Zeratul - Master Assassin Guide by Switchblade

Zeratul - Master Assassin Guide

By: Switchblade
Last Updated: Jan 3, 2015
76 Votes
Build 1 of 1

Zeratul

Build: Master Assassin

Level 1
Level 4
Level 7
Level 10
Level 13
Level 16
Level 20

Threats to Zeratul with this build

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Threat Hero Notes
1
Abathur Abathur himself is an easy target for you. In lane he can be annoying but not really a big threat for most of the game.
1
Murky Easy to kill but just keeps coming back. Make sure you try to avoid his DoTs as they can start to add up.
1
Azmodan Easy pickings honestly. He has zero escapes and is kinda squishy. To make matters worse for Azmodan is that you will often find him in a lane all by himself.
2
Nazeebo Pretty easy target for Zeratul. He doesn't really have a good escape. If you get caught in zombie wall you can blink your way over or cleave your way through it.
2
Li Li Li Li isn't a huge threat at all. Her passive can be annoying but with Shadow Assault up you'll be able to keep up with her no problem.
3
Gazlowe Gazlowe will be an easy target for you most of the time. Don't fight him if he is standing behind a bunch of turrets though. Make sure to not stand in his AoE's either.
3
Sgt. Hammer Hammer does have some annoying burst and self peel for herself. However after the initial burst you should be able to just shadow assault her to death, especially if she doesn't have any additional peel.
4
Tyrande Tyrande can put out some decent damage for a support. Avoid fighting her in her star fall because if you get stunned as well you can be taken to dangerously low health early on.
4
Zagara Zagara doesn't have any escapes so she's easy prey for you. You want to try and burst her down quickly. If you allow her Zerg minions to continue to hit you, it's going to be a painful death. Blink over her Devouring Maw to continue the assault.
5
Nova Nova is the highest burst damage hero in the game. If she gets the jump on you it's most likely over for you. However if you get the jump on her it's completely over for her.
5
Raynor Raynor puts out some good damage, especially with his banshees following him around. You need to make sure not to go all in if he still has adrenaline rush up. Try to proc that before re-engaging him.
5
Valla Valla can be tough to deal with if you don't have Shadow Assault up. She life steals like pro and has the same mobility as you. This is more of a skill match up or who gets the jump on who first.
5
Falstad Falstad does good damage but you should be able to out burst him. You can blink his Shock and Awe and continue to damage him.
5
Zeratul Facing an enemy Zeratul is always interesting. Make sure you pay attention to which heroic ability he chose and not to activate your Shadow Assault too early. The hero that gets the jump on the other wins 8 out of 10 times, so be weary of this.
5
Illidan Illidan vs Zeratul is always a fun one. This can depend largely if you get jumped on or not. His evasive passive and shields make it hard for you to burst with auto attacks. Try to activate Shadow Assault after his evasion is down in order to do maximum DPS. Also if you get the jump on him you should win 9 out of 10 times.
5
Jaina This can either go very good for you or very bad. It's more of a skill match up, if you can time when to go in and dodge her stuff it's easy. If she has water elemental it makes the fight harder, especially if she has Ice Block. Just watch out if she gets the jump on you, you will be popped pretty quickly.
6
E.T.C. This guy has so much CC it's annoying. He doesn't really out damage you, but he can keep himself alive long enough for teammates to get to him. In a team fight he is extra annoying so be very weary of him.
6
Malfurion Another high CC champion but with good heals. You have to try and dodge his root as best as you can. If he took silence as his heroic ability, you can activate shadow assault early because he can't silence once activated. Team fights can be very difficult too because it's hard to burst down champs when his healing ability is up. If you go in early and get silenced that can be a big problem too.
6
Rehgar If you don't have Shadow Assault up you won't be able to kill this hero, especially if he has his heroic heal up. He doesn't do a ton of damage but has a lot of sustain. It's best to try and catch him off guard and make him want to flee instead of trading.
7
Kerrigan Just like in Starcraft, the Queen of Blades makes for a tough match up. Not only does her damage rival yours, but she has added CC on top of it. The key here is to get the jump on her and unleash your combo before she can really react. Blink out of her Primal Grasp so you don't get caught in her full combo. If she is the one initiating and she has Maelstrom or Ultralisk active, avoid fighting her until those go away before reengaging.
7
Tychus Tycus is such a strong champion. You effectively have to take down two health bars which is tough to do for a burst assassin. When dueling, if you burst him down low enough before he pops Odin, you might be able to trade and kill that too. If he activates it early and you take too much damage just blink away and let his Odin expire.
7
Sonya Sonya is one of those warriors who not only has good damage, but the mobility and health pool to keep up with you. It can be extremely difficult winning a 1 v 1 against her, especially if she has a lot of rage built up. Approach with extreme caution!
8
Diablo Diablo is a pretty scary hero. He don't exactly out damage you in anyway, but he brings ridiculous CC to the table. In team fights if he gets a hold of you, there is a good chance you are going to die. And please don't stand in lightning breath, you will get destroyed!
8
Stitches You are able to duel stitches, but the problem lays with his hooks and gorge. If you are dueling then he decides to gorge you, he will most likely take you back to his team to die. In team fights try to avoid him until 2 or 3 of the enemy is down.
8
Muradin One of the more tankier guys in the game. He can be a tough opponent for you if they know what they are doing. Watch out for hay maker when dueling. If he chooses avatar you are going to be getting stunned quite often.
8
Chen Chen won't out damage you, but he's pretty annoying. He can soak up damage with his shield, hop around and slow you, and both of his Heroic Abilities will negate you pretty hardcore. Pick your spots when engaging him alone.
8
Anub'arak As of the latest patch he can't lock you up as much nor do as much damage. Because of this I have lowered him a few threat levels. He's still dangerous and slippery though, so don't under estimate the match up.
9
Tyrael You should be afraid, very afraid. Tyreal has good damage and a really good ult that can easily single you and in a team fight. 1 v 1 you can beat him but I don't usually recommend attempting this due to how long it takes to beat him.
9
Arthas Arthas can 100 - 0 you over time. Especially if his has undead army as his heroic ability. In team fights he has a lot of cc and self sustain that you should avoid him till last if possible.
10
Uther Uther is one major pain in the butt. Not only does he have CC for days, but he can heal and put out okay damage. His passive also gives him another 8 seconds of life to make your life miserable.
10
Tassadar You should be very terrified of Tassadar. He counters every single thing you do, including your cloaked ability. He has shields for days, good damage and Archon form is brutal. Avoid him in lane at all costs and be very weary of him in team fights!
10
Brightwing Brightwing gets bumped to 10 because of the rewind and fountain healing changes. She can now remove you from a fight for 6 seconds straight. She has good CC, good healing, decent damage, and short cooldowns. In a team fight she will most likely save her polymorph for you so you have to be extremely careful when engaging.

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Hey guys, Switchblade here. We are going to go over my favorite hero in HoTS. Zeratul is a very versatile assassin that excels at picking off targets and getting out before anything can be done to him. When mastered, you will be able to pick off all squishy targets with ease and will have the ability to solo most heroes as well.

This is a build I use in over 80% of my Solo Q games. If you have your own team or are queuing up with 3 or more friends then you may want to adjust to your teams needs and probably take Void Prison as your Heroic Ability. I hope you guys enjoy and learn something about Zeratul!

Additional Info - I have been getting a lot of requests to do a more team fight / higher MMR guide. I will do this when I can, but working on a few other things first. Be patient! <3

***UPDATED FOR JAINA PATCH - ALSO ADDED NEW GAME PLAY COMMENTARY***

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(Trait) Permanent Cloak

Permanent Cloak is one of the best passives in the game and allows Zeratul to be Zeratul. While you are cloaked you can't be targeted by skills directly and only AOE attacks will knock you out of it. In order to play Zeratul effectively, you must master his passive. It is very hard to get a beat on you when a team fight is erupting because of this ability. You should be able to sneak in, do your damage and peace out before they know what hit them.

(Q) Cleave

Cleave is Zeratul's main AOE ability. It has a short ranged but does pretty good burst damage and it's on a short cooldown. When assassinating a target you want to try to use this mid combo. Just don't be fooled by it's range, you can easily wiff this ability if you aren't paying attention.

(W) Singularity Spike

Zeratul's skill shot Singularity Spike does high damage and has many uses, especially after level 16. When you are trying to assassinate a squishy target, try to land your spike before starting your combo. This will ensure you are able to stick to the target so you can continue your burst damage. If you decide to take Sustained Anomaly you will have even greater utility and another AOE. When you hit level 16 you will be doing "Tons of Damage" because you will be able to use your second bomb.

(E) Blink

Blink could quite possibly be the best ability in the game, or at the very least the best escape in the game. It has a very low cooldown, allows you traverse over all terrain instantly, and allows you to dodge incoming projectiles. Basically any targeted projectile in mid-flight approaching you will be completely nullified. Blink will be your savior many times in a game and will help you perform a lot of outplays as well. Learn to master this skill in order to unlock Zeratul's full potential.

(R1) Shadow Assault

Shadow Assault is the heroic ability of choice for this build because we are focusing on pure assassinations. When Shadow Assault is active you'll be able to stick to any target of your choosing until it dies. Use this ability when you are solo'ing other heroes or you need to stick to a fleeing target. Zeratul's auto attack damage + ability power damage + amazing sticking power = dead heroes.

(R2) Void Prison

Void Prison is arguably the best team fighting heroic abilities in the game. You can use it to block entrances, setup wombo combos, or even save a friendly hero from taking fatal damage immediately. Once you learn to master this skill, your team mates will love you and team fights will often go in your teams favor. This is never a bad choice to take so you have flexibility.

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Most of the talents that have been chosen for this build are designed to help you pick off targets quickly and get out. This isn't the best "Team Fight" build nor should this be used if the enemy team has a lot of hard CC, but it's great fun to play and you will enjoy assassinating whoever you wish!



Seasoned Marksman - You will gain +1 Attack for every 6 lane minions / merc camps / heroes killed near you. Unlike before, this skill can actually stack up pretty quickly now and you can easily get 30+ stacks in a 20 minute game which adds a lot of damage. When we are going for MAX DPS, this is your only choice. Also it scales with + Attack Damage traits. However lately I feel this talent is of equal power to Rapid Displacement so either or is good here.

OTHER TALENT OPTIONS



Focused Attacks - 50% more attack damage on next basic attack every 10 seconds or sooner if you repeatedly attack. This provides a great amount of upfront damage when coming out of cloak to engage on a target. When your Heroic Ability is active you will also be able to proc this even more.

OTHER TALENT OPTIONS



Searing Attacks - Ohhhh baby! This is the talent we've been waiting for up to this point and it will greatly increase your damage for 5 seconds. Yes it makes your auto attacks cost mana but the amount of damage you put out with your autos while this is active, especially early on, is absolutely insane.

OTHER TALENT OPTIONS



Shadow Assault - This Heroic Ability will allow you to stick to any target like glue till it's dead. You almost never want to activate this to start a fight, it's better used as a closing tool or when you need that extra damage 1 v 1. It really excels at cleaning up team fights though and makes Zeratul inescapable. It doesn't provide the utility that Void Prison does but when used right, can be just as effective.

OTHER TALENT OPTIONS



Assassins Blade - What more is there to say? It gives you even greater assassination ability coming out of stealth and allows you to move faster when cloaked. Sounds like everything you want when your focus to to assassinate a target! Although it's extremely important to note that Wormhole may be the better option when team has heavy CC.

OTHER TALENT OPTIONS



Double Bombs - This talent is really good and provides not only damage, but utility as well. You can use it to kill a single target faster, slow down multiple targets, and if you took Sustained Anomaly you can do good AOE damage and cover tracks. People tend to over look this ability's usefulness, do not make that same mistake.

OTHER TALENT OPTIONS



Nerazim Fury - This talent allows this version of Zeratul to be Zeratul longer. Not only does this talent increase your dueling ability, but the longer duration on Shadow Assault gives you that extra time needed to clean up team fights. Also when Searing Attacks is active, the amount of damage you put out when Shadow Assault is active is ludicrous. Just pay attention to the team enemy comp. Don't be too stubborn and not take Bolt of the Storm when you need the extra escape / mobility.

OTHER TALENT OPTIONS

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DPS is always a big factor on an assassin and you will need to be able to get every ounce of damage in before you need to Blink away to safety. I have compiled a mini list of what most rotations should look like but there are always situations where you might want to slightly change it up.

It is important to keep in mind as a game progresses, you will need to try and keep track of enemy heroes abilities and whereabouts as best as you can. Nothing is more annoying when you start a full combo on a Rehgar, only for him to fully heal himself back to full and trot off. Mastering Zeratul is a delicate art yes but you will also need to learn about the game as a whole to truly master him. That means paying attention to your mini map, knowing enemy positions, knowing the strength and weaknesses of both teams, knowing when to push for objectives, etc.

So here are some combinations you can use for various levels.

Level 1-6 Rotation

→ → → →

Auto → W → Auto → Q → Auto - This is going to be your general combo early on. It is almost always better to use Singularity Spike after your first auto over Cleave. The slow ensures they can be auto attacked more while fleeing and help your laners do more damage as well. However don't be afraid to use Cleave first if you see a super low target as you are riding by to secure a kill.

Level 7-9 Rotation

→ → → → →

Searing Attacks → Auto → W → Auto → Q → Auto - Activating Searing Attacks before you start your whole rotation will greatly increase your DPS output. Now you won't always need to use this rotation. If you are ganking a lane that has heavy friendly CC you may choose to skip this. In team fights or objective control hot spots, you will want to activate Searing Attacks in order to burst targets down so you can get out of the fight to cool down.

Level 10-15 Rotation (Team Fighting)

→ → → → → →

Searing Attacks → Auto → W → Auto → Q → Auto →Shadow ***ualt - This is when things start to get a bit tricky. We don't always open up with our Heroic Ability because you really don't want to fully commit to auto attacking too early as Zeratul. You basically want to try and burst your main target down first and use Shadow ***ualt to clean up other targets. If your team is losing a team fight or the enemy team has heavy CC you will be shut down rather quickly if you have your Heroic Ability active.

However there are times you may want to active Shadow ***ualt earlier in the rotation. If your team out numbers theirs and you see a few easy to get to targets, then feel free to let them have it. You will be able to chew through your targets and Blink out before the rest of the enemy team arrives in most cases.

Level 10-15 Rotation (Dueling 1 v 1)

→ → → → → →

Searing Attacks → Shadow ***ualt → Auto → W → Auto → Q → Auto - Now if you are in a 1 v 1 with an enemy champ that is NOT super squishy like Nova or Nazeebo then feel free to activate this before starting your rotation.

Against some decent duelers like Illidan or Raynor you may want to wait a bit before activating Searing attacks. Nothing worse than activating your Heroic Ability against Illidan when he has evasion up!

You almost never want to fight super hard CC champs 1 v 1 unless it's like a Brightwing or E.T.C.. Uther and Tyrael come to mind in this regard. Of course there is always a chance you can win, but the risk is usually way too high to take, especially late game.

Level 16-20 Rotation (Team Fighting)

→ → → → → → →

Level 16-20 Rotation (Team Fighting)

→ → → → → → →

Level 16-20 Rotation (Solo / Small Fights)

→ → → → → → →

Level 16-20 Rotation (Instant Burst)

→ → → →

So here I've listed quite a few options for you to think about. All these rotations have their uses, you just need to know when is the right time. Double Bombs really increase your damage output so you need to learn to use them effectively.

When engaging a single target that is really squish, you can feel free to use the first rotation. You probably won't need to use Shadow Assault to finish that target. You can also use this rotation in the middle or dead end of a team fight after your initial target is dead and you feel safe. This is the same case on the second rotation if you want to use your Heroic Ability a little earlier.

Now the third rotation is mainly for dueling or smaller skirmishes. If you took Nerazim Fury at 20 then the extra damage boost will also allow you to heal as well. In team fights of 3 or less then you will be able to stay in the fight longer and constantly do more damage without worrying about being killed off to quickly. You still need to be weary about the heroes you are about to face. Hard CC will make this rotation pretty **** if you get locked down.

The last rotation listed is for good instant burst and getting to safety. You can use this on half life medium to squishy heroes and peace out. This is also good if you can't really find a target to pick off and want to help your team do some damage. When used in this instance the next time you jump into the fight you want to use one of the other rotations if possible.

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So now that you've learned a lot about Zeratul's kit, it's time to put that into practice. Now I'm going to go over a general play style that this build is meant for and then delve into map specific strategies.



Early game you never want to be in a solo lane unless you are temporarily covering it. You want to be able to use your powerful cloaked ability to roam the map without having to worry about losing XP in a lane. You should try to sit in the brushes while lane waiting for right times to dish out some damage and leave. Pay attention to your mini map to look for good opportunities to setup some ganks. Try to avoid ganking lanes when the enemy team has heavy CC or your team lacks any sort of CC.



Mid Game is where things start to get interesting. You are not very good at taking mercenary camps on your own so you will want to help your team take those. Learn to abuse your cloaked ability to scout out incoming attacks or to find easy prey to kill. Remember objectives and team play are crucial in this game and this is about the time when these things should start to take priority.



Late game a lot of things are usually happening. You will have lanes pushing, constantly be fighting over objectives and trying to assassinate key targets. Sticking close to your team is going to be a good thing because around this time of the game the enemy team will be rolling around in 4 to 5 man death balls. If your caught in that you will die instantly unless Blink is up.

Try to stick to the outside and position yourself well to strike from the shadows. Squishy targets like Nova, Nazeebo, and Valla are you top priorities. Once those are down you should assess the situation before your next action.

If the enemy team has a lot of CC you should back out to recharge. If the enemy team is not prioritizing you, then continue to auto attack and use your abilities. Do you see an easy target out of position? You should use rotation number 3 and start dueling. Is your main target down and the enemy team is routed? Rotation 1 or 2 should be used in this instance to finish off fleeing targets. If you spot a rather low health target, use rotation 4 if your cooldowns are up to finish them off.



You will want to rush your first tower and take it over. Use your cloaked ability to try to sneak their tower as well. When your team hits level 4 you will want to start pinging Mercenary Camps and clearing them out with your teammates.

When the mines open up for the first and second time, you will want to prioritize Mercenary Camps over heading into the mines. After all of them are secured you will want to go into the mines to start collecting skulls. If you are playing with a pre-made or most camps are already taken, you may want to go into the mines and start collecting early. Zeratul excels in the mines because he can assassinate stragglers, escape the enemy, and kill the mini camps quick.

The third time the mines open up you definitely want to try and get your entire team in there. The golem boss will be your primary target since he will drop the majority of skulls from here on in. You might be able to assassinate targets as well because often times you will find stragglers in there.

If you have collected the majority of the skulls then try to setup a massive push with your golem. He will always spawn where he died, so it's in your best interest to get him up as far as possible. If you are behind you will want to have at least 4 heroes defending in order to stop the enemy golems progress.



Every team seems to fight over smiley face tower at the start of the game. You kind of want to make sure somebody on your team goes bot lane to start soaking up that XP. Once again try to abuse your cloak to take the tower or sneak around and deal damage. You don't really want to get team wiped for that tower so don't over commit.

It's harder to roam on this map since objectives are almost always up so you might want to kill the small skeleton camps by yourself as often as possible. You will probably want to spend most of your time in the upper part of the map until the coin turn in fights start.

Try to stay in the vents to try and scope out potential enemies and assassinate any squishy target that face checks you.

Make sure you pay attention to the scoreboard to see who has the most coins and if possible try to take out those targets first. You are actually a pretty good coin holder because of your mobility and cloaking ability so grab as many as you can.



This map can kind of be tricky for Zeratul. On one hand if you stick to either top or bottom lane, you kind of don't want to roam too much because of shrine control. On the other hand if you take mid, you can roam more but you are usually up against some kind of pusher mid and it's harder on you. You will have to pay attention to team comps and adapt accordingly.

If no team seems to be able to take both shrines and summon the Dragon Knight, you may want to sort of stack one side and take some mercenary camps. What this does is add even more pressure to a lane forcing teams to answer to your push and alleviate some pressure on a particular shrine. If the enemy team chooses to keep 2 - 3 say bot lane while you have their knights and your giants top lane, you will just smash their gate and take your first fort giving you the advantage.

Also make sure to abuse your cloaked mechanics to the max. You can take shrines without anybody seeing you. If you ever get into a 1 v 1 duel over a shrine, you can buy yourself some time just by running around it cloaked. Make sure to try and dodge enemy AOE so you don't get knocked out of stealth.



The most important thing to note is that giving up an idol isn't always a bad thing. If your team is out of position when an idol spawns it's not worth going in to die one by one for an idol. This is even more true if this is their first or second idol in the new rotation.

Due to the map size it's harder to roam so you will have to pick the right times to do so. Try to roam and take watch towers when you can as that extra vision can be crucial on this map. You may find yourself dueling often so be prepared for that.

When attempting to take an idol you should always use your cloaked ability to try and scout out the enemy team. Chances are at least a few of them are heading to your location. Having a good idea where they are coming from will help you execute a proper defense and help your team win.

Try to setup a nice big push if you are about to cap a third idol. There is nothing more devastating when you have both your Boss and Giants pushing a lane when they are cursed. This map might require the most teamwork in order to win often.



I believe this is one of the tougher maps for Zeratul. The bigger the map, the longer it takes for you to roam and setup ganks.

As always you still really want to pick one of the duo lanes so you can roam and not lose team XP. The first night time spawns at 90 seconds and a few new camps will come up. You can solo and take the smaller seed camps with ease but just be weary of the enemy team being nearby.

When a big horror has been engaged the mini map will blink showing which one is being taken. This can be a really good opportunity for you to go in and gank, or at least weaken the enemy since they will be pre occupied. On the flip side you can go and take the opposite horror with your team if you don't want to engage them or at a bit behind.

When you have 100 seeds you can spawn the terror. You should try and let somebody else take it if possible because you are much better suited being cloaked and dishing out the damage.

I believe the terror is best used as a good split pushing tool. The big seed it drops does really good damage to structures over time and you don't need to stay in lane to do so. Plop one in a base and go to the next and do the same. If your team decides to push with you then act as their tank. Make sure to try and land your plant see on anybody trying to engage your heroes. It is one of the best CC's in the game.

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So here are some videos showcasing some of the things I've mentioned in this guide. At a later date I will upload more clips and maybe a full video walk through for those people that do not wish to read all of this <3


Zeratul Full Live Gameplay Commentary




An example of good Void Prison placement



An example of when to use Shadow Assault



An example of abusing cloak to keep control of Sun Shrine


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Well guys, that just about wraps it up. I will keep this guide updated as the game changes and try to add more builds later on.

Just remember when you are playing Zeratul your job is to do as much DPS without dying. Everybody has different play styles but you still have to play careful!

Thanks for reading and I really hope you guys learned something and enjoyed my guide! I will be writing more guides in the future and will continue to support the HoTS community for a long time!

If you have any questions or comments or just want to catch my stream, here are my social media links:

My Twitch Stream - I stream Monday to Friday 11pm EST - 4am EST and sometimes on Saturdays.
You Tube - Will be uploading HoTS content shortly
Twitter - I tweet about games and post food pics LOL <3

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