Skarner Build Guide by cronovey
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.
This is a build for Jungle Skarner. He's a slow to start champion that potentially becomes a monster toward late game if he is given a chance. He can jungle quite effectively and is fairly mana efficient spamming his Crystal Slash.
8/17/11: Updated to make him a bit more tanky; at this point with his W up, he's nearly AS capped, making Rageblade almost useless except for AP/AD. Changed Guinsoo's Rageblade and Lichbane for Sunfire Cape and Force of Nature.
Energize This is Skarner's passive. It's an incredible ability, allowing you to use your abilities more frequently, and reducing the cooldown on your ultimate quickly, making you a gank machine.
Crystal Slash is Skarner's spam ability. This is his bread and butter; with it you can clear dozens of minions quickly, jungle efficiently with its low mana cost, and slow your opponents.
Crystalline Exoskeleton is your defense and gap closer. Keep in mind that when the shield is broken, you lose the bonus to your movement speed and attack speed.
Fracture is your heal. Anything hit by it is marked, similar to Akali's Q, and your next hit on the target will heal you. This can be used effectively to clear minion waves and receive large heals from it.
Impale is Skarner's ultimate. It suppresses the enemy target for a short period of time, does a large chunk of damage at both the beginning and end of the suppress, and most importantly, allows you to drag your opponent with you. You can also use other abilities while dragging, allowing you to shield yourself and run faster with them or slow them while carrying them to certain death.
A comment asked why I chose to level the Q before W, since the W allows you to chase your opponent faster. This has to do with the amount of speed difference between the two. This is a jungle guide, so you should be ganking and you won't do it effectively if you can't stick on target. Every rank in Crystal Slash is a 5% slow increase, compared to only a 2% speed increase with Crystalline Exoskeleton. You get more bang for your buck by leveling the Q first if you're looking to chase.
For example, using my build, 1 rank of W will net you an 8.66 movement speed buff per rank up. Now, say you're against another Skarner using the same build. 1 extra rank of Q will get you 21.65 movement speed taken away from them. You gain MUCH more from leveling the Q over W in chase ability.
Since Skarner is, despite the decent amount of AP, primarily an auto attack champion, Physical Damage reds are highly useful. These will primarily help with your jungling speed, giving a some extra damage to your Crystal Slash. Another potential option would be Magic Pen reds as most of Skarner's abilities are magic damage but this slows down his jungling by quite a bit.
Armor yellows are a staple of most jungle champions, although dodge yellows may be preferred.
Mp5 blues will round out the build; Skarner is highly mana dependent, and you may not be able to count on your blue buff for the entire game. Nashor's Tooth and these runes will keep you in the fight long enough for a win or loss outcome. Another potential option would be flat cooldown reduction blues as well, which would nearly cap CDR when, again, combined with Nashor's Tooth.
I chose ability power Quints over the Attack Damage Quints recommended in the spotlight due to the slightly more powerful nature of them. All of Skarner's abilities scale with Ability Power, so I feel these give slightly more bang for your buck. Health quints are, as always, a good option as well.
After a few tests that did not go very well, I decided upon the defensive mastery build that I tend to use for Champions like Amumu while jungling, which was also the recommended build in the Champion Spotlight. This mastery build gives more survivability while you're attempting to dive into a fight and incapacitate their carry as well, as you'll likely begin to be focused if you're doing well.
I have attempted, with many rune setups, to jungle on Skarner using a more traditional 21/0/9 build, but he was a little too squishy without loading up blue runes with extra armor. This costs quite a bit of Mp5 endgame, and the slightly boosted damage with a heavy reliance on a blue buff is not very good. It is much better to build your Nashor's Tooth and have Mp5 blues than to take the blue buff from your support/AP carry who could make much better use of both the extra mana and especially the cooldown reduction.
In other words, using an offensive build made him too mana dependent and way too selfish with jungle buffs. Without using the armor blues, I only had a ~50% success rate in killing the red buff and hitting level 4 without dying to it unless switching to Health quints. With Health Quints, you could effectively build a more offensive build, but you would be trading your survivability masteries for damage masteries and damage quints for survivability quints; you'd nullify most of the work done by swapping these things, basically breaking even. The defensive masteries allow percentage decreases to damage taken through the armor and magic resist, while the health quints simply let you eat a very slight amount of damage.
The item setup is fairly similar to what you would see on Kayle/Teemo/Warwick. It gives a hefty attack speed increase, working Skarner's passive to the max, while giving extra damage on hit (
Madred's) and the much needed mana regen (
Some of these items can and should be substituted for a Banshee's Veil or any number of other amazing and fairly affordable defensive items if you find yourself being focused. A Rylai's is a great option, giving extra slow and some health for beef. Hextech Gunblade is also an excellent choice for some extra healing without a loss of damage.
Another potential option, if the opposing team has a lot of CC, is to buy Merc Treads over the Swiftness. You'll lose some run speed, but the CC reduction can be clutch.
I personally prefer a combination of Flash and Smite. Ghost is also an acceptable option, allowing you to catch up to or escape a fight quite easily. Smite is a must, as you'll be jungling. Should you choose not to jungle on him, I prefer Exhaust. The slow is useful for catching an unaware opponent for a gank, or saving someone's life by reducing the opposing AD carry's damage. In addition, the same mastery build can be used, simply moving the point from Plentiful Bounty into Cripple.
Generally I'll start with a > > combo, while auto attacking. The initial is buildup while waiting for the slow that will come next, while the and second are used as your real burst.
I saw some recommendations saying to > > but odds are, after the first > combo, your target won't be staying in range for you to get your slow off. Due to the low amount of damage from a non-charged , most opponents may not even realize they've been hit! This sets them up for the big hit combo coming next where you hit them with your , one of your highest damage abilities, and then follow up with the second right after due to the having such a short cooldown. The second will slow your opponent as well as doing a hefty amount of bonus damage due to your bonus AP.
In addition to this, starting off with your Fracture first may end up wasting healing which could be very important. Hitting them once or twice before triggering the mark from Fracture gives them time to retaliate a bit, resulting in an effective heal instead of a wasted heal. This leaves your health higher overall.
Using as necessary is a must, and will keep you alive during a 1v1 or team fight. Although it doesn't shield for a large portion of health, the AP will increase it slightly and the bonus attack speed and movement speed can be the difference between an early gank or getting a tower down before the goon squad comes to defend it.
Using Skarner's ultimate is a dangerous line; you have 5 excellent choices to pick from, each with a significant advantage. You can choose their tank, removing a large portion of CC from their team and taking their carry's first line of defense away. You can take their support, and in games where you find yourself against a Soraka or Sona, this can be an excellent choice. It can reduce the heals/shields on your opponents, allowing teammates to destroy their team before taking care of their support.
Overall, however, the best option for most games is to find their strongest carry and remove them from the fight. That Gangplank get fed a few kills early on in the game, and now he's critting for 800 damage on your poor Annie? Grab him, pop your , and run him away from the fight while spamming your . Not only have you removed the enemy team's biggest threat, but you've also slowed him away from the team and you have significant healing, allowing you to survive with almost no regard as to who you drag away.
A VERY important note for using Impale is to remember that, although it suppresses, it does not end abilities already being used. This applies to many champions and their ultimate abilities. Never, ever, ever grab a Fiddlesticks with his ultimate unless dragging him AWAY from your team. This also applies to Kennen, Garen, Karthus, Wukong, and any other champion you can think of. There is nothing more embarrassing then giving the enemy team two or three extra kills because you gripped that spinning Wukong and ran right into your team with him.
The best jungle path I've found is the same path most champions take.
Blue Golem > Wolves > Wraiths > Small Golems > Red Lizard
Should you find yourself having trouble with this, it is also possible to head to the red buff before the small golems, allowing you to use your red buff to finish the jungle path and judge whether you'll need to head back or not.
Full clear to level 4 video in 1080p below!
Overall, Skarner has a lot of potential as a hybrid AS/AP champion, and Lifesteal/Spell Vamp (should you choose to build them as necessary) items on him combined with his E make him a high survivability champion as well.
He is an excellent jungler, on par speed-wise with Warwick and Nunu, although he will have to go back after hitting level 4 while some other champions can head straight to ganking.
He really doesn't come into his prime until level 6, when he gains a completely game changing ultimate. He can also offtank quite well should the need arise. Keep this in mind; these items are not set in stone. Should your team need a tanky character to take some hits, or should you find yourself needing survivability, build appropriately.