How to play Karthus Mid, win and live to tell the tale! A guide for beginners in League of legends

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How to play Karthus Mid, win and live to tell the tale! A guide for beginners in League of legends

We are now starting a series of champion guides for people both new to the phenomenon that is League of Legends and seasoned players alike. We will deal with champions that you guys love or those that you hate playing against, champions that you have forgotten about or maybe sometimes we’ll take the usual suspects and put a new twist on the way they are played (don’t worry, you won’t see Talon support).

When it comes to hated champions not many come close to the infamous Karthus. Karthus is one of the champions usually associated with insults coming from the enemy team in the form of “noob champ” or “only noobs play that noob champ Karthus” which in normal lingo stands for: “there is no way to rush this guy without him grabbing a kill or two or without him setting us up for his team, I am so good, how can this happen?”. Well…it happens and it happens a lot if Karthus is played by a skilled player.


Karthus, Source:

In this guide we will break Karthus down and figure out what makes him so lethal and annoying so that people will both understand how to play him and how to play against him, we don’t play favorites here at

Is he…singing?Karthus Lore

The harbinger of oblivion, Karthus is an undying spirit whose haunting songs are a prelude to the horror of his nightmarish appearance. The living fear the eternity of undeath, but Karthus sees only beauty and purity in its embrace, a perfect union of life and death. When Karthus emerges from the Shadow Isles, it is to bring the joy of death to mortals as an apostle of the unliving.  Karthus Lore, League of Legends

Karthus was born in the poorest slum on the outskirts of the Noxxian Capital, a disease ridden and vile place where no joy or hope ever survives. His mother died during labour and Karthus was left with his father and his already ailing sisters. As people succumbing to death due to disease was an ordinary thing in that area Karthus spent his early years watching the tally men pick up the corpses and take them to their temple for rites. After watching the final moments of his sisters he realized that there is beauty in death and he became infatuated with death (at his age I wanted to be an astronaut). Karthus started to roam the slums so that he could watch people in their final moments. He joined the order of the tally men so that he could learn more and more about death and when there was no more knowledge to acquire he left for The Shadow Isles, a place of tragedy, myth and horror (like Disneyland for psychos).

Once he got to the Shadow Isles the dark mist surrounding the place poured into his body, ravaging his flesh and giving him the appearance of a giant wraith (they should make a show “Extreme Makeover-when the lights go out during surgery”). Ever since, Karthus uses his singing voice to lure mortals into dangerous places so that he can watch them die.


Karthus, Source:

According to the lore his friends are Thresh and Mordekaiser…can you imagine the screwed stuff they must talk about?


Karthus profile, Source:

What’s that around him? Is it ..cotton candy?Skills and abilities

Death Defied

Death Defied, Karthus ability

Death Defied – this passive is absolutely amazing! And it is especially amazing during team fights as enemies keep sticking around trying to get to your team. Those 7 seconds are priceless as you have time to land a few Qs, your E is active and there is also time for you to press the dreaded R key. If your teammates are smart and capable of containing the team fight around the place where you died, the result is usually an ACE.

Lay Waste

Lay Waste, Karthus Ability

Lay WasteKarthus uses this ability most of the game and the more you keep spamming it the more things tend to die around you. If you are building full AP ( and you will) this ability will make even tanks back away from you.

Lay Waste

Wall of Pain, Karthus Ability

Wall of Pain– let’s do the math, you are a pissed off demented AP Carry spamming Qs. This second ability slows your enemy down while lowering their magic resistance by a whopping 15%, it’s like taking a picture of Santa Claus wearing an Easter Bunny outfit on Thanksgiving! The odds are ever in your favor if you land 2 Qs on someone affected by Wall of pain (I just made a Hunger Games reference).


Defile, Karthus ability

Defile – basically the area around you becomes a kill zone and anything that dies from it replenishes your mana. And Karthus loves Mana, Mana and death, a simple man with simple pleasures. Armor Penetration, high AP, the slowing effect of Rylai’s and Wall of pain will get you close to feeling sorry for whoever tries to get close to you with bad things on their mind. It will get you close to feeling sorry but not all the way. You never feel sorry for someone in LoL.


Requiem, Karthus ability

Requiem– it has a really long cooldown so make sure it counts when you use it (alos make sure Warwick, Soraka or Jax or Pantheon or Vayne and many others are not around you when you cast it, it can get unpleasant). Other than that, Requiem is horribly powerful and it allows you to assist your team or catch someone trying to escape while low on HP. You are everywhere(like The NSA).


Rune Karthus

Karthus Runes

Greater Marks of pen– I use them because whenever Karthus is in the game the enemy will be forced to buy some MR (Magic Resistance) items for fear of his Q,W,E,R . Magic penetration on Karthus helps drive the point home and combined with Void Staff and Wall of Pain your enemy will feel naked. Have you ever felt that way?Not a nice feeling.

rune Karthus bun

I use Seals and Glyphs of Ability power for an extra edge especially while rushing lvl 6. It helps my farming with Q (Lay waste) and if I land early hits on the enemy I usually send him B.

Greater Seal of Ability Power

Finally The Quintessence of Spell Vamp . It gives Karthus some sustain throughout the game and balanced with the mana replenish effect of E it allows him to stay in my lane for longer periods of time (it’s all about being efficient).

GreaterGlyph of Ability Power



Karthus Masteries

Feast helps with sustain which Karthus lacks and therefore needs. More sustain means that I get to stay longer in the lane, that means farming, getting rich, buying AP, GG WP.


Merciless– first of all I like the way it sounds but if you think about it, while playing Karthus , especially during teamfights you are always surrounded by champions with constantly lowering  HP. The extra damage helps get them to that sweet spot where you can just press R and watch it happen.


Precision-We already talked about the importance of Magic Penetration, but in case you forgot I will say this: You need it in order  to  crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women (and that is a Conan The Barbarian reference)


Thunderlord’s decree

Extra damage after you hit an enemy three times. Spamming Q constantly is bound to get you landing 3 hits often and the extra damage helps. You can never have enough extra damage, just like you can never have too much fun.

Thunderlord's Decree

Summoner Spells

When I play Karthus solo qeue or in a normal game I usually get people screaming at me in CAPS! because I use Flash and Teleport. It was worse when I used to play with Flash and Clarity.


Flash is extremely useful, it can be your get out of jail free card when getting ganked Mid lane, it can help you engage or land a final blow on a fleeing enemy, or it can help you get to a safe location so that you can cast Requiem uninterrupted.


Teleport gives you mobility and you can assist your team by joining them for a teamfight, defend a tower, but early game I use it to replenish mana/buy Zhonya’s and not miss any farm.


Doran’s Ring– I always start this item on Karthus for lack of a better one. A little bit of AP helps and the passive is vital for Karthus as he is extremely low on mana for his set of abilities. I start Doran’s Ring, 3 Health Potions and Warding Totem. It’s also nice to have some bling on.

Doran's Ring

Zhonya’s Hourglass– Given Karthus‘s rather squishy nature and the fact  that most Mid Laners have ranged burst damage Zhonya is usually the item I rush for. Once they hit lvl 6 be ready to be rushed by the likes of Akali, Zed, Fizz, LeBlanc etc. so a good trick is to save your Flash for just such an occasion and hit Zhonya‘s to avoid the burst. It helps to sync hitting Zhonya‘s after having pressed E as this drives them back. I usually am the one to start teamfights by Flashing into the enemy team with E already active. Once I am there I place my Wall of pain and activate Zhonya’s to cause maximum damage. Once the stasis from Zhonya’s expires I try to keep up with the enemy team movement to keep them taking damage from my E and when I am dead I press R and cannot be interrupted.


After I finish building Zhonya’s i go for Sorcerer’s Shoes to have that Magic Pentration effect and also to increase mobility which is one of Karthus‘s weak points.

Sorcerer's Shoes

Luden’s Echo is my next item and I choose it for a number of reasons: 100 AP, increased movement speed and some bonus splash damage. Movement speed makes it easier for Karthus to dodge enemy attacks, retreat or chase the enemy.

Luden's Echo

Rylai’s Crystal Scepter adds a slowing effect to Karthus‘s spells making easier to keep the enemy within E‘s are a of effect. 100 extra AP and 400 Health do wonders for Karthus as well.


Rylai's Crystal Scepter

Void Staff is another useful item on Karthus because of it’s passive which translates into more damage inflicted on the enemy. This is important because even if you do not get the kills, you make it so much easier for your team to take the enemy down.

Void Staff

Rabadon’s Deathcap rounds up any variation of Karthus‘s build with 120 AP and 35% increase in total AP. And it goes well with the bling.

Rabbadon's Deathcap

Other options

Depending on who you’re playing against and what situation you  need to adapt to you can go one or both of these items which are pretty self-explanatory.

Archangel's Staff

Liandry's Torment


Play style

Even though Karthus allegedly has many counters he can still be played well against anyone as long  as he is played safe. Granted, that will maybe cause you to lose some farm but Karthus more than makes up for that later in the game as he farms more than a whole county that relies on agriculture. One thing that has never happened to be is to lose my tower. Of course they fall in some games but are usually the last to go. So play safe, wait for ganks, make the most of your farm.

Always rush Zhonya’s, no matter who you’re up against. It is vital in teamfights, protecting your team while they take Drake, take your pick.

Save your Flash for when you get ganked or you really need to engage in a team fight. Your defensive tower is never far away when you are playing mid lane, when you get ganked it helps to get back to safety and Flash almost guarantees escape.

Use your Teleport early game to go to the shop and return without missing farm. I usually time my “shopping trips” according to my Teleport Cooldown.

Always keep your eyes on the minimap to know when to use Requiem. You can use your R to help your friends without leaving your lane, to kill that enemy fleing on low HP or to discourage the enemy in 3 vs 1 type situations.

If you have good communication with your team ask them to sync teamfights with your R/Zhonya‘s cooldown. Do that right and you will get Aces.

Politely ask your Jungler to give you one Blue, it really helps.

Do not be afraid to die, it’s part of Karthus’s mechanics. 7 seconds of spamming spells uninterrupted while there is a teamfight going on around you can take you really close to winning a match.

Always buy Vision Wards an set one up in order to have increased visibility on the river so that you can be safe from ganks.

Karthus seems simple enough but he can prove difficult to master. He is squishy and slow but so are bears. Have you ever seen a pissed off bear? All you need to when playing Karthus is staying extra safe in your lane and not push to destroy their tower, there’s time for that. Farm, grab some kills with your Requiem, this will make it easier for your Top  and Bot to win their lanes, then the teamfights can start and believe me, you have that covered.

As long as you follow this guide you will find your game dramatically improving. It’s about staying safe, being patient and talking to your team.






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About The Author
Pancu Bogdan
I'm a 34 years old guy permanently hooked on Gaming, Movies, Contact sports and Literature. I am an active gamer and I pay really close attention to Competitive Gaming.
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