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Karthus General Guide by The PaIe King


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League of Legends Build Guide Author The PaIe King

The Pale Kings In-Depth Guide to Karthus

The PaIe King Last updated on August 19, 2017
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Ability Sequence

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

Masteries

18 Ferocity

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12 Cunning

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0 Resolve

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Threats to Karthus with this build

Threat
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Threat Champion Notes
1
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.
1
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

GUIDE IN PROGRESS WILL BE UPDATED WEEKLY!



"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 the champions full potential. The Deathsinger has always been a rewarding champion 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 only got kills with his ultimate because he couldn't hit skill shots, or they remember the Karthus that went godlike with nothing but a dorans ring 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 the archtypal Death. No character can make you feel like the the Grim Reaper like Karthus does. Death takes the lives of those that are careless early in life just as Karthus does with his Requiem. Death can strike down mortals in a moment of recklessness just as Karthus does with his Lay Waste. Death draws power from those that die and eats away at the flesh just as Karthus does with his Defile. Death is a growing obstacle that reveals those that hide in the darkness much like the Wall of Pain. Even his scaling is akin to that of Death itself. Death is weak against the youthful and has no hold on the early life, but as old age sets in and Death becomes an inevitable force. Karthus is a death machine in the right hands and for as old as he is, this relic of a champion is still to this day a death machine that demands respect on the rift.


Guide Top

Pros / Cons


Pros

Karthus has an inevitable late game potential.

Karthus can change the tides of battle with his global ultimate.

Karthus is extremely adaptable and will scale even when behind.


Karthus excell in duels and team fights providing raw damage and stong initiates with his wall of pain.

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


Karths Passive Death Defied is one of the strongest in the game, rounding out Karths weaknesses and providing play making potential that other champions cannot.




Cons






There are many ways to mitigate Karths ultimate 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 if played incorrectly.


Karthus is not a mechanically difficult champion but takes vast game knowledge and experience to consistently do well with. Understanding match ups, timing, positioning, and wave control are crucial to unlocking his potential.


Karthus is reliant on proper positioning and landing skill shots. In low elo hitting his abilities is like playing checkers, in high elo its more like playing chess.If you struggle with skill shots or do not want to take the time to learn Karthus, this champion is not for you.


Guide Top

Runes and Masteries


Runes


Flat Defensive Runes



The standard defensive rune page for early game defenses.

Flat Ability Power VS Spell Penetration

Flat AP is often a staple of the early game and is generally very strong when you have high early game potential. Magic Penetration generally amplifies the champions base power and scales better into the late game. If you are an aggressive early game Karthus I would recommend taking Flat Ability Power in Glyphs and Quints alongside Magic Penetration Marks. If you plan to scale into a late game monster I would suggest flat magic penetration Marks, Glyphs, and Quints. But beware the magic penetration runes, it will be very hard to farm with Lay Waste and Karthus has one of the slowest auto attacks in the game.

This video will explain the math behind spell penetration vs flat ability power runes. Karthus will do the most damage with flat spell pen but his early game will suffer significantly.




[*] Karthus VS High AP Burst[*]

AP or Magic Pen Quints
Scaling Magic Resist Glyphs
Scaling Health Seals
Magic Pen Marks

This rune page is for whenever you face Ability Power champions that you struggle against in lane. Helps against Lux, Leblanc, Ahri, and Orianna.

Karthus VS Assasin

Flat AP Quints
Scaling AP Glyphs
Flat Armor Seals
Spell Pen Marks

Lots of variety on this one depending on the build path you choose. Most assassins will build a maw of malmormatius and mercury treads to try and keep you down. They will lose a lot of late game potential if they build maw. If they rush edge of night play passive until late game. Most assassin lanes are passive lanes for Karthus anyways. Focus on farm and plan for mid to late game when they lose damage.

Standard Karthus

Spell Pen Quints and Glyphs
Scaling Health Seals
Spell Pen Marks

This is a late game oriented Karthus rune page and I would recommend it for more conservative play styles like mine. At level 4 Lay waste will do more damage with these runes than with flat AP.

Masteries



The Ferocity Tree

Sorcery: 2% extra damage from your abilities. Free damage. Who doesn't like FREE DAMAGE!

Feast: This mastery has seen a lot of nerfs but is still good for general sustain in laning phase.

Vampirism: This ability is often questioned on Karth. Spell Vamp works because when you hit an enemy with an Isolated Lay Waste it triggers as a single target ability and gains you health back. If Lay waste does 100 damage it will do 200 damage to an isolated target. 2% spell vamp will give back 4 health everytime you land an isolated Q. Lay Waste is on a 1 second cooldown. Late game Karthus can easily have 800 ap thats 240 damage more on Lay Waste plus the initial 120 base damage from being max rank. On an isolated target late game that's 720 damage with one Lay Waste. That's 14 Health back each time you land Lay Waste.


Battle Trance: This mastery is very good on Karth because Karthus has to whittle away at his enemies. Its free damage with little drawback. Double Edged Sword is not good because it gives your enemy damage and Karth is already squishy. I would only recommend Double edged sword when you know you can get kills in lane. Bounty Hunter can be better than battle trance but is not always guaranteed to yield the maximum damage increase. Bounty Hunter is just as valid on Karth but I prefer Battle Trance because it's a guaranteed 3% damage boost.


Piercing Thoughts: This mastery gives Karthus 7% more Magic Penetration. With the Spell Pen in his Runes he already has 19.5 Spell Pen. This Mastery makes it a flat 20 spell pen at first and then stacks with void staff, sorcerer's shoes and liandry's torment for a total of 67 magic pen.


Deathfire Touch


Deathfire touch is the most important mastery you can take on Karthus. It amplifies his damage potential and often picks off enemies that would otherwise escape. This keystone is especially potent when Karthus is ahead in the game. Many Karthus players will attempt to use Thunderlords Decree. Thunderlords is a mastery better suited to combo oriented champions and burst mages. Karthus CAN use Thunderlords if you can land his Q's in lane and it can be very strong but I would not recommend this right away. Karthus has to poke his enemies and then swoop in for the kill usually. Thunderlords is counterproductive and can be hard to consistently proc.


The Cunning Tree

Wanderer: This mastery allows Karthus to get back to lane and roam a bit faster. Having a base movement speed of 335 is tough.

Secret Stash: This mastery synergizes with refillable potion and dark seal for more early sustain and supplies mana regenerating biscuits. You can't beat biscuits.

Merciless: Extra damage to low health targets is always good. This helps you pick up kills with Requiem and helps you in lane once the enemy has below 40% health.

Dangerous Game: This helps Karth sustain in teamfights and skirmishes.


The Resolve Tree

Recovery : Is very effective against poke lanes. The extra health regen is small but noticeable alongside Vampirism.

Tough Skin: This ability negates more and more damage as the game goes on and helps against auto attack oriented mid laners.

Veteran Scars: Extra Health stacks with resistances and is good with defensive runes.

Insight: Hands down one of the best masteries you can take in a lane when you need to play defense. Having Exhaust and Flash on a lower cooldown is a keen advantage if you are farming under tower.


Guide Top

Why Rod of Ages and Archangels Staff? Isn't that just mana?

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 that is also a very strong pick. 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.


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 Sustain. 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 cooldown 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 longer to naturally out damage other champions. 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 sustain longer and deal more damage per second, dealing more damage over the course of the game. The burst mage focuses on the now while the battle mage focuses on the bigger picture. The added mana to ap scaling from Rod and Archangels will supply Karthus with a large mana pool and a higher flat AP to compliment his low scaling and the built in damage amplification on his Lay Waste. The shield from Seraphs Embrace will provide Karthus with early defense and is a fail safe for mid game team fights where Karthus has not fully scaled.


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 start with a mana pool of 375 and if he has an early tear (which he can stack incredibly fast) 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. Archangels and Rod of Ages will supply the highest possible flat ap for karthus at level 18 reaching roughly 800 alongside other AP items and Rabadons Deathcap.


Guide Top

Laning Phase


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