Zoe Build Guide by Vicksay
[8.24 Dark Harvest] Vicksy's Master Zoe GuideBy Vicksay | Updated on December 7, 2018
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Runes: Highest damage Zoe runes
+10 Adaptive (6 AD or 10 AP)
+10 Adaptive (6 AD or 10 AP)
+6 Magic Resist
Threats & Synergies
Another extreme hard counter, but it's also based on the Yasuo's skill. This weeb machine has all the tools to deal with Zoe - his Windwall is painful to deal with and the only thing that can contest his Windwall is your passive auto. You have to always respect him in a minion wave as he can dash onto you at any time and because your Sleepy Trouble Bubble has a cast time he can 100% always block it if he's good enough. A massive nightmare in teamfights because his wall just makes you useless for 4 seconds, and his ultimate is absolutely devastating in lane with a guaranteed knock-up like Lee Sin and devastating in teamfights when combined with AoE monsters like Alistar or Malphite.
Scary snake lady punishes mistakes really hard, if you miss an E while in range of her Q or make a mistake with your R you're pretty much done for without Flash. If she takes Cleanse she can also pummel you even if you do hit the E. Great at level 2, scales like a monster and hard to punish if she's good at her champ. However not 100% unwinnable, as she is still immobile and can be shut down by roams.
Absolute. Nightmare. Winning lane vs. Kassadin is about 80% the junglers job and 20% yours because of how weak he is to ganks, and in solo queue you can't rely on that. He trades with you very respectably even pre-6 because of his passive and disgustingly high magic damage shield on Q. Post-6 he demolishes you if he's not terrible and he just scales like a monster after there, he is my #1 permaban.
Virtually unwinnable if the Malzahar has hands. His passive can easily block your spells as you have no way to poke it off other than ult > autoing, but then you're a guaranteed R target. Out pushes you after around level 7 making you unable to harass him or contest roams. Being a juicy immobile mage makes you a prime target for free ganks from his jungler whenever his Flash is up, and to top it all off when he does finally get hit with an E from you, he has his crabs to block an upcoming Q from you, or just to block your E altogether in a close range trade.
Honestly not much to worry about, you are the better burster, better wave-clearer and you scale a lot harder than her. As long as you don't let her get an E-Q combo on your early game you're good.
Every time I play Zoe I always beg for this match up, it's very free and I don't think I have lost this match up yet. He's piss weak early game and can only Q a single target level 1 and it allows you to get a free push, he'll always be at your mercy however you have to take care that you don't go OOM because that's the only time he can win. If you land your E on him it's a 100% guaranteed follow up Q because his W doesn't help him at all unless he uses it before your E hits, which most Vlad's don't realize. He's definitely scary once he gets items, but Zoe has the power to keep him down. Consider taking Ignite in this match-up or getting a Morellonomicon second.
A Sleepy Troubler Bubble into a long ranged Javelin Toss mid-game is sure death vs. anyone that isn't tanky. Nidalee has insane damage and just needs a laner to CC someone. Also a great sieger like yourself, and can keep you topped up with Primal Surge.
Really strong level 2 ganker with decently easy to hit CC, allowing for a free follow up Sleepy Trouble Bubble. She does insane amounts of damage and can often solo laners by herself with a bit of set up. Her ultimate The Hextech Ultimatum locks people in place for you to get easy skillshots.
Can stun people to allow for easy skillshots and can eat you during Portal Jump and you won't return to your original position, great for clutch saves. Set to a 4 because it's very dependant on how good the Tahm Kench player is.
Massive frontline for a squishy and guaranteed lockdown for a high burst mage? Yes please!
A weaker version of Camille, but still gets the job done with the great ultimate lock down and damage with early ganking tools.
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 700k 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!
I have just released an Aurelion Sol guide as well as I have played him loads, please feel free to check it out if you want some tips for him!
Here are some clips of me playing Zoe, versus PowerOfEvil (a well known professional mid laner)
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. If you're vs a team that won't really burst you down then you can take this for early kills, or if you're vs. a weak early laner like Kassadin.
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.
Domination (Main tree)
Dark Harvest after patch 8.23 has been buffed massively and is definitely our go-to keystone now. It works well on Zoe because when she tends to proc Electrocute she goes all out and lands a Sleepy Trouble Bubble followed by an auto and a long range Paddle Star, which usually brings people down to below 50% health anyway, granting a free Dark Harvest stack. However, Dark Harvest can proc from a SINGLE ABILITY alone, remember all of those times you Paddle Star'd someone for 95% of their HP and they got away? Dark Harvest will kill them. It's slightly worse for early laning, but that has never been one of Zoe's strong suits anyway, and this outscales Electrocute massively later, as it also RESETS in team fights!
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 this can be larger than Keystone runes such as Electrocute and Arcane Comet, 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)
Gathering Storm is the final rune you'll be taking under the Sorcery tree. As Scorch got nerfed and Waterwalking isn't great on Zoe, this is the last option you have. It doesn't do anything for the first 10 minutes, but if the game continues to 30 minutes you'll have a decent chunk of extra AP to help you close the game out, and Zoe's AP ratios are extremely high, combined with Rabadon's Deathcap and Lich Bane you'll be getting quite a lot more damage, combined with Absolute Focus these two runes can net you 80+ AP alone.
The bonuses towards your runes are pretty clear cut here, you can opt for 10 adaptive twice (which is 20 AP) and choose between the MR or Armour for the final choice, as the HP one isn't very good. If you're in difficult match-ups you can just double dip in the defenses, taking +12 MR or armour allowing you to get through lane a lot easier.
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
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.
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.
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.
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. Do not forget to add in Corrupting Potion to your combo for that extra bit of damage.
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 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.
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.