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Is Dark Willow ready for Captain's mode?

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With Dark Willow being introduced into Captain's mode with patch 7.10, just in time for the PGL Bucharest Major, will she see play in her first Major? And is the hero ready for competitive play?

In the most recent patch, 7.10, Dark Willow was added to Captain's mode; Dota 2's main competitive mode. This comes just a few days before the PGL Major Bucharest and leaves little time for players and teams to prepare for her and her influence on the game. The Major is not the first time she will appear in professional play, however, in the Epicenter XL CIS Qualifiers Team FlyToMoon first picked the hero in two of three games, and banned it in the first phase of the third. Clearly, they believe the hero to be strong enough to give priority in the draft. Although Dark Willow ended the series with a 50% win rate, her other results have not been as consistent. SG e-sports took a game off Mad Kings with the hero and had her banned for the rest of the series, and Vici Gaming lost a rather swift BO1 defeat to VG.J Thunder in day one of PGL Bucharest, her only appearance so far in the Major.

Will we see more Dark Willow in Bucharest? Not likely, she is so newly introduced it can be hard for teams to know how to play with her and more importantly against her, so whereas most teams won't be willing to pick Dark Willow, she will likely be banned often as well.

Is she ready for Captain's mode?

A point of contention that 7.10 has raised is about whether Dark Willow is even ready for Captain's mode, is she balanced enough?

Statistically, she seems to be on the stronger end, in 5k+ pubs she has a 20% pickrate with close to a 55% win rate the 3rd highest in that bracket over the last 30 days. More tellingly perhaps, is the various reactions and opinions professional players have aired about Dark Willow. Earlier in February CCnC tweeted his frustration at Dark Willow remaining un-nerfed.

Generally, the opinion from professional players seems to be that the hero is strong, too strong even, and the stats definitely back it up.

The balance of the hero is about to face its big test in Captain's mode, and as PGL unfolds whether the hero is as strong as people seem to think will be revealed if the hero is picked again after her rather underwhelming debut.

Not her first debut

Although Dark Willow is debuting in Captain's mode, this is not her first time being played competitively or being played at a valve sponsored event.

Dark Willow has in fact appeared in professional Dota before 7.10, in the tournament Captain's Draft 4.0, the format of the minor is rather unique, a selection from all heroes is randomly drafted, and the teams then draft based off that assortment, with heroes such as Techies, Pangolier and Dark Willow all being available even though they were not enabled in Captain's mode at the time. The team that stands out for their Dark Willow throughout the tournament was Mineski, of the three times the hero was picked they were two of them, playing her once as position 4 and once in the offlane, where Daryl "IceIceIce" Koh Pei Xiang went 12-0-14 with her.
In Captain's Draft she was so feared that she was banned nearly twice as much as she was picked, whether that was the new hero factor, no one knowing how to play with or against her, or her innate strength is not yet clear, and it is important to remember the rather discordant and unusual nature of Captain's Draft and that the information gathered is not necessarily applicable to other forms of professional play.

Is she ready?

It is hard to say with the games played currently whether Dark Willow is really ready, her overwhelming pub strength has yet to be displayed with her rather underwhelming appearances in official matches, and without more data, it is hard to say if she will have as much impact on a well-coordinated professional team. As with many things time will tell, but rest assured Dark Willow will definitely shake up the meta, it remains to be seen how much. A handy point to think about is that regardless of how Dark Willow performs, with regular patches every fortnight, it is likely that any key balancing issues will be smoothed out and addressed swiftly by Valve, so how she performs over the Major may impact the future of the hero although she may have a small showing until teams adjust to Dark Willow and her distinct playstyle.

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