Dark willow is an intelligence hero that remains a formidable force at all stages of the game. Her first spell creates a circular maze of traps that root and damage any enemy that steps into one. In combat, this spell can be quite tricky and unreliable. Her second spell makes her untargetable for five seconds; her next attack ends the effect but deal bonus damage based on how much time Willow spent in that state.
This will be your main tool of harassment in the laning stage and will set you up for a kill once you reach level 6. If you find yourself in a hairy situation and have only a teleportation scroll as your means of escape, you can dramatically improve your chances by activating Shadow Realm before using the scroll to ward off any disable that could disrupt your channeling. Her third spell Cursed Crown stuns the target and enemies around the target four seconds after casting – you can use this to keep the enemy in range of your first ultimate. Willow has two Ultimates: bedlam her first ultimate, summons a wisp which revolves around Willow for four seconds attacking any nearby enemy with magic damage; this will be your main source of damage in the ganking phase, and is best used in combination with her first or third spell to keep the enemy in range. Her second ultimate Terrorize, will launch your wisp on the target area, terrifying any enemies in the area of effect, which forces them to run towards their fountain for a certain duration; this is most often used to stop enemy teams push.
You cannot use your first ultimate until your wisp returns to you and that could take a while. Now that we have studied what the spells do, let’s explore on how you should level them. At level 1, take your second spell Shadow Realm as it can get you out of tough situations. At level 2, take your first spell Bramble Maze for some damage at your disposal. At level 3, get another level of shadow realm for more damage and a shorter cooldown. At level 4, choose your third spell Cursed Crown; you won’t need more levels of cursed crown until all your other spells are maxed. You should max shadow realm at level 7, following which you should favor bramble maze. Take your ultimate as soon as available. Willow is best played as a solo mid as she scares extremely well with levels.
In the laning phase, you should tailor your approach based on the opponent you’re facing. If you’re facing a ranged caster like outworld destroyer, it might be best to reserve Shadow realm for defense; that is to use shadow realm to dodge enemy spells or attacks. On the other hand, if you’re up against a melee hero like Tiny or Pudge, it is best to use shadow realm as often as you can to bring their health down or even harass them out of lane entirely. Dark Willow is a strong counter to Pudge: not only does the aforementioned strategy of continuous bombardment work wonders against him, but your spells completely neutralize his one-on-one. A surprisingly effective and easy strategy is to let him hook you in range, activating your shadow realm to make yourself untargetable before he uses his ultimate on you, then you use your third and first spell to trap him in place before activating your first ultimate to tear him down. Finish with a charged up attack from shadow realm to secure the kill.
Once your max your shadow realm at level 7, you’re ready to gank for your teammates. Open with cursed crown and cast bramble maze along your enemies’ escape route to cut them off. Once they are immobilized activate bedlam to bring them down. Facing multiple opponents might be a frequent challenge when ganking so it’s advisable to use shadow realm for its defensive benefits rather than as your opening salvo. Much of this also applies to mid and late-game team fights, with the addition that terrorize gets more useful as the game drags on. If your team is losing a fight, your second ultimate can get the enemy team to back off long enough to buy time for your team to make a hasty retreat.
Terrorize has the longest cooldown of any of Willow’s spells so you need to be judicious with your use of it. Now that we have covered spell build and gameplay, it’s time to talk about what items and talents you should pick. As dark willow, I start each match with a mantle of intelligence, Circlet health and mana regeneration. If I’m doing well, I rush Gloves of haste that I upgrade into a quick hand of Midas. Dark willow is a ganker’s dream hero and as such you’ll have little time for farming as the game progresses. A hand of Midas will thus substantially boost your XP and gold income as you roam around a map to ambush your enemies. If you’re not rushing a Midas, your first purchase should be boots of speed.
If you haven’t used any of your regeneration items, you could upgrade your mantle and circlet to a null talisman to free up an item slot for your boots. Later in the game, you could further upgrade a null talisman to a Dagon if you want more burst damage, though personally I have seldom felt the need. Once you get your boots of speed, you should save up for a blink dagger. Blink dagger is great for positioning and will allow you to initiate ganks much more quickly. It can also be used to escape from a bad situation if you use your shadow realm to ward off enemy damage for long enough to get Blink off cooldown. Around time you have blink dagger, you’ll have been presented a choice to pick up your first talent: 125 cast range or 20 attack damage. You should always pick the additional cast range as the attack damage can be had through items. Speaking of items, your second major purchase should be scepter of divinity, which has both offensive and defensive uses.
Aggressively, it makes a great combination with your third spell Cursed crown: cast Cursed Crown on an enemy hero, then use the scepter to disable him for two and a half seconds; once the cyclone ends, your target will have about a second to react before Cursed crown stuns him. Defensively, you can use it on yourself to dispel any silences, which otherwise pose a serious threat to Willow. If you still feel the need for additional maneuverability, you might want to purchase a Force staff. If you’re going up against melee carries, you may want to upgrade this into a Hurricane Pike later into the game. Your boots of choice should be arcane boots, which will help offset the mana cost of your spells; however, I often disassemble them later on to build Boots of travel, which will give you even more mobility and will scrap the need for teleportation Scrolls for the rest of the game.
When the time comes to pick your second talent, you’ll have to choose between an additional 90 gold per minute or an additional 40 movement speed. If you’re short on gold, the bonus income could be worth considering, though the benefit starts to taper off once you’ve filled your six item slots. In contrast, the 40 movement speed boost never stops being useful no matter how long the game lasts and can make it much harder to pin Willow down. Your third major item should be either sheep stick or an orchid malevolence. I usually opt for orchid as I usually upgrade that into a Blood thorn which synergizes extremely well with her final talent. However, sheepstick may prove necessary to lock down particularly slippery enemies such as Puck. When you are asked to pick your third talent, I recommend upgrading your Shadow Realm instead of the 10% spell lifesteal. This late in the game, Shadow Realm’s burst may lack the punch needed without the damage upgrade. The 10% lifesteal can theoretically heal you for 450 health if all of your spells hit their targets, but that’s extremely unlikely given how fragile Willow is.
Your final talent is a no-brainer: always, always picked it to enter attack speed as it makes you a machine gun that can shoot through heroes creep waves and towers for breakfast. The alternative – an additional second of terrorize – is useless in comparison and should never be picked. Your last item purchase should be a Nullifier, which will prevent your target from activating any items. Combining this with your stun, root and bloodthorn will make it impossible to defend against, retaliate or get away from your barrage of magical and physical damage. Lastly items that can be useful from time to time include Black king bar, which will make you immune to some otherwise dangerous spells and moon shard which can be consumed to provide attack speed without occupying an item slot. To finish up this guide let’s talk about counters. Though Shadow Realm makes Willow untargetable she remains vulnerable to area of effect spells and disables. As such, she is countered hard by heroes such as Magnus, enigma, puck and few others. Additionally, she remains vulnerable ambush by stealth, such as a legion commander who has built a shadow blade.
In such situations, Linken’s sphere can be a lifesaver and is highly recommended. Lastly, she is countered hard by Black King bar, as it completely neutralizes your spells. That concludes this guide on Dark Willow. If you liked this video, please like and share it. There is more content on the way so hit the subscribe button and the bell icons you don’t miss out..
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