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Cuttleboss' Guide to the Anti-Mage [6.88]

July 9, 2016 by Cuttleboss
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Build 1
Build 2
Build 3
Build 4

Lifeaholic (Utility)

DotA2 Hero: Pugna


Purchase Order

Starting (Tranquils Rush)

Starting (Wand Build)

Early (Wand Optional)

Core

Extensions (Choose up to 3)

Luxury




Introduction

So, you read that title, you expected a guide to to that weird monk with the terrible tattoos and douchebag haircut (or you just looked at the setup of this guide and realized its not him). No, instead, I've come to teach you about this game's true Anti-Mage, and he's a mage (and also apparently an evil version of the Dali Lama). He's one of those hunters of his own kind, like vampire media where the vampires are mysteriously prone to hunting each other or Danny Phantom. It works too, he sure loves sucking life away.

Pugna is a nuker, pusher, and semi-carry with high potential for damage. He is versatile enough to occupy Positions 1-4, but he prefers to be in Position 3 or 2. Similar to Necrophos, pub players believe Pugna is made to be a support (as in, as his primary role). Those people are wrong. When it comes to the spectrum, Pugna leans much more on the "core" side due to his item and level dependence. Still, in pubs, you can still get away with the greedy support Pugna.

Pugna is one of the best possible counterpicks for dealing with many casters (high mana cost casters, so Bristleback doesn't count), as well as a strong one for right clickers that do not have stuns. Conversely, a large number of stuns and nukes can render Pugna rather ineffective.

Still, when it comes to fun and positioning yourself, Pugna can really turn fights around with his spells, and I have a blast every time I play him. Unless I run into one of those guys who makes me solo support because "Pugna has a heal, therefore he is support." Huskar support meta coming soon.

Updates

July 9, 2016: Updated for 6.88. A buff to his damage output. Minor updates.
May 31, 2016: Guide Created

Difficulty

Intermediate

"You think anyone can be a grandmaster of the oblivion?"
by nine-bullet-revolver


Pugna is a hero that players need to be careful with. Positioning is very key on this hero. He is very fragile and lacks any sort of disable or escape mechanism. His advantages are subtle and often, it requires an indirect approach rather than just brute forcing through the enemies like someone like Chaos Knight would do. Because of Pugna's lack of an escape mechanism or a stun, he can end up feeding pretty easily. However, a well positioned Pugna can win fights on his own, especially if the enemies didn't focus you down.

Then there's the more advanced Pugna techniques, like how to use Life Drain to heal and how much, and good use of decrepify, whether to amplify allied damage or to stop a right clicker from tearing holes in your buddy, or yourself. Good use of these techniques, especially their timing is the key to using Pugna to his potential.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Pugna is a hero that wants you to understand his strengths and weaknesses. They are very distinct and you must get them in order to play him well.

Pros: Rage of a Mage!
+ Can protect allies from getting attacked and make allied nukers hurt a lot.
+ Incredible base movespeed, the 2nd highest behind Enchantress.
+ Very high damage output, even into the late game
+ Strong snowballing potential
+ Good at wasting people's time and misdirection
+ Has a ton of built in health and mana sustain
+ Excellent tower pusher, and notably is able to damage both barracks at once.
+ Very high INT gain, which means a huge mana pool and a lot gained from mana regen items.
+ Punishes INT casters harder than any other hero (except maybe that other antimage)
+ Despite low armor, has an extreme anti-rightclicker skillset
+ Is able to heal people and give them mana
+ You'll never feel so badass playing such a tiny guy (Unless you somehow enjoy playing Slark)

Cons: "I've earned myself a bad reputation"
- Can protect enemies from getting attacked and make enemy nukers hurt a lot.
- Fragile, poor stat gain on side stats.
- No disables, cannot interrupt channeling
- Very level dependent (You need all your skills maxed to be really dangerous)
- Item dependent (especially on Aghanim's Scepter)
- Consumes a lot of mana and can only get it back from enemy heroes
- Lackluster laning presence due to expensive spells and weak attack and missle
- No natural lane environment
- Cannot hurt people with magic immunity (but can waste their time!)
- Relies very heavily on a channeling spell, preventing you from using your high movespeed and damage gained from INT gain to its potential.
- Life Drain is poorly coded and its interactions with magic resistance and the rules of its mana sustain are incredibly limiting
- Terrible, terrible cosmetics

When to Pick?

With everything we understand about Pugna, here is when to and not to pick him.

    Pick him if:
  • The enemies have fragile spellcasters with high mana cost spells ( Lina, Skywrath Mage, Shadow Shaman)
  • Enemies have chosen at least 1 intelligence core hero, particularly one that uses a lot of mana ( Necrophos, Outworld Devourer, Tinker)
  • Your team has disables (don't repeat Cloud 9's last draft in TI5)
  • Your team has magical or pure damage, and is not heavily reliant on physical.
  • Enemy team picked an illusion carry (but not Phantom Lancer!)
  • The enemy cores are not very mobile
    Do not pick him when:
  • Enemy has very powerful and aggressive laners (that aren't those fragile casters)
  • Enemy team has chosen tanky nuker heroes (Centaur, Pudge, Tiny)
  • Enemy heroes have high magic resistance (this can ruin your ability to damage them)
  • Your team needs a real support (Pugna is not Disruptor or AA, he is actually very level and item dependent)
  • Your team has no disables.
  • Your team is in need of a more durable core hero that won't pop like a balloon.
  • You feel like a bit more for an elusive type, like Ember or Bounty Hunter.

Skill Build and Abilities

Pugna has 2 main skill builds. The first skill build is for when you have heroes that you can wreck with Nether Ward, mainly, fragile casters. The second is for when you are not in the conditions, so having lower cooldown and biggest duration on decrep is better. Either way, Nether Blast is maxed first, its your nuke, its lets you farm, it lets you take towers, which can snowball you towards your main items. Life Drain is taken whenever possible, because its his best skill.

Skill Build A: Against Fragile Casters (Pitiful Wizards... YOUR HOPE ENDS HERE!)
1 Nether Blast
2 Decrepify
3 Nether Blast
4 Nether Ward
5 Nether Blast
6 Life Drain
7 Nether Blast
8-10 Nether Ward
11 Life Drain
12-14 Decrepify
15 Stats
16 Life Drain
17-25 Stats


Skill Build B: Max Burst and Control (Against Heroes not Susceptible to the Ward)
1 Nether Blast
2 Decrepify
3 Nether Blast
4 Decrepify
5 Nether Blast
6 Life Drain
7 Nether Blast
8-9 Decrepify
10 Nether Ward
11 Life Drain
12-14 Nether Ward
15 Stats
16 Life Drain
17-25 Stats


Time to briefly look at his abilities. Numbers can be seen on his wiki page.

Nether Blast:
Usage: Pushing Towers, Damage in Fights, Farming
Notes: Has a small cast range, meaning using it probably means you're putting yourself in danger, or the enemies have run at you instead of you running at them.
This skill has a 0.9 second delay, which means you can cast it first and then Decrepify and it'll do bonus damage.
Uniquely, Pugna is able to damage both barracks at once with this skill.

Decrepify:
Usage: Chasing, Disabling Right Clickers, Protecting the target of right clickers (that presumably have bkbs), Amplifying nuke damage on an enemy, protecting Nether Ward from right clicks.
Notes: Combo with Life Drain for funsies.
Cast this on those expensive mana cost casters when you have Nether Ward out and watch them kill themselves or do nothing voluntarily.
Doesn't slow allies, cast it on them when you think they're in trouble from physical damage.
It still amplifies nuke damage on allies and disarms them, so still be careful when you cast this on allies.
This skill is the primary means of protecting Nether Ward from BKB carriers.
This can be comboed with tp scrolls as a means of escape if all stuns were used.
For some reason, doubleclicking this skill will not use it on you, so it may take practice to dodge things like PA's dagger or Slardar's crush.


Nether Ward:
Usage: Killing Mage Heroes, Chaos, Mana Degeneration, Pushing
Notes: The Mana Degeneration is mostly if the enemies are position locked, like if either team is pushing.
Make sure your allies actually fight under this thing. Too many times do I see allies just run away from Nether Ward when fighting under it will win the fight.
With Aether Lens, you can shove this up cliffs and into trees, pretty safe from the hands of right clickers. You might be able to normally at a few spots, but its much harder.


Life Drain:
Usage: Damage, Health Sustain, Mana Sustain, Giving allies health, giving allies mana.
Notes: In order to properly use to to heal or damage in fights, you will need Aghs Scepter.
The values are fixed, but very very high, so Pugna and his allies will scale better with increasing health efficiency (in his case, only armor, which will be explained in a sec)
Pugna's health gained is relative to damage done to he enemy, which means magic resistance on the enemy will reduce what he gains and magic amp on them will increase it.
When healing allies, this works in reverse on Pugna, he will take the damage of Life Drain and that damage will be transferred to healing, meaning it decreases if he gets magic resistance, increases if he decrips himself, and is non-existent if he gets magic immunity.
If he is at full health when draining, he will get mana back, which is the key to his midgame mana sustain and why (alongside armor) Tranquil Boots are his key boots.
However, an odd interaction of Life Drain is that he must be at completely full health with each damage tick (0.25 seconds) in order to gain any mana (and excess health gained is not thrown in your mana pool), so that means if you are tanking any creeps or being hit by an ability with instances like Heartstopper Aura or Dispersion, you will not gain back any mana.
Conversely, if your target is an ally at full health, you can transfer your health into mana for them.
The self damage you take from transferring life does not disable Blink and Heart, I guess the Frog decided to cut you some slack there.
You can kill yourself using this skill on allies, be sure to stop yourself from doing that, unless you really want to, its not my job to stop you.

Stages of the Game

Early Game:

Laning:

by Robbobin
How everyone sees you


As Pugna, your main goal is simply to get your levels and farm up your main items. Pugna lacks meaningful lane control in his abilities and stats, since he needs a few levels in all his skills before they really useful. The only thing that grants him laning presence is his unnaturally high movespeed, which will let you right click harass, and also run away from getting killed. Your main priority in lane is mainly to soak exp, and get last hits if you can, though its not easy. Problem is that picking a lane is rather hard on him, since he doesn't particularly excel at any of them.

Solo Mid: Pugna is decent here, though not great. On one hand he lacks base damage, he is prone to getting nuked down, is really quite terrible with bottle, and its not that hard to dodge his Nether Blast, since he needs to get close to you to use it. On the other hand, he can pressure the tower very well, and once he gets level 6, he becomes very dangerous, since Life Drain can refill his mana, especially if the enemy mid is weak to his ward. You can go for this if the enemy mid either has no stun or has high mana cost spells.
Uniquely, Pugna gets owned by Pudge mid (his hp is too high, he has 2 ways to stop life drain, and its easy to hook you when you life drain), so don't run Pugna mid against him.

Solo Offlane: Pugna is decent here, that is, if the enemies don't have a kill based lane. Pugna's movespeed and Nether Blast helps him escape and trade blows with supports, however, lanes that have multiple stuns or nukes will quickly lay waste to Pugna. Still, against most dual lanes, you can survive fine because you can just run away and keep getting exp, since Pugna's main goal is to get to 6.

Dual Lanes: Pugna is fine here as long as he can get a few last hits, since he is heavily dependent on Tranquil Boots. Once again, your laning presence will probably not be impressive, but you also probably will not die. In general, just prioritize staying alive, but if a kill is easy, like if you have a nuker with you or if enemies are super fragile, go for those kills, get ahead as soon as possible.

Defensive Trilane: Pugna as a support here will be in a lot of trouble, so when this happens, just pull the lane to get your exp, since you can nether blast the creeps to kill them. Carry TP scrolls on you in case you're needed in other lanes, but basically, get XP when you can. Obviously, if it is easy to get a kill, go for it, but otherwise, prioritize getting your levels. If you're carry here, just farm the lane and get ready to push towers.

Midgame:

by Radiationboyy
"Have you ever seen one of these so long?"


Once laning is over and team starts fighting or pushing, Pugna will presumably have enough levels to have his ult. If not, hold off on fighting. Basically, the idea is to stay back and cast your spells, especially to use Nether Blast on towers, but avoid putting yourself in danger, since you will be blown up rather easily. The main priority here is to avoid standing in the center of fights, but rather at its edges, because from there you can cast your low cooldown spells (especially your ult if you got aghs) multiple times, which is what will win you the fight. If you have Nether Ward, be sure to fight around it and protect it as necessary.


Late Game:

Late Game is much the same as midgame, except now you are definitely in the back lines and you can no longer put yourself as risk in order to get kills, unless you are playing a tanky frontline Pugna with items like Shivas and Octarine. Deaths in the late game are much more costly than in the midgame, but that's why Pugna generally focuses on items that keep him alive. Thankfully, since mana is no longer an issue, you can go around the map and farm while keeping your allies healed. Pugna's main power late game turns from damage hero into healer and disabler, mainly you are using decrepify in order to keep allies alive, whether by disabling enemies or protecting allies from attacks. Make sure that after every battle, keep everyone healed so that you can take towers or Roshan. Focus on ending the game and taking away the enemy's map space.

Item Build

Starting:
Tranquil Rush: Ring of Protection, Tango
This item build focuses on getting the Tranquil Boots as soon as possible in order to provide Pugna with armor and health regeneration, so that he may survive his laning.

Wand Rush: Iron Branch x 2, Circlet, Tango
This starting build lets you make magic wand, which is another useful item, especially if you are feeling Arcane Boots, and if you want the stats to not get nuked down.

Early Game Items:
Point Booster: Pugna's best early game item, it gives him the health and mana pool in order to cast more spells and not get exploded as easily.
Magic Wand: A good optional pickup, since it gives burst health and mana, which can be nice for saving yourself.
Infused Raindrop: This item potentially stops you from getting blown up at your most vulnerable point. The mana regen is rather underwhelming on you, since you have such high INT.
Void Stone: In more passive games where you can't really heal your mana from life draining enemies, you can pick this up, since you have really high INT gain, so you get more from this than many other heroes. Plus it builds into Euls, Scythe, Lotus, and Linkens, making it one of your most flexible items.

Boots Choices:
Tranquil Boots: The best boots for Pugna in most cases. Armor and huge movespeed boost are good stats for him, since he is so fragile and wants to stay away from combat. The main reason this is picked up is oddly to sustain your mana. You gain mana if you're at full health when you life drain a hero, so Tranquils lets you be very active on the map.
Arcane Boots: Decent boots on Pugna, since the mana pool boost is nice for pushing, and so is the active. Plus, you can disassemble this into an Aether or an Octarine later.
Power Treads: Underwhelming, since you can't tread switch while casting life drain, and attack speed is kind of useless on you. Get one of the other boots.
Phase Boots: Oh man, really? I didn't mean this one.
Boots of Travel: Get them as the game gets late, don't want to miss the party, and you want to save item slots. Plus, 430 movespeed, who can pass that up?

Core:
Aghanim's Scepter: This is the item that unlocks Pugna's potential, since without it, he is utterly underwhelming as a hero besides his ward. This item lets him output and heal himself for huge amounts of damage even if his life drain is interrupted, it lets him heal his allies without being forced to stand in the same position the entire time, letting him move himself as required. The boost to health is also excellent to help Pugna from being nuked down, which is why this item should be gotten after completing your Boots in most games, unless you're rushing Dagon.

Mid Game Options:
Aether Lens: This item is nice because it boosts almost all the damage you deal, lets you use Decrep from almost 1000 range for ganks, and it lets you shove your Nether Ward up cliffs and into trees more easily so the enemies cannot as easily run up to it and kill it. Plus, makes the cast range of Nether Blast far enough that you don't have to put yourself in danger just to cast it on buildings.
Blink Dagger: This item lets you chase down heroes, especially as they run right out of your Life Drain range. You can follow them and keep killing them. Plus, the mobility offered lets Pugna reposition himself very conveniently in fights. Make sure you are satisfied with your stats before buying this, since it gives none.
Eul's Scepter of Divinity: A very useful item on Pugna, especially for the mana regeneration. This item lets you interrupt heroes that are channeling either spells or tp scrolls. The movespeed is nice to move yourself to Life Drain from better positions, and you can use the active if you're being jumped on or need to purge a silence.
Veil of Discord: This item is one of the most efficient ways to boost your damage output, and it provides very nice stats too, especially the armor. It's one of the best choices if your goal is just damage, and stacks well with decrep.
Rod of Atos: Huge health boost and a slow. It also pops Linken's Spheres, but Life Drain post Aghs could do that anyway. The slow pairs well with Life Drain for killing heroes, since they can't easily escape, especially if decrep is on cooldown if you have to use it for defensive purposes.
Force Staff: Serves a similar function to Blink Dagger on Pugna, as it is good for chasing, but this is also an escape mechanism against melee heroes especially. This is the best pickup against Riki, Prophet, and Clock.
Glimmer Cape: A nice item on Pugna, since he can use the activate while stealing enemy life. The healed amounts will be reduced, so if you're healing someone, cast the cape on them and not on yourself, and this will likely save them.
Hood of Defiance: This reduces the damage you heal with your life drain, but if there is someone walking around invis trying to burst you with magic damage, like a Tiny with Shadow Blade or a Dagon Bounty or Nyx, this item can be quite important for your survival.
Dagon: An item you can rush if you want to snowball and perhaps the only that that takes priority over Aghs Scepter. It pairs well with Decrep for killing heroes, making Pugna one of the few heroes who can use this item efficiently, but you want it very quickly.

Late Game Options:
Black King Bar: When enemy stuns are a huge danger to you, this is the item to pick up. It is highly effective against heroes like Tidehunter and Invoker. Keep in mind you cannot heal your allies while magic immune, but it does let you cast your offensive life drains and decreps without inhibitors.
Lotus Orb: This item is very nice because it purges silences without Eul's delay, the stats it provides are very useful for Pugna, since he lacks armor, and likes mana regeneration. Reflecting spells is also very nice, especially ones like Shackleshot or Chain Frost. Also, get this against Bounty so he loses his Track advantage.
Scythe of Vyse: A disable for Pugna? Hell yes. A hard disable gives Pugna stronger killing potential, since people can still escape from decrep, but they cannot escape from being hexed, unless an ally purges them. Pick this up if your team really needs more disables, especially against key heroes like Storm Spirit and Anti-Mage.
Shiva's Guard: A nice item for a Pugna that likes to get into the thick of combat. It pairs well with his high movespeed, since it lets you slow many people. The armor is also excellent, since it makes you less dependent on self decrep and makes the health you regain more efficient.
Octarine Core: This item is a good pickup after you already have a good mana regeneration item like Hex or Euls. This item boosts the amount of life you steal by 25%, it lets you keep up the ward 100% of the time, and lets you cast a decrep every 4.5 seconds. A big selling point is the synergy with Blade Mail however, which lets you regain a quarter of returned damage. This makes Pugna quite tanky, especially if he can cast a few more life drains.
Linken's Sphere: This item is very nice to protect from many single target stuns, especially deadly ones for initiation like Flaming Lasso and Primal Roar, since if your ward is a big factor in fights, there is a significant chance you will be targeted.
Heart of Tarrasque: If the game gets late, Heart is nice for letting you heal your allies at all times since you'll have plenty of health. If doesn't get disabled when you heal allies either, so you can stand way back to keep people healed. Also makes you quite hard to nuke down.
Hurricane Pike: When you get a force staff and decide to upgrade it. 14 second cooldown force staff is nice, and the offensive usage has potential uses against many distance closing heroes. This is probably a very late game upgrade, since the stats don't help you very much.
Pipe of Insight: Same purpose as Hood, its an upgrade of an item you buy only for your own protection against invis magic gankers. This item is not worth picking up on Pugna just to protect allies from magic damage because it halves the amount you heal to allies.
Blade Mail: Purely to synergize with Octarine. Works well with other armor items as well.
Necronomicon: If you really want to take towers faster, this can help. It is useless in combat, since Pugna doesn't have disables, and the slow he does have prevents the Necro units from hitting the target.

Don't Buy These:
Mekansm / Guardian Greaves: Mek is an item that needs to be bought immediately, and it's gotten on heroes that don't have mana problems, heroes that are not Pugna. Pugna having more health and mana regen lets him maintain a push far better than a Mek, since he can heal his allies and blast the tower more times. The Mek mana cost is too high, it does not snowball Pugna like a Dagon does, and it delays the Aghs needlessly.
Sange and Yasha / Monkey King Bar / Daedalus / Armlet of Mordiggian / Bloodthorn: There are more, but you get the idea. Pugna does not scale with his right click at all, since his main ability that he uses to harm people is channeling.
Assault Cuirass: Among armor items, this is pretty heavily outclassed by Shivas and Lotus Orb. Once again, Pugna has no real use for right clicking stats.
Refresher Orb: Double Nether Ward? A skill with a 35 second cooldown? That's the definition of inefficient. His other skills have 1 digit cooldowns. Get Octarine for a better uptime on the ward. The ward may be strong, but it is not nearly that valuable by the time you have Refresher that you need 2 up at the same time, this isn't False Promise.
Bloodstone: Having infinite mana for life drains and nether blasts seem nice, but the core of Pugna is not a farming hero. He is a hero that takes over the map with ganks and clashes. If you're snowballing by a lot, you can buy this and be successful, but you will likely find more with almost all the late game option items. Plus, Bloodstone neither helps you do more damage or stay alive, at least to the level of other items of its cost.
Drum of Endurance: Another item that slows down your Aghs. This item is not good on Pugna because it's only really good early, but this item does not provide mana regen, and overall, having stats in movespeed and attack speed are really quite underwhelming on Pugna, especially before he has a 0 cooldown Life Drain in which he can use the movespeed to reposition himself.
Heaven's Halberd: There has not quite been a case where I've needed this on Pugna, since the stats are not particularly good on him, and Decrep has a disarm, and can also protect targets from physical damage dealers that are magic immune. The only advantage that it seems to have is that it is not purgable, but that does not seem like enough of a reason, even against heroes like Medusa. Try to convince an ally to buy this item if your team really needs it.
Ghost Scepter / Ethereal Blade: You can't double ethereal form on people. It may seem tempting to be ethereal while decrepping an enemy, but Since Decrep does not slow self or allies anymore, there is no reason to consider this anymore. Just cast decrep on yourself, and if you get silenced, get a Euls to purge it and then cast it on yourself. For offensive and defensive purposes, decrep is just stronger.

Hero Interaction

And now, for a big part of this guide, how Pugna is good against, good with, and bad against heroes.

We were nether friends: Pugna's Allies



Magical Nukers: The combo with decrep lets nuker allies kill even tanky strength heroes. Pretty straightforward. Make the nukes stronger, it's fun stuff.



Mana Batteries: Pugna has issues with his mana, and even though he can sustain it with life draining enemy heroes, a reliable source of mana will make him less likely to be caught without mana in the midgame, and thus let him cast his important life drains. In the case of OD, keep in mind that once you have Aghs, Life Drain can no longer trigger Essence Aura.



Stunner Initiators: These dudes let Pugna life drain the target to kill them while they are stunned. Pugna lacks a meaningful way to start a fight while these heroes do it nicely.



Efficient HP Heroes: Pugna has among the strongest heals in the game, but it still stays at a static amount. Heroes that have ways to reduce the damage they take, every hit point is super efficient, and thus when these heroes are healed by Pugna, they are very unlikely to die.



ET and you have a strong synergy in terms of damage amplification since all your damage is magic. With him, your damage output is through the roof. Additionally, he has an AOE stun that is nice for teamfighting, as it lets you isolate targets you want to burst down, and also works well for when you decrep yourself or a friend and the enemies surround whoever it is to kill them.



Dazzle is nice because not only can he give Pugna some much needed armor, but the saving combo of Dazzle and Pugna is really quite impressive, with very powerful heals. Plus, healing you means that you can give him mana in return. It is an effective partnership.



Oracle doubles the healing a target receives, which means that life drain heals can turn huge for allies or yourself. Additionally, Fate's Edict makes a target immune to magic, which sucks for offensive purposes, but for defense it can make a hero immune to physical and magical damage at only the cost of disarming them which decrep did anyway. Combining these two for saving a hero lets them run rampant, especially if they are not reliant on their attacks to deal damage, like Death Prophet or Leshrac. Speaking of which...



Leshrac and DP are heroes that deal magic damage, and also focus on survival. Between your heals and ability to grant free ghost form when right clickers start punching them, you can keep them alive to deal their damage, or you can decrep their target to kill them faster. The synergy here is very strong, and gets stronger if you get one or both of the guys above.

Warding Off: Pugna's Prey



Manamphetamine Addicts: A bunch of familiar faces, former friends that you will now kill because you're a soulless genocide machine. Pugna's Nether Ward is among the most dangerous spells for heroes that eat a lot of mana. In teamfights, if the heroes cast all their spells they can be eating an excess of 800 damage. Many of these heroes cannot safely take out the ward without putting themselves in danger due to slow right clicking, so they will be forced in many cases to rely on allies to kill the ward, or get BKB on heroes that generally would not get them.



Melee carries with no crowd control: These heroes cannot deal with Pugna, since if they fight him, he can decrep and life drain them and they can do nothing. If they have BKBs, he can decrep himself so they can't hurt him, and can just tp out. They also can't kill any of your allies for the same reason. Special mention to Juggernaut, whose ultimate you can avoid with decrep.



Illusion Carries: With Aghs life drain, any illusion you see will be destroyed within a quarter of a second of it being hit. For Naga and TB, this significantly hurts their ability to push out their own lanes and to rat down your towers. For Spectre, with good play, you can dispose of all haunt illusions quickly. For Chaos Knight, there is a bit of a love hate relationship, since he has a stun and can burst down Pugna quickly, but if Pugna is far away and not being targeted, he can kill all the phantasms within 2 seconds. As a bonus, since these heroes tend to rely on attacking people, Pugna can protect their targets with defensive decreps.

You might notice PL is not on this list. It is because he actually counters Pugna since he constantly creates new illusions rather than having them on a cooldown and buys diffusal blade to purge defensive decreps.



Wind loves to blink on people, stun them and them burst them down with physical damage. Pugna has this lovely ability to protect his target or disarm wind. Additionally, Wind is resistant to physical attacks, but Pugna deals all magical damage, so he deals the type of damage that hurts her a lot. As long as Pugna himself is not being hit by the shackle, he can ruin Wind's play very well.



Pugna's skillset completely counters Enchantress's as well. Like Wind, she is quite strong to attackers, and quite weak to magic damage. She does not have a stun unless she uses a centaur, and relies on attacking for damage, so Pugna can just decrep her and life drain her and she cannot do anything. Plus, Nether Ward zaps enchantress for 100 damage for each Impetus she uses. She will probably have pretty long range by the end of the game to threaten your ward with, so try to stop her momentum early.



Pugna moonlights as a guy who ruins Duels. Decrep disarms people, and prevents from taking physical damage, which makes duels inconclusive and unfavorable for LC if she could not kill the person she wanted to duel from the beginning. And if Pugna thinks his hero can win he can life drain either Legion or his friend to kill her or keep them alive. Pugna is quite a bit more vulnerable if he gets dueled, but properly positioning himself will likely keep that from happening, and if you're fast you can probably put a decrep on yourself before it starts.

Popping the Green Balloon: Pugna's Predators



Non Int Casters / Bursters: These bursty heroes that are not weak to Nether Ward can blow up Pugna with ease. These heroes, especially if they have stuns will likely kill Pugna when he is most vulnerable, before he acquires his Aghs Scepter. If the enemy draft is loaded with these heroes, you probably will feed really hard. Otherwise, a Glimmer Cape will serve you greatly, unless you're against an invis burster, in which case, Hood has to take priority.



Long Ranged Right Clickers: These heroes can cause you problems, since if you drain them from a distance, they can easily walk out of range. If you have a Nether Ward out, they can easily punch it from a distance as well. Each of these heroes all have a way to kill you as well, with silences, slows, and nukes. Force Staff may prove useful against these heroes, whether to escape their grasp, or to push them towards your team as they hit your ward.



Magic Resistance Carries: These guys barely get hurt by your decrep and life drain combo. They just punch you anyway, laughing it off. AM also makes you into a bomb for your own team. Try to counter with Glimmer if they're targeting you, and Scythe if they're not targeting you.



He has magic immunity so often, and he has a strong nuke too. Unlike Jugg, this guy is actually really tanky too, so killing him is really hard as Pugna and he can kill you pretty easily. Probably want to pick up a Force Staff against this guy so he won't blow you up.



Invis, burst hero, silence, and has multiple ways to stop you from life draining him. Can be quite hard for you to deal with, so get a force staff and don't let yourself get clouded. Thankfully you can tp out with decrep, up until he gets diffusal.



Ugh, Ice Blast. You can't heal yourself from life draining, and you can't heal friends or regenerate. If you get hit and your allies don't, you have to watch your health and the ice blast buff closely to not reach the death threshold. Ice Vortex also makes you take more damage from your own life drains, which I guess can be nice if you want to heal your friend more, but if you were ice blasted, it kinda just kills you.



Did you notice someone missing from those mana drinkers? Yeah, this guy, because he is completely invulnerable during Ball Lightning, the spell he uses most of his mana on, so Nether Ward does not do much damage to him. Because of his mobility, he can catch and kill either you or your ward without much effort, even if you hide or try to protect your ward. Decrep can buy time for whoever is getting targetted by him, since he needs to right click to unleash overloads. Against Storm, try to get a Scythe, it will do a lot against him.

Pugna in Competitive and Pubs


Source Unknown
"Are you serious about me being meta or just pulling my leg?"


Pugna is a hero that is unpopular in all Dota locations, probably due to his notorious fragility. He is a hero that is hard to place in a definitive role due to needing farm, but lacking the consistency to play mid or safelane with regular results. Because of this, no matter where he's played, he's picked up mainly for his Nether Ward, because if there is something that makes Pugna unique, it is his ability to use mana expenditures against people. Still, even in the patch where he should have been his most powerful, 6.86, the patch of OD and Invoker, he was not popularly picked up.

In this case, I don't have a diagnosis. The hero just seems inconsistent, and he's rough around the edges, between Life Drain being a channeling skill that has such specific rules, and his lack of a proper identity, being risky to run in any of the lanes as a core, and yet very very greedy as a support.

Conclusion

But I guess this does not really matter. Pugna may be inconsistent and have some big flaws, but he is a hero that is immensely satisfying to play. There is a lot of skill involved in how you position yourself, and good Pugnas save their allies and get multi kills in one fight. Just have fun with the hero, and pick him when you want to unleash some magical fury!

If you enjoyed this guide, you may enjoy my others, which can be found here:

http://www.dotafire.com/profile/cuttleboss-39555

People to thank:
Invoker and Outworld Devourer, for bringing Pugna back.
Safecyn for being my test subject for this green dude.
The artists on deviantart.
Everyone in the workshop trying to make this hero look less terrible.

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