Maokai Build Guide by DaemonSlayerz

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 DaemonSlayerz

Maokai, Stop me If you can! (3Tank, 2AP, Jungle, Support))

DaemonSlayerz Last updated on August 12, 2012
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Team maokai 2

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

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hello fellow Human Beings, this is my first guide in Mobafire and I am making a Maokai build. My English is not so great so please keep it in mind that I am still learning English.

Maokai, in my opinion, is one of the most tanky character you can find in League of Legends. I tried making him to have Ap Tank, Pure Tank, DPS AD (Yes, I actually did it! with Tank Master Yi and Crit AS AD Anni!). Personally, I usually choose Mao (not Mao ze****, Maokai!) when nobody is choosing any tank, so I many times aim for a tanky build.

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Why so many builds?

As all a bit experienced players know, builds simply depends on enemy.

1st one is armor and magic resist and health.


  • All around defense
  • Very tanky
  • Good Earily burst
  • no burst late game

2nd build is super magic resist and a big of defense. You can replace abyssal with nature if the team already have enough damages.

  • So much Magic Resist!
  • More damage than all around
  • little armor

3rd build is super defense. If enemy has 3~4 ad characters and ap tanks without much damages, this build will simply make you god like.

  • Best against all out ad team
  • No magic resist
  • quite expansive

4th build is Ap semi tank Maokai build. Maokai has so much AOE damaging skills. Ap Maokai will does heavy damage against any situations. Vengeful Maelstrom will help the team with damage reduction and deal heavy heavy damage

  • Good Burst
  • Great AOE Damage
  • not tanky
  • Do not be so brave and dive into 5 of the enemy!

5th build is Jungle Maokai build. Maokai, as a tanky mage, is a great jungling + counter jungler + ganker. it is worth trying .

  • Good clear Speed
  • Great ganker
  • Kind of waste for your passive. (not enough magic abilities used)
  • Very slow to walk all the way to lane and gank

From 6th build, I did not try them, but seen people trying. They are just optional build in terms of possibilities.

6th build is support Maokai. As being a support, get GP5 items. You will not get any cs so GP5 should help a lot. Which means other builds you should get cs!

  • Can build tanky support
  • Great ultimate as support
  • not a burster
  • kinda weak compare to tank build

7th build is offtank. This will allow maximun damage as a mage but tanky for enemy to kill. You will be able to survive long during teamfight even if you focused.

  • Good Damage throughout the game
  • Tanky and not easily killed
  • if team already has a 2 extreme burst mage, not recommended
  • not a great deal of damage to kill enemy at late games

8th build is another jungle build, but more support.
  • Good sustain in jungle
  • Great gank and support later game
  • Not much armor nor magic resist compare to any other build
  • not a great deal of damage to kill enemy at mid - late games

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Pros and Cons

One of the best tank in league of legends
One of the best ultimate as tank (reduced damage FTW!)
Wood Gernade!
Can solo mid
You can solo 1v3 AD/AP carries
Great jungler

Flash can be worst nightmare.
Mana Mana Mana!!!! We need more Mana!
Oh no, I misplaced my ult. again!
Takes time to master tanky Maokai
Not recommanded solo top

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Red for magic penetration, to increase chance of early kills
Yellow for Health in order to stay longer in the beginning
Blue have 2 choices. Ap for more damage in beg, or mana regen.
quient can be either health or AP boots. Either one is fine.\

For jungling, there is options for Red: magic penetration or attack speed.
Attack speed will help greatly, but will do less damage in later game.
Yellow for armor. It is very common for jungler to get armor yellow due to its reduced damage.
Blue have 2 choices. Ap for more damage and faster clear time, CDR for more frequent skill useage.

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I prefer to use 9/21 for my Maokai. It makes him more of a tank and magic penetration will allow Maokai to do more damage.
However, 21/9 will be useful for ap Maokai. more damage, but still a bit tanky.
0/9/21 is for support and tank.

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Item Builds

Rod of Ages - There is no question that this is one of the best items for Maokai. It give Health, Mana and AP. After getting this, you will be able to do heavy damage against the enemy. I usually get this first because I, most times, are able to get early kills.

Mercury's Treads - Tenacity and early magic resists and mobility

Frozen Heart - 99 armor, second most in the game and 500 mana, 20 % CDR and REDUCE 20% of enemy attack speed. Best item against AD carries, better than Thornmail!

Force of Nature - against Fed or heavy AP enemy teams. should get it when enemy has heavy AP nuckers, Veigar, Annie, Akali, etc... This can be replaced by bansee, but if want more resist, use this.

Sunfire Cape - I am not a fan of this item. It does damage, give health and armor, but it is not particular good in any of them. unless all enemies are melee, they will not get damaged, even you Twisted Advance them, they can just run away. However, if you are fan of this, feel free to grap it and sacrifice one of the armor item.

Warmog's Armor - optional item for last item. Warmog's Armor will give you a lot of health for you to be even more tankier, but it will cost some armor or magic resist or AP. If you think you are dying quite a bit, but the team are doing quite well, it will make you very strong. Be sure to know which item that you don't want to get if you choose to get Warmog's Armor!

Rylai's Crystal Scepter - good in Health and Ability. Also slow down enemy. If you want more health and burst damage, pick this up and you will be good to go.

Banshee's Veil -great item against AP nuker. absorbing one of their spell will reduce damage at most by over 900! Also, more mana and hp = Oh ya!

Randuin's Oden - Good active, good amount of health and armor! This is a great replacement for Thornmail, but not Frozen Heart!

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Wait... no GP5 items?

It is true that there is no GP 5 items on my build. Many tanks and supports get GP5, heart of golds and philosopher's stone. The reason would be they take up money that can be used for other items. Due to the new patch, new items had come out that can be built from GP5, but still they are not for tank, but support.

However, if your planning to build Randuin's Oden, heart of golds right after catalyst the Protector. However, that means Rod of Ages is delayed which will result in lesser damage.

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There are several shoes you can get.
Mercury's Treads, Ninja Tabi or Sorcerer shoes. But which one is the best? I say Mercury's Treads. Biggest reasons is Tenacity. You will have lower time in being slowed, stunned or snared. Also, it gives good amount of Magic resist. Of course, if enemies are ALL AD, it is better to get Ninja Tabi, but I say there won't be much games like that.

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Skill Sequences

Maokai has 4 skills (oh ya, I NEVER KNEW THAT)... I am not trying to fool you or anything, so please don't beat me up >.>

Passive Ability: Sap Magic:

OH YA! Everyone loves to slap people! Slapping enemies will allow you to heal 7% of your health. (animation makes him look like slapping)

Arcane Smash:

Arcane smash is good way of attacking enemy and farming. If your close, your enemy will be tossed into the air for a very short seconds. This can save your *** sometimes. The skill sequences can be changes as you feel like. You can master this first rather than mastering Sapling Toss due to the fact that it has lower mana costs and recharge time. However, it has short range and not as huge damage ad Sapling. Choose wisely!
  • Decent Damage
  • Low Mana cost
  • Short cooldown
  • very short range
  • does not do heavy damage

Combination with Twisted Advance, this is very useful skill.

Twisted Advance:

This allows you to charge at the enemy and snare them for a short time. This is a main skill that will allow Maokai to advance toward the enemy. Also, this have to be used before team fight so you get focused in the team fight. Be careful though! if you targeted an enemy with it, and he flashes into the turret, you will still CHARGE at the enemy and the tower can kill you! be careful.
  • Snare and Charge
  • cannot be targeted during the charge
  • Quite high damage
  • Can kill you by charging into turrets
  • something weird about this skill and clairty.. Clarity sometimes does not work!

Sapling Toss:

Enemy: I need to go back and heal. Near the turret will be good for recalling. Hey WT... HOLY ****, A PIECE OF WOOD IS FLYING AT M....! *An Enemy has been slayed.
Yap, Sapling Toss is a great skill. This deals a lot of damages and range quite far away. In early game, there is no way that enemy champion can runaway without flash or ghost or some sorts of teleporting. You can also use this to scout bushes because it wards area for 25 seconds.
This skill damage enemy two times, as it hit the ground and explode. It does chases the enemy, but if it hits any kind of Champion or monster, it explode, damaging the enemy. So if not targeted right, it will not hit enemy champions. Also, there is a delay as it flies toward enemy, so you have to calculate their velocity.
  • High Damage
  • Far Range
  • Free ward for 35 seconds
  • extremely high mana costs
  • hard targeting

Vengeful Maelstrom:

This can make Maokai one of the strongest tank. It reduce 20% of all incoming damage, non-tower. It also reduce damages that is targeting to your allies. Also, it absorb damages and allow you to hit enemy harder! You can also undo it anytime you want for a kill or kills! if your being chased by an enemy and your low health and mana and enemy is also low health, use this and as soon as you die, it will damage all enemy inside the Vengeful Maelstromarea, and can counter kill the enemy. If you sit inside it with full tanky items, you sure can max up to 1v3 for at least for 10~20 seconds, or even more!
however, it drains mana per seconds and hard to position during team fight.
  • High Damage
  • Far Range
  • Absorbs huge amounts of damage
  • high mana cost
  • hard targeting

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Summoner Skills

Get this - Clarity
Why? Mao's Sapling Toss is very mana consuming and he has low mana. Clarity will allow you to Sapling Toss more and give longer lane sustain. It can also used to surprise enemy by Twisted Advanceand use Clarity, Sapling Toss and Arcane Smash on them.
If you have runes for mana regeneration, get an offensive skill in order to have stronger lane phase.
Also, this is useless during jungle because you will always, and always, should have blue buff. It is not a great idea to give blue to someone else, ex. mid laner, because you will simply run out of mana easily.

Optional - Teleport
Maokai is slow. Very slow. With teleport, you can go back to your lane quickly and assist other lanes if possible.

again, Mao is slow slow slow. it can allow you to run away fast and furiously. Also can use to rush at the enemies.

... Well, your slow and it CAN save you, but enemy will be able to catch you right away... Not to recommended. get ghosts if you want to run away.
However, if your a mage, it will be useful to use full combo to dive and then Flash away from tower.

If you want to be more offensive, this can help you. It can also save you from enemy champions, but if there are 2 or more Exhaust in your team? Ah, not really.

If you like to have Heal, you can stay longer, but you already kind of have heal. Of course you can have higher chance in first kill, but you shouldn't need to run in early battle much if you know how to use him nicely.

Not the best choice unless there are heavy healers, ex. Sion. Ignite will increase your offence, but not necessarily needed. Finishing enemies should be your Sapling's job.

Rest - pretty much not for Maokai. Revive? Rally? I am sure the ones on the top are better for Maokai.

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Maokai is a champion which can go anywhere. Top, mid, bot or even jungles.

Here are some champions that you want to avoid laneing against:

Yorick is not hard until he gets his full combo. He is very difficult to deal with his combo and heals. It will be the best choice to out lane and harm him at early game in order to dominate top lane.

Jarvan IV
Good Jarvan IV will be very difficult to deal. He will flag and then charge, him you and run. It is important to deal enough damage with Sapling Toss, so he will have harder time deciding weather to charge in or not.

People who MIGHT be a little difficult to deal with:

In the past, Jax can be really tanky but with super damage. Now, he is lesser tanky. It is very important to fight him and try to out lane him from minions so you will never fight him with his passive stacked. it is important to use your full combo on Jax if he jumps at you for harassment for counter harassing.

It is very easy to deal againt Akali. She is not a big threat until she reaches lvl 6. Even if she does and charge at you, use your full combo and hide in the bush. If she follows you to bush, if your Arcane Smash is up, use it and then run for another bush close. Keep doing it until your full combo is back up.

If you decide to do double lane then here are some suggested lane partner
All Range Ads:

Low Cooldown Ap Dealers:

Fast Attack Speed Melee Damagers:
Xin Xhao

You pretty much got the idea. With Maokai's snare, knock back and slow, him and buster are simply killing machine. You will have to give most of creeps to your partner, but you will be getting enough gold from kills and assists.

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Earily Game

This will tell you how to play Maokai better.

Level 1 - you should be able to scout bushes with Sapling Toss. If no one is in the bush, advance and use Sapling Toss again to the second bush. If no one is there, go toward the end of the bush which is closest to the enemy base but still hiding. If enemies approaches, Sapling Toss right away as soon as they reach the bush and you will be able to damage them. Do not chase them into towers (kind of obvious). If an enemy is low on health and staying beside tower and you have good amount of health, Sapling Toss at the enemy and run right away. When minions approaches, harass enemy champions with Sapling Toss. Clarity will allow you to stay way longer but be sure to save it when enemy tried to kill you thinking you are really low on mana.

Level 2 - Grab Twisted Advance. If all champions in your lane has similar health, Twisted Advance toward the squishier enemy and Sapling Toss right away. You need to give signal to your partner so he knows to attack with you. Also, be sure to Charge when you have Slap Magic ready to go. This will surprise enemy by healing on them. If you have mana left and enemies are just being chickens, use Sapling Toss to clear out mage minions for farming.

Level 3 - Watch your mana and use Clarity if possible. Use Sapling Toss wisely to not waste any mana. Grab Sapling Toss for even more damage

Level 4 - get Arcane Smash. If you haven’t used clarity and have mana still available and enemy are at 40% health, W on him and Arcane Smash and Sapling Toss right away. Toss Sapling Toss a bit toward the enemy base but still hit enemy champion when it lands so it explodes right away. This will allow you to take down at least 20~30%, depending on squishness of enemy or kills with lane partner.

As soon as you have around 1400 gold, go back and get Catalyst the Protector for mana and health and Teleport right back (If you have Teleport). If you don't, recall if you sent both of enemies to hell, or to home.

level 6 - you can know use Vengeful Maelstrom to get reduced damage and damaging enemy. Use Twisted Advance -> Sapling Toss -> Arcane Smash -> Vengeful Maelstrom. The orders can be changed but be sure to Twisted Advance and Arcane Smash toward the possible enemy flanking route. Undo Vengeful Maelstrom when he is almost out of ult range (You should be able to see its range).

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Earily Game Mid(!)

If you wish to, you can also Mid.
because your Sapling Toss is ranged, it makes possible for you to go against squishy mages or ADs. Also, because Maokai is so tanky, you will not have much problem against squishy champions such as Veigar or late game champions like Akali.

Level 1 - Sapling Toss and damage enemy champion as much as possible. Also position around mage minions for farming bonus

Level 2 - Get Twisted Advance and ready your clarity. Twisted Advance and charge in if you have more health or similar amount of health. Sapling Toss right away to your enemy's flee route so hits on landing and explosion. Try to stay behind minions so you don't get hit my their attack.

If low on health, go back, heal and Teleport back.

Level 4 - if Clarity is back on, Twisted Advance -> Arcane Smash -> Sapling Toss on enemy champion. Other wise, use Sapling Toss to clean up enemy minions.

Level 6 - Twisted Advance -> Sapling Toss -> Arcane Smash -> R toward their flee route. undo R as soon as she is about to exit the ult region.

BEWARE OF GANKS and if you see enemy champion from your back, Twisted Advance toward and Arcane Smash him as soon as possible and run away!

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Mid, Late games

If you have gotten some kills or assists, start building tanky item after Rod Of Age. Remember to Vengeful Maelstrom in right place so you can kill flanking enemy and assists allies in team fight. As you play, know when to give signal to your team so they know your initiating the fight (Important!) Twisted Advance on one of the champion and Vengeful Maelstrom around you and Sapling Toss and Arcane Smash toward your target. at this time, all of your team should be fighting INSIDE your Ult region.

When your pushing enemy towers, if you have 3 ~ 5 people and enemy has about 2 ~ 3 champions, Vengeful Maelstrom on the tower when it starts hitting ally minions and focus the tower. You should be able to reduce at lease 20% of its damage, or even more. Enemy will either run away or starts hitting you, but you take 20% lesser damage and you have your team with you! Don't be scared and just focus tower! PUSH PUSH PUSH and WIN! Remember, 1 ~ 2 deaths are worth a turret (more than that can make you to lose your tower. Think carefully when to back)!
While pushing the towers, if enemies comes behind you, Twisted Advance quickly and escape from the tower area and escape. if you have teams with you, then fight. Be careful when cleaning minions since 3 of his skills are AOE and can hit enemy champion and tower will start attacking you.

Importantly, you are a Tank and Shield to your ally. If you have teammates running and you are also running, turn around and Twisted Advance enemy champions, Vengeful Maelstrom -> Sapling Toss -> Arcane Smash them. Learn to sacrifice yourself for your team so they don't get YOU and YOUR TEAM!

If all of your teammates are dead Except YOU, and they are pushing towers, if they are close to the tower, Vengeful Maelstrom on the tower and Twisted Advance to closest enemy from the tower. Sapling Toss on him and Arcane Smash right away. You should be able to hold all 5 for a while and the tower and minions should be able to assists you. Run back to your base if your low on health cause they will chase YOU and not hitting TOWER that time.

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Jungling as Maokai!

Maokai is a great, great jungler. He is actually tier 1 jungler!
Maokai has 2 options in terms of first item choice: Cloth Armor + 5 Health Potion or Doran's Ring .

Cloth Armor + 5 Health Potion will allow Maokai to clear the jungle without going back, but it will not make maokai strong in gankgs.
Doran's Ring, however, may not allow Maokai to kill red, but everything else. Also, because it has 15 more ap and mana regen, it will help maokai when he is out of blue buff and ganking.

There are also 2 choices where the Maokai can start jungle and stack his saplings: Wraith or blue golem. Stacking Sapling Toss at Wraith will allow Maokai to clear wraith without any damage taken, but harder time at blue. if you choose to start and stack at golem, no leash is needed due to massive damage of 3 Sapling Toss .

Route 1: Blue Golem (stack saplings) -> wolf -> wraiths -> (if health is more than 30%) red -> double goelm.
Route 2: Wraith (stack sapling) -> Blue golem (NEED leashes. heavier the better!) -> wolf -> wraith (if respowned) -> red -> double golem.

Maokai is a slow champion, but great ganker. If you feel that your team needs a lot of ganks, purchase shoes as soon as possible. this will allow Maokai to gank easily and run around the jungle better.

Wriggle's Lantern is not the best choice of item for Maokai. it does provide free wards, armor, life steal, and great jungle ability, but Maokai does not need life steal, attack damage. Also, he is slow in attack, which will not trigger wriggle's ability as frequent as any other champions. However, if your planning to play support jungle Maokai, wriggle will not be a bad choice due to the free ward.

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Ganking as Maokai Jungle

Maokai's gank is very strong and good.
This should be very obvious, but try to gank when the enemy is pushed out. Before entering the combat, throw a Sapling Toss inside the river bush in case of enemy jungler's gank or the enemy tries to run toward the bush. This will provide a nice vision and damage to the enemies.
Wait until your Sapling Toss is back up. When it backs up, tell your team to start fighting and slow him. You should be charging toward your enemy with Twisted Advance clicked on him. If he runs toward a bush, throw sapling inside the bush that is closer to enemy's turret, or to the bush he is inside for vision purpose. as soon as you Twisted Advance, use Arcane Smash to knock-back or slow him. It will not be so hard to kill the enemy or make him to use Flash/ Ghost.

Another great way of ganking is to use Teleport. Ask the team to ward one of the bush. whenever the Teleport is up, Teleport to the ward and kill the extended enemy! land the full combo and before Teleporting, always remember to tell your team about the gank!

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Before Ending this.

I do not know many techniques to make a good guide yet, but I tired my best, for now.

If you want to be good in a certain champion, practice a lot, see how others play. Unless the build really does not make sense and is for trolling, no builds are 'bad'. It is just matter of your play style. I can Maokai well, but I cannot tank with other champions well, Dr. Mundo since he is totally different than Maokai.

If you think this build is not for you, try other people's build and mix them together. As far as I concern, I couldn't find this build on Mobafire and had to make one. This build also works for all other AP tanks Since it mainly focuses on getting armors and magic resists.

Maokai is fun to play and a little bit hard to master, but not very much. Play a lot and know when to charge in, when to signal your team and when to recall.

Please give feedback to make this guide better. And lastly, sorry for shouting a lot >ㅅ<