Midseason update: Maokai’s rework makes its debut with a new, scary ultimate

New and improved saplings are on the way as well.

Image via Riot Games

Each year Riot Games uses the Midseason update as a catalyst to make large scale changes to League of Legends. Over the next few days, we’ll be highlighting the most important changes from the Midseason update. This year, Riot’s design team sets their sights on the vanguard tanks- Sejuani, Maokai, and Zac. The update aims to improve many core tank items, as well as the Rift Herald and some AD items. It’s unclear how the meta will be affected by the update, but all of the proposed changes were made to improve the health of the game as a whole.

A dead tree possessed by an angry spirit, Maokai has never felt as creepy to play as he should. In fact, the only tree-like thing he does is throw a sapling at enemies that squeaks and then explodes. Maokai’s update details were revealed today by Riot, and it should be enough to bring some much-needed identity to the haunted tree.

Nature’s Grasp

Maokai’s ultimate has been redesigned and renamed from Vengeful Maelstrom to that terrifying ult you see in the clip above. This is the most dramatic change to Mao’s kit, and for good reason. The old ult was very bland and didn’t feel like a momentous thing to use during fights. Instead, it’s merely a “click this when fighting” button that doesn’t really feel like anything at all.

Now, his ultimate will be anything but boring. Upon activation, Maokai summons a lane-wide wall of giant roots that creep forward, rooting anything in their path. Obviously this will be devastating in teamfights, but its very slow movement requires planning and proper positioning to either zone or capture a team of pesky enemies.


The saplings that ol’ Mao throws aren’t being changed all that much, but enough that they’ll require strategy instead of just throwing them at anything that moves nearby. They’ll now deal more damage when coming out of a bush, making them ideal for both zoning lane opponents away from bushes and keeping an eye on junglers trying to make a gank. Hopefully, this will also help Maokai return to the jungle, because he can use these saplings in bushes to keep tabs on the enemy jungler’s movements and create pressure in certain areas of the jungle itself. Also, Ivern, we found your counter.

Sap Magic

The final piece of Maokai’s rework is his passive, Sap Magic. Instead of just giving him health after using his own attacks after a while, it’s going to actually feel like you’re sapping magic. When enemies hit Mao with abilities, it will charge up the passive instead. Against basic-attack-oriented champs like Fiora and Vayne, Mao will fall short, but against casters and mages he will shine.

Maokai’s update requires some skill to use, a welcome change from the mind-numbing kit he has now. Maokai mains should be crying tears of joy, because their favorite tree is going to be a lot more fun to play. But, c’mon, don’t get all sappy on us.

About the author

Aaron Mickunas

Esports and gaming journalist for Dot Esports, featured at Lolesports.com, Polygon, IGN, and Ginx.tv.