Dote Night: Seriously, Puck This


Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart. THIS WEEK, however, she will be telling you all about her exploits with the All-Hero Challenge:

Currently I am staring at the cliff face which is the All Hero Challenge in Dota 2.

It’s the official version of the A-Z hero challenge where you work your way through all the heroes for a sense of personal achievement and a digital trophy. It was added as a stretch goal for sales of the 2014 International Compendium (a kind of digital stickerbook, fantasy league and prediction tool all rolled into one).

I tried to do the real A-Z challenge back when it was underground and not an in-game option, except I decided to start at Z and work my way backwards. I think I brute-forced my way past Visage and up to Troll Warlord before being distracted by something that was fun and didn’t ruin the games I had with my friends.

I decided to go back to it because my hero knowledge has ended up so patchy due to there being a handful of heroes I adore playing. The rest were increasingly becoming background mulch. I’d read the updates and patch notes and think “huh, interesting” about this and that. But I’d never need to put that knowledge into practice because of not playing the hero so it would drift away and I’d only remember things like buffs after I died to them. Ooops.


How the All-Hero Challenge works is that everyone works their way through the same list of heroes in the same order but the start point on that list is randomised. I started on Tidehunter – he’s a tanky initiator with a fantastic ultimate. It’s called Ravage and it sends a bunch of tentacles shooting upwards from the ground in an area around him which stun and damage enemies. It’s absolutely horrible to be caught in, particularly when Tidehunter has an item called a Refresher Orb which resets the (long) cooldown on the ability. Provided you have enough mana you can therefore submit your foes to a double dose of tentacled unpleasantness.

The big problem with starting with Tidehunter is that Puck comes next. You go from a huge, tanky leviathan who smacks things in the face and is straightforward in terms of his demands on your fingers to this fragile faerie dragon who’s all about dodging, silencing and having a billion squillion active items.

I keep telling myself that learning Puck is good for me, that it will make me a better player in the long run, that perhaps I am destined to be a fantastic mid lane player capable of rivalling S4 with my Puck and I just need to unlock that potential. That stuff might well be true, but what is also true is that I got so frustrated and fed up with the sheer abundance of new things I need to add to my playstyle that I cried. On Skype. In front of people. It was so embarrassing.


I think the thing which bothers me about it the most is that I worry I’m ruining games with my friends by subjecting them to the learning process. One of my regular Dota crew is a skilled mid player so when we play one of my Puck games I’m necessarily pushing him out of mid, replacing things like his comfy early gank potential with my own fledgling (and a bit wonky) gank predictions.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, playing mid means you’re generally the second priority for gold and experience after the carry. You want to get levels as fast as possible while also trying to out-do the opposing mid-laner. That means trying to bully them out of the lane or force them to not be able to get the last hits on a creep. It means being better than them at securing the runes which spawn in the river. It means exploiting their mistakes and it means knowing when to move to other areas of the map in order to secure kills. If you mis-time any of those things you risk being killed or losing out on vital gold and experience.

No pressure then.

Learning mid while learning Puck feels like learning to ride a bike while inside a tumble dryer. As the Dota 2 wiki puts it: “Expert use of Puck’s abilities will let you appear out of nowhere, suddenly leave your enemies crippled and disadvantaged, and get away in the blink of an eye – but mess up your timing or misjudge the situation, and there is little left to save this fragile Hero from death.”

Puck’s abilities are as follows:


Illusory Orb
There’s a magical orb which you fling in a straight line and it does damage to enemy units it hits. You activate that by hitting Q and then clicking the direction of travel. You can press D at any point to teleport to the orb’s location so you can see how that would be useful. You fling it out, it does damage and then you can choose to teleport, perhaps to escape or perhaps to land in front of the enemy hero so you can use more of your skills or bodily block their escape. You can use skills and items between pressing Q and pressing D as well.

Waning Rift
Puck sort of excretes a little puff of magic dust which deals damage and silences nearby enemy units. Being silenced means that a hero can’t use their active hero abilities. That includes spells which are already in the process of being channelled like Witch Doctor’s ultimate ability. It’ll also do damage to creeps

Phase Shift
This ability lets you vanish into another dimension where you’re immune to harm. You disappear from the map and there’s a little pile of glitter that marks when you’ll return. You use this to dodge hits that would otherwise do you damage, or to shift out just as Pudge tries to hook you towards him – things like that. One of the nicest synergies with Puck involves Phase Shift and an item called a Blink Dagger – it’s a kind of short range instant teleport. If you take damage you have to wait for 3 seconds to use the Blink Dagger. Phase Shift at its highest level lets you stop taking damage for 3.25 seconds so you hide out in an alternate dimension, come back and blink out of trouble.

Dream Coil
This one is kind of like a magical toddler harness that deals a bit of damage. If the heroes it latches onto move too far from the cast point they end up stunned and take more damage. You can use this to trap enemies within a certain area or try to force them to flee and stun themselves.

One of the recommended items for Puck is a Scythe of Vyse. It’s gives extra mana and mana regeneration and it’s generally called a sheepstick because you can use it to turn a character into an animal (it was a sheep in the original DotA but now it’s a pig) so you’ll need to remember to use that. There’s also a Eul’s Scepter which whirls a unit up in a cyclone (as well as giving extra movement speed and a bit more mana regen). That’s in addition to things like a Shiva’s Guard (protection against physical damage plus it slows and damages) and a Dagon (hello burst damage).

Making sure you use items at the right time combines with using abilities in the right order and at the right times plus a bunch of mid laning awareness and map traversal.

Puck is insanely fiddly, is what I’m trying to get at. That he follows such a tanky and relatively straightforward chap as Tidehunter represents not so much an ability spike as an ability asymptote, zooming off to infinity.

After Puck will come Ursa. Ursa is a bear who hits things in the face. I have no idea if Valve intend Ursa to be a reward for the exhausted All-Hero Challenger as they finally get some respite from Puck duties. Maybe. Or maybe there is no real logic to any of the cycle of heroes.

To just round out this entry, I’ve been thinking about whether the All-Hero Challenge is useful in terms of learning new heroes. I definitely like that there’s a way to earn check marks against heroes as you learn them in-game. It doesn’t guard against just scoring a lucky win and it doesn’t mean you necessarily “learned” that hero though.

Here are a couple of my own suggestions for achieving something along those lines but it would be cool to hear yours:

The first is about learning particular skill combinations. The game’s training has a last hit mode where you can practice getting last hits, but I’d like to see challenges for individual heroes. For Puck that would be “avoid 10 Pudge hooks with Phase Shift” or “cast Illusory Orb, Shift to avoid a hook and then teleport to the orb 5 times”. There’s actually a game like that for Invoker – it’s a third-party thing where you have to key in all his different skill combinations against the clock.

The second is to have the All-Hero Challenge but with three heroes on your check list at any given time. If you’re having trouble with Puck you’ve also got Ursa and Magnus. That way there’s a better chance that you’ll have an option you can pick to fit in with real line-ups in pub matches, plus you don’t have to stop doing the challenge if one hero is really hard. You’ll still have to do them eventually, but at least there’s a bit of variety within the challenge.


  1. PikaBot says:

    You know, Puck is a perfectly servicable offlane solo hero as well as a mid. If you’re having trouble getting mid down, you could go there instead and let your mid-playing friend take the midlane.

    • Banyan says:

      Along these lines, Pip seems to think she has to play Puck as a Position 2 mid, when she could probably play it as a Position 3 off-lane solo and take a lot of pressure off. If someone else on the team has some teamfight, she can focus on ganking and chase. That said, I agree that this hero has too many switches and knobs to twiddle for me to enjoy playing.

    • Pantalaimon says:

      The thing with playing Puck offlane is it’s pretty much the same story, you’d rather have different heroes in offlane because they’re better there, because they can pressure the enemy safe lane and defend the tower. Puck can’t really do either of these things and also does pretty poorly when dived by multiple heroes (early levels of phase shift don’t cut it). Even competitive players have found out the hard way that just because Puck can be squirelly it doesn’t mean it can’t be chased down and murdered pretty horribly in that lane. Offlane is not the place it used to be since they changed the map layout.

      Puck is just one of those heroes that excells in one lane but is just a body anywhere else.

      • Goat.of.Space says:

        You need a pretty specialized group of heroes to consistently successfully gank a puck who is playing off solo. Essentially you need chain stuns. Moreover, if you ward your flank creatively (to make sure it does not get immediately dewarded as the dire offlane rune ward is wont to do) it takes a lot of investment by the other team to catch puck unawares. Even with a level 1 phase shift, you can illusory orb the moment you see the enemy support walking to you/breaking smoke and use phase shift to dodge stun or attack and jaunt to your tower. It is actually easier to shut down offlane Puck in pro games because while the Puck is probably high skilled, the enemy team tends to be well coordinated and their supports will chain stuns well enough to consistently kill you.

        On that note, if you are playing an offlane puck and the enemy team hates you and three enemy heroes are constantly trying to kill you, you can actually chill in lane to leech xp and put farming on a lesser priority and win the overall XP/Gold game as your other lanes will not have as much pressure and can farm and gank better. Sooner or later the enemy supports will have to either rotate to relieve pressure on other lanes, or their team risks losing two lanes just to control the off solo.

  2. jrodman says:

    In a way, playing a-z with solo queueing is more forgiving. Eventually you’ll win by accident, regardless of how much complaining you endure.

    If you’re playing with a stable team then you may actually learn more, because they’ll probably expect you to fill the role that hero normally does and play around it semi-competently. But it does sound more stressful in a way, if you worry they want to win generally and aren’t excited about your challenge.

    Btw, you don’t HAVE to play Puck with all active tools. Aghanim’s Sceptre is great on him these days. The passive benefit of Shiva’s Guard is also so huge that the active is nearly a free bonus.

    But I suppose learning to master all that will make you a better player. A better player than I’ll ever be. Just mastering the timings of blink and your built-in set is a good challenge, IMO.

    • jrodman says:

      Or is Puck a her? I really can’t say.

      • Vandelay says:

        I think Puck is sexless, but not sure where I heard that.

        As for All Hero challenge, it is a good idea, but, as Pip says, it can feel like you are a bit of detriment to your team by following it. Personally gave up on it after a couple of games as Slark, a character I thought wasn’t too bad, but then had terrible games with when trying to do the All Hero challenge.

        I like her suggestion of having a pick of 3 heroes. Alternatively, it could just be a simple tally of all the heroes you have played and won with, not forcing any particular order on you.A rating system accompanying them could work too, where it will give a rating depending on how many times you have played the hero and how many times you have won with them, to eliminate just getting lucky with them (e.g played once and won, have a B rating, play another two times with the hero and lose, it drops to a C+, etc.)

    • jrodman says:

      As a third note: I find Ursa more frustrating than Puck at moderate skill levels. Puck I’m mad at myself for fumbling. Ursa I’m getting kited by the enemies and unable to do anything useful.

      • kavika says:

        Blink dagger/shadow blade and some sort of bash/stun/slow in your party or in your item set can help a lot. Orb of venom is cheap.

        Rushing rosh (as early as level 4) is pretty important, and can give you the gank advantage. Can’t kite when you’re dead :)

      • shaydeeadi says:

        Ursa doesn’t particularly need damage items that much either so Scythe of Vyse and Diffusal Blade are also really good on him for keeping an enemy in your sights. Diffusal even provides some mana burn. Obviously, a blink dagger is essential on Ursa.

  3. Mr Tom says:

    Puck was one of the characters I was assigned for the compendium last year. It took me ages to get a win with her, but I ended up really enjoying playing as her.

  4. Namahanna says:

    This guide helps a ton in learning mid and puck.

    link to

    • Pantalaimon says:

      Yeah, that is a classic dota guide. Makes great reading for all players.

  5. piedpiper says:

    The truth is people can’t be playing all heroes good. I think everyone has a more attuned mind to some heroes and less for others. Don’t play those you do not understand and do not having fun with. Eventually you tastes with differ i guess. Or maybe not. I think of it as of DOTA test for temperaments but much more diverse.

    As for me i stopped playing All Hero Challenge at 35% when i faced Naga Siren and decided it’s enough for me to destroy games for others.

  6. lasikbear says:

    The worst thing about puck is not having Illusory Orb and Jaunt on the same key, which made sense in DoTA1, but at this point should at least be an option. Puck hardly needs anymore buttons to press.

  7. Bremze says:

    It sounds like you should advice from Dwarf Fortress. “Losing is fun” makes Dota (and a lot of things) far less stressful and more enjoyable. Play a few games of All Random, laugh about how clumsy you are forced out of your comfort zone, cheer about someone getting a hero they’re actually good at and feel the dread of Meepo. Playing mid requires confidence and being paralyzed by fear every time you have to make a call will make that much harder.

    • Bremze says:

      Also, ward the high ground and stand behind creeps when laning against Pudge.

    • Pantalaimon says:

      Losing might not be fun all the time, but you always learn a lot when you lose :)

  8. Horg says:

    ”For Puck that would be “avoid 10 Pudge hooks with Phase Shift” or “cast Illusory Orb, Shift to avoid a hook and then teleport to the orb 5 times”.”

    Not really sure if this would have much practical value beyond queuing people into what the skills were intended for. Dodging projectiles you know are coming is not really good practice for a live game where hooks are coming out of the fog from unexpected angles when you least expect it. The only way to learn the reflex timing needed to be good with phase dodge is lots of live practice, lots of failure, and lots of persistence. Same with Invoker really, you can learn all his skills to muscle memory in practice mode, but selecting and aiming them in a live game is worlds apart. The stress and dynamism just can’t be replicated. But you probably don’t need to get good to get on with the all hero challenge, as jrodman said above the random que will eventually match you against some opponents so incompetent that your team will effortlessly crush them.

  9. dbdkmezz says:

    I got Dark Seer as my fourth All Hero Challenge. The first three were wonderful introductions to new heroes I’ve now grown to love (especially Storm Spirit, so much fun!)

    But Dark Seer. Oh man, I don’t know what to do! Six games, six losses. That makes Dark Seer my sixth most played hero (I like variety and I’ve only played 150 matches), but I’ve never felt more useless with anyone.


    • piedpiper says:

      Don’t worry, i got 14 loses for Chen. Eventually you will win :)

    • Horg says:

      If you can get one friend, or convince one random to team up with you, get an invis hero like Riki, Clinkz or Bounty Hunter to lane with you. Get to lvl 2 Ion Shell, drop out of enemy vision, put Ion Shell on the invis hero and get them to stand on top of your opponents until they die. If you are still matching against people who are fairly new, then some of them probably wont even realise they are taking damage. It’s a cheap tactic but it works more often than you might think.

    • Goat.of.Space says:

      You can try to run a Dark Seer jungle. It is pretty effective if you get your stack and clear timings right. This also puts you in a position to gank your safe lane if you see an opportunity to secure a kill by ion shelling and hasting your carry for instance.

      The other idea is to lane him off solo (as he needs levels and has a good escape from level 2 onwards). In this case you need to carefully judge how much support the enemy carry has. If he is solo-ing the lane, and is melee then you can actually zone him out quite well by ion shelling yourself and going to creep wave to farm. If you feel threatened in the off solo role (because their are roaming supports/stunners in the enemy jungle) it could be a safer bet to ion shell creeps and to stay out of sight but within xp range. This approach prioritizes not dying over getting every last hit, but in higher bracket games dying is significantly worse than losing out on some gold especially on a dark seer who needs to hit level 10 really early ideally.

      Once you have the basic knowledge of the game (you know items, heroes and skills) and can easily process what is happening on the screen I have found the best way to learn heroes is to go to Watch and search Live Games by hero name, then pick a match which is in Pre-Game phase. This way you get to see how to handle the early game with the hero you are looking at, being played by really skilled players. I have found it quite useful to learn opening play for heroes that I knew but was not very comfortable with.

  10. Gnoupi says:

    I really liked the idea of the all-hero challenge. Then after 3 fun heroes, it now wants me to win a game playing Chen. It doesn’t help that I don’t have that many hours (less than 200), and I really can’t control more than one unit efficiently.

    So I try, sometimes, even if I know I’ll just ruin the game for some people. I keep hoping that once I’ll find a team who will steamroll the other without me…

    And then I give up and go back to my cherished Rubick.

  11. Mike says:

    I definitely felt the same when I did the AHC for DOTA 2. Even heroes who were supposed to be straightforward, like Dragon Knight, led to a ten game loss streak (while other heroes like Morphling I inexplicably knocked out in one game). You do feel, after a while, like you’re wearing people out, especially when you mostly play just a single role (I think you’re mostly a support played right? I am the same.)

    In the end I started doing a few solo unranked games in between to lessen the guilt, and prime me for playing a hero for the first time. Alternatively, do what I ended up doing out of desperation: convince your friends to let you play every hero as a support. It’s the best.

  12. somnolentsurfer says:

    I’ve been playing the hero challenge together with a couple of friends, so we’ll pick to help each other get through. On the whole it’s mainly been going OK, aside from the 12-loss run I had with Shadow Demon.

  13. Orontes says:

    You think you have it bad Philippa, my second hero is Invoker, who I have almost no experience playing with. Trying to learn even a few of his spells, never mind his combos, is a task in and of itself.

    • Pantalaimon says:

      I think the hardest part of Invoker is knowing which Invoker you feel more attached to – is it the carry Invoker who goes Exort and farms up in his lane, whichever lane that is, and basically only interacts with sunstrike early on. Or is it Quas-wex Invoker who barely stays in lane for five minutes before he’s off adventuring and ganking. Of course later on you’d want to be decent at both of them because you might have to go the other route depending on the match, but for learning purposes I think it’s good to focus on getting good at either one of them.

      After that, playing Invoker is kind of just like any other hero. Make good decisions, profit from those decisions. Which means basic stuff like farming efficiently (with an eye on low health enemy heroes) or knowing where and how to gank. Very little can go wrong early game if you do those things decently (farming without getting pushed out of lane, and/or getting a kill or two), and if you did, mid-game you will hopefully have an advantage which you can push alongside your teammates.

  14. heretic says:

    is that like puck from berserk?

  15. Pantalaimon says:

    All Hero Challenge is great on paper but is another one of the things Valve haphazardly introduced that was to the detriment of the quality of pub games in general. They care a lot about competitive but I don’t think they give a hoot about the 99.9% of players that don’t fall into that bracket.

    Not only are people roped into playing heroes they probably never play (because the majority of people barely stray beyond half a dozen picks), but they’re doing it within a mini-game that defines what should be a positive learning experience as a binary of success or failure. It also permanently keeps track of how many times they ‘failed’ meaning at the end of it they could be suckered into thinking they’re doing really badly thanks to playing heroes multiple times, when in fact, no, stepping outside your comfort zone is A Good Thing and nobody ever got worse at Dota by playing a game of Dota.

    I don’t believe public games with strangers is the right place for people to be playing heroes they have never played, though, simply because Dota is not fun if someone in the game on either team is not playing competently. Matchmaking is already bad enough at balancing without people feeling like they are being forced to play heroes they don’t know or don’t like. There’s a mode which barely anyone ever plays, Least Played, which was great for learning. And there’s bot games, offline or otherwise, which should be the port of call for learning alongside others.

    Unfortunately, people are better motivated by a filling progress bar than simply putting in the effort on their own time to learn the game. I personally cannot fathom inflicting my misplays of a new or unplayed hero on others. I want to help my teammates not hinder them. I feel like this is just not something enough people think about.

  16. Groove says:

    “what is also true is that I got so frustrated and fed up with the sheer abundance of new things I need to add to my playstyle that I cried. On Skype.”

    It’s no crying at art in a minecart, but still a very Pip problem.

  17. Premium User Badge

    samsharp99 says:

    This is why I like the ARAM game-mode in League of Legends – it’s a single-lane game mode where all of the champions are picked randomly from the players’ respective champion pool. Sure, it can result in some pretty unbalanced games and it’s basically just fighting 5v5 for 20-30 minutes or so (generally shorter than a normal game) but it’s great for learning/refreshing yourself on champions that you don’t tend to play in normal games.

    While I would be nervous about playing a champ for the first time in a normal game, it’s much less stressful in ARAMs as it’s less of a time investment and everyone else is playing random champions as well.

    • Pantalaimon says:

      I want to say that there’s a way to force all-random and only-mid in Dota, but haven’t personally tried it. Unfortunately it would only be in a private lobby with people you’ve invited and not in any kind of matchmaking queue. Which is a shame, because as you say, it sounds like it would be a great playground to learn new heroes in a totally non serious game mode.

      However it is the sort of thing that we will see more of when Dota finally gets its long awaited custom queues. It would only take 5 minutes to write the script for this sort of thing.

  18. Moraven says:

    Since you liked the Frostwolf pup plushie…

    link to

  19. Sonny Bonds - Lytton PD says:

    I’ve done pretty well on my A-Z challenge even on some heros I’ve had no business doing well with. But you’ll also get the opposition situation too. I’m decent with Keeper of the Light, not a very hard hero to figure out and I have a good win rate with him but it took me FIVE FREAKING times to win a match because my teammates were heinous.


  20. pigchicken says:

    Not sure if I’m being out of line here but I would assume that anyone who writes a weekly DOTA column would at least be familiar enough with the game to not have to ‘learn mid’ while doing their hero challenge?

    • PedroTheHutt says:

      I’ll just go out on a limb and say no. You don’t need to be an expert at the game to run a column on the game. Much like how you don’t need to be an expert at the game to be a commentator/caster. This also applies to real sports where plenty of sports commentators and columnists never played their game of choice at a professional level. What’s required is enough knowledge of the game to know what’s going on and be able to say or write interesting things about it in a way that is valuable to people of various skill and interest levels of the game.

      I’d even dare argue that Dote Night would have a far smaller readership if it was written by a ten year Dota veterans, for ten year Dota veterans.

  21. blueskin says:

    First hero on my challenge list…. invoker. FML

    I’m in the same position as Pip where I exclusively played 4 or 5 heroes for 6 months and my MMR climbed to where all my games are ‘very high skill’. I have a 1000 hrs and now I want to learn other heroes but I ruin everyones games in doing so. I could smurf but its such a hassle. Thankfully since ranked has come out I don’t feel so bad, I just treat AP as practice mode and try to ignore the flames..

  22. PedroTheHutt says:

    For me the All Hero Challenge is kind of a non-factor, mostly because the first hero is Brewmaster, who looks like a ton of fun when I got to play him for ten minutes in an ARDM game, but the problem is that the people I typically queue up with REALLY love playing cores, leaving me to play the #5 hard support role in 9/10 of my games.

    So I’m just kind of waiting for the day where I get to fill up a vacant core slot and where Brew is actually a valid pick.

  23. Fenix says:

    Well, I’ve been stuck on bloodseeker on that challenge and honestly cant fathom how anyone can ever win a game with a hero as shit as him.