How To Play Maokai In League Of Legends

Are you looking for a strong Tank that can be played into more than one role? Do you want to impact games with very strong crowd control? If yes, Maokai sounds like the perfect champion for you. In this guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know to play the Twisted Treant.


Maokai is one of the best Tanks in the game. His easy to use kit and combined with his insane amount of crowd control, make him a favorite for both solo queue and competitive play. Although mostly played in the Top Lane, Maokai does just as well as a Support. He fares very well in all stages of the game and can be an unkillable frontliner in the late game.

Champion Abilities

The best part about Maokai’s abilities is that they’re all super easy to land so you’ll have no trouble at all locking down enemies with your crowd control. His sustain is also massively underrated which leads to a lot of people being surprised in some 1v1 situations. 

Passive  – Sap Magic

Maokai gathers magical energy from the nature around him. His next basic attack uses that energy to heal himself. Every time Maokai casts or gets hit by a spell, Sap Magic’s cooldown is reduced by 4 seconds.

This is Maokai’s main sustain tool. It allows him to stay in lane and heals him for a decent amount. Pay attention whenever this passive is up as it could get you out of sticky situations.

Q – Bramble Smash

Maokai smashes his fist into the ground, releasing an arcane shockwave that travels forth in a line in the target direction, dealing magic damage to all enemies it passes through and slowing them by 99% for 0.25 seconds. Nearby enemies are also knocked back.

This is Maokai’s bread and butter. You’ll find yourself using this to trade, clear, and CC your lane opponent. When you’re a support, this is your primary peeling tool. Not only does it slow your enemies, it also knocks them back meaning it can cancel or interrupt some channeling abilities.

W – Twisted Advance

Maokai transforms into a moving mass of roots, becoming untargetable and dashes to an enemy. Upon arrival, the target is Rooted in place and receives magic damage. 

This ability is what makes Maokai a lockdown threat. Since it isn’t a skill shot, it’s a targeted ability. It’s essentially a point and click stun. Use this on high priority targets like the enemy team’s carries and they’ll never be able to escape.

E – Sapling Toss

Maokai flings a sapling which stands watch for 30 seconds. Saplings will chase nearby enemies, detonating on proximity, dealing magic damage and slowing surrounding enemies by 35% for 2 seconds. If placed in a brush, Saplings last longer and causes a larger explosion when detonated.

This ability has a lot of uses. Apart from its decent damage, Sapling Toss is great for checking brushes and harassing enemies who hide behind their minions. It costs a lot of mana early on in the game so make sure to use it wisely.

R – Nature’s Grasp

Maokai summons a colossal wave of brambles and thorns that Roots enemies it comes into contact with for up to2.6 seconds, increasing with distance travelled, and dealing magic damage. 

Maokai’s ultimate makes him such a team fighting monster. The root combined with its absurd area of effect makes it a powerful tool to engage your enemies with. It’s nearly impossible to dodge if you use it right and can turn a team fight around in an instant.

Runes and Item Builds

You can build Maokai a lot of different ways, but for this guide, we’ll stick to general builds that will help you succeed in most matchups. We’ll look over his Top Lane builds and his Support builds.

Top Lane

Maokai will be matching up against a lot of bruisers, fighters and tanks in the top lane. For items, you would want to stick with those that make you tanky and to return the damage you receive back to your opponents. A general top lane build should look like this:

Start off with either a Corrupting Potion or a Doran’s Shield + Health Potions. IF you feel like you’re going to take heavy damage, go with Doran’s Shield. Otherwise, stick to Corrupting Potion. Rush Plated Steelcaps early on to help you sustain damage from both tanks or bruisers. Ideally, you should rush Bami’s Cinder and Bramblevest so that you would be an effective tank early on. Both of those items build into your core of Sunfire Aegis and Thornmail. Next, go for a Frozen Heart to solve your Mana shortage and to increase your tankiness. Abyssal Mask synergizes well with your entire kit thanks to it’s passive Unmake which causes immobilized champions to take increased damage for 5 seconds. Lastly, cap off your build with a Randuin’s Omen for its active ability that can both slow and reduce the damage of enemies around you. If you’re up against heavy magic damage, feel free to swap out Randuin’s Omen with Spirit Visage and Plated Steelcaps with Mercury Treads.

The other common matchup you’ll face are bruisers and fighters. Now, just because Maokai’s a tank, doesn’t mean he can’t square up against fighters. You just have to alter your build a little bit. If you’re matching up against fighters like Fiora, Camille, or Riven, your build should look something like this:

Plated Steelcaps, Thornmail, Randuin’s Armor, and Frozen Heart all give you armor and help reduce the damage you receive from fighters. Frostfire Gauntlet will help you stick to your enemies a little better. Most fighters are very mobile so having Frostfire’s Snowbind passive can prove to be useful. Spirit Visage is here because it increases all the heal you receive. If you combine that with your passive, Sap Magic, you can heavily outsustain your opponents whenever you duel. 

For runes, you’ll go with the Resolve tree and select Grasp of the Undying as your keystone. This is the general rune set you’ll go with whenever you play top lane. It is focused heavily on sustain so that you’ll do well against any matchup even if it’s a losing one. Demolish helps you push turrets, Second Wind heals you whenever you take damage, and Overgrowth increases your max health overtime. For your secondaries, take Biscuit Delivery and Time Warp Tonic for that early game sustain. 


Thanks to his absurd amount of CC, Maokai is very great as a support. In fact, he ranks in the top 5 in win-rate percentage out of all support champions. As a support, your primary focus is to peel for your carries. So, your build should look like this:

Start off with a Relic Shield or a Spellthief’s Edge. Both are great starting items so you can go with either one. Pick Relic Shield to be a little tankier or pick Spellthief’s Edge if you want to harass or poke your opponents. Next, rush your Locket of the Iron Solari so that you can trade aggressively with your ADC early on. It’s shield goes a long way and gives you room to make mistakes. After your mythic item, go for either a Deadman’s Plate, an Abyssal Mask, or Anathema’s Chains. Picking which one to build first will depend on what you need at the moment. Deadman’s Plate gives you additional armor and increases your roaming potential. Abyssal Mask gives you magic resist and increases the damage taken of immobilized enemy champions. Anathema’s Chains will reduce the damage you take from an enemy champion by 30% thanks to its Vendetta passive. To top it all off, go with a Gargoyle Stoneplate for more Armor and Magic Resist plus a shield to help you tank more damage.

For support runes, you’ll want to take Aftershock as your keystone for its bonus Armor, MR, and its aoe damage after immobilizing an enemy. Since you’ll lead fights using either Twisted Advance or Nature’s Grasp, Aftershock is very powerful. Font of Life synergizes well with Abyssal Mask and has similar effects to its passive. Bone Plating makes you tankier and Unflinching helps you stick to your opponents. For your secondaries, take Manaflow Band to help you harass and bully your opponents, and Transcendence for more ability haste.

Useful Tips

  1. When playing as a support, don’t hesitate to play aggressively in the early game. Your opponents would be surprised at the damage and CC you can deal with your ADC.
  2. Sapling Toss is a potent harass spell that you should abuse when you are playing as a support. It will help you take control of the brushes around the bottom lane and it deals a decent amount of damage.
  3. Maokai doesn’t have a lot of losing matchups in the Top Lane. However, sometimes it’s pretty easy to fall behind. In this case, just try your best to not die and build up gold to buy your items. It’s okay to lose your lane sometimes but try to not give your lane opponent more reason to get ahead.
  4. As a support, Maokai works best with ADCs who can follow up with damage or CC of their own whenever he engages. Great duo partners for Maokai are champions like Samira, Lucian, and Kai’Sa.
  5. For your summoner spells, take Flash and Teleport when you’re in the top lane while as a support, take Flash and either Exhaust or Ignite. If you’re feeling confident and could use the early kill pressure, take Ignite, but if you’re unsure, Exhaust is the safer option.

So there you have it! That’s everything you need to know to get you started playing Maokai. Be sure to check back with us again for more guides on your favorite games. Have fun and we’ll see you on the Rift!