In 1.09, the zealot was undoubtedly one of the most difficult classes to master. Tons of PK games would be open at one time, all of which were full of some of the best players on Battle.net. The 1.10 patch has been considered by many to be the twilight of the zealot, since once-great duelers are now barely able to make it through Hell mode in PvM.
Despite this change, a zealot renaissance has taken place recently. Since the novelty of the other classes has started to wear off, people have begun to try and perfect the tried-and-true Fanatic Zealot. This guide is designed to explain the new aspects of zeal dueling in 1.10. All of these builds have been tested and retested by some of the best zealots on USWEST.
Some of you may know me as Stoutwood from USWEST. For awhile I was one of the few manner zealots on the entire realm. However, almost everyone has picked up zealot dueling now, and many of them demanded a guide. This guide is for the veterans as well as anyone who is new to the area of zealot dueling.
This guide will contain information on the four main variations of the Fanatic Zealot, specifically Raw Damage, the Deadly Strike, Open Wounds, and Elemental. As a side note, these zealots are built to Temple specifications. This means that they aren’t built to use aura stacking gear, Call to Arms, excessive poison (over 300), slow, or enchant. Don’t panic if you are planning on using these items though. All of these builds, when outfitted with non-Temple gear, performed far better than their opponents, who had been built specifically to use it. This is because these gears only boost performance, and when a paladin already performs at a high level to begin with, he will be unstoppable when he boosts his already considerable skills.
Finally, there is one more important thing to realize: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE RICH TO WIN DUELS! I know this comes as a shock to many of you, but a few of these builds can be very deadly using rather common gear. Several of these optimum builds will cost far less to build than most melee duelers, and a few won’t even require ethereal items to be at their best. Still, as a general rule, try and get a hold of ethereal gear whenever possible.
v2.1 Note: Recent tests by Garbad have proven that the range theory is incorrect. It has been edited out of the guide.
Since 1.10, zealots have become far more specialized. While Barbarians are no longer your worst enemy, most of the other classes are invincible to whatever you can dish out. A lucky charge may take out Necros, Zons, Assassins, and Elemental Druids, but for the most part, stay away from casters! This guide is for melee duels, especially Paladin vs Paladin (you will NOT have much luck against Hammerdins and Smiters).
Since zealots are basically click and hold duels, most of the skill will lie in choosing the right gear for your opponent. After that, it becomes a game of chance with the winner (usually) being the person with the better setup for the occasion. There are only three things to remember:
1. WALK INTO A FIGHT! – This keeps your blocking at 75% (which is where it should be). If you run into your duel, your blocking is lowered significantly, which is an easy way to lose a duel.
2. DO NOT OPEN WITH A CHARGE! – Charge increases the opponent’s chance of Critical Striking you, reduces you chance to block, and you will probably miss him anyway. It’s not worth the risk.
3. ALWAYS TRY TO GET 50% DAMAGE REDUCE – If you don’t reduce damage you don’t survive hits. Keep your damage reduce above 40% at all costs.
The patch introduced several new things to dueling. Probably the most important thing to understand is the new synergy system. Basically, you get a passive bonus from investing in skills that you had no reason to consider otherwise. YOU MUST SPEND THE POINT ON THE SKILL TO GET THE BONUS. Every now and then some moron puts on a ton of +skill gear thinking he will get the synergy bonus. Well it ain’t so. Anyway, assuming you get your character to level 99 (a near-impossibility nowadays), you should be able to max 5 skills with 3 skill points left over. Here is a breakdown of all the skills that will ever concern you as a zealot.
Zeal - Your primary skill. Always max this skill no matter what your build is. Adds to Attack Rating and enhances your damage.
Fanaticism – Also another must. This aura gives you insane damage when maxed, adds to your Attack Rating, and increases your attack speed as the icing on the cake. Quite possibly the best melee aura in existence.
Holy Shield – If you don’t max this, you won’t have enough defense to last 2 seconds against a seasoned dueler. Not to mention your blocking will suck. Make sure you always have this maxed!
Note: Holy shield is activated passively, similar to Battle Orders. Keep a Rose Branded Scepter and a Herald of Zakarum on switch and use them to cast Holy Shield and increase your defense. This is known as prebuffing.
Sacrifice – This is a synergy that adds 12% enhanced damage to Zeal per point. This is something that all physical damage zealots should consider maxing. With the right weapons, it will increase your damage dramatically.
Defiance – Another synergy that adds 15% enhanced defense per point to Holy Shield. Max this if you are a more defensive player. A paladin with maxed Holy Shield and Defiance is very difficult to hit.
Blessed Aim – This skill doesn’t really count as a synergy per se, but it does passively increase your Attack Rating by 5% per point. Use this if you really want to reach out and touch someone. A lot. Until they die.
Salvation – The quintessential one-point wonder. Handy for leveling your pally to sickening levels and fighting non-paladin classes (and FoH). Put one point in it to max your resists in Hell. If that doesn’t appeal to you, leave it alone.
Cleansing – This aura comes in handy when you are leveling. It gets rid of that nasty Iron Maiden which causes zealots so much pain and suffering. Not required, but certainly worth considering.
Stat Point Allocation
There are two ways to do this. One is listen to me and make a versatile Paladin. The other gives you a Paladin with set gear and insanely high life. Both can be very good.
Strength – 140
Dexterity – 105+
Vitality – Everything else.
Energy – 15 (meaning you put NO points into it)
This allows you to switch between weapons and gear to fit every situation you may come across. You won’t have nearly as much life as the other build, but you will be far more flexible in a fight. This is how my points are allocated.
Strength – 30 (i.e. no points)
Dexterity – 105+
Vitality – Everything Else (this will be a huge number)
Energy – 15
This build requires that you use an Enigma with low strength requirements along with +STR gear that will get your strength high enough to use it. Not very flexible but it gives you an insane amount of life, and that is always nice to have.
Note: From now on this guide will assume you have something similar to a Versatility setup. If you decided on the Survivability setup, some of this information may not be pertinent.
All zealots pretty much use the same defensive gear. The only thing that changes is what you socket into them.
Crown of Ages – This is truly one beastly helm. With resists, damage reduce, +1 to skills, good defense, and a possibility of 2 sockets, there’s not much more you could ask for in a helm. Unfortunately it has a high STR requirement, and it kind of sucks when it doesn’t have 2 sockets. It is also prohibitively expensive. If it doesn’t have two sockets, default to the next option. Otherwise, don’t hesitate to use this bad boy.
Harlequin Crest – A helm second only, if not equal to the Crown of Ages. Never mind the fact that it looks like a gangrenous cow scrotum, this thing has all the stats one could ever want. It’s lacking in the looks and defense department though.
Rockstopper – A much underrated helm in my opinion. It looks cool, has resists, damage reduce, vit, and faster hit recovery. A great option for the frugal paladin.
Guillaume’s Face – This helm has received little mention in most strategy guides for some reason or another. Many people overlook it simply because of how common it is. Don’t be fooled. It gives 15% Deadly Strike, 30% FHR, and +15 to strength. It even has Crushing Blow for those pesky monsters. Pair this helm up with Magnus’ Skin gloves and you have a force to be reckoned with.
Vampire Gaze – Kind of outdated with the advent of 1.10. Its only saving grace is the 20% damage reduce. Some people (not me) like the way it looks too.
Andariel’s Visage (Ladder Only) – A high level requirement and not much payoff. It has skills, IAS, and poison resists, but it’s hideous and it has no damage reduce. Stick with anything mentioned above unless you get this thing for free, which is likely since it sucks.
Delirium – A new runeword helm with interesting mods. A few are handy, but most of the helms above are cheaper and better.
Stone – A new runeword that could quite possibly be the ultimate armor for a zealot. It has insane defense against melee, even more insane def against missile, resists, vit, and tons of FHR. Cheap to make but expensive to repair.
Arkaine’s Valor – When this thing has +2 to skills watch out! It adds plenty to vit and has lots of defense. It’s also cheap.
The Gladiator’s Bane – Another underrated armor. It has Cannot be Frozen, FHR and Poison Length reduce. Add a healthy dose of high defense and affordability and you have a winner. High level requirement though.
Leviathan (Ladder Only) – An armor with tons of good stats, assuming you can stand the ugly green color and the high STR requirements. Nothing outstanding other than damage reduce and good defense but nevertheless excellent for PvP.
Duress – A new runeword armor with excellent melee mods. Consider using it if damage is more of a concern than defense.
Prudence – A cool new runeword armor that adds resists, FHR, and defense. Oh yeah, and it repairs itself. Definitely worth trying if you have 2 socket ethereal armor.
Shaftstop – An old favorite. It has damage reduce and it adds life. If you’re on ladder,
upgrade it and it becomes one of the best armors in the game. Also very nice when ethereal.
Steel Carapace – It has high defense and it repairs itself. Only rates this high if it’s ethereal.
Templar’s Might – No doubt about it, this armor will give you tons of defense, especially if it’s ethereal. Unfortunately its other mods are so-so, and the STR requirement is insanely high. If you can wear this armor, consider remaking your paladin.
Duriel’s Shell – Another old-school favorite. It has killer resists, adds life, and cannot be frozen. When upgraded it rocks.
Enigma – Another runeword armor that is essential for the Survivability variant of zealot. Its only saving grace is the STR addition and the +2 skills.
Chains of Honor – No.
Stormshield – The first and still the best. It has damage reduce and good resists. It has a high STR requirement, but an Annihilus will fix that. I suggest this unless you absolutely must have a Paladin Only shield.
Alma Negra – This shield is for the heavy hitter. It adds +2 skills, enhanced damage, attack rating, and it has good defense. It’s lacking in resists and you will have to socket everything with a Ber rune to survive with it. Otherwise it’s an excellent shield.
Herald of Zakarum – An old classic that is overrated in zealot duels. It’s good to have for prebuffing, but otherwise it’s lacking in areas that the Alma Negra excels at. The resists on it are handy for fighting Elementals, and its skills and AR bonuses are nothing to be sneered at. Still, take one of the above if you have the option.
Exile – Yes it’s very good. Now leave me alone. This guide doesn’t concern this type of gear.
Bloodfist – They are easy to find and still the best gloves. Life and FHR, what more could you ask?
Dracul’s Grasp – Since I despise life tap, I have decided that the only redeeming quality of these gloves is the 25% Chance of Open Wounds. Use these on the Open Wounds Zealot.
Magnus’ Skin – They add AR and tons of IAS. They are also cheap. Go get yourself a pair, and if you have a Guillaume’s Face, try using that as well.
Crafted/Rare Gloves – These can spawn with great mods. You can get resists and IAS, not to mention the Crushing Blow on the Blood Gloves. The choices above are usually better though.
Steelrends – They’re heavy. They’re slow. And they look like a pair of steel oven mitts. If this doesn’t bother you give ‘em a shot. They add to damage at least.
Immortal King’s Forge – If you’re in need of strength and dex, these are the gloves for you. They also have a nice partial set bonus of 25% IAS if you use them with the boots.
Verdungo’s Hearty Cord – This is the single best belt ever conceived. It adds tons of vit and it has Damage reduce. A must for most zealots.
String of Ears – Another outmoded belt, it is still cheap and readily available. Get it for the DR, but don’t expect anything else out of it.
Trang-Oul’s Girth – If you don’t need damage reduce, then consider this belt. It adds Cannot Be Frozen, life, and several other useful mods.
Gore Riders – Great boots for any melee character. Deadly strike, OW, and Crushing Blow. Definitely try and get some of these.
Classic Rares – These are old .08 rares that have since been mass duped. They usually have FR/W, FHR, and great resists. Not a bad choice by any means.
Immortal King’s Pillar – Speedy boots that add to AR and life. Definitely worth considering if the above options don't appeal to you. Consider using them with IK gloves for the partial set bonuses.
Sandstorm Trek – Good stats include poison resists, FHR, Strength, and Vitality. They also have Self-Repair mod, so if you get an ethereal pair you will get some extra def. Most of the above boots are better, but this is still a decent choice.
Waterwalks – Well, they have life and dexterity. Can’t have everything.
Raw Damage Zealot
This guy is designed to hit hard and hit often. He doesn’t need any of them fancy things like “Deadly Strike” or “Open Wounds”, he just beats the crap out of his opponents until they can’t take anymore. They are rather common and are considered somewhat generic. At 99, he should shoot for something like this:
Zeal – 20
Fanaticism – 20
Holy Shield – 20
Sacrifice – 20
Defiance – 20
Zeal – 20
Fanaticism – 20
Holy Shield – 20
Sacrifice – 20
Blessed Aim – 20
Breath of the Dying – By now, everyone knows about this runeword. It adds tons of damage and has tons of other raunchy stats that will leave your opponent a bloody heap. Don’t assume that the Berserker is the best choice though. The War Spike has much more consistent damage and is still capable of hitting 4 fps when you're fighting a Doom user. Usually BotD is your best choice for this build.
High-End Rares – Rares can now spawn with insanely high eds (up to 450%), and the Raw Damage Zealot should take full advantage of this. A good rare will do more damage than BotD and be original too. Rares also drop far more often than Vex and Zod runes do. Keep an eye out and always identify rare weapons, since you can always upgrade them.
Stormlash – High max but low min. Not the best choice.
Heaven’s Light (Ladder Only)/The Redeemer – Both of these scepters are pretty much the same. They each have their advantages and nuances as well. The Redeemer does more damage and has almost no requirements, while the Heaven’s Light is faster and has two open sockets. Nonetheless, these weapons are both painfully slow, and you will be using lots of IAS gear to hit the max frame rate.
Cruel Weapons – If you have any of these laying around from 1.09, give ‘em a shot. They aren’t as bad as you may think.
Angelic Amulet/Ring(s) – The Attack rating that you get from these items makes sure that you will hit often. Since you do tons of damage anyway, you might as well hit them a lot right?
Highlord’s Wrath/Raven Frosts – Some people decide that they have more than enough AR and decide to add some sweet Deadly Strike on top of their massive damage. You won’t hit nearly as often with this setup, but when you do, they will feel it.
You will mostly be using either Fine/Sharp Charms of Vita or Steel Charms of Vita. Try and fill you entire inventory.
Hsarus’ Belt/Boots – This set works great with this build also. They add tons of defense and Attack Rating. They will drop your DR if you are depending on a belt for it though.