Karthus Build Guide by Urza

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.

League of Legends Build Guide Author Urza

Karthus: Not all that died is dead.

Urza Last updated on November 18, 2011
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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: 9

Honor Guard

Defense: 0


Utility: 21

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This Dominion Karthus build is derived from my Karthus guide for Summoner's Rift. I won't describe here the things that don't differ from the previous guide and some of my explanations in this build might assume your knowledge of the original guide; I recommend you to read it to fully understand this build. If you don't want to read it all, I still recommend just open it and search in it whatever you don't understand here.

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Hello everybody.

First of all I want to say that english is not my native language, so please, forgive my mistakes :o(

I'm not experienced Dominion player but anybody (except of Riot testers) isn't now. And because there is just few guides on Mobafire, I decided to write this one after two afternoons and evernings of playing. I like Dominion and I think I play it quite well - my average score is 16.2 / 8.8 / 12.0 and 1485pts (sorted by that points, I was every game the first or the second of all ten players in whole the game); I know that this means almost nothing but I have nothing better to show or to compare with.

Because I write this guide just after one day of playing, I assume that I will change it after I get some more experiences with Dominion. I probably create some changelog then.

I am -of course- curious for your opinions and potential discussion under this build; so vote and comment, please. But I ask you - before you downvote for whatever, read the original guide first (there is explained everything what is not here).

- Urza

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Before I start to guide you how to play Karthus, let me write something about Dominion. There are two teams trying to destroy enemy nexus to win - just like in the Summoner's Rift. But unlike in the Summoner's Rift, the nexus can't be destroyed directly.
There are five capture-points on the map. Each capture-point can be controlled by blue team, purple team or no team (it's grey then). If there is some team which control more capture-points than the other, that team is slowly destroying enemy nexus (the bigger is the difference between counts of capture-points by blue and purple team the faster is the nexus falling - e.g. if blue team controls four capture-points and purple team just one capture-point, purple nexus if falling faster than in the case of three capture-points controlled by the blue team and two capture-points controlled by the purple team).
How to capture the point? If some player right-clicks the neutral (grey) capture-point, he starts to capture it for his team by channeling (it takes several seconds). Other teammates can help him to capture it faster. The channeling (and capturing) can be interrupted by any damage from enemy champion (not minion). If the capture-point is not neutral (grey) but belongs enemy team, it's necessary to make it neutral (grey) first; this process is exactly the same as the process to capture neutral (grey) capture-point. It means that turn enemy capture-point to allied takes twice much time than capture neutral (grey) capture-point (e.g. if you want to make purple point blue, you have to change the purple to the grey and then the grey to the blue). Captured capture-point produce some creeps (that creeps attack enemies and/or slowly neutralize their capture-points by attacking). Captured capture-point works like allied turred as long as allied champion is around (e.g. blue capture-point behave like a blue turret as long as the blue player is below that - but if there is no blue player, blue capture-point doesn't attack purple enemy).
Other interesting aspects of Dominion:

  • The game is so fast, almost no farming or staying somewhere, just fingting. The main advantage for me is that there is no time for flaming the chat and/or for finding out who failed in something.
  • There are quests which apear during the time. The point of that quest is to capture some specific capture-point. Your quest is shown to both teams - one team sieges that capture-point, the other team defends it.
  • There are some interesting places on the map: health packs (you can walk through and it restores you some health - but very low health), speed shrines (you can walk through to increase your speed for several seconds) and some crystal-prism things in the middle of the map (there are two crystals, one for each team; any member of that team can channel for few seconds to consume his crystal - that crystal improves you in many aspects and your character visually grows up; after your crystal is consumed, no other teammate can pick it for a while).
  • Almost all time-intervals are decreased. There is much shorter respawn time (of players; there are no mobs). Recalling time is decreased to the half of the original time. The gold increases faster during the time. Experiences as well. All players starts on level three with 1375 gold. Whole the game lasts about 20 minutes and I think it can't be longer than 30 minutes unless it's not the intention of players.

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Pros & Cons

Why you will love to play Karthus (besides of the reasons listed here):

  • excelent tower-defender
  • Death Defied is easy to place now (mostly on the tower)
  • Requiem interrupts enemy channel
  • there is large area without the fog of war (you can see your low health enemies for Requiem)

Some imperfections you might notice at divine Karthus (besides of the imperfections listed here):
  • quite slow movement.... but it can be improved by items
  • while not (over)feeded, he can't face 1 vs. 1 some chars.... but he is still great in bigger fights

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Spells (some call it skills but mage's skills are spells for me xD)

Passive: Death Defied

Description: When Karthus dies, he becomes ghost who can cast spells (but can't move) for 7 seconds. In this form Karthus can't be target of spells or abilities and is completely imune to attacks and/or AOEs (so his spells can't be interrupted). Spells casted in ghost form cost no mana.
Death Defied's usage in Dominion differs from the usage in Summoner's Rift just in some details:

  • Great 5v5 teamfights are very rare in Dominion. It means that you barely meet a suitable situation for Flash + Zhonya's Hourglass + Death Defied suicide combo for score an ace and push. You can -of course- do it in smaller fights as well but it probably doesn't worth your death. Overmore, there is no such great profit (as in Summoner's Rift) from scoring an ace due to very short respawn.
  • The most teamfights in Dominion are played at capture-points. That means you can very easily estimate where to die. You can also interrupt enemy channels as ghost by using Death Defied (you can make them unable to channel seven seconds after you die).

Q: Lay Waste

Description: Spell is targeted to a small area in quite long range. It damages all enemy units in affected area. If there is just one target, Lay Waste deals double damage.
There is no important difference between using Lay Wastes in Dominion or in Summoner's Rift.

W: Wall of Pain

Description: Karthus conjures magic wall (the higher skill level the wider wall) for 7 seconds. Enemy magic resistance and movement speed is reduced for 5 seconds when he pass through the wall. Approximately 14secs cooldown (with some CDR - so basic cd is something about 17secs, I don't know exactly).
Use the Wall of Pain just like in Summoner's Rift. But definitely don't forger use it while defending capture-point (put the Wall of Pain in front of it to force your enemy pass through - it slows them and reduces their magic resist) and while capturing (put the Wall of Pain directly on capture point to complicate your enemies' movement around it).

E: Defile

Description: Toggle-type spell. When activated, it damages every enemy unit around Karthus (very nice range) each second and cost him quite lot of mana. When deactivated, it restores mana every time Karthus kills an unit. Area of effect is moving with it's caster - he is allways in the middle.
Since you are not laning in Dominion, you can't farm mana by your Defile. Well, you can farm some mana but not so much. That's the reason why to not pick Defile as early as in Summoner's Rift.

R: Requiem

Description: After three seconds channel, this spell damages every living enemy champion in any distance. If channel is interrupted, spell is canceled and you have to wait till next cooldown before casting. Cooldown 180s / 150s / 120s (in late-game you can cast it approximately each 90 seconds due to CDR).
There is one more effect of this spell in Dominion. You can interrupt all enemy channels regardless where you are. Of course, this action should have some more sense than just delay your enemies due to Requiem's cooldown. It might change a lot if your teammates reach the capture-point before the enemy neutralize or capture it due to that delay.

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Summoner Spells (sorted from the best to the worst - for Karthus)

Ghost is great spell for Dominion. Movement speed is the key to victory. There are so many situations when you need to be faster than you are. This spell is really gamechanging.
You can -of course- use it for chasing or running out but I see the main potential of this spell in reaching the capture-point as fast that you can turn it into your turret before the enemy comes.

Karthus is -as any other mage- completely useless without mana. But since he can't farm creeps a lot, he can easily run out of mana. You often need to stay on the battlefield for very long time but you mean nothing without your mana.
Clarity might be the difference between capture/defend some tower and return to the base for mana. It's much better than combat-spells like Flash or Ignite because capturing/defending is much more important than killing.

Flash might help you to kill or not to be killed but there are two reasons why I prefer other spells over Flash in Dominion although I called it the ultimate and superior spell in Summoner's Rift.
  • Dominion's terrain is less ragged than Summoner's Rift's terrain.
  • Killing in Dominion isn't as important as holding/capturing positions.

I tryed to play with this spell but I didn't find it much usefull. Yes, it's quite good for pushing but Karthus is dps mage and great farmer - he can easily push by farming enemy creeps.
I definitely don't say that this spell is useless. It can be good for weaker farmers OR it might maybe work when all five teammates pick it (but I didn't try that).

It's something like Fortify spell which is good but not much suitable for Karthus.

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I start with Boots of Mobility, 2x Mana Potion and 2x Health Potion. Then I build Rabadon's Deathcap followed by Rylai's Crystal Scepter. Afterwards I buy Lich Bane, Void Staff and I finish by Zhonya's Hourglass.

I prefer Boots of Mobility over Sorcerer's Shoes in Dominion. Although magic penetration is good for killing, I consider fast movement and map control as much more important than combat advantages. Due to higher initial gold it's possible to buy this item immediately after the start.

Although Karthus' mana pool is very big and Mana Potion doesn't mean a lot for him, it can give you some more time on the battlefield (which you can't earn by your Defile because of creeps lack).

Every more second you can spend on the battlefield instead of returning to the base can win you the game. Health Potions are cheap and gives you some time out of your base in early-game.

I build Rod of Ages as my second item in Summoner's Rift but it's advantages aren't so important in Dominion. The gold grows very fast in Dominion and you have no stable laning opponent so you can't take many advantages from Rod of Ages' variable subitems. Overmore, the charging time of Rod of Ages is very long due to short game-time.
I skipped Rod of Ages of my Summoner's Rift build and I buy the next item - which is Rabadon's Deathcap. It improves you AP the best of all items.

Karthus is very squishy without Rod of Ages and Rylai's Crystal Scepter can make it better. The more health the longer you can stay in combat (and deal more damage every second because you are dps mage).
The slow is also good because many players build some movement speed for Dominion and they can be faster than you. You can slow them by the Wall of Pain but the fighting is so frequent that it might be on cooldown (and there is no blue buff).

Suitable item for Karthus which raises the movement speed (it's so great in Dominion). It gives you some AP and improves your autoattacks. You can use it's passive almost as often as it allows you due to your Lay Waste's extremely short cooldown.

Because you don't build Sorcerer's Shoes, your magic penetration isn't so high. By the Void Staff you can improve it. Overmore, it's quite cheap item which gives you some AP.

This is great item in Summoner's Rift but I think it's not as good in Dominion because the best usage of Zhonya's Hourglass is in huge 5 vs. 5 teamfights which are very rare in Dominion. It's not bad item because it gives you some armor and quite good AP but I don't think it's so advantageous to build it as the third item like in Summoner's Rift. In most games there is no time to build Zhonya's Hourglass anyway.

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I still prefer 9-0-21 masteries but I've made some changes in the utility tree. Swiftness is really viable mastery in Dominion, so I've put four points there. Where to get that four points? Summoner's Rift advantages of Improved Recall are not effective in Dominion, so it is one point. Runic Affinity is not so good in Dominion because there is no blue buff (yes, there are other things instead of it but no so important for Karthus). The last two points I've taken from Meditation because flat mana regen per five seconds is not so good in Dominion due to short time delays between various events (like visiting base, deaths, ....), faster basic mana regen and no laning phase.

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Glyphs: I have changed Greater Glyph of Ability Power for Greater Glyph of Scaling Cooldown Reduction because there is no blue buff in Dominion and Requiem is more effective there and the per level (not flat) bonus because all characters start at level 3.

Marks: I haven't changed my marks because I need magic penetration even more when I don't build Sorcerer's Shoes and flat because there is no per level alternative.

Greater Seal of Vitality
Seals: I have changed Greater Seal of Health for Greater Seal of Vitality because all characters start at level 3. The flat bonus is better till level 5 (for this runes).

Quintessences: I've changed Greater Quintessence of Ability Power and Greater Quintessence of Health for Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed because -as I already mentioned- Dominion is more about the map control than about killing.

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The most balanced game ever (unfortunately we lose 0:1 but it was great game):
And overwhelming victory:

All my Dominion beta-testing games from 23th Semptember:

All my Dominon beta-testing games from 25th Semptember:

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Thank you for reading my build, I hope you like it.

I will be glad for every meaningful comment; point out my errors (even that gramaticals), I will correct it (if I will agree with you; otherwise we can discuss that).

- Urza