Build Guide by
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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.
Most people who play League of Legends have a roster of champions who they consider "their own"; even the most versatile of players have their favorites. I'm not versatile, and some champions seem to be just naturally beyond my grasp -- if I don't have a strong interest in playing them, I'm never going to spend the time to learn. Garen, on the other hand, has interested me since I first started playing. There's something about him as a champion that reminds me of all the character classes and hero types I've enjoyed over the years in various genres of games. Riot's creative originality has always impressed me; while in many champions we can see clear influence from DotA heroes, very few have one-for-one parallels. In his abilities (and in some cases aesthetics), Garen has a bit of Juggernaut, a dash of Axe, a pinch of Omniknight and maybe even some Dragonknight for flavor. Quintessentially, his capabilities and playstyle bring to mind certain Strength heroes, hard hitters and damage soakers.
From the first moment I looked into him, I knew he'd be the champion for me. A year later, there aren't many other champions I've bothered to play. Through all the ups and downs, the nerfs and buffs, the mockery of a "worthless" champion, I've stuck with the Might. You may not be guaranteed to win, but it's always "garen"teed to be fun.
Marks: Greater Mark of Desolation x9. Armor Penetration is Garen's bread and butter; it's highly effective early game and it remains to have synergy with his item build as the game progresses.
Seals: Greater Seal of Evasion x9. Powerful defensive runes that take advantage of your Nimbleness mastery. Other choices: Resilience, Vitality.
Glyphs: Greater Glyph of Focus x9. Self-explanmatory; cooldowns are the only limiting factor for Garen's abilities, and you'd be surprised at the difference a few seconds can make. Other choices: Shielding, Warding, and Celerity.
Quintessences: Greater Quintessence of Desolation x3. Other choices: Swiftness, Fortitude.
21/9/0 - Without offensive masteries and a minimum amount of bonus AD, Garen hits like a wet noodle and his Judgment is a joke. For offensive masteries, 21/9/0 is my pick. Archaic Mastery is up to personal choice, as it affects his ultimate and it's between that and another point of attack speed. You take the defensive tree up to Nimbleness, which is a great mastery for Garen even if you aren't using Dodge runes. Whether you go with 3 points in Armor and 1 in MR, or vice versa, is up to you; I tend to go with 3 MR and 1 Armor unless I'm playing Garen in a ranked game, and then I change them according to the enemy champions.
Another potential build is 21/0/9, especially of you use Ghost. The Utility tree doesn't really benefit Garen until the higher tiers, and most of its low tier masteries are mana-centric; however, certain options (such as Awareness) are good on any hero in any situation.
Starting Items: Boots, Health Potion x3.
Core Items: Boots of Swiftness, Sunfire Cape, the Brutalizer, Frozen Mallet.
Late Game vs. Balanced: Boots of Swiftness, Sunfire Cape, Frozen Mallet, Force of Nature, Youmuu's Ghostblade, Infinity Edge.
Late Game vs. AD: Boots of Swiftness, Sunfire Cape, Frozen Mallet, Atma's Impaler, Infinity Edge, Youmuu's Ghostblade.
Late Game vs. AP: Mercury Treads, Sunfire Cape, Frozen Mallet, Force of Nature, Infinity Edge, Phantom Dancer.
Exhaust: Use for slowing your enemy while chasing or escaping; excellent defensive summoner for 1v1 situations. Always use on the enemy team's carry during big battles.
Ignite: Extra damage is always good; use it with Exhaust, Decisive Strike, full Judgment duration and Demacian Justice to ensure a kill. Great for enemies that escape your ult with a sliver of health remaining.
Other options: Ghost, Flash.