Zed Build Guide by legacyraider
Not Updated For Current Season
Additional Damage Items
Table Of Contents
What to expect from this guide and a brief introduction on Zed
|2. Pros and Cons
Zed's major strengths and weakness on the Fields of Justice
|3. Sum. Spells
Ideal summoner spells and viable alternatives
Rune optimization and viable alternatives
Mastery point optimization and viable alternatives
Zed's abilities and their various usages in battle
7. Skill Order
What to level on Zed and why
|8. Item Builds
Various item builds for Zed and viable alternatives
|9. Target Priority
Who to focus and why
10. Laning Phase
Frequently asked question on laning
|11. Ability Combos
The art of assassination
Frequently asked questions and their answers
League is nowadays a place where true elegance is lacking. Apart from the swift dashes of a Lee Sin or the graceful mobility of Ahri, many fights may feel like a simple slugfest; admittedly, a great deal of tactical skill and decision-making goes into skirmishes and teamfights, but many champions simply lack the dark beauty that makes up Zed, the Master of Shadows.
Zed is an assassin in it's purest form. His whole kit revolves around dashing in, instantly and silently killing the AD or AP Carry, then instantly blinking out before any attempts to hinder him get through. While most assassins have very little escapes after blown everything to assassinate a key target and thus often die afterwards, Zed has multiple escape mechanisms that lets him contribute to a fight without getting caught up in the following debris.
Zed is also an extremely rewarding champion to play. While his ultimate itself is countered by many means such as Quicksilver Sash and its incarnation or invulnerabilities such as Kayle's Intervention, his playmaking ability is extremely powerful, and thus only makes him stronger as your skill level with him progresses. He is a very safe laner, possessing a good escape mechanism as well as low-CD harass with his Razor Shuriken, and his passive allows for easy CS'ing. In fact, he has one of the best waveclears in the game, and can splitpush rapidly later on in the game.
However, not all is sunshine and flowers for the ninja of the shadows. Unlike his AP assassin counterparts, Katarina and Akali, he lacks the repeated burst to slay entire teams, trading that power off for even faster and stronger 100-0 potential. Because of that, he is somewhat weak in teamfights apart from picking priority targets off. Thus, Zed players need to have splitpushing and objective control as a constant factor for efficient usage of their time, and their team needs to respond appropriately.
All in all, Zed is an extremely powerful assassin and is very fun and rewarding to play and master. While he may have had his shifts of popularity in the meta, skilled Zed players will always be successful.
Pros / Cons
|+ Great 100-0 potential
+ Good harass in lane
+ Great playmaking ability
+ Potent splitpushing power
+ Accurate CS
|Zed is an extremely powerful pick in solo queue. He is very unreliant on his teammates, but can assist them well by taking out priority / fed targets the moment a teamfight starts. Zed also can play lone wolf incredibly well, possessing devastating splitpush potential and objective control. He is a very safe mid laner, having a combination of potent mid-range poke, escapes, and accurate waveclear.|
|- Weak to crowd control
- Wait time between burst
- Counterable ultimate
- Extremely squishy
|While Zed has many powerful traits, he also has multiple weaknesses and flaws that makes him balanced. First of all, he is extremely squishy like any other assassin. Because of this, bad positioning can be punished easily, especially with his susceptibility to hard crowd control. Furthermore, his burst has a long wait-time if not very fed, and he falls behind hard if behind (though he can still impact the game with splitpushing).|
// Teleports your champion a short distance.
// Flash is essential for the extra playmaking, chasing, positioning, and escape potential it gives. The extra blink this provides is crucial in repositioning during fights, as well as the surprise factor it induces when laning against a low-health opponent, as even your W can be telegraphed enough for the opponent to Flash away before you approach.
// Deals DoT true damage to enemy champion.
// Ignite gives Zed a massive boost to his damage and all-in poential in lane. The true damage it provides serves as insurance for your combo to kill the enemy laner. Furthermore, this can be used to secure kills due to the damage over time damage it includes. As most mid laners take this, opting out can give you a disadvantage in close all-ins.
// Teleports your champion to target ally minion, tower, or ward.
// While the combination of Flash and Ignite is standard for Zed, taking Teleport gives him much greater splitpush potential potential at the cost of survivability or damage in-lane. Take when against an extremely safe laner that you are unlikely to get a kill advantage over, and roam opportunities early are limited.
// Shields your champion for a set amount of damage.
// Barrier gives Zed a massive survivability boost in-lane. While Ignite is more effective in securing kills, Barrier is a viable alternative that makes baits much more effective, and can give you more effective health in a duel.
// Your champion has increased movement speed and ignores collision.
// While Flash is almost always the superior option, there are several instances where Ghost may be the better choice. Firstly, it's the best shot if you're below level 12. For higher levels, however, it can serve some use when against tanky teams that value movespeed over gap closers. However, for the most part, Flash will serve you better.
// Reduces MS, AS, Armor/MRes, and damage for 2.5 seconds.
// While quite overkill most of the time, Exhaust gives you much more assassination potential against mobile champions, especially against enemy mid laners all-inning you as well as shutting down an AP carry while you murder the AD. Situational, usually Ignite being the superior choice, but powerful in its own right.
// Removes all disables and debuffs and reduces their potency.
// A much more minor choice, but can work in some instances. The best time to use Cleanse is against a CC-heavy team; if you don't have enough damage to instakill priority targets and blink out before the crowd control reaches you, Cleanse can be useful. However, Mercurial Scimitar can serve the same purpose. Generally not recommended.
|greater mark of armor penetration||Greater Mark of Armor Penentration
// +1.28 Armor Penetration (+11.52 Armor Penetration Total)
// While flat attack damage only helps in the early levels, armor penetration holds its worth throughout the game. 11 Armor Penetration is nothing to scoff at, and combined with an early The Brutalizer to a The Black Cleaver and a Last Whisper armor (unless in extremely large quantities) won't hamper your damage at all. This negates any armor runes the enemy runs plus a little more into the bargain.
|Greater Seal of Armor
// +1.00 Armor (+9.00 Armor Total)
// First of all, this is essential against opposing AD mid laners ( Talon, Pantheon, etc). The early armor boost helps for padding some damage on early game all-ins, as well as any damage from AD junglers. While armor seals aren't as effective against AP mages and assassins, this still helps against potential roams.
|Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist
// +3.00 Magic Resist at 18 (+27 Magic Resist Total at 18)
// While flat magic resist may seem appealing in the short-term, keep in mind Zed won't be building any magic resist until the late game Guardian Angel and potentially a Quicksilver Sash, and 27 magic resist is actually quite a large amount even in mid game, especially against a 2/1 AP composition.
|Greater Quintessence of Attack Damage
// +2.25 Attack Damage (+6.75 Attack Damage Total)
// While armor penetration is a great stat, it needs a good amount of pure attack damage to be put to full use. the 7 attack damage early gives Zed a boost in last-hitting and harass with his spells. Furthermore, it auguments his ultimate damage along with his other combo spells. While other quintessences such as greater quintessence of armor penetration and Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed can be taken, the combo of greater mark of armor penetration and Greater Quintessence of Attack Damage gives the perfect balance of different stats to buff Zed's laning phase.
|Greater Mark of Attack Damage
// +0.95 Attack Damage (+8.55 Attack Damage Total)
// Compared to greater mark of armor penetration, attack damage marks give Zed a noticeable boost to his early game damage. Along with quintessences, the total comes to 17 extra AD, which is massive when it comes to early trading, poking, and last hitting. If you think you can force the opponent out of lane early, then these may be superior.
|Greater Seal of Scaling Health
// +23.94 Health at 18 (+215.46 Health at 18 Total)
// If the opponent has a 4 AP team composition, these will usually be superior to Greater Seal of Armor. The scaling health helps pad Zed's mid game before he starts getting defensive items.
|Greater Glyph of Magic Resist
// +1.34 Magic Resist (+12.06 Magic Resist Total)
// While scaling health glyphs are usually superior, if the opposing mid laner is severely early-game focused, then these will help Zed get through the laning phase. Also, if the enemy mid is a lane bully (like Lux, these will help Zed survive until level 6, where he has a chance to get a kill.
|Greater Glyph of Cooldown Reduction
// +0.83% Cooldown Reduction (+7.47% Cooldown Reduction Total)
// Only get these when the opponent has a full AD comp (apart from possibly the support). Since magic resist will do close to nothing, cooldown reduction helps Zed spam his skills more often, as well as shortening the wait between his full combo.
// Tier 1: Double-Edged Sword is a must for the boost in extra damage. We mix our 4 points in Fury and Sorcery because both are good stats for Zed; and if he takes cooldown reduction glyphs the pre-game build will bring him to 10% CDR.
// Tier 2: Brute Force gives Zed a scaling bonus to his damage. This also synergizes with the late game bonus from his W's bonus AD amplification.
// Tier 3: Martial Mastery gives Zed a good bonus to his early damage. Combined with his standard rune build, brings up his early bonus AD to +11. Executioner seems like it was made for Zed, amplifying his damage to lower health targets. We take Spell Weaving mainly to get access of Blade Weaving , but the damage increase helps after you put an autoattack or two in.
// Tier 4: We take a point in Blade Weaving due to the fact that the combination of his double Razor Shuriken (from himself and his shadow) as well as his E instantly brings Zed up to the 3% maximum when full combo'ing an enemy. Warlord works together with his W to give Zed a massive late game damage boost.
// Tier 5: Devastating Strikes is a must for Zed because the armor penetration stacks up with the penetration from items to give Zed a 65% armor penetation stat (assuming full stacks of The Black Cleaver) as well as a small flat armor penetration.
// Tier 6: Obvious final point in Havoc . Maximises Zed's damage potential throughout the game.
// Tier 1: Block and Recovery greatly aids Zed's early game in lane; the former reduces the potency of autoattack harass, while the latter helps Zed regain health afterwards. Standard picks.
// Tier 2: Unyielding essentially does what Block does, but better; as it applies to spells as well. Veteran Scars is actually a massive boost to Zed's early game survivability, as it's about a 6% increase in HP at level 1.
// Tier 3: Juggernaut , though somewhat overrated due to the lack of health Zed builds, still is a 3% improvement to survivability; by all means take it as the finishing point for the 9 point investment in defense.
Contempt For The Weak (Passive): Zed's basic attacks against targets below 50% health deal 6 / 8 / 10% of the target's maximum health as bonus magic damage. This effect can only occur once every 10 seconds on the same target.
This is an incredibly powerful passive, both in the laning phase and in mid-late game as well. While Zed is ability-reliant on making successful assassinations, the percentage health damage Contempt for the Weak deals makes sneaking in a single autoattack nearing the end of your combo lethal for the enemy. Furthermore, the fact that this deals magic damage bypasses any armor the enemy may build in an attempt to counter Zed, making him, in a way, a hybrid damage dealer. This passive drastically increases the potency of all-ins in lane against low health opponents; most of the time, a single autoattack + Razor Shuriken + Shadow Slash + Ignite (or Bilgewater Cutlass) combo will finish off any enemies lower than 50% health, even without the damage amplification of your ultimate. Finally, Contempt for the Weak is an excellent tool for early last hitting, and combined with your abilites (that doesn't reset your autoattacks, by the way) you can be sure to kill almost every creep you come across.
Razor Shuriken (Q): Zed throws his spinning blades forward, dealing physical damage to the first enemy they pass through and 60% damage to enemies thereafter. Active shadows will also throw a shuriken in the direction of the target point. Additional shuriken striking the same enemy deal 50% damage and restore energy.
Razor Shuriken is Zed's main source of ranged harass and last hitting potential against zone control opponents. Due to Zed's resource being energy, which refills rather quickly, he can use this often to wear down your opponents until they are in range for a burst combo. However, be wary as compared to much more accurate and sustained harass (such as Katarina's dagger) Zed's Razor Shuriken has a high cost, and thus will prevent you from combo'ing right after you use it in the early levels. While ranged vs melee matchups tend to be difficult, Zed can circumvent this somewhat by the safe last hitting potential given by Razor Shuriken. Furthermore, he can even stand toe to toe with them by sporadic high-range harass with the combo of his Living Shadow and Razor Shuriken.
A key part in mastering Zed is to do as much damage as possible with his Razor Shuriken. Since multiple shurikens can be cast if he has one or more shadows on the field, it's often a good idea to cast Living Shadow in proximity to the enemy before casting your Razor Shuriken, as to hit the enemy with as many shurikens as possible. Furthermore, one can even deal damage using three shurikens if you utilize the shadow from Death Mark well. However, in this case, guage the escape potential if you use your Death Mark from afar, compared to the the increased damage from the additional shuriken from your ultimate shadow.
- The cost is fairly high in early levels. Watch for potential ganks before spamming it.
- If the shuriken goes through multiple targets, its damage is reduced. When harassing, try to hit your opponent first!
- Multiple shurikens (with reduced damage if multiple hits the same target) can be cast from your shadows.
- Razor Shuriken is one of your main damage sources in assassination attempts. Don't miss it!
Living Shadow (W): Zed's shadow dashes forward, remaining in place for 4 seconds. Reactivating Living Shadow will cause Zed to swap places with this shadow. Zed's shadows mimic his basic abilities. If a target is struck twice by a mimicked ability, Zed restores some energy. Energy can only be restored once per mimicked cast. Furthermore, Zed's bonus attack damage is increased by a percentage.
To master your Living Shadow is mostly the key to mastering Zed. Proper management of your shadow(s) is essential in winning duels, juking enemies, etc. When used, Zed creates a shadow that Zed can teleport to by reactivating the ability, once. Furthermore, his Razor Shuriken and Shadow Slash can also be cast from your shadows as well. This can be used to harass safely from afar, with a total of 1450 range, which is identical to the range of Twisted Fate's Wild Cards. However, after casting your shadow this gives you some other options as well. Since Shadow Slash slows if the shadow's cast hits the enemy, you can potentially chunk your lane opponent by casting a shadow next to the enemy, using Shadow Slash to slow, then using the increased accuracy to land both of your Razor Shurikens, possibly sneaking in an autoattack if safe to do so to proc your passive.
Living Shadow is also extremely potent in duels. By casting a shadow next to your opponent and continuing your combo, you can potentially dodge any disables or skillshots they may have. Zed's great playmaking potential comes from the supreme mobility from having multiple shadows onto the field, which can easily confuse opponents. (Indeed, it can often confuse the user as well unless they are extremely familiar with the full combo).
- Zed's shadow gives vision; use it to check brushes! You can move onto your combo if you see an enemy there.
- Living Shadow has a high cooldown; when using it to harass, be wary of ganks.
- Proper placement of your shadows to slow the enemy with your E is critical.
- Learn the proper timing in which to swap with your shadows in duels.
Shadow Slash (E): Zed spins his blades, creating a burst of shadow energy and dealing physical damage to nearby enemies. Each enemy champion hit reduces Living Shadow's cooldown by 2 seconds. Active shadows also slash, dealing physical damage to nearby enemies and slowing them for 1.5 seconds. Enemies hit by both slashes are slowed more and restore energy but will not take additional damage.
A rather straightforward ability, but essential for swift assassinations. When cast, Shadow Slash deals AOE damage in a circle around Zed. Compared to Razor Shuriken, this ability is much more spammable, but has a much shorter range. The AD ratio is lower, meaning that while the damage from this is important, hitting your Razor Shurikens is much more so. However, compared to Zed's Q, Shadow Slash has some utility built into it; namely the fact that if a shadow's cast hits the enemy, it slows the enemy for up to 40%. This is the basis on both hitting Razor Shurikens accurately and getting more damage via autoattacks in, making the minor crowd control essential for a successful assassination.
- Only Zed's shadow's cast can slow; try to cast your shadow behind the enemy, where they will try to run.
- With some cooldown reduction, Zed can cast Shadow Slash twice in a single Living Shadow cast.
- If both casts of Shadow Slash hits the same target, they slow even more, making Blade of the Ruined King often unnecessary.
Death Mark (Ultimate): Zed becomes untargetable for 0.75 seconds and dashes to the target enemy champion. Upon arrival, he marks the target for death and spawns a shadow that lasts for 6 seconds at the cast location. Reactivating Death Mark will cause Zed to swap places with this shadow. After 3 seconds, Death Mark will trigger, dealing flat physical damage plus a percentage of all physical and magic damage dealt to the marked champion while it was active.
This is possibly the best ultimate in the game when it comes to assassinating a single target. On cast, Zed dashes to an enemy, and creates a shadow where he started dashing, which he can switch back to by reactivating the ability. Furthermore, as Zed finishes his dash he creates a Death Mark on the enemy, which explodes after 4 seconds. The power of the explosion is proportional to the amount of damage Zed deals to the opponent within the duration. When it reaches max rank, the exact numbers are 50% of all physical or magical damage (no true damage!) + 100% of his AD, which is simply massive. This means that, in theory, if Zed does a 2/3rd of the enemy's health, he can simply blink away while the enemy dies several seconds later.
While the damage bonus from the Death Mark is the main part of the ability, the safe assassination potential Zed is famous for comes from the other part; namely the fact that a) it spawns a shadow where he cast the ability, and b) he can switch back. The range of this "switch" is massively large compared to the meagre range of Living Shadow, meaning that you can usually escape to safety by just reactivating your ultimate. Once mastered, interesting jukes can be done with your ultimate shadow; for example, if you cast your ultimate from a brush, and the assassination fails / succeeds but with multiple enemies chasing you, you can simply reactivate your ultimate and you will blink back into the brush.
Death Mark can also be used for escape purposes. If being chased, you can cast an ultimate shadow, lure the opponents back away from it using your Living Shadow, then blink back once the enemies have chased you far enough. This is what makes Zed a great splitpusher; combined with his fast waveclear, he can escape from almost any scenario while wasting a great deal of the enemies' time as well.
- If you see a shuriken above their heads while your ultimate is active, it means the explosion will kill them.
- The switch range is large compared to Living Shadow; use this for complicated jukes.
- Try to finish your assassination as fast as possible so you can blink back before any resistance reaches you.
|We want to level up our ultimate, Death Mark, as soon as possible because of the increased explosion damage. In terms of non-ultimate abilities, Razor Shuriken provides the most damage, both from Zed himself and his shadows. Levelling Shadow Slash afterwards gives Zed a nice boost in damage. Because his abiltiies scale with bonus AD, this will keep you scaling to late game incredibly well. Living Shadow for early-mid game is a one-point wonder, and we will keep it at that for its utility. In the late game, however, the passive bonus AD it grants begins to become significant, so we max it last.|
Starting Item Options
// Use in advantageous situations.
// The Long Sword is the standard first item on Zed, and for good reasons. It makes Zed deal more damage in lane, makes it easier to upgrade to his early core items, and gives him ample sustain.
// When facing heavy poke.
// While this delays Zed's early core items, this can be good for surviving against long-ranged mages / poke based champions until level 6 when Zed has a chance to all-in for the kill.
Boots of Speed
// For dodging skillshots.
// While this doesn't give Zed any combat stats on its own, the extra movement speed can be good for dodging skillshots and negating some poke. The potions also give great sustainability.
Potential Early Core Items
// Pure damage and armor pentration.
// Get this if you're in small skirmishes often, but never really all-inning someone. The extra damage and armor penetration will help your raw power.
// For duelling and crowd control.
// The slow this gives is invaluable for pinning down the opponent while you combo them, nad the extra lifesteal is great for sustaining in-lane.
// For fast waveclear.
// While an unusual first core pick, this can be good against champions that can't last hit well under tower. Make sure to ward properly when using this, however, as you'll be pushing your lane.
Boots Upgrade Options
// For negating crowd control and reducing magic damage.
// The CC reduction and magic resist gives Zed an advantage in-lane. Get when even / somewhat behind.
Boots of Mobility
// For roaming potential and against waveclear champions.
// The extra movement speed is great for roaming to other lanes for ganks, or for protecting your towers by getting back to lane faster if the enemy attempts to shove. In late game, trade for one of the other options.
Ionian Boots of Lucidity
// Buy when greatly ahead.
// The cooldown reduction helps Zed's damage output, but doesn't help protect Zed in any way. Only get when fed / ahead.
Potential Mid Game Core Items
Blade of the Ruined King
// For simple assassination and damage purposes.
// The various stats this provides gives Zed great assassination potential; the slow and percentage damage helps boosts Zed's damage, while the shred strengthens Zed's autoattacks.
The Black Cleaver
// Team-oriented armor penetration and survivability.
// The armor shred helps your AD carries do more damage, while giving Zed a decent damage boost as well. The small amount of health also helps Zed's survivability.
// When you're the main damage source / ahead.
// The selfish choice for armor penetration. Relatively cheap, but gives a great damage boost. Usually get this after The Black Cleaver, but this is interchangeable.
// For more damage but less duelling potential.
// Compared to Blade of the Ruined King, the Ravenous Hydra brings pure damage. The additional "spell" gives you even more combo damage, while the passive massively increases your damage output and pushing potential, allowing for more roams. If you're experienced with Zed and don't need the additional survivability that Blade of the Ruined King gives you, go with this.
Additional Damage Items
// For even more damage and sustain.
// Pricy, but strong. The passive requires you to be farming beforehand, making this a great choice for splitpushing variants.
Maw of Malmortius
// For insurance against magic burst damage.
// As this can be build from a cheaper variant, this is great against burst damage from mages in-lane. This also gives a good amount of attack damage, making it a viable choice.
//For further insurance against crowd control.
// Too much CC even for Mercury's Treads? Mercurial Scimitar provides a good balance of damage, survivability, and utility, and if the opponent has a CC heavy comp it can be viable.
//For massive duelling potential, better escapes, and more damage output.
// Youmuu's Ghostblade increases Zed's duelling potential by giving him a massive attack speed steroid; while Zed doesn't usually rely on his autoattacks, when you're 1v1'ing more than assassinating the active from Youmuu's Ghostblade combined with the shred from Blade of the Ruined King.
// Who doesn't like a rebirth?.
// The best defensive item for Zed, hands down. The resistances give Zed some more survivability, and the passive allows Zed to be much more daring in his assassination attempts. Take this almost every game if not very behind.
// Against fed AD carries.
// Pricy, and lowers Zed's damage output, but good as a last resort. The slow is also useful for pinning down priority targets.
// Another defense against CC and burst.
// A relatively good item that reduces Zed's damage but prevents some burst crowd control when diving into fights. Generally outclassed by Mercurial Scimitar.
Playing The Assassin (W.I.P)
Warning - Wall of Text
This section will be much more theoretical and in-depth rather than previous sections. If you simply wish how to build Zed, skip this section. Furthermore, section 1 can be applied to almost any pure assassin, while later sections will focus more on Zed's unique kit and its applications. Again, this is an extended section for readers who wish to know about Zed's mentality, and thus will be a very wall-of-text-like section.
The Art Of Assassination
The assassin relies on stealth and deception to enter behind enemy ranks. There, they nullify a key target or two before disappearing once more into darkness. Heavy security is useless against them; they navigate through the most unlikely paths to reach their target. They choose their moment carefully; guaging the position, threat, and knowledge of surrounding enemies and allies before the assassination. In a way, the assassin is perhaps the most tactically difficult role to play.
True assassins have grown very rare in League. The assassin category now has a majority of "brute force assassins", who behave more like a carry. They enter by force after the front line has engaged, then proceed to destroy the enemy team. They lack the grace that defines a true assassin, and relies on resets or massive damage outputs to hold their spot on the battlefield. Prime examples of this are Katarina, Akali, and Kha'Zix.
These champions are, in terms of carry potential, dynamically stronger than the true assassin. They can leap from target to target, while the true assassin picks a target, kills them, and escapes.
However, these "bruiser assassins" lack one thing that makes true assassins superior; they cannot have a good escape without sacrificing damage output. Because of this, they are drastically hampered when behind, and rely on snowballing early to do their job. At the core of this concept is the fact that to balance their massive team-killing potential, their single target burst is either a) rather weak ( Katarina), or b) have delays in-between ( Akali, Kha'Zix). The reason these champions often seem to have extremely high single target damage as well is because they are so ahead that they can bypass a) the power of their abilities, or b) can finish off the target in one combo without having to wait for another to come off cooldown.
The true assassin's strength lies in their reliability. Because they have the skillset to use the shadows to their advantage, they can get in, burst a target down, and escape before the enemy team decides to lock you down via crowd control. The assassin is useful whether they are ahead, in line, or even somewhat behind (in a reasonable sense, of course). This is because all of the multiple target chaining team killing power that was given to others is all concentrated into simple single target burst. Zed, who is the essence of a true assassin, can easily 100-0 squishy targets mid-late game even if he lost lane or is negative in score. While they cannot carry the game as easily if they snowball, they also do not become useless like many other bruiser assassins if behind, making them a massively powerful choice for solo queue, where consistency is valued extremely high.
This chapter will focus on the art of true assassination, the role of the assassin in a team, and how to apply these concepts on playing Zed.
Chapter 1 - The Assassin In A Team
Most roles in a team cannot do their job to their full extent without the aid and support of other roles. Tanks can absorb damage, but they need damage dealers in the form of carries to kill the enemies before they, suffering concentrated fire, fall. ADCs deal significant amounts of damage, but need peel to make sure they can keep up the attack. Divers need crowd control to make sure they can go in safely, and damage to back it up once they have disrupted enemy lines.
However, the assassin is different. The assassin has a single job to do; and relies on the team to do the rest, but in a much more indirect manner. Other than massive amounts of chained crowd control, they are the only role capable of keeping even fed carries out of fights. Thus, they are an excellent safety net in case a lane or teammate loses lane and feeds. While divers can accomplish similar things, they are easily hampered by front line defenses in the form of crowd control.
Simply put, the assassin's job is to take out a priority target and make sure they do minimal damage to your teammates.
Thus, if the assassin does well, as long as teammates are reasonably capable and the multiple enemies are not monstrously fed, teamfights can easily be won.
Chapter 2 - The Mindset Of Assassination
To perform successful assassinations, one needs to ask themselves these questions at all times.
How can I approach the target as to evade as much of enemy defenses as possible? How can I burst down the target as fast as possible? How can I secure a swift escape before the defenses reach me?
I consider the assassin to be the most decision-based role; perhaps tied with the jungler in terms of positions. Sure, mechanical skill is valuable, but most of success comes from good planning and execution.
We will approach each of these questions in turn.
Chapter 3 - The Approach
For a successful assassination, one needs to be aware of and understand small factors in their surroundings. For League and Zed in particular, these three elements are:
Vision, Landscape, and Positioning.
Having ample vision and preventing enemy sight is critical for the assassin, who relies greatly on abusing intelligence and the element of surprise. Make sure to frequently ward †he enemy jungle, as well as entrances to your own. Good vision allows you to find and ambush single targets who travel between lanes, as well as creating good "safety pockets" of retreat. With good vision, a few in-jungle ambushes should convey the feeling of omnipresence. In terms of enemy mentality, you wish to make them fear you; so much that they need to travel in groups across neutral terrain.
Preventing enemy vision is perhaps even more important. As an assassin, the pressure your "omnipresence" creates is instantly negated the moment enemies see you across the map, which will in turn allow them to set up ambushes on your own team or take objectives. Try to always have a pink ward in the river brush (ask your jungler if you don't have enough money), and try to bypass potentially warded areas with your Living Shadow.
As an assassin, you must always be aware of the surrounding environment and terrain. Always have an escape route in mind if you are ambushed, and try not to trap yourself in hazardous situations. This can range from positioning yourself between a tower ruin and the lane wall against a skillshot champion to getting hemmed in by three enemies in the unfriendly jungle with your Living Shadow on cooldown. Get in the habit of always asking yourself; "where can I run if the enemy is lurking in that bush / behind that corner?".
Of course, the terrain can also be used to your advantage. Since you can travel through walls with your Living Shadow, always be trying to surprise targets by attacking them through terrain. Terrain also includes brush as well. Since your two gap closing abilities are both blink abilities (when switching between shadows), having a spare shadow in a brush can lead to easy escapes as you (seemingly) blink into nowhere. This is especially true for the long range of your Death Mark shadow.
When I talk about positioning, I mainly refer to enemy positioning. By mastering the terrain, you can master your own. Always keep an eye on the position of your target. Have they strayed away from their team? Have they accidentally trapped themselves? How heavily are they guarded? Furthermore, also consider their mobility. Do they have any gap-closers and escapes? If so, can they go through walls? Are they on cooldown? As an assassin, you want to strike when the time is right; ask yourself these questions, and go in when they are most vulnerable.
Chapter 4 - The Attack
Now that you are in position to attack the enemy and have confirmed their vulnerability, you must execute your assassination. Here, only very few elements come into play on your part. Know the swiftness of your combo, and how much damage it will deal. In Zed's case, it will take two seconds at most if performed correctly. During the attack, try to position yourself as to hamper any escape attempts they may try while putting yourself out of immediate harm's way from their other teammates. As Zed, you don't need to worry about the first concept as much due to the swiftness of your combo, meaning the main problem for you is the second.
Chapter 5 - The Escape
Zed's primary method of secure escape is the shadow from your ultimate. The range is extremely large, allowing you to blink out of sight after performing your combo. The key here is where you cast your ultimate; it may be dangerous to use it near your target, as the blink distance will be much shorter. For example, casting a Living Shadow away from you, using Death Mark without reactivating the former, then using Death Mark and Living Shadow in succession will allow you to extend the range of your Living Shadow via your ultimate. This is a great trick when you have naturally higher mobility of have ambushed them, as you do not need to burn your Living Shadow to get close to them. If you are trying this, it is best if you use your shadow over the wall, so you have an escape route that is literally impossible to stop other than the brief miliseconds of vulerability after you teleport to your ultimate shadow in close proximity.
Target Priority: High
Duelling Potential: Low
Speciality: Sustained DPS
Explanation: Probably your main focus in every teamfight. The AD carry has the potential to shred through teams if peeled for properly, and Zed needs to remove that threat before they have time to do so. Remember that if you get locked down you most likely will die too. Attempt to approach from back, as this will get you through easier and also provide a more unexpected escape route.
Target Priority: High
Duelling Potential: Medium
Speciality: Crowd Control, Burst Damage
Explanation: If the opposing AD carry is underfed, the AP carry becomes your primary target. The AP carry has the potential to lock down your AD carry and burst them while delivering punishing poke from afar. Watch for their wealth of crowd control, and try to bait out their Zhonya's Hourglass.
Target Priority: Medium
Duelling Potential: High
Speciality: Mobility, Burst Damage
Explanation: While generally you should be focussing the carries, if the enemy has a dive-centric assassin such as an opposing Zed or Talon, you might want to kill them first so that your AD carry can safely do his/her job. However, if they have any invulnerabilities / dashes / blinks don't dive them in their team; wait for them to try to get to your carry before bursting them down.
Target Priority: Medium
Duelling Potential: High
Speciality: Diving, Burst Damage, Tankiness
Explanation: These champions are generally more hard to kill than squishy carries, but in the case that they get fed they can single-handedly carry games. Again, play as an offensive "peeler" by assassinating them ( Zed should be able to kill any melee carry if he blows all his damage) before they can lock down and kill your carries.
Basic Last Hitting
Zed has a variety of tools at his disposal to ensure accurate last hitting. First off, his passive increases the health boundary at which Zed can kill a minion; practice with this. You should be able to kill almost every minion that you aren't zoned out from. Next, his Razor Shuriken is an incredibly powerful spell, often as powerful in lane as an autoattack and passive proc put together if it hits the minion targeted first. Use it to secure minions that is too risky to walk into melee range of. Finally, the combination of all his three basic spells can clear a wave almost instantly, or else put them in range of a single autoattack. Because of this, make sure to push lanes to tower if the enemy has backed, as this will deny them experience and farm.
Aggressiveness In Lane
While Zed has a large amount of potential damage, one also needs to keep in mind that he is a late game champion, and should be treated thus. Early game, good farm trumps a kill or two. Don't go for trades, as champions such as Katarina and Akali are much better with those kills early due to their higher roam potential. You have ranged poke; abuse that by constantly zoning the enemy while securing your own creep score.
Safety vs Aggressiveness
One of the critical factors of playing Zed in lane is when to use your Living Shadow to harass. If saved, Zed is almost immune to ganks unless he is pushed up very far; however, especially against longer ranged champions, this spell is also your main source of harass combo'ed with your Razor Shuriken or Shadow Slash. First of all, try to ward at least one side of your lane, and hug that side as to create a safety buffer between you and potential gankers. If you have both sides warded, it is usually safe to use your W to harass and push up waves. Never use your Living Shadow if you have no vision of the river (unless there are no MIAs and the jungler shows up in another lane.
When To Go In
Determining when to use your ultimate to attempt to all-in someone can be very important in changing the flow of a lane. Usually, only try this after you have your Bilgewater Cutlass or higher; without the slow, it is somewhat difficult to score all potential damage against a cautious enemy. In the early levels ( 6 ~ 9 ) make sure you have all your damage sources available; Ignite, any actives from items, all your abilities, and a full energy bar. Make sure both sides are warded or else checked before you act; a counter-attack from an enemy jungler will prove fatal.
Should I Roam?
While many mid champions benefit greatly from roaming, Zed generally plays a more passive, farming playstyle until he becomes extremely strong in the mid-late game. If your lane opponent attempts to roam, ward the river as to make sure they are really gone and no jungler lurks nearby before pushing up and getting as much damage on the tower as you possibly can. In the best-case scenario, your pushing power will prevent more roam-oriented enemies from doing what they do best, delaying their items and their overall power.
The End of Laning Phase
Something newer players struggle to understand is how the laning phase ends. Generally, mid is the key factor (along with the jungler) to doing this. Generally, when the first set of towers falls, you're going to want to roam. As Zed, you need farm; however, compared to other farm-reliant champions, Zed has a good, solid income even in late game by splitpushing, so don't be afraid to take towers early. Zed's true power spike is at late game. Don't worry if you're not extremely fed yet; just make sure to not die and collect ample farm.
Basic Harass Combo
The most basic combo Zed has in his arsenal. By casting Living Shadow then Razor Shuriken, you extend the range of your shuriken to 1450 (incidentally identical to Twisted Fate's Wild Cards). Furthermore, you can potentially hit the enemy with two shurikens, increasing your damage. This combo can also extend into more complicated ones, so one can decide to all-in or just to poke safely.
Advanced Trade Combo
A rather ballsy yet effective combo in lane. Start off with your Living Shadow, then cast Shadow Slash to slow them down. Abuse their limited mobility by hitting both your Razor Shurikens. From here, you can either back off or go deeper by switching with your Living Shadow, and adding a passive-augumented auto attack to shred them even lower. This is a very versatile combo because Zed can, if his damage is stronger than he thought, go for the kill with an ultimate cast, ignite, and several more auto attacks. While casting your ultimate later isn't ideal, depending on the opponent's health one can still all-in them. The concept of limiting mobility with your Shadow Slash then hitting them for maximum damage with a double Razor Shuriken is central to all of Zed's all in combos, so remember it.
Basic Kill Combo
Zed's main kill ability combo, involving everything Zed has. First of all, start off with Death Mark to apply the mark to the enemy and thus amplifying any damage Zed deals afterwards. From there, use the Blade of the Ruined King active to limit the enemy's mobility and pop Ignite onto the target to stop any Heals they may use while dealing more damage in the short duration of his burst. Afterwards, start your ability combo itself by casting Living Shadow behind the target, Shadow Slash to slow even more, then hit both Razor Shurikens. From there, you can switch positions with your Living Shadow to land a passive-infused auto attack onto the fleeing enemy, then pop away to safety by re-casting your Death Mark. Beware, however, as once this combo has been cast Zed is quite defenseless and if the enemy somehow survives this combo Zed can be in some danger. However, this will rarely happen. Let's look at the numbers on this combo;
10% enemy health (physical damage)
180 + (80% bonus AD) (physical damage)
(235+100% bonus AD)*1.5 (physical damage)
10% maximum health + 100% AD (magic damage)
100% AD + 50% of all damage taken
410 true damage
At level 18, full build, Zed has 238 bonus AD and 343 AD.
TOTAL: ((2.3*238 + 200*343) + 530)*1.5 + 410 = 3054 Damage
Frequently Asked Questions
|Q: What do I do if I'm behind?||// Focus on splitpushing. Doing this will give you a good income even late game while pressuring objectives. However, in this case, if you see enemy champions coming to cut you off don't try to duel them and just escape for now.|
|Q: When should I pick Zed?||// Zed is best picked when you have an AP jungler or top laner, since he is AD himself. He's great for assassinating key targets, so if you think a matchup for your team is very bad and the opponent may get fed, Zed can take care of that.|
|Q: Why can't you max E before Q?||// While E gives more safe damage, Q is great for applying pressure in-lane without using your only low CD escape tool; furthermore, multiple E's don't stack damage; Q does. Since Zed focuses on pure damage, Q is a better choice.|
|Q: I don't like your build||// This guide focuses on how I play Zed; if you have alternatives, comment and I would be happy to include them as well.|
|Q: You don't have my question answered.||// Fell free to comment in the discussions section! I appreciate any kind of feedback, and will appropriately add your suggestions and credit you.|
Zed is an incredibly fun champion to play. While he is decently easy to pick up, he rewards constant play and he has a very high skill cap. His assassination potential is possibly the best in the game, and if used correctly, will win games.
If you enjoyed reading this guide, an upvote would be greatly appreciated, as it will help spread this guide to other viewers! In case you didn't like the build or found something incorrect / wish to add your own differing opinions, don't downvote hastily, but leave a comment, and I'll fix that up and give credit where is due.
Thanks to jhoijhoi's Making a Guide guide; an excellent resource for guide creators!
emoriam for suggest some format improvements and correcting some errors
crystalfortress for the suggestion of Youmuu's Ghostblade