The Return of Maokai
Summoner’s Rift is home to many intense battles, settling scores between nations, planes of existence and warriors who just don’t like each other. Warriors from Noxus and Demacia square off. The true leader of the Freljord can be decided. Shen can avenge the death of his father at the hands of Zed. A lot of fearsome warriors combat to see who is the strongest on the Rift. Sometimes the warriors aren’t so fearsome, Yordles, a race of being characterized by their short stature, large ears and carefree lifestyle, also come to the Rift, often with something to prove. However you look at it, the roster of champions who fight on the Rift is as long as it is deadly. Then there is Maokai, he’s a tree.
Maokai, the Twisted Treant, is an Ability Power using tank. He usually finds his residence top lane, and has recently found some time on the Rift at the professional level thanks to some buffs. Patch 6.6 was huge for our favorite tree, as he received two large buffs. First, he received a boost to his base magic resistance, and finally became able to have his magic resistance stat increase with each level. Previously, the growth was zero and he did not gain any per level. Second, and just as important, his saplings last longer now. Originally lasting 35 seconds all game, they now start at 40 seconds and increase every time you level it up. This maxes out at 60 seconds.
These huge buffs have allowed Maokai to rejoin the rotation of top tanks used in the LCS. Most notably, he was Hauntzer’s champion in game 1 of the Team SoloMid vs. Immortals series. Immortals played a triple marksmen composition with a Lucian top, Corki mid and Jhin bot lane. With the last pick in the draft, TSM picked Maokai to play top lane. At first, it seemed like the triple marksmen comp had done exactly what the marksman has done all season and run amok over every lane. At 22:13, Immortals, just winning a teamfight and getting an ace, was winning 7-0 in kills and it appeared as though they would coast to another easy victory. However, this was the last time in the series it would seem like they had any chance to win it.
Maokai would go on to build Frozen Heart, Sunfire Cape, Thornmail, Ninja Tabi and just for some sap magic, Spirit Visage. With his unlimited amount of crowd control, healing from Sap Magic, and AoE damage reduction while is ultimate is on, Maokai was the ultimate counter to Immortals frail line up. From that 22:13 mark in the game, TSM only suffered one more death. They would go on to win game 1 at 43:53.
This is only one example of what Maokai can do. With these new buffs, he can also be used in the support role. With Sap Magic, he heals every time he basic attacks after 5 spells have been cast around him. Well, if he is in a lane with 3 other people as opposed to one other person, he will get to use this more. It would also go off while executing minions with Relic Shield. He is a crowd control machine, and he is really good at helping a teammate who does a lot of damage get kills. Well, who does more damage and needs more CC to help than the ADC? His Q,W and E all impair movement. His W is a dash and root, his Q is a knock back and slow, and his E, the saplings, jump into enemies and explode, slowing them. Plus, without the added pressure of having to accrue CS, he can focus entirely on harassing with his CC.
The buffs on his E make him an elite level one support. Not in the same way that a hook makes Blitzcrank or Thresh that good at level 1, but his E at level 1 is ridiculous. The sapling stays in a single spot, granting vision, for 40 seconds. If he sees an enemy, he will chase them as quickly as his little legs can take him and jump into them and explode, slowing them. This can be used in many ways:
- As wards, since they last 40 seconds they are almost as good as the trinket.
- To set up an ambush in their jungle, baiting the jungler into walking into a bush with a little tree and a big ol’ tree
- As a crazy good leash, you can plant 3 saplings that would still be alive by the time the camps spawn. This can take a huge chunk of health away from the camp helping the jungler finish it quickly and effectively.
That was only one spell, at level one! Maokai support is too good to not be being played currently at the pro level. Expect to see it soon. It has all of the tankiness, peeling ability, and playmaking ability of a Braum or Alistar and it should be considered in that class of support. If one too many bulky supports gets banned, expect Maokai support and expect it to do well.
Plus, with the new Meowkai skin, people are going to be looking for a reason to play him.