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.