Cho'Gath Build Guide by Solbrave
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Early Game Options
1st/2nd Full Item Options
At Player's Discretion
Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
((THIS GUIDE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS!))
I am Solbrave.
This is my definitive guide on Top Lane Cho'Gath. There will be sections added later on dedicated to giving pointers on mid lane and jungle Cho'gath. He's versatile enough to be a T1/T2 pick at all of these roles.
Why play Cho'Gath? Well, he's an excellent farmer. His only targeted ability is his ultimate, the rest are AoE. He packs loads of CC, and when built tanky, he can take tons of damage while still dishing it back. He's one of the few tanks that's capable of putting a team on his too-big back and pulling them over the finish line, if played well. A well-farmed Cho'gath is one of the scariest things you'll see on the rift.
His Rupture and his Feral Scream can, if well placed, lock down groups of enemies. With just a Rod and a Hat, and the mental fortitude required to wade through the enemy team to their squishy, a Feast on top of his two abilities will burst down an AP/AD Carry.
More defensively? Is a Kassadin/Diana/some jackass bothering your carry? Well, they can get throwed.
Getting focused? Good. Hopefully your team has the space of mind to attack the enemy team while they're preoccupied trying to kill the meat mountain that is Cho'Gath.
AP Quints really help give him some early numbers, and I've had success using MPen marks. Most people who go top lane expect to go up against a bruiser.
Flat Armor Yellows and Flat Magic Resist Blues to round out your defenses for the early phases of the game. Scaling Magic Resist runes work well if you know for sure you're not going to facing heavy magic damage in your lane, or you're comfortable starting with a Null-Magic Mantle (which I rarely, if ever, am).
I go 9/21/0 in my masteries, for obvious reason. I pick up Summoner's Wrath for the buff on Ignite, and go down into Arcane Knowledge for more hurt.
I skip Juggernaut in the Defensive Tree, and I'll tell you why. It's a common mistake to go and build tons of health on Cho'gath. Think about it; his Feast already gives him a sizable health bonus. Building some health on him is obviously beneficial, but he benefits more from having resistances than from having an ***ton of health. Warmogs is, in most situations, a no-no. The only time I would justify it is when the enemy team only has one damage type, physical/magical, and you've already built items to mitigate their damage.
Perseverance might be a good option in the Defensive Tree. It'll give you some more passive sustain, but Cho'gath gets a decent health/mana heal just from his passive. His passive is a strong enough sustain tool to give him one of the safest jungle clears; this is why I pass that up in my masteries.
Starting Boots of Speed and 3 Health Potions used to be what you would do on every champion, even most junglers.
In Season 3, Riot took away 25 speed from T1 boots and gave every champion 25 more movement speed. What does this mean? Boots of Speed is no longer the end-all be-all of starting items. You can justify starting Cloth + 5 as Cho if you're facing a particularly aggressive/damaging AD top, or Crystalline Flask + Ward + Pots for better sustain, or if there's a Kennen/ Vladimir up top, Null-Magic Mantle and 2 Potions.
Cho's most important first purchase is going to be either a Chalice of Harmony or a Catalyst the Protector, depending on how early you are sent back. If you're getting pummeled by a Darius/Pantheon/Insert Champion with primarily physical damage here, you can go for a Ninja Tabi, an Targon's Brace (into an Aegis of the Legion), or a Glacial Shroud.
Rod of Ages is something you should always try and build on Cho'gath. It gives him Health, Mana, and a reasonable amount of Ability Power. The other option for your Catalyst is a Banshee's Veil, which is going to be much better once the laning phase ends and you'll be up against more magic damage.
Cho'gath has long cooldowns. Frozen Heart is the obvious solution to his problem. Iceborn Gauntlet is a suitable alternative if you have someone else who's going to be wearing the Frozen Heart on your team. Athene's Unholy Grail is my 2nd pick for CDR, and it offers some magic resistance, and loads of Mana regeneration.
For Armor, the top picks are the Frozen Heart (again), and the Randuin's Omen. Thornmail is excusable if the enemy team is full AD, or they have a particularly scary Melee/Ranged carry. I don't recommend Sunfire Cape, at least, not over Randuin's or Frozen Heart/Iceborn Gauntlet
Magic Resist, you should probably go for an Abyssal Scepter or a Runic Bulwark. Bulwark provides the most Magic Resist out of any single item in the game, and gives some of that to your teammates. It's an essential buy, most likely as a 2nd or 3rd full item. Abyssal gives you a good mix of offense and defense, and gives your mages a slightly easier time killing the enemy (provided you stay on top of them).
Now let's say you're beefy (enough) and you want to raise your threat value. Abyssal Scepter, Athene's Unholy Grail, Rabadon's Deathcap, and Zhonya's Hourglass. Take your pick from those to get your AP. Banner of Command could be an interesting pick to give your team more pushing power.
Pssst! Here's a secret. Cho'gath (on account of Vorpal Spikes) gets a lot of value out of attack speed. Wit's End is the best choice on that front; Nashor's Tooth comes in a not-very close second. Only ever get an Attack Speed item of you're horribly fed and have nothing better to do with your gold.
Cho'gath does not have a bad skill. Rupture is an AoE Skillshot Knock-Up with a slow tacked on to it. Did you hear me? SKILLSHOT AoE WITH TWO FORMS OF CROWD CONTROL ON IT. His Feral Scream is an AoE Silence. Not that this beast had any dearth of interrupts to begin with, now he can ruin Katarina's day twice?
Vorpal Spikes is an underrated skill. Cho'gath has the highest base attack damage at lv 18 in the game, tying with Skarner at 130. His autos already hurt. Give him extra damage on hit? And make the extra splash? That's nasty.
Feast is the skill that'll keep the enemies away when they know you have it up. Lumber out of a bush and watch them scatter. Nothing more disheartening to see a Cho'gath flash onto you and literally eat you. The fact that Cho'gath is so hard to kill on top of the fact that he has big burst and decent sustained damage makes him very demoralizing to fight.
Skill Sequence is something I've seen done many different ways, especially on Cho'Gath.
I prioritize R>W>E>Q. If you're jungling you should go R>E>W>Q
Why Feral Scream and Vorpal Spikes before Rupture?
Rupture has a long cast time and a delay. If that's the skill you're relying on to frontload most of your damage, you'd better be able to guarantee 100% accuracy with it.
Which you can't, cause your enemy is capable of moving their *** out of the way. Feral Scream has no travel time at all, despite what the animation may trick you into thinking. It's much harder for the enemy to avoid if they're in range, and applies the disable immediately. That said, Rupture hits a little harder, and has a higher ratio.
But why would I level Vorpal Spikes over Rupture? With Vorpal Spikes on, your autos hit hard, and you push much harder. It has no mana cost attached to it, and as you level it, you become a deceptively powerful opponent to fight face to face. Rupture's main utility lies in its CC, not in its damage, and leveling it doesn't reduce its cooldown.
When jungling, maxing Vorpal Spikes first gives you free clear time. No mana cost attached. You'll just chew up camps, and it makes counterjungling child's play; not that Feast + Smite didn't already make buff stealing easy. Now he can safely and with no cost to his resource steal small camps? Absolutely disgusting.
The Laning Phase
Based on how you play Cho'gath, you'll either be able to win or draw even with most champions, or you'll get pummeled. He has sustain, but his sustain is melee range dependent. He can put out damage, but his mana costs are high, and you have to manage your resources very well in order to do it properly.
Cho'gath is clearly more comfortable dealing with champions who have to get into melee range to do things to him. Someone like Jayce is obviously your worst nightmare. He not only doesn't need to get close to hit you, if you get close, he's in his element as well.
In a matchup that is to your advantage, stand near your creeps so that the enemy has to get near you in order to get the CS they need. Ward often, as your lane opponent will probably have to rely on the jungler to win the lane. Use Rupture and Feral Scream sparingly, but to harass your opponent or push the lane. Only lasthit the creeps, and feel free to turn Vorpal Spikes off so you don't push as hard.
In a matchup that is disadvantageous, you need to be able to get farm. Call in help from your jungler, if he's there, but if you can't rely on that, let the enemy push the lane, and try and hold it just outside of the turret range. Between your Rupture and Feral Scream, you can deal with most hard engages, and you'll be able to sustain most of the enemy's damage. Build defensively, and know how your enemy works.
Your only goal is to hold your turret and try your best to outfarm the enemy. If you can push an early turret safely, that will leave you free to roam and gank. You are a scary ganker if you can land Rupture. If you are warded up and you're winning lane, a recommendation is to ward the enemy's jungle, and counterjungle them, perhaps with some assistance from your teams jungler. You are a presence, make yourself known.
I've told you so many good things about Cho'gath, but there have to be some bad things, right?
With all I've told you, the only other thing you'll need in order to play Cho'gath is just to get used to his spells. His biggest weakness is the fact that he has long cooldowns, and after he blows them to go into a fight or a teamfight, he's gotta wait around before he can do anything really significant again.
Practice. Get used to laning, get used to teamfighting, as your goals are different for both.
Keep the circumstances of the game in mind. Based on your team structure and how the game is going, you will need to alter the way you play. Defend a specific teammate, be the meat mountain, put all your fire on one dangerous teammate, interrupt this, choke-point that...and all of those instincts will just come from more play.
You can do it. Mute the guy harassing you in chat and play the best you can no matter how badly the game is going.
I believe in you.