Zilean Build Guide by 9Ball

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League of Legends Build Guide Author 9Ball

Don't call me support! A Zilean mid lane guide

9Ball Last updated on November 23, 2013
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Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

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.



Offense: 21

Legendary Guardian

Defense: 0


Utility: 9

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I. Introduction


Fellow readers, welcome to the ultimate Zilean play and build guide on MobaFire. In this guide you will find:
  • Who is Zilean and what roles he is able to fulfill in a team;
  • A complete description about Zilean's abilities and how to best use them;
  • An effective way to build Zilean in order to lead your team to victory;
  • A detailed explanation on summoner's rift gameplay with our favorite champion;
  • A list of Zilean's best teammates and how to work with them;

Zilean's kit and mechanics can be very rewarding to play, in terms of both fun and performance. I have decided to publish this guide, not only because he is extremely underplayed, but also because I am not happy with any other guides around.

If you play dominion as well, don't forget to check out my Zilean guide for dominion here.

About the Author

Now, without any more delays, let's start the guide...

Zilean is an ability power based champion with a couple of supportive skills that provides plenty of utility for his team. Although many people see Zilean as a support champion, Zilean does the best for his team when soloing a lane, given the ability power ratios of his skills. I choose playing at middle lane because of Zilean's high mobility and strong gank ing potential.

When building Zilean as an AP caster you should consider three aspects:
  • Early game harass potential;
  • Cooldown reduction;
  • Mana replenishment;
Zilean can completely shut down an opponent early game, denying him from gold and experience. His damaging skill, Time Bomb scales well with ability power and has enough range to damage most of the champions without receiving any back. Due to this fact, Zilean should never enter in a direct combat with his enemies. In addition, his utility skills are of a great use on teamfights and, thanks to his Rewind, they can be repeatedly used in a short time, especially with a high cooldown reduction.

However, Zilean has no strong burst potential; He cannot carry your team easily and he falls off late game in terms of damage. For that reason, you want to make his early game as strong as possible. That means focusing on increasing his ability power and giving him minimal survivability in order to compensate for his extremely low initial defensive characteristics (For the record, Zilean has one of the lowest base health in the game and the lowest, ridiculous 6.75 initial armor).

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II. Pros / Cons


+ Strong harass with Time Bomb;
+ Powerful AoE damage;
+ Extremely mobile champion;
+ Offers great utility to his team;
Zilean's skills allow him to push his lane to the enemy tower and rush to aid an allied lane. His Time Warp is one of the most powerful slowing skills in the game, making him an excellent roamer and ganker.


- Time Bomb is his only source of damage;
- Low base health and armor;
- Mana hungry;
- Auto-Attack animation relatively hard to get used to;
Although his powerful harass and zoning potential, Zilean is very vulnerable at close distances. Also, when ganking, bear in mind that one trip to an allied lane might cost you your entire mana pool.

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III. Skills

Zilean's Heightened Learning allows you team to be ahead of the enemy in terms of experience. Don't under estimate this ability; 8% more experience means leveling faster, which may lead to early kills, especially by acquiring your R before the enemy. If the enemy foes are denied from experience, the level difference will be just ridiculous.

Fairly good range, Time Bomb scales very well with ability power, making Zilean an excellent harasser in lane.
  • You can bomb an allied minion when a melee enemy champion is about to last-hit it.
  • Bomb your jungler/initiator just before they start a fight;
  • Use your melee minions to carry bombs for you;

Rewind allows you to place two bombs one after another. If the second bomb is placed in the same target, the first bomb will instantly detonate. In combination with Time Bomb and Time Warp, this skill can set up kills or help you chasing/escaping an enemy.
  • To push a lane faster, place one bomb on a caster minion and another on a fighter minion.
  • You should always be Rewinding in order to have all your abilities available when a fight breaks out;
  • In teamfights, also try to place the second bomb in a different target. The enemy team will either split, leaving the others unprotected, or taking double bomb damage.

One of the most powerful speed boosts/slow skills in the game. Abuse Time Warp when roaming and fighting. You're going to want to pick it a level 2 to escape from/set up early ganks and max out Time Warp together with Rewind for extra crowd control, roaming and ganking potential.
  • Use it in a allied champion who is going for a kill to get an easy kill assist.
  • Set up your own kills by slowing your enemy before double bombing them.
  • Speed yourself to dive a turret, Time Bomb the turret hugger and leave the turret range.

Zilean's signature. During laning phase, Chronoshift keeps your from dying when the enemy invade your turret's range to kill you. In a team fight, you should use your ultimate on a valuable target, such as your team tank/initiator or the AD carry. Definitely an extremely powerful, game-changing ability. Use it with wisdom.
  • When on cooldown, make sure you Rewind it whenever possible.
  • Using it too early might force your enemies to change targets.
  • You might want to use your allies portrait or keyboard shortcuts to avoid misuse of Chronoshift.


There is nothing much to argue when it comes to leveling up Zilean's skills. At level 9, you must have Time Bomb at maximum level, as it is your main and only damaging tool. Chronoshift should be taken at levels 6, 11 and 16 for maximum reviving power.
  • Level up Rewind first in case you don't need your team's damage, as it will allow you to use more Time Bombs.
  • In case you're behind and/or you need your team's damage, level up Time Warp for increased slow/haste time.
I tend to get early points on Rewind and max it together with Time Warp as the game gets longer.

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IV. Spells

When your Time Warp is not enough to place that killing Time Bomb, Flash always comes in handy. Jumping walls, increasing/decreasing the gap between you and your enemies, among other usages, you should always take flash and some other spell.

Ignite increases your burst early on when you are going for the killing blow. My prefered second spell.

other options

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V. Runes

These runes increase your early game damage. There are not any stronger choices in respect to offensive stats on marks for Zilean.

These runes are necessary at early levels since Zilean's combos cost him a high percentage of his total mana. If you expect to play passively at lane or your lane match-up is an attack damage based champion, Greater Seal of Armor is an alternative choice of runes.

Zilean's starting health and armor are extremely low. For that reason, we use flat magic resist glyphs to mitigate damage from magic sources. A risky approach would be picking Greater Glyph of Ability Power for more early game dominance.

These runes complement the Greater Mark of Magic Penetration, increasing Zilean's damage output at starter levels. For quintessences, Zilean benefits from these more than the magic penetration ones, given his 90% AP ratio on Time Bomb.

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VI. Masteries


By taking 21 points in Offense, you define your role as an ability power carry, maximizing your Time Bomb's damage, while 9 points in Utility provides Zilean extra mana regeneration, increased buff duration and Spells usage.

In the Offense Tree it is important to mention the points in Feast and Dangerous Game , which provides Zilean more sources to regenerate his mana.

In the Utility Tree, you go further to get a point in Runic Affinity for increased duration of the crest of the ancient golem . It is also important to get Alchemist , since your main source of sustain in lane will be Health Potions and Mana Potions

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VII. Items

Starting Items

Doran's Ring
As playing mid lane with Zilean, I have found that there is no better start than with a Doran's Ring. The +15 ability power received from the item increases your starting AP to 39, making your Time Bomb really hurt. The additional health allows you to take some damage from the enemy minions when harassing your enemy whilst the mana regeneration is important to delay the purchase of a mana engine.

Health Potion
Two health potions is the standard choice to increase your sustain in lane. If you believe you can stay long enough to buy your first items, I recommend you to take a sight ward instead.

Warding Totem
This is the recommended trinket for playing mid lane as Zilean. It helps to prevent early gank s in your lane, as well as light up a jungle entrance of your preference.

Crystalline Flask?

Early game purchases

Fiendish Codex
On your first trip back to base, make sure you leave it with at least a Fiendish Codex. This item gives you just enough AP to be seen as a real threat by your enemy, not to mention it provides with 10% of cooldown reduction.

Haunting Guise
This item provides Zilean the health he needs to engage a fight while increasing his damage with more ability power and magic penetration. Zilean is no Lux or Veigar; if you don't build any health, you'll just get killed before you have a chance to do anything; any other defensive item will only set you back in terms of damage.

Boots of Speed
At this point of the game, you will also want to move between lanes faster, so save some gold for your Boots of Speed.

Next Upgrades and Purchases

From this point on, your next items will be depending on how the match is going. You want to be fast enough to help your teammates when needed, as well as increasing even more your threatening presence. Generally, I recommend upgrading your boots to Sorcerer's Shoes for increased speed and damage as well as purchasing a Chalice of Harmony for both mana regeneration and magic resist. With the Chalice of Harmony you can now abuse your Time Bomb> Rewind> Time Bomb combo on your enemies. Build an early Seeker's Armguard in case there is a big AD based threat in the enemy team. If you are playing with Clarity postpone your Chalice of Harmony the longer you can.

After the purchase of a Chalice of Harmony, it is time to start building towards your Rabadon's Deathcap and finishing Athene's Unholy Grail. The latter is especially important when the teamfights become more often and longer. The added 20% cooldown reduction is too valuable to be left out of your build; it will be translated in to more Time Bombs, Time Warps and Chronoshifts during battles.

After building a Rabadon's Deathcap, your next big item will depend on how your game is going. If you are being focused often and having problems using your Chronoshift, upgrade your Seeker's Armguard to a Zhonya's Hourglass. This item can be bought even before Rabadon's Deathcap for these same reasons. Your enemies might have started to stack magic resistance at this point, therefore you may want to buy your Void Staff first.

At last but not least, you may want to sell your Haunting Guise to get a Banshee's Veil. It's passive, health and magic resist gives you enough survivability to stay longer in teamfights. A Guardian Angel is very situational, since when it's passive is on cooldown, you get nothing but resistances for the next five minutes.


Stealth Ward
After you shop for items and you still have over 75 gold, you should always be buying a ward. I cannot stress this enough. Wards are useful not only for you but also for your whole team. Make buying wards part of your gameplay, whatever role you are playing with.

Elixir of Brilliance
This is the item that made me choose Sorcerer's Shoes over Ionian Boots of Lucidity. Always buy it when you can't afford a more expensive item, and always when you feel a teamfight will break out.

Situational Items

Abyssal Scepter
Build it when you are being constantly jumped on by ability power based champions. For instance, Kassadin with his Riftwalk and Akali with her Shadow Dance. Other than that, this item should not be built at all.

Mejai's Soulstealer
As Zilean is very difficult to be caught, this item can be an interesting choice. Zilean can easily get assists with his Time Warp and when fully stacked, Mejai's Soulstealer gives you 15% of cooldown reduction. Be aware that, if you weren't focused enough, this item will definitely makes Zilean your enemies first priority.

Not Recommended

Deathfire Grasp
Another item that is build from Fiendish Codex. A powerful item, especially against tanks, its active must be used just after you placed a Time Bomb on an enemy, as it makes its target vulnerable for 4 seconds only. However, Zilean does not have a strong burst damage to make this item worth the purchase.

Rod of Ages
Although catalyst the protector's passive solves Zilean's mana issues, Rod of Ages takes to long to mature in order to have any impact on you gameplay. You will only benefit from it late game, but you will not want the game to last that long.

Rylai's Crystal Scepter
Another commonly purchased item. Ability power and health are always good stats, but the item's passive has no use on Zilean. When you place a Time Bomb on an enemy, he has four seconds to reposition himself before the slow of 15% is applied. Zilean's Time Warp apply 55% movement speed reduction for over 5 seconds at maximum level.

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VIII. Gameplay

more on laning
  • Abuse your auto-attack's range of 600 to farm at a safe distance;
  • With early ability power, you can take all the caster minions with only one Time Bomb;
  • At early levels, avoid using Time Bomb> Rewind> Time Bomb combo to farm as it costs a lot of mana;
more on farming
  • Be sure to have your lane pushed before you leave it to gank; Your turret is your number one priority;
  • Signal to your allies the targeted champion and start using Time Warp on him;
  • Time Bomb the enemy and be ready to go back to your turret;
  • If the enemy decides to fight, protect your allies with Chronoshift;
more on ganking
  • Time Bomb your enemies as often as you can, without putting yourself or your allies in danger;
  • You shall not enter in a direct fight in most of the situations.
  • Time Warp any champion who seems to be out of position, allied or enemy;
  • Chronoshift whoever is carrying your team;
  • Always carry an Elixir of Brilliance to the teamfights;
  • Do not forget to constantly use Rewind in order to have all your abilities ready;
more on teamfights

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IX. Team Work

If you played enough times with Zilean at mid lane, you will realize that, more than the usual ability power based champions in the game, he depends on his teammates. More specifically, his team composition. Zilean does quite well pushing lanes and roaming to aid his allies. However, due to the fact that Zilean has three supportive skills ( Heightened Learning, Time Warp and Chronoshift) and only one damaging skill ( Time Bomb), he falls off in terms of damage as the match goes on. If you don't neutralize your opponents early game, you might have problems taking your enemies out later. Below I have listed some champions that have good synergy with Zilean:

Yorick and Zilean together is a powerful combination. As Zilean, have Yorick's Ghouls carrying your Time Bombs straight to your enemies' face. In addition, their ultimates used in sucession can win most of your team fights.

Because of Leona's crowd control abilities, it will be a lot easier to plant your bombs on the enemies. Watch for Leona's Eclipse. When she activates it, there is a high chance that she will start a fight with her Zenith Blade. Before she does it, place a Time Bomb on her for extra damage.

Jax will dodge the enemy attacks with his Counter Strike, Leap Strike in and Empower himself to assassinate his victims. Put a Time Bomb on him before he Leap Strike and he will take it to your enemies. The only problem is that Jax might kill him before your bomb explodes.

Hecarim will run non stop to your enemies until either he or the enemy champion dies. Help him with Time Warp and have him taking a Time Bomb as well.

Zilean's biggest enemy may also be one of his best allies. His play style is similar to Hecarim in teamfights. Speed him up and have him taking a little present to your foes.

A great AP force to have on your team. She is a melee champion who can benefit from your Chronoshift. Watch her Crescent Strike. After she afflicts the enemy with moonlight, she will probably Lunar Rush in to them, taking your well timed placed Time Bomb with.

Another champion with a great initiation Time Bomb delivery ability with Dark Flight. His Blood Well combined with Chronoshift can be very annoying.

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X. Final Comments / Credits

I hope you enjoyed the reading and found this guide to be helpful. If you did, I invite you to upvote it so it can be seen by more people. Leave a comment, I would like to hear what you think about Zilean, anyways!

Now, if you dislike the guide and plan to downvote it, I kindly ask you to leave a comment too. If I think you have a valid point, I may change the guide and give you proper credits to the change.

Also, don't forget to check my other guide on Zilean for the crystal scar map here!

Special thanks to: