Maokai Overview Infographic
We put together a Maokai overview infographic that has the best builds, runes, strengths, weaknesses, combos, skill orders, counters, synergies and anything else that you need to quickly learn the basics of Maokai. Make sure to share with your friends and check back here to get the latest updates. We will be updating this infographic as changes happen so check back often!
Who is Aizo?
Aizo is well known for playing Maokai as a Utility Tank Top laner. But he will now teach you how to play Maokai in the jungle. And dominates through engaging great team fights while protecting his carries if necessary. The information in this guide will show his plays, stats, and rules to take Maokai. Reigning the jungle and doing the best role you can with this champion.
Jon Michael Street, 19 years of age. Currently playing with summoner names Aizo, BorrowedThyme, and Twilai. He peaked at 700 LP in Challenger in Season 9. He has a KDA ratio of 2.4:1 with a 54% Win Rate working his way back to the ladder. He streams on Twitch where Aizo battles within the Master – Challenger Elo brackets in NA. He started playing league when he was 11 years old in 2011. His oldest brother had finished Bootcamp and had come back home. And told him and his other brothers about league, it’s been his main game since. If you want to see more from Aizo, make sure to check out his Maokai Top and Maokai Support guides.
Table of Contents
Why Play Maokai?
Before we start on the Ultimate Guide to Maokai we first want to tell you why you should play him. His overall strengths and weaknesses are as follows:
- Incredibly Tanky
- Strong Engage and Disengage
- Can Peel Assassins
- Efficiently Protects ADCs
- Low Base Movement Speed
- Easy to Mess Up Combo making you and your carries vulnerable
- High Cooldowns
- Ultimate travels very slow
- Easily Kited
Master Yi is considered a counter because he can run you down anytime with his attack speed base stats. He out-skirmishes you and can freely roam around the jungle camps taking experience and gold easily reducing your effect. You can focus on gaining a lead in the lanes by utilizing your ability to lock down opponents. Provide support to them and let them secure the kill. Whenever Master Yi tries to fight you, be with the team so that when he uses his Q(Alpha Strike), you can root him with your W(Twisted Advance) letting your team follow up and securing the kill which will snowballing their lead.
Nidalee is considered a counter because she is a master in roaming the jungles with her abilities. Her passive(Prowl) can give her the movement speed to take control of the jungle camps which she will use to get ahead of you. She also has the ability to jump through walls with her W(Pounce) and be in the position to engage your team. You can try to fight her as close as possible as she loses the ability power increase of her spear when you are fighting in melee range. You can root and out-sustain her before she gets to escape. Never chase her in a closed area, this is where she can move effectively and cast her Q(Javelin Toss) to burst you down.
Olaf is considered a counter because he is fast at clearing jungle camps and great harassing you especially with his low cool-down skill Q(Undertow) where he will be throwing axes again and again. You should avoid going all-in with him as he will render your CCs useless with his ultimate. Focus on power-farming your jungle camps and ganking to assist your teammates secure kills. When you get tanky enough, provide utility as Olaf won’t be easy to be CCed due to his Ragnarok disable all crowd control effects on him.
These champions work well with Maokai and should be considered being picked alongside him if possible. Here are some of the biggest synergies and how you can abuse them.
Camille works well with Maokai because similar to Nautilus, she provides great CC to the team. With her ability to engage the opponent from walls, you can surprise enemies around areas they never expect you to gank on. You can visit her lane and initiate alongside her which will surely get a kill in the lane, raising her KDA in the game which will aid you later on in team-fights.
Kassadin works well with Maokai because he is a melee mage that dives in the enemy team with ease. With the CCs Maokai can offer, Kassadin can focus on destroying them with his damage as he doesn't have a hard crowd control to stop the enemy’s movement that is why both can work very well together and ramp up some kills for the team.
Maokai Summoner Spells
Maokai Runes and Keystones
Maokai’s recommended runes are Predator, Cheapshot, Zombie Ward, Ingenious Hunter on Domination as primary and Waterwalking with Celerity on Sorcery as secondary because it gives Maokai the ability to engage with the highest movement speed he possibly can have to avoid being escaped by the enemy laners providing more kills for his team. This rune build can aids your team as fast as possible providing a lot of CC in any teamfights you need to be in.
If you want added damage as a tank while you cast your CC on the enemy laner, you can consider using Aftershock, Demolish, Conditioning, and Overgrowth on Resolve as primary and Cheapshot with Ingenious Hunter on Sorcery as secondary because it offers more damage as a tank in the early to mid game phase which can help you trade better on compositions that scale around those time.
Both builds will be going Attack Speed, Adaptive Force and either Armor for added rune stats.
Maokai’s recommended items change depending on the situation, however, the following items will give you a good idea of what to build in different situations.
Stalker’s Blade - Cinderhulk is core on Maokai because of its burning effect that damages enemies that surround him over time. It also adds more HP making you a better tank jungler in the game. This will transition in teamfights that you are always in the middle of the enemy team which will provide the best purpose of the item.
Righteous Glory is core on Maokai because it provides a boost of movement speed for a few seconds then burst a wave of energy that slows enemies nearby you. Helping you stick to the enemy and set up your CC for your team to follow up when you gank a lane. It also helps Maokai when your W(Twisted Advance) is on cool-down and you need another option to get close to your target.
Spirit Visage is core on Maokai because it increases magic defense from enemies nearby him making his abilities hurt more in fighting enemies. It also adds more magic resist protecting him from mages that might burst him down in skirmishes.
Use Mercury Threads against heavy crowd control enemy composition.
Use Ninja Tabi for auto attack heavy compositions to avoid being bursted down.
Offensive Situational Items
If you want to deal more magic damage while also being a tanky front-liner, you can build Liandry’s Torment because it burns the enemy whenever you hit your abilities. Also, it gains further damage when the fights just keeps going applying stronger burns to the enemy team.
Defensive Situational Items
If you want to protect your team as a frontliner, you can build Gargoyle Stoneplate because it aids in your teamfights by giving you the ability to increase your health and size to reduce incoming damage for a few seconds. It also passively increases your armor and magic resist when nearby enemies.
If you want to reduce the chances of being burn down by a mage that hits multiple abilities in a few seconds, you can build Adaptive Helm because it reduces subsequent damages you receive keeping your health in check. Champions like Cassiopeia, Leblanc, Azir, etc, which can hit you fast would render them ineffective when you build this defensive item.
If you are dealing with AP champions that give you hard time in the game, you can build Abyssal Mask because it increases magic defense from enemies nearby him making his abilities hurt more in the lane. It also adds more magic resist which protects you from mages that might burst you down in skirmishes. The catalyst within the item restores health base on mana spent and vice-versa.
Full Build Example
An example full build for Maokai can consist of
- Mercury Treads
- Stalker’s Blade – Cinderhulk
- Spirit Visage
- Righteous Glory
- Gargoyle Stoneplate
- Liandry’s Torment
This is the most recommended build path for Maokai jungle as his ultimate goal is to be an initiator that can receive damages from the enemy team while giving utility to his teammates. These items will increase the damage of the Stalker’s Blade – Cinderhulk as when you’ve built more health, Bami Cinder strengthens due to patch 10.4 buffing the item. Liandry’s Torment also bring a burn when you engage in them. Additionally, it provides a well-rounded armor and magic resist stats that will keep your protection in check while also assisting your team to survive around team fights. Maokai is great at engaging enemies leaving rooting them with your point and click W(Twisted Advance) and giving you a chance to push 1 or more enemies with your Q(Bramble Smash) towards your team following up for your carries to follow up and secure the kills.
Ability Skill Order
The skill order for Maokai is R – Q – W – E. The reason is your Q(Bramble Smash) will be the best damage you can deal instantly to your opponents which will slow enemies and be damaged by your team when your playing jungle Maokai. You are going to focus your W(Twisted Advance) second as you’d want your point and click root ready anytime you need to engage an enemy. Lastly, your E(Sapling Toss) will just be an added damage when fighting 5v5 which is particularly effective when you are in combat near bushes. Level up your R(Nature’s Grasp) whenever available in levels 6, 11, and 16 to increase your biggest CCs damage. Jungle Maokai is a great initiator to fights to ensure kills for your carries
A Power Spike is when a time champion reaches a level or builds an item that makes them a lot stronger than other champions in the game. Maokai’s Power Spike is when he reaches level 9 – 13, because this is where his Q(Bramble Smash) and W(Twisted Advance) is at max skill points as well as when he completes his Cinderhulk and Righteous Glory because you will be able to be engage on a target easily and stop their movement for your team to follow and burst its HP and secure a kill.
This route will effectively aid Maokai in ganking and take a lead early in the game.
Maokai will go Red Brambleback – Blue Sentinel – Gromp – Base(Buy Boots) – Gank and take this route to maximize his W(Twisted Advance) in the early game while enemies do not have many items. You need to be the aggressor and benefit from your rune page and getting kills for the team.
Maokai will go Blue Sentinel – Gromp – Red Brambleback – Base(Buy Boots) – Gank and take this route to also clear as fast as you can to gain level 3. Your priority is to gank any enemy lanes that are overextending then farm again while you wait for another opportunity.
How to Play Maokai
During the early game phase, your goal is to maximize the power of Predator ganks to gain more gold from the enemy. Follow the jungle pathing above and take boots as early as possible to activate your primary rune. When you see opportunities for small skirmishes, secure the area and be certain that you won’t be counter-ganked by the enemy jungler especially if it is one of your counters. Utilize your early game tankiness from other junglers and multiples CC to surprise enemy laners and remove summoner spells from them. Once the spells are down, you can return before 5 minutes into the lane and secure the kill giving you advantage and helping you build faster items early on. Put visions the river and the side of the enemy jungler to determine where they plan to rotate and attack next.
Maokai’s job during the mid game is to make picks and defend objectives as this is the most effective way to take leads in this phase. When you see an opportunity for your team to kill a target do not hesitate to Flash + W to the enemy to instantly root them and offering the kill to your carries. Be cautious and determine the positions of your enemy as you’d be dragging yourself to them when you use this combo. You can also use your R + Flash + W + Q + E Combo to hold your enemy for the longest amount of time so your team can follow up and deal with them.
- Split Pushing – Maokai can apply pressure by placing E(Sapling Toss) around bushes to damage enemies attempting to attack the team. When you are a jungler, do not focus on split pushing as your team would be losing a front-liner that can cast CC to the enemy team. Let your top laner split push when their Teleport is up giving your enemies a headache to what area of the map they should prioritize. Maokai’s abilities can scare enemies who try to intersect on your carries which is why you must maximize the potential of his kit in teamfights. Don’t conserve your saplings and use it more often as it will be visions in the map that will guide you to do the right move in the mid game phase.
- Objective Control – When taking Rift Heralds or Dragons, you want to be there for your team as you have multiple CC abilities that can lock down enemies in an area. Place your E(Sapling Toss) around bushes near the vicinity to prepare any upcoming teamfights. When an enemy face checks and gets slowed, you can converge on them reducing the members of their team. Objective control in Season 10 is essential for getting a better chance to win the game. Dragon Souls provide a large amount of stats that may turn the tide of any team around that is why you should be there setting up a better position before the enemy team does.
In the late game, Maokai works as an engage to the team using his Predator. Try to receive multiple abilities from the enemy to reduce the skills they can use to your team. You then become more of a peel for your carries taking hits while setting up E(Sapling Toss) around the enemy. Focus on ensuring your carries don’t die as they will do the most damage for your team. Do not overextend your engages just because you want to kill their carries, your team will lose a shield from your Locket of the Iron Solari and the protection you bonded with your ADC or mage with your Knight’s Vow. Be in a position where you can move back and forth easily in every team-fight that you are going to have. Maokai will be a utility tank that emphasizes pushing enemy front liners away from your highest damage dealer while also giving defenses all throughout. This will allow you and your team better results in every team fight and getting bigger buffs like Baron or Elder without any dispute. Take Dragon Souls as much as possible especially when those are Ocean and Mountain as it will make you tankier than ever. Drive enemies away with your E(Sapling Toss) and take advantage of any lead. Wait for your ultimate cool-down before going all-in to ensure a better clash with the enemy team locking them down to and securing victory!
Maokai Tips and Tricks
- Try looking for flanks where R(Nature’s Grasp) takes enemies by surprise
- Don’t forget to basic attack enemies to activate your passive and self-heal
- Saplings don’t stack well
- Use Saplings as wards to grant vision
- Communicate to your team where the other jungler is going to be
Frequent Mistakes/Noob Traps
These are things most Maokai players do that shouldn’t be done at a high level elo.
Noob trap #1 – Ultimate usage. Don’t use your ult in a straight line down a lane, the enemy can just run to their turret for free. Angle the ultimate slightly so that the enemy is more likely to get caught in multiple ultimate hits.
Noob trap #2 – Mana waste. In the early game saplings are not very useful for anything but damaging enemy champions. Do not waste saplings on the wave as they cost the most mana and give the least benefit for waveclear. It is better to use 2 Q’s to clear a wave than a Q and an E.
Noob trap #3 – Wave clear. With Bami’s cinder and Sunfire Cape you should be clearing waves using just 1 Q. In order to do this you should be standing in between the melee and range creeps so your sunfire damage will hit everything bit by bit, autoing the melee creeps. Once you get all the minions to about half HP, use your Q to oneshot the entire wave.
Noob trap #4 – Saplings. Once you have a catalyst your saplings should be used on cooldown placed in whatever brush are near you. Don’t load up just 1 brush with 3 saplings though. It is much better to have 1 sapling in 3 bushes than 3 saplings in 1 bush. Use the extra vision control to your advantage
Noob trap #5 – Engaging. For maximum damage the engage combo should be W, Ultimate, Sapling, Auto Attack, Q. For maximum CC the combo should be, W, Q, Auto, Ultimate, Sapling. If you’re trying to 1 shot use the damage combo, for teamfight setups use the CC combo
Similar Champions To Maokai
Strong early game, Great at engaging and his Ultimate can lock enemies. Jarvan IV is one of the most respected warriors in Demacia. He is the king's only son and will bring courage around his country. He knocks enemies up in the air and traps them with Cataclysm. Allies come forth and deliver enemies to the ground.
Good sustain and tankiness, Amazing splitpusher and has the ability to counter tanks. You want to be strong and fearful like Trundle. When he gets an opportunity, he never backs up. He speeds up and places pillars to slow enemies. He will munch on you until you can stand no more. Any tank will render useless as the King of Troll subjugates you. You are too little for the king!
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