Dota 7.07 introduced two new heroes and they’ve been around for almost a week now, giving us some ground for discussion and statistics to back it up. New introductions to Dota 2 hero roster have always been unpredictable — most of the time the heroes on release were either obnoxiously overpowered or very weak and 7.07 isn’t a complete exception to this rule.
Pangolier started off incredibly weak and the trend continued for the whole week, with the hero barely reaching 40% win rate even after the 7.07b buffs. Part of it is the amount of new mechanics the hero introduces and the associated interest from the community, who have no clear idea how to play the hero quite yet. Part of it is the objective weakness of the hero, even in very capable hands.
The big problem the hero is currently facing is the lack of identity. Many have wrongly assumed that position one carry is the best fit for the hero, but it is definitely not the case and the hero had the most success in the offlane, with an almost 41% winrate — a major improvement over 34% in the safelane and 37.5% in mid.
The hero has respectable stat growth and decent flash farming abilities, coupled with a potentially potent passive, but he will become outclassed by most conventional carries in the late game, both in terms of DPS and survivability. The damage on Swashbuckle is static and capped 108 per hit at max level with the appropriate talent choice at level 20, which makes for some poor scaling.
One of the ways to solve the problem is status effects and attack modifiers and the hero absolutely loves both of these things, with four guaranteed hits on each targets in the Swashbuckle AoE. However, not all of them work completely, with both Basher/Abyssal Blade and Maelstrom/Mjollnir having innate cooldowns, which prevent multiple procs within a single cast.
Poor DPS-scaling from abilities and the general skillset of the hero make for a very strong brawler in the mid-game and the offlane position coupled with a tanky frontliner role is probably the strongest combination for the hero at the moment.
Essentially, as Pangolier you want to become a type of hero who is very hard to kill and impossible to ignore, with damage not being the biggest priority.
Applying status effect can also be worthwhile. With almost guaranteed procs of Maim/Lesser Maim on any target in Swashbuckle, Sange and Yasha or Heaven’s Halberd can both be excellent early game choices, complementing the tankiness provided by the Shield Crash.
Diffusal Blade can be an excellent source of damage coupled with a very potent slow, while Basher is still a great addition for extra control in the late game.
mski.iceiceice playing Pangolier in Captain’s Draft 4.0 Minor
Going this route will not make Pangolier a flashy carry with high solo kill potential and ability to carry the game, but in reality, nothing truly will — the hero can’t carry games and the games won with a carry build by the hero would most likely be won regardless, with any other core hero instead of Pangolier.
This mindset of going for a tanky frontliner, disrupting enemy initiations and not allowing the enemy team to execute their lineup, all while enabling teammates, is a low-risk solution that has surprisingly high payoff, potentially making Pangolier one of the most interesting offlane heroes.
The second half of the Dueling Fates update is a lot more potent. Dark Willow is nowhere near the levels of broken Winter Wyvern was when she was released, however in the right hands and in the right position, she can be a force to be reckoned with.
Her position is easily identifiable — she is a support. All the players who attempt to make her a mid hero should answer one simple question — what is the opportunity cost? Does Dark Willow, even given enough farm and space, have the potential to outclass Queen of Pain, Shadow Fiend or even tempo-mids, such as Zeus? The answer to all these questions is a definite “No” and this is backed up by the stats, where the hero’s worst winrate is when she is played in mid — 47%, compared to the average of almost 51% when played in other lanes.
With that settled, it is time to answer what exactly makes Dark Willow a strong support.
The hero has three disables, with two of them having ridiculous durations when they work — Cursed Crown is a 3.5 second AoE stun with a 12 second cooldown, while Terrorize is a 5 second AoE fear, which, for all intents and purposes, is a hard disable minus the catch part.
Despite multiple ways to counterplay against these abilities and a massive effect delay on Crown, these two spells on their own are often enough to justify the hero pick, but apart from bringing a lot of very potent utility, Dark Willow also brings damage to the table.
Bedlam would be a fine ultimate on its own on most heroes, with its ridiculous damage. At level 3 of the ability, it deals 880 damage/second for a total of 4 seconds. Naturally, there are limitations, but this ability outclasses many regular ultimates, and it is only a half of it.
Bramble Maze is an equally potent ability which is usually maxed out first due to cooldown reduction it receives with levels and extra damage. There is nothing particularly powerful about the ability, but it is a very strong area denial that doubles as a very strong counter against mobile heroes.
Finally, there is Shadow Realm. Most of the abilities on the hero wouldn’t work half as well, if it wasn’t for a built-in escape and survivability tool of the hero. Becoming untargetable essentially combines the benefits Linken’s Sphere and Ghost Scepter on a support, allowing her to continue living and dishing out damage and provide utility even when not careful with positioning.
7.07b has already introduced some nerfs to the hero and her win rate has already started dipping. Unlike Pangolier, however, she sits at a respectable 48% and that is with second overall popularity and almost 23% of matches being played in the mid lane, where she is evidently the weakest.
Dota 2 became even more exciting with the new update. It will probably take at least a month for the dust to settle and for the meta to stabilize, with many changes and additions completely disrupting the status quo.
Both new heroes are a good fit for the game, and despite having a clear winner in this duel of new characters, they have potential of filling their own niches. It will take time to make them fully balanced and to restore the almost-perfect state of 7.06f, but it will be time spent exploring hundreds of new possibilities in a game that never stops surprising.