Riot completely reworked Xerath in a recent patch. His new kit upset a lot of veteran Xerath players who believe he is weaker now but that is not exactly true. Xerath is actually much stronger now. His new kit caters to a very specific style of play and you can be very successful with him if you utilize it properly. He was meant to be a long distance “artillery” champion and his new abilities definitely work towards that end. If you want to be down in the trenches, then you should pick a different champion because Xerath is not good anymore in close.
Let’s start off by comparing Xerath’s passive to his old one. Before the rework, his passive granted him a percent of his ability power as bonus armor. This was really useful since Xerath is so AP-heavy. His new passive restores a certain amount of mana upon landing a basic attack – but with a 12 second cooldown. His old passive is much better so this is a big downgrade.
Xerath charging Arcanopulse
Xerath’s ‘Q’ is still called Arcanopulse. The basic ability remains the same, it’s a long beam of lightning, but overall it is actually worse than before. Arcanopulse now has to be cast twice in order for it to actually work. Casting it the first time will start charging the ability. While it is charging, Xerath has reduced movement speed and cannot take any other actions. The longer you charge it, the further the ability can go with a minimum range of 750 to a maximum 1,400. It works sort of like Varus’s Piercing Arrow ability if you are familiar with that. The maximum range on Arcanopulse is longer than before (it used to be 1,300) but it takes charging the ability 1.5 seconds to reach that distance. The previous Arcanopulse only had a charging time of 0.5 seconds and you didn’t have to cast it twice. This makes it a lot slower to fire off. Some of the specifics of the ability were also changed. It has a higher cooldown time now and also costs more mana, but the AP damage ratio was increased a little bit making it slightly more powerful. Arcanopulse is still the meat and potatoes of Xerath’s kit so you’ll want to take a point in it first and max it out before any other ability.
Using Eye of Destruction to kill some minions.
One big change in Xerath’s new kit was his ‘W.’ His old ‘W,’ Locus of Power, used to anchor him down, preventing him from moving but increasing the range and magic penetration of his other abilities. Some people referred to this as his “siege mode.” Riot changed this ability to a new spell called Eye of Destruction which is a pretty basic area of effect arcane blast. Enemies caught within the circular area take damage and become slowed for a couple of seconds. Enemies that get hit directly with the attack suffer additional damage and an additional slow compared to those that might just be caught by the tip of the blast. Eye of Destruction also has a very long range at 1,100. It is nice to have another damage dealing spell in Xerath’s kit, but it also consumes more mana (making his new passive look a little better). Locus of Power used to have no mana cost while Eye of Destruction costs between 70 and 110 mana depending on the level. Learn Eye of Destruction second and level it up after you max out Arcanopulse.
Like his other attacks, Shocking Orb has a blue color.
Perhaps the biggest change in the reworked Xerath is his ‘E.’ His old ‘E’ used to be a direct damage spell that marked its target with something called Unstable Magic. If Xerath were to hit a marked target with another spell, say Arcanopulse for instance, it would stun them for 1.5 seconds. His new ‘E’ is called Shocking Orb and it is strictly better than his old ability because you don’t have to mark your target and then hit them with something else. Shocking Orb simply stuns them outright for anywhere between 0.75 and 2 seconds. It is a skillshot so it’s arguably harder to hit someone with, but it also has an impressive range of 1,050. The further the orb travels, the longer the stun will be. This spell is what makes the new Xerath so dangerous. It can be used to immobilize enemies while Xerath combos off his other abilities and melts an enemy champion before they can do anything. It can also help you escape danger. As useful of an ability as it is, you’ll still want to learn Shocking Orb third and then level it up last because leveling it up does not increase the stun duration, merely the damage and cooldown.
Xerath lobs a ball of energy with his ultimate, Rite of the Arcane.
Xerath’s ultimate got a vast improvement as well. It is still the same basic ability; he can call down up to three blasts of arcane energy. The biggest differences are that his ultimate now anchors Xerath to the ground preventing him from moving when it didn’t have this disadvantage before. So how is it better you ask? The range was literally quadrupled. Depending on what level the spell is, Rite of the Arcane has a maximum range of 5,600 compared to just a range of 1,300 from before. 5,600 can reach across a huge distance of the map. On Dominion, you can literally hit any of the command points if you are standing in the center of the map. The fact Xerath has to anchor himself to the ground isn’t much of a drawback because you will most likely be casting it when you aren’t near any enemies to begin with.
Most of the items that you would build on Xerath before are still items that you want now. Rabadon’s Deathcap and Rylai’s Crystal Scepter are all still good. Xerath is pretty slow and he has no escape abilities so Zhonya's Hourglass can also come in handy. Other items to consider are Liandry’s Torment and building an Archangel’s Staff into Seraph’s Embrace.
Since the cooldown is pretty long on most of his abilities, you’re going to want to build some cooldown reduction items to offset that. Xerath is pretty much a sitting duck when all his abilities are on cooldown so avoid that at all costs. Some good items in this category are Athene’s Unholy Grail, Will of the Ancients, and Morellonomicon.
Xerath used to benefit from up to an additional 40% magic penetration from activating Locus of Power. Now that Locus of Power has been replaced with Eye of Destruction, you’re going to want to build some magic penetration items to make up for this. Definitely build Sorcerer's shoes as your boots. Void Staff also works very well for the magic pen.
Arcanopulse can clear minion waves as well.
Xerath is meant to be played primarily as a long range sniper. Every single one of his abilities has a range of over 1,000 so sit back and just shell your opponents from a distance. If an opponent gets too close to you, you can hit them with Shocking Orb and then use the stun time to retreat and put some distance between you (or if they are low on health just melt them with your other abilities before they regain consciousness). Try to time your abilities so that you never have all three of them on cooldown at the same time.
Xerath is typically played a middle lane champion on Summoner’s Rift. He matches up well against mages that need to get in close such as Karthus, Ryze, and Annie. Xerath matches up well against any champ that needs to get in close, not just mages. Like a tall boxer fighting a short guy, utilize your full reach when playing Xerath. Just keep your opponent on the outside where you can hit them but they can’t hit you. This will likely frustrate your opponent after awhile so watch out for early ganks. Always keep the bushes warded.
When it comes to team fights, stay behind your team!