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Not Updated For Current Season
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So this as this is my first time writing down my build be kind to my lack of flourish in this post. I have played Zill as my main since I started and what I may lack in programming skill I can make up in hard earned experience.
Zillian is one of the most underestimated heroes in all of LoL. However his lack of martial prowess in the beginning of a game is quickly made up for by his exponentially accelerating effect on a game. If properly played Zillian can absolutely devastate the enemy from early mid on, preventing escapes, Stopping enemy kills, and dealing massive damage in large areas.
Keys of playing Zillian
Zillian is a hero with the power to destroy entire teams if he is well used or die over and over and become the downfall of his team. The only difference between the two is a good build and battlefield awareness. If you are the type of player who goes into a deep focus slaying everything that comes near go play Mundo or Warwick. Zillian is made of glass and he will shatter if hit hard, but one of the benefits of being a time mage is this should never be the case. Zillian should always know when an enemy has been out of sight for to long and a genk is coming, and if he's aware he can hold off two or even three enemies from ever doing anything while the remainder of your team crushes their own lanes.
Heightened Learning - Passive. 8% exp buff for the whole team. see below.
Time Bomb - this is Zill's bread and butter. The proper use of this ability is what separates the good zillian players from the bad, that said lets go over a few tricks you may or may not have known about time bombs.
Timebombs placed on another timebomb of yous detonates the first one and replaces it with the new one. you can use this to amazing effect with good targeting. Start looking at every enemy creep that's at under 1/2 life as a double bomb receptacle, then wait until they are just a little to close and double bomb, the first bomb will kill the creep detonating the second at the same time. BOOM! The whole creep wave and half your opponents health are now gone.
If there is a Zillian on the opposing team you can cancel his timebombs by placing one of yours on top of his, this will not detonate it but simply removes it and replaces it with yours. Two skilled Zillians fighting should actually cancel each others abilities almost completely.
Learn to time how far a creep will travel in 4 seconds, if your locked in a stalemate 2 time bombs coming in on the next creep wave and detonating in the enemies face will force them to either fall back or eat the damage.
Rewind - Reduces all your cooldowns by 10 seconds, absolutely insane when combined with cooldown reduction, just make sure you have the mana to use on the spell after you have rewinded.
Time Warp - this is what makes you an awesome blur of death. 55% speed/slow for a duration maxing at 6.5 seconds, if bombs are your bread and butter this is the meat and potatoes. You can save your allies from so many close calls with this, or conversely send a bloodthirsty Rammus/Tryndemer/Udyr at the enemy like a missile. Use it to speed yourself to run in and place a time bomb and flee before anyone can react, and the slow, well that doesn't need any explanation.
Chronoshift - Zillian has one of the hardest Ults to properly use in the game. "Oh but its saved my azz so may times, lol" This is Zillians gift to the world, to use it on yourself is a spoiled waste. I would much rather die to have Yi res and kill the survivors of their now horrendously charred team and go on to push than res myself. There are two reasons for this. First and most obvious is you are NOT the dps, and unless your team sucks someone should have more damage to enemy champs than you. secondly and more importantly is that a proper res escape/revenge will elevate the teams moral on an unbelievable level. Nothing makes another player happier than to come back after he thought he was dead and get revenge or get away. Depressed teammates will never perform as well and nothing gets rid of depression like a turnaround victory.
Ghost - I've seen many Zillian builds criticizing Ghost on Zill as a moot point because of Timewarp. WRONG! A)it stacks on top of the time warp bonus to provide 95% increased move speed. Timewarp + Boots of Mobility + Ghost = usually about 640+ move speed, the only character that has any chance of catching you is Rammus with powerball + Ghost. Also say your at base the same time as your team dps, pop ghost and use all your speed boosts to get them back in the fight so you both arrive together and he/she with full mana. Additionally in the early game its your main way to get kills, as timewarp isn't as effective for speed ups early game.
Clarity - Zillian uses an obscene amount of mana once he gets going. Early game its utterly essential and still wont be enough until you get the chalice. Latter use it to replenish your teammates after a fight. Many a game has been one because my team had mana and theirs didn't.
Runes & Masteries
my build focuses on four starting points. First and the key is experience. Heightened Wisdom = 8%, 3 Quintessence of Wisdom = 6%, Awareness Mastery = 5% total = 19% experience bonus. this generally puts me at lvl18 two to four levels ahead of all my opponents even if I'm not mid. This combined with Zillians farming ability makes him level very very quickly, and once you hit mid game this increases fast as Zillian becomes able to take out whole creep waves in one bombing run. Secondly is Magic Pen, 15% from archaic knowledge mastery and 8.55% from Marks, this is all I usually get unless the whole team stacks magic def, but it keeps your timebombs doing max damage for a while. Third is Cooldowns. 5.85% from Glyphs, 3% from Sorcery Mastery, 6% from Intelligence Mastery, for a total of 14.85% this makes it so if I need can get one item to max out my cooldowns (frozen heart usually) if I cant keep getting the golem buff or hit 20 stacks, most games this will be my only cooldown reduction. Lastly is mana regeneration. 5/5 from Meditation Mastery, 3.69/5 from Seals, 7/5 from Meki Pendant (starting item) + 4% from Perseverance Mastery, for a total of 16/5sec starting.
Start with a Meki Pendent and 2 health pots. You should be staying in your tower like a good mage until lvl 4, Your goal on the first trip out is to farm up enough money to get a philosophers stone and a pair of basic speed boots. make sure you have ghost up when you blue pill buy quick and run back, use Timewarp when its up but don't Rewind to get it (to much mana now). If you do it right the enemy will never even know you were gone (it helps if you hid in the bushes a lot) and you'll be able to out endure them with the stone, wait until they have to go back to do the same and get finish your boots and get the chalice. Once you have your first three items it should be somewhere around midgame, this is when you totally change tactics.
Now that you have mana use your Timewarp to go everywhere. Only appear in a lane long enough to nuke the creepwave then move on. with timebombs you are an excellent jungler, the key is to place two bombs as quick as you can on two different creeps, wait until the fuse on the first is almost down and attack the leader creep, then they'll group up to hit you and BOOM, another one bites the dust. Now your role is ranging scavenger sitting on the periphery of your team, hitting creeps or running over to annihilate a built up creepwave in an empty lane (this is one of the best ways to lvl Zill, as a double bomb can wipe the whole wave even at early lvls) and then running back before they even know you left. Then once the enemy starts to move in is your time to shine. You have an arsenal of team abilities from slowing a fleeing enemy to resing the tank, but the biggest key is staying alive, as your no good to anyone dead. This is where sight wards come in.
Once you have your basic build (stone boots and chalice) there are only 2 more things to buy, ability power (duh) and sight wards. Why sight wards? A) THEY ROCK! B) anti genk C) you are the fastest and can get them into place better than anyone else. It is an art placing sight wards properly and I wont go into details as practice is a better teacher than I ever could be.
SO... as late game progresses your damage to the enemy tanks will gradually diminish as they reach ridiculous amounts of health, but your job is just to keep them slow and let the ranged dps's on your team rip him to peices. Once you get a cooldown item or a golem buff with maxed rewind you can keep them slowed permanently (and I do mean it, if properly done you will have it up .5 before the last one runs out every time). when they group up make sure the first two creeps to hit them always have a time bomb, this will force them to spread out where you can pick the enemies with low health apart. This stage in the game is critical for you to be aware of your surroundings, as if you walk into a trap you will most likely get killed in only a few hits, however you should have a vast amount of gold and I like to use it to make sure that everywhere they like to genk from has a sight ward in it. if they hide near one you can generally rally a team countergenk for a few kills and get a good push in afterward, often enough FTW.
Zillian is probably one of the hardest champions to master in LoL. He is a glass cannon that will either destroy or be destroyed, I have played him from lvl 1 to lvl 30 and even with all the other characters he is still my favorite. He can completely demoralize an enemy without ever even attacking, or he can nuke a whole team into oblivion, but he is nothing if not a team character. Running with players who get to know you and your Zillian style is the most key part of the game. Zill will make a good team absolutely insane but on a bad one (or just on without good communication) and your dead. No number of timebombs will save you from 5 angry enemy champs descending on you alone, so don't be alone, LoL is a team game which is what gives Zillian all his power. Individually there are certainly more powerful Champions, but none with the speed and finesse of a well played Zillian.