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Black Death 101

From Diablo 2 Wiki
Black Death zombies.

This strategy article discusses techniques to deal with the dangerous Black Death zombies. This article was written by Bringer in 1998, and is in a personal style not typically used for wiki articles. A few modern additions have been made, along with a great deal of grammar clean up, but the content body is largely original.

Black Death Bashing

As you probably all know, black deaths have the nasty habit to take away 1 hp permanently every time they hit you, so, when fighting them, you need to change, or at least, fine-tune your strategies and tactics (never know the difference :) a little. And that's exactly what this document is for. In this document the following things will be dealt with:

  • General info
  • Avoiding getting hit by suprise
  • Dealing with them from a distance
    • Spells
    • Bows
  • Dealing with them in melee fight


Black Deaths can appear on levels 3 through 5. They are bright yellow zombies. They move very slowly but hit fairly quickly. They are monster level 6 on normal difficulty so make sure you do at least 6 dmg per hit to stun them. (Note that blunt weapons do 1.5 times the shown damage, and sharp weapons only 0.5 against undead, and black deaths are undead.) On nightmare they are level 21, and on hell 36. Their AC is 20 in normal diff, 70 on nightmare, and 150 on hell. Their to-hit is 30 on normal (luckily, this is very low), 115 on nightmare, and 150 on hell dificulty.


When you walk around on levels 3 through 5, you should always pay extreme caution, at least until you are ABSOLUTELY sure there are no black deaths around. Always make wide turns; do not walk around corners along the inside wall. Move to the outer wall, so you will have at least the width of the corridor to react if a Black Death is there.

This way, that black death waiting around the corner can't hit you. Yes, black deaths have crappy to-hits, so the chance they would hit you, is very small. But IF they hit you, you aren’t happy, believe me. (yeah, been there, done that :)

Also, pay extreme caution when going through doors, and watch for monsters immediately to each side, in the blind post. It's recommended that you walk through doorways into the center of a room, to give you room to react if there were monsters beside the door you entered through.

Also, pay 10 times as much attention if you encounter black deaths in the small rooms in the Catacombs. In the inner room, where you will usually find a library, or armor racks, or shrines, etc. there will always be only 1 kind of enemy, and there will be lots of them. Just try to get as much of them out the room without getting in it yourself, and, remember, when you think you've got them all, you probably haven't. :)

When you walk trough parts of a level you've already cleared, you usually don't pay much attention, your minds turn to your unidentified items, the time it will take to level up, real life.. AND THEN! You are suddenly hit by that black death you overlooked. Zombies often stay unnoticed when you're clearing a level, even the bright black deaths. They often crawl away in dark corners, waiting till you come back. (yeah, again, been there, done that :) So, again, ALWAYS pay attention on black death levels, even in parts that (you think) are already cleared.


The best way to deal with black deaths is from a distance, where they never get a chance to hit you or swarm you (and hit you). Obviously, there are 2 ways to kill them from a distance: spells and bows. We'll first deal with the spells.


Spells that work well on black deaths on normal difficulty are:

  • holy bolt
  • fire bolt
  • charged bolt
  • firewall
  • lightning

and on nightmare and hell:

  • holy bolt
  • fire ball
  • fire wall
  • fire wave
  • elemental
  • guardian
  • golem

Black Death are always immune to magic, and add a fire resistance on Nightmare and Hell. They are never resistant or immune to lightning, but it's hard to nail them with enough Chain Lightning to put them down quickly, and unlike fire projectiles or Holy Bolt, lightning won't pause or stun the zombies.

As with all monsters, be sure you line up your projectiles in straight lines for maximum accuracy. Similarly, be sure you cast your Firewalls in straight lines, since monsters will often walk untouched through the diagonal flames.

With firewalls you just should make sure you put them diagonal (that's diagonal on your screen, not the way the game sees it!!!!) This way, they are always hit when they walk through it.

Also try to use choke points, like doors, corridors, and corners. (not only with spells, but also with arrows and in melee)

Flamewaves also work very well against BD's. Because they move so slowly, they are almost always hit by a flame wave. (Thanks to a bug with flame wave, creatures moving in the opposite direction that the FW is moving sometimes aren't hit by it. This occurs when they move to the tile where the flame wave was at exactly the same time that the flame wave moves to the tile the monster was on. And, since black deaths move less from one tile to another, this occurs less with them than with other monsters.) Again, cast flame wave in the diagonal directions of your screen. And again, that means not the way Diablo sees horizontal/vertical and diagonal.

Guardian especially works well when you cast them in clusters through doors or around corners. It doesn't only work well against BDs but against all non fire resistant/immune creatures. Guardian is underestimated!

Golem can just thin them out a little and, for him, getting hit by BDs ain't too bad. He doesn't live long enough to regret it :)


Attacking BDs with bows isn't much different from fighting them with linear spells, except that the lining up isn't that important anymore, cause arrows are much faster than spells (most of the time) and you've got far more of them. Just remember to know when to retreat!


First of all, never fight Black Deaths melee if it's not necessary. If you don't have any bows/spells, it might be smarter to skip the level or create a new game, as Grumble(BAR) just had to find out. (this was my inspiration to totally rewrite this guide) Oh well, I now have him reincarnated and changed his name to Bam-Bam(BAR). He now is a (VERY) far cousin of Bam-Bam(SNOB) :)

Then, most important thing is: fight one at a time! Don't let them swarm you! Use choke points!

When fighting in open spaces, filter other monsters out first by walking away from the mob, Faster monsters and BDs will get separated and you can kill them, just so they don't stun you when you're fighting a BD. (ewww...!) After the mob is filtered, start circling the mob of BDs until one or two get separated. Then kill those fast and start circling again.

Use your weapon as a shield. Stand still 2 squares away from a BD and hold shift. Now start swinging at the BD. If he tries to move to the square adjacent to you, he will (hopefully) get hit and pushed back into his own square. (this will only happen if he isn't entirely in the square adjacent to you, but only halfway there) Repeat this a few times until he dies.

Always use blunt weapons and a shield. Blunt weapons will do 1.5 times the listed damage against BDs, sharp weapons only 0.5 times the listed damage, and the shield will give you extra AC and will block the BDs attacks, with some luck.

Boost your AC and to-hit/damage: If you have any equipment that boosts these things, equip them! The better your AC, the smaller the chance they hit you. The better your to-hit/damage, the faster you kill them (and the more chance to stun them/ use your weapon as a shield and thus, the smaller the chance they hit you).