Image by Yestar™, 南霸天 and AK47
Huskar is one of those heroes, who can be hard to balance well: they are always on the knife’s edge between being unusable and overpowered. Right now it looks like Huskar is heavily leaning towards the latter and it merits a discussion: why does the hero work better, how to play him properly and what can you do against him?
A big part of the patch was the jungle changes and with the exception of a select few, heroes now farm slower. Taking stacks, especially Ancient ones, is much harder unless you are Templar Assassin or Tiny, so the whole acceleration process for flash-farming carries gets delayed by several minutes. That widens the window of opportunity for DPS cores who have no dedicated farming tools and Huskar definitely belongs to this category.
The hero also received a mixed bag of nerfs and buffs, but the most important part is that his innate Magic Damage Resistance from Berserker’s Blood is now back. It is not a lot, going up to 25%, but it has a meaningful and sometimes unexpected effect on his survivability.
Finally, Huskar’s core-to-core matchups are usually great in this patch. He deals well with high armor targets, by being a primarily magic damage hero. He can disarm high burst right-clicking heroes like Templar Assassin and Tiny. He can also mitigate some of the problems presented by Zoo strats: with Inner Fire he has the ability to stall pushes and delay the game.
Unlike most heroes, Huskar is very rigid when it comes to his item builds and somewhat flexible when it comes to his skill build. Looking at the guides for the hero we clearly see several different approaches. Max out Berserker’s Blood first? Or maybe go for extra points in Burning Spear? Value Inner Fire early on or not?
These are the questions there is no clear answer to, but there are some guidelines. Early Inner Fire is only as good as the right-clicking damage from the enemy heroes. If it is high, you will need it for two reasons. One is obvious: it is a damage mitigation tool, after all. Second is the ability to contest the ranged creep in lane. It might be wise to go Inner Fire level one in certain matchups, especially in the middle lane.
The priority between Burning Spear and Berserker’s Blood is primarily decided by how aggressive you can afford to be in your lane and how much extra sustain you need. If you feel like dominating the lane is a possibility, going for two points in Blood and then maxing out spears is an option. 1-4-2-1 build will make you an extremely painful laner, though will leave you more susceptible to being ganked yourself.
Otherwise, players generally go for 1-2-4-1 or 1-3-3-1. This way, you have a slightly better time in the jungle, if you are forced to go there after the laning stage to get your Armlet and BKB. It should be noted that in both cases skipping and delaying the ultimate is an option. Do not delay it for too long, though — once you have your Armlet it is best to start ganking and applying pressure with your team.
Speaking of Armlet and general Huskar item builds, there is very little room for creativity. Armlet is non-negotiable. The hero simply doesn’t work without it and you should still build it even against heroes like Ancient Apparition. You need the extra damage and, more importantly, the extra Armor.
BKB as a second item is also close to mandatory. There is a case to be made in favor of Heaven’s Halberd, another great defensive item, but it is extremely game-specific. In our opinion, you will need BKB as a second item in 80%+ of your games.
In most cases, you will be building Aghanims’ Scepter as your third item and Assault Cuirass next. Aghanim’s Upgrade is a 3-second, BKB-piercing, undispellable disable. It is highly telegraphed and for some heroes trivial to avoid, but with a 12 or 9-second cooldown it is an ability you can use multiple times in a fight, locking down priority targets and not allowing them to concentrate on your teammates or escape. Our initial proposition for utility Huskar was met with disdain a year ago, but with the most recent buffs and changes to the tempo of the game, it is undeniably meta.
Assault Cuirass is what solidifies this build and is the last non-negotiable item for the hero. Huskar needs all the armor he can get and Assault Cuirass gives a lot of it. Later progression should theoretically default to Satanic, but most of the time you will have to respond to the enemy progression and depending on it, Eye of Skadi, Silver Edge or MKB could be necessary. Finally, a lot of players are experimenting with an Overwhelming Blink build and with Aghanim’s Scepter in mind, it makes a lot of sense.
Unlike most other heroes who need a dedicated “Dealing with…” Blog Post there is little to no nuance to dealing with Huskar. You just have to be stronger than him and that’s about it. In the current patch it can be quite problematic, given how he is in a relatively better position in terms of economy, while being slightly overtuned, but it can be done.
Most important part is knowing when not to engage. Huskar with Armlet and BKB has no peers. Well, technically there are heroes like Razor who could go toe-to-toe with him, but in the Top10 most popular carries space, Huskar reigns supreme in this 16-25 timing window. There is little to no reason to fight him at this point unless the enemy player himself got too arrogant and stepped out of position as an isolated target. Even then, make sure you know where Huskar’s backup is and what your response is.
Sometimes it could also be beneficial for supports to trade their lives in a fake attack to force a BKB charge. This could be a long-term strategy, or a buyback into teamfight play. The latter option can be incredibly important around Roshan timings: Huskar with two lives can be overwhelming enough to go highground early on.
Huskar’s biggest weakness is his distinct lack of Agility, hence Armor. A lot of it is mitigated by Armlet, but many current meta heroes can go for an early Desolator or at least Orb of Corrosion, while a lot of supports should consider Solar Crest. It might seem that Spirit Vessel is a good item against Huskar, but with a 12 (9) second dispel and BKB, using it effectively can be very problematic. Your team is better off going Shiva’s and Eye of Skadi, for a much more reliable way to deal with regeneration.
Finally, abuse Huskar’s low mobility as much as you can: spread the map, constantly push the lanes and force him to chase you or trade towers when he is at his peak. Only engage when you have the tools for it and leave Huskar kill-starved. The hero is among the slowest farmers and will naturally fall off without the kill and assist gold.