Zilean Build Guide by Mowen
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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.
DISCLAIMER: I made this build / guide when I wasn't even level 30. This guide / playstyle is good for newer players, but is not very popular / good once you get to very competitive play. I still think this guide has good information and the playstyle is very fun, so I will leave it up for newer players to learn from and have fun with.
Welcome to my Zilean build. The reason this build is called "Oh No You Don't!" is because the focus of this build is to deny the enemy team kills while also denying fleeing champions escape. To deny the enemy team gold early game by harassing those in your lane and giving your lane partner free farm. This is a support build, and is meant for serious games where you can trust your teammates to do their job. Yes I even use it in solo queue ranked, because the fact that you can save idiots that go in and die will carry your team.
Early Game (1-8)
I typically start with 2 Faerie Charms and 3 Health Potions to build into a quick philosopher's stone or 2, but if you are not comfortable with this, a Doran's Ring or a Meki Pendant (build into Tear of the Goddess or Chalice of Harmony though this is not the way I usually play) and 2 Health Potions are both good starting items. Especially if you are not used to playing Zilean / new with the game. This guide focuses on helping your partner net some early game kills / keep enemy champions off of him so he can last hit. I would not suggest taking mid, but if you do, I personally would still get the same starting items. I think Zilean is not the best solo since he can provide so many things for a lane partner, and you should really be letting your carry solo if they can for the early game levels / farm.
You will want to be in a duo lane, and if you have a jungler, you will want to be bottom. Bottom lane should always be a lane of 2 for better dragon control. You are a great babysitter so take carries / assassins that need to farm if they can't be in a solo lane.
Early game, you are king. Your bombs have great range and you can harass the enemy champions into being defensive. If you are with someone that has a stun / damage, you could probably net some early game kills too once you are level 3 and can Stun + Bomb Rewind Bomb. Level 4, even better, Stun + Bomb Rewind Bomb Slow, finish. I usually only use the Bomb Rewind Bomb combo if I think I can get a kill out of it, or force them to go back. If you use it every time you harass, you will run out of mana too fast, even with 2 faerie charms, and MP5 runes, yes, it is costly early game.
Remember to use Clairvoyance (CV) practically every cooldown. Use it at the very start of the game to try to tell who's going in what lane. If they have an enemy jungler try to track him through the jungle with it, this will give you the most benefit from it since you can track his progress better and anticipate ganks, or maybe even gank him! Keep in mind "where do I want to see?" when using CV. Are you or your teammates pushing a tower? CV the nearby jungle to see if anyone's coming. Are your teammates doing dragon? CV paths the enemy might come down to try to steal it.
You will probably only have enough to get a philosopher's stone and maybe Boots of Speed since you have been letting your lane partner get all the farm. If you have the money grab a sight ward or ask an ally to since you are going to be very low on money at this point.
As a support character, you should typically be the one buying the wards so your tanks / carries don't have to waste their precious gold on them. You might not be able to on your first return, but once you start gaining money from your philosopher's stone and teamfights (support chars are the kings/ queens of assists) you can start buying them. You aren't as gold dependent as them, so it only makes sense YOU buy the wards. The first priority is putting a ward close enough to dragon so you can see if he's up / someone is attacking him, and close enough to the river so that you can see people coming down the river for ganks (see pictures below). If you are top lane, do the same except at Baron. If you are really ward happy, ward their blue if you're bot and your blue if you're top.
Likewise, if your team needs oracles, buy oracles (though this should be later when you have some more survivability).
Here is a guide about warding by Awwgasm, and it gives extensive picture references of the places to put wards to maximize their potential.
Mid Game (9-14)
Now that you have more levels of Rewind / Time Warp and have max level of Time Bomb you can really start helping with ganks / team fights. Make sure to keep your Chronoshift up by rewinding as much as you can while it's down. This is why you have so much mana / mana regen / cooldown reduction, so you can keep your game-changing ability up as much as possible. During mid game you might not have the proper mana / mana regen to use rewind every cooldown, just do what you can. Do not let yourself run out of mana just from using rewind, because then what is the point of your spells being off cooldown? Keep Clarity in mind to use during teamfights. This can be a big help to both you and your team after they've run low from the initiation / original burst.
This should also be the time when you can farm the best. Let your teammates go about ganking while you tend to the lanes, farming / pushing back the minion line. Make sure to keep up teleport in case they need you though. Try to get a teammate to help you get Golem buff, this will put you at the CDR cap and give you 1337 mana regen! Spam all day while you have Golem buff. The only people you should pass Golem buff to are if you have a caster carry like Anivia or a tank with a great ult and that needs mana like Amumu Galio Malphite.
Late Game (15-18)
Sight Wardshurelya's reverie
First of all if you're asking yourself "Why are there still sight wards here? I thought that was an early game item?" I am very dissapointed. The point of the sight wards is to buy them throughout the game as much as you can afford. They're even MORE important late game where Baron control / team fights can mean win or lose. You don't want to be running into the other team by yourself because you didn't realize they are roaming your jungle looking for someone to gank.
That being said, one of the most important things to realize about late game is to stick together. If you run into the other team you want to have your whole team there because a 4v5 can mean an ace for the other team. I wouldn't suggest roaming around by yourself saving your teleport for when your team initiates because 1. You are likely to get ganked if you're by yourself 2. Lots of late game fights occur in the jungle / by map objectives (baron, dragon, buffs) which you might not have a minion or ward to teleport to (though hopefully you will) and 3. Every second counts in team fights and you can't get away as easily with losing the time teleporting in. People are going to die faster than early team fights. Instead save your teleport for if you need to flee momentarily for health / mana. Recall to your base, heal up, teleport back in to finish off the fight or help push.
Lots of times my late game items will vary depending on team compositions. I will go into more detail about situational items in another part of the guide. For the currently suggested items they will all help boost your survivability, ap, and mana. I find that I start needing more AP late game for my ultimate so that the person I saved doesn't die as soon as they come back. Also the survivability because, if you have been playing Zilean right the other team should absolutely DESPISE you and be spouting obscenities in all chat like "F**K F**KING TIME COP" to which you should respond "I'm a clock! :D". So yeah, they are going to want to murder you, so you respond by being more annoying and getting defensive items, oh, and increasing the defenses of your teammates too. :)
All About Bombs! (Oh, and those less cool skills)
Since you can place a Time Bomb on enemy champions, creeps, allied champions, allied creeps, you can do a lot as far as placement. Just to make it clear your bombs will never damage allied units, even if you put it on an allied unit. When a bomb goes off on an allied unit it only damages surrounding enemy units. If a bomb is placed on a unit that already has a bomb on it, the first bomb will trigger and deal damage, then the second bomb will explode after 4 seconds. Typically try to place it on the enemy champions to ensure they get hit by it. If you have an allied champion with stealth in your lane, you can place a bomb on them while they're stealthed and they can stand next to the enemy champions and the bomb will go off and damage them. You can also put bombs on inanimate units such as wards and Teemo's shrooms. A strategy if you have a Teemo friend is to follow him through the jungle as he places shrooms, and if you see an enemy champion coming, bomb the shroom they will run into. When the shroom explodes your bomb will explode too (thanks Tenebrae!) Dodging in and out of the brush to place bombs is usually very effective, but if the enemy champions are persistent about keeping the brush to themselves don't fight over it and risk a death. It is not necessary, just a nice tool for some surprise bombs.
Deal some leet deepz! Place a bomb and then another bomb (same minion) on the ranged minion line to farm. This should kill the whole line (unless it is just too large for the aoe to hit them all). You may have to throw in one auto attack on the minion with the bomb to finish it off after you put your second one on.
Use when chasing an enemy. In late game you can literally do this forever till the person is dead. :)
GTFO! Use this while fleeing. If you are running away with an ally, alternate hasting your ally then yourself.
Is an enemy champion getting away with little health? Did a good opportunity present itself to initiate a fight? Get that fool! Cast a bomb and then time warp on an ally that has a stun / you think can finish the fleeing enemy better than you. Examples: Evelynn Pantheon Nidalee Swain. If you are close-by, you will probably want to just haste your ally, then run up and bomb rewind bomb him yourself. :) Hasting allies with stuns / tanks that are trying to initiate ( Amumu Galio Malphite) wins fights!
Maybe you're still running from whoever killed you / your ally, or maybe you're chasing them back with your newly found health. Either way, it is usually helpful to haste your teammate if they need to get out, or slow the enemy. Your teammate should be ready with an escape path and haste them as soon as they get out and give them a better chance for survival if the other team is still eager to finish them. More details about when to use Chronoshift and on who later.
Note: If your teammates are new to you playing Zilean or don't seem to be noticing your ult, you might want to remind them what the GLOWING SWIRLY HOURGLASSES mean. Personally I think his ult is pretty obvious, but no reason to be cautious. Another thing I will see people do when I ult them that really annoys me... Your ally is fleeing from 3+ enemy champions and is at low health. You ult them to make sure they don't die. They proceed to turn around and fight when it's 2v3... This is a BAD idea. Make sure they know to get as close to your base / safety as possible and only turn to fight if the rest of your team is coming. So many times have I seen people turn around to fight and then when they rez die immediately because they did not run to the safety of a turret / team / base.
I call this my "lol I'm Shen!" technique. I teleport to the lane where my ally is in danger, and hopefully get my ult off before they die. This is where your nifty improved teleport mastery comes in. Alternatively if you think they'll need help getting a kill and your lane partner can hold their own (or maybe you're just roaming and not in a lane, in which case it's COMPLETELY ok) teleport in for a gank. Maybe your teammates could put a ward in the brush to not make it completely obvious you are teleporting in.
This would be called BAITING! You let them believe you have no mana, so they try to come in to harass you / for the kill. Maybe you are tower hugging. To their dismay you use Clarity and either slow / bomb them under the tower then ult yourself. Or just chase them when they're not expecting you to be offensive. This takes a little finesse and I wouldn't suggest trying it until you are more familiar with Zilean.
When to Use Chrono Shift?
A lot of the decision-making about when to use your ult comes from knowing other champions and anticipating if they can finish off your ally or not. A general rule of thumb could be if your ally is being attacked and is at 20% health, ult him (if he is a tank / has a high hp pool maybe ult him when he gets down to 10%). These are both good numbers for team fights, but if it is an ally being chased by one or 2 enemies you might want to try to see if you can haste them to save them rather than ulting them. If you have good reactions / a good computer you can try to wait until you see a targeted spell going off, but in my opinion it is better to err on the side of caution. Once you are level 16 it will only take you 33.32 seconds to get your ult back up at with this build (WITHOUT golem buff) so don't hesitate to ult someone you think might die. Hesitation is the killer.
Note: This is a priority set if you have to choose between who to ult if multiple people are dying. By no means should you not ult someone if they are the one that got focused fired and the rest of your team is ok.
1. Your Carry - Most important person to keep alive. They deal the most damage and usually the other team will focus on taking them out of the fight ASAP. Keep a close eye on the carry and make sure you stay in range of them to ult them. Giving your carry 2 lives can be devastating. Ex: Ashe Master Yi Kog'Maw
2. Someone with a Game Changing Ult - If someone has their ult still up but is about to die and can't use it. It would be worthwhile to save them so they can come back and save YOU! Ex: Amumu Galio Nunu Morgana
3. Yourself - You are important to stay alive because you are going to be carrying a lot of aura items to support your team and making sure fleeing enemies don't get away and your teammates do. Also if you stay alive for another 30 seconds you can ult someone else.
4. The Tank - As long as they are a true tank have taunts / stuns they are worth bringing back. They can divert more damage away from you and your carry. Ex: Shen Rammus
5. Everybody Else - Yeah... there's not really many more distinctions to be made. :P
Pushing Towers - Need to get a tower down fast and have to tank it with no creeps? No problem! Just ult the person the turret is attacking when they get low (preferably the tank should go in first to be focused by the turret). This tactic can also be applied to map objectives like Baron or Dragon.
Tower Diving - Just can't bear to see that tower hugging Ashe sit there with so little hp? Haste yourself or an ally and ult them if they have low health. You kill enemy, tower kills you, you come back and the turret is now focusing your minions or you time warp yourself outta there, profit.
Global Ultimates - If your Pantheon Twisted Fate Shen is ulting into a dangerous situation and you can't get there in time, might as well ult them in case they get focus fired as soon as they teleport in. The enemy team won't be expecting them to come in with your ult on them without you around. On the opposite end, if you see a global ult going off near a teammate that is low health, go ahead and ult them before it goes off to ensure they don't get burst down so fast that you can't save them. ( Pantheon Karthus Twisted Fate).
- Replace Soul Shroud with this if their team is high on AD champions or dps stacking attack speed. Ex: Ashe Twisted Fate Kog'Maw Master Yi If you need both replace Abyssal Scepter.
- Getting owned by mages or cc? Get a BV!
- Replace Banshee's Veil with this if you prefer it to BV.
- Get this early game instead of Soul Shroud or Shurelya's if you are playing a normal game and are roflstomping some fools. Zilean can rack up assists pretty easy. Just haste / slow will give you an assist. I would never suggest this for serious games though.
- An optional starting route would be Sapphire Crystal > Catalyst > ROA but in my opinion this requires too much early game farm which you should give your carry. Still this is a nice item because it gives Zil everything he needs except CDR.
- Could be a very good item if you are on a team with nukers / people that could benefit from it. Ex: Vladimir Anivia Veigar. I would replace Zhonya's Hourglass if you want to get this item since Abyssal Scepter would stack nicely with a caster team.
- This is a good buff to you and your team's survivability early game. If your tank doesn't plan on buying it you might consider buying this after your philosopher's stone as it's best early game and has a less noticeable impact in lategame teamfights. However usually the tank should pick this up.
- These are options if your team has VERY little cc (maybe only 1 stun) and not a lot of magic damage. Honestly though, if they only have 1 stun / cc you probably won't have a tough time beating them anyways, and I still hold the belief that Mercury's Treads are by far and wide the best boots for Zilean. Also keep in mind that with Ionian Boots of Lucidity you will be far over the CDR cap, so replace either Soul Shroud or shurelya's reverie with another item. If their team is high on physical dps / low on stuns, grab Ninja Tabi.
Note: if you take different summoner spells than the recommended ones, please change the masteries accordingly.
- This is the best supportive summoner spell in the game. It gives your team free map awareness and let's you track your enemy's jungler. A good choice if you are in a premade, especially if you have heroes that get extra benefit out of it from long range spells (ex: Lux Morgana Ezreal). The flexible map awareness from this skill is invaluable.
- This is a good tool for getting you out of binds. You can flash away from the middle of a team fight if you are being focused. If you are going to die you can position yourself next to a wall and ult yourself, then when you come up Flash over the wall and escape. I find this spell necessary for ranked games because of all the ganking that happens early game.
- Lets you cover lanes easily and be where you need to be. Zilean is fast late game when he can zip around the map with his Time Warp / Rewind but early game he cannot afford to spend his mana on this. Late game this summoner spell is still useful if you need to catch up with your team that is pushing if you say just came back to life or had to go back and heal.
- Zilean is completely dependent on mana to be useful. This summoner spell will help you stay in lane early game and with the improved Clarity from masteries will also give you the ability to support your team as well. If you are in a premade that uses 2 or more champions that don't use mana, I might consider taking another suggested summoner spell.
- This will help get you early game kills, but like I have said you want to focus on supporting rather than ganking/ going crazy for kills. I might bring this however if no one else was bringing it to shut down people like Dr. Mundo Warwick Sion Swain etc.
- This is ok and will also help you fill your role of covering the lanes and shutting down the other team passively. I still find teleport to be more useful because you can usually teleport to a lane that needs to be defended; getting some farm in and saving the tower at the same time.
- You could possibly get it if you don't have another teammate with healing abilities. I just personally don't like it because of the reduced healing debuff it gives you. I could see it being of good use in a team fight where you're having trouble keeping up with the damage they're dishing out, but I would still rather take Clarity to insure I can keep Chronoshift up, and heal is less help for harassing early game.
- Could definitely be a good choice if you know the other team has a lot of cc in advance (in ranked games or in house games). I could even see you taking it because you like it and know how to use it well. My build compensates for the lack of cleanse with Mercury's Treads and Banshee's Veil, but if you feel more comfortable getting cleanse and using some other items, go ahead.
- You already have a perma slow, and with it you can kite melee characters trying to kill you / your teammates. THE ONLY REASON I WOULD EVER TAKE THIS ON ZIL is if your team NEEDS it (you're vs. a Tryndamere or Master Yi and no one else can afford to / won't)
If you take these I might cry:
- You already have perma speed. If you want an escape tool get Flash.
- Do you even know what your ult does???
- No... just no.
- Stop trundlin'.
Runes / Masteries
- Even though Zilean is not meant for damage, these will give you an early edge for your bombs. You will use your bombs to scare off the enemy champions so that your lane partner can last hit effectively, or net some early game kills. I will explain more about laning later.
Greater Seal of Replenishment - These will help you stay in lane and keep up the harass / always have enough mana for your ult once you get it.
- This will give your bombs a little more oomph (I get scaling ap since they pass flat at level 6). Since we put off building ap until later this will help you offset that as well. We pass the CDR cap with our typical items so there's no need for CDR runes.
- Lets you be more of a presence early game. If people see a Zilean with no health in the lane they will be quick to focus him and try to first blood him.
As you can see, my runes focus on early game advantage, which I feel like is very important for Zilean. The only time his bombs are very effective in this build is early game, so you should take advantage of that. Also, if you are doing well early game, you can help your lane partner do well / keep the enemy champions off them so they can last hit.
Go down the offense tree far enough to get Archaic Knowledge. Again, this makes your bombs scary, and you pick up some ap and cdr along the way.
I prefer Utility tree so I can pick up Insight, CDR, movespeed, mana regen, basically everything that makes Zilean awesome. Many of the items that are good for you also have health, and I prefer getting survivability items rather than going down the Defense tree.
I only take one point in Perseverance because it's simply not worth it past the first point.
Get Awareness over Expanded Mind, please, Expanded mind is just terrible because it only functions off your base mana. These are some of the numbers I got from Scrax's Janna Guide (it is very good, if you like support characters, you should definitely read it!)
5000 / 100 * 5 = 250 (This is with 5000 max mana).
302 / 100 * 5 = 15,1 (This is with 302 mana (starting mana)).
So if you had 5000 mana... you would only get 250, and that is the maximum you can get. And only 15 at level 1? No thanks!
A normal game playing Zilean with 3 friends, skip to 3 min for the actual game start. I feel like this is a standard game for me where I don't do good or bad, and I hope this gives you some feel of how I play.
Thank you for reading my guide. I hope you enjoy and benefit from learning the way I play Zilean. I truly believe this build maximizes his support potential through keeping up cd's, your mana, your team's mana, and buffing your team with auras. I would like to give a special thanks to Scrax, he helped me a lot with questions I had throughout my writing process, and to my friend Lord Fragamacrunch that helped me be less of a noob when I first started, and has given me good resources such as the warding guide. <3 You guys! :) I am open to constructive criticism as long as you realize the point of this build, which is to support.
5/31/2011 - Changed build order drastically. Includes phil stones and more AP. Changed around guide sections to reflect this / changes I have in playstyle after playing higher lvl ranked games.
2/3/2011 - Switched Aegis of the Legion from main build to Situational Items and replaced it with Zhonya's Hourglass. Removed health pot from starting combo with Doran's Ring due to cost hike.
2/12/2011 - Added videos section and first video. Added Penebrae's tip to place bombs on Teemo's shrooms / wards in the "All about Bombs" section.
2/20/2011 - Change seals to flat mp5 and glyphs to flat CDR. Changed masteries to have 1 point in perseverance and 2 in good hands.
3/5/2011 - Changed flat CDR glyphs to per level CDR glyphs.
4/15/2011 - Changed recommended summoner spell from Clarity to Clairvoyance. Replaced Archangels Staff with Frozen Heart in main build.