Dark Harvest is a keystone in the Domination tree that increases damage against low health champions.
While Dark Harvest doesn’t provide the same immediate benefit as keystones such as Electrocute (which will provide a more immediate burst upon damaging an enemy with any combination of three auto-attacks or abilities), Arcane Comet (which provides chip damage in the form of a comet summoned at the enemies location when an ability last hit them) – it is a potent scaling keystone for burst mages and other champions who intend to take you from 100-0 in an instant.
How Does it Work?
Damaging a Champion below 50% health deals adaptive damage and harvests their soul, permanently increasing Dark Harvest’s damage by 5 (2 on ARAM).
Dark Harvest damage: 20-60 (based on level) (+5 damage per soul) (+25% bonus) (+15%)
Cooldown: 45s (resets to 1.5s on takedown)
As an infinitely scaling keystone, later in the game, champions who choose to take it will find they are doing quite significant damage against champions below the 50% threshold. With 25% scaling on Attack Damage and 15% scaling on Ability Power, champions of either damage profile can find Dark Harvest as a viable option among rune choices.
Examples of Champions Who Benefit from Dark Harvest:
This is the preeminent Dark Harvest champion. When you think of this rune, you think of being terrorized by this mage’s global ultimate – not only does he begin to do substantial damage with Requiem, his ultimate ability, later in the game – but a steroid that increases Karthus’ damage against low health champions help him in killing champions that are all the way across Summoners Rift from him without more than a single button press.
Not only does Karthus synergize with Dark Harvest remarkably well, but he is a champion you’ll find doesn’t have many other options – his Q, Lay Waste, is challenging to land and his E, Defile, puts him directly in harms way to deal damage by surrounding him with an area-of-effect that damages enemies that come into contact with it- this means he struggles to land the abilities necessary to activate runes like Phase Rush or Electrocute instead. Not only does he not really have a better option, but he also doesn’t need one as Dark Harvest is so potent on this undead mage.
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Miss Fortune is an example of an Attack Damage champion who also can succeed with Dark Harvest due to the AD scaling and her powerful ultimate Bullet Time. While she’s seen many viable rune choices throughout the years, and right now is no different (the highest picked keystones remain Press The Attack or Arcane Comet) – she’s able to use many different rune pages effectively.
Arcane Comet will give more poke power in the lane, her E – Make it Rain all but guarantees the comet will hit thanks to its movement speed slow; Press the attack will give Miss Fortune players stronger autoattacks in teamfights and duels, but neither of those options matches the potency of a late-game, stacked Dark Harvest Miss Fortune who can land a 5-man ultimate against the enemy team. Since every wave of bullet time can activate dark harvest individually, this ability can lower you below the 50% threshold and then proc the dark harvest damage all in one cast—that’ how health bars disappear faster than you can figure out how to escape.
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When NOT to Take Dark Harvest:
If you think this rune sounds strong, you’re correct – but as with anything in League of Legends, there is a time and a place, and we would hate to encourage any pregame griefing with suboptimal runes.
Dark Harvest is a rune that scales later into the game at the expense of lane pressure, and some champions simply cannot afford to give up the damage that keystones like Electrocute provide instead. While it might sound great to play Leblanc with Dark Harvest, you’ll give up substantial early-game kill-threat during a period when you want to start snowballing the most.
As always, it’s best to research what runes and items will synergize with your champion, your team composition, and your win conditions before the lobby begins, so you’re not scrambling to decide. Everyone has had a game start with the phrase “You have unsaved changes to your rune page” still on the screen, and it’s never fun to load in and have the first thing you see in chat be your teammates pinging your unintentional rune decisions and flaming you for making iron-level lobby decisions.
Preparation wins games, and part of that is knowing what runes are the best for your champion. Now that you’ve read this article, hopefully, you’re prepared to load into the rift and terrorize the enemy with a new pick like Dark Harvest Karthus – or some other potent Dark Harvest user. Who knows, perhaps you’ll follow in the path of Doinb and carry some games with newly invented ‘Dark Technology’ picks along the way.