Kog'Maw Build Guide

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A versatile butterfly with a bad cough

written by Dithnir

Kog'Maw Build

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    Update 10.10.11: A substantial guide overhaul in various areas to reflect what I've learned.  Changed title too as 'Tree of Kog' no longer applies to how I've put her builds together.

    This nascent butterfly's wings are brightly coloured, a warning to predators.
    Unlike most butterflies, nascent or not, she has the punch of a semi-automatic Howitzer and the acidic bile of a Diamondback with a chest infection.

    I love her.

    This guide assumes and attempts to address the following:

    - Kog, like all carries, needs a good farm, but her early game is her biggest weakness
    - Kog can be built AP, AS (on-hit) and AD, or a hybrid...she's a highly versatile champion to get to know
    - Kog is particularly good at taking down tanky champs due to her Bio-Arcane Barrage
    - You are looking for a solid grounding to enjoy her more, perhaps because she's a new champ for you, or she's not your main, or you're man enough to admit that you're a scrub like me trying to get the best out of a character you just love to play :)
    - You get that you should ward a little, because you appreciate that map visibility is KING.

    This guide is split into what is effectively builds for Auto attack/On-hit damage and 'Pure AP', the latter meaning you are a spell caster, relying on the casting of spells for damage.

  • Abilities

    Icathian Surprise
    Not that good late game, but if the gig's up, take them down with you. Score a Pyrrhic victory with this and at least claim the same gold as they did from you, if not more depending on their killstreak :)

    Caustic Spittle
    This spell debuffs armour, magic resist and boosts attack speed :)
    As per my levelling recommendations below, you level this as your second priority in all builds. However, its range is comparatively short, so it's risky to use on the offensive. Use this if they get into trading damage range.

    On an AP path where this is levelled well earlier in the game they'll really feel the damage from a Q-E-R combo :)

    Bio-Arcane Barrage
    At level 5 it takes 6% of a champion's max health in damage per hit for 10 seconds, plus more depending on how much AP you stack. This is your signature skill, this is tank killing.

    This is Kog's Guernica.

    Level this first for non AP builds. The range gain is essential to keep the oppo away and improve farming from further away, while the damage gain is also important for both farming and poke. You can't spam it, but as you won't be using your other spells much as an AD or on hit Kog, use it moderately, saving enough always for a Void Ooze or burst if you need to get out of dodge or trade damage to the death.

    With a bit of attack speed an E->W->auto attack combo usually pokes the oppo champion back because they can't match the damage output at the equivalent range.

    You need to level this quickly for the increment to the %health damage and the range. As you get it to level 3 and higher you'll start to feel its effect. Play safe till then.

    Void Ooze
    This slows the enemy whether they're hardcore on your case or whether you're chasing them down to get a lane kill. The slow is 'max' duration at level 1, additional levels add damage and increase the slow, but even at level 1 it's the duration that will really help you put some distance between you and the oppo.

    Don't level it till much later unless you are going for the AP build. It's a great escape skill too - always run to one side of the lane and throw it across flat or diagonally to create a wall of ooze to help your team flee or to close off the oppo's flight path. It's a bit like Karthus's wall, with an equally vicious slow.

    On an AP build, level this hard to counter any aggression with decent damage. This will soon take out the caster minions in one shot and thus becomes a wave clearing tool when the opposition is knocking at the door to your tower. Using it often and catching minions with it will push the lane towards their tower, leaving you open to ganks.

    Living Artillery
    Early game this is a hugely formidable poke. Once you hit level 6 you'll find the oppo melt back from your tower no matter how good they are. The base damage on champions is excellent. You can launch this practically a full screen's diagonal width away when it's at level 3. Poke with impunity. Stack AP or of course AD and you will be dropping bombs, especially with magic pen.

    Mana regen/large mana pool is required to regularly spam this, but if you can control yourself it is a zero cooldown ultimate that does bonus damage to champs without risking a single point of health :) Watch the cooldown on it above your skillbar. You'll find you can spam this every 6 or 7 seconds for a minimal cost. I don't recommend using it more than twice in quick succession while poking, but if a full team fight is going down, don't be afraid to throw three or four out with your other spells.

    Oh, and you can use this to check brush. So do it :) I always throw it into the river brush periodically if i'm working a lane and there's no ward there, just to be sure.

  • Masteries

    Non AP masteries
    Kog is a carry but not just an AP carry, so if you have just one Kog Masteries page, take the above.  I've taken the Ghost mastery only, so if you're taking Exhaust, take that one at the expense of Archmage's Savvy.
    I've taken 9 in Utility tree for the XP boost, because getting your level ups sooner means more damage.  The gold mastery over a 40 minute game = 3 free wards.  Wards are more than worth that.

    AP masteries
    AP Masteries taking Ghost and Flash buffs.
    For going pure AP carry, here's a masteries page that I think works. You really can benefit from the blue buff for much greater damage output. The rest is pretty standard.

  • Runes

    Non AP runes
    The rule of thumb for Quints and Marks in a build where Kog relies on auto attacks is that attack damage is better early game, armour penetration better later in game.
    Greater Quintessence of Strength or Greater Quintessence of Desolation x 3
    Greater Mark of Strength or Greater Mark of Desolation x 9

    There may be an optimal combination of these Quints and Marks, a mixture or all one or t'other.  Going strongly into attack damage means more margin for error in last hitting, so if, like me, you're not the best at it, you will improve your farm on your road to greatness.

    Armour penetration is not present on more than a couple of items in the shop, whereas attack damage is well represented.  Armour pen is good all game and scales better than attack damage as people's armour rises with level and items.

    Greater Seal of Clarity or Greater Seal of Resilience x 9

    It's your choice here.  You're mostly focused on auto attack/on-hit damage with non AP builds.  As such you'll only regularly be using W or R, with E no more than a slow.  Mana regen runes will allow you mix it up a bit with more regular spell usage.

    The armour runes are another solid choice as they mitigate damage from AD carries (not much but every little helps) as well as the little acknowledged but deeply felt early lane damage from enemy minions if you start trading with the oppo near the minion lines.  Regardless of lane, limiting damage from auto attacks in the crucial early phase when Kog is most vulnerable is always good.

    Greater Glyph of Shielding x 9
    When AP is not as much of a factor in your core damage output as it is in an AP build, I take resist per level Glyphs.  You'll get hit by magic damage all game every game.  As a carry you won't be building much damage mitigation so taking some with you will never hurt.

    AP runes

    Greater Quintessence of Potency x 3
    Greater Mark of Insight x 9
    Greater Seal of Clarity x 9
    Greater Glyph of Force x 9

    Improving your AP and magic penetration is crucial when you're relying almost purely on spell damage. You won't be levelling Caustic Spittle early, you also won't be getting Berserker's Greaves so you won't be getting the fast auto attacks proccing your Bio-Arcane Barrage as a major part of your damage output.

  • Summoner Abilities

    Flash / Ghost / Exhaust

    All of these spells can be used offensively or defensively.  Kog has one cc that is a skillshot.  Kog is a hard carry so needs to focus on building damage to carry the game, at the expense of much survivability.  Kog gets caught, Kog gets killed quickly and your team's now down a brutally damaging carry.

    Exhaust is good for shutting down melee carries and AD auto attackers in particular.  The other spells are self explanatory, they help Kog hunt down a foe that is racing out of range with a higher movespeed or they help Kog to the safety of his team or towers.

  • Levelling

    I propose two paths, fairly standard the both.
    Non AP

    The focus is on pretty much maxing W for the damage from its passive and the range to help you against other carries in lane. 
    We take a point in E because the slow duration is maxed at level 1 so it's good defensively and offensively. The Q is obviously the next most important for the increase in attack speed, really useful for the farm.


    We're maxing E and Q because they are the skills that are doing the spell damage, a point in W ensures that you can add some on hit pain and increase your auto attack range a touch.

    Q reduces resistance as well as increases attack speed which benefits farming.  Casting Q if they're in range then E will ensure E does more damage.  However, Q's range isn't a safe one when you have oppo gap closers with or without Flash, as well as assassins or anti carries like Kassadin.  I tend to save Q for if the oppo get into range.  You don't level W till the end because your auto attacks are quite slow for most of the game so it's not optimal damage with your other build elements.

    Author's note
    Pure AP Kog is my least played build, so you should definitely experiment with this skill order to see if you can find something more efficacious.  I like to relax with a Kog AP build.

  • Items - 10k builds because you don't always get fed in soloqueue

    Starting Items
    Boots of Speed + Health Potion x 3

    This is my starter on Kog.  Zoning against champions like Cait or those fierce gap closers/cc combos is hard, so the boots give you some versatility.  The health potions also help you sustain in lane for a few levels while you find your feet with your opposition.  If you've used your health potions by level 2 that should tell you something needs to change.  Talk to your team, switch lanes, be more defensive, swap partners, talk to your partner etc.  Perhaps you've not got a ward and they're killing you from the brush.  You or your partner should quickly go back and get one.  Shut down their harrass.

    I use these starting items on AP Kog too, as Boots are always needed and upgrade to whatever you like.

    Doran's Blade

    If I have a support in my lane who's there to let me farm and look after me, I'll get the Blade for more beefiness and damage early on.  It improves my error margin for last hitting so I get more of those in.  I don't recommend it for solo lane or a lane where you're up against a cc/gap closing combo because the moment they can trigger on you, you'll be dead.

    The only other scenario I'd recommend starting a Blade with would be if you're on voice/premade and you know your team.

    What some non AP 10k builds (with runes and masteries) MIGHT look like, showing Kog's versatility

    So, after your starting items, what next?  Kog is so immensely versatile that my usual 'do a core and options off it' would be bewildering.

    I also think some items work together better than others.

    Because this is a soloqueue guide and I've aimed it at the inexperienced through to the earnest but average players (like me) gleaning a guide looking for tips, I set myself a 10k gold limit as the core for various ways of building Kog'Maw out.

    If you have a feed-fest faceroll game, you'll have buckets more gold than this and can build whatever you like, you've won the game anyway right?  If however you've got a more challenging game or indeed one where your team isn't doing that well, you need a more limited gold core that you can try to farm towards that is viable.

    Inspect the links for the details of each guide, the runepages and masteries are built from my above sections to give you the full stats breakdown and allow you to use Leaguecraft's excellent builder to adapt to your liking.

    Note also that most of these builds are 5 items, so if you get past 10k, spoil yourself with whatever else you think is needed.  I'd consider defensive items for that 6th slot of course, as it's usually only filled late game when all carries are fed hard and deadly.


    / / [item_icon=Malady] / /

    Cost=10115 gold

    This is my main Kog build.

    Some recent theorycrafting on the NA Forum for Guides proved, convincingly to me anyway, that the first three items above are the most damage for that cost Kog can do.   I've used this build a lot and for the 7k that boots plus those 3 on-hit items cost, you are a total beast.  I don't think anyone can trade with you for an equivalent spend, particularly because you're shredding both types of resistance and health :)

    It's all magic damage, Bio-Arcane Barrage is what triggers the burst.  These on hit items boost your magic penetration, armour penetration, remove dodge chance (with the great active on SotD) and build a swift 50 magic resist to any counter magic damage.  You are doing 87 damage per hit from the passives, plus your %health damage from W, which for 8 seconds out of every 40 they can't dodge :)

    Needless to say, the high attack speed early means farming is a lot easier.  You are still fairly cautious in lane because there's only some Magic Resist here, but if they push the lane towards your tower you will melt their minions before your tower can steal those last hits from you.

    The mallet gives you a few more seconds in a firefight with that big health boost but it's the slow that puts the hurt on, you can perma slow the enemy meaning they can't escape, it multiplies with your Void Ooze and of course your barrage hurts even without much AP or AD.


    / [item_icon=Malady] / / / /

    Cost=10185 gold

    I've just swapped the boots and the Mallet out for Treads, Lantern and Sash.

    Kog just got herself 165 magic resist and a little bit more armour, oh, and a free Cleanse on a shorter cooldown, oh, and a free ward every 3 minutes with some lifesteal and formidable lane and jungle farming from the Wriggle's Passive.  

    Against AP burst damage you are very beefy indeed, though your base health is still sub 2k, so you stand no chance against non AP burst.  If the oppo are taking a dual AP carry build this is a good way to build.  If they're full of AD Carries you may as well keep the above build and slow 'em down.

    The Cleanse and Treads together form a strong anti-cc barrier, with your summoner's spells able to be used after you've Cleansed, or at least, used sooner thanks to the Tenacity.  You're still at just under 2.0 attack speed so the brutality of the on hit pain train is still very much evident.


    / / [item_icon=Madred's Bloodrazor]

    Cost=9910 gold

    A variant on the above builds but I needed a Bloodrazor build in here because you will face teams with health stackers; bruisers and tanks and 'Atmogs' players.  The Bloodrazor is a strong choice against these types, so if there's a few in the oppo, work this build.  It packs enough survivability within these items for you to take a bit of poke, but you're still on base health, so you won't really survive a burst.



    / / / /

    Cost=10105 gold

    With a respectable 1.7 attack speed, there's good physical damage with some lifesteal to keep you going in the field. Going Phantom also gives you a big boost to your crit chance and of course move speed.


    / [item_icon=Malady] / / /

    Cost=9975 gold

    1.8 attack speed, 216 damage, 130 AP.  Those are some headline figures that show a 'Jack of all Trades' approach.  Under the hood however you have sick mana regen and a large mana pool, with big cooldown reduction to keep W going and spam your other spells.  Your attacks are still quick enough that the Malady will shred resistance quickly to any spells so you are highly versatile in the fight.

    If they're already in range of your W, then start hitting->you are doing %health damage, proccing the improved AP and attack speed on the Rageblade as well as shredding resistance->Void Ooze to slow them for improved damage due to procced passives, artillery easier to land due to Void Ooze, again benefitting from the passives.

    If it's a standoff or they have a team comp that can flatten you with cc and gap closing, you have the regen and pool to poke hard with your artillery and other spells, with that bit of AP to give the spells bite.

    Again, it's a true hybrid build insofar as you're strong in both types of damage but hybrid in terms of how you do damage, spells or auto attacks, which means for EVERY situation in the field, long range poke to closer up unloading of your on hit passives, you are consistently damaging the opposition.

    Fully stacked AP Kog - subtract to 10k as required

    Pure AP Kog

    - AP Kog'Maw stays at range. However, to make any use of your Q and your W you can't really stay way back where your artillery can fire from. You need some form of health or mitigation.
    - AP Kog'Maw needs mana and mana regen to consistently contribute to the cause.
    - This is roughly the build order I'd recommend, getting a Tear of the Goddess early.

    / / / / /

    You need the Tear after the Sorcerer's Shoes (or before if you're comfortable zoning with basic boots) to start charging the mana pool.  Then rush your Rabadon's.

    As AP Kog you have no business being in range during the lane phase, as you have only your Q and E for burst.  Your W won't hurt hard as you won't have attack speed.  However, you gradually pick up pace and power as you build out your Rabadon's.

    The Rylai's is excellent due to your long range.  You can aoe slow from over half a screen away, and it multiplies the effect of the Void Ooze.  AP Kog is a support carry, much like the newer Xerath.  

  • On Wards

    "Why the hell should I buy wards?"
    Here's two scenarios to argue the case for spending the extra cash on wards, I'm sure you can extrapolate...

    Scenario 1: Ward at Baron
    The Oppo goes to Baron, your team ambush them and kill 3 of them. You'll have done roughly 7000 points of damage (3x whatever health they have) plus whatever advantage is then gained pushing.

    Cost for 7000+ points of damage = 75 gold.

    Scenario 2: Ward at Golem
    Your AP carry (with let's say 2000hp) is helping himself to some go go Golem juice. Your ward is in mid river bush. Your carry sees 3 gankers come through the bush heading his way. He jets out round the back and escapes.

    Cost of a 2000hp shield, plus whatever benefit not being out of the game for 30-60 seconds accrues = 75 gold.

    External Image

    As mid there are two good places to put wards, the small tuft of bushes to the north and south of the main midlane river brush and the midlane brush itself.

    The tufty brush is good for catching gankers or junglers moving across the ramps north and south of mid or coming down to mid/going to top/bottom from their ramp.  It's also slightly earlier notice that somebody's coming for you than if you placed the ward in the midlane brush.  Midlane brush is also good however.

    Placing wards in sidelanes

    If you have a support character in your lane you shouldn't need to buy a ward early as they should be doing it.When you come back to lane with a ward after your first trip back (seriously, come back with one if you want to avoid dying and help your team) you’ll already have a good idea of whether it’s you that’s pushing well and dominating or them.  
    Place the ward in whichever side brush the enemy are mostly populating in the to and fro of the lane.

    The other ward locations for sidelaners are the riverbrush on the entrance to each lane or the spots further in the river, that give coverage of movement around those ramps as well as movement along the river, again, giving you earlier notice of any gank attempts.

  • Laning with Kog'Maw

    So the point of this guide is to give you a Kog build that will help you survive soloqueue. The key piece of advice is to assume the oppo are well organised and your lanemate is an idiot :) 

    As long as you prepare for that everything else is a bonus :)

    Your main goal early on of course is to farm the minions. Even 15 more minions than the opposition is worth a champion kill.....well, not quite, because they're still in lane and not falling behind your level.

    I can't recommend strongly enough loading a 1v1 custom game with a bot, and switching the evenly contested lanes to just practise last hitting.  A game like this allows lots and lots of waves for you to practise on.

    Of course you need to do it under the pressure of real players, but what you're learning is the pure mechanical skill of seeing the sweet spot on the health bars and the rate at which they're dropping to place that last hit successfully.

    While you're waiting for the lowest health minion or minions to get to that low point where you can last hit you can help a few high health ones along, or just constantly strafe and move about...constantly. If you're on the move with boots early doors it's much less likely that an Ezreal or Brand will land their skillshots. Keep your movement pattern a bit more random than a mechanical left and right behind your minions as you wait for your last hit opportunities.

    General Advice

    Don't be afraid to get yourself a defensive item early if they have a good oppo carry, solo or mid. You be the judge. If they're landing shots on you regularly and you're constantly getting harrassed you can at least reduce the risk of a deadly combo on you by stacking some resistance.  It might mean just buying a few more health pots.  But if the enemy Karthus is chewing up your mid lane get some pots and an earlier Null-Magic Mantle for example.  You don't want to be low on health when that red vortex appears over your head!

    If you aren't using pots all the time because they're not doing quite enough to hurt you, you can continue with a more offensive build order.

    Get at least two wards by level 6, your partner won't (Wriggle's Lantern is a good alternative if you plan on building it). If you're mid you'll definitely want to given the oppo always seem to know how to gank, don't they? ;)

    If you have an oppo Twitch, Akali or Eve, suck it up and get a proper Vision Ward and plant that bad boy in the middle of the lane if you're pushing well or slightly towards your tower if they're hovering around there because they're suppressing you. They almost never expect it in soloqueue so you can usually co-ordinate some decent damage if not a kill as their Akali stands smugly in her circle waiting for you.....

    Come level 6 and your ult they should start being more cautious if you can target it even remotely well. Now you can damage them with impunity because nobody can beat your range with a near zero cooldown.

    You need to get good at this ult, it has good damage and is spammable, as I mention above in the spells section.  It also doesn't need much AP or AD to hurt.

    However, early on, at level 6, count the 'ticks' on it, so you can use it once every 'just over 6 seconds' and keep the mana cost really low. By counting this you'll find you can use the spell constantly for negligible cost.  Be a nuisance, anything that unsettles their harrass or gets them annoyed will help you.

    Solo lane

    Kog'Maw's great range doesn't really kick in till about level 6 or so when the Bio-Arcane Barrage has had a chance to grow. Plenty of champs these days can zone you out with their blink abilities early on, orbs or better early range (Cait, Corki, Lux, Orianna etc.)

    As with pro solo laning, if you can get a gank going do it, but if you don't have a jungler or roamer or they're not much good, focus on last hitting the minions. You can harrass with Kog but your cooldowns early doors on your non ult spells means, in my view, you can't quite take someone down unless you use your summoners and hit all your spells.

    Void Ooze followed by Bio Arcane Barrage and some auto attacks will usually take some health down if they're not ahead of you or built too tanky.

    Last hitting minions and not 'helping their health down with the odd auto attack' will mean the waves of minions moves towards your own tower. You don't want it too close necessarily as your tower will deny you some xp, but if they're zoning you hard and clearly have the upper hand at least they can't push further or take you down without taking some punishment.

    Equally, if you're solo laning and want to go back you should do some more auto attacking and use spells to get last hits, banging through some minions so your waves start to back up. This pushes the fight back towards their tower and will keep the oppo busy while you nip home for some goodies and a recharge.

    Don't be afraid to admit that you're getting owned in mid. If you can't seem to avoid damage from that Cait or Karthus or whoever just say so, ask for a gank or, if you're worried the lane is getting hosed see if someone will swap.

    I had a really bad game against a Karthus and called twice in the first 3 levels (after he killed me once) for support from other lanes or a switch.  Silence.  I then died twice more and got flamed, but at least one of them conceded, even if the others were still complete cockends, that I'd asked for help and a lane switch and none was forthcoming.  (I subsequently went on the forums to find some good advice for coping with a strong Karthus player...always a good step to analyse how to fight a strong champion in your quest to improve).

    Duo lane

    Kog'Maw is a good duo laner because the increasing range and the great slow from Void Ooze means you can control any aggressive actions from the oppo or alternatively slow them in order to collaborate on some damage dealing.

    Duo is also good for Kog because it means she is usually using less mana to keep the oppo in check. Ideally you have a support babysitting you but if not, you have every right to the last hits as your partner, so ensure you get what you need.

    If you have a carry sharing lane with you who is all last hitting and spamming auto attacks or pushing lane tell them you need some farm too to itemise.  You'll most likely get mocked ("l2p") but hopefully they'll appreciate that their stronger early farming (you know, Morgana, Nasus, Cassiopea) isn't helping you get the items you need to help carry.

    A note about farming with AP

    Very early on, farming with AP Kog is harder than with builds stacking attack speed.  Your first two items are likely the Tear and Sorcerer's Shoes, so it's imperative you level Void Ooze fairly hard.

    Given your inherent squishiness and your Void Ooze being a natural lane pusher due to its being aoe, you won't want to use it much to farm, but it can help when the lane is pushed nearer to your tower (at least in solo lane).

    Survive those first few levels and focus on last hitting so you can get at least a Blasting Wand or the Needlessly Large Rod and with a few levels in Q you'll start to farm more efficiently, because Void Ooze will take out the caster minions in one cast, while you'll have more mana from the Tear getting charged to do more casts.  Soon you'll be farming like a beast.

    Always nip into the jungle mid to late game and sweep up some of those minions once your jungler is no longer relying on it to level him, usually around level 6. The gold swiftly adds up and it takes seconds to take them out.....unless you can't see at least 3 of the opposition :)

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Submitted by Dithnir

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