Zilean might ordinarily seem like an unusual pick in professional play, but never when it’s associated with the name Kasing – who has been playing Zilean since the beginning of time.
In spite of his everlasting love for the Chronokeeper, Kasing will be the first to admit that Zilean is not a perfect champion. His biggest weakness, he claims, is his weak laning phase. Zilean can do well in certain lanes, but, as a typical AP ranged support, can also majorly struggle in many match-ups. Some supports, like Nami, can out-trade you. Others, like Alistar or Blitzcrank, can simply abuse your squishiness and immobility and render you useless out of fear of a swift death. A possible remedy is getting some extra bulk from your runes; but more on that later.
In return for having such a weak laning phase, Zilean has got a terrific mid and late game. The reason for this is, of course, his very low CD revival ultimate. His is the kind of ultimate that can seriously make or break a game. But leaving that behind, his other strengths are his relentless poke in lane and his ability to easily CC lock enemies with his stun and 90% slow. His E and Q can make for easy engages, whether in lane or in team fights.
“Zilean, as a champion in general, is weak early but really strong in the late fights where you’re more coordinated”.
Summon Aery is a great pick-up on Zilean because it procs with your E (Time Warp). Whenever you want to speed someone up, you will also be giving them Aery’s shield (later amplified by items like Redemption) and possibly an attack-speed buff (if you build Ardent). Taking Sorcery as your primary page enables you to pick up a lot of nice stats like CDR and mana regen, and then also grab more CDR and lane sustain in Inspiration.
Guardian in general has less synergy with Zilean because you will be missing out on Summon Aery’s shield. However, this setup will make you tankier and more able to withstand harder match-ups and deadlier enemy team comps.
You want to pick up Flash like every other champion does. It’s particularly important for Zilean as he has no other gap closers of any kind and getting caught out without it would mean having to waste your ultimate, or perish.
You can pick up Ignite as your second spell if you think you can win your lane. This is for example if you’re against an enemy support who cannot all-in you easily (like Tahm Kench or Soraka) and whom you can out-trade, or even if you’re just against an inexperienced player or expect a lot of ganks. In these scenarios, Ignite is a good option to increase your kill-potential.
If you think it’s going to be a difficult lane and that Ignite would not make a difference, you can pick up Exhaust or Cleanse as defensive options. Cleanse is a good choice on Zilean because it will allow you to get out of situations that would normally kill you or force you to “waste” your ultimate on yourself, rather than save it for one of your carries.
Passive: Time in a Bottle
Time in a Bottle is a neat little passive that allows you to collect and share experience with your allies. If you level up an ally, you will get the same amount of experience back.
Q: Time Bomb
Your only offensive ability, but it’s a great one. It has a pretty long range and large radius, so you will not be missing it very often. You can also use it to zone enemies from certain areas as they will be reluctant to walk into the bombs. And also, don’t forget to use this ability instead of walking head-first into bushes. A tagged enemy will be revealed.
Resets the cooldown of your E and Q by ten seconds. This allows you to use your Q twice on a single target, which will, in addition to doing much more damage than only one Q, also stun your target.
E: Time Warp
A target ability that either massively slows an enemy champion or massively speeds up an ally (including yourself). This ability makes following up on ganks and roams as Zilean very easy – he can both speed himself (or the jungler) up and also slow down the enemy laners quickly thereafter.
R: Zilean’s signature ultimate
Usually you will want to reserve this for your ADC (or whoever ends up being the carry in your game), but considering it’s got a relatively low cooldown, you shouldn’t feel too reluctant about using it on yourself or an ally that you can think you can save
Kasing doesn’t hesitate to use his ultimate to save an ally.
1. Stun Combo - Q W Q
This is Zilean’s basic stun combo. After landing a Q, you should use your W to reset Q’s cooldown. Placing a second bomb on a target stuns them. You can E before or after this combo to further devastate your enemy, who essentially won’t be able to move for three seconds.
2. Double Stun Combo – Q W Q W Q
This is the more advanced version of the above combo, but it requires a lot of CDR and max ranks in Q and W – ergo it is possible only late game. You start the combo by hitting Q and then instantly using your W. This allows you to use your Q again – but first you should wait for your first to bomb to be about halfway or two thirds to exploding. When it is, press W once again and Q as soon as they’re available to hit the second consecutive stun.
Your first point always goes into Time Bomb for level 1 pressure. What you do afterwards will depend on your lane. If you’re in a good match-up, you can opt to get W second and then Q third in order to try to secure a kill. In a losing lane, when getting the stun wouldn’t make a difference, you can just go for Q E E or Q E Q and get W later on at level 4.
To start things off, you will pick up Spellthief’s Edge which you can charge up rather easily with your generously-ranged bombs. The large slow on your E will also make it easy for you to get in a lot of auto-attacks during skirmishes. Pick up some healing potions to help sustain yourself during lane.
On your first back you will preferably be able to afford Frostfang. This will speed up the process of upgrading to Eye of the Watchers, which will allow you to keep your map lit up with wards. If you can afford it, picking up Boots of Speed should be your next priority, to make getting to lane, dodging skillshots and warding quicker and easier. Usually you will want to upgrade your Boots into Ionian Boots of Lucidity, since CDR is a very useful stat on Zilean.
Your core will thus consist of Ionian Boots of Lucidity and Eye of the Watchers. However, you should pick up your first big item before upgrading your Eye of Frost into Watchers. Which item should you get first? That tends to be different in every game. Some of your options include Mikael’s Crucible, Ardent Censer, Redemption and Athene’s Unholy Grail. All of these items have great synergy with the Summon Aery keystone. As you start picking these items up, you will notice your Summon Aery shield, from your E, will keep getting stronger and stronger.
Mikael’s is a great pick-up in almost every game as every game will usually have some sort of annoying hard CC that your ADC has to deal with. You can also never go wrong with Redemption, which is always useful and can turn whole fights around. Ardent Censer is, on the other hand, more situational. You should only buy this if you have a hypercarry who relies on attack speed, like Kog’Maw, Trist or Vayne for example. It is an especially good purchase if these ADCs are getting fed in the particular game.
You want to leave your sixth item slot free and available for Control Wards for as long as possible. At some point however, you can fill it in with whatever you think your team needs at the time. More defense for you, some AP to increase your Q damage, or another utility item such as Solari, Twin Shadows, Shurelya’s and so on.
As we’ve already mentioned, laning phase can be very difficult for Zilean. You should not go into the game expecting to win or deal a lot of damage – it isn’t your job to 1v9. What you want to do in lane is, more or less, just survive. There are match-ups where you can do better than this, but there are also a lot of match-ups that Zilean will struggle with.
As a ranged support, Zilean will naturally be good against tanks since he can harass them with little punishment. Unfortunately, a lot of tanks, like Alistar and Leona, happen to be great all-inners. And, as a squishy ranged support, this is not something Zilean can effectively deal with. He has some peel but it is possible to miss your stun, and he has no mobility, so you will have to be very careful if you’re up against one such enemy.
Zilean may also struggle against ranged supports. Other AP supports, such as Brand or Zyra, deal more damage than he does, since he only has one offensive spell. On the other hand, healers and shielders, like Nami and Janna, will be able to negate whatever poke Zilean manages to dish out.
Your best bet, then, is to get your jungler to help you out. Zilean is fantastic at setting up ganks, because, even alone, he is capable of CC locking an enemy into place with his stun and slow that goes up to 99%. In spite of this, Kasing doesn’t recommend that Zilean himself does any ganking – that is to say, roam. It is better for Zilean to stay in lane and soak up as much experience as possible, to prepare himself for mid and late game fights, where he shines.
As for ADC synergy, Zilean will do well in many combos, provided the ADC knows how to take advantage of your speed-up. Kasing warmly recommends a Caitlyn and Jhin as lane mates, as both of them are very strong and very obnoxious when they travel at the speed of light with your E. Caitlyn is also fantastic because her traps set up for easy stuns form your bomb, and Jhin’s Deadly Flourish is the same. Tristana also has the range to make your Time Warp very powerful, but her fragile laning phase coupled with yours makes for a very weak lane.
If your ADC doesn’t know how to play to the limits of Zilean, Zilean is just not very good. If they don’t know how to abuse the movement speed, you will just end up thinking “Why did I pick this champion...”
Zilean excels at team fights. What you basically have to do is constantly be aware of which enemy is the most dangerous and which ally is the most powerful – then use this information to your advantage. Because of your 99% (at rank 5) slow, you have the power to render a target enemy completely useless for about 4 seconds. In late game team fights, this could be the death of a primary target. And conversely, you can imbue your most powerful ally with a huge speed up, Aery’s shield, attack speed from Ardent Censer and a free out-of-jail card with your Mikael’s and ultimate.
You are also terrific at peel because you can double stun and severely slow bruisers and assassins who try to get to your carry. Not to mention, you can straight up revive your carries if push comes to shove
GG Misfits! Zilean is too fun E W E W EW W EW EWWE R 😆— Raymond Tsang (@Kasing) July 28, 2018
In conclusion, Zilean is a unique and fun champion whose role is not to try to hard-carry any game with his crazy bomb damage. Instead, he is more akin to an enchanter support – your job is to facilitate your team with your buffs and ultimate and help them help you win the game.
Think of your team as four dogs. As Zilean, you are giving them treats. Your E is a treat and your R is a big bone. You have to be a good master, treat them right and point them the right way.