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Garen Build Guide by TheRealTuna

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League of Legends Build Guide Author TheRealTuna

Garen - Dominating Early/Mid Game (BUILD UPDATED)

TheRealTuna Last updated on July 1, 2013
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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: 9

Honor Guard

Defense: 21


Utility: 0

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Hey everyone! Welcome to my Garen guide. I have been playing Garen for a long time, and, after investing a lot of time and energy into testing various builds with Garen, I have finally arrived at what I feel is the strongest build for Garen. I have come to learn that Garen is a DOMINATING EARLY AND MID GAME FORCE, but inevitably falls off by the end of the game, regardless of how he is built (building him purely spin2crit does NOT solve his lategame issues, while hindering his early game dominance).

Without further delay, let's get to it!

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What is Garen?

Garen is an AD tanky DPS that specializes in early and mid game dominance. You should rarely die during laning, and you should really not be dying unless you hit the 40 minute mark in your game and the enemy ADC is farmed. Additionally, at least the way I play him, Garen excels at forcing pressure onto the lane and forcing the enemy jungler to come up to deal with you. This is awesome because it relieves pressure on your other lanes and ends up wasting the enemy jungler's time as Garen is very difficult to kill due to the slow shrug and speed boost of Decisive Strike and the passive armor/MR buffs from Courage. On top of this, only very few champions in lane can match Garen's sustain. You will be able to poke your opponent down fairly easily with Decisive Strike and Judgment, and will eventually find yourself in a position to seal the kill with Demacian Justice.

Here are my current ranked stats with Garen:

Let's note a few things here. I have a total of 10 games played as Garen. My K/D ratio is 87 to 27. My max deaths in a single game is 7. This means that in one game that went badly, I died 7 times. This then means that OVER 9 GAMES I HAVE DIED A TOTAL OF 20 TIMES. On average, this is a little higher than 2 deaths per game, which is insanely low. That is the power of Garen built in the way that I suggest. Additionally, as some people might have been skeptical of a non "spin2crit" Garen being able to dish out the damage, notice that my kills are also not lacking.

Note also, though, that despite my very good KDA as Garen, my win ratio happens to only be 60%. Why is this? Well, it is likely that the games I lost went on too long and allowed the enemy carries to get too farmed for me to be able to adequately pressure during fights. When you play as Garen, you must do everything in your power to keep the pressure on and win as soon as possible.

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Pros / Cons


- No resource management required (no mana/energy/etc)
- Unstoppable in lane if built properly (what this guide suggests)
- Incredibly tanky due to Courage
- Good at avoiding ganks ( Decisive Strike + Courage)
- Very difficult to deal with early-mid game
- Demacian!


- Presence and damage fall off late game regardless of how you build him (I can't count how many times I've dominated early and mid game only to lose the game to late game carries such as Jax, Karthus, and Vayne. Building Garen "spin2crit" helps address these late game issues to some extent, but certainly does NOT solve them).
- No "true" gap closer (think Jax's Leap Strike or Wukong's Nimbus Strike)
- No range (except for Demacian Justice, but even the range of Demacian Justice is poor)

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3x Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed. Garen needs all the speed he can get, as he has no true gap closer and relies completely on his speed to make things happen.

Other Options: N/A


9x Greater Mark of Attack Damage. Helps with initial last hitting and flat AD is also especially strong at the beginning of the game.

Other options:

9x Greater Mark of Armor Penetration. These will ultimately allow you to do more damage to champions as the game progresses, while flat AD will help you earlier in the game. Both marks are viable. If a player wants easier initial last hitting and better early game damage, go with flat AD. If a player wants to deals more damage to champions as the game progresses, go with armor pen marks.

9x Greater Mark of Hybrid Penetration. This may sound strange initially. However, these are actually solid on Garen, and I am still in the process of experimenting with them. The armor pen portion of these marks, obviously, helps with Garen's Decisive Strike and Judgment damage, as well as with his auto attacks. The magic pen portion of these marks actually help with the damage from Sunfire Cape as well as the damage from Demacian Justice. I am not yet positive as to whether or not these marks are better or worse than the above-mentioned two; more experimentation is in order.


9x Greater Seal of Armor. Helps with initial trades in lane.

Other options: N/A


9x Greater Glyph of Cooldown Reduction. These are kind of a new meta sort of thing, but they actually are excellent for Garen, and allow him to cap out his CDR -- one of his most precious stats -- very quickly. Starting out with 10% CDR at the beginning of the game is no joke.

Other Options:

9x Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist. AP becomes more of a threat as the game progresses and is not so much a problem initially, hence scaling MR.

9x Greater Glyph of Magic Resist. If you know you're going up against an AP top, these are not a bad choice.

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9/21/0 (as shown above) is what I have found to be best for Garen. The 9 in the offense tree is pretty straightforward, but the 21 in the defense tree is more tricky. Legendary Armor is actually a pretty terrible mastery; even if you invest 3 points in the mastery, it will do little for you as it only buffs BONUS ARMOR, and not total armor; if it were a 1 point investment, I would probably take it. However, for 3 points, there are more beneficial masteries to invest in. Unyielding and Block are absolutely crucial for laning phase, as they help your trades significantly. Do not underestimate Defender ; for a one point investment, it is a very strong mastery. It would also be acceptable to remove a point in Hardiness and Defender for 2 points in Relentless , which is what I do these days as Garen is susceptible to slows...that comes down to personal preference. The rest of the tree should be pretty self explanatory.

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The optimal two summoner spells are Flash and Ignite.

Other options:

- Ghost in place of Flash is doable on Garen, although not advised. Flash just has so much more utility, and you should already be building so much movement speed that you will be able to stick to your target well enough.

- I don't really like taking Teleport on many top lane champions except for Nasus and other characters that are more farm based and less about securing kills in lane, but it is really a matter of preference. If you take Teleport, you trade kill potential in lane for the possibility of making plays for your other lanes and protecting yourself from falling too far behind after an initial death in lane. It is really up to preference here. Teleport is definitely a solid summoner spell all around though.

Avoid the other summoner spells on Garen.

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Skill Sequence

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

Take your first point in Decisive Strike, your second point in Judgment or Courage depending on whether you are anticipating a gank, and your third point in whichever skill remains. From there, level Judgment, followed by Courage or Decisive Strike, of course leveling Demacian Justice whenever possible. Leveling Courage second allows you to trade more safely and shrug off CC more easily, as opposed to getting a small speed boost duration and damage increase from leveling Decisive Strike. However, if you feel that you really don't need the additional time on Courage, leveling Decisive Strike second is also acceptable.

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Sunfire Cape

Sunfire Cape is so crucial that I decided it would be worthwhile to devote an entire chapter to it before discussing my general build.

Let's take a moment to examine Garen's kit:

Perseverance: Scales with health; the more health Garen has, the more he will regenerate per second from this passive.

Decisive Strike: Allows Garen to stick to an enemy and silence him, preventing him from retaliating in any way except via auto attacks.

Courage: Buffs Garen's armor and magic resist by 20%, while offering him CC reduction. The passive of this skill scales great with armor and magic resist items.

Judgment: Does AoE damage that affects anyone in range of its hitbox

Demacian Justice: Does a fixed amount of damage + damage depending on how much health the enemy has remaining.

One of Garen's major weaknesses: a lack of SUSTAINED damage -- relies entirely on cooldowns for damage, as his auto attacks are quite awful.

Now, let's take a look at how Sunfire Cape synergizes with each one of Garen's tools:

With Perseverance: the extra health from Sunfire Cape increases the potency of Garen's passive, allowing him to more quickly recover from trades and more effectively ousustain his opponent, which is Garen's major objective in lane.

With Decisive Strike: the extra armor and damage from Sunfire Cape makes Garen's silence even more threatening. Not only does it force them to take the brunt of Garen's spin AND the constant damage from Sunfire Cape, but forces the opponent to retaliate either by running or by auto attacking. If they run, you won the trade. If they retaliate by auto attacking, the auto attack damage is reduced by the armor from Sunfire Cape, and forces them to stand still while taking the constant damage from Sunfire Cape.

With Courage: gives Garen even more armor from Sunfire Cape as a result of the passive of this skill.

With Judgment: if you are in range for judgment, you are also in range for Sunfire Cape's damage to take effect.

With Demacian Justice: less synergy than with the rest of his kit, but the more damage you are able to get in before the silence duration ends, the more likely you are to be able to successfully catch/dive your opponent with Judgment + Demacian Justice. The extra damage from Sunfire Cape helps maximize your damage output during the silence duration of Decisive Strike and makes it more likely for Garen to be able to seal a kill.

With Garen's major flaw of being cooldown dependent: Sunfire Cape offers a consistent aura of damage that does not rely at all on cooldowns. This makes Garen a threat in lane even if he is just standing still and autoattacking a champion.

Another important thing to note about this item is that Sunfire Cape does MAGIC DAMAGE. It is more than likely that, if a player faces Garen in lane, he will try to counter Garen's damage by building armor. Armor, however, does NOT mitigate the damage from Sunfire Cape. It is VERY difficult to itemize against a Sunfire Cape rush, and will force your laning opponent into a very uncomfortable position.

This is the BEST item HANDS DOWN to build on Garen early game regardless of who you are laning against. You are literally incapable of losing trades against an AD character once you build this item and, even if you somehow do lose a trade, you will be able to heal back up quickly thanks to Perseverance and the extra health offered by Sunfire Cape. If you are against an AD top, rush this item 100% of the time WITHOUT EXCEPTION. If you are against an AP top and are really having trouble (you shouldn't be), you MAY build a Negatron Cloak before finishing your Sunfire Cape.

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Starting Items:
I recommend the following as potential starting items:

- + 2x Sight Ward + 4x
Why: This start shouldn't need to be used all that often, but consider using this start if you are afraid of ganks. Because you are Garen, you shouldn't be afraid of ganks all that much.

- + 5x
Why: I will usually start this if I am up against a hard-hitting AD ( Riven).

- + 4x
Why: While it is true that Boots of Speed have been nerfed, remember that Garen relies entirely on his movement speed to make things happen. That said, the extra speed from boots, especially if your laning opponent doesn't take boots, will give you the edge that you need to land your skills. I will usually start this against opponents that I KNOW I can all in and dominate ( Vladimir/ Nidalee). The extra speed allows you to put more effective pressure on the lane, and capitalize on your opponents' positioning mistakes more effectively.

- + 3x
Why: Since the Elixir of Fortitude nerf, starting with Elixir of Fortitude is not really advisable in many situations. However, because of Garen's strong natural sustainability, this start is passable in certain cases. If you feel like your opponent will try to bully you early and you want to surprise him, or if you are confident you'll be able to all in your opponent early, this is not a bad start by any means.

My Usual Preferred Build

+ : You'll be very quick with theese boots, and that's what you want.
-- Ninja Tabi and Mercury's Treads also have their places. Boots of Switfness is just what I consider to be "the standard" if you don't really need either of these other boots.
: Getting this item early ensures that you win every trade in lane, and that you have a nice health pool for your passive to regenerate
: This item makes you tanky, makes your passive tick harder, gives you enough MR to likely be able to deal with any AP in the game, and gives you a buttload of CDR. This is a really solid item on Garen all around. IT CAN BE SKIPPED if there are no AP threats in the game.
: Health, damage, CDR, flat armor pen and armor reduction. Definitely a solid item for Garen. Choose this or Youmuu's Ghostblade/
: A less tanky, more mobility-based alternative to the The Black Cleaver. Also very, very solid on Garen, and I actually find myself preferring this to The Black Cleaver lately.
: One of the two best Anti-ADC items in the game. This item is ideal for those overfed carries that just wail on you. It really nullifies a lot of the lifesteal enemy ADCs have.
: The other best Anti-ADC item in the game. This item prevents kiting and makes it easier to both close the gap on and fight enemy ADCs.

Build Order:

Against AD Opponent in Lane:

- Rush Sunfire Cape. As I explained in the previous section, an early Sunfire Cape will literally single-handedly allow you to win trades as Garen in your lane. Do not underestimate the impact of this item on early game laning.

Against AP Opponents in Lane

- If you are not having much trouble, STILL RUSH Sunfire Cape. If you are having trouble, you may build a Negatron Cloak, which you will late build into your Spirit Visage, before completing your Sunfire Cape.

- After you complete your Sunfire Cape, and if you haven't gotten them already, work towards getting Tier 2 boots. There are several options available here. As I have said many times by this point, Garen relies entirely on movement speed, and so Boots of Swiftness is ideal for getting the edge on your opponents. Do not underestimate an early Boots of Swiftness; they will enable you to secure kills and spin on top of your opponent often. HOWEVER, if the enemy team has a considerable amount of AP/Hard CC, definitely go for Mercury's Treads instead. Work towards Enchantment: Alacrity or Enchantment: Homeguard, whichever you prefer, when you have ~500 gold spare and feel that you need the extra boost in speed.

Follow up your Sunfire Cape with either a The Brutalizer if you feel tanky and confident, or your Spirit Visage if you feel that you are not tanky enough and there are a bunch of AP threats. After these two items are completed in whichever order, build either your The Black Cleaver or Youmuu's Ghostblade. Both of these items are excellent on Garen -- The Black Cleaver for tankiness and additional armor shred for your team, Youmuu's Ghostblade for additional utility and mobility. Note** after these items are completed, YOU WILL HAVE MAX CDR. That is so, so helpful for Garen, and really helps him stay relevant in fights for a while. Your next two items, most likely, should be Randuin's Omen and Thornmail. Which you build first depends on what kind of trouble you are having with the enemy ADC -- you WILL have some sort of trouble with the enemy ADC once he gets a couple items. Get Randuin's Omen first if you are having trouble catching up to him. Get Thornmail first if you are just getting completely shredded by him. Having both of these items ensures that you become as resilient as possible to your most major threat in the game, the farmed enemy ADC.

Other Good Items to Consider:

- : Purely for suvivability. This item's passive on top of Garen's passive Perseverance keeps you very healthy.

- Garen benefits from the health, AD, and Slow Proc that this item offers. Although I personally rarely build this item, I can see it serving as a reasonable replacement for Warmog's Armor if you feel like your opponents slip away from you too easily. This item combined with Mercurial Scimitar/ Randuin's Omen ensures that your target won't escape from you.

- An all purpose item that boosts health, armor, MR, and health regen. Definitely a respectable pick for Garen. If your support does not plan on building this, I would consider building it in place of either Warmog's Armor, Youmuu's Ghostblade, or Infinity Edge depending on the enemy team comp and based on whether or not you really need the extra magic resist.

- Definitely a great item on Garen, but really expensive. Only consider building if enemies have a LOT of threatening CC or a lot of AP threats.

- This is not a bad item for Garen, but I don't really see any place for it in the core build.

- Deals a good chunk of damage in conjunction with Black Cleaver. It's cheap, and, while I wouldn't necessarily fit it into the core build, it can offer a nice and quick damage boost if that's what you need in your game.

- : A strong late game item that synergizes well with Youmuu's Ghostblade. Amps up the damage on your spin considerably. The issue with this item is that 1) it is very expensive and 2) it doesn't help you deal with the enemy ADC sufficiently which, at the point in the game at which you would finally get this item, is what you need to be addressing.

- : You reaaaally shouldn't be dying. That said, if you are, GA is never a bad pick.

Items I see Garen Players Build that I Would NOT Recommend:

- This item is just very, very underwhelming. In theory, it's not bad; an AD boost, and armor boost, and a crit rate boost -- a very unique combination of stats that can't be obtained through any other single item. However, each attribute is TOO LOW to be considered for a final build. Even if you are stacking health, a 1.5% bonus to damage is simply not that significant. The armor bonus offered by Atma's Impaler is that of a Chain Vest, which costs 720g, and the critical rate is not especially impressive either at 15%. For damage, I would rather build an Infinity Edge, The Black Cleaver, Mercurial Scimitar, or Youmuu's Ghostblade. For armor, I would much rather build a Sunfire Cape or a Randuin's Omen. For critical rate, I would rather build an Infinity Edge or a Youmuu's Ghostblade. Not to mention that in order for Atma's Impaler to offer a reasonable amount of AD, you'd really have to have a sizable health pool. All in all, there are just BETTER AND MORE IMPORTANT items than this item, and while it is on it's own not a horrific assortment of stats for its cost, there are just better items to buy.

- I do not recommend this item for Garen at all. Yes, it adds some movement speed and critical rate, but Garen does not benefit much from the attack speed. There are better items to get on Garen if you insist to spin2crit; even Atma's Impaler is better for Garen than this, as he can at least make use of every stat properly. I would always recommend building Youmuu's Ghostblade instead of Phantom Dancer on Garen, as it buffs his Armor Pen, AD, CDR and Crit Rate, while offering him a more significant move speed boost and a reasonable attack speed steroid if it is really needed.

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General Garen Gameplay Tips

I have played a ton of games as Garen and have come to realize the following things about him:

- Tankiness first, damage second. You will be tempted to rush an IE, or a brutalizer, or whatever other damage item. I cannot tell you how much of a mistake this is. Rushing brutalizer when you are completely dominating your lane is usually acceptable, but in all other cases I cannot stress enough how much of a mistake it is to buy damage before investing in tankiness. <

BAD ME, NO *slaps wrist* -- ALWAYS RUSH Sunfire Cape. As Garen, you are perfectly poised to dominate your lane once you buy your first resistance item (Chain Vest against AD, Negatron Cloak against AP, Giant's belt against true damage) due to Garen's incredible sustain (passive) and subsequent potential for trading. Building tankiness first makes pushing safer, allows you a better chance of surviving ganks and wasting the enemy jungler's time while drawing his attention away from your other lanes. Would you rather be able to do high damage with a higher chance of getting successfully ganked / killed, or would you rather do moderate damage, insure yourself against ganks, and even further improve your trading potential (your passive + one resistance items makes it very frustrating to deal with Garen, as his trading potential becomes obscene).

Bottom Line: Although it might be tempting to build a "glass cannon" Garen, or a "spin2crit" Garen, this Garen build allows Garen to perform the functions of a glass cannon Garen MORE SAFELY but JUST AS EFFECTIVELY. You will still be doing big damage with this build, but also, and perhaps more importantly, you will rarely be giving up kills and be better suited to survive through ganks and positioning mistakes.

- Don't be afraid to go in. Hesitation and uncertainty are detrimental to playing Garen (and generally to playing anyone, but especially for Garen). Playing Garen against characters like Vlad and Teemo REQUIRES you to fully commit to get anything done. If you hesitate when you pop your Q, you are going to accomplish nothing and get harassed until you're whittled down and forced to retreat. You're demacian for crying out loud; get IN THERE!

- Don't get too greedy. Garen's major strength in lane is his ability to outsustain damage and win trades OVER TIME. Be patient for your passive to kick in, and then go back in (unless, of course, you are positive that you can get the kill). The are not many characters that can outsustain Garen, so this is generally an important gameplay tip to keep in mind.

- Maintain pressure throughout the game. Because Garen shines in early and mid game, you absolutely must do everything you can to prevent the game from hitting late game when your damage and presence noticeably falls off. This means that you must lead your team in objective securing and fights.

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Sample Ranked Game with Commentary

Here is a ranked game I played recently as Garen. I do my best in explaining the thought process behind my playing.

NOTE** I use the older version of my build in the following game. Despite this, I feel like it still does a good job representing the kind of things you want to be doing as Garen. If I have time, I'll try to get a game up with the new build.

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Keep in mind that Garen is an DOMINANT EARLY AND MID GAME CHAMPION, and as such should be built to dominate early and mid game. Building Garen the way that I have suggested to in this guide does exactly that; it allows Garen the tankiness and damage required to completely dominate ANY laning opponent, while maintaining a very significant role mid game. By late game, Garen's damage becomes less intimidating, and consequently becomes less of a threat. This is true no matter how you build Garen, because Garen is based on his cooldowns; this is also why AD Carry champions dominate the late game, because they are able to pump out consistent damage via auto attacks and do not rely on cooldowns for damage. Some might argue that the reasoning behind "spin2crit" builds is that Garen obtains good damage through auto attacks from building Phantom Dancer and Infinity Edge. While it may be true that your auto attacks become stronger from that item combination, Garen's early game suffers extraordinarily without early tankiness. In my opinion, because Garen is capable of completely dominating early and mid game with the proper items, and is not a dominant force late game EVEN WITH optimal late game items, it makes much more sense to build for early and mid game dominance. The build that I offer in this guide allows Garen to crush early and mid game, while transitioning reasonably into the late game by utilizing SOME critical / CDR oriented items to pump out relatively consistent damage.

Once again, my motto for Garen is "tankiness first, damage second". A Garen built the way I have outlined performs the functions of an AD-Oriented Garen just as effectively but much more safely. With this build, you will be able to tank for your team while simultaneously dealing big damage; why settle for only dealing big damage, when you can be an effective tank at the same time? :)

Thanks for reading, and good luck!