Katarina Build Guide by Logarithm
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CAN'T STAB THIS
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.
If you've ever played a really good game as Katarina, you already know something about her: she loves to snowball. Now, I'm not saying she's the snowballing god (that position is currently controlled by Master Yi), but, as squishy as she is, Katarina can plow through nearly anything if left unchecked. Why?
Because Katarina is cunning. She preys on mistakes, and is incredibly deadly in the right hands.
This is a guide to playing full AP Katarina. Katarina has strong poke, doesn't have a mana pool, and is a both a great contributor to teamfights and a fantastic janitor and chaser. Her only real issues are being squishy and easily countered in Ranked/Draft, but she can still overcome almost any confrontation when used properly.
Greater Quintessence of Ability Power
Greater Mark of Magic Penetration
Greater Seal of Armor
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist
|A lot of people decide to choose Greater Seal of Scaling Health over Greater Seal of Armor. Now, this does make you tankier and reduces damage from all sources, but I still choose Armor over the scaling HP. This is mainly because a relatively noticeable amount of damage you'll be receiving will be pokes from enemy autoattacks, since you are melee. Not only that, but it helps when you are up against the unexpected AD Mid.|
|Our Glyphs are, of course, standard flat MRes. Not much we else we can use since Katarina does not possess a mana pool. Try not to use Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist if you can, since the flat MRes is more helpful as you are given a high chance of encountering another AP Mid.|
These masteries are standard for most AP casters. It is possible for you invest more in the Defense tree, just to make up forKatarina's squishiness, but I personally find that missing out on that little extra AP and MPen is more detrimental.
The Utility tree is pretty much useless to you, especially since you have no mana pool. I guess it could be possible to run something like 23/0/7 putting points into Summoner's Insight and Mastermind for your Flash, but I haven't tried it and it the extra early game tankiness is very helfpul.
Feel free to throw a point into Summoner's Resolve or Summoner's Insight based on your summoner spells. Take the point out of Executioner (it isn't that great anyways, for the same reason as Havoc ).
Abilities & Summoner Spells
We max Bouncing Blades first to gain a powerful poke/farm tool, with Sinister Steel second for its low CD and AOE damage, and our utiliy, Shunpo, last. Of course, we'll be grabbing our ultimate, Death Lotus, whenever we can.
Maxing Bouncing Blades first is a little bit of a controversial decision , but an optimal one for most situations. Depending on your matchups, it may or may not be a better decision to max Sinister Steel first. Generally, you'll be maxing Sinister Steel against champions that have difficulty trading with you. Otherwise, Bouncing Blades is the safest choice.
If you still have doubt, here's the reason why:
This is where Katarina's actual strength lies. It almost forces you to snowball after getting a kill, and can work wonders in teamfights. Yes, I'm kind of over-exaggerating here, but just don't underestimate the power of your passive. Voracity allow you to both contribute in a teamfight and clean up without any delay, and dishing out your Death Lotus twice is fun as hell.
Your basic ability for poking and picking up farm. This is especially helpful for both because 1. You are melee, 2. You have no mana, and 3. You are melee. It is a very strong poking tool, and if you can whittle your opponents health bar down enough, you'll most likely be able to secure a kill thanks to its mark. It is also made to work nicely with the rest of her kit, specifically Sinister Steel, since you can easily proc all marked enemies in an area.
Now, this ability is great. It has super low CD from the start, deals a lot of damage in an area, and gives you an MS boost after hitting an enemy champion with it? Yes please. This in conjuction with Shunpo gives you both near unparalleled chase potential and an awesome Hit n' Run harass combo, and is really powerful in teamfights alongside Bouncing Blades. The only reason this is maxed second is due to how important Bouncing Blades is in early game farm/poke.
Probably Katarina's signature ability. Blinks you behind your target, friend or foe (or inanimate object. More info in the Strategy chapter) and both deals damage and grants damage reduction. This lets you get up close and personal without too much issue, and is integral to setting up combos with the rest of your kit. Efficient use of Shunpo can be powerful to the point of gamebreaking; dodging abilities, creating escapes, chasing, etc.
This ability really gives Garen a run for his money! The scaling on this is insane, and so is the base damage. It can attack 3 champs at once, equally dividing 30 daggers amongst their faces. It negates all sources of healing. It synergizes almost perfectly with Voracity. Yeah, aptly named.
Only problem - it's channeled. Most forms of hard CC should shut this down, and your license as a squishy AP assassin still hasn't been revoked. Good timing and positioning with this is essential to pull it off successfully.
Flash, the god-tier summoner spell. I don't really need to go over how damn useful this thing is, just remember that this is fantastic on Katarina and you'll be grabbing this in almost any situation. You'll be uncatchable.
Ignite, the snowballers best friend. Since you wont have enough damage to make use of a summoner spell like Exhaust early on, Ignite gives you a big boost to your killing potential. You should be using this at all points in the game.
Teleport, the game changer. Helpful in all stages of the game, the presence and map control you get with Teleport is fantastic. Smart and coordinated usage of Teleport can literally alter the course of an entire game.
|Sometimes, you're going to have to go up against an AD midlaner. In that case, starting off with Cloth Armor and max Health Potions is great, and it puts you well on your way to a Seeker's Armguard.|
|A must-have on Katarina. This is a very strong early game item, making you tankier and noticeably stronger. You should be able to take and deal a bit more abuse with your laning opponent.|
|If you're going up against an AP enemy, take this route. Abyssal Scepter is a great item on Katarina in almost all instances, since you'll spend the majority of your time fighting up close. The MRes reduction aura and Magic Resist provided by it will be substantially helpful. Although Negatron Cloak isn't the greatest interim item to grab, by the time you actually get an Abyssal Scepter and your Sorcerer's Shoes, you'll most likely be dealing true damage.|
|If you're going up against an AD enemy, take this route. The Seeker's Armguard path isn't the most optimal choice since it delays your Abyssal Scepter, but it really helps against those pesky AD casters and assassins that like to go mid. On a side note, Zhonya's Hourglass is indisputably one of the best items to get on Katarina right next to Abyssal Scepter.|
Note: If you are going to buy more than one item from here, always buy your second item AFTER your survivability item. Trust me, your damage might be better but you'll die at the same speed you kill at.
Also, please do NOT get Liandry's Torment before Rylai's Crystal Scepter. If you really need it early, buy a Rylai's Crystal Scepter here. If you won't be getting Liandry's Torment at all, just sell your Haunting Guise at the last item choice.
|Hoooo, buddy. This one is worth talking about. Personally, I dislike snowball items, but on Katarina it seems like a perfect fit! Right? Well, not really. Even with those fancy pants items of yours, you can still be killed with relative ease if focused, meaning that Mejai's Soulstealer just isn't consistent enough for competitive play. However, you have very high mobility and a lot of escape routes, so that can justify purchasing this. If you're confident in your skill and have already snowballed a bit, go for it.|
|There's a lot of debate on whether or not you should get this item on Katarina. Your pokes and your ultimate get really strong and you become the bane of tanks, but you sacrifice some burst for it and you don't get it's full effect. I would still consider buying this, but only if you bought a Rylai's Crystal Scepter. This item is oriented more towards a poke-heavy teamfight playstyle rather than killing squishies.|
|Unless your enemies are complete idiots, someone, some point in the game, is going to build more MRes then you can penetrate. At this point, you're going to want to grab a Void Staff. Just be wary of combining Void Staff with Abyssal Scepter.|
|Get this if you're doing well. If you've sufficiently shut down the enemy enough, grabbing a Guardian Angel will just shut them down even more. This pairs with Voracity beautifully and makes you stronger, tankier, and much slippier than before.|
|Get this if you know how to use it, or want even more strength. The slow is good since you have zero CC, and it works really nicely with your ultimate and chasing ability, but this isn't the best survivability item overall. However, if you've decided to purchase Liandry's Torment, this is a great choice (and probably the only reason why you would get a Liandry's Torment.)|
|Get this if you don't know what to get. It is the most cost efficient source of health in the game, makes you super tanky, gives you regen...what's not to like?|
|Has a great effect alongside Death Lotus and Abyssal Scepter, and helps push lanes. This isn't best item but it's good against AD-heavy teams and makes you a strong pusher.|
Here are the exact numbers. Remember that Arcane Knowledge and Void Staff stack multiplicatively (to 40.2% penetration). Generally, if more than 3 enemies hit one of these boundaries, choose it. If nobody does (a perfectly balanced team), then just get both items.
Below 50 MRes, an Abyssal Scepter is the better choice, since the Void Staff equals the Abyssal Scepter in penetration at that point, and will be lower if going under that amount.
Inbetween 50 to 70 MRes, a Void Staff is the better choice, since the total penetration is higher than the Abyssal Scepter, but would be lower if combined with the Abyssal Scepter.
Past 70 MRes, it is fine to get both an Abyssal Scepter and a Void Staff, since the Void Staff and the Abyssal Scepter have equal penetration, but only after the Abyssal Scepter is applied first. If you do not have enough space for both, just get a Void Staff then.
Flat penetration is applied last (not MRes reduction), so that shouldn't affect these numbers at all. Also, remember that while a Void Staff grants penetration, the Abyssal Scepter grants MRes reduction in an AOE, meaning that at times it could be better to grab an Abyssal Scepter simply for how it helps out your entire team. However, these situations are very specific, since you require your teammates to deal magic damage for it to be effective.
Once you've entered your lane, you're going to want to focus on farming and poking. Katarina's Pre-6 strength is not strong enough to exchange efficiently without the right matchup. You have just enough burst to take on a sufficiently poked-down enemy, but that's about it.
Farming seems simple at a glance, but has its difficulties. You'll want to try to stay out range of your opponent, but the main issue is that you are melee. Thankfully, since you lack a mana pool and it has relatively low CD, you can use your Bouncing Blades to farm. At level 1, the amount of damage it deals is still paltry, so you have to be good at last-hitting to farm effectively until level 6. Also, you'll be pushing your lane slightly every time you throw it to farm/poke, so be wary of enemy ganks.
When you reach level 6, you become super stronk. Not invincible by any means, but strong regardless. CC is still an issue for you, so timing is important with your ultimate. Learning when and when not to jump on the enemy is key to your success, especially in the early game.
Your basic laning combo is Q-E-W, which I refer to as a "hard poke".
Your kill combo is Q-E-R-W. This ensures they stay in range of your ult for the maximum duration of it and
As you transition into the mid-game and start getting into teamfights, your value will rapidly increase. Don't get too involved at the start, your strength as a janitor is amazing thanks to Voracity. Your kit is very effective in teamfights, with many AOE and multi-target abilities. Again, timing and positioning is key, knowing when and when not to ult can be the difference between a death or a pentakill. The best possible situation is you having a teammate with a good CC initiate, such as Amumu.
If you happen to have Teleport with you, be sure to use it accordingly. Remember when I said that Teleport can easily change the outcome of an entire game? I wasn't wrong. Having a full kit and teleporting to bot can be a devastating hit, and whats better is that they wont see it coming.
Also, in this image, whats great about putting that pink ward there is:
- It will detect enemy wards, giving you AND the jungler a great blind spot.
- You don't have to teleport to a tower/minion, making you substantially less noticeable.
- You have an escape route with Shunpo if things get hairy.
Oh, by the way, if you didn't already know, Katarina can use her Shunpo on wards. Yeah, the potential in this is massive. Juking with wards can make you literally unkillable, if you can do it right, as shown in the video below.
Probably the biggest example of making plays with Shunpo is scarra's epic ward Shunpo reset.
This video showcases the power of combining Shunpo and Voracity with one another.
(Very nearly finished! It has all the real big counters you need to know, so you should be fine. I am a little busy on another guide and apologize for not fully completing this section.)
A recurring theme in many of these matchups is the important part of Katarina's playstyle:
One thing to note about Katarina is that most of even the hard matchups can be easily countered if the summoners behind them are incompetent. For the purposes of consistency, we'll be assuming that the opposite is true.
- Always keep an eye on her passive, Pyromania. If it reaches 4 stacks, do not try to combo.
- Outsustaining and outfarming her is key. Farm under tower if you must.
- Make sure you have a good escape for her combo. Buy a ward if you can.
- Ask for a lane swap, you just got counterpicked.
- Farm under tower, poking is useless.
- Coordinate with jungler to shut him down while he's still weak.
- He only has one ability that outranges your poke, Dark Wind. Abuse this.
- If you can poke him hard enough, he will be forced to use his Drain on a minion. Abuse this.
- If he doesn't have his Terrify or Dark Wind, this is your lucky break. The cooldowns are long and your ult negates his heal, so he should die fast if you combo him correctly.
- Start: Boots + 3 Pots, unless you're sure you can dodge her Crescent Strike
- Play defensively in the early game and try to out-farm her, remember that she's melee too.
- Your harass is technically superior since it's targeted. Dodge her Q's and waste her mana.
- Save your Shunpo for her pull and ultimate.
- Make sure to time your Death Lotus with her shield.
- Start: Boots + 3 Pots, unless you're sure you can dodge his Call of the Void
- Grab Quicksilver Sash for his ultimate.
- Outfarm him as much as you can, try your best to get to 6.
- If he uses Call of the Void, give him a hard poke. If he then uses Nether Grasp, Quicksilver Sash out of it and combo. Proceed to spam laugh.
- Start: Boots + 3 Pots, unless you're sure you can dodge his Death Ray.
- Try and save your Shunpo for his Gravity Field. You do NOT want to be caught in that.
- Your pokes outrange his. Since being caught in range of him is deadly, you know what to do.
- Do not ult until you can confirm that he burned his Gravity Field. If he burned his Power Transfer as well, then you are most likely guaranteed a kill.
- Your pokes JUST outrange his. You can also target the enemy minions to poke him.
- If he attempts to poke with his Null Sphere, just jump on him with Shunpo, wait for the silence to wear off, and then hard poke him.
- Try and shut him down early on. Once he hits level 6, killing him will be considerably harder.
- If he wastes his Riftwalk before you use your ult, you were given a gift by the gods. Make sure that he has recently burned his Null Sphere, and then you're good to go.
- Play passive, poke her down. Her Sigil of Silence outranges you, so be wary.
- She's highly mobile, try and stick near to your tower if you can, it'll save you a lot of grief.
- If the stars align and there's a full moon out (meaning if Mirror Image, Sigil of Silence, Distortion and possibly Mimic are all burned), you can beat her.
Changelog & Other
(21/03/2013): Hey, look, a new Katarina guide!
(22/03/2013): Expanded Laning Opponents chapter, small grammar/formatting errors fixed.
(24/03/2013): Broke down when to choose/combine Void Staff and Abyssal Scepter.
(10/04/2013): Mixed up Pyromania with Pyroclasm. I sincerely apologize. Also, added image to the strategy section for visual aid.
(11/04/2013): Spoilertagged math per request. Small formatting changes.
(18/04/2013): Moved Q/W "essay" and removed any words with "swag" in them (only two) due to an EXTREMELY intelligent commenter that has NO issues at all and knows EVERYTHING about Katarina.
(20/04/2013) Rasta kush ganja.
(22/06/2013) Replaced old indent images with rules.
(24/06/2013) Updated tags and a few bits of information.
(27/06/2013) Removed Reminder chapter and restructured item build.
(24/07/2013) Removed Havoc as it is a bad mastery.
(29/07/2013) Did some math, realized Spellsword is even worse than Havoc , fixed. Edited Laning Opponents section.
(05/08/2013) Laning Opponents slight update. Added Sunfire Cape to Survivability and the new Banshee's Veil to misc. Edited staring items. Added an Example Builds section.
(12/08/2013) Made Rabadon's Deathcap situational after some careful analysis, restructured item tree again.
I've made some formulas for calculating the percentage of damage amplified by the Abyssal Scepter/ Void Staff when applied to a certain amount of magic resist.
Don't know why I still have these here, but why not.
Thanks to Absolute.0 for pointing out how to go up against Kassadin.
Thanks to Kinen for info on Orianna.
Big thanks to Bannanaman and ShortyHUN for helping me with the math of the Abyssal Scepter and Void Staff
I really do recommend jhoijhoi's manual, Making a Guide, for new Mobafire users.
I also recommend Laggermeister's Ten Commandments of Writing a Guide, as it is equally as useful. Hell, even moreso.
Special thanks to Stanley Kirk Burrell for wearing parachute pants.
Anyways, thanks for reading my guide. Again, rate and comment, give me your hugs and slaps. I'm always open to criticism, so give me a holler!