It's interesting because when you play Xerath you are always on the fringe of battle. Once you do your full W,R,Q,R,R combo, you go into a utility aspect, either hitting stragglers at range or securing kills with your stun (Rylai looks to be a nice item to have, since slowing people for 15% at range, and how it synergizes with Liandry's only strengethens your utility). After a fight when everybody scatters a 1.5 second stun is very powerful, since most bruisers will probably duke it out, he can assist in those post-fight skirmishes.
Xerath works best in chaos, when people are worried more about themselves than the things around him. That is where he shines. When you play Xerth you should be a constant presence on the battlefield. Despite its AP nerf, this is why I strongly believe Athene's is a core item. The mana regen is immense, the CDR makes your Q and W that much more spammable, and when you can constantly seige at 1300 range while ignoring most MR, you are that always present threat and demoralizer.