This build will focus on a more defensive/utility based mindset rather than offense.
Zhong in the Solo Lane is about controlling the enemy team through slows and getting them chipped through your DoT damage enough for your team to finish them off. Zhong is capable of big damage even with a tanky build and this build prioritizes enhancing team utility through items and bulky offense rather than being purely crowd control and tankiness. The main reason this build is possible is due to Zhong's passive which gives him protections based on stacks that he gets when anything dies near him. Items alternatives are provided if you would like to go tankier and to give you alternatives in the late game.
If you are playing Zhong Kui solo you are going to have to be patient early and shift the gear late. You don't build him entirely tanky due to his passive protections which opens the door for some interesting item choices. I prefer building him relatively tanky still but with a couple of items that contribute to and benefit the team other than standard auras.
Guardian's Blessing is a great item on Zhong in the Solo Lane because for the first 3 levels you have little kill potential. The passive approach to the early game allows you to build stacks on your blessing as well as your passive. The potions with the chalice as well as the healing in your kit should keep you well sustained along with the blue buff. Be sure if you are trading damage with the other Solo Laner that you remember you can use both the Chalice of Healing and Health Potion simultaneously to increase your healing. YOU WILL SELL GUARDIAN'S BLESSING TO BUILD YOUR LAST ITEM.
Shoes of Focus:
Zhong relies on multiple abilities to maximize his damage and ensure that he stays healthy so giving him early cooldown reduction is great. The boots also provide a small amount of mana which allows for more abilities.
Stone of Binding:
This is the first item that is able to be built because of Zhong's passive. Zhong's passive provides him with protections so there isn't a necessity to go a high protection item right away. Stone of Binding provides great utility to you right away as well as continued value throughout the game. It gives power, protections, and through its passive, it gives protection reductions to anyone affected by crowd control (Zhong's 1 and 3 ability) which means more damage done by anyone attacking that target.
Breastplate of Valor:
Breastplate of Valor offers amazing value for the item price. It provides mana, 20% cooldown reduction, MP5, and physical protections. Paired with Stone of Binding it is plenty of defense for early physical solo lane matchups and also allows for even more ability spam. There is nothing too in-depth or fancy about this item.
At this point in the game, it is nearing time to make some rotations out of the solo lane and so you need some magical defense to combat the damage from any magical damage sources in the game. Void Stone provides that and health but more importantly it reduces their magical protections even more and gives some power into the build. All of this is done at a very cheap cost for the item. This is a nice hybrid item that Zhong loves as he has no trouble keeping the item passive applied.
This item puts you at the 40% cooldown reduction cap but more importantly, it provides more tankiness for a stationary god that is bound to get crowd controlled through its passive which gives you 15% damage mitigation when affected by crowd controlled. On top of that, it also reduces the time you are CC'd through its crowd control reduction.
Gem of Isolation:
This is another item that you are able to go into due to Zhong's passive and it has amazing synergy with his kit. The slow the item's passive provides doubles down with the slow on your first ability but even when your ability slow expires, using your ultimate ability will allow you to stick to the target and let either you or more likely your team chase them down to finish them. The item also gives more power to go with the protection reduction from Void Stone and Stone of Binding as well as health to complement your protections. In addition, it synergizes well with Spirit Robe as they both give you Crowd Control Reduction and help keep Zhong from being locked down.
End Game Items:
At the end of the game, some people may sell Stone of Binding for an item that offers better defense which is just as viable as keeping the item for the offense. If the game goes long enough you can also sell boots for a sixth item. Make sure that if you are going to sell Stone of Binding that you do it before selling and replacing Shoes of Focus, any of the following items can be used in that scenario:
Elixir of Speed - In order to replace your Shoes of Focus, you must purchase this item, which provides 18% movement speed for 2000g (soon to be 1500g). Shoes do not stack with this item so only buy it when you can purchase it and your item replacement for Shoes of Focus.
Mantle of Discord - Provides 60 protections in both categories, provides 10% cooldown reduction, and an okay passive for an in your face god like Zhong. Can be purchased to replace Stone of Binding or Shoes of Focus.
Dynasty Plate Helm - This is not something you build late game but if you get behind early game against a physical god, building this instead of Breastplate of Valor gives you a cheap alternative that still provides physical protections and some penetration.
Celestial Legion Helm - This item can be built either as a late game Shoes of Focus/Stone of Binding replacement or in place of Breastplate of Valor if you don't feel you need the cooldown it provides. It provides a flat 40 Physical Protections but its passive allows up to 90 Physical Protections. It is a more offensive item as it gives 60 Magical Power and provides more MP5.
Oni Hunter's Garb - Another late game Stone of Binding/Shoes of Focus replacement or if you want more defense than Void Stone provides you can build it in Void Stone's place. This item provides 100 health, 60 magical protections, 30 MP5, and 20% Crowd Control Reduction. That is a lot of good stats but the best part of the item is the up to 9% damage mitigation it provides for nearby enemies which synergizes well with Zhong's in your face, run them down kit.
Pestilence - This is a late-game replacement item or a very situational magical protection item you would build against Solo Laners with significant healing in their kits like Change or Hel. This provides a good amount of health and magical protections but its passive is the reason it is built as it provides anti-heal to nearby enemies.
Zhong is very diverse in how you can level up his abilities. The way I have laid out his abilities prioritize safe, early clear/poke with leveling his Expose Evil then ramping up your damage on your Exorcism. This is because the build starts slow and doesn't start being impactful until after Stone of Binding is completed. In a more offensive, aggressive build maxing your Exorcism should be the priority.
The next choice is to level up Zhong's Book of Demons vs his ultimate Recall Demons. Maxing Zhong's ultimate increase his damage output but maxing his third ability over the ultimate provides a longer stun as well as increasing the damage on the ability. In a normal mid lane build or offensive solo lane build, you would want to prioritize the ultimate but in this tanky/utility build CC is prioritized.
These relics apply to Zhong ONLY IN THE SOLO LANE. Mid lane Zhong relies on both Purification Beads and Aegis Amulet to survive but Solo Zhong has a lot more flexibility and shouldn't just build those relics. I am going to divide relics into three categories: when you are ahead, the neutral game, and when you are behind. Any neutral game relic is a good buy no matter what, you should only by the other two categories of relics if you are in that specific scenario.
Teleport Glyph - This item is almost always a must build in the solo lane. It ensures you don't lose pressure if you're ahead or that you don't fall further behind if you're already down. It ensures you don't lose farm and is a must build on almost all gods in the solo lane.
Relics to get when you are ahead:
Shield of Thorns - This item is only built when you're ahead because it essentially makes you unkillable to gods that are prioritizing auto attack damage. You are reflecting back any damage they deal out, chasing them down, and dishing your own damage. It does not work if you're not ahead because you can't take as much damage and it will be much more difficult to just walk into their backline if you are even or behind.
Horrific Emblem - Usually this item is built by the support but if it is not, it isn't worth building unless, once again, you are able to just walk into the back line to apply the slow effect to as many targets as possible. This is my least favorite relic to build on this whole list and it is very situational, mostly into Hunter/AA heavy compositions for the damage and attack speed slow.
Relics to get when you are even:
Blink Rune - This is my favorite to build on Zhong Kui in the solo lane. This item allows you to effectively engage their back line and apply your slows, controlling the enemy backline while still having an impact on the overall team fight. It also makes you slightly tankier for a short time allowing you to absorb any reaction attacks they may launch.
Heavenly Wings - Not as guaranteed a way to get to the enemy carries as Blink Rune, this item does give you movement speed to run into the backline and apply your slows but it also benefits your team as a whole. Giving them movement speed and slow immunities means either chasing down enemies or easy and effective disengages.
Magic Shell - This item works well if you are not the one engaging the enemy but rather being used as the backline peel for your own team. If your support is the one that is starting the fights (likely Terra, Sobek, Athena, Fafnir, or Bacchus) and you're protecting the carries this item is a good pickup as it allows them to take extra damage while also getting peel from Zhong.
Relics to get when you are behind:
Purification Beads - This item is straight forward, as a tank, if you are behind you're almost worthless. You just need to live and farm up to get back into the game. Zhong has no movement abilities and thus is easily crowd controlled and if he's behind while building these items then he will need the CC immunity to try and live and get back in the game.
Aegis Amulet - See above except replace crowd control discussion with damage. Zhong is easily damaged since he lacks mobility and if he's behind he doesn't take the damage well. This relic will ensure that you immune the worst of the damage and hopefully live to fight another day.
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