Maokai Build Guide by T3cK

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.

League of Legends Build Guide Author T3cK

Maokai-A Step-by-Step Guide to Arborescent Domination

T3cK Last updated on December 3, 2011
Like Build on Facebook Tweet This Build Share This Build on Reddit

Ability Sequence

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

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.



Offense: 9

Honor Guard

Defense: 21

Strength of Spirit

Utility: 0

Guide Top


Hello and welcome to my Maokai guide. By now I'm sure you're all wondering what that really long word that looks like arboretum in the title is. Arborescent, according to, means "treelike in size and form." Arborescent domination is dominating in a treelike size or form, which is exactly what you will be doing as Maokai. Vocab lesson of the day for you all.

Now, on that happy note, let's get right down to it. Maokai is an AP-based tank that excels at pushing. Unlike some other champions, there are very few ways to build him that maximize his effectiveness as a damage-dealer as well as a face-tanker. Now, I'm not saying you can pop your ulti in a team fight and take 5 champs and both nexus turrets to the face and survive. As Phreak stated in Maokai's Champion Spotlight: "Maokai's job in a fight is to be extremely disruptive." You need to be the one who makes everyone think twice about focusing your carry while at the same time causing them to consistently have people on you if they don't want to get bursted down.

So, in this guide I hope to provide you readers with a good outline of how to perform effectively with your new arborescent champion. This is my first guide on MOBAFire so please be courteous: read the entire guide and actually try the build out before posting about how the build fails epically. Other than that I hope you enjoy the guide!

Edit (10/1/11): Woot! 3rd best Maokai guide on MOBA and 10k+ views. Thanks to all of you that voted, and all of you who find this build helpful. Rest assured there is still work to do on this guide and I've got another one in the works, so keep those views and votes coming!

Guide Top

Pros / Cons

  • Amazing burst damage early and mid-game
  • Great farmer with Sapling Toss
  • Can scout areas without buying wards
  • Great leash for junglers
  • Bulky enough to take the majority of damage in a team fight
  • His saplings go "wheeeeeeeeeee" as they chase down enemies

[*]Damage potential drops off late-game
[*]Relies heavily on teammates
[*]Saplings only last 35 seconds
[*]Time delay between landing and exploding means fast enemies can escape saplings
[*] Twisted Advance often gets hung up on walls or other obstacles
[*]Enemies often avoid fighting within the circle of Vengeful Maelstrom

Guide Top

Skill Explanations and Usage

Passive- Sap Magic
(Innate): Each time a spell is cast near Maokai, he gains a charge of Magical Sap. When he has 5 charges his next melee attack heals him for 7% of his maximum health.

This is the passive that gives him great lane sustainability. The best part about it is that the more health you have, the more you heal in-lane. Combined with a strong health regen and a decent laning partner, Maokai should never have to leave lane except after a team fight or to buy items. Keep in mind, the spell has to hit him or be cast within his sight radius (A revealing spell in a brush patch within his sight will still add a charge [need confirmation here]).

Q- Arcane Smash
(Active): Maokai slams the ground and sends an arcane shockwave forward, damaging and slowing his enemies for 2 seconds. Enemies close to Maokai are knocked up briefly.
Cost: 55 mana
Cooldown: 6 seconds
Range of Shockwave: 700 (estimate)
Magic Damage: 70 / 115 / 160 / 205 / 250 (+0.4 per ability power)
Slow: 20 / 27 / 34 / 41 / 48 %

In my honest opinion, this skill is underpowered but incredibly useful. The knock-up and slow really help your allies as well as you to close the gap and put some serious damage on the target(s) whereas otherwise they may have run out of range. I max it last because of the low damage and AP scaling, and the fact that you pretty much have to be standing right in front of the person you're trying to kill. This does, however, combo great with Twisted Advance as you can queue it up mid-flight to instantly land it as the root wears off. I would also recommend timing this slightly after a Sapling Toss for maximum burst.

W- Twisted Advance
(Active): Maokai transforms into a cloud of arcane energy, quickly traveling to a target enemy. Once Maokai reaches it, the target takes magic damage and is rooted in place.
Cooldown: 13 seconds
Range: 650
Cost: 75 / 80 / 85 / 90 / 95 mana
Magic Damage: 80 / 115 / 150 / 185 / 220 (+0.8 per ability power)
Root Duration: 1 / 1.25 / 1.5 / 1.75 / 2 seconds

This skill is incredibly useful and without it, Maokai's combo falls apart. The idea is to use your Sapling Toss and before it lands, root them in place followed up with an immediate Arcane Smash. Even with just over 150 AP, you can drop squishies to almost half health and put a nice dent in bulkier champs so your teammates can wail on them. This is also great to hold a low-health champion in place to secure a kill for your carry, or select targets in team fights.

E- Sapling Toss
(Active): Maokai hurls a sapling, dealing magic damage on impact. The sapling becomes implanted in the ground, warding a nearby area for 35 seconds. When enemies approach, the sapling will chase for up to 2.5 seconds and explodes in an arcane blast that deals more magic damage to enemies.
Cooldown: 12 seconds
Range: 1,100
Impact/Explosion Radius: 350 (estimate)
Aggro Radius: 500 (estimate)
Sight Radius: 700 (estimate)
Cost: 70 / 80 / 90 / 100 / 110 mana
Impact Magic Damage: 40 / 75 / 110 / 145 / 180 (+0.4 per ability power)
Explosion Magic Damage: 80 / 130 / 180 / 230 / 280 (+0.6 per ability power)

This is one of Maokai's most useful and versatile skills. Because of this, you should max it first. You can scout brush, open your combo up, farm creeps, secure a kill behind a tower, check baron/dragon/buffs or any number of things. By level 3 of this skill you should be able to wipe out the caster minions in the back of a wave, and at a maximum level you should take out a good portion of a Teemo's health bar (tested and proven by me).

R- Vengeful Maelstrom
(Toggle): Maokai creates a great vortex of natural energy on a nearby area reducing non-tower damage done to allied champions in the area by 20%. Maokai can prolong the effect as long as he has mana to spend on it. When the effect ends, Maokai unleashes the absorbed energy to deal damage to enemies within the vortex.
Initial Cost: 75 mana
Upkeep Cost: 30 mana per second
Range to Center of AoE: 575
Radius of AoE:
Cooldown: 40 / 30 / 20 seconds
Magic Damage: 100 / 150 / 200 (+0.5 per ability power) (+2 per point of damage absorbed)
Maximum Bonus Damage: 200 / 250 / 300

In my opinion, this is a somewhat underpowered ultimate. Most people who know Maokai will try to avoid fighting inside the radius. It's good when fighting Baron/Dragon, and can be used extremely well in a last-ditch team fight to defend a tower. If you're initiating a fight (which you should you tanky tree you) toss a sapling into their midst before using Twisted Advance and Arcane Smash on the target you want your team to focus. Everyone will end up attacking you, and as your team runs in, you've probably already racked up enough damage to get the full extent of the bonus damage, so unless they're getting slaughtered, dissipate your ult and keep soaking up the hits.

Guide Top




Greater Mark of Insight x9

These are standard for most casters, tanks or not. Maokai's abilities scale from AP therefore you need magic penetration. I would not recommend changing these out at all.



Greater Seal of Clarity x4
Greater Seal of ReplenishmentGreater Seal of Replenishment x5

Maokai is extremely mana-hungry. I used to run 9 MP5/Lv seals, but I found that balancing your flat mana regen with your level-based seals gives you maximum mana regen early game while still giving you a lot later on.


Greater Seal of ReplenishmentGreater Seal of Replenishment x9
If you're spamming too much early game and having to constantly recall, use these until you get the hang of his abilities.


Greater Seal of Resilience x9
These are for people who want a tankier approach to Maokai. These are also useful if you are running jungle Maokai, something I will touch very very briefly on later in the guide. Be warned: using these runes almost guarantees mana starvation early-game unless you are a master Maokai-player and can use abilities frugally. This path, however, takes away some of your farming.



Greater Glyph of Warding x9

Flat MR works best as late-game most of your defense here will be in items. It gives you that little extra edge, and works well with his passive making it easier to heal off the reduced spell damage.


Greater Glyph of Shielding x9

This is more for melee DPS champs in general because the damage output of a caster increases exponentially between level 1 and level 18. You can try this out, but I would recommend using both individually and seeing which one works best for you. Maokai has no gain in natural Magic resist as he levels, so if your items still aren't keeping up with Veigar and LeBlanc and Malzahar then by all means, change your runes up a little.

Greater Glyph of Force x9

Your damage output is REALLY good without any bonus AP from runes. If you want to build him more straight-AP-based rather than tanky or bulky then definitely put some extra AP on there. If you want more survivability, use the recommended runes.

Greater Glyph of Celerity x9

CDR is helpful but not required. If you feel your cooldowns are too high, try subbing these in or grabbing more CDR items that provide AP or other defensive bonuses.



Greater Quintessence of Fortitude x3

Yes, they're everyone's favorite quint that they hate. Sure they're over 2000IP a pop, but well worth the extra 78 health is a huge boost to your staying power. It's 78 more health towards your passive. It's 78 more health that you'll have to soak up damage to unleash all the fury a tree can muster with your ultimate. But if the price really turns you off, or the prospect of flat health does, see the alternatives


Greater Quintessence of Potency x3

Again, more suited for the straight-AP route rather than the tank-with-a-threat build outlined here. It's good for most casters, but I prefer saving them for casters who need the extra burst.

Greater Quintessence of Swiftness x3

He's a tree right? He's pretty fast for a tree with boots and FoN, but for those who don't think he's fast enough, use these. It gives you the extra edge to get in range to land a Twisted Advance or Sapling Toss on a fleeing enemy, but you'll find you benefit more from health quints in the long-run of things.

Guide Top


This is somewhat of an odd setup for Tanks. Most tank trees end up 0-21-9 or 0-9-21. The use of 9-21-0 masteries is to accent his offensive as well as his defensive capabilities.

Offensive Masteries

Take improved exhaust since you'll be using exhaust. Take 3 points in the AP boost because Mao is AP-based and crit is useless. Get points in CDR and MPen to finish off the offensive side.

Defensive Masteries

You pretty much want to cover the tree here. Grab 3 points in both armor and MR, putting another 3 into health regen. Put ONE point into the damage reduction from minions and 3 into the physical damage reduction finishing out the rest of the defensive tree

Utility Masteries


Guide Top

Summoner Spells


Exhaust and Flash


Exhaust is useful on any champion. It helps you get in range for your moves and can slow down enemies running from a fight so your team can gun them down before they can hide under a turret. Flash is good for pinpoint positioning for skills or to enter/leave team fights and even to escape ganks (Even though he's tanky he still needs his teammates there to help out).


- Use it if you're soloing top lane. Otherwise, you really shouldn't take this if your team has a solo top.

- If you are super duper mana starved to the point where you can't harass then I can see this being useful. Usually though, you can cut back on the spamming and you'll be fine.

- This spell is great since the buff. I would use it against very strong harasses or when you're getting used to Maokai's mechanics. There are better alternatives however.

- For AP carry Maokai players ONLY.

Guide Top

Skill Sequence

Plain and simple

Max Sapling Toss by level 9 taking points at levels 1,3,5 and 7. Just remember

> > >

Some people prefer Twisted Advance first, but Sapling Toss will give you the best farming and damage output combined into one handy toss.

Guide Top


Core Items:

I would recommend starting with a Doran's Ring. Some people might recommend other alternatives, but this is the full package. AP, health and Mana per 5 all for 475 gold? Why not get 6? Just kidding, you only need one to start off with.

Your fist recall should be to buy Boots of Speed and, if possible, a Sapphire Crystal. When you come back again, finish up your Catalyst the Protector, or your Rod of Ages if you are hugely super mega ultra insanely fed. Regardless, you should try to shoot for RoA by level 12. After this, finish up your Mercury's Treads and you're DONE. Now you get to cater your build to the needs of your team. Here are some example builds for different situations. These don't cover ALL the possibilities, but provide a general outline for some of your own builds.
Pure Tank

Pure AP w/ Survivability

Pure AP w/o Survivability

Other good item choices include:

Use this if nobody is buying it as it helps a ton early game. A lot of people get rid of it late game and you should too if you're finding its effectiveness diminishing.

If you're dying a ton, then this is the item for you. It gives some good armor and magic resist, and since your passive extends through death, then you can have a way to heal.

It boosts the heal on your passive and spell vamp (if you have any) while providing some nice CDR and MR

Good amount of MR and you can clear off all those annoying CC effects while you're taking damage.

Kage's Lucky Pick or

These are for when you get shut down early. Both have gold-giving passives and some good added bonuses that can sustain you until you get into further parts of your build. Use these as a last resort.

If you have any items/builds to recommend, drop me a line in the comments or in-game and I will be happy to try it out and if it's good I will add it to the guide.

Guide Top


Maokai should always and I mean ALWAYS take a duo lane. Farm with your Sapling Toss, but don't be afraid to land a few last hits if you're not getting harassed too hard. Remember, don't farm all the creeps at the expense of your lane partner. In terms of farming:

Carries > DPS champs > Maokai > Tanks/Supports

Sure, if your partner recalled or died (which they shouldn't under the protection of their tree guardian) don't waste perfectly good farming.

Harass with your E-W-Q combo, but be sure to time it so your sapling lands almost the same time as you Twisted Advance into the enemy for maximum explosion damage. Try to time this so that your lane partner can put out some damage in time and hopefully help secure a kill.

Remember: Maokai needs SOME kills. Don't always go giving away kills if you know the other person won't/can't/doesn't want them and you can secure it. Once you get into your build enough, you'll be getting enough gold from assists to help fund your late-game items.

Guide Top

Creeping / Jungling

With all of the changes to jungling since I've updated the guide, Maokai is a much more viable jungle. He has a much faster clear time and is very sustainable. Though I haven't tried it, I can say the following:

Masteries and Runes- Keep these the same. You don't need to change them out at all

Items- Give it a shot with the Armor/Pots jungle (Cloth armor+5 HP pots) and alter it from there. I can clear with pretty much anyone with 3 pots, so you may want to invest in a mana potion for post-lv3/4 jungling and ganking

Route- You can start at blue as usual, though you might need a leash. Throw some saplings down and pop your health potion when the golem hits you once.

Guide Top


Well that just about sums it up. If there are any inconsistencies in the guide please post them. I am always looking for new feedback, so if there is anything you'd like to see more of or less of in future builds or any changes you'd like made to this build, drop me a comment. This is my first guide, so please TRY the build and methods before voting. Other than that, I hope that you enjoy playing as your new Twisted Treant!

Guide Top


With the release of Dominion I am completely stoked about trying Maokai out in a real game. unfortunately there's this thing called school, so while I'm tweaking this, there is going to be a major rework on the way once I get back into the game more actively. From what I've seen and heard Maokai is a total boss in Dominion. I would recommend getting your Catalyst first, followed by some basic boots at least before building RoA. In the meantime keep an eye out for my next champion guide featuring my main and favorite champion in the whole game: IRELIA!

Guide Top

Change Log and Acknowledgements

7/28/11-Started guide
7/29/11-Finished guide
7/29/11-Small errors fixed
7/31/11-Fixed some bad math and simplified the general readability
8/25/11-Realized I haven't updated in the past 2-3 patches so I'm fixing some inconsistencies
10/1/11-It's been a long month and a half since I played LoL last and I was surprised with the changes. Updated runes and put in some basic Dominion strategies. Full dominion section coming soon after I put aside the time to tweak up my build.
10/4/11-You would think being in a web design class I would know the difference between CSS and BBC. Sorry for any confusion caused by the random yellow text on the rune page.
12/3/11-Back on MOBA for a while now. I've gotten back into LoL, but with finals coming up I don't know how much I'll be able to keep up. Updated for the Volibear patch. Keep up the votes and let's make this the #1 Maokai guide on MOBA! <3 Teck

League of Legends Wiki for skill statistics for their champion builder
Reign of Gaming and Stonewall008 for jungling information