Xerath Build Guide by Motenai
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.
Arcane power rules.
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.
Introduction & Disclaimer
Why play Xerath and what should we aim at
Xerath has been awarded a serious rework recently that absolutely redefines his playstyle. And I say "awarded" because in my opinion the tweaks and changes he has gone across make him more viable, so we expect to see him in higher ELO games more often. All of his abilities, including his passive, are different now and he can truly become what Riot wanted to do with him at the very beggining: the sniper mage. I will discuss his abilities in the proper section but let's take a look and what we must expect from him and what we can offer when we pick him in solo or group ques, taking in mind that MID LANE is his home and should never leave it, not even in YOLO kill lanes on blind pick games.
Xerath has too major highlights that we MUST abuse: RANGE and AOE DAMAGE. Actually we have to say HUGE RANGE and HUGE AOE DAMAGE. This guide focus precisely in these two key factors and will require the player good positioning and supreme map awareness. At level 16, Xerath's Rite of the Arcane range allows you shoot nearly from your mid tower to the bottom lane... so there's no excuse for not helping. If I can I will add a video where I snipe an enemy Darius when he was helping counter jungling near the enemy blue buff... while sitting behind mid brush.
You also have to take in mind that due to his new passive Mana Surge he is no longer naturally tanky vs ad casters such as Zed, Kha'Zix or Talon; but that 15% of AP converted into armor wasnt going to save your day if caught out of position by an angry Rengar anyway.
So, TL;DR: be an AP Carry, help your team anywhere in the map and position yourself correctly. And do, as Phreak would say, tons of damage. I will skip some basics in this guide assuming that you know the ABCs. Buy potions, buy a ward, etc etc etc. Hope you don't mind.
Pros / Cons
|+ Longest range in the game
+ Safe poke, safe harass
+ Excellent farmer
+ Huge AOE damage
+ Built-in mana sustain
+ Hard CC no longer combo based
|Xerath has an insane range and you should abuse it frequently, specially early game to bully your oponent out of the lane. As long as you can land a few skill shots you will deny experience and gold to your enemy. Both Arcanopulse and Eye of Destruction outrange most common midlaners and the added survivability from the 1-point-wonder Shocking Orb provides a useful anti-gank escape mechanism that he previously didn't have. Plus, you have some kind of built-in mana sustain that works as a reliable Doran's Ring with your passive.|
|+ More squishy than ever
+ All abilities are skill shots
+ Movement based champs counter him
+ Focused as hell
+ No health sustain besides potions
+ Stun difficult to land
|As a true AP Carry, Xerath is squishy. You are no Swain. He will fall to Annie's burst and champions with high mobility like Ahri or with mobility and CC like Kassadin absolutely shut him down. Moreover, those of you who do not like to smartcast abilities will have a hard time with him (not as hard as with Cassiopeia but...), so as with any champion skill-shot based, you either win or fail blatantly.|
Masteries, Runes & Summoner spells
21 OFFENSE 9 into Utility
// We're running a fair 21-0-9 on masteries, taking everything we can from the offensive tree and getting biscuits in utility. In my opinion, Utility is broken at this moment, since you get extra health and mana from the improved potions and nothing in 9 points into the defense tree can compensate for that. Of course, this makes you squisher, but nothing that 9 points in defense could have solved anyway.
Q: Is this the best masteries setup for Xerath?
// Honestly, I don't know. Arguably not, it's just a setup I find it's fine for me, so please tweak it as much as you want, perhaps swapping that 9 points into the defense tree so you can hope and survive that insane Talon burst (good luck with that!!) Again, please let me know your ideas in the comments section.
- Greater Quintessence of Ability Power: // Pretty much self-explanatory here, we're damage dealers and we want the more damage the better.
- Greater Mark of Magic Penetration: // Magic Penetration is hard to come by, so 7.8 points in MPen are quite handy.
- Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power: // I prefer here scaling rather than flat because they get better than their counterpart after the first 8 levels. That's +28 AP at level 18.
- Greater Seal of Mana Regeneration: // Pick these against an AP Carry or pick armor seals to mitigate some early game harass from AD casters like Zed.
Flash: // Since you have no natural escape mecanism other than your stun, this spell allows you quick repositioning when you mess up badly or saving your life to get out of that Ziggs ult. Like it or hate it, this summoner spell comes with your kit.
Barrier: // Xerath has no damage mitigation ability such as Lux's Prismatic Barrier, so this can be activated during long range battles with enemy casters or to block that turret shot that would kill you otherwise. Way better than Heal and a spell that will leave enemy Karthus wondering why he didn't kill you with his OP Requiem.
Ignite: // I personally don't like it on Xerath due to its short range nature and the fact that you shouldn't be in short range EVER. Only times I would consider it would be when the enemy mid laner is playing a health regeneration based champion such as Swain to halve his healing in one shot.
Mana Surge: // This is the first ability that has a complete rework on Xerath. Previosly, his passive granted 15% of AP as armor, so he could trade with AD Casters a bit better. I presume Riot realised that no mage but Swain can trade with them easily so they decided to give a powerful passive that makes, every 12 seconds, get some mana on basic attack hit that scales with level. Attacks on champions restore double the amount. This is like a free Doran's Ring and should be used as much as possible. Gives nice sustain even before you get your Tear of the Goddess or your Chalice of Harmony.
Arcanopulse: // Another rework here. Theoretical maximum range has been tuned down (1300 with the old benefit from Locus of Power) down to 1100, but now you no longer have to be anchored in the ground to achieve the maximum distance. Basically you first cast the ability (press Q and keep it pressed with smartcast) and range expands to the max until you press again the button (or stop pressing with smartcast) Moreover, you can move at 50% speed while you charge the spell in a way very similar to Varus's Piercing Arrow. Scales excellent with its 0.75 AP ratio and with 25% CDR you have it every 3.75 seconds. Because of its excellent farming use, its safe long range poke and your primary damage dealing spell, this ability is a must.
You're going to want to max out [Arcanopulse] before [Eye of destruction] and before [shocking orb].
- // There's a visual hint for the enemy before the spell lands. Take it in mind.
- // Try to position yourself to hit minions AND champions, in this order.
- // Cast it while moving. Face away and turn before casting for a surprise.
Eye of destruction: // Before the patch, Xerath's W was Locus of Power. He anchored to the ground and gained extended range and passively bonus magic penetration. That was a dream come true for enemy gap closers, who used to come by and burst Xerath down. Now it puts an area on the ground that hits after a short delay, dealing increased damage on the center of it and providing a huge AOE slow as well. Enemies hit outside the center take decreased damage and the effect of the slow gets minimal. The AP scaling of Eye of Destruction is great (0.91) and works wonders specially against targets with movement impaired, like those hit with your E.
Because of its kill potential and great AP scaling, you're going to max out [Eye of Destruction] after [Arcanopulse] and before [Shocking Orb].
- // The AOE effect is more difficult to dodge than your Q
- // Combo it early with your Q to clear instantly a minion wave
- // Remember the 0.5 seconds delay!! Aim accordingly.
Shocking Orb: // Shocking Orb fires a skill shot nuke that stuns the first enemy it hits, be it minion or champion. Xerath's old E was a directed and impossible to miss nuke shot to start the stun combo. Now it stuns directly the target at quite a high range (1050) but because of the slow missile speed - similar to Anivia's Flash Frost - it's very easy to dodge at max distance and also useless if the enemy hides behind minions. But it works amazingly well versus gankers, gap closers or turret divers. On teamfights you can fire it and stun an enemy for 2 seconds, since stun duration directly depends on how far the missile has travelled, because it is not likely the adversary's Volibear will see it coming.
Because of the utility it provides at level one and the lowest of the AP scaling of all your abilities, you're going to max [Shocking Orb] after [Arcanopulse] and after [Eye of Destruction].
- // Smart cast it and fire this ability while moving. Surprise stun under your turret.
- // Do never start a fight with this. Leave it as an escape mechanism.
- // After landing your stun, follow up with W and Q (you can cast both at the same time)
Rite of the Arcane: // You're new trademark ability and what makes your map pressence inmense and a huge threat everywhere you are. Rite of the Arcane anchors you to the ground making you inmune to displacement effects (like Orianna's Command: Shockwave or Vayne's Condemn, though you still receive the damage) and lets you fire 3 skillshot nukes from an INSANE distance to the target. Enemies will receive a short hint where the shot will land after 0.5 seconds, but with a little bit of practice, hitting enemies gets easier specially in teamfights. Maximum damage to single targets is crazy (900 + 1.29 AP!!) and you can easily burst down the enemy AD Carry with this single ability. Range increases with every point spent, so after level 3 of it you can snipe a champion from mid turret to bot or top lane. For you Twisted Fate players, range is HIGHER than Destiny or Ziggs' Mega Inferno Bomb. So even if the area of impact is quite narrower than the old Xerath's ulti, it's far more rewarding when you snipe that Ahri or that Ashe without them ever know what hit them.
You're going to want to max out [Rite of the Arcane] at levels 6, 11 and 16.
- // Camera displacement is a must.
- // Even if you do not have vision, throwing a first shot gives brief sight of the area.
- // Enemies will have a hint of the impact 0.5 seconds before. Aim accordingly.
So let's be controversial a bit. I'm sure some people may have just downvoted the guide because of Archangel's Staff as a Core item. Now let me explain the reasons behind my build.
As an AP Caster, your only way of damage are your spells. With no spells and no Lich Bane in your build, you do ZERO damage. That's not good. So with any AP Caster I normally try to combine both power (AP) with cast speed (Cooldown Reduction) and enough ammo to afford an extended engagement (Mana). You need to have your spells flowing without investing too much in any category, because that would be just a waste of gold. Because of this, let me tell you the maths behind everything without putting too many numbers on it.
A brief story:
I started playing Xerath as I did with most of my AP Casters: Athene's Unholy Grail and Sorcerer's Shoes. I was on my way to my third object and a teamfight erupts in midlane. With a mana pool of roughly 680 (1060 at level 18) I am able to throw a barrage of my spells, spending, approx, 400 mana. Sadly, since all of my magic is tied to skillshots and THAT Riven dodges with Flash and Valor, I need to keep spamming abilities. My 25% CDR allows my Arcanopulse to be ready in 3.75 seconds and Eye of Destruction slows her enough to land another Arcanopulse. While she's about to die, I start pursuit just to find that... that... NOT ENOUGH MANA. NOT ENOUGH MANA. She runs away beyond the second mid tower and writes in the /all channel "Probably NOT". I swear myself that this should never happen again.
So we start with a Sapphire Crystal and 2x Health Potion to quickly rush Tear of the Goddess, but we leave it there, we do not rush the full staff. We leave the Tear there, charging, awaiting its moment while we aim more important concerns. Since Xerath is a good ability spammer, the tear will fill up pretty much quickly. We then look for CDR and the item that suits us best is Morellonomicon. Not only we get a huge AP boost but we get some mana regen as well and a nice passive that will help versus that Swain, Warwick, Volibear or any other health regen champion. By minute 25, Tear is fully charged and can be upgraded to Seraph's Embrace. With that, we will roughly have 2000+ mana (and hence, 120 AP). That's enough to keep firing abilities to no end PLUS you get a nice shield because of its active, a shield that added to your Barrier, blocks Karthus Requiem and Ziggs Mega Inferno Bomb. NOW HOW COOL IS THAT?
Q. But Motenai, Athene's Unholy Grail gives us 20 CDR, good mana sustain and MAGIC RESIST!!
Yes, but 40 points in MR are not going to save your day. Yes, they may mitigate some of the early damage from your AP midlaner (useless vs AD midlaners), but 500+ from the shield will mitigate MORE damage, of any kind, in 1 vs 1 fights hands down. Plus, both passives from Grail are completely useless to Xerath end game.
// Natural upgrade for almost every caster.
// +15 Mpen, along with your masteries to click 22.8 total. Enemies with no Magic resist will be left with 7.2 which is nothing. This boots are nearly mandatory and should become yours after your second trip back to base.
// Single Item with most AP. Pure damage Object
// Should normally be your third object if the Tear of the Goddess is not yet full. 120 AP + 30% of the global AP. This wizard hat makes your damage skyrocket and enables you to quickly dispatch all the squishies.
// 35% magic resist ignore to kill those tanks
// In lower ELO, this item is HARDLY necessary because people likes to build like a glass cannon except for the tank. If only ONE member of the enemy team is building MR, you should NOT bother with this. If several people are building tanky or are naturally tanky, this Staff is critical to your set.
// Nice bunch of AP plus a magic active
// While starting with an Seeker's Armguard might save your life early game vs that Zed all-in, having this item in your arsenal allows for some plays under your own turret, blocking some ticks of Ignite or for cooldowns recovery. In my opinion a great 5th or last pick.
// more magic penetration, some health and tank melting
// Those two objects might come in together because they sinergyze optimally. There are some teams stacking health and some tanks hard to bring down. Liandry's + Rylay's work wonders together, bringing 2% of enemy's health down every second.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter
// makes you beefier and adds a slow to your abilities
// The combo of Liandry + Rylai will give you about 800 health and 130 AP, not bad, but specially the ability to melt tanks down and to increase your chasing potential because of the slow. While with 800 AP you should be able to melt anything down anyway, for teams stacking HP this can be interesting and the tests I made with it were pretty good.
Rod of Ages
// health, mana and AP in a single item
// While it's a very cost effective item (650 health, 650 mana and 80 AP after 10 minutes), I prefer this kind of object in other champions with increasing mana costs per second, like Swain, Anivia or Kassadin. While it might fit some builds, I do not recommend it.
As I said several times during this guide, Xerath should abuse his range. That is: farming, poking and harassing without putting himself in danger. You would naturally push the lane against early terrible farmers like LeBlanc or Swain (or Annie if she keeps her stun around), but that's no problem.
Just farm and poke. In this order. FARM and POKE. Do NOT, and I just can't stress this enough, do NOT STOP FARMING FOR POKING. Every 12 seconds hit a minion with a basic attack to recover some mana from your passive or hit a champion if he's melee. Position yourself the way you would hit more minions with Arcanopulse, preferrably approaching the side of the river that is warded, and go last hitting manually or with your W. If suddenly a Katarina gets too greedy and Shunpo's on you, punish her with your E + W + Q combo that will obliterate half of her health. Keep farming and poking to try to bully your opponent out of lane. Get your Tear ASAP and fire all 3 spells while on base to help charge it. DO NOT OVEREXTEND unles you know where the enemy jungler is; Xerath is very weak in all stags of the game and we want to keep him safe and farming.
Starting level 6, no squishy can withstand a full barrage of your spells: Q + W will melt 30% of their HP if well aimed and if they all-in, Q + E + W + R will finish them off. At this point you become a good pusher, but the range of your R, while fearsome, it's still not enough to be the monster you'll soon become. Still, at level 11 you can help a teamfight in dragon while being in your blue buff brush, so KEEP ALWAYS A LOOK AT THE MINIMAP. Roam as much as you can and get kills or assists whenever possible. I know this may sound obvious but getting an assist with Xerath is waaaaaay easier than with Akali because you don't need to get your hands that dirty, so to speak. And KEEP FARMING. Try to place yourself in the 150 CS mark at minute 20, which is very doable but not very common in bronze and silver ELOs.
Now it's YOUR moment. Your map presence is huge, your AOE damage is supreme and you can peel off off-tanks and carries BEFORE the battle even starts. Siege towers from afar, protect yours without fear of enemy diving yours and SNIPE. SNIPE! You are a mage SNIPER, use that gift that's bestowed on you. You MUST be in every skirmish, big or small, you must enlarge your presence the way your ememies keep wondering from where they will receive the next shot. Jungle warding offers great opportunities to finish off fleeing opponents, even buff stealing or objective stealing (like Dragon). In teamfights be in the rearguard, behind tanks, offtanks and even the AD Carry. You're no Swain nor Katarina, you don't need to go up close and personal. Keep firing abilities like mad and destroy your adversaries with your raw power.
F.A.Q. (Because there's nothing like a good faq...ing we say)
|Q: First things first! Where did you learn to code your guide? it's texty but rocks!!||// Well, all credit goes to jhoijhoi because from him I learned everything there is here. All templates, all ideas... everything but some minor tweaks come from THIS GUIDE. So kudos to him for his help, without him this guide would not be. He probably doesn't know but he helped me greatly.|
|Q: I so totally disagree with your item build, masteries, runes and everything!!||// Well, that's good. Just do not downvote the guide for this and I will add a suggested user build on top of that. I love to discuss about items and build paths so please, PLEASE, feedback and positive criticism is VERY MUCH appreciated.|
|Q: Is the guide already finished?||// Nope. I plan to add some videos, match-ups and other stuff. it will largely depend on feedback though. Any help is welcome!!|
|Q: Why the hell should I follow your guide? Your ELO is hell, you're old and you're getting bald!||// Well, yes, yes and yes xD This is not the Bible, it's just my idea of how to play this champion. If you totally own Diamond 1 with Xerath with your own build, congratualtions! You're probably in a skill level I will never be. Jump down here and share your knowledge with us :)|
|Q: Again, why Archangel's Staff above anything else?||// Emmm, ok xD More AP, Infinite mana to fire abilities at will and powerful active!|
07-01-2014: Started reading about coding from jhoijhoi and planning to write a guide for Zerath
15-01-2014: Started writing
11-02-2014: Xerath's rework come into play, I decide this should be a good time to wrap things up. Rewrote Runes, Masteries, Summoner Spells.
12-02-2014: Introduction, disclaimer and pros and cons finished again.
13-02-2014: Abilities section finished again.
14-02-2014: Items and conclusion finished... again.
14-02-2014: Guide published.