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Maokai Build Guide by TJK Deity

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League of Legends Build Guide Author TJK Deity

Maokai: The Beast Among Men

TJK Deity Last updated on August 11, 2011
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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: 9

Strength of Spirit
Veteran's Scars

Defense: 0

Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 21

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Update 05/03:Changed my masteries to include dodge in the defense portion. The Ardor isn't useful enough to be included for a tank. I also changed my skill sequence to level Arcane Smash to its max before Twisted Advance, as I realized in general AS may help you more than TA.

Update 08/10:I've changed my masteries, runes, and items based on the gameplay I've been having over the past few months. Moving on to bigger and better things.

Maokai is quite a chaotic champion that can take quite a beating while putting out a good amount of damage, as well as bringing hefty support to the team. This guide will show you a build that works for me and a gameplay style that you may find useful.

I molded my Maokai based off of other guides I saw on here, so take what I have and mold it to how you want to play Maokai. I hope you find this useful!

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Pros / Cons


  • Can take a decent amount of damage.
  • Deals a good amount of damage.
  • Has a temporary ward (great for covering your flank). This ward is also pretty much a running mini-nuke.
  • Is great support in a team fight.
  • Has great health regenerative capabilities.
  • Very mana starved early on.
  • Pretty slow moving (unless you get boots with greater enhanced movement).
  • Won't be able to last as long in a team fight compared to a more defensive build

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To start off, I go with Greater Mark of Magic Penetration because Maokai is a AP tank after all, so most of his damage will be coming from his spells. Next, I got with the Greater Seal of Replenishment. Maokai is mana starved early on, so the flat mana regen definitely helps to keep him in lane longer. Some people may want to go with the per level seals, but with my item build mana regen isn't much of a problem later on.

Then we have our glyphs. For these I go with Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist, which are per level glyphs. I go per level on this one because Maokai really doesn't need a bunch of magic resist right away. Keeping his health up usually isn't much of a problem, especially with his passive ability there to help. The magic resist will be more useful later on.

Last, we have the Quintessences. Now, I see that most people go for the flat health quints. However, I've never seemed to have a big problem with not having enough health, so I go with three Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed. The extra movement speed you get makes catching fools much easier, as Maokai is generally slow. He has nice CC, but if you can't get close enough you can't stop these guys for your kill or your carry's.

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For masteries it's best to go 9/0/21 as I've come to learn. Maokai does some fat AP damage so he needs those offensive and utility buffs to mess people up.

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Summoner Spells

First of all, I use Flash for obvious reasons. it can really help you get out of trouble and can also help you get into the right kind of trouble. If you need to catch an enemy that is out of your Twisted Advance range, use Flash and nab them right afterward with your W.

The second spell I use is Exhaust, which is for catching little nubs trying to escape. It also prevents nubs from catching you as well. Your team will definitely appreciate the slow as well.

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Ability Usage

This is my strategy for each of his abilities.

Arcane Smash Arcane Smash

This is something that you will pretty much always follow with . This spell is great for disabling champions around you and can really save you and/or a teammate if you are being chased. It can also stop other champions from using their Ultimates, such as Katarina and Nunu. Also, combo'd with correctly, you can keep chapions in your turret range long enough to get a kill or to weaken them enough for your team to get a kill.

Twisted Advance

This will keep champs in their place. You will ideally want to use then immediately use this ability to lock people in their place while they not only take damage from your sapling, but also to set up Arcane Smash. Also, a nice fact about this ability is that when you activate it on someone and they use flash or a blink ability, you still complete your ability.

Sapling Toss

This ability will be your pride and joy, especially early on. Most people are unsuspecting to the sapling, so they don't realize that it really messes them up when they take the full damage from it. Early on I level this ability to (2) after I get my other two abilities. This ability has the most damage output per level out of all of his others, so it is ridiculously useful early on. If you can hit champs right, you'll be taking out at least a fourth of their health at (2). This ability is also amazing for farming as well, so more monies for you!

The EWQ combo will be your best friend once you either take someone's health down low enough or you have a teammate to back you up.

Vengeful Maelstrom

Your Ultimate is quite the useful ability as well. It helps your team fights majorly by reducing damage to your team and a percentage of that damage that your team does take will be whipped right back at the other team once your release it. This does damage based on your AP as well, so with that combined you can really turn the tide of the game.

The respawn on this is low enough that you can use it on single targets as well. For example, you may be doing your EWQ combo and the enemy is trying to get away. Pop your ult real quick ahead of where you are moving towards and release it right away to get that extra edge on your enemy. Hell, it may even kill them if they're low enough.

What's funny about your ult is that you can also scare people away if you want. If you're by yourself at the tower and you have two or maybe even tree enemies coming at you, pop that ult and they may just back off.

Sap magic

Your passive is what's gonna keep you laning or in battle for a longer period of time. After 5 champion abilities are used around you (which includes your own) you get this magical sap that heals you 7% of your max health when you hit an enemy with a regular attack. This does not include towers and will not be wasted if you are already at full health.

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I always start with Doran's Ring because it gives the mana regen that you desperately need early on. It also provides AP and health, which are great bonuses. The next item I always get is a Philosopher's Stone, which will of course give you more mana regen that you so desperately need, as well as some nice health regen and an extra 5 gold every 10 seconds. Yipee! After this I always get Mercury's Treads because it gives you some magic resist, some damn speed, and of course reduced slows, taunts, stuns, etc.

At this point it all depends on what the other team is all about. You gotta think about these things before you decide what's next. As a default you want yo get a Chain Vest to work your way towards a Sunfire Cape. However, if the other team has a lot of magic, you should just nerf them right away with a Negatron Cloak. After that, depending on how well you're doing it depends. I usually try to complete my Sunfire Cape first to get that extra damage out to everything that tries to get up in my grill. After that I may go get a Blasting Wand to start off my Rylai's Crystal Scepter or complete my Shurelya's Reverie.

Shurelya's Reverie is damn useful, as it gives you mana and helth regen, reduced cooldowns, and an active ability that increases nearby champions movement speed by 40% for 3 seconds. That active could make or break you and your team either getting away or catching a nub.

At this point I would be selling my Doran's Ring and replacing it with a Tear of the Goddess to work my way towards Archangel's Staff at a later time. This will be very useful for again, mana regen. It will also give you a good amount of mana, some AP, and a passive that converts 3% of your max mana to AP, which gives you a pretty good boost in AP. Not only that, but another passive that increases your mana each time you use an ability. It's just wonderful to say the least.

Getting your Rylai's Crystal Scepter will be crucial to this build, as it has a slowing passive that is really gonna help you and your team. Like I said before, depending on how the game goes I will get items sooner or later. This is an item that you may want to get sooner if you have the space or monies. The health it offers is just great to have, the AP is of course going to help, and the slow will do wonders.

The last item will depend on what I need. If I really really need some more armor then I will get a Frozen Heart. This will give me the armor I need while allowing me to harass people longer with the extra 500 mana. The 20% cooldown reduction is a major bonus and the 20% enemy attack speed reduction is a slight relief as well.

If I need more magic resist then I may go for an Abyssal Mask or a Banshee's Veil. If there is someone like Karthus or Ashe on the other team then I'll go for the Banshee's Veil. It has helped me countless times against those kinds of Abilities. Some people say that by the time Karthus uses his ult you will have lost your veil anyway so it's useless, but you never know. It may be on cooldown in the battle and then be available afterwards when you get ulted. Either way the magic resist is useful and the veil has its' advantages.

As for the Abyssal Mask, it gives you some good ol' magic resist and reduces nearby enemies magic resist so you can do more damage to them.

Alternative Items:

Void Staff is a good choice as an alternative for one of your offensive items. The magic penetration is great.

If the other team is giving you a bashing with their AP and you need a lot more recovery of health, go for Force of Nature. A combo of armor and magic resist, Guardian Angel may serve you well. It also revives you upon death when it's not on cooldown, so you may be able to come out of a nasty battle alive and escape or help your team win.

I haven't gotten to test this yet, but Lich Bane might be useful. I'm not sure if this build offers enough AP for it to work effectively, but it might just give you that extra boost you need in your melee attacks.

Quicksilver Sash is another one I want to try out. It gives you some magic resistance and has an active that removes all debuffs on your champion. That could really save you from death. The best part is is that you choose when you want it to remove the debuffs. Yes, you are in control.

Lastly, Randuin's Omen may serve you well defensively and has an active that can help you either get away or catch a nub.

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Other Strategy

Now some of you might think that Maokai can't lane alone if there's a jungler on your team or something, but he definitely holds his own. You will not be pushing to anyone's tower when you are laning 1v2, but that's okay. All I use are saplings when laning alone and it works. Eventually you run out of mana, but by the time the other team pushes to your tower again you will have another one ready, so they can't damage your tower at all.

Many people are pretty dumb and think that they can get in your face under the tower because you are one and they are two, but let me assure you that when they don't slow their roll you can slow it for them. Countless times the other team pushes too hard on me and either one or both of them get killed under the tower. You can hold off the other team until the jungler comes to help, at which point you should probably recall to get some well-deserved items.

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Maokai is a beast among men and if used right he can be very useful. I hope this detailed guide helped some of you in bulding your Maokai!

I'm open to suggestions of course, so please leave a comment if you have a suggestion of your own.