Recent buffs simplified Slark’s life, who can now survive in lane even without a good support. Be ready to counter him with the proper items and heroes.
Slark’s survivability pre-Shadow Dance has always been an issue that hindered the hero. Recently, Valve boosted his early game increasing the base health regeneration from 1.5 to 3.25, and the base strength from 20 to 21.
He is now in the top 5 among the heroes with the highest health regeneration - as much as Batrider and Night Stalker - thus he can withstand heavy harassment during the lane stage.
7.14 also diminished the gold cost of Mango from 100 to 70, which can be used as an extra HP regeneration tool in the early game, and consumed whenever mana for a Pounce is crucial for a kill or escape. Icefrog noticed that his preferred fruit was too strong, so also reduced the health regeneration bonus from 1 to 0.7, and subsequently to 0.6 in 7.15.
- He needs to abuse his power spike during the early/mid game to snowball and turn into a hard carry later on. This is made easier by the greedy mid players that just keep farming creeps for the first 15 minutes of the match, so Slark has all the time to deal with their teammates.
- Situationally, Slark might also consider a less combative approach. His farming speed can rival even Anti-Mage, with a good use of the mobility granted by Pounce and the AoE damage of Dark Pact. The Battle Fury is unnecessary and is a very situational item on him.
Teleport Scrolls are the best early/mid game counter
50 golds will save your life countless times while Slark has still not sufficient damage at his disposal. Pounce prevents escapes, but not a TP, so you will save yourself until he acquires enough damage, or buys a Skull Basher to break channeled abilities such as the teleport.
Positioning and survivability items
As a squishy support, positioning is your best friend. Slark is an assassin who can just appear from nowhere, jump, get a kill, and leave the area quickly thanks to his mobility and the standard item build.
Don’t go alone in dangerous places and try to stick with a teammate at all times. With items such as the Ghost Scepter or the Eul's Scepter of Divinity, you can survive for extra seconds, enough for your friends to react, and hopefully save your life or kill the ganker.
- The Heaven’s Halberd is also a solid item, but for self-defense give priority to the ones mentioned before.
- The most common combo to escape from Slark - or any dps without a stun - is Ghost Scepter plus Teleport.
Viable items for physical dps heroes
As any melee auto-attacker, Slark is very susceptible to stuns. The Skull Basher is helpful during the mid game, and the Abyssal Blade provides a 2-seconds stun that pierces spell immunity. Sticking to the same reasoning, Faceless Void and Slardar are potential hero choices because with sufficient attack speed they can lock-down Slark.
The Black King Bar nullifies the damage from Dark Pact and destroys the leash from Pounce, which might save your life in some situations. Overall, it is not a priority item versus Slark, but you will already have one to protect yourself against other heroes.
Finally, it is worth to mention that the Silver Edge's debuff can’t be purged by Dark Pact, and it also disables Essence Shift. Still, I never suggest to buy this item just to fight Slark.
Slark is a powerful single-target dps, but has no abilities to deal versus multiple heroes at the same time.
- Phantom Lancer can generate an endless horde of illusions. Any Slark will be overwhelmed unless possesses a Battle Fury and a prominent farm advantage. Phantom Rush is also of great help if Slark tries to escape as you can just rush towards him until he lingers in your range.
- Chaos Knight might be an even better choice than PL because his illusions are tankier, and in the late game they can endure a huge quantity of damage with the right build.
Silence and instant disables
Disables are decisive against any dps, but Slark has a tool at his disposal to deal with them. Dark Pact applies a strong dispel on himself, removing any negative effect - a lifesaver if used at the right time.
You want to stun him right after he used Dark Pact (while the spell is on cooldown) or before he notices you are going to cast something on him. Abilities with instant cast time, such as Lion, Shadow Shaman, and the Scythe of Vyse’s Hex are his best counters because he won’t have any time to react.
Silence is also a powerful skill because preventing Shadow Dance will severely reduce his survivability in team fight, specially during the mid game. You can buy the Orchid Malevolence, or pick heroes like Silencer, Puck, and Death Prophet.
Doom retains his crown as one of the best single-target counters because a Doomed Slark won’t be able to fight at all, especially if the ability is upgraded with the Aghanim’s Scepter. He can’t steal attributes with his passive, regenerate, or even escape.
AoE nukes and disables
Slark relies on his ultimate for “immortality” as he can attack for 4 seconds while remaining invisible. In truth, there are multiple heroes with abilities that can still affect and kill him.
- For example, Lina, Jakiro, Leshrac, and Earthshaker have both AoE nukes and stuns, and the particles surrounding Slark while in Shadow Dance make him an easy target.
- I love Skywrath Mage because his ultimate deals a massive amount of damage, and he has also a single-target silence at his disposal.
- In the right hands, Invoker is also a formidable counter thanks to all his AoE abilities. A well-placed Chaos Meteor will annihilate Slark in most fights but in the late game, and he possesses multiple abilities to disable, bait, or prevent his attacks.
Even with Pounce, it is almost impossible to gank characters with a high mobility.
Anti-Mage and Queen of Pain are the best examples as they can just blink away and ignore the leash. In particular, I suggest the latter due to her huge burst and AoE damage that damages Slark even in Shadow Dance.
Storm Spirit is a master of mobility, and there is no way for Slark to kill a competent one. You can build the Orchid and the Scythe to hard counter him, or also the Shiva’s Guard to slow his attack speed, undermining his attribute-stealing ability.
Centaur Warrunner can use Stamped to save an ally from any place on the map, but he possesses also reliable abilities for a fight: Double Edge deals consistent damage in the early and mid game, while Hoof Stomp is an AoE stun with a long duration.
Timbersaw has a solid escape via Timber Chain, lots of AoE damage, and a passive that greatly helps versus auto-attackers. To be honest, a good Timbersaw player has nothing to fear from Slark, and his pure damage can badly hurt him even in Shadow Dance.
Disable Slark’s regeneration - Vision
Observer Wards. This item is so powerful that several players might refuse to buy it! If you get vision on the map, you will be able to study the enemy’s moves, prevent ganks, and disable Slark’s Passive when spotted.
Night Stalker with the Aghanim’s Scepter and a Gem of True Sight is a pain to deal with for Slark as will greatly reduce his ability to assassinate people on the map. NS’ Crippling Fear is also a formidable skill because silences the target for 8 seconds at night and causes a 50% miss chance.
Bloodseeker’s Thirst makes Slark visible while at low health, disabling the passive. To be honest, it isn’t as strong as in the past because before the visibility health threshold was higher (from 50% to 25%), but it is still useful if Slark is trying to disengage at low health.
Ancient Apparition’s Ice Blast blocks any HP regeneration and lifestealing effect, so for 10 seconds (17 with the Aghanim’s Scepter) Slark’s Shadow Dance passive won’t work.
There are even more heroes that work against him:
- Axe’s Berserker Calls taunts him even in Shadow Dance, and Counter Helix AoE pure damage can be a big nuisance for an auto-attacker with lots of attack speed.
- Disruptor has several disables, and Static Storm plus Kinetic Field can block Slark in an area for the duration of his ultimate.
- Omniknight is a strong opponent in the lane phase for any melee hero, and in team fights can negate all Slark’s physical damage with Guardian Angel. Used at the right moment, this ability can change the fate of the battle.
- Legion Commander and Bane have single-target ultimates with a long duration which can prevent any escape. The former might also kill Slark himself once he stacks enough Duels.
Header image: Fall 2016 Battle Pass loading screen - Valve
Vincenzo is an esports writer with five years of experience. Former head editor for Natus Vincere, he has produced content for DreamHack, FACEIT, DOTAFire, 2P, and more. Follow him on @SkulzDota.