All these changes, Ti5 and the meta shifts; at this point sure, we do see the Gyrocopters and the Leshracs, but what is going on? Im talking about the viable hero pool, and what the new items caused. We are looking at naga supports, centaur getting picked, Chaos Knight, Dazzle on pro matches, Bloodseeker ruining my mmr, all this stuff all happening at once.
I was playing Shadow Fiend against this Bloodseeker, mid of course. Chilling, everyone is last hitting as normal, we were about equal in farm. He starts running around and by the 15 minutes he was 8-0, two shotting my allies. What do I do now. Ended up losing that match, and a following few to Bloodseekers and one Slardar+ Juggernaut combo but thats a different story.
Closed dota and took a break, I got bored.
30 minutes later I was refreshed and came back.
In a sort of zen journey I decided that I had to go back to my roots, to the fat disgusting pub hero I used to play back in the day, Pudge of course.
To give you an idea, I used to play Pudge so much, that even when I stopped playing him for a good 6-7 months, he still is my most played hero by just over 25 matches. Second most played being Tinker.
Shake the rust off, back into the frey.
On a sidenote, shoutout to this guy ♥.
So yes, this guide will pretty much cover everything I can think of when you ask me how to play Pudge; from the basics, building and laning, to how a Pudge player thinks and why.
And no, sorry to dissapoint you guys but my most played hero is Pudge, sorry. Kind of a guilty pleasure that ended up as a guilty addiction.
Lets go shall we? You know how I write my guides. Oh and blog version will be linked when it's done. Guides on my blog are usually more clean and less formatted than the dotafire versions, if you like that you can go over there.
I hope that this guide settles me as the go-to Pudge guide/teacher. Like if you say Blitz's Storm Spirit I want to hear Goo's Pudge. Let's do it.
More than likely you are familiar with this, but I'm going to keep it in the guide anyway.
Pudge is a melee strength hero with the ability to displace enemies and allies, disable opponents through magic immunity and be a constant threat to the other team, especially if you are a support. So basically a cheap Batrider.
Because he is a rather level dependent hero early on he is sent solo, most of the time mid, but he is just as good as an offlaner (I'll talk about this later on the guide). He can work without much items, but he can do more if he has them.
In this meta of mid lane carries Pudge is a bit forgotten, he doesnt really fit. However, on the right hands you can still be a monster in pubs and if you trust yourself, use it to grind mmr. By following these simple steps you will do like I did, and get to 6k mmr in a few weeks. Proof.
A good Pudge can disrupt enemies at a Techies-tier level. He is a hero that really forces the enemies to stay on their side, reduces carry farming space and support warding options (and ganking routes). With good rotations and average farm, Pudge can be constantly setting the enemy carry back in terms of farm, he is a space creator.
The main factor to Pudge being an un-decaying roamer is his passive, Flesh Heap. Allowing him to maintain the threat throughout the game if you keep landing kills or taking part of teamfights, transitioning the ganking role to a more damage sponge/disabler hero, with the hook as a second option. If we talk pros and cons:
Pudge is a hero that doesnt really have many cons, we can certainly say that he isn't as effective against certain heroes and strategies, but it does not fall into a shut-down hero. The pros are of course having an easy way to land kills and all the other things that a Pudge offers, and the con is that he is using a space in your team.
Kind of like with Techies, sure he offers some useful stuff to the team, but would you rather have Techies or another hero that helps in more areas? Make the trade yourself. Is having Pudge on this team worth it?
- It takes practice to get good at the hero, so people will pick him over and over in order to get better.
- Once you get good at it, you can't stop. Its hook after hook, playing so much that once in a while you land one of those insane montage hooks, killing off carries farming with a single hook and generally being the bully of the match.
- And third, it's a hero that rewards playing alone and skill capping yourself. Also known as a hero that does not need teammates to success, at least to a certain extent (you do need a carry to actually win you the game in the end for example), so you can go solo queue while pubbing and not having to trust these fools to win the game, but go solo lane and do it by yourself. Or die trying. Keep these in mind, I know I am guilty of those at least a little bit.
On a separate note, but still importantly...
If anyone says anything negative about a hook, mute them instantly. Don't even think it twice. Even if it's a simple "lol" or "?", mute them.
If it's an ally: Do you really want to listen to the guy who is looking at you and actually typing in chat for what you are doing? If they comment on hooks they will very likely start bothering you or another teammate on their play. With just two clicks you shut them up for the rest of the match.
If it's an enemy: You'll get a lot of "nice hook" or "lol pudge" from enemies, especially the opposing mid (if you went mid). If they are doing this there is no reason not to mute them, they are not going to be using the chat for anything that isn't trashtalking your team (or talking during pauses). Most of the time they are just trying to push your buttons and test your patience. As a dota player, you probably wont be offended or anything, but it's still distracting.
Im going to expose the spellset in a particular order that I think will help understand a little better how everything fits in the hero. The correct order for the spells is Meat Hook, Rot, Flesh Heap & Dismember in case you don't remember or you never played Dota before.
Rot is Pudge's second spell and it's actually relatively simple, but there is still a handful of things to keep in mind. Let's look at what it does:
Rot is a toggle ability, costs no mana and you can activate and de-activate it whenever. You can even use it without cancelling channeling abilities, so it's great for using your ultimate Dismember without worrying of cancelling it on accident.
Rot deals 35/60/85/110 magical damage per second to everyone in a 250 radius around him. Including Pudge himself.
Rot also applies a slow effect to units inside the radius (this of course does not affect Pudge). Slowing them by 20%/22%/24%/26% of their movement speed.
Rot's damage or slow do not pierce magic immunity. This is a good thing too.
If Pudge is silenced, disabled, muted, etc. Rot is not turned off, so watch out and not get Doomed with Rot on or you will get destroyed.
- Rot has no cast point, at all. This means that actions such as walking or attacking a target will not be stopped, not even for a frame. You can be running someone down and turn Rot on and off without losing territory.
- Rot is lethal. You can use Rot to deny yourself if you need to, as the game progresses and you become tankier and more resistant to magic this becomes much harder to perform. A way to get the deny easier is to walk into a neutral camp with Rot on, this doesnt work on ancient camps or roshan though. Also, if you are being attacked by a single target you can wait for them to take your HP down to around 200-250, then turn around and use Dismember on them, just for the disable, and deny yourself easily.
- Since Rot is magic damage, the self damage is reduced with magic resistance, from items and also from Flesh Heap. Also with Black King Bar you can run around slowing and dealing everyone damage per second while taking 0 damage from it yourself.
- You can use consumables (such as Clarity, Bottle and Healing Salve) without cancelling their effects with Rot or it's first three levels, as the damage isnt enough for it to cancel them. With this you can run down someone and Bottle up yourself to resist through the Rot damage, if they do it you can just autoattack them and cancel it (since they are also slowed), and they can't really cancel your consumable as they would have to turn around.
- Rot's slow effect is considered an aura. This means it lingers for 0.5 seconds after they go out of the radius.
- Every 0.2 seconds, Rot checks if Pudge has Rot active, and if that is the case, Pudge and all enemies which have the slow debuff from Pudge are damaged. Therefore It is possible to rapidly toggle Rot on and off several times to drastically reduce damage dealt/taken while still maintaining the slow and enemies that get out of range can still can get hit by 2 to 3 damage instances, as long as Pudge has Rot active.
- To chase people down, without Dismember, and to dish damage in a fight just by standing around.
- For farming.Now, there are two ways to use Rot for farming: The first one is to help you last hit, so when approaching to last hit double tap rot to get an instance of damage out with your autoattack swing, allowing you to CS a little bit easier, it does eventually damage you a bit so keep an eye on that. The second one is to take full creepwaves and jungle camps, so waveclearing and clearing the jungle; in order to do this I recommend you went Tranquil Boots. Rot's self damage does not cancel the Tranquil Boots effect, and even if you plan on taking damage from the creeps, you can drop the Tranquil Boots and do it like an Axe jungling.
On cast, disables the target unit (enemy or neutral) fully. It's considered a shackle disable, this means that it's channeled and the disable stops if you stop the channel, like Black Hole, Fiend's Grip and Shackles itself.
Last 3 seconds and deals damage once per second. 75/125/175 to be exact. The first instance is dealt instantly on cast, so you can use it to finish off heroes with the 175 nuke.
It's casting range is technically 150. However, this is for when the spell is commanded not cast, so you will see that sometimes the hero can move and if you casted the dismember inside the 150 you will end up with a long range Dismember that looks weird and broken. Keep this in mind because since you are moving heroes a lot with Meat Hook, getting those long range Dismembers is very common, and you have to remember to turn Rot off if the disabled hero is not in the area of effect.
With shift-queue: If you throw your hook and see it land, and you turn Rot with the hooked hero mid-air, you want to start holding shift and then Dismember the hero (targetting while it's still mid-air). By doing this, Pudge will stand still and wait for the hero to arrive and then Dismember.
You can also start holding shift along throwing Meat Hook and do the Rot and Dismember as the hook is traveling towards your target, if the hook lands, the combo will be performed pixel-perfect (because of the shift-queue), if the hook fails, the rest of the queue will be ignored, as Pudge has no hero to Dismember. You can also manually stop the shift-queue by letting go shift and doing any command (like right clicking anywhere).
Without shift-queue: Now, not using the shift-queue isn't so bad, there is a minor problem with it but you can play around it.
What happens when you cast Dismember in a hero that isnt in range (like before getting pulled by Meat Hook) is that Pudge walks towards them to try and cast the Dismember, and when he does that and the hero flies past him (as it's pulled towards the casting point of Meat Hook) Pudge starts dismembering the hero mid-air, which doesnt stop it from flying and you end up with a long range Dismember (usually outside of Rot radius).
To avoid this, try not to cast Dismember instantly after Meat Hook as if you were using shift-queue. Instead wait for the hero to get closer to the Meat Hook starting point and start the Dismember, this way Pudge wont walk that far from the starting point and so he will be inside Rot radius. So if you toss the hook and you know it's going to land, dont cast Dismember then, but wait for the target to be pulled close-r to Pudge so he doesnt try to walk the full distance and then he turns around and walks towards the unit instead of casting Dismember mid-air and ending up with the long Dismember. If you played a really aggresive Pudge and ended up with a lot of kills and so Flesh Heap stacks this will make you tankier and if you purchase something like Aghanim's Scepter you will be scaling with damage. Which is great.
If you did not. Dismember is still a bkb-piercing disable, so in the late game it doesnt even matter if you land a hook, walk up to their carry and Dismember them just like that, stop playing like a Pudge and focus on disabling with Dismember. (This is another good reason to pickup Blink Dagger but that's something I'll cover in a different section).
On top of this, Dismember also gives true sight of the unit being dismembered. The exceptions are Riki's permanent invisibility, Moonlight Shadow and Spin Web since these work on a fade delay instead of a fade time.
Obviously this just makes you tankier and the magic resistance helps around with everything, plus it dimishes the damage you take from Rot yourself. This spell works by stacks, as a buff (similar to Legion Commander Duel damage counter). And the icon stays there throughout the match from the moment you put the first point in the skill. Something really important about Flesh Heap is that is retroactive, this means that even if you haven't learned the spell yet, the game will still count those as invisible stacks that will be taken into account the moment you get Flesh Heap and each stack adapts to your current level of Flesh Heap, so if you have a lot of stacks you will notice first hand how you get tankier every time you get a point in Flesh Heap.
Each stack gives Pudge X amount of strength (2.5 Strength at max level).
The scaling is as so:
-Level 1: 1 Strength per stack, and extra 6% Magic Resistance. -Level 2: 1.5 Strength per stack, and extra 8% Magic Resistance. -Level 3: 2 Strength per stack, and extra 10% Magic Resistance. -Level 4: 2.5 Strength per stack, and extra 12% Magic Resistance.
When an enemy hero dies within a 450 radius of Pudge he gains a stack. Pudge doesn't have to participate of the kill at all, just have the hero die inside the radius. On the other hand Pudge gets a Flesh Heap stack EVEN if the hero dies outside of the 450 radius if and only if Pudge is the direct killer.
This is mainly so long-range Meat Hook kills give Pudge Flesh Heap stacks, works for any kills you get with Urn of Shadows' damage over time too obviously. And also, heroes that are denied (by any means) will not give a stack, even if in radius.
Something that is kinda stupid but I want to point it out anyway: Flesh Heap stacks only give you added strength and the magic resistance is flat! You dont get 12% Magic resistance per stack when maxed out, it is just flat.
The reason I said this allows Pudge to scale into the late game is not just because he gets tankier as the game goes, but because of his Aghanim's Scepter upgrade and also the Ethereal Blade pickup (but I'll explain this into detail when I talk about items).
Oh, and illusions get the magic resistance but not the strength, and the cannot gain any stacks (similar to how Shadow Fiend's illusions interact with Necromastery stacks).
Important note: Getting Flesh Heap stacks isnt as passive as you think, you will get a guaranteed stack if you land the kill, but not necessarily if we talk assists, in fights I want you to really get in there in the middle of the fight and make sure you get those stacks, dont take every kill you see in the screen as a granted stack, 450 radius isnt that big at all.
Ok, I think I didn't miss anything. Now let's talk about the real thing.
OK. Meat Hook is in my opinion the signature spell for not only Pudge, but for all Dota 2. If you are reading this guide you already know what it is and what it does, but here is everything in detail.
Meat Hook is a ground targetted spell (of course), so you have to aim it. It's not as simple as it sounds though, there are 2 things you have to keep in mind when you time a hook.
- Cast Point: Meat Hook's animation is 0.3 seconds long. This animation is very natural though, and easy to get used to. It's not annoying as other casting animations like Midnight Pulse that really feel in the way of the combo (also 0.3 by the way). Use this casting animation to your advantage for cancelling a hook you already know is not going to land, preserve your mana; and you can also use it to bait people into thinking you'll throw it, baiting stuff like Phase Shift, Force Staff, even Manta Styles ocassionally.
- Travel Time: Meat Hook travels at 1600 units per second, at max level the hook has a 1400 range (included search range). So effectively we are talking about almost a second of delay from tossing the hook and going full range.
With practice you will be used to these two, dealing with them isnt the problem when it comes to landing hooks.
A backswing is basically part of the casting animation, but takes place after the spell is casted. Like so:
Cast Point (0.3) - Hook is thrown - Backswing (0.53)
The difference between regular backswings on spells (like Telekinesis for instance) is that Meat Hook's actually scale with levels (gets longer as the hook range is longer). 0.43/0.46/0.5/0.53 to be exact.
During the backswing you are disabled, and it's there to give the enemies a chance to initiate on you if you happen to miss a hook. Keep in mind that the backswing is the same, the distance doesnt matter. If you use hook as a point blank nuke to last hit a hero, you get the same full backswing. The cast range of Meat Hook is, across all levels, the same as the hook max travel distance.Makes sense.
You can use this to check if the hook you are planning is going to reach and how far is going to reach by mousing over the spell icon (as it gives you the cast range).
And the range it gives you is a little misleading as well.
So, how Meat Hook works is that, around the hook itself (hook hitbox to be exact) there is an invisible 100 radius search range. This means you can hit someone 1400 units away ideally, past the actually Meat Hook range. It also means that, combined with the not-exactly-top-down-camera that Dota has, you will come across some hooks that look like they should have landed and some really ******** hooks that should have missed or hit something else. Meat Hook does 3 things:
- Deals damage
- Moves things
- Meat Hook deals 90/180/270/360 Pure Magic Immunity Piercing Damage. Damage is dealt only if the hooked target is an enemy.
This means that Meat Hook goes right through, ignoring them. The most important to note here is the siege creep, as you will be having those in lane and you have to remember that hook goes through them. Also [[meat hook] cannot hit anything while retracting, only extending. When the hook stops at it's max distance is considered extending, and will hook into units.
- Meat Hook goes through all terrain as well as the hooked unit when being pulled back. Also if you happen to hit someone inside fog of war you will gain vision of the place where the hook connected. 500 radius flying vision for 4 seconds. Oh, and hooking a unit into impassable terrain gives them free pathing for 5 seconds (sometimes you can go past the 5 seconds with 3 seconds of Dismember and bodyblocking, but it's not reliable.
- Meat Hook also fully disables the hooked unit for the duration of the pull. This depends a lot on what is that you hooked, Meat Hook changes depending on what you hook. This disable includes everything, like a regular disable, the unit cannot turn, cast, move, etc.
To explain this further take a look at this chart:
Also, in order to cancel a channeling ability (TP, whatever), the move effect is not enough, is the disable effect that actually cancels the channel. So, you cannot cancel a magic immune enemy's Town Portal Scroll or an ally's, or can you. The way Meat Hook works was changed about a year or so ago:
The change was made to the mechanic of hooking a hero itself, not balancing the spell or anything like that. Mainly to avoid exploits.
How it used to work was that when a hero is hooked, they are brought towards Pudge. This allowed Pudge to do stuff like hook and blink back to take the hooked hero way further, or as you have seen, all the way back to base with test of faith.
This was changed to how the new hook works: Now when the hook is thrown it marks that place, and if it happens to connect to a unit, said unit will be returned towards said position, regardless of where Pudge is. With this said, you can make the move the other way around. This means that if the hooked hero happens to be teleported out, from test of faith for instance, they will be brought right back to the position the hook was thrown from.
In other words: If you are hooked, doesnt matter what you do or where you went, when the hook goes back to Pudge you will be there as well.
This allows Pudge to "cancel" teleports of magic immune enemies and allies as well, because as he is not able to cancel them properly since he cannot disable allies/magic immune targets, he allows the teleport to finish while the target is mid-hook, and when the hook is back to Pudge, the target will be teleported back all the way back to Pudge. You can use this to cancel enemy TPs during magic immune abilities (not only BKB but Blade Fury, Rage, etc) with good timing. And also ally's but please dont do that to your friends.
This concept is kind of confusing, I think I explained it well. But anyway here is a video showcasing the interation.Oh and that is my sexy fat guy btw.
Wonky isnt it? In this next section I'll cover the how to use the Meat Hook in real situations, so far I've only explained the working of the spell.
So here I have a bunch of different angles that you are going to be using a lot. For the sake of not filling the guide with these I just picked the ones that are more relevant during the early and mid game, because these represent the kills that set the timing for the match. Hooks later on and during teamfights are rather intuitive and you have to measure for yourself.
This first hook is the most basic one and the one you will be using the most when you play mid on the radiant side. The little overhang there in the terrain allows you to reach all the way to the enemy highground and if the creepwave is down in the river and so are they, they cannot see you standing up in that uphill, so they dont see the hook coming.
This hook is not nearly as good from the dire side, as there is no overhang in the terrain, and so you cannot reach their highground, also the angle is way worse (creeps are more in the way).
Back to radiant side, this other overhang is not as good as the last one, but helps if the first spot gets warded or if you already got a kill with it and they are expecting it. If they use a ranged creep as a shield to the right, you use this spot to hook them from the left.
On dire side, this small dead end juke path is great to catch people when they push your tower and difficulting their teammates making them path around to get the spot, a bit risky because its really close to the enemies and you are pulling a hero (and so giving vision) to yourself. Use carefully.
This spot often called Radiant balcony or radiant side balcony can be used for both sides, you can kill a dire hero trying to push or a radiant hero trying to farm. When radiant has it's ancients warded its even better, as you go in with smoke and get in the blind spot between the trees, when the smoke breaks (because you get close to the enemies below) you are still inside fog of war, and since they have a ward they will be confident they are safe and not dodge in caution like they normally would.
Furthermore, this is a great spot for catching out heroes going down this path, e.g. radiant mid going for a rune, as since the path is narrow is almost impossible to miss the hook with that angle, and there are no creeps around.
If you don't feel like using the balcony for whatever reason, this is an alternate angle for defending the radiant tier 1 mid.
This is an angle I recommend not using for various reasons. First of all, if the dire mid tier 1 is standing, they can see you walk in there. Second, there are many directions from where you could get counter-ganked and there is no real way of escaping the hole. And third, it is even relatively hard landing a hook from that angle because of the open-ness of the lane before the tier 1, so the enemy hero could be pretty much anywhere in that general direction, oh and also you cant see creeps so you cant hook around them. The only ocassion where this angle might come useful is when pushing the lane and your creeps are up to their tower, having their creepwave fight yours and allowing their ranged creep to attack your creeps, so giving vision around it and information for you to hook through the gap between the ranged creep and the tower to see if you get lucky.
This is an angle that is yet another advantage for radiant side, these trees cover you up even if the enemy mid checked around for you before going down into the river, if you have a ward it's even easier to land the hook using the rune as a bait.
Ok, so this is a great angle for defending the radiant top tier 1, but it's also amazing for picking up cleanup kills for fights that happen in the top lane. The way you use it is as so, if you got a hero standing in the X1 you pull them from the green circles tagged as 1. Same thing for X2, green circle 2. This helps create a gap between you and the allies of the hero you just pulled, stand you in a safe-r place so Dismember isnt cancelled.
This is another hook for top lane, it can be used on both sides and it's generally more effective for hooking upwards instead of downwards, as you use those trees as a cover.
I really like this hook when ganking top, it uses two narrow paths that are easy to hook and you use the trees from the large neutral camp as cover, the only downside is that this zone is often warded by both teams sometimes.
This is the alternative, it also uses two narrow paths (well, the one to the right not so much), but its really effective if you manage to land a hook. It's really difficult though, due to the open-ness again.
A more aggresive approach to the previous hook. I like this one because of the better angle, but at the same time I dislike it because it's only a few second window you have to stand there, as the creepwave will see you and aggro you (green arrow) when they walk by.
A first spot for defending the tier 1 radiant bottom tower, works great, but heroes can come in from both sides.
If you want to play cheeky and go deeper try this one, again, using the juke paths to give you more time to get the kill. If there are many enemies though it's going to be almost impossible to get out. If you manage to hook the important target and outside are left the supports they will either be scared of diving the tower or scared of your team's TPs.
Dire's side isnt nearly as good, the juke paths are way more open and enemies can come in. Use at own risk. And lastly, here are three hooks for catching out people jungling or sometimes pulling:The red M and R mean if you expect it to be a melee or ranged hero and where they are more likely to stand when killing the camp.
This last one is also useful for hooking people fleeing or people that are going towards the bottom rune through the jungle.
As I always say, knowing your hero's role and how to behave in each stage of the game is really helpful towards learning a new hero, and personally I think this is specially important for a hero like Pudge that is so dependant when talking playstyle.
Early game is usually the first 10 minutes of the match, but they represent a lot of time where you dont have the full long level 4 Meat Hook or Dismember, or proper items yet. I usually consider early game until the point there are at least a few tier 1 towers down and lanes have broken up, and I try to get to that point already having my early game items and my mobility ( Force Staff/ Blink Dagger).
So, this is it.Oh and these sections on each game stage refer to the item progression on the Dotafire overlay if you want to look a it, I'll explain item pickups too.
This set of starting items builds into Urn of Shadows and Magic Wand. You can also sell the Iron Branches or keep one for Pipe of Insight. I recommend this build if you want play safe, it makes you even more tanky for Rot use, and 9 damage from all the strength stat you get from the items, on top of Pudge's base damage that is already quite decent. Mid against melee:
This set of starting items is great for midding against melee opponents, it focuses more in delaying the aggresion to minute 4 and 5, by the time you have at least Meat Hook level 3 and Dismember. You place the Observer Ward in their uphill and you become this constant threat in terms of punishing poor positioning, and the mango gives you passive regen and you can eat it if you miss a hook.
That's just to name a couple, you can pick up whatever items you need. So, first thing in the match you get is blocking your lane. I highly suggest doing this instead of going for the bounty rune because as a melee hero it is key that the creepwave stays to your side, otherwise its going to be extremely easy for the opposing mid to just kite you around and get easy harass and CS.
Your first purchase, in mid lane as Pudge is always going to be a Bottle, for obvious reasons. But the timing of that Bottle can vary a lot depending on what were your initial items, and Pudge pre- Bottle is kinda mediocre at contesting his lane, to say the least. Once you have Bottle you can heal up from your own rot and harass, start being more of a threat with hook (without mana regen you get maybe 2 hooks before you run out of mana), and even just using it as a nuke harass for people that are not paying attention. Also the rune bottling helps so much in case you get runes like haste or invis that Pudge can utilize extremely well.
Before having bottle I want you to stay really calm and not attempt hooks on the opposing mid unless you are sure that they will land a kill, so if they are a hero with no proper escapes and no way of fighting back and the hook would bring them to tower range and such. Otherwise don't go for it and save your mana. The list includes Queen of Pain, Storm Spirit, Ember Spirit, Puck. Heroes that you could hook would be stuff like Templar Assassin for example, but you still have to be careful. The second item that you pick up is your choice of boots. I leave the boot pickup as a choice for the player to make as Pudge can use most boots fairly well.
I talk about boots in the next section. Before going on to talk mid game and bigger items I want to mention a few items I think are very important.
The first one is Urn of Shadows, if you do your job properly and start getting kills and roaming, Urn of Shadows will help you a lot snowballing and also staying around pressuring lanes. Urn goes great with pretty much any boot you chose to pick up.
Second is Smoke of Deceit. Using smokes is key for those matches where you feel helpless due to the other team playing safe and having good warding, if you dare invest in a smoke and manage to back it up with a hook it pretty much pays for itself + you get Flesh Heap.
And finally, Town Portal Scrolls. You want to have these available when you can, even if in cooldown, if the enemies didn't see you use your TP, when they check inventory they'll see the unused TP, and hesitate initiating or pushing without the rest of the team. Helps you escape bad fights and turn encounters into bad fights (for the other team).
During the early game I want you to keep an eye on runes constantly and be extra invasive on sidelanes, as killing the opposing mid is really difficult since they are kind of expecting it (having laned against Pudge), but if you go missing and the enemy team loses track of you, you can really destroy a side lane. The TPs come extra handy, remember Pudge is a hero that does a lot without much items, coming into a dive with a TP and hooking an enemy will probably get them killed (360 Pure damage is more than a Sonic Wave, and it's on a 11 second cooldown).
Also, trading your life is worth it if you get some assists and Flesh Heap stacks, you will come back and you will be working just as fine with a couple of deaths, just shake it off and get a smoke. The enemy carry will suffer each death much more than you. Also, if your team has a hero that can solo mid and take the Exp and avoid your tier 1 mid tower getting destroyed, give that guy your position and keep on roaming, do come back if the enemy team is expecting it though, you dont want to stall when hitting level 7. Also, you will be much more effective once you get your hands in a mobility item.
Tranquil Boots: My personal choice. I personally like Tranquil Boots because they are cheap and they give me regen to farm with rot (dropping tranquils and killing the jungle, etc). Also when activated they allow you to move a little faster and that helps out when roaming. Also the building has armor in it which Pudge really lacks, and on top of this it's cheap to build.
Arcane Boots: Arcanes are similar to tranquils but a little bit different. When going arcanes you are probably building way differently than normal, you open yourself to Blink Dagger a bit more (as you have extra mana pool without Force Staff) and you have a starting point for Guardian Greaves if nobody in your team is grabbing them. Upsides? Basically mana for hooks and for your allies as well. Downsides? Building it can be a tad tougher than say, Tranquil Boots, as it's a 900 gold item, it also delays your core mobility item, but if you think the match is pacing for it, then go for arcanes.
Phase Boots: These boots used to be more popular back like a year ago, the big thing about them is really just the speed boost. Not talking **** on the extra attack damage, it will come handy a lot when you run out of mana mid fight or stuff is on cooldown, but the main thing is the speed and also the phase effect. More than once you will be running into creepwaves and such and being able to walk through them and walk through allies will help you land a hook and you wont even notice it. It opens a bunch of angles and it's overall a good pickup, it's only downside is that it doesnt help sustain, like Tranquil Boots or Arcane Boots.
Boots of Travel: And last and probably least, going for straight Boots of Travel. Now, travels get a mention because as Pudge, your aim during the game is to get heroes killed, by whatever means, and some heroes (and certain strategies) need you to get Boots of Travel to deal with them, you cant be walking around and wasting time, and you cant just stay in one place wasting your time as you have to keep the match tempo and the enemies on their side. Tinker, Nature's Prophet, Lycan, Broodmother, Death Prophet come to mind. Now, the issue with straight travels is that you dont get any sustain from them, and they will delay your mobility core item by a lot. On the flipside you get the movement speed (which feels great early game), and having a TP with a lower cooldown than regular Town Portal Scrolls, AND that can teleport to creeps, so you get to be right in the fight. If you happen to be in the situation where you have like already tranquils and you think that travels would help, keep the tranquils and have two boots. Dont think about them as boots, but as items that provide you HP regen in one case and a teleport in the other. Very situational but worth mentioning.
The offlane is a good alternative to the midlane because of what Pudge needs for a good laning phase.
Talking about solo offlane if it wasnt obvious before...
Pudge as offlane has one goal, Get level 6-7 and start rotating. The time where you are in lane is actually fairly intuitive, avoid harass, stay in exp range as much as possible, when the creepwave comes pull it around the tower, get any CS you can and so on.
More than often you will see some of the supports (usually the one that harasses the most) to get out of position and make an opening for you to hook him. Now, first of all you have to remember you are still in lane with other enemies and they can easily dive the tower to save their ally or at least get you killed in return.
In order to hook someone as a solo offlane Pudge you have to look at certain things:
-Make sure the creepwave under your tower just died or is about to, as you want no enemy creeps tanking the tower in case your victim's friends try to come help.
-Get into a blind spot, if you hook from a juke spot or behind trees they are going to first have to find you, and in that process path around the tower and paths and that usually gives you enough time to land the kill and run back to a safe zone. An offlane Pudge starting items are quite different.
You will see yourself going for stats less or not going at all, as stats from something like Gauntlets of Strength's main purpose is to allow you to use Rot a little bit more, to harass and last hit, and these are things you do not do as an offlaner. HP regen and armor is more valuable in scenarios like this, this is why I recommend the following:
These two build into Tranquil Boots and these boots are the best for a Pudge that is going to be playing mostly defensive as you dont have the items for a more invasive playstyle.
Pudge offlane revolves around two items, the first one being Tranquil Boots and the other being Soul Ring. These two items replace the Bottle one for HP and one for mana, as you wont be able to pick up runes as you would if you were midlane. You get the passive regen from tranquils and you use your Soul Ring before each hook and it basically pays for itself.
As starting items, building into Tranquil Boots and Soul Ring. The reason I don't recommend this is because you wont be using that mana regen as often, because you will only be wasting mana when an opportunity presents itself, and you will be using the HP regen much much more, to deal with harass to start off.
Also, Town Portal Scrolls and Smokes are much more crucial to offlane Pudge, it's defensive playstyle often results in lack of Flesh Heap stacks, you have to try help your team in other lanes every time you can, TP into enemy dives to even the playing field, and use smokes to gank mid, even if you dont land kills you will be helping your allies and getting stacks of Flesh Heap.
So, midgame hits and this usually means there will be some towers down and your roaming zones and safe zones change, also means that there is going to be more five-manning from both teams and therefore more fights.
This can either be a great time to be Pudge or a horrible one, depending on how your team is doing and the enemy heroes.
For simplicity sake I will be talking as extension of the mid lane early game, assuming you got Bottle instead of Soul Ring and go for the progression from there.
At this point you are sitting at Bottle, finished boots (whatever your pick was) and probably Urn of Shadows too.Its probably around minute 10 in the match, and you have level 8 or 9.
By this time (10-15 minutes into the match) you are looking to buy your mobility item, and there are two options. Blink Dagger and Force Staff. They each have their own pros and cons and this will be covered in the following section.
Glimmer Cape: Glimmer is a weird combination of utility and defense. I get Glimmer Cape on matches where I need both the invis and the defense, so if I get Glimmer Cape I am usually losing the match and not have much stacks on Flesh Heap. The invis allows you to take less damage from all sources of magic damage, including Rot which is extra helpful, and it allows you to disable someone with Dismember with a little more safety and not get cancelled so easily. Remember you can cast this during the Dismember and it will not cancel it. It's a relatively cheap item for what it does, the main downside is that you pay that with your mana. If your built went something like Blink Dagger and Glimmer Cape and you didnt go Arcane Boots then you are going to be in serious mana problems. Also the invis is so short that it doesnt really suit for scouting purposes and other stuff you would regularly do with invis, its more of a "in the spot" usage. Also it has a rather low cooldown so if you still have mana you can use it twice in a fight.
Ghost Scepter: The Ghost Scepter pickup is a little special. All in all, I recommend this only if you are winning and have a bunch of Flesh Heap stacks, because using Rot and Ghost Scepter at the same time does a lot. Ghost Scepter is fantastic against heroes with bashes, and even against teams without bashes, it's great to avoid a lot of damage when you get focused down, in those terms if you are being killed by pure right clicks and they have no nukes to finish you off you can pop Ghost Scepter and TP out, or deny yourself more easily (Amplified Rot damage and not be able to be attacked). Also Ghost Scepter costs no mana to use. Builds into Ethereal Blade, but that's a rather elite pickup I'll explain later in the guide.
Hood of Defiance: Hood is a fantastic passive defense item, it's basically a more defensive Glimmer Cape without the utility factor. Hood of Defiance provides you with big HP regen and 30% extra magic resistance. If you add up the 25% natural resistance, plus the 12% from Flesh Heap, plus the 30% from Hood of Defiance you are looking at 67% Magic resistance. With all that magic resistance you take almost no damage from Rot and people will have a real tough time taking you down, and if you have a bunch of stacks on Flesh Heap you are not only tanky on magic resistance but tanky overall. Builds into Pipe of Insight, this does not add more magic resistance to the mix unfortunately, but gives you the active magic damage block and even more HP regen. Tranquil Boots + Pipe of Insight is amazing. All in all, if you can't decide on which of these 3 items to buy and nobody in your team is getting a pipe, then grab Hood of Defiance.
These items (glimmer cape, hood of defiance and ghost scepter) can be skipped to go straight into one of the late game items, if you feel greedy and you can pull it off. If you do this though you may fall short in defense/utility and get yourself a kinda weak item set. On the other side of the spectrum, try not getting more than one of these, make your pick and stick with it, if you get 2 of these or all 3 you will start running out of slots for late game items and all you will be left with is a bunch of mid game items that will eventually fall off. Moving on, we have a second group of 3 items aimed for your midgame. I call this kinda the Tier 2 mid game pickups. Thats Blade Mail, Shadow Blade & Euls. I call them tier 2 not because they are worse items than the tier 1 (glimmer, ghost, hood), but because there are overall less matches where you will need any of them, they are really more situational. Because of this, the tier 2 items are way more skip-able, most of the time you wont need any of these and going to build your late game items like starting your Aghanim's Scepter or saving up for Heart of Tarrasque.
So, here we go:
Blade Mail: Blade Mail is a really cost efficient item on Pudge because of the natural tankiness and the fact that he tends to focus enemy fire, especially if you hook an important target. A tad extra armor and a little intelligence. If you land a hook, pop Blade Mail before Dismembering the target and the other team has to either let your team kill that hero or take Blade Mail damage. The thing I always say about Blade Mail as one of the tier 2 items is that is especially useful if you didnt buy one of the tier 1 items, as all Glimmer Cape, Ghost Scepter and Hood of Defiance reduce the damage you take, and so, the damage you reflect is also reduced... its a bit counter-productive. This is the reason I recommend Blade Mail for when going offlane, as you run short on money most of the time. The midlane Pudge is more a monster that goes mobility and aggresive all over the enemy team and snowballing, offlane Pudge is more of a proper just disabler that uses Flesh Heap more of a scaling tool and less a means of snowballing.
Shadow Blade: In before: "dammit goo your potato bracket guide has a shadoe blade?!" No, sit down and listen. Shadow Blade serves a really specific purpose, and so it is a very situational pickup. The scenario where you get this is a kind of stalemate-y mid game where no team is pushing and you want to force the enemies into fights. Shadow Blade serves as a replacement for Smoke of Deceit in terms of using it to gank solo or to get a head start on a important target. So in a nutshell, it works as a mediocre escape that's very easy to counter, but it works as stealth initiation with Dismember, as a replacement for smoke for when you go ganking solo and as a means of scouting. Oh and later on you can make a Silver Edge with it, which is kinda useful as it gives you extra strength for Aghanim's Scepter or whatever, in the same slot.
Eul's Scepter of Divinity: Euls is the utility item by excelence, well, after Force Staff. The stats and movement speed are really helpful for enduring the mid game fights but more importantly, you can hook units through the Eul's cyclone. If you play on high level matches where landing a hook is much more difficult due to coordination and warding, positioning, etc. You can force a hook using your Euls cyclone, which is unit targetted, and so 100% reliable. The downside is the casting range but you just have to play around it. After cycloning someone you have time to set yourself and land the hook from the angle you want. This is almost impossible to counter, unless there are units around the cyclone itself. Consider this if you feel like you need some setup in order to land hooks, but dont overuse it or you'll get rusty on regular hooks. In terms of playstle, the midgame can be rather scary to play in as Pudge, especially if you dont have the items you want.
If there is a teamfight incoming, try initiating and creating chaos by hooking the important target and leaving the enemy team with the decision: Do they want to fight back or retreat?
When going for these initiation hooks you have to be very careful who you are hooking and what allies are with you and see if they can follow up, or else you could be initiating on your own team.
If fight was already happening: Try separating the enemies, going for last hits (so hooking people that are leaving the fight because they are low HP for instance), or getting allies out of trouble, like they getting stunned or caught in a Tombstone range, etc. You dont really fight in the early stages of the midgame, as you are not tanky enough to focus enemy fire and damage from Rot at the same time, once you are able to do that (e.g. Black King Bar) you can walk right in the middle of the fight and Dismember targets more freely, and use hook as a secondary tool.
Both items provide you mobility and they both cost the same amount of gold (2250). But they are both very different items, let me explain:
There are obviously core differences to both items:
So, according to this comparison chart, Blink Dagger looks like the better pickup, but it isnt and I'll tell you why.
The upsides we see for Blink Dagger come to be irrelevant when we look at what Pudge needs in a mobility item.
Cooldown: Blink Dagger has a lower cooldown, of 12 seconds. However, Meat Hook is on a 11 second cooldown, and you dont usually have to hook something one time after another, and if you do, you rarely need repositioning with something like a Blink Dagger. You will notice that it becomes a matter of combo uptime, and 20 seconds on Force Staff's cooldown is just enough for you to set yourself and prepare for another hook. Also, Dismember is on a 30 second cooldown, Blink Dagger's low cooldown doesnt really matter when you are not going to be engaging every 12 seconds.
Mana Cost: 25 Mana is irrelevant.
Travel Distance: Ok this is a big one, so assuming you don't overshoot your Blink Dagger, you can travel 1200 units, plus 1300 units from hook you can engage enemies 2500 units away. Now, in actual matches you never see a situation where you have to hook someone 2500 units away, even considering in a gank scenario where there are no allies or wards, you are looking to hook someone over 2000 units away, without vision. The travel distance of the Blink Dagger isn't really utilized by Pudge and it's not a make or break point like if you were playing an initiator like Magnus or something. In comparison 600 from Force Staff sounds pathetic, but it's enough to jump through terrain, close gaps and also to push yourself ahead of your allies so the hook isnt blocked.
Terrain travel: Both items provide travel through terrain. However, traveling through terrain is something used mostly to create gaps when escaping, and you cannot use Blink Dagger to escape a fight already started, due to it's cancel on taking damage. In the video at the ending of this section you will see how I utilize the Force Staff to create terrain gaps that you couldn't with a Blink Dagger.
Instant Travel: This is one of the more important upsides the Blink Dagger has to it's name. The instant travel can come in handy when timing hooks more quickly, however you can get used to Force Staff's delay and land hooks just as easily (like I did). The instant travel comes in handy when we are talking jump in initiation with Dismember. When you can just instantly jump next to the enemy carry and disable it with your Dismember, especially in the late game, it can be a really important move that the Force Staff doesnt cover as well as the Blink Dagger.
Disjointing Projectiles: This is not something that you will be doing much, as Blink Dagger will likely be on cooldown during fights (you being attacked as I said Pudge focuses enemy fire a lot, and also cancelling your own Blink Dagger with Rot.
Break trees: Breaking trees is most of the time a negative, if we are talking escapes. The reason Force Staff breaks trees is for it to be able to go through all terrain, to match the Blink Dagger. But when escaping as so, across only trees, you create a path for enemies to catch up, not really ideal. The Blink Dagger on the other hand can be used to blink in the tree line and Tp out without risking anything.
Stats/Regen: The Hp regen is really passive and you wont really notice it, the 10 extra Intelligence is much more interesting, it's almost an extra hook. And having about 100 extra mana pool pays for the 25 mana cost of the Force Staff in the first place.
Cancels on Damage: This is one of the strongest points of a Force Staff if not the strongest. As any damage taken will cancel your mobility, and Pudge is a hero well known for damaging himself.
Components: In ganks it's very likely you will get killed once of twice, the building of Force Staff allows you to avoid total gold loss and grants you the 10 Int even when the item is not yet finished.
And to top it off: Force Staff can be used on allies and enemies too. Now you may be thinking:
"oh yea this forcestaff thing looks neat now"
But wait, there's more!
So something a lot of people and Pudge players tend to forget is the fact that you actually have to cursor to aim a hook.
How I like to put it is as so:You want to be using your mouse exclusively for moving and using your Meat Hook. There is a certain mouse moving custom that you build when you only cursor where you move and hook, you start getting more consistent at landing hooks and so on.
Now, the fact that you have to move your cursor in to use your Blink Dagger and then quickly aim your hook, again moving your cursor to a point "B", leaves a lot of room for mistake, especially if the enemy you intend on hooking can see you, and will try dodging.
Force Staff on the other hand can be casted by double tapping the key, this allows you to aim your hook even before using the mobility, allign your hero and use the Force Staff and hook simultaneously, for a more consistent mobility+hook combination. This is especially important when we try to hook in an angle, so not in a straight line, but move the foe to a third position.
You will see this use in the video here.
So, this is kinda compilation I put together of hooks and use of Force Staff. I am not good at making videos, this is just to kinda showcase the Force Staff while bragging about my perfect 360 hard scoped hooks. You may want to up the quality to 480p to see stuff, the video quality is really poor, I dont have the equipment to record properly.
Here is the evidence and my argument. In conclusion:
By the time you get to this point the match should be ending, at least that's what you want. So these are the late game pickups in no particular order.
Black King Bar: BKB is a really good item on Pudge that is often looked over. It allows you to Dismember without getting cancelled and to have Rot turned on throughout the fight without worrying about self damage. Some people like this pickup more than others, for example I tend to only get it if I didnt go Hood of Defiance or Glimmer Cape so the magic resistance is not wasted, but some other players like Dendi himself really like this pickup, as it allows you to frontline really hard for your team, being tanky and magic immune.
Shiva's Guard: Shiva's is a cool pickup (pun intended) for multiple reasons, passive aura helps your team out, armor and intelligence both go great with Pudge and the active super Aoe slow goes great with Rot. Also, flying vision helps out when trying to hook people in fog of war, especially in night time.
Boots of Travel: I already talked about travels but it's also worth reminding you to upgrade your boots into this in the late game, so you can take part of every fight possible. Oh and they go great with heroes that have summons like Beastmaster for some really sick ganks inside the enemy territory.
Aghanim's Scepter: Is the absolute best way to update your DPS for the late game, I even dare say it's worth getting it straight after one of the tier 1 mid game items, if you have enough Flesh Heap. Agh's goes great with heart of tarasque of course, but also goes great with Ethereal Blade amplifying your Dismember damage by insane amounts (you may have seen in the video).
Heart of Tarrasque: Heart is really self explanatory, I dont recommend getting it if you didnt go Agh's, but still, if you need the tankiness it is worth grabbing.
Sange and Yasha: S&Y is an item that a lot of people like just for the raw stats (and the bit of movement speed). Just as I did with Euls, I recommend this item for playing safe, especially if we are talking higher bracket matches. You get stats early without having to go Aghanim's Scepter or heart of tarasque, and if you are in this high level as I am saying, you are more likely to have less Flesh Heap than you would in a lower level match.
But all in all Pudge is a hero that can go for different items, if you want to get a Bloodstone, get it; if your team needs a Scythe of Vyse then get it, build whatever you need, these are just items to get you in the right track.
Queen of Pain: For similar reasons, she is a very escapy hero and you need to time Dismember perfectly, and it's still not guaranteed a kill. Also she will destroy you mid, and you can't get farm back by killing her as you would with other heroes (like Viper, etc) because of the escape.
Storm Spirit: Storm has really high mobility when he hits 6 and becomes annoying to deal with then, but also before ultimates, Storm Spirit is a hero that's really scary at close range, and he also runs over melee heroes in the mid lane.
Magnus: Magnus is a really scary matchup because he is basically better equiped than Pudge if we compare them as melee heroes, he has a way more mana-cost efficient nuke for the creepwave and as harass, and he can use Skewer to escape you and also to get you into tower range. This happens when you are both CSing and he turns around or kinda turns to the side, when you see that you have to retreat a bit or you'll get Skewered, and it hurts a lot because of Pudge's really low armor value.
Bounty Hunter: Invis escape and courier sniping. In a more deeper level, Track is the most annoying thing ever, because one of the things that counter Pudge the most is vision, and being Tracked is like running around with a enemy ward strapped to your forehead.
Spirit Breaker: He is very effective at countering ganks, so if you hook someone he will be quick to follow up. Also, he ganks mid.
Silencer and Outworld Devourer: Both of this heroes screw you over by reducing your mana pool and mana in general, be careful around them. Especially Silencer as the pool reducing is permanent and he has multiple silences in his skillset.