Diablo II - Hardcore Star Team 2 - Sorceress

Here's a postscript to the tale of the second team. I decided to continue after all with the sorceress. I had said how that's my least favorite class, but I did come to miss playing one as the team progressed.

The original one died in act 4 normal, and I had taken the rebuild that far before deciding not to continue. But I can't resist going back to her anyway now, after the team found so much good sorceress equipment that I can't let go unused. Two fire skill charms and the lightning rainbow facet are the major pieces, plus also Magefist gloves, Suicide Branch wand, and a great sorceress skills circlet and amulet. I saved these items and noted where each came from, so she will take them at the appropriate times as if she'd been with the team all along.

This isn't exactly the same as being in the team environment concurrently. Her access to items is the same as if she were within the seven-team; she doesn't get any extra runs through acts, or any item earlier than it dropped, she's still untwinked by that view. But by playing afterwards she has the advantage of foreknowledge: she knows an amulet with big strength is forthcoming so can keep that low, knows to save a socket quest for the circlet and put the facet in it, to prioritize resistance items higher because she'll have two fire skillers taking up charm space, and to focus gambles and crafts on the slots that aren't covered yet (rings, boots.) So it's a slightly different challenge, and her Guardianship if achieved isn't quite on the same level and should be footnoted, but still worth doing and still a worthy Guardian if successful.

My rules for the rebuild were as follows. Play her solo as usual for the first four acts, up until her original version died. But then discard all her items acquired until that time, so there's no advantage to be gained by running those an extra time. I also made sure she didn't gain any more experience than the original version. After act four, she could be equipped with surplus from the rest of the team; I actually did that originally when the team was at that point, so I could just pick up the sorceress from that save file. This included a Razorswitch staff that normal Diablo had dropped for someone else, an interesting item and worth taking for a spin for a while. (+175 mana on that is crazy. She went all the way from the outer cloister to Andariel in nightmare without ever returning to town for potions.)

Nightmare Difficulty

I'll summarize nightmare difficulty in one chapter, then move on to hell.

Interesting items in nightmare included her own Razorswitch drop from nightmare Duriel, appropriately enough, swapped to using that one just for kicks (its stats aren't variable at all.) Whitstan's Guard shield, so I could consider building her into a max-block build if I wanted, can defer that decision for a while yet. Darkglow armor which I upgraded to put on the merc. Also an Impaler spear for him. The nightmare hellforge rune was Ko, technically above average but doesn't really do anything helpful.

And this wild moment:

All of Lionheart dropped in a single screen in Canyon of the Magi. So of course I made one to wear. The first Cuirass base I found was ethereal... but I gave it a shot at the cube-socketing recipe anyway, and got the 3:

so I cheekily made that Lionheart in the ethereal armor. I like this as an extra incentive to not get hit, like the Delirium helm on both of the previous amazons, may even induce me to play more carefully. On a teleporting sorceress it should last a long time. Also there is another Lionheart available later, after act 2 hell, the one the assassin took off then for her Shaftstop instead.

And one more wild moment, a Mal rune dropped out of nowhere in act 5 nightmare. It took a moment to brain-process that. "That's not a real rune, it has to be Tal or Ral or what's the other one Fal... oh wait oh wow." I have no idea what to do with it. In the team environment, I'd keep it in case a Kingslayer or Call to Arms could happen, but a lone sorc doesn't need those. The options are a Sanctuary shield (though I'd still need another Ko), or Prudence armor... not sure if I want to try to build her around shield blocking, or armor defense, or neither.

I just finished nightmare difficulty. Her fire build is as strong as I expected, max Meteor and Fireball synergy even with only 1 point in Fire Mastery. Her lightning side is a lot weaker, up to max Chain Lightning and 10 synergy points so far in Nova, but that's quite a bit weaker than I had hoped on damage with only 1 point in Lit Mastery. Actually Static Field is doing most of the damage on her lightning side for now. We'll see how this holds up in hell; she really needs to pack on as much +skills equipment as I can manage, maybe even go with separate fire and lightning setups on weapon switch like the bowazon did.

I'm planning on full-clearing like the rest of the team did, from act 4 nightmare through act 2 hell. Somewhat less necessary since she isn't item-hunting for any teammates, but I want to do it that way to keep her on the same playing field, the items she's going to inherit came from full-clearing and so she should do the same.

Act 1 Hell:

To start hell, I decided I had to just keep the Razorswitch equipped. I didn't have anything else that would be any better: no orb with any skills, only Suicide Branch for a wand which is the same +1 as Razorswitch, and any shield (even Sanctuary) would be the same resists as Razorswitch, plus Razorswitch has the mana and life. I couldn't go with a shopped staff with more +skills instead; the problem was no other solution for resistances, particularly no charms; I'd had a couple from earlier but they got lost to timing out when left in town sometime in nightmare.

Chain Lightning turned out to be enough to deal with all the fire-immune fallen and shamans, took a lot of shots but worked eventually. It's actually pretty fun to see the chain bouncing around everywhere; it is significantly different than regular Lightning where I was constantly trying to line up piercing lines. I was hoping to use Nova too, but its damage just never got anywhere useful -- it has the curse of being good back in 1.09 so it never got synergies. I had one danger moment during the act, on Pit level 2 when an archer barrage cut me to a sliver of life, but I rejuved and teleported away and handled it from there.

I did full-clear act 1, but stayed on just players-3 most of the time except a handful of areas where there were no fire immunes. One thing that went well was a Thresher dropped and hit 5 sockets with the cube, so my merc got his Honor nice and early. But one thing that went badly was that my ethereal Lionheart didn't even make it through act 1... but then another Fal had dropped and so I made a normal non-ethereal one and carried on.

Her major item gain from the act was a +3 fire skills orb, with +1 Meteor as well. I then went shopping and turned up a +3 lightning skills staff too, also with +1 Chain Lightning and even the Magus faster cast suffix as well. Both of these were major skill upgrades over the Razorswitch, increasing damage by a third, thanks to the quadratic effect that the total damage is skill level times mastery level. So now she had a dual weapon setup, fire skills orb on primary and the lightning staff on secondary, switching between them constantly like the bowazon did. The fire orb allows a shield too, which was just a diamond shield to cover resistances, although that does mean being very careful on the lightning-staff switch when that's not there. She also now took the circlet the team had found (+1 sorc skills, 20% prismatic, 70 mana), and temporarily socketed it with a resist rune, to be replaced with the rainbow facet after act two.

Still haven't used the Mal rune, looking for either a 2-socket ethereal armor base for Prudence, or an orb good enough to not be weapon-switching so she can rely on a Sanctuary shield.

Act 2

Chain Lightning for fire immunes was a lot less impressive here. The Invader and Blunderbore type fire-immunes have a lot more hit points than act 1's fallen. CL would always work eventually, just took forever. And Nova never got up to useful levels of damage at all, maybe a touch faster than CL against dense packs of maggot young or burning dead, but not worth the mana cost or risking the close range. Static Field was what actually saved my sanity by at least getting through half the lightning-damage health quickly.

I'm also less impressed with the interaction between Meteor and Fireball than I expected. I thought that was a cool pairing, they synergize each other with different functions... but it's really pretty much the same function, they do just about the same dps (figuring Meteor's casting delay) and same blast radius. Really the only right thing is just always alternate castings of Meteor and then Fireball during each cooldown. There's not much of any strategic interaction, just cast Meteor whenever possible and Fireball whenever not or when that will just kill the target faster than a meteor would land. At least Meteor is great at smashing greater mummies in the back row; actually this reminded me of the FF5 white mage casting Holy.

The big item find here was Duriel's Shell. Wow, that keeps popping up right when I need it. As always, it's almost the same as Lionheart but just a bit better, same life and a bit more resists by socketing a rune, plus Cannot Be Frozen. Although at first I put it on the merc before switching it to the sorceress herself after the act; reason was she didn't have enough strength for it until getting the amulet waiting for her. (Her base strength is only 40, the lowest I've ever done; possible because I knew a +26 strength amulet was waiting.)

I full-cleared through act 2 on players-3, same as the rest of the team did. From here on, she continues the same as the rest of the team too: no more full-clearing, just direct progress; players-3 for acts 3 and 4 (except the Durance on p1), p1 for act 5. I know this isn't the best chance to make Guardian as compared to staying on p1 all the way, but I want to play her the same way as the rest of the team did; if I don't then I'll always keep feeling like she should have.

And at the end of this act, she finally came up to full power on the items waiting for her: the two fire skill charms (with life and strength suffixes) and a good +1 sorc amulet, plus the lightning rainbow facet socketed in her circlet.

Act 3

Ah, finally the one place where 145% of the game isn't immune to fire. And with the +skills equipment bringing Meteor to level 29 and 6500 damage, now she was cooking with gas, had a lot of fun here. Also she finally got Nova to max after taking longer on that than I expected, so now her last few remaining skill points can finally raise Fire Mastery.

She got a nice item from the council, a rare orb with +2 lightning skills and 20% FCR, and so that was good enough to use on the weapon switch instead of the +3 lightning skills staff. That meant I needed a second shield too, which turned out to be pretty sweet too: I went shopping for one with the Jeweler's prefix, and got one with a Colossus +50 life suffix too, very nice.

The other important items were for the mercenary: a Vampire Gaze helm (first time either team found that), plus a 2-socket Great Hauberk for a Smoke armor. I considered making that armor into Prudence with the Mal rune instead, but I just can't bring myself to spend that on a non-ethereal base. (Preferably eth-bugged too of course; but I haven't found a single ethereal elite armor at all yet with this sorceress, never mind cubing the right socket count.)

Act 4

This one was harder. The big problem was venom lords: fire immune and 75% lightning resistant. I actually couldn't kill them on players-3! Each venom lord regenerated faster than Chain Lightning could damage it. CL plus the merc could barely outdamage the regeneration, but this was tremendously slow, upwards of thirty seconds for every single monster. I didn't have any poison damage or Open Wounds on the merc, and no useful way to get any. I had to resort to shopping a Prevent Monster Heal throwing javelin, and plinking with that at each and every venom lord until it hit. That was ponderously slow of course, but ultimately did work; venom lords aren't really dangerous for damage against max fire resist, unless in huge swarms, which teleport can easily avoid.

I underrate her power level by describing the outlying cases like that, though. Anything not fire-immune, she wipes in seconds. Even fire immunes with no or low lightning resist (doom knights) go down to Static and Chain without too much trouble.

Anyway, item drops. First off, holy crap! Got the #1 coveted but always just elusive enough item in the game ...

Harlequin Crest! ... and ... I decided not to use it. This sounds crazy, but here's why. First, this character was so built around her existing circlet, with the lightning Rainbow Facet socketed, and with 20% resist-all that I really didn't have any way to make up elsewhere.

And second... This item dropped in a spot that wasn't quite legitimate by the rules of the team. I was re-clearing Plains of Despair. I'd gone partway through, then took a break, and when I came back to the PC, the program had frozen. (This happens occasionally, once a week or so.) So I had to restart the program and the area. And with gloams around, I didn't want to just rush-teleport through, but decided I had to carefully clear. So of course, the big item jackpot hit at just the moment when I shouldn't have had access to it. I'm not obedient to anyone's rules here, I could decide to use the Harlequin if I wanted... but decided, between that situation and the complications of not using her existing circlet, I'll just let this one pass.

Her Hellforge rune was an Ist again, cool but she doesn't really have anything to do with it, she doesn't want a Delirium. (I also never used the Mal rune from earlier.)

Oh, and Diablo dropped a magical Gilded Shield... with double durability... that was a failed set item, so it was inches from rolling a unique Herald of Zakarum.

Act 5

And now it went faster again after dropping down to players-1 as the rest of the team did. As with everyone else, minimal clearing now, eyes on the prize. I did do the Anya quest, since her resists were still a little below max.

Assorted items that weren't good for anything: Immortal King's maul. Dracul's Grasp gloves, I think that's the first time I ever found that (and I really wished I could put it on the merc for the life tap and open wounds!) Bloodmoon unique elite sword. A second Vampire Gaze.

And besides some of those, here's what she turned up across her career that made me wish she had been playing with a proper team: this sorceress managed to find a total of four skill charms: sorceress cold, amazon bow, druid elemental, druid shapeshifting.

Things went uneventfully through the act. The Ancients were actually pretty easy, I teleported around until they were separated one by one. The last was fire immune, and did hit me with Whirlwind a few times where I had to smack a rejuve mid-whirl, but I've actually kinda gotten used to the timing on doing that, and enough castings of Chain Lightning (about eight mana potions worth) took him down.

Worldstone Keep also went easily, no fire immunes on the first two levels, doom knights on the third and minotaur lords in the throne, but by now I had plenty of practice handling such things. The minion waves were no trouble either; I hadn't known that Ventar's venom lord pack has 0% lightning resistance, not 75% as do the venom lords in act four. Lister's pack required me to isolate them no more than two at a time, and meticulously hit each one with the PMH javelin, but I got that done too. And finally, a sorceress wielding Static and Teleport and maxed Meteor should take down Baal easily, and she did.

So that concludes this adventure (no, I'm not redoing the phoenixsin or poisonmancer), thanks again for reading along.

Home | Start | Nightmare | Hell | Sorceress