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Maokai Build Guide by Widubald

Support Support Tank Maokai

Support Support Tank Maokai

Updated on April 18, 2015
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League of Legends Build Guide Author Widubald Build Guide By Widubald 162,381 Views 5 Comments
162,381 Views 5 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author Widubald Maokai Build Guide By Widubald Updated on April 18, 2015
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Welcome to Support Tank Maokai

I am going to teach you how to build a treant support tank focused on using his gap closer and crowd control to set up kills for your team. A more popular champion that plays the same role is Leona. Tanky Maokai plays similarly but has a superior gap closer ( is not a skill shot), softer cc (root & multiple slows vs Leona's stuns) and some amazing sustain.

Maokai's skills allow him to set up kills for his ADC, and these same skills also make him good at protecting his ADC. Maokai thrives on teamwork and while his damage potential is limited he bring great utility both in lane and in team fights. He remains useful with limited gold, so he is a great fit for the support role.

Teams look to the support role for utility. Maokai's E gives him free wards throughout the game. His W and Q arcane smash allow him to immobilize a target for several seconds while his carry deals out damage. The same combo can serve to protect his carry from a junglers. All of his basic abilities slow or immobilize the enemy team, so rather than building any AD or AP to deal damage, this build focuses on maximizing the use of all this utility on a low budget.

Though this support tank build does not have damage items, you are free to improvise to suit your play style. The focus here is on utility and sustain, but Maokai does bring strong early lane pressure. As a tank, Maokai can use his various crowd control abilities both on offense to lock down targets for his team to kill and on defense to help his teammates escape death.
_____________1. Synergies & Counters____3. Masteries, Runes & Spells____5. Strategy & Gameplay
_____________2. Maokai's Abilities________4. Items__________________.6. Summary
Pros, Cons and Synergies
+ Three strong crowd control abilities
+ Gap closer is not a skillshot
+ Ult provides 20% damage reduction
+ Good peel, especially vs melee champions
+ Strong early poke
+ Very good sustain
+ Free temporary wards
+ High natural armor
+ High utility even when not fed
- Relies on team for damage, can not solo anyone
- No innate scaling magic resistance
- Can easily get mana hungry
- Needs to auto attack to maximize sustain
- Risky play-style dependent on good teamwork
- Can't split push

Why pure Tank with no regard to AP?

Synergies & Counters

When deciding whether to pick tanky support Maokai you need to consider three things:
  1. What ADC are you laning with?
  2. What champions will you be facing off against in the bottom lane?
  3. What is the makeup of the rest of your team?

ADC Synergies:

Maokai's move is to jump on a target and hold them down while his carry lays down some serious damage. Thus, he tends to work well with aggressive carries who have burst damage, long range or some form of innate mobility to capitalize on his dives. Maokai's other strength is his ability to peel, so he can protect carries with low mobility such as Jinx. Since his poke is limited after the first few levels, he offers less benefit to short ranged carries if the lane is going poorly and the jungler can't help.

Enemy Bot Lane:

Long range champions such as Caitlyn, Ashe or Varus can poke Maokai before he gets in range for his Twisted Advance (range 525), and can make it difficult for him to maximize his melee sustain if he isn't paired with an ADC who can counter them. Early kills are also hard to get when facing Tristana thanks to her tremendous disengage.

Hard cc by the enemies like Morgana, Blitzcrank, Thresh and Lux can make it difficult for Maokai to do his job if you're not good at dodging skillshots. The mages are squishy and often easy to catch, so they are less of a threat than someone like Blitz, but you will rely heavily on your ADC to keep them at bay and help you jump them. Janna with her shields can nullify Maokai's early poke and make an aggressive lane difficult but she is not a huge threat to him.

None of these are game-breaking for Maokai though, if the ADC can handle the matchup and is capable of following up on dives. Also be aware that some ADCs have abilities such as Arcane Shift that let them retreat during your W dash, which can leave them rooted too far back for your carry to help out.

Team Synergies:

Since this is a full-tank build, try to match him with a damage heavy team. You don't want a second tank in the jungle or top. You want your team to have not only lots of damage but also the mobility or range to capitalize swiftly on any successful roots from your Twisted Advance. Most Assassins, AP carries and mobile fighters all can take advantage of your roots. Maokai's root can be especially helpful for AP carries trying to land delayed high damage skill shots ( Brand, etc).
Maokai's Abilities

Passive - Sap Magic
space Pay close attention to the indicator for the Sap Magic passive, because 5 to 7% health is always a good thing and if you forget to auto attack you won't heal. Some champions cast a lot of spells, so if you if you're playing against a Sona you may get poked a lot but you will also be able to proc your passive regularly to stay aggressive.

Sap Magic Tips & Tricks

Q - arcane smash
arcane smash space Arcane Smash with its low, flat mana cost only does moderate damage, but when maxed it slows enemies in an area by 48%. Use it to keep enemies from running away and to keep away enemies who are chasing you. Chain the knock-up with the root from your W to keep your main target out of the action for as long as possible. The knock-up can interrupt various ults (Nunu, Kat, Zed), so keep that in mind when prioritizing targets in team fights.

Arcane Smash Tips & Tricks

W - Twisted Advance
space Twisted Advance is the move that defines you. It roots an enemy for 1 second + .25 second per each level after the first. As you start maxing this your teammates will be eagerly waiting to slaughter any prey you manage to capture. It is also useful on defense: when an enemy is chewing up one of your carries you can give your teammate a few seconds to run away.

Twisted Advance Tips & Tricks

E - Sapling Toss
space For the first few levels of the game you will be bullying bot lane with Sapling Toss. If the enemy support is trying to poke your team from the bushes, flush them out with a barrage of these guys. After that, it still has great utility thanks to its slow. If a teammate is being chased, throw this ahead of them (never forget the 1 sec delay before deployment). Saplings are also free wards that you can use to check bushes or dragon without using a precious stealth ward.

Sapling Toss Tips & Tricks

E - Vengeful Maelstrom
space Vengeful Maelstrom reduces damage to you and nearby teammates by 20% for up to 10 seconds, which is amazing in a closely bunched team fight. Use also when doing an early baron or when covering a low health teammate's retreat. This does chew up mana, but don't be afraid to bring it out whenever a lot of damage is about to hit your team. Does not protect against turrets.

What Do I Max First?

There are benefits to maxing either Q or W first. Maxing arcane smash first gives you a good amount of damage early in the game and can help a lot when trying to secure early kills. The extra slow per level is helpful also to keep enemies away from your ADC and team. The maxed Q also gives you the ability to clear waves off your tower whenever your ADC is buying. If you are learning the position or playing solo queue, I suggest maxing Q first unless your ADC is significantly ahead on gold early and you are confident that your damage isn't needed to carry the lane.

If you max Twisted Advance first you significantly improve your team fighting utility in the mid-game team fights. W gains root time and significantly reduced cooldown with levels. Forcing an enemy to stand still for 2 seconds is far more likely to make them dead than making them stand still for only 1 second, and the 30% lower cooldown time is significant as well.

I personally like to put a second point into Q at lvl 4 for the damage. By the time lvl 5 comes around I usually have an idea of how the lane is going, so I can then decide whether to max Q or W. Again, for anyone new to the role I suggest always maxing Q first until you learn more of the intricacies of playing Maokai in the bottom lane.

Maxing W first is the more aggressive option long term, but it forces you to rely even more on your team for damage in the early game. Maxing Q first still gives you plenty of utility since Q is cheap, spammable and the slow and damage do make a difference. It is a maxed W, however, that is the game changer that you ultimately want to bring to team fights.

More skill order tips

Masteries, Runes and Summoner Spells


Here are three ways to run masteries on support tank Maokai: 0/9/21 - 0/17/13 - 0/23/7



Press the Attack

Go into lane with around 40 armor at lvl 1. With your sustain these help you to bully more.

Choose between mana regen and armor. 3.7 mana regen plus 3 from Meditation is a 93% increase over his base mana regen at lvl 1 and a 45% increase at lvl 18. With these, Maokai does not need any mana items. Of course, more flat or scaling armor is never a bad thing either.

Choose between CDR and MR. CDR is the offensive choice, helping you get a second Twisted Advance out during fights. The scaling MR runes make up for Maokai's lack of natural scaling MR. I personally am a sucker for early CDR.

What you can't catch, your team can't kill. Your job is to initiate, so you better have some mobility.

Summoner Spells

Use to escape or to help land a Twisted Advance (if you are sure the kill can be secured).

The damage reduction is amazing, but the slow is usually wasted.

Used to secure a kill on a low health enemy who is trying to run away.

I have used both exhaust and ignite to great effect. Ignite provides healthy lane pressure and gives you a chance to secure kills throughout the game. Twisted Advance lets you chase down low health enemies and sometimes your spells and AAs are just not enough to finish someone off.

Exhaust is also a very strong support spell. You use it on the main damage dealer in a fight and suddenly he is much less scary. It is useful both in lane and in teamfights. The only negative is the slow is usually wasted thanks to your abilities by the time you get into mid game.

Starting Items

Relic Shield gives you health and some sustain and gold income. Work the passive diligently from the start.

Buy as many as you can afford. These allow you to be aggressive in lane.

Optional - More potions lets you be more aggressive which is your strength, with Sapling Toss for early warding.

Balanced Build Items

Once you have a Sightstone you can switch this out for a Sweeping Lens to help deny vision to your enemies. Alternatively, get an early Greater Vision Totem for free pink wards that offer great utility.

face of the mountain
500 health! is big early in the game, plus lots of extra sustain and a shield that scales off of your tanky health pool. The 10% CDR is also important given the long cooldown on your W. Work that passive diligently.

A great item for any tank. Replace with Mercury's Treads if the enemy team has a lot of crowd control ( Morgana, etc) or a lot of AP damage. Taking Mercury's Treads when the enemy is not majority AP means you will probably not build the Locket of the Iron Solari, but go with what your game's needs dictate.

400 health! and loads of stealth wards. Health and utility is perfect for tanky support Maokai. I rarely get to upgrade this past Sightstone though.

400 health! and 55 MR, another 10% CDR and a big heaping pile of sustain. This is a tremendous core item on tanky Maokai, since it boosts all of his already sizable sustain including the healing from his passive by 20%.

500 health! and 70 armor, a nice passive and an active that slows enemies. You can never have too many slows. Other supports focus on making their team faster. You focus on slowing the enemy team down.

400 health! and 40 MR, another 10% CDR and more sustain. The shield active will come in handy too. Consider building this, or at least Aegis of the Legion, fourth if the team could really benefit from the MR aura.

Don't get too caught up by build order. I generally build Face of the mountain, Ninja Tabi and Sightstone piece and parcel. For my fourth item I generally need a MR item to make up for Maokai's lack of natural MR, then armor in the form of Randuin's Omen, then the other MR item, but it is rare that I have gold for everything. Just build what will protect you and your team versus the enemy. Below are some other items that can be substituted situationally.

Full Build Numbers

Thoughts on Health and Mana

Situational Items

No health, but the armor, mana, CDR and passive all work really well for Maokai. Use instead of Randuin if you are having regular mana issues without, if the enemy team is simply filled with auto attack reliant champions, or as an armor item if you really wanted the tenacity from Mercury's Treads.

You trade 200 health and the shield active from the Locket for 60 AP and an active that lets you split push. It is an item to keep in mind in case you feel your team needs more damage from you.

300 health! 50 AP and some magic pen. Since all your abilities impair movement, you get the full 12% of current health in damage. Against a full health champion this nearly doubles your Twisted Advance damage, but it is not very helpful when trying to finish off wounded enemies.

450 health! and an aura of damage. Provides less armor than Randuin's and lacks the slow active, but it does let you push minions a little. It's a solid option to replace the Locket when facing a team with little AP damage.

I like the extra speed from Alacrity late game for catching enemies, but this is one of those rare cases where Captain (10% speed to allies moving towards you) could be a great choice. You will rarely have the extra cash lying around, but it's something to think about.
Strategy and Gameplay

I will keep my advice here specific to this champion and build, but be sure to educate yourself on how to play the support role well. Yoxuu's blog post on common support mistakes is a great place to start.

Warding Guide

Warding is a critical part of the support role, but rather than give you a wall of text, here is a video from Aveun that gives a bunch of helpful tips and tricks:

Aveuns Warding on Summoners Rift (Season 5)

Remember that your Sapling Toss has 1100 range compared to the 600 cast range of normal wards. This lets you safely scout farther than other supports.

Start of Game

Get to lane, use to ward the enemy jungle to annoy them and gather intel, help your jungler on his first camp if he starts on your side and then get to work in lane. First off, kill a minion to proc your relic shield passive. You need that gold. Focus on cannon minions and try not to let the passive charges get maxed.

Your saplings do a noticeable amount of damage to enemies. Toss them behind the ADC to make him use a pot and mess with his farm. Hurting the support is worthwhile too, but focus the ADC first. Keep at least two thirds of your mana in reserve for an all in at lvl 3.

Communication is key. If you want to play an aggressive lane, make sure your carry knows so that he can join in on the bullying and will be prepared to follow up on your dives.

Level 3

An all in at lvl 2 or 3 can secure a kill or at least burn flashes. Maokai's basic attacks still hurt at this stage of the game. The ADC will learn to stay well away from you, so don't be afraid to target the support next instead. You have great sustain, so if you are sitting around with full health you are wasting one of your strengths. Be a little aggressive if your ADC can back you up (check his mana and health). If he is getting poked, be understanding and go try to take the heat off him.

Make the bushes your home to force the enemy ADC to stay on the jungle side of the lane. Your jungler will appreciate it. Be aware of any cc that your jungler has, because you will want to chain cc efficiently.

Ideally you will head back with 900 gold ( Targon's brace, Boots), but it all depends on how the early fights went. The Targon's brace passive recharges twice as fast as that of the Relic Shield, so keep an eye on the charges and farm that gold. After that, you really should rush Sightstone, though if you are playing Normals you can probably get away with finishing Face of the mountain while relying on saplings for gaps in warding for a while longer. Saplings last for 35 seconds, are immune to red trinkets and squeal when triggered. Do what is best for your ADC and team (that means ward a lot).

Stopping Junglers

Always keep wards up on the river and keep an eye on the minimap. Warn your carry if there is clear danger. When you see a jungler heading for your carry, move to intercept him and time your Twisted Advance to stop him before he can do damage or apply crowd control. Most junglers are melee champions, and with your root and slows you excel at keeping them busy long enough for your carry to run away. If your carry gets trapped in Jarvan IV's ult, consider joining the party and see if you can't turn the tide in there with your knockup and summoner spell.

Like myself, most Maokai players learned to play him in the jungle or in the top lane. That jungle knowledge will come in handy if you play him as a support. I sometimes take a less than direct route back to lane after buying just so I can approach as if I was a jungler, just to try and gank my own lane.


Once you have face of the mountain and your boots finished you can roam as the situation allows and pick up assists anywhere you can. Place lots of wards. The rest of your items slowly add tankiness, so be aware of what kind of damage you can take and take risks accordingly. Working with your AP carry or your jungler is not very different from working with your ADC, so always find a teammate who looks like they are ready to get a kill and make sure you get the assist. Find a vulnerable enemy and lock them down while your teammate(s) beat them up. Assists and your face of the mountain passive are your gold income. Work them.

Team Fights

In team fights, you should be the first one in and the last one out. You have a great initiate and your ult can protect your team, so make sure you get in the middle of it. Rooting the enemy ADC is not always your top priority, since it won't stop their ranged attacks. Root a mobile melee assassin like Zed and he is no longer a threat to your carries. Your targets will vary depending on the makeup and positioning of both teams. The knockup from your arcane smash can interrupt a number of ults, so if you see a Nunu & Willump or Katarina starting their animations do a quick W-Q to shut them down.

If the fight goes well, help tie down fleeing targets. If the fight goes poorly, focus on getting your team out alive using all your slows to keep the enemy from pursuing. Remember to use your shields on squishy teammates. If someone dies, better you than one of your carries.

Late Game

You are getting tanky. You can do stuff like tank turrets, so make sure your team knows this. You have several item actives. Remember to use them: your shields to protect carries that are being bursted and the Randuin slow to keep the enemy team from chasing or running away. Everything is on a 60 second cooldown and should be available every fight. Keep placing lots of wards.


At the moment Maokai is a strong top laner and a solid jungler, but he can also thrive in the support role with the right team. Teamwork is key to making the most of Maokai's skill set, and in the bottom lane he gets to be an active part of a team from the start. With the right team compositions, support tank Maokai can be valuable team member.

Playing support is a rewarding position if you really focus on providing utility to your ADC and team. Maokai lets you do that aggressively and transition smoothly into being a traditional tank who helps his team eat people's faces. Support Tank Maokai may never carry his team via kills, but he can do a lot to make it easy for others to carry.

It is a lot of fun to play an aggressive bot lane, but it takes practice to know when to dive in for a kill especially when your lane partner is not used to working with a Maokai support. Luckily, with his tankiness and sustain Maokai is relatively forgiving if you make a mistake and have to bail.

This is not a role that strictly fits the traditional meta of the day, so don't expect it to carry you through ranked. That said, support Maokai works and has more than a few fans. Only 5% of games played with Maokai are currently played as support, but there is definitely a place for him there. Hopefully this guide will give people a little more confidence to play Maokai in the bottom lane.

Maokai is a blast to play, so never forget to have fun!

Please Give Feedback

Please let me know in the comments what experience you have had with this particular build or with tanky support Maokai builds of your own. I have tried to give you plenty of options in terms of masteries, runes and such, and I would love to hear which ones worked best for you.

Also, if you feel that any of the tips or tricks I listed deserve more attention than I gave them or if you notice that there is an amazing trick that I am not even aware of, please drop me a comment so I can make improvements. There is a lot of information in this guide, and I had to make a lot of judgment calls on what was critical and what could be hidden in spoilers.

Party on! Festive Maokai is the best :)

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