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Unlike other champions with illusions, Zed's shadow clone is the lynchpin in his kit. With a shadow clone active, Zed's abilities are duplicated, allowing him to deal more damage, apply additional effects, or even engage an enemy from an unexpected angle. Zed can even switch places with his clones to perform surprise initiations or quickly head off a fleeing enemy. This ability to strategically reposition combined with some hefty bursts of both physical and magic damage to make Zed versatile across multiple roles.
When playing Zed in lane, Razor Shuriken can both harass the enemy and rapidly clear minions, making him a powerful bully. Spamming Razor Shuriken allows Zed to shove the lane and keep pressure up, buy time to roam, or stifle a push to drive enemies off his tower. Meanwhile, using Living Shadow to set up creative angles on your lane opponent can complicate juke attempts and allow you to land full damage nukes.
Zed's ganking and pursuit power also makes him an ideal jungler. Switching places with your shadow clone via Living Shadow creates opportunities for lightning-fast initiations, escapes, and even buff steals. The powerful slow from a cloned Shadow Slash can also lock down an enemy champion, leaving him vulnerable to execution from a heavy hitting attack charged with Contempt for the Weak.
Once the team fights start, Zed's clone enables him to alternately deploy his abilities from a safe distance or deal even more damage when he charges into the fray. He can also combine Living Shadow with Shadow Slash to blanket an area with a high-intensity slow, throwing off enemy positioning. Finally, Death Mark is an excellent cleanup ability to chase down and finish off fleeing low-health champions. The bonus magic damage from Contempt for the Weak is a great way to top off Death Marks detonation damage for surefire killing blows.
- Saving energy and spell cooldowns until you use your ultimate will potentially maximize Death Mark's damage.
- By quickly activating Living Shadow twice, Zed will send out his shadow and immediately teleport to it afterwards, allowing for quick escapes. This can be used to go over walls.
- Use Shadow Slash when your enemy catches up with the shadow to slow them and prevent pursuit.
- Living Shadow provides vision, which can be used to check bushes or scout over walls.
- If you move too far away from the shadow created by Living Shadow you can no longer switch places with them. An arrow indicates the direction of the shadow from Zed and changes colors depending on distance. If it is green then Zed is close enough to the shadow to swap positions with it; yellow means Zed can still switch places with it but will soon be out of range while red means he cannot.
- Placing a Living Shadow before using Death Mark can give Zed a safe escape from combat.
- The skills also may allow you to catch enemies off guard after a small skirmish. Using Death Mark primarily for damage, do not forget that it places a Living Shadow at the location of the cast. Faking retreat after a kill, deceive your enemy by swapping places with your ultimate's shadow and use your Living Shadow to effectively give your Razor Shuriken 50% more damage output.
- Three overlapping Shadow Slashes will apply a stronger slow than just two, however won't do any additional damage. If you already have a shadow up from your Death Mark, strongly consider saving your Living Shadow for escaping or chasing.
- In order, using Death Mark, Shadow Slash, Razor Shuriken, and an autoattack (if not, an additional Living Shadow) to proc Contempt for the Weak can deal enough burst damage to kill a squishy enemy. If you're in danger and your marked target is low enough, you may be able to use Living Shadow to escape (or Death Mark if it's safe enough due to its longer duration) and wait for the mark from Death Mark to kill the target. Be wary of effects that can deny you the kill or even turn the tables, such as Wish, Chrono Shift, Stand United or Intervention.
- With just 10% cooldown reduction the cooldown of Shadow Slash becomes short enough to land two of them before Death Mark's damage triggers. This can be used against enemies who not consider Zed's cooldowns.
- With maximum CDR (40%) you can get off 3 Shadow Slash and barely get off 2 Razor Shuriken during a single Living Shadow or Death Mark. Consider finding a way to fit it into your late game item build.
- Both Living Shadow and Death Mark come in very handy when running away from an enemy champion or two.
- The first tactic is to place Living Shadow in a bush opposite of the direction you are running in, slow them with Shadow Slash and switch places with your shadow afterwards for a nifty escape trick.
- The second is to place your shadow behind you and run in the opposite direction in an attempt to have them dodge an uncast Shadow Slash or Razor Shuriken, then cast Death Mark to fool your pursuer into chasing you while you escape with your Living Shadow and then your ultimate's. In some cases these strategies are way better than just simply using Living Shadow as a quick flash to safety, and might even ensure a kill.
- Death Mark gives an untargetable state that lasts slightly longer than Hallucinate. Use it to avoid channeled spells such as Absolute Zero, Requiem, Noxian Guillotine, or with good timing, last-moment skillshots and autoattacks. (He can still be killed with DoTs or even die to his another Zed's Ultimate during this time.)
- Zed's Contempt for the Weak makes him very good at last hitting/stealing important monster kills especially in the jungle, but be careful when laning as if you abuse the bonus damage too much you might end up pushing the lane to your disadvantage.
- An effective way to guarantee kills is to have deception as your ally. Letting a bruiser (an ADC/APC as a weaker bait might work occasionally) initiate on the enemy can ensure an advantage, often providing a good "clearing up" for a shutdown kill or even an ace.
- is a good core item on Zed due to its AD and Armor Penetration.
- is another excellent item on him since it builds out of and all of its stats benefit him greatly. is another good upgrade from The Brutalizer; this item does less overall damage than The Black Cleaver, but complements Zed's mobility and DPS, as well as making him take towers even faster and giving him even better assassination potential.
- If while playing Zed you find yourself dominating consider building a .
- Due to the passive effect of his Living Shadow, Zed can benefit from every AD item like an AP champ would with Rabadon's Deathcap, and thus can obtain very high amount of AD on late game. With fully stacked and and no other damage items, he can reach 262.5 bonus AD, although stacking the Sword of the Occult and keeping it stacked can be difficult in a lot of matches.
- Getting can be a good choice if you are being bullied by opponents with large amounts of magic damage.
- If getting Youmuu's Ghostblade, a great item to get is . This makes Zed's auto-attacks do insane amounts of damage should they crit, and this item makes them have reliable critical chance. While this item has the potential to make Zed extremely bursty, keep in mind that Zed still relies more on his abilities than his auto-attacks for damage, and on many situations, items like Maw of Malmortius or may prove to be better choices, with Infinity Edge being an option only if Zed is ahead and dominating.
- A allows Zed to fight 1v1's extremely well, as it adds extra single target damage that allows him to keep on top of his opponent as well as increasing the total damage when his Death Mark pops. The extra attack speed also allows him to take down towers quickly, in combination with the active allows him to split push, knowing you'll be able to kill most of the things that are sent at you.
- The high AD and active from / can add significant damage to the Ult. Zed starts auto-attacking his target automatically. After the first hit, use the active to deal more damage, reset the attack timer and attack again. The combination can be as much as 300% of Zed's AD in a very short time. This item also includes a lot of extra wave clear for Zed, increasing his split push potential further.
- If Zed's opponents have high amounts of crowd control, and he finds himself being locked down, a / can be effective, not only reducing magic damage on him from his opponents, the upgrade gives him a considerable amount of AD.
- Once Zed has his 6 item build, it is possible to replace his boots with a to increase his overall DPS in teamfights as it will reduce Crowd Control effects on him, as well as making his combat stats stronger and the 10% movement speed makes up for the amount lost from not having boots fairly well.
- As some games go, it is relatively more cost efficient to rush a as the enemy players will be quick to focus on Zed in a team fight.
- and are two good defensive items, but since they don't provide any offensive stats for Zed, they are situtional. Either of them are a good option to buy if is on cooldown, though.
- After Zed uses his Living Shadow and Death Mark, he is at his most vulnerable as his damage and mobility are both dependent upon it.
- Zed's Razor Shurikens deals less damage if they pass through other units before hitting your champion.
- Escaping laterally, rather than directly away, from Zed when he uses his ultimate will slightly limit his ability to slow and pursue your champion.
- Be aware of Zed's clone as he can use it to mimic Shadow Slash and Razor Shuriken even when he is out of sight, giving him deceptively long range.
- On that note, be very careful when tower hugging at low health, as he can easily kill you while only taking a minimal amount of damage from the tower.
- Beware as with a full build, Zed can 100-0 even full tanks. However, he is extremely reliant on Death Mark to do so; even against squishy targets, he relies on his ultimate to get a kill, as it's his ultimate that deals the majority of his damage. He will most likely use all of his abilities and auto-attack a lot to do as much damage as possible.
- If you have any hard CC, try to save it for after Zed activates Death Mark (and if possible, Living Shadow), as this will both reduce the time he has to combo the mark and give the marked champion a chance to escape.
- The delayed-effect damage caused by Zed's ultimate can be prevented by activating a Cleanse and Remove Scurvy will not remove the mark.
( or ) within the 3 seconds before the mark detonates.
- If you are an AP champion, purchasing can also counter Death Mark; activate it just before it's triggered to become completely immune to the damage. The armor also helps to reduce Zed's damage.
- If you are affected by Death Mark and a shuriken appears over your head, try to heal or shield, because that means that its damage is enough to kill you.
- Some champions can activate their own abilities when Zed uses Death Mark, to prevent him from dealing enough damage for the ultimate to kill, because these abilities either CC Zed, or make his target untargetable or take reduced or no damage at all. Examples: Intervention, Undying Rage, Terrify, Frozen Tomb, Assault and Battery, Wild Growth, Infinite Duress, Nether Grasp, and Sanguine Pool.
- Beware, Zed is surprisingly dangerous especially when assassinating low-health champions due to Contempt for the Weak.