Note: The Items
Please read the whole guide, specifically the subsection 'Items and Gameplay' for more information on how to fill the remaining item slots, as the lategame items depend on the game situation. The core build should remain the same in most situations
A brief Adress to the Reader
I am trying to find a way here to play Katarina in ranked games. For that I will try to provide a detailed guide and update it whenever I get new info.
Please feel free to post suggestions in the comments, they are most welcome unless of course they are of a vulgar nature or simply suggest NOT to play Katarina in ranked. I know that she is a questionable choice at first glance, but please keep an open mind.
Prologue 1: Masteries
The offensive masteries seem to be a given with Katarina, but please consider to make offense your secondary tree and defense your main tree. You need to survive with Kata more than you need to kill. The kills will come, she just works that way, but don't force them ever! There is a good chance it will go horribly wrong.
Remember: Suppress your primal Katarina urges of killing everything that moves and keep cool!
Prologue 2: Runes
You want to play Kata ranked?
Then you need some beef and sustain.
We'll check the sustain with our item build, some of the beef we bring in with the health per level runes. Now flat health runes would make her beefier in early game, but only a few levels easily close the gap and you are tough enough with the shield at first.
The rest is a given: some mag pen in combination with AP will give your harassing the edge you need and the about 25 AP you'll have through runes and masteries from lvl 1 onwards (increasing through masteries) will certainly be of good service.
Prologue 3: The Picking
Don't take Kata in the first 3 picks, it is almost always lethal.
Remember: CC is your enemy.
But also remember, that Kata doesn't just consist of her ult, CC doesn't make her useless, it just slows her down and a CC on you is a CC your Carry doesn't have to eat. In theory.
Avoid enemies who can silence or stun really long or often. Garen is a bad enemy for you. It's worth his while to ALWAYS keep his silence open for you.
Sorakas Infuse is annoying, but she dies really fast, so it's not that bad and your W makes her heals rotten.
Rammus, Amumu, Leona and Kassadin and a few others can really ruin the game for you, consider not picking Katarina against them.
But just having stuns doesn't have to scare you away: many CCs can be outmanouvered using some wit and experience.
Stuns like Kennens Mark of the Storm or Annies Pyromania are strong, but not hard CCs, they have rules you can make use of and effectively outplay them.
It is also important that you can make people believe they have to CC you NOW when all you are doing is a flying harass and when their CCs are in CD you move in for the kill.
Train alot in normal draft mode with Katarina, playing her in ranked is NOT easy, it is difficult, but with enough training very much worth your while.
Now if you are high up in the Queue, place 1-3, you should probably ask a mate on place 4 or 5 to lastpick Kata for you, having you pick their champ in return, so you can switch. Do not let your opponents know that you play Katarina early. She HAS to be the supprise guest of your party or your Opponents will make ruthless counterpicks.
Please talk with your team. Ask them to take AoE CCs and/or Hard CCs.
Hard CCs make it very easy for you and your mates to pin down and kill single targets using the full breadth of your skills, AoE CCs are your trusted ally, they enable you to get a good amount of your ulti through to the whole enemy team without fear of being dirupted.
AoE CCs are basically the counter against the counterpicking against Katarina (funny, ain't it?), because they secure your dmg, at least for a certain amount.
Introduction and Gameplay (abilities)
Do you love Katarina but hate how everybody hates her in ranked?
I've been racking my brain over the issue of how to play Katarina in ranked and as many of you may already know: It's problematic.
So first we need to consider some things:
- Katarina can burst massive damage and snowball on the enemies very well, if she does a good job.
-> HOWEVER: If you give her too much AP/AD she will be too squishy and have too little sustain.
-> CONCLUSION: She'll get focused and killed, any CC will interrupt her ult.
- Katarina just ASKS you to play aggressive and reak in those kills.
-> DON'T DIE! You WILL die, you may get the kills, but you'll leave your team behind and that may cost you the game.
What can we do then? How does Katarina fit into ranked?
The fact is, that her ulti often outshines her other skills and falling for that is a huge mistake.
Her Bouncing Blades is one of the most horrifying harrases there are. Using minion waves to ricochet her knifes into their enemies, especially with Sinister Steel will make them eat their keyboards and can keep them at bay easily.
Her Sinister Steel is grossly underestimated:
Bonus dmg helps with farming and the dmg reduction makes harassing with Shunpo and Bouncing Blades possible, even if the enemy would normally burst you in return. That is why skilling the Sinister Steel early is worth your while. still you want to have your knifes so rush Bouncing Blades after lvl 6
IF your enemy can harrass you too well from afar, you should skill your Bouncing Blades first and leave Sinister Steel at 1, then rush Sinister Steel after lvl 6 instead.
Don't initiate with Kata if you want to go all out, it will likely fail. You can try to go in with Sinister Steel and Shunpo out asap, so you draw in CC and skills, but do it with caution.
Wait for your team to apply CC before you use your ulti!
Items and Gameplay
Your items are your friends, like always and with every champion.
And like in RL you should select your friends with care.
Ofc you want your damn hat with the shiny AP.
You want to overstack so much AP that every enemy crumbles away from your mighty damage. Or maybe you want to be exotic and do the same with AD, Katarina certainly supports it.
But all those giant AP items are temptresses you MUST resist until late game.
So lets go through the list chronologically:
1. Doran's Shield
- The HP, the life reg. make your early game so much easier and safer!
- Now you can sustain yourself on your lane, probably top or mid. Even if you get harrassed you can always towerhug and let the Doran's Shield do it's work
- the further you are away from your own turret the more seldomly you should use your shunpo. Why? You may need it to escape a gank. Paired with your flash you should escape from most ganks
2. Boots of Speed
- Mobility is important, especially with Katarina, but if you can lane long enough to farm your 1200 gold, buy your revolver first, it will be more reliable keeping you alive and improving your harassing.
3. Hextech Revolver
- Spellvamp makes you awesome and you know it.
- Use your Bouncing Blades on creepwaves to regenerate whatever damage a strong harass or gank may have dealt you and stay on your lane for long periods of time without actually overextending.
- The 40 AP will make your harassing stronger and enable you to actually gank if needed. Be carefull though if you don't have boots yet.
4. Vampiric Scepter
- Lifesteal may not be so strong with Kata if you don't have your gunblade completed yet, but it also improves your sustain and survivability, plus it's another milestone along the road to your gunblade.
4. Ionian Boots of Lucidity
- You probably know this: The 15% CDR with Kata effectively mean about 14% more damage and since your Shunpo resets faster you can also chase and escape faster and at even more convenient times. These are a must-have, even if the mag pen boots look tempting.
5. Hextech Gunblade
- Build it fast. 300 active dmg and slow, extra dmg, extra AP and also lifesteal and spellvamp: It has everything you could ever dream about and will make you strong enough to not buy AP for a moment.
6. Giant's Belt
- Now it's time to gain some weight, shape up!
- You MUST HAVE life in addition to your other sustain. If people can kill you just like that, they will do it with any and every means possible, because people have a primal, deep rooted fear of Katarina and her potential. She usually needs some special attention from her own team and certainly gets it from the opposing team every game.
7. Rylai's Crystal Scepter
- Your Bouncing Blades can practically hold your opponent in slow lock and people won't be able to run from you anymore. The AP will make you an even more valuable asset to the team and the bonus damage automatically heals you harder because of your gunblade. Additionally extra lifepoints are always nice.
8. What now?
- What you buy next depends on the game.
- The game is going well? Consider build 1 and get Morello's Evil Tome. 20% CDR with Kata means 20% more dmg and increased survivability, because more Shunpo means more fleeing (and more chasing, but NEVER overdo it. You tend to chase just a little too far with Katarina, so don't.)
- Does your team have the damage but gets nuked out too fast? Get more health, consider becoming the initiater for your team with your Shunpo dmg reduction. Katarina will always draw lots and lots of fire when jumping in, she can be one badass of a substitute tank if she really needs too. But be very carefull about whether you can really pull this off. Practise in Draft-Mode normal games and consider build 2 for this.
Warmog's Armor make you big and Atma's Impaler makes you strong!
- Are the enemies too tanky? Get a Deathfire Grasp!
- Do they have too much MR? Get a Void Staff OR consider build 2 again, going for Warmog's Armor and Atma's Impaler!
What you do after your Morello's Evil Tome really is your judgement call. Base your descision on the state of the game and consider which role you have to play: to lead or follow your team to victory.
Sight Wards are your best friend in the whole world. You love them and they love you.
If the enemies play shaco and teemo, you may want to get the occasional Vision Wards as well, but the Sight Wards still are damned important.
As everyone in your team you need to ward often and good. Map control is EXTREMELY important in ranked games, ideally in all games.
But Katarina is especially good friends with Sight Wards. Why?
Katarinas Shunpo has a very big range and allows her to jump both to hostile and friendly targets, enabeling her to jump to Sight Wards.
Using this you can actually jump through basicly ANY wall in your way without using flash.
You can chase people trying to flash-escape down or escape hopeless situations by jumping through a wall right after placing a ward.
You need to train placing Sight Wards and jumping on them almost at the same time to achieve its maximum potential.
I use this tactic for everything: escaping, stealing buffs, chasing through walls, even for gap-closing if there are no creeps around!
If you train this, it can be one hell of an asset in the game. And the Sight Wards you use for this don't just vanish, they are on the map, increasing your map controll! (maby not in the ideal places, but still they do!)
Ward the river and pay special attention to entrances and exits to both jungles. controlling the river means knowing where the enemies are!
here are good positionings for wards:
- ward map by Aradhian
If you Gank:
Wait until your mates are in position! Let them bait if possible and wait for their CC to come down onto the enemies, then appear and reap!
If it doesn't work or if more enemies suddenly countergank: get the hell out of there! You have Shunpo and Flash, get out with these and hope your mates can make it too. Only if you are certain that the countergank will fail if playing your cards right, then may you consider to stay in and snowball them down.
If mates gank your lane enemy:
Let him harass you enough to make him think he can push you back into the base or even attempt to kill you. Let his creeps come, DON'T overuse your Bouncing Blades as it pushes too hard and will drive away your lane enemy making any gank impossible.
Another option is to completely ignore the creeps, let their wave push through slowly, while you focus on harassing the enemy. When he is low enough and your ganker has an applicable CC or a gap closing ability you can both go in and kill, even if the target flees into the tower zone.
However keep your map-awareness up as to avoid counterganks.
DON'T jump into tower range, if you are low-level - it is too risky, you need some HP first. Also conscider all factors, especially the enemies CCs and escape mechanisms or Flash. They also could outmanouver you while the tower cracks you down.
If it's an all-out teamfight:
Go in last. Let them burst out their main CCs in the first few seconds, then go in with Shunpo, Sinister Steel and Bouncing Blades.
Consider waiting a moment before using your ult in case someone saved a CC just for you.
Your Bouncing Blades practically sound like your ult. If you throw them right after Shunpo many people who keep their stun or CC ready for kata will get nervous and use them.
Katarina is a very good poker that way, use her deceptive properties to your advantage.
When you finally burst out your Death Lotus, you want to get in at least 50% of the ulti time (1.5 secs) to deal high amounts of dmg. As soon as the first enemy dies it is ON. Your CDs reset and you begin your second assault, gunning for the link with the lowest remaining health to kill and have your CDs reset once again. If you are already relatively high in level, maby even have blue, two kills/assists already reset your Death Lotus and often there aren't any CCs left when you cast it the second time.
If the Teamfight is the result of a chase, make sure to kill the chased subject FAST, do NOT follow it too far and through too many bushes. Nasty traps will ensure that you are kept in a Stun/CC lock and can't do ****, may it be escaping or dealing dmg of any kind.
The one Champ noone would ever consider a CC effect wasted on is Katarina, they will not hesitate to barrage you with everything they've got. In their minds any teamfight without Kata is a great thing and any teamfight with her is dangerous, so she needs to be taken out of the equation.
Also the fact that Kata is usually rather squishy makes her a priority target. For that reason we NEED our HP, more than super high AP.
Sure 650 AP or so are awesome, but if you can't cast ****, because you get 3-hitted, they do squat.
Also: Never underestimate the dmg reduction from her Sinister Steel.
If the enemies have a strong healer, you should also consider going in with your Bouncing Blades and Sinister Steel rather than Shunpo and Sinister Steel because of Katas heal-reduction with her Sinister Steel being so strong spammable.
If you have preperation time, best cast your Sinister Steel early. When the Sinister Steel buff disappears, the spell is practically reset, so cast it early and use it before it runs out, just to use it again 2 seconds later.
That way you can throw in your Bouncing Blades, wait a short time and then jump in with Shunpo and have your Sinister Steel benefit on BOTH skills.
- Don't pick her vs strong AE CC
- Don't pick her first, try to pick her last or trade with your mates
- Don't play aggressive
- get health and sustain
- get spellvamp
- harass with knifes
- Ward everywhere
- have Sight Wards ready to escape through walls and chase through walls or gap-close when there are no minions
- adapt your late game build to the situation
- don't insta-cast your Death Lotus poker your way through your enemies CCs, use Bouncing Blades to fake them into thinking your Death Lotus has been casted (the sound is almost the same)