Build Guide by Oxea

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Oxea

Maokai - The Guarantreed Tanker

Oxea Last updated on February 20, 2011
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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.


Brute Force
Improved Rally

Offense: 0

Strength of Spirit
Veteran's Scars

Defense: 21

Expanded Mind
Blink of an Eye
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 9

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WARNING: This guide is in-depth and long, so please take the time to read through & if you're that impatient you've got the Table and Contents and are able to skim through where needed :P

Welcome to the 'Maokai - The Guarantreed Tanker' build that focuses more so on building Maokai as an actual Tank rather than the other way around (AP Tank, Support Tank etc). This build will mainly address his initiating capabilities, his ability to stay within the pocket, his obvious mana problem and in general, an analysis overall in how to use him.

Just remember that Maokai is a Support Tank at the end of the day, so for those who aren't comfortable with the prioritized Tanking rather than AP Tanking, don't worry, the build is balanced and does have AP end build. This build also is based off versing a balanced team of AD & AP, so where applicable, it'll be up to your discretion in selecting items for pure AD or AP teams. Every game will be different, so it'll become a situation where every game will require a different set of items for you to tank with.

Please don't criticize this build for not emphasizing on AP items etc as this build again, isn't focused towards that. He is being shown in this guide as a Tank. This guide will be in-depth so be patient on yourself and read it all. You'll learn a thing or few which help shape you to be a better Tanking Maokai.

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Pros / Cons


  • Can lane control easily mid - late game using his arcane smash, sapling toss and ult if needed. Which in saying can CC easily too.
  • Is able to disrupt/harass the enemy team easily
  • Is an excellent burst damage initiator (in terms of his slows, stuns etc)
  • Mana is no problem actually from mid - late game. This build will honestly give you a big pool to chew through. Maokai's ult shouldn't be a problem if you're planning your skills in advance.
  • Provides consistent team support (Need to chase someone down? Twisted Advance. Need to save a teammate? Arcane Smash. Need to scout areas immediately? Sapling Toss etc.)
  • Takes damage easily, you are a Tank remember.
  • Saved the best for last, despite people saying Annie can burn this tree down, that isn't the case, especially if you're Charred Maokai with Sunfire Cape :)

  • AP is much lower compared to an actual AP Tank Maokai, so you're looking at a wrong build then?
  • Escaping capabilities are poor, you're slow yes, but you do have a short range skill - Twisted Advance which you can use and Arcane Smash to knockback/slow which can assist somewhat.
  • Isn't a pure Tank, he's support, even though this build is geared towards Tanking, just remember he isn't a Malphite or Rammus.
  • Mana early to mid is a problem, you must be conservative in using his skills. Latter game, if you're constantly unleashing you'll obviously have a problem too but it'll be more manageable.
  • No Mana Regen items, apart from masteries etc. Yeah this is a problem ONLY IF you're in a position where you've constantly had to stay within the fight and/or push the lane into their base etc. BUT if you're not in such a position and chewing through Mana quickly, slow down on the harass etc.
  • Slow as a motherf*cking.. Tree!

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This build uses the standard 0/21/9 masteries. In defence, points are added towards Evasion & Nimbleness rather than Strength of Spirit and Ardor. The added dodge chance + movement speed I believe benefits Maokai more due to him being Tank for starters and as he's slow too, so where applicable he'll be able to move quicker in order to chase etc. The added dodge chance also gives potential bonus time for Maokai to stay within the pocket and fight.

Strength of Spirit increases regen of health which isn't needed as you're a tank with items that give you a large pool of hp. Ardor gives Maokai an increase in attack speed and ability power which does seem like a nice perk but again in this case, Maokai is being played as Tank not an AP Tank.

In total there is 4 points that are directed towards mana regen in the support column which will basically make up your MR in total. Again it's up to you as the player to find what comforts you, you are obviously able to change the masteries to your liking.

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Self explanatory, standard Tank rune against AP.
Again Self explanatory, standard Tank rune against AD.
Greater Glyph of Replenishment Gives you a boost in Mana Regen, you could swap these for either another set of Armor or MR runes.
Extra Health for your Tank of a Tree.

The runes selected are for Maokai's tanking capabilities which work really well for that purpose. In the case though that you do replace the MR for A or MR runes, remember that those runes specifically are Maokai's second source of MR after the Masteries selected.

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Summoner Spells

First of your Summoner Spells which is a game changer in its own right. On Maokai's terms remember he can't escape as efficiently as other champions so it's a trump card. In fights it can obviously disrupt any champ so long it's used advantageously, a carry behind the lines causing trouble to your team? Exhaust and let your team mates know there's another death to be carried out!

Obviously self explanatory, Maokai hands down is a slow champ, he is a tree so I guess you can't blame him. Ghost, with the added point in the mastery gives him an excellent boost to either escape, as again he is poor at that, but most importantly chase champs down where needed. Ghost to Twisted Advance much? This would be a default spell for you.


Now for a list of other Summoner Spells you could use, they are the only other recommendations I see fit to work with Maokai, everything else I obviously don't. Teleport for example with Ghost, in general no, if your Ghost is on CD etc. then that's a fail. Leave spells such as Teleport to more DPS champs or a faster champ, even to a Rammus.

I wasn't going to place this here as a recommendation but for those honestly who see this build and say his MR is terrible (which it isn't) This spell is your security somewhat and also can aid your teammates where needed. But you don't need this spell, you've got a huge Mana pool anyway and you shouldn't be unleashing all your spells just to clear a lane right full of minions right?

Being a tank and having such potential disruptive ability, you'd most probably be focused. Cleanse will help you counter that problem and let you continue to do your job.

Works in Synergy with Ghost, so in a sense this Spell could be good, especially for it's chasing down and escaping capabilities. I wouldn't suggest getting this at all, unless you pair it up with Ghost. By itself it'll be a waste in general, Maokai is too slow to commit with chasing and even escaping to utilize this. In range of you anyway, you have your own 'Flash' ability, Twisted Advance.

Ignite is a questionable choice here, there will be players who have spells that allow escapes, whether it's a 1v1 or a team fight, Ignite does it job and could make such a difference.

Heal is a another excellent choice, as a Tank it provides you backup for staying out in the battlefield, as well as to your teammates too. When in a full fledged team fight, Heal could be the difference to helping your teammates defeating and even staying alive. Ult + Heal where needed is a great synergy to you and your team.

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Items Analysis & Sequence

This section is dedicated towards the analysis and sequence for Maokai. Remember this guide is for playing him as a Support Tank, so these items were chosen in regards for being able to obviously tank and stay within the fight longer; supporting your team. As it's up to your discretion to what you do, you are obviously able to edit the items itself and even the sequence etc. Whenever you have free gold, always buy some mana pots incase, once you've gotten your 3rd full item, mana isn't such a problem so you can stop by then. Even if you don't need the mana pots, it'll be a good source of income when you sell them. This way verses say a mana regen item like Meki's Pendant is more expensive, true. But long term, the Meki Pendant will exhaust your mana more compared to a mana pool increase due you believing that mana regen is more sustainable (which is what I thought :P)

This with 1 each of & are great starting items for Maokai. Along with Sapphire Crystal and the hp + mana pot, you'll have a larger mana pool for your skill usage and regen (from pots) when needed. For those who'd want to grab Doran's Shield or Meki Pendant etc, I recommend using these items first as you're a Support Tank remember, you're playing conservatively compared to an AP Tank version that'll be more aggressive. This will obviously allow you to stay in the lane longer.

Next is Glacial Shroud, the full form you're aiming for and the pre-requisite for Frozen Heart. It gives a nice armor and mana boost with 15% CDR. This will aid you in the early to mid laning phase. As you gain a reduction in CDR, you'll obviously be open to using your skills more which in turn can eat your mana, so remember to play it conservatively.

Self explanatory here, an item that is ultimately needed for any champ, especially for Maokai being slow, yes this build sacrifices boots for the completion of Glacial Shroud initially but it's worth it. Maokai is that slow anyway. Your next objective is to get the full which is vital to Maokai. These boots in general are such a help with the reduction in duration of spells towards you. Even if you're up against a full AD or AP team, I suggest you get these boots regardless. You are the Tank and need to make sure you're always ready to continue the fight.

Third in the item sequence and pretty straight forward, gaining the full Frozen Heart. In doing so, always grab the Cloth Armor when you can and not wait to buy the full Frozen Heart. This gives you that extra defence where needed and a chance to buy more mana pots. The increase in armor and mana is a nice addition again along with the CDR, but this time you also gain the ability to reduce the attack speed of nearby enemies by 20% which is very critical. Remember Maokai is a tank that stays within the pocket, once you Twisted Advance etc, you're enabled to use that perk which especially in team fights can make such a difference.

Catalyst the Protector The 4th item and pre-requisite to Banshee's Veil. This item is pretty straight forward and a very vital boost to Maokai, you gain a large hp and mana pool with the perk of you gaining mana per level up allows you again to stay out on the battlefield longer. Once you've got the full Catalyst I suggest you grab the Negatron Cape first then the Veil itself not all together. This'll give you that extra added MR if needed anyway.

The full item which again is another great addition to Maokai and any other champ anyway. Veil not only gives an increase in your hp + mana pool with the magic resist, but critically blocks a negative spell every 30 seconds which can be a game changer where applicable. As initiator you'd probably be focused by some of the enemy champs and so this nifty baby can halt them that one spell in doing so. Regardless anywhere in game, Veil can be that block that enables you to push further etc.

From here you then grab a which is self explanatory in its own right, a big boost in hp and somewhat in armor to then create which will work 100% perfect with Maokai. As he'll be up close in the pocket during a fight, all and any enemy that is within your immediate range will be affected especially your focused enemy.

Sheen is the next item in this build, grabbing the full Sheen is imperative to you as it gives you again, that added mana and your first break on AP. It also has an affect where there's an 100% chance when an ability is used to increase you base damage by 80% on your next attack every 3 seconds. Gives you that extra added oomph especially when lane pushing and/or jungling. Once you have the full Sheen, Lich Bane is your next target, either situationally grabbing the AP or MR item first before getting the whole item. With a boost of Sheen's perks, you've now received a 7 movement speed too which in turn helps Maokai alot due to being slow.

Your second last item before the final, saving up for this big baby will take a while but it's worth it. You'll gain that increase to AP where needed. Situationally you can gain the Chain Vest instead but the Rod will help you more as you're already tanky. Once you've got the Rod, you then fully save up for the Hourglass as you've got no more item slots available. If the game has honestly gone for this long, this item will again be such a game changer. Not only does it give you a large boost in AP it also gives you armor. But the main thing is you're able to enter 'Stasis' mode being unable to be targetted and invulnerable for 2 seconds. Use this wisely as it has a 90 second cooldown. But when used, it'll allow you stay out and fight longer etc. I'll leave it to your imagination as to what would be possible with Stasis, it might just be the difference to win the game!

Now in conclusion, it's up to your discretion again to choose the actual sequence of your items. If you're finding you're able, you could swap the #3 item - Sunfire Cape for Lich Bane to give you that early AP rather than at late. Remember it's up to you, this is just a guide to help you, so you could even change certain items overall based on your own preference.

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Skills Analysis & Sequence

First of all Maokai's passive gives him the opportunity to heal himself somewhat after 5 spells, regardless of whose casted has been accumulated through the use of his basic melee attack. If timed correctly, Maokai can heal himself during that team fight increasing his survivability. It's also critical when laning and/or jungling.

For this Maokai Tank build, the sequence starts off with due to the fact early - mid game, Maokai is mana extensive and requires conservative and planned use of his skills, especially this. Now start game, Sapling Toss is a great farming/harassing/pushing/scouting skill that logically is safer to use compared to Arcane Smash or Twisted Advance due to obviously being slow and vulnerable early game, play it safe at a distance. Latter on, this is great way to hit even the turret huggers who either are playing it safe or recalling due to nearly dying. This skill is great for picking off some hp before going in for the kill also and will save you from possibly being ganked (ie. when doing Baron) Placement on this baby can be hard as you'll end up hitting minions if not careful so practice with it.

Next is Arcane Smash where applicable allows you to combo up with Sapling Toss in terms of farming, harassing and pushing but not limited to those as if needed, you're able to save your team mate with your signature knockback + slow which you'll be most probably be that close to do so. This skill works in unison with keeping the enemy inside your ult where needed.

Your third skill point goes into but this point, you're probably ready to make that first kill if you haven't already. Twisted Advance is your initiating skill being able to obviously initiate that team fight, gank that person who's over extended or even stop that champ from escaping. Depending on the level of this skill, remember that when you initiate you must act accordingly. Once that stun is about to wear off use to knockback + slow the target, increasing the effective range of holding back the target in general. Remember not to unleash all at once, only when the effects is about to wear off. Not only is this excellent for offensive capabilities, but also for defensive. If you're in the position to save a teammate, use this to stop the target about to kill your Ashe for example, then land a Arcane Smash timely to halt them even further. It'll also allow you to 'Flash' to an escape if you make that mistake, but remember minions or an enemy hero must be in range for you to go. In unison with Arcane Smash after, you'll be able to keep the enemy inside your ult range much longer.

From here (levels 4 to 5) you place points into and respectively, remember you're a tank so these skills need prioritizing over Sapling Toss. Then by level 6, you'll have the one point in Sapling Toss, 2 points in Arcane Smash and Twisted Advance.

At level 6 you obviously grab Maokai's Ult - Vengeful Maelstrom. Once you've initiated the fight, hopefully the enemy team are bunched up in front of you etc, where you are able to place the ult over the area. If not, make sure you're able to place the ult on the tip of you're champ also so all that space in front of you is covered, do not put it around Maokai as it'll be easier for the enemy champs to escape as compared to it being place on the tip of Maokai which in turn would be placing the ult in the middle of your enemies (hopefully) In unison with the initiator Twisted Advance and Arcane Smash, you'll be able to hold that focused champ in this ult whilst the team fight ensures, hopefully damaging any and everyone enough for them to die.

Also keep in mind that you'll be able to keep this ult up for longer due to your high mana pool, along with your combo of skills, your items will also help such as Sunfire Cape. The movement speed when 'dodged' will help you navigate around where needed and the obvious high hp pool will keep you there too. Exhaust during this battle must also be planned, place it on champs who are doing the most damage or are escaping etc.

After your ult, you then place another point into Sapling Toss, give you by level 7, 2 points in all skills (except your ult obviously). This will give you a balance of in all your skills which is good for your Tank. From level 8 you then places points alternatively from Arcane Smash to Twisted Advance until both are level 5, then placing all remaining points into Sapling Toss. Obviously you level up your where applicable.

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Stats Screenshots

I shall upload two more game stats screenies, that are close to full games (hopefully) for consistency when I can, I just made this quickly to show a win and loss game, even with only 4 full items, you can still get a basic idea.

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Remember that this build is for playing Maokai as solely a Tank. He is a very creative and supportive tank to play as that'll be a game changer where you make him so. This build does address his mana problem regardless of having no mana regen items which isn't need mid to late game especially.

Remember that this being a guide, you have the option to edit his items, skill sequence etc to your own preference, this is just here to give you a run down and knowledge on what you can do whilst playing Maokai as a Tank.

In closing, i'm open to your feed and constructive criticism and will be regularly updated this build for that and from my own experiences as I continue to play this build. With you feedback in general, please share, i'd love to know your own thoughts on this Tanking build.

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19/02/2011 - 'Maokai - The Guarantreed Tanker' build created
20/02/2011 - Build published to the public
20/02/2011 - Icons resized to the smaller version
20/02/2011 - Statistics Screenshots added