Katarina Build Guide by UltimateHavok
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
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.
Please actually read the guide before voting, there is a reason why the build order stops short. I don't want more downvotes from people that don't know what they're talking about. But if you read the guide and still don't like it, feel free to vote however you choose.
So, I'm Hävók. I play on NA and am currently hovering around 1500-1600 elo and working my way up. I don't claim to be the best player, but out of all the champions I play the one I am most known for is my Katarina. I've had multiple people asking me recently to teach them or help them improve on their Katarina, so I decided to make this.
Here is a video of me playing Katarina against a 2k elo Zyra during a mobafire inhouse. I made a lot of mistakes this game, but here is some examples of my playstyle and how to play Katarina. Skip to about 47:30 for the game to start. Shoutcaster is EvilDice.
Here's some of my most recent (at time of posting) Katarina games. Not all the best, but just to give you a preview of how I do with Katarina on a daily basis.
I just wanted to make this quick guide to simply give my take on the sexiest assassin in the game, and to give people a quick summary of everything they need to know to play her.
Keep it noted, this is not an in-depth guide. I'm lazy, and this will probably be very brief until I feel like adding more and making it more detailed. If anyone has any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to answer. If you don't agree with something I do, let me know why and explain to me why you disagree.
Everyone's playstyle is different, and this is the way I play The Sinister Blade.
Also, I'm not going to add in the lore and all the junk that makes these long, boring and hard to read. I'm just going to give you as much relevant information as I can without making it too drawn out. This guide is for people who already understand Katarina, but want to improve on their gameplay with her.
Runes and Masteries
There are different rune setups that I can see being viable on Katarina. Your rune setup may differ depending on your playstyle and what you feel compliments yourself best, but I will show the rune page I'm currently using and some other options.
Greater Quintessence of Swiftness x3 - Movement speed helps you get in and out quickly. Helps you to chase fleeing opponents, and with her reworked 'w' she has some nice mobility to help escape ganks or catch fleeing opponents.
Greater Mark of Insight x 9 - Everyone has base MR. These help you do more damage. Once you get sorc boots, these and the 2 mpen glyphs, you do close to true damage to an enemy who isn't building MR or have MR runes. (I believe this is correct, some one can check the math if they want for me.)
Greater Seal of Vitality x 9 - I just started using these runes on Katarina, still experimenting but they seem to work nicely. Katarina has to get pretty close to do massive damage, and these give you a bit more survivability along with the 9 points in defense.
Greater Glyph of Potency x7 - Gives you a little extra early damage. This is what I'm using now, but I suppose you could switch them for flat MR if you feel like you have problems trading. Personally, I play aggressive and prefer more damage. But like I said, these can be switched with something else and I may end up changing my rune page eventually if I find something better.
Greater Glyph of Insight x2 - These take your MPen from 8.5 to 10, and you'd be surprised in the difference this can make and help you deal true damage early on.
I prefer 21/9 for the extra damage and little bit of survivability. The extra MR plus health helps you trade early, and the damage makes your kit stronger. Katarina is a burst assassin, and as such her job is to deal heavy damage to the enemy team. My mastery setup is pretty cookie cutter for AP mids, but there is one thing I will touch on that I have heard questions about.
Why Brute Force over Mental Force?
Well, here is why. The four extra AP is negligible for damage since her ratios aren't amazing, but neither is the 3 ad. Here is the thing-- the 3 ad isn't for dishing out damage to enemy champions. It is to help your last hitting and farming. Since you want to avoid farming with your skills as much as possible, especially early on, this helps you to last hit easier. You want to use your Q to harass as much as possible early on, since no mana and short cooldowns you can trade easier and for longer than a lot of champions. I'll brush up on more of this later in the guide.
There are different mastery setups you can use, and I've experimented and known people who use 9/21 masteries, but I find those less viable. Katarina is about doing heavy damage, and once you learn how to play her correctly and when to go into fights, you do not need a ton of survivability. I could only see 9/21 being viable solo top against certain matchups, but honestly I don't like Katarina solo top against most solo top champions.
Abilities and Sequence
Sequence and Reasoning
As your main harass and multi-target poke damage, you want to max Bouncing Blades first. It should primarily be used only to harass early on, but can be used to pick up cs if you are zoned or having trouble farming.
I take a point in Shunpo at level 2 because Katarina is so weak at the first few levels, and this gives her an escape from level 2 ganks or bad trades. It also helps if your jungler ganks at level 2 to close the gap between you and your enemy and proc your Q mark for extra damage.
I go Q > E > Q because like I said, Katarina is incredibly weak at the first few levels. You don't want to be close enough to use her new 'W' at this point in the game, so you put a second point in Bouncing Blades to give her only harass a bit extra damage. Really, at this point in the game you want to focus on farming and throwing your Q to whittle down your opponents health until you're ready to commit.
Once Katarina hits level 5-6, her damage starts to get much better. This is the point where you can start being a bit more aggressive and trading better. This does depend on what champion you are facing however, so be sure to know your opponents and what they are capable of.
Abilities and Usage
Bouncing Blades is her only harass early on, and should be used for such. Most of the time, you will never want to harass with Shunpo. Katarina, if caught out of position, is very vulnerable. Save Shunpo for those daring escapes and chases.
HOWEVER, if your enemy mid-laner has their skills on cooldown and you know where the enemy jungler and lanes are, once they blow their kit you can Q > E > W (procs second Q) and then run away immediately with a speed buff.
Basically, what you want to do is harass enough until you get them low enough to go for the kill. It will take some gameplay experience and a lot of knowledge of champs to know when to commit. You must be aware of EVERYTHING. What are their skill cooldowns? Are they on cooldown? How much damage can they currently dish out? How much can you? What items do they/you have? Is their/your jungler nearby?
You must be aware at all times to play Katarina, because one wrong move and you're screwed. But one right move.. can mean pentakill.
I max 'W' second because of the higher base damage for early, AoE damage, and speed buff for extra mobility. Unlike the old Katarina, Shunpo's primary usage early on is for mobility. It was earlier as well, but even more so now that she has a new damage ability.
I will expand more on her abilities, combos and usage in the gameplay section.
There is a very important reason why I stop my build list at Rabadons at the top of this guide. It is because, every item path you choose to take is completely situational. Before you choose what route to go and what order, you must assess what the enemy team is building and what you need. Learning how to counter-build properly leaves a huge gap between you and people who don't understand the process.
I start boots and 3 pots to give you extra mobility, synergizing with your runes and making it easier to harass and escape, and the potions for lane sustain.
Next, you want to build into hextech revolver for the damage and extra sustain. Usually by my first back I am able to get at least Hextech revolver, Elixir of Brilliance and a ward. Maybe a potion or two.
If a little short, I would recommend getting the two amplifying tomes and elixir of brilliance. A ward and health potions if you are being camped or have poor map awareness can replace the elixir.
NOTE: I get elixirs of Brilliance all game long, almost every time mine goes down. I will sometimes prolong my main build just to buy them. The impact these make on Kat's early game is amazing, and I really don't think people understand how strong these are. Buying one early can completely turn the tides in lane and push your damage much higher. However, if you are having a lot of trouble surviving and falling behind, I would hold off on these and build to counter your problems. Negatron cloak can be built to help live in mid and build into Abyssal Scepter, Quick Silver Sash, ect. Chain Vest bought and later built into Zhonya's. Whenever you can spare it though, buy Blue Elixirs. All. Game. Long. Don't wait until you're full build at the very end to start buying them.
EDIT: I say by them all game long, but if you are falling behind you should hold off on them. I'm used to dominating and being ahead, which is when I buy tons of these. If you can not spare the gold, save your gold to make sure you don't fall behind in your build. However, if you know your team is about to fight, force baron/dragon, ect that would be a good time to buy one regardless of how you are doing.
Once you have your Hextech Revolver, you want to begin working towards Rabadons for the high AP and bonus it gives. It used to be better to build Hextech Gunblade before Rabadons, but with changes over time to both Katarina and the Gunblade, I find building Rabadons first more beneficial.
By mid game, you should have Rabadon's finished or be working on finishing it. This is the point in the game where you have to really think. What item route should you take?
If you are you steam rolling and the enemy team has little to no MR, building Hextech Gunblade is a good choice.
Is the enemy team beginning to become worried about you and stacking MR? No problem, build Void Staff next so your damage remains epic and you can do what you do, burst down squishies and dish out crazy damage.
Are you having trouble in lane, or worried about a scary enemy AP? Maybe their was also an AP top as well as mid and you want some extra protection, building Abyssal Scepter is a good route to take, which also includes a flat 20 MPen aura. It synergizes well against a heavy AP team with low MR at the time of building. Later in game, void staff should still be built.
Is there a fed AD carry bot that is starting to look scary? Buy a chain vest and upgrade it eventually into Zhonya's Hourglass. This item provides some nice armor, and a great passive that can be used in a pinch to give you the couple seconds you need for your skills to come off cooldown or to avoid some nasty cc.
QSS can be a good pick against heavy cc teams and strong magic damage. Although I do not buy this item often, it can make the difference between winning and losing after a good Amumu ult catches your entire team.
Some people like to build Deathfire Grasp on Katarina. Although it can be viable, personally I see better items being built here instead, especially for the gold cost. The passive is nice, but Katarina really doesn't need it. Same with the CDR. Also, if you try to buy Kage's Lucky Pick early on, it gimps your early game damage quite a bit and with Katarina's excellent farming and damage output to help her snowball, I don't think she needs it. It does more harm than good, in my opinion. You want her to snowball and have high damage early instead of gimping it for a gp/10 she doesn't need. It is an option however.
Another high damage item that could be used is Lich Bane. Although I basically never build this item, everything synergizes decently with Katarina. Yes, you don't need the mana, but the MS, MR, AP and passive are nice. Not one of my choices, but something I may experiment more with in the future.
If you feel just way too squishy, Rylai's Crystal Scepter can be a good choice. I used to build this a lot, but after hearing what some other more experienced Katarina players had to say about it I've backed off a bit from it. Still, a viable choice if you feel fit with extra HP, AP, and a nice slow proc that can help catch fleeing foes.
Once you reach late game, your item build will be completely situational depending on the challenges you encountered during the course of the game. There is no cookie cutter build you should follow. To become a true Katarina player, you must understand all mechanics of the game. Every item you build should be thought of and considered as the game progresses. Even small item purchases are important. This applies to every champ, not only Katarina. But to be a good Katarina player-- a good player in general, you must master this concept.
Laning, Teamfights and General Gameplay
During the laning phase, you want to focus on farming. Know your opponent's skill range, damage output and cooldowns to help you decide when to do what. Harass with your Q as much as possible, and be wary of enemy ganks. Positioning is vital to Katarina, and without learning how to position yourself properly you will not be able to play Katarina well.
There is a common misconception among people who think Katarina is weak or falls off. It is true she is a snowball champ, but you do not necessarily need kills to snowball. Since the rework, Katarina is an amazing farmer, even better than before. She can clear waves with Q > W with ease during mid-game. If the enemy mid tries to push you to your turret, push back.
Most of the time, you will want to freeze your lane in the middle, or just in front of your turret. Avoid pushing to their turret while you are staying in mid. If your opponent leaves mid, push the wave to their turret and either back to buy or if enough health preferably head to gank top or bot. Find out where the enemy wards are and avoid them. Sneak in through lane, tribush, or anywhere you can. Communicate with team to execute a proper gank and secure the kill(s). You can also attempt to rush a pushed lane, running straight past wards without stopping and hoping that the enemy team doesn't react fast enough to escape.
Every chance you get, you want to gank lanes, counter jungle (clearing enemy wraiths is easy and fast early-mid game), help secure points, and assist team. Always watch the map for opportunities to assist your team and be aware of enemy actions.
Knowing when and when not to go into a team fight separates the good Kat's from the bad. Some people think that Katarina is not viable at all against a team with CC. This is completely untrue. While Katarina is susceptible to CC, that is the same for any carry, and a good Katarina can watch a fight and enemies to know when to enter and when to get out.
Wait for the enemies to blow their CC. You should NEVER be the one to initiate a team fight. You must know every enemy champion and what they can do, and how they can stop you. Kat excels at picking up multi-kills on low health enemies grouped together. Let your team initiate, wait for the opportune moment, and jump in for maximum damage. Remember that Kat is stronger when enemies are weaker, so wait until you find a champion you can pick off, dealing heavy AoE damage and having your kit reset.
Some people simply jump into team fights and begin to ult. Do not do this. It will take some practice and experience to fully understand when to use your ult. Sometimes, you won't even want to fully channel it.
Start with your Q on your first target, preferably hitting multiple enemy champions. You need to learn the range of Bouncing Blades between targets so you know when it will bounce from one to the rest, or when it will simply stop at the first. Then Shunpo to your target, procing your reduced damage and then using your 'W' for AoE damage and procing the second part of Bouncing Blades. Usually, you will want this combo to kill them and pick your next target to move to with refreshed skills. Sometimes however, if the enemy team has blown their CC or your team has theirs tied down with CC, you can use your ult right in the middle of the enemies.
Only use your ult when the enemies are tied down or lacking CC. Otherwise, most disruptions will cancel it and leave you stuck straight in the middle of the enemy team focusing you.
Go for as many kills as you can with only your Q > E > W combo. Wait for the right moment to ult. This is not something I can quite explain to you, but it comes with experience.
General Gameplay and Tips
So, I think I've gone over most aspects of the game at least briefly.
Watch the map, roam to gank lanes, farm a LOT (every chance you get), counter jungle, take your own wraiths when you can and help secure objectives. Katarina is a high mobility champion, so you should take advantage of that.
Grab wards every chance you get to place around the map. One good tip is carrying wards around with you as you play. It's always a good idea to have a spare ward that you can throw down to scout, or watch your back when attempting something dangerous. One interesting thing you can do while carrying wards around is to place them over walls or in certain locations you can shunpo to, to either escape or chase opponents. Oh, that pesky Vayne flashed over the wall to narrowly escape? No problem. Ward, Shunpo and Bouncing Blades to secure the kill. Be sure to have your item slots on smart casting so to make this process much faster and smoother.
Now that I mention it, you better be smartcasting everything on Katarina. I smart cast every skill on every champion, but Katarina is even more necessary to do so. Your combos have to be swift, brutal and deadly. Every split second faster counts.
Another trick you can use is when chasing a fleeing opponent with low health that is too far away, you can shunpo to a minion, ally or enemy and throw your 'Q' to get the killing blow. I just played a game and got a triple from that after Shunpo'ing to an enemy just behind my target, securing the kill with Bouncing Blades, refreshing my kit and cleaning up the rest. Decided to mention that in here. I'll add more tips and tricks as they come to mind.
Summary, Conclusion and Additional Info
So basically, Katarina is a high-skill cap burst assassin that dishes out deadly damage in teamfights.
She is a strong pick in a lot of situations, no matter against a team with or without CC.
She is also fun as hell to play and master.
Try her out for yourself, and adapt this guide to your own gameplay and style. Everyone plays differently, so change this to fit your own style. These are my experiences with Katarina and the way I play her, but things may differ slightly for you. I have played Katarina in hundreds of games and have much experience with her. This guide is meant to give you some insight on the champ and help you to improve your own gameplay.
This guide was not intended to be a detailed guide. I only wished to share my opinion on things, and to help with some of the mistakes I see people make. Over time I will probably add quite a bit more to this, but for the time being I am surrounded by screaming toddlers and have been working on this for hours, so ready to get back to playing LoL and pubstomping with Katarina.
I hope this guide helped, and if there are any questions or concerns feel free to leave them in the comments and I will try to help or add more sections for anything you request.
Additional Gameplay Guides
Here are some guides that brush upon things you need to learn to play Katarina well, and I would recommend going over them if you do not already know.
Warding Tips And Strat