Xerath Build Guide by Mugulord
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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 is my own take on Xerath, and I am not some kind of master of the game, but I do enjoy strategizing when I'm not playing and that has led me to certain ideas on how to play Xerath. Hopefully this guide inspires someone else to do it better. I'm writing this guide with the intention of getting the most damage out of Xerath while still being competitive. This is not a glass cannon vs AI build.
That said, I will be updating this sporadically and look forwards to constructive criticism. If I'm wrong tell me why. If I'm right tell me why. Opinion without knowledge is useless.
Also of note, it appears Xerath's stats haven't been inputted into the guide builder yet so all his stats at level 18 are just what items and runes I've purchased.
I have not included basic information in this guide, such as how to farm with Xerath because it should be fairly easy to pick up yourself (use Q). I have focused primarily on what makes my style of playing Xerath different from others.
For runes I use a fairly standard array of caster runes, focusing on cooldown reduction and magic penetration. My seals are sort of a desperation thing. Xerath eats up mana fast when he uses his combo, and that is a recurring theme for my choices: Cooldown reduction, mana regeneration, and ability power with survivability.
Xerath may stay at the back of the pack, but if you are doing well you will start getting focused, and if you want to take part in team fights where his potential for damage output is greatest, you will need to be able to take some punishment.
My mastery choices follow the same philosophy as my runes; cooldown reduction, mana and mana regeneration, magic penetration, and then whatever other points I felt were most useful to my playstyle.
The masteries I consider absolutely important are Archaic Knowledge and the standard caster masteries to get it, perseverance (which I don't know the icon name for, as it's the same as Garen's ability), Meditation , and Intelligence for the additional mana regen and cooldown reduction. If you disagree with my mastery choices to get these skills then by all means experiment with the extra points. Only the masteries listed are the ones I think are absolutely necessary to playing Xerath.
I deliberately chose not to enhance my summoner spells to make sure my mastery points don't force me to make decisions that poorly affect the team.
Everything up to Rod of Ages Is intended to be followed exactly. How you build the final items is mostly up to you, even to the point of changing my item suggestions out.
At first, mana regen is your greatest concern, but the single best item I have found to get early for Xerath is Morello's Evil Tome, so building into the Fiendish Codex gives you a nicer toolbox early on. Boots might be a little late in the build, so if you are getting pushed around you may want to get at least the Boots of Speed before finishing the codex. After Sorceror's Shoes you finish off Morello's giving you a nice early game AP boost and pretty much capping your cooldown reduction with your first primary item.
Since survivability plays an enormous part of the metagame these days, I chose to get Rod of Ages immediately after Morellos. Getting the Mana crystal and blasting wand first gives you what Xerath needs most, more damage and the fuel to apply it. After that finish the rod off however you like.
After this I tried to choose items that give him the best boosts to AP with some survival thrown in. I like Rylai's Crystal Scepter for the slow effect and Abyssal Mask because of how it works with Xerath's passive, giving both Armour and Magic Defense on top of it's already potent bonuses.
My skill sequence is going to need some refining, but I stand by the choice of putting points into Locus of Power second. I'm still not sure about maxing it out second, but it is definitely the ability that defines Xerath's play. I am not a strong theory player, I'm not sure exactly how much the additional magic pen bonus affects your play, but the cooldown reduction is the primary benefit of raising this skill. Once maxed out, you can move around rapidly, set up, fire off your combo and run away in very quick succession and be ready to do it again in a mere 3 or 4 seconds rather than the 15 or more that you have to wait for early in the game.
This allows for the typical game of poking when you are waiting for your ult, but from almost a screen's distance away from your enemy.
I find the ability power ratios on Xerath's skills to be absolutely abysmal. Because of this, the magic pen and range your W provides is almost a necessary piece of the puzzle in most situations. That said, with your E having the most limited range of all your abilities I chose to only put one point in it for the CC utility and wait until the end of the game to actually use it to do any damage.
If I'm poking at the enemy I tend to use smart casting and hit W, Q, W with my mouse centered on where I think my opponent will be when the spell goes off. This get's you the range bonus and spell penetration bonus of your W while minimizing the mobility penalty of sitting still.
If I am moving in for the kill, I get close enough to hit them with my E, then lead with my ult: W, R-R-R, Q (repeat a few times if they aren't running away to fast), and by this time if your enemy is still alive you will likely have to W back out of locus and chase them down with your Q and possibly finishing with W, Q for the range to get past towers and enemy champions in the way, although if you have an ally with you helping on the assault it is rare for a player to survive this barrage if executed well.
Xerath's primary benefit is that he has an attack that has the same range and nearly (around 2/3s at 18 I would guess) as much damage as Kog'Maw's ult, in his Q, with a cooldown of around 3 seconds. The simple utility of an attack this powerful, even if it is tricky to aim, means the enemy can never relax if Xerath is nearby.
I have tried to present the idea that his W is really an extension of his Q. If maxed out early in the game it becomes a very powerful tool to keeping the enemy on their toes and to leave them with little hope of escape. The average range of his E, regardless of it's damage means that even if you put points into it early in the game it is still going to be your Q that does all the work. This being the case, the simple fact that your W gives you a tremendous amount of extra spell penetration on that Q of yours should make it the better choice to max out early.