Pudge—a Schrödinger’s hero, the sort of character you simultaneously never hope to see on your own or the opposite team.
But if high-level pubs are to believed, carry Pudge might actually become viable, even in pro games. This has now become viable thanks to 7.31d’s buffs, which gave Pudge a sizeable increase in Flesh Heap’s damage block and base damage, turning him into a laning menace.
What makes carry Pudge viable?
Flesh Heap was first changed in patch 7.31, but it’s taken until 7.31d for it to feel like an actually good skill.
The new buff to Flesh Heap, which increases its damage block with a base damage increase, has transformed the hero into a phenomenal laner. Instead of tucking himself away in the trees, 7.31d’s Pudge can stand front and center, with high base health, right click damage, and kill threat.
Coupled with Rot’s damage, it’s near impossible to contest last hits with Pudge, and an off-guard opponent might simply die when confronted with a Hook.
Flesh Heap’s damage block synergizes perfectly with Rot. While on paper, Flesh Heap only blocks up to 28 damage per instance, and Rot deals 120 damage per second, Rot is one of many skills in the game that deal damage in split-second intervals.
This means that an equivalent level Flesh Heap will always block out all Rot damage and other skills that function the same way, like Juggernaut’s Blade Fury, Dark Seer’s Ion Shell, and Bloodseeker’s Rupture. Keep in mind that this makes Pudge uniquely tanky against certain matchups, but burst damage can still be a problem for the Butcher.
As a support, the additional damage block rarely matters. If you were going to die, you are going to die anyway. Tranquil Boots and Blink Dagger isn’t really going to save you. But playing it as a core, and especially as a carry, you have the luxury of going full tank mode, while still dealing a respectable amount of damage.
Why carry Pudge?
While an offlane or mid Pudge might be forced to make plays around the map, a carry Pudge can simply park himself in lane to farm up one of his biggest power spikes—Aghanim’s Scepter. It almost doubles Rot’s radius and damage per second, turning him into a AOE team fight menace that’s near impossible to bring down.
Instead of just right-clicking, your damage comes almost entirely from Rot and Dismember. Hook is a nice additional nuke, and your right clicks can be quite chunky, but as a slow hero, you don’t often have that luxury. Therefore, you carry by being extremely bulky, all while dealing a ton of AOE damage in the process, a bit like Bristleback, Spectre, and Necrophos.
What to build on carry Pudge?
Most Pudges opt for Phase Boots. The hero has one of the game’s lowest base movement speeds and armor, and Phase Boots ticks both necessities.
Then, players generally opt for one tank item before moving on to Aghanim’s Scepter. Vanguard is a viable option against more physical damage lineups. Hood of Defiance has great synergy with Rot, and can build into Eternal Shroud later on for more spell lifesteal. It also helps alleviate mana issues.
After finishing Aghanim’s Scepter and hopefully, stacking up a ton of Flesh Heaps, items that help you get in or stay in the fight are vital. Blink Dagger, Black King Bar, and Shiva’s Guard either provide initiation or tankiness that lets you keep skirmishing, and keep scaling. An eventual Overwhelming Blink can be devastating, especially with all the strength that you’ve built up.
Even as a carry, Pudge can pick up Aghanim’s Shard. It lets you Dismember your own allies, keeping them safe and regenerating their health while inside your belly.
Remember, the meta is still evolving. As Dota 2’s most popular hero, Pudge will inevitably get screen time in your pubs. But playing it right will go a long way to helping people appreciate the hero—and perhaps be less apprehensive when he shows up in yet another draft.