or when you got sufficient environment to farm uninterrupted for a period. Glass Cannon items are not recommended, but remain situational, should you encounter such a rare situation in which those items would be useful.
Note: I am NOT REJECTING those orbs. I just picked the most all-round options suitable for the most occasions. Feel free to adjust your orb item to your needs if necessary.
If you feel you need extra protection against physical or/and burst damage, get this. This item is not rushed as your low HP doesn't support the degen by then yet. It's just too risky.
Armlet of Mordiggian
A must in any game where nukes/disables are dominant. It allows you to continue attacking - something you do. The Hp/damage bonus is also really nice.
Black King's Bar
These three items are highly recommended to take in situations in which you don't have the proper healing/protective support from your allies. Just one of them will suffice, depending on the enemy lineup - you want to take the Hood against magic-damage based lineups, while Vanguard against physical-damage based lineups. A pipe is a late-game luxury and a fancy addition versus AoE lineups.
For burst-damage and pushing line-ups. An Armlet is recommended for a boosted effect, as the strength passes to images. The stolen agility passes to images but they don't steal stats by themselves. As its cooldown is 50 seconds, use it in battle first time for burst damage and after 50 seconds use it for the "charged" images.
While it is unwise to get this item without a proper HP and attack speed boost, the item finds its use should you require another disable midlate-game.
In non-competitive games, feel free to skip the above for luxuries if needed.
After Buriza, Assault Cuirass provides you great EHP, attack speed and a nice desolator-like effect. Being a late-game item, being a siege machine is useful. Butterfly serves as an overkill vs DPS carries option. Orchid Malevolence is your ultimate ganking/burst-damage option. It's up to you.
Assault Cuirass, Butterfly and Orchid Malevolence
The only orb I highly discourage, the 30% increased damage against you and the mediocrity of other gains make this item a no-no. You got the second smallest strength out of all heroes and even a few seconds of berserk in a team fight could be perilous for you and using MoM without Berserk is a pure waste of money. In short - you're too paper to use this. Some people might advise Dark Pact's removal of debuffs/stuns/disables is enough to consider MoM. Even if you're lucky to negate a certain portion of a disable, you won't escape massive nukes. Additionally, the self-damage of Dark Pact is amplified.
Mask of Madness
It's not worth the effort(3200 is a bit hard to farm) and the 8 seconds delay makes the additional regen not too useful. Your ultimate is enough for regen while other items can be served for HP which are cheaper and better in building up.
Heart of Tarrasque
Best served on a teammate. You don't have the time nor the money nor the item space(!) to invest in something that can be replaced by something more useful. You don't need lifesteal to survive, all you need is to be able to get away enough to get the proper regeneration. Use your skills, not your muscles, broadly speaking.
Sparkles won't make your death any prettier. You just won't live enough to use it.
Early game(1-11 level)
You should lane with a babysitter or someone with a good lane presence, especially if you are starting. Solo in a lane only under if you are experienced enough and under your team's consent.
Do your classic lasthitting/denying. Make sure to get as much farm as possible. When the lane is pushed away, get necessary items in the sideshop. If you're facing at least one melee hero, take advantage of harassing them - especially if they're strength heroes.
If an ally is coming to gank, surprise your enemies by using a low dark pact. At a lower level the hp loss is hardly noticable so you may surprise your enemies with some nice damage. Instinctively, they will probably back up(to get less damage) which is your opportunity to Pounce. If they stay, they are dead.
Try to be helpful to your teammate but avoid initiating first unless chasing. Slark is NOT a tower-diving hero, so abuse mindgames and try to net as many kills as possible away from the enemy tower.
By mid-game you should gank > farm > push.
Take advantage of ganks. Abuse your movement speed to be in experience range of any enemy hero killed(1000).
The moment you get your S&Y or Diffusal Blade you should focus solely on ganking while pushing becomes your second priority, farming being the third priority.
Your role in team battle is to either fish out one lone enemy and kill him OR nullify the tank/carry dps potential.
The combo is to alternate between Pounce, Dark Pact and Shadow Dance. The order depends on what type of enemy you meet, but it's usually Pounce->Dark Pact->Shadow Dance.
When on low health, do NOT escape to the fountain. Take around 10 seconds out of battle and join back, preferably netting a kill on a surprised enemy.
Your late-game priority changes to pushing. You should initiate in as many team battles as possible, as reducing the tank/carry potential of the other team will become even more so time-requiring.
Your dps starts to wane as carries will(or not, depending on how well you did) will have item-boosting stats that will render your essence shift much less effective than it was earlier. Hopefully, by this time you and your team members have more pushing power to win.
If the tanks/carries of the other team overpowered you, this means you did your job wrong... or your ally fed them
You'd like them in your lane to protect you from harassment and give you as much farm and preferably a kill or two. What's not to like?
Babysitters and strong lane control heroes
Nukers, Burst damage and AoE heroes
A lineup of these or a majority of these means constant death to you. They just won't allow you to approach them. They just kill you faster than you kill them and they often have the ability to surprise you or backstab you. Avoid if possible.
Your AoE is a bit mediocre to deal with them and you can't leech off stats of an image hero. Annoying, isn't it?
Sight, Truesight, Blademail and Mjollnir
The more sight your enemy has of you, the less you can use your ultimate, as well as your passive. In case of wards, notify your teammates of a ward nearby. Blademail just kills you. Mjollnir is a unique counter since your HP might easily take some dps but not magic damage - your increasing attack speed also backfires when put together with the Static Charge on the enemy.
Special mention:The first one makes your ultimate's passive not trigger more than half of the time while the second one(even though you can dispell his skills) will either land a stun or an amplify damage debuff on you. Wasting 150 health just to take it off is really bothersome.
Strygwyr and Slardar
Date: 05/02/2010 15:22
Patch version: 1.24
Map: DotA Allstars 6.66(Download map here - CLICK ME)
Game mode: -cd
Game length: 22:40
Fear!SGATE, level 12 (Mid)
Abby, level 7 (Jungle)
KuroKy!SGATE, level 13 (Bot)
Miley!SGATE, level 10 (Top)
Maldejambes, level 7 (Jungle)
dmZ^moods, level 9 (Mid)
Kev-^, level 10 (Jungle)
dmZ^Kebap-, level 6 (Jungle)
dignitas.DeMeNt, level 11 (Bot)
dmZ^YaMuNa, level 9 (Top)
Here is a 1.24/6.66 replay of Kuroky playing Slark in Captain's Draft. While Scourge massively outpicked Sentinels by the first 4 picks, the choice of Slark was the best counter-pick they could get. Soloing bottom against Nerubian Weaver and having Chen and Enchantress messing in, Kuroky brilliantly exploited early-game. Kuro predicting was excellent, especially when using Dark Pact and controlled his HP flawlessly, ending up in 9/0 kill score, thus making Scourge forfeit in the 22 minute(!). Good Enchantress from Scourge, while Chen and Omniknight highly contributed to the team and Kuroky's score. A must watch.
Download HERE(Click me)
This guide is meant to be a refreshment and a summary of the above.
To Lycan for the tips and the ever-useful discussions ... and the pics :P ^^
The forum for improving the guide
Some random strangers from Garena helping me check some mechanics details
To be added:
1 or 2 more replays.
Improved English and clarity of reading