Lycan is officially back in the pro scene. After being a Tier 1 hero at The International 2 about 20 months ago, dropping off in 6.75, he has once again become a Tier 1 Hero in 6.80.
The Savagery Starts Now
Lycan was one of the most contested pro-scene hero for March with a 66% Pick/Ban rate (according to two separate game-trackers and datDota). This makes him a Tier 1 hero, with 1/3rd of him being picks, and the other 2/3rds wanting nothing to do with him and banning him out. The interesting thing to me however, is how Lycan has changed since his previous Tier 1 status back around The International 2 in 2012.
On Your Trail
Lycan now compared to then is quite different. Back during TI2 Lycan had this amazingly unique role that no one really else had. He was a core hero, who jungled really fast. He was like a 1/2 position hero, who didn’t take up a lane. His jungle was so much faster than say a Lifestealer or Ursa Jungle, which are core heroes you sometimes see Jungle in pubs. He even boded well when you could start the game with 4 observer wards, which really assisted in “warding his jungle”.
Take this game (below) at The International 2, where Puppey plays Lycanthrope in the Winner Bracket’s Semi-Finals against LGD. In this game, Na’Vi picked Rubick, Shadow Shaman, Enigma, Juggernaut and Lycan. Basically 5 heroes that can be core, since Rubick mid was far more common back then compared to now, while Shadow Shaman has been seen mid every so often over the past 3+ years. Even Enigma used to offlane far more in the past than now. First the team had to decide whether it was worth “warding his jungle” or not, when Enigma might be the jungler instead. They ward two camps, and Lycan did end up jungling while Enigma went solo mid.
So Lycan just pissed off to the enemy Jungle after spawning wolves in base for mana, and eventually had both Ancient Apparition and the core Beastmaster desperately trying to get him out of the jungle. You spent 200 gold (yes… wards were more expensive back then) to ward his jungle and he just used yours instead…. But this is what 6.75 Lycans strength truly was. He was a hero that ignoring him tended to be so overwhelming disadvantageous, due to his ability to farm insanely fast, push even faster, and have a Rosh to boot. So you couldn’t ignore him. And yet, executing an effective Lycan shut down wasn’t easy.
The problem was, the sheer amount of gold, time, and effort you have to spend shutting a Lycan down, had a tendency to open up so much space for his team that the Lycan wins anyway. And after a couple of minutes of playing catch up, he caught up to his team while you were left poor and under-leveled. If you make a mistake while winning? There goes a rax.
Keep in mind that the Jungle was easier back then too, such as being unable to sap XP from Lycan just by being near the creeps when they died. As well as the longer day cycle allowing him to see danger before it becomes trouble.
The other danger of that Lycan was that even when you start struggling a bit like Na’Vi ended up doing so in the early-to-mid game, all he needs was a little bit of momentum back in his favor, and boom there goes a rax. Even easier when you basically have 4 core heroes and an amazing push team that was drafted. They gave away the hot property Naga Siren for a Lycan, and it paid off dividends.
Careful Now, I Bite
Morphling, Naga Siren and Lycan all took massive hits after TI2 in 6.75, and all promptly fell off the radar. Morphling has been coming back a tad, as I briefly talked about here two months ago. Naga Siren has been pushed around into basically every role possible as teams desperately try and make a hero they consider very strong, to work for them. I think the only thing I haven’t seen at this point is an offlane Naga. But with illusions coupled with high base armor and movement speed, I’m sure someone definitely tried.
Lycan basically couldn’t jungle anymore. It was too difficult, or required a heap of luck and bottling, often resulting in a jungle speed that wasn’t very fast. People tried all sorts of things, but eventually they just couldn’t find a place for him anymore. He fell hard down the Tiers and started chatting with Phantom Assassin and eventually Medusa.
There was only so much he could put up with Ogre Magi’s stupidity though, and buff after buff he finally managed to work himself up the ladder, and escape from Tier 5 prison. But he’s just not the same as he was before; he’s a wolf reborn. Nothing would stand in his way, heck, he even left the ‘thrope’ part of Lycanthrope behind in his rise to the top. After all, if you give someone enough thrope they can hang themselves, and this wolf was determined not to die. So he left the ‘thrope’ behind and laughed at Critting Stiffling Daggers and an outcast who broke the Movement Speed cap but couldn’t prove himself worthy. All he really proved was that red is the fastest color.
Ah! I Rejoin The Pack
Changelogs only say so much, but Lycan is quite different from before, in some senses… I mean, he’s still being built basically the same. He’s being skilled very similar, although now often a value point or two into Howl. He is being laned… quite different. With only 1 set of wards at the start of the game, I would imagine it would be annoying if he could still Jungle fast. But with all the Jungle switches, Day/Night cycle changes, Offlane Changes and newer heroes etc. How well do you think a 6.74 Lycan would fare in today’s changed game?
That… Is a tough one actually. And something I just can’t decide on.
Lycan seems to be much better at scouting now. His wolves can also sometimes be tedious to deal with due to the massive decrease in fade time, and added health regeneration. He’s still a pest, but in a different way. Perhaps in a more mechanically skillful way. An early point in Howl or two can also help globally during the laning phase, something that people often couldn’t afford to do circa 6.74. Or at least, was far less common than it is now.
For The Honor Of My House
I feel like a lot of the more recent Lycan is something that most of the readers are more familiar with, so lets not waste too much time on that. But one thing that is interesting, is how long will Lycan stay. He’s banned far more than he is picked, but that was also the case during 6.74. But he probably will be staying. He has the highest pub winrate in Very High according to data gathered by DotaMetrics. But best of all, in the 150ish pro-scene games he was picked thus far in 6.80, he has won 70% of them. That is a very scary wolf at your door, and enough of a sample size to start howling about him once more.
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