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Steel Wins Battles, Gold Wins Wars (7.06)

August 5, 2017 by Alien Righteousness
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Hero Build

DotA2 Hero: Dragon Knight

Purchase Order

Starting (minimum)

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
+40% XP Gain
+40 Damage
+10 Strength
+30 Attack Speed


Davion, the Dragon Knight is a semi-carry who excels at pushing and team fighting against teams that rely on physical damage. Although he can go toe-to-toe with many hard carries in the late game, ideally you want to close out the game before they can come online. Avoid picking him against teams with heavy magic damage, disables, and slows.

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 and end quickly. Playing position 1 is dangerous because if you let the game go late, you might get outfarmed by harder carries. Playing position 3 is dangerous because you might get outclassed by less item-dependent utility cores.

The most important part of the game is laning phase, during which time you want to stack both ancient camps 3x to 5x each, which you will clear when you hit level 12 for a huge boost in gold and XP. Until then, push T1's when your ult is up and farm hard when it is down. Once you have BKB, encourage your team to push T2's with you, as you will probably be a lot stronger than enemy carries at this point. Force team fights, win team fights, Rosh, push again, and end at 25-35 minutes. Avoid team fighting without your ult.

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 more frequently by by Chinese teams than by Western teams, although OG picked him twice in the grand finals of the 2016 Boston Major.



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 one of the best pushers in the game, for three reasons. First, he destroys structures quickly while in dragon form due to Corrosive Breath, adds 100 magic damage over 5 seconds to his attack. Second, he can clear creep waves very quickly due to Breathe Fire and the splash damage from his ultimate. Fourth, he can easily tank creep waves and towers thanks to Dragon Blood, allowing your allied creeps to live longer.



Davion has no innate mobility skill. This is mostly a concern with regards to initiation since Davion is not the type of hero that usually tries to escape danger: once he's in a team fight or a siege, he's committed. The best initiation options for him are Blink Dagger and Silver Edge. I would recommend Blink Dagger in most games unless enemy passives are a major concern, you don't already have a good Silver Edge carrier, and there isn't already an abundance of invisibility on your team.

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). In that case, the enemy will be forced to initiate on you.


Davion's armor is great against physical damage but has no effect on magic damage. Since you'll likely be initiating, sieging, or tanking in team fights, you need to be prepared for an onslaught of nukes, silences, and disables. Infused Raindrops is usually sufficient to protect you before you finish Black King Bar. Besides Armlet and BKB, you may also want to prioritize high-strength items like Sange and Yasha, Satanic, and Heart of Tarrasque.


Davion's base intelligence and intelligence gain aren't terrible, nevertheless he runs out of fuel pretty fast in a long engagement or if spamming Breathe Fire to push and jungle. We'll solve his mana problems early on by getting Soul Ring, Magic Wand, Power Treads (for Tread switching), and Infused Raindrops.

Why Soul Ring over Bottle? Because Soul Ring provides more mana through the early game and does so more reliably. Unlike Bottle, its mana boost is instantaneous, isn't dependent on runes, and can be used even if under attack. Bottle is also bought for health sustain and storing runes. But Davion has little trouble with health sustain and he isn't a ganking mid that benefits from haste, double damage, and invisibility runes as much as some other mids. Consequently, Soul Ring is usually more impactful than Bottle.

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 attack 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 I'm likely to die or I'm likely to kill the enemy.


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.

The HP regen is constant and therefore will restore you to full health more quickly if your total HP is low. This has two implications. First, it means that this ability is more effective in the early game than in the late game, which is why you should max it out by level 10 or 11 for greatest effect. Second, if you're not fighting or farming you should turn your Power Treads off of STR and/or put high STR items in your backpack while you regen.


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. Both of these talents are very good. Strength is better versus nukers but attack speed will let you farm faster.

Level 15. Never get the XP talent. Levels 18, 20, and 25 aren't so valuable that the extra damage is worth skipping.

Level 20. The HP boost gives tremendous immediate value, increasing your HP by 15-17%, depending on whether you got the level 10 strength talent. If you think you can close out the game (or get megas) in the next 10 minutes, this is probably better than the GPM talent.

Level 25. The movement speed is situationally better if you're getting slowed and kited in fights. It is also better in the ultra-late game because you can forego boots and become truly six-slotted.

Items Analysis


  • 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. Always get at least two, but three is an option if you want to use one with a shared tango. The other two will build into Magic Wand.
  • Tango (Shared). Kindly ask for your supports for one or two.

Other common starting items:


I recommend getting Soul Ring first (bring on courier ASAP), followed by Power Treads, Infused Raindrops, and Magic Wand. You want all of these by 10 minutes. Obviously these items have lots of uses, but the commonality between all of them is mitigating Davion's mana problems, which will Davion spam Breathe Fire in order to jungle and push for a fast Armlet.


By 15 minutes, you want to have Armlet of Mordiggian. I agree with Purge that Armlet 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]. Of course, 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.


By 23:00, you usually want to have Black King Bar finished. If you secured one or two ancient stacks then you can frequently have this finished by 20:00. This item isn't actually essential in every single game, but I build in 95% of my games so I think it's easiest just to regard it as core. Try to activate it to dodge a spell for maximum efficiency.

Next I usually build a mobility item: Blink Dagger or Shadow Blade. Everything I need to say about these items I said in the Weaknesses section, but I'll reiterate that I only build Shadow Blade with the intention of building Silver Edge later, in the event that the enemy has concerning passives.

Other items I might build right after BKB include Heaven's Halberd and Sange and Yasha. These are low-cost, high efficiency items that are strong pickups if you're behind. Halberd is best against Silver Edge carriers (disarm your foe right after they Break you) and SnY is a more general purpose item that I recommend building if you're behind on farm, since its so easy to build into.


Ideally, the game will be over at around 30:00. If that's not the case then you need to think about your first big item, prioritizing buyback if necessary.
  • Silver Edge. If you built Shadow Blade earlier then finish building this. This has so many great features but its primary purpose on Davion will always be disabling enemy passives. Davion wields this better than most heroes in that he can follow up the disable with a stun, preventing a hero like Spectre, Phantom Assassin, or Anti-Mage from escaping to safety.
  • Assault Cuirass. A 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.
  • Heart of Tarrasque. 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. I'm not a big fan of this item because its value is severely limited if you aren't able to consistently right click the enemy, which is frequently the case when you're tanking. Nevertheless, if disables aren't a problem and you find yourself man-fighting the enemy, this will definitely do work.
  • Eye of Skadi. Although the slow stacks with your ult's slow to make it very easy to kite enemies, I buy this primarily for the stats. A good choice if you're not certain what late game item to buy.
  • Daedalus. Your go-to damage item if you're sufficiently tanky and evasion isn't a concern.
  • Monkey King Bar. Obviously this counters evasion, but keep in mind that some heroes, like Phantom Assassin, can also be countered by Silver Edge.
  • Linken's Sphere. An underrated pickup on Davion. This solves your mana problems and indirectly makes you tankier by shutting down point target disables that might cripple you late game.

If the game goes late, I would recommend you dedicate slots accordingly: Boots, Mobility Item (i.e., Blink Dagger, Shadow Blade, Force Staff), Armlet, BKB, Durability Item (AC, Heart, Satanic, Skadi), Damage Item (Daedalus, MKB).


If you die in dragon form while carrying Aegis, you won't respawn in dragon form. 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.




When you're behind, you need to build small to medium size items with cheap components instead of big items with expensive components. If the game is on a knife's edge, you want items with immediate value instead of half-completed items. For example, instead of Blink Dagger, consider Drum of Endurance. Instead of BKB, consider Hood of Defiance. Hurriance and Sange and Yasha are incredible general purpose items with easy buildup.

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)

When you playing Davion mid, you balance five objectives: last hitting, rune control, pushing, harassing, and stacking ancients. Generally you want to prioritize farming and getting XP, but stacking ancients is a close second because a key part of your success will be farming said stacks at level 12 for a huge burst of a gold and XP.

  • Don't gank other lanes unless an obvious opportunity presents itself. A power-up rune on Davion isn't a guaranteed kill like on some mid heroes, so staying mid is usually the most reliable option.
  • Draw creep aggro constantly, for four reasons: 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. Fourth, since the enemy creeps will die faster, the lane will push, which will give you space to get runes and stack ancients.
  • Optimal Breathe Fire use means getting a last hit and harming the enemy. The damage reduction is really powerful early in lane since it messes up the enemy's last hitting so much. You can use it 3x before you have Soul Ring.
  • In a tough mid matchup where you are unable to last hit safely with your normal attack, I would recommend using Breathe Fire to get last hits and push the wave into their tower, which will give you space to stack ancients (which you'll farm to catch up later) or jungle.
  • 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 safely.
  • It's not uncommon to take the mid tower at anywhere between 8-10 minutes on your own. At this point you have several options: keep farming mid, keep pushing mid (against some t also not uncommon) 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.

  • All ancients camps can be stacked using Breathe Fire at X:52. Breathe Fire isn't essential unless Prowler Shamans are present, nevertheless it might reduce the amount of time you're out of lane.
  • All ancient camps can be stacked 3x by pulling them toward mid lane, but additional stacking might require pulling them in a different direction. I recommend you open a lobby and practice stacking each camp 5x.
  • Pushing the lane before getting runes and stacking ancients is very important. You do not want to do either while enemy creeps are hitting your tower.


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.

Jungle. Under no normal circumstance should you jungle, but nevertheless it is possible. Buy an Iron Talon at start and then a Soul Ring. Skill Dragon Blood at lvl 1 and 3, otherwise maxing Breathe Fire, which you will need to farm more quickly.

Hero Matchups

See Dotabuff's matchups for Davion for a full list of friends and foes.


  • Drow Ranger. My favorite teammate as Davion. Her aura boosts your damage while in dragon form, her ice arrows keep the enemy close, and she appreciates your tanking.
  • Magnus. If you can't imagine why Magnus is a great teammate, watch this immediately.
  • Enigma. Another pusher whose ult also rivals Magnus' in terms of keeping enemy grouped.


Basically, every hero that counters you can be countered with Heaven's Halberd, Black King Bar, or a simple TP. Shadow Fiend, Viper, Slark, Lifestealer, Outworld Devourer, and Huskar are all examples.

The following offlaners and supports can be problematic: Necrophos, Ancient Apparition, Enigma, Timbersaw, Venomancer, Undying, and Lich. Each of these heroes counters strength heroes like Davion, deals heavy pure or magic damage, and/or makes you kitable. Black King Bar as well as Shadow Blade or [[Force Staff] is important.


This is a long list. Basically, any hero that is heavily reliant on physical damage. Templar Assassin, Weaver, Lycan, Sven, Phantom Assasin, Riki, Juggernaut, Slardar, Legion Commander, Windranger, etc. Windranger and Sniper can kill you quickly with Maelstrom / Mjollnir, however.

Dragon Knight in High MMR & Pro Play

"...or they could man-up with Dragon Knight."
-PPD, DAC 2017 during draft commentary

Davion has notable presence in pro play. He was the 16th most picked hero at the Boston Major in December 2016. More recently, at Epicenter 2017 (June) he the 32nd most picked hero and had a 63% win rate out of 19 games. In high MMR pubs he is rarely played. Based on my conversations with high MMR (6k+) players, this is not because the hero is weak but because they find him boring.


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.

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.

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