Zeratul is a sneaky melee assassin from the Starcraft universe. He’s one of my favorite heroes to play in Heroes of the Storm (HotS), and his mobility and overall play style is incredibly fun.
While he has some downsides (most importantly, his survivability), he’s certainly at the top of the food chain as an assassin. The following guide will show you Zeratul’s abilities, talents, and show you the basics of playing him.
Disclaimer: the recommended talents are based on my personal preferences and play style, and are by no means the only way to play Zeratul. It’s intended for newer players looking for a quick guide, and once you start grasping Zeratul’s basics you should experiment and see what works for you! Choice of talents may also depend on map or team composition.
- (Trait) Permanent Cloak: When you’re out of combat for 3 seconds you are automatically stealthed.
- (Q) Cleave: AoE attack dealing damage to all nearby enemies.
- (W) Singularity Spike: Skillshot which hits the first enemy unit or hero hit by it, dealing damage and slowing them.
- (E) Blink: As it’s name suggests, Blink will instantly teleport you to a targeted location. It also doesn’t break your stealth.
- (R) Shadow Assault: For 6 seconds your Basic Attacks (right-click on enemy) causes you to instantly dash to them, in addition to having 20% extra attack speed.
- (R) Void Prison: Significantly slows everything caught in the area, making all allies and enemies invulnerable to damage and unable to act for 5 seconds.
Below we’ll take a look at all Zeratul’s talents and give you a guide on which ones are best picked.
Level 1 Talents
- Block – Periodically reduces damage received from Hero Basic Attacks by 50%.
- Greater Cleave – Increases the radius of Cleave (Q) by 33%.
- Rapid Displacement – Reduces the cooldown of Blink by 1.5 seconds.
- Regeneration Master – Collecting regeneration globes permanently gives you a health regeneration bonus (4 HP/s for every 3 globes collected).
- Seasoned Marksman – Killing enemy minions, mercenaries, or heroes gives you a permanent attack damage bonus.
Recommended Level 1 Talents:
Seasoned Marksman is no doubt the best talent option here. The whole point of playing a melee assassin in Heroes of the Storm is to get kills, and by taking this talent you are further awarded for it. Every 6 minions and mercenaries killed near you will give you 1 attack damage, and every champion killed will give you 2. It can add up to a lot of extra damage if you can farm well and get some early kills, and can easily snowball you into victory.
Level 4 Talents
- Focused Attack – Every 10 seconds your next Basic Attack will deal 75% extra damage.
- Vampiric Assault – Basic attacks heal you for 15% of the damage dealt.
- Gathering Power – Passively grants Ability Power, and further stacks with champion kills.
- Sustained Anomaly – Singularity Spike (W) explodes for area damage and slows even if it doesn’t hit the target.
- Vorpal Blade – Active ability which teleports you to the last attacked enemy.
Recommended Level 4 Talents:
Focused Attack and Vorpal Blade are the two best ones in my opinion, with Vampiric Assault having its uses as well. If you’re looking for sneak attacks on squishy targets (which you usually do), Focused Attack gives you a great deal of extra burst damage.
Vorpal Blade is amazing since it gives you an easy chance to catch up to enemies if they get away with their escape abilities: great against champions like Valla which can easily get away. Another upside to Vorpal Blade is the fact you don’t have to use Blink to chase enemies, but rather save it for escaping.
Lastly Vampiric Assault gives you a great deal of sustain if you’re constantly attacking minions, and very much helps you clear Mercenary camps without the help of your team. Some players consider this talent situational, but if you feel the need for sustain this is the best option.
Level 7 Talents
- Follow Through – Using an ability empowers your next basic attack giving it a 40% damage bonus.
- Void Slash – Cleave deals additional 30% damage if used while stealthed.
- Shadow Spike – Using Singularity Spike (W) doesn’t break your stealth and has increased range.
- First Aid – Active ability healing you for 35% of your max health over 6 seconds.
- Searing Attacks – Active ability increasing your basic attack damage for 50% for 5 seconds, but draining 15 mana per attack.
Recommended Level 7 Talents:
Like level 4 talents, on level 7 you have plenty of viable choices as well. My preference usually is Searing Attacks, since it gives you a ridiculous amount of damage for a short period, but typically enough to get rid of any squishy opponent.
Follow Through is yet another quick burst-damage tool you can use, and if you overall have trouble managing your mana you may want to consider it instead of Searing Attacks.
First Aid is actually a very viable choice as well, considering you don’t have many defensive tools at your disposal this can help keep you alive when focused in teamfights or smaller skirmishes.
Of the two ultimate spells, I definitely prefer Shadow Assault. The way it allows you to stick to your target (or even dash around in a pinch) is remarkable, and paired with your other gap closers and escape abilities it’s my absolute favorite.
The second Heroic spell Void Prison is very situational, and while it may look good remember that all allies and enemies caught in the zone will be invulnerable for the duration. Only later on with a Level 20 Talent can you not affect your allies, however it’s still a fairly situational spell, and in nearly all cases Shadow Assault will be a much better option.
Level 13 Talents
- Giant Killer – Basic Attacks to enemy Heroes deal extra damage equal to 1.5% of their max health.
- Burning Rage – Passively deals damage to all nearby enemies.
- Wormhole – For 3 seconds after using Blink, you can activate it again to return to your starting location.
- Assassin’s Blade – Increases move speed by 10% while stealthed, and gives you 25% extra attack damage for 5 seconds upon leaving stealth.
- Spell Shield – Upon taking Ability Damage, reduce that damage and further Ability Damage by 50% for 2 seconds. Can only trigger once every 30 seconds.
Recommended Level 13 Talents:
Wormhole or Assassin’s Blade, depending on your preference and needs. Lets take a look at pros and cons of each one.
If you’re mostly dealing with squishy targets which are unlikely to fight back, Assassin’s Blade will add EVEN more burst damage after you de-stealth. Paired with Searing Attacks and Focused Attack talents mentioned above, you become an absolute monster very few heroes can deal with.
Wormhole on the other hand gives you an amazing ability for hit-and-run attacks: start attacking your enemy from stealth (or just Blink on them like a boss), get a few quick attacks in to deal tons of damage, and simply Blink back if it won’t work out. Or simply continue hitting them until they’re dead.
For teams who stick together and are likely to crowd-control and focus you down, Wormhole would certainly be a superior talent choice, but for everything else Assassin’s Blade will make you even more of a beast.
Level 16 Talents
- Rending Cleave – Cleave (Q) deals additional 50% damage over 5 seconds.
- Double Bombs – After casting Singularity Spike (W), Zerathul can cast it again for free within 3 seconds.
- Stoneskin – Active spell lasting 5 seconds giving you a shield equal to 30% of your maximum health.
- Berserk – 4-second duration active ability increasing your attack speed by 40% and movement speed by 10%.
Recommended Level 16 Talents:
I typically take Stoneskin or Berserk. Your damage and ability to stick to your target is likely beyond ridiculous at this point already, so extra damage from Berserk is often unnecessary. Stoneskin is a very decent defensive spell, especially when paired with First Aid; using both can often prevent you from being CCed and focused in fights.
Level 20 Talents
- Nerazim Fury – Shadow Assault (R) grants 20% lifesteal for the duration, and lasts 50% longer.
- Protective Prison – Void Prison heroic ability no longer affects allies.
- Nexus Blades – Basic attacks slow enemies for 1 second and deal 20% extra damage.
- Rewind – Resets all Basic Ability (QWE) cooldowns.
Recommended Level 20 Talents:
More sustain during Shadow Assault, more damage and slowing basic attacks, or double/quad Blinks? Tough choices once again.
Double Blink/Wormhole combo is funny as heck, but besides its entertainment value I tend to skip Rewind. Nexus Blades is great since it further increases your basic attack damage (by a whooping 20% no less), and perma-slowing your enemies ensures they go down in case your other billion gap-closers and slows fail to put them to death.
In majority of matches I pick Nerazim Fury, giving my Shadow Assault ultimate a 9-second duration in total, and giving me a ridiculous 30% lifesteal for the duration. Although it may not always be up, this Heroic ability is generally enough to catch and kill any target you like, thus making the other two passives above seem a bit sub-optimal in comparison.
Adapt your talent choices from game to game depending on your needs. If you want more talent builds as well as other must-know strategies and tactics for Zeratul which will skyrocket your winrate click here.
Recommended Talent Build
This is my recommended build for Zeratul:
- Level 1: Seasoned Marksman
- Level 4: Vampiric Assault
- Level 7: Searing Attacks
- Level 10: Shadow Assault
- Level 13: Assassin’s Blade
- Level 16: Berserk
- Level 20: Nexus Blades
This works for me best in a majority of my games. You should always consider multiple factors when choosing a build, including your team, opposing heroes, and the map you play on, but if you’re ever in doubt as to which talents to pick you can simply choose the ones I recommend.
Be sure to share your opinions and Zeratul builds in the comments below this guide!
Zeratul is a great hero choice for everyone looking to annihilate their enemies. He has a wide range of abilities and talents that perfectly synergize together and make him do exactly what he was designed to do. While his overall survivability and defenses are lower than that of some other melee assassins, Zeratul is still my favorite choice for the role.
Also being a fan of samurai I simply can’t resist playing him in the Ronin skin:
I hope my Zeratul guide helps you devastate your enemies in the Nexus. If you have any suggestions or preferences on the best way to build him be sure to blink your thoughts in the comments below.