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League of Legends Champion Review: Zed the Master of Shadows


What do Peter Pan, Dracula, Dr. Facilier, and Diablo II’s Assassin all have in common? They’re all imaginary people with a very specific, very cool superpower: their shadows are living entities that can move independently of their host, to aid or disrupt their intentions—just like League of Legends’ new champion, Zed.

If you’re just jumping into League of Legends and want to know what champions to pick, check out ourbest League of Legends champions for beginners guide.

The TLDR version: He’s a blade-wielding ninja killer that creates shadow clones of himself that mimic his attacks and can swap locations with him.

It’s not as disorienting as it sounds

I’ll admit it: I got nervous when I started reading through Zed’s ability list. It includes a lot of spawning clones, swapping places with them, and leaping to targets. I’m the kind of guy that will sometimes get lost in a teamfight when playing a smaller champion that’s not easy to pick out in a crowd (curse you, giant Cho’Gath!), and Zed’s arsenal sounded a bit hectic.

But it really wasn’t bad once I got in-game and started playing with the abilities. You rarely have more than one shadow up at a time, and they only last a few seconds so it’s not difficult to remember where it is at any given time. Hopping between shadows (swapping places with it) is intuitive and, frankly, pretty darn awesome.

Like most of Riot’s recent releases, the skill ceiling on this champion is Vatican-level, which should get pro players very excited. Because your shadow mimics your champions abilities (and direction when shooting skill shots), you’re constantly managing two separate locations and momentums whenever it’s up.

In one match, I was trying to bait a low-health Nunu into range of my shadow while also trying to farm the minion wave marching past it. I was watching Nunu run up the lane towards my shadow, zigzagging, while trying to keep my actual body moving up the lane alongside the moving minion pack so that I’d be within AoE range of all of them when Nunu got close enough to use the ability.

It’s hectic, it’s crazy, and it’s very rewarding when you can pull it off. And you have to pull it off if you want to be successful. Zed by himself is pretty gimped and his abilities don’t hit hard enough or have strong enough debuffs to hold their own on the fields of justice. You absolutely have to hit with your shadow and your champion at every opportunity if you want to win fights.

Bait and switch

Swapping places with your shadow has so many uses, I could write a whole article just on that. Their versatility lets you use them to engage (throw forward and swap places) or disengage (throw over terrain and swap), and unlike most other “clone” champions like Yorick and Shaco, Zed’s is almost always off cooldown and ready for you.

I’m a griefer at heart, so it’s no surprise that my favorite use of the shadow so far is trolling people chasing me. A Morgana was chasing me with half health. I dropped my shadow in front of me, teleported to it and immediately turned around and threw out my two abilities. By that point, Morgana had run right into my shadow and both of us smashed her hard before she even saw what was happening.

And even when you really do have to run away, tossing your shadow over a wall and then swapping places with it places your shadow right in the middle of the people that were trying to kill you. That lets you smash your abilities from a safe distance while your shadow does the damage to them for you.

OP or QQ?

I really liked Zed in top and bottom lane, where most ADs are found nowadays. His Q is a very weak poke, but his W and E let him farm like crazy. You won’t be pushing too many lanes, but you’ll be able to farm up and get your last hits. He’s another strong jungler with very low risk of dying to the jungle creeps, but his ganks were only average. I’d rather have him in a lane.

Overall, he felt a little overpowered in the hands of anyone that learned the intricacies of his shadow-swapping and his ultimate (which is very confusing unless you read the full tooltip). The damage portion basically duplicates all of the damage you deal in the next three seconds. It gets a little silly (aka OP) when you’re activating items like Ghostblade, Bilgewater Cutlass, or Deathcap and then popping your summoner spells like Ignite and Surge. It duplicates all of that damage, without really indicating visually to the opponent that something bad is going to happen in three seconds, which just feels cheesy.

Shut up and tell me what to do

You already know whether or not you like melee AD assassins. It’s a very specific type of gameplay that most people love or hate. If you love it and don’t think that Talon, Rengar and their sneaky ilk provide enough complexity to challenge you, then pick up Zed. He’s one of the most complicated, in execution, melee AD champions to come out so far. This is one that’ll separate the pros from the noobs.

If you do buy him, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Slash minions often: You never know when you’re going to need your shadow to escape or gank. For every target hit with you E ability (AoE slash), the cooldown on your shadow ability is reduced by one second. Spamming it on minions while running away has saved my life more than once.
2. Scout safely: You shadow is invulnerable and gives LOS in brush, so send it to face-check any suspicious weeds you see.
3. Buy cooldown reduction: Getting you E cooldown to the point where you can use it twice effectively while your shadow is very important for farming and for harassing. You need to make the most of the few seconds that dark doppelganger is around.

Josh Augustineis a connoisseur of online games in the MMO, MOBA, and RPG style. He currently works as a game designerat Sony Online Entertainment on EverQuest. He’d love totalk with you on Twitter.