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Skarner is a champion with a unique mechanic. By just being in the game, this character will spawn Crystal Spires around the map, which are strategic points that provide sight to the team controlling them. Skarner will also gain bonuses when around these makeshift “outposts.”
The champion benefits from both attack damage and ability power. His Impale ultimate allows players to grab hold of enemies and drag them to your turret or allies. The champion can also slow the opponents while hastening himself.
Although classified as a fighter, he works similarly to tank initiators. Although the champion is not particularly hard, you do require a solid understanding of game basics to get the most out of him. In this Skarner guide, I will review his abilities and go through optimal builds.
Key Info Up Front
- Price: 4,800 Blue Essence, 2,880 Blue Essence, and Champion Shard, 880 RP
- Roles: Fighter
- Difficulty: Moderate
Lore and Story
Skarner “The Crystal Vanguard”
For the longest time, Northwestern valleys were inhabited by a race of arachnoid creatures called Brackern. While most outsiders believed that Brackern are nothing more than wild creatures, the race shared a common consciousness.
Each one of them was bound to its crystal, which holds all the information about the particular individual. Once an arachnoid died, the crystal would be buried, waiting for the arrival of a new Brackern, who would, together with crystal, inherit all the memories and knowledge of its predecessors.
Skarner was a Brackern who heard the call of a magic crystal. The arachnoid started digging deep into the ground in an attempt to uncover this mysterious stone. When he finally reached the crystal, Skarner was in awe of it. Lulled by its song, the two merged together, passing all the skills of countless Brackern into this unique entity.
Skarner was now able to sense the world around him the way he never could before.
Although they never fully understood them, the human would regularly leave offerings to Brackern at the entrance point to their valley, which they commonly referred to as Crystal Scar. However, as time went by, the imperfect humans would start conflicts with each other, painting the ground in blood. While all this happened, Brackern would go into hibernation, undisturbed by what was happening above their heads.
One day, the Brackern song turned into screams waking Skarner from his hibernation. In their quest for endless conflict, humans eventually dig into the ground seeking to uncover the crystals’ secret. Enraged by what he had seen, Skarner went into a frenzy, decimating their lines. The lucky few managed to escape his wrath.
Unfortunately, the damage was already done. Those whose crystals were damaged would instantly die upon waking, while the rest was still in a collective catatonic state, not being able to move from their hiding places.
Devastated by the events, Skarner would roam aimlessly through the valley. He understood that even if the crystals remained intact, they would still lose their power in the hands of humans. Suddenly, as the night turned to day, the Crystal Vanguard heard distant echoes across the ground. These were not the delightful songs he heard in the past, but instead, cries for help.
Skarner was reluctant for a brief moment. He knew that leaving the caves would render other Brackern defenseless. Yet, he decided to act and seek out his remaining keen. Now, he is walking around the land, keeping ears to the ground in an attempt to find the lost members of the collective.
Key Relationships and Quotes
- Seraphine: This is one of the rare individuals who can hear the soul crystals. As such, she probably understands Skarner’s pain and the desire to find his kin.
- Jayce and Victor: In the Arcane series, Jayce and Victor are exploring the power of crystals, and we can presume that these are, in fact, Brackern soul crystals.
- Camille: According to the lore, Camille was one of the explorers who attacked Brackern caves and killed numerous Skarner siblings.
- Aside from these characters, Skarner also has relationships with Malphite, Orianna, and Rek’Sai.
- Here is Skarner’s most popular quote:
“We are one. We cannot be shattered.”
Skarner starts the game with Crystal Slash. It is his primary ability, which is especially good against melee champions (his usual opponents in the top lane). Additional points are especially important as they reduce cooldown.
At level two, you should get Fracture followed by one point of Crystalline Exoskeleton at level three. In most cases, your second most important ability is (W), as it will provide extra movement speed and shield, helping you with teamfight initiation.
Keep in mind that your kill potential is very low until you get to level 6. Skarner’s ultimate ability Impale is great for pulling enemies towards your turret. While under the turret, the champion can utilize the combination of Fracture and Crystal Slash to stifle and nuke the opponent (combined with turret damage).
Skarner is very strong around Crystal Spires, gaining extra attack speed, movement speed, and mana regeneration. So, when ganking or taking teamfights, you should prioritize these areas. Here are some of the champion’s advantages:
- Skarner is very tanky. Even with limited items, he is hard to take down. Furthermore, you can even build into support items without losing efficiency.
- Crystalline Exoskeleton will provide a nice burst of speed. If you’re also near a Crystal Spire, this would make you very elusive but can also improve your initiation with Impale.
- The champion’s ult almost guarantees a kill. Whether you pull an enemy towards a turret or towards your team, they are unlikely to escape. This is especially true if you consider all the Skarner’s crowd control on top of Impale.
- His ult is really strong in late, allowing continuous pressure. Although it’s not enough to land a kill, your opponent will be very annoyed.
Like with many other champions, Skarner’s viability has changed throughout the patches. At one point, he has a win rate of 49.27% and a pick rate of 0.75%, making him one of the less popular choices. However, things are much better for him as of late.
If you want to counter Skarner, here are some of his weaknesses you should have in mind:
- Although he has a strong (Q), a lot of champions in the current meta are a much better lane choice. Back in the day, he was played in the jungle, but this is no longer a viable strategy, so in most situations, you are forced to go into a losing lane and make the best out of it.
- If that wasn’t enough, the Crystal Vanguard has a low mana pool early on and can easily be ganked during the early portions of the game.
- Despite being an incredible spell, there are several ways you can avoid his ultimate. This is especially noticeable in higher-tier games, where support players are much better. On top of that, you might have to communicate to your team that you’re going for initiation.
- Once you expand the ultimate, this champion can feel very weak due to low damage. For the most part, enemies can simply ignore it and focus on other targets.
While Skarner is easy to execute, you need good team coordination to get the most out of him. Among others, you need teammates who understand how the champion works and that he’s best around the spires. Alternatively, they need to properly react to your initiation and quickly dispose of the focus target.
The Crystal Vanguard struggles with many champions, but these ones are especially problematic:
Lillia is a very squishy champion but works really well against Skarner. Her abilities have a nice range allowing her to stay away from Skarner’s Crystal Slash. She can also empower her abilities with Deam-Laden Bough, which allows her to deal extra damage based on the enemy’s health while healing herself in the process. The passive is especially great against tanky characters.
Although Skarner is known for his mobility, Lillia can also be very elusive due to her Blooming Blows passive. Like Skarner, Lillia’s (E) is great for slowing down enemies, which can directly counter his initiation.
Lastly, the champion’s ultimate will make enemies affected by Dream Dust drowsy. They will fall to sleep after 1.5 seconds. Among others, you can use this ability as a counter to Skarner’s initiation. So, this particular character counters a lot of things that Skarner does well.
Olaf is really hard to take down unless you have a source of grievous wounds. Furthermore, he is a direct counter to Skarner as he can cleanse himself off Impale and other crowd control abilities. So, initiating on the Berserker is not an option. In fact, the chance of losing a teamfight increases if you utilize Impale in such a manner as you will lose your best spell without accomplishing anything.
During the laning phase, Olaf doesn’t care much about missing health, which makes it really hard to harass him with poke damage. Furthermore, by being extra aggressive, Skarner is just fueling Olaf’s passive, which might even help the Berserker make a takedown on the Crystal Vanguard.
There are a few reasons why Talon is tricky for Skarner.
During the laning phase, both of these champions will stay in melee range, probably moving around minions. This would allow Skarner to use his Crystal Slash. Unfortunately, this is also an optimal position for Talon, who can utilize Noxian Diplomacy to deal critical damage to Skarner while also finishing off surrounding minions, thus healing himself and reducing the ability’s cooldown. The ability is highly spammable, so the champion cannot be outpoked in the lane.
Later on, Talon can utilize Assassin’s Path to escape after Skarner’s Impale initiation. Keep in mind that the Crystal Vanguard will try to pull Talon towards his turret as soon as he gets to level 6. Given that turrets are surrounded by terrain obstacles, Talon can simply jump on the other side, minimizing the subsequent damage.
Lastly, the champion can also use Shadow Assault to become invisible and gain movement speed after Skarner’s initiation.
Related Perks and Special Abilities
Crystal Spires (Passive)
Crystal Spires is a passive that will instantly generate six new structures on the map. They will be placed around strategic points such as Nashor pit, Dragon’s pit, and buff monster’s camps. When the minions spawn, both teams’ champions can capture them, thus gaining a small gold bonus.
When Skarner is close to ally-controlled Spire, he will gain from 70 to 120 movement speed based on his level, 2% mana restoration every 0.5 seconds, and from 43% to 160% increase in attack speed (based on Skarner’s level).
As you can guess, the team should focus on capturing these strategic spots prior to engagement. They would provide a massive bonus to Skarner.
Crystal Slash (Q)
This is the champion’s main poking and damage ability. Skarner will make a circular slash around him, damaging everyone in the radius. If you strike a unit with Crystal Slash, you can reuse the ability to dish even greater damage. The ability cooldown can be decreased with basic hits (by 0.25 seconds). If you attack an enemy champion, the cooldown will be decreased by a whole second.
Crystal Slash is great for quickly clearing minions. You can use it to pressure a lane, forcing the wave towards the enemy turret. Among others, this would allow you to manipulate minion equilibrium, eventually forcing them towards your turret (good strategy before hitting level 6).
The ability is especially potent when you’re close to allied Crystal Spires, as these structures increase your attack speed. That way, you can recast Crystal Slash several times in quick succession.
Crystalline Exoskeleton (W)
Skarner creates a shield around himself predicated on his maximum health (10/11/12/13/14% of his maximum health plus 80% ability power). The champion also gains a nice movement speed bonus for the duration. Crystalline Exoskeleton lasts 6 seconds and has an 11-second cooldown. The movement speed slowly increases over a 3-second period, reaching its maximum potential after that.
This ability allows Skarner to jump into the fray and initiate with Impale. The ability scales with health, which is why the champion should focus on this stat instead of armor and magic resistance. Ideally, you should pop it just before the engagement to gain a quick burst of speed and to absorb incoming projectiles.
Crystalline Exoskeleton is a relatively spammable buff, especially if you have some source of ability haste.
Skarner releases a wave of cold in the target vector. Enemies struck by it will receive magic damage and will be slowed for the duration. Fracture also applies Crystal Venom debuff, which will enhance Skarner’s next basic hit with extra physical damage while also stunning the target for 1.25 seconds.
Fracture’s cooldown is 14/13.5/13/12.5/12 seconds, but you can reduce it by using Impale or Triggering Crystal Venom. The cooldown is reduced proportionately to crowd control duration.
Fracture can be combined with other debilitating abilities. After debuffing an enemy with its slow, you should hit them with Crystal Slash as a way of maximizing damage. Once you stun the target with Crystal Venom proc, only then should you Impale them. The combination of disables will further reduce Fracture cooldown, so you can use it once again when Impale duration ends.
In some cases, you might even want to maximize Fracture before Crystal Slash (if you’re playing ganking Skarner) because slow gets really good with levels.
As the ability implies, Skarner will try to Impale a target at a melee range. If he manages to do so, the target will be damaged with 60% AD and 20/60/100 magic damage plus 50% AP. They will also be suppressed for 1.75 seconds, during which the champion can drag them around towards his team or a nearby turret.
Impale is among the better initiation tools in the game, allowing the Crystal Vanguard to separate an enemy from his team. Keep in mind that you can’t Flash or use Fracture while the enemy is being dragged.
Given that this is the champion’s main ability, use it wisely. Never use Impale on tanks. Even if you manage to drag them all the way to your team, it will take too much time to nuke them. Instead, the ability is ideal for ADCs and other high-damage dealers.
You have several choices when combining Skarner’s abilities.
Players usually start the battle by buffing themselves with Crystalline Exoskeleton (W). This gives them enough speed to close in on the target. Alternatively, you can also use Flash if they start running away. Once close to an enemy, cast Fracture (E) and follow it up with Impale (R). Drag the enemy towards your team and start dishing punishment with Crystal Slash (Q) and auto-attacks.
Although this isn’t the highest damage combo, it is the best way of initiating against high-tier teams.
If you have enough ability haste and time to execute, you can start the combo with Crystalline Exoskeleton (W) and Fracture (E) and proceed with basic attacks and Crystal Slash (Q). When Crystal Venom stun expires, immediately Impale the target, pull them back, and cast another round of Crystal Slash (Q) and Fracture (E).
Champion Playstyle: Runes and Summoner Spells
You have a few options at your disposal in terms of the runes, but you should always focus on those that provide movement speed. For example, Celerity is probably the best enhancement on the champion, together with Nimbus Cloak and Waterwalking. You can pair up these Sorcery runes with movement speed runes from Inspiration or Domination tree.
Here are some suggestions for the optimal rune build:
This rune increases Skarner’s move speed and slow resistance. You activate it by hitting a unique champion three times with different attacks/abilities. Phase Rush is even better against melee opponents. The buff lasts 3 seconds, which makes it great for initiation.
Nimbus Cloak gives you a 2-second movement speed increase after utilizing a summoner spell. Given that Skarner often initiates with Flash, this would allow you to quickly snag an opponent and drag it towards the team.
The rune provides a 7% movement speed increase on all movement speed effects, as well as a 1% overall movement speed increase. It goes well with all other effects.
While in the river, the Crystal Vanguard will gain extra AD, AP, and 25 movement speed. Especially great for ganking Skarner.
Here is another rune meant to boost your movement speed. Basically, you get Slightly Magic Footwear at the 12-minute mark but can’t get any other footwear before that. It provides an extra ten movement speed.
The rune provides summoner and item haste, both of which are great on the champion.
For offense, Skarner gets 10% attack speed. The buff is especially important for reducing the cooldown on Crystal Slash.
For flex, you need to get nine adaptive force. It boosts both your AD and AP, increasing your overall damage output.
Go with a six armor boost. It gives you nice protection in the lane and will also be useful later on.
Like all other initiators, Skarner benefits a lot from Flash. It helps him get into a position to use his Impale. That way, you don’t have to utilize Crystal Exoskeleton for the initiation, but instead, you can use it to boost your speed as you drag down enemy towards your team. Furthermore, this combo goes really well with Nimbus Cloak.
Back in the day, when Skarner was played as jungler, you would commonly choose Smite as his second summoner spell. However, given that this role has become somewhat obsolete, it is much better to go with something different such as Ignite or even Exhaust.
As mentioned, the Crystal Vanguard benefits the most from movement speed. However, we also shouldn’t neglect health and ability haste. Health stat is especially great for Crystal Exoskeleton, while ability haste is good for being able to rotate your skill several times.
So, here are some items that work really well on the champion:
This mythic is tailor-made for Skarner. It gives 25 armor and magic resist, 20 ability haste, and 350 health, all of which are important on the champion. Turbo Chemtank also has a powerful active that increases the champion’s speed and will slow down the opponent once you’re close to them. For every legendary in your inventory, you will gain extra 50 health and five ability haste, both of which are optimal for the Crystal Vanguard.
Ionian Boots of Lucidity
Skarner doesn’t necessarily need defense or offense. Instead, he is much better with utility. This is why you get Ionian Boots of Lucidity. They give you 20 ability haste and 12 summoner spell haste.
Dead Man’s Plate
Dead Man’s Plate is the third core item on Skarner. It gives 300 health, 45 armor, and 5% movement speed again, all of which are awesome on the champion. While moving, you will gain access to a powerful buff, increasing your movement speed and empowering the next basic hit with extra damage and movement speed slow (if you strike a champion).
Thornmail is another great item for the champion. Although not very cost-efficient, it provides lots of great stats giving champions 60 armor and 350 health. It can also inflict grievous wounds debuff on auto-attacking enemies.
Like most other items on the list, the shield provides you a health boost but also extra armor and ability haste. It has an active and passive unique, both of which work by stifling enemies’ damage (debuff) as well as reducing the damage Skarner takes.
Force of Nature
Force of Nature gives you 5% movement speed, 350 health, and 70 magic resist. The base movement speed is really nice, but the item gets even better if you consider it’s unique passive and active. The wearer gains stacks whenever struck with a magic spell or immobilizing effect. When at six stacks, you can release these charges to gain extra movement speed and magic resistance.
Laning and Teamfighting Tips
- Quicksilver Sash is one of the best ways of countering Skarner’s initiation. It will completely remove suppressed effect, rendering Impale useless. So, you should simply avoid initiating on these champions.
- Due to the fact that one of Skarner’s Crystals is near Baron, you should try to kill the monster as soon as possible. The champion is significantly more potent in this area, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t exert pressure.
- Use ledges to your advantage. Impale drag works through any type of terrain and, if you’re close enough, you can cast it from the low ground or high ground. Once the ability latches, you can drag the opponent over the terrain, separating them from their team and/or putting them at a crosshair of a monster.
- Impale works by dragging the opponent behind the champion. During this time, Skarner will face them directly. As the duration comes to an end, you can flip the positioning placing Skarner between the target champion and his team. This increases the displacement and makes it harder for the target to escape.
- The great thing about his ult is that it is not considered a channel. So, even if you’re silenced or disabled, the effect will persist. So, as long as you’re able to latch to an opponent, there is very little to worry about.
- Although this is not the most popular item on Skarner, Sheen can synergize well with Crystal Slash. The same goes for all other sources of Spellblade. However, he gets the most out of attack speed items like Wit’s End.
- Given that the champion is inherently tanky, you can experiment a bit with your builds. For example, the Crystal Vanguard is especially potent if you create Trinity Force. Aside from attack speed, it also provides ability haste, movement speed, and health, all of which are crucial for this champion.
Question: Is Skarner a good pick?
Answer: In this current patch, Skarner is a really nice pick. He has a 53.53%-win rate, which is well above the average. He also has a solid pick rate of 1.57%, with a 0.28% ban rate. In other words, while he can help you get a victory, most teams are not worried about Skarner during the drafting phase. As for his classification, he is categorized as a D-tier jungler.
Question: What is Skarner made of?
Answer: Skarner is a crystalline arachnoid. He merged with a Brackern crystal spire, absorbing memories and experiences of numerous Brackern who lived before him. Among others, his crystalline form is what makes him so resilient to damage.
Question: Is Skarner hard champion to play?
Answer: Overall, Skarner is classified as a moderately difficult character. While his abilities are easy to pull off, a player needs a good understanding of the game to properly utilize him. Among others, you should be able to understand target prioritization and when to initiate on an enemy.
Question: Is Skarner a tank?
Answer: Officially, Skarner is not classified as a tank but instead as a fighter. Nevertheless, he has all the traits of a tank. The champion is great for initiation, and his Crystal Exoskeleton makes him very durable and mobile, allowing him to absorb a lot of punishment.
Skarner Guide: Conclusion
Skarner is an interesting champion who has a very clear purpose in teamfights. Although he doesn’t have a lot of AOE potential, he is great for extracting an opponent and nuking it down. If properly executed, the ability can help you focus a specific target (ADC or a mage), forcing the enemies to battle 4v5 for the rest of the engagement.
The champion prioritizes movement speed and heath runes and items, given that these are his crucial stats. Skarner also benefits from ability haste, increasing his overall CC potential.