Garen Build Guide by Seviseth
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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.
Hello and welcome to my guide for playing Garen.
This guide will focus on revealing the secrets of the Offtank Garen. While it is certainly not the only way to play Garen, I believe it is the one with the most practical use in any level of play. This guide will not provide you an instant victory in all your following games with Garen, but it will make you better at playing him and show you the way to get the most out of all of his potential.
First of all I would like to make a few defining points before moving on to the actual action. We all know that Garen is an exceptionally easy hero to play, but the counterpoint more rarely acknowledged is that he is very difficult to actually build into a useful member for your team.
Understanding this statement requires us to face a few hard facts about Garen. He is not the ideal carry for a team as he lacks both range, raw burst and movement skills (such that close gaps between enemies or over walls nearly instantly), nor is he an ideal tank because of his lack of disabling abilities (save for one hit-procced silence) and relatively low base damage output. As a carry he can be shut down and kited very easily, as a tank he can be ignored from the point onwards when people build their first defensive items. Therefore he is only sustainable as a valid choice when he deals enough damage not to be ignored while still being tanky enough to be nearly impossible to burst down. But here comes the good news folks: Garen is by no doubt one of the most deadly heroes for his offtank role. With the proper build we will discuss further on, he will be practically immortal while dealing some of the heaviest damage on your team.
Garen falls short of the requirements for a truly specialized hero, but herein also lies his strength. He will be strong enough to tank those towers (and the enemy team) while your nukes and carries tear them down, and he will be fierce enough to cut down all enemies that decide not to focus you. You will put your enemies in the position where they have to decide whether to focus you, wasting all their skills and damage output on one hero, or ignoring you and dying at the hands of a Demacian fanatic. This choice is more than often reflected in a passed surrender vote or a smashed nexus, followed by a tide of "nerf garen pl0x".
Even though Garen is one of the heroes of the game that can effectively become a one-man army, remember that you are not alone. A proper team is always the key to ultimate victory. There will be someone in your team who has superior damage output, and possibly even someone more tanky, but no one who does both jobs on average as well as you. And when your team (and the enemy team as well) realize this, you WILL carry a great responsibility. You WILL be expected to tank towers, initiate fights and kill their nukes - and by the grace of Demacia, you WILL.
To conclude the reasoning behind this build I would like to give a quick comparison between the different forms of Garen.
+Impossible to kill
+Tanks towers while sleeping
+Retains full power of Ultimate
-No damage beyond Demacian Justice
-Can and will be ignored from mid game onwards
-Leaves your team practically 4 v 5 the longer the game continues
+Good, consistent damage both against single targets and groups
+Very strong early on
-Gets killed before reaches his target
-Attack speed won't improve Judgment, Garen's main damage output
-Easily focused and kited
-Very weak late game because of inability to sustain damage
+Everything that is good about both Tank and DPS Garen without their weaknessess
-Compared to Tank and DPS Garen? None.
-- Because of some disfunctional code on the site, I provide here a correction to the final statistics that this build for Garen will offer.
Magic Resist: 192
Attack Damage: 262
For runes I choose to go with flat Critical Chance, Armor Penetration and Cooldown Reduction. The reasoning behind this is simple.
greater quintessence of desolation Armor Penetration is a no-brainer. Gives you a bit more edge over your enemies in early stages of the game, the phase when you actually cement your position as king of the hill. All damage you deal except for your ultimate, Demacian Justice, is physical. This gives it a little bit more punch.
The glyphs and seals I dedicate to Cooldown Reduction. Why? Every skill Garen uses is restricted only by cooldowns. No mana, no health costs - nothing else. This effectively increases your utility and improves your general performance in a very staightforward manner. While some players choose to go with defenseive runes in these slots, I find that their use decays with your tanky build faster than Cooldown Reduction. After all, an auto-attacking Garen is not a fear-inspiring sight. However, a silence-ready, spin-eager nationalist is. And every percentage off your cooldowns is more valiant DEMACIAAAA!! -warcries for your enemies to cower before.
It is worthwhile to mention that the choice of runes for Garen is largely a choice of personal preference, but I can seriously recommend the setup described above. It works wonders to increase your threat as a tanky hero.
greater mark of desolation If you have these lying around, they are great on Garen too. It makes your early game ever more dangerous, but tends to lack the burst that Greater Mark of Critical Chance could provide later on. But indeed a valid choice.
A full batch of these runes would give you a roughly 9% chance to dodge attacks and cause Nimbleness to activate. A worthwhile choice indeed, but less useful in most stages of the game when your most common cause of death will be getting fully focused by the enemy team (and a few dodges won't matter), or nuked by casters from far away. But these work well on the lane. To get the most out of these runes, try making enemy minions target you shortly on the lane. When your first dodge comes, activate Decisive Strike for a really massive speed boost at such an early level. This will easily get you into range of the enemy champions, possibly causing them to panic and Flash or even landing you a kill. These can even save you when running away from an overextended harass.
With the advent of the new Masteries I was compelled to rewrite this part of the guide. We go with maximized damage from the Offensive -tree and some very useful perks from the Utility -tree. Here is a quick reasoning behind these choices.
Garen will become by nature very bulky, beefy, tanky, fat - the names are many, but all are one: difficult to kill. This is why you need to give the enemy team maximum incentive to actually attack you, and yourself the best chances at actually killing others. THe new masteries provide you with greater amounts of potential damage, and this suits Garen perfectly. For example, the Executioner perk is almost designed for Demacian Justice. The only punch you will be missing that you had in the old masteries is magic penetration, but you can live without that, for now. Don't go building Sorcerer's Shoes just for that.
The Utility -choices are quite self-explanatory. You will want to spend as little time as possible dead, and you will want to reach your opponents with optimum haste. These perks help you achieve these noble goals.
As a variation, I sometimes like to take the Lifesteal -perks from the Offensive -tree as well, and using the last points on extra armor and magic resist (as in a 24/6/0 setting). When you are facing a very early-game weighted team, or going against a difficult solo lane, I might choose maximized physical defenses and a bit of damage (as in a 9/21/0 setting).
For Summoner Spells there is only one spell that is a MUST for Garen. This spell is Flash. You will use this spell to initiate fights, get close to their casters, pick up escaping enemies for the kill and sometimes, but only rarely, to save yourself. Garen is a hero with practically no range in his arsenal, but he is very deadly in close combat. He also lacks movement skill, such as Spinning Slash on Tryndamere or the Rocket Jump of Tristana, so this will be your only way of getting surely close enough to the target you need to reach. It is the most important tool you will ever have to get kills on the lane, and the only way you can properly initiate teamfights. Truth be told, every time Flash is off cooldown, you are ready to take a kill. The main reason for this is that by activating Decisive Strike and flashing to your enemy, you will silence them instantly. This means that they will not be able to flash away themselves, use skills to escape you, or fight properly back - it's a free window for you to do as you please for 2.5 seconds. Be careful though: if you do not have Decisive Strike activated or you fail to estimate the distance to your enemy, they will escape, wasting your Flash.
Secondly, Ignite allows you to secure kills early on and to shut down many annoying heroes who have loads of regeneration, resistances or lifesteal. When on the lane, use Ignite only when you have properly silenced an enemy, are performing Judgment on his face, and want to secure the kill. This is especially important after level 6: a combo of Decisive Strike, Judgment and Demacian Justice, they should be low enough for Ignite to secure the kill. Especially when they have a healer nearby or are enjoying a Health Potion. Once teamfights get going you will want to focus Ignite on the hero that is on average the greatest threat compared to their durability. Or the hero who is sustained through regenration or lifesteal. Good examples on the first case would be heroes like Morgana, Galio and Rumble, whereas shutting down the healing of heroes like Warwick, Dr. Mundo and carries with loads of lifesteal fit the second case. Therefore Ignite works as a great utility throughout the game, even when its function morphs through the phases.
-- An added tip here: when you want to take someone down with your full-skill combo, use ignite as early as possible. This eats away from your target's health a few tics more before actually landing Demacian Justice, making that last skill even more powerful.
I have seen many players use other Summoner Spells as well, but I can't really warmly suggest any other than the two mentioned above. I will, however, list other options with arguments. Note that even if you have preferences over different spells, you must NEVER swap Flash away from your Garen. Such a care does not exist where that would be smart. Read carefully.
This spell has serious shutdown-power, but it is overkill for Garen, being a hero that can initially silence an enemy for 2.5 seconds from level 1 onwards, and who can practically take anything in an 1v1 situation. It works as a brilliant tool to reduce the threat of the enemy carry, save a teammate or catch a fleeing enemy. Nonetheless I prefer Ignite over this as it wont contribute to your personal damage output, which is the thing that should be getting you kills on the lane early on.
While having its uses as a chasing / escaping -tool, you have a small version of this inbuild in the boost of your Decisive Strike. Besides, it should be them running from you, not the other way around, and this build provides you with more than enough movement speed to catch them without Ghost.
All the other Summoner Spells are not even worth thinking about for Garen. I will save both our times by assuring that you should not even consider them. Trust me.
Garen is ALL about utilizing his Skills. Without proper coordination, timing and use of his skills he is worthless, especially with Garen definitely NOT being an auto attack hero. Following I will explain all his skills, how to use them and when.
This is Garen's passive skill. Granting you unreal power for staying in a lane, it has an awesome use for slowly wearing a difficult opponent down, starving a caster out of mana when they try to force you into recalling to heal, and gives you a good reason to get up close, deal damage and retreat - repeating this always when you have healed through the sustained damage.
Note that the passive is turned off whenever you receive damage. Therefore it is often smart to avoid damage completely for some time after putting your burst on the enemy. Garen does not excell in constant harassment, but is rather encouraged make stronger but less frequent offensives against the enemy.
The use of this passive only increases after, taken you have followed my build, getting the first health components for Warmog's Armor. This should be quite early on and will mark you as practically impossible to forcefully drive you off your lane. Garen is a purely melee champion, so he will take damage. Remember the simple trick of going all-out to damage the enemy properly and then avoiding them for some time, and you will surely put them in a position of low health in comparison to you eventually. To be aware of this is especially vital against enemies on the lane such as Cassiopeia or Teemo, who can easily harass you constantly. Rather retreat safely until you are ready to commit properly. Then repeat and rinse.
This skill is of immeasurable importance to you. It is your only piece of crowd control, but thankfully a very proper one at that. Decisive Strike should always be your first skill, no matter who or what you are playing against. It does immense damage early on, especially through the technique of double-hitting (performing one normal auto attack followed instantly by the activation of the skill, resulting in 2 hits on the same target in the blink of an eye), has a 2.5 second FLAT silence (resulting in awesome utility from the first rank onwards), and grants you a movement speed bonus for 4 seconds (allowing you to get near enemies more easily).
The use of this skill is a question of practice. Use it to take quick last hits on 2 different minions on low health when there is not a reason or possibility to strike at an enemy hero. Use it to double hit enemy towers for frightening damage. Use it to catch fleeing enemies and silencing them, preventing them from using skills to escape (silence prevents Flash above all else, making it a very important tool). But most of all, always silence the target you are going to use Judgment on. This is the only way to ensure they won't fight back properly and gives you a window to perform the whole damage on them.
In later stages of the game where team fights are constant, you should always aim to use Decisive Strike on their most potent caster. This works as a great initiation when combined with Flash (refer to the Summoner Spells -section for clarification), and it server well to protect your team from some terrible nuke. Heroes such as Annie, Veigar, LeBlanc or Malzahar should be your first priority to silence. The exception is when you are facing an enemy with a devastating channeled spell, such as Katarina's Death Lotus or Nunu & Willump's Absolute Zero, when you will want to save your Decisive Strike off cooldowns until you see this spell performed, ready to interrupt it and save your team. Another special case is where either an Amumu or Galio dives into your team, ready to disable you all: then you will have to silence them before your team is disabled, possibly even buying the time to kill the initiator before the silence wears off, placing your team at 5 v 4 advantage.
You must also use Decisive Strike to cover distances in shorter times, such as returning to lanes, running to the aid of an ally, or even to gank another lane before your enemies realize to inform their allies you are missing. You can also escape with this skill: if you are expecting to get ganked soon, refrain from using the skill so it will be off cooldown if you need to run to safety. Maxing out this skill will be your second priority after Judgment.
The only defensive skill Garen has, and extremely reliant on timing. This skill provides you with both resistances and a temporary shield that reduces all incoming damage for a short time. The amount of resistances you gain through Courage is dependent on how many minions you kill, so getting this at level 4 should leave you enough time to have capped this bonus early on. Farmimg for the bonus becomes excessively important into early-mid game where your only defensive item will be Warmog's Armor. The maximum of 25 extra resistance doesn't sound like a lot, but it does wonders to build you quite tanky quickly in the game. Even though the passive bonus of Courage gives you some edge over your enemies, its real strength lies in the active ability.
Use the temporary shield to allow dives from under enemy towers at early levels. Use it whenever you extend yourself to harass (and even kill) the enemy on the lane. Use it shortly after initiating a team fight. Use it to tank the towers with impunity. The correct timing for this is determined by keeping your eyes open: do not put the shield up before you are getting focused or receiving some serious damage. I will give you some sure examples of when to use this.
On lane, you see the enemy Taric casting Dazzle at you. The projectile takes time to hit, and you can really guess that when you get stunned, the enemy will try to hurt you. Activate Courage just before the stun reaches you, and if possible, activate Judgment at the same time. This results in you dealing damage all around you ( Judgment does not end even if you are stunned), and you take less damage if they try to hurt you in return.
A team battle is starting soon and you decide to initiate the fight like a fierce Garen should. You activate Decisive Strike, Flash to their most valid target to silence, start Judgment to damage their entire team and try to drive away their carry from the fight. When Judgment ends you activate Courage and run away, minimizing the damage you take from the entire process. The logic is this: you have silenced their caster nuke, he will not damage you. You are spinning around, no one wants to be close, so they will not damage you. You drive the squishy carry away, he will not harm you - that is until your Judgment ends. Then you have that ever wonderful shield up, and you are running away happily, only to return in a few seconds when your skills are off cooldown.
Even though this is an awesome skill that is a key part in your survivability, I choose to maximize it last. The other skills are more important for your team, and Garen is a team player.
This is your main damage output. Even if you were building a (pointless) DPS Garen, this would STILL be your main damage. What is it that makes Judgment such an awesome damage source? Let me indulge you! For one, the damage of this skill is determined only through your Attack Damage and Critical Chance. Attack speed plays no role in its power. With this build, you will end up with a CRAZY attack damage of 262 - not counting buffs or elixirs (which can raise this value to 312, which may be even further boosted by allied skills such as Raise Morale), and you will have a critical chance of over 50%. Even for any hero with a DPS build these are VERY high numbers, and their role in the output of Judgment is what makes you one of the most dangerous heroes on the field.
Adding to the glory, Judgment deals damage in a considerable area around you: while most melee champions focus on one enemy at a time, you can actually rip apart their whole team at once. With a full build and no buffs Judgment deals roughly a minimum of 900 damage to every enemy hero around you, and with your critical chances, will often deal over 1500 damage. As a side note, I have not yet found conclusive proof on how the critical procs of Judgment actually scale into damage, but I have learned through gaming that it sure spices up the damage. If I ever come across a definitive study on this matter, I will rewrite this part with accurate numbers.
Judgment also has a lot of utility. Activating the skill removes all slows from you, so it is a great way to escape. When a Rammus suddenly appears out of nowhere to taunt you on your lane, activate Judgment. You will be taunted, but still deal damage to everyone who try to take advantage of the situation by coming to smack you. The skill also gives you awesome reduction on disables, so you can use it to push through a swamp of crowd control. Early on you can use it to farm all the caster minions of a wave in a single full spin, later on to farm the whole wave all at once.
Note that the duration of Judgment is 3 seconds. Why is this imporant? Mainly because your silence lasts for only 2.5 seconds. Think! When you charge an enemy (either the old-fashioned way or with Flash) and hit them with Decisive Strike, you start Judgment straight afterwards, mowing them down. With their skills and Flash disabled, they have no means of escape - that is until your silence wears off. Therefore it is VITAL for securing a kill to cancel Judgment rougly 0.5 seconds before it ends naturally to land Demacian Justice and ignite on them before they escape out of range. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. If they are at high enough health for you to not execute them, just spin as long as you can but start retreating shortly before Judgment ends. This is a sure way to avoid retribution.
Of all your great skills Judgment must be capped first. It is your best tool for making yourself dangerous. This is the foundation of your Victory.
-- As an added side note I would like to remind that one of the things that makes this skill Incredible is that you are able to move while using this. If you choose to focus your damage output on basic attacks (which is the fault of most DPS Garen -builds), you have to stop each time you hit. This makes your damage inconsistent in comparison to dealing constant damage to someone while following them.
A beautiful skill which is argumentably one of the most difficult ones to use properly. This is your only source of magical damage, only skill with range, and it scales off nothing except how much health an enemy is missing. One thing that can be learned only through practice is estimating when an enemy is low enough for you to finish them. This I cannot explain, but I can give you hints on what it is worth using on.
Use this as much as you can in the laning phase. After getting an enemy low enough for you to make a surprise move against them, make your devastating combo: Flash to them with Decisive Strike, start your Judgment, place Ignite and finish off with Demacian Justice. This should bring practically anything down at this point of the game. I repeat once more: just remember to cancel Judgment shortly before it would normally end, so as they cannot jump out of range in time, landing a sure hit with Demacian Justice.
Enemies that make good targets for this skill are heroes with high health, or who tend to stay in battle too long for their own good. Such heroes are, for example, Dr. Mundo, Cho'Gath, Olaf, Vladimir and Rumble. Try to examine the equipment of your enemies to determine who you can cause the most potential damage to with Demacian Justice. Look for loads of health items and lack of magic resistance.
The real question is WHEN should you use this ability. You should never use it to steal a kill, or to finish someone who would've died effortlessly in the hands of your teammates. You should use it, if possible, to finish a squishy caster before they get out of your silence (in general, heroes that can do loads of damage in a short time), on a Morgana whose Soul Shackles has not triggered the stun yet, and to finish off someone quickly to save time for your team to move on, push towers, focus someone else or to rescue a teammate some suicidal Fiddlesticks is trying to nuke. Remember that sometimes offense is indeed the best defence. Save Demacian Justice to turn around a tower dive that would've ended up badly. Be aware of its cooldown just refreshing and you are chased, almost dying, by another almost dying enemy. Wait in the bush for them to close in and land your execution on them. Sometimes you can even use Demacian Justice prior to the point when it lands you a kill, such as in snapping off a large chunk off a wounded tank to allow your carry to finish him.
This very potent and powerful skill gives you truly the power to decide over the lives of your enemies. But a wise Garen also knows the responsibilities. Play this skill smartly - it can change the course of a battle in, literally, an instant.
Garen is defined by the items he is carrying to a very great extent. Without offensive items he will become obsolete as a damage-dealer from mid-game onwards, without defensive items he will become an easy pick even earlier.
First lets have a look at the items you should build for him and why, and then lets have a look at other options and discuss why not choose them.
-- As a side note, some players prefer to start with Boots of Speed and Health Potions. While this is not a bad choice, you will have a better chance at success with the blade if things get dirty. Besides, your first skill should always be Decisive Strike because of its incredible utility and damage early on, so you will have a built-in movespeed bonus anyway when you need it. Some players choose a Doran's Shield or Regrowth Pendant too, but these items are more likely to lead you down a path where you will be unable to pose your enemies a real threat, settling for a draw where they will be unable to kill you, and you sit at your tower healing a bit faster. Be very aware that your passive, Perseverance, gifts you with all the regeneration you will need when in the laning phase, and even more that the laning phase is when you should pick up your early kills with your extraordinary supremacy over just about every other hero in the game at this stage. So Doran's Blade helps you get this foothold as the fed Garen we all want to play. Abuse it.
Next on your list should be either completed Boots of Swiftness or just Boots of Speed and a health component of Warmog's Armor. This is a choice you have to make - there is no order for these that works every time. If you are taking too much ranged harass on your lane, pick the boots to outmanouver the enemy. If you are taking more melee-based harass, pick a health component, such as ruby crytal or Giant's Belt: this will allow you to overpower your enemy in a situation where he decides to have a try at you. In any case, your Boots of Swiftness should be completed before your Warmog's Armor, otherwise you will lack utility and risk falling behind - literally.
Why Boots of Swiftness? Good question! Because you are a strictly melee champion you need to be able to get close to your enemies as fast as possible, and because you will be needed all around the map, either saving friends or chasing down enemies. These boots provide the best consistency for these tasks. Sometimes the Ionian Boots of Lucidity, with their awesome cooldown reduction, are a valid choice too, but only in such games where you are clearly the only hero in your team dealing ANY mentionable damage. They help to increase your damage output and give you more utility in a hands-on combat situation, but tend to be so much more situational that I end up using them only about 10% of the time.
The Warmog's Armor. I used to harbor a distaste for this item, but have learned to appreciate its awesome use once again. In my honest opinion, this item works best on Garen. It is perfect. What it provides (once fully stacked, and that tends to happen quite early with Garen), is a WHOPPING 1370 Health topped with a CRAZY 45 Health / 5 seconds regeneration! It is the only health -item you will ever need on him. I must elaborate on the point why this item is so broken on him:
-- With Atma's Impaler, it will provide you with 27,4 damage alone. Thats more damage than the Pickaxe (which costs 975 gold), all for free.
-- With Perseverance, it gives you roughly an extra 34 Health / 5 seconds regeneration, almost DOUBLING the amazing regeneration this armor already provides. Combined with Force of Nature, this amount will only get crazier, up to the point where you might heal quicker than your enemies deal damage to you.
-- You have a very special defensive skill, Courage, which provides you with a flat percentage of damage reduction when activated. This skill is especially useful when you have loads of health. Even without that much Armor or Magic Resistance at this phase, the shield from Courage combined with Warmog's Armor will make you practically impossible to kill. They work wonderfully together.
-- Later on you will invest in Force of Nature. This item's passive ability is similar to Garen's Perseverance, and they stack! The more health you have, the greater your regeneration speed will be. Just for the epic brokeness of it, I did a quick calculation. At the moment when your build is complete and your passive is on, you will have an insane regeneration of 260 Health / 5 Seconds. You have no idea how powerful this is. If you are out of combat for 20 seconds, you can return with over 1000 regenerated Health covered by obscene amounts of resistances and the shield from Courage. You will, in reality, never have to retreat into your base again.
-- As a last point on this item, it most certainly makes you a very discouraging sight on the battlefield. At midgame when there is a Garen running about with a fully stacked Warmog's Armor, people will most certainly lose heart.
Next comes a very important part of your build, Atma's Impaler. By the time you are building this item you will probably have fallen behind in terms of damage output, but it's well worth the sacrifice. Choosing to build these particular items and in this particular order is an investment for the future: although they might not seem the best of choices at the moment you get them, their usability remains high throughout the game and you will not have to sell away items that become obsolete. But about the Impaler. Start building this item from the Chain Vest. It is farily cheap to complete and when you do, you will return back to the top of the game with your damage output. Even though they would have a magic-centered team, this item should be build before Force of Nature. Turrets will still do physical damage and their burst won't be able to take you down with your Warmog's Armor - not yet, at least. And equipped with this wonderful weapon you will rip them apart once more.
Now you should turn your attention to the Force of Nature. This item has many benefits where its extreme amount of Magic Resistance is only one among many. It has brilliant synergy with Garen's Perseverance and gives him more movement speed too. I warmly suggest starting to build this item from the Negatron Cloak, gaining a shortcut to balanced resists. Once you have completed this item you can survive practically anything they throw at you. Your resistances will be high, your regeneration will be absurd, and you will run with well over 500 speed when Decisive Strike is activated. Pure Awesome. Note that completing Force of Nature also signals a moment in your game when you can actually start rushing carelessly into their team, initiating fights, staying in the field without retreating to your base and catching basically every enemy that tries to escape you. Use this edge mercilessly.
Now you are at a point where you can survive your enemies, but a question arises: may they survive you? That is definitely something Garen does not want. Therefore, you build the Grandfather of all weapons: the Infinity Edge. This weapon is too good for Garen to be true. It puts your Critical Chance to a level of about 50%, meaning even your autoattacks (which you should use only when your skills are on cooldown) will hit like trucks. The Critical Chance also amplifies your main damage output, Judgment. And having an insane flat damage bounus of 80, this item just puts your deadliness off the scale. You can honestly wipe the floors with their carries, supports and nukes. Focus them down in teamfights. The only enemies that won't die from one Garen combo now are their tanks and offtanks. They need a little bit more work, but you will easily overpower them if they get close to you. No tank or offtank has the damage output necessary to take down a Garen at this point of his build. Be aware that this is a very expensive item, and it is unlikely for you to end up with the gold to purchase it all at once. If possible, start from purchasing the B. F. Sword, and if you cant afford that, get the Cloak of Agility. Do not start from the Pickaxe.
With your damage output being amazing, now is the time to finally sell that Doran's Blade that served you well throughout the game. Acknowledging the fact that you do not need any more damage, probably not even survivability, I go for the Guardian Angel. This is the last staple of your build: if - and I emphase the word IF - they manage to kill you, you will ressurect and punish them. This piece of armor tops off your build. On its completion you can plainly lead the charge down any lane towards their nexus, stopping only at their ultimate destruction and your inevitable victory. Usually matches end before this time phase, but if it comes down to that, you have already won. A fully built Garen with this build is, simply put, UNSTOPPABLE.
My philosophy behind there items are based largely on how they synergize, meaning support each other, very well. None of these items have features you do not want, none of them grow useless throughout the game, and most of them are fairly cheap. This makes my build a very affordable one, easy to keep ahead of other players and solid in its lack of any weakness.
Lets have a quick reminder of what you should build and when.
These items will give you the edge you need over your enemies in early game. You will be dealing enough damage at this point not to worry about offensive items yet, so rather focus on solidifying your indestructible reputation. Many players choose to exploit the amazing damage Garen has early game, but these builds easily fall victim to focus and shutdown in the first dangerous gank or teamfight. This is the base of your build, and everything you build and how you play from here on will support these items.
You will start noticing a lack of efficiency before the completion of the Impaler, but as soon as it is finished you are ready to ravage mid game thoroughly. At this phase of the game many uncultured players believe that Garen starts to lose his potential. The ones following my advice will learn that now is when they actually start gaining that potential. You will probably be more tanky and damaging than anyone on your team at this point.
There is a similar transition between the mid and late game of Garen as with early and mid. You will notice a lack of damage some time prior to completing Infinity Edge, but as soon as it is complete, you will rise to unseen heights of power. Games usually end before this phase, but if you are still fighting, this is the moment when Garen reaches his peak. He is at his best in the very final moments of the game. Where many believe it is the other way around, they have probably faced Garens with builds that make them obsolete. You will be impossible to kill and you will, in turn, kill everything you find. This includes, but is not limited to, enemy players, waves of creeps, turrets, inhibitors and nexuses. In case you are wondering what was excluded from this list, think no further than the flickering flames of hope in your enemies' hearts.
I have noticed that it is habit to force an studying reader countless possibilities for situational items. I will once more underline the fact that with this build, there will be no situation you are not ready for. Only once in a hundred matches do I face a team with absolutely no magic damage output in any form, and maybe then I would consider swapping Force of Nature for a Thornmail. It is just about as rare to confront an enemy with no physical damage dealer, but even then I might stick to this build. There are, however, a great quantity of towers that you can tank, and armor is therefore always welcome.
To close this chapter I must make a few points about items I often see included in the build of a Garen but which I can rarely recommend. There are a number of fringe events where some of these items may be worth considering, but on a general basis, the following list is a compilation of items you should think about only once every 10 games. And some of the items... never.
This is a fine item for many players who want to ensure their safety on the lane as an easily harassed melee champion. The problem is, it is YOU who should be taking easy kills on the lane, not sitting idly at your turret being witlessly thankful for that extra armor and regeneration that helps you do nothing. In Garen's early game you must press the advantage of high damage.
A fool's choice. An item of rather high cost it has surprisingly little value. Figuring the damage output of your Judgment you won't really need that 35 extra magic damage around you. It is fine for tanks who have no damage output at all and they need to farm some creeps, but it is a poor choice for you. With only 6 slots for items you can build, dont waste one on an item that gives you only a moderate amount of armor and health (and a measley damage aura) when you can get items that give you truckloads of health, barrels of damage and way more practical use.
Now this particular item is down to a point of, um, pointlessness for Garen, considering any item it would replace in this build. It is extremely expensive too. If you think about swapping your Warmog's Armor for this overpriced ****stick, think again. Combined with Atma's Impaler this item gives you 34 extra damage, 700 health and a slow on hit. In comparison, Warmog's Armor gives you almost 2 times this amount of health, 27,4 damage (only 6,6 damage less) and awesome amounts of regeneration - and it's cheaper. The slow aint that great, trust me. Sure, it procs with Decisive Strike, but if you get in range, you should be able to spin Judgment through them anyways with such superior movement speed anyhow. If you are trying to find an excuse in your mind, such as the slow helping your team, then that's quite a lame one. You will not save the day because you slowed someone for a few seconds. Besides, the slow does not proc on Judgment, which IS after all your main damage output. And Garen saves his friends by silencing his enemies and spinning till they die. Go with Warmog's Armor.
-- A note: this item is the key to building a tank out of Garen. Point is, that is not the most effective way to play this hero, but if for some reason you want to try it out, Frozen Mallet will gift you with maybe just enough crowd control to make you actually useful in some situations. But if you are following this guide and want to actually play Garen taking the most out of his potential, you must not spend gold on this thing.
Hey, this is something I see every day. Sure, the The Brutalizer is an awesome item for Garen: it provides cooldown reduction, damage and armor penetration - everything you basically want in the means of offense. But really, the The Brutalizer becomes obsolete at some point of the game, meaning a waste of gold and time, which you could've used on items you are going to keep till the end. But what I really find remarkable is that people actually invest to upgrade the item to a Youmuu's Ghostblade. Seriously, what the bloody hell? The only reason to upgrade is because of the Ghostblade's active ability, which is great for many physical melee heroes, but! If you are playing Garen, you should not build your damage output on autoattacks! Garen reaches and damages people with Decisive Strike after which they use Judgment to mow them down. NOT WITH AUTO ATTACKS! There is no excuse. You will have enough movement speed, critical chance and damage without this. Invest in something that supports Garen's natural playing style, skills and other items, not on this. It's a waste of everyone's time.
-- A note: I used to build the The Brutalizer in practically every game long ago with Garen. It is very awesome. But as the competition ramps up the higher you get in the game, you can really rarely afford an item that cannot sustain its value and power throughout all phases of the game. You do, after all, have only 6 slots for items.
Upgrading to Youmuu's Ghostblade gives you a random edge in some fringe situations, but what we are aiming for in this guide is a consistent performance. Save the Ghostblade for the people whose main function is to go in there and hack someone to pieces in the shortest possible time, careless of their overall survivability (read: Tryndamere). Besides, I cannot stress enough the point that the active attack speed boost is something you should not be forced to use. Spin to win.
In many senses these are the best boots in the game. But not for Garen. You will have more than enough magic resist for your needs, and you will not need the tenacity which is the real reason behind investing in there. You have Judgment which works to a better end than Mercury's Treads in terms of reducing crowd control. Besides, even if you become stunned, Judgment continues damaging everything around you anyhow, so they would be fools to come near you then. With the combined utility of both Decisive Strike, Judgment and Courage, you have a natural mechanic for escaping, outrunning, removing disables and surviving anyway. Plus, these boots are 200g more expensive than the Boots of Swiftness.
???????? Uhhh... ??????? What???? Are you actually thinking of paying nearly 3000g for this? You do NOT need attack speed!!! You already have movement speed!! And most certainly you do NOT need more critical chance given the fact that purchasing this item eats away one slot from an item that could've actually provided you with DAMAGE or SURVIVABILITY!!!
Same as before. There is practically NO use for this whatsoever. Let someone who actually uses auto attacks take it. It is not meant for you by any degree.
In this item manifests everything you can build wrong with Garen. Judgment is your damage output, and it does not proc lifesteal effects! If you want to make use of this item, you must auto attack, which, in case I haven't mentioned before, is definitely what you should NOT be doing with Garen!!! This item not only leaves you more squishy, but does not provide you with anything except a moderate amount of damage for an absurd price. Compared to say, Atma's Impaler, which grants a consistent bonus of 71 damage with this build, armor and critical chance, and is way cheaper, there is no reason to swap that. And if you think about swapping Infinity Edge for this, then you are beyond all hope. This item honestly is a very, very, very lousy choice for Garen.
Someone might find it awesome that Decisive Strike deals a harder single hit with this. BUT! You do not use mana, none of your abilities make your of ability power. It is a terrible waste of gold, space and time. Decisive Strike is not your damage output: it is used to silence an enemy, therefore preventing them from nuking your team or flashing away, and to allow you a moment when you can throw Judgment on their faces like there's no tomorrow. So in other words, forget this item.
This item would seem like a logical choice for such a hero that gets it really easily stacked in early game. But you should be aiming for a more consistent hero, one that is not dependant on surviving every battle. Building this item takes away from your survivability, it will affect your gameplay in terms of how much you are willing to sacrifice for your team, and it will eventually contribute less for your damage output than either Atma's Impaler or Infinity Edge, even when fully stacked. And that is in the rare situation that the enemy is willing to let you stack that sword. Do not get this. Resist the temptation, play it cool, and dominate with a firm and sure hand, not with a risky, flimsy buy that might turn the game around on your ***.
This is an item I have really little negative to say about. Actually, I have nothing negative to say about it. But do not buy it for Garen. Even though it increases his deadliness by truly vast amounts, it is better that the carry of your team gets this. You can make better use of other items and besides, you should not waste your time chopping down their tank little by little - you should be tearing their carries and nukes apart. This is the main function of Garen in combat, and this item does not help here. Only in the extremely rare case that you are facing 5 enemy heroes who all have stacked high armor, would I swap Infinity Edge for this. But I have yet to see that day.
A wonderful item, but more fit for a tank. You are not a tank. If you build a tank Garen, you will not be focused, and you have no way to make them focus you. The other defensive items in this build provide you with more balanced results in all situations and contribute more to the synergy of your skills and other items.
Whereas many of the items argued against above are interesting choices and can be used to build the versatile Garen in many different ways, my point in this guide is to show you the Optimum way to build and use this hero. Other builds provide curious alternatives, but on this page we will only focus on getting the absolute maximum potential out of Garen in every possible respect.
Playstyle and Tips
Although the previous chapters of this guide cover quite a lot about how Garen should be played, I feel there is still a need to emphasize on some subjects. This chapter will focus on smaller detail on the actual use of Garen in the many stages of the game.
What lane should I go to? A tough question - mainly because Garen excells in both solo- and duo-lanes. This is up to the preference of your teammates and you, but do not hesitate to take a solo lane if you are given that responsibility. Even as a melee hero you can outstay most of your enemies thanks to Perseverance and your sick damage output.
When the game starts, you should aim to buy Doran's Blade as quickly as possible. This is important in order to start running as fast as you can, using Decisive Strike for the boost to reach your preferrably predetermined lane. If you have a partner on your lane, there is no exception when you should not go wait in the bush nearest to the enemy tower. If some poor soul walks in you can immediately doublehit them with Decisive Strike, preventing them from flashing away, and giving you a solid chance at taking first blood.
Besides from the start, you should try to beat down your enemies more aggressively than you would with most other champions. Garen's strength is his ability to kill heroes, and you should definitely take advantage of this. Lanetime will determine a lot of your potency later on in the game.
Do not leave your lane unless you have something worthwhile to buy (such as Boots of Swiftness very early), or you are down to the point when you can actually die even when under your tower. Gaining constant experience is most imporant, partly because the high base damage of Judgment allows you to kill enemies at low levels even without items, placing you at an advantage through mere levels.
You will start dealing large damage from level 3 onwards when you have obtained your second rank in Judgment. These are times for easy kills - abuse it.
Some heroes that pester you with constant harass, such as Caitlyn, Mordekaiser, Ezreal and Teemo, can push you to your tower, denying you farm and possibly even experience. Don't worry! You must be patient. At about level 5 you will have the means to deal way more damage to them if you decide to extend that amount, and at the lastest when you are level 6 you can use the Flash, Decisive Strike, Judgment, Ignite, Demacian Justice combo on them to kill them even from full health. When you sit at your tower, seemingly helpless against their ranged harass, they will NOT leave the lane. They will push (setting themselves prone for ganks too), blissfully ignorant of the fact that you are gaining levels too, ready to smack your combo in their face when they least expect it. When you get your first kills against your enemies you will permanently gain the upper hand on your lane. You will have a higher level, and by quickly farming during their respawn time, possibly even better equipment. But remember not to get too over confident. If you make a wrong move combined with a thoughless mistake you might die, reverting the situation back to the one where you sat at your tower, pinned by harass.
Do not take unnecessary damage! Even though you have Perseverance and are a tanky hero by nature, there is no point in getting hurt for the fun of it. Save your strength for the time when you really need it. This applies to both health and the cooldowns of your skills. Don't waste any.
Bushes are your friends. You can hide in them, regenerate, and wait until an frustrated enemy comes close enough for you to land Decisive Strike followed by Judgment. If you have the chance, doublehit them. If not, then only silence normally. If you start Judgment before silencing them, you will not succeed as a Garen.
If you end up in a position where the enemy decides to go all out on you or you get ganked, just play along and use all your skills on them. When your Judgment ends, do not start the auto attack war - it is pointless, useless and stupid. Unless you can kill one of your enemies with that last hit. What you should do is retreat into the bushes, encouraging them to follow you, switch from bush to bush if need be, but keep running until your skills are off cooldown. Then make a quick turn around and do your Decisive Strike and Judgment combo again. They will be powerless against this.
Given you are going on a duolane, who will you lane with? I definitely prefer someone with heavy disables, such as Sion, Taric or Singed. This allows both of you to get kills very easily (stuns combined with Decisive Strike speak death). If you want to go for a safer approach, I suggest having someone tanky with range, such as Cho'Gath or Maokai. You definitely do not want to end up playing lanetime with an ally such as Caitlyn or Ashe. They will likely push and take all last hits. To be a successful Garen you must have space in which to chase and run about. Never push to the enemy tower unless they are incapable of fighting back in any form.
Be aware of you own limits. When your skills are on cooldowns and you are getting low, just run away and live to fight another day. With the combination of Decisive Strike, Judgment and Courage, you have the means to leave just about any situation when you so please. Try to always save Flash for important initiations. Sometimes you will die because of not using Flash, but it is more important that your entire team has a good, dangerous initiator next time there is a teamfight.
Do not be afraid to tank towers. With Courage and all the defensive items you will have, they should pose little threat to you. If you've managed to route the enemy team or most of it, just run to the nearest tower with your teammates and start hacking away with it. Do not wait for minions. The game is won by killing towers, inhibitors and the nexus - remember this.
When you go into a teamfight, always silence the enemy with the most dangerous potential from the perspective of your TEAM, not you. There will probably be more than one dangerous enemy, so after silencing one, proceed to spin Judgment on the other, preferrably with the intention of driving him away from the battle. If you have made your team aware of your role, they will fall upon the enemy team when they have no carry present and their nuke is silenced. This is what you can do. If for some reason your targets do not retreat when you initiate, just use Judgment hitting as much of the team as you can. As previously discussed, you can do from roughly 1000 - 1500 damage easily on a single target with this, and if you hit all 5, then it's more like 5000 - 7500 damage. Not bad for an offtank.
Respect your team. Playing Garen with this build will probably make you the centerpiece of attention, getting a large share of the kills, doing huge portions of the total damage and tanking every battle. But don't get cocky. You will need your team to cement your victory.
Respect your enemies. Even if you are controlling the game, remember you are playing a very powerful hero with the most powerful build. You are not easily countered. They are not bad players or noobs even if you manage to kill them.
Be decisive. If you initiate a fight, then go all the way. If you take offensive against an enemy on the lane, do all you can. If you tank a tower, do not cower away. You can handle far more than you would even think - Garen will keep surprising you.
And finally, be patient. Everything is learned through practice. Practice is the process of making mistakes and learning from them. Make the best out of every misstep you make and have the thirst to become a master of Garen.
As you might have realized, this guide does not go into extents of describing ward placement, jungle routes, miscellaneous facts, lacks funny videos and awesome pictures. In other words, I am not aiming to make a sexy, appealing presentation. It is a guide built for pure function. It concerns only the use of Garen and nothing else, and I wish to keep it that way. It is also a guide meant for players on higher levels where their matches will be competetive, where snowball- or unbalanced builds will not be valid anymore.
Thank you for looking into this guide - I sincerely hope you enjoyed it! If you learned something new about Garen or gained insight into the optimum use for this iconic hero, that is enough to have made this guide worth its while.
If you have questions or feedback, I would gladly hear it and aim to respond as soon as possible.
With the advent of the new Masteries and Jungle, I am hereby introducing a build (which I honestly made for purely trollish purposes at first), the Jungle Garen. Now before you think I've lost my sanity in the course of the last couple of weeks, fear not! It sounds silly, but Jungle Garen is actually viable. Lets start with a quick summary.
+ Not dependent on buffs, therefore very difficult to counterjungle
+ Very powerful ganks. VERY.
+ Extremely sustainable in jungle. You will never need a health potion.
+ Transforms into a powerful chaser, tanker and DPS threat later on
+ Moves quickly starting from Level 1
- Not too fast about clearing the jungle
- Hard to get as fed as a laning Garen
- Must focus more on autoattack power early on, eating away from
With all things considered, Jungle Garen is surprisingly viable. He can even toss the blue buff easily to a Mid AP -caster without sacrificing his own performance.
As we all know, Garen is truly at his best when fighting other champions. This is why ganking as much as possible is extremely essential. Point is, that when you do gank someone, landing one Decisive Strike guarantees a kill and your teammate the upper hand in the lane.
I must confess I am not the best jungler around there, so I would suggest using your own experience in finding a suitable route and technique to suit your playstyle if you do go jungling with Garen. I do however start at the small golems, continuing on to the wraiths and wolves, after which I am ready perform my first powerful gank. Judgment is weak against jungle minions, but it is important to level up early to be a better ganker. Start using it on minion camps when the skill is around level 3. Before that just doublehit with Decisive Strike and you should be just fine.
I have realized that I stay pretty much in pace with solo lanes while jungling Garen, and the need to go to the base for recharging is quite rare. My alternative rune and mastery -setup probably plays a large role in this. It's worked for me, and it should work for you.
Give it a try if you feel up to a refreshing breeze in your path to Garenism! Even when all else fails, you will still have a buttload of fun with this build :)
Following is a new, purely awesome, build I decided to research, test and approve. It is called the Cheap Garen, or Hobo Garen, which ever you please. The aim was to make a valid full build with absolutely minimized item costs without having any single stat that you wouldn't need. The end result is surpsisingly powerful, and has a wicked habit of enemies forefitting at the 20 minute mark. You'd be surprised what awesome stuff you can pull off with this.
+ Gets his build complete in practically every game
+ Totally undepending on epic farms or feed
+ Abuses Garen's natural early game edge to the EXTREME
+ Very balanced mix of everything
- Power starts to fall off around the time everyone is Level 18
- No epic burst
- No insane healthpools
So, what's the point in this build? Get this, guys: the full build costs 10,065 gold, not counting the gold you are going to make from carrying around a
Besides all the usual fun Garen has with his enemies, he now has some weird utility! Wriggle's Lantern allows you to place a ward now and then, Hexdrinker allows you survive those annoying finishers and Aegis of the Legion provides one of the best, if not THE best, aura for your team. Even more fun than this, you will have an absurd amount of armor from very early on in the game. I've made many successful dives against two full health opponents under their turret at level 6 with this build - the resistances make you immortal at early-mid stages.
The playstyle of this build is way more aggressive (if possible) than the typical Garen. You need to make your team aware of the crazy edge you have early on. This means ganking, tanking and nuking anything and everyone in your path as quickly as possible. Make your team confident in your invincibility and lead them to victory. Because if you don't, things get ugly in late game.
To conclude this quick reference, just think about the moment when you are boasting with around 200 armor and magic resistance, unreal damage output and a complete build of 6 full items, and the enemy AP carry has just finished a Rod of Ages and maybe Rabadon's Deathcap. Whoah, that's scary. You'll just steamroll over them :)
Changes / Updates
-- Made a short addition to the details of how Judgment works.
-- Added a tip on using Ignite.
-- Added some valid options into runes and rearranged the guide flow.
-- Put some clarifications and elaborated on some aspects in the Items -section.
-- Put some color coding into the Playstyle & Tips -section.
-- Updated the Mastery Tree. This configuration makes Garen even better than before!
-- Added the first alternative build: Jungle Garen!
-- Updated the written masteries -section of the guide
-- Added the second alternative build: Cheap Garen!