Unused voice lines, speculation, rumors—Puppet Master isn’t even a hero in Dota 2, yet he’s been one of the most speculated about characters ever.
Puppet Master is one of the iconic characters of Heroes of Newerth that fans have wanted to make a debut in Dota 2 for years. Originally a unique addition to HoN, Puppet Master is one of the few legacy characters from Dota 2’s forebears to not make it into the game.
A devious Intelligence hero, the HoN Puppet Master could control, bind, and otherwise manipulate enemy heroes. A control-caster unit with physical damage, Puppet Master could lock down opponents and generally cause havoc for opposing players.
But who exactly is Puppet Master, what are his abilities, and why do people think they'll be in Dota 2?
Puppet Master in HoN
In HoN, Puppet Master's lore describes him as a daemon of the Hellbourne (the Dire for Dota fans). A smirking, gibbering madman whose puppets are “offenses to life -- either false things imbued with stolen life, or living things twisted to his will.”
But what does that mean in-game? Well, Puppet Master is an incredible disabler, a crowd control master. His Q and W, Puppeteer’s Hold and Puppet Show, are both great CC abilities. The Q is a scaling bind that works by dragging players back if they move away from their original location. And W is a ‘forced attack,’ effectively a taunt, except it forces the affected opponent to attack the nearest unit. Priority is on enemy heroes and units. But if none are in range, it can be used to force heroes to attack their own allies.
You might already be seeing some good combo potential, and you’re right. And the more cynical among you can probably see some great potential for griefing as well (Imagine support Puppet Master screwing up his carry’s farm by forcing him to attack the nearest unit). But in HoN, Puppet Master is a carry in his own right, thanks to his E, Whiplash. A basic attack empowering ability, it grants every fourth attack bonus Critical Strike and Splash Damage. So Puppet Master is a carry who can lock you down and force you to fight him.
This is balanced with an only average stat line. And while Puppet Master is a ranged hero, the range isn’t anything to write home about. The real selling point of the hero, as with most, is his Ultimate.
Puppet Master's Ultimate
Puppet Master's Ultimate, Voodoo Puppet, targets an enemy and spawns an attackable puppet linked to them. Damage dealt to the puppet is transferred to the enemy as well as any debuffs and stuns. This might sound familiar to players of League of Legends, as it’s very similar to an ability from the champion Illaoi.
Overall, you have a dangerous carry disabler, who also has great initiation and a way to facilitate nuking one of the enemy team. Great, but that’s HoN… and that game only has three more months of being online. So why do people think Puppet Master is even going to head to Dota 2 next?
Why do people think Puppet Master will be in Dota 2?
Well, one of the reasons for fans thinking Puppet Master will head to Dota 2 is the aforementioned impending closure of HoN. With the game ceasing operations in June 20th, 2022, some have speculated this will be the push Valve needs to swoop in and secure the assets from that game. They’ll certainly have an easier time ‘borrowing’ ideas and hero concepts from a game that isn’t actively being played.
But beyond speculation, there’s evidence in voice lines and other data-mined information from Dota 2 that Puppet Master is already in development. AngerMania, a Dota 2 lore content creator, put out a video in 2020 that seemed to hint that Puppet Master was in the works. In fact, almost every hero since 2019 has had some kind of reference to strings, puppets, manipulation, or other hints about Puppet Master in their unused voice lines.
“Wait, I don’t see any strings?”
AngerMania goes on to suggest that Puppet Master could even be someone we’ve already been introduced to in Dota: Underlords. In Underlords, the Underlord Anessix is described as a “demonic puppet master.” Which lines up almost exactly with Puppet Master’s HoN lore that describes them as a daemon.
Even more convincing is the source for AngerMania’s information. The original Reddit thread contained data-mining info from the game reporting potentially 19 new heroes. And right at the top is a series of files prefixed with puppet_master.
Given this info, first posted in 2020, has now had some some verifiable proof of authenticity (It’s confirmed that the Valkyrie, Squirrel, and Primal Beast heroes mentioned are Dawnbreaker, Hoodwink, and Primal Beast), it's reasonable to assume that Puppet Master is on the way.
What would Puppet Master be like in Dota 2
Moving on to the realm of pure speculation, it seems like the Puppet Master could go in several directions. The data-mined info suggests that a stun, a bind with strings that pull you back, and bonus AoE damage. It's all the fun stuff from the HoN Puppet Master. We even have prospective names as the abilities. Puppeteer’s Hold looks like it will be called “Pull the Strings.”
All this points to a direct port of HoN’s Puppet Master. But other details hint at a character that can control and command puppets, as well as a voodoo element being added. There’s a lot of potential abilities, and not all of them line-up with what we know about Puppet Master already.
Whatever the case, there’s huge amounts of evidence that Puppet Master is in the works for Dota 2. But exactly what form the hero will take on remains to be seen.