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Karthus Build Guide by ZembowaWruszka

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League of Legends Build Guide Author ZembowaWruszka

Karthus - Jungle/SoloMid/SoloTop/Bot+Teammate

ZembowaWruszka Last updated on July 24, 2011
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Hybrid/Higher/LowerGame Builds


Safe Jungle/Hardcore Jungle

LeagueSpy Logo
Middle Lane
Ranked #25 in
Middle Lane
Win 52%
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: 7

Blink of an Eye
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 14

Chapter 1

Hello everybody, and thank you for reading my guide. After reading my guide, please make a little evaluation, by giving me positive or negative score. Also you can give me any tips in comments. I should start from describing Karthus, if you are old League of Legend player, just skip this section. Karthus is mage champion, who deals great damage by “Lay Waste” skill (landmine which explodes after 0,5sec), can slow enemy and reduce his magic resistance + armor for few seconds by “Wall of Pain”, get mana back for killing creeps when Defile’s passive is on, or deal damage to nearby enemies when Defile is activated. He can also use his very annoying ultimate skill, which damages all enemies on map. And the funniest thing is Karthus’es passive skill called death defied – after death, Karthus still can use his skills period 6 seconds (before last nerf it was 8 seconds). Karthus is good mage, but he got also few weak points: little amount of hp, ending soon mana, only one crowd control skill, and not any stun at all. But following this guide, you can see few tricks how play him well in different situations. So if you like mages in lol– Karthus is best choice, he is more interesting for me than brand, malzahar or anivia. He is just my main, which I never get tired.

First important thing you should know before start playing Karthus: its very difficult to play against , , .
There are also few items which can easy counter his ultimate: , ,
You think that is all? Not really, many champions got "counter Karthus ultimate" skills. Here is list (that's not all of them): , , , , , , , , , , , and many many more...

You should also know that all taunts (for example ) and stun (for example ) can interrupt casting your ultimate. If you die while you casting Requiem it wont work too. And there is one more thing: you must use ultimate in 4 sec after death defile activate(after this time, it deal 0 damage, will be just interrupted).

Karthus is mainly mid champion, but he can also go solo top, to the jungle or on lane with partner. You should remember that you are main carry in team when you are on mid lane, so invest in ability power items, some magic penetration and a bit in health/defense. In team fights stay back, put some lay waste near enemy, slow them by wall of pain and when they are close themselves turn on defile go as close them as its possible, press Zhonya's active skill on and deal huge damage. After that you probably will die, but don't worry, you are still in team fight so spam lay waste, and use Requiem. If you got time use wall of pain again. This is description of 90% fights with Karthus, he dies often, but he do really good job in team fights (dealing tons of damage). You can play Karthus more carefully when you play ranked games, because nobody likes feeding enemy, even if you get many kills, so on ranked games I suggest to resign buying Zhonya’s and replace it by some survivability for example Abyssal Scepter.

At the top of this page, are 5 Karthus icons. First three are for solo mid lane Karthus: 1 is hybrid, mostly for Requiem cd, it’s fun but not always effective, so I suggest using second build when you are 30 lvl with at least 300 games, otherwise you can use 3rd build and it will be also very effective, and easier because of bonus mana. Two last builds in right side are for junglers: first is easier, but second is more interesting. I’ve tried show in how many ways Karthus can be played, and I hope I did it well.

Now consider summoner skills:
– Very important, without this skill its very hard to escape from ganks, or reach escaping enemy who also used Flash
– Very important, it gives you possibility to retreat and fast come back to your lane, also you can use it to gank enemy, when there is ward/minion in good position – teleport behind enemy back very often provides free kill
– important only on low level games, if you creep well, you don’t need it
– not very important, it can be usefull when someone escapes from your visible range, and you suppose that he has enough low lvl to use Requiem. It is very usefull when you want check some bushes because there can be a trap, but honestly, its support skill.
– not very important, yes it can be used to escape but in my opinion flash is just better, so don’t waste slot
– not very important, it is good when you got ad dps on lane, but there are just better skills. If you learn how to use Wall of Pain, it will give you better effect than exhaust.
– not very important, I prefer to finish my enemies by Requiem, even if they can heal themselves I don’t care, because I’ve got still huge damage from Lay Waste and Defile.
Other summoner skills are completely unnecessary, and don’t take them, because if you will - there is something wrong with you.

Now consider items:
Boots: there are only two possibilities, if you build Void Staff very quick, you can chose for better cd on Wall of Pain and Requiem, but I suggest to wear – they gives you early magic penetration which is very nice.
First ap item: it can be good first ap item, but it’s also very risky, because if you don’t get any early kills, you will lose a lot of gold, so when your enemy is on your skill level, better buy or if you feel a bit more secure. This two last items can be also buy in different order.

Mid game ap item: in mid game enemy can stack magic resist, so its very important to get more magic penetration items. My favorite item is , it gives you ap and huge amount of magic penetration, and its also very cheap. If you cant handle game because you are targeted by ap champions which kills you very fast, you should consider buying

Late game ap item: there is very important to raise ap amount to highest lvl, and get a bit of survivability also in same time. My favorite item is which gives 500 hp, 80 ap, and some CC, its really great. If you want do Defile+Zhonya combo, you should buy , which gives you also extra defense.

Last item: There are few options, depending how game goes. If its really late game for example 60+min, your last item can be , but he is good for really last decisive action. In other situations you should consider between Will of the ancient which gives you and your teammates some extra ap and heal you during the team fight (but mainly its support item for soraka or sona), which is good when enemy don’t have huge amount of CC, and which can be great if you still don’t buy it.

Meanwhile survivability: There is only one wise chose for survivability when you really need it, and you will in ranked games, it is . HP+Mana+MRes+1 block skill each 40 sec, it sounds really great when enemy got real fed ap champions. Its your choice when you will buy BV.

Main rules:
1. Don't start team fights, you can't be first target!
2. If you missing mana in team fights use clarity!
3. Don't use your ultimate, when there is nearby enemy who can interrupt it.
4. Before team fight try to get blue buff.
5. Watch items which enemy has got, and calculate theirs magic resist and your magic damage. Don't waste Requiem!
6. If you know you are dying, try do it in best place (near teamfight area).
7. Check your defile toggle status. Don't waste mana on it, when there's no enemy in range.

You can check average Karthus stats in my ranked games here.

First game style I want discuss is Jungling. Karthus is:
+ Good Ganker
+ Fast leveling
+ Requiem from nowhere

- Easy to kill
- Required skill to play
- Required masteries and runes
Summoner Skills: + / /
Masteries as in Gameplay (core is hp + defence and standard jungle for exp, other could be modified)
Runes: Quints Flat HP/Marks Magic Penetration/Glyphs Flat Ability Power/Seals hp per lvl
Don't even try (in ranked games) Jungle when enemy already picked: Warwick/Twitch/Shaco/Twisted Fate/Nocturne.
Creeps order in jungle: Few tips:
* Try get first kill on 4th level: cover in bushes, wait till enemy come, use wall of pain and finish him by lay waste. You can repeat it few times, but remember to not stay under leveled, jungle is more important that single kill (because you can become easy frag when enemy got 2 levels more than you).
* After receiving 6th level, check as often as it is possible map, to find enemy with low hp bar. Remember that some champions got more magic resist and you will deal not enough damage. Few champions like Vladimir can avoid Requiem by using their skills, for example blood pool.
* After lane phase, your main exp source is pushing side lanes.
* If you got ad champion in team, let him take red buf.

Here is link to map with description.
This is most popular Karthus place. He is very effective against 80% other champions. But he got one disadvantage - he is slow. That's why I preffer to buy as first item. With it gives you great escape mechanism. If you harrasing enemy, and he is low hp, you can also use wall of pain to slow him, and put some lay waste on his way.
Now few words about using lay waste. Its very important to decide whether enemy is going to be offensive or defensive. Now you know how they can move, so put lay waste in place where he is going to be in 0.5 sec. Use it very often, but remember that near enemies minions you deal less damage than on open area. You must imagine yourself as an attacker, think what would you do on enemy place, and try to counter yours imagine paths. After 5 minutes you should already know where enemy will be in 0,5 sec.
I'm trying to avoid last hitting by lay waste (prefer normal attack). But when you want use LW for last hitting creeps, put it on side where it can hit only 1 creep (your damage will 2x better).
Wall of pain its supporting skill (crowd control), which can be used to reveal hidden area, slowing enemy and reducing magic resist (it reducing creeps magic resist too). Always use it near enemy turret; on fleeing enemy motion path and in team fights.
Defile is good skill but only on high level. On low its yours neverending mana source. After 13 lvl you can use it to farm creeps and pushing side lanes. Remember to turn off defile when you are out of combat, because it takes tons of mana!
If you still reading it means you should watch this gameplay:

And the most important part, build:
Enemy got good magic resistant and you receive in teamfight small damage:

Enemy got huge magic damage, you are targeting as first and/or there is Kassadin:
Enemy got huge attack damage, you are targeting as first (you can't stack Mejai's):
>>In situations when you know there is no chance to stack Mejai's in your game (and there is no Kassadin/Evellyn/Veigar/2xhard ad in enemy team) : you should buy instead of
Don't forget to buy these potion when your build is finished:
I saw hundreds times Karthus with these items:
- don't buy it because your damage will be too small.
- I use clarity when I need mana, you should do the same.
- don't buy it because you are not autoatacker, you got already too many buttons to press in team fight.

Remember that all games are different and there is no one best build with can solve all problems! If you don't like playing with these items, just change it in next game. There are different game styles, so pick best items for yourself. Above items are best for about 80% games, but in 20% games I use other item setup.

Summoner's Skills:
- only these for mid, if you afraid of junglers, buy wards Sight Ward and place them in bushes, or if there is jungler buy and put it in the middle of your lane.
Masteries (click).
Runes (click).
Remember that when you are on mid, yours job is help in killing enemy jungler. Here are tips how to do that.(click)
And another gameplay (from late game phase): As you see Karthus do lot of damage, but remember that your main frag source is LW and Defile, not Requiem. Solo top is the most difficult lane for Karthus. It requires good skill, so don't take solo top if you just start your adventure with Karthus. Things you should especially care: invisible enemy (buy and use or ), enemy jungler (buy and use Sight Ward in bush near frozen river) and double up top lane (when enemy don't have any jungler). There are few champion setups you shouldn't fight against, because they can separate you from minions and exp:
1. + any other champion
2. + any other champion
3. + any other champion
4. +
5. +
6. + / /
7. + / /
Same rules as in building Solo Mid(click) Karthus.

Because as summoner spells I suggest and , you should be able to escape, that's why you have to save wall of pain just in case. Things are easier if you got only one enemy on top. In this situation you are the pusher, stay in bush and push lane, but avoid turret diving. Kill creeps and get gold, you got best farmer champion so it should not be a problem. When you get enough gold recall and buy sorcerers boots and mejais. Don't forget to use your ultimate when its needed on other lane (but don't steal kills, its annoying). If you want use Requiem go back and stay under your turret.
Tips how to survive on top lane.(click)
Good Karthus partners:
Its only solution for low games (>150 games), on higher games there is always range ad+support combo, which is best in my opinion.
Try to get more creeps than yours partner (you need it because you are second carry in team). Harras enemy with lower hp and magic resist (trying to kill tank is pointless). If you and your team mate needs mana, use clarity. Always check bushes from river side (place there one LW once per minute). If you get enough gold recall to base and buy wards. You will need them to harras near enemy turret. You can place one ward in enemy blue buff spawn, it's good solution to gank ganker :) You can also help in killing dragon if your jungler initiate him.
When enemy ganker appear, and there is no chance to kill enemy on your lane, leg it. You can also use Flash/Ghost/Exhaust (whatever you choose as 2nd summoner spell). Put wall of pain on enemy path when they chase you, to slow them and let your lane partner escape. With low hp you are not safe under turret so after this kind of gank consider recalling.
If its possible hide in bush when you are pushing lanes. It lets you disappear very fast (you must be in move).
Only first start item is different than in Solo Mid build.(click)
Summoner Skills: + / /
Masteries. (click)
Runes (click).
Here are few tips on map.(click)

When you can expect enemy ganker come bottom?
- 3.30 min and he got taunt (ready to gank)
- 4 min and he got bear stance
- 3 min and she got shadow walk (stun after stealth)
- 5 min and he got blood scent (he see you when you are on low hp)
- 4 min and he got Bandage Toss (stun)
- 4 min

I want to explain (once again) how to use Karthus skills.

(LW) - first skill you get in all games. It inflicts more, when you hit single target. It can be used to farm minions (lh them, but remember this skill has 0.5s explode delay), but I suggest using normal attack for lh creeps (it should solve your mana problems). LW is best skill for keeping enemy on distance, because it has huge range. This skill can be also used to check bushes (when you hit enemy, he will appear for few seconds) - its very important if there is jungler in enemy team, or when you are on bottom/top lane.

(***) - This is your only CC skill, but its very important to use it in teamfights. This skills can help you reach escaping enemy by putting it on his path. It also can be life saving for you, when you have to run away from teamfight/pursuer enemy - in this situation use it behind your backs. You should use *** to reveal area (when you think that enemy can be hidden in bush, or he is comming from lane/base and its very likely that he will chose this way - it gives you 2-3 seconds to react). *** also reduces magic resistance and armor if enemy go though it, so if there is escaping tank with a lot of magic resistance, and he got small amount of hp, use *** on him to reduce his MR, and press R to finish him (if you are sure that he can escape from your LW range - for example when you are dead).

- its your main mana source! If you lh creeps you can farm them till end of the world, even longer. Its also good dps skill, but I suggest to use this skill in teamfights after 10 lvl, and you can also use it for farming creeps after 14 lvl (otherwise you can got huge mana problems). Remember to turn of Defile after teamfight/creeps farm.

- many people says that its "noobish ultimate". I don't agree, because before I use it, I calculate how much real dmg it can deal to enemy, and if calculation is in + I use it. I also observe enemy zhonya's/bv/skills cd status, and press R only when I'm sure that I'll kill someone. I check as often as its possible enemies on other lanes. Good Karthus can set whole game by using Requiem in right time. But don't use Requiem to steal other ppl kills! You can use Requiem as good fight initiator, but on high lvls its impossible, because enemy will get bv/zhonyas as fast as its possible, so in this situation press R after teamfight in order to kill flying enemies (I use it very often after death as last skill). When you use your ultimate don't allow enemy to interrupt casting by taunt or stun (hidding in bush while casting is good idea). Remember that it can be also interrupted when someone kill you while you casting or after dead you start cast it too late.

- this is Karthus passive skill that allows you to stay in teamfight for 8 second after death. Things I usually do after dead: use defile active skill, use *** near enemy, put 4-5 LW near them and press (R)equiem button in the fifth second of Death Defied.

Skill combos:
1. When you chasing enemy use on his motion path and use few times predicting which way he will chose to escape. If he is out of your range and got enough hp, use to finish him. If while he escaping he is in your range, and you are lvl 10+ you can also use this skill, but you should be sure that you got enough mana to use Requiem after that (or you got ready). Using while chasing enemy is more efficient if you got .
2. When enemy chase you: use behind your back, and spam on his way. If he is close enough, press on. If you are under your turret, you can try finish him. Remember that recalling near first turret is not so safe as you think, there are champions which can turret dive even on 6th lvl, so for your safety stay a bit further behind turret while recalling.
3. While you start teamfight and enemy is grouped in one place very close to each other: When tank go into grouped enemy go just right behind him, press on, and when you are in right place press button (I usually set it as "1" on keyboard). After that enemy will spread out, so choose your target (with low hp (not a tank!)) and spam near him . If you can, use to slow him, but I suggest to use it as initiating skill before teamfight. If there is less than 2 enemies near you, press off.

Karthus is rare champion, so thats why many low level players don't know how to play against him. He seems to be overpowered and unstoppable, because he gain more gold than other players (easy minions lh and killing enemy by Requiem). Anyway some ppl ask me about playing as a Karthus without masteries and runes, so this part of my build is the answer.
Karthus without runes can got problems with:
- mana
- low lvl advantage
- damage on low lvl
That's why I suggest to build this kind of Karthus in different way.
First things are boots of speed + 3x hp potions as always on mid/solo lane. Next item you should get is . You need now ap and survivability so try to make: Catalyst the Protector as fast as its possible. If you play well you will get gold very fast, so your next items can be: if there are a lot of annoying ap champions in enemy team, or if you play well and enemy is weak. After that you have to build to get more ap. Next item I suggest to build can be strange but its good solution for hp regeneration after teamfight, its . As last item build: if enemy got hard ad team // if U are feeded and often chasing enemy// if enemy build magic resist.
So core items are:
Catalyst the Protector
Optional items:

Summoner skills for Karthus: - it provides you possibilities to regen your mana (using clarity or recharge in base and return to lane using teleport). If you are lvl 1 summoner, take: and
Masteries are also very important. Because Karthus is usually main carry in team, you need to put 9 points in to offensive tree, and if you got few left, you can use them in ultity tree (If you don't have any masteries point because U are lvl 1 champion, don't worry other summoners got similar lvl and they shouldn't be too difficult).
Remember to play aggressive game, in low lvl games you can make some mistakes, but enemy will make them too.
Here is link to old Guide version.(click)