Garen Build Guide by Verdande
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When I started playing League of Legends, I hated Garen with a passion. This was when people would feed him and feed him, and he'd stack 5 Sunfire Capes and a pair of boots and wreck entire teams. People were still learning how to deal with him, not that it was complex. You don't check bushes. He was a pubstomper, like old Mordekaiser was, and people couldn't understand that. It wasn't uncommon for a Garen to have scores of 10/0/0 by thirty minutes. That hatred of that silly Demacian with his execution ultimate haunted me.
Until one day when I played him on free week. He'd been nerfed to unplayability said the forums. He was worthless, only worth using for his ultimate. He wasn't worth a teamslot, and a waste of IP.
I'm nothing if not game for a challenge.
I'd never played him during his "peak" when you stacked Sunfire Capes and called it a day, so I was surprised when "worthless" Garen was dominating lanes, getting triple kills, and getting called "overpowered" by some random scrubs. When your enemies say you're "so overpowered", that's the highest compliment there is.
Garen is a misunderstood Demacian. You have to get in his mind, understand how he thinks, and when and where he's most effective. You have utilize your strengths and understand your enemy's weaknesses and their pride. Unlike other, weaker champions, you don't rely on teleports or slows or any sort of gimmick to get in or out of battle. When you are in your element, you are unstoppable. When you are not, you must seek the advantage until you can use your considerable force to break the enemy in twain. It is thus that you can attain victory with the Might of Demacia.
Garen's highly dependant on positioning, to the extent where Ghost is almost required. With Judgment you're moving while you're attacking, but often your enemy will also bring Ghost. Until they day they stop, you must match the fastest person on their team.
I love bringing Exhaust as well, since your targets are unable to escape and it has a potent and useful teamfight benefit as well. You'll be getting the Cripple mastery, so use Exhaust whenever you want an enemy to stick around so your whole team can slap them around.
Cleanse is a decent choice, especially if you don't want to bring Ghost. CC is your bane, and prevents 100% of your damage, especially since you don't have any sort of gap-closing method other than running faster.
Flash is fine, but severely overrated. If you're in a position where a tiny jump puts you in the clear, stand where the tiny jump puts you in the clear. Some champions need this crutch. Garen, in my opinion, does not.
Ignite is something you simply don't need. Don't bring it. You're able to score early kills without it if your positioning is good enough, and it doesn't bring you any real benefit past your early game.
Heal is mediocre. It can be used, in combination with Courage and Demacian Justice to bait your opponents into suboptimal positions and let you burst them down quickly. That is its only real use. Between Perseverance and the Healing Potions you should be buying compulsively, your passive regen is the highest in the game this side of Mundo.
Clarity, Rally, and Revive are useless for Garen, especially with the recently reduced death timer.
Perseverance is your passive. It lets you have lane durability and outlast your enemies. If you and your enemy both deal heavy damage to each other, you've come out ahead due to your passive. If you drink a health potion and let your passive tick for a little while, you're going to be at full health much earlier than they.
Decisive Strike is your gap-closer and your bread-and-butter damage ability. In lane, use it to catch your opponents off guard with the speed boost and larger than expected burst of damage. In teamfights, use it to motor up to the other team's juiciest target and mash them to bits.
Courage is your "oh ****" ability. Pop it when you're taking a little too much damage, or when you're about to be caught in a stun and you have no way out. I tend to leave this at a low level, or even with Decisive Strike, depending on what level of aggression I can afford to maintain throughout the match.
Judgment is what you use to chase, or to deter other from chasing. When you Judgment, you move through minions as well, so you can take advantage of any sort of creep advantage you might have accumulated through preventing your enemies from farming.
Demacian Justice is what you use to catch runners, and what makes you so dangerous. You'll have to get a gut feeling of when to use it on each enemy. Nothing's more frustrating than using your beautiful giant glowing sword to no effect. Don't be selfish with it- if you're going to die, throw out an ult. If somebody's getting away but you're not sure you'll be able to finish them off, throw it out.
As Garen, your prime element is in the thick of battle, where your Judgement will hit the entire enemy team and you can intercept and slay stragglers, runners, and cowards with your Justice. As such, survivability is your prime concern, followed by damage.
For Marks, I recommend Greater Mark of Desolation. Greater Mark of Attack Damage are a decent substitute. Critical strike chance is fine if you have them for another champion.
For Seals, I recommend Greater Seal of Health. Greater Seal of Armor is also fine, since his base armor is a bit low and it helps you ignore minion damage. It really depends on your playstyle.
For Glyphs, I recommend Cooldown Reduction or Magic Resistance about equally. I prefer Cooldown Reduction, since you're not picking up much item-wise.
For Quintessences, I recommend Movement Speed or Health. You can also pick up more Armor Penetration, but generally speaking, the Armor Penetration you'll get between your Marks and items should be sufficient.
There are two schools of thought on how to build Garen, generally speaking:
1)Build him as tanky as you can.
2)Build as much damage on him as you can.
Both are stupid.
If you have no attack damage, you're going to deal zero damage and have zero CC, so you're essentially going to be spinning around and sometimes steal a kill on a runner with your ultimate. You're going to be a waste of space.
If you have no survivability, you're going to do decent damage, but you're not going to last long enough to get anything done. You're innately tanky with good health and Courage, but you're going to get killed. You need to be in the middle of teamfights for long enough to kill their carry, and then escape.
My general item build is:
Doran's Shield -> Boots of Speed -> Phage -> Boots of Swiftness -> Frozen Mallet, and from there it's really situational. With this core, you're tough enough to live through some harassment, and you're dealing enough damage to let people know that you're not going to get pushed around.
I often get Sunfire Cape and Atma's Impaler, but it depends on what your enemies are. Generally speaking, the extra health and the bonus armor that Sunfire Cape grants you doesn't hurt. The unique aura gives you, essentially, a bonus 40 damage to your Judgement and helps reinforce your role as a teamfighter and damage sponge. It also lets you ignore turret damage, to a greater extent.
If you're fighting Malzahar or Warwick or Lux anybody else with an ability that'll stop you from doing your stuff, get a Quicksilver Sash and go to town. Do not allow your inevitable to victory to be stopped.
Alternate Items (For when you're feeling adventurous, or the round is going better than expected)
Last Whisper is nice for those rounds where you need a solid, middle-of-the-line damage boost, and the armor penetration is very nice for when your squishy targets try and get some armor. Armor penetration is always valuable.
The Brutalizer is a nice early-game damage boost if you don't need the extra health from Phage/ Frozen Mallet. Additional armor penetration, like I've said before, is always beneficial to you, since both Decisive Strike and Judgment do physical damage, and so does your autoattack. The only problem with The Brutalizer is that you won't get much use of Youmuu's Ghostblade, since attack speed doesn't do anything for you but help you lay waste to towers.
Infinity Edge is an excellent late-game damage booster. The crit chance helps both your Decisive Strike and your Judgment, although it helps significantly more with your Decisive Strike. I prefer Atma's Impaler, but they're both useful. Get them both in long games.
Force of Nature is a good choice if they're doing heavy magic damage, and the movespeed doesn't hurt either. You probably won't really notice the regen by the time you get it, but it can help in hectic, drawn-out fights.
Randuin's Omen is a little tankier than I like to build Garen, but the active is killer.
Hexdrinker is actually pretty awesome. It lets you take burst casters by surprise, since they've already wasted their burst and you're alive, they're in a bad position. Garen lasts longer than just about any other champion in the game, and Hexdrinker lets you keep it that way.
Don't get Tiamat. It won't help you.
The Black Cleaver is also bad, since, again, attack speed isn't that great. You could pick it up if you don't have anybody else to push down towers, or something. Use your best judgment.
Don't get Sword of the Occult unless the match is a steamroll. Leviathan is actually a better choice for you, since you'll keep getting tougher the more you kill, and then you can buy attack items with the gold.
Warmog's Armor is awful. Garen has low base resistances, even with Courage. You need to get Armor and Magic Resist as well.
As far as boots, you should know which ones to get.
Boots of Swiftness are your most clear choice. Movespeed is too important not to get. Your damage relies entirely on your ability to run into melee range and dice your enemies.
Mercury Treads are your only real choice. CC reduction is important, although mathematically small. You'll notice the difference when being chain CC'd, which is when you'll feel the most pain.
Ninja Tabi is only a good choice if your enemies are entirely autoattack oriented, since the movement speed is significantly more important than increased armor and dodge chance.
Ionian Boots of Lucidity aren't the best choice, as increased movement speed is better than reduced cooldowns. Garen's only limited by cooldowns, but his cooldowns are already fairly low. I don't usually get them, but they may be a suitable choice if you already have movement speed quintessences.
To play Garen at even a moderately passable level, you need to understand his strengths and weaknesses, and get into the mindset of a Demacian soldier.
Garen is strong in melee combat, and powerful when chasing down cowards. When he initiates, he wades directly into the thickest part of the battle, yelling his battlecry and mowing down his enemies. He is tireless, and maintains constant pressure on his enemies. Garen never needs to stop, and never needs to rest.
You are a passable solo lane, although you're wasting much of your potential as one. You're very strong in early game with a lanemate who can provide a snare, stun, or slow, and will likely get an early kill if you're playing aggressively enough. Don't rely on the early kill for your gold supply, and make sure to make prudent purchases.
At level one, you should have a Doran's Shield and Decisive Strike at your disposal. Only last hit, and only when to do so would not get you too much sustained harassment. Claim the bushes if you can, and try and zone your enemies out. If you are unable to zone your enemies out, wait patiently. You will still likely be able to take advantage of minute positioning errors as long as you remain near the front of the minion line, and use the speed boost from your Q to charge at your enemies. Harass intelligently, and only when you can gain an advantage from doing so.
On your first trip back, buy at least Boots of Speed and some Health Potions. You need to keep your boots at the same "level" as your enemies. If they only have Boots of Speed, you can have only boots of speed. If they have anything else, you're going to want Boots of Swiftness ASAP.
Last hit and harass intelligently until you hit level 6. When you hit level 6, you're infinitely more dangerous. Now you have your Demacian Justice, and will be able to turn a close fight into an easily won fight. You can play significantly more aggressively when you have your ultimate, as your opponents will often move in to kill you when you have the upper hand.
Hang around in lane with low health, low enough that your enemies might get greedy and begin to act aggressively. Let your passive activate if possible, and let them attack. Feint, and act passively until they overextend or commit. It shouldn't be hard to do- stand just outside of their poke range, and weave in and out so they find themselves moving forwards almost despite themselves.
When they've committed, slam your Decisive Strike into their skulls, and Judgment them as they run. This should do a good chunk of damage, as long as you're not attacking something stupid like Rammus. If they go back to Nexus, you've won. If you get a kill, you've won. If their jungler comes out to gank you, well, you've lost probably unless they flub the gank.
Late-game, your role shifts a bit. Your damage doens't scale as well as a hard carry, so you're not able to massacre anybody you please. Your targets are limited to the enemy carries, but luckily, Garen's still more than able to perform that role in fights. Hit your Decisive Strike to charge up to their carry and silence them, preventing their escape. If they run, follow them along with your Judgment, and then hit them with a Demacian Justice.
Remember: Garen is an anti-carry. Your job is to destroy whoever you're laned against and stop them from farming themselves up and getting fed late-game. If you're doing your job right, your enemies will be able to accomplish nothing.
Hopefully I've managed to detail a bit of how I play the Might of Demacia. Here are a couple of pictures of my scores with the item build intact.
The following two are from level 30 Normal games:
In this game, we came from behind despite my team getting rocked pretty hard by burst casters. Their Malphite was a beast, as well, but they couldn't sustain the pressure. In this game, the Hexdrinker was essential to my continued victory. I'd wait until after the teamfight had been initiated by our tank, then I'd sprint over and smack down their casters, who were focused on other things.
In this game, myself and my lanemate (Soraka) had our work cut out for us. We had a lane of Gangplank and Nasus, and our ultra-low CS was a result of us harassing the two of them so that their CS by the end of the game was even lower than ours. With Gangplank underfarmed, he had only a pathetic poke and then his ultimate, but he kept feeding until it snowballed over to the rest of the team.
A couple of tips to keep in mind:
- Frozen Mallet is excellent for keeping your enemies in Judgment range and the rest of your team will thank you for it, as well.
- If you're doing well in a round, don't be afraid to get the alternate items I listed, like The Brutalizer. There's no sense in having more health than you could possibly need. The more damage you build, the more help you are in pushing down towers.
- Don't buy Warmog's Armor. Seriously, don't do it. It's the definition of a noob trap.
- Don't be a **** with your ultimate. Sure, you'll make mistakes and kill something just before your carry shoots their little arrow at it, but don't do it intentionally.
- On the flipside, don't be afraid to "steal" kills with it. It's better that you get the kill than nobody get the kill, especially in late-game where a death is really significant.
- You're not a tank. Don't be a hero. If a squishy teammate is getting ripped apart, what are you going to do about it? You can't stop them. You have no CC.
- If you get laned with a partner with CC, your job gets much easier.
- You need to have a great sense of timing to succeed with Garen.
- Know all of your enemy's strengths and weaknesses and play accordingly.