Karthus Build Guide by BuckRodger

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League of Legends Build Guide Author BuckRodger

Karthus the mid line harass champ ! (updated for new meta)

BuckRodger Last updated on January 23, 2013
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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


Utility: 9

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Karthus' history

The vast quantities of physical magic that were consumed and destroyed during Valoran's numerous Rune Wars have scarred much of Valoran. Many locations far from civilization have been morphed into hazardous and dangerous locales. The Howling Marsh is one of these places, and the self-appointed overlord of this land is the lich known as Karthus.

It is thought that Karthus was a mage who, in life, was foolish enough to enter the fetid waters seeking his fortune, and that he was forever transformed by whatever dark magic permeates the swamp. Karthus now rules over his swampy dominion with an iron (albeit skeletal) fist. Visitors are not welcome, and those who are not scared away by the lich's terrible power most likely end up as one of the undead themselves... skeletons and zombies in Karthus' growing army of eternal servants. On the darkest of nights, Karthus is said to sing the tales of those who have succumbed to the swamp, past and present.

Karthus' tenure in the League of Legends is one of the more unusual ones in the history of the League. First, it is highly unusual that a lich who was known for isolation and hatred of life would even be a willing part of an organization which promoted the preservation of life. Next, Karthus specifically eschews the accrual of power and influence gained through service to the League; he is essentially an unpaid volunteer.

This behavior is completely different than what his life outside of the League would have onlookers believe. Karthus has never spoken about his intentions in being a champion of the League, and in fact becomes quite agitated when asked about it. In the interests of not aggravating a lich, most sensible people subsequently drop the issue.

''Come visit my home, and I shall sing a dirge of your life as it once was.''

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AP: Ability power
CC: Crowd control
VS: Versus
HP: Health Point
AFK: Away from keybord
OS : One shot
AoE : Area of effect
CD : Cooldown

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I have been playing Karthus for a while now and I don't think that he is easy to play. That's why I am making this guide for helping you understand this hero. Karthus is a mid line harass hero. You must out farm the opponent and support your team with Wall of Pain your CC spell and your ulty Requiem. This guide a classical mana/mana regeneration/ AP for Karthus which is commonely used in ranked game. He is really hard to master but if your early game have failed and you are weak you can take "easy kill" with your ulty Requiemand come back in the mid game.

You will always have fun with this hero even if you are losing because it's so funny killing enemy hero with your ulty Requiem and see them rage :). With that guide you will not need your blue buff because of the mana regeneration gived by runes and masteries so you would let it to some other hero. Of course you will have to spam R ^^ because Lay Waste has a really low cooldown.

If you are playing Karthus right, the opponent will have some problem to kill you because of Wall of Pain your CC spell.

So just do like that video :)

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Pros and cons

[*] Amazing Ulty
[*] Enemy team doesn't like you
[*] Funny to play
[*] Has a little vamp spell
[*] Amazing mid/late game damage if he took enough kills and mobs
[*] Able to use skills for 7 s after dying
[*] Can check bush with Lay Waste
[*] Nice AoE damage
[*] Great harasser
[*] Can stay long time on a line

[*] A bit squishy
[*] Hard to finish kills before level 6
[*] Teammates will blame you because of your ks ulty Requiem
[*] Countered easily
[*] Some skills or items like Zhonya's Hourglass can counter Karthus Requiem
[*] Shield skill counter yours skills
[*] Often banned in rank
[*] Often focused
[*] High cooldown on ulty Requiem

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Karthus counter

This are some champ you mustn't take Karthus versus

- Fizz is probably the best counter to Karthus because he can avoid Karthus's ulty with Playful / Trickster. He have a lot of mobility and enough sustain to counter Karthus. He will make somuch damage that u would be obliged to play really defensive and you would not be able to farm enough at all and you will be so late on your stuff that you will be really useless.

- Katarina for nearly the same reason as Fizz. She has a lot of mobility withher Shunpo, she can harass him and she has enough sustain with her magic life steal. Her ulty will kill Karthus really easily and she will outplayed him.

- LeBlanc his also a really counter because of her Distortion and she made ton of damage so Karthus will not be able to sustain versus her because you will be obliged to play deffensive if you want tu survive.

- Kassadin because he has a silence with Null Sphere, an amazing low CD jump with his ulty Riftwalk. He will harass you all the time and you would not be able to counter his combo because of his silence

- Akali because she can avoid every harass since her invisibility Twilight Shroud and a quite good jump with her ulty Shadow Dance

- Gragas is also pretty nice becasue he has lot of sustain, can avoid Karthus's harass with his Body Slam and can harass him with his Barrel Roll

- Fiddlesticks because he will sustain so much with his magic life steal with his Drain, and harass you with his silence Dark Wind

- Zyra of course is an amazing counter to Karthus because she has a lot of harass with her harass and her stun. With the help of a jungler, if karthus overxtand a bit, he would die in less than 2 secondes.

- Every type of bruiser/assasin AD just like Talon or Kha'Zix just hard counter him so just play Karthus because they will kill him too quickly and they will harass him too easily and escape.

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Champion which can avoid karthus's ulty or counter it

- Fizz can avoid Karthus ulty with his Playful / Trickster

- Shen can save one of his ally with Stand United

- Shaco can avoid it with his ulty Hallucinate

- Sivir can avoid it with her Spell Shield

- Soraka with her ulty Wish can heal all her team

- Tryndamere can stay alive with his ulty Undying Rage

- Zilean can save himself or one of his ally with his ulty Chronoshift

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Greater Mark of Magic Penetration

Greater Seal of Mana Regeneration

Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power

Greater Quintessence of Ability Power

I have tried many runes sequence but this one is my favorite.

Greater Quintessence of Ability Power give you the magic penetration you need for making damage. This runes is usefull before buying your Sorcerer's Shoes. That can also replace that boots and you would be able to take Mercury's Treads instead and surviving from gank.

Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power give you some AP because you are a mage. That rune can help you in early but especialy in late game for carrying your team to the victory.

Greater Seal of Replenishment give you the mana regeneration you need in early game. With that rune you will not need to take the blue buff and let him to an other teammates.

Greater Quintessence of Ability Power give you the AP you need during all the game.

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I use that masteries on most of my mage hero. It is really standard of every mage hero who or which are not commited on utility. I make that masteries to make as many damage as I can and that utility to have a nice mana regeneration and increase duration of blue buff if nobody in your team take it. I am not going to focus more on masteries because I think that you have understand what I try to mean.

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Summoner spells

My summoner spells

These are my 2 favorite summoner spell with this hero because Ghost and Wall of Pain work good together. You slow your enemy with Wall of Pain, you use Ghost to go near him and activate Defile to help you killing your opponent. Heal will help winning your line in early game or saving your life in late game.

Other good options

. I were using this summoner spell at the begining but I have seen that Ghost worked better for taking kill or escarpe with Karthus. But this summoner spell is better for taking a good positionnement for team fight or even saving a teammate from an enemy hero. This is my favorite summoner spell with all my other hero but not with Karthus

. Ignite could also work because it will help you finishing kill in early game because Karthus have some problems for finishing kills before level 6. I don't personally take it because the range of this summoner spell is to short compare to Lay Waste and I prefer Heal for wining my line. I don't think that Ignite have a sence with Karthus

. It could also be taken for Karthus but not with my build because It gives you enough mana regeneration. If you make some modification especialy on mana regeneration item you should take Clarity. I don't really like this summoner spell with Karthus because Defile give you back some mana after each kill.

Some other choice of summoner spells

. You can take Teleport if you want to back often buying stufff and regenerate your mana/hp. You can also take that to be sure to not be out farming but I don't think it is a good choice with Karthus because he must out farm the opponent, and he can stay a long time on his line if you play him right. You can use it for helping your team or defending turret but not for winning a line or staying alive.

. Surge Is used for giving you more AP but I think that it is not the best summoner spell you can take. You would maybe take it if you are habituate to play with it on some other champion.

. Cleanse is a good alternative if there is a lot of CC in the enmy team. If not this summoner spell would be useless.

Trolling summoner spells

. The only usefull situation for this skill is running under an enemy turret and revive with the health bonus because of Revive masteries bonus. That is a good composition with Smite if you are a jungler but ... Karthus is not a jungler. This summoner spell can also be used on zombie build with Teleport.

. Has I just tell you it before, Smite is a jungler summoner spell and Karthus is not a jungler.

. Exhaust is not a viable summoner spell because it gives you the same bonus as Wall of Pain but weaker in than it in mid/late game.

. Clairvoyance is really usefull for support ... but you are not a support you are a mage ! And you must carry the game.

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Blue = early game
green = mid game
red = late game

+ X3. You will get Boots of Speed on first Item to give you some harass possiblilty, to escape from enemy jungler and to be able to avoid the opponent's harass. You must take Boots of Speed because of the new meta game !!!!!!!. The 3 Health Potion are here to give you some sustain. If you don't commit so much on mana regen runes, you can take 2 Health Potion and a Mana Potion but keep in mind that you must last it and not not spaming your Lay Waste. So with this start, you should managed to handle your lane as long as possible !

. Then, when you go back buy the Tear of the Goddess. You have to take it as fast as possible because of his passive, you will have to make as many spells as possible to increase your maximal mana and enjoy the passive of your future Archangel's Staff passive and that will also give you mana and AP. And now since the new patch, you can have an amazing Seraph's Embrace so just rush it ;)

. Now, you should take Sorcerer's Shoes as fast as possible for being able to follow your enemy and dodge his spells. That will also help you surviving in early game versus jungler gank because we all know that mobility in early game is the key to success in league of legendes. You will aso be able to help teammates on other line and take an advantage becasue of the magic pen

. Now take the Blasting Wand for having more AP and grow your harass more efficient!

. Now take an Enchantment: Homeguard for being able to came back to your lane really quickly!

. Now, go for the Rod of Ages to have more AP/mana/hp. His passive give you more of that stats after each minute that's why it is interesting to make it now. That a little tanky item for a mage because that give you some hp so you will be able to handle your lane longer and surviving better vs jungler gank.

. Then, the Rabadon's Deathcap will give you more AP for making more damage. You will have +30% AP because of his passive so will begin to make some strong damage and be able to take some team fight.

. Now go make your Archangel's Staff. That will give yoou a lot of AP and some mana. Why making it now ? Because you have accumulate some bonus mana that's why you have to make it now ... And his passive make you convert 3% of your maxial mana in AP... and you a huge maximal mana ! So that stuff will give you all the AP you need for the mid and late game. You also can take it just before the Rabadon's Deathcap since the new update. If you make it after, you would probably be able to transform it into a Seraph's Embrace which have a eally interesting active (transform a part of your mana in hp)

. Now make the Void Staff for having more AP and more magic penetration ... all you need with Karthus. You are now in late game, you nearly can solo the Baron and you carry your team destrying the enemy Nexus into finish the game.

. Now make the Zhonya's Hourglass. Why this item ? Because you are always focus in team fight and the active of this item allowed you stay alive 2 s more than if you didn't buy it and trust me that can save your life more than one time in a game ...

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Karthus' Abilities

Now, I am going to present you Karthus abilities.

.Upon dying, Karthus enters a spirit form allowing him to continue casting spells for 7 seconds. During this time his abilities cost no mana.

Some tips or tricks

- If you know that you are going to die go into enemy hero, you will damage them and you would maybe going to kill some. Defile will be automatically activate and you would be able to use Wall of Pain to slow your enemy, Lay Waste to continu damage them or even Requiem for finishing them.
-Try to die in the midle of the enemy team to damage several hero.
- Your spells have no mana cost.
- If you have no mana and you see several low life enemy hero, go suicide under a turret and use Requiem

. 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.

Some tips or tricks

- Use it to farm
- Make X2 damage to a simple target .. so use it for finishing a minion or to damage the opponent.
- You can check bush with it
- Lay Waste has 875 range so you will harass the opponent easily
- Use it for finishing the blue mob.

. 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.

Some tips or tricks

- Wall of Pain have an amazing slow
- Use it to escarpe or to stop the opponent running (nice with Ghost
- after placing it well use your Lay Waste for harassing the opponent.
- You can use it for checking bush but there is an higher cooldown than for Lay Waste
- Use it in team fight
- Use it for ganking

.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.

Some tips or tricks

- Use it in team fight
- It use a lot of mana so you need to take the blue before using it
- Use it to quick farm and push
- Use it to jungle
- Use the Zhonya's Hourglass with Defile for making damage and been invincible.

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

Some tips or tricks

- You use after being dead because of your passive
- Use it for finishing kill !
- don't waste it
- Don't killsteal or your team is going will blame you
- Have a look at the map for searching low hp hero

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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


I take Lay Waste first because it is the only tha main harass spell for Karthus. Then I up Defile for mana regeneration after killing an enemy. then I take Wall of Painat level 4 for being able to slow my oppoenent. This skill sequence allow you to farm and harass a lot in early game and make kill in mid/late game.

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Early game

The early game is not the strongest moment for Karthus so just harass your opponent and don't engage a 1v1 or even if you are sure that you can take the kill. Use your Health Potion when you are mid life and non stp harass your opponent with Lay Waste. There is one strategy with Karthus out farm your opponent to have a strong mid and late game. So use your Lay Waste for last blowing minions and try do go to the shop as later as you can. Don't hesitate to use your spells the Meki Pendant give you the mana regeneration you need. your Defile will give you back mana after each kill and you would be able to continu harassing your opponent.

You just have to last hit minions and then you have to different choice :
- Push your line under enemy turret. Your minions would be killed by the turret and you will out farm your opponent but you would need ward if there is any jungler in the enmy team. After pushing you can go kill the wolves or wraits.
- Stay at the mid of the line and continu farming and harassing.
Do not die at all ! You need to stay on your line for level 6 and then kill your opponent and back to your shop.

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Mid game

Now in the mid game you have your Requiem. Always tell "ulty ready" to your team, they would often ask you for finishing a kill and would take some easy kill. Read my skill chapter for being able to use your skill proprely on the opponent. Now try to kill the opponent with the help of your jungler and when you will have your Rod of Ages you will be able to push yhe turret or even ganking or counter ganking enemy.

Continu farming but not with your Defile because it is not efficinet (low damage high mana cost) so continu to last hit with your Lay Waste. If you manage to kill the mid line turret, always finish pushing minions to the next turret and then go making a gank, go in the jungle or even go kill the dragon with the help of your teammates. Don't forget that warding will save your life in mid game ! In that part of the game you will be ganked all the time especialy because you are mid and you would need some well posisionated ward for staying alive.

When you back to shop buy your stuff, use the other gold to buy some waeds and check the mini map. Look for low life hero if your Requiem is ready. Look if your team need help, go counter gank some jungler and don't forget to play in team ! Always kill your minions to enemy turret and then continu jungling/helping your team. Use your ulty for helpig your team winning their line and maybe kill a turret ! If your team ask you to use your ulty don't forget to check if the enemy is really low life before using it. Your cooldown is longer enough so don't waist your ulty !The mid game would be finished when you would but you Rabadon's Deathcap or even your Archangel's Staff

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Late game

Now the late game begin. There is two different way to play it : gank a lot and use your CC spell Wall of Pain or going on the suicide Karthus.

If you decide to gank a lot and try to win the game on the team play and the non stop moving/attacking turret you would have to stay alive for carrying your team. Now you can farm minions with your Defile wich nearly OS them. You can push turret and use your Wall of Pain for being sure that enemy would not come for defending it. COntinu warding the map especialy on the Baron. Try to engage good teamfight ... half of game are winning because of a good team fight and an ace ... you can go backdoor the enmy team.

If you decide to play Karthus as a suicide go use your Defile and use the active of your Zhonya's Hourglass. Continu using Lay Waste after the utilisation of your Zhonya's Hourglass and use Requiem if you died and if the enemy team is low hp. You can make many kill if you run into a groupe of several hero and maybe make your team winning.

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Team fight

The team fight can be also played like the late game (suicide or staying alive) but I am going to detail what your have to do during a team fight.

1) Look if the team fight would be nice or not for your team

2) Use your cc spell Wall of Painfor slowing enemy team and be careful to don't be focused.

3) Use your Lay Waste to harass the enemy team and make them taking the fight as low hp as you can.

4) If they are going near you use your Defile to kill them

5) Use again your Wall of Pain for slowing them

6) Use your Requiem for making them low hp/kill them.

Of cource alays use your Lay Waste and hope that you will survive for a long time. Don't forget to use your Heal and your Ghost for staying alive and making your team win that game.

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Here I am just going to put a picture about were to put your wards. That is a classical picture you can find easily on the internet but that picture can save your life ;)

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How to play Karthus

Here is a video wich explain well how to play Karthus. I am not again to explicate more that video because it just tell nearly everything I have written in m guide.

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Some game I have done

Here is a picture of game to show you that my build works ;). In that game Lee Sin try to jungle of the first time of his life so you can see that it was a 4 vs 5. How could we win ? Because I have made 33/10/3. I have made something like 20 kill with my ulty (I am not joking :)) and I make 3 ace (3-3-4 kill) during that game. During that game we have pushed some turret and go kill the nexus :). We have win because of a good team work and because my team protect me during the time I were carrying the game. I will post some other picture to explain you how to play on different bad situation. You also can see that the other hero stuff is not really good, that's probably a reason for having win that game.

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Hey I have passed a night finishing that guide before going on holidays (for 4 days) so I hope you would enjoy my guide :). Keep in ming that Karthus is a mid liner and you need to out farm your opponent. Please don't forget to check my other guide and leave some comment on my guide.
Think for reading my guide so far :)

Thanks to Icsulla for the video !
Thanks to jhoijhoi for his guide for using BB code here