Karma Build Guide

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Support Karma: An Enlightened Decision

written by WrathOfAnima

Karma Build

Table of Contents

  • Summary

    The recommended build in short and without discussion:

    Masteries: 9/0/21


    Summoner Spells

    Starting Item(s):

    Ability Priority:
    Laning vs Burst harass?
    [spell_icon=Soul Shield][spell_icon=Heavenly Wave][spell_icon=Spirit Bond]

    [spell_icon=Heavenly Wave][spell_icon=Soul Shield][spell_icon=Spirit Bond]

    Core Build:
    [item_icon=Soul Shroud]

    Late Game Items:
    VS physical team:
    Need CDR? ->
    Need AP?

    VS heavy AP:
    Against a lot of snares, stuns and/or silences?

  • Abilities

    Inner Flame
    Karma gains up to 30/50/70/90/110/130 increased ability power corresponding to her percentage of missing health.

    Quick Mechanics: When I first read this ability I was confused, but after a quick test, I have it figured out. Karma gains 1% of 30/50/70/90/110/130 ability power for each 1% of health she is missing. The maximum amount of AP you get from this correspond to levels 1/3/6/9/12/15.

    Yet another "last stand" ability akin to Olaf's and Tryndamere's passives. Unlike Tryndamere and Olaf, you don't have too many ways to stay alive AND stay useful besides careful positioning.

    [spell=Heavenly Wave]
    Karma sends forth a wave of hidden blades from her fans, dealing 70/110/150/190/230/270
    (+0.6 per ability power) magic damage to units in a cone in front of her.

    Mantra Bonus: In addition to dealing damage to enemies, Heavenly Wave will also heal herself and allies in the cone for 30/45/60/75/90/105 plus 5% (+0.02% per ability power) of the amount of life Karma or her allies are missing.

    Heavenly Wave is a useful ability that will keep you and your team topped up. It is also a brilliant farming tool which can be used to harass. This skill is most useful when laning and in teamfights. It is on a low cooldown, so don't be afraid to use it to top up health a little bit. The most underrated aspect of this skill is the ability to heal minion waves and its general synergy with pushing lanes.

    [spell=Spirit Bond]
    Karma bonds an ally or enemy creating a beam between them for up to 5 seconds. Bonded allies have increased movement speed and bonded enemies have reduced movement speed (by 10/12/14/16/18/20%). Enemy units that come in contact with the beam take 80/125/170/215/260/305 (+0.7 per ability power) magic damage, and champions who pass through the beam receive the same movement speed modifier as bonded champions.

    Mantra Bonus: Karma strengthens the bond to double the effect of the movement speed modifier.

    A useful skill that should be used with care, since it has a fairly steep cooldown and is fragile. Remember that you can use it on many targets: allied champions, enemy champions, allied minions, enemy minions, Heimerdinger's turrets, Annie's bear - basically anything that isn't a structure or invisible*. In teamfights, you will want to try to affect as many people as possible with this ability, both enemies and allies, obviously with minimal risk to yourself. In particular, aim to haste your melee DPS and tank while slowing their carries. Try using this on the ally furthest behind from the pack and pass the bond over the rest of your allies to form a quickly moving ganking squad or to make a speedy escape. Another use for this is to farm minions - latch yourself onto anything allied with decent health and walk around a bit to spread the bondage.

    *(Be careful you don't misclick something invisible when using this skill because the ability will go off but the bond will be broken immediately. Phreak's spotlight is outdated on the part where he demonstrates slowing a Ryze by Spirit Bonding a ward. This does NOT work.)

    [spell=Soul Shield]
    Karma summons a protective shield on an ally or herself that absorbs 70/110/150/190/230/270 (+0.8 per ability power) incoming damage and lasts up to 5 seconds.

    Mantra Bonus: In addition to the shield, energy bursts out from the shield, dealing the same amount of damage as it shields to enemy units around the recipient.

    This skill is fairly simple, yet powerful. It is a life-saver, it helps your tank with initiating (Galio loves it) and it has uses in between the two. It also works well as yet another pushing tool by ulting it near enemy minions. Other uses include frustrating Nasus and Veigar players by screwing up their last hits (advised only if you are in a noticeable advantage and want to beat the enemy player as well as just the champion).

    Karma empowers her next ability to do an additional effect. Karma gains a charge every 30 seconds and stores up to two charges. The refresh rate is reduced by Cooldown Reduction and does not progress when having max charges.

    You will gain one charge every 30 seconds without CDR. You do not want this - you want more. Grab yourself some CDR and aim to get around 15% so Golem can cap it. With 15% CDR you get a charge every 25.5 seconds, with 40% every 18.

  • Version History

    18th Feb - Oops, somehow missed a new item in the patch notes, relevant to us casters!
    NEW ITEM: [item=Morello's Evil Tome]
    Recipe: Fiendish Codex and Blasting Wand + 245g = 2350g
    +75 ability power.
    +12 mana regeneration per 5.
    UNIQUE passive: 15% cooldown reduction.

    I'm not going to go and flat out say that Deathfire Grasp is better, because it's not. There are times when you will want the extra nuke, but there are also times when you want a cheap source of AP and CDR. It's all situational and down to your playstyle. Having said that, I do wish it offered an actual reason to build it over DFG when given the option.
    16th Feb -
    Karma Changes:
    1) Spirit Bond now properly assigns assist markers to allies that receive the haste bonus.
    2) Fixed a bug where Spirit Bond would break friendly spell shields and not apply the haste bonus.
    3) Fixed a display bug where Spirit Bond's beam would appear at Karma's feet for enemy players.

    1) Woohoo, more gold for your team, I guess.
    2) Hadn't noticed this bug, but hey, now you can get your Sivir out of tough spots.
    3) Meh.
    Item Changes:
    1)Soul Shroud cooldown aura reduced to 10% from 15%.
    2) Frozen Heart
    Combine cost reduced to 650 from 800
    Cooldown reduction decreased to 20% from 25%
    Glacial Shroud
    Combine Cost reduced to 425 from 575
    Cooldown reduction decreased to 15% from 20%

    1) Still a core item imo. Golem buff covers most of the remaining CDR.
    2) Nice change, makes it a little cheaper. Again the Golem will cover you for CDR, plus FH with SS will give you 30% CDR - more than enough.
    15th Feb - Edited Rune Section. Also working on a counterpicks section, if you have ideas for specific champions Karma works well against, let me know!
    12th February, 2011 - Published guide! Let me know if you have feedback/questions via the comments section, and I will get back to you when I can.

  • Introduction

    Karma is a solid support champion who is unique and very rewarding to play. She excels at laning, pushing and sustaining her team. I play her as a duolane champion since she is a strong babysitter and she does not offer many reasons to be mid/solo. Some people choose to play her as an AP carry: I feel that she has decent ratios, but there are better characters who serve this role as of this post and she is much more capable as a support than as a mage.

    Karma is a support champion who encourages long pushes whilst enabling a quick getaway. She is almost like Soraka, in that she tries to dispel all reasons someone might want to recall as much as possible to minimize downtime. Your job as Karma is thus to encourage people to stay out of the base as much as possible. Unlike other healing oriented supports, Karma does not have problems farming. This means you can afford to let your carry have near free farm early game, as you can farm back the money later.

    There are three key stats that Karma needs to be of any use, in the following priority: Cooldown Reduction, Mana Regeneration and Ability Power. Cooldown Reduction will give you your mantra charges faster (capped at one every 18 seconds) as well as significantly reducing the steep cooldowns of your shield and bond abilities. Mana Regeneration will help minimize the amount of times you will need to recall due to mana shortages. Ability Power is Ability Power.

    With that out of the way, let's look at her in-depth.

  • Masteries

    My recommended mastery build for Karma is 9/0/21. This build gets you cooldown reduction, mana regeneration and some extra AP per level. Depending on how you itemise, 0/9/21 could also work, adding to Karma's toughness early game and thus making her even more of a pain for lane opponents, but this will mean you must buy more AP and less support items later in the game.

    Essentially it comes down to your playstyle: if you are paired with a strong lane partner and want to dominate the lane whilst taking minimal punishment, go with 0/9/21, otherwise go for the less item dependent 9/0/21.

    Key Masteries:
    Meditation - A free Faerie Charm that doesn't even cost you an item slot? Yup. Do it.
    Intelligence - 6% CDR is a pretty sweet deal for Karma.
    [mastery=Spatial Accuracy] + [mastery=Blink of an Eye]/[mastery=Mystical Vision] - Improve your spells, derp.
    [mastery=Presence of the Master] - Lower CDs on summoner spells is very nice, particularly for Teleport. Extra mobility = good support.

  • Runes

    I recommend the following runes:
    Greater Mark of Force
    These runes plus your 3 points in [mastery=Archmage's Savvy] and Inner Flame all will combine to make you feel like you aren't missing too much ability power when you spend your gold on that Soul Shroud/other support item.
    Greater Mark of Insight
    Magic Penetration is pretty much standard on most caster characters - for Karma it will make your harass much more significant.
    Greater Seal of Clarity
    There is room for flexibility here depending on how aggressive you are when you enter your lane, so some of these can be swapped out for flat mana regeneration runes. Bear in mind that late game if you have a lot of flat regen runes you will become more dependant on the either the Golem buff (which isn't wasted on her, but the lack of a solid base regen rate will make you need that buff more often than with per level runes) or mana items (for example, Chalice of Harmony, which is not an amazing item on her).

    Greater Glyph of Force
    Same reason as marks of Force: These runes plus your 3 points in [mastery=Archmage's Savvy] and Inner Flame all will combine to make you feel like you aren't missing too much ability power when you spend your gold on that Soul Shroud/other support item.

    Alternatively - Greater Glyph of Focus
    Cooldown Reduction is nice on Karma. These are better than the flat level glyphs in my opinion, as you will be getting Soul Shroud anyways later on, which will help you out considerably in the CDR department.

    Greater Quintessence of Fortitude
    While I do run Teleport on Karma, I don't like being forced to use it just to go heal as soon as it's up. These quints will make you just that little bit harder to kill. 4 barring is bad, m'kay?

  • Summoner Spells

    Recommended spells:
    Teleport: I find Teleport a must on Karma. As I mentioned in the section "Who is Karma?", Karma is there to sustain your team. Good Karma players will attempt to minimize their team's downtime whilst doing as much as possible to maximise their enemies' downtime. How can you farm/push/gank if you are at base? To this end, I always take Teleport since it minimizes my downtime and has many more uses. If a huge chunk of enemy creeps piles up when none of your allies are near that lane, you can Teleport up to it and push that lane right back with ease. Team wants to do Baron? Teleport to a nearby ward.

    Clairvoyance: Clairvoyance is a useful spell whenever you can get it. Map Control is tech. I tend to roll with this if I think I can afford to, which is usually when I'm in a premade since I can bond onto someone to aid my escape. This is risky though, but it does offer protection from ganks via foresight.


    Flash: A much more direct method of escaping. The ever loved and hated spell is your best way to escape. Not really much to say here, use it to go past walls when possible. Using Flash offensively on Karma is doable since you can close the distance to bond an enemy and let your allies kill them, but ill-advised due to the steep cooldown and the amount of times it will save you.

    Other good spells:
    Clarity: Karma can blow through her mana pretty quickly if you aren't careful, so I can see reasons for taking Clarity, but it doesn't provide quite as much utility as the above spells do.

    Heal: Nothing wrong with an extra heal, but you do tend to heal just the right amount as Karma. Heal could give you an extra burst AoE heal to annoy your enemies, but I find that Teleport/Clairvoyance/Flash do that job much better.

    Ghost: Could work. An escape spell with a noticeably lower cooldown than Flash's, but try Mantra bonding someone and telling me that ghost is needed.

  • Skilling Order

    Skilling Karma takes more thought than skilling other characters. I tend not to pick a skill until I know who I will be laning against. If I am against burst damage champions (Pantheon, Anivia, Mundo, Nidalee, basically anyone with either a strong ranged nuke or a strong ability combo), I will prioritise my Soul Shield. This will allow you and your lanemate to mitigate a lot of damage when used correctly. If on the other hand, you are up against continuous pokers (Caitlyn, Vladimir, Karthus) you should prioritise your Heavenly Wave to be able to keep you and your lanemate at reasonable health.

    At level 3 you will usually want a point in all of your abilities. An AoE heal will still help out against burst damage and a speed boost can help prepare for ganks.

  • Items

    Core Build
    [item=Soul Shroud], Mercury's Treads, Rabadon's Deathcap

    [item_text=Soul Shroud] provides you with 2 of Karma's needed stats whilst providing her a solid chunk of additional HP. Due to this, I try to build one in every Karma game. Later on, you will want a bit more Ability Power so that you can heal more efficiently. This typically comes in the form of Rabadon's Deathcap, a great caster item all around which has particular synergy with Karma due to Inner Flame.

    Mid-Late Game
    Late Game Karma is pretty versatile. You generally want to build up your AP whilst providing your team additional benefits via auras and defensive items to allow you to stick around.

    If you are winning the game pretty easily, go grab some straight ability power items to keep those pushes going strong and to put that extra bit of damage in. Will of the Ancients is a nice item for this purpose, as is Sheen/Lich Bane (she has pretty low cooldowns and her abilities have similar range to her autoattacks).

    If you aren't winning decisively, you will want more defensive and team-oriented items - neither you nor your team can do any damage if they are dead. Abyssal Scepter and Zhonya's Hourglass will make you tougher for mages and AD carries respectively. If your team is getting kited a lot, try a Shurelya's Reverie, but note that the extra regen might be wasted in the late game, so only buy this if that Ashe is REALLY destroying your team. An Aegis of the Legion can help if your team is looking a little squishy, so long as no one else is building for it - Karma isn't the ideal holder of this buff.

    Comments on Other Items:
    Thornmail - Provides a pretty strong reason for squishy auto-attackers to leave you alone, and gives you a ton of armor to boot. An extra 100% effective HP vs physical is pretty damn good if you ask me.

    Frozen Heart - If someone else needs Golem buff more than you (not exactly unlikely) and your enemy has a lot of attack speed champions, grab one of these.

    Banshee's Veil - A go-to item if you are up against any significant number of hard CC and/or silences.

    Quicksilver Sash - This can make certain champions with infamous one target ultimates become much weaker (use VS Mordekaiser, Malzahar, Poppy, Warwick, Urgot). Additionally, it it a solid response to CC, but the aforementioned Banshee's Veil is better served to this purpose.

    Guardian Angel - If you want to take as much advantage of Inner Flame as possible, GA can give you an extra life. Granted, it's probably not a very long one, but +68 Armor and +38 Magic Resist are pretty good stats, regardless.

    Rylai's Crystal Scepter - Gives you another chunk of health and AP as well as making your spells slow enemies by 15%. Not half bad.

    Rod of Ages - If you manage to somehow afford it as well as Soul Shroud before 30 mins (hey, it can happen, it's just unlikely) grab one instead of Rabadon's Deathcap. Late game you will be VERY tough because of it.

    Items that aren't as good as they might seem mid-late game:
    Ionian Boots of Lucidity - These boots work well in other builds that don't include an item with a major source of CDR, such as Soul Shroud. You have Soul Shroud - you don't need to sacrifice survivability for more CDR.

    Haunting Guise - Save it for the burst AP nukers. This is their midgame weapon of choice, your only AP concern midgame should be building that Rabadon's Deathcap.

    Archangel's Staff - If you want to build this, build towards it from the beginning of the game. Karma does use her abilities often, so she can farm this up quickly, but you will want to get it early to make the most of it - starting with mana manipulator doesn't help with that.

    Void Staff - You are not a burst caster, no point pretending to be. Any AP you build aside from Deathcap should give you an additional benefit that either helps you survive or improves your team's DPS (e.g. Abyssal Scepter's aura debuff and MR, Zhonya's Hourglass' stasis and armor).

  • Early Game

    Laning as Karma is fairly simple. She has a decent last hit animation, can replenish her and her allies' health and provide some unconventional harass that might throw your enemies off (Mantra Shielding allied minions can hurt melee carries pretty badly). Her problems lie in the fact that she needs careful use of her skills to be effective. When reaching for that Mantra button, think to yourself: "I have X charges left, and will get another in Y seconds - do I NEED to Mantra this spell?". Questioning your playstyle on any character is the only real way of improving it. Another weakness is her Spirit Bond, which will take some practice to use throughout the game, but suffers some problems early game. You will not want to use it to farm, since you will be levelling it past rank 1 towards mid-late game. It is not as good at farming as your Q or Mantra'd shield because of the hoops you have to jump through to maximise the damage dealt with it and because at rank 1 is does not do too much damage.

    You are pretty flexible in your options, depending on how your lane is doing. You have 3 basic actions that are all determined by your lanemate and matchup:
    1) Hang back and farm. This behaviour is best if your lanemate is less item-dependant than you, or your team really wants that Soul Shroud.
    2) Try to avoid and prevent as much damage to the both of you as possible. Whilst doing so, get any last hits that you're sure your lanemate will miss to avoid gold going to waste.
    3) With a strong early game partner (Pantheon, Caitlynn, Cassiopeia)? Help them out with harassing and make sure that your partner is nice and healthy.

  • Mid Game

    Karma's midgame is once again fairly flexible. You have two options throughout this phase: (1) farm like mad and/or (2) go ganking with someone. Whichever route you choose, Teleport is your friend. You'll be able to use it to either quickly save a tower or to setup nice ganks using nearby wards or other deployables.

    Option 1) Farm:
    Your farming skills are your Q and E. You can take out a surprisingly large number of creeps with this combo. You can push a creep wave pretty far, but obviously take care to watch the map. Use your Clairvoyance to stay on top of enemies and use any excess gold on wards. If you have taken Flash instead of Clairvoyance, make sure you have an escape plan and that you have a good idea of where your enemies are. If you don't have a clue where some of them are, back off.

    Once you feel you have itemized enough (typically a Soul Shroud and Mercury Treads will work fine, though a Blasting Wand may be in order depending on how strong you feel), proceed to gank with your team.

    Option 2) Gank:
    Whilst you do not provide too much damage, your support skills can push a gank in your favour. With Spirit Bond, you and an ally can become a pretty dynamic pair of gankers. Spirit Bond will also allow you to slow enemies at a considerable distance. Use Heavenly Wave to heal up when necessary, of course, and use your Mantra Shield to mitigate damage in ganks. If a teamfight breaks out, save Mantra charges for Heavenly Wave, unless the enemy is surrounding one member of your group and you want to exploit this.

    The income you receive from either/both options should be spent on making your Heavenly Wave heal for more via AP from Rabadon's Deathcap. Start planning for what to build whenever you don't have anything else to do - late game you will need to be active for as much as possible. If you feel you are doing well (at least 3 assists to every death), get a Mejai's Soulstealer.

  • Late Game

    So, you've wrecked a few towers, gotten lots of assist gold and hopefully avoided too many deaths. Maybe even an inhibitor is down. What do you want to do? Encourage your team to finish pushing those lanes which are not quite at the inhibitors. Heal whenever someone is missing at least 30% of their health, but try to save charges when in enemy territory. If a team fight happens at this crucial point of the game, you will need ALL the charges you can get, mostly for your Heavenly Wave but a Mantra Shield still has applications due to its good AP ratio (0.8).

    Karma in Teamfights:
    Simply put, your role is to hit as many things as possible with your AoE spells. After the fight is committed to by your opponents, shield whoever is receiving heavy focus and put a bond on your melee DPS or tank, depending on who is being more mobile. Typically, people will forget about your bond quickly, even in premades. Putting the bond on someone who is likely to move around will make the task of slowing enemies/hasting allies much easier.

    Your first Mantra charge is usually spent a few seconds after the bond on a Heavenly Wave to help the focussed ally recover whilst doing as much damage as possible to enemies. Use your shield when it's up to either just absorb damage or to help with nuking, depending on how much damage your team is taking. Keep using your Heavenly Wave as it has a very short cooldown and remember to watch people's health so that you can Mantra it at the correct time.

    When teamfights go wrong:
    You will inevitably lose some teamfights as any champion in the League. As Karma, you have a few ways of preventing too many losses. Your first priority is to make sure anyone on a killing spree, especially if they have many stacks on their Mejai's/SotO survives. You can do this by shielding and bonding them, whilst healing them as much as possible. Of course, it's not usually as simple as this. Knowing when to bond an enemy and when to bond an ally will immensely improve your Karma play and applying this knowledge will be crucial in mitigating sour teamfights.

    If it's just down to you to escape, get to the nearest lane as quickly as possible. Keep running towards your base and hoping you find a allied minion wave. Once you find one, bond onto a creep (Mantraed if possible). Heal, shield, run like crazy. Common sense really, but just wanted to make a point about creep waves. If you think you can slow at least one of the chasers down, do it.

  • Pros and Cons

    (Note: These apply to the SUPPORT Karma build, not the AP build)
    + Solid at sustaining her team
    + Has a great shield
    + Good, albeit close range harass
    + Surprisingly tough once you get used to her playstyle
    + A solid farmer for an endurance-based support character
    + Doesn't need too much AP early on due to her passive and good base stats on her abilities

    - Heavily dependant on her abilities: silences will cripple her
    - Spirit Bond can be awkward to use properly in chaotic fights
    - Needs a reliable team to do anything more than just keep them alive
    - Cannot be expected to do anything beyond surviving in a 1v1: Karma needs at least one teammate around when in unknown territory to excel

  • Thanks

    I want to take this opportunity to provide my thanks to RobertMeta for his excellent guide on writing guides and Hyfe for his exemplar guide on not only how to play Nasus (highly recommended if you are vaguely interesting in Nasus at all) but also for inspiring my layout for this guide. I also want to thank the people on LoL Wikia for making the Karma page so accessible - it helped me out a lot with the numbers on Karma's abilities.

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Submitted by WrathOfAnima

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