Hi everyone. I've been playing Dota for about 4 years now (with a good bit of the past 2 years spent in Dota 2) and have been playing semi-competitively for over a year. Dragon Knight holds a very special place in my heart; he and Sven were the first characters I fell in love with, played on a regular basis and to this day still make frequent use of despite their lower popularity. DK in particular is hardly ever used in the Western Dota 2 scene, but this does not mean that he is weak. On the contrary, DK is one of the few unpopular characters that is actually very strong. For all of his numerous strengths, DK only has one glaring weakness (mobility) that limits his use in Western lineups. The Asian Dota scene however knows how strong DK is and frequently uses him.
The reasons Asia uses DK are:
-He is very tanky against physical damage with little to no items (allows him to build more pure damage than many STR carries and even some AGI can afford or to build into an unkillable tanking CC machine and form a strong frontline)
-He is a ranged carry where it matters (teamfights)
-He provides a signifcant AOE presence in teamfights.
-Brings a decent amount of CC for a carry (a low-CD, long-duration stun and a movspeed/atkspeed slow)
-Very sustainable in lane with dragon's blood
- One of the best carries for a strong duo lane or nearly unbeatable aggressive trilane
-Strong early tower pushing (with fast aoe creep clearing and damage from lvl 1 dragon)
-Actually viable as a mid-laner (either with bottle or Soul Ring).
-Better burst damage early game than many carries.
While the reasons the West doesn't use DK are:
-He has one of the slowest movement speeds in the game outside of dragon form and only moderately good movement speed in dragon form
-He has no escape mechanism, which when combined with his slow movement speed makes him an all-or-nothing type teamfighter.
-Very tanky against physical damage but just as susceptible as other characters to burst spell damage early game. This is a problem (once again) due to his low mobility.
-Low auto-attack damage without damage items.
As you can see, in the end it all comes down to mobility. The West favors fast characters that either have a blink of some sort or makes use of blink daggers for the element of surprise. This is a common theme that you see most Western teams adhere to. The value of mobility should no be underestimated though. There's a reason why nearly all the top heroes are fast and/or have a engage/escape mechanism, why Anti-Mage has consistently been ranked as a strong and frequently used carry regardless of his multitude of other weaknesses as a hero, why sniper can never be a competitive pick and why it's common practice on Ursa to build both a blink dagger and Shadowblade. The reason is that mobility is important, very important, and having mobility as your one weakness on a hero is a big one.
Nevertheless the East still uses DK; quite successfully in fact. How do they do this? There are quite a few strats for it:
-One common strat is a Pipe on DK timed push strat that secures many towers early in the game.
-Another is using heroes like KoTL, Tinker or SD for long range pushing and counterpush and use DK as a frontline tank.
-My favorite strat involves placing a strong initiator mid like Magnus, Brewmaster, TA, Beastmaster, Bat Rider, Enigma, Puck, Warlock etc. giving DK a strong offensive trilane with heroes like Lina, Jakiro, Lion, Leshrac, Nyx, Shadow Demon, Bane, KoTL and finally a safe longlaner like Windrunner, Bountyhunter, Bat Rider, Dark Seer, QoP or Lone Druid and then building DK more damage heavy rather than tank (the basis of this guide). This strat is very strong right now in the Asian scene because of DK's obvious strength and synergy in a trilane. I see it becoming popular in the coming months now that trilanes are popular.
Anyway, on to the guide. I hope you enjoy it and find it to be helpful.
My skill build is pretty standard. I take a single level in stun at level one and max it last because it stuns for a significant amount and stuns are very useful and versatile for level 1 situations. I follow that up with a single point in Dragon Blood for the armor and regen for two reasons: First because you don't have the mana at this point to be casting Breathe Fire much and second the regen cumulatively heals you for more harass damage if you take it earlier rather than later. I follow that up with maxing Breathe Fire, then Dragon Blood, then Dragon Tail in that order with Ultimate levels whenever available.
I don't typically delay the second level of ultimate because while the first level is great for taking towers, the second one can be much better for teamfights and farming. In games where I use a timing-push strategy or a Chen/Enchantress/Veno/Natures Prophet type strat I do keep the Green Dragon till lvl 15 but I've found that more often the challenge is not in swiftly taking down towers and rather in consistently farming fat ancient stacks, winning teamfights, pushing lanes and counterpushing (which Red Dragon is better for).
If you are playing DK in a duo lane or trilane I recommend starting the game with the items I listed up in the starting items section. It's a pretty standard starting build that provides lots of stats, regen and last hitting power. I tend to prefer using my sixth slot to get two sets of tangoes rather than potions because they heal you for more against harass over time. If you're in a strong offensive trilane however and are more concerned about burst damage from early full on engages rather than harass then feel free to buy healing pots instead. The one exception to the starting build that I recommend to change is replacing the Circlet and a Branch with a Quelling Blade if you are a bad last hitter and/or are in a game against Natures Prophet.
Early game, DK needs to address 3 issues: Mana Regen, Movement Speed and Attack Damage for last hitting power. This is how I address these issues.
Ring of Aquila: I choose to address my mana problems with Ring of Aquila and buying mana pots as necessary depending on how aggressive the match is. Ring of Aquila provides the single most efficient mana regen for the price early game out of all other items in the game. Rather than using % Based mana regen (like most other popular picks like Urn or Soul Ring) which at this stage of the game provide DK around 0.4 mana regen/sec and do nothing to increase his mana pool, Ring of Aquila provides DK around 0.8 mana regen/sec, a larger mana pool, more damage and a useful aura for nearby allies (great in a trilane). Bear in mind that I do consider Soul Ring to be a perfectly viable item for DK and recommend replacing Ring of Aquila with it if you plan on roaming to gank alot, otherwise I find Ring of Aquila to be a better item.
Phase Boots vs Power Treads: I choose to address my movement speed and last hitting power with Phase Boots and strongly advise AGAINST getting Power Treads. Many players prefer to get Power Treads on DK for the attack speed, health and bonus mana with tread switching. While I agree that all those factors about Power Treads are great, if you read my introduction you'll remember that DK has only one glaring weakness: LOW MOBILITY. It is imperative that you address DK's low movement speed in a pinch wherever it is possible to do so. Unfortunately, the only item that has easy buildup and synergizes well with DK's skillset is Phase Boots. Phase Boots provide the largest burst movement speed in the game and, when combined with Dragon Form, allow the largest burst movement speed that DK can achieve. Phase Boots are essential on DK because they do the most to help with his mobility issues and give solid damage for last hitting to boot (see what I did there? lol).
*Sidenote on Shadow Blade: A few niche players also include Shadow Blade in their builds to give DK an escape/chase mechanism. While I don't disagree that it CAN be a great item for DK, you need to get it too early for it to be of substantial use (before enemy team has plenty of money for gems, dust and the like) and forego building into Armlet which will leave you squishy and not have as much damage or regen. I mainly recommend building into Shadow Blade after your early game items and right before BKB in pubs where it's less likely to be countered.
Magic Wand: I often build into Magic Wand because it is simply a great early game item. It builds out of the Branches, provides a burst heal or mana in teamfights, gives some cheap stats and is a strong counter against numerous heroes (Bat Rider, Zeus, Bristleback, Lich etc.)
Town Portal Scrolls: Once you have your Wand, Ring of Aquila and Phase Boots you need to have a Town Portal Scroll (or preferably two) on you at all times for the rest of the game (at least until you complete Boots of Travel), no excuses. It may seem like a waste of money but it actually saves you money in the long run for 3 reasons:
1) It allows you to continue to focus on farming and only abandon it to come into teamfights.
2) It allows you to help support against ganks and tower pushes as fast as possible and minimizes downtime spent running from one side of the map to the other.
3) If used smartly, it can be used to save your life (and your accumulated gold) in fights by taking advantage of your tankiness to survive initial bursts of CC and then TP away or (if you're more pro) to juke out of line of sight and then TP.
When to buy BKB: I've thought long and hard about when the best time to pick up BKB on DK is. I've tried rushing it, I've tried getting it super late and everything in between. After much trial and error I've come to the conclusion that the best time to pick up BKB on DK is after completing his first big damage item. It is imperative to pick up BKB so you can survive initial magic damage bursts and CC and auto-attack freely, however picking BKB up is pointless unless your auto-attacks do some damage so I find the best time to pick it up is after you build a major damage item. In many of my games I choose for that first big damage to be Armlet of Mordiggian, here's why:
Armlet of Mordiggian: Armlet is an incredibly cost effective item on any STR carry. It gives a lot of health, dmg and attack speed when toggled (at the cost of health) and a decent bit of health when untoggled. It's cheap, has a cheap and easy buildup and synergizes perfectly with DK. A DK with Armlet, Dragon Blood and no other regen items at this stage of the game will regen his health from 1% to 100% in roughly 45-50 seconds. That's actually quite fast, even if you rushed lifesteal rather than Armlet you wouldn't be able to regenerate any faster because you don't have much damage. In addition, to the damage, regen and tankiness that the armlet provides, it also allows for one extra pro tactic that can save DK's life in many situations; ARMLET TOGGLING. Here's how it works:
How to Armlet Toggle: When activated, the armlet instantly gives the hero around 500 health and removes it when it is deactivated. This health removal however cannot kill the hero, so it allows a hero close to death to activate the armlet, gain 500 HP instantly, take some damage, deactivate the armlet to be reduced to 1 HP and then immediately reactivate it again for another 500 HP boost. With this trick, you can theoretically time your switches perfectly to juke, survive death blows and win fights that you normally wouldn't win. The armlet in its current iteration only has a 2 second cooldown on turning it back on after it's been turned on once, so an Armlet Toggle can be performed once every 2 seconds if needed (though each time you run the risk of dieing in that 1 second where your health drops to 1; that's where the skill comes in).
So once you have you Phase Boots, RoA, Wand, Armlet, BKB and 2 TP Scrolls, it's time to start focusing on some heavy damage. At this point you have more than enough tankiness to be very hard to kill in teamfights; assuming you farmed the items in an acceptable time. The problem is now that you're supposed to carry and even though you can live, your team mates will have a harder time doing so. As such, you need to be able to eliminate targets fast or you'll lose the teamfights. Some people may be confused by the late-game item progression section listed above so I'll explain it in some more detail here:
1st) Replace Magic Wand with Maelstrom
2nd) Replace TP Scrolls with Crystalys (once Crystalys is purchased either group up and push to take a tower or two and force a teamfight or tell your team to play cautious and defensive while you farm your BoT's.)
3rd) Rush to replace Phase Boots with Boots of Travel
4th) Replace Ring of Aquila with Helm of the Dominator
5th) Complete Daedalus
6th) Complete Mjollnir
7th) Complete Satanic
*The reason I build Maelstrom first is because it provides more dps when you have less items than Crystalys does and it helps you farm jungle creeps faster than Crystalys does at this stage of the game. In addition, the proc deals AoE magical damage rather than physical which will greatly improve your impact in teamfights.
*The reason I build Maelstrom and Crystalys rather than rushing to complete Daedalus or Mjollnir is because they have cheaper, easier buildup and together provide more dps than any of the single items built seperately. At this stage of the game you are farming quite faster but will still be expected to defend against and participate in alot of pushes and you can't afford to lose all that gold if you die while you're building up to these expensive items. Once you have your Boots of Travel then you can really focus on farming those big items since you can come into a teamfight at a moments notice.
*I choose to build Boots of Travel when I do because at this point you have built all your cheap/easy buildup items and need to transition into farming those pricey lategame items. Furthermore, you've run out of space to hold TP scrolls so it becomes imperative that you get these as soon as possible once you've purchased your Crystalys. You'll really notice the difference in your farming speed once you get these and will understand why I recommend purchasing them at this particular moment in your item build rather than later.
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