Not Updated For Current Season
Karma has great potential when she has a team that knows how to play with her. She can protect her teammates while also putting the hurt down on the enemy team. With her Spirit Bond skill she can help her teammates escape a sticky situation as well. Karma does something very well: keeping a single target alive. Typically you'll want this target to be your carry, and sometimes it will be yourself. Often what may happen is that you have proven to the enemy team that you are a primary target and you will become the tank. This is where Karma can do a lot of good work thanks to her passive.
I chose AP Quints and Glyphs because her shield with mantra does a lot of damage early game when people don't have any magic resistance. Hence the Magic Pen marks. Mana can be a bit of a problem for Karma so the mana regen per level seals help her out a lot.
The nice thing about this combination of runes is that it helps a lot early game and also late game. The magic pen is really nice for putting the hurt on the enemy team in the first 6-7 levels when they don't have any magic resist. On top of this the extra AP helps at all stages of the game as well does the mana regen.
Always start with a Doran's ring. The extra AP and mana regen make it so that Karma can stay in lane for a very long time without having to go back to buy. After this getting a catalyst will keep her in lane forever. The catalyst can be turned into either a Rod of Ages or a Banshee's Veil depending on if your team is high on AP. If you're forced to turn the catalyst into a Banshee's Veil, I recommend getting a Mejai's as you'll have plenty of assists to get stacks on it and this will provide you some much needed AP. But I don't add it to the item build as this is a preference item and many people don't like snowball items. This will cover your early game.
Mid to late game you'll need to start up on some more survivability and cooldown reduction. I tend to lean towards Soul shroud, but if my team is a really strong chase team, then Shurelya's Reverie is a very good pick too. If I did not get a Banshee's Veil earlier, then now is a good time to get a little magic resist. The rest of your items should be built towards how the game is going. More AP if you're not being focused, more defensive items if you're tanking. A Morello's tome can go a long way to boost your AP and give you a ton of cooldown reduction.
Throughout the game you should be buying wards for your team. Karma has great farming abilities with her mantraed shield and wave. I also tend to buy an oracles mid way through the game to hunt for wards. Bonus for invis champs or teemos.
I skill up her shield first as at level one, it can be used with your mantra. Q can as well, but it may be wasted. The reason I level up her shield to 6 before wave however is because it has much better range and is much more reliable for protecting your teammates. You don't need to have your mantra up to help your dieing teammate. But it can completely turn the tide of a fight. When you show up and mantra shield a teammate running away from someone, all of a sudden your teammate has 300 more hp (in shield) and the enemy has 300 less hp. Now they are running for their lives =D
I get one skill in spirit bond early because it does have its uses and in fact it can be the case that it may be more useful than wave, but I tend never to use it in team fights. Spirit bond is great for chasing or running away, but not terribly useful in team fights. This is why I chose heavenly wave over spirit bond.
As a good support you should have clairvoyance. I can't count the number of times clairvoyance has saved me from a gank or scored me free kills. It is also wonderful for counter-jungling. I pick flash as it is amazing both offensively and defensively. It can be used to flash in closer to your dieing teammate to shield them for that clutch save or flash in to insta nuke half the enemy teams hp. And of course everyone knows how amazing it is for escaping a gank, combined with her spirit bond for getting away, it's great.
Pros / Cons
- She gets stronger as she loses life
- Her shield has an incredible AP ratio
- She can farm huge waves of creeps with just two spells
- Her ability to protect a single teammate is top notch
- She has no CC
- She only has 3 skills to chose from (i.e. No Ult)
- Heavenly Wave has a very short range and can pull you out of position
- Heavenly Wave tends to be a fairly weak heal on low hp teammates.
- Very team dependent (Karma needs a team that works with her playstyle)
Laning / Creeping
During the normal laning phase, Karma's best at helping her lane partner harass the hell out of your opponents. She works great with a melee champ that has a dash, such as Irelia, Renekton, Xin Zhao, etc...
As for creeping during the laning phase, I would suggest not using spells to get last hits and focus on normal auto-attacks for last hits. Pushing the lane can spell disaster when the enemy team has a jungler. Fortunately if your teammate is pushing the lane despite your pleas against that, you do have clairvoyance to check the river for any impending ganks.
After the laning phase is complete, Karma can walk into any lane and clear full creep waves very quickly. Simply Mantra shield yourself and heavenly wave the rest of the minions.
During team fights you need to be aware of what to use your mantra charges on. I prefer to use a charge on my shield and hit the initiator with it right off the bat to get the cooldown running and do some nice damage and protecting. I'll save the second charge to heal with if necessary and throw a spirit bond on the enemy champion that I want my teammates to kill. As the fights go on, you'll have the choice of throwing out another mantra charged shield or throw a heal, this will all depend on your situation and how bunched up and low hp your teammates are.
Sometimes near the end of fights you can be the one on clean up duty by use of flash and spirit bond. Other important uses of Karma's shield is when pushing towers. If there are no enemies around, throw a shield on the minion that the tower is attacking to prolong the amount of time that you have to beat on that tower. This is extremely effective on the cannon minions as the shield health is taken away after damage mitigation is calculated.
Karma has great potential, but requires good positioning and an aggressive playstyle. Often when I'm playing as Karma I end up being the off-tank and the focus of a lot of abuse. This is because the other team eventually realizes that if I don't die quickly, I make it much harder to kill my teammates all the while taking down their hp fairly quickly.