Karthus Build Guide by vavindi

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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 vavindi

Karthus - Pentakill from afterlife

vavindi Last updated on April 13, 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: 9

Honor Guard

Defense: 0


Utility: 21

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I am quite new to LoL as I started playing from Ziggs patch this year. This is my first build here which describes my quite successful playstyle.

I'd like to share my idea of building Karthus, which differs a bit from the rest of the builds here. My build concentrates on getting the needed survivability to maximize your damage output before dieing, so once when dead you'll just need to press 'R' and make them all rage hard.

If something might look bizarre in my item build or summoner spells, then please do read forward as I will explain my every choice.

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Pros / Cons

+great farmer
+trolololo ult
+good harrasser
+probably easiest champion to get kills with
+teaches map awareness really well through looking for moments to use ult

-somewhat slow movement
-gets accused of killstealing a lot
-makes people rage
-very mana dependent
-no escape without flash and on cooldown

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Greater Mark of Magic Penetration

Greater Glyph of Ability Power

Greater Seal of Mana Regeneration

Greater Quintessence of Ability Power
My rune choices are quite common for a AP hero, containing of Mpen for Marks which combined with sorcerer's shoes give you solid damage output, AP for Glyphs for that little extra AP boost you need early game, MP5 Seals which support your early game mana hunger and AP Quints.

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I prefer to use 9-0-21 simply because utility tree masteries support my playstyle better than 21-0-9. This also grants CDR both from utility and offense tree.

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Summoner Spells

Here's probably the first big WTF moment, why use over anything else most commonly used spells, such as .

As I said, my playstyle focuses on surviving for as long as possible, so well timed heal will give you that much needed extra second or maybe even two during a teamfight to cause as much damage to the enemy team as possible. I will further stop on heal when explaining your role in a teamfight.

My second choice is which is really useful for a quick reposition during a fight, to catch up with enemies or to get away from them safely.

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

Awesome passive, which makes you useful even after death. To maximize the effect of this passive, you need to be positioned in the middle of the fight so after you've been taken down you can still spam your other abilities.

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 seconds | Cost 20 / 28 / 36 / 44 / 52 mana | Range 875

This is your main farming ability and should be maxed out first. When using it, always notice the highlighted feature. This is what gives You the power to deal serious damage, farm with ease and keep your lane opponent always on the watch and scared. Positioning your little mines of waste is so very important! You have to decide, if you'll want to get only the one minion with a lot of health, clear out the whole wave by spamming it in the middle or poke Your opponent for a noticeable amount of health. The mines have a little AoE, so figuring out the right positioning really comes with practice. Also, using it to last hit minions is pretty much free thanks to the passive of

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 7 seconds.

Cooldown 22 seconds | Cost 100 mana | Range 1000

This creates a huge wall that slows enemies walking through it and reduces their armor and MR. Really useful in fights and catching up with running enemies. One point should be taken on lvl4 to give you a getaway when needed and generally to use slow where needed, but after that maxed up last, for rest of the skillset provides you more usefulness. You should also use your wall when fighting neutral monsters, such as golems, dragon and baron since the magic resistance debuff works for them as well.

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.

This skill should be picked at level 2 and then maxed out second after . Be aware, that when using it early game, it will drain your mana within seconds. Only use it when you REALLY need to push minion wave away from your tower, or if your jungler is coming for a gank. With the help of your jungler, a pre lvl 6 kill or assist should be fairly easy with your , then activating defile and spamming your q. Later in the game, this will be the skill that everyone is afraid of and the reason why noone wants to be near you. With 600ish AP this build grants You, it will be dealing nearly 250dps. Combine it with spamming Q that could ideally deal around 600dmg with each hit, you'll see why Karthus really should be feared. This is also one of the reasons you get called killstealer a lot - just by being around and having your E active could do that.

After channeling for 3 seconds, Karthus deals 250 / 400 / 550 (+60% of ability power) magic damage to all enemy champions (regardless of distance).

Cooldown 180 / 150 / 120 seconds | Cost 200 / 300 / 400 mana | Range 10000

Your press 'R' to win skill. You'll deal damage to the whole enemy team and make them rage real hard. Since You'll be going on mid lane, You'll be hitting lvl 6 usually first in the game. Always let your team know when that happens, so they can request your ult. Also, as soon as it is ready have constantly eye on the map to see if, any of the opponents have pushed their lanes too far so that by hitting your ult, your team instantly gets an advantage to push back and most likely get a kill, granting you a nice assist.

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Items + gameplay

this is the most important part of my guide, please read through to see the odd choices I have made earlier including picking and buying so late in the game.

Early game

Levels 1-5

As Karthus, you really want mid lane. Usually, I start off with and 2x
Depending on my opponent, I might also choose first. This is when laning against opponent with deadly skillshots, such as or .

At level 1 I put a point in Q and take it real easy. I farm as much as possible with my Q and autoattacks and poking my opponent only if he/she really asks for it (that is, standing out of position or showing up too much agression towards me)

Level 2 I put a point in my E for it's passive to restore mana upon last hits.
Level 3 gets additional point in Q to increase my poking and farming power, and level 4 is usually best time to get one point in W

Usually around level 5 my jungler might show up for a gank, that means letting your opponent come closer to your tower and being prepared to hit him with my wall and hopefully getting a kill with the assist from the jungler. Usually by that time I have also farmed enough gold to make my first trip back to buy one of my first very important items - . You will need 595 gold for that (considering you started with sapphire crystal) I want it as early as possible, to max out my mana pool ASAP. Since my Q is really spammable skill (1sec CD!), then reaching the 1000 bonus mana cap shouldn't take more than 15 minutes. If you have farmed well, or even got a chance to get some money from kills or assists then being able to get your boots really boosts your forward game along.

Mid game

Levels 6-13

Once level 6, get ready to hit your R and score some kills with it. Be on a lookout for possibilities on other lanes and let your team know you're ready for them. If enemy team is any good, they'll be careful once knowing your ult is ready and keep their HP over the critical 250 limit. If you see no possibilities for an easy kill, then usually it's time to go aggressive on your lane opponent. Try to hit him with your wall W , then immediately activate your E and keep spamming your Q . Most likely, you'll get him down to that needed 250 hp or less, making him run. After that play it safe - just retreat to your tower and hit R.
After getting your first kill(s) you should either go back if low on hp, or if enough mana and hp left then go for blue buff. Getting that golem is fairly easy at around lvl 7, just hit the golem with wall, then activate E and Q him down. If everything is going successfully, you can even go for a gank on bot lane since blue buff will keep your mana up fairly longer while Your E is active.

On my second tour back to base, i usually get first boots if I didnt get them first time and start building my immediately. This is needed for the AP boost which by now should be quite needed.

Basically I still want to keep farming and taking blue buffs whenever possible while being aware of ganks happening more often now.

Late game

Levels 13-18

By now, most likely some turrets have fallen and people start roaming around a lot. This is where Karthus really starts to shine. If I havent completed my yet, then at least I have bought
After having a bit of armor, the time has arrived where it is okay for a Karthus to die in a fight. When a bigger teamfight is about to start, You'll want to have your ult, wall and heal ready.

The strategy here is, to get into middle of the fight. Sometimes I even initiate everything myself when having confirmed that my team is there and ready. I put a wall to the middle of the enemies, catching as many of them in it as possible. Then immediately activate my E and start spamming Q around like crazy. Most likely you will get focused instantly. In that moment, when everyone is in the radius of my E, I'll be waiting for the moment when my hp is getting very low and then activate my Their faces will be all WTF as my E still continues to damage them. If they are smart, they'll back off instantly, if not - they'll stay. As soon as Zhonya's active ends I do a quick , making me able to spam maybe 1 or 2 more Q's in their faces and healing my teammates in the process.

After that I'll most likely die, giving me 7 more seconds to spam my abilities. If possible, I'll place one more wall down (If I have survived long enough for it to come off CD) and a few Q's, seeing them run away all is left to do is PRESS R TO WIN! Honestly speaking, I have gotten about 6 or 7 quadra kills that way - only thing missing from penta so far is that someone in my team has also caught some kills.

From that moment on, kills will be coming from left and right and my mission is to keep increasing my HP with and finally getting that major AP boost in the form of .

Depending on how the game is going, I sometimes get before - that is when I'm really dominating and not needing my HP boost but I'm staying alive thanks to my massive damage due to my high AP.

Final item - is situational. If they have tanky team and building lots of MR I get it, if not I usually go for a second which will boost my AP even further.

Through the late game I keep doing the above mentioned combo while we push to win with the whole team.

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Conclusion + screenshots

If You read it through this far, then give this build a try and post your opinions.

Pictures of success are always welcome too!

The games on posted screenshot are from my smurf which I created to start playing more seriously in EUW, therefor only shots of normal games right now.