Katarina Build Guide by Lolvo
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Hi, I am Lolvo from EU West.
I used to play on NA and created a smurf account to play on EU West with my friends. However, when Riot released the new transfer options I moved my main account to EU West and stopped playing on my smurf account.
Who am I to tell you how to play Katarina?
My main champions are Katarina and Kennen.
I started playing Katarina on my smurf account and I liked her immediately.
There are certainly better Katarina players out there, but I can tell you everything you need to know about this champion.
In ranked games, I played Katarina very successfully, but unfortunately, I have rarely been able to play her in rankeds lately since I'm playing a lot of duo queue and end up at first pick (more information on this in the Pros/Cons section).
Why am I writing a Katarina guide?
In my opinion, Katarina is quite easy to play if you know what you're doing.
The key to play her is decision making. There is also a good potential on Shunpo to outplay your enemies.
I enjoy playing Katarina and I have played her against every matchup you can think of (yes, even Quinn).
I hope that my knowlegde and experience with Katarina will be helpful for you and that you will enjoy playing her as well.
What you need to know about Katarina
Before you can get started with Katarina, you need to know what she does and what can be done against her.
The way I play her, Katarina has a very strong AoE burst potential. She snowballs very hard and may even become unstoppable and destroy teams if she is very fed.
On the downside, she is very squishy and a major mistake can make her useless.
In the champion selection, you have to be very careful about picking Katarina.
Even as a very experienced Katarina player, I avoid first picking her in ranked games, simply because of the fact that a good team can make her unviable (here's an example: Malphite, Diana, Zac, Blitzcrank and Vayne).
However, if you feel confident, it is not a troll pick to first pick Katarina (I used to do it very often in the Silver tier and I still like to first or second pick her in normal games).
In this chapter, I would like to explain some of the basic ideas about Katarina.
If you already have a good knowledge about the game (you know how to use smart cast, you know how to use Katarina's combo, you know the concept of interrupting and you know how to farm under your turret), feel free to skip this chapter.
If you want to play Katarina, I strongly recommend to enable smart cast for all of your abilities and items.
Smart cast means that, once you press the hotkey for an ability, you automatically select the target that your mouse cursor is currently pointing at without clicking.
If you aren't using smart cast already, it might take you a game or two to get used to it, but it's not hard.
In order to enable smart cast, press Esc and select "Key Bindings".
I am assuming that you use Q, W, E and R for your abilities, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 for your items and D and F for your summoner spells. If you don't use those, just replace them by your own hotkeys.
In the key bindings,
set Smart Cast Spell 1 to Q,
set Smart Cast Spell 2 to W,
set Smart Cast Spell 3 to E,
set Smart Cast Spell 4 to R,
set Smart Cast Item 1 to 1,
set Smart Cast Item 2 to 2,
set Smart Cast Item 3 to 3,
set Smart Cast Item 4 to 4,
set Smart Cast Item 5 to 5 and finally
set Smart Cast Item 6 to 6.
If you want to smart cast your summoner spells as well (I recommend it),
set Smart Cast Summoner Spell 1 to D and
set Smart Cast Summoner Spell 2 to F.
Katarina's combo is quite straightforward.
You cast all of the abilities you want to cast immediately.
Use Bouncing Blades first, follow it up by Shunpo and cast Sinister Steel immediately after that. Finally, cast Death Lotus.
It is very important to do it as quicky as possible. Since you cannot move with your ultimate on and it may even be interrupted, your enemy has much more time to react if you cast your combo too slowly (e.g. if you don't use smart cast). A split second can save your enemy, get you killed and even lose you the game (!!!).
If you go for Deathfire Grasp (more information in the items section), you should use it first.
Note, however, that it is sometimes better to start your combo off with Shunpo. If you use Bouncing Blades or Deathfire Grasp first, your enemy might react quickly and escape, levaing you out of range for Shunpo and possibly denying you the kill.
Generally, you should use Shunpo first if your target is low and can be killed without Death Lotus or if Death Lotus is down.
Play a few games with Katarina to get the right feeling for this.
Katarina's nemesis - interrupts
In this guide, I will be talking a lot about crowd control (short: CC) and interrupts.
Death Lotus, which is the most important source of damage for Katarina, can be interrupted by most kinds of crowd control.
This is a list of crowd control effects that interrupt Death Lotus:
- Airborne (knockups, knockbacks, any kind of ability that knocks you somewhere)
- Forced action (fear, taunt, ...)
- Pulverize, Stand Aside, Condemn, Monsoon
- Shadow Dash, Puncturing Taunt, Idol of Durand, Charm, Terrify
- Null Sphere, Infuse, Static Field
- Dazzle, Cocoon, Bandage Toss
- Nether Grasp, Infinite Duress, Impale
This is a list of crowd control effects that will not interrupt Death Lotus:
- Entangle ( Curse of the Sad Mummy)
- Snare (blocks movement)
- Blinding Dart, Blinding Assault
- Curse of the Sad Mummy
- Wither, Volley, Make it Rain, Command: Dissonance
- Light Binding, Dark Binding, Grasping Roots, Chain of Corruption
Make sure you know the interrupting potential of your enemy champions.
In order to make this easier for you, I have listed every champion in the matchups section and rated their interrupting potential, so you can look it up before the game starts.
If you are new to the game or to the concept of interrupting, be sure to keep the above in mind. A single champion with good interrupts (e.g. Blitzcrank) can shut you down completely, especially if you are not aware of their danger.
Don't do anything while using Death Lotus. Most actions (moving, casting an ability, ...) will interrupt it. Take a look at the summoner spells section to see which summoner spells you can use without interrupting Death Lotus.
Last-hitting under your turret
You can use this section for any champion.
Generally, there are five types of minions:
- Melee minions
- Caster minions
- Siege minions
- Super minions
- Anti-turret cannons
Concerning last-hitting, you only have to worry about the first three types, since super minions only spawn late in the game (after laning phase) and anti-turret cannons are only summoned by a special item.
As you have probably noticed, each minion wave consists of six minions and every third minion wave (before 35 minutes in the game) includes a big siege minion as well.
From the six "normal" minions, three are melee minions and three are caster (ranged) minions. Melee minions are slightly more durable and stronger than caster minions.
Killing a minion gives you gold. However, you will only get the gold if you have delivered the last hit on the minion. The experience will be given to you and nearby allies regardless of last-hitting.
Since the tower deals way more damage than Katarina in the early game, it might be difficult for you to get the last hits.
However, there's a trick to get the last hits under your turret:
A melee minion at full health will take two hits from your turret. After that, you will be able to last hit it with a basic attack or any of your abilities.
A caster minion at full health will only be able to take one hit from your turret. After that, you will need two basic attacks to finish it off.
There are two ways to get the last hit on caster minions under your turret:
- If you can predict which minion your tower will attack, hit it once before the tower attacks it and then last-hit it after the first tower hit.
- Use an ability and a basic attack at the same time to kill the caster minion after the first hit.
The siege minion is the most durable one. Don't hesitate to use your abilities to last-hit it since it grants a lot of gold. Before you try to last-hit it, look at its health bar and see how much damage the tower deals to it, so you will know when it is low enough for you to kill it.
Whenever it is possible, use only basic attacks to farm (only in the early game, later on, it will be better to wave clear with your abilities).
I will provide a detailed description about this in the "Laning" section, since this section shuld only provide a general overview for beginners.
Pros / Cons
Note: Katarina is a high risk - high reward champion.
On the one hand, she has an amazing potential but on the other hand, there are a lot of limitations.
In this guide, I will not try to hide the Cons and highlight the Pros.
I will merely explain how to deal with the Cons and how to use your Pros to your advantage.
However, Katarina's Pros and Cons are balanced (like on any other champion in LoL) and it's up to you to decide if you like her.
Voracity resets all of Katarina's abilities immediately except for Death Lotus.
You can get your entire Bouncing Blades, Shunpo and Sinister Steel combo off after every kill or assist and use Shunpo again to escape. After three kills in a team fight, you can even use Death Lotus again.
You don't have to worry about mana at all.
Enjoy unlimited resets and infinite spamming in lane (although this is not always recommended).
You'll hardly find a champion to match Katarina at single-target or multi-target damage.
If she's not interrupted, she is able to sweep up tp three enemy champions as if it was just one because all of her abilities, with the exception of Shunpo, deal multi-target damage. Resets from Voracity will enable you to finish off everyone who was previously damaged by your combo. This is why Katarina is very likely to pick up penta kills.
If you throw Bouncing Blades, wait for it to hit five minions and use Sinister Steel, the minions will be very low or dead. At the early stages of the game, you can use all of your three basic abilities ( Bouncing Blades, Sinister Steel or Shunpo) to last-hit under your turret or from range.
Once you have completed your core build, you are extremely dangerous in skirmishes (2v2, 3v3 ... fights). Your roaming is very strong (especially if you have taken teleport) and if you manage to surprise your enemies when they have used their crowd control, you are unstoppable.
With a few kills and good farm, you can easily fight 2v1 or even 3v1.
Against a low crowd control team and with a lot of farm and kills, you can win the game by yourself.
If you have a ward or if you are positioned well, Shunpo can be used like a second Flash. With resets, you can Shunpo up to six times. When you're strong, you can tower dive your enemy and Shunpo out. Finally, you can also turn around enemy ganks by killing your opponent quickly and using Shunpo to get away safely.
Katarina is a melee and (more or less) all-in champion. In the early game, before she has built some items and become powerful, ranged champions or strong melee champions can easily bully her. You will rarely win a lane with Katarina before level 6.
Since Death Lotus can be interrupted easily, Katarina can be destroyed by some champions. Diana and Lissandra are just two examples. It is extremely difficult to win a lane against such a counterpick. Additionally, the entire enemy team can counterpick you and destroy you.
As long as Katarina is jumping around or destorying the enemy team with Death Lotus, she is dangerous. However, if she gets caught, ganked or interrupted without being able to escape with Shunpo, she is dead. You have to be very careful about going in because there is no way out. Zhonya's Hourglass is not too effective on Katarina (compared to different AP carries, more information in the items section).
With Katarina, you need kills to get resets on Voracity and use your combo again, which is what makes you so dangerous in the first place.
However, enemies can protect themselves with defensive purchases like Zhonya's Hourglass or Guardian Angel, champion abilities like Chronoshift or Intervention and sometimes even with magic resistance.
A Katarina without a reset is just half a Katarina.
There are only a few viable summoner spells for Katarina.
In this section, I will explain why they are good and how to use them.
Additionally, I am going to tell you why the other spells are not viable.
If you don't agree, you're free to use your own spells.
Flash is an amazing spell.
It is recommended to take it with most champions, including Katarina.
You can get out of very dangerous situations with a good Flash.
However, you should make sure to use the great potential of this spell in the best possible way.
Keep the following in mind:
However, if you really know what you're doing, you can play Katarina without an escape and rely on Shunpo ( Teleport/ Ignite, Barrier/ Ignite, ...).
Ghost gives you a slightly better chasing potential but reduces your escape potential massively, since you're very vulnerable to ranged crowd control spells without Flash.
At this point, my guide differs from the other guides.
As you have probably noticed, I prefer Teleport over Ignite.
I don't want to say that Teleport is better than Ignite, but it is my style to run Teleport on Katarina and I recommend to try it out since this spell has turned a lot of games for me.
As you might have concluded from the Pros/Cons section, Katarina is usually a weak laner and a strong ganker.
Before level 6, you will hardly use Teleport, because you don't have any crowd control and you lack the damage to make a gank work.
However, if you get bullied out of lane or killed too early, you can Recall and use Teleport to get back to lane and save a lot of gold and experience.
Your enemy won't be able to snowball too hard early if you do that.
Of course, if you see a good opportunity, use Teleport to gank, but don't be overconfident. Your enemies have to be really deep if you want your gank to work.
After/at level 6 in the laning phase, Teleport becomes very strong.
The laning phase is over when both teams start to group (most likely as 5).
Keep your team informed whenever your Teleport is up.
Ask your laners to place Sight Wards or Vision Wards as deep into the enemy territory as they can. In this LoL wiki article, you can look up what you can Teleport to.
Always keep an eye on the map. If a fight breaks out, make sure to get out of range of your opposing laner, since they might attack or interrupt you while casting Teleport.
Be aware that your Teleport will most likely be noticed by your enemies.
Therefore, it is best to use it when the enemies have engaged on your teammates.
Don't hesitate too much ("Only fools hesitate."), just make sure that your enemies cannot get away (without burning important abilities like Flash).
Casting Teleport takes 4 seconds.
During those 4 seconds, you can be interrupted (in a similar way as Death Lotus). If you decide that you don't want to Teleport because it's too dangerous or it has become pointless (e.g. your team has already won the fight), you can cast Teleport again to cancel it and put it on a 180 second cooldown instead of the full 300 second cooldown.
Don't use Teleport if you're not able to help.
Assuming that you are not interrupted and you really want to gank, you have to inform your teammates. Don't be afraid to ping three times while casting Teleport. It's very important to make your team look at the map and they might miss your Teleport if they're busy in the fight.
Once you have arrived, burst your enemies down.
If you are behind them, you may even save Shunpo to chase and cast Death Lotus immediately. However, be sure that you don't give them a chance to escape to the other direction.
You can Teleport to the top lane, bot lane, mid lane and even into the jungle, if there are nearby wards. However, always keep the 4 second cast time in mind. Teleport is not too good for chasing.
After the laning phase, Teleport is still useful.
You can push any lane and come to help your team at any time (make sure you have something to Teleport to!!!).
Don't overextend and don't push without vision on your side of the map.
Don't leave your team if they want to initiate a fight and don't make them give up objectives (turret, inhibitor, base) because you're missing (unless you're taking objectives yourself).
You might even want to backdoor (take a deep objective in the enemy territory that is unprotected) or assassinate someone (don't forget the cast time).
To sum up, I like taking Teleport because it gives Katarina the possibility to snowball very hard and get out of hopeless lanes.
You can also counter enemy globals/semi-globals like Teleport on enemy champions, Shen's Stand United, Twisted Fate's Destiny, Nocturne's Paranoia or Pantheon's Grand Skyfall.
Make sure you don't forget enemy globals when using Teleport and be aware of the fact that they might turn up at any time.
With your Teleport on cooldown, you should still gank other lanes if you can.
In the late game, you can push the bottom lane without giving your enemies the possibility to force Baron Nashor .
Ignite is the preferred spell for most AP carries.
It is a great spell to secure kills.
Additionally, I think it's quite easy to use.
Since Ignite is on a very high cooldown, don't waste it.
Only use it to kill your opponent, there is no other reason to cast it.
If you just want to reduce your opponent's healing, use Death Lotus.
Don't poke with Ignite.
If you can't finish off your enemy, save it.
If you don't even need Ignite to kill your enemy, save it as well.
You can cast Ignite while using Death Lotus.
However, you will interrupt Death Lotus if your target is not in range.
On the downside, Ignite and Death Lotus bot apply a 50% healing reduction to your enemy that doesn't stack, so the healing reduction component from Ignite is often useless for you.
Ignite works very well with Voracity.
If you cannot quite burst anyone down with your abilities and items, Ignite might finish someone off and give you a reset, which enables you to continue bursting your enemies and even turn the fight.
Although I don't take it, Ignite is certainly a very good summoner spell on Katarina.
A shield can always be useful.
Although Barrier isn't particularly strong with Katarina's kit, it could sometimes save the day.
In the laning phase, the combination of Barrier, Flash and Shunpo will make it very difficult to kill you.
You can tower dive squishy enemies without crowd control and kill them easily, using Barrier to block some tower damage (you should have a good advantage in your lane to do this).
In team fights, Barrier provides some additional safety for you.
You can use Barrier while Death Lotus is active.
Like any summoner spell, Barrier should never be wasted.
Use it when you're getting very low, but keep in mind that Ignite ticks for five seconds while Barrier only lasts for two seconds, so don't get too low - better safe than sorry.
This spell is good against team compositions that don't have any/enough interrupts and therefore rely on bursting you down. For example, Kha'Zix or Zed could do this.
Although you can use Barrier at any time, even if you're affected by crowd control, it won't be too useful if Death Lotus was interrupted.
Exhaust is bad on Katarina.
It's a very good spell since it shuts an enemy down, but it is your task to get kills and be safe.
Tell your support to take Exhaust.
If there is no Exhaust on your team and noone wants to take it, I still don't recommend that you take it.
It might be useful against champions with predictable burst damage like Kennen.
You can use Exhaust with Death Lotus.
However, if your enemy is out of range, you will interrupt Death Lotus.
Over the full duration, Ghost will take you farther than Flash.
However, Flash can save you instantly, especially if you dodge an ability with it or cast it over the wall.
The only time you want to pick up Ghost over Flash is against a team without crowd control, and teams like that are very, very rare.
If you like Ghost, you can take it, but once you're out of position, you won't have a chance to escape.
Cleanse is barely useful for you.
Once you have started Death Lotus, Cleanse cannot protect you from interrupts.
You can merely remove the crowd control from yourself after you have been interrupted.
Cleanse might only be useful if you enemies have crowd control that prevents you from getting into the fight or locks you down to nuke you, such as Veigar's Event Horizon or Lux's Light Binding.
In this chapter, I am going to explain the viable runes for Katarina.
Since there are lots of runes, I'll stick with the good ones - I won't talk about the bad ones.
You should only use Tier 3 runes ("Greater ... of ...").
Greater Mark of Magic Penetration
Greater Seal of Scaling Health
Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power
Greater Quintessence of Ability Power
Marks (red): Greater Mark of Magic Penetration
I think it's the only option to go on Katarina.
They work very well with your flat magic penetration build.
On AP carries, you will usually take these.
Seals (yellow): Greater Seal of Scaling Health
Seals are good defensive runes. Since I use a very aggressive build, I like to take scaling health, so I have more survivability in the late game.
These seals work well against any opponent.
However, this is not the only option. There are more viable seals for Katarina.
Glyphs (blue): Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power
These glyphs will be good against any opponent and give you a good amount of ability power.
There are more options for this.
Quintessences (purple): Greater Quintessence of Ability Power
This is what gives you your early ability power (since there is no base AP).
I think it's the best option, but there are more possibilities.
- Greater Mark of Magic Penetration (recommended)
- Greater Seal of Scaling Health (recommended)
- Greater Seal of Armor: very good if you are laning against an AD champion ( Talon, Zed, ...)
- Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power (recommended)
- Greater Glyph of Ability Power: these are good in easy lanes (e.g. Karthus)
- Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist: good against AP nukers ( Veigar, LeBlanc, ...)
- Greater Glyph of Magic Resist: good against early magic damage (rather take the scaling ones)
- Greater Quintessence of Ability Power (recommended)
- Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed: good for ganking and chasing
- Greater Quintessence of Spell Vamp: if you really need early sustain
Katarina uses standard AP masteries without mana.
You should take 21 points in the offense tree as it's the case for most AP carries.
Since Katarina doesn't need mana, you might want to spend nine points on extra survivability in the defense tree.
You can switch the points in Hardiness with the points in Resistance , depending on your enemy laner (armor against AD and magic resist against AP).
You can take the same offense tree as the recommended one, but instead of going for survivability, you might grab additional movement speed and cooldown reduction on summoner spells.
I don't recommend this, but I have tested it and it works.
Now you know Katarina's strengths and weaknesses and you've set up your summoner spells, masteries and runes, it's time to talk about her spells.
They are very easy to use and you will probably know a lot about them if you just read the descriptions.
In this section, I will explain every detail I know about her spells.
In League of Legends, every champion has a passive.
Some passives are not too important (like Corki's Hextech Shrapnel Shells or Nunu's Visionary), but Voracity should never be forgotten.
This passive can turn games around easily.
The 15 second cooldown reset resets Bouncing Blades, Sinister Steel and Shunpo instantly. If you participate in three kills in a team fight, Death Lotus will be ready or almost ready again.
Don't forget that assists will trigger Voracity as well, so you can let your teammates finish someone off instead of burning an important cooldown like Flash.
To get the most out of Voracity try to learn how much damage your abilities deal.
If an enemy is low, Bouncing Blades and Shunpo might be enough to kill them, but if you use your combo too quickly you might cast Sinister Steel after the reset, so it would be on cooldown.
In a team fight, use Shunpo whenever you get a reset. Don't try to finish off enemies with Bouncing Blades from range, use Shunpo instead so you can jump on to the next enemy after the kill.
If Death Lotus is on cooldown, don't be afraid to participate in fights.
Although Death Lotus is your main source of damage, you might get some resets from Voracity and use Death Lotus later on.
However, make sure that you don't need Death Lotus initially.
Don't be afraid to turn around ganks.
After a kill, Voracity grants you a free escape ( Shunpo) or even a double kill if you have enough damage.
Voracity is your key to success.
It makes you scary.
If you don't get any resets, Ignite or Deathfire Grasp might help you out.
One reset in a team fight is very likely to win the fight for you if you're still healthy.
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Bouncing Blades is a unique spell in your kit.
All of your other spells are all-in spells. You have to be very close to your enemy or jump in if you want to use them.
However, Bouncing Blades is different.
It's your only way to damage enemies from range and stay safe.
However, the range is not too large.
In the very early game (level 1-5), you will probably need this spell to farm.
Whenever you feel that it would be unsafe to last-hit a minion at melee range, use Bouncing Blades instead.
Take care that you don't push the lane and don't waste this spell.
Whenever it's possible, use basic attacks to farm. If that's not an option, try to use Sinister Steel. Only if that doesn't work as well, use Bouncing Blades.
If you don't need Bouncing Blades to farm, harass your opponent.
Since you have no mana, only the cooldown matters.
Remember that Bouncing Blades hit five targets in total.
Don't push the lane too much when you're harassing your opponent.
If the minions are already pushed to the enemy side of the lane, push them into the enemy tower.
Stay safe while harassing your enemy.
Don't eat skillshots and dont run too far to them.
You can throw Bouncing Blades to a minion that is close to your opponent in order to harass them from a high range.
Once you've hit level 6, you have two options.
If you are stronger than your opposing laner (e.g. Karthus), try to bully them with Bouncing Blades or kill them.
However, if you are weaker, continue farming.
If you see a good opportunity (e.g. with Teleport), gank other lanes.
In the late laning phase (level 9+), you will only use Bouncing Blades to clear wavesor all-in.
If you're winning your lane really hard, you might want to bully your opponent with Bouncing Blades, but it's usually better to look for ganks.
In the late game, only use Bouncing Blades as a part of your combo.
It is too dangerous to harass your enemies when they're grouped because of the low range on Bouncing Blades.
Don't forget the second part of Bouncing Blades, the mark.
Whenever it's possible, trigger the mark to get free damage.
Use Bouncing Blades first in your combo, except if it would kill your target.
In that case, you'll most likely want to use Shunpo.
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Sinister Steel is a very simple spell.
It gives you extra close-range damage on a short cooldown.
You don't have to save Sinister Steel - use it whenever you can deal damage to an enemy.
It's also very good to trigger the mark from Bouncing Blades.
Use Sinister Steel right after Shunpo (if it's needed) in your burst combo.
While doing Wraiths or pushing, wait for Bouncing Blades to hit all targets and then use Sinister Steel.
Sometimes it's good to farm with Sinister Steel. If your enemy wants to harass you, they will expect you to walk to a minion and last-hit in with a basic attack. However, you can kill the minion at a slightly higher range and without cast time if you use Sinister Steel.
Be aware that Sinister Steel barely deals any damage if you have only one skill point in it.
If you skill Bouncing Blades first, the mark will deal more damage than Sinister Steel itself.
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Shunpo combined with Voracity is the reason why you pick Katarina at all.
In the early game, Shunpo is a great escape.
You can always jump to a minion instantly as long as Shunpo is up.
Don't use Shunpo to last-hit except if you are in your own tower range.
If you want to harass your enemy, use Bouncing Blades.
Before level 6, you can only jump to your enemy to harass them if it's absolutely safe.
Absolutely safe means that you are not exposing yourself to ganks (e.g. you see the enemy jungler in another lane) and you're absolutely sure that you cannot lose the trade (e.g. Lux has used all of her spells and she can't do anything to you).
Of course, Shunpo in for kills.
If Death Lotus is up, you will usually cast your entire burst combo at your enemy if you can kill them.
Harassing with Shunpo at this stage of the game is very dangerous and you should only do it if it's absolutely safe.
If you're ganking your enemies from behind, consider saving Shunpo for the chase.
Additionally, it's sometimes good to interrupt Death Lotus and cast Shunpo to kill your enemy, e.g. if you want to jump on to the next one.
In the late game, Shunpo has only two uses: escape or kill.
Whenever it's possible, use Shunpo to escape instead of Flash.
Don't jump to an enemy if you can't kill them.
In a team fight, Shunpo in when you're ready to use Death Lotus. Wait for any dangerous crowd control to come out (e.g. Blitzcrank's Static Field).
However, you can also work with Voracity or Deathfire Grasp instead of Death Lotus. If your enemies are saving their crowd control for you, you can wait until someone gets low enough for you to kill them or use Deathfire Grasp to burst them down.
When you're done, continue fighting or escape with Shunpo.
It's always useful to have Sight Wards or Vision Wards in your inventory as long as you have enough slots. Remember the slot where you put your Sight Wards and you can use Shunpo as a free Flash by placing a Sight Ward and instantly jumping to it.
This requires a bit of practice and smart cast on items.
Shunpo works instantly and it's not a dash.
In other words, when you use Shunpo you instantly disappear at your current location and instantly appear at your target's location without crossing the space between the two locations. For exaplme, you can use this to get out of Veigar's Event Horizon or to dodge Lux's Light Binding or Morgana's Dark Binding by jumping over them.
Finally, do not underestmate the damage reduction.
You don't have to think too much about it since it's activated automatically when using Shunpo. However, if you see a high-damage ability like Veigar's Primordial Burst flying at you, you should use Shunpo to block a bit of the damage.
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Death Lotus is the main reason for Katarina's huge damage potential, but it's also the reason why she is counterpicked easily.
Like most of Katarina's abilities, Death Lotus is quite easy to use if you know the right time to use it.
As soon as you've put your first skill point into Death Lotus, look to gank other lanes or burst your enemy laner down (e.g. if it's Karthus).
Death Lotus is the last ability of your burst combo since you cannot cast a spell after it.
Don't be afraid to waste Death Lotus. It's on a very short cooldown for an ultimate, especially if you get a reset from Voracity.
I don't want to say that you should use it all the time, but you can use it to bully your opponent out of lane.
You have to channel Death Lotus for two seconds.
During this time, you can be interrupted by some kinds of crowd control and you cannot use your abilities or move. Be careful that you don't move accidentally because that would interrupt Death Lotus.
You can use summoner spells that don't move you anywhere like Ignite, Barrier, Exhaust, Ghost (don't do that), Heal, Cleanse (don't do that), Clairvoyance (why on earth ...), Smite (don't take this) and Clarity (don't take this).
However, you cannot use Flash, Teleport (why would you?) and Revive (don't take this).
In fights, it's important to cast Death Lotus when you are safe from interrupts.
You don't have to channel for the full two seconds to deal massive damage, but you should at least have a guarantee that you will hit a lot of important enemies.
I have listed the interrupt potential of every champion in the matchups section.
Death Lotus cannot be cast if no enemy is in range.
In this case, the icon will be grayed out.
You can use this to your advantage if you don't see an enemy and Death Lotus is not grayed out.
This means that one or more enemies are in your Death Lotus range, but you cannot see them because they are either stealthed (invisible) or hiding in brush.
For example, a Teemo could be hidden by Camouflage or a Twitch could have used Ambush.
If you activate Death Lotus it will hit any target in range, regardless of whether you can see them or not.
You can hit up to three targets, but it's often better to hit two important targets or just one very important target instead of three tanks.
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Whenever it's possible, put a skill point into Death Lotus.
It's Katarina's ultimate and you can get the highest damage output by putting skill points into it.
At level one, put a point into Bouncing Blades.
It has the highest range of your abilities and you don't want to fight at melee range at level one. In some cases, you might go for a different option. Check out the laning section for more information.
The second skill point goes to Shunpo.
You might need an early escape and sometimes a gap closer like Shunpo could even give you early kills.
Put the third point into Sinister Steel, just to make it available.
After that, you have two options.
You can either prioritise Bouncing Blades or Sinister Steel.
I usually prioritise Bouncing Blades, because it enables me to harass my opponent from range. However, Sinister Steel has a shorter cooldown. Therefore, it gives you more damage. In my opinion, you should still prioritise Bouncing Blades, because you cannot stand next to your enemy at melee range and wait for your Sinister Steel cooldowns.
I admit that Sinister Steel is better for pushing, so if you want to push, prioritise Sinister Steel.
Shunpo comes last because it isn't as safe as Bouncing Blades and it doesn't have the short cooldown of Sinister Steel. The early skill point at level two is enough to use Shunpo's full potential.
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"Glass cannon" means that you build a lot of damage and avoid building defense whenever it's possible. You only buy defensive items if you really can't live without them.
I cannot give you an explanation why you should use a glass cannon build, but I can list a few good arguments. Tanky Katarina might work in some cases and I don't want to say that people who build Katarina differently don't have the right to do so.
The first reason why I go for glass cannon Katarina is the fact that she doesn't have any crowd control. For tanky builds, crowd control is important for two reasons:
- You have to lock your opponent down.
If you're building tanky, you obviously have less damage.
Because of this, you need more time to kill your enemy.
However, since you have no crowd control, they can just run away if they get in trouble and you cannot burst them down since you lack the damage to do so.
- You can be ignored.
If you build too tanky, there is no reason why your enemies should bother to attack you at all.
Without crowd control and without too much damage, you don't have a great impact on the fight.
Your enemies can just move on and focus your squishy teammates and then finish you off.
Katarina's incredible scalings are the second reason for a glass cannon build.
Her three basic abilities scale with a total of 125% AP.
Death Lotus scales with 200% AP for each enemy, up to 600% AP if you hit three enemies for the full duration.
With two resets on your basic abilities, you get a scaling of 375% AP.
Maybe those numbers don't mean anything to you, but compare them to other AP carries' scalings and you will see that Katarina's scalings are ridiculously good (of course, only if you get resets and hit Death Lotus).
Tankier builds also have their benefits, however, I won't talk about them in this guide.
I might add a tanky Katarina build later on, but I'll stick with glass cannon Katarina for now.
In order to understand this, you first need to know what flat magic penetration actually is.
All of Katarina's abilities deal magic damage.
However, your enemies are not affected by 100% of the magic damage you deal to them.
Every unit (champions, monsters, minions) in LoL has magic resistance (short: MR).
Champions have a base magic resistance, but there are items that provide additional magic resistance as well.
A multiplier of 100 : (100 + your opponent's magic resistance) is applied to your magic damage in order to calculate the actual damage that you deal to your opponent.
For example, if your opponent has 50 magic resistance, the multiplier will be:
100 : (100 + 50)
= 100 : 150
= 2 : 3
Two thirds of your damage will be dealt to your opponent and one third will be blocked.
Now, there is flat and percent magic penetration and flat and percent magic resist reduction. The only difference between magic penetration and magic resist reduction is that magic penetration just ignores a part of your opponent's magic resistance while magic resist reduction actually reduces their magic resistance (which helps your teammates as well).
However, for this sectionn (and only for this section), there is no difference between those two and you can just add them (20 magic penetration + 20 magic resist reduction = 40 magic resistance ignored).
Percent magic penetration is very easy to understand: it ignores a percentage of your opponent's magic resistance.
Obviously, it's more effective if your opponent has more magic resistance.
However, there's a misconception about flat magic penetration.
A lot of players believe that it becomes less effective if your opponent has less magic resistance.
This is not true.
Magic penetration becomes incredibly effective if your opponent doesn't have a lot of magic resistance.
Let's get back to the formula and add the flat magic penetration:
Multiplier = 100 : (100 + max(0, magic resistance - flat magic penetration))
I added the max(0, ...) because magic penetration cannot ignore more magic resistance than your enemy has. However, you will usually not have to worry about this since it's extremely hard to get more penetration than your opponent's magic resistance.
Assume you have 50 flat magic penetration.
Your first opponent has 100 magic resistance.
Without penetration, you would deal:
100 : (100 + 100)
= 100 : 200
= 1 : 2
= 50% damage to them.
With penetration, you deal:
100 : (100 + max(0, 100 - 50))
= 100 : (100 + max(0, 50))
= 100 : (100 + 50)
= 100 : 150
= 2 : 3
= 66.7% damage to them.
The penetration saves 16.7% of your original damage.
Your second opponent has 50 magic resistance.
Without penetration, you would deal:
100 : (100 + 50)
= 100 : 150
= 2 : 3
= 66.7% damage to them.
With penetration, you deal:
100 : (100 + max(0, 50 - 50))
= 100 : (100 + max(0, 0))
= 100 : (100 + 0)
= 100 : 100
= 100% damage to them.
The penetration saves 33.3% of your original damage.
As you have seen, flat magic penetration is much better if your target has less magic resistance. Don't be afraid to buy too much flat magic penetration.
Even if you have more flat magic penetration that your opponent's magic resistance, the extra penetration is wasted, but you will deal a ridiculous amount of damage to your opponent (100% of your magic damage), so you don't have to worry about that.
Now, I've talked a lot about calculations and I'd like to get back to Katarina.
The question is, why is flat magic penetration so effective on Katarina?
Katarina loves squishy targets, because Voracity s triggered if you kill your target. Voracity is very important for Katarina and she desperately needs a way to trigger it.
Flat magic penetration helps her a lot.
The penetration build grants her 37.83 magic penetration and 20 magic resist reduction from Abyssal Scepter. Along with Void Staff, you have 35% percent magic penetration as well.
A target at 100 magic resistance will be affected by your damage as if they had 14.17 magic resistance.
That's quite impressive, considering that a squishy target like the AD carry will rarely have more than 100 magic resistance, and even if they buy more, it will have an impact on their damage output.
To conclue, flat magic penetration helps Katarina deal a ton of damage to squishy targets and get a reset from Voracity, which may be all she needs to kill an entire team.
Additionally, those items make her very strong in the mid game.
The moment she completes Sorcerer's Shoes, Haunting Guise and Abyssal Scepter, your enemies won't have too much magic resistance and you will deal close to 100% damage to them.
Besides that, you will have some extra health and magic resistance, along with movement speed.
As I have already mentioned, there are different ways to build Katarina and I'm not saying that they're wrong, but I'm showing you one way that has worked very well for me.
For more information, see this LoL wiki article about magic resistance and this LoL wiki article about magic penetration.
In the middle lane, take
- Boots of Speed and 4 Health Potions in a standard AP matchup,
- 2 Sight Wards, Vision Ward and 5 Health Potions if you need safety (e.g. against a Shaco in the enemy jungle) or
- Cloth Armor and 5 Health Potions against an AD champion.
In the top lane, take
- 2 Sight Wards, Vision Ward and 5 Health Potions,
- Cloth Armor, Sight Ward and 2 Health Potions against all-in AD champions (e.g. Talon) or
- Cloth Armor and 2 Sight Wards only if you don't need sustain against an AD champion (not recommended).
As I have explained in the Why full penetration Katarina? section, these items work very well on Katarina and you should get them as soon as possible.
In most situations, it's the best idea to rush Haunting Guise.
The early health from Ruby Crystal will make it impossible to burst you down for most mid laners, which is why you should go for it first.
Consider getting Negatron Cloak before Haunting Guise if you're really in trouble in an AP lane (e.g. Annie or LeBlanc).
After you have completed Haunting Guise, get
- Sorcerer's Shoes if you need more speed or your enemy has 25 to 40 magic resistance,
- Blasting Wand if you need damage,
- Negatron Cloak if you're laning against an AP nuker (e.g. Annie, LeBlanc or Veigar) or
- Abyssal Scepter if you're rich and you can afford to complete/buy it.
Repeat the step above until you have completed Sorcerer's Shoes and Abyssal Scepter (don't buy any item twice).
If you really need armor, you can go for an early Seeker's Armguard, but try to avoid it.
After that, you're done with your core items.
After your core items, it's very difficult to tell you what you should get, because there's a lot of stuff to consider.
This is why I will provide a pool of viable items in this section and explain their strenghts and weaknesses.
In this chapter, I am going to explain what Katarina actually does.
A lot of it is related to her spells and summoner spells, which is why I have already given you tons of information about it.
However, I am going to put it in a nice order here.
I haven't found a good name for this phase yet.
It starts at 0:00 and ends when you get to your lane (around 2:00).
If there are no junglers on your teams, you should stay at your outer turret and put a skill point into Bouncing Blades.
Early aggression without minions is something that Katarina is very weak at and you should avoid it.
However, there will most likely be junglers on your teams in level 20+ games.
In that case, save your first skill point.
If nothing happens until you get to your lane, put it into Bouncing Blades, but if you get caught, you could save your Flash by putting the point into Shunpo and escaping to an allied unit.
You may sometimes even put your first point into Sinister Steel. Only do that if you cannot farm with basic attacks at all and need a low-cooldown ability to get last-hits.
When you hit level two later on, you may only leave Shunpo without a skill point if you are really sure that you won't need an escape in any case.
Note that Katarina can barely do anything at this stage of the game.
Stay safe and don't engage any kind of fight.
If your team invades the enemy jungle, follow them but stay back.
If the enemy team invades your jungle, you shouldn't fight 5v5.
Instead, tell your jungler to steal the corresponding enemy buff.
If there are no jungle invasions, you can use Bouncing Blades to help your jungler at their first buff. However, in the current meta, the mid laner does not have to help their jungler (make sure that your jungler gets help by anyone though).
Your main task at this stage is staying safe.
You may only engage to kill an enemy if they're below 200 health.
This is probably the most difficult phase for Katarina.
Most mid laners and even more top laners are much stronger than Katarina early on.
This phase starts when you get to your lane and ends when you hit level 6.
At level one, focus on farming.
Last-hit the melee minions with basic attacks and the caster minions with Bouncing Blades. You won't be able to kill all of the caster minions with Bouncing Blades. Try to last-hit the remaining ones with basic attacks if it's safe (e.g. if your enemy laner cannot harass you because they're busy last-hitting or they're also weak at level one).
Once you've hit level two, put a skill point into Shunpo.
Use it to dodge skillshots if possible and to escape ganks.
Never go aggressive with Shunpo at level two.
In an easy lane, you may start harassing with Bouncing Blades, but still focus on farming.
Never push your lane at this stage.
The minions should always be on your side of the map or in the middle.
If you have accidentally pushed your lane (e.g. by throwing too many Bouncing Blades), push them into the enemy tower as soon as possible.
In an easy lane, you may even use your entire combo ( Bouncing Blades, Shunpo and Sinister Steel) before level 6, but only if your enemy laner overextends and you're sure that the enemy jungler is not nearby.
In a hard lane, let your opponent push the minions into your tower and farm as much as possible. Stay safe, even if you miss some minions.
Try to complete this phase with the smallest possible farm deficit.
Even in an easy lane, you're not supposed to make any risky plays.
You can snowball later.
Katarina can snowball the game in this phase.
It starts when you reach level 6 and ends when your enemy team starts grouping (as five or four with one split pushing).
You don't autimatically become incredibly powerful in this phase.
If your lane is easy, you can start bossing your opponent.
Zone them away from their minions and harass them.
If your opponent is skillshot-based, stay behind your minions.
Against a laner without crowd control spells and escapes, you can use your full combo ( Bouncing Blades, Shunpo, Sinister Steel, Death Lotus) to kill them or bully them away if you see the opportunity.
However, don't focus too much on your lane.
As soon as your lane is pushed, do Wraiths or gank.
If you cannot zone out or harass your opponent safely, push the lane and do Wraiths .
Attempt to dodge abilities and don't go too far away from your turret.
Your strength is ganking.
Communicate with your team.
If you have Teleport and it's up, ask them to ward behind their enemies if they get the chance.
If you don't have Teleport or it's on cooldown, ask your teammates how you can gank their lane without being seen by your opponents.
Before you go to gank, push your lane as hard as possible.
Always ping before you arrive at your teammates' lane to let them know that you're coming (regardless of whether you're using Teleport or not).
If you cannot gank your enemies from behind, wait for your teammate(s) to use their crowd control on the opponent you want to gank and then use your burst combo.
If you can surprise your enemies, don't hesitate to go in (and maybe save Shunpo for chasing).
Don't forget the enemy jungler and your enemy laner!!!
You're not the only one who can gank or countergank.
Watch your enemy laner and if they leave the lane, follow them at a safe distance or push your lane if it's unsafe to follow and inform your team with pings.
If you're hiding somewhere and waiting to gank, make sure you haven't been spotted.
Don't leave your opposing laner to free farm all the time, only gank if you can get something out of it.
Watch the map, especially if you have Teleport.
Sometimes your jungler or your allied laners might be surprised by a gank and unable to call you for help.
Watch the map (for example, when you're doing Wraiths ) and help them if you can.
Get kills in this phase, most likely in different lanes.
Teleport is a great help at this stage, usually better than Ignite (you don't have any trouble killing your enemies, you just have to surprise them).
However, you need opportunities to do something - don't roam around all the time and leave your opponent to farm freely.
At this stage, Katarina falls off a little bit.
The transition from mid to late game takes some time.
I cannot tell you exactly when the late game begins - sometimes teams group up as five and then split again to return to their lanes.
Generally, the late game starts when people get out of their lanes and only return to push.
The outer turrets will probably be down by that time and teams will start to group.
There are two strategies Katarina can go for in the late game:
- Team fighting
- Split pushing (only if you have Teleport)
Team fighting is the most common strategy in the late game.
Even if someone goes for split pushing, there will most likely be some team fights in every game.
A team fight is a 5v5 fight and quite simple to explain: both teams group and fight.
The winning team gets objectives or Baron Nashor or wins the game until the losing team respawns.
And here is the first difficulty:
If you're stronger than your enemy team, they will probably stay under their tower and avoid fighting you.
As Katarina, it's not your job to get them out of their turret or poke them in there.
Just follow your team's calls and wait for someone to initiate the fight.
Whenever you leave the group (e.g. to push), inform your team.
Make sure that you never get caught.
Even in a group of five, don't stand too close to your enemies.
As I have already said, Katarina is an all-in champion.
You can only do nothing or fight for your life.
When a team initiates a fight (obviously, only if you have a chance to win), Katarina's time has come. Be aware of your opposing team's crowd control.
You only want to go in on squishy targets.
Your primary target is the opposing AD carry.
However, thanks to Voracity, you can always go in to finish off a kill.
Don't attack too obviously.
In order to get good targets, pick targets that cannot escape or surprise them from another direction.
When you've picked your first target, use Deathfire Grasp (if you have it) and all of your abilities.
You can activate Death Lotus if only one squishy target is in range.
Don't get interrupted, that's your main goal.
After your first kill, sweep the enemy team with your resets from Voracity.
Always focus squishy or low enemies.
Sadly, it doesn't always work like that.
Sometimes your enemies will save interrupts for you or use escapes, heals, shields, ... to counter you.
Never give up.
Think about what went wrong in the last team fight and try to fix it.
If you have to die, deal as much damage as you can.
Maybe even focus the tank.
Maybe wait a few seconds until your enemies have used their crowd control.
I wish I could give you an exact explanation how to get a reset, but that's impossible.
Work with your team, your items, your focus and your positioning and use Ignite if you have taken it.
It will surely take some practice to learn what Katarina can do and what she cannot do in a team fight.
If you have Teleport, you might decide against team fighting and split push instead.
In that case, you might want to proiritise Sinister Steel over Bouncing Blades to clear faster.
Make sure your Teleport is up and push a lane alone.
The rest of your team pushes another lane.
The enemy team has the following options:
- They can group as five and attack the rest of your team.
In that case, your team should run away and defend your towers.
If a fight breaks out, you can join it with Teleport.
- They can group as five and try to engage ("collapse") on you.
In that case, run for your life.
Never split push without vision around your lane.
Once you've spotted your enemies coming at you, run and tell your team to push.
You may even use Teleport to get out if you're in trouble and can't Recall .
- They can send someone with Teleport or another global spell to your lane.
In that case, you have to deal with them.
Your goal is taking towers and inhibitors.
Don't give your enemies a chance to fight and take the towers while noone's defending them.
However, split pushing has a limit.
You won't usually be able to win without fighting.
You or your team might even make a mistake and lose a lot because of it.
Split pushing is not specific to Katarina, which is why I will not explain all the details in this guide.
I am sure that there are lots of explanations about split pushing on the internet, but unfortunately, I haven't found an official page (like LoL wiki), which is why I cannot provide a link for you.
I recommend that you focus on team fighting, especially if you're new to Katarina.
In this chapter, I have told you every detail I know and you might want to check out the matchups section for more specific information against individual champions.
It is impossible to explain how to play Katarina generally.
Usually, it depends on the team you're playing against.
In order to give you as much information as possible, I decided to list every single champion in this section.
Of course, Katarina will usually play against AP mid laners.
However, Katarina wants to roam a lot, which is why she actually plays against the entire enemy team.
I have rated every champion in three categories:
- Interrupt potential
The interrupt potential of a champion indicates how well they can interrupt Death Lotus.
It's very useful to know the interrupt potential of your enemy champions in team fights.
Most likely, champions with a higher interrupt potential will be stronger against Katarina, however, that's not always the case.
To determine the interrupt potentials for all champions, I have considered their number of interrupts, range, cooldown, speed and how likely they are to hit you.
- Lane difficulty
The lane difficulty indicates how difficult it will be for Katarina to lane against a specific champion.
This does not take the team fight power of a champion into account.
If the champion is not laning against you, you can ignore their lane difficulty.
Since Katarina is a weak laner, you will notice that she is only strong against very few champions while she is weak against a lot of champions.
Look at the general difficulty for more information.
In order to determine the lane difficulties for all champions, I have considered their potential to outfarm you, harass you or win an all-in fight against you in lane.
- General difficulty
The general difficulty is the most important category for Katarina.
It indicates how good (or bad) you are against any champion on the enemy team, regardless of whether they are laning against you or not.
To determine the general difficulty against Katarina for all champions, I have considered their impact on you in fights (more than 1v1).
Please read the explanations carefully.
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