Zhin Sets The Realm Ablaze!
A Flanker’s Resurrection?
“Flanks are dead!” has been the resounding cry of the Paladins competitive scene for some time now with glass-cannon Flanks too vulnerable to be considered reliable. However, one Champion has recently begun to re-emerge who challenges this perception; Zhin, The Tyrant, returns to battlefield!
In a popular meta dictated by aggressive Front Line, tanky Supports, and high-burst, long-range Damage, we ask what allows Zhin to so effectively control the pace of a match where other Flanks may struggle.
The answer lies within their kit; Skills which grant Zhin guaranteed short-range burst damage, disruption, and survivability. Combined with the right Legendary Card and Loadout, Zhin is able to stay in the fight for quite some time, while simultaneously removing enemies from it.
Zhin’s Legendary Card Retaliation is key to staying alive on the battlefield.
Retaliation allows Zhin to remain in Counter stance after Countering an attack; instead of only being able to soak one hit. Repeated damage whilst Retaliation is equipped punishes an enemy shooter and potentially their allies, provided they don’t know how to hold their fire.
This grants Zhin a pseudo-Front Line status when using Counter, allowing them to act as a shield for allies and lock off chokepoints. Retaliation transforms Zhin’s Counter from a more defensive 1v1 tool to a mobile source of area denial, adding a great deal of teamfight disruption to their kit.
Counter, therefore, is the bread and butter of this playstyle for Zhin.
Whilst simply not shooting at Zhin when this Skill is being channeled renders Zhin nonthreatening, the value of this ability and Legendary combination more comes from the disruption it provides.
When combined with the cards Master Stance and Footwork, Zhin can stick to specific enemies with ease, forcing them to run or risk being focused down whilst unable to return fire. This peels damage or healing away from other teamfight engagements, leaving potential openings for allies in objective control and kills.
It is important to remember that Zhin can be shot from behind when using Counter however, and cannot counter Area of Effect damage that explodes at his feet. While effective, this Skill far from makes Zhin immortal, and when it comes to an end, Zhin is left vulnerable with their total Health of 2000. This is where Billow comes into play.
With Billow, Zhin has a base 2.5s safety net where he cannot be targeted, the duration of which can be extended with specific Cards. This allows Zhin to escape when in danger upon exiting Counter if low on Health, or simply to avoid incoming damage and Crowd Control.
It is also important to remember that Billow allows Zhin to easily exit combat due to their un-targetable status and begin regenerating Health, and while Counter may keep Zhin in combat, both of these abilities can prevent Zhin from being affected by debuffs which reduce healing received (e.g. Cauterize or Brand). When paired with an effective Support, this makes Zhin very hard to kill.
Since we’re running Retaliation, Master Stance IV lets us maximise the uptime of Counter.
This increases the total duration of Counter from 2s to 3s, extending the duration of Zhin’s disruption, and providing better fluidity to our Cooldown rotation.
Footwork III provides a good balance between Card cost and increased Movement Speed which allows us to better maneuver during Counter.
Zhin can be caught out easily upon exiting Counter before Billow or Whirl are available. With increased Movement Speed, we’re able to better escape when using Counter defensively, or follow targets aggressively who may be attempting to flee.
Whilst Zhin’s base Movement Speed is quite high, their Weapon Shots have a limited effective range.
Increasing the distance of Whirl with Blade Dance II helps Zhin remain within this range, and when necessary traverse a wider gap to escape danger.
Perfect Block, taken here at Rank 1 provides some minor sustain to Zhin if enemies unwisely choose to fire towards them whilst Counter is active.
While minimal initially, the Rank of this card may be increased depending on the user’s preference to provide better value vs specific teamcomps or enemy Champions e.g. Barik who cannot stop their turrets from firing.
Hideout II completes one possible Loadout by providing an increased duration to Billow of 3.5s. When combined with Master Stance IV, Billow and Counter together provide Zhin with a whopping 6.5s of near un-targetable status.
This synergises very well with the Cooldown Reduction effects of Chronos, and should be taken when investing in this expensive Item is possible (i.e. when Wrecker and Cauterize are supplied in plenty by allies).
Fan The Flames II completes another possible Loadout by allowing Zhin to reset the Cooldown of Billow by 50% on achieving a successful Killing Blow.
When Chronos cannot be invested into due to limited Credit availability or heavier prioritisation towards counter-Itemisation (e.g. Cauterize), substituting in this card can assist Zhin in managing cooldowns to minimise your time spent vulnerable.
We briefly mentioned Chronos being a good choice of Item in conjunction with Hideout II, so let’s examine why:
Using Hideout II:
- Counter has a duration of 3s and base Cooldown of 7s.
- Billow has a duration of 3.5s and base Cooldown of 12s.
Chronos reduces the Cooldown of Counter by 0.7s per Rank, and Billow by 1.2s per Rank.
Therefore Chronos 3, whilst a heavy investment of 2400 Credits, can reduce the Cooldown of abilities by 30% thus reducing Counter’s to just 4.9s, and Billow’s to 8.4s.
When activating first Counter, then Billow, Zhin is left with just 1.4s of Counter’s Cooldown remaining by the time they become targetable. Similarly, immediately using Counter after Billow goes on Cooldown will leave Billow with just 5.4s of Cooldown remaining. Throw a few Weapon Shots or Whirls in between to properly manage your Skill rotation and a Zhin equipped with Chronos 3 can provide an incredible uptime of damage immunity and disruption to a fight.
Maps, Teamcomps, and Playstyles
So Zhin can work, at least on paper. But how about in practice?
Currently not first-pick material Zhin’s relevancy to a game is first decided by what map is in play.
- Compact maps
- Limited verticality (Zhin only has Spite to provide vertical movement to their kit)
- Wide, open maps
- Lots of verticality (e.g. Timber Mill)
Zhin fares well when paired with Champions that deal AoE damage due to their own poor AoE clear. Ensuring your teamcomp has a reliable source of AoE damage is important. This can come from both Front Line or Damage Champions.
Zhin struggles with airborne champions however, so pairing this AoE damage from a Front Line with a good anti-air Damage dealer (e.g. Cassie, Lian) helps supplement Zhin’s weaknesses.
Zhin has fantastic 1v1 kill potential if allowed free reign in the enemy backline. Look to surprise enemies where they expect it least. Target isolated players, avoid Front Lines when doing so, and remember you don’t have to achieve a kill to impact a fight in a beneficial way.
Separating a Damage or Support Champion from their team gives you an advantage in the teamfight proper even if they escape to regenerate out of combat and more often than not in doing so will draw attention away from the objective.
With that said, jumping in front of a Barik turret nest with Counter active is both an effective way to defer fire from your allies and clear said turrets. Just plan an exit strategy; Front Line Champions can quickly turn the tables on Zhin at close range simply due to their high health pools.
Remember; Zhin is The Tyrant! In order to be effective, play assertively. It is up to you to influence the pace of the game here after all.