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The Chronokeeper Zilean is among the oldest champions in League of Legends. As you can guess, he is able to manipulate time, slowing, hastening, and stopping enemies and effects. One of the things that makes him unique is the fact he can empower allies by giving them an experience boost.
The character has an above-average win rate of 52% and is most commonly played as a support. Although he doesn’t have a standard healing spell, he has something even better. Zilean’s Chronoshift ultimate can protect an ally from death, returning them to life with a portion of their health.
Although the champion doesn’t excel at anything, he has lots of unique abilities that can stifle enemies or assist allies. In this Zilean guide, I will review his abilities, counters, and how to maximize the champion’s potential
Key Info Up Front
- Price: 1,350 Blue Essence, 850 Blue Essence, and Champion Shard, 585
- Roles: Support
- Difficulty: Moderate
Lore and Story
Zilean “The Chronokeeper”
Icathia was a land of abundance ruled by powerful mage Axamuk. Like many other civilizations, this country has paid the blood price of Shurima’s expansion. Although Axamuk tried to find a peaceful solution, the conflict was inevitable. Eventually, Icathia became Shurimna’s satrapy led by a council of scholars meant to oversee the transition of power.
Zilean was one of these council members. Quickly rising in ranks, then young mage Zilean wanted to master the time itself.
As time went by, the sorcerer noticed citizens’ malcontent towards the Shuriman rule. Regardless of their accomplishments, some of the most renowned Ichathians never received the honor of Ascension and Sun Disc.
Noticing that Shuriman would never accept Icathia as an equal and fearing open rebellion, Zilean started wandering through surrounding countries Ixtal, Kalduga, and Kahleek, looking for a solution to the problem. Among others, he was trying to gather allies for an uprising that was inevitably coming. Despite his best efforts and smooth talk, none of these lands would consider opposing Shuriman.
Upon returning to Icathia, Zilean discovered that the council had appointed a new Mage King. During his absence, they had discovered a forbidden power of the Void. Looking in their eyes, wise Zilean noticed traces of madness. He would rather allow Icathia to perish than let loose this power upon the world.
As he feared, when the council ultimately unleashed the mystic power, it quickly destroyed once wise mages. The whole capital started shaking as devastating earthquakes started splitting the ground. Buildings were crumbling into dust, followed by the screams of the innocent. In a final attempt to save his people, he urged the citizens to flee to a nearby tower.
Zilean tapped into his primal powers and managed to remove the building from time. Although the people inside the tower were saved, there was nothing remaining on the outside.
Shocked by these events, Zilean dedicated himself to the research of time and space. This anomaly was unique to him and couldn’t be replicated by other mages. Through meditation, Zilean started noticing thin strands connecting time and space together. As his understanding of the power grew, the Chronokeeper was able to peer into the future.
There, he saw the end of Runeterra.
From that point onward, Zilean roams the world, being present in different places and time frames. As he tries to change the future, he is also wary of disturbing the time-space continuum and bringing about an even worse destiny.
Key Relationships and Quotes
Although lore doesn’t say that Zilean has a relationship with other champions, there are a few quotes by other characters indicating they might be somehow related:
- Vel’Koz: “Zilean, there is a great secret within you.”
- Ekko: “I’ve seen your future – and it’s got broken bones” (this is similar to Zilean’s quote “I’ve seen your death, it was painful”)
Zilean is a very special champion. He doesn’t provide anything in particular, and yet, he gives you a lot of different things. For example, unlike most other supports, he doesn’t have a low-level shield or heal. Yet, his Time Warp can stop enemies in their track or significantly boost allies’ speed for the duration.
Zilean’s lane will almost always have an experience advantage due to his Time in a Bottle passive (unless you’re feeding heavily). In other words, you will get ultimate much faster, giving you a strategic advantage over lane opponents.
Chronoshift is one of the more powerful defensive support spells in the game. It can protect an ally from death, which can be exceptionally powerful on certain ADCs with strong nuking power. Among others, this would allow them to focus on offensive items and aggressive play, knowing that Zilean got their back in teamfights. Here are some of the reasons why you should play this character:
- Time Bomb is one of the more annoying spells in the early game. Given that this is one of the best early game stuns, you can keep your enemies continuously disabled, forcing them to miss last hits on minions. Although the champion is not known for his damage, the combination of Time Bomb and Rewind can be devastating during the early portions of the match.
- Even if you’re in a really difficult lane, you can always rely on Time in a Bottle to keep up. It is especially important for boosting ally to level 6 and unlocking his ultimate. It can boost Zilean to level 3 before his lane opponents giving him access to the second level of Time Bomb. Alternatively, you can also help out your jungler, allowing them to snowball.
- Chronoshift is especially potent with high damage characters. As mentioned, if you’re in an organized match, the access to ability can even change carry’s build, allowing them to prioritize damaging abilities and items. When used in conjunction with Time Warp, it would first allow the ally to survive nuke damage and then escape from pursuers.
Here are some of the issues with the pick:
- In many ways, Chronoshift is a very tricky spell. You should always save it for your carry, but players often utilize it to protect the targeted character. So, one of two things can happen: you can save one of the less important champions, which will help you win the fight, or your ADC will not get the necessary protection, causing them to die and lose a step compared to the enemy ADC. These are split-second decisions where you often have to let an ally die so you can have Chronoshift for carry.
- Your damage/disabling potential is heavily dependent on landing Time Bombs during teamfights. These are skill shots that are easy to miss. Alternatively, you can use Time Warp to set them up, but then, the ability might not be available for saving an ally (especially if you used Rewind to cast two Time Bombs in succession).
- Another issue with Chronoshift is that your allies need to trust you to maximize its potential. In other words, a melee carry will not jump into the fray if they think that you won’t cast ultimate on them.
- Zilean’s passive is basically worthless in the late game when everyone is at the max level.
- Once the character utilizes his Time Warp, he doesn’t have a real escape mechanism in the lane. So, wait for him to initiate so you can utilize offensive spells to counterattack and quickly burst him down.
Despite being classified as a difficult moderate champion, you need to have a good understanding of the game to maximize your potential. Good Zileans are those who can understand team compositions and their role in teamfights. Even then, there is a chance you miscast Chronoshift or miss your Time Bombs.
Here are some of the champions that are giving Zilean the most trouble:
In terms of win rate, Janna is the best counter to the Chronokeeper. Zilean has a 44.3%-win rate against her. Despite the fact that the Chronokeeper is a really strong poker, he is also very squishy.
Janna has abilities that directly counter Zilean. She has a slow called Zephyr that would stifle an opponent boosted by Time Warp. Eye of the Storm can create a shield that would nullify the impact of Time while also providing an ally with extra attack damage. And, like Zilean, she has a strong defensive ultimate that heals allies in an area while pushing back opponents. The only difference is that Janna’s ultimate can help several allies at the time.
Basically, Janna can remain passive in the lane and wait for Zilean to make his move. Whatever he does, she has a counter to it. Given that Zilean’s spells cost a lot of mana, he will eventually get the short end of the stick.
Senna is another champion that does really well against Zilean. She is known as a very strong poker, who can dish a lot of damage in the lane. The champion usually starts with Piercing Darkness at level 1, an ability that can deal damage to opponents while also healing the allies.
Last Embrace is a rooting spell with a really large AOE. You can cast it when you notice that Zilean and his allies are making a move towards you.
I also have to mention the Curse of the Black Mist that will make everyone within it unselectable and camouflaged. This would make it much harder for Zilean to connect with Time Bomb. Furthermore, it would prevent the champion from casting Time Warp on Senna or her lane ally.
Senna’s ultimate, Dawning Shadow, has a similar vector utility like Piercing Darkness. Unlike Piercing Darkness, which heals, this spell will shield allies. So, the champion has several ways of protecting her lane partner while staying out of harm’s way.
Lastly, the range of her abilities would make her a constant threat to squishy Zilean, who doesn’t have heals or shields on lower levels.
The main issue with Blitzcrank is that this champion can pull Zilean towards him with Rocket Grab. Once Zilean is within striking distance, the Great Steam Golem can deal enormous damage with Overdrive. If the Chronokeeper decides to escape with Time Warp, Blitzcrank can stop him in his tracks with Power Fist.
So, given Zilean’s speed, there is a good chance that he will get grabbed once or twice during the laning phase. The champion is not that tanky, and Time Bomb needs some time to go off and stun the opponent. As such, he is prone to damage for a few seconds, which is usually enough to kill him off.
After level 6, Blitzcrank will also get access to Static Field that can briefly silence Zilean. If the player properly combos this with Power Fist, Zilean won’t be able to cast his abilities throughout the engagement.
Although Blitzcrank’s disables don’t last long, they might give you enough time to nuke Zilean, especially if you’re laning with another champion with high damage output.
Related Perks and Special Abilities
Time in a Bottle (Passive)
As mentioned, Time in a Bottle has no impact in the late game. However, during the early and mid portions of the matchup, it can help your lane partner and any other ally who has fallen behind during the initial phase.
Every 5 seconds, Zilean will store a little bit of experience. The spell is on cooldown at the start of the game (120-second cooldown), and when you use it, your ally will gain a level while Zilean will be granted the same amount of experience.
To use the ability, both Zilean and his target need to be out of combat for 10 seconds. Then, the Chronokeeper will cast a spell for 0.5 seconds and channel it for 1.2 seconds, after which both of them will gain experience.
Time Bomb (Q)
Zilean is one of the rare champions who have just one damaging ability. However, the saving grace is the fact you can cast Time Bomb twice with Rewind.
The champion will throw a bomb at a target location, granting sight over the area. Time Bomb can be attached directly onto an opponent, with a precise hit, or it can attach if they come next to it. Whatever the case, the target will gain a debuff that will last for 3 seconds, after which the bomb will detonate, and they will take magical damage.
By using Rewind, you can cast another bomb on the same target. If you connect with the spell, while the target is already affected by Time Bomb, the first bomb will detonate, dealing magic damage and stunning opponents in the area for 1.1/1.2/1.3/1.4/1.5 seconds.
It is worth noting that the bomb creates the biggest, non-ultimate ability stun radius. You can also attach it to allies, which is a great way for tanks to initiate fights with an extra burst of damage. Given that the bomb provides sight, it can be a great way to scout the brushes.
Rewind is a pretty straightforward spell. It basically reduces the cooldown of Time Warp or Time Bomb by 10 seconds. This is especially great for Time Bomb in the early game, given that this ability has a 10/9.5/9/8.5/8 second cooldown.
Players usually learn the ability at level 2, so they can refresh Time Bombs and cast them one after another. However, at level 3, you probably want to put one point in Time Warp as it doesn’t make much sense to get several points in this ability (additional points only reduce the Rewind cooldown from 14 to 12/10/8/6).
Although Rewind is commonly used for Time Bomb, there are situations where you would use it for Time Warp. For example, when pursuing a tanky opponent.
Time Warp (E)
Although Time Bomb is much more prevalent in the lane, as a harassing tool, Time Warp scales really well into the mid and late game.
With this spell, you can reduce the speed of the opponent or buff the speed of an ally for 2.5 seconds. Time Warp has a 15-second cooldown, so even if you rewind it, you will have to wait additional 5 seconds until it’s active once again.
Time Warp reduces/enhances movement speed by 40%/55%/70%/85%/99%. However, always remember that you cannot slow enemies below 110 movement speed. Time Warp is pretty good even at level 1, but it doesn’t scale as well as Time Bomb, which is why the players usually prioritize the latter.
The spell can be utilized in several ways. Besides slowing down opponents, it can also be used as a teamfight buff for carries. Utilizing the ability prior to casting a Time Bomb ensures that you will connect with the damaging spell. You can also use it to quickly ward the map, scout, ahead of the team, or simply get from point A to point B faster.
Despite how cool all other abilities are, Chronoshift is what makes this champion so interesting.
Chronoshift is a buff that lasts 5 seconds, and you can only cast it on allied champion or Zilean. If the buffed character receives fatal damage during this period, they will be placed in stasis for 3 seconds. After that, they will be resurrected with a certain amount of health.
This ability is ideal for your ADC or mid laner. The last thing you want to do is cast it on Zilean. The barrier often works as a deterrent, as enemies will usually change their focus from the target. Even if they score a kill during Chronoshift, they won’t get gold for it.
Regardless of its potency, the spell can be really tricky. Sometimes, enemies will target a less important ally. In such situations, Zilean players have to make a judgment call and decide whether this target is worth saving or they should save it for the carry.
Zilean’s main offensive combo involves casting Time Bomb on an enemy, using Rewind to refresh it, and casting another Time Bomb on the same target. The combo is pretty straightforward, and it dishes a lot of damage while stunning opponents in an AOE.
Aside from opposing champions, this combo can be utilized for farming. Unfortunately, it can be quite costly, so you won’t be able to use it continuously (especially on the lower levels).
Alternatively, you combine this sequence with Time Warp if you’re going against a hasty opponent to ensure that the bombs land. There are a few other options you can explore, such as Time Warp, Rewind, Time Warp for quickly traversing the map.
Champion Playstyle: Runes and Summoner Spells
Like most other mages, Zilean benefits from the Sorcery tree. These runes can help him deal extra damage while reducing some of the cooldowns. Among others, they will make his life easier while in the lane, increasing the overall mana pool. He can also take a few domination runes to further increase his ability power.
Here is the build that most players utilize on Zilean:
Summon Aery is especially good on a champion who has a combination of damage and support spells. The rune will create a shield around an ally when you cast Time Warp or Chronoshift, or it can further damage the enemies when you cast Time Bombs.
Manaflow Band is probably the most important rune on the champion. You will gain 25 mana each time you cast an ability on an enemy (whether it’s Time Warp or Time Bomb), for a total of 250 mana. When at max stacks, you will regenerate 1% mana every 5 seconds, which is especially important for heavy-mana consumers such as Zilean.
On lower champion levels, Transcendence will grant you the ability haste boost. When you get to level 11, you will gain access to a buff that will reduce your ability cooldowns by 20%. Keep in mind this is based on current values. The rune is especially important if you have already used your ultimate and need to regroup with a team before taking another engagement.
Waterwalking is ideal for Zileans in mid-lane. The rune gives you a strategic advantage when ganking or taking fights around Baron. It is especially great on supports as it is expected from you to move around the map and ward.
Cheap Shot is tailor-made for champions such as Zilean. Given that you can cast two slows on a target in succession, this rune can proc several times during a scrap. It will also trigger on Time Bomb combo and subsequent basic attacks while the target is stunned.
Chronoshift is a crucial ability for the champion, and you should try to reduce its cooldown however you can. In fact, you can argue that ability haste is more important than ability power on Zilean. Ultimate Hunter will reduce the cooldown of your ultimate for every takedown on a unique champion.
For the first rune, you should take Adaptive force giving you nine ability power and 5.4 attack damage. It will provide a nice boost to your Time Bomb, slightly increasing harass power.
You should also take Flex shard that provides ability power. Again, the same reasons as Offense shard.
As for the Defense shard, take the one that gives you nine armor. It will make you a bit tankier in the lane.
As for the summoner spells, Zilean most commonly gets Flash. This spell can slightly increase his mobility, allowing him to escape from sticky situations. What’s even more important, it can be crucial for positioning during teamfights, when your ally is being focused, and you need to come closer for a clutch Chronoshift.
You can take Ignite or Exhaust as the second one. Ignite will increase your kill potential in the lane, providing takedowns after double Time Bomb. Exhaust can be utilized for catching up to an enemy or fleeing from him. Alternatively, you can use it as a strong damage debuff against enemy ADCs during teamfights.
Zilean focuses on a combination of ability haste, ability power, supporting passives and abilities, as well as defense. Time Bomb scales nicely with AP, getting a 90% bonus. Chronoshift is even better, receiving a 200% ability power boost on the healing effect. However, having something like Zhonya’s Hourglass is also important as it can shelter the champion if he’s being targeted.
Anyway, here are the items you should consider including in your build:
Ionian Boots of Lucidity
Unlike many other mages, Zilean doesn’t benefit as much from Sorcerer’s Shoes. Instead, it is better to get Ionian Boots of Lucidity, which give extra summoner and ability haste. Zilean is reliant on his spells and doesn’t necessarily have to empower them with extra AP. However, he needs to have them available at all times.
Shard of True Ice
This is a standard support/warding item for mages. You need to get Spellthief Edge as soon as possible to upgrade it to Frostfang and, ultimately, Shard of True Ice. Aside from nice mana regeneration and ability power, the staff will also provide gold over time and will allow you to ward the map.
In theory, as long as Zilean remains alive, the team’s ADC will stay alive. Zhonya’s is an ideal item if you’re being targeted, as it can put you in stasis for 2.5 seconds. As mentioned, you don’t want to use the ultimate on yourself, so this would give you a way to protect the champion without expanding the spell.
As for your mythic, Shureyla’s Battlesong is probably the best choice. It will grant you 200 health, 100% mana regeneration, 20 ability haste, and 40 ability power.
It has an active called Inspire that will increase the movement of all allies in the vicinity, as well as a unique passive Motivate that provides a 25% movement speed boost when you cast buffs on allies (such as Time Warp or Chronoshift). As if that wasn’t enough, adding legendries to your inventory will increase ability haste by 5 per item.
Here is another common item on the champion. It provides 55 AP, 20 ability haste, and 100% mana regeneration. The weapon is especially important against healing and lifestealing lineups, as its passive can apply grievous wounds.
Seraph’s Embrace is another extremely potent item on Zilean. It gives the champion just about everything that he needs, including 250 health, 860 mana, and 80 ability power. What’s even better, you will gain ability haste proportionate to 1.3% bonus mana. Furthermore, you will get healed from abilities based on mana spent. This makes it great for Zilean, a champion notorious for his mana use.
Laning and Teamfighting Tips
- Besides helping your ultimate, ability haste is important for all other spells. In the late game, with enough ability haste, you can cast Time Bomb trice completely devastating a single opponent and area around him.
- Zilean often struggles against healing lineups. These champions can shield and heal in the lane and will eventually win the battle of starvation against mana-heavy users such as Zilean. This is why Ignite can be so important as a summoner spell.
- The champion is really good at poking if you can properly land your bombs. This will also annoy enemy ADCs. However, if you’re going against a healing lineup, you might want to use mana more rationally. Similarly, you should cast double Time Bomb unless you can score a kill.
- When casting bombs, try not to take minion kills from your carry.
- Whenever you’re warding the map and moving around, make sure to randomly throw Time Bombs into the brushes. Despite having some nice defensive spells, Zilean is squishy and can easily be nuked. So, be very careful when alone.
- The Chronokeeper is one of those champions who rely on teamfight coordination. Both of his Chronoshift and Time Warp can be tricky spells that can make or break engagements. As such, players really benefit from having a mic when playing the character as it would allow them to relay orders to allies explaining to them how you’re going to use abilities.
Question: What are the best items on Zilean?
Answer: Zilean usually builds a combination of ability power, ability haste, and defensive items. Some of these artifacts can also improve his buffs, making Time Warp and Chronoshift even better. The champion’s optimal build includes Ionian Boots of Lucidity, Zhonya’s Hourglass, Shard of True Ice, Shureyla’s Battlesong, Chemtech Putrifier, and Seraph’s Embrace.
Question: Who are the worst champions against Zilean?
Answer: This character usually struggles against healers and shielders. On the other hand, he is especially potent against squishy opponents, which he can nuke with double Time Bomb. Among others, he performs well against Braum, Lux, Xerath, Leona, and Thresh.
Question: What are the best runes on Zilean?
Answer: Zilean focuses on Sorcery runes, combined with a few Dominion runes. Most players will take something along the lines of Summon Aery, Manaflow Band, Transcendence, Waterwalking, Cheap Shot, and Ultimate Hunter.
Zilean Guide: Conclusion
Zilean adds something completely different to the game. His passive is really interesting, and there is nothing similar in League of Legends. While he is not known for damaging spells, his Time Bomb can be devastating in the lane when you cast it twice.
The champion’s Chronoshift is a great way of saving targeted allies, while Time Warp can give them a boost of speed. Although most of his abilities are target spells, maximizing their potential can be tricky during close teamfights.