Zed Build Guide by rods91
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
first of all thank you for taking the time to read through this and my guide to Zed Mid Lane.
In this guide I want to show you how i play Zed and why i'm playing him this way.
But before I begin with the guide i wanna express that this is my way to play Zed and it fits my playstyle the best but items, runes and masteries are always individual and you should adapt them to your playstyle, not the other way around.
But let's start with my understanding of Zed:
Zed is a high-mobility-bursty-DPS-melee-AD-Assassin with a very high skill cap. His playstyle is kind of similar to Talon and Kha'Zix but due to his kit there's still a difference. With his W and his ult he spawns immovable shadows which immitate his skills but he can also once swap the place with his shadow. But beware: You cannot jump back to your former position after that. Due to his Q being a skill shot it is very hard to land both of them if a shadow is active and it takes a lot of practice to master that.
Again: Those runes are my personal preference and you don't have to copy them and I'll go thorugh a couple of other options too.
Flat Armor Pen: This is my personal choice. I like Armor Pen a lot on Zed as you may have noticed in the visual overview. Together with Marks, Last Whisper and Masteries it should give you enough Armor Pen to deal enough damage even if your enemies start stacking armor.
Flat AD: This gives you the ability to harass your opponent stronger in the early game because it directly influences the power of your abilities and it makes last-hitting even easier than it actually is due to his passive "Contempt For The Weak".
Movement Speed: Those used to be my runes for every situation. Even thought they don't provide a lot of power in the eaarly game they are still viable because your base movement speed is already pretty high and due to that can buy your core items earlier with skipping boots till a later stage of the game (after "Brutalizer" and "Blade of the ruined King(BotrK)"). They also let you dodge skill shots easier because you usually won't start with boots and 3 pots anymore.
Life Steal: I personally don't think they are a viable choice but if you go against a melee and you feel like you need the sustain, you can go for Life Steal quints.
Flat Armor Pen: It's basically the same as mentioned earlier, just like the quints they make your late game even stronger with the other armor pen of quints, masteries and items.
Flat AD: Here it's also the same. These runes give you nice early harass but they lower your late game power in comparison to Flat Amor Pen Marks.
Flat Armor: I think those are the best seals on Zed as an energy-based melee Mid Laner because most of your opponents are going to harass you early on from a distance and against other bruisers it gives you the ability to trade even more efficiently at the early stages in the game and for later stages in a team fight you also need armor because you will often duel the AD Carry because your burst isn't high enough in the early mid game to burst him down from 100% to 0.
At this point I wanna mention that there are more viable choices for seals but i haven't tested them yet and I think that armor is the best on Zed Mid since you don't need mana regen and you'll get harassed a lot.
Flat/Scaling Magic Resist: Imo there are two viable options for the glyphs if the enemy team has some sort of magic damage: Flat MR and Scaling MR. Even though it's pretty obvious when you should use either of them I still wanna say that you should only go for flat MR if you feel like you get under heavy pressure by magic damage e.g. against LeBlanc flat MR is fine, in other cases if you feel like you can do well without the heavy early MR you should obviously go for the scaling runes because like their name tells us they scale better into later stages of the game.
Again: Other glyphs could be viable but those two are imo the best choices for most situations.
I think 21-9-0 are pretty standard masteries for Zed since you won't need the mana regen from the utility tree. In the Offensive Tree you should go for maximum damage output. But you should also notice that CDR>AS because these 4% attack speed won't do that much espacially because you are a more bursty AD-Caster but the 4% Cooldown Reduction can save your life since your ability cooldown on your W is pretty high in comparison to other escape skills but they will slao allow you to spam your E a bit faster in lane.
You also won't need the critical damage because you aren't usually building a lot of critical strike chance so you can go for the 4th point in CDR and 2 points in AS instead.
Obviously the improvement of your ignite shouldn't miss since it gives you more AD then other masteries and more AD means more damage.
In the Defensive Tree I obviously go for full points in "Durability" and "Veteran's Scars"
but I also invest 2 points into more armor as well as 2 points into more MR. The reason behind that is that both of them are very useful early on and neither one of them is more important than the other one except the enemy team is ultra AD/AP heavy.
Even though the remake of the Utility Tree buffs it a lot it is still not the best option to go for as Zed because he doesn't need the mana and he already has a high base movement speed in comparison to others (345).
The items listed in the overciew are only examples of which items you can go for but again I'll go through different options how to build Zed.
Let's start at the beginning of the game. In my opinion there are 3 kind of viable opening builds.
1. Red Pot Start: You start with a red potion, a ward and 4 health pots. This provides a lot of early sustain as well as a ward for early vision of the jungler and a red pot for going all in even below 6. However there's an obvious disadvantage because you spent all your money on consumables so you need to get ahead with your pot because after the duration endes you'll be behind if you farmed savely from a distance instead of pressuring your opponent and make him losing important CS. You can go for this build against almost any opponent.
2. Heavy Sustain: You start with 2 wards and 9 health pots and your main goal is to survive the laning phase and get to a later stage at the game where you can burst down the opposing Mid Laner or where you can actually help your team in a team fight. The 2 wards also provide a lot of early vision and you can place them deep in the enemy jungle if you get the opportunity to move there safely. You should only go for this build if you feel like your way to beat this match-up is to out-sustain your opponent or if you feel like you get pressured heavily and you can outscale and outdamage your opponent later on.
3. The Old-school opening: You simply buy boots and 3 pots like in earlier days, i don't like this opening build very much but you can go for it if you want the utility to dodge incoming skill shots easier but that shouldn't be a problem if you play Zed.
So now let's move on to the early to mid game where laning happens and team fighting starts.
For this stage of the game there are a couple of viable items (boots aren't listed).
1. Bilgewater Cutlass/Blade of the ruined King(BotrK):
This should be the core item of any Zed build since the active counts as physical damage and makes your ult even stronger but it also provides more AD, Life Steal and a bit of CC what Zed is lacking a bit of. You can rush BotrK before boots and any other items but it's very stuational.
2. Doran's Blade: For sure I didn't forget about this item but I don't feel it's worth anymore to list that first. However it still helps you to snowball your lane if your ahead or sustain through it if you are behind. Together with either "Bilgewater Cutlass" or "The Brutalizer" it provides a really nice early to mid game.
3. The Brutalizer: This item gives you everything you need: AD, Armor Pen and CDR. There's almost no way to get around this item. I usually build this first (after Dorans) but sometimes it's better to get the sustain from the Cutlass. However this item also helps you to snowball your lane in your favor but you shouldn't build that over a Cutlass if you're far behind your opponent and you shouldn't combine it to a black cleaver that early because there are more viable items to build in the mid game.
4. Hexdrinker/Maw of Malmortius: If you're playing against an AP in Mid (which you should be facing often enough) and you need more trade efficiency the hexdrinker is a good option and its shield can save your life too. But just like "The Brutalizer" you should keep that item till the rest is finished before combine it to a "Maw of Malmortius".
After that you should choose your last items wisely because the wrong decision can cost you a lot of your efficiency.
1. Bloodthirster: You can go for a BT for more sustain in and between fights and it also provides a nice amount of AD and it doesn't cost as much as an IE (which isn't mentioned here becauseI don't think it's a viable option to go for).
2. Last Whisper: If the enemy team is tacking armor: go for LW, if not let it be. That sounds simple but it actually is that way.
3. Guardian Angel: If you need a defensive item a GA is a good choice if you get focused in a team fight because the enemies will concentrate a lot on your daed body threatened of you coming back to life.
4. Warmog's Armor: You should go for a Warmogs if get bursted down before you can get get your damage off and if they have not a lot of following damage. In that case Warmogs is better than a GA because it helps you getting your damage done while GA is only good if they all focus you but take you down more slowly with DPS and/or with CC.
After those items you should finish the rest of your build (like "Hexdrinker" or "The Brutalizer"). Your shoes should be finished somewhere between the late game items and BotrK. At this point I trust in you to be wise enough to choose the right shoes.
Now that we talked a lot about how to build him I'll go over his skills to get you a better understanding of why this build is my preference and why especially "Blade of the Ruined King" is so powerful on him. If you don't exactly know what theskillls does you can move further up on this page and go over the icon of the skill with your cursor.
Contempt For The Weak (Passive):
His passive makes him an incredible farmer and helps him to burst an enemy down quickly. However in the early game you'll most likely be farming with your Q and in the later stages with your E but especially before he can clear waves with a W-E-E combo this passive helps a lot in terms of lat-hitting and makes him the most embarrassing champ to miss CS on.
Razor Shuriken (Q):
Your Q is great for farming at a distance in the earlier stages of the game and it is a great zoning tool later on as the range it has with your "Living Shadow" is very big. The energy regain if 2 or more shurikens hit the same target is very nice too but it needs a lot of hard work to get to a point where you are able to hit both shurikens from almost everywhere. In a teamfight it's even harder to land solid shurikens because you need to be aware of the placement of your shadows and your opponents and it can be critical if you hit the wrong enemy first with any of them since it will deal less damage to targets it goes through after hitting the first enemy. You'll also have to decide whether you aim the same target twice or whether you rather hit two different targets and deal more damage overall.
Living Shadow (W):
"Living Shadow" is your main escape and it has a very high cooldown for a non-ultimate spell, so spamming it in lane can be a very bad idea and it can put you in a lot of trouble if the enemy's jungler is waiting around. However you should also make use of this great zoning tool, but beware: you can only swap places once and you can't swap back immediately afterwards. Last thting to notice is that you should always look for your shadow placement in a team fight since it can decide if you die or if you deal enough damage and escape afterwards.
Shadow Slash (E):
This skill gives Zed nice wave clear later on since you can clear a whole creep wave with a W-E-E combo at that stage. You may have also noticed that Zed's only CC is the slow of his E if it hits with the shadow. However while you should always look for getting off that slow you shouldn't be focused at getting your stronger slow of as you do landing 2 shurikens on the same target because even though the additional slow is nice you have to stay very close to your enemy and it won't give you extra damage, so you have to decide while chasing if it's better to get a huge slow off or if it's smarter to gap-close from farther back with your shadow.
Death Mark (R):
His ultimate "Death Mark" is one of my favourite spells in the whole game. You need to be aware where the shadow will spawn, you'll need to land every skill to make the best use of your ult, you need to control your Q from 3 shadows often and you need to be aware of the position of your shadow like your W to escape or go chasing. Those points make this skill very skill-dependant but this skill also makes him the bursty assassin that he is and after reading the ult and BotrK you should notice that your detonation damage scales with your BotrK so getting that off doesn't simply provide CC and the active damage but it also deals additional damage because of his ult. At least by now you should understand how good this item is on Zed.
I hope you read the chapter before or at least you should know what Zed's skills do at this point.
I'll explain why to max which skill first/second/third. Again i wanna mention that this is not the only way to play Zed but this is the way most of the best Mid Laners in the world use him and it totally fits to my style so i use the following skill sequence too:
But before talking about maxing skills i wanna talk about the exception: The Beginning.
If you understood what to use your Q for you should know that it's so important in the early levels for save farming from a distance since many of your opponents will harass you with AAs if you get too close. So Q on level 1 is important to keep your health and farm up at the same time. I can only think about a few exceptions. For example against Kassadin it can also be useful to skill E first because Kassadin will need to come close to farm or he needs to farm with his Q which is bad for him. With the W at level 2 you basically increase the farming/zoning distance. While farming is more common since you can't outtrade many champs on level 2 it can be used to zone the enemy if you got an early gank for example.
But now let's get into the real skill sequence:
I guess many of you asked themselves: "Wickd plays with Q first, why you max E over Q you noob?"
Well i can answer both questions, at least kind of. You first need to think about what each skill provides. Q provides better harass and zoning potential while E gives you better wave clear and it lets you stick to an enemy easier. If you're ahead in the top lane and if you can trade well with your enemy your Q is better to keep him away from the CS and it's better if you are behind because it gives you the super long range farm/poke ability. And now since the first question is answered the second question is still open. Im gonna explain why I and most of the best Mid Laners (e.g. Alex Ich and Froggen) tend to go for maxing E first: If you read carefully it's basically answered already: It gives you a nice wave clear which is much more important in the mid lane than it is in the top lane since many mid champs can push very easily and it also lets you poke much safer because while the Q is harder to land the E has shorter range but in mid this doesn't matter that much since you'll burst many enemies down in a few seconds with your W-R-E-E because of the shorter cooldown. But that's not the only point. Your E also reduces the cooldown on your shadow. This is super critical in a teamfight since it will often decide whether you die or not and it will allow you to spam W-E-E in lane which is much faster back up and clears wave much faster as mentioned earlier. The damage is kind of the same too, but again: youe E has a shorter cooldown.
The answer to: why W second is as easy as that because I already mentioned you need to spam it later on (not right at the start) when your too big to be killed even by a good gank because of the threat that you can turn around and kill at least one of them. Of course it will again kind of guarantee you a safe escape if you don't want to stay in the middle of 5 (hopefully 4 if you bursted someone down quickly) enemies since you aren't that tanky even with items. Additionally it will also let you jump quicklier to the point where you can farm with W-E-E due to the bonus AD.
I already mentioned it earlier but it is important so I'm ok with repeating the same over and over and I think it's also useful if you only read this chapter of the guide or if you skipped some chapters before. In this chapter I wanna mention what you should be looking for in the laning phase, how to last hit when to last hit and when to recall.
1. When To Last Hit:
You should always be aiming for getting all the CS but you should also know when it is better to trade, when to force a trade and when to CS/when to harass/trade. It's basically as simple as it can be. You can remember the following rules (they should be self-explanatory):
1. Only CS if you don't get harassed too strong for it withour trading damage back.
2. If you get a big combo off to kill your opponent or to force him to base, just simply go for it. It will almost always be worth the 2 or 3 CS you lose compared to the amount of EXP and CS your enemy will lose.
3. Only trade if:
- you have more caster minions to attack your opponent
- you can win the trade (of course this includes the other point)
2. How To Last Hit:
I except you to know enough about last hitting from other champions that you know how to last hit but there are again some self-explanatory facts you should look for:
- There's a point where W-E and W-E-E won't deal enough damage to kill the caster minions but leave them with a bit of extra help. Don't go for those combos to last hit but try to last hit more with your Q and AAs.
- After this point you should almost always wave clear with W-E-E/W-E and AAs on the melee minions.
- In the early levels you should farm from a save distance (against most opponent) with your Q.
- Your Passive fits to last hitting very well so you should make use of killing a creep on higher health than your AD but BEWARE: You'll push your lane if you last hit the creeps on higher health.
3. When To Recall/Base:
You can recall whenever you want but again beware of the following aspects:
- Don't base if your turret gets pushed and your jungler isn't around to defend because there will be a very big EXP loss for either you or your jungler.
- Don't base if you can't afford the items you want at this point. That may sound stupid but a recall will always cost some EXP and CS and it isn't worth it sometimes to simply get another Dorans and maybe 100 missing health back.
- So: Only recall if it's necessary or if you really need to shop to keep up your farming fest.
In a team fight you should always be aware of one point:
MAKE SMART DECISIONS
You should always look for a carry to burst down but you should also always look if you can save your own ADC if you use your burst on a tank/bruiser. But you should never ever forget: You are an assassin. Yo ushould usually check in champ select if your ADC has enough protection. If yes you can pick Zed and do what he does best: burst someone down quickly and leave the fight in the most epic way possible. You should almost always kill the enemy's carry or at least you'll draw a lot of attention of the enemy team since they will focus a lot on protecting their ADC instead of killing your ADC. But at some point of the fight the carry will be out of position and then you can burst him down in seconds or at least you should force a flash/barrier from him. However beware of diving too deep and starting a fight too early. You should instead let somebody else engage and while they focus him you can go for the ADC quickly and either leave again straigth afterwards.
But I can't really tell you what to do exactly because every game and every fight is different, so be as smart as you can in your decision but never forget about your role: ASSASSIN.
So in the end you could say that Zed is an assassin with an extremely high burst damage, a good late game scaling, an incredibly insane lane domination with some roaming potantial after about level 7, very good wave clear but also a safe farming/harassing tool for his weaker stages of the game.
Thanks for reading my guide. I hope you enjoyed it, learned a lot about one of my favourite champs, how to play him and why you should give him a chance and I hope you'll also read my next guides (if I'll do some more).