For the record, I cannot play Zeratul very well. I understand the basic principle of going after the weak ones and finishing them off from the shadows. But as my kill/death ratio with Zeratul can attest, understanding and execution are two completely different things. I always seem to find myself flailing into the middle of team battles completely without realizing what I’m doing. But like when I first picked up Starcraft, I am determined to be good at this character. I will throw myself at Zeratul until one of us breaks. Or there are babies.
I do not know the meaning of tact, by the way.
So. Zeratul is a melee assassin, can be very bursty, and is best for picking off team members who are weakened and separated from the pack. He’s permanently cloaked when out of combat (though if you’ve played Starcraft enough he’s not hard to spot), so is great for skirting the edge of battle and jumping in when the killing opportunity is ripe. He’s also, or so I’ve seen watching a friend who is scary good with Zeratul, snaking camps and golem skulls on that one map quickly on his own. So there’s a lot of variety to be had when playing him. If I could just stop dying. That’s one of my New Year’s goals - stop dying so damn much as Zeratul.
I’ve played enough, though, to have an idea how I would like to play Zeratul, and that’s as a super-bursty shadow stalker. It is the best feeling in the world to pop out of cloak and finish off a hero who is over half health in a couple seconds. I’ve pulled it off a couple times, and my black little heart swells every time. So the build I use amps up basic attacks as much as possible, as well as the Cleave ability and damage dealt when leaving cloak.
Speaking of Cleave, here’s the lowdown on his basic talents.
Cleave: Deals damage to enemies in a circle around Zeratul. Always good to be in cloak before one Cleaves, but that’s not always possible. Its pretty much your standard murder-you-in-the-face move.
Singularity Spike: This is Zeratul’s ranged attack, hitting a target for damage and also slowing them. If a hero manages to escape your initial assault, this can slow them down enough for you to close in. If you can hit with it, which I often can’t. Like I said, I flail around with Zeratul like an angry child.
Blink: Oh, Blink. The greatest of escape maneuvers. The ultimate get-the-fuck-out. Pair that with the cloak after 3 (3? I’m pretty sure that’s what the patch notes said) seconds can save your bacon when you extend yourself too far into enemy territory trying for a kill.
Like I said, my Zeratul build tries to make the most of his basic attack paired with Cleave for maximum quick damage.
Level 1: I always take Seasoned Marksman, which increases your basic attack damage per minion killed. Zeratul is pretty good at laning on his own (see: cloak and Blink), so why not beef up the basic attack while you’re doing that? Why not, indeed. When I first started I would take Greater Cleave, but an increased radius isn’t as helpful as having more murderous basic attacks I’ve found. Regeneration Master can make you a little less squishy, but where’s the fun in that?
Level 4: This is a toss-up between Vampiric Assault (basic attacks heal you) and Gathering Power (extra ability damage). Speaking of being less squishy, I usually end up taking Vampiric Assault because I know I’m terrible and I feel I should at least try to make things easier for myself and the team.
Level 7: Rending Cleave is my choice here. Dealing extra damage over time plus have beefed up attacks from Seasoned Marksman can make you pretty devastating in a fight. And it makes the quick kills I’m going for happen even faster. Kill, Blink, vamoose is pretty much what I’m going for.
Level 10: Shadow Assault makes you attack faster and you charge at enemies. Its not the flashiest of ultimates, but I like it. A good reason for that is I can’t use Void Prison for squat. I am not the best at strategery, and will likely trap my own team in the thing so they can get killed when it ends. I am a holy terror with Void Prison, and not in a good way.
Level 13: Assassin’s Blade! More damage when breaking cloak, which is why it’s important to stay out of the line of fire before trying for a kill. One thing I love about this build is all the passive bonuses means I don’t have to worry about a bunch of extra abilities and can just spam Q as fast as my chubby little fingers can.
Level 16: Void Slash is another one that gives you extra damage when breaking cloak. As far as I know it stacks with Assassin’s Blade so breaking cloak with a well placed Cleave can be just heartbreaking for whoever’s on the other end of it.
Level 20: Not going to lie, on pretty much every hero I play I take the upgraded version of the Level 10 Ultimate ability. Nerazim Fury gives Shadow Assault life steal and a longer duration, making Zeratul a powerhouse of quick and painful death.
So that is my Zeratul. Its simplified, as I took all passive bonuses and no extra abilities. It makes him a little easier to play which is satisfying for me. Now if only I could actually play this build the way I visualize it done in my head! This is all making me really want to play Heroes, so I think I’m going to go do that. Peace, y’all.