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League of Legends Build Guide Author JunSupport

Karthus - E 'n' R ( For Newbies to 'Just enjoy Karthus' )

JunSupport Last updated on August 16, 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

Expanded Mind
Blink of an Eye
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 21

Guide Top

~ ~ Welcome ~ ~

Welcome to my newbie guide to Karthus, the Deathsinger

Please keep in mind to never rate a guide before trying it out first, unless you've already tried it.

If you're just looking to only play Karthus moderately to "enjoy the game" and suck with skill shots, you've come to the right guide.
I think I've found a different way to play him, and it's quite effective in my opinion. Give it a try before you judge. :)

Karthus is a very fun champion to play, but you have to be very particular about how you do it.
If you don't, you may be the next one with a Requiem raining down you head...

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Karthus Updates:

Was a bit late starting this section, but as they say, "Better late then never."

  • May 9, 2011 - Solid nerf to Karthus.
    • Nerf - Death Defied is now 7 seconds from 8.
    • Death Defied no longer reduces your respawn timer.
      However, now Death Defied time is now counted towards your respawn timer, so no real loss.
    • Nerf - Requiem AP Ratio reduced to 0.6 from 0.7
    Overall, it was simply bringing Karthus into line. He can still effectively get kills, and being killed is more likely to shut down your damage output.
    Requiem will still get you plenty of kills if you use it properly.

Guide Top


  • Aug. 16, 2011 - Updated the title to reflect the nature of this guide. Makes me sad to get so many downvotes so suddenly. :/
  • July 3, 2011 - Changed Glyphs from "Celerity" to "Focus". 3% isn't going to kill me.
  • Jun. 28, 2011 - Updated Seals and Quints.
  • Jun. 24, 2011 - Swapped Deathcap and Zhonya in the item sequence. Adjusted item descriptions accordingly.
  • Jun. 6, 2011 - Removed Defensive items in general. Added "Abyssal Scepter" and "Void Staff" in place as the 5th slot.
  • Jun. 6, 2011 - Brought everything more or less up to date.
  • Jun. 6, 2011 - Registered Soraka as a "Bane of Karthus" champion.
  • Jun. 6, 2011 - Registered Veigar as a "Bane of Karthus" champion.
  • Jun. 6, 2011 - Added Orianna's "Command: Protect" into "Banes of Karthus" section.
  • May. 28, 2011 - Changed the title to emphasize this is a guide for noob Karthus users.
  • Apr. 11, 2011 - Fixed some text.
  • Mar. 25, 2011 - Converted this build into a "Normal Queue / Noob" guide.
    It's not the best way if you're looking for high ELO, but it works. :)
  • Mar. 24, 2011 - Updated "Banes of Karthus," Banshee's Veil moved down a rank. (Thanks for letting me know, Lazukin)
  • Mar. 18, 2011 - Swapped the last two Lay Waste points with Wall of Pain points. Been feeling that Wall of Pain works well enough at rank 3.
  • Mar. 15, 2011 - Added "Morello's Evil Tome" under testing for early game items.
  • Mar. 8, 2011 - Added an "Items I don't get and Why~" section. Check it out! :)

Guide Top

Introduction: If you suck with Lay Waste, you've come to the right guide

I am very happy to announce that I have acquired Karthus!
I love playing this lich, and find the rage thrown at me for Requiem to be a sugary bonus. :)

Karthus is quite possibly both the most easy and the most difficult champion to play.

Sometimes, it's just a push of a button, and you're in happy town.
Other times, you can't survive to do a thing. :/

In this guide, I will be focusing on a style for casual normal queue gaming.

Why? Karthus in high level game play, relies on his Lay Waste.

Karthus is NOT my main, so half the time I miss because in team fights, all thought-processes to on the back burner, and end up missing on half my Qs.
I just don't have the practice/concentration to be good at the usual Lay Waste frenzy Karthus!

So, yeah, let's try a different approach.

The one thing I love about Karthus is his E. Defile can wipe out a minion wave so easily making it a great farming tool and late game it is so good in team fights, and I just adore using it whenever I can.
It is his true damage dealer when it's not an ideal moment for Requiem.

Also, in case you didn't notice, I like to pretend Defile's AoE is a buzzsaw! Cmere Teemo! Just a little off the top!!! >:3

Here, I focus on making Karthus a farmer and a sniper.
Karthus is a late-game champion, he's more DPS then nukey when Requiem is down, and so he relies on his itemization more then more casters.

Without any stun of sorts, a Karthus that tries to fight is just a very squishy feeder before he's fully built. As Karthus, I just farm, and try to keep the enemy from harassing me.

My killing sprees don't start until mid-game where other lane enemies overextend, or team fights happen. So, I work on farming up, expanding my mana pool, and getting those important core items that every build has.
And, once I'm farmed up, that's when the fun begins... >;)

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Summoner Spells

Great catching up to enemies, and keep them inside your Defile range.

I think this suits my build best, as you aim to be the final one to enter any battle. With Ghost, you can plant down your wall, and rush in with Defile before any of them can even turn around. :)

This is my personal favorite spell.
It lets you stay in action so much, and allows you to have better map control.

On Karthus, you want to use this for defending a lane from those notorious 10+ mob minion waves, and for jumping to wards to assist in team fights.
You can't get fed purely off enemy kills, so this will offer a reliable foundation to your supply of items.

Lesser Spells:

The reason I don't get Flash, is because in a lot of need-to-run situations, you're already within Defile range. Ghost is far more practical in that sense.

As a late-game champion with high magical DPS and a global finisher, this doesn't hold much value. If playing ranked, this makes a strong anti-heal choice.

You already have Zhonya and Wall of Pain for defense and chasing, but if you dislike Teleport, this makes for a very function second spell.

This spell isn't useful for Karthus outside of laning.
Either he's spending huge amounts with Defile, or he's hardly using any due to Lay Waste's efficiency. I eliminate any need for this with Tear which offers a huge mana pool, as well as high regeneration in combination with Defile's passive

Oh, please no. This is just a good crutch for learners, and the god of ARAM.
There are some champions that can work well with this. Such as HP-only champions like... , , .
Or healers like... , , but Karthus is not one of these.

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Runes (and Masteries)

Late-Game Caster build

Flat Magic Penetration Marks, standard.

Greater Seal of Replenishment Flat Mana Regen Seals, the clarity seals were nerfed and no longer worthwhile. I find Replenishment to be much more satisfying for early game when you've yet to accumulate the massive Tear mana pool.

Flat Cooldown Reduction Glyphs. Karthus' AP ratios aren't that amazing, so I suppose you could use AP ratios if you want. I prefer to maximize my Q spam, Wall-drops, and Requiems.

Flat Ability Power Quintessences, with the addition of Void Staff into this recently, flat magic pen just isn't mathematically decent anymore.

With Masteries,
I go with standard caster Offensive points.

With Utility I make sure to grab the bonus effects of Spatial Accuracy and Haste for my summoner spells.

Good Hands synergizes with Karthu's Death Defied respawn timer reduction. Being able to shave off 15 seconds from a late-game timer can be very significant. Especially if your team gets aced, and are in danger of losing an inhibitor.

Meditation is good masteries for Karthus early game. Helps him get him stay in lane.
I also put points for jungle buffs' Utility Mastery, because Golem buff is the bomb on Karthus.
Never forget to skill up enough to get Quickness, Intelligence.

Lastly, put the all too important final utility point into Presence of the Master.

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Skills and Skill Sequence

Death Defied:

I really do need to clear the air about this skill.

Do not consider this a part of your arsenal!
It should only be put into use AFTER you've done well in a team fight. The final 8 seconds is a chance for you to save face because you failed to stay alive.

Staying alive AND contributing to fights should always be your goal.
If you're still alive, you could be alive dealing damage for a minute, ten, or even the whole game. If you're dead, your damage is rooted to one area, then after 8 seconds the output goes to zero.
This passive is merely an emotional buffer for bad scenarios.

That being said, this passive also does something really nice.
It reduces your respawn time by 20%. Early game, that can be 4 seconds less of being useless. Late game, that can be over 10 seconds!
This makes Karthus a lot more fun to play, as he naturally reduces your uselessness time relative to other champions.

Lay Waste:

Regarded as Karthus' bread and butter. Most people will max it asap.
Don't do that!

I like to keep it at rank 3 early game, because it's good enough for farming and harass.
At rank 3, it is enough to kill a minion at 40% HP when positioned properly, and also enough for you to quickly clear clumps of minion waves, which is all it's good for!

Points can be better devoted to Defile and Wall of Pain for teamfight functionality, those are the skills that will allow your team to pull off some beautiful ganks and net loads of kills.
However, I do max Lay Waste once Defile is complete, as raising Wall of Pain doesn't ensure kills with higher leveling.

Note: If you're an avid Karthus play, eventually, you'll learn to hit Lay Waste better. When that time comes, you'll want to max out Lay Waste first, seeing as it's damage output is superior when it hits.

Wall of Pain:

A powerful slow when skilled up that shuts down enemy movement as well as reduces enemy Magic Resistance when they pass through. It is often underestimated how good this skill is.
Positioned properly, you can break an enemy's positioning as well as make them take far more damage then usual.

Note: If entering from the side, you want to slap this wall right on top of the enemy. So when they turn to run, they'll have to pass through a long stretch of it.

Similar to Anivia's wall , it can be used as a ward to clear the Fog of War for any threats. It is especially good for checking jungle camps, as it can entirely box in enemies.

I start raising this in bits while maxing out Defile, so that the Slow becomes more significant. Forever, I stop this at rank 3, as 60% Slow is already quite amazing, and Lay Waste should still be considered part of Karthus' arsenal.


A.K.A. The Buzzsaw!!

Actively, this is the thing that will truly devastate your enemies mid to late game. Almost like a buzz saw, when rank 3+, it cuts down their HP like cotton.

After Lay waste is ranked up to 3, I max this out asap, stopping only for Requiem and a few Wall of Pain points at my leisure.

For Efficiency's sake!
Passively, this skill can be very amazing!
Because I raise it sooner, the mana-return on kills begins to outweigh the costs of Lay Waste. This means a stronger laning phase.

And, because I raise it sooner, I can sick my deadly defile AoE on enemies sooner too. Early game, Karthus are often easy to take down, because enemy auto-hits and spell combos are far stronger then simple Q-spam.


Serenade your enemies to their deaths. That's how this ability is.

When used right, this is probably one of the most satisfying skills in the game.
When it's used wrong, it's pretty useless and does just about ziltch.

Here are 3 tips to Requiem:

  • Look at Requiem's exact damage, and pretend it is 20% weaker. If it does 512, it now does 400.
  • Be a team player, when allies are in an even team fight, using Requiem as assist damage to help.
  • When in doubt, here's a rule of thumb for level 11+
    "If their HP's under 100 times three, Requiem will end a enemy life for thee."

Also, see my Banes of Karthus section for more information about troublesome LoL existences that will make Requiem often less effective.

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Core Items: Early Game

Stats: A Sapphire Crystal + x2

Discussion, Meki Pendant
Those new to Karthus may choose to start with Meki over the crystal, as it offers more sustainability.

Tear of the Goddess: A vast mana pool awaits you with the purchase of this item.
It will allow you to spam Defile, frequently for farming or fighting.
Some builds utilize Clarity, but I find that to be a total crutch that should not be relied on. Late-game, this will also contribute to my AP, so I see it as very synergistic.

Sorcerer's Shoes: Because any other footwear will lead to an underwhelming Requiem.
You need this.
Once you've acquired your first Large Rod it'll ensure that your math doesn't fail you when comparing enemy HP with your Ult damage.

Needlessly Large Rod: Because every Karthus needs one. ;D
A lot of people are unaware that NLR is a very very hefty item.
At 1600 gold per 80AP, it is more cost efficient then Blasting Wand .

Rabadon's Deathcap: Because AP is boss.

When you get Needlessly Large Rod, you probably already noticed that defile could now efficiently wipe out minions.
Now, you're ready to bring down unwary low health champions as well.

~Under Testing:

Morello's Evil Tome.
I think I misread the stats when this was first released. But, if the stats on Mobafire are accurate, 20% cooldown is a big deal that shouldn't be overlooked.
Nice hard AP, and light mana regen doesn't hurt either.

Guide Top

Core Items: Mid Game

These are the items you will be completing throughout mid game and late game.
These are your essentials.

Zhonya's Hourglass: It's active is one of the best team fight defense mechanics in the game.
If you intend to utilize defile to contribute to team fights, you need this. The active simply makes life easier.

Very similar to how Heimerdinger is played.
As soon as the enemy focuses down your HP, click the active and turn golden.
Their ultimates will go to waste while Defile and allied help will melt down their own health bars.

Rylai's Crystal Scepter: Rylai is a hardcore caster's best friend.

The health is warmly, almost desperately welcomed addition to your hp pool.
The passive however, is what really sweetens the deal on this item.
With this item, your Defile now slows enemies by 15%. Good maneuvering means melee champions can't touch you, and kiters will be put in despair!

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Items I don't get and Why~

For 90% of folks the moment you buy this item, you'll become a self-preservation focused imbecile.
You will no longer be able to contribute to fights, HOPING your allies can get the enemy low on their own, which generally contributes to them losing, and you never getting those Kill Steals you want.

The benefit of this item is minimal for Karthus.
Defile will already be annihilating combatents, and you already receive an AP-scaling for hitting towers. And if you can land your Lay Wastes on single targets, you'll wreck them.
Focus on staying on your targets with defile, and aiming Lay Wastes under their bottoms and you'll do fine.

Cause it doesn't give Rylai's slow, or Archangel's crazy mana pool late-game, or Zhonya's active, OR Rabadon's giant honking "AP".
Whoever's "rod" this is. It's total BS compared to the rest. :P

But seriously, it's pretty lame on Karthus, it gives a lot, yet it doesn't really.
If rushed for survivability, it just means your Requiem will be weaker then it could it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

More garbage items on Karthus soon~
Maybe when Riot fixes this stupid Tanky Deeps meta that makes it impossible for Karthus to grab his daily pentakill... >_>

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End Game Items

Defense Items:

"With your core AP items built, picking a proper defense item is critical. It will allow you to more freely run rampant in team fights with Defile without worrying about them getting kills off you."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I decided this attitude I first took toward this guide was a little too try-hard-y.
This is a guide for normal queue, you're here to kill enemies and indulge in your noob-ego!

So here's a path with a little more fun.

Void Staff, V.S. Abyssal Scepter.
If you are in a game where you are in control, or being fed. Get a Void Staff.
In a game where you feel absolutely confident, but the enemy is smart enough to purchase some magic resist, Void Staff will clean the field of your foes.
And in tandem, purchase Ionian Boots of Lucidity because the %Magic Pen will overshadow Sorcerer's Shoes.

However, if you're feeling a little vulnerable, then Abyssal Scepter is the way to go.
Durable amount of magic resist, a MR-reduction aura, and it has a skull in it's picture! This item has Karthus' name all over it.

And finally...

Archangel's Staff.
Yes, finally.
Upgrade your Tear to give yourself a gargantuan boost of AP. It will generally be 140+ when you include Deathcap's effect.

This may seems rather pushed back, but there's really no help for it.
Unless you're in a leaver game, or the enemy's feeding like a headless chicken, you really need that defensive item first.
Deathcap, Zhonya, and Rylai are also pretty crucial in your performance, so alas, Archangels is left last.

If you don't have the 1860 gold requires for Archangels, buff yourself up with Elixirs!

More AP, more cooldown!

More health! And a little sugary AD on top never hurt.

Wrecking enemy wards can be quite demoralizing.

Elixirs can be very crucial in team fights. It may just be that extra edge that lets your team win a fight quicker, opening up room to push and win!

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Banes of Karthus

Here, I'd like to take some time to show you the banes of Karthus. The things that make him tick, and give him headaches in the middle of the night.

Items, Champions, and Abilities that you need to be careful of.

These three are the most common items that'll ruin your day.

Zhonya's active is a lot easier to watch for; it also only lasts 2 seconds, meaning, so you can even cast the moment they utilize it. But, if you're channeling against a runner whose dashed into the Fog of War, there's always a chance you'll be left sorely disappointed.

Banshee's Veil used to reign as the most annoying, because of it's spell shield. Sometimes, you'll have to settle for assists, and cast it while the bubble is down.
However, the nerf from 30 seconds to 45 seconds in March means a majority of the time, it will be down when you want to cast Requiem.

Not quite as common as the former two, but it still exists.
Although it's more likely to be wasted in a team fight, you should still be extra observant about their HP, as well as what damage they took.
The shield does not activate against attack damage, so if the target is running from a Tryndamere or something, mentally assume they have 300 extra health to spare.

Champions: (ordered by capacity to counter Requiem)

The ultimate deny... It will be used very often.
Count to 30 after he's used it once, and a good Zilean will probably have it ready and waiting for your next song.

-> -> -> + Consecration
This picture perfect support champion is your antithesis.
While you can reduce magic resist, she increases it. Where you cause massive damage, she grants massive healing.
Most importantly, her Infuse can silence you. Never cast Requiem around her.
Although she's not popular, she has her own following of summoners, so be wary of her.

-> ->
A ninja practically built to negate you.
Not only does he build tanky, he'll almost never die to your Requiem due to Feint, and Stand United means half your Requiems will fail as well.

-> ->
Armed with a heal and a damage-immunity bubble, a good Kayle will have you ripping your hair out quite a bit.
Hope she suffocates in her bubble. :P

-> ->
Janna's shield let's her take on way more harass then the average champion; you'll lose kills to this skill quite a bit! Her Gale and Zephyr combo will have you zoned away from your own creeps.
Also, be weary of when you cast Requiem in regards to her ultimate, Monsoon can instantly have you disrupted, or just heal your target out of their danger zone.

-> ->
Another ninja. This guy's annoying for just about everyone when played well.
If you aren't amazing at manuveuring (and who is, really?) then you'll end up taking loads of stuns.
His Lightning Rush lets him tank your Ultimate too... Fun.

-> ->
Good vladimir are frustrating to kill.
They simply refuse to die, stealing your health with powerful mini-nuke Qs, and dodging some of the most powerful skills with his pool.

No one will want to switch with you for a Vladimir dominated lane. Focus on last-hits, try to keep 700-distance between you and him at all times, to prevent random Qs off your health.

Very similar to Janna.
If you find her in your lane, ask for a switch asap.
Her spell shield makes harass impossible, and she can harass freely with her Boomerang Blade, not a fun game if you stay.

-> ->
More of a lane threat then anything.
If this guy's discovered as the mid enemy, under no circumstances should you try to lane against him.

Kassadin is designed to be an anti-mage.
His null sphere is easy harass that doesn't allow you to return any. If you can't cast spells, you're walking around with a "kill me" sign.
Riftwalk also means you will rarely get any kills off him personally, Defile just can't stick onto this guy.

-> + + + +
At the bottom of the list, another anti-mage.

Veigar is only a threat late-game when he's farmed up. But once he is, WOW.
Caught once in his combo, and you'll be dead. No questions asked. Dead.

Primordial Burst scales with your AP, Veigars late-game typically have 700+ AP meaning it will cleanly deal 1700+ damage!! Making you an easy kill for this black-and-blue abomination.

Abilities: (Ordered alphabetically)

Below, I have also compiled all other skills that I feel have high capacity to deny your Requiem's intent.

Learn them! Chances are, 98% of your games will have one of these skills in use. Be aware of them, be aware of their cooldowns, and you'll be golden about your kills.

Damage blocking:

, , , , , , , , ,
, , , , , , ,

, ,


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

~idk what's going on with Malice and Spite's pic, looks like Toxic Shot :P

(Allies included):
, , ,

If you have all these down, simply be very observant about enemy magic resist.
50 will reduce about 30% of your damage.
100 will cut Requiem in half.
150 means you'll need to be able to do triple their current HP for a sure-kill!

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~ ~ Final Comments ~ ~

There you have it.

This is more or less how I play Karthus.
His ultimate can make him a very easy champion to play, but the rest of his kit makes him quite squishy and difficult to use. I play him casually, so I don't really grasp the subtleties that a good Karthus player need to know.

Karthus is 100% a late-game style champion. Very rarely do you get glory with Karthus outside of Requiems that will be considered KSing. X3

The intent for this guide's style is pure early game farming, this lets us avoid buying core defensive items and devote Karthus to AP.
However, by acquiring Zhonya's Hourglass immediately as our 2nd core item, we can efficiently fight small skirmishes without much consequence. By slowly stacking on more survival items over the core AP items, Karthus can freely contribute late game with a vicious slow-AoE and his deathly Requiem.

I hope you enjoyed my guide both as a reading experience and in-game. May your battles be filled with many slowly sliced up combantents and satisfying escapee-frying kills. :D

Good on the battle field, Summoners!
Get out there, and shred and fry those noobs!!