We hear you, you really love playing Pudge. The hero’s been the most popular Dota hero for as long as he was in the game, and is one of the most copied designs in cheap Dota knock-offs. Is the hero actually good now and did the changes of the last several years finally made him a viable character to pick in higher level games? Let’s find out.
This is the first thing that should be immediately apparent for most. Current version of Pudge in the current meta isn’t support-viable. Even in a ranged core lane, he simply doesn’t offer enough pressure and reliability to be a good pick.
His ganking potential is similarly limited. Pudge leaving the lane is usually very noticeable and even a successful hook doesn’t guarantee a kill on an enemy midlaner. Given how support Pudge is also very likely to be XP-limited, there is little on offer from him until later in the game, where the damage to his own team has already been done.
All the high-level Pudge games are core-centric, at least in the current meta, and there are several good reasons for why it is the only viable option. And a surprisingly potent one.
There are several items the current meta revolves around. Shiva's Guard, Eternal Shroud and Mage Slayer are the most consistently purchased items in high-level pubs. One of them is excellent on Pudge, one is situationally great and one is a very strong counter. In the end it kind of evens out.
Having a noticeable armour boost, strong ability damage amplification on top of a reliable slow makes a huge difference for Pudge. The hero is notoriously weak to physical damage and an early Shiva’s provides a lot of EHP. It also allows for walk-in initiations on non-mobile targets, potentially netting easy support kills.
If extra protection against ability damage is needed, Eternal Shorud can also become a priority. The item more or less replaced Heart of Tarrasque as the go-to tanking item and it is a great fit for Pudge in the later portions of the game.
That said, when dealing with Mage Slayer carriers, we feel like getting an earlier Blink Dagger and maybe even a Black King Bar should be a priority. While the Mage Slayer debuff pierces BKB-immunity, the Blink+BKB combo can be used to get on top of the Mage Slayer target to kill them at the start of the fight.
They should be a priority in most cases, as the damage mitigation and periodic damage coming from them can be a huge problem. Though one of the most popular Mage Slayer carriers in the game right now is Dragon Knight, who isn’t an ideal target for initiation most of the time, so the decision making process is highly situational, as is everything in Dota.
This part is very easy. A lot of players are still maxing out Meat Hook for the extra nuke damage, while the default high level build is maxing out Rot first and Flesh Heap second, with a value point in Hook taken at level one, mostly to secure the ranged creep.
Pudge, especially the viable core variant, shouldn’t rely on high skill and some luck for initiation. They should be tanky, self-sufficient and, above all, reliable. Hook is a nice follow-up, it is an occasionally great save, it is something to style on the enemy team with after a successful initiation.
We are not saying that trying for Hooks is a bad idea, but we are saying that prioritising it over other abilities in skill build and itemising for it in your item build is not the wisest path. Pudge shouldn’t become ignorable for 12 seconds just because he missed one hook. Coincidentally, it is also another argument against support Pudge.
At the time of writing, Pudge is by far the most popular hero in pubs, but can also boast a somewhat respectable ~49.10% win rate in Divine+ pubs. The hero isn’t necessarily strong, but thinking of him as an auto-lose is a bit of an overreaction in the current patch.
That said, there are definitely much better heroes for both offlane and mid positions, when compared to Pudge. All dedicated support heroes are also undeniably superior to Pudge in a support role as well, so do keep it in mind during the drafting stage.
We also feel like flaming teammates for one missed hook or for simply picking Pudge isn’t a game-winning strategy. Tilting your teammates is never going to result in a higher chance of winning, even if said teammate is playing support Pudge and landing zero hooks.
Stay calm and concentrate on your own game: this is the only true way to improve in this beautiful game.