Well this is bound to be interesting.
In it’s never-ending attempts to balance and re-balance its obscenely popular online multiplayer game League of Legends, developer Riot Games just revealed plans to rework aspects of Zilean, an old geezer who uses clock and time-based spells in battle to do stuff like: slow down his opponents, speed up his teammates. He can even prevent an ally’s death with his powerful ultimate ability (ult) known as “Chronoshift,” which reverses time if and when an ally is hit with a fatal blow:
Zilean’s gameplay kit makes him ideally suited for a support position or a straight-up spell-casting mage that relies on his abilities to do damage to the opposition. He’s decently strong in the current League of Legends ecosystem. But he’s not great. Certainly not strong enough to be a popular or hotly contested pick in this year’s ongoing League of Legends World Championship games. Rioter 20thCenturyFaux wrote in a note on the League forums that Zilean in his current form ends up being overshadowed by other champions who are better suited to either of his two main roles in the game’s meta—champions who are similar enough that any of the factors that set Zilean apart (like his death-stopping ult) don’t matter as much as their relative strengths.
In an effort to make Zilean stand out more, Riot’s giving him a meaty new passive ability that let’s him reward his four teammates with experience at regular intervals throughout a match. Here’s Riot’s description of the new move, called “Time In A Bottle”:
Zilean stores time as Experience at a rate of X per 5 seconds.
When he has enough Experience to finish an ally’s level, he can right-click them to impart it. Zilean receives as much Experience as he gives. Cannot be used in combat.
Zilean’s current passive grants him and nearby teammates an 8% experience boost. Time In A Bottle is a much, much stronger passive than that. For one, it works regardless of how close Zilean is to his allies, so he’ll be able to roam around the League of Legends map more freely once this update goes live. Helping “to finish an ally’s level” also makes it easier for Zilean to target a specific teammate (or several) and essentially power-level them so they can get as big and beefy as possible as quickly as possible. They don’t call him “the chronokeeper” for nothing!
20thCenturyFaux said that Time In A Bottle is meant to give Zilean a powerful new asset “that’s totally unique in its own right” and will help him out in either of the two main positions he tends to play (emphasis added):
While [Time In A Bottle] is off cooldown, Zilean sees indicators letting him know how much more XP he needs to finish someone’s level; when he has enough, there’s a line indicator to show him he can activate it. Hi-five a level into your buddies! Zilean gains the same XP as he gives and banks XP faster the higher level he is, so he wants to use it as often as he can. By being higher level mid lane he has slightly more XP to hand out, by being with an ADC bot lane he has persistent access to an ally. At level 18 Zilean no longer needs any XP for himself so the amount he gifts his allies effectively doubles.
These changes help establish Zilean’s identity, both thematically and in gameplay. Thematically, Zilean’s typically had a lot of interesting and unique elements, but has fallen short of the epic power expressive of time magic. Some of his spells do reach that height—Chronoshift, the Time Bomb stun, and to a lesser extent the 99% value on Time Warp. By giving him direct, visceral control over one of the fundamental forces of the game, he solidifies the stature that befits him as a time mage.
In gameplay, Zilean’s support side excels against assassins/divers and in a protect the carry role; in this, he is typically overshadowed by Lulu, who shares his solo/bot switch capability and who can defend her ADC without the dps interruption that Chronoshift’s revive brings. His utility mage side often overlaps with Orianna, a perennial generalist who can provide utility from a carry role and who also capitalizes on melee teammates. Between these two, Zilean’s unique elements are his superior synergy with juggernauts via Time Warp, his amazing lategame control scaling, his massive zone control (compared to Lulu), and his mid-game roaming (compared to Orianna).
Time in a Bottle gives him a capability that’s totally unique in its own right and further accents the things that separate him from other champs. Juggernauts typically care about levels much more than ADCs and the passive rewards him for roaming. It won’t solve all of Zilean’s challenges, but it helps the time mage float in the right direction.
That last sentence sure makes it sound like Riot has a larger rework of Zilean in store, so I’m guessing that Time In A Bottle is meant to be more of a patch job than a real retooling. Even the (seemingly) smallest tweaking in League of Legends can yield unexpectedly game-changing results, though, so we’ll be sure to keep a close eye on the new-and-improved Zilean as he makes his way into the game.
(Disclaimer: this is also an update coming to League’s public beta, so it’s still subject to change before any Zilean updates make it into the main game.)
Riot also said that they’ve changed the animations for his time bomb-throwing ranged attack move so that “the way it interacts with the game world [is] more consistent and satisfying.”
I already liked the way that his Time Bomb felt sort of like he was trying to pull off a basketball free-throw:
But I can’t complain about Riot making it even more satisfying to use!
Also just since I’m not sure when I’ll write another post about Zilean, here’s an amazing cartoon spoof of what it’s like to play as (or against!) him made by the YouTube genuises at Crazy Boris Productions: