Zeus might not be the most popular hero at the moment (he’s 36th most popular this month, and has been picked in only 10.7 percent of games) but his win rate has remained around 53-55 percent during that time, meaning he has the 12th highest win rate this month.
While Zeus is most frequently played in the middle lane, there’s nothing stopping you from taking Zeus to any other lane, as long as it doesn’t hamper your team’s composition too much. Even support Zeus can work, but this hero excels with farm as it allows him to build items to increase his damage output and boost his mana pool and regeneration. Simply put, all that stuff allows him to chuck a ton of lightning at his foes.
And when I say a ton of lightning, I’m not kidding. All four of Zeus’ abilities consist of hitting enemies with bolts of lightning.
Here are his abilities as they appear in-game:
Arc Lightning (Q)
Hurls a bolt of lightning that leaps through nearby enemy units.
Lightning Bolt (W)
Calls down a bolt of lightning to strike an enemy unit, causing damage and a mini-stun. When cast, Lightning Bolt briefly provides unobstructed vision and True Sight around the target in a 750 radius. Can be cast on the ground, affecting the closest enemy hero in 325 range.
Sight Radius: 750
Sight Duration: 4.5
Static Field (Passive)
Zeus shocks all nearby enemy units whenever he casts a spell, causing damage proportional to their current health.
Health Reduction: 4%/6%/8%/10%
Thundergod’s Wrath (R)
Strikes all enemy heroes with a bolt of lightning, no matter where they may be. Thundergod’s Wrath also provides True Sight around each hero struck. If an enemy hero is invisible, it takes no damage, but the True Sight is still created at that hero’s location.
True Sight Radius: 500
Damage: 225/325/425 (Agh’s Damage: 440/540/640)
Unless a situation arises in which you can get First Blood by put a skill point into Thunderbolt at Level 1, you’ll always want to start with Arc Lightning. Zeus’ attack damage is a paltry 45 at Level 1, and combined with one of the lowest attack ranges outside of Melee heroes or Templar Assassin and a lengthy attack animation, it’s likely that your mid lane opponent will have a pretty easy time denying creeps. Arc Lightning has a much longer cast range than your attack (850 vs. 350) and a cast point (the time it takes between a spell being cast and the spell taking effect) of just 0.2 seconds. This means you can sit farther back in lane while still easily securing early last hits.
Your second skill point should go into Static Field. This is a value point, meaning that you don’t generally need to invest more than one point into it initially. By putting a single point into it, you’ll get the value from having that extra four percent damage but since the increase between levels is not substantial you’ll want to wait before putting more points into it in favor of boosting the power of other, more potent abilities first. Now, when you last hit with Arc Lightning, you’ll deal a little extra damage to the enemy mid laner.
Next up is Lightning Bolt. This is the ability that you will want to get to max level first. In the early game, a 350 damage nuke on a six second cooldown is nothing to scoff at. Even at Level 2 or 3 (175/275 damage), a couple of Lightning Bolts on an already weakened hero can get you a solo kill, or at least push the opposing mid laner out of the lane to heal.
It is important to remember that you can save your supports a significant amount of gold by frequently casting Lightning Bolt on the ground where the enemy might place wards. The ability provides True Sight on the cast location, allowing you to find and destroy enemy Observer and Sentry ward. Once you’ve got enough mana to spam it, Bolt often and keep your enemies in the dark.
Take Thundergod’s Wrath as soon as you hit Level 6, and be on the lookout for narrowly missed ganks in other lanes. If an enemy hero gets away with less than 200 health, then it’s an easy kill for you. Alt+clicking you ultimate will alert your team that you are ready to steal their kills help out with this global ability. Remember that while this ability reveals invisible enemies, if someone goes invisible with low health, your ultimate will reveal, but not deal damage to them. Make sure to reveal them in another way (such as with Lightning Bolt), then ult for the finish if needed.
After Lightning Bolt is maxed out, make sure to max out Arc Lightning. Then it’s another point in your ult before switching to Static Field and finishing that off at Level 14.
Tango, 2 Clarities / Null Talisman, 2 Shared Tangoes
Bottle, Arcane Boots, Aether Lens, Veil of Discord, Eul’s Scepter, Force Staff, Blink Dagger
Bloodstone, Refresher Orb, Octarine Core, Aghanim’s Scepter
Zeus’ item build allows for a decent amount of creativity on your part from game to game. You’ll always want to grab a Bottle as quickly as you can in the middle lane and secure those runes. Arcane Boots are next as the mana is an obvious plus, but you’ll be disassembling those for a Bloodstone or Aether Lens sooner or later.
If you grabbed an early Null Talisman, you can sell it, but it builds into Veil of Discord which is arguably a core item on Zeus. The stats are pretty nice, but the active is what it’s all about. Target the ground with Veil to place a “Magic Weakness” debuff on any enemy in the item’s 600 radius. For the next 16 seconds, any magic damage taken by someone hit by Veil will have their magic resistance reduced by 25 percent, effectively increasing your spell damage. In the late game, a double blast from Refresher/Thundergod’s Wrath with Veil applied is devastating (provided your enemy doesn’t have Black King Bars to block it all).
If you find yourself with plenty of cash early on, Bloodstone is still a good item despite the existence of Octarine Core. The mana regeneration from a Bloodstone with boosted charges from kills means you’ll never need to go back to fountain, but if you’re dying and losing charges it pales in comparison to Octarine.
The fun thing about Octarine Core is that it reduces cooldowns, and Zeus’ cooldowns are already quite low (with the exception of his ultimate, but even that goes from 90 seconds to 67.5). The cooldown reduction combined with the mana regeneration adds up to non-stop lightning.
When you skip Bloodstone, your Arcane boots can be disassembled to make an Aether Lens. Almost everything about Aether lens seems tailor made for Zeus — extra mana, a range bonus on your spells and +5% spell damage. Even the +8 health regeneration is nice to have.
Sometimes Zeus can get away without building a mobility item, but his movement speed isn’t great, and if you’re having trouble keeping up with some particularly mobile heroes on either side of the river, consider Eul’s Scepter (movement speed bonus, 10 Intelligence, and Zeus’ favorite — mana regeneration). If you want something a bit cheaper, Blink Dagger and Force Staff are pretty good too.
Aghanim’s Scepter is sometimes thought to be core on Zeus, but the damage isn’t so significant that it should be the first thing you pick up. The stats on the item are not bad, but Veil is an obvious better choice with 12 Intelligence and six Strength/Agility/Health regen/Attack Damage/Armor compared to Aghanim’s Scepter’s 10 Strength/Agility/Intelligence and 175 Health and Mana (a minor increase considering that’s less than half the cost of Zeus’ ultimate). If you want to go all in and build Aghanim’s and Refresher, it turns a 640 damage nuke into a potential 1280 damage nuke, but enemies can dodge your ultimate with Black King Bar, itself a relatively inexpensive item.
It’s better not to put all your eggs in the Thundergod’s Wrath basket and instead build items that increase your mana regeneration, keeping you casting all your spells over a longer period of time. At a certain point, Black King Bar lasts just five seconds. You can wait. You can’t run from heaven.