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Please note that this guide is meant to help you learn to play Zilean. It is not the Bible of Zilean, nor is it the ****py guideline of playing him. This is my style, and I believe it will allow players to adjust learning how to play this champion the best.
-Powerful early game, dominant in either solo or duo lanes
-Passive is damn useful
-Very good champion to know to play for beginners and veterans alike
-Fits many team compositions despite being a more niche role of Support/AP Carry.
-Extremely powerful Solo laner, incredibly hard to beat.
-Easy to learn, not particularly hard to master
-Not a full-on support or AP caster
-Aura items(or support items) diminish usefulness due to reliance on AP to do damage.
-Requires farm/solo lane or early kills in the game or else he becomes an empty 5th slot. Cannot give all the farm to laning partner
-Late game is a bit weak
- Always the best choice. Flash is Zilean's best escape, and when finding yourself in a sticky situation this spell will most certainly save your ***. I would never swap this summoner out.
- Very good spell. If you are not used to using this spell, then learn to. The cd is very short, so you can be generous in how to use it. *Remember to pop it at enemy fountain at the beginning of the game, it gives a sense on whether or not enemies are going to level 1 fight or pick which lanes.
- Just more deeps, really. It'll be very useful in 1v1 exchanges or countering high health regen champs (mundo, garen, singed, etc).
- Zil already has a slow, but exhaust can deplete a carry's dmg output by a whole lot. Consider getting this ONLY if clairvoyance has been picked and no one is carrying exhaust.
- In case you want more escape or you just prefer this over flash. I don't really consider this as a better escape over flash, seeing as how rewind and time warp are almost the same thing on shorter cd
- For more pushing power or for clutch pop-ins into team fights (like tf). I would say only get this if you really really like it, otherwise the above are more appropriate.
- same as teleport, but I don't recommend getting it due to its large cooldown.
Nothing else are more viable than the above summoner spells.
- Zilean's signature spell. Pop it on a squishy and watch it take 1/5th of their health at level 1. Then at max level watch it take half their health. Very useful in poke exchanges or hurting turret-hugging enemies. Try to use it at the maximum range to take as little counter-harass as possible.
- Reduce's Zil's cooldowns. At level 1 this reduces Time bomb's cd all the way from max to 0, meaning this spell doubles Zil's burst at early game. Use it to double bomb an enemy, wipe out creep waves, or to harass 2 champs at once. Or use it to slow an enemy champ and speed up an allied champ at the same time. The possibilities are plentiful with this spell. Note that this does reduce ult cooldown every time you use it.
- This spell is so incredibly useful in ganking or harassment. If your team is about to gank someone, you can just pop a slow on the prey and watch your allies just pounce on the poor bastard. If you have some speedy bastard chasing your tail, just pop the slow on him. Then you can rewind and zip away like Singed. This spell is very clutch, so be sure you are using it appropriately. For example, it is much better to Time Warp an ally with better kiting capabilities (such as Jarvan or Singed) over Zilean. Also don't pop it in fights unless someone is running away. This spell is also very punishing to overextenders.
- When used well, this makes enemies just cry out in anger. When your carry gets focused immediately in team fights, make sure you use this spell right away. It'll make enemies think twice about killing your ally, and if they do, he'll just revive and continue to fight or escape. There are times when using this ultimate is just a waste. Using it too early, popping it on someone who doesn't need it, or using it on some idiot ally who got caught. One of my favorite uses is to bait enemies into trying to gank me via turret dive or into the jungle, then self-casting it when my allies come to counter their attack.
Catalyst the Protector + Boots
with a few Doran's Ring for additional lane sustainability if needed.
If you hit the 25 minute mark and you still don't have a Rod of Ages, it is recommended that you just skip it and go to the next item. You can build the catalyst into a Banshee's Veil
Start off with either Sapphire Crystal and 2 Health Potion or Doran's Ring. I like going with the blue crystal first because it allows me to rush Catalyst, which gives me high lane sustainability. However, starting off with Doran's Ring is a good choice in both duo/solo lanes due to its very good stat bonuses which help so much in the early game. If you ran the mana crystal route but had to port back without enough for a Catalyst, consider getting boots or a ring plus a few health pots.
- RoA is an excellent item if manage to get it early in the game (10-20 min). It doesn't provide much AP at the start, but getting it fully charged during mid game will make Zilean a force to be reckoned. RoA provides almost enough mana for you to not even need mana regen and gives you enough health to survive burst combos.
- Deathcap gives so much raw AP, which Zil needs to be viable as an AP carry. Get this to hit hard, I see almost no other reason to grab it unless you need survivability.
- Probably the best choice. Zilean doesn't need cdr badly to merit getting Ionian boots, nor does he need the mpen due to having only 1 damage spell. Consider if the enemy team is very heavy on the AD champions
- Consider getting this if you know you will use the active, because it's what makes DFG so good. DFG is not usually favored because the stats are a bit poor for the cost, but if you are able make use of the active, I assure that you will be dishing out powerful damage in fights.
- This item beats out on Void Staff for Zilean. Why? Because Zil and his team benefits from this item by far over that of void staff. Magic penetration isn't the greatest stat for Zilean due to having only 1 spell that does damage, so he can't exactly make much use of void staff. If you want the stats of Abyssal, then get it. It's a very strong item and something to consider when the enemies stack up on those bveils.
- Another item I see that not enough people are getting. This item adds very good survivability, plus its active makes it so you can ulti allies if needed. What makes GA so powerful is that it draws focus from enemies in teamfights, allowing your allies to overcome any possible burst. Consider getting this item if you notice the enemy team almost always go for you first (which is a good thing, you aren't the absolute carry).
- Powerful item, gives cdr and one of the highest armor stats in the game. The passive will make teams reliant on their AD carries do much less DPS. Get this if the enemy team has champions like Tryndamere, Master Yi, Tristana, etc.
- Like DFG, get this item if you will use the active and the enemy has suppression or long stuns (Ashe, Warwick, Malzahar, etc). This item will get rid of any focus and basically turn enemy burst into duds.
- You are probably grabbing this if you couldn't afford to get RoA early. Bveil is very good at causing the enemies to think twice about dropping their burst combos on you because they have to pop the veil. It counters champs like Warwick, Malz, and Annie quite well. However, note that champs like Karthus or Ezreal or Sona can pop bveil easily, making its passive not too useful.
These are the items I would ever consider getting on Zilean. I believe that most other items won't benefit him as well as these would. Though I'm not saying to strictly choose from this pool if items, I think what you would see on Zilean sometimes is just not good. is decent at best, but usually your allies grab what they need so the aura doesn't benefit too much. is much too expensive to get on Zilean, especially due to the fact that you'll be compromising survivability if you do get it. Zil doesn't need the excess mana.
Zilean is one of the strongest champs in early game, so make sure the enemy team learns this first-hand. Push your solo lane down and try to take out the turret asap. At the very least, you want to deny your enemy lane gold through harass/kills and farm up your core before either turret is destroyed. If you get sent to a duo lane, same thing. However, you must be careful not to get countered by the enemy lane or by the enemy jungler. Always be wary of the river and your enemy's burst. Know if the matchup is in your favor and play to it. If the enemy outharasses you, back down hard and when he tries to go on the offensive, remind him how strong Zilean is.
Your ultimate is especially powerful now. Try to complete objectives asap. Your teamfighting prowess is strongest at this point of the game, especially when you have a semi-charged RoA, boots, and a deathcap or DFG. You want to stay back and poke with your bombs, but do not use Time War unless chasing stragglers. Remember to ult your carry immediately in a fight if you see him getting burst down. If the fight ends badly, don't even use your ulti unless you are sure you can save someone.
Zilean is pretty weak at this point of the game. Make sure you have at least a survivability item, at least a GA or QSS and Frozen Heart. Getting caught means you are out, so stick with your team. Ward up the jungle and use CV wisely to avoid getting ambushed or baited. Your ultimate is still extremely strong, as any 2nd chance to fighting these quick late-games fights is too good.