This review is up to date with Version 3.0
Zhongli is a 5-Star Geo Polearm character from Liyue. He can only be obtained via the “Gentry of Hermitage” event banner. A support unit, Zhongli epitomizes the Geo Element’s themes of shielding and constructs.
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 others enemies can inflict the Corrosion effect so Zhongli doesn’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 there exists higher debuffs, the fact that Zhongli’s affects all attributes makes it quite valuable. Just by holding the corresponding button, Zhongli empowers all members of his team and depowers all enemies within range. 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.
Conversely, 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 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. Since it is a Geo attack, it has no potential for Reaction DMG so more than most other ults, it’s very reliant on Zhongli’s stats to carry through. It does have a high multiplier (639.56% at Lv. 6 and 838.68% at Lv. 9) but since you need to prioritize stacking HP for the Jade Shield, you may not have the high ATK or CRIT to back it up. 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 and Petrify effect provided by the ult can come in clutch for surviving a fight as well as make for decent crowd control.
A general issue with Zhongli is his split scaling. All of his DMG scales off of ATK but his Jade Shield scales off of HP. Since his Shield is his best asset, you’d best build HP on him. But unless you have godly Artifacts, you may neglect his ATK in the process and his DPS will suffer as a result. miHoYo sort of addressed this in Version 1.3 with his A4 passive, giving him a flat DMG boost for all of his Talents by a varying percentage of his Max HP. It helps but I’d argue that miHoYo should’ve just given him HP scaling entirely, at least for his Elemental Talents. If they had done that, split scaling would be a non-issue for Zhongli.
Zhongli’s signature weapon is the Vortex Vanquisher. Its secondary stat is ATK%. At R1, its passive provides 20% Shield Strength and up to 5 stacks of an 8 second 4% ATK buff if the wielder scores a hit on an opponent. The buff is doubled if the wielder is protected by a Shield. While the Vortex Vanquisher does look amazing on Zhongli, it isn’t necessarily BiS for him. The high ATK provided by the weapon does not contribute to the Jade Shield’s DMG Absorption and the Shield Strength only applies to the wielder. The Vortex Vanquisher is usable for a DPS build but for the commonly used support build, you should not consider pulling for this weapon and save your pulls for something else.
The most F2P-friendly Polearm for Zhongli is the Black Tassel. The bonus DMG it has against Slimes is situational but this is the only Polearm below 5-Stars that provides HP%, making it the best option for F2P players in strengthening the Jade Shield. Refining the Black Tassel isn’t necessary but you may as well do so if you get the chance. Given that the Polearm is a standard 3-Star Weapon, getting dupes shouldn’t be too difficult. If your Zhongli can deliver high DMG with his Elemental Burst, you can alternatively consider giving him a weapon with Energy Recharge so that he can reliably get his Burst off cooldown. A Favonius Lance works particularly well as it provides Zhongli as well as his whole team with extra Energy particles.
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. For more reliable buffing, you are better off equipping 4-Piece Tenacity on Kokomi or Shinobu.
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. If Zhongli is teamed with someone else equipped with Noblesse, you are better off equipping him with Tenacity of the Millelith, if only to diversify the buffs you can have at your disposal. Keep in mind that Noblesse’s ATK buff can’t stack with itself so it’s generally redundant to have more than one team member equipped with the set.
For the sturdiest Jade Shield, Zhongli should have HP% on all three of his core Artifact pieces. If you want him to do some DMG, you should give him a Geo DMG Bonus Goblet and a CRIT circlet. Since the Jade Shield has a high DMG Absorption multiplier, you most likely don’t need HP% on all three pieces and can make do with two or even just one. HP% is however a very common main stat so it may be a more efficient use of your Resin to get pieces with that stat. Sub stats you want for Zhongli are HP%, ATK%, Energy Recharge, and CRIT. HP% is normally the top priority but you can alternatively look for the latter three stats if you have HP% covered via the main stats of Zhongli’s Artifacts and/or his weapon. Try to avoid Elemental Mastery as that stat is worthless for Geo characters. The stat only boosts the DMG Absorption of Crystallized shields, which you don’t need if you have a Shielder as good as Zhongli.
With Zhongli, synergy is pretty much a no-brainer. Due to the usefulness of his Shield and his RES debuff, Zhongli is a good support for almost every other character in the game. While Geo does not interact with Anemo and Dendro, Zhongli can still be teamed with characters of those Elements as his utilities are still useful to them. As mentioned earlier, the RES debuff is for all attributes and this includes Anemo and Dendro. The only general exception to Zhongli’s synergy is Frozen-oriented teams. Geo can proc Shatter on Frozen enemies so if your aim is to keep enemies Frozen, you should not have Zhongli on the team.
Zhongli is one of the best support units in the game. His kit has a lot of flaws, even after some buffs he received in Version 1.3, but his Shield alone makes him an incredibly valuable asset. With it, you’re able to comfortably take on most 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. An extremely flexible unit, Zhongli is a solid unit that fits in a wide variety of teams. If there’s a 5-Star character that is a must-pull, this man is most certainly it.
Thanks for reading!
This post was originally published on February 13, 2022