A Guide to Building and Playing Karma
Tue 25th Jun 2019 - 7:53pm
This article is written by the Reddit user StLibra, who has played League of Legends semi-professionally and has been ranked Master or above since Season 6. The article was published with their permission.
PART 1: Building Karma
Pick this build when going into bruisers such as Jax, Riven or Camille. I suggest banning Irelia since it’s one of the hardest matchups in my experience, but you can still win the matchup and ban Riven if you find her harder. Start with Corrupting Pot if it doesn’t get nerfed any harder, and if it does, always pick Doran’s Ring. After recalling for the first time, you get a feel for your opponent. If your opponent knows how to fight you go for Glacial Shroud, otherwise pick Sheen and finish Iceborn next time you’re back. In bruiser matchups, you should almost never go for the magic penetration boots, but rather Tabi for the bruiser or Mercs for their teammates. After Iceborn, you have to make a big choice – either build an off-tank support or an AP Karma, as explained later in the article. In case you’re playing against a full AD team, continue with armor items of your choice. Feel free to fit a Morellonomicon or Athene’s to help your team. Most importantly, try to max your cooldown reduction as much as possible if you’re going for a full tank. Spirit Visage is a good pick for more tankiness that gives cooldown reduction for when the enemy team is full AD.
Before we continue, I want to stress out that the items I suggest can be bought at any point depending on the in-game situation. Pictures present only the most standard builds that aren’t often optimal, but this is Karma – everything works.
When fighting against an AD champion, start with Iceborn and transition into Athene’s or Ardent Censer; always choose one of them first and go for the next one right after, depending on if your support or the enemy jungler is AP. Top it with Rabadon’s or Redemption and you’ll be fine most of the time. If you don’t need Tabi, feel free to go for the magic penetration boots.
When fighting an AP champion, I recommend going from Corrupting Pot into Athene’s and transitioning into Luden’s, although starting with Doran’s Ring works as well. After that, go for Rabadon’s, with the exception if the enemy team has three or more AP champions, which is when you should go for Spirit Visage. This is where you’ll need some experience, since you can easily walk into the enemy team and quickly retreat with more than half health, letting our team engage on the enemy focused on you.
Playing AP Karma in the toplane can be problematic, as you want Kleptomancy most of the time, but you can’t use it a whole lot when playing against mages. This is why you should choose Arcane Comet or Aery in case their team is tanky, and then start with Doran’s Ring going into Luden’s, magic penetration boots, Oblivion Orb or Morello depending on healing, Rabadon’s, and Void Staff. An AP top is usually a squishy champion that fights together with other teammates. This means a good Mantra (R) followed by Inner Flame (Q) can damage three to four enemies just with one hit, allowing you to win the fight or the objective and having Mantra up again before Inner Flame is off the cooldown and ready to go straight into the enemy team again. This build also applies for playing AP Karma in the midlane but decide if you want to upgrade the Oblivion Orb based on the enemy team.
Supportive Solo Lane Karma
This is the most efficient way to play Karma. The build includes Athene’s, Redemption, Mikael’s or Ardent, and then Ardent or Mikael’s. Athene’s passive makes Redemption give another 30 AP and its healing is increased by 120% once those four items are completed. With Tabi, you reach exactly 100 armor and 100 MR at level 15, making it the most gold-efficient way of stacking resistances.
PART 2: Gameplay Guide
For runes, pick Kleptomancy (except if you’re playing against champions like Cassiopeia, Xerath, Orianna, Syndra, and similar), followed by Magical Footwear, Biscuits, and the 5% cooldown reduction rune. Don’t get baited into Time Warp Tonic since Karma is a champion that pokes from long distances or takes long fights, so you don’t need it instantly. Rather use it to scare off the enemies that won’t stop chasing you. I recommend picking Resolve as the secondary rune page. Pick either Bone Plating or Second Wind and Revitalize. Revitalize is underrated, but it’s a must for Karma for the shield boost. You will cap the cooldown reduction without Transcendence and no build requires the mana from Manaflow. Additionally, it’s hard to stack when playing against a mage.
In the midlane, go for Arcane Comet or Aery. Against bruisers, pick Iceborn first. Against AP champions, pick Athene’s into mana regen, making stacking Manaflow obsolete. If you’re going full AP, I recommend going Arcane Comet, Manaflow, Transcendence (over capping cooldown reduction is amazing as it can give up to 80 AP more), and Scorch. Again, in a composition that has insane crowd control, feel free to go for Tenacity followed by Last Stand or Coup de Grace.
For the stat runes, you don’t require attack speed. After a lot of testing, I think it's not needed, but feel free to try it out yourself. If the enemy jungler and top are AD, take armor twice. If they’re AP, take double magic resist. If you don’t think this is efficient, as you’re often going straight into an item that gives resistance but not health, you can often pick scaling health or even double AP. It’s a preference and everything will work with Karma.
You want to upgrade your (Q) to +3 before unlocking the (E) skill so you can two-shot caster minions. (E) is needed only when you need to push the waves early, which is very rare, for example when playing against Tahm Kench top. Usually, start with (Q) and completely max it, unless you feel like you need more sustain or having a stronger shield is more efficient than dealing damage, which is when you should increase your (E) to +3 and then continue with (Q) or (E). (W) is always left last.
I recommend picking Karma top only to players that have a decent understanding of jungler paths and tracking, as any early tank will one-shot you, especially when you’re pushing under the enemy turret. You’re just not tanky at all. If you wish to push, activate your Mantra three to four seconds before your and enemies’ minion waves clash, walk to the side of the lane, and throw (Q) in between the melee and caster minions. Try to weave in an auto attack on each of the caster minions and use (Q) again to clear out them out before your enemy even comes to the lane. If the enemy is already there, they won’t succeed in contesting the push. If you do want your enemy to push, use (E) and go for Kleptomancy early. Feel free to reset it with Mantra.
Once in the midgame, start shoving the waves and get objectives as Karma’s skillset is amazing in teamfights. Karma has a movement speed boost and an amazing wave clear; you can roam and go for TP plays, but I’d recommend being an annoyance on the sideline since almost no one can 1v1 Karma or stop her pushing. If you’re fighting bruisers or assassins, go for the off-tank role as you’ll be looking to bait the enemy, engage and sustain with (R) and (W). Activate your ultimate a few seconds before you plan on using it for the same reason as with the first wave push – you have eight seconds to use it and you need the cooldowns. In a situation where Mantra is activated when (Q) is available and (W) is on cooldown, rather wait for the (W). You’ll almost never die during that period and getting the double heal is a lot more valuable than dealing damage and dying.
The early game in the midlane is played the same as in the top. Here, you’ll almost always go for AP, except when playing against champions like Camille, Zed, Irelia and potentially Sylas. As explained in the earlier section, I recommend using Mantra before the waves arrive and using the explained pushing method. Place a ward on the side your jungler will gank from and push from there for safety. Once the enemy’s minion wave arrive under your turret, use (Q) on the first or second melee minions and it will splash, generating Manaflow procs and decent poke. If you don’t think you’re in a need for Biscuits, Dematerializer is an amazing choice as clearing cannon minions can be a struggle. Your (Q) will start to two-shot the wave backline at level five (Q +3).
By the time you reach the midgame, you should have Luden’s and magic penetration boots completed, as you’ll be looking to all-in on the enemy midlaner or a non-tank jungler. Always start either with a max-ranged (Q) hit or shielding into the range. Once your (Q) hits, you go for the chain and weave in auto attacks as you wait for it to activate. If the enemy’s Flash is up, you can flash ahead of them and use the (R)+(Q) ring as they’re snared. However, this doesn’t apply to bruisers or assassins because of the off-tank build, made for engaging and sustaining. Don’t forget to activate your (R) a few seconds before you plan on using it, as explained before!
In the late game, you’ll either have enough AP to force out a recall of any squishier unit, or you’ll be tanky enough to survive and support your damage dealers, and possibly bait the enemy. With experience, you’ll get a feel on who to use your Mantra on, and always ask yourself how using it differently could’ve changed the outcome of trades, skirmishes or teamfights. If you’re taking down a Dragon or Baron, don’t use your skills randomly as it won’t make a difference and it’s a waste. This way, the skills are ready to be activated once the enemy team advances towards you.
General Tips on Troublesome Matchups for New Karma Players
- If you end up blind picking Karma top and see you’re getting countered, don’t hesitate to ask your support and/or midlaner to switch with you, as she’s currently one of the best picks for their role as well.
- When playing against champions like Cassiopeia that can easily run you down, go full AP and clear the waves as you try to poke them. Don’t step into their effective range and avoid early trade as much as you can.
- Irelia will kill you early in the game even through the double armor and Corrupting Pot ticking with (R) and (W) if you get stunned. This makes it a hard matchup, but can be won if you dodge the stun, even more easily now that (E) has been buffed.
- Riven with Conqueror can easily bait you into thinking you have the upper hand, just for you to get one-shot with her fast combo. Generally against assassins, don’t use (R)+(W) unless you’re pushed to your turret or have pushed to theirs without giving the enemy means of engaging you. This also applies for most melee champions.
- Karma, especially in the toplane, is not meant to solo carry. She’s a champion that increases your chances of winning with early pressure and the insane midgame spikes, but you don’t pick her to 1v9 every game. If your team is losing, focus on last hitting and timing the Mantra.
To wrap it up, I would like to thank everyone for reading this guide. Don’t forget to have fun and experiment! Karma can be played in many ways, so you can always try Nidhogg’s Lethal Tempo and Spear of Shojin build, or the PtA BotRK and Statikk build that I saw theroyalkanin use in EUW’s high soloq elo. I might be wrong in some segments and not know every optimal set-up even after thousands of games on Karma. Feel free to contact me on twitter, https://twitter.com/applesslo.