Xerath Build Guide by Podanops
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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.
This guide will focus more on the playstyle of Xerath rather than items and ability sequence, as they're both pretty clear cut. His items are almost impossible to change, even the order is pretty obvious. You can build him a number of ways, but he gets an advantage from these items that are just far greater than most other items.
The two builds I've listed are two different playstyles you can choose to go, the first being how I mostly play Xerath. A poking and harass based build, focusing on controlling areas, being annoying and staying alive for a very long time. The second build is a more instant-burst type of build, starting out more powerful and focusing on nuking rather than constant harass. I suggest you try both, as it's always important to test out anything before writing it off. This is my first guide and I hope you enjoy it. (:
Pros and Cons
Great range and harass
Squishy disabler and destroyer
Needs good team to back him up
Low damage until level 6
Skill shots can be dodged when noticed
Xerath has two main play-styles.
The main difference between their builds is either going for speed and safety with your starting items, or more damage for less speed. Build One maxes your Locus of Power second for quicker pokes while Build Two maxes your Mage Chanes second for more damage and stuns.
The way I prefer to play Xerath, and how he dominates map control on Dominion, is as a safe, poking and harassing type of champion. Focusing on bunkering with Locus of Power and poking with Arcanopulse, maxing them both quickly.
When playing in this manner, you want to always be safe or baiting. I'll go into greater detail on baiting in the items section. You want to poke and prod until you get someone low enough, then blow them up with Arcane Barrage.
I wouldn't suggest this way of playing, but of course there are many team compositions that will make this a powerful playstyle. It relies on doing heavy, close range nuking with your Arcanopulse and Mage Chains. Putting you more in a tanky nuke sort of position.
I use a more defensive setup as this manner requires much more close range fighting and much more engagement. I highly suggest it against melee heavy and cc lacking teams, or very squishy teams when you feel confident with your stuns and escape via the move speed from Locus of Power.
I'll be detailing the differences between the two builds and playstyles as I continue in the guide.
Most of my rune choices come from the way Xerath plays, that is, he's almost always safe. He is a long range burst mage, who gets passive armor. He needs almost no defenses. Therefor I build runes that will make his poking stronger.
Greater Mark of Magic Penetration (8.55 Magic Penetration)
A rather common and obvious choice. Makes his Q pokes stronger and there's just not much else in Marks that he would need. Xerath benefits greatly from items with AP and health, and much less from items that give magic pen, so with our boots and W passive this helps us hold off on magic pen for quite sometime.
Greater Seal of Scaling Ability Power (16.2 Ability Power at lvl 18)
Another poking and burst related rune. You want his Q to his as hard as possible, enough to wear and tear your enemy down after a few hits to the point where your ultimate can finish them off. Mind you, this mostly for Dominion, where you can pick up health packs and back very quickly should you need mana. If you're playing Summoner's Rift I would probably go with per level mana regen/5.
Greater Glyph of Cooldown Reduction (%5.85 Cooldown Reduction)
The only exception in my runes to the playstyle. You'll notice I don't build any cooldown reduction until very, very, late in the game. The reason is that he simply does not need it. His W may seem like a very long cooldown, but once you get it leveled it is insanely quick, so this is just to help with the early game until you get your W skilled up. Now, the reason I don't take per level runes, as you almost always should on Dominion, is because I honestly only need these for the very early levels. I have no need for CDR mid-game, so I might as well not bother with per level as it's a waste on early levels before the turnover.
Greater Quintessence of Scaling Ability Power (23.22 Ability Power at lvl 18)
Same as with the seals, no need for defense or cooldown, might as well get more damage. As being Dominion you'll hit the level turnover point very quickly. Always use per level runes, unless you have a very good reason not to, as with the glyphs.
Greater Mark of Magic Penetration (8.55 Magic Penetration)
Same reasons as before, they're just wonderful marks and perfect for just about any burst mage in the game.
Greater Seal of Armor (12.69 Armor)
As I said, this playstyle is much more close range and dangerous. You're going to take hits while dishing out your damage. While you get a lot of armor from your passive, early game and even mid game these will help a ton. Especially during the first top point fight. You can switch these with ability power if you want, but I like having them when I'm playing without maxing Locus of Power second.
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist (13.41 Magic Resist)
These are just wonderful. If it wasn't for the fact I almost never take damage in the first build, I would take these in it as well. Xerath's only real weakness is other mages, especially Kassadin. These help tons against magic damage, at least long enough for you to get your first MR item.
Greater Quintessence of Scaling Ability Power (23.22 Ability Power at lvl 18)
Same as before, more damage, no need for anything else. Dominion means fast turnover for your per level runes.
There's really no other masteries I would take with him. Defense would be nice, but Utility just wrecks it in the usefulness to Xerath. Spell pen and CDR from the offense tree. Movement Speed, Mana Regen, CDR and your summoner mastries from the utility tree. Just perfect for him.
As for taking Expanded Mind and Greed over Awareness and Utility Mastery , the extra experience barely helps at all in Dominion. The effect is far less useful than the increased max mana and the small extra gold. As for the buff durations, the only buff you'll be getting is the quest buff, which just doesn't happen often enough for it to last a little longer, assuming you don't die. Which is why I almost always avoid putting points in it, though I avoid Awareness much more.
Probably the best Summoner Spell on Dominion. That doesn't mean it should always be used, but it goes perfectly with Xerath. You can use it right after coming out of Locus of Power for a very quick escape, or use it to get far enough away from an enemy to land a quick Arcanopulse for a Rylai's Crystalscepter slow or a Mage Chains slow. I suggest not using it to rush points for no reason, try to make sure it's a situation that will actually be changed by the use of your Ghost. Don't just spam it when you want to move faster, use it when you have a feeling it will help a situation.
A few good examples:
- Getting to the edge of a capture point to drop an Arcanopulse to stop it's capture, assuming you can defend after stopping it and that it would have been taken without the extra speed.
- Running from abilities you're certain are about to happen, such as a [Kassadin]] getting ready to jump you, a Garen charging you with a silence ready, assuming all of these would lead to your death.
- Chasing an enemy to finish him or drop a stun to finish him. Don't ghost when they're already slowed or certain they won't get away. Be aware of your allies abilities when chasing.
- Getting to an enemy champion who is chasing one of your allies to drop a stun on them to help with the escape. If your ally dies it will be a waste of ghost and put yourself in danger, so make sure they're saveable.
A much more common and recognized Summoner Spell. It's uses are a bit more obvious. While it's fun to use it often, I highly suggest using it exclusively at the end of engagements, waiting for other people to blow their own flashes and using yours to chase or escape. With Xerath you want to stay at a range where people will have to flash on you to even engage, therefor giving you a free and safe leave with your own flash if you're not ready for a fight.
Some other Summoner Spell options
- Ignite: A very good spell on any burst caster, as it helps finish them off once you're on cooldowns. The reason I don't take it is because you really shouldn't be in range to use it, unless you're playing the less-poking style of play, which it works really well with.
- Exhaust: Another good one on Xerath, as it will help him fight 1v1 fights as wel as escape easily. However, I find that his burst is high enough to kill any AD carries that he fights before they have a chance to fight back, and Ghost is far more than enough for speed altering to get away. Slowing one person isn't as good as running faster than all of them.
- Clairvoyance: A very under-used and effective spell. Can be used to snipe enemies that get away into the middle of the map. This and Clarity both work wonders on Xerath as he can really take any summoners he wants and still be rather safe. But on Dominion you can almost always guess where your enemies will be when they run into the fog, so it's not really needed.
- Promote/ Garrison: These both work very well with all casters who don't really need Ignite. The only problem with Garrison is you shouldn't be under the towers when you're defending them, you should be behind them poking the best you can. Leave these for the tanky dps who will fight under the towers, and the support who can't push a lane without Promote.
This is a wonderful passive. It takes 15% of Xerath's ability power and turns it into armor. Which means once you're at 300 ability power you'll be getting a bonus 45 armor, which may not seem like much. But free defense is never something to scoff at. Since the bonus is so small at the start of the game, but ramps up very well near the end, it's perfect for our playstyle of poking early game and nuking lategame.
Your main source of damage. A line nuke that hits anything in the the area after a short delay. It does moderate damage and has a rather short range until combined with Locus of Power. When used in Locus of Power it gets a massive range boost, making it an extremely potent poke and finisher. It has a very low cooldown and decently low mana cost, making it extremely spammable. Arcanopulse may not seem like a lot of damage, especially when compared to Nidalee's Spear. But despite being a skill shot, it is extremely reliable and easy to land, and does just the right damage to finish off weak champions. At early levels you can put the spell directly ontop of champions, and if they have low level boots or none at all it will almost always land. Try not to think too much when using it, either. If people are running in a direction, just put it an inch in front of them. If people start juking a lot, then you can start really thinking and aiming your shots. You want to max it first in just about any build.
Locus of Power
Locus of Power
Xerath's W ability. It is a free spell, that causes you to become immobile while giving you bonus range on your other abilities and bonus magic penetration. This is what sets Xerath apart from other champions. When in this form your Arcanopulse and Arcane Barrage gain amazing range, while Mage Chains gets a smaller range boost. Upon coming out of this form you gain a very noticeable speed boost. It's not suggested to use it when being chased for the speed boost, as it doesn't make up for the small cast time when running away, but using it in close range of someone who could chase you, and then running faster then them with the speed boost so they can't catch you works very well. One part of this ability that is often over looked is the bonus magic penetration. While you may not always need the extra range, dropping into this form anytime you fight will give you a bit of extra damage against anyone with a bit of magic resist. The cooldown is extremely long at low levels but quickly gets down to just a few seconds. As it's free you want to use it anytime it will help you, especially during big battles.
A single target nuke that for a short duration causes any of Xerath's other abilities that land to stun the target. This is the core of any ability combos you'll use in fights. Though the main use of this ability is the stun, you can use it in a ton of ways. Stunning someone you're in a fight with, stunning people as they run and stunning people as they chase. With your poking style of play, you can hit someone with a long range Arcanopulse and run away with your speed boost, if they chase you can take a few steps towards them, get in close and drop a Mage Chains followed by another fast Arcanopulse to stun them, doing even more damage with none to yourself. If you drop the mage chains and they try to run, simply bunker with Locus of Power and snipe them for the damage and the stun, letting you get ~back~ in range for more Arcanopulse harass. The cooldown on this is very low, and is why I don't max it unless I'm going for pure burst with the extra damage.
A small AoE nuke that does high damage and can be cast three times in succession before the cooldown starts. It has a massive range which gets even longer with Locus of Power. This is what gives Xerath just about all of his burst. Though it's an instant cast, there is a slight delay when the damage hits so it's not the easiest to land, especially if you're spamming it for the triple burst. Though range doesn't make the delay larger, and with the area of effect, if you're going for the kill you'll want to activate the stun from Mage Chains with this ability, as it's much easier to land than Arcanopulse. The cooldown on this is TINY, use it in just about every fight you get in. Don't use it to harass or poke, but do use it when you're engaging for a kill or trying to pick someone off. When it is on cooldown try your best to stay back and play safe, but when it's off cooldown that's when you're deadly and can take down just about any AD carry or mage that tries to duel you.
>>> >> Locus of Power > Mage Chains
R > Q > W > E
You want to max Arcanopulse first as it's your main source of damage, and playing so poke oriented it will be almost all of your damage until level six, and even after that. You want to max Locus of Power second so you can do your long range poke more often. When both are maxed they'll have about the same cooldown, letting you deactivate Locus of Power after each Arcanopulse and have them both back at the same time. At max levels they have around a three second cooldown with our CDR Glyphs, meaning you can keep a point from being capped by a single person forever, until you run out of mana or help arrives for them. You will be using your one point in Mage Chains purely for the stun, using it if people get too close, or if someone is running from you or chasing an ally.
>>> >> Mage Chains > Locus of Power
R > Q > E > W
The only real difference here is that we max our Mage Chains above Locus of Power, the reason being we want to be doing more damage early game rather then poking. Getting in close and nuking them as quickly as we can and as often as we can. You'll want to save your Locus of Power for important moments since the cooldown will be rather long, either for team fights or for escaping/charging enemies.
I buy these with my starting gold, along with pots if I'm soloing bot. The reason being it makes your level 3 poking much easier, and will help you stay safe while ALSO getting you to top very quickly. I firmly believe the fastest champion who doesn't use Ghost out of the spawn should be the one to take the mid point, meaning he gets to the top fight much faster than a slow champion. Basically, do you want to get to a 3v3 fight as quickly as possible or get to a 4v3 as quickly as possible? By having your fastest take mid, you get him back to your team much faster, meaning you can initiate in when you have an extra guy while theirs is still running to get back.
Fairly obvious choice. Since we'll be very fast already, and we're playing so defensively at the start, we just want a ton of AP so our pokes hit like worm-shaped atom bombs. Our boots and Locus of Power handle all of our magic pen for now. So rush this first.
You should finish your Rabadon's just around the time that you'll start having some decent engagements, perhaps some 1v1 fights in the middle brushes. So it's time to get some tankyness to survive fights, but more importantly the slow. This item may almost seem silly, since he can hit people from so far away that he doesn't need to slow them, but of course that's ridiculous. This item allows you to do SO much more as Xerath. One of the best little tricks is to do your poking, then let people charge after you like they always do. Let go of Locus of Power and retreat, but zig-zag a bit to seem like you're confused, or worried. Hopefully they'll keep chasing, then you can Locus of Power again, making them think you're caught, and land a Arcanopulse on them (which should be easy with them charging you.) which will slow the **** out of them. Then you can retreat once more, they will either realize their bad choice and retreat or continue chasing, either way you've got them. If they run just follow behind them with your speed advantage through your W AND the Rylai's slow, and keep landing Q's on them. Drop a Mage chains on them before your Q if you can get that close to them. Getting this item makes his kitting ability top tier, and should be abused for the rest of the game.
This is where your item choices can and should take a turn depending on the enemy team.
I almost ALWAYS get some form of Magic Resist at this point, unless their team is entirely AD or about 80%. A few good options and ones I often use are:
This item is wonderful, since we don't really need more health with our Rylai's and can always use more AP, it fits in well. The only contradiction is that we're there to poke, not get close enough for the passive to take effect. But, at this point in the game we're able to really get in the nitty gritty of team fights, and take a good beating. I take this a majority of the time over most items, as it gives more AP which is why Xerath is there.
My second magic resist choice, the reason I don't prefer it is because it doesn't give any extra AP. But, if you're facing an exceptionally bursty team, or perhaps your passive armor isn't quite covering the AD damage then this item works out well. I tend to judge what items I get by how much damage I'm doing. Try fighting a few people, and if you feel like you're hitting pretty hard and just don't need more damage (notice I said need, wanting is different. :P) then go for this. The mana helps a lot as well, giving you longer time to poke and prod.
A great item in Dominion on just about any champion, in the right situation. Only take this if they have at least a few form of stuns and slows that are causing you problems. I often grab this when I don't have enough money for the other two higher costing magic resist items, and feel that it's all the resist I need. One problem people tend to have is when to use it, either too early or too late. Well let's just say ALWAYS use it early if you're not used to the timing. Not using it at all is just terrible, and is wasting an item. So, to get used to it try using it as soon as the first form of CC hits you, even if it wouldn't kill you. The CD on this is low, and can be used decently recklessly. Get used to using it when you get hit with CC and just in time you'll get a feel for it. Slowly try to start judging the situation for when you need it or not.
If their team is all AD, or barely any magic damage, then I would suggest building one of these items instead of the magic resist ones. We'll be focusing on the type of damage more in this rather than the quantity.
This item is extremely popular and useful in Dominion. Due to the effectiveness of AD carries this is often a buy on most champions, regardless their style. If their team is full of Yis, Twitches, Xin Zhaos and Miss Fortunes then this is the item to get. It should be bough against an auto attack heavy team, but not against an ability based AD team, Such as Renekton, Talon and Pantheon. Those are just a few examples, but I'm sure you can see what I mean. If the team isn't auto attack heavy, then I would suggest something else.
This will make your AP skyrocket in combination with your Deathcap, as well as make any AD against you feel like a kiss on the cheek. Though the active may not seem great on Xerath, it's honestly great on just about any champion. In an ideal case, you want to be kiting with your Rylai's slow, and spamming your abilities until whoever it is your fighting gets up to you. At this point you want to use EVERYTHING on them, Mage Chains, Arcane Barrage and Arcanopulse then immediately hit your Zhonya's active. The reason you do it this way, is because one of the best parts of Zhonya's is that it lets you bypass your cooldowns. Your stun and Q will most likely be close to if not already finished cooling own and you can drop another burst onto them. Also, against a Tryndamere, wait for him to ult and then use it, it basically makes his ult useless unless he wants to just run away, but if he's playing Tryndaqueer I doubt that is the case.
I would suggest this against a mix of auto attacking and abilities, but only if you feel you have enough damage as it is. This will help you a ton against all AD, as well as give you some more yummy mana which is always nice. Most champions this is useful against build very squishy, like Vayne (it helps a ton against her Silver Bolts, basically lowering her True Damage dps with the atksp slow.) and Caitlyn, these are champions who build very squishy and you won't need more AP to take down. It's a good item, and one that shouldn't be over-looked. On and CDR, always nice. Though a bit overkill.
After building one defensive item, two if you feel like it, you should be tanky enough to go back into offensive. If not then you might be playing a bit too aggressive, unless that's how you want to play him.
MORE FREAKING DAMAGE
Assuming you only need one defensive item, then I suggest you take this along with the Deathfire, or even instead of. If you don't need defense, and their team is a bit too dangerous to get close enough for the DFG then pick this up and keep playing poke oriented.
This is usually my ending item. I don't like it on Xerath, as you shouldn't be close enough to use it. But like I said at this point you're very tanky, and in 1v1s you can get away with being melee range easy, so it's a good addition to our build. You'll want to drop it either first for right after your stun, if you don't feel confident enough. It will add a ton to your AP and your burst if you manage to get close enough for the active.
Xerath is very versatile in his starting decisions.
Let me first state that the job of bot is to push the lane, and make it harder for them to keep four people on top.
He can solo bot very easily, if you go bot then try to land some very quick Q's from behind the topside of your minions. You want to stay near the top and push them towards their brush so you can take the health pack while landing easy Q's on them while they hide in the brush. If they hide in the brush, simply line your Q up to hit the entire area, it's like asking for you to zap them. But remember, if both players are playing well most likely the person who gets the health will win bot. If you start losing just back up and harass with Locus of Power Q's and push as much as you can.
Top with the team
I almost always prefer going top, but that's just my personal taste. If you go top and don't grab the close point then you want to hit the speed shrine, and Locus of Power just on the edge of the Fog of War on the bottom side of the top point, and poke at the enemy champions trying to cap it. Whoever takes the top point first will most likely win the fight, as well be able to hold it for awhile. Now that doesn't mean they will win, it does help a lot, though. So if someone starts to cap it, drop an Arcanopulse on them to cancel it. Mostly you just want to keep hitting as many champions with single Q's as possible, stunning them as well so your team can drop some more DPS on them. Just keep poking and hope your teammates are with you in time to win the fight. If they charge forward, take a few floats back and drop some more Q's. Even if your team loses the fight, you'll most likely get away alive, though your team might get upset with you there's not a lot more you can do even if you get in there and die with them. This basically concludes the early game of Dominion.
Mid game your job is rather simple, though very important.
Owning three or more points: Defend and poke.
Owning two or less points: Harass them off their points.
Though it's obvious, some people don't understand that if you hold three points, you WILL win. No matter what. If you hold three, it's gg. So if you're holding three points, then simple defend them, don't push the minion lanes unless it's completely safe, and don't get caught in the middle. Watch their movement, you can EASILY get to bot if they try and rush it, especially if you watch their movement. If you see them go into the middle, then try and spot for enemy champions the best you can by abusing the speed shrine. Now, as Xerath you don't have to stay under a tower to defend it, in fact in mid game you might play best at bot, as you mostly just want to zap them every time they try and cap, from Fog of War if you can as it makes it a lot more annoying and surprising for them. If you're not bot then keep your speed shrine buff up, run all over the edges of the middle when it's safe and long range harass as much as you can. If you lose mid control, or they start a four man push, just keep long range zapping them and insta-killing the minion waves until they dive the tower. At that point use your ult and stun their highest DPS target and hope your team is with you.
If you're losing, your job doesn't change too much. Your team needs to group and take a point, or split push as much as you can. Do your best to keep the speed shrine buffs on you, and be mobile, but if your team is going to a head on tower dive of top or another point, poke them until they're low enough to dive or have to back, then take the point. Q Q Q, don't stop Qing.
Late game Dominion may seem like a silly term, but I think there is a late game. When the scores are close and it's getting down to single digits on both sides, it's late game. You want to keep your eyes on the map and NOT get caught. Being mobile and fast doesn't mean you have map control, it just means you can get from here to there quickly, but if they own the mid and are ganking a lot then you just need to play safe. One person dying or running around like an idiot can lose the entire game in an instant. Late game you need to bunker down on top, and keep your eyes on where your enemy is going. Watch for backdoors on the close point or a five man push on bot. As Xerath you'll want to try and pick off people when it's safe with your low cooldown ult. Hiding in the brush in mid and dropping a stun followed by your ult, then your Arcanopulse and your other two ult shots are devastating, and from brush there's little people can do to react to it. Judge your enemies and if you think you can take them down in a single or second burst then go for it, if it's a tank then don't even bother, just Q and run off. Just always be in a place where you can support your team in the event of a large fight, and make sure you're safe.
Xerath is a beast of a caster on Dominion, I highly suggest him in a team with a medium range caster and AD's. If you have someone like Nidalee who has poke covered, I would suggest going for someone with more burst, like Veigar or Brand. If not, though, then he's a perfect choice. This has been my first guide, any constructive criticism or compliments are always welcome. I just wrote this to try and help people understand his mechanics a bit more, and maybe smooth out some builds. I hope you found it useful and I hope you let me know what you think. :D Thanks for reading.