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A guide to Pudge

by Dennis Gonzales Mar 8
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.

Playstyle

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.

Itemization

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.

Laning

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.

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