Although it is generally accepted that Zell is a bit lackluster when it comes to the full usage of his kit due to the mechanics of his unique Duel buff, I think it’d be a crime if players are without full knowledge of the absolute bestest boi in the Final Fantasy series. Cue me, with my desperate attempt to
mimic copy do the thing everyone else is doing learn you a bit about Zell, and maybe convince you that he might be worth at least a few tickets on Cid’s upcoming banner.
Please note that I am just trying to do right by Zell, and this is just an attempt at writing an evaluation. It may not be for me, so while all feedback is welcomed, it’s probably the only evaluation I’ll ever do.
- Game: Final Fantasy 8
- Roles: BRV+HP Attacker, AOE Attacker, Thunder-Attribute, Best Boi
- Attack Type: Melee
- Weapon Type: Fists
- Crystal Color: Red
- Optimal Use: Bringing in the OUCH on enemies with a unique powerful self-buff, powerful defense down debuff and AOE HP attacks.
Who He Is
As a child, Zell was a victim of a terrible war between two factions of which I can’t recall because by that point of Final Fantasy 8, I was just lost and clueless with everything going on. Losing his parents to the war, he was orphaned and adopted by the great Mama Dincht and under her nurture, Zell became inspired by a remarkable war veteran, his adoptive grandfather – in fact, Zell’s passion for becoming a Balamb SeeD is derived from the honor and joy of having such a gifted predecessor: God of War granddad. He became a master of martial arts and lets his mighty fists get him out of the trouble his big mouth leads him into. Despite his hot-headed attitude, Zell tries to be friends with everyone he meets, and that’s why the townspeople of Balamb
and myself love him so much.
And you didn’t hear this from me, but Zell also has a pretty cool room, which is like, sacred, so you can’t go in there.
- HP: 5/5
- INT BRV: 1/5
- MAX BRV: 4/5
- ATK: 3/5
- DEF: 1/5
- SPD: 5/5
Before you continue forward, it’s important to take note of a number of buffs that Zell receives with the release of his 35cp.
Command Ability “Punch Rush”
Base use increased from 5 to 7. 6 turns Max BRV Up II to self. Inflicts 3 turns Def Down I.
Command Ability “Booya”
Base use increased from 5 to 7. 6 turns Max BRV Up II to self. Inflicts 3 turns Def Down I.
|Punch Rush||4-Hit Single Target Non-Elemental BRV Melee Attack. Grants Duel and Medium Max BRV Up to self. Inflicts Defense Down. Duel changes Punch Rush to Burning Rave and Booya to Meteor Barrage.||BRV Attack, Self-Buff, Debuff||8 (shared with Burning Rave)||20%x3+60%=120%. Grants Duel (ATK + 50%) for 3 turns to self. Grants Medium Max BRV Up (40%) to self. Inflicts Defense Down Debuff (30%) on targeted enemy.||Pummel: Increase potency by 40%, Duel extended to 6 turns.|
|Burning Rave||(From Punch Rush while Duel is active) Increases BRV, and is followed by a 2-Hit AOE Non-Elemental BRV + Single Target HP attack. Enemies not targeted take splash HP damage. Removes Duel from self.||BRV + HP Attack, AOE||8 (shared with Punch Rush)||BRV x1.2 20%+20%=40%, 10% splash HP damage to non-targets.||Pummel: Increase potency by 20%, splash damage increased to 20%.|
|Booya||1-Hit Single Target Thunder-Elemental BRV attack. Grants Duel and Medium Max BRV Up to self. Inflicts Defense Down. Duel changes Punch Rush to Burning Rave and Booya to Meteor Barrage.||BRV attack, Thunder Elemental, Self-Buff, Debuff||10 (shared with Meteor Barrage)||100%, grants Duel (ATK + 50%) to self for 3 turns. Grants Medium Max BRV Up (40%) to self. Inflicts Defense Down Debuff (30%) on targeted enemy.||Stimulating Blow: Increase potency by 80%, Duel extended to 6 turns, grants PATK up (30%) for 6 turns, increase potency of DEF Down by 30%.|
|Meteor Barrage||(From Booya while Duel is active) 1-Hit Single Target Non-Elemental BRV + HP attack. Removes Duel from self.||BRV + HP||10 (shared with Booya)||80%||Stimulating Blow: Increase potency by 160%.|
|Maverick||Pummel: Increases the potency of Punch Rush (160%) and Burning Rave (60%). Extends Duel’s duration (6 turns).||15/30CP|
|Gauntlet||Stimulating Blow: Increases Booya’s max uses by 2. Increases the potency of Booya (180%) and Meteor Barrage (240%). When Booya is used, extends the duration of Duel (6 turns), increases the potency of Defense Down (60%) and grants Small Physical Attack Up (30%) for 6 turns.||35/50CP|
Pretty standard. Zell’s 35cp does a ton for his kit by adding on Small Physical Attack Up and increasing the potency of his Defense Down debuff while also increasing its uses by 2! One could argue that he can play well without his 15CP since both of his skills grant Duel and Defense Down, but it’s best to have both to really give Zell powerful, lasting punches. Definitely aim for the 35cp for huge potency boosts to Booya and Meteor Barrage and the increase from 30% to 60% defense down.
High Priority Passives
|Stimulating Blow (Gauntlet)||Increases Booya’s max uses by 2. Increases the potency of Booya (180%) and Meteor Barrage (240%). When Booya is used, extends the duration of Duel (6 turns), increases the potency of Defense Down (60%) and grants Small Physical Attack Up (30%) for 6 turns.||20CP|
|Pummel (Maverick)||Increases the potency of Punch Rush (160%) and Burning Rave (60%). Extends Duel’s duration (6 turns).||20CP|
|Self-Realization||Slightly increases BRV damage dealt (+10%) while Duel buff is active.||20CP|
|Charged Booya||Booya (and Meteor Barrage) use +1||10CP|
|Charged Punch Rush||Punch Rush (and Burning Rave) use + 1||10CP|
|Speed Duel||Slightly raises SPD while Duel buff is active.||15CP|
Low Priority Passives
|Vigor||Slightly raises ATK for 3 turns upon start of each wave.||10CP|
|Quick Punch Rush||Slightly raises turn rate for Punch Rush.||10CP|
|Quick Booya||Slightly raises turn rate for Booya.||10CP|
|BRV Break Bonus Up||Gains slightly more of a Break Bonus (20%) upon inflicting a BRV Break.||10CP|
|Smash Attack||Slightly raises ATK for 1 turn with enemy Knock Back.||5CP|
Admittedly, passives aren’t my expertise when it comes to customizing our characters. But it does make a lot of sense to keep Zell strong and lasting in a long fight. Being one of the few offense characters that lacks innate Mighty Skill passives means that we’ll be actively trying to make the most use of his unique Duel buff as much as possible while also pushing its limit.
Big passives that are absolutely mandatory: Stimulating Blow and Pummel. Zell’s weapon passives are incredibly important to his kit and greatly extends his Duel buff to 6 turns instead of the default 3, doubling the duration of the ATK and SPD, with Speed Duel passive, buffs that he receives with Duel. While the potency increase of Punch Rush and Burning Rave with Pummel aren’t too impressive, Booya and Meteor Barrage both receive a massive power boost with Stimulating Blow, along with 2 extra charges! AND, on top of already boosting Zell’s damage with big potency and Duel, Stimulating Blow also grants him another power bonus of Small Physical Attack Up which gives him an additional whopping damage boost of 30% to all of his attacks! Though let me also remind you that this is stackable with a regular attack buff, like the ones granted by Eiko, Penelo and Sazh! AND AS IF THAT’S NOT ENOUGH DAMAGE FOR ZELLY BOI, Stimulating Blow also boosts Zell’s, and the party’s, damage indirectly by adding a huge potency increase on his Defense Down debuff! This defense debuff is nothing to laugh at since, with Stimulating Blow equipped, it has an effective rate of 60%, which is 20% more than what Vanille is currently capable of, and it will be the MOST POTENT DEFENSE DEBUFF OUT THERE UNTIL VANILLE’S LATE-ASS LV60 AWAKENING!!!!
The rest of the passives are pretty whatever and generic. Charges are for keeping up with all the damage ya boi Zell inflicts, while also maintaining his self-buffs and the Defense Down debuff. It’s pretty important to have these equipped for those longer, more difficult quests. Vigor is pretty nice to have on, not gonna lie. If you can squeeze it in, it does put in the extra pain for trash mob rounds. Quick Punch Rush and Quick Booya are also nice to reduce the turn rate of both skills. BRV Break Bonus Up can also be considered if you have the space for it, while Smash Attack is just pretty bad overall. Low priority passives usually means that, if you got the cp for them, then it’s OK to equip. But I’d take 2-3 HP stat increases over Smash Attack, tbh.
Altogether, he can equip every passive for 147/160cp. Get rid of DEF and HP passives (10cp), along with his 4-star weapon and armor passives (7cp), BRV Break Bonus Up (10cp) and Smash Attack (5cp), and you’ll have enough to actually equip 45cp worth of artifact passives. Pretty good, in my opinion, since 3 bad-rng passives at 15cp each equal exactly 45cp. Whatever remains should go into more HP or Defense.
Self-Realization Boost ★★
Max BRV +330
Mighty Punch Rush ★★
It’s a pretty straightforward list. Self-Realization Boost ★★ further increases the BRV damage Zell inflicts while his Duel buff is active. Max BRV +330 increases the bank where he can store all that BRV in. Attack +108 gives him more punch (lol) for his entire kit, while Mighty Punch Rush ★★ and Mighty Booya★★ give him bigger damage to his skills individually. A balance of power and storage is ideal – if too much power, he’ll overflow and thus leak bravery. If too much capacity, then there’s potential for more firepower.
Best Defense Down debuff the game’s gonna have until Vanille’s awakening.
Selfish, but efficient. He provides himself several powerful offensive buffs (Duel, Max BRV Up, Physical Attack Up) while also dealing above average damage through potent abilities.
Many charges. He strives on keeping his Duel buff active, and he’s a great choice for fights that have difficult trash mobs or long and EXtended battles.
Is best boi.
After LV 60:
More… MORE POWAH!!!!
Combos Punch Rush and Booya, and later, Burning Rave and Meteor Barrage, too = free skill uses. Large potency skills that couple up for more turn efficiency, especially with his EX weapon, Ehrgeiz.
Punch Rush and Booya are both BRV attacks. In order to unleash a BRV + HP attack, you must first use these BRV attacks. Using a BRV + HP attack removes Duel buff. Leads to poor turn efficiency. Yikes.
Can’t always keep up with the damage. Just piggybacking on the fact that with the use of Burning Rave or Meteor Barrage, Zell loses a huge boost to his damage that cannot carry over onto the next use of Punch Rush or Booya. Big weakness.
Poor time management skills – can almost never get to the hotdogs before they’ve run out.
Zell can best show off his slick and sexy fighting style (HEADBUTT, YAAAAAS) during multi-target encounters. Given what we’ve got in GL, he pairs really well with Sazh (surprise!), Lenna, Yuna, Eiko, Maria, Serah, and Thunder Imperil units, such as Garnet, Vincent, and Raijin.
- Sazh, Yuna, Maria, Ramza, Penelo and Eiko
They help Zell by providing an attack boost. This lets him deal bigger damage in shorter amounts of time while also enabling more opportunities to use his combo skills (Burning Rave, Meteor Barrage).
- Eiko, Maria, Lenna, Penelo, Rem and Yuna post-awakening
Bring on the heals! Zell has a massive HP stat which makes him a great choice in long fights or against heavy hitting enemies. It’s also one reason why he’s synergy with Rem and Cid – he can take big HP hits for his team while they heal him back up. Turn manipulation and HP attack manipulation is also great for him when he’s being targeted (advanced play-styles) as his large HP lets him soak up the damage for his team and his support unit will keep him healthy.
- Lenna, Yuna, Eiko, Serah, Ramza, Penelo and Krile
Lenna, Yuna and Krile provide unique buffs to help Zell throughout tougher fights. Duel is a great buff to power up Zell with speed and extra attack, which lets Yuna, Lenna, Penelo and Ramza provide stackable buffs, or unique buffs that help his kit with BRV Regen or an attack boost. Krile helps Zell boost the strength of Booya against thunder-weak enemies. These five also feed Zell more bravery between his turns so he’s available to use his combo HP attack skills more often, such as multiplying his bravery with Burning Rave. Serah also provides a Poison debuff, while Lenna provides an INT BRV debuff to help Zell keep on top of the enemy’s bravery and maintain it at low numbers during the off-turns he takes resetting Duel!
- Yuna (Ambra Rod), Garnet, Vincent, Lightning, Krile and Raijin
A combination of these guys put the hurt on thunder-weak enemies. You can use Garnet, Vincent, and Raijin to provide Thunder Imperil to let Zell stack on damage with Booya if the enemy is not already weak to thunder. Lightning, Yuna (Ambra Rod) and Krile help if the enemy’s already weak to thunder. They may not be meta, but will still be a fun fight to play on the spare time.
- Sazh and Sephiroth
Other dps units probably work just like Sephiroth, but Sephiroth has the advantage of multi-hitting moves. While characters like Papalymo and King may be limited to 9999 damage with their 1-hit BRV + HP attacks, Sephiroth can keep his high potency damage without worrying about capping at 9999 damage. Why is this worth noting? Because of Zell’s 60% Defense Down debuff. Sephiroth just has more opportunity to not leak BRV, which might be possible with Jenova V, Sazh boost and Zell’s 60% def down. The same idea can be used for other hard-hitting multi-hitters, like Kuja.
Zell receives special attention from me because he was a big part of my gay awakening (lol), as corny and as dorky as that may sound. I found him to be very passionate, excelling in many situations even when the odds were against him. Squall even left him in charge of the students over by the quad during the raid on Balamb. He’s hot-headed, mostly due to his excitement in pretty much everything, AND he’s pretty cultured, often knowing cool trivia about different locations in the world. Not only that, but he’s really strong in battle with a great limit break that was fun to input and combo with. I was just infatuated, so I wanted to share my opinions about my first husbando with our community.
He’s not the best dps, and his late 35cp just brought him down pretty hard too, so as confident as I was in using him, I haven’t attempted to complete any difficult content pass Kuja’s EX quest. His use just wasn’t there anymore, as there were better units that could do more, especially because his 35cp had not been released. BUT I am extremely proud to have fully completed every single piece of difficult content there was before Maria’s event with Zell active and ready on my team. Actually, I also completed Maria’s EX quest with Zell, but only because I did a certain thing lol. So that doesn’t really count.
All in all, Zell’s inability to fully take every advantage of pure turn-efficiency keeps him from being in the spotlight. His huge Defense Down debuff and Small Physical Attack Up makes him a good unit, but in difficult content, every turn counts; it could be argued that his Defense Down helps the whole team become even more turn-efficient, thus making up in the areas he lacks, but that’s just speculation from me right now. His future awakening and EX weapon helps get him up and going with powerful combo attacks that he can take advantage of, including after uses of his EX skill. Using two skills per turn definitely increases his use and makes him a strong attacker per turn, but he’ll be plagued by the on and off usage of Duel forever, preventing him from initiating BRV + HP attacks when needed, while other characters like Jecht also initiate two skills per turn with 1 skill use, and hit incredibly hard as well with BRV + HP attacks.
Should I Pull?
I always encourage pulling on banners. So, go for it! I definitely will. However, with awakenings around the corner, he’ll probably not see much use at all, if ever, since he’s a late bloomer. He’ll be overshadowed by Cloud, Terra, and probably WOL. Strategic: don’t pull. For fun: PULL!
Special credit: givemesomevodka