Dark Willow brings in some entirely new mechanics, so learn up about the brand-new support right here in our guide.
Dota 2 has been updated once again and, just like last year when 7.00 dropped, everything has changed. The map is different, every hero’stalent trees have been reworked and there’s even a new item that literally summons a meteor from space to come crashing down on your opponents. Oh, and Techies’ mines can move now.
But perhaps the biggest change to the game was the addition of two new heroes, Pangolier and Dark Willow. Both of them bring in entirely new mechanics and ideas, and both seem to be pretty strong – here’s how to get to grips with them.
Dark Willow is classed by Valve as a nuking support hero, but a lot of people seem to like to play her as a mid, thanks to her amazing attack speed and animation and the ability to zone out other heroes convincingly. A solid escape tool also makes the mid lane a pretty viable space for her. But before we go deep into that argument, here’s the lowdown on Dark Willow, her moves, skills and strengths.
Bramble Maze is an AoE root that drops eight bramble bushes into the targeted area. If an enemy walks into a bush they become rooted for 1/1.5/2/2.5 and take 100/150/200/250. When the root ends they will become rooted again if they walk into another bush. These bushes last for 15 seconds, and the spell has a 40/35/30/25 cooldown depending on the level. At low levels you should keep this up for fights or if you’re harassing your foe, but later in the game it’s solid for farming a wave and just disrupting enemies.
Shadow Realm is as badass as the name suggests. When activated, Dark Willow will become untargetable for the duration of the spell, which can be up to five seconds. This means she can’t be attacked and any incoming attacks will miss. During the time the spell is activated her next attack will charge up, and the longer she charges the more damage she does. When she attacks she will deal bonus magic damage up to 120/200/280/360, although if she does not attack before the spell ends the extra magic damage will be lost. This is great for harassing enemies in lane and is also your best escape tool. Activate it when a gank comes in and just walk away without the enemy being able to hit you.
Cursed Crown is a single target stun, except it kind of isn’t. You cast this on a single target, and after a four-second delay they will be stunned for 2/2.5/3/3.5. However, when the stun happens after the four-second delay, it will also stun any enemies that are within a 325 AoE around the targeted enemy. The four-second delay means you will need something to set this up, but if you can find a group of enemies all stood together in a slight space this can pretty much become as good as Reverse Polarity. A low cooldown of 18/16/14/12 means you can use this to harass quite a bit in lane.
Bedlam is the first of Dark Willow’s two ultimate abilities. When cast, Dark Willow’s pet wisp will circle around her for four seconds. The wisp can attack any enemies around Dark Willow and will do this automatically, almost like Gyrocopter’s Side Gunner. The wisp attacks deal 75/150/225 and it can attack up to four times a second. Effectively, this can do a lot of damage if you’re stood next to a group of enemies and its short 20-second cooldown means you can spam it a lot.
Terrorize also makes use of the wisp, but this time it’s thrown into an AoE by Dark Willow. After landing in the target area and a short delay, all enemies that are in the affected area become feared, forcing them to run back towards their own fountain for four seconds and being unable to do anything during this time. This is great as a disengage tool, as it forces enemies away from you and prevents them from doing anything, but can also be used in fights to reposition foes or force them into you if you can smoke behind them.
Level 10: +125 Cast Range OR +20 Damage
Level 15: +40 Movement Speed OR +90 Gold/Min
Level 20: +300 Shadow Realm Max Damage OR 10% Spell Lifesteal
Level 25: +1 Terrorize Duration OR +200 Attack Speed
What does this all mean? What talents should I pick?
The talents you select for Dark Willow will very much depend on what role you’re playing her in and what heroes are on the enemy team. If you’re going to be a high spell-damage nuker, be that support or core, then the cast range, movement speed, Shadow Realm damage and Terrorize duration are your choices.
If you’re playing her in a core role, but focusing more on outputting a lot of damage with right clicks then the 20 damage, movement speed, shadow realm damage and attack speed combo are probably the way to go.
As a support, then things are a little easier to decide: cast range and Terrorize duration are musts, while the others are a little situational. If you’re spending all your gold on wards then the gold per minute is nice, but if you’re chasing kills and fighting a lot then the movement speed is better. The same goes for level 20: if you die early in fights get the lifesteal, if you need to do more damage then get the Shadow Realm talent.
What about items?
There are a lot of items that work well with Dark Willow and the items that you choose will obviously be tied to your role in the game. Starting out, you’re obviously going to want Tangos, and a Clarity or two is never a bad idea, as you’re going to need a lot of mana in the early game regardless of role. As things move on, Mana Boots are pretty much mandatory, although Treads can be useful as a core. Other early-game choices depend on situations, with Stout Shield being good if you’re trading damage or a wand working well if a lot of spells are being thrown around, as it will replenish you mana for trades.
Regardless of your build, a Eul’s Scepter is very nice on Dark Willow and almost a core item. Once you have it you’ll have solid mana regen for the rest of the game and can set up your Bramble Maze well. It’s also very good defensively, as with some quick timing you can Euls yourself, then activate Shadow Realm to walk away. If you have quicker reactions than us then Blink Dagger is also a great choice for every build.
For a heavy right-click build, Maelstrom, Desolator and Hurricane Pike are all really good base choices, and remain great if you hit 25 and get that ridiculous attack speed talent. The new item Aeon Disk is also a nice mid game item while you have low health, as it can keep you alive and give you time to Euls and Shadow Realm out. Of course, this build is pretty costly, so an early Midas will always be nice to have if you can.
For a support or more spellcaster build then you’re going to want a ton of mana regen and ideally some spell amp. A Veil of Discord is a good early item, as it buffs up your damage, and even the new item Kaya is a good starting point. As the game goes on you’re going to need to adapt on the fly, as your spells will start to become less useful as magic resistance starts up. Maybe a Hex, or Octarine is good for cores, while heals such as Guardian Greaves are solid for supports.
OK, so how do I beat Dark Willow?
This part is pretty simple: buy a BKB. All of Dark Willow’s spell damage output is magical, even Shadow Realm, so a BKB will make her pretty useless unless she goes for a right-click build. BKB will always be more effective than a Linken’s Sphere as Dark Willow will often try and spam out all her spells in quick succession.
Generally the best way to take down Dark Willow is to silence her. With a silence she’ll have no way of casting Shadow Realm and can’t escape, and also won’t be able to do anything to you; magical nukes are good for this as well. She also has a very small health pool in the mid game, meaning if the likes of Sven or Slark can get up close then she won’t last long. If you kill her off a good few times in the mid game, her effectiveness drops off a lot.
To out-play a Dark Willow you should try not to group up as a team, as her AoE abilities will be less effective, and you need to be able to chase her down. Shadow Realm is very strong, but without it she’ll melt to almost anything thrown at her.
When should Dark Willow be picked?
Dark Willow is the perfect hero to pick if you need some strong lockdown against targets that won’t build a BKB. If you see cores that like to pick up a BKB, such as Sven, then maybe stay away, as you’ll become pretty redundant once he picks one up. Likewise, heroes that have good chase and escape, such as Night Stalker or Weaver, are also bad match ups, and avoid Silencer like the plague.
A good match up in the core role would be against a melee hero. Facing up against any melee hero in the mid lane should be fairly easy and you will almost certainly be able to out last-hit them. Playing Dark Willow as a core is also a good idea if you know the game will likely go late, as the level-25 attack speed talent will be enough to win you the game single handedly with one or two damage items.
If you’re in need of a support that has good lockdown and big team-fight abilities then this is the one to pick, but is perhaps a little limited as a position five, as she’ll not have the mana to spam abilities without an item or two.