Xin Zhao Build Guide by DTRawDog
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Xin Zhao Build
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.
Hey guys! I'm DTRawDog and I'm a Silver I player who is working hard to get to Gold Tier. I'm mainly a jungler and I have developed most of my strategy and gameplay during Season 3. I've been playing since season 1(MF patch to be precise) and my main champions are Amumu, Maokai and Xin Zhao.
I started playing Xin Zhao since the preseason 3 (yeah, before he even became popular). I saw a video of Stonewall008 (seriously, check this guy out, you may learn a thing or two) and I liked Xin's gameplay and how he was starting to feel strong even without the new items. When season 3 started, I tested numerous builds to try to carry my team. The initial idea would be to get a frozen mallet and then go for sunfire, warmogs, etc. Xin wasn't popular at all back then so I really didnt have any clue on how to build him so I just experimented for myself. I remember when I was cutting myself while seeing the patch notes and noticing that sunfire and warmogs were being nerfed. But then I realized Xin'x CC potential and bought items focused on CDR. After a looong series of changes I ended up with the build I have listed above (btw the BT is there because I didn't want to leave the madred's there, but the last item is very situational). This last build was highly influenced by many pro players when watching the LCS but it still has a lot of my own thought inside it. You can't apply pro tournament concepts in solo queue just like that, things are very different.
I started season 3 at Silver 2 and when I played Xin Zhao I won so hard. Once I had like my entire match history filled with victories in ranked games only playing Xin Zhao. No one else knew Xin Zhao and his new potential, so I felt pretty special back then and abused him before he got banned. After the nerfs, people thought (and still think) that Xin is weak again but I'm telling you, he is still strong enough to be played by me every ranked game and still have a 72% win ratio.
In this guide I'll be talking about how you can carry yourself out of bronze or silver (maybe even gold) with Xin Zhao. This information may be applied to any other jungler if you really do your best to understand the importance of each concept I talk about here and think of ways to take it to a next level within your own gameplay or style.
Anyways, I hope you enjoy reading this article and don't forget to give me a thumbs up if you found this information valuable.
First things first... Why play Xin Zhao?
This is a very important question because you cannot play a character if you dont know what it can bring to your team and if he is really needed or if there is some other character that may be more useful in certain team comps.
I play him because he is a flexible champion. If he gets fed, he can build very tanky with huge amounts of sustained damage and carry an entire team (back hurts after a while). If he does well and gets lots of assists he will be very annoying, tanky as a golem (yeah, the pokemon), very disruptive and even deal decent amounts of damage to the squishies. If he has a terrible game he can still build tank and be an asset to the team if you play smart.
That's something that many other characters cannot do. You can tailor your build according to what your team needs and still be extremely effective throughout the entire game. He is a very well rounded character in the right hands. There have been times in which I just carried getting lots of kills, denying every enemy champion and then beating them into a pulp during teamfights whereas I've also helped my team getting very cheesy kills and getting fed so that they can carry later on.
Last reason I play him is that he is a great initiator with lots of CC and an AoE knockback. I usually see many tanks initiating when one of his teammates are missing or when he doesn't have vision of the enemy team and just engages without paying attention to the map. When you play Xin Xhao, you are your team's leader, that means that you decide when your team goes in and when to retreat for a better opportunity. I can't stress how important it is to know when to initiate a fight or when to gank a lane or when to even towerdive someone. That's all your call and if you master these things, you'll get to a pretty high level of play after a while.
Does your team need a tank? Pick Xin
Does your team need a bruiser? Pick Xin
Does your team need a lot of CC? Pick Xin
He just has too many things in a very simple kit that is very hard to not think of him as the best choice in most cases.
Map awareness O.o
To play Xin (and pretty much any other jungler in the game) you MUST consider many aspects of the game and include them in your gameplay. Map awareness is the first in the list. This is the most basic skill that is required for you to do basically anything. You see the enemy jungler bot and you are top? Gank top or steal his top side jungle. You see the enemy top lane heading mid to gank? Go get yourself at mid as soon as possible to counter gank. You see the enemy mid laner with half HP and going for his blue? Go ambush him! Your mid laner is overextended? Stick around cause he may get ganked and your assistance can mean that your team gets a double kill (it happens a lot, people don't expect you to be so quick at reacting).
Most players don't have any map awareness. If you want a quick way to develop it, play Shen jungle. You really need a lot of map awareness to know when to ult and save a teammate from dying. Besides, when you jungle you don't have many things to do except kill a bunch of monsters that are not even hard to kill. You have enough space in your brain to kill them and watch the entire map to know whats going on. Trust me, its worth giving it a try. You'll see a big difference after you play Shen 5 consecutive times and then go back to what you currently play.
This brings me to the most questioned and undervalued aspect in the league (unless you are a support):
Dude... seriously? The only ones that should buy wards are the supports!
Supports cannot go ward top or mid to prevent ganks during early and mid game for the entire map. I think you know they don't have much money to buy them until they get the sightstone. Even then, they have to be in their lane to SUPPORT the adc.
Ok you are right... But in that case top and mid should do it for themselves. After all, they are the ones who should be covering their ***es...
True, but guess what? You are in solo queue and people usually don't like to buy wards because "wards are such a waste of money" and "they could get items faster with the money they are spending on them" so "instead of overextending they just have to last hit, and keep themselves at turret range". Don't expect people to ward a lot, most of them just hate the idea. Besides, there are some champions like Anivia, Annie, Mordekaiser, TF, etc who just push naturally and are hard to control in terms of wave clearing and pushing. Only pros know how to do it perfectly and when to do it, and as far as I know, not everyone is a pro player.
Wow... so you are just telling me that I have to baby sit a bunch of noobs who don't even know how to ward? Those wards wont help me at all, they will just suck my gold. And even if I put them, how do I know my teammates will look at the map and react in time? Seriously dude... it's just a waste of money.
Why do you think that almost every single player in every LCS team has a ward in their inventory after each recall? They know the value of map vision. "Knowledge is power". Once I had this Jarvan top who would refuse to ward, so I warded his brush so that he would not get ganked by the enemy jungler and feed the enemy Rengar. The enemy jungler didn't even went top during the 3 minutes the ward lasts but I saw Rengar going down the river. My guess was either he wants to counter jungle me or he wants to gank my overextended mid. The second one was more likely so I went mid instantly (I was obviously hiding so they didn't know I was there). Suddenly, a wild Rengar appeared ganking mid and attempting to towerdive my Twisted Fate, only to find out that I was right there to stop him and kill him along with the enemy Orianna. So... I spent 75 gold to get a double kill, save my mid lane from feeding the enemy Rengar (plus giving him 2 assists). That made me snowball out of control and started to get kills all around the map. The more money I had, the more wards I could buy and use that to know where the enemy were at all times. I ended 15/4/26 that game and we won at around minute 35.
Wards feed you with information, let you make smarter and safer decisions and take full advantage of the enemy's mistakes which are plenty across all tiers, even at Diamond, it's just that you didn't have a ward to see it ;).
Helping your team is always more important
This is your main duty as a jungler. If you see your bot lane getting ganked by a Maokai and you are about to kill your golems... stop doing that, go down there and HELP YOUR TEAM. If you go as soon as you see that Maokai bot and leave that small golem alive, chances are you may save your allies and even get kills for your team. But if you instead choose to hit your golem 3 times to kill it because it was so close to dying, that Maokai will give his adc a double kill and start snowballing bot lane which will then become a nightmare for your entire team because that freaking blue ez is killing everybody... and the only positive thing there is that you got the money from the golems. Thats how important time and awareness is.
Trust me, it is worth it. That's why you buy wards in the first place, so you can help your team as soon as possible and anticipate to the enemies strategies.
Even when you are in a teamfight your team is the number 1 priority. When you engage a teamfight you try to scare the enemy team while killing someone. If you kill that guy but your bruisers are going to kill your carries, you do not go and dive their carries to get kills in return (that actually gets you killed instead, and then those carries proceed to help their bruisers kill the rest of your team). You actually go and disrupt the guys that are bothering your team. Once you kill those bruisers and save your carries, you are ready to ace the enemy team and get objectives.
Focus on getting objectives
Please, don't go following the Sona to get an extra kill when you could instead help your team get that bottom turret and buy your team time to get dragon quickly before the enemy team spawns and give every single member of your team 340 gold (more than what you could possibly get from killing Sona). Objectives are a very important part of the game. You may be 50-10 but if the enemy team has more turrets, dragons and barons, they are ahead in map control and are more likely to turn the game around.
You are your team's leader remember? You have to make the right decisions every time you can, and if you have to choose between chasing the last member of the enemy team all around the map to kill him and destroy Nexus, please go for the Nexus and win the game already.
Now, I'm not saying you should go dragon every single time you can. Do it when you know the enemy team wont get there in time to stop you (wards required) and when they are not able to get another important objective (did I mention... get a ward? I think I didn't... please bear with my memory).
Now that you know how important wards.. erm.. I mean, all these aspects are, we are ready to talk about the champ itself.
My masteries setup is 9/21/0. I focus on getting CDR because Xin Zhao scales incredibly good with it (I'll explain the reason of this later on). Get the damage and the armor penetration. Because of how penetration works now, it stacks nicely with his passive ending up scaling with items in a very efficient way.
In the defensive tree I just focus on getting the tenacity and getting as durable as I can be so the enemy team has a harder time trying to kill me. The rest is just a nice bonus to have.
If you are new to the jungle, I would suggest you take 0/21/9 for the increased buff duration in the utility tree. The reason for this is that when you start jungling you don't know how to manage your mana very well. You'll end up with 50 mana left after clearing the jungle and then you cannot gank any lane, just go back and lose time unnecessarily.
My runes are kinda different from a normal bruiser. I take 6 attack speed marks because Xin's Q goes into CD after the third hit, that means that the faster you proc those hits the sooner your spell will go into CD meaning that you dps (damage per second) will increase not only during the spell but also increases the time that it will take you to cast it again. I also take 3 armor penetration marks because this stat is great on Xin.
Armor seals and scaling magic resist glyphs are the normal setup for most junglers.
I take damage quints because his Q scales really good with damage and because it is just great when you want to deal a burst of damage when ganking early game. This things can mean a first blood for your team when you gank someone.
Smite and flash are the standard setup for most junglers. Smite is just mandatory, it increases your clearing speed by a lot and lets you survive the early levels and get to level 3 pretty quick. It also helps at stealing buffs, securing your own buffs and securing baron or dragon. There are a lot of smite steals out there that mean the difference between winning or losing a game (go check youtube).
Flash is a great spell overall. You dont have many escapes and having that get out of jail card is just nice to have. Besides, sometimes having flash during a gank can give you a huge advantage when you really want to hit that third Q after the enemy just flashed. Xin has a lot of CC already so he doesn't need exhaust and ignite is just not very good on a jungler that isn't an assassin.
Challenge (Passive): This spell gives you an on-hit 15% armor reduction that also works with your abilities. This means that not only you are dealing more damage but if your adc hit hitting a challenged target, he will also deal more damage. Very strong passive.
Three Talon Strike (Q): This is your bread and butter when you play Xin, so you should always max it first. Your next 3 auto attacks will deal bonus damage and the third attack will also knock the enemy into the air for a while. It resets your auto attack animation on cast, so make sure you hit the enemy with an auto attack and immediately cast Q to deal damage quickly. This works amazingly well when you are inside a brush and an enemy is walking into it without knowing you are there. This trick will let you dish out a huge amount of burst as soon as they step into that brush. They'll be dead before they even know what just happened.
Something that almost no one knows about this spell is that for each hit you reduce the CD of the rest of your abilities by 1 second. That's right, 3 seconds of CD reduction on every other ability including your ult. Give him attack speed and he'll reduce 3 seconds of CD in his abilities immediately. Give him CDR, and you'll be casting this spell lots of times, letting you spam the rest of your abilities like a monster. Thats why CDR is scales exceptionally well with Xin.
Audacious Charge (E): This is your main initiation spell. It has a bigger range than you may realize and it will let you close the gap between you and your team's prey. It will deal magic damage that scales with AP (not very useful, but nice to have there) and slow the target you just hit (very useful). The slow will let you get all of the 3 procs from your Q without having to chase your target for long. It also has a AoE effect, that means that when you hit a target, you will also damage and slow enemies close to your target.
I max this spell second because it reduces its CD with each rank you put into it. In a teamfight or skirmish, being able to dash multiple times to many targets is very important since your main job is to be annoying and closing the gap to apply your Q procs. Once I dashed into an enemy, used my Q applying the three hits and used it again when it was up again but this second time I only used 2 hits and I still had the knock up available, but since my E was up again, I could dash to someone else and knock him up instantly.
Battle Cry (W): This is a very nice spell to have and it's what makes Xin viable in the jungle. This ability lets him sustain through the early levels when he still doesn't have defensive items and he takes a significant amount of damage from monsters. The passive lets him heal a flat amount of health every third hit and the active increases his attack speed not only increasing the heal from its passive, but also increasing his damage from basic attacks and reducing the time it takes you to proc your Q 3 times.
I max this ability last because I consider that CD reduction on his dash is a lot more valuable than attacking a bit faster or healing. Your damage is good already and madred's procs are great while you have it active at rank 1 so you really don't need more than that. And the sustain can be acquired through items anyway, so maxing this ability second would just be a sustain overkill. Note that sustain isn't only life steal, but also armor and HP regeneration.
Crescent Sweep (R): This ultimate is simply wonderful when used correctly, it is just hard to know for sure when it will be truly effective. It will deal damage to every target around you based on their current HP (suggesting it should be used at the beginning of the team fight) plus it will increase your resistances based on how many targets you hit and it will also knock them back (except of course the guy you are currently challenging). As you can see, it does a lot of things, but the most important one is the knock back. The utility there is incredible, you just have to be creative with it. Use it in the best moment you can, not just when you initiate. It will split teams instantly and will almost always make you win a teamfight. The use of this ability is what makes or breaks a good Xin Zhao.
Many people think that the last nerfs just made Xin Zhao viable but not strong enough to carry games as he used to. I have to say, he was pretty OP back then, but right now he is very strong and balanced.
- Damage reduced to 70/105/140/175/210 from 70/110/150/190/230.
- Cooldown increased to 14/13/12/11/10 seconds from 13/12/11/10/9.
This was just to decrease the initial burst that Xin had a tad bit when initiating since this ability is also AoE. Also the cooldown was increased a bit to prevent him from becoming Katarina 2.0 but it isn't significant since it is only a 1 second nerf and you have lots of ways to decrease your CD.
- Base damage reduced to 75/175/275 from 125/225/325.
- Cooldown increased to 120/110/100 seconds from 100/90/80.
Now this must seem like a slap in the ****, but it isn't. I remember I could get to 48 seconds of CD on this ability with 40% CDR, that is way too strong. Now it is in the sweet spot where its balanced. The damage nerf was necessary, he was dealing way too much damage when it already had a huge utility with that knock back and the armor and magic resist increase.
A 20 second increase in an ultimate cooldown would be brutal on any champion but Xin has his Q to make that nerf not make him useless late game, just perfectly balanced.
First of all, you must know I never build the same thing every game. Some items are just core but some others are situational. Don't worry though, I'll tell you how to decide which items you should get.
I always start with the hunter's machete and 5 health potions. For some dmg to monsters and sustain.
I buy boots and madred's razors and a ward. This increases my clearing speed a lot and will allow me to gank lanes a lot without much delay. Place your ward in a place that will let you know where the enemy jungler is and if its safe to gank a lane or not. Remember you want information to take advantage of every possible opportunity all around the map.
Get the rejuvenation bead, cloth armor and a ward. Also buy a ruby crystal if possible but don't buy it if you'll be unable to buy a ward after that. These are the main components for the Locket of the Iron Solari. They will give you sustain and resistance against the jungle camps and against turrets while going straight to your core items.
Many people like to complete the Wriggle's Lantern, but it will just delay your build a lot. Your damage isnt high enough no make life steal worth the price and the damage increase to monsters isn't necessary since you will spend most of your time ganking rather than farming. Look at it this way: you can either spend 800 gold for 10 dmg and 10% life steal or 480 gold on a cloth armor and a rejuvenation bead. They will both give you the same result in terms of sustain and if you want damage so badly, that long sword would be better used in The Brutalizer (The Black Cleaver) than in a Vampiric Scepter (Wriggle's Lantern). Buying Wriggle's will just delay your build and wont give you much benefit other than the wards that it gives, but that means that the item is cost efficient in the long term and you need something to make snowball as soon as possible. The Locket of the Iron Solari on the other hand is extremely cost efficient and gives a lot of very useful stats on Xin Zhao, including the much desired CDR. The sooner you get it the better.
After you get the Locket of the Iron Solari, get your tier 2 boots. If the enemy has a lot of CC and magic dmg get Mercury's Treads and if their team has a lot of physical damage get Ninja Tabi. After that, it's up to you to decide what to build.
If you get most of your team's kills, you should focus on getting the brutalizer and then get tanky items like Giant's Belt and a Warden's Mail. If you are still snowballing out of control get The Black Cleaver and then finish your Randuin's Omen. This will make you a monster and initiate like crazy while dealing massive damage to even tanks. After this just go for what you need. You need MR? Get Spirit Visage or Runic Bulwark or both. Need more armor? Get sunfire cape. Need more damage? Get The BloodThirster (to kill the squishies faster), Last Whisper (if the enemy is getting too much armor) or Blade of the Ruined King(high HP targets).
If you are just getting assists or you are not doing very well, get tanky. Rush Randuin's Omen and Runic Bulwark so you can soak a lot of damage. You'll still deal decent amounts of damage to the squishies who are usually the most important targets. Feel free to get the brutalizer if at any point you feel that you are already hard enough to kill so you get the 10% CDR and want to dish out more damage to help your team in that aspect. You can end the game by buying any of the items I mentioned earlier as long as your team needs them. Don't buy more damage if your team has no tankiness and don't buy more defenses if your top lane is already a full tank Malphite or Shen.
Don't forget to buy a ward every time you go back to base. Unless you are in mid or late game and you want to buy a very important item like Giant's Belt, Wardens Mail or even an important component for the Bulwark. Just remember that if you have space in your inventory you should get a ward at any stage of the game.
In the last three main sections of this guide I'll be talking about the gameplay and strategies you should consider in each stage of the game so bear with me for a little longer before you queue up to destroy your enemies' childhood.
Here you have to try to get to level 3 as soon as possible to get your 3 abilities available and be able to start ganking as soon as you see an opportunity. Try to gank lanes that are pushed towards your side of the map. Also, you should consider what your laner can do to help you secure the kill. If your laner is a nidalee, chances of you getting the enemy killed are pretty low. But if your ally is TF, that gold card can give you the time you need to use your E before the enemy can even react.
Take in account that people will try to avoid your 3rd Q, so expect them to burn flash before you knock them up. As soon as they burn flash don't burn yours too to towerdive. That will generally get you killed. The enemy will ignite you and the turret will do all the job to get the enemy that much desired first blood. Instead go back, so that you can gank him again knowing that you have flash and the enemy doesn't. Try to keep track of who are the ones that have flash up, so you can make better decisions. Also, make sure that your mid laner has enough HP and mana to help you, or else you will get your laner killed and if the enemy jungler tries to counter gank you, things can turn pretty ugly.
Another tool that many people don't take in account is pressing TAB. In case you didn't know, it gives you information about what the enemy bought. If you se that renekton startes with cloth armor and 5 health potions, you'll know that he didn't ward and that he is a very easy target to gank at the moment. I remember that once I had this annie in my team against a mordekaiser and as you know mordekaiser doesn't have any escape besides flash so I tried to gank him. Annie stunned him so I just walked in (saving my E) and used Q to start bursting him, he flashed to avoid my 3rd Q but I used my E to get back to him giving Annie the opportunity to get first blood while saving my flash to easily get a kill somewhere else. As soon as Mordekaiser came back to mid lane I pressed tab and noticed that he didn't buy a ward. So I just went in again and gave Annie a kill. For some reason, he still refused to buy wards so I ganked him again and killed him. After the 4th consecutive time killing him, he finally bought a ward so I ganked him before he could even use it.
I think you get the idea. The more information you have the better. You just need to pay attention to those little details and take full advantage of them. Same thing with bot lane: if you see that the support has 3 wards in his inventory it's very likely that he hasn't warded yet and that you can get a double kill for your adc and help him start snowballing as soon as possible. People make a lot of mistakes, you just have to actively look for them and think of a way you can take advantage of it.
Don't forget that you should also farm your jungle every time no gank is available. If you stop farming your jungle you will fall behind. Ganking too much can also get you behind if you don't get any kills. So remember that getting yourself farmed is as important as ganking or counterganking. To farm the jungle effectively you should cast your W at the same time you hit a monster with an auto attack and then casting your Q immediately to reset the auto attack animation. This will let you repeat the same combo since both abilities will come out of CD at the same time if you do it this way. Just try not to spam it too much if you don't have blue since it will drain your mana real quick so sometimes it's just better to let Madred's Razors do it's job.
By this time, you should have completed your Locket of the Iron Solari and getting kills for your team. Remember to make calls for dragon every time you get some kills and your team has enough HP to take it down. If you just killed the adc and the jungler at bot, you must go and get dragon to increase the advantage you already got.
Try to start getting turrets for map control and extra gold. Try to start pressuring the enemy jungler by warding his camps and stealing them every time you can. Getting him behind will only make late game easier.
Remember that top and mid lane may try to go to other lanes and gank, so keep an eye on the map, use wards to guess where the enemy might gank and counter gank every time it's possible. This will make your team feel a lot safer and you will also start snowballing. Remember to put your team above anything, don't stay clearing your wraiths while your mid is getting ganked, stop what you are doing and defend him, you might get a couple of kills so leaving your camps with half HP is worth it.
Right now you should have tier 2 boots, Randuin's Omen, Locket of the Iron Solari and maybe some components for the Brutalizer or the Runic Bulwark or the Spirit Visage depending on how well the game is going and what your team needs. Laning phase is over and it's time to start destroying turrets if you haven't already. Getting turrets is very important and they are the main targets in this part of the game. Thank god Xin Zhao deals massive damage to turrets with his Q and W combined. Inhibitors are even more important, they let you push other lanes freely while the enemy team is holding the lane without an inhibitor.
Teamfights are starting to build up and you have to be very careful on how you initiate them. If the enemy tank is a bit overextended don't even try to go in unless most of his team is at the other side of the map. Always try to catch the carries so your team can focus them down before they can do any damage. If the enemy team is going to hard on your team, use your ult to back them off. One trick you may want to use is dashing towards a target that is behind their adc so when you ult, you'll push the adc towards your team.
Always make sure you know where the enemy team is. Seeing the bruiser alone without seeing the rest of the team should turn your ambush alarm on and prevent you from engaging into a trap. Always check if everyone in your team is with you because if you engage and your team isn't close enough to help you, you will die and put your team in a 4 v 5 situation.
And the most important thing to take in account: Baron wins games. Its 40 ap and AD plus extra HP and Mana regeneration. And the sooner you get it, the stronger it will be. Getting baron at minute 30 is game over in most cases. If you killed the enemy jungler or AP and you see the adc bot GO FOR IT. Doing baron may even for the enemy team to try to stop you and this makes them get too close to you. If you see this happen, you should all stop doing baron and killing them 1 by 1 until you get to their Nexus. It happens, they start doing stupid things because they don't want you to get baron and end up dying giving you free turrets and inhibitors or even win the game. Also, taking down 3 inhibitors is a free baron in most cases.
Here is when getting wards is most important, they will let you see when someone is alone and an easy target to kill and will also make you feel safe since you know that they can't catch you by surprise. There is nothing worse than walking alone into a brush only to find out that the entire enemy team was there waiting for you. That's why you should always ward as hard as you can and always stick with your team.
Xin Zhao is a very will rounded character that will let you carry games with amazing ganks and insane initiations. And you get fed, your damage should be feared.
I really hope you enjoyed reading this guide, I'll be updating it since some changes are coming to the jungle and this guide will need some areas to polish. I'll also include some images eventually so that it doesn't look like giant walls of text.
Good luck Summoners!