Well since there's nothing better to do while we wait for the reset, I figured I'd start out a new zon fresh and see what works best using nothing but shops and drops, completely untwinked and unrushed, no Trist or Tombs etc., just as though I was starting out on a fresh ladder with no high-levels to coattail behind.
My plan was just to get a zon to L30; by then, you'll have access to all your skills, and to most of the noteworthy low-level gear and runewords, whenever you can acquire them. This was just an experiment for a "proto-zon" that could metamorphose to any other brand of zon
What I found was that pure Plague Javazons seem to be the best and easiest zon from L1 through L30. They have a potent AoE attack, dont chug mana like other zon skills, and arent completely dependent on having a powerful weapon. Here's how I've gone so far:
Skills: Max Plague Jav. 1 pt in Jab, Charged Strike, D/A/E, Penetrate and all prereqs. 5 hard points in Crit. That uses up all your points at L24, and then just keep sticking points in Plague Jav till L30. Make sure you save enough points before lvls 6, 12, and 18 to take all the skills when they unlock!
Weapon: Gambled javelin-class weapon with mana leech. You need to be able to sustain your special attacks.
Shield: whatever has the highest blocking chance.
Helm: Nadir Helm when you can make one
Armor: Stealth Breastplate when you can make one.
Belt, Gloves: dex, str, FHR, whatever. Fire Resists become important once you hit A4.
Jewelry: +energy/mana is very useful until you find leech jewelry
Merc: A1 cold arrow soon as you can get one, then switch to an A2 Prayer when you get to A2 and shop a spear/polearm with LL.
Stats: DEX to keep your blocking maxed at all times. The rest of your points go into STR until you have 40 (for Short Spear), and probably eventually 52 (for Glaive, once they become gamblable). Then, your extra points go to VIT and ENE as needed. You wont need a ton of max life with a Prayer merc and max block and D/E/A, and the extra mana will help your regen rate. Mana=offense, life=defense.
Playstyle: Charge ahead and aggro the room. Plague Jav at point blank range once monsters are all headed your way. You'll have to get a feel, if you're not used to it, how to best time and aim Plague Jav so that the AoE hits the most monsters. Try not to let your merc go off on his own and attract monsters away from your Plague AoE. Jab can be your LMB attack once you gamble a ML weapon, and of course you Jab between Plagues.
===Act by Act Journal===
A1) Play through solo up until you get Black Marsh WP, including Cain. Hit Blood Raven if you can to get a merc before L8. Solo Trist runs are good for drops for equipping or selling for gambling cash, and will get you up to L12 or so. After that, do Tower runs in solo or MP games till L18, which should let you save up all the runes you need for Stealth and Nadir. Once you hit L18, you have CS and Plague, so go ahead and advance to A2. Dont forget to use CS vs Andy.
A2) Switch to your A2 merc ASAP. Buy a 2os Breast Plate and Helm from the shop and make your Nadir and Stealth. Buy a white Short Spear to imbue, if you want, and hope for ML. Get a cube if you want one right now. You can solo up to Canyon (skipping the Maggot Lair), or do Far Oasis in MP games to level. From L20-24, Canyon in MP games is fastest. Once that dries out, you can backtrack to Maggot Lair, and then finish off Duriel and go to A3.
A3) This is the worst part. By now you might be able to beg someone for Travincal WP, and I wouldnt blame you, but if you cant, you're just running the jungle solo. There's little of value in A3 Norm, so just try to get through the act as quick as possible. Once you have Trav WP, if you join a game made by someone already past A3 (Chaos or Baal games), the steps to Durance should be open and you can just run past the Council and head down to get the Durance WP...wait until the game empties to make it easier on yourself, though Create a new game, and Durance and Meph should be no trouble.
A4) Watch out for the Balrog's fire attack, its nasty if you havent gotten some fire resists yet. A 2Diamond or 2 Ruby Bone Shield (shoppable in A2 iirc) might be good to switch to (you'll have the dex for max block), if your shield doesnt have res. Let your merc trek ahead and Plague from a distance, then you can close to melee and clean up. A4 is good exp in MP games if you're not dying too much, and once you hit Chaos you'll find it easy to get people to join up for exp runs that should take you to 30. Hopefully your HF drops an Amn (highest you can get on Normal HF) for you to make your merc a Strength spear for the CB and LL, or save it for an Edge bow if you're going bowazon past L30.
A5 and post-game) A5 is when Sol and Shael first drop, opening up the options of Lore, Rhyme, Peace, and Insight. Depending when you're able to acquire better gear, now is when you'll start looking at using that respec to change to your true zon build. Bowazons will probably want to look at Edge until you can make Harmony. Javazons will want the +skills from Peace and Lore, and Rhyme for blocking and CBF. Both will more or less require an Insight merc until you're doing enough physical damage to rely on ML, but that probably wont be until 40+. You'll need, IIRC, a polearm found in WSK for 4os, though. Once you get past 30, your offensive power will shoot up rapidly, and you'll probably be able to find Baal runs for quick exp by now.