Karthus Build Guide

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Karthus: The Dead Caster

written by Tyr4el

Karthus Build

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    Hello and welcome to my first guide, Karthus: The Dead Caster. I hope you all enjoy this guide and get something out of it. If anything is unclear at all to you, please do not hesitate to leave a comment. However, I would appreciate positive criticisms on this as it is my first time writing a guide. I have a rhyme and reason to all the things I say and the way I build my Karthus and I RARELY go below my deaths in any game using everything I will explain in this guide. So, enjoy reading, I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to rate and comment as you like.

  • Abilities

    Death Defied
    This is my favorite passive out of all the casters I have played (Annie, Veigar, Anivia, Ryze, Morgana). It allows you to cast spells 8 seconds after you die. Any good player will run far, far away from your body after you die, but on rare occasions you will get that forgetful player that stands right where you died and you can get them with Defile and Lay Waste.

    After dying here is the order I usually use my skills for those 8 seconds (or until out of mana):

    -Lay Waste x2-4

    Depending on if the enemy is dumb enough to stay in my AoE AND depending on if they are low on health, I may not even use Lay Waste as it alerts them that they're getting owned by a dead man.

    Use Requiem if any enemy is low on health but is out of range.

    Defile & Lay Waste as appropriate.

    Lay Waste
    Lay Waste is your early-game harass/farming ability. It's point and click. The technique is a little hard to get used to at first, but the ability itself is fairly straightforward. I'll discuss later how to use this in team fights.

    When using this to farm, only hit minions that have low health and you know this will be a kill on. DO NOT WASTE MANA! Even though you'll have some mana regen (from abilities and starting item), do not waste mana.

    Kiting/Running Away
    When being chased by someone, you can kite them by clicking away from your enemy on the map or on the mini-map (probably harder to pull off), aiming your mouse pointer behind your Karthus and using Lay Waste. Karthus will stop, use the skill and then you can continue clicking to run away. This method takes some getting used to and I rarely do it, but feel free to practice.

    **As a side note, doing this mid-late game in conjunction with Wall of Pain and Defile can be deadly and ensure someone will stop chasing you down**

    Chasing an Opponent 1v1
    When chasing someone early-game, Lay Waste will be your primary skill to use considering you most likely have barely any AP items yet and/or do not have many points into Defile. When chasing someone, I find that it's a lot like using Anivia's skill shot in predicting where they will end up. You will place your pointer where you feel they are going to move to and use Lay Waste on that spot. This takes practice as the shot is not a moving shot and can't hit them if they move far away. However, keep in mind that it does have a decent amount of splash radius. Also keep in mind that Lay Waste deals double damage if it only hits a single target.

    Here are two tips I've discovered while playing as Karthus and it reminds me of a quote from the movie Never Back Down (not word for word):

    "A fighter thinks of only two things after the first shot: get in, or get the hell out."

    Thinking of this, I applied it to Karthus and League of Legends. When you are chasing an enemy early-game using Lay Waste, they will either run away, or get in and try to kill you. It's your job as the player to determine what they will do. Maybe play with them a bit using Lay Waste to see if they are the type to "get in." If they aren't then you know when chasing to place Lay Waste in front of them (or to the side or wherever you notice they're running to). However, if they are the type to "get in", when they end up chasing you, follow the tips above for Kiting.

    Wall of Pain
    This is your slow. Remember that. This is your slow. It is important. As you'll see in my build I do only suggest one point in it until mid-game and I will explain why later.

    I'll now explain the uses for Wall of Pain:

    1.) Used in team fights to slow an enemy as well as add on the reduced magic resist
    2.) Used in running away from an enemy (the slow will provide you with enough time to get away)
    3.) Used in 1v1 fights to get the reduced magic resist and go in for the kill with Lay Waste and Defile

    Now I'll explain how to use Wall of Pain in certain situations:

    Team Fights
    In a team fight, Wall of Pain can be crucial to you and your teammates getting kills. I've seen plenty of times where Wall of Pain helps the team kill the entire other team whereas that most likely wouldn't have happened if it was not placed. When going into a team fight, you can place Wall of Pain on top of (if it's a standoff), in front of (if they are chasing you), or behind (if you are chasing them) the other champions to follow up with your combo (discussed later).

    Running Away
    This is probably commonsense to most veteran players, but sometimes players will forget to do it or just not do it at all. When you are being chased down and have no hope of killing the enemy champion, place the wall behind you and run the hell away. Easy.

    1v1 Fights/Chasing
    The same principle for team fights applies to 1v1 fights with enemy champions. If they are chasing you (but you aren't running away), place it in front of them so they run through it. Don't go placing it close to yourself because they'll just run around it and own you. Place it close to where they are so they run through it and you can follow up with your combo.

    If you are chasing an opponent, again, the same principle applies. Place it in front of them and catch up to follow up with your combo. If you cannot land it in front of them, try to land it on top of them. If you start chasing too late, you will not be able to land this. However, if you start chasing at the right time, you can more than likely land it on top of them and get them that way.

    This skill is your "to-be-feared" AoE. It has several uses, including farming. This is your late-game farming spell. Use it on all minions late-game to farm for easy, fast gold.

    In any situation, Defile should be on. In a team fight, 1v1, chasing, being chased - it should be ON. This is your spell that will deter enemies from chasing you. When this is on, no one wants to chase you. Because although it may be a minimal amount of damage (depending on the level of the skill and items), human psychology will say that 9 times out of 10, that player doesn't want to be losing health so they stop chasing you. And when it is a shit ton of damage per second, they aren't going to stay there just to get Lay Wasted and Defiled. Sometimes they will chase you though. They may have a stun or slow or something but they will chase you and kill you. It's inevitable when playing a caster.

    In combination with Lay Waste (especially when single hitting for double damage), Defile is an amazing spell. You will most likely get most of your kills because of it.

    **DO NOT FORGET TO TURN IT OFF**. It can happen, I know. You're in a 1v1 or a team fight and you turn on defile and you need the kill shot with Requiem, only to find out that you're out of mana because your dumb ass forgot to turn OFF Defile. Don't be dumb, just turn it off if you aren't hitting anything.

    This ultimate is my favorite. It is a global ultimate that damages all enemy champions, regardless of range. I've gotten this ultimate (in conjunction with items to boost AP) to deal around 850+ damage at it's max level of 3. That's a significant chunk of any squishy opponent's health bar. It may be just a scratch or flesh wound to other champions, but all squishies will hate you and fear this skill the entire game. It is the reason you will be ganked a lot.

    Needless to say, commonsense applies to this skill as well. Use it only when teammates tell you to, or when you know you will get the kill. Use your mini-map. It helps a lot as Karthus to get these Requiem kills. There will be games where your kills may only be from Requiem (in which case you played a very defensive Karthus), but it can happen.

  • Items

    My item build goes as follows:

    Starter Item
    - Doran's Ring
    - Health Potion x2

    I then build Catalyst the Protector into Rod of Ages. Rod of Ages is what I get playing as any caster, regardless of who it is. It gives me the extra mana and health I need to survive even into late-game.

    After completing Rod of Ages, I will start building or buy right away (depending on gold) Sorcerer's Shoes.

    After getting my boots, I start building Archangel's Staff. Archangel's Staff is a must for me with Karthus because he can farm effectively enough to build it quite quickly and the extra mana plus the AP based on 2.5% of your mana it gives you is excellent. At this point in the game you should be able to farm pretty effectively and team fights will start becoming more frequent. If you can shut an enemy down and get gold that way, go for it. Otherwise, normal farming with Lay Waste and Defile will do just fine. Building the staff shouldn't take you too long, unless you're getting killed a lot.

    My last item that I get is always [item=Zhonya's Ring]. I have only had a few games where I have not gotten Zhonya's (but I was building it when the game ended). I will usually sell of my Doran's Ring once I reach around 660 gold to buy Blasting Wand to start building it. I only get Zhonya's for the pure 120 AP it gives you.

    If built this way, this will give you around 500 AP which is plenty to finish off enemies in team battles and even some squishies by yourself.

    There are two empty slots that means. This means you can either add another Rod of Ages for the Health and Mana (in addition to AP from Archangel's), or Frozen Heart for the Armor and Mana boost, or Banshee's Veil for the Health, Mana and spell block. Or if you're good at not dying during team fights (which you will be after playing as Karthus for a while), you can get Lich Bane or another Zhonya's.

  • Masteries + Runes

    9/0/21 Mastery build (Look at Build Example further down the page for more details)

    Mark: Greater Mark of Insight
    Glyph: Greater Glyph of Focus
    Seal: Greater Seal of Clarity
    Quintessences: Greater Quintessence of Fortitude

    I get Magic Penetration marks for all around penetration, in addition to the penetration from the masteries.

    Flat Cooldown Glyphs for reduced time between Requiem shots.

    Mana Regen/Level @ 18 Seals for early game mana regen.

    Flat health Quintessences for early-game survivability.

    These are the runes that I use for my Karthus. These are also good runes for basically any caster.

    Rather than using the Mana Regen/Level @ 18 Seals, you could probably switch them out for flat AP, or HP per level runes. I have never tried it as the rune book that I have set right now is the one given above and it's working pretty nicely.

  • Summoner Abilities

    For summoner abilities I always go with Ghost and Clarity. I use Ghost for the extra speed to get away or to get that annoying enemy champion with barely any hp left and Requiem is on cooldown. These are the only abilities I've ever used on Karthus and they've worked wonders for me so far.

    Clarity for Karthus is still necessary with all the mana regen because he runs out of it a lot early-game and having to go back all the time can be deadly for your team, especially if you are in mid.

    I could see Flash being used to run away or catch up to an enemy, but I think Ghost is better at it. There seems to be a delay after using Flash that ends up letting them get away or catch up to you.

    Teleport could also be used if you are in a premade and you want to sacrifice Ghost for it to help your team out more.

    EDIT (7/30/2010): After getting tips from higher level players, Clarity was not recommended anymore. Once you reacha certain level, Clarity can be nice, but it is usually not the best spell to go with since you will have plenty Mana Regen (if you followed the rune page part o this g

  • Skilling Order

    This order is the order I will usually build my Karthus. I don't really vary it at all. I focus on Lay Waste (Q), Requiem (R), Defile (E), and lastly Wall of Pain (W). My reasoning behind this order is simple; early-mid game harassing with Lay Waste. I usually go mid (and even when I don't this order stays), and since Lay Waste is your harassing/early-game farming ability it makes sense to get it as high as possible. By the time mid-late game comes around, Requiem is level 2 and Defile should be level 3-4 and Lay Waste should be maxed. This ensures a good deal of damage output combined with the items that I discussed earlier. Using this order helps ensure maximum effectiveness in team battles any time in the game.

    Why only one point in Wall of Pain? Well in all the games I've played as Karthus, Wall of Pain is useless early-game and thinking it will get me a kill usually gets me killed. Mid-late game when you have the AP to back up your other spells, that is when it is effective. If you really feel it could be more effective, then switch up some Defile levels for Wall of Pain levels.

  • Build Example


    As I've stated in all the previous sections, this is the build I end up with as Karthus. I didn't add in the two extra items in the builder. I'll leave that up to the player reading the guide what they want to add in there. This is usually what I'm left with at the end of the game and it's gotten me lots of kills and usually an always positive KDR.

  • Pros / Cons

    -Massive damage
    -Damage after death
    -Global Ultimate
    -Excellent farmer
    -AoE helpful in team fights
    -Can take on most champions without help

    -Karthus is a caster so that makes him squishy (though I guess you could build him to be a tank?)
    -Takes a while to farm gold for items to get AP for kills
    -Not 1:1 scaling ratio (but close on some)
    -Ganked a lot

    Overall, I'd say the Pros for Karthus outweigh his Cons. He is a damage heavy caster that becomes a force to be reckoned with mid-late game. Players will fear you right when you get into the battlefield and you will most likely be the target for ganks, but knowing the map and having commonsense will help you avoid being ganked a lot.

  • Working in the team

    Karthus can be extremely deadly in a team fight. His Wall of Pain will give your team the chance to catch up in a team fight as well as his Defile and Lay Waste to deal damage as I've mentioned previously in the above sections.

    One thing I did not mention that I felt was more appropriate for this section is to stay back in a team fight. Although you will want to get in there and put on Defile and start Lay Wasting everyone, that is how you get killed. In any good team, they will instantly target you first and you will die and be sad. The trick is to stay behind your team's tank(s). If you are behind them and they are in front, you can safely cast Defile and Lay Waste and deal tons of damage.

    Karthus is a solo mid champion. If you do not always get or are not comfortable with mid, Karthus can pretty much lane with anyone. He isn't really a gank-friendly kind of champion in the sense he isn't really meant to do any ganking early-game, so I don't recommend it. I've always just hung back and used Lay Waste to harass when laning with teammates.

  • Summary

    Karthus is a damage heavy champion caster. This is the way that I play him and as I've mentioned, I rarely go below my deaths in kills. I have gotten much help from other Karthus players as well as other Karthus guides I have read here on Leaguecraft as well as on the League of Legends Forums. He takes some time to get used to and play decent as. If you keep playing all your normal games as him, you will learn to read other champions; when their spells are on cooldown and you can chase. You will also get down timing and placement of Lay Waste, among the other techniques Karthus can employ. I hope this guide was informative and helpful, as it took nearly 3 hours to write. Please rate and comment as you see fit, but please no flaming or disrespectful comments.

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