Slark was once the bane of pubs and a potential menace in competitive play. As the meta has shifted away from his playstyle, along with changes to Hex and the removal of Poor Man’s Shield, Slark has fallen into obscurity. With stats getting a rework in 7.13, Slark may be right on the cusp of reappearing in the meta.
Starting in patch 7.07, Hex could no longer be dispelled. Slark was one of the heroes who suffered the most from this change. While he already had a few counters, they were mostly dependent on AoE disables, map awareness, and having the right lane matchup for Slark. It often wasn’t enough to counter a Slark, especially if he had a breakaway game. Quick reflexes with Dark Pact made Slark elusive at all stages in the game. An early Shadow Blade or Blink made it tough for squishy Intelligence heroes to stay on the map. Heroes like Shadow Shaman and Lion had no recourse if they got jumped. With the changes to Hex, the dynamic shifted.
Shadow Shaman and Lion can now chain stun a Slark by opening with Hex. They can counter initiate without fear of being nullified by a preloaded Dark Pact. A large part of Slark’s teamfight potential was his ability to dip in and out of the battle, finesse his skill rotations between Dark Pact and Pounce cooldowns, and extend a fight until the enemy broke down. Now, without Dark Pact against Hex, he has to depend on his BKB timer and Shadow Dance. First world carry issues.
Slark’s win rate in the past 30 days. Patch 7.12 gave him a small boost, with a buff to turn rate and base regen
Slark is a hero that’s tough to balance—there’s a thin line between relevancy in competition and overpowered in pubs, which was the case before. The difficulty is that the Hex change seemed at the time both excessive and necessary. Slark was still strong as he saw Pounce’s damage reduced from 280 to 160 over a series of patches. Remember that during this time, in addition to Dark Pact negating nearly everything, Pounce could disjoint projectiles as well as able to be used under root. Slark’s opponents desperately needed a more accessible counter, but it essentially nullified what made the hero unique.
Even with a buff, it may still be the wrong time for Slark in today’s meta. He didn’t fare well in the peak of Necros and Venomancers, and now he’s still facing a similar push meta. So if he can eke out a decent early game, it’s still an uphill battle the rest of the way.
Slark’s weakness in lane has somewhat been mitigated in patch 7.12, which significantly buffed his regeneration from 1.5 to 2.75. His win rate also saw a small boost—one blip of optimism since his series of nerfs. At the same time, Valve has slowly been tweaking his early game resiliency. He received a Strength gain buff in 7.06 and a level 10 Strength bonus talent, which was buffed again in 7.10, from 8 to 10.
With patch 7.13, Slark may have also inadvertently benefitted from the way Stats and it’s perks have been reworked. Primary attributes are weighted more this time around, and heroes who can augment their stats stand to gain from the change. OD is rising as one of the top beneficiaries of the stat change, and who is to say Slark can’t as well. He’s getting more armor and 25% more attack speed per point of agility and stealing more HP against Strength heroes.
While Slark still has his laning issues, it’s been clear that Valve has been attempting to nudge Slark forward. It may not be the right moment for him yet, and while the community might dread his return to the nuisance he was, it seems like this time around there could be the right balance.