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Garen Build Guide by topiop

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League of Legends Build Guide Author topiop

The Day Demacia got a Beyblade

topiop Last updated on April 2, 2016
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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.


Natural Talent
Bounty Hunter
Battering Blows
Piercing Thoughts

Ferocity: 12

Dangerous Game

Cunning: 0

Tough Skin
Runic Armor
Veteran's Scars
Legendary Guardian

Resolve: 18

Guide Top


Hello. So somehow you managed to find this guide out of the many Garen guides out there! Thanks for taking quick visit. I'm about to enter Bronze Division and am playing on NA servers and my top main is Garen. I love this character for what he is and what he can perform. So in this guide, you will find:

  1. How to play Garen
  2. Know his matchups
  3. How to build him depending on matchups

With that out of the way...
Who is Garen?


Garen is a tanky top lane AD Caster that has high base stats that give him great damage from early to late game. He has an amazing silence that is very strong against Casters, can run like Hecarim, and has the sustain of a mini Warmog's armour that grows as he levels up. Garen is manaless, so unlike most champions he can spam his abilities without worrying about anything and with a high CDR build, you can become a spammer like Yasuo!


HOWEVER, Garen also has his flaws just like anyone else does. Garen is a melee fighter that needs to reach the enemy, so any good ranged character will kite him because of it. Garen is also a tank that doesn't have a proper engage like Jarvan IV or Malphite do. Although his silence is still one of the better CCs in the game, it isn't the best universally because it only works wonders on specific fighters. One more problem with Garen is that his damage still falls a little bit behind by the time everyone gets their full build. The rework from 5.16 definitely boosted his late game potential by a lot (trust me you'll still pop carries), but he isn't the best star once everyone hits level 18.

In order to carry your team to victory, Garen needs help with building items, decision making, and telling your teammates what you will do as the tank so that they can follow along and win. I will do my best to help you figure out how to do this whether you never played this character or already know his mechanics. Season 6 is already here and the game is changing; ADCs were buffed, winions can push and make walls, top lane has an objective besides roaming, Darius is becoming rarer of a ban pick (ever so slightly, this is still huge though), and 9 out of 10 players use Thunderlord's Decree . The meta from season 5 is fading, and we need to be smart to catch up with the changes. May the best Garens succeed on the battlefield!


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Simple choice; gives roughly 9AD for early game power.


The Greater Seal of Armor gives you 1 armour, for a total of 9. Increased resistance for early game trades.

Why are the seals better as flat than scaling?

Scaling armour is nice because it eventually gives more than the flat ones but when you consider that a majority of top lane fighters are AD based, this is very handy for early game trades. 9 armour gives you early game tankiness that will let you take bigger beating from the opponent and still live. Since Courage basically gives us scaling runes for free, flat armour seals are better. There isn't a lot of difference between 180 and 200 armour.


When an enemy Ahri gets a Doran's Ring, she won't do much damage at all. When she gets her 800AP and a Void Staff, her abilities are going to burst down any of your squishy teammates and take away some of your health as well. This is why scaling MR glyphs are better than flat ones. APCs get their damage lategame and so do ADCs, so it's important to passively have some MR increase as you level. This way, you can focus more on armour to render the ADC useless and still have your MR grow with it without buying any items. You can try using flat ones when facing AP top laners like Teemo or Vladimir to deal with early game harass. Courage also gives you a free 30 MR boost, so by level 18 you get free 57MR by doing absolutely nothing. You're basically getting a complimentary Banshee's Veil for getting to level 18.


More AD.

Possible Substitutions

You can trade some of the marks for greater mark of armor penetration. Under the right circumstances, 6 of these will completely cancel out 9 Greater Seal of Armor! This will give you the edge in trades, but last hitting may be slightly harder.

You can also replace the many of the runes with scaling versions, but since we want better early game power taking flat seals and marks may be better. It's up to your preference though.

One more possible choice is to get Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed instead of the AD Quints. Garen's base mobility isn't really strong after some nerds to his base speed and Q's speed buff intensity and duration you get a handy 20 movement speed boost. If you really want other options, you can also acquire Greater Quintessence of Attack Speed, but this isn't recommended.


This is the Mastery System I like best on Garen. Bonus armour and magic resist, better shielding and healing, extra tenacity, more movement speed, and CDR on summoner spells. The Keystone Mastery, Grasp of the Undying , gives extra lane sustain. This mastery helps Garen become an unmovable brick in lane to most characters and helps him in trades against characters like Darius who have some heavy DoT (Damage over Time) in the early game. Think about it. Assuming Garen's base health is 600, one attack every 4 seconds while fighting (like Decimate, can turn trades) can restore you around 20 health. Although 20 health doesn't sound like much, this is the same amount as the Feast Mastery ON A 4 SECOND COOLDOWN. The Feast mastery has a 25 second cooldown. The Ferocity Tree masteries boost damage and give some life steal and spellvamp.

Q: 18/0/12 also works right?

Oh don't worry, it does.

I prefer 12/0/18 because:
  • Garen is an AD Caster, but he doesn't deal the most damage compared to characters like Riven, Darius, or Zed (You won't build Full AD Garen in most games).
  • This means you need to justify this by investing in defence, Garen's main strength is tankiness so enhancing this will help you fight back against more damaging fighters.
  • Your goal is to run into the enemy backline where you WILL be focused HARD, and being a glass canon will not help at all. You want to become a distraction so that your team can melt the enemies down, and this requires defences right?
  • AD can come from items while masteries make him naturally more tanky for a better laning phase.
  • It's better because there is no point in building damage to fight a fed enemy, defences can prevent some deaths.

Don't get me wrong, 18/0/12 is also viable and some people really like it, it's just that I prefer a more defensive setup on Garen. 18/0/12 would make Garen slightly more of an off-tank instead of a bruiser or tank from laning phase. Use whatever you want, hell, go for a 12/18/0 if you want Thunderlord's Decree . It's completely up to you.
If you want to go 18/0/12, use this tree:


Which Ones?

Garen has 3 viable spells on him.
1 is Flash,
the other is Ignite,
and the last one is Teleport. I take Flash and Ignite.


Flash teleports your character a short distance towards the direction your mouse is
Flash is mandatory spell on Garen just like all characters, as it gives him the instant blink/engage that you lack. Trust me, as Garen you'll use Flash lots of times to get kills. Flash also acts as a universal saving card, where you can jump over walls and save yourself. You can pull of really cool jukes with it as well.

Ignite sets an enemy on fire, dealing 70 to 410 true damage over 5 seconds, based on your level
Ignite is an amazing, dangerous spell to the opponent as it gives you early snowball potential. You can finish off enemies that are low pre-6 and when used with your Demacian Justice post-6, the two become a scary kill combo.

After channelling for 4 seconds you are teleported to an allied minion, turret, or ward
Teleport is a spell that I use rarely. I won't say its bad because it can have game-changing moments. Take Teleport if you're the only tank on your team so your team will need you later on in team fights.

Flash Juke

Which spells do I choose?

For 95% of the time, I take Flash and Ignite. Flash is simply mandatory on Garen, as I've said, gives him the instant engage that he doesn't have. Flash also has so many utilities to escape sticky situations. In my opinion, Ignite is simply better than Teleport, especially in laning phase. You get free true damage at your hand to finish off enemies and the spell has so much snowball potential and kill power so you can play more aggressive than you would with Teleport. You don't know how many times I got first blood or secured a kill with Ignite that would have gotten away if that true damage wasn't there.

Take Ignite over Teleport. I highly recommend it and you won't regret it.

Alternative Viable Spells

Ghost works in the sense that you can use your Q to get a much larger movement speed buff to catch up to your target, and it works. It also helps ignore unit collisions, so that you have easier times running away. However, you need to keep in mind that Ghost is not an instant blink like Flash. Adding more speed to your Q doesn't stop opponents from still seeing you coming unless you have like 1 000 000 movement speed. Flash can also go over walls since it's a teleport, right? Ghost can't do that. Your E already lets you ignore unit collision and you get a lot of mobility if you follow the guide's item build. You aren't Darius, where movement speed is your golden ticket. Flash is simply superior to Ghost. The only reason that Ghost works is that you're account didn't hit level 8 yet.

If you ever encounter someone who can run away from you so you NEVER catch them Teemo, Vayne, Ashe) and they kite you to death, you can use this spell to reach them. It has wonderful utility especially in team fights, because it doesn't only cripple movement speed, but also damage, and resistances. However, you need to consider that this will make you forfeit either Flash or Ignite, 2 very useful spells.


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People hate this ability; from level 16 you basically have a mini Warmog's Armor inside of you and how is that fair for someone trying to chase you? Chasing Garen is pretty damn hard by itself as well xD

Lv 1 - 10
After not receiving damage from monsters or champions for 9 seconds, Garen will regenerate 0.4% of his maximum health every second. Decent lane sustain as long as you don't trade.

Lv 11 - 15
After not receiving damage from champions or epic monsters( Dragon , Baron ) for 6 seconds, Garen will regenerate 0.8% of his maximum health every second. Better than health potions now.

Lv 16 - 18
The regeneration is now 2% OF HIS MAXIMUM HEALTH PER SECOND, IF NOT DAMAGED FOR 4 SECONDS by champions or epic monsters. Congrats, you are now Dr. Mundo and will probably never die from now on.




Your engage/disengage tool. Always put your level 1 point into this ability. It is absolutely amazing for early game usage and the best level 1 spell in your kit.

Speed Boost Duration: 1.5 / 2 / 2.5 / 3 / 3.5
Damage Scaling: 30 / 55 / 80 / 105 / 130 (+ 40% AD)

This ability:
  • Gives Garen a 30% movement speed buff for a short time
  • Will give his next AA more range
  • Deals hefty damage
  • Resets his AA timer

You'll want to max this spell third, after Demacian Justice and Judgment because maxing it only increases the movement speed duration and damage.




Your 1v5 engage and tanking tool. Absolutely amazing in any stage of the game for tanking and running into the enemy team or making a favourable trade.

  • Gain AR and MR by farming and killing enemy champions
  • Minions are worth 0.25 AR/MR and champions are worth 1 AR/MR

The active is why Garen is capable of crazy fights and still being able to manage.

When activated:
  • For 2//3/4/5/6 seconds, you get a shield that reduces incoming damage by 30%

Do you have a Teemo mushroom poison debuff? Use your W to cut off 30% of that poison. Turret diving someone? The shield may save your life by reducing the turret's damage. Courage allows you to build damage but still leap into the fray 1v5 and make it out alive (if things go well). It gives you a mini Alistar Ult, and that's simply amazing.

Put a point into Courage in level 3. Max Courage last, as the only benefit of doing so will increase the shield's duration and reduce the cooldown.


I've seen some people put their level 3 point into Judgment again, and I don't like this. Why? First, you're going to want to get that passive AR and MR stacks going as soon as possible since it no longer is a passive boost that comes immediately. Second, if the enemy jungler ganks you really early, you can activate Courage and survive the gank. You also gain faster access to trades that are in your favour. A trade without Courage is going to hurt you a lot more than if it was available. Please unlock this ability at level 3 and not at level 4.





Your signature spell. SPIN2WIN. The main source of your damage. Unlock it at level 2 and max it first by level 9.

Damage Scaling:15 / 18.8 / 22.5 / 26.3 / 30 (+ 34.5 / 35.3 / 36 / 36.8 / 37.5% AD)

For 3 seconds:
  • Garen will spin his sword around him dealing AoE damage
  • Garen deals damage in intervals (ticks), starting with 5 ticks
  • Everytime Garen levels up 3 times, Judgment gains one extra tick/spin, so at levels 4/7/10/13/16, Garen will spin 6/7/8/9/10 times
  • This ability is NOT channelled!
  • Garen ignores unit collision while spinning
  • Cancelling Judgment early reduces the cooldown by the remaining number of spins
  • Judgment deals 25% less damage when hitting multiple targets and 33% increased when hitting a single target




The original signature execute skill in the game. Can kill any tank to squishy. Level it up whenever you can. There is a passive part to the move as well.

Damage Scaling: 175 / 350 / 525 (+ 28.6 / 33.3 / 40% of target's missing health)

  • Whoever enemy is going on the most RECENT killing spree is 'The Villain', and Garen loathes Villains
  • Garen's AAs and each tick of Judgment will deal 1% of the Villain's maximum health as BONUS TRUE DAMAGE.

Demacian Justice itself is a high-damage execution blow.

The move will:
  • Deal FLAT magic damage and scales based on the target's missing health

Demacian Justice is amazing. You can't counter the damage because of how it scales, it's wonderful at killing both squishes and tanks, and even if your target flashes out, your Ult will still hit them once channelled. Another very note worthy thing is that it scales off of the enemy's missing health, so no matter if you're Tank or Full AD, Demacian Justice will always deal the same amount of damage.



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Combat Techniques


From level 1, the best poke you can do is perform an AA cancel with Decisive Strike and back off. At early levels, this is one of the best pokes in the game, assuming the early game is in your favour.


I recommend you start trading at level 3 when you have Courage to help you just so you get the edge in trades.
Method 1

--> -->

The most common trade method is to silence your target and continue with Judgment. Since it's a trade, your opponent will also damage you so activating Courage during the trade is smart and will significantly reduce the damage dealt to you. Try to use Courage when your opponent uses one of their stronger abilities if he/she is a caster. If your opponent manages to escape Judgment, remember to cancel it early.

Method 2

--> -->

If your opponents start to realize that your trade combo starts with your Q, they can wait until you blow the silence or the speed buff and reverse the engage (this does't happen very often by the way XD). Another way you can try trading is activating Judgment first unexpectedly, then Courage, and stopping with Decisive Strike and then backing off. Try to make sure your E is only hitting your target, or else you'll push your lane and pushing is one of the last things you want to do in laning phase. This method shouldn't be needed if you aren't predictable with your Decisive Strike. However, certain matchups actually favour this way of trading, and I'll mention it later on.


Here's what you'll do to get a kill, first blood, or the shut down gold.

--> --> -->

The most effective way to get a kill is to start with your Q, silence, spin, ignite, and then ult. If your target tries to fight back, use your W. When fighting squishy targets, your burst will be so high like a fed LeBlanc's combo that they won't have time to escape, especially since your silence prevents Flash for 1.5 seconds. If you have a large distance to cover, use Flash to engage, but have your silence ready to carry out the combo immediately.


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Starting Items

Okay, you've just spawned from the fountain and open the item shop. You'll see:

These are the only items that are viable on Garen when starting. I didn't include Doran's Shield because... well... it really doesn't help us with laning phase :P

Standard Start

This will be your main start item for like 80% of the time. Get 4 Health Potions with it. Cloth Armor is Garen's best early game friend and will probably stay that way forever or until another viable item comes up. This item gives you 15 armour which is what you really want against AD lanes, whether its a Caster or an AA based fighter.

Facing Ranged Start

This is most effective against range champions like Kayle, Teemo, and Vladimir. More speed to engage and disengage so you'll have better chance at receiving less pokes. You can also try Doran's Shield, but it's better to start with boots for more sustain as well.

Aggressive Start

Only buy this if you're facing a LEGIT TANK ( Malphite, Shen, Rammus, etc.) The problem I have with the Long Sword is that you get one less Health Potion from buying it, and you'll be less tankier from the start which is a big deal. Garen is not the best AD Caster in damage, he survives thanks to his great tankiness, and this will set you off a bit.

Healthy Start

Another way to start. You'll get 150 HP which is a lot at early levels, almost the health of you 2 levels ahead. Try this when your opponent doesn't fit any of the above, if the enemy is melee and AP based.


The Black Cleaver

When building The Black Cleaver, always prioritize the Phage. Caulfield's Warhammer may give more AD and CDR, but the Phage has the Rage Passive. Garen doesn't have the best mobility; his base speed was nerfed, his Q's duration and speed boost intensity was decreased, so having an item that gives you speed for attacking is just wonderful. So remember, the Phage is the most prioritized AD item to buy first.

Titanic Hydra

If you happen buy Titanic Hydra really early, these two items are the components to the final Hydra. This time, the selection is pretty situational, so I'll explain when it's a better time to build what.

Tiamat: Buy this when laning phase was successful and all of your buddies are having a good time as well. If you can see a path to an easy win, get Tiamat the AD boost will definitely help you snowball further.

Jaurim's Fist: This item is really good because it can also build into Sterak's Gage, a really good item on Garen. If you think that one or two people on the enemy team is getting fed and they're racking up kills so now they're dangerous, buy this so that you can purchase Sterak's Gage as a back up plan.

Maw of Malmortius

Two items that build into Maw of Malmortius, both are very good to snowball lane, but put the Hexdrinker ahead of Serrated Dirk. Hexdrinker will give MR with AD, and although it doesn't have AR Pen, the shield given is very useful (you've decided to build the Maw for a reason). Serrated Dirk can be purchased if you feel like playing very aggressively and are preparing the Maw for the APC.

Dead Man's Plate

This is a pretty tricky one. Both items are incredibly flexible and build into all sorts of useful defensive items, so it's hard to compare them directly. It's better to decide by thinking what you want to buy. Chain Vest leads to Dead Man's Plate, Thornmail, and Sunfire Cape. Giant's Belt leads to Dead Man's Plate, Randuin's Omen, and Warmog's Armor. I would prefer Chain Vest though. You're going for Dead Man's Plate because the enemy doesn't AA a lot, and you can turn it into a Sunfire Cape if you want. Health is also very useful, but stacking armour is better in my opinion.

Randuin's Omen

Warden's Mail wins hands down here. If you're getting Randuin's, get armour first. You're buying this to help deal with Tryndamere, Yasuo, Master Yi, or any AA based person. Slowing their attack speed is one of the greatest counter measures you can use. Besides, stacking armour can reduce damage by percentage while health will only let you tank 5 or more hits.

Sunfire Cape

A very difficult set to compare. Bami's Cinder helps you trade thanks to the magic damage and health, while Chain Vest keeps you sturdy. However, I believe that Bami's Cinder has the edge here because of that magic damage and health. You gain health and deal damage? That's a great deal. Chain Vest is better if you really want to play defensively.

Spirit Visage

Just get Spectre's Cowl first and everytime :P



The Black Cleaver

The Black Cleaver is the only damage item Garen really needs in a game, it's just that he falls off significantly in damage if it is the only damage item. What does this item give us? We get 300 health, 55 AD, a Phage passive where merely applying physical damage will give us movement speed so that each tick of Judgment can hit to give a speed boost, a 30% armour shred, and 20% CDR! Everything Garen needs is given by this item. Each of Judgment's ticks will apply the armour reduction stack, so in less than 3 seconds, 30% of your enemy's armour is gone. The move speed passive allows you to stick to almost anyone in the game running away from you.

In case you're wondering why Titanic Hydra isn't here even though I've mentioned it so many times is because that in the worst case scenario where we need to only build 1 AD time, The Black Cleaver far outshines Titanic Hydra. I'm also reconsidering the value of this item, ever since I've been using Sterak's Gage a lot more now.

Other Core Damage Items

Titanic Hydra

I've built Titanic Hydra many times in games even when my team's losing that I'm considering it to be a near core item unless you're going to surrender at 20 or need to carry hard. It gives 50 AD, 450 health, a farming/split-pushing passive, an active that lets you almost delete squishy targets especially with Dead Man's Plate and Decisive Strike activated when you have over 3.5K health. I swear, almost every single AD top lane can buy this and benefit from it. It's an amazing item, but don't buy it if you are facing someone that can win a team fight, Titanic Hydra is best when you are slightly ahead.

TLDR: Want more AD and carry potential?


Dead Man's Plate

Dead Man's Plate is a very funny item. It gives a nice amount of health and armour, but the real reason to buy this is for that slow and 60 movement speed boost. What I find strange is that unless you build Boots of Swiftness with full speed quints, this item isn't that bright of a star when comparing abilities or stats. HOWEVER, I still do consider it to be an amazing item on Garen. You get a free Boots of Swiftness and a conditional 1 second slow. When using Decisive Strike with 100 stacks, you can deal more damage and allow more of Judgment's damage to securely connect. If you fight against an AD Caster (someone who doesn't really mostly on AAs), buy this item.

TLDR: The most optimal armour item you should be getting in most lanes.

Randuin's Omen

Randuin's Omen is a very defensive item that becomes important when either the enemy has a Tryndamere, Yasuo, or any basic attack fighter. It's been slightly buffed now and the cost value is actually very efficient, but generally get this when you're facing someone who basically only AAs through the whole game or you need more armour. You'll want to take advantage of that crit damage reduction passive!

TLDR: Does your opponent take down turrets fast?

Sunfire Cape

A very similar item in stats to Randuin's Omen, this should be bought when you or your team have the advantage or you think you have difficulty trading. Although small, that magic damage will stack to hundreds given that you trade for a while, and since many people think Garen deals purely physical damage and magic damage only with his ult, they'll stack armour but the cape will deal magic damage which ignores armour stacking. Other than that, Dead Man's Plate beats this as an overall item (that 60 movement speed and slow), so you won't be building this every time (still a core item before Dead Man's Plate appeared). Buying this against someone like Darius or Renekton is most efficient, because they can out trade you heavily early and you'll get free damage off of them while trading.

TLDR: Are you having trouble trading?


Thornmail is an amazing item when purchased right such as when the enemy team is full AD. The passive now scales with your armour and since you'll get a lot of armour, this becomes the worst nightmare of ADCs and any auto attack champion. HOWEVER, Thornmail is not an item that you will be building every game because it only gives armour and nothing else like health or any other passive, and the passive has to be used at the right time such as facing a late game Master Yi and Tryndamere at the same time. Don't build it just for the ADC unless that carry really is a huge problem.

TLDR: Facing full AD? Against super fed ADC or melee carry?


Spirit Visage

Spirit Visage is the MR item that Garen benefits mostly from. You get a 20% self healing buff so at level 16, Perseverance will heal you for 2.4% of your maximum health per second which is the closest you'll every get to a free Warmog's Armor. You get 10% CDR which stacks with The Black Cleaver for 30% CDR, more health, and a lot of magic resist that can make a Void Staff become useless. Build this every game unless you want to swap it for Maw of Malmortius or the enemy team is full AD.

TLDR: The MR item you should have every game (95%).

Maw of Malmortius

Maw of Malmortius is a situational item, but it's good enough to be a great AD-MR hybrid item. You get an upgraded Hexdrinker passive that scales with bonus MR, and since you'll passively get 57MR without doing anything it is really beneficial (you can potentially have a shield that absorbs nearly 500 magic damage if you built Spirit Visage as well. You get 55 AD, and 10 Amour Penetration which helps until late game where items like Mortal Reminder become more effective, but 10AR pen is nothing to laugh at, especially against squishies. Maw of Malmortius is recommended when you're really fed and mid game is going exceptionally well but you need to take down a fed enemy APC that can still kill you.

TLDR: Facing an all-in AP champion? Want more AD?


Sterak's Gage

This item is a pretty underestimated one, even by me :P. It gives us lots of health, a BASE AD boost, double that when you're bursted down (will happen when you engage 1v5), a shield that scales off your maximum health. It's also really cheap. Sterak's Gage is a wonderful item for you or any tanky bruiser. Unlike Malphite, you're going to take heavy damage even when tanky so having more AD and a shield when you're low? Amazing! I'm starting to believe that Sterak's Gage should be a core item every game where both teams are going neck to neck so that your 1v5 engages can give you a better chance of you surviving.

TLDR: Want better 1v5 engages?

Warmog's Armor

When you're facing a team that has so much damage output, is full AD so you won't buy Spirit Visage, you're behind, or you just need extra health, Warmog's Armor becomes a handy item. The only thing it gives you is 850 health with base health regen, but will stack with your passive and give you a whopping 5% of your maximum health per second regeneration. You can literally jump into their fountain, comeback out and walk down the lane, and by the time you get to your base you'll be at full health. So generally, Warmog's Armor should be built when you need the extra health or you'll die, or you just want to troll the other team ;)

TLDR: Do you want to have better health regen?


Mercury's Treads

This is the boots you'll want to end almost every game with. It gives us 20% tenacity which is nice, since you become more stubborn with your engages, so all of the hard CCs the enemies throw at you will be not as effective. Generally, these boots are the best ones to finish with because of the resistance you need to be the frontline. Also you get 25 MR so passively we accumulate 82 MR.

TLDR: You want to brush off CCs?

Ninja Tabi

Very useful early game against AD based fighters, they reduce AA damage by 10%. Most effective against ADCs and basic attackers but is outshine by Mercury's Treads late game. In an AD lane, buy it early and sell it later. The moments when you should keep it is when someone on the other team only uses auto attacks to deal damage (not ADCs, someone like Tryndamere.

TLDR: Facing AA based people?

Boots of Swiftness

These are most useful when you're facing a ranged character and you gotta go fast to catch them! These boots give us some sort of tenacity by reducing slows, but remember, it isn't pure tenacity! That provides better utility in team fights! Get these when you're ahead.

TLDR: Fed and gotta chase Sanic?



This is one of the best upgrades you can buy. 20 more movement speed so that we can go extra fast to catchup to targets and run away. The best purchase for most games.

TLDR: Gotta go faster?


Gives us more CDR on Flash which can be very important and adds a movement speed buff after using it! Good when you're a more valuable asset to your team.

TLDR:More Flashes per 5 minutes?


Elixir of Iron

The most useful elixir on Garen. This gives us extra health, MORE tenacity so that you become unstoppable, and a speed buff to our teammates in case they have trouble keeping up with our speed xD. With masteries and Mercury's Treads, we can get to 60% tenacity! For many beginners: I recommend you buy elixirs at the very end when you have your full build because these are TEMPORARY STAT BOOSTS. Items are permanent, but these are timed.

TLDR: Did you finish your build?

Elixir of Wrath

If you don't have a lot of AD or want some more, buy this to also gain lifesteal on your spells and AAs for a mini Ravenous Hydra. However, this doesn't provide us with the best team fight stats that the Elixir of Iron gives us.

TLDR: Did you finish build and need more AD?


Banshee's Veil

I can see one (and possibly only one) reason to buy this item:

The enemy team has a fed Veigar and you don't want to waste Flash just to escape Event Horizon.

So in the end, Spirit Visage is the overall better MR item for Garen, but if the enemy team has a fed APC or ADC that always denies you with one spell (ex. Annie's Pyromania). The shield will eat the spell and you can continue to chase the carry. Another thing is that something like your own Demacian Justice can be blocked by it :P

TLDR: You want to avoid this one really crucial spell.

Mortal Reminder

This item has been compared to The Black Cleaver, but the truth is that it's inferior on Garen than the Cleaver is. First, Mortal Reminder pierces BONUS ARMOUR and NOT TOTAL ARMOUR. Second, The Black Cleaver SHREDS/REDUCES armour while this IGNORES armour. The difference is that when you reduce armour, your ADC is going to do a hell of a lot more damage to the target as well. When you ignore armour, only you get the penetration. The Black Cleaver also offers other stats that outshine this.

TLDR: You're building Full AD Garen.

Ravenous Hydra

Brother to the amazing Titanic Hydra, this item gives more AD (sort of) and lifesteal. Garen will deal more damage because of it and his split pushing capabilities won't be affected compared to Titanic Hydra and Judgment will heal him. The downside is that he really doesn't take advantage of all the stats Ravenous Hydra gives. Why? Garen is not squishy unless you buy 3 Infinity Edges on him and he doesn't need lifesteal. He already has his passive to do the work, so after 5.16, this item turns even more useless to him. This is better for people who tend to build full AD items.

TLDR: Don't even consider this.

Infinity Edge

Let's be real. Did you really think that this item wouldn't be here? Infinity Edge is famous. Any character that scales with AD can buy it, no matter if it is core or it's to troll. "Oh, did you see Katarina's ult scaling with bonus AD? I have to get Infinity Edge so it can crit as well HUEHUEHUEHUE!" (Don't ask about what I just wrote I have no idea as well) Back on topic, IE enhances crits, and the crit chance given can allow Decisive Strike and Judgment to critically strike. So generally, Garen is a person who should never be building this in 95% of games... unless you happen to be legendary at 15 minutes. If you are, then get Infinity Edge. As long as you have some defences, you'll literally be unkillable. You'll crit for HUGE damage that will make squishes explode, just like how Darkk Mane demonstrates.

TLDR: Do you want to become a giant troll?

Youmuu's Ghostblade

This item actually used to be suitable as a final item to boost damage, before Riot decided to remove the crit chance (wai rito). Now, Youmuu's Ghostblade gives more AD, AR pen, and the same active. What do I say about this item? It isn't core, it doesn't help you THAT MUCH when you're ahead, but it isn't useless. In short terms, build this if you happen to be fed. I honestly don't know what to write about for this item.

TLDR: You're trying something... I guess?

Duskblade of Draktharr

A useful item if you're going to build anything like Trinity Garen. You may think that the passive's time restriction is really short, and to be honest it is... if you don't have Trinity Force, that is. If you build Trinity Force with this item (possibly more AD as well), you may not even need to use Demacian Justice to execute a squishy target.. Yep. Buy it if you're going Assassin Garen. You should never build it as an item for AD, because regular Tank Garen doesn't deal enough damage in 2 seconds, even on the Villain. You're not Zed or Talon who can just almost delete squishes. They were meant to deal damage in half of a second and escape, you're a bruiser.

TLDR: You've built Trinity Force before this, right?

Ok, now there is one more item that I feel like discussing, more in depth than most of these items.

It's the Trinity Force.

No, I don't say Tri-Force because that's from Legend of Zelda.


Trinity Force

So in this one game I played, I managed to get really fed. Like, really fed so that I finished The Black Cleaver before armour. Eventually I got to legendary at 20 minutes, and the other team wasn't surrendering. I wanted to carry insanely hard so I thought of ideas. What item gives many people a huge power spike and crit chance? I bought the Sheen. Let's just say that deleting people with this is easier than having 50% crit chance. I continued the build to Trinity Force, and my god, let me just say that I have been missing out on some goodies.

Here's Trinity Force in a nutshell and the only things you need to really know about it.

- Spellblade Passive - If Decisive Strike crits as well, it can deal 1200 damage in one shot. Literally delete any squishy at half health.
- Crit Chance - Just for more kill potential.

These two make the item amazing, provided that you are fed. Trinity Force also gives health, AD, CDR, movement speed, and AS. So you may wonder, well, if you say that the item is amazing, why isn't it core? Remember how I said that The Black Cleaver was the only core damage item? That won't change. Trinity Force will also give stats that are useless. Garen has no mana. The Black Cleaver already provides a better rage passive. So when you're ahead, get this. You'll receive a bigger power spike than Irelia would get from it, and you know how big that is. Trinity Force is an item that shouldn't be bought every game, but as I said, get it when you're ahead. You will become unstoppable, and turn into Assassin Garen.

TLDR: You want to delete squishes better than LeBlanc?


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Laning Phase Matchups

Just saying, I haven't faced every top laner that exists (meta or troll lanes), so some matchups will be missing in detail or it simply won't be there. I'm sorry about this, I'm hoping to experience more and update the guide as soon as I can :)
Also, not everything I write here is true. Your hard counter can be defeated and the person you counter can win by variables; jungler ganks, skill, and luck. Don't think that all of what I wrote is fate :)

Each champion is given a difficulty from 1 to 10.

Difficulty: 4

How to Beat Aatrox!

Difficulty: 5

How to Beat Cho'Gath!

Difficulty: 8

How to Beat Darius!

Dr. Mundo
Difficulty: 5

How to Beat Dr. Mundo!

Difficulty: 4

How to Beat Fiora!

Difficulty: 4

How to Beat Gangplank!

Difficulty: 7

How to Beat Gnar!

Difficulty: 2

How to Beat Gragas!

Difficulty: 5

How to Beat Hecarim!

Difficulty: 8

How to Beat Illaoi!

Difficulty: 4

How to Beat Irelia

Difficulty: 2

How to Beat Jax

Difficulty: 7

How to Beat Jayce!

Difficulty: 10

How to Beat Kayle!

Lee Sin
Difficulty: 3

How to Beat Lee Sin!

Difficulty: 4

How to Beat Malphite!

Master Yi
Difficulty: 2

How to Beat Master Yi!

Difficulty: 2

How to Beat Nasus!

Difficulty: 7

How to Beat Olaf!

Difficulty: 5

How to Beat Pantheon!

Difficulty: 3

How to Beat Poppy!

Difficulty: 6

How to Beat Renekton!

Difficulty: 3

How to Beat Riven!

Difficulty: 3

How to Beat Shen!

Difficulty: 2

How to Beat Singed!

Difficulty: 3

How to Beat Sion!

Tahm Kench
Difficulty: 5

How to Beat Tahm Kench!

Difficulty: 6

How to Beat Teemo!

Difficulty: 7

How to Beat Trundle!

Difficulty: 3

How to Beat Tryndamere!

Difficulty: 4

How to Beat Vi!

Difficulty: 5

How to Beat Volibear!

Difficulty: 3

How to Beat Warwick!

Difficulty: 3

How to Beat Wukong!

Xin Zhao
Difficulty: 3

How to Beat Xin Zhao!

Difficulty: 4

How to Beat Yasuo!

Difficulty: 6

How to Beat Yorick!

Ok, the matchups that I encountered in top lane are done. Yay! If you found that the matchup information you were looking for was not here, I'm sorry about that. Don't worry, I'll update the section as soon as I manage to play against new champions :)


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Let it Rip


Concepts: Be a lane bully that Garen normally is. Although weaker early than pre 5.16 Garen, he still has a lot of early game power over many fighters. Abuse it. Focus last hitting as well and trading.

It's important to get a kill early and snowball for you to roam and kill carries. You won't be able to do a lot if this doesn't happen. Check out how your opponent plays: Does he/she focus farming or tries to harass you? You also need to farm though; get the passive AR and MR stacks going and earn gold to buy your first items. Trade often, there aren't that many people who can out damage you early game, but be smart. Once your burst damage is over, you won't get the same results by using auto attacks. Let your opponent know that you'll always out trade them by Courage. Once that image comes into their mind, they'll be more careful. Their jungler may camp you.

You're Being Ganked:

What damage does the jungler and your lane opponent deal? Are the both physical or magic, or are they mixed? If they're both physical, you'll have a good shot at killing one or scaring both of them away because of your tankiness ( Cloth Armor). If the damage sources are different, run, unless you're heavily fed. You probably have only bought defence for 1 source of damage (your lane opponent), so having another source that counters your defence is not good. You'll die. Place wards often in the tri-bush and the river bush if you're pushing lane.


Concepts: This is your pinnacle moment. Start to roam after hitting level 11 and snowball other lanes. Clear objectives and transition into a bruiser.

Hopefully you've won your lane and got your first defensive item. Work towards The Black Cleaver or a second defensive item if an enemy's carry is fed, but pick up at least one Long Sword. Start to roam once you hit level 11, since your ultimate at rank 2 is simply amazing. Judgment's damage is ridiculous, so this is your best phase. Try to hunt down the Villain if you can see him/her, but don't forget that about the enemy's ADC and APC. Those are your main focuses. Run in, BUT MAKE SURE TO PING TO YOUR TEAM MATES TO FOLLOW UP, and become a target. You'll be tanky enough for ADCs since items like Mortal Reminder or Lord Dominik's Regards won't be a common purchase, so in a good team fight you can potentially get 4 people down. Ward objectives like dragon , gank struggling lanes and maybe ask your jungler to help you kill the rift herald. Help teammates take down turrets by being a tank. If you've lost your lane or the enemy carries have snowballed, focus the Villain to get the shut down gold. It'll be your best shot at killing them.

NOTE: Don't forget about your lane though! You never know if your outer turret may be destroyed before you destroyed theirs, especially if your opponent is an excellent split pusher. Keep pushing your lane and farm for gold to buy items faster. You should almost be done filling out the stacks of Courage in a good scenario (15~30).


So if your team or the enemy team haven't surrendered until 30 minutes, you're in lategame. This phase will be consisted of team fights and assassinations, and one mistake can lead to a defeat. Late game is when the ADCs dish out the most damage, so their team will always be trying to peel for their carries. Pentakill potential is strong.

Concepts: Fulfill your job as the tank of your team. Engage and create distractions so your team can follow up, take objectives, and peel for your carries. Play safely.

Before 5.16, Garen would fall off hard by late game. Damage dropped off so reaping the ADC and APC became more difficult and he transitioned into an almost pure tank. Now the story is completely different. We get the Villain mechanic, and Judgment's damage has been buffed significantly. He may be slightly less tanky than before, but still is one of the best tanks in the game.

What To Do:

  1. Kill the enemy carries, will be easier if he/she is the Villain
  2. Delete dangerous squishy characters
  3. Tank objectives
  4. Peel!

Let's say that a 5v5 team fight broke out. What you'll want to do is run to the enemy backline and kill the ADC/APC because they have the biggest damage output. It's no use focusing a Rammus if he can't kill anyone on your team. If you're behind or the carry is too well peeled or strong, focus the Villain or someone immobile and squishy (you won't be able to chase a LeBlanc. In the worst case scenario where everyone on the enemy team is doing good, you want to activate Courage, build the Immortal Bayblade, and kill the Villain, since he/she will be the easiest to do. Tell your teammates that you'll go in and try to kill the Villain. This will cause distractions, and the enemies will use some of their stronger CCs to try and stop you. You will create a distraction so that by the time you're at half health, the enemy carry will probably have died, if your team managed to focus on them. When the carries die, the damage output of a team falls off significantly, and you can focus on the tankier people. Hopefully you'll make it alive and your team maybe killed 3 of their team so that you can win the game or secure inhibitors and baron. Respawning late game takes forever so one mistake can either win or lose you the game. When peeling, always save your silence. If a fed Katarina jumps to your ADC and tries to kill him/her, you want to use silence here. Generally, try to save it unless you don't need it.


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Messing Around

Other Builds

I decided to write this section for fun. Below will be some alternative build paths that Garen can take. However, please note that these build paths are either slightly riskier (or insanely risky) or troll builds. Don't take them seriously, except for the first one.

1. Trinity Garen

This is a build that uses the Trinity Force and keeps everything else intact. Take this build if you happen to snowball lane, and everyone one the enemy team is very squishy. This build won't work well if the enemy team has more than 2 tanks or your team is completely squishy so you need to be a nearly dedicated tank.

Pros and Cons

- Powerful burst damage, can two shot squishes with Decisive Strike
- Strong mobility
- Crit for late game damage

- Not as tanky as normal Garen
- Not a good item when behind or going neck to neck

Start by resistances, just like you normally would. If you snowball, upgrade that resistance ( Chain Vest, Spectre's Cowl, Hexdrinker) and get a Phage. The next component can be either, but I prefer to have Sheen first. Complete Trinity Force and build core resistance item against your lane opponent. Build like normal from there. So generally, all you should have of a difference is the Trinity Force instead of 1 other AD item, preferably not replacing The Black Cleaver. Trinity Force allows you to crit with Judgment so you get faster wave clear than Sunfire Cape, and if Decisive Strike happens to proc Sheen and crits, you can literally use a QE combo without it even finishing to kill a carry. The good side is that you'll still be tanky, but not as usual though. Remember, buying Trinity Force when you're even or behind is not a good idea, so please play safe when you build this! You'll want to include Sterak's Gage in this build.

2. Assassin Garen

This build is where things start to change. Your build path will start to look more like Irelia, with many damage items but still 1 or 2 tank items. This build path essentially makes you the Akali of top lane; high damage, incredible mobility, but still some bruiser-like tankiness.

Pros and Cons

- This build allows you to become a Zed-ish assassin, insane burst damage
- So much damage, you probably won't believe how easily this can kill any squishy
- Better mobility than Trinity Garen (you'll know if you built it before)

- Pretty damn squishy
- You won't become a tank. You'll be more of an assassin in the top lane.

Once again, start by resistances. Finish stacking one defensive item ( Hexdrinker if opponent is AP), and get Trinity Force. This will take a while, so make sure that you're really fed so that the chance of something bad happening is lower. Once you're done Trinity Force, and start to build a resistance item for the other type of damage. This way you'll get some tankiness as well. Your next item will be a Duskblade of Draktharr. With this item, you probably won't even need to use Demacian Justice to kill someone, thanks to the item's passive. The time frame given to deal damage is very short so you NEED Trinity Force in order to get the Zed-ish damage. I recommend you buy Boots of Swiftness here instead of Mercury's Treads or Ninja Tabi, since you're an assassin. Your goal is to get to someone, burst them down and escape, so you need that extra speed. If you feel like going further, buy either Infinity Edge or Youmuu's Ghostblade. So when you finished the build, it should look something like this:

3. Full AD Garen

This is essentially a troll build; you should never try something like this in a serious ranked game, but it's something very cool to try if you want to play very risky.

Pros and Cons

- You will have serious carry potential

- A feast or famine build
- You're a melee assassin, be very careful of anyone ranged

So here, start with either a Long Sword or Doran's Blade. The first item you'll want to get is The Black Cleaver with Boots of Swiftness. Proceed and get an Infinity Edge afterwards. You can get either Trinity Force if you want more damage, or Maw of Malmortius if you feel like the APC is destroying you. Finish with Sterak's Gage or Mortal Reminder. This build makes you a squishy fighter like Riven that deals a lot of damage and can carry extremely hard, but please be aware that if laning phase isn't going well, don't follow this build. It is really meant for trolling, and is generally not as effective as Tank Garen would be.

4. Jungle Garen

Yep, Jungle Garen is a thing. It exists and can work, but your ganks won't be very effective since you have no legit engage. Another thing to know here is that Perseverance will be practically useless until level 11, and you'll want to start with Judgment instead of Decisive Strike. Do be noted that Garen isn't a jungle champion to begin with; his kit makes him a laner. His ult becomes useless in the jungle. Keep this in mind.

Pros and Cons

- Actually a big threat late game
- Ganks can be effective for those who don't expect one

- Slow clear speed early on
- Will fall significantly behind if not ahead
- Not the best ganks, especially before Chilling Smite or Flash

Grab Flash and ALWAYS Smite. I've seen some junglers not take it, but those are the late game carries like Master Yi and Warwick, since he can solo Baron later. Your jungle item should be Stalker's Blade, and later enhance it with either Enchantment: Cinderhulk or Enchantment: Warrior. Since you have a slow clear speed early, I recommend you get your bot lane to leash for you, starting with Gromp. Gank as soon as you get chilling smite available. Your build should be the same as Tank Garen.


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Thank You.

Thanks for visiting this guide. Either you skimmed for your matchup right before you played or you read through all of these huge walls of text. It definitely took some effort to get this guide published. I know it's not a beauty contest winning one and it is missing information, but if you liked it or enjoyed the content that was offered, I would highly appreciate it if you can take a little moment to cast a vote or leave a comment. The feedback can tell me how helpful the guide is to you and will help me write more details that you guys can use and thought were missing. I will constantly push updates for new champions, PBE changes, and more so the guide won't become stale. Once again thanks for reading and have a good day! :)


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PBE Logs

PBE Changes

This Section is going to be here, in case anything changes to Garen. I'll write down some changes in items if they're big enough.


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Journal Log

Journal Log

Just to keep track on changes and some milestones this guide passes :]

01/10/2016 - First Version Publish! Yay!
01/11/2016 - Minor edits. 'Threat' changed to 'Difficulty'
01/25/2016 - I hit lv28. Some text changes here and there, armour items changes, PBE chapter added.
02/01/2016 - Added some more situational items. Clean up. Poppy is no longer new. Added ability scalings
02/04/2016 - Added Tahm Kench matchup
02/07/2016 - Updates to Teemo, Sion, and Trundle matchups
02/08/2015 - Rewrote matchup for new Shen
02/14/2016 - Added alternative build options and Gragas matchup. Updated Singed matchup. I am now entering Bronze!
02/15/2016 - Added Olaf matchup and updates to Tryndamere matchup
02/21/2016 - Updates to Renekton matchup. Opinion on new assassin item.
02/26/2016 - Rewrote the opinions for armour items, Gragas description was rewritten for less confusion
03/05/2016 - Added Aatrox matchup, updated Jayce matchup
03/07/2016 - Introducing Jungle Garen, Warwick matchup, and revamped mid game items section
03/19/2016 - Adding TLDRs here and there, more to come
03/20/2016 - Added TLDRs for first third of matchups, simplified Darius matchup. Consider Sterak's a solid replacement after the Titanic Hydra nerf