[Guide] Zen Malzahar: How to Learn Patience

Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

concretebuddha

Senior Member

09-22-2010

"Entering the forest he moves not the grass;
Entering the water he makes not a ripple."


Short Version:

  • Tank Caster Hybrid
  • Masteries 9 0 21
  • Runes: magic pen reds, health yellows, up to 6% cdr blues, and flat health quints, replace anything with mana regen if you need it
  • Summoner Spells: Ghost, Flash, Teleport (pick two)
  • Skills: R > E > W > Q Early point in W and Q
  • Core Build: Archangel's Staff, Sorcerer's Shoes, Force of Nature, Glacial Shroud
  • Optional Items: Frozen Heart, Abyssal Scepter, Zhonya's Ring
  • Strategy: Enable your team by softening up targets with dots/aoe and use your ult on their carry. Don't die.

Long Version:

Malzahar is misunderstood. He has seen the depths of the void, and has transcended his own individuality to become something more. He's generally considered pretty weak, however, he would beg to differ. Let me translate his sacred writings, so that you too might attain enlightenment.

"When the mind is at peace,
the world too is at peace.
Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void,
you are neither holy or wise, just
an ordinary fellow who has completed his work."


The first thing to realize about Malzahar is that he is not a burst caster. Oh people have tried to shoehorn him into that role, but he is really outshined by other better nukers. He does not make entire teams explode like Annie, neither does he three shot people like Kassadin. He is a subtle caster, and cares nothing for glory.

So what is he good for? Two functions: enabling your team, and pushing. Malzahar should be compared more with a support mage like Morgana than any burst caster. You support your team by clearing minions, whittling away their team, and saving your ult for when your carry decides to destroy the enemy. You are a workhorse, and you must clear your mind of all thoughts of pentakill ambitions.

...

Malzahar requires patience. His skill set contains 3 dots and a skill shot with a delay. The very definition of "dot" is damage over time, and waiting the necessary time requires patience. Anything that lengthens combat so that your team can maintain a push is a desirable item. Malzahar enables pushes. Like Heimer, he makes it so that your team can sit on a tower and whittle it away.

Glass cannon Malzahar builds are useless. Perhaps on certain team comps where everyone uses their cc just to save you, you might want to stack AP, but in most comps, there are better people to save. Your primary late game abilities do not require AP to be effective (ult, hp% aoe, and silence), and regardless they are ineffective if you are staring at the grey screen of death anyway. You are also useless if you can't spam your abilities because either you are oom or they are on cd.

"Truth has no counterpart,
It is motionless like the Void,"


Your other function is to defend towers. You have an aoe that perfectly fits a wave of minions, a dot that transfers whenever the towers kills someone, and an ult to keep people in tower range. Since you are tanky, you will also be able to hold off an attack until help arrives, unlike any squishy Malzahar build that crumples to any tower-diving Garen.

...

Core Build

Leveling Build:
R > E > W > Q Early point in W and Q, though you can get away without any Q until late game, since its only real use early game is to check the bushes. Protip: don't walk into bushes.

Starting Items: Meki Pendant and 2 hps. (Buy Tear and boots 1 at least after first trip back for 955g.)

Sorcerer's Boots: You need magic pen. This is the best place to get it for this build. What about merc treads? If the enemy wants to stun you they will, and what will save you is your tank items, not the -35% duration. Use the extra time to meditate about your positioning failure.
Archangel's Staff: You need a huge mana pool and mana regen to fulfill your basic function, and this item fits the bill perfectly. Tear should be your first purchase, but you can hold off buying the full item if you need survivability.
Force of Nature: Huh? That's a tank item! Absolutely, but think about what it gives you--hp regen, movement speed, and magic res, everything you need to outlast a team in a sustained push. Wouldn't banshee's be better? No way. Banshee's doesn't heal, and you need to be zipping around the map at a faster speed. Pick up 1-2 regen pendants asap so you can sit in a lane indefinitely.
Glacial Shroud: I list this item separately from Frozen Heart because against a caster heavy team this is all the armor you might need. You gain more mana which stacks with your staff, armor, and most importantly a huge amount of CDR, which lets you go oom faster.

Optional Items:

Frozen Heart: vs any team with a phys dps carry that loves eating you. Master Yi, Warwick, Trist, etc. With it you'll have ~180 armor, so they'll have to work to kill you, instead of destroying you in four hits.
Abyssal Scepter: vs any team with a mage that loves opening on you. Annie, Anivia, etc. With this you'll have around ~180 mr, so you won't explode when a giant bear lands on your face.
Situational: Zhonya's, Banshees, Thornmail. Generally games end somewhere around the end of Frozen Heart or Abyssal Scepter, so the sixth slot you can use for wards, or if the game really goes into overtime, then pick up whatever you feel you need (which 90% of the time for me, it's Zhonya's.)

With your core build, you have ~130 armor and mr, a decent amount of AP, a huge mana pool, CDR of 35%, and enough regen to stay in a lane indefinitely. Late game, after you get Frozen Heart/Abyssal Scepter, your defenses bump up to about 180, and you have two important enemy debuff auras.

...

Do's and Don'ts:


Don't die. This one should be obvious, but it isn't. A lot of people think it's super to tower dive a low hp enemy that is retreating, even though you could stay put and kill the tower. The low hp dude has to run all the way back to their base to heal, while you get to take free shots at their building. If you kill the enemy but die as well, then the tower remains standing. Remember towers > kills.
Do put dots on minions to help clear pushes. Most likely when the back row minions die, they'll transfer the dot to an enemy.
Do not run around oom. You are useless with no mana. Conserve your mana when farming, so that when you need to zoom off and help a teamfight, you are ready and useful.
Do not ult the tank. Always ult a squishy, preferably after having dot/aoe/silenced them first.
Do not initiate. You are not a tank, even though you are tanky. It's not your job to run in and ult someone first. You will be cced then die, regardless of your items.
Do defend towers. You need to watch the minimap at all times, and when mid is in trouble gtf over there and stop their push.
Do Call of the Void into the bushes before you walk into them. Garen is probably in them.
Do not respond when people hate on your build. You will see some variation of "OMFG Y U BUILD TANK ITEMZ ON MALZ, U SUK." No one bugs Morgana when she builds a Frozen Heart, but apparently on Mal it is heresy. Of course, you are the chosen prophet of the void, and as such, you must put up with a little madness. /ignore is your friend.


"Empty-handed, I hold a hoe.
Walking on foot, I ride a buffalo.
Passing over a bridge, I see
The bridge flow, but not the water."


...

Link to Other Guides by me:
Sun Tzu Teemo: How to Control a Map


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Smellis

Senior Member

09-22-2010

Ehhhhh I kinda agree and kinda disagree with this guide. Its a good guide but takes away from what malzahar brings. Im of the opinion that no amount of armor or hp will save him from a focused effort and that playing him requires PROPER POSITIONING. Building hp items usually takes care of the aoe damage you're likely to take in a team fight so items like rylai's are exceptionly good on malzahar.

Eh dont wanna drag this on, decent guide but should really focus on other items that increase his survival. Since a champ that doesn't have any means to escape should focus more on where he is rather than trying to tank any trouble he has.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

BrokObama

Member

09-22-2010

You say he's not a burst champion ? you must play him wrong. his ult combined with malefic vision and ignite that can be applied while channeling the ultwill take almost any champion to their knees and his Q covers sucha large area and does massive dmg. You must be playing him wrong. Playing him tankish is rediculous... Get a Zonya for christ sakes and let tanks do their job. Just learn to move in and out. All his spells have a decent range except for maybe malefic visions but you should cast them on mobs first so it jumps around.


I'm not saying this will not work but you would be way more efficient taking half the squishies hp away with his silence.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Vasimr

Senior Member

09-23-2010

rylais is all you need to not die.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Montegomery

This user has referred a friend to League of Legends, click for more information

Senior Member

09-23-2010

With just his abilities alone, Malzahar can do the following damage to a single champion at various levels of AP and assuming 3 seconds of time spent in Null Zone/afflicted by Malefic Visions.

200 AP: 1630 damage, 31.5% health (2380 effective health required to survive)
300 AP: 1860 damage, 35.25% health (2872 effective health required to survive)
400 AP: 2090 damage, 39% health (3426 effective health required to survive)
500 AP: 2320 damage, 42.75% health (4052 effective health required to survive)

So in a span of 3 seconds you must be able to survive that much damage though raw health + resist. While it isn't instantaneous, it's fast enough to be considered burst.

This only becomes more ridiculous when you consider the possibility of adding a Deathfire's Grasp.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

concretebuddha

Senior Member

09-23-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smellis View Post
Its a good guide but takes away from what malzahar brings. Im of the opinion that no amount of armor or hp will save him from a focused effort and that playing him requires PROPER POSITIONING. .
I agree, with this build he is not meant to fulfill the role of a main tank like shen or amumu. It is meant, however, to survive the harassment of 1-3 champions and not have to run away. This is a front line battle caster, not a whimpy "sit in the back and wait for that magic moment when the stars align to unload a combo on a carry who happens to be out of position" caster.

As for what Malzahar brings, with this build he still has a silence, stun, and % aoe, which is a lot more than a dead Malzahar brings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrokObama View Post
You say he's not a burst champion ?
Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. Note that I never said he doesn't have burst (he does), just that singlemindedly stacking dps stats at the cost of his survivability goes against his intended role. I think that Malzahar should be looked at compared to a support mage like Morgana or Zilean instead of the current way in which most people tend to think of him.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Vasimr View Post
rylais is all you need to not die.
Personally, I feel like Rylai's is a terrible item on Malz. You have a silence and a stun, why exactly do you need to slow as well? Plus it's way too much gold for too little benefit, especially when the extra hps doesn't give you any resilience in a sustained engagement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Montegomery View Post
With just his abilities alone, Malzahar can do the following damage to a single champion at various levels of AP and assuming 3 seconds of time spent in Null Zone/afflicted by Malefic Visions.

*snip numbers*
Yes, he has burst. Just as Morgana has burst if you stack a ton of AP on her. But how much gold are you spending to get the extra 300 AP so that you can stare at the grey screen of death whenever you walk away from a tower? Great, you have a pocket tank or three to save you from anyone who looks at you funny, but I tend not to be so lucky.

The reason why this specific build works is because I can spam my abilities relentlessly with a 3k mana pool, 40% cdr, and if they try to get me (which they will), I can survive and sustain the push. That's the same reason why Morgana is such a good support mage when she stacks a Frozen Heart and a Banshee's. Unfortunately, Malzahar doesn't have the same passive Morg does, or else a Banshee's would be super on him too. Instead, he actually has to dodge skill shots with an increased movement speed, and learn how to disengage and reengage while letting his hp regen go to work.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

MoogIe

Senior Member

10-06-2010

If you're using the theory of building like a Tanky Morgana, then you're doing it wrong. People give Morgana tank items because she HAS to go in to team fights to make the most out of her ult. She needs to be in the mess of things so she can have it actually work.

However, with the recent changes to Malzahar, he doesn't need to be in the fray of the battle. It's extremely easy for him to range anyone at any given time. Therefore, the 500 HP on Rylai's along with the 80 AP and slow effect, is way too helpful to pass up. Also, when you think about it, you get 80 AP for 3.1k item, along with slow. Without the slow you can get less AP for 2.3k with magic pen. Now add in the price of Giant's Belt. ... Yeah. It's well worth it.

Quote:
Personally, I feel like Rylai's is a terrible item on Malz. You have a silence and a stun, why exactly do you need to slow as well? Plus it's way too much gold for too little benefit, especially when the extra hps doesn't give you any resilience in a sustained engagement.
Adding on to the explanation above, you do realize the silence, which can be easily dodged, doesn't keep people from running, and your Ult, albeit a low CD, is well... an ult, which you even say that you can't do anything during it. So... After your ult is done, now what? They continue running? Your argument on this section is moot. Considering the price on other +70/80 AP items, the added health is beneficial in order to stay alive, especially when you're at such a long distance from everything else. The movement slow is just icing on the top when you lay a Null zone/void down. AoE slow anyone?

Oh. mPen. Get it. No exceptions. Sorc Boots and Void staff cover that pretty well. Abyssal sucks for Mal since he stands from a distance, let Amumu get that.

Basically: Dorans ring+pot, sorc boots, Mejai(If you think it's worthwhile)/Rylai's, Void Staff, Zhonya's, then whatever is needed to help the team.

Also, focus MV on minions to help keep mana up and progressively farm during pushes. Forgot to mention, CDR isn't as necessary on Malz as it is on other champions. The only thing that needs it is the null zone, which is useless without the ult, and ult itself, which are all on extremely low timers as it is.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

reaver99

Senior Member

10-06-2010

Why not get Rod of Ages instead of AA staff? If you're building for survivability, it gives you everything you need in one nice package. Also, I think Banshee's Veil would be better than Force of Nature, since as soon as you throw down your ultimate you're basically holding up a big sign saying "CC me please".


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Montegomery

This user has referred a friend to League of Legends, click for more information

Senior Member

10-06-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by concretebuddha View Post
...

Yes, he has burst. Just as Morgana has burst if you stack a ton of AP on her. But how much gold are you spending to get the extra 300 AP so that you can stare at the grey screen of death whenever you walk away from a tower? Great, you have a pocket tank or three to save you from anyone who looks at you funny, but I tend not to be so lucky.

...
You can build AP and survivability at the same time if you're having problems when fighting other champions. Zhonya's Ring, Rylai's Scepter, and Abyssal Scepter all provide huge offensive and defensive options simultaneously. Pair Zhonya's ring with either of the other two and a Doran's Ring and you'll have 260-280 AP (including the AP mastery) as well as reasonable defensive measures. All this for at least 140g less than your build.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

concretebuddha

Senior Member

10-06-2010

Survivability and sustainability are two separate things. Rylai's, RoA, and Zhonya's all give you survivability with zero sustainability. Once you take damage, that damage is permanent unless you have a pocket healer, or you run all the way back to the Nexus while your team faces a 4v5 and your tower dies.

Sure, if every team fight takes 6 seconds, then those three items are super. If your team roams the jungle and picks fights that last the span of Amumu's, MF's, and Sona's ults, then please don't build Malzahar my way.

If, however, you are using Malzahar on a tower pushing team, where you might sit on the same tower for ten minion waves, or if you are trying to defend a tower over an equal amount, then perhaps the 2 seconds of invulnerability or the extra health that gets chewed up in one harassment exchange is not as useful as what I've suggested.

Quote:
They continue running?
Yes, actually. If they are running away then you did your job. Now you sit still while you and your team blow up their tower. Last time I checked, towers can't run away, so the slow on Rylai's is moot.

Chasing runners is not Malzahar's purpose. Enabling your team to blow up their towers is. You win by blowing up their Nexus, not getting kills.

Quote:
It's extremely easy for him to range anyone at any given time.
If you are in range of their carry, then you are also in range of their tank and cc. Which is exactly at odds to what you said here:

Quote:
People give Morgana tank items because she HAS to go in to team fights to make the most out of her ult. She needs to be in the mess of things so she can have it actually work.
I contend that Malzahar has to go into teamfights to make the most of his ult. He needs to be in the mess of things so he can have it actually work.

...

Quote:
Why not get Rod of Ages instead of AA staff? If you're building for survivability, it gives you everything you need in one nice package. Also, I think Banshee's Veil would be better than Force of Nature, since as soon as you throw down your ultimate you're basically holding up a big sign saying "CC me please".
AA regens more mana over time AND has more mana than RoA has in extra mana. Plus you always have mana when you need it, not just whenever you run back to the Nexus. Plus, it has synergy with GS/FH. Plus, a Meki Pendant into (Tear + Regrowth Pendant) is a better laning combo than a Mana Crystal into a Catalyst.

I've played against caster Malz, and they are always saving their spells for a rainy day because they can't spam them like I can. Sure, their spells hit harder when they cast them once, but over the course of a ten wave push, they run oom pretty quickly.

A Banshee's is super if you expect to have one big teamfight that lasts 10 seconds and the entire game is decided on that. Think WCG when CLG won games 2 and 3 in five man teamfights with giant aoes. I wouldn't suggest playing this build at all to those players, because their strategy is not a tower pushing poking metagame. (Which is why Elementz puts Malzahar at the bottom of his tier list.)

However, when SK Gaming won the first game, they possibly could have substituted a Malzahar for their caster, since their gamestyle was more about single target ganks and tower pushing.