Katarina Build Guide by AMDphreak
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Kitty Kite Katarina
Against Most Teams (even tanks)
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.
My relationship and experience with Katarina
Katarina is my main champion, so although this guide will not be complete today, I will come back and add more about my favorite champion.
I picked up Katarina with a bundle from Riot, but I didn't start thinking about her until someone killed me (I was playing as Annie) in a bush and I never even saw her. When I started watching some of the sponsored RIOT videos, Scarra mentioned that his favorite champion was Katarina. I decided I had to check this champion out.
My first few games with her were DISMAL. A friend of mine told me "Maybe Katarina doesn't fit your play style." I was taken aback. I told him, "I can change my playstyle!"
A few months later, I landed a pentakill with Katarina during a ranked game, and it won us the game.
Where does Katarina fit into a team?
Katarina is a really strong champ, because she can peel entire enemy teams, almost instantly. She is useful as a suicide bomber, so it often doesn't matter if she dies, as long as her team cleans up.
- What is peeling? Peeling is dealing an initial amount of damage to get enemies low, so the team can go in for kills.
Unlike what other people say, Katarina is not JUST A CLEANUP CREW! She can initiate. She is often the strongest in the MIDDLE of a team fight, right after the tanks have peeled back about 10% of an enemy's health.
Dueling...yeah right! :(
In terms of dueling, Katarina cannot duel well against single-target assassins like:
She has trouble against any champions with Crowd-Control and general tankiness, however, she can often outplay them. Cho'Gath and Talon have earned special places in hell, as all Katarina players will know. An honorable mention from hell goes out to good Annie players. Bad Annie players are quite fun to beat, however.
To farm minions, or to farm champions? That is the question.
Katarina is not meant to be a farming or lane-sustain champion. She is designed to peel back enemies, to kill, to scare, and to bait enemies to engaging. She is also good at wasting the enemy jungler's ganks at mid, because of her natural escape with Shunpo and a sight ward (or a minion).
I have watched recordings of Scarra's streams about Katarina and how he builds her, and I once read a really good guide on Kat that was similar to his suggestions. I have tried to locate this guide, but I cannot find it. It may not have been on Mobafire.
Scarra repeatedly says that Katarina has high base damage values on her skills. Also, Kat does not have great AP scaling, with 60% on her Bouncing Blades, and 25% on her sinister steel (W). Her best-scaling ability is her ult, however it is a highly unreliable source of damage, because most crowd-control will interrupt it, so the bulk of your damage comes from using your Q, W, and E effectively.
Also, Katarina relies heavily on instant bursts of damage. Because of this, building high damage reaps more benefits than building Cooldown reduction.
Thus, the magic penetration build:
Rylai's Crystal Scepter
- Liandry's Torment has increasingly become a critical item for my Katarina play, because it deals percent-health damage based on current health. There are a few reasons why this is important. First, Katarina is designed to peel the enemies. After she has peeled the enemies appropriately, her team can rush in and reap the rewards of a pre-peeled fight. It doesn't matter if Katarina dies, because her team can clean up, however, the beauty of peeling the entire team is that, when one of the enemies dies, Katarina gets her skills reset by Voracity, even if she only gets an assist, so it is likely that Katarina will not be killed before she gets one or two more kills and/or assists. While the enemy team is busy killing you, your team comes out alive, so you end up trading 1 life for 3 to 5 of theirs. Because you peel so well, your team usually comes out healthy, and they will not hesitate to take a turret or another objective.
Liandry's Torment is most effective when the enemies have full health, therefore, if Katarina initiates, she deals more damage than if she tries to clean up.
- Abyssal Scepter is a good item to get nearly 100% of the time, since the enemy mid player is most likely an AP champ. This severely cramps their damage, while boosting yours. If the enemy mid is not mindful of your Abyssal Scepter, you can easily win a trade. Good enemy mid players will counter-build by building Abyssal Scepter also.
- Zhonya's Hourglass, the ultimate survivability tool.
If the enemies have counterpicked you with Zed or another AD assassin, like Talon, rushing Zhonya's Hourglass is a good choice for team fights and individual duels. However, I strongly advise you avoid Talon. For team fights, it is often a good idea to use Zhonya's Hourglass right after you use your primary burst combo: Bouncing Blades (Q), Shunpo (E), Sinister Steel. This combo peels the enemies fairly well, it scares them, and forces them to reposition while they are expecting your ult, so they will often position poorly, which gives your allies an opportunity to wreck their formation. When you go in, it also forces the enemies to take their attention off of the rest of your team. They will try to focus you down, especially if you go for a really out-of-position initiation, so throwing Zhonya's down will allow your team to back you up. And there isn't a whole lot the enemies can do about you. After your Zhonya's Hourglass wears off, depending on if you've built any Cooldown reduction, you might have your Sinister Steel back off cooldown, which gives your team another free 400 peel. At this time, if the enemies haven't retreated, you can casually throw your Death Lotus down, and watch the enemies disintegrate.
- Sight Wards, the other ultimate survivability tool. I start almost every game with 3 or 4 Sight Wards. Katarina loves these things. There are some good reasons to start with so many wards. At the beginning of the game, you can help your jungler out by warding the
, so he can watch the enemy jungler, invade the jungle, and steal the red buff. He may even be able to kill the enemy jungler, denying buffs to the enemy. Buff control is a good way to secure your team an advantage and keep that advantage.
The second benefit of having sight wards is that you have a get-out-of-jail-free card, whenever you're being ganked. You can lay down a sight ward and then Shunpo to the ward to escape.
- Rylai's Crystal Scepter is one of the ways you get that extra damage output from your Liandry's Torment. I only get this item because it lets me duel bruisers and mitigates a large amount of True Damage spells. Remember that health is OP in Season 3, and having a permanent damage increase from Liandry's Torment is very strong against Health tanks.
This item does not scale well into late game, so if you need to maximize your damage output, feel free to trade it for some more raw Ability Power. Good late-game replacements for Rylai's are:
Tanks and bruisers? Not a problem.
Katarina is not afraid of tanks any more, with season 3. Tanks are definitely harder to kill, but they can be outplayed with Katarina's built-in kiting abilities, and a few choice items. She can run rings around Udyr, unless it is a really good Udyr. This item build includes both Liandry's Torment and Rylai's Crystal Scepter, which make for a great kiting build, as well as an anti-tank build. The damage increase that Rylai's Crystal Scepter gives to Liandry's Torment makes Katarina effectively a medium-ranged bruiser. By spamming your Bouncing Blades and Sinister Steel, you can deal alot of damage without bruisers ever touching you. This is because Rylai's Crystal Scepter slows the enemies down, while your Sinister Steel grants you a movement speed buff. Using this build, you will be playing mind games with your opponents, tricking them into thinking they can get to you, then slowing them down and running out of their range. Tanks that stack health will utterly despise these two items combined.
Tanks that stack magic resist can be dealt with the old-fashioned way. Void Staff takes care of them. Combining the Anti-health-tank items with the Anti-MR-tank items gives you every advantage you need to kill the enemy tanks.
Squishy champs? Yes, please!
Here's the catch. This build ALSO WORKS ON SQUISHY CHAMPS. That's right! This is why I do not build any of these other items:
- Rabadon's Deathcap NO. This item is always nice on AP champions, but it is expensive, and with my build, we get alot of damage very early in the game, and this pays off because we can start roaming early, and we can tower dive solo if the carries are below 80% health (usually). I don't know how this plays out in high Elo games, but in ~1000 to ~1700 Elo games (Bronze, Silver, and Gold tier), this early power gives you the option to force the teams out of laning phase and into objectives phase (mid game). WARNING: This can be in your favor or not in your favor. Be careful with doing this. For me, forcing down bottom turret right after I gank is often a successful way to help bottom snowball.
- Morellonomicon NO! Katarina already reduces healing with her ult, and you don't need CDR or Mana Regen.
- Hextech Gunblade Hell no! This item is an expensive waste of money and time. You don't need the sustain, because you take almost no damage from minions and monsters. Also, the spell vamp on this item doesn't benefit Katarina, because all of her abilities except Shunpo are multi-target or AOE spells, so she heals next to nothing with this item. The active is not that great, either. It only slows one person down. If you want to slow people down, or keep them inside your ult range, you should build Twin Shadows. Twin Shadows also lets you hunt people who are trying to flee, because it reveals them in the fog of war and slows them down, and it acts as a defensive item for when you are trying to flee or disengage. Additionally, Rylai's Crystal Scepter provides a slow, if you are chasing and in range of them with your abilities.
- Kage's Lucky Pick NO. This item is only good on Howling Abyss ARAM games, because you need some damage, and gold per 10 is Over-Powered on that map. On Summoner's Rift you will be relying on minion farm, and champion kills/assists for your money. If you aren't getting either of those, you should not be playing this game!
- Lich Bane is an item that turns Katarina into a decent split-pushing champion. The only caveat is that Katarina is already such a good team-fighter that split-pushing can hinder her team. This item is only a good purchase for an AP Katarina, if the enemy team has so much Crowd Control that she CANNOT contribute to team fights. With this item and quite a bit of AP, Katarina may be able to split push faster than Tryndamere. This is because her Sinister Steel (W) is spammable and requires no enemy target to use it. With a full AP build, or even my Magic Penetration build, you will be dealing about 1/5 to 1/4 of a turret's health with a single proc of Lich Bane at the end of the game. (Someone please check my numbers! I'm not sure on this one).
- Twin Shadows is a great item, if you are fed. It doesn't contribute as much to your killing potential, but in low Elo, this item makes up for the general lack of sight ward coverage. Low Elo supports are generally really terrible about warding, EVEN if they have a Sightstone. Some of the people will refuse to ward. Some will ward the wrong places. And some will complain and tell everyone else to ward.
TALK TO YOUR SUPPORT FOR A FUN Death Lotus.
If you want to really make the enemies hate you, you should tell your support to use Shard of True Ice on you right before you land your initiate or your full combo: Bouncing Blades (Q), Shunpo (E), Sinister Steel (W), then either Zhonya's Hourglass, or Death Lotus (R). Having this will effectively lock in the entire enemy team and force them to fight you, of course, after they're already almost dead. One of the cool things about Shard of True Ice is that it can work even if you use Zhonya's Hourglass. You can use this to peel the enemy team and hold them in place, become invincible and let your team back you up.
Like I said earlier, supports can really use your positioning to wreck the enemy team.
Just like I told you to get your support to use Shard of True Ice on you, you can get some really sick combos off if your support is Lulu. Tell her ahead of time that you want her to use her ult on you whenever you jump into the enemy team. Even if you don't target the squishiest target, if Lulu ults you right after you Shunpo in the middle of the enemy team, it knocks up the entire enemy team, which could mean the difference between you landing all 2 seconds of your Death Lotus or not. Then, when you get ready to go in, ping the target you're going to jump on, and let Lulu hover her mouse there, waiting for you to show up.
OK, Sparky, here's the dream team:
Miss Fortune or Ashe as AD carry
Nunu or Amumu as jungler
Amumu or Nunu as solo top
Lulu or Zyra as support
and you, Katarina as AP mid
There is a debate about what skills to level and max first. Depending on the lane matchup, it may be in your favor to max Sinister Steel first, as doing this lets you push a lane faster. It also allows you to perform one of your more risky harassment combos: Q, E, W, then run away. Maxing your Sinister Steel gives you a large movement speed buff, so you can use it to get easy harass on melee champions, then run away from them.
Levels 1 through 3
In the first three levels, you have several options for what skills to level up.
At levels 1 through 3 you and your opponent are both worried about last-hitting minions for money.
At level 1, you can either take your Bouncing Blades (Q) or your Sinister Steel (W).
The Bouncing Blades start
Bouncing Blades (Q) allows you to last-hit minions that are far away from you, which are being guarded by the enemy mid-laner. Q also gives you the most damage of any skill at level 1, so when your jungler asks you to leash his buff, using your Q and attacking the monster to consume the mark deals much more damage than using Sinister Steel.
The Sinister Steel start
Sinister Steel (W), can also be used as a ranged last-hitting option on minions in lane, and it is spammable, so it can be used to double-last-hit minions with your auto-attacks. If your enemy mid-laner is pushing hard, you can spam Sinister Steel to whittle down the minions' health bars before they reach your tower. If you have warded your lane well, you can start pushing your lane hard. This can be used to punish champions like Brand, LeBlanc, and Akali who can't last-hit under tower that well.
At level 2, you can either take your Bouncing Blades, Sinister Steel, or your Shunpo (E). If the enemy midlaner is passive, or they're letting you push, it is MUCH SAFER for you to take your Shunpo, because your opponent is likely to ask for a gank from the jungler. If your enemy laner is pushing hard, taking your Sinister Steel allows you to counter-push, as well as last-hit better under turret. Enemy laners who push constantly will probably be aggressive and like to harass you, so Sinister Steel enables you to last-hit minions at a medium-distance and stay out of range of the enemy's harass.
At level 3, you should take the one that you didn't take at levels 1 and 2.
The Great Debate
Now comes the big debate. Either you max your Sinister Steel (W) or your Bouncing Blades. There are benefits to each one.
Let's start with the straight up comparison, without considering your items, runes, and masteries: When you level up either one, you gain a total of 40 more damage, however, the level 1 base damage on your Sinister Steel is extremely low. Bouncing Blades has adequate level 1 damage.
Now, we consider your items, runes, and masteries. Most AP mages bring runes that have magic penetration and Ability Power. When they buy items, they will be buying Ability Power as well as magic penetration in their boots and a few other items. Because Sinister Steel (W) does not scale well with Ability Power (it scales at 25%), it will not grow much stronger when you buy Ability Power. On the other hand, Bouncing Blades grows much stronger when you buy Ability Power, scaling at 60%. When you level up Sinister Steel, you are maximizing the amount of damage you do by the time you hit level 6 and have a few Magic Penetration items (usually, two items).
At level 6, if you've gotten no kills, or maybe one kill in your lane, you will have about enough money to afford Haunting Guise and maybe Sorcerer's Shoes. Because you leveled Sinister Steel You get more effective damage from these cheap Magic Penetration items, rather than an expensive Needlessly Large Rod.
Another reason to level your Sinister Steel is that Katarina's full combo isn't actually Q E W R. It is Q E W R W, assuming she isn't CC'd, and the enemies didn't flash away from you. When you finish your Death Lotus (R), your Sinister Steel is almost off cooldown, so if the enemy tries to flee, you can start running after them, and use your Sinister Steel to either finish them off or to increase your movement speed, so that you can keep up with them.
On the other side of the argument, are people who believe you should max your Bouncing Blades first. This has some good uses, but does not improve your overall damage, without buying massive AP items. Some reasons to max this are that it provides a great, reliable form of harass against the enemy mid-laner. Sometimes, however, this will not work in your favor, if the enemy mid-laner has a way of sustaining through harass, such as Swain's Ravenous Flock and Fiddlesticks's Drain, or if they can block your harass, such as Malphite's Granite Shield (God forbid that anyone play him as an AP mid), Cho'Gath's Carnivore (I've seen more people try him as an AP carry than I care to admit).
Using your passive, Voracity
Voracity reduces the cooldown of all of your abilities by 15 seconds. This means it completely resets your Q, W, and E, and it knocks off 15 seconds of your R.
Your passive is perhaps one of the most feared passives in the game. Voracity allows you to use your ult, Death Lotus twice in the same team fight. Upon securing three kills or assists for your team, your ult's cooldown is reset, so you can easily kill the last two enemies.
Making the most out of Katarina's quick burst
Please please please learn to use Smartcast! It makes casting so much faster. It will even save your life! If you are trying to use a combo, Smartcast makes the difference between getting your Zhonya's Hourglass off before or after Blitzcrank uses his Static Field (R) to silence you.
Remapping your spell keys for faster combos
It may be a good idea to remap your skills when you play Katarina. There is a bit of a physical problem with casting QEWR, because it requires awkward use of your hand muscles. If you want a much faster burst combo, you should remap your Shunpo to W and your Sinister Steel to E. You can now do QWER, which is as easy as dropping your hand on the keyboard.
Pros / Cons
- Peels entire teams.
- Is a group assassin.
- Punishes teams that group up in a tight formation.
- Can kite with her Sinister Steel and her Shunpo
- Is extremely safe in lane. Will not feed, unless she is braindead or gets ganked by three people with decent Crowd-Control.
- Double-flash with Shunpo and Flash
- TONS OF DAMAGE
- Most of her damage can be applied through invisibility and fog of war, and her abilities are not skillshots.
- Her ult autotargets champions
- Instant Damage. The enemy team will know when they screwed up.
- Has insanely good positioning tools. Positioning = Potential for outplays
- Shunpo works on ANYTHING that is visible and targetable, including Jarvan IV's flag, enemy wards, Teemo Shrooms, and allied minions.
- Can split-push if necessary. She has good wave clear, but she doesn't do much damage to turrets, normally. If you want to split-push, I advise you to buy Lich Bane. Its passive will let you do alot of damage to turrets, because your Sinister Steel (W) is spammable.
- Can't initiate on teams full of Crowd-Control, unless she's fed.
- Has no Crowd-Control. Yes, this means she is less likely to raise your ELO, if you aren't very skilled with her.
- No built-in percent health damage. This stuff is OP in season 3, since it turned into League of Warmogs.
- Requires good reflexes, and very good mental tracking of which skills are available after Voracity resets the skills. If you aren't careful, you can waste your Sinister Steel before you reach your next target.
- Requires good internet. Having lag means you are unable to participate. Unlike a tank, you cannot gradually walk into a fight and hold your positioning while your team backs you up.
- Requires good judgment of the enemy team's positioning.
- Can be distracted easily by trying to reach squishy enemies who are fleeing, while her team gets killed in the process.
- Can waste her ult on a single target before a team fight.
- Is not a very good split-push champion, because her team can benefit from her team-fighting potential better than her split-pushing potential. She requires Lich Bane to split push, so this can easily waste an inventory spot.