Karthus Build Guide by bloks
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.
Karthus is arguably one of the best mid lane champions in the game, and if played right, one of the toughest to lane against. This guide will teach you how to properly play Karthus, stay in the lane for max time, get max minion kills in laning phase, stay the highest level on the map, and ultimately dominate every game you play. I will try to release a video in a future edit on how to stay highest level and what strategies to do to help you win.
Pros and Cons
+ Excellent harasser Lay Waste
+ Huge advantage over melee Defile
+ Insane in team fights
Remember kids, press "r" to Acquire currency/haters.
- Long cooldown on ult Requiem
- Relatively difficult to play
- Your team hates you, you kill stealer!
Why is Karthus a pro picked champion?
Karthus is undoubtedly one of the best mid lane champions in the game. He has decent range to harass and two game changing abilities for team fights: Defile and Requiem. Really only ranged champions can "easily gank" Karthus (although if you have good map awareness this probably won't happen anyways) because of Defile. That ability destroys melee once you get some AP going. If any enemy gets close, toggling Defile, throwing down a Wall of Pain on them, and spamming Lay Waste will make quick and easy work of your target. If they manage to get away, than thank riot for Requiem and use what they gave you; ult that noob!
Why did I choose these runes over all others? Simple, sustain and harass. You want to stay in the lane while sending your foe back. Greater Seal of Magic Resist gives decent magic resist, which especially helps at low levels and in the laning phase against the other AP mid. Greater Mark of Magic Penetration will help you out with breaking their magic resist barrier so you hit them harder, ya know, like harassment and junk (Earn your haters, deserve them)! Greater Glyph of Ability Power and Greater Quintessence of Ability Power will give you a pretty little advantage at the start to slam down some extra health from your foe, especially if they play aggressively at low levels.
Well this is all dependent on you knowing how to play Karthus mid very well. You should be grabbing Greater Quintessence of Ability Power and Greater Seal of Ability Power for extra ability power at the start. This will help kill minions faster, and harass/gank more efficiently (see the advanced tips for more on ganking). You also need Greater Glyph of Mana for that extra base mana at start to hold you over until you upgrade Defile a couple of times. Also grab Greater Mark of Magic Penetration for improved magic penetration. This will help you kill more easily and make your abilities hit harder. There is not a magic resist rune here so be cautious! If you are pretty good at Karthus, you shouldn't be getting hit much by your opponent in the same lane as you.
This is a generic, mid lane masteries set-up in my opinion. You definitely must have Summoner's Wrath ! Exhaust benefits greatly from this. It will lower the target's magic resist thus making for easier kills. The rest of your offense tree will be spent in ability power and dishing out more damage basically, it can be mix and matched here a there a little bit. You do, however, need to grab Executioner because it helps you finish opponents (remember that little finisher we call Requiem? yea that is why you grab this last mastery). In the defense tree you should go with the Resistance and Hardiness maxed out for better sustain and max Vigor for the same reason.
For this you will want the same offensive tree as beginner. Just grab the ability power point plus 2 points in Havoc and Executioner . The main difference in masteries is instead of dipping into the defense tree, you grab the utility tree with Expanded Mind for extra mana (since you wont have Chalice of Harmony, Swiftness to help get in extra damage with your Defile and Runic Affinity because late game you will want to have blue buff replace Athene's Unholy Grail so you can free up a spot to grab Zhonya's Hourglass.
Items (Laning Phase) (Beginner)
The most important part of the guide is right here. Why should you buy the items I tell you? Simple, it all goes back to staying in the lane to stay the highest level pro on the map. Always get Boots of Speed first. Basically you want to start, usually, with Meki Pendant for mana so you can get minion last hits better ( Lay Waste > auto attack). You should also grab a couple of Health Potion with your boots while you are at base, unless you are a seasoned veteran who doesn't get hit (You should probably buy the potions). Next item will be Boots of Speed for reasons unknown, however I think it might have to do with helping you move faster to avoid attack (seems a lot of AP mids are more skill shots and placement with attacks... higher movement = easier to avoid). Now rush Rod of Ages , first grabbing catalyst the protector for some AP/Health/Mana. Next on the list is sorceror's shoes: Now that you have some AP you need something to pound through the enemy's defenses. Next item (one of the best for survival) is Hextech Revolver. It has a nice amount of AP for the price and the 12% spell vamp will allow you to finish the laning phase with dignity ;).
Items (Post-laning Phase) (Beginner)
Now that you are a pro and you are exiting the laning phase, you shall be needing some ability power for those excellent team fights that no enemy wants you to be a part of. If you didn't get that hint, grab yourself a Rabadon's Deathcap. If you are pro and did get that hint, grab one anyways. Next item on the list is Athene's Unholy Grail. It is the perfect item for you! It has magic resist to stay alive, massive mana regen to use more abilities, and cooldown reduction for that ridiculous ultimate of yours! Will of the Ancients ought to be your next financial play. It gives extra spell vamp and ability power; you steal your foe's health and at a faster rate. Finally, the icing on the cake. Void Staff. Getting this will be the difference between night and day. Any enemy who hasn't stacked some health will take about 50% of their max health instantly from Requiem and they will die if they stand near you for more than 4 seconds or so with Defile.
First purchase should still be Boots of Speed for the same reasons as beginner. Also you should probably get some Health Potion for emergencies so you can heal in the lane, rather than recalling. Now get catalyst the protector followed by Sorcerer's Shoes. Catalyst will give mana and health as well as a nice level up bonus for sustain and the shoes at this point are mainly for the speed (the magic penetration is very nice once you get some AP going). Now get Rod of Ages for the AP, health, mana. Next is Hextech Revolver for some more AP and spell vamp so you can passively heal (just use some abilities and you're good to go). Next is Rabadon's Deathcap for some massive AP and a nice AP % bonus. Now will of the ancient's for more AP/more spell vamp and a decent aura for team fights. Get Void Staff to plow through any magic resist the opposing team may have. finally grab Zhonya's Hourglass. Besides the AP, it has a decent amount of armor to stop melee and a nice passive to save you.
Alternate Build (Advanced)
First purchase should still be Boots of Speed for the same reasons as beginner. Also you should probably get some Health Potion for emergencies so you can heal in the lane, rather than recalling. Now get catalyst the protector followed by Sorcerer's Shoes. Catalyst will give mana and health as well as a nice level up bonus for sustain and the shoes at this point are mainly for the speed (the magic penetration is very nice once you get some AP going). Now get Rod of Ages for the AP, health, mana. Next is Hextech Revolver for some more AP and spell vamp so you can passively heal (just use some abilities and you're good to go). Next is Rabadon's Deathcap for some massive AP and a nice AP % bonus. Grab Zhonya's Hourglass. Besides the AP, it has a decent amount of armor to stop melee and a nice passive to save you. Now will of the ancient's for more AP/more spell vamp and a decent aura for team fights. Get Void Staff to plow through any magic resist the opposing team may have.
Skill sequence (Beginner)
With Karthus, farming and harassing at low levels is all bout dat Lay Waste. So you gon' rush that to max. Be sure to get 1 point in Defile at level 2 for mana regen and 1 point in Wall of Pain at level 4 for escaping/killing. Remember you need to grab a point in Requiem at levels 6, 11, and 16. The skill building is pretty straight forward and not complex at all on this champion. It shouldn't cause you to lose sleep at night. Just get lay waste, then defile, then wall of pain.
Skill Sequence (Advanced)
Your first skill will be Lay Waste. Then get Defile then another point in Lay Waste. Get one point of Wall of Pain. Continue to level Lay Waste and Defile at about equal rate until you have 3 points in each. Now focus Lay Waste then finish off Defile and lastly Wall of Pain. Make sure to get all your Requiem points whenever possible. Explanation: If you have a couple points in Lay Waste you can still get easy last hits on minions but Defile will even out your mana consumption for better sustain.
If you ask a random league of legends player what summoner spells to get with karthus, one of them will probably be flash. This is a good idea. Grab Exhaust and Flash. These make for easy kills of your mid lane foe at low levels. As soon as they push a little more than their minions or start being aggressive or go near your turret, you throw Exhaust on them and then proceed to step 2 of the easy kill process.
Step 2: Wall of Pain followed by a spam of Lay Waste. If by some miracle you didn't kill them (and by miracle I mean Flash or Heal) then just remember: Press "r" to acquire currency (that would be your Requiem). The third build of this guide has Teleport to get around the map quicker, make less time out of lanes if you must recall during laning phase, and it's there to save you. If you see enemies coming but there isn't time to recall, you can just Teleport because damage will not interrupt the spell.
Ghost Again, not a common pick, but it seems to help with escapes/chase down especially with your Defile.
Clarity ...only for newbs. Helps restore mana, but Karthus doesn't need this because of Defile's passive. Again, only for newbs.
How to Farm
Well most people new to Karthus will spam Lay Waste to farm. Please leave your old life of evil now. Okay so what really is supposed to go down is you let your minions do most of the damage, then once the enemy minion is nearly dead, you use Lay Waste. This method will keep your mana almost always topped off from Defile's passive so that you can spam all abilities for a champion kill if needed. Please keep in mind that minions move, and that Lay Waste is delayed. Also Lay Waste will do half damage if it is soaked up by more than one target, so laying out a bomb just slightly away from a low health minion will ensure that it is the only one to take all that damage.
When killing minions try to throw Lay Waste near one that is just low enough for you to last hit it. If you get max damage possible like this as opposed to just hitting when a minion whenever it is almost dead, then you can push the lane better. When you get to the point where you minions are on the enemy turret, you can go to another lane to gank or help them push, then come back to mid to rinse and repeat. You can also take this chance to harass the opposing player in mid or perhaps push more in mid to make their turret go faster. Remember to get away you can Flash and use Wall of Pain. Flash can also be used to get a huge leap by going over small jungle or walls.
In conclusion, all Karthus players are amazing except the ones that get owned mid lane. Hopefully this guide will help change that, or if you are already good with Karthus, to better it. Remember that the key to kills and late game is what you do in the laning phase. It's all about the minions last hits for gold and staying in the lane for xp. Well GLHF ;) (that means good luck, have fun... bet you were wandering why all those crazy people kept saying that "code" right)? If you found this guide: useful, helpful, and/or entertaining please upvote it so others can see this too :) Thank you!
- Change Log added
- Credits added
- Third build was added
- Alternate items section added
Thanks to the following people for helping with this guide
- throatslasher for tips to make a third build
- abortedwangccake for telling me what to put in advanced tips section and helping with my overall gameplay of Karthus
- More to come once the NA servers go back online so I can check spelling on names