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Play Zed like Nukeduck

Even after recent nerfs, OG’s Nukeduck lets us know how to play Zed in a way that still makes him a great pick for any midlaner.

Ever since Zed was released back in 2012, he has been a popular and for the most part, viable choice for mid lane. One player who has shown that time and again is Origen’s Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm. We caught up with the man in blue to get his insight on the proper way that Zed should be played from early game, laning phase, and down to his role in team fights.

Zed is a strong pick because he has the ability to have a great laning phase, easily able to farm and potentially snowball from the start. Once you hit level 6, you can really start applying more pressure as you’ll be able to unleash your full combo with Death Mark. Pushing lane shouldn’t be an issue, if it ever was, once you do get to level 6 and beyond. He is also one of the most mobile champions, making it easy to gank an enemy champion within seconds if they lose track of you or aren’t paying attention.

“It’s important that you view Zed as a scaling champion. When you have enough Lethality, that’s when you become unstoppable.”

Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm

His very early game isn’t the strongest and when his Death Mark is on cooldown, he loses a lot of his lustre. Your biggest concern will be farming as much as possible and as fast as possible, as you really want to rush your levels to increase your lethality. With a proper build and combos, he can easily take out a champion or two in the matter of seconds, making him a great harass champion to play. Zed is considered a champion with a higher skillcap than normal and is one of the most punished champions when getting significantly behind your lane opponent.

“You have to play a matchup where they can’t punish you hard. A lot of the champions you won’t beat in the early game. You don’t have the damage or the tools… you need to find a matchup where you can farm out and get your items.”

Runes

Nukeduck Zed Runes

According to Nukeduck, there are a few different options for your secondary runes, though the one above seems to be the most popular all-around, especially if you’re laning against another assassin. Another option would be to take Gathering Storm instead of Scorch. You could potentially also go Magical Footwear and Cosmic Insight for your secondary, but with the recent nerfs, the Sorcery route seems to be the more viable option nowadays.

Your primary runes should always be Electrocute with Sudden Impact. Electrocute is great for Zed because of the benefit you receive from your quick poke abilities. Sudden Impact is crucial because Death Mark and Living Shadow will both proc it, giving you extra Lethality right when you need it. Depending on the situation, Ghost Poro and Eyeball Collection are both viable choices. Eyeball Collection is great simply for the damage boost. Ravenous Hunter or Ultimate Hunter would be the two most viable options for your final rune.

“Ultimate Hunter is good for Solo Queue, but Ravenous Hunter is what professional players should use.”

Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm

Summoner Spells

Flash - There shouldn’t really be any situation where you wouldn’t take Flash. Flash is the most useful summoner spell for Zed as it allows you to get in and out of tricky situations, whether it’s an offensive or defensive move. Ignite is the go-to second summoner spell for Zed. It’s a great way to help you harass and add to your DPS output in all stages of the game; early or late.

Nukeduck uses his Ignite to guarantee that G2 Jankos isn’t going to get away and lands the quick kill.

Abilities

Nukeduck Zed abilities

Passive: Contempt for the Weak

Zed's basic attacks against targets below 50 percent Health deal 6-10 percent of the target's maximum Health as bonus Magic Damage. This passive is great for last hitting and also for helping take down enemy champions with low HP.

Q: Razor Shuriken

Your shurikens are great ways to poke at minions and enemy champions from a distance. This ability pairs great with your Living Shadow and/or Death Mark since both you and your shadows will both throw them, allowing you to hit an enemy multiple times. Depending on who you’re laning against, your Q is a great way to get some last hits in if you need to keep some space between you and your opponent.

W: Living Shadow

The passive portion of this ability gives you energy each time you and your shadow hit an enemy with the same ability, while the active portion allows you to send your shadow dashing forward where it stays in place for a few seconds. You can also reactivate the ability to switch place with your shadow. Your shadow will cast Razor Shuriken and Shadow Slash along with you, giving you great harass power.

E: Shadow Slash

Both you and your shadow slash at your enemies without interrupting the animation of your auto-attack. Because of this, your E can fit into your combo in almost any way that you like. It’s a great AoE ability and is extremely useful because of the slow that it provides.

“Be mindful not to waste your E just for the 60 damage, but to use it as a slow in your 'all-in combo.'”

Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm

R: Death Mark

Death Mark teleports you behind your targeted enemy and makes you become untargetable, allowing you to briefly not have to worry about enemy abilities hitting you. After the three seconds is up, the target takes additional damage based on how much damage you did to them during that time. You can also re-cast Death Mark to teleport back to your original location, which can be used offensively or defensively.

Nukeduck chases down and kills G2 Jankos with ease before teleporting back to his original shadow and joining his team to go push Baron.

Skill Max Order:

Q > E > W (with R every chance you can of course)

Items

Nukeduck Zed items

Youmuu’s Ghostblade should always be rushed first, according to Nukeduck. The Lethality that you gain from it is invaluable and can really push you to the next level in the mid to late game. Duskblade of Draktharr should be taken next, followed by Black Cleaver.

Your situational items will more than likely be pretty similar from game to game, as Guardian Angel is one of the favorites, regardless of which champion you’re playing. While stating the obvious, it’s important to stay alive and Guardian Angel helps quite a bit with that. 

Maw of Malmortius is a heavy Zed favorite, especially against really bursty teams. Edge of Night used to be a popular option to finish off the game, but should rarely be built any more with the nerfs that came with it.

Combos

W > E > Qs

Your basic combo, especially while in laning phase, is going to be this one. Making sure you hit at least two of your shurikens is important so that you’re also able to proc Electrocute, giving you some additional damage.

R > AA > W > E > Qs

Nukeduck says this is the best combo to take an enemy from 100 percent HP down to 0. He says you’ll want to make sure that you auto-attack prior to using E, so that you’re able to save it for a slow to help you hit your shurikens.

Nukeduck sees a 1 level difference while laning against G2 Caps and takes full advantage of it, landing every ability perfectly.

Gameplay

Zed’s early game is his weakest point, so as Nukeduck mentioned above, you’ll want to play him as a scaling champion. He has great mobility and the ability to poke from a distance if need be, so your laning phase shouldn’t be too difficult. Last hit with your shurikens if you’re having trouble against an opponent who keeps harassing you.

“He’s really good once you have Lethality, but he’s just very bad in the early game.”

Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm

Zed is a scary champion. A Zed that goes missing is something that the enemy team should be worrying about, as Zed has the capability to take a full health champion from 100 to 0 in a matter of seconds, especially if they are low on armor.

Zed has the capability to greatly alter a team fight. The enemy ADC in particular should be paying extra attention to where you are on the map as you can take him out of a fight really quick.

“In team fights, you want to have full CDR so you can poke really well with your shadow. Threaten the carries so they have to position defensively.”

Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm

Nukeduck also says that you should always have an escape plan. For example, you can place one of your shadows to the side before you Ult into a fight because the shadow stays where you left it and you can get out fast if you need to. Be mindful that when you do use your ult, Death Mark, if you see the mark above your enemies head, that shows you that you’ve done enough damage for the final tick to drop their health to zero, allowing you to get out earlier if you’ve done the damage that you need.

Conclusion

Even after recent nerfs, Zed remains one of the top choices for any midlaner. While his early game is weak in comparison to other choices, he shines in mid to late game with his high mobility and great harass potential. Special thanks to the Origen mid-laner, Nukeduck. We can’t wait to see how the rest of the Summer Split turns out!

Will Nukeduck’s take on Zed help improve your Master of Shadows gameplay? Are there any other Champions you’d like to see a guide on? Let us know below!