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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 [Revamped]

m4urice Last updated on August 19, 2012
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Team 1

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: 6

Strength of Spirit

Utility: 3

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Archived until further notice

Hello summoners, enthusiastic Garen players! I have been updating this guide for some time now. As I mention below, Garen has received a major revision and this guide requires updates. Unfortunately, I am entering a period in my life during which I'll have less time to spend playing League of Legends. For this reason, I think I will not be able to update this guide before six months, time at which my final exams will be behind me.

For this guide not to fall down simply due to my life, I have decided to archive it until further notice. By the way, I thank all the people who supported it, from the commenters to renowned members of the community.

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INCOMING UPDATE: Garen has recently received updates. No major playstyle change though, as he has been designed as a strong early-game laner, which he still remains. Important changes are:

  • Decisive Strike has been tweaked and will be more useful as a mobility tool.
  • Courage no longer grants per-minion-kill defense boosts but amplifies Garen's stats instead; this makes low-defense builds more fragile. However, the values catch up as soon as you stack about 100 resistance, which is quite easy to achieve. It also grants 30% CC reduction while activated.
  • Judgment now scales on total AD instead of bonus AD. This transfers threat potential from early to late game as total AD also includes per-level gains, not only items. It can no longer be used as a defensive tool.
  • Demacian Justice now has a longer cooldown at rank 1 and a shorter at rank 3.
  • Garen's base damage has been reduced early game and improved late game. His base HP regen has been reduced.
Overall, these changes are going to nerf Garen's early game. Aggressive solo laning will now be more risky, and Garen is probably going to be more relying on his jungler to get early kills. However, his late game is buffed, which will make him more consistent over the whole game.

What this seems to mean concerning builds is:
  • Offtank builds will most likely receive little impact. These changes will probably make them more tanky and scale a little better in late game.
  • DPS builds might now (calculations are still necessary) no longer require to rely on auto-attacks, as Judgment seems to scale better in late game. They will also probably require additional defense.
  • Tanky builds will now be massively bulky and will deal slighlty increased damage.
Expect build updates around or before Sept 7th.

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 magical recipe to victory.

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 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 was firstly inspired by the guide by RusPiglets on Leaguecraft, and later on by Seviseth's and Palthios's guides.

This guide presents three ways of building Garen. The tank approach, best for newcomers to League of Legends, is the way I started playing Garen. Then I switched to an offtank style and I designed the build I named "Classic"; based on Seviseth's guide, I spinned an "Early Atmog" offtank build from my classic build. Later on, I took a look into Palthios's hard DPS build and I finally decided to mention it in this guide. Each build is suitable for a different level of gameplay. A detailed explanation of this is given in the "Choosing A Build" section.

NB: this guide currently covers only Summoner's Rift, since I haven't played Garen on Dominion or the Twisted Treeline for a sufficiently long time to sort things out.

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Quick reference

___ Greater mark of desolation
___ 21/6/3 ___ R > E > Q > W ___

Don't feed > Kill > Farm > Harass

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Pros And Cons


+ Very strong early game
+ Naturally good survivability
+ Rather sustainable
+ Powerful farmer in mid and late game
+ Awesome kill-securing ultimate
+ Fun and rather simple to play(1)

- No CC
- Kited easily
- Easily loses effectiveness in late game

(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!

Garen is naturally tanky and his abilities give him one of the strongest early games. Whatever the build, Garen will always stomp his opponents early game. Later in the game, however, his skills lose their effectiveness, and remaining a significant threat to the whole enemy team is challenging.

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Skill description

Perseverance Heals 0.5% of Garen's health per second if he has not 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, prevent an enemy from using his abilities while you spin into his face, or interrupt an enemy channelling an ability.

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, Nunu or Warwick, 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! This ability does not protect against AoE slows, such as Miss Fortune's Make it Rain, or Nunu's Absolute Zero (basically, the slows cancelled by Banshee's Veil are the same as those cancelled by Judgment)

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. Last thing about this ability: its range is greater than your auto-attack's. This means that a running enemy can be finished with it even if you could not auto-attack him.

Combo: Decisive Strike + Judgment. This combo, called "spin2win" (or "tourbi-lol" in French), will help you optimize your positioning to deal higher damage while spinning. Land your proc'ed auto-attack then start spinning while your target is silenced, unable to use her skills to escape or hurt you back. Stop your Judgment immediatly if you feel you can secure a kill using Demacian Justice. Please note that as the silence duration is 2.5 s, your target will be unable to do anything else than moving or auto-attacking during nearly the whole duration of your spin2win.

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

This standard rune set is effective on many champions. It focuses on improving your early game survivability and damage, and give you a little more magic resist later in the game.
Alternatively, I also tested the following runes:
  • Greater Quintessence of Vigor: I have recently had trouble laning solo top against very sustainable champions. In that case, improving your regeneration rate may help you take over your opponent (especially this annoying Irelia, who often uses these runes in addition to her Hiten Style to get back to full health after you nearly killed her).
  • Greater Glyph of Scaling Cooldown Reduction give you cooldown reduction. It is good for Garen, although cooldowns are not that much of a problem to him.

Runes are debatable, though. 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. Ghost greatly helps with increasing movement speed, giving an excellent chasing potential and being a decent escape option.

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 Ghost.

Exhaust is excellent for disabling enemy carries and preventing enemies from fleeing. This CC spell will fill one of Garen's worst flaws. 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.

Honorable mentions

Teleport is a valuable option for champions needing strong lane presence. In a solo top situation, it may prove to be very useful. However, can you afford to lose you Exhaust for it?

Being disabled is a problem for nearly all champions. Cleanse removes 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 (and luck against hard CC!).

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 effective as your summoner level increases. So the conclusion is: take it if you can't have anything better.

Garrison is useful in both attacking and defending situations and may help save or capture a point.

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 (except in a late game DPS build). Surge is therefore mostly wasted: you have better options.

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

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Masteries are a topical issue, and choices are debatable. Therefore, I will not go for an in-depth analysis here. I will only present the two configurations I usually use for the builds I suggest.

Defensive setup (9/21/0)


This mastery set is suitable for a tank build. The offense tree is populated with just enough points to get the essential 10% armor pen provided by Weapon Expertise . The defense tree is populated to reduce incoming damage as much as possible.

Offensive setup (21/6/3)


This mastery set is suitable for an offtank or a DPS build. It is a standard AD champion setup. The offense tree is populated in order to get as much crit improvements, armor penetration and damage increase as possible. The defensive tree provides +6 armor and magic resist, while the utility tree reduces a little the death timer to respawn faster when in late game.

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Choosing A Build

Despite all appearances, Garen is not such a simple-to-play champion. He has crazy early game damage output, but truth is: his skills lose most of their effectiveness when in late game, no matter how much attack damage you stack on him. This makes Garen a little more difficult to build than it looks like. A very effective way of building him is to use a hard DPS build, as Palthios's. This kind of build, which I present is the DPS section, is well-suited for high-level gameplay, where people tend to do less and less mistakes. However, building Garen this way may prove to be a little hard for newcomers. For this reason, I chose to include three build types in this guide, each one being suitable for a given level of gameplay.

At lower summoner levels (say 1 to 20), players lack experience and tend to make mistakes. Garen players are just like the others, so having a build which forgives your mistakes can help. When I started playing League of Legends, I used to play Garen as a tank, and it worked very well. Lower level players still focus solid champions and forget to buy resistances, making it possible for a tank Garen to shine.

However, as players get more experience, a tank build becomes pretty useless, as you will not be focused anymore. So you will have to get extra damage, so they remember that you are a threat to consider. The time has come to use an offtank build. This build will remain effective until level 30 and a while after.

But an offtank build, although it rocks balls early game, does not give you enough attack damage and crit bonuses to make it viable when in late game. Because you will not be able to shut down a carry fast enough to prevent him from killing your whole team. Therefore, when you feel more confident with your Garen skills, it is time to jump to a full DPS build.

So, simply said:

  • If you are new to League of Legends, use a tank build.
  • If you are quite experienced and want to kick some butt early game, build offtank.
  • If you are fed up being useless late game, build DPS.

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Building Smartly

When reaching a certain level of gameplay, you will have trouble remaining consistent on every game if you do not adapt to your opponents. This guide provides you general guidelines, but you'll sometimes need to deviate from them. For instance, building Chain Vest before The Brutalizer may be a good idea in some cases (such as if you feel you are getting bullied at solo top and that The Brutalizer will not be sufficient to make hit-trading with your opponent fair).

So here are a few things you should keep in mind during the game:

  • Are you having trouble surviving or trading hits? You have two responses: either get tankier or increase your damage output.
  • Are you dying a lot? You need to build additional defense. Then ask yourself: should you buy MR or armor first?
  • Do you want to increase your damage output? Then try to favor items which will improve your abilities (unless you are building full DPS; in that case, follow the hard DPS build).

Here is a video guide about item building by ColbyCheeze. It is full of good advice (just remember that Garen will get little benefit from GP10 items and gets a huge damage boost from The Brutalizer).

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Noob Tier Build: Tank Garen

Tank build

This build makes you nearly unkillable. It is intended to provide high amounts of defensive stats while retaining a little damage to poke squishy carries. Beware though: this build voluntarily favors durability over damage to make mistakes forgivable; do not use it if you feel skilled enough to build less resistances.
  1. Start with Doran's Blade
  2. Build Mercury's Treads for more mobility and magic resist
  3. Build Aegis of the Legion to help your teammates and make you more resistant
  4. Build Sunfire Cape to improve your damage output and armor
  5. Build Force of Nature to improve your mobility and durability
  6. Build Frozen Mallet to improve your durability and damage; it will give you a much appreciated soft CC
  7. Build Atma's Impaler to get significant damage increase and become unkillable
Do not build Guardian Angel: nobody, even the noobest of the noobs, will focus a tank with this item!

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Intermediate Tier Build: Offtank Garen

Classic build

This build works 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 Cloak + Chain Vest
  7. Finish Sunfire Cape and Force of Nature (end of core build)
  8. Build Atma's Impaler
  9. Situational: Build Warmog's Armor or Frozen Mallet, depending on whether you need extra HP regeneration or not
  10. Replace Sunfire Cape with Randuin's Omen
  11. Situational: Sell Youmuu's Ghostblade to buy Infinity Edge or Last Whisper
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. Situational: Build Warmog's Armor; it you feel like you are not getting that much hurt and you want to be a bigger threat, build Frozen Mallet instead
  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.

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High Level Tier Build: DPS Garen

Palthios's Spin to Crit build

I do not deserve any credit for this build: this is simply Palthios's. Thumbs up to him! Please go check his guide out and upvote it, he deserves it! (Plus, you will get a more in-depth knowledge of DPS Garen.) Here is a cheatsheet for the item sequence:
  1. Start with Doran's Blade
  2. Buy Boots of Speed and stack two additional Doran's Blade
  3. Buy a B. F. Sword
  4. Finish your Boots of Swiftness
  5. Build Infinity Edge
  6. Situational: Build Frozen Mallet; if the opposite team counts a crit-based champion (such as Tryndamere or Gangplank) who is owning you, build Sunfire Cape instead
  7. Situational: Build Phantom Dancer; if the opposite team is heavily AP-oriented, build Wit's End instead
  8. Buy a Vampiric Scepter
  9. Build Atma's Impaler
  10. Situational: Build Zeke's Herald; if your team does not benefit from it, you may want to build The Bloodthirster instead
Do remember that this item sequence is not flexible. You cannot do things differently: the DPS build relies on having your gameplay shift from a skill-oriented style to an auto-attack-based one as the game progresses. The sequence follows this shift, and could not be changed in any way.

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Items Explained

Here we are: the items section! Here are presented a lot of items, each being commented, telling if it is a good, debatable or bad choice for Garen. This section aims at helping you make your own build. It also emphasizes the reasons why I made my Classic Build as it is.

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. This is the premium starting item for Garen.

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 and a reduced HP pool.

Doran's Shield
Doran's Shield gives you some HP and a nice armor boost. It gives you the best lane presence, sacrificing some damage output in exchange. I tend to avoid this item as it gives you no additional damage for your crazy early game Judgment harass. However, in 2v1 solo top situations, this item is probably your best choice.

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 physical auto-attacking DPSers (such as Tryndamere, Ashe, Caitlyn, etc.). Ninja Tabi provides you that kind of defensive features and is therefore worth being built if the enemy team is highly physical damage-oriented.

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 for a non-DPS build, but I do not consider it a major flaw. You may sometimes not want to finish the full item though; The Brutalizer, which will decrease your cooldowns and increase your AD, is already a pretty good item by itself, and may be replaced later by Last Whisper. Last words: 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 or Forzen Mallet 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. There is little to add to this: it is excellent.

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).

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. Despite that the slow effect only applies while auto-attacking, it is still useful when using Judgment: the spin2win combo starts with landing an auto-attack, which will slow the target for 2.5 seconds; then, Judgment lasts for 3 seconds. Therefore, the target is slowed during most of the duration of the combo.

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

Phantom Dancer
Two words: DPS build. Do not build this item unless you are building DPS. You only need attack speed when you plan to use your auto-attacks to deal damage.

Zeke's Herald
Attack speed and lifesteal are bad choices if you do not auto-attack. Use this item for a DPS build, not in a different situation.

The Bloodthirster
The same applies as in the case of Zeke's Herald. There is nothing more to add!

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. It must be stressed, however, that this item loses its offensive effectiveness in late-game: the AoE damage provided by the unique ability just becomes useless. Therefore, Sunfire Cape is meant to be replaced by another item (I personnaly like Randuin's Omen) in late-game. When it comes to building it, 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 your 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...

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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 MIA (missing in action). 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 important.

The second important point is minimap checking. Sometimes, your teammates are too concentrated (or too unaware) and they forget to call MIA. 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 MIA, it is not good for your team's morale. I personally consider this as courtesy (that's what civilized people do :) ), as 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. My personal rule of thumb concerning warding is extremely simple: if I can afford a ward and if I have enough room in my inventory, I buy a ward or two. Wards protect you early game against ganks, help you catch careless enemies trying to secure team objectives without backup and give you vision in the jungle in late game. 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.

Lane control

Winning your lane is essential and often grants victory and it is not achieved by brainlessly pushing. Winning your lane is rather achieved by:
  • freezing the lane so that neither you nor your enemy pushes too hard;
  • harassing at the appropriate time;
  • farming;
  • farming;
  • farming.

Colbycheeze made a brilliant video tutorial about lane control, and it is included below. He basically says: focus on last-hitting in early game phases, keep the enemy creep waves close to your tower but not in its range, buy wards and harass using your abilities.

Garen play style

This section gives gameplay tips specifically related with Garen. Advice in this section applies to all Garen builds.


Garen's high early game damage output allows him to harass his opponents very effectively if he is correctly positioned. 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 time will pass, your damage output will increase (even as tank Garen). Your farming strategy will consequently change: you will just have to rush into the minions with your deadly Judgment activated, letting your ability (and, if available, your Sunfire Cape) kill minions. That is simple, isn't it?


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 (like Warwick or Malzahar), 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 tend to finish fights with a rather low HP pool and are not as well protected as true tanks. 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!

Don't feed Garen!

Ciderhelm, a very dedicated League of Legends player, made an alternative champion spotlight for Garen (Riot's is pretty ugly, actually). It contains valuable information about Garen, and, most important, things about his weaknesses.

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 and you deal little damage with Judgment at level 1.

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 (and sometimes, get kills). 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). All three Garen builds are good early game.

Mid game fighting

Garen is pretty good in mid game team fights. Use your abilities to unleash damage on your enemies. Offtank Garen grants the easiest mid game kills: spin2win into the enemy team, and Youmuu's Ghostblade will do the rest!

End game fighting

Tank Garen does not deal any significant damage to offtanks and tanks in late game. If you are building tank, try to focus on disabling the enemy mages using Decisive Strike and spin into the carries' faces to damage them.

Offtank Garen's end game damage output will never match any carry's, but it is still superior to tank Garen's. Basically, the gameplay is the same as tank Garen, except you will be able to damage enemy carries more significantly.

DPS Garen's end game phase is way different. You will have to refrain from pushing E and start spinning, as you now rely on your auto-attacks to deal damage.

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Game Scenario: Duo Lane

This section aims at giving advice specific to duo lane scenarios. There are two cases for duo-laning: either bot, as always, or top, if your team does not have a jungler.

2v2 duo lane

In that case, the opposite team and yours are in similar positions. In that case, try not to push too hard and prevent the enemy from farming. The latter point is generally achieved by playing aggressively and zoning. Be warned, though: some ranged AD carries can be an important threat to you, as you need to be in melee range to fight. Therefore, you need a good harasser or engager with you to fight these ones. Oh, and never forget to have wards in gank bushes, whoever your laning partner is!

2v1 duo lane

This generally happens on the top lane when your team does not have a jungler. You will very likely be matched against a solo top offtank, like Gangplank or Irelia. You will have trouble to avoid pushing the lane. If you push, do it carefully, with your gank bushes warded. An incoming jungler will match you 2v2, with the opposite team having a significant advantage when it comes to the level. Fight with care, because if the opposite team's jungler is strong ( Amumu, omg), you and your teammate may get double-killed.

Duo-Laning Partners

The quality of a lane partner mainly depends on three criteria:
  • does your partner have crowd control?
  • does your partner need to farm a lot to be effective?
  • does your partner have additional utility spells?
All partners answering YES-NO-YES to these questions are premium choices for Garen. If two answers at least are correct, the champion is an okay lane partner (be aware, though, that having a farming-hungry lane partner may be a big problem if you do not get kills to compensate). And if one or no answers are correct, then avoid laning with them at all costs! Most AD carries are bad matchup: Master Yi, Ashe, Vayne, Graves... These guys want you to take no creep at all!

A few examples of who you want to lane with follows. Please note that this list is non exhaustive and is likely to change with what I will experience in the future.

Champions you want to lane with

  • Taric is definitely your best friend. He stuns (hard CC), he gives you armor and additional damage and he can heal you. Most important: he is generally played as a tanky support and farms little. He is your favorite laning partner.
  • Alistar has a profile similar with Taric's. He is a very good matchup as well.
  • Leona has no heal, but she has an extreme engaging potential and two hard CCs. She is also viable as a tanky support. Therefore, she is a great matchup.
  • Zilean is also a good choice. He has an awesome harass potential, a great slow and a useful ult.
  • Janna is very good as well. She has a nice slow and her ult is awesome. An do not underestimate her shield (which is, to my mind, the first ability to level up): at maximum level, it provides you with a free B. F. Sword!
  • Lux is great too. She has a powerful caging spell, a slow and a shield. Very good choice, DEMACIA! However, she will have to use support masteries and build gp10 items if she wants to remain effective without taking too much farm.

Champions you are okay to lane with

  • Blitzcrank is able to pull enemies into you spin. I tested the combo several times, and it is quite good. However, he lacks the utility that would make him a premium associate.
  • Xin Zhao has a good early game impact, with his mighty gap-closer and his quite reliable CC. But he needs to farm and lacks utility.
  • Sion has hard CC and great damage. He can heal you with his ult. However, he also farms like hell with his shield.
  • Morgana has strong CC (although not as good as Sion's) and a good harass potential. But she naturally farms a lot.

Champions you should avoid to lane with

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Game Scenario: Solo Lane

Solo laning is good for Garen, as he is durable. However, when playing solo, you may face fearsome opponents. As Garen, you unfortunately rely on your jungler to get kills if the people you are laning against are good. The best advice is: play safe. If that means that you have to let Nasus farm, then so be it; do you prefer a 0/0/0 Nasus with 100 creeps, or a 2/0/1 Nasus with 95 creeps? You also may want to start with Doran's Shield instead of Doran's Blade.

1v1 solo lane

The way you can play is greatly influenced by the enemy you are facing. The mainstream solo champions have good sustain and may prove to be very resistant to harass. The worst case I ever faced is Irelia, as she constantly heals the damage you deal to her. Nasus comes close, and Sion is not a comfortable matchup either. These champions share good lifesteal and high damage. You will need to play safely against them and engage only if you want to go for a kill with your jungler; otherwise, you will hurt your opponent, he will hurt you as well, and he will recover faster than you will.

So, what do you do? If the enemy is bad (bad champion or bad player), then play as you normally would: farm, harass and go safely for a kill if you think it is possible. If the enemy is good (good player and champion), then focus on farming and letting them push. Harassing an unkillable enemy is pointless, as the guy will recover faster than you an restart farming earlier than you will.

1v2 solo lane

Avoiding getting pushed in a 1v2 lane is difficult. So you will probably end under your tower soon. Remember, though, that being stuck under your tower is not a comfortable situation: you lose creeps to the turret, and it allows your laning opponents to go missing, either to recharge in their base or to go ganking mid. Therefore, if you can, try to keep your opponents close to your tower but not in its range. Depending on how harmful the opponents are, Doran's Shield is often very welcome in that game scenario.

Fearsome enemies: hard solo top list

NB: I don't play Garen enough anymore to complete this section. If you guys are having feedback you would like to share in order to have this section grow, please PM me or leave a comment.
  • Irelia is a real pain-in-the-***. She constantly heals with her Hiten Style and her ultimate, she has CC and she deals decent damage. A harass attempt against a good Irelia often goes like this: you activate your Q and go for a silence; you start spinning and damage her while she backs off; as the silence ends, she stuns you and attacks you back; with no skill left, you need to retreat in your bush; you wait to recover, while she farms to do it. Don't pick Garen against Irelia, she's a hard counter to our Demacian fighter.
  • Nasus has a powerful passive lifesteal boost. However, unlike Irelia, his only CC is a slow, which means basically nothing to Garen. Harassing him is a little easier than Irelia, as he will not be able to strike you back as hard as she does. Getting to him with Decisive Strike will prevent him from getting back to you with Siphoning Strike. Basically, you need to keep him away from your minions, so he cannot get stacks on his Siphoning Strike.
  • Teemo is a fierce opponent if played smartly. He can kite Garen with great ease, plant traps in bushes, leaving you nowhere to recover, and deals good damage. As you need to get close to him to damage him, using Flash may help you close the gap to start unleashing your damage.

Faceroll time: easy solo top list

NB: as the "Fearsome enemies" section, this one could use some contributions from readers. PM me or leave a comment if you have information you would like to put here.
  • Volibear is easily countered by Garen. He has nothing to harass you from a distance, and you deal crazy damage to him. However, killing him may be difficult, because of his passive (plus Heal if he selects it). So the basic strategy is simply to keep him from farming while doing great on your side. You gather more creep score, you buy awesome items and you roll over the rest of the opposite team.

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One Last Word

Here we are: this is the end! Thank you for reading this guide. I hope it will help you build Garen so you can have a good time playing him. Feel free to comment!

The early Atmog offtank build is inspired from experiments I performed after reading Seviseth's guide, which is full of good advice. The DPS build is simply taken from Palthios's guide, which is excellent.

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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Change Log And Achievements

31st Aug 2012 - 1.000.000 views!
21st May 2012 - Summoner spell update: moved Flash to premium tier, moved Garrison to 'why not' tier
9th May 2012 - #1 Garen guide! I'm very honored, I thank every single upvoter! (It didn't last very long, though ^^)
9th May 2012 - 500.000 views!
30th Apr 2012 - Added the "Don't feed" video guide; added a "Building Smartly" section; minor improvements
6th Apr 2012 - Added a Quick Reference section
9th Mar 2012 - Minor updates
5th Mar 2012 - Added a few things to the Skills section
3rd Mar 2011 - +Scouted by jhoijhoi!
2nd Mar 2011 - 200.000 views!
20th Feb 2012 - Minor updates
7th Feb 2012 - Replaced Stark's Fervor with Zeke's Herald
27th Jan 2011 - 100.000 views!
27th Jan 2012 - Minor updates
8th Jan 2012 - Minor updates; added an Easy solo top section
7th Jan 2011 - 50.000 views!
5th Jan 2012 - Minor updates
4th Jan 2012 - Happy new year! Minor updates
27th Dec 2011 - 20.000 views!
18th Dec 2011 - 10.000 views!
16th Dec 2011 - I think I fixed most of the broken things; back online!
16th Dec 2011 - Omg, my guide just got ruined by a bug :( The Introduction, Pros and Cons and Skills sections are broken. Rework is in progress
15th Dec 2011 - Added a section about lane control
12th Dec 2011 - Minor updates and typo corrections
8th Dec 2011 - Added the Game Scenario sections
8th Dec 2011 - 5.000 views!
5th Dec 2011 - Minor updates; added achievements
4th Dec 2011 - Palthios upvoted!
28th Nov 2011 - Corrected typos and a few mistakes; minor updates in the builds
27th Nov 2011 - Corrected typos and a few mistakes
27th Nov 2011 - Guide published!