Maokai Build Guide by Fangride
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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.
Example Final Build
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.
Hi there! I'm Fangride. I figure this is a good spot to write about who am I, and why I'm writing a Maokai build, so here goes nothing!
First off, this is my first guide on Mobafire. Any tips and tricks I can get are a huge help, and thanks in advance!
Anyway, I've been playing League since January 2012, so I've had just under a year of experience with this game. I picked up Maokai at the prompting of a friend, and from there have begun some crazy jungling rampages with this amazing champion since. After the Season 3 Pre-Season patch went out, I started adjusting my normal Maokai build. Eventually, it worked into something very different, and turned my Maokai into a burn damage sort of chaser, and it's been working very effectively. From there, I decided to go ahead and write my first guide for Mobafire, about this great champion.
If you're curious, here's Maokai's Champion Spotlight.
As a Jungler, Maokai needs Smite. Simple as that. There's no reason you shouldn't take Smite, and if you don't, you better not be playing in the Jungle.
Aside from Smite, however, you have a few choices.
Another thought is Ghost, if Flash isn't your thing, but I've never found myself in a situation where I've wanted Ghost over Flash as Maokai, to be honest.
If it's not on that above list, it's likely not a good idea to take. Go ahead if you insist, but I promise, Revive is really not that good.
Runes and Masteries
Greater Mark of Attack Damage
Greater Seal of Armor
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist
Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed
These runes are, honestly, fairly basic. Attack Damage runes for early extra jungle damage with autoattacks. Flat Armor and Scaling Magic Resistance for jungle defense and ganking defense, and Movement Speed Quints, because frankly, Maokai is seriously slow. Combined with the Wanderer mastery, you can get to lanes and camps a bit quicker, which is quite helpful. You're free to toy with these, but this setup is the one that works for me.
The Masteries are something I've found to be a bit different.
0-15-15 is my choice for this, for a few reasons. Firstly, though Maokai is a tank, S3 has made the Utility tree especially worth delving into, and starting Maokai off with extra gold gives you a great opportunity early game to keep one-upping the enemy team.
The Defence Masteries are a bit more self explanatory. Maokai needs more health to make his passive shine, so give him more health. Bonus armor for the jungle creeps, and the one point in magic resist for those ganks.
The Utility Tree is also fairly basic. We improve Maokai's flash, we gain some bonus movement speed between Jungle camps and ganks, bonus mana to keep you up and running, a bit of extra summoner spell cooldown, and the buff extention, all of which are fairly basic. I then decided to take a risk and try out the bonus gold generation/starting off. Worked like a dream, and got my off the ground faster, and able to recover faster if a gank goes south. I suggest giving it a try, but if you don't like it, feel free to drop the 6 into Defence, and go 0-21-9.
Now I just want to take a few moments to talk about Maokai's abilities here.
First, is his passive, Sap Magic. After 5 spells are cast near Maokai, ally, enemy, whatever, his next basic attack heals him for 7% of his maximum health. This scales wonderfully with more health, which means as the game progresses, we'll want more of it. It shines in teamfights and can go off rather quickly to help you tank.
Next is his Q, Arcane Smash. This is Maokai's 'spam' ability, useful for both Jungle Camps and ganks. It has a short cooldown, deals a good chunk of damage, and knocks all units up that it hits. I take a point in this at level 2 and 3, and then swap back and forth between this and Maokai's E to max them.
After that is his W, Twisted Advance. This is Maokai's main initiate and ganking tool, letting him cover a chunk of ground and root the target briefly. I take a point in this at either level 3 or 4 and max it last. It combo's very well with his other abilities, by initiating with it, tossing down your E, and then hitting with your Q to keep the target in place further for the explosion.
Up next is his E, the signature Sapling Toss. This is an all around awesome utility ability. You toss an explosive sapling through the air, with a huge range, and it deals impact damage. It than wards the area for up to 35 seconds or until it explodes. Explodes? Yeah, if an enemy comes near, it chases them down and blows them up. It's awesome for bush checking, poking, and excellent for jungle clearing. I take this at level one to speed up clears, and max it second, but swap off leveling it back and forth with Arcane Smash.
Finally is his Ultimate, Vengeful Maelstrom. This ability is really quite useful for your team, mostly, as it reduces damage dealt to your allies inside by 20%, draining mana each second, and then when deactivated, deals damage equal to a portion of all enemy damage dealt inside. This ability is really his best, as it's helpful for jungle duels, teamfights, and even dragon or baron. This ability does need a fair bit of intelligent placement and timing though, as it is simple enough to just walk outside of the AoE. Place it slightly behind fights, to catch chasers, save it until a fight is committed to, or pop it down quickly for a bit of damage. Be creative - this skill has a lot more to it than meets the eye.
When leveling, I follow this ability sequence. Explanation is above, if you read into it a bit. Feel free to mix up your leveling order, though, as I do want you to experiment with your play. Following a guide to a T will always get you in trouble :P
Core Item Build
Maokai's core item build mostly is based around turning extremely tanky, while dishing out very noticeable Damage over Time burn effects. You should try and keep Red Buff as much as possible to augment this further, and the Charred Maokai skin is a must.
Because of your increased gold, you're going to start with either a Hunter's Machete and a bunch of Health Pots and a mana pot, or a Hunter's Machete, four health potions, and a Sight Ward
By staying through all your camps, which Maokai has little problem with, one can usually buy AT LEAST a Spirit Stone on your first trip back to the base, starting you off strong. Once you get the stone, buy at least one Long Sword, then get yourself your T1 boots as early as possible, and upgrade into T2 after that. With the boots, I really left the choice up to you, between the Boots of Swiftness, for the faster movement combined with the slow reduction, or the Mercury's Treads, with Magic Resistance, Tenacity, and Movement Speed 2. I prefer Mercury's Treads myself for the Magic Resist.
From here, the build becomes a bit more open, depending upon the enemy team. I recommend Giant's Belt for health, and then a Spirit of the Elder Lizard for your first burning item. After that, I like to get a Sunfire Cape, for the second burn, some hefy armor, and a chunk of health. This item is a bit risky at times, but can really pay off in teamfights. With the change to Spirit of the Spectral Wraith causing it to reduce Smite's cooldown, it may be worth getting early on now, but that's totally up to you. I still prefer the Burn damage over Smite cooldown, but I'll run some tests.
Other possibilities at this stage include Rylai's Crystal Scepter, for some strong early slows with your abilities, an early Iceborn Gauntlet, though I prefer to save that for last, or picking up a Liandry's Torment first. Thornmail is another thought, for the armor, though I'm not a huge fan of this on Maokai.
From there, I get my Liandry's Torment for further burning damage, that can rip through tanks as well, especially when using your root, and get my Boots Enchantment, usually Enchantment: Alacrity, though Enchantment: Captain is another thought.
After that is where you really just need to look at the enemy team. I usually cool down the burn damage, and get the Abyssal Scepter and Iceborn Gauntlet if I'm this far, for Armor, Magic Resist, and some hefty damage to round out the build, but other items, such as Runic Bulwark, for team help, Twin Shadows, for enemy location, Mikael's Crucible, for some team help and cleansing, or even a Spirit Visage may be viable choices, depending on the situation.
Keep in mind I'm not discussing every single item Maokai could use, but merely discussing the core items, why I choose them, and other possibilities. If you have your own thoughts on items, please let me know. The feedback is very valuable.
Just going to give some very small reasonings behind each of the Situational Items listed!
Let's Talk Boots
With the new Boot Enchantments, plus the large variety of uses with boots, which do you take?
In my core build, I extoll the use of Mercury's Treads and Enchantment: Alacrity, though many other choices are available.
However, the Magic Resistance on Mercury's Treads usually are the thing that makes me prefer them over Boots of Swiftness.
Boots of Mobility are more for those Maokai player who want to pretend to be Dr. Mundo. Fly across the battlefield in a blaze of glory as your movement speed hits near 500. It's great. Sadly, speed is all they're good for, and I personally wouldn't take them on Maokai often.
I wouldn't really recommend any other Enchantments, however, other than perhaps Enchantment: Homeguard, as none of the others really offer anything big for Maokai. He has only one single target spell, making Enchantment: Furor not so great, and frankly, he can't use the others.
In the end, it's up to you, so take a look at your current situation, and choose wisely.
I don't have any diagrams for you, unfortunately, but I'll just give a simple list for my ideal route.
1. Ancient Golem with a strong pull to keep your health up high. Smite to kill.
2. Wolves, using E and Q to clear as quickly as possible.
3. Wraiths. By now, you might want to use your health potion
4. Red Lizard, with Smite again.
5. Depending on my health here, I either recall, or go to Golems.
I then continue my route from here.
2. Golems (If you didn't)
4. Search for some ganks.
Ganking with Maokai is especially easy if you have Flash, as well. Have your teammate lure, run forward, flash if needed for surprise, and use your W to root them. Step behind them and then when the root ends, use your Q to knock them up, and throw an E to get some damage out. Hopefully you'll have scored a kill now.
From here, I like to go back into the jungle, and toss a Sapling into the bush nearest to a buff, to deal a bit of pain to the enemy jungler if they go for their buff, and for a free 35 second ward.
I then continue my route, and attempt to do Wraith, Wolf, or Buff steals from here on out, seaching for lanes to gank. Maokai is also very good at sacrificing himself to get a teammate out. By rooting one enemy in a pack, the others will converge on you, and you can Q them to get some distance. This gives allies time to run if need be, and also you as well, if you have a flash up. If you can escape, do so, but if not, die knowing you saved an ally in the process. I don't recommend doing this if you have buffs, however.
Counter Jungling and Wards
Warding is a very important part of jungling, and also is very important when you counter jungle. The most important wards to get down are one at each of the enemy's buffs, so you know exactly when they spawn, giving you an opportunity to steal, and later in the game one near Dragon and Baron Nashor.
Warding your own buffs is a secondary thing, and only advised if you really think you need to. It can come in handy to stop steals and get in there fast however. Also worth wording may be the enemy's wraiths and your own, for vision and stealing purposes.
For more on warding, check out this guide here.
When counter jungling early game, be wary and don't be greedy. It's very easy to get caught by the enemy when in their jungle, and considering the strength of jungle creeps early game, it's also easy to get killed by an enemy.
Slip in, steal their wraiths, and maybe even leave one alive. Slip in, grab a buff with your E/W/Q combo, smite it, and get out as quickly as you can. As the game progresses, it becomes easier and easier, if and only if, you pay attention to the location of the enemy jungler. This allows you to go somewhere you know they're not, and take it from them, robbing them of valuable gold and experience.
Counter-Jungling is almost required to have a strong jungle game and shut down the enemy, so take the opportunity whenever you feel you can, and feel comfortable about it as well.
Thanks for reading my first guide! I will continue to expand and make changes to this guide as I learn more about building guides, read any feedback and get, and continue to use and test Maokai within the game.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read this little guide. If you enjoyed it and it helped you, please leave me a +1. If you didn't like it, please explain why in the comments. This helps me address issues and weaknesses within my guide, and helps me grow as a builder and Guide Creator.
Thanks so much!
Pictures from wins
I've got a few pictures to show off of the wins. If you use this and get some nice scores, please post 'em for me to put here!
-Updated the guide a small bit, with a few images and more description.
-Big changes! Lots of pretty code and pictures! Still working on it, but here's the basics!
-Updated a slight bit. Computer has died, so don't expect too much from me on this until it gets fixed.
-Changed a few things around after recent patches, and changed the Masteries a small bit
-Happy Valentine's Day! The new patch, 3.02 hit today, and changed a few things on this build I feel I should address. I'm actually not going to change any of the core itemization, as the changes nerfed the items slightly, but increased their usefulness.
Ability power reduced to 50 from 60
Damage per second increased to 2% from 1.66%
Damage-over-time and multi-target spells no longer have reduced effect
Fixed damage effect not being properly reapplied on targets that already have it
What this means?
We lose 10 ability power, but the damage per second tick is now 2% of the enemies health. That's all well and good, but we're down 10 AP. So why is this item still worth it? The second two points. Now Maokai's Q, E, and R all apply the debuff in full, meaning no more slow required for the full damage. This means Maokai's Q will deal 4% per second in full, and all abilities will properly reapply the burn!
Total cost reduced to 3250 gold from 3400
Cooldown reduction reduced to 10% from 15%
Fixed a bug where the slow field was lasting longer than intended
Fixed a bug where the slow was not being applied immediately
Slow field radius for ranged champions reduced to 210 from 275
Slow field radius for melee champions increased to 285 from 275
So what does this mean? It costs 150 less gold for us at the end of the game, but we lose 5% cooldown reduction. However, the slow field radius is increased by an additional 10, meaning we can keep the double damage from Liandry's with this item slightly longer. All-in-all a fairly decent change. Item definitely doesn't need to be removed in my book.
Furthermore, Spirit of the Spectral Wraith might not be a bad buy, if you'd prefer to not build AD on Maokai now, as the 20% Smite cooldown reduction is really nice for early game clears. This definitely becomes less useful late game, but I'll add it to the other possible items now.
That's all for my changes now, sorry about the long notes :P
-Added a new picture
-Not really any changes necessary with the new patch. The slight nerf on Elder Lizard Stone doesn't really impact this guide negatively. However, the new Blade of the Ruined King may be a really good option. I shall be testing this out at a later date.
-Removed Iceborn Gauntlet from the build, replacing it with Frozen Mallet. Iceborn's AP has been reduced too far for it to feel worth it anymore, but I wanted to retain the autoattack based slows.
-Heavily updated the item build. Removed Mallet, re-added Gauntlet.
Huge thanks to jhoijhoi's amazing guide for guide-prettying! Check it out!