Garen Build Guide by Rashan Anath

League of Legends Build Guide Author Rashan Anath

Garen - Top Lane Fighter

Rashan Anath Last updated on January 27, 2017
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Ability Sequence

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


Natural Talent
Battering Blows
Piercing Thoughts

Ferocity: 12


Cunning: 0

Runic Armor
Veteran's Scars
Legendary Guardian

Resolve: 18

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v5.16 of Summoner's Rift introduced a major rework of Garen. Starting with the idea of a Juggernaut as a group of champions Garen belongs to. Take a look at what follows for what I have found to work and why.

This guide remains a top lane AD focus fighter build for Garen as the optimum team contribution. Any help making this better is appreciated, so please add suggestions with your comments! If you are a Garen fan, let me know if this does not work for you and why.

Commonly Garen is expected by other players to build armor, perform a tank role, and lead team fights. My goal is to rather stay true to the fighter role that Garen is assigned. Perhaps the confusion about whether Garen is a tank or a bruiser or something else will evolve once understanding of Juggernauts is developed.

In my opinion Garen is strictly not a tank despite his natural tankiness since Garen lacks CC to disrupt multiple enemies simultaneously as most tanks do. As a Juggernaut Garen provides another choice top lane. He is not a true tank but tanky. He is not a true bruiser but has high DPS.

What follows my recommended runes, masteries, items, skill sequence, and spells are some facts I have found to support this build. Please take a look at the chapter below, "How This Works" to find out.

Read what others have to say...

Latest update from Riot:
Garen Specific

Discussion of 5.16 new items:
New Items - Sterak's Gage and Titanic Hydra

This is an excellent must read for every Garen fan:
I have a dream...

There is also an awesome discussion any Garen fan should read: What is Garen, Tank or Carry?

Finally, I would like to give credit to the other Garen guides that I have found useful, such as:
the Garen build that got me started, Garen - Dunk Scrubs and Acquire ELO
and a new Garen build that also helped me, Only way to play GAREN!!!

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Pros / Cons


  • You will be able to keep up with your opponent in the top lane without falling behind
  • Better late game effectiveness
  • You can split push but you can contribute to team fights also!


  • You will not be a tank!!!
  • Requires finesse in team fights to contribute and survive

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Greater Quintessence of Attack Damage

Greater Mark of Lethality

Greater Seal of Scaling Health

Greater Seal of Scaling Armor

Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist

As Garen is a fighter, stay focused on being 50% defense and 50% offense if you feel like making changes to these runes. Health or scaling health runes are typically not recommended for top lane, which is where Garen spends most time. Before you include health runes on Garen, read the chapter below explaining how this works.
Don't forget runes are most effective early game prior to level 6 after which they can be easily countered with items.

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To be an effective in the top lane you need high armor, magic resist, and health, but also attack damage that is not zero!

Garen can pull off some focus on AD because his kit is naturally tanky and his stats scale very well compared to other tanks who have to itemize to stay tanky.

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Skill Sequence

Select Decisive Strike as your starting skill to give you speed and silence when you need. You should be able to win trades in top lane right away with: auto-attack - Decisive Strike - auto-attack.

Trade with your lane opponent using the combo: auto-attack - Decisive Strike - auto-attack - Judgment - auto-attack/ Decisive Strike - Demacian Justice. Only use Judgment when you are sure you will stay in range of the opponent for the duration. I always move just slightly ahead of my opponent during Judgment.

Courage Don't forget to activate Courage if you tower dive an opponent to reduce the damage from the opponent and tower as you escape. Courage should also be used as you engage an opponent who stays to trade with you. If the opponent flees when you attack, hold off on Courage and save it for someone who engages you.

Demacian Justice works best if you save it for an opponent at less than 25% health.

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Core Items

The typical top lane start is Doran's Blade for high DPS bruisers or Doran's Shield for tanky bruisers. Honestly, Garen has decent starting health stats, so you have more options than most top lane opponents. The starting Attack Damage stat on Garen is also decent, and scales very well late game. If you need more AD, get a second tick in Decisive Strike to trade and to last hit with. Early on, focus on staying in lane and last hitting more than trading with your opponent.

In most cases you should make your first back no later than reaching level 6 with at least 1200gp. By the way, buying 2 x Crystalline Bracer here will give you a permanent health potion (you will see a 50hp per 5 sec regeneration rate with this build). If you feel you need more armor get something like Warden's Mail especially against an auto-attack champion. You might also purchase health items like Giant's Belt especially against an AP champion.

Phage is a great weapon to rush if you are doing well in lane. If opponents build armor to counter you, then upgrade to The Black Cleaver.

Boots are very situational, but the most likely choice will be Mercury's Treads to minimize all the ridiculous amount of CC directed at you.

Before going on take time to consider the Juggernaut items:

  • Sterak's Gage gives you health and %Base AD, but having it just encourages the opposing team to avoid engaging with you. Also +25% base attack damage is less than +40 AD from The Black Cleaver even at level 18. If an enemy team focuses you to trigger the active, definitely punish them by using the active! They will not make that mistake again. I'd rather have another item to provide more AD upfront however.
  • Dead Man's Plate gives you health, armor, and high movement speed as long as you do not auto attack. Add mobility boots to this and you will have insane closure/escape speed. Still I think mobility quints and mobility boots are enough movement speed enhancements on Garen to free up this slot for something else like Randuin's Omen or Spirit Visage
  • the wave clear from Titanic Hydra on Garen is really helpful. I use this quite often to help cs and gain stacks on Courage. Don't forget to Q then fire the active for very high burst on the target!

With that out of the way, consider the following:

  • Against a speedy auto-attack champion like Gnar or Teemo, get Warden's Mail early. Then if you are still losing, get Randuin's Omen and use the active, otherwise if you are gaining, get Youmuu's Ghostblade and use the active all the time.
  • Against an AD champion, add Sunfire Cape if you are losing.
  • Against an AP champion, add Banshee's Veil if you are losing.
  • Aegis of the Legion is well suited to Garen and adds a valuable aura in team fights. Think about building this when no one else has.
  • Vision Ward put this at the red or blue jungle camp closest to top lane to maintain vision of the jungle!

If everything is going to well, here are some ideas for what to purchase

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Flash - better than ghost since you can flash over walls or flash to your opponent all adding an element of surprise and unpredictability.

Ignite - can be replaced with Teleport when you know your opponent counters you.

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Learn to Master Top Lane

As Garen you should always select top lane. This lane is isolated and usually fought 1v1 most of the game. When pushed, top lane is also the easiest to gank. Additionally, there can be a wide variety of opponents, not just AD, so be prepared to defend against AP and the ridiculous amount of highly mobile ranged attack champions.

Three LOL tactics you should perfect as Garen take practice: trading, farming, and last hitting.


Trades are attacks between you and your opponent. Good opponents will focus on farming and not trading early game. Ranged opponents will have more success than you with trades. This guide helps you survive, if not win early trades. The most important idea with trades is timing. Use this sequence in trades: auto-attack - Decisive Strike (Q) - auto-attack - Judgment - auto-attack/ Decisive Strike - Demacian Justice. Know what your opponent is up to and have the best items to counter them. Realize if you trade, you will also draw the attacks of minions and towers to you. Trades in the midst of your minions that outnumber your opponent's minions are more successful. The last thing you want is to let your opponent attack you without any response either from you or your minions. Try to stay even with trades and back off to let Perseverance kick in to heal up before your next trade. With Perseverance you will be able to stay in lane longer than your opponent. Perseverance works so well, I rarely even need a Health Potion.


Farming is gaining experience from opposing minion deaths. You have to be close enough to them to get this experience. It goes without saying that if you are not in your lane, you will not get experience from the top lane waves of minions, so your goal should be to remain in lane with your opponent. Likewise you can gain more experience than your opponent if you are able to be in lane when your opponent leaves. Bullying your lane is when you can push your opponent far enough away they lose CS. Garen can bully with E and still last hit with Q or auto-attacks. Timing is important. More commonly you will be bullied as Garen by your opponent, so just do your best to stay close and get as much experience and CS as you can without dying. Avoid the urge to wave clear with Judgment since damage to minions and your movement is reduced. Rather last hit with your auto-attack instead. Judgment is far more effective against champions.

Last Hitting

Last hitting is when your attack results in the death of a minion, monster, tower, or champion. This takes the most practice and patience. If your farming advances your lane toward the enemy, called pushing, and you are not last hitting, you will actually be losing out and setting yourself up for a gank. Last hits increase your CS giving you gold with the experience, and gold is the only way you can buy the items you need to be effective as Garen late game. Always try to last hit, even if it means you will make yourself vulnerable to trades, just don't die. Your objective is to get gold first, not push your lane. You will still need to be watchful for ganks though. You need to survive top lane ganks as a priority, so always position yourself with a line of safe retreat. Remember if you can hold your lane without dying, even when ganked, you are helping your team more than you know.

Early Game Target - Level Up!

In my opinion, Garen needs a full core build to be effective in team fights - that means Garen is a late game champion. Luckily, top lane is mostly left alone except for the ganks, and you can present a minimal threat if you are last hitting instead of pushing your lane. The first tower then should be your objective only when you find yourself there, avoiding all team fights early game even if your team is losing. Early game is when you are vulnerable and your priority is to win your lane. That is how you can contribute to your team most, by not dying! With the recent strategic changes to summoner's rift, you are encouraged to stay in lane longer and not team fight right away! Ward the river bush against ganks and hide in the closest bush to the tower until your minion wave draws the tower attacks. Your Q works well against towers so use it all the time. Your W will help on escape to minimize the damage from a tower attack.

Mid Game Target - Split Push!

With the first tower down, you will be open to ganks and you present more of a threat. So ward and be ready for a gank at all times. You should take advantage of killing monsters in the jungle to control the location of minion battles where you will be safest. If your team abandons bottom lane for mid lane then move to bottom lane, but only if your top lane opponent leaves. Bottom lane is the best lane to push and should be the first inhibitor destroyed because it makes baron easier. If you switch lanes, remember to watch top lane and go back when your opponent returns.

Late Game Target - Team Fights!

If you have pushed top and bottom lanes you should help in team fights. Stay with your team mindful of safe lines of retreat. When the opposing team arrives, look for the ADC, find a sneaky way to get close and land your full trade combo. Then get out! You need to get in and get out quick to survive. Don't start unless you know you can make it. Let your passive start up again before you even think about getting back in. Always have a single target on every run. Do not just stand in the middle of the fight!

Be prepared to have to play defensive early

There are way too many top lane opponents that you will face that can and will right away push you back to your tower and bully you away from last hitting. If you don't play defensive, most of these opponents can kill you 1v1. Even an early gank against you before you reach level 4 can be deadly. Be prepared to give up last hits to just survive. If you find yourself hiding under your tower before level 6, don't be afraid to ask your jungler for a gank. I would always try to kill your lane opponent with a strong gank prior to you reaching level 6 if possible. Certainly by the time you reach level 8 without dying you should now have parity with your lane opponent. At that point you can be more aggressive.

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How This Works

In my experience, Garen does not make it easy early game to pick up kills on your top lane opponent with only base stats, runes, and masteries. In my opinion, items and levels are what will help most. Look at what your opponent is building using the tab key and counter it with items of your own. After playing Garen you will learn to know when you are doing well, but always keep checking what your opponent is building to counter you.

I also find early game enemy ganks on Garen difficult. Ward the jungle for vision on when the enemy jungler is near and play cautiously. In my opinion, you will not be able to pick up kills while you are being ganked. Again only items will help you, especially when your jungler is not helping out. Ping your jungler for a gank before your opponent reaches level 6 to help yourself out.

Bruisers are half Tank and half ADC by definition. Garen certainly has some of the tankiness to be a bruiser, but falls short early game in the high DPS department. I do not recommend Health runes on Garen.

Before you disagree, thinking you can still dominate with Garen early game, read the following explanation.


It is widely accepted that runes have the biggest impact early game. Keep this in mind when selecting which runes to use. In the top lane you will normally face high armor and high attack damage opponents. You will need armor to reduce opponents damage to you. You will also need to inflict damage. Armor penetration runes improve your effectiveness against opponents with armor. Also remember Garen does mostly physical damage but you also do magic damage with Demacian Justice.

Magic resistance works just like armor but only reduces magical damage. Normally at the start of a match, you will not see high magic damage summoners in the top lane. So, you can delay adding magic resistance items until you reach level 6.

Most flat runes reach parity with scaling runes between level 5 and 9, depending on the rune. For the flat runes in this build, you need to start adding items to increase attack damage as you reach level 6, and definitely before you get past level 10.

A note about scaling runes: remember they will weaken you early game when they have the most impact. Late game when they are most effective, all it takes normally will be a single item purchase by your opponent to negate that extra advantage. Always remember runes are most effective early game, so after that you need to itemize!

Think of armor as extra health

Each point of armor will increase the health of a summoner by 1% against physical damage, including Garen. Likewise every point in MR will increase the health of a summoner by 1% against magical damage. This is due to the damage formula where attack damage is multiplied by your damage reduction from armor.

So, level 1 as Garen using this build will give you a starting Health of 651. Your starting armor will be 29, giving you the equivalent of 29% more Health. This means it will take your opponent 867 points of physical attack damage to kill you at level 1!

Learn to manage your health

I look at this like management of mana. Try to wait for Perseverance if it kicks off, which will only happen when you take damage from another summoner or monster. Minionss will not kick off Perseverance.

With one of the highest base health/regeneration statistics in the game, increasing health and health regeneration is just as important for Garen as increasing armor and magic resistance. So, with this build at level 1 Garen will have a health regeneration rate of 21 per 5 seconds.

Don't forget to buy armor and appropriately time the of use Courage to reduce incoming damage as you engage, which will give more time for health regeneration to work.

Lastly, stay out of the middle of team fights. It is much better for Garen to dive in to attack the opposing ADC, escape back to a safe distance, wait for Perseverance, then attack the next weak opponent. Don't try to win a long exchange with the tanks and bruisers at the front of the opposing team. Hit and run the ADC as much as possible.

Know your advantage

Use this guide: Base Champion Statistics

Know how much gold is out there

Your starting gold, added to gold gained over time, added to gold last hitting, could reach as high as 6933 gold in 19 minutes 30 seconds if you farm perfectly. Subtract your less than perfect farming like mine, add the gold from the first lane tower, gold from the occasional jungle monster, and perhaps a kill or two, and you should know how much gold you can gain when you reach the 20th minute of the match. I have been averaging 340 gold per minute with this build and my ability. After 30 munitues of a typical match you should be able to gather between 9k and 12k in gold. My average is at 10.2k with this build and my ability.

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Manage your health as Garen and always keep it as high as possible. Consistantly push top lane, and when successful split push starting with the bottom lane. Do not start team fights, but when you must you should follow the lead of a tank or ADC.

Remember this is still ultimately a tower defense game, so take down the first lane tower to help your jungler gank top lane. You will be good at that. Be very conservative in early team fights, and otherwise remain in lane to farm minions for the first 20 minutes. Be prepared for complaints from the rest of your team if they are losing!

Lastly, if you see a way to improve this guide let me know your ideas right away by adding a comment.

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[1.25.2017] update to new masteries

[6.13.2016] reported a bug with Doran's Blade - no visualization of any life steal from auto-attack or Decisive Strike on v6.11

[2.26.2016] added life steal and Doran's Blade start. Try it - you will like it!

[9.13.2015] added information on Juggernaut items. Basically stacking health on Garen will help increase damage output while increasing tankiness - primary Juggernaut traits. Get The Black Cleaver always. Titanic Hydra is another example of stacking health that also increases damage output based on max health. Dead Man's Plate and Sterak's Gage are troll items on Garen and take up slots for more teamwork centered alternatives.

[9.7.2015] update for 5.17. Riot thinks Garen is too fast and nerfed his movement speed...therefore: put movement speed on Garen, it makes him OP!

[8.28.2015] update for 5.16. Introducing the Juggernaut!

[7.4.2015] update for 5.12. Now recommending a balanced offense and defense masteries tree (currently 13-17-0). Yesterday won 4 of 5 team builder matches with it. Itemize to counter with either AD or armor/health and you should hold your lane now with Garen. Happy 4th!

[6.20.2015] update for 5.9, 5.10, and 5.11. Growing disparity between Garen and the high mobility, high burst, tank meta is making play even more frustrating.

[5.4.2015] update for 5.8 added new ability sequence to match changes to masteries, and an explanation of why Trinity Force is good for Garen. May the 4th be with you!

[4.16.2015] update for 5.5, 5.6, and 5.7. I would love to be able to talk about awesome changes for Garen, but there simply has been nothing done to improve the current situation.

[3.2.2015] update for 5.4. No significant changes

[2.23.2015] described recent match results due to the rarity of players willing to play jungle and support in the current unranked non-cooperative matches

[2.20.2015] added info about the importance of warding the jungle for vision

[2.13.2015] recent match results updates and more points from what I have read on recent forum posts about Garen

[2.11.2015] update for 5.3. Think Spectre's Cowl

[1.29.2015] update for 5.2. No more AP mage Garen

[1.26.2015] update for 5.1. Is Garen a bruiser? No, not really...but still throws a wrench at the opposing team!

[12.12.2014] update for 4.21. More gold for towers and lane minions. Lane minions are easier to farm. All this to encourage staying in lane longer and discourage early team fights!

[12.6.2014] update based on recent game history.

[11.24.2014] update for 4.20. Garen works so much better now!

[11.13.2014] update for 4.17 thru 4.19 release. The 4.17 buff to Perseverance is well deserved!

[9.12.2014] update for 4.16 release.

[9.6.2014] added white space to help readability.

[9.4.2014] added information about top lane.

[9.2.2014] added link to another Garen guide and some notes on playing team builder against Gnar and Teemo.

[8.30.2014] update for 4.15 release.

[8.14.2014] update for 4.14 release.

[8.9.2014] added clarification to implement a 50% offense and 50% defense build on Garen.

[8.7.2014] added definition to the role of Garen as a fighter to push an early victory.

[8.4.2014] added attack sequence of spells and skills to execute opponents.

[7.31.2014] update for 4.13 release.

[6.4.2014] added some descriptions for the ideas presented here.

[4.4.2014] added the how this works chapter.

[4.2.2014] update 4.5 released making the nerf to seals of armor official. Changed runes section to reflect this. Changed item section to build Spirit Visage before Warmog's Armor to get more Magic Resistance and Cooldown Reduction.

[3.31.2014] Publish page for the first time. I know it is simple, so let me know what you think.