Karthus Build Guide

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Karthus - Long live the Lich

written by xkidra

Karthus Build

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    First of all I'll try to make this guide as detailed as possible, I'll try to describe as best I can the best ways to read other players, yes, Karthus is all about reading other players, with his Lay Waste with almost instant damage and spammable nuke you can deal great amounts of damage in considerable small time and at a very constant rhythm. Its not like some champions that have one combo and thats it, have to run away for the cooldowns reset. With Karthus you will be ready for battle every time! Even if you are not even close to the battle. Another most important aspect I'll be covering is his ultimate, Requiem, just two fast advices (for those who don't want to read much) don't be selfish with it and always take in consideration other people skills, items(Banshee's Veil and Zhonya's Hourglass are other players best items do avoid your ultimate), magic resistance and most important, their health (duh...).

    And for those who don't want to read much or even scroll, here goes what you are looking for (its all explained why in the right sections)

    9x Greater Mark of Insight
    9x Greater Glyph of Potency
    9x Greater Seal of Vitality
    3x Greater Quintessence of Potency

    Masteries 9/0/21


    1st: 2nd: 3rd:[item_icon=Force of Nature] 4th: 5th: 6th: / / /

    Thats it right?

  • Abilities

    Death Defied
    This passive, oh this passive. This will make game turnover almost as much as Requiem. Happily for us most people forget about this and will stay around you after killing you, at least in the beginning. At late game they will remember because they have died so many times because of it ^^ Also in team fights you WILL be the target to kill so even if you die you can do triple kills easily because your team mates will keep them around you so you can spam Lay Waste on then and Requiem to finish off the rest of the team and your team will push their way to the nexus.

    Lay Waste
    Our little spam nuke. This is where the primary magic happens, in early game you will thank for its damage on single targets and its fast cooldown. But beware, if you cant read your opponents correctly, you WILL fail, waste mana and bring shame to you.

    Wall of Pain
    This skill has so many more uses than people think, its not only used to slow your opponents to get kills or to evade, oh no. But I'll cover all its uses over the guide

    One of the best minion farming skills I've seen, when you get it ~lv3 and a good amount of AP you'll slaughter minions in 1~2 seconds, but be careful, it uses a LOT of mana, and i mean a LOT! Always be careful not to leave it turned on when its not needed.

    This one is what makes Karthus so great, so hatable (I don't even know if the word exists but who cares?!)! Its the best solution for lucky running champions, close calls or even to help a team mate. Don't use it selfishly because all you'll accomplish is getting your team mates frustrated because you KS them all the time (some people get really mad for it). Use it before team fights, to spoke off opponents, to give a team mate a kill. Those are all good uses to this skill.

  • Items

    I have tried many Karthus configurations and I have to be honest, there are a couple configurations that work fairly good depending oh the team you are playing with, so I'll try to describe and define them well.

    First is my favorite, my "all-around" build, I use this one the most because I mostly play solo 5vs5 games so I'm never sure of what my team mates can do or how they play at all and in this I have a better moving speed (chasing/getting away), defense (magic resistance/armor) and still a great damage output (most times I get around 800~900 ap with baron and pots with this one). So here it goes:

    1st: 2nd: 3rd:[item_icon=Force of Nature] 4th: 5th:
    And the last one is really depending on what you are facing, heavily magic resist team? , or . They are getting away too much? should do it.

    The way to get this done I usually go like this:
    Start: + 3x
    Stay in lane until level 8-9 or ~1.9k gold and get: + , if you can't afford it just get + and to avoid ganks in the mid.
    Then get [item_icon=Force of Nature], why you ask? because this way you'll move faster, moving faster = better to chase enemies and avoid ganks, more hp regen so you stay longer in the lane and more magic resistance so you can stack Mejai's Soulstealer better.
    After that its pretty much straight forward:
    About and order of buy depends on the other team, getting much kills from ad chars? get Zhonya's Hourglass first, if not Rabadon's Deathcap should go first so you increase your ap faster.

    One last thing about this one, I can't recall much games where I have actually finished this build, most games end a shortly after I get Rabadon's Deathcap or straight away after Zhonya's Hourglass.


    Other build also works fine with this champion is this one (if you want to max this build effect combinte with a 21/0/9 masteries option, more info below):

    1st: 2nd: 3rd: 4th: 5th: 6th:

    With this one you'll get insane damage output (my best with this was over 1050 AP), you will still get some magic resistance (Abyssal Scepter), some armor resistance (Zhonya's Hourglass) and a lot of ability points, some more CC and survivability with Rylai's Crystal Scepter.
    To make this one start it just the same way as the "all-around" one:

    Start: + 3x
    Stay in lane until level 8-9 or ~1.9k gold and get: + , if you can't afford it just get + and to avoid ganks in the mid.
    And after it its all straight forward and pretty simple actually:
    3rd/4th: / depending on the other team


    Some items I personally disapprove on Karthus:
    - Starting with it might seem obvious, but its a waste! Mana regeneration? Clarity. AP? I love my runes. Health? meh 100, pots will make a better work. All it'll do is get you 475gold away from your core items.

    - I've tried builds with this as 2nd item right after Sorcerer's Shoes or 3rd after Mejai's Soulstealer but honestly there are better items to replace it with. Yes it gives HP, Mana and AP and increases overtime, but its a waste of your money because the ap boost you can get it easly from Mejai's Soulstealer's stacks combining with [item_text=Force of Nature] and going for Rabadon's Deathcap, its more expensive but with this combo you'll stay over 14 stacks most of the game.

    - In my opinion Karthus don't have the Mana raise to make it worth the cost, and for the mana regeneration you ask? I ask, what do you think blue golem was made for? ;)

  • Masteries + Runes

    For the runes I use its really really simple and straight forward:
    9x Greater Mark of Insight - Magic penetration WILL ALWAYS help, no matter which build
    9x Greater Glyph of Potency - Karthus is AP right? this makes sense :P
    9x Greater Seal of Vitality - Helping on survivability, altho Greater Seal of Potency would be acceptable as well if you think you don't have enough AP at early game.
    3x Greater Quintessence of Potency - Makes a LOT of difference in early game damage output.

    With this I start with ~24AP, more than enough to pwn at mid in early game!

    My masteries are very, very simple, I go with a classic 9/0/21, like this one

    From offensive what really matters is +15%magic penetration, is that simple.
    From utility:
    1. -10% time spent dead, plus your passive, more time laning and killing ^^;
    2. +4% mana and health regen;
    3. +1.25% xp, the faster you get to lv6 the faster you start to get kills;
    4. 1 gold every second, these builds are pretty expensive so this will definitely help;
    5. +30% duration of neutral buffs, oh yeah, with double buffs will get so hard to kill;
    6. +3% moving speed, combining with [item_text=Force of Nature] you will get so much faster hence so much harder to kill = more stacks!
    7. Less cooldown on flash, it saved me and gave me kills so many times I can even count them;
    8. -6% and -15% Cooldowns, this will help you spam Lay Waste and annoy people with Requiem ^^


    For the second build, the full ap one you might want to go with something like this

    From offensive what really matters to us is:
    1. +0.6AP per level? well not really, at lv18 is only 10AP...
    2. -3% cooldowns, helps a bit to spam Lay Waste and Requiem;
    3. +15% magic penetration, this will max this builds items on focusing on AP/Magic penetration;
    4. +5% magical/physical damage, maxing the builds damage output!!!

  • Skilling order / Skills

    Skilling order is as simple as it can be, Lay Waste is the MUST max spell, then its the Wall of Pain and least important Defile, so here it goes:

    About skills, lots of people disagree with using Clarity, I have to agree on one think, it doesn't help to get kills like Ignite, but Clarity will make you stay longer in lane, spam more Lay Waste and always be ready to defend a turret or harass the opponent.
    That said I always take:
    1. Clarity
    2. Flash

    Flash is obvious...

    Some skills that make me giggle when I see a Karthus with them:
    1. Heal: just, omg, why? WHY??? Can't get it...
    2. Exhaust: Why? Why do you need it when you have Wall of Pain?

  • Pros / Cons

    1. One of the best DPS in the game, in my opinion;
    2. Definitely a game deciding champion, can make a difference from anywhere;
    3. With the first build not as squishy as people expect;
    4. Can 1on1 most champions, even some tanks without even sweating;
    5. Even on disadvantage team fights (3vs5, 4vs5) can make a difference and make triple/quadra kills out of the blue;
    6. Always fun to see people doing rage quits ^^

    1. Hard to master Lay Waste and place it correctly to max the damage output;
    2. Hard to predict accurately Requiem damage on all opponents (mostly your team mates will make a bad judgement of your damage => opponent health);
    3. Most of the times you will be the first target to kill (that means you are doing your job right);
    4. Hard to control the mana flow on the first games, Defile and Lay Waste spam ftw!!!

  • Conquering the Mid

    So, playing Karthus you will go mid ~99% of the games, in the right team your Requiem can be deadly and give so much help your team mates pushing and getting the turrets down I can even quantify it.

    About the mid, you will find so easy champions to face they won't even leave the turret afraid of getting killed, suicide ones (I love to feed on those), good ones and just horrible ones. I made a list of regular mid champions with their combos, how to counter them and a quick preview on them.

    1. External Image Anivia - Anivia can be a bitch in the mid if well played, she will always trust her passive to harass you, with her combo on about lv2 (Flash Frost + Frostbite) she will try to harass as much as she can, fortunatly for us her mana ends aswell and now your first item will make all the difference, Boots of Speed will let you harass and just flee from her combo's so easily its almost unfair and if even by luck Anivia get you on her combo, Health Potion will get you back up. To counter Anivia you cant hide behind the minions, you must see how the opponent moves before going to use Flash Frost to stun you and charge, make sure you always can flee to both sides so you don't get stunned.

    2. External Image Annie - Annie can be a decent mid opponent, with her passive she gets stun on her next skill after 3 skill casts, this can be a pain in the ass but you can see it clearly because she'll get a thing around her. She will use it to stun you with Disintegrate and deal some good damage with Incinerate. Be very careful when she gets to lv6, when she casts her ultimate, Summon: Tibbers, if is casted on you it will stun you aswell and this can get you into a deadly lock and take you down. Annie's skills range aren't anything to worry about, read her, place a well thought Lay Waste and finish off with a charge of Wall of Pain+Lay Waste and if she's lucky, Requiem will get the job done BUT make sure she already used her Molten Shield before going for Requiem or you will fail and bring SHAME on you.

    3. External Image Ashe - Always have great fun while Ashe's mid, why? She's so easy to counter its not even funny, with her Volley she will always be looking for angles where the arrows don't hit your minions so all you've got to do is stay behind them. Read well when she's looking for those angles, place a well thought Lay Waste and spoke her off and taking half her health with her harass fail ^^

    4. External Image Brand - Brand will most likely make you sweat for a bit, his Pillar of Flame is just a great aoe but you can dodge it easily, if not make sure to avoid his Sear or you will get stunned, the trick to avoid him is the same as Anivia, just keep always 2+ dodging routes available.

    5. External Image Caitlyn - Well Caitlyn isn't a bad mid champion but it's all about Piltover Peacemaker, which you can easily dodge thanks to Boots of Speed, don't you just love to start with it? Lucky when she casts Piltover Peacemaker you can see it CLEARLY. Against her its useless to hide behind the creeps or stay away from them, just keep her away with your Lay Waste and as always, make sure you always can flee to both sides.

    6. External Image Karthus - How funny is Karthus vs Karthus? Its not, here is where you'll see how good you are reading people. Because now you have to read he will move AND where he will place Lay Waste so you can avoid it. Two experienced Karthus won't die 1on1 on mid, so my best advice is, take some time for quick ganks at the other lanes, it WILL make a better use of your champion than focusing on the other Karthus. But don't leave mid for too long or he might farm and push a bit too much.

    7. External Image Kassadin - Kassadin WILL harass you alot after lv6, with his combo Riftwalk + Force Pulse + Null Sphere it will annoy and cause some damage on you, this is why I'd advise to call some help from other lanes to gank because he'll run from you with Riftwalk when you charge. As always same advices, keep him away with Lay Waste, place some well thought Lay Wastes and Health Potion will help you throw :P

    8. External Image Katarina - This annoying b****, she will love to harass you with Bouncing Blade on early levels, so to counter that just keep away from the minions, and try to keep her away as best as you can, it'll be hard due to her Shunpo. You should be careful when she gets lv6, her ultimate Death Lotus will damage you good during the entire game, fortunatly we got Zhonya's Hourglass ^^

    9. External Image LeBlanc - You should be careful, this is one champion with great damage spike! After lv6 she will try to use her combo on you, pretty much all the skills she has xD.

    10. External Image Lux - Lux is a fairly good mid champion, she can slow you down with Lucent Singularity to make you stop hiding behind the minions, yes you will hide behind the minions because her Light Binding will hit minions, Lucent Singularity will go over them and explode whenever she wants, and finish you off with her ultimate [spell_text=Finales Funkeln]. Beware of her Prismatic Barrier, she can make your Requiem fail very easily if you are not careful. As always keep 2 dodge routes available at all times.

    11. External Image Malzahar - Well this might be an impressive opponent if you don't play right, all got to do is keep him away and stay out of his range and 2 dodge routes, this time I advise front and back because his Call of the Void is placed the same way as your Wall of Pain, it won't do much damage but it will silence you and if followed by Null Zone+Malefic Visions+Nether Grasp that locks you while channeling might be deadly if you are not playing carefully.

    12. External Image Morgana - She is pretty much the dark version of Lux, their gameplay are alike, same cage, same shield (almost), what differs them is [spell_text=Tromented Soil] that you need to be careful altho it won't do much damage if you don't stand there, which will happen if she combo's you with Dark Binding it will do some good damage. Her ultimate, Soul Shackles will do some good damage on you if added to the combo, which will happen after lv6. So hide beind the creeps to avoid Dark Binding, when she use [spell_text=Tromented Soil] just go back, never opening angles for Dark Binding lock on you.

    13. External Image Rumble - Haven't faced any on mid so far, will add something when I face one.

    14. External Image Ryze - I personaly love Ryze, when you find one in middle you must lookout to keep him away from you, he has a good range and a small cooldown on Overload and will spam it on you until he can combo on you (haven't see many doing this combo tho) Desperate Power+Overload+Rune Prison+Spell Flux+Overload (most people start with Rune Prison) and he will do significant damage if he's close to you, he will also have a low cooldown on the combo (~10-15s if well constructed) so make sure to keep him away and avoid his charges at all cost.

    15. External Image Swain - Swain can be an good opponent, this duel can be nice if both are worth the risk. As most champions you must keep him away most of the time and avoid his charges, he will try to lock you down, cripple you and damage you all he can all at once Nevermove+Torment+Decrepify and while all this is happening Ravenous Flock will drain from you, never get fooled thinking he's almost dead because he will resist a lot of time with this ultimate.

    16. External Image Teemo - Oh sweet sweet teemo, oh crap a mushroom! He will look so killable (and he is) but he can damage you good aswel! Try to keep his Move Quick down all the time, all you got to do is hit him with Lay Waste once, he will get really fast with Move Quick on and poison you in a fast charge and then run away, Toxic Shot will be annoying all along but if you read him well he will stop charging because you will place some Lay Wastes in his paths and he'll start to be afraid. So just keep him away and with Move Quick down.

    17. External Image Twisted Fate - This fella won't be any major threat at the early game, yes he has a great range with Wild Cards which you can easily avoid thanks to Boots of Speed and you will keep 2 dodging routes available at all times :P altho you should keep him away and avoid his charges, he will stun you with Pick A Card on the yellow card so its very easy to spot when he'll charge and just start avoiding him.

    18. External Image Urgot - oh Urgot can be such a pain in the ass! Luckily we know how his trick works! Oh yeah we do, Noxian Corrosive Charge is what he will use, when it hits the ground it will make you can damage while you stay around him (if it hits you duh!) so its pretty simple, always keep an eye on him and when he uses it just run one of the 2 dodging routes you have, if you got hit just run as far from him as you can! Beware of his ultimate, Hyper-Kinetic Position Reverser will make you change positions with him, he can use it while you are pushing on his turret, when you are hit by Noxian Corrosive Charge to keep hitting you for longer time. And hide being your minions, Acid Hunter will hit them if he tries to use it.

    19. External Image Veigar - He's not a match in mid, yes he'll have some great damage spikes but you can dodge them easily, he will try to stun you first with Event Horizon and there's 2 ways of doing so: use it right on top of you, of around you and wait you to hit it when you try to run off. How to avoid? never stop, no need to hide behind the minions, just move, place Lay Wastes and when you see him charge just be ready to keep moving inside the circle touching nothing, ah and look on the floor for the shadow of Dark Matter so you can dodge that one too and thats it, his combo is avoided =) Ah and at late game don't bother to avoid anything but the stun, you can take it if you use Zhonya's Hourglass active ^^

    20. External Image Vladimir - He WILL be a pain in the ass, you just won't kill him. He has one of the best and easiest ways to avoid your Requiem and Wall of Pain because he will hide underground with Sanguine Pool. Also he will drain a lot from the minions, your Lay Waste will damage him but not as effective as usual. I usually counter them like this: keep damaging him with Lay Waste and he will keep to drain, maybe from you if you fail do dodge, when he's about 40%hp charge with Wall of Pain, he'll use Sanguine Pool to dodge your Lay Wastes, keep charging untill he is almost dead, run away from him so he don't drain from you and finish him with Requiem! His Sanguine Pool will be on cooldown so he won't be able do dodge. Also he will use Sanguine Pool if he tries to kill you on your turret.

    21 External Image Zilean - Haven't seen many lately, all he needs is a second to literally Time Bomb on you. Also don't get fooled he's almost dead because his ultimate, Chrono Shift will make him revive if tank lethal damage. his Time Warp has 2 ways to be used, on himself or you. Either give him speed of slow you down, best option is to keep him away and avoid his charges which will be hard if he combos Time Warp+Time Bomb.

    Thats about it for the middle champions. Have fun!

  • Tips & Tricks

    So here's where it really gets good, the tips and tricks! So lets start them:

    1. Neutral monsters:
    You'll want to have them as soon as possible, you can't solo Blue at the beginning or maybe with your team help you can. You WILL want this buff, the mana regeneration will allow you to spam Defile and kill waves of minions in no time and just push like a Mordekaiser would, yes that fast (with the right amount of AP of course). Also you will want to stay double buffed as often as you want, the health. Health regeneration increase just help sooooooooo much and the slow, oh my god its awesome!

    2. Wall of Pain
    I told you I would open the pandora's box for it... Its not only used to slow the other team to kill them of to flee, oh no, lets make a list, shall we?
    2.1. since Wall of Pain also decreases magic resistance how about we use it to decrease Blue and Red golems defense so we would get our buffs faster? And what if we use it to get across the walls that protect them to see if there's anyone on the other side? jeez that would be awesome... YES WE CAN!!! Take a look how here:

    ------------------------------------Image to be posted------------------------------------

    2.2. You might don't know this, if you place it over bushes you WILL see if there's anyone PLUS the range it usualy gives that is a lot, you can use it to avoid ganks, search for low health opponents, or just to spook someone who want to gank you, use Wall of Pain+Lay Waste and off they go.

    2.3. When you are attacking a turret how many times have you thought "Crap enemy minions are coming, better kill them or go back", now you will have some more extra time, use Wall of Pain to slow them as they appear far from the turret, draw all their attention to you and kill them with Defile, now you minions are still destroying the turret and more are coming ^^

    2.4 Again on a turret, when you push on a turret and an opponent is there you will want to slow him down, why you ask? Because it will decrease their response ratio, you will damage more the turret and if you want you can damage him (careful to be fast getting out of turrets range so you don't get hit unless you have to) and when you are happy, finish him off with Requiem.

    2.5. Turrets... Now on our turrets! Really really simple, just use it where turret range ends, this way they will get slowed down, minions won't hit the turret right away and with Lay Waste's help the turret won't be touched, ok almost...

    2.6. Another turret tip, on our side instead of doing 2.5 you can also wait for the opponent champion to get in the turret range, slow them with Wall of Pain and spam him with Lay Waste all the way to his turret! Actually half way should be enough to kill him because most likely our turret will hit him too.

    2.7. To finish Wall of Pain Tips & Tricks, in the jungle this will make a difference, you can save so many team mates with this, don't be selfish, seeing selfish Karthus makes me wanna cry =(

    3. Lay Waste isn't as effective as Wall of Pain to see opponents hiding on the bushes but if you hit them, they will be visible for a short amount of time, this might make a difference between getting ganked or getting away alive.

    Guess thats it... Now GAME ON!!!

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