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Maokai Build Guide by Trojan995

Maokai - The Chu8 Way

Maokai - The Chu8 Way

Updated on December 6, 2011
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League of Legends Build Guide Author Trojan995 Build Guide By Trojan995 82 17 341,237 Views 71 Comments
82 17 341,237 Views 71 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author Trojan995 Maokai Build Guide By Trojan995 Updated on December 6, 2011
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Hello, this is my third guide on Mobafire. However, this is my first based on a high elo player's build. If you'd like to read up on how Chu8 does it, click this link for his forum post on the matter.

NOTE: I am not copying Chu8 outright. I took his basic premise (trinity force-based), and I modified parts of it to my liking. I also wrote all of this myself and filled in the things Chu8 doesn't mention himself (summoners, masteries, skill sequence, etc.), so don't accuse me of plagiarism or any other such thing.

2nd Note: I'm not including a few sections for a few reasons:

- I'm not including a "situational item/item path" section because I cover that in my item section.
- I'm not including an "early/mid/late game" section because I cover everything that's not basic knowledge when talking about skills or "a few maokai notes".

Anyways, let's get down to business!
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A Few Maokai Notes

In this section, I'm just going to discuss a few simple facets of Maokai that I think are imperative to know when playing Maokai.

- Maokai belongs in the top lane.

Maokai, of all the lanes to be in, should be solo top. There's a few reasons for this:

1. His jungle ability is sub-par. He isn't exceptionally fast, he can be easily interrupted (he relies on planting saplings early, much like shaco's boxes, and thus they can be popped), and his build doesn't coincide with a normal jungler's build. All of these add up to ensure that maokai isn't optimal in the jungle.

2. He can't duo lane well in the current metagame. Currently, the best lane is support + AD carry bottom, so that the carry can farm to their hearts content and the support just heals whenever necessary. Maokai can't play the role of AD carry or support in this lane. There's really no reason for maokai to need to be supported (because of his self-sustain), so the AD carry position should go to someone who needs to farm but can't just heal themselves up like maokai can. Maokai can't support either, because he has no heal/shield and no way to really keep the carry protected, short of throwing himself at the enemy (which really can't and shouldn't be happening).

3. Maokai can mid lane, but that's usually reserved for a different type of champion. If you can't get solo top as maokai, definitely try and get mid lane. Most of the current mid laners are strong burst AP carries, and they focus on leveling up to level 6 as fast as possible so they can burst the enemy down before the enemy bursts them down. Maokai needs levels, but he cannot out-burst the mid mage at level 6 like more potent AP carries can. For this reason, mid lane isn't really optimal for maokai.

4. Solo top is perfect for maokai. In the current metagame, sustain is the name of the game. Maokai has some heavy sustain - his passive is surprisingly powerful, and he should start off with a regrowth pendant to make his sustain even better. He has a great kit for solo top, and it gives him farm (which he needs, to a degree) and levels (which he needs, to a degree). He's got good harass and good sustain, what else could you need for solo top?

- Maokai has strong burst potential, when used correctly.

Maokai has a skillset that gives him heavy burst. He has 2 CC's (his root and his ground pound), and a spell with massive base damage. The burst combo should go something like this:

(standard level 18, trinity force combo)

Twisted Advance
Sapling Toss
arcane smash
Trinity Force auto-attack proc

Altogether this should deal boatloads of damage. It has to be done FAST though. The reason this is done in this order is because sapling toss has a long cast animation and a long delay until it blows up, but once it does the burst damage is sick. So, maokai needs to use his 2 CC's to keep the enemy rooted in place long enough to take 350+ damage (with 0 AP) just from the sapling alone. After that, you're free to use your trinity force proc. The no-trinity force combo won't be much different.

(low level combo)

Twisted Advance
arcane smash
Sapling Toss

The reason the low level combo is different than the level 18 combo is because Twisted Advance gains CC duration as it is leveled up. So, before level 10 or so, your root duration is pretty piss-poor. You'll hardly be able to land a sapling toss right after if you're not quick, so the best thing to do is to get off both your CC's first and then cast sapling, then pray for a good hit. Stop using this combo at about level 10.

Something that might be worth noting is that this combo must be so fast, that smart cast could help. You could put it on all 3 spells to make it easier, but I find that smart cast on E makes it harder to lead the enemy when needed. So, if you find yourself having problems with mashing all your buttons fast enough to get a decent combo off, try out smartcast and see if you improve.
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Summoner Spells

Here's the summoner spells I use.

Flash is pretty much necessary on most/all champs nowadays. It's such a powerful spell, and it shouldn't be underestimated. This goes great with Twisted Advance - is an enemy out of range/running away? Flash - W - combo, and you just did heavy burst damage and locked the enemy down just long enough for your team to catch up. Flash basically does everything.

I'd put this spell on-par with exhaust. This makes it a lot easier to stay top lane and farm while your team accomplishes other things. Baiting dragon fights becomes a lot easier, as they'll see maokai top and assume they have a window of opportunity. Teleport onto that ward, throw down your ult and start throwing punches and they'll regret thinking you were stuck farming top for the fight. Teleganks are also a great thing, as it means you can pressure bottom lane while you're still pressuring top lane. Choose between this spell and Exhaust for your second summoner spell.


This is a very strong summoner spell that will make laning top much easier (getting hit hard? About to die? Exhaust dem mofos) and will really save your team in crisis moments. A team fight can be turned around by exhausting that fed champion to prevent too much damage from being done. This adds to maokai's CC and utility, and makes it so that once you Twisted Advance an enemy, they're not getting away.


Since the heal buff, it can be very useful on many champions. Basically anyone who needs to survive a bit longer, or wants to heal bait, can use it well. If you feel like heal is right for you, take it. Maokai can make great use of it, with his super tankiness.
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Row 1:

I put 3 points in Resistance and 3 points in Hardiness because the armor and magic resist are better than most other masteries you could invest in.

Row 2:

I put 4 points in durabiltity because the health late game will add up to be quite a bit.

Row 3:

I put 1 point in Veteran's Scars because 30 extra health for 1 mastery point is significant early game. I put 1 point in Evasion because even though it's only situationally useful, it will negate more damage and be overall more effective than, say, one extra health regen per 5.

Row 4:

I put 3 points into Initiator because... well, you're the initiator. That extra move speed will be very useful in many situations, and is not to be underestimated. I put 2 points into Enlightenment because CDR is very useful on maokai - your abilities are what define you as a useful champion.

Row 5:

I get 3 points in Honor Guard because it will reduce the most damage of any 3 mastery points I can invest.

Row 6:

I get 1 point in Juggernaut because it's the last mastery in the tree, and CC reduction is worth SO MUCH gold. 10% CC reduction? In game, you pay ~1200g (more or less, depending on which item you get) for 35% CC reduction. The health bonus is just icing on the cake.

In General:

I put 21 points into defense because it offers the most options for off-tanks, and maokai needs the defense more than he needs pure spellpower or any of the utility masteries.


Row 1:

I put 4 points into Mental Force because it's the only AP-oriented mastery in the tree.

Row 2:

I put 4 points into Sorcery, because cooldown reduction on maokai is s00per cool. and it's the only AP oriented masteries in this tree.

Row 3:

I take Archaic Knowledge because 10% spell pen is SO STRONG. Helps with damage so much. It penetrates so much magic resist. Believe me, it's cool.

In General:

I put 9 points into offense because the bonus damage and CDR gained will be far superior to the move speed ( Trinity Force + Initiator are enough), mana and regen (itemized for), and buff duration (good for baron buff, but otherwise you won't be a high priority for buffs, so it hardly matters). Basically, you want to be a threat and utility hardly helps you with that.
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Sap Magic: This is a very underrated passive. 7% of max HP is nothing to scoff at, and it's good for all phases of the game. Due to the current metagame being heavily focused on sustain (especially in the case of solo top champions), this spell makes maokai a competitive solo top champion. Some things to keep in mind about maokai's passive:

- Use Sapling Toss on the summoner's platform once or twice before heading to lane so you can charge your Sap Magic without wasting mana.

- Be sure to use this in fights often! During a long, drawn-out fight, you can get at least 2 charges off, maybe more. This becomes more second-nature once you get Trinity Force, but remember to sucker-punch people as consistently as possible to keep your health up in a fight.

arcane smash

Arcane Smash: A low-range skill shot that knocks up nearby enemies and slows people in a line. One of maokai's many CC's, this is mostly just useful for the knock-up. The slow is okay, but usually the enemy is running away too fast for it to be useful, and the range is pretty abysmal. Here's how to use this spell well:

- Combo it directly after Twisted Advance early game (when your snare's duration is low), and right after Sapling Toss late game (when your snare's duration is high).

- Regardless of whether you hit the enemies with just the line missile or the AoE knock-up, they will take the same damage. So don't aim to hit someone with the line missile (it's really not that effective; slow missile speed and poor range), but instead aim to just knock the enemy up. If you happen to hit some innocent bystander with the line missile, that's just a tiny bonus.

- Don't use this while chasing, because the animation will just slow you down and you won't get the slow off. The exception is when you can hit the enemy with the knock-up.

Twisted Advance: Definitely one of maokai's strongest abilities, this blinks maokai to the target enemy and roots them in place. Early game the root doesn't have a long enough duration to be absolutely useful, so it's mostly used for the blink. Later on the root will become long enough to be considered substantial, so using it for heavy CC later on is acceptable. Things to remember when using this spell:

- Directly after using this spell, it might be best to auto-attack once, either to activate Sap Magic or to hit the enemy with a Trinity Force proc. Don't do this if you're planning to full-combo though (using all your other spells).

- Don't forget you're untargetable when you're blinking to the enemy, so you can pop projectiles with it. Since the blink is really short-lived, though, it's not all too useful to use to avoid damage like Sanguine Pool. It takes really quick reflexes to pop a projectile as well.

- When running from enemies, you can Twisted Advance to a minion to get away from them. A great combo to use is to Sapling Toss over a wall to get vision on jungle creeps (golem, for instance), then to Twisted Advance to it to wall-jump and get away from the enemy. You can also just root the enemy to the ground to get away if they're especially close to you.

Sapling Toss: Maokai's best damaging skill, this has so much utility and damage combined. Good harass in lane, and if you land both the initial toss and the secondary explosion, you deal 480 + 100% of ability power! That's one of the strongest non-ultimate spells in the game, but it's hard to land. Some things worth noting about Sapling Toss:

- Toss one or two of these bad boys down before Golem spawns. The leash is incredibly strong when you do this and will greatly aid your team's jungler.

- Use saplings to face check a bush that might have enemies, just in case.

- While laning, throw a sapling into the bush in the river next to your lane. Do this ONLY when you're expecting a gank or someone is MIA, otherwise you'll waste too much mana. Also, put it in the bush because the sapling only lasts 35 seconds and you waste too much time to ward farther down the river.

- Use all the CC in your power to make sure both the initial landing damage and the secondary explosion damage hit, because if you do you deal SICK damage.

- When dragoning and baroning, throw saplings around to make sure the enemy isn't coming. Here's a map to show you where to throw the saplings:

Baron warding for blue team is relatively simple - if you get there early, throw one sapling in the bush behind baron to make sure the enemy doesn't Flash-steal baron. If you've got the time to throw down 2 saplings (only if you have the time), throw one in the bush connecting mid lane and the top jungle to make sure no enemies come that way.

Dragon warding for blue team is a bit more complicated. Depending on where the enemy was last sighted, throw your first sapling down at either the bush by mid or the bush by golem. If you don't have much time, just throw the sapling at the intersection between river by dragon and golem area. If you have time for a second sapling, throw it at whichever location you didn't ward first.

Dragon warding for purple isn't so hard. Just try and ward whichever direction you think the enemy is coming from. Ward deeper into the intersection of mid lane and bottom blue-side jungle if you have the time, but if you don't just ward the patch of tall grass directly next to dragon. If you suspect the enemy of trying to dragon steal, throw a sapling over the edge.

Baron warding for purple is just blocking the 2 places where the enemy might come from. The more time you have, the deeper you should put the saplings into their jungle. Don't put them far past the intersections, though, or else you might miss seeing an enemy coming to stop you. If you have time ward both with saplings, but if you don't it might be better to ward the marked bush closer to mid lane.

- The saplings last 35 seconds. Don't forget that.

Vengeful Maelstrom: A rather underwhelming ultimate, this doesn't do much but it has its uses. Here's how to best utilize maokai's ultimate:

- throw down Vengeful Maelstrom around your AP/AD carries. After that, Twisted Advance towards the first person stupid enough to step into it and pound away. That should attract a lot of enemies into your ultimate.

- Use whatever CC necessary to keep the enemy inside your ultimate when you're about to break it. Try to make sure your teammates know to fight inside it.

- Throwing down your ultimate at choke points can force the fight to exist inside your ultimate, at least temporarily.

- Use Vengeful Maelstrom while dragoning/baroning. Dragon/baron will deal damage to you and charge up the damage factor of your ultimate, while making it easier to kill the monster. If the enemy comes, you've already got a heavy-hitting ultimate for them. If not, you can use the damage to burst down dragon/baron.
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Skill Sequence

I start with Sapling Toss for a few reasons:

- good harass in lane
- good to charge up passive at fountain
- good to leash golem
- good farming tool
- good for defending against level 1 ganks
- good for sighting level 1 ganks

all of these add up to make it best to start with.


it's not always advantageous to charge up your passive at the fountain. Often times, while team fighting at level 1 you'll want as much CC as possible. If you expect a level 1 fight and you don't need the vision from your saplings, leave your skills unleveled.

If you need vision while fighting? Sapling Toss.
If you need CC while fighting? Twisted Advance.
If you need AoE CC while fighting? arcane smash.
Anything else? Sapling Toss.

Twisted Advance is going to be better single target CC mostly because you don't need good positioning to utilize it well. arcane smash might even need a Flash to accompany it to get it just right, somewhat like Alistar's Pulverize.

After level 1, I like to max Sapling Toss first. Most damage in lane, and other spells are used mostly for utility anyways. You'll want the extra damage when your jungler comes to gank.

I max Twisted Advance second because the snare duration scales with the level. Twisted Advance is primarily used for the blink and snare, so it's best. arcane smash is maxed last because the knock-up duration is constant throughout levels. The slow isn't, however, but we don't use arcane smash for the slow.

I max Vengeful Maelstrom whenever possible because despite being a bad ultimate, it's still and ultimate and I need it whenever I can get it.

The only time I'd deviate from this skilling order is to get a few ranks in Twisted Advance early on, because your jungler doesn't have enough CC perhaps. Either way, Sapling Toss is going to be best to level up.
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Marks: I take Magic Penetration marks because there's not a whole lot of primary marks available; those that are available are mostly AD oriented. The only ones that benefit mages is magic penetration. Since we're going for as much damage on spells as possible (as opposed to getting arpen for increased damage on Trinity Force proc), we get MPen marks.

Seals: I take flat armor seals because with this, you won't have to build armor until much, much later, and it makes the laning phase so much easier. You'll take virtually no damage against an AD champion, and even if you're against AP you'll mitigate lots of minion damage. These runes are great all around and they let maokai focus on building MR over armor.

Glyphs: I get scaling MR glyphs because while maokai's base armor is 90 (great base armor), his base magic resist is 30. This is why I build mostly MR items, and MR glyphs are primary. I go for as much MR late-game as possible, especially since your laning partner won't always be an AP champ (though it sometimes will).

Quintessences: I get one move speed quint just to give maokai that early game boost in speed, so you have the leg up on the enemy in terms of mobility. It certainly helps late game, but it'll play a larger role pre- Trinity Force.

I get 2 ability power quints so that maokai can have stronger harass and burst combo in lane. Since maokai doesn't get much AP in general, these will play a large part in the game early, mid, and late game. Mostly early game, where you deal OMGWTF damage with one sapling (~500+ damage at level 9).
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Regrowth Pendant: A great start to give more of what everyone wants solo top: sustain! More regen is more sustain, and sustain is what keeps us in lane and keeps us farming and wins us lanes solo top. It also means early philo stone, which is good for more farm earlier on and more mana regen too, which is even MORE sustain! Perfect start, yes?

philosopher's stone

Philosopher's Stone: Sustain! Sustain! GP10 so we don't even need to farm! Sustain so we can farm! And win against our enemies! Tenacity in the future!

...did I mention the sustain?

Quick defense has never been so easy. GP10 too, and it builds into Randuin's Omen later which is a fantastic armor item. I build this early so I get the most out of the gold-giving stats, and it's defense early enough so that I don't feel too squishy when I go for Sorcerer's Shoes and Trinity Force directly after.

Sorcerer's Shoes: All your spells deal magic damage. Thus, how do we increase your damage? Spell pen! Goes great with your marks.

I don't recommend any other boots for a few reasons:
1. You're building pure tank, short of Trinity Force and Sorcerer's Shoes, so Ninja Tabi are unwanted. Tenacity is covered by Eleisa's Miracle, and if we built Mercury's Treads we'd have to sell philosopher's stone. Maokai's damage should be focused more on burst than DPS, so Ionian Boots of Lucidity aren't optimal. Boots of Swiftness aren't needed between quints and Trinity Force, and Mobility Boots are definitely out of the question. Don't even mention Berserker's Greaves.

Trinity Force: Probably the most unexpected item in this build, this is also the most potent. Sporting everything maokai needs (because maokai needs everything), this does damage in the form of AD, crit, AP, and on-hit proc, mitigates damage (through health), speeds maokai up, slows others down, and is all-around badass.

I get this over Lich Bane for a few reasons. It's really difficult to stack AP on maokai; by the time the Lich Bane damage surpasses Trinity Force damage, maokai is either too squishy or the game is over. Moreover, Trinity Force provides utility in the form of the auto-attack slow, more move speed, and AD (not exactly core, but helpful since you should be auto-attacking as much as you can while spells are on cooldown).

Eleisa's Miracle:not much to explain about this - maokai is an off-tank, and since I didn't get Mercury's Treads I need tenacity. Since I got philosopher's stone, I build this for the tenacity.

Banshee's Veil: A great defense item that gives lots of great stats. I get this item mostly because otherwise I'm heavily lacking in the MR department (while my base armor is hilariously high), and I still need mana. Maokai's ultimate eats through mana, and prolonged fights (particularly prolonged Sapling Toss poking) will eat away at your mana. More mana makes a happy maokai. The health and MR are great defense, and the spell shield is just icing on the cake.


Spirit Visage: This item is only okay on maokai. Only okay. If it weren't for the heal boost, this would be a rather mediocre mid-game item. 10% CDR and a bit of health. So what? Maokai doesn't have a good enough heal on his passive to take advantage of the unique effect.

So, why even mention it? It works great with Heal. Spirit Visage takes Heal from "pretty cool summoner spell" to "pretty f*cking AWESOME summoner spell"! So, in short:

Only buy Spirit Visage if you took summoner Heal.

Randuin's Omen: Probably the best armor item in the game, this is the only armor item you should get unless you're going up against 4 AD champs (or 3 fed AD champs and 2 feeding AP champs). The active is great because you can get in between the enemies quickly with Twisted Advance. It builds from Heart of Gold too, so it's all-around great.


When armor isn't important to you (heavy magic team where the enemy carry isn't dealing much damage), and you'd prefer to get some armor combined with some damage, Sunfire Aegis is best. Deals damage, gives lots of health, and is relatively cheap. Even if you're planning on building this, buy a Heart of Gold early on. However, sell the Heart of Gold when you plan on buying this.

I chose Abyssal Mask as the last item, but I actually am going to list a few items for you to choose from for a last item, depending on the situation.

Abyssal Scepter: The item I'm most likely to buy last, this gives AP and more MR. Since I'm going for the whole "main tank/off-tank" build, this fits in perfectly. Having little more than 100 MR without it, Abyssal Mask finishes off the whole "high armor, MR, and health" package. The aura is beneficial to your team (after all, you'll be the one standing in the middle of the enemy team) and the AP is just a bonus. Great item to round off the offensive and defensive aspects of maokai.

Rabadon's Deathcap: The mother of all AP items, this gives the most AP in a single item. You should build this last if you feel you have sufficient defenses, and you just need to increase your offensive power.

It might be worth noting that you can actually build Rabadon's Deathcap whenever you feel that you can put 3.6k gold towards a pure offensive item. It's probably best if you don't build this before Trinity Force, or you'll be way too squishy.

Force of Nature: Still not enough MR? Build more MR! This gives tons of MR, and more move speed to boot. If you weren't fast enough already... Get this when you need more defense, because you don't have enough (lol). Odds are you don't have enough MR, but your armor levels are fine - which is why you build MR. Build this item against heavy magic damage teams.

Zhonya's Hourglass: The flip side of Abyssal Mask, build this when you want offense/defense in one item but you're having more trouble with AD champions.
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Well, thanks for reading!

I'll include an FAQ section once the questions start rolling in.

Also, one last thing: Maokai's role on a team is a solo top main tank/offtank. This means that you should be building heavy defense, but you still want enough damage to sting so the enemy focuses you.
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Maokai - The Chu8 Way

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