Ghostbusters is one of my favorite movies. I’ve loved it since I was a kid who only understood it as smart guys shooting electricity at ghosts. These days, I sometimes toss out a, “Yes, it’s true. This man has no dick,” just to see if anyone either gets it or is paying attention.
…They’re usually just confused.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I get that Slimer is a phantasm, not a science experiment. But the build up for League of Legends’ newest champion sure had me reminiscing. And as we learned more and more, I started to hope we’d have a decent amount of slime and goo flying all about the Fields.
In that respect, Zac, the Secret Weapon, does not disappoint. He is Zaun’s answer to Piltover’s recent brawl-focused enforcer. Featuring a skillset focused on durability and disruption, he brings new flavor to some old League of Legends concepts.
Upon successful cast of any ability – meaning a target takes damage as a result of the spell cast – goo flies all about. Like, everywhere. While providing a fun aesthetic to the science experiment, this also triggers half of Zac’s passive, Cell Division: retrieving the cast-off goo restores 4 percent of Zac’s maximum health.
The other half features an Anivia-like regeneration component on a five-minute cooldown. Should Zac die in battle, his body splits into four chunks. These chunks crawl ever so slowly towards a focal point, and if any make it to this point, Zac resurrects. The chunks feature 12 percent of his max HP and half his total resistances; opponents must slay the four pieces before they converge to prevent the Secret Weapon’s recombination. These chunks operate like standard minions, so abilities such as Summoner Smite and Nunu’s Consume suddenly offer new tactical applications – and additional threat Zac.
The active spells in Zac’s repertoire take advantage of his archetype: the science experiment gone horribly wrong. Stretching Strike globs Zac’s arms forward, damaging everything they touch and slowing for two seconds. A skillshot slow, it assaults at a reasonable range and can hit multiple targets, and its width and hitbox feel appropriate for the ability and character.
His primary damage ability comes from the very spammable Unstable Matter, which deals percent-based damage to everything within a small area. Honestly, it’s a combination of Amumu’s Despair and Tantrum, serving as both his primary jungle-clearing tool and his understated damage ability in team fights. Just like Despair, there’s nothing flashy about this ability – a goo explosion, and more goo flies everywhere, rinse and repeat. (Seriously, rinse.) One neat feature? It’s usable during the bouncing sessions of his ultimate, which I’ll touch on momentarily.
Elastic Slingshot, meanwhile, gushes Zac forward in a glee-induced arc, splashing down on (ideally) unsuspecting opponents with knockback-level force. A brief charge up determines Elastic Slingshot’s travel distance, and Zac remains immobile in the strictest sense during this time. Unlike other charge-up abilities – Vi’s Vault Breaker and Varus’ Piercing Arrow coming immediately to mind – Zac commits to the direction of the cursor upon spell cast. Immobility comes with advantages, however. The range and charge-up time increase with the ability’s rank, with Zac eventually able to fly from mid lane’s jungle entrance to the wolves camp or from the Elder Lizard brush to double golems with room to spare. The travel itself takes another second from lift off and functions most similarly to Tristana’s Rocket Jump, specifically in that well-placed crowd control can interrupt Zac’s trajectory mid-flight.
Let’s Bounce, the ultimate, causes Zac to leap into the air and bounce to the ground four times. Each time a bounce catches a new opponent, it knocks up and damages that enemy; subsequent hits on the same target deal reduced damage but no secondary knock-up. Zac receives all kinds of crowd control reduction while bouncing – 75 percent reduction to everything, in fact. The maneuver features an area of effect similar to Pulverize, right clicks easily control its movement, and the distance traveled isn’t so great that escaping the bouncing blob is impossible. It’s also not an escape mechanism – casting doesn’t actually move Zac in any direction, and though he leaps high into the air, Zac can’t actually clear any of the walls in Summoner’s Rift.
In terms of initiation tools, it pales in comparison to Unstoppable Force and Onslaught of Shadows, as both abilities throw their respective champions into the fracas with crowd-control effects immediately in play. As an initiator, then, Zac operates most similar to Amumu and Wukong: he employs another ability to get in position before unleashing his truly potent element. The effects of Let’s Bounce aren’t always immediately noticeable, and this can be good and bad. While in general it’s harder to hit a widespread group, that the ability grants movement during its active period allows Zac to pick out priority champions that escaped his initial bombardment.
Though a unique idea in theory, Cell Division presents frustrating game-play elements. First: Zac’s abilities use 4 percent of his current health as their activation resource. Zac lacks the innate regeneration of Dr. Mundo or the attached spell vamp of Vladimir; tracking the goo discharge is his primary method of maintaining his health pool. Trading becomes a bit deadlier for Zac, as a stray goo chunk or properly zoning opponent places Zac at an unintended disadvantage. Given the myriad spammable and execute-like abilities of the top lane, it’s difficult to envision Zac finding regular success there.
This makes him more appealing as a jungler, where the second issue plays a larger role: the goo orbs fly in random patterns, often requiring additional movement to retrieve. While the extra level of micromanagement does slow down his clear speed, the real issue is that Zac ends up taking additional damage in the process – either because he spent extra effort tracking down a stray orb or because he opted not to replenish the health he lost for using an ability – leaving him more vulnerable than he seemingly should be during his initial clear.
Despite a kit that lends itself well to the concept, chasing as Zac becomes a dangerous effort. Unless every goo chunk lands in Zac’s forward-moving path, a low but not lethal opponent could reasonably wear Zac out before Zac finishes the job, or escape if Zac prefers vitality to vengeance.
Much like Amumu, Hecarim and Singed, Zac’s job is to get in, disrupt opponents and punish them for sticking around. As his abilities use his current HP for every cast, health becomes a top itemization priority for Zac, with cooldown reduction a close second. The Kindlegem, then, is Zac’s best friend, and it fortunately provides flexible build paths for the goo fiend. Despite recent nerfs, Locket of the Iron Solari will surely be a common pick.
I argue, however, that Spirit Visage makes the best use of Zac’s hard-earned cash against all but the most AD-heavy compositions out there. Much like Vladimir and Dr. Mundo, the increased healing provided by this item affords Zac extra durability and opportunity to further use his abilities due to its cost-efficient combination of health and CDR.
His AP ratios aren’t terrible, with Unstable Matter dealing an extra 1 percent more damage for every 50 AP Zac acquires. This opens up his build paths a bit, but his focus in most instances should be durability. With health of paramount import, I expect regular purchases of Runic Bulwark, Warmog’s Armor and Sunfire Cape, though entrepreneurial players may forgo defense in favor of the damage and utility of a Rylai’s Crystal Scepter. As a later item, Liandry’s Torment offers a good way to amplify his damage without sacrificing durability or multiple item slots, as does Abyssal Scepter in appropriate comps.
I can’t help but notice Riot’s growing trend for mobility-oriented gap closers – that is, the mobility granted comes attached to a long, long cooldown. Much like early ranks of Vi’s Vault Breaker and Sejuani’s Arctic Assault, Elastic Slingshot grants Zac the opportunity to clear walls and potentially warded areas and gain a positional advantage over his opponents, but at a cost. See, Elastic Slingshot sports a 20-second cooldown at rank one, similar to Vault Breaker’s 18-second wait. While it offers less risk for a missed attack than, say, Bandage Toss, the prohibitive cooldown may deter players from creative risk avoidance when ganking.
Zac’s game play, ultimately, harkens to the early days of League of Legends’ development. My recurring comparisons to Amumu are intentional: Zac simply plays similarly to the Sad Mummy and seeks the same results. In and of itself, this isn’t a bad thing; most class archetypes execute similar game-play concepts in distinct fashions, creating their own identities in the process. In this respect, I appreciate the approach Riot took with Zac – that is, take a new approach to concepts players already understand. In this respect, Riot succeeded: Zac’s playstyle offers a fun way of accomplishing the Sad Mummy’s goals.
I worry, though, that Cell Division will cross from interesting concept to annoying (or abusive) gimmick. I can see it being a fun play and counterplay element between sparring top-lane opponents, but the micro-management involved crosses from fun to frustrating during initial jungle clears, and during team fights the exercise straddles the line between fun and tedious play.
Zac’s arrival on the Fields of Justice comes with mixed results. While health continues to be a preferred statistic for bruisers, tanks and everyone else, sustain-heavy champions fell to the wayside in favor of those with raw durability and damage. Offering an ultimate ability with high disruptive potential and considerable damage over drawn-out fights, Zac’s maneuverability may grant him a position in the ranks of situational junglers, provided the player receives the opportunity to pick him late in the selection process.
Personally, though, I’m not sure how much I care. Though few of his mannerisms fit the character I envisioned after Riot’s myriad teasers, the sheer nostalgia Zac provides will be enough for me to break him out of the ECU.
Or, y’know, whatever he’s stored in.