Welcome to my second build. This time, the incredible tank, Maokai (I Am Oak). First thing's first, Maokai is most effective in the lane, with a partner, specificially one who casts many spells. I do not believe in Maokai's purpose being a jungler, although he can definitely fit that role. As with my Anivia builds, I'm not intending to make a tried and true, ultimate, competitive build. I'm a pretty casual LoL player, as far as League players go. While there're many, many ways to play Maokai, I fall somewhere between tanky AP, and a pure tank. I've tried numerous builds with him, and I think I've finally found one which works wonders. One final note, it's important to realize that Maokai's main job is not to take the feed, but to protect the team, and get them fed whenever possible. I've tried playing him as a pure tank, but he falls off late game, and I don't find it to be worth it. Without a taunt, Maokai's difficult to be played as a pure tank. The good news is that he hurts pretty bad for someone so tanky (although, less tanky now in Season 3). I appreciate constructive criticism, however, don't waste your time commenting if all you're going to do is complain about how I'm not following the meta, or something equally pointless.
This is my previous Maokai build. I decided to just make a new build for Season 3.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Maokai's a very unique, tanky AP champ. He gets incredibly tanky for how strong he is, although, he definitely doesn't have carry damage potential. He's more about CC, providing both offensive and defensive opportunities for your team. He shouldn't just be chosen as a tank, he needs the right type of team in order to excel. As a tanky AP champ, Maokai's gotten nerfed pretty hard in the transition from season 2 to season 3. Not only does he not benefit from magic pen, but since armor/magic pen got buffed, it's harder for him to tank as effectively. Regardless, Maokai's still a contender.
One of the best harrassing abilities in the game: Sapling Toss (also acts as built-in wards, is excellent for zoning, and can be thrown further than their max range if you toss them onto terrain/walls)
Very durable, boasting the highest natural armor in the game (tied with Poppy), and various methods of staying alive
Very strong for a tanky AP champ
His W, Twisted Advance, can counter Flash, and set his team up for some easy kills
Excellent pusher, especially against caster minions ( Sapling Toss)
Unreasonably good ganking potential, which almost always result in a kill with the right team, and proper timing
Has jungle potential, if he absolutely has to
Pretty fast with this build, which makes his jobs easier, and harder to ignore
Can get most enemies off of your teammates with moderate ease
Can easily interrupt quite a few skills (especially channeled ones, ex. Katarina's Death Lotus, Nunu's Absolute Zero, Fiddlesticks' Drain, Master Yi's Meditate, etc.) (via his Q, Arcane Smash)
Decently flexible, can get damage or tankiness depending on what he needs (high AP ratios, high natural armor, healing passive. He's rewarded for being strong and tanky, not just one)
Excels at chasing, especially with Ghost and Exhaust
This build has low CDR until later, which Maokai benefits heavily from
Very weak late game, most of the time
His ult is rather unimpressive, although it serves its purpose
Cannot demand focus like other tanks, such as Rammus and Shen
Extremely mana hungry, especially early game
Has difficulty soloing a lane (while this is absolutely true, I plan on working on solo lane Maokai in the near future)
Almost no physical damage: weak, and realatively slow basic attacks
Flow: Where Should I Be?
Maokai can work well in one of two ways. Before I get into that, I'll explain how I start every game with him.
I always assume that I'm in a duo lane. Maokai doesn't have a great lane presence alone, so I rarely solo a lane with him. Also, I don't think he's that great of a pure jungler, even with Smite. I take him into a duo lane, and eventually, one of two things will happen:
You're against another duo lane, so you just stay in the lane, no question.
You're against a solo lane, so around level 3-4, you take up the role of a jungler, so that your bottom lane doesn't get too far behind on gold and exp. Once you have enough of your abilities, you can clear jungle camps pretty quick, so you can effectively jungle, gank, etc.
This strategy ensures that you give your team the best chance for victory. It puts you wherever you're most needed, allowing for optimizing your team's flow of the game. Since Maokai can do well as a jungler later on, but has bad early clear times, this gives you much more flexibility, without forcing you into the role of a jungler. I think it works for the most part.
As previously mentioned, I tend to play Maokai tanky AP. I think that he fails to live up to his full potential as a pure mage or pure tank. A pure mage sacrificing much needed defense for a melee initiator, and a pure tank without a taunt is fairly easily ignored, plus you miss out on his high AP ratios on his spells. I take mostly defensive runes. As a tank, your main goal is to protect the team. Once (or rather, if) you have a full build, you want the turrets to tickle. You should be able to tank them without many minions, and allow your team to crush the towers without having to worry about taking damage. Maokai is tied (with Poppy) for having the highest natural armor of any champ in League of Legends. Between this fact, and his passive, he's set up to be one hell of a tank. For his runes, I recommend getting as much defense as possible, while getting just the right amount (I mean it, these quints can easily mean the difference between a kill/assist) of extra movement speed (MS) on the side. You wanna be able to catch the target with your W, Twisted Advance, which can lead to some truly EPIC ensnares. If you do, your team has a golden opportunity to eat the victim alive.
Greater Mark of Armor: Even though Maokai has the highest natural armor in the game (tied with Poppy), extra armor can't hurt. Especially since as the tank, you're goal is to try and take all of the damage that you can. This makes doing that easier. If you think you need them more, Greater Mark of Scaling Magic Resist is also a good choice.
Greater Seal of Scaling Armor: I've been trying these out, and I think that I prefer them on Maokai. He has naturally high armor, and I have armor in numerous other places in my build. This sacrifices a little early game defense for some more tankiness later on.
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist: The above runes're for armor, while these're for MR. Since mages have to build their damage from closer to scratch, you should use that to your advantage and get the full, per level MR runes. Don't worry about getting AP, such as Greater Glyph of Ability Power, since your main goal isn't to hurt people.
Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed: You wanna get Twisted Advance off as often as possible. MS makes this easier, and these quints give you that. Again, your main goal isn't to hurt people, so don't concern yourself with AP, CDR, or anything of the sort with runes.
Maokai's masteries're also easy to describe. He's a tank: build heavily in the Defense tree.
: Straight filler. This is next to useless with only a single point invested in it.
: More health regen is nice for being a tank. Most of these aren't very difficult to wrap your head around.
: A nice bonus to your tankiness. Certainly better than anything else at this rank.
: Health. Simple.
: I really like this for Maokai, since he gets into the fight by snaring someone, thus taking reduced damage right off the bat.
: More health!
: A nice extra start to your defense, along with...
: Also a nice, extra start to your defenses!
: Even after both nerfs, this is pretty incredible. I doubt that I'll be removing it due to the nerfs, but I'm keeping an eye on it. I can't see any other three points that I have access to be as useful.
:Ok, so the name and picture're misleading, but this is still pretty awesome. This has so many uses. It has an obvious passive bonus of giving you more defense, but it has a more subtle, active use. If you watch your stats, you can detect ganks before they happen. This is good stuff.
: It allows you to get up into the front lines without wasting as much idle time being stunned, slowed, etc. Also, it gives you some form of tenacity before you get MFSB.
Fleet of Foot
: This is easily my favorite mastery of the season. Everyone should have access to MS if they want it. Also, this makes you even faster, allowing you to be a better tank. MS, like CDR (both of which Maokai benefits heavily from), are useful for both offense and defense.
: This lets you stay in lane longer. You can't do much as Maokai without mana, so this keeps you from being the tree that you came to life next to.
Season 3 Masteries
This might be strange to include, but I believe that it's extremely important to see how things have changed over time. This page is how I built Maokai in season 3, which is similar to how I expect to build him in season 4. I don't have pictures of my season 2 masteries, nor do I think that they're relevant to this dicussion.
Maokai is a very situational champ. As a tank, he needs to be aware of how the enemies are building themselves. This is first noticed when deciding on which defensive item(s) to get. Maokai is tied (with Poppy) for having the highest natural armor of any champ in League of Legends, so buying tons of armor isn't usually necessary. Since I get Tenacity via Moonflair Spellblade, I don't take Mercury's Treads. I usually get Boots of Swiftness, or what I've recently been getting is Ionian Boots of Lucidity, due to the Spirit Visage CDR nerf. Following this item build, you'll actually build some damage while becoming tankier. Plus, once you get Rylai's, you'll help slow enemies, which adds even more CC to help a champ already very strong in that regard. Also, it stacks with
One of the most important things to realize as a tank is the changing flow of the game. You need to constantly be aware of what the team needs, and how to best mitigate the enemy team. You can change the item order of most of this if you absolutely have to, based on what you (and your team) need(s). If your team's doing well, and not dying very much in team fights, get some damage to help out even more. If you notice that your team is mainly trading, or barely winning/losing exchanges, get more takniness so that you can engage with more success, and not die in the process. If you have a well placed initiate, but then die, you turn the fight into a 2v2, leaving your team without a tank or the excellent CC Maokai provides to get enemies off of the team. You need to find balance. You can't be an easily ignored tank, but you can't be too strong at the cost of defense. Don't be afraid to get a single item in between full recipes if you think that it'll help. Ex. Once you have Catalyst, if you're laning against two AP champs, and you aren't taking hits well, feel free to get a Negatron Cloak before you get your Blasting Wand. This cloak'll build into Moonflair Spellblade later, which doesn't put you behind in your build. The worst thing that it does is make your RoA start stacking a few minutes later, which isn't the end of the world.
The removal of Runic is very depressing, but Maokai can make do.
Boots of Swiftness: Turbo Tree. These work very well on Maokai, allowing him to catch people more easily. Since Spirit Visage's CDR nerf, however, I've been working with...
Ionian Boots of Lucidity: My Maokai build has a huge lack of CDR, and this is unacceptable. I've recently been working these into the mix.
Rod of Ages: This is a fantastic item. I know a lot of people don't like it, but it's simply wonderful. It's cheap, gives as much AP as most other items ( Rylai's Crystal Scepter, Lich Bane, more than Liandry's Torment, Abyssal Scepter, Athene's Unholy Grail, Morellonomicon, etc.), makes you tankier, and helps a lot with mana issues. Really, the only downfall is that you're kinda forced to get this first if you're gonna get it at all.
Moonflair Spellblade: This + RoA = tanky AP in a nutshell. This is an insanely good item. There's nothing like this in 5s, probably because it'd be too good.
Spirit Visage makes a lot of sense on Maokai. It makes his passive heal him more in two ways, gives him even more health regen, some much needed MR and CDR (CDR on Maokai is extremely important), and best of all, it's cheap. It helps a lot against burst damage, and allows you to have more bursts of your own, meaning that you have an advantage in extended fights, assuming both teams are at about the same strength.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter: Amazing for tanky AP, plus anyone playing more of a support-ish-y role. This makes his saplings even scarier, since getting hit by them at either point slows you down, allowing Maokai and his team to catch you pretty easily.
Iceborn Gauntlet: I've gone back and forth on this item. I've recently started getting it again since I feel like it suits a tank better than Witchcap. I prefer it to Frozen Heart simply because you still get some AP. Also, I prefer the slowing field to Frozen Heart's aura in most situations.
Frozen Heart: Counters "right-click to win" champs, such as Tryndamower, Xin, and Jax. If you're gonna get this, it might be better to consider going full tank, as the fact that you're even considering this means you're up against some crazy damage.
Your standard, offensive combo is Sapling Toss on top of your victim, Twisted Advance the same person before the sapling lands on them, causing them to take both hits of the sapling (sapling: 460 + 100% AP, W: 220 + 80% AP + 2 sec ensnare, total: 680 + 180% AP + 2 sec ensnare). Once you arrive at the enemy, run slightly past them, and Arcane Smash them back to your team. This deals your previous damage (680 + 180% AP) plus 250 + 40% AP, and during most, if not all, of the time during that combo, the enemy is either CC'd, and can't fight back, or is limited to attacking you, and you have
, likely making you take little damage.
Total damage: 930 + 220% AP (raw, before defenses and penetration)
Mana cost: 260
CC effects: 2 sec ensnare, knockup, 2 sec slow (48%)
You can also implement your ult into your combo, but I left it out for sake of easier numbers. This combo's damage isn't amazing, but keep in mind that you're really more of a tank. Maokai's very strong for a tank, and has plenty of CC.
Maokai is an incredible, versatile tank. He becomes incredibly difficult to kill late game, while making it very easy for your team to devour enemies thanks to his Twisted Advance. For such a durable tank, he also hurts quite a bit. While he could never carry, that isn't his job. He gets good without stealing the feed, but instead, provides it for his team.
I frequently update my guides, so expect periodic changes.