The Zoo is back in town! This is a master Lycan’s in-depth guide on how to dominate with the hero in 7.30!
When it comes to the Zoo Meta, it’s usually made up of the same familiar faces. With the new Helm of the Overlord, it’s no surprise the beasts are out to play again. One of the main abusers of this new item is none other than Banehallow, the Lycan. Lycan Dota 2's popularity has been fleeting in recent years, but he has returned to favour.
Lycan has always been an immensely frustrating hero to play against. When you see him picked, you know exactly what he’s going to do - but he just does it anyway. The hero has risen immensely in both pick and win-rate with the new patch. As such, it’s important to know how to play him, and how to counter the pesky wolf. Here’s my guide on how to run with the dogs, so you don’t howl in pain when you look at your MMR.
The Golden Rule With Lycan
For as long as Lycan has been a hero, there has always been one founding principle for the hero. No, it’s not “Wolves need no armor” it's "WIN EARLY". While Lycan is capable of carrying games, he’s not exactly a typical “hard carry”, and falls off hard in the late game. Your goal as Lycan should always be to dominate the early to mid game. This is done through systematically taking all outer towers, Roshan and then highground.
With the changes to the hero in 7.30, we’re seeing a lot of Lycan offlane, but don't stress - this guide applies to Lycan in any core role.
Who Needs Necrobook Anyway?
Previously, Lycan relied heavily on his Necronomicon timing to exert immense pressure. Now, Lycan will be playing around Helm of the Dominator instead, which is all around less powerful, but still strong. It's less broken, but it still does the job. A level 6 Lycan running at you with 2 Wolves and a Neutral Creep still spells doom.
Lycan's lupine spells
Lycan's kit, much like himself, are pretty straightforward. Still, that’s what makes all the tips we’re about to share even juicier. If you want to read about his abilities in full detail, you can do so here. We’re about to let you in on the difference between an average Lycan, and a pack leader.
Summon Wolves (Q)
Lycan's bread and butter. It's deceptively strong ability, and can make him a menace to deal with when used well. Between scouting, lane pressure, body-blocking - the possibilities are endless.
Their most common use is for farming and last-hitting. Coupled with Lycan's already formidable base damage, Lesser Wolves make getting last-hits in lane easy. In general though, they're pretty fragile. As the leader of the pack, it's your job to keep your boys safe. Be sure to keep dancing them out and make sure they don't tank too much. Smart opponents will do their best to target them down.
The Wolves make up for a significant part of your damage, so it's instrumental to have them up as much as possible. While they don't really feed away that much gold or experience, the issue is their mana-cost.
All that is pretty basic, but here’s where it gets good.
With the invisibility at Level 3, Wolves can be used to tail your opponents. Simply issue a move command (M if you haven't changed it) on your wolf onto an enemy hero, and voila. It’s essentially a free Track baby.
This one’s a bit trickier, but you can use Wolves to body-block heroes you’re hunting down. After issuing an attack command with your main hero, select one wolf to move in front of your target, blocking them like you would a creep wave. You can also do this in lane to help your support win trades.
Lastly, you can aggro wolves onto Blink Initiators, like Axe, to stop cancel their Blinks in fights. While this isn’t a comprehensive list of everything they can do, it’s really all up to how creative you can be.
The Lesser Wolves in Question
The Lesser Wolves last for slightly under a minute, and casting the ability again replaces your current pair with new ones. With levels in the ability, the wolves also gain new abilities.
Invisibility - Wolf Ability (Passive)
Level 3 is where the boys get invisible, and they become that much peskier. Their invisibility will break when they attack, but using Howl will not. Also note that they do not have phased movement - so they can be used to block while invisible!
Cripple - Wolf Ability (Passive)
With each attack, the wolves will have a 20% chance to debuff the target with Cripple. This does damage per second and reduces attack and move speed. This isn’t that big of a deal, but it’s the movement speed slow that is the important bit. This is what allows Lycan to really catch up to squishy backliners.
While insane on paper, you usually skip this ability in favour of the others early on. While the armour reduction is pretty straightforward, the real kicker is the attack damage reduction. This can be really useful for gimping enemy carries.
It has a really low mana cost, so you’ll be spamming it to farm that much faster. Just be wary though, if you’re tailing an opponent with a wolf, it may give you away.
Feral Impulse (E - Passive)
The simplest of Lycan’s abilities. The important aspect of this ability is that applies to all his units, including units from Helms. Additionally, the effect is global, which really amplifies the rat potential.
The added attack damage and regen really helps make up for Lycan's rather weak laning phase.
Shapeshift (R - Ultimate)
Lycan turns into a big ass wolf, during which he and all his units get bonus health, movement speed, a 40% chance to crit and cannot be slowed. Lycan's whole shtick is that he's half-man half-wolf. In that vein, you become a BEAST with Shapeshift, but you're pretty useless without it.
It's this ability that lets Lycan actually kill people, and impossible to kite or kill. The only things you have to watch out for are stuns, leashes or anything that limits your movement.
Additionally, the spell has a 1.1 second cast time, so you want to pop it pre-emptively. It's entirely possible that your enemies just chain stun you while you're transforming and you just...die.
The bonus HP it provides is nice, but that doesn't mean it's time to go gung-ho. Use the buffs to play around the fights, sending your army in. You should be playing on the side-lines, going in only when the time is right.
Lycan turns into a big ass wolf, during this time Lycan and all his units get bonus health, movement speed, cannot be slowed and gain a 40% chance to crit. But remember it’s got a 1.1 cast time - so you ideally want to cast it BEFORE you actually need it - as you can get chain stunned while transforming and just die…
Just like every transformation ability, its weakness is the downtime. Whenever Shapeshift is popped, that's a window for your opponents to make plays.
Wolf Bite - Aghanim's Scepter Ability (D)
Lets you bite an ally hero - giving them all bonuses of Shapeshift. Although it is worth noting that it comes with an added 30% shared lifesteal - which is pretty nice. Very good if you are playing more of a utility Lycan and have an ally who is a good Wolf Bite target (Slark, Sven, etc). Note that the transformation time also applies - so don’t grief your carry by stunning them for 1.1 seconds!
How To Level Up Lycan's Skills
Lycan's skill build is pretty standard. You always want to max Summon Wolves because they help you do just about everything better. The earlier Cripple helps immensely with getting kills with Shapeshift too. The Wolves ramp up greatly in damage, and can actually threaten towers - which I'll get to later.
Feral Impulse will be your second priority, with the regen helping a ton in the laning stage. Just like 99% of heroes, you grab your ultimate whenever available.
Howl can be skipped until level 10 or 11, since the minus armor doesn't speed up your farm as much as your other skills. There's only one exception, and that's if the debuff can help you grab kills in lane. With the way Lycan is before level 6 though, that's rarely going to be case.
Lycan's Talents - What talents to pick and why?
Lvl 10: +15 Summon Wolves Damage vs +8 Feral HP Regen
As we've already explained, Wolves just help you do everything better. The HP regen is just a tad bit overkill.
Lvl 15: -20s Shapeshift Cooldown vs +200 Summon Wolves Health
This is a tricky one. Personally, I favor the Shapeshift Cooldown as it basically increases my uptime playing active. However, if you're focusing more on split-pushing than fighting, the Health can come in handy.
Lvl 20: +30% Feral Impulse Damage vs +6 Shapeshift Duration
Another toss up here. I lean towards Shapeshift Duration, as it provides more "room for error" in teamfights. The increased duration means you don't have to worry about being caught with your pants down when it runs out. If you're confident in using the ultimate, take Feral Impulse Damage as it is a truckload.
Lvl 25: +2 Wolves Summoned vs +32% Chance Shapeshift Critical Strike
This one is purely personal choice. I like to +2 Wolves because if I'm level 25, I'm probably not man-fighting anyone - it's ratting time. If your enemies have AOE or easy ways to take em' out though - take the Crit.
What items to build on Lycan?
Lycan already has built-in regen and last-hitting damage, so he's not as reliant on starting item builds as other heroes. Still, here are my recommendations.
A standard build to start off with is Quelling Blade, Magic Stick, Set of Tangos, 2 Ironwood Branch and a Faerie Fire. The magic stick is particularly nice for summoning more Wolves.
On the offlane though, if you're taking some harass you can grab a Ring of Protection and extra set of Tangos instead. The ring gives you a lot of effective HP against physical damage, like Drow Ranger, plus it builds into Vlads later too.
Your goal in the early game as Lycan is to farm your Helm of the Dominator as fast as possible. Small items are generally a waste of gold on Lycan as you should have enough regen and damage to farm comfortably.
The only thing you might consider buying early is the Sage's Mask (which you will use later) for extra mana regen in lane.
Really, the only choice you have here is which component of Helm of Dominator to start with. Grab the Crown if you are having an easy lane and don’t need health regen, otherwise save for the Helm of Ironwill if you do need the regen and the armor.
Finish up your Helm of the Overlord and then work towards a Drums of Endurance and/or Power Treads. Power Treads are not strictly necessary as skipping them allows you to get to the next big item quicker. However, if you hate walking slowly between camps; Power Treads are good value for money.
Your next pick up will likely be a Black King Bar (if you are worried about being chain stunned to death or kited too much) or an Assault Cuirass if BKB isn’t desperately needed.
Assault Cuirass is great on Lycan as it gives you everything you want - armor, attack speed and the minus armor aura synergizes amazingly with your army for killing and pushing.
Late Game and Luxury Items
Skull Basher: is always nice - it provides Lycan some much needed lockdown (and a way to cancel TPs) and super useful for when enemy carries start picking up BKBs. Additionally, Lycan is one of the few heroes that still likes building Abyssal Blade, as his speed makes up for his melee range active. In fact, Abyssal can be invaluable in the late game to secure important kills.
Nullifier: pick this up if you are struggling to kill those pesky supports.
Solar Crest: this is a great choice for when you are playing offlane Lycan as it provides cheap stats and minus armor.
Heaven’s Halberd: can be very good if you are facing heroes like TA, Sven or PA. The status resistance and strength are always nice. This is especially good if you aren’t the hard carry on your team.
Orchid Malevolence: can be nice if you are trying to hunt down sneaky heroes like Puck. However, be careful with this - as you will be buying it relatively late into the game, the enemies may already have counters like Eul’s or BKB. I find it’s often better to simply focus on heroes you CAN catch and clean the others up after.
Aghanim’s Scepter: another great item for offlane Lycan. However, it's really only good if you have a core that wants to be Shapeshifted, this tends to be melee carries only.
Heart of Tarrasque: if you aren’t struggling to catch heroes or worried about being chain stunned - heart gives you lots of damage and the health regen is very nice as you can kite out of fight and come back in with full health.
Refresher Orb: 2 Shapeshifts and 2 BKB charges can be very handy in the ultra late game. Trust me.
The "I Hate Micro" Alternative Lycan Build
If (for some reason) you don't want to build Helm of the Overlord and you want to fill more of a traditional carry role, this build is absolutely still viable. Only do this as Position 1 Lycan though!
Armlet is the best substitute to Helm of the Dominator in the early game - it allows you to farm faster, gives great stats for its price and the health loss is largely offset by Feral Impulse.
Echo Sabre is the flavor of the month item for carries, and it's pretty great on Lycan too. The mana regen is very nice and the double attack can help you dish out damage in chases.
Mask of Madness - another farming item that does pretty well when paired with Armlet. However, you don’t want to get too many small items (as this will delay your AC/BKB too much) - so choose between Echo and Mask. Personally, I prefer Echo Sabre.
After Armlet and Echo Sabre, the build becomes the same as above: AC or BKB and then whatever Luxury Item you feel you need.
How To Stomp Games As Lycan
Shapeshift ready? Go push or fight. Shapeshift on cooldown? Farm.
One of my favourite things about Lycan is that his play style is very simple and systematic. You don’t really have to make that many overall decisions, instead you can just focus on the small stuff.
Not sure when to farm? Easy, when your ultimate is on cooldown, that’s farm time. Not sure when to fight? Simple, is your ultimate off cooldown? Go fight.
Pushing is pretty simple on Lycan too. There’s basically two different types of pushing as Lycan:
Push Type 1 - With The Homies
You have your ultimate ready and your team (or at least some of your team) behind you. In this scenario you WANT to fight - so you either take the tower or the enemy is forced to come fight you. When they come you use Shapeshift and take the fight and ideally you win. Then go back to pushing or farming.
Push Type 2 - Without The Homies
You don’t have your ultimate ready and/or your team ISN’T behind you. In this scenario you DON’T want to fight, you just want to force a reaction from the enemy team then slink back to the jungle after forcing out a TP or 2.
Don't underestimate the effectiveness of forcing the enemies to react to you. This can allow your team to have the numbers advantage when fighting on the other side of the map or waste the enemy team's valuable farm time.
Remember, your job as Lycan is simple: Take towers when possible. Take fights when your ultimate is up. Use the threat of pushing to force fights if the enemy keeps dodging you. (Same goes for Rosh.) And any downtime should be spent farming.
Before the creeps even spawn you can start being annoying with wolves. Scout around mid for possible wards and/or send a wolf to deny a bounty rune. This is a cheeky low risk, high-reward play which you should get in the habit of doing every game.
As mentioned above, Lycan’s laning phase is simple. Don’t die. Hit Creeps. Get that Helm of Dominator ASAP.
9 times out of 10, your laning phase as Lycan will be you eating harass (which is okay because Feral Impulse) and securing last hits with your hero and wolves (while trying to keep your wolves alive).
Lycan is basically awful at harassing enemy heroes due to him being melee and having slow movement speed. So only whack people if they are stupid enough to get close to you, but generally prioritize last hitting.
However, in the right circumstances, kills can present themselves. If you're confident in your micro - try to body block with a wolf while you slap your enemy to death. Otherwise just hit ‘em with your hero and your wolves and … well that’s it really. They either die or they don't! Your kill potential in lane largely relies on your support and the enemies positioning.
Additionally, keep an eye out for times when your wolves could be useful elsewhere. Denying runes, killing couriers and helping your support win trades / secure kills. This can be especially relevant when you're laning with a friend who can easily tell you to send your wolves over to help out when trading harass.
Remember to ferry regen IF NEEDED. Wasting gold is better than being forced out of XP range or dying. Lycan really thrives with levels as all his spells help him farm faster and begin to snowball. And don’t stress too much if your laning phase goes badly as you can jungle pretty fast to catch back up.
The most important thing for Lycan in the early game is your first couple of Shapeshifts. You want to use your 1st Shapeshift as soon as possible and you want it to result in at least a kill.
In the worst case scenario, you use Shapeshift and the enemy TPs out in your face. That’s sad, but you should still have a chance to whack the tower a whole bunch now that your lane is empty. In the best case scenario, your first Shapeshift nets you a few kills and a tier 1 tower. That’s the good stuff.
If there is no hero in your lane for you to run at. Then just keep hitting the tower until they come to defend it or you take the tower.
You should be prepping for this first Shapeshift slightly in advance. Are you laning vs an invis hero? Ferry yourself some Dust. Is your Helm of Dom about to be finished? Head over to the jungle and find the best creep available. Don’t be lazy, it’s important this goes well.
Good players that see a Lycan running in on them will immediately TP out. As such, you should be linking up with your allies with disables to get the most out of your ultimate.
In the same vein of preparing to use Shapeshift, try to identify what heroes are "killable". If you're against a Tide or Bristleback for instance, it's not going to happen. You'll have much more success rotating somewhere else.
Even if it doesn't exactly work in the way I've laid out, DON'T PANIC - keep farming and wait for your ultimate to be up again before trying again.
Mid Game - Lycan sucks with Aegis
The mid game will change some aspects of your playstyle, but it's still completely centered around the same principle, communicate with your team and play around your ultimate!
However, there are a few extra pointers about Lycan in the mid game which I'll generously share with you.
Clear the ancients as much as possible. This is pretty standard carry stuff which absolutely applies to Lycan. Around the 10-15 minute mark you should be able to clear the ancient camp relatively quickly, so don’t neglect to do so. Clearing the camp also increases the chances of finding an ancient creep you want!
Farm two areas at once. In the mid game you will have max Wolves and Feral Impulse - meaning your wolves deal good damage. Use this to your advantage!
Don’t go to fights if you don’t have Shapeshift - but DO send your army. More often than not, rocking up to a team fight without Shapeshift is a sure-fire way to get yourself killed. So, instead send your creep and wolves to be annoying. They can at least zone a support out of the fight and sometimes even secure kills for you (or your team) while you are safely farming.
JUST KILL THE KILLABLE THINGS. Again, it's important to identify where your gang can do the most work. Running in and trying to kill an Axe is never going to work out for you. Focus on the heroes you know you CAN kill.
If Lycan actually gets to hit a target, they die extremely fast, allowing you to move onto the next one. Additionally, if the fight starts with you obliterating 1 or 2 easy targets, the team fight is basically won. Then it’s much more likely that the surviving enemies will have to run away, allowing you to clean up or chase down the others.
The only time where this doesn’t apply is when you're dealing with obnoxious ‘save’ heroes like Oracle or Dazzle. In this situation - either just run head-long at them to kill them (or at least zone them out of the fight). This can also be done with by simply sending your army at the annoying hero and using your hero to deal damage elsewhere, it’s very hard for an Oracle to play the teamfight with 2 wolves and a creep running at them.
If you aren't omega-fed - don’t hard-commit into a fight if you have any fear of dying to heavy burst or lock down. Instead, use your army to harass the backliners while keeping your hero at the edge of the fight. Let your team soak some spells and wait for a better opportunity to engage.
The further ahead you are - the more acceptable just running in is, and vice versa.
You need to play teamfights smart… like a wolf. Don’t manfight the Sven and don’t run charging into an Echo Slam.
Finally, Lycan sucks with aegis. You don’t respawn in Shapeshift so really what’s the point. Give the aegis to the next most important hero on your team that’s not you and tell them to go wild!
Ideally, Lycan’s late game should be you looking at the scoreboard cause you've already won. But I do have a few notes for you if you do find yourself in the awkward position of playing Lycan in the later stages of the game.
Don’t get cocky. I can’t even count the amount of games I’ve lost Lycan games even though I’m 1 or 2 racks up. Ratting is not what it used to be and should not be relied on to finish out games. (Although the power of ratting will depend on your skill bracket to some extent).
Lycan also falls off extremely hard compared to most other carries unless you have a big item advantage on them. Additionally, the whole ‘running at easy to kill heroes’ strategy becomes a lot less effective when the enemy has 3 Force Staffs, 2 Euls and your BKB is down to 6 seconds. Sadly, even your army becomes less and less effective as the game drags on.
Abuse your speed. Fights in the late game can drag on for a while and this is very good for Lycan. You may find yourself unable to take head-on fights, but you are still very capable of chasing down or punishing heroes that are out of position. Play on the edges of the fight and run in when you see an opportunity, if the enemies react - simply run out again. Doing this over and over can force enemies to over-commit - and that’s when you and your team can jump them.
Similarly, you can always pop your ult and start ratting a different lane. This will force an enemy or two to react to you, allowing you to quickly re-maneuver back to the main fight and take a good engagement.
Don’t linger in fights. As soon as Shapeshift runs out, you're pretty much useless and probably dead. This is especially true in the late game as everyone and their mother will have Blink Daggers. If the fight isn’t going your way - just get the hell out of there ASAP. If Shapeshift is running out soon, tell your team that it's time to bail and do just that.
Let your team set up for you. In the late game the enemy team gets stronger, but yours does too. As Lycan at this stage of the game your main problems are getting burst and getting kited. But you still do a lot of damage to a target that is locked down. So, play around your team and wait for an opportunity to get in there and finish a target off. If your team manages to isolate a hero or lock them down, you better be there to provide the damage.
Don’t give up. As the game keeps dragging, Lycan essentially becomes a different hero. You are no longer the unkillable wolf god, but more of a pesky pup. Nonetheless, you can still rat pretty effectively, act as a massive distraction in teamfights and deal a ton of damage to heroes and buildings in the right circumstances. One good team fight is all you need to secure that W.
Who Am I Dominating and Why?
Here's a quick break down of the creeps you should be using and what they've got to offer. However, anything is better than having nothing dominated - so if your creep dies and mid-fight, just grab whatever is around!
Hellbear Smasher: Good aura for farming and good ability for ganking.
Centaur Conqueror: Good ability for ganking, especially vs mobility heroes + gives you a TP cancel.
Dark Troll Summoner: Same as Centaur but also provides more push.
Dire Wolf Alpha:Not ideal but the aura is nice for farming. Good if you suck at micro.
Satyr Tormentor: The nuke is surprisingly strong for killing and farming while the HP regen is really only good early on.
Satyr Banisher: The purge is a nice slow, but only get if u can’t get anything else.
Ancient Black Dragon: Ideal for split pushing as the fireball clears waves crazy fast. Decent armour aura.
Ancient Thunderhide: Great if you've got the micro skills to use all its abilities. The Frenzy ability is amazing on you or a right clicking ally and the ‘Slam’ spell slows move speed and attack speed. Finally the aura increases attack speed and ‘accuracy’ (who knew!).
Ancient Granite Golem: Really nice 15% bonus HP aura. The best creep if you can’t be bothered micro-ing.
Lycan Counters: Who To Avoid
Puck: Extremely hard to kill as you have no lockdown and coil is super annoying as it prevents you from making use of your movespeed. However, he’s beatable if your team has sufficient lockdown or you snowball super hard.
Earthshaker: Obviously Echo Slam is annoying if you get caught next to your whole army but really it’s Fissure that’s the issue. Fissure can stun you and sometimes even entirely block you out of a teamfight. Additionally, if you try to send your army at him, a good Earthshaker can Fissure them away from him and sneak off again. Extremely annoying but not unbeatable.
Sven: Warcry makes him and his entire team a lot more tanky against your physical damage not to mention the fact that he can cleave you and your entire army into pieces. It’s best to avoid him in teamfights entirely and focus on killing his team. However, you can abuse his weak early game by taking a lot of towers and limiting his farm space.
Terrorblade: Again, his natural armour makes him extremely hard to bring down and even if you do you run the risk of getting sundered. Add to this his insane physical burst damage means you can die even through BKB (plus its ranged so it's much harder to kite). Finally, his illusions do a great job of countering your ratting. Definitely don’t go late game vs TB.
Winter Wyvern: Similar to Earthshaker, getting caught with your army against Winter’s Curse is instant death. Very punishing if you aren’t good at micro. He can also fly around which makes him very hard to catch. Finally, Cold Embrace literally stops all your damage and Splinter Blast is a good de-push ability. Generally a great counter to Lycan and a hero that’s best avoided or banned.
Batrider: Laning against a good Batrider as Lycan is literally hell. You have slow movement speed already and he will free-farm in your face then probably kill you. If possible, dodge to another lane. Furthermore, in the mid-game 1 blink lasso is often enough to outright kill you as he will drag you into his team and you will be chain stunned to oblivion. Tell your team to buy Lotus Orbs or you'll be forced to waste money on a Linken's Sphere.
Go forth my pups!
Despite a lot of this guide focusing on small sneaky things you can do to improve your Lycan gameplay, that’s not really what Lycan is about. Lycan is about brute forcing your way through a game of DotA. He’s simple, strong and dirty. If all you care about is winning, Lycan is a great choice. Once you learn the basics, it's easy. Just play around Shapeshift, hit creeps in your downtime and kill anything slower than you. Good luck out there :)