IntroductionHello and welcome to the second installment of my "How to Carry a Carry" series of guides, focusing on how to effectively play support champions! Today we'll be taking a look at Karma, one of the most underplayed champions in the League, and wrongly so!
Karma is a decent champion in my opinion, with her abilities giving an incredible counterplay that no other support has. All of her abilities support and attack, giving an interesting and unique gameplay. While she isn't as strong a support as Janna or Zilean, she does bring a potent power to any team. So without further ado, I present to you my way of playing Karma!
My masteries are fairly standard for a caster/support. 9 in Offense provides 15% magic penetration, which scales exceedingly well into late-game. 21 in Utility gives you lots of wonderful treats, including increased mana regen, a good chunk of free CDR, and a very low cooldown on Clairvoyance.
While not suggested, a 9/21/0 build, investing 3 points into Ardor, is viable if you wish to be more tanky. I do recommend you stick to 9/0/21 build though, simply because it is more beneficial to the playstyle I will be describing.
Runes are very flexible with Karma, who really doesn't rely on any specific stat and can be built in multiple ways. The rune page above is the set I run, but these are all perfectly viable:
- Magic Penetration - Very good for anyone that deals magic damage.
- Ability Power per level - They are secondary, but free AP is always good.
- Mana Regen per 5 per level - These are the only yellows I will suggest. Karma is mana-intensive, and you need these.
- Cooldown Reduction - Flat or per level is fine; both work well. I cap out CDR with just the flat ones, so use those if you plan to go Boots of Lucidity and Morello's.
- Mana Regen per 5 per level - Again, Karma is VERY mana-intensive. These are very very useful.
- Ability Power per level - 30 AP is really good, regardless.
- Magic Resist per level - I love these runes just because of all the magic damage running around these days; always useful.
- Flat Health - Great for the early-game laning-phase part.
- Gold per 5 - Useful if you build support and get early Philo Stones.
- Flat AP - Karma is strongest early on, and these complement that phase.
Flash and Clairvoyance are the Summoner Spells I run on pretty much all support champions, with very few exceptions. Flash is great for mobility, and it's your job as the support to get Clairvoyance. If you don't want either of these for whatever reason, some good alternatives are:
- - Decent support spell, but tapers off in effectiveness late-game.
- - Very supportive to insta-gib the enemy's main DPS. ;)
- - Great for mobility, and allows you to b, get mana, and come back instantly.
Passive: Inner Flame
Karma gains increased Ability Power corresponding to her % of missing Health.
Cost No Cost
- One of my favorite passives in the game! No matter how safe you play, you are bound to take damage. This baby here congratulates you for it and rewards you with even more powerful spells. At level 18 you can gain up to 140 ability power. WOW.
Q: Heavenly Wave
Karma sends forth hidden blades from her fans, dealing 70 / 110 / 150 / 190 / 230 (+60% Ability Power) magic damage to units in a cone in front of her. Mantra Bonus: In addition to dealing damage to enemies, Heavenly Wave will also heal allies in the cone for 35 / 55 / 75 / 95 / 115 / 135 plus 5% (+%) of their missing Health.
Cost 65 / 75 / 85 / 95 / 105Mana
- A decent AoE damage and a decent AoE heal. This spell is very useful, simultaneously providing a decent chunk of damage and a decent heal. The heal scales up as your allies get more HP, so your tanks don't suffer as much as with flat heals. Proper positioning can result in a battle-changing spell cast. Fun fact: Heals minions!
W: Spirit Bond
Karma creates a beam between an ally or enemy for up to 5 seconds. Allied anchors move 10% / 12% / 14% / 16% / 18% faster and enemy anchors are slowed by 10% / 12% / 14 %/ 16% / 18%. The beam deals 80 / 125 / 170 / 215 / 260 (+70% Ability Power) magic damage to enemies and applies the same movement speed adjustment anchors receive to any champion it passes through. The beam breaks if the bonded target is stealthed. Mantra Bonus: Karma strengthens the bond to double the effect of the movement speed modifier.
Cooldown 15 / 14 / 13 / 12 / 11 / 10 seconds
Cost 65 / 75 / 85 / 95 / 105 Mana
- I have always had particular animosity towards this spell, just because of an oversight I think Riot made while designing it. The speed modifiers are wonderful, and makes this spell a chase or an escape depending on how you want to use it. My problem is with the damage, though. The damage itself is a great number, and contributes to a pretty powerful burst capability. The only thing is is the person you target is immune to the damage; I always hated not having it damage the one you hit instantly, but I suppose beggars cant be choosers. Just realize you need to hit something behind your target or do a lot of running to actually damage your enemy.
E: Soul Shield
Karma summons a protective shield that absorbs 80 / 120 / 160 / 200 / 240 (+80% Ability Power) damage for 5 seconds. Mantra Bonus: In addition to casting the shield, energy radiates out from the shield dealing 70 / 110 / 150 / 190 / 230 (+80% Ability Power) magic damage to enemy units around her target.
Cost 70 / 80 / 90 / 100 / 110mana
- A POWERFUL spell, to say the least. The shield amount is up there with Eye of the Storm, but it is also a very strong AoE nuke. The spell can be used offensively and defensively at the same time, which is a fantastic design. This is one of my favorite spells in the game because of that aspect. This can also be used on minions, adding to her strong laning phase and pushing ability.
Karma empowers her next ability with an additional effect. Karma gains a charge every 25 seconds up to 2 charges. The refresh rate is reduced by Cooldown Reduction.
Cooldown 25 seconds
Cost No Cost
- Not much to say about this. Karma doesn't actually have an ultimate, per say. This thing is like a passive, which activates and then gives a bonus to your next spell cast. It's a very unique way of designing a champion, and something I actually really like. Makes Karma special, and not in the likes-to-eat-glue kind of way.
You start out with Soul Shield, because it is the most effective way to help your jungler. Throw a Mantra Soul Shield on him, you'll draw aggro, and he'll have some extra HP for the fight. Then you want to start maxing out Heavenly Wave.
Soul Shield does do more damage, but it requires a Mantra Charge to damage. By prioritizing Heavenly Wave you won't have to worry about running out of Charges in lane, which you really need to save for sticky situations. After Heavenly Wave you max Soul Shield, because it rocks. It's a very strong shield and does heavy damage in a deceptively large area. It becomes great for pushing because it can be cast on minions, letting them tank an incredible amount of turret shots.
Then you get you Spirit Bond maxed out. Spirit Bond is a pretty good haste/slow, especially if you Mantra it. My only problem is that it can be hard to damage your target, since you have to drag them through the tether. That's the only reason I max it last.
Karma has very flexible build paths, but in the end I have found AP to be the strongest. You ultimately arrive at having stronger shields and heals, and also much higher damage. Building support items like Soul Shroud and Aegis of the Legion are not out of the question, and I will be discussing items like those later on. So let's get into the build:
With this build we're looking at 300+ heals, 600+ shields, and incredible nuking capabilities. With the addition of Morello's Evil Tome and its eventual buff, all support off-nukes like Karma got a sneaky buff. To start with:
This is the build you should ultimately arrive at. You have maxed out CDR, over 500 AP, and great survivability. Some people don't understand why I get Boots of Lucidity instead of Sorcerer's Shoes since I play her an off-nuke, and the answer is simple: flat Magic Penetration gets weaker as the game drags on and enemies get high MR. Since I get Void Staff and take the mastery, 55% MPen is more than enough to nuke that poor Rammus if the situation calls. 15% CDR is much better because it allows you to cast more spells, which means more heals and more shields. Always good!
Now then, to get these items you have to start somewhere. These two sets of items are generally the only ones I would suggest:
Doran's items were nerfed to where you can't start with pots now, but Karma has a heal. Doran's Ring is still a great item and I keep it all the way up until I absolutely have to sell it. I start with it about 80% of the time. But if I know the lane I'm going to will be tough (heavy harassers like MF, Karthus, etc., which you hardly see in side-lanes anyways) I will take pots. On your first back, try to get:
Obviously only the Catalyst if you started with boots, haha. Catalyst is a great laning item, giving you great sustainability. Plus since Karma is so mana-intensive, the large chunk of mana is great to have. Now that you have that, you can really start having fun:
- - AP + CDR = Yay!
- - OMFGWTFBBQ MPEN FTW.
- - Immunity!
- - Immunity!
If you don't like the thought of some of these items, there are many alternatives. Karma is flexible, so changing around a few items won't really hurt you too much. Some good options are:
- - Against MR-heavy teams, or just for the Magic Resist.
- - Karma is VERY mana-intensive; this item helps loads.
- - I don't like snowball items, but if you do by all means get it.
- - Lots of HP and the compounding slow is great with Spirit Bond.
There are some good choices out there for support items, and a few of them should always be on a team. It's often the support's role to carry at least one of them, but Karma does kinda' break this convention. I've played with all of these items on her and will discuss the results of each one, so you can get your own ideas as to what works on her and what doesn't, because I would suggest you just stick to the pure AP build. :)
- - Aegis of the Legion
- - Shurelya's Reverie
- - Soul Shroud
- - Stark's Fervor
- - Will of the Ancients
Phases of the Game
Karma has a very strong duo-lane. Due to the nature of her spells, she is able to play offensively and defensively at the same time. You can zone melee champions with incredible ease: Soul Shield can be used on minions, so you can deny them last hits AND damage them at the same time! It's wonderful, truly. :)
Your constant heals and shields let you and your partner last-hit freely, with much room for error. Your heals get stronger as your health gets lower, so you can recover faster from lower HP. The only problem is with mana: you can quickly run out of it. Same goes with Mantra charges.
You ALWAYS want to have at least one Mantra charge up, so you can use Spirit Bond to escape ganks. When Karma was first released junglers quickly realized to kill Karma they just had to wait for her to use her last Mantra charge. Make sure you don't make this mistake!
This is where things kick off. Hopefully you have Boots of Lucidity, Fiendish Codex, and at least the Needlessly Large Rod component of Rabadon's Deathcap. If so, you're good. If you have Rabadon's, then you're great! If you have Morello's as well, you're fed. :D
By now team-fights should be breaking out, and you want to always be there. Position yourself at the back like any good support. Most Karma's make the mistake of running into the fray like Soul Shield makes them immune to damage. Here's what you should do:
Use Spirit Bond on the one in front. The line it gives should hit allies and give them the speed boost, but don't worry about that too much. It will also hit enemies that try to jump in for your carries. If they do this, IMMEDIATELY hit your carry with a Mantra'd Soul Shield. This will cause significant damage and give them a powerful shield. Once you notice at least 2 or three people are below full, or someone needs a clutch heal, throw a Mantra'd Heavenly Wave.
Basically your job is to shield the ones getting focused, especially important carries, heal when a lot of people need it or one person REALLY needs it, and provide a speed boost for allies when you need to chase or escape.
Your job hasn't changed much, but you now deal a lot more damage. You should have your Void Staff by this point, and hopefully working towards finishing Banshee's Veil. You'll want to be saving Mantra for team fights, and follow the same routine you have been: Soul Shield important carries, heal your team when they need it, and use Spirit Bond to provide speed boosts or slow down targets.
You should realize that while you do deal a lot more damage, so do your enemies. Don't get ballsy and try to tank; stay in the back, play it safe, and save your allies. Continue buying wards for Baron, stick with the team, etc. Do NOT go off alone; remember that while you are carrying your carry, they are also carrying you. It's a give and take relationship: you protect them, and they protect you.
In the end, Karma is not as good a support as Janna or Zilean, and likely never will be. However, she is a very useful champion that I think is wrongly underplayed. She is fun, unique, and can be an asset to any team when properly played.
If you're looking for someone easy to play, easy to learn, and incredibly powerful as a support, there are wonderful Janna guides out there. If you're looking for someone with a unique style, interesting meta, and that requires time and skill to learn, then Karma is your girl! :)