Zilean Build Guide

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Zilean - The Ins and Outs

written by RayMkII

Zilean Build

Table of Contents

  • Disclaimer

    This guide is still a work in progress. I wanted to finally get it posted after having toiled and slaved over it for quite some time. There's still much work to be done. I want to add various screenshots of specific bomb placements, as well as various tips and tricks that I like to use. If there is information missing or you have questions, comments or tips of your own you'd like to share I implore you to do so. It would mean a lot to me. Also, please give me a rating if any of this information helped you at all! Thanks!

  • Introduction

    I've always been a longtime Zilean player. I randomly chose him my first few times playing the game back in beta and fell in love with his fire and forget, always on the move playstyle. Classified as support, Zilean can also be built to be more of a high damage AP mage while still retaining his amazing support role; even better than he would if built purely support, in my honest opinion.

    I've seen many guides and builds over the ages and I've tested mostly all of them. The conclusion I've come to after all of my testing is that people put way too much emphasis on cooldown reduction. Yes, CDR is good. Yes you should get it. No, you shouldn't go way out of your way to get 40% CDR before anything else.

    Zilean has the potential to play both a major support role as well as a high damage nuker role at the same time with the same items. And I'm going to show you how.

    11/22/10 - Added a section on the Golem Buff, edited the items section slightly, worked on the Laning section slightly

    5/15/11 - Updated items and abilities, trimmed unnecessary information

    5/26/11 - Updated more on Golem Buff priority, updated my build as it's changed with the current metagame

  • Quick Reference

    Quick reference for those who just want the basics, though I recommend actually reading the guide for maximum understanding.



    (Clairvoyance and Flash for ranked, any other combination for normals)

    R > Q > W > E



    [item_icon=Eleisa's Miracle] / [item_icon=Morello's Evil Tome]

    [item_icon=Eleisa's Miracle] / [item_icon=Morello's Evil Tome]

  • Abilities

    Heightened Learning
    Zilean's passive is one of the more boring passives in the game. It affects everyone on your team at all times anywhere on the map. Essentially, anyone laning will level up one minion kill before their enemies do. It will grant your jungler a slight advantage as well.

    That's about it. Nothing flashy, but it could be worse. Like Kayle's old passive. Eww.

    Time Bomb
    Cost: 70 / 85 / 100 / 115 / 130 mana
    Magic Damage: 90 / 145 / 200 / 260 / 320 (+0.9 per ability power)
    Cooldown: 10 Seconds

    Time Bomb is your bread and butter. It's what makes Zilean such an amazing harasser, farmer and, if built right, nuker. You can place a bomb on any unit, friend or foe. After 4 seconds the bomb explodes and deals damage to the target (if it's an enemy) and anything around said target in a decent sized range.

    Time Bomb is Zilean's only offensive spell, which is why a majority of players view him as a full support character and will build him as such. However I say nay! Time Bomb has a 0.9 AP ratio. That means that for every 10 points of Ability Power you get, Time Bomb gains 9 damage. With a base damage of 330, combined with a little bit of Magic Penetration and a large sum of Ability Power... well, let's just say sh*t gets nasty.

    The last piece of information on this skill I have is about the infamous "double bomb." If you place a second bomb on a unit that already has a bomb on it, you will overwrite the first bomb, causing it to immediately explode.

    WARNING: Your bombs will acquire Turret aggro during the 4 second pre-detonation time, so be mindful of Turret range.

    Key Points:
    - Time Bomb has a 0.9 AP Ratio.
    - Can be placed on allies or enemies.
    - Acquires Turret aggro upon placement, not detonation.
    - Immediate detonation can be caused with the placement of another bomb on the same target.

    Cost: 50 Mana
    Cooldown: 18 / 15 / 12 / 9 / 6 Seconds

    Rewind is a skill that does not necessarily do anything by itself, but rather allows you to use your other three abilities much, much more frequently. When activated it lowers the cooldown of your Time Bomb, Time Warp and Chrono Shift spells by 10 seconds. Putting more points in Rewind lowers the cooldown of Rewind itself, allowing it to be used more frequently and thereby allowing you to use everything else more frequently.

    Using Rewind is what lets you pull off the double bomb combo. Place a Time Bomb, hit Rewind and all of a sudden your Time Bomb has already cooled down. So do it again! Be mindful of your mana, though. At max rank it takes 120 mana to place a bomb, 50 to Rewind, and another 120 to place the second bomb. So if you don't have the mana for the combo you'll just end up wasting Rewind, as well as 50 mana, for no real reason.

    Later on in the game, if you have downtime and have the mana to spare, spamming Rewind while your ultimate is cooling down is never a bad idea. You want to have your ultimate up as much as humanly possible because of how amazing it can really be. You never know when your teammate might get themselves into trouble by face checking a bush or pushing too far out. ;)

    Also, don't hesitate to use Rewind to cool down your skills even if they only have a second or two left on them if it will be the difference between an ally living or dying.

    Key Points:
    - Allows the use of the double bomb.
    - Be mindful of your mana, make sure you have enough to use the spell you're Rewinding!
    - With max CDR, can bring your ultimate to a 24 sec cooldown by spamming.
    - Puts a pie above your head. Mmmm. Pie.

    Time Warp
    Cost: 100 Mana
    Duration: 2.5 / 3.25 / 4 / 4.75 / 5.5 Seconds
    Cooldown: 20 Seconds

    Time Warp is an amazing skill. If you think about it, it's really two skills in one. If used on an ally it will speed up their movement speed. If used on an enemy it will slow them down.

    What separates the pros from the rest is effective and knowledgeable use of Time Warp. Knowing when it's better to boost an ally into range for a stun or slow of their own, or when to slow an enemy down for your team to come in for a kill. A general rule of thumb is this: If there's two or more allies in the fight, slowing the enemy is better 95% of the time. If it's just you, or you and an ally, boosting your ally or yourself may be better to net a kill.

    Some great boost targets include anyone with a stun, such as Taric or Sion, or anyone with some sort of ability to displace the enemy, such as Singed with his Fling, or Gragas with his ultimate.

    Key Points:
    - Boosts allies, slows enemies.
    - If you have allies around, slow your enemies. If it's just you, boost yourself.
    - Boosting champions with stuns or snares is a great way to initiate.
    - Boost a rolling Rammus for hilarious results.

    Chrono Shift
    Cost: 200 Mana
    Duration: 7 Seconds
    Health Gained: 600 / 850 / 1100 (+2.0 per ability power)
    Cooldown: 180 Seconds

    Your ultimate skill, Chrono Shift, is absolutely godlike. When you cast it on an ally it places a buff on them for 7 seconds. If they die while they're marked they will be resurrected shortly thereafter with a certain amount of health. The amount changes depending on the rank of the skill, and the amount of ability power you have. This is another reason why ability power is an amazing stat for Zilean.

    Always be sure to use your ultimate as late as possible, but not too late that your ally dies. ;) You want to give your enemies as little time as possible to see the spinning hourglasses, as smart players will leave the target alive for those 7 seconds, and kill them shortly thereafter.

    Be sure that whoever it is you're saving has the ability to continue to fight after they come back. If Amumu has already used his ultimate and has taken a majority of the enemy hits already and is nigh out of mana, then there's really no point in saving him when you could save a carry later on in the teamfight. Remember, Chrono Shift does not restore mana, only health.

    Key Points:
    - Does not restore mana.
    - Use it as late as possible.
    - Don't hesitate to let a Turret kill you or an ally when they have your ultimate.
    - Make sure the teammate you're saving will be able to continue to do things when they resurrect.

  • Masteries + Runes


    You can use a lot of different rune setups with Zilean. I like to build my setup much more offensively, giving my Bombs plenty of kick.

    My rune setup:
    Greater Mark of Insight
    Greater Seal of Clarity
    Greater Glyph of Force
    Greater Quintessence of Force

    I forsake the infamous Health Quints for more raw AP. This setup will give you a free 51 AP from your runes. Including the 11 you gain from your mastery build (highlighted below) that's a grand total of 62 free AP at level 18. Considering a decently built caster at level 18 has roughly 200-300 AP, that's pretty strong.


    For masteries the most efficient build is the basic 9/0/21 caster setup. Make sure to take [mastery_text=Archaic Knowledge] in Offense and go all the way down the Utility tree for all the nice free CDR, but also for the little movement speed boost, some more mana regen, [mastery_text=Utility Mastery] for keeping the Golem buff on you longer and for shortening your summoner spells' cooldowns via [mastery_text=Presence of the Master]. How you go down the tree and what points you put where really depends on what Summoner Spells you take.

    My build: 9/0/21

  • Summoner Spells

    Zilean has plenty of optimal choices for Summoner Spells. Personally I take Ignite and Flash. Many other combinations can work just as well. It's all based on your personal preference and your playstyle.

    Ignite is amazing for many reasons. Your only damaging ability is Time Bomb and Ignite gives you that extra punch to take down foes. The double bomb/Ignite is a devastating combination. It also has a fairly short cooldown, just over two minutes, if you put 21 points into Utility for [mastery_text=Presence of the Master].

    Teleport has many uses. And its uses evolve with the length of the game. In the early game you can use it to go back to base to regen mana/health, buy items, then get back to your lane quickly. It can also be used to save a failing teammate's lane. Mid game it can be used to save Turrets from large minion pushes if no one happens to be around. You can also use it to teleport onto well placed wards to assist with ganks and teamfights, such as at the Dragon. If enemies are pushed far up into a lane you can teleport to minions or wards to create a gank in another lane by magically appearing there for a slow and some large damage. ;) Late game it can be used to join allies in an unsuspecting teamfight and even backdoor turrets. Make sure to take the [mastery_text=Spatial Accuracy] Mastery!

    Clarity is probably one of the most amazing Summoner Spells for Zilean simply because he CHUGS mana. I don't really think this one needs anymore explanation than that. You'll never be in the wrong for going Clarity, especially with the [mastery_text=Insight] Mastery. Helps to keep you and an ally in a lane for much longer, and helps with late game pushes by keeping your allies' mana bars full up for extended pushing power!

    Flash is another very useful spell. Mainly it'd be used to escape ganks, as Zilean is a frail champion. Having an escape mechanic spell is always a good idea on any character. If you're gonna use Flash I'd recommend grabbing the [mastery_text=Blink of an Eye] Mastery. As a frail champion you will be the focus a majority of the time in a teamfight and you need to have a reliable escape mechanic. I implore you to use this in all ranked matches. Keeping yourself out of harm's way is crucial so you don't have to immediately burn your ultimate on yourself.

    Clairvoyance is not so much a Summoner Spell that is recommended for Zilean, but rather for anyone to benefit the team. I believe that at least one person on every team should have this spell, as it allows you to keep an eye on junglers and keep a look out for ganks. It also lets you check up on the Dragon, as well as your Golem and Lizard camps. In ranked play, generally the support will be somewhat obligated to take Clairvoyance, so I recommend this spell for ranked play. Grab the [mastery_text=Mystical Vision] Mastery to go along with it!

    All of the other Summoner Spells I just couldn't really see finding great use on Zilean. Any combination of the above is going to be your best bet. "But Ray! Everyone takes Ghost! It may as well be a default spell!" Yeah. It's true. But you have Time Warp. As far as escaping is concerned, it'll get you out of most situations. And if you need more escape grab Cleanse and/or Flash. But, in the end, Summoner Spells are all about personal preference, so go with what fits your style.

  • Skilling Order

    Maxing out Time Bomb is priority number one. After that you'll want to max out Rewind so that you can spam your other three abilities more often. Leveling up Time Warp only increases the duration of the effect and, for the most part, you won't need more than two seconds of it for it to do its job in the early-mid game.

    Skill Priority, after level 4, is always R > Q > W > E No matter how you're laning.

  • Items


    I like to start things off with a Doran's Ring and a Health Potion. The ring simply gives you everything you'll need in the early game: Health, mana regen and a little bit of added AP. The ring combined with my [email protected] runes gives me more than enough mana regen for the early-mid game. At least, until I can grab my boots and Catalyst/Tear.


    My first trip back I will always buy my Boots of Speed. Depending on my gold I could either upgrade them right away to either my Sorcerer's Shoes or Ionian Boots of Lucidity. Gold pending, I could always splurge for an early Sapphire Crystal for the added mana, and/or my Ruby Crystal if I'm getting focused. Since I use AP runes I can focus on getting more health/mana/utility items in the early game and still retain a great amount of AP to give my bombs plenty of kick.

    My Sapphire Crystal I either upgrade into a Catalyst the Protector or Tear of the Goddess depending on what the situation calls for. If I'm taking a lot of hits and getting focus fired, which nine times out of ten is the case, I'll spring for the early Catalyst. It's rare that I'm not taking much damage but if that happens to be the case I'll simply get my Tear, followed up by the Catalyst, to start stacking up the mana sooner. This is around level 9ish.


    Generally I'll shoot for a Rod of Ages next. It grants a lot of health, mana and AP, all of which improve passively every minute the game progresses.

    What item I get next is entirely dependent upon the enemy team. Generally, if I have it, I'll upgrade my Tear into an Archangel's Staff. If they're stacking Magic Resistance I'll go for a Void Staff. If they're stacking HP I'll go for a Deathfire Grasp, which is also nice to add on some more CDR if your Golem Buff keeps getting taken from you. And if I'm simply dominating THAT hard I'll rush straight to Rabadon's Deathcap, though this rarely happens. This late in the game one should always adapt to what his enemies are building. If you need even more HP [item_text=Rylai's Scepter] isn't a bad call either, as the application of your bombs will apply the slowing effect. However, its main use is for the added HP and AP. The slow is just icing on the cake. And if you need some more Magic Resistance you can always go for the Abyssal Scepter, which will also grant you some more AP and some more Magic Penetration.


    The end result is something like that. My last items are always subject to change depending on the enemy team makeup and item builds, but my first few items are the same 90% of the time.


    Settling in to more of the support role I choose to start off with a Regrowth Pendant and either a Health Potion or Mana Potion depending on who I'm going to be paired up against. If I'm going to be against more passive early-game champions I'll go Mana, if they're going to be hard and harassing I'll need the extra regen from the Health Potion to stay in lane longer.


    My first trip back always buys me my Philosopher's Stone to begin generating gold as quickly as possible. Being stuck in the bottom lane a majority of the time means your farm is limited by factors such as your partner's last hitting capability and what your enemies' harassment capability is like. Afterwards I'll always grab Boots of Speed and more than likely more potions and a Sight Ward. Upgrading my boots can come whenever gold is readily available and when I feel as though I need it.

    Upgrading my boots can take one of two paths, and it's decided on a number of factors. The first and most important is whether or not I'll be the primary keeper of the Golem buff that game. The second is whether or not my enemies have any Magic Resist. If I'll be getting Blue a lot then I'll go for Sorcerer's Shoes, if not then I'll need the added CDR from Ionian Boots of Lucidity. Sometimes my Catalyst the Protector takes priority, as it gives me great vitality and longevity. So occasionally before upgrading my boots I'll grab the Catalyst. What order you get things in is entirely up to you and the situation to decide.




  • Laning

    Laning is pretty simple. Bomb the hell out of the enemy champion while doing the best you can to avoid taking any unnecessary damage, as early on you are extremely frail. Try your best to last hit minions for gold and keep your bomb damage away from minions as to keep as close to the safety of your turret as possible.

  • Time Bomb and Shields

    Your Time Bomb interacts with different shields in different ways, due to its delayed nature and technicality as a debuff.

    1. Damage Absorption: These shields will not block the placement of your bomb, but will absorb any damage taken while they are maintained. These include:
    - Blitzcrank's Mana Barrier
    - Janna's Eye Of The Storm
    - Jarvan IV's Golden Aegis
    - Karma's [spell_text=Soul Shield]
    - Kayle's Intervention
    - Lee Sin's Safeguard / Iron Will
    - Lux's Prismatic Barrier
    - Malphite's Granite Shield
    - Mordekaiser's Iron Man
    - Morgana's Black Shield (Note: Her Black Shield will negate the placement of your bombs due to its effect, but if you bomb a minion nearby her it can be broken.)
    - Rumble's Scrap Shield
    - Shen's Feint, Stand United
    - Sion's [spell_text=Death's Caress]
    - Tryndamere's Undying Rage (Note: He will still take damage, but he cannot be killed while maintained.)
    - Udyr's Turtle Stance
    - Urgot's Terror Capacitor

    2. Spell Shields: These shields will negate the placement of your bomb entirely. They include:
    - Banshee's Veil
    - Morgana's Black Shield (Note: Her Black Shield will negate the placement of your bombs, but you can still break the shield and do damage by bombing minions nearby.)
    - Nocturne's Shroud of Darkness
    - Sivir's Spell Shield

    3. Damage Reduction: These effects increase the armor and/or magic resistance of your target, or grant them reduced damage overall. These include:
    - Akali's Twilight Shroud
    - Alistar's Unbreakable Will
    - Annie's Molten Shield
    - Galio's Bulwark
    - Garen's Courage
    - Gragas's Drunken Rage
    - Jax's Relentless Assault
    - Katarina's Shunpo after having used [spell_text=Killer Instincts]
    - Kennen's Lightning Rush
    - Maokai's Vengeful Maelstrom
    - Master Yi's Meditate
    - Mordekaiser's [spell_text=Creeping Death]
    - Poppy's Valiant Fighter
    - Rammus's Defensive Ball Curl
    - Sona's Aria of Perseverance
    - Soraka's [spell_text=Consecration]
    - Trundle's [spell_text=Agony]
    - Urgot's Hyper-Kinetic Position Reverser
    - Xin Zhao's Crescent Sweep

    4. Vladimir's Sanguine Pool: If you place a bomb on Vladimir's head and he turns into his pool as it is about to explode the pool negates the damage. Very obnoxious, but can be worked around due to its long cooldown.

  • Crest of the Ancient Golem

    The Crest of the Ancient Golem, or the "Blue Buff" or "Golem Buff" as it's also known, is an extremely important aspect of the game to keep in control of as Zilean. The buff grants you 1% of your mana per second, as well as grants you a certain percentage of CDR depending on what level you are, to a value equaling ~20% at level 18. There are very few champions in the game that I would say "deserve" the buff more than you. Generally, the following champions I will allow to have my Blue Buff IF THEY ARE DOING WELL. I will NEVER give up my Blue to poor players. No matter what character they are.

    Anivia: If the bird is the word she should take #1 priority for Blue. She CHUGS mana so horribly, and given a Blue buff she will carry your team to victory. She can spam her spells more, she can leave her Glacial Storm going for much longer and she will win games if she's fed.

    Annie: This little girl does a MASSIVE amount of damage with a Blue buff. It's quite obscene. She can use her Disintegrate like a fireball machine gun and can always have her Molten Shield up at all times, making her much more durable. Not to mention all of the chain stunning due to her passive.

    Karthus: A Karthus that can keep his Defile going forever, with a good sum of health and AP will simply ace teams with little to no effort. ESPECIALLY if he is a professional at targeting his Lay Waste.

    Kassadin: A fed Kassadin with a blue buff can simply blink on top of people for thousands of damage and spam silences all day. They'll never kill him if he's competent.

    Sona: I really don't think this one needs to be explained. Roll face on keyboard. Win game.

    Swain: Super fed Swain with blue is invincible. If he's built correctly he deserves blue to be self sufficient and ever immortal.

    Other than those few champions, I can't see anyone else truly needing priority over Zilean for Blue. Zilean's Chronoshift spam is so powerful, as is a perma-slow and 3 second Bomb spam.

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Submitted by RayMkII

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