An Aggressor’s Strategy to Slither.io
“Even a worm turns against the foot that crushes it.”
For the past couple of weeks, I have found the cracks in my schedule to be filled with Slither.io, a cunning little multiplayer game that is playable both in the browser (my preferred platform) or on your iOS tablet or phone (too fussy to control).
As it is not my intention to lure you into playing as much as it is to explain to you my current strategy for getting to the top of the leaderboard—at least for a moment, as every worm must turn to stardust in time—I’m going to gloss over the mechanics of game itself and presume you already know the basics. Sometimes I will call the characters worms and sometimes I will call them snakes. Whatever!
Instead, I will try to describe my maneuvers relative to size+points, as the tactics change as you grow.
Eat orbs. Avoid death. This is the only time where the point cost to using the up arrow to boost is worth being mindful of, as it’s very easy to boost yourself all the way back down to zero again.
What you’re aiming to do here is get enough length that you can 1) dash in front of other worms if the opportunity presents itself, and 2) stockpile enough extra length that you can burn it off for a quick escape if necessary.
Remember also a central tenent of Slither.io: no one is ever your friend. Get used to curling out of the way of oncoming traffic, expecting that the little worm that has been going perfectly straight for a few seconds will suddenly lunge for your head, or for the lumbering giant to slowly encircle you until you find yourself in a coil of doom.
My first move is typically to head towards the center of the map, ostensibly where the most action is, until I cross paths with a worm large enough to throw off some excess orbs. I tend to be in “scavenger mode” until at least around 1,000 points, unless a particularly dumb snake gives me an easy, isolated kill that I cannot resist. With a little bit of poking around, it’s not hard to get up to around 1,000 points just by eating the leftovers of a larger snake’s kill.
Actually, let me take a moment to expand on these basic guidelines:
- Trust no snake, especially if they have a cute name.
- Always eat what’s on your plate—better to get 500 points by curling around a few errant orbs in safety than 5,000 points by rushing headlong into a feeding frenzy.
- Boosting is scary but managable, and essential to getting to the Aggressor’s Strategy, so get comfortable with it as soon as possible.
- Snakes grow from the tail. Never travel across the anticipated end of a snake’s path before it is truly non occupying the space, as it could be feeding, which will mean the end you think you’re just going to sneak by will actually stay in place for a few seconds longer.
- Keyboard controls are better than mouse.
- Commit to your turns. There is no time for second guessing in Slither.io.
- Always have an exit path. It’s better to retreat than to be caught with no exit.
Around this length, I start to segue out of scavenging from the outside of larger snakes into a hybrid hunting-scavening mode. What you’re looking for are what I call “feeding frenzies,” which typically occur when a larger snake explodes and all the smaller snakes dash into the orbs, colliding and fighting and generally making a mess. By curling around the outside of these frenzies, keeping a nice coiled space of your own body available for retreat when possible, you can both slurp off the excess orbs from the outside of the frenzy in relative safety, as well as swoop in once all the more aggressive snakes have finished killing themselves.
As you approach a length of 5,000, you’ll have enough length to perform what I consider to be the most important move of the game: the cross.
The cross is the most important pattern to be able to spot and execute in Slither.io. Most people don’t do it at all; I confess it took me almost a week to realize its utility.
Simply, when you see another snake explode, instead of rushing towards its orbs, cut across its orb path as your first move. This does a couple of things: 1) it keeps the likelihood of colliding with other oncoming snakes to a minimum, 2) it increases the chance that other snakes that are unwisely careening down the orb path will collide with you, exploding them into more tasty orbs, and 3) it usually sends you back into a more open space where, in the brief second you have before making a curving return, will let you assess whether you’re going to be able to coil around a clump of orbs safely or if the more prudent move will be to let the other snakes duke it out.
Even if you can’t coil around a nice orb dinner after you perform the cross, it’s usually possible to turn 180 degrees and travel back down your path, giving you at least a few morsels on the way back down.
The main tension in Slither.io is whether or not to take the risk to get orbs. The cross allows you to stake a claim on an area in the safest way possible, which also giving you a chance for escape. It’s not guaranteed to be safe—but it is the best tactic I have discovered.
I typically perform the cross by boosting across the path, then going back to normal speed to assess the situation, then boosting or cruising as seems best.
Typically performing one or two crosses—depending on the size of the orb clouds—will take me well past 5,000 in thousand-orb jumps.
Now the true hunting begins.
Once you have enough length, your turning radius will increase, making it harder to dart in front of other worms. Fortunately, you are also big enough now to have effectively unlimited boost, which will now become your main weapon—second only to deviousness.
Smaller worms will now see you as a big score; many will trail after you like remora, snapping at your head when they see a chance. Don’t give them that chance. Coil in on yourself when you need to take a breather, leaving a generous space inside for your own manuevers. (Think lasso, not spiral.)
As you grow to be around 10,000-points long, you can start slowly encircling other snakes as they battle or feed. It is ridiculously evil, and so much fun. They’ll see you as a big, gentle giant, and you’ll slowly turn and maneuver away from their little squabbles, but what you’re actually doing is making a long, lazy arc around the whole mess. I’ve encircled three or four snakes at once, watched them duke it out internally, then giggled as the final snake can’t resist slurping up all the remaining orbs, dooming himself as he makes himself longer inside my coil.
At this point you should be big enough to approach the leaderboard; tenth place is usually around 15,000 to 20,000. There’s no particular difference in play style once you’re in the top ten. Your tempo should remain the same: lazy, internally coiling moves punctuated by crazy bursts of speed to either perform crosses or to spook smaller worms. Nothing is scarier than being next to a 15,000+ snake that is boosting and boosting, and it tends to shake off some of the smaller harriers.
Even at such a large size, you can and will find yourself surprised by being inside a chaotic frenzy without warming. Curl back on yourself, find a path out of the mess, and boost toward the edges until you feel ready to head back into the scrum.
Using these tactics I can get over 5,000 almost every time I play within 1–2 minutes, regularly crest 10,000, and have touched the top of the leaderboard at least once a day. Of course, I die a lot with only 100 points, too, because of a bad turn or bad luck. The constant looming fear of death is what makes Slither.io a great respite from life’s worries.
Oh, I usually name myself “Don’t Tread.” If you kill me, let me know, so I can hunt you down in another life.