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Xerath Build Guide by crabbix

Middle [13.20] Climb responsibly with Xerath, Social Distance Mage

Middle [13.20] Climb responsibly with Xerath, Social Distance Mage

Updated on October 19, 2023
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League of Legends Build Guide Author crabbix Build Guide By crabbix 636 37 1,757,644 Views 28 Comments
636 37 1,757,644 Views 28 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author crabbix Xerath Build Guide By crabbix Updated on October 19, 2023
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Runes: Blue as hell

1 2
Arcane Comet
Manaflow Band

Presence of Mind
Coup de Grace

+9 Adaptive (5.4 AD or 9 AP)
+9 Adaptive (5.4 AD or 9 AP)
+6 Armor


Flash goes on F, dammit
LoL Summoner Spell: Barrier


LoL Summoner Spell: Flash


Threats & Synergies

Threats Synergies
Extreme Major Even Minor Tiny
Show All
None Low Ok Strong Ideal
Extreme Threats
Ideal Synergies
Ideal Strong Ok Low None

Champion Build Guide

[13.20] Climb responsibly with Xerath, Social Distance Mage

By crabbix
Aight, I've gotta start by saying that I'm not a god at the game. But after 4 seasons of being a hardstuck Bronze legend, I picked up this champ and got myself to Plat, so I'd like to think I'm qualified to talk about climbing, at least in low elo. I've got a ****ty twitch stream on which I play Xerath most days, and I've been told that I'm somewhat entertaining as I do so. I have ~500k mastery on my main account at the time of writing, and a further ~350k on a smurf which ended up surpassing my main account's rank.
OP.GG and also "smurf".
Why Xerath?
As a Xerath player, I was born ready for this pandemic. I have hundreds of games worth of experience in not going anywhere near anyone if I can help it. Damage from a distance, that's the name of the game.


Incredibly high, consistent damage output.
Unless someone else gets unbelievably fed, you're really only ever going to be outdamaged in a game by a liandry's rush brand/teemo/swain. You can reliably poke basically anyone out of lane pre 6, and once you have 2 or 3 items you can start to one-shot ADCs.

No matter how ****ty the matchup, there's never going to be a lane in which you can't farm safely under turret with your Q. And no matter how much of a ***** your opponent plays like, you're basically always going to be able to snipe them with q or finish them off with ult.

Satisfying as hell.
This one's subjective but I'm such a big fan of Xerath's design. Getting kills with max range Qs is just an impeccable feeling. His abilities feel satisfying and his autoattack is really really solid for a mage.


You gotta hit your skillshots.
Every ability in this champion's kit is a skillshot. If you can't hit them, you can't play Xerath. At all. On the plus side, it's great practice for any other champ in the game with long range skillshots.

You die super easily
You don't have any inbuilt escapes and your cc is hard to hit and not always the most effective. If an assassin gets on top of you, you're pretty much cooked. Positioning is unbelievably important on this champ. Luckily, you have the advantage of excellent range to play with.

All in all, 10/10 would recommend.
Don't just take my word for it, look at this sweet penta I got with him:
Summoner Spells
I really shouldn't have to tell you why you need flash on a squishy champ with no movement abilities.
This is the secondary I take every game. Survivability is at a premium on champs like Xerath, and I think barrier is the best spell for that. Short cooldown, can't be reduced by ignite, and very often makes the difference between life and death.
If you're extremely confident about your reaction time and you're facing a team stacked with hard cc, you can choose to run cleanse. I think Zoe and perhaps TF are the only lane opponents where I'd ever really want to have it over barrier, but in some passive lanes where barrier is less essential you can run it if you prefer.
If you're VERY confident in your macro play and ability to affect the map. Speed boost is pretty nice as of 10.7, I guess. You really don't need it as much as many other mid lane champions due to your semi-global ultimate.
Please don't take ignite. Xerath is not a champ designed around being in range to ignite your opponent, and if you frequently have the opportunity you're probably playing him wrong.

These are the runes that I swear by for almost every matchup.
Here, I talk about the choices for whoever cares about that kind of ****.

This is the absolute bread and butter of your laning phase. Every little piece of poke hurts just a little bit more, and you poke a LOT. Plus killing people with it is ******* hilarious. You can consider Electrocute or Dark Harvest if you really want, but I believe comet will outperform them in 99% of situations.
Xerath is a hungry boi, he needs a ****load of mana but can't build very much efficiently outside of Luden's Echo. In lane, the +25 is a very helpful bonus, and once fully stacked the percentage regen is a vital part of your identity as an artillery mage.
Here, I differ from some other prominent Xerath players, many of whom choose Absolute Focus. The reason I love transcendence is because it lets you hit the magical 40% (actually 45%) cooldown reduction at around 13 minutes, with Luden's and a kind jungler. At this point, you can really snowball a lead by spamming your *** down midlane with Q up every 2.25s. Waveclear and poke unrivalled.
Absolute focus ain't bad tho.
I've recently been really enjoying scorch over Gathering Storm, since I find that as of the current patch (10.8) my games are almost all finishing inside of 30 minutes. I would consider 30 minutes to be the break-even point for gathering, so if your games are consistently longer it may be worth taking over scorch.
Swap this out for boots at will, or perfect timing if facing a zed/talon/fizz etc.
I'm a big fan of biscuits because they so often give you just the little extra bit of sustain needed to stay in lane for an extra wave or two. Don't underestimate the mana regen, either. The difference between backing with 1100 and 1300 gold is the difference between having lost chapter or not, and it can genuinely decide a lane.
There isn't as much to say about this one, it's just an incredibly solid choice and boost to your power level. Who doesn't love cooldown reduction? Having flash up 15 seconds early is also not to be underestimated.
Minor Runes I will almost always run double adaptive force and armour, even into mage opponents. The reason for this is xerath's horrific base armour (22 at level 1), and how significant minion aggro and autoattack harass can be early game. I really only take magic resist into matchups that are likely to kill me before level 6 with magic damage, such as fizz, katarina, and maybe sylas.

Core build

I start every game with a Doran's ring and two Health Potions, there isn't really a lot to discuss here - early lane phase is all about sustain and for Xerath this set of starting items provides exactly that.
This item is, in my opinion, the only thing that makes Xerath a viable midlaner. It should be your absolute priority to build this every single game as soon as possible. The mana regen on level up, along with Mana Surge anmd Manaflow Band allows you to poke almost incessantly even without a blue buff, and this is your win condition for laning phase. If you can, stay in lane until you have 1300 gold and buy this straight up. If not, coming back to lane with Boots and one or two Amplifying Tomes to quickly and safely farm the rest of the gold needed to buy Lost Chapter is a viable path to take.
AD assassins are exceptionally strong right now with the new lethality items, so I highly recommend this item at the same time as or before Lost Chapter in any AD matchup, and even against AP midlaners if the enemy jungler is AD/lethality - i.e. Kayn, Kha'Zix, Lee Sin.
I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH THAT YOU NEED TO BUY THESE!!! If you're already a high elo player you can skip to the next section - but speaking as someone who's climbed out of the depths of elo hell, buying control wards is unimaginably important. I honestly didn't start buying these consistently at all until about September last year. Coincidentally, I hit Platinum on the 1st of November. Especially on Xerath, who is very susceptible to jungle ganks, vision will save your life.
Season 11 made this item a Mythic, and accordingly it's responsible for a lot of Xerath's power budget. I believe it's still optimal to rush this, as the stats are excellent value and the mana is very needed. Ideally, you'll also have at least Boots, and if you have the gold spare, Sorcerer's Shoes by the time you finish this, but this should absolutely be priority number 1.
Magic penetration is an incredibly undervalued stat in general. On Xerath, these boots are going to increase your damage output by around 15% against squishy targets. While defensive boots like Ninja Tabi and Mercury's Treads are certainly valuable, you ideally want to maximise your damage output above all else, and rely on positioning and peel to keep yourself alive.
This item takes over Horizon Focus's season 11 role as Xerath's default second item. The stats are just ridiculous, the flat penetration synergises really well with both xerath's base damage and the passive burn from Liandry's Torment. Buy every game.
Unless you're unbelievably far ahead, most games you play you will want to build an Oblivion Orb straight after your Luden's Tempest. It's very stat efficient and given that healing is insanely prevalent in season 11, I think rushing this is pretty much a must in almost all games.
Once you've built your first two items (or one and a half, if you've decided not to upgrade Oblivion Orb, you should assess your position in the game. If everything's going well, it's time for you to build Rabadon's Deathcap. The reasoning behind this item is simple. Do lots of damage. If you're not doing well in the game, refer to 'Situational Items' below. In most cases, Luden's Tempest, Morellonomicon, and Rabadon's Deathcap will give you enough damage and penetration to start one-shotting squishy opponents.
This is the final item I would consider to be part of the 'core build' for Xerath. Again, evaluate the enemy team and see how much magic resistance they have built. As long as there are at least 2 targets that have built at least one full magic resistance item, void staff is a worthwhile purchase.

Situational Items

While usually an item reserved for smurfs and normal-game pubstompers, I think that Mejai's is a very viable purchase on Xerath, due to his range and ability to play extremely safely with a lead. I like to buy Dark Seal in situations where I have 350g to spare, and if I manage to stack Dark Seal fully, upgrade it to Mejai's Soulstealer right after my Luden's Tempest. Obviously, don't get it unless you are well ahead and confident in your team to peel for you, as you will become a target.
I really don't like building this item, but in some situations it's just necessary. If the enemy team has a Zed, a Talon, a Nocturne or a Rengar, then this item is really the only way you can ever survive a teamfight long enough to be useful. Build Seeker's Armguard early, aim to finish it at the same time as your Luden's Tempest and grab a Stopwatch when you have the gold. Continue with the build as normal, upgrading to Zhonya's Hourglass once you're forced to use your Stopwatch. At least the cooldown reduction is nice.
Once again, building this sucks, because you're not doing TONS OF DAMAGE. However, into Fizz, Diana, Sylas, and other AP assassins it is an absolute lifesaver. Finish after Luden's Tempest, and then proceed as usual. Again, the cooldown reduction is nice.
Team composition dependent, but Liandry's absolutely destroys HP-stacking tanks, more so than any item in the game. Look out for Zac, Dr. Mundo, Sejuani and the like. Note that this item is a mythic, so if you're building it you need to replace Luden's Tempest. UPDATE As of patch 12.1 I now consider this to be Xerath's default mythic item, and would only build Luden's if enemy team has literally zero tanks.
I think you just don't do enough damage to justify buying this item in anything other than a triple-assassin midlane fiesta. Worth considering if already behind once you have Lost Chapter, but be aware that you will not be nuking people like you want to.
I'm personally not a fan of this item on Xerath, because I think that the other choices listed above are simply better for their price and offer more for the team. However, if you are against a high-mobility enemy team, or if you're not the greatest skillshot hitter in the world, rylai's can be a useful 4th or 5th item.
Due to recent buffs, this is now a viable alternative to Shadowflame. Can also be bought alongside if defensive options like Zhonya's Hourglass or Banshee's Veil are not needed.
Abilities, and how to get the most out of them.
Xerath's passive is a simple enough ability, once every 12 seconds you get a bit of mana from autoattacking. The mana gain doubles if you hit a champion, rather than a minion. Try to do this whenever possible, but do not overcommit for the sake of an auto. Mostly, just try to proc it as often as you can. If passive is available, auto a minion, or your laner if you can do so without getting jumped on.
Xerath's bread and butter ability. My recommendation is to not quick-cast this, as you'll need to hold down q to channel, which can make completing other actions awkward as you channel. Indeed, you can and should walk around while you channel Arcanopulse. In fact, you can also flash during the channel to gain an extra range advantage which your opponent often will not expect. If normal-casting, press q once to begin the channel, and fire the ability with left click, or press q again. The damage is not increased with distance, so double-tapping q to instantly fire it can be very useful.
This is probably your easiest to hit skillshot, so it is often a very good idea to use it before trying to land an Arcanopulse if you're trying to poke, since it slows your opponent. Try to cast it where your lane opponent will have to walk to attack your minions - if you can hit the centre you will do substantial damage, and you're essentially guaranteed to land the follow-up Arcanopulse. This ability grants vision, so I like to use it to check unwarded brushes, and if the enemy team are doing the dragon or baron to check the HP remaining, as well as poking them down.
This is your only hard CC, so don't waste it for poke. The stun duration increases the further the orb is away from you. Many people don't know this, but the duration is calculated based on your position when it hits, not when it was cast. That means if you cast Shocking Orb and then flash backwards, you will increase the stun duration. Unfortunately, since riot games sucks at consistent coding, most movement abilities will either stop or not stop with little warning upon being stunned, so if you are able to, I recommend waiting around half a second to see if the stunned enemy stays in place before following up with Eye of Destruction and Arcanopulse.
This is one of the hardest skillshots in the game to consistently hit. You get 3 shots at level 6, 4 at level 11, and 5 at level 16; expect to hit maybe 1/3 of the shots you take. Fortunately, the payoff for hitting it consistently is enormous. I like to hover my mouse over the ability icon to check its range on the minimap before I commit to firing it. You can also ping the ability when off cooldown, and it will say in chat which enemy champions are visible and in range. Press R to start the channel, and r again to fire each shot at your cursor's location. I like to note that, like Eye of Destruction this ability gives vision when used, so if you know the general area an enemy is in, firing one shot can often reveal them. The downside of this ability is that it roots you, and the channel is quite slow to cancel. Thus, only use it when you're in a safe position. Don't wander down into an unwarded river to try and snipe kills in the enemy botlane, unless you're confident that the enemy midlaner and jungler aren't going to be able to come and find you, cancelling the channel and usually killing you.

Here is a video demonstrating the e-flash technique discussed above to increase the length of the stun:

And another video, showing Xerath's basic E-W-Q combo:

Playing the Champ - Laning Phase

Playing in lane

To quote the worst lane opponent, and the Champion I ban every game( Kassadin): "Balance above all else". You have to strike a balance between harassing your lane opponent and focusing on last hitting minions. Try to hit them with Arcanopulse as they walk in their minion wave, as this will accomplish two goals at once - poking them and shoving the wave. While it's not always a good idea to mindlessly hard-push, as this leaves you susceptible to ganks, you tend to thrive when you can force your opponent under their tower, as you can spam Arcanopulse at them and force them to miss cs, eventually forcing them out of lane entirely. If you do have to farm under your own turret, Shocking Orb does a lot more damage than an autoattack and is very helpful for making sure you don't miss minions. A caster minion that has taken 1 turret shot will die to Shocking Orb and 1 auto at almost all stages of the game.
Try to hit your opponent with either Arcanopulse or Eye of Destruction every time you have your Arcane Comet and Manaflow Band available - maximising the use of these runes will give you a huge boost in power during lane.

Roaming and objective control

Roaming on Xerath is a funny thing - you're very weak if caught alone in the river, so unless you know where the enemy midlaner and jungler are, it's usually a bad idea to just wonder up or down the map to help out bot or top.
Instead your best roaming tool is your ultimate, Rite of the Arcane. 5000 units is really a hard number to grasp, so below I've included some images demonstrating where you can effectively utilise your ulti range. Try to constantly keep one eye on the minimap and the healthbars of your teammates, and if you see a fight break out in the jungle or one of the sidelanes, try to shove the wave into your opponent, retreat to your turret and walk through YOUR jungle (not the river) until your ultimate is in range to drop some damage. You can then follow up in person if needed, or return to your lane hopefully without missing any CS.

Here, I demonstrate how you can get in range to ult botlane, as well as the enemy Blue Buff, without having to risk your life in the river.

Here, I show the opposite side of the map, how you can ult top lane and the enemy red buff

And indeed, while it's never the most desirable scenario to be in, Xerath is pretty capable of stealing Baron and Dragon. In fact, he can ult both of them without leaving the safety of his midlane tower:

A single shot of Rite of the Arcane, plus the passive proc from Luden's Tempest isn't likely to win a smite fight, but it does a surprising amount of damage and if you're lucky, or the enemy jungler is unprepared, you can get a suprise objective steal that may change the course of the game. I try to throw shots in quick succession, as this causes junglers to panic, and gives you the best chance of securing the kill. First shot to get vision, and then throw 2 straight after each other when the hp of the objective gets to around 700.
Playing the Champ - Mid and Late Game
Your job is to kill the enemy team's backline, without ever having to leave the comfort of your own backline. You are not, and will never be a tank shredder - leave that to your adc if at all possible. In a team fight, you want to be sitting as far away as possible from the enemy team's engage, while remaining in range to drop all your damage on their squishies. If you have a Jarvan IV, a Malphite, a Diana, a Zac, or really any champion that can apply group cc, hold your damaging abilities for their ult, and once in place, use Eye of Destruction and Arcanopulse on the grouped enemies. If done right, this basically guarantees a won teamfight. Save your stun for self-peel, or if you have the opportunity, to catch fed enemies. Late game, E-W-Q should do at least 80% of any adc's health bar - if you can achieve this, you have a very good chance of winning any subsequent 5v4 teamfight. Mostly, you just need to remain hyper-aware of what's going on around you and be careful not to stand anywhere in range of any sort of dive-ability.
This, my friends, is the essence of the Social Distancing Mage.
Stay 2 metres away from everyone, and wash your hands. Keep yourselves safe, y'all!
I'll be updating this guide when I can, and hope to improve whatever I am able to. Let me know if there's anything I should add or change. I'll be streaming daily while this ******* pandemic keeps going on at

If you've got this far and you enjoyed the guide, please be sure to give it an upvote - it improves the visibility and helps me out as a streamer!

Check out my other guides here:

That's all for now, Crabbix out!
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