Garen Build Guide by TheDjinni
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.
Version 1 (23/11/2011): Added in text, not much formatting yet. Will probably update it quickly to correct any errors I see.
Version 2 (24/11/2011): Some formatting and hotlinking. Expect more soon!
Version 3 (2/12/2011): More formatting. The body of the guide should be more readable. Incorporated some of the features mobafire provides.
Version 4 ((17/3/2012): Updated the guide a smidge based on recent patches. Revamped the skills and items sections.
Version 5 (24/8/2012): Garen rework! This build is stronger than ever now that Q and E scale better with AD and crit.
I will try to outline what to do against some common solo top matchups.
Garen's role in a teamfight is to be the bruiser: tanky enough not to die quickly in fights (usually second last) but with a strong base of damage output necessary to make squishy carry's afraid of him. Now, no melee character can afford to skimp on defense, so Garen must have some defense, that's true. But with just one initiate (and a weak one, a silence), he makes a weak pure tank. Pure tank Garen can get by in teamfights as a "Kill-Securer" using his ult, but that's usually not enough to make him threatening enough to tank any damage. The following is a typical "Tank" Garen: plenty of beef but there's no reason to focus him since he does so little damage.
PROS+Strong Early Game
+Good Solo Lane
+Decent Pushing Potential
+Plenty of Tankiness
-Weak Carry Potential
The ideal Garen, in my mind, is built as an tanky DPS, with 2 damage items, 3 tanky items, and boots. He has two skills with very high scaling, x1.4 to AD for Decisive Strike and x1.1 to AD with Judgment. This means that just a handful of damage items are needed to make his skills hit like bullet trains.
Problem is, Garen has innately low attack speed, and investing in it doesn't make his two primary damage spells, Decisive Strike and Judgment any more powerful. His skills are free and tend to have pretty low cooldowns, so he makes sense as a bursty, ability-based character. Attack speed Garen will find that Judgement in the mid to late game is useless to him, since Judgement attacks at a constant attack speed. Crit Garen, on the other hand, finds that judgement scales well with crit, and Q hits very hard for a lot of damage.
So I build Garen with a focus on AD and crit for damage. This is my Garen build: it trades early game capability for late game viability.
PROS+Good Solo Lane
+Viable as a Carry
+Decent Pushing Potential
+Plenty of Tankiness
CONS-Weaker Mid Game
Moderate AD: You need a good amount of AD as Garen, but glass canon just makes little sense as he's got some pretty high scaling. I take Infinity Edge as my primary source of AD, with Frozen Mallet and Youmuu's Ghostblade in there to add an extra little bit. The AD from Infinity Edge alone with a 60% crit chance is enough to make Garen threatening; all the extra stuff I'm adding on makes him even more powerful!
High Crit Chance: Both of Garens physical damage abilities can crit, and that means not only do they scale well with AD, they also skill just as well with crit strike chance.
Great Tankiness: A dedicated Armor/MR item (say, Randuin's Omen, or Guardian Angel, or Force of Nature in combination with Frozen Mallet is, in my opinion, the best way to beef up Garen. His Courage gives him a few seconds of Rammus-worthy survivability whenever he needs it. I also take Mercury Treads to cut the durations of stuns.
Some Cooldown Reduction: I would try to take more cooldown reduction on him, but that would probably mean sacrificing Mercury Treads for Ionian Boots of Lucidity. That's not a bad option in many cases, but I'd recommend going Mercury Treads unless you're confident you won't need the Tenacity. The CDR from Youmuu's Ghostblade will have to do most of the time.
This isn't designed for hi ELO players, since I can't claim to know enough about the game to instruct them. I make zero promises that this build will win you the game. That being said, I went from +3 W/L to +13 W/L in 11 games as solo top Garen. This is primarily intended for those stuck in "elo hell", where nobody on their team knows how to last hit and they can have the highest cs on the team with just 100 cs in 30 minutes.
If this works for you in high elo, let me know. I'm not counting on it per se, but that would be a pleasant surprise. I have tried my best to include some considerations for the more advanced players. That said, I'm primarily posting it for those to critique it.
Note that the three builds at the top represent 3 different item picks and 3 different skill orders, and the item picks aren't related to the skill order. The item picks depend on who looks strong on the enemy team and also somewhat on who you're laning against, and the skill orders depend only on who you're laning against. Each will be explained in their relevant sections below.
For now, enjoy this hilarious Garen song:
Greater Mark of Lethality
Greater Seal of Armor
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist
Greater Quintessence of Lethality
9 Greater Mark of Desolation = +14.66 Armor Penetration
9 Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist = +1.35 MR/level (+24.3 at lvl 18)
9 Greater Glyph of Magic Resist = +12.06 MR
9 Greater Seal of Armor = +12.62 Armor
3 Greater Quintessence of Desolation = +9.99 Armor Penetration
I'm open to suggestions for those of you with plenty of IP and RP to burn, but I'll keep it simple for a low elo guide.
I went with ArPen marks and quints because 31 armor pen is enough to negate pretty much anyone's level 1-6 armor. That's a big boost to damage for a lot of the laning phase; if your opponent has 50 armor for a 33% damage reduction, you can cut that amount to a 15% damage reduction due to the sheer amount of Armor Penetration you bring to the table. Unlike AD runes, Arpen doesn't drop off nearly as much, and since I'm adding even more flat penetration with Youmuu's Ghostblade instead of going with something like Last Whisper, it should work out nicely.
Flat armor seals is pretty standard against AD top lanes and helps you early on when it makes the most difference. Health per level may be more suitable than flat armor against magic damage top champions like Vladimir and Kennen.
I've recently decided to recommend buying MR/level glyphs; if you see you're laned against an magic damage user try flat MR, but if not go with MR/level.
tl;dr: I prioritized damage output, threw some into CDR and crit, and then invested a bit in tankiness.
Sorcery : Like I mentioned, I'm not particularly interested in attack speed on Garen since his abilities scale so well. Not only does getting more uses of my abilities mean more damage, but I'm also getting more silences from Decisive Strike, more broken slows from Judgment, more shield uses of Courage, and most importantly, more kills stol- *ahem*, "secured", with Demacian Justice.
Arcane Knowledge : Garen's one magic damage skill is his ult, and 10% magic Pen is a fine investment for just 1 mastery point after you've invested all those ranks in CDR. Since I'm investing so much in flat armor penetration, the percentage armor penetration from Weapon Expertise would only really do much against tanks.
Havoc + Executioner : Percentile damage increases, while not considerable, do add up. Especially when you crit.
Deadliness + Lethality : Some Attack Damage per level and Crit Strike damage, pretty self-explanatory. Like I mentioned, going crit means Judgment stays useful and makes Decisive Strike a really intimidating skill when it crits.
Sunder : More Armor Pen! 6 from Sunder plus 24.65 from Masteries is enough to nullify anyone's 1-6 Armor unless they stack a full armor rune page or something.
Hardiness + Resistance : I went 3 MR and 3 armor. I'm not too keen on the health per level and flat health masteries anymore since I switched to this setup, since I think investing in Vigor is useful.
Vigor : HP regen helps you sustain in lane; it's not much from the mastery alone but it helps and mixes well with Garen's passive.
Optionally, take one point out of Vigor and stick it in Summoner's Insight for a reduced Flash cooldown. Also optional: sacrifice points in Vigor , Hardiness and/or Resistance for Durability and Veteran's Scars and the extra HP it gives.
Skill Sequence and Summary
If Garen has not taken damage from neutral monsters, enemy champions or turrets in the last 9 seconds, he will regenerate 0.5% of his maximum health per second..
Recently changed so that Minions no longer end his regenerative state.
This is going to give you an decent amount of sustain in lane, assuming you're not up against a champion with good poke attacks or who has a better burst than you on a low enough cooldown that he or she can trade hits with you and come out ahead.
Garen breaks free from all slows affecting him and gains 35% movement speed for 1.5 / 2.25 / 3 / 3.75 / 4.5 seconds. Additionally, his next basic attack within 6 seconds will deal 30 / 45 / 60 / 75 / 90 (+1.4 per AD) damage and silence his target for 1.5 / 1.75 / 2 / 2.25 / 2.5 seconds.
First, the utility: it boosts your movement speed a considerable amount, meaning its a good way to initiate a small fight; plus, it's on a low enough cooldown that you can use it as a chasing tool. The silence can stop a lot of burst damage, or at least delay it; it is also immensely valuable enemy champs with escapes, like Shaco or Ezreal, and enemies who use Trinity Force or Lich Bane. Using it resets your attack animation timer, meaning that you can attack immediately after using it and cut out a lot of the downtime between attacks.
It's also been buffed to break any slows currently applied to Garen.
But lastly and most importantly, it does a lot of damage, just look at how well it scales off of Attack Damage. Plus, it can crit since it's a basic attack modifier. This is a great skill, since it does more damage than a lot of other damage-based abilities and is packed with a ton of utility. Don't underrate it.
(Passive): Garen's armor and magic resistance are increased by 20%.
(Active): Garen gains a defensive shield for 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 seconds, reducing incoming damage by 30% and granting 30% crowd control reduction.
First, take note of the passive: It's not incredibly powerful, but by end game it means at least +20 Armor and MR if you make even a minimal investment in defenses.
Second, take note of the active: it's pretty good. It's the rough equivalent of boosting your level 3 armor from 42 up to about 129 for three seconds, while simultaneously equipping Mercury Treads. It is, however, criminally short, and every second of it you waste is a big decrease in your survivability, given that it's on a ~30 second cooldown. Given all that, the defense increase as you level is small enough not to warrant maxing this until later.
This ability is the primary reason why you can skimp a little on defense on Garen; it's a really good defensive steroid.
Garen rapidly spins his sword around his body for 3 seconds, dealing 20 / 45 / 70 / 95 / 120 (+0.7 / 0.8 / 0.9 / 1.0 / 1.1 per AD) physical damage to nearby enemies every second. Garen ignores unit collision while spinning, but moves 20% slower when traveling directly through minions.
Garen can deactivate Judgment early by activating the ability again after 0.5 seconds. Judgment can critically strike dealing bonus damage. Judgment deals 25% less damage to minions and monsters.
This will be your major damage dealer in teamfights; once it starts find the biggest pile of bodies and dive into it, popping Judgment and watch their HP drop. It's also a good farming tool now that it does only 25% less damage to minions instead of 50% less.
Garen brings down Demacian Justice on his opponent, dealing 175 / 350 / 525 magic damage plus 1 additional damage per 3.5 / 3 / 2.5 health his opponent is missing.
First and foremost: it does more damage the more health the enemy is missing (28.6% of missing health at rank 1, 33% of missing health at rank 2, and 40% of missing health at rank 3), so it works almost like an execution spell: use it to take out fleeing enemies. Also note that it does magic damage; it's the reason why we take the Arcane Knowledge mastery. What's also significant is that as soon as you're in range to cast it and the casting animation begins, you're guaranteed to hit it, even if the enemy flashes away to escape it after the casting animation begins. You'll see a lot of flash denials with this spell and a lot of angry rage if the other team hasn't faced a good Garen.
It's hard to judge whether this skill will kill an enemy or leave them with a tiny little bit of health left given that magic resistance reduces the damage: against squishier types it will probably kill them when cast at a quarter of their health, but against tankier types (who you generally don't want to be targeting anyways) who have a good deal of magic resistance they're going to need to be at about 1/6th health.
Strong Lane: Q, E, W, E, E, R, E, E, Q, Q, R, Q, Q, W, W, R, W, W
Weak Lane: Q, E, W, Q, Q, R, Q, Q, E, E, R, E, E, W, W, R, W, W
Mixed Thoughts: Q, E, W, Q, E, R, Q, E, Q, E, R, Q, E, W, W, R, W, W
Take Decisive Strike early since the silence, slow break, speed boost and damage boost is, overall, a lot of utility; sub it out for Judgment only if you know Decisive Strike won't help you. Take Judgment next: it's part of your primary damage combo. Take Courage at level 3, maxing it last.
I mix Judgment and Decisive Strike from then on unless I have lane dominance: I max Judgement first instead and use it to punish them if they get close to build up an early kill lead; you can see that in the first build. I'll max Decisive Strike first if I'm in a poor lane matchup, since the movement speed bonus scales fairly well (allowing me to dart in for a last hit or flee a tower dive gank). I'll mix the two if I'm unsure. Demacian Justice of course takes precedence whenever I can level it.
Exhaust + Flash. Flash is a great initiate when combined with your silence or for finishing off an enemy with your ult. Exhaust stops enemies from escaping and shuts down the damage output of their carry, helping you focus the unwary enemies.
Ignite: I'm not personally a fan of ignite on melee ADs. Yes, it could be useful to throw on them just before you ult to seal the deal, but that assumes that you don't need exhaust to help you get to that point in the first place. Exhaust is a free win if you both approach each other to fight, and a free kill when you use it against an escaping enemy, and a free escape if you need to bail; not even flash can attest to that. Ignite is just a small amount of true damage for when you want to finish off a fleeing enemy. I might pick ignite to counter a trynd or whatever, but by and large I prefer exhaust to ignite. That said, many Garen players attest to the value of Ignite in conjuction with your Ult, allowing you to secure those almost-failed ults.
Teleport: Viable on solo top characters, since it lets you hop back in lane quickly after recalling after a fight that went in their favor, or quickly relocate for Dragon control. For fun, plant a ward in the brush by the lane and teleport to it for a cheesy yet effective kill!
Cleanse: If you're the only beefy person on your team (no jungle tank, and no support tank), then your best bet to get out of cc or summoner spells could very well be Cleanse. It doesn't help to be stuck in CC all day as a DPS character, although technically if they're focusing you and you're surviving you're doing a fine job letting 4 other people on your team have a few seconds of free damage against their team. Don't make it a habit of relying on your team to deal damage if you're stuck in elo hell, though.
Surge: Surge gives a boost to attack speed and AP. Since this isn't an attack speed build I doubt you'd get much out of Surge, and of course Garen doesn't scale off of AP at all.
Ghost: Garen gets a significant movement speed boost from Decisive Strike that is equivalent to a Ghost, and Judgment breaks slows, so there's no real point in taking this unless you really think there will be kills that you miss or deaths you could have survived even given the fact that Garen has a built-in slow.
Promote: Garen isn't really a pusher. But hey, if they're pushing hard this could conceivably be useful to counterpush, although I don't see how it would be better than just outright killing them with flash and exhaust.
Heal: While heal post-buff has seen use on squishy AD carries for better lane sustain and to keep them alive in teamfights, it's not really useful on Garen since you tend to stack quite a bit of health.
All other unmentioned spells are useless to you and it should be fairly obvious why you won't take them.
Doran's Blade: Doran's Blade boosts your ability to be aggressive early on. I would advise building only one, but you can build up to three if you want to help boost your early game.
Regrowth Pendant: This plus a health potion gives you a great amount of low-level sustain, but it's going to do a lot of sitting around in your inventory until you build it into a Warmog's Armor or Force of Nature. Unlike many solo top champs, Garen doesn't rush a Philosopher's Stone because he has no mana to regenerate.
Doran's Shield: A better pick than Regrowth Pendant for Garen in my opinion, as while it gives you much less health regen it boosts your beefiness quite a bit. Take two for the health regeneration equivalent to Philo Stone plus lots of HP and armor.
Boots of Speed: This plus 3 health potions is suitable against enemies that you need speed to counter. They may have good pokes, for example, and you need to be able to chase them down to out-trade them, or they may have their own speed boost which makes engaging them tricky.
Cloth Armor: This plus five potions gives you maximum sustain, particularly against physical damage champs. You may see this used often against you; don't get baited into engaging since they'll be able to out-trade you. Instead, play passively until you can recall and get some potions of your own.
The Brutalizer: You'll eventually make this into a Ghostblade; it gives you armor pen and some AD. You won't be as tanky as you'd be if you went triple Dorans, but it should help.
Mercury Treads: Merc treads add a bit of MR to a build that is rather lacking, and are useful if you're forced to initiate a lot. CDR boots might be a nice alternative.
Avarice Blade: Get those Gold Per 5 items early. Your strong early stats should make up for picking at item that is initially pretty expensive for the value you get from it.
Infinity Edge: Right as your damage output begins to drop off, grab this for a huge damage boost; more crit chance, bigger crit damage, and a huge boost to AD will throw you ahead of the game.
Frozen Mallet: This is a big boost of survivability, packing 700 health into one item (only topped by Warmog's Armor). It also adds a little attack damage plus an on-hit slow.
Youmuu's Ghostblade: Ghostblade gives a truck ton of stats for what you pay for, plus its active is downright unbeatable. You can get it earlier or later depending on whether you want to rush some defense first.
[Force of Nature: Force of Nature gives you lots of sustain that really adds up and synergizes well with your passive. Grab it to boost your Magic Resist by a considerable amount.
Randuin's Omen: It gives you some health, lots of armor, a bit of health regen, plus a really strong active that you can use just as you activate Judgment to stop your targets from fleeing and/or splitting up.
Guardian Angel: Good armor and MR, and it's passive is nice. Got me that quad I mentioned earlier, since I tanked all of their damage output, died, then got back up and tore though their team.
Warmog's Armor: It's truly a strong item if you need lots of health. Once you hit around 200 armor and magic resistance the actual value of each additional point compared to health (unless you've also stacked a ton of health) is quite low, so this could be viable if you decide to give up Frozen Mallet.
Atma's Impaler: Get an atmas after you've got a bit of health to convert its HP boost into more damage and boost your armor and crit chance by a bit to boot.
Maw of Malmortius: The magic resist is small, but the active is what matters: it basically gives you 400 extra health against magic damage in a teamfight, which is lots of survivability when you think about it. It also gives you lots of attack damage plus extra attack damage as your health goes down; you can maximize the power of this passive by waiting till you've taken some damage before activating Courage.
Ending Items as a Carry:
If you need to carry (and have won your lane), this is the set to go with. A decent amount of armor, health, and mr and enough damage to tear through a team.
Ending Items as a Bruiser:
- Mercury Treads
- Youmuu's Ghostblade
- Frozen Mallet
- Atma's Impaler or Randuin's Omen
- Infinity Edge
- Guardian Angel or Force of Nature
Ending Items as an Off-tank:
Sunfire Cape is an item tanks get to give them free damage, particularly if they don't scale well off of AD or AP. Does this sound like Garen? No. Garen is not a tank, don't get items like Sunfire cape when you could get better items like Atma's Impaler. Even items like Warmog's Armor are simply more efficient as a tank item that adds a little damage than Sunfire cape due to the HP to AD ratio of Atma's Impaler.
<Insert shoes here>
Why do I go tenacity boots? I figured that's self explanatory. I don't really need tier 3 boots with my Q, this isn't by any stretch an attack speed build (as it primarily relies on skills and a bit of CDR), magic pen is okay but not essential for my ult, CDR is cool and a viable alternative but certainly not mandatory, and finally Ninja Tabi are cool and all with their dodge and armor, but not as cool as Mercury Treads.
Basically, I need to feel safe initiating if we don't have any good initiation, and my tankiness and merc treads make that happen. Plus merc treads are a boost to magic resistance, where this build is lacking a bit.
Go CDR boots if you've got a dedicated tank with a good initiate, since you don't do enough damage while auto-attacking to justify much else.
Crit Garen tends to be pretty bursty, and that burst comes from the following combo: Basic Attack -> Decisive Strike -> Judgment -> Demacian Justice. That's usually a truck ton of damage in about 4 seconds; it ain't as bursty as an AP caster but it's still pretty good.
The AA -> Q is scary enough (2.4xAD +30/45/60/75/90 in around 1 second), that most people start fleeing. The E works perfectly as a chasing tool, dealing another big chunk (50/90/130/170/210 + 1.4*bonus AD per second, or 375 damage over the 3 seconds). Then you ult, and there's your kill.
If they don't start running after your initial Q combo, you might be in trouble with this build. The silence combined with the big damage output is usually very intimidating, but if they stick it out and wait for the silence to go away, then there's a chance they'll simply have more sustain then you do (or more burst). It may or may not be good for high elo play, but the intimidation factor works amazing in low elo if you combine it with superior farm. You outlevel, outfarm, and outkill them, AND you're building for late game. It is the cheapest way to get out of elo hell that I've ever found.
If, after your combo, they don't run, you should probably kite them around until your CDs come back. Now, I'm not saying that Garen in general is bursty, just that this one ends up pretty bursty in early and late game.
In teamfights, he excels when he follows just behind the initiator: he'll intimidate their carries with crits on Decisive Strike, and pile into the opposing team with Judgment. Whenever he feels pressure, he'll pop Courage to reduce the damage he takes. Demacian Justice should be used early and often to secure kills before they think to flee (always KS with Garen; he is the king of "Kill Securing"!); a fleeing target with less than 10% hp can tempt your team into doing things they shouldn't, so a quick ult can get your team focused on winning the fight rather than chasing a lost opportunity.
Solo top if you have a good matchup, or duo bot if you don't and your team can afford to have you duo bot (with a support, of course, don't hog a carries gold or xp). Many solo-top champions you fight should be an easy win for you, since you generally out burst them and out sustain them, although you'll lose against most of the really strong solo tops if you don't outplay your opponent. In this case, if they can't push for beans and getting pushed to a tower prevents them from getting any last hits (it depends on the champion; anything with bursty AoE generally can still get last hits when pushed to the tower, anything that doesn't, can't), just be aggressive and zone them out of XP and last hits (or just outright kill them), and as you get close to their tower judgement their creep wave then hide in the brush or recall. If they're able to farm when you push them into tower range then you need to focus 100% on outfarming them until you are able to kill them or force them to recall with just one combo.
Beware of ranged stuns (don't charge at them with q or you give them free hits) and ranged skillshot pokes, since they stop you from recovering between fights and shut down your sustain. Never lane against ranged pokes that home in on you (like Malphite) or otherwise auto hit (like Gangplank) unless you can burst them down in a few hits, as they counter your passive and will easily outlast you and zone you out of XP. If you're stuck in a bad matchup, play passively. Hide in the brush in between fights to get your passive to proc, and silence them into spin2win whenever they facecheck it or are looking to fight. You might have to give up most or all last hits to do so, just focus on not feeding since that will make your laning even harder. They'll eventually push to the tower, so call for a gank from your jungler and try to force them to at least b, during which you'll use this time to make up for what you've lost. Bad solo top matchups generally mean your team loses the game, unless you make sure you don't feed. If you know you're in a bad solo top, pick a Doran's Shield instead.
As a solo top, just remember the solo top trinity:
Strong poking beats high burst champs.
High burst beats heavy sustain champs.
Heavy sustain beats champs with strong pokes.
While I'm sure that there are plenty of exceptions (the exact source of Garen's sustain makes him inherently vulnerable to pokes, for example), that's the general trend with solo top matchups. With high burst you tend to be able to zone the enemy out of last hits and kills, and even the highest sustain generally can't afford to regularly trade hits with heavy burst champs. Those with good pokes, on the other hand, can deal just fine with bursty champs who try to zone them, as they don't have to get in range to fight them to get last hits or to deal damage. Champs with high sustain can deal with even very strong pokes because said pokes hurt a lot less and are quickly recovered via either health regeneration or lifesteal; the poking champ will find themselves quickly out of mana if they try to outsustain a sustain-based champ.
Garen has below-average pokes, above-average burst and above-average sustain, making him weaker against champs with high burst. His sustain can also be countered with low costing or manaless pokes with a short cooldown, or very hard-hitting pokes; in these cases it's advisable to start with a Regrowth Pendant or Doran's Shield over a Doran's Blade.
Garen hard counters a lot of popular solo top champions due to his good sustain (manaless, passive boosts health regen, inherent beefiness) and his bursty damage output ( Decisive Strike deals 30 + 1.4x AP at rank one, so about 110 damage at level 1), but he also gets hard countered by a lot too. Anything that can stop him from last hitting to prevent him from stacking his w's passive, poke him often enough to deny his passive from activating, and outburst him whenever he's decided he's had enough of it, will wreck his day (although the same can be said of many other matchups). He's melee, so he has an inherent disadvantage in many cases.
Tips and Tricks
Don't Judgment a creep wave ever (for the first 30 minutes or so), unless I otherwise tell you to in this guide or nobody is in your lane (in which case you push the minions to their tower and either recall or try to take it down). Never strike a minion except to kill it (for the gold), since doing so pushes you close to their tower and gives them free reign to farm and leaves you vulnerable to ganks; the act of purposefully waiting until a minion is at low health is called "last hitting".
Only if they've pushed you so far that their caster creeps are on your side of the river that runs along the middle of the map should you ever start making an active effort to kill creeps (since getting pushed into your tower range prevents you from getting gold by last hitting as well). Your goal is to get as many minion kills as possible: 200 by the 25 minute mark is a good goal to shoot for, although less is acceptable if you find you can zone your enemy out of XP and gold by killing them or forcing them back (just remember that a champion kill is worth about 15 minion kills).
Try your best to stop them from pushing to your tower so you can last hit; spam Judgment if they get past the river and show any signs of pushing, and use Courage to tank their wave if all of your minions are killed. Hold them off until your minion wave catches up and you can prevent their wave from reaching the tower and can use the opportunity to farm. Depending on the matchup, you might not be able to, especially if your jungler can't gank often enough to punish them for overextending.
Q resets your attack timer, so if two minions are at low health, hit one with a regular attack and tap Q and right click on the second one to immediately kill it too.
Use the following combo when it's safe to play aggressive: pop Decisive Strike, then run at the enemy (popping Courage when you get there, or before if they have ranged), then Judgment after Decisive Strike procs. Hit them with a few auto attacks as they run (which they usually will), then Decisive Strike again and Demacian Justice. Works like a charm, and should kill them once you get your The Brutalizer in the item build above. Don't ult unless it will seal the kill.
During a superior solo top matchup, pop Decisive Strike and beeline for the enemy. If they stand there, punish them for it with your Q+E+R combo. If they run away, use it to last hit a minion. Works like a charm for zoning them out of xp and gold as well as securing those last hits.
Initiate fights whenever your Courage is up if you can (hopefully with all surviving enemy minions at full health, so you can return just in time to last hit them). You have better early game stats (although you scale weaker than most champs) and use of your Courage should make sure you win virtually all of the fights you initiate against most champions. Garen wins games if he wins the early game.
Flash into Decisive Strike is a okay initiator for a fight (remember to pop that Courage right away), particularly if you're tanky enough to survive diving into 3 or 4 of them. From there, focus on the champions in order of squishiness (although if they have a feeder you'll want to focus on the more lethal champions), or just bail if you've taken too much damage; you've survived their burst so your team had better be able to make up for it. If you're the only farmed up champion on your team, let some other schmoe initiate so you can pile into the ensuing scuffle with Judgment.
Individual Solo Top Matchups
Coming soon (maybe never). Will be a list of a lot of solo top matchups plus what to do when you're in them. Obviously a pretty exhaustive task.
If you liked the guide, let me know. If you don't, let me know what you'd do different with some constructive comments.