Waging WAR: Chaotic zeal, part two

In this week's installment of Waging WAR, Greg returns to the Chaotic Zeal series and peels back another layer or two of the Zealot career in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. He tells us about his experience through tiers 2 and 3 and talks about what makes the zealot stand out in the chaos crowd. If only we could get him to eat his onions with the same fanaticism...

At the end of the first issue of the Chaotic Zeal series, I left off by saying that I was happily looking forward to playing through tiers 2 and 3 and the promise the Zealot would bring. I'll kick off this second article in the series by saying that I wasn't disappointed in the least. The Zealot is an absolute pleasure to play as a PvP healer, despite the settings and circumstances I was presented with. The career's growth is robust and meaningful with a variety of attractive tactics and morale abilities, while the playstyle becomes more and more refined over time. I could fill an entire column with anecdotes and memories of my time with the career through the middle tiers, as the Zealot is a career experience that tends to be quite engaging and memorable. Instead, I'll focus on my impressions of leveling through them. Thus, with my Zealot poised on the precipice of tier 4 at level 30, I'll look back and recall the issues I faced getting there.

Follow along after the cut as I discuss the middle tiers with the Zealot career.

My leveling experience with the Zealot through tier 2 was a mixed bag. On one hand, it was quick and nearly effortless. On the other hand, it was tiresome and arduous. How does that even make sense? Didn't I say that I had a great time with the career when I introduced the column? Well, let me explain. Actually gaining levels was a breeze. There were groups grinding rats just outside the warcamp in Ostland on an almost constant basis, and a friendly, capable healer was always welcome. As a result, getting invitations to groups grinding plague rats was as easy as running down to the rat hole and simply asking. Even over-sized groups would welcome an additional healer, or if one happened to be full, it wasn't a very long wait before a particular group's healer would level-up and ask to be substituted out. Either way, the end result was a very short stay in tier 2.

However, maintaining my renown rank was slightly more difficult, for a couple of reasons. First, at the time that I was passing through tier 2, the forces of Destruction held all of the pairings with an iron fist and Order's fighters could barely gain enough momentum to do anything more than skirmish between Mandred's Keep and their own warcamp -- or perhaps steal a battlefield objective in Troll Country when Destruction wasn't looking. Finding warbands with consistency was difficult at best, even for the Badlands server, which is often quoted as having the best population of the four North American servers. When Order was able to muster an offensive force large enough to take objectives and keeps, healing in warbands was a little more difficult than I expected. Throughout tier 2, while the Zealot's grimoire of healing spells is impressive, maintaining a warband's health via HoTs and Flash spam is at times, quite frankly, button-mashingly frustrating. The amount of damage other players can take from siege weapons, such as the hot oil poured over keep doors, is sometimes simply too much to handle. It wasn't until I reached level 20 and learned Dust of Pandemonium (a PBAoE group-heal) that healing warbands became slightly less frustrating, but at that point, I was ready to move along into tier 3.

Sadly, my experience through tier 3 was much of the same, with Destruction's titan grip on all three pairings and the readiness of rat groups to accept healers. In fact, when I first discovered the champion-level rats available on the eastern edge of Talabecland, south of the Manor, I made levels 21-25 in a matter of just a few hours. But once again, as a result of the rat-grinding, maintaining my renown rank was difficult at best since warbands were so hard to find on a consistent basis, thanks to Destruction's own ravenous appetite for anything RvR related. Additionally, there weren't enough scenarios popping to make achieving a scenario weapon by level 29 even remotely feasible. While the Order population was ever-present, it seemed as though its members simply weren't queuing, preferring to skirmish between Ogrund's Tavern and their own warcamp with the occasional diversion to Verentane's Tower.

With that said, however, skirmishes and fights were a constant push-pull tug-of-war through the Empire vs. Chaos pairing in both tiers, and healing as a Zealot was an absolute joy. Without worrying about keeping people alive through the punishing damage caused by siege weaponry, I was able to bring the full power of her healing to bear. The overland battles were so much fun that hours at a time would pass with barely a notice.

It was through those constant open-ground fights that I learned the truest value of the Zealot. I can say, without pause or doubt, that the single most valuable healing spell in her arsenal throughout tiers 2 and 3 is Flash of Chaos. This one single spell is so powerful that the Zealot can often turn the tide of a battle through its use. The fact that it has a near-perfect synergy with Tzeentch's Cordial makes it even more valuable. There was not a moment during the heat of any fight that I felt I could not rely on its immediacy, efficiency, and reliability. There was also not a single moment that I didn't find myself wishing for all that it was worth to have a similar spell on my Archmage. Flash of Chaos is just that good. The thing about it is that I can't even think of a way to nerf it, even if a nerf were warranted. The output of the spell matches its low AP cost insofar as the base-heal from FoC is actually quite small. Adding a cooldown would defeat the purpose of making it chain-castable, and the instant cast is what makes it unique. It's the criticals from the spell, though, that really make it shine. I can remember one time during a skirmish between the Tower and Order warcamp that I was able to keep a Choppa alive using Cordial and FoC as he stood toe-to-toe with three opponents and hacked them all down with confident authority. Another defining moment was the time a Blackguard and I were chased by a veritable horde of Order players back to our warcamp while I kept the two of us alive with clever back-and-forth applications of Flash.

Moving forward, the level curve gradually grows steeper, and although I promise to return to this series and talk about my impressions of the Zealot in tier 4, I can't say when that will happen. I learned my lessons from the Nagaryth Chronicles series, and I want to give the Zealot a complete review by playing all three mastery paths such that I can speak about their strengths and weaknesses with confidence. Talking about endgame with a career deserves that kind of attention to detail.

If you have some insight on the Zealot, or perhaps an interesting build that you think I should try out in tier 4, leave it in a comment below.
Every Saturday afternoon, Waging WAR hits the cover of Massively with the latest and greatest in all things Warhammer Online. From patch news to career reviews, Greg Waller writes about it all. Email comments and questions to greg@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.