I have been, for a long time seeking a correct way to build Karma which isn't applicable only in AI games and then requires me to significantly make alterations in a real PvP game; At first I thought that dealing with mana regen early was the solution to Karma's shortcomings. This wasn't enough; she is a support whom you will find is in critical need of cooldown reduction very early, or else she will be useless at the most critical times.
Therefore, cooldown reduction was the next focus in my experimental builds. But rushing cooldown reduction meant that I would need more gold as a rule, and would usually have to give up AP or some other need.
I recently however, came upon a build which has evened out the odds and provides the correct sequence of crutches for Karma. Early survivability, early cooldown reduction, and early AP. The only thing this build does not give is early mana regeneration; To an extent though, it does cover that area but not very strongly.
Update: The build gives 10% flat CDR from masteries. I've however been experimenting with a build idea that brings me in game with 20% flat CDR on my main. I'm beginning to think this build is inferior to it.
Additionally, this guide was published by mistake: I actually keep a list of guides which are really "saves" of my own experimental builds -- this was one of them until I hit "publish" by mistake. I was aghast when I realized, but couldn't find a "delete guide" button anywhere on the editor (if you've made a guide you might know how the layout is), so I added in my rationales, etc and made it into a guide until later when I can find the delete function and then have the time to re-do it for my private use. Peace, this isn't going to be here very long most likely \o/
The sequence of building is very simple: You will need ap very early to ensure that you can stay in lane using your heals. This is essential. A full page of AP per level runes meets this need and does so generously, with 60+ AP at lvl18, and 20 or so at lvl6. This is essentially like having purchased an Amplifying Tome at lvl6.
You will also need to survive in lane to level up and get points in your skills. The aim of this build is to use minimal last hitting and allow your lane partner to properly last hit, thus effectively making a meta-compliant support champion; as such, your gold will come mostly from elapsed time in game, along with golems, wraiths and wolves as you get the opportunity. The need to be reasonably durable in lane is what necessitated the Ruby Crystal starting item.
As soon as possible, you wish to be able to mitigate your lack of mana, and gain cooldown reduction. You will have to put off on the mana-regeneration solution until later on in midgame. Regardless, having almost max cooldown reduction when you arrive at the scene of your team's first fight is almost a guarantee of success at taking the turret in question. Kindlegem and Ionian boots of Lucidity bring your cooldown reduction up to 35%. Your runes will, at lvl7 give you a modest amount of AP which should suffice for healing in a low-level teamfight just after laning.
Next, the pool of need grows larger and far more undeniable; you require both AP and mana regeneration immediately and far more than the runes have been providing thus far. If you can just hold on, ignore the need for mana regeneration for a short while longer, you can buy the AP right now which is more critical. If you have a full mana bar at the start of a fight, and decent AP along with summoner Heal, it's likely you should be able to heal well for that fight's duration; and your runes also have mana regeneration. Enter the Mejai's Soulstealer.
After your first fight you should have approximately 70AP in a worst case scenario where you only got 1 assist. Naturally, in a best case scenario you would have got 3 or 4, and your AP would have increased proportionately. It is time to complete your cooldown reduction and gain some more mana regeneration, along with a very highly useful speed boost for your team: Shurelia's Reverie. This item also gives you HP regeneration which is vaguely useful at this point.
You are now an increasingly useful low-CS support champion. Your aim is now to respond to the game itself and the enemy champions. Do you need armour and magic resistance? Buy a Chain Vest or Negatron Cloak to suit. Hold on to them. Is the game going very well? If you have the gold, also buy a Needlessly Large Rod to strengthen your heals and shields.
Assess the situation again. Now are you still in need of armour or magic resistance? Buy Force of Nature for MR. I advise against Banshee's Veil because as Karma you are indirectly supposed to allow idiots to target you. For example, if you are standing at the back of your team supporting, and somebody decides to cut through your allies to attack you, you should allow them to get their combo off; Banshee's Veil is likely to cause them to miss their first skill (most likely CC obviously), then retreat quickly while taking damage.
Instead, you would like to allow them to get their CC off on you, self-shield, and lead them further behind your lines. The type of player who would cut through your lines to attack a support at the back is exactly the type of player who would pick Master Yi, or Tryndamere, and chase a single champion across the map thinking that a single kill is worth all of that. Let them chase. Run back, but loop around to ensure that your team can kill him quickly, then get back to healing. In my experience, this is the best way to deal with a noob player who latches on to you. It's something that happens regularly: twitch realizes that he can't do anything in teamfights, so he begins turn suicidal on a target he thinks is a sure kill. Thus the recommendation for Force of Nature and not Banshee's Veil. The idea is to bait loosely.
If you need Armor, you have the liberty to choose from a range of items which weren't identified in the build sequence at the top of the guide; Thornmail, Randuin's Omen, Zhonya's Hourglass, etc. I do not build Frozen Heart on Karma anymore; I don't feel like explaining the reasons either really. At the very least, it doesn't complement my build since I have full CDR without it, and if I want to shut down an AD carry, Randuin's Omen also slows attackers, so it is better in most situations.
From here, start getting OP by building Rabadon's Deathcap.
Usage and situational analysis:
If you build Shuralia's Reverie and never use the active, then you are better off not using this guide. While the build itself is quite sufficient without Shurelia's Active, and you can use this build and win games without using the active, you'll only really understand how situationally flexibly this build is when you constantly use Shurelia's Active.
Before each engagement, check to see if Shurelia is off Cooldown. Use Shurelia to create distance between you and an aggressing takny DPS such as Xin Xiao, Lee Sin, Gankplank, Pantheon, Master Yi or Tryndamere. Naturally, you self-shield, Spirit-bond them, and then if necessary, also Shurelia's to give them something to waste time on. Remember that the chaser has already committed, and must follow through.
Another way to use Shurelia is to of course, help your team escape after a lost fight. Other creative ways to use it are to help chase low-HP refuse from a won battle, etc. As a rule, when you begin to use Shurelia constantly, you'll develop a style of using it, and it'll be like a 4th skill on Karma, which is very useful frankly.
Apart from that, you yourself should never really be in any danger with this build. If your HP gets low, you can just heal once, then concentrate on the fight, since you have a lot of HP regeneration from Shurelia's and force of Nature.
For the rest, normal Karma playstyle applies; keep back, tether people who overextend by mistake during a poke-fight, etc, etc.
A key thing to note about this build is that it does not emphasize tankiness; I believe that if you are dying that much, you are either losing the game already, or you should adapt your positioning to suit the game. Stand behind a wall, or in a patch of bush, or whatever is situationally optimal. Instead the build hurriedly addresses immediate threats, such as a fed champ of a specific type, and then encourages you to get back to building AP for more useful heals and shields.
If you play karma, you're aware that her mana consumption in early game is very high, and her heals aren't as strong or sustainable as Sona for example, who can easily keep an AD carry at full HP even when the carry is playing very aggressively and taking risks. Heal will augment your Q-heal in lane, and at lategame will win teamfights.
As with all game-changing skills such as Leona's ult, etc, you should use Heal at the *tipping* point of the fight, and not at the *tapering* point when the fight has been decided. You don't use your heal summoner after 2 of your 5 are dead and the other team has over 1/2 HP and their AD carry hasn't yet been touched.
You use a gamechanging ult at the point when the fight is *about* to be decided, like when the initiator engages, and his HP melts really fast. You know the feeling at that point. Your AP carry was just about to step forward and start dealing damage and your AD was waiting for the right moment to begin DPSing, but their meat-shield, the initiator/tanky-DPS/tank just got remmoved and they have no room to step forward. They begin to hang back and hold back. Then the fight is lost since the OTHER team's initiator now launches into *your* team.
Use heal at the point when the carries on your team need the security and boost of confidence to step forward and deal damage. Use it to DECIDE the fight, and not to barely salvage your team when you are all fleeing with 10 HP. That's what Shurelya's and Spirit Bond are for. It's ok, go ahead and use Heal early to ensure the fight goes your way. At that point everyone who does manage to escape is about to go back to base and heal anyway, so why did you just waste heal?
There are very few champs who do not need flash. Karma is not one of them, imho and this is because her support skills require you to manually position yourself at a moderately close distance to your target. It is not hard for Karma to get unescapably focused, even with superior positioning (BOOTS OF MOBILITY FIDDLE! SUPERIOR POSITIONING! --HotshotGG [only his stream watchers would get that joke]) because she is constantly weaving in and out. If you want to shield your Tanky-DPS, you need to of course, step up into the hot-zone since naturally he is in the middle of the fight and her shield isn't very long-ranged. Etc, etc, so flash can be the right skill to keep you out of harm's way before the CC hits you.
I don't think Ghost is a good pick over flash because if you need to run that far away from pursuers, it means that (1) your team has been aced with only you left, (2) your team is stupid enough to let an assault-group of 3-4 champs chase Karma to her turret, and not come to defend the turret since it will almost certainly be tanked and taken at mid/endgame. In either case you can't do anything but save your own life, and Spirit-Bond is sufficient. Ghost is terribad on this Karma build since this build gives you 40% CDR by lvl10/11 and Shurelya's for additional escape.
Is meh on Karma. Heal/Clarity is meh, ok, and possibly justifiable since you have Shurelya by this build. I can't say too much against it. You don't have flash, and that's a big disadvantage since you'll probably die before you can be useful, but maybe you're 2400 ELO and highly pro, so meh. If you're terra-pro and hella-good at positioning (BOOTS OF MOBILITY FIDDLE UAAGURAAAAAGH) then hanging back with basically infinite mana a healing indefinitely means 100% success on every endgame push. You can't argue with that; at least I can't.
Please, no. Every 40-something seconds you reveal an area for...4-5 seconds? Wut? Kk, follow through here with me and try to keep up: if you get 1 gold every second, that means you get 1 ward every 75 seconds. The gold rate is actually more like 11-12 per 10 seconds, so you'll actually get 1 ward every 60 or so seconds. Kk: reveal an area for 4 sec every 40 sec, or kill 3 minions and get a ward which reveals an area for 3min, and gives vision of the enemy's jungle so your team can gank in their jungle and take free towers. Which one is the real ultimate powar? Kkkkkkkkkkkkk