A comprehensive guide to Katarina - The Sinister Blade
Katarina's a relatively new hero, and not quite as popular as her, uh, "gifted" companion Corki.
Many people believe that she's UP, but she's very much a powerhouse in her own regard and hopefully this guide will help you master her.
Katarina's role in a game is simple - she's a ganker/finisher. She CAN carry for her team if she has a brilliant early game with a lot of kills and assists, but don't expect it every game.
More importantly, she CANNOT initiate for the team. You should never be the first person to engage the enemy team in a pitched 5v5 battle ala Malphite, your job instead is to sneak in unawares and quickly take out priority targets.
As the game progresses, you'll steadily gain more team presence as your ultimate increases dramatically in power, until eventually you'll be hitting as many as 3 enemies at once for tons of damage multiple times per battle.
Due to her fragile HP, Katarina should never be expected to tank for the team. Even so, you should expect to be targeted first in every battle due to how much of a nuisance you are. We will have to choose our items carefully so that we can survive the initial assault, as well as use Shunpo and Flash to back off if the heat gets too much.
Katarina is very much a hit-and-run kind of character, so don't play her as someone who charges into battle defiantly and never looks back. The best way to practice this is during the laning section - outlined below.
A unique thing about Katarina is that none of her spells cost any mana. This means that the only thing limiting when you can use her spells is their cooldowns, which are reduced by her passive. This is balanced by the fact that her skills are weaker than similar skills which require mana. In other words, in order to get the maximum use out of her spells, you MUST use her skills effectively every time they are not in cooldown. This is the hardest part of playing as Katarina, and will make or break a good player.
Q - Bouncing Blade - Katarina throws a dagger that bounces from enemy to enemy dealing her weapon damage + bonus magic damage. Subsequent hits do 15% reduced damage. The number of enemies hit and the magic damage scales with skill level.
This is the first of your damage spells. It has multiple uses - harassing an enemy in lane, last-hitting a creep, farming (with a DPS build) and most importantly - finishing off an enemy.
This skill scales with weapon damage, and is unaffected by AP.
This has the second shortest cooldown of her spells.
W - Killer Instincts - Passive: Katarina's attack speed is increased each time she consecutively hits the same target. Active: Katarina's next basic spell has a bonus effect. Bouncing Blade does full damage to every target hit and reduces incoming healing to the target, or after using Shunpo Katarina's dodge chance is increased for 3 seconds.
A strange skill. The passive ability is useful for DPS Katarina builds, but be warned - the bonus attack speed only lasts for 5 seconds. The best use for this is when taking down towers.
The W + Q active combo is generally less useful than the other, and is only good if you have good weapon damage. The healing reduction is very situational, though it will be good vs. a heal-heavy line-up.
The W + E active combo can be quite useful in a team battle, as it gives you significant dodge (70% at level 5) for 3 seconds. This could give you the precious few seconds it takes for her ultimate to kill someone, allowing you to safely Shunpo away with another W + E combo.
This has the second longest cooldown of her spells, so be sure you use it at the right time.
E - Shunpo - Katarina instantly moves to her target location. If the target is an enemy, she deals damage.
Katarina's signature skill. You will be using this one more than any other. From last-hitting in lane, to harassing enemies and positioning yourself to cast your ultimate in the middle of a team battle - this skill does it all. And of course, it's a beast of a chasing ability - especially when paired with a 40% slow from Rylai's Scepter.
Most importantly - this spell scales with a 1:1 AP ratio, and has the lowest cooldown of all her spells (3 seconds at level 5 with 40% cooldown reduction!). Imagine a nuke that does 300+ damage every 3 seconds and positions you right next to an enemy so you can hit him...
R - Death Lotus - Katarina goes into a state of extreme focus, throwing daggers with unrivaled speed at one enemy champion per level of the spell. Channeling.
Katarina's most controversial spell. This spell has a very low range, is channeling (which means it can be stopped by a stun or an ability that forcibly moves your character) and seemingly does low damage.
So does it actually suck?
At 40 seconds, the cooldown on this ultimate is incredibly low for the kind of spell it is. This is further augmented by her passive, which allow you to instantly cast the ultimate again if two enemies you've hit in the last 15 seconds die before the ultimate runs out.
This is exactly why Katarina is so powerful in team battles.
It's even powerful in the laning stage, and I'll describe why shortly.
The ultimate scales at a 0.15 AP ratio which might seem low at first, but is actually more than enough for our purposes.
(Passive) - Voracity - Every time a champion Katarina has damaged in the last 15 seconds dies, she gains 50 gold and her cooldowns are reduced by 20 seconds.
Arguably the best passive in the game, hands down. Katarina's entire playstyle revolves around this passive - the 50 gold per assist means that she earns a ton of money from successful ganks, and the cooldown reduction means that she can spam her skills like crazy leading to very stylish kills.
For example, consider a champion at low life hiding behind his tower, confident that if you were to Shunpo to him, he would gain gold from the tower killing you despite him dying. And then you use your W + E combo to kill him, dodging most of the tower hits, killing him in one hit, and then reactivating W + E again to safely blink away.
Katarina lives her life on the edge and loves every moment of it!
As a ganker, you are naturally inclined towards Exhaust, Flash, and Teleport.
Exhaust will help you net kills early, but its function can be easily obtained from a Rylai's Scepter, which gives you a much more spammable slow once you are able to buy it.
Flash can be used both for chasing and escaping, and its extremely valuable when Shunpo is in CD (rare) or when there are no minions around to Shunpo to. Since Katarina is a squishy hero I always get this spell as a backup escape ability.
Teleport minimizes the amount of time you spend walking back from the base, which means you get all that much more time to gank. It also enables you to quickly disappear from one lane and pop up in another, which can net you a few kills early game.
You mostly want to focus on runes that reduce cooldown - Runes of Focus and Runes of Celerity. The rest of the slots should be filled according to whether you're going the DPS build (+crit damage, armor penetration runes) or an AP build (+AP, magic pen. runes).
Nothing fancy here, the typical 9 - 0 - 21 build.
In particular, you want access to Sorcery, Archaic Knowledge, Intelligence, and Presence of the Master.
I'm not going to suggest hard-and-fast builds here, as they will vary from game to game. Instead, let's look at what items are best suited for Katarina.
DPS or AP?
This is an issue of some contention. It is my firm belief that Katarina is much more effective with an AP build. It fits her playstyle much better - quick, accurate deep strikes with Shunpo rather than prolonged 1v1 battles and also boosts her ultimate.
With a DPS build you'll have a much stronger Bouncing Blade, but that has a significant cooldown compared to your normal hits, so you'll end up doing most of your damage via normal hits anyway.
The DPS build is boosted by the passive aspect of Killer Instincts, but that has a duration of only 5 seconds, which means that it will only be effective in a 1v1 battle where the enemy chooses to fight you instead of run.
Note that Katarina simply doesn't have the skills or stats to survive in a 1v1 battle, unless you stock up heavily on dodge and leech. In such situations, the ultimate is more of a hindrance than a help, as time spent using the ultimate is time spent not leeching, and the ultimate will do less damage than your normal hits without AP.
So to summarize: If you go the DPS route, focus on damage, dodge and lifesteal items. Do not use your ultimate once you've managed to get your first or second damage item (or about two BF Swords-worth of damage).
Suggested DPS Items
BF Sword -> Infinity Edge
Zeal -> Phantom Dancer/Trinity Force
Now for my preferred build (where you can actually use the ultimate at full capacity instead of ignoring it outright):
Suggested AP Items
Kage's Lucky Pick
Ninja Tabi/Sorcerer's Shoes
Mejai's Soulstealer (Credit to Shillen)
Sheen -> Lich Bane
Regrowth Pendant -> Warmog's Living Armor
Sunfire Cape/Force of Nature/Banshee's Veil
The Kage's Lucky Pick gives a slight boost to your AP, as well as gives you a steady source of income so you can focus on ganking instead of farming.
If you're doing extraordinary well early game, you can even buy 3 Kage's Lucky Picks within ~12 minutes and then steamroll the opposition with a quick Rylai's Scepter followed by a Zhonya's Ring. Of course, this won't work against a good team.
Choose your shoes depending on how many DPS heroes the enemies have. I usually try to get Sorcerer's.
Rylai's Scepter is THE core item for AP Katarina. It adds some much-needed health, as well as allows her to slow with every single one of her abilities. The faster you can get this item, the more assured kills you will get.
With a Spirit Visage you can reduce Shunpo's CD to 3.5 seconds. Its usually a good item to get against a lot of casters, but not really required.
Lich Bane is another important item for AP Katarina. It allows you to dish out a lot of pain after every Shunpo.
If the game is prolonged, you will need to get a Warmog's Living Armor. By now your role in team battles is well-known to the enemy, and they WILL focus you. You need the armor to survive the assault and pull off your Death Lotuses.
For extremely late games, get a Sunfire Cape or a Force of Nature depending on whether enemy DPSers or casters are more of a problem. I would have suggested Zhonya's Ring here, but that's more of an item you get when you know you're definitely going to win and want to show off by obliterating the entire enemy team yourself. ;)
Katarina has a very strong early game for a melee hero, and the rest of her game is greatly affected by how well you do here.
Things you need to keep in mind:
- Bouncing Blade has a short cooldown, and can be used effectively to harass the enemy as if you're a ranged hero. Even better, the skill has no mana cost, and will not cause enemy minions to attack you.
- Shunpo does much more damage than Bouncing Blade at this point of the game (and will continue to do so if you go the AP build) and has a much lower cooldown, but puts you in melee range of your target. If you target an enemy champion with it, you'll probably end up on his side of the minion-line, and are likely to get stunned/nuked to death.
Therefore, use Bouncing Blade solely to harass, while reserving Shunpo to last-hit. Ideally you'll be killing nearly every minion in your lane, but at a slow enough rate that the minion line will eventually reach your tower, bringing your enemies ever farther from safety. Keep an eye open for when they turn around to go back, this is a perfect opportunity to sneak in a few Shunpos to harass them. Be ready to Flash away at any time in case they're alert.
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Get Shunpo first so you have a backup escape ability. I'veseen too many Katarinas who get Bouncing Blade first and then die to a simple gank. The paltry harassment you get from a minute or so of Bouncing Blade simply isn't worth it!
Max Shunpo first as it will be your primary offensive ability. Leave Bouncing Blade at level 1 for most of the game, we don't benefit much from added bounces, and the bonus magic damage is negligible compared to the burst damage from Shunpo.
You should be able to get both your Boots of Speed and a Kage's Lucky Pick within ~10 minutes. Bluepill back to base, buy them, and teleport back.
Once you get to level 6, keep an eye open for a chance to aggressively engage your opponents. Ideally you should be at 100% health since you've been staying far away from the minion-line, and only wandering in to throw a Bouncing Blade and immediately backing off.
When you get an opportunity, Shunpo to the weakest enemy, quickly position yourself between him and his base, and cast Death Lotus. 90% of the time, you will not kill him. You might get lucky if your ally disables the enemy next to you, and if you've managed to get the enemy to use up his Summoner Spells before that. But most of the time, he will escape with <25% health.
At this point the enemy will be laughing at how easily he's dodged an ultimate. "Wow, that ultimate is so ****ty!" he thinks. But what he doesn't know is that the ultimate has a CD of only 40 seconds (even less if you have CD runes). Now he'll either run back to base which gives you more time to farm up a Rylai's, or he will linger in the lane. If he does... punish him for it! Surprise him with another burst from your ultimate. This time you should get the kill. Even if you don't, you can just walk to mid and try for another gank. The ultimate will have cooled down again by then.
This is the point I want to stress. Death Lotus has a very low cooldown. Don't expect it to kill everything around you as soon as you use it, you will have to follow up with a lot of Shunpos and Bouncing Blades the moment they run. But as long as they stay, you'll be doing much more damage per second with your ultimate. (There's not much to do during the 3-5 second cooldown of Shunpo anyway - with an AP build your normal hits don't do much.)
Upgrade your boots the next time you go back to base.
By now you should have had several ganks, successful or otherwise, both in your own lane and in others. You don't even need to land the killing blow yourself, as long as you get the assist you'll get a bonus 50 gold.
Complete your Rylai's Scepter as quickly as possible. The item you start with will depend on how well you're doing. If you're getting a lot of kills, get the Blasting Wand first. Or else get the Giant's Belt.
Once that's done, you'll be a force to be reckoned with. Enemies will be hard pressed to get away from you, and every gank you do with an ally should result in a kill, sometimes even if the enemy expends a Summoner Spell.
Start working towards a Lich Bane/Soulstealer
You might want to get a Null-mantle for a Spirit Visage first, or a Giant's Belt for your Warmog's. It all comes down to how well you're doing.
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In a game with equally-matched players, this is where things start getting tougher for you. Tanks are tankier, DPSers and Casters hit harder, and all of them could be stacking Magic Resist against you.
No matter, with your gold income from ganks you should be able to get enough items to stay ahead of the curve. This is where you need to work on your Warmog's Living Armor/Banshee's Veil followed by a Sunfire Cape/Force of Nature.
Just remember, you aren't an initiator. By now ganks will be getting rarer, and enemy champions will be traveling in packs. Let a tankier character go in first to absorb the blows before you Shunpo in to kill their glass cannons.
You'll need to learn exactly when to use Death's Lotus so you can get the most out of it. Once its at level 3 you can hit up to 3 enemies at once, so position yourself accordingly. And don't be afraid to cancel it midway and Flash/Shunpo away if you immediately get focused. Chances are you'll be able to use it immediately again within 20 seconds.
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I really liked your guide. I see too many people going for early warmog's and I think that really kills your effectiveness mid-game which is where Katarina is the strongest.
AP is the way to go all the way. DPS isn't really even viable. If you want to go with a DPS build you should have just played Jax or Yi, both of which can do everything a DPS katarina can do only better.
A couple suggested items that you didn't mention are mejai's soulstealer and banshee's veil. It is really easy to get killing blows with shunpo so soulstealer is by far the best AP item you can get for your gold. I usually just get sheen then soulstealer then finish lich bane (all this after rylai's of course). Banshee's veil is incredibly helpful against any team that has multiple disables. Getting disabled is pretty much the only way you can die and they can completely negate your ultimate. Banshee's veil also buffs hit points so you could even get it in place of warmog's.
edit: Oh and one piece of advice. If the enemy ever turns their attention to you in a team fight blink out and make them switch targets before going back in. It doesn't matter how much hp you have left. Don't let them target you.
Thanks, I usually get Banshee's Veil against disable-heavy lineups, I just forgot to add it in.
As for Soulstealer, I'm a bit iffy about getting a pure AP item during the crucial midgame. Somehow I feel it leaves me somewhat squishy. However I have seen AP Katarinas doing well with it. Added to the guide as well.
just a thought, if you get spirit visage you should start out with a rejuvinating bead (or w/e it is) instead of a regrowth pendant, that much less money to spend before getting it, and spirit visage beats regrowth pendant in regen
Really nice guide. I haven't tried her yet, but I'm wondering what people would think of a sort of battle mage build on her? From reading her skills and your comments on them, it seems that she would greatly benefit from it.
Tome > Kage's Lucky Pick
Infinity Edge or Z Ring -- Depending on where you want to focus.
I know that's a really expensive build and would require a long game to complete, but that's why orders exists.
Anyway, I as I said, I haven't played her, just a bit of theory-crafting. Thoughts?
I started out building her that way Husbane and it wasn't as effective as pure AP. Staying in the fight and auto-attacking just doesn't mesh with her abilities and lack of survivability. Her bouncing blades never get very good, either.
Yeah, Rageblade doesn't fit her playstyle at all (funny, since part of it is exactly the same as the passive part of Killer Instinct). You will never ever be in the same spot long enough to attack a champion 8 times.
Most of the time you'll either be chasing him or blinking into a team battle and following up with Death Lotus.
The true "Battle Mage" item for Katarina is Lich Bane. It adds a hefty chunk of damage with your AP items, and the cooldown on it meshes perfectly with that of your skills. Plus every Shunpo activates it, as well as positions you perfectly next to an enemy to hit them with Lich Bane's bonus damage.
If Katarina had more HP I'd probably go Rylai's -> Soulstealer -> Lich Bane every single game, and finish off a lot of heroes in two Shunpos. :P
But then that might be a leeetle bit OP.
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