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Skarner Build Guide by Hazardist

Jungle [13.21] The Skarner Bible by LAN's Rank 1 Skarner

Jungle [13.21] The Skarner Bible by LAN's Rank 1 Skarner

Updated on October 27, 2023
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League of Legends Build Guide Author Hazardist Build Guide By Hazardist 152 14 234,077 Views 35 Comments
152 14 234,077 Views 35 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author Hazardist Skarner Build Guide By Hazardist Updated on October 27, 2023
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Runes: Phase Rush

1 2 3 4
Sorcery
Phase Rush
Nimbus Cloak
Celerity
Waterwalking

Precision
Triumph
Legend: Tenacity
Bonus:

+10% Attack Speed
+9 Adaptive (5.4 AD or 9 AP)
+65 Base Health

Spells:

1 2 3
Most common choice
LoL Summoner Spell: Flash

Flash

LoL Summoner Spell: Gustwalker Smite

Gustwalker Smite

Threats & Synergies

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

Champion Build Guide

[13.21] The Skarner Bible by LAN's Rank 1 Skarner

By Hazardist
Season 13 update
I might go a patch or two without updating the guide at times because the meta doesn't shift as much, and because I may be taking a break from the game, but rest assured I'll do my best to keep it as relevant as possible. This is a screenshot of my performance after preseason 12, for credibility purposes:

Introduction
I go by the nickname Hazardis in League of Legends. I've been playing since season 7 in the Latin America North server and at the moment my peak is Grandmaster. I started as a main support but over time moved to the jungle, which is now my main role.

At the end of the guide I will drop a few recordings from my own games that I have saved, to help highlight the capabilities that my proposed build and playstyle have. I'm also leaving you my numbers after season 12 and my peak as LAN's rank 1 Skarner for credibility purposes:





And me hitting rank 1 of LAN again in season 13.2:

Why Skarner? Pros and cons
Skarner has always been one of the funniest champions to play in the jungle due to his disruptive playstyle and that's why I decided to OTP him. He is a champion worth picking up because he is always secured to remain relevant in your games even if you are at a disadvantage, while also being opressive if you are ahead. Every team comp likes a frontliner that is good at engaging, setting up picks in side lanes and soaking up damage in teamfights while also disrupting the enemy team.

Pros
+ Able to abuse meta items
+ Rewarding to play and master
+ Disrusptive and anti-carry
+ Incredibly high itemization diversity
+ No downtime during fights
+ Great, underrated scaling
Being naturally tanky, Skarner's adaptability to almost any situation and team composition makes sure that there will never be a game where you should absolutely not have picked him to begin with. He has a higher skill ceiling than your average bruiser-tank jungler champion thanks to his versatile playstile, builds and rune paths, so you are warranted to not get bored of trying to get better with him over time.

Cons
- Weak before level 6
- Low base values on all abilities
- Reliant on items to do any considerable damage
- Very low mobility
- Hard to pick up
- Ability rotations can feel clunky
Skarner is a bit like old Aurelion Sol in that in order to learn to play him well, you need to unlearn what you have learned through more on-meta champions. Given his current subpar spot in the meta, he is difficult to pick up and thus his skill floor is higher than other similar champions such as Udyr and Hecarim, and his outdated kit may put some players off from trying to get better with him.
Runes
The best keystone I can recommend to you is Conqueror, as it boosts your dueling potential by a very considerable amount as well as provide a little but nifty amount of sustain in extended fights, plus Triumph as it's the most useful in its row; Legend: Tenacity on most games to counter the fact that Skarner's biggest counter is, ironically, crowd control; and Coup de Grace as it applies more consistently than Last Stand but both are viable options depending on your preferences.

All of this with Domination as your secondary tree taking Zombie Ward for better vision control and a nifty amount of adaptive force, and Ingenious Hunter to lower the cooldown on all of your items including the ward trinket and, most importantly, the Sheen effect from your mythic in order to proc is as quickly as once per second later in the game.

Alternatively, for your secondary tree you can go with Sorcery taking Celerity for inscreased movespeed boosts from your W Crystalline Exoskeleton and Crystal Spires, and Waterwalking for better skirmishing and objective solo-taking potential. Resolve as secondary can help your survival at the cost of mobility, with Conditioning and Overgrowth as the most optimal options.

Lethal Tempo is a very viable alternative to Conqueror when it comes to skirmishing outside of the Crystal Spires, or you are against a melee jungler as it works really well on Skarner (remember that one auto attack = one less second of cooldown on Crystal Slash). Its downside is having no ramping AD, and although you will be missing the sustain from Conqueror I wouldn't say that it is a considerable loss.

Take Phase Rush on tough matchups such as Olaf or Trundle, which require you to play less aggressive. The burst of move speed will help keep you safe, and it's also useful in other scenarios such as when you're dragging an enemy towards your team with Impale.
Summoner spells
The amount of mobility in other champions in the game currently is just too high for Flash to not be the best spell on Skarner. I run it on almost all of my games, and so should you.

Ghost can be situationally better than Flash if you are against mostly melee champions who will prefer to stick to you than run away from you, which means you will need move speed more than catch potential; but generally it is less consistently useful.
Skill path
Please read the notes on the Ability Order section at the top of the guide for more detailed and situational information on the order you should level up your skills.

As bruiser, you will prioritize Q Crystal Slash as it's your main source of DPS at all times of the game, then your W Crystalline Exoskeleton for the increased movespeed and shielding which also synergizes well with any AP items you might build, but you can also opt to max E Fracture second if you are slightly ahead in the game. As a tank, you swap the priority from Crystal Slash to Fracture as the stronger slow on a lower cooldown will boost your disruption capabilities a lot, which is what we want when playing tank.
Itemization, step by step
First back purchase options

Picking up Bami's Cinder on your first back will be the ideal thing to do if you are either rushing Sunfire Aegis, going for Heartsteel first item in order to not sacrifice damage to camps in the early game, or if you want a component that will make you relatively tanky enough for the first 15 minutes of the game while you focus on the rest of your itemization.

After your first clear, in almost every game you should have gathered at least 1100 gold to purchase Caulfield's Warhammer on your first back which will increase your skirmishing power and the speed of your second clear rotations, while also having some nifty amount of Ability Haste. In the cases where you don't have enough gold for it, a couple of Long Swords or a Kindlegem are decent alternatives.

If you are going to start with Trinity Force instead, grabbing either a Sheen or Hearthbound Axe is the way to go. Remember that Kindlegem is a component of most of your items, so picking it when you're unsure of what you will finish first is a safe thing to do.

And if you have 300 gold to spare for any reason after these purchases, and if you don't mind delaying the first powerspike for the sake moving around the map faster and feel less sluggish in skirmishes, Boots are an acceptable early purchase.

First item options

Trinity Force remains the best bruiser item for Skarner as everything that it provides is incredibly useful to you: AD, health, a Spellblade active, sustained AD increase and movespeed. It is my absolute favorite mythic to play with on the champion, though as with many others it isn't optimal when your team is at a large disadvantage, so it's not always the best idea to build it in those cases.

Black Cleaver is my absolute favorite item on Skarner and I try to build it in as many games as I can afford to. It is the most optimal first OR second item rush for this build and playstyle thanks to how efficient yet versatile it will be in all of your games, and the only scenarios where you should avoid it is the rest of your team is getting stomped and rushing resistances instead is the only way you can offer anything in teamfights.

Sunfire Aegis is in a good state right now and while I don't feel completely satisfied with how much damage it can dish out on Skarner, its low cost and high stats make it an attractive item to build in the early mid game. It is particularly good when you rushed either Trinity Force or Heartsteel beforehand.

Goredrinker just received buffs which catapulted it to a very strong state, and luckily Skarner can make good use of the item. It has a decent build path for a mythic rush and not only are the stats very worhtwhile, it also helps offset the fact that you didn't build a tank mythic instead thanks to the sustain it provudes.

Tier 2 boots options

Plated Steelcaps is the go-to purchase when the enemy jungler (or their most fed carry) is an AD champion, which only becomes more efficient against auto attack-heavy champions like Urgot, Master Yi or Trundle. Don't hesitate to choose them if you need the extra armor.

Mercury's Treads are my favorite boots to run on Skarner due to the extra tenacity, and the early magic resistance comes in handy in more cases than not. Go for them if armor is not a priority for you.

If you don't have much need for extra resistances and the Ability Haste is proving too useful to let go of it, sticking with Ionian Boots of Lucidity isn't a bad idea. Bear in mind that I always recommend swapping them for either Plated Steelcaps or Mercury's Treads later on in the game, or to skip them and leave your tier 2 boots purchase for after you're done building your first full item.

Second item options

Jak'Sho, The Protean remains a strong tank mythic despite the recent changes, and although it isn't good as a first purchase due to its lack of damage, building it after rushing Black Cleaver makes for the strongest two-item spike I have ever seen on Skarner. This is the mythic you will run on games where Trinity Force feels awkward to build because you need more resistances than damage, and if you're planning on building heavy resistances from your third item on.

Radiant Virtue is a safer option compared to Heartsteel due to its flat resistances, lower cost and the vast amount of utility it offers to you and your team with its active.

Iceborn Gauntlet has high effectiveness when built by Skarner due to its Sheen passive, its relative low cost and tanky stats which makes it particularly good when against an AD jungler. Picking it up second is the way to go when you wish to hit a powerspike earlier and feel like the other tank mythics don't quite fit into the current game's necessities.

Spear of Shojin is a great stat stick after its buffs, and the adjusted passive makes it provide nearly as much ability haste as Black Cleaver would which means it's a good replacement in games where the enemy team doesn't have many resistances.

Third item options

Abyssal Mask has received a couple of buffs during this season which have brought it back to life on champions like Skarner. It becomes a good option for third purchase if your team has a decent source of magic damage and you want to enforce your disruptive playstile with this together with Black Cleaver, but early magic resistance is a higher priority; otherwise you can leave it as your fourth item.

Knight's Vow received some very necessary buffs recently which have bumped it up to be one of the best tank legendary items in the game at the moment. It pairs flawlessly with a low cost build, plus a decent amount of stats for its low cost and the ability to passively peel for your carry just by existing has brought me success in many games this patch.

Sterak's Gage is the item to go for if you're looking for a balance between damage and durability, considering that its shield gets considerably large thanks to your bonus health-heavy itemization, and that Skarner has one of the highest base AD values in the game which helps him benefit further from the item's passive. The item is particulary attractive in recent patches thanks to the several buffs it has received.

If by this point of the game you have built enough Ability Haste, bought a tank mythic and don't feel much need for extra tankiness, Demonic Embrace is a solid choice to boost your DPS and effects from all abilities, as well as further counter enemy bruisers, juggernauts or tanks if you previously bought Black Cleaver as well. Besides, it favors you to mix your physical damage with some extra magic damage from items the later you go into the game.

Fourth item options

Gargoyle Stoneplate is the best late game item for a tank, and while it does not provide any bonus health, Skarner can make really good use of it as the beefy shield helps to survive long enough to do your job in teamfights, as well as the increased resistances from being focused by several enemies at once.

Silvermere Dawn is easy to incorporate in most of your games as it grants you a decent amount of AD, health, magic resistance and its cleanse active to help keep you going in teamfights and counter champions such as Malzahar and Mordekaiser. As a plus, remember that its cooldown is lowered by Ingenious Hunter.

Thornmail is the obvious choice when you're looking to counter champions that heal a lot as well as becoming tankier. Although the nerfs to Grievous Wounds have decreased its performance, I have found that it can proc a lot of passive damage on its own and the anti-healing can prevent some instances of rampant sustain from the enemy team, so the item should by no means be undervalued.

With how strong ADC and other crit users such as Gangplank have become in this meta, you should always consider purchasing [[randuin's omen as your armor item in the mid to late game as it might just be what saves you in a teamfight. Besides, the AoE slow around you can prove helpful to disrupt the enemies you've engaged on even further.

As a 400 gold-cheaper alternative to Demonic Embrace, Rylai's Crystal Scepter offers the ability to use Crystal Slash to permanently slow any enemy surrounding you which boosts your stickiness and offers your team some extra utility from you in teamfights. It is alright to build both this and Demonic Embrace if you are ahead at this point in the game.

Situational items

Pick up a Dark Seal early on in the game if you're feeling like it is gonna be an easy one for you, as Skarner gets a lot of value from the AP and health increase and if you can make use of the snowball effect to get you through his weakest phase, the early game, you're doing great.

Following the same line of thought, if you have stacked your Dark Seal decently enough you can upgrade it to further snowball and also unlock the bonus movement speed, which will benefit you greatly given Mejai's Soulstealer's cost.

In games where you are ahead, picking up Cosmic Drive as your second or third item can help you snowball much better thanks to the added mobility and magic damage it provides, while also not sacrificing much on tankiness as the shield from Crystalline Exoskeleton scales very well off of it.

Spirit Visage has provided me with better and more consistent results than Force of Nature and it becomes an optimal purchase if there is an enchanter on your team or you have another source of consistent healing and shielding such as Divine Sunderer, Sterak's Gage or Ocean Soul .

Turbo Chemtank is the third best magic resistance item right now, behind Abyssal Mask and Gargoyle Stoneplate, but it's still viable as your fourth or fifth item if the enemy composition is heavy on magic damage, and you find yourself having trouble reaching the enemy squishies during engages due to their mobility or peel.
Brief macro-game guidelines
HOW TO GANK: Learning the blind vision spots is of utmost importance when it comes to approaching a lane quickly. Stick to the walls or other terrain if you're approaching from the river, and pop your Oracle Lens as you're approaching the bush; if you spot a ward, don't waste time clearing it and just keep going before the enemy has too much time to react. Always make sure to ping your laners (responsibly) 5-7 seconds before you go in.

WHEN TO GANK: Skarner has really weak level 2 or 3 ganks, so focus on your first full clear and then you can check the state of the nearest side lane and mid in case a gank seems easy before the scuttles spawn. In the mid game, play around the side lane closest to whatever objective is alive or coming up soon so you can either gank and push away the enemy laners, or be ready to counter the enemy jungler trying to do the same.

WHOM TO GANK: I really advice you to not waste any time ganking any laner that has died before 4 minutes, or that by the 10 minutes mark has at least 3 deaths; that's all the proof you need that they don't know how to lane properly and that they're not worth trusting with any resources. You're better off focusing on lanes near live objectives who are also even or not losing by too much, and especially in volatile matchups (melee vs melee, etc).

JUNGLE TRACKING: In this season, tracking the enemy jungler properly is more important than ever due to how much priority objectives have at all stages of the game, and with Skarner it's extra important as your counter-ganking potential differs depending on how early or late you are into the game. A good rule of thumb to follow the enemy jungler in the first minutes of the game is: if he started on the same side of the map as you for the first clear, he will remain on the same side as you for most of the first 10 minutes of the game, assuming that A) you have focused diligently on farming, and B) he doesn't seem to be camping any of the side lanes or hovering around mid for too long.
Early jungling
At the very start of the game, you should move with your team to secure the river spire closest to where you will start your route. For example: if you are going to start bot lane, head to the bot side river pinging your teammates for help. Capturing it grants you gold, a larger zone of control and a way to track the enemy jungler. Alternatively, you can go to the opposite side's spire, capture it and then go back to your planned starting side. This will mean that the spire will be already captured at the time of a likely skirmish for the scuttle. The latter is more adviceable if you prefer things to remain calm during the first 90 seconds of the game.

A full clear of your jungle (6 camps) is the most generally advisable strategy for your initial clear, and with the recent jungle changes you are more than okay going leashless so ping your teammates away and give them an optimal start to the game instead of wasting time leashing you. Be wary of possible enemy invades or counterjungling, and also plan your route optimally. The best way is to do Buff -> Krugs -> Raptors, or Buff -> Gromp -> Wolves, then move on to the other side of the map.

This is an example of a normal first clear when you're playing on blue side. Remember: you start with Q Crystal Slash and go leashless:



Below is how it's done when you prefer to start from topside, with the biggest variation from last season being that you won't have to skip krugs anymore before contesting the bottom side scuttle, so this route becomes the safest option when there is a realistic threat of leve 2 invade from the enemy jungler ( Nidalee, Graves, etc).



From red side, starting bot without a leash will make it possible for you to full clear before the 3:30 mark with ease, so you can proceed as follows:



When on the red side, starting top without a leash is at its most optimal as you will have the red buff during all of your clearing, and by finishing bot side you can be ready to gank, countergank or aid in any way the most important lane to snowball before the first drake spawns.



Analyze the state of your lanes during your first 3-4 camp clears. If none looks easy to gank, move on to the other side of the map to keep farming. Skarner has weak pre-6 ganks so it is wise to focus on farming as much as possible before the first scuttle crabs spawn, but at level 4 you are still capable of impacting a lane if needed.

Post level 6 you can become more proactive with your ganks as your ultimate is great for locking down a target. Also, be on the lookout for your winning lanes about to crash waves into the enemy tower and setting you up for a dive, which are somewhat simple to pull off as Skarner.
Jungling in the mid game
If the Drake is alive or the next one is coming up, move to the bot side to capture the spire and gain vision control around it. Use your sweeper lens and control wards to scout for enemy vision, and try to prepare a surprise ambush from a bush if possible. If the Rift Herald is alive, play around top side on your next rotation.

If you are at a disavantage and your team lost all of the Tier 1 towers, go into your own jungle more carefully from there on. You can keep track of the state of your spires to identify when the enemy has snuck into your jungle, so you can avoid ambushes and react to counterjungling. Nevertheless, it is really important that you do your best to keep your CS numbers as high as possible as this is the stage of the game where you can begin outscaling most other champions, if itemized properly.

Check the enemy team's itemization regularly as at this stage of the game, it is likely that one of them built a Quicksilver Sash to counter you and knowing whom not to Impale will save you from a misuse of your ultimate.
Jungling in the late game
If your team has lost two or all tier 2 towers, be cautious of staying behind and helping control the vision line for your team to avoid picks from the enemy. Inversely, if your team has taken down the enemy's tier 2 towers you have several opportunities to look for picks in the side lanes or in the jungle that will help secure nearby objectives or structures, or even the game at this point.

Outside of that, Skarner is good for sieging towers as long as he has his ultimate available to punish any enemies overextending. If your ult is not available and your team is grouping up near an enemy turret, it is a good idea to either enter the jungle to farm or prepare an ambush, or go to a side lane to push the wave and help apply pressure.

In late game teamfights, it is vital that you save all of your main resources ( Flash, Impale) for the biggest treat on the enemy team, usually the ADC which you normally have no means of reaching if they are getting peeled. You will act as frontline but also as an initiator, so keeping a cool head by not forcing any unfavorable fights is what will win you the game. Remember to plan ahead with objectives as well, as any barons or elder drakes at this stage will most likely be game-ending.
Resources and media
My latest pentakill in season 13:



How the tanking capabilities from Jak'Sho help you tank an entire team and win the fight:



My first pentakill with a bruiser build back in season 12:



Showcasing the 1 vs 1 potential of rushing Trinity Force, even outside of Crystal Spires and at a resource disadvantage:



Just an example of what you can achieve with a Black Cleaver rush:



Zombie Wards that you place may help you set up important ambushes that would otherwise not have been possible:



My build will make you tanky AND bursty at the same time. Don't believe me? Ask this Yone:



Your top laner is a brainless Tryndamere? Good thing you're playing with my build, so you can still win:



Watch out for the enemy's "body language" while a turret drag is possible, it will almost certainly catch them off guard for an easy kill:



Tip on how to effectively gank Fiora: juke her parry by cancelling an auto attack while she's tagged with Fracture:



My build and playstyle allow you to solo-triple kill even against fed enemy hard counters, such as Vayne:



If you have hit your Black Cleaver powerspike, you are more than capable of fending off enemy tower sieges:



Sterak's Gage and Triumph will be there to save you when your teammates won't:

For fun: skins tier-list
In this section I'll simply discuss the one topic that we all care about: skins! Skarner's base skin sadly shows its age by a long way, and the champion simply feels unplayable without one of his skins on. I will rank them all from most to least favorite, but do feel free to let me know in the comments which are the ones you personally like the most!

#1: Battlecast Alpha Skarner

Simply perfect. For a legendary skin made in 2015 it has really aged well and it's what turns Skarner into a playable character for me. All animations feel soother and more powerful, the splash art gives off "big death machine" vibes, the SFX are exactly what you'd expect from this skinline, and the voicelines never get old. 10/10 would pay for it again.

#2: Cosmic Sting Skarner

Cosmic Sting is his most recent skin to date and outside of the legendary it is my most liked, since the SFX are really cool, the chromas are all delightful to own and the Cosmic theme really fits the champion in my opinion. Despite that, I feel like it is a bit overrated by the community but I am confident that after the rework it will be a really fine epic skin to play with. Besides, with the pink chroma you can pretend to be cosplaying a Star Guardian. AYAYA

#3: Guardian of the Sands Skarner

Skarner feels like a great fit for this skinline and the skin itself changes almost everything from abilities VFX, SFX and the look of the spires. I wish Riot would expand into this skinline's universe, and I'm glad that Skarner made it in time into it.

#4: Earth Rune Skarner

This skin is fairly okay considering its cost, the SFX feel pleasant to play and the character model is an upgrade from the original in all senses. The color scheme matches the abilities' so all in all it's a great skin to play with when you're picking up Skarner, as was my case in the past.

#5: Sandscourge Skarner

His release skin follows a good concept and while it's not one I'm going to miss in particular after the rework, I still consider it a good one to play with and it's cool that it's within the High Noon universe.

#6: Base Skarner

Let's face it: our poor crystal scorpion's base skin has aged terribly since its release in 2011. Somebody once told me that it looks like a jungle camp and I haven't been able to unsee that since then. The rework can't come soon enough for it... even though I'm certain that I will miss it once it's gone from live servers.
Closing thoughts
Thank you for making it to the end of my guide for Skarner, though it is far from being finished as it's likely gonna remain a work in progress for as long as I am a League player, so do check back every now and then to stay up to date with my progress and the changes that the game itself goes through over time.

Not to mention... the best chapter is yet to come 😉

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