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- Sometimes it can benefit Karthus to die a strategic death, by rushing into a group of enemies and casting Defile the enemy will focus you long enough for your team to initiate without affecting your chance of winning a team fight, as Karthus can cast his spells even after dying.
- You can also activate Defile tick even longer. right before dying to let
- His passive allows him to cast spells while dead. Abuse this every time you die and punish any who remain near your corpse, casting Wall of Pain if not already used and endlessly casting Lay Waste. This may actually get you a kill.
- When focusing on harassment, try placing Lay Waste where it will hit the champion, but not the minions. This way, it will deal double damage.
- Lay Waste can be used to scout brushes since it reveals a small area around where it is cast. Since the skill has a low base cost, this can be used to scout brushes frequently.
- Lay Waste is very strong at farming minions and harassing enemy champions.
- Taking 1 level of Wall of Pain gives you a slow allowing you more time to cast Defile on fleeing enemies, as well as deterring attempts of harassment, even at their towers. In later game it is useful in team fights, thanks to its magic resistance debuffs. With this spell, Karthus can actually be a very good ganker, as it slows and allows his teammates to deal more damage.
- Karthus's Defile at higher levels can mow down creeps by standing next to them or walking past them for just 2 seconds. If given free rein or adequate protection from enemy champions, this can turn the tide of a battle very quickly or cement a team’s victory.
- Ask your allies to help point out when you should use Requiem to get kills in different lanes, or alternatively, alert your teammates when you are about to use it. However, be sure to keep your eye out for action elsewhere on the map; you may be able to help someone when they otherwise wouldn't have time to type for help.
- Before using Requiem to kill a retreating enemy, consider the shield/heal/defensive abilities and items of the enemy team; at endgame, it is usually more important to have an ultimate up than to force enemies to heal.
- During laning, it may be more beneficial to attack the caster minions in the back and to kill them than to harass an opponent. If you find yourself being out-laned by the enemy, pushing them back and stacking up on your own minions can help control them and keep them away from your tower.
- If your team can effectively distract the enemy, Karthus can actually be a very effective pusher, as the sheer speed at which he can consistently clear minion waves allows him to push his team's minions to a tower and destroy it in a short amount of time.
- Karthus highly benefits from the Crest of the Ancient Golem buff, giving him increased mana regeneration and reduced cooldowns for all his spells, allowing a focused AP build.
- Requiem can be used mid-game before a major offensive is launched to weaken all enemies, making them easier to kill.
- Flash and Ghost are useful summoner spells, as Karthus often needs mobility in order to be an asset to the team.
- It is possible to jungle using Karthus with the proper runes and/or masteries. To get the blue golem rune, use Lay Waste only on the blue golem (missing the smaller monsters). This way, you will deal double damage to only the golem.
- Be careful of when to use Requiem due to your ability power and the enemies magic resistance.
- Both Wall of Pain's slow and stat reduction go through .
- Wall of Pain can be a viable tool to saving an ally champion's life due to its movement speed reduction. Use it to give your allies a chance to get away if they are running from a pursuing champion.
- Notice that Karthus is very good at medium range, however he is easily countered by champions who can attack him from a very long range like, for example, Lux.
- Casting Requiem while actually alive is generally a bad idea, unless you are well away from any enemy champions or they are on the retreat from your team. You will become the focus of enemy champions during the lengthy channel, and if you die or are disabled during it, the ability is cancelled and goes on cooldown. If you die before using Requiem, however, you can still use it during Death Defied and your opponents will be unable to stop you in any way.
- Karthus can possibly proxy if you build all mana due to his Lay Waste
Dominion and Twisted Treeline
- Karthus is very good at interrupting captures via Karthus's Defile and Lay Waste.
- On Dominion, Karthus can work as a potent defender in bottom lane (between the Boneyard and Quarry), thanks to his potent zoning, ability to easily defend his point until reinforcements can arrive via his passive, damage aura via Karthus's Defile, and Lay Waste poke, and ability to have a global presence via Requiem. However, he is very vulnerable to ganks if overextended.
- If you're taking Karthus as a top laner on Dominion (between the Drill and Refinery), Wall of Pain can prove quite useful as an initiation tool for turret teamfights (especially at the Windmill), as it increases the damage all your allies deal while slowing the enemy. (If placed right, it can even reveal their brush!) By taking levels at 3, 4, 10, and the remaining two between levels 11-18, you can become frightfully efficient at helping your allies cap points. As such, taking Garrison to further improve your initiation can prove valuable.
- Due to Requiem, the enemy team will likely build some magic resistance. Building magic penetration items such as will help pass through their defenses.
- health quickly with Defile or Requiem, especially with enemy minions around. Lay Waste also gains full spell vamp when only used to attack a single enemy. can enable you to regain
- When played as more tanky build, consider Lay Waste, which you can use to kite enemy with terrifying efficiency.
as a top-priority item. Its passive provides slow for all your spells, but especially for
- On either lane for Dominion, Requiem has a great deal of utility. Not only can it be used to secure kills, but it can also slow via , butter up enemies for your teammates from afar, or simply work as a global capture interrupter.
- Try building tanky on Karthus as you will try to stay in the teamfight with your Defile on and spam Lay Waste.
- Luden's Echo is terrifying with Karthus; the low cooldown on Lay Waste allows Karthus to proc Luden's ridiculously frequently, and the bonus 120 AP and 7% movement speed helps even more.
- Building an Lay Waste can quickly build up the Archangel's staff's passive.
is a strong choice for Karthus as
- On other hand, a will make Karthus tankier, while taking less time to reach its full benefits. You can get both if you are constantly OOM.
- Wall of Pain. You can lower the target's magic resistance by 15% after ignoring 35% of it, ending up in 44.75% penetration when combined. has nice synergy with
- Due to his ability to rapidly spam his Q a Luden's Echo is a good purchase on him.
- Since the Wall of Pain now provides percentual magic resistance reduction, it can no longer decrease it below zero. Flat reduction from has less synergy, but it can still be useful against champs with lower magic resistance.
- As mentioned previously, Karthus can be played as suicide initiator. Build him fully offensive with items such as and to maximize your damage output.
- Defile and proceed to shred the entire enemy team's health.
has great synergy with Karthus, especially after the buffs to its AP amount. Because Karthus has a lot of sustained damage, he has a very easy time procing the passive, allowing him to consistently wear down the enemy team, no matter how high their health pools are. Activate
- The magic penetration also has great synergy with Karthus during the early game, due to the high base damage on his ultimate.
- is not a recommended item because Karthus is not only in risk of dying most of time due to his moderate range and his squishiness, but also because he wants to die anyway during teamfights, allowing him to spam his spells for free. Also, this is an item that is oriented for early/mid game snowball champions, but Karthus is a late game champion and it is very unlikely that he will be able to snowball early game. Also, he doesn't have great AP ratios and will not actually benefit that much from a fully stacked Mejai's Soulstealer (except for the cooldown reduction). Not to mention, this item delays the rest of his core items.
- Playing against Karthus can be extremely frustrating, as avoiding death with a small amount of health left is nearly impossible due his Requiem. If you find yourself having trouble with an enemy Karthus, buying a can offer at least some protection to his ultimate. If you are a caster and wish different/more protection, grabbing a earlier than you normally would can save you on many occasions. If you are an AD-based champion and wish for some additional protection, a or can block 250 or 400 magic damage respectively from his ultimate if he takes you below 30% health. Beware however, those items aren't as reliable as .
- Always remember, especially during team fights, that Karthus can continue to cast spells while he's dead without the cost of mana. When engaging his team, kill Karthus first, then retreat out of his attack area before continuing the fight.
- When in the midst of a team fight, it may be difficult to notice the attack animation of his Lay Waste. Be wary of this if you are playing a squishy character and/or have little magic resistance, as Karthus' damage output is steady and deadly.
- Also, do not underestimate the tick on his Defile. It is DoT, so it may not be noticeable at first, but its damage can be as much as 160 per second, not counting resistances, on top of his damage from Lay Waste.
- Do not underestimate Karthus' 1v1 potential. He may be squishy, but his killing power vastly increases when fighting stationary, single targets. If you engage him as ranged, try to stay out of his Defile and keep moving to avoid his Lay Waste. If you need to remain stationary, stay near other targets that will be damaged by his Lay Waste (e.g.: Allied minions or neutral monsters) to reduce his damage output. If you engage him as melee, you should either only do so if you have the level advantage or survivability to engage him in his AoE spells and live.
- Karthus's Wall of Pain reduces magic resistance, instead of penetrating it. This means that damage done to you by all enemies will be increased. Keep this in mind while standing in or walking through his Wall of Pain during a team fight.
- Some Karthus players will intentionally walk into a teamfight and die, This is rather a great strategy if Karthus is in a situation where he will die because he can cast his spells for 7 seconds after his death. Make sure that after you kill him, stay away from his Defile.
- Do not ignore Karthus upon killing him. Due to his passive, he can cast any and all spells freely, with the only restriction being cooldowns. Ignoring this fact and staying in close proximity to Karthus before his passive wears off can often lead to him killing you.
- Laning against Karthus can be challenging if you are not aware of his Lay Waste. Without at least one movement speed increasing item (e.g. ) walking away from your minions can be costly even while watching for Lay Waste's if the Karthus is predicting your movements accurately. To avoid the doubled damage, stand near one or two minions. That way, if Karthus attempts to harass you with Lay Waste, he is either doing minimal damage to you and the minion or placing it so that you have more time to respond, as the AoE is only half as close to you. Standing in the middle of your minions is a less favorable way to reduce damage as the unit collision can more or less hold you in place while Karthus can cast Lay Wastes continually.
- Soraka is known as the ultimate, albeit an indirect counter to Karthus, as she can use Wish to completely counter Requiem, by healing the low-health teammate that would be killed by the ability. Even if she does not have Wish available, if Soraka is nearby the low-health teammate, she can heal him using Astral Blessing so that he is not killed.
- Be wary that unless Soraka builds some AP, Karthus's Requiem can potentially outdamage Wish late game, and kill the target even if he is healed.
- In general, champions who have heals and shields can prevent themselves or their teammates from being killed by Requiem. Examples include Orianna's Command: Protect and Lulu's Help, Pix!
- Lulu also has Wild Growth to prevent herself or a teammate from being killed.
- Kha'Zix is a good counter to Karthus because he deals more damage to an isolated Karthus using Taste Their Fear than he takes damage from Lay Waste while isolated. Kha'Zix also has too much mobility to be consistently hit by Lay Waste. After killing Karthus, Kha'Zix can just jump away using Leap so that he doesn't need to take too much damage from Defile
- Sivir and Nocturne have spellshields that they can use to block Requiem.
- Fizz and Vladimir can become untargetable before Requiem hits, using Playful/ Trickster and Sanguine Pool, respectively, allowing them to take no damage from Requiem. Maokai and Master Yi can also do the same with Twisted Advance and Alpha Strike, respectively, but they require a nearby enemy target.
- Using a champion that has an ability that can prevent death is a good way to counter Karthus, by wasting its efforts if he tries to use Requiem. Such champions include Aatrox, Anivia, and Zac.