I am the Cuttleboss, I've always been a public player and have not played on the professional level, and this is my third guide, first guide to a carry hero. In this case, we have Dragon Knight. Now, I'm going to warn you advance; we're going into a twister of pokemon puns, not really, just a few.
A pseudo legendary pokemon is a pokemon that is difficult to train, but has powers so vast that often confuses the world into thinking they are legendary. They are not truly legendary, but damn can they come close. Dragon Knight is one of the best pseudo hard carries in the game. Perhaps Pseudo-hard is not the way to put him. He's a bit of a Schordinger's Carry. He has such great potential late game, but in order to reach it, he needs a ton of farm. He can also be activated early to take towers or kill heroes, but it will come at a severe cost to his late game. His item choices are very open.
Dragon Knight is a powerful and tanky strength hero that must be played in a core role due to his item and level dependence. His most common role in the competitive scene is the solo mid, trying to make use of his massive survivability towards physical damage to take towers, or trying to gank people. His strong scaling into late game allow him to be played as the main carry centered around mid-late game clashes due to his ability to farm and push quickly, while having impressive late game, but only in his dragon form.
For you people who use the farm priority system, he is usually a 2 but sometimes can be a 1. If things are not going according to plan, whether you're feeding or your allies drafted terribly, you may be forced into 3.
Oh, and by the way this guide is not concise, if you randomed Dragon Knight and are looking to this guide for help, good luck.
February 28, 2016: 6.86 Update. Guide partly rewritten. Added 2 New Builds. Added Octarine Core, Aether Lens, Pipe of Insight, Solar Crest, and Diffusal Blade. Added a part on Jungling. Added Timing Window and Midas Viability to Item Builds. Added Artist Sourcing.
September 27, 2015: Updated for 6.85. Lots of updates all around, Escapers added to food. Rewrote the Comp and Pubs section.
May 18, 2015: Added Chen and Oracle to allies. Fixed some writing errors.
May 5, 2015: Minor Writing update.
May 4, 2015: Updated for 6.84. Laning updated, carrying potential increased. Item builds updated to include Silver Edge and Moon Shard. Added Silver Edge, Moon Shard, and Radiance to late game items. Added Break to enemies. Removed Pipe of Insight from mid game options and removed the Pipe of Insight Build in favor of a Radiance one. Mathcraft Section Removed and archived, as its original point of DK not being a hard carry is no longer relevant, some data was inaccurate, and it drew way too much attention away from the rest of the guide. Updated Pubs and Competitive Section too.
April 13, 2015: Updated hero interactions. Added ET and Clock to allies. Added Stun removers and Armor Auras to enemies.
April 1, 2015: Added a new build (3 Dragons Ready to Soar), added disclaimer to calculations section, re-evaluated Refresher Orb to be late game choice. Added pure damage heroes to enemies.
November 9, 2014: Added High Roller DK Build to calculations. Added Drow Ranger, Morphling, Naga Siren, Phantom Lancer, Lone Druid, and Spectre to the Math of Carry Heroes section.
November 2, 2014: Added the Math of Carry Heroes section. Fixed some minor writing problems.
Easy (to pick up) - Intermediate (to master)
"Not as easy it as it seems"
Dragon is odd to rank in difficulty. He has many parts of him that are forgiving, such as his dragon blood's regen and his powerful nuke. He is very tanky and naturally regenerates health, so you'd think he'd be a natural for beginners to pick up right? Well, this is not the case, because there are a lot of nuances to playing Dragon Knight well. A player can pick him up and do decently with him, but to do good, it requires a bit more skill than it does to do well with say Lich or Viper.
The parts of Dragon Knight that are unforgiving are first his base damage, and how it is utterly horrible for a melee hero, his lack of an escape mechanism, the knowledge needed in order to maximize his farm, and most of all, the cooldown of his Elder Dragon Form, wasting that skill will easily cost teamfights or games.
Additionally, many people play Dragon Knight incorrectly, he's very much misunderstood. People either farm too much and get outcarried, or fight too much and end up underfarmed and useless. It requires a light touch, enough of both. Don't farm like Medusa, don't gank like Nyx Assassin. That being said he actually has a decently flexible play style.
This of him like this he can potentially be like Shadow Fiend or Templar Assassin, capable of having the highest farm in the game, but will not defeat a hard carry with that much farm.
So, when playing Dragon Knight, it is very important to fully understand the hero and all the heroes around him in order to play him to max effectiveness.
To know a dragon, you must first understand his abilities and limitations.
So, with all these in mind, this is a list of when to and when not to pick Dragon Knight:
Dragon Knight's skill build is not very flexible, but it is certainly odd. Basically you're gonna max Breathe Fire first because it's your nuke and what lets you outfarm and outpush many hard carries, it can be taken early if you are mid and going for a bottle rush and need to scrape a few early last hits. You take one level of Dragon Tail for the stun if you are going for or preventing a kill, and keep it that way for a bit, taking stats earlier for the additional damage and health in the midgame. How much Dragon's Blood you take is proportional to how much harass you receive, and how much of the Regen you will need. Elder Dragon Form is taken whenever possible.
Skill Build A: Easy Lane (Unfettered training)
1 Dragon Tail
2 Dragon's Blood
3 Breathe Fire
4 Breathe Fire
5 Breathe Fire
6 Dragonair Form
7 Breathe Fire
8 Dragon's Blood
9 Dragon's Blood
10 Dragon's Blood
11 Dragonite Form
16 Mega Ultra Super Dragonite Form
17-19 Dragon's Tail
Skill Build B: Medium Laning (Oh no, someone is pushy)
1 Breathe Fire
2 Dragon's Blood
3 Breathe Fire
4 Dragon Tail
5 Breathe Fire
6 Dragonair Form
7 Breathe Fire
8 Dragon's Blood
9 Dragon's Blood
10 Dragon's Blood
11 Dragonite Form
16 Mega Ultra Super Dragonite Form
17-19 Dragon's Tail
Skill Build C: Hard Laning (Ice Types... dear god, why did it have to be Ice Types?)
1 Breathe Fire
2 Dragon's Blood
3 Dragon's Blood
4 Breathe Fire
5 Dragon's Blood
6 Dragonair Form
7 Breathe Fire
8 Breathe Fire
9 Dragon Tail
10 Dragon's Blood
11 Dragonite Form
16 Mega Ultra Super Dragonite Form
17-19 Dragon's Tail
Let's briefly look at his abilities. If you want numbers, go view his wiki page.
Usage: Nuke, Farming, Harassing, Defending, Damage Suppression
Notes: Use this to farm creeps once you have a mana item, it's really good at it.
Also, use this to grab hero kills from anyone who is not the harder carry than you
Used in lane so you can secure farm even against tough opponents as well as make last hitting harder for them as well.
Use this at the beginning of teamfights to lower the damage of enemy heroes. It is still effective late game.
This ability is also effective for farming creep stacks, since all the creeps bit will barely hurt you afterwards.
Usage: Follow up Stun, Initiation Stun in Dragon Form
Notes: Scales a bit poorly in leveling it up, but there are times where more stuns can outshine more stats, mainly if there is one fed hero on the enemy team
Remember that it has higher range in Dragon Form, but it's still less than your attack range in Dragon form because this game hates you.
Be sure to spam this in fights, many people tend to forget about this skill after its first use
Usage: Lane Sustain, Jungle Sustain, Durability against physical damage
Notes: Makes it hard to force you out of lane, even if you are being harassed, as long as no one dives you.
Use its advantage early and mid more, since it lets you tank tower hits early on.
Late game, it pretty much makes it so DK has the armor of an agility carry with the health of a strength one, making him close to invincible in direct combat.
Elder Dragon Form
Usage: (In general) Ranged attack, more mobility, increase in stun range from horrific to acceptable (levels 1 + 2) Pushing, Extra Damage. (Levels 2+3) Clearing Stacked Ancients, AOE damage. (level 3) Crippling enemy teams with slow.
You turn into a Dragon, how cool is that? This is the best transformation skill in the game, as DK depends more on it than any other transformation hero, except Alchemist, who has a much shorter downtime.
Do not use this if there's a high chance you'll die, since that makes the effective cooldown of the skill from 55 (115-60 duration) much higher.
The cooldown is the reason why you're not up there with the top hard carries.
"Look at how damn cute I am!"
The goal here is the farm, and to not die. In case you missed it, do not die; you need some items before you really get dangerous.
Dual Side Lane: Only come here with a babysitter, one that will either prevent you from dying like Treant Protector or get you kills like Crystal Maiden. Not much a guide can teach you here, take care of yourself and make good judgments. If you are playing dual against tri, rotate out to another lane, you need your lane farm. DK pairs well with a setup hero like Shadow Demon for his tail, or a mana battery like Keeper of the Light or Io for fire breath dominance, but his damage output is not great, especially before level 6.
Solo Mid lane: This is your primary environment. It is important that you don't get too aggressive against your opponent. Be passive, take advantage of your natural regen from Dragon's Blood. Obviously, you want to get a Bottle as soon as you can. Use your fire breath to both harass and secure last hits. Remember that Fire lowers their damage, if its lowered, you can out CS heroes. Take runes when you can, but you are at disadvantage most of the time due to being slow, and don't do it if enemy side laners will assist in ganking you, so pay close attention and bottle crow if you must. Try to push out the lane before you go for runes so that the enemy mid will not contest the rune from you. If your lane opponent leaves go into Dragon form and damage/take that mid tower, it is much more useful for DK to do that than try to gank. The goal is to not die, and soak up XP, no matter who your opponent is (though you can certainly be more aggressive against some heroes such as Doom than others). Certain Mid-lane heroes are a nightmare for DK, like Razor, Death Prophet, Outworld Devourer, Viper, and Huskar. If you see these picks, reconsider going mid.
Jungle: You can't jungle immediately from the start of the game. However, if you farm up a stout shield and an iron talon, you can choke point jungle with a point in Dragon Blood. It's easier if you stay in lane for some levels. Keep in mind you're rather slow on the jungler list. This is more of a last resort where the lane you're against is unwinnable anyway. If you jungle, stack a large camp for yourself and clear it with breathe fire when it reaches 3rd level.
Aggressive Trilane: DK distinctly lacks aggressive lane presence until about level 5ish. Don't do this. Your aggro-tri will have much more success with a Kunkka, Razor, or Viper at its helm. DK simply doesn't deal enough damage.
Solo Safe/Off Lane: You can also be run in this lane if you are soloing against another solo. These heroes tend to be easier to lane against, but you will have a lot less rune access. Still, you can farm pretty well against most heroes that take this solo lane, despite your low damage. Just spam fire with Soul Ring and it should work.
Defensive Trilane: You are gonna be the carry here, obviously. Just work on getting your last hits. If your supports set up an easy kill, go in, stun your victim, and burn em. This is easy against an offlaner if your supports are competent, but against an aggressive dual/trilane is where it gets interesting. Against an aggressive trilane, you're gonna have to maneuver around and try to still get last hits, but your supports will likely have trouble killing their setup if they have any decent set of heroes for an aggro tri. Likely the best option here is the rotate out with your offlaner, who is likely more of a lane presence than you, and go solo against their solo safelaner. You can also do the jungle option once you get the small amount of farm needed.
by Mike Azevedo
"I'm sick of you bastards pushing me around, you're all gonna die!"
Mid game is where you have to make an impact after you've (hopefully) gotten through early game without much of a scratch. This is where your item build really matters, based on how things are going and what you're gonna need to achieve, but really, it's quite simple, you have a choice, you can be taking towers and getting a few kills with farming being secondary or you can focus on farm, preferably after taking some T1s so you have some space to. How you do so really depends on your build, but if you're fighting early you usually stand in the frontlines, trying to bait out enemies. Basically, you're using your durability as a means to recklessly move in and out of combat, kind of like Bristleback or Doom. Either that or you're hitting creeps.
Additionally, teamfights, you want to participate in if you can rather than AFK farming or trying to splitpush, you try to focus down the hero you deem most dangerous, and bust out lots of AOE damage with your fire breath and if you managed to get to level 11, your Dragon form. Be sure to farm whenever your Dragon form is on cooldown and you're not ready to fight. This is all simple and depends on how you handle situations.
If you've gotten great farm or snowballed, you're a beast late game. If you were trying to end the game early with pushing, well, sad to say that you failed, but don't lose hope, the hero is still strong late game. Stay on the offense in late game, because Dragon form's cooldown is your worst enemy at this point in the game, just like if you were Chaos Knight, so try to fight away from your base and preferably close to the enemy's. Other than that, this is much the same as how your mid game is, but now, you have a Black King Bar, and carries are showing up, and likely they have Black King Bars too, which means your tail is not looking to have too much use on those guys. However, now with your frost splash, you are even more dangerous in teamfights, able to put a lot of pressure on multiple enemies and limit their movement, so hopefully, if you have a good snowball rolling, you can take control of the game and end it before it gets to the "Buyback and Aegis" stage, where you distinctly are at a disadvantage. Remember to keep getting your farm so you can scale against many late game heroes with items. Cheese is good, get it if you can, it is your equivalent to an aegis.
Mid: Iron Branch x 2, Bottle (Before the 2 Minute Mark)
These items give you a bit of health, a little bit of damage, but mostly, there is a need to rush the Bottle early, so try to blow first and get some last hits so you may get your Bottle and take over the lane with fire spam.
Lanes: Tango, Quelling Blade, Stout Shield (Optional against harassers)
This is what I buy most often for side laning. Quelling blade gives some last hit damage, and Stout is something you may need if enemies are poking you a lot, since it works well with high armor heroes. Shortly afterwards, I tend to pick up a Ring of Regen if the harass is bad in lane.
Alternate Lane Start : Iron Talon, Tango
This is an alternative beginning that is all about getting last hits even more easily with the active from iron talon, and it can lead to an easy transition to jungle if things prove to be rather impossible in lane.
Power Treads, Town Portal Scroll Bottle or Soul Ring, Hand of Midas (Optional)
Power Treads is the best choice of Boots for DK most of the time, but I'll go into it in the Boots discussion. You are carrying around town portal scrolls in case you need to be places. You also need a mana item to spam your Fire Breath, which is Bottle if you're mid, and Soul Ring if you're in the side. Be careful with Soul Ring, because poor usage of it can hurt you, but you recover fast due to Dragon's Blood. Also, Hand of Midas is a fantastic pickup if the early game went great and you want to go into late, lots of fast levels and outfarming the enemy cores is really what you want, as well as the highly useful attack speed, making DK one of the best carriers. I normally buy a Magic Wand as my mana item on most heroes, but for Dragon Knight, he wants consistent mana regen over burst, and it's also tight on his item slots, so I don't buy it unless I see a Batrider or Bristleback on the enemy side.
Power Treads: These are your boots. Extra strength (or other stats) and attack speed. It gives everything you need for a low price. Plus, Tread switching makes bottle/soulring usage more efficient.
Phase Boots: Potentially usefully, but most of the time, Dragon Knight's hunger for attack speed overwhelms his hunger for damage and more movespeed.
Arcane Boots: In certain situations where you are pushing early, this can be bought, but most of the time, your solo mana item does its job, and you're better off with damage. Maybe if you're a poor dragon knight, you can make this and disassemble it into Aether Lens.
Tranquil Boots: You do a lot of attacking, and you have massive regen, so this item is not really for you.
Boots of Travel: Later in the game, you're gonna want these, not just because Dragon Knight is not as fast as we would like him to be, but also because global mobility means a lot in those late game clashes. Not as good on you as many other heroes, due to you not working that well with buyback, but still a valuable item. Upgrade it if your team keeps running into fights on the other side of the map where there are no creeps.
Mid Game Options:
Black King Bar: Very important item to make sure you can keep attacking in mid game fights. Can almost be considered your core item. However, you want at least one damage item before you get this, because it's pointless to get it if you're not a threat anyway. It adds a significant bit of damage, but very little for its cost.
Maelstrom: This accelerates your farm and gives you good AOE presence. Overall, one of the safest choices because it's very dependable. Doesn't add survivability however, so be careful about buying it if enemies have lots of burst.
Helm of the Dominator: This item is very cost efficient for its effects (20 free bonus damage!), but overall is a bit lacking in the total damage output department. Still, with a few stacks of ancient camps, you won't regret getting it most of the time. Plus, the dominate skill lets you easily take towers if you rush this.
Sange and Yasha: This item is not great for your damage, however, it lets you actually chase people down, and the buildup is fantastic. Plus, the slow from the maim stacks fully with level 3 elder dragon form. Pretty good choice because it makes your human form a lot more mobile and dangerous, since it means you can more easily get solo kills.
Armlet of Mordiggian: Getting this item is a gamble, but in midgame, this is one of the best ways to boost your damage, and it works especially well with you because you have a ranged form that can splash. Because of DK's massive built in regen, he can rush it without lifesteal if you get levels in Dragon Blood. However, it requires you to snowball some way, because the longer the fight goes, the more its health degen hurts you more than the added damage hurts the opponents. It still pairs well with lifesteal.
Radiance: As a tanky hero who wants to farm a lot, Radiance is legit on DK. Keep in mind that on DK, you don't want to lead charges with Radiance, since you will easily be killed, and you will often need a BKB. However, an AOE miss chance while also countering Blinking heroes is too good to pass up in many cases, and it plays to DK being a teamfight based carry. Can be combined with Mjollnir for mad AOE damage, and SnY for movespeed to manipulate fights.
Shadow Blade: This is a popular item, and for good reason. For a more gank-based game, a dragon tail coming from the darkness really does work out for pickoffs and ganks. Not terribly useful for escaping and the total damage is not great, but the 2nd best way for you to initiate and it actually has a good upgrade.
Heaven's Halberd: Useful item that makes killing you through physical attacks hell. Makes damage lacking due to adding no attack speed, but good counter to heroes like Drow Ranger or Windranger.
Drum of Endurance: I do not dig this item on DK, but it has its uses, mainly to try to take towers fairly early on, and the extra movespeed can easily net you a kill. Many DKs get Bracer early for the stats, so it's a good upgrade to that. Due to slot issues, if you get this, you are crippling your late game.
Mask of Madness: This is the riskiest (okay, no, its Rapier), yet also most rewarding item to get on Dragon Knight. He needs the attack speed desperately after all, and with the bonus movespeed, he can actually kill people within his stun duration. It also significantly speeds up farm rate, but makes farming more dangerous. Similarly to Armlet, you need to make an impact if you buy this item, and later in the game, its damage amplification becomes a liability and needs to be sold in favor of a different attack speed item like Mjollnir or Moon Shard.
Blink Dagger: If your team lacks good initiation but has plenty of damage, this works decently. You blink in and stun people, drawing attention away from allies. Also a decent pickup late game, since you have an instant stun.
Aether Lens: An item that is worth picking up if you're low impact, and unlikely to be able to be a tank or carry, in which case, a longer range on dragon tail and breathe fire, as well as a larger mana pool is the best you can do.
Pipe of Insight: This item is powerful, however, it adds no damage, but its the best item for early pushing dragon knight. With this, Dragon Knight is insanely tanky towards both physical and magical damage and his regen is comically strong. If you get this, you probably don't want to get BKB. This item has a very specific timing window, so a mid DK cannot get this too late, or else he's useless. You can also get this if you're forced into a lower position.
Orchid Malevolence: Storm Spirit or Anti-Mage on the enemy team? No problem. Also, infinite mana to spam your fire. Pretty good pickup that's usually overlooked.
Diffusal Blade: See an Omniknight? Get this if your puny allies are too stupid to.
Late Game Options:
Heart of Tarrasque: You have a stack of armor, but not much health. This item makes you extremely difficult to kill. Late game, the regen from Dragon's Blood will not do its job, and you want to use up the full duration of your Dragon form to pressure your opponents, so that's where this item's regeneration effect comes in and lets you keep up pushes. Works well if you're snowballing.
Mjollnir: One of the best damage items for DK. He has range and AOE splash, so with this item, his contribution to teamfights is really quite scary. The active also fits on him pretty snugly, because he takes many hits to take down, so he can proc the static charge several times. It with Moon Shard is beautiful.
Moon Shard: This item is great on DK. No armor, no strength, just attack speed! DK has this issue of attacking really slowly, but being really tanky, so he's the only hero who buys this and there's almost no risk. Once you get either some direct damage (Armlet), or something that procs (Maelstrom, Maim), go for this.
Linken's Sphere: This item is potentially useful. Late game, it's one of the best mana regen items you can buy on DK, while providing a lot of survivability and a moderate amount of damage. The spell block is also helpful to protect you from getting hit by certain spells, whether at the beginning or the middle of fights. Obviously, you do not want to buy this against Bristleback.
Lotus Orb: Useful against certain heroes like Lina. The armor is a bit redundant, but instant removal of slows and silences can be useful if you went down the "Manta is impractical" path (any path that doesn't stack stats). Also, fantastic against deadly debuffs like Amplify Damage.
Solar Crest: Ideally, you want an ally to get this, there's no need at all for you to. But if you're a lower position DK, it's nice to tank up so you can cast more stuns, and you can spare 10 armor decently for the active.
Silver Edge: Did you get Shadow Blade? Are you disassembling SnY? This item adds some burst damage to DK's skillset, as well as shuts down really powerful carry passives. Especially if you stun them before they BKB (Dragon Tail casts instantly). This is the counter to your rival carries, as you are an AOE dpser carry, you struggle with 1v1 carries. The Break mechanic is very good against heroes like Phantom Assassin, Spectre, and Troll Warlord. A worthy pickup in many cases.
Butterfly: This item is extremely powerful, giving you 60 attack speed and 35% evasion. This is a more selfish version of Assault Cuirass that you can use pretty decently, as it allows manfighting pretty well, and the active Flutter is a good compliment for your need for movement speed. In terms of damage on DK, it is outshined by Moon Shard, but Flutter is undeniably useful, and you can use it freely if the opponents get MKB.
Satanic: With a good amount of damage, the active from this item makes you nigh unkillable. Works well as the game goes late if you manage to grab Daedalus and Moon Shard, and possibly even Divine.
Daedalus: Your attacks splash, you can splash crits. Sounds like a great deal to me. This item provides the second highest damage increase in the game, but it's really not good until you build some attack speed to get crits at a decent rate. Remember, with his slow application, he benefits more from stacking attack speed than damage at first.
Scythe of Vyse: This item is very situational, mainly against fat enemies carries in the very late game after BKBs have been burned out, or against non-BKB buying ones like Ember Spirit. However, DK generally has a desperate need for other things, so keep this as a last resort.
Monkey King Bar: When the game goes late and you're seeing lots of Crests and Butterflies, this is the item to go to. Also, helps immensely against miss chance heroes you can't just Break like Troll Warlord, Riki, and Brewmaster.
Manta Style: Your illusions do not have your Dragon's Blood, however, they carry your splashing frost breath, so with some micro, you can potentially slow the entire enemy team. The movespeed is nice too, but you'll have to do strength and agility items to make proper use of this item (with a Daedalus later). Plus having a purge is nice.
Abyssal Blade: If the game gets extremely late, it can be viable to get this, its active goes through BKB. Your Dragon form can't proc it much due to being ranged, but it still adds 80 damage for one item slot, so it's not useless. Very inefficient in terms of damage, so this will probably be a final slot item.
Octarine Core: A strong late game item on Dragon Knight, since it reduces the stun cooldown to 6.75, grants heals from DK's splash attack (as well as Radiance and Mjollnir), and cuts down the cooldown of dragon form to about 86 seconds, which means you can stay on the offensive. Plus, it provides a ton of mana pool. Due to this item granting no damage, it is best to save this as your 5-6th slot item.
Eye of Skadi: 700 health, a huge mana pool, and most of all, a frost attack that stacks with your natural frost attack, penetrating BKB. It does not add much damage, but against certain BKB carries, kiting them with this is really quite fun as they cannot go above 200 movespeed. Also makes human form more dangerous due to the power of the Skadi orb for chasing.
Assault Cuirass: This item is very situational as of the release of Moon Shard. The nature of armor stacking is of diminishing returns, so getting this on DK should be only if enemies have armor reduction or insane physical damage, but DK's splash makes good use of a minus armor aura. Still, late game someone should buy it although the damage it adds is kind of underwhelming and if you're that candidate, do it. Like Dagon on Necrophos, do it if you must, but ideally, another should carry it.
Divine Rapier: Dragon Knight is actually a legitimate carrier of this item. He's not fantastic because he's not that illusive or indestructible like an Ember Spirit or Medusa and because buyback and aegis don't work with him (but Cheese does!), but he's ranged, he can splash a ton of damage, so with some attack speed, he can really wreck enemies with this. Once you have this, you will need to keep at least 2 allies with you at all times.
Refresher Orb: Dragon Knight has a low mana pool, however, his biggest weakness is the downtime from his Elder Dragon Form, why he's only a hard carry part time. This pretty much makes it so you can buyback or just be ready after your ult ends. You need at least one major mana item to pick this up and keep it in your inventory (Scythe, Skadi), otherwise, this is your 7th or 8th slot item you keep in the base for these emergency buybacks.
Do Not Buy:
Battle Fury: This item seems to carry the stats you want, regen and damage, however, since you depend on your ranged form, and you can't cleave while ranged, it doesn't seem like an efficient use of the item to have it as a farming item when you can get Maelstrom or Radiance for lanes or use your ult for ancient clearing.
Vanguard: This item is good on certain melee heroes that deal a fair amount of damage and get right into the enemy lines, like Bristleback, Axe, Undying, and Slardar, but getting this on Dragon Knight not only has half block effectiveness, it also leaves him struggling to do damage, whereas a Pipe would at least fix his vulnerability to magic damage and provide a regeneration aura. A Platemail or Talisman of Evasion will do better against physical damage. Crimson Guard seems tempting, but again, it means no damage. A Lotus Orb fits you better because it can fix nasty debuffs.
Mekansm: Dragon Knight may do a bunch of early pushing, but he legitimately does not have the mana to use this item, and its upgrade is not too practical on you either, since 5k gold for no damage is not for DK. Leave this to your Lich or Necrophos.
Veil of Discord/ Ethereal Blade: Amplify that magic damage you have! All 400 points of it!
Bloodstone: Too expensive, and Fire Breath's cooldown is too long to use this mana regen. All the mid and late game items let you snowball Dragon Knight harder. Don't upgrade your Soul Ring, get Linken's.
Desolator: I don't like to reject this, but this item is really not good on DK. It's single target based, which is the opposite of what DK does, because his DPS is AOE oriented. It seems like it's good for pushing, but Assault Cuirass on his team or an attack speed item just helps him more.
Blade Mail: Dragon Knight does not focus on returning damage, since his skillset is so based on reducing it, with Dragon Blood. When it comes to magic, it is also better for DK to survive longer and cast more of his spell and attack more people with his splash.
Aghanim's Scepter: One day the Frost Amphibian will implement this...
Here are some item paths to consider. Hand of Midas fits into many of these builds too, and its viability varies per build. These builds also have different timing windows for when they are the most powerful.
Rightclicking AOE Damage (Aerospark)
This is a safe, carry Dragon Knight build. The purpose of this is to farm a bunch and contribute to early fights as soon as you have your BKB. Mjollnir and Moon Shard together with your splash is terrifying. After that, you go for either Heart or Skadi, based on whether you want to deal with BKB'd enemies as well as having higher damage output or to tank up, sustain pushes, and be more likely to take towers after winning teamfights. Midas is kind of viable here to go late and speed up farm.
Midas Viability: Medium
Timing Window: 20-35 Minutes (Maelstrom and BKB done)
Ancient Stacking and Big Splashes (Wyrmbreath)
This is the traditional Dragon Knight build, the one that spends a lot of his time farming. The goal is to stack Ancients with your dominator and clear them at level 11. Even if Ancients can't be stacked that much, it can still lead to a big exp lead for DK. Armlet here lets you fight early, but it can be skipped if you're willing to delay your activation. As usual, when you have BKB, you can fight, but wait for the Moon Shard for better results because all damage and no attack speed makes Davion a dull boy. Midas doesn't fit in here generally, since the money comes from the stacks of ancients that you want to get started pretty soon.
Midas Viability: Low
Timing Window: 15-25 Minutes (with Armlet), 30-45 Minutes (without Armlet)
AOE Carry, Less Rightclicker Based (Eternal Flame)
This item build features Radiance as its core item, to not only give Davion good fighting prowess, but to boost his farm rate further. Black King Bar and Sange Yasha come next, the order of which depending on how many disables the enemies have. SnY is picked up because it makes the Radiance carrying hero faster, and also less reliant on his dragon form. Afterwards, a Mjollnir is gotten for even more AOE damage. The last item is Octarine Core, since it grants healing from the Radiance damage, lightning, and splashes, and makes DK able to fight more often. This build is heavily built for later game teamfighting, relying less on a right clicking dragon form DK being ready, and more on DK in general being able to fight whenever he needs to, correcting weaknesses rather than strengthening strengths. Midas viability is low here because Radiance usually wants to be picked up immediately, but if you get a big lead, you can still get Midas, since this is a late game build.
Midas Viability: Low
Timing Window: 20-30 minutes (First Window, Radiance completed), 45-60 Minutes (Second Window, Mjollnir and possibly Octarine completed)
Ganker (Black Smoke Dragon)
This build is very simple, you're getting Shadow Blade and you're looking for lots of kills. You get Black King Bar afterward so you're not useless in teamfights, and then after that, Silver Edge for even stronger snowballing and some decent initiation with the damage reduction. Item extensions are whatever you want, as you can transition well into other builds, the focus of this build is just to emphasize ganking over farming. This is also good against splitpusher heroes like Nature's Prophet. Midas viability is decent here, since it will be used in between ganks to keep levels up, like Slark, but it can slow down the Shadow Blade.
Midas Viability: Medium
Timing Window: 15-25 minutes
Optional SnY Disassembly/Alternatives:
Tanky Kiter (Siege to the Black King)
This build lets you run around like a flying brick, ready to stun any opponents, while also having the maim combined with the stacking frosts, which allow you to kite the everlasting hell out of melee carries that rely on BKB, and significantly lower the damage output of ranged carries by killing their attack speed. You can substitute out Sange and Yasha for Heaven's Halberd if you want to be even tankier or Silver Edge if you want to be full ninja/rat (you can be Master Splinter). This build makes for a very effective human form as well, because he'll be fast, tanky, and able to slow even when not transformed. Midas is good here, since this build is not about activating early, and not that fast in terms of farming, so the Midas helps a lot.
Midas Viability: High
Timing Window: 25-45 minutes
High Risk, High Reward (High Roller)
Oh man, the MoM build. This is a risky item build, but the effectiveness of MoM on DK is actually more than people give it credit for, because he needs movement speed to chase people down and attack speed to boost his steroid, and his blood protects him through most of midgame once he has the valuable BKB, so imagine like Sven, but ranged. Plus, MoM boosts farm rate significantly because of movespeed and attack speed boost, and it lets him more likely kill his target in the stun duration. If you want to move onto doing some farming and pushing, Mjollnir after MoM and BKB is better, while Daedalus is safest bet to boost your damage for those fights and solo kills.
Divine Rapier (before minute 40) can easily win you the game if you're careful enough and your team protects you (keep 2 heroes on you at all times). There is the least room for error here, but if you do this right, the opponents will have no means to stop you. If the game drags on, replace the MoM. Midas Viability is also high here, since MoM does not have to be rushed, and the farm boost makes it less likely to feed a lead.
Midas Viability: High
Timing Window: 10-30 minutes (MoM snowballing window)
Scaling Tank Pusher (Soaring Wings)
This dragon knight build looks to get an Armlet as quickly as possible and try to kill people with it, relying on Dragon Blood to sustain him without any lifesteal. A manta style is picked up afterward to grant some easy bonus damage and armlet synergy. If the last build emulated Sven, this one emulates Chaos Knight. Afterwards, BKB, and stat items come to compliment Manta, especially since heart lets you keep Armlet on at all times. This is an early activating build that is good at pushing, but still scales well into late game. Midas viability is not here, since it delays Armlet too much.
Midas Viability: Nil
Timing Window: 10-20 minutes (Armlet snowballing window), 30-45 (Item after BKB acquired)
Early Pushing (Insightful Drake)
This is an old Chinese build that is pretty much a low damage Dragon Knight build, but makes him insanely tanky in the early-midgame, since with Dragon Blood and Pipe, he is very hard to kill and can easily take towers with his team. Because of this, Armlet is a good pickup afterward, since the degen is really small with a Pipe and it adds some of the damage DK is missing. Normal right click pusher items, including AC here come if you have not won yet. This is also the only build that doesn't want a BKB, since having both Pipe and BKB is not a good use of inventory space, so timing window is extremely important on this build, but it can easily be the hardest DK to fight during his timing window with his team. Midas viability is not here, since Pipe will be rushed after Treads.
Midas Viability: Nil
Timing Window: 15-20 minutes (T2s), 20-35 minutes (T3s)
(Very useful, but not required)
then choose between
(If it's worth completing)
Low Income Utility (Hoardless Whelp)
This is the emergency DK build for one of 2 situations. Either your allies drafted terribly, or you fed a lot early that you cannot possibly catch up. Either way, you've been bumped down on farm priority and now you're picking up utility and survival items so you can still spam fire and stun and be useful. Hood and Pipe are still useful here to give you cheap survival to cast more stuns, and you want to prioritize it if it'll be useful in the game. Aether Lens is the big item, since a boost to the range of Dragon Tail makes it far more useful, but you never buy it normally because its stats are useless on a carry or tank DK. Afterwards, utility items with longer cast ranges, Halberd, Lotus, and a blink to initiate are all useful.
Midas Viability: Nil
Timing Window: Doesn't matter
These heroes, in some way, shape, or form, heavily boost the damage you output, which is really swell, because you need it, and once you have it, you can scare even hard carries. As Raptor Jesus says, "love your supports".
Keeping or bringing opponents into an area is what you want. Give away splash damage like you're Oprah. "You get a splash and you get a splash." Just make sure your splash does decent damage, none of that Magikarp stuff.
Oh man, Dragon Knight struggles with his mana early. These heroes really can mean the difference between him winning or losing the laning phase with all that fire you'll be able to spew. KotL with DK is a strong lane winning duo, spamming breathe fire to dominate everyone. Io is also especially useful later, since his Tether and Overcharge provides all you want and makes you a strong ganking combo later, as well as good for bailing you out, and a dual DK Io mid is legit as Sven or Tiny with Io.
Man, this guy shows up as an ally in every guide I write, and for good reason. Babysitting in lane, a slow that restricts their movement, letting you mow them down. An AOE amp spell that lets you wreck them harder, and that ult to set everything up.
As one of the most BKB dependent heroes in the game, Omniknight's repel is a great thing to have. His other spells are helpful too, but the Repel is what you really want from him.
Uniquely, as a mid hero, DK tends to take more space than he creates, being super item dependent. Clockwerk however, is a great space creator, and his style of disorienting initiations combo perfectly with DK's AOE based skillset. The fact that cogs can suck everyone up to be splashed to death is beautiful.
Oracle can keep you healed between fights. However, his true power lies in his ability to use False Promise, which removes existing stuns and lets you run rampant for up to 8 seconds, doubling any life you gain in that duration, making it good for the splash build or with an Octarine. Works well also with the Radiance build, since he can make DK super tanky with Edict while he burns everyone.
Test of Faith can be a reliable way to prevent DK deaths when combined with Hand of God, since DK has no means to escape when he's outnumbered (Shadow Blade only works in some cases, but not enough). DK can also run with Chen to destroy towers, and some of the late game auras Chen carries like the Packleader's Aura, War Drums Aura, and the Granite Aura, you love those.
Quite possibly your best friend. With a damage buffer, an AOE stun that suctions people to your deadly ult, and his damage buff gives you cleave, which means you don't have to blow Dragon form to farm stacked ancients. With Aghs, he buffs your splash to be even more powerful than it is before. The Dragonite appreciates his Rhydon brother.
Your other best friend. You are unique in that your splash attack is actually affected by armor value, so Natural Order is very valuable to make your attacks hurt. He is the best hero in the game for bailing you out when opponents jump on you, as they tend to, and Earth Splitter conveniently throws opponents close together to be splashed. Don't buy Radiance if you have Titan on your team, or at least turn it off when he echo stomps them.
The Dragon's Prey:
Heroes Reliant on Physical Damage: You hold a decent advantage over these heroes. They will hurt you still, yes, but they hurt you a lot less than they would basically any of your allies. Through much of midgame, they can take a lot of them in direct combat without too much fear, as long as you're not completely outnumbered.
Illusion Heroes: With your AOE nuke and scaling AOE splash damage, you are seriously a pain towards these heroes, because you can wipe out most of their DPS. Chaos Knight's reality rift conveniently sets it up for you to mow down the illusions which you will do, assuming he's not fed. Also, the damage reduction on Breathe Fire wrecks their damage output, which all come from their primary attribute, so Fire is very effective against them.
Easily Kited DPS Heroes: For heroes that have to run up to you, you can slow them so hard (harder with the Anti-BKB build) and work around them, kiting them to death. You can easily survive their BKB duration and throw your tail at them afterward. Be more careful if they have Blink or Invis though.
Escapists: These heroes easily dodge many a stun due to their very quick escapes, however, DK has an instant and undodgable stun, which means that heroes that are very reliant on using their instant escapes to get out of bad situations will struggle against DK, since he makes it easy to chain-disable and kill these heroes, and getting early BKBs screws up pretty much every single one of these heroes from gaining momentum.
Strong Slowers: Dragon Knight is very reliant on moving around, and tends to buy movespeed items so he can do it better. Strong slows make it difficult to do that. The only real counter is to get the drop on these heroes, which SnY, Shadow Blade, and Blink are good for.
BKB Piercing Stuns/Slows: You rely on Black King Bar. These heroes don't care at all. How mean. Usually you can counter this by targeting the hero, unless it's Medusa, because she's too tanky.
Ice types: These four heroes counter you in very important ways. Lich is a strong nuker, and DK has rather low health early on, despite high armor, and will deny you lots of gold and exp. Ancient Apparition's Ice Blast negates the power of your Dragon's Blood and any lifesteal that you may have built while making magical nukes hurt like pure ones. CM is a dangerous roaming disabler hero that can be a serious threat to you when you're most vulnerable in the early game and later with disable spams, so be sure to kill her early. Winter Wyvern is both Ice and Dragon, 2 of your weaknesses! She's here because she blocks physical damage and can disable you through BKB. Obviously, other heroes who can do this count too, but I like this collection of blue icons.
Armor Auras: Oh Lich, we meet again! Since the splash from Elder Dragon form is actually affected by armor, big armor auras counter you hard like they do a Medusa.
Stun Removers: Dragon's Tail gives you a massive edge at dealing with the enemy carry, especially since you can usually survive through their BKBs to use it. Then comes these heroes to severely cut down its duration. Aim for another target, or if its Oracle, aim for him.
Percentage Based Damage: As a tanky hero, percentage based damage is seriously a problem. If the source is magical, you should make a BKB and target that hero first on their team, especially if it's Necrophos or Zeus. Terrorblade's a bit harder to stop, but since it's always obvious which one is him, try to Dragon Tail him when he's slightly low and chain some nukes.
Pure Debauchery: Pure damage hurts. DK makes his health efficient by having massive defense, but many of these heroes can penetrate through it. Many of them through BKB too. The answer is to build survival in the form of HP so you don't get nuked down. Skadi, Heart, and Satanic are your friends.
Damage Reduction: This is annoying for any carry (less so for illusion based ones). These heroes are often fragile, so try to dispose of them early in the fight. Razor is a bigger problem for DK due to his tankiness and speed however, so hopefully your teammates can keep him under control.
Stat Thieves: DK is build around a sustained output of damage, which means that heroes who steal his stats can often kill him, since he often will take a few seconds before he can kill everyone, and these heroes work this against him.
Illusion Creators: Your illusions carry the splashing frost breath. Having one of them unleashed on your team can wreck you. By the way, don't go Radiance if you see these heroes on the enemy team.
Break: Break is -12 armor and -5 regen for you since Dragon Blood is disabled and both Doom and SD's Breaks penetrate BKB and pretty much guarantee you're gonna die. Silver Edge's doesn't but it also severely reduces your damage, so beware its carriers like Slark, Tusk, and Shadow Fiend. The solution is generally to get your own Silver Edge (or Blink) and get the drop on these heroes, or just wait for them to initiate while you have some true sight, whether with sentries or gem and stun them before they hit you, since they can't activate BKB while invis.
Keep a lookout for Lotus Orb casts, because Dragon Tailing them in a fight is best case scenario, a stalemate, and worst case, a death sentence on you. Counter with BKB, or just attack or stun other people.
Where do I belong?
Dragon Knight is a decent pub hero. His winrate is somewhere in the range of average at the moment. Dragon Knight needs to succeed in lane, so his effectiveness in game depends very much on how popular powerful laners are. For example, in 6.84, he actually was not very good despite getting a bunch of buffs, because heroes like Storm Spirit, Leshrac, and Shadow Fiend were both stronger in lane, able to carry more reliably, and able to farm very quickly even if they lost the laning phase. However, in the current patch (6.86), he seems more viable due to meta mids having a much weaker hold than before (and playing him in other lanes, though viable, is also riskier). However, in the solo queue of pubs, Dragon Knight doesn't stand out that much, comparable to Tiny, because even though he can do some things and is quite powerful late game, without allies that compliment him, Dragon Knight simply does not reach his potential, since he has a little bit of everything, a nuke, a stun, some damage, but he needs more stuns, more nukes, and more steroids and generally can't win a game on his own like a Spectre can.
As for competitive Dota, Dragon Knight is a far better hero there than in pubs. As mentioned before, DK has massive potential, but it needs his teammates. If you actually draft complimentary teammates, especially ones that'll protect him mid with rotations, he is quite a beast. If pushing, an organized team is actually able to push early easily to punish enemy greed. Dragon Knight is more of a team based hero, who if given the right synergies, can kill everything with the help of allies such as Keeper of the Light, Elder Titan, or Magnus, just like Tiny is.
This is an example of a gank going into a teamfight during mid-game, starring Dragon Knight.
Templar Assassin, who has not been doing too well, spots Mirana, and springs her Trap. A chase begins.
Dragon Knight, who had a nice early game, goes to join the chase nearby with his High Roller build.
Nova, on break from Luna, brings the final components of Davion's Black King Bar.
Mirana runs into her allies, but Templar continues pursuit despite ward vision. A teamfight is impending.
Templar engages Leshrac as our hero comes to join the fray.
Dragon Knight transforms while Crystal Maiden dusts, which removes any option for a Mirana ultimate, the fight has to start here, right next to the Dire base.
Leshrac starts to unleash his spells on Templar and Dragon Knight. Alchemist begins to charge up his concoction. Dragon Knight activates his Mask of Madness to start splashing damage.
Leshrac and Templar reach a stalemate, both their deaths are inevitable. Spirit Breaker looks to enter the battle as well while Bounty Hunter crawls closeby.
Our hero burns Leshrac into dust. Alchemist throws his flask to finish off Templar Assassin, while Spirit Breaker unleashes his Nether Strike onto Bounty Hunter, leaving Davion at a disadvantage. Alchemist chases Crystal Maiden over to the other side of the spire.
Seeing Kunkka summon the S.S. Coco in the path that leads back to base, Dragon Knight uses his superior movespeed to maneuver in the opposite direction.
Spirit Breaker, low on health, runs. Dragon Knight goes after him, using up the duration of his MoM to get this kill.
Alchemist drops his acid spray and blinks next to Dragon Knight. Knowing when to cut his losses, Davion backs away.
Nova arrives just in time with the Black King Bar. Seeing that there are three healthy opponents with one wounded Dragon Knight, Davion backs off still.
Alchemist begins to charge up his concoction. It looks like the Dragon is out of options.
Dragon Knight activates his Black King Bar as three opponents are about to encircle him and Crystal Maiden.
With Spirit Breaker dead, there is no one who can interrupt his channeling, so he teleports out with his Black King Bar.
Dragon Knight is back home, safe after killing two heroes. The enemy Spirit Breaker buys back. Unfortunately, Crystal Maiden has no way out, and regrettably, she dies. This was not a perfect day, but Davion survived with his instincts, and soon he'll be ready to avenge his friends.
Dragon Knight is a powerful pick that needs to impact the game. He's strong late as a carry for his AOE damage, but requires his early game to be good to really shine. Dragon Knight can be built many ways, but he is a danger to any enemy team.
That's the end of this guide. If you enjoyed this guide, you may enjoy my others, which you can find on my profile:
People to thank:
The friends of Dotafire.
My fans on youtube.
My friends I play with.
The artists who provided cool visuals for my guide.
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