Karthus Build Guide by StaticFX

Not Updated For Current Season

This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.

League of Legends Build Guide Author StaticFX

[S4] Kill the Poor; A Karthus Guide

StaticFX Last updated on December 6, 2014
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Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

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.



Offense: 21

Legendary Guardian

Defense: 2


Utility: 7

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Introduction to Destruction

Salutations, future Karthus players. I Never Quite Free, and I'm here to tell you how to be a competent Karthus-player! This guide is kinda raw and not too pretty to look at. But it has the basics. I won't go into detail on stuff like the range of his skills and the like. Because things like that are learned in the first couple minutes of playing him, no? Anyway...

Who's Karthus? Well I'm glad you asked! Karthus is a ranged AP carry, he has a wide variety of abilities, including a passive that makes him BENEFIT FROM DYING, a mid-ranged nuke, a wall that applies one of the highest slows in the game, an AoE that, with the right items, does almost as much damage as Fiddlesticks' Crowstorm, and last, but certainly not least; a global nuke that can do ONE THOUSAND damage late-game.
In short, he's a great champion and should at least be given a chance by any aspiring AP Carries.

And without further ado, I give you: Kill the Poor: A Karthus Guide.

P.S I know right now this guide is kind of an eyesore. I'm looking into ways to make this all look better and learning stylish BBcode for your pleasure. Until then, please try and take this guide for what it is. I.e my gameplay tips and build. Thanks!

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Main rune set

Greater Mark of Magic Penetration
This is really the only Marks you should ever take as Karthus, or any AP carry, for that matter.

Greater Seal of Scaling Health
Karthus doesn't have much health late game, this remedies that... sorta. If you're strapped for IP, consider buying these last, as they're not 100% necessarily. If you're afraid of the laning phase, consider swapping these for Greater Seal of Armor
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist
As Karthus, you'll be going mid. With the exception of the occasional Akali, Talon, et cetera, almost every mid lane enemy champ will be AP, and AP champions' damage can be reduced with Magic Resist, these Glyphs provide that.

Greater Quintessence of Ability Power
These give SO much Ability Power, you'll be doing significantly more damage early game if and when you take these.

Other runes worth considering

Greater Seal of Armor
If you're facing an AD champion mid, feel free to take these.


Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power
Think you're hot **** and don't need no MR? Or are you facing an AD mid? Then these Glyphs are for you!

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Summoner Spells

A lot of people I see ask me "Why do you take Exhaust?" or "Lol, where's your Ignite?"
Well, believe it or not, Exhaust is really good on Karthus. Keeps them in place whilst you Q them to death. Sometimes the wall just doesn't cut it or you don't have the mana or it's off cooldown. Whatever the case may be it all comes down to preference. So go Ignite crazy if you please.

Ahh, Flash, the spell that should be taken on just about every champion ever. Karthus especially, as it gives him a good escape. Use this to take you over certain walls, and out of the enemies grasp. Use this to initiate whilst having your Defile on. Use this for everything, and don't be afraid to, because we took Mastermind meaning it's ok to spam this a little.

Take it if you want, but only replace Exhaust. Really it's unnecessary. Most everyone on your team will take Ignite, and they don't stack, so they're bad in teamfights where everyone ignites the same. Damn. Person.
Plus, Ignite is only really good for finishing off runners. But you know what Karthus has that finishes off runners even better? Requiem, son.

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Skill Sequence

Ability Sequence
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
This is your standard Skill Sequence, and I don't recommend you do anything different.

Death Defied

Death Defied does exactly what the name implies, it lets you defy death(If only for a short while.) With this ability you'll be able to launch everything in your arsenal for a good seven seconds.

Tips and tricks:
  • If you're plan on dying, make sure you die in the middle (or if you can, a little bit ahead) of the enemy team, so that you get maximum output from Defile and Lay Waste

  • If you're going to use Requiem make sure you have at least three seconds remaining before Death Defied ends, as Requiem takes three seconds to charge, and it won't even let you cast it if the time remaining doesn't meet that requirement. Bummer.
  • Just because you have this passive doesn't mean you should actively go seeking death. Make sure you only use this when necessary, or if you know you won't be able to escape whatever predicament you're in.
  • If you need to use Requiem and there is an enemy that can counter it, be it by silence, knock-up, burst, or what have you. Try to have Death Defied up before using Requiem as it makes you immune to... well... everything.

Lay Waste

Often referred to as Skittles, Lay Waste is another fantastic skill of Karthus'. It has very nice range, crazy damage, great for farming, and to top it all off. It is on a one second cooldown.
Tips and tricks:
  • This does double damage if it hits one enemy, so try to place these to where it does just that.

  • Try your best to predict your enemy's movement so that you may do as much damage as you can to it.
  • This skill works like smartcasting; it will hit wherever your mouse is. So be careful!
  • Even if you're not that good at aiming, it will at least force your enemies to get out of the way and keep them on their toes. And when someone is focusing on dodging Lay Waste all the time, they tend to not keep an eye on their mini-map, allowing for easier ganks.
  • If you've just recalled, spam this in your fountain, as it will give you a bunch of charges on your Tear of the Goddess. Same thing if you're roaming with no real place to be, and have Crest of the Ancient Golem . (Or just an excess of mana)

Wall of Pain

A huuuuge wall that slows like a mofo and lowers the enemies magic resist. Throw this down in the middle of a teamfight, on an enemy trying to escape, to prevent ganks, to start ganks, or to save an ally that's being chased by the enemy. Like everything else with Karthus this has many, many uses.

Tips and tricks:
  • Having trouble landing Lay Waste? Never fear! Just slap this baby on your enemy and go to town with them skittles! This will make easier to land because it slows them down, and it will increase your damage with them!
  • Don't use this too much in laning phase, as it costs a trillion mana.


An enormous AoE with enormous damage to boot. And an enormous mana cost, But don't let that discourage you. It's the passive this gives that makes it so great. With both Lay Waste and Defile maxed, you can essentially cast Lay Waste for free if it kills something, which, believe me, is no problem at all.
Tips and tricks:
  • This probably goes without saying, but make sure you're hitting all the enemies with this during teamfights. Even if it means going straight into the fray.
  • Turning this on and off immediately can do some good damage to minions and makes last hitting a little easier since it's instantaneous damage.


The ability that makes Karthus who he is: a herculean pain in the *** for the enemy. This thing is a global nuke. A GLOBAL. NUKE. This will kill any enemy with less than five bars of health left anywhere on the map, netting you kills and assists galore!

Tips and tricks:
  • Don't be a jerk. Don't use this to intentionally killsteal, if an enemy in another lane is obviously about to die because of the hardwork of your teammate(s), don't try to take his well-earned kill. That will probably just piss him off, and make him not want to help you later on.

  • This can also be used to initiate a teamfight, and is a good initiator too. As you can make sure you've hit every enemy with Requiem and gives your (hopefully) fully-healed team an obvious and substantial advantage.

  • Know your damage. Put your mouse over Requiem, add up the base and bonus damage, and round it down to the nearest hundred. That's about the damage you'll be doing, including enemy Magic Resist. If the enemy has lower health than the number you calculated. Press the R button and revel in the shine of your name appearing on the screen about how you just killed some sucker.
  • Notify your teammates when Requiem is off of cooldown. Sometimes you can't always check the exact HP of every enemy, so let your teammates do it for you. When they say something like "kart ult", they're pretty much handing you a free kill, return the kindness with an assist by pressing R.

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The moment you've all been waiting for... Builds!

Starting Items:

Crystalline Flash
Gives some much needed mana and hp sustain. Of which Karthus lacks.

Health Potion
With the remainder of your starting money, blow it all on Health Potions. They provide sustainability and... health.

Core Items:

Rod of Ages
This gives you everything Karthus needs: Health, Mana, and Ability Power. And it gives you lost of it. I see no reason why not to get this item. Make sure you get rush this right after your Tear of the Goddess because this gives you stats every minute. (Max at 10), so you'll want that ASAP, right? Right.

Seraph's Embrace
Mana and Ability Power are reason enough to get this fantastic item. But guess what? It gives you a giant shield, too! Letting you stay alive and dish out crazy damage for a while longer! Build this after your Rod of Ages, because by then your Tear of the Goddess should be nigh-maxed. Make sure you use this right when you start a teamfight, because that's when your mana should be highest, meaning your shield will be largest!

Abyssal Scepter
This item is very helpful, and synergizes great with Karthus. It gives an aura that lowers the enemies Magic Resist, which goes well with Defile and assists any allied AP champions on your team, which I'm sure they will appreciate. This also gives a good amount of Magic Resist, which has no downside.
(If someone else on your team is getting this, which you should ask as soon as possible, then swap with Void Staff Or if you just like Void Staff more, take that. They're equally neat.)

Rabadon's Deathcap
A staple for any AP carry, and that means it's a staple for Karthus. It gives you so much ability power, and that is reason enough to pick this up.

Zhonya's Hourglass
Everyone on the enemy team is scared of Karthus, they want him dead, and they want him dead now. This prevents that from happening for a good 2.5 seconds, which is quick enough to absorb most of the damage you would take, and puts the enemies spells on cooldown (if they used them on you), allowing your team to rush in and take out the defenseless enemy.
It also provides a bunch of ability power and a decent amount of Armor, which is always welcome.

Enchantment: Homeguard
Almost always the best enchantment to get. This will be the last thing to buy, meaning you are at the very end of the game. So you'll either be defending like crazy or having to run to the enemy base as quick as you can. This will give you the means to do both with ease.

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Laning Phase

Laning with Karthus is almost always a pain in the ***.

Think of something that is really passive. Now think of something passive-er. Laning as Karthus requires you to be a million times more passive than whatever you just thought of. Laning as Karthus means you have to stand as far away from the enemy as you can while still last-hitting minions. You must be always on watch for the enemy jungler or any incoming ganks, which means you'll probably need to buy some Stealth Wards. In fact, buy Stealth Wards every time you're at your spawn. They're cheap and effective.

I take it back, you don't have to be too passive. But definitely don't harass as much as you would do with other champions like Ahri or Katarina. It will only get you killed. Save your mana to Lay Waste minions. But if you see an obvious chance to do some damage to the enemy, feel free to pop a skittle or two, let 'em know you're not a walking R-button.

That's just about it for the laning phase. Just keep in mind the following things:

  • If you're being ganked, use your Wall of Pain and gtfo of there, you can NOT defeat them. Not yet at least.
  • Make sure you're hitting one enemy with Lay Waste, makes things easier.
  • If you're getting your *** handed to you, don't feel bad, that's supposed to happen in the beginning, just stay passive, avoid damage, and farm minions. Just farm, farm, farm, farm.
  • To last hit minions at the turret,: Let the turret hit melee minions twice, and then use Lay Waste and caster minions once, then Lay Waste it. This should get you most, if not all of the kills the turret would have otherwise taken.
  • Keep watch of the other lanes, if your ally(ies) missed a kill and your Requiem can do enough damage, use it. Gets you a kill, and your ally(ies) an assist, everyone's happy! Except whomever you just killed, of course.

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This is where Karthus really shines. He is one of the greatest teamfighters in the game, hands down. Teamfighting is pretty simple (Indented steps mean they're situational):

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Having success with this guide?

Feel free to send me some screenshots of your scores/match history and I'll add them here!

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Closing Statements

And that's about it for my Karthus guide. I promise I'll be adding some gameplay videos and pictures as soon as I can, and just generally sprucing up this guide.
I hope you've learned something and maybe even win a game or two!

Good luck and have fun!