The meta shake up resulted in the resurgence of a long-forgotten hero. Slardar didn’t receive any direct buffs in 7.34e, but his lane dominance feels a lot more pronounced in the current patch. With some adjustments to itemization, the hero’s power level can be insane, making him one of the toughest opponents to face.
The hero didn’t receive any buffs in the latest patch, but he was getting stronger and stronger for almost four months now. The most important part is that he no longer needs multiple levels into Slithereen Crush for speed, damage and sustain. Even a value point provides a 7-second puddle and all the associated benefits, as long as Guardian Sprint is levelled up.
The most common skill-build is 0-1-2 by level three with 1-1-3 by level five. Bash of the Deep now provides extra auto-attack damage while Slardar is in water and it quickly adds up over the course of the laning stage.
Guardian Sprint is typically maxed out second, as it provides a lot of extra survivability. There are builds that concentrate on Crush and getting an early Blink Dagger, but they are mostly specific to games where auto-attacking is problematic.
The current meta build for Slardar isn’t actually new, it’s been the staple for a pretty long time. However, for some reason a lot of pub players failed to adapt and insist on rushing Blink Dagger, which isn’t a good play in the current meta. Heroes are way too tanky and Blade Mail is still a popular purchase, so getting an early Blink rarely pays off.
Instead, better Slardar players concentrate on becoming tanky and threatening, most commonly by getting a couple of [item-bracer]s or Wraith Bands, an early Mask of Madness and/or Hand of Midas. These items provide a great deal of attack speed and severely restrict enemy options in skirmish scenarios.
It is very hard to keep a target “stun-locked” through attack speed in a teamfight, but in a 1v1 or a 2v2 Slardar is close to unbeatable. Between high gank potential and/or passive income from Midas, this approach allows Slardar to have decent level and gold progression, so that when teamfights do start, he is prepared for them.
There are three important items for Slardar. The most important one is Aghanim's Scepter, as it massively increases Slardar’s survivability and even damage output. Status resistance, extra armor, extra regen, extra speed and extra damage for 4200 gold is stupidly strong. To reiterate: in 99.9% of games getting Aghanim’s as early as possible is the correct play. It is even worth skipping Midas or MoM, if you can get Agh’s pre-minute 15, though we do not recommend it, as it is too risky.
Second in importance is Blink Dagger. Once Slardar has actual tools of survival and teamfight presence, being the initiator in a teamfight becomes a possibility. There isn’t a lot to discuss in this regard. Just don’t rush it before Aghanim’s, otherwise you will most likely just feed.
Finally, there is Black King Bar. In higher level lobbies, a good Rubick, Shadow Shaman or Lion will disable you after Blink-in, before you get your Crush off, so BKB might be worth it pre-Blink. In most other games it can be purchased later, just to make sure you stay on the designated target.
There is another, more aggressive route that delays Aghanim’s and can skip Blink entirely. Going Echo Sabre into Harpoon is a potentially strong play a lot of pro-level players prefer. It isn’t as reliable long-term, since it doesn’t allow for passive farming, but it can be devastating as a tempo play.
Harpoon combines some tankiness, gap-closing capabilities and extra attack damage into a single 4500 gold item. It is nowhere near close to value when compared to Aghanim’s, but as an item with a single focus it is unparalleled. You get Harpoon to kill enemies over and over again, never leaving the map as you get passive HP regen from Guardian Sprint and mana regen from Harpoon.
As long as you manage to connect on kills and your team actually converts said kills into objectives, it is an amazing item. The problem is the moment Slardar with this build stops getting kills or the moment they overextend and get punished a couple of times, they are more or less out of the game. Unless Slardar gets an early Aghanim’s by getting several kills through Harpoon usage and then also converts them into objectives, this build won’t shine. There is no Plan B like there is with MoM and/or Midas.
The problem of kill conversion is going to be very pronounced in lower level pubs, so we would recommend most players to play efficiently first and foremost, without going for high-risk, high-reward plays. Once you are comfortable with Slardar, identifying the games where you can get away with a Harpoon build will also be easier.
Slardar is the highest win rate hero this week and one of the biggest winners of the patch. He is also mostly straightforward and easy to play, so an ideal character to grind MMR with. There are only several heroes Slardar has a sub-50% win rate against: mostly illusion cores, Witch Doctor, Wraith King and Troll Warlord — all strong heroes in their own right.
Considering it is unlikely we get another patch in the next two weeks, there is plenty of time to learn to play Slardar. Are you going on the grind and do you have other suggestions for free MMR heroes? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.