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Garen Build Guide by m4urice

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League of Legends Build Guide Author m4urice

A simple and comprehensive guide to Garen

m4urice Last updated on November 18, 2011
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Top Lane
Ranked #11 in
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Win 51%
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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: 21

Honor Guard

Defense: 0

Strength of Spirit

Utility: 9

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IMPORTANT: Please take some time to read this guide instead of just looking at the items in the cheat sheet. And please do not downvote just because you don't like the items, runes and masteries in the cheatsheet: a detailed discussion is given below, read it and you will understand the choices I have made and the options I consider to be available to Garen. Do remember that this is a guide for a reason: it is meant to guide you, not to be a recipe.

Although I am not the best summoner with any champion, I have been playing League of Legends for quite a long time. I have never left the casual gaming state, and my ranked Elo is far from being the best. However, I do have a brain and although I lack skill, I like thinking about what I could do to improve the builds I use for my favourite champions :)

This guide is about how I play Garen, who was the very first champion I mained on LoL. It is a mixed tank/DPS build suggestion, pretty much inspired by the guide by RusPiglets on Leaguecraft.

Garen is quite easy to build, due to the fact that few stats truly benefit to him. Building Garen using items 100% useful to him dramatically reduces the number of options available to you, making choices easy. NB: this guide currently covers only Summoner's Rift, since I haven't played Garen on Dominion for a sufficiently long time to sort things out.

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What does Garen have and need?

I used to play Garen as a tank. One day, a buddy of mine told me the following: "Garen sucks. Look at your stats: you scored 7 kills early game, then nobody gave a **** about you." I realized my build was correct early game, but playing Garen as a pure tank was not very effective for one single reason: this champion has no crowd control. Based on this, I reconsidered my build and started thinking about what Garen had and lacked, and what was best and worse for him. So here is the analysis I did.

Garen has

  • Heavily damaging skills. His Q and E are really ***-ripping when correctly buffed: Decisive Strike scales with AD (+1.5 dmg per AD) and Judgment scales with AD as well (+1.2 dmg per tick per AD, plus crit effects).
  • Some mage-killing abilities: his Q applies a silence effect to the target it hits.
  • Decent tanking abilities. Garen's W greatly reduces damage and passively increases his resistances.
  • Good mobility. His E allows him to go for his target through his opponents and his Q dramatically increases his movement speed for a short time.
  • A great finishing move: Garen's ult is what lots of players wish they had to finish Mundo or Cho'Gath. No retreat for luckers!
  • One of the craziest passive abilities in the game: he can regain 20% of his HP by waiting for about 40 seconds in a bush. This allows him to stay on his lane for a long time if he has control of bushes.

Garen does not have

  • Ranged abilities: you have to get close to your enemy.
  • Crowd control: you have to chase your enemies and you cannot attract their attention when building full tank, unlike a Rammus or a Shen.

Garen needs

  • Decent damage. Otherwise, people just ignore you, and you are just a little more useful than a leaver (you can still push lanes, you know...). Increase your damage, and you opponents with try to skin you. Eventually, you will tank, for sure. Garen's damage is mostly controlled by his abilities. Therefore, you can increase it by improving your AD, crit and armor penetration. One thing though: do not increase your attack speed. It is a total waste.
  • Some defense to synergize with his W and avoid dying when rushing into enemies. Don't stay squishy forever, you're a meelee DPS.
  • Some chasing abilities. Lucky enemies must not escape. And if you go fast enough, you can tower-dive more easily. We provide him with more movement speed through Decisive Strike, Ghost, Boots of Swiftness, Youmuu's Ghostblade and Force of Nature.
  • Cooldown reduction. The lower your cooldowns, the more you can spam your abilities.
  • Crowd control. This is unfortunately the most debatable part of this guide. Crowd control is generally acquired from items which also provide stats and effects which are not optimal for Garen. Randuin's Omen is, to me, the most viable CC option for Garen.

Garen does not need

  • Attack speed, as explained above.
  • On-hit effects: your spin will not benefit from them. Say goodbye to The Black Cleaver, Frozen Mallet and lots of other items.
  • Mana, mana regen, AP. Captain Obvious, protect us.

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Pros and cons of Garen using an offtank build


+ Great mobility
+ Great chaser
+ Good survivability
+ Decent damage output
+ Decent oracle carrier
+ Fun and rather simple to play(1)

- No CC
- Not a real tank(2)
- Not a real DPS(3)

(1) Fun and rather simple to play: Garen's combos are quite easy to perform (no skillshot or timed ability involved); that doesn't make him a "noobish champ", though: you are still expected to play smartly to be effective on your team!
(2) Not a real tank: carries with a high amount of defense-piercing items will take you down
(3) Not a real DPS: you can't take a tank down on your own

With this build, Garen is suitable for quite a large variety of games. He fits the offtank's role in the current EU metagame: he has a good lane presence due to Perseverance, he is durable and can deal a fair amount of damage.

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Skill description

Perseverance Heals 0.5% of Garen's health per second if he has not dealt or received damage for 7s.
Perseverance is one of the most powerful passives in the game, mostly due to the lane presence it gives to you. 40s in the brush give you back 20% of your hit points.

Decisive Strike Briefly increases Garen's attack speed. The next auto-attack silences the target and deals additional damage.
Decisive Strike is a decent burst damage skill. It also improves your movement speed and give you the ability to silence mages. Use it to engage teamfights.

Courage Active: Garen ignores a significant percentage of damage for a few seconds. Passive: each minion kill grants +0.5 armor and magic resist.
Courage is an excellent defensive skill. It gives you plenty of armor and magic resist (about 1k gold worth) and the active part is great. Use it to protect yourself in teamfights and when tower-diving.

Judgment Garen spins for 3s, dealing damage around him. Critical strike chances apply.
Judgment is your main source of damage and the reason why you need so much movement speed. Chase using it, activate Ghost and Youmuu's Ghostblade's unique ability if necessary. Do remember that it also acts as both a lesser Cleanse and Mercury's Treads, protecting you from already-taken and upcoming slows.

Demacian justice Deals magic damage to the target based on how many hit points she is missing.
Demacian Justice is a finisher. It is extremely effective on "fatties" with big health pools such as Cho'Gath or Dr. Mundo. Use it when you are sure you can kill your target (or nearly). Remember that it deals magic damage (but it doesn't scale with AP): enemies stacking MR will not feel anything. Therefore, avoid using it on Rammus when he uses Defensive Ball Curl...

Skill sequence

Ability Sequence
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

I suggest to use the following priority: R > E > Q > W. Level 4 should be used to take a level in Courage. Judgment and Decisive Strike can be swapped, depending if you need more burst or sustained damage.

Skill usage

Garen's combos are quite easy to perform (no skillshot or timed ability involved); that doesn't make him a "noobish champ", though: you are still expected to play smartly to be effective on your team!

Garen has no mana: he is cooldown-based. However, this does not mean that you can spam your abilities brainlessly. Use them at the right time, so they are not on cooldown in a critical moment.

Decisive Strike has several usages: you can use it to improve your movement speed, to deal damage or to silence a target. The movement speed improvement may be vital when escaping or chasing, so do remember to use this skill at these moments. The silence effect is the one for which Decisive Strike requires the wisest use. The best targets for this skill are champions highly relying on their abilities (i.e. mages) and enemies channeling a skill, like Katarina or Nunu, as the silence effect will interrupt them.

Courage requires its passive effect to be charged, but you should not bother about that, since farming the 50 necessary creeps is very easy. The active part requires a smart timing to be effective. Basically, press W when a heavy source of damage is coming. Typical situations in which this is useful are teamfights, tower-diving, receiving damage from nuking skills, engaging a carry... A funny trick is to protect yourself from Karthus's ultimate when he is trying to finish you.

Judgment has a low cooldown, but don't spin in useless situations. Make sure you are close enough to your target before triggering your skill, so that you make optimal use of your damage output. Remember as well that Judgment cancels slows, it might save your life!

Demacian Justice is hard to use effectively. You can use it to deliver great damage to a target low on health, in order to weaken her more or to secure a kill. The only things to say about that skill is that you should not use it when your target has a lot of health remaining (you better use your other abilities), when you are sure that your allies can score the kill without you intervening and when your target has a lot of magic resist.

Combo: Decisive Strike + Judgment. This combo, called "spin2win" (or "tourbi-lol" in French), will ease your placement to deal higher damage while spinning. Land your procced auto-attack then start spinning while your target is silenced, unable to escape. Stop your Judgment immediatly if you feel you can secure a kill using Demacian Justice.

Combo: Decisive Strike, Courage, Judgment. This is a typical teamfight engage move. Locate the best target for your silence, and ping your allies. Then activate Decisive Strike (plus a movement speed enhancer if you feel it will be useful) then silence your target. As soon as the opposite team starts realizing what you are doing, trigger Courage (this may be before you land Decisive Strike). Then, in the center of the fight, unleash the f***ing damage using Judgment.

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Greater mark of desolation

I have done very little tests concerning runes; therefore, I will only present the ones I always use with Garen. I've had rather successful experiences with this rune set, which is, I have to admit, a bit expensive. It is definitely worth the RP!

Greater mark of desolation increase you damage in a way you wouldn't suspect. Equipped with those, Garen is one of the most damaging champions early game.
Greater Seal of Evasion are a constant and non reduceable protection against physical damage.
Greater Glyph of Scaling Cooldown Reduction give you cooldown reduction, which is essential to Garen.
Greater Quintessence of Health give you some valuable extra HP, which may save your life early game (and even later, because each single HP is important!).

This set is a safe standard setup valid for most AD champions. Runes are debatable, though. Both seals and quintessences could be replaced with other good ones. Check Searz's guide out for more tips about runes.

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Summoner spells

Premium choices

Ghost is the best. Garen is one of the few champs with which I never use Flash. Referring to what I stated before about Garen's needs, Ghost greatly helps with increasing movement speed, giving an excellent chasing potential and being a decent escape option.

Exhaust is excellent for disabling enemy carries and preventing enemies from fleeing. There is little more to say about this spell, which I like very much.

Ignite is excellent for tower-diving low-life opponents and finishing the kill you could not grab with Judgment.

Garrison is the Fortify alternative for Dominion games. It is useful in both attacking and defending situations and may help save or capture a point.

Honorable mentions

Flash is a great and versatile tool, giving you an undeniable edge when it comes to engaging, dodging, escaping and various other situations. I tend to favor this summoner spell rather than Ghost on most champions, but Garen is an exception for me. As I explained before, Ghost gives you better mobility, which is essential. Now, what about a nice Flash + Decisive Strike mage-disabling engage combo? This is a great move, very effective. So my word is: Flash is good as well, take it if you prefer it over Flash.

Teleport is a valuable option for champions needing strong lane presence. In a solo top situation, it may prove to be very useful.

Being disabled is a problem for nearly all champions. Cleanse remove all CC effects and may save you. Plus, Cleanse removes summoner spell debuffs, including Ignite. Quite good, isn't it? However, I tend to favor more offensive options, relying on Judgment to protect me from slows.

Heal is good for new players. It allows you to stay longer on your lane, and it gives you a potential HP bump that may surprise your opponents. However, it tends to become less efficient as you summoner level increases. So the conclusion is: take it if you can't have anything better.

Are you kidding me?

Although it is technically not a very bad choice, other champions are better than you with Clairvoyance. You simply have other priorities: tank, carries and offtanks usually do not take that spell. However, under special circumstances, I guess it may be justified to select it...

Promote is a tool for pushers. Garen is not a pusher, neither on Dominion nor on Summoner's Rift. You have better options.

Smite is useful to junglers, and Garen is a terrible one. You have way better options.

You plan on dying? And as soon as you revive, what will you do? Run and be too late on the battlefield?

Garen does not benefit from ability power and gets little from attack speed boosts. Surge is therefore mostly wasted: you have better options.

Garen has no mana. Clarity would useful for support Garen. What? You didn't hear what I said? Nevermind, forget about that.

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Due to the recent release of the new mastery tree on Mobafire, the subsequent bugs and the lack of time I have, this section is currently disabled. Expect it to come back on the next update!

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Here we are: the items section! Here are presented various builds viable for Garen, then a detailed list of items is given. Each item is commented, telling if it is a good, debatable or bad choice. Each item comes with its gold efficiency indicator (see appendices at the end of the guide), which tells how much gold is wasted when buying it. Do remember, though, that gold efficiency is only an indicator, and that decisions need more than simple figures to be taken correctly!

Classic build

This is the build I like to use these days. It works pretty well in lots of situations, granting Garen decent damage and good defense against a balanced team. The exact item sequence I tend to favor keeps balance between offense and defense all along the game:
  1. Start with Doran's Blade
  2. Stay on the lane until your can afford Boots of Speed + The Brutalizer (1687 gp)
  3. Giant's Belt to get some defense, your resistances being improved meanwhile by Courage
  4. Finish Youmuu's Ghostblade
  5. Finish Boots of Swiftness
  6. Buy Negatron's Cloak + Chain Vest
  7. Finish Sunfire Cape and Force of Nature (end of core build)
  8. Build Atma's Impaler
  9. Build Warmog's Armor
  10. Replace Sunfire Cape with Randuin's Omen
I generally buy Warmog's Armor alongside Atma's Impaler after I completed my core build. 4k HP will grant you 80 damage and you'll get crazy regen combined with Force of Nature. However, there are situations in which Warmog's Armor is not the best defensive choice (meet Tryndamere!). In these cases, I buy a different defensive item, like Guardian Angel or Thornmail and I increase my damage with Infinity Edge.

Early Atmog build

Seviseth pointed out in his guide how awesome the Atma's Impaler + Warmog's Armor combo (Atmog) was on Garen. I tested his build, which proved to be pretty effective, and it inspired me the following item sequence:
  1. Start with Doran's Blade
  2. Build Boots of Swiftness
  3. Buy The Brutalizer
  4. Buy Giant's Belt to get some defense, your resistances being improved meanwhile by Courage
  5. Buy Atma's Impaler
  6. Buy a Negatron Cloak
  7. Build Warmog's Armor
  8. Situational: If your enemies are building some armor, finish Youmuu's Ghostblade
  9. Build Force of Nature (end of core build)
  10. Situational: Build Randuin's Omen or Guardian Angel
  11. Situational: Sell Youmuu's Ghostblade (or The Brutalizer if you did not upgrade it) to buy Infinity Edge or Last Whisper.
Please note that the sequence here is critical, as the unfinished items will give you crucial bonuses. As you can see, you end up with pretty much the same items as with the classic build.

Starting items

Doran's Blade
Doran's Blade gives you some HP and a nice damage boost. It is often a better starter than Doran's Shield because your passive already gives you the weapons you need to stay on your lane.

Boots of Speed + 3 Health Potions
This is another popular starting configuration. It saves you some money and improves your mobility, and the
Health Potions give you a better lane presence. You pay that with a slightly lower damage output.

Doran's Shield
Doran's Shield gives you some HP and a nice defense boost. It gives you the best lane presence, sacrificing some damage output in exchange.

Movement items

Boots of Swiftness
Boots of Swiftness are an excellent choice since they improve your mobility. However, heavy-CC teams might cause you trouble if you take these boots, and it might be smart to swap them with Mercury's Treads in some cases.

Mercury's Treads
Mercury's Treads dramatically reduce CC, giving you improved mobility against heavy-CC teams. I occasionally build this item to counter very annoying teams.

Ninja Tabi
Sometimes, you may need additional protection against heavy auto-attacking DPSers (such as Tryndamere, Ashe, Kog'Maw, Caitlyn, etc.). Ninja Tabi provide you that kind of defensive features, granting you massive dodge probability and and a little armor.

Offensive items

Youmuu's Ghostblade
Youmuu's Ghostblade is excellent: this item is nearly made for Garen (grants improvements for AD, crit, speed, CDR). The little attack speed-increasing part of the active power is wasted, but I do not consider it a major flaw. Start with The Brutalizer, which will decrease your cooldowns and increase your AD. You will take little benefit from the Avarice Blade, don't try to get it first.

Atma's Impaler
Atma's Impaler provides the same kind of stats as Infinity Edge, additional armor and will synergize well with a high health pool. It should be paired with Warmog's Armor for maximum effectiveness.

Infinity Edge
Infinity Edge, although it is very expensive, is also very effective, since it buffs the optimal offensive stats for Garen. Add one more tanking item to this, like Guardian Angel or Randuin's Omen. The latter will increase your health pool as well, synergizing with your passive and Force of Nature.

Last Whisper
Last Whisper is rather effective against armor-stacking bastards. However, be warned: percentage armor penetration applies after flat armor penetration. Therefore, the effectiveness of your Youmuu's Ghostblade might become questionable. This is why I only recommend buying Last Whisper in specific situation (like, if the enemy team counts at least 3 champions stacking more than 150 armor). Add to this even more damage or another tanking item (but damage is better, since you will truly go through their armor like through butter).

Hexdrinker is an awesome counter against a few champions, especially Karthus. You can take it early just after Giant's Belt if you're having trouble with magic nukers. Sell it when in late game to buy other items.

Frozen Mallet
Frozen Mallet nicely slows enemies and gives you an enjoyable HP pool bump. The synergy with Atma's Impaler is correct, since although Frozen Mallet gives less HP than Warmog's Armor, it is compensated by the +20 AD. Only, the slow effect only applies while auto-attacking: therefore, this effect is wasted during the time you damage your enemies with Judgment. Therefore, I almost never buy it, rather favoring Warmog's Armor to get HP and Randuin's Omen to get CC.

Defensive items

Sunfire Cape
Sunfire Cape is very good on Garen. It gives him good defense stats (armor and health) and has an excellent passive damaging aura which stacks with Judgment and greatly helps with farming. I always start with Giant's Belt: there is no use to have armor if you don't have HP to protect with it.

Force of Nature
Force of Nature increases your movement speed, your resistance and your HP regen. In case of emergency, I build it before Sunfire Cape, but after Giant's Belt.

Warmog's Armor
Warmog's Armor is a great choice since you can stack it very quickly using your skills and Sunfire Cape to farm. Do remember, though, that it is just a big bunch of HP, and that it does not make you invincible if you do not have decent armor and magic resist.

Randuin's Omen
Randuin's Omen is an extremely good item on Garen. It has defensive features close to Sunfire Cape's and gives a nice crowd control, so much needed for Garen. Since Sunfire Cape looses its offensive potential when in late game, I would advise to consider swapping it with Randuin's Omen once you completed your build. You may also consider buying it early instead of Sunfire Cape if you need crowd control, as it is the most viable CC option for Garen.

Quicksilver Sash
When crowd control becomes a nightmare, Quicksilver Sash can be useful. Use it to cancel the debuffs which bother you and which cannot be removed by Judgment (ie. not slows). Do remember: unlike Cleanse, Quicksilver Sash remove all debuffs, including Ignite!

Thornmail is an item I rarely build on Garen since it is only a big bunch of armor, only useful if you can benefit from the passive ability; however, it may be pretty useful against high crit-chance champions such as Tryndamere, Twitch, or even Gangplank. If you feel these guys are putting too much pressure on you, buy Thornmail, and go watch them kill themselves while unleashing your damage on them.

Guardian Angel
Guardian Angel is a good choice if you deal a fair amount of damage. Since you cooldowns are low, you will have a new chance to fight if you died when resurrected by this item.

Banshee's Veil
Banshee's Veil is not the most pertinent choice for Garen, since other items provide more magic resist with no wasted stats. However, the unique power of this item may save you in some cases...

Why I don't like these

Here are items I sometimes see in Garen guides and which I do not recommend. The place of some is debatable, while others are just obviously bad choices. The first items are those I dislike the less.

Phantom Dancer
Yea!!!!!! Massive crit chance and movement speed increases! Wait, what?! +55% attack speed?! While it is not the worst of the worst, I would suggest to buy an Infinity Edge instead.

The Bloodthirster
Lifesteal, lifesteal, lifesteal... As previously stated, lifesteal is mostly wasted on Garen. Plus, you lose the additional charges if you die and have to stack it again. Dealing massive damage is achieved more efficiently by building Infinity Edge (the +20 AD and crit enhancement is worth the 1k additional gold expense).

Stark's Fervor
HP regen and armor reduction are great, but as I said before, lifesteal and attack speed are mostly wasted. You will get more useful stats by favoring a combo made of a defensive and an offensive item (e.g. Randuin' Omen + Youmuu's Ghostblade). The poor gold efficiency of this item (63%) makes it obviously a non optimal choice.

Sword of the Occult
I am not a big fan of snowball items, since they are very game-dependant and they can unstack if you start being focused. Only a few long-range champions (suchs as Lux or Xerath) and some hyper carries (like Akali) can benefit from snowball items, other champions simply becoming living targets with that stuff. This is a matter of personal choice, though.

Trinity Force
Trinity Force is one of the oddest choices I have ever seen for Garen. Let's see what is useful to Garen in this item:
  • 30 attack damage
  • 250 hit points
  • 12% movement speed
Now, there are not-totally-wasted but still nonoptimal effects:
  • 30% attack speed
  • on-hit slow effect
  • on-hit damage proc
And there are a few stats which are totally wasted:
  • 30 ability power
  • 250 mana
The gold efficiency of this item is very low (61%, meaning that you waste about 1500 gp). So my question is: why spend 4070 gp on a 40% useless item, while you can invest 3830 gp in a 100% useful Infinity Edge?

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Gameplay tips

General advice

This section covers general topics every summoner should be aware of. Well, not exactly: it redirects you to more accurate articles, because repeating things here is pointless.

Warding (and more generally, map awareness)

Map awareness is one of the keys to victory. Some people tend to forget that the best way to beat the opposite team is to know what to do and when. And the best way to do that is to know where they are! In an ideal world, every player on the team should have enough information to know if enemies are visible and where they went if they are missing.

The first important element of map awareness is to call for misses. That is, when you do not see an opponent for, say five to ten seconds, say it by writing "mia" (or "ss" on EU servers). Try to do this, it is very important.

The second important point is minimap checking. Sometimes, your teammates are too concentrated (or too unaware) and they forget to call for a miss. Or you missed the message on the chat. To be sure, try to have a look on your minimap. This is even more essential when wards are planted, since nobody will watch them for you. Remember though: try not to trash on a guy forgetting to call for a miss, it is not good for your team's morale. I personally consider misses as courtesy (that's what civilized people do :) ), minimap checking remains the most reliable source of information you have.

The third element of map awareness is warding. Planting wards is the business of everybody, not only of the support (if your team counts any). Everyone should be buying wards if they can. Of course, supports buy more; however, the more wards, the better the map control. More information about warding is available in Panglot's guide.

Zone control

Zone control is basically the ability to lead your opponents where you want them to be, preventing them from undertaking harmful actions, farming, and even getting experience. Shurelia made a very nice and popular video tutorial, included below.

Garen play style

This section give gameplay tips specifically related with Garen.


Garen's high early game damage output allows him to harass his opponents very effectively if he is correctly placed. For that purpose, you have to control the bushes. Stay concealed all the time, going out to take a last-hit or to harass your enemies.

The basic harass move consists in waiting for an enemy to be close enough to your bush to be able to run on him. Then, use a Decisive Strike + Judgment combo to silence and damage your opponent. Silence him first, so that he cannot use an ability to counter you! Once your move is finished, return where you belong--your bush. Then wait until you are healed and start again!

Be warned:
  • smart players will try to control bushes to prevent you from harassing;
  • smart players will avoid bushes if they cannot control them, so you will not be able to harass them as effectively;
  • ranged champions are harder to harass because they can last-hit and avoid bushes;
  • solo vs 2 makes harassing much more difficult.
It is easier to harass in the following cases:
  • 1v1 or 2v2 lane;
  • enemy melee champion;
  • unexperienced or stupid opponent.
Try to know if the conditions for a good harass are met, or you could make harmful mistakes!


For Garen as for any champion, farming matters. As previously mentioned, though, controlling bushes is essential; therefore, farming should be a part of your control strategy, and you should go out of your bush only to take a last-hit. Do not waste your Judgment to hurt minions early game, you have better to do with that skill (and remember that Judgment's damage is halved against monsters).

As soon as you get Sunfire Cape, your farming strategy can change. You deal tons of damage to minions using Sunfire Cape + Judgment, so when you need it and if you feel it is not a bad thing to do, slash the minions and let gold rain! You will stack Warmog's Armor very quickly by doing this.


Garen is not made for jungling. Let the jungle to junglers, and kill neutral minions only when nobody else really needs them (don't let them alive for the opposite team!). There is nothing more to say about this.

Engaging teamfights

A typical engage combo is described in the Skills section. Garen's good tanking abilities make him a correct engager. Decisive Strike is to be used as wisely as possible: if a heavily damaging mage is in the fight, shut him down; if an enemy needs to channel an ability, save Decisive Strike to interrupt him. Silencing a tank is rarely the best you can do, since he will survive long enough to be able to cast his spells after the silence effect ends. And remember that Exhaust shut down AD carries very effectively.


An escaping enemy can usually not survive you. Your good movement speed, provided by Boots of Swiftness and Force of Nature, is a great tool already; you can further increase it using Decisive Strike, Ghost and Youmuu's Ghostblade. Your enemy will try to slow you down ( Miss Fortune, Kog'Maw, Graves, Nunu and others are known for their slowing abilities). In general, this means you won't catch up: cancelling the slow will cost you your Judgment, which is your main source of damage.

Some, champions like Udyr, Gangplank or Miss Fortune, are still very fast and may escape. Do not waste your time chasing them.


Garen's escaping mechanisms are identical to his chasing mechanisms: run as fast as possible! Choose your escape route smartly, getting into bushes to become untargetable, and change directions unexpectedly. Judgment cancels slows, so it may prove to be useful in such situations!

Ultimate usage

Most has already been said in the Skills section; however, I would also add that the best candidates for Demacian Justice are generally offtanks, who are as well protected well as tanks and tend to finish fights with a quite low HP pool. Squishies do not require the use of your ultimate (unless you want to steal the kill :) ) and true tanks won't feel a thing due to the absence of magic penetration.

Tower diving

Courage and movement speed make Garen a good early game tower diver. Tower diving is more effective using Ignite. A good tower diving move is the following: when you see an enemy under a tower and low on health, carefully put an Ignite on him then activate Ghost and go for the kill. Escape using Courage to avoid getting killed.

However, this daring move may fail if the enemy has a disabling ability (except if it is a slow, which you can cancel). Being stun under the fire of a turret is the worst that can happen to you! You have been warned, do this at your own risks!

A game with Garen

You're in: you have picked Garen. So now, what do you do? That is what we are about to see!

Before the minions spawn

If your team does not have an early strategy (such as early gank or counter-jungling), go to your lane and wait for your minions to spawn. Do not go for an early fight, it is too risky.

Early game laning

Garen is an awesome early game killer. As soon as you have two levels in Judgment, you become a killing machine. Use your good tanking abilities and your passive to harass your laning opponents. Let your opponents push your lane so that the mid laner or your jungler can find a good occasion for a gank (this should be done on most games with most champions, though).

Mid game fighting

Garen is pretty good in mid game team fights. Youmuu's Ghostblade gives you a good damage output against carries, while your defensive items protect you long enough to survive for a sufficiently long time.

End game fighting

Unfortunately, Garen's end game damage output will never match any carry's. As soon as the enemy team start increasing their protective stats, your effectiveness will decrease. However, you are still a threat to carries, so make sure they still remember it. Make also good use of your ultimate: do not waste it!

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Full tank Garen

I used to build Garen as a tank. And I used to hear everything about it. So I thought about it, and it turned out to be a bad idea when things become serious. Garen is definitely not a tank: most of his abilities are purely offensive and scale with damage. He benefits from defense, but he has not crowd control at all, only a little disabling skill. So building him as a tank will make you very tough, but you will not fit the role: you will not deal any significant damage and will not be able to help your team any other way because to the opposite team will just have to ignore you and kill your allies.

So: I do not recommend to build Garen as a tank, except for levels 1 to 25, since unexperienced people tend to forget that a tank Garen is not very harmful. If you build Garen as a tank, you can still do a few things:

  • since you are nearly unkillable, you are a good bush checker and carrier for Oracle's Elixir;
  • targets with no defense at all still take a little damage from your abilities;
  • you can still silence critical targets;
  • your ultimate is still of great use.

Tank item list:

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One last word

I presented here the way I like to play Garen. This champion is rather simple to play, very fun and can be pretty effective if correctly fed during early game. Of course, there are as many builds as there are players. Feel free to comment!

The Atmog build is inspired from experiments I performed after reading Seviseth's guide, which is full of good advice.

As a very final word, I would like to mention jhoijhoi and PsiGuard, who have been great sources of inspiration when writing this guide. Their work is exemplary. Check out their guides, they are among the best I have ever read.

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Patch notes

v1.0.0.129 - Fizz

  • General
    • Masteries have been remade
  • Summoner Spells
    • Clairvoyance
      • Cooldown increased to 70 seconds from 55
      • Improved Clairvoyance increases duration by 2 seconds, down from 4 and no longer reduces the cooldown
    • Cleanse
        Now cleanses summoner spell debuffs such as Exhaust's movement speed and damage reduction and Ignite's damage over time
      • Cooldown increased to 210 seconds from 150 seconds
      • Improved Cleanse no longer reduces cooldown, but now extends the secondary disable reduction buff by 1 second
    • Exhaust
      • Duration reduced to 2.5 seconds from 3 seconds
      • Improved Exhaust no longer increases the duration
    • Flash
      • Cooldown increased to 265 seconds from 255 seconds
      • Range reduced to 400 from 450
    • Fortify
      • Removed
    • Garrison
      • Now usable at Summoner Level 1, down from Summoner Level 4
    • Ghost
      • Now improved in the Offense Mastery tree instead of Utility
    • Heal
      • Heal amount per level increased to 25 from 20
      • Improved Heal no longer reduces the cooldown but now increases the amount healed by 15%
      • Added to Summoner's Rift
      • Promotes the nearest allied siege minion, increasing its attack range, health, armor, and magic resist. 180 second cooldown base.
      • Improved in the Utility tree - Improved Promote increases the defensive bonus stats of promoted minions by 15%
      • Now usable at Summoner Level 8 (on both the Crystal Scar and Summoner's Rift), up from Summoner Level 1
    • Rally
      • Removed
    • Revive
      • Health bonus upon reviving is now innate to the spell (as opposed to requiring Improved Revive)
      • Improved Revive now grants a 125% movement speed increase upon revival (Improved Revive no longer grants a 225% movement speed increase)
    • Smite
      • Now improved in the Defense tree instead of Offense
      • Improved Smite no longer reduces cooldown but the gold gained on cast is increased to 10 from 5
      • Cooldown reduced to 70 seconds from 75 seconds
    • Surge *New*
      • Empowers your champion, increasing ability power by 10-78 (depending on level) and attack speed by 35% for 12 seconds (220 second cooldown)
      • Improved Surge increases the attack speed bonus to 40% and ability power gained by 10%
      • Usable at summoner level 1
    • Teleport
      • Summoner's Insight no longer reduces cooldown
    These changes require the mastery selection to be remade. However, Garen's AD focus makes it possible to keep a 21/0/9 selection, although the lower levels in the utility tree tend to become less interesting than before. Things may change in the next releases of this guide. The changes in summoner spells will have little effect on our Demacian hero.

v1.0.0.126 to v1.0.0.128 - Xerath, Graves, Shyvana

No changes on Garen.

v1.0.0.125 - Riven

  • Decisive Strike attack damage ratio decreased to 1.4 from 1.5
  • Judgment
    • Damage per second reduced to 50/90/130/170/210 from 60/100/140/180/220
    • Bonus attack damage ratio increased to 1.4 from 1.2
    These changes will not significantly affect your playstyle. However, the early game nerf of Judgment may prove to be a little annoying. Judgment finds its former effectiveness when hitting a 50 bonus AD threshold (easily reached with this build).

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Change log

2011/11/18 - added the gold efficiency indicator (theory and application); new masteries; suspended the Masteries section; updated summoner spells
2011/10/30 - added the Early Atmog build
2011/10/24 - massive overhaul: all sections updated, more details, new page layout, removed tank Garen from the cheatsheet
2011/09/17 - big rework on items; minor updates about skills and playstyle
2011/09/14 - patch notes and comments added
2011/09/07 - minor updates about playstyle, summoner spells and Garen's haves and needs; items section expanded
2011/08/17 - item build updated
2011/08/16 - item build updated; playstyle section expanded
2011/08/15 - first release

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Appendix: the gold efficiency indicator

Gold efficiency, denoted g and ranging from 0 to 1, is a rough indicator I use to evaluate the amount of gold wasted when building an item. The useful price of an item of price p and gold efficiency g is given by:

u = gp
The wasted amount of gold for a given item of price p and gold efficiency g is given by:
w = (1-g)p
Basically, the higher the gold efficiency, the more optimal the item.

Item categories

Items are divided into two categories:
  • elementary items can be bought at the shop as they are (e.g. Cloth Armor or Ruby Crystal);
  • assembled items are built from components, which can be elementary or assembled items (e.g. Heart of Gold or Trinity Force). The upgrade giving the object from the components is called the recipe.
The calculation of gold efficiency is performed differently on elementary and assembled items. The cost of an assembled item is the cost of its components plus the building cost. For The Bloodthirster, the components cost 1650 + 450 = 900, and the recipe costs 900, for a total of 3000.

Utility coefficient

Every item has effects. To each effect is associated a utility coefficient e, ranging from 0 to 1, representing how useful it is for the champion being built. 0 means the effect is useless, and 1 means it is fully useful. For instance, mana pool increase is useless to Garen (e = 0), attack speed is useless for his abilities but has impact on his auto-attacks (e = 0.5) and attack damage benefits to his abilities and auto-attacks (e = 1).

Gold efficiency of an elementary item

For a given elementary item, the gold efficiency is the average of the utility coefficient of its effects.

Example: Ruby Crystal on Garen. Ruby Crystal has only 1 effect: HP pool increase. This effect is completely useful to Garen, so its utility coefficient is equal to 1. Therefore, Ruby Crystal's gold efficiency for Garen is equal to 1.

Example: Doran's Blade on Garen. Doran's Blade has 3 effects: AD increase, lifesteal, HP pool increase. The first and the third are completely useful, so they have a utility coefficient equal to 1. The second only improves Garen's auto-attack, so we give it a utility coefficient equal to 0.5. Therefore, the gold efficiency of Doran's Blade for Garen is given by:
g = (1 + 0.5 + 1)/3 = 0.83
That means that the item is roughly 83% useful to our Garen and we waste about 80 gp when we buy it. This shows, however, that gold efficiency is not an excellent indicator and should be handled with care: according to this, Long Sword would be a much better start to Garen, since its gold efficiency is equal to 1. However, Doran's Blade grants as many AD as Longsword plus a nice 120 HP for only 60 additional gold, its flaw being it cannot be upgraded. For these benefits, we sure can afford to "waste" 80 gp.

Gold efficiency of an assembled item

The gold efficiency g of an assembled item of total price p is equal to:
g = ( sum(ui, i in set of components) + prgr ) / p
where ui is the useful price of component i, pr is the price of the recipe and gr is the gold efficiency of the recipe.

The calculation of the gold efficiency of the recipe is performed in a similar way as in the case of an elementary item and is the mean utility coefficient of the final item's effects which come in addition to those of the components.

Example: The Bloodthirster on Garen. Components: B. F. Sword (g = 1, u = 1650), Vampiric Scepter (g = 0.5, u = 225).
Total price: p = 3000.
Recipe price: precipe = 900.
Recipe gold efficiency: The Bloodthirster gives further AD (e = 1) and lifesteal (e = 0.5) through both its stats and its passive, so the gold efficiency is grecipe = 0.67.
Therefore, the gold efficiency of The Bloodthirster on Garen is:
g = ( ( 1650 + 225 ) + 0.67 * 900 ) / 3000 = 0.83

Using gold efficiency properly

As previously mentioned, gold efficiency is a rough indicator. It is based on the utility coefficient, which is rather subjective and may lack situational adjustments. Some items are incredibly cheap for the effects they provide (that's why I used to build Hextech Gunblade on lots of casters before this item was nerfed) and even wasted stats may give incredible results on some champions. I personally use gold efficiency to detect items which do not waste any gold and try to favor them in my builds (but guess what: Youmuu's Ghostblade is not one of them!).

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Appendix: gold efficiency calculations

Utility coefficients

_____________________________________ Effect
Bonus AD
Armor pen
Crit chance
Crit improvement
Bonus HP
Magic resist
Movement speed
On-hit effects
Attack speed
Magic pen
Bonus AP
Bonus mana
____ e

Elementary items

B. F. Sword: g = 1
Boots of Speed: g = 1
Brawler's Gloves: g = 1
Chain Vest: g = 1
Cloak of Agility: g = 1
Cloth Armor: g = 1
Dagger: g = 0.5
Doran's Blade: g = 0.83
Doran's Shield: g = 1
Giant's Belt: g = 1
Long Sword: g = 1
Negatron Cloak: g = 1
Null-Magic Mantle: g = 1
Pickaxe: g = 1
Regrowth Pendant: g = 1
Rejuvenation Bead: g = 1
Ruby Crystal: g = 1
Sapphire Crystal: g = 0
Vampiric Scepter: g = 0.5

Assembled items

Atma's Impaler: g = 1
Avarice Blade: g = 1
Banshee's Veil: g = ( 1325*0.52 + 740*1 + 650*0.80 ) / 2715 = 0.72
Boots of Swiftness: g = 1
Catalyst the Protector: g = ( 475*1 + 400*0 + 450*0.5 ) / 1325 = 0.52
Targon's Brace: g = ( 450*0.5 + 250*1 + 100*0.67 ) / 800 = 0.68
Force of Nature: g = 1
Frozen Mallet: g = ( 1315*0.95 + 1110*1 + 825*0.83 ) / 3250 = 0.94
Guardian Angel: g = 1
Hexdrinker: g = 1
Infinity Edge: g = 1
Last Whisper: g = 1
Mercury's Treads: g = 1
Ninja Tabi: g = 1
Phage: g = ( 475*1 + 415*1 + 425*0.83 ) / 1315 = 0.95
Phantom Dancer: g = ( 420*0.5 + 1195*0.83 + 830*1 + 400*0.83 ) / 2845 = 0.83
Quicksilver Sash: g = 1
Randuin's Omen: g = 1
Sheen: g = ( 400*0 + 450*0 + 425*0.3 ) / 1260 = 0.10
Zeke's Harbinger: g = ( 1050*0.5 + 800*0.68 + 700*0.75 ) / 2550 = 0.63
Sunfire Cape: g = 1
Sword of the Occult: g = 1
The Bloodthirster: g = ( 450*0.5 + 1650*1 + 900*0.67 ) / 3000 = 0.83
The Brutalizer: g = 1
Thornmail: g = 1
Trinity Force: g = ( 1315*0.95 + 1260*0.10 + 1195*0.77 + 300*0.63 ) / 4070 = 0.61
Warmog's Armor: g = 1
Youmuu's Ghostblade: g = ( 1337*1 + 750*1 + 600*0.92 ) / 2687 = 0.98
Zeal: g = ( 400*1 + 420*0.5 + 375*0.83 ) / 1195 = 0.77