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League of Legends Build Guide Author Lynoxus

Karthus - Build and Guide

Lynoxus Last updated on March 19, 2011
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Middle Lane
Ranked #25 in
Middle Lane
Win 51%
Get More Stats

Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

Not Updated For Current Season

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.


Brute Force
Improved Rally

Offense: 9

Strength of Spirit
Veteran's Scars

Defense: 0

Blink of an Eye
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 21

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Karthus, The Deathsinger

Hello, this is my first build on this site so please if you do rate down, leave a comment below to explain your opinion.

I created this build because I see a problem with many many karthus's these days. I encourage you to read this guide through before just using the setup above.

A few things you should know:
Firstly: Karthus should always go mid, I don't care whatever someone else says karthus is the best mid in the game. If you are against a character that could be a threat (Karthus has little escape except for wall which is sometimes situationally useless) then you should take flash.

Secondly: You have to be farming with Karthus really well. Karthus needs a lot of gold, and while this for the most part is attainable, sometimes a champion can harass but not kill you, and you will be extremely behind.

Thirdly: Defile is not for mob farming early game, hell, the only reason I use it for that late game is when there are tonnes of minions / I am feeling lazy.

Finally, But most important: You need to be exceptionally good with Lay Waste! You should be able to predict your opponents movements, a well placed Lay Waste can start destroying the health pools of people.A good tip is to use Wall + Lay Waste to chase (It'll slow them down almost guarenteeing hits with it).

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Karthus's Abilities

Passive - Death Defied:

This is without a doubt a horrible passive early game. A lot of times it gets us the kill and people make the point that without it we wouldn't have got it. To that I say that with a better passive we might have not died in the first place. Don't overrate this passive, however if you are going to die definitely then try to get damage in and run towards your enemy to see if you can grab yourself a kill aswell.

However... Late game this passive becomes godly, if you die in a teamfight you have basically forced the enemy to retreat or face losing. 8 Seconds of uninterrupted casting...

Q Ability - Lay Waste:

Your primary spell, your bread and butter, your.. oh never mind. This is extremely powerful when used correctly, and extremely terrible when not. Firstly take note of the double damage when the enemy is on their own. (This is why you don't want them hugging the minions. Secondly it has a delay, so you need to place it where they will be factoring in reaction times. HOWEVER this is something that can't be taught, you really just have to get a feel for it.

This ability when hotkey activated will cast at your mouse position, this is needed for constant spamming. The ability also gives Line of Sight inside the AOE area. Allowing you to scout out tiny bits of brush.

W Ability - Wall of Pain:

Your CC spell, the slow possiblites are obvious, take note of the MR debuff, and use it accordingly to create a Lay Waste / Wall Combo. Be careful however of champions that instead of running into your wall run right back at you. Don't be thrown off by this but be careful for people baiting your slow to go on CD.

This ability gives you a MASSIVE line of sight, this can be used to display hidden enemies in the brush, and if placed right give them a horrible Magic Resist debuff.

E Ability - Defile:

Your Close Range AOE spell, early on this drains mana worse than a Kassadin chain riftwalking. Don't use it early on. Again like all of Karthus's 3 main abilities it has a second componant, the passive is really worthwhile for Laning and keeping your mana up.

Ultimate Ability - Requiem:

This is channeled, it can be interrupted, silenced, stunned out of. Banshee's Veil and other things cancel this. There are so many ways to defend against this so you must make sure before using it to finish someone they have no way to defend against it. Take note of the damage and factor in MResist.

You must also use it to help teammates in fights, to turn the tide of the battle.

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Really quickly just saying that these really are the best runes, the mana regen is needed early on and MPen is really good for all casters. AP is cos Karthus needs a lot of it.

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Standard setup here, nothing special.

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Right, so the build I have provided is actually quite flexible. I could go through every different modification but that would take AGES to explain.

Simply put, modify the build so that you situationally get what you want earliest. For this I shall help by explaining each item.

Sapphire Crystal -

This is a starting item and SHOULD ALWAYS BE TAKEN, you need this mana to stay in lane.

Tear of the Goddess -

Why do I get this before anything else you ask? Because it is really hard to stay in lane and keep up the lay wastes without it, when in lane yo should be constantly casting Lay Waste so this thing will stack up fast. Also, the earlier you get it the earlier you can get Archangel's Staff.*

Sorcerer's Shoes -

You seriously need the MPen, for a long time I used to believe in Ionian Boots of Lucidity, but think about this.

If I was to take a vacuum environment, and say a champion had base 35MR That is roughly 30% resist right? Ionian boots of Lucidity will give you 1 extra lay waste, every 6.6 Lay Wastes. Sorcerer's and Wall will bring that to 0%, whereas with Ionian it will be 20%.

What does that mean? Well at 6 lay wastes the 20% adds up to 120% or so. Proving that in an environment before they start getting MResist then it is better.

Finally, by Late Mid / Late Game you should have Frozen Heart anyway, so you won't get the full benefit and will be better all around.

Moving on, Mejai's Soulstealer -

TAKE THIS ONLY IF YOU ARE DOING WELL, but listen. Mejai's is good because if we do the maths, it is an effective item even at even 5 stacks (Like a Blasting Wand but 60g Cheaper), Take it when you know you can keep 5 stacks or more, because by the time you may want to sell it (Because you are replacing with better items and can't keep high numbers up), you will have made your money's worth.

It is also worth noting the sheer number of times I have gone "I wish I had taken Mejai's", compared to the few times I regretted doing so.

Rabadon's Deathcap + Archangel's Staff -

The order you do these 2 in are completely interchangeable, if you are doing badly I strongly reccomend going Archangel's staff, why? Because if you are doing badly you will have reached this point slower and with more mana on your Tears of Goddess. Believe me, stalling this item to improve the effectiveness of the first UPassive really pays off.

That said if you have lots of gold then you should go deathcap first because it provides a faster boost and will be better later on to make that choice.

Frozen Heart -

You want this for the frankly insane armor and CDR, you as karthus can be wrecked by AD champions. However I warn you NOT TO FALL INTO THE TRAP OF GETTING THIS WHEN THE TEAM HAS NOT MANY AD CHAMPIONS, seriously don't.

Banshee's Veil -

Less a priority than the above in my opinion, most casters are burst and I honestly don't believe this is needed because if they do manage to kill you in one cooldown rotation this probably won't help except for champions with exceptionally long cooldowns. Again if they are heavy on spellcasters or don't have any at all adjust the priority of this accordingly.

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Summoner Spells

I am not going to try to sway anyone here. Pick the spells that you find best with your playstyle, one thing I would like to mention is exhaust, which is almost never used on Karthus, but can help stop AD champions from wrecking you and can help chase people with lay waste even when wall isn't up.

Options for Karthus:(Listed in decending order of how good they are)
Teleport - Karthus has to go back for mana, teleport allows him to stay in lane and go back very fast. It also allows for ward ganking if you have an organised team.
Ignite - A personal favourite of mine, the damage done here can sway a fight early game and is especially good mid, you should also not forget the healing debuff which can prove useful.
Flast - Another ability I find extremely useful for when there is a team that could kill you easily, or just for new players struggling with survivability.
Exhaust - This can destroy those pesky AD carrys and helps to hit bomb 100% of the time, some critics say that Karthus doesn't need another slow, however I would say that the secondary effects are worth taking sometimes anyway.

Ghost - Some people swear by it, however your real enemies will have it anyway so if you have lost a fight it could only possibly help save you a couple of seconds before you die.
Cleanse - I wouldn't really recommend taking this unless you really know how to use it, as mentioned Karthus has no real escape. If you do take this I would reccomend taking it with flash so it can actually do some use.

Clarity - Really this is a spell that isn't worth it. It scales horribly later on and is really only useful for the first 5 or so levels where you really are hurting for mana regen. The bonus isn't worth it later on.
Heal - Much better in a 2v2 lane, not good in middle and for that reason not for Karthus.
Clairvoyance - Look, this is a support spell, some people make the argument of being able to scout out brush near you but you have Wall of Pain and Lay Waste to do that for you.
Fortify - Another support spell, just don't take it.
Revive - Oh god no. This spell is even worse as Karthus as he has 20% Reduced Death time...

I personally use the ones above but there are many viable options.

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Team Work

Please note, here. You are not the person that runs in and gets the crazy kills (That is Kassadin), you are the person that late game will sit back and do tonnes of AOE damage.

If a squishy on the enemy team breaks away from the group you should lay waste them, remember the double damage.

If you see another fight in another lane not going too well, use an ulti. It could help them get a kill or save them. A lot of karthus's seem to have this mentality that an ulti that didn't get a kill is wasted. Not so, if an ulti doesn't help anyone then it is wasted.

A lot of Karthus's will go the suicide route, I tend to find this ineffective however as you can be run away from and will require amazing positioning and luck.

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Pros / Cons

Good Damage
Consistent Damage
No worries late game about mana
Massive slow
Excellent 1v1 early / mid game

Can find Ranged ADs very annoying
Suceptible to silences like any other character.

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Other people's advice!

TheCrimsonElixir said: I think you should replace Mejai's Soulstealer to something else, remember that 85% of the guide-readers are learning how to play this char and may have problems with survability.

This is extremely important to note, and I am glad someone reinforced it. Mejai's is a good item but if you are new you should probably take something else until you start to get good K/D Ratios.

ZekariaVanwood said: Not the way I would do a Karthus, but spells are what I do, what you should try is 5 Archangel Staffs and a Rabadons, my max AP on that was 1300.

This is very important to take note of, that build said there can get you loads of AP. Of course you will be missing boots and survivability. I would actually advise you to use this build if the enemy team are low on Magic Resistance, then it will destroy them.

Ryock said: Morello's is actually the better choice than Mejai's if you're having trouble getting stacks. You get good AP, nice mana regen, and of course the cd reduction. It's rather cheap, so it isn't hard to do.

I don't disagree with this because I haven't had the time to experiment with the item, however with this build the mana regen would probably go to waste and you would have to rework a few things.

Ryock also says: One really big thing about this build that bugs me though is the lack of Zhonya's Hourglass. That makes Karthus really really useful considering people like to focus him first. Run into a crowd making them think you're stupid, pop defile, pop Zhonya's, and laaaaaaugh =D.

I must say that this is quite high risk and will result in you being killed, the time is nice but not enough to do a reasonable amount of damage, something like this should be followed up by a teamfight, but the defile won't do good enough damage in my opinion to merit throwing your life away, you should be throwing in loads of AOE damage anyway.

Thinking about it however, this could be a good idea if you ran in with say, a tank to start a teamfight. With good positioning and CC (Possible flash) you could do tonnes of damage without dying.

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Some last things.

Here I shall put some random things / updates.

Killstealing: - Was going to spend ages explaining why not to do it but instead I shall just say, don't do it. It's stupid.
Early game item staggering: - By this I am referring to staggering Sorcerer's Shoes and Mejai's Soulstealer, this helps to smooth out bumps in the build's strength.

Remember, 1 kill stolen (especially with ulti) can be -1 or more potential kills for the team.