Diablo 2 – Arty/Ladder Necromancer Guide by nobbie – Patch 1.09

nobbie’s Arty/Ladder
Necromancer Guide – Page 1

All information in this guide is based on version 1.09 of 
Diablo 2 "Lord Of  Destruction" (LoD)

About this Guide

Hello, and welcome to my Arty/Ladder Necromancer Guide for Diablo 2
"LoD"!

 

The Ancients, and finally Level 99!

"Everybody say "Cheeeese" now!"

 

In this short introduction, I’ll describe what this guide is, and what it is not.

This guide is a closer look at my current Arty („Arty“ from „Artillery“) Necromancer
DerExorzist
whom I played in 10 days to
level
99 and rank 1 on the European Battle.net Necromancer Ladder
(the ladder after the reset in September 2001). I’m going to present his
character attribute and skill point allocation, his equipment, as well as some infos and comments about these. I’ll make only comments about the skills and equipment that I actually use and
consider the best
for this
playing style, and which I have tested across all game difficulties. 
As such, this guide is neither a general or beginner’s Necromancer guide, nor is it an end-all, set-in-stone guide for the Arty Necromancer
playing style. It is rather a portrait of an Arty Necromancer who has been played successfully to the top of the ladder, and who is able to solo Hell difficulty in 8-people multiplayer
games.

Have fun!

The
Necromancer

The
"LoD" Necromancer

The
"LoD" Arty Necromancer

Equipment

Character
Attributes

Skills
– Poison & Bone Spells

Skills
– Curses

Skills
– Summoning Spells

Strategy
& Leveling

Mercenaries
/ Conclusion / Thanks


The Necromancer

Necro's Home

 

„From the steamy recesses of the southern swamps comes a figure cloaked in mystery. The Necromancer, as his name implies, is an unseemly form of sorcerer whose spells deal with the raising of the dead and the summoning and control of various creatures for his purposes. …“

Raising the dead, summon and control creatures .. wow! This character description once caught my attention when
Diablo 2 (the classic, basic Diablo 2 version) came out, and I’ve been an avid Necromancer player since then. I’ve played all classic Diablo 2 (CD2) and Diablo 2 „LoD“ characters so far, but the most interesting and satisfying to me has always been the Necromancer. This has probably to do with
the fact that this character’s skills are much more involved in the AI (Artificial Intelligence) system of the game than those of the other
classes. I consider his Summoning tree, for example, the most elegantly designed skill tree in the entire game, and, before the release of LoD, the Necromancer was the overall best integrated character. Each of his main skills scaled up perfectly with the increasing game difficulties and the numbers of players in a game, the most prominent example being the „steam-rolling“
Summoner or „Zookeeper“ with his large number of revived creatures and the
Iron Maiden curse.


The "LoD" Necromancer

Things have changed quite a bit with the release of the Diablo
2 "LoD"
expansion package. The introduction of hundreds of new, very powerful (elite) items and
item modifiers required a complete overhaul of the last game difficulty.

A general 50% resistance against physical damage has been introduced for
all monsters in Hell difficulty, as well as a random 100% immunity to physical
and elemental (cold, fire, lightning and poison) attacks. Furthermore, the hitpoints and damage of the monsters in the new last act of the game are now the highest, making it even more difficult to beat them. Soloing 8-player Hell games, which was well possible for any character in CD2, is now next to impossible without a party, except for extremely specialized and powered character builds.

While these new concepts work quite well with the other character classes – Paladin’s, for example, use
Vengeance/Conviction against physical immunity, Barbarians use Berserk, and Sorceresses their elemental attacks – the Necromancer is much more affected by them. For example, the interaction between two of his (once) best spells,
Iron Maiden and Revive, and the
new physical immunities (global 50% and random 100%) results in a severe reduction of his power. Since Iron Maiden counts physical resistance for the damage a monster takes, and thus returns, as well as the damage the attacker gets returned, it has been quartered in effect. A higher physical resistance than 50% on either the revived monster or the attacker drops the effect even
more, not taking into account monster regeneration, which in any case is very
high in Hell difficulty. It is quite possible that a monster will never die from the
damage reflected by Iron Maiden, especially when soloing multiplayer games.

So, the days of the steam-rolling, Iron Maiden-casting Zookeeper are over (at least if he plans
to play in Hell difficulty), and new strategies are required. With the much enhanced effect of poison
in LoD, one alternative would be a Necromancer who concentrates on the Lower Resist curse and his
best elemental and magical attacks, which would be Poison Nova and Bone
Spirit
, and to a lesser extent Corpse Explosion (50% fire damage) and
Fire Golem. With maxed skills and as much +skill items and +skill charms as possible, this build is even viable in multiplayer Hell. I find this playing style too slow though, and since I wanted to build a Necromancer which is able to level and climb up the Battle.net Ladder fast, I decided to play a style which is already well known from CD2: The
Arty (or Artillery) Necromancer.


The "LoD" Arty Necromancer

What is an "Arty" Necromancer, and what’s the
difference between a "LoD" Arty Necromancer and a Classic Diablo 2
Arty Necromancer?

"Arty" is short for "Artillery" and
refers to the Necromancer’s direct damage spells found in the Poison
and Bone Spells
tree, including Corpse Explosion, Teeth, Bone
Spear
and Bone Spirit. Although Poison Dagger, Poison
Explosion
and Poison Nova can be considered direct damage spells as
well, they are not direct damage spells in the sense of "artillery".
An Arty Necromancer focusses on the "artillery" spells and develops
them to their maximum possible levels.

The "new" LoD Arty Necromancer is different from
the CD2 Arty in that he has the ability to develop his skills to much higher
levels, the playing style remains the same. This is made possible by a.) better items, and b.) new, so-called Charms,
which enhance his skills beyond
the normally possible maximum levels. A classic Arty could, for example,
develop Corpse Explosion (not counting plusses to this spell) to a maximum skill
level of 29 (Wormskull helm, +2 Necromancer Skills amulet, Silks Of The Victor
armor, +2 Necromancer Skills wand, 2 Stone Of Jordan rings, Sigon’s Guard
shield). A LoD Arty can develop Corpse Explosion to a skill level of 41 or 42
(+2 Necromancer Skills circlet or tiara, +2 Necromancer Skills or Mara’s
Kaleidoscope amulet, Skin Of The Vipermagi or Arkaine’s Valor (+2 skills –
possible, but impractical because of the high strength requirement), +2
Necromancer Skills wand, 2 Stone Of Jordan rings, Homunculus trophy/shield, and
10 +1 Poison/Bone Skill grand charms (10 grand charms is the maximum number that
fits into the inventory)).

In addition to higher skill levels, the LoD Arty enjoys
much better equipment than his classic brother. Playing an Arty, especially a
high-level one, is very mana-intensive and requires equipment that takes
this into account. The new Arty is best supplied in LoD, as +Mana and Mana
Regen(eration)
is available on almost every part of his equipment, and Faster Cast
(another important skill of the Arty) is available at much higher rates. The
classic Arty, on the other hand, didn’t have access to such superior equipment,
so, his level 29 Corpse Explosion can be considered more a theoretical maximum
because of the huge mana requirement.


Equipment

As already said previously, playing a high-level Arty
Necromancer is very mana-intensive and requires good +Mana and Mana
Regen(eration)
equipment, as well as equipment which increases the (Spell)
Cast Rate
.
In LoD, a Necromancer has access to a good selection of unique and set items,
which in almost every case are superior to the found or imbued rare items.
An exception are +2 Necromancer Skill circlets or tiaras, which are only
available as rare items. Rare amulets or rings  may be better than uniques,
but in most cases, the unique amulet Mara’s Kaleidoscope and two Stone
Of Jordan
rings are the best choice.

DerExorzist - Equipment

 

    

 

This screenshots show the equipment and inventory of my
Necromancer DerExorzist at character level 99. In
the following, I’ll list the items and the sum of their effects. If you want to
know the detailed stats of them, you can look them up at Blizzard’s The
Arreat Summit
. All items are from LoD version 1.09:

+2 Necromancer Skills/+Life/+Cold Resist
Tiara, socketed with Perfect Skull for Life/Mana Regen
Mara’s Kaleidoscope Amulet (+2 All Skills, 27% Resist All)
Skin Of The Vipermagi Armor, socketed with Perfect Skull
Gloom’s Trap Belt
Silkweave Boots
Frostburn Gloves
Arm Of King Leoric Wand, 2nd Weapon: Wizardspike Knife with HEL Rune for
(lower) 60 Dexterity
Homunculus Trophy/Necro Shield, socketed with Perfect Diamond for Resists
2x  Stone Of Jordan Rings

10x  +1 Poison and Bone Spells Grand Charms
7x  +15 to +20 Life Small Charms

Sum of all equipment stats/effects (using the 1st weapon Arm
Of King Leoric
):

+ To Base Mana: 163 (at character
level 99)
+ To Energy: 25
Increase Maximum Mana %: 115
Regenerate Mana %: 86
% Damage Taken Goes To Mana: 25
+ To Mana After Each Kill: 5

+ To Vitality: 20
Replenish Life: +10

% Resist All: 146 (incl. the 3 "Rescue Anya" Quests)
Magic Damage Reduced By: 10

% Faster Cast: 40

+ To All Skills: 9
+ To Curses: 2 (Homunculus)
+ To Summoning Spells: 2 (Arm Of King Leoric)
+ To Poison And Bone Spells: 2 (Arm Of King Leoric) + 10 (Skill Charms) = 12

+2 To Terror (Arm Of King Leoric)
+2 To Raise Skeletal Mage (Arm Of King Leoric)
+3 To Skeleton Mastery (Arm Of King Leoric)
+3 To Raise Skeleton (Arm Of King Leoric)

The second, alternative weapon Wizardspike
increases Base Mana by 238 (at character level 99), Maximum Mana by 130%, Mana
Regen by 101%, Resist All by 221% (incl. the 3 "Rescue Anya" Quests), and the Cast Rate by 80%
at the cost of the
skill boni and auto-cast features found on Arm Of King Leoric.

Using the Mana Regen formula from The
Arreat Summit
, this equipment generates:

31 Mana/Second using Arm Of King Leoric
Application example: 1 level 17 Corpse Explosion (8 Yards) per second

33.5 Mana/Second using Wizardspike
Application example: 1 level 19 Corpse Explosion (8.6 Yards) per second

(calculations based on 2000 Mana total)

As one can see, my Necromancer’s equipment consists almost
only of unique items which support the mana-intensive Arty style. I’ve chosen
unique items over set items because they offer more flexibility and, in this
case, more power. The popular Trang Oul’s Avatar set deserves a mention
here because it’s a very good "general" Necromancer set, but for this
style, it’s not the best choice.


Character Attributes

As with the equipment, an Arty Necromancer develops his
character attributes for support of the mana-intensive playing style.

DerExorzist - Character Attributes

Strength and Dexterity are just increased
till they meet the minimum requirements for the equipment (the Silkweave
boots require the most strength (65), and the Wizardspike knife with a
HEL rune (lowers the requirements to 80%) requires the most dexterity
(60)). 

Vitality is developed to a relatively high level
(195 points). The reasons are a.) the higher hitpower of monsters in LoD,
especially in the last act of Hell difficulty, and b.) the relatively offensive
Arty playing style. With +Life items and charms, my Necromancer has 774
hitpoints at level 99, which is usually enough to survive at least one strong
physical and/or elemental attack. Death must be avoided at all costs in the late
game (character level 95 and above) because the experience penalty for dying in
Hell is very high, and new experience comes very, very slow at these character
levels. At character level 98, for example, you get only 20% of the experience
you would get from level 1 to 75, plus, because you are already 8 levels
higher than a level 90 monster (like the cows in Hell), you get an additional
penalty of 43% of the original experience. If you are playing Hardcore, you will
want about 1000 hitpoints here.

Energy is your most important attribute. High-level Bone
Spirits
and Corpse Explosions burn Mana at an incredible speed, even
with very good Mana regeneration. In a typical battle, you will burn Mana like a
high-level Sorceress, but without access to a Mana regeneration skill like her Warmth
skill. To compensate this ability, raise your base Mana as high as
possible and put all remaining points into Energy. Including all +Mana and Mana
percentage enhancing equipment and charms, about 2000 Mana is desirable in the
late game. Note that in my Necromancer’s case, base Mana (without equipment) is
just 701 (265 Energy). With the previously described equipment, it is raised to
almost 2000, without any +Mana charms!

Also note the damage values of Bone Spirit. Without
equipment (skill level 20), it does "just" 340 – 350 magic damage.
With equipment and skill charms (skill level 41), it does 718 – 728 damage,
which is high enough to get the first corpse(s) for the Corpse Explosions
quickly, even in solo multiplayer Hell games. More about this in the Skills
chapters.


Skills – Poison & Bone
Spells

The Poison & Bone Spells tree is the backbone of
the Arty Necromancer. All other skills can be considered support skills. The
tree is divided into three parts: the Poison Spells (left branch), the Offensive
(direct damage) Bone Spells
(middle branch), and the Defensive Bone
Spells
(right branch).

DerExorzist - Poison and Bone Spells

Since the majority of +skill items and charms are applied
to this tree (+21 in the case of DerExorzist), it makes sense to have at least 1 point in
the defensive spells Bone Armor, Bone Wall and Bone Prison,
and in the poison spells Poison Dagger, Poison Explosion and Poison
Nova
.

For just 1 skill point invested, and the skill adders, DerExorzist’s
Bone Armor absorbs 230 damage, which is equal to 230 additional
hitpoints. 1-hit kills are very unlikely with this powerful protection. The same
goes for Bone Wall and Bone Prison. For just 1 skill point in each
spell, he has two powerful defensive spells against ranged attackers, large or
aggressive monsters hordes, and bosses.

Among the poison spells, only Poison Nova is of
interest. 3 skill points gave him a level 22 Poison Nova, which does 406
– 440 poison damage over 2 seconds. The short 2 second duration doesn’t make
this spell particularly useful, but in combination with the Lower Resist
curse, it is handy against the occasional physical
immunes or tough monsters.

In the middle branch are the two direct damage spells that
define the Arty playing style: Corpse Explosion and Bone Spirit. Teeth
and Bone Spear get just 1 point because they are required to enable the
other spells.
Both Corpse Explosion and Bone Spirit will be
maxed out (20 skill points) during the Arty’s career. I
n the case of DerExorzist, both spells reached level 41 with the skill adders (+11 from equipment and +10
from charms).

Corpse Explosion

A level 41 Corpse Explosion explodes a corpse with 60 – 100% of the corpse’s
life as damage, and a blast radius of 16
yards at the cost of 55 Mana. This is equal, or even a bit more than the blast
radius of a level 20 Corpse Explosion during its "glory days" in version
1.00 of classic Diablo 2, before the radius nerf in patch 1.03. A Hell Death
Lord
, for example, has about 3000 – 4000 hitpoints (3500 average). When his
corpse explodes, an average damage of 2800 (50% physical damage and 50% fire
damage) hits all enemies within the radius of 16 yards. In combination
with the Amplify Damage curse (reduces target’s physical resistance by
100%) and chain-casting, it has a power that even
Nihlathak will be green with envy ;)

Bone Spirit

Bone Spirit does 718 – 728 Magic Damage for 32 Mana
at level 41 and is powerful enough to get the first corpse(s) for the Corpse Explosions
quickly, even in solo multiplayer Hell games. Some Arty’s use an Act 5 Barbarian
mercenary with a high-damage Colossus Sword or Blade to get the first corpses. I
personally prefer the Act 1 Rogue with a special attack (more about that later)
though, because the aggressive barbarians die much too often for my taste. And
with such a powerful Bone Spirit and a huge Fire Golem as tank,
the barbarian mercenary would actually be redundant. 


Skills – Curses

In the Curses tree, two curses are of particular
interest for the Arty Necromancer: Amplify Damage (reduces target’s
physical resistance by 100%) and Lower Resist (lowers elemental and
magical resistance of monsters). Other useful, but not particularly necessary
curses are Iron Maiden (returns damage to the attacker), Life Tap
(attacker returns life to you, your mercenary and  your party), Dim
Vision
(reduces vision radius of attackers), and Terror (attackers
flee in fear).

DerExorzist - Curses

As said earlier, Iron Maiden has lost its status as
one of the Necromancer’s "uber-spells" because the general 50%
physical resistance of all monsters in Hell quarters its effect. It is quite
useful in the early game though, when Mana is not yet high enough to support
constant casting of Corpse Explosions and Bone Spirits.Life
Tap
, Terror and Dim Vision serve as "emergency spells",
and are used when the battle gets too dangerous. Dim Vision is especially
useful against ranged attackers and critter mobs, but unfortunately loses its
effect against bosses and champions, and Oblivion Knights. DerExorzist
has these skills at level 12 (1 point + 11 from skill adding items), except for Terror,
which has an additional 2-point bonus from Arm Of King Leoric.

Amplify Damage

Amplify Damage is by far the Arty’s most important
curse. Its radius of effect should be about equal to the blast radius of Corpse
Explosion
for full support of its damage effect. In the case of DerExorzist,
its level is 21 for a radius of 15.3 yards (Corpse Explosion is 16 yards)
and a duration of 68 seconds at the cost of 4 Mana.

Why is this the best curse for the Arty? Amplify
Damage
enhances physical damage, which, with the exception of its
effectiveness against physical immune monsters in Hell, is the Necromancer’s
most effective form of damage in a typical battle against monster hordes. The
second reason is its actual effectiveness in Hell difficulty. The skill
description "Damage Taken: +100 Percent" is somewhat misleading. At a
first glance, one would assume "ok, this spell doubles my physical
damage", which is wrong, at least as Hell difficulty is concerned. The
correct skill description would be "Reduces Target’s Physical Resistance By
100%". Because every monster in Hell difficulty has at least 50% physical
resistance, a monster has just 50% – 100% = -50% physical resistance when it is
cursed. This means that your previously reduced damage of 50% is raised to its
original 100% damage, plus 50%. Thus, Amplify Damage actually triples
physical damage against all Hell foes. Its effectiveness increases even more
with higher physical resistance, because the damage inflicted on a cursed
monster gets higher in relation to the damage that could have been otherwise
done. The melee fighters in your party will appreciate this
powerful spell very much.

Lower Resist

Lower Resist is the second important curse. It
curses an enemy to take more damage from all magical attacks, including
elemental (lightning, fire, cold and poison) and magic damage. Immunities
can not be affected. DerExorzist has this skill at
level 12 (1 point + 11 from skill adding items), lowering the monster resistance
by 57% at the cost of 22 Mana. Because of its diminishing returns with
increasing skill level, more points are not recommended.

Whenever physical damage loses its effect, for example
against physical immune monsters, this curse is used to amplify your and your
party’s magical attacks. The Arty has three magical attack forms: Fire (Corpse
Explosion
: 50% fire damage, Fire Golem), Poison (Poison Nova),
and Magic (Bone Spirit). Combined with Lower Resist, they
all do sufficient damage to handle monsters that are only sensible to magical
attacks. While playing my Necromancer, I have not met monsters which are immune
to all three attack forms, so at least one of them was always working. Lower Resist
also amplifies the magical attacks of your party members. Sorceresses get a huge
boost in power, but magical attacks using melee fighters like Berserk Barbarians
or Vengeance Paladins profit equally. 


Skills – Summoning Spells

In the Summoning Spells tree, the Arty Necromancer’s
minions and supporting spells are located. Even though the Arty is able to
inflict massive direct damage on his own, he can’t operate efficiently and safe
enough without minions. Ideally, all attackers are gathered within a small area,
so that he can blow them up with a couple of Corpse Explosions. In this
tree is a minion which is great for that purpose.

DerExorzist - Summoning Spells

The Fire Golem is the Arty’s "monster
magnet"
. He features a fire aura that literally attracts monsters like a
light attracts moths.

Fire Golem         
Golem Mastery

The effect of his aura gets stonger with increasing skill
level, and this is the third spell after Corpse Explosion and Bone
Spirit
, which I recommend to max out. A Fire Golem should, not at
last because of the high casting costs, stand like an indestructible pillar in
the battle field, thus, Golem Mastery (increases life and speed of
golems) should be developed to a high level during the Arty’s career, too. I
recommend to develop the golem and his mastery equally, with a slight focus on
the golem.

Me and the Golem, discussing whether to max him or his mastery first

Me and the Golem, discussing whether to max him or his
mastery first

The Fire Golem of DerExorzist
does 225 – 587 fire damage, absorbs 94% fire damage to heal himself, and has
6685 hitpoints in Hell difficulty thanks to his level 28 Golem Mastery.
His walk/run speed is enhanced by 36% through his mastery, and he costs 330 Mana
to be summoned. Since my Necromancer passed character level 85, I almost never had
to recast him. He is nearly indestructible, and does decent fire damage at high
levels, especially in combination with the Lower Resist curse.

Revive

At times, you want to take off some of the heat of your
golem, your mercenary and your party, and summon some Revives. Their
damage is negligible compared to the damage you inflict otherwise, but they work
great as "meat shields". Revive requires 2 prerequisite points
(Raise Skeleton and Raise Skeletal Mage), and 1 point into Skeleton
Mastery
is highly recommended to make them more durable and increase their
damage. For 4 skill points and the 11 points from skill adding items, DerExorzist
can summon a dozen of durable Revives. Skeleton Mastery (skill
level 15) gets the additional skill bonus from Arm Of King Leoric,
increasing the lives of revived creatures by 105% and their damage by 30%.

Summon Resist increases the resists of all summoned
creatures and gets 1 point (and the rest from skill adding items). At skill level
12, Summon Resist increases all resistances by 60%, which is high enough
to protect your minions for a while against the worst elemental attacks. It should
be noted that Summon Resist impedes the Fire Golem’s ability to
absorb and heal himself from fire damage. However, since a high-level golem
absorbs a very high  percentage of fire damage, he still retains a quite good
self-healing ability.


Strategy & Leveling

The strategy of an Arty Necromancer is quite simple: Cast
Bone Armor and the Fire Golem in town, get your mercenary, and then walk out
into the lands of Sanctuary. Your strong "monster magnet" (the Fire Golem) attracts the monster hordes, and the high-level Bone Spirit gets the first corpse(s) for your Corpse Explosion
chains quickly. Cast Amplify Damage before casting Corpse Explosions and further
Bone Spirits. Should you run into physical immunes, cast Lower Resist instead of Amplify
Damage, and use Bone Spirit, Poison Nova and Corpse Explosion, which is 50% fire damage.
Cast Revives when you get mobbed too hefty, the Cow Level being a good example.
If you are running out of your grey "meat shields", use the defensive
spells Bone Wall and Bone Prison to protect yourself and to isolate single
targets or smaller groups. Bone Wall and Bone Prison also work great against
monsters and bosses which are unaffected by certain curses, like Oblivion
Knights.

When playing in parties, use the curse that supports the
fighters next to you best. Amplify Damage makes life for melee fighters a lot
easier, and spellcasters will like your Lower Resist curse. Continue to cast
Bone Spirits and Corpse Explosions (Corpse Explosions with a Static Field
casting Sorceress next to you works fantastic in big parties). When you have
both melee fighters and spellcasters next to you, support the melee fighters
with Amplify Damage. Against physical immune monsters, use Lower Resist
exclusively.

When you want to play solo, for the purpose of finding
items, for example, join games with 3 or 4 people. More people is still well
possible for a soloing Arty, but the Corpse Explosion chains start to get
interrupted because their damage can’t cope with the high total  hitpoints
of the monsters (in a 6 to 8-player multiplayer game). In other words,
you can’t play fluent anymore.

As far as unique monsters/bosses and act bosses goes, none
of them is a problem for this kind of Arty. The powerful Fire Golem and Bone
Spirit are strong enough to kill them quickly.

 

MMMoooooooo !!! :)

Well, this guide is also written for the Necromancer who
wants to run the Battle.net Ladder (read: get experience fast), and here are
some tips.

I played my Arty Necromancer

DerExorzist

in 10 days to
level 99 and rank 1 on the European Battle.net Necromancer Ladder (the ladder after the reset in September
2001), and he was the third Necromancer to reach level 99 on the new ladder in
the Europe Realm. He
is not a so-called "team char", who leeches experience till
level 60 in a strictly organized power-leveling ("twinking") team
before he finally kills the first monster on his own. Instead, he has been
played and leveled "normally" in public and private games, often with
some friends, but most of the time together with people we didn’t know. He has
been "twinked" as far as the equipment goes, which means that all of
his equipment parts was already there on mule characters, ready to be used when
their time has come. This isn’t exactly the way the game should be played, but
during the "Ladder Rush" (the first few days after its reset), you
don’t want to waste time collecting items and spend hours in the trading
channels to trade for the equipment you need. We also had the help of some
high-level friends, which gave us waypoints, so that we could get to important
leveling areas (Act 2 Sewers, Canyon of the Magi, Act 3 Kurast, Act 5
Bloody Foothills, Cow Level) and Act Bosses as fast as possible. All leveling on the
way to Act 5/Hell however, has been done without high-level help (experience
leech) in public and private games, and we killed all Act Bosses and the
Ancients ourselves. 

Leveling in the Cow Level

"A fresh beefsteak, anyone?"

Before I get to the most important leveling area for the
ladder runner, the Cow Level, some statistics regarding the experience
during a character’s life.

The Level "Malus"

"Level Malus" refers to a general experience
penalty depending on your character level. The penalty gets higher with
increasing character level.

Character Level Experience per Monster
1 – 75 100%
76 – 79 50%
80 – 84 33%
85 – 89 25%
90 – 99 20%

As one can see, the general experience penalty gets very
high past character level 79. At character level 90 (and beyond), one needs to
kill 5 times the monsters one would have to kill till character level 75
to gain the same experience. But that’s not all, it gets even worse! :)

The Character Level vs.
Monster Level Penalty

"Character Level versus Monster Level Penalty"
refers to an experience penalty depending on the level of your character and the
levels of the monsters you are fighting. If your character’s level is too far
off from the monster’s level, you gain almost no experience from the kill.

Experience per Monster

Character Level – Monster Level Character Level 1 – 24 Character Level 25 – 99
-10 and lower 5% Character Level/Monster Level
-9 15% Character Level/Monster Level
-8 37% Character Level/Monster Level
-7 68% Character Level/Monster Level
-6 88% Character Level/Monster Level
-5 to +5 100% 100%
+6 81% 81%
+7 62% 62%
+8 43% 43%
+9 24% 24%
+10 and higher 5% 5%

So, a level 98 character not only gets just 20% experience
per killed monster on his way to level 99, but also an additional experience
penalty of -57% when killing a level 90 Hell monster like the cows. The actual
experience is now just 8% for every level 90 monster!

To give a better idea what this means in practice, an
example: At character level 85, a typical "Hell Cow Level Experience Run"
in an 8-player party gives about 9 to 10 million experience points for your
character (at 25% experience). At character level 98, the same run gives just 3
million experience points (at 8% experience). Count the constantly increasing
experience requirements for the next character level in (about 290 million from
level 98 to 99), and you get an idea how hard it is to level your character past
level 90. So, when you run into one of those snobs again who say "the game
is too easy, and the ladder a joke", throw these numbers at him :)

Experience Shrine

"Is the Cow Portal open, guys?"

Experience Shrines to the
Rescue!

In Diablo 2 (LoD), there is no problem that cannot be
worked around somehow, and that applies to the experience penalty as well ;) In the
game are a number of different so-called shrines, and one of them, the Experience
Shrine
, increases your experience by 50% (including the experience gains
from kills by your party) for a limited time. They can be often found in the
first areas of Act 1 (like the Cold Plains, the Stony Field or the
Dark Wood), which is quite handy because you start the "Cow
Runs" from the Rogue Camp in Act 1. Their effect doesn’t last for long, but
whenever possible, use these experience boosters to your advantage. Note that
when you get cursed, for example by one of the numerous bosses in the Cow Level,
that the experience increasing effect of the shrine vanishes. While under the
influence of the shrine, avoid boss packs like the plague.

Leveling in the
Not-So-Secret Cow Level

When you have killed the last Act Boss (Diablo in CD2, Baal
in LoD), you get access to a special game area called "The Secret Cow
Level
". This fun-area offers by far the best experience per time in the
entire game and is the recommended level area for the ladder runner, at least
for those playing Softcore. For Hardcore players, this area is not recommended
because it is crowded with hundreds of fast moving "1-hit
wonders" (the cows), random (often dangerous) cow boss packs, and a unique
boss, the Cow King. It is almost certain that you die several times here,
thus, Hardcore players should level in the first area of Act 5, the Bloody
Foothills
, instead. Leveling there takes significantly longer, but it is
almost guaranteed that you don’t die if your elemental resists are sufficient,
and if you avoid the two bosses in that area, Shenk the Overseer and Dac
Farren
. I definitely recommend to play in a party when leveling your
character in the Cow Level.

Before you can enter the Cow Level, someone in your party
has to go to Tristram, go to Wirt’s body and get Wirt’s Leg. Wirt’s Leg
and a tome of town portals in the Horadric Cube opens a red portal to the Cow
Level.

"DON’T KILL THE COW KING
!!"

When the red portal is open, this is probably the first
someone in your party will say :) The reason for it is once you, or someone else
in your party, kills the Cow King, no party member will be able to open the
portal to the Cow Level in future games. The (always lightning enchanted) Cow
King and his minions have the annoying habit to follow you once they
"saw" you. Thus, for practical reasons, we mostly had a character in
the game whom we called the "Gate Char". The Gate Char had not yet killed the Cow King, and his only task
was to
open the Cow Level portal, and then we were free to kill the King. He must not be in the party if he intends to stay in
the game, or leave the game when the portal is open.

The melee fighters should go through the portal first,
followed by the ranged fighters and the spellcasters. Very often, the portal was
right next to a cow mob, or even worse, a boss pack or the King himself (well,
sometimes you wonder what they smoke over there at Blizzard ;) This fact, by the
way, is yet another reason why the Cow Level is not recommended for Hardcore
players. Melee fighters can stand one or more bad hits, and are best suited to
make the first step. As soon as they give their OK, the weaker party members follow.

"STICK TOGETHER, TEAM
!!"

 This is probably the best tip I can give for
partyplay in the Cow Level. Have your team stick together, and your killing
speed will be much higher. The worst party you can have is a party with
loot/item-hungry people, running around everywhere, hoping to find the
"godly" item before you find it. I have made comparisons between this
"worst case" and a team that strictly killed together for experience
only. The latter team was about 4 to 5 times faster, finishing a Cow Run in
about 2 – 3 minutes, and I guess I don’t need to explain what that means if you
are after level 99 and a top ladder position. If you want items, do item runs,
otherwise leave the chests closed.

An ideal party consists of a good mix of melee and ranged
fighters, and spellcasters. For example, two Barbarians with high-level Battle
Orders
, a Paladin with Fanaticism and/or Conviction, a Druid
with Oak Sage, one or two Amazons (Bow and/or Javelin), one or two
Sorceresses, and of course you, the Arty Necromancer, is a very powerful
combination, which can clear the Cow Level in almost no time at almost no risk.


Mercenaries

In LoD, the hireable mercenaries have evolved from
cannon-fodder to actually helpful companions. Vive la evolution! ;) 

Four types of mercenaries are available:

Act 1 – Rogue (Ranged fighter, can uses
Non-Amazon-Class Bows exclusively)
Act 2 – Desert Mercenary
(Melee fighter with Auras, can use Spears/Polearms exclusively)
Act 3 – Mage
(Ranged fighter with Elemental Spells, can use 1-handed Swords and
Shields)
Act 5 – Barbarian
(Strong melee fighter, can use Swords exclusively)

For the Arty Necromancer, all of the mercenaries can be
useful. I decided to get an Act 1 Cold Arrow Rogue because she has a nice
"hidden feature": a powerful Lightning Hose attack, which accompanies
her arrow attacks once it is enabled.

Act 1 Rogue Mercenary - Equipment

Act 1 Rogue Mercenary – Equipment

If the rogue gets equipment which has +3 to all skills on
it, for example the unique Cliffkiller bow (+2 skills) and the unique Peasant
Crown
(+1 skills), she uses a Lightning Hose attack similar to that
of Diablo together with her cold arrow attacks. It is limited in its range,
but it is very powerful once she gets to higher character levels. Her lightning
adds a third elemental attack form to the Arty’s arsenal, which, besides its
general effectiveness, is very useful against physical, poison and fire immune
monsters.

Act 1 Rogue Mercenary - Lightning Hose Attack

Act 1 Rogue Mercenary – Lightning Hose Attack

Another advantage of the rogue is that she almost never
dies because the strong Fire Golem and the Revives tank for her. Most of the
time, she is just running around, happily firing her cold arrows and lightning
hoses. 

 

Conclusion

Well, I think I have told you everything that is important
to know about my Arty/Ladder Necromancer. He is a blast to play, and I had a
great time in the 10 days during which I played him to the top of the ladder.
The experience to play together with some of the best realm players was very
exciting, and I will certainly do it again when the next ladder run starts. This
time, you’ll probably see me as Elemental Druid, or as Meteor Sorceress.

DerExorzist has now retired.
Sometimes, he can be seen strolling through the lands of Sanctuary in search of
"godly" items. He plans to marry Isolde, his lovely rogue mercenary,
and finally take the time to study the "Bizarre Dimension", and
"The Book" ;)

 

Thanks

Thanks to all the fine people whom I played with during the
"Ladder Rush"! Thanks for the fun time, and the support, which finally
made the top ladder rank possible.

Special thanks go to my steady companions during the run:

AXTGOTT (Barbarian)

CHRISSIE (Sorceress)

DARKELDAR (Paladin)

ERDNUCKEL (Barbarian)

FROGWOLF (Werewolf Druid)

SHERA (Sorceress)

and last, but not least:

HEMAN (The Gate Char)

 

You are the Best! :)

 

Europe Realm

October 21, 2001