Build Guide by Rhaegar14
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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.
Before I go any further, I'd like to apologize for the awful title. Moving on:
I'm new, if you can't tell by the fact that this is my only build. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, Katarina is my favorite champion in League of Legends. I started playing her before I even hit Summoner Level 10 because of things I found frustrating about Ashe. After months of playing her significantly more than any other champion, I can confidently say that I know Kat inside and out.
Before I get into the build, however, I'd like to give a shout-out to a veteran: HeAt. His (her?) Katarina - Shunpo That build is where I started and helped formulate a lot of my ideas about how to play and itemize Katarina (for instance, the runes and masteries are almost if not entirely identical to his build's, as are the starting items).
Pros & Cons
The following, very short lists are the Pros and Cons of this build for Katarina. Thus, I'm not going to waste my time listing off the things that are inherent in Katarina. If you want that list, go down to "Gameplay."
- Stronger survivability than most Kat builds, especially mid-game.
- Very high damage output late-game.
- Reliable build that can adapt to most enemy teams.
- Relatively late Rylai's makes early kills with Death Lotus just a little harder to get.
- Prioritizing survivability means that her damage, while still strong, is not ungodly until late-game.
Pretty basic setup here:
Flat AP Quintessences: Katarina has a strong early game under most circumstances, and these help her capitalize on that right out of the starting gate with a little extra damage on all of her abilities.
Magic Pen Marks: I really shouldn't have to say much here. These are the best option for increasing her damage. Period.
AP Per Level Glyphs: While Flat AP Quintessences are justifiable for Katarina, the Flat AP Glyphs are surpassed by AP Per Level Glyphs from Level 6 upward. Any even remotely experienced player can tell you that when Katarina commits, Death Lotus is by far her main source of damage output. So by the time you have your main source of damage output, these are better than Flat AP. Need I say more?
Dodge Seals: These are the only ones you could really construct a strong argument against, because you could just as easily justify health glyphs for extra survivability. However, I find that the majority of champions who can out-dps Katarina (in terms of single target damage, at least) rely fairly heavily on auto-attacks; these help mitigate those, and also help mitigate the threat that minions pose early game while harassing.
Not too many comments here. I run 9-21-0, because Katarina is very squishy and Defensive Masteries are the best way to overcome that early. However, you need, need, NEED the nine points in Offense for Archaic Knowledge; when you're having an amazing game and the enemy tank starts stacking Magic Resist just for you, you'll appreciate that extra 15% penetration.
The above two are the best choices to get kills. However, here are each of the Summoner Spells I find useful for Katarina (because there are actually three) and why:
Exhaust: Far and away the best and most important Summoner Spell for Katarina, who has no CC. This gives her the ability to slow enemies (forcing them to take damage from Death Lotus), and cut down their damage in a 1v1. Regardless of what you pick for your second slot, you NEED this one.
Ignite: Because Katarina has no CC, she can be fairly easy to get away from. Ignite helps you add that last chunk of damage before you give up the chase to make sure you get the kill; it also gives you another tool to use against enemies that can heal when you initiate.
Heal: Not a typical choice for Katarina, but defensible. Kat is very squishy early game and this helps her survivability before she starts getting items to compensate for it. However, it's usefulness tends to decrease late game, when the emphasis is on team fights and it heals an insignificant amount of even Katarina's health.
So we come to the Items section, the core of any build for any champion, really. In general, the goal here is to give Katarina strong damage output, without sacrificing her ability to stay alive as so many other builds for her do. I will disclaim this now: if all you want is amazing damage output, then this is not the build for you. However, if you want some survivability mixed in with really, really good damage output, then please read on.
Core Item Build:
Boots of Speed: This is your starting item, and for good reason. For one, it is the cheapest of any of the choices for starting item, affording you extra gold for health potions. Much more importantly, however, being mobile helps your harassment, and capitalizes on your excellent chasing ability from the beginning of the game.
Health Potion x3: In 95% of all match-ups, Katarina needs to be very aggressive with her harassment in-lane, especially early. These help heal any damage that you take from these aggressive tactics.
Ionian Boots of Lucidity: This is where most people who know what they're talking about will yell at me for not going with Mercury's Treads instead, but hear me out. Yes, it is true that Crowd Control is by far Katarina's worst enemy. However, in my experience, it's not the duration of the CC that makes it so deadly; whether the stun lasts for 0.5 seconds or 3 seconds, Death Lotus has still been interrupted, and all of your damage output is gone. Now, let's look at the advantages of the 15% Cooldown Reduction boots. The 15% CDR gets your Shunpo cooldown under 5 seconds, gets your Killer Instincts CD under 15 seconds by the second rank (meaning that her passive triggers its cooldown), and gets your Death Lotus cooldown under 45 seconds by the third rank (allowing you to immediately use it again after a triple kill). So I'll take the 15% CDR. If you'd rather put in Mercury's Treads or Boots of Swiftness (I've been experimenting with these lately but not long enough to recommend them over CDR) then you can.
Hextech Revolver x2: This item is just plain amazing early-game for Katarina. For 1200 gold, you get 40 AP and 15% Spell Vamp. For 2400 gold, you get as much AP as Rylai's Crystal Scepter, and 30% Spell Vamp; this means that, in addition to a decent chunk of extra damage, you heal for 30% of your Shunpo damage and 10% of your Bouncing Blade and Death Lotus damage when you use those abilities. I've honestly never understood why no other build for Katarina emphasizes early spell vamp.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter: In my humble opinion, the second-best item in the game for Katarina. It comes with extra health she so desperately needs, a nice chunk of ability power, and it's passive causes all your abilities to slow. The slow is the difference between hitting an enemy with two daggers and hitting them with three when you use Death Lotus. The Giant's Belt component is gotten early because Katarina needs the extra survivability.
Rabadon's Deathcap: While your damage is by no means shabby earlier in the game, this is the item that will send it through the roof. The extra 30% AP boost makes all of your other items that much more effective. After you get this item, you should have about 400 AP... which means a 500 damage Shunpo and 200 damage per dagger when you use your ultimate. This one's pretty standard in any AP build, I don't need to argue much for it.
Hextech Gunblade x2: If you have no other items to buy, upgrade your two Revolvers into these. The Hextech Gunblade is quite possibly the best item in the game for Katarina now that she is a hybrid; each one adds a good chunk of damage, great Lifesteal and Spell Vamp, and the Active adds to your already amazing chasing ability. Even though you don't get any additional benefit for the Active with adding a second Gunblade, the stats are still better than almost any other item for her.
Note: After reading the above entry, some of you are probably wondering why, if they're so great, the Hextech Gunblades are not earlier in the build. Frankly, it's because you already get the Revolver halves, which have the more essential stats for her. With the 30% Spell Vamp from two Revolvers (the biggest reason the Hextech items are so great for her), there are more important items to spend your gold on.
Now, if you've bothered to count, you've noticed that there are only five items in the above build. That's because a completely static build is not nearly as good as one that can adapt. Below are a couple items to fill that sixth slot, the conditions under which you should get them, and where they should go in the build order if those conditions are met.
Mejai's Soulstealer: The ultimate snowball item for AP champions. However, you need to be able to maintain at least 10 stacks to justify buying it, and you'll need more to use it's full overpowering potential. If, after you've gotten your Ionian Boots of Lucidity but before you've upgraded your first Amplifying Tome to a Hextech Revolver, you find that you're curbstomping the enemy, upgrade it into a Mejai's Soulstealer instead.
Banshee's Veil: This is a good pick if you find yourself getting CC'd a lot in the middle of your Death Lotus. The Passive ability will soak up the first CC (or other spell, but you should only be getting this for CCs) to hit you. The extra magic resist and health also makes it harder for mage-types to hurt you. You want to get this item as soon as you decide that you need it.
Zhonya's Hourglass: This is essentially the counterpart to Banshee's Veil. You use this one to increase your survivability if you're getting bursted down by physical damage champions. It comes with extra armor (ideal for shutting down those types of champions), a pretty large chunk of extra AP, and a nice Active that makes you invulnerable for two seconds (although you can't do anything while you're invulnerable). You want to get the Chainmail component as soon as you've decided you need the extra armor; however, you can hold off on the upgrade to Zhonya's Hourglass until the core build is completed.
Void Staff: This one comes with a bit of extra AP, and a passive that causes you to automatically penetrate 40% of a target's magic resist. Add this on to Archaic Knowledge and you've got 55% Magic Pen. You need to get this item immediately if you see anyone starting to stack a lot of Magic Resist.
Deathfire Grasp: You get this item if you've completed the core build and you don't need any of the items above (which is an extraordinarily rare occurrence). This one gives you just a touch of extra AP, and gives a nice Active which deals magic damage based on a percentage of the target's current health. At this point, you probably have 700+ AP, which means it deals 45% damage.
Here's the part for the people who haven't actually played Katarina that much, as opposed to those who are just looking for a new build. Earlier we looked at the Pros and Cons of this particular build, but let's take a look at Katarina's Pros and Cons as a champion:
- Very good harassment
- High burst damage
- Extraordinarily powerful ultimate
- Passive and ultimate make her well-suited to making multi-kills
- Decent escape/chase ability in Shunpo
- Good counter to healers with Killer Instincts
- Extremely squishy
- No CC
- Cannot sustain damage output if Death Lotus is on cooldown
Basically if you have someone who can set you up for your ultimate (Amumu and Nunu are amazing for this, there are some others) go lane with them, otherwise try to take middle. Whenever Shunpo and Bouncing Blade come off cooldown, you want to harass with them; prioritize targets that can't heal themselves over those that can, and then in order of squishiness. When they're down to 3-400 health (four bars), do the same thing you've been doing, except after you pop your abilities pop your Summoner Spells on them. Run after them and autoattack if you have to, you will almost certainly get a kill from this. Afterwards, rinse and repeat. Use potions when you'll get the full effect out of them.
Once you get your ultimate, the goal is to use it to make kills. The best way to do so is to wait for an opening; for instance, if they try to attack your tower, or if they initiate on an ally. Then you're going to Shunpo to the weakest enemy and immediately start channelling Death Lotus. If they run, chase once they're outside your range with your harassment combo.
WARNING: There are a handful of champions that it is very difficult for Katarina to out-harass. They are listed below. If laning against these foes you should play very defensively.
- Anyone with a disable who is smart enough to make you pay for your harassment.
- Strong healers (your damage just doesn't stick, while theirs does)
- Vladimir (he can heal himself and already has a lot of health)
- Mordekaiser (he's a mountain, you can't hurt him)
- Swain (after level 6, you have the same problem you do with Vladimir, but with added CC)
- Tristana (too much range, can shoot you from outside your Shunpo reach)
- Heimerdinger (his turrets will easily do more damage than your harassment)
- Lux (tons of CC and range)
- Kassadin (after level 6, he'll stay outside your range for the most part, but then teleport in, silence you, and do a big chunk of damage, then he'll be out of your range again before you can use your abilities to hit back)
Katarina is actually not the best ganker, because she's fairly easy to get away from. Thus, when trying to pull off a gank with Kat, it's best to take the same approach to getting kills in-lane; wait for one of your allies to give you an opening, either by CCing an enemy or being initiated. If you can't rely on your allies for this, make sure Exhaust is up before you try to gank; otherwise you won't be able to hit them with enough of your Death Lotus to get a kill. Generally, you want to run out of the brush while they are on your side of the lane (i.e. past the middle getting closer to your tower), activate Killer Instincts and Shunpo to them, then use your ultimate. However, if they have a regeneration effect (a perfect example is Mundo, though you shouldn't be wasting your time trying to kill him with a gank), it is wiser to use Killer Instincts' active on Bouncing Blade so you cut their healing. After they're out of your Death Lotus range, chase to the best of your ability; if you haven't gotten a kill, then they'll have to retreat, which means that lane can push.
This is in many ways the hardest part of the game to master with Katarina. If you do it right, you'll find yourself routinely making multikills. If you do it wrong, you'll find yourself routinely getting turned into a splotch of red paste. But one thing that I see a lot of newer Kat players do that I can't stress enough is that you CANNOT initiate. Chances are that you will get CC'd, instantly interrupting your ultimate, and even if you don't you'll still get focused down before you can even regret jumping in. You need to wait. Either let them initiate someone else on your team, or let your tank initiate them, THEN jump in next to their squishiest guy while they're not paying attention to you. After you get your first kill with Death Lotus, Shunpo and Bouncing Blade will come off cooldown. You want to immediately jump on the weakest guy with your standard harassment combo and try to finish them off. Rinse and repeat; if three enemies drop and the fight is still going (by then usually someone will be in retreat) use Death Lotus again.
Yes, Death Lotus gets it's own section. Why? Because learning when and when not to use Death Lotus is far and away the hardest thing to master about Katarina. Just like I said above in the Teamfights section: proper use of Death Lotus is the difference between a multikill and getting stomped without contributing anything to a fight. So let's look at when you should and shouldn't use Death Lotus.
- In a 1v1 (because you won't win without it)
- At the start of a teamfight (BUT DO NOT INITIATE)
- When you're cornered and know you can't escape
- When tower-diving for a kill
- When enemy champions try to ignore you and take your tower
- When an ally sets you up for it with an AoE disable (bolded because this is the best time to use it)
- When the enemy has interrupts you haven't seen used yet (Pantheon's Aegis of Zeona, Ashe's Enchanted Crystal Arrow, Cho'Gath's Feral Scream or Rupture, etc.)
- When outnumbered (because you should be running, it's very easy to be overconfident in your damage output with Death Lotus)
- When the target is already in full retreat (because you won't hit them with much of it)
- When there is likely to be a teamfight before the cooldown pops (because you don't have any teamfight presence without it, it's not worth the one kill)
Keep in mind, however, that these are guidelines. If you're having an amazing game and are fed to all hell, then you can ignore a few of the Shouldn'ts. Conversely, sometimes a Should is actually a Shouldn't (for instance, if the teamfight initiation gets completely botched, you should just run, or if you're low on health and there's a tough champ smacking your tower, chances are they will be more than happy to kill you for trying to deter them). The bolded points are the only universals.
Now that we've covered general gameplay theory, I'd like to end the section on a lighter note with a couple cool little tricks that I've learned for Katarina playing her as much as I have.
Shunpo Chase: Sometimes, it's more advantageous to Shunpo to an enemy minion wave when chasing an enemy champion who is outside your range. This allows you to get in range to use your Bouncing Blade, or to target them with your next Shunpo after it comes off cooldown.
Shunpo Dodge: Shunpo-ing to a minion or ally is actually a great way to avoid getting hit by skillshots.
Shunpo to Allies: At the start of a game, make sure everyone knows what exactly Shunpo does; most importantly, that you can teleport to them. This means that they are equipped with the knowledge to help you make escapes or do other really sweet stuff; for instance, getting just a little closer to that wall between the two of you so you can jump over it and Death Lotus.
Shunpo Juke: If you're being chased by multiple enemy champions, sometimes a great way to escape is to Shunpo to the champion furthest from you, particularly if they're near a bush. This (usually) puts the fastest enemies chasing you the furthest away.
Tower Diving: Katarina is shockingly good at tower diving early game. If an enemy champion is down to 200 health or so, and you're at least level 4, just jump in with your harassment combo, kill them to pop your Shunpo cooldown, and then jump out to a nearby minion before the turret can hurt you too much. However, YOU HAVE TO HAVE MINIONS NEAR THEIR TOWER. The whole point of this trick is speed; you get in and kill them while the tower is attacking your minions, then get out again before it gets in more than one or two shots. Don't be afraid to "waste" your Ignite cooldown either; if you don't kill them basically instantly, you're completely screwed and the tower WILL kill you.