Puck was the first hero to coin a “million dollar” move. That was S4, whose Dream Coil at TI3 sealed Alliance’s grand finals victory over Na’Vi. Today, Puck has the 2nd lowest win rate on our charts, just a hair above Lone Druid. The hero has been buffed quite a bit over the past few patches, but a crucial change to its ultimate and a shift in the meta has left the hero feeling quite impotent in the mid and late stages of the game. Being a high skill-cap hero, Puck’s pub win rate has always been low even when it was a top pick in the meta. But now the hero has officially been in the dumpster at all levels of play.
Out of 148 matches during TI8’s group stage, Puck was picked twice and lost both of them. The hero also went completely ignored during the main event—neither picked or banned. After TI8, the highest profile event was the qualifiers for the Dreamleague Minor. Teams picked Puck 3 out of 94 matches and also went winless there.
With the return of dual lanes, the solo mid, and an emphasis on laning, Puck should have been an ideal fit. But take a look at the mid hero pool at TI8. Popular picks at the main event included heroes like Alchemist, Tiny, Pugna, Invoker, Lina, Necrophos. There was also the occasional Storm Spirit. These are cores that not only have favorable matchups mid, but they transition well past the mid game.
Puck’s strength lies in its elusiveness, laning, and initial burst damage. As a hero that can dominate the early game but not necessarily the rest of it, it has similar faults to another staple mid of the past—Queen of Pain. With so much of Puck’s damage contingent on the burst of Orb and Waning Rift, there isn’t much growth for the hero in latter parts of the game. And ever since Dream Coil had its initial damage removed, Puck has even less burst now.
A hero like Pugna has greater magic damage burst on a lower cooldown, and he can pressure towers. Queen of Pain doesn’t require farming a Blink Dagger, and she has better Agility gain to transition towards more physical damage. Even then, she isn’t part of the meta.
As other heroes’ impact scales with items, Puck’s core items are built to strengthen its survivability. Blink Dagger and Eul’s Scepter is 4.7k gold worth of items that become fairly lackluster. And they’re quite often necessary for Puck to just last in fights, as Phase Shift isn’t enough, especially when it’s usually leveled up last.
It's been awhile since Puck's win rate has been above 40%.
Puck dominated in the past when support heroes had few tools to defend themselves from the burst. Today there are Glimmer Capes, magic resistance perks on Strength, and survivability talents. Puck’s damage peaks with max Rift and Orb, then tapers off afterward, while everyone else’s survivability catches up.
To counter this eventual dip, players have gravitated toward items like Veil and Dagon. It’s a sign that Puck isn’t good enough to be used as a utility core. Dream Coil isn’t as good an initiation tool today, and Puck can’t continue to rest on its other skills.
The most likely revival of Puck in the competitive scene may be with Evil Geniuses, who have two specialists on the roster in Sumail and S4. They last-picked it for Sumail, four months ago during the TI8 qualifiers against Team Complexity, with a draft that had multiple synergies with Dream Coil—Elder Titan’s Stomp and Bloodseeker’s Bloodrite. EG also last picked it again—this time for S4—in the Summit Qualifiers against Fnatic. This time it ended in a loss, and S4 scrambled to turn it around with a Rapier, MKB and Puck’s Rapid Fire talent.
Puck’s skillset is strong, but it’s just at the wrong place and time. It doesn’t seem like buffs to the hero’s damage or an increase in silence duration will edge the hero any closer to relevance. Looking at the trend of patches, Valve has been designing around Puck's early game strengths. Its base damage, 53-64, is one of the highest for a hero in the game. And over 7.17 and 7.19, Waning Rift's silence has significantly increased from 0.75/1.5/2.25/3 to 2/2.5/3/3.5--a 267% increase in the silence duration at level 1. It hasn't edged Puck any closer into viability.
Either teams can try to shoehorn Puck in a viable lineup, or a patch could bring a bevy changes that makes Puck’s strengths viable again. What's more likely to happen is a rework to the hero's talents and skills to keep it up to date with the meta. A buff to its spell damage talent could mitigate the hero's decline, or just a reversion to Dream Coil's spell, with some tweaks to its damage. We’ll all just have to hold out a little longer for patch 7.20.