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GUIDE: Karthus: caster carry

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GENERAL NUTBAKED

Senior Member

01-09-2010

There are very few karthus guides out, so I thought I would share a build that gives me some good success.
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I always get far more kills than deaths, a ton of assists, and am up there with the carries in damage done, if not surpassing them. The thing with karthus is that he is the only mage with high sustained damage, if you build him right. Note that I am, I think, midrange elo. I am a lv30 summoner and I typically play with/against summoners that are lv 30. I also tend to play Karthus a mix of balls out and conservative...I will never try to die and will always try to do my work and get the fk out. I have managed a 2.3-1-2 k/d/a ratio and have gone on 14-15 game winning streaks.
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now, on to abilities:

lay waste:
this is a very low mana ability with virtually no cooldown. like all of Karthus's abilities, it has a low-mid AP scaling. This DOES NOT mean you should not stack AP. The thing is, this is spammable to all hell. And, it does double damage to single targets (it has a small AOE range). The downside is that it has a 0.5 second delay. Anyway, LW is an excellent early farming tool, as well as one of the best harassing abilities in the game.

wall of pain:
This is a wall that slows anybody that passes through it for 5 seconds, as well as significantly lowering their armor and magic resistance. Positioning of this wall is a deal maker or breaker in team fights, small group fights, solo fights, and random fights at the turret. It is something that will enable karthus to get many, many, kills.

defile:
Does damage/second in an AoE effect around karthus, while draining mana/second
I think this is the bread and butter of karthus. While it gives karthus a huge KILL ME NAO sign, it also absolutely devastates your opponents. My karthus build focuses on making this spammable without burning through your mana. In combination with your other skills, this is what makes people say OH SHI* when they see a karthus running at them with a rammus initiating. Also, defile restores mana per enemy person/minion/creep slain when toggled off. Remember, turn off defile when you are done using it. or you will go oom, which is devastating.

requiem:
the ability that generates the biggest lols. Basically channels for 4 seconds to do significant damage to everybody on the map. This ability has a pretty decent AP scaling of .6 or .7. I am able to ult for like 750 by end game if I am doing well, many times.

passive: defy death (or whatever its called)
basically, this is a controversial ability that allows you to cast for 8 seconds while dead. Many say this is amazing as it allows karthus to "get revenge", others say its a waste because they would rather have something that prevents karthus from dying in the first place. I like it, but I feel the same way as the latter.
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Summoner Spells:
I tend to pick ghost and teleport. Ghost allows me to chase efficiently with defile and WoP, as well as escape from impending doom, again with WoP. Teleport gives me an early game advantage in xp and creep kills.
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Tips:

Harassing with Lay Waste:
There are two ways to harass with lay waste. One is to anticipate their path 0.5 to 1 second ahead of them, and lay waste there. Typically, the enemy will cry "oh shi* lay waste" and run into that path, and get hit by it anyway. Typically, try to aim it so that it hits just them, for double damage and double luls. If you miss, dont worry. While you are continuoutly lay wasting and last hitting minions, the enemy is prancing around like a moron not getting last hits and not hitting minions.
The other way to lay waste, and this may be better if you are not experienced with karthus, is to wall of pain right on their face and lay waste on them in any direction they are moving. This typically guarantees the hit, but at the same time, puts your WoP on cooldown and burns through your mana quicker.

Ganking:
I found that there are two efficient methods, depending on whether or not your allies are there ready to assist you, and whether or not you need assistance in the first place. If this is like, a nasus with his ult up or something, WoP right behind him and rush in with lay waste and defile. Psychology dictates that the Nasus will try to avoid hitting the WoP and will either try to run around it, or will run the other way, into your enemies. Either way, your allies should be ready to pounce, as taking the long path will slow the enemy down even more than the WoP would.
The other efficient method would be to hit WoP on his face and rush in balls to the floor with defile and lay waste. If the enemy is at 50-60% and does not have sufficient healing/escaping abilities, you should have this in the bag.

Low Enemy HP:
They tend to run away, so requiem lol. But watch out here, because even through teemo may have 230 hp and lv1 requiem hits for 250, that teemo will crawl away with 3 hp. why? because of magic resist. Factor in magic resist and see if you can actually make the kill. Typically, unless they try to stack magic resist, anybody under 190hp should die for lv1 requiem. After that, its too variable to make any judgment calls.

Wall of Pain tips (besides ganking):
If you have an angry minotaur, a midget rat, and a little girl with a pedobear all running after you with every intent to defile your wall of pain, run. Of course, ghost helps here, but wall of pain before you do anything. Wall of pain right behind you, hit ghost, and run like the wind to the nearest vantage point, whether its heimers turrets, rammus, or your nexus.
If they are wailing away at your turret, you have two options. One is to WoP on their face and rush in with defile. That will keep them off your tower, but could also kill you. Another way is to Wall of Pain right behind them and start spamming lay waste on their faces from afar. If they run, they will either run around a giant wall, or be hit by it. which can turn into whatever (see other tips).
UPDATE
If you are facing enemies that are a bit out of your range, but have abilities to get around wall of pain (flash, tristana, yi, etc), then wall of pain on top of yourself. If they leap into you, they will get hit by it. Another strategy is to put it immediately behind you.

Golem:
I find that its safe to solo golem around lf 7-8. Just defile his buddies, and then turn defile off and spam lay waste until he's dead. The golem buff pretty much makes defile spammable, especially if you have chalice.

****, I'm Dead:
Rule number 1: turn on defile.
After that, if there are people around, hit WoP on their face and start spamming LW. If its late game and respawn is like a minute, ult the last 4 seconds. The pressure generated from ult could easily turn the tide of many battles, or one, depending on how unified your team is.

UPDATE: Sniping:
This one is easy. Now lay waste, as its not a targeted ability, is an amazing sniping ability. Hiding in tall grass and sniping people with lay waste could absolutely devastate them. It may make sense that people will try to avoid putting themselves in a sniper zone, but it works better than most people would ever expect.

UPDATE: Ulting from base:
If you get someone very low and they run to safety, and you lack the mana to finish them off with your ult, port back to base. Often times they feel that they are free, and will try to regen health from lifesteal or atleast hesitate to return to base for atleast 5-6 seconds (maybe they want 100 more gold or an extra level first). They tend to forget one thing: you regen health/mana in your base. I have gotten tons of kills by getting them low, going oom, porting to base and ulting for the kill. It is tremendously effective.
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skill order:

I go
1 Q
2 E
3 Q
4 W
5 Q
6 R
7 Q
8 E
and max Q, max E after that while taking ult when you can. lv 13-18 should be for maxing R and lvling W from 2-5.
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Runes:
my runes are eh because I spend my IP on heroes most of the time. Anyway, I tend to mix spell pen, cooldown reduction, and mana regen, emphasis on the first 2 (i like to have requiem up faster).
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Items:
I typically start out with meki pendant, health pot, and mana pot. I then try to stay in my lane until I have enough cash for chalice and a sapphire crystal.
After that, I go in this order:
Catalyst
Boots 1
Rod of Ages
sorcerers shoes

after this, I survey my opponent and see how I'm doing. If i find myself in too many close calls, but seem to be doing fine on mana, I will get Rylai's scepter. The slow and added health will help my survivability significantly. If I find myself easily scoring kills and getting away, but have mana issues, I will go for archangel's staff.

Typically go for tear of the goddess first for archangels, or giant belt first for rylai's.

After I pick one, I see if my opponents are
a) stacking magic resistance
b) lots of casters (ESPECIALLY a skilled viegar)
c) just some schmucks

if a), I typically get void staff. if b), i typically go for abyssal scepter. if c), then I will probably grab archangel's.

After this, my final item is Zhonya's ring. typically the game is over by the time you start building this. but you should be well fed, so who knows

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UPDATE/EDIT:
Due to the feedback on my guide, I decided to try out a Mejai's Soulstealers build, and I must admit, I fell in love with it.

It is essentially the same as the above except instead of rushing Chalice, I rush Soulstealer. I would recommend that if you are new to the game and not good at last hitting, to NOT use this build, as the majority of your mana upkeep relies on last hitting (atleast early game, archangel's staff/golem fixes the problem). Also, I would highly recommend grabbing the golem buff every time it is up (my personal play style involves liberal use of defile, though I continuously switch it on/off).

Start with Doran's ring and a health pot. Doran's ring gives me some wimpy mana regen that will do for now, as well as an early AP boost and some health. I will always request the solo mid, as it is essential to get ult up early to rack up some early kills for mejai's. I then get amplifying tome and build it into mejai's. Now, I tend to b alot since I am an overly cautious player. Many times, I dont have to b at all until I can outright afford mejai's. Sometimes, if I get an early kill and a push seems to be out of the question, I will b in that time and pick up amplifying tome and a ton of health pots, and next time get mejai's.

After that, follow the guide I posted before, where I start building boots/rod of ages, etc. (essentially ignore the chalice).
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Now, early game, Harass the hell out of your opponent, but do not chase or initiate. You are still a weak, puny, squishy, girlyman caster. Focus on last hitting with your autoattack and lay waste. If your opponent gets really low, drop a wall on him and defile your heart away while hitting lay waste. You will probably go oom or very close to it, but its ok because he will be dead.

Once you hit level 6, keep laning like usual. Except keep scouring your map for low hp runners to requiem. Map awareness is key here, you MUST know whats going on everywhere at once in order to be effective at clutch requiems. I solo queue 95% of the time, so relying on your teammates to call ult is an exercise in futility. Now, one thing you must realize is that you DONT HAVE TO SCORE KILLS WITH REQUIEM. I'll explain. Your friends master yi and alistar are laning top and you are laning bottom. They are at 75% health and their opponents are at 50-60% health. Hitting requiem will get both of them low, leaving alistar and yi to easily either finish them off, or them to fall back, giving ali/yi the laning advantage. This could lead to a fed yi (which is just as awesome as a fed karthus), a tower kill, or both. Not to mention that you still get assists and subsequently assist gold.

By lv 7-8, you should have 1-3 kills under your belt. At this pont, solo golem so you could get enough regen to spam defile that much more, and your requiem will be up faster. Then wander around ganking, scoring kills. If your opponent is a teemo or something, you could just run into a lane, gank him at 80% by WoP and defile/LW, and kill him. rinse, repeat. Once you get it down you will realize that its redic easy to gank as karthus and you should be dominating and ggggodlike.

My general strategy mid-late game is to keep golem buff up and run into team fights right after the tank/initiator, hitting defile as you run in and immediately WoP either right behind them or on their face (preferably on their face). then proceed to spam lay waste as much as you can. Once somebody is killed, hit ghost and run out, lay wasting. If its a losing teamfight and everybody is running, hit WoP right behind you as you are running. This really saves your teammates' lives.
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By following this guide, hopefully you will become a force to be reckoned with.

Oh yeah, and people that it really sucks to lane against are: all stealth. Maybe it's a personal thing, but I just hate them all so much. If you are up against one that isnt awful, go ahead and get a ward (not an elixir, elixirs are too expensive for early game)

Also please do not flame, though I am open to criticisms.


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IMSavior

Senior Member

01-09-2010

gives you good success :P ?

not bad success huh?


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Octovert

Senior Member

01-09-2010

I find a tear of the goddess, and the subsequent archangel's staff a must have item on karthus. I go sapphire crystal + 2 health pots early, and turn it into a tear my first trip back. Really takes the pressure off the mana pool quickly, especially with how much he spams lay waste.


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GENERAL NUTBAKED

Senior Member

01-09-2010

I find that chalice is by far the best mana regen item in the game, for its cost as well as its practicality. It gives me magic resist too (though i find that random). I find that the mp5 i get from chalice is better than starting out with saph crystal, especially since saph is generally the first thing i get after chalice.

I've tried both, and I find that early game, the meki pendant regen is better than the saph crystal mana.


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Destromas

Member

01-09-2010

why do you want meki and chalice regen? defile's passive gives you mana, and now that karthus has a normal projectile speed, there's no reason not to be able to last hit for mana. if you're spamming lay waste, you should be hitting last hitting creeps, harassing champions, or both at the same time. meki pendant/chalice on karthus is like taking revive: expecting failure.


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GENERAL NUTBAKED

Senior Member

01-09-2010

taking chalice is more of a long term investment. I understand your point and have to say that I always top creep kills, with the exception of being with heimer and sometimes sivir. However, chalice allows you to farm creeps more efficiently with defile mid-late game, where you could just defile away massive amounts of creeps at a time. just because karthus has some mana restorative abilities does not mean that you should ignore mana regen. pulling effective dps with karthus means that you will exceed your innate mana regain abilities, as defile will not restore mana while its being used. your logic is a bit flawed, you could apply it and say "why take the golem buff? karthus isnt too cdr dependant and you could last hit for mana!".

I would like to also reiterate the point that with just meki pendant, I dont seem to drop below 60-70% mana. I take it more for the future than for the present, and as insurance for the present (also why I grab a mana pot too). This way, I could guarantee myself mana in case I need to clutch ult and I just finished off somebody with most of my mana. And revive sucks. You still die. I try to avoid dying. There are many times when I just kill somebody and all of a sudden I notice somebody up top at 5% health slinking away, and the regen/mana pot gives me what I need to ult right then.

Getting golem buff with chalice means you could effectively hit defile and watch your mana bar not drop down that fast. getting just chalice gives you a good mana regen when you are not last hitting creeps, and I tend to spend a good amount of my time running around ganking, and assist pushing. I find it more useful than keeping mid, especially since I am a caster and my damage on towers is wimpy anyway (exceptions would be defending the mid tower, but I usually swap mid with a carry who could use the xp more than me once I hit 6).

I have seen karthus not get any regen items, get boots of mobility and rush rod of ages getting blasting wand before any part of catalyst, and doing well. It all has to do with playstyle and this is mine. ofc, there are multiple viable ways to play any hero.


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GENERAL NUTBAKED

Senior Member

01-10-2010

any feedback? does nobody play karthus?


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ibplunderin

Member

01-10-2010

lol, yes people play karthus. Next patch there will be an influx of Karthus players.

I still like Mejai's since imo you do get reliable kills with your ult, and then the snowballing begins.

I also don't see the point in getting Chalice, if I spam too much I usually get CLarity and then I won't have to worry about mana much at all, however that does take up a summoner spell. Then again I spam too much and am used to having a mana hungry anivia so when I play Karthus I usually have Clarity so I just go straight for the crystal to tear and dont' worry about regen except from what I get back from killing minions.

Overall though its a fine guide.


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Guthrek

Senior Member

01-10-2010

Good guide, I particularly like the advice on not just using requiem after things go wrong. If you can ult and save a teammate it's way better than getting the kill after a fight turned out wrong for your ally. Having said that, it's hard as hell to gauge when to try that sometimes.

I don't agree with archangel's staff, personally. I think it's too much mana and too little survivability, and with a golem buff (which usually isn't hard to get, people go out of their way to give it to karthus usually) all you need is that one ROA. Personally, I run two ROAs, because it keeps you relevant all the way through to late game, while providing enough mana/ap/health to do well in the middle. I've experimented with other builds (archangel's, rylai's) but i've never liked them as much.

I think that chalice is totally unnecessary. Rushing a catalyst is usually the best bet (with boots between trips if you need to be able to move to survive), and you can run off mana regen from doran's ring for the entire laning phase with good last hitting. You really need to figure out how little mana/mana regen you can get away with to maximize your survivability/dps, and I feel like chalice (and archangel's) are a crutch to get away with poor mana usage choices. I think maybe in games where you're unlikely to ever have golem it would make sense, but otherwise I just don't see the need.

there are other bits and pieces I don't agree with (flash instead of ghost, exhaust instead of teleport, late game items should be picked to be tanky unless you're wtfpwning already) but the advice on How to play is solid, and some of the rest of that is more playstyle. I also might add somewhere in there that once you get used to it it's really easy to drop WoP directly on top of people, which is important in some cases where they might be able to avoid it or have a blink.

Good job!


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Nether

Senior Member

01-10-2010

Nice guide. Like others, the only point I strongly disagree with is the chalice. I can definitely understand the bigger mana pool (Tear/Archangel), but I find last hitting relatively easy on Karthus, so mana is rarely a problem.

When using defile to farm I switch it off as the mobs get to very low hp. Then I drop one or two lay wastes to finish them off, and as defile instantly goes back to mana regen mode when switched off, you usually make back the mana you lost from the whole combo instantly.

I especially agree with the point about Requiem having far more uses than just kill sniping. If you see allies losing a 50/50 battle, Requiem is often a tide turner that turns 1-3 allied deaths into 1-3 allied kills and a few handy assists for yourself, though it's completely useless if your allies don't know to capitalise on it. Karthus for me is a hero far better utilized in an organised group with voice communication.


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