Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!
Three weeks ago, Blizzard added a surprise entry to the Heroes of the Storm roster. It was a surprise because most new heroes spend some time on the Public Test Realm (PTR) before being released. I’m pretty sure this one went straight to the live servers. The newly added hero is Zul’Jin, a ranged assassin with an unlimited supply of axes at his disposal. As excited as I am for this character, I think his kit could use some tweaking.
Note: I finished writing this on January 15, before hearing about Valeera. I wanted to post this on the 18th while Zul’jin was still relatively fresh (for a Troll). Instead, I pushed this back a week after watching AngryJoe’s reaction to the Nintendo Switch Conference, which resulted in last week’s post. Plus, I finished that post in a night. Anyways, enjoy!
Warcraft Races Represent!
I’m excited for Zul’jin because he is the first Troll character from the Warcraft universe to be added to HotS. It’s always fun to see the developers add recognizable characters. For me, his design is reminiscent of the axe throwing forest trolls from the Warcraft RTS games, which have always been among my favorite characters. Zul’jin does look quite a bit different from his appearance in World of Warcraft, but he looks awesome regardless. I can honestly say this is the first time in recent memory that I have been excited about a troll. (#puns)
I’m still waiting for Blizzard to add heroes to represent the remainder of the playable races from World of Warcraft. By my count, HotS is still missing two. The first is the Dranei, which seem to be Blizzard’s least favorite child since they are mostly absent in the story of expansions that don’t involve demons. The other race would be the Trolls, specifically the Darkspear variety which are tall, lanky, and have blue skin. While Zul’jin is indeed a Troll, he doesn’t represent WoW’s playable Troll race.
Now that Vol’jin has been killed off in Legion (in probably the weakest way possible), maybe he’ll make his way to the Nexus, too.
Checking Out Zul’jin’s Abilities
If you don’t know by now, Zul’jin is a glass-cannony, ranged assassin proficient with thrown axes. As a glass cannon, he has a lot of potential damage output, but possesses nigh nonexistent survivability. His maximum damage potential is tied to the amount of damage he has taken, and how much he is willing to continually receive. While an intriguing concept, it exacerbates Zul’jin’s already lackluster survivability. Let’s take a look at his kit.
At the core of Zul’jin’s playstyle is his trait. Berserking passively increases his attack speed as he loses health. It can be activated to increase his basic attack damage, but he will lose health with each attack. This can be a proactive way of accessing the attack speed bonus. However, it can leave Zul’jin vulnerable to being killed by anyone.
I like this ability because it’s simple yet powerful. It has two mechanics that work well with each other. There’s nothing overly complicated about how it works, and players can get a lot of damage from it. The biggest issue people may have with Zul’jin’s trait is the innate difficulty. If players can’t manage their health or get out of the fight before the enemy team capitalizes on their low health, they are going to be screwed.
Grievous Throw (Q Ability)
Zul’jin’s first basic ability is Grievous Throw. It is a ranged skill shot that damages and debuffs up to two enemies. The debuff increases the basic attack damage an enemy takes from Zul’jin. The ability itself deals decent damage, but the debuff is the real star of this ability. If the debuff is properly paired with the buffs from Zul’jin’s trait, players can seriously ruin the enemy team’s day.
This is another simple yet powerful ability for Zul’jin. Being able to land a straight line skill shot isn’t terribly hard unless the designated target is highly mobile. There is natural synergy between Grievous Throw and Berserker, which is good to have in the base kit. Grievous Throw barely deals more damage than a basic attack. However, players that pursue a “right-click and win” build have at least two reliable abilities.
Twin Cleave (W Ability)
The next basic ability in Zul’jin’s kit is Twin Cleave. Two axes are thrown in a circular arc, damaging and slowing enemies that are hit. Enemies in the path of this ability can receive damage from both axes. Additionally, the slow from each axe stacks for a strong effect. It’s too bad that Twin Cleave is borderline garbage.
If you look at the image of Twin Cleave in use, you’ll notice a glaring issue. There is a massive area that this ability completely ignores. Twin Cleave doesn’t hit anything in the middle area, it only damages things in the path of the axes. If anything does take damage, it won’t be for very much because the axes deals no more damage than a basic attack. This wouldn’t be an issue if Twin Cleave was more accurate.
It’s possible to hit minions and the occasional hero with Twin Cleave, but it requires good position. The maximum range of this ability falls just outside Zul’jin’s basic attack range. So, players have to take a quick step back to hit an enemy they are already auto-attacking. However, that enemy can make the same quick step toward or away from Zul’jin to completely avoid the attack. At least players can take comfort in the knowledge this ability is occasionally, mildly useful against stationary or slow moving targets.
Twin Cleave may be the worst ability in Zul’jin’s kit, but it has stiff competition. NEXT!
Regeneration (E Ability)
The final basic ability in Zul’jin’s kit is Regeneration. Upon activation, Zul’jin begins channeling, recovering health over time. He cannot attack or move without cancelling the ability. The effect is also broken upon taking damage. It’s a great defensive ability! (#sarcasm)
Regeneration isn’t an awful ability, but it’s not great. Zul’jin needs a way to get out of a fight given his need to sustain damage to increase his damage output. Instead, it made more sense to give him the Rest ability from City of Heroes. This ability is only useful when a player isn’t meant to do anything for 4 seconds, and it’s only for a quarter of Zul’jin’s health. Players are better off hitting B.
When compared to Leoric, Zul’jin got the short end of the voodoo stick. Drain Hope restores the same amount of health over the same duration. However, it can be used during a fight without forcing Leoric out of it. It can’t be broken by receiving damage, and Leoric possesses a more reliable slow which can be used to help prevent interruption from the target going out of range. Given all the downsides, Regeneration would be better if it were at least 40% stronger baseline (i.e. restoring 35% MaxHP).
Regeneration could NOT break on damage taken. That would certainly make it a bit more useful even with its current amount of healing. Then, when players take the Forest Medicine talent, Regeneration would be infinitely better. Just one simple change can make this ability incredible, instead of the pile of kodo dung that it is.
Taz’dingo! (Heroic Ability)
Zul’jin’s first heroic ability is Taz’dingo. Upon activation, Zul’jin will become immune to death for a short duration. His health cannot be brought below 1 in this time. It does nothing else except trigger a long cooldown. This is another great ability! (#sarcasm)
All kidding aside, Taz’dingo! is actually pretty cool. It allows Zul’jin to take full advantage of his trait for a short time. However, once it’s over, he can be instantly deleted if he isn’t healed in time. It’s not like Regeneration does him any good. This brings us to the downfalls of the ability.
Taz’dingo! is only really good when players reach level 20. Even after preventing death for 4 seconds, Zul’jin is still as good as dead. The level 20 talent allows Zul’jin to build up healing as he deals damage. If he’s at 1 health for a better part of the ability’s duration, that could yield a lot of healing. While this effect should be baseline, it’s not like Zul’jin has any other meaningful choices at level 20.
Guillotine (Heroic Ability)
Zul’jin’s second heroic ability is the Guillotine. When activated, Zul’jin launches a massive axe into the air. After a short delay, it comes crashing down on the designated location. It’s base damage is incredibly low, but it increases dramatically as Zul’jin’s health falls. I have no idea how good this ability is or isn’t.
This would be a good heroic to pick for players who could actually land it. Chromie would be a good character to play to get used to the timing of this attack, because the delay feels similar to Dragon’s Breath. Granted, there is also the added concern of watching Zul’jin’s health to ensure it does meaningful damage. Then, players have to make sure his health isn’t so low that they can’t survive the fight after using Guillotine. This is certainly the riskier option because Zul’jin loses out on an actual reliable, if rarely available, defensive ability.
You Want Axe?
So, this is my sort of overview of the ranged assassin, Zul’jin. He can be a great hero, but he needs a solid, coordinated team. This is due to his penchant for needing to take damage to deal good damage, and having garbage survivability through Regeneration. If you need help deciding on talents, always remember to ignore anything involving Twin Cleave. It will never be as consistent as Grievous Throw or basic attacks.
Have you played Zul’jin? What do you think of his kit? Do you think he needs a little something? Who would you pick instead of Zul’jin in Hero or Team League? Join the discussion below.
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Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you’ll be back for the next one.
War Fist out.