Maokai = Tank, and why he's not anything else.

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Toros

Senior Member

02-22-2011

If you're going to play him, please build him tank. Long analysis to follow, with TL;DR section at bottom.

Note: as a tank, you're going to want to start with a chalice, and build CDR items along with survivability items. With a chalice, you'll be able to put one point into his ult and leave it. The scaling isn't worth more points, it just drains more mana and the cooldown changes from "once per teamfight" to "shorter, but still only once per teamfight".






Why AP is not an optimal build:


Some people are currently thinking "but his AP ratios are so good, i should get lots of AP on him"

No, you shouldn't, and for one simple reason: When you pick Maokai, your team is expecting an attempt at tanking. Telling them in pre-chat "I'm going AP" tells them two things:

1) They now need a tank, because you aren't one (SOL to the guy whose first/only tank is Maokai)

2) You are delibrately playing a role with Maokai that other champs could do better.

AP Lux > AP Maokai. She has more than one ranged attack (Ult and slow pool), ranged shield that can hit multiple people, and long range snare.

Lux's whole kit is built around sitting in the back, supporting and poking. Sapling toss is great in a lane, but come teamfights it's not worth picking him over a better AP poke champ.

Notable mention? AP Kogmaw. Not as good as an AD/AS kogmaw generally, but his poking is still better than Maokai's.



Maokai does not have the kit to be efficient as a poke. Sapling is his one ranged ability that does damage, and then he has to wait for his cooldown. His W and Q become difficult and dangerous to use correctly.



Why a bulky caster is not an optimal build:

Some people are building him as a bulky caster or hybrid tank/AP. These both cause problems.

-Built hybrid, he's too squishy to initiate, and his saplings are even weaker poking AP. He won't be able to both do damage and wade into the thick of the fighting.

-Rushing a RoA means he doesn't get to tank items until later, and unlike singed or gragas, who both are amazing built hybrid, he needs to be in melee range to use his passive for innate durability.


Best bulky caster? Probably Sion, though well played swain is pretty impressive too.

Why are they the best? They have defensive stats that scale off of AP.

-Sion gets 1:1 on his shield, and swain gets more life back from his ult with more AP.

-Swain leans toward more tanky, because he has great synergy with both RoA and Ryali's, and while he gets impressive regen from his ult with high AP, but still can be burst down.

Point being that they outclass Maokai as bulky casters because he has no defensive stats that scale with AP. Buying AP does not make him tankier in any way.


Maokai does not have the kit to be an efficient bulky caster. He gets no utility from AP besides raw damage.


Why tanky support is not an optimal role:


Some people say Maokai is actually a tanky support champion, not a tank at all. This is more playstyle than build, but i'm just going to cover all the bases.

Looking at our other tanky support champs, galio and taric, we can see why he is a mediocre (at best) tanky support.

Taric and galio are both strong champions at what they do.

-Taric combines a strong heal and auras for buffing the carry, and has a ranged stun and armor debuff to help lockdown targets. Physical carry's wet dream, though he's very helpful with mages, as abyssal is a great core item on him.

What makes him a poor tank is his inability to initiate. "Dazzle and run in" is not a serious option, and building AP is required due to the DISGUSTING ratio on imbue. Each 100 ap adds 110 to his heal on both himself and the other person, effectively making it a 2.2 ratio of points of health healed per each additional point of AP.


-Galio's bulwark is one of the strongest defensive non-ultimates in the entire game. 90 armor and magic resist should make your carry near impossible to kill in the first teamfight. Galio's initiate is weak, his counter initiate is very powerful. Using his ult to disrupt the enemy team right after they attempted to attack your bulwarked carry is a massive pain. With merc treads, they may run out of your ult, but they can't run out AND kill your carry.

Both Taric and Galio are excellent babysitters, but lack the ability to put the enemy carry in danger, only to protect their own.


Maokai has CC, but his ult needs to be saved until the teamfight has been started. It's not worth wasting on poking, as you won't get it twice a fight like dazzle/imbue and bulwark. His ability to check bushes is fantastic, but tanks are the ones who usually do that anyway.

Maokai isn't as good at protecting his carry as other tanky support, but is more capable of dooming the enemy carry.




Why hybrid AP/tank is not an optimal build:


Best hybrid AP tanky champ? Singed or Gragas (in that order)

-Singed is a boss. He again rocks with a RoA and Ryali's. His ult gives him great stats and hp regen, and his poison slows and does excellent damage. Fling and goo make him a nightmare in teamfights. Since he farms so well and efficiently, he just scales better and better as the game goes on.

He's great hybrid because RoA gives him extra health because of his passive. His ult gives him great defensive stats for easily a whole teamfight, and his farming is fantastic. The only AP items that he needs he has massive synergy with. Not to mention that the increased movespeed, and inherent idiocy of chasing singed means he can choose when and where he fights. He escapes very very well.


-Good Gragas players are terrifying. A well placed ult will separate a carry from his team like magic, he's near impossible to zone in the lane, and with some AP and defensive items, he hurts alot and takes quite a bit of effort to kill, due to his passive and flat damage reduction.

He's a great hybrid (I'd almost say bulky caster) because he's good good range on his abilties, and doesn't need much survivability to be tank-level difficult to kill.

However, full tank is underwhelming as his CC is not very powerful. It tends to make him ignorable because his damage is too low to worry about him over either a real tank or a real dps. His ability to bodyslam though walls is fantastic for surprise and escape.


What makes Singed and Gragas good hybrids? They combine good ratios and synergy with defensive AP items (RoA and Ryali most noticeably) and have great escaping and innate defensive stats. They are able to get away with less defense because of their mobility and ability to abuse Ryali's slow.


Maokai's kit does not make him an efficient hybrid. He lacks reliable escape abilities and his innate defense requires him to be in harm's way.

This might seem counter-intuitive. Why would i want to be tough only when i'm at risk of being attacked? Because that's all that matters when you're tanking. Kass might riftwalk over a wall and nuke anivia. Her having active defensive abilities is useless. By the time she's able to retaliate, half her health is gone.



Teamfight analysis for tank, hybrid, and AP builds:


Maokai's innate defense requires him to do 1 of 2 things:

-Melee attack for his 150-250 (on average during teamfights) health back 2-4 times in a teamfight (potentially very powerful, lost with AP build, riskier with hybrid build)

or

-Stand close enough to your team's carry (the center of your ult) that you're very likely to get hit with damage that wasn't intended for you.


With a tank build, the first happens naturally. You root someone, you punch them, you punch the ground, you punch them again. As for the second AoE damage from things targeted on your carry is not going to be an issue, and in fact will just proc your passive more. CC away.

Staying in your ult is obviously a bonus, but you're strong enough defensively to take a long time to kill out of it. If they focus you, your carry wins the teamfight, same as any other tank.


With a hybrid build, you are stuck in a lose-lose-lose. You lose if you go offensive, you lose if you stay, and you lose if you back up.

-Going on the offensive outside of your ult makes you squishier than either singed or gragas, and your damage isn't omgwtfbbq. Either they'll ignore you and you've wasted money on survivability or they focus you and you blow up.

-Staying where you are is the best option, but the AoE is still going to hurt. Xin's ult, AoE debuffs, bounce abilities are all going to make you feel squishy. losing 30 MR isn't a big deal when you have 200, but when you have 100 and 150 AP, you're pretty much squishy caster stats. Still, you get complete use of all your abilities.

-Backing up is the worst option. Your sapling isn't beefed up, and you can't use your CC. They'll just kill you later after your carry is dead.


As a pure AP build, you have one option in a teamfight: sit in the back.

-You'll get blown up like any other squishy caster if you move up, and one sapling is not going to break their team if they have any MR at all. Your Q is useless, if you're close enough to use it, they'll close enough to kill you. Your W is only a killsteal move.

-Your ult will do damage when it pops, but if you're capable of popping it before the teamfight is over, you would've won without it. 600 raw AOE damage is less than your team will do in the couple seconds 20% damage reduction would buy them, and there's no guarantee any members of the enemy team will still be in the ult when the fight's decided.


Why tank is the best option, but should be stronger:

Some of you who read through all of that are now thinking "But what about Maokai as a tank?"

Right now, Maokai is the most difficult and weakest main tank, but much stronger than off-tanks trying to tank.

His ult needs a change to it's scaling, as it's a one point wonder. His saplings also need a nerf, not because their damage/scaling is actually too high, but because they are noobstompers. There will be a lot of QQ free week from low Elo as a result of this.

His Q is a great ability but tends not to be used efficiently. It wouldn't be terrible to have a longer cooldown and a stronger effect, but it's underrated as is.

The logical question at this point is "If Maokai is the weakest main tank, why play him over any of them? You've given superior alternatives for every other possible role."

I don't see him becoming popular in high-elo without a buff as a main tank considering the alternatives, but considering we only have 3 viable main tanks, another viable one is moving in the right direction.

In normals and mid elo, he's more than enough of a tank to fill the role.


TL;DR section:

-Maokai does not have the kit to be efficient as a poke/caster. Sapling is his one ranged ability that does damage, and then he has to wait for his cooldown. His W and Q become difficult and dangerous to use correctly.

-Maokai does not have the kit to be an efficient bulky caster. He gets no utility from AP besides raw damage.

-Maokai isn't as good at protecting his carry as other tanky support, but is more capable of dooming the enemy carry.

-Maokai's kit does not make him an efficient hybrid. He lacks reliable escape abilities and his innate defense requires him to be in harm's way.

-Maokai's kit does give him the tools to be a main tank, and while he's not as strong as the other 3 main tanks, he's still most efficient built that way.


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Opachopp

Senior Member

02-22-2011

he can be bulky caster if you already got a tank so will be like an offtank or a damage soak


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Toros

Senior Member

02-22-2011

Quote:
Originally Posted by diox990 View Post
he can be bulky caster if you already got a tank so will be like an offtank or a damage soak
He doesn't have any real synergy with Ryali's, and while an early catalyst solves his early mana regen issues, he still uses alot of mana later with his ult and scouting bushes.

Itemizing efficiently as a hybrid is difficult, and not getting extra durability from AP makes him difficult to get the "bulky" part of bulky caster.

"Bulky caster" Maokai is about as squishy as an annie with the same build and does way less damage.


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FossaFerox

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Senior Member

02-22-2011

Yeah, other champs do certain roles better when looked at in a vacuum. Of course, being that this is a team game, I'm going to ignore your well written but poorly thought out rationale.

He is a **** good "bulky caster" when used in certain combinations or as a counter pick.


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Emperor Seth

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Senior Member

02-22-2011

How about RoA+full tank Maokai? works for singed.


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SJCTsauce

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Member

02-22-2011

Quote:
Originally Posted by FossaFerox View Post
Yeah, other champs do certain roles better when looked at in a vacuum. Of course, being that this is a team game, I'm going to ignore your well written but poorly thought out rationale.

He is a **** good "bulky caster" when used in certain combinations or as a counter pick.
He has a point.

Did the bulky caster thing with a Renekton as my lane partner. Did enough damage with Saplings to root and knockback and guarantee a kill.


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xdzy

Senior Member

02-22-2011

When I see RotA on tree i cringe.


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Toros

Senior Member

02-22-2011

Quote:
Originally Posted by FossaFerox View Post
Yeah, other champs do certain roles better when looked at in a vacuum. Of course, being that this is a team game, I'm going to ignore your well written but poorly thought out rationale.

He is a **** good "bulky caster" when used in certain combinations or as a counter pick.
Well, i'm happy you thought it was well-written.

However, Maokai isn't particularly durable without items, and his ratios are good, but 2 of his 3 damaging abilities are going to be melee range.

He doesn't get any bulkiness from AP, or AP from bulkiness (like galio), so he has to pay full price, in a sense, for both.

At the same price point, other bulky casters will outperform him for that reason.

Unless there's some synergy that I'm missing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SJCTsauce View Post
He has a point.

Did the bulky caster thing with a Renekton as my lane partner. Did enough damage with Saplings to root and knockback and guarantee a kill.
Early game he has a lot of options, but going chalice over RoA tends to be enough to harass, and is better down the road. Early AP is good on him if you think you can win the lane hard enough, but it can hurt you come teamfighting.

For the cost of a RoA, you can get a whole lot of early tank items. (chalice, boots, part of an aegis)


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Vulking

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Senior Member

02-22-2011

Maokai E don't need a nerf, the freaking thing is extremely easy to dodge if you have minions, the only people that would complain are those that don't move at all and think they are safe.

His ult need to be changed to an aura or make the circle moving with Maokai. I would even accept a movement reduction if needed to get the circle to move with him, something like 50% / 75% / 100%, that will make lvling it up a bit more worthy.

Also, as long as my lane partner isn't stupid I can do wonders as a tank, I build him:
- Meki Pendant, HP pot, Mana Pot
- Chalice
- Boots
- Spirit Visage
- Merc Treads
- Heart of Gold
- Sunfire
- Frozen Heart / Banshee's Veil
- Omen
- Swamp Chalice for Soul Shroud if the match drag on
- Swamp Visage for Warmong's if the match drag on


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Xoltar

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Senior Member

02-22-2011

You wrote a lot out but all my best games on Maokai have been as a bulky caster. Roa + boots of swiftness + rylais + lb... never gotten past that point.

9/0/21 has led the way for almost all my victories as bulky ap. I have better mana regen in early laning phase and my lane ALWAYS dominates because of it.

Yes, I will go tank if I go solo queue but don't shoot down Maokai as ap. His burst combo allows you to go in see if you can finish the job and if not get the hell out without danger to yourself. In a team fight my ult alone pretty much allows me to escape initiating with the dmg reduction, and spending the rest of the duration focusing the carries or protecting my carries when needed. Even if I get blown up as ap maokai I almost always get my ult off allowing my teammates to finish the job.

It may not be the build that works for you but try not to shoot down an entire build just because of what people expect. What you need to do is write a thread on building a proper team in champ selection and not focusing on how a champ should be played.



As ap maokai i've never lost a 1v1. I haven't added every champion to the list yet but I'm doing pretty good for myself.


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