How to Zhao: A Comprehensive Guide to Destroying the Hopes and Dreams of Others; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Three-Talon Strike
ii: Pros and Cons
iii: Summoner Spells
iv: Masteries & Runes
i: Introduction: A Breakdown of this Guide, and a Brief Summary of Xin Zhao and his Role
Parts one through six are your standard breakdown of how to build an in-your-face-kill-you-all-day-erry-day Xin Zhao.
Part seven discusses the three phases of the game and what your ideal gameplan is.
So who is Xin Zhao? He is a destroyer of hopes and dreams. He is a physical carry. He is a very frustrating champion to play against and is one of the few champions who depends on proper ability activation order to achieve maximum efficiency. And lastly, he can also function as an incredibly beefy main tank, though that is outside the purview of this guide.
ii: Pros and Cons
- Xin Zhao is a hero similar to Akali in that once you are riding around level 7, you can descend on squishy targets with the force of a train.
- The Zhao’s abilities are all incredibly synergistic, have extremely low mana costs and cooldowns, and provide insane damage output. This makes fighting him one on one a total pain in the ass.
- Once you are on Xin Zhao’s shank train it is very hard to escape him without a combination of abilities (usually a Cleanse plus an escape mechanism like Flash, Ghost, or any number of champion abilities)
- If you are able to get three kills without dying yourself you will snowball, as Xin Zhao’s primary item is not only cheap, but bolsters his Three-Talon Strike and Crescent Sweep to ridiculous degrees.
- Xin Zhao is not only killer DPS, but like Garen, has some built in tankiness with his passive and the bolstered armor/magic resist from activating his ult.
- Early game is not Xin Zhao’s arena of choice. Until he has all of his tools at his disposal, Xin Zhao does not hit hard enough, fast enough, nor can he keep people within his clutches to effectively gank.
- Xin Zhao is somewhat item dependent and his items of choice are not necessarily the most intuitive. It is very easy to fall off the path of Zhao, as it were, and assume he operates like every other physical carry in the game.
- Since Xin Zhao was released recently, many people have been playing him and have walked the Path of Zhao, earning Xin Zhao a big target on his forehead. You will be focused on and thus must be very careful of who you target, how, and when.
iii: Summoner Spells
Xin Zhao is a champion who has one staple spell, with the second slot being left up to preference. Let’s discuss the elephant in the room…
With both Cleanse and Flash receiving the nerf bat, Ghost is pound for pound the best summoner spell for Xin Zhao, if not the best in the game. With your proper item build discussed down below and Ghost activated, you will come out of the bush for a gank like greased lightning and they will drop like a stone. You will also be able to slide on out of there as quickly as you came in, leaving a very frustrated and bewildered enemy team.
So, Ghost is your primary, erryday all day no question. Xin Zhao has a high base speed and relies on being incredibly mobile. So what’s your secondary? I feel it comes down to three choices and I will discuss them.
Even with the nerf, Cleanse is still perfectly viable. Everyone has had those games where you’re doing your thing, and suddenly you’re hit with an Ashe arrow and the enemy team comes crawling out of from under the floorboards like so many cockroaches to feast on your supple flesh. You say ‘****! I wish I had Cleanse!’ If this frustrates you, you go with Cleanse.
I personally believe that Exhaust is the worst of your three possible choices. Why? Because Xin Zhao already has a far superior ability on his E key: Audacious Charge. However, if you find your enemies are Cleansing and Flashing away far too much for your liking, Exhaust is a good backup for when they blow their Cleanse. The miss chance can also really tilt 1v1s in your favor if your opponent is another physical damage dealer.
My personal favorite. Many people say Ignite was nerfed, but I disagree; with Cleanse no longer removing damaging debuffs like Mordekaiser’s ultimate or Ignite, this little burn spell that could actually got better. Quicksilver Sash is the only way to drop it, and free damage is free damage. Not to mention it has the added benefit of countering any pesky healers or high regen heroes like Soraka and Mundo.
iv: Runes and Masteries
This build is the one I run with. I prefer the 8 points in Utility for the boosted exp, extra regen, and boost to Ghost. The one point in Archmage’s Savvy is a junk point that could be slotted into the Exhaust talent if you choose that spell.
This is the build if you want a little bit more staying power.
ArmPen Reds, Mana Regen/18 Yellows, CD Redux (your choice as to flat or /18), and Health Quintessences. Yellows could be replaced with HP/18 or Dodge as well, but I prefer the Mana Regen runes because Xin Zhao has a pretty tiny mana pool, and despite his spells being very cheap, they come off cooldown quickly and you can run yourself dry pretty quick.
Xin Zhao’s passive allows him to restore health every third attack. It’s great, it allows you a bit of lane staying power, but it’s not something you control.
Q: Three-Talon Strike
This is Xin Zhao’s signature move. It adds a flat damage bonus to his next three attacks and the third attack if it lands is a guaranteed knock up. Knock up, coincidentally, is the BEST CC in the game. It can’t be cleansed, Mercury Treads do nothing, it is awesome.
W: Battle Cry
This is the backbone of Xin Zhao’s arsenal. Without this, he wouldn’t be a fraction as strong as he is. It grants him a passive attack speed bonus and can be activated to double it. When you activate it, however, each attack you land reduces the cooldowns of all three of his other abilities by one second. Ho. Lee. ****.
E: Audacious Charge
This is what allows Xin Zhao to keep his victims riding on the shank train in conjunction with his Q. It’s a short range Flash to a target that deals damage and slows by 40% in a fairly large AoE.
R: Crescent Sweep
Xin Zhao’s ultimate is a teamfight MVP. He swings his spear in a huge circle and deals massive damage to enemies it hits to the tune of a base amount in physical damage (150, 275, 400) plus 25% of their current health. This is also why Xin Zhao is Kill On Sight.
Here’s your level up order to 6:
After that you prioritize R > W > Q > E.
As I mentioned above, the order of ability activations is crucial. The optimum rotation is: Engage with E, hit R for massive beats, activate Q, activate W, and then proceed to demolish their face. When Q is back up, use it. If they run, hit them with another E. They should be dead. If not, make them dead, or if they have backup coming, get out of there and wait for the next opportunity to make them dead.
This is where most people get tripped up with Xin Zhao. A lot of items are good, but some items are best. What most people don’t realize is that Xin Zhao does not need a very high base damage; his Three Talon Strike provides him with a huge damage boost as it is. No, what Xin Zhao needs, as suggested by Battle Cry, is Attack Speed. The faster he hits the faster his cooldowns go and the more abilities you use in a shorter amount of time.
Doran’s Shield, Health Potion x1
Xin Zhao’s early game is awful. No other item gives you quite the boost that Doran’s Shield does for the money. With a set of Health Quints, you’re looking at a base health of 750.
That aside, here is, what I feel, the MVP list and what should be your first item, bar none:
Xin Zhao is an entirely physical based hero. Combined with your ArmPen marks and masteries, if you can get this early enough you will crush their team beneath your boot when you take out their casters in one quick Three-Talon Strike flurry.
Boots of Swiftness
Xin Zhao has a very high base movement speed. Therefore, you want some Nikes that can help you chase to the fullest extent while also juking in and out of team fights. That said, Mercury Treads are awesome in their own right, and if you are running up against a lot of CC and magic, you are encouraged to make the swap.
For 1195 gold you are getting a hell of a bargain. Attack speed, some crit, and… Movement Speed! Yes, that is the primary reason to get this item. With your 3-speed kicks mentioned above plus Zeal, you are going to be cruising around the map at ALL TIMES with 437 base movement speed. As I mentioned in the Summoner Spell section, with Ghost this means you are greased lightning. Impossible to catch, impossible to outrun. Use Zeal. Love it.
If you add up your total gold expenditure, you are only dropping 4000 gold total on all three of those items. That’s not even one whole Infinity Edge. But where do you go from there? My preference is to make the mad dash to Infinity Edge right after, getting my BF Sword. Just because Attack Speed is the best for the Zhao doesn’t mean that 50 extra damage per hit is useless. If the game’s not over by the time IE is done, you want to turn your Zeal into a Phantom Dancer for even more hilarious beats. Or you could make it a Trinity Force. The point is, if you’re that far progressed you’ve more than likely already won.
Frozen Mallet – A free slow is good stuff. I just simply can’t find a point in my build before everything else to sneak it in, but if you want to sacrifice some of your burst potential for more control over when your enemies leave (in a bodybag), you could consider getting this.
Banshee’s Veil – Sometimes you gotta delay your massive beats items for some more survivability. This is your Anti-Caster item du jour.
Thornmail – Like Banshee’s Veil, but for that ***** Master Yi and enemies who believe they can play Xin Zhao better than you (they can’t).
Stark's Fervor – This is a possibility if you don't feel like finishing Phantom Dancer and want to help your team out.
A Short Aside: The Green and Red Drinks
Elixirs are awesome. Green Elixir moreso. If you find you have a little spare gold in between any of the items above and need a quick boost to help you rack up some more kills, don’t be afraid to drop the 300 on a Green or Red Drink. Or both. This is personal preference.
Early game (1-6):
Play conservatively. Like Akali, you are easy to harass and the most vulnerable in the beginning stages of the game. If you can set up a gank in your lane, don’t be afraid to do so, but don’t take any damage you can avoid. Stand back, get last hits, and soak up gold and experience.
Mid game (7 – 12): If you’ve survived the Early Game with no deaths, and maybe even a kill or two, you’re going to come into your prime. Get your Last Whisper and Boots and start looking around the lanes for someone to destroy. If you can’t find anyone by level 8, I usually take the time to swing around to our Lizard and Golems, take the two buffs, and then head to a lane to initiate a gank. If your gank fails, apologize to your team for not being diligent on the Path of Zhao, and make it up to them by taking out dragon. Continue to do this.
End game (13 – 18): The game has gone one of two ways. If you have mastered the Path of Zhao you have racked up the kills and are dominating the game and it should be over soon. Be vigilant and continue your mid game plan into endgame.
If you have not mastered the Path of Zhao and conquered your mid game, then unfortunately things are going to be rough. You can’t be on the lookout alone and roam the map. Stick with your group and wait for them to engage, jump in, use Crescent Sweep, and go for the weakest target if you can afford to. If not, get out of dodge and wait for an opportunity to pick off a runner.
Appendix A: Walking the Path of Zhao, and how to Shut Zhao Out of the Game
So, you’re already familiar with the inner workings of Xin Zhao, but you don’t want to play him. You want to make him suffer for his extremely high damage, and I can’t blame you. If you were reading the previous section, then you read my discussion of early game. Herein lies the key to keeping Xin Zhao under control: lock him out of the game as quickly as you can. If you can harass him away from the minions, starve him of XP and gold, and maybe even land a kill or two on him, Xin Zhao will not be prepared for the midgame transition. You should keep an eye on the four buff camps on the map as well as the dragon, and if you can catch Xin Zhao alone in the woods with his pants down, kill him and kill him hard.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them. I hope this guide teaches you How to Zhao and I hope to see you all on the battlefield!