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Katarina General Guide by Khazem

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Khazem

Top Lane Katarina

Khazem Last updated on January 26, 2013
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Ability Sequence

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

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.



Offense: 9

Honor Guard

Defense: 21


Utility: 0

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Hello! I am Khazem, a platinum Elo top lane player. In this guide I will be talking about top lane Katarina. I'm sure you're wondering: "Isn't Katarina a mid laner?". Yes, she definitely is an excellent mid laner, but she also possesses a lot of great qualities in her kit that make her more than viable in the top lane as well, assuming you adapt your playstyle and build to it.

Now I'm sure most of you will have already seen this build from a top lane Katarina player somewhere, or maybe you've watched Voyboy do it and you just can't figure out why the hell you'd build her so tanky, so let's just go over what's in her kit and why she's such a good top laner and fits so well with a tanky build.

So why play her in the top lane?

  • Low cooldowns. Because of these low cooldowns, Katarina can constantly harass the enemy top laner.
  • No resources. Katarina's abilities cost nothing to cast, meaning she only has to keep her health up to stay in lane.
  • Good waveclear. Strong, low cooldown waveclear enables her to push
  • the lane hard and fast if needed.
  • High mobility. Has a speed buff and a blink in her kit, allowing her to escape from ganks/bad situations.
  • High base damages. This is what allows Katarina to build so tanky. Because of her high base damages, she'll do damage regardless of what you build.

What are the downsides?

  • No health sustain. One of the bigger downsides. Katarina cannot stay in lane without either health potions or spell vamp.
  • Can't snowball as hard. Because you're all the way in the top lane, you can't roam as effectively as mid lane Katarina can.
  • Low burst late game. Again, compared to what you may be used to from mid lane Katarina, your burst will be really low in the late game.

So why do you build her so tanky? Don't you lack damage?

While it may seem you will lack in damage, the only think you'll be lacking is burst. Because of the added survivability, you'll be staying in fights much longer than you would if you would build full AP. This means that in the long run, you'll be able to get a lot more spells off and you're almost guaranteed to live long enough to get resets to do even more damage.
You trade off your high burst and assassination abilities to survive much longer and do more damage in fights over a longer period of time.

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Summoner Spells

Flash: Always required to escape bad situations or to make offensive plays.

Ignite: Helps your secure kills and more importantly resets.

Teleport: Can be used for helping your team out around the map. Can be effective when the enemy team has global abilities.

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Katarina is very versatile when it comes to runes. She has many different stats she can use well and therefore there are a couple of different options here.
I personally use 4 different runepages on Katarina.

The most standard Katarina runepage. Magic Penetration to increase your damage, armor to reduce damage taken in trades (from both champions and minions), magic resistance to reduce any magic damage and movement speed to add to your mobility to escape or chase.

More offensive runepage that replaces the movement speed quintessences with flat ability power. This is generally used in an easy matchup where you want to go for a more offensive item build.

This is the runepage I use and would recommend for more advanced Katarina players. Because I don't get a lot of ability power and most of your damage will come from your base damages, stacking magic penetration is very effective.

This rune page gets rid of the magic resistance entirely and gets cooldown reduction instead. I use this when I'm against a physical damage heavy teamcomp where I'm not really worried about any magic damage. Cooldown reduction increases your DPS in teamfights by a decent amount.

Quick note: Armor seals can be replaced with Greater Seal of Scaling Health in case you're against a double AP comp.

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In my opinion the best possible mastery setup for top lane Katarina. Not going too far into the offensive tree cause Katarina already has enough damage in her kit. Going for a more defensive runepage will give her more presence in teamfights.
The only thing you could change here would be to switch around the points in Hardiness and Resistance based on what champion you're laning against.

Now if you really want to go for a more offensive approach (though this is not adviced), you could go 21/9/0 and it would look something like this.

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Starting Items

sight ward

My preferred starting items on Katarina. 9 Health Potions to keep you in lane for as long as possible and help you sustain up from damage trades, 2 sight wards to keep you safe while you stay in lane.

Item Core (vs AD)

When laning against any champion that deals mainly physical damage, the health and armor from Sunfire Cape will allow you to come out ahead in most damage trades. The extra damage is nice in longer duels and also helps you push. Get a Haunting Guise for some damage and after that you'll usually be looking at mid game where a Warmog's Armor is a very strong purchase as it will keep you in fights longer to do more overall damage.

Item Core (vs AP)

The idea behind this item core is to counter the AP damage with a bunch of health while also getting a good amount of damage. Rylai's Crystal Scepter is an extremely useful item to get against any ranged opponent as it will allow you to stay on them for as long as you want.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you're losing the lane and can't really trade with your opponent, there is no point in buying a Haunting Guise. Drop the item completely and start building survivability items right away.

Finishing your build - Defensive items

Locket of the Iron Solari: Strong item against double AP comps or other AoE team comps. Shields are pretty effective against that kind of damage and the item gives you some very nice stats itsself.

Randuin's Omen: I usually get this against melee heavy teamcomps, but it's a strong item in general and probably worth getting against any kind of physical damage. This will help you protect yourself, protect your team and mess with any melee/AD carry who targets you.

Guardian Angel: Gives you a second chance at life. Good item if you're getting heavily focused and want to stay in fights even longer than you already are.

Ruby Sightstone: Good for many reasons. Gives you a decent amount of health, allows you to help our your teams by placing wards all around the map and pretty much guarantees you always have a ward on your to Shunpo to.

Zhonya's Hourglass: Good offensive item against physical damage heavy teamcomps.

Finishing your build - Offensive items

Important note: Because you're a top laner, keep in mind that damage isn't always your #1 priority. Unless your team needs AP damage badly, try and minimize the amount of offensive items you get. Staying in fights longer to get more abilities off and get more resets is usually more worth it than attempting to burst someone down and dying for it.

Abyssal Scepter: Very good offensive item when you're against strong AP damage.

Liandry's Torment: The upgrade you get from your early Haunting Guise. Goes well with a Rylai's Crystal Scepter.

Rabadon's Deathcap: If you really need damage, this is the item to get. Gives you a huge chunk of AP to make all your abilities deal significantly more damage.

Twin Shadows: Another strong purchase if you want MR and damage. The active is very useful for catching people out of position. Especially useful if you're up against a champion with a stealth mechanic.

Void Staff: If you want more damage and the enemy team is stacking a lot of magic resistance items, you can get one of these.

Chosing your item build/Build order

So now that I listed all the items you could possibly want, it's time to determine which ones you'll want to build and in what order. Let's look at the item cores first.

Scenario 1: You're laning against a physical damage dealing melee champion (e.g. Riven).

1. Regardless of how the lane goes, when laning against a champion like this the first item you want to get is a Sunfire Cape. This will allow you to survive and trade damage properly.
2. Are you winning the lane?
>> Yes. Build Haunting Guise to increase your damage and snowball the lane.
>> No. Build Warmog's Armor to make sure you survive the lane and give you more teamfighting presence. Skip Haunting Guise completely.
3. Laning phase is over, you've now completed your item core. To determine what you want to build next you should ask yourself: "Does my team have enough damage?".
>> Yes. Finish your build with defensive items following the above suggestions.
>> No. Finish your build with offensive items following the above suggestions.

Scenario 2: You're laning against a magic damage dealing champion. (e.g. Vladimir)

1. How is the early game going?
>> Good, I'm winning my lane. Build a Haunting Guise to snowball your lane.
>> Not very well, I'm behind. Build a Warmog's Armor followed by a magic resistance item to make sure you survive the lane and don't fall behind any further.
2. Laning phase is over. Is the rest of their team more physical damage based, or magic damage based?
>> Mostly physical damage. Build a couple of armor items ( Zhonya's Hourglass if you need damage, Randuin's Omen if you don't. Get both if you need a lot of armor. Avoid building Sunfire Cape if the laning phase is already over. Other armor/health items are better for teamfighting.)
>> Mostly magic damage. Build some more magic resistance/health items. ( Rylai's Crystal Scepter, Locket of the Iron Solari, Abyssal Mask/ Twin Shadows)
3. Finish your build with either more defensive items if your team has enough damage or some offense if your team does not have enough damage.

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sinister steel

Scoring a kill or assist will reduce the cooldowns of Katarina's abilities by 15 seconds.

Bouncing Blades
Katarina throws a dagger that bounces quickly from enemy to enemy, dealing 60 / 90 / 120 / 150 / 180 (+0.45 per ability power) magic damage and marking them. Each subsequent hit deals 10% less damage. Bouncing Blades hits a total of 5 unique targets (4 bounces), each striking the closest next target.
Striking a marked target with an ability or basic attack will consume the mark to deal an additional 15 / 30 / 45 / 60 / 75 (+0.15 per ability power) magic damage.


Useful Tips:

Sinister Steel
Sinister Steel
Katarina whirls her daggers around her, dealing 40 / 75 / 110 / 145 / 180 (+0.25 per ability power) (+0.6 per bonus attack damage) magic damage to all enemies in the area. If she hits an enemy champion, Katarina gains 15 / 20 / 25 / 30 / 35 % Movement Speed for a short duration.


Useful Tips:

Katarina instantly moves to her target's location and takes 15% reduced damage from enemies for 3 seconds. If the target is an enemy, she deals 60 / 85 / 110 / 135 / 160 (+0.4 per ability power) magic damage.


Useful Tips:

Death Lotus
Katarina becomes a flurry of blades, channeling for 2 seconds throw up to 30 blades to nearby enemy champions. Katarina throws up to 10 blades at 0.2 second intervals, dealing 40 / 50 / 60 (+0.3 per bonus attack damage) (+0.175 per ability power) magic damage and applying Grievous Wounds to the closest 3 enemy champions. Grievous Wounds lasts for 3 seconds and reduces incoming healing by 50%. An enemy champion can be hit by a maximum of 10 daggers over the 2 seconds.


Useful Tips:

Ability Sequence

Death Lotus > sinister steel > Bouncing Blades > Shunpo.

You max sinister steel first because of its low cooldown and utility. This ability is your bread and butter and your highest DPS ability.
Against melee you want to start off with a point in sinister steel so you can start harassing right away, against ranged you want to start with Bouncing Blades so you can't get zoned from last hits at level 1.
Always get Shunpo at level 2 to escape if you need to.
By level 3, you want to have a point in all 3 of your abilities so you have your full combo to start harassing your lane opponent.
Always skill up your ultimate whenever possible (levels 6, 11 and 16)

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The laning phase as top lane Katarina is all about withering your opponent down with constant harass. Your skills have no costs and have a low cooldown so make sure to abuse that.

The standard combo used for harass is Bouncing Blades -> Shunpo -> sinister steel.
If possible, you want to avoid using Shunpo to engage just for harass and save it for when you need to escape. Against ranged opponents or when your opponent is playing defensively, you'll have to use it offensively but always make sure you know you're safe when using it.

When your opponent is playing defensively and is staying behind his creepwave to stay out of range of your Shunpo, try and use nearby creeps to close the gap instead.

As shown in this screenshot, Wukong is clearly out of range for Shunpo. However, he is in range of one of your minions and thus he is in range for you to harass. Simply Shunpo on to the minion closest to him and follow up with your Bouncing Blades and sinister steel combo.

When you're going for a kill with your ultimate, make sure to use your movement speed bonus of sinister steel to move ahead of him so that he needs to move through your ultimate to escape. Here's an example of good ultimate positioning.

Ward Jumping

As explained in the ability section, Katarina can use her Shunpo on friendly units to escape or close gaps. This includes wards. The execution is pretty simple. You place a ward in the direction you want to go (at its max range) and you Shunpo to it. Example:

( Katarina uses a ward jump to jump over the wall)

This also works on friendly minions, neutral jungle creeps, enemy minions, friendly champions and units places by champions.

Challenging Matchups

Laning as Katarina is pretty straight forward and in most cases exactly how I described it above, but there are exceptions. I will list Katarina's most challenging matchups and try to explain how to deal with them.

Darius is a nightmare for any melee champion. His all-in potential is crazy and you really never want to stay close to him for more than a second.
Abuse his 2 big weaknesses: he has no gap closers and he has no sustain. Harass him down by throwing Bouncing Blades at him and try to hit him with sinister steel at its max range. NEVER use Shunpo to engage on him unless he is too low to defend himself and you want to go in for a kill. Always save it untill he uses Apprehend on you. If you Shunpo away from him after that he has no way to get to you.
Besides that, just stack armor and health and you should be able to survive and maybe even outlane him.

Probably the hardest matchup for Katarina. In a straight up 1v1 (considering equal skill) this lane is not winnable. You need to build to survive and either ask for jungle help or push the lane up and roam. Don't try and go all-in on her even if it looks like you're gonna win. You'll end up getting hit by her Cocoon and then she'll nuke you down before you can react.
Get an early Locket of the Iron Solari, her % damage abilities are countered by shields.

Pretty similar to the Darius matchup, except this lane becomes slightly easier as you stack more health. Don't try and mess with him early on because he will win trades. Avoid his axes and Shunpo defensively if you do get hit by one. Once you get a Sunfire Cape you should be able to start trading with him, but again, avoid all-ins and instead try and wither him down with your low cooldown abilities and high mobility.

What makes this matchup so hard is the fact that Riven has so many ways to stop your ultimate. She also has a really strong all-in and high mobility to close the gap if she wants to. This is another lane where you just have to wait and farm untill you can buy a Sunfire Cape. Once you have that, try and force her abilities by kiting her around a bit. It doesn't matter if you get hit a couple of times. Once her abilities are down, just use your ultimate to harass her down. She has no sustain so any damage you do will stick and if you do have a Sunfire Cape your combo will do more damage than hers unless she uses her ultimate, in which case you just Shunpo away and stay out of her range untill it fades.

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This is where the fun starts. This whole tanky build revolves around how useful she becomes in teamfights. Most of your damage will be coming from constant sinister steel spam and the AoE damage from your Sunfire Cape. Eventually, people will start dying and you'll start getting resets.
Because you're so tanky, you're almost guaranteed to stay in fights long enough to get resets and to do more damage than if you were full AP in the long run.

There's a few different possible approaches to how you can teamfight here. Either you help out your backline by focusing down the tanks/assassins/bruisers jumping your carry. This will almost always guarantee resets and in many cases this will be your best option. Simply focus down what's closest.

The second option (and this is an option that should mainly be considered when you're really far ahead) is to just jump the enemy backline. If you're tanky enough, you should be able to force them out of the fight and maybe even kill them. Because of your high mobility, low cooldowns and huge health pool, a mid game AD carry isn't going to be able to do a whole lot against you.
Note: Jumping the enemy backline should never be done if there is noone else on your team who is going to. When you do go full man mode on the enemy backline, make sure you have someone (preferably someone with CC) joining you.

Once you start getting resets, you jump to whatever is lowest health near you and try to get the next one. After you get the first reset you really don't care about who you're focusing, as long as it's the person with the lowest health so that you can just keep resetting your abilities and deal as much damage as possible. If this means having to kill the support second, then so be it.

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Closing Words

That concludes this Katarina guide. Thank you for reading. I always appreciate you leaving a vote and a comment.
One last thing I'd like to say. If you have any questions, please ask me in the comment section of this guide rather than adding me in game. I get a lot of friend requests of people I don't know and I don't really like adding random people. I will always respond to questions in the comment section here so if there's anything you want to know, just ask me here.


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