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Garen Build Guide by reppinFTC

Garen - Retribution is Imminent

Garen - Retribution is Imminent

Updated on November 16, 2011
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League of Legends Build Guide Author reppinFTC Build Guide By reppinFTC 12 3 38,987 Views 35 Comments
12 3 38,987 Views 35 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author reppinFTC Garen Build Guide By reppinFTC Updated on November 16, 2011
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Choose Champion Build:

  • LoL Champion: Garen
  • LoL Champion: Garen


Hello everyone! Welcome to my build for Garen, the Might of Demacia. This is my first written guide on the MobaFire website, and I look forward to seeing everyone's feedback. The objective of this build is to clearly explain why Garen can be an absolute monster in both ranked and normal games, especially when given the role of Solo Top. What I'd like to emphasize is that Garen is a champion that can be played in several different and effective ways. That being said, while I'm choosing to showcase my build for Garen's runes, masteries, skill order and such, you can choose to alter the build in any way you see fit when facing your opponents. Whether you are a newcomer to League of Legends, or have been playing since day 1, this guide will most certainly help you become an effective Garen player.

Within this guide, I have included two builds. The first build focuses around the bulky DPS aspect that Garen is so lucky to have. This build allows Garen to be relatively tanky, while still doing MASSIVE amounts of damage through Judgment. The second build centralizes on the idea of being a brick wall, solid rock if you will. By building towards items that give him large amounts of HP as well as a remarkable amount of tanky stats (armor, MR), Garen becomes a defensive beast and can offtank for most team comps.

This guide will be split up into two sections: DPS and Tank Garen and I will go as in-depth as I see fit into each individual section. Now that I've explained the basic focus of this guide, I'll get right to it :).
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Pros and Cons


-Crazy amounts of damage through Judgment
-EXCELLENT chaser through Decisive Strike
-Several escape methods through Decisive Strike and removal of slow from Judgment
-AoE Damage through Judgment
-Great kill-securing, finishing move through Demacian Justice
-Tanky when building both DPS and Off Tank
-Gains damage through both AD and Crit
- Perseverance provides him with incredible lane sustainability


-Lack of crowd control apart from silence
-VERY cooldown dependant
-Easily harassed (lack of range)
-Slow auto-attacks
-Easily focused
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Runes: DPS Garen

With my current rune setup I aim to take each of Garen's natural benefits and compliment them even further.
Greater Mark of Desolation Each attack of Garen's uses physical damage, so armor pen is a must. Not to mention, these runes let you chop people to pieces with Judgment all throughout the game, particularly early game.
These runes give Garen excellent physical bulk during the early game, providing excellent synergy with the passive from Courage.
Since Garen is a cooldown based champion, and the build only includes one CDR item, I feel that CDR/level glyphs are quite necessary and scale him into the late game very well.
Greater Quintessence of Desolation Once again, Garen's attacks are physical, and you really can't get enough armor pen. Along with armor pen reds, Garen receives a mighty 25 armor pen right off the bat.
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Runes: Off-Tank Garen

With these runes, I aim to take away a little of the offensive prowess that DPS Garen's runes provide and replace it with some Defensive stats that provide him with both early and late game tanking ability.
Greater Mark of Desolation These runes are just too useful in the early game to give up, and scale well into the late game as well. For the third time, Garen is a physical attacker and armor pen is somewhat necessary.
Early armor gives Garen a lot of physical bulk and even more lane sustainability from pesky ranged harass.
Though magic resist is not exactly necessary in the early game for garen, mainly due to Courage, scaling magic resist glyphs are a must, as they give an incredibly helpful amount of late game tanking ability.
Rather than using armor pen quints, I decide to use flat health quints on Off-Tank Garen, mainly because with dorans shield and defensive masteries he gets a HUGE amount of early bulk and sustain.
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Masteries: Both Builds Included

When playing DPS Garen I run a nonconventional setup of 13/17/0, so that I can receive the majority of the necessary offensive benefits from the offensive tree, while still receiving a lot of early game bulk to keep me healthy in lane.

OFFENSE: In the offense tree, Cripple provides a huge bonus to your Exhaust, and Deadliness gives some early game crit that also slightly boosts the damage of Judgment. Sorcery is an absolute must, since Garen desperately needs the cooldown reduction. Sunder is another phenomenal mastery for DPS Garen, particularly because it has great synergy with Judgment, providing him with even more armor pen. I feel that Offensive Mastery is actually a very underrated mastery, and that it greatly helps with last hitting ability in the early game.

DEFENSE: In the defense tree, Hardiness and Resistance give Garen even more early game bulk, which synergize very well with his armor seals. Evasion and Nimbleness give Garen more survivability as well as even MORE movement speed after a dodge, in addition to Decisive Strike. Two points in Harden Skin add even further to Garen's natural physical bulk. Lastly, Veteran's Scars gives Garen a lot of early game HP enabling him to harass with Judgment and regain the HP that may have been lost through his passive.

When playing off-tank Garen, I use a setup of 1/21/8, maintaining the usefulness of Cripple in the offensive tree, but replacing the early game offensive benefits with even more defensive stats such as Defensive Mastery and Tenacity . In addition, Garen picks up a few masteries in the UTILITY tree such as Haste , Good Hands and Awareness
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Summoner Spells: Your Options

Ghost is a very useful summoner spell for Garen, giving him even more blistering speed, adding on to Boots of Swiftness and Decisive Strike. It also synergizes very well with Judgment, allowing you to keep up with your enemy at all times. I usually take this over Flash when off-tanking with Garen, mainly because it allows me to catch up to pesky carries that I need to silence/exhaust when initiating a teamfight.
To me, Exhaust is an absolute necessity when playing either DPS/Off-Tank Garen. This is mainly because I can completely alter a 1v1 skirmish or even a teamfight. Not only does this summoner spell allow you to both chase and escape from fights, it also lets you cripple a physical carry, and through Cripple, reduce a target's defensive stats. In my opinion, it's hands down the best summoner to use when playing Garen.
Another fantastic option. Flash almost guarantees an escape with the usage of Decisive Strike and Judgment to gain speed/remove CC. Not only can it be used as an excellent escape tool, but I often find myself needing a gap closing ability in order to land Demacian Justice, or to dive on to a long range carry.
Honestly, though in my opinion it is not quite as useful as Ghost, Flash or Exhaust, Teleport can be used as a massive advantage in certain cases, especially with the ability to teleport to wards. Definitely a solid option.

To be honest, because Garen can finish off champions very very easily with Demacian Justice, Ignite really isn't that much of a necessity. However, if you're looking for even more sub-level-6 damage, or something to shut down a self-healer, Ignite is also a decent choice on Garen.
Again, definitely not something I'd recommend when in comparison to abilities such as Flash and Exhaust. However, Fortify can be quite useful, and when off cooldown can also help with your last-hitting ability. In all honestly, this summoner should be left to supports.
Cleanse can actually be used greatly to Garen's advantage. However, the only reason I don't have Cleanse in the "good choices" section is because Judgment is essentially a built-in Cleanse when used correctly.

Uhh.....Since when did Garen have mana?
I suppose that this summoner can be used to Garen's advantage in the very early game, but once past levels 7-10 when Garen gets his early/mid game bulk, the spell becomes quite useless.
While this spell probably probably makes Garen an absolute nightmare to lane against prior to level 6, the spell, like heal, becomes useless very early on.
Leave it to the supports!
Leave it to the junglers!
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Skills: How They Work



INNATE: Garen regenerates 0.5% of his maximum health per second. When Garen takes damage, the passive is deactivated. However, when Garen does not deal/receive damage for 7 seconds, the passive is reactivated.

This is what gives Garen such remarkable lane sustainability. With Perseverance, Garen is able to freely last hit and harass enemy champions in lane, without having to worry about taking too much damage in doing so. Simply put, if Garen gets low, all he has to do is remain out of combat for a total of 7 seconds and regenerate the health he has lost from enemy harass.



ACTIVE: Garen gains bonus movement speed (15/20/25/30/35%) for the next 4 seconds. In addition, his next melee attack within 6 seconds will deal 30/45/60/75/90 physical damage (+1.5 per attack damage) and silence his target for 2.5 seconds. This skill resets Garen's attack timer, and the bonus damage also works on towers.

Cooldown: 12/11/10/9/8

Range: 300

This skill is a phenomenal chasing tool, and also distributes quite a long silence (even at rank 1) to his target. This spell can also be used as an initiating move, or even as an escape tool. In combination with Boots of Swiftness and, if you're running it, Ghost, Decisive Strike is truly a great skill.



PASSIVE: Garen's armor and magic resist are permanently increased by 0.5 every time he kills an enemy unit (up to a maximum of 25, this value does not scale up with rank).
ACTIVE: Garen places a defensive shield on himself, decreasing all damage taken by 20/24/28/32/36% for 3 seconds.

Cooldown: 30/27/24/21/18

Range: 20

This skill gives Garen an excellent tanking attribute: the ability to reduce incoming damage. In addition to the shield, Garen is also able to even further increase his early game bulk, gaining an extra 25 armor and magic resist when the passive is fully farmed. In order to achieve the full benefit of his passive, one must last hit 50 enemy minions. WARNING: THIS SPELL DOES NOT BLOCK INCOMING DAMAGE. Courage is NOT a damage absorption spell, it simply reduces the damage Garen will take by the stated percentage.



ACTIVE: Garen rapidly spins his sword around his body for 3 seconds, removing all existing slows, and reducing the duration of any new slows by 50%. In addition, Garen deals 30/50/70/90/110 physical damage (+1.2 per attack damage) to nearby enemies every .5 seconds. This damage does 50% damage to minions, and also scales with Garen's critical strike chance.

This is the skill that makes Garen an early game killing machine. The amount of raw, unrivaled damage that a champion can take if standing in a full duration of Judgment is unbelievably powerful. It also works as a built-in Cleanse, removing all slows, and reducing the duration of oncoming slows as well. Essentially what you want to do is Decisive Strike to close the gap between you and your target, silence them to prevent any CC/summoner spells and use Judgment to destroy their health pool. Judgment is also a toggle spell, meaning that if you wiff the initial damage, you can cancel the spell early to reset its cooldown. This implies that Judgment's cooldown resets at the END of the duration. Be aware of this when using this spell.

Cooldown: 13/12/11/10/9

Range: 330



ACTIVE: Garen brings down Demacian Justice upon his opponent dealing 175/350/525 magic damage plus 1 additional damage per 3.5/3/2.5 health the enemy is missing.

Cooldown: 140/120/100

Range: 400

The ultimate finishing move. Period. When used correctly, Garen is 100% percent guaranteed to land himself a kill with this ultimate. You may be wondering how it works, however. Basically, this skill becomes even more powerful depending on how much health the enemy is missing. Let's take Garen's kid sister Lux for example. At level 18, she has reached 2400 as her maximum health. With the repeated use of Garen's first two skills, you manage to take off 1600 health, leaving her with 800 health left. Now, the 525 initial damage from Demacian Justice will most certainly not finish Lux off. However, since she has lost 1600 health, you can divide that value by 2.5, and add that to your 525 initial damage. 1600 divided by 2.5 is 640, 640 added to 525 is 1165. 1165 is greater than 800, and now you can finish off Lux with a devastating final blow. Obviously, you won't be able to calculate all of this on the spot, so what you should aim for is using your ultimate on a target with 30% HP or lower. I'll tell you one thing for sure, nothing is more satisfying than landing a Demacian Justice to finish off a squishy.
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Skills: What to Rank Up and Why

I use the same setup when ranking up my skills for both DPS and Off-Tank Garen. Essentially, I try to get as much early game damage as possible. In my opinion, Garen ranks among the top 3 champions in the game for first blood champions/early game damage. Some of you may be thinking: "Wait, if you're tanking...why wouldn't you max his defensive stats first?" To be honest, Garen's early game damage through Judgment is way too valuable to give up. Courage is pretty much a one-point-wonder, and Decisive strike's additional bonuses are really only necessary in the mid-late game, since your silence maintains the same duration at all ranks.

I follow a priority system of Demacian Justice> Judgment> Decisive Strike> Courage. This maximizes my early-mid game damage with the early rank-ups of Judgment and Decisive Strike, while giving me a lot more bulk towards the late game when I max Courage. Lately I have seen a lot of Garen's running Decisive Strike at level 1 rather than Judgment, mainly because it can be used as a very helpful last hitting tool in the early game. To be honest I think it's more of personal preference depending on how much trouble you have with last hitting in the early game. Hence, I like to take a point in Garen's Q at level 2 to assist with last hitting, as well as a gap closer. I know that I have said to max Courage last, but I feel that a point should be taken in it at level 4 in order to give yourself the defensive benefits from its passive. Since these benefits do not scale with rank, you don't have to end up maxing the ability.
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Item Build: DPS Garen

My item build for DPS Garen revolves around a large amount of damage from his cooldowns, as well as a large amount of bulk from items that provide both offensive and defensive stats. It is imperative to understand that Garen is an early/mid game champion when played as a DPS role, however, with my current item build I have tried to scale him into the late game as best as possible if the game can not be ended as early as I'd like it to end. I like to start off with a Doran's Blade, giving me extra HP, damage, and lifesteal that goes well with my passive to keep me in lane. On my first trip back, depending on how well I'm doing, I grab another Doran's Blade and either Boots or Boots of Swiftness. After these three items, I move on to my core build. Like many champions, Garen has a core build that he uses as a basic structure, but can also add on numerous items to this structure, creating his full build. My DPS Garen's core item build is:

These items give Garen a lot of offensive stats, as well as some health and defensive bulk to back up his incredulous damage. If the game progresses even further, my full and final build will end up looking something like this:

Once again, I'd like to mention that Garen can be played or built in many different effective ways, and can be used as uniquely as you please. That being said, there are various other items that can be effective on DPS Garen such as:

Sword of the Occult can be a very effective item on Garen, since after all, he is built to be an early game champion. However, I feel that snowball items are very very risky and can actually completely change your scaling into the mid-late game for the worst, something I aim NOT to do with Garen. But hey, whatever floats your boat :D. Sunfire Aegis on the other hand is a great option for Garen, despite the lack of offensive stats. Not only does the item give some greatly desired bulk, but it also syncs up very nicely with Judgment, doing crazy amounts of AoE damage when the two are used in synergy. As of late, I have made sunfire a primary build option due to its prowess both offensively and defensively on Garen. It can replace Youmuu's Ghostblade in your full item build. I'm not really sure why Hexdrinker is such an unpopular item. It can really be a game changer when used against the right team comps. However, if it isn't absolutely necessary, you're better off focusing on the items in the core build first.
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Item Build: Off-Tank Garen

I try and change up my item build from DPS Garen quite a bit when playing Off-Tank Garen and focus way more on defensive stats that guarantee me ridiculous amounts of physical and magical bulk. I start the game off with a Doran's Shield rather than a Doran's Blade mainly because I like the extra armor, and the HP regen makes me even more of a sustaining beast. On my first trip back I like to grab my Boots of Swiftness and a Ruby Crystal which I will later build into Phage. After building Phage I begin my core build. Like DPS Garen, Off-Tank Garen also has a basic structure to follow in the mid game. However, towards the late game, any good tank knows that he/she has to be flexible when choosing items, and that they should always base his/her choices on the status of their opponents. For example, the build for a physical damage Off-Tank Garen can be hugely different from that of a magical damage Off-Tank Garen. Anyways, my Off-Tank Garen's core build is:

With these items I get a lot of early HP as well as a large balance of both armor and magic resistance. Not to mention, Doran's Shield and Force of Nature work perfectly with my passive giving me RIDICULOUS amounts of HP regen. Once again, if the game progresses, my full and final build eventually looks like this:

Not many people actually recommend Randuin's Omen on Garen but I find that in combination with Ghost and Decisive Strike he can slow down and keep up with entire teams, shutting down most AD carries. Guardian Angel is another great item on Garen, giving him even more bulk as well as a second chance. Other effective items that can be used on Off-Tank Garen are:

If you truly want to have as much health as possible, Warmog's Armor is a pretty nice option. The only reason I don't usually run it in my build is because I like to focus in on the armor/MR aspect of Off-Tank Garen rather than HP. Banshee's Veil and Thornmail are very team specific, but can most certainly be a game changer. Need something to rain on Karthus' parade? Having trouble dealing with that pesky Tryndamere? Well, there you go :D.
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Early Game: Lane Choices

So, you've chosen Garen, The Might of Demacia. You've got your masteries and runes set up to your liking, and you've memorized your skill sequence and item order. Now what? Well, in the early game, you'll be faced with one of three scenarios.
Scenario One: Lee Sin has decided to jungle, you're a perfect candidate for solo top. Hop to it!
Scenario Two: Lee Sin has decided to jungle, you're a perfect candidate for solo top, but Rumble has already asked you nicely if he can take that position. Get on down to bottom lane!
Scenario Three: Lee Sin's a fool and loaded the wrong rune page. It seems he can't jungle! D'oh! Well, you'll have to be in a duo lane whether you like it or not. Better get on that!

If you can, always always always ALWAYS ask for solo top. I can not stress this enough. Whether it's a 1v1 lane or even a 1v2, Garen can handle ANYTHING that goes on in top lane. I once had to face a Miss Fortune and a Leblanc top lane all by myself. I ended that game going 17/3/6. Even through a lot of ranged poke and harass, Garen will never lose his incredible sustainability. Not to mention, when your team has a jungler (which it hopefully does!), Garen can compliment that jungler's ganking ability very well with Exhaust as well as his silence from Decisive Strike. During the early game, you want to focus on FARMING. FARMFARMFARMFARMFARM. Last hitting minions and winning your lane makes an indescribably large difference. HOWEVER, because Garen excels at early game kills, you also have to focus on harassing the champion in your lane. I almost always try for first blood with Garen, just because he hurts so freaking much. In terms of lane pushing, you want to keep the minions directly in front of your tower, but just far enough so that the tower does not gobble up all the minions and steal your last hits. This gives you a large amount of room to chase, while still being able to farm up.

If you get stuck in a duo lane, DO NOT FRET MY GOOD SIR (or madame :D)! Garen can work exceptionally well with certain champions in a duo lane, and to be honest you're almost guaranteed first blood. More so, in fact, then when you're alone up in top lane. Try to last hit as much as you can and keep your lane from pushing. If you push your lane, you've essentially ruined your early game. Not only will you be unable to kill the enemy champions, but your farming will become a little bit slower. However, if you do end up pushing your lane, Garen becomes an incredible turret diver at around level 6 or 7. With the help of Demacian Justice it is very easy to secure a kill, and get out with little to no harm, thanks to Courage. When going into a duo lane, try and match yourself up with champions that have a variety of disables, or champions who dont have much trouble diving a tower. Some examples are: Irelia, Renekton, Taric, Pantheon.
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Mid Game: Wards are Your Friend

So, the laning phase is over, you've farmed up quite a bit, and you've gotten a kill or two in the process. Time to begin building into your core items, and start spreading out around the map. Garen can be quite an effective ganker with his high movement speed from his skills and boots, and can also be a great help in finishing off an enemy champion with the help of Flash and Demacian Justice. If you can't exactly find any lanes to gank, it's time to help ward the map, and maintain dragon and baron control for your team. Along with last hitting and winning a lane, warding is exceptionally important in order to keep everyone safe from enemy ganks. Not only do wards protect, but they also help open up opportunities to push towers, and take neutral buffs/landmarks all around the map (dragon, baron, blue buff, etc). You want to keep dragon and baron warded at all times if you can, other warding spots are up to you.

In the mid game, Garen becomes a very good tower pusher as he begins to rank up Decisive Strike. The bonus damage from this skill also deals damage to towers, making taking out towers a piece of cake. Essentially, what you want to do is find a safe lane that is 3/4 of the way pushed, and begin to take out the outer/inner turret. Try not to head towards lanes that are already pushed all the way to the tower, as those will instantly attract attention and will most likely be dealt with before you even get to the lane.

Overall, your goal in the mid game as Garen is to secure as many kills as possible with the help of your team, as well as maintain excellent map control through wards and occasional ganks.
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Late Game: Teamfighting and You

Now, you've helped out the team as much as possible. You've been warding vital spots all game and have helped kill dragon every time it spawned! You even helped the team get baron and push a tower or two! Wow! Good job! Sadly, your killing power has slightly dimmed downwards a bit now that everyone's beginning to stack up on their resistances and items. But don't worry! Garen's ALWAYS a threat >:D. Now that the late game has finally come around, you should be building outside of your core item build based on how your opponents are playing. This is where Garen's role in teamfights becomes DRASTICALLY important.

Essentially, whether you're playing Garen as an Off-Tank or as a DPS role, your goal is to heavily cripple ranged and melee carries. The odds are that AD/AP carries are still squishy, regardless of what items they've built, and you still do butt-tons of damage to them. When in a teamfight, always save your three main threats: Decisive Strike, Exhaust and Demacian Justice for the carries on the other team. NEVER EVER EVER USE YOUR ULTIMATE ON A TANK. The only exception is when he is the last opponent alive and you (for some really weird reason) have not used your ultimate yet.
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So you're probably wondering right about now: What kind of results will this guide yield for me? Well, to be honest I have no clue what kind of player you are but hopefully this guide has done as well for you as it has for me. I'm including a screenshot of a portion of my match history just to prove that if played correctly, this guide can yield results.
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Ending Notes

First off, I'd like to mention that Garen is simply put, a monster. He currently remains in my top 3 favorite champions at the moment, and I absolutely LOVE to play him. I really hope this guide has given you some insight on how to play/build Garen effectively.

Secondly, I'd once again like to mention that when using this build, do not hesitate to change anything as you please. Personal preference can greatly affect one's gameplay, and I hope that your alterations will yield great results.

Lastly, I'd like to thank everyone who views this guide and comments or votes on it as well. I really appreciate the time you put in to reading this guide and providing constructive feedback so that I too, can improve my game.

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