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5 Votes

A general Pugna guide: test magic against steel

April 9, 2016 by Plutarch
Comments: 16    |    Views: 40635    |   

Build 1
Build 2


DotA2 Hero: Pugna

Hero Skills

Nether Blast

1 3 7 9


2 12 13 14

Nether Ward

4 5 8 10

Life Drain

6 11 16


15 17 18


Pugna is an iconic nuker in Dota. Best known for his ability to banish his opponent into a ghost form which heavily amplifies magical damage. He also possesses multi-nuking abilities, and Decrepify exists to befit all of them.
The main role of Pugna is more than just a support, he is a heavy combatant and a promising ally to many heroes who can lend his help in damage amplification. His ultimate Life Drain is a multi-purpose spell which can be described as one of the best ultimate in game.
Farming is hardly a problem with Pugna with his talented nuking capability that can effectively clear creeps and seizing kills. Unlike other supports, he benefits directly from items in a special way. For example, Dagon deals much more damage than its intended level thanks to Decrepify, while Aether Lens assists 3 spells of Pugna (all deals damage and all 4 spells need a bump in cast range). He gets deadlier with each items he gets without having to combine too many components to be effective.
In overall, Pugna is an potential farmer and nuker, with exceptional magic damage output and high intl gain. Though his skills are partly complicated and need a handful of practices to be aimed timely. Pugna is a potential candidate for those who enjoys fast-paced nuking, massive combat while farming is not entirely an issue.

Pros and Cons


  • 3 out of 4 spells deal damage, at least 2 of which scale nicely into late game.
  • Highest intelligent gain, +4 per level.
  • Multi-purpose abilities which can be used to nuke, farm and push.
  • Very high starting movement (330)


  • Very low strength and agility gain (1.2 and 1 respectively) which suggests he is quite squishy.
  • Very reliant on spells, if spell immunity is gained for enemy, or he can't cast spells, means he is doomed or useless in combat.
  • Each spell has a drawback, and unlike the others, these drawbacks can be troublesome.

Ability 1: Nether Blast

General information

An exploding pulse deals damage to enemies and structures in the area. Deals half damage to structures.

Cast Time: 0.2+0
Cast Range: 400
Blast Radius: 400
Effect Delay: 0.9
Damage: 100/175/250/325
Cooldown 5.5 Mana 85/105/125/145


- Deals 50/87.5/125/162.5 damage to buildings.
- Deals 75/140/187.5/260 actual damage to heroes after reduction.
- The visual effects and the sound during the 0.9 second effect delay are only visible and audible to allies.
- Despite the visual effect, the damage is extended to the full area.

Personal opinions and Skill uses

The following uses can be practiced:

Farming and clearing creeps
Harassing or Nuking during combat
Pushing tower

- The blast area is 400 Aoe and the cast range is also 400 Aoe, so when it is casted, it looks like Pugna has to draw very close to intended area to perform it. Which means it can be noticed and dodged by experienced players. When casting, Pugna uses the same animation he uses when attacking, which can trick an opponent into not aware of Nether Blast has been casted to avoid it.
- Nether Blast can bring a melee creep below half of its hitpoints and kill instantly the ranged creeps in most stages of the games. With low cooldown, it can be spammed to clear lane creeps quite effectively. It also deals a reserved amount of damage to building which can be used to push as well.


Ability 2: Decrepify

General information

A powerful banishing spell that slows a unit and renders it unable to attack or be attacked. Afflicted units take extra magic damage.

Cast Time: 0.2+0.4
Cast Range: 700
Enemy Move Speed Slow: 30%/40%/50%/60%
Allies Magic Resistance Reduction: 25%
Enemy Magic Resistance Reduction: 30%/40%/50%/60%
Duration: 3.5

Cooldown 15/12/9/6 Mana 60


- Does not amplify Pure damage from spells.
- Despite the description, the magic resistance reduction is applied diminishingly, which the final result is as followed:
  • Reduces allies' total magic resistance to 6.25%
  • Reduces enemies' total magic resistance to 2.5%/-5%/-12.5%/-20% if no other sources of magic resistance or amplifications are involved.
- Stacks with magic resistance reduction and movement speed slows of other sources, except with other ethereal effects, which means an unit that is affected by Ghost Scepter will not have its magic resistance reduction stacked with Decrepify, though Decrepify has higher priority and will set that target magic resistance based on its reduction.
- Can be cast on Nether Ward and Tombstone, but not on any other ward.
- Does not slow allied targets.
- Despite rendering the target unable to attack or be attacked, it applies a disarm effect on the affected target which will be ignored during Duel, Omnislash, Tricks of the Trade but not with Sleight of Fist.

Personal Opinions and Skill Uses

Decrepify is very useful in many situations:

Amplify Nuking Power on an enemy
Basically Pugna's spells will be rescaled as followed (presuming Decrepify is at highest level) as a typical enemy has -20% magic resistance:
Nether Blast deals 120/210/300/390 damage to an enemy.
Nether Ward deals 1.2/1.5/1.8/2.1 damage per mana spent.
Life Drain deals 180/240/300 damage and 216/288/360 damage with scepter.
Items like Dagon is an effective means as it can deal 480 damage at its first level on an affected enemy. Magical damage from Mjollnir will also be amplified provided that there is any in your team.
Items such as Veil of Discord MR reduction stacks with Decrepify, it can reduce a target magic resistance to 6.25% (individually) and process to -25% with maxed Decrepify.

Saving yourself or ally

When casting on self or allies will not slow them down and only decrease MR to 6.25%, while rendering it completely immune to physical damage. It is very useful when you are being chased by high damage dealer like Riki or Phantom Assassin, and can even dodge slashes from Omnislash, just watch out for nearby spell-casters.

Saving wards
As mentioned above, it can be casted on Nether Ward and Tombstone, both of which are immune to magical damage but can be attacked, casting Decrepify make them invulnerable for the duration.

Decrepify is also a controversial spell which you cant expect to cast it freely for your own combos during teamcombat, the magic damage amplification is good, but if an enemy is already being focused by normal attacking, it is advisable that you don't cast this ability since it will certainly annoyed many of your teammates.
Decrepify, like mentioned above, applies a disarm effect to the target but does not silence them and some special abilities will go through this effect such as Duel, casting on yourself will allow you to not taking damage, but casting on an enemy with other ways of attacking will not prevent them from dealing damage.


Ability 3: Nether ward

General information

Pugna places a nether ward that fires mana flares at enemy heroes who dare to cast spells, while also causing them to lose mana. Nether Ward deals damage equal to the damage multiplier times the mana spent by the enemy hero. Lasts 30 seconds.

Cast Time: 0.2+0.4
Cast Range: 150
Radius: 1600
Hero Attacks to Destroy: 4
Non-Hero Attacks to Destroy: 16
Damage per Used Mana: 1/1.25/1.5/1.75
Mana Lost per Second: 1.5/3.0/4.5/6
Ward Duration: 30
Cooldown 35 Mana 80


- Nether Ward can be casted at 150 range away from Pugna.
- The mana loss is provided by an aura and it decrease mana regeneration instead of directly draining mana from the target, which means it can be succeeded if the target has higher mana regeneration than the negative regeneration amount.
- Mana Flare triggers on every used mana by spells and items. If a spell or item costs no mana to use, it does not trigger on it. - Mana Flare can hit invisible, spell immune and invulnerable units and units in the Fog of War.
- Mana Flare deals the damage before the actual spell is cast, so if the target dies, the spell stays unused.
  • This means that spells which provide protection (e.g. Rage, Refraction do not save the caster from a lethal mana flare.
- The aura pierces spell immunity but since the damage is magical, it does not damage the target.

Personal opinions and Skill uses

- Like other wards, Nether Ward's only way of destruction is by attacking it with normal attacks, it can be saved by casting Decrepify on it so enemies cannot touch it.
Ward placement

- Nether Ward alerts the enemies about its presence by its aura and location based on the direction of the projectiles traveled, a tip is that it can be placed on impassable terrain such as the cliffs and even in the woods, which is only accessible by very few means and even ranged heroes cannot attack it if lacks of sight, Nether Ward does not reveal itself when it triggers so it has to be within their sight to be targeted.
- Nether Ward damage also benefits from Decrepify amplification, sometimes the combo can be very lethal.
- It is a very useful mean of nuking during dense combat, especially when the enemies cannot locate its location, though experienced players will retreat right away upon noticing the aura, it is best advised that you place it down once the combat begins, NOT when you sense the combat is about to begin.
- The cooldown is 35 seconds, which is 5 seconds longer than the ward duration, however, it would be very long if the enemies destroy the ward earlier. The ward is rather easy to destroy once detected and give a handful of bounty so place it with discretion.

Here is some examples of tricky ward placement.

- Nether Ward is quite useful against spammers with high mana cost, though it does not fare very well against enemies like Lone Druid or Lifestealer because spell casting is quite minimal for such heroes.
The heroes below can take really heavy damage if casting while Nether Ward is active


Killing with ward

Ultimate: Life Drain

General Information

When cast on an enemy, Pugna drains health from the target enemy unit to heal himself. If Pugna has full HP, and the enemy target is a Hero, Life Drain will restore mana instead.
When cast on an ally, Pugna will drain his own health into his ally.

Cast Time: 0.2+0
Cast Range: 900/1050/1200
Max Channel Time: 10
Link Break Distance: 900/1050/1200
Health Drain per Second: 150/200/250 ( Aghanim's Scepter 180/240/300)

Cooldown 22 ( Aghanim's Scepter 0) Mana 125/175/225


- The link breaks when the target gets out of vision, turns invulnerable/hidden, exceeds the break distance, or runs out of health.
- The health restored equals to the amount of damage dealt per tick after all reductions.
  • This means when a damage instance is reduced (e.g. magic resistance, Refraction, etc), it heals for the reduced amount, or not at all.
  • But this also means that amplifying the damage (e.g. Decrepify, Soul Catcher, etc), causes it to heal for more.
- If Pugna or the targeted ally has full HP, it will restore mana instead, this effect will only occur when the target is a hero, draining mana from non-hero units will not work even at full health.
If the ability is already draining health, it will restore mana when the target has become full in health and vice versa
- The self-damage when targeting allies is lethal, so it can be used to deny Pugna.
- Instantly destroy illusion if it is an enemy, allied illusion will not.

Personal opinions and skill uses

Life Drain is a very powerful ultimate and is one of those must be upgraded with Aghanim's Scepter since the huge benefit it brings.

Saving yourself and nuking an enemy:
- It is better that you cast Decrepify before casting Life Drain since the amount of health restore is dependent on the damage dealt, and an increase in damage is never redundant.
- It is important to choose your location and determine the situation before draining, because despite the exceptional range, Life Drain is rather easy to be canceled and the most common way is that the target get lost in the Fog of War, which can easily happen if the fight occurs in the wood. Only when you are certain that the enemy has a long way to escape, is being held down and is less likely able to stop your channeling that you cast it to achieve a maximum damage.
- Because restoring mana will turn into restoring health if you start taking damage, it is advisable that you cast it while the you have an upper hand so that you retain enough mana to proceed further into the fight since Pugna is a spammer, without mana he literally cant do anything, just like a common nuker.

Draining Life (above) and Mana (below)

Saving an ally:
- The life restore is not pure because Pugna takes reduced damage from Life Drain with MR, which also suggest that this amount can be increased if Pugna has Ghost Scepter or Decrepify on self (though these two won't stack)
- It is very important to know that you can kill yourself with this ability, so be discreet unless you are willing to sacrifice, though also it can be risky if an enemy spots you with low health.
- Because you and your ally share vision, this connection can never be disjointed unless they move out of the range or you are interrupted.

- Aghanim's Scepter is a crucial item, the increased life drain is not as important as the zero cooldown (not to mentioned the slight increase in cast range).
- Aether Lens increases cast range and break distance, it also amplifies the damage output by a small amount, all greatly befits the ultimate.
- Decrepify should always be launched first, though if the core of the battle is too chaotic, it is not hurt just to stand outside and drain since Decrepify has quite a short cast range. Though not very necessary, you can cast Decrepify on yourself while healing an ally to maximize the effect.

Okay, :) I know this is a bug and actual Life Drain cannot reach that long. However, it is possible to reach the location of Shadow Fiend if you have Aether Lens and Aghanim's Scepter.

Possible combos

Combo to damage:

+ +

Decrepify lasts for 3.5 seconds on all level, so if performed at max speed, you can get about 2.5 seconds of Life Drain with the target having Decrepify on them. The casting animation during Nether Blast can be forced cancel, just like cancel attacking, saving you a little more time.

Note: Life Drain damages the target with instances (which occur every 0.25 second, not sharply each second) results in 40 ticks for the whole duration, which means your 2 seconds Life Drain can be counted as 8 ticks, which deal about 37.5/45 damage with each tick.

+ + Dagon +

+ + + Dagon +

Veil of Discord has longer duration than Decrepify, so it should always be casted first.

: Casting Nether Ward before entering the frey is advisable, though it is not always necessary if you are hunting a single target. Still, it can deal some damage if the enemy intend to fight back.

Combo to heal or to protect:


On ally or self: If an ally is being focused physically, it is a good combination to prevent them from taking damage and healing, though at the cost of possible nukes hitting them.

Note: This combo is very important when saving an ally being Duel, Duel targets ignore disarm effects, both Legion Commander and the ally can still attack while the one being affected by Decrepify takes no damage.
I must also say that a lot of players do not pay attention to this fact and it is often more logical to cast Decrepify on Legion Commander while nuking her for your advantage. This would sound more reasonable in early game. But in later stage of the game, the above combo proves to be more useful.

+ +

Cast Decrepify on your ally then Ghost Scepter on yourself will render both of you immune to physical damage, casting Life Drain is optional depending on your ally is short of health or not.

Note: This combo is very useful during Omnislash, Sleight of Fist , Tricks of the Trade. All of the casters are hidden, therefore your ally cant complain about you banishing them, the combo is a nice counter to these abilities during a fight.

+ + + + +

This combo requires Life Drain to be upgraded by Aghanim's Scepter. A max Decrepify is only 2.5 seconds away before you can cast it again, while Life Drain has zero cooldown.
Cast Decrepify on the enemy then Life Drain, when it's over, cast Ghost Scepter on yourself and continue draining, then repeat step 1. If for some reasons you can't cast Decrepify on the enemy, then cast it on yourself.

Note: This combo is exceptionally powerful when you are being focused by a carry hero, of course if spell immunity is obtained, you cannot drain any health, but you can still save yourself for an exceptionally long duration.

Such as followed: + +

can always be upgraded to to max out the damage.

Some Items Explanation

Core items that no need explanation


It should be note that since Pugna can be a core hero with partial support roles, getting all of the above items sometimes may not be possible. Though item like Aghanim's Scepter sometimes is a must. The others are recommended in most situations.

Situational Items:

It is always okay to obtain additional healing power, though this item has a rather high mana cost and it greatly hinders Pugna nuking potential if he has to save up for it.
Although it can be combine with Arcane Boots and makes way for Guardian Greaves upgrade, a crucial item for any support.

This can be treated as a core item in recent patches. Many think that since Pugna has Decrepify, this item is redundant. In fact, it is not. It allows Pugna to save himself in a much more convenient way (no mana cost with equal efficiency) while the ability is always there to nuke or to protect an additional ally. It can even prolong ghost duration to an extend no one can match as shown in the combo above.

Can render a target completely useless with Decrepify, while the additional damage at the end is quite lethal to conclude a combo. Though this item provides no other stats rather than intelligence and mana supplement, so it is quite optional but rather useful in some situations.

Veil of Discord MR reduction stacks with Decrepify, and it is a good combination with Nether Ward since sometimes it nukes more than the single target you are aiming.

A rather expensive item, but should be obtained to get you additional disable.

Increase life drained by Life Drain by 25%, also can Life Steal damage from Nether Blast, but not with Nether Ward.
Effectively reduce cooldown of Pugna spells into:
Nether Blast 3.25 (approximately)
Decrepify 4.5
Nether Ward 26.25
Life Drain 16.7 (without Scepter)

This item is quite important against enemy or item with mass AOE damage like Radiance or Leshrac or against enemies with Blade Mail. Though Pugna's spells have their cooldown short enough, this item can make it even more.

Allies and enemies


Potential nukers who are heavily reliant on their spells just like Pugna:

: Fortune's End will dispel Decrepify upon hitting, though Oracle is quite a good ally with Purifying Flames instant nuke and Fate's Edict to protect.

: Based on the playing style, if Cold Snap and Forge Spirit present then Decrepify should not be casted, Cold Snap triggers every ticks of Life Drain (0.25 sec per tick), not every second.

: Decrepify works if Laguna Blade doesn't have scepter upgrade, once the damage turns into Pure it does not get amplified.

: Decrepify stacks with Ancient Seal.

The above allies can also turn out to be good enemies since they are all spammers and Nether Ward makes Pugna somewhat of an upper level than these heroes.


Tough enemies with strong resistance to magical damage:

: Repel proves lethal since most of Pugna spells do not pierce spell immnuity. However, if an ally has Repel, Pugna can still heal him with Life Drain however, if Pugna has spell immunity, it will not.

: Rage does not cancel Life Drain when it is active, though no HP is drained.

: no HP is stolen from Life Drain when Refraction, Aphotic Shield, Borrowed Time is active. However, Nether Ward damage triggers before these abilities are casted, which mean the damage can not be blocked by these abilities.

Any ability stolen will prove troublesome to Pugna and your team, especially Life Drain and Nether Ward.


The guide presents the most common ways to play as Pugna as well as some tips and tricks about his abilities interactions. I hope you enjoy it and have better games with Pugna. His gameplay has some variations depending on your favorite style. But the two I purpose are the most common and effective way to get around with him. Any suggestion is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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