In ‘How Did This Happen,’ theScore esports takes a look back at some of the most busted, broken and insanely overpowered things to ever make their way into the world of competitive gaming.
Dota is often referred to a game that’s so unbalanced, it is effectively balanced. After all, if everything is OP, then nothing is, right? However, there are a few things that break that theory. One s the Fountain Hook, a strategy so cheesy and ridiculous that it nearly defined an entire tournament.
The Fountain Hook is a thing of legend. It’s spoken of in hushed tones, a memory of one of the greatest Dota 2 tournaments ever played. It was a hail mary strategy, a reliance on something goofy and gimmicky and theoretically impractical.
And it worked.
How did it work?
The fountain hook is actually a pretty simple interaction. It was a combination of two abilities, Pudge’s Meat Hook and Chen’s Test of Faith (teleport). The Chen player begins the teleport and right before the animation ends, the Pudge player throws a hook and takes whoever it hits back to the fountain with him. It’s a (nearly) guaranteed kill, between the damage Pudge deals to you and the damage the fountain deals.
There were ways to avoid dying. Players can actually use a Town Portal Scroll to teleport back to their fountain while being hooked towards the enemies’. If the Pudge and Chen lost sync for even a second, their timing would be completely thrown off, and the Pudge would return to the fountain empty handed.
When things went wrong, the fountain hook was a pretty terrible situation for your team. You were likely going to end up 4v5, or your Pudge would have to burn a TP Scroll. But when it went right? It was unbelievable.
The fountain hook was around for a long time in Dota 2, but it rose to prominence during The International 2013, when Danylo “Dendi” Ishutin’s Pudge and Clement “Puppey” Ivanov’s Chen led Natus Vincere to a comeback victory against TongFu in the final game of the Winners’ Finals. Dendi and Puppey hit seven fountain hooks in a single game, with the first one at fifteen minutes.
Na`Vi was on the ropes, but the hook threw off TongFu and so Dendi just kept on throwing them out. Puppey and Dendi spent the rest of the game lurking in the shadows, throwing hooks and teleports with reckless abandon in a desperate attempt to make it back into the game. They tilted TongFu off the face of the earth and took the series 2-1.
Despite the hype, fountain hooking never really made it to pub games. The timing is too tight for high latency games, and you’d never be able to accomplish it unless you were in perfect sync with your teammate. Fountain hooking became a legendary trick, the cheesiest play in Dota that somehow, was only accessible at a pro level.
A few months after TI3, in response to calls from fans that fountain hooking was glitch abuse, Valve changed the way Pudge’s Meat Hook worked. In the September 2013 First Blood update, Valve changed Meat Hook so that enemies would be dragged to the location Pudge cast the ability, not his current location.
Years later, Dendi revealed that a good player could counter a fountain hook by using a TP scroll while flying to the enemy base. If the teleport animation completed before they hit the fountain, they’d jump back to their own base as soon as the dragging animation finished. Of course, that’s assuming the opponent could hit TP as soon as the hook started and even had a scroll in the first place — not exactly a perfect counter.
However, the fountain hook does still live. Though, not in the way you might expect. If the enemy team has a Pudge, a Rubick with a Refresher Orb can steal his Meat Hook, cast it, then use the orb and instantly cast it again as a Chen or Keeper of the Light warps him back to fountain. It costs a lot of gold, and the iconic dragging animation doesn’t go off, but it’s a fountain hook!
You know, it just isn’t the same if they aren’t careening towards your fountain, forced to face their own mortality for 20 agonizing seconds.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. He's still waiting for a Birdie skin for Pudge. You can follow him on Twitter.