That’s right, Karthus can still jungle. It’s been about three seasons since we’ve seen Karthus make a resurgence in the jungle, and now players are rediscovering this pocket pick.
Karthus’ last reign in the jungle was during season 4, just after his visual update. Back then, Summoner’s Rift was still more or less the same as when League of Legends launched in 2009, and it was when the Rift was updated in the following seasons that Karthus seemed to vanish from the jungle.
He had high camp clear speed and exceptional late-game damage, and his early and mid games weren’t too shabby either. He was truly a force to be reckoned with, but he was never a popular high elo pick, and he never made his way into the meta, so he fell off the radar. It wasn’t until recently that players realized he still has all of those traits. Fast camp clear and high damage are still very much around for Karthus’ jungle dreams.
In fact, his clear speed is right up there with the best junglers in the meta. Kha’zix, Graves, Sejuani, and more all have full jungle clears at about the same speed, some even slower.
If you’re thinking, “Wow, I need to try this!” Please slow down for just a moment, because it’s not quite as awesome as it sounds. Don’t get us wrong, it is pretty awesome, but he has some glaring weaknesses. For starters, Karthus doesn’t have the dueling power or sustainability that most meta junglers have, so if you try him out and find yourself facing off against an enemy Lee Sin, don’t be surprised when he’s waiting for you at your red buff. Oh, and he’ll definitely be able to kill you.
Karthus jungle is certainly viable though, and if you play your cards right, you may have just found yourself a strong AP jungle pocket pick. Some folks run 9-21-0 masteries, but 21-9-0 seems to work just as well, and AP runes with some cooldown reduction sprinkled in should do the trick. As for items, things are a little more complex than mid or top lane Karthus.
Since you’re jungling, you have less time to buy a Tear of the Goddess on top of an AP-plus-health item to tank him up a little bit, but he still definitely needs to get tanky. One option is to forego continuing your jungle item, buy a tear as soon as possible, and go right into building either a Rod of Ages or a Hextech GLP800 for that tankiness. After that, we recommend going into the new Banshee’s Veil and the Zhonya’s Hourglass, and then either upgrade your jungle item or cap things off with a Luden’s Echo. At the end of that balanced build, Karthus will be tanky enough to survive big dives, but he’ll still deal enough damage to instantly win a teamfight when his ultimate is ready.
Good luck trying out jungle Karthus on the Rift! Be sure to communicate with your team before locking him in, or some people may assume you’re trolling. If they do, link them back to this article. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.