Olaf Build Guide by DaddyWalrus
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 my guide for Olaf!
I accidentally published the original version of this guide while I was still building it. Oops! I've archived it while I finish it up, and will un-archive when I'm done.
EDIT (13-06-2011) : Guide is now up in its first version. Comment away!
EDIT (14-06-2011) : Swapped Warmog's / Frozen Mallet in build order as per Nexonite's suggestions. Overall build is the same but early gank abilities are improved.
Although there are a few different, legitimate ways of playing Olaf, there’s no doubt that he excels in the role of “Tanky DPS”. A high health pool synergises very well with his skill-set, and he can still dish out a world of pain whilst remaining very durable.
Please note that this is not an "Olaf uber alles" guide - there are other "Tanky DPS" that are arguably stronger or that bring greater utility to a team fight. This is simply my take on playing a champ that is great fun and very satisfying to play. You should grab your fair share of kills, but in reality your role is going to be that of an axe-wielding meat-shield, forcing enemy carries to divert their attention to you all whilst dishing out plenty of damage and letting your own carries mop up. If that sounds like your idea of fun, read on!
My guide is based on playing Olaf in-lane. There are plenty of great jungle Olaf guides on MobaFire, so be sure to check those out if jungling is your thing. I also enjoy jungling, but find it quite situational: if you have a solid team behind you that can support not only the role of the jungler (ganking, warding, dragon etc.) but can also handle the extra solo-lane properly, then by all means run a jungle Olaf.
If fact, paired with another champ that can support or harass, Olaf can be particularly strong in-lane! His lane partner’s harassment allows Olaf more farming opportunities, and support champs help him keep his HP topped up during / after skirmishes. Obviously, any champ with stuns / disables and decent burst is a great lane partner for Olaf too.
Last word here: regardless of any guide, or who your favourite champ is, it's important to know when you're badly matched in a lane (or are simply being outplayed). You might want to mix up your skill sequence or items, or even switch lanes if you can. Sometimes you'll feel like you've found an invincible champ / build, and then suddenly play against a combo that simply renders you useless in a game.
Learn to adapt your playstyle and build, and you'll average out a lot better overall. ;)
Runes and Masteries
Greater Mark of Desolation
I always run as much Armour Penetration as I can with my AD champs, and Olaf is no exception. I run full ArPen marks and one additional ArPen quint. This puts us as almost 25 ArPen right out of the gate, more than The Brutalizer!
Seals are either armour or dodge for the extra survivability.
Greater Glyph of Replenishment
Glyphs are mana regen or mana regen / level. Combined with Perseverence and Meditation from the Utility Mastery tree, you should have enough mana regen to stay active all game if you're not careless with your skills (especially Undertow).
Masteries are focused on CDR and mana regen, with utility tossed in where you need it on your summoner spells. I also opt for a little extra armour pen, which stacks very nicely with the runes.
Summoner spells are always a fairly personal thing, so I'll talk about my favoured choices and perhaps another choice or two.
Since I only take a single level of Undertow until much later on in the game, and I don't take it at level 1, I like taking exhaust to secure those early marginal kills and to run toe-to-toe against other AD champs. With "Cripple" from the Offensive Mastery tree, this spell is a beast and will help your ganks all game long.
I'm at a point where I hardly play any champs without flash. Its uses are numerous and well-documented, from both an offensive and defensive perspective, so I won't belabour the points here. Combined with Exhaust and Undertpw, you'll be a difficult champ to get away from.
At times I'll swap exhaust out for ignite. It's very strong for securing early kills which would otherwise get away, and it's great for throwing on targets to nerf incoming heals / self heals. Always a solid choice.
Ghost, like Flash, offers a lot of versatility, and you could easily alter the masteries for this build to talent it. It's a powerful chase / escape tool and the advantage over flash is that it lasts a lot longer. With Olaf, this could give you time to pick up an extra axe throw, or get a couple more crucial Reckless Swings in.
Heal is sometimes controversial, viewed by some as a noob skill. On Olaf, however, considering the additional costs of Reckless Swing used in the early game, heal can give that extra boost to finish an enemy champ. With this build, however, it becomes quite lackluster late game.
I'm not going to list exactly what each skill does (you can see that by hovering over the skills icons) but rather how each skill's usage relates to this build.
Undertow - <Q> - Skill-shot based slow / damage
This is Olaf's skill-shot, and his main method of catching enemy champs / setting up ganks. It can also be used as a farming tool to some extent, depending upon how your lane game is going. Some builds rely heavily upon this skill and max it first, whereas I prefer to max it last most of the time. I tend to use it solely to set up kills on squishy champs and chase them down, so I only need a single point early on for the slow.
An important element of this skill is the variable range: similar to Shen's taunt, you can aim the ability closer to your champ, or further away. When fighting up-close, you'll want to throw the axe right next to your target, making it much easier to pick up and get the cooldown reduction! Practice this as much as you can, since Undertow does significant damage later on in the game.
Vicious Strikes - <W> - Active damage / life-steal buff
This entire build focuses heavily on stacking HP to buff this skill, as well as providing plenty of buffer for spamming E (as well as letting us stay in fights even with relatively low % HP - which is great for our passive).
Vicious Strikes is a phenomenal skill, providing excellent survivability both in-lane or in the jungle with the life-steal (also freeing up an item slot, since you can forego itemising life-steal), as well as ensuring that each point of HP we're stacking is going toward our overall damage with W up. It's relatively cheap, so pop it when you're farming minions to keep your HP pool replenished, and make 100% sure it's up when you're taking on another champ!
Once we get our Atma's Impaler, the benefits of HP -> damage are huge:
At level 18, you should have around 4500 HP with around 350 damage with W up. Those are some hefty numbers, and you'll be tanky as hell.
Reckless Swing - <E> - Targeted true-damage / self-damage skill
This is what makes Olaf such a potent adversary: a spammable true damage skill that makes short work of squishies and ensures that even tanks aren't safe!
I max this skill first, because we need something to counteract two shortcomings of this build: slow attack speed at full HP and the low damage on an unleveled Q. We need to kill stuff FAST, and the best way to do that when you're short on items is to rely upon your heavy damage abilities. Building up to level 5 of this skill early on ensures that your damage remains red-hot throughout the early / mid game, and remains a relevant skill late game too since you can't stack resistances against true damage, you can only buff your HP pool. This means that squishies who build pure HP defenses will be nerfing their pure damage output, which is good news for your team!
Reckless Swing gets its name from the fact that it ALSO damages Olaf. Late game the damage is negligible, but early on it's a bad idea to engage with a too-low HP pool. That said, this skill allows you to be aggressive against the champs in your lane, so don't be afraid to get stuck in there and swing away! It does a lot more damage to them than to you!
Ragnarok - <R> - Anti CC, ArPen + Damage reduction
Those with an interest in Norse Mythology will know that Ragnarok is the Nordic version of Armageddon: a bad-*** final battle (and some other events) with somewhat less than favourable consequences for the human race. :)
In a similar vein, Olaf's ultimate has less than favourable consequences for squishy enemy carries! Massive armour penetration (augmented by a rune-page full of the stuff) and disable immunity means that you can shrug off all attempts to halt your charge at that Ashe / Annie / et al.
As with pretty much any champ, knowing when to pop this skill is important. Obviously, you want to pop it early enough during a team-fight to avoid any CC in the first place, but not so early that it runs out before you reach your intended target.
Done right, it can be immensely satisfying to run through Ashe's arrow, Amumu's ring of pwn and Sona's Crescendo before carving your initial's in Lux's face with your axe :D
That said, this isn't just a "carry crusher" skill. It's a great escape tool if you get ganked, and in a close fight the extra damage reduction and huge armour penetration can turn the tide in your favour. Use it wisely, but USE it!
I've seen a lot of Olaf builds that go some way towards maximizing his Vicious Strikes and passive Berserker Rage, but none that REALLY go all out to make the most of these amazing skills. To do that, I like to focus on his health pool early on, leaning on Reckless Swing as my big damage ability until I get to my Atma's Impaler.
With this build, more HP = more damage! Before I get into each item, there are a couple of points I’d like to make:
- Olaf has built-in life steal with Vicious Strikes up, so I don't get any early life-steal items
- Olaf has a built-in attack speed buff in the form of his passive Berserker Rage, though he does need to be missing a fair chunk of health for it to be effective. This is important, and I'll discuss it further later on under overall strategy
- Olaf’s Reckless Swing does flat (non-scaling) true damage, and at level 5 is extremely effective against both tanks AND squishies. This skill remains relevant all game long (not to mention that hammering enemies with bolts of lightning is hugely satisfying)
So, starting off I go for a Doran's Shield. If you have a decent support champ as your laning partner, you could go for a Ruby Crystal instead, but you'll want some form of health regen so that you can stay in lane for longer. The extra armour from the shield sure doesn't hurt.
Upon heading back, you'll want to pick up your Boots of Speed and start work on your Frozen Mallet, obviously starting with the Phage. An item that adds damage, HP and a passive slow: it's PERFECT for Olaf! No brainer really.
EDIT: Credit to Nexonite for this change to the item sequence, since I originally had Warmog's Armor before Frozen Mallet. His idea to swap the order around is great: overall build remains the same but this update provides better early gank / killing abilities for you and your team.
You'll now want to decide on which boots to finish. I often go for Berserker's Greaves since they're cheap and they give us some much needed attack speed, but Mercury's Treads, Ionian Boots of Lucidity and Boots of Swiftness can all work well. I like cheap 'n' nasty boots (on Olaf too ;p).
Your next big core item is Warmog's Armor, focusing on the HP items ( Ruby Crystal and Giant's Belt) first. There are a lot of people who don't like Warmog's Armor, but it's an excellent item on Olaf for four reasons:
- Having higher HP adds damage to your Vicious Strikes
- Having higher HP lets you fight at lower HP% levels more effectively (if you have 4000+ HP later in the game, fighting at 50% HP still means you have 2000 HP to spare) maximizing your passive's benefit
- Having higher HP means you can start putting the "reckless" back into Reckless Swing, meaning you'll have a big enough pool to spam it in fights
- Having higher HP moves you along the road to being a "Tanky DPS", since you'll want higher health for survivability (of course, HP on its own will be useless without some resistances)
With the above in mind, you'll want your Warmog's Armor ASAP, so that it can start stacking up from all the creep / champ kills. The regen is awesome and will let you stay out as much as you like, and it will just keep getting stronger until mid-late game.
After that, we've stacked enough HP to start seeing real benefit from Atma's Impaler! The additional crit and armour is perfect for a "Tanky DPS", and it's going to synergize beautifully with Vicious Strikes!
We should now be doing plenty of damage, so we need to beef up survivability some more in the form of a Banshee's Veil. This adds more HP (!), some much needed mana and a great passive along with magic resist.
Your final item is situational really. I'd choose between the following:
Sunfire Cape - More survivability and AOE damage, great if the enemy team is doing a lot of physical damage.
Force of Nature - The extra movement speed and insane magic reset / health regen means that you can just ignore everything casters chuck your way.
The Black Cleaver - This is what I often go for: this build does lack attack speed, so the cleaver brings in some of that as well as a lovely ArPen debuff that stacks up with my runes and my Ragnarok. It's also not as massively expensive as some other items.
Phantom Dancer - It's highly unlikely that you'll get to complete one of these as your final item, but just in case you're farming up a storm: it will add a hefty dose of attack speed, crit and movement speed. All the stuff a happy anti-carry needs.
Play Strategy - How to Lane
There are many arguments against playing champs such as Olaf in-lane, and many of them are good arguments. Some issues with laning Olaf:
- Olaf is melee, therefore it's easy for certain ranged champs to harass him, Caitlyn, Vayne and Miss Fortune are particular examples
- Olaf can harass back with his Undertow, but has a small mana pool early on so you can’t spam it indefinitely
- Olaf has no hard CC, so closing the distance to enemy champs will require the help of your laning partner and effective use of Undertow
- Olaf's life-steal with Vicious Strikes relies on him being able to get into melee range of minions
On the other hand, with a Doran’s Shield as his first item, Olaf has some good things going for him in-lane:
- He’s a very durable early game champ, like most “Tanky DPS”, and the Doran’s Shield synergises very well with his abilities and allows him to stay in lane longer
- With the right runes and masteries, Olaf has sufficient mana regeneration to harass throughout his lane game, provided you’re effective with his Undertow (i.e. don’t miss)
- Olaf’s spammable true-damage ability, Reckless Swing, is extremely effective against all types of enemy champs throughout the game, but is especially strong early on
- Undertow has enough range to whack most ranged champs from a relatively safe distance (aside from the likes of Caitlyn and Miss Fortune), thus mastery of Undertow is essential to successfully playing Olaf in-lane
What the above all boils down to is: Olaf is as susceptible to harassment as any melee champ. That said, he can dish it out as well as take it (he's not a tank, after all), so you'll actually WANT to be skirmishing and securing kills as often as possible. Ideally, you'll want a solid lane partner along the lines mentioned above.
NB! - If you find you're really struggling to last hit, you might want to consider leveling Undertow instead of Reckless Swing, so that you can toss it into creep waves and pick up some gold. Although I like to focus on it, there's no point leveling Reckless Swing blindly if you're not getting into a position to use it.
Remember that the lower your life, the more dangerous you are. Make sure that, if you decide to go for it, you get stuck in and you finish that fight! Obviously if you're in a losing position to begin with, you'll want to escape if possible, but don't make the mistake of pulling back too early: your early game damage is tremendous, and you want to make the most of it.
Once the laning phase is over (towers have gone down, roaming ganks are common etc.) you'll want to start assisting your team with ganks where possible ( Undertow and Exhaust are increasingly important now) and you'll want to be right up there in the team fights.
That said, don't start thinking you're invincible. Even with your Warmog's Armor and Frozen Mallet, you're not unkillable by any stretch of the imagination and you can be focused down easily if you're on your own.
Let your tank pick and choose where to engage if possible, but make sure that, once he does, you're right up there to squash carries and soak some damage. Early game, before enemy tanks have had much chance to buff their HP pool, you're a big threat to them with your Reckless Swing and ArPen so you shouldn't be afraid to engage them if they over-extend.
Again, use your judgement, and exercise discretion. You're only a threat if you can actually reach your target, so running ahead of your whole team with Ragnarok up into 5 enemy champs, trying to reach the one at the back, is going to result in you being very dead and a team-fight that is now 4v5.
By late game, hopefully you have reached or are working on your Banshee's Veil. By this point you will be sporting over 4500 HP and be pushing 350 damage with Vicious Strikes up, and you'll have solid resistances. You will be an absolute monster on the battlefield, and the only way you'll be ineffective is if your team composition is somehow completely gimped against the opponents.
You're now solid enough to tank towers if you've won a team-fight and need to push. You can solo dragon quickly and easily if you're in the vicinity. You're tough enough by now to initiate most team-fights along with your tank, and you should be a serious threat 1 v 1 against most champs. Ultimately, you need to kick down lanes, inhibitors and the Nexus (duh) to win, so don't forget that while you're mashing faces in. :)
If you don’t have a dedicated jungler, Olaf is a great champ to snag a dragon whenever it’s up, and makes short work of other creep camps too, with minimal items. As a melee champ who doesn’t farm as easily as some others, make sure you’re always snaking through the jungle to clear creep camps in between team fights and ganks.
Remember that we're relying on our passive Berserker Rage for our attack speed, so don't be afraid to fight at lower health percentages once you've buffed your overall HP pool. Jungle Olaf, in fact, relies on staying at lower HP percentages to get through the jungle faster. Remember, the more hurt you are, the more dangerous you are!
One more reminder about the variable range of Undertow. Make sure you toss it as close to yourself as possible, so that you can pick it up again for the CDR.
If you got this far, thanks a bunch for reading through my guide!
If you're into "Tanky DPS" champs, Olaf is plenty of fun, and is a solid pick if your team lacks some "beefcake". I also don't see THAT much of him at the moment, so he's a bit of a change from the also-rans.
Again, this guide is just meant to communicate my personal ideas about how to play him and maximize the benefit from his skills. It's certainly not the only way to play him, so feel free to comment and criticize, but please be constructive so that I can make this guide even better. You'll obviously be credited with any adjustments.