Build Guide by Mrs Warboys
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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.
This is an alternative build for Maokai, which I have had a lot of fun with and it's been quite successful. It is entirely based around his passive Sap Magic. It maximizes your farming ability first, using runes and an early
Tear of the Goddess, before maximizing your HP to turn you into a Mundo style sponge... rather than a traditional resistance based Tank.
Using this build, you can easily be regenerating 350-400 HP per Sap Magic and maintaining your Vengeful Maelstrom and skill spam for entire battles.
13th April 2011:
Added Pros and Cons.
11th April 2011:
Changed Heal to Exhaust. After testing, it's much more useful for both defensive and offensive purposes. Also improved the formatting a bit and added The Maokai Diary
29th March 2011:
Added a section about Maokai's skills and their usage.
23rd March 2011:
Added item and skill links all over the place. Justifications for different Skill Sequence focuses.
22nd March 2011:
Reversed the Skill Sequence from favouring Twisted Advance to Arcane Smash. Smash is really really underrated. The CC is much better than it looks, it's great for protecting your squishies from Melee attackers. Spammable to maximize your Tear of the Goddess bonus and to increase the frequency of your passive. Totally worth it, although Twisted Advance should be taken at level 2.
The Maokai Diary
While I have the changelog for changes to the actual guide, I want to share thoughts with you guys on what I think about my build and how it performs as I test various things.
14th April 2011
Yep I was wrong! I just played a number of games as Maokai with a resistance based build (Frozen Heart to start) and did really well, if not better! So this guide is defunct! I will be working on a new guide for Maokai though, a general comprehensive beginner-expert piece, with videos and other cool stuff! I can't just delete all this for nothing! Stay tuned.
13th April 2011 Part II
Wow. So I may possibly be COMPLETELY WRONG about this build! God knows why, perhaps it's the allure of 400HP Sap Magics, but the HP maxing doesn't matter if you have 4000HP or 400HP (with resistances). The effective HP will still be better on a traditional build. But why was I having such a hard time with Maokai before I discovered Warmogs? Maybe it was just a coincidence that I 'got' Maokai around the same time.
I'm going to test some traditional builds more (perhaps more AP tank focused) but it looks like I might have to completely flip this guide around!
13th April 2011
Had a couple of games today. Both ranked, both with leavers. Yeah it's a pain. Fortunately, the last game was really good! Until their Nocturne discovered backdooring, we were kicking their ***es in teamfights 4v5. With a tanky team, Maokai is a brilliant main tank. We had Nunu, Nasus, Ryze (mana armor build) and me. His ult goes such a long way in a team like that. I'd love to have a game with Maokai, Renekton, Nunu, Corki and Zilean/Janna... would be so much fun for the Mao.
Another thing I've started to notice is that Maokai is very supporty in regards to his effectiveness. Like Karma or Sona, you're completely dependent on your team to carry. It's not like a fed Soraka, Janna or Zilean (akin to a fed Shen, Rammus or Amumu). You can tank brilliantly, but you need to rely on your team kicking *** more than when you play other tanks. I think this is why many people doubt Maokai's tanking abilities.
12th April 2011
Maokai is getting buffed!
Base movespeed increased to 310 from 305
Base health per level increased to 90 from 82
Base armor per level increased to 4.0 from 3.5
Small buffs but buffs nonetheless. The movement speed is probably the best part, anyone who plays Maokai can attest to that, but the health per level and armor per level are both nice for the Maodo build. It's a shame his Magic Resist hasn't been improved, I think it's among the lowest in the game!
11th April 2011
I've been using CDR runes exclusively for the past 2 weeks and I'm starting to think that maybe the AP runes are better. What I've realized with this build, is that Maodo Maokai is weakest early-mid game before his Warmogs. If you don't get a Warmogs early enough, you're going to suffer. Maokai needs the HP advantage over his enemies. AP Runes give a lot more killing ability. I even tried Doran's Ring in the last game. It has the potential to get me a lot more gold through early kills. Unfortunately I had a useless lane partner so it ended up delaying my Warmogs to 26 minutes... that's too long. I'm going to try an ultra-aggressive start next game, because if you can get those early kills and a Warmogs under 15 mins.. you're going to be extremely tanky and healing through early game damage quite easily.
Pros / Cons
+ Extremely difficult to kill mid-late game, especially when allowed to auto-attack.
+ A powerful addition to a team fight with his ultimate.
+ Very powerful laning phase with his Sapling Toss + Twisted Advance combo.
+ Knockup/back interrupt on a short cooldown.
+ Long range, long duration root for isolating enemies and focussing damage.
- Very weak early-mid game before his Warmog's Armor. Cannot tank early game team battles effectively (unlike Shen/Rammus/Malphite/Amumu)
- Low resistances until late game, a Bloodrazor will hurt (If they pick Warwick, this isn't the build for you)
- Extremely slow. Despite your survivability you cannot survive a wander back to your tower. Have to play smart.
- Very mana dependant, forces you to take Clarity and address your mana problems before you can build tank items (this is linked to point 1)
Passive: Sap Magic
Sap Magic is the key to the Maodo build. In any other build, I find it's lacklustre. It encourages you to build HP instead of AR/MR, so for a traditional tank it's a bad skill. For a Mundo style sponge tank, it's excellent. It gives brilliant lane staying power (Maokai is capable of solo laning easily... whether he should is another question!) and it lets you go toe-to-toe in early battles. Late game, this is what turns you invincible. Just remember to auto-attack. You can't run around like a normal tank and just use your skills, Maokai has to auto-attack every time this activates to be effective!
Q: Arcane Smash
Arcane Smash is a very under-rated skill. It's the skill I max after Sapling Toss. The damage is ****py, the range is small and the knockback range is tiny. However, its general disruption is quality. Since it generally hits everyone in melee range in a 180 degree arc, it makes Maokai fat. The good thing about Arcane Smash and Maokai's tanking ability is that he is great at blocking melee enemies from your Ashe or Miss Fortune. Coupled with Twisted Advance and proper positioning (helps massively in chokepoint battles), there's no way that a Tryndamere or an Olaf are going to get toe-to-toe with your carry. With cooldown reduction, the slow is almost permanent. You have to remember that the knockback is like a 100% slow, so it's actually very powerful. Maokai isn't dependent on his 90 second ultimate to protect your carry from a multi-enemy assault, this is why he rules.
W: Twisted Advance
Twisted Advance is a very good skill, but I don't believe it's worth maxing until the very end. The blink has a great range and it causes significant damage (if you skill it). Ultimately, like Arcane Smash, you use Twisted Advance for its utility. Use it to initiate, use it to stop anyone who actually does manage to get around your fat ***. The Twisted Advance + Arcane Smash combo is a (very) poor man's Unstoppable Force, but it can be very effective and will definitely draw the anger (and DPS) of the enemy team. However, none of this really improves past level 1! If you immediately hit the enemy with an Arcane Smash, you will be preventing them from moving anyway... so what's the point in an increased root duration?
E: Sapling Toss
Ahh, the infamous Sapling Toss! This is a brilliantly designed skill, so bravo to Riot's champ design team. It's so flexible and useful that you're always going to want to max it first. With the recent duration buff, it has become even better. Maokai's laning power is totally dependent on his use of this skill, so make sure you get good with it.
The first use is to clear creeps. With AP runes, I think you can one-shot the caster creeps at skill level 3 (definitely at level 4). Maokai isn't a great last hitter, so it's very useful to be able to gain some cash when your Sap Magic isn't off-setting the harassment damage you take.
The second use is for early game kills. Late-game, Sapling Toss is helpful but early game it's dominant. If you can hit both stages of the skill, you're going to be taking off massive chunks of damage while you're healing with your passive. Throw your Sapling, root them with Twisted Advance and they won't be able to escape the pain. Late game it's actually a nice harassment tool against ranged DPS. People have a natural inclination to run away from your little friends, this stops them attacking which is a good thing. When you get your Archangel's Staff, they do hurt a lot. They'd be fools to ignore them. This helps you achieve the tanking requirement of being an annoying bastard, which is sometimes difficult with Maokai's naturally low movement speed and his need to auto-attack to regen health.
The third use is for scouting. Face-checking bushes is sometimes a horrible but inevitable job for a tank, Sapling Toss saves your ***. The sight range of the Sapling is not particularly reliable as a ward replacement (for your river lane bushes) but it does give you some warning. It's often tricky to keep track of when your Sapling is due to expire (and when it's been prematurely triggered), so that's a skill you have to learn. I have rarely used them to set traps, but I can imagine you can get a sneaky kill if you get lucky and have enough mana to drop 3 Saplings in a bush and hope someone walks inside without seeing you set the trap.
One word of warning, don't push your lane if you can avoid it. It's more important to have a managed and safe lane than to push it too far forward and open yourself up to ganks. If enemies start getting smart and stay near creeps, just leave them alone... there's not much you can do and it's not worth it. You're not Zilean, you can't escape if you get caught with your pants down.
R: Vengeful Maelstrom
Another massively under-rated skill which really is completely awesome. With the new changes to mana, it's definitely worth levelling at 11 and 16. The cooldown reduction is infinitely useful. Battles aren't static. If you can get multiple casts of this in a single fight, then you're contributing hugely. 20% damage reduction is essentially turning a 5v5 into a 5v4. Another advantage of a low cooldown is that you can use it to save lives without being too worried about not having it for a better situation. The damage is pretty ****py to be honest, and all you'll be doing is kill stealing (since you'll have it running most of the fight, when everyone's on low health). I think the damage cap should be removed to be honest, this is the only 'threat' that Maokai has... the only reason you'd want to kill him. If it could obliterate people then his tankiness would be improved tenfold.
Vengeful Maelstrom is the main reason you'll want Clarity. This, coupled with your other skills, burns mana like crazy. Having the ability to pop Clarity to maintain this bad boy is essential. Sometimes you'll be caught with low mana and need it to save lives, it is mandatory to pick Clarity!
9x Greater Mark of Insight
Magic Penetration is the only choice here. Your Saplings are incredibly powerful early game and this buffs them nicely for early game kills.
9x Greater Seal of Clarity
Mana regen was nerfed recently, but it's still very useful on Maokai. Saplings cost a lot. With these runes you can maintain your spam for longer early game (every little helps) and ensure that when you use your Sapling Toss + Twisted Advance + Arcane Smash combo you're not going to be completely screwed for mana.
9x Greater Glyph of Force or 9x Greater Glyph of Focus
Oooh controversy! Yes you are a tank, but Magic Resistance runes add up to a total of f*ck all. You have a passive that heals you, so you can survive early harassment, you don't need it early game. It does nothing late game. Ability Power per Level is great because it gives you a handy boost to your Sapling Toss damage (1:1 ratio) which helps you farm earlier (the stage when you can take out all 3 caster minions with one Sapling) and helps you maintain some killing power when you haven't built any AP items (which you don't in this build).
You could also try Cooldown Reduction. I've been playing around with it a lot lately. The damage drop is noticeable, but late game you're much more effective. Remember, your Vengeful Maelstrom is static. You'll want to be able to cancel it and cast it again as quickly as you can. CDR is really useful with all your skills, particularly Arcane Smash. Every second helps.
3x Greater Quintessence of Potency or 3x Greater Quintessence of Focus
Following the same lines, what's 75 HP going to do? Early game you have survivability. The +15 Ability Power will give you much improved harassment and farm. HP is just a waste. I haven't tried Cooldown Reduction but I guess it will also work pretty well.
Standard Maokai masteries really.
9 in Offence for the improved ability power, CDR and magic pen.
21 in Defence for the 4% damage reduction. Ensure you get Mender's Faith (improved Heal), since we'll be using that in this build.
There are 2 schools of thought regarding Maokai's skill sequence.
Twisted Advance Focus
I used to think this was the best way. Arcane Smash is terrible! It's really short range, does ****py damage and the knock-up is minuscule! Since then, I've learnt better, but this is still a valid method. If you want to maximize the amount you can root a single target, or the amount of burst damage you cause, then go for Twisted Advance. However, Arcane Smash Focus is better in so many ways...
Arcane Smash Focus
Maokai can't contribute damage to a team fight. Twisted Advance is only single target, and more often than not you'll have a team mate who can slow the enemy. Arcane Smash is brilliant in team fights. You aren't a tank who hounds enemy carries (although you can do that quite well), you're meant to protect your allies. Arcane Smash does this with its AoE knockup and slow. If you're right in the middle of a bunch of enemies, you're going to hit them all. There's nothing more annoying than trying to get to a carry at the back of the enemy team, when some big fat dude is pushing you back. Effectively, Arcane Smash makes you super fat and tough to get around. You're like a pick in a Pick and Roll... you're Amar'e Stoudemire and your AD carry is Steve Nash. It's on a tiny cooldown (especially with CDR masteries, runes and items) and it builds up your Tear of the Goddess and Sap Magic much quicker than Twisted Advance.
Of course, you'll want to get all skills by level 4, but I highly recommend leaving Twisted Advance at level 1. You just need to stop the enemy for a tiny period of time, you don't need the full 2 second root if you have competent team mates.
This is the Maodo build. It is not a traditional tanking build and therefore doesn't use traditional items. Please try it before you knock it. I've played tanks quite a lot (my first main was
Malphite) and I understand resistances and that HP isn't as effective. However no other tank has a heal based on their max HP, except
Dr. Mundo (he isn't really a tank though).
The tanking 'rules' state that you need 150AR and MR before you should build HP. There is some math behind it. However, that doesn't account for the 7% (8.4% with Spirit Visage) of your Max HP that you heal every 5 spell casts. In a team fight, you'll always have Sap Magic active. This build takes advantage of your passive. In addition, Maokai has a built in 20% damage reduction to help him.
Eventually you will get resistances, but early game a Warmog's Armor is incredibly powerful on Maokai (if I do REALLY well I might get 2!) and enemies aren't farmed enough to really require 300 AR. Once you have maxed your HP, you will be extremely tough to take down.
Orange = Core items. green is for alternative items which could work.
Items - Early Game
Begin with Meki Pendant and 2x Health Potion.
As soon as there's a good opportunity, get your Tear of the Goddess. We want to build this up as quickly as possible, and Maokai is always spamming Saplings as part of his lane harassment. There are 2 other options to help Maokai spam Saplings; Philosopher's StonePhilosopher's Stone and Chalice of Harmony.
Why does Tear of the Goddess beat these items?
Philosopher's StonePhilosopher's Stone is a pretty cool item, it grants plenty of laning power (Health and Mana Regen) and also gives you gold per 5 which is a nice addition. Philosopher's can build into Shurelya's ReverieShurelya's Reverie which is a nice upgrade when you've finished your build. It grants even more HP and the active is really nice. This would be my other option.
Chalice of Harmony will probably be even more useful in the laning phase and grants really good Mana Regen. The reason why Tear of the Goddess is better than them is this. Your Vengeful Maelstrom costs a lot of mana. Mana Regen is never going to offset the cost, especially when you use your skills on top of your ultimate. Tear of the Goddess may not have great mana regen, but once it's built up it allows you to cast all your spells without worrying. You'll be on crazy levels of maximum mana. In addition, it can be upgraded to an Archangel's Staff which will be very cost effective once the +mana passive is maxed and your spells are starting to do next to no damage. This can top it up.
Once you have your Tear of the Goddess, get your Boots of Speed. Unlike lots of builds, I really see no use for a fast upgrade to Mercury's Treads. You will have crazy HP early game with Heal, your passive and Giant's Belt, there's no real necessity for the Magic Resistance or the CC reduction. Yes, you are slow (and that is super annoying), but it's still the laning phase so don't worry.
Aim for Warmog's Armor as soon as you can. I'm a terrible farmer, but I find that you can get it around 15-20 mins if you're as bad as me and maybe get a kill or some assists. Maokai is surprisingly deadly in the early game.
Items - Mid Game
Although this build does not focus on resistances, you do build some naturally. You're not going to be getting crazy 300AR/MR levels with items like Thornmail and Force of Nature, but you will have something to help your massive max HP work better.
Look at the enemy team and look at who is farmed. This is the most important thing for a tank, to adapt to the enemy team. What's lovely about the Maodo build is that HP is effective against all damage (just like your ultimate). However, every little helps. If the casters are getting farmed, get Spirit Visage. This item is brilliant because it grants HP, reduces your cooldowns (great for your Ultimate), adds some Magic Resist and it has a brilliant passive which combines with your passive. Unfortunately it was nerfed recently, bringing the +1.4% to +1.05%.
When you have 4000 HP, it will grant you an extra 40ish health to your Sap Magic. It's not terrible but it isn't that great. It used to grant over 50. I may possibly need to revise this, but so far it has still been quite effective. You'll survive in battles for a long time, with your passive constantly activating. It's not strange to have it activate 4/5/6+ times in a battle, so that 40 HP quickly adds up. If you're desperate for Magic Resistance, I'd go for a Force of Nature.
In 90% of situations where Spirit Visage isn't needed, I will go for a Sunfire Cape. It is built for Maokai. Loads of health, loads of armor and the constant damage passive is superb for an unkillable sponge like Maodo Maokai. The damage really shouldn't be underestimated. Quite a few times you'll be one of the only survivors in the fight, having a 1v1 with the enemy tank/sponge. The constant heal from your passive plus the damage from Sunfire will make you deceptively tough (both offensively and defensively).
Once I have my Spirit Visage or Sunfire Cape, I'll possibly upgrade my boots to Mercury's Treads and then get the item I didn't get before. The last game I played (the best game I've had as Maokai), I didn't even upgrade my boots until the end! I got Boots of Mobility because I was already unkillable and needed to traverse the map quicker!
There really aren't any alternatives for a Maodo build. Randuin's Omen is potentially viable, and is a great item, but it doesn't grant enough Health and the active is essentially nerfed on you because you won't be stacking AR/MR (which increases the active's duration). Maodo needs health on everything he builds and there aren't many items that grant resistances and health. If you're against a bunch of melee carries (like Master Yi or Tryndamere) then go for it.
One alternative, if you're doing really well, is a 2nd Warmog's Armor. Of course, you have to be doing VERY well, but it is a lot of fun to have such insanely high health. If no-one particular on the enemy team is fed, it's not a bad option. Health is universally effective, so it can be a good for your security to get more HP instead of gambling on which resistances to take.
Another option is Leviathan. This item is in serious need of a buff. With 20 stacks it only grants 820 HP... which you can lose if you die. Warmog's Armor grants more health naturally and it can increase by 450 HP, which is permanent. The 20 stack bonus is incredible on Leviathan but I've never achieved it. It's too risky to try a stackable item on a Tank, you need to rely on your items to be effective and you cannot be afraid to die.
Items - Late Game
I'm not a great farmer. I see lots of builds which assume you can get about three Tier 3 items in Mid-Game. I'm pessimistic, after Sunfire Cape, Boots and Spirit Visage I'm basically ready for the end.
By this point, you probably have enough HP. There's no real need for any more. Your HP will be so high that every point of AR/MR will be extremely effective. Therefore, previously alternative items become viable.
Force of Nature is a perfect item to finish off the Maodo build. It grants you tons of Magic Resistance and a nice boost to health regen. The best thing is the health regen passive. If you're on about 4000 health (which isn't hard to get to with this build), you'll be healing 140 HP every second. This is insanity. It also grants movement speed.
Thornmail is actually super effective on Maokai. The problem with Thornmail on traditional tanks is that the damage reduction from Armor makes the passive do less return damage. Maokai is based on HP, so he takes more damage from enemies (especially without his Ultimate). This means that Tryndamere will be taking much more damage than he usually would if he attacked a Malphite or an Amumu. Still, it grants no benefits to health so I'll usually just get Force of Nature.
Frozen Heart is an alternative. The mana is pretty much not needed, when you have maxed your Tear of the Goddess by now. But the attack speed reduction aura is very powerful for someone like Maokai (boosting his survivability and the survivability of all your allies) and the cooldown reduction is nice. It adds a hefty chunk of Armor too.
Finally, when you're totally complete and have no slots left, upgrade your Tear of the Goddess into an Archangel's Staff. Why not?
Clarity: I can't see how this could not be core on Maokai. Even with Tear of the Goddess, it's infinitely useful. Tear will take a while to max. Clarity basically gives you 2 mana pools early-mid game. If you find your ult draining your mana too fast, pop Clarity and keep it going longer. It really can save a lot of lives. Mana is Maokai's biggest problem.
Heal: I usually pick Heal. It helps early game with the lack of defensive runes. It also lets you save people's ***es and it fits the HP theme of Maodo quite well. In addition, your Vengeful Maelstrom makes its effective EHP 20% better in a team fight.
Exhaust: If you don't care for heal, Exhaust is always great. Being able to blink in with Twisted Advance, and then completely cripple the enemy carry is a great contribution to your team. Like all good summoner spells, it can save ***es and help kills. With Maokai it can help you get closer for an Arcane Smash or to ensure a Sapling hits the target. With the AP runes, my Maokai often gets a kill or 2 in the early game laning phase.
OK Summoner Spells
Flash: Flash is always a great spell. It can save your *** a lot and help you get in range for a crazy long range Twisted Advance. Fortunately, Maodo is already a total badass so you don't really need more badattitude. It's a great spell but the cooldown is too long and you're pretty unkillable anyway. Other spells are better
Ghost: I have this on 99% of my other champs but it's just not as useful on Maokai. Yes you're slow as hell but I just find Exhaust brings much more utility. You should be near your team anyway, so it doesn't matter if you're a slow ***.
Teleport: It's good for item runs, but not really necessary. Ghost does a similar thing but has a shorter cooldown.
I'm not an amazing player but I thought I'd share this build because it's a lot of fun and it does seem very effective. I've always thought that Maokai is too weak and squishy to be a traditional resistance based tank. It wastes his passive, and he just pales in comparison to other options.
With the Maodo build, you have lots of fun and you're pretty impossible to kill. You're basically an AP version of Mundo, with more CC and an awesome damage reduction aura. Yes, there isn't a huge reason for people to attack you (although you will make their life a living hell) but that's not because of this build... there is no reason to attack Maokai in general. This is why I feel a Maodo build is much more effective than a main tank build.
Try it out, let me know how you get on. Let me know if you enjoyed it as much as I do!