Katarina Build Guide by Mooninites
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Not Updated For Current Season
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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.
Welcome to my Top Lane Katarina guide. My name is Mooninites; I've been a member of Mobafire for quite some time. I've played league of legends for almost 3 years now. I've been playing Katarina for a little less than a year now, starting a few months before her rework and I've been playing her pretty frequently since then. I saw the potential and started playing Katarina top lane after her rework, however my build has evolved steadily since. While I wouldn't say I got top lane Katarina from Voyboy, he does deserve credit for giving my build direction, especially in Season 3. In this guide I will attempt to teach you how I choose to play a bruiser version of Katarina.
Runes and Masteries
This is my particular mastery of choice, there are other variations. however I feel this best suits my play style. In general, points in the defensive tree are far more efficient than the offensive tree. Additionally, the lower half of the Offensive tree offers very little for this type of build. Because this build relies on Katarina's base damages and builds little AP or AP near the end of the game, Archmage , Spellsword , and Havoc offer very little. Executioner is a fine mastery but isn't as effective until after we pick up some items when we are truly able to whittle our opponent out of lane.
Runes and Masteries
Greater Mark of Magic Penetration
Greater Seal of Armor
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist
Greater Quintessence of Ability Power
This is a pretty standard rune page for any AP top. Magic Pen is probably the best option forMarks although there are other alternatives such as armor. I don't feel that flat AP or AP/level Marks are worth it however. Armor Seals are pretty much a must. The only other option is Scaling Health seals when you're against an AP champion, but even then armor is good in general because it reduces basic attacks and minion attacks. You have a few options with Glyphs, I personally like mixing Flat MR and Scaling MR together, but you can also choose AP/level glyphs as well. You have a number of options for Quintessences as well. I prefer Flat AP, but Movement Speed and Flat Health are also acceptable.
- Yes, you have Shunpo but Flash is such a playmaking spell that it's necessary to take. A Flash+ Shunpo is a major gap-closer or escape and there are times when you won't have anything to Shunpo to and will be forced to burn flash. Simply put, Flash is too much of a playmaking spell to pass up.
- My personal secondary choice for a summoner. I think it's the best secondary summoner for Katarina top lane. Katarina has pretty good base damages, but against bruisers your kill potential isn't enough to take Ignite imo. Teleport allows you to split push and get across the map to affect team fights.
- As stated quite briefly why I take Teleport over Ignite, but that's the main reason. Ignite is pretty substantial damage, but you have relatviely low kill potential for most of the game, and you're just trying to be a bully. If you really like Ignite for securing kills then by all means take it.
- It's more of an anti-dive spell and late game spell, but it is fairly useful top lane. I really don't like taking it top for no reason other than I don't feel like I make full use out of it until much later in the game. I also don't think it's as strong against bruisers as other options such as Barrier or Teleport.
- Barrier is really strong right now. This summoner is a great baiting tool. Since a lot of tops take ignite can totally nullify it and it's a fairly good escape if you have a DoT on you and manage to shunpo away with no HP. It increases your trade potential by a pretty good amount. Probably worth considering.
Skill Sequence and Explanation
This is the my particular skill order for Katarina all there are some minor adjustments I make on a per lane basis. As you can see I generally max Sinister Steel(W) first; there are a number of reasons for this, the first and probably most prominent is, once I start winning trades, I want to be in the enemies face as much as possible. Sinister Steel is on a very short cooldown, it's got low base damage early on but gets pretty high once you get some points in it. This is also the ability to max for sustained fights, rank 5 is 200 base damage, and you can imagine hitting someone every 4 seconds for 160-180 (factoring in resistances and magic pen), it makes it incredibly hard to dual katarina. You also get more percentage movement speed per point, so all-in-all you're getting much more per point you spend in W than you would Q.
With that said, there are circumstances in which I feel that Bouncing Blades(Q) is a much better option to max than Sinister Steel(W). The prime example I can think of is someone like Darius. Even if I max Sinister Steel, there is no way I'm going to be able to out trade Darius unless I have an absolutely massive lead. For this reason, I want to max Bouncing Blades as a form of harass so that I can whittle away at his health before going in. Generally, you should max Bouncing Blades against champions you will never be able to out trade. (It's important to note that there are some exceptions, we generally will never be able to out trade Yorick but still max Sinister Steel)
- Voracity is Katarina's passive and reduces all cooldowns by 15 seconds whenever she gets a kill or assist. This is essentially a reset for all her abilities aside from her ultimate because none of her abilities have a cooldown longer than 15 seconds. It does reduce the cooldown of her ultimate by 1/4. A lot of Katarina's damage in teamfights comes from getting resets, failure for you or your team to pick up kills will significantly diminish your damage in team fights.
- Bouncing Blades is Katarina's bread and butter, even while maxing Sinister Steel. It's our main harass tool, but spamming it will push your lane. It's important to note that Bouncing Blades hits the target and then bounces to the 4 closest enemies to your target and puts a mark on all enemies hit. In total it will hit 5 targets and the mark can proc on any form of damage including auto attacks and spells. It's also worth noting that it does 10% less damage per bounce, so if you want to maximize your damage on a champion you should try to cast it on the champion or on the nearest minion.
sinister steel - Sinister Steel is the spell we will max first. It's on a very short, 4 second cooldown, does a decent amount of damage and also grants us a 20-35% movement speed increase. This is a pretty effective harass tool, especially when proccing a Bouncing Blade mark. It's a decent tool for pushing the wave, but foremost, it allows us to effectively chase people down. We already have very high base movement speed, but with the movement speed granted by Sinister Steel and Shunpo it makes it very difficult to get away from you. It's really important that you understand that this ability does have decent range; it's a 375 range, so you can easily skirt the edge and disengage before an enemy can react.
- Shunpo is one of our most important spells. It's a gap closer and an escape. Using this spell effectively early in the laning phase is crucial. In a lot of situations you can totally avoid damage by dodging or just simply disengaging. Katarina also gains 15% damage reduction for 1.5 seconds after using Shunpo. This is pretty huge, because it increases your trade potential by quite a bit. You can use this ability to jump to enemies, teammates, minions, and your own wards, but you are not able to jump to towers or enemy wards with this ability.
- Death Lotus is our channeled AoE nuke. It does massive base damage and has an exceptional ratio, but it's channeled over 2 seconds making it fairly easy to interrupt. A lot of mistakes I see people make when playing Katarina is never using their ultimate or trying to find a time to go in when they're ultimate won't get interrupted. You basically want to find a time when you can get as much damage off on your ultimate as possible, even if it will get interrupted. The most important thing is getting the reset in a team fight, so using your ultimate is never bad as long as you use it intelligently. Also in the laning phase, you shouldn't be afraid to use your ultimate. It's on an extremely short cooldown (60 seconds at rank 1). If an enemy top laner blows their CC or escape, I'm popping Death Lotus immediately, because there's almost no way they can outtrade me. So for example, Garen blows his Q on me or a minion, I'm immediately using Shunpo on him and ulting.
I have no set item path that I follow every game, however there are a number of items I consider very strong and build on a frequent basis. I usually base my item purchases in accordance to how the game is going, building what I need. However, there are some item choices that are good and some that are bad.
- A good amount of health and armor as well as a strong passive. This makes trading for us extremely effective. With Shunpo and Sinister Steel you can basically keep this thing ticking on the enemy without them able to get away. This usually tilts trading in our favor.
- This gives a huge amount of health and passive regen. It's been nerfed, but it's not bad and in this particular top lane Katarina guide a lot of items we choose have a good amount of health on it. I don't think it's an item to rush anymore but as a 3rd or 4th item it's not bad.
- This is such a ridiculously effective armor item. It shuts down ADC's, it effective against bruisers and gives a huge amount of health and armor. This item is almost too good, and should be built fairly frequently to shut down enemy AD's.
- A good amount of AP and MR with a fantastic passive. I highly recommend this as your go to MR item. It also works in conjunction with Sunfire Cape should you choose to get both. Katarina makes exceptional use out of this item
- This is a really good item, especially when you're not building a lot of AP.In addition, AP, Spell Vamp, Health, and a % health based DoT are all very strong stats for Katarina. And as I pointed out, since this build has very little AP in it, you can rely on the damage from the DoT of Liandry's to be your major source of damage.
- I don't really like this item on Katarina and I think it's quite bad for AP Katarina but it has it's place on bruiser Kat. It's good a good amount of health and AP but the main attraction is the slow that basically makes it impossible for enemies to run away from you. I wouldn't ever rush this item and it would probably come out very late in my build if at all. I think there are better options, but that's not to say this item isn't strong.
- This is a pretty underrated item in my opinion. It has a good chunk of AP and MR as well as movement speed and a pretty good active all for 1900 gold. It's extremely efficient, but I would probably only pick this item up if the enemy team was AP heavy and I already had Abyssal Scepter but wanted another source of MR.
- This is obviously one of the strongest AP items in the game, but I wouldn't consider it core on Katarina. It offers a good chunk of AP but since we don't build that much AP in general, the passive is not as effective as perhaps it should be. I still think it's a good and viable item, I just choose not to build it all the time, because my main focus is getting really tanky.
- Seeker's Armguard is a really good item on Katarina especially to deal with a heavy AD champion early on like Riven or Renekton. However, I don't feel that Zhonya's Hourglass is a must for Kat. It has a good amount of AP and Armor, but the active can sometimes screw us up if used improperly. It's worth noting that you cannot channel your ultimate while in Stasis.
- probably the go-to spell vamp item as Will of the Ancients is extremely cost inefficient. I don't really like spell vamp on Katarina and don't feel that it's necessary so I rarily get it, but if you want spell vamp in your build, this is the item to get.
- It got nerfed pretty heavily between Season 2 and Season 3. It provides an okay amount of armor and MR but the main reason to purchase it would be for the passive revive. It can be extremely strong, especially with the ability to get resets, but I generally shy away from this item unless I feel the need for a revive.
Weak Item Choices
- It's not really that good anymore. I already don't like spell vamp on Katarina, and it's extremely inefficient. To break even on gold efficiency you have to have two members of your team also benefit from the passive. If you want a spell vamp item go with Spirit of the Spectral Wraith.
- with the Katarina rework and the rework of gunblade, we don't really build this item anymore. It's viable, but I wouldn't really ever give it an item slot. AD is not as good on Katarina as it used to be, in fact the only AD ratio we now have is on W, aside from that there are other glaring issues such as the expense of the item.
- This has a good amount of AP, CDR, and a nice active, but we don't really use it efficiently. We're not a burst mage, so I don't see the active as that useful for Katarina. Decent item, just not for Katarina.
- unless you're building a ton of spell vamp, there's no reason to get this item. There's just better MR choices such as Abyssal Scepter and Twin Shadows.
- There are better spell pen items for us such as Liandry's Torment, Sorcerer's Shoes and Abyssal Scepter
- it makes sense for a champion like Lee Sin who can make a lot of use with wards, such as getting near an enemy to harass them, but it's really not that useful on Katarina. Sure it can be a nifty escape, but why not just buy 1 extra Sight Ward? There's just not much you can do with this item other than use it as an escape.
- Optimal choice for damage, I highly recommend these unless you feel either Mercury's Treads/ Ninja Tabi are mandatory. Picking these up early isn't a bad idea either.
- If they're AP heavy or they have hard CC it's probably worth the investment to pick these up. Against a champion like Fiddlesticks or Kennen it's pretty mandatory that you pick these up.
- Great against heavy AD and auto-attacking champions such as Tryndamere or if they have a double AD comp.
Katarina is an extremely strong champion with the ability to out-maneuver her opponents with ease. Because of this she is often able to outtrade her opponents as well. This guide has so far covered the basics on runes, masteries, and itemization but now needs to delve into the goals you should set each game when playing Katarina in the top lane.
Let's go over some brief goals with a general idea of how you want to play Katarina throughout the game
- Early Game (levels 1-5) - Sit back and farm with Bouncing Blades, you will likely get behind, you want to avoid trading and taking damage by making use of Shunpo
- Mid Game (levels 6-11) - You should have an item or two by now and want to start bullying your opponent out. Very few champions can trade with you, bully your opponent out of lane and push up
- Late Game (levels 12-18) - You want to spend a decent amount of time split pushing, creating pressure on the map, but you also have to know when to team fight. You are not a clean-up Katarina coming in for kills and resets, you are a front line Katarina constantly causing problems for the enemy carries.
Early game is important for every champion and that includes Katarina but it is not crucial to your success. You will likely be slightly behind in CS because your main goal is to avoid damage and farm up to get some decent defensive items. Early game you won't really have any opportunities to bully your opponent nor will you have a lot of kill potential unless your opponent makes a fatal error. The main thing you want to do is survive until you get that first defensive item.
Boots of Speed + Health Potionx4 is a decent starting choice especially against champions like Darius with his pull or Lee Sin with his Q. You have Shunpo and high base movement speed so it is not necessary to start boots.
Riot recently buffed Doran's Shield and made it cost 35 less gold which allows you to pick up a Health Potion. It's a pretty good start especially against heavy auto-attack champions like Kennen or Nidalee.
The classic Cloth + 5 start. It's still good, especially against champions like Darius or Riven. The 5 Health Potions also keep us in lane.
Mid game is the part of the game where Katarina can really start to trade well and bully her opponent. At level 6 you gain Death Lotus which can punish enemies for poorly using any form of CC/interrupt that they have. Aside from this, your base damages really start to pick up on Sinister Steel and Bouncing Blades.
Giant's Belt is a universally good item, it also builds into a lot of our itemization goals such as Warmog's Armor, Sunfire Cape, Randuin's Omen.
Chain Vest is a strong option against AD heavy champion and will generally allow you to pick up Health Potions and Sight Wards but it limits our path build to pretty much only Sunfire Cape.
This is the heavier damage option, it gives spell pen, health and AP. It will make you fairly more squishy but it's a huge boost in damage. You can take this against champions that aren't really a threat to you.
Late game can really dictate how the game ends. This is one of the more difficult parts of the game because this is when experience and game knowledge really comes in. In a very broad sense, at this point you have to decide whether or not it is more beneficial to split-push or to teamfight. Katarina can do both quite proficiently but your focus should be on being in the right place at the right time, so essentially you need to group with your team to fight if you feel you can win a fight. If your team is behind it's probably worth asking them to hold off the enemy push while you try to isolate a 1v1 lane.
This is a very armor intensive build is extremely effective against most bruisers you will face top lane. It offers a combined 950 hp as well as 115 armor and two awesome passives. You should be able to outtrade virtually everyone and no one will be able to get away from you.
This is an extremely effective build against an AP top like Rumble or Vladimir. I would really only recommend this against AP tops and/or AP heavy teams because most AD tops will steam roll this build.
This is an extremely synergistic build and effective against hybrid champions that will be doing a lot of physical and magic damage such as Jax, Nidalee, or Kennen. Sunfire Damage is actually affected by Abyssal passive.
You should have two core items completed by late game, and the purpose of the above 'item choices' section is to show general build for specific late game situations. Late game itemization is generally filling in gaps of your build to shore up weaknesses.
I will cover the key match-ups to top lane and include the difficulty of facing such a champion as well some tips to win lane. It's important to note that each match-up is different and there are factors such as your skill level as well as the opponents skill level which can change the match-up drastically.
There's not really a lot you can do against her. You early game harass isn't enough to push out of lane even though this is the time to take advantage of her. You have no way to really stop her from steam rolling you post 6 but she has no way of stopping your ultimate. She lacks wave clear so you can take advantage of her in that aspect but the match up is fairly difficult for you.
This is one of those classic match-ups where neither of you can really kill each other. Cho'gath has pretty good wave clear and decent damage on top of being a tanky beast. I recommend getting an early Abyssal Scepter and Liandry's Torment to deal with him but note that this will be fairly difficult for you to win.
Darius is kind of a ******ed champion because no matter how hard you crush him in lane, he's almost impossible to dual, even when he's behind 50 farm and 5 kills. You generally want to stay just out of range of his pull (which is 525 range). To put this in perspective your Bouncing Blades is 675 range while your Sinister Steel is 375 range. If you're in range to hit him with W, you're too close, if you're just barely in range to Q him, you're in the clear. I would just try and Shunpo his pulls and harass him down with Bouncing Blades. This is one of those times when you should max Bouncing Blades first.
She's extremely difficult to outtrade and she can just Rappel your ultimate. A lot of the time when you try and trade with her she will just outtrade you. Her weakness is waveclear which you can take advantage of, but it's not a major flaw to the point where you can significantly abuse it, this should be a difficult lane for you.
An uncommon top, but none-the-less strong. She can outtrade if she gets in your face, which isn't hard for her to do with her Lunge. She can also totally nullify your ultimate by casting hers but she is weak as far as waveclear. Unlike Elise you can abuse this pretty easily. She's not hard to harass down, but very difficult to kill. She's also takes turrets extremely quickly so if you leave lane watch out.
This guy is the definition of a cakewalk. He can pretty much never get damage on you, and you can constantly harass him down. Once her burns his Q you pretty much have a free ultimate. I would never go toe-to-toe with him at roughly the same health, but you should easily whittle him down and then go in for the kill. Extremely easy to abuse.
She has a really good late game and built in sustain, but she's abuseable. It should be really hard for her to get damage on you because she's primarily an auto attack champion and you can easily avoid her damage by Shunpoing out of it or just using Sinister Steel to run away. Once she burns her Equilibrium Strike you can get a free ultimate off. Similar to Garen you can harass her down but she has more inherent sustain than Garen so it will take alot more to whittle her down. I highly suggest rushing Randuin's Omen because she is such an auto-attack based champion.
He's got a fantastic late game, but you can abuse him slightly. You should really never get stunned by his E and he is an auto-attack based champion so he shouldn't be able to get a lot of damage on you, but since a lot of Jax players like to rush Blade of the Ruined King it's hard for you to just outright bully him. He doesn't have good waveclear but it's hard to abuse. I would try to take advantage of him early, like Irelia rush Randuin's Omen
Her ultimate can nullify yours and she's really good at turning around trades. You can bully her somewhat often, but I find that she's difficult to build against and pretty good at pushing waves and taking towers. It's an unfavorable match-up and I would suggest rushing Randuin's Omen as one of your first two items.
If he lands a Q on you, he can really hurt, but other than that he's really easy. You can harass him down, but he can sustain with his W. It's really hard to get a good ult off on him, because of his ult and he can Safeguard away, but you really shouldn't need to. Just avoid his Q and whittle him down. I would rush Sunfire Cape and just force prolonged trades, he should drop like a fly.
Building an Abyssal Scepter and some spell pen can absolutely crush this guy. A lot of Malphite's build tanky but there are some that build a bit of AP. I would be extremely cautious of the AP malphites, but tank malphs are easy. Generally speaking you can outtrade him at all points, beware his ultimate, but once he burns it you get a free ult. If you have a good reaction speed then you can dodge a lot of his ultimates. All in all, this should be a fairly easy lane
The recent changes have made Kha'Zix fairly strong. He now maxes and evolves Taste Their Fear which has some positives and negatives. He's much more burst oriented and can arguably deal more damage, but he also puts himself at risk. You want to be able to survive his burst so you need a lot of armor. It's pretty hard to win this lane.
In the early levels he's primarily an auto-attack champion so Doran's Shield is a good start. Standing behind minions can avoid his stun, but at level 6 he becomes quite strong. If he ultimates, you need to get out immediately. This is one of the few champions that I feel you can't outtrade, even after he burns his stun. Once his ultimate is down, you can get a free ultimate on him, but he does have lightning rush to get away. The only thing you need to worry about is his ultimate. This is one of the circumstances in which I would max Bouncing Blades, because getting in range to use Sinister Steel might provoke him to use his ultimate.
Asides from being nerfed, this guy was always a cakewalk. It's so hard for him to get significant damage on you and his Undertow is really easy to dodge. You can generally get a lot of free damage on him and he has no way to stop your ultimate. I would rush Sunfire Cape and force engagements.
Renekton isn't hard to deal with, you can avoid a lot of his damage but you can't really him. His ultimate for the most part counters yours, and a full-on, hard engage will favor him, but you can whittle away at him pretty easily. He has built in sustain but it's usually not enough to deal with your harass. After he blows Ruthless Predator use your ultimate. A lot of times it will bait Renekton players into using Dominus and then just disengages. Since Dominus is twice the length of your cooldown you should be able to get one or two more ults in before he gets his back up.
Rengar has to win his lane early (as in levels 1-4), if he doesn't he's fairly easy to deal with. Just be extremely cautious during early game, once you get some armor he's pretty manageable but still has strong burst.
This is by far Katarina's easy match-up. She was basically made to absolutely obliterate this champion. Riven has a lot of short-ranged gap closers that are easily avoidable with Shunpo or even just Sinister Steel. A lot of times you can Q her and then Shunpo in and Sinister Steel out before she can even do anything. She should basically never get damage damage on you. She has two forms of CC to interrupt your ultimate, but once she burns Ki Burst just use your ultimate. The only way for her to interrupt your ult while Ki Burst is on cooldown is on the 3rd cast of Broken Wings. Your ultimate is a 2 second channel and by the time she gets to that third cast you should have a majority of it channeled. Rush Sunfire Cape proceed to steam roll.
For most champions Rumble can give them a real problem, although Katarina does fairly well against him. His main source of damage, Flamespitter is often not in range to do damage to you and he has really no other form of damage. He can block a significant portion of your damage his Scrap Shield, but it's generally not an issue. He has no way to interrupt your ultimate, but if he ults you while you're ulting, he will win the trade. It's difficult to bully him, but can be done, just be careful during team fights because he does have more utility and will do more damage than you.
He's pretty hard to deal with even though he can't stop your ultimate. You just don't have that many tools do punish his weak early game. He has very low mobility so call for jungle help often. If he uses his ult to go in on you, you can blow your ultimate as well to reduce the spell vamp effects, but generally you will lose out on this trade.
He can't kill you, but you can't really kill him. He's fairly easy to bully in some respects, but you can't stop his ultimate and you don't take towers all the well, so it's hard to punish him. The most important thing is to constantly harass him and push on him, so he feels like he can't use his ultimate. If he does start channeling his ultimate in lane, go ahead and punish him for it by Shunpoing to him and using your ultimate. Immediately after he TP's out; push.
Singed is really hard to deal with because you can't really punish him. A lot of Singed players will just proxy the wave, to counter this, proxy his, don't try and fight him. You are a resourceless champion, so generally you can out-proxy him, but not always. Just do your best to not lose lane, and let him proxy all he wants, just proxy him right back.
He's annoying as ****, everyone wants to kill him, and just sucks to play against in general. He has no way to stop your ultimate and you can generally get pretty good harass on him, but if he gets multiple auto-attacks on you, you will probably lose trades. It's a hard lane to win and yours to lose if you misplay. This lane is a lot more forgiving for teemo, but you have stronger team fight presence, so use that to your advantage.
It's hard to win lane against, although he's easy to abuse early. He can dodge your ultimate with his pool and generally has enough sustain to deal with your harass until he becomes a late game monster. This isn't really favorable to Katarina and you need to go full ham on him constantly until you start losing trades badly. He has strong team fight and is strong in lane post-level 7 or so. Just do your best to gain an advantage early and try and snowball off it.
He's been pretty bad for some time now, but he can give you problems. His ultimate does more damage than yours and knock's you up, but other than that his kit is really weak. Building a Sunfire Cape and just forcing trades should easily win you the lane.
He's one of the most annoying champions to play against in general, but specifically for Katarina. Every time you go to cast Bouncing Blades on him he can get a free Omen of Pestilence and Omen of Famine on you. It's really hard to kill him because of his ultimate but eventually you can easily outtrade him and avoid a lot of damage. He doesn't have great waveclear but this lane should be pretty hard early on, and get easier as you get more items.
Early on he's not a problem, but after level 6 he becomes really hard to deal with him. If he ults you, Shunpo away immediately. He has no ways to interupt your ult but it's generally not wise to use your ultimate while he has his up or has a death mark on you. Try and abuse him early and snowball the lead, you're going to need a lot of armor.
If you post questions in the comment section I will add them to the FAQ, I will also address them in the comments section.