Pudge, the Butcher: no hero will ever be as popular as the hulking abomination with the hook. According to Dotabuff, Pudge has been in one in three games over the course of Dota 2’s history. When you consider the fact that there are more than 100 heroes in the game, Pudge’s sheer fame becomes crystal clear.
The reason for his reputation is simple: Pudge’s signature ability Meat Hook is a skillshot ability. For those not in the know, “skillshot” refers to abilities that require precise timing and prediction in order for it to connect with the target. As opposed to “surefire” spells like Vengeful Spirit’s Magic Missile—which track their targets once their respective animations are on the field—skillshots are prone to missing their targets entirely.
Incidentally, Meat Hook’s nature as a skillshot ability makes pub players gravitate towards Pudge. Pudge is incredibly difficult to play, but there are few things more satisfying in Dota 2 than landing a Meat Hook through the fog of war.
But Pudge is much more than just his Meat Hook. The rest of his kit allows him to be a tanky terror on the battlefield, locking key targets down with his ultimate ability Dismember. Rot slows and damages enemies caught in its area of effect, though it also deals damage to Pudge himself. Finally, his passive ability Flesh Heap makes him stronger and more durable with each enemy hero that dies around him.
Pudge is incredibly disruptive in the right hands, and can almost carry his team by virtue of securing kills for his teammates that would otherwise be impossible to find. He is hard to learn and even harder to master, but the Butcher always makes sure to reward his most loyal customers.
Pudge Skill Build
Image via Valve
Pudge’s ability progression rarely changes from game to game. Meat Hook and Rot should be maxed out first, in that order—to maximize his early game damage output. Since Pudge should be played as a roaming position 4 support, he needs as much damage as possible early on so that he can bully the lanes right away.
Flesh Heap is maxed last because of its retroactive mechanics. Flesh Heap charges are stored by Pudge whether or not he already has skill points invested into it, so it’s best saved for after the first two abilities are complete.
Dismember should be taken at Levels 6, 12, and 18; its scaling is just too good to pass up at any given opportunity. Every level of Dismember improves the spell’s characteristics significantly, making it hardly worth skipping out on it.
Pudge Item Build
Image via Valve
As a roaming support, Pudge should focus on buying items that will help sustain his team. Urn of Shadows is one of the best choices for Pudge, as it gives him the ability to heal his teammates and place timers on escaping enemy heroes. Later on, the Urn can be upgraded to the Spirit Vessel, a far more potent version of the item.
Throughout the mid game, you can opt to help your position 5 support with warding, or build towards mobility items such as Force Staff or Blink Dagger. Mobility items make using Meat Hook and Dismember way easier, as it allows you to jump right on top of your target without having to lead them first.
Later on, more support items like Shiva’s Guard and Pipe of Insight will contribute loads of sustain and protection. Shiva’s Guard is great against attack speed dependent carries, while Pipe of Insight makes your team more resistant to heavy nukes and magic. Overall, you should be looking to enable and enhance your team wherever possible through the use of support items.
Image via Valve
Pudge’s Meat Hook is so versatile and full of different applications that it deserves a discussion of its own. After all, Meat Hook is the biggest reason to even pick the hero, so it bears talking about its uses.
Meat Hook has a maximum range of 1300 units, which it reaches 0.9 seconds after it is initially launched from Pudge’s position. Any unit—be it friend, foe, or in between—that is snagged by the hook will be dragged from the point of contact right next to Pudge himself. If the target is a neutral creep or an enemy unit, that unit will take 360 Pure-type damage on contact, and will be unable to move or use any items or abilities while being dragged.
Meat Hook ignores terrain, which makes it perfect for displacing key targets that would otherwise be able to see enemy heroes walking towards them. Creative Pudge players will make full use of their positioning and the topography around them to get the best hooks possible, which will come naturally with practice.
A good trick to use with Meat Hook is cast point cancelling, which involves hitting the Stop command (S key) to interrupt the cast animation, which serves as a “pump fake” of sorts against heroes trying to dodge your hook. It takes a lot of finesse to use this trick properly, but it is very much worth the training time.
Image via Valve
Heroes that can place damage over time effects on Pudge do well against him, in the case of a Blink Dagger purchase. Picks like Witch Doctor, Warlock, and Venomancer come to mind in this regard. In other cases, heroes with built-in escape mechanisms like Anti-Mage, Weaver, and Timbersaw give him trouble. Timbersaw in particular wrecks Pudge, thanks to his naturally large health pool and ability to reduce Pudge’s stats with Whirling Death.
Doom is perhaps the hardest counter to Pudge, due to the fact that his ultimate completely takes Pudge out of the fight. If timed right, Doom will even prevent Pudge from turning off Rot, which can prove devastating if unprepared. Moreover, Infernal Blade’s scaling nature means that it deals more damage to Pudge the more maximum HP he has.
Black King Bar as an item soft-counters Pudge, as it blocks the damage from Meat Hook, Rot, and Dismember. However, it does not prevent the dragging effect of Meat Hook and the disabling effect of Dismember, which do go through magic immunity. This makes Pudge still good at isolating key targets, whether or not they are protected from spells.
It’s clear that Pudge isn’t for the faint of heart, or for those that are completely new to Dota 2. His high-risk, high-reward playstyle punishes inexperienced players, but rewards those who commit to learning how to use his kit.
There are more than just a few reasons to be picking the Butcher, least of which is his effectiveness as a ganker. He is, after all, undeniably fun to play—especially once the player piloting him finds his or her rhythm with the Meat Hook.
Beware the Butcher’s cleaver—for it might be the last thing you see.
* FirstBlood® is NOT AFFILIATED, AUTHORIZED, LICENSED OR ENDORSED by Dota™, Dota 2™, Steam™, Dota 2™, the Dota logo® and Steam™ are trademarks of Valve Corporation.