Karma General Guide by SanicD
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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.
This is a guide for mid lane Karma. I do believe that support Karma CAN work, but I don't think it is optimal. I will not be addressing support Karma in this guide because I believe that playing her as a support does not unlock her full potential.
"What's a Karma?"
First of all, you want a lot of damage. For this purpose, I recommend magic penetration marks and flat AP quints. Scaling ability power glyphs allow her to continue to terrorize teams in mid-late game, but flat ap glyphs are certainly an option for Karma as well if Karma wants to really dominate her lane. I have a preference for scaling ap glyphs because I don't like to play aggressively until after my first recall.
For seals, you want to get armor due to the profusion of ad champs that populate mid lane in season 3. In season 2, most mids were ap champs unless Kassadin was on board (and people would send some ad champ to counter him). Nowadays ad mid champs are fairly common, however. Regardless of if the mid is an ad champ, you want armor anyways to better weather jungler ganks.
There are a few other options that may be considered here. Many people claim that "Mobility is King," and they are right. Movement speed quints are a strong option on many fighters, with Karma being no exception. I personally think that ap is more useful, though.
Magic Resist glyphs are another possibility for Karma. You should get them if you're playing draft pick or ranked and know you're up against an ap mid that gives you trouble.
Oh god they're multiplying.
The 21-0-9 Karma masteries are straightforward. They are designed to give her damage and a larger manapool. Runic Affinity is a must on Karma because the current meta is focused around giving the mid-lane champion the blue buff. Karma's biggest problem early on is high cooldowns. The blue buff helps her tremendously with this issue. In addition, Karma doesn't have the luxury of being a manaless character like Katarina. While Karma is not as reliant on blue as some AP mids, it is still important to take the buff when you can.
"It's dangerous to go alone. Take this: Triple Finish!"~Pokemon Trainer.
Start with Boots of Speed, 2 Health Potions and 1 Mana Potion. On Karma's first recall, purchase a Doran's Ring and 2 sight wards. Over the course of the game, build towards Ionian Boots of Lucidity, Deathfire Grasp and Rabadon's Deathcap. The rest of your items should vary depending upon your opponents. Pick up sight wards and Health Potions as necessary every time you recall. You should not need Mana Potions after your first recall. If you have some spare cash, pick up a boot enchantment. In most cases though, this should be of minimal priority. The items I recommend ensure that Karma has nearly maximum cooldown reduction, high levels of ap, high mana regen and strong defenses.
Morellonomicon used to be a common item for me with Karma. I only build it now if I am up against characters like Mundo or Volibear who are reliant on health regen. It is still not a bad item per se, though. The cdr it gives for its cheap price is invaluable.
Another choice is to build a Rylai's Crystal Scepter. This gives Karma better survival options and several AOE slows. As of season 3, health is just generally a good defensive stat to build.
[*] Karma should always start with Boots of Speed, 2 Health Potions and 1 Mana Potion. Most AP mids will start with boots and 3 health pots. Karma, though, is a unique creature with a healing ability in her Mantra boosted Heavenly Wave. Because Karma has a heal at level 1, it's generally more beneficial to grab a mana pot for better sustain. In addition, a large number of manaless champions such as Katarina, Akali, Vladimir, Kennen and Mordekaiser, as well as high sustain champions such as Swain, Gragas, Karthus, Cho'Gath, Twisted Fate and Nunu can give Karma a hard time in mid lane if she doesn't bring a Mana Potion.
[*] Karma should always grab 1-2 sight wards and place them in the river bushes flanking the sides of mid lane after her first recall. I did not list this in the items build, but it is an important thing to note. Karma's weak escape options cause her to fall to many jungle champions should she be unwarded. On each recall, if you buy one ward, stick to the side of the lane that you warded. If you get two, you have a little bit more options as far as mobility. I am a notoriously cautious player and therefore usually aim for two (especially if the enemy jungler has a strong gapcloser).
[*] In addition to getting 2 sight wards on her first back, Karma should also invest in a Doran's Ring for the amazing stats it provides. A Doran's Ring will give Karma mana regen, health, and ability power.
In the past, I used to try to stay in lane for a long time before recalling. I've changed my strategy significantly lately and the results have been positive. I would now recommend doing your first recall VERY early. You should recall as soon as you have enough gold to get a Doran's Ring, a Sight Ward or two and whatever health potions you need. If you have extra gold after getting those, you can consider also getting an Amplifying Tome or whatever else suits your fancy.
Recalling early actually helps you out-cs your opponent. With the added ap from a doran's, you will be able to push the minion waves much more easily. Having Doran's on Karma also lets you trade with your opponent better in the early game. The experience loss you'll incur from recalling early to get a Doran's isn't a big deal. This is because A.) Karma does not need to rush to level 6 like most characters in the game. B.) The value you'll get out of an early Doran's outweighs the experience loss you'll incur. C.) In many cases, the enemy mid will recall to get items right after you do.
[*] Karma has 2 main offensive skills (her w is situational) and auto-attacks with weak range. Because of this, Karma is heavily reliant on her ability cooldowns. One of your first item purchases (after Doran's) should be Ionian Boots of Lucidity.
[*] The second core item for Karma is a Rabadon's Deathcap. This item gives the most ap of any item in the game. It is a core item on virtually every ap mid champion in the game.
[*] The third core item on Karma is another cooldown reduction item to minimize her cooldowns. Your three primary options are Deathfire Grasp, Morellonomicon and Frozen Heart. I think Deathfire Grasp is the best because it gives you a lot of additional damage. In addition to giving you high ap, it also has an active that increases the damage on all your skills. Since Karma "doesn't have a real ult" and her w is situational, she is heavily reliant on her burst. This makes Deathfire Grasp a very good item to have. Morellonomicon gives you worse stats but is significantly cheaper (especially since it builds out of Kage's Lucky Pick). I don't recommend Frozen Heart because it detracts from Karma's power.
[*] Zhonya's Hourglass is an amazing item that synergizes well with Karma's kit. Since Karma can survive many things so long as her Soul Shield and Mantra boosted Heavenly Wave are off cooldown, fights often come down to kiting enemies while you wait for these crucial skills. Zhonya's Hourglass gives Karma an active that allows her to become temporarily invulnerable for a few seconds, temporarily taking pressure off of her so that she can set another Soul Shield up to survive onslaughts.
[*] Rylai's Crystal Scepter gives Karma AP, a slow and health. Health stacking has become more common in this meta as it is the most versatile defensive stat to upgrade.
[*] Twin Shadows gives somewhat weak stats but is an amazing benefit to any team. In the late game, fights often come down to positioning and strong initiations. Twin Shadows helps with this by giving Karma an Active Ability that seeks out enemy champions and slows them down. Twin Shadows is thus the ultimate "facecheck" item. It is smart to let Twin Shadows check bushes for you so that you don't fall prey to crouching tiger Udyrs or hidden Rengars. Furthermore, Twin Shadows gives Karma a good tool for split pushing, revealing whether or not an enemy team is coming for her as she feasts off of minion waves. Lastly, Twin Shadows helps your team carry out successful pursuits or escapes. The utility it provides is overall amazing and the stats it gives: Magic Resist, Ability Power and Movement Speed, are really useful. I do not consider this item a necessity, but I build it if I think my team needs the utility.
[*] There are lots of other options for Karma because AP itemization is just really expansive at the moment. If there is a really fed AD, true damage or AP character on the enemy team, she can consider building armor, health or magic resist respectively. There are some pretty good tanky ap items such as Abyssal Scepter that can work on Karma. Generally speaking though, I feel that the items I've listed in my build are a bit better. If you feel that you are struggling too hard to stay alive but your damage output is decent, it is not a bad idea to stack health in the late game. Lastly, if you see your enemy stacking tons of magic resist purely to counter you, go get a Void Staff.
[*] Lich Bane is an option, but not one I'd consistently recommend. It adds to Karma's burst by powering up her auto-attacks after ability use. It synergizes well with cooldown reduction, but doesn't synergize all that well with Karma herself. Karma's auto-attacks have short range, sadly. Furthermore, she lacks abilities that proc Lich Bane's passive. Nonetheless, however, the damage a lich bane proc'd auto-attack will do is considerable. In addition to bolstering Karma's damage in teamfights, it will also help her take objectives (towers, dragons and baron) much easier.
The drawback is that buying Lich Bane means that you will miss out on an item that makes you tanky. You should only buy it if you are really sure you won't die in fights. It gives you stronger and more sustained damage, but it comes with a high price.
"Know thy enemy and know thyself and you need not fear a thousand battles. Know thy enemy and not yourself and you have amnesia."~Sun Tzu
Karma is a bizarre champion that only really has 3 skills, but gets 6 level-ups for each skill. Her ultimate buffs the effects of her skills in unique ways. Karma is one of the few characters in the game who starts with her ultimate straight off the bat.
2 of Karma's skills are targeted and one is an easy skillshot, which makes Karma a pretty damn easy character mechanically. The difficulty in playing Karma comes with positioning and working effectively with your team. I will describe how Karma's passive and each skill works below.
This passive increases Karma's ability power depending on how low her health is. There are times when Inner Flame activates and Karma suddenly can set up Soul Shields that amount to 1/2-3/4 of her health. It's almost like having a Kayle Intervention on you with a low cooldown. In addition, Inner Flame at low health means Karma also gets huge heals off of Mantra boosted Heavenly Waves (if Soul Shield is on cooldown or you need to save an ally). The passive makes Karma very strong if she isn't bursted down quickly or cc'd.
You generally don't want to deliberately run around with low health. There are times, however, when you may want to abuse your passive. When taking baron or dragon for example, you can tank these objectives for your team for a bit in order to power up your abilities.
Heavenly Wave does damage in a cone in front of Karma (similar to Mordekaiser's Siphon of Destruction). When you use Mantra prior to Heavenly Wave, it also heals Karma and all other allies within the cone. This is Karma's only skillshot, but it is piss easy to aim unless you have severe lag. When playing Karma, you should always smartcast this skill with the shift button. Just move your mouse in the direction where you want to use the skill and then press shift+Q (or whatever else you have smartcast set to; it's not a bad idea to set q itself as the smartcasting skill for this move).
Heavenly Wave can last-hit groups of minions, heal yourself, deal damage to enemy champions or heal allies. It makes Karma deceptively strong at level 1. At full potential (however unlikely this is), it can heal your entire team and damage the entire enemy team. This makes Karma a great character to have in level 1 invasion fights. You should start with this skill, but max it second.
Spirit Bond is a bizarre skill that is rather hard to explain. First of all, it's a targeted skill. You click on an ally or enemy to use it. This creates a chain that extends from Karma to the target. The chain speeds Karma up. If Karma targeted an ally, they also get a movement speed boost. If Karma targeted an enemy, they are slowed while Karma is sped up.
This sounds reasonable so far, but here is the weird part: The chain in between Karma and her target also has various effects. If allies pass through the chain tethering Karma to her target, they receive their own movement speed boost. If enemies are hit by the chain tethering Karma to her target, they incur damage. At this point, I should mention that for a skill that speeds up allies and slows down enemies, Spirit Bond does a LOT of damage if you can hit enemies with the chain that passes between Karma and her target. It IS possible to kill enemies or heavily injure them with this move. The problem is that it relies a great deal on your enemy's positioning. There is no guarantee that there will be a minion, allied champ or additional enemy nearby you in order to hit a desired target with the spirit bond tether. In a clumped up teamfight, though, you will usually have enough targets to deal some damage with spirit bond.
Overall, you are going to be using this mostly for the speed buff and slow. If you boost this skill with Mantra, it increases the movement speed buff or slow debuff. This generally isn't worth doing. I would recommend saving your mantra for Heavenly Wave or Soul Shield unless speeding up an ally or slowing down an enemy is pivotal for your team's success. You should take a point in this skill at level 4 but max it out last. It deals decent damage at level 18, but it is your least reliable offensive skill. Note that you can also use this skill to return to a lane faster by casting it on an allied champion or minion.
Spirit Bond is also going to be an important skill for your "roam." Mid lane is heavily about ganking other lanes or catching the enemy jungler if you get an opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, Karma's "roam" is rather sub-par compared to faster champions with gapclosers. Spirit Bond is the one tool she has to make up for this deficiency...so long as she can latch onto her team's jungler. When playing Karma, play with a jungler you know well and trust and, preferably, can communicate with over voice chat. You can use spirit bond on them to boost the movement speed of both yourself and your friend. Together you'll triumph!
Soul Shield is Karma's main ability. It is her most damaging move and her most useful one. Normally it does nothing except shield yourself, a minion or an ally. In of itself, this is great. It can save people's lives (your own included). When combined with Mantra, however, this skill becomes amazing. Mantra+Soul Shield causes an aoe shockwave to radiate out from the target. I call this "shield bombing." You quickly press R, shift/alt cast a soul shield and watch as anything nearby that target takes massive damage. It's a little bit like a Zilean Time Bomb without the delay and with an added shield.
When you are low on health, Karma's Inner Flame passive kicks in and turns Soul Shield into one of the most annoying skills in the game. With this skill, you can quickly either make an ally or yourself nearly invincible for several seconds. You can even use it to tower dive, tank a tower for your team or gank from behind an enemy tower. Since this is your primary damage dealer and also gives an awesome shield to boot, you want to max this skill first. Take a point in it at level 2 and max it as early as the game allows.
It is absolutely mandatory that you learn to use alt and shift to selfcast and smartcast this move.
If you have trouble with smartcasting, play another champion.
Mantra has been discussed in preceding paragraphs, but I'll just briefly recap how it works. You press R before you use a skill to give that skill an added effect.
If you press R before Heavenly Wave, it causes Heavenly Wave to heal Karma and all allies (including minions) within the cone.
If you press R before Spirit Bond, it causes Spirit Bond to give bonus movement speed to allies or slow enemies more.
If you press R before Soul Shield, it causes your next Soul Shield to do aoe damage radiating out from your target. This means you can use Mantra boosted Soul Shields on allied minions or champions to do aoe damage.
Pressing R twice does nothing. You can't stack Mantra. In addition, after pressing R you have a time limit to use a skill: The Mantra buff does not last forever. If you pressed R and were going to shield nuke an allied minion or champion with Soul Shield but the minion died or something, just use your mantra charge on a Heavenly Wave heal or self-casted Soul Shield. You should never just let the mantra buff expire. You might as well use it on something. If you're about to head into a fight, sometimes it's a good idea to press R early so the cooldown on mantra recovers faster.
You can store up to two Mantra charges.
Early Game Strategy
"Who needs map awareness?"~Ezreal
So I've told you what items to get, what order to level up Karma's skills, how her skills work and what runes and masteries to get. You now want to know how in God's name to play her effectively. I'll outline some tips in the next few sections. The first will detail early game strategy.
- At level 1, you need to either protect your jungle from enemy invasions or go with your team to invade the enemy jungle yourself. Aside from worrying about invasions, you also want to head toward the jungle to give your allied jungler a hand. Most junglers will start at the blue buff, but a few manaless ones will start at red. If you are not invading, you should help leash for your jungler. Wolves and wraiths (a common jungler start) spawn at 1:40. Blue buff and Red Buff spawn at around 1:55 or so. Attack the big wolf/wraith a few times with your jungler before backing off so that your jungler gains all the experience. You can hit one of the smaller wolves/wraiths once or so if the jungler is not aoe reliant. Otherwise you should refrain. Once Warwick's cousins (or the wraiths, I guess) are eliminated, attack the big blue golem or elder lizard a few times from a safe distance before throwing out a mantra boosted heavenly wave to heal your jungler and damage the buff monster. After this, back off and head to mid lane. Leashing for your jungler like this is very important, and in all likelihood he will return the favor in spades later on.
If your team plans to invade, you should follow behind the tankier members of your team and heal them/damage enemies with heavenly wave and ignite as necessary. You should never take the lead in an invasion. In any invasion, heavenly wave's aoe damage and healing will be very useful. I have actually picked up multi kills in invasions before because of the high early aoe damage Karma's wave deals.
- At level one, you shouldn't be doing much at all. Your starter build should be boots, 2 health pots and 1 mana pot. Boots will help you escape from jungler ganks while the pots will ensure that you can stay in lane long enough to pick up some item essentials.
- Karma needs both her Soul Shield and Heavenly Wave in order to be effective. Don't be overly aggressive at level 1. Focus on last hitting minions with your auto-attacks (do not use your auto-attacks otherwise). If you can hit both the enemy champion and kill minions at the same time, you can use Heavenly Wave. Otherwise you should refrain. After you get some levels, you should still avoid pushing your lane. You don't want the enemy jungler to pay you a visit this early in the game.
- With early game Karma, it is possible that you will actually be letting the enemy mid push your lane. This is actually beneficial to Karma as she'll easily acquire a cs surplus after she gets a Doran's Ring anyways. Furthermore, the enemy can't do much to your tower at levels 1-4. If your lane is pushed, your jungler will likely come help you. When your jungler is ready to gank, slow the enemy mid down with Spirit Bond (if you are certain he is going to gank for you, it might benefit you to level spirit bond a little bit early). If he charges in on the enemy mid, you want to have a mantra charge ready to shield bomb him.
- Whenever you are halfway or more into mid lane, you should be exceedingly cautious and watch the map. This is especially true before you can get wards. If you see the enemy jungler attacking top or bottom lane, this is the only time you should push like mad.
- On your first recall and every recall afterwards until laning phase is over, you must always ward the river bushes flanking mid lane. Try to recall early and pick up a doran's ring, a sight ward (or two) and whatever health potions you need. Karma's potential increases tremendously with a doran's ring. She will cs better, do more damage, stay in the lane longer, harass better and more.
- When you have your Doran's Ring and wards, you can begin playing aggressively. In fact, at this point it's a must that you play aggressively. You want to push the lane, get tons of cs and damage the enemy mid champion all at the same time. Because Karma is an AOE damage dealing champion, this is a lot easier than it sounds. It usually involves positioning yourself in a good place where you can both heavily damage a lot of minions and hit the enemy champion with a mantra boosted soul shield on yourself. You don't necessarily have to kill minions with your soul shield as you can cs by shield bombing yourself and then finishing off the minions with heavenly wave. Doing so will push your lane HARD. However, at this juncture this is actually exactly what you want. If you are certain you can't win trades with the enemy mid, you can still cs and push the lane by shield bombing allied minions. As you take damage, remember also that your heavenly wave serves a double function as both a healing move and damage dealer. You don't necessarily have to use it for one or the other: You can use it for both! You can cs with it, hit the enemy champ (with luck) and heal yourself all at the same time for just one mantra charge! Learning to maximize goals like this is crucial to mastering Karma.
Why can't I start with a Doran's?: This is something that many people might wonder. If Karma has a heal and a shield, why can't she just go all-out at the start? There are a few reasons I will offer.
1.) At the start, you don't WANT to play super aggressively. Pushing the lane, which you will do if you have a doran's (due to karma's aoe), will ensure that you get ganked by the enemy jungler. As Karma doesn't have good disengage options, this makes her early laning pretty dangerous if you don't have vision.
2.) Playing aggressively will also cause the enemy minions to target you. Since minions do significant damage early on, it is better to wait until you've gained some levels to play aggressively. This is another reason why I prefer to get a Doran's Ring later instead of at the start.
3.) Karma's mobility is mediocre. She lacks both a gapcloser and a disengage. While she does have a speed steroid, it is not amazing or 100% reliable. There are starting items that may seem good on paper with Karma (fairie charm, crystalline flask, doran's, amplifying tome, etc.), but in practice these items are weak because of the opportunity cost of ignoring boots. The mobility from boots ensures that you don't get kited by the enemy mid lane, that the enemy jungler doesn't destroy you and that you can help your jungler if he's in trouble nearby. Mobility is just too strong. It is not worth foregoing for anything else, in my experience.
4.) Potions give you a better safety net. While Karma does have a shield and a heal, as well as a passive that actually rewards her when she's at lower health, it's still better to play it safe for your first few levels. The enemy mid will, in all likelihood, have potions of their own. If you have your own potions AND a shield+heal, it ensures you will outsustain most of them.
Sometimes I've seen enemy mids start with a cheap item+a ton of health potions. If you see the enemy mid do this, just focus on csing and don't bother to harass them (unless you can do both at the same time). Recall early and don't bother getting in "sustain offs" with them. Having tremendous lane sustain is useful for Karma, but is not your overall goal.
Mid Game-Late Game Strategy
I consider mid game to start at around the time everybody hits level 6. By now you might have a Doran's Ring. Skirmishes between the teams will be a lot more common from this point on. In addition, you as the mid laner will need to make sure the other lanes are functioning properly.
[*] If you are consistently buying wards and sticking them in the bushes adjacent to the mid lane, you will have a lot more leeway to act as you wish.
[*] Push your lane as hard as you can as this also gives you significantly more flexibility. This is especially true if the enemy mid has a difficult time outpushing you.
[*] You should always be passively checking the minimap from time to time to get an idea of what's going on. You should also be paying attention to the in-game chat (where people might call mias) and to minimap pings. In any role, it pays to have map awareness, but this is particularly true when you're the mid laner or jungler.
[*] If you've pushed your lane and you see that the enemy top or bottom is pushing, you might want to gank a lane. It helps sometimes to work with your allied jungler. When you want to roam and your ally jungler is nearby, use spirit bond on them for the mobility boost.
[*] When you see the enemy jungler focused on some other lane, push like mad because you have nothing to worry about. Karma's good at pushing with her ridiculous aoe abilities (which you should try to hit enemy champs with while you're pushing).
[*] Make sure you communicate with your jungler when you want ganks or you want to take the blue buff.
[*] Don't be afraid to tank towers, tower dive or help allies tower dive with your Soul Shield.
[*] Don't forget that Spirit Bond actually does a lot of damage. It can help you win teamfights. Also use it on allies and position yourself well in order to damage important objectives such as The Dragon or Baron Nashor.
[*] Practice csing with early game auto-attacks until you've got it down.
[*] I've mentioned this before, but the best way to play Karma is to try to kill several birds with one stone. Literally every one of her moves does AOE damage. You want to try to cs, hurt an enemy champion (or several) and help your allies all in one go. This takes practice, but eventually you'll get the hang of it. It's not hard during laning phase to both damage the enemy champion and pick up a ton of cs.
[*] Make sure your team has a good initiator or damage soak as Karma will be able to work well with them.
[*] If you're having gold issues, you can invest in a Kage's Lucky Pick. It can build into several items that, while not amazing, can end up working on Karma. These include Will of the Ancients, Morellonomicon and Twin Shadows. Generally you should not be having gold problems. However, every now and then you'll play a game where your team just struggles greatly with the enemy and you have trouble farming.
I personally feel that late game starts when teams begin to clump together and angle for 5 vs. 5 fights. This sometimes can happen ridiculously late in the game. It can also happen very early if a tower falls fast and the people in that lane decide to roam. At some point it will be clear that "laning phase is over" and that "teamfight phase has begun."
[*] By late game you should have or be close to having a Doran's Ring, Ionian Boots of Lucidity and a Rabadon's Deathcap. Outside of these items, you can work toward additional cooldown reduction, ala a Morellonomicon or Deathfire Grasp, or durability via Rylai's Crystal Scepter, Zhonya's Hourglass, Twin Shadows, etc.
At this point, you can sell your Doran's if doing so will give you enough to get an item you really need. You no longer need the stats it gives and the item slot it's taking up can be used by something else.
[*] Coordination is pivotal for your team. You should stick with your allies, particularly your Bruiser. At times, however, you may need to split push. If you plan to do so, make sure you have wards and try to get in and out as fast as you can. Shield bomb a wave, hurry to the next one, shield bomb that one, etc. Don't wait for your minions. Just clear waves as fast as possible and then get back to your team. Watch the map carefully and, if possible, split push with wards or twin shadows providing you vision.
[*] In teamfights, you are relying on somebody else to initiate while they are relying on you to follow up successfully. At this point, it becomes difficult to offer advice as most teamfights are very situational affairs. Generally, however, Karma relies on being able to adapt soul shield bombing to the enemy's movements. If the enemy charges your bruiser or your bruiser pulls off a very strong initiate, you want to soul shield bomb them immediately. If the enemy charges at you, you may need to use your zhonya's active (if you have it) or soul shield bomb yourself. If the enemy charges at the adc, you may need to try to save them with a shield bomb. With heavenly wave you should be trying to hit as many enemy champs or heal as many allied champs (or both) as possible. Don't ignore spirit bond either. If your other skills are on cooldown, see if you can hit an enemy or several with the spirit bond tether. This will likely require really good positioning, but the damage may make the difference between life or death for your team. You shouldn't save spirit bond purely for speeding up allies or slowing down enemies. The damage it does is significant enough to make a difference by the time late game rolls around.
As a whole, your roles in the late game are as follows: Protect those that are being focused, do high aoe ap damage to your enemies, heal allies if their lifebar is being shredded by enemy pokes (nidalee spears, ezreal ults, etc.) and speed allies up or slow enemies down with spirit bond if a teamfight has been decided. When it comes to judging whether or not you should split push or stick with your team, you need to exercise your best judgment. If you think your team can handle the enemy without you, then it's helpful to split push. If you're sure that the enemy team is too strong for your allies, you need to stick with your friends and guide them to victory. If the enemy team dispatches somebody else to split push, only move to counter them if you're sure you can beat them one on one. Otherwise ask your team to send somebody else.
"Shaken, not stirred."~Singed
Karma synergizes well with practically everybody, but does the best with manaless junglers, initiators and pseudo-initiators.
[*] Manaless junglers such as Lee Sin benefit Karma because they will most likely be perfectly fine with giving Karma blue buff. Blue Buff allows Karma to manhandle her lane early on, or at least go even with the enemy mid laner who will also likely have the blue buff.
[*] Amumu and Karma have some issues with "who gets blue buff" early on, but Amumu is such a good character that he works great with Karma by mid-late game. An Amumu ult followed by a Karma shield nuke on Amumu can instantly devastate an enemy team or champion. You can apply shield nukes to many other initiators such as Shen, Singed, Warwick, Volibear, Jax, Renekton, Riven and Malphite as well. This list is by no means exhaustive. Even characters that are not typical initiators can charge in with the protection of soul shields. These include things like Master Yi using Alpha Strike then getting shield nuked.
[*] Spirit Bond does not work on stealthed characters, including your allies (unfortunately).
[*] Udyr is not an amazing character but he can work well with Karma. Karma can speed him up and protect him as he goes in. In addition, if Udyr gets some lifesteal items, Karma and Udyr can duo baron very early in the game.
Advantages and Counters
Karma has many even or advantageous match-ups in mid lane. For example, it's possible for her to roughly deal with characters with meh laning phases such as Twisted Fate, Akali, Karthus, Nidalee, Annie, Teemo and even Katarina. Other strong mid-lane champions such as Zyra, Lux and Ahri don't pose a huge threat to Karma since she can just Soul Shield and Mantra Heavenly Wave to survive her lane (snares don't really bother Karma due to soul shield). Many characters are decent mid-lane characters but can easily be outpushed by Karma and thus eluded. The following champions do pose a threat to Karma however:
[*] Veigar. This guy gets the #1 mention. His ultimate is very dumb because it scales partly off the enemy's AP. This turns Karma's otherwise great passive, Inner Flame, into an actual DISADVANTAGE. As stupid as this sounds, it's true. As Karma gets lower on health, Veigar will suddenly be able to burst her down instantly (not even soul shield will save you from a Veigar ult boosted by Karma's Inner Flame). If not for Veigar's ultimate, Karma would probably have a decent lane against him. The ultimate, however, makes it very hard for Karma to win even if she builds tons of magic resist (since as soon as you lose any health, Inner Flame will cause his ult to murder you). If you find yourself facing a Veigar, you need great jungler ganks or great harass against him before he gets to level 6. You may also need to keep your health very high, which is not all that easy when he has a stun and targeted Baleful Strikes. The best option for you is actually to just switch with somebody else on your team. Even if you can survive a Veigar lane, the problem is that Veigar will probably have a ton of farm and end up being a nightmare in the late game.
[*] Champions with a silence. Karma goes from being formidable to meat if silenced.
[*] Champions with ridiculous sustain. The main ones to mention here are Cho'Gath, Vladimir and Swain. These aren't nearly as bad as the silencing champions or Veigar, but they can still be threatening. Just don't forget that Ignite reduces regeneration effects and you may even be able to win trades with them. Cho'Gath is probably the most threatening of these three because in addition to having sustain from his passive, he is absurdly tanky while dealing out tons of cc (including a silence...ugh) and damage. Against these champions you will need to be prepared to dodge them (aside from Vlad) and try to get as much farm as possible. Vladimir is the most manageable of these three but requires a specific strategy to beat him. Against a Vladimir you need to rush ap as fast as possible and try to outpush/outcs him. You're not going to kill him in lane if the enemy player is at all competent, so don't even try. Fortunately, he probably won't kill you either without help from his jungler.
[*] Don't even fight Kassadin. Kassadin is an anti-mage and there is no reason to ever send Karma against him. If the enemy team is deploying Kassadin, have Karma switch lanes with somebody else (usually your team's solo top). Kassadin will withstand everything you throw at him and then silence and kill you.
[*] Fiddlesticks is another awful match up for Karma. While more manageable than Kassadin or Veigar, Fiddle just has everything in his kit that Karma hates. He can silence and fear Karma as well as restore his health with a drain that Karma cannot stop. Karma actually has issues with pushing against him because to do so means she will often be in range of his ANNOYING silence or fear. Fiddlesticks is also a braindead character mechanically (granted Karma is not much better) who's only arguable skillshot is his ult. What this means is that in addition to having the tools to counter Karma, any Fiddlesticks player can do so with complete ease. There is no way to dodge Fiddlestick's nonsense if you're in range.
[*] Champions with regen reduction skills. These are very rare in the mid lane, but you should always be aware of the summoner spell Ignite because it severely lowers the efficacy of your healing from Heavenly Wave. The biggest threat to watch out for in terms of reduced health regen champs is AP Tristana. While a rare choice in mid lane, she can out damage you and win trades (even if you set up Soul Shield before her jump connects) due to her ability to inflict you with reduced health regen.
[*] AD caster mids can be bad news for Karma and might require you to tinker with your runes, masteries and item builds. They are very common in season 3 and some of them are very nasty. Talon has a silence which can severely cripple Karma's ability to deal with him. Kha'Zix has absurdly high damage that can just outright kill Karma unless you focus on building your items to counter him. Against Kha'Zix you should also always stay nearby minions or an ally, and you probably ought to use your shield conservatively (saving it for yourself exclusively).
[*] Anivia can be a hard match up, I feel. She will take a lot of damage from Karma's skills. Unfortunately, the damage does not seem to matter as even if Karma "kills" her, Karma will have a hard time destroying her passive's egg form afterward (due to Karma's high cooldowns early on). If Anivia takes blue, she will out farm and out push Karma with her ult and there isn't much that you can do to deal with that, unfortunately. It is still possible to match her in cs because Karma's minion clear is just extremely strong, but it often feels dangerous to do so. Play carefully and try to get as much cs as you can. If it's possible, work with your jungler to deny anivia of blue buff.
[*] Mordekaiser is an incredibly difficult match up when you're playing Karma. The shield that he generates by hurting minions with his skills makes him even harder to kill than Karma herself. Karma and Mordekaiser actually push lanes about as fast as one another, but the problem is that Mordekaiser will always beat Karma in trades if he plays smart. He'll generate a stronger shield than Karma will in laning phase, his ult will tip the scales in his favor when he hits level 6, his skills have a lower cooldown than mantra...etc. Although it's not exactly easy to do, it's best to try to engage Mordekaiser when you don't have allied minions nearby you. This will severely reduce the effectiveness of his passive.
Mordekaiser is fortunately a very balanced champion and he suffers from some problems. One is that if he pushes too far, he's at risk of getting screwed by Karma's jungler. If he clears waves and then backs off, as many mid Mordes sometimes do, Karma can probably freeze the lane by pushing back. Once Karma gets some ap, she'll be able to get cs a lot more safely and then the matchup does not become as problematic.
Some matchups I've described here are impossible. If the enemy sends Veigar or Kassadin mid, Karma needs to switch lanes or risk throwing the game. She recovers pretty easily from bad early starts against other champions, though. This is because she is great at CS around mid-late game. Even an underfed Karma is useful because if somebody else on her team is fed, the shield, heal and speed boosts can win a match.
When it comes to roaming, Karma is one of the worst choices, unfortunately. Her mobility is very subpar. Another flaw Karma has is that her auto-attacks have weak range. This isn't the worst news for a primarily ap champ, but it still hurts her overall early game damage, zoning and cs a tad. While Karma does have drawbacks, I think she is a fun champion to play with good utility, burst and csing ability. I hope that others can find her fun and give her a chance.
She is being reworked soon. I am half-dreading that as I actually like Karma in the state she's in right now. She could probably use buffs, admittedly. However, I don't like the fact that they are just completely reworking the character. As soon as the reworked Karma comes out, I will edit this guide with my impressions. Unfortunately, I think they are going to retool her as a pure support instead of as an AP mid.