Back in the old days of League, very few champions had global-range abilities, and none could compare to Karthus, whose Ultimate ability remains unique to this day. Being able to deal large amounts of damage to all enemy champions across the map from any given location should be enough to prompt a large number of players to spam Karthus, yet despite his one-of-a-kind kit, The Deathsinger has rarely been a popular pick.
The reason why players seemingly fail to find success playing this champion is a clear case of mechanical misinterpretation because as linear as his abilities might seem, Karthus is actually a more complex champion than most of us would believe.
Even stranger, the audience interest in Karthus experienced its most considerable rise when players first started taking AP Mages into the Jungle, where The Deathsinger excelled at clearing camps and impacting the outcomes of games.
Today, continuing the Mage Jungler craze, we will be taking a look at the best Jungle path for Karthus, as well as at the core mechanics and strategies required to play him like the high ELO masters, with a hefty dose of tips and tricks on top of that.
Flash + Smite
As much as we like to argue that some champions can thrive without Flash if played properly, this is not likely the case for Karthus, as the one thing his kit absolutely lacks is mobility.
Given how the current meta favors Assassins and rapid executions, giving up on Flash could be devastating, as it would simply put a target on Karthus’ back.
The Best Karthus Runes
While some may think that the considerable changes brought by Patch 11.23 in terms of the Runes and items would impact champions such as Karthus, truth is, the majority of his standard tools remained the same, including the Runes.
Ideally, players will want to run Dark Harvest, Cheap Shot, Eyeball Collection, and Ultimate Hunter, paired with Presence of Mind and Last Stand.
While the keystone and subsequent choices from the Domination tree are easily understandable, the secondary options would sound debatable, but after observing how top Karthus players execute this champion, we can confidently say that those are the right picks.
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The Best Karthus Items
Starting Items: Hailblade + Refillable Potion
Mythic: Liandry’s Anguish
Core Items: Sorcerer’s Shoes, Mejai’s Soulstealer, Zhonya’s Hourglass
Finishing Options: Rabadon’s Deathcap, Void Staff, Demonic Embrace, Morellonomicon
Part of the build is self-explanatory when looking at Karthus’ abilities, with quite a large amount of flexibility for players to have fun with, depending on the particularities of each game.
Mejai’s is going to be your bread and butter, as one well-timed ultimate can result in multiple stacks at once, including the ones you’re going to be earning off Dark Harvest throughout the game. Also given the rather long range on your Q and E, debuffs such as Grievous Wounds are very easy to apply.
The Best Skill Order for Karthus
Q > E > W > R
Nothing unusual about the skill maxing order for Karthus, as his Q is the primary source of damage and Jungle clear, paired with E’s considerable DPS, which both outshine the utility granted by your Wall of Pain.
The Best Jungle Paths for Karthus
Now for the main topic of this article, Jungle pathing and clearing with Karthus, a champion originally designed to be an AP Mid Mage. Stick around until the end for some spicy tips and tricks to boost your Karthus gameplay to the next level, before even starting a game of League!
We are going to cover the possible starts from each side, but players should keep a few factors in mind when deciding upon where their Jungle pathing should start. These are:
- Which laners are going to provide more help in clearing the first camp?
- Counter-jungle opportunities, based on where the enemy Jungler is likely to start.
- Which lane would you like to gank first, depending on both the allied and enemy champions.
With Mages in the Jungle, there is a certain element of surprise up your sleeve, since Mages were not designed like most other Junglers. What this effectively means is that Laners are not typically used to getting ganked with a Wall of Pain (Karthus’ W) or through sheer magic damage alone. Using this to your advantage is going to prove essential when learning to Jungle with Karthus, or other similar champions.
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Red Side, Red Clear
While some champions have an easier time clearing either the single or multi-mob camps, Karthus’ kit allows him to excel at clearing both types of camps.
Starting with the Red Buff, you can easily burst it down given Q’s extra damage against single targets, allowing you to rush the Krugs, using Smite on the largest mob to accelerate your clear.
From there, head towards the Raptors and Wolves, trying to aim your Q at single targets while E slowly chips away at their Health collectively.
For your fifth camp, burst down the Blue Buff using your Q and the second charge of Smite, gaining back some Health and tempo, before slaying the Gromp as your sixth camp, once again through the use of the extra damage on your Q.
To complete a first clear, head into the River and kill the Scuttler, although this might take a while due to the lack of hard CC. Finally, search for a ganking opportunity on either Mid or Bot, setting it up with the use of W to seal off the lane just enough for your allies step in.
Red Side, Blue Clear
As always, starting from the Buff nearest to your Bot Laners is going to give you a slightly smoother start, allowing you to clear the Blue quickly, before turning your attention towards the Gromp.
Cast Smite to regain some Health and to accelerate your pathing, and continue by clearing the Wolves and Raptors, using E to slay the smaller mobs and Q to finish the large ones.
After the Raptor camp, head for the Red Buff and use the second Smite on it, before going for the Krug camp. Once again use single-target Qs on the larger mobs in combination with E to effectively clear these multi-mob camps, before lastly heading into the River to secure some vision and extra gold via the Scuttler.
From this moment on, look for the lanes which are being pushed the most, as more distance between your enemy target and their tower is going to translate into better odds for a swift gank. Simply block their passage with your Wall of Pain and start hitting isolated Qs, as your Laner catches up to them to hopefully finish the job.
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Blue Side, Red Clear
The Blue Side’s Red Clear is a mirror of the Red Side clear, as it again revolves around slaying the Red Buff without Smite, saving it for the large Krug, followed by a rapid clear of the remaining multi-mob camps.
After the Wolves, feel free to use the second Smite on the Blue Buff, preserving your Health in case you have to fight for the Scuttler in a few moments. After securing your second buff, swiftly clear the Gromp using Qs and once again try to finish your clear with the Scuttler,
You can more than patiently go through with a full clear, as your champion requires the lanes to be pushed in quite deep in order to gank effectively. Although taking the safe path to LVL 6 is going to be slower, as soon as you unlock Requiem, you can basically participate in any major fight across the map, from virtually anywhere.
Blue Side, Blue Clear
For the last position, we are mimicking the Red Side’s Blue Clear, using Smite on the Gromp and Red Buff, and clearing everything in between with repeated Qs.
Start by killing the Blue Buff and quickly burst down the Gromp with Smite and Q, before heading for the Wolves and Raptors. Note that from this position, you can indeed use E continuously while clearing camps, as the Blue Buff will cover your Mana needs.
Secure your second buff and aim to finish a full clear by also clearing the Krugs, with the careful aim of your Qs. To top things off, run towards the Scuttler and contest it if needed, as your Q’s damage and low cooldown make for a very effective trading tool against early LVL Junglers.
Now simply walk up to the lane which is pushing in the most and unleash chaos by trapping your enemies with your W, combining your effort with your Laner to secure the kill.
The Best Tips and Tricks for Karthus
- As tempting as it is to save your Ultimate ability to secure kills, players should cast it whenever there is a larger skirmish taking place on the Rift. This may only convert into a few assists, but the additional Mejai’s and Dark Harvest stacks, as well as the advantage given to your team, will undoubtedly provide better odds of ultimately winning the game.
- As underwhelming as your W might feel, always account for its true power. Not only do champions who pass through it have their magic resistance reduced, but the slow is also obnoxious for the first few seconds. At higher levels a well-placed Wall of Death can seal off entire escape routes, trapping your enemies as the rest of the team catches up to them.
- Despite his iconic Passive, Karthus still loses his Mejai’s stacks upon death, which can be quite costly in the late game, when skirmishes and large-scale fights are rare, and those stats hold more value. Avoid dying for as much as possible, saving Flash and Zhonya’s for just the right moments.
- If death is unavoidable, use your last few seconds to reposition yourself in such a way that you will be in range to spam Qs over the ongoing fight. This does indeed require you to predict where the fight will continue to unfold, but those 7 seconds of invulnerability are more than enough for you to secure one or two more takedowns.
- Lastly, practice landing single-target Qs in clustered-up groups on enemies, in order to maximize your damage onto the high priority targets. Closing the gap with W allows Karthus players to properly aim a couple of Qs, oftentimes converting in kills for the team.
Karthus is a pure-blooded Mage, with his gameplay style staying true to this nature. Players do not want to stand in the frontline taking unnecessary damage and being sent back to the fountain for no reason, but this also makes Karthus a rather situational pick. You do want to have a beefy Top Laner and/or Support, otherwise, the enemy team can simply commit to all-in fights, winning them out of simple compositional traits.
Your job is to continuously deliver large amounts of damage, either through max range Qs, focused on high-value targets, or to the entirety of the enemy team, with the use of your E and R. These abilities will constantly apply Grievous Wounds, which can sometimes be crippling to enemies who rely heavily on healing.
Rylai’s Crystal Scepter is also a great item to provide your team with extra utility, as it can be applied remotely through your Ultimate, not to mention how it aids in landing repeated single-target Qs, bursting the enemy champions in a few hits.
Besides Zhonya’s and Mejai’s, the rest of your build can be adapted to suit the necessities your team faces in each particular game, which also applies to your Mythic item. Play around and add your personal twist to the build, as Karthus is to this day a highly flexible champion, ready to focus on maximum damage or mere utility, as well as anything in between these margins.
This being said, we hope you found this guide useful, urging you to come back and explore more League of Legends content on our website, where we constantly post new articles and guide for you to enjoy!