Draven, the fu-manchu looking bugger with the spinning axes and the permanent smile, fixed to his face in the kind of rigor mortis that only the truly evil can manage, has arrived in League of Legends. He’s an AD Carry, he moves around a lot, and he’s got a global ultimate. I can hear you salivating already, you disgusting summoner. Close your mouth if you’re going to do that, and let me tell you what I think of him.
We’ve had a slew of AD champions in the past few months, and while it might be tempting to throw Draven in with that bunch, there’s actually going for him beyond the fact that he just hits stuff a lot. He’s ranged, for one, which puts him in the same handful as Vayne and Corki, and while he’s not going to start flying and rolling around like those most annoying of Carries, he does have a lot of utility, and a quite ridiculous amount of damage if you build him right.
On your Q you have Spinning Axe, which is a ten second buff to your basic attack that, when fired, increases damage while also ricocheting off your target and into the air. The ground gets highlighted where it’s going to land, and if you catch it it instantly recasts the ability, meaning you basically have a permanent buff to your basic attack if you play it right. It also applies Wicked Blades, Draven’s passive, which deals physical damage over time.
W is Blood Rush, which increases both movement speed and attack speed. It’s a pretty nice escape/chaser, although to get the most out of it you want to be chain casting it by catching Spinning Axes, which instantly refresh the cooldown. You might be able to see a theme developing.
Stand Aside is probably Draven’s most difficult ability to get your head around, resting on your E. It sends both axes flying forwards in a line skillshot, dealing damage, slowing, but most importantly pushing both champions and minions to either side. I think it’s supposed to be used to break up team positioning, but it’s very tricky to get right and is more useful for its slow than anything else.
Finally, Draven’s ultimate, Whirling Death, sends both axes flying forward in a straight line, churning up the ground and dealing a fair amount of damage. If you hit R a second time they turn around and start coming back, dealing the same damage to anything they hit on the return journey. They can go right to the edge of the map, although the chances of hitting anything twice like that are pretty slim.
Spinning Axe is his bread and butter, and it’s the ability that really defines Draven and how you play him. The increased damage means that last hitting, early on, is much easier than with most other champions, meaning you have to worry less about surging in at the last moment to grab a kill, instead taking it at your own pace. The only thing is the ricochet is random, and if you’re too desperate to catch it you can be caught out of position without much difficulty. You can, however, lead it by heading in a specific direction after throwing it. As long as you’re moving before it connects, it’ll land somewhere ahead of you.
You can also, thanks to the fact it keeps spinning if you catch it, have two spinning at once, which quickly gets very difficult to juggle, and takes up a lot of your concentration. Trying to get your W off at the same time as frantically moving around to catch axes and focus on a teamfight can be a bit of a nightmare. But it’s a challenge that suddenly feels fresh after champions like Master Yi and Fiora feel almost like the skill shots and positionals don’t really matter in the game.
And that’s the feeling that Draven gives, for the most part. His name might rhyme with craven, and he does do a hell of a lot of running away thanks to being almost laughably squishy, but he’s Riot actually thinking about a champion thematically and entertainingly, making something that’s fun to play as well as requiring quite a lot of skill, and a hell of a lot of judgement. Knowing when to move and where, despite what your ricochet is doing, can be the difference between wiping the enemy team or getting yourself ganked.
As with any carry, though, it’s somewhat difficult to know how balanced he is right now. He feels pretty nasty once you’ve got an Infinity Edge and Bloodthirster up, especially if you throw in a Phantom Dancer, but when the success of a champion is so reliant on the items you pick, having him just feel nasty with those is fine, so long as some other item doesn’t turn him into a axe wielding maniac. Oh wait.