League of Legends Maokai Guide

The spirit of the forest seeks to take revenge on the humans that brought destruction to his home. Maokai is a champion that utilizes heavy sustain and an annoying CC kit to outlive his opponents in a prolong battles of aggression. As one of the tankiest champions in the League, Maokai has a reputation of being almost unkillable once he finishes building his item set and is in the lead. Learn how to take advantage of the Twisted Treant with our Maokai guide to help you get started on playing this champion.

Maokai using his ultimate abilities splash art | Maokai Guide
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Revenge of the Twisted Treant

Before the Shadow Isles became the land of death, it was a thriving paradise where the beauty of fauna and flora covered the lands with life. After the Ruined King played with the natural cycle, the forest was corrupted with twisted magic. From the destruction, the spirit of the forest manifested into the form of a Treant. Maokai became the embodiment of the forest’s will but became tainted with the dark magic that corrupted the forest and now acts to seek vengeance for the life that he lost.

Maokai has been making appearances in the professional scene either as a top laner or a support champion. Professional League of Legends teams who are in deep need of champs with hard engage and tankiness often lean towards these picks but because the champion required building the right items before hitting the spike, they would choose easier champs like Nautilus for the job. Because of the Item Rework, Maokai became more viable which will be explained more in this Maokai guide.

Maokai General Gameplay

Maokai is the embodiment of what it means to be an engage tank. The ability to get upclose and personal while having hard sustain abilities make him a pain to deal with. Because of this champions ability to lockdown opponents for lengthy periods or disrupt channeled effect easily, the champion became a popular pick for players that like to play a more upfront role that are good at picking the right time to engage the enemy team. The Maokai guide will shed more light on how to properly use this champion’s kit.

Maokai Guide – Skills and Rotations

Maokai’s kit isn’t as straightforward as other champions and requires more knowledge on the practical uses rather than simply using them every time it’s up. This champion quickly runs out of mana and has some long cooldowns on his ability so management becomes a big part of mastering this champion. The Maokai guide on skills and rotations will explain the best times to use the abilities without wasting your resources for nothing.

Passive: Sap Magic

Innate – Maokai’s next attack becomes unstoppable and heals him for a portion of his maximum health after a 0.25 second delay. This ability can only happen once every few seconds.

Every time Maokai casts an ability or is struck by an enemy’s ability, the cooldown for this ability is reduced by 4 seconds.

Maokai’s passive ability is arguably the most important skill on his kit because it allows him to stay in combat for an extended period. Maokai is not scared to participate in short trades because he’s able to outsustain most champs in lane. Try to engage in tactical fights as much as possible to push your opponent out of the lane. Don’t use full bursts of your abilities before you proc Sap Magic to maximize the cooldowns on this ability. Don’t engage in fights when this ability is fresh on cooldown.

Q: Bramble Smash

Maokai's Q: Bramble Smash icon Active – Maokai releases a wave of arcane energy from the earth which travels in a line, passing through enemies and dealing magic damage to all enemies hit and slowing them by 99% for 0.25 seconds.

Enemies near Maokai are stunned for 0.5 seconds and are knocked back by 300 units based on how close they were.

Maokai's Q: Bramble Smash icon Bramble Smash is Maokai’s main harass and wave clear ability. Use this ability to knock enemies away from your wave or to push them closer to your team and stunning them for a duration. Usually, this ability is cast after using Twisted Advance to maximize damage output. This ability can also disrupt channeling ability or simply displace enemies so use this on as many champions as possible. Be careful on how you use this ability because it can push enemies further away from your or your team.

W: Twisted Advance

Maokai's W: Twisted Advance icon Active – Maokai dives into the ground and dashes towards an enemy champion and becomes untargetable. Maokai deals magic damage to the enemy and roots them for a short duration.

Maokai's W: Twisted Advance icon Twisted Advance is Maokai’s main gap closing ability and is a good way to lock down enemies. This ability makes Maokai untargetable so it’s also a good way to avoid AoE abilities when you time it right. Use this ability on high-priority targets then reposition yourself while they’re rooted so that you’ll have a better angle to use abilities like Maokai's Q: Bramble Smash icon Bramble Smash or Maokai's Ultimate, Nature's Grasp icon Nature’s Grasp. This ability has a relatively short cooldown so you can use it to jump around the enemy team and making them throw important abilities around for nothing.

E: Sapling Toss

Maokai's E: Sapling Toss icon Active – Maokai flings a Sapling to a target location, revealing the area while the sapling remains there.

Saplings remains stationary in the area for 30 seconds. If an enemy unit comes close to the Sapling, it will try to run towards that enemy unit and explodes when it collides with an enemy unit or after 2.5 seconds of leaving the area. The explosion deals magic damage to all units in the area of detonation and slows them by 35% for 2 seconds.

If the Sapling was tossed inside a Brush, the duration of how long the Sapling stays increases depending on Maokai’s maximum health. The damage is also increased by 200% and will reveal the enemies struck by this ability by 2 seconds.

Sapling Toss isn’t the most reliable source of damage or harass because they can easily be kited by Champions since these units are really slow. However, the best time to use these saplings are defensively when trying to escape since enemies will be more wary to chase you. It can also act as a pseudo ward inside bushes to prevent ganks. You can also use this ability during clashes by throwing it in the middle of the enemy team or on a nearby bush to maximize the damage and slows that it has. As much as possible, use this ability inside brushes since it increases the effects.

R: Nature’s Grasp

Maokai's Ultimate, Nature's Grasp icon Active – Maokai summons a wave of thorny brambles slowly traveling towards a direction. The brambles accelerate over time and deal magic damage and root champions struck by the brambles depending on distance traveled.

Maokai's Ultimate, Nature's Grasp icon Nature’s Grasp is not an engage ability. Take in mind that Maokai's Ultimate, Nature's Grasp icon Nature’s Grasp is an extremely slow ability so unless you’re pressed face to face against an enemy, this ability will likely be avoided EASILY by opponents. The most practical application to this ability is to use it during clashes or when you catch 1 or 2 champions out of position. The ability is cast a few units behind Maokai so if you want to ensure it’s application, cast it away towards you so that the brambles will hit.

Maokai Guide – Items and Builds

Maokai is popularly played as a support or top laner. Since Maokai is more popular in the Top Lane overall, this Maokai guide will try to focus on his build as a top laner. Maokai is has great sustain but is reliant on his resources so much so that he often finds himself without enough mana to continue fighting. Maokai is also mentioned to be extremely item dependent which we’ll be tackling in a bit.

Starting Items

Starting Item Doran's Shield icon Doran’s Shield – The standard starting item for tanks. Maokai isn’t a powerful duelist in the early game so he should focus on surviving harass while being able to deal a bit of damage to the enemy champion. Expect Maokai to be bullied early into the game but the passive regen from this item combined with Sap Magic will turn the tables once he reaches Level 5 or 6.

Core Items

Mythic Item - Sunfire Aegis icon Sufire Aegis (Mythic) – One of the more overpowered items in the game today, Sunfire Aegis gives tanks the ability to passively burn enemies into oblivion. The bonus defenses also help Maokai survive a lot of the fights by just standing in the middle of the enemy team and passively dealing damage while throwing out a ton of AoE abilities.

Legendary Item - Spirit Visage icon Spirit Visage – Spirit Visage is Maokai’s main item because of the item’s passive buff that increases healing effectiveness on him by 25%. Once Maokai has this item, he becomes fully online and is able to heal himself from his passive ability obnoxiously.

Recommended Items

Thornmail – Grievous Wounds items are essentially a requirement in all matches these days. This item further increases the passive damage that Maokai deals to enemies when they try to attack him. Since he’ll be diving into the middle of the enemy team, they’ll have to think twice on trying to kill you without a plan.

Full Build Abyssal Mask Icon Abyssal Mask – Abyssal Mask greatly increase the magic damage taken to enemies you immobilize which is a great combo with Sunfire Aegis. This item is most effective if you’re team has a lot of AoE magic damage dealers when you apply Nature’s Grasp to 2 or more enemy champions.

Legendary Item - Frozen Heart icon Frozen Heart – Maokai’s biggest problem is getting kited by ADCs so Frozen Heart can help with that by reducing the attack speed of enemy marksmen which will give him time for the cooldowns of his abilities to close in the gap. It also gives a lot of passive magic reduction depending on this champion’s max HP.

Legendary Item - Randuins Omen icon Randuin’s Omen – This item gives another layer of Crowd Control when Maokai dives into the middle of the enemy team by slowing surrounding units. Unfortunately, this item also shares a passive ability with Frozen Heart so it’s best to choose one of the two.

Legendary Item - Warmogs Armor icon Warmog’s Armor – Stacks more HP and is only effective when it goes deep into the late game. Otherwise, you wouldn’t want to build this item early because it doesn’t give too much of a benefit.

Maokai Guide – Runes

Primary: The Rune Icon - Resolve Resolve

Keystone: Resolve Keystone Grasp of the Undying icon Grasp of the Undying – This rune helps Maokai stack more max HP which will allow him to build his items flexibly without having to focus on Health Items.

Resolve rune - Demolish icon Demolish – Maokai has no way of sieging the enemy base by himself so Demolish is a welcome addition. This allows Maokai to become a threat on the side lanes when left alone.

Resolve rune Second Wind icon Second Wind – As a tank, this rune is really helpful especially if you’ve already finished building Spirit Visage.

Resolve runes - overgrowth icon Overgrowth – More sources of increasing your maximum HP to make item building a bit more flexible. Make sure to have a good CS to maximize the effect of this rune.

Secondary: Inspiration Rune Icon Inspiration

Magical Footwear rune icon Magical Footwear – Maokai really wants his core items as quickly as possible. Reduce your total costs by using this rune so that by 12 minutes, you’ll be able to have free boots.

a flying biscuit with wings - biscuit delivery Biscuit Delivery – Adds more sustain or you can sell this later for a few gold if you’re able to survive without help.

Maokai Overview

How did you find this Maokai guide? He’s a champion that fearless people like the most. If your group is afraid of starting engages, you might want to begin with this champion because of his sheer utility in the team. Try him out as a support or a top laner depending on your preference. Tanks are often really boring to use and that fact doesn’t change even with Maokai so make sure to have a lot of patience.

Maokai's victorious skin shining gold
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How to counter Maokai?

Maokai likes to get upclose and personal so always have your tank on the frontline and try to bait him to use his Twisted Advance so your carries can move to the front. Soak his Sapling Tosses to slowly burn his mana pool.

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