Build Guide by Morthos
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Zilean is perhaps the most annoying champion to play against when played properly. This build is a good baseline for any type of zil you play, whether it is more support style or legendary AP nuker.
In general, don't forget to help your team. You have 2 skills that can save almost anybody from death; do not hog them.
While Zil is an epic harasser with gigantic attack range, he also is very vulnerable to being harassed. Past level 6 he can generally deal with nukes by using Chrono on himself, but damage over time and being constantly in a state of near death will spell his doom.
Summoner Skills)Flash is almost a must. There will be many cases where you will have placed a time bomb on an enemy with low health, and they run back. Flash, bomb, boom!
For those of you who prefer exhaust or other slows, let me bring you to case 2 for choosing flash. You have just been ganked 5v1 by the other team. You run to a barrier in your final second, and cast crono on yourself. They kill you. You revive. You immediately flash over the wall, haste yourself, and run off laughing.
Ignite is quite nice, mainly for the 10 extra early game AP. This turns out to be quite the boon, as you are constantly CONSTANTLY bombing them. 9 extra damage per bomb adds up over time. The healing reduction is also nice, it prevents irritating last second heals before your bombs go off.
I have used cleanse some to further infuriate people who try and gank Zil, but it hasn't been as effective as others. If you're going to be more of a support/tank, it is worthwhile considering a 9/21/0 Mastery build picking up both cleanse and fortify.
Clairvoyance: If you get it in solo queue, it will be wasted. People won't call for it, they'll say it is useless... However, in arranged games where you communicate, (either over Ventrilo or in chat more) clairvoyance can be very useful. Unlike Teleport, Ghost, and Revive, Clairvoyance takes time to master and use efficiently. If you have already used it well before, go ahead and get it!
Spells not to get:
Clarity: In my build you will have a chalice. Late game, you should have golem buff most of the time. Early game, the +7m/5s will be more than enough and should tide you over until your first trip back.
Ghost: You already have the same effect on a skill with far lower CD. No use, really.
Teleport: I have never found it too useful considering you have a MS of around 500 permanently late game.
Heal/Revive: Does anybody still take this skill anymore? Zil has enough range that he can avoid being harassed too much fairly easily. Lategame, the amount healed is not too noteworthy.
And as for revive.... 0.o Haven't seen this one used since level 3. Pretty useless.
After playing around with 9/21/0, 9/0/21, I've decided on one that gives you the most versatility overall. 9 (or 10 with ignite) in offense gives you enough offensive power to make your time bombs a real threat, and points in utility and defense make sure you have better regen, and are less squishy in general.
This is a personal preference. Lately I've been having fun with 10/0/21. It changes from week to week. To start, the 9 points in def help to reduce squishiness and harassment.
Taking bombs whenever possible does not need an explanation. It's a nuke that also devastates creep waves once you've got some AP. Truly a great skill.
Rewind at level 2 allows you a great chance of pulling off first blood at level 3 or so. A double time bomb at level 3 (along with ignite or general ally help) will always scare the enemy to death, hopefully literally.
In late game, think about rewinding even if only your ult is on cooldown; you probably have the mana to spare - especially once you get the golem buff.
Did you know if you time warp an ally, and they get the kill, you are counted as assisting them? Important information once you buy soulstealer.
Finally, Chrono. The ability that will cause the most tears and ragequits on the enemy team. Especially in 1v1 battles with Zil, where they just "killed" you and you come back from the dead and bomb them into the ground.
To me, Crono is like a buffed-up version of Tryn's endless rage. For 15 seconds, you are essentially untargetable - if they kill you, presto! You're alive again, and, because you followed my advice, you can flash and time warp away. If they don't kill you, then, well, they don't kill you. You survive. Hooray.
If a hero will die in the next fifteen seconds, use it. But if there are multiple heros who will probably die, you have a choice. Which one is most likely to die? Which one will die first?
Make sure to use this on heros that take an additional penalty from being killed, or have especially good escape mechanisms.
Case 1) Cho losing his feast stacks.
Case 2) Anybody losing one of the 20 stacks. (Soulstealer, Leviathan...)
Case 3) Natural blinkers/dashers. (Ezrael, Shen, others)
Case 4) People who have large crowd control effects/disrupts that they haven't used yet (Nunu, Amumu, Janna, others)
Or, in short, pretty much any hero.
Note: If you are going into a teamfight, you should make sure you have enough mana to do both Bomb-rewind-bomb and Chrono. It is not fun to go, "Bomb-rewind-bomb-oh**** I don't have the mana for Chrono"
After level 7, it no longer matters as much which skills you take. I tend to take both evenly, and perhaps pushing rewind a bit more if I'm having a good game and getting tons of charges on Soulstealer.
After much revision, I have come up with yet another item build. It probably will be revised in the future, but that's OK. Main points of any item build with Zil:
1) Mana regen. You are the perfect harasser. It's nice to be able to keep harassing.
2) AP. Obviously.
3) Mobility. With time warp, any MS is amplified even more. You can save people being ganked with Crono and Time Warp, so make sure you can get there in time.
4) Health. Don't be squishy.
All item builds for Zil will be slightly different, depending on what order you choose for these priorities. I've given my opinion here, it is not the only build that works.
Some people may claim that starting AP is better than starting Mana regen. I disagree. Remember, your goal is to enrage people and be feared. Nothing is more irritating than being timebombed each time you attempt to last hit. AP may make your bombs hit harder, but the regen allows you to lane for longer, get more XP, and harass your enemies 'till they give up switch lanes.
On your first trip back to base, you should get whatever AP you can afford (Possibly Codex), Boots, and Chalice if you're having trouble managing mana. If you can't afford all three, skip the chalice - you'll have to be just a bit more conservative with your mana. Boots are very important on any hero, and Zil is no exception. After there, stack AP and Magic Penetration and get cooldown reduction on the side. (Soulstealer, Void staff, Ring, Deathfire, Lich Bane, and Sorc's Shoes would be my ideal endgame build. Change lichbane for Archangel's if you are having trouble with mana, again.)
If your game is going poorly, you might want more health and durability - Go with Void staff over soulstealer, pick up Hexblade Revolver for spell vamp, and, in very rare occasions, Rylai's Scepter if even more health is needed. A better bet than health, though, would be the invulnerability from ring.
Boots of mobility and Sorc's shoes are both viable options for zil. If you do get Mobility, you'll be able to outrun pretty much any hero in the game out of combat, and push multiple lanes at once with time bomb. Even more spell penetration is nice, though. Against caster/CC-heavy teams, you can't go wrong with Mercury Treads.
If you're playing against Teemo, get oracle's elixer. You have range, so unlike other buyers you'll be able to destroy the mushrooms, and you are more durable than standard ranged people as soon as you have crono. Get it if you're playing against eve or twitch and you are confident you can survive for long enough to make it useful and worthwhile.
NOTE: I am constantly changing my items build. Lately, I've been rushing Deathfire more and more, but that might not be the best idea - I have a hard time remembering to use item actives.
Here's general guidelines that could be useful. Use your judgment.
Get Deathfire if they have a particularly annoying tank.
Get Soulstealer if you are racking up tons of assists, or a few kills without many deaths.
Get Void staff if they are stacking MR.
Get an additional HP potion at the start if they are particularly harass heavy, or none at all if they are mainly carries.
Zil gives 8% XP for his passive.
His utility masteries give him additional 5% XP.
If he got 3 XP Quints, that's another 6% XP.
If he then went solo, he'd get twice the XP.
This leads to a level 6 zil while everybody else still is around level 3. Fun. Level 7 means very fatal time bombs. Level 9 even more so.
Team of Zil, Shen, and Tryn would be epic. Nobody would be able to get a kill against them ever. If we wanted a 5v5 team, add in Kayle and TF. If anybody was ganked, Shen and TF could teleport there while whoever it was survived with their ult.
GET THE GOLEM BUFF. Spammage of your skills is second only to Janna spamming skills in terms of irritation.
While we're speaking of Janna... She is your bane. Her shield absorbs your bombs, her range is as long as yours, allowing her to harass you right back, and she has good harassing skills too. She slows you, and can catch up with you due to her fast speed. Plus, she has a really annoying heal that pushes you right out of Time Bomb range. Try to avoid her.