This is a guide to Night Stalker, a really fun hero to play once you get the hang of him. He is a really dynamic hero that gets a lot done in the early/mid game, so if you are a good Night Stalker, you will make tons of space for your carry, and give your team a solid lead in the game.
With the recent patches, I feel that this hero has dropped out of flavor, when several changes benefit him greatly, in fact. Since there aren't many guides that are up to date on Night Stalker, I thought I might make one, since he's one of my favorite mid heroes to play.
As his name suggests, Night Stalker is a totally different hero during night time, so playing this hero requires you to keep track of what time it is, when to gank aggressively, when to farm passively, and when to use your ultimate.
Night Stalker is primarily an early to mid game ganker that can really shut down your enemy team's early game. The idea with playing Night Stalker is to set your enemy on the backfoot via constant ganks, so your carry can pull ahead of the enemy carry, which will help you win mid and late game fights. When played properly, Night Stalker himself can snowball into a semi-carry during the late game, but your effectiveness will start falling off at about the 40-45 minute mark against other decently farmed carries.
Night Stalker's skill set is designed around making him effective at night - all 3 of your non-ultimate skills are extremely potent during nighttime, and your ultimate lengthens the nighttime.
Before playing a hero, we need to be clear on what the hero can do, and what he cannot do. DotA is primarily a team-based game, so you need to know your role in the team, and play accordingly.
Night Stalker is an early game ganker.
As soon as the clock hits 4:00, if you are sitting in lane farming creeps, you are not playing Night Stalker right. The way I play Night Stalker, at about the 3:30 minute mark, I start pushing the creep wave towards the enemy tower. Once the enemy creep wave is down, I make my way towards one of the runes. Bottle up the rune, use it if needed (DD/Haste/Illusion are good examples), and start hunting. Run up to an enemy, decide if you should cast Void on him, then start smacking him. Use your silence on any supports, and get the kill on your target. If you think you can, you can get multiple kills early on.
NOTE: DO NOT HESITATE TO TOWER DIVE.
I cannot stress this enough. As Night Stalker, it is second nature for you to tower dive. Of course, do not be suicidal in diving a tower when you are at about 150 hp, but in general, you should be ready to dive under the tower if you think you can get a kill.
Night Stalker is extremely strong during night time.
Especially during the early game, when enemy heroes are not farmed, you can take 1v2 and possibly 1v3 fights on your own. Know your strengths, and use them. The night is your ally. You are strongest during this time. Use it to your benefit. You should be getting at least 1-2 kills everytime night hits, at least during the early mid game.
Night Stalker is pretty weak during day.
Without his attack speed boosting steroid, Night Stalker's attack speed isn't something to boast about. Consequently, as daytime comes around, don't play as aggressively as you played during the night. This is the perfect opportunity to get back to base if you have to, farm lanes to get some creep gold, and build up your items in general.
However, this doesn't mean Night Stalker is useless during daytime. He is a decent right clicker, and his skills still work. They just aren't as powerful as they are during night. So, make sure you understand how strong you are during each phase of the game, and play accordingly.
Night Stalker can snowball into a semi-carry.
If you have a good early game, and solid mid game where you were constantly ganking, and your team was winning teamfights, and getting towers, you can snowball into a semi-carry. Once you have your Bottle, Phase Boots and Urn of Shadows, you can start picking up a Skull Basher and build it into an Abyssal Blade. This will give you a BKB-piercing lockdown on an enemy hero (most likely their carry). After this build up into a Heart of Tarrasque for even more sustain.
NOTE: You might want to pick up a Black King Bar depending on the enemy team. The reason I mention BKB as situational in pretty much all my posts is that, there are often times when the enemy team only has BKB piercing abilities, where the BKB really won't do much for you. In this case, you are better off not getting it.
Night Stalker is NOT a farming hero.
For the love of god, do NOT sit in lane during night time. I've seen several games lost by Night Stalker players simply because they just farmed creeps day and night. This isn't how you play the hero. For you, the only farming time is day time, which should be negligible if you use your Darkness properly.
Night Stalker should use Darkness as often as he can.
This is another pet peeve of mine that I've noticed several times. Night Stalker players not using Darkness during night time when it's off cooldown bothers me to the extreme. You are literally getting 80 seconds worth of "OP mode". Why wouldn't you use it?
Here's a thumb rule: If night time hits, and Darkness is off cooldown, use it. Period.
However, I'm not saying that Darkness should never be used during daytime. There are exceptions. If you sense a teamfight breaking out, use Darkness even if it's daytime to give you an edge during the fight. If you almost have a kill on an enemy hero during daytime, but just need that extra oomph to get it, use it during daytime, especially if said hero is a core.
Ideally, Night Stalker should be laning mid. This allows him to rush a Bottle, which is instrumental in ganks. Being a strength hero, Night Stalker doesn't enjoy the biggest mana pool, so constantly getting runes to refill your bottle is a godsend. With the new changes to the way runes work, it benefits Night Stalker even more since he is guaranteed a rune every 2 minutes.
When the game starts, start by picking up a set of Tangoes, two Gauntlets of Strength and an optional Healing Salve (I usually skip the salve to rush my Bottle). The two gauntlets should give you enough last hitting power, use Tangoes to stay in lane until you can get your Bottle. I won't stress about general mid lane tactics such as creep blocking, drawing creep aggro by A-clicking your enemy, etc, but I'll assume you know them. If not, google them up. As the first creeps meet each other, go for last hits to get gold. You can occasionally use Void to get a last hit if needed. This should get you a fast Bottle. Ideally, you should have the Bottle by 3 minutes. This might be delayed depending on your last hitting abilities and the harassing your enemy puts out on you. Once you have a Bottle, Boots of Speed are next on the agenda. Depending on the game, you might be able to pick these up before the first night time, or during. Regardless, once you have the Bottle, stay in lane until 3:30. At this time, push the lane out (this means, don't go for last hits alone, attack the enemy creeps in between last hits, so you push your creeps towards the enemy tower). At 4:00 your prime time has begun.
Decide where you want to find a gank. Solitary junglers, stacking supports, lanes that are pushed far out into your side are good indications of potential ganks. Once you have your target, make your way to it, use your Void appropriately (depending on TP availability), and get the kill. It shouldn't be hard getting a solo kill with a Night Stalker during night time at 4 minutes into the game. Watch out for supports that can screw you up, and silence them with Crippling Fear. Once you have the kill, you should have enough gold for Boots of Speed (if you don't already have them). Pick them up at the side shop. The night time lasts until 8:00, so keep looking out for potential targets to gank. Kill them, get gold, repeat. Killing enemies with Night Stalker is pretty straight forward, so I won't go into the details. Void them as needed, and just right click them to death. By the end of the first night, you should have your Urn of Shadows and Phase Boots completed if you have a good time. If not, you might be able to complete either one of those.
As daytime hits, play more passively. Go back to your lane and farm. If your team is pushing a tower, join forces with them and push. Farm neutrals. Wait for the next night, in general. By this time, you should have your Darkness. Ideally, when the second night time hits, you should have 1-2 levels in Darkness. As soon as the second night time hits, activate Darkness. Repeat what you did during the first night.
As Night Stalker, your primary duty during early and mid game is to gank. Knowing which heroes on your team can help you will result in a much higher success rate. Although Night Stalker is primarily a solo ganker, having a support that can lend a hand is definitely useful.
Here are some heroes that can help you out quite a bit during ganks.
Do you notice the common trait among those heroes? They all have a reliable stun. Any hero that can lock an enemy in place for you during night time pretty much got you a free kill.
As though you weren't afraid to tower dive already, these supports will give you even more incentive to do so. With spells like Aphotic Shield, Repel and Living Armor on you, you can go completely ham on the enemy team during night time.
Have this guy stick an Ion Shell on you during night time, and start chasing enemy heroes!!!
Coming to Foes, Night Stalker doesn't have a strong lane presence, so any offensive mid hero will crush you. Thankfully, you are like a Pudge in the sense that, even though you might lose your lane, if you can pull off a few successful ganks, you can transition well, and have an impact on the game.
However, be careful when dealing with aggressive, harass heavy mid laners. Here are a list of heroes that can make the first 3 minutes a living hell for you.
This is a very rare occurrence but some teams can put Bane mid. The thing with this hero is that, Bane is a nightmare (excuse the pun) to pretty much any right clicker. His Enfeeble will make sure that you do not get a single last hit without using Void. This inevitably delays your Bottle. Since Night Stalker is a highly timing-dependent hero, getting your items delayed can be devastating. Without an early Bottle, your early game ganks are disrupted, giving the enemy heroes time to get strong, by which time, your ability to get kills easily is severely weakened.
Panda beats any melee hero in mid, and Night Stalker is no exception. You walk up to get a last hit, his Thunder Clap hits hard on you. He can Drunken Haze you to make you miss, which hurts your CS. Since he is a tanky hero, you cannot zone him out of the lane with your Void spam, and he can get a Bottle earlier than you can, making him trade harass more effectively than you can.
Low cooldown Crypt Swarm (boosted by Witchcraft) combined with a 600 range auto attack can harass you out of lane pretty easily. Play defensive, take an early point in Crippling Fear and use it to stop her from casting Crypt Swarm as you move in for last hits.
This guy is a pain to lane against for pretty much any hero. His Berserker's Blood + Burning Spear simply cannot be contested early game. Thankfully, it's damage over time, so carry an extra set of Tangoes until you get your Bottle. Again, play defensive until you get your Bottle, and you should be fine.
Another decently hard hero to lane against. Early game Forge Spirits can harass you very well, and if you are low enough, Forge Spirits + Cold Snap is more than enough for him to get a kill on you. However, Invoker himself doesn't have strong right click until later on, so you should be able to get a reasonably timed Bottle.
While Outworld Devourer cannot kill you outright in lane, he can make sure that you get no CS. Between Astral Imprisonment and his higher base damage (thanks to the int steal from Astral), he can deny you every single creep. Again, this delays your Bottle, which means your early game is less effective.
Another tough match up for any right click hero, Razor can steal your damage via Static Link and return it to you. Between this and Plasma Field, it can be tricky getting CS against him, but it isn't the hardest lane.
Really hard hero to lane against. Viper can harass you out of lane, and potentially get first blood with orb walking and Nethertoxin if you play careless enough. Play very defensive until you get your [[Bottle].
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