[Skill Build Analysis] Slark

6.78 stuff will be coming in shortly, but while I put those samples together I thought I’d do a write up on one of the last samples I grabbed in 6.77.  It’s a bit outdated, but Slark didn’t change much in the patch transition, so it should still be applicable.

First, the basic ability information.

Q: Dark Pact — Point Blank AoE nuke that both damages and purges debuffs off self.

Scaling: Damage and Self Damage go up.  Cooldown and Mana Cost go down.

W: Pounce — Slark leaps ahead.  First enemy hero hit takes damage and is leashed to the area around the impact.

Scaling: Damage goes up.  Cooldown goes down.

E: Essence Shift — Slark’s attacks steal 1 point of stats from enemy heroes and give them to Slark as agility for a set duration.

Scaling: Duration goes up.

So here’s how the builds break down.


Pounce-> Pact is the most common build overall and sees the largest increase at higher skill levels.  Pact-> Pounce is somewhat less common but relatively popular at all levels.  Pounce-> Essence Shift is actually more common than both of these builds at lower levels of play, but drops off in popularity at higher levels of play.

In terms of win rate, Pact-> Pounce has the strongest performance at lower levels of play, but the Pounce primary builds overtake it at higher levels.

You might notice that all of Slark’s builds go down in win rate at higher skill levels.  Partially this is just a reflection that Slark himself does seem to perform better at lower levels of play, but part of it is the usual pattern of marginal builds becoming less popular at higher skill levels.  It might be tempting to interpret this as indicating that Slark absolutely dominates low level play so long as you choose the right build, but it’s just as likely that (relatively) mediocre Normal players are more likely to choose an obviously bad build than (relatively) mediocre Very High players.

In any case, what we can conclude is that

  1. Both Dark Pact and Pounce builds look viable.
  2. Essence Shift is a solid skill, but should never be maxed first.
  3. Pounce should never be maxed last.

Moving beyond that, it seems possible to me that Dark Pact builds work relatively more often at low levels of play, and I was wondering why this is.  One possible explanation is some kind of confounding factor.  Suppose that in the Very High bracket Slarks who go mid tend to max Dark Pact first, and Slarks that go mid have a lower win rate than sidelaning Slarks.  This relationship would make Dark Pact potentially look worse than it really is.  (It also wouldn’t prove that mid Slark is worse than sidelane Slark.  It could potentially be more situational, and the players are just doing a poor job of picking him into bad lane matchups.)

But suppose that Dark Pact builds really do better at lower levels of play.  One possible answer for why this happens is that Slark does farm noticeably better when he maxes Dark Pact first.


Pact builds have a CS advantage at all skill levels.  This advantage shrinks some as you get higher, and it also becomes smaller relative to the baseline CS expectation.  This could suggest that in a game full of mediocre farmers (including yourself), maxing Dark Pact first could be enough to give you a dominating farm advantage.  Then as you graduate to higher levels of play this advantage becomes worth less while your competition is more capable of using Pounce effectively to create early kills without giving up as much in terms of farm.

One last curious thing to mention.  It is an extremely small section of builds, at 5% of the total, but builds that do not take a single point in Dark Pact by level 7 do have a win rate of 54.25% in Very High.  This could easily be just a case of small sample size, but it’s possible that 0/4/2/1 is actually an acceptable build provided you don’t actually need to purge anything vital during the first 7 levels.  I don’t know how confident I’d be in doing that, but it is true that Pounce->Essence Shift does pretty well overall in Very High.  Essence Shift in general seems more important in Very High, which could be a reflection of just smarter aggression and better Pounce usage.

Finally as a bonus, I have the biggest item shifts in Slark by skill bracket.


One interesting side note to this is that Vanguard’s win rate drops from 60% in Normal to 50% in Very High.  It’s normal for win rates to drop between Normal and Very High because GPM in Very High is higher in general, but 10% on an item like Vanguard is pretty noteworthy.  In contrast, Vladmir’s Offering only drops from 63% to 61%.  Item win rates never paint the whole story, but what I’m seeing doesn’t give me much confidence in Vanguard Slark, at least in higher skilled games.

8 Responses to [Skill Build Analysis] Slark

  1. Shaedar says:

    Getting levels in Essence Shift also reduces its cooldown. Probably doesn’t affect anything, but decided to share it anyways :)

    • Jake says:

      You’re right on both things. It does have a cooldown, because it had to in DotA, however, it doesn’t actually impact the skill in any real way in Dota 2.

      • Daniel Jensen says:

        I find that an early level in essence shift can be useful. You can steal stats for during the laning phase for a little extra lasthitting power, but more than one level isn’t neccesary.

  2. What would you replace Vanguard with? Poor Man’s Shield and a Point Booster? Armlet?

    • max1c says:

      Here is my build if you are interested can check it out to see how I replace vanguard:

    • phantasmal says:

      Drums, early Ogre Club for BKB, or early Point Booster for Skadi look like the most common options for bulking up in Very High. PMS is ok, but it’s not strictly necessary all the time. Armlet is a bit gimmicky, but it can work if you know what you’re getting into. Only 3% of Very High picks it up and the win rate is not amazing, but it’s likely possible to outperform the median with strong toggling. The question is whether you can do it reliably.

    • Daniel Jensen says:

      I don’t usually get Vanguard, I typically get poor man’s shield, then I spend time on getting Manta Style. Sometimes on low level pubstomps, I forgo the shield entirely, and concentrate on DPS items like crystalis or mjollnir.

  3. Thanks guys. I subscribed to max1c’s build. Interesting how a Heaven’s Halberd is central to it.

    I wasn’t convinced by armlet either, but a lot of redditors were very enthusiastic.

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