Usually, the flora in Summoner’s Rift is but a backdrop for the action. Feet, claws and hooves trample through the grass, either seeking the safety of obscuring foliage, or seeking to lay an ambush.
Blood soaks down to the roots. It should not be a surprise, then, that the plants would grow a taste for it. The grasses beneath the feet of champions now rustle with alien motive – and they soon learn that it was their last chance to panic.
Thorns rise, and vines lash out like living sickles in a harvest of flesh. The plants are deaf to cries for mercy. Will you be able to reach that flash of red hair like roses and bloodstains? Or will you be ensnared in Zyra’s garden, and made fertilizer for her blooming children?
Rise of the Thorns (Passive) – Upon death, Zyra sheds her humanoid form and reveals her true self as an oversized, carnivorous blossom. She takes two seconds to unfold, and then has eight seconds total to launch a skill shot, dealing true damage scaling with her level to all enemy units in its line of fire.
As with Kog’maw’s Icathian Surprise, this is an ability you want to avoid using. While the true damage burst does often result in traded kills, it’s naturally better to not die at all. Furthermore, the skill shot is a tricky one: while the missile speed is incredibly quick, the two-second delay upon death can mess with the skill activation. Mashing an ability key immediately upon expiring will see it careen wildly off-target.
Deadly Bloom (Q) – After a short delay, Zyra causes a small radius of thorns to burst out of the ground, dealing a burst of magic damage to all enemies caught within. As it has a radius similar to Cassiopeia’s Noxious Blast, Zyra won’t be able to farm both the caster and melee minion line with a single use.
Rampant Growth (W) – Zyra periodically stores up to two seeds, which can be planted as miniature 30-second wards. Stepping on a seed will reveal an enemy for two seconds, and she can have as many as four seeds on the field at once. Rampant Growth also reduces the cooldown of her abilities by 4% per rank for a max of 20%.
Most distinctly, and core to her play style, the seeds also transform into stationary turrets when hit by specific spells:
Deadly Bloom (Q) – When hit by Q, her seeds turn into Thorn Spitters, attacking with AP-scaling magic damage at long range. Thorn Spitters persist for ten seconds.
Grasping Roots (E) – When hit by E, seeds turn into Vine Lashers, dealing melee AP-scaling magic damage and slowing afflicted targets with a 30% slow for 2 seconds. Vine Lashers also persist for ten seconds.
Stranglethorns (R) – While her ultimate won’t transform seeds, it will cause existing Thorn Spitters and Vine Lashers within its radius to hasten their attack speed by 50%.
Grasping Roots (E) – Zyra lashes out with a skill shot nuke, rooting enemies caught within the line of fire for a short duration scaling with rank. At max rank, all enemies caught with Grasping Root will be held down for 1.75 seconds.
Stranglethorns (R) – A thicket of thorny vines erupt out in a large radius, dealing magic damage to all enemies caught within. After a two-second delay, the thicket retracts, knocking enemies up into the air.
If Zyra’s play style could be summarized succinctly, it would “deterrence.” At max rank on both Deadly Bloom and Rampant Growth, her Q has a cooldown of about 3.3 seconds – very spammable, and very deadly with high base damage and decent scaling. It is, however, hard to target running enemies with, as its indicator circle and delayed activation time makes it an easier-to-avoid version of Cho’gath’s Rupture, but without the all-important crowd control component.
But why bother chasing when you can just zone them out entirely? It also excels at reaping the entire caster minion wave in one hit, after only a few items, allowing a fast push to the enemy turret and an equally fast steal of Wraith camps on either side of the river.
Her burst is going to feel awfully familiar, as it involves an extended spell rotation reminiscent of Ryze. The nonexistent global cooldown on her spells and the lack of a mana cost on Rampant Growth encourages Zyra players to chain-cast her seeds with Grasping Roots. The short root and slow thus allows more than enough time to follow up with another seed into Deadly Bloom, with her sprouted plants finishing the job, or at least zoning the enemy from afar. It’s important to note that the entire combo is castable within a two-second time frame – long enough, in fact, for her to lead in with Stranglethorns, taking advantage of the knock-up and attack speed boost to her plants to mow down even the toughest of foes.
Zyra is strong. So strong, in fact, she’s already seen early tournament action since release – usually in the form of bans. However, that reputation is questionably deserved, as while she is definitely one of the best farmers in the game, there are a number of weaknesses to her play.
Notably, she has one of the smallest health pools in the game. At release stats of 355 base health and +75/level, she’s more easily bruised than Karthus, LeBlanc or even Cassiopeia, and beats Heimerdinger by only five health points at level 18. While her natural cooldown reduction does allow quick access to Grasping Roots as deterrence against kill-seekers, it needs a minimum of two ranks to last a mere second. You’ll need at least four ranks for 1.5 seconds to be effective enough that they can’t just simply use a gap closer or Flash to make up for lost time and distance.
The same problem exists for her plants. They’re all utility, and no durability – AOE champions should see them mainly as an additional source for gold. Furthermore, her cooldown reduction applies only to abilities, and not the time it takes to refresh her seed supply. While it sucks to have them explode in your face like the worst allergy attack ever, the delay on all of her offensive spells makes her extremely vulnerable to assassin-type champions like Kassadin and Ahri. It is also not recommended that you plant anything in Tormented Soil – Morgana can and will out-farm her, though given Zyra’s stand-off capabilities, farming is basically all either of the two will be doing.
If your team early-picked Zyra, and she finds herself likely to be matched against her hard counters in mid lane, then feel free to punt her downward towards bottom lane instead. Remember: free wards. With the ability to have four seeds planted at any time, a Zyra Support lane should be able to maintain superior bush and river control, plying her deterrence-based play style towards an ungankable bottom lane. Stranglethorns works great as a support ultimate too, offering her team a counter-initiator to turn the tides of a fight.
JUST A HARMLESS FLOWER
Even as there is a clear method of counter-play against Zyra, she still manages to out-class an entire roster of viable caster champions. The territorial influences asserted by her plant turrets are very hard to negate, especially with the rapidity in which they can be fired off, effectively acting as ten-second zones of persistent damage.
However, what’s really excessive about her is the innate cooldown reduction built into her Rampant Growth. Deadly Bloom is already comparable to most nukes by way of its base damage and scaling, but at 20% natural cooldown reduction, it beats them handily through the number of times it can be cast during the duration of a fight. It would be best, perhaps, if a global cooldown was implemented, mitigating the rate at which her burst is applied.
The skill level required to play against her is a lot higher than that which is needed to play her effectively. That alone is already a very deadly edge. With smartcast on, the only sort of player that’ll be disappointed with Zyra is the one forced to play against her.