This League of Legends Season 10 Ultimate Maokai guide is the only guide that you will need in order to play Maokai Top. This guide will include builds, combos, counters, synergies, keystones and runes. Maokai is a rageful treant that fights to revitalize the Shadow Isles into its joyous state. He subdues his enemies holding them down with the power of nature and carrying the position as the first Blessed Isles’ nature spirit. It was written by our team of writers along with the help of Challenger player, Aizo, who is an expert in everything Maokai. He is considered by many to be the best in the world at this champion and you can find him Streaming on Twitch and uploading content to his YouTube Channel.
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. 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 to the next 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 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 Boot-camp, come back home and told him and his other brothers about league, it’s been his main game since. He also has a Maokai Jungle and Maokai Support guide if you want to see more.
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:
- Moderate Peel
- Good Engage
- Scales well in the Late Game
- Multiple Crowd Control Abilities
- Decent Tank
- High Cooldown on abilities
- Less Mobile
- Difficulty in facing Mobile Champions
- Mana Hungry
- Easily Caught when W(Twisted Advance) is on Cool-down
These champions give Maokai a hard time in game due to having a kit that can stop Maokai from doing what he wants to do. Here are some of the biggest issues and how you can try to overcome the challenges they bring.
Fiora is considered a counter because she is extremely mobile, does mostly true damage, and you can't stop her split push in the lane giving her the ability to take advantage of you. Her W(Riposte) parries your W(Twisted Advance) so you can't lock her down with a hard CC. You can focus on gaining a lead in the lane through minion wave management. Try to get as much gold as possible in the lane under your turret. When she tries to attack and hit your vital point, push her away with your Q(Bramble Smash) or avoid being dashed in with her Q(Lunge).
Illaoi is considered a counter because when you play the lane absolutely perfect, be 7/0 against her, if she hits a single E on you, you cannot win the fight, she will bully you in the lane and keep you busy with her tentacles. You can try to dodge her E and fight when her abilities are on cool-downs. Lock her in a position and take your fights where there aren't any tentacles in place.
Olaf is considered a counter because he is very similar to Illaoi where he will keep 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. Farm under your turret and create plays outside top lane to gain more overall advantage by teleporting on mid or bot.
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.
Yuumi works well with Maokai because she can sit on Maokai providing him the extra speed and catch-up to force any engage and essentially guarantee a fight. Her ability to support you by sustaining you will aid him as she will be healing you with her E while your passive is available again keeping you healthy and ready to take hits in the front-line.
Jinx works well with Maokai because she is a hyper-carry that is able to follow up as soon as you CC the first target getting her excited and bringing in more kills to the team. She will have the speed to keep on going until every enemy champion is dead.
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’s recommended Summoner Spells are Teleport and Flash because your ultimate goal in the late game is to be a utility tank that provides hard CC to your team and Teleport will help you go around the map and assist any team-fight. Your Flash can help 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 Ignite and Flash because you will be able to burn the target and reduce their healing while sticking to them and popping more saplings.
Maokai Runes and Keystones
Maokai’s recommended keystone and runes are Grasp of the Undying, Demolish, Second Wind, and Overgrowth on Resolve as primary and Manaflow Band with Transcendence on Sorcery as secondary because it gives more self-healing to Maokai as well as additional health over time. Providing you to become the front line that your team needs 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 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 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.
Maokai starts with Corrupting Potion if he wants to sustain and keep harassing in the laning phase. This will provide him 3 refillable health and mana regeneration that will give you the ability to spam skills.
Maokai starts with Doran's Shield if he wants to add more health early on while gaining additional damage in his auto-attacks. Also, it recovers health when an enemy attempts to harass him.
Sunfire Cape 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 team-fights that you are always in the middle of the enemy team which will provide the best purpose of the item.
Abyssal Mask is core on Maokai because it increases reduces magic defense from enemies nearby him making his abilities hurt more in the lane. It also adds more magic resist protecting him from mages that might burst him down in skirmishes. The catalyst within the item restores health base on mana spent and vice-versa.
Righteous Glory is core on Maokai 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.
Use Mercury Treads 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 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 adds cool-down reduction 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
- Mercury Treads
- Sunfire Cape
- Abyssal Mask
- Righteous Glory
- Gargoyle Stoneplate
- Liandry’s Torment
This is the most recommended build path for Maokai 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 Sunfire Cape as you’ve built more health and Bami Cinder in patch 10.4 has been buffed. 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.
Passive - Sap Magic
Maokai’s next basic attack to enemy minions, monsters, and champions will heal him up to 65 plus a percentage of his maximum health. Each time he cast an ability or attacked by an enemy, the cool-down of his passive is reduced by 4 seconds. This enables Maokai to sustain hits while trading well especially in team-fights giving him the capacity to survive to be a front liner.
Q - Bramble Smash
Maokai sends an arcane wave forward through slamming the ground, knocking nearby enemies back and dealing magic damage plus 40% of your ability power while also slowing enemies by 99% for 0.25 seconds. This soft CC enables you to push enemies to your teammates and let them follow up with additional damage or knocking them away to save an ally. It also works well as an ability to clear CS in your lane faster which helps Maokai deal better in trades.
W - Twisted Advance
Maokai becomes untargettable and travels to a specific target rooting them for up to 1.4 seconds and dealing magic damage plus 40% of your ability power. This ability is his hard CC in locking enemy champions when fighting in skirmishes providing a secure way to lock the opponent and giving more time for your team to follow up.
E - Sapling Toss
Maokai throws a sapling to an area where it gets implanted in the ground, warding the area for 30 seconds. Saplings will seek out nearby enemy champions and chase them for up to 2.5 seconds then exploding dealing a percentage of the target’s max Health as magic damage plus 1% per 100 of your ability power slowing them by 35% for 2 seconds. When tossed in a bush, the saplings grow larger and stronger dealing more damage and ticking additional harm for 2 seconds to the target. Sapling Toss is a great way to harass your opponent in the lane cause as soon as he/she gets closer a bush, saplings will come running and exploding in their faces. It is a valuable ability that can damage enemies without getting even close to them.
R - Nature's Grasp
Maokai summons a big wave of thorny brambles that slowly advances forward which stops at the first enemy they hit dealing magic damage plus 75% of your ability power while also rooting them by up to 2.6 seconds. This ability is a great way to initiate into team-fight surprising the enemy. Cast your ultimate before engaging as it takes time to reach your target.When you lock them down with your W(Twisted Advance), push them right on the direction of your ultimate with your Q(Bramble Smash). You’ll surely hold the enemy in one position, rooting them for a long period of time.
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. 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.
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 core items. Because of this, you will be tanky in the mid game while also dealing damage around enemies and reducing their defenses which Maokai needs to do as a utility front liner of the team. This treant will sustain damage in the middle of the fight while dealing heavy CC to the enemy team which will aid in securing kills for the team.
E + Q + W Combo
This combo is used when your ultimate(Nature’s Grasp) is still not up in the early game phase. You toss your sapling on top of your target then quickly cast your Q(Bramble Smash) and W(Twisted Advance) to lock the enemy and guarantee that your E(Sapling Toss) will hit.
E + W + Q Combo
This combo is similar to your first combo but is used when you are closer to a bush. Your goal is to place your E(Sapling Toss) in a bush to empower it then instantly cast your W(Twisted Advance) to root the enemy then pushing the target towards the sapling with your Q(Bramble Smash).
R + Flash + W + Q + E Combo
This combo focuses on keeping the enemy lock in place as long as possible. Casting your R(Nature’s Grasp) then closing the distance with your Flash and quickly clicking your other abilities will root the enemy for the longest duration.
Flash + W + R + Q + E Combo
This combo is used for targeting ADCs and Mages that needs to be dealt with before a 5v5 clash. This will be a difficult combo to react as you cast your hardest CC ability and slowing them down at the end providing time for your team to also damage the target.
E(Over wall) + W(Monster) Combo
This combo focuses on escaping enemies where you would die if you just back off in lane. If your Flash isn’t available as of the moment, you can use this combo to escape freely from enemies chasing you.
Flash + W Combo
This combo is used to extend your W(Twisted Advance) and root the enemy. Be careful as if the enemy also has a flash, you will still be connecting the combo ending up in the middle of their team. Use this if you are certain that your team can follow up and you won’t be losing your life as well.
How to Play Maokai
If Maokai is up against a bully laner in the early game, then you should freeze the wave in front of your tower for as long as possible preventing any devastation from you. You want to prevent unnecessary deaths that will snowball the enemy top laner. When they try to attempt a tower dive, clear their wave first to force them to take turret aggro then use your abilities to lock them inside further damaging their HP. You can sustain damages with your passive(Sap Magic), healing yourself and slaying them due to their aggressiveness. If you are up against a winnable match-up, poke them with your E(Sapling Toss) but still freeze the lane never letting it crash in to deny enemy minions. Place control wards to pressure jungle ganks as they won’t be able to step up without risking their life. Focus on building enough items for the mid game plays your about to do.
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. Maokai’s CC will be very efficient in taking control over objectives and structures as enemies without spells will sure be run down and rooted without any chances of escape.
- Split Pushing – Maokai can apply pressure around the other side of the map when his Teleport is up. Keep track of where your team is and what plan they are going to take. If they want to take an objective and your Teleport isn’t up, then do not split push but focus on placing your E(Sapling Toss) around bushes to damage enemies attempting to attack your team. Maokai’s abilities can scare enemies who try to intersect on your carries which is why you must maximize the potential of his kit around the map.
- 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 team-fights. When one enemy face checks and gets slowed, you can converge on them and reduce their team’s damage output. 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 won’t be as tanky that he can engage on 5 enemy champions alone. He becomes more of a peel for his carries taking hits while setting up his E(Sapling Toss) around the enemy team. 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 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, emerging victorious in games just by keeping as many of your team alive as possible.
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
These below videos are great game play examples for how to play Maokai. Coming Soon.
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 recommended by Aizo himself.. 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.
Good CC to pull 2 targets, Mana-less champion that smacks faces and Tank front-line that can burst enemies down. Sett loves to brawl. He impresses people with showdowns and he never backs out of any fight. If you want to smack opponents in the top lane, you put on a show with this brawler of Ionia. Deliver heavy hooks and straights that will swell their faces.
Global Pressure, Mid game dominant and Tower destroyer. Gangplank is the king of Bilgewater. He hunts and kills anyone who stands in his path. With his pistols and barrels, nothing can stand in his way of conquering the city. Want to throw barrage enemies with cannons? Try the Saltwater Scourge!
High damage dealer, True damage with passive and Can 1v5 in the right situation. The Noxian general apprehends enemies and make them bleed. He decimates them and cripples them until they have no hope left in them. An axe will come flying through their heads right after. This is the might of Noxia.
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