Olaf Build Guide by Ebonyknife
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Not Updated For Current Season
This guide is currently a work in progress.
To do list:
*More detailed matchup analysis
Olaf is a crazy strong bruiser. For ranked play, as of this patch, olaf is probably overall the most versatile bruiser in the game if you are good at him, he has the ability to go toplane and jungle and be incredibly strong in both roles and he has very few, if any hard counters, be it in lane or in teamfights.
All this combined means that being a good olaf player will make you a force in ranked play. In my opinion, the only other bruiser/tank champion that is as versatile and hard to counter is shen, who has the weakness of being constantly banned.
Olaf has the unique ability to build almost all tank items and still be a huge damage threat. His base damage is insane, his ultimate makes him immune to CC and he can permaslow the enemy. Get lots of tank items and you can smash through an entire enemy team to get to squishies.
AD carries without escapes in particular will find it particularly hard to deal with olaf, any ashe/kog/MF is likely to have a pretty bad day against a strong olaf. Champions like ezreal and corki are harder to deal with, but you can still remain a threat.
Pros / Cons
Amazing base damage
Strong throughout the entire game, from level 1 fights to 6 item builds
Equally viable jungle or toplane
Hard to peel, even exhaust doesn't effect him much as much as others because hes not very autoattack reliant and he deals true damage
Passive and lifesteal is amazing for baiting.
Axe's are very important, missing or overthrowing axe's can cost you fights.
No hard CC, and by extension, no easy way to engage teamfights or catch people out of position.
Vulnerable to pre-6 ganks
Needs ghost, or at least some sort of speed-boost to be most effective
Can have mana issues
I always use movespeed quints on olaf. He needs it for chasing, it also makes it easier to catch your axes.
Armor penetration reds scale better into lategame, AD reds make it easier to last hit and you farm slightly quicker in jungle. I typically go AD reds in lane and Armor penetration in jungle.
Armor seals are probably straight up the best overall runes in the game, as a sidenote, for anyone looking to buy new runes, armor seals are good on every single champion, in every single role, in almost every situation. The fact is, everyone does physical damage with autoattacks, and minion's do physical damage as well.
Flat MR blues are almost mandatory against a magic damaging lane, it just helps too much. Against physical lanes you can use MR/lvl for lategame.
I always get at least 1 point in offense for the ghost mastery and the ignite mastery.
9 offense and 21 defense gives you are good combination of damage and tankiness for lane, 21 offense isn't really worth it on a bruiser in my opinion, anything past 9 isn't really worth it. Defense is helpful in lane though and works well into lategame.
I go 9 in offense and 21 in utility. I don't really like not having any defense, but 9 offense for armor penetration and summoner improvement and 9 utility for buff duration seems too important to pass up. That leaves 12 points, i would rather go further in utility for the spellvamp, summoner cooldown, mana and, more importantly, movement speed. As opposed to slightly better clear.
With a good leash, its easy to clear even with 9/0/21. However, if you don't seem to be getting good leashes, 9/12/9 is perfectly strong, go veterans scars as well as the minion damage reduction masteries and you should be fine.
As far as teamfights go, this is normally better than flash.
Olaf is someone that chases people down. Ghost makes it easier to hit axes, catch axe's that you miss, and stick on opponents far better than flash does.
Its main weakness is that you a weaker to pre 6 ganks, this isn't as important in season 3 however, what with early wards and everything.
There to secure kills. I almost always go this.
Get if jungling
No doubt a good summoner, but its just hard to use.
Olaf's a strong enough laner that just using it to get back into lane is really quite a waste, and shouldn't be nessesary. Using it to roam and gank is the optimal usage, but difficult to do.
If you are confident in your ability to use it properly, it can be a worthy replacement for ignite, just keep in mind its harder to get kills in lane.
Arguably better lategame than ignite, but its harder to get kills in lane with exhaust.
Actually not bad for catching people off guard, flash axe's can secure kills. Just know that if you replace ghost with it you will have less presence in teamfights later in the game.
Gives you 1% attack speed per percentage of missing health.
Its a nice passive, and combined with your W can make you deceptively powerful at low health.
Olaf throws an axe to a target location, dealing physical damage to units it passes through and slowing them for 2.5 seconds. If Olaf picks up the axe, the ability's cooldown is reduced by 4.5 seconds.
With some cooldown reduction, this spell has essentially no cooldown if you manage to pick up your axe, letting you permanently slow targets while doing high damage. This is the ability that makes olaf so powerful, and the hardest thing to do well.
Combined with your passive, it also lets you farm jungle extremely fast, though you may need blue buff to make full use of it.
For 6 seconds, Olaf's attack damage is increased and he gains life steal and spell vamp.
Good sustain spell, attack damage also scales off of maximum health, so a warmogs will give you 10 extra AD when this is up.
Certainly not bad at all, maxed last because other spells give more damage though. At low health you can lifesteal crazy amounts.
Olaf attacks with such force that it deals true damage to his target.
Just a great nuke. It costs health and deals true damage, part of what makes olaf base damage so great.
It doesn't scale at all, but it does 340 true damage at max rank and has a 5 second cooldown (3 seconds with max CDR), so its useful throughout the entire game.
Passive: Olaf has increased armor penetration.
Active: Olaf instantly removes all crowd control effects from himself. He is also immune to disables (including silences and blinds) and has increased armor and magic resist.
Passive is another ability that makes olaf so strong without damage items. Active makes you immune to crowd control and tankier. Champions that are reliant on crowd control to survive wont know what hit them.
The main decision point with olaf is if you should max Q or E first.
Advantages of maxing Q. Higher consistent damage, better slow, better pushing/waveclear, longer range.
Advantages of maxing E. Greater burst, less reliant on a skillshot, costs health (good and bad i guess).
If im winning lane or planning to push it as part of my strategy pretty hard i like to max Q, its better for poking people who are playing more passively and can easily push to tower when the enemy goes back to buy. I also max it against ranged champions or if im jungling for better clear speed.
In other situations, i max E.
How you build is largely down to preference, but as a general rule, olaf scales well off tanky stats, and cooldown reduction. The list of items that give these is MASSIVE, so olaf has alot of breathing room.
For most games you typically only want one or two damage items, tops, olaf should definitely prioritize tank in most situations, as olaf naturally does very high damage, but can be focused down pretty easily if not tank.
Its all down to situation, obviously you don't want a spirit visage against an all AD team, or a randuins against an AD heavy team, you always want at least some CDR and health though, so i normally end up with at least a warmogs and a kindlegem, its from there that most builds deviate more significantly.
The most standard start. Flask is still good even after the nerfs.
Flask is pretty expensive now, and if you don't get it as a starting item, i typically don't get it at all, just buy normal potions from then on.
Only go if you are SUPER SUPER SCARED of your lane.
Personally i would only go this if i saw i was against a matchup i've never been up against and im sure it was difficult (like AD kennen), as a general rule though, this many consumables is way overkill, olaf is a strong enough lane that this isn't needed.
Against some more difficult physical matchups a cloth armor is great, i'm liking this more and more since flask is nerfed, definitely worth it against physical damage matchups.
Standard jungle start. Upgrade it to spirit stone asap, upgrade it to ancient golem after you get some other core items.
Theres two stats that olaf wants basically every game, health, and cooldown reduction. Kindle gem and a warmogs gives both, and kindle gem is later upgraded into spirit visage, shurelias reverie, or locket of iron solari depending on your game.
Its from here that builds deviate more. Notes on other good items are detailed later.
Olaf loves CDR, so i consider this boot the standard if you don't want anything else.
Like lucidity, good if you don't need anything else, speed is just nice to have.
I used to get this every game, but sometimes its just not nessessary, your ult does make you immune to CC, and the jungling item, spirit of the ancient golem, gives tenacity which makes merc's useless if you have that item.
Can make certain lanes much easier. Good if they are very AD heavy as well.
Notes on some tankiness items:
Bulwark is in a weird situation where the best magic resistance item in the game is also an aura item, it gives 50 MR to the wearer, and 30 to everyone on his team. If the enemy team has any strong AP at all you want one on your team.
The question comes down as to who should get the item. Typically it will be the jungler or toplane, as its pretty expensive for a support, be sure to communicate with your team.
Pretty good item if someone else is getting aegis, gives CDR and increases your lifesteal and regen, great for olaf.
This used to be practically mandatory, the fact is, the speed boost is great for olaf, especially if ghost is down, but its been nerfed a decent amount and there are other cost effective items.
I get this pretty frequently as a jungler, shurelias is amazing for ganks.
As a toplaner i buy it less often. Keep in mind that as a rush item it doesn't give all that much health, it can be a good first buy against champions that your strong enough to violate but you just need the speed, but against other bruisers rushing this could cost you fights because its lots of gold for not much health.
The standard against AD damage, gives alot of tankiness against autoattack reliant champions, a good slowing active as well. Unfortunately, gives no CDR
Similar to randuins omen, gives somewhat less tankiness and no active. But far more cooldown reduction which translates into damage. I don't get this as often simply because it often puts you above the cooldown reduction cap of 40%, theres other items that give good amounts of CDR.
An underrated item, quite powerful against autoattack reliant champions. The damage on this is calculated BEFORE resistances, which means i normally end up getting it after another major armor item.
Notes on some damage items:
/A good item, works well with your ult, but somewhat cost ineffective earlygame. If i max Q in lane and im doing well i like to get a brutalizer early, and upgrade it way later because the percent armor reduction becomes more useful in the lategame.
/Good against magic damage. Hexdrinker is good but i normally upgrade it late or never as Maw is not very cost effective.
Olafs main advantage in the toplane is his ability to poke people down. Keep harassing enemies with your undertow and reckless swing whenever they try to last hit and you should be fine.
Against most melee matchups i like to push the lane and pressure. If done well, you can continue to poke at tower, and pushing to the enemy tower puts alot of pressure on the enemy toplane, as he doesn't want to go back and lose tower/XP even if they are low. This can set them up for easy dives.
Against most ranged matchups you want the lane somewhere in the middle. Land axes on them and you can get reckless swings and autoattacks to harass them down. Generally you won't want to play passively against most ranged matchups, though there are exceptions.
As always, if you get a kill, or the enemy goes back, push to there tower, it forces them to lose last hits and gold due to the tower taking it.
If you are just getting beaten in lane you have a couple of options.
Get the lane on your side and try to keep it at or just outside your tower range. Which makes it harder for the enemy to harass you. Unfortunately this doesn't work as well against some champions, but many melee champions can't harass you very well if you are at your tower.
Try to push the lane when you go back. In other words, clear creeps with undertow, and simply go back home to heal when you are low. This works reasonably well if someones poke is too hard to deal with but you aren't scared of actually dying, which is often the case with some ranged champions.
If the enemy is freezing lane on there side and you are getting completely denied, you can always roam to help your team, sometimes that your only option, try not to let this happen though.
NEVER FORGET POTIONS.
With flask and a good amount of potions, many low sustain lanes can simply be won by spamming the most potions. If you have many potions and they don't, start pushing the lane and pressuring them, eventually they have to call the jungler, go back (and lose tower), or get towerdove. In either case, you are helping your team.
When losing, flask and a good amount of potions can make it so you can still farm against very difficult matchups.
I have quite alot of experience with olaf in toplane so i'll give some tips on most of the matchups ive experienced.
As a general rule, if you are good at landing axes, all matchups become easier, but some matchups are more about lane control. Also, some are so easy that with the right build order you can do well even if you are pretty atrocious with your axes.
Some of that matchups i don't mention i either don't have much experience with or haven't gotten around to writing about.
Theres only really one time where gangplank can be a real threat to you, and thats earlygame. Play conservatively early, don't go for CS if you know he will punish you hard.
Get level 6+, get a ninja tabi and maybe even a dorans shield, and there's basically nothing he can do to you, just those items will make his parley do pathetic damage. And you can just **** on him with axes and E when he tries to CS with autoattacks.
Most smarter gangplanks will just max remove scurvy and try to farm passively. Pressure him as hard as you can, he can't trade with you, and if you get a big health advantage you can just towerdive him.
A bit like gangplank, wukongs damage gets slaughtered if you get a ninja tabi. His main poke gets reduced to pathetic amounts and you can punish him with Axe's and true damage whenever he tries to last hit.
As long as you don't keep reckless swinging his decoy it should be a cakewalk. Remember with targeted abilities, use it once on wukong, olaf will automatically follow through with the reckless swing, unless wukong decoys, in which the swing will automatically be cancelled. Keep that in mind when playing against him.
Throw an axe for the slow in on you and it should be pretty easy to follow stealthed wukong, and a pressured wukong can't do anything because of his complete lack of sustain.
Difficulty, 1/5 or 2.5/5
A jax who plays passively will slowly lose to your poke, especially due to his complete lack of sustain. But a jax who plays aggressively can actually trade with you and win 1v1's, especially if you miss your axe or aren't in a position to pick it up.
Generally, its best to ward the lane well and constantly push while poking him as he tries to last hit with melee. I push simply because he won't be able to win 1v1's if you have minion advantage, and he won't be able to go back to heal so you can constantly pressure him with your poke.
Eventually he will either have to call his jungler up or get towerdived. In either case, your doing well. Every time the jungler comes up and doesn't achieve anything is a plus for your team.
Difficulty, 1/5 or 2.5/5
Very similar to the jax matchup, but a bit harder as irelia has more sustain. Like jax, passive ones will automatically lose. Like jax, she can win 1v1's if you miss or overthrow your axe.
I like to play it similarly to the jax matchup, and push while poking her down, she does have sustain though, so it will be more difficult.
Also irelias often bladesurge to CS, so look at your low health minions and you can poke her down while she bladesurges to them.
Meh, pretty easy as long as you don't reckless swing her shield all day, like most she has the potential to kill you if you completely fail your axe, but her gapcloser also isn't "instant", a jax or an irelia can punish you immediately, riven's gapcloser has little hops, so she won't punish your mistakes as badly.
Theres not much she can do if you just push and pressure her. The fact she has no sustain and has to CS at melee range gives you an immediate advantage though.
You generally do more in teamfights than she does as well.
Vlad is like most ranged champions, they can poke you from range, but will lose if you land axe's and play aggressively. Since the arrival of S3 this has definitely become easier though, you can survive poke and win melee trades if you land an axe.
Last hit with axes and if possible try to hit him at the same time, punish him in melee range, and remember not to dive his pool.
Kennen is a bit like vlad, only more annoying in my opinion, he can stun you when you are going in on him and is better at close range than vlad is. Since the arrival of flask this has definitely become easier though, you can survive poke and win melee trades if you land an axe.
Post 6 you can just all in on him pretty easily and use your ultimate if he tries to stun you. This only works if you have the health advantage though.
I've not had great experience with shen as he is normally banned.
That said, shen can become very hard to pressure. He has a shield, sustain, and the ability to CS from a range.
Chances are you won't die to him unless you make a mistake, but you can't win by playing passively, or he can simply win the game with his global ultimate.
That said, olaf has a pretty solid advantage earlygame, so if you pressure him there and maybe get a few ganks, it can snowball into something good.
Kayle can be a massive pain for any melee matchup, she has better poke than most ranged, and also does more sustained damage. Her ultimate's certainly not laughable either.
First of all, don't get too close to her earlygame unless you just landed an axe on her. A kayle Q into autoattacks with E does AMAZING damage earlygame and can set the tone of the lane.
As a general rule, the longer this lane goes, the easier this is for you. At first, you can only draw even on trades even if you land an axe, later on if you land an axe you can all in and win trades.
Concentrate on farming more passively early, farming with axes if needed, wait it out, and you should be ok.
As a ranged champion, she can constantly poke you with autoattacks and her spammable Q which deals a percentage of max health.
Unlike most ranged champions though, shes not particularly weak in melee range, and with a health advantage can burst you down in spider form.
Like most, it does come down to skill, and it is possible to poke her down and make her scared, elise tends to have the advantage though and its not easy to just wait till post 6 and win. Instead of fighting her i build to survive lane, if you walk out of lane even you can do more in teamfights.
Like most bruisers, teamfights are pretty simple conceptually. Just go in on an important target, which is normally the AD carry but sometimes the AP carry or assassin, use all your abilities and try to use your ult just as you get CC'd.
The hard part is using axes. You want to land them just behind your target, but don't want to overthrow your axe, doing so in the middle of a teamfight will hurt your DPS alot, and also means you lose the ability to permaslow the enemy, both of which can cost you the fight.
And don't tunnel vision. If an ezreal blows arcane shift AND flash over a wall to get away from you, theres a good chance hes too hard to chase. Just pick up your axe and go in on the second most important target until he comes back to range.
After you reach critical health, you typically want to run away. Unless your two hits from killing the AD carry and decide its worth trading your life for his. Olaf can still be useful at the edges of a teamfight by occasionally spamming axe's and bursting down low health targets with E. Also running away on low health baits focus, the enemy team often blow summoners, flash, etc, to chase you down, this tunnelvision can lose them the fight.
Keep in mind olafs deceptive strength at low health. Vicious strikes plus the attack speed from your passive means that a low health olaf can tank and do a surprising amount of damage in a 1v1 situation. If someone is chasing you down too far you can often turn around a kill them, even if they have the health advantage. Getting good at judging how tanky you are only comes with experience however.
Alternatively, you can protect your AD carry. Olaf isn't as good at this as most however, as his CC isn't the best, despite his high damage. And hes so good at diving enemies there's very few situations where you do want to peel.
With that said, it really depends on your team. Typically if your AD is doing very well and there AD is not they will become the center of teamfights. Protecting a 6-0 caitlyn is paramount, and someone has to do it, hopefully it will be your support but in some cases the support but sometimes it has to be you.