Karma Build Guide by Egypsian_Lover
This build has been archived and is for historical display only.
PLEASE NOTE: This build has been archived by the author. They are no longer supporting nor updating this build and it may have become outdated. As such, voting and commenting have been disabled and it no longer appears in regular search results.
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.
About this Guide (Read this First & Save Time!)
12/22/12 I am looking for user feedback on the following items: shard of true ice, Mikael's Crucible, Twin Shadows, Seraph's Embrace Try one or two out with Karma and let me know how it goes for you in a private message. Be sure to include the play style (support, AP Carry support, pure carry, etc.) in your message as well as laning partner if you had one.
12/7/12 Karma has some major reworking coming, and there are new items coming as well as masteries recommendations. As with anything new, I'll give it awhile for users to play test and give me feedback before I make official recommendations to the guide. I'm currently conferring with Pigsy and my build consult team regarding how to proceed.
Quick Reference Section Disclaimer!
1. Items listed in the build list above, the masteries, and the runes, are NOT intended to universally be the only proper way to build for Karma or even remotely close to it. That's what the full guide is for... hence its name. There is a more detailed quick-reference guide available at the end of the Build chapter. Both it and the above general guidelines are there for those of you who randomly got assigned Karma because you were in the bathroom during champion selection and now you're desperately trying to figure out what to do, or you're just curious and tinkering around but don't want to read the full novel that is to follow.
2. Additionally and very importantly, Karma is not Janna or Sona or Soraka just because she has support in her name. Please do not downvote this guide because I did not copy/paste a Sona or Janna guide and change the name of it to Karma. I don't advocate building her GP5 because she's not a pure support. She is better understood as a crossover champion, an AP champion with carry and support characteristics. Concerns about the absence of GP5 in the quick-reference section have been raised and addressed repeatedly to the satisfaction, approval, and enthusiastic agreement of both vet and pro players. Building GP5 is certainly an option if you want to build her as a pure support, and I don't toss it out. It just isn't the only way to build her. Do not downvote the guide without playing Karma or reading the guide just because you don't see a philosopher's stonephil stone in the quick-reference section.
Woohoo! Now that that's over, on to the fun stuff!!! :)
I had 5 main goals in composing this guide for playing Karma:
1) I have attempted to make this guide as friendly to new players ("newbies, "noobs") as possible. If you're new to the game, welcome! Whenever I use acronymns in this guide, I have tried to elaborate upon what those mean. For example: I might say "oom" but then explain that this means "out of mana." If you see some word or phrase that you don't understand, do feel free to ask, or if you see something I need to elaborate on, totally feel free to point it out!
2) I have attempted to make this what the name suggests: the comprehensive guide to Karma. This means that I include all Karma-relevant information. It also means that I attempt to always justify my choices where I am rigid (which isn't often) and keep an open stance on things where there is plenty of room for personal preference or situational adaptation. Sometimes I do this with graphs, sometimes by typing my reasons, but especially with regard to picks which could be controversial. This makes the guide a little long but I definitely view it as a positive thing.
3) If you ask me to explain a choice in my guide which I haven't explained or if you ask why I didn't allocate some resource differently, I will read what you write with an open mind. If you looked at the full history of the change log or if you look at the comments section, you'll insights provided by other users have resulted in several changes and additions to the guide. I would like for this to be a great venue for talking about Karma's play and build strategy.
4) I have attempted to create this guide with as much integrity and respect for other users and the mobafire/League of Legends community as possible. With that in mind, in any screenshot I've posted which reveals any scores, I've censored summoner names. Additionally, I haven't made mention of any other Karma guides except to highlight their strengths, nor will I ever personally downvote or publicly encourage the downvoting of any other Karma guides.
5) For those first three reasons, I have presented an extensive amount of information here... which I know can make it difficult to find things. I have attempted to present the information in this guide in the most logical order and form possible. If you check the Change Log you will see that I move things around all the time to present things in a more concise way and make it easier for a person to find the information they need within the guide without inadvertently spending too much time reading things that they don't need.
With that in mind, here is a general outline of the guide. If you are looking for something in particular, this will help you find it. If you are looking to read it fairly thoroughly, but don't have time for the full novel, this will help you figure out which parts are, I think, most important or most relevant to you.
1. About this Guide (Read Me First!) This is what you are reading right now. It is recommended reading.
2. Why did I write this guide and why should you try Karma? This section explains why I originally decided to write this guide, my general feelings about Karma, and why I think other people should want to play her. It is optional reading.
3. General Game Basics In order to discuss abilities within the context of different stages of the game while still staying newbie-friendly, I've included a section on game basics. Basically this section outlines the various stages of the game so that the terms I use in my contextual discussions later "laning," "turn," "ganking," "pushing," etc. will make sense. This section is recommended reading if you are below level 25. It is not intended to be comprehensive by any means.
For a more comprehensive introduction for new players, this is a better resource
For players over level 25 looking to amp up their knowledge of the game even more, this is a better resource
4. Runes This is recommended reading but not essential.
5. Summoner Skills This is essential reading.
6. Build Basics This covers the basics of building situationally for Karma and is essential reading.
7. Abilities (Base Stats) Because Karma's skills can each be combined with Mantra to create "super skills" as it were, it does not make sense to talk about each one in isolation. Where normally builds have one section for "Abilities," I've split my discussion of abilities up into 2 sections. One gives base stats for each of her actives Heavenly Wave, Spirit Bond, and Soul Shield, as well as her passive Inner Flame and the cooldown stats for Mantra. This is optional reading.
8. Gameplay (Use of Abilities) The other of those two sections, this one explains the use of these actives and passives within the context of different phases of the game. This is essential reading.
9. Masteries: Abbreviated Explanation This is optional reading.
10. General Notes Noteworthy little tips and tricks. This is optional reading.
11. Karma 501: Context and Role This is highly nuanced information which I think will primarily be useful for players who play as Karma a lot. This is optional advanced reading and I suggest you play around with Karma for awhile and decide if you like her before spending the time to read this. This section also addresses in greater depth some of the "metagame ranked" questions like "should I babysit [x-champion]?" or "What's the deal with GP5?" etc.
12. Karma 502: Blow Them Up! This section expands on the 501 section by describing more precisely how to choose your AP kit use it to do a lot of damage in a short period of time.[/color] This section is also optional advanced reading.
13. FAQs for authors If you have questions for writing your own guide, please check here before asking them.
14. The Elo Matching System This is optional reading.
15. Change Log This is a log of all changes to the guide since its creation. It's obviously optional reading.
16. Status of this Guide The latest news for the guide including new upcoming changes and features can all be found here. This is usually a fast read and is recommended reading.
Why did I write this guide and why should you try Karma?
(Edited Oct 2012)
First of all, why should you want to play Karma? Good question. Let me ask you... Would you like to play a character whose potentials are so diverse that she can run the range from tank to full AP mage? Would you like to play a character who does relatively high amounts of damage that put her on par with any other character in the game while also doing 25 to 50 thousand in healing each round (that number doesn't include her shielding) and having so much health and armor and a slow so effective you can be chased all the way across the map and still arrive safely home? Do you hate recalling while pushing and love seeing your team mates' health start going UP in a team fight? Do you want to play a character who can get double first blood against Mordekaiser and Malphite with no help from your lagged-out laning partner BEFORE the minions even spawn? Or who can dominate just about anybody in the middle? Whose passive ability turns her into - hands down - the best bait character in the entire game? If you answered "yes" to all of those, Karma just might be a good character for you. When I first wrote this guide, everyone thought that she was awful. Really, everybody thought that. In large part due to the success of this guide, she has become a bit of a cult hit in the last year and a half. She's a lot of fun. When I first wrote this section, I made note that "if people ever learn how to play her, she's in for a nerfing." Well, over the last year and a half, a lot of people have learned to play her... and she hasn't been nerfed... but she is feared. I'd say that mostly vindicates my earlier statement.
When I originally wrote this, I posted a picture of a big winning streak I had with her. It was my little, "look, I have wins so I must be qualified to write about them!" gimmick. You know what I'm talking about. Anyhow, after I posted this guide, it shot straight to #1 on mobafire... not just for Karma, for all champion guides. It proceeded to stay there for more than a year and continues to hold the record for longest time continuously in the #1 spot. It also holds the distinguished record for longest time continuously in the top 10 guides and the first guide to exceed 30,000 words in length. Come to think of it, that might not be something to be proud of. Anyhow, if all those things are not compelling enough reasons to both stick around and read (and also to try out Karma!) then I don't know what is.
A cautionary side note for players unaccustomed to the elo matching system: when you try out a new character and are very successful with the character, don't over-play the new character. The steep downside to being too successful with a character for too long is that your invisible rating adjusts upwards and you may find yourself unable to play as other champions without suffering bad losses. This is because your matching level has adjusted for the one champion and is now far beyond your skill level with the others. Click here for continued reading about the matchmaking system. I also elaborate on the mathematical meaning of what's discussed in there at the end of this guide.
Secondly, why did I write this guide? Well... it's history now. I wrote this guide over a year and a half ago. At the time, people generally did not understand how Karma worked. I never saw anyone else try to play her. Moreover, players generally expected anyone who played as Karma to be terrible and played foolishly against her.This gave any good karma player a huge built-in advantage, but it was further an indicator to me that there simply were not many other good Karma players out there... At the time, I perused many of the other guides on Karma and found that, while all of them tended to offer some great hints and tips, most of them were written by players for whom Karma was not their primary character. For me, she is.
Karma was a relatively new addition to the game, which you would think might account for the fact that very few people played her or had experience playing against her... but there was more to it than that. Unlike other then-new characters like Maokai and Renekton, she in particular had developed a reputation for being a useless and weak character. As I said above, this was a huge advantage. I never ceased to be amazed at how over-confidently opponents would lane against me early on. People do not understand how effective Karma can be and how to play her properly.
Karma actually became my primary character as the result of lag. Yes, you read that right. Lag led me to try Karma in the first place. When I began playing, Kassadin was always my character of choice. I often played with Hatazzb, a great Soraka player, and his healing and mana boosts combined with the get-out-of-anything rift-walk made playing Kass effortless and natural for me. However, when I moved I began to have horrible lag spikes. If you've ever played as Kass, you are aware he is not playable in any sort of lag whatsoever (he is a speed-dependent assassin character). The lag spikes destroyed my games.
I immediately found success with Karma in part because she is far less lag-sensitive. True, you can't bait effectively with Karma (we'll talk about doing that later in the guide) in lag and that can destroy your laning, but in late game play you are often still able to shield and heal essential allies even as your connection deteriorates. With Kass, I'd have to back out of combat in the slightest lag. With Karma, I could stay in until my response times reach about 3 seconds (and that's a lot of lag).
An immediate series of crushing wins laning with M4g0t confirmed that not only was Karma not as lag-sensitive, she also was not the garbage she was commonly made out to be. In fact, her unique attributes allowed her to bait like no other character in the game. This was the first guide to touch on baiting as Karma. It's since become standard gameplay with her. She's also a diverse champion: she can turn a push, pull a carry out of the jaws of certain death, mop up kills, or even lead an assault under the right circumstances. She is, I would say, the most under-rated character in the game. Karma is not "one" of the characters I like to play as - she is absolutely my main character.
And that's why I wrote this guide. This a Karma guide written by a primarily Karma player. Much has changed since the guide was originally written. Contributors have come and gone, mobafire writing has become almost a competitive sport among certain folks, and Karma has been greatly popularized. I hope you still find the guide useful.
General Game Basics
If you are below level 25, PLEASE read this section. If not, you can skip it, but this is very important stuff for you to have a basic understanding of.
What follows is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of how to play League of Legends by any means. Things get far more complicated than this at higher levels of game play. These are simple general rules to follow when you are first getting into the game. There are three basic phases of League a Legends match.
1. Laning (early game)
2. Turn (mid game)
3. Pushing (end game)
As I describe appropriate play with karma, I'll be referencing her play within the context of these different parts of the game. Moreover, it's important that you understand in general how each part of the game works. These parts of the game can be generally described as follows.
In the laning stage, you are generally focused on one particular lane (the paths lined by turrets and walked by minions). In general, you are with a buddy on top or bottom or solo in the mid. This persists usually until around the time you reach levels 5-7 (when most characters receive their ultimate (4th) ability or "ult" as it's commonly referred to. Your main goal is to level up and get gold by killing minions. You can harass enemy champs and they'll harrass you back, but getting a kill early is a luxury. It's nice when it happens, but the early game is generally not the time for living too dangerously by doing things like turret diving (attacking an allied champ by its turret). Generally, try to recall as little as possible while not risking giving the enemy a kill. You may, in the laning stage, take your attention off your lane to decide if it's necessary to switch lanes with an ally. You may also take your attention off of your lane for more specific reasons. The champion Karthus, for example, often plays mid and may reach level 6 while other champions on your team are still at levels 3 or 4, so he may keep an eye on other lanes to decide when to use his ultimate ability Requiem which deals damage to champions everywhere on the map. Turrets are not your objective at this stage. Your goal is to level up and not die.
In the turn stage, players begin to "gank." This is when they sneak/jump in and attack, especially stealth units like Evelynn and Teemo or teleporting units like Kassadin and Pantheon. The goal of this is to "farm" your team's champions. It has nothing to do with turrets or XP, they are trying to get kills for the gold reward they get - which can be quite lucrative. The gold reward they get is higher if the champion they kill happened to be on a killing spree at the time they killed him (bonus caps at 1000 gold for a kill). When a champ accumulates a lot of gold, he is said to be "fed." Players who die a lot are said to be 'feeding" the enemy and are commonly called "feeders." Turrets are still not at all your objective at this stage. Your team's goal is to get the gold advantage by having the kill advantage. Communication is very important in this stage. Responsible team players will type the name of the champ + "mia" or their lane (bot/mid/top) + "mia" (missing in action) if an enemy in their lane either goes missing mysteriously or recalls and is gone for a prolonged period of time. This is a warning to players in the adjacent lane (or lanes for the middle) to play cautiously. It may be a good time to recall if your health or mana are low. Example: "Kass mia" indicates Kassadin is missing. This should send up alarm bells as he can flash onto you, "silence" you (prevents you from casting), and slow you with no warning. "Bot mia" means a character in the bottom lane is missing. "Bot mia2" means both players are missing.
The final stage is pushing. Ok, NOW the turrets are your primary objective... right? Wrong. Your primary objective is still killing the enemy team's champs. Think about it for a second. A turret in the late game is basically just a champion that:
1) Isn't very powerful
2) Can't heal
3) Can't move
4) Can't respawn if destroyed
5) Can't consciously decide to target squishys (champs with less health)
Sure. Turrets have a lot of health. But in the late game, you and your team mates can bring one down from full health in mere seconds. The only thing that can kill you is still your enemy champions. In the pushing stage, your goal is to get all your team together and kill the enemy champs so that you can destroy the turrets and work your way up the lane destroying turrets without resistance. This is called "pushing." The team that wins is ALWAYS the team where everyone works together as a cohesive unit and attacks as a cohesive unit. I say ALWAYS because the only way your team can split up and be disorganized and still win is if the other team behaves even more stupidly, in which case your team was still more cohesive and cooperative than them. You can do the math on stats and abilities and easily see why, and it'll become way more obvious as I explain how good support characters are built and function, though that's for later in this guide. A team that splits up gets destroyed. Always, without exception. Big mistakes in this final stage include thinking the following thoughts:
"My team mates are all just sitting here... and their team is all just sitting there. This is a perfect time to go jungle by myself and get some XP, gold, or a buff to give myself the advantage, or maybe head over to another lane to kill some minions."
You aimlessly wander off without saying anything and it's 4 on 5, disadvantage your team, and not all your team mates might notice. The second the enemy champs realize you've abandoned your team, they're striking and their team is picking up 2000 gold. Oh, and you're next. Do NOT do this. You can make your entire team lose doing this; it enrages team mates, it gets you killed, and of course it's just downright stupid. They are having a showdown for a reason. Your team doesn't want to split up and give them gold; they don't want to split up and give you gold. Maybe your team is waiting for them to make a mistake. Waiting is an intense but normal part of the game. Maybe Nunu's ultimate Absolute Zero (a very deadly storm that slows enemies and causes them massive damage) is 30 seconds from ready... or maybe Karthus' ultimate Requiem is nearly ready. Your team mates might be waiting for a reason. Oh, just in case you didn't know, you can see the status of other players' ultimate abilities either by hitting tab or by looking at the green light next to their name on the upper left side of the screen. As Karma by the way, you need to pay particular attention to the cd's (stands for "cooldown," the time it takes a spell to be ready to cast again) of players like Nunu and Fiddlesticks, and we'll discuss why in a bit.
"We lost bad in that battle. We can't take all 5 of them."
Wrong. Every fight is different from the one before. You probably made mistakes in the previous battle that you won't make in this next one. Ok, I know YOU don't make mistakes but maybe one of your mates did. The other team might get over-confident or make mistakes that they didn't before. Maybe one of your team mates' ult wasn't ready before. Maybe one of their ults isn't ready now. Past performance is no guarantee of future results... unless your past performance includes all splitting up and getting killed one by one and you do nothing to change that. It's PARTICULARLY insane to conclude "we can't take all 5 of them" if you weren't all together for the last battle. How do you know? You haven't even tried.
"If we split up, it'll force them to split up,"
Wrong yet again. If you split up, they'll all stick together and first kill the group of three of you, then kill the group of 2 of you and be 2500 gold the richer for it. Don't get me wrong: you DO want to split their team up... but not by splitting yourselves up. Think about it... the 5 of them are turret hugging and the five of you are clustered... right in the middle of the map... and maybe there's harrassing going on but nobody is stupid enough to dive in... move your team together as a unit to the next lane. Your team has a straight shot and can do this. It takes them a second to realize you're moving, they don't have a straight shot, and some get split off wandering through the trees, some have shoes, some don't, some are faster, some slower, long story short they get separated and arrive in disarray in the adjacent lane to be eaten one at a time. Did that not work? Try it again, or have your tank bait them, but let them make the mistakes so YOUR team is the one that walks away with the gold.
"Player X has tons of armor and won't die. We should focus him in our next battle."
You should be targeting their squishier (less armored/lower health/generally do more damage) players first. Your goal is gold. It doesn't matter if Rammus or Mundo has killed you three times and you're frustrated, winning is your revenge, not killing them. Play smart for your team. Teams that all attack the enemies' tanks lose. That's the whole point of having a tank on your team, after all... to have someone for the enemies to attack while the rest of you chew them up. We all know this of course on an intellectual level but it's astounding how often I'll watch an entire random-match team that I'm on all target Rammus.
"We need to stop focusing on champs and start focusing on the turrets."
You hate to hear this one... for reasons that should be obvious this far into the guide. If someone on your team says this, correct them gently. Also, as Karma you should take careful note of who said it. This is a weaker player who will need additional overwatch and protection.
"Our team is all together and we just took out 2 of them, all 3 left alive are still in the lane with us... but oh no! They have a swarm of 10 whole minions that are advancing on our turret in another lane. Someone needs to leave to go take care of that! *beacon* *beacon* I'M ON IT!"
You can only hope to be lucky enough to have enemies this stupid. If one of your allies beacons a set of minions attacking a turret in another lane, I'm sorry to say it but unless the other team has a player or two just as dumb, you and your team are probably screwed. As Karma, you can only be as good as your team mates. If an ally leaves a great push opportunity to pursue minions, or if (heaven forbid) your entire team splits up after a great fight to go back to individual lanes and farm rather than pushing, you might as well save yourself time and frustration by typing "/surrender."
And last but very importantly...
"[Support character] is feeding; that's why we are losing."
That MIGHT be true... The Soraka or Karma on your team might be new to their character and not yet sure how to play them... but that's probably not the case. What is MORE likely is that your team is splitting up or your team mates or possibly YOU are doing stupid things and putting YOURSELF in dangerous situations and your support character is actually being smart by sacrificing to save you, keeping you alive to defend, preventing you from losing your stacks,* and keeping the enemies from getting extra gold. For myself personally, I can tell you that I almost never get less than a KDR (Kill to Death Ratio) of 1 UNLESS I play as a support character. The number of deaths I get in a game as Karma are directly proportional to how carelessly my team mates play and how much I must sacrifice to pull them out of dangerous situations.
I am not being a prideful/defensive player by saying this; just an honest one. When I play as Kassadin and my teammate Hatazzb plays as Soraka, if I play stupidly he absolutely will die to save me and if he racks up a bunch of deaths playing as Soraka, it's a sign to ME that I need to check MY play style. I'm probably taking unnecessary risks. This is why the thought "[Support character] is feeding; what's why we are losing" is a big mistake. Carelessly attributing blame elsewhere prevents you from analyzing your own style of play to see what you might need to change. Usually, somebody is over-extending or getting greedy and that's why the skull number by your support's name is trending upward. They are dying to save YOU.
After one game with Hatazzb in which he, as Soraka, had saved me by healing me more times than I could count, I remarked to him that, "It's like you always know when I'm about to do something stupid and are right there with a heal." He replied, "It's not hard. It's always either you or Cesi." Your support character knows. Since learning to play support, I've learned to watch my team mates much more astutely and after awhile you can see the ones behaving recklessly or downright stupidly with total ease. And if you're a smart team player, you will reciprocate when the time comes for you to save your support. A good Soraka or Karma can sustain an entire team's assault with their healing/buffing/shielding/etc. Care for them.
*"Stacks" are essentially bonuses earned for doing certain things within the game. Usually a character loses all or a significant portion of their stacks upon dying. For example, a character who purchases Mejai's Soulstealer receives 2 stacks per kill or 1 stack per assist, getting increased Ability Power for each stack up to 20 maximum, but loses 1/3 of his stacks if killed. Another example: Cho'Gath receives 1 stack each time a unit he "feasts" dies up to a maximum of 6; his stacks grant him increased health and size and he loses half if he dies. As Karma, you automatically receive "mantra" stacks and each time you use mantra it consumes one of these stacks.
I was criticized by one commenter for not mentioning the strategy known as "backdooring." What follows is - what I consider to be - an obligatory explanation. "Backdooring" refers to the strategy of an attack damage carry ( Master Yi, Twisted Fate, etc.]] splitting off from the group to try to attack a turret, inhibitor, or nexus by themselves in a situation where your own team is entirely unable to win a team fight or gain traction any other way. I was criticized in the comments for not mentioning it in "General game basics." My reason for originally choosing not to is that the "backdooring" strategy is successful extremely rarely and is very rarely (read: almost never) seen at higher levels of play. I don't consider it a general game basic by any means. At lower levels of play, the term "backdooring" is really mostly used to refer to the strategy of just splitting up and dying one at a time. It is a viable strategy only occasionally. I've seen some games won via "backdooring" at high elo. Now some is greater than none, but it's not significant enough for me to consider backdooring a general game basic or recommend it as a strategy for newer players.
...don't make the game any better in my opinion. Fortunately, they don't make too big of a difference until you get to higher levels of play. If you're below level 20, you shouldn't be buying runes period. The ones available below level 20 are so impotent they make the "tier 3" ones you get at level 20 actually look good. This guide will focus very little on runes and items and focus a LOT on appropriate game play. What follows is the obligatory discussion of runes.
For the complete guide on runes, go here.
With Karma, you really want to buy "per-level" runes if possible. Flat bonuses are worth more at the beginning of the game but usually the flat bonuses are exceeded by the per-level bonuses by the time you reach level 5 or 6 anyway (for greater glyphs of celerity at level 12). Do the math. It's nice if but not essential that you get fed on champ kills early and the long-term benefits of per-level runes for Karma are better than the short term benefits of flat runes.
Magic Penetration is hard to come by which makes the greater marks of insight smart with most mages. For this reason, if you don't want to buy a complete set of runes specific to Karma but want runes which are more useful in general, magic penetration marks are a smart way to go. Also, getting some raw ability power with your glyphs and seals never hurt either and will be useful regardless of which champ you play with. There's no "one ultimately correct" runebook configuration to go with. Be situational. Your choice depends on you and on who you are playing with.
Example runebook 1
A general mage-friendly runebook might look like this:
9 Greater Seal of Scaling Ability Power (+16.2 AP at level 18)
9 Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power (+27.54 AP at level 18)
9 Greater Mark of Magic Penetration (8.55 flat magic pen)
3 Greater Quintessence of Magic Penetration (5.67 flat magic pen)
This gives Karma a damage advantage all game, especially since you probably won't be investing in magic penetration items, and it's advantageous during the laning stage when you might be baiting enemies in.
Example runebook 2
9 Greater Seal of Scaling Ability Power (+16.2 AP at level 18)
9 Greater Glyph of Scaling Cooldown Reduction (+8.1% cooldown reduction at level 18)
9 Greater Mark of Magic Penetration (8.55 flat magic pen)
3 Greater Quintessence of Magic Penetration (5.67 flat magic pen)
With the 2012 changing of the masteries and the addition of athenas unholy grail, I quit longer recommend CDR glyphs and seals on Karma. However, when Deathfire Grasp was nerfed, I added the recommendation back. There are now fewer viable options for getting your cooldown reduction. These are definitely not a must. You could build Ionian Boots of Lucidity for your cooldown reduction or you could just forego Deathfire Grasp in favor of Morello's Evil Tome. There are a variety of decent options. A nuking Karma will often want to be rocking CDR glyphs, so that she can get some tenacity out of her boots.
*"Cooldowns" are the length of time you must wait before casting a spell. By reducing this length of time, you can cast more frequently. You can reduce cooldowns using runes, masteries, or items.
Other Picks I see
Some people like to use mana regen runes. If you find you're always thirsty for mana, you could try this.
Speed quintessences are tempting... because your speed sucks to begin with and it will continue to suck well through the midgame... In late game though, you'll be able to compensate for it easily by spamming your Spirit Bond. I'm not going to tell you never to take these. However, I don't.
Don't take avarice quintessences. You're a ranged champion with two powerful AoE casts. You should hopefully have no trouble getting enough assists (as support) or minion kills (as a solo mid champ) to supply your with gold. This will be slightly more challenging if you lane babysitting a another carry, because then it's generally considered to be your responsibility to allow her to last hit instead of you, but you'll have plenty of chances to clear waves throughout the game. Babysitting another carry isn't Karma's most optimal role. I'm not saying she can't, I'm just saying that that's the only situation where I'd consider avarice quints on her.
Don't take health runes. We like to bait, remember? Your passive Inner Flame gets more powerful as your health drops. Also, you're carrying heals, a shield and Flash. Survivability isn't really a concern of ours here. You can play Karma much less conservatively than most champs and usually get away with it easily. The trouble comes when you switch back to playing a less resilient champion and have trouble curbing your aggression.
Despite that they are in vogue, Magic resist seals are rather situational on Karma... If you build Athenas unholy grail and Abyssal Scepter or mercurys treads or any combo thereof, then you are pretty much swimming in magic resist. The value of resistances tapers the more you have, and you really don't want to have a rune book in which some of your runes are statistically going to waste in many matches, so I don't take these.
Anything with "attack damage," "attack speed," or "critical strike" in the name is also obviously a complete and total waste. Same for health regen, you're a healer.
Also, if you have seals that specialize in defense, feel free to save IP by just using those. I like the extra AP of AP seals but it's hardly necessary. Defensive seals don't add a lot for Karma (except situationally magic resist seals as mentioned above) so I wouldn't buy them just for her but if you already have them or play mostly tanky characters you'd use them for, you don't need to go spend a ton of IP on new AP seals. Karma has high viability either way.
Also, don't be "that guy" with your runes. You know, the one who hosts the game but won't enter you all into the queue until he's taken 10 minutes to think about and move his runes around accordingly. They seriously don't make that big of a difference. You have multiple rune pages for a reason. Have one page of both of the above options if you want... just don't be that guy that takes 10 minutes to make adjustments between each battle based on what characters his team mates say they'll play. It is not worth it and next match you won't even remember what runes you took last match. Pick the page closest to your goal and play.
So Riot's 2012 changes were aimed at smoothing out the distribution of choices for summoner spells, making the less popular ones more appealing and the more popular ones slightly less appealing. In 2013, they tossed the ones that weren't super popular and added Barrier.
As such, my basic recommendations have never changed too terribly much. My most conventionally appreciated top picks Flash and Clairvoyance were nerfed in terms of cooldowns and, in the case of Flash, range, while my less popular top pick Heal was buffed. These three all remain as viable picks on Karma because of the particular utility each of them affords her. With the concept of Carry Karma passing into common acceptance (I feel weird saying that!), ignite is now a high recommend. Thanks to Duskmelt for demonstrating its high viability! I'm also going to float Barrier out there, having seen it used successfully at high elo.
That said, what you choose is, to a much greater extent than before, a matter of personal preference.
Flash - Your main goal as Karma is not always kills. That said, you will definitely get kills and a big portion of the kills you do get will come from flash. You can flash to an enemy, self-mantra+shield, and wave them. No one ever expects an assassination from Karma. You can flash to an ally who has been ignited in order to shield and heal them. You can use it to bait. In a team fight, if you are getting targeted and have suffered significant damage, you can flash back behind the group out of immediate range to deny the enemies a kill and live to support your team. It might buy you an escape by yourself in the right circumstances. When you're by yourself, it probably means your team mates are either dead or ran and you're a slower champ so unless you flash over some rocks or trees and spirit bond a jungle minion to make your escape, solo escapes are tough as Karma. The main reason I carry flash is because, having first learned to play with Kassadin, I find it entirely unnatural to play without some sort of teleport at my fingertips in the event of an intense situation of any kind. Obviously the epic cooldown on flash and heal means you must use them both very wisely.
"Damn you and your flash kills, you ****ty karma!" - DarktheGreat (playing as Annie)
Ignite - I've changed my mind a lot on Ignite for Karma. Make no mistake, it used to be awful... and it still is if your goal is to emphasize her support characteristics over her damage outpoint. That said, AP Carry Karma is now in vogue. With masteries tree re-arranged so that you must no longer drop Archaic Knowledge for Burning Embers , I see greater viability for it. When you ARE building for damage output, planning to solo the mid, or even just for fun or experimenting, Duskmelt has demonstrated at this point that Ignite does have viability on Karma and I can't argue with it. I can't really take the credit on this one. It is thanks to ol' Dusky that you now see plenty of people sporting Ignite as Karma at high elo. Blame him when you burn!
Clairvoyance - Map awareness wins games, plain and simple. I couldn't say it better myself, so I'll just quote veteran user Jebus McAzn, "Clairvoyance... ...has a use in scouting enemy jungle paths, Dragon timings, Baron timings, and counter-ganks." For this reason, it's considered by many to be one of the best picks for support characters. Additionally, you'll also be sight wardwarding as support and it's not unlikely that you'll be in the bottom lane where you can easily ward dragon periodically in the early game. Clairvoyance is an essential summoner skill for any team to have at high elo.
barrier - The newest of the pack, this is a slightly higher skill threshold ability than is Heal because it requires being used at exactly the right moment to be of any use. At lower levels of gameplay, I'd pick Heal over this.
Heal - Heal is often frowned upon, particularly at high elo. The guide has taken a lot of downvotes (from bad players, trolls, and frankly people who are just too lazy to read) because I've kept this on here so I hope you'll appreciate the fact that I've stayed the course and kept it! There's a million reasons for this. It helps with first blood. It makes you a better support asset in team fights. You can combine it with your mantra+wave heal, shield, and spirit bond to really pull an allied champion out of the jaws of death. You can also use it to bait. Keep in mind, Karma's passive is an increase in AP corresponding to her missing health. You can pretend to recall by your turret or pretend to stupidly stay in combat with no health left. When they pounce (and oh, they will, you are a squishy looking support and NOBODY passes that up), you mantra+self-shield, mantra+wave, Heal, and Flash out leaving your friendly champ or turret to mop up what's left of whoever took the bait. This build of Karma is VERY difficult to kill in the laning stage of the game for exactly this reason. Like I mentioned, I killed both Mordekaiser and Malphite with no help from my laning partner or turret before minions even spawned using this heal in combo with my mantra+wave heals.
Remember how I said at high elo, every team need clairvoyance? It used to be that at super high elo, people would always assume that you were the one responsible for taking Clairvoyance because you were considered "support." Again, though, here we are a year and a half after the original publication of the guide and one of the many unexpected fruits of this guide's success has been that the idea that Karma can actually solo mid and carry has been somewhat mainstreamed. This means you may even be expected now to go mid and carry at high elo. The point is: talk to your team mates and know your team composition. At middle-tier elo, if someone else takes Clairvoyance, that makes your decision easier. At lower elo, I'd recommend Heal over Clairvoyance because at low elo your problem is not so much what you can't see as it is that team mates do not pay attention to what you can see. People tend to die not because they couldn't see it coming but because they weren't paying any attention and simply didn't see it coming, if that makes sense.
Heal is definitely not for most champions, Karma is the only one I ever take it on, and I certainly don't take it every match... and like I said, when the guide was first published a lot of people who had never played Karma or read the guide dropped by and downvoted, leaving behind such enlightened comments as "lawl, heal, gg," I always kept this on here as a top pick for Karma because it's been consistently vetted as a viable top pick by multiple strong Karma players. I never cared about having the highest guide score as much as I cared about being honest and accurately representing Karma and the best choices for her. This was always one of them. Now, with the buff, it's even more clearly one of them. And with the guide's success and the mainstreaming of Heal on Karma, the skeptics seem to have disappeared.
A quick note about map awareness
Clairvoyance and Garrison are both - what you might choose to call - "high map awareness" summoner skills. "Map awareness" is more than something you buy, it is the most important skill you develop as a player. The single biggest thing that differentiates the players at the very top from those at the very bottom is their differing degrees of awareness. You're learning about "role awareness" right now - how to play different kinds of champions... so hey, you're getting better as you read this :) (maybe!) If you are going to take Garrison or Clairvoyance, you should be practicing checking the minimap no less frequently than 4 times per minute (preferably more often than that), and also every time there is a ping. You should be checking the chat dialog constantly, and at all times you should have a general idea of where your jungler is at.
This takes work to get good at... but if you want to use Clairvoyance and Garrison properly, you need global map awareness constantly. These skills will force you to improve your gameplay. Like I said, usually someone else will take fortify, but bear this in mind especially with clairvoyance.
Garrison is, of course, a Dominion thingy. I'd check Pigsy's guide to see his recommendations on that.
Semi-off-topic... You should always always always play with the game sound ON and all other external music OFF, as a matter of courtesy to the people you are matched with. Pet peeve
Smite - if you plan on jungling. I'm not a big fan of this as discussed below.
Teleport - Could be nice instead of flash since Karma is slow. Do keep in mind though that as Karma you won't be recalling too many times and when you do, spirit bonding a minion or allied champion can help you (and them) get back to the battle faster. Flash is preferable. I never take Teleport as Karma.
Clarity - Your mana problems aren't too severe and you will fix them early... so think about your team composition. If you're with a bunch of characters with mana issues (examples: Kassadin, Kog'Maw, Rammus), or if your laning partner really wants you to carry this for them, fine. Other than that, I say forget it. Running out of mana doesn't stop pushes the way that dying does.
Revive - As a support, you may have to sacrifice for team mates and you may think it's nice to come back from the dead quickly. That said, in many rounds where you play with good team mates, you may only die 0 to 2 times and this is sitting in your summoner skill slot just wasting space. If you died during the pushing stage of the game, it's often because the rest of your team mates died first and it won't do you much good to respawn before them anyway. I don't hesitate to assert that you will probably die more often BECAUSE you took this instead of something useful, entirely negating whatever positive benefit it may have had.
Cleanse - A great way out of lockdowns. You cleanse, you flash, and then you run away. Bad news though: Karma is slow except for the effect of Spirit Bond and we're talking Ryze speeds here. It seems unlikely to save you. If you're with your team, Heal would be better than Cleanse for obvious reasons. If you're getting targeted with the team, self-shield, use all your heals, and hopefully by the time that's done your mates will have mopped up enough kills to save you. If you're not with your team, you're dead anyway.
Exhaust/Ghost - Spirit Bond performs both the tasks of slowing enemies and speeding up allies. In that context, these both seem redundant. Furthermore, given the contexts in which you as Karma would try to use these, it's unlikely the exhaust or ghost would have saved your life in any case. We'll talk about why. Flash is both more likely to nab you a kill OR save you than either of these.
Rally/Promote/Surge - They're all dead, Jim!
This has changed a lot over a year and a half because the items have changed. What has never changed are the basic principles of the build: You should always build for the situation you are in. If anyone ever tells you to build the exact same thing in the exact same order each match, they clearly haven't played much.
A quick note before we start: you may notice that I haven't built Athene's Unholy Grail in any of these screen shots. That is because it this an old guide and pre-dates this item. The concept of situational building demonstrated in the pictures is still valid so I see no reason to replace these screen shots. Ok, let's get started.
If you are up against a group of AD characters ("attack damage," also referred to as DPS or "damage per second", these characters are not magic oriented), Banshee's Veil or Athene's Unholy Grail aren't going to do you a whole lot of good right out of the starting gate because you won't benefit from the magic resist they provides.
Conversely, if you are up against a group of 5 mages, Frozen Heart is a rather worthless investment. Buy for the opponents you're up against, the team mates you're with, and the general situation you're in. I know - it's more mental work and it's intimidating to not have a go-to standard each time. I am NOT going to list 50 different build combinations and reasons for each one. You don't want to memorize that and it's useless and I can't stand builds that operate that way and you probably can't either. Instead, I'm just going to tell you how I make my decisions.
As Karma, your build has three basic priorities:
1. Get an engine for your mana
This is why you'll notice the first items we'll be considering build from Glacial Shroud, Catalyst the Protector, or Fiendish Codex.
2. Reach 30-40% cooldown reduction by the end of the turn stage
Your masteries get you close to 10%, your runes maybe a little more, which is why you'll notice we aim for about 20-30% in our build. Your cooldown reduction caps at 40% (because obviously if you could get to 100% you could cast infinitely many times per second and auto-win) and as Karma we'd really like to reach that 40% since your mantras benefit from it.
3. Achieve the right balance (or imbalance) of defensive (health, armor, magic resistance) and offensive (ability power) stats.
You'll see :)
As any mage, Doran's Ring is a smart way to start. You can't predict where the game is gonna go at this point and it's a lot of bang for your buck. Health, mana regen, AND 15 ability power is just a LOT of value to start off with.
Alternatively, you could start with a Sapphire Crystal (commonly called blue crystal) -because a Sapphire Crystal can build into either Catalyst the Protector or Glacial Shroud - and a couple of Mana Potions or Health Potions (often abbreviated in game as "pots").
At higher elo, most people start off with shoes and potions for most carries. Not always is this the case, but that's the option I listed in the quick-reference section.
The next item is where it gets complicated.
You've been laning for awhile now and this is where you start to make decisions that will shape what kind of Karma you're going to be in this round. This decision may decide the outcome of the game, no pressure. Ask yourself:
A) Are all or most of the enemies mages? If yes, go for Athene's Unholy Grail, starting with the Fiendish Codex component. This is a squishy way to start off the game. That said, Athene's gets you a lot of AP very quickly. For a Karma going mid, it's a bold choice that could very well pay off.
B) Are you up against all AD characters (this would be rare)? If yes, you could think about going with Glacial Shroud. It'll give you some early mana and armor and you can turn it into Frozen Heart later. Don't grab it in high elo play. It is very much a tanky item and, in the current high elo game, it's too conservative a pick for a carry or support/carry.
C) Answered "no" to both of those? In most rounds, you'll play more of a mixed group. In THAT case, I would recommend going Catalyst -> Rod of Ages.
You'll probably end up going with Rod of Ages most of the time when you begin. It's a balanced, conservative, and reliable choice.
As with any character, if you didn't start with them and have money left over on any of your recalls while working on building your first big item, grabbing basic boots very important.
You need a mana engine so these are pretty much the only three starting items we're considering at this point.
If you haven't bought them yet, it's probably time to pick up those basic boots.
Do you need second level boots yet? Depends. Again, this is situational. If you went with Glacial Shroud or Fiendish Codex, you can probably save your second cooldown reduction item for later. If you went straight for Rod of Ages, you need some cooldown reduction. I'd probably pick up Fiendish Codex before building your Mercury's Treads.
This guide used to recommend Ionian Boots of Lucidity as a standard item because so few options for cooldown reduction were available. However, I changed that with the introduction of Athene's Unholy Grail and the popularization of Carry Karma with Deathfire Grasp. Mercury's Treads are beautiful on just about any champion, mainly because of their tenacity effect.
Pick your subheading based on your decision in step (2)
5a) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
If you answered yes to (A) and went with Athene's Unholy Grail...
Then you also got your shoes, per (4). Rod of Ages gives you more AP than Deathfire Grasp or Morello's Evil Tome (and also gives you health and bonus mana). At the same time, the cooldown reduction of Deathfire Grasp or Morello's Evil Tome translates into your shielding and healing being more readily available. Make your decision carefully based on the game you're in.
"How do you decide between Deathfire Grasp and Morello's Evil Tome?" you ask? I've got a graph below comparing the two and explaining how to choose. You ask "What about Shurelya's Reverie or Spirit Visage?" I've made a couple notes about those below as well.
5b) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
If you answered "yes" to (B) and went with Glacial Shroud...
...that means you really aren't against AP champions (rare, very rare I emphasize), so you won't benefit from Athene's Unholy Grail's effects. It also means that you have some cooldown reduction. You need some ability power. You will benefit most from Rod of Ages. After that, get those level 2 boots. From there, you'll want to go either for Deathfire Grasp, Morello's Evil Tome, or finish your Frozen Heart.
5c) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
If you find yourself looking at 5c, you probably started with Rod of Ages (as indeed you will most games). You already bought the codex and boots per heading (4) so you at least have some cooldowns. Your options are much more wide open now which is nice but also challenging when it comes to deciding what to buy. It'd be nice to have one other cooldown reduction item besides your boots but you don't necessarily need it immediately. Take a look at the scores and builds of enemies.
For fed mages, I'd go to Athene's Unholy Grail next. This is generally a fantastic item on Karma for reasons you understand by now. Then go for another cooldown reduction item of choice ( Deathfire Grasp, Morello's Evil Tome).
Whew!!!! Ok, stop. Take a deep breath. I know this is a lot of info but look! Now you've got at least Doran's ring, two big items, and level 2 boots. We're a LONG ways into the game. If you die this late in the game, you're getting a nice 30 seconds to make up your mind about what to buy so there's no rush... ;)
Again, the emphasis of all of this is that you build for the situation you are in. Let's say your team has firmly taken control and has taken out two inhibitors and you're all about to go in and finish mopping everything up. Just spend all your gold on AP items. You've got no reason to save anything at this point, right?
If not, let's put our thinking caps back on and focus on what our team needs most. Now, I cannot possibly give you "what ifs" for every situation you could be in at this point. This is FAR into the game and the possibilities are endless... All I can do is encourage you look at what everyone else has built, see who is fed and who isn't, and make decisions about what will best benefit your team based on that. I'll give you a few general tips, tricks, and hints... and then I'll show you two extreme situations in two opposite directions (Tanking as Karma and AP Carrying as Karma) to give you an idea of the wide range of potential directions your build could take depending on the situation you find yourself in.
Now... let's say you're in a situation where you're thinking, "Yeah but THE TEAM really need this other thing right now more." Right, buy that instead. That's building situationally. Heck, you might have noticed that as early as finishing your first item and drastically departed from your original direction in your build.
By the way, don't be afraid to ask your allies what they need or what they think the team needs or what you should build. Some people are afraid they will look "noobish" if they ask. Firstly, there's nothing wrong with not knowing something or being new, but secondly consulting your team mates about what the team needs is a sign of SKILL in this game. You're foolish not to do it.
As you obviously know from just glancing at her stats, Karma benefits well from ability power & magic penetration, general defensive goodies, and auras that help her team mates. Obviously if it has "attack damage" or "attack speed" in the description, it's out (except Lich Bane as mentioned in 502 for special circumstances only). Other than that, pick whichever of these three categories you think your TEAM will benefit most from you having and go with it. You'll get a taste for some of my favorites below.
Read through a couple of the really weird build situations to jog some of your thoughts about how to finish out your build or just building situationally in general. These are descriptions of more radical situations but you can easily read these and see how my mind works and how I approach playing Karma in different situations.
Special Build Situations
Karma is designed to be a critical part of a complete team composition. That said, sometimes things go awry. Sometimes a player lags out, sometimes they disconnect, sometimes they have to go and just leave, sometimes a team member TELLS YOU they are going to get a snack or go to the bathroom and be right back but you don't read the chat box and start the game without them and his character gets chosen automatically... grr. Anyway, sometimes you are laning with a carry and you end up accidentally getting several of their kills early on. Sometimes other players fall flat on their faces. When this happens, it's time to adapt to the situation. Because Karma naturally has both high health and high ability power and her first item is usually Rod of Ages, she can adapt to a tanking or AP carrying role more easily than most characters.
Semi-Tanking as Karma
This will definitely not work at really high levels of play, but unless you play enough your whole life is about league of legends, this adaptation is very much worth mentioning. Karma can make the adaptation to tanking very easily. Rod of Ages, Banshee's Veil, Frozen Heart, Force of Nature, and Aegis of the Legion round out a very armored and very magic resistant build. You're no Rammus by any means but... sometimes it'll do. Only do this in situations where other players are not better endowed for the task whether because they have been gold-starved or they are unwilling to or for some other reason. Very importantly - communicate to your team mates that you are tanking and they should let you be targeted first. People generally do not expect this from a Karma.
This image illustrates a logical situation for tanking with Karma. M4g0t and I were laning together and we went 9 and 1 in our lane. I kept getting the *unlucky* last hit on his kills and over-farming the minions (I played terribly and was rewarded for it). Teemo on bottom fed VERY hard, getting 11 deaths before managing to steal his first kill from M4g0t. M4g0t ended up gold-starved (oops) while their Olaf got fat and full on teemo kills. I adapted by adding Frozen Heart to rod and veil and we gained traction in our next team fight. I then added thornmail and we gained a LOT of traction when olaf targeted me. Adding Aegis, I was able to withstand full-on attention from their entire team for very prolonged periods that would normally give any team all the opportunity it needed to mop up the kills. Had our Jarvan IV not then skipped out on two team battles, the tanking adaptation would have saved the game. What's important to note about this situation is not the loss, but the fact that building as tank was the correct decision and would have saved the match.
Just remember: it's OK to walk away from a lost game feeling really proud of how you did. I had a streak of 6, made myself the tank, absorbed 52,700 damage, healing 21,000 damage, and I made the best decisions for the team. Just remember: it's not about how well you play as an individual AND it's not about how well the team does; it's about how well you play as a team mate.
Oh, and of course, here's a crushing win with "tank Karma." What... you thought I wouldn't deliver? Rammus disconnected before minions spawned, 4 vs. 5 all game. Stepped up to the plate... Hard.
While we're on the subject of tanking, it makes sense to talk about Shurelya's Reverie and Spirit Visage. Shurelya's ReverieShurelya's is another legendary item, another whopping massive amount of gold. The cooldown reduction is nice... but again, I would not add Reverie if you already have another source of cooldown reduction like Frozen Heart because you won't benefit much from the extra cooldown reduction past 30%. You also really don't need the health regen; you are a healer and shielder. You don't really need the mana regeneration either. Also, you already have something that boosts team mates' speed and that is spirit bond. In that light, this is a huge waste for Karma in 99.8% of matches. The one exception that comes to mind is if you are tanking or semi-tanking against a team of all mages so the armor of Frozen Heart won't benefit you. This situation is insanely rare though... and in that situation you already have Rod of Ages and Athene's Unholy Grail and maybe even Banshees Veil, so you still don't need the mana. Spirit Visage is a a cheap build, it shouldn't be Legendary Tier. I guess if you were in a hurry for some CDR as a tank against all mages under desperate circumstances it might make sense... but the MR and health it grants is just not enough to warrant using up an item slot with it... and frankly, for cooldown reduction, I'd probably still choose Morello's or Deathfire Grasp over either of these because I'd prefer the extra ability power to the tiny amount of health or magic resist offered by Shurelya's Reverie or Spirit Visage.
AP Carrying as Karma
15 Minutes in. You just bought Rod of Ages. You have 5 kills, 1 death. Everyone else on your team has maybe 1 or 2 kills and maybe 2 or 3 deaths. Don't be fooled... Karma can be very powerful and... when no one else is clearly stepping up to the plate... you might be called. Alternatively, if you aren't sure, just going for grail is a safe option.
Here's a little secret: Fed Karma is seriously an amazing thing. I used to say, "Don't tell Riot," but when the guide shot to #1, the secret more or less got let out of the bag! Give her a little ability power and she does horrific amounts of AoE damage in team fights. I used to have to put so many disclaimers on "AP Carry Karma"... but again, here we are a year and a half after the guide was originally published and people have actually really latched onto the concept. Hehe, what can you do? Playing Karmas a carry is now fairly normal. That said, I promised you weird so here it is:
Yes, that's right. Battle of the supports. 4 healers... and twisted fate... Sum, Hata, Blackcraft, and I were trying to be silly with the composition (Hatazzb had long joked about a team of all healers), it was a pre-made of 4, and twisted fate was the random 5th guy. He spent most of it soloing and jungling. You can see from adding up the assists though that this was basically a battle of healers squaring off against a pretty standard team composition. I suspected from the outset that if we were to have any chance of winning, Blackcraft would need to get fed so he could tank successfully and I would need to get fed so that I could AP carry. Janna and Soraka are obviously not carries and twisted fate couldn't be assumed to be good since he was a gift of the matching system and not in our skype call. The third morde kill sealed the deal for me and I went all AP. After Rabadon's, I chose Abyssal because Anivia had been well-fed and was causing considerable damage and I needed the MR of abyssal ( Grail did not yet exist), not the extra penetration of Void Staff. You can see it didn't go on quite long enough but my next item was going to be Lich Bane (and this is the one time when it does make sense to buy Lich Bane as Karma). With my runes, I finished at almost 500 AP... and this wasn't that long of a game. I had a killing streak of 13, which stands as my record killing streak with Karma. My sprees don't always go dub-digits... but when they do... check 'em! The one death I had was incurred in their base while we were finishing them off and I'm still not sure exactly who killed me or how... I just kinda spaced out because we were all laughing on skype with disbelief that we were actually going to come out of it with a win.
So yes... Karma CAN carry... I used to have to attach so many disclaimers to this and talk about how it should be done rarely because you are a support and bla bla bla. Now people post guides about carrying as her and I actually get people who drop by and downvote because I don't have [/i]ENOUGH[/i] info about carrying as Karma on here! Irony of ironies! The consequences of >>> 1 and a half years at #1 <<< This guide has just changed the way people see and play her. It also illustrates, for me, the simple reality that it is impossible for you to ever make every person happy.
Since we're talking about building Karma AP, it makes sense to talk about how to choose between Morello's Evil Tome and Deathfire Grasp. I discuss this decision in the 502 section. I'll just say here and now though that I prefer Deathfire Grasp. It no longer comes with CDR, so do remember that you'll need to make up for that somewhere else, possibly with [greater glyph of celerity]runes or shoes.
These items both have unique actives, though, so either will force you to get a little bit better at the game. To utilize a "unique active," by default, you push the number of the item slot that the item is in. So, if DFG is in slot five, you'd push button five to cast it.
Here's an example of Deathfire Grasp in action. I got fed early and decided to go full AP. Right decision all the way. I was able to feed Cait some kills in the mid game and my shields became so overpowered that they couldn't farm any of our champs. I used to use this image as an example of "why you might choose" to build DFG, but with the popularization of Carry Karma, I no longer feel I need to go so out-of-my-way to make excuses for my play style. I am choosing to keep this image on here mainly because I'll reference it in the 502 section.
So to Summarize
In short, round out your build with whatever is best for the situation you are in... and you can see how diverse the potential situations are. You'll usually go with some balance of ability power and health. Karma starts with plenty of both and benefits best from a combination of complimentary items. No single build is going to suffice for every game. Period. Curious about another item or concept not mentioned here? Ask :) Remember, our entire emphasis is on building for the situation you are in, not memorizing a formula. Take lessons from everything you've seen me write here... and remember you won't always pick the right item. Learn from it, take that lesson, and use it for a crushing win next round. On the other hand, sometimes you'll go out on a wild limb and gamble and pick EXACTLY the right item (like my Fiendish Codex pick tonight)... in which case, use that for a crushing win THIS round. Remember, every item pick is important even down to the last pick of the game. Always be learning, always be thinking... every build item is important... be thinking carefully down to the very last one.
Archangel's Staff/ Tear of the Goddess - You will occasionally run out of mana with Karma, especially in the early game, and it's tempting to think "I need a boost." Archangel's Staff just gives Karma more mana than she needs and doesn't help her very much. Building it in the later game, on the surface, seems like it might be good as a source of ability power for AP Karma. It isn't. Don't build it. Sure, Archangel's Staff converts a low percentage of your maximum mana into AP, but let's take a look at how much that really adds up to. Let's say that you were in a desperate situation and built semi-tank Karma: with your base mana and the mana from Banshee's Veil, Rod of Ages, and Frozen Heart combined you're looking at getting about 174.6AP out of Archangel's Staff when it reaches its own maximum mana bonus... That said,
Rabadon's Deathcap is still better. So, even under the most favorable circumstances we can pick out, it still makes no sense to build Archangel's Staff. With the infusion of Athene's Unholy Grail into the game, you really should not be feeling that mana-starved anyhow.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter - On the surface, it seems like this would compliment Karma very well. Like Rod of Ages, it has tons of health and ability power - two things that you really want as Karma. But... you'd never build this as a first major item because it lacks an engine for your mana. It also lacks cooldown reduction so it probably wouldn't be a second major build item either. It seems like a viable option for Karma in the late game... until you notice that Rod of Ages is 70 gold cheaper while the bonuses for it actually cap HIGHER and with a bonus mana supply. That leaves Rylai's with the slowing effect... and you have a spirit bond to slow down enemies already.
So... there are two views on this... one is that you can get it in addition to Rod of Ages and have a bonus slowing effect for your spirit bond... the other is that Rod of Ages is cheaper and you really don't need that extra slowing effect. I tend to lean in that latter direction. It makes no sense as an early item and after that it just seems very expensive for marginal extra benefit. This might be off-topic but I have the exact same response when I see people buy this for Kassadin. They already have a slow and silence... wouldn't they rather spend less money to have have more health, the extra mana from rod of ages and all the extra ability power from the bonus of rod of ages combined with the percentage of its mana being turned into ability power by their archangel's staff? It just seems like a no-brainer when you think about it.
Zhonya's Hourglass - Is a very viable build option for Karma. It's got armor, it's got AP, what's not to be liked? In situations where you need serious armor, Frozen Heart can be more beneficial for your team because of the aura (-20% attack speed to nearby enemies) and better for you because of the cooldown reduction... and you can pursue your ability power with another team-benefiting aura item like Abyssal Scepter. However, Frozen Heart is generally considered a tank item and there are plenty of circumstances where Zhonya's Hourglass absolutely makes more sense. Let's say you've already got the cooldown reduction you need. Well, the cooldown reduction of frozen heart is now worthless to you (because it would put you over 40% CDR) so if you find yourself needing an armor item, Zhonya's makes a lot of sense because it also helps with your AP. Maybe you find yourself going semi-tank and you want an armor item but also some ability power... Maybe it's your 6th item slot and you find yourself thinking "I want armor and ability power and this is the only way to get both." There are many reasons why you'd build this. You would never want to pick this any earlier than 3rd major build item though... remember, there's no mana engine, there's no cooldown reduction, and if you can get what you need with a combo that offers your team some auras in the process, it's worth considering. Here's the thing about Zhonya's that precludes me from putting it in the build 100% of the time: because of the way she plays and functions, I do not often find myself saying "Man, I would have lived there if only I'd had Zhonya's stasis ( Hourglass' active)." Mainly when I find myself in said situations, it is when I am playing to carry. I really like this on AP carry Karma. If you need Zhonya's as a support, you are probably still going to die. I think you'll probably see why when you get to the gameplay section of the guide. Karma often needs magic resist more than armor. I alternate between recommending this item and recommending Abyssal Scepter.
Karma has a constant (non-climbing) base stat of only 30 magic resist while her armor base stat climbs with her levels, peaking at 78. So... a Karma with only Frozen Heart has more armor (almost 200) than a Karma with a Banshee's Veil and Abyssal Scepter combined has magic resist.
Here's the logical situation to build Zhonya's Hourglass. I started off with Rod of Ages because I wasn't sure what direction the battle would take. Dr. Mundo then got disconnected for the first 20 minutes and through some lane swapping I ended up against Urgot in the middle and managed to keep him starved while getting myself fed through minion farming. The early gold and XP advantage yielded me some kills and I began building AP Carry Karma. The enemy AD characters then started to gain traction and focus me... hard... "But, Abyssal Scepter's aura could have really helped out your Karthus!" you say. I did notice Hatazzb pwning face, but check the builds again. Notice anything? That's right: the enemy team built no magic resist. Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb! Also, Hatazzb had Sorcerer's Shoes already. Abyssal Scepter might have taken their magic resist into the red for Hatazzb, but its benefits were simply outweighed by those of Zhonya's Hourglass in these particular circumstances. Had I actually remembered to use Zhonya's Hourglass's active when it was up, that 4 deaths would have been a 2 and the enemy would have been shorted 1500 gold or so. If you're curious, Rabadon's and Lich Bane were the final 2 items I would have built had this gone on long enough. By the way, you don't even want to know the kind of damage I was doing to that Warmog's Armor-and-no-magic-resist- Rammus with Deathfire Grasp's active.
Sorry, I know I'm going on about this item a LOT! I have one last note: do keep in mind that if you have this item in the same build as DFG, you now have two unique active items for Karma who already has some of the more difficult key combinations in the game. This is a high skill threshold situation. It's worth considering.
Quicksilver Sash - I nearly pulled any reference to this out of the guide, because if you are taking Zhonya's Hourglass, this item seems too redundant, and also an extra hotkey to keep track of. User and guide contributor Windkeeper007 points out, astutely, that with season 3's changes, a Karma building more as a pure support might find benefit in this item on occasion.
This all just further illustrates just how much Athene's Unholy Grail is a dream item for Karma. It has magic resist she almost always needs, ability power she strongly benefits from, and cooldown reduction. It also illustrates why Frozen Heart is such a great item all-around. Frozen heart combined with your base states puts you at almost 200 armor which is plenty, it gives you cooldown reduction if you need it, and it also has a nice aura for your team mates.
Ninja Tabi No. If you are facing heavy AD champions, Frozen Heart or Zhonya's Hourglass are much better choices. I've never built Ninja Tabi for Karma and never will.
Sorcerer's Shoes Sure. These are in vogue for casters now and are cheaper than Mercury's Treads. Both are vetted as viable. Mercs are a bit more conservative which is why they are my standard recommendation. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend beginning with Sorcerer's Shoes if it works better financially for you, then swapping them for Mercury's Treads in the late game.
Ionian Boots of Lucidity If you did not go with CDR glyphs and you are planning to choose Deathfire Grasp over Morello's Evil Tome, then you will need some extra cooldown reduction from somewhere. Between even the most CDR rich masteries and Athene's Unholy Grail, you are only at 25%.
I am also very open to any input anyone else has on any of these items and their viability. This is a community, if you think I've underrated... or overrated an item, don't just vote my build down, give me your reasons and I'll try it and I'll give you feedback as well. I've played Karma more than all the other champs combined but maybe you approach things differently and have thought of an angle I haven't! Also, if you're curious about something not listed here, ask!
A Note on Aura Items
Do keep in mind that aura items like Abyssal Scepter, Frozen Heart, and Aegis of the Legion grant unique Auras. That means your team has very little benefit or no benefit from a second aura. For example, if you and I both build Aegis of the Legion, you and I each benefit from each other's aura, but our nearby team mates do not benefit twice (once from each aura); they only benefit once. Consider this when making build choices. Pay attention to what others have already built. If one of your team mates asks, "Can someone build Will of the Ancients for me?" and two of you build it, he only benefits once, so do communicate. Know who's doing what. I can't emphasize more strongly that it's ok to ask things like, "What should I build?" Bad team mates build the same thing every match and call communicative team mates "noobs" for asking questions. Good team mates communicate and adapt to the situation.
Here's the updated quick-reference build flowchart. The chart does not include any explanations as to the reasons for anything. That is what the above discussion was for. It is greatly simplified for ease of use. I am including this chart as a quick reference because it has been repeatedly requested. DO NOT USE THE CHART BY ITSELF WITHOUT READING THE GUIDE AND EXPLANATIONS, THEN COME BACK AND DOWNVOTE BECAUSE IT DIDN'T GO WELL.
DO NOT USE THE CHART BY ITSELF WITHOUT READING THE GUIDE AND EXPLANATIONS, THEN COME BACK AND DOWNVOTE BECAUSE IT DIDN'T GO WELL.
Abilities (Base Stats)
I've split my discussion of abilities up into two separate sections. The first will simply outline the base stats for Karma's abilities and explain them. Then we will dive into discussion of how to use those abilities in the Gameplay (Use of Abilities) chapter.
We're going to talk about Mantra a lot... but here's its recharge times. Notice it just upgrades automatically when you hit levels 7 and 13. The recharge is affected by cooldown reduction so I'll refer to it throughout the guide as the cooldown of mantra.
So here it is! The math behind inner flame. It was achieved by playing without runes, masteries, or items and dividing my AP by my percentage of HP missing at each level.
If that's not clear, here's a visual of how the math was done.
The exact figures are verifiable by dying at a level and then (while you are dead) moving the decimal on your Ability Power left two columns... Of course, dying at every single level would have been much more work than just doing the math.
As you can see, Inner Flame goes up in steps as you go through the game. Specifically, the levels it goes up at are: 3, 6, 9, 12, and it tops out at level 15. Simple to remember: if the level you just reached is evenly divisible by 3, inner flame just became stronger. It also starts at 0.3 and goes up by 0.2 at each of these levels, also easy to remember.
The line graph gets messy with all the data points so this bar graph might illustrate it better...
At levels 1 and 2, you receive .3 ability power for every percentage of health you are missing, at levels 16 through 18 you receive 1.3 ability power for every percentage of health you are missing.
"Ok! Ok!" you say... "I get it! But I'm not a math person. What does this mean and how can I use this knowledge?" Simple. Drop the decimal, add a zero, and you have the total AP you'd get from inner flame if you were missing ALL your HP (dead)... like so...
So, thinking in these terms, if you are missing half your HP at level 2, you know you are getting half of 30AP from inner flame, so you have about 15AP.
If you are missing 3/4 of your health at level 17, you are getting 3/4 of 130AP from inner flame, so you have about 100AP from it. The exact number in this situation is 97.5, but the point is you can eyeball it... now notice... that is nothing to sneeze at. If you are at level 15 and you are at 3/8 of your health, you are getting 5/8 of 130AP so you're basically carrying around a free Needlessly Large Rod.
Same rule applies to the pink which is the potential additional Inner Flame bonus for Rabadon's Deathcap. If you are at level 15, have Rabadon's Deathcap, and are at 3/8 of your health, you are getting 5/8 of 130AP + 5/8 of 39AP (30% of 130AP) (5/8 of about 170AP) so you're carrying around a free 106AP. Not too shabby at all, huh?
So, to recap, you understand that your inner flame starts off with a maximum AP potential of 30 and that potential increases by 20 every time that you level up to a level evenly divisible by 3. The fraction of your health that is missing is the fraction of that maximum AP potential you are receiving.
Does this make sense? Let me know if there are questions.
Surprisingly, while being dead gives you the maximum AP bonus, experiments with trying to be dead as much as possible during matches did not go well. It simply makes casting very difficult and I don't recommend it as a strategy.
Here's the stats. Remember that AP stands for ability power. This is an attribute given you by Inner Flame as well as several of the build items we discussed above: Rod of Ages, Abyssal Scepter, Morello's Evil Tome, and most notably Rabadon's Deathcap. As you can see in the chart, you receive a flat .6 AP adjustment for the damage from your Heavenly Wave.
This means that if you have 100 Ability Power from your items, stats, etc. your heavenly wave will do an extra 60 damage because (100)(.6) = 60. Does that make sense?
If you understand that first, it will be much easier for you to understand how modifiers affect your heal. Your heal has 2 modifiers: your own ability power and the amount of health your ally is missing.
Let's again say that you have 100 ability power and your ally is missing 500HP (health). In addition to the base amount your mantra+wave does, it will also heal your ally [.05 + (.02)(100)](500). Where'd the .05 and .02 come from? Those are the modifiers that Riot picked. Where'd the 100 and 500 come from? That's: [.05 + (.02)(your 100AP)](your ally's missing 500HP) ... so when your ally is missing 500HP and you have 100AP, you will heal your buddy an extra 7% of 500 which is an extra 35.
It is very hard to make a general picture of what your abilities look like in a round for two reasons:
1. Karma's build has such diverse directions it can take that, depending upon the situation you find yourself in and build for, your ability power may end up anywhere between 100 and 600.
2. Your heal in particular has multiple modifiers.
3. One modifier I can't even represent is the the number of allies and enemies caught in your spells. If you are just healing or speeding 1 unit, you're still probably healing less than when all 4 of your allies are sitting in your cone. If you have 300AP and each of your allies is lacking 1200HP and 3 allies happen to get in your cone for a split second, you can do 800 healing with a single blast. So... if you've been reading this guide looking for a way to counter Karma... there you have it. Get her team mates separated. Ultimate anti-Karma's include Janna and Alistar. If you really want to wreck Karma's day, get her separated from her AD carry so she can't even shield him. Ok, no more hints for you playing against me. What am I even thinking saying so much?
Anyway, I know it's hard to paint a general picture of what your spells, in particular your heavenly wave, might look like... but here's me trying. I've used very modest AP estimates (a carrying Karma might have closer to 500 AP than 350 AP with a truly full build) and moderate to high estimates for your ally's missing HP.
For the sake of discussing Spirit Bond I will be using the term "anchors." This refers to yourself and the other unit you attach Spirit Bond to.
The duration of Spirit Bond is 5 seconds at all levels. This means that at 40% CDR at full level, it is ready to use again only 1 second after it expires (assuming it hasn't been broken earlier by the anchors moving too far apart). Essentially you'll have a continuous 20% speed bonus at the end of the game (because you'll always be with team mates to anchor Spirit Bond to and may as well be using it whenever it comes off of cooldown.
The movement speed modifier affects all units that spirit bond touches as well, positively for allies, negatively for enemies.
The damage it deals does not affect the unit you anchor it to, only units that touch it once you've activated it. If a unit touches it twice on the same cast, they do not receive a double speed modifier or double damage.
Using Mantra on Spirit Bond does not alter the damage dealt by it, it doubles the effects of the speed modifier. We won't talk about mantra+spirit bond much since you'll be using your Mantras on Heavenly Wave and Soul Shield far more often than on Spirit Bond, but don't forget that you can do this. At full upgrade, that's a 40% speed modifier which is nothing to sneeze at.
Here's a chart of some damage estimates for Spirit Bond. Reasons 1 and 3 that made Heavenly Wave's effects difficult to represent up above still apply here. The effectiveness of your skills is proportional to how many units you can affect with them and the ability power in your build at various times throughout the game may change drastically depending upon the conditions of the specific match.
The cooldown is 10 seconds at all levels and the shield lasts 5 seconds. The amount of AoE damage dealt to each affected unit by mantra+soul shield is the same as the amount of damage the shield can absorb for the unit it is cast on; this is why I only put one power column in that table. If the shield is 240 strong, using mantra+shield on a unit will deal 240 damage to adjacent units.
Ok, so the same things apply to this example chart that applied to the last two. Not to be repetitive but the effectiveness of this skill as well is proportional to how many units you can affect with it and the ability power in your build at various times throughout the game (as well as the times in the game you choose to unlock certain abilities) may change drastically depending upon the conditions of the specific match.
This final figure is a static damage comparison for Karma's skills. Lest I really need to point it out, this obviously is not intended to be representative of the damage these skills will actually be yielding at these levels consistently or, in the case of spirit bond, ever really since you won't really be leveling your abilities all up together... and, as with the previous graphics, the amount of AP you have at various times may be greater or lesser than the static amounts I'm using for the sake of illustration here, etc. This graphic is intended to be used only as a general comparison of the damage potentials of these skills.
As you can more or less see, the damage of your abilities is actually pretty similar across all 3. You'll notice the base damage stat for Heavenly Wave is the smallest, as is its AP modifier (.6), though it's also the easiest to aim and actually use.
Your highest base damage stat comes surprisingly from Spirit Bond which has the middle AP modifier (.7) - it's also the hardest to aim and actually use.
Your middle base damage stat comes from Soul Shield along with your highest AP modifier (.8)
An AP-heavy Karma will do more damage per-hit with Soul Shield, an AP-light Karma will do more damage per-hit with Spirit Bond, but realistically every Karma will do the most damage with Heavenly Wave because it is easiest to use. In the end, all the skills do lots of damage when used effectively, all can save lives when used effectively, and all must be used effectively if you want to give your team the best chance of a victory... so that's what we'll be talking about next in the gameplay section: how to use these abilities!
Gameplay (Use of Abilities)
For information about Dominion-specific gameplay, many users find Pigsy's guide to be helpful!
If you've made it this far in the build, you've obviously at least tried out Karma once and understand the basics of her functions. Because Mantra is available at level 1 without costing a point and is combined with her other skills to make "super skills" as it were, it is impossible to talk about just one of Karma's skills at a time. So, instead of breaking up the discussion by SKILLS, I am breaking it up by stages of the game. As far as what order to pick skills in, as with everything in this guide, I must emphasize the importance of choosing "situationally." Unlock Heavenly Wave first, Soul Shield second, and Spirit Bond thereafter.
More advanced players will find only some of the concepts described in this section edifying. Specifically, those things would be cast orders and how to do specific things like assassinate with Flash. However, I have kept things very general so that readers of any elo will be able to glean a lot from it. I discuss game basics a lot and go into some intermediate concepts like last-hitting and controlling the lane.
Much of the juicy stuff for high elo players is in the 501 and 502 sections.
It's now in vogue to *swallow* go mid with Karma and aim to carry. It feels very weird for me to write this because, in 2012, when Duskmelt and I started first playing around with intentionally carrying with her, I ended up taking criticism for it. "Karma is a support! Stop telling people bad info!" Oh, the times they change. Now I get criticized for not talking up her carry properties ENOUGH. Here we are though.
If you choose to lane with a buddy, be very smart about choosing your laning partner. As I mentioned previously, no other character in the game can bait like Karma. A bad laning partner is one who can't capitalize on that. Soraka is an obvious example of a bad laning partner.
It is very difficult to kill [a skilled] Karma in ANY stage of the game. When laning, in general you want to have 1 Mantra charge available for escapes. If Pantheon (or whoever) jumps at you, you can self-shield, Mantra+wave (for the heal), and hit your summoner spell Heal if necessary. You can also Flash away if things get hairy after that.
One thing you should know before we go any further: when things are happening quickly, it is all to easy to accidentally shield a nearby minion or ally who doesn't need it, so instead of hitting "E" and clicking on yourself you should use the hotkey for "self-shield." By default, I believe this is ALT+E. That's too slow, so you will need to change it to A, S, or T, whatever seems fastest for you. Mine is T. You can do this in game. Be careful not to hit ESC to exit out of the menu after making this change or your hotkey will become ESC. Practice using only that key for self-shielding. It takes some getting used to for your fingers to know to reach for it, you will probably die a few times fumbling for the right key, but it is worth it to make this adjustment.
At this point, you're beginning to see how easy it would be to bait as Karma in the laning stage. If having all those things doesn't make you hard enough to kill, remember that Karma's passive Inner Flame is an ability power bonus corresponding to her missing health. That means if you have only one bar of health left, your shield and heal are going to be THAT much stronger.
Down to only 1 bar of health? Got your summoner Heal or Ignite and at least one Mantra ready? Is a competent ally or turret nearby? Don't recall. Don't heal either. This is opportunity knocking at the door. You, a cute little Karma in distress, are just too tempting for an enemy champion to pass up. She looks squishy. She looks stupid for not immediately running back to recall. They WILL pounce. If they seem hesitant, make them an offer they can't refuse by pretending to recall (next to your turret or behind your ally if possible). Have your finger ready on your self-cast shield button. When you see them target you... it's time. Hit your shield, THEN mantra+wave. You need to hit your shield first for two reasons. Reason number one is that it's only one key and your reaction time will be faster than R+Q+mouseclick. Reason number two I mentioned above: your passive Inner Flame gives you an ability power bonus corresponding to your missing health. The shield will be more powerful if you use it before you use either of your heals. If you have BOTH your Mantras, then it's not even fair. Before they target you, hit R to have one Mantra queued up and again have your finger on the self-cast shield key. When they pounce, same deal as before. Shield, then mantra+wave for the heal. Between the AoE (Area of Effect) damage from your shield (which is much higher than most people think it is) and the damage from your wave, you and your ally might just score 2 kills at once.
Again, be smart. Do not attempt to bait characters like Morgana or Kassadin unless your summoner Heal is ready and you are with a laning partner and you really trust your laning partner. Even then, use caution. Your shield may absorb the DAMAGE, but it doesn't stop you from being put on lockdown or silenced (blocked from casting) which would inhibit your ability to use mantra+wave for the heal after your shield. Do not attempt to bait if mia is called in an adjacent lane.
Because baiting is such a sophisticated way to get kills, when laning mid, you shouldn't do it unless you know the enemy's jungler is nowhere nearby. With a partner, you shouldn't do it unless you know the person you are laning with and trust them. One of Karma's biggest advantages is the fact that few understand her. This is also one of her biggest weaknesses. If you don't know the person you're laning with, chances are they are unaware of Karma and her abilities and potentials. This person is more likely to run or get angry if they see you baiting the enemies. It's better and easier to adapt your play style to focus on just leveling OR change laning partners than it is to try to type this entire guide into the game chat window. Don't ever ASK a player, "Ok, Xin, do you know how Karma works?" They'll always say "yes." It doesn't mean ANYTHING. Lane with the buddy you know if at all possible. Laning with someone who understands her is itself as much of an advantage as laning against players who don't.
At high elo, generally you will go mid with Karma and aim to carry. At lower elo, when you play a match with unfamiliar team mates, use these as opportunities to learn how to play her as a carry. You'll find you have a lot of sustain and can easily dominate most champions in the mid. You have very little range so it's easy to feel intimidated against harassment from champions like Caitlyn and Kog'Maw. Don't be afraid. You can dominate these champions.
If you play conservatively, they will wear you down hard. If you play aggressively, they will mop you. You need to play confidently and wisely. Do not use mantra+shield and Heavenly Wave to clear minion waves. You want to use your auto attack to score the last hit on each minion so that you get the gold for killing each minion. It will take awhile to learn the timing of this. Work on it, it pays off. If you use your casts to clear the minions, you burn through mana and also push the lane forward. This is not to your advantage because it forces you to either stand back out of XP range or leave yourself vulnerable to ganking from the sides. You want to keep the minions balanced and slightly toward to your own side of the lane. If they get pushed into your tower, use your casts so that you can get the gold for killing them rather than letting your tower mop them up. Try to avoid letting things get that far, though. It's a huge waste of valuable mana which you could be using to harass.
Now let's talk about that 2nd Mantra charge. Feel free to use it as much as you want. When laning with a partner, be cognizant of minion positioning in the lane. If the minions are nearing your own turret and you must clear them for fear of the turret getting their precious gold, get your ally between you and the minions and Mantra your wave so that you and your ally are healed and you get some gold. Try to keep mana in reserve and use your skills to harass, last-hitting the minions with your auto attack and balancing their position in the lane to maximize the gold you and your buddy can get out of them while minimizing your vulnerability to ganks. Whether alone or laning with a buddy, your goal is simple: farm hard.
There are though several reasons to hold onto your 2nd Mantra charge in the laning stage. If mia is called in an adjacent lane, it doesn't hurt to sit on that 2nd charge for 10 or 15 seconds until all is clear. If your health is low and you want to bait, it doesn't hurt to hold onto it either. Another great reason to hold onto it is if you think you can use it to get a kill. We've talked a lot about shielding yourself so far, but keep in mind that MOST of your shielding throughout the game is going to be shielding of other players. Used properly, mantra+shield is actually a skill shot. Is an enemy with low health getting away? You can mantra+shield your pursuing ally or even just a nearby minion to give them a significant blast of AoE damage.
You can mop up a fleeing enemy champ by Flashing to them and immediately mantra+self-shielding and using wave. You also have summoner spell Heal or Ignite in case you need them. I've done my fair share of turret diving as Karma and had me some good clean kills. Hint: your "fair share" of turret diving is usually VERY little turret diving in the early game.
Remember what I said a second ago about using your shield before wave? Same applies to Flash assassinations with Karma. You Flash, mantra+shield, and THEN wave. If you mantra+wave before using your mantra+shield, you lower the power of your shield AND the AoE damage from it (for more info, see the graphs on Inner Flame in the charts section). You don't need two Mantras to assassinate of course... usually just one for the AoE of mantra+shield is good enough. However, your wave has greater range than the area of effect for your mantra+shield so you should still mantra+shield first when assassinating so that they do not run out of the range of it in that split second between the two casts. The assassination must be fast and executed flawlessly. My key combo is frtq. frtq. frtq. frtq. frtq. I'm fast with that because I've done it so many times. Practice before trying in a real battle. Be cognizant of your enemies. If your heal and ignite are on cooldown and your opponent has a stun, lockdown, silence, or Heal, you could be looking at a bad day.
Again, play smart, know what summoner skills your fleeing enemy has in their purse. I used to have to put a huge disclaimer here to "never forget that while a kill for yourself is nice, you are a support character first and foremost." Now that people finally accept carry Karma, I can much more freely tell you to just go for it.
Despite that she is great mid carry, Karma obviously plays an enormous support role when you make the decision to lane with a partner. Part of being a good team mate, especially when you are using a character with support capabilities, is knowing the difference between enabling a good player to carry your team and enabling a bad one to torpedo it. If you are repeatedly dying saving a bad player and they have the audacity to get angry at you for it, ignore their whining, request a lane change, and let them show how bad they really are without a carry/support babysitting them. Remember: your goal is wins and it is important to know the difference between dying for a player whose life is genuinely more valuable than yours and dying to enable an angry dude who is hurting your team. As we already discussed above, by playing in capacity as a support, you become very keenly aware of the skill levels of your team mates, much more than when you've played in a non-support role. Even if you play Karma to carry hard, you will have to make support-type decisions about who to save and who to let die; some of these will be split second decisions, some of them will be long-term decisions... and we'll dive into that as we explore the turn and pushing stages of the game.
The turn is when a team that is down 1 to 10 in the kill count can make a huge comeback. If they can lane hop and get some champion kills while your team is caught off balance and scrambling to catch up, they can make up for 10 minutes of bad laning with a couple good ganks. It could also be your team that seizes this chance to start a comeback. The deal isn't sealed in the turn stage and any team would be foolish to surrender at this point... but your goal is to get your team working together so you all go into the pushing stage of the game as formed up and fed and well-positioned as possible.
You probably didn't have to recall much as Karma in the laning stage of the game, and this is good because you have an expensive build. If you finish your first big ticket item by the turn of the game, good for you. You need your boots and Spirit Bond by now or you are really in trouble. You and other players are moving around more often, there are going to be chases, and you are naturally slow.
Be looking for opportunities to upset the balance of the game. When you recall to buy catalyst or rod, take a quick look at the other lanes and see if maybe there's an opportunity for your team to gank. Look for opponents with weak health whose summoner skills won't give them a clean getaway. Your leadership and well-communicated strategy can be what upsets the balance of the game. Following are 2 situations which illustrate the key to turning the game in your favor.
1. You plop a sight ward into the near Bushes. You spot their jungler coming into the bush to gank you. You ping for your own jungler, he gets into position, and you bait with your flash and shield at ready. Two kills. sight wards win games. These things are a cheap investment and are an early warning system against sneaky junglers.
2. Let's say the fellow you are against in the mid recalls. Beautiful. You slip away through the back woods for a stroll. They don't know if you've recalled. Their folks at the bottom can either sit back out of XP range or put themselves at risk. If they are not smart, you are about to get some kills. If they are smart, their vision wards will see you. If they are really smart, they have wards AND you are about to meet their jungler and have your face torn off.
Where am I going with this? Map awareness wins games. Prevent the bad situation from happening by constantly communicating. Set up your ganks carefully and have vision of what you are getting into.
Your team won't always be the initiators of ganking. If your lane gets jumped, you've read enough about Karma's abilities to know what to do. Fortunately, because you are Karma, your lane is probably more prepared for this scenario than any of the other lanes. Because you have support characteristics, remember that if another carry is on a kill streak, he may be worth more gold then you. He may also have stacks. If this is the case, his life is more valuable than yours; be ready to die for him. It sucks. Deal with it, it's for the team. Shield him, Healheal the both of you, and Spirit Bond him to whisk him away. You can ferry an allied champion out of death's jaws like nobody else in the game if you execute this correctly. If you both have a chance at survival, run with him. If you don't but he does, get between him and your enemies or try to drag your Spirit Bond across them to slow them down.
If your allied champ has half a health point left and you have most of your health, this is where you run, right? Still wrong; shield and Spirit Bond your champion. Maybe he's carrying a Heal, maybe he has Ghost (you should be keeping track of his summoner spells in case you didn't know), maybe he'll survive. You would be amazed at the sort of sticky situations Karma can get champions out of. Maybe he won't survive but between the damage he can put out before your shield and healing are absorbed AND the damage your turret puts out, your team is quite likely to get a kill in return, partly evening out the exchange. If he does die, and they turn to you, you have your Flash, you have your turret, your shield will be up again in just a second, and you probably also have allies on the way. You're in a very safe spot. Running away from a dying team mate is something you will rarely do as Karma. Remember: you are hard to kill and you are also dangerous.
Speaking of gold, if you want a little extra, you know you can self-mantra+shield and use wave to kill minion clusters, right? Ok, just making sure. Remember, don't do this while laning. In the turn of the game, if you pass a minion cluster while running to help allies, it's just nice to remember to pick up a handful of gold on the way.
The turn is the part of the game where you begin to learn who on your team is good and who on your team is bad. "Wait... didn't we learn that in the laning stage?" No. Unless you are very experienced and have very high map awareness, you were probably mostly focusing on your own lane. Maybe your team's Ram died 3 times because his laning partner sucked. Maybe Tristana accidentally forgot to change her summoner spells in champion selection. Maybe you or someone else forgot to call some mias. The truth is: unless you've swapped lanes, you don't necessarily know too much at this stage about any of the other dudes you are with. Ok, obviously if your Katarina is stacking The Bloodthirsters, you know you have a problem. That said, the good players on your team are not the ones with the most kills. The good players on your team are the ones who will work together effectively with the group and communicate. The turn is where they have the chance to begin distinguishing themselves... Good players will get priority shielding. It's hard to distinguish the bad players. After you and a team mate die in a gank, look for the non-participating team mate nearby jungling completely obliviously or running away from the fight to go kill minions at a nearby turret. This is your bad team mate. Your game may hinge on finding a way of manipulating this team mate into participation. We'll talk about how to try and poke and prod in a second here.
Remember, being down 1 to 10 in the laning stage isn't a big deal. If you're down 1 to 10, a couple of the other team's players are on kill streaks which means if they die in a gank during the turn stage, someone on your team will get a huge gold bonus that evens things out. Now, of course that gold bonus isn't FAIR, it's not intended to be, it's intended to make the game more interesting. As carry Karma, you would like to be the one who gets that gold bonus. Don't make the mistake of getting over-aggressive though, or you'll feed. Don't get frustrated. Try to stay calm. You have to set this up correctly. If your bad team mates get the impression you are angry at them, they will ignore you and jungle and minion farm away as your team gets crushed. You have to be tactful. After all, if you don't get your team to work together for the push, the other team is going to steamroll you.
For more information on Corralling, please see the subsection near the end of this guide about the Elo Ratings system. If you are at high elo, you will not have to deal with this nearly so much as newer players do. In fact, you may skip this if you like.
Corraling is the key to winning matches at low elo. If you can corral the bad players on your team, you have a shot at victory. Fail at this and your only shot at victory is if the other team is worse than yours. The key to corralling is to first understand what makes a bad player and who bad players are. At this point, if you're not sure what makes a bad player or why bad players need to be corralled to have a winning team, you should read the section I wrote above about League of Legends basics. You need to know how to corral badly-performing team mates into a workable team. You already know what bad players do, so let's talk about WHO bad players are.
1. " Rammus... what are you doing?" "There were two minions down bot." "What are you, 8???" Actually, they might be. There's no lower age limit on this game. While the strategy of having a tank take aggro and deliver crowd control during a team fight may seem obvious to you or I, a 10-year-old gamer doesn't have the same mental facets you or I have. They aren't seeing the whole map. They are in a world of their own; what is happening with their character is generally all they are thinking about. This isn't to judge them; more power to 'em in fact. We need young gamers :) Little nerds grow up into bigger nerds like us and make the world go round and let's face it... we were all young gamers ourselves once.
2. "Screw the matching system, I give up, they are too fed, I have no gold, this sucks." A discouraged player is a sad thing indeed. As Karma, even when you fail to carry, you can often adapt to being valuable in a support capacity and still crank out a lot of damage to boot. When you go through a round with few kills, you can still see your 30 assists... and you can pan over to the bar graph and see how you healed more than anybody... and you have the gratification of knowing that even though the damage your shield absorbed isn't recorded, nor are the lives it saved when you cast it on ignited team mates, you DID propel your team forward to victory. You were essential to this win happening. But... a team mate who is on a very bad streak or just broke up with their girlfriend... understand that they are discouraged. They feel like they are being robbed, or they just are starved for gold, or are embarrassed and feel like they are letting the team down. They are likely to feel like the team is doomed, even if someone else is stepping up to the plate and the team is doing just fine. They feel that they have no role with the team, they will often give up, go back to jungling late in the game, or even ragequit.
3. "STOP STEALING MY KILLS... F***ING NOOB TEAM." We've all encountered him. That's the selfish player. He is by far the worst of the bad players to encounter. He seriously doesn't care about your team AT ALL so good luck corralling him. He wants personal kills, he likes the thrill of seeing his name pop up in the screen, and frankly doesn't give any concern over whether anyone else in the game has a good match or has fun... at all. Wins and losses do not matter to him at all. All that matters is kills. He may be a carry, and it may be possible that someone "stole" his kill. However, the fact that he is not handling it appropriately is more than apparent.
Here's why it's up to you to corral these players and get them to work together: nobody else will. If you are playing in a support capacity, you clearly have no ulterior motives. If you are carrying this round, you might still have some leverage with a team mate from having saved his life with a well-placed shield. Corralling is NOT fun to do. It is arduous and frustrating and doesn't always work... but here's the thing... you HAVE to if you want a win.
Just remember: "you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." If you've never heard this phrase before, it means pretty much what it looks like. People are more likely to do what you want them to do when you are nice to them than if you sound angry. Now... being nice to a bad player is very challenging especially after you or your whole team have just died while they ran off obliviously into the jungle... and I'll be the first to say I've lost my cool with terrible team mates... but if you want to win, this is very important. Now you'll notice I started all 3 of those descriptions with quotations. This is because the text box is your best clue as to which of the three aforementioned types you are stuck with.
For type 1, first offense, try to spell things out in excessive detail. Maybe no one has ever slowed down and taken the time to explain to this player how games are won. "Pantheon? Can you try to work with the team? Their whole team is together we need you to be with us or we are outgunned?"
For types 1 AND 2, try appealing to vanity OR power-hunger.
" Kennen, your storm is the most powerful nuke we have. We need it in our team battles. We can't do it without you. Please help us?"
" Kass, we need your silence to shut down Fiddle's crowstorm. Can you please stay with the team?"
" Akali, we will set you up for lots of kills if you stay with us. We need you to finish them and carry us forward."
"Ok guys, if you stay near me I decrease enemy MR by 20%. If you guys stay near me, you will steamroll"
For type 2, console your down-and-out champ. He will listen... especially if he's your friend... and it's the right thing to do. Remember, carries feel pressure to get kills and not die and when they know they aren't delivering to their full potential it is easy for them to become blind to the other things that are going on in the game. Remind them they aren't alone. "It's ok man... you're a good Kass, we all know it. You're not having your best game, but that's fine, you won't carry every single game. Nonsense_King and M4g0t are fed. We can still win this. We just need your help. Don't worry about the gold, we need your silence."
If you don't know what type you are dealing with and you type any of these things and are met with cursing or *worse* the player completely ignores the text box and all beacons... you are probably dealing with a type 3. Congratulations: the match just became 4 on 5. Play as if this player has disconnected (they basically have) and advise your team mates to do the same. Don't waste any heals or shielding on them, don't go to help them if the enemy team goes for them. Going to their aid will just get your whole team killed. If you DO see the enemy team go after them, don't beacon or do anything to let them know. Don't do anything that would distract your team from its current task or inadvertently send the message to a team mate that protecting this type 3 is in any way important. Their senseless death might buy your team the chance to jump a wayward enemy or take out a turret. Sometimes teams will actually attempt to use a type 3 as bait to scatter an enemy team by announcing to the opposite team this player's position jungling. Unless you're skyped up with your team mates though, this generally is not a great tactic. The level of communication required to use a rogue type 3 as bait simply rules out the text space as a worthy venue for it. Mostly, I think players announce the location of type-3 team torpedo-ers out of spite. Having a type 3 on your team is no fun... but think of how satisfying it would be to win anyway! The 4 on 5 game is going to be tough, but that's simply the hand you have been dealt. It's doable... but like I said, you'll need to be on your A game and you'll need the other team to play badly. A game comes to mind where Cesimar lost his connection and our random-match Katarina jungled endlessly. Nonsense_King as Amumu, a random-match Tryndamere, and I as Karma actually took on the other team 3 on 5. All 3 of us connected with our A games and the opposite team kept getting scattered and disoriented and things just fell into place.
If you can corral your team successfully and if your team has characters that are good for the long-haul, you as Karma have a very good chance of propelling your team to the final victory with heals and shielding... in the push.
Time for team fights. This section I'm going to keep fairly general. Until you've become fairly experienced in the game, this information will suffice for you. The 501 section later in the guide has more expansive information about using Karma in a supportive role. The 502 section has information about nuking as a carry. These are much more precise tactics than those I'm going to list here. These are some basic things useful for non-hardcore players.
You know the basics of course, your goal is to keep your team coordinated so that you can catch their team off balance and then destroy their turrets. You also know that you maximize the use of your mantras by having as many enemies near an ally you mantra+shield as possible or as many allies AND enemies in your mantra+wave as possible. With that in mind, the key to pushing as karma is to use your Mantras judiciously. Don't Mantra+ spirit-bond in a team fight.
Your auto-attack is entirely worthless. At this point in the game you should pretend it doesn't exist* and, rather than firing it, focus on moving around and positioning yourself appropriately to maximize your casts at all times.
*Unless you are AP carry karma with Lich Bane (rare, talked about below)
Don't waste Mantras while teams are facing off. Wait for the real fight. When teams are facing off, use your Spirit Bond to harrass. Bonded enemies will often retreat to try to break the bond. Spirit Bond tanks and move laterally to try to get their squishies out front or drag the spirit bond over them as the bonded unit runs.
If there is a dogpile, this is your time to shine. Spirit Bond an enemy on the opposite side of the dogpile to damage enemies inside of it. Move slightly sideways but also closer to the dogpile (tangentially if that word works for you) to drag your Spirit Bond across the group... and when you are positioned right, Mantra+wave the dogpile. Hold onto your other mantra and shield the ally most in need of shielding. Your fully built Rammus may be getting targeted hardest, but remember you WANT them targeting him. You don't want them to see white squares and shift their target to your squishier carry. Sure, shield Rammus if he's genuinely in trouble (under those circumstances, they'll only want him all the more anyway) but if your Xin is also taking some splash damage in the mayhem, he's the more appropriate shield. Similarly, if you are the one carrying, don't hesitate to shield yourself.
While your Mantras are on cooldown or while you're still waiting for the just-right moment to use them, be shielding and Spirit Bonding like crazy and moving yourself around to find the best positions to use your wave. Watch the green bars go down and move toward the lower ones. Shield and Spirit Bond these weaker allies to escort them out. See an ally running away from the battle Ignited? Remember: our goal is to keep the enemy team from getting gold. He won't be able to come back and use his firepower in the fight, but you should still use a shield on him to keep the enemies from getting a kill. If you're on skype and he ran past you and is still running, tell him to stop running so you can shield him. Or, after the team fight is over be sure to type something friendly like, "Don't run from the Karma :) I can absorb ignite next time with shield."
If the battle is more spread-out, it may be less clear when it is most advantageous for you to use your mantras. Let's say you and your team mates are closing in on mid from the top and bottom while one team mate in the mid has just been set upon by 3 or 4 enemies. You've got a donut of enemies and right in the middle is your buddy. You want to use your wave, yes, but if you mantra+wave and shield, you will prevent less damage to your ally and damage your enemies less than if you wave and mantra+shield. Spirit Bond your ally to help him get off to the side as your enemies come in to mop things up.
Rewind. Your allies aren't coming in at all. It's just you running straight down the mid to pull your buddy out of this brutal gank. Use it all, spare nothing. mantra+shield, mantra+wave, and Spirit Bond your ally. As he runs out, get between the enemies and him. Absorb some damage yourself and then flash out over the trees. You have a kit that is cut for daring ventures like this. Few champions do.
The game has gone on 70 minutes, everyone's pretty much fully built, you maybe have one slot empty since you have an expensive build... wat do? Just keep in mind, team cohesiveness is the entire key at this point. The first team that lands a good full-on gank of the other team wins the entire game. If you all die, you're gone for a full minute. There goes two if not three inhibitors. As I mentioned earlier, make your final build decision wisely and focus on communicating with your team the importance of staying together. Wait for the right second to use your Mantras. Don't jump the gun and do not all sacrifice yourselves to bring down an enemy turret.
Jungling as Karma
I'm not a big fan of doing this. Going mid as a carry is best, sharing a lane is passable, but there are just much better junglers than Karma and, if you choose to jungle, you end up stuck with the Smite summoner spell all game which is just such a waste on her. Put simply: Karma is one of the best laners in the game and jungling completely wastes that strength.
If you're interested in Jungling as karma, you should watch this video which is not mine. Like I said, you'll need Smite to make it work successfully.
Lag. It's a real part of the game, not just an excuse to type into the chat window when you die doing something stupid. And if you've played League of Legends for any decent period of time you're aware that lag is a BIG part of the game. It decides many fightes, team fights, and games. With 10 players in each match, a conservative estimate would be that lag plays a decisive role in at VERY LEAST a quarter of games. Maybe you're that lucky guy that never gets lag. Good for you. Someone else on your team might still get a lot of lag. Pay special attention to this player, keep your shield ready for them. See them standing still, not using any casts, and auto-attacking? They might be disconnected. If you can do so safely, get in front of them to inhibit enemies from attacking them so that when they "officially" disconnect they will have time for the game to recall them without giving up a free kill. Honorable opponents won't take advantage of a disconnect but... well... you know. If you are playing as Karma and YOU are experiencing lag that cant be fixed, let's talk about how that changes things.
1 second of lag
If you are playing to carry, 1 second of lag means you can't flash assassinate. Most other things are still on the table, especially since Karma is fairly sustainable with her heals and shielding.
Inform the other players of the situation. Play as normal, but be slightly on the conservative side, especially when your summoner spells are on cooldown or your mana is low. Your shield and healing, plus the fact that speed is not essential to your success make you fairly lag-resistant. Make sure that when you are lagging you unlock a point in Spirit Bond early. Be sure to inform other players if your lag goes away. Remind them that it is there periodically, not to be a whiner, but just so they don't get overly-aggressive. The lag is probably going to cost you both kills and deaths. That's part of the game.
2 - 3 seconds of lag
Don't go mid. I know, it sucks. Deal with it. If you started mid, switch with someone... even if that someone is of lower rank and not qualified to take on mid. They still stand a lower chance of feeding than do you and a fed mid character is a nightmare brewing. You need to be babysat in bottom lane if possible. Stay near the minions while laning. Try to stay in XP (experience) range while healing and shielding your laning partner. Cross your fingers and hope your lag clears up. Try as hard as you can not to feed. Do not attempt to get kills at all. In team fights, sit back behind the group, don't be in the group or even too close to it. Tell other players that if they need a heal they can run back to you. Shield and heal and speed boost retreating characters and, if things are critical, sacrifice yourself by Flashing into the group and summoner spell Healing. Don't try to participate in the battle at all though; you'll just die. No point in that. If you are in a game with a Teemo or a Twitch, you could lag out one second and be dead when the spike ends even though you're behind the group. Twitch can cloak and run past the group or Teemo can cloak, wait for your group to push past him, and then take you out behind the group. This is a terrible situation to find yourself in. I'm speaking from personal experience here if you hadn't noticed. You have two main options: one is to recall and sit at the fountain and the other is to hug the group. In one of these situations you're likely to feed and are of little use and in the other you're of no use at all.
Major spikes, disconnecting on and off
I used to run back and forth between the router punching and kicking it and pulling hair out when this happened. Now I just quit and do something else. If the game is this lagged, let's be honest, it isn't any fun. It's not your fault, there's nothing you can do about it, more often than not it's the server or your ISP and not really your connection to the router. Quit and go watch Conan or read a book or do something else. Your alternative is to feed and lose while you disconnect and pull hairs waiting to reconnect... and this isn't any fun. Learn when to say, "No, I'm done, I'm getting a loss for this and there's nothing I can do... and I'm ok with that because I can't control it and it DOES NOT MATTER in the larger scheme of things."
It's good etiquette to at least watch your team mates but generally when you have this much lag what is happening is your screen is locked up for 5 to 10 seconds and then you see that 5 to ten seconds in about half a second like someone submitted the game footage to be made into a chipmunks song. Some of you know what I'm talking about. Anyway, the point is you can't see anything so it's a waste and if it seems like the lag is gone for a second you might be tempted to re-join the fight in which case you'll only feed. Just walk away.
Best way of dealing with lag is to try to improve your connection.
Masteries: an Abbreviated Explanation
The season 3 masteries follow the same basic principles as those of Seasons 1 and 2. They seek to emphasize cooldown reduction, while facilitating AP carry/support characteristics. They have changed only slightly from those of season two.
Maramix pointed out to me at the start of season 2 that the changes to the masteries were not so much a nerf of supports as they were a broadening of the flexibility of the masteries choices. He pointed out the equal viability of an alternative path http://img689.imageshack.us/img689/796/karmamasteries.jpg
It was then that I noticed that even the offensive tree had become potentially viable on her, especially if you go mid.
With the nerfing of Deathfire Grasp, an item I've long trumpeted as mandatory for a nuking Karma, I switched my recommendations back to a hard 9-0-21, with emphasis on the need for the cooldown reduction which Deathfire Grasp no longer offered. However, Riot has since put the CDR back into good ol DFG, negating any need for me to go firm on the recommendation.
Essentially, just like summoner spells, masteries are, to a much greater extent than before, a personal preference issue. In fact, you could theoretically play Karma with any of the three trees interchangeably. Just one more thing that makes her a fun character.
The season 1 (historical) masteries are available for historical reference if you send me a private message.
Special thanks to mobafire user and guide contributor windkeeper007 for pointing out the major advantages Awareness has over Strength of Spirit . To quote him,
"(I) decided to calculate the amt of HP regen that you can get from (strength of spirit). At around 2000 mana (the amount of mana that Karma will have at end-game), the most hp per 5 that you will gain from this mastery would be 15 hp per 5, which is 3 hp every sec. The time that it would take to heal 2700 hp (which is around what Karma would end up with) would be 900 sec which is 15 min. 15 min is a dangerously long time, especially since team battles do not last for more 5 min. Karma can easily heal much more health in a much shorter time than what this mastery is giving. Strength of spirit, in my opinion is not a very good mastery to points into."
Skyping or any kind of real time audio will amplify Karma's skills greatly. This is true for any character but much moreso for Karma and it should be obvious why. If you want to maximize your heal, you want all your allies to get in your cone for just a second. It's easy to type this while your allies are pounding away on a turret, not so easy while you're running down the lane. In laning, sometimes you'd like your buddy to move between you and the minions so you can heal him AND damage them: tough to type this out and if he doesn't understand Karma or figure it out you're really out of luck. Skyping allows you to maximize your skills.
When Skyping is not an option, don't be afraid to stand back and pause and type something for a second. Sometimes all you have to do is say it once and people see what you do and they get the hint. In a game recently, I had two wounded allies standing on opposite sides of a turret hammering away on it after a team battle. I targeted the turret and quickly typed: "Stand together please so I can heal you both." They saw the text and moved over and both got healing, and for the rest of the match they would periodically move closer to me after team battles or while moving up the lane in order to get healed. Smart players watch the text space, they learn about who they are playing with, they adapt accordingly, and they do much better as a result.
Now we're getting into really specific little tricks that may just give you an extra little bit of an edge. Keep in mind, I've played Karma more than any other character so I've run into a lot of little situations most guide-writers probably wouldn't have encountered or bothered to mention. This stuff is just icing on the cake. You don't want to read a novel here so I'm not going to do what more... shall we say compulsive guide-writers do and create a character-by-character breakdown of laning with, against, etc.
Shaco's Clones, Annie's Bear, and Malzahar's Voidlings
Some characters in the game can, as one of their abilities, create a slave unit or companion unit or fake self which they can control. Examples include Annie's Bear, Shaco's Clones, and Malzahar's passive ability is that he occasionally will spawn "voidlings." They are the odd little pink minions you sometimes see scurrying about in games where there is a Malz player. These "voidlings" are drawn to attack enemies on whom he has cast his Malefic Visions spell. This is the spell that makes a funny noise and looks like purple goop on the victim's face. The visions can jump to another unit if the unit they are on dies.
When laning with Malzahar, the voidling presents a unique opportunity for you to finish off a fleeing enemy. The voidling will run in after that enemy even as your badly damaged Malz flees. The voidling often run right up in the face of the enemy Malzahar was targeting (and that enemy is often very weak if he has been targeted by Malz's Malefic Visions). Seal the deal by casting a mantra+shield on the voidling. Your AoE damage is sometimes just the necessary trick to finish off the kill. The same trick works with Shaco's clones or with Annie's bear.
DoT (Damage over Time) shielding
When laning against Malzahar, be aware that he might use this trait of his visions to "bounce" them off of minions and onto allied champions. The cast deals damage over time rather than all at once, so if you see an ally get hit by them, cast your shield on this ally even after the fact to obsorb that damage. When laning against Malz, have your shield at ready for when he uses this cast as he will often. The same is true for all forms of DoT damage including of course Ignite and Teemo's darts and mushrooms. Malzahar may also use this trait to farm minions once it gets powered up. Feel free to shut down his farming by shielding an affected minion. It's a form of harassing him.
Lock-downs and stuns
While a bad one is a walk in the park, a good Morgana, Sion, or Alistar can be horrible to have to lane against. You have no silence and you're slow. You have Flash but maybe they do too, or worse maybe yours is on cooldown. Get a point in Spirit Bond early and focus on your shield. These enemies can take you down to a third of your life before stun wears off. Have a nice overpowered shield ready and the Spirit Bond to slow them so they can't stun you again on your hasty retreat. Beyond the laning process, try to Spirit Bond stunners like Sion and Alistar in team fights to slow them down while speeding up allies near them and alerting your team mates (the white line draws attention).
Flashing to Escape
You're jumped by 3 or... even all 5 of them... or your team mates have died and you're the last one left. Don't panic and use your Flash to just move you down the lane. Beset by 2 or 3 of them in the laning stage, this probably IS your best bet because they are intimidated by the turret. Remember though, by the turn stage of the game a couple things have changed. You are more damage resistant and they aren't afraid of your turrets anymore. You can take a heck of a beating as Karma and last a very long time... so relax, breath, and while shielding and healing slowly work your way towards the nearest rocks or trees. You may take a lot of damage in the process but remember that if you just panic and just Flash further down the lane you'll be destroyed. Wait until you're right up next to the rocks and trees and THEN flash to the other side of them. Many champions can't live long enough to maneuver their way over, but often as Karma you have the time. Then, feel free to Spirit Bond jungle minions to speed yourself up as you run out. Taking the time to move over to the trees probably saves my life on average 2 times per game.
Mantra+ Spirit Bond
Don't forget... you should be doing this. It might make the difference when trying to slow that fleeing enemy or race back across the map at the end of the game.
Karma 501 - Context and Role
I would not read this until you've read the rest of the guide and won at least 20 games with Karma. Landing the right keys as Karma, Flash+shielding damaged allies, positioning yourself to maximize the effects of Heavenly Wave, etc. should be as natural for your hands as brushing your teeth. If you haven't mastered Karma basics, this section not only will not help you, it might hurt you by flooding you with excess information that will give you way too much to keep track of in a real battle. I'm not being an elitist saying this, I'm sure that you could probably blow my mind with the tips and tricks you could offer me for your favorite character... but the most complex of that stuff would be useless to me unless I'd actually had the chance to play that character at least for a little while with the basics.
This will deal with more complex features of Karma play. We previously discussed some basic positioning in team fights only in very general terms. This is where we'll get into the more sophisticated maneuvering in fast fights... the kind of maneuvering and positioning which is necessary for success in very tough matches.
Before we start, let's take a step back momentarily and just... talk about Karma for a moment. Historically, Karma was thought of simply as a support champion. However, in large part because of this guide, people have re-thought a lot of those old notions. Let's give her some context and a place within the game. Pardon me for going into super-obvious mode on you for a moment... Let's start by asking,
"What kind of character is Karma NOT?"
Karma isn't the best healer in the game. That would of course be Soraka.
She doesn't massively heal single targets like Soraka, Taric, or Nidalee.
Karma doesn't have a big awe-inspiring game-changing CC ultimate. That would be Sona and Janna.
Karma doesn't have the most powerful shield in the game. That would be Kayle.
Karma doesn't have a massive single-target damager like Nidalee's spear.
She doesn't have Morgana's lockdowns or Taric's stuns.
She doesn't have a taunt like Shen.
She doesn't have a static 3% speed increase for all allies like Janna.
She certainly can't raise you from the dead like Zilean.
So... she doesn't fit the mold of a conventional full support champ... which begs the question...
"What kind of support character IS Karma?"
While Karma isn't the best over-all healer in the game, she's certainly among the best. Her heal is simply reliant upon positioning properly and consistently so as to affect as many targets with it as possible. While her raw numbers can't match Soraka's, they are on parr with or better than every other support champion listed, assuming that is used on cooldown when pushing or re-grouping after team fights.
While she doesn't massively heal single targets, her shield suffices to perform the task of protecting a focused friendly champion.
While her shield doesn't give 3 seconds of invulnerability like Kayle's, its short cooldowns make it available multiple times in any fight.
She isn't designed for heavy single-target damage, but the universally high base damage and strong AP modifiers of wave, Spirit Bond, and shield ensure that - with proper positioning - she consistently does far more damage than other supports.
As for CC (crowd control), she doesn't have a lockdown, stun, a scatter, or taunt. What she does have is... Spirit Bond... a skill we haven't talked about too much but are going to talk about a lot.
The truth is that Karma is really an AP Carry/Support. You could choose to play her as a pure support, building her with gold-per-five items and babysitting a carry, but, like we've kind of pointed out here, there are champions that fit that role much better. Here in the 501 and 502 sections, we are going to break down her characteristics and talk about how to use them with sophistication and prowess.
The key to success with support Karma in an intense fight is not that one perfect lockdown or stun on the enemy carry... it's not finding that sweet spot to launch your ulti and scatter the enemies... it's not that taunt at exactly the right angle... Karma is not a "blaze of glory" or "just right moment" champion. She'll move around a lot and cast many times in a fight.
Karma's casts have short late-game cooldowns and serve several essential functions. Her strength lies in her diversity and consistency. Success in team fights as Karma is contingent upon thoughtful positioning, zone control, and constant and intentional use of abilities.
We all know champions are not all consistent in their usefulness throughout the game. Generally tanks like Rammus and some carries like Sivir start off weak but finish strong while some assassins like Evelynn have stronger early games but must heavily modify their late games to avoid tapering into tepidity.
If you were to ask a random sampling of veteran players their opinions on the scaling usefulness of various support champions at various stages throughout the game, Janna would be a favorite for scaling up, since her ultimate comes into its true usefulness in late game teamfights. Supports are generally prized for crowd control rather than damage or heals in the late game, so Karma probably wouldn't receive as favorable an opinion of her scaling... she starts with Mantra, never gets any kind of a big boom for an ultimate, and her only form of crowd control is Spirit Bond. It'd be easy to draw the conclusion that she starts off the game overpowered (because she starts with mantra) and tapers in value in late game team fights compared with a support like Janna who has a strong ult and multiple forms of cc.
But to say she doesn't scale well would be erroneous. What's more accurate is that she scales interestingly because she is a nuanced champion. A pure support Karma will definitely not scale as well as Janna, but this is because Karma is not intended to be played as a pure support.
Let's say though that you are doing poorly, you are way behind on your build, and somebody else is stepping it up hard and carrying. You might find yourself having to shift to a more supportive role. You'll still dish out damage, but providing proper zoning for your team's more successful carry will have to take priority. Play style must be modified in this situation. Here, the difficulty does scale up, and her usefulness does scale down a little... You'll have to modify your play style to best help your team. In the absence of hard crowd control, the key to this will be your short cooldowns, quick thinking, and mastery of especially Spirit Bond.
By the end of the game at max CDR, Spirit Bond will be spammable every 6 seconds and lasts 5. This means that in late game, you can basically have it turned on full time, using it for continuous zone control. You can't blast all your enemies away... but if you position yourself strategically, you can use your unique combination of skills, their rapid cooldowns, and your own enhanced movement to zone the enemies off of your carry. It goes without saying, but yes this is very challenging to learn. So... let's get started.
Zoning as Support Karma
Spirit Bond is a line-drawing skill. Don't think Anivia's Crystallize, think Karthus' Wall of Pain. Enemy players can move through it, but it is very unappetizing to think about doing so. Unlike Wall of Pain, you can't just plop it down in front of you as a barrier. It's mobile and its positioning is dependent upon anchors, it lasts 2 seconds shorter but it can be spammed 1 second after it expires at 40% CDR. That makes it more challenging in certain ways and also more useful in certain ways.
Karthus' Wall of Pain is perfectly adapted for him because, as a ranged AP carry, it's to his advantage in many situations to sit behind it, using it to zone himself out. Karma's Spirit Bond is perfectly adapted for her because, as a semi-tanky support, it's to her advantage, especially with her short ranged AoE spells, to be to the side of the enemy group, closer to the tank, in front of the team's AD and AP carries. This positioning allows her to use Spirit Bond to zone out her carries while directing additional enemy attention to her tank. Here's an illustration:
The ranged carry scenario is optimal. Let's change it though and put a fed Xin or Nocturne right in the middle of the dogpile.
You should use Spirit Bond as if you were zoning out your ranged carries even when your ranged carries are caught in enemy fire out in front of it. Hopefully they will blink ( Flash, Rocket Jump, etc.) to the other side, zoning themselves out of enemy fire and allowing themselves to stay in the fight and deliver maximum damage for your team.
You get the idea... and just as importantly, hopefully your tank gets the idea also. Spirit Bond is a powerful zoning tool, especially when used to protect ranged carries like kog maw, Ashe, and Tristana.
You can also use Spirit Bond to lose a team fight more gracefully.
Spirit bond can also nab you a kill when laning if used properly.
Remember: before you have ability power Spirit Bond technically has the highest damage output of your spells. Also remember that using an enemy to anchor your spirit bond only slows them, but if the spirit bond is dragged across them while anchored to another unit it slows and damages them. At only one rank, you're only looking at a 10% slow... but you are also looking at a potential of 80 base damage if you latch your spirit bond not to them but to a minion or other unit on the other side of them.
And you can generalize and think of other situations where this is useful... the Warwick who pops in from behind and uses his ultimate... the Gragas who knocks an enemy between the minions and you with his barrel toss, the team mate hiding in the bushes, the Evelynn who walked in stealthed and has just unstealthed to attack... so many possibilities.
You might read this and think, "Well then, that doesn't sound too advanced, it seems like something you should put in the Gameplay (use of abilities) section under Laning..." I can understand feeling that way... I don't consider it to be basic technique though. Here is my reasoning...
Where do you think most armed criminals get shot by law enforcement? If you said "the shoulder of the arm containing the weapon," you answered right. Now... that's not where officers are trained to aim... but in an intense situation, their fovia (the primary point of focus for their eyes) is on the gun in the criminal's hand. Consequentially, they end up shooting them in the arm holding the gun.
In fast battles and gank type situations, it's not a natural response to aim at a target behind your target. It's something you almost never do... so your eyes aren't trained to go there. It's very unnatural to use Spirit Bond in this way and thus it's very difficult. For the average player, unlocking that first point in Spirit Bond at level 3 or 4 is going to be far less likely to nab them a kill or save than unlocking an extra point in wave or shield.
Obviously no battle is the cookie cutter assortment of Xs and Os I've put in these rough drawings. Real team fights are messes of slows and stuns and Ignites and Exhausts and spells and fire... these diagrams are to illustrate general ideas and guidelines for using Spirit Bond and hopefully the cleanliness of them serves to - on average - make them more understandable than unrealistic.
It's late game. You're at 30%+ cooldowns. Spam that Spirit Bond! Don't be shy about it. It's up every 6 seconds and lasts 5. As your team is running around the map, be continuously casting it using the player at the rear of the pack as your anchor. As the team runs around the map jumping from one lane to another, positioning for an ambush, pursuing, fleeing, or anything, be continuously maneuvering to drag it over all of them giving your entire team a constant 20% movement speed bonus. Janna and her 3% tail wind can eat their heart out ;)
Just aced the enemy team? Spirit Bond those advancing minions to get them in position to take turret aggro sooner. How many other champions in the game can speed minions?
Is a player lagging behind the rest of the group? Run back and grab him to speed him up to catch the rest. You have to keep the group together. A cautionary word about this: while the guys I roll with - Hatazzb and Blackcraft and them - are so used to me doing this that they don't think twice about it... players who aren't used to having a good Karma on their team may react with confusion when they see you run toward the back of the group to Spirit Bond a straggler.
Wait the extra seconds at the fountain to Spirit Bond your ally who recalled just after you. Waiting that extra few seconds will actually get you both back out to the field faster. Did three of you recall at once? Mantra that Spirit Bond and drag it across the group to expedite your return to the front. Spam it. No joke. You have plenty of mana. Keep your team together and give them the speed and positioning advantage that'll push them over the top.
Metagame support strategy
In the classical North American metagame an AD carry would solo the mid to maximize gold and XP gain, while the support and tank would share the bottom lane to level up in tandem... This has long since gone by the wayside in favor of the more European approach where an AD carry would be "babysat" in the bottom lane by a pure GP5 support. Let's establish first and foremost that Karma is not an optimal GP5 pure support. If you aren't playing ranked at high elo though, why not have some fun and play Karma and lane with your buddy? I just see no reason why not to. It's a game, have a blast :)
In games where I start off doing very poorly and get way behind, when I see an ally begin to get fed, I will switch off of my original lane to buddy up with the carrying champion and proceed to spend the remainder of the match as their little personal servant, shielding, healing, and speeding them around the map whilst simultaneously soaking their targets, slowing them, and racking up assists for myself. Think of it this way: you're taking an already fed carry and doubling their effectiveness. Observe how the game is going, who gets fed, and know when to make this adaptation, and you can very often nab yourself a quick surrender. Works with any carry. I've done this AD carries like when Hatazzb plays Gangplank, hybrid carries like when meatbeef plays Jax, AP carries like when X Cesimar X plays Katarina, I've even found myself doing it for pubbies when they get fed (hey, it happens! :P). You basically turn a fed carry into a superfed carry by taking the strength of their firepower and adding all the resilience of a second champion in the form of your support.
Remember that image up above in the build section under AP Carry Karma where that Cait got fed? I switched over to tagging along with her, shielding her, speeding her, and zoning other champions off of her. She became untouchable. I was carrying the team at the start of the game, but once I discovered I was working with a very attentive and zone conscious Cait, I realized that being a damage soaker while simultaneously acting as her dedicated support was absolutely the optimal role for me. She was playing smart, the synergy was right and partnering with her wasn't just the right thing to do for the team - it was way more fun than carrying solo would have been. After a team fight when 3 of our players were dead and 3 of theirs were dead, Cait and I walked right up the mid to where the remaining two enemy champions were turret hugging. With no minions to take aggro, I 'd her. She'd move into range of the turret, take a few shots, move out of range, I'd her. Repeat. Repeat again. And again. She destroyed the turret from full health while harassing the two champs with her abilities... and all they could do was sit there and watch while her little OP support buddy negated all the turret aggro. Afterwards, she typed, "I LOVE HEALER!! XD" This is Karma's optimal role, she's carrying with very strong support characteristics. It is WAY more fun that competing with your carry :) ... Complimenting beats competing... not to mention how completely enraging it is for the other team.
Again, to reiterate, Karma is neither best adapted to classical American style laning nor modern GP5 babysitting. As you probably already understand, this is because Karma is neither a full support champion like Soraka or Janna, nor is she a pure AP carry like Annie. She's a hybrid AP damage/support. She's in a club with Morgana, Lux, Oriana, and Nidalee in that she's not neatly categorized within the conventional in box/out box way of thinking about team compositions. This makes her, and understandably so, an unusual pick.
Like we've mentioned briefly before, Karma has the best potential farm of any support champion when combining Mantra+ Soul Shield and Heavenly Wave. However, when laning with a carry as a pure GP5 support champion, it's your responsibility to try to give the minion last-hits to your carry to maximize their farm. It's also your responsibility to keep the lane warded. In this context, it's easy to see you might end up starved. You may notice in the comments section I'm very often asked about the value of plugging in philosopher's stone or Heart of Gold for more gold early when laning with a carry.
If your carry gets fed on kills early in lane, awesome, assist gold will go a long ways. At higher elo, however, there are fewer takedowns in the laning phase of the game. Greater emphasis is placed on carries consistently last-hitting minions. Additionally, with the recent changes to the bounty system, the assist pot generated for takedowns is now only 58.66% instead of the 70% it used to be. Rod of Ages is a very expensive starting item and, if you are giving all your gold to the carry and buying wards (which you simply MUST do), it may take you upwards of 20 minutes to afford it. This really sucks.
I'm not going to tell you not to try playing Karma as a GP5 babysitter. It's a game! Have fun with your friends! I am going to tell you though that, at higher levels of play, you're going to need to restrict her to her optimal role in the mid.
If I am laning with a carry who has excellent early game harassment capability and decent survivability (such as when Hatazzb plays Gangplank), while keeping the river thoroughly warded, we can harass the enemy champions and ruin their farm while Hatazzb gets last hits until we are near the point of being over-extended. My farming becomes more nuanced. If the lane becomes over-pushed, I use my farm (+) to flush the creeps into the turret, picking up some gold and resetting the lane so that Hata and I are again in a more gank-safe position. Additionally, I watch minion health bars even when the lane is not pushed at all. If 3 of them are last-hitable (did I just invent a word?) at once and I know that Hatazzb can only last hit 1 of them in time, I'll use a Heavenly Wave to heal him and kill the other two minions, saving that gold from going to waste. While my single target heals aren't as strong as those afforded by better early-game babysitters like Taric and Sona, Hatazzb's Remove Scurvy and my skills combine to keep us in lane and farming effectively.
Heck, if you want to try something really crazy (hear me out on this!), while a carry starting off with a tank in bottom lane is not at really high levels of play, it can be a lot of fun with the right combination. While tanks can't offer the shield or speed buff that you can, they do have something else which can be even better for getting a carry fed in the early game: crowd control. This can be far more beneficial for certain ranged AD carries such as Ashe and Vayne in the early game.
Nonsense_King is - hands down - the best tank I've ever played with. When I play with Mowen's Kog'Maw build and Nons plays as Leona, he always feeds me several kills in lane. Heck, I refuse to be split up from him. It's just too much win to pass up on. As the Kog, I'd rather start off with nonsense_king tank-laning with me than with any support champion. We just have too much fun. I've fed plenty of kills to ranged AD carries as Rammus... This is part of why pre-made games are fun. Pubbies don't react well to "unconventional"/"unusual" requests and configurations.
Laning configurations aren't unlike build configurations... in that they can be very situational. Don't get locked into one way of thinking about things. Change things up on the other team - think outside the conventional with your combinations and how you arrange yourself. This applies to every champion you try out. Don't be afraid to scramble lanes to adapt to changing conditions throughout the early stages of the game.
Each combination is different. You really never know what crazy idea is going to stick until you try it. Gangplank+ Karma, for example, also does NOT sound like a good combination until you've tried it.
Regarding the "She's just not viable" comments that never seem to go away...
If I could emphasize just one paragraph out of this whole section for the commenters who so frequently visit and say, "She's just not viable," never to return... it would be this:
As you probably already understand, this is because Karma is neither a full support champion like Soraka or Janna, nor is she a pure AP carry like Annie. She's a hybrid AP damage/support. She's in a club with Morgana, Lux, Oriana, and Nidalee in that she's not neatly categorized within the conventional in box/out box way of thinking about team compositions. This makes her, and understandably so, an unusual pick.
The word "unusual" is not synonymous with "unheard of." Karma is played by the "pros" at high elo, just not every match. If you peruse the comments section, you'll find people linking to videos or screenshots of pros using her at high elo. Anyway, X Y Z, dot the T, she's viable! She just isn't optimal in every situation which makes her like the vest majority of champions League of Legends.
Karma 502 - Blow Them Up!
So we've discussed Karma's role pretty extensively. Let's talk briefly about how to maximize your damage output. Because Karma's abilities are all area of effect (AoE), it's easy for you to put out a lot of damage when you catch multiple enemies in the hot zone.
However, to balance this reality out, it's not as easy for you to do catastrophic damage to an individual the way it is for LeBlanc or Annie. In order to be able to do this, you have to adjust your build.
As you already understand, Rod of Ages and Athene's Unholy Grail are usually core items for Karma. So is Rabadon's Deathcap. We also discussed how you have a choice in Mercury's Treads or Sorcerer's Shoes back in the build section.
Morello's Evil Tome and Deathfire Grasp used to be seen more or less as twin items because they both had cooldown reduction and actives. At that time, I very strongly recommended DFG over morello's. When Deathfire Grasp was nerfed (its CDR was removed), I added the option for celerity glyphs back into the guide. If you are carrying those CDR glyphs and going with the above masteries for another 10% cooldown reduction, the extra CDR of Morello's does not benefit you because of the CDR cap, and the price difference for DFG is largely negated if you purchase Kage's Lucky Pick earlier. If you already have rod, then you really don't need the extra mana from Morello's. Moreover, DFG does far and away more damage to an individual champion than does Morello's. It does take a little bit more precision in handling because you must always lead with it in order to maximize its effectiveness; the lower your enemy's health, the less mileage you'll end up getting out of it.
I have become a bit more flexible on this choice than I used to be. If you aren't carrying those CDR glyphs, you'll need to pick up your CDR somewhere. You might go with Ionian Boots of Lucidity or instead you may just choose to drop DFG for Morello's. It is now - to a greater extent than before - a matter of personal preference. There is a lot to consider. Against an AP carry like Swain, Morello's Evil Tome actually makes sense far more often than does Deathfire Grasp, because its active is more appropriate as a counter.
For the sake of the numbers in this section, I'll be imagining you chose Deathfire Grasp. If you go with Morello's Evil Tome, go ahead and use it at the start of the fight. It keeps the key order the same and makes perfectly logical sense. I still like Deathfire Grasp better, by the way. Your single-target nuke needs to be manufactured with items, and this item is so helpful that making other changes to the core build in order to accommodate it is, in my mind, well worth it.
Ok, so where does all that leave us? If you are going mid and building to carry hard, your build will often end up looking something like this:
Mercury's Treads or Sorcerer's Shoes or Ionian Boots of Lucidity
Athene's Unholy Grail
Very likely: Rod of Ages
Deathfire Grasp (or possibly Morello's Evil Tome)
So we have now either 4 or 5 items, depending on whether we are carrying rod or not. Let's talk about our options for wrapping this situation up.
Final Item Choices
When you are about to die, it's not easy to remain calm and have your finger smoothly reach for Zhonya's. That said, it's a wonderful feeling to wake up out of a nice 2-second stasis, to immediately shield and Flash over your tank to sweet safety. If you chose Mercury's Treads over Sorcerer's Shoes, you have more magic resist than armor. You are also fairly squishy, especially if you skipped Rod. Zhonya's is the ultimate item for a squishy carry looking for a high AP item, a little armor, and an escape mechanism. It dovetails very nicely with grail in that regard. I really like Zhonya's on a carrying Karma. As a 6th item added to the above, it rounds you out with 500AP before Inner Flame. Not too shabby.
You might consider one of these. When you are looking for magic penetration, there are several things you should consider when choosing between Void Staff and Abyssal Scepter. They give the same AP, so that part is easy.
1. If an ally is carrying Abyssal Scepter and they are likely to be within range of your target at the time you pounce, then the extra aura will not help you because they do not stack.
2. Void Staff does not begin to give you greater penetration than Abyssal Scepter unless your enemies have greater than 50 magic resist. This is because 40 percent of 50 is 20, equal to the flat amount which abyssal scepter automatically removes.
3. Your skills slightly outrange the aura of Abyssal Scepter. It's not by much, but you'll have to be a little closer to your target to get the extra penetration from scepter.
4. Most obviously, void staff does not offer you any additional magic resist or provide an aura for your team mates.
In that context, if you opt for a magic penetration item and nobody has built Abyssal Scepter,, and especially if you find yourself needing more magic resist, Abyssal is obviously the more appropriate of the two.
If your target is stacking magic resist items, someone else on your team already has Abyssal Scepter and will likely be within range of your target, and you feel like you have sufficient magic resist, Void Staff is obviously the better of the two.
Blow Them Up
Ok. Let's blow them up. You know so much about zoning by now that I'm not going to give you the lead in to the situation. Your team is in, you have found your target, and you are in range. Go.
Start with Deathfire Grasp, then wave, shield yourself or someone else in range, and Spirit Bond either an enemy on the other side of your target or an ally whom you can trust to drag it across your target. You may consider using Flash to line this up, but I'd recommend saving it for if you need to escape.
Watch your cooldowns and remember to have your fingers ready for using Zhonya's.
At 500 Ability power, Deathfire Grasp nuked them for 45% of their total health in one shot. If your target was a carry with 2600 health, you just hit them up for 1170 damage before mitigation. Wave did 570 damage, shield 680 damage, and Spirit Bond 655. That's a total of 3075 damage in one second, assuming no help whatsoever from Inner Flame. Your target is now dead... or close to it depending upon how much was mitigated by shielding, magic resist, etc.
You can pull this sequence off very quickly with practice.
Crazy Fingers Version
"No! What is he doing? I like this guy, but now I realize he's a lunatic!" Hehe, relax. This is for you out there who have crazy fast fingers and want to try something really weird and experimental. The math on it makes a lot of sense. If you have super crazy hands, you might be able to even pull this off. I wouldn't recommend most people try this though.
The numbers will change slightly here because we're now at about 480 ability power. Again, we'll assume no bonus from inner flame and an enemy with 2600 hp.
Same as before, we initiate with Deathfire Grasp (44.2% for 1149 damage). We right click to auto-attack with Lich Bane for 480 damage. We wave for 558, shield for 664, and Spirit Bond for 641. Then we use Lich Bane again for another 480 damage.
That's 3492 damage in under one second or 3972 damage in just over 2 seconds, depending on whether or not you use Lich Bane a second time. While that doesn't factor in resistances and shields, it also assumes no help from Inner Flame.
I'm also not factoring in Ignite, but if you were to take it, you'd be adding another 410 true damage to that. If you are carrying Ignite, use it early in the sequence but not before Deathfire Grasp.
Please leave feedback
Please send me private messages with feedback on carrying as Karma. This is one area of the guide we are looking to develope further.
Q: How can I create graphs like the ones you've used in your guide?
A: First result.
Q: How did you do the formatting stuff for your guide?
A: Again, first result.
Q: Can I help in any way with your guide?
A: I'm only acting editor of this guide at this point. I am too busy with school to play consistently. The changes I'm recommending are based on the recommendations of current active Karma players. If you'd like to join the group of Karma players contributing to manage the guide, send me a private message. I'm looking to hand even the editing role off to another Karma player. If you are interested in managing the guide, please send me a private message. You don't need to be high elo. You just need to be a nice person with a reasonable understanding of how to play as Karma and a willingness to accept feedback (both positive and negative) from community members and act on it in constructive ways.
Q: Will you add me in game?
A: I used to add everyone in game. Again, school, blarg. I'm so sorry you missed me! There are lots of fantastic Karma players who lurk on the comments page and would be happy to play with you! I've played with lots of them. Make friends, team up, have fun!
Q: Why don't you make your guide shorter?
This guide has been dogged by the accusation of excessive unnecessary length since its inception. There are several responses I have to this. The irony of course is that the people who drop by, downvote, and comment "tldr" (too long; didn't read) will never read my response since they are, apparently, too lazy. For what it's worth, here's my response anyway.
1. You don't have to read all of it. There is an index in the section entitled "Read Me First" that lists which sections I think are important to read for which people. In under 3 minutes of reading, any reader should be able to identify what sections are most pertinent for them and which they may wish to skip or save for later.
2. Most of the things I have added to the guide since it was first published were added in response to requests in the comments section. This includes everything from charts comparing ability base stats to more in-depth item comparisons such as Rabadon's Deathcap vs. Archangel's Staff to the 501 section. Basically the only thing that I did not add by request was the information about playing to carry as Karma. Carrying as Karma is in vogue now. Back in the day, it wasn't. I took a lot of downvotes for advocating it until finally enough people were adventurous enough to give it a try.
3. People requested all of those things because they find them helpful. This guide was upvoted to the #1 spot on mobafire and remained there for a year and a half not in spite of its great detail but directly because of it. This guide is like a big pizza. You don't have to eat all of it, but it's there if you want to.
4. I don't just endlessly add stuff without ever re-evaluating what is already in here. In October of 2012, I shaved about a third of the length off of the guide and added far less than that.
5. If you think the guide is too long, please do not simply tell me it's too long. I can't do anything with that suggestion. What I can use is the constructive feedback that you found something was unnecessary or confusing. In other words, don't just tell me it is "too long;" tell me what you would cut and why. I welcome that sort of feedback and have acted on that sort of feedback many times.
The Elo Matching System
Before reading my notes on the Elo matching system, you should read the basic description here. Having read that, you understand that you have a secret numerical value assigned to you which determines who you are matched with and against.
I'm pasting this portion of that wiki here for reference:
The basic priorities of the system are (in respective order):
1. Protecting new players from experienced players.
2. Maintaining fairness and creating competitive matches.
3. Finding a match at all - the longer the wait, the lower the priority given to #1 and #2 becomes.
While there may be MANY new players and MANY old players, most players will be average with some being above average and some being below average. Statistically, you would never expect to see an even spread across all skill levels and indeed there is not an even spread across all skill levels. This means that Elo scores probably look something like a bell curve.
The real may be more lopsided as most new players will come in with a low Elo score but what is important to note for the sake of this discussion is that the higher your Elo score, the fewer people have the same Elo score as you. How does that translate into the way the game matches? Let's say you have an Elo score of 5 (These are not real elo scores, I'm just using them as an example). 5 is average, in the middle of the curve, and there are many players at this skill level. You understand at this point the game can easily match you with other 5s. Now let's say your Elo score is 8. While players with Elo scores of 8 are probably online more often than players with Elo scores of 3, there are still far FEWER players with Elo scores of 8 for the matching system to choose from.
Now, pay special attention to this: "3. Finding a match at all - the longer the wait, the lower the priority given to #1 and #2 becomes." It would take quite awhile for the game to match you with four other 8s against five 8s on the opposite team... so you're more likely to end up matched with 5s on your team against 6s and 7s. It lowers the wait time while maintaining what looks like (on paper) to be a fair balance.
So, as you follow the math and logic, you'll see that the higher your skill level, the LOWER the skill level of your team mates is likely to be. It's like a punishment for playing well, but mathematically determined and just as frustrating. This is why corralling team mates is so important. You will also notice that the Elo system does not adjust gently. It adjusts harshly and usually does it about once a week. You will notice it. On the 30th of March, the Elo numbers updated and M4g0t, nonsense king, and myself all had our Elo scores jump (because we were at 55% wins) and all independently embarked on 6 game losing streaks with team mates who were of much lower skill levels than ourselves.
For this reason, you'll notice your track record usually goes in streaks. 12 wins might be followed by 8 losses. If you're a carry, you'll be slightly more immune to the effects of sudden shifts. A level 8 support karma has trouble winning on a team with level 5 carries... for obvious reasons. There are many lessons to take from this, the most obvious of which being:
1. Don't feel bad about a 10 game losing streak.
2. Learning to instruct bad team mates is the key to getting wins in a situation where your Elo has over-adjusted upwards.
3. Play to carry in these situations. Recognize people on your team playing badly, splitting up, "YELLING AT EACH OTHER LIKE THIS," etc. etc. and do your best to focus on AP in these situations.
And finally... finally... one last plea...
DON'T BE A HUGE JERK WHEN YOU PLAY
If the fact that it is JUST a game and you are supposed to be having FUN is not enough of a reason, you now understand the system mathematically guarantees that unless you are in the top tier of players you ARE GOING TO LOSE ROUGHLY 50% OF THE TIME AND WIN 50% OF THE TIME. If you have a loss now, you will have a win later. If you have a win now, you will have a loss later. Enjoy playing the game with your friends and if you find yourself getting frustrated it's time for you to go do something else.
^_^ Not to be preachy! I hold myself accountable for losing my cool sometimes as well! I am VERY competetive and until I learned about the Elo ratings system, I would always get frustrated when my huge win streaks were followed by huge loss streaks... Now that I know I'm mathematically guaranteed about 50/50, I have a lot more fun.
The other day I set up all my runes and masteries and summoner skills for Warwick... and then clicked Karma and didn't realize it until in the game. We decided to not worry about the loss and just troll the other team... so Blackcraft built TANK RYZE for fun... he... then proceeded to carry... hard... and we still won somehow. It doesn't make any sense to me either. Point is, we all figured, "Eh, if we lose this because Egy (me) mis-clicked, it's fine, we'll just win the next one."
So... have fun! Do a full premade game where you all 5 agree to instantly lock in with random characters, build all AD supports with Smite and Rally, everyone pick out your hands-down WORST champion and try to make it actually work. Have fun. It's a game :) And that's all it ever will be!
Just always keep in mind: if you lose 8 in a row now, you'll win 8 in a row later. Please leave feedback, ask any questions you have, and HAPPY GAMING!!!!!!
Announced intent to relinquish management of guide.
Rewrote chapters 1-6 and cleared out the change log which had become so long it was skewing the length of the guide. Archived all the original information in every chapter offline. Anyone interested in the complete history of the guide for historical reasons or whatever should private message me.
Finished updating the build section.
Wiped out whole section: Charts & Figures & Base States
Added whole new section: FAQs for guide builders.
Edited "Gameplay" section, trimmed it down, removed all of the disclaimers on building to carry, erased separate "going mid" section and incorporated all of the info back into the rest of the guide. Simplified "turn" section by advocating map awareness and used fewer examples.
Cut "General Notes" by half.
Edited section 1, changed its name to make it more apparent that people who want to save time should go there first to pick the section they need
Updated the 501 section, trimmed a large portion of it, increased emphasis on Karma's appropriate role since there still seems to be much confusion over this.
Fixed the chapter coding to match the new system
Posted the long-awaited 502 section. Guide fully up-to-date.
Added to FAQs section
Re-wrote my appraisal of Archangel's Staff to more strongly emphasize just how bad of a choice I believe it to be.
Changed quick reference to reflect Morello's now that DFG has been nerfed. Took out abyssal and put in zhonya's to give a carrying karma a little more room to be daring.
Redid my theory crafting and decided to change my standard recommendation on runes to contain CDR glyphs. This way, dfg can remain a standard part of the build. I also added a note that ionian boots may be substituted and made several other changes to various sections to reflect the update. Emphasis on personal preference since several different theory combos made logical sense.
Posted update at the top about some of the major reworks coming down the tube for Karma. Holding out on update recommendations until I've had more opportunity to consult with Pigsy and the build team.
FON reference removed - Season 3
Leviathan reference removed - Season 3
Reference to Mejai's removed as well because it stuck out like a sore thumb and wasn't that helpful.
Current item stats and charts: unchanged for season 3, none were altered in the updates.
Requisitioned user feedback on: shard of true ice, Mikael's Crucible, Twin Shadows, Seraph's Embrace.
Updated masteries - Season 3
Thanks to guide contributors Pigsy and Windkeeper007 for their contributions to these updates!
Status of this Guide
Announcement: It is with sadness that I make this announcement. My life has gotten so busy with real life stuff that I am not going to have time to play League of Legends or work on this guide much. It is for this reason that I am looking to turn over management of the guide to an as-yet-to-be-named Karma player/mobafire user. I want this guide to remain a useful resource for the gaming community, so I want to make sure that I pick a person who will really take the time to do it properly. If you would like to take on the responsibility, please send me a private message. In the meanwhile, I'm working with several strong Karma players to update the guide so it doesn't get stale. I have enjoyed interacting with all of you on here and in-game. You kept this guide at #1 on mobafire for one and a half years, you all added me in game and didn't insult me when I fed really hard, and you all left wonderful kind comments all the time. By that I am greatly honored :)
Bless you all!
P.S. I've archived the classical version of the build and guide. They are available in text format for historical reference. I'll happily give them out if you private message me. I've fully updated the whole guide except for the 502 section at this point. I've kept the order of guide sections more or less intact, but their substance may have changed substantially if you haven't viewed the guide in awhile.