Zilean Build Guide

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Tank Zilean. a.k.a. Zilean done right.

written by Red_Angel

Zilean Build

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    Hello and welcome to my guide. This is my first guide but fret not as I am confidant that my knowledge of Zilean is more than sufficient to write this guide. Honestly the only thing I'm worried about is making it look pretty, but that's not really important right now so let's just get on with this thing.


    v1.0.0.113: Removed some icons to make the guide look cleaner. Minor nerfs to Zilean recently so I updated his spell section. I've recently tested out movespeed quints to some success and I've made a note of it in the runes and masteries section as well as revamping the section entirely to make it clearer and more concise. I've also become very fond of Teleport recently so I've added that to the Summoner Abilities section.

    v1.0.0.118: New stat Tenacity. I've been playing around with Moonflair Spellblade and I really like it. The extra damage it gives you is nice especially when coupled with the CC Reduction. I've been building it after [item_text=Soul Shroud], I'm not sure if that's early enough though. Also Rod of Ages was buffed so any thoughts I had of switching to Archangel's Staff have been thrown out the window. In addition to modifying the items section I've modified the Runes and Masteries section as I now almost always use movespeed quints.

  • Abilities

    Heightened Learning
    Zilean increases the experience all allied champions gain by 8%.

    When I first started playing I was very underwhelmed by Zilean's Passive, but as I gained experience and ascended through the levels I started to appreciate it more and more. While 8% may not seem like much, this will usually get your team to lvl 6 before the enemy team and will hopefully get you a kill or two at that time.

    Another amazing thing about this skill is just how much it helps your jungler. No jungler wants to put 9 masteries into Utility just to get [mastery_text=Awareness], they do it because they have to. Having Zilean on your team free's up those 9 masteries to be used elsewhere.

    Time Bomb
    Zilean places a time-delayed bomb on a target. After 4 seconds the bomb will detonate, dealing magic damage to all surrounding enemies.
    Cooldown: 10 seconds
    Range: 700
    Area of Effect:
    Cost: 70 / 85 / 100 / 115 / 130 Mana.
    Magic Damage: 90 / 145 / 200 / 260 / 320 (+0.9 per ability power)

    Zilean's only damaging attack. This attack does a lot of damage in the early game. It's great for harassing and possibly getting a kill or two. Through mid game the damage is still respectable but it begins to decline late game.

    This skill is also one of the best farming skills in the game. At lvl 5 it you can kill a whole wave of caster minions with 1 bomb. You can also double bomb tank minions to hit the whole wave usually killing everything, depending on how long the game is been and how much AP you have of course.

    Reduces all of Zilean's other cooldowns by 10 seconds. Rewind does not affect itself.
    Cost: 50 Mana
    Cooldown: 18 / 15 / 12 / 9 / 6 seconds

    This is secretly Zilean's most useful skill. I don't know what I would do without it. This skill allows you to have your ult ready every 28.8 seconds(more on that later), it let's you string Time Warp infinitely and it lets you double bomb to maximize your damage.

    Remember that when you Time Bomb + Rewind + Time Bomb the first bomb goes off when the second bomb comes down. This is called double bombing.

    Time Warp
    Zilean slows an enemy champion's movement speed or increases an allied champion's movement speed by 55% for a few seconds.
    Cooldown: 20 seconds
    Cost: 100 Mana
    Range: 700
    Effect Duration: 2.5 / 3.25 / 4 / 4.75 / 5.5

    An interesting skill. I take it for granted all the time. It has a myriad of uses most of which involve either escaping, helping a teammate escape, or preventing an enemy from escaping. You'll find that it is mostly used to slow enemy champions. When running it is generally more effective to slow whoever is chasing you rather than speed yourself up, this is because of the soft cap on movement speed. You wont gain as much from speeding yourself up as you they would lose when you slow them down.

    Chrono Shift
    Marks the target with a protective time rune for 7 seconds. If the target would take lethal damage, they are instead transported back in time regaining extra health.
    Cost: 200 Mana
    Range: 900
    Cooldown: 180
    Health gained: 600 / 850 / 1100 (+2 per ability power)

    This is what makes Zilean who he is. This is why you are focused in team fights. This is ability that defines your character. If you are using this skill on yourself you're doing it wrong. You need to do whatever it takes to survive so you can use this on others instead of yourself.

    In a team fight I think it's ideal to use this skill on whoever would die first. As soon as you see someone being focused slap a Chrono Shift on them. The reason is that in team fights most champions are going to use all their skills as fast as possible to kill the other team, once the first champion goes down it becomes a 4v5 and you're at a disadvantage and now even if you save that second person from dying you're still fighting a 4v5 and you're still at a disadvantge. If you save that first person however you keep the fight a 5v5 but now the enemies have just used up their best skills to kill the guy you just revived.

    Of course there are exceptions. If Teemo is going 1/17/4 you're probably not going to want to waste your ult on him in a fight even if he is the first one to go down.

  • Summary

    This guide is to help you learn how to play Zilean the right way. I got tired of seeing people build Zilean like he's an AP Carry. They're soft, squishy, they always ult themselves and when the late game rolls around they don't even do that much damage.

    When I first started playing Zilean I built like a carry. I made stuff like Archangel's Staff, Deathfire Grasp, and Zhonya's Ring. Every game went the same, I'd be doing fine until about 25 minutes in and then I just wouldn't be able to do anything anymore. My damage wasn't good enough compared to a real carry and I couldn't survive long enough in a team fight to be useful. It was getting to the point where my friends didn't want to play with me anymore. I knew then I had to make a change. From that day forward I decided to just pretend I was a tank whenever I played Zilean.

    It was the best decision (pertaining to this game) I've ever made.

  • The Importance of Cooldown Reduction

    A lot of players seem to think you don't need Cooldown Reduction Zilean. They tell me that Rewind is all the CDR you'll ever need. If you're one of those people I have three words for you...

    You are wrong.

    Cooldown Reduction is the most important stat on Zilean because of Rewind. Having the cooldown of Rewind reduced means you can further reduce the cooldowns of all your other abilities. It's as though you are able to break the 40% CDR cap. Still don't believe me? Maybe some math will convince you.

    Chrono Shift has a 180 second cooldown. That's 3 minutes. That's a long time, but don't worry you have Rewind to reduce your cooldowns. At level 5 Rewind has a cooldown of 6 seconds. That means every 6 seconds you can take an additional 10 seconds off of your Chrono Shift cooldown. Basically this means for every 6 seconds of elapsed time the cooldown on your ult is reduced by 16 seconds.

    180/16 = 11R4

    So it takes 11 Rewinds to get your ult back plus an additional 4 seconds.

    11x6= 66

    So we'll have to wait 66 seconds to use those 11 Rewinds plus another 4 seconds. That's 70 seconds. Well now that's a lot better than 180 seconds. In fact without any CDR at all Rewind gives Zilean CDR equal to a little over 61%. That's pretty damn good, but now let's see what happens if we have the normal 40% CDR.

    After the 40% CDR comes of Chrono Shift has a cooldown of 108 seconds. That's a little under 2 minutes and it's still kind of long. At level 5 with CDR Rewind has a cooldown of 3.6 seconds. So just like before that means every 3.6 seconds of elapsed time you reduce the cooldown on your ult by 13.6 seconds

    108/13.6 = 7.94

    So with CDR we only need to use Rewind 8 times and we can Rewind more often.

    3.6x8= 28.8

    So as we can see. With 40% CDR we can have Chrono Shift ready every 28.8 seconds. That's more than twice as often as with no CDR. In fact having 40% CDR on Zilean is the same as having 84% Cooldown Reduction. Now you tell me. Why wouldn't you want to reduce your cooldowns by 84%?

  • Masteries + Runes

    I've devised two separate but similar combinations of runes and masteries that you can use. Both builds give you all the cooldown reduction you'll need along with the improved summoner spells. The differences between the two are subtle and based largely upon preference. I doubt anyone would use exactly what I use but I strongly suggest trying both out.

    The first build focuses on survivability and sustainability.

    9x Greater Mark of Insight

    There really is no substitute for these as a mage. Marks just don't offer any utility so these will have to do.

    9x Greater Seal of Vitality

    These provide a nice chunk of health and scale pretty well. These are also very useful if you happen to share a rune page with a champion like Mordekaiser or Vladimir who doesn't use mana.

    9x Greater Glyph of Focus

    Cooldown Reduction is a huge part of what Zilean is. The only competition is Ability Power Glyphs but Ability Power tends to be pretty lack luster on Zilean so I wouldn't advise it.

    2x Greater Quintessence of Focus
    1x Greater Quintessence of Fortitude

    Now here we have a little extra health and a little extra CDR. We need exactly 2 of the CDR runes to reach the numbers we're looking for.

    Now for masteries I use [http://leaguecraft.com/masteries/0000000000000003033000000000121040131031301]0/9/21[/url]. This provides you with better defenses, health, and health regen. Now for CDR we get 5.85% from our Glyphs, 3.28% from our Quints, and 6% from our Masteries totaling 15.13%.

    The second build is a bit more offensive than the first. It also provides us with a bit of extra Movespeed. This is the one I have been using in all my games lately and I really enjoy it.

    9x Greater Mark of Insight

    These give your bombs a little extra bang for your buck. For this build I would use these even if there were another mage friendly mark.

    8x Greater Seal of Clarity
    1x Greater Seal of Replenishment

    The reason I have one flat mp/5 rune throw in here is because I want a little extra mana regen in the early laning phase to harass with. I'm considering throwing a second one in, but for now I'm just using 1.

    8x Greater Glyph of Focus
    1x Greater Glyph of Celerity

    This second build doesn't have Greater Quintessence of Focus so it loses a bit of cooldown reduction. Our lone Greater Glyph of Celerity(and the offensive tree masteries) allow us to close that gap and you'll save 410 IP on your glyphs. Not too shabby.

    3x Greater Quintessence of Swiftness

    Another user suggested these to me and after trying them out I really like them. Breaking 400 movespeed without having to use Time Warp makes getting around a lot easier. Plus it really helps with escapes.

    For masteries I use 9/0/21. The utility masteries are the same but we have offensive tree masteries here instead of the defensive ones. This provides us with a little extra ability power, magic penetration, and the CDR that frees up our Quintessence slots for those Movespeed Quints.

  • Items

    Core Build = [item_icon=Soul Shroud]

    Start with Sapphire Crystal 2x Health Potion

    Go back as soon as you have 925g to get Catalyst the Protector

    Then you will want to pick up Boots of Speed before finishing Rod of Ages

    After that is done finish your Ionian Boots of Lucidity and make a Kindlegem

    You can wait to finish the [item=Soul Shroud] if you want to but I usually make it now for the mana regen.

    Now that you've got survivability down you can make a Moonflair Spellblade. This isn't really part of the core build and isn't 100% necessary in all games but I find that I usually make this before finishing any defensive items, but after picking up the Chain Vest or Negatron Cloak. If and when you make this is entirely up to you. You may also want to consider [item_text=Eleisa's Miracle] instead of Moonflair Spellblade.

    Now if you are having problems it's important to make some defensive items. You can pick up a Chain Vest or a Negatron Cloak early on and build it into something fancy later. These items are good enough on their own, so don't be discouraged to buy them before you are done your core build. They will help your survivability considerably which is important because you can't let yourself die and you shouldn't be using your ult on yourself. So stay alive and keep your team alive.

    If you need Armor you can turn that Chain Vest into any of these.

    Zhonya's Hourglass

    The extra 100 AP is nothing to laugh at and the active has saved me more time than I can count. This item really helps if you are getting focused down in team fights and it has become my favorit armor item recently

    Guardian Angel

    This is what I build if I need to defend on both sides of the spectrum. This item combined with your ult makes you nearly impossible to kill. If you find you're being focused you might want to build this early. Most enemies wont bother with a Zilean who has a Guardian Angel in a team fight because they'd have to kill you 3 times before you stayed dead and any half competent team wouldn't let that happen.


    This provides the most armor of any single item and it does it on the cheap no less. A great choice against heavy AD teams.

    Sunfire Cape

    This one always looks a bit odd on Zilean but it can be an amazing item. I wont usually build this unless I already have a Thornmail but it's a fine choice especially if you love Health as much as I do. This in conjunction with Thornmail is what you should be building if you are facing off against a heavy AD team.

    If need Magic Resist you can turn that Negatron Cloak into any of these.

    Banshee's Veil

    This is my go to item for Magic Resist. The stats combined with that bubble are just too good to pass up. Even against teams without much CC the shield can still protect you from otherwise fatal abilities. I can't stress enough just how good this item is.

    Abyssal Scepter

    The extra ability power and the aura on this make it an excellent item. I usually make this when the enemy team doesn't have much MR as the aura makes this much more appealing than BV.

  • Skilling Order

    External Image

    You want to maximize Time Bomb first. Even though you're not the carry this skill scales very well so max it out. After I generally level Rewind and Time Warp evenly until they are both lvl 3, once they're both at 3 just focus on Rewind.

    You want to level your ult every chance you get. Leveling Zilean's ult just gives more health when they come back. However since I don't build many AP items I level it whenever I get a chance.

  • Summoner Abilities

    Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to summoner skills. I'll almost always use some combination of Flash, Clairvoyance, Ignite, Teleport and Clarity but that doesn't mean that you have to. Honestly you can use pretty much anything you want as long as it's not Rally, Revive, or Smite. I'll tell you why I use what I use though.


    This is my favorite summoner spell on Zilean. The escape capabilities are just amazing. This skill keeps me alive so I don't have to ult myself. Combined with Time Warp you should be able to escape from nearly any sticky situation


    This skill is very good if you're playing a premade. Even if you're not it can still save you some money on wards. Map awareness wins games and this skill provides just that.


    Ignite on Zilean acts sort of like an extra attack almost. I've gotten many first blood's thanks to this and it's definitely viable. I'll pick this if someone else on the team got Clairvoyance or if no one got Ignite.


    I'm trying to use this one less often, but in games where I don't have it I always miss having that extra mana around.


    Nowadays I almost exclusively use this alongside Flash. In a way it replaces Clarity as a mana restoring ability since you can just return to base and then Teleport back. Granted you can't restore an ally's mana that way but you now have a summoner ability that isn't completely irrelevant in the late game. Plus you can use it to do cool stuff like ganking the enemy's jungler at blue buff and what not.

  • Pros / Cons


    - Great laning phase
    - Good crowd control capabilities
    - Good escape mechanism
    - Has a farming skill
    - Can rez people
    - Has an epic beard
    - Throws rocks and doesn't afraid of anything


    - Doesn't do a lot of damage during the team fight phase
    - Is the ideal target to get focused down
    - Your teammates will always blame you for not rezzing them, no matter where you are on the map
    - Burns through mana something fierce
    - That beard is probably a pain in the ass to keep clean
    - Has to carry around a giant clock and probably has back problems because of it

  • Working in the team

    In the end despite all the talk of building Zilean as a tank, he's still a support character when all is said and done.

    In team fights you should try to stay as far back as you can. Your range isn't too amazing so you will usually be somewhere in the middle of your team. Your job first and foremost is to use your ult to save your allies. This should take precedence over everything else you're doing.

    Next on your list of priorities is to keep your enemies slowed down. You want to make it hard for them to move around. This should let your carries get away or get around the enemies. Unfortunately if all you do is slow someone before they die you don't get an assist, you'll have to take one for the team here.

    Only when those things are done should you be bombing enemy champions. When bombing remember that it has an area of effect and that it's on a delay. Try to bomb people who are low on health but look like they might escape. You could also just bomb whoever is in the middle of their team, even if it's the tank as this will allow you to hit multiple targets.

  • Closing Arguements

    Well that's all for now. I'll try to update this guide with new sections and new information as soon as I can. If you have any tips(mostly on formatting) please message me. I'm open to suggestions.

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Submitted by Red_Angel

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