Maokai Build Guide by Teyso
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.
Replacement Boots and Final Upgrades
Example Build: Initiator
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.
A note about Season 4 and Preseason: I am in the process of updating the guide, hopefully I can get everything done quickly. Will be publishing changes over the next week + until it is done.
Initial Update complete, Cheat Sheet is re-vamped. Some stuff (Like the Assassin build) remains untested.
Item Explanation Chapters updated completely.
Finished new masteries chapter.
Dated- 16 January 2014
This is a little bit about me and why I wrote this guide.
I love Maokai. I think his skill-set is perfect, and it carves out a very unique place for him in League of Legends. I picked Maokai up around Fall of 2011, and have played him as my main for most of the time since then.
Since I like Maokai so much, and since I know so much about him now, I thought it would be good to pass what I know on to the community. But because I've played him so much, and like him so much, What I have to pass on is kind of a lot.
Warning! if you don't like long guides with in depth reasoning and explanations throughout, this guide is not for you.
This guide is designed to be a resource like an encyclopedia. You wouldn't read one of those cover to cover, would you? Neither would I. Use the table of contents to jump to the stuff relevant to how you are playing. Several Sections will not have anything to do with the role you are playing. Only read it cover to cover if you want to understand EVERYTHING about Maokai.
If you are going to downvote, please explain what you dislike so I know how to improve the guide. If you downvote and do not give me something to fix/change, you are not helping the other readers, and you are not helping me make the guide more correct.
With that said, here's my in depth guide explaining everything I know about Maokai.
+ He can fill most roles; Tank, CDR Tank, AD Off-Tank, AP off-Tank, AP Carry, CDR Support.
+ He has great CC, and really strong ganks.
+ A skill set that is nearly perfect and balanced.
+ Tanky, but still capable of dealing noticeable damage.
+ Sap Magic passive heals? Yes please!
+ Vengeful Maelstrom can make your teammates 20% more durable.
+ He is like a tank version of Shaco... TROLOLOL....
- Slow, so very very slow Y_Y His base move-speed blows.
- Maokai is very dependent on his team. Even if you play perfectly, your teammates can still lose the game.
- REALLY Mana hungry.
- Very Blue Buff dependent if jungling.
- No scaling CDR on his abilities, they stay long.
- You will usually have to build tank, even if you do not want to.
Like Masteries, runes are your choice, these are just suggestions that benefit Maokai. Keep in mind that most per level runes exceed flat runes between the levels of 7 and 10. So you should pick per-level runes if you want a strong late game, or flat runes for a strong early game.
Runes should help make up for your champion's weaknesses or complement their role, Example: Runes like mana regen and armor Seals and Movespeed and Health Quintessences are really useful in general for Maokai, while Magic Pen, Armor, or Attack Speed Marks depend on the role you are filling for your team.
|Magic Pen:||SPACE||Recommended.||SPACE||SPACE||For AP Mid Maokai, These give magic penetration, so you will deal more damage.|
|Armor:||SPACE||Less recommended.||SPACE||SPACE||These are not first tier Runes, but they give some defensive stats for a Tank Maokai.|
|Armor:||SPACE||Recommended.||SPACE||SPACE||Absolutely necessary if you are jungling, these give you the durability to farm the jungle and still have enough health be able to gank. They are also good for Support and Top Maokai for when you will get harassed by ranged AD champions ( Jayce Top, and ADC's Bottom).|
|Mana Regen:||SPACE||Recommended.||SPACE||SPACE||SPACE||These work because Maokai is very mana-hungry, and WILL run out of mana without blue buff or these and a Chalice of Harmony and/or Catalyst the Protector. I recommend trying to just get blue buff or some mana items early, because armor seals are much more helpful.|
|Health:||SPACE||Recommended.||SPACE||SPACE||SPACE||They synergize with your passive quite well. The question is between Per-Level or % Health increase. With the builds that I have here I have found that you get more health from the per level runes.|
|Cooldown Reduction:||Less recommended.||SPACE||SPACE||SPACE||I personally have not used these, but they could work because your abilities do not have cool-downs that scale with level.|
|Movespeed:||SPACE||Highly Recommended||SPACE||SPACE||These help because of Maokai's very low base movespeed.|
|Ability Power:||SPACE||Recommended||SPACE||SPACE||SPACE||Good for AP Maokai, these will help you jungle faster, or deal more damage in Mid lane.|
|Health:||SPACE||Highly Recommended||SPACE||SPACE||SPACE||SPACE||These synergize with your passive, and will make you much more durable. Flat health for early game, % and Per-Level for late game.|
|Magic Pen:||SPACE||Less Recommended||SPACE||SPACE||I do not use these, but they would improve AP Maokai's damage.|
The mastery pages I put in for the different builds are just some examples. Use mine, or yours, honestly masteries are absolutely preferential, just go with whatever you like best.
The following section discusses the masteries I consider most viable. It does not mean you should take all of them; there are more than 30 that are viable, so use them wisely, and take the stats that you like the most or need the most.
Double-Edged Sword helps you because Maokai is melee range.
Sorcery provides cool-down reduction which can help fill out your CDR if your build doesn't reach the 40% cap.
Butcher works for Jungle Maokai because you will be auto-attacking jungle creeps a lot.
Mental Force gives ability power to help your spells deal more damage.
Feast gives some bonus sustain, although it is not much. I do not like to take this.
Arcane Mastery gives you ability power to increase your early damage.
It is helpful to go down the defense tree because with Maokai you will have to get into the thick of the fight, often tanking lots of damage.
Block is good to take if you are laning or plan to gank frequently.
Recovery can provide some extra sustain.
Enchanted Armor is a good choice if you plan to build lots of resistances.
Tough Skin is a must if you are jungling.
Unyielding provides additional damage reduction for if you are laning or intend to gank frequently.
Veteran's Scars gives bonus health, helps to make you more durable.
Bladed Armor is important if you are jungling, it will increase your jungle speed.
Oppression is helpful because you have cc spells that can proc this.
Juggernaut is good if you plan to be a tank and/or build lots of health.
Hardiness is a must because bonus armor.
Resistance is good when laning against an AP carry.
Perseverance is good against poke and harass heavy teams.
Swiftness can help in draft pick if you see the enemy pick a slow-cc-heavy team.
Reinforced Armor is good vs champions with lots of crits, like Yasuo, Tryndamere, Ashe, Pantheon, etc...
Evasive is good vs AoE heavy teams.
Second Wind synergizes with your passive when you are low.
Tenacious is good because you will be participating in teamfights. It is worth a lot of resistances.
Legendary Guardian can help you to shake off cc more quickly and continue fighting.
Phasewalker is handy if you plan to split push, that extra second can make the difference between escaping a gank or not.
Fleet of Foot helps solve your movement speed problems.
Meditation is helpful to Maokai because he has mana problems.
Scout is good if you can remember to buy trinkets. Just take it.
Summoner's Insight will bring useful summoner spells off cool-down sooner; for example it may save your life to have 30 seconds cut off of Flash's cool-down.
Alchemist increases the regen you get from pots. I like to use this.
Greed is fantastic if you are supporting, really makes up for not CS-ing.
Runic Affinity is good if you are AP Mid or are jungling, you will want Blue Buff to last as long as possible.
Scavenger is good on supports.
Wealth helps supports with gold.
Bandit will be very helpful to a kill lane because you can better take advantage of the kills.
Intelligence is awesome for Maokai because of his long cool-downs.
Wanderer is great because of the movement speed it provides for roaming.
I. Viability: (1/5)
II. Uses: Track the enemy jungler in his or her jungle. Spot incoming Ganks.
III. Comments: This is a support spell... and your saplings are 35 second wards, so only get this if you are the support.
I. Viability: (5/5)
II. Uses: Hop walls, catch or escape enemies. Juking.
III. Comments: Very versatile, helps with a lot of different situations. An all around good pick.
Sap Magic: Your passive gains a charge every time a spell is cast within a very large range (about to the edge of the screen if you play with your screen locked), once you reach 5 charges, your next basic attack heals you for 7% of your Max health.
That 7% heal is not something to shrug off. At 2143 total health, that is instantly 150 health back, the same heal as a health pot takes 15 seconds to restore. This is why I prefer to get items that provide health.
|____||Arcane Smash: Your q is a very short range skillshot that hits all enemies in it's path and all those standing within a short-range AoE around him. It also slows them (by a % that increases with the ability's level) for 2 seconds, and knocks those standing close to him away. It has two important features, the slow, and the knock-up.|
|SPACE||Twisted Advance: Your w is a single target dash that snares the target for a duration that scales with the ability's level. This ability has two uses; the snare, and re-positioning.|
|SPACE||Sapling Toss: It is Maokai's trademark, he throws a sapling and it chases people, and it is hilarious. Your e is a delayed AoE nuke that wards the place it lands, granting vision of the surrounding area. If an enemy steps into the AoE of the sapling it will chase them for up to 2.5 seconds (screaming WHEEEEEEEEEE!!!) or until it hits an enemy, and will explode to deal additional damage. Damage dealt on impact and detonation increases with level.|
|SPACE||Vengeful Maelstrom: Your ultimate is an AoE aura that reduces the non-turret damage dealt to allied champions within the AoE by 20%. it then will return twice that damage to enemies within its range when you deactivate it.|
Examples of Useful Combo's
There is a very traditional manner to go about skill sequences with each champion. Traditionally, you would max abilities based on priority. I will give some examples of this for Maokai, but I recommend that once you become more familiar with Maokai that you level them based on the situation.
Max Priorities for a new Maokai:
Get a point in Sapling Toss first so you can check bushes and ward safely. Arcane Smash'smana cost will not increase, and you will gain more damage and stronger crowd control. Next we max Twisted Advance because the snare will be longer for ganking and initiation. We max Sapling Toss last because it is a very difficult skill-shot, like Veigar's Dark Matter, and it will cost you a lot of mana. It is best to practice it with lower mana cost instead of wasting extra mana without getting the bonus damage.
Max Priorities by playstyle/situation:
1) Mana problems? Level Arcane Smash.
Arcane Smash gains damage and cc-strength per level, without increasing its mana cost. This is your only non-ult ability that doesn't have a scaling mana cost. I prioritize this when I lose my blue buff to counter-jungling. This skill order will look like the one for new maokai.
2) You like to gank? Level Twisted Advance.
Twisted Advance gains snare duration with levels, so if you want to be super-effective at catching enemies for teammates, level this. Your skill order will look like:
3) You don't care about those two, you just want more damage? Level Sapling Toss.
It deals 100% of your Ability Power (if you use it correctly), so you better practice landing both impact and detonation of this ability. If you fail, you only deal 39% of the spell's damage.
NOTE: It helps to level Twisted Advance a couple times early so that your snare will be more effective to help your saplings get them. This leveling priority will look like this:
4) You are level 6, 11, or 16? Need I explain? LEVEL VENGEFUL MAELSTROM.
My experience (I jungle mostly):
I find that it is useful to start with Sapling Toss to check bushes or stockpile damage at a jungle camp, get one more point in this at level 3 so it does a useful amount of damage, then max Arcane Smash for improved cc and damage. Max Twisted advance second, for ganking. Get your ult when you can, and max Sapling Toss last.
I have moved the dominion parts of this guide to another guide titled Dominion-Kai. If you want to know how I play him in Dominion, go check it out.
These two parts of my guide have been separated out for two reasons:
1) The original guide was forced into the Dominion Category (for programming reasons) on Mobafire when it is in fact a champion guide.
2) The original guide was WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too long. This should make them both more readable.
Note: If you do not get Sightstone you should be buying 2 to 3 wards every time you go back to base, so keep that in mind.
Hunter's Machete is almost always necessary for jungling now.
5 Health Potions give you sustain.
Sweeping Lens allows you to clear wards for when you want to gank.
Spirit of the Ancient Golem will greatly improve your clear speed, will improve your sustain with health and mana regeneration, and will make you more durable with health and armor.
Boots of Speed will give you movement speed to help you gank (get this sooner if you want to gank earlier).
Crystalline Flask Is an option that can help your sustain, and as Kallcrack has pointed out; it makes it so you do not need the blue buff after you purchase it. Get this if you are farming more and your teammates do not need / want very many ganks.
Sightstone gives you free wards, and provides some health to make you more durable.
Mid Game Items
Boots of Mobility give you great movement speed so you can get between lanes and jungle camps faster. These will allow you to cover more of the map if your teammates need you to help more.
Ruby Sightstone will allow you to ward more for your team, and provides more health so you are more durable.
Aegis of the Legion: Get this item when your team begins to group up. It if another teammate is already building it then just skip it and buy another tank item.
Finishing Upgrades and Purchases:
At this point if you have Crystalline Flask and need an item slot just sell it back.
Mikael's Crucible is good for saving teammates if they are caught by cc. Get this if your carries need more peel. The immense sustain is very helpful to Maokai as well, you should never run out of mana with this.
Spirit Visage provides more magic resistance and health for durability, CDR for your abilities, and a % increase that greatly benefits your regeneration and Sap Magic.
Banshee's Veil gives you lots of health and MR to make you very tanky. The passive shield helps if your opponents have a lot of peel or poke, and the passive regen is great against poke.
Frozen Heart grants an aura that helps in teamfights against teams with 2 or more champions who depend on attack speed. Get this only if you still can use the 20% CDR, if you have Spirit Visage and Shurelya's Reverie then do not get this.
Randuin's Omen provides great armor and health, the passive slow is great since enemies often will attack you when you initiate a fight, and the active that strengthens your initiation / counter-initiation.
Thornmail is good vs auto-attackers, get this if the enemy has % health damage on auto-attacks and if you skipped building Frozen Heart.
Boots and Upgrades
Boots of Swiftness are always a good choice, as they will help you to move faster than the enemy and resist slows so you can initiate better. Be careful though, because you will be faster than some of your teammates, and you could leave them behind. Do not get separated from your teammates, or you will lose teamfights.
Ninja Tabi is a great choice when the enemy team depends on auto-attacks for damage (example team comp: Kayle Top, Lee Sin Jungle, ___ Mid, Corki ADC, and Sona / Nami Support), it will reduce the damage you take from them, so you can do a better job of tanking.
Enchantment: Alacrity will give you more movement speed so you can be faster than everyone else.
Enchantment: Captain helps you initiate fights because your teammates can follow quickly when you initiate on an enemy.
Enchantment: Homeguard is your best choice when you are losing the match, they allow you to reach turrets and inhibitors that need defending in very little time, thus helping the strategy of turtling.
Oracle's Lens Allows you true-sight for 8 seconds and helps you to clear wards and see pesky stealth champions.
Warding Totem gives you a free ward so you don't have to use saplings as much or use as much gold for wards.
start 1: Crystalline Flask, some wards, and some potions. This will give you the sustain to stay in lane until you can afford to go back.
start 2: Cloth Armor or Null-Magic Mantle and some potions. This will give you the resistances and sustain to last against someone who can out-trade you. Get the resistance item based on what kind of damage your opponent does more of.
start 3: Doran's Shield is good against auto-attack dependent champions such as Teemo.
Early Game Purchase Options:
Catalyst the Protector is good for Bruiser Maokai; it gives you great sustain, and builds into Rod of Ages. I almost always get this on Bruiser Maokai.
Chalice of Harmony is good if you are against someone who is good at pushing, you may want some more mana regeneration so you can push / farm with abilities, so Chalice of Harmony is a possible choice... the only problem with it is that you will have to upgrade it eventually, so don't get it if you don't want Athene's Unholy Grail later. The infinite mana is nice though, and this is a viable choice for the bruiser build.
Glacial Shroud gives you Armor, Mana, and CDR so you are more durable and can use your spells more.
Boots of Speed grant movespeed so you can escape from ganks easier, and help you roam when you leave lane.
Spectre's Cowl is a good defensive option vs magic harass champions like Teemo and Vladimir.
Haunting Guise gives you health, AP, and Magic Penetration, it is good for bruiser and caster builds.
Seeker's Armguard is an option for Bruiser Maokai if you started Cloth Armor, as you can later build it into Zhonya's Hourglass and use it to stay alive even if your team needs you to initiate and take aggro.
Warden's Mail is a great early option for Tank Maokai, as it builds into Frozen Heart or Randuin's Omen later.
Kindlegem is good if you are going to be your team's tank, it gives you more health and CDR; it builds into many items you can use, so it is a good stepping stone into mid game.
Sheen is good for Bruiser Maokai, it adds to your damage, and builds into Iceborn Gautlet later for some tanky stats, AP, and cc.
Mid Game Choices:
Rod of Ages gives you great base stats, if you are building Bruiser get it first for the passive stat gains.
Iceborn Gauntlet gives you armor, AP, CDR, and mana. And the slow helps you stick to targets. Great second item for bruisers.
Abyssal Scepter gives you good Magic Resistance and AP, and the passive is great in team-fights.
Warmog's Armor gives you lots of health and health regen. This will make you very bulky.
Frozen Heart gives you lots of armor, CDR, and mana. The passive attack speed debuff is fantastic in teamfights. Get this as a tank to counter auto-attack champions like Yi, Fiora, Tryndamere, and any Marksmen.
Spirit Visage gives health and magic resistance for durability, CDR for more spells, and a passive that synergizes amazingly with your passive and with Warmog's Armor.
A Note About the Dynamic Duo:
This pair of items are extremely good together, and with just the two of them you get enough Health, Magic Resist, and Armor to cover all your bases on defense. Additionally their passives are godly together, the Magic Resist reduction from Abyssal Scepter helps magnify the passive AoE burn of Sunfire Cape. Because of this I almost consider the pair of them core for the bruiser build, but I do not insist on building them both because I know sometimes you need other items.
Banshee's Veil is good if the enemy team has a lot of peel, it will make their job of protecting their carries much harder. Very helpful against dunk strategies as well (example team: Blitzcrank, Darius, Warwick, Xerath, Quinn).
Randuin's Omen Has good armor and health, with a passive that is good for trading and an active that kicks *** in team-fights.
Athene's Unholy Grail is an upgrade for Chalice of Harmony if you bought that early. It is a good choice because it provides AP Magic Resist, and CDR, as well as the Mana Font passive.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter is a nice luxury item that gives you a lot of health and AP. The slow is somewhat helpful on Sapling Toss and Vengeful Maelstrom.
Zhonya's Hourglass is good if you got Seeker's Armguard early, use the active to start teamfights; you can snare someone to start the fight, then use the active to avoid getting focused down. This is awesome and hilarious when the enemy uses a bunch of spells while you are invulnerable.
Greater Stealth Totem allows you to help your team ward key places on the map.
Greater Vision Totem provides you better vision control, it can also be used to bait enemies out of position to kill it; giving you a good opportunity to engage on them.
Starting Item Choices:
Choosing your gold income item: You must look at your team composition as well as the enemy team composition...
Does the enemy team have strong burst or diving champions who can go after your carry? Is the enemy bottom lane going to poke a lot? Relic Shield can help to solve either problem. Early game Relic Shield will allow you to heal your laning partner with it's farming charges. Late game the active shield from Face of the Mountain will help to mitigate some of the damage your carry would take from enemy burst damage and divers.
Does your team lack good engage/disengage? Ancient Coin upgrades into Talisman of Ascension. This item's active speed boost can help your team start or escape from fights.
The rest of your starting items: Buy a Stealth Ward to help you avoid ganks, and two potions to help you sustain in lane.
Targon's Brace upgrades from Relic Shield.
Nomad's Medallion upgrades from Ancient Coin.
Sightstone will give you free wards and health for durability. Upgrade later into Ruby Sightstone for extra health and another charge so you don't need to recall as often to recharge it.
Once you begin roaming it is important to have the following items completed:
Face of the Mountain upgrades from Targon's Brace.
Talisman of Ascension upgrades from Nomad's Medallion.
Boots of Speed are an early/mid game purchase, you will want movement speed when you begin to roam. Upgrade your boots later into whichever kind of boots you need most; Mercury's Treads against cc-heavy teams, Ninja Tabi against ad heavy teams, Ionian Boots of Lucidity if you want more CDR, or Boots of Mobility if you need to be your team's engager.
Other Useful Items:
Crystalline Flask gives you sustain with free potions every time you recall.
Chalice of Harmony provides you with the sustain and resistances to contend better vs poke opponents such as Lulu. It can also upgrade into Mikael's Crucible if the enemy team has a strong single target cc champion like Fiddlesticks or Rammus, you can use the active to save teammates from them.
Glacial Shroud gives you armor so you take less damage, CDR so you can cast spells more often, and mana to allow you to cast more spells overall. It upgrades into Frozen Heart if the enemy team has a lot of auto-attack based champions, or Iceborn Gauntlet if you want the Spellblade Passive and cc.
Warden's Mail gives you armor so you take less damage, and the passive is good if the enemy adc and support attack-harass you a lot in the early game. It upgrades into Frozen Heart or Randuin's Omen to help vs auto-attack based champions.
Spectre's Cowl gives you health and magic resist which help to survive magic damage poke such as from Lulu or Sona or Nami. It upgrades into Spirit Visage if you want CDR for spells and improved healing for your passive, or Banshee's Veil if you want to be able to engage fights and block one peel spell.
Aegis of the Legion grants you defensive stats while also giving nearby allies some magic resist and health regen to protect them and help them recover from magic damage poke from champions such as Lulu, Sona, Nidalee, and others. It upgrades into Locket of the Iron Solari later for better stats, CDR for spells, and an active shield for allies in teamfights.
Luxury Items and Niche Purchases:
Abyssal Scepter is good if your team has a lot of magic damage and you are fed enough to build some damage. The magic resist reduction aura will help your teammates to deal more damage.
Sunfire Cape is good if you just want to be tankier and deal more damage. Solid item due to the combination of defensive stats and damage passive.
Liandry's Torment another item to only consider if you are fed. The dot passive helps your poke to hurt more.
Thornmail is good vs auto-attack based champions such as any Marksman, Master Yi, Yasuo, and Tryndamere to name the most prevalent examples. Example of when it is useful: If you snare a melee carry and are the only one standing close to them they will attack you, this will damage them back while you keep them away from your teammates.
Warmog's Armor gives you a lot of health and sustain, good if you are fed and want to be a wall of health protecting your allies. This will make Face of the Mountain active much stronger.
Enchantments and Trinkets:
Enchantment: Captain allows your teammates to run toward you to follow your engages or escapes from fights.
Enchantment: Alacrity helps you move faster than other people.
Enchantment: Homeguard is a good option if you are losing the match, this allows you to recall, and then rush to towers and defend them.
Greater Stealth Totem allows you to help your team ward key places on the map.
Greater Vision Totem provides you better vision control, it can also be used to bait enemies out of position to kill it; giving you a good opportunity to engage on them.
Oracle's Lens will help you to clear wards to deny enemy vision. Additionally the 8 second active will allow you to see incoming stealth assassins who could try to kill your carries.
Note: When Jungling, You should be buying several wards every time you go back to base, so keep that in mind.
Hunter's Machete is necessary for jungling now.
5 Health Potions give you health sustain.
Oracle's Lens grants true-vision for 8 seconds and helps you to clear wards and see pesky stealth champions.
Spirit Stone will give you better sustain and bonus damage against neutral monsters to increase your clear speed. Get this as soon as you can.
Boots of Speed help you control more of the map, and make ganking easier.
Chalice of Harmony is a good choice if your Mid-Laner needs blue buff after you get the first blue, or if you lose second and/or third blue to an invade.
Seeker's Armguard gives AP for damage and clear speed, and armor so you survive the jungle longer. It will grant passive bonus stats when you farm, and late game it builds into Zhonya's Hourglass which will allow you to initiate fights even if you are squishy.
Spirit of the Spectral Wraith grants mana regeneration and spell vamp for sustain, CDR so you can spam your spells more, and bonus damage to neutral monsters to further increase your clear speed.
Boots of Mobility are just one of your options... but I highly recommend this item at least until the laning phase ends, mainly because it will allow you to control more of the map; you will be able to gank for the laners more, and you will be able to run to a buff in the enemy jungle to smite-steal it.
Iceborn Gauntlet provides CDR to bring your spells off cool-down sooner, mana to help sustain you, and Armor to help reduce damage from jungle camps. Get this if you did not buy Twin Shadows.
Athene's Unholy Grail grants CDR, AP, Magic Resist, and endless mana, it is a great choice for Maokai.
Zhonya's Hourglass allows you to build like a carry or a bruiser and still initiate fights without getting blown up! Also combines well with Twisted Advance's un-targetability so that you can spend lots of time in a tower dive and still survive. Essential if you are not building tanky.
Late Game Purchases:
Sunfire Cape This gives you health and armor to make you more durable, and a passive DoT to enemies around you that will help you clear neutral camps faster. (Get this or Glacial Shroud in the early game, not both) Late game this will synergize with Abyssal Scepter's passive Magic-Resist-Reduction in team-fights.
Abyssal Scepter gives Magic resist for resistances, AP for damage, and passive MR reduction on enemies which is great with Sunfire Cape and in team-fights.
Stealth Wards and Vision Wards really help your team out, and will win you games, so consider leaving an item slot open so you can buy these. You know many people think their build is too important, be better than them.
Rabadon's Deathcap will make your damage skyrocket. After getting this, your should have upwards of 450 AP, so your AoE damage will be massive.
Will of the Ancients allows you to heal bait for teamfights, because your ult is huge AoE with damage reduction and stored damage. Yeah, I know that because most of your spells are AoE you only get about 30% spell vamp on those spells, but as long as you hit multiple enemies you will still get about the same healing because you deal damage to more than three.
Iceborn Gauntlet is good at this stage of the game when most fighting will be in teamfights. Feel free to sell Twin Shadows and replace it with this for more strength in teamfights (if you do not need the Shadows to catch and engage on enemies). Get this if you are more of a bruiser.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter will give you slows on Sapling Toss and Vengeful Maelstrom, and will make you very bulky with health and AP. I know it's not as useful with AoE spells, but some people like this item. Get this if you are more of a caster and want more slows. You could potentially sell Twin Shadows for this.
Enchantments Upgrades & Replacement Boots:
Replace Boots of Mobility with tier two boots of your choosing so you can team-fight better:
Boots of Swiftness are great if the enemy has very little hard-CC, or if you want to be faster than other people.
Ninja Tabi are good against teams that use a lot of auto-attacks.
Sorcerer's Shoes are probably what you will get most of the time since you are playing AP, and because magic penetration helps you a lot.
Get an enchantment of your choice. I suggest Enchantment: Alacrity for flat bonus movement speed, or Enchantment: Homeguard to allow you to get out into the action more quickly. Enchantment: Captain is still good if you use the initiator build, as it will help your team initiate fights.
Oracle's Lens allows you to clear wards and see stealth champions.
Greater Vision Totem Allows you to 'ward bait' leaving a vision ward where an enemy can see and allowing Assassin Maokai to catch them out of position. Even if you don't use it to ward bait you can protect it with your saplings.
Starting Item Choices:
Start 1: Boots of Speed, 3 Health Potions and a Mana Potion. You will need the movement speed if your opponent uses skill-shots to harass (ie: Karthus, Brand, Lux), and if you get ganked.
Start 2: Doran's Shield and a Mana Potion. This gives you the health, armor, and regeneration to withstand extra auto-attack harass from ranged opponents. It is also helpful against AD Casters.
Start 3: Doran's Ring and a Stealth Ward or some potions. Get this if you think you can dominate your lane.
Start 4: Crystalline Flask, a Stealth Ward, and a potion of your choice will give you sustain and a ward to guard against ganks / help your jungler.
Early Item Choices:
Catalyst the Protector provides a passive sustain every time you level up, and grants increased health and mana. Either get this or Chalice of Harmony, not both.
Chalice of Harmony will give you MR vs Mages, and mana sustain so you do not have to worry about mana as much. Only get this or Catalyst the Protector, not both. Get this if you want to play the caster style Maokai Mid, this allows you to depend more on your spells.
Boots of Speed provide movement speed so that you can juke skill-shots, catch enemies, and run from ganks.
Seeker's Armguard gives you AP, Armor, and farm-able stats. This is a good early item if you are against an ad caster / assassin.
Sheen allows you get more damage from each of your spells and grants some AP and Mana, and builds into Lich Bane later. Get this if you want to play a higher skill cap play-style; you will need to time abilities to benefit from it.
Haunting Guise gives good Health, AP, and Magic Penetration. A solid choice if you want to build tankier.
Upgrades and Helpful Finishers:
Rod of Ages maintains the Valor's Reward passive from Catalyst, while increasing AP, health, and mana over time for up to 20 minutes. Get this most of the time, especially when your team has few melee champions.
Athene's Unholy Grail grants AP, MR, CDR, and mana regen, so you can cast more spells in less time, and deal more damage, and not run out of mana. Good for the caster based play-style.
Lich Bane gives you a stronger spell-blade passive, along with some movement speed and ability power for more mobility and damage output.
Liandry's Torment adds DoT to your poke, and gives you Health, AP, and Magic Penetration. A great choice if you want to be more of an AP Tank. This goes very well with Rylai's Crystal Scepter, since the passives synergize.
Morellonomicon provides you with a great amount of AP and CDR. It also grants some mana regeneration to help with your mana problems. Good for the caster play-style as you can use spells more often, and it gives mana regeneration for more spells.
Twin Shadows will give you AP and MR, movement speed so you can roam easier during mid game, and the active is good for invading the enemy jungle or ganking. Good for the Bruiser play-style.
Zhonya's Hourglass grants Ability power for damage, and armor and the active that allows you to initiate fights without getting killed. Good for the caster play-style since that blows up in fights.
Abyssal Scepter provides magic resistance for more survivability and AP and Magic Resist Reduction to help you deal more damage.
Rabadon's Deathcap gives you TONS OF DAMAGE. Get this for the caster play-style since you will only care about damage.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter gives you lots of health and AP for an AP Tank sort of build, this goes very well with Liandry's Torment because the passives synergize.
After your first clear, your route should be dictated by which lanes need your help the most. Remember to check every lane often so you can see how they are doing. By checking up on them frequently you can plan your jungle route to clear camps on your way to that lane and still be there to help by the time they need it. This way you can farm instead of having to drop everything and run halfway across the map because you weren't paying attention.
If you are having a great game, try to counter-jungle, it will make the opposing jungler's job a lot harder. The basic rule is keep your own camps down as much as possible. Try to keep enemy buffs warded often, you never know when you might get the chance to smite steal them.
Maokai fits very well in top lane, he can farm easily, defend his turret, push a turret, and lane safely with his skill-set.
Play it safe and do not push until you have boots so you can escape ganks more easily. When your opponent leaves the lane unattended call MIA, then you can do any of several things:
a) clear a wave with a e-q combo, and push turret like there's no tomorrow. When you are overextended, or you suspect a gank, use Sapling Toss for a free ward in River Bush and/or Tri-Bush.
b) Teleport-gank another lane if the summoner spell is off cooldown and if said lane is in a good situation to gank.
c) Go back to shop and buy items.
d) stay in lane and farm safely if you do not know where 3 or more members of the enemy team are. They might all show up to push your tower, and if you are not there, it is your fault if you lose your tower.
After you have broken the enemy turret, push the lane hard, then go help your team. At this point you become an off-tank for your team; filling the role of the tank when needed, and playing like a bruiser when the tank is around.
1) his ganks are potent.
2) he can keep very strong pressure on a lane.
Flash helps you initiate and escape.
Exhaust is good for shutting down, catching or escaping from an enemy.
Ability order recommendation:
I recommend maxing Arcane Smash first, then level your choice of Sapling Toss for more pushing power, or Twisted Advance for stronger CC when your jungler ganks.
Support Bottom Lane:
I haven't done this much in a long time, because there are much more common choices and I prefer jungle. HOWEVER, Maokai is a VERY strong support tank due to having 2 cc and--after lvl 6--an ult that makes even your carries more durable.
Harass the enemies as far away from the minion wave if you can, or if they out-trade you, sit back passively in a bush until your laning partner wants to go for a kill. Then you Twisted advance, then wait for the snare to wear off before you use Arcane Smash to knock the enemy away from safety. If you are with a high damage carry, enemies will fall over. In late game you end up being a tank, so play like one. Save teammates even if you will die (with the only exception of hopeless cases). Basically, just play like this:
Flash for initiations and escapes.
Teleport for map presence.
Exhaust to shut down an enemy's damage output.
Clarity to grant mana sustain.
Ability Order Recommendation:
MAX SAPLING TOSS LAST. Aside from that, be creative. Get what you need.
Maokai is a fantastic jungler, he can clear camps quickly with his AoE's and his CC when he ganks is just GODLY. Very good at early ganks.
If you are having a great game, try to counter-jungle, it will make the opposing jungler's job a lot harder. The basic rule is keep your own camps down as much as possible. Try to keep enemy buffs warded often, if you time it right you can take advantage of opportunities to smite steal them.
Dragon respawns in 6 minutes
Baron Nashor respawns after 7 minutes.
NOTE: Keep track of buffs' respawn timers (an effective way to do this is to type in chat, "X buff, up at <the current time+respawn time>".
AP Jungle Playstyle:
You are an offtank, a bruiser, and if you get fed you will be your enemies' worst nightmare. It is ok to go for kills instead of leaving them for the lanes (you will need the gold) UNLESS YOU ARE GANKING FOR A LATE GAME CARRY, because the Carry will need to be fed. Teamfight like a bruiser, jump in and wreck stuff so your teammates can follow you without getting focused. Go after the enemy carries.
Jungle Tank Playstyle:
You are the first one in, and the last one out. It is your job early game to set up kills for teammates in lane, DO NOT TAKE ANY KILLS YOUR TEAMMATES COULD GET! Your goal end-game score is 0/X/30+. Mid through late game your job is to start the fight, and then stop anybody that tries to kill your carries. After you initiate you should do everything you can to protect your carries.
1) because it makes your ganks ridiculous
2) because it is so versatile and tricksy.
Smite -No excuses. You are the jungler. -_-
Ability Order Recommendation:
I recommend getting 2 levels in sapling toss early to improve jungling speed and damage during ganks, level one of this spell is ok, but not very nuke-y feeling.
You have to be clever and good at juking so that you can farm CS against an opponent who can zone you. Use your combo to harass them and scare them! I have zoned ranged AP carries with Maokai mid just because they were scared of me.
The Harass Combo: Toss a Sapling and use Twisted Advance to hold them still for the sapling's detonation. If you miss slightly with Sapling Toss it is ok, you can use Arcane Smash to knock them back into the blast radius.
How to Trade Damage as AP Maokai: You may have problems trading if you initiate, so wait for them to try to hit you, then use Twisted Advance to dodge their spells and catch them, then bust the rest of your combo. Proc your passive on minions whenever it is up, this will help you keep ahead despite trading damage with your lane opponent.
If you find that your Opponent always wins damage trades, try out-pushing them. Push the lane, and go gank for another lane (Teleport is really handy here), you can also ward the enemy jungle and gank their jungler. If you can not out-push them, sit back where you are safe, farm with your abilities, notify your jungler, and wait for a gank.
After the laning phase, you are a Bruiser Assassin. Your job is to jump on the enemy carry, either wreck them or force them to leave the fight, then bruise the rest of the enemy team. The combo that works best for this is your laning combo with a twist, you drop your ult as soon as you snare with Twisted Advance, so that you protect yourself from some of the retaliation you may receive for jumping the enemy carry.
Flash is a must because of the mobility it gives, it helps you catch enemies by surprise, and escape over walls when there are not any neutral creeps to Twisted Advance to.
Teleport makes ganking other lanes much easier, also helps you Recall for free if you get harassed too much with ranged attacks and spells.
Exhaust helps catch or escape from enemies.
Ignite will reduce heals and help you deal that last bit of damage so that they can not gloat, "/all haha, 50 HP sucker!"
Ability Order Recommendation:Sapling toss first, if you use your combo's right, this will hurt a lot. Get 2 or 3 points in Twisted Advance, for the snare duration, then alternate between Twisted Advance and Arcane Smash.
While Maokai is a very good champion, there are other champions in the game, and one must take them into consideration. This chapter is devoted to which champions work well with or against him.
His Twisted Advance is his greatest strength and weakness, it applies both to synergy and counters. Sap Magic factors into synergy, and Vengeful Maelstrom and Arcane Smash factor into who he is good against.
Due to Maokai's Twisted Advance, he works extremely well with teammates who have difficult skillshots and/or are dependent upon combinations. Champions who have strong abilities that are hard to use tend to do very well with Maokai because his Twisted Advance snares enemies which can make it much easier for allies to use those skills. The champions pictured below are my favorites to play Maokai with (you can scroll down for explanations and some examples of others that benefit from his help).
Ahri depends on her Charm to set up high-damage combos. Maokai's CC from Twisted Advance and Arcane Smash provide her with ample time to get into position to land a perfect charm. The three casts of her Spirit Rush each grant stacks for Sap Magic.
Brand's stun is conditional and often difficult to hit, and his Pillar of Flame has a slow cast time, Maokai can CC opponents to make it easier for Brand to hit his skills.
Cassiopeia is a DPS mage, DPS mages need some time to lay their damage down. She also lacks escapes, and often needs extra protection in teamfights. Maokai's CC helps to protect her and set up kills for her. Vengeful Maelstrom helps to reduce the damage she takes in fights as well. Additionally she is a very spammy caster, so she builds Sap Magic charges very quickly.
Darius's biggest weakness is getting kited. Maokai can engage on enemies and hold them still long enough for Darius to catch them and kill them.
Elise has several skillshots and Makes a good diving partner with Maokai. Additionally she has more than four spells to use, so she can give him extra charges on Sap Magic.
Ezreal is a skillshot based champion who has a somewhat shorter attack range than other Marksmen, Maokai's CC can help to protect Ezreal from enemies while he is fighting, as well as help make it easier for Ezreal to land his skillshots. Additionally, Ezreal can somewhat spam spells, which contributes to Sap Magic.
Fizz can be more effective with his spells if opponents cannot move. Maokai's CC ensures that this can happen.
Karma has a skillshot and a tether, each ability can be juked or escaped, Maokai's CC helps her to land all of her skills. Similar to Swain below.
Katarina's ultimate has a range, and enemies are free to run outside of that range while she is ulting, Maokai can help to lock down targets for the full duration of her ultimate.
Lee Sin can use Safeguard / Iron Will to jump to Maokai, and thus gain an opportunity to close the gap with an enemy (if Maokai has Twisted Advanced to them) and save Sonic Wave / Resonating Strike for an execution. Additionally, Lee sin has two spells instead of one for each of his three basic abilities, so his presence helps to fuel Sap Magic so Maokai can heal more.
Leona's gap closer is a short skillshot with a very small hit box, Maokai can help to lock down targets to make it easier for her to engage on enemies without having to use Solar Flare.
Lux is entirely skillshot based, and with her passive she can deal extra damage in between spells. Normally Lux players only worry about one or two passive procs because then want to burst enemies before they can escape. With Maokai locking an enemy down, lux can easily hit her skills and can choose to space out her spells and land each proc of her passive.
Miss Fortune has two AoE spells which enemies can escape from, Maokai can help lock down targets or peel them off of her while she fights.
Morgana has a skillshot and a ground based AoE spell. Maokai can help to lock down a target and keep them on Tormented Soil for a longer duration. Additionally he can keep enemies still to help Morgana finish her tether.
Nami's bubble is a very hard to land skillshot, Maokai's CC makes it easier for her to land that skill.
Orianna can place her ball on Maokai when he Twisted Advances into the enemy team. She is also a semi-spammy caster so she can help to charge his Sap Magic.
Riven's q counts as three spell casts, so she can help to charge Maokai's Sap magic.
Ryze is a short range mage who spams spells. Maokai can protect him when he gets close to enemies in a teamfight. Ryze's spells charge Sap Magic very quickly.
Skarner spams spells and can potentially be kited, Similar to Udyr below.
Sona spams spells and has an AoE stun. Together with Maokai she can provide fantastic protection for teammates.
Swain depends on damage over time and time delayed cc. Maokai's CC can help to lock down enemies, and Vengeful Maelstrom helps Swain survive long enough to deal all of his damage.
Udyr is easily kited so Maokai can help him to catch enemies by snaring them with Twisted Advance. Additionally Udyr switches stances a lot which can help Maokai to generate Sap Magic stacks.
Urgot is a very spammy caster which helps Maokai generate Sap Magic stacks, and also depends very heavily on landing his Noxian Corrosive Charge, this becomes much easier if Maokai snares them first with Twisted Advance.
Vladimir is a semi-spammy caster and so he can help Maokai to generate Sap Magic stacks.
Zyra and Maokai together can very successfully protect their teammates, she spams spells and they have a hidden passive together that gives Maokai extra % movement speed.
Here are some of the good questions I've been asked by people:
Teyso, which builds are the best / which builds do you use most often?
In Summoner's Rift, I use the jungle build the most, the Gp10's in the start make it easier to gank without feeling a lot of pressure to go back into the jungle and farm. It is the easiest build to play I think, and you could apply it to solo top as well.
In Dominion (if you check that part of the guide) I have the most success with the Defender build.
The Sapphire Crystal start:
This start works, I've tested it, and it leaves the most versatility in your build from the start. It is explained again in the Top Build Chapter. You may have to play more passively against some opponents, but the adaptability it gives your build is -in my opinion- worth it.
Maokai is a very versatile champion, who can be built to fit many different play-styles. Find your niche, or create your own. Remember that League of Legends is a game for fun, not for hurting each other, so go forth and have fun!
Phew, that was a lot! That is all my knowledge on Maokai so far, I will add to it as I learn more. Feel free to make helpful corrections and suggestions.
*Special thanks to Jhoijhoi for making the images I used as line separators in the original guide.
--AND for her awesome guide on making a guide, which you can find here.
TrentAuuesome, 1000souls, Poseidon1112, Fabala, and King Corn IV for putting up with countless hours of me playing Maokai with them.
Han Solos Mid, for helping fix the theory stuff that I was dead-wrong about.
Luigignaf for making me rethink several things including Tri-Force for Maokai.
Omichron for helping with the top lane masteries.
A huge thanks to Pluckin Penguin for their inspiration, lessons and help with the visual rework.
You. For getting all the way through this encyclopedia blah-blah of my knowledge about Maokai.
IceCreamy, for reviewing my guide and giving me lots to fix!
Drygon/Saiberblode for recording awesome videos for the guide!
This guide is currently (22 Oct. 2012) the No. 1 guide on Mobafire. Special thanks to all of you who helped show me where I was wrong and those who voted, and feel free to make any other constructive criticisms :)
Whoops... I should have been keeping a changelog...
This change log will just have changes and updates to significant information, Not spelling and grammar fixes.
22 October 2012: As of now, the things I changed in the past week or so are:
*added to the AP Mid Maokai sections.
*added Trinity Force explanation:
*added a note about troll-votes to the intro.
*edited ability order and playstyle sections for AP Mid Maokai.
23 October 2012: Dominion sections published.
25 October 2012: changed Top lane masteries. Explanation can be found in the Masteries Chapter.
28 October 2012: Added explanations to the runes section, reworked Top and AP Jungle Runes. Changed the recommended ability leveling order for Top lane.
31 October 2012: Added an FAQ section.
4 November 2012: Added Spirit Visage to the Situational Items Chapter.
12 November 2012: Quality fixes and updates.
- Rune Update. Reworked cheat sheet runes for Top, Support, and AP Mid Builds, and added %health seals to the viable runes section.
- Also changed top lane ability leveling order.
- Added Soul Shroud to the Alternative Items section, and fixed Spirit Visage's section so it wasn't titled "Soul Shroud"... Whoops! XD
19 November 2012: Began adding Spoilers to reduce the natural length of the guide.
27/28 November 2012: Visual Rework completed for both guides.
29 November 2012: Reworked some of the cheat sheet info, and added new items to the season three note.
30 November 2012: Reformatted Pro's / Con's chapter.
6 December 2012: fixed masteries cheat sheet and chapter.
7 December 2012: Updated builds and build explanation chapters, also updated Summoner Spells Chapter to delete the removed spells.
13 December 2012: Updated Dominion Guide to match season 3 changes.
10 January 2013: Updated Jungle Tank build with tested items that were suggested in the comments sections.
11 January 2013: Updated AP Jungle Build, as requested. Also used spoilers to condense most of the Alternative Items Chapter.
29 January 2013: Updated Solo Top Build with more tested items and viable choices.
31 January 2013: Updated Support build with more options and better theory crafting. Will test soon to confirm viability.
4 February 2013: Added Seeker's Armguard update to the relevant builds that have been updated.
4 March 2013: Updated Jungle Route to properly reflect season three. Moved it from Roles and playstyles to the place of the Situational Items Chapter, deleted Situational Items chapter because the logic and theory in it was season 2 oriented. Updated AP Mid build to be more versatile and cover multiple playstyles.
7 March 2013: Reformatted the chapter discussing Maokai's abilities.
22 March 2013: Added Locket of the Iron Solari to the Jungle Tank Build.
19 April 2013: Added Drygon/Saiberblode's videos.
8 July 2013: Major rehaul to update information and make the guide accurate again with the changes over the course of season 3.
28 November 2013: Added a chapter about synergy with teammates.
13 December 2013: Partial Rehaul, updated cheat sheet for preseason 4.
16 January 2014: Finished updating chapters to match season 4.
This is the stuff coming in the near-ish future in the guide.
1) Figure out Video Screen Capture Software and rework the Ability/Kit sections with videos (I tried camstudio recorder, which didn't work).
2) After visually reworking more of the guide I will be adding a 'General Matchups: Enemies and Allies' section to help you understand who works well with Maokai and who is hard to play against as him.