Dragon Knight is a tanky hero who offers strong utility in early/midgame with his pushing and teamfighting power, and can transition into a fairly deadly lategame carry. The hero has a very easy to learn and straight-forward skillset, but isn't always easy to succeed or have high impact with.
In general, Dragon Knight is typically played at a #2 position, which means he's trying to allow space for his team's #1 position hard carry to farm. But that said, I think Dragon Knight also makes a decent hard carry in his own right if one makes good use of his early-mid game offensive potential.
This guide discusses in fair detail a build which allows Dragon Knight to be played as a high-impact offensive hero who makes much of his gold/XP off hero kills and taking objectives rather than out-CS'ing/farming the opponent.
Before I begin, I'd like to mention I'm no expert player but I've played a fair number of games of Dragon Knight, and he's also one of my favorite heroes - so thought I'd share a playstyle I find most fun on him for stomping pub games.
- Max it first because like any other nuke, it's most effective at early game.
- Use it for lane harass and getting creep/hero kills.
- Always try and hit multiple targets to maximize its effectiveness. Dragon Knight's autoattack damage is poor early on so it's VERY important you land good Breathe Fire's.
- Max it second because it offers great survivability and push potential for early/midgame.
- If laning is rough and you're being harassed a lot, consider getting a 2nd point before maxing Breathe Fire.
- Very strong and reliable melee stun/disable with high duration and low cooldown.
- Becomes ranged in Elder Dragon Form, making it a highly potent initiation tool.
- Max last because 1pt offers sufficient disable while remaining points aren't much of an improvement.
- Always think about timing this skill for interrupting channelled abilities. When chasing an enemy with a TP, don't blow the stun immediately but instead wait for them to start TP'ing. Likewise, when up against enemies with channelling abililies (eg Crystal Maiden, Witch Doctor, Bane etc), especially if your team doesn't have many reliable disables.
Elder Dragon Form
- Rank 1's Corrosive breath melts early towers, and negates damage-instance sensitive abilities like Refraction, Gravekeeper's Cloak, and Blink Dagger. One hit is sufficient to disable Blink Dagger for the next 8 seconds (5 seconds of corrosive + 3 seconds Blink cooldown)!
- Rank 2's splash damage allows Dragon Knight to farm ancient stacks/creepwaves easily, but think carefully before doing this as your ultimate may be unavailable for the next teamfight.
- Rank 3's movespeed slow is what makes Dragon Knight a potential kiting god, especially vs enemies with lower attack range. Once you've initiated on a vulnerable foe, you leave them very little room to escape.
- You may initiate on enemies with ultimate + stun, but try and ensure you get into 400 range ( Dragon Tail range during ultimate) of the enemy before you ultimate to catch them off guard.
When going mid, you can get by with a single Iron Branch, which gives you enough mana pool for 2 Breathe Fire's. Use this to grab atleast 2 creep hits and rush Bottle ASAP. Use Breathe Fire to secure creep kills/harass enemy, and push the creepwave before every 2min so you can go take the runes. Proceed to get either Boots of Speed or Magic Wand next - if you're having trouble contesting runes, get Boots first.
I can't stress how amazing Magic Wand is, especially on Dragon Knight. With full charge, it gives you 255 mana/hp, which is more than a Point Booster's worth of stats when you need it most. That's incredibly handy if you're getting ganked in lane, or need extra mana/hp to finish off foes in fights. If you're playing a teamfight oriented playstyle (as described in this guide), Magic Wand is superior to the heal you could get off a lifesteal item like Helm of the Dominator. I tend to keep my Magic Wand all the way till lategame when I feel comfortable with my DPS so I can finally replace the wand with lifesteal.
If on safelane, I usually like going both Soul Ring and Magic Wand. The wand helps offset much of the Soul Ring's negative hp. I'd reiterate here that early game is when DK relies on his skills most to make for his poor autoattack DPS, so the mana from Bottle/Soul Ring and Wand are immensely useful.
Things can often go wrong more often on the safelane than mid, especially if you are faced with some ridiculous dual lane combos and/or your support aren't doing their job right. If this happens, try and ask your mid laner to switch lanes with you, or get him to start roaming while you take over mid. This hero relies heavily on early momentum, so he needs his levels/gold ASAP at all costs - if you get shut down early game there's very little you can do to make a comeback.
The next on the items list is the Boots upgrade - Power Treads or Phase Boots (discussion of which one to get in later section). The next item I usually get is a Sange, building up from a Belt of Strength. This item provides some good tanking power as well as useful damage and chance to slow enemies.
Dragon Knight can contribute to fights effectively from the moment he's level 7-8. So whilst building the Sange, it's important to keep a Town Portal Scroll and look for opportunities to gank/help in fights to get kills. If you're mid, you may not always get a favorable rune (invis, haste, DD) to gank with, or the enemy team might have wards at the rune spots to see your ganks coming. In such cases, consider TP'ing directly into the lane to gank.
With a few successful ganks, as well as occasionally farming lanes while your ultimate is on cooldown, you should be able to finish a Sange and Yasha -- the amazing item this guide revolves around! This item improves your farm potential slightly with its DPS bonus, but above all it's simply a great teamfight item due to its well-rounded stats and amazing mobility/chasing power (thanks to the slow from maim and movespeed bonus).
At this point, you're pretty much a gank machine who should be jumping at every good opportunity to get kills. Note I mentioned 'good' because it doesn't mean taking bad fights where you're outnumbered, which will quickly lead to a disaster. In fights where enemies with strong disables are present, be wary of initiating the fight yourself - you will simply get chain-disabled and nuked to death. Instead, have your team initiate and then follow up afterwards; or try and pick off out-of-position enemies. Initiation in a 5v5 against mass disables/nukes isn't advisable until you get a Black King Bar. For solo pickoffs however, Sange and Yasha is an absolute beast item, allowing you to quickly run in with your ultimate and Dragon Tail them.
If things aren't going so well after your Sange, or you don't feel the need for extra DPS or mobility, you can delay the Yasha for later, and instead try completing a Black King Bar first. While then you're lacking slightly in the DPS department, you have the option to splitpush without much risk (you can BKB and TP out of sticky situations). Doing this is most useful if you are being 5-man pushed by the enemy team. You then swoop in towards the end of fights, preferably when the enemy team is low on hp/mana OR forced a few of them to TP back to defend, and try grabbing some kills, thereby allowing for a potential comeback. Having a Sange or Sange and Yasha with Phase Boots greatly aids this process of securing kills on retreating foes.
With the recent change to Black King Bar to have unrefreshable charges, it's especially important to ensure the 10-7 sec Black King Bar charges are used for maximum possible impact before it ultimately falls off. So deciding when to buy and use your Black King Bar is extremely crucial to having high game impact. One of the reasons I prefer going Sange and Yasha before Black King Bar is that without DPS, you aren't making the most efficient use of your initial Black King Bar charges.
If you feel the enemy disablers/spellcasters aren't as much of a threat, and you're instead faced with a physical DPS carry who seems to be getting fed, you could prioritize grabbing some armor ( Helm of the Dominator, Platemail) or DPS ( Crystalys, Demon Edge or Maelstrom) before the Black King Bar.
Occasionally, you may be faced with enemy teams with many BKB-piercing spells (such as Doom, Black Hole), or plain pain-in-the-backside heroes ( Storm Spirit, Slark). This may be a scenario when BKB doesn't offer enough benefits or gets circumvented too easily. As an alternative, you may consider building Orchid Malevolence to cripple the spellcasters before they have a chance to cast. Keep in mind that the lack of BKB is still likely to leave you vulnerable to spells, so its advisable that atleast one other hero your team builds a BKB on your team to help make up for it.
Another fun but risky midgame pickup is Desolator. This item absolutely devastates heroes with low armor (10-20 armor), and allows you push towers and high ground with relative ease. However, this does come at a heavy price: you can't avail of lifesteal from a Helm of the Dominator, and its damage potential falls off once the enemy team begins stacking armor ( Assault Cuirass, Vladmir's Offering). It's also a poor pickup if the enemy team has a decently farmed agility carry with high natural armor. Hence, it's best built if you simply want a strong midgame DPS boost and feel confident you can push enemy raxes soon after. Building an Assault Cuirass immediately after Desolator is an ideal followup. If the game does go well into lategame, you may want to sell the Desolator for a Daedalus. Note that while the Desolator armor debuff only works on the primary target despite Elder Dragon Form's splash damage, you can still 'spray' multiple enemies with the debuff, thereby making them more vulnerable to your allies' physical attacks.
With some successful kills and tower pushes during the midgame, you should be able to farm up an Assault Cuirass. This is an excellent item to get either before or after a Black King Bar. Its armor bonus makes Dragon Knight extremely resistant to physical attacks, and gives him much-needed attack speed/DPS.
An alternative to Assault Cuirass, especially if your team is already building one, would be to instead get Helm of the Dominator with some DPS items like a Maelstrom or Crystalys, and later proceeding to their respective upgrades.
If you feel damage is a higher priority (needing to burst down targets rather than tanking them), consider finishing that Daedalus, or Monkey King Bar if the enemy team has evasion. Mjollnir is weaker at single-target DPS than the other big damage items, but deals a lot of teamfight AoE, and is excellent for farming and pushing creepwaves. Pick whichever makes most sense for the situation.
If you feel the need for manfighting enemy carries in teamfights rather than raw tankability, then consider finishing a Satanic. This is the lategame equivalent of Magic Wand - extra survivability or a 2nd life just when you need it most. Use the active only when you're safe from being disabled, otherwise the item's potential is entirely wasted.
If however you think raw survivability against nukes (Eg Lina, Zeus) and pushing power is more important than manfighting, Heart of Tarrasque is your go-to item. The ability to tank creeps and tower damage effortlessly is incredibly useful on a pusher-oriented hero like Dragon Knight. This item is also particularly great if you went for the Desolator build midgame and can't avail of lifesteal from a Satanic.
A fun lategame pickup is Eye of Skadi, which when combined with your rank 3 ultimate's frost attack and Sange and Yasha, applies an absolutely ridiculous slow - most enemies will simply be slowed down to ~100 ms, which for many melee heroes is almost equivalent to being hex'd. However, it's poor in the damage department, and if you dont have strong armor Assault Cuirass or DPS ( Daedalus/ Mjollnir) , you will likely get crushed by ranged high-physical damage carries who don't have issues with the slow.
One of the most important things for a carry in the midgame is to find the right balance between farming and fighting. For Dragon Knight, this decision is somewhat simple - you want to be fighting or pushing whenever your ultimate is up.
However, post 6.82, there were a few game mechanics added which stall fast pushes. This works severely against Dragon Knight: some of these include the gold/xp rubberband (or 'comeback') mechanics and more frequent glyphs. Given the limited duration of Elder Dragon Form, you don't get the opportunity to win a teamfight AND take a tower to capitalize on the victory, thereby forcing you to retreat and spend more time farming.
And when it comes to farming, Dragon Knight generally struggles to keep pace with most other carries, so if forced into a passive game, he can lose out heavily and get outcarried.
To help capitalize on your teamfight victories or to simply catch up on some cs, I think Hand of Midas is actually an underrated pickup on this hero. You don't have to rush Hand of Midas ASAP as most players typically do; it can typically fit in at any time before the 25min mark. With the build suggested in ths guide, it can either work as a 1st item, or right after finishing a Sange, proceeding to finish Sange and Yasha or Black King Bar.
Hand of Midas accelerates your farm rate and GPM considerably, allowing you to build those lategame items with relative ease. More importantly perhaps, it lets you hit lvl 16 even sooner.
It's important to realize that Dragon Knight enjoys being a tempo controller of sorts - if you're not the hardest carry on your team you want to be focusing on fights as much as possible. So if you've already got some good momentum going and can comfortably progress to your lategame items, there's no need for a Hand of Midas.
I've already discussed a few options/alternatives during the midgame - particularly with the order of purchasing Sange and Yasha and Black King Bar, as well as squeezing in a Hand of Midas.
Going Hand of Midas with Helm of the Dominator before Sange and Yasha is good if you are having a hard time finding early gank opportunities - the lifesteal and midas boost helps you catch up on some farm in the jungle. Getting an early Helm of the Dominator is nevertheless recommended when up against high-physical damage carries like Phantom Assassin, Faceless Void or Juggernaut.
Yet another alternative if things are going badly would be to simply forgo the Sange and Yasha completely, and build the Sange into a Heaven's Halberd instead for the survivability + utility it offers. Additionally, if you're having trouble contributing to fights or feel a lack of both DPS and survivability, I think Helm of the Dominator with Armlet of Mordiggian is a decent 'fallback' combo as it offers a bit of both. If you aren't the primary BKB carry on your team, and wish to transition to a utility role, a Blade Mail can also be an OK pickup.
I'm aware some may not like the idea of armlet being used as a fallback option (many prefer it as core pickup on Dragon Knight), but personally I'm not fond of the negative HP from the item, and hence only use it as a last resort to make comebacks.
This is probably the most important section to take away from this guide, as it deals with some of the unconventional item recommendations I made in the build.
For 99.999% players, the question of Power Treads vs Phase Boots (or any other boots upgrade) is a trivial one especially on Dragon Knight - they consider Power Treads as ALWAYS the best choice.
There are a number of reasons Power Treads is considered the superior choice. It offers +8 of the selected stat and +30 attack speed. This translates into roughly ~10% more DPS at all stages over Phase Boots, as well as 5-10% more survivability when on strength mode. In theory as well as in practice, this is great.
However, it doesn't quite solve one of Dragon Knight's biggest weaknesses - mobility. He starts at a lacklustre 290 ms, and while Elder Dragon Form boosts this to a solid 315 (365 with boots), a lot of heroes can run circles around him rather easily. This often hampers Dragon Knight's game impact potential quite significantly:
- He suffers vs melee heroes with strong disables and mobility steroids (eg Tiny, Lifestealer, Troll Warlord, Faceless Void, Sven, Slardar, Timbersaw), whom he finds rather difficult to kite
- He can't really chase down high-mobility heroes like Clinkz, Bounty Hunter, Lina, Death Prophet
- He can get fairly easily kited by longer-ranged heroes like Sniper, Drow Ranger with Mask of Madness/ Shadow Blade
And this is where Phase Boots potentially comes in. However, on its own, the 16% move speed boost for 4s isn't sufficient for solving the problems vs above heroes. The +24 dmg isn't great either; it's only +16 over strength mode Treads, and the lack of attack speed actually makes last-hitting/farming harder. So Treads still appears the better choice.
BUT, I think throwing in a Sange and Yasha changes the picture completely. Compared to the 365 ms from Power Treads alone, you reach upto a maximum of 491 ms with Sange and Yasha+ Phase Boots when in Elder Dragon Form. This marks a crucial threshold where you're as mobile or even quicker than most of the aformentioned heroes with their steroids, allowing you to constantly kite or chase them down easily. I think this dramatically changes Dragon Knight's interaction with many of these heroes, and also makes him immensely more fun to play.
When adopting this build vs some of the above heroes, I also recommend prioritizing building DPS (eg crits/AC over heart/satanic) over survivability because superior kiting/positioning inherently makes you more survivable. If your enemy melees have higher movespeed (eg Sven with Mask of Madness+steroid skills will easily hit 522ms and cleave for ridiculous damage), your objective should generally be to avoid them with your BKB and mobility until their steroids/disables run out of juice, after which point you can kite them effortlessly with your superior range and slows.
Now you may ask "Why not go for Power Treads with either Shadow Blade or Blink Dagger instead? Wouldn't that solve these mobility issues too?"
This is definitely a fair point - infact, Dragon Knight in competitive play is often played with a Shadow Blade or Blink Dagger. The initiation potential from these items is excellent, and is a great way to pressure the enemy team during midgame (eg forcing them to buy detection).
However, the downside to these items is that they pretty much ONLY offer initiation, but not much positioning freedom for the rest of the fight - they do not provide sustained mobility. I think being able to dodge skillshots, or kiting dangerous foes is just as important in later stages of a teamfight as it is at its initiation stage. Blink Dagger and Shadow Blade have significant cooldowns on their actives, making them less worthwhile during the fight as their passive benefits are simply inferior to those of Sange and Yasha.
Yet another issue with Shadow Blade is that it's simply countered by detection. Overall, both items seem relatively less suited for longer games where the situation on the field is likely to change. BUT, there are times when that initiation power alone is sufficient to tip fights in your favor; and that's when Shadow Blade shines far more than a Sange and Yasha.
Overall, I do think all 3 items (SnY, Shadowblade, Blink) have their pros and cons, and are roughly equally viable options depending on the scenario - ie, each item has scenarios wherein it performs much better than the others. However, my preference for Sange and Yasha is due to the fact that it works well against almost any lineup or situation. Whether I combine it with Power Treads or Phase Boots depends on what I feel is more useful for the situation - more farming speed/survivability ( Power Treads), or more mobility/fighting ( Phase Boots). A lot of the time however, I find myself preferring Phase Boots due to its amazing synergy with Sange and Yasha.
Another fun albeit minor point I would make about the Sange and Yasha+ Phase Boots build - it actually makes your melee form somewhat useful in fights! With a Black King Bar you may be able to literally run head-first into certain (stupid?) opponents and Dragon Tail them even with your ultimate on cooldown! By the time they attempt a retreat your ultimate is usually up, allowing you to finish them off with your godlike slows. People often underestimate Dragon Knight's melee form, and don't react to him approaching them unless he morphs into that fearsome dragon... this works as a psychological advantage and if you're lucky, can actually net you kills. And the best thing about it? It is HILARIOUS if you pull this off successfully.
A final note regarding boots choices - if you go for Phase Boots you will feel the distinct lack of attack speed possibly hurting your farm rate; this is something that does take some getting used to. Hence it's not ideal for farming, but then again going Hand of Midas as suggested earlier helps mitigate this weakness. You may also feel less survivable than if you went Power Treads, but personally I think the difference is almost negligible and addressed to a large extent by having a Magic Wand.
Tranquil Boots or Arcane Boots are downright bad choices on this hero, so I'm not going to discuss those. Boots of Travel is usually a must-have in very late game especially if you need a 6th item, but try and delay this to the very end because the bonuses from Power Treads (stat switch + attack speed) or Phase Boots (damage + phasing through units) are always nice to have.
The build described in this guide is largely based on the premise that Dragon Knight's game impact is (atleast partially) hampered by his lack of mobility, and thus offers and discusses some simple solutions to address this weakness.
There are ofcourse several situations where you simply don't need the mobility; examples include:
DOTAFire is the place to find the perfect build guide to take your game to the next level. Learn how to play a new hero, or fine tune your favorite DotA hero’s build and strategy.
Copyright © 2019 DOTAFire | All Rights Reserved