Maokai Build Guide by Angah

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Angah

New with Maokai? [Info & Tips]

Angah Last updated on February 23, 2012
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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.



Offense: 9

Honor Guard

Defense: 21

Strength of Spirit

Utility: 0

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This is a tip-guide to Maokai. Build is for Solotop or Bot, but don't worry so much about items, runes or masteries, they are just directional.

Maokai is very fun to play and he can do lots of stuff. He can root, interrupt with knockback, slow, toss saplings and ward with them and put ult which reduces incoming damage.

(Maokai is also very good in Jungle and has extremely great ganks, but look for some other guide for jungling as Maokai)

Players usually think that Maokai will tank, but i think he's even better as tanky mage. When building tank, Maokai wont do so much damage, but can still knockback, root and reduce damage which is good, but AP gives him a massive nuke and he can be beefy mage as well. Besides Maokai has great damage early and great CC late-game.

Notice that i don't play full AP or full Tank, little bit of AP with defensive masteries depending on enemies. Test what works best on you. There is no one and only right build or way to play, some just might work better than others but they all are playable.

Test this build and come rate and comment how your game went and how did this build work :)

And thanks to Chu8 for introducing me to Trinity-build for Maokai, it's great.

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Pros / Cons


+Massive nuke
+Fun to play (For example throw some saplings and watch when enemies try to run away)
+Good support/interrupter/off-tank for own team
+Can disable Katarinas, Nunus etc ults
+With these builds, Maokai can deal a huge nuke or help own team and off-tank.

-Doesn't have any escape-skill (only Flash as Summoner spell and W cleverly used)
-Other will mostly think you are a tank
-Long cooldowns
-Maokai is damn slow (Fast as a tree :) )

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-I use Magic Penetration Marks, boosts damage a lot.
Greater Seal of Replenishment-Mana regen Seals. Maokai is very mana depend, seals will give most mana back at early-game.
-CD reduction Glyphs. Maokai has long cooldowns, glyphs will give you little reduction.
-And Health Quints. Althought Maokai is beefy, these will give him 78 health. Ability Power or Movement Quints are good too.

You don't actually need defensive runes so much because of Masteries, but if you like you can use them too. Here are some great runes for tanky Maokai:

-Armor Marks.
Greater Seal of Vitality-HP/lvl Seals. More HP, great late-game.
-Magic Resist Glyphs, always good.
-And more HP from HP Quints. All these give lots of HP, Armor and Magic Resist.

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Masteries and Summoner Spells

I prefer defensive, because these masteries boost lots of useful stats and they are much better compared to offense and utility. It also gives little bit of AP and CDR from Offense.

Flash because you dont have any other escape and it's extremely useful for example when chaising an enemy who is out of range and you can flash and W to reach him.
Ignite for finishing escaping enemies or disabling healing effects.
Exhaust for Tanky build and disabling auto-attackers.

Other summoner spells, why aren't they good?:
Ghost is good for chasing, but flash works better with W.
Heal is great too, but you have your passive and you are not support.
Supports job, you don't need it.
If you like to spam abilities (e.g harassing with saplings), this will keep your mana up early-game, but its pretty useless later when you have no manaproblems.

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Maokai can be built many different ways. Q, W and E are all great but there's some reason why max other before other:


For damage you want to max Sapling first.

But for tanky Maokai maxing Q and W before E is better.

Why? When building more AP, your Saplings deal tons of damage when timed correctly with W. Because of that you want to max W after E for longer root. Q isn't so important as damage dealing ability.
If you build Tanky you should level Q and W before E. You should use E mainly for scouting and max Q and W for max CC. You can also max Q before W, but i like it more when you have longer root.

Sap Magic (passive)
After 5 spells are cast near you, your next melee attack will heal you for 7% of your max health. This is very good early game if enemies try to harass you. This is also very good when laning with champion who spams abilities.

Arcane Smash (Q)
This knocks enemies back and slows them. Remember that knockback only occurs when enemy is right next to you.

Twisted Advance (W)
You travel fast to enemy and root him. Be careful with this near enemy towers and try not to use this to enemies with self-flash for example Katarina, Ezreal, Akali or Kassadin. Look more tips from below.

Sapling Toss (E)
This is one of the most funniest abilities in game. You throw a little sapling which wards the area around it. Good for checking bushes, warding for little time or just harass and watch enemies trying to run away. Deals massive damage to squishy champions.

Vengeful Maelstrom (R)
This ult is little hard to master, but its very good for whole team. It creates a circle near you. Inside the circle you will take recuced damage. When you press your ult again the circle will explode dealing damage every enemy inside it. Damage will grow up when more damage is absorbed. Use this in teamfights and don't keep it up very long. At first rank it will gain 200 extra damage, 2 for each 1 damage it absorbs, so when you put that up and absorb 100 damage then it is fully charged and you can blast it for maximum damage.

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Start with:

and two pots, i prefer mana and Hp. Then


Catalyst the Protector and later
This is the basic item for Maokai. It gives you everything you need early, and after this your build depends lots of enemy team. There aren't so much great items what suit on Maokai, but here are some:


or , depending enemy team.

Last items

are pretty team-based.
RoA gives you great amount of AP, but if you really want more you should get , because it's one of best items for Maokai which gives MR. For more MR you can buy
is great item for Maokai if you need Armor.
If you need more HP, CDR and Armor you could take .

Trinity Force is item what suits for every champ. Note that its not the core item of Maokai, but if you are doing well in game or just want to try something new, try Trinity.

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Laning, Nuke, Teamfights and Tips


Laning is very simple. Whether you are top or bot, you should harass with E through early levels. Tossing saplings and watching enemies running away is one of the best things about playing Maokai.
Watch your mana, QWE-combos take some mana and therefore you should not harass too much and toss saplings too often.
Use your passive. If you take damage then just go hit some minion. Don't spam abilities yourself to get your passive unless you are really low health and/or you lane against some who won't use abilities.
If you are bot and enemy has under 30%-40% HP, your combo + partners damage should be enough to kill the enemy.


At level 3 you should have all 3 abilities. This is deadly combo for enemies. You get your full Nuke at lvl 6. Then you do about 500 damage if your sapling hits and explodes.
Here is how it happens:
When enemy comes close enough to you so you can do W, first throw Sapling at him, root him with W (Remember that root is 1 second at fist skill level) and wait 1 sec (This is good time to put ult up and/or walk behind enemy). When root is ending do Q at him. Now sapling should have exploded and then finish with blasting R. There's lots of damage.
And you can do your nuke again after ~10secs without ulti, or after ~40secs with ulti.

Play as Maokai, practise your nuke, you will learn it :)

So your Nuke is like this


Vengeful Maelstrom is nice ult. It's nothing so special, but it really helps in teamfights and positioning. Thats also the reason why it's pretty hard to decide when to put ult up.
After lvl 6 when you assault an enemy you should position your ult so theres more space where enemy is running. That maximizes the damage because enemy takes more time to run to safety.


If you have Tank in your team, let him initiate. W is good for initiating and chasing down those who will try to escape. Stay behind enemies and Q them towards your team. Your ult is mainly for damage reduction and positioning. Keep it up where you fight and try to fight inside it.
Remember that your ulti isn't just for damage, it can save your teammates because of damage reduction.


Try to save your Q if there is Katarina or Nunu or someone else whose ult you can interrutp.

Remember that W works also as an escape, for example if you are running away from enemies and there are enemy minions at your tower, you can W to there which speeds your escape.

Other good mechanism for W is when enemies chase you to tower, and they come too far to Turret's range, you can turn around and root them so Turret can shoot them couple times.

Be careful with W though, if enemy flashes away you will fly very far to him. They might flash to Turret and you then you fly with them to Turrets range.

Your Q will knockback only from close range. If you are too far away it just slows and deals damage. Knockback also affects all enemies close to you, no matter in what direction you cast Q. When your target is rooted you have time to walk past him and knockback him towards your team/teammate so he won't get away so easily.

Dont Q enemy right after W:ing him. This will end the root. Wait for 1-2sec to get all benefits from W before knockbackking.

You can detect enemies from your passive. For example if you are in enemy jungle near wall behind Bluebuff, and you see how your passive is getting stacks while theres no enemies in sight, thats the sign of enemy at Blue. Works also well next to Baron if you don't have sight to there.

If you are on low health after fight you should attack a minion for your passive. If theres fight nearby your passive will fill fast and you can use it again. Your passive is also a great lifesaver when enemy comes to turretdive. Root him at turret and hit once with your passive, it will give you lots of health and maybe helps you survive the dive.

After lvl 5 you can oneshot enemy caster minions with E and Q (only with E at lvl 7). Late-game dont be afraid to use your ult to farm larger minionpacks.

Funny thing to do is to stack Saplings in Bush. You can normally get 3 or 4 at same time, and they will hurt if someone (non-tank) comes facecheck. But this isn't normally acceptable. Help your team or farm minions instead of stacking saplings.

Here are lastest games i've played when i made this guide:

Have fun with Maokai!