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 need to decide whether to try to play the role of initiator or damage.
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.
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:
The talent selections listed at the top are situational, but ideal. View the win rates of each talent here.
Level 10. The mana 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. Get the damage talent unless your team has sufficient damage and your main role is to tank, or you're going Radiance, in which case you will do damage so long as you stay alive.
Level 20. Both are fine talents but I tend to prefer the health and damage provided by the strength talent. The strength talent is always guaranteed to provide value, which is not true for the cooldown talent.
Level 25. Much like the level 20 talent, we have the choice between always getting certain value and situational value, but the additional stun time is really significant in the late game. The right pick definitely depends on the situation. One consideration is the ease at which they can purge the stun.
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 whether you buy it before or after Blink Dagger. If you are snowballing or want to play more aggressively, get Blink first and then BKB. Buying BKB before Blink Dagger, however, is definitely safer if you intend to push as a team, because you don't need a Blink Dagger to siege towers. When the enemy to initiates on you, pop BKB and crush them.
In previous patches I recommended Silver Edge in some situations over Blink Dagger, but I have stopped doing so for three reasons. First, it makes the recommended build much simpler. Second, Blink Dagger now builds into Overwhelming Blink. Third, Silver Edge now requires Echo Sabre, which is less impactful on Davion since the Echo Strike passive doesn't trigger. Force Staff, however, is still worth mentioning, since it is far superior to Blink Dagger against heroes that kite you, like Drow Ranger, Venomancer, Troll Warlord. Force Staff also upgrades into the excellent Hurricane Pike.
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.
What about Aghanim's Scepter? Obviously it could qualify as a late game item since it can be consumed, but usually it will occupy the same slot as SnY since its also a "jack of all trades, master of none", with two notable differences: 1) its more utility or defense-focused than SnY, which is more DPS-focused, 2) its harder to build and it has lower impact components compared to SnY. I still think that SnY is usually the better pickup but Agh's can be devastating against enemies that do a lot of magic damage or clump together.
When the game does go long or you are simply filthy rich, you have a variety of options. I would generally recommend alternating between getting damage and durability items, or
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
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