Leshrac at his best is a rampaging ball of magic damage, melting through enemy heroes, creep waves and buildings alike. He's easily one of the best early game pushers, with Diabolic Edict able to inflict considerable damage to towers in a very short time.
However, his playstyle is quite short ranged and aggressive for a relatively squishy intelligence hero, and he requires a fair amount of farm to be able to fully fulfil his potential. However, even as a support hero his considerable early game killing and pushing power makes him extremely dangerous.
+ Fantastic Pusher
+ Can deal composite damage to magic immune units and structures
+ Strong AOE magical damage
+ Low cooldown on abilities
+ Good movement speed
+ Great intelligence growth
+ Good base damage
- Poor starting strength and growth
- Short ranged attacks and abilities
- Stun has a delay that can make it tricky to land
- Needs good farm to reach his true potential
- Can be blunted by teams with lots of magic resistance/immunity
- Very mana dependent
Split Earth is your stun and it offers considerable disable time and damage potential. Even at level 1 you stun for a full 2 seconds, and inflict 120 damage to every target in the AOE. Levelling it up increases the damage and AOE size, but the disable time remains the same.
The balance to this fantastic stun and damage is that there is a 0.35 second delay between you casting and the effect. Leshrac also has a pretty slow and obvious casting animation which will warn enemy players of your intentions. You can "psych" this by using the "stop" command before the spell finishes casting, and this can keep them guessing. Much better if you can get a setup stun or cast from outside their line of sight though.
Generally you'll want to max this pretty early on - the increased damage is always good, and the increased AOE size makes it easier to hit, and gives more potential for hitting multiple enemy units.
This is pretty widely acknowledged as being Leshrac's best spell, especially in the early game. It fires off a large number of explosions over 8 seconds, randomly hitting any enemy units and structures near you.
Yes, structures. Diabolic Edict uses an unusual form of damage called "composite". This is a mix of both physical and magical damage, and cannot be blocked short of a Repel/ Guardian Angel combo. It goes through magic immunity, but is reduced by both armour and magic resistance.
This all adds up to a spell that requires careful use, but can be absolutely devastating. If only one enemy unit or structure is within range, they'll take the full impact of the considerable damage this spell offers (400/800/1200/1600). This makes you extremely potent in 1v1 encounters, and will allow you to easily kill isolated enemies who you can keep up with.
However, the primary use of this spell is for pushing towers - if your creep wave gets near their tower and will absorb it's fire for enough time, even a level 2 edict will cause massive damage to it. This will almost certainly draw a glyph, but they can't keep doing that.
As the game progresses you'll be able to push towers incredibly quickly, and can maintain a pretty serious split push threat with it. Be aware that the accumulated effect of increased HP, armour and possibly magic resistance will make it much less scary late game to enemy heroes.
Lightning Storm is usually seen as the runt of Leshrac's litter of spells, which is a real shame as on many heroes it would be highly valued. It's actually a great spell, causing more total damage at level 4 than Diabolic Edict if enough targets are available, with a much shorter cooldown.
However...the problem isn't really with Lightning Storm but your other spells. Basically they both provide better utility than it. Having a stun is great - you'll always want one available - and edict is just so potent for both killing and pushing.
This means that Lightning Storm is left competing for levelling time and mana with the rest of your arsenal. Once you do have it levelled, it's a great addition to your pushing power and has useful team fight potential.
Pulse Nova is an unusual ultimate as it has almost no cooldown time, and can simply be turned on and off as required. It throws out a pulse of magic damage every second in a small radius around you, while constantly draining your mana.
Your mana hungry spells combined with the effectiveness of Split Earth and Diabolic Edict mean that it's unusual to level this until well after level 6 - better to spend an extra 20 mana getting another 400 damage from Diabolic Edict than burning that every second trying to power Pulse Nova for 66 damage.
However, Pulse Nova is extremely effective once you have enough mana/regeneration not to worry about this, and is great in both team fights and pushes. It is improved by Aghanim's Scepter, but you will still need additional equipment to power it properly.
Leshrac has two roles he can play effectively, although they are both quite specialised and situational.
This is probably the role that suits him best, as it gives you the farm to develop to your full potential. If you want to maximise Leshrac you need to build him in such a way that he can activate all of his spells and run into the middle of the enemy team without being instagibbed. This means you need a fairly considerable increase in both your health and mana pools, as well as some utility equipment.
Leshrac played like this is very much a snowball hero, although you can do this by both killing enemy heroes and pushing towers. If you can get a level and equipment advantage during the midgame you're one of the best heroes for taking rax at this point.
Where to lane is something of an issue - he's a capable mid hero, but not really an "A-lister" and there are plenty of matchups that don't particularly suit him. He can play safe lane, but obviously isn't a full carry so taking that spot isn't usually ideal. Offlane he has no real escape bar movement speed, and is basically too squishy to be appropriate.
This is his normal role in competitive play - often as part of a tri-lane where his unreliable stun can be best utilised. However the lack of farm and experience will limit his impact and playstyle. The biggest problem is lack of mana - your spells are expensive and have short cooldowns - it's very easy to burn through it all.
He can still be very useful in this specialised role however - he's got a great stun with the right setup, and his tower pushing ability is extremely useful if you have other heroes to back you up. You make a good roamer too.
Basically you just have to play a more conservative style - pick your moment carefully to blast down towers with edict, save your mana for important stuns and generally stay out of trouble where possible.
Even as a support Leshrac it can be possible to get some good farm going if you can help push strongly and rack up some assists. While you can act as a warding "hard" support (and should if needed), it's probably better for you to fill the "semi-support" 4 role which will let you get a few items to boost your effectiveness.
In many ways this is your most effective time, as your possible damage output at this point is probably higher than any other hero. However, actually delivering that damage is trickier.
Obviously your role/lane will dictate how you play the early game, but either way you're a hero who wants to make things happen. While you can't afford to be stupid, you really don't want to be too passive either. You have a limited window of opportunity when Diabolic Edict can easily melt heroes and towers alike - the faster you can take down the tower in your lane, the sooner you can try to do the same to the others. This helps both you and your team to snowball.
There are a lot of items mentioned in the builds above, so I'm going to focus on the most important choices you make during the game instead of giving you a rundown of every single item.
Bottle, Null Talisman, Bracer or Urn of Shadows?
This choice depends mostly on your role - the Bracer or Urn of Shadows make most sense for supports who probably won't be getting too much for farm soon, so need to maximise their survivability.
Null Talisman is handy for mid players to pad out their stats and improve their right click for competing last hits. Bottle is nice to have, but you have to make a judgement in how interested the enemy mid hero is in collecting runes, and whether they have mobility abilities which will make it easy for them to grab it first.
Some people think Leshrac should always get Phase Boots, as his need for mobility overrides all other considerations. There is certainly an argument for this, but I think trying to rush difficult situations with a support Lesh' is pretty risky, and it also leaves you critically short of mana and regen.
On a semi-carry Lesh' I'll get Phase Boots and then look at upgrading them to Boots of Travel late game. You could even look at rushing them earlier, but this may leave you short of both stats and damage.
Arcane Boots are my standard choice for support style Leshrac, giving you a larger mana pool and some team regen ability. You can even use the Mana Booster as part of a Soul Booster later on if you get the farm together.
Aghanim's or Bloodstone?
While both are good items on him, you'll almost always want the Bloodstone first. It gives you everything you need - bigger health and mana pools, and regen for both. With some charges your mana regeneration can get high enough for you to really spam your spells without worrying about it too much. Faster respawns also help with your slightly suicidal team fight style.
Aghanim's Scepter can be a fair choice after that, boosting up your Pulse Nova damage further, but it rarely feels like a "must have" item - simply because you're already putting out plenty of damage, and other items can provide better utility. Generally the icing on the cake of a full build.
Any other options than Bloodstone?
A slightly left-field choice, but Rod of Atos can also be a strong choice on Leshrac, although I'll usually want to pair it with a Bottle, and possibly a Drum of Endurance too.
The large stats gains help tremendously, and the strong slow it provides is ideal for finishing enemy heroes without a good escape. It's a lot cheaper than a Bloodstone too, but lacks the regen power.
Is it a good idea to get mobility items?
It's certainly not unknown to see a Blink Dagger or Force Staff on Leshrac, and it can help with your ganking and positional play. However, you're not an out and out initiator due to the delay on your stun and continuous damage output. I find simply having more stats/bigger pools is the best way to be involved in a fight. However there are definitely situations that suit these items, and you should consider them.
Shadow Blade may seem like a good idea (cast Diabolic Edict + Pulse Nova, go invisible while they get blasted...) but unfortunately for you, Icefrog has thought of this - Pulse Nova does no damage while you're invisible.
Once you have enough mana/regen to throw out your abilities over and over again in a fight (until either you or they are dead) then your main focus is on survivability - you stop doing damage as soon as you're dead.
The two main choices here are Black King Bar and Ghost Scepter. One blocks magic damage, one blocks physical damage - pick whichever one is going to be most useful against the enemies you're up against. Support Leshracs will generally prefer the Ghost Scepter late game.
You can also consider Shiva's Guard - nice aura, intelligence boost and armour, plus you're usually in good positions to use it's active.
Is there anything I can do to boost my damage?
Two items work well for you here - Aghanim's Scepter and Veil of Discord. One boosts your ult, the other all the magic damage your team outputs. They're both excellent items that suit you well - the Veil should be your first choice when your team has other good magic damage heroes, and is a fair bit cheaper. The Aghanim's Scepter is better when you've already got plenty of equipment and want to really maximise your ult.
Any other items worth a special mention?
Eul's Scepter of Divinity is nice on you - extra move speed, lots of mana regeneration and a setup for your stun. A good addition, especially to a support Lesh, but doesn't add to your health pool.
Boots of Travel are great, they give you a full +100 move speed, plus the ability to teleport to your creep wave. This is incredibly useful late game, and also saves you a slot you'd normally need for Town Portal Scroll.
Generally you don't want to be paired up with Hard Carries at all - they just don't really suit your prefered style, although you can run good midgame interference for them.
Anyone with a reliable stun makes a good laning partner, and slows give you the chance to inflict as much Edict damage as possible early on.
Obviously you work well with other good pushing heroes, especially junglers like Chen and Enchantress who can provide the ballast to tank the tower while you do the damage.
Finally, your favourite allies in team fights are big disablers who can keep multiple enemies both in range of your magical barrage and incapable of attacking you.
Shadow Demon - the two of you make an extremely powerful laning combination. His Disruption sets up your Split Earth (make sure you get the timing right!) while Soul Catcher boosts the damage to ridiculous levels.
Warlock - a great help in team fights, his skillset works well with yours - amplification from Fatal Bonds, healing to keep you pushing forward, and a strong slow/AOE disable.
Pugna - Decrepify is a fantastic boost to your magic damage, and also slows the enemy hero. Be careful though, on the opposition his Nether Ward can make you melt your own face off instead of somebody else's.
Skywrath Mage - great magic damage enhancer with Sacred Seal and a long range slow both help you to maximise your damage output.
Outworld Devourer - mmmm Essence Aura
Keeper of the Light - mmmm Chakra Magic
While this list covers your worst opponents, the fact is that your playstyle and general lack of health early on make you pretty vulnerable to anyone. Damage is bad, stuns are bad, slows are bad...silences are bad. You get the idea. Generally with Leshrac you adopt an attitude of "kill them before they kill you", and rely on the damage output of Diabolic Edict to do the job. You still need to pick your fights carefully however.
You'll notice the list above all have elements of magic resistance, mana burning or magic immunity. All of these things are bad, bad news for you. Without mana, or the ability to inflict magic damage, your utility is very limited.
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