Zhongli is a 5-Star Geo Polearm character from Liyue. He can only be obtained via the “Gentry of Hermitage” event banner. The epitome of the Geo Element, Zhongli is a support unit equipped with a Geo construct and a Shield to assist his team.
Zhongli’s Element Skill, “Dominus Lapidis”, works in two ways. If you press the Skill button, he will summon onto the field a “Stone Steele”, a pillar that deals constant AoE Geo DMG. At C0, only one Stone Steele can appear on the field. If there are other Geo constructs on the field, the Stone Steele can “resonate” with them, causing them to deal the same AoE Geo DMG as the pillar. Alternatively, holding the Skill button will have Zhongli summon the Stone Steele with additional effects, some of which were added in Version 1.3. These effects include a large instance of AoE Geo DMG, an enemy RES debuff for all attributes by 20%, the drainage of any nearby Geo presence on the field, and an HP-based “Jade Shield” for your active character.
You will pretty much always use the Hold version of Zhongli’s Elemental Skill. This is primarily because the Jade Shield is the single best Shield in Genshin. It has the highest base DMG absorption out of all the Shields in the game and as a Geo-based Shield, it is also 150% effective against all types of DMG. Zhongli’s A1 passive also increases Shield Strength by 5% up to 5 times should the Jade Shield get hit, making it endure even more. The Jade Shield also has 100% uptime, lasting 20 seconds against the Dominus Lapidus’s Hold cooldown of 12 seconds. So long as you’re mindful of the cooldown, you pretty much have the Shield up for an entire fight. Whereas most Shields in Genshin serve as a safety net, Zhongli’s Shield lets you ignore DMG outright. Some enemy attacks are capable of breaking through it quickly and some recent enemies can afflict the Corrosion status so Zhongli can’t necessarily let you forgo putting a healer in your team. But for the vast majority of combat, and provided that you’ve stacked a lot of HP on Zhongli, you are borderline invincible when protected by the Jade Shield.
The other utilities provided by the Hold version of Dominus Lapidus are also noteworthy. While a 20% RES debuff isn’t terribly high, the fact that it affects all attributes makes it quite valuable. Just by holding the corresponding button, Zhongli empowers all members of his team. This even includes Anemo and Geo, for which RES debuffs are hard to come by. The Geo drainage effect is helpful for some situations. It can severely damage or outright break Geo shields, particularly those of Large Geo Slimes. Outside of combat, this effect also breaks Ores such as Crystal Chunks and Amethyst Lumps, making Zhongli one of the best characters to bring for mining.
By contrast, you almost never want to use the Press version of Zhongli’s Skill. To put it bluntly, the Stone Steele sucks on its own. Its range is atrociously small and its DoT is horribly weak. Both aspects improve with other Geo constructs resonating with the pillar but that obviously becomes null if Zhongli is the sole Geo unit in your team. You also have to make sure that these objects are close enough to resonate with each other and that can be annoying as some Constructs, including the pillar, can’t be manually positioned. The Stone Steele is also a poor source of Energy. Every tick has a baffling 50% chance to generate 1 Geo particle. Admittedly, this proc can occur with every enemy hit but good luck getting the pillar to hit multiple enemies. The Press version of Zhongli’s Skill does have a low cooldown of 4 seconds but given the usefulness of the Jade Shield and the fact that you get the pillar anyway when you hold the Skill Button, you have almost no reason to ever use the Press version in combat. At most, you just use it in exploration for when you need something to climb on.
When Zhongli uses his Elemental Burst, “Planet Befall”, he summons a freaking meteor onto the field. The meteor deals Aoe Geo DMG and any enemies that get hit will be Petrified for a few seconds, a status effect that is exclusive to Zhongli. While definitely one of the most badass ults in Genshin, it isn’t necessarily the strongest one in the game. It has a high multiplier (639.56% at Lv. 6 and 834.68% at Lv. 9) but it also scales off of Zhongli’s ATK. Unless you get godly Artifacts, this stat may not be terribly high as you need to prioritize stacking Max HP for the Jade Shield. Zhongli’s A4 passive does boost all of his DMG by a percentage of his Max HP. In the case of his ult, it’s by 33%. It helps but I’d argue that miHoYo should’ve just made the ult scale off of HP entirely. That way, split scaling becomes a non-issue for Zhongli. Another issue is Energy. Planet Befall has a low Energy cost of 40 but since the Stone Steele barely gives any particles, you may need to stack quite a lot of Energy Recharge on Zhongli. Despite these flaws, it may still be worth casting Planet Befall even if it hits like a pebble. The I-Frames it provides as well as the Petrify status effect can come in clutch for surviving a fight.
With Artifacts, Zhongli can serve as a buffer for his team. Version 1.5 added the Tenacity of the Millelith set. This set’s 2-Piece set provides 20% HP while the 4-Piece effect provides a 20% ATK buff and 30% Shield Strength buff for your entire team for 3 seconds when an Elemental Skill hits an opponent. In theory. Tenacity of the Millelith is Zhongli’s best set as he wants HP and his Skill can constantly refresh the buffs with the pillar’s DoT. Teamwide Shield Strength is also hard to come by and it obviously works wonders with the Jade Shield. In practice however, the buffs can be unreliable due to the Stone Steele’s poor range. If you don’t want to play around with Zhongli’s pillar, you can alternatively give him Noblesse Oblige. The 4-Piece effect of this set increases the team’s ATK by 20% when Zhongli casts his Elemental Burst for 12 seconds. Since Zhongli’s ult cooldown for 12 seconds, he can theoretically provide this buff 100% of the time. The 2-Piece effect of Noblesse is also helpful for him, providing him a 20% Burst DMG Bonus.
Zhongli is one of the best support units in the game. His kit has a lot of flaws, even after the buffs he received in Version 1.3, but his Shield alone makes him an incredibly valuable asset. With it, you’re able to comfortably survive the majority of the toughest fights you can encounter in the game. Also useful is the universal RES debuff, which helps every character in the game and is super easy to use. As a Geo character, Zhongli is extremely flexible when it comes to team comps. The only comp he shouldn’t be put in is a Frozen-based one, due to Geo attacks causing Shatter (unless that’s what you’re going for). Otherwise, he can fit in a wide variety of teams. If there’s a 5-Star character that is a must-pull, this man is most certainly it.
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