About a year ago, we highlighted the strengths of Lycan in 7.00 and for the hero it has only gotten better since. 7.07 introduced a variety of changes to attributes and regen. Couples with re-worked talents, Lycan feels stronger than ever, dominating pubs in every skill bracket with a standout win rate of almost 56% in the Very High Skill bracket. This success extends to the pro scene as well, where Lycan is getting picked more often with a win rate similar to his pubs.
How does one deal with Lycan?
Lycan is a very difficult hero to lockdown. His ultimate can be interrupted, but once he has successfully shapseshifted, Lycan cannot be slowed down, similar to Weaver in Shukuchi. As such, stuns will always be superior to slows against Lycan, especially longe-range AoE initiation spells. As important as it is to lockdown Lycan, it can be just as important to lockdown his army of minions, as they have the potential to hunt down supports by themselves.
Earthshaker is an obvious counter to Lycan. Not only does he have a long-range, AoE stun, Fissure can also be used to block off any escape paths, forcing Lycan at the very least to fight instead of taking flight. That fissure block can also be used to hold the highground against Lycan, blocking him and his army off from the tower. Echo Slam is of course the biggest counter to Lycan, as it turns his army against him. That said, Earthshaker is far from a strong support pick these days, but a lot of what he offers can be done with other supports as well.
Tusk’s Ice Shards function in a similar way to fissure, blocking off Lycan rather than locking him down. Snowball works as a long-range initiation and Walrus Punch is an additional ability to hold him down. While Frozen Sigil may not be able to slow down Lycan’s movement speed in Shapeshift, it does slow down his attack speed and that of his minions.
Axe deserves a special mention here as well. Berserker’s Call is an exceptional ability against a minion heavy pusher such as Lycan. Similarly, Elder Titan is a strong pick against Lycan as well, especially since ET’s aura makes Lycan more vulnerable to magic damage.
Another hero deserves a special shoutout here, despite not necessarily having hard lockdown. Brewmaster’s ultimate is very strong against Lycan, as he can throw the hero into the air for a prolonged time and can deal 1000 damage to Lycan’s summoned units. While he can’t instantly kill either he Necronomicons nor the level 4 Wolves, it does deal significant damage and makes it much easier to clean them up. Dispel Magic also has a 4 second cooldown only, allowing at least three uses in a fight, which is definitely enough to kill them.
The main aspect of Lycan’s strength is of course his ability to take towers with little effort and commitment. Apart from his Necrobook, he doesn’t have any big cooldown to play around, with Shapeshift not being an important ability when pushing.
In order to prevent him from pushing, heroes need to have long-range nukes, that don’t put them in a compromising position as Lycan can hunt down most supports. While the aforementioned examples all work as well, there are other heroes worth noting here, such as Winter Wyvern or Legion Commander. Both heroes have decently long-ranged depushing abilities and even have the added benefit of having a strong ultimate to pick off Lycan.
That said, Lycan players have started to adapt to this measure of dealing with him and a Pipe of Insight is a rather common pick-up among Lycan players. This doesn't mean that any form of depush is pointless, but it means that a team usually needs more than just one or two abilities do deal with Lycan's push.
A running gag in the Dota 2 community is/was to answer “ward his jungle” whenever someone asked for advice in dealing with a certain hero. It originated in users’ quests to take down Lycan in pubs, as he could--back then--farm the jungle and come out much stronger than most could deal with. Nowadays, Lycan doesn’t farm the jungle much early on, but there are ways to deal with him that sound much easier on paper than they actually are. As with any carry, holding him down in the laning stage and cutting him off from any resources is a reliable way of dealing with him, though this is not an easy feat to accomplish.
What can be easy though is to pick heroes that simply push faster than him. Lycan, as good as his own push my be, cannot defend pushes at all. If you’re knocking on his tier 3, all he can do is respond with split push. His teamfighting capabilities are virtually non-existent, though Howl is a not to be underestimated buff in the nighttime and as mentioned above, Shapeshift does allow him to hunt down supports, even in teamfights.
Like any other pusher, Lycan is dependent on hitting certain timings. Delaying the first tower, the first Roshan and the first highground push even by a little can buy your team enough time to farm up necessary items. Not getting objectives will severely stifle his game impact, as he doesn’t farm as quickly as other carries.
Unlike most other carries, there is no seemingly easy item pick-up that will keep a support safe. Necronomicons can purge a Ghost Scepter or Eul's Scepter of Divinity, while Force Staff or Glimmer Cape won’t be enough to get away from Shapeshift and/or the Necronomicon’s True Sight either. Generally speaking, Lycan will/should have a Necronomicon level 3 before a support can pick up a significant defensive item, making most of these purchases slightly useless. That said, just because he can counter these items, doesn’t mean it’s a waste to invest into them. Eul’s Scepter can still be effective of course, used aggressively to stop Lycan in his tracks and at least delay him from pursuing, much like Ghost Scepter can buy time to at least force the purge from the Necronomicon.
Aside from that, increasing one’s armor can be effective against Lycan, which is why Solar Crest is a good pick-up against him. Not only does it provide armor, it also gives Lycan and his minions as miss chance.
With Shapeshift active, Lycan is a much more obnoxious Slark. He can hunt people down and his high mobility can make it difficult to lock him down. Supports have a hard time holding their own against him and his ability to take objectives make it difficult to keep an item advantage over him. While there technically are a variety of ways to deal with him, there’s a reason why Lycan has such a high win rate in pub and pro play at the moment. The fact that there’s no item that straight up counters Lycan makes it difficult to adjust to a last-phase Lycan pick, especially since most, if not all counters that we outlined above rely on picking the right heroes.
But perhaps this is where pubs need to adjust their mentality going into a pub game. If Lycan isn't banned out, then, much like pros, they need to preemptively pick heroes that have the ability to deal with him.