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League of Legends Build Guide Author TheYawningWhale

Xin Zhao - Laner, Jungler, Roamer - pick your favourite

TheYawningWhale Last updated on May 15, 2011
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Team 1

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.


Brute Force
Improved Rally

Offense: 21

Strength of Spirit
Veteran's Scars

Defense: 0

Expanded Mind
Blink of an Eye
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 9

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Just like the title of the guide implies, Xin Zhao's place in the game can vary quite a lot. Throughout hundreds of games I've tried plenty of different builds. I've jungled with smite, without smite, I've laned with ignite, exhaust, ghost, flash, cleanse, I've tried roaming, tanking as well as going pure dps. After several scratched rune pages and mastery trees I finally came up with this build.

What I found out was that Xin Zhao excels at ganking, if he's all over the map he'll rake in kills like there's no tomorrow. This guide will be a quite advanced guide, both suited for normal games but mainly ranked games. I won't cover basic stuff such as what his skills do and how to utilize them in the best way because I expect you as a reader to be familiar with that. The skills will be refered to as Q, W, E and R for the most of the time, mainly because I'm lazy =D

Besides discussing the general Xin Zhao build I'll cover areas such as jungling, counter jungling, warding and ganking. I'll also include a chapter about a discussion regarding Smite/Not Smite while jungling.

The "left build" is the jungling build
The "right build" is the laning/roaming build

The difference between the two builds lie in the skilling order and masteries


Jungling path: small golems -> wraiths -> wolves -> gank
Blue buff (SMITE) -> wolves -> wraiths -> red buff (SMITE) -> gank

Xin Zhao mind set during fights: Never retreat, in 95% of the cases you'll have a higher survivability if you stay and fight rather than trying to get away. This is mainly thanks to Xin Zhao's passive but also due to his crazy amount of dps.

Using Xin's skills in a fight: Initiate with E, immediately use R, then Q and W. Use E and Q as soon as they're ready again to jump around in the battle between wounded heroes as well as knocking them up in the air. Go for the squishies!

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I'm not going to discuss the rune choice an awful lot. I have tried using armor seals as well as HP quints for the early game survivability. Not using survivability might seem odd if you want to jungle, thanks to Xin's passive and dps you don't really need the extra armor or HP. The more damage you do, the less damage you take from the creeps in the jungle.

All in all, this rune setup gives 15 armor penetration (with masteries it's 21) and 23% attack speed. The creeps in the jungle with the most HP are the wraiths which have 35 armor (big wraith) and 30 armor (lesser wraiths). The small golems have 12 armor each and the wolves have 9 and 6 armor (big and small). To be able to clear all of these three camps out quickly enough, I tried to optimize the AS/ArP-ratio and this is what I came up with.

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Skill Order

There's a small-ish difference between the jungling build and the roaming/laning build. The difference is how W and E are leveled.

When W and E increase in level, they, except becoming "stronger", also get their cooldown reduced.

Like I mentioned earlier, when jungling you'll want to spend as little time in the jungle as possible, thus wanting to level up your W as quickly as possible so you can use it frequntly.

When roaming you'll want to have a mix of both. Partly because you'll want to use E quite often but also for the sake of clearing out enemy creep camps quickly as well as being prepared to defend yourself.

When laning you'll want to max E as soon as possible, this will maximize your damage at early levels as well as preventing the enemy from fleeing (use E both as an initiating move and as a semi-finisher)

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Smite or not Smite

With this build it actually is possible to jungle without Smite, and actually quite well. It obviously has both advantages and disadvantages, namely:

+ In lower ELO or unranked games they won't suspect you to jungle if you don't have Smite as summoner spell, thus leaving your jungle alone at the start
+ You're able to use offensive spells such as Exhaust

- You won't be able to steal buffs or protect your own
- Unable to protect Dragon and Nashor
- Slightly slower jungling
- Less endurance in the jungle

I really wouldn't recommend jungling without Smite in higher ELO games, solely because protecting the jungle creeps is so incredibly important. You won't be able to clear all of it out as effectively and thus, sort of, losing exp.

If I don't use Smite and still jungle (mainly when playing unranked and noone could be arsed to fill that role) I start at the small golems while drinking a potion, moving on to the wraiths while drinking one more to ultimately kill the wolves and then head off to the lanes for a gank. Xin Zhao's Q and W skills really don't require a lot of mana so the blue buff isn't so vital which means you can start roaming very early in the game. I basically repeat the jungling pattern while roaming until I've got my Madred's Razor, then killing the buff-monsters is a breeze.

As closing words for this chapter. Xin Zhao excels at ganking and he should also be doing so very frequently. In higher ranked games you really do need Smite, for the sake of speed and safety.

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Summoner Spells

Offensive Spells

My favourite offensive spell for Xin. It's an extra slow for ganking as well as reducing the enemy armor and magic resistance with the masteries. Late game it almost negates an enemy champion's damage completely for 3.5 seconds. An incredibly versatile spell.

It's alright I guess. It does some true damage but not much more than that. Unless you're going against champions such as warwick, mundo, swain etc this is just a true damage damage over time spell, unlike Exhaust which does so much more than just add a few hundred more damage to the fight.

Defensive Spells

Great chasing spell, great for joining a fight more quickly if you're far away. With ghost you're able to keep a sustained dps on a champion while they're fleeing but it's harder to tower dive and survive.

You won't be able to chase as much but you are able to flash closer and then charge with your E-skill. Apart from this, you can tower dive more easily and survive, thanks to the ability of just being able to flash away.

I wouldn't recommend skipping Ghost or Flash, get at least one of them and choose your other summoner spell from the others in the list.

Obviously great against a team which has a lot of crowd control (of course you won't know this unless you're playing ranked/draft). I haven't felt it being better than Exhaust or Ignite however.

Sounds very weird but this works fairly well at the early game. Most people don't suspect Heal on Xin which will make them underestimate you. With this build you won't have as much HP so Heal will rejuvenate a larger portion of your life than for a tankier build. Still, not better than Exhaust or Ignite in my opinion.

Utility Spells

Great if you're going solo top. You'll be able to gank freely and then quickly getting back to defend top lane. Teleport also makes it able to sneak up on people by teleporting to a nearby ward in some bushes. I'd recommend only getting this when going top lane, since when you're roaming or jungling you'll want the extra edge for the ganks.

Without the splash from the defense tree this spell is really mediocre. It's main purpose is obviously to defend tower but teleporting there instead will do the job so much better.

Leave this to your support champion. It's a fantastic spell and someone has to have it in the team, but as a Xin Zhao player, you've got a different purpose in the game.

Seeing as the offensive tree is maxed out, you'll be able to get the AP bonus for your rally as well. Hadn't it been for the long cooldown time, this would've been a pretty handy spell. Late game, damagewise, it's more than a Nashor buff (5 less ad, 30 more AP).

I've already dedicated a whole chapter for this spell so I won't discuss it here. It felt weird not including it in the list at all, though =P

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Alright, here comes one of the more fun parts in a build! What to buy, when to buy and why that item? The build focuses on three items, Zeal, Phage and Brutalizer. They're cheap so you'll be able to get them quickly, they have a big impact on the game and you'll need them later.

First off, I'd like to mention something which does not appear in the item order: BUY WARDS! (Sight Ward This is what they look like, get familiar with this icon) Buy whatever item you can afford and spend the rest of the cash on wards until you have a stack of 5. Always buy wards when you're back at the base if you have money for it.


At the start of the game, buy one of these as well as 5x . It will give you a higher longevity on the lane or while roaming. If you're jungling it's a crucial start to be able to pull it off successfully.

If you're going solo top this is a viable starting item as well. You skip the whole part about building a Wriggle's Lantern but continue with the build as normal. Be sure to pick up a Vampiric Scepter early on though.

The next time you're visiting your dear base, upgrade the cloth armor into these. You should try to stay out in the lanes/jungle for such a long time so you can both get these and a pair of boots. Hopefully you'll be able to get a health potion as well as a ward or two.

The obvious part is that you need boots, they'll increase your movement speed from 320 to 370. What might not be as obvious is we'll wait a very long time before upgrading them into Mercury's Treads. "Enchanced Speed 2" will further increase our movement speed to 390 while grabbing a Zeal will increase it to 400. The things we're missing out are on Magic Resist and Tenacity. This will become more and more important in the larger team fights, but they won't be occuring for a while so grab items which are more useful early game instead.

An amazing item for Xin. It gives a fair enough of life leech, damage, armor, that sweet proc and a free ward every three minutes (what doesn't this item do?). This will ensure a lot of less visits to the base as you can easily heal up on creeps and counterjungle very quickly.

Another must-have. Increased movement speed, attack speed and crit rate. This will increase your damage by a ton and you'll be a lot more mobile.

Now we'll have to choose which item to go for first, Brutalizer or Phage

Not much to say about this item. More damage, more armor penetration and cooldown reduction. This will later be upgraded to a Ghostblade. Get this first if you're not having problems with your HP.

Even when not fully upgraded, this item will slow quite often thanks to Xin Zhao's fast attack speed. This will buff your HP but won't deal as much damage, get this if you're having a tough time staying alive (incredibly wise tips, you should be grateful for having me here figuring this out)

Oh my god I can't emphasize enough how much this item rocks. Incredible chasing ability, more cooldown reduction, damage and a huge attack speed boost. Be sure to always active this in the midst of a fight or when chasing an enemy down. Bind it to the same key each game to create a good habit (I always keep this on 1, lantern on 3 and wards on 4 for example). Also remember it can be used to flee as well.

Remember those old boots you bought way back in the game? It's time to give them some love now by upgrading them into the fancy Mercury's Treads. By now you probably want to reduce the CC-effects on you, the magic resistance is a nice bonus.

Right, now we've got enough damage for a while so it's time to work on more survivability. Frozen mallet seems like an obvious choice since we already got a Phage. Not much more to say here, get this item and you'll endure a lot more.

Going back to the damage again, this will make your DPS skyrocket and also enabling you to solo Nashor with your current build.

If the game has come this far, you'll need to make a decision about your old friend Zeal. If you've got plenty of robust champions in your team you can upgrade it to a Phantom Dancer. I usually sell it and grab an Atma's Impaler instead. Thanks to the frozen mallet you'll get 14 damage from that alone. I usually have about 2500 HP by now so that's a +50 damage from the impaler due to the passive. This together with more armor will make you even harder to kill. The crit from it is a nice addition as well. Another viable option is a Force of Nature which I'll mention later.

Haven't you won by now it must be one intense game. Sell your Wriggle's and grab a Fervor. It will increase your damage output and boost your team. If someone in the team already has got a Fervor, grab a The Bloodthirster or Infinity Edge instead. With IE you'll lose the lifeleech though which is more important than you may think. The advantage with IE is that you won't lose stacks if you die.

From here on, stack on potions. Have you gotten this far the game has probably lasted for more than an hour and an end in one way or another is imminent.

I don't know if I ever mentioned this but ALWAYS BUY WARDS THROUGHOUT THE GAME, this is what they look like in case you've forgotten Sight Ward


Great against people with a lot of HP. Getting this early on you'll upgrade the lesser bloodrazor into this, rather than a Wriggles (which means you'll lose out on the Wriggles). If you're attacking the high-HP champions early game you're doing something wrong in the first place though. This is good as a finishing item however. If you're going against a high-HP team you can get this instead of an Atma's Impaler.

A good choice if you're going against a lot of magic damage (again, incredible wisdom coming from me). It gives you attack speed and damage as well which is always one of the main priorities for you.

Gives you life leech and crit and an activated ability which will demolish champions who rely upon healing such as Swain and Vladimir.

Grab this against heroes like Jax, Sivir and others which have a high dodge rate. It also gives a lot of attack and a sweet passive so your damage won't be suffering all too much.

Good late game when you've got plenty of HP and need to be fighting against a lot of casters. This will make you pretty much unkillable through magic damage (espcially if you've got Merc. Treads and a Wit's End)

The obvious other item to mention, this time it's if you're going against a very AD-heavy team. The 100 armor boost will make a huge difference as well as the passive ability.

With the core build, upgrading this from a Zeal and activating the Ghostblade, will actually increase your attack speed to above 2.5 (which is the cap for attack speed). This is one of the reasons I don't like grabbing a Phantom Dancer late game if I've gone with the core build. Still, it's a great item and will surely pay for itself in kills.

Increases your damage by a ton but that's all it does. It doesn't give you increased survivability or chasing ability which the other items does. Grab this is as one of the last items for finishing the game.

A good upgrade from Wriggle's. Be sure not to die because you'll lose all your stacks on it. Depending on what the game looks like, sell your Wriggle's and grab this.

Thought I'd forget this one, did you? I played with it a lot before but noticed it didn't really do as much as I hoped for. It's good in 1v1 but in the larger team fights it's so easy to get rid of the spell shield it's more worth grabbing items which give either HP, armor or magic res. if you're worried about getting focused down.

This is actually quite viable and in the early days i upgraded my zeal and phage into this while grabbing a banshee's veil. The Sheen proc isn't what's important but the slow, damage and attack speed is what I was after. Two of your core items are mixed into one which frees up one item slot.


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Aight, hopefully you've gotten accustomed with the Sight Ward. He also got a bigger brother named Vision Ward. Imagine playing the game with Maphack. You'd always be prepared for a gank and you'd always be able to ambush and gank the enemy team. This is what good warding essentially does and this is why it's so important to ward. In higher ranked games people will buy Oracles just do be able to get rid of the wards, this is when odd ward placement becomes important (i.e. putting the wards in good but not so frequently scouted positions).

Use Vision wards either when the enemy team got an invisible champion such as Twitch or Evelyn, but also at the Dragon or at Nashor. It's extra important to do it at Nash or at the Dragon because it will reveal any possible enemy ward, being able to kill it and denying the enemy team vision of such an important area.

Good points to ward at are ganking routes (for example from the River), enemy buff locations (in the bush near the Lizard or Golem buffs), defensively in your jungle, offensively in the enemy jungle. Here follows a picture of such ward places, viewed from the team in the lower left corner. Just mirror the map if you spawn in the top right since the map is symmetrical.

As a jungler, this is one of your main duties you signed up for. The same goes for when you're roaming. With proper warding it will be even easier to get successfull ganks. When laning it's not as important early game but as soon as you leave your lane, ward up.

If you want even more detailed information about warding I really recomment reading a guide solely dedicated for that, I need to move on talking about Xin Zhao specifically now =).

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As I wrote earlier in the article, with this build it's possible to jungle without Smite, although it's not recommended in more advanced or ranked games. Here follows a simple graphical explanation of the route.

As told from the picture: begin with skilling Q and go for the small golems. Your Q skill resets your attack animation so be sure to get one autohit in and then immediately after pressing Q. This might not seem like much but it has a great impact at the early stage of the game. Use one health potion and the golems. At all times when creeping, early in the game, you want to wait for a finished autohit before using your Q.

Continuing to the wraiths you should now be level 2 with your W skilled. Use a health potion right before the wraith camp, start at the big wraith with your autohit->Q combo followed up with W as soon as you can.

After the wraiths you can now clean up the wolves, use another health potion depending on what your HP state is (it has to do with how lucky you've been with your crits). When the last wolf dies you'll ding level 3 and should then skill your charge (E-spell) and feel how the lust for champion blood settles in. Remember that you've gotten Exhaust or Ignite so your ganking potential is great.

Depending on if you started top right or bottom left you can either gank the top lane (as shown in the picture) or the bottom lane. In any of the two cases you can go for a gank mid or try to mess with the opposing team's jungler. If no lane will yield a successful gank, go there anyway and just annoy the enemy champion. You might not get a kill but you might get them to use their escape ability (such as flash or ghost) which will make a gank later a lot more effective. If they don't waste any spells you have at least frightened them and will force them to be more cautious, resulting in a better lane control for whoever on your team stays on that lane.

If people have the memory of a goldfish or are quick to dismiss danger I don't know, but in a lot of situations you can return for a gank just 10 seconds after you left for the first time. Always be prepared to help your fellow laners out so they gain lane control and can get a lot of last hits.

Once again, this won't work in more serious games and should be avoided unless you want to try it out just for the sake of it or to have some fun. Personally I'd go for the Roaming build instead because it fills the same purpose and it enables your team to have a proper jungler.


Now that you've gotten Smite you can take on tougher mobs earlier on so we'll start with the blue buff. This is what the "new" jungling route looks like.

The skilling order is the same and the way to utilize your Q skill as well. Use a potion when you've lost ~50 HP, smite the blue buff-golem at 455 HP and kill the small lizards.

Move on to the wolves. You should now have your W skill so clear the wolves out in the same manner.

Go to the wraiths, use a potion before the camp and clear them out, skill your E skill.

Head on to the red buff-lizard, your Smite should finish during the fight. Use your third potion before the fight, charge in and spam your abilities. Use E, W and Q as soon as they're ready. Smite the lizard at 495 HP and clear the small lizards out. This buff is really crucial for the sake of the slow because you don't have any Exhaust this time. Be sure not to waste the red buff in the sense that you get it and then never gank whilst having it.

Now, go to one of the lanes (again, either top or bot depending on which side you spawned on) or middle lane. Usually the enemy jungler is either at their red or their small golems, so going after him won't be feasible. After the gank attempt, run back to clear out the small golems, then go back to the wolves and the wraiths again. Make sure to keep an eye on the lanes again as you want to gank them as much as possible and keep the enemy champions on their toes.

General Tips
Right, that's pretty much the hardest part with jungling, the early game. Depending on the skill level of the game, you might have to team up with the rest of the team to protect the blue buff when you've gotten Smite (as it will be very obvious you'll be jungling).

Throughout the entire game: Ward a lot, gank a lot, mess with the enemy jungler a lot.

Respawn times:
Blue and Red buffs: 5 minutes (spawns at the 1m55s mark)
Golems, Wolves, Wraiths: 3 minutes (spawns at the 1m40s mark)
Dragon: 6 minutes (spawns at the 2m30s mark)
Nashor: 7 minutes (spawns at the 15m mark)

A good way of remembering when the mobs will respawn, write it in the teamchat.

Example: Dragon was killed at 8 minutes 33 seconds, write "Dragon 14m 33s".

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Be sure your team can handle three solo lanes as you'll most likely have a jungler as well on your team. Your main objective as a roamer is to screw up the lanes for the enemy team as well as making their jungler regret he chose that job.

Stay on lane for the first two levels (usually bot lane together with your ranged AD-carry). When you've dinged level 2, head out to search for the enemy jungler while taking a quick route through mid lane, attempting a gank.

Subtle things you can do to ruin for the enemy jungler is kill his creep camps but leave one of the lesser creeps. This way it will take a lot longer for the camp to respawn and essentially denying him the experience.

Advantages of having a roamer

Three solo lanes = more experience

A lot of damage dealt to enemy lanes due to them losing last hits

Being able to protect your team's jungler and being able to harrass the enemy jungler

Difficulties in being a roamer

Knowing where the enemy jungler is (comes with experience)

Not getting behind in experience (steal enemy jungle creeps, stay short whiles on lanes and grab a few creep kills)

Main Goal

Gank, ward, gank, ward and ward some more. The single most fun role to play in my opinion =D

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A normal lane setup looks like:

Solo top (usually tank or offtank)
AP champion mid
Support/Roamer and AD-carry bot

We've already covered the jungling and roaming aspect. Left to discuss is then the solo top-job. For this to be able to work your team needs to have a tank as a jungler (champions like Amumu, Rammus, Malphite or Shen fill this role).

Depending on who you're facing top you will need to be more or less passive at the start. Keep in mind that with this build you're extremely squishy at the very start of the game so play very defensively and wait for a gank from your jungler. The cloth armor and five health potions will make sure you survive until then. When he arrives it's almost always an assured gank with your combined summoner spells and your charge.

It's easy to forget about the top lane and go ganking mid or their jungle instead. It's fine to do this as long as you have Teleport as a summoner spell. If you don't, keep a very close eye on top so it won't get pushed and your turret killed.

The longer the game goes, the more it will transition into the normal roaming between lanes.

When laning it isn't as important to build a Wriggle's Lantern. It's very possible to start with a Doran's Shield for the survivability and skip the whole build into Wriggle's. Continue with the build like normal but be sure to pick up a Vampiric Scepter at some point early on which can later be upgraded either into The Bloodthirster or Zeke's Harbinger

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General tips

The guide is coming to an end and I'm 100% I've forgotten to mention some stuff. Please feel free to comment the guide and come with your own thoughts =)

Lastly I'd like to summarize the guide with a few tips I wrote earlier.

Always have your Ghostblade, Wriggles and Wards in the same slot
What I mean with this is that you should create a habit for activating these items as you have with using your skills. I, for example, have ghostblade at 1, lantern at 3 and wards at 4. I always re-arrange my inventory so I don't have to think about which number the desired item is at.

(Almost) Never retreat
In a battle it's pretty much balls to the walls. Spam your abilities as much as you can, jump between heroes with your charge and don't forget to use your Ghostblade. If you're getting ganked it's almost always better to just stay and fight and hope to kill one of the people ganking you because you'll be chased down and killed no matter what.

Using your ultimate correctly
You'll get more armor and magic resistance the more enemy champions your ultimate hit. This does not mean you should try to run around in a battle and position yourself perfectly before using it because you will have taken way more damage than necessary by then. What you want to do is find a good champion to charge in at an immediately use your Crescent Sweep. It might not be a perfect hit but you've got better stuff to do when the battle's actually happening than position yourself.

Go after their squishies
You will do a ton of dps, and i mean a ton. Don't waste this on their tanks or offtanks, run straight for their casters or AD-carries. You can sprint up to them either with ghost, ghostblade or flash, close the gap even more with charge and then slaughter them completely.

Using your charge correctly
In the early stages of the game the charge will have quite a long cooldown. It's therefore important not to get overeager with it and charge in the first thing you do. If you're ganking someone, try to get behind them and simply run towards them with your Q-skill activated. When you're getting closer they'll most likely flash away and this is the moment you should charge at them to close that new gap.

Sight Ward Did I mention these?

This is where it's finished. Like I just said, please comment, rate and tell me your thoughts on this. What to improve and what to dismiss. Good luck with Xin Zhao!

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Compulsory Boasting Stats

Just as the title implies. This is just to give the build at least a bit of credability =)