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Maokai Build Guide by CrestingLight

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League of Legends Build Guide Author CrestingLight

I ARE TREE!!! (Maokai the beef tank)

CrestingLight Last updated on June 13, 2011
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Top Lane
Ranked #11 in
Top Lane
Win 51%
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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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Hey guys, CrestingLight here with my guide on how to build Maokai, the beefy tree tank. This is NOT a DPS build, so if you're here to get lots of kills and not to be a team player, Maokai is probably not the champion for you. While it is possible to get kills relatively early on with Maokai, you won't be helping anyone in doing so, and all those kills you take could go to feeding your DPSers.

Your Role as the Tank

Your job as Maokai (at least when using this build) is to tank and to be a major support to all of your DPSers, spoon feeding them easy kills and protecting them from the harm of the other team. You will be there to harass and needle down the opponents in your lane, then pin them down so that your assassins can finish them off and get fed. Maokai is also an intense pusher, able to push a lane by himself faster than most pairs can. So while you won't be able to show off the crazy number of kills that you have, more often than not you'll have more than half the turrets downed in your name, which is what really matters.

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Pros / Cons


Harasses like nobody's business
Great for pinning down opponents who overextend
Nice protection within ult circle, with strong damage pop afterwards
Ult has short cooldown
Difficult to kill
Fantastic farmer and pusher
Has an amazing passive that heals him almost constantly
Incredible longevity in lane


Very slow movement speed
Extremely mana hungry
Lacks crowd control
Late game can lack effectiveness
Has noticeable weakness to magic

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In my humble opinion, runes don't play too large of a role with Maokai. He's a very independent and functional champion no matter what way you rune him, but these are the runes that work for me personally. These can certainly be adjusted to fit your play style. For example, if you find that you are almost never dying, but you just don't seem to do the damage that your DPSers need for you to harass, you could swap the Greater Seals of Warding for Greater Seals of Potency. This is just what works for me, if you have other needs, feel free to change it up.

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Masteries are going to be much more important for Maokai, as this is where you're going to shape what kind of role he is going to play for the team. While I always go all the way down the defense tree, the secondary tree can be in either utility or offense. Depending on your team comp, you may have more late game damage, or just less damage overall. With this being the case you will want to have your secondary points in offense. If you go down the offense tree you'll want to put 3 in Archmage's Savvy, 1 in Cripple, 4 in Sorcery, and then your final point in Archaic Knowledge. If you have enough damage dealers already, then you should be focusing more on being helpful to your teammates and doing less damage for yourself so that you aren't stealing kills when you go to pin, or accidentally blowing an opponent to bits when you go to harass with your bomb. That isn't your job, and it doesn't help your team in the slightest.

Why "Good Hands" over "Perseverence"?

There is a huge thread about the difference between these two masteries out there already, but I will sum it up briefly here. The amount of mana and health regen that Perseverance offers is absolutely minimal, about. 0.32 of a point every five seconds. Now, go to your match history page and look at all of the matches on your screen. How many of them do you have no deaths in? Probably not very many. This spell can cut up to 10 seconds off of your death, and that can be the difference between a teammate living or dying, or even a turret going down or staying up.

As for Insight, this mastery can be interchangeable with Greed. I will choose Insight if most of my teammates use mana. However, if your teamcomp consists of Katarina, Garen and Kennen, taking Insight would be foolish and you should choose Greed.

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Now here is the fun part: Items. I build Maokai a little bit differently than most others, as I don't take Merc treads or Frozen heart. In this section I'll go over the different items and the approach I go for when tanking and supporting my team.

Why Boots of Lucidity?

The purpose of a tank is to be there for his team where they need him, when they need him. It's just about the worst feeling in the world watching your teammates die while you mash your W key, knowing that if it had been just 1 mere second earlier they would have been saved, and you could have even killed the attacker. The boots of lucidity allow Maokai endless harassment with his bombs and ensures that when your teammates need your abilities (especially your ultimate), you will be there for them.


Maokai naturally has a lot of armor, and if you read his story and learn where he came from, you'll understand why. This tree HATES magic. He is naturally very weak to it, and so I find that a Force of Nature helps to pick up some of that magic resist that our champ is lacking. Frozen Heart gives you lots of armor, but what if their team mostly consists of spellcasters? Veigar doesn't care if you make his attack speed slower, he isn't going to hit you with an auto attack anyway, and his abilities are exactly what Maokai is weak to, so let's cover our bases and instead get a Force of Nature!

So, I'm a "Tank," and end game I only have 2500 health! WTF!

This is actually fantastic. The lower the health, the better! So, you're Caitlyn, and you see that the opposing team has two tanks and an off tank. What do you do? Grab a Madred's Bloodrazor, problem solved. You'll tear through them like tissue paper. Then, you approach the opponent Maokai (who is using this build of course), and bam bam bam... Why is he still standing? Bam bam bam... why is my large intestine on the floor? I had one game in which I had so much armor that I took 83% less physical damage, and I had a thornmail. I walked up to Caitlyn, and she literally killed herself shooting me. She did more damage to herself than she did to me, and could not understand why I hadn't died from her Madred's Bloodrazor. It's easy to counter high-health tanks. It's near impossible to counter a tree that's more heavily armored than Mordekaiser if his chest were made of Titanium Alloy.

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Summoner Spells

    Teleport - As the tank, you need to be able to get where the fight is and FAST. As you probably know, Maokai is SLOOOOOOOW... This will get you where you need to go.

    Clarity - Maokai is extremely mana hungry, his saplings costing a whopping 90 mana, quite a bit for a spell that you cast constantly. Be conservative and precise with your saplings and, with clarity, you can lane just about forever (I go 12 levels without dying or recalling regularly with this spell).

Other Viable Options

    Exhaust - Very helpful to your teammates and it can make it easier to aim bombs. Great for if you are being chased as well.

    Ghost - Some people like this spell because tree is so slow. While this is viable, I find that if you have to use it as Maokai (if you're getting close to death) then it usually won't save you. And if you're using it to get around the map faster then you might as well just get teleport.

    Ignite - Also helpful for your teammates to do damage or to finish a champ that may be getting away. However, this should be left for your DPS, as you don't want to be stealing their kills anyway.

    Flash - Meh. I definitely would'nt take it, but I suppose some people might. Maokai is so slow that giving him that tiny head start will likely just give you one or two more seconds before they catch you.

    Cleanse - Viable but I never take it. It COULD help in turning a team fight around, but you're kind of there to take all those hits for your team, so honestly the longer they're focusing on you the more damage your DPS are doing to the other team.

    Heal - I suppose if you're really, really trying to play the backup support role you could take this. Besides, Maokai's passive heals him almost constantly, so you really shouldn't need it. I'd just save everyone time and lots of headaches and get a healer.

The others, and why we don't get them

    Revive - Useless. You shouldn't be dying enough to make this worthwhile, and with "Good Hands" in your masteries, you don't need any more help in this department.

    Rally - ...Come on. Have you ever seen anyone actually use this?

    Fortify - Making your turret invulnerable for 2 seconds isn't great. If you have to use it, then you're likely already going to lose the turret. Why not tele in and get some kills or assists on top of it!

    Smite - What for? Jungling? Ha!

    Clairvoyance - A decent spell for support characters, but you are needed elsewhere.

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Skill Sequence


If you are going to harass, which is what you will be doing for most of your time in lane, you're just going to use your "E", or your "saplings." These overly excited little bastards do an absolute load of damage throughout the first half of the game, provided you continually level it as soon as the option is given to you. The range on it is huge, and if they try to run, those little guys will chase them for miles until they've caught up. Try to aim these at a champion who is overextended, not paying attention, or not around minions. Also, try to throw it BEHIND them. When they see one of those flying through the air at them, the general instinct is to run backwards. If it's already behind them, you're guaranteed the bombs will catch them quickly and melt their health bar.


Though you won't normally be the one hiding in the woods waiting to pop out at an enemy champion, your teammates will, which will leave you with the responsibility of pinning them down. The sequence here depends on how comfortable you are with Maokai and with multitasking.
If you are uncomfortable or still new with Mao: W-->Q-->E
This will pin them down, allowing your DPS to run out of the woods and catch up. Then, smack them into the air with your Q, or even slam them backwards toward your team! Drop a bomb as they try to run, and it should make things easy peasy for your assassins to get that kill.
If you are a good multi-tasker and know the moves: E-->W-->Q-->E
I like to really decimate the poor guy when I attack, just to make sure he really, really cannot get away. The idea here is to toss a bomb just a touch behind where they are standing. Then, while the bomb is still airborne, grip them with your W, ensuring your bomb gets both the hits, from the landing and the explosion. This keeps them pinned down so all your bomb has to do is explode. Then, if they are somehow still getting away, your cooldown should up for your second bomb. Toss another and watch it chase them down lane for the kill. And yes, it is appropriate to smile and laugh.

Team Fights

For the team fights you will be deemed the protector and tank. Unlike most other tanks, unfortunately Maokai cannot always choose when to initiate a team fight. You are usually going to want to ping to your teammates who you are planning on pinning down, and make sure that they understand fully who to target, as it is easier for Mao to take out one at a time. If any champ on their team overextends, immediately begin the team fight, because you may not get another chance. W-->R-->Q-->E

As a side note, make sure to keep a watch on your passive at all times. As soon as it's up, run in and smack a minion in the face, and watch that health bar shoot up.


The great thing about Mao is that he is also SCARY. He's a giant tree with bombs that do excessive damage, and many players don't really know what else he does. Use this to your advantage. When trying to take down turrets that are around or under half health, bring some teammates with you and place your R in a giant circle around you, your teammates and the turret. Almost every time it will warrant a response of panic and fleeing from the other team, and if it doesn't, at least it protects yourself and your team from quite a large chunk of damage. Hang in there, down that turret, and when they begin to chase you, pop that R and watch the health bars fly down.

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In summary, Maokai is a fantastic champion that can really help you win games. His bomb range is incredible, about as long as Caitlyn's, and his ability to support, tank, and kill (all at the same time!) is unmatched. You can pin down an opponent who is chasing a teammate, you can scare the ever loving christ out of the entire opponent team by creating a giant, swirling circle on the ground, and you can push a lane better than almost any other champion on the Fields of Justice. So long as you grasp the abilities and potential that this champion possesses, you can do just about anything (I once fought a Corki, Nocturn, and Lux in the jungle all at the same time, killing all three and leaving with just over 50 health)!

I hope you found my guide entertaining and informative, please try it before you rate! Any comments or questions are always appreciated in the section below, I'll always do my best to answer them!

Happy Bombing Everyone!