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Threats & Synergies
Kassadin can be troublesome if he gets ahead and if he uses built in magic resist and magic block shield it can be annoying at times. However this match up isn't hard and you can out damage him and even kite him at times with his low range ultimate.
Fizz is one of my most hated matchups. Not because of his mobility and high burst, but because of how easily he can dodge Karthus' ultimate. Its very important that at all stages of the game, no matter how ahead you are, you must never underestimate him or his ability to burst a single target.
Zed is the hardest match up for me. With his ability to easy burst down a single target and his poke in lane combined with thunderlords, he can easily be overwhelming. I usually try to not fight him unless i'm receiving help and just try to outscale.
Akali isn't too bad before six, and even after six there are ways to counterplay her. If she gets ahead though, her constant r spam and mobility can be a huge problem.
Syndra is more of a skill matchup. Its easy to set up ganks with your w due to her low mobility. Just make sure you watch out for her stun, since this can lead to free damage for her without any damage taken back. That along with her ultimate can lead to your death if you aren't careful. (undeath?)
Leblanc is a nightmare early to mid for Karthus. She will constantly try to poke and kill you. Make sure you get some pressure with ganks and to ward bushes so she can't pop out and kill you. The wards will also help control her roam, since if you are playing well and she can't kill you, most leblancs I have played against will start to roam around. Best thing about her though is that if she doesn't get fed you can outscale her. Also if you manage to land some q's on her in lane you can temporarily back her off from poking you.
Kat is an annoying character for me simply because of her snowball potential. Be sure to call missing and to not let her get any kills, at least not without being killed herself.
Ahri is a skill match up. The winner being the one who can dodge the other's abilities. If she doesn't get fed its not too hard to outscale her. Just make sure to properly ward since she is always very good at picking targets off.
Annie is a simple match up. You can poke her if she tries to walk up and stun/damage you. Of coarse you need to always be careful of her stun. But with her lack of mobility a good wall with a gank can ruin the lane and maybe even game for this fire child. As usual though make sure to properly ward, even if your team is ahead, you never want the majority of your team to get stunned and bursted by her combo.
Lux is a very well rounded utility mage. Her problem is her lack of mobility. Dodge her abiites, and hit her with your q if she comes too close. Her snare needs to be dodged most importantly, since even if you are stacking health, her full comb o is a burst you don't want to take.
In this lane, you need to focus on dodging his lazers, since they will quickly start to deplete your health. This lane is great for getting ganks since after you wall him all he can do is try to either burst you or stun and flee.
Twisted fate is an easy lane, if he tries to hit you with his cards, you can easily poke back when he comes too close. The main thing about this lane is to watch out for his ultimate ganks to other lanes.
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Hey! I'm summoner LeagueofKarthDK, this is my guide explaining how to play a successful Karthus. Karthus is my favorite League of Legends character and I've spent most of my ranked time into learning how to deal with hard matchups and using Karthus to his full potential. Karthus a lot of the time is looked down upon, or seen as a "one trick pony". Most people say this because they have yet to see the full potential of Mr K. I hope you find what you need here to improve your Karthus skills. Enjoy!
-amazing global ultimate
-incredible late game
-great passive for after death kills
-can farm from a safe distance
-massive damage potential due to very strong aoe and guaranteed damage due to his ultimate
-Doesn't have any hard cc
-easily countered, doesn't hard counter anyone
-Ult can be easily countered by certain spells
-Feast will help with sustain in lane and can be very important on a farming character such as Karthus.
-Dangerous game is a very useful skill for surviving after getting kills and even more on Karthus considering he can get kills from anywhere on the map.
I never leave home without this mastery. I feel as though it works especially well on Karthus. He has a godlike finisher, so adding extra damage to that is nice. Also I feel as though adding 5 percent damage to constant Karthus dps is really deadly.
This mastery provides magic penetration which is a very important stat on Karthus, especially since his base damage is where mose of his damage comes from.
Deals extra damage over time to champions you hit with your damaging abilities. This ability has good synergy with Karthus since he can constantly proc it and hit every enemy champion with it using his ultimate. The damage has even on rare cases killed of an enemy when my ultimate wasn't able to.
This mastery pairs well with Karthus' wall as well as exhaust. Making it an easy way to deal extra damage. I like it best with rylai in my build, allowing every one of my spells to deal extra damage.
I like the synergy from this mastery combined with Karthus' ultimate. Since a lot of the time if you are ulting to kill an enemy in a solo lane, they will be alone, therefor taking the increased damage. This also pairs with his q, since it also does extra damage when it hits single targets.
-These runes are standard on anyone that primarily deals magic damage. Magic pen is one of my favorite stats on Karthus because of how much his damage relies on his base damage.
-These seals are used when i'm going against an ad mid, they provide a nice defense against AD based attackers and if you are going against one, they most likely will try to harass you.
-I use glyphs of magic resist whenever I go against an ap mid that does a huge amount of early game damage. This is very important since a lot of those mids will try to poke you as much as possible.
-Glyphs of scaling ability power are used to increase Karthus' late game power. With these runes if you get ahead, it can help you snowball.
-I use quints of ability power for the flat ap, good for last hitting with q and harassing when the time comes. Also since when you hit six you'll be looking for anyone you can ult, this extra early game damage helps greatly to accomplish that.
-flash is a very useful skill and is very good for escaping and engaging at times. I know some characters may be able to lane without an escape summoner spell, but since Karthus has no guaranteed escape, this spell is needed.
-Teleport is great for initiating in some cases and defending turrets. Its good for farmers like Karthus that not only need every bit of gold they can get, but benefit greatly from levels and hitting six as soon as possible. When you have this summoner spell, it helps not lose lane against heavy poke lanes, and to ensure you have time to scale.
-Exhaust is the spell which I see other Karthus builds take the most. It really helps when going against those champs that can take Karthus from full to zero health. The slow makes it very hard to dodge his abilities and escape from him. If I don't plan on building a Rylai's then I always make sure to take it.
-passive This lets Karthus continue to do damage and even use his cc after death. This is one of the best passives in the game, especially if you build a lot of damage. I've had too many people to count forget about me once I've died and get nuked down by me with some well placed q's and some ticks from his e.
-Q This spell is pretty much an auto attack for Karthus, its an amazing source of damage when you hit one person with it and it's range is decent. There are some very important things to remember when using this spell. If you hit a single target with it, it will count as a single target ability. This means that you will spellvamp for the full amount, and slow for the full amount with rylais. This spell also can do amazing damage, especially if you are building full damage. I've had games where I've killed an adc with three q's because of its insane damage potential.
-W This skill is helpful if you are trying to escape or initiate. It helps increase your damage and any other magic damage dealers power with the magic resist lowering and in my opinion looks cool, even though Karthus really needs a visual update, PLEASE RIOT. (prayers answered) Try to land this skill on as many people as possible.
-E Defile is a very powerful skill that can be used as a double edged sword if not used correctly. This ability will drain Karthus' mana like crazy if you leave it on. However its damage per second can also do crazy amounts. Use the passive from this skill in lane to recover mana back and if you know you don't have enough time to get cs with a q, quickly toggle it on and off. A little trick I do is to toggle it on but since the passive doesn't work while its toggled on I quickly switch it off right before my q kills a minion. This way I can recover some of the mana it took to use the e.
-R This ability is Godlike! Being able to assist your teammates and kill enemy champions from across the map is amazing. Also being able to apply the on hit effects from your items from across the map is pretty cool too. Just be sure that you use it only when you are sure that it will either assist an ally or kill an enemy, because the cooldown is extremely long.
"Its power grows with time... as does mine"
- This item is very good on Karthus, and is in general a good item. It provides a boatload of stats, including a passive that gives much needed sustain. I try to rush this item as soon as possible, even if that means I need to sell my Doran's ring really early. I do this since it takes time to stack up but will slowly make you deadlier over time.
"A crown for the king of death."
- Deathcap gives amazing ap and increases it further depending on how much ap you have. Because the ap gained is percentage, I like to get some ap first before buying it. This is also an item that scales great into late game just like Karthus. However I find myself most of the time not having this item in my build since in my opinion Karthus scales much better with magic penetration since his base damage is where most of his damage comes from.
"This crystal will sing with me."
-Rylai's gives Karthus good health, ap, and a really useful passive. This passive will give you more utility that can be re-applied with your spammable abilities. It also allows him to kite enemies around. If you lane a q on a single target it will give you the full slow, providing surprising soft cc.
"The sands slip away like lives."
-Zhonya's is an item that will make you even harder to kill with the bonus armor and active. I always try to rush this item as soon as possible when i'm doing a squishy Karthus build. With it you can trick enemies into standing in your e and give your allies enough time to cc or kill a target if you are initiated on.
"What can protect you from the inevitable?"
- Void staff is a great item on Karthus, it provides damage and in my opinion, one of the best thing for ap carries, magic pen. This item is always useful, and will give you a damage spike especially if the enemy team has been stacking magic resist.
"Host of angels, or murder of crows?"
-Even though you don't see this item build as much on Karthus, it can still be a potent item if used correctly. It gives tons of mana which is great on a character like Karthus that needs lots of mana in order to use his abilities for prolonged fights. The shield, especially when combined with roa will block a lot of damage, and usually end up saving your life.
Warding Totem You will only use these primarily in the early game to make sure your fragile self doesn't get ganked. These can be simple to just place in the mid bushes but you can also place them in either side's river bushes in case the enemy jungle wants to gank from behind you. Most often than not though, the mid lane bushes will be your best bet.
Farsight Alteration These wards you have to be a bit more clever with, considering they are seen when you place them and can be destroyed in one attack. I like to put these mainly in the river bushes, but later into the game I find myself placing these in the enemies jungle or our jungle from a safe distance.
Pink ward Pink wards early game will usually only be placed in the mid bushes. Doing this will help not only yourself to counter ward the enemy but it will also assist your jungler. Later in the game you can place this in the river bushes or around either buffs or objectives.
Mid game You have grown stronger, gaining more survivability with zhonyas and a lot of magic pen. You aren't at your peak but you are at a very respectable to even deadly state, depending on how well you have done in the early game. Remember to not forget about the blue buff, even if your jungler doesn't help you take it. At this point you should be able to solo blue buff, just put on your e to take out the small ones while you q blue buff. After the small ones are dead turn off your e and the solo damage from your q makes taking it simple.
Late game, this is the time you have been waiting for. You have become a monster, doing huge amounts of damage and having a very respectable amount of defenses depending on your build. This is usually where the game will start to wrap up and every team fight could possibly mean either a loss or a win. At this stage of the game its much easier and deadlier to land good walls, since as you level it up the size of it has increased also. In certain scenarios you can even flash into their carries, use your abilites, then when you die ult. This will usually take two or more people with you, or at least have them all low enough for your team to easily pick up the kills.
I hope you enjoyed this guide on how to play Karthus. Karthus is often overlooked because once people figure out that he is more than just pressing r, they give up on him. If you stick with Karthus however and follow this guide, i'm sure positive things will come out of it. If you like this guide feel free to upvote. I appreciate any and all opinions, just be sure to keep it polite. Make your enemies say gg at 20 and do remember to have fun.