Pudge: The resurgence of a Na`Vi classic
No hero in Dota 2 is quite as connected to the history of Natus Vincere G2A as Pudge. Ever since The International 1 and ESWC 2011, the iconic butcher has always stayed close to the hearts of Na`Vi faithful. While his popularity in pubs never faded, he disappeared from the competitive scene for quite a while. With the new patch, he has hooked the spotlight back upon himself.
Someone needed a butcher?
Even in times where Pudge was not at his strongest, he was still very popular amongst pub players. His over 443 million appearances in public matches make him the most picked hero in Dota 2 by a very large margin. Despite his long absence from the professional scene, almost every third pub game ever played featured a Pudge.
Most picked heroes in pubs all time, image courtesy of dotabuff
Despite his never-faltering popularity, you can still consider him a hero on the rise. His pick rate has gone up by 5,57% over the last month, mostly due to his more frequent appearances in professional matches. Furthermore, his 52,49% win rate marks the 13th highest percentage in the 5K+ bracket, which even tops Lone Druid, one of the most favorable heroes this patch.
In order to understand the butcher’s rise back to prominence, it is vital to take a look at the reasons why he fell out of the competitive scene and analyze how those stepping stones have gradually been moved out of the way by several changes.
Was it something I ate? - the downfalls of Pudge
While Pudge entered the stage of Dota 2 as a mid laner, his days in that position were numbered. The last hurrah for the time being was another moment well-remembered by Na`Vi fans around the globe. When Dendi and his team executed the “fountain hook” to perfection at The International 3, a well-timed combination of Test of Faith and Meat Hook pulled enemies all the way back to the well, ensuring their demise. After that interaction was removed from the game, Pudge had a hard time justifying himself in the mid position.
A crucial weakness of Pudge has always been his sustain. As a hero with very low armor, he has a hard time trading damage effectively in the mid lane. Especially against ranged heroes, the incoming damage forces him to use up his consumables quickly. Furthermore, the butcher has no way to really win a lane unless the opponent makes a mistake, allowing him to land a hook and get a kill.
Since he is not a great laner, he has to rotate early and create kills around the map in order to be valuable to his team. This gank-heavy playstyle has fallen completely out of favor for mid laners, with farming- or team fight-oriented heroes taking over the position 2. For a long time, Pudge could not find another role to fit in, causing him to be absent from the professional scene. He was too level dependant to be played as a support and scaled too badly to be run as a safe laner. His sustain issues plus the lack of an escape mechanism barred him from playing offlane, while unfavorable matchups and metas took away the option of going mid.
I'm like a bad meal. Ya can't keep me down.
With that being said, one can see those weakness slowly fading along his changelog, starting as early as 6.83, which brought the first big step back towards relevance. By increasing the max distance and cast range of Meat Hook from 700/900/1100/1300 to 1000/1100/1200/1300, Pudge became much less level dependant. With that change, roaming and support positions became a possibility, opening up new ways of utilizing the hero.
6.84 brought the next buff, increasing the movement slow of Rot from 20% to 20/22/24/26% respectively, making for better damage trading capabilities versus melee heroes. Rot was even further buffed in 6.85 through increased damage and 27% movement slow at all levels. With that, Pudge gained the ability to effectively zone out melee heroes at level 1, further increasing his value as a roaming support.
Image courtesy of Ji Zhang
After several changes to the damage mechanics of Dismember and the rework of his Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade, 6.88 was the patch that paved the way back to prominence for good. The Rot slow was once again buffed to a staggering 30%, while the cooldown of Dismember went down to 30/25/20 seconds instead of 30 seconds on all levels.
7.00 was just as kind to the butcher, bringing talent upgrades that cater nicely to his needs. At level 10, either 8 strength or 2 mana regen can be picked up. While 8 strength is quite a lot at such an early stage of the game, Pudge is a hero that typically struggles with mana regen. Due to his low base regen, a flat bonus of mana per second comes in nicely. The level 15 upgrades also come in handy for a slow hero with very little armor, granting either 5 extra armor or 15 movement speed.
At level 20, the options are either increasing your income through a 150 gold per minute buff in order to pick up a crucial extra item, or fortifying the high ground defence of your team by increasing your uptime with a 40 second respawn timer reduction. The choice at level 25 is between an extra 1,75 strength per Flesh Heap stack or an extra 120 damage for Rot.
Talent usage for Pudge, image courtesy of dotabuff
Butcher’s in business - Pudge in 7.01
A mixture between direct changes, changes to the game in general and the current meta has brought Pudge back into relevance. There are several explanations to why he is thriving in the current patch while embracing a role that is completely different to what he once was. In contrast to his mid lane days, Pudge has now become a viable choice as a position 4 support with roaming tendencies.
With his changed skillset, he brings a variable presence to that position. Rot allows him to easily zone out melee offlane heroes by just running at them, since they cannot trade with him efficiently. With the high range on level 1 Meat Hook, it only takes two levels to secure kill potential, making him a threat around the map. Since he is likely to be off the map most of the time, he forces the enemy team to completely adjust their gameplan and playstyle in order to account for his rotations. Another plus are his low cooldowns, which perfectly fit into the current meta of constant fights and skirmishes, while the introduction of Shrines has helped to ease his sustain problems.
Besides the fact the he has his abilities available most of the time, Pudge also helps to counteract typical timings of the patch. A big theme of 7.01 has been early pushes by combinations such as Luna and Shadow Demon. Once Luna has farmed a Helm of the Dominator and a Dragon Lance, and Shadow Demon has reached level 7 and therefore has Disruption maxed, these lineups typically commence their pushing efforts.
By that time, Pudge normally has reached level 7 himself, giving him a max range Meat Hook. Once a hook lands on a hero, it is pretty much a guaranteed pickoff, bringing pushes to a halt immediately. This disruptive power without the need to farm certain items makes Pudge incredibly valuable in a very timing-based meta.
Image courtesy of GrubyDesign
Another often occurring situation in this patch has been one team taking map control fairly quickly by pushing down all outer towers, making the game come down to high ground defence. Pudge is also a great choice for those kinds of scenarios. Meat Hook can easily pull pushing heroes into the base, making for big gold swings and delayed games. Even the typical approach of taking down Roshan before going high ground can be rendered useless by one big play, pulling the Aegis-carrier towards your own tier 4 towers where his team can’t back them up.
Make room for Pudge! - The butcher’s return to Natus Vincere
All of these qualities haven’t gone unnoticed in the competitive scene, making for a return of Pudge to the big stage. However, the hero requires a very specific skillset from his player, making him hard to master. It takes impeccable timing and understanding of movement in order to connect on your hooks against the crispy positioning of pro players.
Until lately, Dendi was the one known for his Pudge play on Na`Vi, but there has been a new butcher in town. In SL i-League Season 3, it was rmN- who took over the hooking duties for the first time for Na`Vi. In a win versus Vega Squadron, he showed off his accuracy and great timing on Rot denies after shaking off some early game jitters. Even if a Natus Vincere Pudge, who isn’t in the hands of Dendi, might still be a strange sight, keep a lookout for more support Pudge from rmN-!
KardinalR 10 February 2017, 13:57 22831 0