Zilean Review and Theorycraft
Two days ago we’ve had the announcement of the new expansion – ‘Guardians of the Ancient’, – and today we been shown the first champion from it – Zilean. In this article, I will go over all the cards that have been revealed so far and give a short explanation of why I believe it’s good or bad – and rate them accordingly. I will also theorycraft a bit and build a deck including Zilean and his package!
Below is our rating scale. I also use an asterisk (*) alongside some ratings to show that these are the evaluations that are more likely to change than others after we see the rest of the expansion.
- 5.0: Meta-defining card, potentially a staple in multiple top-tier archetypes.
- 4.0: Archetype staple, or auto-include in multiple archetypes.
- 3.0: A solid playable, could serve as a staple for some archetypes.
- 2.0: Can be used for specific synergies, or to counter some decks.
- 1.0: Unlikely to find its place in the meta.
Zilean – 4.0
Zilean is a cheap champion with a mediocre-but-not-terrible stat-line. Dropping him on turn 2 will allow you to block some aggressive units of your opponent, even though he cannot deal with Fearsome units. Offensively, he provides very little benefit and will most likely stay in the backrow for the most part of the game.
His ‘Play’ ability can be approached in many different ways. First of all, he allows you to Predict, which is a strong ability in and of itself – a clear upside. On top of that, the Time Bombs that he shuffles into the deck can be really powerful, both dealing chip damage to the Nexus as well as clearing some boards or weakening them for another sweeper.
His level-up requirement is fairly difficult to achieve, as finding two Time Bombs can be time-consuming. Zilean’s 4 toughness can let him survive for a while – but unless you get lucky with Predicts, or use your Time Bombs later in the game alongside a second copy of the champion, Zilean is not likely to level. Of course, there is still a chance we will see another way of creating or tutoring Time Bombs.
If you do manage to level him, Zilean’s powerful passive effect will make him a priority target for the opponent to remove. Replaying the cards you’ve played the turn before shoots your value game through the roof and will allow you to overpower your opponent in a matter of a few rounds.
As you can see, I rated him as a 4.0. Why do I think he is powerful? Well, first of all, I like to be optimistic about newly-released champions. More importantly, I also believe his ‘Play’ ability is straight-up really strong. Predicting is great, but putting cheap AoE in your deck, that also draws you another card on play is fantastic.
My biggest worry for Zilean is whether he will be able to find a home. We do not know all the new cards yet, but it seems he isn’t a champion that wants or needs a build-around – and those versatile types usually take some time to figure out.
I hope we see some more support for Zilean, as for now I find it quite difficult to come up with a deck that thematically works well around him. He seems like a fine slot-in into multiple archetypes, but it is difficult to build around him. I did, however, decide to build a deck that makes use of his level-up form, as I figured that is the most fun way to showcase him as the newest addition to the roster.
The list above is far from refined, but the deck revolves heavily around the idea of leveled Zilean creating copies of powerful cards like Go Hard, but also Doombeast and Ruinous Path into your hand, allowing you to pressure your opponent’s board as well as life total.
In order to survive, the deck plays some early game cards like Aspiring Chronomancer,
Chronoshift – 2.0
Zilean’s champion spell is a little disappointing to me. Its effect is powerful, but it is costed insanely at 7-mana and it is awfully vulnerable to Hush.
There is likely no competitive use for this card, as it seems like a weaker pre-nerf Unyielding Spirit. That said, there is some merit to including it as a 1- or 2-of in a deck that goes all-in on a champion; something like Lee Sin for example. Even there though, I believe there are simply better options.
As a champion spell, it is also underwhelming, unless you are playing an all-in Zilean deck relying on his leveled form.
Scrying Sands – 4.0
This is a ‘reverse’ Elixir of Iron that has a more flexible use for a control deck, as it can be used to either prevent 2 damage or save a unit in combat.
The Predict effect is a cherry on top and makes it seem like a staple in many Shurima lists. Not an overly ‘splashy’ card, but Predict is a strong mechanic and combat tricks are essential for success in LoR. I believe we will see it in a lot of lists, assuming that Shurima finally picks up the pace.
Soothsayer – 2.5
This seems like a very powerful card at first glance, but in the end, all it does is gives Spellshield to champions and landmarks.
I believe it is playable – its stats are passable as a blocker in a fast matchup, and Zoe into Soothsayer is already a pretty good synergy to have. Of course, it is essentially a slow-speed Spellshield that costs unit mana, which means it will likely be too clunky for most strategies.
That said, this card is surely a staple in mono Shurima lists. Protecting Buried Sun Disc from being destroyed removes the biggest lose-condition of the deck, and a 1/4 body on turn 2 can also help fend off some aggression after you’ve practically skipped turn 1.
The Clock Hand – 1.5*
8-mana 4/7 with no immediate effect does not sound like the hottest card in town.
Instant Century seems great at first glance, but so far there does not seem to be much use for reducing a landmark countdown by 4 rounds, so we might have to wait for more reveals to see if there’s potential.
The other choice of this spell is fine, but just nothing beyond that. Most of the landmarks that have Countdown are worth less than 3 mana, so it’s most likely not worth including The Clock Hand in a deck just for that effect.
Time in a Bottle – 2.0*
In a similar vein to The Clock Hand, Time in a Bottle is waiting for landmarks that are worth advancing. That said, I see more uses for this spell, as it is cheaper and allows you to Predict; as you may have noticed, this is an ability I value highly.
Additionally, the cheap cost gives it some flexibility; while the dream might be to use it on turn 3 on a Hibernating Rockbear, or to combine it with Salt Spire, you can just instantly proc Preservarium to draw the Predicted card, or instantly detonate a Time Bomb if you’re hard-pressed for a 1-damage AoE. Hopefully, there will be more Landmarks to combine this with, but even if there aren’t, there are some fringe uses and a little hope for this card.
Imagined Possibilities – 2.5
A flexible card that works very well with Time Bombs. At first glance, I’d say it is a potential include in any Zilean deck, especially due to the fact that it allows you to create a landmark in hand, should the other option be unplayable.
Randomness is a big downside, however, and might make the card way weaker, especially considering how many weak Countdown options exist in Legends of Runeterra.
While the effect can be good enough to be put in a deck, the problem I have with this card, and why I will likely avoid including it in too many of my decks, is that it also takes up a deck slot and there are spots in which it will just do nothing of significance.
Preservationist – 1.5*
The only two landmarks that this would work efficiently on are Frozen Thrall and Buried Sun Disc.
For both of them, we have better applicants to do that same job better, in Draklorn Inquisitor and Esteemed Hierophant – and neither of cards mentioned are even played that often.
Preservationist can be good if we see landmarks that want to have their Countdown reduced, but with what we know now it is just too weak to see play.
Chip – 2.5
It’s ultra-cute and I would hate to rate it lower than I did. It would be a great Shurima card, but because it is in Targon, it means we will likely see some new landmarks in that region, especially that its upcoming champion Malphite is quite likely to have something to do with that card type. For now, however, the main appeal of this card is in its adorable appearance.
The big upside of the card is that the buff is granted retroactively, so you can play it on turn 1 and follow up with Startipped Peak or
Clockwork Curator – 2.5*
Cheaper and better Preservationist. Advancing 2 rounds against 3 is not a big downside when most landmarks have low Countdowns.
You can play it on a Preservarium, Salt Spire, Hibernating Rockbear, all for a decent value.
You can look at this as a Time in a Bottle that gives you a 2/2 body instead of the Predict. Fair trade and a decent card that could see play, depending on how good Countdown landmarks will be.
This new reveal seemingly brought lots of cards that need some extra support to make their way into the meta. But with that, it also introduced us to Zilean, which seems like a really fun champion to build with, and while he might not have a clear home just yet, he appears to be very interesting and that is something I really enjoy in new card reveals.
I am really excited to see what is coming over the next few days with the Targon and Ionia releases. Especially the latter, as I would love to play some new and fun Ionia strategies.