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Maokai Build Guide by Suitsuko

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Suitsuko

Maokai: The Offensive Tank

Suitsuko Last updated on June 14, 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: 21

Expanded Mind
Blink of an Eye
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 0

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Hi, this is my first guide, so please bare with me.

I am basically putting this guide together to hopefully increase my own understanding of Maokai and possibly to help others understand him too.

This is a blended AP/Tank build that I will be trying out, testing, and refurbishing as time goes along. I choose a blended AP/Tank build because all of Maokai's skills get an increase of power based on a percentage of his AP.

I welcome all feedback. Please feel free to add constructive criticism so that us Maokai players can master him more fully.

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Pros / Cons

The great things about Maokai:

    Awesome "Grenade" like skill
    Long range skills
    Can bomb tower hugging enemies

The NOT so great things about Maokai:
    Targeted often
    Not very nukey
    SLOW very slow
    Susceptible to ganks

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The runes I choose are primarily defensive, using Greater Quintessence of Health and Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist; with a slight hand in the offensive with Greater Seal of Scaling Mana Regeneration and Greater Mark of Magic Penetration.

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I went with a defensive mastery list utilizing the key defense masteries coinciding with some basic offensive masteries to help win the big team fights.

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The items I choose give a basic mixture of AP, Armor, and Magic Resistance, HP, MP, and some nifty abilities that can help increase survive-ability in team fights. As the tank, and the initiator, it is important to be able to survive the team fights.

Start out with the Sapphire Crystal to help add mana to Maokai since you will be harassing A LOT in your lane using which drains a lot of mana. This helps build the Catalyst the Protector which turns into the . The Rod of Ages is a nice addition because of the HP that you receive and the AP that is given once the item has been given time to fully buff you.

Before purchasing the Rod of Ages and after purchasing the Catalyst the Protector buy your shoes. Depending on what the other team is comprised of you want to build either or . The Mercury's Treads are used if you are playing against a mage heavy team that are building AP. The Ninja Tabi would be used against melee characters.

Real quick recap:

So far you have purchased

Next build another Catalyst the Protector as you start to work on building the . Banshee's Veil is a very nice accessory for magic resistance. This pendant gives Maokai additional HP and MP. It also has a very nice side effect which disables the next negative spell. This has helped me against Ashe's Enchanted Crystal Arrow and Alistar's Headbutt countless times. Basically, it can help you against the opposing teams CC ability.

Next to build is the . I like this item as a means to help me escape from enemies after loosing a team fight. If you happen to survive and there is someone trying to chase you down to get that ace or to just try to score another enemy kill, Frozen Heart can come in handy. This item offers more armor and more MP, both of which are something that Maokai can never have too much of. More MP = more Sapling Toss! This item is also a bit offensive when trying to WOMBO COMBO (see skill sequence). It can help keep an enemy in Maokai's ultimate Vengeful Maelstrom. However, that speed reduction is also helpful for escaping the enemy.

So far you have built:


After the Frozen Heart I tend to build a . This just helps with getting to the Randuin's Omen. The reason I build this instead of going for the Randuin's Omen right away is because by this time, I already have enough tanky items and feel the need to get more AP before getting Randuin's Omen.

So next purchase an for AP and magic resistance. And finally get . Randuin's Omen is a nice item because it can also decrease attacking enemies attack speed and movement speed. But it also has an active that can do the same. It's never bad too have too much slowing power. It's all about the survivability. Randuin's Omen offers more armor, HP, and HP regeneration.

Now you should have:


Basically the items are really just a way to help you lane more effectively. You don't really need any tank type items until mid game, so I start out with a bit of AP items to help you farm and kill any aggressive champions. Remember to play to the situation and build items that will help you in the game.

Some items that I would consider alternative for this build include more "umph" or more "sigh...that didn't really hurt".

"UMPH" Items (or items when you don't need that much defensive power to win the team fights):

"SIGH...that didn't really hurt" Items (or items when there is enough power on your team and the enemy team and you really need to be a tank):

*Quick note on Sunfire Cape and Thornmail. The Sunfire Cape is great when going head first and initiating the team fight since you will be right in the fray of all the commotion. This item deals damage to nearby enemies (nearby according to LoL standards). Which means initiating team fights deals more damage =). Thornmail deals damage to enemies that are auto-attacking you. This is nice against carry champions that harass using their auto-attack only. However, champions that cast a spell against you wearing the Thornmail will receive no return damage

Maokai has some great potential for dealing damage and getting those last hit kills or getting assists.

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Skill Sequence - The WOMBO COMBO

So basically we need to look at this from the perspective of advancing through the game. Therefore I will segregate this section into early-game, mid-game, and late-game.

But first lets discuss the skills that Maokai has been granted to us by RIOT GAMES.

This is Maokai's passive ability. Sap Magic Allows Maokai's next physical attack to regenerate his health once the summoner has completed requirement set by Sap Magic. The nice thing about Sap Magic is that it allows you to remain in a lane longer then most champions, so long as you play passive-aggressively. To receive the health regeneration, Maokai needs to have 5 spells cast near him. These spells can be his own, or that of a nearby champion.

Arcane Smash This skill is considered to be Maokai's "CC" ability. A "CC" ability is one that can add some kind of status effect upon an enemy champion. Arcane Smash will slow any enemy that gets hit by it. Some say that this skill really isn't that useful and I tend to agree. This is because the slow movement speed doesn't really prevent any enemy champion from escaping Maokai's ultimate skill. I basically use this skill to damage anything and everything that is near me when I initiate a fight. It can knock back the melee fighters and even cause some of them to slow down enough for you to make your coup d'ecouter (escape). However, I feel that summoner spells like Ghost and Flash are better solutions to that question. I don't max this skill until later levels in the game and I don't even get this skill until level 4.

This is Maokai's initiating skill. It lets Maokai zoom into the enemy, damage them, and root them in place for 2 seconds once at max level. The enemy champion becomes "snared" and can only auto-attack while snared. Since I won't be initiating early on, I max this skill out second. When initiating a team fight, try to focus in on the champion that may be the "squishiest" or the one that is most likely to annihilate your team. If your team is smart, they will know who to target first. Don't forget that with Maokai you have an excellent initiating skill, and with being the tank, it is your responsibility to do such things.

Finally the reason I play Maokai! I love this skill. I often find myself laughing so much when this skill chases after a fleeing enemy, giving me a kill! So basically this is your main harassment skill. Sapling Toss has a long range. So long that you can stay out of turret range and bomb turret hugging champions. Placement is very picky with this skill. The little buggers are not that picky on what they blow up. Basically Sapling Toss works like this. You throw the sapling to the desired location. Upon landing it deals damage to surrounding enemy units. Then the sapling high tails it to the closest enemy, exploding and dealing AOE (area of effect) damage. This skill takes some time to get used to, fortunately for us, its our #1 skill and you have plenty of opportunities to use it. Another key fact of Sapling Toss is the warding ability it has. Throw it in a bush to light it up and to watch for enemy ganks. The only problem with this is that the saplings only stick around for 25 seconds before exploding. Also, if any enemy unit, champion or minion, comes within range of the sapling's area of exposure, the sapling will take off to blow that unit up. Which means keeping a bush lit is a little harder said then done.

The skill you can't put a point into until level 6! This is Maokai's ultimate skill. Basically it throws out an area like an arena. In this area, ally champions take 20% less damage. That damage gets stored in the skill and is returned to enemy units that remain in the arena when the skill is terminated. This skill doesn't take a lot of mana to cast but depletes your mana rather quickly. Maokai looses 40mp per second that his ultimate is active. Even if the champion that you tried to snare with your ultimate ends up running away, end the skill before he leaves the arena and he will still take damage. Damage dealt by minions and champions to any minion and champion Vengeful Maelstrom's area will add to the damage that will eventually be put out upon termination of the skill. One thing that I noticed was that even if Maokai runs out of mana and the skill is terminated in this means, any enemy in the arena will still take damage.

Ok, now that we have covered Maokai's skills thoroughly, lets talk about game phases.

Pretty much you will be trying to level and gain coins to purchase your items. Play Maokai passive-aggressively by utilizing Sapling Toss. Basically you want to stay behind your minions and use Sapling Toss to harass the enemy champions in your lane. This tends to be rather effective even at level 1. If you can manage to land the sapling on the champion and then it explodes on them, it can deal anywhere between 100-150 damage. With a good partner in your lane, you can hold your ground against the other champions. If you start to get low on health go punch an enemy minion to regain 7% of your total hp ( Sap Magic). Use Clarity if you are running short on mana. At this point in the game, you only really want to recall if you have very little health or once you have attained enough coins to purchase the Catalyst the Protector and at least Boots of Speed.

At this point your interest is still farming but you should have the power to shut down any enemy champion that gets too aggressive. Remember to continue to use Sapling Toss to harass the enemy and to use Twisted Advance to catch up to an enemy you know will die in just a few short hits. Be mindful of enemy turrets and any other champion in the area. Continue to play back up to your allies and help them out if needed. Be sure to talk to your teammates and see if they need help. Always tell your lane partner that you will be leaving and be sure that they can hold the lane. Remember, you are a tank, so if they need to Recall , let them, just make your Recall when they return.

Lanes are now irrelevant. Stick with your team, initiate team fights, help defend turrets, push lanes. Basically, there is utter chaos and you need to be where your team needs you. This is when you finally get to utilize what I call, the WOMBO COMBO! The WOMBO COMBO basically is your initiating combo. This should move you into the fight, trap the champion that the team wants to kill first, place up a field that can damage enemy units, do more damage, and strike any champion that tries to escape. This combo utilizes all of Maokai's skills. First you you will set the area around the champion that you will be attacking by casting . Then zoom in with and plant the enemy champion that you want to kill first. Once the planting effect has finished cast Arcane Smash. If the enemy champion hasn't died yet, terminate to deal more damage to target enemy champion. And if that sucker is still alive, use to finish off the champion. Some tanks may get away, but if you time things correctly, will be off of cool down and you might be able to zoom in for the coup de grace (finishing blow)!


> > Arcane Smash > > >
[R] > [W] > [Q] > [R] > [E] > [W]

Remember that timing is everything.

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Summoner Spells

First let me say that these summoner skills are my preference. If I was to change any of them to another summoner skill, it would be Ghost.

Ghost is a great movement technique. Some would argue that Flash is better. And some may be able to utilize it effectively. I cannot, therefore, I don't opt for Flash. Since Maokai is really slow, I like to take Ghost with me to help me get back into a lane, chase down a fleeing enemy, or escape a pursuing enemy.

Skills to consider replacing Ghost:

Obviously you may want to keep a movement skill in your arsenal, but if you don't know when to back off, or feel the need to take Heal go for it. I have finally gotten a rhythm down so that I can stay in a lane longer without needing the Heal skill.

Clarity is a must! If you are trying to defend a lane, the less times you are forced to retreat, the better off your lane will be. Having to retreat because of a mana deficiency is pretty poor. Therefore, take Clarity, it will help both you and your lane partner. Only recall if you are on the verge of dying, if the enemy champions are dead or recalled because you harassed them, or if you really need an item that you can afford now. Another aspect I like about Clarity is the ability to prolong the duration of Maokai's ultimate spell Vengeful Maelstrom. If you are about to run low on mana, and you don't want Vengeful Maelstrom to terminate, cast Clarity.

Summoner skills are solely your preference. Take into battle what you deem best suited to your team and what you like to use.

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Hopefully this guide has helped you understand Maokai better. I do plan to update this guide frequently with more tips and suggestions.

Maokai can be very strong both offensively and defensively. And remember, this is a guide, not a "if you don't follow this guide, you will loose!" so take pieces of it that you want, leave things you disagree with. And please comment below to help me improve this guide so that I can better myself and other players can better themselves with this guide.

Thank you for reading.