There’s something about a horseman’s axe that says everything about the Noxian ideal. The heavy, brutal blade that smashes armor as well as it cuts flesh; the ruthless, piercing point on the back dragging a victim into the bloodstained dirt – the ideals of rule through violent might is exemplified by Darius like no other.
That wailing screech of shorn metal and dying men; that gurgling of arteries and torn throats; that litany of suffering in his increasingly rapid wake:
It is unmistakable. Darius has arrived.
Hemorrhage (Passive) – A damage-over-time magic damage passive is already pretty sweet, allowing you to harass favorably even against opponents that gear up specifically against you. But it comes with presents – not only does it stack up to five times, dealing more cumulative damage, but it scales with his bonus attack damage, allowing it to stay relevant with the right itemization.
Yet even that isn’t all, as Darius gains an additional 5% movement speed for every enemy champion afflicted with Hemorrhage stacks.
Decimate (Q) – Hecarim’s crying foul: as with Rampage, Decimate’s a circular area of effect physical attack. Decimate, however, has a much wider, sweeping radius (425 units total), and while it can’t reduce its cooldown like the horseman’s version, it does deal bonus damage to anything caught in the wake of the axe’s blade, rather than the shaft.
Crippling Strike (W) – Darius’s next basic attack is empowered quad-fold. Not only is it given bonus physical damage, its range is extended to 300, and the afflicted target loses both movement and attack speed for two seconds. Crippling Strike gives Darius a decisive advantage against another melee duelist, allowing him to stick to them and trade favorably.
Most importantly, however, is its interaction with Hemorrhage. Every stack on a targeted opponent reduces Crippling Strike’s cooldown by one second. At the max of five stacks, it’s reduced to three seconds.
Apprehend (E) – As a passive effect, Apprehend gives Darius 5% armor penetration per rank – an effect that isn’t very noticeable early on, but makes a huge difference when your opponents start stacking resistances, and you’re able to negate up to a quarter. But that is far from the most entertaining thing about Apprehend.
Imagine being able to land Blitzcrank’s hooks on the entire enemy team at once, minions and all.
Of course, Apprehend lacks something rather important about Rocket Grab: its shockingly long range. The ability to pull an enemy carry straight through the walls of the jungle has left more than one team demoralized and broken, whereas Apprehend has a shorter range than many autoattacks at only 550 units.
Noxian Guillotine (R) – Darius’s ultimate will remind you of a certain Might of Demacia, in that it is best used when the enemy is already at low health. However, unlike with Garen, the reason for the patience isn’t to maximize its damage output – at true damage scaling with both bonus attack damage and the number of stacks on the target victim, the Guillotine’ll be doing a flat amount of damage regardless of resistances.
It also resets its cooldown if you get a kill with it, or within 0.5 seconds of its use. With enough mana saved up, and teammates providing raw AOE damage output, the likelihood of grabbing a sought-after pentakill on Darius is incredibly high.
Darius is, in short, an Anti-Garen. While they only have one set of abilities with any direct mechanical overlap – both Demacian Justice and Noxian Guillotine are single-target nukes meant to finalize a kill – a side-by-side comparison offers an obviously deliberate thematic contrast:
- Where Garen has a passive health regeneration bonus when out of combat, Darius deals damage over time only if directly engaged – coincidentally negating passive regeneration.
- Garen passively builds armor and magic resistance, while Darius increases armor penetration.
- Garen’s silence-based crowd control effect is meant to counter casters; Darius’s reduction to target’s attack speed is oriented against attack damage carries.
- While Garen pursues a target with his activated movement speed boost, Darius drags them into melee range instead.
From a strictly thematic perspective, the Noxus/Demacia dichotomy is well established between the two – even as their mechanics are vastly differentiated, the end result and even play style are exceedingly similar. They even share certain physical characteristics that transcend their cultural trappings.
In terms of mechanics, though, it’s easy to see who has the upper hand.
Darius’s damage output is enormous, and his kit is extremely well suited for one-on-one engagements. Against other fighters, the mixed damage types, attack speed debuffs and spammable abilities gives him a decisive edge. Furthermore, he makes it difficult to disengage from unfavorable fights – attempting to break away gets you hooked, and even after the hook, the wide sweep of his Decimate makes it even more dangerous to put distance between you and him.
Furthermore, as Guardsman Bob and others have demonstrated, getting a pentakill on him can be awfully simple. Noxian Guillotine deals true damage to the order of 340+0.75/AD at minimum – this effectively means that you are guaranteed a kill if the opponent’s life meter is at 5 bars or less. As long as this is kept in mind, it becomes dangerous for the entire enemy team to be anywhere near you after taking a few AOE hits from your team. Or if they take too long tanking Baron.
However, his laning and teamfight presence is rather mitigated by a number of notable weaknesses. Darius cannot take it as well as he dishes it out: without itemizing for lifesteal, he’ll find himself retreating in the face of champions with strong sustain and a good ranged poke, and given Olaf and Vlad’s popularity in the current environment, this makes him a poor first-pick for top lane.
Furthermore, even as his hook is a good way to keep the enemy team engaged, it is a very poor initiator. Darius’s lack of defensive steroids or crowd control mitigation makes him easy to stun-lock or burst out of a fight. Whereas Garen can safely charge into the fray, heedless of slows or bursts, Darius is forced to play more opportunistically in the face of a caster-heavy team, waiting for his allies to open an opportunity for him first.
You can accentuate his strengths and downplay his weaknesses with the right role, of course. If it is ambush that Darius excels best at, then grab Smite, Cloth, a stock of potions, and go traipsing through the undergrowth of Summoner’s Rift’s visually improved jungle. With two forms of AOE damage, his initial jungle clear ought to be quite fast, and the range limits of Apprehend is made up for by canny positioning.
Alternatively, it’s possible for Darius to forgo damage builds altogether – or, at least, for the most part. A repeatable slow and autoattack debuff, along with Apprehend, gives him a surprising amount of raw utility for a fighter. Packing him with Leona for a dual-bruiser bottom lane, or simply having him as support and drag your nemesis into range of your own one-person firing squad, has a lot of nasty potential.
Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t feel that Darius is in need for a nerf. When your ult is outplayed by anybody carrying summoner spell Heal, or if the enemy team has a Soraka on-hand, it suddenly becomes less intimidating. Any sustain-based support champion operating at sufficiently low latency can also position themselves with a just-in-time heal to offset the chances of a chain-kill too. For the most part, it’s just a matter of realizing that Darius’s best counterpick isn’t even going to be laning against him for most of the early game.
And in-lane, he’ll be dying to his own lack of escapes or sustain. The proud Noxian warlord can and will die to a thousand papercuts.
Does he have strength enough to overcome these glaring weaknesses? Apparently, he’s already been banned in tournaments using the live patch – his raw damage output is just that high. Due to his lack of defenses, playing him as a traditional tanky bruiser is probably suboptimal – but with Youmuu’s Ghostblade and Infinity Edge, perhaps it isn’t out of the bounds of probability to play him as a melee carry.
In short: soloqueue – kickass. Against premades? …not so much.