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Maokai can fill a number of roles. He can be built as a tank, pusher, AP nuker, AD carry and jungler.
This guide is for the jungle Maokai.
+ High sustainability through his passive, which heals you on your next melee attack after 5 spell casts
+ Very good farmer through his abilities, able to clear creep waves with ease
+ High mobility through his Twisted Advance, which transports you to your target's location and roots them
+ Has an extremely powerful ultimate, which, if used correctly in a team fight can mitigate a TON of damage
+ Makes for very good ganks, with the use of two CC abilities
- Relatively mana hungry
- Requires you to be in melee range to proc passive heal
- Limited escape abilities
Passive - Sap Magic: Each time a spell is cast near Maokai, he gains a charge of Magical Sap. When he has 5 charges his next melee attack heals him for 7% of his maximum health.
Q - Arcane Smash: Maokai slams the ground and sends an arcane shockwave forward, damaging and slowing his enemies for 2 seconds. Enemies close to Maokai are knocked up briefly.
W - Twisted Advance: Maokai transforms into a cloud of arcane energy, quickly traveling to a target enemy. Once Maokai reaches it, the target takes magic damage and is rooted in place.
R - Vengeful Maelstrom: Maokai creates a great vortex of natural energy on a nearby area reducing non-tower damage done to allied champions in the area by 20%. Maokai can prolong the effect as long as he has mana to spend on it. When the effect ends, Maokai unleashes the absorbed energy to deal damage to enemies within the vortex.
9x Greater Mark of Strength (+0.95 attack damage)
9x Greater Seal of Resilience (+1.41 armor)
9x Greater Glyph of Potency (+0.99 ability power)
3x Greater Quintessence of Swiftness (+1.5% movement speed)
Make sure to pick up the buff duration and extra gold in the Utility tree
And the one point in improved Smite
Cloth armor and 5x Health Pots
CORE ITEM BUILD:
Boots of Swiftness or Mercury Treads
Force of Nature
Start out by throwing two saplings at base, this will get you two charges of Sap Magic.
Head over to the Wolf camp, and at exactly 1:06 start stacking your saplings. By the time the wolves spawn (1:40) you should have 3 saplings already in place. As the wolves spawn, your saplings will explode, hit the wolves a few more times and throw another sapling to finish them off.
Walk over to blue golem (It won't have spawned yet), as for a heavy leash. Once leashed, start meleeing the golem, and when it stops moving, throw a sapling and hit your first health pot. Once the golem is at around 420 health, smite it and pick up your Q. Finish off the two smaller lizards and head over to the wraith camp.
Start off by throwing a sapling right in the middle of them and using your Q to hit them all. You will need one more Q to finish them all off. Learn your W.
By this time You will be one level higher than mid lane, if possible try look for a gank at mid or bot as you will be close to full HP and have two CC abilities at hand. If a gank is not possible, head over to red lizard and carry on with your jungle route. You should be able to clear the jungle with a bit of HP to spare, so head back and purchase boots and a few health pots, and a ward.
As Maokai, you should ALWAYS be looking to gank, you have two amazing abilities for ganking lanes, so make use of them.
Once you have your Wriggles, your next item will be Sheen. This will allow you to dish out some pretty good damage, while allowing you to give your blue buff to your middle AP carry. Once you have your Tri-Force and Boots of Swiftness, no one should be able to escape you. With Maokai, you should be able to do dragon from level 6 onwards, with the help of your bot lane. So always keep an eye out for possible opportunities to do so.
During mid-game, you will be quite squishy until you have your tri-force, so in team fights, as you engage, be sure to throw down your ultimate to soak up some of that incoming damage. Depending on your team comp, you may be forced to become the impromptu tank for your team. Be ready to start building that FoN or Sunfire Cape if required.
Late game, you will still be the main initiator for your team. Always try to break enemy Banshees with your Sapling Toss and look for out of position enemies to quickly root them in place. Be sure to always use your ultimate in team fights and remember, even if you die, your ultimate will explode causing damage to all those enemies standing inside of it.
Your Saplings last for 35 seconds, this is essentially a mini-ward. Use them when going for Blue Golem, Red Lizard, Dragon and Baron to get vision of incoming enemies.
Your Saplings will chase the nearest enemy after it lands. So even if you don't kill them with the initial damage, if the enemy is not quick enough to move away, your Sapling may yet land that finishing blow. This is also good for delaying an enemy from "Blue Pilling" to base.
Your Twisted Advance can be a double edged sword. If you are mid-flight using your Twisted Advance, and your target flashes away, you will still be transported to their location. This can be good, as it may prevent them from running still - or it can lead to your demise at the hands of the enemy turret or enemy teammates.
Your Arcane Smash has a small knockback. As you engage with your Twisted Advance and the enemy is rooted in place. Move around them, and knock them back so that it gives your teammates even more time to land hits on the target.
Your ultimate can be cancelled early. This is potentially useful if you see for example a Morgana using her ultimate on low HP and it is about to go off - quickly cancel your ultimate to inflict damage on the enemies within and hopefully prevent her from landing her ultimate and potentially running away/finishing you or your teammates off.
If you see yourself with a DoT on and are running low on HP (such as Children of the Grave), check your charges of Sap Magic - You may be able to survive by quickly hitting a minion and gaining HP from your passive.