IntroductionUpdate: Feb 19th, updated items/masteries, added a new video commentary.
To start off, I'll give credit where it's due:
That guide by doo0ooooooom really got me rolling on Maokai after I used his route/general strategy for Maokai as he played far more games than I with him and learned a ton of tricks with him. Prior to that, I used a inferior route and mindset and I probably wouldn't of started dominating games at MLG without his giude. So if this guide ever becomes completely outdated, hopefully his or some other low profile player will have a solid one ready as I couldn't of put in the time and research that doo0ooooooom put into his to learn all the secrets about Maokai. That said, I currently use his jungle route and the basic mindset of tank Maokai and maybe his rune build (not sure if his has changed but I based mine around his old build).
Anyways, Maokai is obviously an extremely strong champion in the jungle due to his flexible jungle route, his godly level 4 ganks and his insane CC supporting ability. Despite not being popular in solo queue, it is extremely easy to do well on Maokai and pull off easy victories as Maokai can control the game from level 3-4 and cover your carries all game for the win. This guide will hopefully show you how to build and play Maokai successfully as it has done for me.
MasteriesMy masteries focus on making Maokai extremely durable, I find that I'm often the person who dives in first in any gank/fight and thus need to take an extra beating. The bladed armor also helps my jungle speed as in addition to my already high aoe damage, I have that mastery speeding it up. Since Maokai's bases (skillwise) are so high, we can ignore the offensive tree as being durable enough to do a extra combo is often far better than having each combo be slightly more damaging. I spec 9 into utility rather than offense for this reason as I find I require the mana/regen due to the fact I won't be hogging the blue buff. This part of the tree is especially helpful considering Maokai has 2-4 spammable spells (depending on CDR) which all cost a decent amount of mana.
RunesNote that unlike doo0ooooooom, I haven't been able to experiment a ton with the runes for the new jungle (i'm not sure if he has but I sure haven't) and his old runepage for the old jungle was brilliant when he used extra mana to do a nifty clear so hopefully something like that could be found.
Starting from the top:
My marks are attackspeed solely to speed up the animation of my autoattack while giving me a easier time in the jungle. I've found that if you don't have enough attack speed, you'll rarely get off your passive in time when it's constantly being fired up due to spells being casted constantly.
My seals are currently still armor, I haven't experimented much with different ones in the new jungle as it's been changing constantly in the past week and I've been playing numerous champions. That said, it helps greatly in the early phase and even later in terms of facing the enemy physical attacks.
My glyphs are just plain magic resistance per level, they'll give the most bang for your glyphs later on in terms of durability, these could be choice runes but I prefer to just be tankier.
My quintessences are flat AP, simply because the quint is very valuable in early game stats compared to many of the other stats the quintessences give. However like the glyphs, I haven't experimented enough to say you truly need these so I suggest finding something that works if you don't like just having 15+ AP.
Smite for obvious reasons. Flash is extremely versatile for Maokai as it allows him to not only escape over walls or away from ganks but also add 400 range to his Twisted Advance. I'm sure many people have seen this on stream/events where it is very hard to avoid a flash followed by a Twisted Advance for the initial level 4 gank.
Passive: Sap Magic
Each time a champion near Maokai casts a spell, he gains a charge of Magical Sap. When he has 5 charges, his next melee attack drains energy from his target, healing Maokai for 7% of his maximum health.
Far more powerful than it looks, this not only sustains Maokai during his route but also in teamfights. Using this passive constantly while throwing out spells is huge, this could easily proc every second in a fight which means you could be healing half your max life before you die which allows you to be very durable. Master using this passive while doing teamfights and you'll be one of the tankiest champions in the game.
Q: Arcane Smash
Maokai slams the ground, the force of which knocks nearby enemies back and sends an arcane shockwave forward, dealing 70 / 115 / 160 / 205 / 250 (+40% of ability power) magic damage and slowing his enemies by 20% / 27% / 34% / 41% / 48% for 2 seconds.
Cooldown 6 seconds
Cost 55 mana
The shortest cooldown knockup/back spell in the game, this spell gets extremely annoying for your opponents as they are constantly slowed or knocked up/back due to it's low cooldown. This ability has the effect of stopping channeling if you're close enough (otherwise it'll just slow) due to the knockup property. Also note that this spell affects the small area around Maokai meaning that you can knockup targets directly behind/beside you despite the line animation going the other way.
W: Twisted Advance
Maokai transforms into a cloud of arcane energy, quickly traveling to a target enemy. The target takes 80 / 115 / 150 / 185 / 220 (+80% of ability power) magic damage and is rooted in place for 1 / 1.25 / 1.5 / 1.75 / 2 seconds.
Cooldown 13 seconds
Cost 75 / 80 / 85 / 90 / 95 mana
Similar to Rune Prison, this spell has an additional bonus/drawback in that it positions Maokai beside his target after the projectile reaches the target. Notice how I say projectile as if the target flashes or blinks back, you'll follow them to that location rather to where they used to be. This means you can either secure a kill easier if they mess up a flash or you could be in severe danger if they flashed into a tower/team.
E: Sapling Toss
Maokai hurls a sapling, dealing 40 / 75 / 110 / 145 / 180 (+40% of ability power) magic damage on impact. The sapling becomes implanted in the ground, warding a nearby area for 35 seconds. When enemies approach, the sapling attacks, exploding in an arcane blast that deals 80 / 130 / 180 / 230 / 280 (+60% of ability power) magic damage to enemies.
Cooldown 12 seconds
Cost 70 / 80 / 90 / 100 / 110 mana
This spell boasts the highest base damage in the entire game for a non ultimate. Clocking in at 460, this spell's drawback is the cooldown and fact that it might be difficult to get both damage ticks off. The sapling is also useful for a ranged ward/trap (provided you don't put it near a neutral monster) or as a trap early on in the game to instantly kill a jungle camp. That said, I max this spell last as it has a high cooldown and only does pure damage rather than have any CC ability like the other two non ultimate skills.
R: Vengeful Maelstrom
Maokai shields his allies by drawing power from hostile spells and attacks, reducing non-tower damage done to allied champions in the area by 20%. Maokai can prolong the effect as long as he has mana to spend on it. When the effect ends, Maokai unleashes the absorbed energy to deal 100 / 150 / 200 (+50% of ability power) (+2 bonus damage per damage absorbed) damage to enemies within the vortex. Maximum 200 / 250 / 300 bonus damage.
Cooldown 40 second
Cost 75 mana + 30 mana per second
Deceptive like his passive, Maokai's ultimate is extremely useful against casters and their high damage ultimates or aoes. Placing this before a Morg or Fiddle ult can be very deadly to them as it greatly reduces the damage of their attacks and near instantly gets charged up to full, this could very well help kill the enemy attackers. Also note that when used in combination with Maokai's Q and E, Maokai is dealing extremely high AOE damage without needing a single offensive item.
Skill OrderWhile you can be flexible with your skill build if you're planning a nice early gank (say take red early and get level 1 of each of your 3 main skills), I mostly stick to the level 4 route due to the power and difficulty of stopping it.
So mainly like above:
Maxing Q first and leveling R and then W when possible while maxing E last.
The reasoning for this is that after level 4, you'll tend to get more than 1 arcane smash out in a fight as opponents last longer than a single combo. Also the slow is extremely good and gets stronger later, meaning you can essentially keep them from going far while your team damages them. This reasoning is the same for maxing Twisted Advance, it allows for a longer snare on the enemy target so your carries can do more damage as they're itemized for damage unlike you.
The second skillbuild as I mentioned is the earlier gank (since new jungle puts you in a better spot for the level 3 gank:
So rather than the Doran's start with the old jungle, I use the dooooom route/start where you save money on your philosopher stone by having a regrowth pendant ready. You are still able to do the jungle without needing to use excessive potions so you can get your first gold item early.
The boots followup is needed to do ganks after your first buyback as often your opponents will be able to outrun you even if you have flash, otherwise if they don't have boots and you do, you'll be able to get in range without needing flash. The second gold item I find is needed for someone like Maokai who needs gold since he's a jungler and this doesn't really slow down his progress towards other items in high elo games as both of the items lead to something he'll eventually get anyway.
Most often, you'll be getting Tabis (until it's removed or remade or something) as Maokai doesn't really need the tenacity as often the opponent will be smart enough not to waste CC on you unless you are the sole target or you're in an aoe. Often the opposing team will have enough physical damage to warrant a ninja tabi and will often be my choice for boots as Mercury Treads are too expensive otherwise.
Shurelya's Reverie is almost a must in high elo games, a team can follow up your insanely fast initiation with Twisted Advance because your team will move fast enough to catch up to your flash/advance. It is also useful for getting out of enemy aoe ults and what not and is very valuable in any team coordinated environment.
If you're more worried about durability and want to milk your philosopher stone for more gold, I'd get this if the enemy is AD based (otherwise it'd likely be ).
(skip if no healers on team),
Later you should be getting the right defensive items, whether it be for physical damage or magical damage. If the opposing team has a large amount of a certain one, go either spirit visage for magic teams or glacial shroud (eventually a frozen heart later if you have enough money and its needed). Often I'll get the 2nd defensive item for that type then get the 2nd defensive item of the armor/mr side unless the enemy team is completely stacked in one form of damage. So often I'll have both force of nature and randuin's omen and the other cheaper defensive item.
So if you're somehow still playing, from the following 3, I suggest getting:
Warmogs if you are having trouble tanking or are confident your team can do damage.
Starks if you have a super AD carry(s) which can benefit from it greatly.
Triforce if you have to do everything yourself since your team sucks.
MindsetMostly taken from doo0ooooooom, the primary objective later in the game is to be a tanky disrupter. Early on your ganking power is extremely strong when conditions are right while later you will be covering your allies with your ultimate or CC.
Early game you want to try to gank at level 3/4 and beyond quickly, allowing the enemy to hit say level 7 on a champion will often be that breakpoint where they can finish waves with a single level 4 skill such as Morgana's Tormented Soil which means they'll just walk back to their turret to avoid a gank. Often you'll want to gank right after you hit level 4 due to the fact that it is likely that middle and top have yet to go back and buy and ward. This crucial time is also the one time where it is highly likely for the enemy champion to die from full health with your combined combo unless they're already in range of their own tower.
This ability to down a champion who is hardly over extended is a great advantage Maokai has over most jungles, often the enemy has to be significantly overextended for a gank to work but with Maokai a target could be at the center of middle and get either flash snared(then knockup/sapling) or get disabled by the ally laner so Maokai doesn't need to flash. Which also leads the the point where it is more favorable to either gank the lane with a CC on your team or at the very least some high damage spells from your ally while you snare/slow the target for them. And obviously enough, a overextended lane with a competent allied laner is still a great target to gank.
A 2nd way to play is to simply counter gank the opponent or vastly outfarm if you find your lanes won't be pressured (against say a Shyvana) and are hard to gank. The plan behind this is that your jungler is extremely likely to be superior in team fights later in the game and has a gold per 10 item advantage against the Wriggle jungle types.
Late game you hopefully are trusting your team enough to follow through with your initiates but you MUST keep in mind that you need to give them a couple seconds to catch up. This is important as if you dive past a few people to snare the backlines, your team will not be able to help and most teams find it very easy to 5v1 a stray target as they're right in the open and can't escape. Often you'll be the one starting fights by snaring/ccing the intended close target while laying down your ultimate which will hopefully cover either you or your team as they follow up. I find myself either peeling the enemy bruisers/divers away from my carry or if I'm big enough, I'm able to constantly CC/Snare their highest DPSer (often late game its the enemy AD carry) while my team mops up the other threats. If your team gets caught or is in a bad spot, it is almost guaranteed you'll have to use your ults/snares to minimize the damage if the person who gets caught can't escape. What I tend to do with my ultimate is figure out what looks like the best possible place/time for the enemy to cast their ultimate and I cast Maokai's ult on that spot ahead of time. Performing this right will often result in you being able to either discharge your ultimate doing huge aoe damage or if there are no targets and your team is still in it, keep it going to protect your team.
JunglingThe route I currently use due to the new jungle changes is actually the one I saw doo0ooooooom use (though mine is slightly diff) in a video which is:
1.Sapling your wraiths twice (start at 1:05 so you have time to regen), sapling it a third time at 1:40 so the impact damage can occur
2.Run to blue, this is vital if you told your team to leash as you'll get there slightly late (so your non mid leash will have to keep it still for a bit) but you can do it without a leash thanks to the new jungle.
3.Kill wolves with 1 sapling and 2 Qs
4.Kill wraiths with 1 sapling and 2 Qs
5. Here you can either kill golems or kill lizard depending on if you feel safe killing lizard at this moment without smite. Also I usually kill lizard here if I'm blue side since often my bottom lane takes the golem camp and it might have 10-15 seconds left on the spawn timer.
6.Kill the lizard/golem you failed to kill in step 5 and receive level 4.
Here you can either gank or finish wraiths/wolves for easy exp then a shopping trip which should net you boots/philstone (or just get a couple of wards if you can't afford the full philstone).
This route is flexible even if counter jungled because of the new jungle being really weak offensively, while you might not get as much gold/exp as you normally would, it won't completely break the game. Anyhow, heres a sample game of a Maokai jungle:
Here is a new UPDATED video of Maokai with commentary after the enemy counterjungles me severely, however I recover as shown :
Final CommentsHopefully this guide is helpful for understanding one of the lesser played jungles, I was on a slightly tight schedule for this guide due to having qualifiers/tournaments to go to and I haven't been able to completely dive into the new jungle as much as I'd like as the qualifiers/tournaments are played on the old jungle which I needed to still remember so I didn't want to flush that out of my system just yet. Anyhow, Maokai is a strong champion despite him being barely played at all compared to other champions due to his tanking ability, his CC support ability and his very strong AOE damage.