Standard Magic Ballista
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.
Threats to Xerath with this build
|Annie||SUPER EASY. Your poke outranges her and you can easily avoid getting one shot by a Tibbers combo.|
|Twisted Fate||Like Annie, TF is a SUPER EASY MATCHUP. His Q is easy enough to dodge and your harass is so long range that he doesn't have the ability to kill you unless he ults into you.|
Greetings and salutations to all you aspiring Xerath players out there on the Rift! My ingame name is fugufishy. Yes I am currently Silver II in Season 6, but I will say I was at the very least Gold 3 last season (still not much difference XD). Nevertheless I feel between the good # of games I have on Xerath and that I am an avid watcher of pros/high ELO players I can speak well to his abilities especially compared to those high ELO players since they do not play him enough.
I will also stress that this guide is good for people striving for Plat and maybe even higher. The biggest thing about higher ELO that makes Xerath less appealing is those in higher ELO know how to shut him down.
Finally I have two requests. The first is please comment and let me know if I miss anything, should stress another point I missed, or if I can improve in any way! Second is do not take this as the Xerath gospel. This is not the end-all of Xerath guides, but I hope some of you find it useful!
Now let's get started!!!
Quick Note on Matchups
I will just say that I am not (at least immediately) going to include every potential matchup you could feasibly go against. The ones I have are ones I feel like low ELO and even high ELO players will encounter in mid most often in the current meta. I will do my best to make sure to update this should anything significant change with a champion.
Pros / Cons
Great AOE (Area of effect)
Self-sustaining mana pool (see passive)
Your own in-game minigame. *hue hue hue*
Not as mobile
Stun is unreliable and single target
Ult is hard to hit if you target a single enemy who is paying attention
Very susceptible to hard CC (stuns, fears, suppresses, etc.)
Flash is pretty much a must take on Xerath (and frankly any champion at the moment). He has little mobility and so Xerath NEEDS that escape mechanism. Not to mention it can get you in range for those flash+Q's that feel oh so good!
Many people do what I think is a mistake and take ignite. The thing that makes Xerath so strong is that his long range gives him a good degree of safety. Needing to be up close to ignite someone effectively removes one of Xerath's biggest strengths. Heal helps compensate for Xerath's lake of self-escape as well as gives you a good surprise factor if a champion engages on you in the hopes of getting a quick kill.
So I know what you are thinking, "What the hell fugu? Why would I take another short range offensive summoner spell like exhaust over ignite?"
There are 2 big reasons my friends.
1. Hard counter to hard engagers: By "hard engagers" I mean champions like LeBlanc, Yasuo, Zed, Ahri, etc. In these cases having exhaust gives you the opportunity to negate a good chunk of these types of champions' burst. Also it allows for greater potential for a turn-around.
2. Better utility in teamfights/for turn-arounds: As I previously stated exhaust gives you rare opportunities to turn around an engage. Not to mention in teamfights it gives your team a great advantage by subtracting the damage of heavy hitter on the enemy team. Imagine having 2 exhausts on your team? FREAKING NASTY COMBO!
Marks of Magic Penetration: I do not think this needs any explanation, but I will say something quick about magic pen. marks. These are pretty much standard for every AP mid laner and should ALMOST NEVER be not taken (some special cases apply such as with Fizz).
Seals of Scaling Health: These are good to play in to either non-aggressive AD mid laners (Ezreal, Quinn, etc.) or in most cases any and all AP mid laners. They give you some necessary defense and if you're against an AP mid laner then you will not benefit as much from armor.
Seals of Armor: These are runes you MUST TAKE against those obnoxious AD champions I mentioned in the match up difficulty meter. They will help you out early and go well with the Zhonya's you should be rushing as a first item. Scaling armor doesn't give you the benefits fast enough to avoid early aggression IMO.
Glyphs of Scaling Cooldown Reduction: In the current meta these are pretty standard. Some people take 6 of these and 3 flat CDR glyphs, but the 15% CDR you get late game goes well especially since you will only be building 2 CDR items (Frostqueen's and lucidity boots)
Glyphs of Magic Resistance: If you are in those, "Oh s***" match-ups (LeBlanc, Ahri, Fizz, etc.) then these are going to help you avoid that burst threat. The sad thing about Xerath is building Abyssal Scepter to counter them doesn't work as well since you will likely be sitting so far out of range the passive will not take effect.
Quintessences of Ability Power: Again, like with the magic pen. marks I do not think these quints need much explanation. Giving you ~15 AP is a no-brainer and every other option just is not good enough to consider taking something eles.
Ferocity Tree- 12 points
A quick note is that I am not going to explain why I chose certain masteries if they are "obvious" picks (ex: I will not be explaining why you put 5 points into sorcery on Xerath...)
Feast (1): I like feast since it gives Xerath some okay sustain to help shirk off auto attack harass/harass in general. Double-edged sword just doesn't give enough bang for your buck when it comes to many ranged champions.
Vampirism (5): Natural talent just does not give enough benefits. The scaling is too slow and the final scaling does not give enough of a difference. At the very least having 3% spell vamp offers some amount of sustain outside of potions.
Cunning- 18 points
Wanderer (5): I like this personally over Savagery. Yes savagery can help you last hit, but the reality is you should be able to last hit without needing help. More important is the bonus move speed you will get out of combat since it will aid you in getting back to lane faster as well as give you some more speed for dodging skill shots in some cases.
Secret Stash (1): This one is again a toss-up for some. Assassin can be useful, so can runic affinity if you know you'll be getting a lot of blue buffs. Secret stash however gives you some much needed help with survival in lane. Runic affinity isn't as good since you have your passive. Assassin is good enough to be considered over secret stash if you prefer it.
Merciless (5): Some people may think meditation is quite good due to mana potions being extinct and Xerath chugging mana if you spam your spells. However, merciless gives Xerath something much more useful: KILL POTENTIAL. It's that little extra oomph that Xerath can utilize to secure kills. Especially since you will not be taking ignite (or shouldn't be).
Dangerous Game (1): Bandit is pointless on Xerath (unless for some reason you are playing him as a support) and Dangerous Game is just a really good spell especially if you get engaged on and manage to escape death. All-in-all, it is the better of two "meh" options when Xerath is concerned.
Precision (5): Some people may think that intelligence is quite good for Xerath. The reason I do not like it as much is because you cannot take advantage of the bonus cap to CDR with the build I recommend for Xerath. Also, precision works like merciless; it gives you that little extra oomph.
Thunderlord's Decree (1)
NOTE: Now that it is slightly more useful, putting 18 points into the Ferocity tree and getting piercing thoughts and deathfire touch on Xerath isn't as bad a setup as it once was. In fact it wasn't so much bad as it was not good enough when compared to thunderlord's decree. IMO Thunderlord's is still more useful and gives you greater kill potential, but you can argue for getting deathfire touch.
WARNINGThere is something I want to say that will help a lot of newbies to ADAPTING TO EVERY GAME. The thing to consider when purchasing items for ANY CHAMPION is to consider your match-up, the enemy team composition, and what will help you best when. In terms of the order for these items, I will say that it will often vary. The only time order will really be essential is against hardcore, obnoxious AD matchups. This specific order will be made clear once I get to the item(s) that really pertain to it.
Doran's Ring is the standard item to start with on ALMOST every mid laner. Xerath is not an exception to this rule. AP, mana return to go with your passive, health, it is a no brainer.
Deciding whether to get a fiendish codex or a frostfang really depends on what you are feeling more than what will be best in the situation. Both are essentially the same cost, and while frostfang gives manaregen and its nifty gold generation it does have less AP and no CDR. Both have their benefits and trade-offs, but IMO the raw damage of fiendish codex overshadows the manaregen and gold generation of frostfang early. That being said, if you are against a really obnoxious lane bully like Yasuo or LeBlanc then having frostfang will make sure you aren't totally starved of gold and help keep your mana up while you farm with your abilities from a safe distance.
Frostqueen's Claim has gotten a lot of hype since early on it gave benefits that far overshadowed the originally standard Morellonomicon. Even with the nerfs I still think it outdoes the morellonomicon and here is why. For one, the ghosts help you land ALL of your abilities. They are especially useful for landing your ult. Also they provide a source of escape. Manaregen, gold generation, CDR, and a decent amount of AP, all in all it is the go-to choice at the moment.
Lucidity boots are a really good option for Xerath since the CDR is so nice and right now it is more beneficial than sorcerer's shoes. HOWEVER, this is mainly due to the fact that your masteries that I've picked give him a good amount of spell pen. as is. The CDR is really nice since you'll be able to poke out teams much more effectively. Note that you will likely be buying the distortion upgrade as a NEAR LAST/LAST ITEM. DO NOT BUY IT OUTRIGHT EARLY ON.
HERE'S WHERE BUYING ORDER MATTERS!!!!!!!!! Okay now that I have made it painfully clear, let me explain what I mean. In a standard AP match-up you do not need to rush Zhonya's early. It is better to build your Frostqueen's Claim and get say a deathcap next for pure raw AP. Against an obnoxious AD match-up (or against an AD mid laner who's made it their mission to destroy you), it's another story. This should be your FIRST MAJOR ITEM. That means on your first back you should aim to complete your Seeker's armguard or at the very least the components for it. The early armor Seeker's and eventually Zhonya's provides is critical to giving yourself an easier time. Also, most of the obnoxious ADs like Zed are going to rely on pure burst so Zhonya's will help you avoid that burst outright. So the big rule to remember is if you're against the bad AD match-ups, PUNISH THEM WITH ZHONYA'S.
Another no-brainer when it comes to what items to buy on AP champions. Rabadon's gives raw AP and then some with its passive. If you aren't getting this item you're likely doing something wrong (basically everything). Now when you build it is up to the situation. If you find you're getting fed and the enemy team is not stacking MR then building it sooner rather than later is a good way to keep the enemy down. If the enemy team is stacking MR than an earlier void staff would be a good investment. The big thing about rushing spell penetration is you need AP to make that spell pen. worth anything.
Another for the no-brainer family. AP + Spell penetration is a plain nasty combination (also a bit obvious, but worth emphasizing). This is an item to consider building when the enemy is starting to stack that MR to counter your poke.
Okay, so I know what you might be thinking, "Fugu Xerath is a near immobile mage, why the heck would I get an item that relies on a lot of movement?". Well good sir/miss, allow me to try and convince you. Firstly, it gives you 100 AP, and that is nothing to scoff at. Second, it gives you movement speed which makes you less immobile and less susceptible to hard engages. Next, it's passive is not the hardest to proc on targets and lets you hit much harder. Still need more, how about how that passive of Luden's let's your spell vamp from Vampirism get out to targets and give you some more healing. Still need more convincing? Well the only other thing I can really say is that compared to the other options nothing else really outdoes Luden's Echo.
DON'T FORGET YOUR ELIXER LATE GAME (Just saying)
Why should you take Farsight Orb over the Warding Totem? I have 2 reasons for this, one personal and one based on Xerath himself. The personal reason is that I value Farsight Orb's scouting ability over the Warding Totem's invisibility. In low ELO, people buying and using sweepers is not something that is oh to common. Still, the advanced scouting potential of the farsight orb and the "low potential permanence" of these wards plus their unlimited # that can be present on the map makes them much more useful. However, the practical advantage for Xerath is the ability to spot a fleeing target and increase your chances of successfully landing multiple ult shots that would likely miss if you just guessed and shot blind.
Some real quick notes on why these items are even being mentioned. In reality you will almost never buy these items or even consider them, but I will mention on the off chance the following scenarios occur.
Liandry's Torment: If the enemy team consists of champions that are stacking a lot of health items, then Liandry's is worth considering. Otherwise it isn't good enough to choose over Luden's Echo.
Athene's Unholy Grail: If the enemy team possesses a lot of magic damage then this item is actually a good consideration for replacing Frostqueen's Claim. While you lose out of the passive gold and ghosts, you gain some MR, more CDR, and a passive that will keep your mana levels high.
Banshee's Veil: Really if you need a banshee's to counter hard engage on the enemy team you are already dead as is. Fact is that CC will be coming in so fast the shield that will allow you to dodge one ability will not matter. Not to mention it doesn't guarantee you will dodge hard CC. Just not really worth considering, but I will throw it in because someone may justifiably buy it.
Should I Xerath in ranked?
This is a question you should ask yourself right out of the gate. If you are not comfortable on Xerath then I would immediately say no. That being said, even if you are quite good on Xerath depending on your rank it may not be advisable. I would love to say, "Oh yeah, play Xerath all the way to challenger!"
Truth is that he may not be the best thing to look for in the current meta at least for very high ELO. Still, I will do my best to explain how Xerath can dominate almost every rank!
At bronze level Xerath dominates mainly due to one key feature of the players you will meet: They cannot dodge skill shots to save their lives. As I have friends who play at the bronze level and occasionally play with them seeing as how I am still silver I noticed this really early on. Playing Xerath in bronze is a pretty safe choice.
Same advice more goes for bronze. One of the biggest differences between low and high ELO players is that dodging skill so few people lack at low ELO. Have you ever noticed it is almost reflexive for people to just run straight instead of bob and weaving? Use this common trend to your advantage.
GOLD AND BEYOND
Here is where things get a little tricky. Two significant changes will occur as you get to gold and beyond. The first is that many players will understand a good bit about juking spells. Because of this Xerath becomes a much more difficult champion to play as he is ENTIRELY SKILL SHOT BASED. So if you are going to play Xerath, it may be best to make sure the enemy team doesn't have a lot of dashes/blinks/means of increased mobility outside of flash.
The next big difference between low ELO and high ELO that matters when asking if you should play Xerath or not is his GANK SUSCEPTIBILITY! At higher ELOs people understand that Xerath is a fairly easy gank depending on the jungler because he lacks an effective escape mechanism. As such, especially as you go past gold, if you are not an effective manager of the minion wave then you will be punished severely. As such my word of advice for those in gold and beyond: USE AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION.
Now I want to say a few things about WHEN TO PLAY XERATH. One big consideration is how he fits into a team composition. Below I am going to explain a FEW (NOT ALL) teammates that go well with Xerath and a few that DO NOT!
In the top lane a good champion to pair with Xerath is Malphite or really any top laner with HARD CC. Pairing Xerath with reliable hard CC makes it much easier to apply your damage to multiple targets. Other good examples are Gnar and Poppy. In fact for pretty much every other position (save ADC) it is nice to have another 2 suppliers of HARD CC or 1 supplier of a lot of AOE hard CC. For jungle good examples are Rek'sai, Gragas, or even Xin Zhao. Support is the same way. Some good examples for support are Leona, Thresh, and Nami.
Why does pairing an ADC with Xerath matter? It does because at the end of the day, although you can carry a game with Xerath from a kill/damage perspective, if a game goes past 50+ minutes then you will want an ADC who can finish/apply CONSISTENT damage during encounters. Good examples of strong late game ADCs are Vayne and Tristana.
Why do these and other champions like them make the "no-no" list? Well because they lack what Xerath needs to truly excel in a team comp.: HARD CC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Master Yi is just not a good pick with Xerath. You will get almost no help in ganks and even if you do get ganked he isn't going to give you anything besides damage without red buff. Fiora is just the top lane Master Yi, but she has the SUPER RARE case of stunning a mid laner who tries to CC her during her Riposte. Soraka is the same case, her CC is just too unreliable.
Why are ADCs like Sivir not good picks? For the opposite reason picks like Vayne are good: She and other LACK CARRY POTENTIAL. Sivir is very team oriented and really doesn't have that late game power that ADCs like Vayne possess. Another more hazy champion in terms of choosing them to play with Xerath is Draven. Yes, Draven can hard carry a game, but if the enemy team shuts him down then he is just not going to be the force you need to pair with Xerath late game.
First let me stress one thing: FARMING IS XERATH'S PRIMARY OBJECTIVE THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE GAME, BUT ESPECIALLY EARLY!!!!!!! It is your primary source of income and your only reliable source of income if you can farm well. Early farming as Xerath is tricky for some people, but in reality it is as trick as farming is for most AP mid laners. Obviously he is no Annie who cna last hit with her Q and get all her mana back. Ready for the hard truth? YOU NEED TO FARM BY LAST HITTING WITH AUTO ATTACKS. I know this a groundbreaking concept for some (lel), but in all seriousness being able to last hit with Xerath's auto attacks is quite important. Using your spells to last hit minions has two drawbacks. The first is less obvious to some: It pushes the wave. This can be a double-edged sword against some mid laners. If you're against someone that cannot farm well under turret like Ahri then it can be good. However the drawback is that you are much more susceptible to being ganked, and as Xerath this is a VERY BAD THING. The second is obvious: You are burning mana that you cannot sustain early as well as you can when you have Frostqueen's Claim.
Farming Mid-End Game
Farming late game really does not need much explanation. You should be mainly sticking with your team and using your Q+W to one hit either then entire wave or at the very least the caster minions will be taken out. Even late game, nothing is seldom more important to Xerath than his farm.
Early Game Teamwork
Working with your team early is something that is overall simple. The reality is that Xerath isn't a mid laner who will often make good roams like Zed, Talon, or Malzahar. The first two (Zed and Talon) are quick and so they can roam to lanes to gank/exert pressure without losing much in the mid lane if they're ahead. Malzahar is a decent roamer because he has GUARANTEED CC with his ult. Thus when he roams you can almost always get a kill. With Xerath that kill is not guaranteed and so roaming is generally not worth the cost if you are even or only slightly ahead (AND ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE BEHIND). Stick to farming and try to coordinate ganks with your jungler and/or support.
Mid Game Teamwork
For me, the mid game is when the time is between 15-34 minutes. In this time frame you should have by now taken mid lane tower. If not, then you need to try and take it as soon as possible so you can be free to move with your team. Xerath isn't someone who can solo push his lane due to his lack of escape mechanisms. Not to mention Xerath's strength shines when he is with his team. Why? BECAUSE OF YOUR POKE SON! Here is what will happen when you group with at least 2 other people on your team: The enemy team will send more people to deal with you (most likely). Now you have more targets for you spells to impact. Ever notice how in larger groups it is generally easier to hit people? This is because often people lose focus on the others to dodge those champions spells who, in their mind, are more problematic (ex: Morgana bindings, Leona CC, etc.). I do not refer to Xerath as a magic ballista for nothing; you launch spells and help your team siege and take objectives.
Late Game Teamwork
If you have not been having skirmishes/teamfights already then here is you will almost certainly be having them. In the upcoming section I will explain how to use Xerath in skirmishes and in teamfights (YES THERE'S A DIFFERENCE). The teamwork aspect is the same as in mid game: Siege with your team and pressure for objectives. If you and your team are behind then Xerath is still a good pick to have since he can clear waves will relative ease and in relative safety. What is especially important about Xerath is that you need to have a good sense of your positioning on the map. This means you are either with your team or you are in a position to help exert pressure on objectives. If you're team is trying to siege top/mid lane to pressure for Baron then you better not be farming bot like a scrub. You are the long range damage dealer: BE WITH YOUR TEAM TO DEAL FREAKING DAMAGE!
Skirmishes and Team-fighs: Different Dynamics, Similar Handling
Firstly, let's address why a teamfight and a skirmish are two different things. I do not know if there are specific definitions for each, but I have my own opinions ;). A skirmish is any encounter that involves less than 4 members of the team. A teamfight involves your entire team (or IMO at least 4 people). The other difference is how they generally transpire. Teamfights are often explosive and quick. Skirmishes can last quite a while as people engage, disengage, and repeat. Alright now we'll explain how Xerath plays in each!(Warning: May be repetitive)!
When skirmishing Xerath's role is really about picking on any target that cannot respond to him. Basically you should be seeking to catch people out with your E. Landing your E is pretty much everyone's go signal in a skirmish. Positioning for Xerath involves sitting way back and taking pot shots at your enemies.
So now you're probably wondering how handling Xerath changes at all? If you step back and look at the overall picture, nothing much changes. The key differences though are the micromanaging of your position. Your stun is not going to be as useful as often for catching out the squishies since likely the enemy team's front line will be in your face. Your stun has now become you "no-no" button. Basically, use it to keep the distance. Otherwise your abilities like you normally would. Try to land your Q and W on the squishies and use your ult in the chaos so that you can make each shot count. Remember, as the primary AP of your team your focus should be on blapping the enemy carries, not the tanks!
Quick Tips and Tricks
1. Xerath is a champion where smart cast is ESSENTIAL for optimal play. However, for me personally, I find that normal casting your Q (so activating it, then re-activating it when you want to cast it) is actually more useful because it is easier for you to hit it. That's is more personal preference than anything.
2. Do not be afraid to hold on to your ult shots. As people get closer to your max range people will just make a beeline for the area out of the circle. Also, people tend to forget about your ult shots and so they slack on dodging. So if you simply wait to pick up on a champion's movements then you'll be landing all of your ult shots in no time!
3. In 1v1 situations, try to use your W before your E. Your W will slow them down and that will aid greatly in killing them or at the very least burning a summoner spell.
4. If you can get an auto attack in on an enemy champion with little-to-no risk of taking damage in return when your passive is up then DO IT! (JUST DO IT!). Remember you get back double the mana if you auto attack a champion. Noticing when you can get those free auto attacks in will really help you swing the laning phase into your favor.
So, just some final concluding points about the overall impact of this guide. As much as I can try to make sure you're building properly and have set yourself up for success, the reality is that Xerath is quite difficult to play to his full potential. If you are not good at landing skill shots, then he probably isn't someone you should consider unless you're willing to sink some time into getting a good feel for his abilities.
Second, XERATH IS SUPER FUN!!! If you enjoy playing high skill champs and having a borderline in-game mini-game then Xerath is a great choice. What people also seem to confuse is how Xerath works as a carry. Xerath's carry potential stems from his ability to really lay down AOE to the entire enemy team. You may find yourself not "carrying" like a Yasuo or Zed or LeBlanc, but trust me, with the damage you'll be doing you'll be carrying.
I hope you enjoyed the guide/found it informative. May you enjoy the GREAT MAGICAL BALLISTA KNOWN AS XERATH IN YOUR GAMES TO COME!