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Handling Katarina: Extensive guide on playing and countering
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I'm a former Katarina main. Katarina is by far my most played champion, and I used to love everything about her. For me personally, her rework kind of destroyed her fun-wise.
The main goal of this guide is to help players understand Katarina, and how to beat her. She's an infamous snowballer who becomes near unstoppable if fed. I've helped many players overcome Katarina's in my own games, I have only lost 2 games against a Katarina since her rework when playing mid lane (which is by far my most played lane), and I decided to write this guide after several mid laners on my teams (I don't "mid or feed" every game :p) told me that they learned a lot from my info, and suggested writing a guide.
This guide both explains Katarina as fully as I understand her, as well as countering her. This dual purpose is reasonably difficult to put in 1 coherent guide, so if any of you have suggestions for improving the layout of this guide, shoot away!
I've chosen to whenever I discuss an aspect of Katarina where I add in both playstyle and counterplay tips, to highlight the counterplay tips in a green font, and the katarina playstyle tips in an orange font. This way, if you're looking for 1 specific aspect of this guide, the sections that are interesting to you pop out. Both of them are always relevant to the piece of non-colored text right above them.
Any suggestions, critiques or questions are also very much welcome!
Like all assassins, she thrives on opponents making mistakes. Exploiting these mistakes is crucial to being a good Katarina player. This is why as a Katarina player, the "counterplay tip"s are handy: if you see that your opponent is not abusing your weaknesses, you should realize which possibilities this opens up for you, and how to exploit them.
- High mobility
- Good farming when allowed to
- Insane mid-lategame potential with Voracity
- Squishy: dies quickly when focussed down
- Very short ranged: can be zoned
- Teammate dependant. Trusting your teammates to position themselves for Shunpo can be dissapointing... Near useless if teammates don't initiate.
- Very weak trading power in the early laning phase
From these pro's and cons, one can see that Katarina is a well-scaling snowballing assassin who can be punished early in the laning phase. Just this section alone should already give you a decent indication of how to counterplay her.
Your goal should usually be to maximize Voracity's potential. Hence, the logical mastery choice is going 21/9/0.
For summoner spells, Ignite and Flash are really the only 2 choices. Flash increases your blink range, and without it, a smart opponent is never going to die to you in mid lane. It's also just plain the best summoner spell for bursty champions. Ignite synergises with Voracity.
Exhaust is NOT a good summoner spell on Kat. It wasn't before the rework (when she had her 3 second ult) for a couple of reasons, and now that the ult duration got reduced(keeping ennemies inside the ult seemed to be the main concern. As if walking out of it was the main problem it had), Exhaust's effectiveness dropped as well.
Mastery-wise, there are some choices to be made.
Marks are Mpen, that's a no-brainer. (scaling AD marks were an option before the rework, but Riot destroyed her AD scalings, so bleh)
Seals should be something defensive. The best bang for your buck comes from scaling health or flat armor seals.
For Glyphs, flat MR is a very popular choice. Honorable mentions are scaling AP and flat AP. I personally prefer the MR, as it scales better with Shunpo's damage reduction and just helps better in that weak early laning phase.
Quintessence-wise, the usual options are flat AP, flat HP or MS. MS was THE quintessence to go to on old Katarina, but I feel the rework has both made early AP better on her, and has given her some more need to compensate for early weakness. You can try the different runes out and see what floats your boat best ^^
THE bread and butter of Katarina, and also THE thing you have to counter if you want to beat a fed Kat in teamfights. One of the strongest passives in the game without any doubt. Not much explination is needed, as it's pretty straightforward.
Bouncing Blades: Throws a dagger dealing 60/90/120/150/180 (+0.45) magic damage. The dagger bounces to the 4 closest enemies dealing 10% less damage with each bounce.
Enemies hit are marked for 4 seconds. Katarina's basic attacks or spells will consume the mark dealing 15/30/45/60/75 (+0.15) additional magic damage.
This is Katarina's highest damage spell. As you can see, it only starts off at 60 damage unprocced, and 75 damage procced (on the first target). This spell is used for farming and harassing. Maxing it first maximizes Katarina's burst damage and poke.
Sinister Steel: Whirls daggers in a circle dealing 40/75/110/145/180 (+0.6) (+0.25) magic damage. If she hits an enemy Champion, Katarina gains 12/20/28/36/44% movement speed for 1 second.
This spell has an insanely short cooldown and deals AoE damage. The 0.6 scaling is a bonus AD scaling, the 0.25 is a bonus AP scaling. This spell deals only moderate damage, but the main cool parts about it are the short cooldown and the fact that it's AoE.
Because of the movement speed increase and short cooldown, maxing this spell first will allow you to clear minions faster, and outtrade opponents who react slowly / rely solely on skillshots better. This spell is also her main sustained damage tool. (Though I don't like Kat as a sustained damage mage).
Shunpo: Moves to a target's location. Deals 60/85/110/135/160 (+0.4) magic damage if the target is an enemy.
After using Shunpo, Katarina takes 15% reduced damage for 3 seconds.
This is mainly a mobility spell. Levelling it deals less damage than levelling other spells, hence most people max it last. Taking an early point in it is imperative though. The damage reduction is meh-ish, but it's nice that it's there.
Death Lotus: Becomes a flurry of blades, throwing daggers at the closest 3 enemy Champions dealing 400/500/600 (+3) (+1.75) magic damage over 2 seconds.
Daggers apply Grievous Wounds, reducing incoming healing by 50% for 3 seconds.
Now here's a spell that got nerfed into the ground. It's still best to try and get this off as well as possible if an opportunity arises, but honestly it's the worst skill on her kit. Use this when ennemies' cc is on cooldown (and preferrably their blinks and dashes too). To old Katarina players, this spell is a bit of a dissapointment as it deals less damage (both base and scaling. If you want to check up on that, note that the old numbers were listed per dagger, and that Killer Instincts gave base damage bonusses) than her old ultimate used to do after 2 seconds of channeling, and the grievous wound isn't that great here. You should try to maximize this skill's potential, but it's not that bad anymore if you screw it up.
Reginald's build focusses on getting early gold-efficiënt items that give you penetration stats. These help Kat's damage a lot, since her scalings aren't that impressive. His builds give Kat cheap early trading power.
Counterplay tip: If Katarina is using Reginald's cookie cutter build, YOU use Reginald's cookie cutter build. Kat's main weakness is lack of early trading power. If she builds to counter that, then you should build to negate it. Cheap damage or MR items ( Abyssal Mask, Chalice of Harmony, Haunting Guise,...) are the best answer to this Kat build.
Katarina tip: This build is by far the easyest to use. A rock could play Reginald Katarina. If you're new to her, I definately suggest using this build. On top of that, I also believe it's the best option if you're in a really tough lane.
TiensiNoAkuma's build deals a bit more damage (not that much actually, mainly due to her poor scalings). However, due to Voracity, every bit of damage you build scales with itself. TnA loves to build fort pots on Katarina to give her some cheap defensive boost. They can succesfully be used as mini healbaits.
Counterplay tip: Just straightforwardly counter this build with the hints in the other section. This build is more difficult to use for the Katarina player, and has early trading disadvantages.
Katarina tip: This build has more potential, but is more difficult. I personally don't think that the little bit of extra damage you get from this build really weighs up to the loss in defensive stats. It sounds funny, because Kat should really maximize Voracity's potential, but just the fact that her scalings are so low makes Reginald's Mpen scale relatively good, and the difference in damage between these builds is kind of low for what you sacrifice. However, if you have a team that you can trust, this build devastates ennemies if you can pull it off.
Kat has only 1 farming tool with at least decent range on it, Bouncing Blades. She also has weak early trading power.
Counterplay tip: You should focus on denying Katarina farm. I don't care if it makes you lose some minions, she ppb scales harder than you do, so keeping her at 40% of her potential whilst "only" remaining at 70-80% yourself is WAY better than allowing both of you to be at 100%. Don't push the lane, DO NOT use spells on minions as a general rule of thumb. ALWAYS throw some harass when she farms. Even if its "just an auto-attack" (which deals more damage than the early ranks of her spells...)
Katarina tip: If your opponent isn't denying you, abuse this as much as possible. You scale pretty hard, so being able to farm creep a lot will give you an edge. Even if you can't flat-out beat your opponent, you have a lot of farming power in your kit, and you scale amazingly into teamfights. If however your opponent is smart and denies you, try to farm from a distance with Bouncing Blades as well as you can, whilst asking your jungler to camp mid a bit.
Using shunpo offensively has the following risks:
- You're open to jungler ganks
- Your opponents WILL outtrade you early (pre lvl 6) if he hits 1 spell and 1 auto-attack.
Counterplay tip: Don't max a skillshot early. If Kat shunpo's offensively, hit at least 1 spell and 1 auto-attack.
Katarina tip: If your opponent wastes his main damage spell, or if he's so bad / slow that he can't hit 1 spell and 1 auto-attack, then use shunpo offensively. Your combo will win you trades, and you don't even use mana in doing so.
Bouncing Blades has a nice range and is costless. However, it has a long cooldown and the bounces are completely predictable.
Counterplay tip: If Kat lasthits a minion with her Q, do not get hit. Getting hit by a Q bounce is free damage for Kat, which is silly considering you can predict the bounces before they happen. Once the spell is used, if it didn't hit you, you have a free lane for 8-12 seconds. Kat literally can't harm you at all without pretty much dying if her Q is on cooldown. Abuse this by denying her ALL the minions. If Kat uses the spell directly onto you, brace for impact and prepare to trade. Don't forget to auto-attack when she retreats!
Katarina tip: Try to both lasthit AND harass with this spell. Bad positioning on your opponent's part will allow you to deal completely free damage from a safe range. If you can land it on your opponent directly for free, you should also do it. Not all ennemies are good enough to throw counterharass. Against agressive opponents, just farm passively with this spell and ask your jungler to camp mid a bit.
This spell deals a lot of damage, but is countered by hard cc, dashes and blinks.
Counterplay tip: Always keep a spell that counters this off cooldown. ALWAYS. Cast it FAST once she starts using her ult. Oh, and don't use health pots to shrug off the damage till after the grievous wound effect has died out.
Katarina tip: If your opponent(s) ever come out with no counters to your ultimate off cooldown, go big. It shouldn't really happen, but IF it does, you should abuse it.
Counterplay tip: Countering Katarina's passive can be done in several ways. The most obvious one is to kill her before anybody on your team dies. Resistances help as well. The best counter however is to just counter Voracity entirely. Guardian Angel hardcounters Kat's passive AND gives you mainly armor to cope with her teammates who (assuming a balanced team setup) will on average deal more physical than magic damage.
On top of that, positioning is key. If you have teammates out of position, Kat can kill them without wasting ANY resources whatsoever.
Katarina tip: Play as a cleanup champion. You can't initiate teamfights, and if you die early you're utterly useless. Prioritize out of position squishies, or whoever your team is focussing.
As far as boots go, this is your only real choice. They are the only boots that increase your burst damage, which in turn synergises with Voracity. I've seen people take Ionian Boots of Lucidity because Kat is manaless, but I feel that it's a waste of a good pair of shoes. CDR isn't a great stat to invest in because it has no synergy whatsoever with Kat's passive, which is really the core of her kit.
This item rocks. The MR reduction is calculated before any penetration effects, it gives you a good chunk of AP AND increases your surviability. Katarina's relatively low scalings also mean that magic penetration and reduction become better on her relative to AP. This is allround a great item on Katarina.
This is a great early item for pretty much the same reasons as Abyssal Scepter. It's cheap, cost-efficient, and synergises well with her. I don't recomment upgrading it into Liandry's Anguish as the combine cost is pretty hefty, and Katarina has no real way of abusing the "double damage" passive component.
Holy mother of sweet Draven, the damage this thing deals... Marking an out of position ennemy with the active on this item is a death sentance to them. Which is nice, considering your passive scales off of ennemy deaths. On top of that, it gives 100 AP now. (Standard for AP items is 80).
If you're going for pure raw damage (and please do!), this item is great. Most AP off of any item, and it increases the AP you get from other items.
This is the single heavyest damage increase you can buy against tanky teams. Which rocks when you're an assassin.
One of my favorite items on Kat. The 100 AP is cool, but it's obviously the stasis you're getting this for. Proper use of this item is to use it to redirect ennemy focus, rather than using it to "save your life". This item can keep you out of harm's way when the entire ennemy team jumps you (which they should do once you jump in), possibly long enough for shunpo to get back off cooldown and save your life.
Using the stasis does interrupt your ultimate (it's channeled) in case you were wondering.
If you're a squishy assassin, this item is godsent. This item is what allows people to build glass cannon and get away with it. Especially when you have a spell like Shunpo to get out of trouble once the revive takes effect.
In my mind the single best item on Kat. Being able to shunpo to wherever freely is awesome, the fact that you get vision of where you jumped to for 3 minutes is great too. Basically, you should ward your lane no matter who you're playing, but on Kat these wards offer you extra escape routes. I almost always keep one or two extra stacked in case I get ganked.
Elixir of Fortitude
More or less TiensiNoAkuma's "trademark" item. Fort pots are really great in letting you outduel opponents, or for baiting them into commitments they can't win. This is pretty much an amazing pocket healbait for 250g, except the amount healed doesn't get reduced by grievous wounds.
Elixir of Brilliance
This is what you want to buy if you want a quick damage boost, or late in the game when you're fully built anyway. The extra AP is cool. I personally wouldn't buy this before I get a Rabadon's Deathcap (reguardless of which build route I'm taking), but it's still a good buy.
- Exhaust. Already mentioned this one, but it's by far not worth taking over Ignite and Flash. The idea is to keep people locked in your ult with it, but as you already know, "walking out of the ult" means you already screwed up with either your positioning or with keeping your cc/dash/blinks off cooldown.
- Hextech Revolver. Because all of Kat's damage is AoE, spellvamp is 66% less efficiënt. Thus, the 330g combine cost only gives her 4% spellvamp. For that money, you buy 9 health pots, which will give you 1350 health. Regaining this with the spellvamp, Kat would need to deal 1350/0.04 = 33750 damage post-reduction for the spellvamp to come near being gold-efficiënt. (Not factoring in the 15 gold in favor of 9 pots, the fact that spell-vamp puts Kat in danger of getting harassed AND the fact that cheap AP items are less efficiënt than big bulks of it. All arguements even further in favor of not buying spellvamp). Counterplay tip: If Kat buys this, be even more agressive. She gave up on trading power even more.
- Rylai's Crystal Scepter. People either get this for the health or the slow. This item gives pittiful damage, the sustain cost is huge, the health you get for that sustain cost is 30. As for the slow: why do you want that 15% slow? To chase? Why do you chase? To kill? Why not build an item that directly helps you kill stuff better then? (Reasoning by TiensiNoAkuma). It was considered THE "noob Kat" item before the rework, and making Bouncing Blades AoE even reduced the pitiful synergy Kat had with this item. Also, if you REALLY want a slow, Gunblade is still a better item (despite the insane nerfs to the synergy between Kat and Gblade).
Note that EVERY lane with a Katarina in it is a snowballing lane. So if you lose, you lose hard; if you win, you win hard. Also note that the secret to winning with Kat is her having her jungler camp mid. She follows jungler ganks up SO well. So, wards.
Akali deals more burst damage than Kat. However, Kat's total damage in one rotation is higher post lvl 6. Before lvl 6, Kat does very well in this lane. Pre-6, the main thing you should do is switch between playstyles smartly. Use Mark of the Assassin agressively to harass Kat when you can, and to deny her melee minions. If you can ever proc your mark, then Kat's in trouble. Don't use the mark offensively ALL the time however. If you need to farm priority targets (cannon minions), do so.
Post lvl 6 is when the fun begins. You completely outburst Kat, but now you actually have the gap closer to abuse this. Katarina canNOT outburst you if you can QE or Q-aa her, and your sustain is great in this lane. Dive in agressively when you have 2 stacks of Shadow Dance up. The reason for this is that you NEED the second stack to negate Death Lotus (by jumping to a minion). If you jump on Kat and she retaliates with DL, she will outtrade you if you can't jump out. Be agressive whenever you have 2 stacks, and you should completely zone Kat out of lane.
Mother of hardcounters!
Auto-attack harassing is a huge bane to Katarina because of her short range. Mannie has the longest attack-range of all mages. Kat has trouble trading, and needs to use mobility to dodge skillshots. Annie trades insanely strongly and counters mobility champions.
A mistake a lot of Annies make is to charge up their stuns. Don't do it. Just charge them up by hitting Disintegrate on Katarina. If you have your stun up, use QW. And always keep auto-attacking. Kat will be crying in a corner.
As for your ultimate... Don't flash/R... Kat 'll dodge it with shunpo and you'll feel sad. Initiate with a Q stun, THEN bear ignite W aa.
For the love of Draven, max Conflagration. And spam it on Kat. Don't even try telling me you "need to max pillar of flame" to push. The difference in pushing power if you use WE to push when you need to is 10 damage. The fact that you can actually destroy Kat instead of having her dodge your main damage spell completely makes up for that.
Item-wise, Kat's ppb going for flat MPen, which you counter with flat MR. Chalice of Harmony is a good rush. After that... Well, you're a Brand player, you know he has several viable build paths. Pick one. I'd go for a tankyer one if the Kat's still winning for some reason (which should be "her jungler camping you").
He's a popular counterpick. The main reason for this is that his ****py midlane kit (he has issues with pushing lanes and playing the "push+roam" meta) forces him to pretty much adopt the playstyle I've been describing throughout this guide. That, and he has enough sustain to recover fully from screwing up and getting outtraded.
Just do not let her farm. Seriously, don't let her farm.
One of the worse lanes. Being melee and inherently wanting to push the lane isn't a great strategy against Katarina. I'd suggest just doing your thing as Gragas and scaling as hard as you possibly can. Gragas is an insane poker, teamfighter and mage in general in his own right.
Be careful about getting hit by Katarina's Q. Being melee makes it pretty hard to keep dodging those things and farming. Don't spam spells one after another so you can maximize the sustain on Happy Hour, and do not stay in Kat's range when Drunken Rage is on it's down-time.
One of the few lanes that Katarina should win. Play extremely defensive, don't let her harass you. Passively farm with Q. Outside of being one of the only champions that Katarina destroys, he's also one of the only champions that can outscale Katarina. I'd suggest asking for some jungler pressure in mid lane.
As Karthus, you're ppb taking Exhaust. Timing it is essential. If Kat jumps on you, you NEED to kill her before she kills you, or she'll live. Her passive helps her get out of your passive's range instantly. Time the Exhaust RIGHT after shunpo if she jumps on you. You want to try and reduce all the damage that comes after it.
So much counter...
Max W. Harass with Auto-attacks and W activates. Deny her early and hard.
Maxing Q might be a mistake in this matchup, despite it being your N1 damage spell (due to it's cooldown).
DON'T push the lane with E. Kill Katarina with E. Seriously, Kat can't trade, Malefic Visions deals good damage, voidling does too,...
If she ults you, you ult her. You can puddle behind you if she hits you with Q btw, it 'll screw up her followup.
Outtrade her so hard every time she tries to farm. You trade very strongly early. The first levels are pretty important. You cannot let Kat farm during this time. If you succeed, you'll roll her all game long.
If she gets to level 6 and ults you, flashing forward is a great strategy if you know you're safe from the jungler. It's the shortest distance out, and you KNOW you'll outtrade her once her ult ends.
Max Torment, then Decrepify. Nevermove is dodgable and deals less damage, you want pro trading. IF Katarina chooses to roam, you can take more points into Nevermove to pressure the lane harder.
Chalice of Harmony is a must-rush in this matchup. It increases your trading power, and gives you the mana regen Swain does so well with. Keep denying with EQ auto-attack combo's. If she gets you low health, just use Ravenous Flock on minions a little bit to sustain back to high health. If your lane is getting pushed, there are no drawbacks to that sustain.