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 as poke support. And dominates through bursting down their HP before even engaging. The information in this guide will show his plays, stats, and rules to take Maokai. and how Aizo takes his utility tank to a whole new level.
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 currently is Grandmaster in Season 10 with 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 Boot-camp 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 Jungle guides.
Table of Contents
Why to 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:
- Great at Harassing with Saplings
- Good Engage
- Burst Enemies at Full Combo
- Multiple Crowd Control Abilities
- Decent Tank
- High Cooldown on abilities
- Less Mobile
- Difficulty in facing Mobile Champions
- Mana Hungry
- Easily Caught when W(Sapling Toss) is on Cool-down
Braum is considered a counter because he protects his ADC efficiently in the bot lane. Using his shield, Braum can reduce incoming damages from his ability E(Unbreakable) safeguarding his carry from approaching projectiles which negate damage that might ultimately burst down his teammate. He is also great at chasing down enemies with his passive(Concussive Blows) which applies a stun when stacked 4 times immobilizing their targets giving them the ability to utilize their combos. You can avoid initiating with your W(Twisted Advance) early on. Try to poke your enemies in the bot lane with your E(Sapling Toss) and combining it with your carry’s abilities. Fight small trades wherein you remove their summoner spells. Once the enemy has dropped in health that you think you can manage to deal, then go all-in with your ADC and pick off either their carry or Braum.
Ashe is considered a counter because whenever you try to engage on her, even before your W(Twisted Advance) gets in range, she has already slowed you down with W(Volley) shutting your initiation. She also has the ability to damage you and decelerate your movement preventing you from escaping her skills and quite possibly killing you. You can try to engage her when you are hidden on bushes where you can root then pushing her back towards your empowered E(Sapling Toss) which will deal a ton of damage leaving your ADC to follow up and secure the kill.
Blitzcrank is considered a counter because he has the ability to pull his enemies in the lane and knock them up with his E(Power Fist), disabling the movements of his target and giving his teammates the ability to burst you down. You can try to dodge his Q(Rocket Grab) so he can not start his combos. When Blitzcrank attempts to pull your ADC and he/she doesn’t have summoner spells, you can cover them by flashing towards the pull and then activating your ultimate(Nature’s Grasp) to escape the reaches of their team.
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.
Amumu works well with Maokai because you will be playing as a supportive mage who wants to poke down enemies and he will be your front line initiator later in the game. Having Amumu means the enemies can’t safely engage to you as Amumu will be locking them down with his Q(Bandage Toss). Additionally, his passive(Curse Touch) will take bonus true damage from magic damage which is great for a percentage max HP magic damage mage like you.
Cassiopeia works well with Maokai because she is great at defending your back-line from assassinations. Having Cassiopeia in the team will provide back up to your ADC as well as semi front-liners like you when initiating the enemy team. She utilizes her W(Miasma) which will negate movement abilities and R(Petrifying Gaze) turning enemies to stone, granting your ADC to kite around the enemy while they are still disabled.
Maokai’s recommended Summoner Spells are Ignite and Flash because you want to deal as much damage as you can with your abilities. You will be a supportive mage that will harass your enemies in the bot lane then try to burn them down with your Ignite. Your Flash also helps you reach your target and root them down with your W(Twisted Advance) If you want to do more damage with your enemy in the laning phase, you can consider using Exhaust and Flash because you will be able to reduce the damage of their ADC which will give your the opportunity to take them down as you are now stronger in trades.
Keystones and Runes
Maokai’s recommended runes are Arcane Comet, Manaflow Band, Transcendence, and Scorch on Sorcery as primary and Cheapshot with Relentless Hunter on Domination as secondary because this rune build will increase your ability to poke opponents in the lane. Your goal especially from early to mid game phase is to harass the other team’s bot lane without going all in. Maokai support works effectively with Arcane Come as you’ll be spamming your E(Sapling Toss) in bushes to empower the ability. This will burn the enemies’ HP while you are at the distance to protect your ADC while he/she is scaling to be a monster later in the game.
If you want added damage as a tank while you cast your CC on the enemy laner, you can consider using Aftershock, Demolish, Second Wind, and Overgrowth on Resolve as primary and Manaflow Band with Transcendence on Sorcery as secondary because it offers more sustainability in the early to mid game phase which can help you trade better on enemy compositions that have early game spikes.
Both builds will be going +1-10% Cool-down Reduction on Offense, Adaptive Force +9 and either Armor/Magic Resist depending on the composition of the enemy team.
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.
Liandry’s Torment is core on Maokai because of its burning effect that damages enemies that surround him over time. It also adds more HP and armor that can help him face AD bruisers in the top lane. 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.
Zeke’s Convergence is core on Maokai because you can bond this item with a champion usually your ADC giving you the ability to surround yourself and your partner with a frost storm that burns enemies nearby as you cast your ultimate. This also ignites your ally’s basic attack burning targets with bonus magic damage.
Knight's Vow is core on Maokai because you will be able to bond with a champion reducing the damages they receive and taking it for yourself. It also gives you health when your partner hits an enemy target giving a coalition that helps both of you survive in team fights.
Use Mercury Treads against heavy crowd control enemy composition.
Use Ninja Tabi for auto attack heavy compositions to avoid being bursted down.
Use Boots of Mobility to escape and chase opponents with ease. This boots gives you extreme roaming that will enhance you in helping your teammates.
Offensive Situational Items
If you want to chase down enemies or escape from them, you can build Righteous Glory because it provides a boost of movement speed for a few seconds then bursting a wave of energy that slows enemies nearby you, helping you stick to the enemy and set up a your CC for your team to follow up. It helps Maokai when your W(Twisted Advance) is on cool-down and you need another option to get close to your target.
Defensive Situational Items
If you want to protect yourself from possible high burst abilities, you can build Spirit Visage because it aids your defenses towards mages that deals tremendous ability power. Additionally, the item ads CDR to your stats giving you the ability to cast more combos faster.
If enemies are too tanky and you want to be more stronger in the front-line, you can build Gargoyle Stoneplate because it increases base health and champion size when activated reducing incoming damages. Passively, you grant more armor and magic resist when multiple enemies are nearby.
If you want to reduce burning 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.
Full Build Example
An example full build for Maokai can consist of
- Boots of Mobility
- Liandry’s Torment
- Knight’s Vow
- Zeke’s Convergence
- Gargoyle Stoneplate
- Shard of True Ice
This is the most recommended build path for Maokai as his ultimate goal is to be a harassing mage that initiates later in the game. With the use of Liandry’s Torment, you can poke enemies with your empowered E(Sapling Toss) and burn the HP of your enemy in the bot lane. Zeke’s Convergence will also add damage when your ultimate(Nature’s Grasp) is available giving you the sustainability in the lane. These items combined with Knight’s Vow will either protect your ADC or burst your target while keeping your health in check. Your boots will vary as needed and can go to Mobility, Mercury, or Tabi depending on what you need in the lane.
Ability Skill Order
The skill order for Maokai is R – E – Q – W. The reason is you’d want to harass your opponents in the botlane with your E(Sapling Toss) and provide as many visions with it. You are going to prioritize harassing the enemies as this is the most effective way you can ramp up early in the game. You want to start with E then W(Twisted Advance) to assist in your cool-down reduction then Q(Bramble Smash) to push away enemies from your carry. Once you get to level 4, you want to max out E first then Q and lastly W. Your goal as a support Maokai is to provide control in your early to mid game phase as your job is to be a poke support and provoke your enemies in the lane with your saplings then level your R when available and setup nice ganks when your team is about to engage on a team-fight.
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 E(Sapling Toss) and Q(Bramble Smash) are at max skill points giving you the highest poke damage you can deal to your targets as well as when he completes his core items especially the Liandry’s Torment. You will be able to be tanky in the mid game while also dealing damage around enemies and reducing their defenses while also burning their HP with your Liandry’s Torment which Maokai will be able to do when reaching these levels.
During the early game phase, you should be very patient when dealing with your enemies in lane. Maokai does not do well without his full combo so you have to wait to get to level 3. Focus on poking them with your E(Sapling Toss) and prevent them from going near your ADC. Once you get to level 3, you try and take down their summoner spells to secure kills later on when your jungler comes to gank your lane. Use your saplings effectively and place them on the tri-bush and other bushes to gain vision as this is your priority early in the game. Maxing your E as a support mage will make enemies steer clear of your lane. Once you reach level 6, you can communicate with your jungler as try to lock on a target that might secure a kill.
Maokai’s job in the mid game phase is to place as many visions around the bot area using his saplings, trinkets or warding of Frostfang. This will give you the right information to where the position of there jungler is currently at. Trying to get an HP advantage so that if they are low enough and you have an ADC that can follow up, Use your W(Twisted Advance) all-in and drop their HP low for them to back off the lane.
- Split Pushing – When your enemies in the lane back off due to your harass, you can push the tower and gain plates for more gold. After destroying the turret, you can swap lanes with your top and take advantage of your lead and move it into another area. Focus on taking structures on the map and giving pressure to the enemy team. This will help you gain a better position when your team decides to take objectives. Always guard your carry as they will be trying to assassinate him/her while you are on the phase of scaling up.
- Objective Control – When taking Rift Heralds or Dragons, you want to be there for your team as you have multiple CC that can lock down enemies in an area. Place your E(Sapling Toss) around bushes near the vicinity to prepare any upcoming teamfights. When one enemy face checks and gets slowed, you can converge on him/her and burn them with your ability power as a support mage and give the kill to your carries. Outnumbering the enemy will give you better chances when taking the Dragons or the Rift Herald. 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 and Rift Heralds help in split pushing turrets that is why you should be there setting up a better position before the enemy team does.
In the late game, Maokai won’t be as tanky being a top or jungler role. Your focus is to protect your carry and combine strengths with other initiators in your team to be effective. Engage enemy champions when you know your team can follow up as you have the ability to burn down enemies but not to kill them. He becomes more of a peel for his carries taking hits while setting up his E(Sapling Toss) and blazing them with Liandry’s Torment. 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 protection from your Knight’s Vow if you get killed. Be a utility support mage that emphasizes on harassing enemies while locking them down for your carries to deal the most damage. 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, emerging victorious in games just by keeping as many of your team alive as possible.
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
- Always have your W(Twisted Advance) ready to protect your carry
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
Listed below are some champions you can use to replace Maokai in the bot-lane as they provide the harass for the team. When he isn’t available either banned or picked by the enemy team. This will give you a variety to choose from. Safeguarding your LP from going down and keeping your games awesome.
Long root, Spell shield and High damage. Morgana is great at locking enemies with her Dark Binding. She burns them with Tormented Shadow while keeping his allies safe from any CC. If you love to poke in the bot lane, try this fallen angel!
Counter against assassins, Hard to kill and Strong skill set. Tahm Kench loves to eat anything. He uses his Tongue Last to devours those who do not pay their debts. He is as tanky as ever and can easily chase you. Try this fish out of the water, the thickest of them all!
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