Holy Fire Paladin


Skkra recommends… Holy Fire Paladin!

Yeah, it’s another Paladin, but unlike the Frost Zealot using Holy Freeze, this is probably one of the hardest Paladin builds in the entire game.  Without a doubt, it’s the absolute most difficult of the Zeal variants.

What makes this so hard to play?  Well, mostly because it’s insanely underpowered.  The Paladin’s fire damage never gets very high compared to their Cold and Lightning attacks, even when maxxed out.  On top of that, the as you progress into Nightmare and Hell, monsters tend to have high fire resistances, or even immunity.  In the end though, I ended up maxing out Zeal, Holy Fire, and the Resist Fire Synergy.  Some of the rest of the points went into the additional synergy, but I also needed some extra physical damage and some 1-point wonder skills.

I geared out with as much crushing blow as I could muster, the fastest weapon I could find, and damage reduction.  I figured I needed to build that way because I’m playing hardcore, I don’t do a ton of damage, and I’m likely going to be taking a lot of hits, since I’m not killing monsters very quickly.

A Holy Freeze merc is your best friend here, since you need to try and keep monsters from absolutely swarming you.  Giving your merc a weapon with Slows Target or Crushing Blow are both good calls, as you need all the help you can get here.  Your playstyle is very in-and-out, as you don’t ever want to be standing for too long in a giant pool of enemies.  Holy Fire actually draws monsters toward you each time they’re pinged with the aura, so you’re going to be getting a lot of attention.

I do feel that defeating Hell Baal with my pure Holy Fire Paladin was one of the most rewarding playthroughs of Diablo II that I’ve ever completed.  It took a very long time, was very difficult, had several near death experiences, and required a lot of ingenuity with equipment choices and using Paladin’s skill tree to the max.  When something was totally immune, you had to find ways around.  Sometimes this meant using an alternate weapon with a small but serviceable amount of lightning, cold, or magic damage.  Other times, it meant digging into my skill tree to find a solution.  If you love Diablo II and have never attempted this build before, give it a shot.

Werebear Druid


Skkra recommends… Werebear Druid!

Everyone tends to gravitate towards the werewolf druid, and for good reason.  A zeal skill with a fucking 423% damage boost at level 20 is absolutely insane, and when using a 2-handed weapon then adding in lifesteal – Windhammer, anyone? – you’ll be doing so much damage, and healing so fast, that unless you’re stunlocked, you’re very, very difficult to kill.  Cannot be frozen is the only must.

A werebear has to play a tighter game.  Your main skill only grows in damage AS you do damage, so each encounter means you’re building your damage back up from scratch.  This in itself isn’t a problem, as a werebear is a more defensive build anyways.  In fact, your choice of merc is immediately obvious, thanks to your skills which give you armor: defiance.

Being able to stun your enemies with an (albeit small) AOE skill is also a giant help, so you’ll want to invest enough to get high stun duration in hell.  That generally frees you up to use a 2-handed weapon, although I’ve gotten through Hell before using the biggest one-handed hammer I could find and a huge shield for even more defense.  Of course, that’s hardcore mode, so if you’re not as worried about dying, it opens up your options more.

All in all, the build is very entertaining, though if you don’t enjoy a slower, more methodical playstyle, you’ll probably end up leaning more towards the raw power of the werewolf build.

Melee Enchantress


Skkra recommends… Melee Enchantress!

One of my personal favorite builds, and one that I still have yet to successfully take a way through Hell Baal – a melee sorceress using Enchant to do huge fire damage.

This build requires very good gear, not only because some pieces are required for the build to work at all, but because you’re going to be up close and personal with hard-hitting monsters, and you have very, very low life.  The linchpin of this build is the Passion runeword, which you should build in a Phase Blade for the blinding speed.  Passion gives you +1 to Zeal, and you’ll need enough +skills items to push it up to level 5 so that you get all of the hits.

A holy freeze merc is also a must for this build, since you need to avoid getting crushed.  Teleporting around is a very helpful tactic, as you can position yourself to pick off monsters one at a time, while the holy freeze aura keeps the rest of them from swarming you.  With Zeal and Enchant, you can do big single-target damage.  You’ll actually want a lot of +skills, since the Enchant gets boosted both by Enchant AND by Fire Mastery, which exceeds the usual synergy bonus you’d get on most skills.

Gear preference is up to the individual for the most part, though having your resistances maxxed (probably thanks to supplemental charms) is necessary.  Items that have Damage Reduced by X% are probably quite helpful, too.  You’ll want to have just enough strength to wear your items, and pretty much everything else should go into health.  Get your dexterity from items when you can, and gain as much attack rating as possible through items as well.  You’ll want to be hitting at least 75% of the time, so it’s up to you to figure out how to balance your gear and make that happen.

If you have a lot of patience – this is a slow moving build – and some good gear laying around, this is a very unique build that is worth trying out.

Poison Daggermancer


Skkra recommends… Poison Daggermancer!

Continuing along with our Diablo II week, let’s talk about Poison Daggermancer.  This is a melee-focused Necromancer build, and it isn’t for the faint of heart.  You’ll also need pretty good gear, because you’re going to be up close and personal with a lot of gigantic enemies, and PoisonDaggermanceryou’re going to be getting hit.  You need a good shield.

Your merc of choice basically has to be a holy freeze merc, as the slowdown is invaluable, considering how weak you are.  There are a lot of elite unique daggers that have good mods, but getting crushing blow is very helpful – probably THE most helpful mod.  Barring that, just stack up as much poison damage as you possibly can.  Trang’s Gloves with their 25% bonus are an absolute must.

The biggest issue when playing a Daggermancer is simply one of playstyle.  The most important thing is to be hit-and-run.  You need to be moving carefully in and out of battle, stabbing enemies to poison them, then cycling to the next one.  Use your curses to slow enemies, or lower their resistance.  I was constantly switching skills when playing this build, making sure my bone armor was up, casting various curses, keeping my golem summoned, etc.  There is a lot going on at once, you make sure your hotkeys are all within easy reach!

Holy Freeze Paladin


Skkra recommends… Holy Freeze Paladin!

A new week, a new theme.  This week, we’re going to talk about my favorite game of all time: Diablo II.  This week, I’m going to discuss a HolyFreezePaladinbunch of my favorite builds.  I still play this game near weekly, and it’s still absolutely spectacular.  I may honestly never tire of this game.  I didn’t think that was possible, but it seems to be the case.  I’ve played thousands of hours and am still ready for more.  Anyways, lets do this.

Holy Freeze Paladin is a strong, defensive build.  It’s very well suited for hardcore mode due to the relative safety that Holy Freeze provides you.  Yes, there are a few monsters in the game that are not effected by the aura, but they’re few and far between.  Holy Freeze goes through Cannot Be Frozen, so there isn’t much you can’t slow to a crawl.

While listing full gear recommendations will be beyond the scope of these posts, we can discuss the basics.  100% of the time, you’ll be maxxing out Holy Freeze, Resist Cold (for the synergy), and Zeal (for the attack rating).  Beyond that, the gear you choose depends on your preference and ability to outfit yourself.  Crushing Blow is an excellent mod for any melee class, and I personally recommend a one-handed weapon plus a shield.  Paladin shields can drop by default with big resists on them, so I suggest getting one of those and making a runeword in it.  A few items with +skills never hurt, either.

Your choice of a merc depends on your playstyle.  Defensive-aura act II mercs are a good choice, though if you want extra physical damage, a might aura merc is a good choice, too.  I’ve actually completed the game with an Act III fire merc, which was rewarding and entertaining.

The only thing that I do recommend is that you get a few additional sources of cold damage.  Charms work well.  Those additional cold damage sources will stack and further slow down enemies.  If you’re playing hardcore, you can basically turn certain monsters into a total slideshow, keeping you extremely safe.  Bosses are similarly easy to slow down.

Man, just writing all of this makes me want to start a new Holy Freeze Paladin.  Damn, what a great game.