Zeri’s release has been one of the most strange ones in recent memory. The mass consensus is that she isn’t good, and her overall win rate matches that narrative. It takes time for players to learn how to best use new champions, and sometimes it takes a while for the winrate to catch up. For instance, Gwen’s winrate on release was abysmal. However, players have already started figuring out the best build on Zeri. And she’s already getting nerfed.
What makes Zeri good?
Some of Zeri’s most viral clips have shown how ridiculous she can be in the hands of a skilled player. While she lacks CC and doesn’t have the same burst damage as an ADC like Caitlyn or Jhin, her ability to kite and keep her enemy at a distance is near unmatched.
In this clip, we see Team Liquid’s Sean “Yeon” Sung zooming around the rift, evading any attempt the enemy team makes to shut her down. If there isn’t enough CC to hold Zeri, she’s going to run circles around the opposition and 1v5 the game. Even from a severe gold deficit, her movement makes her a menace in teamfights.
Even from a severe gold deficit, Zeri can hard carry if she has the items she needs. Aside from her strange build path, the reason Zeri is so strong is her ultimate.
It’s a lot to read, but the most important takeaway is the bonus movement speed and magic damage on-hit with Overcharge stacks. She can get up to 15 stacks from the initial hit, and she gains more stacks for hitting enemy champions. Fortunately, the bonus magic damage on-hit doesn’t gain damage with Overcharge stacks, but she does gain bonus movement speed with each stack. And there’s no cap on Overcharge stacks.
Since Zeri has to hit enemy champions to stack her ultimate’s Overcharge stacks, it seems like it would take a long time to build up enough movement speed to break the game and run at supersonic speeds. Until you realize the chain lighting attacks give her more Overcharge stacks, fast-stacking charges when enemies are grouped together.
What makes Zeri broken?
Zeri’s overpowered build is a fairly unique one. It’s unlike other ADC builds, which explains why it took a few days for players to learn how to properly build her.
Trinity Force is the most valuable mythic on Zeri due to the bonus movement speed passive as well as the Spellblade proc on her Q. But it’s Runaan’s that takes Zeri from a champ that requires a lot of skill to one that’s blatantly broken. Broken is an often overused term, but the ability to hit 1000 movespeed with relative ease feels like a legitimately game-breaking mechanic.
Runaan’s not only stacks Overcharge on Zeri’s ultimate, but it also creates more opportunities for her chain lightning to land. Additionally, Black Cleaver stacks instantly due to the nature of Zeri’s Q. With each Q hit stacking Black Cleaver, Zeri gets the full 30% armor pen on Black Cleaver’s passive after landing one Q.
Essentially, Zeri is a hybrid magic/physical damage dealer that can immediately shred 30% of a champion's armor, jump over walls, move at over 1000 movement speed, and poke from a distance without needing to use any mana. She’s a little ridiculous.
According to Mobalytics, her highest win rate build across all three roles in Platinum+ games globally is the core of Trinity Force, Runaan's, and Black Cleaver. In mid, that build is her most popular, and she has the highest win rate in that role. ADC is her most popular position, and many players are trying to build her more normally as a crit ADC in that role. But, when it comes to overall stats, things get a little muddier.
On a stat site like League of Graphs that shows stats for every game of Zeri that’s been played regardless of build or rank, Zeri’s low win rate begins to show. Across over a million matches over the course of two days, Zeri’s win rate at the time of writing is a staggeringly low 41.7%. This is an upward trend from her win rate at launch, which was in the 33-36% range while players were still figuring her out.
How good will Zero be after the nerf?
The interaction that’s getting nerfed on Zeri is the fact that Runaan’s stacks Overcharge, and, while this will surely help, she can still stack her ult insanely fast with chain lightning if enemy Champions are stacked up.
Many of the items Zeri relies on for her strange build are in the bruiser category, and there are a lot of small changes to items like Black Cleaver, Ravenous Hydra, and Trinity Force in 12.3. Trinity Force will be a weaker power spike for her, but the added damage on some of her core items feels like a small buff. While the Runaan’s nerf hurts, she’ll still have the same build going into 12.3.
Despite her good win rate in high MMR, there’s a lot of speculation as to how well she’ll do in pro play. We got to ask T1’s ADC Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeok about Zeri, and he had this to say about her:
“I don’t think she’s that good. Even if she becomes available in pro play, I don’t think people are going to pick her in her current state. Her autoattack mechanism isn’t that appealing, and I don’t think she’s a great fit in the current meta.”
Zeri not only has a serious lack of CC, she’s also easily killed by heavy CC. A champion like Camille that can box Zeri in and nullify her ability to kite will counter her mobile playstyle. Fortunately, Zeri’s bruiser-esque build makes her a lot more difficult to kill than a typical ADC. But bruiser items are also very expensive, moreso than the already expensive item options typical ADCs have. The time she needs to get her core items makes her early game weak, and Zeri is easily punished early on.
With her current build, there’s good reason to believe Zeri’s win rate will gradually increase once players start building her properly. The extra health and AoE damage Zeri gets from her build takes a lot of the skill expression out of her kit. It’s likely these aren’t the last Zeri nerfs we’ll see in the near future whether pros decide to pick her up or otherwise.
Carver is an esports journalist and analyst who specializes in Eastern League of Legends.