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How to Play Sven in Dota 2

Patrick Bonifacio

When it comes to hard carries that most people recommend to first-time Dota 2 players, Sven the Rogue Knight is very often at the top of the list. This is due in no small part to the simplicity of his design and overall game plan, plus the fact that he’s a beefy, durable hero. Having strength as his primary attribute certainly helps with the latter.

Sven Dota 2

As one of the most recommended carry heroes to new players, Sven is easy to pick up and learn in even in serious matches. (Image courtesy Valve)

True enough, Sven is fairly basic on the surface, meaning just about anyone can pick him up as a first carry in Dota 2. But what most newbies don’t understand about Sven is that there is more to him than his brute strength. There are nuances that dictate the optimal way of playing him, as well as how to best make use of his strengths while covering for his weaknesses.

Of course, that’s where we at Hotspawn come in. We’re here to help you decipher these fine details and make the right decisions in-game to make sure you play Sven the right way. Welcome to our Sven hero guide!

A Warrior’s Way

The Setup

Sven’s kit is all about ramping up his farm in the early game, and translating that income into tons of physical burst damage in the late game. Having a natural farm accelerant built into his kit in the form of Great Cleave (W) makes him an incredibly fast farmer, especially when taking neutral creep stacks. This also gives him free creep wave clear, meaning he can also create some lane pressure.

Sven Dota 2 Art 1

(Image courtesy of Valve)

Storm Hammer (Q) stuns enemies in a small area, creating an opportunity for Sven to whack away without fear of reprisal. Warcry (E) meanwhile helps him get to his targets faster, while also granting extra armor on top.

The Climax

What really makes him a frightening carry, though, is God’s Strength (R). Upon use, this ability greatly increases Sven’s attack damage for 40 seconds, to a maximum of 300 percent when at max level. God’s Strength takes Sven’s base damage, and adds bonus damage based on a percentage of this value. His damage output becomes downright obscene thanks to this ability.

Combined with Great Cleave, God’s Strength allows Sven to wipe the floor with the enemy team’s entire lineup in just a few swings of his sword. Opponents that are foolish enough to clump together in front of Sven will quickly realize their mistake, as they may find themselves dead in the blink of an eye.

The Follow-through

This is exactly what Sven is built upon. His immense burst damage is what makes him tick in the late game. It is also what allows him to close out games before they can go past the 50-minute mark, which is when his effectiveness starts to fall off a cliff.

The latter part of that last point is what new players tend to overlook about Sven. He isn’t meant to be a deep late-game hypercarry, but rather a timing-based carry that wants to end the game before the enemy team can mount a defense. While God’s Strength does let him scale somewhat in longer games, it doesn’t compare to what true hypercarries can do at that point.

It is therefore vital to capitalize on Sven’s strong late-game prowess as soon as possible. Faffing about otherwise will lead to dire consequences for him and his team, assuming the enemy squad doesn’t know how to punish him for not ending the game at his strongest point.

Knight’s Kit

Fortunately, the steps that Sven players need to take in order to get to that timing aren’t too difficult. His skill and talent build is simple.

Ability Build

For skills, the first available point should go to Storm Hammer in almost every situation. Storm Hammer after all helps set up early kills in the lane, and serves as an emergency escape mechanism of sorts in a pinch. Warcry gets the next point, for much the same reasons as Storm Hammer.

Sven Dota 2 Art 2

(Image courtesy of Valve)

From there, however, Great Cleave takes priority. Maxing it early is important, as it directly correlates to Sven’s early game farming rate. Once Great Cleave is maxed out, we recommend pumping points into Warcry. Warcry has better value per point than Storm Hammer, which gives Sven mana problems early on. It also helps you stand and deliver in teamfights thanks to the additional armor. The movement speed is always great as well.

Of course, you should take God’s Strength at every available opportunity. It’s simply too good to pass up.

Talent Build

Talent choice is quite easy here. +15 Attack Speed at level 10, +15% Lifesteal at level 15, and +50% God’s Strength Damage at level 25. These selections will give you more damage output as well as bit more staying power.

The level 20 talent is a little more flexible, though. If you find yourself getting kited a lot, take the +25 Movement Speed talent. If you need additional protection from physical damage, take the +10 Warcry Armor talent.

Sven Dota 2 Art 3

(Image courtesy of Valve)

Our recommended skill and talent build, therefore, is as follows:

  • Storm Hammer
  • Warcry
  • Great Cleave x3
  • God’s Strength
  • Great Cleave
  • Warcry
  • Warcry
  • Level 10 talent: +15 Attack Speed
  • Warcry
  • God’s Strength
  • Storm Hammer
  • Storm Hammer
  • Level 15 talent: +15% Lifesteal
  • Storm Hammer
  • God’s Strength
  • Level 20 talent of your choice
  • Level 25 talent: +50% God’s Strength Damage

Sven’s Armory

Here’s where a Sven player’s creativity can shine through. There are many viable options when it comes to item builds for Sven, making him rather adaptable to a lot of situations. Regardless of which avenue you choose, however, the items that you buy must shore up Sven’s most obvious weaknesses: attack range, susceptibility to disables, and lack of attack speed.

Laning Phase

Before getting into the big, expensive core items, though, we should talk about the smaller items to buy in the laning phase. Boots of Speed is a must, even with Sven’s naturally high base movement speed. Power Treads is the boots upgrade of choice, as it gives Sven some more stats and much-needed attack speed. If you need one, you could also get a Magic Wand for sustain.

As the minutes go by in the laning phase, you’ll want to look towards building a Mask of Madness. This is one of Sven’s favorite farming items, as it synergizes extremely well with Great Cleave. The lifesteal lets you hit jungle camps without fear of dying to neutral creeps, while the enormous attack speed boost from the active ability accelerates your farm directly. It’s also quite useful in teamfights in conjunction with Storm Hammer and God’s Strength for the same reason.

Mid Game

The number of viable choices grows even further when you reach the mid game. With the element of surprise being so important to Sven, Blink Dagger is a great option — although it isn’t the most efficient item when it comes to inventory slots. It is nonetheless common to see Sven players buy this item such that they can activate God’s Strength from the fog of war, then blink on top of their targets for a Storm Hammer follow-up. Blink Dagger isn’t always the best choice, though, so we recommend at least considering other items to help your mobility.

To that end, there is Sange and Yasha. Sange and Yasha increases your movement speed by a pretty good amount, while also giving you more attack speed and some status resistance to work with. It also combines well with Mask of Madness and your lifesteal talent. Aghanim’s Scepter is another alternative, though it can be a double-edged sword given that enemies can drag Sven out of position during its animation.

No matter what mobility item you choose, though, Black King Bar is an absolute must on this hero. While other carries can sometimes get away with not buying a BKB, Sven just cannot skip this item. He is too easy to disable, slow, silence, and burst with magical damage. The only time it would be okay to not buy BKB is if the enemy team somehow doesn’t have any disables to speak of. Or if they rely primarily on single target spells with long cooldowns, in which case a Linken’s Sphere would probably be better.

Late Game

This is where the fun begins. Once you’ve patched up your weaknesses with mid game item pickups, it’s time to crank the damage output up to 11. Daedalus is the one and true DPS item for Sven, as its critical strikes scale in direct proportion to God’s Strength’s bonus damage.

Sven himself says “this is going to be absurd” once he builds Daedalus for a reason. He can wipe entire enemy teams in the blink of an eye with this combo, especially if they stick together. Daedalus, therefore, forms the very core of Sven’s carry potential, making him much less scary without it.

One really good alternative to Daedalus is Silver Edge. Ever since Patch 7.30, Silver Edge has become a seriously strong pickup for Sven, thanks to the guaranteed critical strike out of its invisibility. The additional attack speed is also very welcome. Furthermore, it is way more slot-efficient compared to Blink Dagger, and only gets better as the game goes on. The ability to force your opponents to buy detection in deep late game situations is quite valuable.

Assault Cuirass is what normally comes after. The 50 bonus attack speed is what you really want with it, but you should not underestimate the armor aura. You become a seriously tanky beast with it on, especially when you pop Warcry. The negative armor aura on enemy heroes also makes it easier for you to cleave them down.

From here, the rest is situational. Ideally, you would end the game before you even have to think about luxury items in the late game, but in case you’re having a hard time closing things out, you’ll want to consider buying some of these. Moon Shard helps you stay ahead in deep late game situations thanks to the massive attack speed increase. Monkey King Bar is there if you need to pierce evasion. If you really need the sustain, you could also buy a Satanic to replace your Mask of Madness, though this does come at the cost of a lot of potential attack speed.

How to Counter Sven in Dota 2

Countering Sven is not complicated at all. Where most new players stumble when trying to deal with him is when they fail to realize how much health he has to work with, and when they don’t chain their disables together properly to keep him in place. But worry not: we’re here to teach you how to banish the Rogue Knight from your games.


Bar none, Sven’s biggest weakness as a carry is the fact that he’s a melee hero. Sven has no built-in mobility aside from the bonus movement speed from Warcry, which isn’t really enough to patch up the weakness by itself. Utilize slows and stuns to keep him from chasing you and your team down.

Running away from Sven while he is slowed, or conversely, while your team has movement speed buffs on such as Centaur Warrunner’s Stampede (R), is also very effective. The act of doing so is called kiting, which refers directly to pulling a kite by running in the opposite direction while holding the string. Sven can’t dish out physical damage if he can’t get right up in his enemies’ faces, so kiting works extremely well against him.

Magic Burst

Though Sven has a large health pool and plenty of armor from Warcry, he has nothing that protects him naturally from magic damage. Consider picking heroes with high magic damage output like Lion, Lina, and Invoker.

Mobility and Immunity Items

In the same vein as kiting, you can also opt to buy mobility items to force Sven to chase you and your team around in a teamfight. Force Staff is great for this, as you can push teammates away from Sven from a short distance out. Items that make you completely immune to physical damage also work wonders. Ghost Scepter makes Sven unable to hit you for a few seconds, while Aeon Disk removes his Storm Hammer stun while protecting you from his physical attacks.

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick has been playing Dota since the dawn of time, having started with the original custom game for WarCraft III. He primarily plays safe lane and solo mid, preferring to leave the glorious task of playing support to others.

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