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How The Pros Use Dark Willow And Pangolier

Dota 2's newest heroes are now a staple of the competitive meta

Maouie Reyes

MoonduckTV’s Captain’s Draft 4.0 made history as the first Dota Pro Circuit tournament to pit eight of the world’s best Dota 2 teams in an action-packed Dota 2 action played not in the usual Captain’s Mode but in, you guessed it, Captain’s Draft.

Captain’s Draft is a game mode where both captains from each side ban and pick from a pool of 27 heroes which is divided by nine from each main attribute. This includes heroes which are excluded from Captain’s Mode like Techies (who was unfortunately unpicked), and the two new heroes Dark Willow and Pangolier.

With uncertainty surrounding the role of the two new heroes, professional Dota 2 players gave a glimpse of how Dark Willow and Pangolier should be played professionally.

Dark Willow

Dark Willow was able to notch a pretty decent professional standing at the Captain’s Draft 4.0 main event with a 66.67% win rate in three games played. However, her instability in the current competitive meta still somehow ensued at the tournament since Mireska Subreeze was still banned more times than she was picked.

Out of the tournament’s eight contenders, Mineski-Dota showed the deepest understanding of how Dark Willow works. The Southeast Asian representative finished at fourth place with a 100% win rate on the hero via two games (one versus paiN Gaming in the playoffs and another one against Vici Gaming in the group stage). The only team which also picked Dark Willow was OG, but they were not as successful with the hero as Mineski-Dota. The European qualifier drafted Dark Willow during their deathmatch against Vici Gaming, explaining their early exit as well as the hero’s only loss at the tournament.


Mineski-Dota’s ninjaboogie was the first to play Dark Willow at the Captain’s Draft 4.0 main event and he used the hero like how the pubs shaped her to be: a position five support babysitting a position one carry at the safe lane.

Nb’s Dark Willow bought most of their team’s wards and Smokes of Deceit. He prioritized items which can provide sustain for his teammates such as Spirit Vessel and Arcane Boots. By taking the +90 gold/min talent, he was also able to address Dark Willow’s lack of mobility by building Force Staff and Glimmer Cape.

For the skill build, nb maxed out Bramble Maze and Shadow Realm. He also levelled up Terrorize every time, maximizing his ability to contribute heavily during team fights.

In this engagement, nb’s well-placed Bramble Maze and clutch Terrorize allowed them to waste a Black King Bar charge on Ori’s Dragon Knight while picking off a rooted Sand King. This play epitomizes the potential of Dark Willow as a support who can initiate team fights through his AOE spells.


OG’s elimination at Captain’s Draft 4.0 cut Dark Willow’s win rate as a five position support in half. Like Mineski-Dota’s ninjaboogie, Fly also played Dark Willow as a babysitter for their safelane carry.

Fly and nb’s itemization were also similar, even though Fly was only able to build Arcane Boots. Both of them also prioritized the Bramble Maze, but Fly opted for an Level 1 Cursed Crown and Level 2 Shadow Realm.

Even though Fly was only able to deal 7k amount of damage against their enemies, his Dark Willow was still able to disable Vici Gaming for more than two minutes. This proves how much zoning Dark Willow can provide.


In the tournament, iceiceice was the only player to use Dark Willow in the offlane. Although the strategy was somehow against the pub meta, iceiceice was able to record the best performance on Dark Willow in professional matches.

After edging out paiN Gaming’s dual lane of Drow Ranger and Earthshaker, iceiceice ended his offlane Dark Willow game with a 12/0/14 KDA record. He also notched the second highest amount of damage dealt among the heroes with 13.9k, following Nana’s game-high 21.7k damage on Queen of Pain.

Unlike with a support Dark Willow, iceiceice first maximized Shadow Realm instead of Bramble Maze. Being untargetable for five seconds allowed iceiceice to survive a dual lane onslaught and even retaliate sometimes.

His itemization was also different from a support but it also sought to address Dark Willow’s mobility issues. After a Drum of Endurance, iceiceice rushed a Eul’s Scepter of Divinity to complement not just the Cursed Crown but the entirety of Dark Willow’s skillset. His combo goes something like this:


As for the other new hero, after deciphering some tweets made by professional Dota 2 players, it seems like Pangolier is far from being a balanced hero.

Donté Panlin was dubbed as a mediocre hero from the second he entered the scene, but one patch allowed him to transform from zero to hero. Pangolier’s need to be nerfed reflected during Captain’s Draft 4.0 as he got banned four times. The only time Pangolier got picked was when compLexity Gaming drafted him against OG at the group stage. With CoL’s loss, Pangolier got a 0% win rate at the Captain’s Draft 4.0.

coL. Moo

Moo adapted the pub meta as he played Pangolier for compLexity. In pubs Pangolier has a 61.64% offlane presence with a 46.07% win rate. His itemization was also based on the hero’s most used items like Javelin and Vanguard.

Unfortunately, his lane counterpart was also a broken hero, a safelane Monkey King played by N0tail. Moo was never able to survive the early game aggression of OG’s dual lane as he got killed thrice during the game’s first 10 minutes. His deaths may have something to do with his skill build as he prioritized Swashbuckle instead of Shield Crash.

OG’s safe lane support, Treant Protector was also one of the worst heroes to match up against Pangolier with a -1.55% advantage. With only Moo’s performance to have as a benchmark, Pangolier’s pub statistics, so far, has been proven accurate.