IntroductionHello everyone, and welcome to my guide on how I play Karthus.
I've been playing LoL since around the time Galio was released. It's really the first game of the genre I've ever played, as I never really got around to trying DotA or any other RTS games. I always have been, however, an avid gamer overall, so I was already used to the way online gaming in general works. I sort of fell in love with the game pretty quickly, as it seemed to require more strategy and quick thinking skills than games I had played previously. This appeals to me, since I enjoy a mental challenge. I've been playing LoL all the time since then, and I've done my fair share of research, reading guides and watching livestreams and stuff. I think I'm a fairly intelligent player and I understand how the game works, although I'm definitely not the best player, since I'm a fairly nervous person.
Karthus was the first champ that caught my eye when I was scanning over the selection at first, and I know now that he lives up to his looks. He's an extremely fun and challenging character, and if you haven't given him a good try, you're missing out. :] Maybe this guide will persuade you to do so?
I hope you enjoy my guide, and remember, don't go easy! I want as much criticism and suggestions as I can get!
AD - attack damage
AP - ability power
DPS - damage per second
AoE - area of effect (Defile)
DoT - damage over time (Ignite)
CC - crowd control (slow, stun, etc)
CDR - cooldown reduction
Skills and Skill OrderKarthus is a very unique champion. Unlike most champions which deal damage primarily through abilities, he isn't necessarily a nuke champion. Karthus specializes in sustained magic dps through an AoE DoT spell and an extremely low cooldown delayed nuke. This makes him pretty special, as most other AP champions start to lose viability as the game progresses, because they are useless when their burst is on cooldown. Karthus, however, has virtually zero cooldowns on two of his skills, which allows him to stay effective even in the longest games.
Death Defied: On taking lethal damage, Karthus defies death, enabling him to cast spells for free for 8 seconds. Additionally, Karthus spends 20% less time dead.
This passive is amazing, and is just another reason why Karthus has the potential to carry so damn hard. Think of it this way: if the enemy team doesn't focus you down first in a teamfight, they get raped by your damage and lose the teamfight. However, if they do focus you down, you still have 8 seconds to wall them and spam skills for 8 more seconds of delicious damage, while all they see are cooldowns from rolling their keyboard on you. It's a win-win situation, and is also a reason why Mejai's is so good for Karthus, since he loses stacks immediately upon going into this state, meaning you can get your stacks back during the 8 seconds of afterlife.
Lay Waste: Creates a delayed blast at Karthus' cursor position. After 0.5 seconds, deals 40 / 60 / 80 / 100 / 120 (+30% of ability power) magic damage to each nearby enemy, this deals double damage if it hits only a single unit.
Cooldown 1 seconds | Cost 20 / 28 / 36 / 44 / 52 mana | Range 875
This skill is the skill that makes Karthus who he is, aside from his ultimate of course. It's a long ranged, fairly powerful, SUPER spammable delayed AoE. It will be your main last hitting tool in lane, since your auto attack is really weak and the animation doesn't really flow. Effective usage of this skill can result in massive damage, although it can be pretty hard to aim correctly. The double damage effect is great, too, as it also effectively doubles its AP ratio.
At max rank with 800 AP, this skill deals 120 + (800 x 0.3) or 360 damage to more than one enemy or 720 damage to a single target. This isn't taking magic resistance into consideration and your damage will realistically be significantly lower but hey, it's certainly not bad for a one second cooldown! Also, do not take it for granted that this skill does provide vision! Don't facecheck when you can use this to check instead!
Note: This skill will take practice to hit often. The delay is tough to get used to and the AoE is relatively small, but as you play more games, you will get used to it and your aim WILL improve. Landing a high percentage of your attempts is key to playing Karthus as they account for a large amount of the damage you deal in teamfights, so familiarize yourself with it and you will undoubtedly find yourself being more successful!
Wall of Pain: Creates a 800 / 900 / 1000 / 1100 / 1200 distance wide wall through target point. Reduces enemy armor and magic resistance by 15 / 20 / 25 / 30 / 35 and reduces movement speed by up to 40 / 50 / 60 / 70 / 80%; debuff lasts 5 seconds. The wall lasts 7 seconds.
Cooldown 22 seconds | Cost 100 mana | Range 1000
Oh, Wall of Pain...it's a fairly long wall that slows by a ridiculous amount for five seconds. This is, of course, your form of crowd control, and this definitely delivers. Slowing the entire enemy team for 80% is pretty entertaining. It also allows you to hit Lay Waste very accurately, as they can't evade your clicks by zigzagging. It even drops their armor and magic resistance, allowing your whole team to do better damage. An extremely important use of this skill is while your passive is activated, because you can use it to ensure enemy death, assist you in dealing more damage while you can't move, and keep people in your AoE longer. To top everything else off, if you are close enough to the bush and place your wall perfectly, you can reveal enemies in bushes! It's generally better to check brush with Lay Waste, but if you think someone is inside that you can kill easily, it's not a bad choice, just be sure you won't need it before its cooldown refreshes.
Defile: Toggle Off: When Karthus kills a unit, he restores 20 / 27 / 34 / 41 / 48 mana. Toggle On: Drains 30 / 42 / 54 / 66 / 78 Mana to deal 30 / 50 / 70 / 90 / 110 (+25% of ability power) damage to nearby enemies each second.
Cooldown 0.5 seconds | Cost 30 / 42 / 54 / 66 / 78 mana | Range 550
This is by far my least favorite skill for Karthus. It's not a bad skill, but it doesn't fit with his playstyle much. Karthus should not be standing in the middle of a fight, but he should be on the outside spamming Lay Waste and crippling people with Wall of Pain. It deals great sustained AoE damage, but I feel that it's really lacking if you are playing Karthus properly. It definitely is helpful in certain situations, like if you are being chased, get caught in a 1v1 situation or are dead, desperately trying to deal damage before you leave the fight. It's also amazing for farming minions or killing neutrals. With 800 AP, this skill deals 310 damage per second to everyone around Karthus before resistance, so it's definitely nothing to sneeze at, but it shouldn't be up often, especially early game due to the intense mana drain.
Requiem: After channeling for 3 seconds, Karthus deals 250 / 400 / 550 (+70% of ability power) magic damage to all enemy champions (regardless of distance).
Cooldown 180 / 150 / 120 seconds | Cost 200 / 300 / 400 mana | Range 10000
Requiem is Karthus. Karthus is Requiem.
This skill makes Karthus who he is. He could have some other ultimate and still be pretty awesome, but nothing would match up to Requiem. This skill is a global nuke to all of the enemy champions. In other words, it's just begging to cause rage, anxiety, and maybe clinical depression. This skill is also what allows you to be a glass cannon and still cause complete destruction in teamfights despite how quickly you drop. Lastly, this skill is what makes Mejai's Soulstealer so important for you.
The order in which I level up my skills is quite basic. The priority of your skills is:
>> >> >>
This means that when you level up, you should choose whichever option is higher on the priority list. The only exception is at level 4, where you should level up Defile instead of Wall of Pain for the mana regeneration effect and the slight boost in killing power. Otherwise, follow the priority pattern exactly, it pays off.
Why this order?
Obviously, Requiem should be leveled up whenever possible because it is your strongest skill and damn, it's a global nuke! You want as much damage from this as possible in case you need to use it. Lay Waste should be leveled up second, because it is your main source of harassment and killing power and it has a relatively small mana cost. It's also a good method of last hitting during laning phase if you dislike your auto attack animation. Wall of Pain should be maxed next because it provides much more utility than Defile. The levels which you level Wall of Pain are usually about when teamfights start to occur somewhat often, and Wall of Pain is more helpful for your whole team. The increased length of the wall, incredible slow and resistance debuff will give your team a much easier time in midgame teamfights if used intelligently. Defile should be maxed last, because before mid-late game you will get very few opportunities to use it due to its mana draining effects. It also provides much less utility than Wall of Pain and will force you to stand in the middle of fights to be of maximum effectiveness during mid game fights, which will inevitably cost you stacks and feed the other team.
This skill priority order is optimal in virtually every situation and should rarely be changed in my opinion, but it is up to the player. Feel free to argue against my decisions if you feel they are incorrect.
Runes9x Magic Penetration Marks
9x Mana Regeneration / 5 per Level Seals
9x Ability Power per Level Glyphs
3x Ability Power per Level Quintessences
Magic Penetration Marks increase your early game harassment ability significantly. It's not too useful as the game progresses, but it's a difference and can help you kill runners with Requiem early or win your lane easier. Mana regen per level Seals are very helpful since Karthus can burn mana extremely fast, and they regenerate more mana than their non-scaling counterpart by level 4, making them very efficient. AP per level Glyphs and Quints give you a combined total of almost 50 AP by level 18, which will cause you to be an even stronger force in teamfights.
Other options include:
Marks: None, magic penetration is optimal in every situation.
Seals: You can get flat Armor Seals or flat/scaling Health Seals if you are not good at avoiding harass early game and want a little boost in survivability.
Glyphs: You can take flat AP Glyphs if you want stronger harass early game, flat/scaling Magic Resist Glyphs if you think you need more survivability, or scaling mana regeneration if the Seals don't provide enough for you already or if you decide not to take the Seals.
Quints: You can take flat Health Quints for the great lane survivability boost, flat AP Quints if you think the difference between flat and scaling is too small and would prefer to get your damage boost early, or Move Speed Quints if you want to...move faster.
Masteries9/0/21 is pretty much the optimal setup for Karthus. Make sure to grab the 6% CDR, the mana regeneration per 5, the increased buff duration for blue and baron, and increased experience gain in the Utility tree. In the Offense tree, get 3% CDR and 15% magic penetration for stronger damage throughout the game. Make sure to put points in the buffs to the summoner spells you take.
The defense tree isn't very useful for Karthus. He gets much more out of the magic penetration and through the utility tree overall. The defense tree can be good for early game or if for some reason you are playing jungle Karthus, but since Karthus's early game is already strong and he shouldn't be in the middle of fights anyway, defense is near useless.
Summoner SpellsKarthus is a champion with multiple options for summoner spells, which is good, because it makes him more versatile.
This spell allows Karthus to basically be everywhere at once, especially considering Requiem. It's great for him because he's a great pusher and can pull off some awesome Teleport ganks with Wall of Pain. Make sure your team buys wards if you get this though, because it's always a satisfying experience to Teleport to a ward in a brush and get a couple of kills. I personally use this because during laning phase, you can recall whenever you want to and Teleport back, which will allow you to miss minimal experience and gold while still getting the items you need.
One of the most important traits a champion can have is mobility, something Karthus lacks. Flash fixes that problem. Flash can be used effectively as a method of ganking, escape, or positioning (i.e Flashing over walls). I would have to say that this is almost a necessary summoner since it has so many uses and can make you that much more effective throughout the game.
Ghost is an extremely effective spell for ganking and teamfighting. It makes your appearance in ganks more of a surprise, and believe me, a Karthus bulleting around spamming spells on you isn't something you want to see in your lane. In larger fights, it's amazing for positioning and landing more spells from a distance, since you will outrun most of your opponents. It synergizes well with Defile if you are chasing down survivors or stray enemies. It's also a great method of escape, but for the most part, that will be Flash's purpose. If you don't get Flash, get Ghost, and vice versa. You need some method of escape, and Ghost and Flash are basically your only real escape abilities.
Ignite is a strange case for Karthus, since usually the only finisher you need is Requiem. This skill can be useful occasionally, and is a good way to counter healing champions like Mundo, but it's too situational to be very viable in my opinion. The only time I recommend getting this skill is if the other team has a massive self-healer and you don't have anyone on your team who can counter this with a skill.
I actually highly recommend Clarity, but ONLY if you are inexperienced with Karthus. My reasoning for this is that Karthus has the potential to drain mana ridiculously fast, but a smart player will use his skills efficiently and manage his mana for a relatively long amount of time. If you are new to Karthus and don't have the feel for when to and not to use skills, Clarity is a great choice for those times when you are out of mana from spamming and feel useless. This way you can still learn how to use your skills efficiently, but not be punished too harshly when you fail.
Clairvoyance is sort of like Ignite. It's usually outclassed by other summoners, but it has its uses. You can use this all through the game to catch ganks, find runners to see if you can kill them with Requiem, locate their jungler so your jungler has the advantage, or to find out if the other team is doing Baron or not. It's an extremely useful spell and I recommend it if and only if there is absolutely no support player on your team and nobody else is willing to take it. And when that situation does occur, it's up to you to decide whether or not your team really needs it.
Why not ___?
You are Karthus, and Karthus is squishy, therefore, you are squishy. VERY squishy. If the time comes where you wish you had cleanse...don't worry, you were probably dead anyway. And, unlike other champions, you are more useful dead than you are stunned.
You shouldn't need this, you already have a giant wall that can slow for 80%. Plus the range is shorter than your Lay Waste, and during the main action of a teamfight, you want to spam from as far as possible.
This isn't the greatest spell ever. If anyone on your team gets it, let it be a tank or a support. You will make very little use of this.
Heal is a decent summoner spell I guess, but it's not that great as the game goes on. Once teamfights start to happen more often, if you need to Heal to survive, you'll probably die anyway. It's better to get Flash or Ghost, they provide more utility and actually help you to escape when you are near dead.
This skill won't really help you very much, since it just adds AD without the Rally mastery, which you should not be getting since 21 Utility is so much more helpful than 21 Offense.
It seems like a good idea, and when you play pure Kamikaze Karthus, it works pretty well. However, with this build you should be trying not to die. Taking Revive is preparing to die, and preparing to die means you're preparing to not fill your Mejai's. This mindset, whether you think it is there or not, WILL cause you to be a less efficient Karthus. However, if you're playing Kamikaze style, go for it.
u aint junglin
These will normally be your first items. Sapphire Crystal builds into Tear of the Goddess, which is a great core item for Karthus and should be obtained as soon as possible. This also lets you spam Lay Waste more for last hitting and harass while laning, which is very important.
This is a good item if you know there is going to be a level 1 fight. Otherwise, it's mostly outclassed by the Sapphire Crystal start because it helps you finish your core faster, unlike Doran's.
If you know you will be laning against someone who will give you a lot of trouble, this is what you should get. It makes you a little more durable and the five health potions makes you able to farm for a longer period of time before you recall. Champions I would normally get this against include Urgot, Kennen, Nidalee, and possibly Corki. It's also good when the other team has a strong roamer like Alistar or Evelynn, so you will have a slightly better chance of surviving ganks.
First Trips Back
These are the first few items you should be getting. Tear of the Goddess allows you to spam Lay Waste freely, and benefit from it, since the mana effect carries over when you upgrade it. The Tear should usually be the first item you buy, along with Boots of Speed for increased mobility. Mejai's Soulstealer is an amazing item for Karthus which should come after the Tear of the Goddess UNLESS you get off to a really bad start. If you get underfarmed, underleveled or just feed a little bit in lane, DON'T get Mejai's, go straight to the next items in your core and don't get Mejai's for the rest of the game. Mejai's should be obtained early, and if you don't get it early then don't get it at all. It's a strong early game investment for Karthus since he can easily pick up kills or assists through Requiem, and your passive makes it easy to keep stacks when the teamfights start to happen more often. If you wait until later to get it, your gold will be spent on a very small initial bonus which will set you back until you can build up stacks, which is basically begging for the other team to go for an early win.
As far as boots go, you really only have two options. Sorcerer's Shoes are the usual choice, giving you 20 extra magic penetration, adding to 28.5 overall and 63.5 when combined with Wall of Pain. The only other boots you should ever need to buy are Mercury Treads, which are good when the other team has intense CC that's keeping you from being fully effective. Ionian Boots of Lucidity are really not worth it compared to the other two options, because being able to use Wall of Pain and Requiem slightly more often is nothing compared to extra magic penetration or a huge survivability boost under CC.
The first item you should buy after you finish the previous three items is Rabadon's Deathcap. This is by far the most significant damage boost you will see during the game and it will make you a HUGE threat midgame. It's fairly costly, but it's worth it. If you bought Mejai's, you should have a few stacks by the time you finish your Rabadon's. If you don't, then you probably shouldn't have a Mejai's in the first place. If you didn't buy Mejai's before you start on Rabadon's, don't get it afterwards UNLESS your game takes a huge turn and you get a huge gold advantage. This is the only other opportunity I would say Mejai's is a good idea to buy, as most other times would be too late to start snowballing. You should upgrade your Tear of the Goddess into Archangel's Staff whenever you feel it is necessary, just make sure you get it after Rabadon's, because you need that as quickly as possible for the amazing damage boost it will give.
Finishing Your Build
Now that your core is complete, you will have either 2 or 3 spots left in your items, depending on whether or not you got Mejai's. How you finish your build is up to you to decide. You should build on necessity before luxury, and what is necessary depends on the game.
Abyssal Scepter is a strong item if you find that you are taking a lot of magic damage, but not necessarily nukes or CC, which would warrant a Banshee's instead. Abyssal is a pretty good item on Karthus; it provides a decent boost to your damage output, makes you a little more durable to magic damage, and gives a magic resist reduction aura, meaning your teammates will also deal more damage. The main thing I dislike about this item though is that if you are using Requiem to get a kill or to contribute to a fight that you are far away from, the reduction aura will not take effect. This doesn't mean it's a bad item though - it's amazing when you're a part of the fight.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter is a GREAT choice for Karthus in every way. It provides a big damage boost, giving 104 AP after Rabadon's, a significant health bonus, and incredible utility in the spell damage slow effect. The slow is great for chasing, hitting consecutive Lay Wastes and just making enemies easier to catch for your team. You can also use Requiem and slow their entire team! This item is very, very strong on Karthus and I highly recommend it, but remember, if you feel another item like Banshee's or Void Staff is more important, don't feel as if you have to get it.
Void Staff is one of the best caster items in the game, hands down. You will find as you play Karthus that enemies will inevitably stack magic resist to defend against your unmatched deeps and global nookz. Sometimes, they will build too much for you to handle with just boots, Marks, and Wall of Pain. When this happens, Void Staff will increase your damage VERY signicantly and will keep you extremely strong throughout the whole game.
Zhonya's Hourglass is an interesting case. It adds a whopping 130 AP after Rabadon's, making it a very strong offensive pick. Adding on to this, it also adds a relatively large amount of Armor, and the two second invincibility passive is nothing to sneeze at. That two seconds can give you time to stall for cooldowns, or even to get your team to pick off the guy who decided to dive through your whole team to kill you. This item can and will save you when you use it smartly, so if you think you can use it (and will remember to use it), don't hesitate to buy it!
Banshee's Veil is the only item I will recommend on Karthus that doesn't give an offensive boost. If you find that the Sion or Taric on the other team is just ruining your day with that massive stun, or if that Veigar with over 9000 AP is one-shotting you with his ult, this is a great investment. It's an amazing defensive items against teams who have skills like that, but if they don't and you just feel you need some magic resist, Abyssal Scepter is probably the better choice.
Rod of Ages is a very strong item, but I'm sure most of you are thinking that it would be way late to buy this after you've finished your core. Well, it usually is, which is why I feel the need to add that you should only get this if your game is going absolutely nowhere. If both teams are turtling or afraid to fight or no lanes are getting pushed, this item is amazing. When the effects are fully stacked, it gives 104 AP with Rabadon's, then even more from the Archangel's Staff's mana scaling. It also gives a huge amount of health, which will help you last a bit longer in fights. However, I repeat, do NOT get this if you aren't absolutely sure that the game will be very long. If you don't give it time to max out, it usually isn't worth the cost.
Remember to use good judgment in buying items! Experiment with what items work for you in what situations, and eventually you will be able to tell very easily which items you will benefit from the most. Experience and experimentation are the best teachers!
LaningKarthus is a very powerful solo laner. You should always get either mid lane or top lane with a jungler to maximize your experience and gold intake. You can take bot if you have a roamer on your team, since you will often be alone, but I usually wouldn't suggest it. If you are in champ select and your team already has solo lanes full, well, don't pick Karthus.
Your primary focus while laning should be last hits. Try as hard as you can to not miss any last hits. It will take practice, but when you have mastered the timing of your auto attack and Lay Waste, hitting at least 5 minions every wave will be cake. You should be either leading the game in minions, or very close to it. Be careful while laning not to push your lane too much and not to let the enemy push too much; try to keep it near the middle. Early game it can be difficult to last hit when the minions are being focused by your turret, and overextending can and will get you ganked and killed.
You should also be harassing the enemy as much as possible. When you see them go in for a last hit, try to Lay Waste them. This will leave them with two options: they can either stand there and take the hit, or they can miss the minion. If they often choose to run, you can destroy your enemy in minion scores and shut them down during early and mid game due to lack of gold intake. If they choose to take the hit and get the gold, then after a time you can be more aggressive. Get your Tear as soon as possible and make sure that they are constantly having to watch for Lay Waste. Effectively pressuring enemies can cause them to miss last hits, and you will slowly whittle down their health. When you think they are low enough to kill, go in with Wall of Pain and spam them to death. If you miss the kill and you don't have Requiem yet, let it go. Denying them of experience and gold for a period of time while they recall is good enough, and if you chase, you can get ganked since you will be out of position. If you do have Requiem, push R and smile maniacally.
Challenging Lane Enemies
Karthus may be a strong lane champion, but he can be shut down hard by specific champions.
He's not too tough in the very beginning, but as he gets his skills, this guy is a major pain in the ass for you. Take advantage of him with Lay Waste before he starts to level up, because this is when he is most vulnerable. You can continue to harass him until 6, which is where your fun ends. It's never fun to see a Cho'Gath knock you up, Silence you, then om nom nom you for massive true damage. If you can get a good lead on him before he hits 6 though, you shouldn't have many problems.
His harass and farming skills are stronger than yours early game. If you get too close while you are trying to Lay Waste him or auto attack a minion, he will harass you back and it will hurt. You can't really go in for a kill on him, because the instant you hit him with Wall of Pain, he'll just jump right out. His missiles are painful too, especially his Big One. Be careful when you play against Corki, and try to be as accurate as possible with Lay Waste, because you need to do everything in your power to keep up with his harass.
Gangpla- I mean, Denyplank is no fun at all to lane against. His Parrrley can crit you for way more than you can handle, he can heal, he has a built in counter to Wall of Pain, he can and will deny you minion experience, and to top it all off, he even has a global ultimate. My advice to you is that if you know you will have to lane against Gangplank before the game starts, just don't play Karthus. Karthus is too dependent on getting Requiem fast, and Gangplank won't allow that.
There are really only two reasons why you will hate laning against Kassadin. First is that his main nuke skill is a very powerful silence. This is exactly what you don't want to have hitting you, because Lay Waste is very, very important to your laning phase. Basically, the silence allows Kassadin to come in and combo you and escape without a scratch. His passive doesn't exactly help your case either, giving him extra magic resistance. Try to harass him from outside of the range of his skills as much as you can, because if you leave him healthy at level 6, you can't really avoid his combo.
Katarina's set of skills seems like it's made to just be incredibly annoying. If she uses Bouncing Blades on an incoming minion wave, you better get your ass out of the way or it will hit you, and once she gets some levels in it, it will hurt. This effect also makes it hard to play against her even under your own turret, since she can cast it on a minion and watch it bounce to you without even taking a single hit. Shunpo pretty much makes her impossible to harass early game, since she can either blink out of the range of your Lay Waste, or she can blink directly to you, which is where you are most vulnerable. Finally, once she gets your ultimate, if you don't have Flash up, you will die very easily. The best way to lane against Katarina is just to stay away from your own minions early game so she won't hit you as much with Bouncing Blade.
Oh Kennen, he's such a pain. This guy moves around way too fast when he's farming to harass him, and since he's an energy-using champion, he can basically infinitely cast skills. His Q skill will be extremely annoying, because most Kennen players will never stop pressuring you or trying to keep you out of range in lane. Kennen's a tough opponent, but he is manageable. Stay behind your minions at all times, try to catch him with Wall of Pain when he gets out of position, and be very careful when you have a Mark on you. Three marks will stun you, which is free damage for Kennen.
LeBlanc is basically anti-Karthus. Any LeBlanc that knows how to play the champion will take advantage of you VERY easily. Her skill combo is just so strong and makes her very hard to play against. Her Q skill is decently long ranged and silences, exactly what you don't want. Often, LeBlanc players will follow up their Q with their teleport attack, which will activate the extra damage from Q and hit you with another nuke. If you try to Lay Waste while she is on you, you will miss, as she will teleport back to where she started. Smart players will watch to see where you set your Lay Waste and time their teleports so they can avoid them. Her chain skill isn't too strong but it can Root you, which will let her use another Q. When she hits 6, her Q->Mimic combo will do MASSIVE damage on you, and it's a very short cooldown.
tl;dr, don't lane against LeBlanc. Even a bad LeBlanc can rape you.
Nidalee is just an extremely strong laning champ overall. She has a huge range skillshot that is relatively to avoid, but if she hits you from a distance, the dent it makes in your health may cause you to die a little inside. She also has a built in heal skill which also happens to work as an attack speed buff. This makes her extremely hard to kill before she gets her Cougar form, and once she does, you better be careful. You'll just be sitting there minding your own business when the next thing you know, you blink and you're half health. Don't play too aggresively and don't worry about harassing very much against a Nidalee for damage. You can try to zone her out early, but as the game progresses, that gets harder and harder to do.
Renekton isn't the worst person to lane against, but he's pretty tough. He's got a built-in lifesteal skill, he's VERY mobile, and he has a powerful burst damage skill which also stuns. To add onto all of this, he's also usually quite bulky. Be careful when you play against him and try to stay out of range of the first dash in Slice and Dice, because his main harass combo is to Slice in, stun you, hit you once or twice and Dash out. Don't play very aggressively, this will only help him get the advantage on you. Play very conservatively and last hit from a distance.
Urgot is tough, very tough. If he locks in on you, you're in for trouble, because his Q has VERY long range and he can usually hit two or three times before the effect wears off. Be prepared for this and always be watching for him to attempt to lock on to you, and dodge the projectile. It moves relatively slowly, so if you see it early enough you should be able to get out. If you see you are going to get hit, however, turn around and run like hell until it wears off. If you can avoid his harass, you should be fine.
Early GameEarly game is mostly filled by the laning phase. Refer to the previous section for more information about laning as Karthus.
General Early Game Advice
I define early game as the period of time before real fights start happening, when people are just starting to get some items and levels. You should focus on getting as far ahead as possible during this phase, because if you can ensure victory in later teamfights, you can snowball that much harder with Mejai's. Now, by this I don't necessarily mean to try to get more kills than the other team. Instead, your mindset should be to get less deaths.
Yes, kills are nice, but you should be very focused on not dying. Watch the map constantly, if anyone goes off the map, then get closer to your tower and don't engage your enemy until it's safe again. This may mean you don't engage at all, but that's not a bad thing, because although you may not have killed your enemy, but you didn't feed them, either. It is far more important to stay alive than to get a shiny killcount early game, trust me.
However, you can still go for kills. If all five champions are on the minimap, and you are confident you can kill your enemy, feel free to engage. If you are successful, you will get a significant advantage in your lane. However, there are two things to keep in mind: Always have a plan B unless something goes wrong, and don't become too committed to the kill. What if, while watching for the opportunity to go for the kill, that enemy Alistar came to try to gank your lane? If you took too long to go for the kill, it could go very badly for you, so you should always keep a plan B. You aren't perfect, you will make mistakes, even the best players do. Also, you should never chase too dilligently. If you engage on that Ashe you're laning against, and she zigzags into the forest causing you to miss Lay Wastes, you better be paying attention to the minimap. If someone from another lane goes to help Ashe, you could very well be screwed considering your squishiness. So, make sure that you get off of your target when there is any possibility of danger.
Throughout the entire game, you should be constantly checking lanes to watch for runners you can kill with Requiem. This is especially important in early game, because most champions don't exactly do amazing damage before they get some items, so it is common for enemies to escape with very little health. Tell your allies to tell you as fast as possible if they need you to use Requiem, because sometimes you will miss your chance; you can't be watching all the time! Just don't be a douche and time your Requiem so you steal someone's kill that they would've been able to get without your help anyway, that will just irritate your teammates, and being irritated can cause you to think irrationally, which can cause feeding.
You CAN go out and try to gank enemies in other lanes, but don't do it all the time. For one, never do this before you buy any items at all, because low level Karthus with just a Sapphire Crystal tends to be fairly useless in actual fight situations. The best time to try to gank another lane is when said lane is having issues and you know you can either kill them, or at least get them low, AND you have Teleport up (assuming you took Teleport). This is because this can greatly assist your teammate(s) in said lane, possibly get you some extra gold, and will allow you to get back to your lane quickly. If you are planning to Teleport back to your lane, recall and buy items before you Teleport. It doesn't take much time and makes you stronger in lane anyway.
Karthus may be a powerful ganker with Wall of Pain and Requiem, but if you have a jungler, leave most of the ganks to him. You need your Tear and Mejai's quickly, and laning gets you guaranteed money from minions, whereas ganking is not guaranteed success.
Mid GameThis is pretty much where the game gets exciting. I define mid game as the period of time from when people are getting their first main items complete to when most players have several items complete, everyone's role is established and objectives such as pushing down towers and getting Baron start becoming more important. This is where Karthus begins to shine, since you should have some Mejai's stacks and should have quite a bit of AP. If you are playing efficiently and maintaining your stacks well, then you will be hitting like a truck, and your presence will strike fear into their souls.
In mid game, you should have two main focuses: pushing (a.k.a farming) and teamfights.
Pushing is an art, and Karthus is a modern day Picasso. Karthus has an extremely good pushing kit, with two extremely fast and hard hitting AoE skills. You should have some AP by this point in the game, so your skills will hit very hard. I would like to note, however, that you shouldn't push too ruthlessly if you don't have the Golem buff. Without it, Defile will drain your mana VERY quickly and if you need to get in a teamfight or use Requiem, you may not be able to due to lack of mana.
I don't think I need to explain how to push, just kill minions quickly and get to their tower. There are two main points of pushing which are incredibly important to know not only as a Karthus player, but as a LoL player in general:
- Don't extend too far when you don't know where the enemy team is. This should be obvious, but a surprising amount of people don't think about this. If more than one enemy is off the map, don't stay out too far for too long. They will see you pushing and will try to gank you, and Karthus isn't the best at escaping ganks. ALWAYS make sure the map is warded! If you have no vision around a lane, don't push it unless you can see what the enemy is doing on the minimap, and if you can, pay attention to it while you push. If someone goes missing, finish what you were doing quickly and get your ass back before you get ganked by the whole team. Map awareness is everything!
- Pushing a lane =/= killing a tower. Sometimes, you need to push the minion waves back into the other team's territory just so your team will have more time to react to an enemy attempt at pushing said lane. Often times there will be a large enemy minion wave pushing one of your lanes, which is a good opportunity to pick up some gold and push the wave back. Go kill another minion wave or two so your minions outnumber the enemy minions, and the lane will push by itself anyway. However, this doesn't mean to never go for a tower. If the enemy team is preoccupied and your team isn't in need of you, feel free to take that time to get a tower kill or two for your team. Just make sure you pay attention so you don't get ganked!
Note that in some games, pushing by yourself isn't a good idea at all because your team may need you to win teamfights. Judge whether or not you are needed by yourself, using common sense and previous experiences. If you are unsure, examine the situation and experiment. If you fail, you'll know how to deal with similar situations in the future!
Karthus is a wrecking ball when it comes to teamfights. He's VERY annoying to the opposition, since most of your time in teamfights will be spent casting Wall of Pain and Lay Waste from as far away as possible.
Here are some tips for fighting with Karthus:
- As Karthus, your main target should be the squishiest enemy you can reach SAFELY. This means that you should be at a distance, spamming Lay Waste on whoever you can kill the quickest, while ensuring that you don't get too close to the rest of the enemy team. I know it's tempting to go around the back and kill that glass cannon, but if you will be putting yourself in danger in the process, don't do it.
- Wall of Pain is an AMAZING asset in teamfights, but you should make sure to think about where you place it. If both teams are very committed and don't look like they will be leaving the fight any time soon, you might as well just wait until you really need it. However, if neither team is really into it, you should be watching for someone to initiate or get out of position so you can wall them and help your team escape in bad situations or get easy kills in better ones. If you find yourself placing bad walls a lot, just keep trying things and find out what works.
- Learning when to use Requiem is absolutely vital. Most of the time, the best use for Requiem will be when someone escapes a fight with low health and your team cannot catch him or her easily or safely. There are some other times when it is appropriate though. For example, if the enemy team initiates and your team is in a dangerous situation, Requiem may be able to turn the fight around. It will often take a giant chunk of any squishy character's health and will do pretty significant damage to bulkier ones as well, and that extra damage may give your team some hope. Try to use Wall of Pain BEFORE you use Requiem, however, because if they run into it, the debuff will make your Requiem do more damage.
Mid game is an exciting time for Karthus, and will make or break your presence in endgame, where your playstyle changes drastically.
Late GameLate game is that point where everyone is either finishing, or coming fairly close to finishing their build. Most of the time, the game won't last this long. But, when it does, you need to understand how Karthus's gameplay strategies change.
The main thing to understand during this time is that you should ALWAYS be protected by somebody. Unless you are at your base or dead, you should never be alone. A lone Karthus is a vulnerable one, and late game, Karthus should never be dead outside of big teamfights. Being picked off only causes you to lose stacks, which causes you to lose effectiveness, which causes defeat.
I am only going to go into detail on one aspect of late game, because there really only is one aspect of late game: teamfights.
Late-End Game Teamfights and How They Differ from Mid Game
Your outlook late game in teamfights will be very different. One of the defining parts of late game is that one lost teamfight can cost you the game or put you at a big disadvantage.
In other words, you need to win every teamfight.
Karthus is great at ensuring teamfight wins late game, although his playstyle will change drastically from the rest of the game. As usual, here are my tips on winning teamfights:
- Make sure your team avoids fighting when you don't have Requiem. This is important. You may have to be bossy, but you - and they - need to realize that Requiem is probably one of the best late game teamfight skills in this game. You can operate without it, yes, but you will die so pathetically fast that you won't be around for long enough to make a difference.
- This is the part of the game where your passive makes you amazing. Basically, you should spend most of your time in a teamfight doing the same thing you were doing before, trying to be safe and stuff. HOWEVER, you are squishy and you are powerful, which makes you a very high priority target to the other team. They WILL want to kill you, and they WILL try to kill you. It seems pretty hard to deal with, but there's actually a very simple counter: Throw on Defile, prepare your aiming skills, ping the enemies, and then charge the carry. In other words, you're going to dive bomb the enemy carry kamikaze-style. I know I said earlier that you aren't playing this style of Karthus, but late game it just works too well. The reason why it works is simple: you have the ability to cast without interruption while dead. This is also why Flash is such a good investment, because it makes it that much easier to get close to their carry/squishy/main damage dealer. Now, after you pick a bounty and run into your team, make sure your team follows up on you. You should IMMEDIATELY throw out a Wall and spam Lay Waste as quickly and accurately as you possibly can, without turning off Defile, and then cast Requiem. If you play your cards correctly, you will deal so much damage in that eight seconds of afterlife that your team will have no problem following up on you and winning the fight. Your death timer will be pretty small with the mastery and side effect of your passive, and if you have Teleport, you can get back to your team relatively quickly after the fight ends.
However, keeping the above in mind, DON'T PLAY STUPIDLY. Yes, the strategy can and will work, but ONLY if you execute it at the correct time. I made a little checklist concerning this:
1: Is someone from your team away from the fight, and if yes, is your team outnumbered?
2: Has your team been consistently losing recent fights?
3: Is the rest of your team too far away to follow up on your kamikaze?
4: Are you behind on items or levels and thus are dealing insignificant damage?
5: Are you near an enemy tower?
6: Is most of your team lower health than the other team?
7: Is the primary target too far away to reach without dying first?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, don't even consider trying anything, it will just put your team at a disadvantage and, as usual, cause you to lose stacks while you gain nothing in return. There are some other questions I could have put on that list, but for the most part you will have to go off of your own quick judgment.
- I feel the need to mention that you don't ALWAYS need to do this strategy. It works, but it's situational, and as usual, you need to learn when to use it from your own experimentation and experience. For example, if your team has been winning every fight or if someone else on your team is demolishing, then don't even worry about trying to surprise rape the carry. Sometimes, you can get away with just staying behind your team spamming Lay Waste and Wall of Pain like before if you are well protected. Yes, you are of high priority and the enemies will want to kill you, but your team may be able to do enough damage to them on the way to you that you don't need to try anything special. The kamikaze strategy is a pretty extreme way to try to win teamfights, and it's effective, but on the other hand, if you know you can still win the teamfight while you're alive, then why would you die? Good judgment is key!
Note regarding Mejai's stacks: Yes, diving the enemy team will cause you to lose stacks, but if you execute the plan correctly, you will be able to gain stacks back. Remember that if you have 20 stacks before death, you will lose 7 stacks. You can recover 5 of those stacks if your team aces and your requiem doesn't score any kills, assuming they do it swiftly enough for you to get assists. You also get a large amount of gold in the process, so it is overall more beneficial to you.
Note regarding what I said about not dying being better than getting kills: This is late game, if you are the sole survivor of a teamfight, you won't be able to defend against the inevitable push or baron. Teamfights are the most important aspect of the game this late.
Closing StatementsKarthus is an extremely fun champion, but he is more challenging than meets the eye. Yeah, you will get a lot of shit for using such a "noob" character when you get kills with your ult, but most people don't realize that Karthus is actually a very hard champion to be successful with. I promise you that if you learn him, though, you won't be sorry!
To anyone who actually read this whole 9000 word guide, thank you so much for your time! Here's a cookie that I found on google!
Don't be afraid to be critical about my guide, I understand that I probably could improve on it quite a bit and I accept that, but I need your help to make it the best it can be! If you have any suggestions or questions, any at all, don't hesitate to comment!
Lastly, to top off the guide, huge shoutout to Zeverith. He's probably the best gamernerdfriendthing I could ask for and there's no way I'd be in the same place right now without him. He's a really great guy (despite his tendency to rage :P), so go add him and sexually harass him and all that good stuff.
Thanks again for reading! :D