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Malzahar Build Guide by Kortekai

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Kortekai

Top-Lane Malz: the Hybrid Tank

Kortekai Last updated on January 20, 2015
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Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

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.



Offense: 30

Legendary Guardian

Defense: 0


Utility: 0

Threats to Malzahar with this build

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Threat Champion Notes
Olaf Your ult is practically worthless, if the Olaf plays right. Just sit back and poke him down, and you'll be alright, but don't expect your face-laser to save you. If he still has his ult, he'll laugh as he smashes your face in.
Nasus While laning vs. Nasus isn't overly stressful, making sure he doesn't farm up his Q is extremely important. Silencing him as minions get low on health helps, and playing him back to his turret and dropping your W on him is another good way of making sure he doesn't grow disproportionately large. If you have a Nasus in your lane, there are almost no reasons worth leaving your lane and letting him farm.
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This Is Not a Full Guide, Yet

I've been playing League since Nautilus was released, and the first champion I ever played was Malzahar. Since that time, I've ran the gambit of champions, mained Jax for a while and really enjoy Nasus, Nunu, and several others. Nothing and nobody has made me enjoy playing more than Malzahar's voidly style. Until recently, 99% of everything I played was Twisted Treeline. I preferred the close proximity of it, and the ability for teams running behind to make drastic comebacks seemed more possible than in Rift. For whatever reason, Summoner's Rift was too regular for me, with very little room for trying stuff out without being told "Go back to bots," and other, worse forms of harassment by overly competitive players. It was tiresome and irritating, so I avoided it at all costs. Treeline was bad enough for that, but it seemed like more of the Treeline players were willing to just have fun with the game.

I've recently tried something that has surprised me quite a bit, and for that matter, seems to have surprised quite a bit of people. I don't keep up-to-date with the Challenger-level players and teams, and I'm not the kind of player to delve into the nitty-gritty mechanics of things to optimize every second of the game... I'm a married father of two with a job; I've gotta have priorities. That said, this latest preseason, I've bursted my way out of Bronze and into Silver 2 (as of 1/20/15), and I plan on going as far as I can to see how this holds up for me. This isn't a guide to playing Malzahar on Rift. This is documentation of what I've tried, and how it has worked so far. Maybe one day, if and when I go Gold rank or beyond, I'll fill it in and add in more information. As it is, I want people to know that a hybrid tank build on Malzahar has worked for me, and I want to know how it works for other people.

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Benefits, Drawbacks, and a New Purpose

The biggest benefit to building Malzahar very tanky is simple: he is a high-priority target. You will be focused as Malz. Your silence, AOE and suppression are destructive. The more beefy you are, the longer it will take the other team to neutralize you. Your hybrid build allows your damage to be dispersed over time, rather than that glorious 1-target melting, but being able to sustain that damage over time is surprisingly satisfying, too.

Top-laning with Malz means you will probably out-range most of your opponents, but you aren't very agile, so you have to watch out for champions than can chase you or bring you back (Darius can be a hassle early on). I normally take Ghost specifically to outrun the enemy jungler coming to intercept me (it's also good for chasing down your opponent and landing the death-blow ult). Your jungler really can't land a fatal gank reliably until you have your ult, but hey, at that point it's practically an insta-kill. When you're going into a team fight, you can take a beating better so you don't have to worry about positioning to save yourself. Still, positioning is important: make sure you silence the other team's crowd control specialists, and ult their biggest damage dealer. Make them hate you. Make them focus you. Hurt them as much as you can so that, if you do die, they all die with you.

It's not a typical Malz style, but it's my style and I love making it work. My recent match history has been remarkable, and I hadn't lost two consecutive ranked games running Malz top from Bronze to Silver 3. At Silver 2, I'm still holding my own and often turning the tide of team fights. Even though I have sacrificed Malzahar's typical high-damage items in lieu of AOE tanky items (like Randuin's and Abyssal Scepter), I have fairly regularly topped the damage charts and have been a strong presence in all of the games I've played.

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Item Purchase Order

Doran's Ring & Potions:
Since Malzahar is so thirsty in his early-game, a Doran's item is vital until you get your Tear of the Goddess and start filling it. Mana potions are a constant buy for me throughout the first 15-20 minutes of the game, because even though at that point Malzahar should have some decent sustain, the combination of his E, the Goddess Tear, and potions allows him to contribute to at least two major team fights without recalling (if he hasn't taken a lot of damage). A couple are also good to have on hand just in case, after you've drained your resources, the dragon or Baron is up and you need to contribute.

Goddess Tear:
Malzahar needs this item for sustain before you should worry about extra damage. Farming up and whittling down your opponent is key to winning your lane. Killing them is nice, but not dying is more important.

Taking the Pickaxe before any Ability Power item gives two benefits to running a top-lane Malz: your voidlings will farm better for you, and make csing much easier for you to do at a distance; if you get the chance to push a tower, you'll actually deal some hefty damage to it.

Liandry's Torment:
Chances are, you'll be laning against very tanky champions up Top. Liandry's will give you the edge you'll need to punch through their hit points, and this item is incredible for Malzahar's abilities. The small amount of health it adds is a decent early-game buffer against damage, too.

Giant's Belt:
Once you can start burning through other tank's hit points, you need some of your own. Giant's Belt gives you the durability you'll need to effectively distract the enemy team, and hopefully survive the encounter. Remember that, with this build, the idea is to get the enemies focused on you (not hard with Malzahar), so you need to let them think they're diving you unprepared. Yes, you'll run away some and kite them like any good Malz, but you'll take a lot more damage with your proximity to them.

Ionian Boots:
Since this build sacrifices a lot of CDR in exchange for tankier items, I usually opt for the Ionian Boots over the Sorcerer's Shoes. If you're forced to recall before you save enough money to purchase any of the earlier items in this order, grabbing these before now isn't a terrible idea. The CDR will certainly help you sustain your lane and fill your Goddess Tear faster.

Manamune vs. Randuin's Omen:
These items can be purchased in either order, depending on how aggressively you're playing. If you get Manamune transformed, the extra attack damage will definitely help you shatter their turrets. The AOE on Randuin's is the item that really makes your close position in team fights worth-while, since you will be able to slow down the entire enemy team, silence some of them, and suppress their high-damage champion, all at the same time. Chances are, they'll be diving on you, too, so the extra armor really helps.

Abyssal Scepter:
I've heard that other items might be better for this build, because of Abyssal's short range on it's AOE effect, but if Malzahar fulfills his role as a tanky decoy for the team, then Abyssal will keep him safer from the other team's mage and help himself and his mage's abilities simultaneously. If, for whatever reason, you're dying way too much, I sometimes swap Abyssal out for Guardian Angel. It's a better survivability item, though it does reduce your potential damage output even further.

Rabadon's Deathcap:
Maybe others would build Deathcap a lot earlier, but this is sort of my "Icing on the Cake" item. Great for all ability-power champions, it adds that final punch to Malzahar's arsenal. For me, though, it's too expensive for early-game purchases, and doesn't help Malzahar fulfill his role for top-lane style.

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What I've Learned So Far

The reception to my Malz build as I've risen through the ranks has been interesting, and my lack of Summoner's Rift knowledge has definitely affected it. In many of my games, I teleport around to help other lanes with towers or to secure the dragon. I found out that doing this when I lane vs. a Nasus is a very, very bad idea. I've had people question everything from Manamune to Liandry's (which Manamune is essential to an AD Malz, and Liandry's is essential to an AP Malz--I thought). Even with admitting to an experimental build, many players simply look at my KDA and say I don't know what I'm doing. Those who have played in games with me that go well realize that it's a different strategy, and many of them enjoy the way it works.

Perhaps the most important thing I've learned is that, if there is heavy argument in champion select, the game is probably going to go poorly. If there is time to actually discuss roles in a game, it has been better for me to play a different role rather than force myself into the top lane with my Malz. The disbelief that something could work out well is crippling, and the pointless antagonism that follows ruins any chance of victory or enjoyment.

I have also learned that, depending on what champions are going against each other, it may be better to play aggressively. Nasus, Malphite, and Cho'gath all need a heavy hand to keep them in place, but Darius, Riven, and Nidalee must be respected and given some room. I've never been hyper-aggressive, and that's probably why I like Malzahar, but knowing that some champions will grow quickly if I focus on farming instead of hurting them is a new concept to me.

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Update & Edit Log

I do intend on adding to this build guide at some point, so I'll keep a track of any and all changes to it here. I look forward to all serious comments and critiques on my build, and will take all of them into consideration as I continue my progress through the ranks. Here is a direct link to my Malzahar match history for Ranked Summoner's Rift games:

Malzahar, the Hybrid Tank

1/13/2015 - Date of publishing. Build-only with some notes and brief descriptions.
1/14/2015 - Added Item Purchase Order. Giving reasons for why things are important, and when (thank you Cipher for the suggestion).
1/20/2015 - Edited all sections. Added a note on Nasus. Added What I've Learned So Far.