Hey I'm back again. I'm looking on how to make maokai a much more interesting and skill based champion than he is right now.
First things first, this is a very long post! If you don't have the time, willingness, or frankly care enough to read I'll have a TL:DR at the bottom, but it doesn't really have a lot in it because most of the post comes from ideas on how to fix things.
First to start with my credibility and who I am. I have nearly 250 Maokai games played in soloque this season, and I play him in the toplane. To my knowledge I am one of the only Maokai players above D2 that plays him in the toplane whereas the other Tree enthusiasts play him in jungle and support. I am not currently rated as #1 Maokai in NA but I consistently am rated as the #1 Maokai player in NA. I am active on the Maokai Mains discord and I stream lots of soloque playing almost nothing but maokai
[League Of Graphs](https://www.leagueofgraphs.com/rankings/summoners/maokai/na)
I think we can all agree that maokai has had a pretty severe fall from his glory days when he was impactful enough to earn himself a victorious skin back in the day. And we should start by looking at what made him so good back then compared to now.
The first big thing was that front to back teamfighting was much more common back then and this was something that tanks were required for this, and maokai was the most reliable and effective of all tanks. But the real power of maokai came from his old ultimate.... Vengeful Maelstrom. This ability was absolutely broken.
Active: Maokai creates a magical vortex around himself for up to 10 seconds, reducing non-turret damage dealt to himself and allies in the vortex by 20% for the duration and storing double the amount absorbed, capping at Vengeful Maelstrom's base damage.
At the end of its duration or upon reactivating Vengeful Maelstrom, Maokai detonates the vortex, dealing magic damage to all nearby enemies.
Ignoring the damage that it did, this ability provided an aura effect similar to adaptive helm, but unlike adaptive helm it reduced physical and magical damage by 20% which is insane. And then yeah it also did a pretty nuts amount of damage too.
Another incredibly powerful part of old maokai was his old W - Twisted advance
Active: Maokai dashes to the target enemy, becoming untargetable for the duration, dealing magic damage on arrival (capped at 300 against minions and monsters) and briefly rooting them.
Magic Damage: 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13% (+ 3% per 100 AP) of target's maximum health
Root Duration: 1 / 1.25 / 1.5 / 1.75 / 2
The reliability of a point and click untargetable dash root is very powerful in itself, but also dealing up to 13% max HP as magic damage with no AP at all is crazy. For context vayne's max level silver bolts deal 14% max HP damage, granted hers is true damage.
His old Q and his current Q are the same ability except instead of being an arcane smash its a bramble smash :O
And the difference between old saplings and current saplings is the % max HP damage was put on the saplings and they deal double damage and have a larger explode in the bushes.
> Active: Maokai flings a Sapling to the target location, remaining there and granting sight around itself.
> Sapling Duration: 40 / 45 / 50 / 55 / 60
> Upon spotting an enemy, the Sapling chases them for up to 2.5 seconds, exploding upon impact or at the end of its duration, dealing magic damage to > all nearby enemies upon detonation and slowing them by 50% for 1 second.
> Magic Damage: 80 / 120 / 160 / 200 / 240 (+ 60% AP)
> Active: Maokai flings a Sapling to the target location, remaining there for 30 seconds and granting sight around itself.
> Saplings tether to nearby enemies, chasing them for up to 2.5 seconds, exploding upon impact or at the end of its duration, dealing magic damage to >all nearby enemies upon detonation, capped at 300 against non-champions, and slowing them by 35% for 2 seconds.
> **Magic Damage:**25 / 50 / 75 / 100 / 125 (+ 7 / 7.25 / 7.5 / 7.75 / 8% (+ 1% per 100 AP) of target's maximum health)
> Saplings placed in bush instead have 30 (+ 2.5% bonus health) duration and deal double damage over 2 seconds to all enemies hit, capped at 600 >against non-champions.
> **Total Magic Damage:**50 / 100 / 150 / 200 / 250 (+ 14 / 14.5 / 15 / 15.5 / 16% (+ 2% per 100 AP) of target's maximum health)
So lets analyze these. Maokai's old saplings used to be able to deal quite significant damage to squishy players even if he built only a small amount of AP because the AP scaling increased the base damage. With his current saplings you need to build 100 AP to increase a non-bush sapling's damage by 1% max HP. If we use this example against say an ADC who largely will have under 2000 HP an extra 1% damage is 20 damage and if its a bush sapling the extra damage from his AP alone would be 40. Compared to his old saplings which with 100 AP would deal an extra 72 damage.
Now to be clear, his current saplings are stronger than his old saplings were because of the fact you can double their damage by placing them in a bush. I far, far, far prefer his current iteration of saplings because it gives him an interesting unique identity of being stronger near bushes similar to how rengar and ivern are.
Moving on to his passive there is not a massive difference between his old passive and his new passive except in numbers and how it comes off cooldown.
> Maokai draws energy from spells cast in his vicinity, gaining a charge whenever a nearby champion or himself uses an ability (stacks up to 5 times)
> Upon reaching 5 charges, Maokai's next basic attack consumes them all to heal him for 5 / 6 / 7% maximum health.
> Innate: Each time Maokai casts an ability or is struck by an enemy's ability, Sap Magic's cooldown is reduced by 4 seconds.
> Periodically, Maokai's next basic attack, after a 0.25-seconds delay, against a non-structure heals him for 5 − 65 (based on level) (+ 6% − 13% (based >on level) maximum health).
> Sap Magic will not activate if Maokai is above 95% maximum health.
Lets break down the difference. Maokai's old passive used to work similar to kassadin's force pulse ability where so long as he's spamming abilities and there's a big teamfight going on he'll be able to passive heal up. His current passive requires him to spam abilities, and get hit by enemy abilities to proc it a lot which brings up a weird fighting style where in certain situations it is better to get hit by an ability than to dodge it because then it will bring your passive back up so you can heal. On top of this certain abilities will reduce maokai's passive cooldown while others don't. For an example of abilities that don't reduce maokai's passive cooldown would be rumble's flamespitter and this makes sense as its not so much as being struck by an ability but more of being in the field of a damage source. But did you know, standing behind baron to take the extra damage from its spike auto attacks is sometimes more beneficial on maokai because it reduces his passive cooldown? There are many little inconsistencies like this. And while the healing numbers are larger currently than they used to be there is also much more available grevious wounds now then there was in the past, which leads me to my next point.
So I know there are people out there who think that maokai is in a fine state and doesn't really need any improvements because he is exactly what you think of when you picture a tank. A simple champ who has 4 CC abilities. But I ask you how Maokai can be the ONLY champion on [OP.GG's](https://na.op.gg/champion/statistics) list without enough sample size to show stats for. If I told you Riot was releasing a champion with lots of healing, a knockback/slow, an untargetable dash/root, long range vision control that also deals %max HP damage and slows, and a lanewide root you'd probably think "Wow that sounds like a lot of power for one champion to have" Until you realize that all of these moves are crippled by the fact of how slow moving every ability is. The biggest offender of being a slow ability is Maokai's ultimate.
> Active: Maokai summons a colossal wall of 5 thorny brambles that slowly advances forward, each stopping at the first enemy champion they collide >with.
> Each thorny bramble deals magic damage and roots for 0.6 − 2.4 (based on distance traveled) seconds.
> **Magic Damage:**150 / 225 / 300 (+ 75% AP)
So yes. This ability is quite large. And if you hit someone with it at max range that's a whole 2.4 seconds of root (which is less than a tier 3 morgana Q BTW). The clear argument is that "oh but it can hit 5 people!" But in practice if you throw Maokai's ultimate out 1 person (probably a tank) will tank the center branch of the ult and the other 4 teammates simply stand behind him and are unaffected. Or, what happens more often for me is that everyone dodges the ability by slowly walking to the side or just COMPLETELY outruns it because of how abysmally slow it is. The range is 3000 units but it takes nearly 7 seconds to reach those 3000 units. If an enemy is standing 1500 units away and they have tier upgraded boots (not including the free ass boot bonus or cloud drakes) they can outrun the ability entirely.
So what do I think are the flaws of current maokai. He is too bland in terms of what he does. He is purely CC and that is it. And his CC is the worst kind, its stick CC. So if he's on you, he's going to stay on you... forever. This is where he is incredibly difficult to balance because he is a statbot. His major counterplay right now is understanding his W engage range is and just not entering it.
Another one of his major flaws is how readily available grevious wounds is in the game. While this is just my personal opinion I think grevious wounds should be a harder to reach effect on all of its paths. 800g for AD users, and 1000g for tanks to get bramble is simply not right. I think that the approach of having it on a fully completed item the way it is on morellosis the way to go. Essentially I think bramble should be removed from executioners and bramble vest, but kept on mortal reminder and thormail. But that's a bit on an aside.
How do I think we can fix the issues of maokai to make him more viable? I'll start with slight iterations of what they could change in his current abilities to make him more viable and lay them out for a small change to each ability.
P - Sap Magic - No longer reduce cooldown by casting abilities, but by hitting abilities on champions. Including multiple hits like sapling is 1 tick reduced, bush sapling is 3 ticks reduced, q reduces x ticks for x champions hit, ultimate reduces x ticks for x champions it.
This would bring more skill to Maokai while also being a buff. I think if this change was implemented with its current cooldown it would be too strong but the idea is mostly what I'm looking for here. If we take away the security of simply spamming abilities away to get big heals off, and push it towards having to play around hitting your abilities on multiple champions, or hitting bush saplings it would make him better. Ideally this should make him weaker in 1v1 fights because he doesn't have multiple people to hit spells on, but increase his teamfight potential because he can heal more. Because people who play maokai currently (at least me) live for that fantasy fight where you almost die over and over but are slipping in and out getting clutch heals in fights.
Q - Bramble Smash - Increase projectile range slightly.
This would make him be able to more reliably farm in bad toplane matchups of which there are many. Tiny quality of life buff.
W - Twisted Advance - Remove untargetability, remove targeted ability, make it a directed dash that can go over walls and if he collides with an enemy he roots them (or even roots them and units around them in a very short radius.)
Removing the untargetability of maokai, and removing it being a targeted dash makes there be far more counterplay to it. As it currently stands if maokai's w starts going you will not dodge it (unless if blitzcrank uses his E auto on you which yanks you out of your W for some reason **RIOT FIX THIS BUG PLEASE**) If you try to flash away from it, it won't work he'll follow you wherever you go and root you and now you have no flash. By making it a dash similar to gragas E, or sejuani Q, not only does it give him all of those cool mechanical genius moments of doing a dash flash or a flash dash, but it gives him less reliability on his engage, while also giving him more reliability on his escapes or chasedowns. It makes him more interesting, more fun to play, and more fun to play against because you know you can at least dodge the root if he uses it.
E - Sapling Toss - If a sapling is thrown in a bush or at any time runs through a bush it has increased movespeed and damage
By the increased damage I mean what it currently has damage-wise. I think saplings damage is in a great spot. What I mean for this to be is, if you throw a sapling and it isn't in a brush when it lands, but then it chases a target, and goes through a bush then it becomes an empowered sapling. And I think if bush saplings have increased movespeed when coming out of brushes it further drives home the champion fantasy of Nature empowerment. It brings nuance to the game when you know to stay away from bushes because you're facing Maokai, the twisted treant, nature's wrath.
R - Nature's Grasp - Increase missile speed of roots - OR - Make the roots not go away when they hit a champion similar to how nami ult works, but make it so you can only get hit once by the ability.
His current ultimate is GREAT... if it manages to hit. And the amount of times it hits vs fizzles out doing nothing is staggering. If the missile speed was increased it would be a fearsome ability. Or if it didn't remove a branch for each target hit then one player couldn't simply block it for the rest of the team. (Also this would mean you wouldn't get hit by it multiple times because for some reason most people don't know you can be hit by maokai's current ultimate multiple times.) Yes, I would like to re-iterate that. Maokai's current ultimate... moves so slow... that you can get hit by it, rooted, and then keep walking, and if you willingly walk into another branch you can get hit by it again. That's how slow this ability moves.
Or another way I think that Maokai could be changed is to change how his current ultimate works. Instead of being a longer wider nami wave root. Imagine this. Maokai shoots out a root to a target location rooting anything in its path (think about the width of a nidalee spear with the speed of a caitlyn Q) and after a .25 second delay it explodes in a * or star, or leaf, or something pattern damaging and rooting anything hit. Now this is clearly a very simple not well thought out idea, but just because he's a big tree doesn't mean all of his abilities have to be extremely slow moving and extremely easy to dodge. If a character doesn't feel threatening they won't be played. Malphite himself is dangerous because of his ultimate. If maokai had a smaller more targeted CC that hits fewer people but is at least more of a guarantee then he would see more play and by making it a dodgeable skillshot with a delay it still keeps counterplay.
Now to try out an ultimate more similar to his old "Guardian" style ultimate. Think of something like this.
Maokai creates a field moving around himself (just like his old ultimate's field) where enemies are slowed while in the field, allies have increased movement speed in this field (including maokai) and after 5 seconds the field explodes dealing damage and shortly rooting any enemy caught inside. Or maokai can recast the ability anytime after 1 second to deal less damage and root for less time.)
This creates a similar effect to Nunu's current snowball toss. It gives him the increased teamfighting power makes him be able to speed his team into, or out of fights, and crowd control his enemies in a fight. I would like to point out that this would not have any damage reduction put into it like his old ultimate because that would be broken. Just a speed boost / slow field and a small amount of damage and root on explosion similar to his old ultimate explosion.
Now I think that maokai could be a really fun champion and I'm sure the boys at riot have way cooler ideas than I do. But as someone who mains a champion that isn't played enough to have stats shown for him, I'm just throwing things out there that I feel would keep the identity of the champion while making him both viable, and far more fun to play and to play against.
For those of you who read to here, I am very impressed and flattered you read all of that about what most consider to be the most boring champion in the game. Thank you for reading and please talk to me about what you think I'll be responding to every comment and question I receive!
TL:DR Maokai is in a terrible state currently due to having no identity and being too reliant on stats alone and can be fixed by changing some of his abilities to have more counterplay to them which gives room for potential power on abilities for a skill player to use wisely