Welcome to our Zed guide. The Master of Shadows is one of the flashiest mid-lane assassins in League of Legends. With a 51.04% win rate and a 13.11% play rate, he uses his mechanically intensive kit to outplay his opponents and carry his team to victory. Let’s see how Zed can help you break open your Solo Queue games!
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Passive: Contempt for the Weak
Zed’s auto attacks deal increased damage against targets below 50% of their maximum health. This passive only affects the same enemy once every few seconds.
How to use: While Contemp for the Weak might sound pretty straightforward, it’s important to note just how much burst your auto attacks do. At level 17, you deal 10% of your target’s max health as bonus damage, which is huge. So remember this when looking for all-in opportunities.
Q: Razor Shuriken
Zed sends a spinning blade in the target direction, dealing damage to all enemies hit. The damage is reduced by 40% against all foes beyond the first enemy struck. Active Living Shadows [W] also throw shurikens to the target location. If several spinning blades hit the same target, all additional shurikens deal 75% damage.
How to Use: This is your main damage spell, so landing it is a must. On its own, it’s a slow skill shot that can be dodged with relative ease, unless you’re very good at predicting enemy movement. However, if you combine it with Living Shadow [W] or Death Mark [R], you can throw shurikens from several angles at once. And the slow from the W > E combo makes it close to impossible to miss your Q. Razor Shurikens are also quite good for CSing, and you can use them to last-hit from afar.
W: Living Shadow
First cast: Zed conjures a shadow at the target location. The shadow remains in place for 5 seconds, gaining the ability to mimic Razor Shuriken [Q] and Shadow Slash [E]. When his shadow lands a mimicked ability on the same target, Zed restores energy.
Second cast: Provided they’re within 1300 units of each other, Zed swaps places with his shadow.
How to use: Living Shadow is a very versatile ability. It’s great for poking and skirmishing because it allows you to cast two basic abilities at once, but its main strength is mobility. You can swap with your shadow to initiate fights, get out of harm’s way, or juke skill shots. Keep in mind that the shadow lasts for 5 seconds, and sometimes it’s better to wait before reactivating your W. Also, your it grants sight, and you can cast it to provide vision around brushes and neutral objectives.
E: Shadow Slash
Zed and his living shadow perform a sweeping strike, dealing damage to all surrounding enemies. Any foes hit by Living Shadow’s E get slowed for 1.5 seconds. Enemies hit by multiple slashes don’t take additional damage, but they’re affected by a stronger slow. Each champion hit by Shadow Slash reduces the spell’s cooldown by 2 seconds.
How to use: While Shadow Slash adds quite a bit of damage, its best trait is the slow. All enemies hit by your shadow clone get slowed, making it easier to chase them and connect your Razor Shurikens [Q]. The slow is also useful for making escapes, as most champions will struggle to catch up with you once you slow them with the W > E combo. And since the ability deals AoE damage, it offers some much-needed wave clear.
R: Death Mark
Passive: Securing a takedown while Death Mark is active permanently grants Zed a portion of target’s attack damage. Zed keeps the highest stolen AD value as his current bonus.
First cast: Zed turns untargetable for 0.75 seconds and dashes behind the target enemy. Upon arrival, he gains the ability to pass through units for 3 seconds and spawns a Living Shadow [W] at the cast location. The Living Shadow lasts for 6 seconds, and Zed can reactivate his ultimate as long as it’s present.
For the next 3 seconds, all damage Zed deals to his target is stored, detonating at the end of the Death Mark duration.
Second cast: Zed swaps places with the Living Shadow created by his ultimate. This action can be performed regardless of the distance between them.
How to use: This is your outplay button. The untargetability lets you avoid most enemy abilities if you time it right, so use your ultimate to dodge dangerous skill shots. Since Death Mark creates another shadow, you can potentially hit your target with three Razor Shurikens [Q].
And then there’s the burst. All damage you deal within the first three seconds of your ultimate will be applied at the end of your Death Mark, so you’re effectively dealing 200% (and then some) damage to your target. This makes your ultimate perfect for deleting squishy champions. Since Death Mark also steals enemy AD, your preferred targets are always marksmen.
Zed Guide: The Combos
In the Lanning phase you want to be involved in the fewer fights possible. But, you can cast W>Q>AA>E once you hit lvl 3 to quickly apply some damage. Also, if you use the shadow right, you can use the W second cast to run away or secure an early kill.
R > Q > E > W
Razor Shuriken [Q] offers the most damage, and it’s a good idea to max it first. Get Shadow Slash [E] next to increase your damage output, and save Living Shadow [W] for last since it doesn’t scale too well. Level up Death Mark [R] when you can.
Zed Guide: Runes & Spells
Like most assassins, Zed prefers Domination as his primary rune tree. Pick the Electrocute keystone to get more burst for your trades and all-ins. In a similar fashion, Sudden Impact is invaluable when you want to blindside your enemies from the fog of war. Next, choose between Zombie Ward (more utility) and Eyeball Collection (better scaling) and round out your build with Ravenous Hunter.
For your second rune tree, you can pick between Sorcery and Precision. In the first case, the Ultimate Hat reduces the cooldown of your main burst spell—Death Mark [R]—while Celerity lets you stick to your target. As for the second scenario, Triumph is great for surviving close fights, and Coup de Grace makes you deal even more damage to wounded enemies. In the end, everything comes down to your playstyle and personal preferences.
Zed Summoner Spells
Zed is a mid lane assassin, so he wants to take Flash and Ignite as his summoner spells. The former is useful when you need to dive in for a kill or make a swift escape, and the latter adds even more damage on top of your burst. Run these summoners every game.
1.) Duskblade of Draktharr > Ninja Tabi > Youmuu’s Ghostblade > Black Cleaver > Edge of Night > Guardian Angel
Zed wants to deal as much damage as possible, and his core build reflects that idea. Duskblade of Draktharr is the perfect first item since it has AD, CDR, and lethality while also giving you the ability to remove enemy wards. Your boots choice will come down to the in-game situation, but Ninja Tabi usually is more useful compared to other upgrades. As for Youmuu’s Ghostblade, it’s great for sticking to your target and initiating fights with its movement speed active.
Black Cleaver makes you a bit scarier to tanks and bruisers and lets you hit the 40% CDR cap. And the armor penetration and movement speed from its passives certainly won’t hurt either. Edge of Night is another item to consider. Not only does it bring more lethality to the table but its spell shield lets you pull off much riskier plays.
Round out your build with Guardian Angel. Zed is pretty squishy in the late game, so most teams will try to burst you down before you can deal the bulk of your damage. The reviving passive grants you another chance to make your presence known.
Zed Situational Items
Zed has a lot of situational items to consider. For starters, evaluate other boots options. Mercury’s Treads are the clear-cut best purchase against mages and crowd control, and Boots of Swiftness are great when you want to roam and pick up kills around the map. If you’re facing a lot of armour, it’s a good idea to replace Edge of Night with Lord Dominik’s Regards (against tanks) or Mortal Reminder (against healers). Sure, you won’t be able to burst enemy frontliners, but you’ll still contribute some damage to team fights.
Sometimes, you’ll need other defensive items. Maw of Malmortius is a good buy against mages with a lot of bursts (i.e. Syndra, Ahri, LeBlanc), and Mercurial Scimitar lets you fight back against champions like Lissandra and Malzahar. Even Death’s Dance might be useful if you’re getting focused on team fights.
When to pick Zed?
Pick Zed if you want to win in the early/mid-stages of the game. The Master of Shadows takes over the lanning phase and snowballs his lead by roaming around the map.
Ideally, Zed wants to go against squishy carries that can’t avoid his all-in without burning Flash. Also, enchanting and peeling supports are the bane of Zed’s existence, and you will struggle to find kills against the likes of Janna and Lulu.
Zed Matchups and Counters
Zed is a potent counter to squishy mages. Champions like Taliyah, Brand, Aurelion Sol, and Zoe will have a hard time playing around with his mobility. Also, Zed has a fair shot at taking down his fellow assassins (Yasuo, LeBlanc, Talon).
However, the champions that have built-in invulnerability and point-and-click abilities will always challenge him because of the nature of his Death Mark. Avoid picking Zed into the likes of Anivia, Kayle, Vladimir, and Malzahar.
Zed Laning Phase
Contrary to the popular belief, Zed’s lanning phase isn’t that dominant. In fact, the Master of Shadows doesn’t get a ton of kill pressure until he hits level 3. That’s why you should start with a Long Sword and three Health Potions; then, put a point into Razor Shuriken [Q], and focus on farming.
Most mid lanners will be stronger than you in the early game, so use your Qs to CS and poke them from afar. Try to walk up for last hits only when your opponent is busy picking up creeps to avoid the bulk of his poke damage. And remember that it’s okay to miss a few creeps here and there if taking them means getting chunked. After all, even the best assassin won’t be able to find kills if he’s below half of his health.
Take Living Shadow [W] at level 2. Your lanning pattern remains the same, but you can now deal more poke damage by going for the double shuriken combo. The enemy lanner will attempt to sidestep it, though, so always try to predict his movement.
But it’s at level 3 that you can really start taking over the lane. The slow from the Shadow Slash [E] makes it easier to connect Razor Shurikens [Q], dealing a ton of damage to unsuspecting enemies. Your standard harass combo is W > E > Q. Keep in mind that you can buffer Shadow Slash during your Living Shadow animation to make the AoE nigh unavoidable.
Poke the enemy lanner from a distance and zone him away from creeps with your shadow. Once your opponent falls below 35% health, you have a kill opportunity. The best way to pull it off is to go for your standard poke combo and switch places with your shadow at the end for that one last auto-attack. Of course, most mid lanners will be aware of this possibility and will position themselves accordingly.
This is where mind games come in. Cast your Living Shadow and throw out your Razor Shurikens. Regardless of whether you hit or miss, walk back afterwards. Most mid lanners will think you’re disengaging from the fight, so they’ll move in for CS. This is when you swap with your shadow and Flash onto them, apply Ignite, and follow up with E > AA. You can cancel Shadow Slash’s animation with your auto-attack, which, combined with your passive, usually leads to a free kill.
Your kill pressure skyrockets at level 6. Once you unlock Death Mark [R], you can 100-0 most carries, provided they didn’t stack an armour. Your usual combo is W (to get in range) > R > E > AA > Q. If you connect all abilities, this rotation deals a ton of damage. But there is a way to deal more.
If your lane opponent is reckless enough to walk into your ultimate range (or you have Youmuu’s Ghostblade active), go for the R > W > E > AA > Q combo. This way, you’ll have three shadows up, making for a triple Razor Shuriken. Make sure to place your Living Shadow close by to affect your target with the slow from a double Shadow Slash.
Once you get a kill or two, it’s time to open up the map. The best place to roam is the bot lane because you can score two kills instead of one. Push in your minion wave in the mid lane and go into the fog of war. You want to pick the routes that are unlikely to be warded, so it’s a good idea to loop around the enemy jungle and use Blast Cones. Once you enter the bot lane, you can go for your regular all-in combo. However, if your target has Flash, it’s a good idea to hold on to your ultimate to follow them. The exact same approach works when you’re roaming to the top lane.
Zed Guide: Mid Game
You want to base Zed’s mid-game around split pushing and team fighting. The first option is preferable if you’re ahead and capable of duelling all champions on the enemy team. Then, you want to go to the side lane (usually, bot lane) and push the minion wave until the enemy team sends someone to answer you. If it’s a single person, poke them out or all-in them. If you’re facing several opponents, make your escape or try to get a quick Death Mark [R] kill.
One thing to note about split pushing is that you never want to be caught while your team is on your side of the map. You need your allies to pressure turrets and neutral objectives. Otherwise, you risk dying and throwing away your lead for free. Of course, it’s best to avoid death entirely, so set up a few Trinket wards in their jungle or ask your support to provide the vision for you.
As you can see, split pushing requires quite a bit of coordination. That’s why some Zed players prefer the team fighting route. Here, your job is to assassinate the enemy carry. It’s best to target a marksman, but don’t be shy to go for someone else. As long as you don’t pick a tank, you’ll still be able to assassinate your target and walk away unscathed, effectively turning the fight into a 5v4.
Keep in mind that you don’t want to be the one starting the fight unless you see someone completely out of position. Zed works best as a follow-up, so wait for your teammates to initiate. On the subject of waiting, your enemies will often try to stay away from a fed Zed. And while this is a bit disappointing because you can’t get free kills, you can lurk on the outskirts of a 5v5 and zone enemy carries with the threat of your Death Mark [R].
Zed Late Game
Zed’s late game is arguably his weakest point. This is mainly because items like Zhonya’s Hourglass, Guardian Angel, and Stopwatch can all counter your ultimate, negating a huge chunk of your damage. Hit Tab to keep up with enemy itemization.
Once they stack defensive items, you no longer have the same kill pressure, so your best bet is split pushing. Even if you’re losing 1v1s, you can still escape from most opponents, and it’s a good idea to occupy a side lane because someone from the enemy team will have to respond to your pressure, Otherwise, you can take their Inhibitor and break open the map that way.
Zed lives up to his title of the Master of Shadows. His abilities are made for outplaying his opponents, and if you master his kit, you will come out on top more often than not. And ultimately, this is exactly what you need to carry in Solo Queue.