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Garen Build Guide by smoking dad

Not Updated For Current Season

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League of Legends Build Guide Author smoking dad

Garen - Tanky Dominion Justice! (Updt. 10/14)

smoking dad Last updated on October 14, 2011
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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.


Brute Force
Improved Rally

Offense: 0

Strength of Spirit
Veteran's Scars

Defense: 21

Expanded Mind
Blink of an Eye
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 9

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If you like the guide, please comment and vote!

Thanks to Searz for the awesome guide format! You can find it here.

Hey, and thanks for taking the time to read this guide. I find Garen to be the perfect champion for dominion in many respects. He is one of very few champions that is able to combine offense, defense and utility so easily. When built slightly tanky with a little bit of damage for flavor I think he is really able to shine as one of the most intimidating champions on the Crystal Scar.

I have had great success with him, and I intend to share the secret to my success with you.

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Pros / Cons


  • Capable of filling the Taker AND Defender roles outlined here.
  • Great Mobility, able to get places quickly.
  • Good 1v1 capability, very beefy.
  • Decisive Strike is a good gap closer.
  • One of the longest silences in the game.
  • One of the best ults in the game.
  • One of the best shields in the game.
  • One of the best Passives for Defending.
  • No mana, no ability cost.
  • Very intimidating defender.


  • Can be kited by a smart ranged.
  • Teams will focus and CC you if they're smart.
  • Damage output is somewhat lacking on beefier champions until you get Entropy or Youmuu's Ghostblade.
  • Enemies can escape with very little health remaining on occasion.
  • People will complain about your "OPness".

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When it comes to Garen, I prefer to go Defensive with my masteries. I find that tanky masteries really synergize with Courage, Garen's W. Make sure to pick up Reinforce and Haste to really beef up your Summoner Spells. I pick up all of the defensive masteries that I find helpful, and then put the rest in utility.

Good Hands is a mastery that has really found it's place in Dominion. It's Dominion, deaths are inevitable and when your close game hits 25 minutes and its 20-20, 10% less time dead is more than a few seconds. This really helps out.

Awareness is another must have in my opinion. It's a 5% buff to your passive experience gain from the Crystal Scar Aura. This will help you hit level 5 and have Judgment doing 180 damage every half second before the fight for Windmill ends. This will help you get to level 6 and spread the Demacian love when they come back.

I'd like to express the awesomeness of Reinforce . It's truly awesome for defending, I've gotten triple kills thanks to it. I urge you to use it and Garrison

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Main rune set

Greater Mark of Desolation Greater Mark of Desolation
Armor Penetration is a little too awesome to pass up on the Crystal Scar. I used to roll mainly flat health Marks when I first started this guide, but I've really grown to rely on Armor Pen. You'll notice the difference during every fight, especially when you're spinning around being Judgmental. Good for helping nullify the masses of tanky dps that you will encounter playing Dominion.

Greater Seal of Resilience
Armor is great for early game beefiness, it helps minimize damage. Synergizes with Courage's passive. Less damage from all AD champs? WTF OP! This is what'll make those pesky Xin Zhaos and Rivens ignore you and then wish they didn't when you're silencing/nuking/shielding/AOEing/Demacia-ing their faces off.

Greater Glyph of Warding
Magic resist is once again great for early game beefiness, it helps minimize damage. Synergizes with Courage's passive wonderfully. The one thing that casters can do well in Dominion is pair up with a tanky character and essentially nuke any defender down while their tank takes all the damage. These Glyphs will help you take less damage before you close the gap and silence the squishy bastard with Decisive Strike. Then you kill them.

Greater Quintessence of Swiftness
Movement speed Quints are a must for Garen in Dominion. While most players compensate Boots of Swiftness or Boots of Mobility for a lack of these Quints, I find these bad boys to a be a must so we can get our Ionian Boots of Lucidity. I love these because they are percentage based. Meaning the more movement speed you have, the more they grant you. For example, combining Decisive Strike, Ghost, Youmuu's Ghostblade and a movement speed shrine can score you almost 700 movement speed for a very short time.

Basic Math behind this:
  • 1% of 700 is 7.
  • We have 4.5% from runes and the potential for 8% more from a Force of Nature.
  • 8%+4.5%=12.5%.
  • 12.5% of 700 is 87.5
This means that for a short time when all of your stars align and you need to stop that half health Ezreal from getting the game winning cap you can get your movement speed up to almost 800. Try not to laugh when you silence him before he even realizes what's going on. And if by some righteous fate you happen to dodge an attack during this time you'll find yourself up to 22.5% increased movement speed maxing out at almost 860.

Alternative Runes

Since runes are all about playstyle anyway, if you don't have or don't like using the runes I've listed above, here are some safe alternatives.
Greater Mark of Fortitude
Used to be my main mark for Garen, but I fell in love with Armor Pen. Still good for being tanky and intimidating for early 1v1s. Consider Greater Mark of Vitality also due to the quick leveling in dominion.

Greater Seal of Evasion
Dodge is another good tanky rune. Great synergy with Nimbleness . It makes AD champs hate you even more. Against an AD heavy team: Consider pairing with Ninja Tabi and defending.
Greater Glyph of Celerity
Cooldown reduction is great for Garen, he has no mana and all of his skills have no cost, so the sooner you can use them again the better. Pairing these with Ionian Boots of Lucidity, and Youmuu's Ghostblade means having either Decisive Strike or Judgment up at all times. Also it means you can make it rain swords with Demacian Justice every 45 seconds or so.
Greater Quintessence of Vigor Greater Quintessence of Vigor
Health regen per 5 sec. Great synergy with Perseverance. I received critique for backing Regen, but I stand by this choice. With these Quints, a Health Potion popped and Perseverance active Garen can passively heal himself for almost 600 damage in 10 seconds around level 5 or 6. Not very great for late game, but they allow for almost OP level of staying/defending power early game.

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Summoner Spells

The Summoner spells in green are the ones I recommend, the yellow ones are alternatives. Remember that Summoner spells shouldn't be the same in every game. You should always take Ghost on Dominion, but if you play Draft Mode (which I highly recommend), you should be countering the enemy team's comp with your summoner spells.

THE Summoner Spell to have on Dominion. 4/5 people on your team should have this every game, if not 5. No matter what, I pick Ghost every single game. It's that amazing. Great for getting where your team needs you to go. Popping Ghost, Decisive Strike and running through a speed shrine will make you get just about anywhere first.

This is good for shutting down carries in team fights, killing the slowest runner, or an easy win in a 1v1. Good against a team that has two or more of the following champions:
A fantastic summoner spell and one I ALWAYS run with in solo queue. It's great offensively, and even better defensively. A must have in my opinion. It saves lives, and it can end them. It saves allied turrets, and trivializes the enemy's. Great for champs like Garen who are capable of taking and defending.

A quick escape, or a facecheck Judgment surprise. You can pull some moves with it. Consider Flash if you're gonna duo queue and coordinate some awesome offensive plays with your buddy. Try hiding by the Health Rune while an ally kites the defender off point. Flash over the wall, and start capping. Ideally this results in a dead defender and a cap, if things get hectic try to get the neutralize at least, but be prepared to get the hell out of there if you have to.

If you're the lucky guy who gets to defend bot early game, consider Promote. Clearing one wave of minions with Judgment and then promoting one of your own works wonders. It can often result in neutralization of the enemy bot, causing them to take one off of top and send them bot to clear the minions and keep away any takers.

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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

  • Grab Demacian Justice when it's available. You know the drill, for Demacia.
  • Judgment takes second priority. It's AoE, it does damage every half second, it has a 1.2 AD coeffecient and a tiny cooldown.
  • Decisive Strike taking tertiary priority. The speed boost increases with level which is why we take this over...
  • Courage which gets maxed last. Don't think that because we max it last that it's useless or even ****py. It's actually really awesome, and you should kill minions to charge its passive. Even a measly 20 minion kills will get you an extra 10 armor and MR. Tanky is good.

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Your Kit, and How to Use it in Dominion


A great Passive, keeps your health up. You won't have to go back as much.

Tips and tricks:
  • After a fight, Hide by the Health Pack on whichever point you're defending. Your passive plus the pack will bring you back up in no time.

  • Combine this with health potions and grab a couple Health Packs and you can drastically heal yourself.

Decisive Strike

Great utility in this, a great speed boost and one of the longest silences in the game. Not to mention a pretty hefty nuke.

Tips and tricks:
  • Use this to get anywhere faster, normally I use this right before the speed boost closest to the point i'm going to. I get there insanely fast and I still get the silence/nuke off.
  • Use this right before you use your ult on people with "live saving" ultimates like Trynd, Kayle and Poppy. They'll be silenced and crushed by the might of Demacia.


Wonderful utility, this is what makes Garen super beefy.

Tips and tricks:
  • This reduces ALL incoming damage. Pairing this with Garrison makes a towerdive very easy to pull off.

  • You can use this during Judgement, so I normally E into combat and then pop courage once I start getting attacked.


A bladestorm of Demacian fury. My favorite skill of Garen's.

Tips and tricks:
  • This has amazing syngergy with Sunfire Cape. So make sure to grab one.

  • This is what makes Garen a pro interrupter. This, plus Courage and Garrison can single-handedly defend a node against 2+ attackers.

Demacian Justice

Insane nuke, and one of my favorite Ultimates in the game.

Tips and tricks:
  • Pair this bad boy with Entropy. Pop Entropy right before you use your ult and watch the fleeing die from true damage dots.

  • This hits squishies REALLY hard. Try it on a Teemo or Evelynn at half health :)

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Garen's Roles in Dominion

I will be utilizing the roles coined in Zemiazas' amazing Dominion Guide: Roles and Teamwork. Read it alongside this section for a fuller understanding.

I believe Garen is best played as a Taker/Defender hybrid. You can flip flop between these as you or your team finds it necessary. Garen with this build is actually very adaptive to both roles, and any alternative items are situational, and up to your discretion.

Garen: The Taker

"He can tolerate huge amounts of damage while doing interesting harassment to however is turtling at the CP. He has the ability to "get the tank away" from the Capture Point, as it is instinctive to get away from a Garen coming with Judgment, ready to perform his Decisive Strike and Demacian Justice while under the effects of Courage. Just add a Sunfire Cape and some tough build, and there you go, ready to get inside a Capture Point and shoo defenders." --Zemiazas

  • Use Decisive Strike combined with speed shrines to rush up on the enemy defenders with a nuke and silence, pop Judgment and Courage and watch them run! If you have a partner you can probably take the CP.
  • Garen's natural resilience makes him a great Taker, it makes up for his lack of ranged. I consider Decisive Strike to be a "soft" gap closer, and the silence on it offers so much utility. Use his skill-set wisely and in creative ways, it pays off.
  • Always keep your eye on the minimap, so you know where to Ghost off to next. Say there's a huge 4v4 going on at bot, and you just happen to see a lonely champ guarding a Windmill by himself. You and I both know you can 1v1 him, you're Garen for cryin' out loud! So go mess him up and take that mill.
  • When you're running through the jungle, stick to the speed shrine route, and avoid going through the middle. We don't want the enemy defenders to be prepared for our Demacian smackdown.

Garen: The Defender

"It is odd to see Garens die fast. Garen, just like Heimerdinger, is one of those quite damaging defenders that can pick a kill if someone gets too close to him. A beefy Garen has the ability to deal nice damage and still be amazingly tanky (yet his skills aren't tank-wise). If you want to secure a turret and you have a Garen, they are very reliable at this." --Zemiazas

  • Be prepared to be an unsung hero for your team if you choose to solely defend. Some defenders have great games because the enemy just throws themselves at you in waves, which can be handled with a little help from your team pretty much every time.
  • Try to stick to keeping and guarding Windmill, it's the most important point on the map, and as Garen with Sunfire Cape you can keep 4 people from capping a point for quite a while. Meanwhile, your team has 4 capped and their score is ticking away.
  • Use your silence strategically. Yes, the nuke is nice, but if you're fighting some auto-attack champion and you see a tanky caster coming your way, you want to save your silence for the person who casts spells.
  • Use your ult early, your ult at max rank will take a significant chunk out of most opposing takers' HP. If I'm defending, I find using it while my opponent is at about 50% is great. It causes them to freak out because their health just dropped from 50% to about <15%. Then pop your Entropy and Judgment and watch the true damage take them down as they run away scared.

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Why these?

  • I start off with Boots of Speed, Prospector's Blade and two Health Potions. I rush Windmill, and usually pop one of the HPs right before we start fighting.

  • On my first trip back I upgrade to Ionian Boots of Lucidity. This 15% CDR on garen is just enough.

  • Next I pick up Phage. This item just screams "Garen" early on. Damage, health and a slow. Next I upgrade this into Entropy, which is an amazing item. Remember to pop Entropy every time it's up, the true damage dot hurts. It can also be used to finish off assassins and people with good escapes.

  • Next, I go for the Sunfire Cape for the Syngergy with Judgment and the overall tankiness of the item. Health, armor and passive damage, what more could you want? I'll tell you. The Sunfire Cape is actually one of the greatest items in Dominion because the damage from it interrupts enemy captures. So even if all of your skills are on cooldown, you can still make sure that no one is going to capture the point you're on. A must have.

  • Now, I have armor but not a lot of MR. So afterwards, I go for the Force of Nature. I know that physical DPS is the most common in Dominion currently, but a lot of champs like Jax, and Kat do Magic damage with their abilities. It's best to just mitigate all damage equally for tanky success.

  • For our final item we grab an Atma's Impaler. This item is exactly the kind of item we want. Tanky/DPS. With all the health items we've stacked in this guide, you'll be getting a nice damage boost with this. If you can even get it before the match ends. I normally end up getting this like 40% of the time because normally I've won already.

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Alternative/Situational Items

I believe the build outlined above, allows you to maintain a general, yet very adaptive playstyle and a wide range of utility, however counter-picking wins games and here we'll discuss a few other options for some of the items listed above.

  • If the enemy team is CC heavy, Tenacity is a good thing. Grab Mercury's Treads. To make up for the lost CDR, you can get a Youmuu's Ghostblade instead of Entropy. They are both great offensive items with powerful actives. Youmuu's adds more utility to Garen's Taker role.

  • Youmuu's Ghostblade can be picked instead of Entropy even without needing extra CDR, however missing Entropy's active will make filling the Defender role a little more skill reliant. On the other hand it turns Garen into a beastly fill for the Taker role.

  • Frozen Mallet is a tankier alternative to Entropy. It's less damage though, I believe Entropy is almost better in every situation, but there can be situations in which Frozen Mallet's utility will be useful.

  • If the enemy team is all AD or mostly AD, consider grabbing Thornmail or Warmog's Armor instead of Force of Nature. They both will grant you extra damage, but in different ways. If it's a long game and you feel as if you'll be completing your build, get Warmog's because of it's syngergy with Atma's Impaler. However, if it's a shorter game or the enemy is all attack speed/auto attack champions, get the Thornmail, you won't regret it while you watch the enemy Master Yi kill himself while trying to scare you off your turret.

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The build in action (AKA proof)

Here's the 6 most recent games I've played using this build. If you use this build and do well, take screenshots and I'll include them.

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Coming Soon!

What to expect from this guide in the near future

  • More detail will be added to the "Items", and "Your Kit, and How to Use it in Dominion" sections.
  • A new item build accentuating Garen's role as a Capturer/Taker as well as a corresponding section.
  • More pictures!

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  • Added more detail to the "Pros and Cons" section, in an effort to make it more "polished" per critique from SirSpankAlot.



  • Masteries changed to 0/21/9 from 0/23/7 tested per critique from Urscythe.


  • Added "Garen's Roles in Dominion" section.
  • Added "Coming soon" section.
  • Added "Alternative/Situational Items" section.


  • Guide written and published with love. Happy spinning, thanks for reading and please comment!
  • Added more detail to the Masteries and Items sections.