Maokai Build Guide by Iamlulz
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
Additional Damage Items:
Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
Threats to Maokai with this build
|Katarina||Kat's low ranged poke, dependance on getting close to deal massive burst and somewhat limited mobility can make the AP tree a great counter-pick for Kat.|
|Ziggs||Ziggs can actually be a pushover with AP Maokai if you manage to out-poke him. His lacking possibilities for health sustain and low mobility for escaping your combos is what really can kill him here.|
Introduction/Video And Updates
I previously did most of this build with the following video guide I did for the magic tree, but with recent changes in the game, I'll try to update what I didn't previously didn't include in the video.
For AP Maokai, I play him with a more, shall we say, conservative approach where I focus on poking the enemy down like a Ziggs before using ability combos to go in for the kill. I play him when the team has good ranged attack power and could use stronger initiations and team-fighting. The great thing that I love about AP Mao as well is that even if he doesn't get fed in the laning phase, he can still do a good job supporting your team and can easily make a comeback with his ability to assist in team fights. In other words, Maokai can snowball in this role, but he can still be a big help for his team if he doesn't.
Here's a small list of things to note before I go on about his abilities, as this came to my attention after I did the video guide:
- Because of her rework, Nidalee's no longer that big of a threat to AP Mao. In fact, you can potentially counter her with this pick.
- Remember that your saplings aren't just good for the poke; you can also throw them in brushes to gain vision, and you can place them for temporary vision if your warding totem is down. (This mostly comes in handy when you've got some good CDR under your belt.)
- The items have been adjusted because of this, but remember that Athene's is no longer something you get for the magic resist (Despite the video saying otherwise, since it was made before the chalice nerf). Because of the low amount of MR it now gives you, you get it purely for the mana sustain, AP, and CDR.
- Transferring this to the top lane is now detailed in a new chapter for the guide.
- Though I reccomended this as a possible late-game health item in the video, I now would say that Rylai's Crystal Scepter is a pretty redundant item with Mao's high amount of CC. As someone pointed out to me, you can probably pick better AP and health items than this if you need those stats.
- With v1.3, I've spiced up the build with a new items section showing even more info on itemizing the magic tree.
Let's go through his toolkit, shall we?
Sap Magic is the reason why health items a good buy on Maokai, but health potions aren't. Every five casts by either you, your allies, or your enemies gives you a free heal, which is based on your maximum health, when you do your next basic attack. It gives you good health sustain and with my health items, it's a big reason why I don't take a "glass cannon" approach for this role.
Arcane Smash has a bit of poke potential in lane, but it is a useful asset to have and a useful part of your combos. The knockup/slow in your combo can not only make your combos even less escapable, but also add to your damage, of course. It also can help peeling champions that are chasing you, or peel for your allies. Also remember that you can actually supplement your poke with this in lane if your mana concerns have already been remedied.
Twisted Advance is the ability that makes your combos so deadly, but not for the damage. (Though I do wanna thank Riot for giving this one damage based on max health with patch 4.11) No, this is useful when it comes to CCing and getting close to enemies when you want to execute your combos. Also, don't forget that you can use this ability to hold enemies down when they're going for a vulnerable ally of yours, as that's yet another reason why I love using Maokai for better team-fighting potential.
Sapling Toss is your bread and butter for pushing and harassing your lane opponent, as the slow and, more importantly, damage from this can provide great poke power in lane. Don't forget that landing the initial collision and the explosion on your enemy is how you maximize the damage from this ability.
Vengeful Maelstrom is the reason why champions that need to grapple with you and can't stop you from casting will probably hate you. However, remember that until you get to the late game, it's primary purpose is damage reduction. Seriously, this won't chunk until you have plenty of AP later on, but after you get it, it deals some good damage once it gets charged up. For team fights, just start it up when you need damage reduction (for yourself and/or your teammates, of course) with a chunk of damage you can give to enemies and boom.
With these abilities, your ability combos against your lane opponent should usually happen in the order of Sapling Toss- Twisted Advance- Arcane Smash (And maybe Vengeful Maelstrom somewhere in there), but you can alternatively activate your ult before you advance on your enemy. Though you could perform your Sapling Toss after you perform your advance and before you do your magic fist bump, I wouldn't advise this since it won't ensure that you'll land your collision and explosion damage as reliably as throwing your sapling before you apply the CC.
I originally wasn't gonna go out of my way with this with previous editions of the guide, but I think it's about time I go in depth with how and why I give Maokai the gear listed above.
This is basically how you start your game off, as the Doran's Ring a small boost of health, AP, and mana sustain so you can start farming in lane. Health sustain isn't normally a problem with your passive (That is, if you play your cards right), so I reccomend bringing two mana potions so you can stay around long enough to get the gold for the following:
For early mana sustain, you should either rush the chalice or the tear. Personally, I prefer the Chalice of Harmony more since my playstyle is largely geared around constant usage of poke via abilities, but the tear provides bonuses for items that supply mana later in the game and can allow you to use plenty of ability combos in rapid succession. Now I anticipate that you might ask "why would you recommend spare mana potions for taking the tear path," so I'll tell you why. Though your Tear of the Goddess does a wonderful job of giving you mana mid or late game, it doesn't start off doing a lot for you, so you'll probably need to help it charge up until it's got some good bonus mana.
If you started Chalice, then your core build should consist of this with an additional health item. This is my more preferred core build path, as this set-up is more geared around consistent casting (Thanks to the constant mana regeneration) and good cool down reduction. Some people have the idea of getting Ionian boots with Athene's, but to be honest, you're good with just 20% CDR from items early game.
However, you do have a another core build path that you can take, assuming you rushed tear earlier. While I personally don't favor this one as much (Mostly due to the 5% less CDR from the two items), it does give a good AP bonus from the Insight passive, can grant you a shield when you get Seraph's Embrace, and the large mana pool will allow you to pull off multiple ability combos in succession mid to late game.
With either of those core build paths however, you'll also want to get a health item alongside your mana item and boots. Your choice should be decided based on what your circumstance is. For example, Sunfire Cape is a wonderful item to get if you're mostly facing physical damage early on, since the resistance and health boost also grants you a small damage boost when clearing minions or using ability combos on enemy champs. If you need a boost all around (Including a healing buff, some extra CDR and health per second) while dealing with lots of magic damage, Spirit Visage is a good option. That is, unless your opponents would have a hard time dealing with the shield of Banshee's Veil, as that's also a handy option (Albeit a situational one). Now I seldom reccomend this item early game, but if you're willing to give up some early defense to deal with tanks more effectively or just pump out more damage, then think about a Liandry's Torment.
Once you've finished your core build, let's talk about additional damage. While Liandry's Torment would certainly be included in this category, these items all provide good benefits to you if you need to lay on the pain. Rabadon's Deathcap is a good item to compliment your other AP items. For boosted AP with defense on the side, Zhonya's Hourglass and Abyssal Scepter gives you what you need with the useful bonuses of either going into stasis or basically giving you magic penetration for your ability combos. If you want massive burst, then remember that you can either go Lich Bane to give you mad slapping power (And possibly compliment your Archangel's Staff) or Deathfire Grasp to burst down single targets with the active. For boosting your existent damage, your options include Rabadon's Deathcap to amplify your AP and Void Staff to shred enemy defenses later in the game.
I already established what your early health options were good for earlier, but perhaps someone might ask "Should I get either of these items to tank more late game?" Why, yes, but just remember that Randuin's Omen is a good alternative to Sunfire if you're dealing with enemies that depend on attack speed, and Warmog's Armor would be a situational purchase if you already have plenty of resistances built up. Add these with your previous health options and you've got a good selection of items to tank with later in the match.
Pros / Cons
All right, so what's so great or lacking about this playstyle? Well, here's what I got:
- Really strong team fighter
- Good utility with damage reduction (That's along with major CC and magic damage)
- Pretty good poking power in lane
- Pretty tanky for an AP mid laner
- Great health sustain in lane
- Free vision thanks to saplings
- Major roaming potential
- Limited range with abilities
- Little to no escapes from unsavory situations
- Low mobility in general (If you're not rooting to enemies)
- Not recommended against long-range poke or early-game tankiness/consistent punishment
Top Lane With The Magic Tree
After testing the strategy myself, I've found that AP Mao has serious potential if you decide to transfer him to the top lane. Normally, I would just say "switch Ignite with Teleport and you're good to go", but here's what else you need to know.
If you're going to do this, try to save it for situations where you're not laning against opponents with either long-range and consistent poke or early-game tankiness with consistent damage. The former is obviously a given for the magic tree in general, but remember that Maokai's burst probably won't cut it if they have plenty of health and can just keep going with their punishment.
Also, when I mentioned Teleport for bringing this to top, that wasn't a mild suggestion; it was a major recommendation out of me. Since you still have good roaming potential as Maokai and top-lane is geared more around pushing, having Teleport helps big time in letting you attend to your lane.