Malzahar Build Guide by SpawnOfHell
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Hi Mobafire, this is my first guide made on this site, featuring my favorite champion in the league.
Malzahar was the first champion I ever played, and has been my main since the beginning of my LoL history. He is a great AP caster with a great laning phase, high damage and is amazing in 1v1 situations, making him a top tier choice for solo queue imo. While his nerfs have made him relatively underplayed, he is still a very strong champion, and definitely a lot of fun.
Malzahar is not an easy champion to play. While the idea of using all your spells in rapid succession similarly to Annie or Veigar seems simple, there are various drawbacks and conditions to Malzahar's combo which makes him more difficult to play. Unlike the aforementioned burst casters, Malzahar is an extremely position reliant champion, requiring good judgment on the right time to use your ultimate to get a kill, save a teammate or lock down a target for a short time. His combos will also seem unusual for players used to casters like Annie. However, with experience and practice, Malzahar's power and ability to destroy a single target whether he is a squishy or tanky makes him a great asset to any team.
This guide will explain in detail the way I play Malzahar as well as including tips for other aspiring Malzahar players out there.
+ One of the highest single target nukes
+ Great AP ratios
+ Ganks well
+ Percentage-based damage
+ Excellent farmer and pusher
+ Infinite sustain with just a Hextech Revolver
+ 2.5 second suppress
+ Among the coolest champions in the game
- Not mobile and has no escapes
- Weaker in 1v1 without ultimate
- Position reliant
- Ultimate is hard to use in teamfights
- Pushes lane uncontrollably
- Hard countered by Quicksilver Sash
- Lacks a legendary skin (Overlord is badass though!)
Greater Mark of Magic Penetration
Greater Seal of Scaling Health
Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power
Greater Quintessence of Ability Power
Greater Mark of Insight
I can't imagine any AP mid champion ever going without these runes. They give a higher yield of damage throughout the game to casters than AP runes do. With these and Sorcerer's Shoes you can do almost true damage to enemies who build no magic resist.
greater seal of vitality
Greater Seal of Vitality
Why do I prefer these over mana regen/18 seals? To be honest, I've never had significant mana issues with Malzahar when using these runes thanks to Malefic Visions, and in most games, your jungler should be donating the golem buff to you which solves any mana issues you have anyway. Because of this I prefer scaling health runes which are more useful in the mid-late game.
Greater Seal of Clarity
Also fine runes for Malzahar to have, you lose a bit of tankiness from getting these instead but they basically eliminate any mana problems you might have. I don't really see either as being absolutely better than the other, so this comes down to personal preference. If your jungler is blue reliant you may want to use these instead.
Greater Glyph of Force
If you want runes that are actually worth a damn late game, this is the way to go. They provide a whopping 27 AP at level 18 which is more than an Amplifying Tome, and this is without the cost of an item slot. They can be replaced with flat AP glyphs or even magic resist if you prefer a stronger early game.
Greater Glyph of Potency
A decent option for stronger early game damage, since your ratios are pretty high so you can feel the power of having a little extra starting AP. I prefer the late game power or Force Glyphs, but again, personal preference is most important here.
Greater Glyph of Warding
Not a bad option. They certainly come in handy when going against a particularly difficult AP. This isn't exactly what I would recommend since you will barely feel the difference later on since you're squishy regardless of these runes, so they're specifically for laning phase only.
Greater Quintessence of Potency
I am of the truthful opinion that these are the best quints in the game, and for good reason. The amount that these boosts give you in the early game makes such a big difference. With Malzahar's high ratios on all his abilities, these runes only increase in importance. These are superior to scaling AP quints due to the time it takes them to break even.
Greater Quintessence of Swiftness
I was never a huge fan of these in the past but after trying them out on Malzahar for a few games (mostly by accident) I like them a lot more now. They've certainly been lifesavers in certain situations. You might miss a kill or two without the extra AP, but the movement speed can save your life and assist greatly when ganking... I still prefer AP quints but these are much better than I initially thought.
Standard caster masteries. I don't think there's anything in particular to say about Malzahar's setup, but the AP masteries really benefit him well thanks to his great AP ratios.
It's pretty much essential for Malzahar to have one summoner spell for escape and one which can be used offensively. Therefore, the spells I deem to be viable for Malzahar are quite limited.
You must take Flash. Regardless of your second spell, Flash is a must for any AP carry without an in-built escape. This is even more important for a champion like Malzahar who pushes his lane hard. If you don't take this spell, you can be sure that you will be ganked over and over again, making you unable to stick your head out from behind your own turret or die, missing out on farm and experience.
I actually didn't take this spell in the past. This was because Malzahar's nuking power was high enough that I felt that I was never in a situation where Ignite would have gotten me a kill which I wouldn't have gotten anyway, allowing me to use the space for a spell which scales better into the late game. However, in the current meta Ignite is a powerful spell for early snowballing. I have found that with Ignite I am less likely to need to get to level 6 before I get a kill, and I have gotten kills with Ignite as early as level 4, usually first blood. This early snowballing will guarantee your victory in lane and this justifies the value of Ignite in my eyes.
This spell is great on Malzahar because of his pushing power. Malzahar is one of the few AP carries capable of split pushing effectively thanks to his ability to quickly clear creep waves and deal high damage to towers with his Voidling. This also gives you a stronger lane presence as you can recover better from giving away a kill in lane. This spell is also amazing for ganking, especially if your laners ward well, as you can use it to teleport to wards for a surprise gank. This usually results in a kill and can make a huge difference throughout the game.
This passive contributes a large amount to your strong laning phase. Your voidling can be a very useful asset in unexpected situations, as it can do anything from farm creeps to harassing to blocking skillshots or finishing champions. An underrated passive which can save your life in some situations.
Update: Finally! Malzahar has needed this change on Voidlings for a while now. Now unless another target is afflicted with Malefic Visions Malzahar's Voidlings will always attack whoever he is targeting. This is a great change as it makes Malzahar's passive a more reliable harass in lane.
Call of the Void
One of Malzahar's crowd control spells, although it also does a hefty chunk of damage thanks to a high AP ratio. In the late game, this spell can be one of your greatest assets during a teamfight. Silencing multiple members of the enemy team for three seconds is very helpful and can easily turn the tides of a losing battle. The delay with this spell and its unusual AoE makes it rather difficult to aim, but highly rewarding when used well.
Update: Riot fixed a few consistency issues with this ability by fixing it to deal damage only once instead of twice. This means you will always deal maximum damage with Call of the Void, but unfortunately you lose the ability to damage through spell shields. Still, this can be a nice change to prevent enemies from surviving it at the very edge when it only deals half damage. The vision buff was also very nice and is very helpful for level 1 invasions.
This spell is extremely powerful late game. I would go as far as to say that it surpasses literally every spell in your arsenal in importance. This is because this spell is one of the highest percentage-based damage output spells in the entire game. With enough AP built, Null Zone has the potential to shred an entire team's health by up to half or more in teamfights.
Update: So Riot finally gave this ability a nice QoL change by removing the annoying cast time which causes Malzahar to stop moving while casting this. This can be a very helpful buff, as it allows Malzahar to use his spell rotation much more smoothly. Sadly, they also removed the instant damage, meaning enemies may sometimes avoid it when running away now :( At least this gives Malzahar more incentive to build Rylai's Crystal Scepter.
Your best friend in the early game. This spell alone practically takes care of the laning phase for you. It is a high damage DoT which transfers to nearby enemies and restores mana every time an afflicted target dies, which means you have the capability to wipe out entire minion waves at a safe distance with miniscule costs to your mana pool. It also attracts voidlings, making it a powerful harassing tool if the enemy laner is foolish enough to get close.
This is perhaps the most difficult spell Malzahar has, as well as one of the most important to master as a Malzahar player. Nether Grasp is a powerful but dangerous ultimate to have, as it is one of the longest-lasting stuns in the game as well as a very high damage nuke. However, it is also one of the only abilities which causes the user to disable himself. The fact that you are also locked down while suppressing the target makes positioning a key factor of using this ultimate correctly. More on this ultimate will be covered in a separate section.
Updates: This change was needed for a while now. The Voidling priority fix was nice, but more importantly is that now you won't bend yourself over when you click in panic after suppressing a target anymore! ^ ^ This was a long awaited fix for me as I have broken my ultimate more times than I could count in a panicking situation.
We want to max Malefic Visions first because it is our primary farming and harass ability. This ability is awesome for doing both as you can instantly clear waves with it and actually gain mana instead of losing it. On the occasion it bounces onto an enemy champion, it gets to deal some pretty heavy DPS usually forcing them to back away. It is also your most reliable damage source, since your other abilities are skillshots with odd quirks to them and can be dodged or avoided.
Some people seem to wonder why Call of the Void is maxed over Null Zone. There are many reasons for this. For starters, percentage-based damage is not a very reliable way of dealing damage as it will deal an inconsistent amount of damage depending on who you use it on. It's easy to avoid since it's stationary and doesn't slow or have an impressive range. It also scales much better with AP than ranking, as it will only deal double its base damage even when maxed out. The cooldown also doesn't decrease, and the mana cost becomes incredibly high at rank 5. This is a much better ability late game when opponents have high amounts of health as it will really start to devastate them then.
Call of the Void is an important spell as it is your only direct damage ability, the rest of your abilities are DoTs. It also has an impressive 3 second silence on it which can severely cripple teams if you hit enough people with it. It's damage boosts up to over 3 times its first rank, so it scales much better than Null Zone. When maxed it can also one shot creep waves making it even more useful.
My preferred start when playing Malzahar, as it allows you to better avoid skillshots when in lane and recover health from harass.
Kind of an antique starting item for casters which doesn't have much of a place on AP mids currently. It is still certainly effective and you can do it if you know what you're doing, but keep in mind this will cause a weaker laning phase due to making avoiding harass more important and more difficult. However, these are great items to buy when returning to base due to their cost efficiency.
This item build pretty much secures an easy laning phase. With the mana regen from the Doran's Rings and Malefic Visions as well as the spell vamp from Hextech Revolver you can stay in lane forever with infinite health and mana sustain. If you're fed you can leave the revolver until later and rush a Needlessly Large Rod.
kage's lucky pick
You want this early to take full advantage of the extra gold you can get from this item, and will later build this into a Deathfire Grasp.
In most cases you will want to buy Sorcerer's Shoes. The 20 magic penetration coupled with runes and masteries will allow you to penetrate champions' base magic resist and do almost true damage. However, against high-CC teams it can be worthwhile to buy Mercury's Treads for the tenacity.
Most of the time, your first priority should be to farm in lane until you have enough gold to afford a Rabadon's Deathcap. Once this is bought, you will be doing massive damage on your spells and be capable of clearing creep waves with a single cast of Malefic Visions.
Rod of Ages is an item I generally tend not to rush due to the fact that Malzahar has a strong laning phase even without this. I would only recommend buying this item against a really difficult lane such as LeBlanc or Kassadin.
I've added Deathfire Grasp to my core build in place of Zhonya's Hourglass after trying it out in a few games. The improved DFG is ridiculous. The AP you get from this item is comparable to items far more expensive and it is worth even more due to having a ridiculous single target nuke. I personally think this is an overpowered item right now, hence why I'm adding it into my core items.
+ + (READ BELOW)
I know a lot of people don't like buying Rylai's on Malzahar because of how gimped the item is on him since he has no way of proccing the full slow. However, it should still be noted that the item provides very useful health and AP stats. The main reason for taking this item however is still because of the useful passive. Aside from his ultimate, he has no way to hinder the mobility of a champion besides using his silence to prevent Flash and blinks. Therefore Rylai's becomes useful on him as the extra CC will boost his utility. Also keep in mind that because the majority of Malzahar's abilities are DoTs, the duration of the slow makes up for the 20% lower potency.
After the nerf to Will of the Ancients, it is less effective to upgrade it early on because it no longer gives you extra AP, leaving you with only a 5% spell vamp boost and the aura. Because of this, you should only upgrade your revolver into a WotA before buying Rylai's Crystal Scepter if your team is mostly AP and you need the aura more than the slow utility from Rylai's.
Updates: Ugh... **** Riot, I had just put Abyssal Scepter in my core build then they nerf it horrifically. The nerf to Abyssal Scepter basically ruined it for Malz since EVERY ONE of his abilities has a higher max range than the AS aura. WTF? I seriously don't understand the intent behind why they nerfed the range. If they wanted tanks rather than AP carries to build this item then they could've just lowered the AP/aura numbers in exchange for more MR or something... I dunno. Either way, Abyssal Scepter has just become really situational to build, as it'll only be of any use if you have some reason to be in near auto-attack range of enemies... regardless I've taken it out of my core build and I wouldn't suggest taking it unless the opposing team is heavy with champions who can get in your face easily or you need a lot of magic defense... bah, this is another fail from Riot just like the Stark's incident... they should seriously reconsider their balancing team.
Updates: This item is starting to fall out of favor. Rarely in games do you see enemies build enough magic resist to justify building Void Staff (especially since most champions don't have scaling magic resist) In any case, most squishy champions won't have the resistances to make this item any more useful than the Abyssal Scepter + Sorcerer's Shoes duo. This item is only more viable on Malzahar than on most AP carries due to his ability to kill tanks effectively.
+ + +
These are the items I build for resistances against particularly fed opponents on the enemy team. You want to build survivability in the late game as you don't have a particularly high amount of burst or AoE which means you need to stay around in fights for longer. Frozen Heart provides a very high amount of CDR and mana, which is good for Malzahar's unforgiving cooldowns. Banshee's Veil is good for Malzahar due to preventing a single ability which can potentially protect his ultimate from being interrupted. Zhonya's Hourglass and Guardian Angel serve a similar purpose to each other by giving him temporary invulnerability which gives him a brief respite in teamfights as he waits for cooldowns.
How to use Nether Grasp
Nether Grasp is a more complicated ability than most people think. In 1v1 situations, using this ability is simply a matter of using it while your target is under Null Zone, however its use in teamfights is far more complex. When teamfighting, you always need to be certain you can use your ultimate for its full duration, without interruption or the possibility for your death.
The first and foremost rule of using Nether Grasp is this: Unless you're using it just for the suppress or to save a teammate, never, ever, EVER use Nether Grasp on its own. The greatest asset of Nether Grasp is its ability to trap an enemy under your Null Zone. If you use your ultimate on its own, the chance that you'll actually kill the target is significantly lower and you'll likely miss the chance to finish them off afterwards once they're released and have the opportunity to Flash or use other escapes.
You CAN use Nether Grasp on tanks. It's sometimes not the best thing to do, but if the enemy tank is Amumu, you definitely don't want him to use Curse of the Sad Mummy on your team. Therefore, if you can you should place a Null Zone under his feet and melt him before he has the chance.
You CAN use this spell just for its utility. If you have teammates nearby and you're trying to catch a slippery target such as Kassadin, using your ultimate gives you more than enough time to focus him down and destroy him before he has the chance to Riftwalk away.
You CAN use Nether Grasp to initiate a gank, and you should. Unlike Warwick's ultimate, knocking the suppressed target around on Malzahar's ultimate won't interrupt it, meaning that you will be able to lock a target down to be killed by your jungler without any errors.
You CAN gank the other lanes whenever Nether Grasp is up. Malzahar's ganks are about on par with Warwick's as they have the same mechanic, except Malzahar's can not be interrupted by your own team and you bring more damage to the gank.
You CAN NOT use Nether Grasp unless you are certain you can get a kill or prevent a kill with it. It doesn't matter if the kill goes to you or your teammate, but wasting Nether Grasp without getting anything from it will be a mistake you will regret later.
You CAN NOT use your ultimate before an initiation, unless you're planning on suppressing the initiator. This is because when most people see Malzahar ulting, they will focus him as during this timeframe Malzahar is vulnerable to attack, and it is imperative to interrupt his ultimate. Using it after an initiation on either side will greatly lower your chance of being interrupted.
You CAN NOT use your ultimate on the following: Gangplank, Alistar, Olaf, anyone with Black Shield on them, anyone with Quicksilver Sash, anyone with Banshee's Veil, as they all have ways of breaking your ult, unless you actually see them using their CC removals. You CAN suppress Tryndamere, but he can still use Undying Rage under suppression, so you should only do this once he has already used it and you want to lock him down to guarantee his death.
You CAN NOT use Nether Grasp at the start of your combo. If you do this, you will be unable to force your opponent to remain on Null Zone, and if they Flash away you will be unable to finish them with the lower range of your other abilities. Always use Nether Grasp at the end of your combo.
You CAN NOT blindly aim for the carries during a teamfight. It is certainly best if you can lock down the carry, but if you go for the carry just to ult them, you're likely trying to walk into the middle of the teamfight which = dead Malzahar. Don't do this. If the carry goes out of position, ULT THEM, but if they are at the back, do not risk your life to try to kill them.
Still being worked on. This is the section I still don't really consider presentable, so please don't judge me too badly for this section not being incredibly informative.
Desired Build: kage's lucky pick
Unless you're laning against an anti-mage, laning phase should be no problem. Malzahar is one of the strongest laners in the game due to his ability to farm minions with minimal costs, and he can do this at a safe distance which means he is not as afraid of overextending. You can stay in lane forever with just a Hextech Revolver for health sustain and Doran's Ring for mana. You should also take blue buff from your jungler whenever you can.
Try to use your abilities sparingly. You should not be using Null Zone at all when in lane due to how little damage it does to either creeps or champions, and Malefic Visions should not be used until you have a few ranks into it due to its poor early damage, and you will only waste mana if you try to farm minions with it early on. Use Call of the Void to stop the enemy laner from using abilities to harass you, this should be easy due to its high range and you usually should be able to silence them before they get the chance to get in range for harass.
When ganking, whether it is from you or your jungler, try to initiate with your ultimate when your teammate(s) get into range to follow up. With Nether Grasp's high damage and suppress duration you will usually get a kill from this.
"Buy a ward, save a life"
Get these. Seriously, get them. Malzahar is extremely weak to ganks, especially due to his tendency to push his lane. If you don't buy wards, you will be ganked over and over again as well as being unable to push at all as you will overextend without having any warning on where the enemy jungler is. 75 gold is a worthwhile trade for a life (or two!)
By this point, you should have enough farm for your Rabadon's Deathcap and hopefully be one or two kills ahead. If so, you should try to push the lane to the enemy tower and immediately head to other lanes to gank. Same rules apply to ganking here, although at this point you should have the damage to wipe out targets single-handedly.
If you've already taken down the enemy tower at this point, you will likely be roaming around. When roaming you should generally be with a teammate and try to be aware of the enemy's positioning. Due to being an AP carry, you will be one of their main targets and moving around the map is dangerous unless your support is taking out their wards consistently.
When idle, you should always be farming. AP carries have an expensive build and since Malzahar is such a great farmer, as long as you are constantly farming waves of creeps you should have no problems being ahead of everyone else in gold and experience.
In teamfights, always stand at the back of your tankiest teammates. Under no circumstance should you go anywhere near the center of a teamfight, as you will be one of the most focused characters. Stand at the back and drop down your normal abilities where they will hurt the most opponents. Generally, in the chaos of a fight people won't notice the heavy damage Null Zone and your other spells are doing to them and won't make avoiding your spells too much of a priority.
Malzahar's late game is reliant on his teammates in a sense as he lacks the game-changing abilities of champions such as Morgana, Karthus or Cassiopeia. However, he is still a major damage threat and he brings something to the table most AP carries can not boast about, and that is his ability to eliminate a single opponent before they have a chance to do anything. This allows Malzahar to potentially turn fights into an instant 4v5 or just give the team the advantage to take objectives such as Baron, Dragon or towers. In teamfights it is usually wise to keep your ultimate until the initial damage is dealt from both teams so you can safely eliminate the enemy AD carry. The exception is when you must either prevent an initiation from champions like Amumu or to save your teammate from death in a 1v1. Malzahar's damage output with his non-ultimate abilities are hard to notice but very significant as he can silence multiple enemies for a large duration and deal hefty amounts of damage with Null Zone.
You should usually stay with your team, but with good ward coverage and objective control you can act as a split pusher as at this point you can clear waves almost instantly with Call of the Void. This is not always a wise choice as sometimes the enemy team may catch you out of position and take you out which will likely cause your team to lose, so it is a risky but potentially beneficial move.
Mid Lane Matchups
Below are my opinions on matchups in the mid lane, and how to play against them.
Ahri isn't too much of a problem for Malzahar. She does have good poke with Orb of Deception and sustain with Essence Theft, but you can match this once you have Hextech Revolver. Take care to avoid her Charm though, as if she hits you with it she can burst you for a lot of damage. If she commits to trying to kill you, do not hesitate to unleash your full spell combo on her. This will either kill her or frighten her into using her ultimate to flee instead of finishing you off. An annoying lane, but doable.
Pre-6 Akali is food for you. She needs to get into melee range to unleash her full burst through Mark of the Assassin and your Malefic Visions can still bounce onto her if she decides to stealth with Twilight Shroud. After Akali hits 6 though, you'll need to be a bit more careful. She can quickly burst you down before you have a chance to react, so keep your distance from her until you see her using her abilities on minions to farm, then move in to harass her. If she jumps on you with Shadow Dance immediately use your full combo, as she is a squishy and doing this has a good chance of killing her.
Anivia is a weak early laner, but don't get hit by her Flash Frost or you'll take huge damage from Frostbite afterwards. Farm as much as you can and don't bother trying to kill her alone, as her Rebirth will proc and you probably won't have the damage to finish her. Get a couple of ganks off to burn her passive, then go aggressive when she is vulnerable. BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO OVEREXTEND WITHOUT WARDS. If her jungler ganks, she will slow you with Glacial Storm, stun you, then block off your escape with Crystallize and you will die.
An easy opponent before level 6. Your abilities outrange hers and her stun can be avoided by backing off until she uses it to farm. After she gets her ultimate though, you must make sure never to be in her casting range when her stun is active. Annie is famous for bringing targets down from full health to nothing and that is what will happen if you get stunned by her abilities. Keep your distance from Annie and go in when she has no stun, and you will win this lane.
Brand has a lot of damage, but he needs to land his stun for his combo to work. Staying behind minions prevents this, but this will only allow him to harass you with Pillar of Flame and then a combo into Conflagration. Instead, stay out of range of his spells and go in once you see him use his cooldowns. If he stuns you, you are guaranteed dead. If you see him use his Pyroclasm, BACK THE HELL AWAY FROM YOUR MINIONS. Brand's ultimate does pitiful damage to a single target but will destroy you if you allow it to bounce on you multiple times. Avoiding skillshots is key to winning against Brand.
A very strong laner. The best you can do is pray that the player sucks, but if she's any good you're in for a world of hurt. Cassiopeia has high range harass with Noxious Blast and massive damage with Twin Fang. If you get poisoned, stay away from Cass until it's passed, or she will hit you with Twin Fang multiple times and slaughter you. Her ultimate Petrifying Gaze can be avoided due to its low range, but if she stuns you with it you are guaranteed dead. Rushing a Hextech Revolver is pretty much essential here to handle her harass, and you should just tag minions with Malefic Visions and farm passively, getting ganks from your jungler whenever possible.
Ok, so I haven't got a proper analysis of Diana just yet, but I can say one thing for sure; die to her early and be prepared to kiss this lane goodbye, because she snowballs so ridiculously hard and can easily 100/0 you with her full rotation. BE CAREFUL IN THIS LANE. Diana is tough to beat as she can clear well with Crescent Strike which also deals high damage at low cooldown, and with blue buff she can shield your harass with Pale Cascade. You probably need to either win early or get your jungler's help as she is very bursty come level 6 and can kill you faster than similar assassins such as Akali or Kassadin.
A pretty easy opponent. His longest range poke Mystic Shot does pretty poor damage when he builds ability power and if he uses Essence Flux too liberally he will run out of mana fast. Since he also lacks any CC he gives you pretty much free reign to do whatever you like. His biggest weakness in lane is that when he goes AP his only natural form of escape Arcane Shift is also part of his nuke, which means if he uses it to try to burst you down he will be left out of position without an escape. His ultimate Trueshot Barrage does really high damage though, so if you're low DO NOT recall next to your tower or anywhere he can see you.
I actually don't see much of Fiddle in the Middle, despite being an avid player of him myself. Therefore, my insight on this matchup is quite limited. Killing him can prove to be quite difficult as his Drain is one of the strongest healing abilities in the game. If you see him use it just silence him with Call of the Void, but considering its cooldown is lower trying to prevent it every time is out of the question. Play passive in this lane, as you will outfarm him for certain due to his weak farming abilities. You don't want to overextend in this lane though, as his long duration Terrify can lock you down for his jungler to kill you. ALWAYS CALL MIA ON FIDDLESTICKS IN CASE HE PLANS ON GANKING WITH Crowstorm. If Fiddles jumps your other lanes without warning and slaughters your teammates with his crows it is YOUR fault.
Fizz does well in mid lane against squishy casters with no escape mechanisms, but his laning before 6 is fairly weak. Once he hits 6 though, he can just throw out his ultimate without warning, and if he hits you it's pretty much a free kill for him. Fortunately for you, he is an entirely melee champion, making him easy to harass with Malefic Visions. You want to keep out of range of his abilities and not let him harass you too hard as his Seastone Trident does more damage the lower health you are. If you hear his shout as he uses Chum the Waters, Flash the hell out of there. When ganking him, you should try to bait out his Playful / Trickster as that is his only form of escape then tell your jungler to go in. He is still extremely squishy as a character, and will not hold up to your combo.
Galio has a boatload of mana issues, but unless he derps you're probably not killing him in lane. However, this also means you have pretty much free reign to farm away. His damage is effectively zero as long as you dodge his Resolute Smite. Don't bother trying to harass him as he generally will have very high magic resist and and heal himself with Bulwark. Don't overextend against Galio however as he can lock you down with Idol of Durand as his jungler kills you. This is a very passive lane, and being overly aggressive against Galio is generally a mistake. He is more of a late-game champion rather than a laning threat, in my personal opinion.
Extremely high damage poke with Barrel Roll, but if you dodge it he has pretty much nothing. Gragas is a pretty easy lane opponent for Malzahar as you can harass him pretty well. His passive Happy Hour allows him to heal off some of your damage, but relying too much on it will just cause him to run out of mana, making him easy prey. This guy can be scary though once the enemy jungler ganks, as his ultimate Explosive Cask is a very high damage nuke which can throw you out of position making you food for the enemy jungler. Other than that, there's really nothing to laning against Gragas other than dodging his barrels and harassing him as much as you can.
An easy opponent for Malzahar. With a few ranks in Malefic Visions and a bit of AP, you completely melt through his turrets like a hot knife through butter leaving him with nothing left. His pushing power is easily matched by your own which eliminates any advantage he has over you as a laner. You want to be careful of his poke though, as his Hextech Micro-Rockets do significant damage and he can stun you with ch-1 concussion grenade, but that's all he really has. Add to the fact that he falls off pretty hard later on in the game, and you have yourself an easy lane.
Karthus is a very weak laner. The majority of his damage in lane is from Lay Waste which can just be avoided or nullified by standing next to minions. He is very squishy and vulnerable to ganks, and you can just kill him yourself once you hit 6. The only thing to watch out for here is to make sure he doesn't pick off cheap kills with Requiem. If you can, make sure to silence him with Call of the Void, or if you have your combo then punish him by nuking his *** to bits. An easy lane, though a dangerous opponent later on in the game.
Pre-6 you completely wreck him, however once he gets Riftwalk he becomes incredibly threatening. Kassadin is well known for being a hard counter to most mages in mid due to his burst. If he kills you early on, it's probably best to request a lane switch instead of risking dying again. You may want to build Rod of Ages for this particular match unless you have a significant advantage in lane and feel confident about sustaining yourself with just a Hextech Revolver. Getting a gank off on him before he hits 6 goes a long way. Malzahar does have an advantage over Kassadin in lane by being capable of locking him down with Nether Grasp which gives your jungler time to destroy him. Play carefully against this lane.
She got reworked a while ago, but the general gameplay is still the same. She is very annoying to lane against as she can blink around the lane to avoid your skillshots and harass you well with Bouncing Blades. Once she buys a Hextech Revolver she has infinite sustain. However, as she is a melee she is prone to being harassed in return. It is beneficial to save Call of the Void against this lane for when she blinks close to you to unleash Death Lotus, which will absolutely destroy you if she gets the whole thing off. This lane can either be a cakewalk or a dangerous matchup, depending on the skill of the player.
Kennen is incredibly annoying to lane against, as he is able to put out a lot of harass with Thundering Shuriken and has chain-stun potential. He is energy-based and therefore has infinite sustain with spell vamp, and will generally rush a Will of the Ancients. This isn't the worst lane, but making a mistake can be extremely hazardous as he has the damage to burst you down quickly. Make sure to never EVER overextend versus a Kennen as he will lock you down in a double stun and slaughter you with his jungler if he happens to be nearby.
Forgot about the little guy at first. Whether he's going AD or AP, Kog'Maw suffers from a pretty weak early game, due to his poor early damage and painful mana costs. You can hurt him pretty bad early game, but once he has Living Artillery his harass becomes monstrous. That ultimate hits HARD. Be very careful not to be slowed by Void Ooze as he can dish out some pretty painful DPS on you. Other than that, he is mostly a threat in the late game with enough AP, but not a problem in lane.
Another lane opponent everyone knows and fears. Leblanc is a very weak farmer, but her burst at early levels is unrivaled. It is always best to stay at a reasonably high amount of health to avoid being instantly bursted down by Leblanc's combo. Building Rod of Ages is a smart choice here for the extra durability. You need the assistance of your jungler here. One weakness of Leblanc is that her combo is used at the cost of her escapes, so baiting out her combo during a gank will make her a much easier target to take down. It is imperative to play safe against this lane, as Leblanc punishes mistakes with instant death.
Avoid her spells. Lux has very high burst with her spells coupled with the extra damage of her passive. Do not underestimate her damage output, as she can do over half your health with finales funkeln when you are affected by Illumination and you are pretty much dead if she lands a Light Binding. She can be a pretty easy opponent as long as you are capable of dodging her abilties as she is entirely skillshot reliant.
He is laughably weak early on as he does pretty significant damage to himself with his spells and his shield is initially weak. However, once he starts building spell vamp he will be extremely difficult to kill. More so than other champions, absolutely do not feed him, as a fed and farmed Morde = gg. There is one weakness to Mordekaiser though. When laning, he will push the lane hard, and since he has no escapes he is easy to gank. Lock him down with Nether Grasp and let your jungler kill him.
A real pain in the *** to lane against. Her passive Soul Siphon will keep her sustained throughout the laning phase and she can simultaneously harass and farm with Tormented Soil. DO NOT get hit by Dark Binding as she will unleash massive damage upon you. Be very careful if you intend on trying to kill Morgana, as her Black Shield will prevent damage and break the suppress, therefore wasting your ultimate. Unless you are ganked, save your Flash for when Morgana uses Soul Shackles or you will die for certain. This is an incredibly annoying and difficult lane, particularly against a skilled Morgana, but just play passive and try to outfarm her for the late game.
A pretty bleh matchup tbh. I almost didn't want to put her here because I consider AP mid Nidalee to be kind of gimmicky, but I've seen a few so I thought I might as well. The main thing is to either dodge or block her Javelin Toss, as it is literally the only significant damage Nidalee can do to you. However, she is incredibly difficult to gank as she can guard the bushes with Bushwhack and once she hits 6 can run away with Pounce, so you're pretty much forced to deal with her on your own. She can be pretty hard to kill due to having an in-built heal, so play passive and farm, and try to kill her with your combo if you see an opportunity.
Orianna is a strong AP carry with high AoE burst and great utility, and is a powerful champion in the hands of a skilled player. The main thing to remember about Orianna is that all her spells are centered around her Ball. As long as you avoid the Ball, she won't be able to do anything to you besides harass with autoattacks. Once you hit level 6 you can easily nuke her down. One noteworthy thing about Orianna however is that her ultimate Command: Shockwave is a DELAYED knockback ability. If she happens to use it just as you suppress her, you'll get thrown out of your ult. It's annoying, but proper vigilance ensures that this won't happen.
No, he's not a mage, but on occasion you will see a Pantheon in the mid lane. He is an incredibly dangerous laner to be up against due to his high early burst. You will likely lose this lane, as he will harass you hard with Spear Shot until you are low enough to kill with his full combo. Be wary of this. I usually request a lane switch when I face Pantheon, however when I must I find that building Cloth Armor and playing passively is the best way to keep this lane balanced. You have the advantage of a stronger late game however, as Pantheon tapers on late game if he does not snowball.
Yeah. AP Rengar. It's still around. Sure, it got nerfed, but you still might see it from time to time. There are many reasons to be scared of Rengar. He runs on no resource, has a powerful heal, and can jump in your face and blow you to bits. Because he can stealth with Thrill of the Hunt, it's basically impossible to see him coming when he intends to kill you without the use of Vision Wards or Oracle's Elixir. With a Deathfire Grasp and Lich Bane, you can expect to die randomly, out of nowhere. A lot. Keep him down early on, before 6 preferably, or he will turn every teamfight into a 4v5 instantly.
Like Karthus, he's a rather weak early laner. Most Ryze players will be trying to farm rather than poke during the laning phase, allowing you to abuse him pretty hard. However, he is a powerful late game AP carry, so you must make sure to shut him down early. If he chooses to snare you with Rune Prison, counter him by using Call of the Void to prevent him from dealing any more damage to you. With Malefic Visions you will likely outfarm him. This is an easy lane, but if you don't keep Ryze down he will destroy your entire team in the late game.
He is extremely dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. Sion has one of the highest burst damage outputs in the entire game with two heavy damage, high ratio abilities. Watch out for them, and always try to stay out of range of Sion when his Death's Caress is up. Once you see his shield is down, go ape**** on him with your spells while he can't retaliate besides stunning you and autoattacking a few times. However, allowing yourself to be caught in his combo likely means you are going to die. He also has good lane sustain at level 6 when he gets his low cooldown ultimate which gives him 50% lifesteal. Definitely an opponent to watch out for.
Swain's pre-6 laning is awful. He does rather low damage with his spells at early levels and the most he can do is snare or slow you for his jungler to gank. If you can abuse him at this time, do it. Once Swain gets his ultimate things get tough. If he takes blue buff from his jungler, he will outsustain you without a doubt. Do not get caught by Nevermove or you will be taking a huge amount of damage, like Morgana. This is quite a difficult lane to win simply because of Swain's sustain, but it is possible. Watch out for his spells though. Decrepify and Torment are DoTs and can still hurt you while you use Nether Grasp, and what's particularly annoying is that his Ravenous Flock, if active, will STILL hurt you and heal himself while suppressed. I myself have died several times due to this and it is certainly something to watch out for.
Putting aside the fact that she's a pretty mediocre AP carry in general, there isn't really anything you need to fear about her in particular. From personally handling Syndra in a few games after she was released, her Dark Sphere is easily dodged due to its long animation and she is an easy champion to juke and trade damage with overall. While her ultimate Unleashed Power does do a lot of damage, it takes a long time to set up her spheres and it's quite obvious when she's trying to do so, therefore you can simply kill her before she gets the chance to combo you. She might pose a threat with enough spheres on the battlefield, but otherwise she is easy to deal with.
It is generally best NOT to go against Talon in lane as Malzahar, as he has the tools to kill squishy mages very efficiently. Think of him as an AD version of Kassadin when laning. He is weak before level 6, and the most he can do is harass you with Rake and do a bit of burst with cutthroat -> Noxian Diplomacy. However, once he gets Shadow Assault he immediately becomes highly dangerous. Talon has enough damage to burst you down from full health if he lands his full combo. Stay away from him at this point and try to farm creeps with Malefic Visions from a far distance. Talon is a very strong counter to you, approach with caution.
AP Tristana is occasionally seen in solo queue games, and is quite a force to reckon with. She can be very tough if you don't know her capabilities, as she has huge burst when going AP. However, I find AP Trist to be very predictable as many players will use Rocket Jump when initiating a fight with you, giving you time to set up your spells and combo her. This is the weakness of AP Tristana as a whole as she has to fully commit to her kills, which is not always a good thing. This can be a scary matchup the first time you see it, but gets easier the more you deal with it.
Twisted FateDifficulty: 5/10
Dodge his Wild Cards, and you're good to go. Twisted Fate has infinite mana sustain and a fairly low cooldown stun to watch out for, but has no major tricks that threaten you especially badly. However, once he hits 6 he will likely gank other lanes with Destiny. If you can, try to stop him by either Call of the Void when he attempts to teleport out or just use Nether Grasp if you don't think you can make it in time. Your ultimate has a lower cooldown than his, so it's a worthwhile trade.
His range took a huge hit in his nerfs so he isn't as bad of a matchup anymore, but he is still dangerous. You won't see Urgot in mid lane often, but he absolutely destroys squishy caster types with no escape like yourself. Urgot has immense early game damage with Acid Hunter which will harass you hard with its low cooldown and will force you to use all your potions and continuously recall to survive. He has pretty bad mana issues, but if he gets blue buff he will destroy you. In the few occasions I've laned against him, I had to build BOTH Hextech Revolver and catalyst the protector to keep myself in lane. Oh, and of course his hyper-kinetic position reverse. If he uses it on you, unless you have Flash you're just dead. Try to avoid getting yourself in a lane with Urgot, switch lanes if you can.
Watch out for him. He has the potential to one-shot you once he gets his full combo and he will do it if you get caught by his stun. It may be a good idea to get Rod of Ages for this lane as well, but I find that sometimes even that isn't enough to save me. Mercury's Treads is a good buy here as it will make the duration of his Event Horizon shorter giving you a longer window of time to avoid his combo. An early Negatron Cloak to build into either Banshee's Veil or Quicksilver Sash wouldn't hurt either. Ask your jungler for frequent ganks to give yourself a lead in the lane. Be very careful versus the Tiny Master of Evil.
He is very underestimated and underplayed, and I really wonder why. Viktor has strong lane prescence with a high damage nuke on Power Transfer which also shields him from your own harass. Death Ray is fairly easy to dodge but has long range allowing him to hurt you from a good distance. Gravity Field is the major issue with him though. If you use Nether Grasp and see the purple bubble around you, be prepared to rage as your screen turns grey. His burst is insanely high with his Chaos Storm being one of the highest damage ults in the game. This is a matter of which player is more skilled, really, as both champions have advantages over each other that can be utilized to give either side the lead.
With his sustain, he's pretty much an unbeatable laner around levels 7-9. Surprisingly, with a Hextech Revolver Malzahar handles him better than most. Malefic Visions will really hurt him if he gets snagged by it as he can't just Sanguine Pool out of it, and he obviously can't pool out once under Nether Grasp's suppression. Take advantage of this. When you have your ult, have your jungler gank him. The damage you do to him during the period he is suppressed will either kill him or force him back and give you lane presence. Play badly and Vladimir will crush you, play well and you can beat him.
Like Sion, he can be devastating if you don't know how to deal with him. Xerath has the longest casting ranges in the entire game and will poke you hard with Arcanopulse. However, you can counter this. Whenever he enters locus of power you should silence him with your high ranged Call of the Void and force him to trade damage with you. Your damage is higher than his, so if you play well he actually isn't too much of a problem. Watch out for his mage chains stun though, as he can burst you down from full health if he lands all three charges of Arcane Barrage on top of you.
His bombs really hurt. They really do. Therefore, it's important to avoid them at all costs. Ziggs has really lost popularity ever since his nerfs a while back, but he remains as a potent threat due to his strong poke and high damage. Stay behind minions when he uses his Bouncing Bombs to avoid taking too much damage. Once he hits 6, beware of losing too much health as he can finish you with Mega Inferno Bomb which does huge damage. I haven't had a lot of experience against this lane, so I can't provide much more detail on how to handle Ziggs.
He's not seen often, but I get pissed every time I see him on the enemy team. He has a fair lane presence as he can deal hefty damage with Time Bomb, but you can generally outlane him. What I really hate about Zilean however is his ultimate Chronoshift. If you blow your full combo on him and find out that he managed to cast it beforehand, you will be slapping yourself and raging as he either runs away with Time Warp or uses it to slow you while he blows you to bits with his own nuke. This remains to be an issue at all stages throughout the game as he can save targets you combo which is so frustrating that I usually resort to just comboing him in teamfights. In my opinion Zilean is incredibly underrated right now and I am thankful that he isn't played more as he is an incredibly difficult champion to deal with. Oh, and watch out for your Voidlings, cause this might happen.
Zyra is very, very tough. She is usually countered by high mobility champions, but if you are careful with your moves she is somewhat manageable. First off, do not take too much harass from her abilities as she has some of the highest pre-6 burst I've seen. If you get caught by her snare at half health you are probably dead. Her plants actually aren't an issue as your Malefic Visions burns them down quite effectively, so she can't zone you as hard as she can to most. Watch out for her after 6, as her ultimate deals a ton of damage and has a nasty CC effect, which can cause you to take her full combo and probably die.
Malzahar is a very fun caster-type champion to play, and is a valuable asset to any team when played by a skilled player. He is more of a solo queue champion rather than against organized teams due to the ways that he can be countered, but he brings a lot of power to the team and is nigh-unstoppable when fed. His 1v1 potential is among the best of all the champions in the game and he has the power to kill any champion, which is not shared by many.
Try out Malzahar if he appeals to you, and I am sure he will, and if you like what this guide has given you, please do return and upvote and provide positive feedback, while if you have issues please also come back and give me any suggestions for me to improve my guide. Have fun!
May 03, 2012 - Guide released
May 15, 2012 - Added Deathfire Grasp to the core build, removed Zhonya's Hourglass. Tried the new DFG and it's ridiculous on Malzahar.
May 24, 2012 - Added "Mid Lane Matchups" section, detailing the champions you may face in middle lane and advice on how to handle them.
May 26, 2012 - Edited some parts of the guide, fixed a few typos, grammatical errors, added more detail to the "Mid Lane Matchups" sections where I felt they weren't elaborated upon enough.
May 27, 2012 - Added Ezreal, Kog'Maw, Nidalee and Urgot to roster in "Mid Lane Matchups".
August 24, 2012 - Guide finally updated again... >.< Changed item section, added to abilities section, and added Zyra and Diana to matchups.
September 5, 2012 - Updates
October 10, 2012 - Whew, about time I updated again. Here's a list of all the changes:
- Added a difficulty rating for each champion in 'Mid Lane Matchups', remember this is my personal opinion and yours may differ.
- Added Rengar and Syndra, removed Varus. I barely see him at bot lane nowadays, never mind mid.
- Removed Ghost from summoner spell section. I ran it a few times for old times' sake and it just didn't feel useful at all... I used to like it as my secondary spell but it never really saved my life any more than Ignite could've gotten me kills.
- Added extra rune options.
- Added a Skill Sequence section.
This is the place I will use to say my thanks to people who have helped me with the making and improvement of my guide, I will remember to add people to here as I update the guide with suggestions for improvements.
Jhoijhoi: For her guide on Making a Guide which really helped in the making of this guide.