Carry Dark Willow is the pub ruiner from The International

By Kenneth Williams


Oct 21, 2023

Reading time: 2 min

All eyes are The International as a great source of new hero builds, but the latest wacky carry pick in Dark Willow will probably cost you some MMR.

TI 12 is off to a roaring start, and the year’s most important metagame is quickly leaking into ranked matchmaking. Spectres and Bristlebacks are running rampant, and another hero may have just joined the pantheon. Dark Willow has been picked as a hard carry twice by two of the event’s most popular teams. While currently 1-1, the build’s novelty and theoretically massive damage make it appealing to pub grinders. Here’s info on which teams are picking it and what build pro carries are using.

The unconventional pick has been chosen twice so far with one win and one loss. The win came first, with LGD’s Guo “shiro” Xuanang piloting the hero to a 13-3 KD win at almost 65 minutes. The second was Shopify Rebellion’s Artour “Arteezy” Babaev, who was less successful with 3 kills and 5 deaths in a lower-bracket loss to TSM. These two matches alone showed the potential power of the pick, with Willow effectively becoming a hyper-carry that rewards patience with uncounterable amounts of magic damage.

How to play carry Dark Willow from The International 2023

Carry Dark Willow relies on Aghanim’s Scepter to deal a massive amount of magic damage from long range. The build is all about farming up to a power spike, then exploiting Willow’s attack range to lob bombs across the map.

Both shiro and Arteezy start with Hand of Midas after Boots of Speed for the lane. Willow’s first problem is farming, as none of her abilities let her clear out the jungle. Both pro carries stuck close to a lane while jungling in between waves. Bedlam can be used to clear out ancient creeps, though stacks are still a tall order.

Aghanim’s Scepter is the lynchpin of the build, as it allows Dark Willow carry to attack multiple times out of Shadow Realm. shiro went for Manta Style while Arteezy opted for Mjollnir to boost attack speed. From there, both players went for Black King Bar and Silver Edge. Arteezy even grabbed Linken’s Sphere to defend against Soulbind. Willow’s damage with Scepter is so high that stacking defensive options and utility seems to be the play.

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Lastly, both pro teams exploited key hero synergies to help Willow come online faster. Shopify had both Keeper of the Light to refresh Shadow Realm’s cooldown and Elder TItan’s Astral Spirit to amplify magic damage. LGD’s support was less direct, with Broodmother and Magnus to set up team fights in their favor. Having a playmaking mid and soft support is key to the strategy, as Willow is essentially unable to fight until at least 12,000 net worth.

These traits make Dark Willow a potentially powerful pick in tournaments, but nearly unplayable in pubs. Have fun explaining that to your carry player in the draft.


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