"When I'm through with these vermin, they'll be fit for a pie."
Pudge is a melee strength hero whose ability to gank is known and feared by a lot of players. His signature ability is Meat Hook, letting him pull an enemy from a safe spot to him, where they are in much more trouble. He can make his body Rot, damaging himself but damaging enemies more. With Flesh Heap, every kill he gets will only make him tougher, letting him achieve insanely high hp totals. Finally, his Dismember locks his target down for a mere 3 seconds, greatly damaging and even killing them.
- Ability: Target Point
- Damage Type: Pure
- Damage: 90 / 180 / 270 / 360
- Distance: 700 / 900 / 1100 / 1300
- Mana Cost: 110 / 120 / 130 / 140
- Cooldown: 14 / 13 / 12 / 11
Meat Hook launches a hook at the targeted area, snagging the fist unit it touches and dragging it back, dealing damage and mini-stunning if it's an enemy. The damage it deals is pure damage, which ignores armor and magic resistance. This is arguably your best spell, so learn how to aim it properly. While catching a hero with it might sound easy, you will often have to snag one in the middle of a creep wave, one that is very mobile or one that is hidden in the fog-of-war. With it, you can hook an enemy out of nowhere to initiate a gank, after which they will likely be heavily injured or dead. You can also use it as a damage tool or to chase down enemies. Since you can also hook allies without the harmful effects, you can pull one out of danger, or even pull them to a safer place as they are channeling a spell. For instance, you can pull back an allied Enigma channeling Black Hole to put him in a safer position. The Black Hole will still be at the same spot.
- Targeting tips
The hook has a small targeting area around it, about the size of a creep. This targeting area makes it easier to grab targets, because it gives you some leeway for being inaccurate, but it has the chance of grabbing the wrong target.
If a hero is nearby a creep, it is better to hook the side of the hero away from the creep, rather then hooking between a hero and a creep, as the hook may grab the creep instead.
You can also hook a hero onto a cliff (such as the cliffs near the runes).
- Ability: No Target, Toggle
- Damage Type: Magical
- Damage: 35 / 60 / 85 / 110
- Radius: 250
- Slow: 20%
Rot is a toggled spell that deals damage and slows enemies around you, but does damage to you too, though due to your high strength you won't have to worry about it as much. The self-damage can kill yourself, so you can use it to deny yourself. Rot can also be used while channeling Dismember without interrupting it, so it's good for tacking in that extra damage. Be careful of silences because you cannot toggle it off when you are silenced, which can be very bad when your health is dropping low.
- Ability: Passive
- Magic Resistance: 6% / 8% / 10% / 12%
- Strength Bonus: 1 / 1.5 / 2 / 2.5
- Range: 450
Flesh Heap grants you extra magic resistance, but more importantly it gives you bonus strength every time you kill an enemy hero or an enemy hero dies nearby. The best thing about this skill is that it is retroactive, meaning that it still gains charges when not learned, instantly applying its effects when you learn it. More strength means more survivability and, since you're a strength hero, more damage. If you are on a crazy killing spree, Flesh Heap can increase your momentum even more.
- Ability: Channeled, Target Unit
- Affects: Enemy Heroes
- Damage Type: Magical
- Damage Per Second: 75 / 125 / 175
- Mana Cost: 100 / 130 / 170
- Cooldown: 30
- Scepter Strength Multiplier: 1.0
Dismember makes Pudge eat his enemy alive, dealing damage per second and stunning them. It lasts 3 seconds on heroes, 6 seconds on creeps. This is the final ability in the most common Pudge combo, which is to Meat Hook, activate Rot and pin them down with Dismember. It can also be used to initiate a kill if your enemy is close enough.
Aghanim's Scepter can be bought by Pudge and will grant bonus damage based on his strength for Dismember as well as heal him for the amount of damage that Dismember does.
Skill and Item Builds
Suggested Skill Build
Most Pudge players follow a simple skilling order, occasionally altering parts of the standard build depending on their situation.
Standard Skill Build
Get Rot at level 1, since it will allow you to last-hit easier and harass your lane opponents, especially when laning against a melee hero. Rot can also be used to deny yourself if you're ganked early on and have no chance of survival. After this, max your Meat Hook as soon as possible, since it will be your main ganking tool and a great source of damage. Max Rot after Meat Hook to maximize its damage, and max Flesh Heap last. The reason for this is because Flesh Heap is retroactive, which means the charges you obtained before leveling it will instantly become activated as soon as you do. You can also put one level into Flesh Heap early on if you need a bit more survivability. Level your ultimate, Dismember, as soon as possible, at the standard levels 6, 11 and 16.
Suggested Item Build
Pudge is not very reliant on items due to his high spell damage and natural durability.
Get your standard starting items like Healing Salves, Tangos and Iron Branches. Get a Stout Shield is you're worried about harassment, though a Quelling Blade is also a decent choice if you want to have an easier time last-hitting.
During the early-game you should be getting the components for your core items. Assuming that you're soloing the mid lane, a Bottle is a mandatory item for healing and for rune control. An Urn of Shadows is an excellent choice as it grants you healing charges whenever you kill a hero, which you will be doing a lot. Get a Magic Wand if you need a short burst of restoration, and a Boots of Speed for your boot upgrade. Also, if you think your ganks are failing due to enemy wards, getting Smokes of Deceit can help you bypass Observer Wards.
For your boot upgrade, consider getting Arcane Boots so that you'll always have enough mana to pull off Meat Hook and Dismember combos. Alternatively, getting Phase Boots can help you position yourself for proper hooks or chase your victims, especially since you don't have a very high move speed. You can also opt for Power Treads for some reliable stats and versatility.
A Hood of Defiance is also an excellent choice, but it is a bit situational, as it makes you take less damage from your Rot, as well as damage from enemy spells. You can also go for a Vanguard to increase your durability, especially against carries. A Force Staff should also be considered for positioning or escape purposes.
If you still manage to get a lot of gold after getting your core items, you can consider getting an Aghanim's Scepter, which lets you use Dismember as a way to restore your health. You can also choose to upgrade your Hood of Defiance into a Pipe of Insight to support your teammates and make your Rot do almost no damage.
A Black King Bar is an all-around solid pick-up late in the game if you're worried about disables. You may also consider getting a Heart of Tarrasque, which will make you nigh unkillable if you already have a bunch of Flesh Heap charges.
For the choice of a lane, always go for solo mid. It is a great lane for gankers like Pudge, because it not only grants you rune control, it also makes it faster to travel between lanes for ganking. Focus on getting an early level advantage over the enemy team. Since you're soloing a lane, it means you won't have to share experience with another teammate, letting you get more levels faster than sidelanes which usually contain more than one hero. When you need to collect runes, you can push the lane with Rot. It is a bit hard to win rune races due to your slow speed.
The optimal time to start ganking varies between players. Some prefer to wait until they have Dismember, while others start ganking once Meat Hook reaches a high enough level. Go for ganks often during this stage of the game, while trying to get as much farm as possible. If you do get some kills, you get to give your team some early momentum while giving yourself some Flesh Heap charges. Even if you do fail to get a lot of kills, you will be disrupting enemy farm, slowing them down a bit. Pudge tends to have a psychological effect among players, especially if you land Meat Hooks often, which can scare enemies into playing more defensively, which also works to your teammates advantage. This is possibly when you're most effective to your team, so if you play through this part of the match properly, you can help give your team a good advantage that can potentially snowball into a victory.
It is a bit harder to pull of ganks during the mid-game, especially once most enemy heroes leave their lanes. You still have enough power to kill a lone hero single-handedly, but it becomes a bit harder to find your victims when they're wandering around the map or in a group instead of staying in a lane alone or with another hero. You should still go for kills as much as possible to build up more Flesh Heap charges and to give your team a bit more farm. Pudge is a hero who can take advantage of a small advantage and build enough momentum to help win the game, and you definately want to keep the momentum during this stage of the game.
During tower pushes, your Rot is handy for clearing creep waves. You can also throw out Meat Hooks to scare away enemy defenders. If you catch a hero with it you can pull them right into your teammates for an easy kill. In teamfights you should also aim to do the same thing. Hook an enemy hero early on and kill them off so your team starts with a number advantage. During a teamfight you should toggle Rot on and off to deal AoE damage while ensuring your survival. Your Meat Hook has a rather short cooldown so you can use it multiple times in a battle, usually to deal high ranged damage. If things go bad, you can use Meat Hook to save allies in trouble. Those Flesh Heap charges will also come into handy once you skill it, as it makes you much more tanky and can let you survive close duels with strong enemy carries.
Pudge's damage starts to fall off during the late-game, as carries become really strong and magical spells have a lower impact. You can no longer kill most heroes quickly with a Meat Hook and Dismember combo. Fortunately if you've been getting a lot of hero kills, you should have a good amount of Flesh Heap charges, which will make you really durable. Your role will shift from a ganker to an initiator, although Pudge's way to initiate a battle is quite different from others. You should focus on drawing a key enemy away from their teammates and let your allies kill them off, which will give your team a number advantage and let them force a teamfight.
The standard ability combo with Pudge is to Meat Hook to drag a hero in, Dismember to disable them and Rot during the Dismember to do some additional damage and slow them afterwards. You can also start out with a Dismember for a close enemy and then finish them off with a Meat Hook when they try to escape. Flesh Heap's magic resistance reduces the self-damage of Rot. Flesh Heap also synergizes with an Aghanim's upgraded Dismember, giving it more damage from the extra strength.
Pudge doesn't synergize particularly well with any hero, since he can easily kill single enemy targets by himself. However, heroes with a ranged disable like Mirana can help Pudge get an easy Meat Hook. Heroes with channeling spells will appreaciate your Meat Hook, since you can drag them out of danger without canceling that spell.
As with any ganker, the best counter to Pudge is simply map awareness. Always have Observer Wards on the map, use missing in action calls whenever Pudge isn't visible on the map for a short while and generally be careful of potential hiding spots like your jungle. If you know that Pudge is ganking your lane, move erratically so that you are harder to get hooked, or stay in the middle of creeps and use them as a shield. If you have an escape mechanism like a blink, mash the hotkey as soon as you're hooked as that you can move out of range before Pudge can use his Dismember. As long as your team don't get ganked too much, you should be fine.