Zilean Build Guide by
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.
Hello everyone and welcome to my first and probably last, build guide.
I'm not a high-level summoner, nor a pro player, nor indeed very good at LoL at all. Take my advice if it appeals to you, and offer suggestions if you see any worth making.
Zilean is my best champion. When I bring my A-game, I bring Zilean. I've built him a lot, and thought quite a bit about how to do it right. I've also spent a long time thinking about how champion attributes complement each other and which ones really matter the most.
Please keep any feedback constructive; I hope you enjoy the guide.
My rune choices are simple and straightforward. I like to get as much bang for my buck as I can, so you won't see me picking AP outside of glyphs nor health outside of seals.
Quintessences: Movement speed is, in my honest and much-considered opinion, the be-all and end-all of attributes. It gets you kills, it saves your life, it gets you back in lane faster. I laugh when I think of people who build attack speed (not really relevant here) without considering the fact that once the target starts running away, you have to keep up with them to gain any benefit. A slow-running fast-striking melee attacker is just what I'd love to play against with Zilean. So, since Quintessences give a good deal on anything, take move speed and you won't regret it.
Marks: Magic Penetration is the right choice: Zilean's Time Bomb is your main weapon and marks are offensive. You might pick AP, but I think you get a better deal from the Greater Mark of Insight.
Seals: Extra Health keeps you alive. You want to stay alive, don't you? The only item worth discussion here is that I chose the flat bonus instead of the growth/level bonus. The reason for this is because the early game determines the late game. Swap in the other kind if you like, but I feel that a bigger early bonus is worth more than a bigger late bonus. The game could be over by then, you know?
Glyphs: Here we get a good deal on AP and we'd be fools not to take it.
I take enough Utility to get me the all-important extra movespeed. The extra mana helps the mana-hungry time mage earn his battle stars too. Since both summoner spells are in the offense category, I opt for improved recall.
The rest goes into improving damage output. These are the two major tenets of how I play Zilean: move fast and strike hard.
Ghost is better than Flash, in my opinion. I know I won't be making any friends with that, and I have my flameshield ready, but hear me out. Flash has a really short range, and Ghost lasts for a duration. Suppose you are being chased by someone faster than you. Flash will get you away for a moment, but it won't get you back to the tower or your buddies. Ghost may. Suppose you are chasing someone down. Flash might get you in close enough to slap one more TB on the fleeing foe, but Ghost will keep you on their heels long enough to finish the job on top of that TB. Flash is good for champs like Alistar or Poppy, who want to get into just the right spot for the one microsecond they need to deliver a push into a wall, but otherwise Ghost is superior. I could be wrong, but when I started playing I think Flash had a longer range? Sorry I'm not looking it up, but I remember it being longer.
The second choice, Ignite, only just barely beat out Cleanse, which is really my runner-up. Ignite gets you the kills and does a great job. Cleanse is the defensive choice. I opted to replace Cleanse with Tenacity a la Moonflair Spellblade and include Ignite which (along with Deathfire Grasp) helps reform Zilean from one-trick pony status on the offensive side of things.
Ignite and TB together create a nice time-delay effect which will really sneak up on the enemy who thinks they are running away with enough health. Maybe Cassiopeia does it better, but you can't have everything.
Use Time Bombs on the enemy champs and focus on using your autoattacks to farm in the early game. If you do it right you keep yourself out of harm's way and harass your laning opponents into going back to the pad to heal repeatedly, leaving you the tasty minions. Just after they recall is a great time to push up to the tower so all your minions die off without giving away EXP.
Later in the game, after your mana worries are no more, you can TB minions to reach critical mass. Jungling is pretty much out of the question, but your great range makes you an effective jungler-helper, leashing blue or red or doing the extra damage to take down the dragon or Baron Nashor.
I always start with Boots of Speed and health potions. The next thing you'll really need is mana, so get that Chalice of Harmony. Next the Lucky Pick gets you some extra AP, which you love, and the gold to keep the shop open. Boots of Swiftness because I'm a speed freak and Deathfire Grasp and Athene's Unholy Grail help out with CDR (Ionian Boots of Lucidity are the runner-up) Really I think getting CDR so early just exacerbates the mana problem.
After you get your boots on, you can build the Deathfire Grasp, or hold onto the pick a little longer and build the Moonflair Spellblade. 50 AP is nothing to sneeze at, and Tenacity is what gives me the confidence to pick Ignite instead of Cleanse. If you want, build Cleanse and a Rabadon's Deathcap here. I won't mind.
OK so next is the Deathfire Grasp, use it and use it often. People don't expect Zilean to have the extra damage output and the best advantages are unexpected advantages.
Remaining to be built are the Unholy Grail, Zhonya's Hourglass, and Void Staff. I'd do the Grail first to finish up solving the mana problem and get some CDR in the bargain. After that it is up to the situation whether to build the Void Staff first or the Hourglass. One is more defensive, so if you think the Stasis will help you survive more (when combined with Chronoshift it makes you irritatingly hard to kill) go for that. Otherwise if you notice lots of magic resistance on the enemy, go for the staff.
Runners-up include Shurelya's Reverie (love the active+the CDR) Rabadon's Deathcap, or you could swap in Eleisa's Miracle for the Spellblade and the Chalice of Harmony/Unholy Grail then build more AP via the Deathcap or whatever you like. I understand most players (better than me) build multiple Doran's items a lot, so throw in a couple Rings early on then sell them off to build what I listed if you like. I might do it myself once in awhile if I'm low on gold.
Also don't forget Sight Wards and the occasional Elixir. Like any item build, it pays to stay fluid and flexible.
Time Bomb matters the most, level it whenever you can.
If you are the kind of player who can save their mana and abilities for the all-out burst, Rewind early on is good. It will run you out of mana, but it can get you the kills.
Otherwise, Time Warp is great offensively and defensively. Speed you up or slow them down in a chase, speed you up when you're running, or do the same for your allies. Its a very very versatile spell, and I favor it over Recall a little.
Chronoshift is the ult for me. Thought you had me, huh? NOPE! I get back up and kill you, or at least stick a TB on you for your trouble then TW and run away. Level it up whenever possible.
Really TB and CS are your main abilities, and Recall and TW are supporting cast. They only need one point each to make them effective, and they really help Zilean do what he is meant to do, more on that soon.
Pros / Cons
1. Ability to do damage at range keeps you safe while killing.
2. Time Warp and Chronoshift are what make you a great control support.
3. Zilean can be really, REALLY annoying to play against.
4. All of his abilities fit together in a coherent package.
1. Squishy. Dies. You have to stay mobile most of the time and use Chronoshift properly the rest of the time and sometimes you'll still die. Who won't though?
2. Can't do it all by himself. Needs allies. If 4 of them are pushing mid and all your friends are waiting to respawn you won't save the tower. You might die harassing too.
3. Tricky to play. You will often die with the knowledge that you could have saved yourself. This is only bad to some people.
4. Not a damage maven. Most people seem to only want to play champs who can dish it out mega time. This isn't Zilean. He can do enough damage in the right places, but it takes skill.
How do you know when Zilean is being played right? He'll often die the least, he'll harrass really well, can easily get a few kills but won't usually get the most. The enemy will be angry and try to kill you. Don't underestimate this. They will hate you and seek you out, frothing at the mouth as they darkly imagine all the horrible, awful things they want to do to you. What's worse, if you let them catch you all those fantasies will come true.
He can be versatile; I don't know any champion who is as good as Zilean at simultaneously
1. Staying alive.
2. Throwing out some good Magic Damage.
3. Manipulating a battle.
4. Helping his teammates.
I've said it often that Zilean can annoy the enemy. Now I should explain why. Firstly Time Bomb's delay is not what people expect. People expect damage right away; they can't always process the idea that it'll be a few seconds before they know how much life they really have left. Secondly its the range and the mobility. It's very frustrating to be hurt without being able to hurt back. Thirdly ChronoShift - they think they got a kill then they find out they didn't. Frustration ensues.
The way anger and frustration work is when you have expectations that are not met. Zilean puts the enemy through this with nearly every skill.
(TB) I thought I still had enough health, then the bomb went off.
(RC) I thought Zilean's spells would be on cooldown, he just used them.
(TW) I thought I would chase that guy down and kill him, but I got slowed (or he got sped up) and they got away.
(CS) I thought that doing enough damage to reduce my enemy's HP to zero earned me a kill. Then Zilean got up, stuck a Time Bomb on me, and ran away AGAIN.
My guide to Zilean differs from others' mostly by my focus on Movement Speed as opposed to single-minded focus on AP. Movement speed gets you where you need to be when you need to be there. Its benefits are many. Extra Ability Power just helps with the numbers game a small bit. Its up to you.
Well, now you know all my tricks. If you see me online as Zilean I expect you'll use this knowledge to hand me my butt on a plate. However, what I hope will happen is I will give you a demonstration that will leave you in tears.