Maokai Build Guide by Anonymous Friend
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.
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.
Maokai is among the most versatile champions in the game. He can tank well. He can output surprising amounts of damage. He can solo lane, duo lane, or roam well. He can do it all.
Note that these are my suggestions and this is how I play him. Maokai is fairly versatile, so don't take this guide as the only way to play him. Rather, consider this guide as a list of suggestions based on my experience with Maokai.
Pros / Cons
- Can solo lane, dual lane, roam, or jungle if needed
- Saplings are amazing
- Strong initiator/ganker
- Can put out a decent amount of damage
- Saves lives
- Extremely mana hungry (can be mitigated with safe play and/or mp5 runes)
- Low innate magic resist
- Minions can interfere with sapling
I run 9/0/21 for my masteries. I take magic penetration n his offense tree because that helps is late game a ton. Utility tree is fairly straight forward. I forgo the defense tree because Maokai's ultimate already reduces damage by 20%, which reduces the overall effectiveness of the entire tree. I find the magic penetration, the cooldown reduction, and the overall robustness of the utility tree to outweigh any benefits of the defensive tree (albeit it is still viable for a tankier build).
Please do NOT get 3 points in perseverence instead of good hands in the utility tree. In mid/late game, shaving a few seconds off your respawn time may potentially save a tower, a teamfight, an inhibitor, or the entire game. 1 extra hp5/mp5 will do none of that.
Standard tanky caster runes here. I take movement speed quints
for better mobility. Armor runes
and magic resist/level glyphs
help with Maokai's overall tankiness, and magic penetration marks
help with Maokai's damage output.
Mp5 seals Greater Seal of Replenishment are an option since Maokai does have mana problems, but if you are conservative with your skills, then mp5 runes are not as effective, especially if you are buying mana items every time you go back to base.
Cooldown reduction glyphs are also an option, but with a glacial shroud/frozen heart and cooldown reduction masteries, Maokai is fairly close to 40% cooldown reduction without runes. With a blue elixir, Maokai's cooldown reduction is maxed without runes.
For summoner spells, I personally run flash and ignite.
Flash helps with initiating with Twisted Advance .
Ignite helps with Maokai's burst and can give him a potential first blood.
Exhaust can be combined with Maokai's abilities to virtually immobilize someone in a teamfight.
Teleport is nice for covering lanes when roaming or when no one else on your team has teleport.
Ghost is ok. It serves a similar purpose as flash. In my experience though flash is the superior choice.
Smite is imperative for jungling and buff stealing.
Clarity is ok if you really can't manage your mana. It's not very good at all late game.
I don't like the other summoner spells.
This is mainly for the knockback. Damage isn't special (poor ap ratios), and the slow is not that special. The knockback will prevent enemies from running away. Overall, even at rank 1 it is still a very disruptive spell with the knockback, while it does not scale well at higher ranks. Max last.
This is your main initiator. Make sure to max this second. The longer stun time really adds up in a teamfight, and the spell does not scale too badly with ability power. Just be sure not to initiate bad teamfights since that can cost the game. Twisted Advance can also be used in conjunction with flash to help with initiating, or even with escaping. Using Twisted Advance on a neutral monster or an enemy minion to escape can assuredly piss people off.
Note: Vayne can actually use Condemn to block this ability if she clicks on you before Twisted Advance activates. This happens even if you are already in Twisted Advance. Also this ability seems to be occasionally glitchy when someone flashes before you come into contact with them. Sometimes you hit them, sometimes nothing happens and the spell is on cooldown.
This is the most entertaining spell in the game. It has a stupidly long range, making it an amazing poke. It is also highly underrated by weaker players since it does a surprising amount of damage. The sapling can also be used as a temporary 35 second ward, which helps with pushing safely or just augmenting map awareness in general. Max this first: it is probably Maokai's most useful spell and it really defines him as a champion.
This is an insane ultimate. It might not deal a lot of damage, but its main power is reducing the damage dealt to all teammates inside the ultimate by 20%. This is HUGE: it is practically equivalent to having another tank on the team. It allows you to soak up a ton of damage, making you and your teammates much, much harder to kill. Its short cooldown allows it to be used in virtually every teamfight. Make sure to place it correctly so that most of your teammates are in it to maximize the effectiveness of it. And when you release it, make sure to do so when there are as many enemies as possible in it to deal as much damage with it as possible.
Overall: skill order is EWEQER, followed by R > E > W > Q. You it really does not matter in which order you get W or Q at levels 2 and 4 respectively. I prefer to get W at 2 in a solo lane, and Q at 2 in a dual lane. In a solo lane, you are less likely to get blown up if you initiate with W at level 2 than in a dual lane. In a dual lane, Q is more useful at level 2 since it is inherently more defensive of a spell.
Maokai's full burst is as follows: E -> W -> turn on R -> Q -> turn off R -> ignite. W follows E so that the enemy is rooted, allowing both sapling explosions to hit the target. Q is then used so that the enemy doesn't move out of Maokai's ultimate.
Maokai's early game benefits greatly from ability power and mana regeneration. With that said, I almost always start off with a Doran's Ring
since it gives both of those stats. I then get a second one because it makes Maokai's burst much, much stronger and augments his sustainability
After that, I get Sorcerer's Shoes and a Philosopher's Stone philosopher's stone. The magic penetration from the Sorcerer's Shoes is too good to pass. I build a Philosopher's Stone to get some gold per 5 and some regen so I can roam around and gank lanes without going back to base too often.
I then get a Sheen because it adds some damage to Maokai's burst. Plus it is very easily to get sheen procs.
I then follow up with a Rod of Ages and an Abyssal Scepter . Both items increase Maokai's survivability as well as providing some ability power and magic penetration to provide momentum into later stages of the game.
At this point I start selling my Doran's Rings as needed and get a Frozen Heart and Eleisa's Miracle . The Frozen Heart provides cdr and a ton of armor. Eleisa's Miracle is great since I don't get Mercury's Treads.
I also turn my Sheen into a Trinity Force . Why a Trinity Force? After all it does not provide any ability power and does not provide too much survivability. The main reason why I get it is because it gives Maokai a scary auto attack and increases his mobility. A proc from Trinity Force will increase the damage of Maokai's auto attack by about 160 damage. This is HUGE. Add in a critical strike chance, and Maokai suddenly has a scary auto attack that can be used after he blows all of his spells. Additionally, the movespeed increase from trinity force brings his movespeed well above 400, which is important when mobility becomes key in the late game.
Other plausible item choices:
I used to get this but the passive is a little overrated since it can just block a random spell. It's also not very cost efficient.
Lich Bane is a solid alternative to Trinity Force since it scales well with his abilities and brings almost the same bonus to his auto attack. I just feel the boosted critical strike chance and the better movement speed increase on trinity force is more useful.
Sunfire Cape is boss. Coupled with Abyssal Scepter, it allows Maokai to do a good amount of damage by just being near the enemy team, and synergizes well with Maokai's W. I would get this if the enemy team is mostly squishy attack damage carries.
Randuin's Omen is great on Maokai since he can initiate with W and pop Randuin's active right away. It provides a lot of cc against a melee heavy team.
I'm not a fan of Rylai's on Maokai, but it's hard to argue with 500 health, 80 ability power, and a 15% slow on his E and R.
Force of Nature is great against caster heavy teams and provides mobility if you forgo trinity force or lich bane.
I find Zhonya's to only be useful when there's another tank on your team since otherwise the active isn't as useful. Otherwise it does provide decent amounts of ability power and armor.
I used to build this since it provides some nice cooldown reduction and synergizes with Maokai's passive. Unfortunately in my experience it does not provide enough magic resist to justify it.
Get Guardian Angel if you find yourself dying way too often and that if you had Guardian Angel you can salvage a teamfight or a tower.
While this adds nothing to Maokai's survivability, Maokai gains a ton of extra killing power and his mana problems will vanish.
This item's fine on ap Maokai. I just don't like it since again, Maokai will be in the midst of a teamfight and needs survivability. Deathcap just does not cut it.
shurelya's reverieBuild's from Philosopher's Stone, provides health and cdr, and has an active that increases ALL ALLIES' movement speed by 40% for 3 seconds which is really useful for initiating or escaping? Admittedly I have not tried this yet on Maokai, but it sounds like a great item on him.
There are many other valid item choices for Maokai. I just covered the ones I use and alternate items that I might get depending on the team composition. Whether you go for tank maokai, full ap maokai, or a hybrid is up to you since Maokai can do all three.
The choice of boots is, in my opinion, important enough to warrant its on section. There is technically no exact core boots that Maokai needs (though obviously he does need them).
Sorcerer's Shoes are an awesome choice for Maokai because it provides magic penetration, which helps his early game damage a ton. With magic penetration marks, Maokai can essentially deal true damage to squishies. The magic penetration also synergizes with Abyssal Scepter to help Maokai's damage scale later in the game.
Mercury's Treads are my go to choice of boots against teams with a ton of cc. They provide magic resistance and tenacity, two stats that are very important on Maokai. Maokai is most effective with a tenacity item since he does not want to be subjected to hard cc for too long. If you forgo Mercury's Treads, I would recommend picking up either Eleisa's Miracle or Moonflair Spellblade .
Ninja Tabis are good against teams that are heavily melee damage oriented. They synergize quite nicely with dodge seals or with the Nimbleness mastery in the defensive tree.
The extra cooldown reduction is nice but not really necessary with my build.
I don't like Boots of Swiftness since they don't add much to Maokai's overall survivability or damage output, but they're ok for chasing or making up for positional mistakes.
Boots of Mobility are nice for crossing the map for ganks or for defending towers when no one is running Teleport. These boots, however, are the worst for teamfighting since they add nothing to Maokai once he commits to a fight.
If you have an attack damage or hybrid build for Maokai then these boots might be ok, but even then I would not take them since the attack speed bonus is not that significant.
I play lane Maokai because I feel his laning is much stronger than his jungle. With that said his jungle is still strong, especially if he is able to get a leash at blue and immediately go for a level 2 gank to establish dominance and hopefully set a precedence for the game.
I prefer soloing top as Maokai, but he can dual lane just fine. Use his spells conservatively at first. Even if you run mp5 runes, you WILL run out of mana if you use his spells too carelessly.
When you get a second doran's ring and/or a philosopher's stone, then you are able to spam your spells more. Make sure to harass with saplings, they do a TON of damage with two doran's rings. By the time you get to Sapling Toss' third rank, you should be able to one shot ranged minions. This is huge because it opens the opposing laner up for harassment, allowing you to zone the hell out of them.
If you dominate your lane (which you should), I would go roaming and constantly gank the other lanes. Maokai has an extremely strong early game, so abuse it.
Once teams start grouping together and teamfights start breaking out, chances are you are the team's primary initiator. Make sure to poke with saplings (they do insane damage to squishies). Most of all, as your primary initiator, do not initiate into bad teamfights when your entire team is caught out of position.
Make sure to use saplings as temporary wards throughout the game. They cannot outright replace wards, but they help with checking baron or dragon or just where the enemy team is in general.
Maokai is an incredibly fun and versatile champion who fills many roles. I recommend trying my build out or integrating components of my build into your build. If I have time I'll try updating this guide regularly.
Enjoy playing as the number 1 tree in the game.
21 August 2011 -- Updated items build.
07 July 2011 -- Fixed some typos and grammatical errors. Added a discussion on boots and some extra tidbits.