Maokai Build Guide by Magic Magnum
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.
Welcome to Maokai the Enabler Tank!
Welcome to my Maokai build guide! This is my first LoL build guide and I am new to this site as well. Feedback is more than welcome, but if you disagree, then please do so respectfully and without flaming. If you have a suggestion that I feel would make this guide better, I will make a change and acknowledge your input in the acknowledgments section at the end.
I have played Maokai for about 50 games I'd say. I'll be upfront and admit that none of them were ranked games, but I do plan to test this build in a ranked environment. I have experimented with several different builds and I find this to be the most effective build for him of all that I have tried.
Maokai is an AP based champion and is also quite tanky. However, it is clear that Maokai is not the sort of champ who should be built solely for AP. If you are looking for a champ for AP, then there are many better options. Maokai is not the sort of champ who can be built solely for tanking. Many other champions fill this role better as well. Maokai is clearly not the best option in the game for support. His only support-ish ability is his famous ultimate. He has decent crowd control, but his lack of speed makes him less than the ideal candidate for such a role.
Maokai's strength lies between these 4 areas of specialty. Rather than being at the pinnacle of any one role, he is centered squarely between several. The goal of this build is to maximize his overall usefulness to his team in team fights.
The goal of this build is to maximize Maokai's usefulness to his team. This means that Maokai will not be the champ who gets all the kills and he will not be the champ who is the perfect tank. He WILL be the champ who enables his teammates to win EVERY team fight (and I do mean EVERY.)
We'll start at the Summoner Spells.
Exhaust: Maokai has two champion abilities that can cause stuns. His Arcane Smash (Q Ability) can cause a small stun and his Twisted Advance (W Ability) can cause a longer stun by rooting an enemy for up to 2 seconds. This is already some pretty decent crowd control. Why not up it a notch with a Cripple enhanced Exhaust? I like using my Twisted Advance to engage a team fight, throw down my ult, hit a different enemy with my Exhaust and then hit yet another with Arcane Smash.
Clarity: Maokai is going to be spamming saplings at the beginning of the game and this will come in handy. Late game, when there will be team fights breaking out, you want to be able to throw down your ult and let it run for large amounts of time. This eats up mana very fast and clarity is a necessity here.
Runes should be pretty self explanatory, but I'll give a quick run down of my reasons for each.
Greater Marks of Insight: Maokai is meant to harass in the early game by using his saplings. We want to make these things hit hard for early laning advantage. Flat Magic Penetration is best here because we want to be strong at the EARLY game.
Greater Seals of Clarity: We want to be able to spam those saplings at the early game as much as possible. In my opinion, Mana Regen Per Level is better than flat Mana Regen here. Between these, the Mana Manipulator that you will buy first, and the Clarity spell, you should almost always have the mana you need during the early game.
Greater Glyphs of Warding: We want to make sure that Maokai has some runes for tanking. I prefer Flat Magic Res for early game pressure over the small difference that Magic Res Per Level would provide.
Greater Quintessence of Insight: Once again, as with the Marks of Insight, we want those saplings to be incredibly damaging in the early game.
Many people like Quints of Fortitude. 3 quints of fortitude will give you 78 HP. In the early game, you will not need to worry about having an extra 78 HP because your enemy will rarely be trying to push in if you are harassing them with saplings and have the magic pen of Quints of Insight. Late game, 78 HP will not make that large of an impact on team fights and so it is most important to have a strong early game so that you will have the advantage come late game.
As I mentioned above, our Maokai is going to be part AP, part Tank, part Support, and part Crowd Control. As also read above, our Runes will focus primarily on his early game laning abilities by providing him with AP and Mana and a little bit of Tanking power. Here at the Masteries however, we will focus primarily on Tanking.
9 Points in the Offense Tree:
- 3 Points in Archmage's Savvy - We want that ability power again for those saplings.
- 1 Point on Cripple - We are using the exhaust spell and we want to get to Archaic Knowledge, so Cripple is a no-brainer here and will help with our Crowd Control.
- 4 Points in Sorcery - We want to get to the Archaic Knowledge Mastery, so the cooldown points are more than welcome for spamming those saplings.
- Archaic Knowledge - The 15% magic penetration helps buff those saplings even more.
21 Points in the Defense Tree:
- This progression should be pretty self explanatory. The armor, magic resist, health regen, and damage reduction helps make Maokai Tanky.
0 Points in the Utility Tree: You just really don't need this stuff as much as you need the things in the other trees. So, none of these will be used.
The item build pictured above is a general idea of what you will want. It is NOT to be considered as the ideal build for EVERY situation. Based on the opposing team and on your own team, you will need to adjust the build in certain places.
Mana Manipulator - This is your first item. It will cost your entire starting allowance, but it is worth it to be able to spam those saplings and keep up the pressure. It creates an aura that will provide it's mana regen effect to help your teammate too.
Boots of Speed and Mercury's Treads - These come next. Like all characters, you need to be able to get around. The best boots for Maokai are either Mercury's Treads or Ninja Tabi. These will assist your tanking. I prefer Mercury's Treads personally because I like the crowd control reduction, but Ninja Tabi is also a fine choice and is a better choice if the enemy team lacks much crowd control or lacks characters who have AP.
Soul Shroud - You want to get to your Soul Shroud quickly. It gives you raised mana regen for spamming saplings early game and helps with your mana hungry ult in the late game. It also helps you get tanky with 520 HP. Further, it will help your entire team. The cooldown reduction is a nice bonus. The mana, the health, and the support for your team are all perfect.
Sunfire Cape - The Sunfire Cape accomplishes several things for you. First, it gives you health and armor to help get you more tanky. Second, Maokai lacks much damage output late game, especially with this build, and the Sunfire Cape will help add a bit more damage to any enemies who are near enough to you which could be just enough damage to help give you team that extra bump that they need to win in team fights.
Frozen Heart - The Frozen Heart is a great item for Maokai as well. The 99 Armor buffs you as a tank and the 500 mana is great for fueling your ult. The cooldown is, of course, always welcome. The attack speed reduction on the enemy will lower the amount of damage that all nearby enemy champs can deal to your team once the team fight erupts.
Banshee's Veil - Most of the time, when teams are being formed, a good strategy is to diversify your team by having AP and AD. This forces the opposing team to have to diversify their defenses. Maokai will be able to help tank Magic Attacks and keep his team alive by grabbing a Banshee's Veil.
Frozen Mallet - The Frozen Mallet is a great tool for Maokai in the late game. By this point, you will need to be able to take all kinds of hits and keep going without having to back out. Such times could be when your team finally has the number advantage or has earned an ace and needs to push. Your extra HP will ensure that you survive when the enemy starts respawning. Further, when you're team is trying to catch those runners after a successful team fight, the Frozen Mallet will help you and your team finish them by reducing their movement speed so that they cannot get away.
This item build is a general guideline. If the opposing team is largely AP based, switch the Frozen Heart and/or Sunfire Cape for a Force of Nature and/or Hexdrinker. If the opposing team lacks much AP, then swap the Banshee's veil for the cheaper Hexdrinker or drop magic res entirely from your item set and get more armor or health. If your team is being very successful and is clearly dominating in the early game and you need to help keep up the pressure, consider getting Boots of Mobility to help you keep up with the pace.
Stats About Support
Mobafire gives us that nice cheat sheet of stats which is great. Comparing the stats of this build to other builds, you will find that the numbers appear low. However, the goal of this build is not just about your own numbers, but also about the ways that you buff your team and nerf the opposing team. Thus, I feel it is only appropriate to provide some stats on that.
Assuming that you have laid down your Ultimate and your team is within the AoE:
- 20% Damage Reduction (Source: Your Ult)
- 12 Mana per 5 seconds (Source: Your Soul Shroud)
- 10% Cooldown Reduction (Source: Your Soul Shroud)
- 20% Attack Speed Reduction for Enemies (Source: Your Frozen Heart)
- 40 DPS to All Nearby Enemies (Source: Your Sunfire Cape)
- 2 Second Stun (Source: Your Twisted Advance)
- 1 second Stun and 2 second Slow (Source: Your Arcance Smash)
- Slows movement speed by 40% and reduces auto attack damage by 70% and ability/item damage by 35% and reduces a targets armor and magic resistence by 10 for the duration of 3.5 seconds. (Source: Your Exhaust)
Between your Ult and items buffing the defense of your allies, your items and spells nerfing the damage output of your enemies, the increased damage output that your allies will have due to the cooldown reduction that you provide for them, and the small dps from the sunfire cape, your team will have a huge advantage in team fights. Further, you will be tanking a ton of damage for them. You ENABLE your team to survive, to deal extra damage, and to finish off the enemy before they can get away.
First and foremost is choosing your lane and partner. If you are Blue Team, choose top lane, if you are Purple Team, choose bot lane (more on this later, but for now trust me). It IS possible to go mid with Maokai, but I do not recommend it unless your team absolutely needs you to. If there is a champion who does not use mana or energy, then this will be your ideal partner. Characters like Renekton and Garen are your best friends. This is because they can spam their abilities to feed your passive which provides you with health regen.
In the early game, you are going to be primarily spamming saplings. You will focus on harassing the enemy rather than on attacking minions. Harassing from inside the brush is the most effective way of accomplishing this as most enemy champs will not be able to harass back unless they enter the brush too. If they do enter the brush, then just step back, toss a sapling into the brush, and reclaim your position when they run from the sapling. Don't be afraid to step a bit into turret range to throw a sapling deep at a fleeing enemy.
Now, I'll explain the reason I said top lane for Blue Team and bot lane for Purple Team. You will often find as Maokai, that you can pressure the enemy to tower hug and that you can harass safely and for large damage, even from under their own turret. Once they have to retreat further back even from the turret, you want to be able to lob saplings over the trees. If you are bot lane for Blue or top lane for Purple, your sapling throws can not go as deep into their territory without putting yourself in a dangerous position on their half of the map.
The Blue Dots demonstrate where you want to stand and the green zone represents roughly the area that you can throw a sapling to. The orange dots represent where you do not want to be standing and the red lines are outlining the ridges that restrict your options for running away (especially from a gank).
Are You Doing This Right?
If you are following my rune, mastery, and item build order, then providing that your teammate is decent, you should normally be able to survive in your lane without needing to return to base for about 15 minutes. An exception to this rule is if you and your partner engage the enemy KNOWING that you can get at least one kill. The damage incurred from that would likely require you to return to base.
By the time you get to mid game, you should have been able to purchase about 3.5 - 4 of the completed items in this build. You will be moving between defending turrets and trying to help in team fights. Your primary responsibility should be to back up your team.
Even if you opt for the Boots of Mobility, you are still very slow and if you are too far away when a team fight breaks out, then you will rarely be able to make it there in time to make much of a difference. As a result, you should generally start trying to spend more and more time at mid lane so that you never have to make the move from top to bot or vice versa.
When a team fight erupts, you must analyze the situation and follow one of a few different paths. You will either:
A.) Use your Twisted Advance (W) to engage or to quickly join the middle of the fray and stun an enemy and THEN put down your Ult immediately
B.) You will throw down your Ult immediately and THEN use your Twisted Advance followed up with you exhaust and Arcane Smash and then Sapling Toss.
Making the right decision about your first move could be what decides the outcome of the entire team fight. Learning to read the situation and to react accordingly is essential and is what separates a good Maokai player from the noob Maokai player. You WILL mess up in your first handful of games and your team WILL blame you every time if you are new to him, but do not be discouraged. Practice makes perfect and you will get it right eventually.
Where you draw the line between Mid Game and Late Game can be a bit tricky, so it is hard for me to give you much recommendation about how far along in your build you should be. Often times, I have 5 of my items in late game and it is LATE LATE Game before I get my 6th.
As at mid game, you should be focused primarily on helping your team in team fights and the same advice about team fights holds here. Most importantly, do NOT run from CLOSE team fights. If things are close and you think you might die, but your teammates are still alive, turning and running will mean a for sure loss, but if you commit to fighting to your own death if need be, then you can be the one who enables your team to win even when things look bleak. After all, the goal of this build is to ENABLE your team. If you think you are going to go down, then go down in a blaze of glory that will help your team win the fight.
Additional Miscellaneous Tips
- Your Role in Team Fights - Lay down your ult, and stay within the Area of Effect as much as possible. Use your stuns and exhaust to help hold the enemy within it as well. This will force them to attack from within the area of effect and will strengthen the damage that it deals when you deactivate it.
- Don't Flee! - If it looks like you are going to die, do NOT try to run. You will be incredibly surprised by how long you can keep fighting before you go down and if the most of your team is still at the team fight, your commitment to stay could make the difference between a win and a loss in that fight. But, if you give up and try to run, then you will almost surely fail. Maokai is simply too slow and it will rarely work unless at least one other champion on your team is there to assist your escape. 9 times out of 10, you will be better off to stay and fight.
- Farming Minions - This is a small tip, but when you are farming minions and a new minions wave comes along, toss your sapling at the mage minions in back. Make sure it lands on the clump of them and usually it will wipe out all 3 when it explodes (I say usually because sometimes it leaves them with just a tiny bit of HP left for some unknown reason). This will net you a quick 60 gold each time. I often find at the end of the game that I racked up more minion kills then the rest of my team by using this small trick.
- Am I Doing It Right? - If you are doing this right, then you should finish the game with a small number of kills, a small number of deaths, and a huge number of assists. Your minion kills should be on the high end of the spectrum compared to the other players from both sides. In games where neither side votes to surrender, you should be able to complete at least 4 of the recommended items in this build (ideally in close to the order given and/or with the substitutions noted).
- If you space it correctly, Maokai can put his ult around one of the nexus turrets and stand on the base to receive the boosted mana regen to have an infinitely mana fed ult. I have not found a way to actually make this useful at all. It seems to me that if there was ever a time where you would need to put your ult in that place, then you should be fighting there instead of just standing on the base and I'm also not sure if the Ult is allowed to defend turrets from damage. If anyone else DOES find a use for this, then let me know.
- So far, the only use I think would make any sense for it is if you got disconnected from a game very early and came back very late after the enemy broken into your base, then maybe it could help your team rather than you trying to help and end up feeding.
Proof in Results
These are some results that I got using this build in a solo queue normal game. In this match I did get Boots of Mobility instead of Mercury's Treads and I opted to get the Frozen Mallet before the Banshee's Veil.
The very beginning started out with my laning partner, Renekton, being too chicken to chase a Morde and a Twitch each at 25% remaining health and since I chased alone, they just turned around and killed me. After that, Renekton got himself killed twice and then I got a double kill. From that point on, I was nearly unstoppable.
Obviously, everyone will have their outstanding games and their bad ones. So, I do not mean to say that this is my average outcome. This is just an example of what CAN happen through using this build when you have a good game.
(While I was trying to crop the stats picture, I accidentally saved it incorrectly and lost it. I reconstructed it by going to each player's match history and capturing each one. If anyone would like to see more in depth stats than these, I have them available.)
Most kills from either side. Tied for least deaths of either side. Huge number of assists and more minions slain than the other 9 players.
Pros / Cons of This Build
- Harassment Power
- Pretty Tanky
- Quints of Insight instead of Fortitude boost harassment power early game.
- Provides about 1000 more HP than other Maokai builds.
- This Maokai build gives a lot of support to your team in team fights.
- Quints of Insight instead of Fortitude Cost Some Tankyness.
- Many other Maokai builds result in a Maokai with more armor and magic res.
- Many other Maokai builds result in a Maokai with a lot of AP.
- Other Maokai builds allow you to deal a lot more damage in team fights.
Thank you for taking the time to check out this guide and to consider my advice. I hope that this guide will prove to be a useful tool for both those new to Maokai or even those Maokai vets who are seeking a way to step up their game a notch or to experiment with a fun and different build.
If you have any suggestions, please feel free to contribute. If you disagree with me, please do not just vote down my guide, but at least give me some feedback as to why you do not like it. If you do disagree, please try to do so respectfully and without flaming. Intelligent discussion will be more useful to everyone involved than a flame war and we are all here for the common goal of getting better and sharing tips right?
Thanks again and good luck on the Fields of Justice.
Me - The Author
Riot - For Making LoL
General Silliness Forum of AllisBrawl.com - For persuading me to start playing LoL
You - For Reading
Copyright 2011 - Magic Magnum
This guide is intended for use on Mobafire. If you would like to re-post this guide to another site, please ask for my permission first and do not make changes to it. I will gladly grant permission to post it just about anywhere. I mostly would just like to know where it is being sent so that I can check out the feedback that it is given in those locations. Thanks!