It is generally not wise to abandon flexibility in Underlords when building a team, but if a player is sick of being Knight-stomped there are ways of sticking it to a Knight.
Knight Alliances are the closest thing Dota Underlords has to a noob tube. An easy to learn and somewhat low effort strategy that is almost guaranteed to place a player in the top four scoring positions at the end of a match.
They can also be very frustrating to counter as they perform quite consistently and can be hard to defeat unless one has set out to do so specifically.
Knight alliance weaknesses
Knights will usually come paired with Trolls, Heartless or Dragons. Upon realising that one is dealing with a chivalrous player it is quite easy to predict what his build will look like. He will need six Knights to make his play viable throughout the match and will be relatively inflexible for most of the game.
Another drawback of playing Knights is the cost of building a full six-hero alliance. Knights are expensive, and anyone playing them will have to be very lucky or have a robust economy. Knowing this can help with counters as players looking to produce a cavalry charge will break the bank the moment they panic.
The Alliance's noob tube status will often result in two or even three players trying to cobble together a Knight build. This will make them contest each other for heroes, making it difficult to upgrade beyond two stars.
While Knights are extremely tanky with their damage reduction bonuses, they have a comparatively small damage output. Unless a Knight player is miraculously trying to be creative, he will have to rely on his accompanying units to deliver the hurt while the frontline is absorbing damage.
Knight formations are also quite squishy at the rear, where their support units can usually be found. These will likely be Trolls, Warlocks or Mages, and removing them will leave Knight players with no tip on their spear, provided there are enough heroes on the front to keep the charging cavalry busy.
How to hurt a Knight
Knight alliance bonuses protect them from both physical and magical damage, but pure damage has no problems getting through.
All Demon units do pure damage if they are the only unit of their alliance on the board. Having two Demon Hunters will apply the same benefit to all Demons in play regardless of hero variety.
Omiknight’s Purification also does pure damage and has the added benefit of contesting the hero for the opposing Knight player when you start upgrading him.
Scrappy and Inventor alliances can take advantage of Timbersaw’s Whirling Death, as it deals pure damage two squares away. Area of effect abilities quite effective against Knights since they have to charge in tightly packed formations to maintain their damage resistance.
Enigma is a late-game solution, being an Ace unit that also deals pure damage with its Midnight Pulse in a wide area. Another late-game Knight-buster is Medusa, but she needs to be part of a full Scaled alliance to be effective since you need her Retaliation passive to be on as many Scaled heroes as possible for maximum purification.
In case none of these suit your fancy, the Cleaver item also delivers modest pure damage in a radius around the equipped unit, but it will require some tinkering before it becomes an effective Knight-slayer.
Involving a lot of units that stun enemies is also a viable avenue, but won't get far unless there is damage being dealt during the stun duration.
Build it, let them come
Before we get into Knight-basher builds it is worth noting that any particular build may or may not prove effective depending on items and the star-count of individual units, which are all heavily RNG-influenced. Another thing worth mentioning is that you might get wrecked by something that isn’t as Knight-heavy while preparing to face a cavalry charge. These aren’t guarantees, but rather suggestions.
That being said, these are the builds we found to have an easier time putting Knight players in their place.
A Knight cluster has tanking potential, but luckily - so does a band of Scrappy units. A Scrappy mob can’t quite go toe to toe with the incoming charge, but they can hold their own long enough for Timbersaw to deliver some pure damage.
While the frontline brawl runs its course, a Sniper and Bloodseeker duo should be able to take out any supporting units in the back, since they usually have the least HP and are a likely target for the Deadeyes.
As far as item selection goes, it's usually a good idea to increase Bloodseeker’s effectiveness with a Mask of Madness or Helm of the Undying. The core of the strategy lies in trying to tank long enough for Timbersaw to pop Whirling Death as often as possible, so items keeping him alive and fed with mana are imperative. Even giving him a Blink Dagger can yield good results in some situations.
The idea with this build is to pour damage onto the front line with Savages while Warlocks in the background keep everyone alive long enough to do so effectively.
Since both alliances have six components, it is possible to have the ratio be 6:4 towards either Savages or Warlocks. Deciding which way to lean should be fairly easy depending on which alliance is more contested and what items are available.
Venomancer is an obvious choice belonging to both Savage and Warlock alliances. Lone Druid and Enchantress also work well as both are Savage Druids. A free Druid alliance star for one of your picks is a blessing considering your economy may be strained by the time you get everything up and running. Disruptor is almost a must for this one to work in the late stage of a match because of his Warlock-wide passive.
Item picks should be aimed at either increasing the Savages’ attack speed to maximise their damage output or keeping the Warlocks topped off with mana.
This build is actually quite difficult to pull off since one is likely to find every single hero needed to make it work in a contested state, but it becomes the perfect Knight-mauler once assembled. All Brawny, Daemon, and Daemon Hunter heroes are required. Beastmaster can be skipped if Hunters are contested or there’s too little gold to go around.
The goal here is to let the Daemons deliver their pure damage, while Brawnys tank on the front. Axe, Juggernaut, and Doom also complete a Warrior alliance to blunt the Knight charge some more, while Shadow Fiend and Disruptor provide modest Warlock healing. Queen of Pain might get lucky and take out some of the supporting units in the back, and Anti-Mage can inhibit spellcasting very effectively if placed right.
Placement is very important here. Since getting three-star heroes might prove difficult, everyone on the team needs to pull their weight. Keeping Shadow Fiend safe and Anti-Mage a nuisance in the Knights’ side can tip the odds in your favour.
As far as item selection goes, boosting HP and attack speed are primary concerns.
Again, be warned, this one is tricky to execute because if enough players decide to have a single Daemon on their squad, you’re screwed. The very Knight player you are going up against will also certainly include Chaos Knight, which guarantees a rough ride on one side, but with some RNG mercy, he might be the one clamouring for more stars on the other.
Keep calm and avoid the crowd
Knight-extermination is a noble goal all by itself, but ultimately one should strive to improve in Dota Underlords in general.
Probably the most important tip to keep in mind is not trying to assemble and upgrade contested alliances. This essentially makes for passively fighting every other contesting player for units, on top of wrestling with RNG, and Knights are likely to be the first to punish this behaviour.
Waiting for the first 10-15 rounds before settling on an alliance is usually a good idea and will usually have a robust economy as a byproduct. Most opponents will have committed to a build by then and it will become clear how many Knights are in the field as well.
Early-round HP loss is also a breeze compared to the unavoidable damage in later rounds, so taking a few loses early isn’t nearly as painful as a single round 30 hit.
There’s no real guarantee for anything in Dota Underlords, as RNG, several opponents with their own ideas, and an ever-shifting meta make for a relatively unpredictable experience. Well, except for frequent Knight spam being a fact of life.
In any case, now you know how to fight back and maybe even take home a couple of wins with a bit of luck.
Unless Valve to turn the entire game on its head, this guide should be relatively update-proof. Regardless, we will strive to keep it relevant in the face of an everchanging game.