Cho'Gath Build Guide by M2tM
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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.
Cho'Gath is a champion typically selected for tanky ap bruiser hybrid Top Lane or Jungle. I believe he is a much stronger burst dps mage, I believe he is actually completely broken in the current meta.
It is important to understand that with this build you are in no way/shape/or form a tank. You can take some hits, but you should not be tanking turrets for extended periods of time, or wading right into the middle of a teamfight at the very beginning. Your job is to behave as a burst-caster. You will be about as tanky-feeling as Morgana or a full-ap Rumble and so should play accordingly at a distance only moving close when you need to secure the kill when following up on a combo.
Top Lane Problems
Weakness of Cho'Gath top is his lack of a straight up escape or engage movement ability (though he has CC he is very reliant on landing to escape), and many common top lane bruisers have come to out-class Cho'Gath in terms of kiting power and ability to stick to targets across the lane. Olaf, Rumble, Riven, and Jax are some good examples of champions who can severely punish Cho'Gath for going top lane and being pushed too far. To compound this problem, Cho'Gath has such powerful wave-clear that he can easily and naturally push the lane.
Moving him to the Jungle makes a lot of sense, and I think it's a step up from top lane. His ganks are strong if you land , and he has decent clear speed. The main problem is that if you cannot make ganks happen you will not scale nearly as well as you could if you had a reliable source of income in lane. Cho'Gath makes a fine jungler, but I think he really shines elsewhere.
Which Brings Us Mid
Cho'Gath really naturally fits into mid-lane. His mobility weakness is less important mid-lane, it's okay if he pushes his creep wave into the enemy turret, and many mages are not as good as he is at early level wave clearing, so you can deny farm hard by doing so. While the lane is pushed you can easily start to solo wraiths at level 3+ and come out ahead in terms of health due to your tremendous passive. And at higher levels once you get your you can actually combo the enemy wraith camp from lane with your Q + W abilities from relative safety.
Finally, his kit seems naturally designed to screw with mages. His AOE silence is great for harass, disengage, and disruption of spell combos. His can combo into a devastating and unavoidable combination with + + + to instagib nearly any squishy enemy after level 6. The knockup + silence combination means that your enemy cannot even respond with flash to escape death.
All this and also when you pick Cho'Gath people have no idea if you're going to be top, jungle, or mid. You are likely to have top lane try to counter-pick Cho'Gath if you are an early pick in draft mode. By the time they realize what's going on it may be too late for them to effectively sort out the team composition. Versatile champions are exceptionally valuable in ranked play for this reason.
Runes + Masteries
My rune/mastery choice is extremely aggressive. So much so that some people may think I am posting a troll build and discount it off-hand especially if you are used to a tanky Cho'Gath. What this is designed for is aggressive and consistent out-scaling of your enemy so you can always kill with your combo reliably throughout the game. Levels 1-3 you can expect to burn a health potion or two, but do ensure you get those last hits and you should find that even without defensive runes your passive keeps you at nearly full health. If you get low you can simply kill wraiths/wolves to get a quick boost of health before heading back to lane.
Beyond those first three levels you are unlikely to take much damage unless suffering from a gank because very soon your enemy in lane will begin to fear you as you out-trade and then also out-sustain them. Fear is good because it means you get more time alone with creep and for this reason I find defensive runes unnecessary and outclassed by pure offense. If you can out-trade you will also out-sustain, full AP Feral Scream to shut down follow up damage ensures you always out-trade.
It is at level 6 and beyond that you will see the full power of your rune choice.
Most of Cho'Gath's effectiveness comes from landing your effectively. What does this mean? Leading and zoning effectively.
has a .5 second cast time before the indicator appears on the ground and a .625 second delay once the circle is revealed. This information doesn't appear in the tooltip, but was provided in patch-notes. This combination of delay means you have a relatively large "tell" going into a rupture where you stomp your foot for half a second and then can move around freely, but your enemy has .625 seconds to try to juke the ability once it does cast. You can mitigate this by casting from a brush so that only the tell is visible, but in many situations you do not have this luxury.
When Ganking (or recieving a friendly gank)
You need to quickly analyze the direction your enemy is running and target 1.125 seconds in front of where they will be if they keep going that direction. Depending on their movespeed I find placing the edge of the circle where they currently are (with the radius in front of their path) ensures a knock up, OR if they do juke they are forced to alter their path significantly which could still result in a kill. Remember that you don't always need to land a rupture for it to be effective (though obviously if you can it is more effective), cutting off the shortest safe path can just as certainly net a kill.
Remember that your has range too! If you are within range to use Feral Scream first you can ensure champions cannot use or movement abilities such as to escape. It is almost always favorable to land your skills in this order when you can (and quickly follow up with before the 2-3 second silence runs out), but your range may not allow for it.
the strategy is different. You need to be using your to farm. Netting a knock-up is great too, so if you see your opponent's path near the creep you are trying to kill try to time farm and harass to overlap so you gain spell efficiency.
There is a certain psychological element here too, if the enemy is used to seeing you farm with it becomes easier to catch them off-guard with a well placed rupture aimed directly at them!
When Team Fighting
You should aim your situationally to either help peel high-aggression assassins from your AD carry (it is a very effective peel mechanism as it has both a knock-up AND a persisting slow after hitting). Or to maximize the number of targets hit if the enemy is bunched together.
The mechanical skill of actually hitting is a bit different when you have an ally being assaulted in melee range, you can often just aim directly centered on your ally (or oblongly centered so that you have a little more range in the direction they are being attacked from) and catch everyone around them (or yourself). But pre-engage it will be similar to gank aiming. Try to hit people, or force unfavorable zoning with your spells.
I always take level 1 because of its power in an invade or a counter-gank. Landing a during an invade nearly always ensures a kill.
Once lanes start up, however, for the first three levels it is unlikely you'll want to cast it often because of its high mana cost and tendancy to push the lane and mess up auto attacks, but do cast it if it means you'll secure a minion you would have otherwise missed. You can use your passive and auto attack last hits to help offset mana problems throughout the laning phase.
Sometimes I just bust my ignite at level 1 or 2 after I see the enemy chug a potion to negate the effects and give me a temporary AP/AD boost because I know it's unlikely I'll be killing them before it is up again off cooldown (though if you have a jungler who wants to gank you should hold on to it.) This is always a risk/reward call, it may mean you miss a kill and for this reason it's entirely a lane match-up judgement call. If you think you can force the enemy back super early it means your low level disadvantage will effectively not exist and so there is value in scaring the enemy off by putting them at a health disadvantage.
Farming with Cho'Gath at level 1 is not particularly easy, you will take a few attacks. Your goal is to get in, punch that minion, and get out. Remember that it's okay to take harass because your passive will help you through but do try to minimize the damage and stay healthy. If you get to 60% or so, chug a potion and try to last hit as much as you can with a before going back into auto attack range.
Level 2 things get progressively easier because you can level up your vorpal spikes. I only level up vorpal spikes once early on because it provides a huge amount of last hit potential and makes it very easy to secure cs (integral as Cho'Gath for sustain as well as for general income.) You will not want to sit around with 100% mana at any point in time, but also do not spam your skills and run yourself dry early on either. Your early game power comes from your ability to out-sustain your opponent, so if they blow mana or resources on you early on and you hold on to your mana you can begin to put out some damage later on and whittle them down.
Level 3 you've got 1 point in each skill. It is important whenever you use your skills to last hit CS to try and dual-purpose it into tagging the enemy champion. This includes vorpal spikes on auto attacks. Cho'Gath has a lot of AOE, you can use that to your advantage early game in last hitting. It is at this level that you can consider killing Wraiths as well. Your + a few auto attacks should be enough to finish them off while sustaining back more health than you lose.
At level 4 you can seriously consider popping the enemy champion up with your . Here the mana cost is absolutely worth the damage, so you can be a bit more liberal with your spell usage. If you get low on mana, try switching to last hitting for a while and let that passive do its work. Your goal should be to , auto-attack, and silence your enemy whenever you can. It is surprising just how much damage this can apply and it is possible if you get lucky and end up getting them low that you can tag them with ignite (which should be coming off cooldown around now if you used it at level 1.) Hold on to your feral scream for negating trades with your enemy (if you can hit them with the silence when you go up to cs you should be able to get in and out taking minimal damage).
Level 5 you want to see if you can get your enemy to around 60% hp or so and wear out their potions (provided you haven't already killed them.) You should be focused almost entirely on farming while harassing with the AOE effect of that farming. Make sure you have at least 200 mana for level 6 if possible, because the moment you hit 6 if you land a you can in to and +auto attack for an easy kill. If you have enough mana to you can ensure the kill with even more certainty as it ensures they have no ability to respond in between your ability combo.
Regardless of if you get a kill or not, you want to push your lane and then head back when you have 1100 gold. Try to feast something for a stack before going back the first time to efficiently use your cooldown provided you didn't just use it at level 6 in a flash combo. Never go back to base with your ultimate up unless you have full stacks if you can avoid it.
If you're forced back earlier than you would otherwise like, try to get a ward and a single doran's ring. If this happens you may be able to simply skip the second doran's ring and launch into your build at your discretion (to save trips back.)
You're hitting stride at mid-game. It's at this point in time you should be getting wraiths every time they are up on your side (and if you have wards out on your enemy jungle and know it is safe, get theirs too). You should be able to clear with a + 3 auto attacks (at level 3, as you level it will be even easier), so it is very quick and efficient. When you finish your Needlessly Large Rod you can clear these camps with a (kills all small wraiths) + (finishes off the large wraith) and you can do this from a step or two outside of lane.
For farming: the minion wave in lane and clear with auto attacks, clear wraiths with + (or walk around and auto attack), consider clearing wolves (if your wave is still pushed), then come back and clear your wave. You can do this almost indefinitely though your mana will slowly depleat so keep an eye on it.
Focus on farming, but try to capitalize your around the creep so they also hit champions. Following up a with your and a will almost certainly kill them if they are at 70% hp or less (do not all-in with unless you know you'll secure the kill). If you don't have an opportunity to kill your lane you should be considering feast on cannon/big wraith minions. You should use your ultimate every time it is off cooldown to build stacks unless you are pretty certain you have a kill opportunity.
Roaming is something you can also do if your lane is pushed and wraiths aren't up yet. Your gank potential is high, especially if your feast is off cooldown. Just ensure you don't miss more than a couple minions in a wave for the roam.
Finally, it is in this level range that you are likely able to take dragon if you get team assistance. Your consumes 1000 true damage and is therefore more powerful than smite. It is literally impossible for an enemy to steal dragon from Cho'Gath while he is in range. Try to avoid tanking it because you are a straight up mage, but don't be afraid of tanking if you absolutely need to and you know where the enemy is. Starting objectives fast is extremely important, and it's better a Cho'Gath with 2/4 ultimate stacks is tanking Dragon than your ad carry.
By this point you absolutely have a few AP items built out. Your job in stand-offs is to stay back and poke with to tenderize the enemy team. Hold on to your feral scream as it is your most reliable form of CC and will help disrupt an enemy engage if needed.
When you're entering a teamfight maintain as much range as you can and land on as many of the enemy as possible along with your feral scream (then back out, wait for 4 seconds and do it again). Do not enter melee range unless it is to consume a high-prize target like the enemy AD or AP carry (or that super fed top lane). When you do enter melee range try to do so while your is bouncing them to minimize risk. You are quite squishy, your ability to fight directly depends on your ability to stay back and spam skills. Only when the enemy line is breaking and they attempt to flee should you gap close.
A well farmed Cho'Gath can typically knock everyone on the enemy team down to half health with just a + combo. It is quite devastating with the CC alone, but the aoe burst damage crippling. Play to your cooldowns so you can do it a few times and you'll find more success than getting anxious and running in.
Thankfully if you have full stacks you are relatively durable (for a mage) even if you do end up taking aggro, try to kite if engaged on personally, but do your best to stay near the team, your AOE is best used on multiple people.
Pros / Cons
* The best wave-clear in the game if built full-ap. Very safe distance too.
* The enemy team doesn't expect Cho'Gath to go mid in champion select, you can mess with counter-picking strategies.
* Though Cho'Gath has mobility issues going mid actually negates most of them.
* You are relatively tanky for a mage even without any defensive items if you can pull off Feast stacks.
* You will deal 1000 true damage with your ultimate at 500 AP. You can easily burst any squishy champion down from 100% to 0% hp if you land a .
* You have spammable aoe CC with large burst damage.
* Counters most common Mid-Lanes in the current meta.
* You will never lose a buff or neutral objective that you are in range for due to your 1000 true damage ultimate. (Provided it is off cooldown.)
* Extremely skillshot reliant. A missed will likely be your death if an AD carry is fighting you late game, or a jungle is ganking early game.
* Your team may not realize you are not a tank and will probably expect you to take some damage.
* Very ward-dependant mid because of low mobility.
* Lower global map presence due to mobility/globals than champions like TF/Karthus/Ahri. (This is somewhat countered by the fact that you will easily deny CS if they leave lane for any amount of time at all.)
* A lot of Cho'Gath's innate durability comes from feast stacks. If you are unable to hold on to them it can be time-consuming re-gaining them. For this reason a death can be particularly devastating to Cho'Gath even if you trade for it.
Mid'Gath played correctly will typically force a 20-25 minute surrender. He is unparalleled in terms of farm potential and burst dps.