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Maokai Build Guide by Crows

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Crows

Jungle Maok - A tree among trees

Crows Last updated on February 7, 2012
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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.



Offense: 0

Honor Guard

Defense: 9

Strength of Spirit

Utility: 21

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NOTE:This build isn't something I came up with, it is copied off the TheOddOne (considered to be one of the best junglers in the world) and doo0ooooooom.

About the guide:
This build focuses on CDR and Tanking rather than AP and health which is how lane maokai is played mostly. There are several reasons for this: Maokai's damage will never even be close to other mages unless you build him like a mage - which means he can't tank. I.e. Building maok with a few caster/health items significantly cuts down on his utility, durability, and thus his ability to tank. Instead by hitting the CDR cap maokai gets an aoe knock back/slow that last for 2 seconds every 3.6 seconds and a 2 second snare every 7.8 seconds. Notice, this means the enemy will constantly be snared and knocked back in a team fight. This makes you one of the most disruptive tanks in the game.

I know a lot of things in this build seem very counter-intuitive (odd mastery and rune selection). But, this guide is based off doo0ooooooom's guide which is the guide that inspired maokai to be played in high elo. TheOddOne (a 2200 elo player and of the best junglers to ever play the game) also uses a very similar build in professional play when he jungles maokai. It works, trust me.

About me:
I'm roughly a 1400 elo player (not great I know). I pretty much only jungle (who wants to spend the first 15 minutes of their game trying to right click minions at exactly the right moment anyways). This and a guide on Rammus are the only guides I've written, mostly because there wasn't really a good jungle Maokai or Rammus guides on this site. My in game name is Crows, if you have any questions feel free to hit my up in game or leave a comment.

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Pros and Cons:

-Extremely fast clears.
-In my opinion, best early game ganks.
-Great CC.
-20% damage reduction to teammates in team fights.
-This build provides great aura buffs/debuffs.
-Excellent counter jungler.
-Free mini wards
XX Cons
-Mid game damage is a bit awkward, as you are no longer doing killer burst damage and aren't that tanky yet.
-Hard to win 1v1 fights.
-Fairly gold dependent.
-Sapplings are mentally disabled.
-Terrible dragon control

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Introduction to Jungling and Tanking:

In order to understand this guide (I bet you're wondering why a tank would ever take haste runes?) you need to understand two concepts, jungling and tanking.

Why Jungle? There are a few reasons. First it's extra gold/xp overall for your team - top gets all the gold and xp to himself. Also it's much more flexible. In a game without a jungler on your team it's 1v1 or 2v1 on top, 1v1 in mid, and 2v2 on bottom. This means that every lane is balanced or if their top is 2v1 he will just play defensive and tower hug. With a jungler you are free to turn that 1v1 mid or 2v2 bottom into a 2v1 or 3v2 unexpectedly. This often picks up kills.

Good jungling champs have 3 things:

  • Gank: Junglers need to be able to gank. If you don't gank as a jungler you are worthless to rest of your team. Also junglers typically make less gold off their CS than someone who can last hit well. This means that you need to make up that gold with assists and kills.

    Maokai is one of the best gankers in the game. Between Twisted Advance and the 3.5 second CD on Arcane Smash with CD he's hard to get away from.
  • Clear Speed: Clearing faster means you can spend more time being beneficial to your team or making the enemies life miserable. Faster clear means you gank more often, cover lanes more, or steal their jungle better

    Maokai clears extremely fast due to his AOE nature, but consumes a lot of mana. That is one of the reaosns why we level up Arcane Smash first, for mana efficiency.
  • Sustain: One of the differences between jungling and laneing is that junglers take a lot of damage and use a lot of mana. This damage needs to be mitigated some way so they don't spend all their time at the nexus getting healed.

    Maokai does great on the health part. His passive with his ultra fast clears ensure he's nearly always at full health. The mana does pose a problem, but is addressed with skill order, itemization, and masteries in this build.

Tanking can really be broken down into three parts: drawing agro, not dying, fight control.

-Maokai is great at not getting killed. First the 20% damage reduction from his ult Vengeful Maelstrom is amazing if you learn to predict where battles will end up, and is worth several hundred armor alone. Also, his passive Sap Magic is better than most people think, it works off ANY spells being cast, not just yours. In a team fight if you are consciously trying to use it expect it to go off 3 or 4 times, thats 21-28% more health.

-Maokao draws agro in a few ways. He has some amazing abilities to initiate: Twisted Advance or Shurelya's Reverie. He is also just so disruptive with a cool down reduction based build it can be difficult to peal away from him to target someone else.

-Fight control is where maokai excels. Twisted Advance and Arcane Smash are amazing. With this build Arcane Smash has a cd of 3.6 seconds, and Twisted Advance 7.8 seconds. That means you can jump on whoever you want every 7.8 seconds and snare them for 2 seconds, which is pretty good. Arcane Smash is much better than good, it's your bread and butter - learn to use this properly and you'll win fights for your team.

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Jungle Path:

With Maokai in this build I typically reach level 4 sometime between close to 3:30. This route is optimal and requires about 20 ap and 6% CDR. If you don't meet these requirements you will have to adjust the route.

1)Wraiths: Stand on the other side of the wall, in your middle lane (as the picture shows). Make sure you are in auto attack range of the blue wraith or it will reset. Use your first Sapling Toss at 1:05. Throw 2 more (for a total of 3) soon as they come off cd. Throw a 4th soon as the wraiths spawn at 1:40.

2)Blue: Get a leash. You will be there by 1:55 when they spawn so have your team wait for the leash. Use 2 Sapling Toss and auto attack the big golem.

2)Wolves: Kill these with 1 Sapling Toss and 2 Arcane Smash

3)Wraiths again: They should respawn right as you are walking up. Again kill with 1 Sapling Toss and 2 Arcane Smash

4)Mini-Golems and Red: Use Sapling Toss and Arcane Smash to kill these, make sure you are hitting all enemies with your aoe.

At this point you should be about 500ish gold, be level 4, and have most of your health. This is the time for your first gank if any lanes are over extended. If not, keep jungling until they do over extend. By over extend I mean they are close to between the river and the tower on your side.

Stolen Blue:
If someone steals your first blue, keep going until you run out of mana. If you run out of mana go back and buy 3-4 mana potions - this should carry you to a Philosopher's Stone.

Respawn times:
It is also important to keep track of respawn times, I typically keep a notepad next to me when I play so I can track dragon and counter jungles:
  • Baron respawns in 7 minutes
  • Dragon respawns in 6 minutes
  • Blue Buff respawns in 5 minutes
  • Red Buff respawns in 5 minutes
  • Wraiths respawns in 1 minute
  • Wolves respawns in 1 minute
  • Mini-Golems respawns in 1 minutes

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Counter Jungling:

Counter jungling is extremely important. It's one of the things that separates good junglers from great junglers. Counter jungling means going into the other jungle and stealing some of their xp/gold. Every time you do this it's huge. If you steal 100gold worth of mobs that a net 200gold gain for your team (you cost them 100g and gain 100g) - that's almost a kills worth.

Some general tips for counter jungling:

  • Alert your team so they can be ready to help, if you get caught very often a team fight will break out. And often you will be at a disadvantage since you're on their side of the map.
  • Try to leave one little mob alive. It prevents the camp from re-spawning until they kill it.
  • Invest in wards if you want to spend a lot of time counter jungling (see the ward section).

When any of the following are true, consider stealing some jungle:
  • When you have a smite up and can run in and steal a small camp's boss mob (especially wraiths)
  • When the other jungler is in a lane and you can't make in time to help
  • When the other jungler is low on hp
  • Near lanes where the enemy is dead or buying
  • After the enemy fails a gank
  • When wards catch the jungler and you can get help from your lanes ganking him

My most common counter jungle is running up to the wraiths, smiting the big wraith and hitting him once if necessary to kill him. This is extremely easy, safe, and fast.

Placing wards in the enemy jungle on key buffs (see the ward section) is excellent for counter jungling. You can see when their buffs are up and when they go for them. This gives you tons of options. If you see the enemy going for the buff talk to your teammates (quickly) and decide to gank or not. If your team doesn't think you can pull of the gank then go steal some of his jungle on the opposite side.

How to deal with being counter jungled:
The best way to deal with being counter jungled is wards, wards, and more wards. Place wards on your buff camps for sure. When you see the enemy going for one of these camps make a quick decision: get your lanes to help you gank or if you don't think you can pull it off go steal some of his jungle.

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Warding is extremely important. Most people will tell you that it's everyone on the teams job, and they are right. But, the lion share of the work falls first to the support and second to the jungler. This map shows where I typically place wards, with black being the most important, red being next and jungle wards, and blue being situational wards.

If you feel the enemy team is placing a lot of wards you want to consider buying an oracle. Don't ever buy it before your gold items. And most of the time start thinking of buying if you aren't dying a lot and after you purchase your first tank item.

Key Wards:

Black represents the key wards. They are the most important as they protect key camps (dragon and baron) and the lanes - consider placing pink wards here because both teams will probably have these spots warded. These wards should pretty much always be up. Communicate with your lanes and see if they plan on placing them. Also note, If you place them EXACTLY right you can also see the paths into the jungle.

Jungle Wards:

The blue wards are for jungling and/or counter jungling. If your jungle keeps getting invaded, place these wards on your side. If you want to counter jungle, place them on their side. Notice how they are placed so you can see the key buff mobs and at the same time see as many lanes as possible. This is really important, as it helps you keep track of the maximal amount of enemy positions and tell which direction enemies are haeded.

Situational Wards:

The red wards are more situational, and mostly for your mid lane. If mid keeps getting ganked place these on your side. It will let them see if someone is sneaking up behind them. These wards are mids job more than yours, but being a team player wins games. These wards have the most mobility, like I often place the wards at 10 and 9 in the north and south bushes respectively, instead.

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The item build focusing first on being tanky and CDR. Tanky is obvious, you are playing as a tank if you use this guide. CDR is invaluable for Maokai, mostly due to Arcane Smash. Arcane Smash is the lowest cool down CC in the game tied with nunu's Ice Blast. Not only is the lowest cooldown, but it's AOE, a knock back, and a slow. By focusing on CDR you are able to get Arcane Smash to a 3.6 cool down, which makes you one of the most disruptive champs in the game.

AP items are great for lane maokai and terrible for jungle maokai. Junglers typically don't have the gold income for an AP build that also focuses on defense. With maokai's skill set (awesome ganks and being in close range) this makes AP non-viable in the jungle.

A note on health regen:Health regen is a very over looked stat, especially for Maokai. This build gives Maokai almost 350 health regen every 5 seconds if you play correctly (use Sap Magic when it's up). Figure team fights last 5-20 seconds, that's 350-1,400 health back.

Items:It is extremely important to note that this build is designed for the standard meta game which is a healthy balance of casters and physical damage. If the team you are against isn't balanced you will need to substitute in some situational items.

Early Game Goals:
Philosopher's StoneXX XX
These items provide enough resistance to gank lanes without fear. Also you have enough mana/mana regen to sustain yourself in the jungle with out blue buff, which is huge for your AP carry. Take them in the order that makes sense. For example if the enemy mid is constantly over extending and he's an AP carry take the negatron cloak before glacial shroud.

or or
These are the three boots that make sense on Maokai. Most of the time I take Ninja Tabi as maokai doesn't get CCed much. If you are against a heavily ability power team based team or a team with a lot of aoe CC you should pick up Mercury's Treads instead. If you aren't going to purchase one of the CDR items in the core build, take Ionian Boots of Lucidity

Mid Game Goals:
XXShurelya's Reverie
Frozen Heart Gives amazing amounts of armor and CDR. The aura is very strong on maokai too, as he is often in the middle of enemy teams.

Shurelya's Reverie is one of the strongest (and probably needs to be nerfed) items in the game. You often see 2 or 3 of them in high elo games. The CDR, health regen, and health are nice. But, where it truly shines is the activation ability: use it to run, use it to chase, use it initiate.

Late Game Goals:
Maokai scales really well with health (hello Sap Magic so pick up Warmog's Armor at some point. Force of Nature provides movement, substantial regen, and more MR. Aegis of the Legion gives your team one of the best buffs in the game and is the most cost effective items in the game.

Counter Items:
Sometimes a cook cutter build won't work, especially as a tank. If a carry gets out of hand you very well may have to swap one type of reduction for the other on the fly. Or, sometimes you may need to pick up a unique ability to counter a specific composition (for example Quicksilver Sash to negate CC). If this is the case use the path and table bellow to make an informed decision in terms of gold effectiveness where to make a swap.

Against AP path:
Philosopher's Stone -> -> -> -> ->

Against AD path:
Philosopher's Stone -> -> -> -> ->

Item Table
This table uses the cheapest one stat items to calculate gold efficiency (rounded). Armor is valued at 20g per 1 point of armor from Thornmail, MR is valued at 25g per 1 point of MR from Quicksilver Sash, and health is valued at 3.5g per 1 point of health from a charged Warmog's Armor

The efficiency number is the most important one in the table. In terms of only health, MR, and armor it tells you how gold efficient an item is. The negative values indicate a more expensive than average ability or aura on the item. The green values indicate a cheaper than average aura or ability on the item. So for example, if you are getting steam rolled by heavily magic based champ consider a green item with MR.

Also it is important to note: that the most cost effective items are the unbuilt ones. That means if things are going bad early game, it's often better to buy a Chain Vest, Cloth Armor, and a Negatron Cloak rather than a higher tier item. Provided you have plans to upgrade them later.


Main BuildX
Shurelya's Reverie XX
Cost: 2000g
Efficiency: 0g
Cost: 2715g
Value: 2562g
Efficiency: -153
Cost: 3075g
Possible Items

*effective health is your health equivalent to champion with out any armor.

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- Greater Mark of Attack Speed: This rune is extremely important. First it speeds up early game jungling by incredible margins. It also allows you to get Sap Magic off end game in team fights much easier. And there aren't really any other good rune choices for a non-AP based maokai.

- Greater Seal of Armor: These runes are standard for tanks and junglers.

- Greater Glyph of Ability Power and Greater Quintessence of Ability Power: These runes are mostly for early game clear speed. To do the wraith start you need at least 19.5AP, which is what this amount gives you.

- Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist: These glyphs are a matter of preference. You can get more AP glpyhs or CDR glyphs if you prefer for early game power. I like shielding because the standard build is a tad light on MR.

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Why as a tank do I go so far into utility?

Let's compare what Maokai gets from utility verse standard jungling masteries:
- Intelligence is 6% CDR and needed to reach the CDR cap of 40% and allows him to do a much faster route to lvl 4
- Greed and Wealth : Lets maokai start with an extra healing pot, which allows for lvl 4 ganks with nearly fully hp and the gp5 is very important since maokai normally gets only one gold item.
- Resistance gives 6MR.
- Awareness : Helps maokai keep up with solo lanes xp.

What he loses:
- Veteran's Scars and Durability : a loss of 138 health.
- Initiator : Maokai will have pleanty of movement with Force of Nature and Shurelya's Reverie
- Enlightenment by lvl 18 maokai will reach the max amount of CDR, 40%
- honor gaurd: This equivalent to about 150 health with this build. This is the first real sacrifice by not going into defense.
- Juggernaut :This is about 100 health and a less CC reduction, it's the other big hit.

So let's review:
you gain: needed CDR, GP5, extra XP, and a much much stronger first few levels.

you lose: about 400 health, CDR that will be worthless since it will take you past 40%, and movement speed when you really need it the least.

The 400 health is the only real concern, but this build ends with about 4,000 health which is plenty.

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The choice of summoner spells and ability order focus sustaining your jungle without blue buff and being a devastating ganker.

Summoner Spells:
Flash: This is excellent on maokai, it doubles the range on his Twisted Advance, which doubles the range you can gank at. If flash is up they pretty much need to be standing on a tower for you to be unable to gank them.

Smite:Always always always get Smite if you jungle. I don't care if you don't need it. It makes jungling faster. It secure Barron and dragon. It is key for counter jungling. Take Smite or you're playing wrong, always no mater what.

Possible substitutions for flash:
Ignite: If your team doesn't have a lot of people who took ignite consider this. Or, if a lot of lanes have good gank possibilities (non pushers and good CC)

Ghost: I take this if I'm concerned i'm gonna need to get around the map a lot. Like if i'm verse rammus, or I'm scared about one of our lane match ups. Another time I consider this if they have strong runners, such as riven.

- Arcane Smash: This is leveled first because it's your strongest form of CC and it's your most mana effective attack. Leveling this first allows maokai to jungle without blue, giving it to your mid.

- Twisted Advance: This is leveled second mostly because it adds snare time. Your focus with abilities should be disruption, not damage. And even if you are concerned with damage twisted advance is much more reliable than sapling toss.

- Vengeful Maelstrom: This ability is great if you learn to place it properly. I more often place it on my carries than my self. There is no point in putting more than one point into it early as they only increase damage and lower its cool down. With this build you won't get it's damage up enough to mater and the lower cool down isn't needed.

- Sapling Toss: Level this last because it's unreliable damage. It's main uses are jungling (mostly while you have the blue buff, excellent early game damage for ganks, which you shouldn't past first), mini-wards, and poking before team fights.

Sap Magic: This is honestly one of the best passives in the game. In a team fight it's always up. If you learn to right click between abilities you will be shocked how much health you get back. Procing sap magic separates good maokai's from great maokai's.

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Smart Casting:

Smart casting is very important for maokai. If you smart cast a spell you no longer click and use the target icon; instead it is cast where ever your mouse curses is over with out clicking. This may not sound like a huge a deal but it is, it significantly speeds up how fast you can chain spells, which is important on a champ like maokai.

To enable smart casting join a game (I recommend creating a custom game with all bots to play around with it). Hit Escape, then Key Bindings, and find the "Smart Cast Spell #" options, click them and replace spell 1,2,3 and 4, with q,w,e, and r respectively. I also smart cast my summoner spells and items. This change will be odd at first but it will improve your game play if you get used to it.

Range indicators:
You can actually have the best of both worlds. You can have range indicators display while you are holding a key down and have the spell cast when you let go. To cancel the spell right click anywhere. To enable this follow these steps:

C:\Riot Games\League of Legends\RADS\solutions\lol_game_client_sln\release s\\deploy\DATA\CFG

1) Open game.cfg
2) Find "SmartCastOnKeyRelease=0"
3) Change the 0 to a 1.
4) Save the file.