Image by Hawf
The meta continues its development after the last patch, but for the most part it feels like a “rich get richer” situation. A lot of heroes who were good initially are now even better, with standouts like Spectre, Wraith King and Slardar still dominating pubs of all levels. There is one interesting newcomer we would like to discuss today, one that seems well suited for the current pubs and who might be making a lot of appearances in the professional scene as well. If you are a support player, Pugna should definitely be on your radar.
With the release of Universal heroes, we’ve been paying a lot of attention to hero attributes. Starting damage, damage per level and damage per gold spent were the defining concepts of the support laning stage. We all remember when Techies came into the lane with a double Circlet and four Iron Branches, hitting for 70+ damage from 700 range.
The whole concept’s been tamed since, but there are still remnants scattered here and there. Pugna is one of them: he doesn’t start with a lot of right-click damage, but he gains five per level, making him a very serious right-clicking support come level three.
That’s not everything, though. Pugna also has several other advantages compared to other supports. He has the highest base movement speed in the game, while his Attack Range is 30 higher compared to regular ranged heroes.
All of the above allow Pugna to trade with impunity, despite being squishy. Currently popular melee supports typically suffer the most, especially if they don’t have gap-closing or strong movement restricting abilities.
We can safely say that Pugna is a very strong laner, even without discussing any of his abilities. Abilities that are well suited for both aggression and save playstyles.
We all know that Nether Blast and Nether Ward are amazing. Both of them were buffed recently, with the former getting extra damage against structures, and the latter getting an increase to base damage on proc. Both buffs are very welcome, but they are not the reason Pugna is so good right now.
Decrepify is low-key broken, because the buff it received is a buff to one of the most important support concepts: cast range. There is a reason Aether Lens no longer builds into Octarine Core. It was way too strong of an item, giving casters everything they could ever want.
700 Cast Range on maxed out Decrepify means Pugna gets to use this ability as early as level nine while staying very safe. It goes up to 925 with Aether Lens and provides very good defence against physical damage.
Many players also wrongly assume that it slows down allies and amplifies the incoming Magical damage, but this hasn’t been the case for a while. It will only slow and reduce magic resistance on enemy targets. It will disarm your teammates, so still be at least somewhat cautious of when to use it.
With insane Cast Range on both Decrepify and Life Drain Pugna typically won’t need to rush save items. Pugna also doesn’t mind the gap-closing capabilities of Spectre, the de facto meta-defining carry, since he can always Drain the illusion or Decrepify himself to survive. Hence, the Aether Lens rush.
It is a save item in its own way: since Pugna is a very strong healer, staying far away from the fight allows for multiple rounds of healing goodness on a very low cooldown. By alternating enemy and allied targets, Pugna also keeps himself healthy, though Tranquil Boots are still a must, after disassembling Arcane Boots for Aether Lens.
After getting Tranquils and Lens, getting an appropriate save item is the priority. Glimmer Cape or Pavise are both strong options, though the former is preferable: despite Pavise being an overall better save item, it can be redundant on Pugna specifically.
Do not disregard a potential Lotus Orb, if you need to deal with silences and slows. It is also decent against Scythe of Vyse, as it will frequently force the enemy to self-hex. Alternatively, getting Linken's Sphere when playing against heroes like Doom could prove beneficial. The idea is to use it on the core you are trying to save and since you already have Aether Lens, the Cast Range isn’t going to be a limitation.
Another underrated item is Heaven's Halberd. It is not the most common Pugna purchase, but can be very valuable in the late game against ranged Nullifier carries, such as Templar Assassin. This item also makes Pugna a little bit tankier, while also amplifying the health restoration of the hero. Health that can be later drained into teammates.
We genuinely hoped for a bigger meta change with the release of the new patch, but it looks like there are only a couple of newcomers. Perhaps they will start a chain reaction of meta shifts, or perhaps the upcoming tournaments will show us some new ideas, but for now Dota feels mostly figured out, with a couple of notable exceptions like Slardar and Pugna.
Perhaps you have some other up and coming heroes you would like us to discuss? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.