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Maokai Build Guide by FunnyBunnyH

Support Maokai (Tank) Support S13

Support Maokai (Tank) Support S13

Updated on January 9, 2023
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League of Legends Build Guide Author FunnyBunnyH Build Guide By FunnyBunnyH 3,120 Views 0 Comments
3,120 Views 0 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author FunnyBunnyH Maokai Build Guide By FunnyBunnyH Updated on January 9, 2023
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Runes: Standard Runes

1 2
Resolve
Aftershock
Font of Life
Bone Plating
Unflinching

Inspiration
Biscuit Delivery
Hextech Flashtraption
Bonus:

+10% Attack Speed
+6 Armor
+8 Magic Resist

Spells:

1 2
Standard Summoners
LoL Summoner Spell: Flash

Flash

LoL Summoner Spell: Ignite

Ignite

Threats & Synergies

Threats Synergies
Extreme Major Even Minor Tiny
Show All
None Low Ok Strong Ideal
Extreme Threats
Ideal Synergies
Synergies
Ideal Strong Ok Low None
Introduction
-About me: I am a Maokai Support (near)OTP who plays under the alias - FunnyBunnyH in the EUW server. I picked up the game in S10 and over these few years I accumulated over a 1000 SoloQ games on the Mighty Tree as a support, while climbing to Diamond rank (661 games with a 57.3% WR in S12).

-The reason for this guide:
When I was browsing for support specific Maokai guides, I couldn't really find a really in-depth guide that is also up-to-date (a lot of them still focus heavily on the AP build despite the nerfs and the rework, or is centered too much around Deadman's Plate rush.)

-Why Maokai support:
Maokai in my opinion is probably the best all-rounder tank support in the game. He has a ton of CC, great both as an engage- or peel support, amazing at establishing vision thanks to his saplings, and his kit is overall very well suited for objective centered metas (the ones we have in recent years).
This was very evident in S12, when every other tank support was struggling vs the enchanter favoured support meta, Mao was the only tank that managed to keep a consistent 50-51% WR (even if it was by a smaller playerbase).
Pros and Cons
-Pros:

    Strong CC/utility (suitable for any comp)

    Good Vision Control

    Easy to execute kit (beginner friendly)

    Strong Scaling (dmg and survivability)

    Is a flex-pick (less counterpicking)

    Good synergy with almost any lane partner

    Not many hard matchups/counterpicks

    Not often picked/banned

-Cons:
    weak lvl 1/2 (certain 2v2 matchups can be difficult early game)

    low influence in games where your team is behind
    (if your team has not enough dmg, your engages don't really work)

    Requires a stronger matchup knowledge than traditional Tank supports
    (Maokai's early sustain is weak and he doesn't have dmg mitigation in his kit so you need to be more thoughtful of your engages in lane)
Standard Runes
Resolve+ Inspiration is the most commonly used rune-set when building tank, and for a good reason.
Both help to mitigate the biggest issues Maokai has, survivability when engaging and early mana sustain.

Maokai, unlike traditional tank supports doesn't have any damage mitigation in his kit, so he heavily relies on the extra resistances Aftershock provides, especially when engaging against multiple opponents. You also have good "sticking power" with your kit, so you can reliably land the damage part of the keystone as well.

From the 2nd row neither rune is really amazing, but overall Font of Life is the most reliable choice. Demolish is an okay rune if you have a favourable bot 2v2 matchup, but you can't really know for sure if you get the chance to proc it in lane, and it's value is somewhat limited once the plates are gone.

3rd row all options are decent, Bone Plating is useful at every phase of the game, but if you have a lane where you are not really under a threat of dying, you might wanna opt for Conditioning. Second Wind is usually picked vs double poke, but your passive and the two pots should be enough sustain early if you are not eating every skillshot/letting your opponents constantly aa you, so I would still opt for the other two in those matchups.

From last row all can work as well. Unflinching helps vs CC since we don't really wanna opt for Tenacity boots, but if enemy team doesn't have much, then both Overgrowth and Revitalizeare good options to amp your passive and FoL healing.

From Inspiration we want to have Biscuit Delivery as Maokai runs out of mana early on rather quickly even with a conservative mana management.

For the 2nd option every minor rune outside of Magical Footwear has some merit to it. (As a support you wanna have boots early on to move around faster, and Mao also relies on MS a lot to be able to catch people with his W, as it's rather short range.)
I personally prefer Hextech Flashtraption as it gives me more flexibility at engaging/roaming, helps with warding over walls/ in enemy jgl, and there are a lot of situations where a fight transfers over terrain which Maokai can't follow by default unless he manages to catch someone with W.
If I were to opt for something else, it would probably be Cosmic Insight for more frequent flash/ignite usage.
___
For secondary tree you can opt for Sorcery as it also covers your mana issues with Manaflow Band, but overall Biscuit Delivery is more reliable, even if it provides slightly less bonus mana. If I were to choose this option, I would personally pair it with Celerity for the extra MS, synergises well with Boots of Swiftness and items like Dead Man's Plate, Turbo Chemtank or Force of Nature.
Comet Runes
As I mentioned in the notes, I only take this runepage vs double poke lanes. These are the likes of Lux/Senna/Brand/Xerath/Ashe...etc

While you still looking to all in onto these champions as you have good kill pressure once you unlock your W(+Q)+Ignite combo, Arcane Comet+ Scorch helps to relive some of the early pressure these double ranged lanes can put on you and your ADC, especially during lvl 1.

Eating one empowered Sapling does about 1/3 of the HP of these squishier champions when you run Comet, which increases your kill potential at lvl 2 a lot.

Since we run Manaflow Band as well, we can also spam our saplings more freely, even throwing at enemies not near the bushes.

You probably noticed that I opt for Celerity over Transcendence, this is just a personal preference, as I value MS over AH and because it synergises well with Boots of Swiftness.

Haven't experimented with it personally, but Waterwalking can also be decent instead of Scorch.

___
The main thing to keep in mind with this Rune set is that we do sacrifice some survivability in the later stages of the game, so only opt for it if you are sure the lack of Aftershock won't hinder you in the bigger fights.
Summoner Spells
By default you should pick Flash and Ignite.

One great thing about Maokai support is that he offers insane kill-pressure in lane once he unlocks both his Q + W, and Ignite dmg is usually a difference maker between being able to burst down an enemy or not. It also helps vs any healing they might have with an utility support or Heal summoner.

Exhaust is generally taken with teamfights/later stages in mind, when you have a specific assassin/dmg threat you want to shut down.

Since Maokai generally doesn't have very one sided 2v2 bot matchups (and even in those you can "fish" for openings), you generally want to keep your chances of securing early kills in lane, this is why Ignite is taken as the preferred summoner.
Starting items/Boots
-Starting item:
The standard choice is Relic Shield. Even for the AP build I prefer to take it over Spellthief's Edge, because you can stack it more reliably. Also since Mao isn't amazing at the earliest lvls, your ADC can struggle to last hit in certain 2v2 matchups, so it's nice to be able to help out.

Also most 2v2 matchups allow us to look for an early lvl 2 all in with W+ignite, and having the minion execution passive, helps to secure the lvl advantage over our opponents.

Steel Shoulderguards is an alternative, it's generally taken with Dead Man's Plate in mind, as with that build you tend to AA more in skirmishes.

With the recent Maokai rework though, even our E has a reasonable AP scaling on it, so you generally prefer the AP variant of the item. And while Dead Man's Plate build path is still a viable choice, it's not really required anymore for Maokai support to work.

___
-Boots:
Boots of Swiftness is the most commonly built/optimal choice.
One reason is it's price, compared to the defensive options it costs 200g less, which might not look like a lot, but on support budget every gold counts.

Another reason is that while Maokai has great target lockdown and sticking power with his kit, he can struggle to get the initial engage going, because his W is rather short range. The extra MS helps a lot in this regard.

And one last reason is that our Sapling's MS does scale with our own MS, so it buffs our E slightly.

Defensive options like Mercury's Treads or Plated Steelcaps are taken only in very specific situations (Ton of CC on enemy's side,(multiple) high AA-based dmg threats), and even in those cases you want to consider if the extra defense/tenacity is worth sacrificing your mobility.
Core items
-1st item/Mythic: You want to opt for Evenshroud most of your games.
The Tank Mythics that were added in the current Preseason aren't really suitable for the support budget at the moment, and overall don't really provide the same level of utility that Evenshroud's 10%dmg amplifying passive does.

You are also exceptionally good at using this item, as every ability outside of your E procs the passive, and it applies it on being CC-ed as well. As someone who likes to throw himself into the opposing team in teamfights, this is also a very valuable part of the item.

Locket of the Iron Solari is taken on rare occasions, where peeling for your carries takes priority over engaging, but nowadays most ADC-s run Exhaust themselves for these types of games, and the %dmg amp is generally just too valuable to give up for Locket's shielding ability. Not to mention the inferior mythic passive.

___

-2nd item: Most games you want to build AR. Evenshroud already provides you with some MR, and generally most comps lean towards AD dmg in their dmg profile. Not to mention that as a tank, you are not really the primary target of AP casters.

Thornmail and the recently "reworked" Sunfire Aegis are both great options.
They are one of the cheaper Tank legendary items, offer good stats, and help us to dish out more dmg/take down opponents easier.

Thornmail is a bit more commonly built, because the current meta is full off Bruisers/Juggernauts with a lot of sustain/healing, and utility supports with healing in their kit are also very popular.
Maokai is very good at applying the 40% anti-heal with his kit, making it a very reasonable buy vs such opponents. It also offers a bit of damage with it's passive, which is ofc amplified by Evenshroud.
Has a good build path with Giant's Belt component, which even by itself is a very strong item-spike for 950g. <<- you generally want to build this prior to Bramble Vest, as the AR component isn't really reliable anti-heal anyway, and also makes you less tanky overall than the extra HP.

Sunfire Aegis with it's lowered price became an excellent AR alternative for games where the enemy sustain isn't that big of an issue. While it offers 10 less AR than Thornmail, it makes up for it in the extra 150HP it provides, and the more potent damage as well (which ofc synergises well with our Mythic).
Has a reasonably solid build path as well, with Bami's Cinder's cost being reduced to 1000g, and the very strong Chain Vest component, which provides an amazing 40 AR for just 800g.

___

-3rd item: You generally build the item that suits your gamestate the most, but since most games you opt for an AR item as 2nd, you probably want to buy an MR item to make you more durable, especially that around the time you start building your 3rd item, is when most AP casters hit their bigger power spikes.

My primary choice is Abyssal Mask as most games you will be tanky enough with your HP pool and the 49-58 bonus MR this item provides on average.
While it might not be the strongest MR item you can get, it really works well with your damage oriented build. It's "Curse" passive reduces your opponents MR, and since most of your damage is magic damage, it can really amp your late game DPS. Since it's rework it also provides a bit of extra sustain which never hurts.

In games where the enemy AP threat is more potent, you probably want to opt for a quick Negatron Cloak instead, as it's the cheapest and most efficient MR component in the game, and build Force of Nature from it as the game progresses. This item is very good vs consistent AP dmg and counters items like Liandry's Anguish or Demonic Embrace.

An alternative is Turbo Chemtank. It is slightly weaker vs consistent AP dmg, but offers +150HP, is 100g cheaper, and it's also a great engage tool for more slippery/mobile opponents.

___

-4th item: Most games I prefer to go for Vigilant Wardstone because being able to buy Control Wards late game is a very powerful ability, and this item not only allows you to store more wards, but also to place more on the map.
It only costs 1100g, and beside the very useful warding passive, it gives you around 280-300 bonus HP and some extra AP/AH as well.

This item also can be bought as 3rd item if you don't want to/are not able to complete the item you originally planned as 3rd. A component like Negatron Cloak or Spectre's Cowl can be strong on their own, and this item does provide the extra HP you would get by finishing those items into a Legendary item.

In certain games you might want to have some extra resistances instead, but overall Wardstone is a very strong 4th item option with it's utility and it's cheap price.
Dead Man's Plate
-A few thoughts regarding Dead Man's Plate rush:

This used to be the most popular build choice when tank Maokai support really started to gain popularity. The main reason was, that back in S11, there wasn't really a suitable mythic for Maokai, at least not one that was worth building early.
This item provided good survivability, mobility, and since the meta build included old Abyssal Mask as a 2nd item for it's %dmg amplifier passive (current passive of Evenshroud), you generally didn't mind that it only offered AR as resistance.

Since then Evenshroud was added to the game to provide a Mythic for tank supports whose gameplay is more centered around engaging, while Dead Man's Plate lost some of it's stats/dmg.

Considering the massive price difference and how strong of an item Evenshroud is at the moment, I can't really say it's justified to build Dead Man's Plate, at least not as a priority item.

That being said, I want to address some advantages of the item:
-It does offer reasonable single-target damage once completed, and the meta build still includes Evenshroud as a core, so this damage also gets amplified.

-The Winged Moonplate component allows you to not rush Tier2 boots before 1st item completion, as Boots MS combined with the 5% MS bonus basically gives you the same amount of MS most T2 boots would provide, and the completed item also offers extra MS because of its stacking passive.

__
Overall I would consider building this item only in games where I don't really need the early MR component of Evenshroud, so basically very AD skewed comps.
Since the item offers enough MS on it's own, you are not forced to default to Boots of Swiftness, which means you are able to build Mercury's Treads as an MR option, and focus with your build on stacking AR.

In general the extra dmg you and your teammates are able to deal in fights with Evenshroud at a cheaper price, is worth more than the burst dmg Dead Man's Plate can provide vs a single target, and the extra MS doesn't really make up for it in my opinion. But it still remains a viable buildpath.
Situational items
While I briefly mentioned some of these items already, I want to quickly go over them a bit more in detail.:

- Force of Nature: This item is a bit of an outlier, because unlike the other items on the list, this one isn't really niche in it's use.
This item is by far the strongest MR item in the game. While it might not offer as much HP as its counterparts, it does offer 70 MR in return and it's passive is super helpful to mitigate burn items and consistent damage dealers such as Brand, Cassiopeia, Azir...etc
If you face these types of champions, then you probably should swap out Abyssal Mask in your build. While I do consider Abyssal Mask a very strong MR item as well, it's main function is to amplify our damage on top of being a defensive item. Some games though you are better of sacrificing that extra dmg for better durability.

- Turbo Chemtank:The main reason I did include this item, is because it's the cheapest MR tank item in the game atm, and does offer reasonably good stats with a solid build path, thanks to the Negatron Cloak component. In games where you are fine without Abyssal Mask's extra dmg and don't really face consistent magic dmg, this can be a good alternative. And it does have a useful active.

- Frozen Heart:While I do consider this item as a very solid Tank item (even with it's recent price change), generally you don't want to build items on support Maokai which don't offer you HP.
Main reason is that you are generally under lvl-ed compared to the other roles, so you will have much less HP to begin with.
On top of this you also have less gold to spend/less items to buy, so you kind of fall behind if the few items you invest in don't have bonus HP on them.
And your passive/sustain also scales of your Max HP, so you lose out on durability twice with items like this.
That said, in certain games vs a hyperscaler like Yi/Jax/Vayne/Kindred...etc you can include this item as a 3rd/4th late game item, but overall it remains a very situational buy, especially with the slightly increased price.

___

A few items that didn't make the cut, but worth mentioning:

- Anathema's Chains: This item is great when the enemy team doesn't really have multiple damage threats, or only one dmg threat of a single damage type. It offers a ton of HP and is very cheap. I generally use it as a pseudo-MR item, but can be okay vs AD as well.
My biggest issue with the item is that it can be very frustrating to bind it to the ideal target late game, if they play around vision/fog, and it also takes some time to ramp up.

- Spirit Visage: This item is very niche and the only reason worth mentioning is because it does synergise with our healing passive. With Turbo Chemtank offering better stats for a cheaper price and Force of Nature being a superior MR item, there isn't really a situation where you would opt for this item on support Mao.

- Randuin's Omen:This item used to be super bad last season, this season they made it into a slightly more appealing item at the cost of a price increase and a slightly weaker dmg reduction.
Sadly this made the item less affordable for support. It's competing against Thornmail/ Sunfire Aegis with an extra 300g in price, while offering worse stats or utility than those. Probably won't see many Maokai support games without some further changes to it.
Matchups
-Matchups:
As you probably noticed, I didn't include many of them, and most of them aren't even supports.

One of the greatest thing about Maokai support is that unlike other, traditional engage supports, he doesn't really struggle in isolated 2v2 matchups because he does have a ranged ability despite being melee.

In melee vs melee matchup you basically go toe-to toe vs all except Blitzcrank*, and the dynamic of the early fighting is usually decided by who has the more dominant ADC and who secures lvl 2 1st. Even if a champion like Leona/ Nautilus/ Alistar is slightly stronger than you in lane, both your sustain and your DPS massively outscales them as the game goes on, which gives you an overall edge against them.

*(Blitz hook can isolate either you or your ADC in an 1v2, but even this matchup is favourable for you overall if you have both W+Q unlocked, depends ofc on the ADC picks).

In ranged matchups you can keep the enemy out of bushes with your E (Which makes their poke more dodge-able both for you and your ADC) and if you can secure the lvl 2 advantage (generally you should because of the support item difference), you can try for a quick all in onto one of them with W+Ignite, especially if they are already chunked a bit by your Saplings.

As I mentioned earlier, Taric is the only "official" Maokai counter. He pretty much does the same you do in lane, except his sustain is superior, and he even shares it with his ADC, so it's very hard to win out on trades, if the enemy duo doesn't misplay.
The only advantage Mao has over Taric is that he is better at ganking other lanes because Taric's CC is very situational/hard to coordinate with randoms.
In teamfights his ult basically shuts down your ult/engage, so you either burst your target before his ult charges up, or you have to wait out the 2.5s invulneribility, which is a rather big window for them to kill you and your teammates.
Luckily Taric is a very unpopular pick even above Plat+, so you won't play this matchup often, and when you do, you always have the option to dodge as well.

With the rise in popularity of Heimerdinger(the only reason you are allowed to hate on DRX), Maokai players were quickly reminded how annoying this champion is regardless of which lane you meet him.
Unlike other poke supports, you can't really scare him out of bushes, because your Saplings target the closest enemy to them, which are his turrets and not him, and it takes quite a few E-s from you to actually take them down, so you are generally better not bothering with them and just play towards the river side of the lane. Your best bet is to survive lane without feeding (he is annyoing, but doesn't do that much dmg if you don't get stunned by his grenade), and be more useful at roaming/teamfighting than him. Side note - this is one lane where you might consider taking Comet over Aftershock.

Caitlyn is one of the few ADCs which can force you and your ADC to play more passive at earliest lvls. While you have your E to counterpoke her and her support, it does have a relatively high CD, something Caitlyn'S autoattacks don't have.
If you make it to lvl 3 without getting chunked down too much, you can try to punish them with W+Q+Ignite, as both she and the ranged support she is usually paired with is rather squishy.
You generally do well vs the likes of Lux/ Morgana at later stages because of their squishyness and how well you scale, so overall these matchups aren't that bad for you outside of the earliest lvls.

Draven pretty much wins 1v1 in lane against any ADC because of his insane early dmg, so these lanes you are kind of forced to play passive early on regardless of the support matchup, but it's especially true vs another melee/engage/hook support, as they give Draven even more kill pressure.
You scale very well though, so if you don't feed him in lane too much, he won't be an issue at later stages of the game.

Samira/ Nilah overall very strong(S+ Tier) champions currently. Lane you might secure a lead, even a few kills, but one misplay is enough by your team during mid game, and they snowball out of control. Samira with her relatively high PR is ban worthy champ. Nilah sees less gameplay overall, but can be just as problematic to deal with.

Sivir Boring, perma-wave clear champion with a spell shield. If she and her support plays it safe, there isn't much you can do in lane, so try to roam and secure early objectives/kills elsewhere so she doesn't have an opportunity to scale into late game.

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Regarding synergies, Maokai is pretty much playable with all ADCs and even APCs, because he is very good both as engage and as a "Warden-like" peel support.
The only exceptions are probably Senna (You can't really farm for her) and Aphelios (he is rather weak early, and not many players are adept at playing him).

This and the fact that he doesn't really have terrible matchups makes him a very good/safe Blind pick overall.
Early game
E or W start?

-My general rule of thumb is that vs ranged supports (except Yuumi*) you should start with E.
The reason is, your E is the only thing that stops a ranged support from perma-harassing you and your ADC at lvl 1, and forcing you off the wave.
Without it, you can't really push for lvl 2 advantage using your support item ((unless you have a lane bully ADC, and enemy is weak at lvl 1)), which would be a mistake as lvl 2 vs ranged is one massive spike for Maokai.

-E start also helps you with placing a ward in the enemy jungle, to get info on the enemy Jungler's pathing. This information can dictate how aggressive you are allowed to play the lane early on, so it's very valuable.

-Generally if my team wants to invade at lvl 1, I tell them that I Need my E for the early lane, and I only agree to invade (W start), if I think we have the champs for it, and the enemy doesn't have many tools to counter us. Otherwise just ping them off from doing it.

*Vs Yuumi you should always start W. One reason is that your E is pretty useless against her, because she is sitting on the ADC. The other reason is, that once she detaches, you usually can surprise her with W start, and CC her for a good amount of dmg, especially that most of the time she will start Q, so won't have E to heal/mitigate it. W start into Q also allows for quick lvl 2 plays even against her ADC, which should secure you an early push.

-Vs melee both E and W has its merits.
E still helps with bush control, which can be useful vs catchers/hook champions.
W start means you get your W+Q combo quicker, and is usually preferred if you have the stronger ADC, to look for lvl 1-2 plays.

If you are unsure about a specific 2v2 matchup, you can always start E as a safe option, and wait for lvl 3 to get your full combo.

If the enemy has an aggressive ADC like Draven, Tristana, Kalista...etc paired with an engage/hook support, you probably better of playing it safe, and wait for lvl 3 with plays, unless you also have a strong ADC, in which case you should try to contest the lvl 2, but only if you are confident in your knowledge of the matchup, and in your execution. "It's better to be safe than sorry".

Your basic combo is W onto enemy champ, Q towards your ADC (to separate the support and ADC) and ignite them. This usually secures a kill vs most champions, especially if they weren't full HP to begin with.
(You can AA after Q/ignite if they still in your range, Aftershock dmg also should go off in time, but the important part is to get the Q direction off properly and in time - your W is a very short CC, so Q has to be pretty quick). Not very hard to learn, 5 mins in Practice Tool should do the trick.

Once you have your entire W+Q combo and have Ignite available, there aren't many champions that you don't have kill pressure on with the help of your ADC, but it's especially true vs ranged/squishier supports.
Unless the wave is very close to their tower or you/your ADC is very low, you should always at least consider an all in.
When you have Flash available as well, you can engage from even further, and if you took my advice and equipped Hextech Flashtraption, you can be more "liberal" with your standard Flash usage, as Hexflash from bushes still allows for you to engage from range.
The only drawback of not having Flash up, is you are more easy to gank by the enemy jungler, but since you have your E for vision, this isn't an issue most of the times.

To have more successful engages from the lane bushes, you should get Oracle Lens either by backing until 0:55 after you placed your 1st ward (this still gives you time to help with leashing your jungler if they need it) , or after your 1st back.
This will also help in case you want to make a quick gank attempt at mid after your 1st back.
Later stages/General tips
This is not "Maokai-exlusive" but on your 1st back, buy Boots and this is the latest time you should equip Oracle Lens. This will unlock your roaming potential to some extent, also helps to rotate faster between lanes/objectives.

Ideally you want Boots, Ruby Crystal, Control Ward at your 1st back, but as long as you get Boots, you are fine.

I generally get Boots of Swiftness before finishing Mythic, but I have at least one of the main components ( Kindlegem/ Aegis of the Legion). Helps with better roams/rotation.

Maokai is very good at objective control once he hits lvl 6 because of his ult and saplings, so if your team isn't behind, you should generally look to secure early objectives with your jungler.

Use your saplings to check bushes, and use this to place deep wards in enemy jungle when you have some time to roam.

Maokai makes a great Warden with his Q(knockback ability), always play him according to what your team needs the most (engage/peel).

Vs Soraka/very stacked healing comp/very fed enemy drain-tank (Red Kayn/ Irelia...etc) you can consider rushing Thornmail as a 1st item. Usually depends on how many Ignites your team has, vs Soraka it's probably best to rush anyway, as it helps even in lane with Bramble Vest.

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Hope you find this guide somewhat useful, if you have any questions/feedback feel free to reach out to me in DM/Comment.

GL on the Rift, FunnyBunnyH.

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