Maokai is making a return to Summoner’s Rift in League of Legends, seeing play in not just one lane, but three. Here’s a guide as to why the Twisted Treant is so strong in LoL right now, and whether he’ll be sticking around.
While Maokai once dominated top lane, he was uprooted shortly after his Season 7 rework, with a hefty set of nerfs dropping shortly after. However, the Twisted Treant is back with vengeance, having become a must pick-or-ban in pro play and solo queue.
Buffs to Sunfire Cape — one of his must-build items — as well as nerfs to other top laners have seen Maokai climb up the ranks. He couldn’t break into the meta when more assassin-style laners were around, but now, players have started to take him up in various lanes as his utility is too good to go to waste.
While Maokai’s win rate has always been pretty good — hovering above 50% for the last year — it’s spiked in recent patches across the map. In the top lane, Maokai has a win rate of 52.71%, while in support it’s slightly higher at 52.82%, according to stats site op.gg.
This is alongside a spike in picks — from 1.39% in Patch 10.3 to over 9% in 10.7 in the top alone — which can have an impact on win rates. As more novice players pick up champs, a dip in win rates is expected, but that’s not the case with Maokai.
There’s not a lot of data on solo queue jungle Maokai, but it’s seeing play at the pro level. Bilibili’s jungler Zeng ‘Meteor’ Guo-hao has pulled it out twice for his LPL side, and while it hasn’t hit other major regions yet, it’s sure to come soon.
Maokai’s sudden rise in popularity wasn’t made by any changes to the champion itself. While he was buffed progressively in Season 9, it was the Bami’s Cinder buff in Patch 10.4, and the Ornn nerf in Patch 10.5, that really skyrocketed the Twisted Treant to the top of the power rankings.
The changes to Immolate, Bami’s Cinder active effect, added bonus damage to enemies after being immobilized. With three immobilizing abilities in his kit, it was the perfect change.
Combined with the steady cycle of buffs for almost three years since his rework, Maokai was ready to take root on the Rift once again.
In the top lane, it’s pretty much business as usual. Nothing has changed about Maokai’s build or playstyle since he was once popular, except for the fact that Sunfire Cape is a high-priority item. It helps with wave clear, as well as taking trades in lane with enemies.
He does well into other tanks and melee squishies, but can sometimes struggle in the ranged matchups. However, his passive allows him to regen health quite quickly, and when he gets on top of an enemy, he’s hard to shrug off.
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That goes to speak about his jungle power too. He can quickly clear with a sapling bush stack, as well as maximum health damage on his W. His ganks are easy to execute — if you can get on the enemy with W, they are almost certainly dead.
Watch a Challenger-level Korean jungler dominate the rift using Maokai.
In support, Maokai players have been taking a selection of items depending on the game. Sunfire Cape is built very often, while Gargoyle’s Stoneplate, Righteous Glory, Bramble Vest, and Spirit Visage are all popular pick-ups.
However, some players have also been sticking to a more traditional tank support set-up on Maokai, especially in solo queue. Zeke’s Convergence and Knight’s Vow are taken regularly, while Liandry’s Torment usually comes in as the third item.
Given how Liandry’s does more damage the longer you are in combat, and if champions are affected by crowd control, it plays perfectly into Maokai’s kit.
Watch Damwon Gaming’s Cho ‘BeryL’ Geon-hee play Maokai support perfectly against T1 in the LCK.
What build players end up taking depends on their team comp. A top-laner style Maokai ‘support’ is often run alongside a Fasting Senna, acting as a side-laner in the mid game.
After taking all the farm in lane, the Maokai with teleport will just sit in a side lane until his team needs him, making for a strong 1-3-1 split push composition.
If he doesn’t take teleport, it’s split down the middle as to whether players take Exhaust or Ignite. Exhaust has been gaining popularity in recent weeks due to an increased focus on hyper carry team compositions, with the summoner spell perfectly negating that win condition.
In other situations, Maokai has seen more play as a traditional support. He will be the beefy protector for the carries, engaging and peeling as he sees fit, with a more traditional item set.
Watch MAD Lions’ Andrei ‘Orome’ Popa shut down G2 Esports with Maokai top.
Regardless of where Maokai starts on the map, maxing Q is by far the most popular option. It does a lot of damage, has a short cooldown, and the knockback makes it great for setting up fights.
From there, depending on the game state, W or E can be maxed interchangeably. W’s root duration doesn’t go up a lot based on rank, but having your primary engage and disengage on a shorter cooldown is always welcomed.
Aftershock is also the keystone of choice, although Grasp of the Undying has seen play too. Demolish, Conditioning, and Revitalize all synergize well with his kit, while players are divided over Sorcery or Inspiration as a secondary tree.
If you want to pick up Maokai for yourself, there’s not much really stopping you. He’s certainly one of the easier champions to learn on the Rift. While he does struggle with some mana issues, his combos are easy to execute — it’s just a matter of mastering the smaller things.
You can take him almost anywhere on Summoner’s Rift, and he will serve you and your LP well. Maokai can make your climb in Season 10 just that little bit easier, so be sure to abuse him while he’s still strong.