Karthus Build Guide

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Karthus - Survivability, AP and total death. They will hate you.

written by AtownStomp

Karthus Build

Table of Contents

  • Abilities

    Death Defied
    Amazing passive, it provides a constant playing field of destruction for team fights. It also allows you to finish the fool who happened to have killed you. Requiem can also be unleashed in this state for the first few seconds to completely shut down the enemy.

    Lay Waste
    Spammable, harrasing bomb of destruction. Nearly no cool-down and minimal mana use. Huge effective range and AOE damage for minion and champion explosions. If you only hit a singe target, the already massive damage is doubled. It is a delayed effect so timing and placement is crucial to disable the enemy.

    Wall of Pain
    80% slow and magic resist depletion. Excellent method for escaping, chasing and initiating ganks as well as team fights. It has a huge range so it can be placed ahead of fleeing champions.

    Constant AOE damage provides a sanctuary for any melee character. At higher levels and with greater AP, this is instant minion death. In team fights this provides a safe haven of destruction. Even in suicide bomber mode, it allows 8 more seconds of destruction. Teamed with requiem, you can single handedly take down teams of 5.

    This is the very reason everyone will hate you. Any poor soul who thinks they "barely got away" will be mistaken as the little red ribbon comes from above. Used as an initiator and team fight turnovers, it is a very powerful spell.

  • Introduction

    Karthus, commonly thought of as the squishy - not so powerful, noob ultimate, overpriced character is the foundation of the biggest AOE nuke, strong, harassing and complete finisher. Relatively difficult to master, Karthus has some insane potential to lay some serious hurt. Even the largest melee DPS will not survive your encounter. This guide will show you how to build and play your Karthus for total team destruction.

    This playing style is about survivability as that is the key to playing an effective Karthus.

    Edit: September 2010 - Item changes, summoners skills changes

  • Pros / Cons


    1. Great harasser
    2. You will NEVER let a turret fall
    3. You make more gold than god
    4. You can solo anybody
    5. You get a ton of kills
    6. If your enemy has less than 1000 hp they are dead
    7. Great in team fights
    8. Your team will love you
    9. Before the game even starts people will be scared


    1. A bit squishy
    2. You will be focused
    3. Mana can suck early on
    4. Banshee's veil can shut you down (as well as all champs with heavy HP boosts/heals/spell shields/shields in general)

  • Masteries + Runes

    For my rune builds, I go for magic pen with Greater Mark of Insight. For any caster, magic pen is a must. It counteracts a bit of magic resist that will shut you down. Early game packs a little more swagger to your step.

    For seals, I like mana regen per level Greater Seal of Clarity this is a pain early game due to mana issues, but late game it provides a nearly endless pool of mana for defile and enough to pinch off requiem at any moment.

    For glyphs, I just like ability power with Greater Glyph of Potency. Not so much power late game, but early on, it makes lay waste a bit more devastating and powerful enough to get first blood or at least keep them running back to heal.

    Glyph alternate can be flat magic resist. I feel that the boost in survivability often outweighs a little more AP. You already dish out so much damage, so you shouldn't miss anything.

    Quints, I do [rune=greater quintessense of clarity]. This provides an even greater amount of mana regen to roll around and own stuff.

  • Items

    Items for Karthus is pretty straightforward with few situation item builds. The objective is survivability and ability power. It is quite easy to peak over 700 AP which makes for a devastating ultimate. Karthus has very low survivability so it must be counteracted with the initial item build.

    1. I start with Ruby Crystal many will laugh and be like "who is this fool getting a ruby crystal first as a caster?" The actuality is that it provides a significant increase in health which allows you to stay in your lane longer and harass harder without being easily picked off.

    Once you can afford Catalyst the Protector (you should be right around level 6 if you are mid) pop back when you have an open time, and quickly teleport back to your lane (if you have tele, or push hard, go back and catch up in time). With each level, you are basically renewed which greatly increases the time you can lane.

    Soon after, work on a Blasting Wand then Rod of Ages. Rod of ages will be your highest priority. Rod of ages provides outstanding amounts of health, mana and ability power. This item continually gets stronger so this should be purchased first, above all else. Shoes aren't a huge deal early on as with your wall and ghost, you will be hard to catch.

    2. After your Rod of Ages is built, work on mobility by getting Sorcerer's Shoes there is no substitution for these shoes. Do not ever get anything other than these.

    3. This is a semi-situational item which is dependent on the current outlook of the game. If you are pulling of a lot of kills and minimal deaths, go for a Mejai's Soulstealer otherwise, focus efforts towards a Archangel's Staff this will eliminate any mana issues and give you a hefty AP boost.

    4. No questions here, race towards a [item=Zhonya's Ring] awesome AP boost and very nice active when used (if you remember, I never do)

    5. Because they should greatly fear you already, many will purchase magic resist items to try and shut down your spells. Turn it around by getting a Void Staff combined with a 15% mastery perk, your magic pen shoes and runes, you will essentially have full reign on their HP. If they aren't stacking magic resist, work towards another Archangel's Staff or Lich Bane this can also replace Rylai's in situational builds.

    6. At this point, I am usually chasing people down and am up against some heavy DPS hitters in team fights so I go with the [item=Rylai's Scepter]. I like this item simply because of the HP perks and the slow. Up against DPS players this will turn the tides completely. At this point you will be just shy of 3,000 HP. Because you will likely be focused in team fights, this adds a great amount of survivability. The AP amount is nice, too.

    Karthus is a great minion farmer. All of these items are quite expensive, but you won't have too much trouble getting at least 4 of the 6.

    Alternatively, you can go complete AP build with Mejai's and multiple Archangles as the AP stack based on mana is pretty ridiculous, not to mention more mana regen than you can literally use. Lich Bane is also a good item when you have a ton of AP although I typically do no get it.

  • Skilling Order

    Focus efforts onto Lay Waste with a level 1 Defile when you hit level 2. This provides a good amount of mana regen after each kill, letting you lane longer, get more gold and in the end - kill more shit. Getting at least level one Wall of Pain has a nice escape/chase mechanism and of course your ultimate Requiem at 6, 11 and 16. The wall will be the last skill to peak as even at level 1 it provides some great slows to chase or escape.

  • Summoner Abilities

    Ghost and Teleport are to me, the only viable abilities for Karthus. All others do not provide enough functionality for my playing style.

    Edit - Flash has replaced teleport for me in many cases. The reason for this is to use map terrain to flash through a wall, lay down a wall in front of the scared victim, defile, lay waste a few times and requiem if it gets down to it. Flash also is a phenomenal escape mechanism as being focused will be what happens.

    Karthus is ridiculously slow and can be chased quite easily. If a ranged DPS champ and friends (such as ashe) are chasing after you, even after laying down your wall you are pretty much toast. Ghost lets you escape without too much damage. Ghost of course lets you chase down those you are after as well.

    Teleport also aids in mobility by letting you get back to a lane quickly. This is first used at about level 6 when your mana is low and your ultimate is up. Later in the game it lets you hunt down enemys looking for a tower kill. As Karthus, it is basically impossible to let your tower fall.

  • Masteries

    I like 9/0/21, I don't feel that there is any other way. On offense tree hit spell pen and cooldown.

  • Build Example


  • Working in the team

    Always request mid. At mid, you can work on getting level 6 very quickly. This will provide some early game kills. It will also help you gain the gold needed for your spendy build. Make sure you are watching for MIA's as early game ganks on you will likely happen and while at mid, you have to be especially careful.

    Letting your team know when your ultimate is up helps finish some kills. Although you will mostly be working middle throughout the game. Initiating ganks helps.

    While playing Karthus, you are watching others just as much as you are watching yourself. Requiem is more than just pressing R, it is a constant battle of watching when to use it. It is not just to finish, it initiates and turns an unfavorable fight from across the map. Greedy Karthus' will simply wait until your friendly is dead, and finish the enemy after. The battle could have been won and you would get an assist.

    Turret kills are a little hard with Karthus as his physical damage is extremely low. You need to call in assistance when you wish to take a turret down. Because Karthus is soft, he is easy taken out by surprise when attempting to drive down a turret. Lich Bane can be utilized to speed up turret deaths.

    Late game you will be extremely OP with the help of Rod of Ages and your items. Your ultimate will tip the scales of 1000 damage which is devastating for the enemy. Defile will constantly do 260 damage every second or even more with a full AP build. Lay waste will do 600 damage every 2 seconds with a 100 physical damage attack(theoretically 660 DPS) and IF you happen to die, they will be stopped with requiem or your passive.

    If killed in a team battle, encourage your team to fight over your dead corpse. The damage from defile and lay waste will turn a team fight in a hurry.

  • Farming

    Farming is one of Karthus' best abilities. Simply use defile in the middle, lay waste once or twice and they are done. If you are pushed to your nexus, you can murder all minions with ease.

  • Neutral Monsters

    You will want to get the Golem as much as possible. The cooldown reduction is great for requiem and the mana regen boost pretty much lets you roll around in defile indefinitely.

    The golem can probably be taken out sooner, but on the save and minimal health loss, I'd recommend that you wait until level 10 or so, sooner with help of course.

    To start, lay your wall in front of the golem, hit him once with lay waste or regular attack until he walks through the wall, this will reduce his magic resist. Then, lay down defile and lay waste under him. This goes rather quick and so will your mana, but don't worry because when you have the buff, it will quickly come back.

    Don't ever get the lizard buff, this is useless for you.

    For Baron, do the same thing that you did for the golem, but lay your wall directly over him. Because you have the highest DPS, baron will likely target you. Watch out in case you need to back out.

  • Summary

    I hope you enjoyed my guide and can use it to become a powerful Karthus player. Go ahead at rate if you liked it.

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Submitted by AtownStomp

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