Build Guide by Center
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Katarina, an Introduction
Katarina is a high damage character with minimal defense. She focuses oh killing the opponent before they can kill her, rather than trying to outlast them. While being surprised by a group of enemy heroes, or incapacitated in their presence, will often result in death, Katarina is quite capable of removing an entire team in the right situation.
Katarina, With Knives is an AD build. This means that Katarina focuses on increasing her Attack Damage (AD) throughout the game instead of her Ability Power (an AP builds choice). Although Katarina is increasing attack damage, all damage from abilities will be magic damage. Also, despite boosting her attack damage, Katarina rarely whacks enemies with regular attacks.
I have found that an AD Kat hits significantly harder than the AP equivalent, has more ability to harass and damage groups of enemies, and is better at killing minions.
An AP Kat has shorter cooldowns.
To other Katarina publishers:
"Hey! This build looks like mine" you think, "I picked the same skills..and waited to get death lotus as level 6 too! Why, we even picked some of the same weapons!"
Sadly, this is likely due to the limited choices when constructing a build rather than a nefarious plot I conceived. Most Kat builds end up with 5 points in Bouncing Blade, 5 in Killer Instinct, 5 in Shunpo and 3 in Death Lotus. There are the rare builds: 4/4/4/6, increasing Death Lotus at the cost of other skills; the famous 0/5/5/1 that focuses on one, and only one, target; but most builds end up in the same place skill wise. And I feel confident that my decision not to prioritize mana regeneration was an original thought. I definitely stole the idea of buying B.F. swords from you though.
Teleport - sometimes you need to be somewhere else. Youre base to their base in 4 seconds, or theirs to yours. Teleport to that turret on the top before they can finish it off, or to where those two heroes are pressing a little hard despite their low health cause they think they are alone. No spell can compare to the utility of being in the right place at the right time.
Flash - Perfect for sneaking forward for that last hit before he gets to safe ground, or getting away before that turret's shot can kill you. Flash closer to a minion so that you can shunpo to it, move a screen away from pursuers in a heart beat, or just hoping to the other side of an obstacle.
In case you couldn't guess, teleport and flash are my skills of choice.
Ignite - It does damage and slows healing, but if Kat is in range for ignite, she is in range for her other attacks. Ive certainly seen enemies escape with just a little health, but I think teleport and flash both get Kat more kills (to say nothing of flash keeping Kat alive) than ignite would.
Cleanse - The main problem isn't being stunned, its that being stunned stops your channeling. If you're stunned in a group of enemies, you are dead. If its just one enemy, you can probably get away. Either way, that one second less stunned makes little difference.
(since stunned is the most annoying thing that cleanse fixes, I used it when discusses Cleanse)
Exhaust/Ghost - These make chasing and escaping easier, but just dont fit my style. I prefer, flash jumping in and out of range instantly, rather than the speed increase from ghost. Typically I just need to get into range for one last shunpo/blade combo. Like Ignite, Exhaust requires you be in range with Kat's other skills to cast. I would rather rely on the rest of my team to slow than waste an spell on it. It also only targets one enemy, so you are only able to slow one hero Death Lotus is targeting.
Offense! Magic Penetration! Nothing as fun as hitting harder. Unfortunately, seals don't come in the magic penetration variety. They do come with attack damage, but at less than 1 damage per seal at level 18, I cant bring myself to use them. So, Katarina decided to dodge. Combined with the defensive mastery she ends up with around an 8% chance to run a little faster after someone attacks her. Not good by any means, but I don't see a better option.
Offense! Sorcery, Archaic Sorcery and Havoc, for cooldowns, damage, and damage respectively. If you dont understand why these are my choices, the skill section should clear it up.
After that, it doesn't matter much. I went with defense, picking the ability to run faster after dodging because it could, conceivably help, but I have no real attachment to it. If you like the utility tree, or different defense skills, or even offense, go ahead and try them out, see what works for your style of play.
Bouncing Blade - As an AD build, this will be your most used skill. Kat tosses out a blade that bounces around hitting enemies, dealing damage equal to your attack damage plus a little magic damage. At level 1, it bounces 1 time, hitting 2 targets. At level 5 it bounces 5 times, hitting 6 targets. Unfortunately, it cannot return to a target as Mounsieur Fiddlesticks' crows can, but it remains a very potent skill none the less. If you know an enemy is lurking outside of your range (or vision) and see a line of minions charging towards you, toss your blade at the front on. At higher levels the blade will travel up the minions line, and has a decent change at bouncing towards the cowardly hero, killing (not very likely, atleast more than once, most people learn quickly not to hang around) or driving the hero back to the base.
Kat's manaless aspect and the blades low cooldown means that she should be tossing it out most of the time, there's no need to be shy. She is almost a ranged character, it can be used to easily kill minions while staying out of an opponents range.
Even at end game when everyone is at level 18, this can take out a major chunk of Annie's or Ashe's hit points, even after four or five hits. If you find an occasion to hit their gathered team with it, this can easy do two thousand damage split over the team, more if they are willing to wait a few seconds for you to toss it out again.
Killer Instincts - When activated before another skill, makes the another skill better. Bouncing Blade will hit for full damage on all hits instead of losing 10% per bounce, and half healing for a few seconds after connecting. Shunpo (the next skill) will give 2 seconds of damage reduction, peaking at 35% of damage reduced. Ill talk about it a bit more then. Because the bonus to Bouncing Blade does not increase with level, and that my most common use for Killer Instincts, this skill is left at level one for as long as possible.
It gives bonus damage to abilities and melee attacks too, even if not activated!
Shunpo - Teleport to an enemy! Deal damage to an enemy! Reduce damage from an enemy! All with a short cooldown! Wonderful, right? No follow-up saying it isn't, it really is a wonderful skill. You can close with enemies in a heartbeat, at level 2, with one point in the blade and one in this, you do ~200 magic damage...and be ready to do it again in 10 seconds. This is, in case you were wondering, is what an AP Kat relies on instead of bouncing blade. The only flaw with this skill is that it teleports you to the unit you use it on, and sometimes that is simply not something you want. So, before attacking with it, think, "Is it worth hitting that guy if its going to move me under that turret, face to face with 3 enemy heroes?" The answer may be yes, but probably is no.
Fear not! There are many times when it is incredible useful. Chasing an enemy hero who is just a bit faster than you? Don't worry, you just need to keep him in range of shunpo and you can easily catch up! Got a little excited and overextended, and now you've got death incarnate breathing down your neck? Shunpo to one of your units! (Kat must shunpo to a unit, not a space, so this is difficult to work outside of the lanes where minions are cute little shunpo targets.
Bouncing blade on cooldown and theres a minion just begging to die? Use shunpo to slay it! You have enough mana you can afford to use it on minions!
Death Lotus - Spin in place, channeling, encouraging tiny little daggers to shoot out and hit enemy heroes. It has a cool down of a minute. At level 1, Death Lotus targets 1 enemy hero (unfortunately, deciding who is left to higher beings); at level 2, 2 enemies, and level 3; 3 evil heroes. I would guess she tosses two daggers per second, per target. At level 1, each dagger does fifty plus either fifty-five percent of you're bonus attack damage or thirty-five percent of you're ability power, whichever is higher (50+ 55% of AD, or 50 + 35% of AP). At level 3, the base amount jumps to 80, but the bonuses stay the same.
Not surprisingly, this is you're main killing ability. Get into a group of enemies and start twirling and they will get hit hard, fast. The result of this is that most teams will make a point of stopping you faster, which can be done with silence, stun, knock up, knock back, and fear. And probably a few other things, its not that hard to stop. Enemies can also escape the range of Death Lotus fairly easily by running away from you, the ability does not have a wide radius.
But it hits really hard.
Your main task as Katarina is simple. Get the most out of Death Lotus. Once you get it, 70% of what you do will be trying to set up death lotus. Ten percent will be harassing enemies before a big fight, ten percent will be chasing enemies after a big fight, and ten percent will be running away as fast as you're little legs can carry you. This is a time when shunpo shines. Pick out the best place and use shunpo to get there as quickly as you can. Wait until any heroes that can stop you are waiting on a cooldown or otherwise engaged. If someone can stun or hold the other team in place so that you can get them in Death Lotus for as long as possible, that's fantastic too. If you can, sneak behind them in a team fight, wait until they are all fighting in a big melee, and teleport into the middle and hit Death Lotus, you can easy devastate an enemy team.
Unfortunatly, this does mean you will be the focus of their attention, and as a shy hero, Katarina does not thrive when so many are focusing on her.
Voracity - Katarina's passive ability, she mysteriously receives 50 Gold and 15 seconds off her cooldowns when she contributes to the death of an enemy hero (With a kill or assist). This is an excellent ability, and in case anyone had any doubts about what she is good at, it makes it quite clear. Katarina should focus on being part of every kill she can. All abilities but Death Lotus will be fully refreshed when she gets a kill (or assist); this means that when chasing fleeing enemies she can shunpo and bouncing blade endlessly if she kills one every time she fires the combo. It also means she will be ready for all conflicts. If you sneak up behind an enemy and Death Lotus, killing them, you'll only have around 40 seconds left on Lotus' cool down. This passive ability makes Katarina's already spammable active abilities even more spammable.
And more gold.
Katarina should always focus on maximizing her Death Lotus damage. This build chooses to do it by focusing on attack damage. Therefore, attack damage items are the best choices. However, before you can do that, boots are necessary. This game is largely about mobility, iIts almost impossible to escape or kill a character who is faster than you. Boots are the easiest, fastest, way to increase it. And you get to upgrade yours to pierce magic damage!
So, I recommend you begin with a potion or three (you will get hit, that's good, it means you are playing) and boots.
After that you have more options. While fighting, get an idea for how good your opponents are. Glance at other lanes, see if they are pushing with low health. If, after glancing around, it looks like you're going to be able to get kills without that much trouble, consider getting Sword of the Occult. With 20 stacks (10 kill, or 20 assists, or some combination) it gives 100 attack damage (as much as any item) and 15% increase to speed. However, if you doubt your ability to feed it fully, don't get it, at least not now. The other item you should look at is Sorcerers Shoes, a fantastic increase for your boots. They lower magic penetration by 20%, making all you're abilities hit harder. If you need some more potions, don't be shy about buying them! They are cheap though they do give you less and less health (relative to you're total health) as the game goes by. A potion healing 200 health in 10 seconds isnt worth much when a single melee attack hits for 250.
After you have the boots, and maybe a Sword of the Occult, its time for Kat to focus entirely on her attack damage. I suggest looking at the B.F. Sword. I suggest looking 3 times, 4 if you didn't get a sword of the occult. Yup, the next 7400 gold all go to getting copies of that one item. After you have them (I recommend keeping one item space free for a super secret surprise that you couldn't possibly see by looking at the item build at the top of the page) its time to start upgrading! Bloodthirster is the only choice. The other two choices, Black Cleaver and Infinity Edge, cost about the same, or more, but give less damage. They do give other nice bonuses, lowering defense and increase criticals, but those dont help Kat. Katarina rarely attacks with her basic physical attack, between her abilities she doesn't need to, so you almost never have a chance to get those better crits (also, no critical chance increasing gear) or lower defense...and even if you did, you do magic damage. Along the same line, items that increase damage per second without increasing attack damage provide little benefit. Attack speed, armor penetration, you simply don't use them to kill heroes.
Bloodthirsters provide one more benefit in addition to the best damage increase: life steal. This may sound a little strange since I just railed against non damage increasing melee bonuses, but I have found lifesteal an excellent way to extend an attack. After confronting another hero, even if you win, you wont be at full health. Sometimes you are all buy dead, and a trip to your base is needed to regain health. This means a long walk back to the enemies base (yeah, I'm assuming you're winning, I'm trusting like that). With the high damage you have, (4 Bloodthirsters =~500 damage) and life steal (4 bloodthirsters = 100% lifesteal) 4 hits on a minion or a creep will put you right back at full health..and ready to harass the enemy some more.
In case you were wondering, its not difficult to fully feed a Bloodthirster, at this point in the game Kat's bouncing blade will do enough damage to kill the 3 caster minions of a spawn outright, and if the fighters are left you can shunpo to one, kill it, and two physical attacks with get the others, and you are a fifth the way there. Creep spawns are about as difficult to kill.
Finally, Katarina is running around with a magical pair of boots and a bunch of knives, hitting hard, and she has accumulated some wealth, so when she goes to splurge what does she buy? A veil! Banshees Veil, a little less sweet than the traditional, a little more fitting with character, but a veil non the less. It gives health and magic resistance, and mana (oh boy!) but the main appeal is the ability to block one negative ability every 30 seconds. This continues the theme that assembled the previous 5 items, maximizing Death Lotus. The most obnoxious thing that an enemy can do is interrupt Death Lotus. This simply makes it so that they have to interrupt twice, and if they do, that's one less interrupt they can hit the rest of your team with. And if Kat got another second out of Death Lotus, that's just icing on the cake. And when not doing that, the veil can protect you from annoying abilities, like the scoundrel Gangplank's parrrley.
This does vary from the item build in the start, and tha'ts because I like how this passage flows and don't want to change it. However, after reading comments by Searz and Tinaby, I have decided that it is a better idea to get the Veil earlier. Hopefully the ability to deflect a spell every thirty seconds will increase make it harder to pin Kat down, and forgive a few mistakes she makes. If you aren't having any trouble with spells being cast on you however, or are confident in your ability to avoid them, I suggest sticking with the original description and purchasing BF swords
Other Items Used, But Not Recommended:
Frozen Mallet - 700 HP and slows on hit. Survivability isn't an issue. Not because Kat is tough, but because 700 hp doesnt make a different. When Katarina dies, she dies hard. Rarely am I shot in the back from the edge of Tristana's range. The slow does provide some value, but only in limited situations. Katarina does the most damage when confronting groups of enemies, when able to take advantage of the multiple targets Death Lotus hits, and frozen mallet will only stop one person, letting the others roam freely.
This would suggest that Rylai's Scepter would be a effective weapon, as it will slow everyone hit by Death Lotus. Unfortunately, multi-target spells only slow by 15%, and while it would also let shunpo and bouncing blade slow, you would lose 100 damage from a Bloodthirster, which I don't believe is worth it. This is a team game, someone else on your team will almost certainly be able to slow better than you, let them know you are relying on them to set you up and you have eliminated the need to carry something that slow.
Leviatian, Warmog's Armor, any item bought to toughen you up - Probally not worth it. Dont misunderstand, you will be tougher with them, and probably survive running away once or twice in a 1v1, but in team fights it wont help at all, and you will do less damage.
Mercury Treads - The reasoning is the same as why to avoid Cleanse, its the stopping of Death Lotus that is an issue, not the duration.
None of this is set in stone. These are merely suggestions, you, the player, must decide what fits what circumstance.
Katarina, Using Knives, With Style
Katarina can head to any lane to start. My preference is the center lane, I enjoy concentrating on one opponent, widdling down their life until they stay a little bit longer with not enough health and I can finish them. This requires an opponent willing to accommodate you, so don't stress out if a hero more suited for the middle lane appears, remember that it is a team game.
Harass by throwing bouncing blade as often as you can. If an opponent is in range, hit them, if they are not, hit an enemy near them, hope it reaches. Use bouncing blade to last hit units, occasionally a few at once. Shunpo can be used for that too, but be wary, shunpoing to a ranged hero, or near one, will often get you shot 2 or 3 times before you can get away, make sure it is worth it.
At level 6 you should have 4-5 kills. I kid, I kid, if you have that many kills the other team (or hero) is terrible and you can probably use the game to try out something new. But, you now have a level 1 Death Lotus. Unfortunately, at this level, with your damage, its only really useful if the enemy hero tries to kill you while you are using it. In this case you do have a good chance at killing em though. Don't think Katarina can win a 2v1 now, Kat's lotus is only targeting 1 person at once and isn't hitting hard enough tear them down and then their friend.
Float from lane to lane now, looking for low health aggressive heroes. A shunpo followed by a death lotus followed by a bouncing blade can probably do six or seven hundred damage. Stick with teamates, dont freelance unless you are sure that you handle whatever you get yourself into.
Late game, with big team fights, rely on your bouncing blade to soften up enemies. Use shunpo to get in the midst of an enemy once the real conflict starts, and start Death Lotusing. Once Death Lotus is over, either because of completion or interruption, get the hell out of there. Once you are out, turn around and consider offering another bouncing blade.
If the enemy breaks, wait until no one is being hit be Death Lotus and then charge after them, taking advantage of voracity to finish as many as you can. Don't chase the first one to leave, let Death Lotus bloom as long as it can damaging their, it deals massively more damage than Katarina's other abilities.
The Golem buff it nice to have, even though you have no mana to regen. But, because you are not fully using it, check with your team to see if there is another player who would find it more useful
One of the most important things of all? Stay alive! Keep track of who is where, traveling with a partner, dont go charging up to a turret to kill someone underneath, dont go charging up to a turret and let and enemy hero get behind Kat and kill her. Getting killed gives the enemy money (quite a bit if you are on some type of killing spree) costs you time, and stacks on your weapon that take time to replenish.
AP Kat is better!
I disagree, clearly. I am going to compare this build to "Shunpo That," an AP build on this site.
Shunpo that (henceforth known as Shunpo): With soul stealer filled, she has around 690 AP. This translates to roughly 290 damage per dagger during Death Lotus, and 730 damage shunpos. Bouncing Blade stays at 232 damage.
Katarina, With Knives (henceforth known as Knives): With everything filled, she has around 530 attack. Death Lotus hits for 330 per dagger, shunpo only 220, and bouncing blade 660 damage
Not a big difference in other aspects, Shunpo has slightly higher magic penetration and better cooldowns, they have roughly the same HP, and Knives is faster (Sword of the Occult).
Shunpo that can slow enemies with abilitys, but Knives hits harder with Death Lotus, (assuming 2 daggers per second, 480 more damage over 6 seconds) and, as I have said, others almost certainly have better slowing attacks than 15%.
Shunpo can do slightly higher damage to a single target without using Death Lotus, assuming only abilities are used. With a single auto attack Knives jumps ahead in damage death (shunpo -> blade: 960 v. 880, shunpo ->attack ->blade, 1070 v. 1430) With a high damage bouncing blade, Knives is better at attacking groups of enemies, be they heroes or minions, and striking enemies that are not in her immediate vicinity.
Knives is about 1400 gold more expensive, but the much improved ability to kill minions means that you will likely end up with more more than Shunpo.
Banshee's Veil also improves team fighting ability dramatically with immunity to the first ability targeting the hero
I assumed an ideal situation because there are too many possible situations to discuss them all, and this is the one I like to think about the most.
If youre trying to duplicate my math and its not working out, make sure you are including killer instincts passive bonus, Knives' havoc, and Shunpo's Ardor.