A guide to Pudge

Thumbnail image courtesy of Valve

Pudge is one of the most iconic heroes in Dota 2 and is consistently the most played hero on public servers by a wide margin.

His pick rate in competitive is not nearly as high, but when he was picked by Dendi and Natus Vincere for his Fountain Hook shenanigans during The International 3, it was the stuff of legends.

RELATED: 8 quick tips for Pudge

The Fountain Hook exploit has since been removed from the game. More recently, Pudge has been picked in competitive as a roaming, Position 4 support.

Here's a quick guide to one of the most divisive heroes in the game, Pudge, the Butcher.


Few things in Dota 2 can instill a sense of dread and despair like getting hit with a long-range Meat Hook. But it's a two-way street, and nailing someone with a well-timed hook can give you an instant shot of adrenaline.

You live and die by your Meat Hooks and picking off a hero "for free" often means a team fight won, if not a game won. Likewise, if you're off point with your hooks, your impact on the game is sorely minimized. This high risk, high reward playstyle is what makes Pudge so attractive and few heroes can affect a game's landscape like he can.

While Pudge is defined by his hooks, what gives him that option is rotations. It's extremely rare that you'll find a hook on a hero you're directly laning against, they'll play too cautiously and never give you that opportunity. Rotations are what allow a Pudge to catch the enemy off guard and helps ensure a hook more than threading a needle through a group of creeps.

A Pudge missing from the map means he can be anywhere and the risk of an unseen Meat Hook completely changes how your opponents position themselves. A roaming support Pudge instills a similar chill, but with a lot less risks, which is why that playstyle is more favored in competitive play.

Skill Build

In 99 percent of your games you can take Rot at Level 1, max Meat Hook first, taking Dismember whenever you can, while ignoring Flesh Heap until Meat Hook and Rot are maxed. In rare cases Level 1 Meat Hook can be used in a cheeky early game gank, but Rot is almost always better overall.

The reason for skipping Flesh Heap is because the Strength bonus stacks apply retroactively once the skill is leveled. It also provides a fixed magic resistance buff, but this alone is not nearly as useful early on.

It cannot be understated how useful Meat Hook and Dismember can be on targets with magic immunity. You don't necessarily want to aim for those targets, but Meat Hook's displacement and Dismember's three-second-stun are still invaluable in situations where you will want to control an "uncontrollable" target.


Early itemization for Pudge is pretty static, but there's quite a bit of variation towards the mid and late game. Your general philosophy is improving movement and maximizing the potential of your Meat Hooks, so that means a Wind Lace and Aether Lens early on and working towards items like Blink Dagger and Aghanim's Scepter.

The item builds also assume that Wards and Sentries will be taken care of by your Position 5 support, but if you're somehow stuck with getting your own wards, take that into account regarding your progression.

Starting and Early Game

Two of the more prolific Pudge pickers in competitive are Team Liquid's gh and Team Faceless' Black^, though the latter normally plays a core position for Faceless, he transitions to a roaming support when he plays Pudge. They will largely be the basis for this guide.

The starting items for gh and Black^ are different, but follow a similar philosophy, early movement.

gh: Boots of Speed, Tango, Clarity Potion, Smoke of Deceit

Black^: Wind Lace, Tango, 2xClarity Potion, Iron Branch

gh's build up is much more aggressive with an early Smoke and probably best reserved if you're paired with a coordinated team. While Black^'s is a better general option and also leaves room for a Courier purchase, if your team really needs it.

From here the builds converge. They both build into Tranquil Boots. This seems odd at first because normally when you're building towards an Aether Lens you'd want Arcane Boots. However, because the bonus movement speed from Tranquils is much greater than Arcanes (+85 vs. +50), it's a better choice for early rotations and allows you to quickly reposition for Meat Hook.

As a side note, Faceless allow Black^ to farm two creep waves for a 3-minute Tranquils, instead of normal 7-minute Tranquils. It's definitely a nice bonus to make your rotations that much faster, but it's really not necessary and it will probably piss off your pub teammates.

Mid Game

The builds diverge again in the mid game as gh prefers to keep a casual Magic Stick and build his Aether Lens, meanwhile Black^ builds the upgraded Magic Wand and a Soul Ring, which leads into a Hand of Midas.

gh's build is much leaner and will get you your early game core item (Aether Lens) faster, while Black^'s build has a smoother build up. Overall, both are pretty greedy for different reasons, but Black^'s build is probably a safer route in delaying the Aether Lens until the mid/late game.

The item's extra 220 cast range is definitely useful, but considering Meat Hook's cast range is already 1300 units, it's not a crucial pick up early on.

At this point both players prioritize a Blink Dagger, which is one of the most important items on Pudge. It allows him to instantly change positions, which can open up a surprise angle for a Meat Hook and can allow you to simply initiate with Dismember and followup with a point-blank Meat Hook.

Black^ finally builds his Aether Lens after a Blink and the options for both builds open up towards the late game.

Late Game

Eul's Scepter of Divinity is a solid choice. It's a natural build up for the Wind Lace purchased early on, assuming you still have it, and the active is a no-brainer setup for a Meat Hook. The mana regen is also nice for when you eventually build Aghanim's Scepter.

Aghanim's Scepter gives some significant bonuses to Meat Hook. It adds an additional 90 damage and reduces the cooldown to four seconds, down from 11 seconds at Level 4. Your damage potential increases a lot when you can open with a Meat Hook, Dismember, then finish with another Meat Hook. Your primary limitation will be your mana pool, but that's where a Eul's or other mana regen items can come in handy.

Pipe of Insight is a common pick up for core Pudges and would be a solid late game item. It's also worth considering casual pieces earlier in the build, such as a Cloak or a Hood of Defiance, since the extra magic resistance reduces Rot self-damage and pairs well with your massive health from Flesh Heap. And speaking of effective HP, Shiva's Guard is a good pickup to increase effective HP against physical damage.

Force Staff is another solid extension to increase your movement options and can be used offensively and defensively.

Skill Tree

Level 10 Level 15 Level 20 Level 25
+2 Mana Regen +15 Movement Speed -40s Respawn +120 Rot DPS
+8 STR +5 Armor +150 GPM +1.75 Flesh Heap Stack STR

Pudge's Level 10 talent branch offers some solid choices. The extra mana regen works to sustain your Meat Hook since its mana cost is hefty and Pudge doesn't have a deep mana pool. The strength bonus is also nice, though you're not necessarily lacking in STR. gh bounces between both options, while Black^ prefers the STR bonus.

Considering Pudge's item build favors mobility, the +15 movement speed talent at Level 15 would make sense, however the movement bonuses specifically from the talent trees are generally inefficient. For comparison, a Wind Lace gives +20 movement speed and costs just 250 gold. Meanwhile the +5 armor bonus is equivalent to a Chainmail which costs 550 gold. gh always picks the armor bonus while Black^ switches between the two.

Level 20 is a no-brainer, you should almost always pick the +150 GPM option. Not only are the respawn time reduction talents generally bad, but it's the highest GPM bonus at Level 20, tied with Jakiro's. Both gh and Black^ always pick the GPM bonus.

Level 25 is another no-brainer. The Rot bonus sounds nice as it effectively doubles the Rot DPS, from 120 DPS at Level 4 to 240 DPS, however it also doubles the self-damage. At Level 25 you will have a good amount of extra magic resistance and the extra self-DPS may actually be helpful if you're trying to deny yourself, but the +1.75 STR Flesh Heap bonus is still much better.

With 15 Flesh Heap stacks, which is a pretty moderate number at 40 minutes, the talent alone will give you an extra 26.25 STR. That's more than a Reaver, which costs 3000.

Neither gh or Black^ have reached Level 25 in their pro Pudge games, but in their public matches they almost always pick the Flesh Heap bonus.


7.02 introduced a change which dampened a support Pudge's impact during the early stages by making it so Meat Hook temporarily makes a neutral target not draw aggro. What this means is that pulling mid with Meat Hook is no longer an option and same goes for easy chain pulling. Regardless, his ability to roam and contest the midlane remain.

Generally speaking you're better off contesting the midlane early on, while everyone is on even ground at Level 1, just take care not to soak too much of your mid's experience.

Rot is a great tool to contest the midlane because it doesn't require you to actually attack the enemy hero in order for it to do damage, which means if the enemy creeps already have aggro on your ally creeps, they won't aggro to you when just using Rot.

Your roams should take into account all aspects of the map and you should take advantage of your fluid positioning. This means avoiding enemy vision with Smoke or by taking the scenic route, and likewise taking advantage of the reduced vision during night time.

Effective roaming also includes contesting runes whenever they spawn and stacking camps whenever you can. Tanking a stacked camp for your midlaner nearby a shrine is a strong boost for both of you early on.

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev Discipline Priest Pharah. You can follow him on Twitter.

Green Bay Packers LB Blake Martinez reveals the 4 NFL players he would form a Dota 2 team with, how Dota has helped him with football

by 1d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Dylan Buell / Getty Images Sport / Getty

On any given Sunday, Blake Martinez can be found tackling ball carriers at the frozen tundra known as Lambeau Field. But in his spare time, the Stanford alumnus turned Green Bay Packers linebacker likes to kick back and relax by streaming Dota 2 matches for charity.

Related: Packers LB Blake Martinez: 'I want to speak to our president about sponsoring [an esports] team in the near future'

But Martinez's Dota fandom far exceeds loading into a couple of solo queue games a night. In fact, the young linebacker actively follows the competitive scene and, considering that he named the original No Diggity squad as his favorite professional team coupled with the fact that he participated in and helped cast MoonDuckTV's Kiev Major Qualifier Hub, he's far from a casual.

So naturally, when asked which four NFL players he would draft to his Dota 2 team, it came as no surprise that he picked the reigning Superbowl MVP, one of NFL's most fearsome defensive linemen and two of his Green Bay teammates to play alongside him.

"I would pick Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Mason Crosby, and Ndamukong Suh," he told theScore esports.

"Aaron would be our mid laner and shot caller of the game because of his smarts and skill! Also, he would pick up on Dota quickly. Tom would be the support (Position 4) because his vision is so good we would never get caught out and could make plays as Earth Spirit. Mason would be our position 5 support because he would be able to have a ton of time to strategize since all he does is kick at practice. And Suh would be our beefy offlaner/frontliner like Centaur and Axe that no one could get passed. EZ TI win."

Sure, Dota 2 and football are two very different games, but Martinez does think there are some similarities and even goes as far as to credit Dota with some of his growth as a leader.

"I think the ability to communicate and process a lot of information quickly is the two traits/skills that are extremely similar in both Dota and Football! I think Dota has helped me tremendously in just being a better leader for our defense," he said.

Touching on his rookie season, Martinez said he was encouraged by the way his year turned out — he notched 69 combined tackles to go along with one sack, one interception and four pass deflections — and looks to build on last season as he heads into his sophomore year.

"I think it went really well! It sucked to get injured near the end of the season but excited to grow from my rookie year! The way I want to grow is just seeing formations and plays quicker, stay healthy, get stronger and faster, and improve on the mistakes I made as a rookie and just grow from my experiences."

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Sean Tepper is the Senior Supervising Editor at theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Conrad Janzen on Dota 2's top-heavy scene: 'I would just love to see more tier 2 support'

by 2d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Valve

Conrad Janzen, former Cloud9 player manager and current Twitch partnerships team member, has a few ideas.

Appearing on theScore esports Podcast Monday, Janzen spoke on everything from why he thinks The International’s prize pool will break its own record (again) this year, to how Valve can improve the Major system.

When asked about whether the prize pool for TI7 would exceed TI6’s massive $20.7 million purse, Janzen said the company behind Dota 2 would find a way to make it happen.

“If I had to bet on Valve, it’s always going to be more and they’re going to figure out some way to do it,” he said.

“Valve is going to figure out ways to steal money from my wallet every year in the best way possible,” he said. “They do a really good job of providing value and that’s the one thing I think Dota does a really good job compared to a lot of other free to play games as well as just games in general."

It's all about making the existing player base happy, he said.

“They provide a lot of value to their hardcore users, to their regular users and there’s always going to be somebody who’s willing to spend even more than I think I do.”

Janzen also commented on the Major system, saying that although it was overall beneficial to the Dota 2 scene, is isn’t not without its shortcomings.

“It is bad in some ways, I think it does hurt third parties,” he said.

“Obviously last year we saw Boston Major take precedence over DreamHack, and that was a very unfortunate case.” One solution, he said, would be to model things more closely on Counter-Strike’s tournament structure.

“Things I would like to see is maybe make the qualifiers more valuable, make them a LAN event very similar to CS:GO, right? Where you have all these teams coming in so it’s truly international,” he told theScore esports Podcast.

“What Valve is going to have to do in this case is take a step forward and be like, ‘This is an important part, we want to grow Dota as a whole.' So, very similar to the CS:GO system where they have a regional qualifier that mostly takes place online, and then they bring all those teams together to a major qualifying tournament,” he said.

Improving the Major structure would help showcase rising Dota talent that, at least right now, is getting lost in the shadows beyond the Majors' spotlight.

“I would just love to see more tier 2 support,” he said. “I think that’s the big thing we’re missing, is these up-and-coming stars are not getting as revealed as they used to be. In-house leagues, these sort of concepts, have disappeared," he said.

“To have a healthy, growing esport, you’re going to have to support those tier 2 players as well with smaller Cups, smaller tournaments.”

Colin McNeil is a supervising editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

EPICENTER's second Dota 2 tournament announced for June 4-11

by 3d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of EPICENTER

EPICENTER: Moscow returns with its second Dota 2 event, slated to take place June 4-11, the tournament organizer announced on Wednesday.

The event will see 10 teams compete for a $500,000 prize pool, with qualifiers being held in the European, CIS, North American and Chinese regions in a similar format to the first EPICENTER: Moscow event.

EPICENTER: Moscow's group stage will be held on June 4-7, while the playoffs will take place at the VTB Ice Palace on June 9-11.

The event will also host a cosplay tournament with approximately $3,500 on the line.

Further details are expected in the coming weeks, such as qualifier dates and invited teams.Team Liquid are an expected invite since they were the champions of the first EPICENTER event.

RELATED: Team Liquid defeat Newbee, win EPICENTER

While this is the third event dubbed EPICENTER: Moscow, this is only the second Dota 2 event, as the previous event was a CS:GO tournament. That was won by the former Team Diginitas roster now part of North.

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev Discipline Priest Pharah. You can follow him on Twitter.

Packers LB Blake Martinez: 'During the next session out in Green Bay I want to speak to our president about sponsoring [an esports] team in the near future'

by 4d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Dylan Buell / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Green Bay Packers linebacker Blake Martinez isn't just a big Dota 2 fan, he's also an advocate for the game and esports in general among his NFL teammates.

Martinez has been streaming Dota 2 for charity almost every day since mid-February, and he was recently invited to MoonduckTV's Kiev Major Qualifier hub and helped cast dozens of Dota games in the lead up to the Major. theScore esports caught up with Martinez to talk about how esports are perceived in the NFL, how he got into Dota 2 and his plans to pitch the Packers on esports.

How did you get into Dota?

The way I got into Dota was an interesting story because my friends were all playing in our living room my sophomore year of college at Stanford and kept egging me on to play with them but I was so focused on football that I didn’t take up the offer but after a week or so they finally got me to try and I fell in love with the game and was one of the things I do to get my mind off of football!

Do you keep up with Dota during the season? Either playing or keeping up with the esports scene?

I watch Dota 24/7 whenever I am stretching or in the ice tub or any down time that I get from film watching and all other football obligations. Also I only play on our off days because there isn't enough time on a daily basis during the season to get games in! It was tough my rookie year, I didn't play Dota for about 6-7 months.

What position do you play in Dota? Who are your favorite heroes to play?

I mainly play the carry role and the shot caller of my team when I am in solo ranked, but I know how to play all positions since a lot of Dota players like to instantly pick the core roles regardless of skill. My favorite heroes are Storm Spirit, Luna, AM, Earthshaker, and Juggernaut.

What was your worst solo queue experience?

Worst solo queue experience happened about a couple weeks ago, I had a offlane Underlord that went afk farming the whole game (key note was that we were still winning the game without him). Then at about 30 mins the Underlord came out of the jungle with a rapier and fed it to the enemy team and we lost the game. Then I asked him why he did that and he said "I hate Monkey King pickers so I didn't want to win...."

What's your favorite Dota team? Why?

My favorite Dota team was the original No Diggity team that Synderen started, because I love the underdog role in any situation and they proved to everyone how good they are. It was awesome when they made it to the main stage at TI.

If you could play a game with any Dota pro, who would it be and why?

The one person I would want to play a game with would probably be Fata from Bears because I have just heard how amazing of a player he is, and I would just want to learn from his play!

What prompted you to start streaming? Do you find it hard to balance offseason training with your daily streaming?

The main reason I started streaming was because I play this game so much and it is one of my favorite hobbies, so I thought it would be a great way to use it in a beneficial way! That meaning I use it to donate money to the Saint Jude’s children's cancer research program! All the money I make from streaming goes to Saint Jude’s also every 100 followers I get I donate $50 to the foundation as well!

What do you think of the growing interest from traditional sports in esports? Do you think the NFL is going to get involved, given that it's been mostly from the NBA so far?

I think it is awesome how much sports and esports are meshing together! I knew it would happen sooner than later, because every professional sports player plays video games of some sort and the competitive aspect always catches the eyes of the real sports players! I think soon the NFL will get involved, and it is my mission to be the one that gets that to happen as soon as possible! During the next session out in Green Bay I want to speak to our president about sponsoring a team in the near future.

Are esports and gaming things that people talk about in the Packers locker room?

A lot of us talk about gaming because everyone plays console games and we have massive tournaments in Madden, FIFA, and UFC, but not too many conversations about esports competitions until I got there! I think every day I got asked "what are you watching on your phone" and I would always have to explain what Dota is, what Twitch is and the grand scheme of the tournaments, prizes pool, TI etc... and after I talk to anyone about it they think it is the coolest and greatest thing so hopefully that is a good start in easing its way into the NFL!

What is the most played game among the Packers' players?

The most played game is probably FIFA, I think there is a tournament in our game lounge almost everyday!

What's it like casting the Major qualifiers? Is casting something you've wanted to do before?

Casting was an amazing, crazy experience because I had no Idea what I was doing, but the people at Moonduck were extremely helpful in teaching me the ins and outs of casting. Also they just made it a fun and enjoyable time throughout the qualifiers. It was always something I wanted to try but never thought I would be able to do!

Jeremy Lin is noted in the community for being a pro athlete with an interest in Dota, he even has a team named after him. Could you beat Jeremy Lin in lane?

Yes I could easily beat Jeremy Lin in any lane or game!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

theScore esports Podcast ep. 6: Conrad Janzen on The International, Dota's Major system and Kiev

by 5d ago

1:55: Conrad Janzen on Kiev invites, the amount of Chinese teams
3:09: Janzen picks OG to win Kiev, Digital Chaos as the dark horse
4:50: "100 minute games are very easily possible" at Kiev
6:05: Why teams won't be holding back at DAC
7:15: TI prize pool "always going to be more," Valve will find a way
8:30: On the future of Dota 2: "Have we reached peak Dota? I don't think so"
10:03: Ded gaem? Why Dota 2 won't go the way of StarCraft
11:53: How to improve the Major system
17:37: Teams like OG, EG and DC will benefit from 7.03 changes
18:23: "Monkey King is going to be a huge presence" in 7.03
21:00: The time Janzen and Arteezy got drunk and debated swords vs. guns
25:28: Kyle on being on SXSW's esports panel with Dyrus
29:21: Ryan hijacks the podcast and talks about Thorin
31:26: Enter Dennis Gonzales, theScore esports' Valve guy
32:48: What Dota's Major system could learn from CS:GO
34:21: Team Liquid, OG among the teams to watch at Kiev
35:44: Has Valve given up on NA when it comes to Dota?
37:57: Esports audiences are getting burnt out
42:03: Jungling in Dota? "I'd say you're kind of screwed"

Click or tap here to listen in on SoundCloud.

Pick your lane, oil up your meat hooks… and don’t think too hard about that metaphor, because this week on theScore esports Podcast, we’re talking Dota.

Hosts Colin, Ryan and Kyle sit down over Skype with former Cloud9 player manager and current Twitch partnerships team member Conrad Janzen to talk about The International, The Kiev Major, and the state of Dota 2 today.

Janzen breaks down his picks for who will succeed at Kiev and DAC, why The International’s prize pool will forever increase year after year, and gives us some insight into how Valve’s Major system could be improved.

Next up it’s theScore esports’ own Dennis Gonzales, who has his own thoughts on who’s looking hot heading into Kiev, as well what the competitive Dota scene could learn CS:GO.

Colin McNeil is a supervising editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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