02/08/2013: Not much to say as of this update. I continue to enjoy Zed and continue to play him top lane.
Zed, Master of Puppets
This guide will teach you the basics of playing top Zed as long as underlining advanced tactics you can use, including:
to build and why to build it
to secure a kill
to adapt Zed to your play-style
Playing Zed does
require time, so don't think you can carry a game with him the first time. Furthermore, I think Zed as a jungler is ineffective. He DOES clear the jungle quite fast, but his abilities are best used in lane.
This build is pretty simple and straight forward. I can say that as Zed I go for pure damage to start off with; you get the edge on your opponent in lane and you don't waste too much money on stuff that you are going to sell later in the game. This is a beginners guide, so you won't see extremely advanced map and roaming tactics (I.E. don't use this guide to first play Zed in ranked)...
Pros / Cons
He is very versatile (with where he can be situated)
Can farm extremely easy
His passive does 8% of a targets health (dear lord)
Can poke like a boss
Brings a lot to a team fight (with how I build him)
Has a lot of gap closers
Can escape ganks fairly easy
Has zero CC (I do not consider the small amount of CC from the Shadow Slash as CC)
Requires a lot of play to understand
Can be countered by lots of CC (but then, who isn't?)
This, along with all of my Zed runes, is a pretty common AD rune. It gives you a boost to your early damage and could give you the edge when 1v1ing your laner. Could be replaced with penetration, but I like the damage.
Gives you extra armor towards your laner. I can name countless times where I have survived top lane with less than ten health; thank you resilience ;)
This glyph can be replaced with resilience depending on who you are facing. I take this glyph just so I can free roam. It's nice to be able to safely gank mid every so often...
Last but not in the slightest least is this super bonus to your AD. Considering you are an AD character, this will help you the most early game. As they say, win early game and you win late game.
Again, these masteries are pretty straight forward and normal. You get a bit of lifesteal, a bit of AD, a bit of attack speed, and a bit of health. If you deviate, it's more than likely fine; match your masteries to your play-style. If you feel you don't need the health, go with the armor. If you are laning and not able to stay in lane (due to being a bit more aggressive than needed) go with the health regen.
The items are huge. This could make or break any sort of play style. Since I play passive aggressive (meaning I poke til' I know I can burst my opponent down) I go for as much damage as possible. Building boots and pots CANNOT BE DEVIATED. You NEED the movement speed, it will allow you to chase for the kill. On top of that, you NEED the pots to stay in lane.
The Brutalizer, which is the first rushed item, allows you to dish out a bit more damage; but on top of that, it allows you to spam your E more effectively and allow that E to hit deeper. If you feel like you don't need a HUGE early lead, that is your loss. Switch this item with two Doran's Blade if you feel necessary.
Berserker's Greaves give you the attack speed that helps quite nicely with the next item. Since I build Zed the way I do, this is the must have tier two boots. However, situationally you can go:
Ionian Boots of Lucidity: To spam that E even faster.
Ninja Tabi: For a bit of armor in lane (always nice).
Mercury Treads: As top lane I don't like this. However, the MR isn't all that bad and the tenacity is quite nice. Definitely go this road if the enemy has a lot of AOE abilities or CC.
My next new rushed item is The Black Cleaver. This item is HUGE with Zed, because it means ALL of his damage reduces their armor (up to a max stack). This also means that when his ult time bombs in, their armor is basically nothing (meaning massive damage output from the ult). The bonus health is also very nice.
The next item is The Bloodthirster. Pretty straight forward, gives a bit of AD and a lot of life-steal. Getting it early allows you to stack it for end game as well as lane longer (meaning more gold and exp end game). New items have allowed me to replace this with a game changing item (remember, only if necessary). Blade of the Ruined King DESTROYS characters who are building nothing but health. Remember, this item is situational; only build it if the other team is building lots of health ( Warmog's Armor, Rod of Ages + Rylai's Crystal Scepter, etc. etc.).
Oh boy, what can I say about the next item... Too OP? Infinity Edge (or I.E. for short) gives you everything you need to carry your team to victory. On top of the EIGHTY ATTACK DAMAGE, this item also gives you a 25% boost for your crits... Even better, with the crit chance you now get a 50% boost to an already OP hit. This means that 1 out of every 4 basic attacks (roughly) will hit upwards of 800 damage... Think of that, three hitting a Lux... Tasty!
I don't need to say anything about the next item Phantom Dancer, it says it all. But just in case: 55% attack speed, 30% crit chance, 100% chance to get a kill (the movement speed is just a bonus). There has been a lot of speculation about this item. As long as you do not initiate a fight and play smart, you won't have too much trouble with dying. I find going attack speed helps because; yes, Zed runs out of energy fast. Being able to stay in a fight and help your team with your basic attacks can really sway a team fight. Edit: The more I play Zed the more I find this is a smart item. Not only with getting kills (more damage output while the ulti mark is ticking), but with pushing lanes. Other team has towers? No problem!
This new last item, Ravenous Hydra, is the newest OP item. I build it last only because I don't see the AOE helping too much til' the very end. However, if you decide to build this early on that is fine. Building it early means being able to farm fast. Remember though, this item is a bank breaker. Building it early will also mean having to wait to get your other items (potentially ruining your late game). I may or may not change where I have this item bought based on experimenting. Major Edit: This item is hugely left to speculation. There are SOOO many items you can replace it with it isn't even funny. Feel like you are losing the battle? Build a Warmog's Armor. The other team has wizened up to your dirty tricks and built armor? Build a Last Whisper. Feeling funny and laid back? Build a Rabadon's Deathcap <--- Don't actually do this unless you are guaranteed a win...
Remember guys, this is MY build. There can be deviation to the items, especially if you are getting denied in lane. Poor man items can be bought, but remember; it is wasted gold when everyone meets end game.
Contempt for the Weak: And let the farm role in. This passive allows you to pick up last hits like a boss... Oh, and when a champ is below 50%, you can do up 10% of their health... Yeah, boss passive...
Razor Shuriken: This is your main poke. It doesn't do the most damage in your arsenal, but it has the most range and could secure you that under tower kill. I level this first; however, I now max this evenly with Living Shadow. The reason for this change is simple; it better optimizes Zed's damage output. I have extensively tested this and this leveling really does optimize Zed.
Living Shadow: This is your utility. It allows you to close gaps, multiply your damage, slow enemies (when combined with Shadow Slash), and escape quickly. I use this along with either my Razor Shuriken or my Shadow Slash as an easy and long range poke. Usually I send it out, hit Shadow Slash and then hit Razor Shuriken while they are slowed. Under tower I send it out and use Razor Shuriken for an extremely long poke. I level this second; however, as previously stated, I now max this evenly with Razor Shuriken.
Shadow Slash: Here is where your damage comes from. The fact that at level 1 you can spam this every THREE seconds is immense. On top of that, it slows (if hit by the shadow). I level this third, but max it first. Note: If your team has decided on invading, make sure to max this first. It provides some easy AOE with some quick cooldown, meaning that level 1 team-fight should go in your favor.
Death Mark: Here is where your burst damage is multiplied... By a lot... Not only do you have the potential of three Living Shadow's, but it adds a mark that deals damage according to how much damage you dealt to them. It's literally a ticking time bomb (lasting three seconds).
Edit - Skill sequence: This is where your play-style comes in. I play passive aggressive. This means that I love to poke, and poke hard. Leveling my Razor Shuriken first allows me for long ranged lvl 1 poke. Leveling the Living Shadow second increases the damage from Razor Shuriken and provides a quick initiate or escape. Leveling my Shadow Slash rounds out my damage output. Now, this is where my edit comes in. I have toyed around with the leveling a lot, and have actually found leveling the Shadow Slash first allows you to: A) Farm much more efficiently; and B) Provide a much stronger (albeit a bit slower) and more accurate poke. I want to say thank you to the comments provided, for this edit would not be here without them.
Getting the kill:
Securing the kill means knowing your limits. Look at the items they have: Do they have armor? Are they building for damage? Are they going for sustain? Is it a b*tch Rengar? These can make or break your laning kills. Rushing in too early with Zed could mean an early death. Rushing in too late could mean... well... nothing... Who cares, you got the kill XD. So always notice what the enemy is building, and charge accordingly.
How you do it (before level 6):
Getting kills with Zed is super easy IF you know how to charge. When I want to FINALLY go for the kill, I ready up my Living Shadow
(as I have been doing all game) and hit them with my Shadow Slash
. They will be expecting this by now, and shouldn't think too much of it. However, this time tap that W button again. Poof! A wild Zed just appeared. Hit them with your Razor Shuriken
(they are slowed, shouldn't be too hard) and continue spam clicking your Shadow Slash
(while basic attacking of course). If you feel like they are going to get away, either ignite them or LET THEM. Never overextend, with ANY character. Is the kill really worth the risk? Of course, if you know they don't have summoner spells up and you have basically full health, go for it. Your Living Shadow
will come up and you will most likely be able to escape a turret death.
How you do it (after level 6):
The biggest thing I can say about Zed is ALWAYS start a charge (if you are going for the kill) with your ult. The reason for this is simple: your ult marks the target. After 3 seconds the mark is consumed, dealing more damage the more damage you did to the target during the 3 seconds. So, starting with your ult means you can spam your abilities in 3 seconds, meaning you will do SOOOO much more damage to your target. On top of that, the ult brings in a shadow clone, which means if you lay down a W you have 200% more damage going to that single target! Pretty intense burst potential if you ask me. Anyway, after ulting in throw down a Living Shadow
somewhere close (either ahead of you if you plan to continue the charge, or behind you if you plan on escaping after the kill). After throwing down your bud, spam the **** out of everything you have. For an easy escape, tap your ult (to go back to the ult's shadow) and then your W (to go back to the W shadow).
Honestly, I don't know why they put the skill level so high for Zed. He isn't too difficult to play, as long as you play smart. Here, have some proof
Thank you for taking the time and reading my guide for Zed, Master of Puppets. If you have any constructive feedback, feel free to leave a comment. If you have any changes to the items in the guide; please, leave a comment. I'd also implore any of you to go out and make your own guide.
Update: Everything about the same with Zed. He is getting nerfed soon, so I'll keep an up to date guide with that.