Jungle Maokai's retutn to the forest.
"The Isles will bloom again!"
So many of you may not know this, but Maokai wasn't always a support. In fact just a few short years ago if you locked in Maokai as a support pick, you would have been reported for trolling. Oh how the times have changed, as before that he was a niche/OP pick in top lane but that eventually got nerfed. Some of you may still see the rare Maokai top yourselves, though they are few and far between. Though I'm sure only a select few of you have ever seen a Maokai jungle, and those who haven't might be surprised to find out that jungle was at one point his main role. So the question becomes: what happeded and why did he disappear?
"I will show them what was lost in the ruination."
So first off we need look at Maokai and see how he could jungle to begin with, and when you break it down he does have enough tools to make it happen. His passive
"Nature's enemies gather"
So let's go ahead and get this out of the way, Maokai is a fine jungler that is adaquate at everything, but he's only adaquate. He will never be able to clear as fast as
"Life can come back, once the earth is turned."
The answer to this question is easy; Simple Utility. Sure compared to others he doesn't have as many nor as powerful of tools, but he still has a lot he can do. Point-and-Click CC with a knock-back and delayed activation slow is nothing to scoff at, and as the game goes on he offers incredible vison control. You don't need to build to be a one-shotting monster in order to be useful to your team, just build to match your opponents comp.
Quick Maokai Tank Jungle Build
Best Overall Build
This is the most stright-forward and simple build that anyone one can do. This build focuses more heavily on ganking and re-ganking until the enemy is extremely behind. While the idea is simple, it does take a fair amount of macro knowledge to know wave position and jungle tracking. This also uses the slower clear of the three camp back to get ones boots ASAP. Camp clearing is not the greatest and this kind of gameplan has more of a "reward ganks with farm" mentality so that does mean that if things happen to not go as plan you will fall a signicant amount behind and will have a much harder time catching up.
"Stillness is not peace! It is death!"
Now while I did say that this was the simplest build, it is far and away your only option. If you cookie cutter your way every game then there is a good chance you will never get that far. A good jungler know's that you need to adapt fast depending on the opponents comp, this includes at champ select. A simple change that can make a larger difference is in your keyrune. Rather than
- Rune Page
- Item Set 1
Even though Maokai at his heart is a tank, that doesn't mean he can't fight at all. In fact once you get a few levels into your Q and some health to spare you can take a lot of trades in your favor actually. This isn't to say you can 1v1 anyone at any point, but if you feel confident in youself and your teams rotations then be greedy and fight it out.
"I can watch the mortals doom themselves from here."
So now that you've read throuh this a bit you've seen that Maokai can jungle, now you need to learn how to jungle. Fortunately the clears are pretty easy.
Maokai's clear routes and times are all fine, you just need to decide how you want to go about it based on your enemy. The most typical clear is the five-camp clear, which you can see above. The hardest aspect is the timing of your sapplings and their position in the bush. If you are doing a predator build then the classic three-camp base is a fine choice to get early boots so you can start your gank pressure. Or if you are facing a very aggressive enemy jungler who you fear will devour both you and your camps then going on a non-traditional reverse full-clear will mess with the enemy tempo and put you into a full clear pathing. All of these are very possible and viable, the biggest factor is enemy team comp and your own confidence.
"Once more, into the grass."
So now you've done your first clear and need to make a decision on what to do.
Here we are going to assume you did the five-clear and approach what your options are at the end of the clear, assuming you didn't get invaded or needed to end your clear sooner for various reasons. Let's list out each option and see when you would want to do each one.
- Top side gank
- The most common/easy move at this moment
- Usually has a higher chance of success do to possible CC from ally
- Also has a solid chance for a counter gank
- May not even be viable due to ally pushing in hard.
- Scuttle fight
- Rather swift with smite up and provides vison
- May have to fight enemy around if their clear is similar/faster
- Mid gank
- Your CC can garuntee your allies damage
- Rather uncommon move that can majorly affect the lane
- More difficullt to execute due to shortness of lane
- May be infeasible if ally has little damage to contribute
- Spawn and Continue clear
- Safest move if you are fearing fighting at this time
- Has a high chance of success due to enemies clear pathing being similar to yours
- Smoothly transitions to Krugs and continuing full clear
- Low impact for an already feast-or-famine playstyle
- Second clear far slower without items
So natually you want to gank as often as possible, even repeat gank if the option is available, but sometimes ganks just aren't available and you'll need a back-up plan. The two scuttles should almost always be the "can't gank, might as well get something" option, with the one being closest being prioritized unless you know you will die. And while the opposite side scuttle is stil a good option for farming it up, do remember that your main goal is to snowball and your allies are your win condition more often than not.
"We must pull up our roots. Darkness corrupts the land."
If all has been going well then you should have gotten your
"There is beauty here, even now, in the human's fear."
If you are sliding into late game, you are in the worst of it as a tank in late game can be. Though if the situation is you having a hyper carry, then things are all fine with the "full tank-support mode engage" build.
If you need to finish off some item slots and your income is almost non-existent then these buget items can be of great use. Your choices will be decided heavily on your allies and what they can do, but just stacking health and ability haste are usually a solid choice. Unless you went with a really dumb build of Liandries your only real option at this point is to just slowly push up the map with sapplings and wait for the enemies mistake.
"The Maelstorm has not ended!"
Here we hit the end of the guide, but not the end of the journey. The path of jungle Maokai is a long and difficult one, but a fulfilling one none the less. He is not for those that love kills, nor is he for those that want to carry the damage charts, and he certainly isn't picked to have the highest CS. Maokai is a champ meant to soak up the damage, peel for his allies, and lock down the priority target. In the current game of league, you are either murderring with uncomparible damage or you are trying to not die on the front lines, and Maokai strugles a bit with both of those. I know this may sound weird but I do not advocte for everyone to play this, only those with a clear head and solid mental will be able to actually enjoy this off-meta pick. But on the off chance you do feel like returning the tree to the forest, play him as you want because at the end of the day what's most important is to have fun with the pick. Afteral, "Enough bark, and there is no need for a bite."
"Vengeance bears the sweetest fruit"
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