Zoe Build Guide by Vicksay
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Vicksy's solo carry Zoe build
+11 Attack Damage or +18 Ability Power, Adaptive
Hello everyone! My name is Vicksy, I'm a high Diamond/Master tier mid laner. I've been playing since the start of Season 3 on the EUW server, and I've been a full on mid main since Season 4. I have achieved Diamond 1 every single season since Season 4, I even hit Masters 100+ LP in Season 6 mostly playing Aurelion Sol, Viktor and Ahri. I am a partnered Twitch streamer, and I like to stream every single day! Feel free to shoot me any questions you may have.
Why play Zoe?
My Zoe win-rate on my high Diamond/Master's account, Vicksy
Zoe quickly became one of my favourite champions once I picked her up, I've racked up over 320k Mastery points on her, and got level 7 on her 3 days after her release. She's a fun, unique champion that has features of both an artillery mage and a burst mage, and she can carry games solo due to how much damage she can dish out. She does have a lot of weaknesses however, her damage can be blocked by other targets (minions/tanky champions) and she has no mobility, so she's really weak to divers/assassins. This guide will show you step by step how to maximize your Zoe game play and climb the ranks!
Here are some clips of me playing Zoe, versus PowerOfEvil (a well known professional mid laner)
Flash, and the second one is interchangeable. The reason I have gone with Barrier here is because it's the best selfish choice to keep yourself safe. It's a whole MINUTE and 30 SECONDS cooldown shorter than Heal, it protects you against more damage, and it is better vs. Grievous Wounds.
Barrier in my opinion. Take this when the enemy team has very devastating CC that you need to stay safe from, especially from junglers like Elise. Rammus and Sejuani, mid laners such as Twisted Fate and Veigar, supports like Morgana or Braum, tanks such as Shen or Maokai, or marksmen such as Varus or Ashe.
Keep in mind you do not have to take Cleanse versus only one champion that has CC, but if it's the enemy jungler or mid laner that has it along with it being unavoidable or easy to land, I highly recommend getting used to Cleanse and taking it.
Barrier. It works on yourself and an ally, giving health and movement speed to two people, but has a larger cooldown than Barrier and also gets effected very hard vs. Grievous Wounds. Take this if you're in higher elo and you're 100% sure the enemy is not going to take Ignite. I HIGHLY recommend Barrier over this in lower elo as you have to be selfish and look after yourself.
Zoe is a very squishy mage later on in the game, what will happen is either you will blow everyone up with or without Ignite or you'll just get blown up yourself. I personally think you need a defensive summoner to survive later on in the game. This is where Unsealed Spellbook is amazing, allowing you to take Ignite for those early kills then swap to Barrier later on - I don't really recommend taking Ignite without Unsealed Spellbook though. After it's buffs I'm considering on taking Unsealed Spellbook more often.
Viktor or a Cassiopeia that can use Ghost decently late game as they're mid range mages that have a lot of DPS instead of burst, which Zoe doesn't have either. Even on those champions I think it's a death wish to take a non-combat summoner in lane that isn't Teleport
Barrier always over Exhaust because it's more reliable in the sense that you can only Exhaust one enemy while Barrier can shield you from anyone, and in team fights it can be pretty hectic to find a target for it rather than just pressing Barrier for instant safety. Exhaust is really good vs. singular champions or if you're a champion that can use it for offensive purposes like Karthus or Cassiopeia but I personally do not like it too much.
Zoe is a great user of Teleport - she can't really gank well with it as Teleporting behind 3 people is certainly a death wish. I also think her lane phase is decent enough to not rely on Teleport for her base timings, and she's also not a very good split pusher because she's too squishy and has unreliable 1v1 damage. She's a champion where combat summoners benefit her greatly IMO.
These are in my opinion the best runes by far for Zoe, and I will cover why they are good individually below.
Domination (Main tree)
Sudden Impact is an AMAZING choice for Zoe. With her ultimate Portal Jump being an extremely low cooldown blink, and an essential piece to her combo to get maximum damage, you can almost keep this rune up permanently. Because you use this rune so much, the damage you can get from it is actually very close to Electrocute's damage, which is completely nuts for a non-keystone rune.
Eyeball Collection is the next rune you will take on this tree. Quite a straightforward rune, just offers you extra AP upon killing wards and champions. I've actually also been switching between this and Zombie Ward recently after the ward nerfs, allowing you to have more vision up as I think it's quite important for an immobile squishy like Zoe. You can comfortably choose between the 2 here, whatever is your personal favourite.
Ravenous Hunter is a complete game changer - I have played Zoe with and without this rune, and it feels so wrong not using it. Zoe has no in-built sustain into her kit apart from picking up Heal and Redemption through Spell Thief, so she's quite susceptible to being poked out. You can heal large amounts of health just by landing high damage Paddle Stars later on in the game, you heal fully from champions, minions AND monsters. This rune allows you to stay out longer in fights when you otherwise shouldn't, and being such a large damage/CC threat you should try staying alive as long as possible.
Sorcery (Secondary tree)
Scorch Scorch is the final rune you will be taking on the Sorcery tree. Extra poke damage is always welcome to Zoe and can score you those extra kills over the course of a game. However, I think this can interchangeable with Gathering Storm if the game is definitely going to go past 20 minutes and you're in a bad matchup, but most of the time I'm just flat out taking Scorch now.
In this section we will go through Zoe's abilities and skill max order.
Pretty much you want always want to be maxing Paddle Star > Sleepy Trouble Bubble > Spell Thief, the only change from this is putting another point in Paddle Star at level 3 in case you want to look for an all-in or push faster. The reason why I like taking Spell Thief at level 3 is because if you pick up a valuable summoner spell from a minion it can completely change the outcome your lane.
Another thing that has been catching on recently is taking Spell Thief at level 2 instead of Sleepy Trouble Bubble. This gives you a lot more opportunities for early bubble spawns that may help you single handedly win your lane. It's good in scenarios where your laner won't interact with you much early game so you won't get punished for not taking Sleepy Trouble Bubble, and also it doesn't cost any mana!
More Sparkles! is Zoe's passive. After casting an ability, Zoe's next basic attack within the next 5 seconds deals bonus magic damage.
This is actually one of my favourite abilities on Zoe. It's pretty much a mini Lich Bane BUT this ability has NO COOLDOWN, as long as you have abilities to proc it you can keep it up. Two important things to note here, one being that both casts of Paddle Star apply your passive, and that your passive works on towers. Both of these functions together give you a lot of potent point and click damage early game, and it allows you take towers deceptively fast. Combined with Spell Thief you can really surprise enemies with large amounts of unavoidable damage.
Paddle Star is Zoe's bread and butter ability. For the first cast of the ability, Zoe hurts a star in the target direction that collides with the first enemy hit, dealing magic damage in a small area, reduced to 80% to enemies hit beyond the first. The total damage is increased by 0-150% based on distance traveled.
While the star is out, Zoe can reactivate Paddle Star to redirect it to a new location near her, resetting its damage modifier on cast. If Zoe moves with the redirected star, it will keep moving along with her until it reaches Paddle Star's max range. If the star does not hit an enemy, it lingers at maximum range for 1 second on both casts.
Even though you want to be hitting the longest range Paddle Stars as much as possible for maximum damage, sometimes it's not always the best way to use it. If you see an easy opportunity to quickly harass your opponent, it's better most of the time just to do a short range hit. Don't forget that it also does a small area of AoE from the first target it hits, so it's your primary way of waveclearing, and you can also easily harass your enemy if they're standing slightly behind creeps this way.
Spell Thief has both a passive and an active effect. Passively. whenever an enemy champion casts a summoner spell or an item active, they drop on the ground as a Spell Shard, which grants sight in a small area. Spell Shards last for 40 seconds. Enemy minions can randomly spawn with Spell Shards that drop to the ground for 20 seconds if killed by Zoe.
Collecting a Spell Shard allows Zoe to activate Spell Thief within the next 60 seconds. She can replace her current Spell Thief active by move clicking directly on another Spell Shard. Activating a spell shard grants Zoe movement speed and three bubbles that orbit around her for the next 10 seconds. The bubbles attack the nearest enemy in range, prioritizing Zoe's most recent target, and dealing magic damage.
After the recent buffs, this spell actually does an insane amount of damage, with a +75% AP ratio, you should definitely be trying to apply this as much as possible. This ability also does damage to towers, making you a serious tower pushing threat alongside a Lich Bane while proccing More Sparkles!. Don't forget to always use Spell Thief if you have a shard picked up if you can, as obvious as it seems you can easily click on another shard even though you can use your current one to get movement speed and damage - also when coming back to lane and your Spell Thief shard is going to time out just use it for the extra movement speed.
Sleepy Trouble Bubble - Zoe kicks a bubble in the target direction that bursts on the first enemy hit dealing magic damage, rendering the target drowsy for 2.2 secconds, and then they fall asleep for 2 seconds. The next instance of champion damage taken by the sleeping target deals bonus true damage, equal to the post-mitigation damage dealt, capped at Sleepy Trouble Bubble's damage.
The bubble gains distance when thrown at a wall, traveling through it indefinitely. However, it cannot go through 2 sets of walls, so it falls short abruptly if it would enter terrain again. If Sleepy Trouble Bubble hits nothing it forms a trap at maximum range that arms after 0.8 seconds for 4 seconds.
Landing Sleepy Trouble Bubble consistently is going to be the key to winning games. Since it has massive range when traveling through walls, you can catch a lot of people out if they don't have vision on you, and generally sets up either a huge chunk of their health or a kill because of the extra true damage. It is vital that you have vision control when playing Zoe, buying Control Wards will help you set up a lot of bubbles. Also just using Sleepy Trouble Bubble to cover important walk-ways when doing objectives like Baron Nashor is a great way to use it.
With the whole "post-mitigation" true damage, it means that if the first part of Sleepy Trouble Bubble does around 100 damage after resistances, the second part can do up to 100 damage too.
Portal Jump is Zoe's ultimate. Zoe targets a location then dives into a portal that she opens beneath her, blinking to the target location. After 1 second, she blinks back to her initial cast location.
A perfect ultimate to tie her kit together! Unlike other ultimate's, Portal Jump has a pretty low cooldown. During Portal Jump, Zoe becomes self-rooted and cannot move, but she can attack and cast abilities, and also see over walls. This means that whatever happens to her, whether she gets hooked by Blitzcrank at the intial blink or uses Zhonya's Hourglass, she'll always return to her starting cast location. The only exceptions to this rule is Camille's ultimate Hextech Ultimatum and being Devoured by Tahm Kench.
You can use this ability to dodge in-coming skill shots, you can use it to pick up a stray Spell Shard from Spell Thief during a team fight, you can use it next to a wall, to get closer to your enemy or jump over minions to get an easier hit with Sleepy Trouble Bubble, though one of the biggest things you will use this for is to gain extra range on Paddle Star, which increases your damage. This ability is so versatile!
Early game items
Doran's Ring will be our starting item. It's the standard starting item for any mage - gives AP, HP, and mana regen along with 2 Health Potions to help you stay in lane. One important thing to note though, is if you have another 400 gold, I advise against buying another one of these, as the passive does not stack anymore, and I recommend you to buy The Dark Seal instead along with a potion, for reasons that I'll explain below.
The Dark Seal
The Dark Seal is an amazing item, you pretty much should build this any game on any mid laner whenever you have 350 gold to spare - I'm honestly surprised that it hasn't been nerfed yet. It is 133% gold efficient without it's passive, the +25% healing from potions, and with no stacks which is INSANELY good. At 10 stacks, this item is worth around 1118 gold - reaching up to 319% gold efficiency! No other item beats this in terms of cost efficiency.
Refillable Potion is a great item to pick up when you have 150 gold spare, the earlier you buy this the better as it becomes extremely gold efficient, as it gets refreshed with more potion charges once you base. It is also quite normal to sell a potion on your first base to buy a Refillable, selling more than one is however not wise. I would recommend against buying this after the 12+ minute mark.
Control Wards win games - I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure you get these on the map early, they stay placed indefinitely, and if you're strong enough to protect them you can an insane amount of vision the entire game through it. Every time you have 75 gold on a base pick one of these up and place it around mid, in conjunction with your Warding Totem you can get a serious amount of vision around mid, which I think Zoe needs to succeed as she is a champion that naturally wants to push the lane while also being immobile.
Luden's Echo will be the first big purchase always in your build. With the AoE nerfs on wave-clearing and item changes, this is the perfect first item for Zoe. It gives us a decent amount of AP, 20% cooldown reduction and a decent amount of mana. On top of that, it helps her fully one-shot the caster minions upon completion with it's passive, while giving you a chunk of extra damage on top of your poke and burst combo. With the 8.9 buffs to this item making it cost 100 less gold and nerfing Tear of the Goddess, I definitely think this is the best first item.
Sorcerer's Shoes are pretty much a must have in almost every game, Zoe has huge amounts of damage and these only amplify it even further. Combined with these boots, Sudden Impact and Morellonomicon if you decide to purchase it, you can get up to 41 flat magic penetration, and that does almost true damage to most squishies that don't buy any magic resist.
Rabadon's Deathcap should be our 2nd or 3rd big purchase. With Void Staff's nerf and Deathcap's insane buff, you want to be building this at the very latest 3rd, it is super gold efficient without it's passive and insane with. Definitely should be purchased before Void Staff unless the enemy team has HUGE amounts magic resist on almost every member. With Zoe's extremely high AP ratio's, this is a must have item, you should be building this every game no question.
Lich Bane takes up one of your versatile slots, which can be taken over by Liandry's Torment, Morellonomicon or a defensive item, but I personally love Lich Bane too much to let go. I use this item on a lot of champions I play, and I love how it just makes your burst damage, push potential and objective taking a lot stronger. I honestly believe it's the best third item to go on this patch, as Zoe's auto attack range got increased, Zoe's Spell Thief got buffed, AND Luden's is now a mana item, which means combined with Lich Bane you have a scary amount of point and click damage. A really strong pick up when you already have Rabadon's Deathcap.
Void Staff, along with Rabadon's Deathcap, should be built almost every game. After it lost 10 AP and Rabadon's Deathcap got massively buffed, it's not a must have 3rd item if your enemy has small amounts of magic resist. Don't be afraid on skipping out on this altogether if the enemy team literally has ZERO magic resist (and replace with a Morellonomicon, but that will be a very rare occurrence.
Luden's Echo will be the first big purchase always in your build. With the AoE nerfs on wave-clearing and item changes, this is the perfect first item for Zoe. It gives us a decent amount of AP, 20% cooldown reduction and a decent amount of mana. On top of that, it helps her fully one-shot the caster minions upon completion with it's passive, while giving you a chunk of extra damage on top of your poke and burst combo.
Seraph's Embrace is the alternative buy to Luden's Echo. You pretty much want to get this only if you need the massive shield to be able to not die constantly vs. the enemy mid laner (the shield is very effective vs. champions such as LeBlanc, Zed, Talon and other assassins/burst mages alike) or if you think the only way you're going to lose fights is due to being target focused and one shot. I definitely prefer Luden's Echo over this item on Zoe just because of how good is it on top of her already potent poke, and it helps her waveclear better after the AoE Paddle Star nerfsm but this is still a very decent item, and gives loads of AP once fully stacked.
Zhonya's Hourglass is a great defensive item. You don't necessarily have to build this vs. only AD threats, it is a great counter to many AP mid laners because dodging damage is a lot better than just soaking slightly less damage. It completely negates abilities such as Syndra's Unleashed Power, Veigar's Primordial Burst and even Karthus' Requiem. I don't recommend getting this early on instead of your core items unless it's absolutely necessary (vs. Zed, Vi and others) as it doesn't offer much damage. Buying it late game however is a great idea, as you already dish out tons of damage with a 4+ item build, and you just need something to keep you alive - a Zhonya's Hourglass can never go wrong.
Banshee's Veil is another great defensive item. Pick this up if you're afraid of an AP mid bursting you down constantly (like Fizz or LeBlanc), not only does this item have magic resistance but it has a spellshield that blocks a single ability, helping to disrupt champions that need to hit all of their spells too correctly kill someone. It's also REALLY good vs. champions that really rely on hitting their crowd control straight up even if they aren't in your lane, such as Sejuani, Elise, Blitzcrank, Lux, heck this item is even really great vs. Zoe herself!
Morellonomicon is a really good purchase on Zoe. I personally prefer getting Luden's Echo and Rabadon's Deathcap first before I think about building this, and most of the time I go Lich Bane 3rd. This is a good 3rd item however if you think you won't be able to easily land auto attacks vs. the enemy team so you'll just be hitting them with spells, and also a good purchase if the enemy team has a lot of innate healing effects, because of the Grievous Wounds passive. I mostly like buying this item 4th however, to replace the usual slot of Void Staff if the enemy has a very squishy team and either has no magic resist or their champions tend to not build any.
Zoe's laning phase in my opinion is the weakest part of the game for her, even though it's not that bad. Since minions block pretty must most of her damage, you always want to have your lane pushing. I highly recommend not picking Zoe into match-ups where you can't push the wave (like Yasuo) or match-ups where they out-shove you along with poking you very hard (like Xerath).
You can play her one of two ways: either hard shoving your opponent in constantly because you don't want to deal with laning vs. them and look to roam, or you can try to poke them out. After being buffed again, Zoe can almost 2 shot the backline of creeps at level 1 again. She has very very good waveclear and you can abuse this vs. a lot of mid laners to force them to farm under tower.
A standard lane combo you should be using early on is Paddle Star (1st cast) > auto with More Sparkles! > second cast of Paddle Star > auto with More Sparkles! again. This is the most efficient way to get early damage out, and you can half health people if you hit a decently ranged Paddle Star with both autos. Throwing constant Sleepy Trouble Bubble's are not recommended before your first base as you don't have the mana pool early on to do that - after getting Lost Chapter it's a lot easier to catch the enemy mid laner out with your barrage of bubbles.
The spell shards you pick up through Spell Thief during laning phase can turn the tides of games. Got a Redemption? You can use it to heal other laners or quickly help yourself to waveclear if you have no mana. Pick up an Exhaust, Flash or a Chilling Smite to slow your laner or get in range to hit an easier Sleepy Trouble Bubble, Hextech Protobelt-01 the ranged creeps to instantly clear them to look for another Sleepy Trouble Bubble, the possibilities are ENDLESS - it'll take a while for you to get used to using the Spell Shards correctly in most scenarios. As Kha'Zix wisely says, "consume and adapt".
Even though Zoe has great wave clear and poke, she is very susceptible to being repeatedly ganked over and over as she has no true form of escape. Taking the correct summoner spell and making sure to buy Control Wards early on and use your trinket efficiently is the way to safe laning. Keeping the wave constantly shoved allows you to assist your jungler better than the enemy mid laner, Zoe loves jungle fights because of Sleepy Trouble Bubble gaining range through walls.
If you manage to push your laner out or even kill them and you're healthy enough to not base and/or you know where the enemy jungler is, you can do a lot of damage to the enemy mid's tower to get first blood tower gold. Zoe's passive More Sparkles! AND Spell Thief do damage to towers, and it makes her a tower threat, combined with Sheen and Lich Bane later on in the game, you can almost 3-4 shot towers.
You pretty much want to be constantly grouping with your team outside of laning phase. Even though Zoe is not great in team fights, she is very good at poking and sieging in the moments leading up towards a fight. You pretty much want to stay with your team, get as much vision as possible with your Warding Totem and buy Control Wards to make your life easier. Denying vision is so important with Zoe, that you should even look to sell your Doran's Ring late game to have a slot to purchase Control Wards. Concealing where you are will make it a lot harder for enemies to dodge your Sleepy Trouble Bubble, and poking one person low or outright killing them can lead to an easy won fight before it even begins.
You want to be poking with Paddle Star by using the first part of the spell backwards, then Portal Jumping forward while casting the second part to look for poke. If someone on your team is strong, you should look to prioritize hitting anyone that's trying to kill them with your Sleepy Trouble Bubble and trying to burst them out rather than try to go for any fancy back-line plays.
One thing to remember is how much damage your Spell Thief, passive More Sparkles! combined with Lich Bane does in team fights. TAKE NOTE of what spell shards drop to the floor via Spell Thief, picking up a casual Exhaust to stop an assassin or a Redemption can win you fights, and it's really hard for people to play around that. Sometimes just picking up Spell Thief shards off the ground and instantly casting them to get the damage procs is a good way to team-fight if there are so many on the ground.
The reason Zoe is better outside of team-fights is because she needs a while to set up and look for a Sleepy Trouble Bubble on a priority target like a carry, missing a crucial one can mean a lost fight and it's hard to one-shot a carry with a front-line running at you. She loves scrappy fights where she can land an easy bubble and one-shot someone quickly before a fight starts. You also have to be very careful with your positioning in team-fights as you don't have any mobility, and one wrong misstep with Portal Jump can lead to your instant death.
And that wraps up my Zoe guide! I will probably add match-ups in the future. I hope you found this guide helpful, and if you did please give it an upvote to make it more visible, and please post any questions you may have and I'll get back to them ASAP!
If you'd like to see my Zoe gameplay, you can follow my Twitch channel - I play her very frequently, and if I'm not just ask in chat! I stream every single day from 6-7 PM until midnight to 1 AM GMT.