Xerath Build Guide

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A basic guide to Xerath for S.R. soloqueue

written by Dithnir

Xerath Build

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    Edit 09.10.11 - two items added beyond core, minor edits.

    This guide might be of use if you agree with any of the following:

    - I like playing AP nukers, but I'm happy to admit I'm quite average with them/don't specialise in them

    - I’m not that experienced a player, so don’t blind me with maths J

    - Ahh soloqueue champ select at an ordinary elo; I'm either with guys who got skills or guys who don't, I'd best assume the worst

    - I want to fulfil the minimum necessary conditions for victory as a carry, not feeding and farming well.  These are not sufficient conditions for victory, but they are the minimum necessary

    - I know I'm a carry but I too can buy a couple of wards through the game to keep visibility on buffs and river

    I wouldn't pretend to write a thorough guide on a champ nobody's properly and fully tested the varieties and flavours of.  It's a place to start :)

    However, I play two characters regularly with which this champ shares many characteristics, Kog and Lux.

  • Abilities

    [spell=Ascended Form]
    15% of your AP into armour is a great passive. It means that while building AP, essential to Xerath, you're building some armour too. It's not a massive buff, but 220AP will give you around two cloth armours (33 armour) worth of mitigation. Which is 600 gold you don't have spend :)

    This is like Kog'Maw's Void Ooze without the slow, an aoe-in-a-line damaging spell that hits everything in it's path. There is a very short cast time which the more able strafers with boots will sometimes avoid. Expect this behaviour because you're Xerath. It's a skillshot, so pay attention to how and where they're moving. With Locus of Power the range is sick! Seriously sick, and at later levels a W->Q is a lot like Lux's laser's smaller sister.

    [spell=Locus of Power]
    Remember, this does not cost anything to cast! When you cast it, you are locked in place either for its duration or until you press W again to toggle it off. When you toggle it off you get a nice speed buff.
    At higher levels its cooldown gets much lower, allowing you to fairly frequently lock->cast->unlock and move swiftly on.

    [spell=Mage Chains]
    The key attribute to this spell, the reason I only level it once till late, is its stun, which you get at the first level of this spell. Cast E, then Q or R and if they hit they will stun target. Be aware that when you use Locus of Power to increase range, the E’s range doesn’t increase anywhere near the amount that Q or R does. You will need to learn its range for initiating with it in order to stun an oppo for an incoming gank, for example.

    [spell=Arcane Barrage]
    Kog'Maw's barrage has a small aoe damage range. This is MUCH easier to land on targets than Kog's ultimate as its splash range is larger.
    If you press W and then R you get a really huge range on this spell. If you've played Kog you already know what to do, but if you've not worked with artillery before, it's a thrilling 3 cast barrage that really hurts the enemy.

  • Summoner Abilities

    Teleport + Flash for solo lane

    Ghost / Flash / Exhaust for dual lane

    Given it's soloqueue my primary recommendation is to take Teleport if you are in a solo lane, mid for example.

    This is because you don't, at the outset, know the champ you're facing or the player's ability behind it.  You might have a beast of a Kassadin shutting you down hard, perhaps a nice long range Caitlyn poking the hell out of you.

    As such, a Teleport is an instant 'back/regen/shop/return to lane' that allows you to not lose out on farm or risk your tower while you buy some items according to whatever you're situation is - more pots, wards, better boots, defensive items, another Doran's etc.

    The other advantage of Teleport is that you can instantly join team fights or ganks.  Check the minimap, if there's a ward in the brush near an engagement, you can jump in, ditto with the minions there.  The golden swirl of colour might be enough to send the oppo back before you materialise, so ideally you're coming in when they can't easily pull out, swiftly making a 2v2 a 3v2 :)  The other advantage to Teleport is you can return to a different lane from base if yours is pushed up towards the oppo tower a bit knowing that you can instantly jump back to your lane.

    Don't be afraid to admit that you might have more than met your match in this lane and you're getting poked or damaged hard.  The teleport allows you to hold onto that tower while having beefed up a bit so your team can do a switch or your jungler can come and discourage them from pushing :)

    As it's soloqueue you also, if my elo and general game experience is anything to go by, won't have wards much, even with a dedicated support.  As such there is a much greater opportunity to be ganked.

    For dual lanes any of the three above are useful.  All can be used offensively and defensively according to how the fight is going.

    Exhaust is great for shutting down a hard carry when you intend to stick around and trade, as well as slowing their escape.  Flash and Ghost are great for positioning but also a great tandem to leap away and outrun the oppo, one or two of whom will usually have a higher movespeed.

  • Masteries + Runes


    Assuming you're mid


    The Summoner spell masteries I've taken are for Flash and Teleport, as per the rationale in the above section for a solo mid.  Take the relevant Exhaust or Ghost masteries if you plan on taking those spells.

    This is the standard caster layout, the spell penetration improving what's already in your Locus of Power



    You have a few options here besides those in the champions spotlight for your Quints and Glyphs categories, but I think the Reds and Yellows are advisable for all starting Xeraths.  Below are considerations for each option.

    Greater Quintessence of Potency

    A solid starting choice for a champ who both needs AP and whose armour scales off AP.  This gives you good poke out of the gate, particularly if you feel like starting with Boots and pots.  You still got some AP this way.

    Greater Quintessence of Warding

    You might not want all three of these quints, but if you're in draft mode and know you're up against a solid mid champ that you struggle with or otherwise have not had much experience with, these quints and some magic resist glyphs will seriously gimp their damage.  You could also argue that this rune setup takes care of most of your magic resist requirements till late game, given you're a carry, allowing you to focus on damage items.

    Greater Quintessence of Clarity

    Again, you won't want three of these but they will allow you to spam spells more, scaling well into the more spammy/bursty lategame.  You would not take the flat Mana regen Quint because this outscales it by about level 6.

    Greater Quintessence of Vigor

    If you're learning AP casters these can be good runes to take.  We're all at varying stages on the path to great zoning, last hitting and avoiding damage, but if you're somewhere near me on that path you occasionally get caught, or take some poke from a better player in the oppo.  You'll be surprised at how well these regen you as you hover near your tower, allowing you to stay in lane, keep picking up xp and giving you time to recommend a gank from your team.  If you can afford to get them, try them out once or twice, you'll notice those pots you bought are still there at level 8, just in case :)

    Greater Mark of Insight

    Seriously the only choice.  Your AP ratios are reasonable but not stonking, with your Locus of Power and masteries these will give you some good early damage against other champs' base or rune/mastery buffed magic resist.

    Greater Seal of Clarity

    Again, a very strong choice as you need decent regen to hold your own spellcasting.  Putting out consistent spell damage, literally dps, requires good regen on a caster.  With the Doran's Ring you'll have enough to poke consistently.

    Greater Glyph of Force

    A strong standard caster choice.  You'd take these over the flat AP runes because they overtake the flat runes at level 6.  The benefit of these grows further with Rabadon's Deathcap

    Greater Glyph of Warding

    If you're solo mid it's likely you'll be up against a caster.  As such these glyphs will really mitigate their damage.  Coupled with the quints you'll be able to absorb a lot of damage and stand a better chance of winning an early lane 1v1 battle royale.

  • Skilling Order

    Nothing too controversial.  You level Q first as it's your primary damage dealer, you get E for the stun at level two, W for the improved range then max out Q and W thereafter, prioritising R of course because of it's big damage and range.

    I take W over E because you're reducing it's cooldown and increasing the magic penetration, while it never costs mana.  Levelling Q to max will consume more and more mana, so if you prioritised E over W you'd have two high cost mana spells consuming a relatively small early game mana pool quickly.

    "W->Q->W (to unlock yourself)" is your really strong long range aoe poke.  It does however damage all minions that your oppo champ will no doubt hide behind, as he'll be hoping this pushes the minion wave closer to his turret where you're more open to be ganked by jungler and others.

    Remember there is a moment's cast time on your Locus of Power, which the oppo will read, so they'll either jump in and force you to toggle off if they have a combo you're worried about or they'll instantly back off.  Given it's long cooldown in lane, you'll only have two levels in it by level 8, it's not something you should use a great deal early, try to use the E->Q combo on its own if you can.

  • Items

    So, this is soloqueue :)  my philosophy in the guides I write is to give you a basic cheap core and build options from there.  After all, each game is different, different champs, different skill levels, fluid matches.
    6k core...yes, 6k


    Full core build with runes and solo lane masteries

    The items are 5650 gold, the consumables account for at least a couple of hundred.

    The above items, especially if bought in that order, give you early game health, more penetration, good mana regen and some more AP (with a little more passive armour of course).  The Rabadon's then boosts your damage a lot, making you a dangerous carry quite early.

    I recommend the Sorcerer’s Shoes because while Mercury's Treads are strong, as are Ionian Boots of Lucidity, Xerath is all about damage, and the cooldowns are manageable as you level up your skills.
    I encourage you to experiment with Boots however.  The Mercury's Treads are very useful early if the oppo has a Karthus, as it mitigates his ult damage handily.  If you're laning against him or another AP it is an additional boost to any cc they have and damage they do, so if it's not going so well you can fight back with some resistance!

    To start I recommend going either or + x 3.
    The Doran's Ring is a good start if you're confident with AP casters mid.  You're movement is slow, particularly if the oppo has taken boots, but you do have more regen, damage and health.  Fine if you can avoid their poke and zone well.
    If you're not so confident, take the boots and pots.  The pots give you good sustain while you get a feel for the lane, and the Boots means you are quicker on your feet and thus can zone well in and around the minion line.

    I always recommend buying some health pots in lane anyway, and wards go without saying.  The health pots let you stay in lane if you do take a combo in the face and need to recover without recalling back to base.

    All pros buy wards, carries and supports.  You're not a pro, but it's incredibly important.  See the section below on placing wards.

    Items beyond the core

    Any of these items are going to be useful in various contexts, though Rylai’s is at the top as it would be my next item.  They’re not in order apart from that.

    A general point regarding prioritising Rabadon's.  Other items are certainly good for early to mid game, Tear of the Goddess will give you lots of mana and some regen for casting through the game, Rod of Ages is good if you get it early enough.  In both cases, as with other items, my concern is that with Xerath's range in particular the early hard damage of Rabadon's can really make your lane oppo back off, and make you a meaningful contributor to midgame team fights.  Delaying it for these other items will diminish your damage contribution.  It depends on your playstyle.  Mine's cautious so I use spells less and focus more on farming, as such I don't 'feel' the cooldown and mana consumption such that I'm looking to mitigate their impact.

    Rylai's Crystal Scepter
    As with AP Kog, and also Lux, Xerath has spells that work at great range and are aoe, so the slow component of Rylai’s, along with the great AP and boost to health mitigate your squishiness and can be great to slow escapees, just W->R or Q and you can put a slow on a number of the oppo champs.

    Will of the Ancients
    The strength of this choice is mostly for the spellvamp.  You can recover some health late game as there are usually waves of minions to feed you some health.  A dual AP team comp means your other Magic damage champs benefit too.

    Abyssal Scepter
    The passive’s debuff has a 1000 range.  Your unbuffed Q has a 900 range, so if you are in range to Q you will benefit from the buff.  Given W is situational and has, in some scenarios, a risky lockdown, you should be often enough in 1000 range for this to be a potentially viable item.

    It’s rare you’ll be consistently casting at the extremity of your range with the way the battlefront moves in fluid team fights mid to late game, especially with gap closers and the ubiquitous Flash.  As such this item is useful for that but also a big chunk of magic resist and some AP.  Always a strong item.

    Quicksilver Sash
    Perhaps not so overlooked these days, the active is an epic cleanse, it’s great magic resist and at a good price.  If the oppo have good cc initiators like Amumu, Ashe, or other hard cc like snares and fears and slows, this cleanses them, allowing you to keep up your escape or indeed flash away if you are shut down.  QSS->Flash->Ghost is going to save your life.

    Rod of Ages
    A common approach to midlane casters and casters in general is getting that early Catalyst the Protector for it’s great sustain and better health and mana pool, building out into the excellent RoA.  This item has bags of AP, health and mana, but it’s very pricey.  My concern is that given the particular nature of Xerath, there’s better synergy in going earlier into the heavy damage of a Needlessly Large Rod and beyond as well as the Rylai’s Scepter.  1325 gold for the Catalyst and then another 860 for the Blasting Wand and you’re still 850 gold away from starting the Rod’s passive from going.

    It could be a good choice if you’re very good at farming and are doing well in your lane.

    [item=Morello's Evil Tome]
    I love this item on Lux, Zilean and my support characters due to the big cooldown benefits.
    I've not noticed cooldown problems later in game such that I would put this in my build for that reason, particularly as levelling W reduces its cooldown.  However, a lower cooldown on your ult is always nice and the regen and AP never hurts.  I don't have many regen problems generally, but my first reader's comment indicated that this might be my making assumptions about consumption of mana based on my more cautious playstyle.  Again, I play not to feed, so always err on the side of caution.

    Archangel's Staff
    I get this on AP Kog, because mid to late game the exponential cost of spamming his high damage ult, his main damage output when he's sacrificed the attack speed and on hit items, means he needs a larger pool and more regen.  His artillery is zero cooldown zero cast time (ish).  You can't spam on Xerath as hard.
    With a Tear in your pocket you will quickly see mana problems diminish if you're casting a lot, and with the Staff you can kiss mana problems goodbye with a big pool and sick regen.

    Chalice of Harmony
    “Sorry Dithnir, not on a caster please.”  I know, I know.  Not everyone who needs a guide is that strong with mana conservation.  I’m not ashamed to say there are times when I’ve needed some magic resist to cope with the damage I’m taking from a better player, but also the opportunity to spam some damage back.  The passive on this is excellent.  You’ll usually be in a situation where your mana regen has increased 50-70% or more when you’re busy casting.  It’s only 890 gold, so a good situational option for, you know, certain situations.

    Haunting Guise
    With Sorcerer’s Shoes and your Locus of Power you might not need any more penetration.  Flat pen and % pen will be hardcore with this item.  It’s not an ideal choice for the money, and doesn’t upgrade.  In my view it doesn’t compete with the far cheaper twin Doran’s Rings, but if you took different boots, the Guise will give a nice boost to your early/midgame damage.

  • Placing wards

    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.

  • Some basic laning advice for the less experienced player

    Laning mid – basic advice

    My advice for laning with Xerath in mid would be quite standard.  You should be last hitting minions as a priority.  For the less experienced player, 15 minions = a champion kill in gold.  It’s the only way you’ll be able to itemise hard enough in the lane to boost your mid and lategame damage.  If you can poke damage the oppo at little cost to yourself (i.e. not trading damage or doing it too near their minions which then switch their damage to hit you) then go for it, you want to force them away from their minions so you can free farm and deny them xp.

    Xerath’s Q is aoe, so using it regularly will generally hit their minions harder and you’ll find yourself pushing towards their tower.

    If you haven’t warded then you are an easy target for a gank.  If the opposition starts getting aggressive, or seems to prefer or hover near one side of the river, chances are he’s trying to bait you towards him to attack, bringing you in ganking range of whatever’s waiting in the brush.  

    Xerath will have Q levelled a bit by level 6 and his E levelled once.  The W will of course let him put on the hurt a bit more, but as Q is a skillshot I’d recommend trying to hit them with a few early on.  If they’re clearly quite good (and/or have boots) at dodging it you’re better off sticking to farming, conserving mana and bursting on them when they get a bit aggressive.

    If you need to go back to shop or the oppo has gone back, you should push the lane by using some spells on the enemy minions and killing them off fast.  You now have the freedom to go back to shop before the enemy or a minion wave can get to your tower and do some damage, or you can go to the top or bottom lanes to help out with a gank.

    Press ‘Tab’ occasionally early on, see which champs might have wards in their inventories.  If there is a dedicated support character the chances are they bought wards and have placed them in the river brush.  As this is usually bottom lane you should weigh up whether they are far enough over that they can’t run past you.

    Equally, if you find that you go to that riverbrush and they magically just back off, it’s warded for sure :) 

    Sometimes it’s good to approach from your side if the lane is pushed up a bit so you can get into the sidelane brush by your tower and advance while in the fog of war so they know you’re afk but not where.  If the lane then pushes back a bit, especially with your range, you can throw down a W->E to set up stun->Q->R->R->R for a world of hurt.

    This combo also applies in mid if you can get it off.

    Always in mid use caution.  If you’re out of pots and low on health, don’t stick around unless you know where their jungler is.  If two of them or more are missing they’ll kill you at your tower without risking their own health.  All the pros just retreat on low health, you’ll always have money for some pots, a ward or even the next item component.

    Basic laning advice – dual lane

    Your armour passive makes you a little hardier if you end up in a lane against an AD carry like Ashe, Caitlyn or Vayne, but only a little.  They’ll be specced full damage so it’s going to hurt 

    Because of your stun and range you should, with a damagey partner, push the lane fairly well.  If you’re with support you should be able to focus on last hitting and get some protection from your oppo.

    If your lane partner hasn’t brought wards to the party you should.  It sucks, but it means that you can’t be outzoned by their use of brush or ganked from mid if you place a ward there.  Nag them to do their share.

    Your W->E->Q or just the E->Q is a good initiate if your lane partner is close enough or can gap close to damage.  If it’s pre level 6 it can usually be enough to see off an oppo, but your W does have a longish cooldown so don’t waste it if you can help it.

    If you have a jungler coming in from river then you should drop the full combo so you can open up a long range stun, but your E, even with W on, is nowhere near the range of your Q when you’re Locused.

    Finally, and this is advice for less experienced players, your minimap is your friend, you should be glancing at it frequently, at least once every 10 seconds.  Practice this!  Ping if you see movement through wards of the oppo in case your team hasn’t seen it, don’t rely on ‘SS’ to know someone’s missing, get in the mindset that it’s your responsibility to be watching where the enemy is.

    If you are alone in lane, away from your tower, you should be constantly checking the map for missing oppo.  If you can’t be sure where two or more of the enemy are, and you don’t have wards to warn you, you have to assume they’re near you.  Never facecheck brush unless you’re sure they’re not there.  Being cautious is always good, however frustrating it is that the minion wave you want to keep pushing is not getting ‘last hitted’ near their tower.  It feels crap just standing around near your tower because you don’t have the information you need to move out…suck it up.  Wait for your intel to improve and then you can continue.

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Submitted by Dithnir

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