When it comes to the current pub environment, one hero stands out across all brackets. Lycan has gained significant momentum coming into the 7.xx era and nothing seems to be able to slow him down.
The hero has been long forgotten by the pub and pro players alike. Despite not receiving any major nerfs, he was still considered a very niche pick. It all changed when 7.00 came—the reworks have made the hero a very scary ganker, split-pusher and carry. And from the looks of it, he is definitely not ready for Captain’s Mode.
The problem with micro-heavy heroes in Dota is that no one really wants to play them. There are countless opportunities for misplays and lost efficiency—realizing that you might not be an exceptionally gifted micro-player is not a very rewarding feeling.
That said, the current meta might be developing towards more player-controlled units. We see frequent Helm of the Dominator pick-ups in the pro-scene, and the dominated creeps are often used proactively, rather than for stacking.
Being able to control multiple units might not be a top priority, but the importance of this skill has significantly risen in the current patch.
And then there is Lycan. A hero, who traditionally goes for Necronomicon and recently has been incorporating the Helm into his build. Overall, it requires the management of 5+ units in the later stages of the game. Only a couple of them have active abilities, but they still require to be handled with care. Or do they?
In the past month, Lycan has been at his best in the <2k bracket. Very few players in this skill range are capable of adequately controlling their single hero, let alone managing a whole army. Yet, a 54.45% winrate definitely signals that the hero works, regardless of the micro skills of the player.
Moreover, this value does not significantly drop as the MMR rises—in 5k+ games, the hero still holds a respectable 54.40% winrate.
What it means, in theory, is that while the hero does undoubtedly reward ability to efficiently control multiple units, it is not always a necessity. Instead, he offers extra reward for being played correctly, while being effective even in the less-able hands.
His reworked Howl is a strong spell that helps the entire team. While it obviously works even better with more units and better micro, it still provides sufficient sustain and power to make it worth its while, even if your wolves are just auto-attacking.
Looking at the guides page, one thing immediately stands out—the skill and item build for the hero can be very different.
The skill progression can prioritize maxing out either of the three initial skills, with the focus on Feral Impulse potentially being the least effective option, since it scales better in the later stages of the game.
Adjusting to a hero who can switch playstyles depending on the game is no easy task and Lycan is truly deserving of the shapeshifter title.
The same can be said about the hero talents as well: there are almost no clear winners at each level, with the respawn time reduction being the only exception. It is worth noting though that, as a strong split-pushing hero, being able to suicide and wither down opponent’s buildings might be an option--as (in-)effective it may or may not be.
One of the major downsides of all melee heroes and some ranged ones, is that it can be hard to stay on target. Force Staffs, mobility abilities and enemy slows and disables can be detrimental to your ability to output damage.
For that reason, some DPS and survivability efficiency is often sacrificed in favor of Blink Daggers and Boots of Travel—they do not increase your carry potential, but they are often a condition on which your ability to do anything at all is hanging.
Lycan does not have this problem because of his innate abilities. Furthermore, the introduction of the backpack allows him to safely teleport to any lane and while the TP is channeling, to switch items in favor of DPS ones. You run at 650 regardless of your items—why not concentrate on dishing out the maximum amount of damage?
This alone immediately puts him ahead of many other cores—he has a very strong scaling abilities in both the Feral Impulse and his ultimate, while potentially having an extra item slot. It doesn’t necessarily come into play until the very late stages of the game, but it provides him with a certain degree of freedom even in the earlier stages. Given how you effectively have an item slot to spare, more than any other hero you can allow yourself to go for cheaper, more cost-efficient items, making tempo plays a possibility.
There is a reason Lycan is currently banned from Captain’s Mode—the hero is exceptionally strong. From 400 HP full team “heals” during nighttime, to massive structure damage and high carry potential, Lycan is definitely deserving of attention.
Simply due to his “micro-heavy” perception, he remains a very unpopular pick in pubs and it is something that will probably change. While your pubs are still not ready for this hero, it is possible to abuse him. And it can also serve as a great start towards improving your micro skills as well.