Best Lycan builds in Dota 2

Beware the wolf.

Image via Valve

Dota 2 is a game that is constantly evolving. As patches come and go, various heroes phase in and out of the meta. Some heroes always find their niche in the game. One of these heroes that maintains his role of being a sleeper pick in almost every patch is Lycan.

Banehallow, the Lycan is a Strength hero, most commonly played in the offlane position, although he has seen decent success as a carry in previous patches. The hero consistently flies under the radar in most patches due to his high skill cap and situational usage, despite him being great in his role. Due to this, Lycan has always maintained a staggeringly high win rate in all brackets, oftentimes nearing 60 percent, and only trends upwards the higher up the bracket he goes.

Lycan’s skillset also makes him an amazing pusher. His wolves can clear creep waves, making pushes to the towers faster. An unchecked Lycan can end up clearing all the towers in a lane before the enemies notice what happened.


Lycan has access to four skills, including three (four with Aghanim’s Scepter) actives and one passive skill. These are what the skills can do:

  • Summon Wolves (Default hotkey: Q) – This skill allows Lycan to summon two companion wolves that aid him in battle. The wolves can be controlled by Lycan and have their own skillset. At level three, the wolves gain Permanent Invisibility, making them consistently invisible until they attack. At level four, the wolves gain Cripple, making each attack cause a movement speed and attack speed slow effect along with damage over time. 
  • Howl (Default hotkey: W) – This skill is Lycan’s AoE debuff skill. Activating it reduces all enemy units’ armor by seven and attack damage by 40 percent at max level, for a total of eight seconds in a 2,000 AoE. This skill is amazing in teamfights, causing enemies to die faster while making sure they cannot fight back as hard with the damage reduction. The debuff effect is applied by Lycan and his wolves, although multiple instances do not stack.
  • Feral Impulse (Passive) – This is Lycan’s passive skill. Feral Impulse provides an additional seven bonus HP regen while increasing the damage of Lycan and his units by 40 percent at max level. Being a passive skill, this effect is always in play as long as Lycan is alive. One major caveat of this skill is that the effect has a global AoE, allowing Lycan’s units to push lanes independently, without needing his presence.
  • Shapeshift (Default hotkey: R) – This is Lycan’s ultimate skill. Upon activating, Banehallow shapeshifts into his lupine form, turning him into a massive wolf with maximum movement speed. In this form, Lycan and his units cannot be slowed by any abilities and he gains additional passive skills of his own, including bonus HP and a 40 percent critical strike chance per hit. This form lasts for a total of 25 seconds and also gives Lycan bonus night vision, making him an effective “Hunter in the Night,” as Night Stalker would agree.
  • Wolf Bite (Default hotkey: D) – This ability is unlocked only after purchasing an Aghanim’s Scepter. Wolf Bite allows Lycan to bite an allied hero, transforming them into their own wolf form, providing them the same bonuses that Lycan gets in his Shapeshift form, effectively creating two unstoppable, un-slowable monsters.

With hero skills getting buffed and nerfed during different patches, there have been a variety of ways to skill up Lycan’s abilities. As of Patch 7.31b, the most commonly followed skill build includes leveling up and maxing out his Summon Wolves by level seven, while skilling up Feral Impulse alongside it, maxing his passive out by level nine. This ensures a consistent damage output and massive early-game pushing potential with little to no items.

Howl is generally maxed out last, by level 15 or 16. The reason for this is because since the damage values are reduced by a flat percentage, it is best skilled up when the enemies start acquiring more levels and items to negate as much of their damage as possible. Shapeshift is skilled up whenever possible, at levels six, 12, and 18.


In terms of talents, Lycan has a few good enhancements on his talent tree:

  • Level 10: +10 Summon Wolves Damage or +20 percent Howl Attack Damage Reduction
  • Level 15: -15 seconds Shapeshift Cooldown or +200 Summon Wolves Health
  • Level 20: +25 percent Feral Impulse Damage or +six seconds Shapeshift Duration
  • Level 25: +two Summon Wolves Units or +30 percent Shapeshift Critical Strike Chance

The level 10 talent choice has shown better success rates for the +10 Summon Wolves damage increase because it helps Lycan consistently push towers and lanes faster once he hits that level 10 power spike. While the Howl talent is by no means bad, the early pushing power of the wolves is generally too good to pass up.

The level 15 talent choice has also seen more one-sided decisions being made. Most players lean toward going for the extra duration on the Shapeshift simply because having more uptime on the wolf form provides a lot more utility and overall damage than the increase that the Feral Impulse talent provides.

Getting to the level 20 talent, the popular opinion expands on the level 15 choice by going for the increase in Shapeshift cooldown. This talent combined with the Shapeshift duration increase adds a lot more uptime to Lycan’s wolf form, allowing him to use it more often than he normally would. The extra wolves’ health is underwhelming at only +200 at level 20.

Finally, getting to the level 25 talent choice, either one can be incredibly strong on a late-game Lycan. For more late-game pushing power, the extra wolves come in handy, especially if the Summon Wolves talent at level 15 and the Feral Impulse talent at level 20 were chosen. If the focus of the match is to provide more damage, the extra Critical Chance on the Shapeshift is the better choice by far.

Item builds

Lycan can scale up by farming as fast as, if not faster than, most late-game heroes. This is due to his high scaling damage and his wolves that can farm independently while Lycan helps his team. The items that Lycan needs mainly revolve around whatever provides him and his team with more pushing power as fast as possible. Here, we break down Lycan’s items based on the various stages of the game.

Lycan – Screengrab via Valve

Starting items

  • Quelling Blade: This is almost a must-have for any hero that requires to farm. It enables easier last hitting of creeps along with the highly underrated Tree Chop ability that opens up more possibilities of ambushes along escape routes by clearing trees.
  • Ironwood Branch: A few of these go a long way. They provide one of each stat and can either be combined into a Magic Wand or just consumed with Tangoes for extra regen during the laning phase.
  • Ring of Protection: This is good starting armor for Lycan. Since he has high HP as a strength hero, this increases his overall EHP. The Ring can be upgraded into a Vladimir’s Offering later in the game.
  • Consumables (Tangoes/Healing Salves): This item is absolutely essential for sustaining against the enemies’ constant harassment. It’s not as necessary if Lycan is dominating the lane due to his innate regen or is paired with a healer-type support hero.

Buying a combination of any of these items would ensure a sustainable lane until further items are acquired.

Early-game items

  • Ring of Basilius: This is an upgrade to the Ring of Protection, providing Lycan and his lane partner with a constant mana regen aura, allowing him to keep summoning his wolves constantly when their duration runs out.
  • Magic Wand: This item is a natural upgrade to the Ironwood Branches in combination with a Magic Stick. It provides stats as well as a source of HP and mana regen, with more resources replenished the more charges it has, up to a maximum of 20 charges. One charge is obtained whenever an enemy casts a spell nearby.
  • Helm of Iron Will: This further increases Lycan’s tankiness by providing him with even more armor and HP regen. This item can be upgraded to Helm of the Dominator, which is Lycan’s most important item in the early stages of the game.
  • Orb of Venom: This item applies a slow debuff on any enemy that Lycan hits. It’s situationally good in lanes that Lycan can dominate, combined with the slow from his wolves and an aggressive support hero.
  • Morbid Mask: This item provides lifesteal equivalent to a certain percentage of Lycan’s damage per hit, restoring his HP.

These items, along with a constant wolf presence, should allow Lycan to win his lane and take down lane towers as fast as possible, applying constant map pressure.

Core items

  • Helm of the Dominator: This is Lycan’s first core item. It can be acquired within five to six minutes if it is an ideal game for him. This Helm allows Lycan to dominate lane creeps and neutral creeps, adding to his already strong pushing power. With the advent of Patch 7.31 and stronger neutral creeps, this item is now more important than ever.
  • Orb of Corrosion: This item brings the slow from the Orb of Venom and adds in the armor reduction from the Blight Stone with added HP from the Fluffy Hat to make one beast of an early-game item. It’s perfect for Lycan and his units to kill and push towers with.
  • Vladimir’s Offering: A natural upgrade to the Morbid Mask, Vladimir’s Offering provides lifesteal, HP regen, mana regen, and damage in a 900 AoE aura to all of Lycan’s units and teammates. This damage stacks with his Feral Impulse as well.
  • Helm of the Overlord: The combination of Helm of the Dominator and Vladimir’s Offering provides a highly powerful item in the Helm of the Overlord. This item allows Lycan to dominate even the powerful ancient creeps and add them to his army. Ideally, if this item is acquired within 15 minutes of game time, victory is almost assured within the next 15 minutes.
  • Black King Bar: This is the perfect counter to all of those pesky disablers that want to stop Lycan from running amok. Providing six to nine seconds of spell immunity, getting progressively less with each use, this item is essential for any hero that needs to stay in the fight for as long as possible.
  • Skull Basher: This is a perfect item coupled with Lycan’s high pursuit capabilities. This item has a chance to stun enemies with every hit. With Lycan’s increased stats and attack speed in his Shapeshift form, bashes will proc quite often.

All core items should ideally be acquired by the 30-minute mark for maximum effectiveness.

Late-game items

  • Abyssal Blade: This is the natural progression item from Skull Basher. Abyssal Blade provides a guaranteed stun upon activation, which is great for stopping channeling spells, including town portal scrolls or even bashing a hero to death since the Abyssal Blade retains the passive Bash ability from the Skull Basher as well.
  • Aghanim’s Scepter: This item provides Lycan with his Wolf Bite skill mentioned earlier. Along with access to a new powerful skill, the Scepter also provides a bunch of each stat to work with, making Lycan tankier and providing him with more mana.
  • Aghanim’s Shard: The Shard upgrade constantly spawns two uncontrollable wolves with each creep wave. The wolves can randomly spawn in any of the three lanes, running alongside the wave. These wolves are fully affected by Lycan’s Feral Impulse in addition to their Cripple ability working on towers as well.

Late-game items are just additions to Lycan’s already potent inventory, bought to put an end to a long game.

Extension/situational items

  • Boots of Bearing: These new boots were introduced with Patch 7.31. They allow Lycan and his allies to be un-slowable for the duration of the active ability. They’re great for chasing the enemy or when the team needs to make an emergency exit.
  • Boots of Travel: Although the movement speed is redundant on Lycan, the faster cooldown on the teleportation scroll and the ability to teleport to creeps (and eventually heroes with the upgrade) make for a global threat with his rapid pushing abilities.
  • Nullifier: This item provides high damage, good armor, and an active ability that constantly dispels the target, making sure their escape items and abilities do not work as intended.
  • Bloodthorn: This is perfect to burst down priority targets since its Soul Burn active ability silences targets as well as amplifies all of the damage they take from Lycan, his units, and his teammates, providing a guaranteed critical strike per hit.
  • Heaven’s Halberd: This item disarms targets, allowing Lycan to shut down the damage output of a pure right-clicking carry hero. The passive regen and lifesteal amplification along with the status resistance are all a major help to enable Lycan.
  • Desolator: This item isn’t ideal on an offlane hero, but if the game depends on heavy pushes, Lycan is a solid Desolator carrier. This item combined with Orb of Corrosion and Assault Cuirass absolutely shreds towers and heroes alike.
  • Assault Cuirass: As an offlaner, Lycan is a solid wielder of the Assault Cuirass. This item is great against heroes with high physical damage, negating a huge portion of it for both Lycan and his teammates.

Every item on this list works against different heroes, but Lycan can succeed without needing to make any of them.

Lycan may not be the most popular offlaner and can teeter on the edge of obscurity sometimes. But in the games where he does shine, he definitely shines the brightest. Lycan is one of those heroes that never entirely falls out of the meta and can be quickly picked up by a good player who knows how to bring out the full potential of this lupine warrior.