Skarner Build Guide by Turbopasta
Mastery Tree Is Outdated
WARNING: These masteries are still using the old tree and have not been updated to the new tree by the guide author. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
Hello, and welcome to my guide on Skarner, the Crystal Vanguard. I've been a really big fan of Skarner since his initial release a couple months back. The thing that made me fall in love with him was his ultimate, Impale. I saw so much potential in an ability like that. It was like a short-range Blitzcrank grab that would never miss. Unfortunetly, when he was first released, he was much weaker than he is now. I lost a lot of games with him because of that, and the fact that I didn't really know what to build on him. Recently though, Riot put out a patch that made him amazing, and boosted nearly everything about him. Since that patch he's been toned down a little, but he's still an extremely powerful champ.
I've been playing lots of Skarner games in ranked lately, and winning nearly all of them, thanks to how game-changing his slow and ultimate can be. I estimate that I've gained around 400 ELO off Skarner alone. Granted, I'm only 1350 elo at the time of writing this, I still think that this build will work great in higher elos as well, provided Skarner isn't banned.
To give you an idea of what I mean, here's a quick little screenshot I took of my recent match history in ranked. Not my greatest or worst games by any means, just a show of what I can usually do with him.
Pros / Cons
Thanks to JhoiJhoi for the chart.
+ God-tier ganks, especially once he hits level 6
+ Fantastic movement steroid ( Crystalline Exoskeleton)
+ The combined slow from Crystal Slash and red buff is amazing
+ Impale is an incredible ultimate.
+ No real "hard counter" champs besides Gangplank, Olaf, and Morgana
+ Crystals are badass
+ Sometimes pretends to be a Pokemon if you sit in a bush for a while
- Mana issues
- Doesn't clear the jungle as fast as, say, Udyr or Shyvana
- Fracture is almost totally worthless
- Usually needs help from an ally to kill something with Impale
My runes for Skarner are a little unconventional.
I love using Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed on him, as it really makes it easier to close the distance to an enemy. It also makes me feel safe when I go out to counterjungle with him.
Greater Mark of Attack Speed. I only use these runes on Skarner and Shyvana, but for good reason. Skarner is more valuable for his abilities than his auto-attacks, and the extra 15% attack speed synergies really well with his passive, Energize.
For seals I get Greater Seal of Armor. They make it much safer to jungle at lower levels, as well as boosting your survivablity in general. Most junglers use these seals, as they are just really good.
Lastly, for Glyphs I get Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist to help with his scaling into lategame. If you feel mana is an issue, however, you can swap these with Greater Glyph of Scaling Mana Regeneration
Tough Skin and Bladed Armor are both mandatory for jungle Skarner.
I actually like Siege Commander , as I feel most people in solo queue forgo this in exchange for more damage or defense.
Initiator is great on Skarner. More movefast, more better.
If mana is still an issue for you, you can move 3 points from Swiftness into Meditation , but I personally like the movefast.
Runic Affinity is very mandatory for all junglers.
For the love of god, PLEASE take Smite if you are jungling as anything. Not only does it accelerate your jungle clear time like crazy, it also might be necessary to use it on the Dragon or Baron, to ensure that the other team doesn't get it.
Great spell for both escapes and initiations. I tend to use Flash aggressively on Skarner. It's a really great spell to have, but you have to be quick to make the most out of it. Sometimes I like going to bot lane, hanging out in a bush for a moment, and then suddenly Flashing into an overextended enemy into an Impale for an easy kill. If you are fast enough, you can actually Impale things like Sivir or Morgana before they can react with a spell-shield.
I haven't actually tried this on Skarner, but I don't recommend it. You probably won't get much use out of it with this build, since Skarner's speed is going to go so high it will hit the soft-cap.
Let me make something clear right off the bat:
See those items way at the top of the page? You know, the ones next to the big picture of Skarner that ends with Frozen Heart? When looking at this item build, please keep this in mind:
EVERYTHING PAST TRIFORCE IS SITUATIONAL
YOUR CORE ITEMS ARE SHURELYA'S REVERIE, MERCURY'S TREADS, AND TRINITY FORCE
Honestly, sometimes I don't even get to finish Trinity Force before the game ends. You will almost never get the default build totally finished. But that's ok. Skarner is extremely formidable, even with just these three items, so long as you get them within a reasonable amount of time.
I start off the jungle with a Regrowth Pendant and a single Health Potion. The idea here is that you want to get Boots of Speed and Philosopher's Stone finished as fast as possible. Keep in mind that you can buy both of these things once you get 735 gold. If I've just cleared the jungle of creeps, and there aren't any obvious lanes to gank, I'll usually go back to base once I make that amount of gold.
So by now you should have a Boots of Speed and Philosopher's Stone finished. Boots are great for obvious reasons, and the Philosopher's stone is not only great for the mana regen it provides, but for the free gold over time it gives as well.
I almost always build Mercury's Treads on Skarner, since they're just such a good item in general. Sometimes, however, if I'm facing a team with little to no casters or crowd control, I'll get Ionian Boots of Lucidity instead, but keep in mind I get Merc Treads nearly 95% of the time.
After your boots are finished, it's time for Shurelya's Reverie! Some people may disagree with my choice to rush this, but I wholeheartedly feel that Skarner needs this item to be really effective. Upgrading your Philosopher's Stone into Shurelya's Reverie boosts your mana regen, which is nice, but we're mainly building this item for the awesome active ability it provides. When you combine the speed boost from Shurelya's Reverie and Crystalline Exoskeleton, it really throws a LOT of people off-guard. Not only that, but getting this item allows you to help teams initiate fights faster, as well as saving allies who are running for their lives.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you proc Shurelya's Reverie right before you Impale someone, Skarner actually moves faster during the ultimate, thus dragging the target even further away from their original location. This works with Ghost as well.
After making Skarner a king with his new crown, you are going to want to start working on your Trinity Force for tons of damage, starting with Sheen. Sheen is great on Skarner, since the proc on it refreshes almost perfectly with Skarner's Crystal Slash
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are safely attacking a tower as Skarner, and have some mana to spare, spam Crystal Slash to get Sheen to proc over and over again for additional damage, even if there are no enemy minions nearby.
After that I like to build Phage next, as the slow on auto-attacks make it really difficult for targets to escape. The extra health is nice too.
Zeal gives you more gofast, which is never a bad thing, as well as boosting your attack speed, which helps Skarner utilize Energize.
Once the 3 items are finished, purchase Trinity Force for damage of massive proportions.
While Bilgewater Cutlass and Hextech Gunblade should technically be on the "situational" part of the item build, I usually find myself defaulting to this item if things are going pretty well. Bilgewater Cutlass synergises really well with Skarner's Impale, since you have to be really close to the opponent to activate Bilgewater, and it just ensures that whatever target you've decided to attack is just going to be devastated once you're done with 'em. If I don't see any real threats that stick out to me on the enemy team, I'll usually just go ahead and turn it into a Hextech Gunblade when I get the chance.
The following items should typically be purchased after you've finished your core, but there may come times where you have to rush other things instead. It's hard to really say what to get and not get in a guide like this when situations get complicated, so I'm just going to trust you'll develop a "feel" for it. That being said, I'd like to list some items which I feel benefit Skarner well given the situation. So, let's get to some situations...
One or more AD carries on the enemy team is fed.
Frozen Heart should be your go-to item when this happens. The armor really helps Skarner's survivablilty, the mana is a nice plus, and the passive is great at slowing down auto-attacking champs like Vayne or Caitlyn.
Thornmail is a pretty good item, but you need a lot of hit-points to make the most of it. If you opt for Thornmail, I recommend getting a Warmog's Armor first.
Randuin's Omen is also a great item, although if you aren't used to it, there's a good chance you'll completely forget to use it's active ability once a fight breaks out.
Sunfire Cape is sort of a "meh" item, since the damage it does doesn't really scale well into lategame. It's still a good choice for speeding up your jungle, and countering close-ranged carries like Poppy or Olaf.
Finally, you COULD get Zhonya's Hourglass, but I don't really recommend this, as it's active helps squishies a lot more than it does for tanky champs like Skarner. Still though, the armor and AP boost is nice...
One or more AP carries on the enemy team is fed
To be fair, Banshee's Veil and Force of Nature are both very good items. I'm personally partial to the first one for Skarner though, since, by the time you hit late-game, Fracture should be at a decently high level, and combined with the healing you're getting from Shurelya's Reverie, having enough hit points shouldn't be a problem. That being said, if you seriously need magic resist, feel free to make both.
Abyssal Scepter is nice too, especially if you several people on your team that use offensive spells.
Wit's End is also a great item for sustaining yourself in long fights, although I don't recommend it if you are fighting bursty AP champs that come out of no where, such as LeBlanc.
The enemy team is CC (Crowd-control) heavy
Quicksilver Sash is one of the most underrated items in the entire game. Not only is it affordable early on, but it also gives you some magic resist, plus one of the best active abilities in the game. Hit it, and you can escape from just about whatever CC the enemy team can toss at you. It lets you escape from much more things than Cleanse does. Sometimes I'll get this in advance, if I see that the enemy team has, say, Swain, Nasus, and Sona. Or I might not. It really depends on how much CC the enemy team is willing to throw at you instead of your allies, so watch for that. If you notice that your allies are getting caught up in crowd-control, especially stuns like Rune Prison, recommend your team to build Quicksilver Sash.
If you're still finding that you are getting caught in CC after building your Quicksilver Sash, consider building a Banshee's Veil for the spell protection it gives you.
Your allies are extremely fed, and you are far behind.
Sometimes, games don't go your way. Maybe your allies were pushing the whole match, and you couldn't get any ganks in. Maybe you got counterjungled, and never managed to catch up to everyone's levels. Maybe the enemy bot lane was terrible, and all of a sudden your ad carry has a +20 kill-death ratio. Regardless of these reasons, when something like this happens, you should focus on boosting whatever strengths your team has going for them, since, if they die, the enemy will get 500 gold if your ally was doing well, plus your ally will be gone for a while, which means you might lose a tower, an inhibitor, a baron, a dragon, or even the Nexus.
Zeke's Herald is for your fed AD carries. Many ad carries get so wrapped up in damage that they forget to build lifesteal. Zeke's Herald should ensure that your AD carries don't have to go back to the base until they're comfortable with doing so.
Will of the Ancients is basically the same thing for AP carries.
Soul Shroud is good if several different things on your team are fed, like a Riven and a Ryze.
Randuin's Omen is good for both the defensive boosts it gives you, but also for it's great active ability, which you can use at the start of a big team-fight, or to slow down other enemies so your team can catch them.
Locket of the Iron Solari is good if you have squishies on your team that need to take risks to get kills, like Talon, and there's no real reason to not proc this if a teamfight is starting.
I feel Frozen Heart is worth mentioning again, since less auto-attacks equal less damage your team has to take.
Aegis of the Legion provides a nice boost for everything, for your team, but it's benefits aren't as great late-game.
Lastly, Abyssal Scepter is good for not only boosting your own power, but helping you AP carries kill things that are stacking magic resist against them.
Before you consider these items, make sure that your support isn't considering building one of these, or in the process of building one of these. It's pretty embarrassing to have the enemy team point out to you that you and the support built an Aegis of the Legion.
You, or your allies, are getting randomly ganked in the jungle with remarkable coordination from the enemy. You assume that there are wards everywhere.
Support doesn't necessarily have to be the one who counter-wards. Skarner makes for a great counter-warder with Oracle's Elixir, since he not only has the bulk to survive ganks when going out to extinguish wards, but he also has the speed to escape and traverse the map fast.
Make sure to place Sight Wards in key locations, such as at the enemy red and blue buffs, in that bush next to the enemy's wraith camp, and places you think the enemy may be trying to sneak through.
As a rule, only ward dragon and baron with Vision Wards if you don't already have an Oracle's Elixir to check, as these locations are almost always covered in enemy wards, which is bad for obvious reasons.
Your team has little to no damage output
I've found that Skarner typically works best if he gets tanky items with a bit of damage, but there may come a time where you get grouped up with a 4-man premade that decides to roll Amumu, Rammus, Nautilus, and Shen, and all of them go tank-items. Or, maybe a situation less ridiculous than that might happen, you never know.
Hextech Gunblade and Guinsoo's Rageblade should probably be your first 2 go-to items when this happens, since they're the only items in the game that offer hybrid damage, except for Trinity Force, which you should already have. Skarner plays well as a hybrid champ, since his Crystal Slash scales off his physical damage, and everything else scales off his magic.
Rabadon's Deathcap is more or less a joke item on Skarner, however it WILL make your Crystalline Exoskeleton, Fracture, and Impale stronger.
Wit's End deals good magic damage, while keeping you tanky against magical stuff in long fights.
I've never actually tried building Infinity Edge on Skarner, but I imagine it could be alright if you really need his Crystal Slash to do more damage. If the enemy is stacking armor, Last Whisper should probably be a follow-up item.
My thoughts on Wriggle's Lantern for Skarner
Way back when, building Wriggle's on Skarner was considered practical, but nowadays, Skarners have to worry about their mana a little more than they used to, not to mention that Wriggle's was recently nerfed. If the enemy team is AD heavy and you feel like you really need some sight, by all means go ahead, I just personally don't think it's optimal in most situations. Just make sure to remember to buy wards and such.
I use the following path:
Once that's finished, I usually go ganking, or back to base. When Blue buff respawns around 7:10 or so, offer it to your ap caster in mid. Skarner really shines when he can take blue buff freely, as in cases where you have a Kennen or Vladimir mid and they don't need the mana. That being said, he's still good even without constant blue buff. Whenever you can, however, try to steal the enemy's blue buff, as it really helps you and cripples them.
It shouldn't come as any suprise that Skarner's kit is great. Since Crystal Slash scales off physical damage, Skarner makes for a good hybrid champion, since the rest of his abilities scale off magic.
Energize is a pretty good passive for someone who has an ultimate as valuable as Skarner's. Basically, the more you auto-attack things, the faster your abilities cool down. You don't have to really keep this in mind as you play, but it is good to know how to get your ultimate quickly if you need it fast for some reason.
Crystal Slash is an interesting ability. Good players understand how it works, but it just absolutely wrecks bad players, since so many of them seem to forget or underestimate how much it can slow them. It refreshes very fast, even without making use of Energize, and it costs very little mana, so make sure to spam it when you can in teamfights and jungling.
Sometimes it's actually worth flashing onto an enemy just to use Crystal Slash on them, even if you don't have Impale ready. With some luck, you should get a feel of when to do this and when not to in due time.
Crystalline Exoskeleton is amazing. The movement speed boost it gives is incredible, not to mention that it really cranks up Skarner's attack speed, which in turn gets his abilities to refresh faster thanks to Energize. Use this ability when traveling a long distance, such as from the fountain to the jungle. Make sure to have this ability ready when you go in for ganks or Impales, as it's just a really great ability for closing a ton of distance fast.
It's also worth noting that it gives you a bit of a shield too, which will be most noticeable as you jungle.
Keep in mind that if you are running on very low mana, and you're trying to kill something like Red Buff or Blue Buff, it's usually better to spam Crystal Slash without using Crystalline Exoskeleton at all.
Fracture is a complete joke. It's sort of like what Shen's Feint was like before his big buff with the Nautilus Patch, or what Starcall is like to support Sorakas. That being said, it does have SOME application. Its useful for leashing things like Dragon, Blue Buff, and Red Buff from a distance. It's good for hitting a very low creep or enemy champion from a distance for a kill. You will rarely kill with Fracture, but when you do, it's pretty hilarious.
If you have blue buff going, there isn't much of a reason to NOT spam this along with Crystal Slash and Crystalline Exoskeleton. And hey, at least at higher levels, you can sort of use it to help your sustain.
Impale is pretty amazing. I think it's the ultimate reason anyone plays Skarner. It just feels so good to use on a helpless enemy champ, not to mention it can DRAMATICALLY change the outcome of a fight. Impale has tons of applications as well. Allow me to list some of its uses:
- You can use Impale to drag enemy champions to your teammates for a fast kill.
- You can use it on fleeing champs just before they Flash over a ledge or wall.
- You can help to ensure kills on slippery enemies like Shaco or LeBlanc
- Hitting an enemy with Impale is basically like saying "HEY EVERYBODY! HIT THIS CHAMP!" It makes it very obvious for your team to know what to focus down in a fight. That being said, you HAVE to have enough brains to not Impale, say, anything really tanky. Your teammates will attack whatever you drag to them, regardless of how stupid your choice may have been.
- You can save allies who are about to die from enemy champs by Impaleing said enemy and dragging them AWAY from your ally. Pinging the map with the "be careful" ping at the same time helps to drive this point home.
- You can stop champs from using channeling spells, such as Malzahar's Nether Grasp, Warwick's Infinite Duress, or Nunu's Absolute Zero.
- If a target is about to get away from you, and Crystal Slash isn't enough, sometimes just the damage that Impale does is enough to kill the enemy.
- You can drag enemy champions into allies spells, like Kennen's Slicing Maelstrom, or Zigg's Mega Inferno Bomb
As of the time of writing this guide, Skarner's Impale actually has an amazing property to it that people might not notice. If you Impale a target, and during the animation, the target escapes using Flash, Impale's animation actually goes over to where they escaped to and grabs them from a distance. It actually helps a ton in ensuring kills, not to mention it makes you feel totally badass.
In case you missed my note on it earlier, if you proc Shurelya's Reverie right before you Impale somebody, you actually move faster during the ultimate, resulting in more distance traveled with the enemy champ. This also works for Ghost.
Important to know: When dragging an enemy with Impale, the slow from Skarner's Crystal Slash does not apply, so wait until your ultimate has JUST worn off to use this.
Also, when dragging an enemy champion with you, make sure you turn around at the last second to swing them over to your team. This results in putting you in between your victim's team, and and your victim, which makes it harder for them to get back, in most cases..
And one last thing: Before you start planning who you want to use Impale on, look at the enemy team. Champions that do NOT have Flash should be noted, as it's typically easier to catch these people. Also watch out for people who build Quicksilver Sash, as it will completely block your ultimate.
Alright, I think that should just about do it! Hopefully you can understand now why I think Skarner is a great champ, and should be seriously considered for raising elo in ranked games.
If you disagree with something in this build, like something, or want to suggest something, please comment. I appreciate feedback. :D
So, yeah. The end, I guess.
"SKAR, SKAR, SKARNERRRRR!"
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