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    Dota 2 – Migrating to the Fourth Position

    Image by LaughingSkyPig

    In the last six months there was a peculiar trend in Dota—some former offlaners have started migrating to the position four support role. It all started with Virtus.Pro and their Weaver. The popularity of Weaver has slightly decreased since, giving way for one of the strongest offlaners to take his spot.

    “Greedy” Support Environment

    Slardar didn’t get propelled into the fourth position based on his talents alone. Nor were there specific buffs or nerfs, which decreased his viability as an offlaner. His development was more or less a natural meta progression in a greedy support environment. And if previously “greedy” meant “doesn’t do much until later”, in this specific scenario the meaning is closer to “can be useful at all stages of the game and transition into a core if needed.”

    The hero has an AoE stun with a relatively low cast point and decent radius. On top of it, the stun effect is followed up by a minor, yet consistently useful 2-second slow. That means he is a perfect fit for an initiation role—a crucial part of most team compositions.

    He is also quite tanky. He has good starting HP and armor, making lvl 1 hit trades a possibility. The threat of stun against a trilane is usually enough of an incentive for most offlaners to start fleeing, making Slardar’s harassment even more effective.

    Finally, the hero scales extremely well purely on the strength of his ultimate. Corrosive Haze might not be the flashiest of abilities, but it makes a ton of difference, regardless of the stage of the game.

    To top it all, the hero has an innate MS buff, which allows him to initiate from unexpected angles before he gets his blink. In the early skirmishes, a well-timed stun is usually enough to net a kill or at least force the enemy to base. And since the hero is not tied to his lane, he can freely roam around the map, applying pressure where needed.

    Building a Support

    For the most part Slardar is built around his two main strengths—high speed and a very good stun, hence these abilities are almost always maxed out first. One of the more recent developments, however, changed the priority order, with a third level skill point going into Guardian Sprint, rather than Slithereen Crush.

    While situational and used only in roughly 40% of the games during the Kiev Major Qualifier, this build order almost ensures a stun on the target you want to eliminate. It is at its best when the enemy team has fast heroes and when your team is lacking slows or long-range disables.

    Losing 0.25s of stun and 50 damage is a noticeable the very early game, but it can be compensated for with the increased reliability and maybe an extra auto-attack, if you time your Sprint correctly.

    The later progression falls back to normal in most cases, and extra level in Sprint are usually not taken, until Slithereen Crush is maxed out.

    Talented Support

    The most interesting choices for the hero happen in the early game. His level 10 talent is especially crucial, since it will determine your capability to freely farm jungle for the next 10 or so minutes.

    +6 Health regen doesn’t do a whole lot in teamfights. Given how Slardar is on the front lines, it is not uncommon for this talent to have absolutely no effect on the battle. +175 mana suffers from the same problem, but it also restricts your ability to farm up during the downtime in-between fights.

    Once you have Blink, however, initiating and rotating out to allow your team to deal damage, and then re-initiating becomes a very viable tactic, which requires a larger mana pool than a hero with 1.5 Intelligence growth has. So, when you hit level 10, the biggest question to answer are whether you already have your Blink Dagger, which can be hard to farm as a support. Additionally, you can also think whether you will need a Force Staff in this game, since the item gives enough mana on its own.

    Finally, if you like planning, you could also think whether this game looks like it will go on for a very long time (multiple hard-carries on either side, low push potential of either team etc.). If you have your Blink Dagger, and Force Staff isn’t going to be a really good choice, going for mana is a very good option. If, however, Force Staff is vital or preferable (e.g. Lifestealer on the enemy team), going for extra regen can allow you to get to the item much faster. Having extra regen also helps a lot in the long run, if your team will need you to transition into a core role.

    Two Builds

    There are two “schools of thought” when it comes to position four Slardar builds. One of them heavily concentrates on utility the hero provides, maximizing his teamfight utility. The other concentrates on his “anti-carry” properties.

    The utility one is generally easy—after your core Blink, you go for Force Staff, if needed, and then start building either strong Auras (e.g. Vladmir’s Offering) or single target buffs/debuffs (e.g. Solar Crest, Heaven’s Halberd). Even Assault Cuirass can be within your reach, if played correctly and the game goes on long enough.

    Alternatively, it is possible to build a hero into a very good “anti-carry”. Unlike typical carries Slardar won’t deal tons of damage, but he can prevent the enemy carry from being a factor in engagements. This will prioritize attack speed and the ability to withstand enemy focus while you are close and personal with their core. It usually starts with a Hand of Midas and then progresses depending on the situation. Black King Bar is also purchased quite frequently, if you are planning on focusing down a single enemy target.

    In either build there is an item that is often overlooked by the community. If you are playing against a team with persistent AoE magic damage (any Radiance carrier, Sniper or Tinker), once you get your Blink Dagger you should immediately rush Hood of Defiance. The active part of this item allows you to ignore 325 magic damage, and since you are not taking damage from Shrapnel, [missing skill: tinker-march-of-the-machines-5152] or Radiance, your Blink doesn’t go on cooldown, meaning that you can initiate much deeper and get to those pesky backline targets.

    Final Thoughts

    Slardar was hit pretty hard in 7.03, but it didn’t take away from his core strengths. He is still an excellent initiator with strong late-game presence.

    Playing him in the offlane is still very much an option, but position four support role doesn’t hit him too hard in terms of XP and gold gain—his talents can get him to his Blink Dagger in a timely manner. This allows your team to have an extra damage dealer or a strong utility core, while having a dedicated roaming hero, who excels in night-time ganks.

    Playing the hero in the support role can be tricky in the beginning, but the payoff is worth it, especially in pub games, which are unnecessarily drawn out.

    As seen on Dotabuff

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