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Playing against a good Puck can be a very frustrating experience. It is an extremely elusive hero with both high amounts of burst damage and decent amounts of crowd control. Moreover, on top of being an amazing mid-game tempo hero, a good Puck will stay relevant throughout the entire game.
Its potential to escape mid ganks and turn around fights is an absolute nuisance to lane against for the majority of heroes, along with Puck’s high starting attack damage and an ability to mitigate harassment.
Puck’s current Pick+Ban rate in high profile tournaments is slightly above 60%, making it one of the top 10 most popular heroes in the pro circuit. It is also at 54.77% win rate in 5k+ pub games this week, making it one of the most successful heroes in the bracket. So how does one go about countering Puck?
Puck is a type of hero that requires a draft response, if possible. It isn’t a pre-7.07 Broodmother or an Alchemist, but having a hero to deal with him is advisable, otherwise it can quickly take over the game and retain the dominant position for the rest of it.
The mid matchup is especially important, since as discussed previously, Puck is an extremely apt laner. At level one with no items, its attack damage almost reaches 60 and a popular Null Talisman and two Iron Branches start puts it very close to 70 attack damage, outclassing most other heroes.
On top of it, Puck has a spammable nuke/wave clear that allows it to shove lanes to get runes or push, when left unattended. Moreover, this same skill doubles as a chase and escape, making Puck an actual kill threat even in a 1v1 scenario, while also protecting it.
It can get extremely hard to contest creeps in lane against Puck, which in turn can allow it to not only get an absolutely beautiful start itself, but also completely ruin the initial level and item progression for the enemy.
Tankier, more reliable mids, such as Razor and Viper work wonders against this hero, however. They are more at ease with taking early game harass, which in turn ensures their own farm and even denies.
Supports against Puck should generally have some lockdown that is not projectile-based and preferably has a low cast point. Longer range is also a big plus, since Puck is usually the one initiating, and getting caught in the silence AoE should be avoided at all costs. Nyx is a special mention, since he is one of the few supports or offlaners Puck has a bad time against.
It should be noted, however, that Puck is a rather versatile hero and can be played in the offlane, therefore overcommitting to countering it can be detrimental to your team.
Itemizing against Puck is quite complicated — the hero doesn’t really have a hard counter item similar to how Phantom Assassin has her Silver Edge or Bloodthorn nemeses or Necrophos and Pugna have their Nullifiers. The only true hard counter item is Scythe of Vyse and given the changes in the last patch, it is a hard counter to every single hero in the game right now.
So, what items can cores and supports build to have better fighting chances against Puck?
One of the best early game purchases against Puck is surprisingly cheap — Infused Raindrop is an incredible value item that mitigates a significant portion of damage from Puck in mid-game, potentially saving your life as well as preventing Puck from gaining momentum.
Similarly, early game Hood of Defiance and even Pipe of Insight can be great purchases on utility cores — Puck alone is often enough of a reason to warrant this strictly defensive item.
Glimmer Cape also works pretty well, though it should be noted that damage from Puck comes in high bursts during initiation and more often than not most of it will come before any reaction is possible. Regardless, it is a great defensive item in most games that can often save your teammate from a follow-up Illusory Orb.
When it comes to aggressive items, it is mostly a matter of timing. If an Orchid can be purchased in a timely manner, it can be a great tool to pick off a rather squishy target that fully relies on spells and mobility for survivability. Once Puck gets his Eul’s Scepter, however, the item can quickly become irrelevant, at least against Puck itself.
Mobility on cores is another extremely important aspect. For times when Puck does get disabled and it is actually possible to hit it, you want maximum damage to be dealt in the shortest amount of time. Spending time running towards the target, while precious seconds of disable are being lost is far from ideal.
Finally, for supports with decent control Aeon Disk can be a massive purchase in the late game — the dispel from it will generally trigger right after Puck initiates and can allow for instant reaction, since Waning Rift silence will be broken. For similar reasons, Guardian Greaves can be a good pick up, while Eul’s can be used to come out of silence alive.
Given equal farm, Puck will generally have problems killing solo targets in the mid game, unless they are an underfarmed support. Therefore, supports should generally feel a little more restricted, similar to how they should play against Nyx, Storm or Clinkz on the enemy team.
Fully grouping up, however, is similarly ill-advised until cores have a defensive item, preferably a BKB — Puck’s power peak comes around levels 10-14, where its nukes are already maxed, it has its Blink, but the enemy is still farming up. Depending on the enemy lineup, therefore, actively searching for teamfights can be a mistake. Even more so, given an extremely low cooldown on Dream Coil.
As such, surviving the 15-25 period should become a top priority, with conservative farming on cores, as well as defensive wards. More often than not, teams with Puck will try to establish map control and will try to push outer towers and depending on the state of the game, no matter how painful it might be, letting them have the towers might be preferable to sacrificing both towers and hero kills.
There is a window when Puck does next to nothing, and it usually comes with BKB, Eul’s or Hood on your cores. This is the time to press advantage to the fullest, while Puck still hasn’t farmed its Aghanim’s Scepter. This time is best used to return at least some map control as well as for taking objectives, be it outer Towers or Roshan.
Going high ground against Puck can be similarly tricky, since it can simply spam Illusory Orb and Waning rift from Blink, and then Jaunt back to safety. Therefore, to breach Puck’s high ground you generally want either Aegis or strong initiating tools on your supports, so that you can dive past tower and guarantee one or two quick kills. Slow siege will generally waste too much time from your team, while attempting to split-push against Puck can be quite dangerous.
Puck has one of the highest skill floors and skill ceiling in the game and it is unsurprising to see it do well in the highest MMR bracket, while being quite bad in the lower ones. At the same time the hero is extremely rewarding for the player, since one does fully feel the impact done. Even when Puck dies, it is usually after a considerable amount of time and effort from the enemy team, which either stalls the push or creates a lot of space for his team.
Learning to play Puck is probably the best way of learning to counter the hero — amazing things people are capable of doing on the hero are the fruits of their time and dedication. Puck plays might not be as flashy as the ones by Invoker, but they are probably as impactful, if not more. Take some time to learn the hero and in doing so you will not only get a better feel for his weaknesses, but will also learn to appreciate a good opponent — something that is incredibly important for improving at the game as a whole.