Challenger ADC Karthus Guide
I go by the name Elosanta and this is my first season hitting challenger on EUW playing Karthus ADC. This guide will be super in-depth covering every single aspect of the game, so after reading it you will know how to do anything and everything at any point in the game. As of writing this guide, with season 11 items (preseason included) I have over 800 ADC Karthus games. The Karthus player community doesn’t have many players playing the champion, so hopefully after reading this even a few people will pick it up for their botlane roster. Keep in mind, that most of this stuff mentioned in the guide works for every lane Karthus (yes, mid top karthus also works) and jungle karthus, minus the laning phase of course.
My op.gg for reference – https://euw.op.gg/summoner/userName=twitchtvELOSANTA
You may wonder, why did I decide to play this champion ADC, and it’s actually quite simple – he defies all the rules of botlane, I’ll explain it in the next paragraph so if you don’t care about lane stuff just skip over it. You might want to read it incase you are an ADC main and want to pick up a new champion for your roster.
In a regular lane ADCs usually have to follow basic wave management rules, let’s say you have a 6 minion wave and the enemy has a 4, it’s not recommended for you to trade auto attacks with the enemy ADC since it might lead to a longer trade, which you would lose since of the minion difference, playing Karthus you don’t draw minion aggro when hitting enemies and outrange most of them with your main source of damage (the Q ability obviously) so you can induce all kinds of playstyles into various lanes and have winning/even matchups in 90% of the botlanes picked. I feel as if I can beat most pro players playing Karthus simply because of the pick itself, playing regular ADCs I’d find myself losing lane most of the time since the enemy ADC would find small gaps to punish my playstyle. I think that I have a really good macro understanding of the game and not so much of a micro one, so Karthus ADC helped me unlock a playstyle which fits me the best.
So, to start off my guide:
Runes and summoner spells:
For runes, I run the same rune page into ANY matchups, unlike the precision tree there’s not much you can change in this rune tree, except swap out Ultimate hunter for Ravenous hunter and Last stand for Coup de Grace. That being said these are the runes:
Dark harvest -> Taste of Blood -> Eyeball collection -> Ultimate hunter
Precision: Presence of Mind -> Last stand (will explain this rune choice with explaining my playstyle)
Double Adaptive Force -> MR/Armor depending on matchup. (It’s mostly armor)
Summoners spells are never changed aswell with the good old Flash and Exhaust. I feel as if exhaust is a free slow to hit Q’s not more for the damage reduction early on, but in late game fights I always end up walking into the enemy team and clicking Zhonyas Hourglass before dying, exhausting the highest damage dealer right before. I have tried other runes like Exhaust/Ignite, Exhaust/Tp, Exhaust/Barrier, and all these seem to work but I just stay on the good old reliable Flash spell.
In quick addition – always ask your team (I just say a simple “pick/draft ad” in champ select) to play some AD damage dealers, this way you have more carry potential as you would be the only AP damage dealer.
Usually you just want to fight fights front to back (cast spells at max range, zone entrances to jungle with W etc., but if you read closely the last paragraph you would be like wait wait, you walk into the enemy team and click zhonyas? Yes. That’s litearlly how I play Karthus. Suicide into the enemy team, clicking zhonyas right before you die to unlock the Last Stand runes potential which you have picked before. This playstyle looks super stupid, but trust me it is not. Sometimes you can do stupid stuff as much as flashing into the enemy pit 1v5, killing the enemy jungler and stealing baron:
So before you can go full braindead mode and walk into the enemy team you have to do something called laning. The good thing about Karthus is that he wins / goes even in almost every single matchup, the only thing that beats him? Speed. Boots/movement increases, anything that makes them dodge your Q’s super easy.
So how do you know what to do in lane? First you have to identify what lane you are in (helpful for any ADC / support player !)
Botlane is made up out of 3 lanes, kill, sustain and poke lanes. If you ever played any MMORPG its similar to the traditional combat system: Melee beats Ranged, Ranged beats Mage, and Mage beats Melee. Same thing here – Kill lanes beat sustain lanes, sustain lanes beat poke lanes and poke lanes beat kill lanes. Easy? Should be. Quick few examples – Draven Janna? Kill lane. Morgana Cait? Kill/poke lane. Ezreal/Yuumi? Sustain/poker lane. You get the rest.
So after you have identified your lane what do you do? Well if you realize you are in a sustain lane you probably want to not die, and items to buy early on – Magic pen boots + Seekers Armguard, with these 2 items you can almost never die, since seekers on its own gives almost 100 armor. This will make more sense in the later build paragraph, for now you just want to know how to play the lane.
Now the hard part – trading/CSing. Keep in mind, this is quite advanced stuff so if you are a beginning player just play your game, try not to waste much mana in lane, buy a lost chapter early on (will be mentioned in the build paragraph). But for the people that want to go in depth:
If you ever played Karthus before, you would know that he has a super slow attack animation, which results in super hard last hitting. Good thing that your E ability gives mana back whenever you last hit a minion, so when you last hit with auto attacks, you actually gain ~30 mana per minion that you last hit, this results in some cool trades you can do with auto attacking a minion and Q’ing the enemy laner meanwhile.
If you are a visual laner just watch how I play the laning phase in this video, should be quite self-explanatory, but it is hard to pull off:
The main core items you always want in your build is Liandry’s Anguish, Zhonya’s Hourglass and Sorcerer’s shoes. The full build is mentioned later on.
Early game build:
If you read the guide fully you will know what kind of lane you are laning in, if it is a lane where you don’t want to fight pick up a Lost Chapter and just build your regular core build. If you noticed that you fight a lot and have to recall many times, Sorcerer’s shoes might be a good early pick-up as well as a Dark Seal (this item is very powerful on Karthus since you lose the stacks when you die but continue stacking it by killing people in your passive. On the other hand, if you are losing super hard and want to turtle under the turret and make sure you don’t get dived (probably for Diamond4+ games) you would want to pick up a Seeker’s Armguard and not finish it. Just by purchasing this item you will have ~90 armor which makes you super unkillable early game.
Mid game build:
This is where you want to start doing your Zhonya’s bombing (semi). You can make super aggressive plays early on by finishing your Liandry’s Anguish and buying a Stopwatch, this way you can bait the enemies to engage on you and when you get low bait your team to back you up. Suddenly you are in Zhonya’s and everyone is fighting inside your E ability, dealing damage to 5 people at the same time. After you die you still keep dealing more damage and R on top of that, if a teamfight happens on your dead body there is no fight u will lose. So for mid-game build you want to have your Liandry’s completed (mandatory) and pick up a Stopwatch to start making plays, after that you want your Shoes and Zhonya’s completed, before you move on to the next stage of building. Little pro tip for higher elo players – I like to sit on a Stopwatch and Seekers even though I have enough gold to complete the Zhonya’s, this way I don’t waste the tempo of buying the Stopwatch, and upon using it you can instantly complete the Zhonya’s, resetting its cooldown and not wasting tempo (you can spend money on other items meanwhile).
Late game build:
For my 3rd item I like to look at the enemy team for pick ups. In season 11 enemies have healing in 90% of the games, so you can’t go wrong with an Oblivion Orb (don’t buy it if you’re in the 10% where they don’t have healing) and after that you have a few options – if you are super ahead and want the 1v9 potential Rabadon’s Deathcap is your choice (keep in mind I almost never buy this item in my challenger games since you need to play super aggressive afterwards and you can be shut down easily, should work well in anything under masters elo, though.) Another good item is Void Staff, which I pick up into all the dirty Verdant’s barrier rushers and Mercury Tread rushers, don’t like those guys. And the last item that is my favorite – Demonic Embrace. I pick this item in most of my games just because for the health that it gives, as well as that the stacking MR and Armor just lets you be a punching bag for a few seconds longer, which can turn the fight drastically. Most games end by this point but you can mix and match these items after your 3rd item (Void Staff + Rabadons). You want to finish your Oblivion Orb into a Morrellonomicon if the game goes super late. A few good defensive items (almost never bought) are Banshee’s Veil and the item I call the training wheels – Rylai’s Crystal Scepter (this item might be very good for the starting players, so try out a build like liandrys -> shoes -> zhonyas -> rylais)
Example full late game build being: liandrys -> shoes -> zhonyas -> void staff -> rabadon -> morello.
The two skins that I swap between is the Original Karthus and the Grim Reaper Karthus. Infernal Karthus looks really good and has good sound but the orange indicator around his Q just makes the ability too spottable in fights, meanwhile the other skins don’t have an outline. Another semi-good choice is the Lightsbane Karthus, the skin attracts me for some reason even though it looks big, clunky and weird (maybe the Q is slightly different? Who knows, try it out).
So my overall skin tier list:
Grim reaper -> Original -> Infernal -> Lightsbane -> Pentakill -> Statue of Karthus (this skins Q looks super small? Or is it just me…) and I don’t own the legacy skins so cant comment T_T..
Well if you made this far into the guide… you max Q then E, W gives no extra stats except increases in size and slow.
Tips and tricks:
Karthus’ W gives him vision only on the edges, so you might want to have this ability off smartcast or set up another hotkey (I just click on the HUD, bronze move I know) to check how to place it, so that the corner of the wall is in the bush and actually gives vision.
Main idea how to hit Q’s in lane is see how your enemy adc farms, and try to Q when he goes to last hit a minion, or just hit the supports they are usually braindead and don’t dodge anyway, lol.
Remember that Karthus has auto attacks, if you are low on mana you always have to Q -> auto -> Q -> auto to maximize your damage, and if you somehow get a redbuff early on try to attack the enemies even more in fights, since it will slow them making your Q easier to hit.
Little tip mentioned above: to save mana you can auto attack a minion and Q the enemy while your auto attack is flying, looks pretty cool, and I have linked a youtube replay of this earlier, kind of advanced strats, though.
Remember to turn off your E to not burn through your mana! Super important stuff.
You can toggle your E for a slight second to last hit some creeps which are on 1-15 hp if you barely missed them with your auto attack, since your E deals instant damage.
// I think I have mentioned almost all aspects of the game, but if you want to ask me anything extra I will be happy to respond to anything. I stream as well on https://www.twitch.tv/elosanta so if you see me live you can ask me questions, I read chat a lot so your message will probably not be missed.
Thanks for reading my guide, hope it was informative.
Hopefully you will save this and re-read this as you get more advanced to read up on all the advanced strategies, remember to check the comments too, in case some important questions are answered!
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