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Karthus General Guide by khan1215

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League of Legends Build Guide Author khan1215

Karthus: The Undead Mage

khan1215 Last updated on June 21, 2013
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Hello Summoners, and welcome to the magical whimsical world of Karthus. Lets start with some basics. Karthus is a ranged, mage, ap champion. He plays in the mid lane. He excels at locking down kills, and causing massive damage in team fights. His most useful tools are his passive Death Defied, which allows you to continue casting spells for 7 seconds after death, and his ultimate Requiem, which deals a large amount of magic damage to all opponents, regardless of range or visibility.

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Get magic penetration runes, armor marks, magic resist and scaling magic resist glyphs, and ability power quintessences.

1. Greater Mark of Magic Penetration.

Its good to get magic penetration because at this point even the enemy tanks will have to be wary about soaking up too much damage. Runes paired with Socerer's shoes and haunting will give you a good amount of mp so that your spells will do more.

2. Greater Seal of Armor, Greater Glyph of Magic Resist, and Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist

Regardless of if you decide to go survival karthus or suicide karthus these are good runes to have. It lets you soak up a little more damage so you stay longer in team fights, which is very important.

3. Greater Quintessence of Ability Power

As an ap champion, you need as much ap as possible. This will give you a good early-game boost and help you to win your lane

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These are self explanatory. I didn't go in-depth with the offense masteries because it's fairly obvious that you should build AP Masteries seeing as you are an AP Champion.

1. Offense

You want all the masteries for AP. The mastery for Summoner's Wrath will help when you engage on your enemy. The Butcher mastery will help with last hitting, as will the Executioner mastery.

2. Utility

Getting mana regen and mana per level will help massively, while the summoner spell cooldowns will help especially if you need to escape with flash. Getting the buff extend will help when you get blue, because you want to make that last.

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Karthus is very item dependent and is a late game champion, so you need to farm very well early game. I'll go down my list of items and say why each one is important.

But first I'd like to say that I only would recommend building cdr if you're playing suicide karthus, for which I have a few additional items at the bottom for. Otherwise the builds are pretty similar.

1. Crystalline Flask

This will help very well until you get to around haunting guise. It can save you early game and gives you good sustain in lane.

2. sight ward Vision Ward

Buy wards until you need all six slots. No excuse not to.

3. Health Potion Mana Potion

Start with a health potion, but if you need more sustain in lane early game buy mana ones as well. They're cheap and easy.

4. Sorcerer's Shoes

You basically get this for the magic penetration, the movement speed is just a plus. Pairing this with your masteries will give you good penetration of everybody.

5. Tear of the Goddess

One of the most important items you can get. It raises your maximum mana everytime you cast a spell. You will never worry about running out later in the game thanks to this.

6. Haunting Guise

In addition to even more magic penetration it also gives you health and ap, so you deal more damage and have more sustain

7. Rod of Ages

It's probably your most important item, because it not only gives you a health and AP boost, but it stacks throughout the game, so your scaling will be great.

8. Void Staff

You want all of the magic pen you can get. With this, not even the tanks will be safe.

9. Rabadon's Deathcap

Massive AP boost. Trust me. You need it.

10. Archangel's Staff/ Seraph's Embrace

Archangel's Staff builds out of your Tear. It changes into Seraph's when fully charged. Grants you ap for 3% of your maximum mana, and its active effect grants you a shield.

11. Liandry's Torment

Builds out of your Haunting Guise. Massive burn when you hit an enemy with a spell, even larger if they're slowed. Perfect for late game.



If you want high ap mixed with cdr, this is probably the best item to get.

Zhonya's Hourglass

Mostly if you are running suicide Karthus, but still usefull.

Will of the Ancients

In my second build I trade this out for Void Staff. The two are really interchangeable depending on what team you're facing. If they have a lot of tanks, get Void Staff. If you have say an ap jungler and/or ap top lane, Will of the Ancients will help in teamfights.

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Skill Sequence

1. Lay Waste

The first skill you are going to want to build is your Lay Waste. Your q is essential to your poke and it's great for farming. Level it up whenever possible. Keep in mind that it has a delay though, so if you want to hit the enemy apc you might want to place it slightly behind them so that when they run away it still catches them.

2. Defile

Upgrade your Defile second. It grants you back mana for every enemy minion, champion, or neutral monster you kill. This gives you good sustain later in the laning phase, although you still need the Crystalline Flask or a Mana Potion early laning phase. Late game its great for clearing out minion waves and doing massive damage. Late game your Lay Waste drops off in importance, so this will be your main source of attack.

3. Wall of Pain

Take your Wall of Pain at level 4 and max it last. It's slow is fine for the majority of the game, and only becomes a problem late game. Maxing it last will be fine. it's long area means that you can effectively slow an entire team so you and your buddies can escape.

4. Requiem

Max this whenever possible. It is arguably your greatest weapon, so use it wisely. I don't suggest you build cdr, so make sure you use it at the best time so the massive cooldown is worth it. Make sure that its available before you enter a teamfight.

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Flash is basic for all champions, and it helps karthus position to land his Wall of Pain

Exhaust is good for karthus when his Wall of Pain is on cooldown or he knows an enemy is about to escape. It's also good if your team doesn't have much cc

If you don't want Exhaust, Ignite is your next-best choice. It will help burn through the enemy apc early game.


Revive helps you get back as quickly as possible so that you can do it all again

Teleport will help you get back in the action after you revive.

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Basically I'm going to explain the general stuff so that you can rape mid lane as Karthus. When you get your starting items, ALWAYS HELP YOUR JUNGLER WITH A LEASH. HE WILL LOVE YOU AND PROBABLY GANK YOUR LANE BECAUSE OF IT. Also remember that if a jungler successfully ganks, let him take a couple of minions, he'll like you even more for that. Remember to ping mia's and ****. These general rules will help everyone. Karthus is a steady champion the whole arc of the game, but has to be played right and have good early-game farm.

Ok, now for gameplay. You have low mana at the beginning so don't use your q too much until you get your e, and even then, use it sparingly until you get Tear of the Goddess. At that point you want to build the maximum mana as fast as possible, so you can use your spells more. Remember that if your Lay Waste hits one target, it does twice as much damage. Be aware of this when poking the enemy apc.

Mid game you are going to want to stay closer to some of your teammates when you fight. Lock down opponents with Wall of Pain or Exhaust and try and catch people out with your Defile. Use your Requiem sparingly as it is not at full strength yet. Make sure you continue to pick up minions even if your team is on the move. Usually 1 hit on a damaged minion with Lay Waste is all it takes.

Late game you have so much ap that you can start to do things by yourself. Capturing dragon and buffs are easy, and you can be sent to split push or farm overextended minion waves. You can even 1v1 their carries if you do it right. You will now be a major damage factor in teamfights. Try and get everyone to fight in your vicinity so that your Defile will catch all of them. If you die, die right in the middle of their team and THEN use Requiem.

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Pros / Cons


High damage output
Global ult means no one escapes
Passive means you can still kill them even if you're dead
Will burn down their carries fast
Consistent throughout the game

REALLY REALLY SQUISHY (seriously, don't overextend and ward the **** out of everything.)
Pretty slow movement speed
Usually gets focused during teamfights
Early-game mana is a problem

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Laning Matchups

Here I'm going to show common matchups in the mid lane, and try to explain how to win against anyone, even hard counters.

I'll update this as new things continue to get added.


Her range is incredibly annoying, and if you get hit with her charm you're pretty much done. The best way to survive is to dodge her skill shots and poke as much as possible. Watch out for her ult, because she can turret dive very well.


She is going to play aggressively against you. Play passively in lane to survive. Your best chance of taking her down is for your jungler to come in for a gank. If she decides to play defensively you can poke a lot, but it isn't likely.


Your enemy will keep you as far away as possible but still in range of their skills. They'll play close to their minions, so your Lay Waste double damage will be hard to land. Try to play passively and look for a gank, if you slow anivia and your jungle jumps in their face, you could take her down. You have a better late game so try to survive until then.


The main thing you have to watch out for is Annie's stun. If you can stay at a safe distance and poke her a lot you will be able to take her down pretty easily. However, if they're a great Annie player they'll be aware of your skill set, and try to counter it.


Brand can be difficult unless you play smart. If you dodge his skillshots then he will run out of mana. Try to stay at max range, last-hit minions, and poke him. If you do it this way he can become overextended and an easy target for a gank.


Cassiopeia isn't played a lot, but you still have to know about her. She has a lot of burns and posions that deal damage over time. One of her common items is Zhona's which makes your ultimate useless so don't waste it on her. Just try to poke her out. You have the advantage if she overextends, because then your Wall of Pain will slow here a lot for your jungler to jump on her. She's fairly squishy so if you have help you'll be able to burn her down pretty quickly


There are basically only a few ways to win this lane matchup. Your enemy is over-agressive, or doesn't poke you. Karthus is too squishy to handle Diana's damage output, so try to dodge her Crescent Strike whenever possible. Your Lay Waste does have a larger range, so play passively and poke her out. Call your jungler for help.


She's more of a jungler than a mid lane but if she does go mid you may have some trouble. Her invisibility is going to be a pain in the *** at longer range, though you can see her if she gets too close. For maximum visibility buy a Vision Ward to make sure there are no blind spots in your lane. All in all if you play smart you should have this one.


Yes, it's a weird classification but the reason that I put medium in there is this: late game you do so much more than Fizz does. So the best chance you have of saving yourself is to stay back. Fizz can hop over your Wall of Pain so you can't count on that to slow him. Play passively and survive until late game, then you will do more. He can dash forward so make sure you know what's on cooldown, and the range of his abilities.


You'll probably have the upper-hand in this one as long as you do a few things. The first being that you have to dodge Gragas' skill shots. If you get hit by one of his slows/stuns you could be in trouble. If you can do enough damage to eat through his heals then you'll win this one.


Heimerdinger is going to spam his turrets in your lane. Try to hit them with basic attacks early on instead of Lay Waste because you'll waste mana and then he'll move in. If you can do this successfully you'll win against him.


This only really applies to blind pick but if you hit up an enemy Karthus...... It's going to be the funniest thing that ever happened to League. You will likely end up killing each other in lane. Just try to out-poke him.


Probably your biggest counter in the entire game. The only way you can defeat the Kassain is to shut it down pre-6 with help from your jungler. After that happens you have to play under turret and pray that your team can handle itself. When the Kassadin goes to roam and gank other lanes push yours, but most of all ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS keep your stuff warded so you can see if they're coming back. Just try to make it to late game and then stay with your team


She's going to try to harass you constantly and deny you farm as much as possible. Play passively and wait. Remember that she is quite squishy so try to land double damage on your Lay Waste. Try getting a jungle gank to distract her, then take her down.


This one can honestly go either way. Kayle's heals will mean that she has better sustain than you, and her Intervention can counter your ultimate. You have longer range though, so you can poke her out even if she's using Righteous Fury. Try to engage when her ultimate is on cooldown, so that even if she escapes you can pick up the kill.


He is going to be a tough one to match. He's basically nullified your biggest advantage, which is your range, and he can burst you down quickly. Your jungler is going to be your best friend in this fight, so call on him for help. Watch out for his Thundering Shuriken as that is going to be his main source of poke.


LeBlanc is going to be a difficult lane. Your jungler won't even like your lane because of her escapes. Try to play passively, and get minions at the very last second. She's going to try and force a fight. Don't do it. Don't even push your lane. Create a stalemate in your lane so that you can out-scale her late game.


Lux is another long range squishy ap mid. So she's kind of like you. With one exception. She has some burst damage. She'll shield herself, snare you, slow you, and then laser you. 99% of this can be avoided if you dodge her snare though. She'll also play a little aggressively because of her shield. She can survive your ultimate if she times it right, so build that magic pen! You shouldn't have too much trouble with this if you continue to poke her and dodge her skillshots.

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Basic farming.

Early Game:

Don't wast mana by using Defile early game. Use Lay Waste to get last hits on multiple minions at once, so you get the maximum mana back.

Mid Game: Your Defile is pretty high and you have medium mana, so you can use it to clear out more minion waves.

Late game: Don't even worry about using Lay Waste because at this point Defile has a massive amount of damage and can clear all minions quickly except for super-minions.


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Watch the Pros and Conclusion

Karthus is now a popular champion in the LCS (At least in North America)

So watch the pros!

See their builds, and what situations they build in. See how they react to situations.

Here's the link to the official LCS page


You can watch past matches and assess everything you need.

Thanks for viewing this. If you have differing views don't be afraid to talk about them. I want to see how you guys build Karthus.



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