Huskar is one of very few heroes in the game who can be effective throughout the game - early, mid and late. He's can be played as carry, but is also a strong ganker and has the ability to snowball out of control if he gets a good enough start.
Huskar is very unusual in many other ways - he's a ranged strength hero, and he has little use for mana with most of his abilities tied to his health pool instead. Played well he has incredible damage potential, but played badly he can end up an easy kill for the opposition. Read on for how to use him effectively...
Updated 27/08/2013 - Changes to New Huskar
+ Can output incredible amounts of damage
+ Strong laning presence
+ Not mana dependent
+ Good mix of strength and agility gain
+ Strong ganker
+ Can act as a secondary team healer
+ Very hard to kill with magic
- Semi-suicidal playstyle
- Health requires careful management
- Vulnerable to burst damage and disable
- Short range on attack
- Farm dependent
Huskar's only mana using spell, Inner Vitality provides an important counter point to his other skills. Vitality has a long duration and scales extremely well into the late game - giving you bonus heal from your primary attribute, and works harder when your health is below 40%.
When it comes to using this, the most important thing is to do so BEFORE ganking or joining a team fight. It's long duration means that it should be active when you need it, and even if you get focused or disabled it will be working away to keep you alive. This applies double once you get a Black King Bar, as you won't be able to cast it on yourself when you're magic immune.
By all means use this on needy team mates outside of fights - just remember to keep it for yourself whenever you will be fighting, unless somehow your other carry has massively outfarmed you.
You may sometimes want to skill this earlier if you're coping a lot of harassment and struggling for health.
Previously considered a poor orb effect (or unique attack modifier as they're now known), Burning Spear still has been buffed recently, with more burn damage being added to each attack - it now tops out at 140 per hit...
Spear costs you 15 health every time you use it, but even at level 1 delivers about twice that in damage to your opponent, as well as not attracting creep aggro. This is your primary means of controlling the lane early on - by dumping stacks of burn damage onto your opponents.
This is extremely effective if you end up mid against a melee opponent, and you can usually bully them away from the farm entirely.
Be careful not to let your health get too low though - your heal and Berserker's Blood are not scaled properly yet. Also beware of very tanky opponents like Centaur Warrunner who can soak up what you dish out.
The real question when opting to level Burning Spear is whether it's going to remain your primary UAM or not - it offers plenty of damage, but won't combine with others such as lifesteal.
This is the skill that really defines Huskar's playstyle - essentially it makes you more and more dangerous as your health drops. At a maximum 14 stacks/level 4 it gives you an incredible 280 extra attack speed, and 98% extra magic resistance.
So, unlike every other hero - you actively WANT to be running round with less than full health most of the time.
As a player, this is very unusual as you normally want to keep your health nicely topped up as often as possible, and this is the biggest adjustment you need to make when playing Huskar.
Finding a good balance here is the key - you don't want to be running round with minimal health and then die stupidly or easily, but you do need to get it low enough (say 50-60%) that you can rapidly spit out damage.
In a straight fight you become more and more dangerous as you and your opponent knock health off each other - as your health gets lower you get more benefit from your heal, and the extra damage combines with lifesteal to give you an easy win in most cases.
The recent changes to remove some damage and give increased magic resistance mean that Huskar is much less vulnerable to nukes as his health drops, and that using Life Break on low health becomes much more attractive - you already have less % to lose, and the increased magic resistance means it will do even less damage.
You're very difficult to take down with only magic damage - so many heroes will struggle against you.
Huskar's ultimate is an incredible ganking and anti-tank ability. It can instantly knock 50%+ of a target's hitpoints off, as well as slowing them for 5 seconds. However, this comes at a cost to Huskar's health of 25-40% depending on it's level. As you already know though - this is not necessarily a bad thing!
Here are some key points to getting the most out of Life Break:
- Always cast Inner Vitality before using it
- It inflicts MAGICAL damage, so can be blocked by Black King Bar, Repel, reduced by Hood of Defiance, Berserker's Blood etc
- You can avoid or reduce the self-damage using magic resistance or immunity in the same way. Sometimes you will want to keep your health, other times you might actually want to lose it!
- It inflicts 50%+ of the target's CURRENT health points, so has a much reduced effect on targets who are already wounded. The same applies to the self-damage - you lose much less if you are already on low health
Aghanim's Scepter increases the damage to 65%, and also reduces the cooldown to a mere 4 seconds - allowing you to use it multiple times in the same fight.
This is the key skill when it comes to playing Huskar - you need to figure out when you need high health, and when to let it drop. This is all about Survival versus Damage.
Fortunately, with some farm it becomes much easier to manipulate your health and walk the fine line between success and death.
Personally I feel comfortable farming and jungling with about 50-60% health and abilities ready to heal me if necessary. You can sometimes go lower than this if you feel safe. In more risky situations you want your health up between 75-90%, usually when you're about to gank or fight.
Huskar does very well in a "linear" fight where both parties health decreases relatively slowly - this gives his heal and berserker stacks time to come into effect, ideally together with lifesteal. As the health drops on both sides, Huskar's can actually start increasing again as his effects and damage kick in. It's a lot more difficult against burst or focused damage which can blast through your heal.
When you want to lose health:
- Use Burning Spear for attacks to slowly reduce your health and get some benefit from Beserker's Blood
- Once you have your Armlet of Mordiggian you can simply turn it on to boost your damage and drain your health
- Life Break is a useful way of quickly getting rid of some excess health, and is especially useful if you need fast damage to finish off fleeing heroes
When you want to gain health:
- At the start you have to use your consumables until you have skilled your Inner Vitality and perhaps got your Urn of Shadows
- As your mana pool is very limited, you shouldn't use Inner Vitality every time you just want to top your health up - it works best when you're really hurt, and you should ensure you always have enough mana left to cast it once in case of a fight
- Urn of Shadows allows you to quickly heal 400hp once you have built up some charges from nearby kills
- If you buy Helm of the Dominator or even just Morbid Mask, any of your normal (non- Burning Spear) attacks will lifesteal and heal you.
Huskar is quite versatile as he can work in any of the three lanes, given the right situation. You could pick him as your main carry and put him in the safe lane, but he can also work well as a "spoiler" semi-carry in the long lane. Either way, you want a solid support hero with you - either for kills, heals or both - and so you can farm.
Huskar can also make a good mid hero - but this has got to be as a counter-pick rather than something pre-planned. Generally this is against melee gankers like Pudge and Night Stalker - they can't live with your ability to harass and will struggle to get farm. You still have to give them due respect though, and be aware that you don't have great rune control. He can also be a good pick against an intelligence stealer like Outworld Devourer.
I think the modern Huskar has two main roles - Carry, or Tank/Initiator. He's always been able to carry, but the recent changes have given him increased survivability at the cost of reduced damage. You basically have a choice now between two roles and styles of play:
You can still play Huskar as a carry, with the right items he can still output a lot of damage, and his timing windows are fairly flexible. Usually you'd play him safe lane in this situation, or look at how the teams stack up and decide you'll need to carry.
You'll probably still gank and get involved early-mid game as you're so effective during this time frame and it can help you snowball. However, you'll also need to farm hard the rest of the time. Build him initially for damage, get a Black King Bar and play him almost like the old Huskar. Don't level Flaming Spear much and add Helm of the Dominator later than you used to.
While you'll always be at least a semi-carry in terms of damage output, Huskar's combination of self-healing and magic resistance can make him an effective tanking hero, and he can work well as an initiator with the right equipment. I was never convinced of this before, but it makes more sense now. You can start in either the off-lane (with a support) or mid lane for this.
You'll usually go the lane dominance build for this, and try to do just this. Against some heroes you can bully them off the lane completely or into being extremely passive.
Burning Spears are extremely dangerous early-mid game (140 damage per hit), look to gank heavily with your team mates and try to snowball hard. Buy equipment that will help you tank, and rely on your ultimate and orb for damage output.
If the game does go late, you can add some damage or dual damage/survivability items to your inventory.
As you can see from the previous chapter, additional equipment is very useful for keeping you in control of Huskar's health pool - but you also have other issues to consider.
You first of all need to decide whether you're playing the carry or tank/initiator role - will you have enough damage output to make lifesteal worthwhile, or would you better off buying more health/regen?
Obviously as a strength hero you need raw damage rather than agility items in order to boost your DPS. Anything that increases your strength is also helpful - as it increases both your damage and survivability.
Urn of Shadows - not everyone agrees with this on Huskar, but personally I like the double gauntlet start and the boost this gives you to your HP and damage. It allows you to double up as a healer for your team and also to keep well in control of your own health.
Power Treads - this is your default choice for boots, adding yet more strength and some attack speed. Phase Boots are a possibility if you're looking to gank more than carry. Tranquil Boots is overkill for a hero who already has so much heal.
Armlet of Mordiggian - usually your first big item after completing your boots, it massively increases your damage output, as well as giving you a lot of useful stats and regen. This item is almost a perfect fit for Huskar, and you'll want it pretty much regardless of role.
This is a different way of playing Huskar, although you might still want to get some Luxury/Damage items late game once you have completed several of the options here.
Aghanim's Scepter - once you decide to go for utility instead of damage on Huskar it opens up the option of this fantastic scepter upgrade. It was always powerful, but just didn't sit right with a carry build. 65% current health damage is huge, and with a scepter you can do it every 4 seconds!
Blade Mail - even without it's active damage return, this item is still incredibly good value for money. The extra armour is very handy to give you protection from physical as well as magical damage, and you can use it to dissuade the opposition from hitting you for a few seconds if you get too low on health.
Pipe of Insight - without lifesteal, we need to find other ways of keeping Huskar's health topped up, especially in team fight situations. This item has several advantages - it gives you solid protection from magic damage, even at high health, provides utility for the team, and reduces the self-damage from Life Break.
So why would you want a Pipe instead of a BKB? The main reason is that as a tank your job is to soak up damage for other players - magic immunity prevents you being cast on, so you won't draw out nukes. Even good players will be tempted to throw out their spells at the big scary hulk that's just jumped on them. The protection is also continuous, and doesn't need to be activated or go on cooldown.
The choice really depends on how many stuns the opposition team has - you can't afford to be completely disabled for too long.
Ghost Scepter - what the hell? Surely this is for squishy supports...and it stops you attacking? Bear with me...this is a survival device...you activate Inner Vitality, Pipe of Insight and throw yourself at the biggest enemy health bar you can find. You expect to draw some serious retaliation - your magic resistance will protect you almost completely from any nukes as your health gets low, but well farmed carries might well be damaging you faster than you can recover.
You go ethereal on low health and they can't hit you any more...magic damage will still do almost nothing to you at this point and your heal will be working overtime. With Aghanim's Scepter you'll be able Life Break another enemy, and possibly will have waited out Black King Bars by this point. Basically, between your magic resistance and physical immunity, you're almost unkillable.
With your attack speed stacking fairly rapidly from Berserker's Blood, you need to focus on adding raw damage to maximise your DPS output. With enough damage you can look seriously at adding lifesteal to your attacks - you'll almost certainly need a Black King Bar to go with this and keep you attacking.
Probably my favourite item from that list is the Satanic as it builds on top of the Helm of the Dominator and can make you incredibly hard to kill if used correctly (only when you're not about to be disabled or have your BKB active).
Heart of Tarrasque is also a great item as it basically means you leave your armlet on all the time, plus providing a massive chunk of HP and some extra damage. You don't need both these items together though!
Most of the others are fairly standard Damage items (note the lack of agility items and orbs), but remember that these can also aid your survivability - more damage equals more lifesteal!
The items are ones you wouldn't consider too much in most games - however they are worth considering if the situation demands, or they may fit your playstyle.
Heaven's Halberd and Blade Mail both deserve a mention as they are your best chance if the game goes late against a hard carry, or the various "glass cannon" heroes like Sniper and Riki.
Huskar's unique blend of abilties works very well with some heroes, but is also very vulnerable to others.
Necrolyte is your best friend. His Reaper's Scythe is incredibly effective at killing enemies with low % health...and your Life Break can instantly knock them into that range. His frequent heals in team fights also help.
Dazzle is your other best friend. His early game heals and ultimate are both handy for you, but this is really all about Shallow Grave. It lets you live on 1hp for 5 seconds - that means 14 stacks of Beserker's Blood and a hell of a lot of DPS...
As a general rule, Huskar combines extremely well with disablers who can allow him time to quickly dispatch the opposition.
Phantom Assassin is a dangerous opponent, although this battle does depend on farm, her ability to evade your attacks and inflict big crits can catch you out as your health drops.
Axe another dangerous opponent early-mid game, as his Culling Blade can instagib you (even through Shallow Grave) if you're below the damage threshold. Later on he becomes less of a threat as your health scales out of this range, and he'll struggle against you in lane.
The heal prevention of Ancient Apparition's ultimate and shatter effect on % health (no magic resistance) can be quite unpleasant when you're reliant on Inner Vitality and fighting on low health.
Hard carries like Faceless Void can outcarry you if the game goes late and you don't have a big farm advantage, and Lifestealer is also worth a mention as he can counter you pretty hard.
It's also worth keeping an eye out for invisible assassin type heroes - you can't let your health drop too low if you're away from your team as they can pop up unexpectedly.
You still have to give these heroes due respect in lane and not do anything daft, but you should be aggressive against them right from the start. Your harassment potential means you can make laning absolute hell for them - often reducing them to having to soak XP or go and try their luck ganking other lanes. Make sure you call when they go missing.
Hopefully this guide has given you an improved understanding of how Huskar works, and how to get the most out of him.
I originally started playing Huskar after getting owned by him in some early pub games and thinking "He's so OP!" - usually playing a hero gives you a much better understanding of how they can be stopped.
The recent changes to him will likely see him picked up more often once people get their heads around the differences. While not a full on carry anymore, he has fantastic utility against teams who rely heavily on magic damage, and can destroy certain heroes in a 1v1 lane.
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