Maokai Build Guide by DaHof

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.

League of Legends Build Guide Author DaHof

Dom Maokai: Nobody like the prickly bush

DaHof Last updated on September 27, 2011
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Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

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.


Brute Force
Improved Rally

Offense: 9

Strength of Spirit
Veteran's Scars

Defense: 6

Expanded Mind
Blink of an Eye
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 15

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So you want to be a tree, eh? Willing to tolerate all those "woody" jokes? Dig puns?

Mao is an overlooked and underplayed champ, largely because he doesn't really do any one thing well enough to shine in the regular LoL. He can't really tank, he doesn't pump out carry-leve damage, his CC is short-range and single target, and his ult is easily avoidable. He also (lets call a tree a tree here) looks dopey. He lumbers about and gives you lip with his voice-over. He sounds like a creaky old chair.

Doesn't inspire terror. Doesn't get respect. At best you can annoy someone a lot during the lane (or shatter some poor noob's self confidence).

In Dominion, however, Maoki shines because your enemies will have to come to you! You will be stationary - tree-like, if you will - defending your team's bottom turret. You lumber (ha!) slow-and-steady towards your next defensive position. You never leaf (oh snap!) your leading edge base unguarded.

Mao can make people pay for turret diving and has great sustain with his natural (and carefully-created) defenses. His ultimate is also practically tailored to both these roles, turning your sustain into your opponent's pain. Mao can take the punishment long enough to frag one or even two of the cheep-o (er'body down with the OP-peeps) glass cannons running around like they are back in the good-ol' days of Quake.

Suddenly you forget you are playing a rambunctious shrub and you are rocking 1st or 2nd place on your team. K/D ratios are so Summoner's Rift; this is Dominion baby!

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Pros / Cons


+ Ton of Burst
+ Can take down / tank down two squishies at once
+ Defends turrets like a champ
+ Softens up group ganks for easy clean up by your buddies
+ Your Ult covers the entire turret!


- You are a dumb tree
- You start out slow (movement wise)
- You will NOT lead the team in kills

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I build Mao to hurt up front and take a beating. My goal is to outlast people one-on-one so that I can hold a turret or, in the event I get swarmed, soften up the guys enough so that my team can swoop in and clean it up. The armor helps with the abundance of AD champs you will face and that AP will make people think twice before rushing your sapling. You could swap the CDR for magic resist, but AP is fairly rare in Dominion.

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I take some unorthodox (for standard LoL) masteries that I feel really help out in Dominion's fast-and-furious game play. Magic penetration runs with the theme of scaring people off with your sapling and the improved exhaust should get you a kill every time you use it.

Next is Utility. Good hands = MUST HAVE! You will die more than usual in Dominion. It is set up that way. Even though the respawn times are lower than vanilla LoL, good hands will keep you in the thicket o' things (shrub pun). The improved Ghost is also handy, as you never know when you need power-stomp your way over to defend or clean up a team fight. On that same branch of thought (see what I'm doing here?), movement speed helps out. The rest is fluff for me, but extra exp doesn't hurt either.

Lastly I will beef up a tiny bit. I know this is controversial (why not utility masteries?!) but a little extra survivability meshes well with the item build and your goal, which is to put down roots (!) and/or soften people up. The longer you stay alive, the more damage your ult is going to drop on people and the more time you give your AD-heavy team to punish people.

As a disclaimer, I haven't done the math on all this. I used to crunch numbers, but I'm playing LoL to avoid the rigors of reality. I find this works, however, and it makes sense given the fast-paced nature of this new game mode.

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Summoner Spells

Exhaust will get you kills (especially with Improved Exhaust - see the Masteries section) and Ghost helps you get across the middle in record time. Flash is a close one for me, especially for the great escapes it makes possible on the perimeter, but you aren't too worried about dying as a Dominion Mao. Your goal (as I will repeat a lot) is to soak damage to power your ult and to defend. If you die, it is because your noble grass (pun!) bought your team the time it needed to swoop down and save the day.

Let them come to you!

One spell which I've been experimenting with, however, is garrison. This CAN make a big difference when people dive your turret. However, because your turret aggro drops so quickly once the other team starts to channel I find this spell to be underwhelming. Exhaust and Ghost are just so much more versatile.

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This build is inspired by the Chu8 build in that it uses Trinity Force. It is a great item that increases Mao's ability to harass, tank, and move about the map as you build it, which is perfect. I like taking Sheen right off the bat because my main goal is to solo the closest bottom turret and sit on it. I don't need the speed, but that mana and AP really helps if you have someone try to rush you early on. Mao does a lot of damage right away and most champs back off when you have a turret behind you. If they leave you alone, then push the other bottom turret with the creep wave. If they attack, then you can hold off two of their team while your buddies sweep around the board.

When the air clears, go get your boots and the Heart of Gold. Heart of Gold is one item I'm not sure about (as the games don't last very long) but I like it anyway because of the health and the fact that (if you are fed) it end-games nicely into the Omen. You could swap the Black Cleaver for an Abyssal Scepter (or maybe even Entropy or another snazzy new item - I don't know them too well yet), but I find that with the Clever I really wreck people. If the game makes it long enough, armor up and prepare to ruin peoples' days.

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How to Play

There is a theme in this build.... do you see it?

1. Defend

2. Feed bad guys their own damage

3. Soften-up / Clean-up team fights.

Mao is a deceptively bursty champion. If people don't respect your burst (W + E + Q + whack) you can make them pay for it all day long. This is especially helpful if you can root them (W) as soon as they step onto your tower.

An alternative approach is to lob the sapling as they approach, then let it run into them during your root, but chances are you will miss out on the "landing" damage that way.

One of my FAVORITE techniques is to lob a sapling onto the other team's turret when they try to aggressively push you away. This comes in clutch when you shock-and-awe them with your damage and they try to run to safety. That little grenade is just waiting for them and gets you the kill 4 out of 5 times. That sapling is also hard to see on the turret and is easily forgotten.

Once you get your ult you will use it a lot. As often as possible. It does a lot of damage and will let you snag people who run and even drop two or three champs at a time on the turret. Even if you just knock one down, you've softened the others up that they won't want to take the now-attentive turret aggro and will try to run. Or they die.

The only time you want to save your ult is if two or more guys are poking at you before a dive; wait for them to commit before you drop it. Smart players know it has a thick cooldown and will try and get you to pop it prematurely.

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Last Tips

1. Tell your team you are going to solo capture and defend bottom. If someone goes down with you, you've lost the advantage of your starting build and you are too slow to pick up the slack.

2. Charge up your Magical sap on the platform. This is super easy to do with your two summoner spells.

3. Recall as soon as you get a chance to buy your boots. No need to stay slow for any longer than you have to.

4. Don't stress dying. If your team is on the way don't stress a death in exchange for letting your teammates mop it up. If they swap kills but don't take that turret, you win.