Dota 2 hero guide: Pangolier

Duel your way to victory with Donté Panlin the Pangolier.

pangolier guide tales of the windward rogue
Image via Valve.

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Donté Panlin the Pangolier is an aggressive brawler that wants to constantly take fights, usually played as an offlaner or a midlaner in Dota 2. Pangolier’s kit makes him incredibly versatile and mobile, but poor management of his skills will leave him stranded and exposed.

The hero’s kit consists of a vector-targeted damage/escape skill, a nuke that increases his tankiness, an armor-reducing passive that also disarms, and an ultimate that turns him into a magic immune ball of destruction. When played right, Pangolier proves to be an absolute nuisance on the battlefield, with all of his skills giving him additional avenues of escape. Plus, his damage output is absolutely nothing to scoff at, even with just one damage item. 

Pangolier’s most common role is the offlane, but pro players use Pangolier as a more greedy, spell-casting core in the midlane. Pangolier clears creep waves extremely fast with his double nukes and a simple, 1,100 gold item turns him into a monstrous presence. 

He’s really fun and rewarding to play and has quickly risen up the ranks as one of our favorite heroes in the game. Here’s what you need to know about playing one of the most enjoyable heroes in Dota 2.

“The honorable Donté Panlin, at your service”: Pangolier’s skills

Swashbuckle icon.png

Swashbuckle [Q] is your primary mobility and damage spell, dealing four consecutive physical hits quickly. The damage is capped, so it doesn’t scale off your agility or raw damage items, but it does proc on-hit effects. Max this first because it greatly reduces your cooldown, making you a mobile hero weaving in and out of fights.

Advanced tip: You can get an extra proc out of Swashbuckle.

Shield Crash icon.png
Shiled Crash

Shield Crash [W] is your secondary nuke ability with the additional side effect of giving you damage reduction based on the number of heroes hit. Although it’s not the most reliable tanking spell, even using it on one or two heroes enhances your survivability considerably since the damage reduces both physical and magical damage. The buff can be purged by your enemies, however. 

The skill bumps you up and forward a little bit. You can use it to get rid of leash spells, like Slark’s Pounce, or bounce up to the high ground.

Even without the damage reduction, it’s a good nuke during teamfights and combos well with your ultimate, talent, and eventual Aghanim’s Scepter.

Lucky Shot icon.png
Lucky Shot

Lucky Shot disarms your opponents and reduces armor on hit. It also works with your Swashbuckle. As a potent anti-carry spell, especially against carries that lack dispel. disarm isn’t quite as good as Heaven’s Halberd because it can be dispelled by Manta Style and magic immunity. 

While it’s theoretically a fantastic ability to trade hits with, be careful of trading with carries. Especially in the early game, Lucky Shot is more a bonus rather than a reliable skill, and mostly only procs with Swashbuckle usage. Plus, your low armor and damage still don’t lend well to trading hits, so don’t be overconfident with the spell.

Rolling Thunder icon.png
Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder [R] is your ultimate that turns you into a magic immune ball of fury. The skill can be extremely unwieldy to new users since you can’t turn on a dime. Instead, you’re forced into making a wide berth, meaning that heroes can juke you if you’re inexperienced. 

In the hands of a pro, though, Rolling Thunder is a devastating teamfight skill, allowing you to bounce off walls to keep opponents stun locked. Shield Crash works while in ball form, but Swashbuckle will instantly cancel it. You can actually use this to deal immense damage at the end of your ultimate.

We highly recommend using it while belting Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” at the top of your lungs.

Our recommended skill build is as follows:

  • Swashbuckle at level one
  • Lucky Shot at level two
  • Max Swashbuckle
  • Points in Rolling Thunder when available at levels six, 12 and 18
  • Max Lucky Shot
  • Level 10 talent: +3 Mana Regen
  • Max Shield Crash
  • Level 15 talent: 2s Shield Crash CD in Ball
  • Level 20 talent: +20 Strength
  • Level 25 talent: -35s Rolling Thunder Cooldown

Swashbuckle is an easy first choice because the cooldown scaling allows you to spam it more. The added damage and stuff are just bonuses for a top-tier mobility skill.

Lucky Shot goes second since Pango does run into mana problems, especially without his level 10 talent that provides mana regeneration, which is why Shield Crash gets picked up right after that. If you’re having a bad game, consider maxing Shield Crash earlier since you can skip Javeline, go for Arcane and defensive items, and still kill creep waves with a Swash and Crash.

The level 15 talent is what makes this hero so disgusting since it boosts his damage in teamfights so much. It’s also a perfect talent for the Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade, which is a recommended core item in this guide.

The level 20 talent gives you strength, which equates to survivability. This is key, especially for an offlane core where you’re in the thick of things. Living longer also allows you to use more spells, which translates to more damage. Strength is rarely the wrong choice, and many times, it’s the right one.

As mentioned earlier, Aghanim’s Scepter is a core item because it helps your ultimate. So take the ultimate talent rather than the Swashbuckle cooldown. Both are great talents, but consider that you can turn into a magic immune ball every 35 seconds instead of 70, allowing you to spam it just to clear creep waves in a dangerous situation, or stop a push dead in its tracks and have it off cooldown in half a minute.

“A bit of style goes a long way”: Pangolier’s item build

Starting items:

  • Stout Shield
  • Mangoes
  • Tangoes
  • Branch

Core Items:


Javelin is the most powerful, cheapest source of damage with Swashbuckle and it’s definitely the most cost-efficient damage item you can buy on Pango. Javelin is so good that you can actually consider picking this up over boots in many games since it instantly adds an almost-guaranteed 100 magical damage to Swashbuckle. It can even proc multiple times in one Swashbuckle if you’re lucky.

Arcane Boots

Arcane Boots is the best choice of boots for a mana-hungry hero like Pangolier. The other options just don’t really fit with the hero’s kit. The attack speed from Treads doesn’t do much, while the movement effect on Phase is wasted on a hero that’s already so mobile. Arcanes allow you to spam your spells more, thereby enhancing your innate mobility and damage, and builds into Guardian Greaves, a phenomenal item on Pangolier.


Maelstrom is an easy upgrade path from Javelin and the additional lightning procs help you farm creep waves with just one Swashbuckle instead of using Shield Crash. It works similar to Javelin in the sense that it could proc multiple times, with the additional benefit of it providing some AoE magical damage in teamfights.

The upgrade to Mjollnir gives you Static Charge, which can be a potent damage source. The other stats like attack speed aren’t crucial to Pangolier, however, which means the upgrade isn’t even a choice in our recommended build. But, if you find yourself in a situation where you can actually stand and right-click people, considering upgrading to Mjollnir earlier.

Guardian Greaves

Guardian Greaves simply rocks on the hero. It provides practically everything you need as a utility core and also provides ample mana for you to spam spells. The heal is amazing for a team push, the dispel is fantastic since Pangolier can be controlled easily with soft disables like Root and Silence, and the amazing, last-ditch aura is just the cherry on top. It’s easily worth to rush this as a second or third core item.

Skull Basher

Skull Basher synergizes well with your Swashbuckle and provides you with an element of control outside of your ultimate. Pangolier does a lot of things well, but his only stun is locked behind a 70-second cooldown ultimate. With Basher in your kit, your Swashbuckle becomes even more of a menace. Keep in mind that as long as you’re hitting a single target, your Basher will proc most of the time, giving you the ability to stun through magic immunity or even cancel a big channeling spell.

Late game items:

Aghanim’s Scepter

Do you want to be a magic immune, rolling ball of destruction and hellfire shooting swords in four different directions? Then again, do you want to live in a world where you don’t have this option?

We could talk about how it boosts your damage, allows you to proc item and skill effects, and a myriad of other benefits to the item, including a massive stat boost. But, most importantly, it’s super fun, so buy it and try it out.

Monkey King Bar

Pick your poison between Monkey King Bar and Diffusal Blade. Both have separate damage procs. MKB is higher in damage while Diffusal is more annoying. Why are they not core items alongside Maelstrom? Because their procs are better for fighting but less effective for farming.

Diffusal Blade

One of Pangolier’s greatest strength is his ability to quickly and safely push out creep waves in dangerous lanes due to his spells providing both mobility and damage. Going for these items means that you can’t one-shot creep waves quickly, though, and they provide less AoE damage in a teamfight. They’re both twice as expensive as Maelstrom, which only costs 1,600 extra to upgrade the Javelin you’ll always have. MKB also builds from Javelin but costs 3,075 to upgrade, while Diffusal costs 3,150.

As expected, they still have their uses. MKB can provide absolutely bonkers damage on a single target at the cost of control and AoE magic, while Diffusal Blade can destroy a hero’s mana pool, rendering them unable to cast spells. 

Remember, this is a guide. Your in-game decisions are still your own. Play around with them and see which one fits your playstyle.

Abyssal Blade

As a natural upgrade to Skull Bashe, the Abyssal Blade truly allows you to bash people on command. The Vanguard also enhances your survivability, which is always welcome on Pangolier. This should be a pretty late upgrade in the game unless there’s a magic immune carry tearing it up on the battlefield and you need more control, ala Juggernaut, Lifestealer, or Phantom Assassin.

Situational items:

Aeon Disk

Aeon Disk triggers and you can choose your way to escape. Against enemies with high burst damage or lots of crowd control, it can be an invaluable addition to your inventory, or just really not do anything. Therefore, it goes right into the situational category.

File:Eul's Scepter of Divinity icon.png
Eul’s Scepter of Divinity

Eul’s Scepter of Divinity is a cheap dispel item that gives you a lot of intelligence and mana regen. Get this when you have opponents like Silencer or Death Prophet that can stun you easily. It also provides you with a TP cancel that can be useful when your ultimate is on cooldown.

There are a lot of things you can do with Eul’s, including chain stunning a guy for up to six seconds with your ultimate.

Lotus Orb

While Lotus Orb’s main use is as a dispel, the benefit is that you can use it on your allies to remove pesky silences. It’s also great against heroes with a lot of single target since you can inadvertently cause chaos in fights just by using the item. Black King Bar kind of sucks on Pangolier, which is why a lot of these items are, in a sense, a substitute for BKB.

Consider picking up any and all aura items to help your team, like Vladimir’s Offering, Pipe of Insight, or Crimson Guard. As an offlane utility core, it’s fine to build the more boring items to ensure that your team wins the game. Your hero’s already fun enough.

Octarine Core

Octarine Core reduces cooldowns, allowing for more spells and fun. While the spell lifesteal isn’t necessary, the huge additional amounts of health and mana you get help the hero. It also reduces the downtime on all of your active skills and items, meaning your Guardian Greaves become more effective. It’s a valuable item on a hero that buys quite a few active items.

“They say it can’t be done. That is why I’m here.”

Pangolier is an extremely potent hero in the mid-to-late game. All of his skills scale well since they aren’t just one note damage skills, but packed with utility and potential for outplays. The massive weakness of the hero is in the laning stage, however. The weakness is compounded by low damage, low armor, and a propensity to skip cheap stat items like Bracers and Wraith Bands because your core items just don’t go together very well with them. 

Pangolier can be played as a potent kill lane partner, too. If your offlane support is tanky enough to bully and buy you some time, rushing a Javelin within the first few minutes boosts your kill potential so much that you can murder anybody who appears in your lane for the foreseeable future.

As you transition into the mid-game, you become one of the most annoying heroes to deal with and catch. Pangolier clears creep waves very well, forcing enemy heroes to react and thus freeing up space for your other farming cores. Even if you lose the laning stage horribly, try your best to defend your tower from long range because your Swashbuckle can disarm your opponents to buy you precious seconds for your team to retaliate on the opposite side of the map.

Once you get your ultimate, you instantly become a powerful teamfight threat. Always try to keep your rolls unexpected. It becomes a much harder spell to juke if you come from outside of vision or use fog of war properly. It can also be used as an escape spell due to its relatively short cooldown and the provision of magic immunity.

Soft disables like roots and silences really mess with Pangolier. Disarm actually doesn’t disable your Swashbuckle, so your hits will still register. The spell won’t work on ethereal targets, however. That’s why Pangolier tends to build a lot of dispels to force spell usage onto the hero and removing them so that your allies can easily execute during fights.

Getting tanky items helps your allies in teamfights. Since you aren’t the best tower pusher, purchasing things that augment or sustain pushes will help your team win games. Remember, it’s all fun and games to kill heroes with your Swashbuckle snipes and your best impression of a car from Fast & Furious, but taking objectives wins you MMR.

“You thought it would be so easy? To defeat me?”

Pangolier is an extremely rewarding hero to play. Although he doesn’t possess a skill cap as high as heroes like Storm, Ember or Invoker, Donté Panlin has a lot of neat, efficient tricks that you can use to bring your hero to the next level.

His skill set is quite unlike any other in the game and his combination of offense and mobility is premier. While the hero does suffer in the early stages of the game, his ability to recover in farm and experience means that the hero can always have a decent game and is suited for an offlane role.

Volume warning:

Go forth and enjoy the swashbuckling, ball-furling Pangolier. He might take some getting used to, but there’s not much of a better feeling than rolling into a battlefield as an armored tank with slashing rapiers. Pango knows that he’s the finest warrior and you can be, too.