Zilean Build Guide

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Support & Damage cores for soloqueue

written by Dithnir

Zilean Build

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    UPDATE 23.9.11
    Various tweaks and amendments, particularly to Zilean as a support. The support section is filled out with early game advice taken directly from Xpecial's support guide on Solomid. This is to credit him directly for his excellent guide and advice on ward placement and use of CV.

    Zilean will age you, Zilean will make you feel young again. Zilean can even bring you back from the dead.
    Zilean knows better than anybody that in life, you're going about your life happily only to find some bombshell lands. It's inescapable and it will usually never hurt only you, but also the ones you love.

    Zilean is a song in the key of life and the song is ending sooner than you think.

    This is a soloqueue guide specifically. For me that means the following:

    * Team co-ordination is poor
    * Nobody will ward
    * The quality of your teammates, to put it politely, varies
    * (Applies generally but) Not dying and placing wards is a minimum necessary, but not sufficient, condition for victory. Always build to fulfil the minimum necessary condition for victory, and hope your team can co-ordinate to fulfil the sufficient conditions, tower killing and oppo killing

    Zilean is a metaphor for the human condition, but this is what I think of Zilean:

    * One of THE strongest harrassers with good damage in the lane phase and mid game. He quickly switches to a pure support thereafter as his damage output diminishes comparative to his teammates
    * He benefits from good CDR
    * He's squishy, so if you're going damage, be very good at zoning, you shouldn't be wasting your ult on yourself
    * He can deny enemies a certain kill at best every 30 odd seconds!
    * Spamming rewind to spam your skills to help in teamfights will WRECK your mana reserves!

  • Abilities

    Heightened Learning
    8% increased xp is nice enough. Like many passives it's not amazing, but each level is more health and an extra ability level, so the quicker you get there, the quicker you press the advantage.

    Time Bomb
    Place it on the enemy, 4 seconds later and 'KerBlam'. AoE damage.
    Place it on your Eve or Twitch, she stands next to enemy, AoE damage from an invisible untargettable source :)
    Place it on a minion line with some AP for a nice gold boost, when your carry isn't about. Or place it on a minion that's heading towards the enemy lines and as they attack your minion wave it will trigger the bomb. This becomes a very dangerous thing to do with decent AP, so you will zone them very well if you can get some AP early.
    Place it on the oppo as a support, get control of the brush to dominate your lane for your carry.

    With Penetration and AP this bomb can really hurt.

    Zilean's defining spell. While it merely reduces the cooldown of other spells, getting good CDR means it's the key to some devastating spell combos, exhaustively listed on other awesome Zilean guides here. Time Bomb -> Rewind -> Time Bomb - big burst AoE Damage....Time Warp -> Rewind -> Time Warp can speed up two allies, slow two enemies, or one of each.

    Finally, Rewind spamming with max CDR is what brings your ult cooldown to around 30 seconds. It can be ready for most if not all team engagements. Be aware that this will really hit your mana.

    Time Warp
    At level 5 it speeds or slows by 55% for 5 seconds! That is forever. But you know this because you've seen it, and seen how amazing it is for getaways or chasing. That big red clock on the oppo is the timepiece of the Reaper, counting down their final seconds.

    Chrono Shift
    Cast this within 7 seconds of your target's death and they will pop back to life.
    Caution: This usually means they pop back up only to get beaten down in seconds again, so think about when it should be used.

    Don't take any crap off anyone who's left behind as your team flees from a rampant oppo who are chasing you. That person would die a second time anyway because your team aren't pushing and zoning enough to let them run back behind your line. Better to have it ready for your team regrouping to re-engage.

  • Masteries + Runes


    Support and dual lane

    You're taking CV and Flash as support or dual lane, because even if you're in blind pick and don't fancy babysitting the carry like you would be in ranked where everyone is devoted to the Carry+Support bottom lane, CV is a free temporary ward every 60 seconds. See the 'Summoner abilities section below'.

    Solo lane

    If you are going solo lane you could go the standard 9-0-21 for a mage carry, but I'd suggest something a little more tanky. With the associated runepage in the below section you'll have whopping magic resist early on, as it's likely you'll be soloing mid lane against another mage. This allows you to shrug off their attacks more easily and stay in their face.

    Zilean finds it hard to maintain a double bomb strategy on an aggressive enemy champ because once he's done that he's low on mana with no other spells to do damage. Zilean can't combo except at great cost, and even with a single bomb rotation the cooldown is too high. He's burst, but not able to fatally burst without some support.

    You're taking Teleport and Flash as Zilean because you have a built in Ghost with your Time Warp while the Teleport means you can get back to mid lane immediately to not lose out on farm early game, or indeed support wherever is needed later in game.

    If you're more comfortable with an offensive Zilean, as some top players are, you can take Flash and Ignite and offensive runes and masteries pages. Flashing in, Igniting and double bombing will almost certainly send an enemy back, but if you haven't killed them you're low on mana with no Flash to escape if things turn bad shortly after.


    Support and dual lane
    Greater Quintessence of Potency x 2 for that early game damage boost
    Greater Quintessence of Clarity x 1 to allow you to harrass that bit more often in lane and beyond

    Greater Mark of Insight x 9 for the early lane damage output. You could also go Greater Mark of Desolation so your early auto attack damage on the enemy champs is improved. Zilean has a decent auto attack range.

    Greater Seal of Clarity x 9 because you need as much mana as you can get

    Greater Glyph of Force x 9 to boost your AP throughout the game

    The rationale for the above is that as a support you shouldn't be putting yourself in harm's way unnecessarily, but "warding off" the oppo so your carry can get farm. As such you can get your sustain from Philosopher's Stone plus one or more [item_text=Heart of Gold]/Doran's Ring.

    Similar to Janna, you don't heal as such but provide cc and, unlike Janna, some serious direct damage and a full resurrect.

    Solo lane
    Greater Quintessence of Vigor x 2 for strong initial sustain
    Greater Quintessence of Clarity x 1 again, for stronger sustain

    The rationale for these is first of all, that it's soloqueue. You cannot rely on ganks with jungler or other teammates in order to win lanes, you have to build to survive whatever the matchmaking throws at you, which could be a fellow scrub or a very good player.

    If I'm coming off worse for poke etc. because I'm a low elo scrub, these runes allow me to stick around and get back in, not having to go to base all the time. Staying in solo lane and trying to farm in and around their poke is the best way to overcome a manifestly better mid lane oppo. If you aren't blue pilling all the time you aren't getting too far behind so their farm isn't as big as it could be, you've mitigated their snowball. Of course, if you're a better player, enjoy yourself. This is soloqueue, it's a bit pot luck what you get in the oppo and for team mates :)

    If you're a more l33t player you should of course consider more offensive quints to take the damage to them, at least one Greater Quintessence of Insight to bring your Magic Pen up to a nice round 30 with Sorcerer's Shoes to negate almost all early game Magic Resist and two Greater Quintessence of Potency
    If you end up mid in a draft mode game and you know it's a strong mid laner you'll be facing as Zilean you could also consider Greater Quintessence of Warding. I've done this before now against a Brand, running with about 60 Magic Resist level 1 and just zoned him out of the game because his attacks weren't hurting.
    Greater Mark of Insight x 9 for the early lane damage output. You could also go Greater Mark of Strength so your early auto attack damage on minions and enemy is improved. Zilean has a decent auto attack range, but in solo lane he needs to ensure he's maximising last hits, which this extra damage will help him to do.
    Greater Seal of Clarity x 9 because you need as much mana as you can get
    Greater Glyph of Warding x 9 because with that one Resist quint and the defensive mastery you'll be at 59 magic resist at level 1! The AP carry opposite you will have a hard time laying on the pain.

  • Summoner Abilities - with tips for placing CV and wards in the pure support role

    Solo lane
    Flash + Teleport or Ignite
    These two are ideal for a solo laner as mentioned above so take them if you're going on the offensive.

    Support and dual lane
    Flash + Clairvoyance

    Clairvoyance is the default choice on any support. You're expected to drop CV to check the Baron, Dragon, jungle buffs and any oppo movements, such as their jungler on his route or a potential gank if they're missing.

    Using Clairvoyance and Wards early game

    Use Clairvoyance about 5 seconds after you appear on the map, over the oppo's base. This will give your teammates an early look at the items the oppo are taking, which may be of some benefit to know, equally if they are all dashing off from the base then they're clearly planning something nefarious in the jungle.

    All the following assumes you're Purple, coming from the top of the map as seen below. Place your next cv as soon as it's up where the circle is. You should have 3 wards on you as well (see item list below).

    External Image

    It is normally the case that if the enemy plan to invade your jungle to get your blue and put your jungler off his route, or they simply wish to invade, the red arrow shows the most likely route. They would be sitting in that brush you cv'd next to or moving through it to position around your blue.

    If your CV shows it's clear then dash across the river and put a ward on the ramp into their jungle near mid.

    Now you'll see if they plan to invade at all, and if they don't they're either sat in lanes or are defending their jungle blue to support their jungler.

    Your third CV should go to where you think the enemy jungler will most likely be. If they haven't invaded then drop it on their blue. Their jungler, if there, will still be there when you CV. Now you have some idea of where to drop the next one, probably somewhere near wolves and mid lane as their jungler moves across to the wraiths.

    The second ward you should place at the bottom 'W' on the map early if they have a jungler. Some junglers might gank at level 2 or 3. If you don't place it immediately as you attempt to get into lane then you need to place it without being seen to do so. This may mean that you have to go back around past your blue and into the river that way, but CV that spot before dropping the ward in the brush there unless you can see all the oppo.

    Now, for the first few minutes of the game the enemy cannot make a move into your jungle or towards bottom without you knowing about it. You have automatically covered dragon as you've covered the only two paths in.

    Also, enemy junglers usually go for the Red buff at about level 3 or 4, and they're levelling about the same as a duo lane on a smooth run. Use that as a guide to their level. Some blue pill before the red buff, such as Amumu, then grab it and head for gank, or others can do it as part of their main run, such as Fiddlesticks.

    I don't know the junglers well enough to track their routes and preferences, some also mix it up anyway, so I apologise for not being that pro just yet :(

    If you dropped your ward at the bottom 'W' on the above map a little after the first you will still have some visibility on that route into the river come level 4.

    Other tips

    When you see a lone team mate and very few of the oppo, drop a CV nearby where they could be ganked. This helps your lone team mate know whether they're safe to continue pushing their lane or get out of dodge.

    When you want to place a ward somewhere and the oppo are missing, cv the spot nearby so that you can place that ward safely before moving away.

    Press and hold TAB frequently during the early phase to see what the enemy are packing, especially if you see their support blue pill. If they are buying wards, particularly a Vision Ward, you know they're going to drop one in the same brush or right on the dragon to get visibility mid river and the ramp coming out of your blue. They're trying to catch your green ward they expect to see there. This is why you place your ward in the brush. You can of course use your own Vision Ward afterwards, destroy theirs and feel good, especially as they'll see you do it.

    If you see that their top lane or mid have wards then you can type into chat that your team must assume they have riverbrushes or top brushes warded.

    You can normally tell this if your jungler or mid comes to top or bottom and you see them amble back and stay there...they can see you!

    They've got an Akali! And this being soloqueue you have no idea how good your team mates are :( In this scenario you could take the Faerie Charm, one Vision Ward, one Sight Ward and some pots.

    Drop that Vision ward in the lane with Akali in, near the middle, or slightly to your side. It's better if she doesn't see that, but it isn't the end of the world if she does but can't kill it quickly, because then she'll know that her tricks just aren't going to work for a while and you can afford to be more aggressive. This might mean you have to run to top lane and then back to bottom. DO IT.

    You might get laughed at by your team, but once Akali goes into her smoke and they beat on her and kill her they'll be glad.

    From then on though, they should refresh that ward themselves, you lost some time leeching xp and you need to stay close in levels to your team to build up the mana and heal support.

    [item=Oracle's Elixir]

    It's hard to know when you should get one of these as it does really depend on how the game is going.

    If you know they're buying wards and your lane partner is comfortable, lane is perhaps pushed or you've just got a kill or two and there's a bit of a lull in the action, get an Oracle and head out to the river to clear out any in the brush there. Start in the bottom of the river near the lane you're meant to be looking after unless top is really harrassed. If so, head there, help them out a bit, then on your way back south cv ahead of you and go into that brush to clear any wards out. Otherwise just clear out the bottom river, after a cv, so you can return to lane.

  • Skilling order

    You max time bomb first because it's your only offensive spell, used for harrass as support or duo lane or as a minion wave clearing farm bomb. A single point in your Time Warp is sufficient to deter chasers or speed you out of trouble early on while your Rewind's cooldown improves with levelling and it's the key to chaining your skills.

    The only benefit to levelling your Ult after level 6 is with regards to the revived champion's health, which is affected by AP as well. If you're using your Ult well enough it doesn't matter too much what health they revive at, it's usually enough to allow them to turn a fight or to get away. As I mentioned above, there's no point in reviving a team mate who is alone behind enemy lines as they advance, they'll die again in seconds. Keep it for when you can save a teammate who can then do something useful.

  • Items

    Support items

    / x 2 / x 3

    Get these out of the gate. The charm is a core item for Philosopher's Stone while the sight wards are important for your early lane. See the above section on how to utilise these starting wards.

    You would have one ward left if you placed the others as shown on the above map.

    Give it a minute or two to understand how the flow of the lane might go. If you have someone like Taric, Alistar or a non traditional support like Fiddle or Lux then they'll be looking to sit there and zone you out aggressively.

    Drop your third ward straight away into your side of the endlane brush. Otherwise, just wait until you see how the lane pans out.

    If you're pushing your lane aggressively, perhaps they have an afk or disconnect or your carry is not listening to you beg them to just last hit, then save the ward for the river when the second ward you placed runs out. That's where the hurt is coming from, not your side brush. If you're in your own half of the bottom lane then pop it in your brush so if they do push, they can't zone you back to the tower.

    Early game build

    / / [item_icon=Heart of Gold]

    Philosopher's Stone

    Health and mana regen means you can focus your attention on the oppo and your ally rather than yourself, while you need the gold per 10 buff to boost your gold given you won't be last hitting creeps that your ally can otherwise take....by all means take last hits if your ally won't get them.

    Ionian Boots of Lucidity

    With the build matrix outlined, these are a key part of getting you to max CDR, and they lop off a good chunk of cooldown early in game. You get boots earlier rather than later on Zilean as they're important for zoning and bomb placement.

    [item=Heart of Gold]

    Extra health and more gold per 10 is very useful. You could take [item_text=Kage's Lucky Pick] for more AP and gold per 10 but I think it's better to be able to take a bit of stray damage if you get caught out in your lane.

    With these two items and the mastery you're earning some gold to be able to buy the later items and keep warding.

    Doran's Ring?

    If your lane is not going well, or you are against champions that have strong poke, you should consider holding off on finishing that stone and get a Doran's Ring. It gives mana regen for spamming, more health of course and the AP for a slight boost to heals. This, perhaps even two of them, plus a Heart of Gold will give you a lot of health early on to cope with their damage till the cavalry arrive.


    You should buy most of the wards. I would recommend buying a vision ward in the early to mid game if the oppo look like they're trying to farm the dragon when it's up, i.e. they have a clue.

    It's likely they'll have it warded for that very reason, so a Vision Ward will reveal that.

    After level 13 or 14 you should put Vision Wards in the Baron, ideally just behind him to make it hard to target, or even notice.

    Otherwise you should always target brush near river ramps.

    Beyond the core

    [item=Morello's Evil Tome]

    If you're not getting seriously harrassed by good players and therefore not dying, you should build this item next. It's got big CDR, more regen to help you spam rewind and more AP. This is a really strong item in a limited gold build.

    Needlessly Large Rod

    If it's going really well this will make a big difference to your damage. Don't ignore wards!

    Shurelya's Reverie
    Your Philosopher's Stone upgrades to Shurelya's. It gives CDR, health and regen, so if you've got no CDR items and you need something tankier than [item_text=Morello's Evil Tome] then go for this.

    The Active is really useful, 3 seconds of +40% move speed every minute, AOE! This can help your team a great deal and perhaps save lives or help them to catch up and take lives.

    I found it useful to map the Active to my third mousebutton via the mouse software (if yours allows it). It helps my feeble mind and arthritic fingers not to have to move them rapidly back and fore from the default keys :)

    Aegis of the Legion
    Another very solid item on a support champ. Health for you and damage mitigation for you and your allies, the aura range is really quite large so don't worry.

    You'd get this item sooner if your team are struggling.

    Rabadon's Deathcap
    The other way of thinking about a tough game is just to really boost your damage and your ult. As long as you've got the CDR and the regen this can really hurt the oppo. Of course, if you built the Rod earlier, this isn't such a big gold jump to acquire.

    Aura items

    / [item_icon=Stark's Fervor] / [item_icon=Soul Shroud]

    Your team makeup will tell you which of the above might make a useful aura item. The first gives you more AP which is nice, the second is going to boost health regen and attack speed, so of great benefit to those types on your team while the Shroud gives you more survivability and your team more regen spammability and extra cooldowns. Of course, you'd be over the CDR cap yourself, but it could make a great difference to the damage and cc output of your team.

    Solo or non support items

    / or (x2?)/ / [item_icon=Morello's Evil Tome] /

    Starting items is your choice:
    + x 3 or
    + x 2

    The boots start gives you good mobility to avoid skillshots with three health pots to sustain you through the first few levels if you're struggling to get a bead on your oppo (perhaps an unfamiliar champion or you're taking time to learn their patterns of movement)

    The Doran's start is a solid one for AP, mana regen and some early health.

    The Sapphire start is if you are keen to rush the Catalyst. The earlier the Catalyst the more it'll benefit, but as I said, sometimes two Doran's Rings are a good choice if you have tough oppo.

    In the laning phase you have two paths. You build out a Catalyst the Protector if you feel you're doing ok and not getting heavily harrassed. It's regen every level and the chunk of health and mana really help you sustain in your lane. It builds out to the Rod of Ages which is a great item for AP, mana and health. A larger mana pool with some regen offsets you having to take lots of regen, but the much increased health and AP also boost your game.

    If however you are having a hard time in that lane, you should just stack two, possibly 3 Doran's Rings to maintain lane presence if underfarmed or outzoned. From here I'd rush a Deathcap or at least a Needlessly Large Rod for a boost to your Timebomb farming and harrass.

    If you followed these Doran's Rings with a Catalyst you'd not have the AP when it really matters, which for Zilean is early game.

    You could also try a Philosopher's Stone early to offset gold loss but with the recommended defensive runes above, really boost your sustain. You'll be very hard to zone out of lane with that much health and mana regen.

    The [item_text=Morello's Evil Tome] gives that big boost to CDR vital for Zilean's later game ulti use, while giving also more mana regen for the increased spamming later in game as Zilean rewinds his spells to stay as useful as possible.

    Be aware your damage output tails off the longer the game goes on. The bomb will do a nice chunk of damage but the carries' burst potential will either wreck you in seconds or have wrecked the oppo before your bomb even goes off!

    As such you find yourself of increasingly marginal damage utility. That's why you stack AP first then go defensive later on in this latter build.

    In a long game you simply HAVE to stay back, because with fed carries the best thing you can do is be alive to revive them and slow the oppo or speed them up to catch them. Not dead trying to do comparatively minor extra damage.

  • Summary

    This guide acknowledges Zilean's early game damage viability, lategame support viability and regurgitates some pro support advice for the early game.

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Submitted by Dithnir

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