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. While there're many, many ways to play Maokai, I fall somewhere between tanky AP, and a pure tank. I've played Maokai since season 2, and tried numerous builds with him, and I think I've finally found one which works wonders. 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.
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 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
Has jungle potential, if he absolutely has to
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
This build has low CDR until later, which Maokai benefits heavily from
Very weak late game, most of the time
His ult is rather unimpressive, although it serves its purpose
Cannot demand focus like other tanks, such as Rammus and Shen
Mana hungry, especially early game
Has difficulty soloing a lane (this might not be true anymore now that Twisted Advance can dent tanks)
Almost no physical damage: weak, realatively slow basic attacks
Flow: Where Should I Be?
Maokai can work well in one of two ways. Before I get into that, I'll explain how I start every game with him.
I always assume that I'm in a duo lane. Maokai doesn't have a great lane presence alone, so I rarely solo a lane with him. Also, I don't think he's that great of a pure jungler, even with Smite. I take him into a duo lane, and eventually, one of two things will happen:
You're against another duo lane, so you just stay in the lane, no question.
You're against a solo lane, so around level 3-4, you take up the role of a jungler, so that your bottom lane doesn't get too far behind on gold and exp. Once you have enough of your abilities, you can clear jungle camps pretty quick, so you can effectively jungle, gank, etc.
This strategy ensures that you give your team the best chance for victory. It puts you wherever you're most needed, allowing for optimizing your team's flow of the game. Since Maokai can do well as a jungler later on, but has bad early clear times, this gives you much more flexibility, without forcing you into the role of a jungler. I think it works for the most part.
I've recently started maining jungle with Maokai, for two reasons. One, the duo lane strategy is becoming very rare, so it isn't usually necessary to be there for your bot laner.
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.
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. If you think you need them more, Greater Mark of Scaling Magic Resist is also a good choice.
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 Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist: The above runes're for armor, while these're for MR. Since mages have to build their damage from closer to scratch, you should use that to your advantage and get the full, per level MR runes. Don't worry about getting AP, such as Greater Glyph of Ability Power, since your main goal isn't to hurt people.
Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed: You wanna get Twisted Advance off as often as possible. MS makes this easier, and these quints give you that. Again, your main goal isn't to hurt people, so don't concern yourself with AP, CDR, or anything of the sort with runes.
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 prett 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!
Perseverance : Even after both nerfs, this is pretty incredible. I doubt that I'll be removing it due to the nerfs, but I'm keeping an eye on it. I can't see any other three points that I have access to be as useful.
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.
Maokai is a very situational champ. As a tank, he needs to be aware of how the enemies are building themselves. This is first noticed when deciding on which defensive item(s) to get. Maokai is tied (with Poppy) for having the highest natural armor of any champ in League of Legends, so buying tons of armor isn't usually necessary. Since I get Tenacity via Moonflair Spellblade, I don't take Mercury's Treads. Following this item build, you'll actually build some damage while becoming tankier. One of the most important things to realize as a tank is the changing flow of the game. You need to constantly be aware of what the team needs, and how to best mitigate the enemy team. You can change the item order of most of this if you absolutely have to, based on what you (and your team) need(s). If your team's doing well, and not dying very much in team fights, get some damage to help out even more. If you notice that your team is mainly trading, or barely winning/losing exchanges, get more takniness so that you can engage with more success, and not die in the process. If you have a well placed initiate, but then die, you turn the fight into a 2v2, leaving your team without a tank or the excellent CC Maokai provides to get enemies off of the team. You need to find balance. You can't be an easily ignored tank, but you can't be too strong at the cost of defense. Don't be afraid to get a single item in between full recipes if you think that it'll help. Ex. Once you have Catalyst, if you're laning against two AP champs, and you aren't taking hits well, feel free to get a Negatron Cloak before you get your Blasting Wand. This cloak'll build into Moonflair Spellblade later, which doesn't put you behind in your build. The worst thing that it does is make your RoA start stacking a few minutes later, which isn't the end of the world.
Ionian Boots of Lucidity - Alacrity: Maoakai desparately needs CDR in order to be able to do anything, and this is usually a spot where you can squeeze it in.
Rod of Ages: This is a fantastic item. I know a lot of people don't like it, but it's simply wonderful. It's cheap, gives as much AP as most other items ( Rylai's Crystal Scepter, Lich Bane, more than Liandry's Torment, Abyssal Scepter, Athene's Unholy Grail, Morellonomicon, etc.), makes you tankier, and helps a lot with mana issues. Really, the only downfall is that you're kinda forced to get this first if you're gonna get it at all.
Moonflair Spellblade: This + RoA = tanky AP in a nutshell. This is an insanely good item. There's nothing like this in 5s, probably because it'd be too good.
Spirit Visage makes a lot of sense on Maokai. It makes his passive heal him more in two ways, gives him even more health regen, some much needed MR and CDR (CDR on Maokai is extremely important), and best of all, it's cheap. It helps a lot against burst damage, and allows you to have more bursts of your own, meaning that you have an advantage in extended fights, assuming both teams are at about the same strength.
Iceborn Gauntlet: This item is very good whenever you can squeeze it in, especially now that Maokai has scaling CDs on his W. You'll be able to get a lot of Spellblade procs off, not to mention, the slowing field'll help you be even stickier.
Frozen Heart: Helps against "right-click to win" champs, such as Jax, Tryndamower, or Xin.
Abyssal Scepter: With this, you get damage without sacrificing tankiness, plus, the aura is very useful for not only you, but if you have another mage on your team.
Twin Shadows: This is the best luxury item for Maokai. That being said, remember that it's luxury. It provides no form of defense in stats, and the trap detection usually goes unused. The MS, CDR, and AP are all extremely nice, but remember that dishing out high damage isn't your main role.
Randuin's Omen: I generally prefer to get armor from other items, but sometimes you need armor very badly, but are still taking a lot of magic damage, and need the HP in the mean time.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter: While it was once extremely good on Maokai, now that his saplings slow, Maokai doesn't really need this anymore. There are other options for HP, as well as AP.
Your standard, offensive combo is Sapling Toss on top of your victim, Twisted Advance the same person before the sapling lands on them, causing them to take both hits of the sapling (sapling: 460 + 100% AP, W: 220 + 80% AP + 2 sec ensnare, total: 680 + 180% AP + 2 sec ensnare). Once you arrive at the enemy, run slightly past them, and Arcane Smash them back to your team. This deals your previous damage (680 + 180% AP) plus 250 + 40% AP, and during most, if not all, of the time during that combo, the enemy is either CC'd, and can't fight back, or is limited to attacking you, and you have
, likely making you take little damage.
Total damage: 930 + 220% AP (raw, before defenses and penetration)
Mana cost: 260
CC effects: 2 sec ensnare, knockup, 2 sec slow (48%)
You can also implement your ult into your combo, but I left it out for sake of easier numbers. This combo's damage isn't amazing, but keep in mind that you're really more of a tank. Maokai's very strong for a tank, and has plenty of CC.
I'll update this section once the change happens. Maokai's losing his 80% AP ratio on his W, but he's gaining EVEN MORE UTILITY, and the ability to combat tanks.
Terms and Shorthand
AD: Attack Damage
AP: Ability Power
MS: Movement Speed
MR: Magic Resist
CDR: Cooldown Reduction
AoE: Area of Effect
SS: Summoner Spell
HP: Hit points; health, life
MP: Magic points; mana
RoA: Rod of Ages
TotG/Tear: Tear of the Goddess
AAS: Archangel's Staff
Deathcap: Rabadon's Deathcap
Rylai's: Rylai's Crystal Scepter
Warmog's: Warmog's Armor
Unholy: Athene's Unholy Grail
Blackfire: Blackfire Torch
Witchcap: Wooglet's Witchcap
Abyssal: Abyssal Scepter
Overlord's: Overlord's Bloodmail
Iceborn: Iceborn Gauntlet
Runic: Runic Bulwark
Torment: Liandry's Torment
MFSB: Moonflair Spellblade
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.
IMO: In my opinion
ATM: At the moment
If there's anything I missed, please let me know.
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.