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Steel Wins Battles, Gold Wins Wars (7.02)

February 22, 2017 by Alien Righteousness
Comments: 16    |    Views: 92090    |   

Hero Build

DotA2 Hero: Dragon Knight

Purchase Order

Starting (minimum)

Pick One

Always Get

Mid Game Options

Late Game Options

Hero Skills

Breathe Fire

2 4 7 8

Dragon Tail

5 13 14 16

Dragon Blood

1 3 9

Elder Dragon Form

6 12


10 15

Hero Talents

2x Dragon Blood​ Regen/Armor
+75 Movement Speed
+120 Gold/Min
+300 Health
+35% XP Gain
+40 Damage
+9 Strength
+25 Attack Speed


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. His tremendous early and mid-game strength is largely wasted on teams that don't want to group up and push after the laning stage. 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.

The ideal Davion game begins by taking all T1 towers in the first 15 minutes, by which time you should have Armlet of Mordiggian. Next, ask your team to group up and push with you, which will force the enemy to team fight. Win the team fight, then keep pushing. Repeat this until all T2 towers are destroyed. Then destroy shrines, get Aegis of the Immortal, get Assault Cuirass, and push high ground. End at around 30-35 minutes.

I hope you enjoy the guide. Votes are appreciated and constructive feedback is welcome.

Interesting Facts

  • The only hero with true splash damage (while in level 2 or 3 Elder Dragon Form).
  • One of only two heroes labeled Nuker, Disabler, Initiator, Durable, and Pusher. The other is Tiny, who has no ranged attack.
  • One of only four heroes with a melee and ranged attack, the others being Troll Warlord, Lone Druid, and Terrorblade.
  • Dragon Tail is the longest guaranteed stun in the game at level one.
  • 5th highest stat growth for a strength hero and 28th highest for any hero.
  • Considered one of the most consistently balanced heroes in the game. Usually has a win rate of ~50%.
  • Picked fairly regularly in the pro scene, especially by Chinese teams. Recently was picked twice by OG in the Boston Majors grand finals.



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 four 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, Breathe Fire allows him to clear creep waves quickly. Fourth, Dragon Blood allows him to effortlessly tank towers so that his creep wave can survive longer.



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.


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:


Davion's base intelligence and intelligence gain aren't as 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. Here are your options:

Skills Analysis


The majority of the time you will max Breathe Fire first, because it aids fighting, harassing, pushing, and farming. In team fights, you'll use it to greater effect if you think of it as a debuff first and a nuke second. Try to hit as many heroes as possible at the start of the fight. 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.


Dragon Tail is one of the longest guaranteed stuns in the game. Since it costs a lot of mana and does little damage, you will never use it to farm or harass in lane. The stun duration and damage also scale poorly, so put a value point in it before level 8 and then don't skill it again until you have nothing else to skill. I usually get it at level 4, 5, or 7, depending on whether the enemy has roamers or my team has roamers.


Dragon Blood is what makes you so formidable against physical damage and let's you wield Armlet of Mordiggian and Soul Ring better than most. Between the armor and regen, you become very difficult to harass out of lane. This is why 1 or 2 shared tangoes is really all you need in terms of starting regen items. Since the HP regen doesn't scale, always max this out within the first 10 or 11 levels for greatest effect.


Always skill Elder Dragon Form when you can. Usually you will enter dragon form when you are intending to team fight, push, or farm an ancients stack, but occasionally you will need to use it to escape, since it gives +15ms. In the late game, do not use it simply to push. Reserve it in the event that a team fight breaks out, because that the point you will be severely handicapped if you're forced to fight in knight form.

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.

First Skill

I strongly advise putting your first point in Dragon Blood in the majority of games. This will let you trade last hits early or just keep you safe from harass as you go for early last hits and denies. Nevertheless, it is worth saving your first skill point until rune, because a Dragon Tail can possibly help secure first blood.


The talent selections listed at the top are ideal, but still situational. You can see the win rates of each talent here.

Level 10 or 11. Get the +6 strength only if nukers are a major threat or early game is going poor. Otherwise get the attack speed so you can farm and push faster. In games where armor is really valuable, get your 4th point of Dragon Blood at level 10 and this at level 11.

Level 15. 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.

Level 20. The hardest decision, in my opinion. If you foresee the game going late then the +120 GPM is definitely better. Otherwise, if you're hoping to end soon, the +300 health gives tremendous immediate value and will let you tank harder during high ground pushes.

Level 25. The only time you wouldn't get the double Dragon Blood is if you have a Sange and Yasha or Silver Edge and you're desperate to quickly get in the face of a hero who sits in the back lines like Sniper. Without one of these items, the +50 ms is lackluster.

Items Analysis


Always get:

  • Quelling Blade. Always get. Helps with last hitting and lets you jungle faster. Davion's base damage is pretty low so I never skip this.
  • Iron Branch. 2x. Always get. Best stats per gold ratio in the game. Builds into Magic Wand.
  • Tango (Shared). 2x. Kindly ask for your supports for these. One is sufficient in some matchups.

Sometimes get:


By 10 minutes, you want to have Bottle / Soul Ring, Power Treads, and Magic Wand. See the section Weaknesses: Mana for the rationale behind Bottle / Soul Ring and Magic Wand. Now, why Treads over Phase Boots? Treads will help you with mana (via Treads switching), increase your DPS, and make you tankier. Phase Boots offers a very mobility boost and a DPS increase. Boiled down, I think that Davion's mana issues are severe enough that the scale tips in favor of Treads. But don't take my word for it. Treads have a higher win rate[/ur] than Phase Boots.


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[1]. 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 against damage-over-time spells like Ice Blast, Maledict, Heartstopper Aura, and many Venomancer and Jakiro spells.

MID GAME (15-35 minutes)

If you have Armlet by 15 minutes then you're in really good shape going into the mid game. After Armlet, I build two or three of the items listed below, depending on the situation.
  • Blink Dagger. Pick this up if you're the main initiator and Silver Edge isn't essential.
  • Shadow Blade. I 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 the mid game will be difficult for your team, because building into a bigger item might be too risky. SnY will guarantee your relevancy.

LATE GAME (35+ minutes)

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.
  • 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 first component, Crystalys, is very easy to build.
  • Monkey King Bar. 69%. Against heroes with passives that grant evasion, I normally go Silver Edge, but if the enemy has Butterfly then you might need to pick this up.
  • Mjollnir. Counters illusion heroes, Assault Cuirass, and mega creeps. If you anticipate two or more of those being a problem, picking up Maelstrom early might be wise so you can build into this later.


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.

The Laning Phase


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:
  1. Get last hits.
  2. Control runes.
  3. Destroy mid tower.
  4. 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


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.

Safe Lane. 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.

Off Lane. 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.

Jungle. 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:


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 the case then buy items that will let you farm faster. At minimum you will need a Soul Ring to spam Breathe Fire. Beyond that, Armlet of Mordiggian and Maelstrom will all let you farm faster in the early and mid game. Ask supports to stack ancients for you.

You will probably be the main damage dealer and therefore you will need to prioritize damage items over durability items, the exception being Black King Bar. Your goal at the start of a fight should be to blink or Silver Edge onto an enemy support, pop BKB, kill them immediately, and then focus the enemy carries. The supports usually have the best stuns and nukes so if you give them free reign during a fight you will likely melt.


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 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.


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, Sange, Helm of the Dominator, Crystalys, 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 if you don't already have it. 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 selling your Bottle and replacing it with a Soul Ring, 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 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, her Precision Aura boosts your damage, and together you can destroy towers in seconds.


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.

Supports or utility cores of concern include Necrophos, Ancient Apparition, Enigma, Leshrac, Timbersaw, Undying and Lich. Carries of concern include Slark, Medusa, Lifestealer, Spectre, Drow Ranger, Razor, Luna, Outworld Devourer, Viper, and Enchantress. Several of these carries are countered by Silver Edge.

Dragon Knight in High MMR & Pro Play

Davion has a notable presence in pro play (he was the 16th most picked hero at the Boston Major in December 2016) but is mostly absent from high MMR play. Based on my conversations with 5K+ MMR players, this is not because the hero is weak because they prefer heroes with high mobility. His pro presence is mostly on teams like OG (Ana plays him frequently) and Chinese teams who value consistency over flashiness.


Top Dragon Knight Players - Here you can see 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.

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.

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