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MAOKAI BUILD GUIDE: Maokai, the Passive-Aggressive Mid-Laner by doo0ooooooom

by doo0ooooooom (last updated over a year ago)

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9
Greater Mark of Magic Penetration( +7.83 magic penetration)
9
Greater Seal of Armor( +12.69 armor)
9
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist( +12.06 magic resist)
3
Greater Quintessence of Magic Resist( +12 magic resist)
View Rune Details
Summoner Spells
View Summoner Details
6
21
3
mastery 1 mastery 1 0/1
mastery 2 mastery 2 0/4
mastery 3 mastery 3 4/4
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6 Offense
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21 Defense
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3 Utility
View Mastery Details
Player Level 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Sap Magic
QArcane Smash
WTwisted Advance
ESapling Toss
RVengeful Maelstrom
View Skill Order Details

Runes

Masteries

mastery 1 mastery 1 0/1
mastery 2 mastery 2 0/4
mastery 3 mastery 3 4/4
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mastery 2 mastery 2 0/1
6 Offense
mastery 1 mastery 1 0/1
mastery 2 mastery 2 0/3
mastery 3 mastery 3 4/4
mastery 4 mastery 4 0/2
mastery 1 mastery 1 2/3
mastery 2 mastery 2 3/3
mastery 4 mastery 4 0/1
mastery 1 mastery 1 2/2
mastery 2 mastery 2 0/2
mastery 3 mastery 3 1/1
mastery 4 mastery 4 0/1
mastery 1 mastery 1 1/1
mastery 2 mastery 2 0/3
mastery 3 mastery 3 3/3
mastery 1 mastery 1 1/1
mastery 2 mastery 2 2/3
mastery 3 mastery 3 0/1
mastery 4 mastery 4 1/1
mastery 2 mastery 2 1/1
21 Defense
mastery 1 mastery 1 0/1
mastery 2 mastery 2 0/3
mastery 3 mastery 3 3/3
mastery 4 mastery 4 0/1
mastery 1 mastery 1 0/1
mastery 2 mastery 2 0/3
mastery 3 mastery 3 0/3
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mastery 1 mastery 1 0/4
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mastery 1 mastery 1 0/2
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mastery 1 mastery 1 0/1
mastery 2 mastery 2 0/3
mastery 2 mastery 2 0/1
3 Utility

Skill Order

Player Level 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Sap Magic
QArcane Smash
WTwisted Advance
ESapling Toss
RVengeful Maelstrom

Champion Matchups

Introduction

I really like Maokai, he's my favorite champ. And do I really need to have to have two guides for the same champ? Well, yes, because he's versitile!

Back when I first started playing Maokai in June 2011, I almost exclusively played him as a jungler, and people considered that a troll pick. But now you see him so much as a jungler, that people troll me if I want to lane with him! How the times have changed! Anyhow, Maokai can still lane perfectly fine. As other people have finally figured out how strong he is in the jungle, I've been playing him more and more in the lane lately, and I've discovered he can also be a dominant mid-lane champ.

This guide is focused on mid-lane Tanky-AP Maokai, and also assumes you're laning against another AP mid, which is the current meta. If you expect to be laning vs some AD champ, you should probably use a less MR heavy early item build and runeset.

Maokai is a very safe mid-laner who has roughly even matchups with most common mids, can destroy some mids, and doesn't really lose lane to anyone. This is due to his ability to play either passively or agressively depending on how much he respects or fears his lane opponent.

For the "passive style" of maokai laning, maokai can simply farm with long range saplings without putting himself in any real danger. By rushing chalice, you're never going to run out of mana to throw saplings with, and you can reset the lane all day while maintaining good farm, then gank other lanes.

In contrast, he can also play agressive, zoning the enemy with the possibility of twisted advance, freezing the lane, preventing weaker opponents from farming at all.

These two completely different styles of play make him a verstile pick, and also allow him to potentially snowball on opponents, while making it nearly impossible for anyone to snowball off of him.

When playing maokai mid, I build him with some AP and Mpen and not just pure tank--unlike my jungle build; Mid laners tend to have a lot more gold than junglers, so you can build some AP and still have high CDR and reasonable tankyness. That being said, You're still basically a tank, and CDR/tankyness is still higher priority than AP/Mpen, even if you now have the gold to get all of the above. Mid lane maokai should be roughly as tanky as jungle maokai, but with the extra gold he has access to as a solo laner he can build some damage too. You should still be built more tank than ap, so you'll want some other source of magic damage on your team.

If you're more interested in jungling Maokai, see my other guide at http://solomid.net/guides.php?g=6644.

Maokai also potentially works as a support, similar to leona, although I'm not totally sure how viable that is, and I don't have a guide/build for that. I recommend not playing maokai as a top laner, as the greater distance between the two towers makes it harder for him to farm with saplings and reset the lane, and he also lacks an escape and is vulnerable to jungle ganks when top, and he doesn't match up that well vs most bruisers.

Laning Phase

levels 1-2:

Usually nothing happens these levels, unless the jungler comes but you shouldn't really be overextended. Don't be too afraid of your opponent, as he doesn't have that many skills yet and you have a lot of magic resist, plus your passive, flask, and 2 hp pots to keep you up. During this period you need to last hit with auto attacks as much as possible. You can harass your opponent with saplings if you think he's weak, but it's key to NOT push your lane at this point, and you should just try to CS as best you can with autos because you want to get chalice of harmony asap. You take twisted advance at level 2 in case your jungler wants to gank, I wouldn't usually use it this early though, you don't want to get baited into a jungle gank yourself.

levels 3-6

This is when maokai is more vulnerable, because it's harder to farm with lower ranks of sapling, and the opponent will try to harass you away from farm. At this point you need to judge whether or not you can win a fight with your opponent, if you can: play agressive. You can combo him with E W Q, then back off, forcing him out of lane or possibly killing him if he misjudges your damage. Vs harder lanes this is not recommended: If you can't win trades with your opponent you'll have to passively farm with saplings as best as you can. It's hard to get perfect CS with saplings until level 7, but you can still get most of the creeps. Try to time the initial explosion of the sapling to last hit a creep, then the explosion will take out it's friends sometimes. You should go back to buy a chalice as soon as you get 700+ gold (maybe a little more gold if you need wards). Once you get a chalice you'll have plenty of mana to farm with saplings forever. Vs harder lanes you should use teleport to quickly get back to the lane after buying chalice.

7+

Once maokai gets rank 4 in sapling you can free farm and there's pretty much nothing the opponent can do to stop your farm, you'll one shot the caster creeps with just one sapling toss and the range on that ability is longer than anything they'll have to harass you with. At this point you have the option to just farm/push all day then go gank side lanes, which is what you should be doing if you don't think you can beat your lane opponent in a strait fight. If you can beat your lane opponent, feel free to continue zoning him or stomping him with your E W R Q R combo, but you should probably buy some wards to watch out for the enemy jungler. If you manage to force your opponent out of lane, you should push the lane then either buy, counterjungle, or go gank a side lane.

General tips for laning:

Maokai has two distinct playstyles, choose which one to use wisely.

There are two ways of laning maokai, the first is what I call the passive style where you ignore your opponent, stay out of range, and passively farm creeps with saplings. Saplings have huge range and can clear waves fast from long distances. This skill allows you to farm without putting yourself into any real danger.

In contrast "Agressive style", you can get up into your opponents face, using twisted advance whenever possible, and try to harass the opponent out of lane with the EWQ combo if he's close or just taking potshots at him with saplings if he's far back.

You can also use a mixed style, playing passive until your opponent makes a mistake (such as whiffing a key skillshot), and then playing agressive. You can also play agressive if you expect your jungler to gank, even if the jungler isn't there right now. If you play agressive when you don't have a distinct advantage, you may lull the opponent into a false sense of security, allowing an easy kill for when your jungler does come. In contrast, if you play agressive only if your jungler is nearby, that's a pretty big tell and the opponent may back off before you can get into twisted advance range.

Keep in mind what skills your opponents have already used:

Some opponents have long cooldown skillshots, which they'll use to harass you. You should try to dodge these, but after they've already whiffed one of these, this is a great time to jump on top of them with twised advance. You can even dodge most skillshots thrown strait at you by using twisted advance strait at them, it makes you invulnerable in flight. This allows you to trade highly favorably with opponents, because if they are missing key abilities they won't be able to fight back very well.

Key point: Once you're done full comboing your opponent (usually E W R Q R), you should back up as fast as you can, as there's no reason to stick around when your cooldowns are down unless you think they're low enough for you to finish them off with auto attacks.

Coordinate with your jungler and watch out for the enemy jungler

Keep in mind of where the enemy jungler is, if he's visible on the minimap somewhere that's your ticket to play hyperagressive if you can get away with it.

Maokai sets up jungle ganks really well with his twisted advance and burst combo, you can initiate the fight with flash-> twisted advance, then lock them down long enough for the jungler to appear and kill them.

As for the enemy jungler, If you plan to go agressive on your lane opponent and try to zone him with twisted advance, you should really get wards so you don't get baited into a bad 2v1. If you have a ward, try to stay near the warded side of the lane. If you don't have a ward, try to stay near the middle of the lane and far away from the brush.

Also, don't chase people for no reason, and assume your opponents are not stupid until proven otherwise. If you have zero kill potential on an opponent assuming he plays rationally, don't chase him or play agressive style. He might turn around just in time for you to catch him, and if you do, his jungler will kill you.

Saplings are easy to dodge, so you should throw them out when there is an opportunity cost for dodging--Throw saplings in their general direction when they are about to try to last hit. If an enemy is about to last hit a low hp minion, toss a sapling near them. if they dodge it, they might miss last hits.

You should also throw saplings at them when they are nowhere near a minion wave, this will mean they have to go to great effort to dodge it rather than just running bheind a minion. You should also generally throw saplings behind the minion wave rather than into it, and not throw them when a new wave is just ariving, as it'll aggro that wave.

Roaming and Counter-Roaming

This is where teleport really shines, which is why I usually take tele over ignite.

Part of being a mid laner, especially post 7 when you can wave clear easily, is to roam to other lanes and gank them, getting kills for your team. Often post 7 in farm lanes (such as vs morgana), you and the enemy mid laner will take turns pushing the lane then going mia and roaming to try to gank or help out other lanes or the junglers.

Keep an eye on the enemy mid laner and communicate with your team about what he is doing:

You should always keep an eye on the other mid laner to see where he's going. If you see him leave your lane, hit the V ping between your lane and whatever direction he went to give your allies a clue that he may be headed to gank. It's a good idea to have enemy wraiths warded (position the ward as close to river as possible such that you can just bearly see the wraiths.), If you have a ward go do that. This gives you good control because it lets you tell if the enemy is roaming or if he's actually just killing wraiths. It's also a common position for the enemy jungler to be, and covers one of the common conduits (the connection between river and enemy jungler) which players often pass through before ganking.

If you see the enemy mid laner start roaming to gank, you can quickly push your lane out to the turret, costing him farm as your creeps die to the turret, then teleport to the other lane countergank, ambushing him as he tries to gank.

If you don't have teleport up, you have a choice to make: You can either follow him, and try to interrupt his gank, or you can just push the lane and farm. It depends on the situation but In most cases I would chose to farm the lane out if i have a large creep wave. However, once the enemy creep wave is dead (and kill it as fast as possible), you should follow him. It's usually a waste of time to auto attack the mid turret while he's gone when no enemy creeps are alive, unless you're pretty sure your allies can handle his gank.

There are situations where following him immediately even with enemy creeps alive may be a better choice: if you think you can catch him in the jungle and kill him. (Don't do this if you don't know where all the other enemies are, you don't want to get counter-counterganked. Hopefully your team has good ward coverage. ) Maokai can beat most poke oriented mages in a strait 1v1, but can't beat most tanky aps or tanky dps in general. If you have better boots than he does, you may be able to outrun him and catch him. If your laners act quickly, you can sometimes sandwich the enemy between the two lanes, catch him and kill him, especially if you're purple side and he's ganking bot, or blue side and he's ganking top: he really has nowhere to run if both sides come to try to kill him, unless he wants to flash over the dragon/baron wall which is probably a win overall. This works especially well if you have river warded and the lane is pushed by your team.

In either case, you'll need to communicate with your allies to determine the best reaction to the enemy mid laner roaming. Your Allies should be smart enough to fall back when you signal with V ping that the enemy is comming to kill them.

Roaming and Ganking:

You should also do a lot of roaming yourself, especially after level 7 when you can wave clear easily. If due to the matchup you'd rather roam, gank and farm than try to deny or harass your lane opponent, you should be constantly pushing your lane giving you ample opportunities to roam.

Usually by this time in the game, the enemy has warded, so they'll see you comming and you may have to tower dive to get any kills, so probably the best option is to just head strait for the enemy turret expecting to tower dive. You'll definitely want to coordinate this with your jungler. Maokai is a great tower diver, he can twisted advance, full combo, then run like hell soaking up tower damage while your allies finnish off the cc'd opponents, you can tank the tower long enough for a 4v2 dive on bot or a 3v1 dive on top to succeed.

If you see the enemy is overextended, you can also gank them with teleport, this works best if your laners bother to ward the side brushes. With teleport, you can tele behind your pushed opponents, sandwhiching them between you and your allies.

Item Build

I'll spend a bit of time explaining all of my item choices:

Starting:

Chalice now builds out of Faerie charm, so you can buy that plus a cyrstalline flask and some potions to keep your hp and mana up for the early levels.

Crystalline Flask is a good investment in that it gives you 3 free potions everytime you're in base. As it costs 225g and sells for 90g no matter how much you use it, it breaks even if you fill it back up even once.

boots only give 25 movement speed now which isn't huge, so I don't see any reason to start with them when you could have chalice.

Turn your mana bar into an energy bar

This item is misunderstood and very underrated, especially in mid lane where the opponents are almost always AP these days, so the magic resist comes in handy. This plus my rune/mastery build gives me 85 magic resist, which along with my passive and crystalline flask makes me really hard to push out of lane.

The first thing you should know is that chalice scales with mana regen. The more mana regen you have, the more mana regen you get, and it can give you quite a lot. The regen effect gets stronger as your mana gets lower, which is great, because if your mana isn't low you don't need mana regen.

TL;DR: with chalice and no other items, at level 5, maokai can throw saplings every 12 to 13 seconds until the end of time.

Here's some simple math on maokai's mana regen: 6.45 base, +.45 per level: at level 5 you'll have 8.7 mp/5 just for existing. You'll also have 3 from masteries, plus 7.5 from this item, for a total of 19.2 mp/5

Double that, from chalice passive, and you end up with 38.4 mp/5 when you have no mana. which comes to 92.16 mana regen per 12 seconds (a little lower as your mana pool increases, but close enough.). The mana regen per 12 seconds is an important figure: Rank 3 saplings cost 90 mana, and have a base cooldown of 12 seconds. As maokai you should often be low mana because you're casting a lot to harass and proc your passive, and this item fits him very well, by turning his mana bar into a pseudo energy bar. Since this item allows you to cast saplings forever, you're really hard to push out of lane, as you can always farm with your strongest ability from 1100 range, or alternatively use it to harass.

When your mana bar is low, this item can give you over 25 mp/5, which is huge amount for such a cheap item that also gives magic resist... especially useful early game.

I prefer this over catalyst for two reasons:

1) The mana sustain it gives is much more consistant than catalyst: if you're low mana, it gives you mana regen--right when you need it the most! catalyst proc on the other hand is less consisant, you might not need the mana or health right when you level and then you waste the proc.
2) It builds out of better items and is cheaper/easier to build. If you can just build catalyst strait from up, that's great, but hard to do cause it's 1325g. Having a ruby crystal + sapphire crystal sitting in your inventory because your didn't have enough to buy catalyst strait up, is simply not an efficient use of gold, as crystals are not very good items for the laning phase, and early laning is so important. Chalice is only 890g and builds out of better items IMO, so it's a lot easier to build.

For Boots: OR OR

Since the s3 patch I can't decide what boots to buy! I'll update this guide again once I decide, but for now I'll just list the three good options:

Sorc shoes got the nerf bat but they may still be worth buying due to their synergy with abyssal scepter. Magic penetration/reduction is great on him with his relatively high base damage on his four damaging abilities

Ninja tabi also got nerfed, but they're still a good buy vs heavy physical teams, and a must buy if you're for some reason laning against a physical damage opponent.

I think Boots of mobility may be a good option now, these will help out your roaming and ganking, and also help late game.

Maokai does not need merc treads, as tenacity is not a particularly good stat on him due to the bursty nature of his kit, his general tankyness and the way his W works.. how much he is CC'd is less relevant to him catching you than the cooldown on his W. Also, there's plenty of better options for magic resist for a tanky ap, with the existence of Abyssal scepter, Athene's unholy grail and runic bulwark aura.


Core Tanky DPS item:

This is the most cost efficient damage item you can buy, and also gives some magic resist.

You'll notice i'm going pretty damn heavy on the magic resist. Well, It's probably still laning phase, and I'm probably laning vs an AP mid, so why not? If you're somehow laning vs physical you should probably not buy this early, but i almost always pick it up eventually because it's the most cost-efficient damage item you can buy.

Plus the aura helps your team. The magic reduction synergizes well the magic penetration from sorc shoes, so with the marks factored in, I'm doing true damage to anyone with less than 48.55 MR, and most people take MR runes these days so there aren't too many people with much less than that. Magic pen is the best way to increase the damage of maokai's ultimate, which has only a .5 ap ratio but deals additional damage for damage absorbed.

Overpowered item:

They overbuffed this item last patch and its now really solid. This Item also goes great with abyssal scepter as it gives armor and health while abyssal gives magic resist. So with this item you've now got all three, plus some CDR. It's always good to have a balance of stats. This item is extremely cost-efficient compared to similar items, so I'm just going to build it on any tank or tanky dps or support until it gets nerfed.

EVERY team needs one of these: /

If nobody on your team buys one of these you're going to start doing poorly in teamfights, the aura can't be replaced. So have a chat with your team at the start of the game about who is going to build this. Usually the jungle or support will, but if they don't, you should.

You'll want at least aegis on somebody on your team every game, but vs heavy physical teams the upgrade to bulwark may not be a priority.

More AP:

If you're doing well and have a few kills, you can build a bit more damage. Riot added an awesome new damage item for maokai in S3 with Liandry's Torment. This item's passive synergizes well with maokai's kit, twisted advance applying the full bonus and arcane smash slowing everything.

Generally speaking, if you do well early game on maokai you should build AP items like Athene's and liandry's torment, if you're not doing so well you should delay these items and build tankier items like Bulwark or Warmogs.

If you're worried about dying:

If you're worried about dying or your team comp already has enough damage and you'd rather beef yourself up to be the main initiator, warmogs is your go to item. Besides locket it's the most cost-efficient defensive item you can buy.

Need more Armor:

This is pretty self-explanatory. Keep in mind that this is a CDR item, so you shouldn't buy this and athene's in the same game or you'll be overcapped on CDR.



Super Late Game Options:

By now your build should look something like this:



At this point you'll want to sell chalice for another item, or upgrade it to

If you don't want athene's, you could sell chalice for or .

You can buy if you think the next major teamfight will decide the game. If you consider the 30% hp revive on this thing as being worth the same as 30% hp, it's just plain better than every other tank item. But the 5 minute cooldown is pretty long.

is also a pretty good last item, you can initiate with your combo then pop this if they start to focus you--once you get to super late game, tank items may not be enough to protect you from the enemy carries, so the temp invunlerability increases in value.

Don't buy : this item got nerfed and is just better for maokai. You'd be way too squishy if you built both.

Cost efficiency analysis Spreadsheet:

I made this spreadsheet mostly for jungle maokai, but it's relevant for mid-lane moakai also. I wouldn't value stats much differently on mid-lane mao, except that mid-lane mao actually has the gold to buy some damage items.

Note that "Points" is the amount of gold I think that the stats of the item are worth. Arbitrary bonus is how much I value hard to quantify actives/passives/auras. I may have misspelled liandry's in the spreadsheet, but as nobody has noticed yet it doesn't matter and I don't have to change it!
[http://i.imgur.com/pHGfW.png]

Keep in mind that this isn't the end-all of stat evaluations, you still want a good balance of armor, mr, health, damage and utility regardless of the "Cost efficiency" stat. Warmogs, for example, only gives a gigantic stack of health with no balance at all, so I don't really prioritize it despite it being very cost-efficient.

The above is a screenshot for people who don't want to download random things on the internet, but if you want to download the spreadsheet itself and tinker with the numbers, you can find the file here:

http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?p=32084735

Changing the point score of stats or the arbitrary point score of items will automatically adjust the values in the table. (although it won't adjust the colors)

Maokai's Skillset.

Passive: Sap Magic: Your next auto attack heals you for 7% of your max hit points after 5 spells are cast nearby.

This gives you some nice sustain in lane, as you're getting procs from both your casts and your opponent's. Once you get chalice of harmony, you can start casting a lot more saplings and arcane smashes than before to stack this up quickly. Keep an eye on it and try to auto attack with when it's up and you need the heal.

Q: Arcane smash: Knocksback nearby enemies and shoots a damaging slow.

Some people don't realize that this ability can affect targets that are *behind* you. the knockback is about 100 radius aoe, and it goes full circle around maokai.

While this ability has surprisingly long range, it's projectile speed is painfully slow, making it awkward for chasing but exceptionally good for peeling enemies off of your allies or running away.

This ability is good for last hitting minions, it's pretty easy to last hit minions with the good range projectile and reasonable mana cost.

This is great to use in combination with twisted advance (remember to weave in either sapling or ult between twisted advance and arcane smash as part of the combo). After you twisted advance someone in a teamfight, move forward a bit try to skillshot their team with arcane smash, and the arcane smash will still hit the rooted person as long as you are still within 100 range of them, regardless of which direction you aimed the skill.

I take the first rank of this at level 4, and max it second. I prioritize this over twisted advance as it's more useful for pushing/farming, has a shorter cooldown for more overall damage, is aoe, and ranking it increases the power of the slow.

W: Twisted Advance: advances to your enemy rooting them in place.

This is pretty straitforward, the 650 range is really nice. one thing you should keep in mind is that it has a (fast) projectile speed and it doesn't root them until maokai reaches them. If the enemy flashes or uses any other escape ability while mao is en-route, mao will continue following them an unlimited distance and finally root them when they reach their destination. This can be a good thing for ganking: they can't flash away from you after twisted advance has already started. It can also be a very bad thing when tower diving. If you thought that was a rather shallow tower dive you were planning, or not even a tower dive, once they ghost and flash halfway to the next tower down the line, you're going to find yourself in a heap of trouble and far far away from your team. I often get killed this way, and if you're clearly dead after a bad twisted advance that spanned half the map, it's a good idea to spam the "fall back" ping on your position so you're team knows to back off rather than courageously following you to die together.

I put the first rank into this skill at level 2 to facilitate jungle ganks and also make my sapling harass more reliable: A sapling followed by a twisted advance is much more likely to do it's full damage.

E: Sapling toss: Toss a grenade.

In addition to being Maokai's highest damage attack, this ability is quite useful as a temporary ward and bush check. It lasts for 35 seconds, so if you need a ward in a pinch while pushing some tower, it's a great option. Also, don't just run into that bush, sapling it first! you never know when the entire enemy team is in that bush!

It's also a great skill for farming minions and jungle mobs. In a lane, it is a useful harassment ability with it's long range and high damage, so as this is a lane maokai guide you will be maxing this ability first as this is maokai's best harassing and farming ability.

Although this is Maokai's highest damage ability, and his longest range, it's also the least reliable and most easily avoided. It aggros minions and will often charge them rather than players. Also it's useless vs anyone with runspeed who isn't locked down by CC. So when to cast it is important: You generally shouldn't throw this anywhere near minions unless you want to kill or last hit the minions (if any players are near the minions, well, that's a bonus!). When harassing with this, throw the sapling well behind the creep camp. If you threw it far enough, even if it misses the player, it will just sit there waiting to aggro him and can create it's own "zone" of control. This is useful for lane control.

Also try to toss it when your opponont when they are trying to last hit something, even if it misses it can cost them gold. Maokai is annoying to lane against as he can push the lane and then harass you under your turret with saplings while you try to last hit the snowballed creep wave.

R: Vengeful Maelstrom:

This "ult" is such a short cooldown its really more of a regular ability than an ult. 20 seconds at max rank, 12 with my max cdr build, you pretty much drop it every fight. Best used right after you use w, so you know that whoever you rooted is not going to move out of it. also useful for that little bit of extra burst damage. Make sure to drop it on a team member who you expect is about to take some damage to protect them a bit.

Make sure to know when to cancel it for damage, the damage radius is actually slightly bigger than the animation: even if they're just outside the circle, if they're touching the circle they still take damage. You'll want to cancel it before they all run away, but not before they try to blow you up.

You can also use it to scare the hell out of the opponents. It's psychological, people don't want to stand in it, so use that to your advantage. If your team is running away from an unfavorable fight when 2 members of your team are dicking around in the jungle rather than being near the teamfight, you can drop your ult then face your opponents for a split-second looking scary. For all they know they're about to get instagibbed by your team members who aren't even there. They'll usually flinch, giving you enough time to make a clean getaway.

Don't be afraid to use this skill just to quickly clear or safely last hit minions: the cooldown is short, and the range is pretty good so you can use it to safely last hit minions from range if your sapling is on cooldown. For this use make sure to cancel it immediately so you don't drain your mana.

Ranking this skill up does not increase it's defensive power, but it does lower the cooldown and increase the burst damage slightly. On lane Maokai, I rank this at levels 6, 11 and 16, for more damage and lower cooldown.

Lane Matchups

Maokai is a good pick vs high poke, high cooldown bursty mages, as he is tough enough to survive their burst, can outsustain their poke, and can jump on immediately jump on them with twisted advance after they cast a spell, easily winning the trades.

Sorry, this isn't a complete list, there's like 100 champions so it's hard to do a full write up for everyone, or even get experience laning vs everyone, but most champions are similar enough to the ones already listed that you should be able to make a good guess at how the fights will go.

Champions you beat:


Maokai is a great counter to twisted fate. Twisted fate can't do anything to you unless he has a yellow card up, so once he uses that, or before he pulls a card at all, jump on him with E -> W -> Q and then run out of range before he can pick a card. You'll win the trade everytime, and chunk about half his hp in the process. You also have far more sustain than him and if you're using my build enough magic resist to pretty much ignore him. You can force him to turret hug all day and he'll try to farm minions with wild cards from long range, which are tricky to last hit more than one minion with; there's not much else he can do vs you. While he's at his turret, poke him with saplings.


you can outsustain her and win trades easily, and interrupt her ultimate with Q. Pretty easy lane.


if you see them start to cast a skillshot you, W them. That makes you untargetable, and now their main damage ability is on cooldown, so you win the trade. With your high magic resist build and your passive you should be able to outsustain their mana bar.


If your jungler has any clue he should be ganking the hell out of this guy because he's free gold with maokai opposite him. Just lock him down and burst him down together with your jungler, you should have enough CC for an easy kill. This guy has zero escapes and zero CC, and has to push to get his shield. Free gold for junglers. If he doesn't push the lane he gets no shield, so if he's turret hugging because he's scared you can just harass him down with saplings at his turret and win the lane easy.
If the jungler doesn't interfere though, this is a roughly even lane, although you still have an advantage IMO because you can poke him pretty well with saplings.


She'll have a hard time killing you if you're using my magic resist build, you've got 90 mr with chalice. You're also a pretty good pusher, and if you thought leblanc had trouble last hitting at a turret before, try last hitting at turret while dodging saplings chunking you for a quarter or more of your health.

Leblanc has no sustain, but watch out for the jungler, you don't want to get her fed. I recommend buying wards on the same back you buy your chalice. I also recommend maybe buying a couple health potions on top of the crystalline flask, so she can't just whittle you down with autos or Q -> ult spam everytime it comes off of cooldown.

Keep in mind: If you go even with leblanc, you still win, because you're more useful late game, and you can CS better. So even though you have the potential to shut her down completely, she also has the potential to kill you, she IS leblanc, so don't get cocky. I recommend playing this somewhat passively, especially from level 6 on, just because her burst is insane. You should ward and shouldn't take too many risks as her burst + a well timed jungler gank may get a kill to turn the lane in her favor. If she doesn't kill you, you win, because you can CS and push better and you're more useful late game. If this lane goes badly, keep in mind that you can walk around and into the side bushes and farm with saplings from there. The bushes will make you untargetable and harder to kill, unless she has a ward. That works for any lane that goes to hell vs opponents with targetted skills, btw, not just leblanc.

Champions who you don't beat, and who you probably aren't a good pick versus:

Maokai has no hard counters in mid lane, in that there's nobody who can reliably kill him if he plays passively and intelligently or force him to lose significant amounts of farm. The short length of the mid lane makes it super easy for maokai to just farm with saplings and push the lane repeatedly even if he's forced into a defensive posture.

However, he does have some bad matchups in the sense that he typically goes even in farm with some hard-carry type mages who are more useful than him lategame. With that in mind, I recommend not picking maokai vs Ryze or Karthus or Kog'maw, or if you suspect you will be laning against an AD Champion:


Maokai may have the slight advantage in this matchup, as you can push and force him to last hit at tower, but it's not a big enough advantage that you're really a counterpick, and ryze has a really strong late game to make up for any slightly unfavorable matchups. Jumping on him is dangerous as his cooldowns are low and his sustained damage is high, so you probably can't win trades with his health bar, although it depends what runes he's using... some ryzes are softer than others, esp the ones who use move speed quints. But once you're done comboing him he'll just spam you with spells, and possibly do more damage than you did to him. You may run him out of mana, if you do you can zone him. But once he gets tear or blue buff it's very hard to run him out of mana or push him out of lane, and this turns into a farm lane, which is a bad thing because ryze is more useful than you are if it goes to late game. If it goes this way, you're best strat is probably to just push the lane hard repeatedly and try ganking the hell out of side lanes. If you can get your bot lane and top lanes fed, you might be able to end the game or gain an insurmountable advantage before late comes around, at which point ryze will be a serious problem.


Jumping on this guy is dangerous as he'll wall you in to slow you, then spam Q and AOE. Since he'll know your exact position after twisted advance (right on top of him) it's an easy to land wall. You may not win that trade unless your jungler jumps into the fray after you, which wouldn't be a bad idea, karth is not be that hard to kill with jungler help.

When running away from karthus after your spells are used, keep in mind that it's more important to dodge his skittles than to get out of range of his AOE... his AOE is not mana efficient at all.

You can farm fine opposite him, due to your passive if he tries to heavy harass he'll end up just healing you. Just try to avoid getting hit by his wall, that makes it easier for him to land Q. The problem is you have no reliable way of stopping him from farming which is a problem because a farmed karth can cause trouble for your team late. That being said, If you find yourself facing karthus, I recommend playing agressive on karth and trying to freeze the lane, and hopefully your jungler will help you kill him. You should probably take ignite if you know you're facing karthus. There's no particular reason to push vs karth as he doesn't roam that often (He's squishy, can be caught in jungle, and he typically just ganks with ult), and he can CS at tower very easily. So I would recommend taking potshots at him with saplings and trying to last hit with arc smash/autos. If you can chunk him with a good sapling toss, you may get him low enough to jump on him and kill him when the next sapling comes off of cooldown. Definately buy wards though, you want to know where the enemy jungler is.


Cho'gath is another one of those tanky midlaners that nobody plays for some reason but is actually a really solid mid laner.

This guy is just annoying for maokai, mostly because jumping on him is a really, really bad idea, because that telegraphs your position for a very easy to land rupture/silence combo. Rupture counters twisted advance.

If you try to twisted advance him, you'll be slowed and silenced and knocked up, you'll eat a ton of damage and you're not going to do anything to him anyway. He can't really kill you either unless you play stupid or the jungler comes when you're out of position, but you're probably going to get out cs'd as his auto attack is better than yours with his vorp spikes, and you can't really fight him very well. Just try to last hit as best as you can with saplings and arcane smash, and auto attacks if possible. Whatever you do don't cast twisted advance on him; vs cho I wouldn't even take twisted until level 4, arc smash is more useful, cause if he starts attacking you in melee you can use that as a disengage.

The only upside is that you're a more reliable side lane ganker, as cho'gath's ganks are sortof wonky and easy to avoid, so even if you get outcs'd by a bit, hopefully you can make up for it with superior side lane ganks in the mid game.

  • AP

I've yet to fight this guy as mid-lane Maokai, but I see him all the time when I play jungle Maokai and he's super-annoying. I think picking mid-lane Maokai vs Kog would be a really bad idea, you'd probably rather have some kind of assassin who could dive him and kill him, or Ahri. From my experience fighting him late game as Jungle Maokai, I don't think Maokai really has the right kit to deal with him late game.

As for laning vs him: dunno, but you'd definately need to juke well because his ult is stupid. Make sure to have boots before he hits level 6.

Notable roughly even Matchups:

The majority of the cast is in this category, Maokai is a fairly safe mid pick and goes about even with most common mids.


She has surprisngly high sustained damage with her foxfire, jumping on her is actually somewhat dangerous esp once she gets ult. If she whiff's her charm or just used some abilities to farm, go ahead though. She's hard to gank due to her ult and she can chase you down well with it. I recommend inviting your jungler to gank her to hell sometime before level 6, and if you get a kill on her you have the potential to shut her down. Otherwise it's a farm lane.


You can't jump on her safely, the fang spam is too strong, although if you see her fang something that's not poisoned, go ahead, you have five seconds to unload then leave.

Keep in mind, there's no reason to be facing her when comboing her. just twisted advance, move slightly in any direction, toss a sapling right on top of yourself, and arc smash (can hit targets behind you, FYI). You'll want to avoid facing her as her ult stun is annoying, and only stuns you if you're looking in her direction. There's no reason to be looking in her direction.

You're perfectly capable of just farming though, which is how this lane normally turns out; she casts a lot of spells so you get lots of health back from your passive, you cast a lot of saplings and kill a lot of creeps with them, and nothing really happens.


The quintissential farm lane. There's pretty much nothing you can do to her with her black shield and high spell vamp, and it's not like she's going to kill you either unless you're at 500 ping and she lands every binding. You're both going to just be pushing the lane and then trying to gank side lanes, so try to do a better job of ganking/counterganking than she does.


I do not recommend jumping on this guy too agressively because if he has quick reflexes, he'll use his dash while you're mid flight then ult you into his tower. Twisted advance will follow people through dashes and flash, so you can find yourself completely out of position. Very dangerous, that can really ruin your day. although if he m oves in to last hit with auto attack and is nowhere near his tower, you can go ahead and jump him.

He's also less squishy than most poke mages so he's hard to burst down, this is typically just a farm lane, although maokai may have a slight advantage. He is melee and has no sustained damage, so he can't really do anything to you, either.


This guy gets armor from his lightning rush, and move speed, and can combo a stun from it if he has enough energy, so if you jump on him he's likely to stun you to mess up your combo and run away dodging your sapling. With that in mind, i recommend E --> W --> Q for this guy, W --> E --> Q is harder to land on this guy than most.

also his auto attack is more annoying than most mages, so he can harass you pretty well. It depends on the players but this is usually a farm lane.

Non-Meta matchups:

Sometimes they send their AD mid, especially once they realize you have so much magic resist. These tend to be the worst kinds of matchups for maokai due to the annoying auto attack harass, but you should be able to hold the lane and go about even on farm if you play it right.

You can free farm from range with saplings (much easier past level 7). Just farm with saplings and ignore them, or if they're a squishy ranged carry, you might be able to jump on them and kill them, but try not to take too much damage from auto attacks.

You can't trade with most bruisers just by jumping on them, as bruisers are usually good at dueling, but that's not a problem, just harass and farm with saplings, if they jump you you can peel them off of you and kite with arc smash, and since it's mid, you're too close to your tower for them to follow up on that much, so you win the trade. I recommend building ninja tabi if you're laning against AD, and skipping chalice, and rushing shurelya's.

Runes, Masteries and Summoner Spells

Runes:

  • Marks: Mpen, pretty standard for APs.
  • Seals: Armor. An earlier version of this guide had mana regen, but I now think if you don't have that much armor you open yourself up too much to counterplay like sending AD mid. You can still use mana regen if you want, they're a perfectly good option. If you do, i'd recommend switching to 9/21/0 as you probably won't need the mana regen in utility.

  • Glyphs: Magic resist. Standard for mid laners.
  • Quints: Magic resist. Ok, these are going to be controversial. You can just use AP if you want. I think maokai has high enough base damage with saplings that he can get away without AP quints, and these really help for outsustaining the typical mage casters you see mid lane.

Masteries:

I use 6/21/3

9/21/0 also works: esp if you're using mana regen seals, you won't need the mana regen in utility. IMO you need about 3 mana regen from runes or masteries.

I think the defensive tree suits him well as he doesn't really need the +5% AP mastery in offensive; as i rarely build enough AP for that 5% to amount to much. Maokai is also one of those champs that can never be tanky enough, as he's a great initiator but has to charge the enemies with twisted advance to do that, making him vulnerable.

Summoner Spells:

I run Teleport/Flash usually, sometimes ignite/flash.

Flash vs Ghost
I think is better for laning mid than ... it basically extends the range of your twisted advance another 400 range. This is great for zoning enemies, if they're low, they can't get within 1050 range of you or they're liable to be killed by your combo. Ghost is less useful mid lane as the lane is really short, so it won't take you nearly 10 seconds to get back to your tower or to the enemy tower in most cases. Ghost is more for long-distances, as it gives more distance overall than flash over the duration but it's also less bursty.

You can take both ghost and flash if you want to be a super strong late game initiator.

Teleport vs Ignite

This is more debatable, I usually prefer teleport.
  • is great for getting back to your lane after buying chalice for the harder lanes. For the easier lanes you use it to gank the hell out of bot lane--a well timed tele gank or tele counter gank can really turn the tide of a game. This is also more useful late game than ignite, IMO. In blind pick I always take teleport.

  • is another good option because the threat of having it means the opponent can't start fights with you and can also be zoned by threat of your ignite. Basically it ups your burst potential, which increases your threat level. The little extra damage may be enough to kill them, so they have to play more passively if you have ignite up.

You should take teleport on lanes where it's pretty clear already who is going to win in a strait fight between the two laners... so there's no need for ignite to push a 1v1 deathmatch to anyone's advantage. In otherwords, vs easy lanes like twisted fate or katarina, its a good idea to take teleport on maokai, this makes ganking (or counterganking) side lanes so much easier... it's also a good idea when laning vs bruisers or tanks who you can't really kill anyway. If you can't kill them even with ignite, or don't want to risk trying, there's no reason to take ignite, and teleport is the next best option.

Late Game Role

Just like jungle Maokai, you're still the tank, but with more gold and some AP/Mpen, and possibly ignite, you're also a greater contributor of damage. But that doesn't really alter your playstyle, it just alters the balance of where the damage is coming from when you jump on your enemies and then your team follows up. The rest of this section is pretty much copy/pasted from my jungle guide:

As Maokai, you are the tank and the initiator. Your job is to start fights on favorable terms, and protect your squishies during teamfights.

Map awareness is key

Keep in mind of where the opponents and allies are at all times. If you can't see an opponent on the minimap, assume he's nearby. The key to winning teamfights is to roam with your team through the jungle or lanes, (check bushes with saplings before moving in), catching the opponents out of position or when they're outnumbered, and initiating with Shurelya's reverie followed by twisted advance.

Wards are important, as if you ward a random area and somebody runs past, you know that enemy is not nearby when you want to start a teamfight. So make sure to keep some wards on you if you aren't at 6 items yet and you don't feel your jungler or support bought enough. You'll also want to keep baron constantly warded, and late game make sure you're team is never too far away from baron when the other team is mia, so that you can get there in time in case the enemies attempt to kill him. Somebody on your team (not necessarily you) could take an orcale elixer to clear out enemy wards, and also ward important areas.

Other than this simple above advice, it simply takes a lot of practice and experience to know when to initiate, when to tower dive, or when to signal your team to backoff, since it's heavily dependent on which opponents you're facing, what escape abilities they have, how squishy they are and how they could kill you. But mastering this (when to initiate) is the most important aspect of learning to tank.

The other aspect of learning to tank is peeling enemies off of your carry. Arcane smash is your friend. If people are beating on your carry, arc smash them, and maybe root them too, so your carry can get away. If they keep chasing, arc smash them again. With a 48% slow/knockback on a 3.6 sec cooldown (assuming max cdr), followed by a 2 second snare, Maokai is stupidly good for peeling. Use this to your advantage. If you have to chose between chasing down a fleeing enemy squishy, or pealing some bruiser or assassin off of your carry behind you, you should generally choose the later, as your team should easily be able to kill the enemy after peeling and locking him down with Q --> W --> Q combination, giving you an advantage in the next fight even if the other enemies get away.

Conclusion

Maokai is an extremely safe mid-laner, as far as I can tell. Not sure why he doesn't get much play in that role. If you need a tanky mid laner to fit into your teamcomp, Maokai is a great choice.

Maokai works great vs early game focused assassins, as they'll be unable to snowball the lane vs him and he'll be more useful than them late game. He also works against squishy poke oriented casters who will be unable to poke him down but will be vulnerable to his twisted advance combo.

Change Log

6/17/2012: Guide Released
6/18/2012: Added "Roaming and Counter-Roaming" section.
6/18/2012: Cleaned up formatting a bit, and added mention of AP Kog'maw in matchups chapter.
6/19/2012: added a little bit more detail to karthus matchup.
6/20/2012: added a little bit more detail to masteries section. Actually, 0/21/9 with armor seals instead of mana regen seals is probably equally good to my current setup. Hard to decide between the two.
6/22/2012: changed masteries slightly, decided I liked initiator better than enlightenment.
8/31/2012: Changed masteries to 0/21/9 and seals to armor. It's a similar setup mana regen wise, and these make you safer if they do something crazy like send an AD mid. Actually, I was just watching the CLG vs LGN game at the season 2 qualifiers, and wow did doublelift/chauster wreck that zyra. I think armor seals are safer in case your opponent tries something crazy like sending their AD mid.
8/31/2012: Added Cho'gath matchup... this guy is annoying, wonder why he isn't played that much mid.
12/29/2012: Going to have to revamp all my guides for season 3! I'll get around to this one after I finish my jungle guide.
12/9/2012: updated item build/masteries/etc for pre-season 3 patch.

Comments

December 31, 2012 - 12:49 PM #1

What about getting archangel? You can leave your ult on to stack mana really fast in fountaint

December 29, 2012 - 02:42 AM #2

I'm hoping this new AD mid meta will blow over because otherwise I'm going to have to seriously revise this guide >.<

December 16, 2012 - 01:58 PM #3

Nice guide mate...I just hate it when kids call mid maokai troller. They cant accept whatever things they haven't seen on stream or tournament...

October 28, 2012 - 04:35 PM #4

Matchup section is so hard to update. In the first place I need to find a team that would let me play mao mid without instalocking mid or dodging, then I need to have the opponent randomly pick the matchup i need to write about. It's probably going to be very slow to update, sorry guys.



Yeah, I'd think mao would do pretty well vs eve, since she's a magic dmg assassin and he beats magic damage assassins generally. Havn't fought her yet though. But didn't eve just get nerfed? I haven't seen her since they obliterated DFG.

October 28, 2012 - 10:08 AM #5

I would just like to make a suggestion. Eve matchups. I know it doesn't really require a section because maokai crushes eve but, I find I like to troll eve players a little bit by getting boots of mobility. That way, I not only crush them in lane, but also counter gank them every time. Great guide BTW.

October 25, 2012 - 10:41 AM #6

update versus section plz

October 15, 2012 - 05:22 PM #7

ROA... boss item on Maokia.

July 6, 2012 - 02:55 PM #8

I thought about writing a maokai mid lane guide. But this guide says it all. It is ridiculously rewarding to just walk up to the mid lane, decked out in magic resist, and just laugh as annie tries to kill me with fireballs.

June 25, 2012 - 08:57 PM #9

Back when I used to play mao mid more often, I would start sapphire crystal and rush sheen (sometimes, if not catalyst) for kill potential. The mid lane is a little more passive now though so sometimes going for damage doesn't work as well.



If you want to, you can level q on top lane to bully most bruisers out of the lane. Q also helps you escape ganks.

June 24, 2012 - 06:37 PM #10

I play mao mid for a some time and I like yours guide. Just i find out that u must build spell vamp because it is so good with his spells coz only w is not multi target.I dont like list of matchups. He is bater vs spaming mages than burst mages.He cant do too much vs Brand but vs Kartus u will always win trade on lv6. Before lv6 u got too much sustain from pasive and his spaming. That is my opinion. All other aspects of guide are great so u got my like :).

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