Zoe is the newest champion in the League. In the limited time she’s been released she’s already seen some play (and many more bans!) at All Stars, in LCK and LPL. Although she’s received some nerfs since, we’re still fully expecting her to have a large impact over the start of the LCS, whether on the Rift or in picks & bans.
Strong lanephase, overpowered RNG, insane midgame and lategame one-shot potential. Zoe has absolutely no weaknesses right now.
Zoe is a very unique champion, toeing the line between utility mage, poke mage and burst mage. She offers unparalleled long-range pick potential, burst capable of taking down any full HP squishy target without relying on any long cooldowns, and poke so strong it can single-handedly take a champion down in one hit in certain situations. All of these factors make her an extremely impactful champion when played to her full potential.
Arcane Comet: Sleepy Trouble Bubble makes it really easy to land Arcane Comet, making Zoe have fairly good synergy with the keystone.
Manaflow Band: This rune is good on any mage, and Zoe is no exception. The mana restore and the free mana cost on 1 spell every minute result in a ton of mana sustain, which is especially good in laning phase before you’ve had a chance to complete your Morellonomicon.
Celerity: A rune that was frequently overlooked during the runes rework, Celerity is actually a rune with a lot of subtle power. 3% extra movement speed is something that’s so hard to notice in-game, and yet the extra mobility is so frequently the difference between dying or escaping, getting in range for that one impactful spell or not reaching your target. On top of that it also gives you a small boost in AP, which is just a small part of what makes Celerity so strong.
Scorch: This has become the go-to rune for this slot for most mages, and again Zoe is no exception here. Both in lane and out of it, poke is a core feature in her gameplay, and Scorch has proven to be a highly impactful rune on poke mages. It shines in laning phase, and while it falls off a little as the game goes on, the damage scales per level to ensure that it remains relevant at all stages of the game.
Sudden Impact: After level 6 Zoe will have a dash on a very low cooldown that she will use almost every time she’s poking, making her have amazing synergy with this rune.
Zombie Ward: The extra vision granted by this rune is amazing for both competitive play and solo queue, granting you so much extra vision that’ll protect you from jungle ganks.
Zombie ward is just a very strong mastery for competitive games and even solo queue- you can spot the enemy jungler much more often- so if you can use it, you should use it.
Flash: This is the best summoner spell in the game, almost every champion takes it and it's completely irreplaceable. It's the best defensive summoner and the best offensive summoner all at once. The fact that you see all 10 players take this in 99% of games just goes to show how strong it is, and Zoe is of course no exception to this.
Heal: This is the second best summoner spell for Zoe. It gives you a way to escape ganks without having to burn your Flash, and can help you survive all-ins and tough matchups. You can even use it offensively by using the movement speed boost to catch up to enemies and the fact that it can heal an ally as well as yourself makes it better than Barrier in most cases.
Cleanse: It’s important to take this Summoner Spell against mid laners or junglers with high CC in laning phase, and especially if it’s targeted CC. Examples of mid laners you need to take this against are LeBlanc, Twisted Fate and Lissandra, and examples of junglers you should take it against are Sejuani, Evelynn and Elise.
This spell basically acts like Lich Bane but with no cooldown, which is pretty neat for someone who can spam her spells as much as Zoe can, adding both DPS and burst. Something that’s important to note is that you can activate this twice with Paddle Star; you get one stack when you shoot it out, and if you auto-attack before the second activation you’ll get another proc when you redirect it.
Zoe shoots a star that gains more damage the larger the distance it travels. The first hit can only travel a very short distance, but if it doesn’t hit anything it’ll stay suspended for 1 second and you can then redirect it to a much larger range, gaining more damage this way.
Although hitting Paddle Star from the largest distance possible is always the ideal fantasy, don’t focus too hard on hitting a max range Paddle Star if a shorter ranged one is much easier to land, since hitting a long one takes so much time to set up and becomes so telegraphed in the process. If you have an easy way to hit your lane opponent to harass them, then take the easy way, even if it’s not maximizing your damage.
And make sure to remember that Paddle Star has a small area of AoE around the target when it hits. This not only helps with waveclear but is also the easiest way to land Paddle Star, especially long range casts, on your lane opponent, by having Paddle Star hit a nearby minion and making it impossible to dodge if they’re too close to the minion in question. This is especially effective if they have to move forward next to their minions to get a last-hit, so be mindful of your own minions’ HP to take full advantage of this.
Whenever an enemy uses a Summoner Spell or item active they drop it onto the ground as a spell shard for that Summoner Spell, which Zoe can pick up and then use herself.
Random summoner spells and item actives will also drop from particular minions if Zoe last hits them. There’s obviously a lot of cool things you can do with this depending on what item you pick up, so try to make the best use of whatever you find!
Casting Spell Thief or Summoner Spells will also grant Zoe extra movement speed and summon 3 bubbles that orbit around her and attack the nearest enemy, prioritizing enemies she’s already attacking. Make sure to try and stand close to your target if possible while trying to kill them using Spell Thief.
Sleepy Trouble Bubble
Zoe kicks a ball that lingers on the ground for up to 4 seconds if it doesn't hit anything, which after a brief delay puts the target to sleep (basically stunned) for up to 2 seconds, or until they take damage. The range is also potentially massively extended when it goes through walls.
Sleepy Trouble Bubble allows Zoe plenty of time to perfectly set up a super long range Paddle Star since a stunned enemy can't dodge anything, not even a Paddle Star that takes up to a second or more to finally reach its target.
Sleepy Trouble Bubble’s massive range when shot through walls also makes it an amazing spell for making picks, since you can be a mile away completely out of sight and out of mind from the enemy team, and suddenly their carry gets hit by a bubble out of nowhere and gets engaged on by your team, or hit with a super long range Paddle Star that just straight up 1-shots them. Stocking up on Control Wards is a great idea on Zoe so you can ensure the enemy team can't have vision of you when you get into position to look for picks with Sleepy Trouble Bubble.
This is a spell that’s hard to understand at first and might initially seem useless, but it’s actually a perfect fit with the rest of Zoe’s kit. You can use it to get longer range Paddle Stars onto sleeping targets, you can use it to get round minions to harass with Paddle Star easier, you can use it to more quickly reach a wall to shoot Sleepy Trouble Bubble at a fleeing enemy, you can use it to dodge skillshots, you can use it to pick up a Spell Thief shard mid-fight… The possibilities are endless, so be creative!
At level 1 you’ll want to take Paddle Star as it’s her best spell for trading with and the waveclear helps her get control of the lane. At level 2 you should take Sleepy Trouble Bubble since it helps you escape ganks, assist ganks, and it’s the strongest spell in lane between the two options. At level 3 you can opt to either take another point in Paddle Star for stronger trading, or take Spell Thief and hope you pick up a worthwhile Spell Shard.
As Zoe you should max Paddle Star first as it’s her source of waveclear, her main trading tool, and her biggest source of damage. Afterwards you’ll want to max Sleepy Trouble Bubble since it’s the second most important spell of your kit and maxing it reduces its cooldown and increases your burst. You’ll want to max Spell Thief last as it gives the least benefits for putting points in it.
Sleepy Trouble Bubble (E) -> Portal Jump (R) -> Paddle Star (Q) -> Paddle Star (Q)
This is the combo for when you hit a close quarters Sleepy Trouble Bubble and you want to burst the target down. Naturally from this close to the target you won’t be able to hit a full range Paddle Star, but using Portal Jump you can try and extend it as far as possible to increase its damage.
Once you’ve hit E, while the target is drowsy you’ll want to take advantage of their drowsiness to walk backwards to put some more distance between you. Right as they fall asleep you should Portal Jump backwards, shoot Paddle Star backwards, and when Portal Jump takes you back to your original spot you fire it on the sleeping target, and walk forwards if necessary to give the Paddle Star the small extra bit of range it needs to reach the target.
Doran’s Ring: The best starting item in the game for almost any mage. All the stats it gives are great for Zoe in the early-game, and it also allows you to pick up 2 Health Potions to sustain yourself with.
Morellonomicon: This is a core item on almost every mage since it gives almost every stat a mage could want; a large amount of CDR, a large amount of AP and a hefty amount of mana.
Sorcerer’s Shoes: The best boots for Zoe, as they increase her spell damage and she doesn’t benefit enough from CDR to want Ionian Boots of Lucidity. However, you may also sometimes want to build Mercury’s Treads to deal with high CC or get some early MR in a tough matchup, or Ninja Tabi when facing full AD comps and laning against a high physical damage opponent such as Zed or Talon, if you’re not confident in your ability to survive against them.
Haunting Guise: This item is a wonderful addition to your Morellonomicon powerspike as the magic pen will increase your already substantial damage, whether against high or low MR targets. After Haunting Guise you have the option of either upgrading it to Liandry’s Torment to help deal with tanks, or moving on to the rest of your build if you don’t need it yet.
Zoe is very OP right now so she doesn't need many items- she only needs Morellonomicon, magic pen shoes and Haunting Guise to reach her spike
Void Staff: This item is a must in most games since almost every game will have the enemy team building some form of MR. Whether you build it before or after Rabadon’s Deathcap depends on how soon the enemy starts building MR.
Rabadon’s Deathcap: Once you have 2-3 items complete it becomes worthwhile to build Rabadon’s Deathcap. Beforehand it isn’t very efficient since the fact that it increases your AP by a percentage means that it’s best once you already have some AP built, so it’s better to build some cheaper items beforehand.
Zhonya’s Hourglass: In many games you’ll want this even if you don’t really need the armor simply because it’s so amazing at helping you survive against divers. If you’re against an AD mid laner like Zed you might even want to rush it to avoid most of his damage.
Banshee’s Veil: This is a situational item that can be used either when facing high magic damage or to protect yourself from engage/picks outside of laning phase, such as when against Sejuani, Malphite or Evelynn.
There are two different ways to approach level 1 with Zoe. If you’re confident in your ability to out-trade your opponent and want to play aggressively, you can just approach the lane normally, start trading onto your opponent with Paddle Star and More Sparkles!
On the other hand, if you want to play it safer, you can instead gain control of the lane by using Paddle Star to shove in rather than trade. What you’ll want to do is approach the lane from the river instead of from your turret, and while in the river close to the brush, cast Paddle Star backwards and drag it into the lane towards the enemy caster minions, where it’ll do a whopping 70-80% of their HP even at rank 1. Then enter the lane properly and use your next Paddle Star to finish off the caster minions, and finish off the melee minions with auto-attacks since they’ll have already been taking focus from your own minions.
Don't feel forced to trade in lane- you can use your strong Q spell from riverside bush to push the lane by hitting either melee or range creeps from max range. After pushing, look to roam or fight in the jungle where Zoe’s strongest!
Zoe has incredibly efficient waveclear even this early on, able to push in the enemy laner uncontested in most cases, and this is the safest way to gain control of the lane, without having to take the risk of fighting your opponent head on. Having more minions than the enemy immediately puts you at an advantage and dissuades them from trading against you, and once you’ve killed all the minions and forced your wave into the enemy tower you’re in a much better position to move out of lane to go place wards in the river or enemy jungle, or to invade with your jungler or help him if a fight breaks out in the river for example. Later on it also gives you the chance to roam once you have some more levels and spells.
Perkz playing Zoe: An example of early laning against LeBlanc
If you’re ahead or confident in your laning you can obviously look to trade in lane to try and get kills, but you shouldn’t ever feel forced to trade since Zoe’s waveclear is very strong at all points and should almost always be able to get the shove in all matchups, either using Paddle Star from the river side brush to one-shot the caster minions, or from the turret onto their melee minions if you want to play it safer. This way, Zoe will almost always be available to roam or help out her jungler where other mid laners might be stuck under tower or not be able to move as quickly. Or alternatively she can just keep laying down the pressure in lane while the enemy has no more minion cover to protect them from poke or Sleepy Trouble Bubble.
Perkz playing Zoe: An example of aggression in lane
Zoe has no real counters in lane, but Perkz does warn that she can have trouble against LeBlanc when paired with a strong ganking jungler who repeatedly visits mid lane. Remembering to take Cleanse and proper usage of the Summoner Spell will play a crucial role in how this type of lane will go. On her own however, LeBlanc should be an easily manageable matchup for Zoe.
I don't think anything counters Zoe- it might be hard to play versus LeBlanc and something that can spam gank her, but even saying that, LeBlanc is easily manageable.
Outside of laning phase, you’ll want to group with your team. As Zoe you’re most effective not actually in the teamfights, but in the prelude to them, while sieging and poking with your team. You’ll want to constantly try and create picks with Sleepy Trouble Bubble through walls. It’s important in this case to stock up on Control Wards to deny vision of you from the enemy team while you look for picks, so they can’t be aware of your exact position or when you’re casting Sleepy Trouble Bubble. Buy at least one pink ward on every back if you have the space for it.
Bear in mind however that some parts of the map are less suited than others for finding picks with Sleepy Trouble Bubble, some places put you at too much risk or too out of position, and so in these situations you’ll not find it as easy to find picks.
When you’re not fishing for Sleepy Trouble Bubble picks, you should be poking with the poke combo mentioned earlier. If you manage to hit a carry you’ll probably chunk them for 70+% of their HP or even one-shot them if you’re fed enough, so this is just as important a part of playing Zoe as trying to hit carries with Sleepy Trouble Bubble.
If you ever manage to hit a carry with a point blank Sleepy Trouble Bubble rather than long range through a wall, you should execute the close range combo mentioned earlier, which should almost always one-shot them no matter how behind you are.
Although Zoe shines at picking enemies off outside of teamfights, you will inevitably find yourself teamfighting eventually. In these situations it can often be hard to reach the enemy backline until the frontline is dead, so you should go for long range Paddle Stars onto the enemy frontline, trying to maximize your damage onto them since even though you can’t one-shot them like you can carry, the faster they go down the quicker you’ll find an opening into the enemy backline. Of course remember to make full use of your passive, and remember to use Sleepy Trouble Bubble to peel for yourself or your ADC, or just to cause as much disruption as possible.
Depending on how the teamfight starts, or where it starts and where you are, it is possible that you can actually get to the enemy backline by flanking or coming in from the side, especially effective if there’s a nearby wall that you can shoot Sleepy Trouble Bubble onto them through. While they’re distracted by your team, use Sleepy Trouble Bubble onto the target if possible and then combo them once they’re asleep, or use the poke combo on them and at the end of your Portal Jump also try and land a close range Sleepy Trouble Bubble onto them. If they’re not dead by the end of this, the CC from Sleepy Trouble Bubble should make it very hard for them to survive the next few seconds.
Perkz playing Zoe: An example of team fighting
In conclusion, Zoe is a very strong champion in the current meta that shines throughout all stages of the game, and has very few weaknesses. If you’re looking to have a high impact through mid lane in your games and you don’t mind investing a lot of time into practicing a high skill floor champion, Zoe is sure to fit your needs!
We would like to give G2 Perkz a big thank you for taking some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions and give us a better understanding of Zoe, which we hope this guide has been able to grant you also.