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[Guide] Karthus: A high elo approach By: Araragi

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Master Recruiter


Araragi's Karthus Guide

January 28, 2010

Summoner's Spells - Ignite/Clarity

I have used various spells however, these two seem to work best for my play style and build. Ignite is great for early kills and laying extra damage on focused targets that need to be dealt with quickly. (Like Twitch) Also, Karthus seems to strive for mana quite a lot and I don't feel getting too many mana regen items is well spent gold. The mana boost from clarity allows you to spam your lay waste and keep your defile active longer in team fights. It is also viable for getting enough mana to use your ult after a team fight has drained your mana away and the enemy is retreating to base.


9 Magic Penetration Marks
9 Health per Level Seals
9 Magic Resist per Level Glyphs
3 Magic Resist per Level Quintessence

With the recent dissolution of level 1 team fights due to the loss of early dragon, I feel magic resist is much more viable at this point than flat health for quintessence. Reason being, you will not engage too much early on in the game and having more magic resist reduces the incomming damage. The damage reduction from spells you will see is much more than the 100 (rounded up) health you will recieve. I believe most of the damage in game comes more from spells as opposed to physical attacks. Physical attacks do play an important role and can dish out a ton of damage but my reasoning was most of the physical damage characters also do magic damage in some way.


9/21/0 Defensive

I have looked at this debate for a while. Going an offensive mastery outside of the 9 extra point would only really grant you 5% magic damage. I feel this is a waste of a lot of talent points. The utility tree only offers mana regen, movementspeed, extra exp, and reduced cooldown. Karthus only has two spells with a cooldown essentially, making it a waste to go down this tree. Mana is not much of an issue if Golem is controlled correctly and you are already provided with a lane orienated mana regen passive. This leaves the defensive tree to be in my eyes, the best choice of mastery for Karthus. This grants you 4% reduced damage, health, armor, magic resist, early hp regeneration, dodge, and a percentage boost for your overall ability power. With the playstyle and build I will be discussing in this guide, this is the mastery you want to be in which also allows you to still retain the magic penetration from the offensive tree.

Leveling Your Skills
Level 1 - Lay Waste
Level 2 - Defile
Level 3 - Lay Waste
Level 4 - Wall of Pain
Level 5 - Lay Waste
Level 6 - Requiem
Level 7 - Lay Waste
Level 8 - Defile
Level 9 - Lay Waste
Level 10 - Defile
Level 11 - Requiem
Level 12 - Defile
Level 13 - Defile
Level 14 - Wall of Pain
Level 15 - Wall of Pain
Level 16 - Requiem
Level 17 - Wall of Pain
Level 18 - Wall of Pain

Itemization(In order)

Saphire Crystal and 2 Health Potions (Start)
Catalyst the Protector
Decision Point
Mejai's SoulStealer (Depending on difficulty of team)(If facing Top tier replace with Void Staff they will get magic resist if they are truly top tier)
Upgrade Boots (Sorc, Merc, depending on team composition)
End Decision Point
Guardian's Angel
Upgrade Catalyst to Banshee's Vail (Most cases Banshees will be your best choice however I sometimes convert it to Rod of Ages or Innervating Locket depending on team composition and how long the game will continue)
Decision Point 2
Abyssal Scepter (If the opposing team is AP heavy)
or Rylai's Scepter (If the opposing team is Physical heavy)
End Decision Point 2
Decision Point 3
Zhonya's Ring (If you need damage or versus AP team also in the event of a mixed team go with this unless their main carry is physical)
Frozen Heart (Versus Physical heavy team)
End of Items

Strategy and Things To Look Out For

Lay Waste

It will take some time but you will learn to predict the movement of enemies. Mastery of this can lead to steady devistating damage. Usualy this is easy to do when playing low/mid tier players. When facing top tier try to predict what they will predict. Meaning they will most likely be constantly thinking of how to dodge your attack and trick you into wasting mana. You have to think past this in order to land your hits.


Lay Waste gives vision in grass or through walls (small vision)
Lay Waste does double damage if hitting one target
Lay Waste is great for last hitting creeps
Lay Waste is your early game harrass and mastering it is crucial

Wall of Pain

Wall of Pain is a great skill allowing you to slow and reduce the armor and magic resistance of enemies that pass through it. The slow is really ridiculous use this to your advantage to land lay waste and keep them with in the defile. It can also be used to segregate teams. A well placed wall can change the tide of any initiation or escape.


Be mindful of teamates low on life using wall to slow enemies aiming for the killing blow
Use Wall to trap enemy teams forcing them to go through it or take a absurd detour
Wall of Pain gives a Huge vision range


Defile drains your mana fast and does insane damage per second to all nearby foes. Good management of knowing when to turn defile on and off is needed. This is your constant damage in team fights and you should always start them with full mana. Do not be afraid to get into the fray with Karthus. This guide is desigend for you to be able to tank and deal ridiculous damage. With Guardian Angel and your passive of being able to cast after death, dying is not that big of a deal as long as you are contributing to your team and taking people out with you and even after you.


Always get Ancient Golem Buff you will need it to maintain Defile (Your side and theirs, warding them is great)
This skill also provides mana return upon landing a last hit on creeps


This is your global and one of the best skills Karthus has. Be sure to communicate with your team for when to use this. Also when in Karthus death mode you can cast Requiem at the last second regardless of channel time allowing it to still go off. Be sure to manage your mana while dead though because using too much up on lay waste and defile can prevent you from having the mana to cast Requiem and possible stopping potential kills.


Calculate magic resistance and talents when using. ( 250 damage does not mean 250 even in low levels)
Team communication is important and I can not stress this anymore.
Used best to clean up kills or fleeing enemies especially stealths.
Do not be afraid to use Requiem defensively to scare enemies from getting potential kills or even initiating accross map with it to help your teamates get the edge in a fight.


Karthus is an amazing champion and my personal favorite. If used correctly he can be devestating to the point of being able to carry an entire team. With this defensive and offensive build you can tank enemy champions and kill them quickly allowing you to see some amazing plays. It will take some time but once you get used to Karthus you will see how good he truly is. Give it a try and please give me any feedback after you have done so. In addition I will be posting a personal Karthus montage and video clip soon to correspond with this guide. I hope you found this guide to be helpful and good luck playing Karthus. He is not easy to play so give it some time and practice. Feel free to add my ign araragi. I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have or provide additional personal tips I have learned from play this champion. Im setting somewhere around 86 win 21 loss with Karthus specifically atm counting learning the champion in my early days.

This is a repost from solomid forums. Hence the earlier date. I felt I should post this hear for the community to view as a whole.

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would substitute clarity for flash to get out of losing fights/flash into winning ones. works great with defile and golem buff does what clarity could do.

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Senior Member


high elo karthus recommends ignite/clarity?


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Senior Member


i prefer ghost for a summoner skill. With defile on you can just run a bit harder then ur enemies. It's a guaranteed kill when they run. It's also better then flash imo to get out of bad situations.

Still i get a tear first, this helps me for my mana management and spam lay waste like an idiot. Also it will snowball into archangels which will boost your AP a lot.

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Senior Member



Karthus is squishy; I'm serious. You need the exhaust against any form of damage based carry as late game hits, and flash is a no brainer on Karthus for the first reason, but also for keeping up with Defile and Lay Waste. Improved Exhaust also gives you some MR; I use it early game, in combo with Wall of Pain for kills.