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Zilean Build Guide by Knightro

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Knightro

AP Mid Zilean: Does it Work?

Knightro Last updated on September 26, 2013
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Middle Lane
Ranked #3 in
Middle Lane
Win 54%
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Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

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.



Offense: 9

Honor Guard

Defense: 0


Utility: 21

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Zilean is not a common champion, and when I say common, I mean you might see him 1 out of every 100 games. And when you do see him, he most likely will be played as a support. And as a support, they will not know how to play him, and therefore fail miserably. With fantastic AP ratios and a life-saving ult (literally), Zilean is more potent as a powerful mid lane mage capable of bringing a lot of firepower and utility to his team.

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Why did I write this guide?

I enjoy writing guides. I more enjoy writing unique guides that no one else usually writes. Evident in my Jungle Alistar Guide, I enjoy writing about the uncommon, and showing that what everyone thinks is trash, is perfectly viable. Look at the number of Alistar guides out there. How many are about jungling Alistar? Now how many aren't expired or above 50%? Now after skimming through them, how many would you rely on? Exactly.

Very few people play Zilean in the mid lane. Or as a support. Or at all. But when that time comes, that someone wants to learn how to play Zilean in the mid lane, I hope that this guide will be both informative and helpful to that noob wishing to learn the art of roadside bombing dealing tons of damage.

Disclaimer: This is not a troll build or guide. This is some legit ****. This picture is here so you have something to look at. Enjoy it. It's free. What else do you want from me.

Here is some more information on Zilean.

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When to pick Zilean

Before you pick Zilean, you need to know if it is a good idea to pick Zilean. Picking Zilean is completely dependent on your team composition. When picking Zilean, make sure your team also has:

Zilean has no initiate. Since he brings a rather passive, support-type playstyle wherever lane he goes, you need a good, proper support bot lane.

Compatible supports:
Poor Choice of supports
Squishy, slow supports with no gap closers, hard CC, or good initiate are not good teammates for Zilean. If you have both Soraka support and Zilean mid, that gives you two squishy champions that can't initiate or tank for their team. When picking Zilean, make sure to communicate with your team!

Zilean is also dependent on the enemy team. If they have mobile, high-burst damage assassins, then Zilean might not be the best choice. If you are playing normals and run into them, well thats that there is nothing you can do about it. But if playing ranked or draft, then you might not want to pick Zilean if you see these picks on the enemy team:
With all these popular picks, why ever pick Zilean if he gets countered by them?
The answer is simple:
Then don't pick Zilean! Only pick him when it is favorable for you and your team! That's what this chapter is all about!

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+ Good AP Ratios
+ Longest CC in the Game
+ Revive ultimate
+ Short Cooldowns with Rewind
Time Bomb as a 90% AP ratio, on top of high base damage (320). This allows for some serious pain to be inflicted on the enemy team, especially if they bunch close together. His ultimate has a 200% AP Ratio, meaning an ally who gets revived with return to the battle with well over 50% of their maximum health! Time Warp has a consistent slow, but the longest duration as you level it up. More on this later. His ultimate can counter DOT spells like Ignite, and save yourself when being tower dived. Short cooldowns get even shorter when you spam Rewind, allowing you to get your ultimate back faster then your enemies might think!


- Extremely Squishy
- No Hard CC
- Mana Heavy
- No sustained Damage
Zilean is extremely squishy, with a lowly 1658 HP at level 18. This means you must be extremely cautious when playing Zilean. His only CC is a slow. Granted, its an amazing slow, but it's not a stun, or silence, or Knockup. Time Bomb is a pricey 70 mana at rank 1, and 130 at rank 5. Time Warp is a consistent 80 mana no matter what rank. This makes Zilean mana-hungry, ans blue buff dependent if you aren't careful with your mana expenditures. Other then auto attacks, his only damage comes from Time Bomb, so very little damage output while it is on cooldown.

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There are two runes pages that you can run with Zilean. They are as follows:


Greater Mark of Magic Penetration

Greater Seal of Mana Regeneration

Greater Glyph of Magic Resist

Greater Quintessence of Ability Power

With this rune setup, you have your typical APMarks and Quints. You also have some useful early game mana regeneration with your seals. These help a lot, because no matter your playstyle, even if you are extremely good with mana management, Zilean uses a lot of mana. Flat MR glyphs help reduce early game damage from opponents, especially poke-happy ones.

The other rune page is as follows:


Greater Mark of Magic Penetration

Greater Seal of Armor

Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist

Greater Quintessence of Ability Power

This rune page offers more survivability for the less ballsy or experienced player. It is the recommended rune page when facing an AD Mid like Pantheon. If the opposing AP mid laner is not a poke heavy champ (like Galio), who usually waits until level 6 to get to killing, then scaling MR glyphs will be more useful and help out better in the late game.

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In the offense tree, we get:
  • 4% CDR
  • 18 AP at level 18
  • 8% magic penetration

Not bad for 9 points.

In the Utility tree, we get:
  • Bonus effects on our summoner spell
  • Bonus Mana Regen
  • Reduced CD on our summoner spells
  • Extra Mana/Level
  • Reduced CD for out active items
  • Increased Duration of the blue buff
  • Even More EXP gain
  • 6% CDR
  • 3% increased Movement speed

That is much more useful then a little more AP from the offense tree, wouldn't you agree?

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Summoner Spells

Summoner Spells

Flash is a terrific spell for almost any champion, and especially good on mages with no gap closers or escape tools. When taking flash, make sure to take both Summoner's Insight and Mastermind to reduce the cooldown on it as much as possible. Use it to close the gap for Time Bomb, or make it bigger to escape!

If you aren't a big fan of Teleport, then you can take Ignite to add to your killing power. A little DOT (Damage over Time) works well with Time Bomb and a few auto-attacks to finish them off. If you take ignite, spec your masteries to put a point into Summoner's Wrath to get that extra 5 AP and AD. It really helps a lot!

Teleport is a very tricky spell and requires good communication with your team. When used correctly, you can not only jump to a lane to save the turret, but you can also Teleport to a lane, use Chronoshift on an ally and save them from dying. Taking this spell robs Zilean of his killing potential, so you had better be good to take it!

Other Spells

Ghost and Exhaust are good summoner spells, but they aren't the best picks for Zilean. He basically gets both of these on one spell, Time Warp. Difference is lower CD, and they can hit allies as well as yourself and enemies. They aren't bad spells, but I don't recommend them over Flash and Teleport/ Ignite.

Barrier can be a useful spell in a pinch, helping you survive Ignite in case your ultimate is on cooldown, or you are getting turret dived. If you want to take Clarity, then nothing can stop you, but I really advise against it. Zilean makes use of the mana restored, but late game it becomes rather obsolete. Take it at your own risk!

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+ x2


+ x3 + x2 + sight ward

Either of these 2 starts is a good choice. With the Doran's Ring, you get a little extra AP, and some bonus health that helps. The passive helps with our mana, and it also grants mana regeneration. If you are new or learning, this is the better start.

The second start has a Faerie Charm, which lets us build a faster Chalice of Harmony. It also has more sustain with pots, and a ward for safety. If you know what you are doing, this is the better start.

Early Purchases

+ catalyst the protector +

Chalice of Harmony is usually bought first, as it solves most of our mana problems. If you need the extra health to survive harass in lane, then get catalyst the protector first for the extra health. If you are against an AD mid and need survivability, then get the Seeker's Armguard first, but make sure not to upgrade it until the late game.


If you need more damage, get the Sorcerer's Shoes. If you need the magic resist, get the Mercury's Treads. Pretty simple.

Mid Game

+ +

Rod of Ages is a good item that gives us health, AP and mana. Buy it after your early game items to start getting those stacks. Athene's Unholy Grail is useful for the mana and other mana-related properties. It also grants 20% CDR, which is always nice to have. Rabadon's Deathcap is a huge damage item, and it makes your bombs go from little grenade explosions to Nuclear bombs.

Late Game Items

Do not upgrade the Armguard into the Hourglass until the majority of the rest of your build is completed. The active is great, but for only 5 more armor, its not worth upgrading until late game. The active is great when we need to stall for our cooldowns, especially on our ultimate. The Void Staff makes us hit even harder, ignoring what little magic resist the enemies might have, and basically doing true damage to those who haven't stacked MR. Either way, your gonna hurt like a *****.

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Abilities/Skill Sequence

Ability Sequence
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

This passive grants bonus EXP gain to all your allies while you are alive. This helps you stay ahead of your lane opponents and get your ultimate before them. It also helps out the bot lane support stay up in levels. Combined with the Awareness mastery, and we are receiving 13% additional EXP! This answers the question of "Why Am I level 8 when their Ziggs is only level 6?"

Our main damage source. Plants a bomb that explodes after 4 seconds, damaging all nearby enemies. You can plant it on an ally unit, or an enemy unit. If you plant a second bomb on a unit while the first bomb is still on them, then the first bomb will explode immediately, and the second bomb will be applied, then detonate like normal. Your main strategy should be to run in, plant the bomb, and then back off to avoid any counter damage. The bomb doesn't hurt allies, so planting it on an ally as they initiate might get you an assist. Max it first, for the insane base damage, but unfortunately, also insane, mana cost.

Casting this spell knocks 10 seconds off all our other spells that are currently on cooldown. This means you can plant a Time Bomb, use Rewind, and immediately plant another. Or you could speed yourself up with Time Warp, use Rewind, and then speed up an ally a few seconds later. Spamming it also brings your ultimate back faster, so you can have it every teamfight.

Longest CC in the game at rank 5. 5.5 second slow for an enemy, or a 5.5 second haste for an ally (or yourself). The 55% movement speed modifier stays constant at all ranks, but each additional rank adds .75 to that modifier, so we max it second. Using at on an enemy means they can't escape, and on an ally means they can't be caught.

A fantastic ability. Use it, and during the next 7 seconds, should you die, you will be revived with a ton of HP. This is what makes AP Zilean better then support Zilean. With a 200% AP Ratio, this means that when you revive someone, at rank 5, they will initially revive with 1100 HP. But if you have 500 AP, they will recover an additional 1000 Health! You can use this to bait an enemy under your tower, ult yourself, and then laugh as the turret kills them while you walk away with over half health. It will trigger before other revive effects, like Guardian Angel and Rebirth. With a 3 minute CD, it seems like a long time, right? Wrong! You will be using Rewind to get it back as soon as possible. You want to try not to engage when it is unavailable, as you will be unable to revive yourself.

Spoiler: Click to view

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Early Game

Pick your items and get to the mid lane. If you need to leash for your jungler, make sure to stand in the appropriate brush to watch out for an invade. Only use auto attacks when leashing, you can't afford to waste the mana on a leash.

Once you get to your lane, just farm for the first few levels. Be careful when harassing with Time Bomb, it might put you in danger of taking damage, and if the target is near the enemy minions when the bomb explodes, it will end up pushing the lane.

Once you hit 6, you can easily farm and harass without much worry of counter attack, as you have your ult to save you in a sticky situation, like being tower dived.


Mid Game

Keep an eye on your mini-map. If you need to, roam to another lane and help out there, like using Chronoshift to save an ally. But be careful not to be out of lane too long, or the enemy mid laner might take advantage of your absence and push down the turret! If this happens, stay in the lane you went to and push down that turret.

Make sure to ward your lane! Keep an eye on the enemy mid laner in case they decide to go roaming, or if the enemy jungler comes along looking for a gank. The fact that wards are only 75g means you really have no excuse for not warding your lane. If you keep overextending without wards and getting caught, frickin' buy some wards! And do NOT flame your jungler. It's not his fault that you keep dying.

Don't be afraid to ask for a blue buff! You are very mana-hugnry and it will be beneficial. If your jungler refuses to give it up, see if you can steal one from the enemy team. Ward their blue buff and try to blow it up steal it with Time Bomb when they are trying to take it.


Only grab the dragon when the area is clear of wards, and the enemy bot lane is either back at base, or in their lane unaware of your actions. If they go mia, and you don't know if they went back or not, then assume they know your are doing dragon and plan to steal or contest it.

Late Game

You need to stay with your team in the late game. You are too squishy to be roaming around by yourself! Your team will need you if a teamfight breaks out, for your high damage, ultimate and incredible slow. If you have the opportunity, then you can rush to an enemy turret and split push the wave down. Careful though! The moment you see the enemy team is MIA, you can assume they are heading straight for you, so hustle out of there ASAP!

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Here are some easy and poor matchups you might come across in the mid lane:


Morgana: Tricky matchup. If she has her timing down, she can predict when you will plant a Time Bomb and block it with Black Shield. If you avoid her snare/AOE combo and bait her shield, you will be able to deal some damage while not having any returned to you. Her auto attack range is awful, so her only method of harassment is her snare combo. Avoid it and you should be good.

Lux: She outranges and out pokes you. 3 out of her 4 spells do damage, while 1 out of your 4 deal damage. She gets the snare, it won't matter how fast you run with Time Warp: She can easily land the rest of her combo. Avoid her poke at all costs: You are so squishy one full combo can drop you to half or less health. Only plant a Time Bomb on her when all her spells are on CD, otherwise she will block most of that damage with her shield and then hit you back harder.

Cho'Gath: He has a knockup/slow to counter Time Warp, and a silence to counter your ultimate. Top that off with the fact that he's tanky and has a true damage nuke, and you won't be ding a whole lot to him. Get hit by even one of his spells and you lose around 25% of your health while tanking damage from him and the minions. He also out sustains you. Plant Time Bombs on your minions that are low on HP so he takes free damage when he goes to last hit them.

Talon: He rapes almost all AP mids. His entire combo silences, bleeds and slows you. Even if you stack armor, you are still going to get pummeled by his massive physical damage. Knowing the range of his gap closer is key. If he can't get it onto you, then he can't burst you down. Stay as far away from him as possible whenever you aren't poking with your bombs. Same with Cho, or any melee mid laner: Plant bombs on your weak minions so they explode and deal free damage when they go to last hit them.


Ryze: Since his nerfs, he is a much easier lane opponent. You outrage him in both spells and auto attacks. Get some early magic resist so that even if he lands his combo, it won't deal much damage. Pressure him with auto attacks and bombs and keep him underfarmed. If he can't farm, he won't dominate in the late game. If you see him rushing you, back off. If he gets his snare for no reason, his jungler might be near by to gank you. Ryze has very low early game MR, so early flat magic penetration will hurt him a lot.

Katarina: Unless she Shunpos onto you and does her whole combo, her only harass is Bouncing Blades, which has extremely low base damage. And even then, you will have your ultimate to keep you alive. Once you die, the Grievous wounds disappear, so when you recover health it won't be reduced in any way. Stay out of range of Shunpo, and harass with bombs when you can.

Twisted Fate: If you avoid his Wild Cards and Pick A Card, then he can't really retaliate to your explosive harassment. You won't be able to interrupt Destiny, but you can make sure he doesn't leave without a little explosive present first ;)

Karthus: If you can avoid his stupid little mines, you can beat him in lane. Once he gets blue, he usually ends up pushing the lane. Use this to your advantage, be it farm or get a gank. Stay away from him when not harassing with Time Bomb. His autos are weak, but his Lay Waste hurts at higher levels, especially if you're alone. Your ult perfectly counters his, just get the timing down and you should win your lane easily. Grab and early Chalice or other MR and you won't even feel his Q anymore.

Note that these are only a few matchups for Zilean mid lane. I have not tested all of them, and since Zilean is hardly played, there is little information to rely on. Here is Zilean's Counter Chart. I have not tested all of these, so don't rely too heavily on this unless you can test it out yourself.

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Tips and Tricks

  • Using Time Warp/ Rewind can help you get across the map quickly. Be careful about spamming this trick without Blue Buff.

  • You can plant a Time Bomb on an ally's head while they engage to help pick up and assist or even a kill. This works well with champs that jump over walls where you cannot follow, such as Lee Sin, Kha'Zix, or Pantheon.

  • Chronoshift works best on yourself or ally ADC, but if you use it on a tanky champ like Garen or Renekton, they will be back in the fight and hard to kill while soaking up damage.

  • Note you cannot plant a bomb on an enemy protected by a spell shield, but if they have a bomb on them before activating spell shield, then the shield will not block the explosion. Some examples of Spell shields include Banshee's Veil, Spell Shield, Shroud of Darkness, and Black Shield.

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AP Mid Zilean: Does it work?

Yes. It Does. Zilean was originally designed as a mage in mind anyhow, and if you see his recommended items, you can see that's how Riot envisioned he would be played. With enough practice and good timing (punny), Zilean is a skilled terrorist Mage who excels at dealing tons of damage and Helping his team. Wishing you all well, and good luck in your games! If you have any questions, leave a comment and possibly a vote. All your Questions will be answered.