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Maokai Build Guide by Pooley86

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Pooley86

Off-Tank Maokai - *bad pun here*

Pooley86 Last updated on August 20, 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

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

Utility: 21

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Hello Mobafire Community!

Not much to say here, other than this is how I most enjoy playing one of my favourite heros.

Try before you vote of course.

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Pros / Cons

Offtank Maokai:


  • Strong single target CC
  • Good burst
  • Great ultimate
  • Not hard to learn
  • Adaptable (jungling, damage/tank)

  • Mana problems
  • Not the best tank, not the best caster/AP carry. Which is why we build off-tanky :)

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Off-tanking is probably my favourite role in LoL, it allows for good damage, as well as partial tanking and initiation/disruption. Moakai fits all of these uses, as he is a good burst champ, with a supportive ultimate and great CC and initiation all in one!

My personal goals for an off-tank build are usually:

  • 150 Magic Resist
  • 150 Armor
  • 3000 Health

This allows for high durability but still the possibility for offensive items or partial offensive items. But what about other builds?

Tank Moakai?

Whilst Moakai has the ability to initiate and disable a single target well, I believe tanking with him is not the best idea. Because of his burst nature and lack of AoE CC's (bull, mummy galio ect.) he will not be focussed once your team joins the fight, he will simply stand around until he is the last left. Also, he will deal very little damage into later mid game and late game. Moreover, his abilities all have quite high cooldowns, again hampering his complete tanking ability.

AP Moakai?

I have seen many people play full AP maokai, usually going something like: RoA, Deathcap, AA, Scepter, void/lich. Having done it myself several times, I can conclude 2 things,
  1. Killing carries from 1/2 health with a well placed sapling is hilarious
  2. There are many better casters out there

For me, it is the fact that although saplings have a large range, his other 2 offensive abilities are melee based, and you wouldn't walk up to or even flash to a ranged AD in a teamfight as any other caster, because you can just fire your spells from the back. Maokai can only fire 1 spell from the back of a teamfight, making AP builds risky and situational.

tl;dr: There are better tanks and better casters than Maokai, but few can do both so well. If you have to tank, then tank, and if that Malz changed to Yi in champ select, then you probably better play with some more AP. However, as part of a balanced team I believe that Moakai is best as an off-tank.

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Pretty typical runes for Maokai:


Even with Clarity, I find that I still need some mana regen to maintain laning dominance and harass ALOT with saplings. If jungling, I suggest try and trade these out with Armor or at least health/dodge runes.


Pretty obvious, as all our damage is magic based, not many other possibilities for Marks.


I may be in trouble here, but I think that flat runes are best for almost all defensive stats, and most runes in general. These runes allow us to buy some other defensive items early without worrying about magic resist for a while.


Quints are much more flexible, but as you will often notice I prioritise defence early (explained a bit more within the item build section). MS, AP, Magic Pen, just about anything goes here.

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Provided we're laning, the standard 9/0/21 build does well. If jungling, you should take smite instead of clarity, and run 1/18/11 setup, grabbing smite, armor, reduced minion damage, experience and health.

Basically, the 9 in offense shouldn't need an explanation, that magic pen is just too good to not take. However, 21 in utility is another matter. I used to run 9/21/0, and found I was extremely hard to kill early, especially with the early defensive items and defensive runes. Switching to 21 Ulitily gives, well.... much better utility. Clarity upgrade, movespeed, experience, CDR and lastly summoner CDR just helps in so many situations, and all you trade is the slight increase in early game tankyness, which is still very strong due to itemisations and runes.

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Ghost: Great for running and chasing alike. Can keep you in range until Twisted Advance is off cooldown and also lets you escape fights while possibly drawing people away with you. Better than flash because it will often beat a flash, as ghosts long duration means it can be used early without much worry, and you can easily catch people who flash, even over a wall if you're coordinated in your search.

Clarity: a MUST take for me on this tree. Solves all the mana problems of you, and many of your teams. You are ablie to keep your ult up much longer, by letting it drain your mana once and then using clarity to let your ult drain your mana twice.

Smite: needed to jungle. You sacrifice clarity to take this, but you have blue buff early and often, however blue's mana regen can't compare with the instant refill of clarity. Also, later game you won't be taking blue, so you will be wanting clarity instead of smite.

Flash: As I said in the ghost description, ghost does better than flash for Maokai and other off-tank characters than flash. However, I can't stop you taking flash over ghost, so you can try it and you might find it can work better against some enemy team comp's compared to others.

Other summoner's are situational or near useless. Besically, take 1 escape and clarity for laning or smite for jungling. Exceptions for being in a premade team with a strategy or in draft lobby and need a teleport or ignite or something particular to counter enemies.

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Skill Sequence

Passive: Magic Sap
Magic Sap
Good sustain as you can be spamming spells with clarity in lane. Can give some lucky kills as enemy's towerdive you only to find you heal an unexpectedly large amount. Is situational in teamfights and later game, but the heal can easily sustain a tower shot or 2.

Arcane Smash
Better AP ratio than Twisted advance, so we will put some more points in it through mid game. The slow is a bit average until rylai's, but combined with your root and the knockback, this skill can help let your team destroy a single target, and let you output some solid damage.


Great single target CC, and good initiating spell. Although the root duration increases with level, we shall not be levelling this until last due to the lacking AP ratio and Arcane does well enough to disable a target and arcane also has the advantage of stronger damage and AoE.


Wow. Such a versatile skill. We max this first for several reasons:

  • Long range = good harassment
  • High increase in damage per level
  • 1:1 AP ratio if you have good enough aim
  • Temporary ward
  • Funniest skill in game. OP.

Whilst great for farming, you'll want to be using this to harass in laning phase. Always try to throw sapling behind enemy, so they must run into the creeps (and you) to dodge. Never throw sapling when a new wave of creeps is approaching. Remember that it will chase the closest target when laning against a duo. Use this to scout brush lvl 1 and also let 1 sit in brush if you are pushed.


Great supportive skill, but mana starved (but you took clarity, so that's okay). The damage reduction isn't on towers, but the damage is great for helping burst down a squishee. Make sure you place it with your target in the centre or a bit behind the centre, not you in the centre. This makes them stay in the area for as long as possible to let the damage build up. Always remember to pop this just before your target leaves, or the damage will not take effect (like nunu's ult). With its low cooldown, feel free to use it in 1v1 situations, but only after they have committed. Another great use is when attacking or defending towers, use this in front of the tower so the enemy team knows they have to stand in it to do anything.

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Laning / Jungling


Moakai is great to solo top. Simple. He's got great harass, sets up a strong jungle gank with 2 forms of CC and decent sustain with your passive. Also, the beauty of solo top is that you will, most likely, be up against a similar tanky dps (rumble, jarv, udyr) which you can cope well with, in contrast to scary ranged AD harassers (cait, mf, ezreal).

Moakai can also go bot with a partner. As every single guide seems to suggest, if the parter has some solid CC, you should do well, possible picking up some early kills. However, this is less ideal than solo top, as you can't actually support for (usually ranged AD) partner, but you can try harass your enemies out of lane, forcing them to base early.


He CAN do it. But he is much more fun and, I believe, effective in lane.

If you want to go jungle Maok, basically go Blue (having thrown heaps of saplings before minion spawn) -> wolves -> wraiths -> double golems -> gank/base, you will also want to skill Saplings -> Smash -> Smash -> Advance -> saplings. Starting items should be cloth + pots. Try get some team mates to damage blue for you, it can really speed you up and save your health.

Some problems for Maokai jungling is basically almost anyone your against in jungle is faster, meaning they will be ganking before you and leveling quicker than yourself, which can really set you behind for mid game.

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Chances are, here is where you've skipped to after seeing the 'cheat sheet' at the top.

Firstly, every game is different. If you cannot adapt and evolve, you will not survive, simple evolution. You should always reconsider your item build looking at your own team composition in lobby, then again during loadscreen, and constantly throughout the game. A tank has to counter everything from the enemies, but as an off-tank, you can often get away with just countering their stronger characters, ignoring the less important sources of damage. As you will want to be focussing down a single target with your CC, you will want to try and counter what that target may throw back at you, physical or magic based damage.


Tanky early, because your abilities have strong base damage and lowish AP ratio's, making early AP less effective for your team then having a strong secondary tank. Later game we grab a few strong AP items so our damage doesn't peel off, and we can still hurt things.


  • Dorans Shield: Good alround stats, armor does well with Mag Resist runes for early tankyness. My favourite and usual choice.
  • Regrowth + 1 pot: Good sustain, best choice if you know you will be against a high harass lane.
  • Boots + 3 pots: Bad. Don't do it, please. You have ghost, you have advance. Get something better.
  • Dorans Ring: Regen not needed due to clarity and runes. AP does little. May as well get the health and more benefits from a Shield.
  • Ruby Crystal: Not bad, but you lask armor and regen, so again sheild is the better choice for sustain.
  • Cloth + 5pots: Needed for jungle. Great choice if you are solo top against 1 physical. You will easily outlast them with all your mitigation and regeneration.

Basically, shield 80% of the time. Cloth for jungle or against 1 chamnp that is physical. Regrowth against strong laning harassment.

BOOTS: Grab boots 1 before catalyst, they can really help out escape and chase early. Choices for boots upgrade:
  • Merc's: Mercury Treads OP. Best tenacity item, good magic resist. Almost no team will have so few CC's that these aren't warranted.
  • Sorc's: Solid choice, since all of your damage is magic based. However, Merc's CC reduction is Godlike, but if the enemy team has less than 3 CC's, go for these.

Just go merc's. Please. Any other boot choice gives a stat that can be easily made up with other items, but not merc's. If you (and flying spaghetti monster help you) do choose another set of boots, I highly recommend trading them in for Merc's after buying your Rylai's.


HEART OF GOLD: Great item to bulk up health whist your magic resist is high (runes/boots) and armor is good (Shield/levels). Gold/10 is amazing, so we'll keep it for a while.

BANSHEE'S: Since you've got that catalyst and negatron cloak, why not make them into a banshee's early? The passive is great early, no matter what people say about wasting spells on a tank it still happens, and the shield will still help you TONS in early game skirmishes.


Your sapling damage reaction before deathcap: *smirks* "sucker, 1/4 gone"
Your sapling damage reaction after deathcap: *falls from seat* "BAHAHAHAHA, from 1/2 to 0!!!"

Basically, we are now tanky enough to afford moderate damage. So we buy deathcap for extreme damage. However, remember you are not the tank, and cannot charge head first into their carries. Play safe, but play smart. Use saplings to harass carries until they back on low health (so you can force an outnumbered fight) or until they are low enough to be bursted down (in which case tell your tank to engage ASAP).

RYLIAS: Rylia's Crystal Scepter Your first major health item, just to keep that tank façade going. The AP is welcome, but the passive actually supports your team very well. It lets you lead with your saplings so that they don't land on an enemy but will cut off an escape route in a gank or teamfight, meaning any runner trying to leave that way will be slowed enough for you or a teamate to hit them with some CC to ensure death.


RANDUINS: Randiuns Omen That Heart of Gold has been very useful to you and your gold supply. You've probably gotten emotionally attached with it. Alas, it's time has come to move on, and into a very versatile tanking item. Health and armor will help you against enemy physical carries, which are probably farmed up and hurting your team pretty bad at this point. The active is amazing, synergising very will with your combo, try to use it as soon as you have used your smash. It is great for keeping important targets inside your ult for as long as possible.

ABYSSAL: Great final item. More MR just to round out 150 total. Extra AP to ensure your damage is keeping up, and that you can still remain a threat in teamfights. The aura will help your caster, seeing as they should be getting banshee's if they need defence against magic. Great item to finish up your build.

NOTE: please grab blue elixer Elixer Of Intelligence anytime after lvl 10 if you've got the spare gold, the AP is okay, but the CDR is great when you don't have blue buff.

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When you're laning, farming is pretty simple. For levels 1 - 4, last hit like any other champ, trying to gain lane dominance with your sapling harass. From hero lvl 5, you can throw a sapling onto the 3 ranged minions and leave 1 hit left on them for easy farming. From lvl 7, your saplings should be able to instant kill the caster minions, provided you hit the landing and explosion damage.


Most likely, you are paired with your carry, and so leave them the last hits. Only attack creeps they will not get or to proc your passive when needed. Use your saplings to harass the enemy carry or support laned against you. When you are lvl 5, you can use the saplings on the ranged minions to give your carry 3 easy last hits. Your main role here is to absorb harassment and to distract an enemy carry from farming as your carry partner farms.

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Role, Rotation and Combo's

As an off-tank, you are a prime character for solotop. However, you may have to jungle, or leave top to another, and end up duo laning. Maokai is very flexible and versatile, and can thus accomplish these things.

In teamfights, you should be second to initiate, behind your real tank. You should try to pin down the ranged damage dealers, aim for the most fed/farmed, and let your team do most of the work to kill them. Your ult should try to be used to protect as much of your team and damage as much of their team as possible, but you must prioritise according to the circumstances.

In lanning/ganking, your combination should be:

Sapling toss -> twisted advance -> (sapling explodes) -> walk behind them and arcane smash back towards them.

For teamfights, you need to be adaptable. targeting, timing and prioritisation are essentail. However, the most effective rotation I have found is this:

Sapling toss (repeated until engagement by tank) -> Twisted Advance -> Vengeful Maelstrom -> Sapling Toss -> Arcane smash (hopefully behind them again) -> Vengeful Maelstrom (toggle off when needed, use clarity if necessary)