The News Roundup: PBE Changes for 11/7, Patch Still Delayed, S3 Items and LoH,FoN Removed, Zed Design AMA, and More

RoG Article Recap


Unoffical PBE Patch Notes for 11/7/2012

Zed 

  • [Q] - Razor Shuriken: Zed and his shadows throw their shurikens, each dealing 75/110/145/180/215 (changed from  70/110/150/190/230) physical damage to the first enemy they pass through, and 60/88/116/144/172 (up from 49/77/105/133/161) (+1*AD) physical damage to each additional enemy.
  • [W] - Living Shadow: Now has a passive: Grants 5/10/15/20/25 %additional bonus AD.
  • [E] - Shadow Slash: enemies hit by the mimicked shadow slash are now slowed by 20/25/30/35/40% (down from 30/35/40/45/50 %). Enemies hit by both are now slowed by 30/37.5/45/52.5/60 % (down from 45/52.5/60/75 %)
  • [R] - Death Mark: No longer initially deals 1 * AD, but now after 3 seconds deals  1*AD plus 20/35/50% of all damage dealt to the target (changed from 40/45/50)

 New Splash Art

Bioforge Darius

Dragon Trainer Lulu

 


End of Season 2 Patch Still Delayed

Summoners,

We’re continuing to work hard on the end of season patch which includes your rewards for Season Two. We’re still ironing out a few kinks, and we aren’t going to deploy until we’re confident it’s ready and polished.

As a result, ranked queues will remain available until we’re ready to pull the trigger on the patch. Your end of season rewards will still be based on the highest rating you earned between September 12th and when maintenance begins for the upcoming patch. Thanks for your patience!

How will this delay affect the Dec 27th deadline for ranked team ladders?
It will not affect the Dec 27th deadline for Ranked Team ladders.


Visual alignment improvement for Lux's Final Spark

Hey PBE players! 

A few days ago, we introduced a correction to Final Spark in PBE: the angle of the beam visual should more accurately match that of the actual spell, especially when fired beyond the edge of the map.

If you're a Lux player, I encourage you to play her in PBE and share results here.  Thanks!


 

TT Alters Getting Nerfed

Altars are getting a few "nerfs" in the upcoming 1.71 patch. After that, we'll be re-evaluating some systems level changes to both altars and speed shrines that should make them less favorable to bruisers.


Xypherous on S3 Items and Life on Hit - FoN Removed

You know we're already experimenting with alternate sustain mechanics like Blade of the Ruined King - which is effectively a form of life steal that doesn't really care about how much damage you have (only have much Penetration you have and the target's health.)

Life on Hit will most likely find its way onto Doran's Blade to get rid of items with small amounts of Life Steal from being rampant. Other small %'s of Life Steal from masteries and runes will probably stay where it is. This has the effect of cancelling a little bit of the Doran's Blade snowball from crits - but also ensure that the Bruiser stacking Doran's Blade to snowball out will also get a bit of reverse snowball as the item doesn't scale into late game.

Since we are talking about Lifesteal and its variants. I had suggested on another forum thread a variant of Lifesteal instead of healing a % of the damage you deal, instead you heal a % of your Maximum Health each time you AutoAttack.
This stat 'Heal a % of your maximum health on strike' is probablly one of the most fun statistics in PvE games - because you get all this intricate crunchy stuff trying to proc it and such and optimizing the heal versus the proc rate, etc.

In a PvP game, this number optimization is actually kind of detrimental to overall flow - because you don't have the luxury of crunchy build optimization. You have to win now against the opponents you have now, with the build you have now. Is Attack Damage more important? Is Resists? Is Health? Build that.

Basically, it's one of those statistics that have a ton of conditionals riding on it that tend to make it unstable and actually kind of annoying when you don't have perfect item build control.

This item would still be really good for the max hp tanks like Shen volibear Mundo and sejuani. They already get their damage from hp so why not heal of it too?
There's a difference between scaling off health and scaling on procs for survivability versus damage.

On the one hand, there are abilities that scale off health. If I get damage for more health, that makes health more appealing for example. But a proc that scales off attack speed and health, starts getting problematic because the goal is to become survivable. But now you have to figure out the right mix of attack speed, health and resistances to make that possible.

Contrast the damage to health scaling that Sejuani has - where health is simply a more cost-efficient stat and attractive stat because if you want damage and survivability, you'll pick up more health.

There's just too many conditionals for 'health based on max health based on attack speed' for it to feel quite right when you don't have perfect item control. Consider trying to figure out whether resistances or a giant's belt or a recurve bow will make you tankier and it gets really confusing.

Note that you could make the same argument for Life Steal as a whole - but I feel like Max Health tends to introduce cases where the resistances vs. health calculations get really odd - while for Carries and Lifesteal, the ideal route is just 'Go get more damage.'

making the heal effect a HoT would alleviate a large chunk of this. If it does its max health healing over the course of 2 seconds, with additional hits simply replacing with a new duration instead of stacking, you mostly remove attack speed from the equation.
This solution works but tends makes the effect less cool in a lot of ways. It flattens the interactions it can have which also tends to flatten why the stat was compelling in the first place.

There's some forms of balance that just completely make what was compelling bland and uninteresting. They work at solving the problem but the sacrifice is a bit much in some cases.

Hm. This probably isn't a good time to mention that I removed FoN and scattered its various passives and pieces to the wind onto other items.

On the plus side though, Tanks now get to build Warmog's and not feel silly.

Although you'll still be able to build every piece of FoN used to offer. It just won't be rolled up into the particular stat combination. This counts against my spoiler count for the day. :P

But in an unrelated question, is mordekaiser going to be playable in S3?
Quite honestly, I have no idea. There's a lot of moving parts here on changes.

Was the magic resistance/healing too much, was it the speed, or was the item lack-luster. Sorry, I just like to know the reasoning behind changes.
Force of Nature served three purposes, one of which we couldn't make good.

1. High end MR item on one item.

We're not sure that a single rushed item should counter mages so heavily. So buying FoN for raw magic resistance was always going to be somewhat of a trap because we could never make it *good* to have this much MR on a single item without it simply being cost-inefficient so it could be slot-efficient.

There are ways to make an item cost-inefficient for selfish MR while still making it cost-efficient as a whole for MR though...

2. Regeneration/Siege

This we liked, but the fact that it was tied to a movement speed item and a magic resist item was a little weird. It didn't quite seem to click, so tanks that had to itemize regeneration kind of picked up a bunch of stats randomly.

Also, the tri-fecta of Warmogs / Spirit Visage / FoN was actually incredibly hard to get a good sense of balance. Mostly because it turns "on" super-late but mostly because they build on each other a little too much. While we like the build of 'I am unstoppable brick wall of regeneration' - we think that right now it's both really hard to get *and* overpowered when finished and we'd really like to see it be a more viable build that's more in line when it does happen so people feel like they aren't taking long-gambits but more of a choice on how to itemize.

3. Movement Speed

The whole paradigm of X class gets a MS item Y is actually starting to show where the faults are. In order to specialize for movement speed, you have to build into a very specific item - which naturally creates this weird power gap where a class that is perfectly catered by item Y gets MS while every other class pays a gold tax of unwanted stats to get the same mobility. This naturally leads to people wanting more MS/X items for a specific class - which seems to suggest that maybe what people actually want is more ubiquitous movement options that don't consume slots rather than a continuous stream of one-off items with MS% randomly on it.

For example, Lich Bane is the AP item with movement speed on it. That kind of screws every AP caster who doesn't want Lich Bane or can't use it well. This leads to this weird case where randomly, some class of characters get faster just because they can use Lich Bane well. While it's nice to have a few items like this - it's probably a sign as a whole that people want to be able to somehow spend more gold to get mobility rather than they want catered items that have MS on the item.

Will there be something to replace this item in a similar way? I enjoyed building this item on Cho'Gath due to the synergy with Chogath's natural high HP.
Of course. We know MR itemization is kind of painful right now because you have to build a bunch of null-magic mantle items in order to get MR. 

However, simultaneously, we do recognize that a single large MR item hurts AP Casters far more than any other class, simply because of the sheer efficiency of linear resistances versus linear damage scaling on AP.

Thus, the problem is two-fold: Make enough MR items such that every class feels good about needing to buy some off-items for MR.

Two: Make sure that the MR is wide-spread enough such that one rushed item doesn't hard-counter mages.

There's a bunch of sub-goals involved in figuring out which core items can go on what characters in order to fill their MR needs and retuning some of our current MR itemization to simultaneously be less abusive when stacking pure resists but actually a decent MR choice. (BV, for example, suffers from the spell shield cooldown being super long.)

BVs cooldown is perfectly fine, Linken's Sphere is just broken in DOTA with the 20 sec cooldown. Also, it's not OK to counter mages with 1 item according to you, but it's fine to counter ADs with 1 item (Frozen Heart anyone?). That item is just purely overpowered, 100 armor, CDR and an AS slow which is UNCOUNTERABLE in one item is just madness.
If by uncounterable you mean 'Make less effective' - then yes. Frozen Heart is effectively uncounterable. Frozen Heart may be overpowered - sure. But that's a different discussion from 'Frozen Heart is fundamentally uncounterable.' 

Vayne or Kog'maw don't suddenly just dissappear because your team has 2 or 3 Frozen Hearts. It just takes them an extra three seconds to destroy your entire team, as ranged carries are about sustained damage.

Contrast this with ability power mages - whose primary function is to typically provide large amounts of area of effect damage in as short a time frame as possible. High amounts of slot-efficient magic resistance typically tends to be a much harder counter to mages due to the bursty nature of their damage.


Creative Design AMA - Zed, the Master of Shadows

Hello, summoners!

We're back with another Creative Design AMA, and this time we'll be talking about Zed, the Master of Shadows. For the next 24 hours, I'll be answering questions about Zed's lore and the creative efforts and goals behind his character. 

If you haven't seen it yet, here's Zed's bio:

Zed is the first ninja in 200 years to unlock the ancient, forbidden ways. He defied his clan and master, casting off the balance and discipline that had shackled him all his life. Zed now offers power to those who embrace knowledge of the shadows, and slays those who cling to ignorance.

An orphan, Zed was taken in and trained by a great ninja master. Only one other student appeared to be Zed's equal - the master's son, Shen. It seemed Zed could never win the favor of the master, as every match between the rivals ended in a draw. Frustrated and jealous, he sought an advantage. The young ninja ventured into a sealed part of the clan's temple, where he found an ornate, foreboding box. Sensing the dark knowledge within, Zed knew he should not open it, but he peered inside nonetheless. In an instant, shadows touched his mind, revealing techniques that had long been hidden. Now armed with a secret edge, he challenged Shen, and this time he defeated the master's son. He expected praise and recognition in his moment of victory, but somehow the master knew Zed had used forbidden ways, and banished him.

Humiliated, the young ninja wandered for years. His bitterness turned to ambition, and he began to train others in the style of the shadows. As his power grew, so did his circle of followers, but he knew that without the box, his technique would never be perfect. One day, Zed looked at his followers and saw that his students were now an army. He led them back to the temple to claim his prize. At the gates, he was surprised to find the old master waiting, receiving Zed and his disciples as if they were welcome guests. The old man laid his sword at Zed's feet, declaring that he had failed Zed as his master. By banishing his former student, the master had doomed Zed to the shadows, instead of leading him to the balanced path. The old man implored Zed to enter the temple, destroy the box, and lead his followers to balance. The dark ninja followed the master inside. Moments later, the assembled ninjas heard Zed cry out in pain. Mysteriously, he emerged unscathed, and threw the severed head of the master at Shen's feet. Screaming in rage, Zed commanded his followers to slaughter the master's students and seize the box.

That day, the old ninja order fell. Though many students died, some escaped thanks to Shen's heroic efforts. Now the temple is a dark training ground for the Order of the Shadow. Zed rules as the Order's master, and his edict is simple: perfect one's technique, and kill all ninjas who refuse to embrace the shadows.

''Balance is a lie - we are the true ninjas.''
-Zed

Please remember to keep the discussions here constructive! Ask away!

Questions and answers are below


Can you elaborate on the situation with Shen's father?
I can if you're a bit more specific. What would you like clarified?

What makes the ability to create shadow clones of yourself, and by extension, the box, so "forbidden"?
We wanted to keep the reasoning behind the forbidden nature of Zed's techniques vague, because we didn't want Zed to be "wrong" for accessing and utilizing them in an absolute sense. They were forbidden long ago with the goal of balance in mind, and elder masters like Shen's father believe these specific techniques to be inherently corrupting--that using them leads one down a path of darkness and inhuman cruelty. To maintain balance in Ionia, they were suppressed. Are they corrupting? Perhaps, perhaps not. Zed doesn't believe so.

What caused Zed to cry out in pain after following his old master into the temple?
Aha, I knew this question would pop up pretty quickly! This is another thing we'd like you to speculate on, because for the moment, we're saving that for later. : ) You'll find out what happened between Zed and Shen's father in a different story someday.

What does Zed think of Yordles?
Rodents, of course. Especially that Kennen fellow--what a disgrace! : )

Does Zed know anything about Hiten Style, Zelos, Irelia, or anything in that regard?
I don't think Zed has had much interaction with the Hiten Style or its practitioners at this point. He might have caught wind of its existence in his travels through Ionia, but to Zed, all techniques that are not histechniques are negligible until they stand in his way.

What does Zed think of Syndra, and vice-versa?
Ohh, this is an interesting one. Though their paths have been different, Zed and Syndra have similar goals. Both believe the 'balance' that has maintained Ionia for so long must crumble for Ionia's people to come into their own and realize their full potential. Syndra might take interest in Zed's power, and given the right circumstances, an alliance between the two could "tip the scales" in Ionia all the more.

Does Zed get annoyed by Talon being called "The Blade's Shadow"? And does Talon dislike Zed for ripping off his style?
Talon's not one to concern himself with Ionian affairs unless he's given a target and, so far, there's no reason for Zed to be on his list. That said, I think their styles are pretty different--you don't see Talon making shadow images of himself, and if you mean from a visual standpoint, well, there's plenty of "arm-mounted blades" to go around.

What does Karma think of Zed, and what does Zed think of Karma?
Karma sees Zed as a dangerous force of chaos in Ionia and believes he must be stopped. For Zed, Karma is just another perpetrator of "balance" that stands in his way.

Is Zed interested at all in the SHADOW Isles?
Haha, no, Zed has no interest in the Shadow Isles right now. He has a lot more to be concerned with than legends and rumors of the undead horrors there. : )

And finally, does could Zed and Nocturne have a potential partnership of darkness?
Zed and Nocturne, hm? That could be very interesting!

When does Zed's story take place in relation to Shen joining the league?
The timeline is a little unclear right now, but it's safe to say that Zed's story takes place before Shen joining the League.

Will the other three ninjas have a story rework?
We have a LOT of awesome ideas on how to add more to the stories of the three ninjas now that Zed has hit the scene. I can't promise an immediate rework of their bios, but the story of the Kinkou is one we definitely want to develop. There's so much to explore here!

Does Zed's story hint at a possible second ninja triumvirate?
As for the third question, the triumvirate is a relationship of balance and trust. Zed prefers to stand above his fellows--none shall be his equal.

Is the current design goal to always introduce champions that have enemies (lorewise) either in the league or with planned champions?
Not necessarily. We really like to do this when it makes sense and adds to the character, but it isn't always a goal we set out with for every champion. As a side note, who said new champions always have to have enemies and not friends...?

for once will you guys just tell who the voice actor for Zed is please. rumor is it's Steve Blum
Can't say, but it's definitely not Steve Blum! Sorry!

Was Zed evil before being banished, or would there have been a way to make him realize his powers are no good? Was Zed evil only because of being alone and warped by darkness, or because he was enveloped in darkness from after the box's opening?
Good questions! You're really getting at the heart of Zed's story here. I hesitate to say that Zed is truly evil at all, because that's truly up to interpretation. There are a few turning points in his story--his choice to open the box, his banishment, and his return to the temple. One can choose to think that Zed was "evil" from the beginning, or that at any of these points he might have had a chance at redemption, or that there's still a chance at redemption in the future--it's pretty subjective, and we like it that way. Heck, you can even blame the master entirely! Perhaps Zed was right from the beginning! :)

From my personal standpoint, there's a lot to be said for the way that Shen's father treated Zed. Perhaps if the master had been more forgiving, or if he'd noticed Zed trying to gain his favor and responded, Zed might have chosen a different path. 

Do the Kinkou consider Zed beyond redemption and a personal enemy to balance that they find repugnant, or do they look at him as a small part of a greater issue that must be taken apart slowly, rather than at once?
They consider him a very formidable enemy, but I doubt they consider him utterly beyond redemption. The Kinkou wish to re-establish the balance upset by Zed's delving into forbidden arts, and there are multiple paths to that goal. Perhaps they can reason with him and convince Zed of his misdeeds, or perhaps they'll have to destroy him to regain order. Either way, the Kinkou will do what needs to be done.

What does Zed think of Diana? Both of them have had hardships with getting others to accept a newfound revelation.
Zed and Diana are both very single-minded about their goals, so I doubt they spend a lot of time sympathizing with each other. If they were ever to open up, they might find some common ground.

How does Zed feel about Varus? How does Varus feel about Zed? When is Skribbles gonna give me that pic of Varus' Tatt?
Varus is very busy trying to have his vengeance against Noxus, and I doubt Varus really registers on Zed's radar at all. Zed might respect Varus' choice to seize dark power to achieve a goal, though. 

I'll be sure to bother Skribbles about that picture of Varus' tatt. Skribbles is such a flake, man. 

When is he going to be released?
Actually, I'm not entirely sure! I'm sorry I can't give you any more information! : (

Somebody (not necessarily Runaan) please explain why Zed cried out in pain but the other dude died.
Again, we left this intentionally vague--you'll find out what happened in that room in another story someday!

What does the Order of Shadow stand for? If balance is a lie to them, what is their truth? I know the Kinkou stand for balance and equilibrium, but don't shadows represent a type of balance as well in a way (i.e. shadows as a distorted reflection of the self, representing our darker/repressed side)?
Zed's Order of Shadow wants its students to fully realize their power and potential free of the constraints Ionia's "balance" places upon them. No power should be out of reach--no matter the consequences. Zed's order is under no illusion that they walk a dark path, they fully embrace it.

Does the box relate to anything we know about already in game?
No, the box is a new element, we haven't discussed it before.

Does Zed have any lieutenants worthy enough to join the Fields of Justice on their own?
I touched on this lightly before, but Zed remains the leader and most powerful among the Order of Shadows, and this is intentional. He wants to remain the master of his students. None shall be his equal.

I have to ask since it isn't spelled out, was the Kinkou Order the ninja order destroyed in Zed's lore or were they different organizations? Now that Zed is in possession of the dark arts box, did he enter the league after learning all its contents or is he still training? Were the contents of the box once part of the order's teachings or were they secrets taken from enemies?
As we've presented it now, the Kinkou Order was destroyed by Zed and rebuilt by Shen. We're going to have to smooth out some of the information in the ninjas' bios (Shen, Akali, Kennen) to really make this clear and to go into detail, but that'd the direction we'd like to take the story. 

Zed is always training--he is a master of his technique, but that doesn't mean he cannot become more powerful. Perhaps there are other dark techniques out there, too, that Ionia hid away... 

Good questions about the contents of the box, but whether or not the Kinkou ever taught the dark techniques or if they were used by the order's enemies is something we'd like to leave to speculation for now. :)

What was actually in the box so that it was "forbidden" while still being easily taught to any others to-be ninjas... I feel this one is a little bit weak, how can there be other shadowers when they haven't interacted with the box.
Had to ask 20thCenturyFaux for this one (the creative designer who worked on Zed)! Essentially, sealed within the box was forbidden knowledge. He's able to train others in his image because, having opened the box, it's essentially imprinted on his mind. 

Part of the reason it was sealed away by Ionia was that it is trainable. Once it's unleashed, it has the potential to spread like wildfire--and someone wanted to keep it under control...

Why did he join the League?
 To pursue the Kinkou and possibly to search for other techniques that have been hidden away.

Does his allegiance lie with Ionia?
He's from Ionia, Zed's allegiance lies with Zed!

Shen's bio says " Shen is one of these shadow warriors..." What is the difference between his shadow ways and Zed's?
 This is one of the things we'd like to smooth out in Shen's bio once we revise it. By "shadow warriors," Shen's bio really just means "ninjas," but now that Zed's in the mix it's a fairly misleading detail. : )

Is Zed's shadow sentient? If so, is that why the art of shadows is forbidden?
Perhaps--we'd like the nature of the shadow to remain mysterious for now.

Would he ally himself with either Syndra or Diana? All three champs have similar situations in their backstories and might get along.
Syndra perhaps. They both have similar goals for upheaval in Ionia; they both reject the concept of balance and restraint. Diana, likely not.

how does zed effect akali and kennen?
Akali and Kennen remain Zed's enemies, but we have some interesting ideas about Akali's connection to Zed in particular.

Food for thought: Akali's passive is "twin disciplines," her title "the Fist of Shadow" ... hmmmm. : )

Zed's name, when i looked it up, means "Justice of God". Looking at his backstory, it seems in some ways his intent was to deliver his own form of "Justice" against his master for banishing him in his youth and never really giving him the praise he desired. Was the name "Zed" and it's meaning intentionally picked for him or did you guys pick that name because it sounded unique and different?
Oh wow, really interesting info! To be honest, we chose the name because we liked it, but it's always awesome when the stars align like that.

What does he think of Master Yi and Wukong, and the Wuju Style in general.
 Should Wuju Style and its practitioners Yi and Wukong stand against Zed, he is certain he will be able to prove his superiority. They are nothing to him!

If the shadow arts weren't forbidden in the first place, and Zed was actually respected for training hard and honing his skill to where he could finally beat Shen in a straight up duel, could he had been replacing him in the Kinkou 3 with Akali and Kennen?
Perhaps, but I think something Zed fails to recognize is that being a member of the Kinkou requires more than physical skills alone.

Is there a interaction with Leona?
Nothing with Vayne or Leona, no, sorry! : (

I'd like to know this too. That and the recent champs after Zyra don't have an explanation as to why this champion or that champion joined the League. Are you guys going to change all of the Lores so that they don't say why they joined or will you guys later explain the reasons to the recent champions?
Kitae has spoken about this in the past, but essentially, explaining why a champion joined the League in previous bios usually felt like a one-liner without much depth and drew focus away from the character's story. Read Kitae's explanation here! 

What does Zed think of the Void, and what would he think of someone who innately opposes his being - Lux?
Zed doesn't consider the Void a threat. He probably finds Lux childish and naive... and he's not really fond of light being thrown around while he's trying to do his shadowy moves, after all. : )

So there's obviously a big question in Zed's bio - what happened in the temple? Do you have/can you tell us about any plans to reveal this to summoners? What about other 'hanging questions' in the league, such as Varus' transformation, Nautilus' background, Diana/Leona's lesbian romance? (utterly serious about that last one.)
We're deliberately saving the question of what happened in the temple for a different story. As for the others you've mentioned--well, we'll have to wait and see how/if those develop... : P

Why did you choose 'shadows' to be a counterpart to the Ionian Ninja idea of balance? (relatedly, will Zed have the "Ninjas work better alone" hidden passive?)
It's fairly simple, on a spectrum of light and darkness, where balance is the middle ground, shadows seemed an understandable representation of the far end of that scale.

Similarly, you seem to have gone with a fair number of relation/rivalry lores recently - Kha'Zix/Rengar, Draven/Daruis, Jayce/Viktor, Diana/Leona - What's your thinking behind this decision?
We feel that connections between champions, be they friendship or rivalry or somewhere in between, add to the depth and "big picture" of the League of Legends universe. We develop them where we can--they're fun for players (especially in game--who doesn't like killing their champion's lore rival?), and we get a lot of mileage out of them. Plus, they leave open the potential for so many future stories!

When are we going to learn more about the nifty new Lore things you folks are cooking up?
And for the last question... as soon as we're able to talk about them. These things take a lot of time!

How does Zed stack in terms of physical strength / mental strength when compared to other champions?
I'm not really sure I understand the first question--he stacks up pretty well, I'd say, as champions are typically of comparable power levels.

Does he seek to fight the triumvirate or assassinate them or prove that his way is the best?
For the second question, Zed will prove his superiority in any way he can.

Has anyone embraced the knowledge of the shadows from Zed? Has he taken on a favorite student(apprentice, successor)?
He may have had a "favorite student" at one point... but this particular student is no longer a part of his Order. : O

So Zed is rival of Shen but what about Akali and Kennen?
His primary rival is Shen, but he is still a great enemy of Akali and Kennen.

Is Shen's father going to used more?
I'm not sure what you mean by "used" more, but he's an established character, so could potentially reference him in future stories.

Is Shen's lore going to be changed?
We will eventually do an update to Shen's lore to encompass more of his story with Zed, but we don't have an exact time frame of when this will happen.

Let's see... dark techniques that were hidden away long ago, resurrected by a vengeful individual who challenged the strictures and stance of an established organization. Sounds like Zed has an awful lot in common with Diana. What would these two think of each other?
These dark techniques are assumed to be corrupting (with no proof) and the Solari apparently saw no benefit in living in balance with a Moon-worshipping society; might there be a link here?
I talked about this a bit before. Their lives certainly have had some similarities, but they have little reason to interact. On top of that, both of them are pursuing their goals, which are pretty far removed from each other, as no connection between the Order of Shadow and the Lunari was intended.

Will Zed be raising an army against the balance, or at least his own faction of ninja's who oppose balance as Shen, Kennen, and Akali maintain it?
He's already got an army of sorts, and it will keep growing. They intend to end "balance" as Ionia has known it for so long--but of course, the Kinkou are going to try to stop them!

What is Zed's reasons for joining the league, instead of just killing the other ninjas beyond politics?
Mentioned before: he likely joins the League to pursue Shen, Akali, and Kennen. He could also be seeking more hidden knowledge or clues to lead him to forbidden power.

Has the skin Bladestorm Zed any relationship to his lore? Is it pre-shadow box Zed uniform? and if it is Shall we wait for a Shen "matching" skin?
No, his launch skin will have no connection to canon as of right now, sorry!

As were Zed and Shen friends outside of their rivalry? What does Zed think of the other two of the Kinkou Trio?
Shen had no animosity towards Zed initially. He saw him as a strong fellow student and respected him quite a bit. Perhaps he was even a little jealous of the fact that from his perspective, Zed's training was easier, as the master's training of Shen was incredibly strict. If they'd had a better understanding of each other, they might've ended up friends or at least allies.

Finally, if Zed and Shen were equally strong before Zed learned the forbidden arts, does that mean that Zed is stronger than Shen is right now? If not, what did Shen have to do to catch up to his former rival?
Zed thinks Akali is a powerful ninja whose talent is wasted with the Kinkou, and he thinks Kennen is a disgrace. 

Finally, Shen has come into his own as the Eye of Twilight. For the moment, he and Zed are likely evenly matched.

This is probably a little too much speculation, but Zed ordered his followers to kill the other ninjas. Was Zed just sitting around doing nothing while Shen saved a few of his clanmates? Because according to the lore, Zed had surpassed Shen in power, and if he had fought him head on, then none of them would have escaped alive, while the shadow ninjas slew everyone, and while Zed deals with Shen, unless Shen had grown stronger by following the path of balance through and true.
It is a lot of speculation for what we've spelled out in the bio. I don't want to get into too much detail, because we'd like to save the play-by-play for a space in which the story has room to breathe. Essentially, though, Shen wanted to fight Zed, but he focused his efforts on getting his fellows to safety. Despite Zed's efforts, Shen managed to escape. Shen had in fact grown stronger by following the path of balance--when Zed took over the temple, Shen had truly become the Eye of Twilight.

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