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Karthus General Guide by VXer

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League of Legends Build Guide Author VXer

Karthus - Defiling the Jungle

VXer Last updated on June 19, 2014
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Middle Lane
Ranked #13 in
Middle Lane
Win 50%
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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.



Offense: 21

Legendary Guardian

Defense: 9


Utility: 0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Runes

3. Masteries

4. Summoner Spells

5. Skill Order

6. Item Choices

7. Jungling and Counterjungling

8. Matchups

9. Summary

10. Changelog

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Hey MOBAFire, my name is VXer. I've been part of the League of Legends community since the release of Nocturne and I greatly enjoy the mental challenge of trying new things and reinventing how I play the game.

To this end, I will go into detail about how I play Karthus as a jungler. Karthus is a ranged AP bruiser with a global ultimate Requiem and a very low Cooldown on his point-and-click damage skill Lay Waste. While his effectiveness is best known in Mid lane, he can be played as a jungler.

He's not the most orthodox pick and certainly not the best, however given the current META and direction the jungle is headed, he's surprisingly fun and has been picking up momentum.

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Greater Mark of Magic Penetration

Greater Seal of Health

Greater Glyph of Cooldown Reduction

Greater Glyph of Magic Penetration

Greater Quintessence of Spell Vamp

  • 9x Greater Mark of Magic Penetration: We take flat Magic Penetration marks because we're a heavy AP mage and we want to capitalize on our spells.

  • 9x Greater Seal of Health: Because of the recent changes to flat Armor seals, flat HP is a fairly viable pick, if not a better pick. Jungle creeps aren't that big an issue and 9 armor isn't that important early. You can take Greater Seal of Armor though and it won't change your survivability that much.

  • 6x Greater Glyph of Cooldown Reduction: 5% Cooldown Reduction, plus 5% from Masteries allows for faster use of your already tiny cooldowns. By maximising your early clear potential, this will help transition you into mid and late game.

  • 3x Greater Glyph of Magic Penetration: I take 3 extra Glyphs of Magic Penetration to pull our Karthus up to 9.7 Magic Penetration at level 1. Our Lay Waste will hurt and this helps us scale far better than Ability Power runes, in this instance.

  • 3x Greater Quintessence of Spell Vamp: Spell Vamp is the new Life Steal. Actually it's always been a caster equivalent for health sustain. Since Karthus can apply fast damage during his clears, these help mitigate incoming damage by restoring a bit of health with each tick of damage. Use in conjunction with Lay Waste as a single-target spell for best effect.

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I take 21 points in the Offense Tree because Karthus primarily should be doing damage. By progressing as we have, deep into the Offense Tree, we guarantee tasty Lay Wastes and ridiculous Requiems through all stages of the game.

The final 9 points are put into Defense, as without them, Karthus would be incredibly squishy. He's not a durable champion in lane or the jungle, so these selections help mitigate this somewhat. (He's still a fart in the wind, though).


Tier 1: I take 3 points into Sorcery, for the additional 5% Cooldown Reduction for obvious reasons. More cooldown reduction means more spells, thus more damage, thus faster clear.

Butcher is taken as we're in the jungle (Duh!), and we will be capitalizing on auto-attacks throughout our clears.

Tier 2: Feast . I'm going to address this mastery first, as it is worthy of some debate. 3 additional Health and 1 extra Mana back per unit killed might not seem like much. On a full clear of the jungle, you're only gaining 48 HP and 16 Mana back. With that in mind though, this mastery assists us primarily in our first clear, helping a very squishy jungler survive just an extra hit or two from creep camps.

Mental Force gives us scaling Ability Power. We're an Ability Power champion. Enough said.

Tier 3: Arcane Mastery provides us a flat +6 Ability Power. It's not much in the grand scheme of things, but it does perk us up with some extra early game damage. Executioner helps us do more damage to lower health targets. This synergises well with Requiem primarily, as we wouldn't commonly use our ultimate on full health targets.

Tier 4: Archmage gives us a 5% percent increase to our Ability Power. We're pumping out as much Ability Power as optimally appropriate for a Jungle Karthus, so it's nice to stretch it a little further.

Tier 5: Devastating Strikes gives us some additional Armor and Magic Penetration (6%). It isn't much overall, but every bit counts. Arcane Blade is here since we'll be auto-attacking and we might as well make the most use of our Ability Power as well.

Tier 6 Havoc . Extra damage is always welcome.
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Tier 1: Tough Skin and Block are both here to help mitigate damage from jungle creeps and champions.

Tier 2: Unyielding continues the line of thought to reduce incoming damage from Champions, while Veteran Scars give us an extra +36 Hit Points. This helps us survive early game, where Karthus is most vulnerable.

Tier 3: Juggernaut an extra 3% of hit points helps somewhat for surviving.


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Summoner Spells

As a jungler, we always need Smite to assist in securing objectives, such as Dragon , Baron Nashor and even our buff camps ( elder lizard and ancient golem ).
Flash is taken because we want some form of escape spell as Karthus has none. This will provide utility to escape potentially dangerous engages, jump right into the thick of a teamfight, jump a wall to catch a fleeing opponent. Flash has many uses and as such, is the second Summoner spell recommended.
Teleport deserves an honorable mention. While it's a very selective spell in terms of use (and appreciation), it can line up some amazing ganks if used correctly.

The key word is 'correctly', since this spell is heavily influenced by how well your team accomodates for it's uses. If your team are not placing wards strategically, or giving you some leeway to provide a Teleport gank, then I would not recommend the spell.

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Skill Sequence

Ability Sequence
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
> > >

At level 1, your best clearing tool is Lay Waste, it provides fast and consistent damage for clearing your first Blue buff. We will be maxxing Lay Waste (Q) first, as the skill scales amazingly well in terms of damage output.

At level 2, we put a point into Wall of Pain (W). This is our CC ability, providing 40% slow for 5 seconds and reduced Magic Resistance (-15). I normally take this second, instead of Defile (E) because I prefer that level 2 gank advantage. However, if no gank opportunities exist, it is perfectly viable (if not preferrable) to take this point into Defile (E) instead.

Our level 3 pick, once we've cleared Red Buff (or ganked) will be either Wall of Pain or Defile, depending on how the game is turning out as previously explained.

We max out Defile (E) as our second ability, as the AoE damage and mana sustain allows Karthus to farm almost indefinitely in the jungle and helps provide another source of damage.

Finally, we max out Wall of Pain (W) last. The slow effect starts at 40%, eventually scaling to 80%. While this slow is fantastic (It lasts for 5 seconds!), getting a stronger slow without better damage doesn't help out Karthus. Since we're a more farm focused jungler, we leave Wall of Pain on a single point until late game.

As always, we want to prioritise our ultimate, Requiem, whenever possible. This is what most people know Karthus for, especially when that beam glows above your head as you've just escaped a nasty trade with your laning opponent.

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Item Sequence

Sorcerer's Shoes

Rabadon's Deathcap

Zhonya's Hourglass

Seraph's Embrace

Rylai's Crystal Scepter

Void Staff

Karthus is a mage. These boots are pretty self explanatory. The additional Magic Penetration allows us to continue doing significant damage through early and mid game.

With the changes to Spirit of the Spectral Wraith, the loss of Spell Vamp hasn't helped ability power champions ( Fiddlesticks, Karthus, Diana ) keep sustained outside of the jungle, but the item itself is still a viable pick for Karthus. It provides the necessary Cooldown Reduction (+10%) and Ability Power to give our defiling deathslinger an edge in farming and ganking.

Eventually, you should consider selling this item and replacing it with another heavy-AP item.

A clear winner for Karthus, we can sustain our mana indefinitely while building up Tear of the Goddess to this great item. The passive is where it shines, granting a percentage of our tasty mana as Ability Power. The active is also nice for surviving that extra bit of damage. What's not to love?

For it's active alone, this item is perfect. It lets us set up those terrifying full-team Defiles without getting our skulls crushed in. On top of the active, are the items passive bonuses. Massive additions to our Armor and Ability Power synergise with out kit, and other item selections.

Giving our Lay Waste, Defile, and Requiem some additional utility is always welcome. The slow effect is great for keeping an opponent in our range and the Hit Point gains give us more durability to survive and sustain through the game.

By now, everyone would be building some form of damage mitigation (whether Hit Points or Magic Resistance). Ideally, a Rabadon's Deathcap will give you the most bang for your buck, providing much needed Ability Power ontop of an already formidable jungle Karthus.
Here, we should consider replacing our Spirit of the Spectral Wraith with another, more appropriate Ability Power item. Void Staff is viable if you need the overall % Magic Penetration, and Abyssal Mask is a niche pick where you need the Ability Power and Magic Resistance.

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Jungling and Counterjungling

As Karthus in the jungle, you will be relying on your teammates to ward and protect your jungle creeps early game. Your first clear is crucial to your success, though moreso if you miss out on Blue buff from the ancient golem .

So what do we do? Below I will present two paths: Your optimal path, and an alternate path if you get caught out or counterjungled.

Optimal Clear Path

Start at ancient golem . You want to have Lay Waste and Hunter's Machete ready. Don't forget to Smite, otherwise you're in for a rough time. At level 2, pick up Defile, unless you're going to force an early gank.

Proceed to wraith camp, Lay Waste to the creeps here. This is a slightly less painful camp compared to wolves (they hit harder), so this will save you some hit points.

Next, move on to the Elder Lizard camp. Remember to Smite to secure. By this point you should be level 3, with one rank in each of your abilities ( Lay Waste, Wall of Pain, Defile).

Look for a gank opportunity. If one doesn't exist, recall and at least buy your Spirit Stone for better sustained clears. Continue looking for gank opportunities while farming the jungle.

Alternate Path

Also known as the "I lost first Blue" path. This allows you to farm up until you can handle your respective buffs again once they come back. The path itself is in progress while I experiment with various starting points and what to do in order to come back from a lost Blue buff as Karthus. (It hasn't happened very often. Losing Red is more likely, but it's less important for us).

- This is a slow grind back to a stable jungle path as Karthus. We want to start wraiths , then take wolves . Use Smite on the large wolf. From there, we are level 2. Pick up Defile, we'll need the mana returns on kills.

- Now, move on to the double golems . You should be able to clear this (Just!). You won't be level 3, but your choice right now should either be to take another stab at wraiths or recall and pick up a Spirit Stone. If you take the wraiths route, you'll be just shy of level 3. Take a few steps into mid lane and tax that last tick of XP before recalling to grab Spirit Stone and 5x health potions, ready to secure your Blue buff. Don't lose it this time.

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Coming soon!

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In summary, Karthus is an unorthodox jungler, who excels at decent clear times and surprisingly effective ganks (from Wall of Pain and the ever-potent Requiem ).

Any and all feedback is welcome and I'll strive to take any suggestions on board to turn this into a comprehensive jungle Karthus guide. (Particularly formatting. My word, am I new to BBCoding)

Thanks for reading!

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20-06-2014 - Modified guide based on feedback and in-game validation.

07-06-2014 - Added Matchups section (to be filled in at a later date); alternate jungle path added (will revise when I've time to play consistently).

06-06-2014 - Guide Published


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