Build Wars: Zaishen Elite Dream Team (Because 4 traps is *so* 2006)

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Today we’re going to talk about the mysterious Zaishen Elite, what it’s about, what builds to use, and why more people ought to be doing it. I’m seriously surprised at how relatively unpopular the ZE farm is considering its rewards and being pretty easy to learn and do.

Overview | History | Current Technique
Trappers | Finisher Elementalist | Spirit Spammer

Overview of the Zaishen missions
Zaishen Elite is an un-lockable faux PvP mission available on Battle Isles. It’s accessible to PvP and PvE characters alike after completing the Zaishen Challenge. A successful full run of the mission will net you 6000 Balthazar faction, which is why it’s popular among Z-Key farmers. The run is also handy for unlocking skills for PvP and/or heroes. After you’ve reached 6k, you will stop earning faction from the ZE missions for the next 24 hours. You can, however, continue to gain faction from other PvP zones like alliance battles and random arenas.

Both missions are styled to mimic the Random / Team Arena environment, accept you’re fighting against set teams of AI. In Z-Challenge, you and your team faces off against AI Teams on a one-on-one basis that you choose. There are five NPC teams to beat: Iway Warriors, Trap Rangers, Illusionary Weaponry Mesmers, Obsidian Flame spike Eles, and the mixed degen / hex team. To unlock Zaishen Elite, you need to defeat each team at least once.

Z-elite works similarly, except you keep going (like Random Arena) until you lose. Each game increases the number of opponents until it caps at some point, although I’m not entirely sure when. Runs usually take 15-20 minutes. With no deaths (all flawless victories), 15 consecutive wins will cap you out on faction. Most teams will go for the 16 just to be sure.

Traditionally, the favored team build was four trappers. At least 2 usually brought Frozen Soil, a spirit that prevents res since all AI bring res signet. The execution was simple; stack the traps at the door with one ranger putting down Frozen Soil in the back and wait for the AI to inevitably  run into them. 90% of the time this was flawless. The issue, though, is with ranged groups or groups that unstack, you end up with a pretty difficult fight on your hands. Because of this, over the years the teams have evolved to vary a bit more. Another popular build includes 3 traps and either a spirit spammer or “finisher” elementalist with meteor shower.

95 wins = leetsauce?

Back in the days of yore when the 4 trap team was -it-, a friend of mine and I ran an experiment to mix it up. At the time, using a Spirit Spammer was still fairly rare but it was gaining popularity. The two of us took up the mission; he ran as a trap ranger, myself as a spirit spammer, and we hero’d a monk healer and a meteor shower ele.

After getting flawless victory after flawless victory, we decided to keep going to see how far we could go. We ended at 95 wins. I can’t remember how long that took, but I know we were so tired and delusional we lost on purpose.

The Current ‘Meta’ Technique
While I’m sure this is far from official, the most efficient build team I have encountered has been a combo of the above; two trappers, a finisher elementalist, and a spirit spammer. The 3 trapper / finisher or SS team works great, too. The key is having at least one source of damage other than traps to make things go faster.

Things to always keep in mind:
• All four players should body block the door except in two instances of the degen / mixed profession team and the elementalists. If either of those groups show up, have your whole team move as far back as possible. Often these groups will scatter, so the trappers should feel free to continue to trap around your base. Learning to deal with these particular teams is key; 98% of all non player-caused wipes are a result one of them (human stupidity is ever the killer of teams, but I digress).
• Frozen soil is everybody’s first target. Eles will spike it, and many melee (warriors) who get past your traps will try to kill it. Keep this in mind, checking that it’s still up, remind the trappers when it’s down or about to go down, and always put it hidden in a corner.
• Everybody should, if possible, bring a self heal. There will always be damage dealt at some point, particularly with the above AI groups. The hex/degen team will target your team member with the least amount of health first. You can ask the team to ping so they can be aware who is likely to go down first. If it’s you, be prepared to pop your heals when needed.
• AI groups will sometimes scatter; in particular, there are instances where one NPC will break ahead of the rest and reach the traps before the entire group, setting them off. This doesn’t happen TOO often, but it’s something to be prepared for. More experienced players counter this by either setting  a snare trap ( cripple) a little before the door to slow the leader down or by body blocking / baiting the straggler until the rest of the group catches up.
• Avoid chasing stragglers when possible. When hit with traps, they will sometimes try to run back and a way. Most times players will try to chase them down and trap around them, but it’s better practice to resist . You want to draw them back into your cell towards the finisher / spirits and traps.
• Don’t forget to dump your faction before you run. Nothing sucks more than going in with 8k and wasting time (or leaving your team, which is rude).

You can find the builds, variants, and templates here:

Trappers x 2 | OgATYxriZp5WOlzqTOk75mdA
The trapping builds are pretty straight forward with small variations. This is what I run when I trap:

The first 4-5 slots are your traps. For an elite, Spike is usually preferred for the damage and knock-down. If I’m running with 3 trappers and not 2, I’ll opt for Smoke Trap for utility; blinding and dazing enemies comes in handy in a pinch (for interrupting res / heals), and it has saved my bum a few times. Many people skip the heal, but I always bring troll ungent and will use it on myself if I’m facing one of the above teams, or if they’ve broken through the traps and damage is imminent. Again, I have found myself the last man standing a few times and having the heal can save a run. Trappers Speed or Serpent’s Quickness to help speed up the trapping process. If you’re not on Frozen Soil duty, winnowing and brambles are popular to help speed up deaths. Sometimes a ranger will go with 9 marksmanship (again, better with 3 trap groups), equipping only 4 traps and bring the poison arrow and sometimes an interrupt to directly finish off stragglers. All of these builds are viable, it’s whatever you’re comfortable with.
As far as equipment goes: you wanna stack energy so any staff that can give you +15/20 (mindclouder, hourglass staff, and karessh’s are all great here) unless you’re going marksman. Then you’ll go for a flatbbow with energy / health.  Stacking energy runes / insignias is also a good idea. I generally don’t worry much about HP, so an elite rune is alright to bring as well.
Things to avoid: old-school ZE trappers sometimes bring Quickening Zephyr. Unless you’re running an all trap team, -do not bring this- as it will drain your spirit spammer / elementalist of their energy and run the risk of rendering them useless.

What do:
At the start of the mission, pop your speed stance and stack your traps right up against the door of your base. If you’re on frozen soil duty, after your first set run back and place FS at the back of the cell, as far away and hidden as possible, and then return and continue the job. Keep stacking right up until the enemy team comes. If it’s the Degen or Elementalist team, fall back when they’re close (but haven’t hit your aggro bubble) and let the traps and finishers do their job. If they aren’t all killed, continue trapping around the base and keep your team back to draw them in. If you’re a marksman trapper, use apply poison to finish them off from a distance.

Finisher Elementalist

The role of the finisher is exactly how it sounds; a lot of times the stacked traps can insta-kill enemies, especially if you’re running a 3 trap / 1 finisher team. However, if you’re running with only 2 trappers, you may find that it won’t always finish them off. That’s this guy’s job. The key is having two skills: Glyph of Sacrifice and Meteor shower for an instant interrupting AoE.
This is a particular boon when dealing with the two pesky ranged groups above. Aura of Restoration and Fire Attunement are pretty staple. Searing Flames seems to be the most popular elite since your targets should already be on fire. The other skills vary greatly from person to person. Some will go E/Mo and bring a few heals. Others will just stack more fire skills, like fire ball. Mark of Rodgort to cause more burning is never a bad thing, but your trappers should have that handled with flame trap, so skills that do damage based on burning are great. Energy and exhaustion are generally a non-issue because it resets with every fight. They can become a pain in longer fights, but a solid team will have most of them dead in no time.

What do:
Preparation is slow. Other than putting your self buffs, sit back until the game starts. When the team is in range, pick a target and pop glyph when they are close. Generally, once they stop running or once they’ve been caught in the traps, pop meteor shower. If they haven’t died, fall back to your other skills to take them out. Use MS on recharge, preferably to interrupt res / heals, and call targets since you’re the main direct damage dealer.

Spirit Spammer

Spirits are extremely useful in ZE because they synergy well with many of the conditions of the traps. It’s a lot of utility on top of damage in this build, so I’ll go over the basic idea and variations, and there are a LOT of them (most out of all 3, which is a good thing). The SS in the group is also a finisher of sorts. The spirits will shut down any NPC that hasn’t died to traps, and aid the team by keeping enemies from healing and ressing.
Earthbind and Dissonance are your main spirits: EB keeps enemies knocked down by traps down for three seconds, buying valuable time. Dissonance does damage and interupts skills, very important of your FS dies and can’t be replaced. Wanderlust is the popular elite of choice, since it causes knock-down and works well with EB. Those three are staple. The last 2 spirit slots can vary based on play style. Pain is a popular choice for being cheap, quick to recharge, and having a long lifespan (for longer fights). It’s also good for bait since eles will spike a spirit. You can choose Bloodsong over pain (one or the other, not both.) Agony does nice damage over time and lends itself to more strategic gameplay.  Anguish is a great choice if you decide to bring Painful Bond with you (I would definitely bring these two together). You need one energy managment skill. I use either boon of creation or mighty was Vorizun. Either works. With five spirits and an energy management skill, your last two slots can vary. Most times, painful bond is just good to have. Some direct AoE damage skills like spirit rift, ancestor’s rage, and lamentation are not shabby either.
More advanced SS’s will bring destruction + rupture soul, or trade out Wanderlust for Destructive was Glaive; both are fun alternatives to deal extra damage if you’re comfortable with your team.

What Do:
First thing – do not- place spirits right up against the door. This was the old-way but what it does is cause the ranged teams to stop further away from the traps in order to attack the spirits and wastes time. Instead, place the a few steps back from where you spawn. That’s generally an OK place. Once you get more familiar with it, you can push them further back in the smaller starter cells. You’ll get a good idea of where to put them.
I generally try sync my placing based on activation time: on average it takes the enemy team 15-20 seconds to reach the traps from the start of the game. I place spirits in order of life span and generally start around the 10 second to start mark. That basically ensures that they will be alive as long as possible for the maximum amount of time with the enemies.
If you’ve got painful bond, hex the group and step back unless you have other attack skills. Things to keep in mind: Eles will spike spirits so be prepared to mourn the loss of one of them; usually agony and anguish are the first targets, then earthbind and dissonance. Resummon as needed.


Further reading:

  • More alternatives.
    I don’t know that I’ve ever brought Sacrifice/MS into ZElite as an ele. I normally go E/Me and bring Echo so I cast something like:
    ~10s before enemies arrive – Aura of Restoration, Fire Attunement
    ~just before enemies are in-range – Echo
    ~as enemies are in range, SF, SF, SF, SF, SF
    and if they’re not dead yet, I’ll hit ’em with Glowing Gaze.
    Then I’ll keep Ether Feast and Energy Tap if it gets into a longer fight. Works pretty well, but I’m a nubb’n.

    • soz, *Arcane Echo.

    • Aha! The ele is the one I know least about since it’s the one I’ve done the least.
      I originally did have arcane Echo in the build but then I realized it wouldn’t work with the Glyph / MS combo so I took it out.

      So thank you for fleshing out the build a bit, I’ll have to update the wiki page to reflect that.

      It was fun doing this with you and Lady!

  • This is fantastic Izzie! I’ve never done the Zaishen Elite, but Z-keys are something I want and I’m never opposed to farming balth faction. Would you be opposed to taking a complete newb with you to learn the ropes?

    • Hey! I’d love to! What are your usual play hours? I can put out a call-to-arms one day before I get back from work!

      • LET’S DO ET. I was just thinking that I’ll have time to fill tomorrow!

  • yolaus

    Very nice post… well thought out.
    Only thing that I think has held more people back from playing ZE is the difficulty of finding a reliable other 3 players to do it with(preferrably ones who don’t scream ‘noob’ every couple minutes).
    But if a couple of you guys are down I can trap it up 🙂

  • Elisabeth Cardy


  • Elisabeth Cardy

    I don’t think I did, but I’ll re-check it. ♥