Dota 2 Slark was once the bane of pubs of all ranks everywhere, while also being a potentially powerful hero in the right situation and in the right hands in professional games. However, as the meta shifted towards more laning and team fighting, along with the changes to how Dark Pact (Q) no longer purged Hex, as well as the removal of Poor Mona’s Shield, Slark fell into relative obscurity.
We saw a lot of things happen at EPICENTER XL. Team Liquid fell short of a three-peat and yet another Major title, while Virtus.Pro fell to another hometown team, albeit the more unlikely one in FlyToMoon. Of course, who could forget PSG.LGD going 3-1 in the Grand Finals to claim the title, with Xu ‘fy‘ Linsen claiming MVP honours?
Even the meta shifted at EPICENTER XL. Underlord and Tiny both were no longer a priority, picked only 7 and 4 times respectively. In their place in the offlane were Doom and Beastmaster. Meanwhile, Tusk took a backseat in favour of Leshrac. The so-called “disco pony” became viable as a flex pick — a hero that can be played in multiple roles — that teams could pick up in the first phase without really giving away anything regarding their draft.
While a lot of trends emerged at EPICENTER XL, one that perhaps stands out the most is Dota 2 Slark emerging as a top-tier pick.
Prior to EPICENTER XL, Slark was barely picked in pro games if at all. At the tournament itself, though, something happened that made the hero so appealing. So attractive, in fact, that the hero ended up being picked in 13 matches, winning all 11 of them — the highest winning percentage (84.62%) of all the heroes that saw play in at least 10 matches in the tournament.
So, what happened?
What Made Slark So Weak?
Let’s go back to patch 7.07.
The introduction of the “Dueling Fates” update brought an unnecessary nerf to Slark by making Hex undispellable. Dispelling disables was one of Slark’s key strengths. If you’re fast enough, you can use Dark Pact to pretty much avoid anything. Paired with an early Shadow Blade or Blink Dagger pickup and squishy Intelligence heroes could do nothing as Slark hunted them down all over the map. But, with the change to Hex, the dynamic shifted. Now, heroes like Shadow Shaman and Lion could do something. This also meant that the item Scythe of Vyse, though expensive, effectively made Slark useless for 3.5 seconds, which is more than enough time to take down a naturally squishy hero like Slark.
No longer able to jump in and out of team fights freely, Slark effectively became dependent on a Black King Bar pickup and his ultimate Shadow Dance. Without the former, Slark was pretty much was relegated to becoming a weak laner who relies on picking off squishy supports to farm but needed a big item pick up like Black King Bar to do so comfortably.
So, yeah, Dota 2 Slark is somewhat the complete opposite of a hero that pros would pick up in a competitive game.
A Series of Consecutive Buffs
Three buffs in five patches and an indirect buff in 7.13 has turned Slark into an extremely powerful hero in the right setup. (Dota 2 Wiki)
Slark isn’t the easiest hero to balance in Dota 2. If you buff him too much, he becomes too relevant in both pubs and competitions. But if you bring down the nerf hammer too hard on the hero, as what was the case, he becomes virtually nonexistent. The change to how Hex worked was the final nail in the proverbial coffin that made Slark virtually unplayable.
Worse still, Slark’s strengths don’t exactly fit well with the current meta. Back at The International 2017 and the weeks after that, Slark had no place because of how strong Necrophos and Venomancer were then. Even when both of the said heroes were nerfed, Slark wasn’t a good fit because of the game’s then emphasis on team fighting, taking objectives early and pushing. Slark is not a particularly good laner, but he also needs to farm. Most of the time, his farm came not from hitting creeps but from picking off squishy supports who wandered too far away from their respective teams.
Three patches worth of buffs later, Dota 2 Slark’s laning is now a whole lot better. In 7.07, Slark had a base health regeneration rate of 1.5. This isn’t even nearly enough to mitigate the self-damage inflicted by Dark Pact. Patch 7.12 buffed this from 1.5 to 2.75 before finally in 7.14, Slark’s base health regeneration per second went from 2.75 to 3.5, along with another buff to his ultimate Shadow Dance (movement speed bonus from 30%/35%/40% to 30%/40%/50%).
Although all notable improvements, Slark perhaps benefitted the most from an indirect buff brought by patch 7.13.
What Came With Patch 7.13?
Patch 7.13 changed a lot about how Dota 2 worked. In a way, the patch put an end to the “deathball meta”, a meta defined by games ending way before many cores could even come close to ever coming online. However, other than the changes to the buildings and the glyph duration, patch 7.13 also came with changes to how stats worked.
Before 7.13, heroes could only get bonuses from their main attribute. After 7.13, Valve changed this mechanic so that all heroes could benefit from all three attributes and get 25% more from their primary attribute. This effectively meant that heroes that had a way to augment their primary attributes would benefit the most, which includes the likes of Morphling, Outworld Destroyer, Centaur Warruner, Drow Ranger, AND Slark.
Because of the recent change to how attributes worked with Patch 7.13, Slark now effectively gains 0.6 armor, 0.19% move speed, 3.75 attack speed, and 3 attack damage per stack (3 agility), while also stealing even more HP against heroes, especially Strength-based ones, making the beefier targets easier to take down so long as he has the time to hack away at them.
Dota 2 Slark remains a very weak laner that needs a babysitter to succeed. The only difference now is that he no longer needs as much babysitting. The additional 3.5 health regeneration per second gives Slark more sustainability in the lane and harder to zone up. Of course, you can still pressure him in the lane and he’ll have a hard time catching up. Because of this, Slark is not as OP as most people would pretend he is. At best, he’s a niche pick that works best with the right kind of draft setup as a fourth or fifth pick, like Broodmother, to some extent.
Hopefully, the recent resurgence of Dota 2 Slark isn’t enough to make IceFrog think of nerfing him just when he recently go back into relevancy.
What do you think of Slark as a Dota 2 hero? Is he too strong right now? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.