Build Guide by synhyborex
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.
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.
(*NOTE: this is my first guide, so constructive criticism would be nice!)
I decided to write this guide after seeing so many people play Garen as an AD champ every time that he's free, and it kinda annoys me that anyone would play AD Garen. For one, AD champs tend to have skills, a passive, and innate stats that support an AD build, which Garen does not. His passive promotes survivability, not damage. Unlike most AD champs, Garen's passive would be absolutely useless to him in any situation that involves fighting. However, the passive DOES allow Garen to stay in lane longer and even solo a lane if there is no better solo champ on the team or if Garen's lane partner needs to go back to base to heal up. More than that, AD champs have much better scaling on their skills than champs like Garen. Simply put, Garen's AD scaling is pretty bad, so there's no point in focusing on building AD. If you play it right, you'll be doing more than enough damage without any AD until you pick up Atma's Impaler, if you do.
The point of this guide is to show anyone that wants to play Garen the superiority of a tanky DPS build over any AD build someone could propose. I hope you'll agree with me after this guide.
If I help out your Garen play, please rate up, and feel free to add me in-game: Synhyborex :)
I do feel like I need to address the issue of troll votes, unfortunately. I would ask of anyone using this guide to please not vote on it until you've fully read it and tried it out. It's a little messed up to downvote a potentially good guide just because you don't like the idea of a DPS Garen or a tanky Garen. If you don't like my ideas, just comment about it and I'll take your issue into consideration.
Wait...How Do I Know This Build Works?
Before you skim the rest of the guide and decide what you like better, here's some incentive. There are just my most recent games played as Garen to prove that this build really DOES work.
If you guys try out my guide, feel free to message me pictures of your scores so I can post them!
very hard to kill
good damage output
ult can turn the tide of battle
will often carry
will rarely feed
quick lane clearing
no good at pushing
may often be the only one left alive so your team will blame you for everything
weak early game
very skill dependent
takes too long to kill anything
Your finisher spell. Enough said. Because you're not an AD carry champ, there will be a number of times when despite your best efforts, and enemy BARELY gets out of range and all your skills are on cooldown. What do I do? Oh, right. IGNITE THEM and watch them burn to death. While Ignite isn't particularly useful until level 4 in my opinion, if someone BARELY gets away, this will either kill them or force them to recall, either way giving you about 45 seconds to push the lane, heal, or do whatever else you need to do. Another reason Ignite is awesome if because it reduces all healing on the affected champion by 50%. That means if Sona or Soraka or Taric or any of the other healers are giving you a hard time because they're keeping that ANNOYING carry alive for too long, just throw down an Ignite. Even if you don't get the kill, it'll be a huge help to the team, and you still get gold for an assist ;)
I think Flash is pretty self-explanatory. It will get you away from enemies as well as close to them for those finishing blows. You can use Flash in conjunction with Judgment or Decisive Strike, so if you get slowed, just use Judgment and Flash away to safety. And when those champions just barely make it away, Flash after them and finish them using whatever you feel is most appropriate. You will want to start getting used to using Flash offensively with this build, however, because it's going to take so much to kill you that it won't be necessary very often to Flash away, except maybe early game when you have that squishy teammate to protect.
I go with 9-0-21 masteries because like I've said before, you're NOT playing AD Garen. If you want to play a full tank, then go with defensive masteries, but with the items I've suggested half of the masteries in defense will hardly help you. I was aiming for cooldown reduction with my masteries to maximize the number of skills Garen can use (Garen is VERY skill dependent) and especially how often you can use your ult. You may not believe it now, but Garen's ult can change the course of a fight really quickly. The point in Archaic Knowledge is because your ult deals MAGIC damage, and cutting through 15% of their enemy's magic resist means you do that much more damage!
Another reason I go with utility is so I spawn 10% faster after I die, something necessary as a tank to keep your team alive. Also, utility points give me free gold since Garen isn't too great of a farmer until he gets a Sunfire Cape and also helps me level faster. I like to play roam Garen and I find he's most effective after he gets that ult going. And there's nothing wrong with leveling faster, is there?
In offense, I got some points in Deadliness because Judgment scales with both AD and crit chance. The point in exhaust is because the other two options are useless as Garen. Like I said before, I aimed for cooldown reduction as much as possible, which is why I maxed Sorcery, and Archaic Knowledge I explained above.
Some of you might be wondering "why would I want magic resist (MR) runes when Garen already has an awesome passive in Courage that gives me 25 armor and MR?" Well, the reason for this is really just to minimize AP scaling skills from AD champs early in the game. If they have an AP loaded team, well it makes sense to have as much MR as you can, and having it early game is even better so they do less damage to you. This rune is still a work in progress however, and I may update it soon.
Armor penetration is pretty key with any melee champion. Because Decisive Strike and Judgment are physical skills, any damage you do to an enemy is increased because you break through that pesky armor they have. As I mention later, after I got some armor pen in my arsenal, my kill numbers jumped, especially early game, making you that much more deadly.
As a tank, you want to get hit as little as you possibly can in order to maximize your team's survivability. While having this little dodge may not seem important, the occasional dodge is really nice, especially against an AD heavy team.
This is just for the cooldown reduction again. With all the cooldown reduction I riddle Garen with, you'll be casting your ult every 75 seconds or so instead of 100, and every one of your skills will be cast much faster. Since Garen is very skill-dependent, you probably want to have as much cooldown reduction as possible.
Before anything else, I just want to make sure any Garen player knows the proper skilling sequence in different situations.
1) Laning: You always want to get in between the mages and the melees and then cast Judgment. Right after that you want to cast Courage in case they all focus you all of a sudden to reduce the damage they cause to you. If you don't have your Sunfire Cape yet, use a basic attack on one of the mages to kill it, use Decisive Strike on the next one to kill it, and then another basic attack to kill the third. If you have your Sunfire Cape, all you need is Judgment and Courage. So the skill order will be E -> W -> basic -> Q -> basic in lane.
2) In fights: Here, you ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS start with Decisive Strike (Q) on their AP carry or whoever's skills are the most dangerous. After that cast Judgment and follow up immediately with Courage. If you see someone with low health that's about to get away or isn't being focused, use Demacian Justice to finish them off. Keep in mind though, if your carry can get the kill, DON'T TAKE IT. So the skill order will be Q -> E -> W -> repeat until you can -> R.
Garen will regenerate 0.5% of his maximum health per second after not receiving damage for 7 seconds.
This is Garen's passive, Perserverance, and it will be the reason that your team will love you early game, and especially your laning partner. Even if you have to solo a lane because you have a jungler or the occasional AFK teammate, this passive will maintain your status as a constant threat. Especially when you're forced to lane with a squishy champ, this passive will keep the lane going. For example, let's say you and Ashe try to kill one of their champs but it backfires and both of you almost die. If you were anyone but Garen, you'd probably both need to recall to save yourselves. However, with Garen, your squishy could safely recall while you just chill behind your minion wave. By the time the enemies get near your tower, you'll be close to full health again!
Even in team fights later on this is extremely useful in the same way. As one of the champs on your team that will probably initiate, you'll take a heap of damage early on in the fight (though you'll be able to take about 5 seconds of beating before you die). In that case, you want to back off a little, and if your team starts to lose, because you'll have healed so much in the time the team fight went on, you'll just run right back in and save your team, maybe even score a few kills with Decisive Strike, Judgment, Demacian Justice, and Ignite!
Garen gains a 15 / 20 / 25 / 30 / 35% speed boost for 3 seconds. His next attack deals 150% of his base damage plus 30 / 45 / 60 / 75 / 90 bonus damage and silences his target for 2.5 seconds.
Cooldown 12 / 11 / 10 / 9 / 8 seconds | Range 300
Garen's gank skill and his run skill. Anytime you're going to help gank or initiate, this is the skill to do it with. With the speed boost, it becomes incredibly hard to escape Garen if he wants you. You'll want to use this skill to focus on the champ of theirs whose skills are most dangerous, generally the AP carry of the team (or lane). It gives you 2.5 seconds to slam them into the ground while they try to run or don't realize they can't cast any spells.
It's also a great skill to run away with. I can't count the number of times I've been able to escape a gank or a failed team fight by using a combination of Decisive Strike and Courage. Keep in mind though, the cooldown on this spell starts AFTER you use your silence so if you use it to run away, you'll need to wait a good 10 seconds before you can use it again.
And most important to me, though many people don't realize it, is that this skill CANCELS CHANNEL ULTS. So if they have a Kat who decides to use Death Lotus, just shut her up with Decisive Strike and proceed to kill her.
After that, you might wonder why I say to max this skill last. Well, it's simple. You're Garen, the tanky DPS, not Garen the carry (though you may find you carry a lot the way I do). Mostly you want to use this skill to silence an enemy to either save your teammate(s) or to initiate a fight. You don't need the speed boost it gives you that much because, well, you won't be dying that often and if you want to use it to tower dive or something, it won't be of much use until you have health, anyway. The damage boost it gives isn't that great since mostly it scales with your AD and the max bonus damage is only 90.
Passive: Garen's armor and magic resist are permanently increased by 0.5 every time he kills an enemy unit. This bonus is maxed at 5 / 10 / 15 / 20 / 25.
Active: Garen places a defensive shield on himself for the next 3 seconds, decreasing all damage taken by 10 / 15 / 20 / 25 / 30%.
Cooldown 30 / 27 / 24 / 21 / 18 seconds | Range 20
Arguably Garen's most important skill. This is what gives him his tank status before he buys his first real tank item, and it's what's going to keep you alive a lot of the time. Keep in mind that Courage's active reduces damage taken from ALL sources, turrets included. I want you to max this second because of the passive, mostly. I don't have you max it first because Garen's main damage output is his Judgment and you want SOME damage, even as a tank. Also, until you pick up the Sunfire Cape, it's not going to be that easy to farm minions. After you pick it up, your passive boosts will jump like there's no tomorrow.
Garen rapidly spins his sword around his body for 3 seconds, reducing the duration of slows by 50% and dealing 60 / 100 / 140 / 180 / 220 (+120% of his bonus Attack Damage) physical damage to nearby enemies every second. Garen removes any slow effects on him at the start of the dance.
The bonus damage is further increased by Garen's critical strike chance. Damage to minions is reduced by 50%. This cannot damage invisible minions or wards.
Cooldown 14 / 13 / 12 / 11 / 10 seconds | Range 330
Your bread and butter throughout the entire game for just about everything. It'll help you farm, deal consistent damage to all enemies around you, even if they run, get rid of any slows on you, and while you're spinning, all new slows will be half strength. And let's not forget the dance glitch! If you have Garen dance while you're using Judgment, you'll keep spinning (though you won't do any damage)! With your armor penetration runes, Judgment does more damage than the insane amount it already does. After I picked up those runes, my kills spiked significantly early game. Keep in mind, also, that Garen DOES hit invisible enemies (wards, shrooms, and Shaco's jack-in-the-boxes excluded) so if Akali throws her shield up, just use Judgment and you'll get a good number of hits on her. I've gotten plenty of Akali kills using this strategy.
This skills will also save you many times during the course of the game if a team tries to gank you. Most teams will have an exhaust they'll throw down on you thinking you won't be able to run, but lo and behold, Judgment saves the day! Not only will you get rid of any slows on you, you'll be dealing damage while you run like hell. On top of that, you can cast Courage AND Decisive Strike while you're using the spell to help boost your survivability immensely.
Garen calls upon the might of Demacia to attempt to execute an enemy champion, dealing 175 / 350 / 525 damage plus 1 damage for every 3.5 / 3 / 2.5 health they are missing.
Cooldown 140 / 120 / 100 / 0 seconds | Range 400
Demacian Justice is one of the greatest tank buster ultimates in the game. At level 18, if your team takes out a tank with Guardian Angel, as soon as he/she respawns, just use your ult and it's a one hit kill. Once you get to level 16, Demacian Justice can pretty much take out any champ with 25% of their health or less. And it gives me a good laugh each time when an enemy runs and then comes back into the fight because they think they have enough health, unsuspecting that Garen will kill them in one hit. Bam.
When do you want to use your ult? When your carry is NOT about to kill a champ. Unless they're about to die and everything else is on cooldown, do NOT take the kill from them. Ideally you want to ult the person your team isn't focusing but has not too much health, or an annoying tank that's stopping your conquest. I know some guides say to ult their squishy and not the tank unless they're the last one alive, but the squishies are the ones your team will likely focus first and the ones your carries will get their kills from.
Do keep in mind, however, that your ult does more damage the LESS health an enemy has so it's more of a finisher move than an initiator move. If you initiate with it, not only will everyone think you're the worst Garen ever to grace the Fields of Justice, but you'll do less than 350 damage even when it's maxed. Also, remember, that Demacian Justice deals MAGIC damage, not physical.
Doran's Shield should always be your first item. Garen is pretty squishy if he doesn't get this. It gives you nice stats to start with, and though it doesn't build into anything, it's extremely useful early game and can make the difference in an early gank.
Boots of Swiftness
You can gauge how well you're doing by whether or not you're able to stay in lane for all 1000 gold necessary for your boots. Of course, I'd recommend staying for as long as possible (but if you manage to make it to 3600 go back ASAP) since more gold is always better, but you generally don't want to go back until you have at least 1000. I choose Boots of Swiftness over any other pair because of the type of champ Garen is. Berserker's Greaves are meant for more AD focused champs, and unless you get some AD items, they're not so useful. Ionian Boots are nice, but I find that the lack of movement outweighs the extra cooldown boost you get from them. Considering you already have 14% CDR from your runes and masteries, the only thing you will get a real benefit on with them is your ult. Boots of Mobility are better for getting places, but I prefer a constant speed for the chase downs at the end of fights.
You want the Sunfire Cape next. Some people probably will think getting Warmog's is more important so you get its benefits faster, but I beg to differ. Sunfire Cape gives you a nice health bonus, armor, AND constant damage just from being around you. This is essential to Garen's laning and ESPECIALLY to build your passive off of Courage. Warmog's, on the other hand, is nice, but doesn't help you with anything other than a huge health boost. I like the get the Giant's Belt on the Sunfire Cape before the Chain Armor mostly because at that early level, unless they're fed, there's no champ you really need armor for, but having an extra amount of health can make a huge difference.
Now is a good time to get Warmog's Armor. After you get your Sunfire Cape you will already be much more deadly and hard to kill, and this just adds insult to injury. With your Sunfire Cape, picking up the health bonuses on this bad boy will be a cinch.
Now it's after Warmog's Armor that your item choices start to vary depending on their team composition and how well your team is holding up.
If their team is AP heavy
Force of Nature
Pick up a Force of Nature now. The magic resist is more or less a bonus added onto the health regen that it gives you. You should be healing about 120HP per 5 secs without your passive once you grab this item. Once you have this item, even the greatest Karthus in the world will only tickle you with his ult.
If their team is AD heavy or balanced
Pick up Atma's Impaler. Why not Thormail? I know it gives more armor, but if they're an AD heavy team you probably want to return the favor. By AD I don't mean melee, I mean skills are AD heavy, as in they scale with AD items. This will give you increased AD for your Decisive Strike scaling, and the crit chance will boost the damage done by Judgment. On top of that, you get a little armor boost. This item is a lot better if your team needs more damage output.
If their team is MELEE heavy
By melee I mean champs that don't really need skills to tear you a new hole, like Master Yi, Xin Zhao, and Tryndamere. If this is the case, you want this:
All melee specialized champs tend to be a little on the squishier side, ESPECIALLY Master Yi. This will return 30% of any damage they do to you to them as magic damage. Unless your team is AP heavy, chances are they won't have much MR to stop this counter. First of all, you have so much health and armor right now that their damage output won't be that amazing on you. And if it is, well, that just means they die faster too! And it's not like you won't be attacking them back. Combined with your skills, any melee champion will be in over their head trying to take you out. I can't remember the last time a Xin Zhao was able to kill me 1-on-1, or even a Master Yi. Tryndameres just tend to use Endless Rage and so I just toss an Ignite on them to kill them.
No matter what their team composition is, your sixth item is going to be Guardian Angel. Regardless of what their team composition is, Guardian Angel helps you make them worth less. Not only do you get a huge armor boost and a good MR boost, but you have, essentially two lives, as if you weren't scary enough with just one. I've taken to building this as my fifth item lately (unless we're absolutely tearing through the team) to give me a little more survivability and make me especially more useful in team fights. When you build this is really dependent on how your team is doing, but sixth is fine.
Most games don't take this long, but if you have too much money, I like to sell off that Doran's Shield and replace it depending on the situation. I tend to like building
Phantom Dancer orYomuu's Ghostblade
Phantom Dancer gets me moving and attacking just that much faster, as well as give me a nice boost to the damage that Judgment does. Yomuu's Ghostblade has a nice active that lets you attack and move faster, but it's only for a few seconds. I prefer this item when I don't necessarily need movement speed and attack speed, but rather need to deal more damage, as it gives you increased armor penetration, a nice AD boost, and 15% CDR.
However, if damage isn't what you need and you need to survive more, that last item you'll build can be built depending on the guidelines I have above.
From the very beginning, you want to keep the pressure on your enemy laners so as soon as you hit level 6 and have your boots (or not), you can go mid whichever lane needs help. Garen is a great roamer because even if he can't grab all the kills he wants, he'll scare off whoever is in that lane with Decisive Strike and Judgment. Good roaming is essential to your team's success, especially early game because it'll give your team those level advantages. While you may be underleveled because of your amazing roaming skills, it won't matter too much because of the assists you'll be picking up for your gold and items. If you roam correctly, you'll have plenty of time to go solo a lane while your team is busy pushing.
When it comes to ganking, it's very much like the team fights. You always want to initiate and silence their AP carry so the other people in the lane can have a good 2.5 seconds to wreak havoc. For knowing WHO to gank and WHEN to gank, give precedence to the lane that's being pushed back the most. Wait until the enemy is a good enough distance closer to your tower than you are in your hiding spot, and then make SURE you MARK who you're about to silence so your team knows you're making a move. I can't stress enough how important it is to mark to let your team know who the target is and also that you're going to attack so they don't miss their chance.
As always, give kill precedence to your carry, not to yourself. As amazing as you are when you get a good number of kills, it's going to be the carry that pushes the lanes quickest and mows down those towers, NOT you. Remember, you're not AD Garen. Your job is simply to stay alive and keep your carries alive.
Remember, you are Garen, the Might of Demacia. You MUST lead the charge. Once your team sees you running forwards, they'll follow suit. Keep in mind though that you need to use good judgment, because your team will often focus the champion you silence with Decisive Strike if it's a squishy. Unless you're going to silence another tank to stop their ult or taunt or whatever they have, you generally want to put your first strike on their heaviest AP champ to keep them out of the picture for 2.5 seconds, even if they're not your team's first focus (Vlad, for example, would be good to silence, but he often won't be focused because he has so much HP).
As soon as you toss out that silence, you want to try and run to the MIDDLE of their team so you can cast Judgment, or to the back to stop any runners if your team has enough AOE already. Pay less attention to your health and more to the enemy health, mostly because you're not going to be focused too often and it'll take a long time to kill you, anyway. If you see anyone run whose health isn't still dropping, either use Demacian Justice, Ignite, or Decisive Strike to finish them (use your best judgment here). However, if you see your carry chasing them, do NOT take the kill unless it's collateral damage from Judgment or Sunfire Cape or your carry dies because they were stupid to follow.
Garen carries teams to victory, and so many times you need to TELL your team what to do. Since you're the tanky DPS, many times your team will listen when you tell them to go get dragon or baron, because they expect you to tank. You need to make sure you initiate at a good time, because your team WILL follow you. If everyone dies, it's probably your fault for silencing the wrong champ or initiating at the wrong time, causing your team to come have to save you, meaning they'll probably die too.
Garen can either be a great laner or a terrible laner. While it's hard to get those last hits because you do so little damage and attack so slow, you need to know how to make effective use of your Decisive Strike and Judgment to pick up those last hits. I talked a little about this in the beginning of the Skills section.
It's very important for Garen to get those minion kills to boost his passive from Courage. It's a little difficult to do this earlier on in the game and requires skill then, but once you get your Sunfire Cape, farming becomes a piece of cake.
You ALWAYS want to be the one who goes off to clear lanes whenever possible. Not only do you clear lanes faster than probably anyone on your team, but you need to get those points in your Courage passive and Warmog bonus to be more useful to the team. Of course, leave the clearing to someone else if you're needed in a fight.
In the End...
As you can probably see now, Garen is neither a straight AD champ, nor is he meant to play a straight tank. While some versions of the build make him out to be pretty tanky, Garen is meant to be a fight starter and a fight ender, excelling in both fields throughout the entire course of the game.
Like I said at the beginning, this IS my first guide, and I would highly appreciate constructive criticism on how to improve not only this guide, but future ones I may write. Any ideas for improvement on my build would be great as well, and a lack of troll votes would be awesome.
Thanks for the support! Please rate and comment :)