Karthus Build Guide

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Karthus the Suicide Bomber

written by NightRage

Karthus Build

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    Karthus is a very unique mage and has a lot of advantages that others do not. If you have a Leroy Jenkins spirit within you, and you like to jump right into the action, Karthus is the champion for you. Be prepared; if you don't like dying at all then close this guide right now. This is the guide to a reckless suicide bombing Karthus. Your K/D ratio will still be phenomenal when played correctly, but you just might have the most deaths on your team.

    Another thing to note here is that Karthus absolutely must be allowed to have the mid lane. There is not a single other ultimate in the game that can trump a global nuke. You can win the game within the first 10 minutes by ruining the enemy team's early game. Do not try to take a 1v2 lane with Karthus, as you will just wind up dying.

  • Abilities

    Death Defied
    This is the center of my guide. This is by far one of the best passives in the game, and the reason Karthus is such a beastly mage. Without it, he'd be unplayable.

    Lay Waste
    The most spammable skill in game. Hurts quite a bit when your target is alone and really helps you build up your mana pool quickly with your Archangel's Staff. One of the easiest ways to ruin an enemy's Banshee's Veil and frustrate the hell out of them.

    Wall of Pain
    Quite a nasty slow and magic resistance reduction. It's funny to see just how imposing this wall is and how it can save you often just as a mental barrier.

    Decent skill for the mana regain, pretty good when you're chasing, but the mana cost is hefty. Don't leave this on for too long, at least until endgame. Great for farming though. You begin to melt everything lategame with it.

    A nasty global nuke skill that hits every player on the map. Watch as the entire enemy team builds Banshee's Veil to try to counter it.

  • Masteries + Runes

    Greater Seal of Clarity
    Greater Mark of Insight
    Greater Glyph of Celerity
    Greater Quintessence of Fortitude

    For masteries I go 9/0/21, making sure to put points into [mastery_text=Expanded Mind] to increase my maximum mana. This will greatly increase the effectiveness of Archangel's Staff.

    Click here for an in-depth look at my preferred masteries.

  • Summoner Abilities

    This is the most flexible part of my guide. Here are the skills I use and the reasoning behind it.

    Flash - I take Flash because not only is it great for getting away from a gank, but it is essential to positioning yourself for a teamfight. It is a strong initiator and great for chasing and positioning Wall of Pain.

    Teleport - I take Teleport because it is just a very handy skill to get back into the action. It allows you to get back to middle lane quickly at level 6 or 7 when you go back for items, and great to stop large minion waves from pushing towers. Karthus is easily one of the best farmers in the game, and he'll fix a minion overpopulation problem in a heartbeat.

  • Skilling Order

    Lay Waste - I think most Karthus players would agree you need to max this every chance you get. It is a pretty strong spell for how spammable it is, and makes harassing the enemy quite easy.

    Wall of Pain - Here is where some Karthus players disagree. I personally get one level of it at level 3, and keep it at level 1 and max it last. It's a great skill, but upgrading it isn't as important as your other skills. Feel free to upgrade this more often than I suggested.

    Defile - I get this skill at level 2 and keep it there unless I'm faced with upgrading it or Wall of Pain. The mana cost is horrendous, and I just keep it around to regain some of my mana or clear huge minion waves if I absolutely need to. Early game it's not going to do you much good, unless you're getting chased or dying. I just leave it up then to make it cost the enemy as much as possible for the kill.

    Requiem - Yes, this sure is an ultimate. Take it whenever possible of course.

  • Items

    Level 1

    [item=Meki Pendant]
    Health Potion x 2

    Level 6

    Tear of the Goddess
    Amplifying Tome

    If you don't have enough for the Tome right away, you can buy basic boots instead. I go back to mid and resume farming and harassing. Spam Q, because you're building up your maximum mana now. Hopefully soon you'll have a chance to finish off someone with Requiem. Now you're rushing to get another 800 coin to finish off your Mejai's Soulstealer.

    Level 8

    Mejai's Soulstealer
    Boots of Speed

    Now you're in killing mode, because you want to start immediately building stacks. Keep Requiem handy and go around ganking with Wall of Pain and Lay Waste. Use any additional gold to ward the side bushes in middle lane.

    15 minutes

    Sorcerer's Shoes
    Blasting Wand
    Ruby Crystal

    At this point you finish off your boots and begin building a Rod of Ages. The reason I do that instead of getting my Archangel's Staff is because I want to begin gaining some health, and Rod of Ages is really only good if you get it somewhere around the 20 minute mark.

    You should be at at least 5 or 6 stacks by now. You might have died a couple times by now, but fret not. Contrary to popular belief, this is when you're at your weakest. Now you're just finishing off people and biding your time. Grab blue buff whenever you can. You should be able to grab blue buff at level 10.

    20 minutes

    Rod of Ages

    Congratulations. You now have your first real item, and you're just getting stronger with time. Now start to build your Archangel's Staff.

    If they are stacking Magic Resist items, this is the Stage A endgame build I recommend.


    If they aren't, trade the Void Staff out for another Archangel's Staff.


    As the game progresses, your Mejai's will become less and less effective as the enemy team begins to focus you more. If the game lasts long enough, sell your Mejai's for another Archangel's Staff. A 3rd Archangel's Staff will give your more AP than a 20-stack Mejai's. Be sure to use blue elixers whenever you have the spare gold.


    If you have excessive coin, sell your Rod of Ages for another Archangel's Staff. I know this seems crazy, but as long as you have a red potion your survivability will still be almost half decent, but as I said before, this is a suicide bomber guide. You'll want to trade that health for some additional AP.


    If you want to get ridiculous about it, sell your boots for the "OMG why am I so slow." build. With blue pot and Baron, you'll be exceeding 1400 AP.


    You'll be able to solo Baron with any of these builds as long as you have pots activated.

  • Teamfights

    Do any of your friends play Amumu? If so, make them your best friend and queue up with them always. Here is how a teamfight should go down.

    If you do have an Amumu, have them bandage in and cast their ultimate. Then flash in with your Defile up and throw a wall on top of it. Immediately pop your [item_text=Zhonya's Ring] as soon as you take any damage with your E skill up. The rest of your team should be taking the other team down quite easily. As soon as you die, be sure to keep Defile up and cast Wall of Pain if it is off of cooldown. You have time to throw a few Lay Wastes down before you start channeling your ultimate. Anybody that got away with anything less than 50% HP will now be dead.

    You never EVER want to use your ultimate before a teamfight or during it if you are alive. If you use it before the teamfight, they will just back off and heal up. Your ultimate is to be used as a finishing blow, not a "start the teamfight with an advantage" skill. Some people will rage at you for using it to mop up kills instead of ahead of time, but you know better. If you use it while alive and then die, it will be canceled rendering it totally useless. If you do use it while alive, make sure you are very far away from danger.

    Anybody that tells you to use Requiem before a teamfight is a raging idiot.

    Check out my thoughts on an optimum team composition.


  • Summary

    Run in, wreak havoc, and die. For additional lolz, taunt the enemy team by saying "I was already dead" whenever they kill you. You are a lich after all. Don't be afraid to initiate if your team is nearby. Dying could be the most beneficial thing you do. Dying is your job. Embrace death.

    This guide has been brought to you by NightRage, the #1 Karthus in Brasil. Ehua.

    (I hold no affiliation with Brazil or any other South American country. Any and all references to such are done for trolling purposes.)

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