Skarner Build Guide by RaskolnikovsAxe
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.
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.
Skarner is a damage-focused champion with many smaller sources of damage as well as one of the best junglers and ranked picks. He excels at dealing sustained damage to a single target and brings a huge amount of utility to the field with his near-constant AoE slow and his ability to lock down high-priority targets with his ult. Since I originally wrote this guide, the game has gone through many changes including the jungle changes, new masteries, and buffs to Skarner's stats. This has made Skarner a much stronger champion than before and because of this, I've shifted focus of this guide to the jungle rather than the lane. I'll try to keep the information about laning in here if you want to solo top with Skarner but I'd recommend the jungle.
Skarner has a lot if innate survivability with a shield, move speed boost, and the second highest base HP of any champion (second only to Nunu). His lack of a strong nuke also means that his damage remains unnoticed much of the time as the enemy team instead focuses your teammates who do all their damage at once in large nukes. Because of this, I have felt little need to build him as tanky as other melee champions and this build focuses more on damage than resistances and health. I have no doubt that Skarner can be quite effective built tankier than this, but this is the build that I have found the most success with.
As with any guide, use your own judgement and feel free to experiment with your own builds.
Runes & Masteries
For jungling runes I pick armor seals, attack speed glyphs, and armor pen quints and marks. This gives Skarner excellent damage in the jungle as well as a rapid clear speed. It also makes your ganks significantly stronger.
For laning, you might want to focus a bit more on survivability, grabbing MR glyphs or flat health quints for example. I have not played Skarner solo top very much because he's such a monster in the jungle so I can only really guess at what works.
The new mastery trees gave me a chance to change focus with Skarner. Instead of defensive masteries I go 21/0/9 snagging Executioner and Runic Affinity . I get the bonus movespeed in the utility tree because Skarner loves more movespeed as well as getting the penetration for both armor and magic resist in the offense tree (as any hybrid should).
Skarner's strength in in his ability to 'stick' to a target and keep dealing them damage until they drop. The extra move speed from Ghost comes in handy for chasing or escaping and also allows you to drag an enemy further with Impale.
A must have for junglers, Smite will give you fast clearing times as well as the ability to steal important objectives from the other team including the blue and red buffs, golem, and dragon.
--A strong summoner spell that counters almost any champion. It gives you a nice slow, damage reduction, and even reduces enemy resistances. It also synergizes very well with Skarner's chasing. If you're playing lane Skarner I recommend this instead of Smite.
--A nice bit of extra damage, especially against champs who have the tendency to get away from you at low HP. Personally I find that Skarner's ability to run down a champ makes this a weaker choice than other spells but if you want more damage in your burst then by all means go for it.
--A nice AS steroid that gives you bonus AP as well so it synergizes perfectly with Skarner. However, it has a fairly significant cooldown. Gut instinct, I'd pick Exhaust over this but it's good enough that I'll admit that I need to experiment with it more to make a final judgement.
--Always a strong pick for any champion. The only reason I pick Ghost over this is because you cannot flash while using your ult ( Impale) and sometimes dragging an enemy that extra distance can be all the difference in a fight.
--Skarner can clear waves quite quickly with his Crystal Slash which makes him a strong split-pusher. However, he already has a lot of mobility from Crystalline Exoskeleton so this is somewhat redundant. However, if you like teleport ganks or want more map control, teleport is never a bad choice.
--Like any melee champ, Skarner is shut down pretty hard by CC. Take Cleanse to counter it if you're having trouble.
You're an Idiot
--Leave it to the support.
--You're already a strong pusher with your ability to clear waves quickly and extra damage from Sheen.
--Too long of a CD.
--Though your built-in heal with Fracture sucks, it's still better than this.
--You're probably going to be in the jungle so you can ***** the blue buff at the beginning until you get your Fiendish Codex. After that, no more mana issues.
Abilities & Skill Order
A spectacular passive, I cannot believe how good this is. This ability makes Skarner who he is and is what makes him a strong hybrid champ. With this passive it's easily possible to be casting Crystal Slash once a second, proccing the sheen effect constantly and adding significantly to your damage all on its own. Also remember that it takes time off of ALL your cooldowns, including your ult. If you're between fights and want your ult up faster, try clearing a wave using only autoattacks or jungle for a bit.
This is Skarner's main damage ability and the one I choose to max out first. Though its damage seems small, remember that you will be casting it near constantly in fights and that it procs your Sheen as often as the effect is available--all those mini-nukes add up quickly. When empowered it deals both physical and magical damage, making it hard to itemize against. The mana cost adjustments in recent patches make this extremely spammable, even in the early game, and the built in AoE slow helps your whole team later in the match. Crystal Slash is also excellent for farming and has a low enough cooldown that you can spam it to keep stacks up on a Guinsoo's Rageblade (if you choose to build it), much like Nidalee's pounce.
It makes Skarner glow blue; awesome! But besides that it's also a great ability which is why I max this second. A relatively long-lasting steroid to attack speed and move speed as well as a shield, this ability synergizes especially well with Energize and Impale. This spell is good for nearly all circumstances whether jungling, clearing minion waves, moving across a map, pushing down a tower, or chasing an enemy down. Remember that the bonuses only last as long as you are shielded--if the shield is broken you lose them. If you have the mana to support it, spam this constantly, it's too good not to.
A decent amount of damage with good scaling but a completely lackluster heal. If you hit all six minions in a wave with this at rank 1 you will heal for 60 health. Yahoo. To get in range to consume all 6 marks you probably lost more than that from harass. Outside of laning, it's a fairly straightforward damage move that doesn't have the use in harassing that it does in lane, partly due to its disappointing range.
For jungling, I take one rank in this at level 2, but max it last. That heal will help your sustainability early as you work your way through the wolf and wraith camps but it's fairly worthless for ganking. Putting another rank in Crystal Slash to get more damage and a stronger slow is much better than putting another rank in Fracture for a marginally better heal and nuke.
Skarner's ultimate which is just now starting to be appreciated for how awesome it is. A strong initiator as well as mid-fight CC move that's excellent for peeling champions off your carry or for locking down enemy carry. Kind of a combination of Rammus' Puncturing Taunt and Blitzcrank's Rocket Grab. The important thing to remember is that it's not just a taunt, it's a suppress. Your primary goal with this is to seek out the highest-priority target and lock them down, allowing your team to focus them quickly and turn a teamfight into a 4v5 instantly. It's fairly self-explanitory so I'll just give a few examples of ways it can be used:
- During laning, use it to pull an enemy into your tower for some solid damage or even a kill.
- Like any other form of hard CC, us it to interrupt channels such as Malzahar or Katarina's ult.
- It has a relatively large range as compared to other 'melee' CC moves (such as Fling and Puncturing Taunt) so you can use it to initiate on the enemy carry and drag them into your team. Somewhat superior to Blitzcrank's grab in this way because Impale is targeted.
- If you're jungling you can use it to gank. Though it seems to have a high cooldown, you will reduce that quickly with your passive over the course of jungling.
- You can also use it to peel someone off of your own carry.
- Don't forget that it's suppress and enemies can't cast spells while they're impaled. If you time it right, you can use it to prevent champions from escaping via flash or other abilities.
- If worse comes to worst, you can also use it to give yourself a slight edge in a 1v1. Impale your opponent for the damage and to give yourself those extra few spellcasts and autoattacks to finish them off before they finish you.
- If you're being chased and about to die but have your ult up, use it on the person chasing you. Chances are they'll be so surprised that they won't have the presence of mind to deal the killing blow to you when the suppression ends.
Impale Tips & Tricks
(Thanks to Azure_Dauragon and Dolemon!)
- When you use Impale, try reversing direction right before it ends. This forces the enemy champion to run around you when they regain control, giving you an extra few hits on them which may make all the difference.
- Because your ult is slightly ranged, you will be out of attack range if you start pulling as soon as you ult at max range. Try waiting half a second before you start pulling so the enemy is right next to you, then start moving.
- If you're initiating with Impale, use Crystal Slash as soon as you ult the enemy. By the time Impale ends, Crystal Slash should be off cooldown and you can use it again to slow the target immediately.
- You can use Impale to pull champions through terrain if it's narrow enough. The paths to the side of the river in mid lane are a good spot for this.
For jungle Skarner, there is no reason not to max Crystal Slash first. The significant damage boost from each rank plus an improved slow at each rank make it perfect for ganking. In addition to the slow from the red buff, enemies will find it nearly impossible to get away from you without burning an escape (usually flash). Likewise, the movespeed and attack speed bonus from Crystalline Exoskeleton lend themselves strongly to ganking, so it should be maxed second.
Items & Alternatives
A good goal for most core builds is a cost between five and six thousand gold (in addition to boots). Even if you're having a bad game, you can expect to get that much and so that core should be enough to get your champion to 75% of the capabilities you plan for them. At 5070 gold, this core is on the cheaper side of the range. On top of that, it's possible to only buy the Sheen portion of the Trinity Force which will get you most of the way to your damage potential for less than 1/3 the cost.
The key to this build is how the items lead from one to another fluidly without large jumps where you go from ineffective to rollface by completing a single item (think Ashe and Infinity Edge). Everything else you build after your core is totally optional but if you're going Jungle Hybrid Skarner, these core items should be in your build every game.
--A good item for any jungler. The bonus damage allows you to clear camps faster and, like Smite, secure objectives like the Baron, Dragon, and enemy buffs more quickly. I do not build this into a Wriggle's Lantern because I feel as though it saves me gold not to and I like having the option of building a Madred's Bloodrazer late game without having to rebuy the Razors.
Very self-explanatory for a melee champion and for a tanky dps. The only other boots I'd possibly recommend are Berserker's Greaves or Boots of Swiftness for how they synergize with Skarner's kit. However, he's shut down so hard by CC and kiting that I'd nearly always go with the Mercury's Treads.
Though not a great item on many champs it's recommended for, Sheen is absolutely perfect for Skarner. The extreme spammability of his Q means that you will be activating its ability as often as possible, dealing the maximum damage. The extra mana and bonus AP also synergize strongly with his abilites (all of which have AP scaling). Skarner's base damage is enough that I usually save building this until after I've completed my boots. However, it's an excellent source of cheap, early-game damage so if you prefer, by all means rush Sheen.
This is where about 75% of Skarner's damage in the mid-game comes from as well as his source of survivability. Zeal gives him increased move speed for better chasing and more attack speed for Energize. Phage gives him attack damage and health (on top of his already high base health) as well as an additional slow effect. Finally, you get an upgraded Sheen effect to deal even more damage. All in all, an excellent item for Skarner.
A perfect item for hybrids, Nashor's tooth gives Skarner every stat he could possibly want. Between the AS (with Energize) and the CDR, you'll have your ultimate up about every 45 seconds. In addition, the extra AP and AS will significantly increase your damage and especially your split-pushing potential making this a great mid to late game item. If you are able to have the blue buff most of the time, I'd recommend building the Stinger portion first for the AS and damage. If not and you're having mana issues, build Fiendish Codex.
***Note: I usually buy the parts for this item ( Vampiric Scepter and Hextech Revolver) at some point in the mid-game. It is usually neither necessary nor worth it to finish the Gunblade until after you've completed at least one defensive item.***
When you get to the late game you're going to start having some survivability issues. Though Skarner has a lot of innate strength because of his base HP and built-in shield, this begins to tail off in the late game as enemy champions begin to itemize more resistances and deal more damage. Though a Gunblade isn't strictly a survivability item, it does help you sustain pushes incredibly well.
Spell vamp and lifesteal allow you to regain huge amounts of health clearing minion waves or neutral camps and also gives you the extra oomph necessary to survive the opening bursts in a teamfight. The bonus AP and AD also scales very well with your abilites and autoattacks and the active is an excellent targeted slow for chasing or even initiating when combined with Impale. Don't forget the active.
Because my build for Skarner has focused on damage more than survivability, there's really only one slot for a defensive item. Given the choice of any one item, I think Guardian Angel is the strongest choice. It gives a solid amount of armor and decent magic resist along with its passive revive ability. When you die, it's very possible to come back and get back in the fight quickly due to the lifesteal and spellvamp from Hextech Gunblade.
Obviously you should build whichever survivability item is best for the particular match you're playing. Force of Nature is good because of the increased move speed and Randuin's Omen is strong due to the active slow and bonus health. Frozen Heart is also a good choice for to its bonus mana, enemy AS reduction, and CDR. Use your best judgement.
A good item to finish with, Phantom Dancer gives Skarner even more AS and MS as well as a significant amount of crit chance. If the game goes on extremely long, I usually sell my boots and buy another Phantom Dancer, the extra MS making up for the loss of boots and CC reduction.
As a general rule, anything that increases AS should be considered as an alternative for Skarner. Of note are the The Black Cleaver, Zeke's Herald, and Wit's End. Here are some others I've gone into a bit more detail with.
A decent choice on Skarner as with any hybrid. Skarner's abilities (especially his Q) are quite spammable so it's easy to maintain the stacks on the Rageblade. The added bonus of using his Q to maintain stacks is that Skarner will always have his Crystal Slash empowered, meaning that you will constantly have its slow ability at your disposal. However, I find that one AS item is enough and Nashor's Tooth provides more options by giving you mana regen as opposed to the Rageblade which somewhat locks you into having the blue buff most of the game.
By not turning Madred's Razors into a Wriggle's Lantern early game, I keep the option open of building this item later on. Though it is overpriced for the stats you get, the tanky dps meta which seems to be developing once again makes this an item that you should definitely consider. It gives nice damage and AS and between its passive and your multiple sources of damage, you should be able to cut through thicker champions without too much trouble.
A great item for Skarner and one I usually include even against AD teams. The magic resist is nice, but even more important is the health regen and bonus movespeed. This gives you a lot of survivability and helps keep a push going and going.
Against an AD-heavy team I'd pick one of these two items for defense. They give very similar stats with a few differences. Frozen Heart has a passive enemy AS reduction, more armor, and 15% more CDR making you hit harder and more often. Randuin's Omen gives you less armor but a sizable amount of health and health regen, as well as building out of a Heart of Gold if feel you need that extra source of income. Its active is also a nice slow to AS and move speed. As a rule of thumb, I'd buy a Frozen Heart if you are doing well and a Randuin's Omen if you're not doing so well. The extra slow, health, and gold from an Omen will all help you secure kills and hopefully get enough gold to catch up.
Jungling & Match Strategy
Early Game: Jungling, Ganking, and First Blood
Though he is one of the stronger junglers, Skarner is fairly susceptible to counter-jungling in the early game so make sure you have your allies guard for you. Since his mana costs were adjusted, it's no longer necessary to start at the blue buff. However, the standard blue to small golems path is the fastest path (usually completed at around 3:30) and the one I take most often. Pretty much any other potential path is possible but requires that you ration your mana, using Fracture sparingly and focusing on using Crystal Slash.
Once you hit level 4, you're going to want to gank. Use Ghost and Crystalline Exoskeleton to close the gap, then apply slows with Crystal Slash and the red buff. With help from your ally and a little luck you'll get first blood and, if not, you'll usually at least force the other champion to use their escape, making laning that much easier for your ally. Remember, you don't need to get a kill for a gank to be successful.
After ganking the lanes that seem promising, go back into your jungle (or the enemy jungle for some countering) with a focus on getting to level 6. Once you hit level 6 and get Impale, your ganks will become much stronger and result in a kill the majority if the time as long as you can get into range.
Mid Game: Roaming and Pushing
Once a tower or two falls and champions start to roam Skarner has a little more freedom. Continue jungling but also help push lanes. This will draw your opponents out of position allowing either you or another lane to take a tower. Use the speed boost and mobility from Crystalline Exoskeleton to maximum advantage here--you want your opponents to feel as though you're everywhere at once.
While pushing a tower, try to use your ult to punish a champion that gets even slightly out of position. By pulling them out from under the tower you can get a kill without having to dive and tip the advantage in your team's favor, securing a tower kill. Try to use your ult on either champions that have a lot of escapes or the champion that deals the most damage and is the greatest threat.
Late Game: Split Pushing, Baron, and Finishing your Build
At this point you should have at least have a Trinity Force and a Stinger or Nashor's Tooth, even if you've had a mediocre game so far. This makes you an excellent split pusher because your Q clears waves quickly and the AS and sheen procs make towers go down to you fast, especially when used in conjunction with the attack speed boost from Crystalline Exoskeleton. The move speed boost also helps you escape when the enemy team comes to drive you away.
Alternately, if you're doing well, late game is the time Skarner truly shines. Though you're not doing raw damage in the form of a Bear Bomb like Annie, you do strong, sustained damage with your total AD being at least 250 and significant AS and sustainability from your Hextech Gunblade. Prioritize a target (usually a mage or carry) and lock them down with your ult, then beat them into submission with Crystalline Slash.
Here are a few tips for jungling with Skarner that didn't really fit anywhere else:
- Skarner is strong enough that he does not need Smite to kill the blue at level 1, especially if he has a leash. You can use this to do some quick counter-jungling by smiting the enemy blue wraith, then taking your normal jungle path.
- When you start a camp, lead with Crystal Slash. That way, your first autoattack will already be lowering its cooldown rather than being wasted.
- If you kill a minion with Fracture you still get the healing bonus so don't be afraid to use it to last hit.
When laning with Skarner you're going to need to focus a bit more on sustainability. His early game is somewhat weak compared to many solo top champions, lacking the sustain of Udyr or Irelia and lacking the burst of other champions. It's not bad to start with a Regrowth Pendant and later build it into a Philosopher's Stone, solving his issues with farming, mana, and survivability in lane. While it is tempting to max Fracture first because of its harass and healing, do not, do not, do not. Unless you're building AP, Fracture is nearly worthless in teamfights compared to Crystal Slash. It has a long cooldown, fairly short range, minimal healing, and a slow particle effect.
Leveling Fracture at the expense of Crystal Slash will hurt Skarner's output in the mid game significantly, precluding snowballing. That said, Fracture is very strong in lane and so I put 2 points into it at the very beginning, then focus on Crystal Slash followed by Crystalline Exoskeleton. This should deal enough damage and give enough healing that remains strong throughout laning while not gimping your damage significantly in the mid game.
Bottom line: Fracture is fairly good for harassment and has a decent heal but its utility drops off significantly as soon as laning ends. On the flip side, Crystal Slash is relatively weak in lane (though I'd argue both have comparable farming potential) but has much much more utility once laning ends.
EarlyGame: Laning and First Blood
Skarner does deceptive early game damage so if you're trying for first blood, level Fracture first. Try to harass the enemy down with Fracture then, once you hit level 2, put a rank in Crystal Slash. Now that you have your CC and main damage move you can go for the kill. With a little luck, you can score first blood between the slow from Crystal Slash and your Ghost-Exhaust combo.
During laning itself you're not likely to get a lot of last hits. Level Crystal Slash and Fracture evenly and try to get as much farm and harass in as possible--watch your mana pool. Skarner's Q is ideal for eating large waves of minions in minimal time. Try to let the wave get pushed to near your turret without taking too much harass, then farm the hell out of it. If you're a little gold-starved in the early game, don't worry, Skarner is not the most item dependent champion and can still be quite useful to his team even if he isn't farmed.
Mid Game: Roaming and Pushing
Once a tower or two falls and champions start to roam Skarner has a little more freedom. Try to keep pushing/farming a lane to make up for the last hits you missed in the early game. If your opponent leaves the lane, take the opportunity to get a few hits in on their tower, especially if you have Sheen.
Don't be afraid to enter teamfights either. It's usually best to let a teammate initiate, then pick a target and stay on them until they're dead. As above, your ult has many uses and because of your passive it's cooldown is much shorter than it appears. Don't be afraid to use it.
Late Game: Split Pushing, Baron, and Finishing your Build
Late game for laning is exactly the same as the late game for a jungler Skarner above.
Tips & Tricks
Here are a few miscellaneous tips and tricks for quick and easy reference:
- If you get a Rageblade, use Crystal Slash as often as possible. Its low cooldown means that you will keep it constantly at 8 stacks and your slow will always be ready.
- If you're waiting to ambush/gank an enemy, use Crystal Slash to hit some minions as you initiate. That way the slow will be ready by the time you get in range of the enemy.
- Crystal Slash will only become charged if you hit something with the first, non-empowered cast. Once you've become empowered, however, you can keep spamming it without hitting any targets and still have the slow active.
- Don't forget that Crystalline Exoskeleton increases your attack speed when pushing towers.
- Remember that the bonus damage from Sheen/Trinity Force also works against towers. Spam abilities while pushing towers to do the maximum damage.
- When you use Impale, try reversing direction right before it ends. This forces the enemy champion to run around you when they regain control, giving you an extra few hits on them which may make all the difference. (Thanks to Azure_Dauragon)
- Because your ult is slightly ranged, you will be out of attack range if you start pulling as soon as you ult at max range. Try waiting half a second before you start pulling so the enemy is right next to you, then start moving. (Thanks to Azure_Dauragon)
- If you're initiating with Impale, use Crystal Slash as soon as you ult the enemy. By the time Impale ends, Crystal Slash should be off cooldown and you can use it again to slow the target immediately. (Thanks to Azure_Dauragon)
- You can use Impale to pull champions through terrain if it's narrow enough. The paths to the side of the river in mid lane are a good spot for this. (Thanks to Dolemon)
Updates & Credits
- 8/12/11--Fixed a mistake in the masteries. Added section on Skill Order. Added a Tips & Tricks section. Changed the skill order so that you put ranks in Q and E evenly until laning ends, then proceeding with the R>Q>W>E order instead of skilling Q first and E last through the entire match.
- 8/15/11--Slightly edited and added to Tips & Tricks. Changed runes from Armor Pen reds/quints to Magic Pen reds and AP quints. Refined skilling order to be 2 points in Fracture early, then max R>Q>W>E.
- 8/16/11--Clarified the core build.
- 8/20/11--Added a few points to the Tips & Tricks section.
- 12/14/11--Completely rewrote guide to include changes from Season 2 as well as Skarner buffs. Changed items, masteries, runes, and summoner spells to put more focus on Jungle Skarner.
Thanks to Azure_Dauragon for their suggestions on how to best use Skarner's ult.
Thanks to Stormbl for the correction to the defense masteries.
Thanks to Hawkeyes007 for the correction about Tryndamere's ult (can be used while suppressed).
Thanks to Dolemon for more ult suggestions.
Thanks to everyone else who has commented with their ideas and suggestions and to everyone who has voted on this guide.