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Maokai Build Guide by IcyAuron

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League of Legends Build Guide Author IcyAuron

His Bark's Bigger Than His Bite (3s Jungler/5s Support)

IcyAuron Last updated on March 26, 2015

Team 1

Ability Sequence

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



Offense: 4


Defense: 23


Utility: 3

Threats to Maokai with this build

Show all
Threat Champion Notes
Nidalee You counter her high mobility and have a strong burst. I wouldn't go in on her alone, as she'll win, but you shut her down pretty hard in team fights, and especially in ganks.
Renekton You have much shorter CDs than him, which is where both of your powers lie. Unless he has his ult and a sunfire cape, this means that you benefit more from extended battles than he does.
Lissandra Unless she has very nice Glacial Paths, she's a pretty easy target.
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Welcome to my second build. This time, the incredible tank, Maokai (I Am Oak). First thing's first, Maokai is most effective in the lane, with a partner, specificially one who casts many spells. I do not believe in Maokai's purpose being a jungler, although he can definitely fit that role. As with my Anivia builds, I'm not intending to make a tried and true, ultimate, competitive build. I'm a pretty casual LoL player, as far as League players go. I play somewhere between tanky AP and a pure tank. I've played Maokai since season 2, and tried numerous builds with him. One final note, it's important to realize that Maokai's main job is not to take the feed, but to protect the team, and get them fed whenever possible. I've tried playing him as a pure tank, but he falls off late game, and I don't find it to be worth it. Without a taunt, Maokai's difficult to be played as a pure tank. The good news is that he hurts pretty bad for someone so tanky (although, less tanky now in Season 3). I appreciate constructive criticism, however, don't waste your time commenting if all you're going to do is complain about how I'm not following the meta, or something equally pointless.

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Terms and Shorthand

OP: Overpowered
AD: Attack Damage
AP: Ability Power
MS: Movement Speed
MR: Magic Resist, magic defense
CDs: Cooldowns
CDR: Cooldown Reduction
AoE: Area of Effect
SS: Summoner Spell
HP: Hit points; health, life
MP: Magic points; mana
CC: Crowd control. League has a bizarre usage of this term. It doesn't mean dealing with a group of enemies, like in everything else. CC in League of Legends is equivalent to status effects (ex. poison, darkness, slow, etc.) in anything else.

RoA: Rod of Ages
MFSB: Moonflair Spellblade
Abyssal: Abyssal Scepter
Iceborn/IBG: Iceborn Gauntlet
Torment: Liandry's Torment
Rylai's: Rylai's Crystal Scepter
Warmog's: Warmog's Armor
Unholy: Athene's Unholy Grail
Witchcap: Wooglet's Witchcap
FH: Frozen Heart

TT: Twisted Treeline
SR: Summoner's Rift
3s: 3vs3; Twisted Treeline
5s: 5vs5; Summoner's Rift
Old 3s: TT prior to the total remodel on 10-25-12.
New 3s: The current TT, with Vilemaw, new items, etc.
"Glass": Little to no defense. Mages can probably kill you in one or two bursts.

IMO: In my opinion
ATM: At the moment

If there's anything I missed, please let me know.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Maokai's a very unique, tanky AP champ. He gets incredibly tanky for how strong he is, although, he definitely doesn't have carry damage potential. He's more about CC, providing both offensive and defensive opportunities for your team. He shouldn't just be chosen as a tank, he needs the right type of team in order to excel. As a tanky AP champ, Maokai's gotten nerfed pretty hard in the transition from season 2 to season 3. Not only does he not benefit from magic pen, but since armor/magic pen got buffed, it's harder for him to tank as effectively. Regardless, Maokai's still a contender.

One of the best harrassing abilities in the game: Sapling Toss (also acts as built-in wards, is excellent for zoning, and can be thrown further than their max range if you toss them onto terrain/walls)
Very durable, boasting the highest natural armor in the game (tied with Poppy), and various methods of staying alive
Very strong for a tanky AP champ (can't blow squishies up anymore, but all of the other changes are a buff)
His W, Twisted Advance, can counter Flash (less often with the range reduction, but still), and set his team up for some easy kills
Excellent CC
Excellent pusher, especially against caster minions ( Sapling Toss)
Unreasonably good ganking potential, which almost always result in a kill with the right team, and proper timing
Pretty fast with this build, which makes his jobs easier, and harder to ignore
Can get most enemies off of your teammates with moderate ease
Can easily interrupt quite a few skills (especially channeled ones, ex. Katarina's Death Lotus, Nunu's Absolute Zero, Fiddlesticks' Drain, Master Yi's Meditate, etc.) (via his Q, Arcane Smash)
Decently flexible, can get damage or tankiness depending on what he needs (high AP ratios, high natural armor, healing passive. He's rewarded for being strong and tanky, not just one)
Excels at chasing, especially with Ghost and Exhaust
Good pick for jungle or duo bot

No scaling MR
No level 6 power spike
Cannot demand focus like other tanks, such as Rammus and Shen
Mana hungry at all points of the game
Almost no physical damage: weak, realatively slow basic attacks

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As previously mentioned, I tend to play Maokai tanky AP. I think that he fails to live up to his full potential as a pure mage or pure tank. A pure mage sacrificing much needed defense for a melee initiator, and a pure tank without a taunt is fairly easily ignored, plus you miss out on his high AP ratios on his spells. I take mostly defensive runes. As a tank, your main goal is to protect the team. Once (or rather, if) you have a full build, you want the turrets to tickle. You should be able to tank them without many minions, and allow your team to crush the towers without having to worry about taking damage. Maokai is tied (with Poppy) for having the highest natural armor of any champ in League of Legends. Between this fact, and his passive, he's set up to be one hell of a tank. For his runes, I recommend getting as much defense as possible, while getting just the right amount (I mean it, these quints can easily mean the difference between a kill/assist) of extra movement speed (MS) on the side. You wanna be able to catch the target with your W, Twisted Advance, which can lead to some truly EPIC ensnares. If you do, your team has a golden opportunity to eat the victim alive.

Acceptable Marks
Greater Mark of Armor: Even though Maokai has the highest natural armor in the game (tied with Poppy), extra armor can't hurt. Especially since as the tank, you're goal is to try and take all of the damage that you can. This makes doing that easier. These're my favorite marks in the game, and since you don't need magic pen, you can safely get these.
Greater Mark of Scaling Magic Resist: These're fairly weak, but they help with Maokai's lack of natural scaling MR, and when combined with Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist, they stack up pretty well.

Acceptable Seals
Greater Seal of Scaling Armor: I've been trying these out, and I think that I prefer them on Maokai. He has naturally high armor, and I have armor in numerous other places in my build. This sacrifices a little early game defense for some more tankiness later on.
Greater Seal of Armor: I wouldn't take these, especially if you take Greater Mark of Armor. The scaling seals match the flats at level 6, which doesn't take long to achieve, then become three times stronger by the end of the game. When combined with Maokai's naturally amazing armor, I can't recommend these.

Acceptable Glyphs
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist: Just flat out the best glpyhs in the game, especially for a tank, and even moreso for a jungler. I recommend these for literally every 3s champ besides melee ADCs ( Yasuo, for example needs early stats).
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist: You could use these to counteract Maokai's low base MR, but I don't recommend it.

Acceptable Quints
Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed: These're extremely strong and underrated, especially on TT. MS is crucial on this map. I even take these on Anivia, they're that good.
Greater Quintessence of Armor: If all you really care about is being an unstoppable wall, these would work, I suppose. They're powerful and give you more tank stats, but you already have a lot of natural armor from other sources.
Greater Quintessence of Magic Resist: Help with Maokai's low base MR, as well as being a better tank, but I vastly prefer the MS.

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Maokai's masteries're also easy to describe. He's a tank: build heavily in the Defense tree.

Sorcery : CDR is crucial on Maokai, so this is pretty obvious.

Enchanted Armor : A nice bonus to your tankiness. Certainly better than anything else at this rank.

Tough Skin : When jungling, this makes more sense than Block .

Veteran Scars : Health. Simple.

Bladed Armor : This goes a lot further than it sounds, especially against Vilemaw. The large monsters at every camp have been given more HP, so this even helps at the basic camps.

Oppression : I really like this for Maokai, since he gets into the fight by ensnaring someone, thus taking reduced damage right off the bat. You'll get to use this most of the time that you're fighting as Maokai.

Juggernaut : More health!

Hardiness : A nice extra start to your defense, along with...

Resistance : Also a nice, extra start to your defenses!

Swiftness : Decently powerful for a single point. Lets you feel a little more like an unstoppable brick wall.

Evasive : Doesn't help with all magic damage, but 4% for one mastery point is a lot. Combined with Oppression , Resistance , and Legendary Guardian , you're boasting some pretty substantial magic damage reduction right off the bat.

Legendary Guardian :Ok, so the name and picture're misleading, but this is still pretty awesome. This has so many uses. It has an obvious passive bonus of giving you more defense, but it has a more subtle, active use. If you watch your stats, you can detect ganks before they happen. This is good stuff.

Tenacious : It allows you to get up into the front lines without wasting as much idle time being stunned, slowed, etc. Also, it gives you some form of tenacity before you get MFSB.

Fleet of Foot : This is easily my favorite mastery of the season. Everyone should have access to MS if they want it. Also, this makes you even faster, allowing you to be a better tank. MS, like CDR (both of which Maokai benefits heavily from), are useful for both offense and defense.

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The basic mindset with Maokai is that you're a tank with the capacity to deal damage. You shouldn't be a pure tank, but you should also be very durable. It's a lot easier than it sounds. Basically, all of your items should bolster your defense. Even your items for damage should still include some form(s) of defense.

Your initial items are simply to help you survive the first round of the jungle. You'll need every single item in order to live through the jungle, and at least two/three passive procs. With Cloth Armor, Greater Mark of Armor, and Hardiness , you start the game with 60 armor. You're also Maokai, who has the best natural armor in the game, and have Greater Seal of Scaling Armor, so you have a lot of armor even without items.

What makes an item offensive or defensive on a certain champion is based on that champion's role. Sunfire Cape, for example, looks like a defensive item, but because of its passive and the fact that it gives lower stats than its Randuin's Omen counterpart, it's actually an offensive option for most people who would consider getting it.

Check Moonflair Spellblade out. It gives 50 AP, 50 armor, 50 MR, and tenacity. The fact that it gives you three defensive stats makes it look like a defensive item, but Maokai is a tank, so all of his items should give him at least one of the defensive stats, HP, armor, or MR. For this reason, it's actually an offensive option for him, despite the fact that it'd be a defensive item for a mage, such as Anivia or Brand. To them, they're sacrificing some AP for the defensive stats, while Maokai's sacrificing HP for some AP. Again, it's a matter of perspective.

With this in mind, let's look at items that make sense on Maokai:

HP: Rod of Ages, Spirit Visage, Overlord's Bloodmail, Randuin's Omen
Rod of Ages gives you a lot of HP, an equal amount of MP, and a lot of AP. The problem is that you need to get it as your first big item for it to be its most useful. For this reason, I go for it first. There's simply nothing else that can give you this much HP and MP in a single item, not even counting the AP. Spirit Visage is amazing, and gives Maokai most of the stats he needs. Overlord's Bloodmail gives you a decent amount of HP, but nothing else. That makes it extremely unattractive, because it won't help you stay alive as well as almost any other defensive item. Randuin's Omen is also a great item, but it doesn't give Maokai anything he craves in terms of his identity. It just gives generic tanky stats. It's like Morellonomicon, no one actually likes it, it's just pretty good for almost everyone.

Mana (MP): Rod of Ages, Frozen Heart, Iceborn Gauntlet
Rod of Ages still gives the most mana on any item with defense in it. Frozen Heart is the other half of Spirit Visage, that being armor and MP to compliment Spirit Visage's HP and MR. Plus, it grants a ton of CDR. It gives a massive amount of armor, and it does all of this for not a lot of money. Iceborn Gauntlet gives the slightest amount of AP and 100 MP over Frozen Heart, but it costs more, and you lose 40 armor. If you're really ahead, it's preferable to Frozen Heart, but most of the time, it can't really compare on someone who can't spam the Spellblade procs.

Armor: Moonflair Spellblade, Frozen Heart, Iceborn Gauntlet, Randuin's Omen
Moonflair Spellblade is one of the best items in terms of general stats. It suffers from a lack of longevity; no HP, MP, or CDR. For this reason, it's an amazing item, but not on its own. It also fits into just about any build at any point without throwing anything off. Frozen Heart remains an amazing item, bestowing you the most armor of any item in TT. Iceborn Gauntlet is extremely similar to Frozen Heart, and is basically the offensive version of it. Since you're already gonna be getting enough AP, you care much more about the 42 armor and 10% CDR you're missing out on.

MR: Moonflair Spellblade, Spirit Visage, Abyssal Scepter
More of the same from Moonflair Spellblade. Spirit Visage is still amazing. Abyssal Scepter is borderline overpowered. The stats it gives are ridiculous for how cheap it is. That being said, it only gives you AP, MR, and magic pen. Not that it's weak by ANY means, you just probably care about other things until late in the game.

AP: Rod of Ages, Moonflair Spellblade, Abyssal Scepter, Iceborn Gauntlet
With this, Moonflair Spellblade has appeared in three sections of the stats that Maokai cares about, making it stand out a very desirable pick. Abyssal Scepter is fantastic. Iceborn Gauntlet's now appeared three times, making it definitely worth looking into.

CDR: Spirit Visage, Ionian Boots of Lucidity, Frozen Heart, Iceborn Gauntlet
Spirit Visage, now in three categories, has proven to be a fundamental part of Maokai's core. Unless you're facing literally all physical damage, you'll get one of these. CDR boots are great, but mind the 40% CDR cap. Frozen Heart is still preferable to Iceborn Gauntlet, despite the former only appearing in three lists, and the latter in four. The difference in armor and cost is too great in most situations.

One rule of thumb is to try to focus on your core stats (aside from defense, everyone needs those. The only difference is how much based on your role). Maokai has pretty high mana costs, and pretty long CDs on most of his abilities, but needs his spells to be effective. This means that you should look at MP and CDR, but you also have to limit your options to items that give you at least one kind of defense.

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Your standard, offensive combo is Sapling Toss on top of your victim, Twisted Advance the same person before the sapling lands on them, forcing them to take the first hit of the sapling. Once you arrive at the enemy, run slightly past them, and Arcane Smash them back to your team, which usually allows for the sapling to explode on them.

Damage Chart
Displayed in the form of minimum damage - maximum damage + percentage of target's max HP.

0 AP - Pure Tank
810 - 1010 + 13%

80 AP - Rod of Ages only
962 - 1162 + 15.4%

130 AP - Rod of Ages and Moonflair Spellblade
1057 - 1257 + 16.9%

150 AP - Rod of Ages and Abyssal Scepter
1095 - 1295 + 17.5%

200 AP - Rod of Ages, Moonflair Spellblade, and Abyssal Scepter
1190 - 1390 + 19%

230 AP Rod of Ages, Moonflair Spellblade, Abyssal Scepter, and Iceborn Gauntlet
1247 - 1447 + 19.9%

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Jungle Path and Why I Hate the Jungle Enchantments

Start with wolves for the Thornmail-esque Smite bonus. This helps tanks more than Gift of Heavy Hands. Use your first potion after you clear this camp, as you move onto wraiths next. Use your second charge of Smite here for the heal. Use both of your remaining potions as you go to golems. Think about ganking. The third potion should keep you health enough for a gank if you decide to try one. If lanes aren't in a good spot to gank, get ready to capture an altar. A good strategy is to hit recall while standing on the altar, waiting for the first two lights of the circle to light up prior to hitting B.

Jungle Upgrades
This is going to get a little rant-y.

I hate them on most champs ( Stalker's Blade - Warrior is useful for fighter junglers, and Skirmisher's Sabre - Devourer fills a nice niche, but in general). You'll notice that all of the offensive items I like on tanks (and all of the defensive items on mages) provide both damage and defense. This is a philosophy of mine that leads to slower early games, but incredibly potent late game builds. Items like Void Staff are almost always the wrong choice, ESPECIALLY on tank-mage hybrids like Maokai and Galio. Your offensive items like Iceborn Gauntlet and Abyssal Scepter provide AP and some form(s) of defense. 30 AP isn't a ton, but you also get a ton of mana, a good chunk of armor, and some CDR. As for Abyssal, you just got an amazing aura that gives your entire team 20 magic pen while you're in a fight with them, on top of getting a decent amount of AP and a lot of MR for next to the cost of dirt.

Let's pretend that you were playing Maokai as an actual mage, focusing more on damage than anything else. I'd still say that Void Staff is a terrible idea. You have to dive literally on top of people to get your combo off, so you need to be able to take hits.

Back to the topic at hand. The jungle upgrades that make sense on Maokai, Ranger's Trailblazer - Juggernaut and Ranger's Trailblazer - Magus, are both solely dedicated to one archetype.

Juggernaut only gives you HP, not even the half of the defensive stats (HP, armor, MR). You're already getting Rod of Ages every game, so this HP isn't even that relevant. I also hate that it has tenacity. I'm getting Moonflair Spellblade (what a perfect example of a tank damage item should be) which already has tenacity, and in this case, it isn't even extra HP. The tenacity is straight up wasted.

Next, consider Magus. 80 AP is a good amount, and 20% CDR is a ton. But there are so many items that give both of these things (or similar) already ( Athene's Unholy Grail, Morellonomicon, etc.), and more, yet I don't even list them as viable items, because they aren't very good compared to other choices. Not to mention, aside from failing as an offensive pick, you also just got zero defense. Congrats, you're going to die.

Stay away from the jungle items on Twisted Treeline. You'll need Hunter's Machete for regen and extra gold, but leave it at that. I'm following the mage support structure (you should never upgrade Spellthief's Edge), and only getting the earliest version of the item to help me with my role. If you're ahead, there're so many superior options to Ranger's Trailblazer - Magus, and if you're behind, Ranger's Trailblazer - Juggernaut won't do enough to save you.

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Maokai has a butt load of CC and utility. Literally all of his spells offer something aside from raw damage. He does have decent AP ratios, but at the cost of a better full build (I really do love my 3s build, but it has a weak early game), you get to have some fun in a very different role. Instead of worrying so much about your stats and ganking, you can lane with a partner, and make their live easier (hopefully). Also, with four people in a lane as opposed to one person in the jungle, you theoretically get passive stacks much faster. Using your two second ensnare, two slows, and a defensive ult to shield 20% of most incoming damage, Maokai has a lot besides decent damage and great ganks.

During the laning phase, harass and zone with saplings, saving your W and Q for defense most of the time. If things look good for your side, go in on them with Twisted Advance to ensnare them for your marksman. This is especially useful with marksmen like Jinx who have a powerful skillshot with a long cast time, because you can almost force people to take the hit. Remember to heal with your passive when you can, but also be careful of using Spoils of War on a caster minion! If you can, tie the two together, and proc Spoils of War and your passive in a single hit, healing you for a large portion while still getting the extra gold.

One of the best parts of support Maokai is that you don't even have to give up your ganking ability. This might sound strange at first, but Maokai does what he does, regardless of position. When the jungler comes in for a gank, do what you'd always do: throw a sapling just behind someone, ensnare a victim with Twisted Advance, push them back with Arcane Smash, and wait for the sapling to explode, slowing them even further. While you cripple someone, you also have two other people going in with you. The element of surprise is still there, and you don't do anything differently.

The biggest weakness of support Maokai isn't something new to the champ: his mana problems. He goes through mana rather quickly, especially if you're tossing a lot of saplings out. Me careful of running dry, because you can't do much without MP!

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Maokai is an incredible, versatile tank. He becomes incredibly difficult to kill late game, while making it very easy for your team to devour enemies thanks to his Twisted Advance. For such a durable tank, he also hurts quite a bit. While he could never carry, that isn't his job. He gets good without stealing the feed, but instead, provides it for his team.

I frequently update my guides, so expect periodic changes.

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