Davion, the Dragon Knight is a semi-carry who excels at pushing and team fighting against teams that rely on physical damage. Thanks to some of his talents, he can go toe-to-toe with many carries in the late game, but ideally you want to close out the game before they can come online. For that reason, Davion's mid-game strength is largely wasted on teams that want to AFK farm. He may also struggle against teams with heavy magic damage.
Davion is best played in the mid lane as a position 2 core. This allows you to have a position 1 hard carry to fall back on in the late game if you can't push in the early and mid game or if these pushes fail. Playing position 1 is dangerous because if you let the game go late, you'll likely get outfarmed by harder carries. Playing position 3 is dangerous because you'll likely get outclassed by less item-dependent utility cores.
Your ideal gameplan is this: After the laning phase, group up and push as a team, which will force the enemy to team fight. Win the team fight, then keep pushing. Repeat this until all T1 and T2 towers are destroyed. Then destroy shrines, get Aegis of the Immortal, get Assault Cuirass, and push high ground.
I hope you enjoy the guide. Votes are appreciated and constructive feedback is welcome.
Due to his passive, Dragon Blood, as well as his above-average agility growth for a strength hero. This benefits his laning phase and jungling capabilities and let's him soak up a huge amount of physical damage in team fights.
His tankiness against physical damage, AOE nuke (and it's accompanying debuff), splash damage right-click, and long guaranteed stun make him great in large, close-quarter brawls. If you aren't team fighting with Davion (opting to split push, solo gank, or AFK farm instead), you're playing him wrong.
Davion is a good pusher for three reasons. First, his ultimate at all levels grants a non-unique attack modifer called Corrosive Breath that does 100 magic damage over 5 seconds to any target, including structures. Second, his level 2 ultimate grants splash damage to his normal attack, allowing him to clear creep waves quickly. Third, his Dragon Breath also allows him to clear creep waves quickly.
LACK OF MOBILITY
Davion has no innate mobility skill, which means that to initiate effectively he will need either a Blink Dagger or Shadow Blade / Silver Edge. I would only recommend the latter if enemy passives are a concern, because Blink is generally more reliable since you can move across impassible terrain and it isn't countered by sentry wards.
Although Davion is a great initiator, I can think of two situations in which he doesn't need to play this role. First, your team already has better initiators like Axe or Tusk. Second, your team strategy is focused less on ganking and more on pushing as a team (which is my recommended strategy for playing with Davion, if your team will cooperate with you). In that case, the enemy will be forced to initiate on you.
SUSCEPTIBILITY TO MAGIC DAMAGE
Davion is very tanky against attack damage due to his high armor, but armor has no effect on magic damage. Since you'll likely be initiating or at least in the middle of team fights, you need to be prepared lest you get nuked down or constantly disabled. You can deal with this in three ways:
- Increasing magic resistance via Infused Raindrops and Hood of Defiance. I would recommend Hood only if the game is going poorly and BKB might be too hard to build.
- Increasing raw HP via strength items. Armlet of Mordiggian, Sange and Yasha, Black King Bar, Satanic, and Heart of Tarrasque are great examples.
- Make yourself spell immune via Black King Bar. The ability to evade crowd control is invaluable, which is why this item is bought so often on Davion.
On rare occasion, you will not be the main initiator or front line hero during pushes. In this case, skipping Hood or BKB and going straight to Assault Cuirass is fine.
SMALL MANA POOL
Davion's base intelligence and intelligence gain aren't garbage like some strength carries, nevertheless he can run out of fuel pretty fast in a long engagement or if spamming Breathe Fire to push and jungle. Options:
- Infused Raindrops. I would not buy unless nukers are a problem.
- Bottle. I default to this over Soul Ring unless I think I'll have a tough time collecting runes or I need to spam Breathe Fire to last hit. Aside from the benefits of storing runes, Bottle restores HP. This means we're less desperate for points in Dragon Blood to keep up our HP. Those are points we can put in Breathe Fire, making our harass more potent.
- Soul Ring. In tough mid matchups, Soul Ring is a more reliable source of mana because it's instantaneous and not dependent on collecting runes. It's also safer: no need to venture out to collect runes. The downside is that it costs a little more and you'll likely need extra points in Dragon Blood early on to keep fueling it, which means less points in Breathe Fire.
- Magic Wand. Never skip this. Since you’ll participate in team fights early on, you can expect this to always have charges.
- Power Treads. Always buy this. Learn to Tread switch if you can't already.
and Eye of Skadi
will also help with mana problems in the mid and late game, respectively, but I would never buy them primarily for this purpose.
The majority of the time you will max Breathe Fire first, because it aids fighting, harassing, pushing, and farming. It affects siege creeps, unlike Lina's Dragon Slave and other similar nukes.
In team fights, you'll use Breathe Fire to greater effect if you think of it as a debuff first and a nuke second. Try to hit as many heroes as possible and try to hit them as soon as possible. Since the debuff only affects physical damage, targeting carries rather than supports might be wisest, unless you're trying to kill off the supports ASAP.
As mentioned, Dragon Tail is one of the longest guaranteed stuns in the game, especially at level one. You'll use it in a variety of situations: team fighting, securing runes, escaping, and ganking. Since it costs a lot of mana and does little damage, you will never use it to farm or harass in lane.
Dragon Tail scales horribly, so do not add a second, third, and fourth point until nothing else (except stats) can be skilled. The first point should always be added within the first few levels, but at what exact level depends on many factors, like whether you're going for first blood at rune, expecting to get ganked, expecting to gank, etc.
Dragon Blood is what makes you so formidable against physical damage and let's you harness Armlet and Soul Ring better than most. The armor is incredible, but the HP regen alone makes lets you recharge to full health very quickly in the early game. Consequently you will be hard to zone of out lane you will only need 1 or 2 shared tangoes at the start. Since the HP regen doesn't scale, always max this out within the first 10 or 11 levels for greatest effect.
ELDER DRAGON FORM
Always skill Elder Dragon Form when you can. I usually only enter dragon form when you are intending to fight heroes or farm an ancients stack, but occasionally I will enter dragon form simply to escape, due to the increased move speed. Preserving your ultimate until team fights is critical in the late game, since since Davion the Knight simply can't hold a candle to Davion the Dragon. (R.I.P. Slyrak)
Some comments about Corrosive Breath:
- Applies a debuff to the target that deals 20 magic damage per second for 5 seconds.
- It is applied to all targets within splash range once you have Splash Attack. Until then, when pushing you should switch targets on every attack to apply the poison to multiple targets at once.
- Since it is magical, it is not reduced by armor. This is why Davion melts buildings so fast. Moreover, since the damage is applied over time, you can buy yourself some extra seconds by running away from a tower when it is low enough to die from the poison.
I strongly advise putting your first point in Dragon Blood
in the majority of games. This will let you get in the enemy mid's face right away for some right clicks, or at least tank their harass while you last hit and deny. Nevertheless, it is worth saving your first skill point until rune, because a Dragon Tail
can often-times help secure first blood.
The talent selections listed at the top are ideal, but some are still situational. Let me describe those situations. Note that you can see the win rates of each talent here
. I would only get the strength if I was concerned with getting nuked down quickly. The attack speed will let you push and farm more quickly and help set you up for a strong mid game. Think of the strength as a defensive or cautious choice and the attack speed as an offensive or confident choice.
Note: In games where armor is really valuable, you might consider getting your 4th point in Dragon Blood over this. Definitely get it by level 11, however.
. The scenarios in which the +25% XP gain is superior are so contrived that I can't seriously consider this option. Davion's base damage is lackluster and the +40 damage, along with Armlet, will solve that problem in the mid-game.
. The hardest decision, in my opinion. If you foresee the game going late then the +120 GPM is definitely better. Otherwise, play it safe and go with the +350 health.
. Are you tanking big right-clicks? Go with the 2x Dragon Blood. Are you up against a lot of slows or in need of closing the gap between you and a Sniper, Drow, or some pesky supports? Go with the +50 movement speed.
Note: The move speed talent plus Sange and Yasha
will make you incredibly fast (446ms). Throw in a Shadow Blade
or Phase Boots
and you can move at max move speed while in dragon form. (!)
Your starting items depend on your lane and anticipated lane opponent(s). Here's a rundown of my default choices:
- Quelling Blade. Helps with last hitting and lets you jungle faster. Davion's base damage is pretty low so I never skip this.
- Iron Branch. 2x. Best stats per gold ratio in the game. Used to build into a Magic Wand later.
- Tango (Shared). 2x. Kindly ask for your supports for these. Two is sufficient in most matchups, since you should have Dragon Blood by level 2.
EARLY GAME: LANING PHASE
- Tango. Sadly, your supports won't always share their Tangos. Better safe than sorry if you expect a tough lane.
- Stout Shield. I buy this if I'm up against strong right-click harass.
- Enchanted Mango. The HP regen is decent, but the main purpose is to refill on mana in a clutch situation against a Quas-Wex Invoker or Outworld Devourer, since both can hurt your mana pool.
- Healing Salve. Probably unnecessary if going mid, unless you expect to get ganked. In a dual lane I would prefer that my support carry one.
- Faerie Fire. I don't have a strong opinion for or against this. I will say that I don't see any pro Davion players getting it.
By 10 minutes, you want to have Bottle
/ Soul Ring
, Power Treads
, and Magic Wand
. This is pretty standard, though the order may vary. I explained the rationale behind Bottle, Soul Ring, and Magic Wand in the section on mana. As for Power Treads: they are almost universally built on Davion, for two reasons. First, the attack speed increase scales better into the late game than Phase Boots
' static damage increase. Second, Treads help with Davion's mana problems, so long as you Tread switch. Although Phase Boots can help with initiation, I think that Blink Dagger
is the wiser solution if you're the main initiatior.
EARLY GAME: POST-LANING PHASE
According to Purge, Armlet of Mordiggian
is "the most Dragon Knight item ever"
. Armlet provides him with much-needed DPS and even more armor, giving you a huge edge over the enemy carries at this point in the game. Indeed, a level 10 Davion with Wand and Treads will receive a 100%
DPS increase when activated. Dragon Blood
greatly mitigates the 45 HP/s drawback.
Armlet isn't the most beginner-friendly item, however. Be aware that if you don't know how to Armlet toggle effectively
, much of its value in team fights will be lost on you. Also be wary of toggling it when fighting heavy disablers or casters with damage-over-time spells like Ice Blast
, and Heartstopper Aura
If you have Armlet by 15 minutes then you're in really good shape going into the mid game. After Armlet, I usually build a combination of two of the items listed below and in whatever order you need, depending on the situation.
- Blink Dagger. Pick this up if you're the main initiator and Silver Edge isn't essential.
- Shadow Blade. Always buy this with the intention of building into Silver Edge. By itself it just doesn't offer the 'oomph' that justifies the 2700 gold, which is why it has a measly 46% win rate on Davion.
- Silver Edge. Great stats and a must-have against any concerning passives (see Friends and Foes). Davion wields this better than most heroes in that he can follow up the disable with a stun, preventing a hero like Phantom Assassin, Anti-Mage, or Spectre from escaping to safety.
- Black King Bar. There's almost no game in which BKB is a bad choice on Davion, so if you're ever in doubt, just get it to be safe.
- Sange and Yasha. Highly recommended if you're concerned that 20-30 min will be difficult for your team, because building into a bigger item might be too risky. SnY will guarantee your relevancy in the mid game.
If the game is going reasonably well, you should be working on your first big item by 35 minutes, though you should prioritize buyback if the situation calls for it.
Note: The win rate
for each item immediately follows the name.
AEGIS OF THE IMMORTAL
- Assault Cuirass. 72%. The most common late game item on Davion because it makes Davion even better at what he's already good at: tanking physical damage and pushing high ground. Do not buy it if you're tanking heavy magic damage. In that case, Heart or Satanic is more appropriate.
- Heart of Tarrasque. 73%. Buy this if you're the main tank / initiator and the opposing team has huge magic damage, since armor doesn't reduce it. This also synergizes well with Armlet since the HP drain becomes negligible.
- Satanic. 73%. The lifesteal is great for manfighting other right-clickers and the strength gain will make you tankier versus nukers, hence this is a good option if either AC or Heart seem too one-sided or your team already has an AC. Since the lifesteal is dependent on you being able to right-click, you will want to pair this with a BKB so you don't get disabled while Satanic's active is up.
- Daedalus. 72%. If you consider yourself sufficiently tanky then additional DPS is appropriate. The extra damage will be meaningless if your getting stunned down and nuked at the start of a team fight. The first component, Crystalys, is also very easy to build.
- Monkey King Bar. 69%. Same rule applies here as with Daedalus: only get if you're sufficiently tanky. Against heroes with passives that grant evasion (i.e., Phantom Assassin and Brewmaster), Silver Edge is probably better. Otherwise you might need this versus a Butterfly carrier if your hard carry can't build his own MKB.
- Mjollnir. 70%. Same rule applies here as with Daedalus and MKB. Anyway, Davion can handle illusion-creating heroes pretty well with his splash damage alone, but throwing Mjollnir into the mix will make you a nightmare for them. This is also a decent counter to Assault Cuirass since the lightning damage is magical and not physical.
A comment about Aegis of the Immortal
. If you die in dragon form while carrying Aegis, you won't respawn in dragon form. This isn't a big deal if your main purpose is tanking, but if you're responsible for DPS, this is a large problem. Consequently, if you are NOT tanking, it might be wiser to give Aegis to your tank. Second, if you are carrying Aegis, consider activating your BKB and dragon form AFTER you respawn. That way you can initiate, soak up a large number of spells, die, pop BKB and ult, and watch your foes weep.
OTHER ITEMS CONSIDERED
Other Items Considered: Click to View
The Laning Phase
PLAYING DAVION MID
Knowing how to play mid well with Davion is really critical to your success with the hero. While Davion is versatile enough to be played in other lanes (and even jungle), mid is definitely his preferred lane. Consider the following:
- Pro players play Davion mid exclusively.
- His average win rate, GPM, and XPM are much higher in the mid lane. (Source)
These are your goals in the mid lane:
- Get last hits.
- Control runes.
- Destroy mid tower.
- Harass enemy.
- The priority here is really important. Your number one goal is to get farm. For example, if you're only 50% certain that you can get a rune, but you're 100% certain that you can last hit the entire incoming creep wave, then you should definitely just last hit.
- Ganking is not even listed as a priority. You should NEVER leave lane unless a very good opportunity presents itself in another lane. For example, if the lane is pushed and you get an invisibility or haste rune, or the enemy is diving your offlane or safe lane towers and rotating would guarantee a kill or save a life.
- Draw creep aggro constantly. There is really never a time you shouldn't do it. It helps in three ways: First, it brings the enemy creeps in a safer position for last hitting. Second, the creeps you draw will likely aggro your ranged creep, which will give you an opportunity to deny it more easily. Third, it will cause the enemy creeps to die faster than your creeps, meaning you will gain experience faster than the enemy mid.
- I would not recommend using level 1 Breathe Fire to do anything except secure a last hit on a ranged creep. Wait until it is level 2 to begin using it often. Always try to secure a last hit and damage the enemy at the same time.
- In a very tough mid matchup (e.g., the enemy mid has a support helping to harass you), Breathe Fire might be your only means of last hitting. Get a Soul Ring and several points in Dragon Blood to ensure you always have mana to use it for last hitting.
- At level 6 you should start pushing the mid tower with Elder Dragon Form, if possible. Otherwise, use your dragon form if it will help you last hit more effectively or more safely.
- It's not uncommon to take the mid power at anywhere between 8-10 minutes without any allied help. When you do, you have the option of continuing to farm mid or rotating to the off lane to begin pushing that T1. Do not rotate to the safe lane and push because you will mess up your hard carry's farm. Remember: you want to get Power Treads, Magic Wand, and Armlet of Mordiggian as quickly as possible, so continuing to farm mid is a fine option if you have free farm there.
A survey of mid opponents, listed and ranked by difficulty (* = easy, ** = even, *** = hard):
Mid Opponents: Click to View
PLAYING DAVION SAFE LANE, OFF LANE, OR JUNGLE
First, a general rule of thumb: If not playing mid, get a Soul Ring instead of a Bottle. You will have less opportunity to get runes and therefore Soul Ring is much more consistent source of mana.
The second best option for Davion but this might result in you being position 1, which is dangerous if you don't push hard and end. Encourage your support to get XP from stacking and pulling if you don't need him to protect you, otherwise the XP leeching will really put you at a disadvantage going into the mid game.
Some people envision Davion as a good solo offlaner because he's tanky. This is only true if the enemy laners have little magic damage, otherwise you're not going to get any farm. You also have no escape, so rushing to lane (rather than going immediately to rune) to ward their jungle is a good idea. This lane is probably going to mean you're position 3, which is not ideal.
Under no normal circumstance should you jungle, but nevertheless it is possible. Buy an Iron Talon, put a point in your passive at levels 1 and 3, and use chokepoint jungling. Get a Soul Ring ASAP and max out Breathe Fire, otherwise you're going to farm very slowly.
When Things Go Wrong
The best possible way to play a hero and the best way to play a hero in a particular game are often times different. The ideal Davion game is this:
- You're position 2 mid against a lane opponent whose harass you can tank.
- Enemy team is reliant on physical damage carries in the late game.
- Your team is willing to group up early, pushing hard and fast, thereby ending before their carries get too strong.
What if some or none of these are true or your team is simply playing poorly? Here's my advice:
MID NOT AVAILABLE OR FARM IS POOR
The laning phase is really important for Davion. He does not play from behind well. While he's not a hard carry, he does need some core items in a reasonable amount of time to have a big impact. He is also reliant on his ultimate in pushes and team fights, so getting to levels 6, 11, and 16 as fast as possible is important.
The challenge of a dual lane is that you usually won't get those levels quite as fast. Only get a Hand of Midas
if 1) you're free farming and can have it by 8 minutes, 2) you're OK with the game going late. Otherwise, make sure you rotate quickly to any fights that break out, so you can get the XP from hero kills and follow it up with a tower push.
If you're concerned about farm, you have two or maybe three options: 1) Buy items that make you harder to harass, 2) Get a Soul Ring and spam Breathe Fire for last hits, 3) If you're in a dual lane (or want someone else to come mid), get a couple of points in Dragon Blood and (maybe) an Iron Talon and go to the jungle.
If you need more farm than anyone else on your team (position 1), you must have a lot of utility or support heroes at your side. Your team should have a strong early game, so push hard and try to end the game. If your team is somewhat evenly matched with the enemy team, try to get a pickoff with a smoke gank before you push or possibly take Roshan.
The least desirable situation is one in which you find yourself trying to outfarm the enemy carries. If that's still the case, then choose items that will let you farm faster. At minimum you will need a Soul Ring
to spam Breathe Fire
. Beyond that, Armlet of Mordiggian
, Helm of the Dominator
(for stacking ancients), Blink Dagger
, and Sange and Yasha
will all let you farm faster in the early and mid game. Get Mjollnir
if the game goes late and you still find yourself farming.
If you find that you are the main damage dealer on your team in the late game, build a Black King Bar
and then lots of damage items. Your best hope is to kill a bunch of supports before your BKB wears off and then finish off their carries. Ask someone else to tank if possible.
If you find yourself as position 3, perhaps because you got forced into the offlane or jungle, then you won't be able to get awesome farm and you might even get poor farm. That's OK. You can still contribute greatly as an initiator, disabler and tank. Focus on getting utility or team-based items like Blink Dagger
, Pipe of Insight
, Drum of Endurance
, Vladimir's Offering, Urn of Shadows
, and Solar Crest
. Skipping Armlet might be appropriate if your other carries can dish out sufficient damage.
PLAYING FROM BEHIND / ENEMY HAS STRONGER EARLY GAME
If your team is playing poorly or the other team has a much stronger earlier game, focus on building cheap, high-impact items. Armlet of Mordiggian
, Dragon Lance
, Helm of the Dominator
, and Hood of Defiance
are great examples. Notice that several of these can be upgraded as the game progresses.
I've lost many a game because I tried to build an Assault Cuirass
or Black King Bar
when I obviously did not have the space to farm into them in a reasonable amount of time. If you need armor, get Armlet or HOTD. If you need magic resistance, get Infused Raindrops
or Hood of Defiance
Other advice for playing from behind:
- Sell Quelling Blade to free up a slot, if necessary, since you might not have much chance to jungle.
- Consider Soul Ring over Bottle, since your likelihood of getting runes is less and Soul Ring is a much more reliable source of mana in team-fights.
- Vision is essential when playing from behind. Either accompany your supports on warding / de-warding missions or buy wards yourself if your supports won't.
Friends and Foes
If you want to see a full list of Davion's friends and foes, check out DotaPicker and DotaBuff and examine which heroes have synergy with him and which heroes counter him. By looking at these lists we can draw some general conclusions:
- Keep the enemy team grouped so that Davion's nuke and splash damage are most effective.
- Make Davion harder to kill, especially against nukers.
- Take advantage of Davion's initiation and tanking.
One carry that you don't mind having on your team is Drow Ranger
. She appreciates your tanking so she can dish out huge damage, her Gust and Frost Arrows keep the enemy grouped, and her Precision aura boosts your damage.
Davion's foes usually have two or more of the following attributes:
- Heavy magic damage.
- Ranged right-click and/or good mobility.
- Strong crowd control.
Davion's toughest mid opponent, in my opinion, is Shadow Fiend
. Your only hope is to bully him out of lane and prevent him from getting runes. This usually requires the help of your teammates and might also require you to stock up on stats-heavy items early on rather than rushing Bottle. Death Prophet
, Outworld Devourer
, and Queen of Pain
can also pose a threat mid.
Though not ranged, one hero who should concern you is Undying
and you should avoid laning against him. Undying can wreck your early and mid game via Tombstone
. Tombstone is a great crowd control spell and Decay is punishes strength heroes especially hard. Undying falls off pretty hard late game, but even if you make it there, you might be too underfarmed to compete with the enemy carries.
Other support heroes of concern include Necrophos
, Ancient Apparition
, and Lich
. Building BKB after Treads might be appropriate.
Carries of concern include Slark
, Drow Ranger
, Outworld Devourer
, and Enchantress
. Several of these are countered by Silver Edge
Dragon Knight in High MMR & Pro Play
How do the best players play Davion? This chapter, which will be mostly links to resources, will help you find out.
HIGH MMR PUB GAMES
Slahser (Dragon Knight) mid versus Sumail (Puck) (May 2016) - Slahser admits he is not a great mid player or very experienced with Davion, yet he intentionally takes Davion mid against one of the best mid players in the world because he knows Davion is so hard to harass out of lane. Great commentary, highly recommended.
Arteezy plays Davion mid - Secret vs Virtus Pro @ Epicenter (May 2016) - An ideal Davion game, in my opinion. Secret drafts a great pushing lineup, spearheaded by an Armlet-wielding Davion, and takes three T1's in just 10 minutes, closing out the entire game in 30 minutes before VP's Alchemist can come online. Arteezy's 50 cs / 10 min and 180 cs / 30 min is superb. DotaBuff match page.
Maybe plays Davion mid versus Death Prophet - LGD vs Empire @ Manila Major (June 2016) - Proof that you can still get amazing farm mid while dodging ganks and one of your toughest mid opponents. Slark is a tough Davion matchup but by playing as a team and staying grouped, LGD had no problem. DotaBuff match page.
N0tail plays Davion mid versus Ember Spirit - OG vs MVP @ Manila Major (June 2016) - Another textbook Davion game, in which OG sticks close and pushes as five, backing off after each objective so as not to overextend. Davion is also a great counter to Juggernaut and Ember. DotaBuff match page.
Ana plays Davion mid versus Tiny - OG vs EG @ The Summit 6 LAN (November 2016) - Ana rushes Hood of Defiance, making himself very difficult to kill. Unlike most Davion games, the emphasis is on ganking and not pushing. This game also highlights the strength of Davion versus Sven. Great comeback, very entertaining game. DotaBuff match page.
Observation: Davion is usually a team's third or fourth pick in pro games.
Top Dragon Knight Players - I recommend looking at the replays, item builds, and skill builds of people who are playing Davion regularly in the current patch. This won't necessarily be what DotaBuff considers the very best Davion players.