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

Karthus Build Guide by The PaIe King

Rating Pending
Like Build on Facebook Tweet This Build Share This Build on Reddit
League of Legends Build Guide Author The PaIe King

The Karthus Bible

The PaIe King Last updated on December 3, 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.

Cheat Sheet

Karthus Build

LoL Path: Sorcery
LoL Rune: Arcane Comet
Arcane Comet
LoL Rune: Nullifying Orb
Nullifying Orb
LoL Rune: Absolute Focus
Absolute Focus
LoL Rune: Scorch

LoL Path: Domination
LoL Rune: Ravenous Hunter
Ravenous Hunter
LoL Rune: Taste of Blood
Taste of Blood

+12 Attack Damage or +20 Ability Power (Adaptive)

Ability Sequence

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

Threats to Karthus with this build

Show all
Threat Champion Notes
Mordekaiser Don't let Morde get close or leech health off of you and you should be able to kill him easily with your poke.
Teemo If you struggle with teemo mid, stop playing karthus. Your E will reveal him when hes invisible and you can kill him with 3-4 lay wastes. The only good teemo mids i have ever seen have literally been stall lanes or have hid under tower. The good teemos will rush a liandries and a morello and just shit out shrooms for days. You just farm it out if he plays safe.
Guide Top

Introduction: Me, You, and The Reaper


"Agony, ecstasy, peace. Every passing has a beauty all its own."- Karthus the Deathsinger

Karthus is one of the oldest champions in the League of Legends being one of the original champions released with the game's launch back in 2009. League has come a long way since then and the lich has become an uncommon sight on the rift. Most will give up on him before they understand his full potential. The Deathsinger has always been a rewarding character for those that commit to learning his match ups and play style. Those that have encountered a Karthus remember one of two things, they either remember the noob Karthus that fed and couldn't hit skill shots, or they remember the Karthus that went godlike with nothing but paper bag boots and mana items.

There are many ways to play old Karth and this guide will serve to teach you everything I have learned over the years. I am The Pale King and I have mained Karthus since the early days of the rift. This is my guide to everything Karthus, enjoy.

The Karthus champion spotlight should explain the basics of Karthus and will act as a reference point throughout the guide.

Champion Design

Riot has always been adamant about providing champions that fulfill specific player fantasies. Karthus is meant to supply the undead mage or lich play style, often replicating the grandiose mages of Dungeons and Dragons and meeting with the mythological representations of a personified Death. No character can make you feel like the the Grim Reaper quite like Karthus does.

About the Author

I suppose I need to talk about myself briefly. My summoner name is The Pale King. I began playing League of Legends around the end of season 2 and first encountered Karthus when I met a player in champion select that was raging about the garbage champion he had just bought, and how he would be refunding him. That champion was Karthus, and something about proving that player wrong had set me on the path to becoming an Elder Lich.

Every Karthus has faced the struggles that come with being a Karthus main. After feeding off the tears of those that griefed me when I started, I have decided to write a guide to help new summoners through what I went through while learning karthus. After hundreds of Karthus, I finally got the last laugh and I hope to help other Karthus players get theirs.

Since the mastery system I have accumulated over half a million mastery points on Karthus and have no intentions of stopping any time soon. I am currently ranked in Gold and will not be climbing in ranked for the remainder of this season. I am ranked in the top thousand Karthus players on the NA server and currently have a 60% win rate with over 300 games in ranked this season.

In the coming season I intend to climb further as a Karthus main and hopefully make this guide a major reference tool in helping players to learn and respect The Deathsinger. I keep in touch with the Karthus community in our Discord and Reddit servers and love company, so feel free to stop by and chat! This guide will eventually cover Karthus in the top lane, jungle, and support roles. Yes he can be played in other roles than mid in certain situations and I hope to be able to cover that material down the road. Enjoy the guide!

Guide Top

Why Karthus?


  • Karthus has inevitable late game potential often able to come back from a bad early game like a cockroach surviving a nuclear bomb.
  • Karthus creates global pressure with his ultimate creating a ever present burden on the enemy team.
  • Karthus has a flexible playstyle from being a zone control master in lane to a back line kamikaze come late game.

  • Karth has had a very positive win rate for many years and remains a very consistent pick.

  • Death Defied and Lay Waste are some of the strongest abilities in the Game.


There are many ways to mitigate Karths Requiem and it requires lots of micromanagement in order to use correctly.

Karthus is VERY immobile making him weak to high mobility champions and early tower dives.

Karthus can be VERY mana hungry and squishy if played incorrectly.

Karthus is reliant on proper positioning and landing skill shots. In low elo hitting his abilities is like playing checkers, in high elo its like playing chess.

Karthus in the LCS? NO WAY!

Karthus is often a pocket pick of many professional players xPeke, Saintvicious , XiaoWeiXiao ,Froggen, Easyhoon,Piglet,and even Faker have summoned Karthus to the rift. Often times Karthus is an unexpected pick that many players are unfamiliar with. In my mind Karthus is always a safe pick but what he provides for a team is very different than the average mid lane mage. Karthus offers consistent AOE damage and some of the strongest wave clear the game has to offer. XiaoWeiXiao broke the CS record using Karthus in professional play and hard carried against Cloud 9's Zed pick. Saintvicious picked Karthus in the jungle and was able to pressure the game to victory and provide a cloud of AOE around his team. Froggen is known to pick Karthus and isn't afraid to die often sealing triple even quadra kills in LCS level games. xPeke gave Karthus a team skin after he used Karthus to ensure a victory for Fnatic in season 1!


xPeke Season 1 Fnatic

Saintvicious Karthus Jungle

Froggen on Karthus

XiaoWeiXiao's Legendary Karthus Game (Broke CS Record)

Guide Top

The Karthus Old Testament

Rod of Ages and Seraphs Embrace
Riot defines Karthus as a battle mage, most people confuse him with a burst mage. In this chapter I will compare Karthus to burst mages and define the major differences in how they are designed and how they are meant to be played and why we build what we do on Karthus.

So lets talk about Karths ability scaling versus that of a burst mage. We will make the comparison to Syndra a very popular immobile burst mage. Burst mages rely on high AP and CDR to spam their high damage abilities while Karthus relies on raw ap and tank stats to sustain in battle and naturally deal damage a constant stream of damage.

Karths Q Lay Waste is on a 1 second cooldown at level 1, does 40 damage with a 30% AP ratio at all ranks. Hitting an isolated Q at level one will deal 80 damage with no AP.

Syndras Q Dark Sphere has a 4 second cooldown at level 1 and does 50 damage with a 75% AP ratio. With no ap she would do a deal 50 damage with that ability.

Karthus can realistically cast 3 Lay Wastes in the time it takes Syndras Q to come off cooldown. If he hits all three thats 240 damage without factoring damage reductions withing a 4 second period.

Syndra on first back would go for AP and CDR while Karthus would go for AP and raw health. Karthus has lower cooldowns and will naturally out damage Syndra by lasting longer in a fight. Syndra will do more damage in one rotation of all her abilities combined because her ratios are higher. Karthus needs mana to spam his low cool down abilities and resist being burst down by the Syndra.

Rod of Ages and Archangels Staff will round out Karths mid to late game where he shines and allow him to sustain longer in the the early game. All Karthus has to do is land his Q's and survive. This example can be elaborated on as the game progresses and only serves as an example of the separate styles of these types of champion. The burst mage will do more damage in one foul swoop while the battle mage will and deal more damage over the course of the game.

Karths E, Defile is the main source of his late game damage dealing damage over time in a circle around Karthus. This ability has a 20% Ap ratio and is another example of Karths battle mage play style. At level one this abilitiy will drain 20 mana per second and deal 50 damage per second to any enemy caught in the area of effect. Karthus starts with a mana pool of 375 and if he has an early tear (which he can stack incredibly fast while on fountain) this ability will become very potent. If Karthus all ins the enemy Syndra and lands 3 isolated Q's at rank 1 with defile toggled on for 3 seconds he will deal 390 damage with no AP. This all in will cost Karthus a total of 120 mana. If syndra lands all three of her abilities she will deal only 190 damage and it will cost her 150 mana. This is without damage reductions/ penetrations or auto attacks involved. Mana and sustain is the best possible build route for Karthus, archangels and rod of ages will supply that so long as the Karthus player lands his Q's and manages his mana properly.

The Requiem

Requiem is The Deathsingers most well known ability and often the ability that careless players complain about the most. Requiem has a 60% AP Scaling and will deal 250 Damage at level 1. By no means is it overpowered in the early game and it will often be used to seal out duels and pick off survivors during the first 10-15 minutes of the game. High ability power come late game will be very important. Unfortunately Karthus is a champion that needs to scale into a large amount of AP because hes too frail to build straight damage. Requiem will deal more damage at level 1 with my main rune page and it will take some getting used to.

Requiem has a cool down of 200 seconds at rank 1 and must be used wisely. Map and enemy level awareness is key to using this ability. A lower level enemy always has a higher chance of dying from requiem and watching for portraits to overlap on the mini-map is a good way to judge if you should be looking at that lane for a possible requiem. Using Requiem on a single target is never efficient and you should try to hold it for multi-kills or to drop a 5 target tactical nuke in team fights.

The Tenants of Requiem

Do not time Requiem to steal kills. Just because you can does not mean it is worth while to do so.

Do not listen to your team mates about when to use Requiem. You play Karthus, they do not. You judge the situation and ultimate accordingly.

Do not use Requiem to kill the ADC unless they are behind. ADC's carry heal and it scales with their level.

Always re-position away from the fight or cast Requiem during death defied.

Do not waste it! Do not use Requiem if you don't have to. Just having it up pressures the enemy. There is always a perfect moment to use it, be patient.

Guide Top

Lord of the Lane Phase