Slark is an incredibly fun and versatile GANKER/SEMICARRY hero. When you hit the midgame, you have a pretty fantastic capacity to deal burst damage, initiate ganks, and generally murder single enemies. If you execute your role well, successes in the midgame can fuel a really fearsome lategame presence.
All this is just to say: don't try to be what you are not! Your job is to prowl in the deep weeds of the jungle like a savage barracuda. You jump in, murder, and jump out before help can arrive. You're going to help your team by ganking their carries and supports. You're going to make life terrifying for their junglers. You're going to leap in and murder their supports in team fights. You're going to murk.
Slark was widely considered a trash/pubstomp hero until May 2013, when he was repeatedly picked (to great success!) in pro games leading up to The International Western qualifiers. In this context he was usually run as a solo mid or an offlaner.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, Dark Pact removes all negative debuffs from slark. This is essential because it removes common detection methods such as Track, Amplify Damage and Dust of Appearance
Dark pact's damage is divided into 10 pulses, each pulse occurring 0.1 second apart. 10 pulses hence take 1 second in which all the damage is dealt. Among other things, this makes it a great skill to melt through Refraction charges and Gravekeeper's Cloak.
There is 1.5 second delay between activating dark pact and removal of debuffs/triggering of the 10 pulses
Why is this delay important? Because if you time it correctly, Dark Pact can be used to remove incoming stuns/disables. You will eat the damage, but the dark pact will finish after you are hit and remove the stun.
At level 4, Dark pact will allow you to clear jungle camps pretty easy.
At the time of writing, Dark Pact is a little buggy and does not remove a bunch of **** it removed in DOTA 1. Also it does not purge some non-dispellable statuses, like Maledict, Rupture, Berzerker's Call, and Doom
Fun facts about Pounce!
Causes you to leap 700 range in the direction you are facing and leash the first hero you hit for 3.5 seconds.
You can use pounce to cross over trees and ledges, which helps flee enemies and juke
Affected enemies can attack, cast spells, and blink while leashed. However, Force Staff cannot break the tether
Pounce does not leash creeps or illusions. This can be extremely useful if you are trying to find a real hero in a pack of illusions.
The easiest way to line up pounce is to just rightclick the enemy you intend to pounce. However, be careful to watch out for creeps and trees between you and the enemy; when pathfinding maneuvers you around them you will automatically turn, sometimes causing you to miss your pounce.
Use this build if your are in a regular dual lane or offlane situation. It's centered around laning survivability and getting up your burst damage for the mid-late game.
In most situations, you will want a point in each skill early on. You want Pounce at level 1 because it will help you to escape and Dark Pact soon after, because it will let you purge debuffs. Take Essence Shift early on, because it gives you an extra 19 damage per hit on enemy heroes. If you do not have any early-game debuffs in your lane you can delay getting Dark Pact to level 4.
Maxing out Pounce versus Dark Pact first is a matter of personal preference, because the damage scaling for each is nearly identical.
The main upside of maxing Dark Pact first is that with a few levels, it will allow you to jungle efficiently, and it deals AOE damage in ganks against clusters of enemies. If you plan to go this route I suggest building an early Soul Ring.
The main upside of maxing Pounce first is that it decreases your cooldown (vital for chasing) and does not make you lose HP as you gank.
Adding levels of Essence Shift only increases its duration. If you are being super aggressive in lane it is not a bad idea to pick up a few extra points in this skill, because it also helps with last hitting.
Always take levels of Shadow Dance whenever available. The increase in HP regen and move speed is fantastic.
Slark does quite well in a DUAL SAFE LANE or DUAL OFF LANE. If there is no hard carry on your team, feel free to take the safe lane farm. If there is, you should go to the offlane. Slark matches up very well against many laning combos, and can score kills in lane.
SLARK IS DECENT MID. Many A-class mid heroes like Puck or Queen of Pain will **** on Slark at mid because he is a melee hero with fairly low base damage. While Pounce gives you some help on rune control, he is also not the most effective bottle carrier, because he really doesn't need the HP regen from bottle after level 6. On the positive side, he has a pretty good matchup against some mid common mid heroes -- such as Batrider, Magnus, Templar Assassin, Pudge, and Shadow Fiend.
Slark is quite good in a SOLO OFFLANE. Because a level 1 Pounce will help you to escape from most tricky situations, you can hold your own against many dual offlane heroes and most solo offlaners. You really benefit from the early levels, and you are dangerous midgame without much farm. I do not recommend this course against a lane pairing that is both ranged, or against a lane pair that has two disables. You will get zoned out or burst down.
If you are not in a position to be aggressive in lane (you have a weak laning partner, or are up against 2 ranged heroes), your main task in lane is to stay alive until you hit level 6 so you can start wrecking face.
Stay alive and get last hits. You can trade hits with melee heroes. You have a pretty low HP pool and need to get in close to last hit, so be careful! Make sure to Pounce away if you get in trouble.
A quick Pounce can make the enemy pay for overextension and positioning mistakes. If they draw tower aggro you can leash and kill them easily.
Keep in mind that with a single point of Essence Shift, you hit extremely hard in the early game. Due to strength theft, you hit for 19 extra damage per hit, which is like having two Blades of Attack.
LANE AGGRESSION BUILD
Use this build if you are up against a lane you can really dominate. Slark is actually a pretty fearsome laner if he has anything in the way of good support, because you hit really hard with Essence Shift and have a solid disable with Pounce. Currently the most-winningest skill build on dotabuff. It is a strong choice
In this situation, you can really **** on the other team by harassing with Essence Shift. Your goal is to trade hits with the melee heroes, retain the stats for as long as possible, and abuse this advantage to get early kills. If you use this build I highly recommend forgoing your wand and buying an Orb of Venom early.
Just stay alive! Sneak in and grab last hits whenever you can. Pounce away when **** gets hinky and Dark Pact off slows. You will benefit greatly from getting early levels when you hit 6 you will be a very fearsome ganker.
So, Slark is a character that really shines in the MIDGAME/GANKING phase. For this reason, your main goal is to get COST EFFECTIVE items with a good BUILDUP.
In choosing these items, you want to keep Slark's needs in mind: you need DAMAGE and ATTACK SPEED to quickly finish off enemies and HP plus ARMOR to survive engagements if your gankee's friends show up. You are very squishy in the early game so building survivability should be your first priority.
While you have a pretty low Mana pool, your skills are pretty cheap and your Magic Wand should keep you set for mana.
Slark does not need HP REGEN items. I steer away from items that have HP Regen in their buildup.
EARLY ITEMS PURCHASED IN LANE
Item-wise, pick up a Poor Man's Shield and/or a Magic Wand first. The former will be really helpful against harassment from enemy heroes and the latter will be super useful against spellcasters. Then, pick up some Boots of Speed. If you are being agressive in lane and trying to get kills, pick up an Orb of Venom early on.
If you get some kills or are good at last hitting, you can finish off your Power Treads in lane -- as always, purchase your Belt of Strength first, because you need the HP.
Always pick these up. You need HP and attack speed! Tread switching is incredibly important for Slark. During ganks, switch to AGI for damage and then over to STR to keep your HP as you take damage. Between ganks, I leave treads on INT to up my mana regen.
WHY IS THE ARMLET CORE?
Armlet answers all of your needs: for a paltry 2600 gold it gives you burst HP, Armor, and burst Damage. It has a great buildup.
If you are playing correctly, the HP degen will not be an issue: as soon as your target is dead, dart out of sight, turn off the armlet, and regen back all your HP. Also, as soon as you get an armlet you can farm ancients. Remember to armlet toggle when getting chased or fighting toe-to-toe.
One note: if the enemy team is very disable-heavy, and you expect that you might get chain stunned/burst down before you are able to activate the armlet, I do not recommend this build.
OTHER GOOD FIRST PICKUPS
Maybe you are some kind of pansy who doesn't like the armlet. It's okay! These items are also excellent choices after you have your boots:
Probably the finest midgame item in the game. Will help you with survivability and mana issues, give you damage and attack speed, and increase your movement speed. Also, a nice aura for your teammates. Don't be afraid to burn a few active charges midgame to escape or chase.
A fantastic cheap item that does a lot of work for you. It's cheap, The MP regen is helpful early game, the armor helps your survivability, and the active helps you bring down targets super quickly. It's especially great on Slark because Dark Pact purges the negative debuff on yourself. Don't forget to use it on jungle creeps, ancients, and Roshan.
Pretty good on slark because it gives you damage and HP, along with extra chasing potential with the maim. However, for reasons explained below, Drum/Yasha is better than Sange and Yasha in nearly every way. I generally only build if I am up against a dangerous enemy carry and I plan on disassembling it into a Heaven's Halberd.
A naked point booster with your Poor Man's Shield will give you survivability comparable to a Vanguard for much less money; you also get a much-needed bump to your mana pool. With these two in hand you can go right into your damage items/core extensions, and you can build it into an Eye of Skadi later.
If you are up against an enemy team with a lot of burst spell damage, such as Zeus, Lina, or Lion, I recommend rushing this item after Power Treads, picking up the Ogre Club first for HP. I also recommend this as a good pickup later in the game if the other team has a lot of disables/AOE teamfight abilities like Ravage, Epicenter, and Echo Slam.
ITEMS TO PICK UP AFTER YOU HAVE GOTTEN ONE OF THE ABOVE
A great, cheap and underrated item for increasing your DPS. It also ups your farm rate quite a bit, giving you good carry potential. (It's kind of a poor man's Battle Fury) Worth upgrading to a Mjollnir later, because you really benefit from attack speed. A very good choice if you are up against illusion heroes and need some AOE. Note that its effect stacks with Desolator, Diffusal Blade or Eye of Skadi orb effects when it does not proc.
An ideal item for Slark because it provides attack speed, damage, damage amplification, and completely solves your mana issues. An especially good item against enemy lineups who can blink or evade your ganks with spells like Queen of Pain, Anti-Mage, Puck, Weaver, and Bounty Hunter. Makes you a very good participant in team fights as well.
Gives you a ton of damage and a nice bit of INT as well, along with a useful slow. A recommended pickup if you think that you will need to remove buffs like Black King Bar and Dispel, or oneshot summons like Warlock's Golem. If you build this item I suggest you build a Manta Style as well, because the feedback will apply to your illusions.
Actually a pretty useful item for you, because you get burst damage and attack speed. You will also get HP regen from Shadow Dance while under its effects. I am not a fan of rushing this item after treads because of the slow buildup; however, if you are having a great early game and can abuse this item during the midgame this is a good pickup.
Gives strength and damage, both of which are great. The bash is great for locking down enemies who have movement-based escapes or teleport escapes like Windrunner Nature's Prophet, or Dark Seer. Build it into an Abyssal Blade later. Would be a decent first-item pickup if not for the steep component cost.
I am putting this in the guide because Liquid Korok bought this item in the only pro game we have featuring slark. FWIW the damage aura, armour increase, mana regen and lifesteal are all good things for someone to have.
SPECIAL SECTION FOR SANGE AND YASHA PURCHASERS
Sange and Yasha is not the greatest item in the world. But you might not know that you can disassemble this item and upgrade it into two fantastic items:
Great stats! Also, your illusions will inherit bonus agility from Essence Shift, bonus HP from Armlet of Mordiggan, and the feedback effect from Diffusal Blade. Keep in mind that the active also purges some statuses that you can't Dark Pact your way out of, such as silences.
Evasion is great, and the active is extremely valuable against enemy rightlick heroes. Against ranged carries like Gyrocopter, Drow Ranger, and Luna, this gives a gaudy 4.5 second disarm.
LATE GAME LUXURIES
Probably the best all-around item for a stat-starved hero like Slark, and the attack slow will give you a decent chance of matching up against an enemy carry. Makes you surprisingly tanky, and basically solves all mana problems. Only its incredibly high cost makes me hesitant to make it core; Slark is not a great farmer, and dedicating your time to farming up an Eye holds back your midgame.
Great armor, good damage amplification from the aura, and you thrive on attack speed. I highly recommend you buy this in the late-game if you are up against a lot of physical damage and nobody else your team has bought one.
Well, in large team fights you're going to be stacking a ton of AGI wiping out those supports. Why not turn this to your advantage to burst down some low HP heroes! As a bonus it amplifies damage from your Pounce/ Dark Pact combo and gives a slow. Liquid'Korok builds this!
Used by some players but I honestly think it is a bad, bad choice. You are already fragile as hell, and this item basically ensures that you will get killed in anything other than a 1v1 situation.
It's great to have a lot of strength and HP, to be sure. But you are never, ever going to be a tank and the HP regen is a waste. Your HP regen from Shadow Dance is already 4 times the regen of heart at max levels.
Vanguard is a terrible item. Don't get it. The damage block from Poor Man's Shield is already more than adequate, and you are not a character who should be out to tank damage. The 875 gold worth of HP regen is not necessary; if you feel extremely vulnerable a naked Point Booster is a better way to go.
When you hit level 6, go find a pocket of trees and regen your hp. Look at the hp pool of your laning enemies. Is the creep wave pushed towards your tower? Can you and your lane partner kill them with a pounce/dark pact combo? If so, then Pounce, activate your Dark Pact, and whale away. Use Shadow Dance to chase or if you are getting low on HP. If you net a few kills go ahead and pressure the tower, get last hits, finish up your early items.
Priority #1 is the enemy jungle
Your best killing ground in the game is the enemy jungle. Why? You have 1800 night vision and enemy heroes only have 800. By the time they see you, are only 100 units out of pounce range and it is probably too late. Abuse this advantage.
If the enemy has jungling heroes-- especially Nature's Prophet, it is worth investing in some observer wards and warding up their jungle. Make sure to watch the minimap and be aware of nearby lanes; run if you sense incoming support.
Look out for lanes that are pushed close to your tower, and lanes where your presence will give you a numerical advantage on the enemy. Gank those lanes.
Make sure to always TP into a place behind your tower so that you can get in position for a gank before they see you. You can tell if the enemy has vision by checking to see if the Shadow Dance buff indicator is up on your HUD at the bottom.
Priority #3 is farming.
If there are no jungling heroes or good gank opportunities just get some last hits. Dark Pact is pretty good for clearing creep waves, but watch out for mana.
You can also jungle pretty effectively with a maxed-out Dark Pact, because you regen back HP lost to jungle creeps very quickly.
Slark does not really shine in team fights, but this does not mean you are not a really great contribution to your lineup.
Always just keep this mantra in mind: HIT AND RUN.
You are not the best initiator, because you do not want to be in the middle of large team fights; you are just way too squishy. What you want to do is wait for the battle to start and then Pounce on the first vulnerable INT hero you see. When you begin to get around half health, pop Shadow Dance and regen back up; if you begin to get low, then RETREAT out of sight and regen. When you're back up, pounce back in. By this point you should actually be pretty beefy because you are back up to full HP and you have a ton of bonus AGI from Essence Shift. Finish off stragglers. You are a great chaser.
Again, this is the routine:
1) Don't initiate
2) Pounce on Supports
3) Pop Shadow Dance when low on HP.
4) Pounce out of battle if you get low again.
6) Finish them off.
This way the Dark Pact damage will kick in after you are in close on the enemy. Use Shadow Dance to chase, regen hp, or flee, depending on the situation.
GANKING WHEN YOU ANTICIPATE A STUN
A lot of heroes are going to stun you as soon as you leap on them, often using slow-windup spells like Split Earth and Light Strike Array. If you want to gank these heroes, then your goal is to ANTICIPATE the stun and time Dark Pact to purge the stun. If timed correctly, you will eat the damage but basically nullify the disable.
Heroes with great proximity spells centered on friendly units. The Pounce and then Purification combo gives fantastic burst damage in laning phase and afterward. If you are laning with a DS have him cast Ion Shell on you, combined with pounce it can be lethal.
Infest is a great ability to use in conjunction with any hero who can close distance quickly. Slark is one of them, although not as amusing as Spirit Breaker
Attack speed is your friend
Ursa's main issue, especially in lane, is closing distance on enemies. The lengthy disable from the level-one Pounce can really set him up.
The mechanics of Dark Pact synergize extremely well with Cold Snap because it deals damage in microbursts.
Axe actually wants you to jump in and attack him frequently. Just, like, avoid the guy if at all possible. He'll also **** all over you in lane because of Battle Hunger, which cannot be purged. Just, like, stay away from this guy.
These guys actually want you to close distance on them so they can stun/throw/stomp/poof you. If you time Dark Pact correctly you can purge out of the stun but you just do not want to be directly adjacent to these guys as a rule.
Unlike most other stuns/disables, Telekinesis can target you mid-pounce. So he'll just lift you as you pounce, hit you with a Fade Bolt and then Pounce on you again.
Without spells you are a just a squishy fish.
The burst damage coming out of these guys is a big, big problem, and the true sight from Zeus's lightning bolts does not help. Just a nightmare. Rush BKB after your core if you are up against these guys.
You can't purge Rupture and he get free true sight of you when your HP falls below threshold. If he initiates on you with Rupture just immediately Shadow Dance.
A similar example of what you can do in lane with good ranged support: Faceless Void should have been ok with support from the Venomancer, but with the help of Rubick we shut them down pretty hard, taking first blood and getting a bunch of kills in lane. Note that a single level of Dark Pact lets you brush off Venomous Gale. I built an Orchid Malevolence after my armlet here because I was worried about FV using his ulti and/or leaping away from ganks.
While the Queen of Pain is the obvious star here, our Naga Siren should give you a sense of the kind of crowd I typically run with.
A more typical max pounce/max dark pact build. Laning was pretty uneventful, but then I racked up a bunch of kills in the midgame with my armlet. I got a BKB because I was rightfully terrified of Luna and an Orchid Malevolence to deal with that Storm Spirit. The Crystal Maiden correctly points out that I am an idiot who was farming creeps while she was getting murdered by Pudge mere units away.
This is a good example of how you can come back from a really ****ty laning phase and make things happen. I died super early and then also got totally zoned out, racking up a gaudy 6 last hits by like 5 minutes in. But then our team made some good plays in the midgame and I snowballed out of control. That end item build is about as good as you could hope for.
Honestly all the credit for this goes to Sand King who made perfect initiations almost every time, and windrunner, who gave us ward vision all over the map constantly. Remember to always buy your supports cheeseburgers after the match.
Here we have an example of Purge playing agressively at mid using the max- Essence Shift build mentioned above. With some help from ganking supports he dominates mid against Drow Ranger and goes on to snowball.
Super rad. I get the feeling that he was chosen as a counterpick to Batrider because he could purge off Sticky Napalm. He did great when he hit 7, and he built a vladimir's offering after his Tread/PMS/Wand core!
Drum + Yasha: 3775 gold
+3 Damage (+28 total factoring AGI)
+20 Attack Speed (+45 factoring AGI)
+15% movement speed
Active: Endurance (+10 Attack speed and +10% movement speed.
Sange & Yasha: 4100 gold
+12 Damage (+28 total factoring AGI)
+15 Attack Speed (+31 factoring AGI)
+12% movement speed
Active: 15% chance to maim
The first gives you so much more. You lose 7 STR (about 130 HP) and an item slot, that is true. But for 300 gold less you get 9 more AGI (an extra point of armour), more attack speed, and and 9 INT worth of mana. What's more, the drum has an aura which benefits allies and has a better active: while maim is only good for chasing, drum charges are great for chasing, fleeing, teamfighting, and sieging towers.