Build Guide by Quarterican
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Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
Rationale to tank
I've played Garen for a while now and I've tried numerous builds, both tanky and DPS, but I found that I like him better played as a tank. People say he doesn't have any good initiators but that is where his Q comes in. Speed boost and silence with a short cooldown is great to initiate and to catch up with enemies. E is a great aoe ability that has the highest dps in the early game hands down. W is great when being harassed and even for tanking a few turret hits for a dive. R...R is amazing. You don't have to pump AD or AP into it and it will stay extremely effective. Everyone's health steadily increases throughout the game and R will, therefore, do more damage. I've hit this skill for over 1500 damage and just laughed as another player screams OP or hacks. I don't feel that going AS and AD Garen is as effective as tanking just because to use his ult correctly you have to survive until the end of the fight. He does have Q, but that is poor for an escape plan...you have to be toe to toe to do your damage and you have a silence that doesn't scale well with levels and an aoe which will just make enemies target you mr. glass cannon.
How to pick items correctly
Ok, so I have seen a lot of Garens just stack the sunfire capes. Sometimes it works but, most often, it doesn't. Sunfire Capes are perfect for a physical dps team and that's about it. Health? Well, the SC do give you a great amount of health, but the point of a good tank (if that's what you want to build) is survivability in battle. Think of skills like Kog'Maw's that hit for a percent of max health or even Madred's. Health is important but too much can kill you :) Not only that, but where's the magic resist? What are you going to do with 4k+ health when you melt like butter in the face of a decent ap enemy?
The only thing that never changes in my build is my start item. I always start with a ruby crystal and buy heart of gold. Why? Better starting HP to harass which builds into an awesome item for health, armor, and gold per second (important in how I play Garen as I'll explain later). Next I'll build my boots. I generally always get Merc Treads because 1. they are the best boots in the game and 2. MR and CC reduction. The only time I will think of getting something else is if they are ALL physical dps or their mage is pitiful. Here I decide if I want Ninja Tabi to give me even more dodge and armor or Boots of Swiftness for the chase :) The choice is yours, base it on how the other team is composed and how they are playing.
The next item is where my build varies. If they have some AP but they aren't very scary I'll generally pick up the Giant's belt and start on my way to Sunfire Cape land or start building for MR after the extra health boost. Most of the time I will build spirit visage, but it just depends on who is dealing the most damage to you, dps or ap? Why spirit visage? Cheap as all hell, great cool down reduction to spam abilities, and, best of all, it synchs be-a-utifully with your passive (extra health as well but isn't shown in stats)...you are on your way to a HP-Regen freak. Next item is also dependent on how you feel about the other team. Too soft for AD? Finish or start sunfire cape. Too soft for AP? Build F.o.N. and prepare for massive lols hp-regen. Sometimes I will pick up spirit visage and FoN as quick as possible, even against more AD heavy teams just because of the added regen. FoN was made for Garen. Massive MR, movement speed boost, and best of all more hp-regen :) After that, if you haven't yet complete the SC. You will regenerate health so fast, it's just ludicrous. Hit the enemy, back up if you need to for about 10s and enter the battle again at close to max health. You regen fairly fast in battle too.
After those items I generally buy G.A. because I can...Seriously though, why not? Extra armor and MR and right after you die (if you do) you're right back in the fray already regen-ing back to full hp and the other team is saying: ****, we have to kill this guy again? After G.A. finish off Randuin's and you will have a slow at your command, more health (and more regen from the item and FoN and Spirit Visage :D), and more armor.
If you don't win at this point either A. you suck or B. your team sucks. Drop the boots and buy the pots and buy the boots again. You should always build differently for each team composition, either by order or, if they have all dps, by golly, you go stack those Sunfire Capes like a noob.
Don't knock this until you try it and realize the full potential of Garen's passive, it is ludicrous. You may not have as much health as you would stacking Sunfire Capes, but I guarantee you will live longer to do more damage and disrupt the other team's carries. Besides, the next time you are being chased, hide in the bush with your green sparkles and watch the numbers float over your head as you get back to full health and spin the life out of the silly little champions that followed you. DEMACIA!
I use exhaust and ignite for first blood and diruption of the dps carries late game. I honestly don't see the point of any other spells. Ghost or flash maybe to chase people down, but you should not have to worry about escaping if you have map awareness and you are a tank. YOU SHOULD SACRIFICE YOURSELF FOR YOUR OTHER DPS CARRIES OR MAGES RATHER THAN LET THEM DIE. I know Garen is described as a carry but IF YOU ARE PLAYING HIM AS A TANK THEN BE A TANK. If you really need to escape you can spin through an exhaust with Q and E and you have W when they try to use an ult or have some silly notion of targeting you first on your team.
I like to take armor pen because it will give you the best early game dps with your spin. I like to depend on this more than critical chance because crit is always a chance and may not proc when you want it to or need it to. I pick up some extra health for ealry game survivability, dodge because it is awesome and you have it in the masteries sections, and CD. I mix flat CD with CD per level to get the best of both worlds. You will have decent CD early and even better late game, but this is just a personal preference.
How to play
I will usually lane with a DPS carry or a mage and essentially let them farm. We do that whole, lets sit in the bush and wait for some tard to facecheck or overextend. If we both have exhaust and time it correctly you should net first blood everytime. If they like to tower hump, let your lanemate decide if they want to let the lane push or if they want to farm. Basically I'll try to get firstblood and kill a few minions here and there, but I mostly hide in the bushes and try to rob the other team of XP and minions. When they push, Q the champion that has more annoying abilities and spin...perhaps a W if you need it. After they move back go to the bushes and sparkle green like the champ you are as your buddy gets some gold. After I'm level 6, I'll try again with my lanemate for another kill. Don't be afraid to dive with R if you know you can kill them because you have W for a few turret hits. The secret with Garen is knowing when to use your ult. After playing with him a few times, you'll get the feel for it and you'll know when to rush in with a quick Q, hit them and ult for the kill. I'll port back in here for my first time and proceed with the build. I can usually at least pick up heart of gold and merc treads if not more.
Just don't be stupid. Play intelligently with wards, pushing, helping to kill dragon, etc. Help out with team fights as needed. Don't always engage with Q. I look at the champ composition. If they have someone on their team like Kat or someone with a channeled ult, I'll spin in and wait for them with Q to silence. You can really tip the scales if a Kat shunpos in to ult you say NO! Then spin somemore, exhaust a carry, ignite as appropriate and use R and W intelligently. Don't target tanks. Please, please, please don't target tanks.