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Guide:Zealot Paladin v1.10, by Cyrus

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This guide's strategy and build information is still excellent, but it was written before the v1.10 and v1.11 ladder-only runewords were added, and therefore the top end item recommendations are behind the times. Updates can be found in the forum thread in which it was posted, or in the other strategies in this wiki.

Diablo II Strategy Guide Info:

  • Patch: v1.10
  • Gametype: PvE/PvM
  • Class: Paladin
  • Specialisation: Zealot (Zeal specialized Paladin)
  • Author: Cyrus

The Zealot

I know that there are lots of people interested in playing a Zealot who don't have much Paladin experience. Well, I decided to write this to help those of you out. This isn't going to be the "end-all" of Zealot guides in any since. But rather a place for us to talk about the easiest to use and most common of all Paladin builds: the Zealot. I'll start with basics though and let people give suggestions from there.

Skills are pretty standard and shouldn't be much argument here:

  • 20 Zeal (main attack)
  • 20 Sacrifice (synergy)
  • 20 Fanaticism (main aura)

Other skills usually used:

  • 20 Holy Shield (not necessary to max but I think it's definitely worth 20 points since it can give you monstrous defense these days)

One other option is to put some points into the three Resist auras to receive a passive bonus to max resists (for every 2 pts in a resist aura, you get a passive bonus of 1 pt to your maximum resist. for example: 10 in resist cold would raise your max cold resist by 5 pts at all times, even with the aura not active). This also adds to your Vengeance damage for PI's.

1 pt in other utility auras and skills. Make sure you have Vengeance for PI's. They aren't extremely common but can be dealt with. I find Redemption, Vigor, and Cleansing to all be invaluable. If you party play people will constantly be screaming "Gimme Salvation PLZ!". Do so if you wish. But I only suggest one point in Salvation with + skills carrying you the rest of the way.

Try to max your skills in this order: Fanaticism, Zeal, Sacrifice, Holy Shield. But make sure you immediately get at least 4-5 in Zeal and 5 or so in Holy Shield. Sacrifice is a good skill to use while waiting for Zeal at low levels. It does insane damage when combined with Might and won't hurt you much until later in the game when you deal high amounts of damage.


Strength: Enough to wear your end game gear, you know what that is so you put the points you need here. If you wear Zak shield then you can generally have 20 less str invested since you get 20 from it and it's pretty light (unless you upgrade).

Dex: Enough for max block. With max Holy Shield, HoZ, and even possibly Guardian Angel you won't need much. You'll probably end up with enough dex to wear phase blades too. But don't kill yourself to get there.

Vitality: Everything else. Should be well over 200 maybe more.

Energy: Nothing obviously. Zeal costs 2 mana and leeches like crazy.


It's a Zealot. You generally hold and click until things are dead. This is one of my favorite D2 builds for playing late at night when I don't want to think.

Watch out for Iron Maiden curse, this thing kills any melee build instantly. Only two places you'll see it though: Chaos Sanctuary and the few places in Act 5 where these Abyss Mages spawn (Worldstone for example).

  • Simple Rule: Zeal (left Click)
  • Fanaticism (right Click)

Keep auras on right click and combat skills on left click. It's a lot easier that way.

But other than that you shouldn't have much trouble. I really suggest having Guardian Angel + absorb items for those pesky Gloams/Balrogs and other enemies that will ravage you with elemental damage. You don't have to wear it all the time, but it's certainly helpful armor to have around (especially going into the Chaos Sanctuary).

Also, having a bow on switch is never a bad idea. It really helps picking off those Iron Maiden mages. Suggestions will be discussed in the equipment section.

When you encounter PI's switch to Vengeance which will be nicely boosted by + to skill items like Herald of Zakarum. Also, having a good elemental/magic damage dealing weapon is nice here too. More suggestions on that in the equipment section.

Not much else here to discuss for strategy except that you should always level up in the difficulty you are in before moving on to the next one. I suggest being in the mid 40's before nightmare so you can wear HoZ, Guardian Angel, String, Gaze or whatever else you have. You'll also have a much better chance of hitting things. Before going into Hell you really should have all of your endgame gear on (level 80ish). Hell is VERY hard now, even more so for melee classes since they can't "fake it" the way casters can. Get maxed resists, maxed blocking, over 10k defense, and other good stats like leech etc before trying your skills against hell.

I suppose another option is to rush through to the end of Hell to do Eldritch/boss runs for mf and higher experience. I think it's safer for a Zealot to do 8 player Nightmare Baal runs though.


Ah, the section that makes or breaks a Zealot in the later stages of the game. I'm going to list some low level/cheap suggestions for those on ladder, and some ultimate endgame selections for those who are rich (or not on ladder). Keep in mind you're going to need some very good gear to beat Hell without dying 1000 times. Hell is hard now, especially for gear dependent classes.


  • Schaeffer's Hammer (still very good)
  • Stormlash (similiar to Schaeffer's, I think this one is VERY good on a Zealot)
  • Breath of the Dying. Sick, absolutely sick. Put this in an ethereal
  • Berserker Axe or other 6 socket one hander and you're not going to have much trouble even with Hell.

These are some awesome endgame choices for weapons. But all of them will cost you an arm and a leg and all the items on your mules.

Almost any of the new elite weapons will work. Some of these that are quite good are Nord's Tenderizer, Demon Limb, Azurewrath, or some oldies like Baranar's Star.

You will want to hit the 4fps breakpoint which gives 6.2 attacks per second. With many weapons (BotD, Stormlash) this is almost a given. With some however it's harder (Schaeffer's). Check out the calculator to figure out how much you need for your weapon choice.

One weapon I must suggest for any Zealot (especially those on ladder) is the ridiculously easy to make and effective:

  • Crescent Moon Runeword (Shael + Um+ Tir). Only useable in Sword/Axe/Polearm so only Swords and Axes for our build.


  • 10% Chance To Cast Level 17 Chain Lightning On Striking
  • 7% Chance To Cast Level 13 Static Field On Striking
  • +20% Increased Attack Speed
  • +180-220% Enhanced Damage (varies)
  • Ignore Target's Defense
  • -35% To Enemy Lightning Resistance
  • 25% Chance of Open Wounds
  • +9-11 Magic Absorb (varies)
  • +2 To Mana After Each Kill
  • Level 18 Summon Spirit Wolf (30 Charges)

Very good and very easy to make. Highly suggested for those on the ladder, or those with little resources. Only rune that is remotely hard to find is Um. The countess in Nightmare can drop the others very easily. Um can be traded for with little difficulty.

Rares have to potential to roll upwards of 400ed now, plus other good mods. DO NOT LEAVE RARES ON THE GROUND. Even normal rares can be upgraded to exc/elite if they are awesome enough.

And finally, don't forget you can cube any weapon class now with gems. I made a Cruel War Pike of Alacrity (1 socket) for my merc the other day with some chipped and trash gems I had laying around. So don't rule this option out at all.

Weapon Switch

Lightsabre for Gloams is nice, make sure your resists are maxed against these guys too (we're talking Hell gloams here). A good bow is good for IM casting dorks. Here are some options:

  • Buriza (upgrade for a little more damage, but higher req)
  • Widowmaker (fire magic arrows, very ideal when combined with Fanaticism).

Or just any good bow. You can go into ranger mode at rare times (IM Mages) and it's very helpful. You'll be surprised at your damage output with a good bow and Fanaticism.


Guardian Angel, Chains of Honor Runeword (for the rich), and Stone runeword are all good choices. I suggest Guardian as a backup for any Paladin build cause of the sick elemental damage you'll be taking in certain areas of Hell.

Other good words are: Smoke, Lionheart.

And some other good armors: Twitchthroe (can be upgraded as you get higher level), Shaftstop, Duriel's Shell.

Or for those of you going to high strength: Leviathan and Templar's Might are both very nice armors. Arkaine's is ok... but not suggested for a zealot.

One thing about armor now is that Holy Shield can give you ridiculous defense these days. So a high defense armor is almost a given.

Finally, Enigma is good for MF, and decent armor otherwise. It's very expensive though.


Sigons, Tals Mask, Stealskull, Rockstopper, Crown of Thieves, Delirium Runeword (is just plain fun, but can be expensive to get Ist and isn't as good as others probably), Veil of Steel. I suggest Biggin's Bonnet for VERY low levels. And if you're on the ladder upgrade it to Shako status.

Lore is easy to make and quite good also.

For the rich: Crown of Ages (wow, this thing is powerful, especially with 2 sockets), Andariels Visage (very useful helm, especially for those going the Schaeffer's/slower weapon route since they'll need lots of IAS). Don't forget, if you use Andariel's to include some extra fire resists to make up for it's penalty. Vampire Gaze is still VERY good too. Never forget Vamp Gaze as an option for a Zealot.


Ancients Pledge, Rhyme, or Sanctuary aren't too hard to make and should be put into a good Paladin class shield with nice base resists. Sanctuary can offer over 100 all resists. Also, you can make a simple Paladin shield with 4 Pdiamonds and base resists to deal with any resistance problems you have. Just be aware that you won't get anything else here.

Other good shields: Tiamats Rebuke is cool. Sigons is especially good when combined with other sigons pieces. Lots of the Elite/Exception Shields can be good but none will beat my suggestions for the rich. Also, Steelclash isn't bad for really low levels before you get Ancients/Rhyme.

For the Rich: Herald of Zakarum. The best shield out there. Alma Negra lacks resists but is still quite nice. Dragonscale is cool but probably doesn't fit a Zealot build too well.

Exile runeword has the potential to be an insane shield. Gives you defiance aura and if placed in an Ethereal Elite Paladin Shield can offer insane defense. It also has chance to cast Life Tap (also known as "immunity to death" for zealots), max bonus towards your resists, freezes target (awesome on a Zealot), 2 to offensive auras, and other good mods. Make sure your shield as high base resists though or you'll be hurting for resists in Hell. It does repair durability too so you can make it in an Ethereal shield and have no worries.

Stormshield is good too but there are better options if you're that rich (HoZ). However, you certainly won't have troubles if you use it as your shield (it's still way powerful).


Deaths Gloves (combined with sash)

Sigons Gloves (combined with belt)

Bloodfist, Venom Grip, Lavagout. Rare/Crafted gloves can be nice too.

Laying of Hands are ideal. IAS, Fire resist, and sick damage to demons mod. Soul Drainers and Steelrend (high str req though) are very good too.

But the best gloves out there for a Zealot are Dracul's Grasp:

  • +90-120% Enhanced Defense (varies)
  • +10-15 To Strength (varies)
  • +5-10 Life After Each Kill (varies)
  • 25% Chance of Open Wounds
  • 7-10% Life Stolen Per Hit (varies)
  • 5% Chance To Cast Level 10 Life Tap On Striking

Ok, the perfect mods for any Zealot right here (and all on one item):

Life Tap is just insane. Half the damage you deal going back to you essentially makes you pretty much invincible. This triggers VERY often with Zeal at 4fps by the way.

Life after each kill and Strength bonus are both nice. Chance for open wounds is just awesome with the regen rates of enemies now.

And 7-10& life leech! As if the Life Tap on strike wasn't enough to keep you alive. These gloves are wondrous to say the least.

They won't give you IAS but you probably won't need it unless you go with a very slow weapon.


Deaths/Sigons as suggested in the gloves. With two pieces of these sets you get nice bonuses. Leech, and IAS for example. VERY good cheap options here.

String of Ears is still probably the best.

Verdungo's Hearty cord can be quite nice too though, considering you'll probably have enough leech as it is.

Other good belts would be rare/crafted. Wilhelm's Set belt is good too.


Gore Riders are probably the best boots you'll find. With Deadly Strike, Crushing Blow, Open wounds, and good R/W it's hard to beat these boots.

War Travelers are also good for the rich. Sandstorm trek are also nice if you're hurting for poison resists (example: wearing Rockstopper, which doesn't give psn resist).

For those with less resources: Sigons, Sanders, and Cow King's Boots are all VERY good boots. Sigons when combined with other Sigon's set items gets good bonuses. Sanders/Cow King's can carry you through Hell.


Raven Frost is perfect. Especially since you won't have CBF anywhere else on your gear probably.

For a second ring I suggest a nice rare dual leech ring since they are back. Blood rings are always nice. As are the BK ring, carrion wind (very good actually), and Dwarf Star/Wisp Projector in your stash for fights with elmental baddies.

At low levels I really suggest trying out two angelic rings when combined with Angelic Amulet (and even armor) these items can give you a huge boost to AR, mf, life, replenish life, and even 1 to skills if you wear the armor.


There are several good low level choices. As I suggested Angelic ammy when combined with the other set items is good. So is Eye of Etlich, Nokozan (for flayer jungle/balrogs in normal), Mahim Oak, or any good rares.

For engame the best is probalby Highlords. Looking at the mods you can see why I'd say this. Seraph's Hymn and Metalgrid are much better than most people think. Both of these have great potential.

Rare amulets with the right stats (dual leech, skills, all resists) could possibly beat any other unique amulet in the game though. Gambling for these in later difficulties can provide some nice profits.

Mara's is good too, but it's good for any build really.


Go for all resist charms if possible. Even with HoZ and resists on other gear you'll still need more in Hell. It's also easy to find single resist charms with 9-11% and save them. By the time you reach Hell you really need maxed resists, nothing less is acceptable when you go toe to toe with LE's, Steel Scarabs, Gloams, Balrogs, Abyss Mages, Diablo, etc...etc...

Other than that an Annihilus is good.... if you can get one. Gheed's can give nice gold/mf. And skill charms are probably better replaced by life/resist charms, but a few can't hurt either.

I think that's about it for the equipment guide. I know there are other options but I hope that I ran across some of the more obvious ones. Grisworld's full set can be very good too. But good luck finding the whole thing. However, I think it is easier now with them dropping certain items into lower TC's.

Hope you guys enjoyed the guide. Have fun zealing away at Hell's minions and I hope to play some with you all on the ladder.