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Maokai Build Guide by IHatePylons

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League of Legends Build Guide Author IHatePylons

Maokai - Solo Top Tank

IHatePylons Last updated on July 4, 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: 23

Strength of Spirit

Utility: 7

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Maokai is an amazing true tank that can be built almost entirely tank without sacrificing damage. Maokai is the most varied champion I know, he can be built for jungle, as an AP nuker, a support, I built him once as an AD, or a hybrid tank/AP, I will focus on tank Maokai in this build, if your interested in any other way of playing check out the other builds available.
The objective of the build I present here is to create a team oriented tank that can protect allies, initiate team fights and still be scary to duel. I also attempt to cover some of Maokai's weaknesses to make him an all round good champ.

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Pros / Cons of Maokai and this Build

Pros of Maokai:
  • Fun to play
  • Strong lane character with great farm and great harras
  • Awesome damage with a small amount of AP
  • Can tank 1v5 for considerable periods of time in ultimate
  • Is a tree
Cons of Maokai:
  • Sloooooooooooow, even with boots
  • Low sustainability early
  • No escape mechanisms besides summoners
  • Requires a good team to be successful:
You can assist in this by correctly engaing and protecting your AD's, you should die before they do.

Pros of this build:
  • Invulnerability
  • Great initiation ability
  • High sustainability past level 10
  • An avid duelest, especially in the mid game
Cons of this build:
  • Needs gold - hence solo lane
  • Difficult against some lane opponents (Ugh, Mundo)
  • Requires liberal use of potions early
  • Becomes even more bursty (I put that here, but I prefer my bursty champ)

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Summoner Spells

I grab Ghost and Teleport as my summoner spells.

I use Teleport so that I can farm for longer periods of time and still be with the team in time for that crucial team fight where, because I am fed and cannot die, we easily dominate. Teleport is just good, and I wouldn't leave it behind ever.

Ghost is my second pick, and this one is up for more debate, Flash is a popular choice however I prefer Ghost because I can run from that annoying jungle Jax as he tries to gank me more easily than if I had a short teleport, I then can turn around and run Jax down after he has taken a turret shot or two and pick up a nice kill.

Other options I have seen for Maokai include:

  • Heal which I could see as a nice selection if you love dueling, if that is the case I would look for a more AP build, or replace Frozen Heart with Zhonya's Hourglass and Force of Nature with Abyssal Mask.
  • Exhaust is a good choice if your dominating in lane, allowing you to easily chase down your opponents and brutally murder them, while it is a niche spell and very situational.
  • Ignite is the final spell I might see IF you are doing an AP Maokai, for this tank build your just using up a valuable summoner spell.

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For runes I attempt to promote lane dominance early, while runes are most effective.


Greater Mark of Magic Penetration

Greater Seal of Scaling Mana Regeneration

Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist

Greater Quintessence of Ability Power

To this end I go for Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist to cover some of the naturally low Magic Resist that plagues Maokai. While we all agree that that is good the reason I don't go for flat MR glyphs is simple, by level 9 I have more MR than the flat ones, and I want to dominate my lane around level 12. 90% of the time (not a real stat, don't quote me) your opponent in top will be a solo top character as well, most of whom don't have amazing magic damage like you do. The difference that the flat vs per level runes make is negligible by level 6 because, lets be honest, level 1 spells are a waste of mana.

To continue my rampage in top lane I grab some Greater Seal of Scaling Mana Regeneration, the extra mana regen early helps make me a lot more of a bully in lane, lets be honest Sapling Toss wards and a Twisted Advance and Arcane Smash combo are both expensive, and I love using them both, lots.

My third rune choice is the Greater Mark of Magic Penetration because magic pen. Seriously though, magic pen really helps out in the early laning phase by giving your spells just that little bit of an edge, even if your opponent starts to stack MR.

Finally 3 Greater Quintessence of Ability Power for more even bullying power, and to allow my level 3 Sapling Toss to kill the caster wave outright, because nothing is more annoying than to walk up to them and punch those little buggers off the face of the earth when they should have DIED, UGH!

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Alright, after a nice cup of tea and some relaxing ocean sounds I am back.


For masteries I grab every sustainability, regen, heath, and damage reduction that I can. I skip out on Evasion because I am very tanky and I'm not scared of their AOE's and instead opt for Indomitable as I find that the flat damage reduction is more useful. I also go for Juggernaut as I am not getting Mercury's Treads most games and that make up for some of the tenacity loss.

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For items I have 3 phases I go through to determine what I grab.

Phase 1: Build up to Warmog's Armor

  • If I can finish Rod of Ages before level 12 I will go for it.
  • If I cannot finish Rod of Ages I will get a Heart of Gold and go for Warmog's Armor, skipping Rod of Ages entirely. I don't like to do this, but If I'm being shut down in lane in the end I am the tank and I need to be able to tank; entering the mid game with a half finished Rod of Ages is a great way to lose.

Phase 2: Where I build up resistance

After your Warmog's is done consider the enemy team:
  • Are they primarily AP or AD?
  • Are you scared of one champ in particular?
  • What are they building?
From this you need to decide Frozen Heart or Force of Nature (because you are one).
  • Generally I will go for the Force of Nature, as I usually feel the effects from magic damage more at this point in the game, and the heath regen buff is a nice bonus. After Force of Nature I buy Frozen Heart, other wise after you Frozen Heart build your Force of Nature
  • If you are fed, and there is no force on earth that can stop you I buy a Frozen Heart, or at the least a Glacial Shroud for the cooldown reduction to increase my damage output.
Phase 3: Where we win the game (If you haven't already)

After Frozen Heart and Force of Nature are done you need to assess your experience one more time and decide do you need more heath, armour, magic resist, or a little bit more of all of those?
  • If you answer armour I select Zhonya's Hourglass as my final item, the AP on it is great and it comes with a nice active, which I rarely need to use.
  • If the answer is magic is just killing me man, I have the answer for you: Abyssal Mask. It does great MR and has that nice buff that helps the entire team in team fights, generally this is my pick If I don't need anything late game.
  • What if I need heath, those bursty casters keep killing me! First of all, good work, your doing your job. Second get a Rylai's Crystal Scepter. Lots of heath and AP, plus an even more devastating slow from Arcane Smash.
  • If you need a bit of all of those I select Aegis of the Legion, Heath, MR, Amour and a buff for the team, the only disadvantage is the lack of AP that I look for in the last item. If your team already has an Aegis somewhere I get Guardian Angel instead.

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Skill Use

Just a quick note on the use of your Sapling Toss early. I use it primarily for utility: as a ward for ganks from river or to zone the brush, it is rare that I actually throw it at the caster wave for the gold, and when attacking someone remember throw it first then Twisted Advance in, it does way more damage if both effects hit your opponent!

PS: to leash with Maokai simply throw 2 saplings onto the camp when your minions have spawned and head back to lane, when the jungle spawns the monsters will try to attack you, and you take no experience from the jungler.

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Maokai is a strong champ with an uncanny ability to do everything your team might ask of him, from jungle to support. So let me know what you think of my tank build after you have tried it with a rating and a comment.
If I missed anything, or Something needs more explanation let me know!