Mobafire League of Legends Build Guides Mobafire League of Legends Build Guides

Karthus Build Guide by Aqua Dragon

Like Build on Facebook Tweet This Build Share This Build on Reddit
League of Legends Build Guide Author Aqua Dragon

Platinum Tank Karthus Basics - Swift Death

Aqua Dragon Last updated on December 26, 2017
Did this guide help you? If so please give them a vote or leave a comment. You can even win prizes by doing so!

You must be logged in to comment. Please login or register.

I liked this Guide
I didn't like this Guide
Commenting is required to vote!

Thank You!

Your votes and comments encourage our guide authors to continue
creating helpful guides for the League of Legends community.

Stream is Offline
Cheat Sheet

Tank Karthus

Karthus Build

LoL Path: Sorcery
LoL Rune: Summon Aery
Summon Aery
LoL Rune: Manaflow Band
Manaflow Band
LoL Rune: Celerity
LoL Rune: Scorch

LoL Path: Resolve
LoL Rune: Unflinching
LoL Rune: Conditioning

+10 ability power or +6 attack damage, adaptive and +65 health

LeagueSpy Logo
Middle Lane
Ranked #13 in
Middle Lane
Win 50%
Get More Stats

Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

Guide Top

The Author

Aquaired Skillset

Hi! I’m Aqua Dragon. I was Diamond in Seasons 5 + 6, and I play Tank Karthus.

I also play: I also take people's suggested playstyles, optimize them, and then make guides on them!

Keep in mind this is not meant to be an exhaustive guide. As such, I won't be delving into everything. However, I hope I'll have explained sufficiently that my rationale will be self-evident, and to also allow you to make personal customizations as well.

Want to to discuss or watch this build?
Join our community of off-meta lovers!

Guide Top

Pros and Cons


  • Moves quickly; easily sticks to opponents
  • Incredible mana sustain during laning
  • Powerful initiator
  • Strong early kill potential
  • Great roam during laning phase


  • Weak waveclear
  • Devours mana rapidly
  • No inherent tankiness
  • No inherent health sustain
  • Low AP; ultimate is weak

Guide Top

What is Tank Karthus?

Righteous Requiem

Karthus is most known for amassing massive AP, sacrificing themselves into the fray to do massive burst damage with Defile, and cleaning opponents with a half-health chunking Requiem. However, it turns out Karthus is able to viably become a more sustained-damage tank that trades off the chunking power of the ult to become a combination of Swain and Singed during teamfights.

This is possible because Karthus only has a great AP ratio on Requiem. It is fairly lackluster on Lay Waste and Defile. The AP ratios of each spell are:

--Lay Waste (Single): 0.6
Lay Waste (Multiple): 0.3
--.----.---.--.--.-Defile: 0.2
---.---.-.-.---Requiem: 0.6

Though the 0.6 scaling on Lay Waste is nice, it only applies when hitting a single target. This is largely only feasible during laning. In teamfights it's far more likely to only get multi-hit Lay Wastes unless Karthus is chasing someone down.

To be fair, both Defile and Lay Waste hit every second, making the low AP ratio more valuable. But also to be fair, the base damage is also hitting every second. To illustrate the importance, let's compare two Karthuses. One with 300 AP and one with 0 AP.

With Defile active for 5 seconds, at rank 5, the 0 AP Karthus will deal 550 damage. the one with 300 AP will deal 850 damage. This is only a 300 damage difference, meaning a Tank Karthus would only have to live for 3 extra seconds compared to AP Karthus to make up the difference. So while the up-front damage AP Karthus can deal is much higher, Tank Karthus will deal the same amount of damage over time by living in fights longer and freely positioning

This means that getting AP is primarily useful for Requiem, not for the other spells. However Requiem is on an impressively long cooldown and there are an amazing number of ways to nullify its damage. Instead of banking most of the damage into Requiem, could power be transferred away into the rest of the kit? Tank Karthus answers this question with a resounding yes.

Glorious Defile

Tank Karthus does this by abusing the base power of Defile. A standard AP Karthus tries to abuse the scaling on single-hit Lay Wastes to do damage, but this creates unreliability in the damage output. In addition, maxing Lay Waste first prevents the surprising power of Defile from being abused.

Each level of Defile is on par in damage with its equal-level Lay Waste counterpart. This is to say, a Level 3 multi-hit Lay Waste does non-guaranteed 80 damage. A Level 3 Defile does 70 largely-guaranteed damage in an AOE. Thus, maxing Defile first is like hitting your opponent with a non-amplified Lay Waste every second. This isn't strictly true and has nuance, but the principle is the point.

There's good reason Defile isn't used this way. Its high mana drain is, well, draining. In addition, putting yourself into range of its use is extremely dangerous for the fragile Karthus.

This is where Tank Karthus moves in (literally). Because Tank Karthus doesn't have to focus on AP items, they are able to focus more heavily on maximizing a mana pool and building survivability to make amazing use of Defile. This is combined with high mobility/slows from Righteous Glory, Ghost, Wall of Pain, and Exhaust to make Karthus stick to the enemies and whittle them down Singed-style.

Because of this, you will often end up doing the most damage out of everyone in the game, even comparable to a full AP Karthus. The damage will be more sustained by comparison and suffers the disadvantages of the damage style, but the presence in fights still demands respect.

Guide Top

Build Order

Soul Build Order

Tank Karthus' playstyle favors stickiness and abusing Defile. This means Mana, mobility, and durability are top priorities for Karthus.

Create Item Set

Starting Items

Since AP is not the primary goal of the build, Doran's Ring is excessive. The early levels of Defile's passive also provide sufficient mana sustain.


Continue by getting
> >

If you can't build Sorcs yet because of Magical Footwear, just skip it and build it as soon as it's available.

Then it's time for the keystone of the build. Righteous Glory is amazingly powerful for everything Tank Karthus hopes to do and serves as an excellent initiation tool. The only time you should consider skipping RG is if the enemies are literally all magical damage.

After building the cores, follow up with three situational items.

Try to avoid building Liandrys until you have at least two heavy defensive items, and even then you should consider getting a third defensive item instead. It is best when against compositions with only one damage type.

Guide Top

Stage of the Game


In the early game, your goals are to
  • Farm waves from a distance
  • Dive opponents regularly with Defile and force summoner spells
  • Replenish mana between these attacks with Defile's mana regen

Ghost and Exhaust are on especially short cooldowns and should be abused to get early kills on overextending opponents. You easily outrun enemies, even if they have dashes. Don't be afraid to use both summoner spells at once to force their longer-cooldown summoners like Flash.

Each dive is heavily mana intensive. Early levels in Defile will provide a quick way to get more mana as you prepare for the next tackle. Be aware that using Lay Waste to farm will not return nearly as much mana as farming with autos, so avoid relying on it when you can.

Feel free to harass a little with Lay Waste, but realize it won't do an amazing amount of damage and eats up mana that could otherwise be saved for Defile tackles.

You can start roaming very early on due to the powerful engage that Ghost provides. When your opponent has left lane, run over to other lanes and use Ghost to ambush unsuspecting opponents.

It's sometimes better not to use Lay Waste during defile tackles, as the mana cost expends a second of Defile's time. Unless you know for sure that you'll land the hit, let Defile do the brunt of the work.

You usually shouldn't bother leveling Wall of Pain until level 7. It has an exorbitant mana cost and the slow it provides isn't as strong as simply getting earlier points in Lay Waste and Defile.


As the laning phase ends, you will start taking on a more aggressive role.
  • Initiate fights with Ghost, Wall of Pain, and Righteous Glory
  • Pick a target in the fight and stick to them
  • Chase down lonely opponents and kill them
  • Use Requiem to clean up easy kills

You must not be afraid to dive headlong into the fray. You are the one who decides when fights happen due to the enormously powerful initiation. Lead the charge; you decide when it's time.

Opponents who barely escape from your defile tackles can be shot down with Requiem. Take note however that Tank Karthus' Requiem is not too strong. Keep tabs on its base damage and use that number to figure out when it's time to ult.

Your dueling power is fairly respectable. If you see someone extending too far to push or too far in your jungle, use your superior mobility with Exhaust to defile them down.

You move pretty fast and are tanky, but that's no reason to take free hits. Try to skirt melee enemies at the edge of your defile instead of always standing right next to them.

Once you're out of mana, you're spent. You have no real mana regeneration outside of lane. Be cautious of your mana bar to make sure you won't overexert yourself before battles are truly done.


You retain a similarly sticky role as the game reaches its conclusion
  • Build defensive items for the situation
  • Make picks on lonely opponents with your mobility
  • Try to attract the attention of as many opponents as possible in fights

Continue to start fights when you see openings. You remain the dictator of when fights begin.

Thornmail is especially powerful on Karthus. It's easy to get into close range of ADC's. Once Thornmail nullifies their lifesteal, their death becomes guaranteed, especially with an Exhaust. If you can force the ADC away by yourself, you can gain an immense fighting advantage for your team.

Your Lay Waste will start packing a bit of a hit now. Feel free to spam it for offense, though be mindful of your mana.

Guide Top


This guide was a lot of fun to write, and I hope you all have learned everything you would have liked. If you have any questions, leave a comment or drop a line over at !

Bring a Glorius end.