Karthus Build Guide by chynonm

Not Updated For Current Season

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League of Legends Build Guide Author chynonm

Karthus – Don’t mess with lynches...

chynonm Last updated on March 10, 2012
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Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

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.



Offense: 21

Honor Guard

Defense: 0

Strength of Spirit

Utility: 9

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Hello everyone.
My name is Chynonm. I’m currently a level 30 EU east server player in league of legends. I have currently participated in nearly 300 matches using Karthus who I have used as my main character ever since I was level 6. Over this time I’ve moulded my build and gameplay until now where I’m satisfied with my game with him and wrote this guide in order to share with everyone my opinion, advices and expertise of him.

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My story so far in LOL

The first character I decided to play with was Sivir. Yeah a really bad choice(then...) but if anything it thought me the important aspects of the games. When I was about level 6, I was looking for a different champion with all my 10000 IP ( IP boost courtesy of riot games 8). I asked an friend who had played LOL for quite some time (flame keeper)what champion I should play with, he asked what I wanted and I said “ I want a strong champion, mage but not burst that has an awesome ult”. Karthus was his suggestions so I blindly spent 6300IP on him without even trying him before and quickly fell in love for his style of play.
Now after over 300 games with him I started playing ranked games at season 2 although i still prefer to play normal games with my friends where I can freely try out new and weird stuff.

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What karthus is:

Karthus is described by riot as an ranged mage with strong spell weak health and hard difficulty to play with – A bit shallow don’t you think?
Karthus is the core of a team not only is he the mid lanner he is an excellent pusher in late game. He is who you want in a team fight – the champ who deals tons of damage to their entire team (even from beyond the grave!) He is one of the best harassers with his Lay Waste having excellent damage and a really long range. His wall of pain can separate their team and make it incredibly easy for allies to just jump in to finish them off.
Unlike most mages you want to jump in as well, your Defile will deal a vast amount of damage without them noticing, like snails in the pan you steadily keep your dps (that’s how they manage to make them put their heads out, then we quickly turn the temperature up to kill them all at once( Requiem).
Khartus and rumble are in a class apart from other mages, they have steady dps nd benefit most from staying alive. What this means is that although you lack the burst to insta wipe their carry, you can change the course of a teamfight just by continuously aoe damaging.
His ult is excellent for getting scraps and making them weep, so you're one to hate enemies running away at a sliver of health requiem is your friend.

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Pros / Cons

  • Insane damage
  • Great harasser
  • Intimidating to play against ( fear the almighty lych!)
  • Can carry a team easily
  • Very useful in long team fights [not like that Annie that spams a round of abilities then runs away, or any other burst mage for that matter]
  • Best finisher in-game with a higher than 100% kill rate (double kills are often when using requiem after a teamfight)
  • Pro chaser with a BIG help from Rylai's Crystal Scepter
  • Hard to chase because of his’ wall of slow, slowing Lay Waste with riley’s , even your defile makes close melee chaser lose most of their life.
  • Uncommon champion (they may not know you, also makes it less likely to be nerfed, or banned/picked in ranked games ;)
  • Great pusher
  • Very easy to farm
  • Easy to have a positive score with
  • Lot’s of fun (isn’t that what really matters?
  • Squishy (sorry had to be said. In my opinion he stand more of a chance of survival than most champions but when focused he dies fast.
  • Hard to master
  • Exhaustive to play
  • Extremely hard to last ht with auto-attacks
  • Inconsistent damage vs mobile champs (sashes screw you up good)
  • Still cost a lot of IP despite being reduced to 3100 form 6300

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What one should have/be to play with karthus

Not everyone is cut out to be a Karthus player, mostly people who are too hasty for blood aren't suited, that said these are the characteristics that suit the best Karthus player:

  • Have a great sense of how the game is played.
  • Patience, you’re not a burst mage so if you get in a close fight to the death without harassing your enemy enough you will die. Also waiting to time your ult with lead to better results
  • Have very good map awareness (very important) – This is not just knowing when there is a team fight. You must be aware of every enemies position (the mid lane is very susceptible to ganks) know exactly when there is a real fight in a lane, keep an eye on enemies’ health. And finally because I’m often the only one with Teleport, know when a turret needs saving.
  • Have knowledge on most champion abilities (especially mid champions). Often your victory comes from beating them at their own game.
  • Have a minor degree in psychology (just kidding :p) You just have to know where to lay waste. Predicting your enemies next step.(With all my Karthus play whenever I go with cho gath I land the spikes 9/10 times.)
  • The ability to turn a blind ear at those who say you can just kill with your ultimate(happens in bad games), and all other insults you’ll be getting mainly in solo queues
  • Lastly be a little sadist 8) It’s fun watching them run for their lives only to fail miserably

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Greater Mark of Magic Penetration

Greater Seal of Mana Regeneration

Greater Glyph of Magic Resist

Greater Quintessence of Ability Power
These are the rune I take with me.

These have been built to give a early game edge, runes make little difference in late game but in early they are the most useful thing one can have. 15 AP early game is a lot better than 40 late game, same for MR since after you start building your abyssal scepter 1% or 2% less magic damage is futile whereas 12% in the early game make quite a difference in mage to mage harassing.

If you want you can also swap that 15 AP for 4.5% Move speed Since karthus makes good use of any speed bonus.

These are the runes that fit me best. I like the early game harassment they give but since they make little difference feel free to go with what suits you best (like more mana regen glyphs for example).

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The new masteries are a great help for khartus, having executioner in the offense tree increases your ult damage by about 15 at rank 1 and the rest of the tree only serves to increse your dmg even further.
9 points in utility help you get the mana regen and increased buff duration.
Other options might be good, like 9/10/11 but the executioner is just too good of a help to pass out on.

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Karthus' abilities

Karthus’ abilities

Passive – Death Defied
Upon dying, Karthus enters a spirit form allowing him to continue casting spells while dead for 7 seconds.

Karthus signature skill and one of League of legends best passive ability. In short after dying you can cast spells for 8 seconds, regardless of mana but restricted by cooldowns. Usually you should immediately activate define, then try to lay waste or use wall of pain In nearby enemies if you want to use your ult you only have time for two q/w then after it you might just have time for another q. So often have I been ganked by 4 and after doing this finished one of them ,all other enemies were also injured and often died chased by my team ;)
Note: if you have Guardian Angel first you’re revived then if you die a second time (real death) your passive activates. If you die with mordekaiser’s ult, Children of the Grave on you he will only get your spirit after your passive has ended, nice hum.

Q – Lay Waste
Creates a delayed blast at Karthus' cursor position. After 0.5 seconds, deals 40 / 60 / 80 / 100 / 120 (+30% of ability power) magic damage to each nearby enemy, this deals double damage if it hits only a single unit.
Cooldown 1 second | Cost 20 / 28 / 36 / 44 / 52 mana | Range 875

This is your auto attack. In mid/late game you will spam this so much your pinky will hurt. It’s actually very exhaustive to play as Karthus not only you’re spamming q’s, you also have to predict your opponent’s movements to better hit them and move your mouse there. Can be used to check bushes as it instantly reveals (before it blows) a section of the bushes, not all of them.
Note: Don’t forget that if it hits only 1 target it deals double damage. Keep this in mind and aim those Lay Waste to open areas free off minion for good harassment.
When you are free to hit just one target this becomes (240 dmg + 60% of AP). that’s a lot for a 1 sec cooldown skill. In 5 seconds you have (480+300% AP)- And people say stacking Ap is not usefull for Karthus -_- their dead wrong, 300 Ap you have 420 dmg in 1 lay waste. With 700AP you have 720dmg per lay waste – With an abyssal sceptre and a Wall of Pain either they get MR or their being hit for 1000 per sec with Lay Waste alone (notice in the end of the carry Karthus game the damage 1 lay waste did to their Ashe after she went through the wall.she had -19 MR(+16% magic damage) and my lay waste dealt (240+963(AP)*0.3)*1.16=1227 DMG IN 1 LAY WASTE. that’s a 2 sec kill in an Ashe without she getting near me and with no mana cost or CD waiting after.

W – Wall of Pain
Creates a 800 / 900 / 1000 / 1100 / 1200 distance wide wall through target point. Reduces enemy armor and magic resistance by 15 / 20 / 25 / 30 / 35 and reduces movement speed by up to 40 / 50 / 60 / 70 / 80%; debuff lasts 5 seconds. The wall lasts 5 seconds.
Cooldown 22 seconds | Cost 100 mana | Range 1000

This wall is the spell you must be most careful with. A well placed Wall of Pain causes enemies to die in chases. Be aware of it’s range, slightly larger than Lay Waste’s, and consider putting it on smartcast. In flanking catching enemy from a T position and landing this right on top of the enemy can prove most useful. It doesn’t break spell shields so their banshees veil will block the first lay waste on them. An average non-tank champion has 30 magic resist. Rank 5 of this reduced by 35 add to this minus 16 from the abyssal scepter and you got them in a pretty bad -19 magic resist for about +16%magic damage on them. No wonder their defenseless carry dies so quickly.
When I think about the synergy between wall of pain and Abyssal Scepter it magic magic pen useless as it doesn’t work in enemies whose MR is negative, but I still chose to carry Magic en marks as they work well when enemies have slight MR or aren’t hit by wall of pain. They have 30MR -16 (abyssal scepter) -8.5 Marks leave them already at 5.5 MR – Pitiful :\
Another thing people should do but don’t do, is use this in blue, dragon and baron nashor. It reduces their armor and magic resist and makes killing them faster, also doesn’t make aggro so you can trick you allies into initiating baron when you can’t tank it.
One of it’s best uses is in enemies under towers. Since it doesn’t hold tower aggro either it can keep enemies from disturbing you and your team while you wipe off that tower.
Can also be used to check bushes. It covers a much larger area than a Lay Waste.
Note: High ranks of wall of pain do to their long extension can be often leaned to land on a further target. Another note: never land this on top of a Master Yi with Highlander active. All you’ll see it a big spam of “Cannot be slowed” It’s just too annoying -_-

E – Defile
Toggle Off: When Karthus kills a unit, he restores 20 / 27 / 34 / 41 / 48 mana.
Toggle On: Drains 30 / 42 / 54 / 66 / 78 Mana to deal 30 / 50 / 70 / 90 / 110 (+25% of ability power) damage to nearby enemies each second.

Let’s see 110+700*0.25=285 dmg per second to enemies around you per second(end game)
This spell is your mana regulator, keep it off early game, unless an enemy is attacking you, they’re often scared of this (they should be). It’s passive is ideal for lane sustainability.
As of rank 4 this becomes a viable farming tool just don’t abuse it throughout the game since it still drains a lot of you mana pool in long team fights.
One of my favorite things about this spells is that once activated no cc can stop it your still dealing damage while stun or silenced. People just don’t realise CC is kinda useless against Karthus in a big teamfight. So don’t bother with tenacity effects. Silence will keep you from turning it off.
Personal note – The only spell on Karthus I dislike, It’s takes to much mana and doesn’t deal significant damage unless in a teamfight – Please ignore it exists until you’re level 12+

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Ok if you've just been through the other 3 abilities this part of the guide should be small..

So big it requires it's own section :p

R- Requiem - After channeling for 3 seconds, Karthus deals damage to all enemy champions.
After channeling for 3 seconds, Karthus deals 250/400/550 (+0.6) magic damage to all enemy champions (regardless of distance).

150/175/200 Mana
1000 (there's actually no range so i have no idea why LOL says this)

Sweet sweet Requiem. The best cleaning spell there is. One click and all your foes are thinking “Oh no someone in my team is gonna die”, the unlucky one(s) think “F*@#!” Use this in only 3 occasions.

1st - If you’re certain someone will die if you cast it. There is also something called ult timing. The basics is that when in the teamfight an enemies runs away low health most of the time they wil run for 5-7 sec then recall. That gives you about 7 seconds to try to leave other enemies at low life as well, and just when they thing they got away, wipe them. It’s a good method, because the second opponent won’t see it happen and even if you die you can finish the job from beyond the grave.

2nd -At a teamfight ONLY IF YOU’RE OUT OF THEIR REACH and preferably after the fight itself has started without you, otherwise you might scare them off. Don’t be an ***, when away from a fight some Karthus players will cast this only at the end as it’s the best way to get kills, but casting it during weakens enemies and turns the teambatle into your team’s favour. That being said a teamfight can be won by a well-timed Requiem that wiped off half their carry’s health.

3rd-If you die. Care with this thought. Think! Casting this whenever available with make enemies run away and not die. Still! Sometimes it’s best to cast it just to help your lane allies get kills. Sometimes I get 2 assists and a turret down because of this. Knowing when to use it isn’t an exact science so only with experience can you tell. But don’t just spam this as if it were ezreal’s or lux’s ult; yours has more cooldown, more damage, and unlike theirs’ never misses it’s target.
One thing though, in very, very late game +1hour, if you die, please use it. It takes 90sec cooldown and your dead for 60 of those so it’ll be ready in the next teamfight and the damage will help your team fight in your absence. At rank 1, when you die, don’t just use it out of rage, I know how tempting it can be but you’ll respawn very fast and then maybe It can be more useful.
Funniest thing possible – Kill their jungler by accident and get double buffed 8) – just like Christmas.

Rank 1 deals about 150 damage (true damage) anything above 180 will never be a kill. Latter in the game you need to take into consideration their magic resist and how far into your build you are.

Note there are (a lot) of spells and items that can counter or face this. Here's a list of most of them:

Sivir’s spell shied, she will have this ready always, just 10sec cooldown and it’s very easy to time, So after she uses it you have 5seconds to use your ult (at level 18). Sivir always levels this last so early game it’s 22sec cooldown will make it very easy to finish her off with it until she is lvl 14.

Nocturn's Shroud of Darkness requires stupidly good precision at low ranks. Later it always seems he forgets about it. Honestly I’ve played against a lot of nocturnes(even more with a noc by my side), and they have so far only survived shielding my ult 5-10 times. That’s about 40 games worth of nocs so he theoretically should block but reality begs to differ.

Vladimir’s blood pool –It has long cooldown, often used in his fights but can avoid your ult.

Shaco’s hallocinate If he times well... and hasn't wasted it trying to get away
Summoner spell heal (funny how karthus is better vs pros than vs newbies and bots)

Soraka’s Wish, but you usually deal more damage than she can heal. Only mentioned here because it’s the only mass healer to counter your ult form anywhere.

Any kind of shield or health – Kayle(ult is certain denier), Sona, Janna, Morgana, Karma, Alistar, Gangplank(self), Tryndamere(ult always prevents and Bloodlust heals about half your average damage (both self), Shen, Riven(very weak shield and self), Nasus (ult gives him 600 heath but it’s very unlikely for him to get that low life without using it,self), Nidalee.


Banshee's Veil – Bot gamming much. When you’re getting feed and they all got banshees you should be… smilling This item won’t be of any use. In a teamfight one lay waste can break multiples spell shield if their close and it’s cooldown makes It only possible for them to be saved by it if you just resurrected and they’re low life farmimg. The more one uses banshee'a veil, the more one finds it useless u.U

Note: Banshee's as well as noc’s and sivir’s spell shields aren’t broken by your wall of pain.

Zhonya's Hourglass (requires good timing though) But is the only certain denier for all cases.

Hexdrinker- Possible but unlikely, only when you wipe half an carry’s health isn’t that useful.

Potions of health
Lastly don’t forget than any stun, silence, knock airborne(or back) or DIEING while casting will stop you and make them go scotch free.
That said if your killed and they walk away low health press R for some instant revenge.
Now go get some easy kills...

Speaking of easy kills if someone disconnects at lvl 1 then after lvl 11 you can kill that guy in the fountain just by pressing R. How unfair is that, getting a leaver/AFK that is also unintentionally feeding...

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Skill Sequence

Ability Sequence
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

In the chart we have
1- Lay Waste
2- Defile
3- Lay Waste
4- Wall of Pain
5- …
But this is In case of a defensive game if you’re focused on farming, instead of going for the kill.
If you’re are doing a great job harassing fell free to go with
1- Lay Waste
2- Wall of Pain
3- Lay Waste ( Defile if you got the kill, or are no way close to getting it, in short lay waste if you think you can still get the kill)
4- Whatever you didn’t choose in level 3
5- …
This allows you to use your Wall of Pain to slow, often with fatal consequences to your enemy allowing you to land at least a couple of more powerful Lay Wastes in an attempt to finish of your foe. Not getting the kill will severely reduce your lane sustainability so go with the first option about 80% of the times.
The 2nd skill dilemma.
After researching some older guides of Karthus in other sites I found that some people would level up Wall of Pain second as opposed to Defile. Lets see why

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Defile vs wall of pain levelling

Ability Sequence
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Leveling up Defile.
  • Easy farming mid game.
  • Good mid game damage
  • Better passive laning sustainability (more mana refund form minion killing)
  • You will run out of mana, A LOT. Even with that half charged tear of the goddess, whenever you use defile
  • Enemies will escape
  • It’s easier for them to chase you.
Ability Sequence
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Levelling up wall of pain.
  • Will get kills since you might land a couple more [lay waste]s and they will have less magic resist
  • Will save your life when chased
  • Will help more in teamfight (the scalling of [defile] is low as even rank five will never deal more then 500 damage (3 sec) in a teamfight. The wall will keep them from running away and 500 damage is what you get from 1 [lay waste] at that point. Reducing their defences will make your team kill them faster ultimately.
  • You might miss a wall, ups it happens. So much for all the pros
  • Will farm a little slower (but you will keep your mana) and have to recall less often

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Inicial items overview

Doran's Ring
I’m strictly against non progressive starting items,
Why not Doran items?
” The whole point of being mid lane is getting enough gold to advance on your build and take the role as main damage dealer for the team in mid game”-by me 8).
Getting a non progressive item will strengthen your early game but that isn’t necessary. When I’m Karthus mid I never recall before level 6, when you harass as good as you can I’m often left with my initial health pot, selling it at lvl12. Since Karthus is so damn good at keeping his distance and the defensive masteries give you +54 health. Doran’s ring will just keep you back about 150gold in the mid game with no advantage in the early phase.

Sapphire Crystal + pots
Do the math
It takes about 6min to get to level 6
-2min till minions arrive we get 4 min of mana regen (you never have full mana pull after the first lay wastes (FACT)) so 4*60(time in secs)*7/5(mana per 5 from meki pendant)=336
336>>200 so I can easily prove that Meki Pendant is better than Sapphire Crystal (AND IT EVEN ALLOWS 1 MORE POT) –recommended items are wrong -_-‘ what a surprise.
People who still prefer Sapphire Crystal over Meki Pendant are usually people who spend all their mana trying to harass and then recall. With this inicial items your goal is
1- Get as many minions as possible
2- Prevent his farming (go for a kill)
3- Last in lane until you’re level 6 with 955 gold by then

Don’t last hit minions with Lay Waste until you have defile, I know it’s easier but over 90% of champions last hit with auto-attacks early game, why can’t you?

Boots of Speed + Health Potion + Mana Potion (or whatever comb of 2 pots)
I used to go with this, it doesn’t get in the way of your build and the speed allows good chasing and harassing. Only problem is you will run out of mana easily
Personally if your new to Karthus or don’t have the runes I recommend you go with this.

My choice
Meki Pendant + Health Potion
Meki Pendant how I love you! This item gives you enough mana regeneration to make you last a lot longer. If you are good at last hitting. This alone can make you gain (not lose mana)while focussing on last hits as of level 2 (defile choice) I’m often surprised at how without realizing I go from being oom(out of mana) to a half-full mana pool in just half a minute of auto-attacking minions. Throw in some lay wastes refunded by Defile for money and you can endure a lot of time.

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Shoping trips

1st trip back

The first time to go back is better situated around when you have 955 gold (I’m that exact) with this you can upgrade your Meki Pendant to a Tear of the Goddess which will single handily end your mana problems and even buy Boots of Speed. If you really have to go last until 605 gold you can get this before they reach level 6 and it allows the getting of that tear of the goddess. My current record is recalling only at level 11, and I only went back because I needed to get my Tear of the Goddess so I could charge it ASAP before team battles started. Had 4500 gold 8), 4 kills too

Other trips

This really depend on how your game is going, go back when you have to, more often against tough foes, less against easy ones. But always try not to be constantly recalling and losing all the experience and gold you could be getting in a lane.

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As you may notice in the previous sections (and the pretty images on the top of this page) we will be building archangels staff, Rabadons, Abyssal scepter,Rilay’s crystal scepter and lich bane.
After playing LOL for a while people stop believing in one build and think of only situational ones. I strongly disagree.
There is no counter gamming without gamming. Getting just survival items won’t make it. The best is to already have a build that can dish out as much damage without sacrificing survivability.
People know this too and often get a full offense build and 1 defensive item -_- Preposterous That means you are supper squishy until you get that item. My idea as I went on with this build was that every item had their role and all together must synergise between themselves and the champion. I like to call this notion the quartz build.

sorcerer’s shoes

Some time ago I used to go with Boots of Swiftness. That speed boost can be precious in a chase but afterwards the chase ability would fall onto this next item, getting then more damage output out of the standard mage option.

Rylai's Crystal Scepter.
This item OMG. It was meant for Karthus. If it’s not used with him you might as well forget it even exists. It makes every single lay waste slow your target. In a chase you get one lay waste, you get them all! Till they die. This item makes it near impossible to escape from you and to chase you too. Too often have my pursuers lost their lives or at least most of their health to the hands of the little bombs I left behind(This is called kitting). When you use you Lay Waste your character freezes a sec, without this slow it would be impossible to chase while using Lay Waste. Plus it gives you a health boost. GET THIS ASAP. This is your core item. Singlehandedly handles all your needs along with tear of the goddess.
Note: This makes your Requiem slow every enemy and anything caught when you activate Defile as well (not in the after tics).

Abyssal Scepter
Let’s see this 3 on 1 item. When I first tried it I was as my last build item. Then I tried getting it sooner in a couple of games where I was having trouble with ap champions like Annie or Veigar. DID NOT REGRET IT AT ALL!!!! Getting this early not only solves your ap squishiness throughout the entire game it also adds a very decent AP boost and a passive which synergises well with your defile and wall of pain(see Wall of Pain section for more) and is also very helpful for the whole team to boot. This pushes your MR passed 100 if you follow my build entirely.

Rabadon's Deathcap
Does this item even need explanation? It’s the best item for AP boost, however many people make the mistake of getting this too early. Not only does it not improve your survivability or sustainability (unless you kill them all 8) its passive only becomes useful when you already some AP build up. Also waiting for 1600 gold for that Needlessly Large Rod is just too stressful. Since early/mid game you always recall with about 1000 gold.

Archangel's Staff
Let me do the math for you – 4468 mana (level 18 with fully charged staff) get’s you 134 AP from the unique passive + 45 from the staff (=179AP) + 25/5 mana regen and a larger mana pool(1400 mana!!) - THIS IS AWESOME getting it before rabadons is nice for a very fast AP boost – Can still be postpone as Tear of the Goddess gets you the mana for the sustainability. And since you have a very spammable non target skill you can get this charged very fast( lay wate). People who say this isn’t good just aren’t doing the math. This is better than a second rabadon's. A LOT BETTER actually.

Lich Bane
Believe it or not I was level 27 when I realised that it’s unique was not the same as shen’s. I kept wandering why Kassadins would use it and checked a guide where it explained it’s ability.
What it does is than every 3 sec after an ability is used (lay waste spamming anyone?) Your next attack deals damage + your ability power.
This perfect for quick turret bashing and even it’s movement speed bonus can be precious. It can really stand out in the late game so for now it’s my choise as 6th item most of the times.

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Alternative items

Karthus is a damage dealer. Leave them banshes, thornmails and Guardian Angel for the tanks. Focus on staying offensive, but still allowing offense/defense items

Zhonya's Hourglass
With this not only will you get a pretty decent AP boost you also get armor, enough to withstand fair amount of damage. Karthus already has decent armor in his base stats so this is a situational item you might need when there are some AD dealers giving you some trouble in their team.( Karthus has 74 armor at lvl 18 +6 from masteries) So 80 armor is already a very decent value.

Ohh nearly forgot it can also be activated to grant you a 2 sec invulnerability. Be sure to use this after activating Defile so you can still deal some damage to all foes surrounding you. But then again not only is this not as good as it sounds I even then forget to use it 90% of the times :p

Deathfire Grasp
Mainly for twisteds, when a tank Is enervating. Other than that it’s still a nice alternative.

Void Staff
Another anti-tank item. Personally I already thing 30% spell pen + runes+ abyssal scepter’s passive+wall of pains MR reduction is good enough but feel free to get this cheap item whenever your enemies are building up MR. Otherwise this becomes useless.

Mejai's Soulstealer
I have always considered this item too much of a gamble especial in a champion who is good dead. But if you’re the only one feed in your team and your enemies aren’t troublesome getting this charged will win the game. That’s 200 AP + 15%CR. Over 1000 AP anyone? o.0
When your having a 5/0/1 score by lvl 11 I usually get this but then again I’ve never lost a game with a score like that. What you need to do is start ganking lanes after taking down that turret in mid.

Also you lose the stacks before your passive. Meaning your dead spells do less damage but kills afterwards will ultimately help you charge it better than other casters.

Will of the Ancients
Although the team boost in ability power and spell vamp can be useful this takes up some room. Get someone else to take it. A Galio, Mordekaiser, Karma, Fiddlesticks, Swain or any support champion can happily carry this to a team fight if you wish that boost. I don’t get why supports don’t like it though. It benefits the team and the support also gets AP for that shield or heal.

Rod of Ages
I seam to have misplaced this section – it should be in the non-existing but extensive NEVER TO USE items.
I’m sure someone would ask me why not RoA in karthus. Here’s why
.1st off people always make this item their first (boots in the mid ok!) I used it several times in the beginning and it always felt while I was building it that all the mid items where useless. It’s catalyst the protector mainly gives no sustainability (like in the Meki Pendant vs Sapphire Crystal section but loses 1000 times when compared for mana sustainability with the half priced Tear of the Goddess)

Karthus wants damage more than a little life and this item not only completely messes his early game it’s also too expensive. Not getting that ability power and mana regen in the early/mid game makes it very hard to last hit and get money for the rest. That’s why this item sickens me. You get 60 AP for 3000 gold and another 20 thought the next 20 minutes. The health bonus will not make you any tougher and the mana boost is pointless compared to that of an archangels’ staff. This is for hit and run casters not for all out damage dealers like Karthus.

Rod of Ages

450+180 health
525+200 mana
60+20 AP
250 health and 200 mana restore on level up
Rilay's Crystal Scepter
500 health
80 AP
A 15% slow on your lay waste that will make half your kills from chasing

RoA does look better doesn’t it but the thing is that the slow is too important, I’m not kidding when I say 80% of my non teamfight kills are only because of the slow stopping them from moving out of lay waste range. rylai's does give better immediate stats and the utility and what’s needed to kill.

The slow is not all you can’t build catalyst the protector and Tear of the Goddess at the same time, that’s 2 item that want to say “first” but together give you mana and deaths from having no damage output

“why not just build RoA after rilay’s” – Because then you wouldn’t have enough time to charge and because the other important items come next, mainly Abyssal Scepter (aka they die you tank their mage(AP carry) throughout the lanning phase), Rabadon's Deathcap and finishing archangel’s staff each giving more AP than a fully charged rod(at least immediately), besides you wouldn’t be taking part of it’s levelling bonus.

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Summoner Spells

Best choices

Flash – Whether it’s for that last lay waist to kill an enemy, escaping from ganks or counter-flash. FLASH is the way to go, always take this, you really need it! Late game is the only thing saving you when you’re focused on a teamfight.

Teleport – In my opinion every team should have 2 champions with Teleport in order to save turrets. Having this allows you to recall and return to your lane fast, go gank a late and return to yours, get to a teamfight, and even teleport to that [[teemo9] mushroom near dragon or baron , to get it.

Clairvoyance – This is not just a supporter’s spell. It gets kills. Karthus needs high map awareness. I always take this to twisteds where Teleport is useless. Got several free kills out of it and allows you to check dragon.

Clarity – This item is newbie only. Take it when trying Karthus for the first times. Not useful at all in late game but can help you stay in your lane a bit longer in early game if you don’t have the seals or the ability to be smart in your lay waste placement.

Ghost Karthus is very slow and sometimes this is better to escape with than flash, a good option for low level players. Take this and clarity if you’re playing with Karthus at level <12

All other summer spells aren’t really suited for Karthus and are best overlooked

Exhaust - only useful to save you from mad tryn. Its range is not enough to get you kills. Anyone at melee range will die without it and other spells are more useful

Ignite –I’m just not a fan of ignite. You already have a better finisher you know(just press R^^)

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Early game

1st off grab that mid lane
Karthus is a loner, he harass well when he is alone and gets kills easily when fed (unlike that ashe u.U). Putting Karthus in a lane is a recipe for disaster. Because here he is ganked from behind. Honestly if you are placed in a lane go jungle after level 3, then go gank.
Not so much difference in a twisted, you can either go top or bot (once let a soraka go top and she got double first blood and we won in 15min over her 15/0/4 score 8P, mine was 7/2/8).

Grab your Meki Pendant and a couple of health potions. You can often tell who will be mid against you be looking at their team. If their mid lanner isn’t troublesome for you, take a Mana Potion to finish him off. Karthus has always been mid lane. This is because he is good against most of the usual mid champions. Occasionally and this is by my own choice I go solo top when there’s a jungler in my team. A solo top Karthus not only can harass very well, he can also farm efficiently and even back them to their turret. Just make sure you are not up against a Caitlyn + other champion, or a cho gath, or a Garen at top. They can really mess up your game. If you see that Annie mid and both teams have jungler try switching with the guy at top, and get fed on a Fiddlesticks (see replay nº3).
In the early game focus on using ranged attacks and finishing off minions or harassing with lay waste. Don’t finish minions with lay waste until you have defile(mistake I make quite often).Don’t try too hard to harass. Let them get confident and step forward. After about level six even if you still have a decent mana and health pool if you already have more than 1000gold recall and buy that Tear of the Goddess to end your mana problems, as well as Boots of Speed. Also because at level 6 you’re usually running at low mana and need to keep 150 for a Requiem.
One of the reasons why Karthus is a great mid lanner is because he can gain an unfair advantage over his lane opponent by finishing of their champions with Requiem. A Karthus after level 6 requires a decent amount of map awareness. You need to know what’s happening and if you can finish off your enemies with Requiem. Getting a 3 kill advantage over their mid lanner will mean you can easily kill who is in from of you and take down their turret.
If you want to check the other lanes for a Requiem back out a little ( you don’t want to die while checking do you?)You shouldn’t spend too long checking their lanes as you still have your own to take care off.
I have though developed a method to know when to check:
Always check if:

  • Someone died
  • When there is a lot of movement in the mini-map.
  • When you see heads moving towards the turret, mainly enemies’
  • When you see friendly heads overlapped with enemies’
Just quickly move your sight to their lane and remember that at level 6 you deal about 150 damage with your Requiem. 300 Rank 2 and from there depends too much on MR and AP to determine.
When ganked the usual option is head opposite of the ganker and flash away if your wall doesn't stop them on their tracks.(

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Jungle karthus

*Important* By no means try this at high ELO games, enyone with experience knows that Karthus's Lay Waste is visible trough fog of war and for that you are extremely vulnerable.

It is possible and viable for games where you lack a jungler. I myself have gone to 2 ranked games jungling with Karthus. The first had my do a double double kill in the first teamfight (4 kills) the second had their shaco at 0/3/0 and me at 3/1/0, won both games.
Start by graving a Amplifying Tome and a heath potion.


Smite big wraith, kill the wrath by lay wasting in the middle of all three and do the same with wolves and golems, all in a row. If you follow the masteries and don't have the experience boost use your second smite on one of the small reds before going to base. There buy pots and from then on follow the build normally and go after blue. Ganking is possible whenever you level up your wall, just catch them off guard, Wall of Pain them and lay waste from then on. simple enough.
Alternatively you can start by doing blue so long as you have a pull. You can also buy a cloth armor to do it more easily or use armor runes. With armor runes and cloth armor it's possible to do blue without any sort of pull.

BTW take off Teleport to make room for Smite and don't ever use defile unless you have blue. And you might wanna swap those flat MR runes for either leveling ones or flat AP glyphs of potency since you can't take part of their early game counter-harassment.

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Mid Game

Mid game
For Karthus mid game starts around level 11/12
Farm creeps quickly by placing yourself between the melee creeps and the mage creeps, activating Defile and using a couple of Lay Waste. Easier if you’ve been leveling Defile
A mid game Karthus can push a lane very quickly. After taking down their mid tower head to another lane. Use your Wall of Pain in their champions and kill them with Lay Waste and Defile. Ask your teammates to help too:P I’m kind of a solo ganker, I go there I get the kill without my lane friends noticing. Not letting your friend know you’re there makes it less likely he’ll give away the plan. Fool your allies to fool your enemies. You are a linch remember -MUAHAHAHA. After that take down another turret.
A Karthus in mid game doesn’t have a concrete objective. Head to lanes, push and jungle. Get that blue buff to finish all mana problems. You can also solo the dragon at this point. Basically just try to gain money until the next teamfight. You should have your rylaiy’s crystal scepter by now. Work on that Abyssal Scepter since Karthus naturally has high armor but non-scalling magic resist.
A note about my code of playing – Believe it or not I hate the whole ganking scene. I don’t gank other lannes until I’m done with their first mid lane turret and I can’t stand having my lane ganked without my consent. Especially from cheeky amumus or whenever they have a Malzahar mid, his Nether Grasp can really make ganking you a very easy thing.

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Late game

Late game
This means level 16 afterwards or whenever you finish your Rabadon's Deathcap. This build is very expensive but Karthus can farm very easily and by now your Lay Wastes are a true menace to any non-tank champions. From here onwards it’s just team fights. Always be the second to jump in and don’t forget Zhonya's Hourglass’s activated ability. If you’re being focused Flash away. If you die always cast Requiem. (This one time I was ganked by all 5 of them. Managed to kill their Ashe and deal so much damage they ran to the jungle where my team finish 3 of them off 1 by 1. That won the game. BTW I was going alone but I was in my own inner turret when all 5 just showed up from our jungle. The others were checking baron and I had gone save that turret from their creeps. It just wasn’t my fault :s
Fighting with Karthus means adjusting your play stile to your opponents.
Run away from any kind of melee carry. They are your biggest nightmare.
Ignore their tank. You can’t just kill him, and trying to often results in you being baited to their team.
Go all out on any kind of ranged opponent, AD or AP alike. carrys can't survive 4 late game lay wastes and mages do nothing after wippping 60% of your health with their combo. Caitlyn can be quite annoying though. Always focus her if she is in range.

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The mid lane

Mid Lane
In here I’ll place a list of the normal mid lanners by difficulty and how you should fight against them.

Easy opponents

Akali – Just harass at will but stay away from her when she’s in her Twilight Shroud. Don’t forget you can still try to randomly it her in there with Lay Waste and your Defile always hits her inside getting you a kill if she’s low on health. Not that hard to fight against.

Katarina - She shumpo you Defile, wall of pain9] her way back and lay waste –> she dies, [[Katarina has no chance against you when she comes to melee range. Keep her back so she has to shumpo on you and can’t just walk into meele range then shumpo back. After level 6 she often jumps in with everything and Death Lotus, 95% of the times dies with this. Katarina players are always so confident. I just love it when after successive kills they became the free kill enemy.

Lux – All about evading her Light Binding skillshot. You have to stand away from creeps. This way she can’t harass and farm simultaneously with her Lucent Singularity and you can lay very good Lay Waste as she stands away from minions trying her skill shot snare. Just play her game.

Orianna –Stand away from minions and where she throws her ball, and beware her command:protect when going for the ult kill. Also her Command: Shockwave when tower diving or standing near it without minions. Other than that your lay waste out-range her command attack and 1 Lay Waste deal the same as command:attack + command:dissonance open so she’s quite easy to lane against.

Teemo – Use your Teleport to get to your lane FAST! Often Teemo goes there and become stealthed in the middle of the lane. If you don’t know where he is don't be fooled by a fake mid,if nobody is mid, means he got there first, don’t overextend or he’ll catch you for a first blood. Other than that keep track of his position, if you see him becoming stealthed use a Lay Waste where he was. Other than this just harass, harass, harass and he can’t stand a chance.

Twisted Fate - By far one of the easiest champs to get fed from. Get close to the minions side. Get between his Wild Cards and you can very easily harass. If you see a yellow card above his head it means his coming for you with a stun.
Vayne – Just harass without getting triple hit and make sure there are no walls behind you so she can't Condemn stun you to it(nor a turret by that matter. You can play aggressive with her. Her Tumble can get her in range of you so right after it use your Wall of Pain and catch her on her way back.

Medium difficulty

Anivia – Her passive,[rebirth] can be a bummer but she can’t win against you in an all-out battle and she knows it. Just avoid her skill shot and begin every harassment with your Wall of Pain. Don’t forget to check if her passive is up before trying to finish her with Requiem. And plz never tower dive when her passive is up.
The trick is backing off when hit by an ability so she can’t use frostbite’s double damage condition.

Nidalee – She’s just annoying, to lane vs her you have to keep harassing while avoiding her Javelin Toss. They are very easy to evade. Just keep harassing her when she tries to last hit as sure enough she will go oom by the time you both reach lvl 6, from then on she becomes an easy kill.

Mordekaiser – Keep the hell away from him but especially from your minions, don’t just let him harass you, get his shield up and farm minions all at the same time. Careful with his chieldren of the grave, if you die get someone to Teleport to your turret fast because he can wipe it very fast with your ghost. Carry always an unused health pot In case you run away while under it. And get that early negatron cloth. Yes this is post nerf.

Morgana – She’s a bit tricky. By standing near minions you can avoid her Dark Bindingstun + Tormented Soil combo but the she just uses the Tormented Soil to harass and kill minions. The best alternative is to stay away from minions but still be aware when to avoid her skillshot, Dark Binding.

Vladimir – Just stay away, then after he uses his blood suck on a creep charge in for a couple of Lay Waste. Unlike him your abilities are always ready for a fight, must be careful when he uses his sanguine poll after passing through the Wall of Pain

Hard opponents

Annie- Always be caution when her stun is ready (there’s a white ring around her normal skin, black in her ice skin). Be very aggressive at first and back out at her level 6 so you don’t get killed by summon:tibers, just farm from then on and get that negatron cloth before rylai’s.

Brand – Same as Anivia, if an ability lands, back off Be as aggressive as you want but avoid his aoe, and if you’re hit, back out to avoid getting his combo going. If hit by any ability beware his skill shot stun [sear]. Get that negatron clothe before rylai’s crystal scepter and in mid game he already can’t face you. Late game gets killed in 4 lay waste.

Gragas – This guy is a true nightmare, or at least he would be were it not for the defensive masteries and MR glyphs. Don’s stand near minion and always move vertically form his Barrel Roll. Play defensively and just farm, if hit by your wall he’ll just Body Slam away unfairly. Also has a ton of mana. Late game just be careful with his exploding cask that can split you from your team into the middle of theirs’. Not a big threat then.

Kassadin –One of the champions I have more contact with. Never in all my life faced one mid, I have though done the opposite, fight a Karthus with a Kassadin. Kassadin is the worst mage farmer there is. In the early game he will just throw his silence at you and melee hit minions, don’t let him do that, tank the null sphere]e (your MR runes do the same as his passive, and 1 [[lay waste deals same as his silence),keep spam your q whenever his heading to last hit a creep. It’s hard to rush into him. After level 6 be vigilant as he will flash to you, silence, slow and deal a couple of nicely powered melee hits before flashing away, keep him as far away as possible and keep an eye on his mana pool, successive Riftwalks will drain him, fast. It’s hard to get a kill on him but the opposite applies as well, in the end you will win the lane because you get an average of trice his minion kills.Late game be weary that he can flash into silencing range just to stop your ultimate.

Malzahar – The trick is evading his silence and never stand near creeps hit with malefic visions. Careful with his supressing Nether Grasp than can turn any 1vs1 fight around. Fighting him is pretty hard so focus on last hitting. Often Malzahar is not the problem but it’s his partner by the bushes ready to jump in while you’re suppressed. I’d say Malzahar is the 2nd best counter vs Karthus.

Karthus- This is not just a battle of aim. He who lands the Wall of Painfirst can get the best harassment. Even if you have less health than him wall him and charge! He will retreat getting you an average of 3 Lay Waste. Battle for the mid control (where the melee creeps are fighting. There all his Lay Wastes don’t get double damage and he will often be in an open area where you can double the power of yours.

Xerath– Ahh the newbie mid champ.. He can ge quite hard. Untll he gets a point is locus of power keep spamming lay waste while avoiding his Arcanopulses. Stand away from minions, my sugestions is getting a sight ward in the bottom bushes and being below the creep wave so he can’t farm and harass at the same time. Until he his level 6 charge. Pro strategy, charge after he lands mage chains blash verticaly to avoid his arcanopulte, wall him and lay waste his arcane ***, only before he is level 6. After lvl 6 beware he can also stun with his ult. For the remainer of the game despite his long range after he dishes out his combo he can do nothing for about 3 seconds, make them last…

Black opponents

(get someone to switch lane with you, or focus 100% on farming)
(*black colour would be invisible so stick with the idea that they are impossible to handle at some point xD)

LeBlanc - Impossible to lane against. She can charge lay her entire combo and blink back, thus evading all your lay waste’s she can silence and snare you.She was made to fight against aoe user like Karthus. Never, EVER lane against her. She is the black hole in your kill all mid lanners ability. She can harass a lot better you at early levels, and bust kill you and blink back to safety at later levels. Late game dies a lot and is no big menace, just singlehandedly keep you from doing a good game. Just swap lane, I know lane Karthus UTTERLY SUCKS but it’s better than feeding a leblanc. Go jungle as of level 2/3.

Veigar– As of level 6 get the hell out of your lane. This sick little napoleon/hitler’s combo can wipe 80% of your health before you can even flash. Early game he is easy to harass so try to keep him from last hitting as much as possible. Late game gets 4 lay waste and dies, just try not to get near him without friends.

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Dominion thrives in an environment composed by of-tanks and dps’ers. It’s no place for mages. Early game you’re 100% useless. The fast battle pace and impossibility to charge a tear of the goddess will have you go oom, despite the increased mana regen(damn you defile, why are you needed 30% of the time!). The only thing Karthus is good at is being a martyr. Because you can defend a tower for 10sec in a 5vs1 battle. Capturing inside my Defile, I think not!^^.
Take Karthus as a defender and disrupter get an hextec sweeper (make your ult reveal everyone’s position and all the new AP items, RIOT is smart they made all of them give mana regen and 200 heath which is what you really need.
Capturing isn't really your thing, you can though be useful for harassing but never fully dependable for a capture, Stick with defending turrets even when outnumbered
my build for dominion is

hextech sweeper
All obtained in this order

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Playing Tips

Ask your allies to help point out when you should use Requiem to get kills in different lanes.
-Never trust them. Always check if possible. It takes only a sec and may keep you from waisting your ultimate.
Lay Waste is very strong at farming minions and harassing enemy champions.-Riot tips
I’ll say killing them too…

My tips.
When fighting with low mana it might be better not to turn Defile on. Saving it for a Lay Waste or Requiem might be better (it means having less burst damage but more constants and not letting them get away because you lack the mana for a lay waste :/
Wall of Pain has the same mana cost throughout the game. Think twice before using it early game. Save it only for killing charges, not harassing ones.
Tricking your foes into thinking your Lay Waste range is smaller can get you surprise kills.
DO NOT HESITATE – Whether it’s checking a lane and choosing whether to use [[requiem], or whether you should tower dive. If you hesitate for a bit some enemies health regen might screw you and more likely it is for them to have a counter ready (shield, heal, etc…)
Never thrust others when they say to ult, always check if possible.
Give other people blue. Everyone wants blue, from Akali to zilian, let them have it, you can go without it unless your jungling. You don't benefit from cooldown reduction and the extra mana isn't all that useful late game. Doesn't keep me from been happy when I steal them from enemies though ^^

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The book

“I’ll put you IN MY BOOK!”~
This section I’ll kinda show you some proof of what I achieved with my build.

There would be more but I often like to swap champion. One has to go with what fits the team best which is why there are no ranked in them

To play replays (and save them) you need to have League of replay installed (and league of legends too)
Click in the image below to check their website and download the latest version.

Before I show you check the replays. There is something…

This is a list of my friends. You wil see them in some games and let’s just hope they don’t down vote me for describing them 8P

Darkreven- Usually champions - Kassadin, mordekayer –very emotional guy (funny to hear on skype), manages to play well but doesn’t know when to go back. The guy I’d like to go to when it comes to handling that annie but he doesn’t know how to play kass mid.
Flame Keeper – Usuall champions kog maw, Rammus, and many others – The most expert of the lot.
Lennox159- Usual champions – Garen, Nocturne – Great player in most games – Just kinda jumps into 4 guys in the middle of a teamfight. Get’s ganked a lot in late game :/
Pfouto- Usual champions – Twisted Fate, Ezreal, Veigar, Sona – The most level headed, knows when to keep his distance and despite never getting the spotlight always manages to do what’s best for the team
Zeadly- Usual champions – Vayne, Gangplank, Warwick, Orianna – Will focus on one guy and follow him to a turret defended by 3 other. Knows where to stay in teamfights but lacks map awareness (a LOT).
Whenever you see one of these you know we are premade and chatting through Skype, hence the lack of ss or MIAs in some games. Also the blind ults (not checking). Because we have played a lot they came to know how much damage I can deal at a point in the game.

Game one - The rescue – Really bad start for all my teammates. It was mid game that we managed to start getting them ( Karthus+ Tryndamere =ace). When you see us baron bating (whole team waiting in bushes by baron) play it in super slow motion. A lot happens and the fact we all made it out alive was amazing.(my idea to send mord ahead :p)

Game two – The feed – Dumb Irelia fed me early (she even had skin so WTH), I became the village horror. BTW when you seem me attacking the 2nd top turret. I wasn’t looking. I was checking the bottom lane. When I saw what Galio did to me in the replay was just “WTF, when did this happen! How did I not notice” 1 regret – Not getting mejais.

Game three – Tactics –Matchups are important – Why fight a Annie when you have a juicy Fiddlesticks on top? –Getting fed early isn’t important for Karthus but will lead to an overwhelming victory. Also how desperate were they to end my spree :/ seriously. When we try to push the bot inhibitor tower don’t bother putting it in slow motion. You’ll still not see it coming.

Game four – The Carry – A Karthus gotta do what a Karthus gotta do – When you’re the only one getting kills, snowball to victory. It was a gamble but the way things were there was no alternative. Also 240 dam per sec to turrets late game is a lot! Even without lich bane 960AP, with AP per lvl runes I could have reached 1000. But Karthus doesn’t need that much AP.
When I look back to this game I can’t stop thinking whose stupid idea was putting 3 melees in the same team, that’s what you get from bling picks solo queue.

Game five – The ranked – One of my first ranked games. Their Caitlyn was skilled but I got very fed off of teamfights. Loved the way mordekayser had to save me form the big bad wolves ^^. Became friends with him at that game.

Extra – Level 30! – I just wanna show this great game .Used Janna not Karthus. It was the game that put me in level 30. Saved at 46min by shielding Vayne. Just great comeback. 8p

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Final thoughts

I'd start by thanking everyone I ever played with who wasn't a troll or a flamer/rager, it's the great gaming experience we get from playing LOL that keeps me going and especially my friends who supported me taking karthus :P just cuz they wanna win.
Finally the guide is still open, it will be frequently updated, and it's my first guide so go easy on me 8)
I also want to apologise to everyone reading this guide, portuguese is a language that has very,very long paragraphs so it's natural for me too write this much, I'll try to clean up the guide whenever I have the time.
Lastly remember when after Requiem they shout, "lucker", my answer is "you were lucky to have gotten that far" Requiem is a skill like all other, but for some reason I don't see people saying lucker when Morgana snares their whole team, it's how every character is made. Lastly the best words I can hear and do hear almost as often as a support is Thank you or Good job (ty/gj), it makes you feel apreciated because everyone has it's role to support the team, your's is kill. Now go and make give them PAIN.

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Update history

[10/3/12]- first major update since release. To be honest I've changed my main role to ad carry which is why i haven't been able to update lately.
Over the next days I'll update more.