Zed Build Guide by Feynt
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
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.
Welcome to my second guide on Mobafire.
I like many of you snatched up Zed thinking he was going to be an amazing burst assassin with all kinds of tricky evasion and what not. The disappointment set in by the second day for most, as his relevance in game was called into question. But as many astute observers noted, his difficulty bar is maxed out, and after much trial and error, I believe I've discovered why.
The thing is, Zed is terrible at starting fights and actually can't burst very well at all for large amounts of health. What he is good at though is sustained high damage and sticking to foes. He's also an exceptional jungler, which will be the focus of this guide.
Pros / Cons
- Safe poking with Living Shadow
- Built in Flash
- One of the longest ranged pokes in the game
- Able to slow entire groups of enemies
- Ult teleports you to target, even if the target is moving away quickly (i.e. Jax or Kat jumping to distant target, Lee Sin jumping over a wall to a ward, etc.), if you use it while the target is in range
- Fast jungling power with Living Shadow and low cooldown AoE in Shadow Slash
- Like Ez and his teleport, using Living Shadow to attack removes your escape tool
- Poking without your shadow can be expensive if done aggressively
- Poking at extreme range when you can't land two shurikens on the same target is also very expensive
So, why should you bother using Zed? It's all there in his skills:
Contempt for the Weak (Passive)
Does 6/8/10% of the target's maximum health as magic damage on basic attack if they're below 50% health (once per 10 seconds on the same target. So basically once per engagement). This makes last hitting easy, because it essentially means you can safely kill minions at 1/3 health without damage boosting items. This also speeds up jungling a lot, which replaces madreds razor's use somewhat on bigger targets due to its consistency. This is also a huge chunk of health off of a player, a meatier caster like Vlad for example would be taking 300+ damage from this alone late game.
Razor Shuriken (Q)
Your classic ranged poke, though in my experience the less used skill next to Shadow Slash. Does good ranged damage and scales 1:1 off AD. It starts out expensive (75 energy) but comes down in cost with levels (55 at level 5). Its bonus damage with a shadow makes it invaluable for lethal poking, and it scales higher than Shadow Slash per level, so this is definitely an important skill for wearing down and killing your target.
Living Shadow (W)
Zed's signature move, it creates a dark clone of himself in a particular direction which will mimic any of your basic skills. Doesn't move, doesn't do basic attack damage (though it seems to swing with you when you do). Activating it again will swap your positions, which makes it a multi-purpose attack, escape, and jungle acceleration skill all in one. Passively it boosts your AD up to 25% and makes everything you do stronger. Higher levels also reduces its cooldown, which with CDR and Shadow Slash means you can use it two or maybe even three times in a fight. It also passively refunds some energy if either of your basic skills hits a target twice (so both Shadow Slashes hitting one target, or both Razor Shurikens hitting one target). This refund gives you great sustain in an intimate fight where you and your shadow are close to your target.
Shadow Slash (E)
Your only CC, and the reason Zed is such a beast in the jungle. Scales 0.8 off AD, has a constant 3 second cooldown and 50 energy cost at each level. If you use this and your shadow hits with it, the affected enemies are slowed. If you both hit, the affected enemies are slowed even more. Unlike Razor Shuriken though, only one of you will do damage, so waiting to activate Shadow Slash until you're close doesn't mean anything outside of increasing the slow. You, personally, do not slow on hit, which is why Living Shadow is so necessary for Zed. When Living Shadow is on cooldown, using Shadow Slash will deduct from the timer 1 second per target hit, so triggering it once in a minion wave or more populated jungle camps will refresh the shadow a lot faster.
Death Mark (R)
A cool teleport to target ult which acts like a second Living Shadow. When you use it, it takes approximately 1 second to zip to your target. In this time, you are untargetable, but you will still take damage if you've got a DoT on you, or if someone targeted you with a slow traveling nuke before hand (like Sion's stun). After you make contact you spawn a shadow behind the target and it appears that you do a basic attack immediately, skill usage is locked down for a moment despite my most emphatic spamming of buttons. The shadow from Death Mark functions the same as the one from Living Shadow, so all the same rules with skill usage still apply. Damage you and your shadow deal are tallied up and 20/35/50% of that damage is reapplied after 3 seconds, as well as 100% of your total AD. Toward the end game this is a minimum of 300 damage (if you build right), but if you stack out with something crazy like three bloodthirsters this can easily be 500+ damage.
I'll start with the skill build since that's the simplest and most flexible:
Start with Shadow Slash, because this helps you clear groups of enemies in the jungle. It should be a "duh" first pick. Second pick is your shadow because it lets you teleport into position over walls (clearing the jungle faster) or ensures you hit an entire group if it's spread out a little from leashing.
From here you have two choices: Get a point of Razor Shuriken first and try for a gank, or get another point of Shadow Slash first. There's no real wrong answer, even if you got the point of Shadow Slash, you can still gank and you'll actually slow more. Assuming you got the point of Shadow Slash, you'll be clearing the jungle quickly.
By level 4 you should have Shadow Slash 2, and Living Shadow and Razor Shuriken 1, and thus your full skill set. Congrats, you're a neutral farming machine now. You can also go gank a lane if someone's at half health or lower.
Moving forward, a bit of explanation is necessary on my next picks. Zed's power comes from his shadow. If it's not available, he has ridiculously expensive skills (if you spam whenever they're off cooldown, hence the runes) and no way to slow a target's escape, or no way to escape himself (aside from summoner skills).
- Every level of Living Shadow reduces its base cooldown by 1.5 seconds (from 22 to 16 at level 5). This means more chances to escape, and more chances to chase.
- Every level also increases the energy refund when two skills hit the same target (20 up to 40 at level 5, meaning Shadow Slash can potentially cost 10 energy).
- Every level also passively increases your AD by 5% (up to 25%), generally improving your damage in every skill and on basic attacks.
Thus, I like to max this early. Before you utter, "but Shadow Slash lowers Living Shadow's cooldown!" I'll point out that Shadow Slash does not lower the cooldown while the shadow is active. This means you have to be in harms way to refresh your shadow faster. This is fine in the jungle. This is not fine when you are poking in lane.
As Shadow Slash doesn't improve in damage quite as fast as Razor Shuriken, and Razor Shuriken's cost drops with levels, I prefer to leave Shadow Slash to the end to finish it off. It's up to you however, I've maxed Shadow Slash first to great effect, holding enemies in an area longer so that my team could catch up and we could slaughter the foo'. Staggering the skill gains lets your Razor Shuriken stay relevant and also allows you to improve Living Shadow's benefits overall.
When jungling, I start with cloth armour and 5 health pots. This gets me through almost three circuits safely, with that last group being somewhat iffy. From there, common wisdom would have you building madreds razor, but this is ganking time. You should be able to buy the long sword on your return trip, then farm the golems or wraiths (which ever is available) and then hit the lizard for the red buff and enough gold for boots. This puts you in a good position to start ganking. Also, Shadow Slash and your passive makes farming the jungle that easy. After you recall for the boots, Teleport lets you get to any lane that needs your special flavour of help immediately.
Zed is also very cooldown sensitive. The faster he can get his Living Shadow off of cooldown, the easier it is to kill enemies. So the first major purchase is a brutalizer, followed by a kindlegem into Zeke's herald for much needed health. Around this stage of the game you'll find yourself rather squishy, the kindlegem and its upgrade mitigates this squishiness.
Boots are up to you. If you find yourself being disabled a lot or eating a lot of spells, Mercury Treads are a safe buy. You could also turn the cloth armour into a ninja tabi rather than waiting for the end game to make it into something, giving you some resistance against the likes of Ashe, Vayne, and Olaf. I prefer the Boots of Mobility because it gets me where I need to be quickly, and denies enemies the chance to run away unless they stop to poke me (which means I win anyways, my team will catch up if they stop, assuming they're alive).
Lastly we have the big guns, a bloodthirster. This is straight up damage to fuel your skills and basic attacks, and add to the life steal. Fully charged, this gives well more than the 100 AD it normally would thanks to Living Shadow. With a maw of Malmortius as well later on, you'll hit 323 AD, a total bonus of about 63 AD. That's like a free extra bloodthirster!
If you find yourself eating too many spells, you can postpone the BF Sword for the hexdrinker instead, giving you a decent boost to damage, magic resist, and extra "health" against magic damage.
Guardian angel is in there because, let's face it, you're still fragile. 2140 health at level 18 won't let you survive focus fire from the entire enemy team without protection. However your evasive nature and some protective gear can let you live to fight another day. Or at least get up and flash away really really fast in the confusion.
The masteries should be pretty straight forward. All damage boosting masteries from Offense, and enough from Utility to help you keep your buffs longer. There's really only one mastery that's worth anything on tier 1, the res time reduction, since you don't use mana. I swear by Teleport, so improving that is always helpful, but if you choose to pick up Flash, Ghost, or some other summoner spell instead of Teleport, you can instead go for Improved Recall.
Since you're jungling, Smite is more or less a necessary evil. You don't need it, but expect your first circuit's time to suffer, and you certainly won't be making a start into a third lap with the extra potion necessary on golems to survive.
Teleport is useful for split pushing, as well as teleporting into a lane to join up with your team to gank with early and mid game. And because I'm absolutely gobsmacked at how few people know this, Teleport when cast on a minion will make that minion invincible. This means you can eat two tower shots, giving just that little bit extra for more minions to arrive or for your team to put in those few last hits to finish it off without damage. IF YOU SEE ME TELEPORTING ONTO A MINION UNDER THE TOWER, AND THE TOWER IS CLOSE TO DESTROYED, DO NOT RUN AWAY. FINISH IT OFF. I will chase you down and lure the enemy team to take us in a suicide pact if you squander that time.
Flash seems redundant, however Flash -> Living Shadow x2 (to reposition) lets you cover a lot of range to use Death Mark. And for those times when Living Shadow isn't available to gtfo of whatever bad place you happen to be, Flash has the same range.
Ghost with boots of mobility seals the deal, nothing escapes from that except Teemo with boots of mobility. Likewise few things can catch up to that for escapes. And ignoring unit collision makes positioning for skills that much easier.
Exhaust is viable but redundant because of your built in slow. Depending on the positioning and distracting circumstances, you can land it twice inside of 3 seconds (cooldown would be about 1.75-2 seconds, the duration of the slow being 1.5). Boots of mobility also ensure little will escape you. This however ensures that nothing will escape you, and locks down the enemy carry.
Everything else is more or less worthless. Promote is being removed in season 3 because it's not that useful, being replaced with an item. Cleanse and Heal aren't useful because early game you should only be finishing off enemies that are low on health, and late game you'll be in a position where if you get focused by CC, you'll be dead. Surge gives attack speed, sure, but the AP is pointless.
Creeping / Jungling
I like to start out at the wraiths. Generally my path goes wraiths -> wolves -> golems, repeat. I do not get buffs early, and do not leash, because real junglers don't need such things. This means the AP mid or solo top can take blue if they want from the start.
Wraiths -> Wolves puts you at level 2 without a leash, meaning you can jump over the wall to golems and open with Shadow Slash. With 5 potions I can make the journey around the camps with time to regen naturally as well a total of two times, killing the wraiths a third time safely before needing to recall. Usually I can't take the wolf camp before recalling. This pace can keep you up with the solo lanes however, so it's anything but slow.
After the recall, as I said in the Item section, you'll grab a long sword and then head back in for another camp and the red buff. This will net you enough money to recall, grab boots, and go successfully gank a lane. At this point you should be closing in on Death Mark, so a kill will net you that.
You've hit level 6 (or are so close to 6 you might as well be), so now it's time to hit the lanes and help your team out. Or perhaps you're going for the early gank at 3 or 4. Whatever the case, in the early game your success is based on picking off the weak.
Your goal is three fold: Cut off escape routes by being in the way of the enemy, slow them down so your team can catch up and help, and do lots of surprise damage. Attacking from the bushes is a good idea usually (watch for wards), but sometimes coming from an unexpected angle can help too, like from behind the towers if the people you're assisting are capable of seriously hurting but not killing an enemy. This is a team game, there is no such thing as kill stealing. But of dire importance for Zed, remember that he is not a big burst machine. He takes his time to kill someone, but he does it in chunks of about 1/4 to 1/3 of the target's health. Pick your targets accordingly.
Open with Living Shadow and immediately Shadow Slash if it's in range of your target. This slows the target enough for you and your team to get into position. Use this time to decide whether to commit or not to the kill. Razor Shuriken is a safe poke from this point, allowing you to do some damage while you decide what to do. If your target has help, or you don't think you can kill them because a tower is going to wear you down before you can finish the kill, disengage and try for a Shadow Slash follow up when it's ready as you walk away.
If you've decided you can kill them, you can activate Living Shadow again at any time (before or after the Razor Shuriken) to get in close and attack. Your passive on an initial attack and chasing them down with another Shadow Slash and/or Razor Shuriken should finish the job or put the target into a nice place for your teammate(s) to pick up the kill.
This is how you kill without Death Mark, and given the long-ish cooldown it's an important technique to master.
If you have Death Mark available, you can lead with it to jump straight to your target followed up by a Shadow Slash and Razor Shuriken combo before anything else happens. If they're below half health, do a basic attack as well to boost the damage dealt by Death Mark (which should pop right after you land the attack). If you have CDR, you might be able to hit Shadow Slash again just before the timer goes, if you're lucky. If your target has survived, but just barely, Living Shadow in front of them into Shadow Slash, then jump to your shadow to finish them off.
Typically, if you're chasing someone and you can only hit them with Razor Shuriken, you should stop chasing unless you have running room to catch up thanks to Ghost/boots of mobility, or the Razor Shuriken is a sure kill. If Living Shadow and Shadow Slash aren't available, you likely won't get the kill.
When it comes to team fighting, you can safely poke the enemies without much fear of reprisal (Blitz is really the only threat) to goad some of them into attacking early or push them out of position for your team to jump on someone. If their entire team rushes and leaves their weaker targets in the back, you can hold back Shadow Slash until they've passed and then swap with your shadow to engage the back row. In this case, Living Shadow precedes Death Mark as a form of initiation, but you'll probably use Death Mark immediately after the swap to give yourself a little extra distance from the mob, a short window of invulnerability, and to start into your damage combo.
Remember that Zed is not good at initiating against full health foes, he does well against foes who can't fight back as well against his high output over time or against foes he can take down in the first 2-3 seconds. This is why learning to poke safely with him is so important.
Jungling is dead easy, you can basically auto attack and spam Shadow Slash as it comes off cooldown. Efficient jungling however sees you retargeting to new targets if they have just a sliver of health left as Shadow Slash will take out that weak target in a moment and your hit on another target will often net you the two at once. You can jump over the walls in the jungle with Living Shadow, making your circuit speed quite high after level 3. The recommended pattern of attack is W->E->W->Q to place your shadow, AoE and slow the monsters, jump into position, and then throw Razor Shurikens through the toughest of them. By jumping in after you use Shadow Slash, you can land your first basic attack before they do.
Farming in lane is also pretty straight forward. Walk up to the front of the group, use Living Shadow at the back of the group, use Shadow Slash to hit everything, and optionally toss Razor Shurikens at the healthier minions so they cross and refund some energy.
If you're staying in lane after a successful kill on one player, but another remains, remember you can poke with both your Shadow Slash and Razor Shurikens from relative safety. Simply don't walk up to the minions and rely on your Razor Shurikens on a double hit to deal damage and sustain your energy reserves. Avoid using Shadow Slash unless it would hit the player or there is a chance to get multiple minion kills. Landing Shadow Slash from a poke like this can quickly lead into another kill chance if your lane partner(s) are on the ball.
And that concludes the wall of text! If you read it all, congratulations, you have an insight into my playstyle and a safe means of playing him. With the energy regen runes you can afford to be more aggressive with your skill usage, but you will still find yourself strapped for energy if you don't double hit at least one target for the energy refund.