Build Guide by Tunguska
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and with strange aeons even death may die."
UPDATED FOR PATCHES AS OF 1/12/11!
MALZ 301 - Advanced Build Theory
I would like to start off by thanking profusely and extolling the great wisdom and virtue of another build on this website, "How to Raise a Voidling" by Lateralus. If you are a beginning Malzahar player, I would strongly suggest going there first. His description of Malz's whole game playing is amazing, brilliant, and all sorts of other adjectives that indicate positive things. It is the best build I can imagine for someone starting out on the Prophet, and contains a lot of knowledge that is VERY helpful when playing this build, as well. HTRAV is, however, what I consider a 101-level build, and Lateralus and I disagree in some of the specific item aspects, which is the main concern of this build. While his description of actual gameplay will be MUCH more in-depth and accurate than mine, this build and strategy is far better suited to advanced Malzahar players, and I think not just better but easier to play.
The observations (perhaps presuppositions) of this build are four.
1. Malzahar is an AP DPS.
While mages are generally categorized as support, nuke, etc., Malzahar does not play in the least like a traditional wizard. While his spells are generally best described as nukes, their damage-over-time nature, tricky aiming, and sheer diversity (dot, AoE, projectile line, channel, as well as silence, %health damage, dot, and stun) mean that his ability to nuke is tricky at best and he fits better into a general team as a support - if you play him as a traditionally out-of-combat ranger. Instead, Malzahar's goal is to draw the opponent in, lock them in combat, and thus guarantee that his full damage is done. Being a DPS requires lots of damage, attack speed (in this case, cooldown reduction), and anti-tank and support skills (which you have).
2. Malzahar doesn't need no damn mana.
Given the above need for CDR and damage output, it would follow that Malzahar's spells would be very prone to spamming and you will need lots of mana. This build has NO mana built in, and ends with only Nashor Tooth's mana regen. The reality is that you don't need any damn mana - you just need Malefic Visions (which we'll get to). This tradeoff allows him to build much more AP much more quickly, due to his increased farming ability.
3. Ia! Ia! Voidlings fgthagn!
You will get maybe a third to half of your kills from the hard work of your pet. Of course, everyone knows that pets are pretty much amazing, but Malzahar's positively tiny little alien warrior doesn't inspire much fear. It should. Voidlings make Malzahar the hardest pusher and one of the best turret-fighters along with having the ability to rush your opponent beyond a turret without any risk to yourselves. Learning to time your Voidlings is utterly important.
4. Deathfire Grasp < Nashor's Tooth
How to Raise a Voidling (and just about every Malz player ever) disagrees with this part of my build. Strongly. I have been yelled at a great many times for this. Haters gonna hate, but Deathfire Grasp is a million times inferior to Nashor's Tooth. First of all, Nashor adds an additional 10% cooldown reduction (which is essential) at the expense of only a small amount of AP - and that really adds up in magic damage over the course of a game. Second of all, due to a small change in the way anti-turret bonus damage is calculated, AP is now used as the modifier if it is higher than physical damage. Adding a little bit of attack speed means you get a ton of extra turret damage and pushing power.
Quick Notes on Abilities
(P) Summon Voidling: The Voidling is adorable and deadly. All you really need to know is that Voidlings always attack the most recent target of Malefic Visions first. Using this combination will hunt down opponents and devour hordes of minions. You need to watch your stacks VERY carefully and time their appearance carefully as well. It used to be that only when the build was finished you could really spawn two Voidlings shortly after one another, but now it's ridiculously easy to have three or more up at any given time in lategame.
(Q) Call of the Void: Some people consider CotV as a harass spell. It isn't. Not at all. Malefic Visions is a harass spell. CotV is a quick, long-range mini-nuke with a silence. I know, that doesn't help you understand it better at all. The cost, however, makes it impractical as a harassment tool, so it definitely isn't that. It's a good way to fire a little extra damage into a group of enemies, or get out a quick silence on someone like Garen or Evelyn as they try to escape you. You'll notice that I start with it, and level it last. We'll get to that shortly.
(W) Null Zone: NZ may be one of the most underrated spells in a game. One piece on Malzahar even said it was ineffective due to its tiny size and fairly short duration. The player who wrote that was either a liar or an idiot. NZ does damage based on max health - essentially an AP-scaling Bloodrazor. By midgame, you should be able to do more than 10% of HP a second in damage, and that just gets better. This spell I level quickly - it dominates a space in a lane, making it unlikely that an enemy will walk through that space, and also does a fair amount of damage to minions (although you will notice that the damage to minions is capped, this shouldn't impede you much considering Malefic Visions scales).
(E) Malefic Visions: Malzahar's signature move is a VERY important focus in this build. I build oh so little precious mana, but I suggest his skills should be used frequently. Malefic Visions, upon getting you a kill, restores a certain amount of mana, and passes to a nearby enemy. You must put Malz's dot to good effect. Farming minions is your only way of quickly restoring mana to stay in the fight. Note as well that Malefic Visions marks minions as targets for the Voidlings - you'll want to get that timing down very carefully. You need to pass this spell as many times as possible. This dot is also a VERY successful way to snipe dying enemies near a turret, and I have also used its passing ability to get a few pentakills and many many many doublekills.
(R) Nether Grasp: A channeled ult with a massive nuke and stun, NG is the apotheosis of 1v1 combat. Mastering the damage output and timing it correctly to kill enemies will be incredibly helpful, although even a full health enemy can be brought down with some teamwork, initiating with a stun. Malzahar is not a very good crowd controller (even if that may be your initial impression of him) - but engage any single enemy, and they will fall. Your job, therefore, is to time NG carefully to eliminate and gank enemies, and thus stack Mejai's. Another vital skill of timing is the Malzahar-one-two: NZ followed by NG. This guarantees at least 2.5 seconds of HP% damage, which is massive by itself, combined with NG's 150% AP scaling and base damage. If you summon a Voidling as well, you've just added even more pain - even if by some luck they manage to survive, they won't take too many slashes by the little guy before dropping.
Quick Gameplay Overview
This is just a lightning-quick review of strategy. Consult How to Raise a Voidling, and become experienced with Malzahar first, and then you won't need all sorts of complicated instructions.
You really really really want to mid. It's incredibly helpful considering you can wipe out minions so rapidly. Get CotV as quickly as possible, get two or three stacks of SV, and be on your way. I like having three stacks so I can do some early damage to my opponent, and then using MV at level 2 as my fourth attack to summon. Early game is all about surviving getting to Mejai's/Nether Grasp. Whichever you get last determines how early you can start to gank.
Mid game is all about isolating enemies and obliterating them, as well as maintaining lanes through rapid farming. Malzahar is a DPS, so he needs to move quickly and assassinate enemies to stack Mejai's whenever possible. Remember, you will rarely get kills if you lock in combat when the enemy is at full health - harass them with any of your spells first, and then use the one-two NZ-NG combo to shred them, and finish with Ignite or MV. You'll be done with Rylai's and probably Nashor's before late game really sets in.
Late game is the finishing stage, and your job here is to stay as far out of the fights as possible while bombing the enemy team with bursts. I used to think Malzahar's capability to teamfight was limited. And I was so wrong. With enough Mejai's stacks, you have two huge multinukes and a multidot, as well as your ult to pick off or disable enemies. CotV does great damage very rapidly and shuts down enemy crowd control. NZ is less prominent at this stage due to the necessity of keeping enemies on top of it, but it obliterates in a crowd and can still divert attackers. MV has amazing damage, and the passing function is all about multikills. NG is the most damaging single-target spell in the game, but it works best as a sniper shot, or, even better, to completely shut down an enemy mage or CCer for several seconds.
I ALWAYS go positive when I play Malzahar, and my stacks are almost never below 6. Most games you can get your Mejai's up more quickly than your level, and keep it there. Personally, I allow myself a death every fifteen minutes before I consider myself feeding - remember, if they end your kill sprees, then they get bonus gold. My best scores (as of writing this) are 31/3/11 (5v5) and 11/0/9 (3v3). I rarely get a game with kills into the twenties, mostly because Malzahar is efficient enough to rush through a game.
11/0/19 is a perfect mastery build. Summoner spells are less powerful, by a long shot, than any of Malzahar's skills, so you don't really need the final utility buff. Those last two points are better spent in minion damage - and remember, more dead minions means more mana regen. Notice I take the Flash buff (you'll need it), mana regen, and as much cooldown reduction as possible. The minion damage doesn't seem to affect your spells, but I notice a positive difference in my gameplay when I take it. You could easily run a traditional set and see how you like it.
For runes, I take magic penetration reds, HP per level yellows, CDR per level blues, and flat health quints. Do not listen to anyone who tells you that flat runes are better than scaled. They are idiots. IDIOTS. Flat health and CDR are both outpaced by scaled by level 6, which is when you really need the extra stats. The one exception I take is flat quints, partly because the math isn't so nice and partly because you get just a little boost to start. Notice there are no mana regen runes here - oh wait, yes there are! Magic penetration kills more minions = more mana!
I take Flash and Ignite for summoner spells. Flash not only sets you up for ganks, but also is a great escape/juke tool. The flash buff reduces the cooldown, meaning you can escape/gank more frequently. Ignite is just a great way to get off extra damage, without messing around with chasing enemies. Other fair choices are Exhaust (which suffers because it forces you to chase, which you have MV and Voidlings to avoid), Ghost (which doesn't get you out of the fray fast enough to escape), and Cleanse (which still leaves you in the heat of battle and has no gank mechanism). Clarity, heal, smite, rally, teleport, revive, and clairvoyance are all horrible choices - you are not a support, nor a jungler, and you should not be dying ever.
Item Building Guide
I bullet-point my item buys for ease of use. Be aware, it is perfectly acceptable to have to recall early and not buy all the items you're supposed to, and it is always appropriate to get more health potions or elixirs at any time during the game. Anything marked "ASAP" should be gotten as soon as possible, even if that means recalling when you're at full health. You will notice I buy as many small items as possible to maximize stat gains and thus building speed.
Although on lots of characters I like gold stacking (Kage's Pick in this case) I feel like it wastes a ton of time when you really need HP and magic pen as well as AP. Tankier mages or those who are at less risk can do it, but I only buy one for Malzahar because I would rather have the Codex, Guise, and Mejai's passives earlier.
UPDATE: Malzahar was blessed by the move into Deathcap. I always hated Zhonya's active anyway (I don't put myself in positions to need it, and when I do use it I rarely survive after coming out of it anyway) and the better AP bonus rocks. Notice I don't use Hourglass here (although it is a great item) mostly because the bonus AP isn't enough to justify the cost when you can build magic penetration. By late game you have plenty of HP and AP to not need any more defense, and I prefer the utility above the statistical damage increase. Sometimes it's nice very late in a long game to sell a lower damage item for Hourglass, especially when up against melee carries, and that will be to your discretion. I just don't use it.
- START: Doran's Ring and Health Potion
- BUY: Boots of Speed and Amplifying Tome
- BUY: Sorcerer's Shoes
- BUY: Kage's Lucky Pick (ASAP)
- BUY: Mejai's Soulstealer (ASAP)
- BUY: 2 Amplifying Tomes
- BUY: EITHER Fiendish Codex OR Haunting Guise (NOTE: I used to build HG first for defense, but eventually I got good enough to go for mana regen first. FC is the better option)
- BUY: EITHER Haunting Guise OR Fiendish Codex (NOTE: Whatever you didn't buy above)
- (((NOTE: DO NOT BUY DEATHFIRE GRASP. It is tempting since you have both recipe items, but NOT WORTH IT. You have enough CDR for the time being, but not enough power. Follow the build.)))
- SELL: Doran's Ring, BUY: Giant's Belt
- BUY: Rylai's Crystal Scepter (ASAP)
- BUY: Nashor's Tooth
- SELL: Kage's Lucky Pick, BUY: Rabadon's Deathcap
- SELL: Haunting Guise, BUY: Void Staff
- BUY: Elixir of Brilliance (at regular intervals as needed)
FINISHING BUILD: Sorcerer's Shoes, Mejai's Soulstealer (20x stacks), Rylai's Crystal Scepter, Nashor's Tooth, Rabadon's Deathcap, Void Staff.
"Of his madness many things are told. He claimed to have seen fabulous Irem, or City of Pillars, and to have found beneath the ruins of a certain nameless desert town the shocking annals and secrets of a race older than mankind."
Please comment, vote, and post game results. Malzahar is my main and favorite character, and hopefully his reputation of weakness will soon be put to rest.