Slark - A Fish out of Water



Mon 26th Nov 2012 - 6:51pm

After a great deal of anticipation, this last patch has finally brought the dark and deadly Slark to the shores of Dota 2. He has received quite a few changes of late and so is quite a different hero to what a lot of us may remember from Dota 1, and as a result there has been a great deal of uncertainty (and an even greater deal of disagreement) about how he should be played.

What role should he take? What order should his abilities be leveled in and what items should he buy? Is he a 'pubstomp' hero? There are plenty of opinions out there on this creature from the deep but little in the way of solid information beyond the basic stats and abilities. So let us wend our way through the cacophony of opposed opinions out there and find out what Slark is really all about.

Sexy Slark



Little known to the inhabitants of the dry world, Dark Reef is a sunken prison where the worst of the sea-bred are sent for crimes against their fellows. It is a razor barbed warren full of murderous slithereen, treacherous Deep Ones, sociopathic meranths.

In this dim labyrinth, patrolled by eels and guarded by enormous anemones, only the vicious survive. Pitched into Dark Reef for crimes unknown, Slark spent half a lifetime without kin or kindness, trusting no one, surviving through a combination of stealth and ruthlessness, keeping his thoughts and his plans to himself. When the infamous Dark Reef Dozen plotted their ill-fated breakout, they kept their plans a perfect secret, murdering anyone who could have put the pieces together--but somehow Slark discovered their scheme and made a place for himself in it.

Ten of the Dozen died in the escape attempt, and two were captured, hauled back to Dark Reef, then executed for the entertainment of their fellow inmates. But Slark, the unsung thirteenth, used the commotion as cover and slipped away, never to be caught. Now a furtive resident of the carnivorous mangrove scrub that grips the southern reach of Shadeshore, Slark remains the only successful escapee from Dark Reef.


Dark Pact

Dark Pact

After a short delay, Slark sacrifices some of his life blood, purging negative buffs and dealing damage to enemy units around him and to himself. Slark only takes 50% of the damage.

Cooldown: 9/8/7/6

Mana Cost: 55/50/45/40

Radius: 325
Delay: 1.5
Total Damage: 75/150/225/300

Dark Pact is Slark's main nuke. It doesn't scale that well and takes a chunk from Slark's already low HP pool, but the important part is the debuff. This works on stuns and so if used craftily (the only way to play Slark) then it can be used moments before a stun hits in order to debuff it. Slark doesn't have the HP to be sitting around getting hit and so avoiding a stun in this way is a vital trick. Unless there are a couple of squishy supports on the other team put only one point in this ability at level two and save your points for Pounce.




Slark leaps forward, grabbing the first hero he connects with. That unit takes damage and is leashed to Slark, and can only move a limited distance away from Slark's landing position.

Cooldown: 20/16/12/8

Mana Cost: 75

Range: 700
Leash Radius: 325
Leash Duration: 3.5
Damage: 70/140/210/280

This is the meat and potatoes of Slark's abilities. Using pounce he is able to catch a hero that thought they were safe and tether them to him, giving your enemy nothing to do but watch as their HP drops to zero and wonder why they didn't pick Slark for themselves. The change to 700 range means even at level one Slark can catch an unwary enemy out of position but it also makes it harder to aim than when it was lower range so make sure to get some practice in beforehand.

Although the range and leash duration are constant with levels it is still best to max pounce first for the cooldown and damage. As Slark you want to be constantly on the prowl for kills, roaming the map at will so it's important to minimize that cooldown. Note blink or teleport will break the tether.


Essence Shift

Essence Shift

Slark steals the life essence of enemy heroes with his attacks, draining each of their attributes and converting them to bonus Agility.

Cooldown: 0.4/0.35/0.3/0.25

Duration: 15/30/60/120
Strength, Agility, and Intelligence Lost: 1
Agility Gained: 3

This move is what makes Slark such an unstoppable 1v1 ganking machine. Watch your enemies amazement as their stats drop before their eyes, while your agility grows ever higher. This move is great against heroes like Pudge or Obsidian Destroyer who rely on their high strength and intelligence respectively to win fights. The more stats they have, the more agility for Slark!


 Shadow Dance

Shadow Dance

When used, Slark hides himself in a cloud of shadows, becoming invisible (attacking, casting spells, and using items do not reveal Slark). Passively, when not visible to the enemy team, Slark gains bonus movement speed and health regeneration.

Cooldown: 25

Mana Cost: 120

Duration: 5.5
Bonus Movement Speed: 30%/35%/40%
Health Gained per Second: 3%/5%/7%

'I can attack while invisible? GG suckers!,' is not how this move works. A cloud of shadow surrounds Slark while invisible so it's quite obvious where he is, and the other team will quickly purchase wards or dust if they're at all organised. Shadow dance is far more than just an invis gimmick though.

When unseen by enemy units Slark gains a massive movement and regeneration bonus. This is excellent for recovering health after a gank whilst speedily moving on to the next unsuspecting victim. Becuase this bonus disappears when the enemy have vision of Slark, it can also be used for dewarding sentry wards by looking for when the buff is lost and planting a counterward there.


Skill Build

Pounce/Dark Pact/Pounce/Essence Shift/Pounce/Shadow Dance/Pounce, then depending on the situation max either Dark Pact or Essence Shift (Dark Pact if there are plenty of low HP heroes who can be picked off quickly with the damage burst from Dark Pact/Pounce or Essence Shift against everyone else). The Pounce needs to be maxed as early as possible as every moment not spent ganking with Slark is a moment wasted.

So although it may not seem that important to level upstraight away, the reduction in cooldown is vital. One level of Dark Pact and Essence shift will be enough until after picking up Shadow Dance at level six, and then once Pounce is maxed at level seven it's situational whether to max Dark Pact or Essence Shift first. In most situations Essence shift is more beneficial to level first to gain the upper hand in any 1v1 ganks.



A lot of the disagreements I've seen about Slark (and this argument occurs with most heroes) is what role he should be playing on the team. Some of the trouble comes from roles not being clearly defined, some comes from heroes that are able to be utilized in multiple roles and some comes from a mindset in the community that there is one 'best' way to play a hero and any other playstyle is the height of foolery.

The suggested role for Slark in the Dota 2 learn tab is 'Escape' which is of absolutely no use to anyone. I can only assume that Valve is trolling us all for making them dumb down the game with a learn tab. The general consensus is that Slark is either a carry or a ganker, and one of these is wrong. Before you guess which one, I'll define what either role entails.

Carry: A hero that is literally able to carry their team over the threshold of defeat and into the front yard of victory. Typically an agility hero with a weak early or mid game, they will need to spend the first thirty minutes of the game farming in order to build a few core items, without which they are not able to make a significant impact on the game.

Once the carry has the necessary items, they will then be able to tip the tide of any team fights and as the game continues the carry will continue to grow ever more powerful. Classic examples are Anitmage, Phantom Assassin and Faceless Void.

Ganker: A ganker is a hero whose skills are geared towards picking of heroes one or two at a time when caught out of position. A ganker will have a strong early or mid game and can typically begin ganking with a minimal amount of farming. Gankers are often confused with carries because if they have a strong early or mid game, gankers can quickly snowball into an unstoppable juggernaut able to single-handedly carry their team to victory.

However late game gankers will become far less effective as their abilities become less effective. Late game against gankers won't be able to stand up to a hard carry even with all their core items and so need to finish the game early while they are at their most powerful. Bloodseeker is an example of a ganker that is often confused for a carry. However Rutpure, his greatest strength, is almost useless end game and he will be outclassed by a carry by the thirty or forty minute mark (barring terrible farming by the carry).


So which role most applies to Slark? He is best played as a ganker, able to chase down single targets with Pounce, reduce their stats with Essence Shift and then Shadow Dance to his next victim, regaining any health lost in the process. With a great deal of success early game it may be tempting to feel like you're an invincible carry but for the sake of your team, don't forget you are in fact playing a ganker.

Where do I lane?

Slark benefits from a solo lane to get early levels and gold so he can start ganking as soon as possible. He is however an extremely fragile hero, so until you're confident in your abilities don't be afraid to dual lane. It may take a little longer until you're ready to start ganking but its better than losing your lane and not getting any gold or XP anyway. As soon as you hit level six though (or even before if you see some juicy targets) move out of lane and start getting those hero kills.

Coordinate with your team and your enemies will soon either hide in base or wander in a five man group, too afraid of getting ganked to move around the map by themselves. Either of these situations robs them of gold and XP and gives your team lanes for free farming so its win-win. Don't get too distracted by farming though, keep an eye out and as soon as they split up be ready to Pounce.



So now we know Slark is a ganker, we will want to tailor his item build to make him as effective as possible in that role. Lets start by looking at the recommended items.

Starting Items

Tango    Ironwood Branch   Ironwood Branch    Ironwood Branch    Stout Shield

The recommended starting items are pretty good. Consider taking a wand and a Gauntlet of Strength rather than three branches and a shield if you think you'll be up against a spammer like Zues or Tinker. The gauntlet can then be built into a Bracer and Drums of Endurance (DoE) for an attack speed and damage boost.

Early Game

Magic Stick    Boots of Speed    Ring of Health

Ring of Health is a pretty poor item choice on Slark. You've got next to no health anyway, so all the regen in the world isn't going to help if you get killed before you get a chance to heal back up. Rather than buy this and build into Vanguard, buy items that give raw HP rather than regen. Sange is a good choice as its parts are reasonably cheap, it gives an HP boost, helps with your chase and can be build into Sange and Yasha (SnY).

If you really need the regen, buy a Ring of Regen and build it into a Vladmir's Offering. If you did pick up the Stout Shield, build it into a Poor Man's Shield for more damage, armour and a guaranteed damage block against heroes. A Ring of Aquila can also be considered here. It gives increased survivability with an armour and HP increase and helps with any mana problems. Strength based items for a greater HP increase are almost always a better choice though.

Core Items

Power Treads    Magic Wand    Vangurd    Orb of Venom

We've already dismissed the Vanguard as an item choice, so you'll want to finish your SnY or DoE here. As I've mentioned before, Orb of Venom is an awesome item for chasing and is definitely a good item to pick up here, especially when combined with Maim.


Eye of Skadi    Black King Bar    Abyssal Blade  Heart of Tarrasque    Butterfly   Vladmir's Offering    Sange and Yasha

These items are all good suggestions and which of them you get will largely depend on the situation (hence situational items). Heart of Tarrasque is good for making sure you don't have to worry about your health any more, Black King Bar is for those pesky mages who keep nuking you down and Skadi is for letting people know you have too much gold. Abyssal Blade is a good item, but should be one of your last picks as the damage and bash are not as essential as other things (namely survivability).

Honourable Mentions

Mask of Madness

Mask of Madness: Slark page shows MoM as the second most popular item on Slark after boots. It can be a very effective item, paired with Shadow Dance to ensure while it is active you're safe from taking that extra 30% damage. However it is extremely risky, taking an already fragile hero and turn him into a glass cannon. As awesomely balls to the wall as it is, consider the safer options first.


Phase Boots

Phase Boots: Slark is already extremely fast with his Pounce and Shadow Dance, and Essence Shift quickly gives him ridiculous amounts of damage so this is a bit of an unnecessary item. The versatility of Power Treads make them the better choice.



Satanic: Basically the safe mode version of MoM. Not worth buying until late game when you'll be doing the damage to make it useful.


 Armlet or Mordiggian

Armlet of Mordiggian: A risky choice due to the HP drain but the bonus damage and strength it grants are very nice on Slark. If you find you have both MoM and Armlet, you are either the worlds greatest or worst Dota player. There is only one way to find out which you are!


Orchid Malevolence

Orchid Malevolence: Useful for finally finishing off those damn heroes who keep blinking out every time you Pounce. The extra intelligence and mana regen are good if you're having mana problems, and the increased damage and attack speed are a great bonus. The 30% damage amplification is the icing on the cake.


 Tranquil Boots

Tranquil Boots: Can be useful if you are getting harassed a lot and are planning to build out Vlad's. As you will be facing heroes 1v1 most of the time though they will be inactivated and next to useless. The movement speed is good for moving from gank to gank, but if you do buy them disassemble them as soon as you can afford Power Treads.


Is Slark a Pub Stomper?

Yes, in that a disorganised team or one composed of inexperienced players will not know how to deal with Slark. He's new enough that players unfamiliar with him won't know what's going on and may wonder why a ball of smoke is standing next to them whilst their health goes down. A disorganised team will continue to roam around in ones and twos as you pick them off, argue about who should buy dust to counter you and generally be ineffective.

However you could argue Riki is a pubstomper for exactly the same reasons. Against a competent team Slark can have trouble finding opportunities to pick up the kills he needs and will remain ineffective and underfarmed. Slark is by no means the kind of hero that you can pick and expect and easy win. For that, pick Centaur.


Well, thanks for reading guys, hope my ramblings have been of some use to you. If you disagree with anything I've said, please let me know in full caps in the comment section. Tune in next week when I carry on with the Learning to play Invoker series that I meant to continue on with this week. Until then, happy gaming!