Davion, the Dragon Knight is a semi-carry who excels at pushing and team fighting against teams that rely on physical damage. Though he can potentially play offlane or safe lane, he is best suited for mid due his need for levels, which is the role this guide focuses on. He is strong at all stages of the game but his power spike is between 20:00-30:00 and this guide will teach you the aggressive "deathball" strategy that takes advantage of this the most.
The ideal early game involves you pressuring the enemy tower by yourself, which you can usually take at 8:00-10:00. At this point you want to keep pressuring the mid T2 if possible, which will draw lots of attention to the mid and create space for your carry. When you can no longer push mid, focus on farming until your team is ready to push other T1s. Do NOT push T1s by yourself and do NOT push T1s if your team is not ready to push. What this means exactly I explain in more depth in the Laning Phase section.
The ideal mid-game involves you pushing the enemy T2's with your team after you have your BKB. You should also have your level 15 damage talent. At this point you'll be the strongest hero on the map and can crush the enemy when they try to stop your push. If the game does go late, Davion will likely get outfarmed by enemy carries
- Durability. Due to his passive, Dragon Blood, his above-average agility growth for a strength hero (4th highest), and the damage reduction caused by Breathe Fire. This makes him hard to push out of lane and let's him tank physical damage in team fights and pushes for long periods of time.
- AOE Damage. Breathe Fire is a strong AOE nuke and Elder Dragon Form level 2+ adds splash damage to his auto-attack, making him very strong against illusion heroes. The latter also lets him clear large jungle camps very quickly.
- Pushing. Davion is a great pusher, for three reasons. 1) Elder Dragon Form level 1+ adds 100 magic damage over 5s to his auto-attack. 2) His AOE damage lets him clear creep waves quickly. 3) His durability allows him to tank creep waves and towers so that his allies can push longer.
- Disabler. Although never picked primarily for this reason, Davion has one of the best stuns in the game, Dragon Tail, which has a low mana cost, short cooldown, very long duration, and fast projectile speed. The downside is its range is melee while in knight form.
- Small mana pool. Davion is very spell-dependent at all stages of the game and this weakness must be addressed quickly with items like Soul Ring, Magic Wand, Infused Raindrops, and Power Treads. He also has a mana regen talent at level 10 that you may take.
- Low attack damage. Although Elder Dragon Form adds 20 magic DPS for 5s to his attack and his splash damage amplifies it in a way, he needs to obtain a damage item like Armlet of Mordiggian and his level 15 damage talent before he can really pack a punch.
- Poor mobility. Davion has no innate skill for initiating, escaping, or repositioning. His 280 movement speed is quite bad, although in Elder Dragon Form he gains 30 MS. A Blink Dagger, Silver Edge, Hurricane Pike, Drum of Endurance, and/or Sange and Yasha is important.
- Magic and pure damage. Davion is usually in the middle of team fights and pushes, yet his armor does nothing versus magic and pure damage. Against magic damage, we get items like Infused Raindrops until we can finish a Black King Bar or occasionally a Hood of Defiance. Against both magic and pure damage, we will prioritize strength-gain items that increase our HP.
See Dotabuff's matchups for Davion for a full list of friends and foes.
DAVION'S FAVORITE TEAMMATES
Davion likes teammates that shore up weaknesses and/or keep the enemy grouped so that his splash damage is more impactful.
- Carries. Drow Ranger and Luna both pair amazingly well with Davion because they increase his DPS and pushing power.
- Offlaners. Magnus, Enigma, and Earthshaker are incredible initiators or counter-initiators that keep the enemy grouped. Empower is also great on Davion. See this video for why I love Magnus + Davion so much.
- Supports. Vengeful Spirit is good for the same reason as Drow and Luna. Warlock can counter-initiate, keep enemy grouped, and amplify your damage.
DAVION'S FAVORITE FOES
- Heroes reliant on physical damage. Templar Assassin, Weaver, Lycan, Sven, Phantom Assassin, Riki, Juggernaut, Slardar, Legion Commander, Windranger, Slardar, Ursa, Clinkz, Nature's Prophet, etc. Note that some of these heroes can counter you with Maelstrom and Silver Edge, however.
- Heroes that hate AOE. In other words, heroes with illusions or minions: Phantom Lancer, Terrorblade, Naga Siren, Chaos Knight, Nature's Prophet, Beastmaster, Chen, etc.
DAVION'S LEAST FAVORITE FOES
Mids that hard-counter you include Huskar
, Outworld Devourer
, and Meepo
. I generally ban OD and then hope that Huskar or Meepo don't get picked if the enemy has last pick. Other annoying mids include Monkey King
, and Necrophos
. Against Ursa, get your stun early in case he goes on you. Against Necrophos you will probably have to rush a Hood of Defiance
is manageable in lane but after lane can potentially be dangerous.
Carries to watch out for include Slark
. Heaven's Halberd
counters Slark very hard so always get it after BKB. Other heroes to watch out for include Venomancer
, Ancient Apparition
, and Lich
. Each of these heroes counters strength heroes like Davion, deals heavy pure or magic damage, and/or makes you kitable. Force Staff
might be necessary in addition to BKB.
Usually you will max Breathe Fire first, because it aids fighting, harassing, pushing, and farming. The debuff it causes to enemy attack damage is very significant in lane, as you can use this early on to mess up the enemy's last hits and neutralize ganks. In lane, you'll also use it to harass and secure last hits. In team fights, prioritize hitting carries early on the in the team fight, unless you're try to kill off a support immediately.
Dragon Tail is one of the longest stuns in the game and the longest guaranteed stun at level 1. Since it costs a lot of mana and does little damage, its only purpose in lane is to secure a kill or shut down a gank. The stun duration and damage also scale poorly, so an early value point (usually level 4, 5, or 7) is appropriate and then you don't need to skill it again until you have nothing else to skill.
Dragon Blood lets you easily tank physical damage and wield Armlet of Mordiggian and Soul Ring. It is usually maxed second, with 1-4 points skilled in lane depending on how much harass you're taking. The HP regen is constant and therefore will restore you to full health more quickly if your total HP is low, which is why if you're not fighting or farming you should turn your Power Treads off of STR and put high STR items in your backpack while you regen.
ELDER DRAGON FORM
Typically you should skill Elder Dragon Form when you can. Use your dragon form when a team fight breaks out, you want to push quickly, or you need to farm ancient stacks. On occasion you will use it to escape, since it provides +25 MS. In the late game, reserve it for team fights only, because you will be severely handicapped if you're forced to fight in knight form.
Some comments on the attack modifiers provided by Elder Dragon Form:
- Corrosive Breath. Applies a debuff to the target that deals 20 magic damage per second for 5 seconds. Successive attacks refresh the duration. Since it is magical, it is not reduced by armor, which is why Davion destroys buildings so quickly. You can also buy yourself a few seconds by walking away from the tower when it is low and letting the poison destroy it. Before you have Splash Attack, you can push faster by switching targets on every attack so that the debuff is applied to more enemies.
- Splash Attack. Corrosive Breath is applied to all enemy units within the 300 splash radius. Splash does not affect structures but enemy units can be splash damaged if Davion is attacking a structure. The splash damage equals 75% of Davion's attack damage.
- Frost Breath. Reduces the movement and attack speed of all enemy units in splash radius by 30% and 30, respectively.
The talent selections listed at the top are situational, but ideal. View the win rates of each talent here.
Level 10. This talent combined with Soul Ring solves all of your mana problems in every game, whereas the damage reduction talent is much less consistent in the value it provides. For this reason, its very hard to go wrong with the mana talent.
Level 15. Unless your team has an absurd amount of physical damage already and you're main purpose is simply to tank, the damage talent is a no-brainer.
Level 20. This is the only talent that I waver on. When in doubt, always get the Dragon Blood talent because its roughly 1500 gold obtained instantly and makes you noticeably tankier against physical damage. The GPM is situationally superior: 1) the game is certain to go very late, 2) you're not tanking or not tanking against physical damage, or 3) your passives will get broken every team fight, in which case you will need Assault Cuirass and the GPM talent will help you get it faster.
Level 25. Much like the level 10 talent, we have the choice between always getting certain value and situational value. Likewise the stun can be purged off, dodged, reflected, etc, whereas the strength will always provide HP, damage, and magic resistance.
Davion's starting items are pretty flexible but the one constant is Quelling Blade, which is essential for last hitting and pushing and jungling later. That leaves you with 400 gold that needs to go toward some combination of Stout Shield, Magic Wand, Soul Ring, Enchanted Mango, and regen. The items shown in the guide are typical but you might need to swap out the Stout Shield for Magic Stick if the enemy mid laner is going to rely heavily on spamming spells from the start rather than right-clicking. Zeus, Storm Spirit, Skywrath Mage are the most obvious examples.
I usually get Soul Ring followed by Bracer, Magic Wand, and Power Treads. A good timing for all of these items is 9:00. These items will not only solve your mana problems but give you sufficient durability to survive a gank.
By 15 minutes, you want to have Armlet of Mordiggian. I agree with Purge that Armlet is "the most Dragon Knight item ever". At level 12 you should be doing over 200 DPS with Armlet and you're ultimate active. Add in the extra armor and you will have huge edge over other cores in the early game. Dragon Blood largely mitigates the HP drain and nearly nullifies it if you get the Dragon Blood talent.
Armlet's value increases even more with good "Armlet toggling", which you can practice in a lobby until you have reasonable proficiency. Good toggling will make you a nightmare to kill and result in stellar outplays. If, however, you are not comfortable with Armlet or the enemy has a lot of damage-over-time then you might consider getting Drum of Endurance or Shadow Blade in its place.
In the deathball strategy that I prefer, the most important item you can have is Black King Bar, which will make you nearly unkillable during its duration in most games. The main question is when to build it. I find it safest to buy after Armlet for the simple reason that you don't need a Blink Dagger to siege towers. This will force the enemy to initiate on you. When they do, pop BKB and crush them.
After BKB, your mobility options include Blink Dagger, Shadow Blade, and Force Staff. Blink is standard but unnecessary if your team has sufficient initiation or catch, in which case Shadow Blade has the advantage of added DPS plus the option to build into Silver Edge. If you're getting kited (e.g., Drow Ranger, Venomancer, Troll Warlord then Force Staff is wise and can later build into Hurricane Pike. Some games you might want multiple mobility items: one for initiating and the other for escaping.
LATE GAME (30:00+)
In only a third of my Davion games do I complete a 5000+ gold item, simply because the game is usually over before the such items are necessary. In most games, you don't want to give the enemy any breathing room. You simply want to take high ground and end, which means building cost-effective, high-impact items like Sange and Yasha, Heaven's Halberd, Hurricane Pike, or Drum of Endurance.
When the game does go long or you are simply filthy rich, here are your options:
- Assault Cuirass. Buy this if your team needs armor, additional pushing power, or break is regularly removing your passive. If you alone need to tank more physical damage then Heaven's Halberd is a much bigger bang for your buck because the 25% evasion is vastly superior to the mere 7% extra physical resistance that AC will give you if you got the 2x passive talent.
- Heart of Tarrasque. Buy this against teams with huge magic damage and disables that need to burst you down in order to win the team fight. The extra HP and magic resistance will keep you alive a long time in fights.
- Eye of Skadi. This is a great all-purpose late game item when you need to tank a mixture of physical and magic damage and also want to kite spell immune / BKB wielding carries harder.
- Mjollnir. Strong against illusion heroes and Assault Cuirass. Let's you farm faster and push harder. Practical pickup versus mega creeps. Don't forget to turn on the shield as a fight breaks out.
- Monkey King Bar. Counters evasion in all forms. Keep in mind, however, that many forms of evasion are countered by Silver Edge (e.g., Phantom Assassin's Blur) or Black King Bar (e.g., Riki's Smoke Screen, Radiance).
- Bloodthorn. Everything that can be said about Bloodthorn can be said about Orchid: more damage, more mana, an answer to Linken's, and a silence. One of the only items Davion can get that provides solo pickoff potential. Downside: offers no durability.
- 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).
WHAT ABOUT RADIANCE?
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ROSHAN DROPS: AEGIS, CHEESE, AND REFRESHER SHARD
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The Laning Phase
PLAYING DAVION MID
Knowing how to play mid well with Davion is critical to your success with the hero. While Davion is versatile enough to be played in other lanes, mid is definitely his preferred lane. This is almost exclusively how pros lane him and his average win rate, GPM, and XPM are higher in the mid lane.
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 burst of a gold and XP.
GENERAL LANING ADVICE
- 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 neutrals.
- I usually skill Breathe Fire first to make last hitting harder for the enemy. Ideally you want to get a last hit when you use it as well. You can use it 3x before a Soul Ring is necessary to replenish mana. For the first few waves, consider pushing the wave into their tower and using Breathe Fire on them when they try to last hit under the tower.
- Level 2, 3 and 4 Breathe Fire will put a ranged creep under 50% health. If you don't prep the creep with 2-3 last hits before using said spell, the enemy will likely deny it.
- Against some melee heroes like Pudge, Ursa, Monkey King, and Spirit Breaker, an early point in Dragon Tail can save your life.
- I always buy my own Observer ward unless my support gives me one. Sometimes I will even buy my own sentries. I try to be as self-sufficient in the lane as possible so the supports can focus on the other lanes.
- 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. If you're handily winning the lane then keep pressuring the T2, unless they have strong kill potential if you get ganked. Do not rotate to another lane to take another T1 unless you're certain it can happen quickly or you can get kills. Taking too long to push a tower is very inefficient and means you won't hit your item timings. Also be careful pushing another lane by yourself if you're not certain of the enemies
- Stack neutrals whenever possible. Farm them when you can't push anymore.
PLAYING DAVION IN OTHER LANES
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