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Guide:Fishymancer v1.10, by Nightfish

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Diablo II Strategy Guide Info:

  • Patch: v1.10
  • Gametype: PvE/PvM
  • Class: Necromancer
  • Specialisation: Fishymancer (Skeleton/Corpse Explosion Necromancer)
  • Author: Nightfish


What is a Fishymancer? Basically this necro relies on plain skeletons and corpse explosion to kill things. This is probably the safest and least item dependent build in the current patch and it is probably capable of beating hardcore without using any items at all. (feel free to use items, though. Most people do) Aside from being easily capable of beating the game with no specific gear this guy also makes an excellent MF character. Not so much for Mephisto where sorcs still reign supreme (not to say he can't kill meph, sorcs are just a bit faster), his domain are the alvl 85 areas like the Worldstone keep and the Pit. He has no problems running Hell WS K and Baal with >700% MF on him while maintaining his original killing speed.

If you are looking for something in particular, I'd suggest using crtl+f to bring up the search function and enter what you are looking for there. (for example if you are having trouble with duriel, enter "duriel" and run the search)

Disclaimer: When I say "put no points in skill X" or if I don't mention skill Y, then that's because they are not needed for this particular build, not because those skills "suck" for every Necromancer build.

The Build:

I'll try to sum up in a few words what you can expect from your Fishymancer. He is very well up to beating Hardcore untwinked (the definition of untwinked varies from player to player, I take it to mean, "Using only items he finds himself.” (Some people call this "pure".). Apart from that, he is also very handy as an MF char, but more on that later.

This build is probably the safest character you can play in 1.10, especially if you don't have any gear at all. He is very strong in the field of crowd control. Between his AI curses and the army of undead he is rarely in any real danger.

Since I've seen a couple people say stuff like "I'd like to play a skelliemancer but I have no beast runeword", let me say it once again: You need no items. Period. No items. If you're into stuff like that you can beat the game naked.

Stat Points - Target Values

Here, I'll only provide a rough guideline, as you may need more or less points in certain stats depending on your gear. You will also notice that you don't really need stat points with this build, so it's not really a big deal if you waste a few.

Strength (Str) : Strength lets you wear equipment. How much you need depends strongly on available gear. I'd shoot for 115 after items if you want to wear Guillaume's Face (check out the section about Baal running to see why you will want to wear this helmet), or 156 if you want to use Stormshield.

Dexterity (Dex) : Here you will want enough for blocking (with a good shield, of course, don't aim for 75% chance to block with a shield that has 30% base chance to block...).

Why? Simple: More points in Dex mean less in Vit, and thus, less life. Now, why is it a good idea for a Necro to sacrifice Vit for dex? The Necro receives only 2 Hit points (HP) per point in Vit. This is the low end of what chars get, meaning that he loses less life than other classes that get 3 or 4 points life per point in Vit.

Good shields for this build are the Homunculus (72% chance to block), a rhyme (runeword) Tower Shield or Sigon's Guard (64%). Don't try to reach max blocking with a shield that has a lower base chance to block than Sigon's, and even in the case of Sigon's I'd craft an ammy to help with blocking. (More on that later).

Bottom line is that you will need around 200 Points of Dex at level 92 (trust me, in 1.10 you won't get a lot higher than that anytime soon.). There is a formula to calculate the needed dex at a certain level but I think it's easier to just hover your mouse button over your defence value (this shows you your chance to block) and see if you reached 75% blocking yet.

Vitality (Vit) : All the rest. Not much more to say here. Everything you don't need otherwise goes here.

Energy (En) : Don't get Energy higher than 70. I think you could even get away with no points spent here, but normal difficulty will be pretty tedious because you'll need to quaff a lot of potions.

Stat Points - Progression

There's not much to say here. At low levels I'd work on energy and strength, then on vitality. Most likely you won't need blocking in normal at all, so I'd not worry about dex until later. Blocking gets important in Hell, so be sure you've got enough points saved to add them as needed. Don't be afraid to keep stat points saved if you don't want to spend them, there's nothing wrong with that. I've seen a lot of people beat the game with a few hundred points to spare. (I did that, too)


Core Build:


  • 20 Raise Skeleton (RS)
  • 20 Skeleton Mastery (SM)
  • 1 Raise Mage
  • 1 Clay Golem
  • 1 Blood Golem
  • 1 Iron Golem
  • 1 Fire Golem
  • 1+ Revive
  • 1+ Golem Mastery
  • 1+ Summon Resist (SR)

Poison & Bone:

  • 1 Teeth
  • 20 Corpse Explosion (CE)


  • 1+ Amplify Damage (Amp)
  • 1 Dim Vison (DV)
  • 1 Attract
  • 1 Decrepify (Decrep)

The core build can be completed with only 76 Skill points. Skills that are marked with a "+" are likely candidates for further skill points. I suggest reading what I have to say in the skill analysis before adding a lot of points to any of those, though.

Note: If you have spare skill points, the damage your skellies deal is displayed as lower than it should be. I do not know if the bug is in the display only and your minions to the right damage in game or if they actually deal less damage. At any rate, the difference is not large but it deserves mentioning.

Remaining Skill Points

If you plan on doing a lot of runs with your necro you can probably get him into his mid ninties sooner or later. So, if you go with just the minimum values on your core build you can save up enough skill points to max another skill. This will usually mean that you need a decent amount of +skills or you will find your curses' radius (amp damage, mainly) so small that your overall efficiency will suffer. You don't really need anything specific, whatever you decide to do with your points will most likely just have a very minor impact. Let's consider our options anyway:

Bone Armour
In the current patch each point in bone armour absorbs 10 damage while points in the synergies absorb 15 points. So, you could get 1 point in BA and dump the rest into a synergy. (or you can use the marrowwalk bug to beef BA up even more) Either way, this can help you survive, not bad in HC. I usually don't have survival problems so this is not really my first pick.

If you chose this and add points to a synergy this will give you access to bone wall or bone prison, both extremely useless to you, detrimental even. Blocking your army's path isn't in your best interest so you might want to not use those skills.

Raise Mage
Well, I've pretty much said it all before. Personally I have no use for mages. They don't really synergise well with your curse, your merc or the rest of your army. If you can get a point in LR and max mages they might be somewhat helpful but it's nothing to write home about. If you cast LR you can't have amp active which means you lose more damage than you gain. I can see this being mildy useful against PI enemies that cannot be broken with amp.

Bone Spells
You can probably max one of these spells like Bone Spear or Bone Spirit. That in itself is pretty much useless but if you have marrowwalk boots on you can get somewhat decent damage. Then again, exploiting a bug like that may be too cheesy for you, I know I don't really want to use stuff like that. At any rate, I think that a bonespell wouldn't add too much anyway. You'll be spending a lot of mana that would be better spent on CE. If you don't mind quaffing a lot of blue pots you might be able to help getting the first corpses with bone spear.

Poison Dagger
Again, something for the rich and famous (and the cheesy): If you have a Venom Runeword (TalDolMal) you can make use of the charges to synergise poison dagger. Again you might want a point in lower resist to help out and again the damage won't be anything to write home about. But this might be helpful in killing the unbreakable PIs that I keep mentioning.

If you max golem mastery you end up with extremely durable golems... that don't really kill anything. If you're just using clay and fire this is really a waste of points. But if you chose to make an iron golem out of something moderately useful yet common this might be nice. Once you start MFing a lot you will find more IK Mauls, Windhammers, etc than you could ever want so you can afford to make a good iron golem every now and then which can be pretty helpful. Only recommended if you expect to get rich and have an item surplus, though.

Iron Maiden
You can also max iron maiden which might be useful against hard hitting melee monsters. The reason why this isn't a primary skill for a skelliemancer is because it isn't nearly as universal as amp damage. Dealing damage works against everything, which is why the combination of might and amp damage is so useful. But if you have the points to spare and want to try something else... Go for it. Don't worry about not having thorns, thorns doesn't make iron maiden any stronger. (unlike might & amp damage which boost each other)

Allround Approach
This is what I've favored on my past necromancers. I put more points in my favorite curses and revives. Getting more than 10 revives is pretty much only useful when you can get ranged ones and can teleport them around a little (Naj's Puzzler). More in amp damage means you need to curse less often which means you can start using CE sooner which means you save time. I also put a few more in golem mastery and summon resist. A few points in LR can also help revives with elemental attacks.

Skills - Progression

Basically this is very simple, you will want to max your three main skills in this order:

  1. Raise Skeleton
  2. Skeleton Mastery
  3. Corpse Explosion

Put the very first skill point you get in amplify damage and make sure you get 1 in Skeleton Mastery pretty early, too. One point early on in corpse explosion might be useful for clearing the maggot lair and the arcane sanctum. Make sure you get decrepify before fighting Duriel and get summon resist (and as a consequence clay golem and the mastery) before fighting diablo. You don't really need the other golems, curses or revives before you enter hell.

And that's basically it. Simple as that. Deviate from the suggested skill progression at your own risk. I wish I had a nickel for every person that complained about getting his *** kicked by diablo after spending skill points randomly. Yes, the final result is the same but your journey until level 70 might look differently.

Skills - Analysis

The whole purpose of this section is to explain why I used the skills I used and why I spent as many points on them as I did. There are also a few hints on how to use the skills here. Seasoned players may want to skip this.

1) RS and Mastery: Not much to say here. More points mean more skellies and more damage for the skellies and your revives. Skellies will start having trouble with hard enemies in Act 4 Hell and beyond. If you have enough + skills items you will most likely be able to beat the game using only skellies and your merc. Points added to RS increase damage a lot more than points added to mastery.

Note about summoned creatures: If your skill level changes, your skellies retain the level they were summoned at. So, if you have 20 RS and are under the effect of a shrine (+2 to all skills) you will summon at skill level (slvl) 22 and those skellies will remain at slvl 22 even after the effect of the shrine wears off. You can use this to your advantage by having a lot of + skills gear on switch. Note that this works the other way around, too: If you put more points into RS you will need to resummon your skellies for them to be at your new slvl.

2) Raise Mage: Mages are not useful for this build as it is geared towards physical damage. The merc and main curse (amp damage) don't aid the mages at all. For this skelliemancer, mages do more harm than good. Especially in tight areas like the maggot lair or the arcane sanctuary where they will block your skellies' path. They also like to block doorways. I heard that some people like using cold mages against act bosses, but personally I never needed them and resummoning mages until you get enough cold ones is tedious. Still, if you have problems with an act boss it might be worth a try to summon as many mages as your slvl 1 with + skills allows.

3) Clay Golem: The slow effect makes the clay golem useful against single enemies like act bosses but not so useful that I'd want to spend more than 1 pt. Usually you will have 8-10 skellies, your merc and 4-10 (or more) revives. You don't need another tank.

4) Blood Golem: Don't bother casting this one. He does nothing for you the Clay or Iron Golems don't do better.

5) Iron Golem: Interesting if you have access to a steady supply of high-end items. Using the IK Maul to create Iron Golems worked fine for me when I was running Baal. (IK Maul has ~40% Crushing Blow and is very easy to find. At any rate, I found them faster than my golem used them up)

6) Fire Golem:: This is the most useful golem for questing, especially in HC. It's Holy Fire aura draws enemies to him and away from you. Don't expect him to cause damage, that's not what the golem is there for. It's only there to gather enemies and keep them from bothering your necro.

7.1) Revive: Despite the (relatively) poor AI revives are far from useless. Especially since you can only have a limited number of skellies adding a few revives can be a great help. Just pick your revives carefully. In general it's a good idea to revive fast monsters or monsters that are dangerous to you and deal physical damage. More on that later, in the section about revives.

7.2) Strategy for using Revives: Having an item with Teleport helps a lot. Enigma would be ideal but something with charges works, too. (An Amulet for example) Use that to gather your forces (teleporting next to Baal, Diablo, or into Coldworms chamber). Move a bit after you teleported as sometimes your monsters don't move if you're standing right on top of them.

8) Corpse Explosion: As you will most likely play normal and nightmare on players 8 almost exclusively I'd suggest not investing more than 1 pt here until later in the game. Once you reach hell and switch to players 1 it is extremely useful if you want to kill in a hurry. You don't have to have it, but if you intend for your char to be used for MF you will probably want it. Well, and it's not like there was anything better you could do with 20 skill points.

Trust me, max this skill. Yes, it does seem that additional points don't do that much for CE but that is not true at all. The area your CE covers increases by a larger amount for each skill point you add (Remember geometry in school? If you do you can calculate by how much it goes up. In your face everybody who said maths was useless! ) At any rate, I can't stress enough how useful this is for clearing areas. If you're running the pit or the WS K you will wan this. Especially in the WS K where you can kill gloams from far away it's very handy.

Remember that CE is 50% fire and 50% physical. So, amp damage or lower resist can increase the damage it does.

On a side note, CE is not useless on players 8, don't let the fact that it doesn't scale blind you to that. It does not get a bigger penalty than any other skill. (the only spell that is stronger on p8 is static field, everything else gets the same "penalty") Monsters on players 8 have 450% life. Assuming an amp'd monster with no resistances, CE does between 90% and 150% damage. 3-4 casts would still be enough in that case.

9) Amp Damage: The most often used curse. Lowers physical resistance by 100%, which doubles the damage your skellies deal and increases the damage you do with CE by 50%. It also breaks nearly every Physical Immunity you will encounter in the game. I like having more than 1 point here because it lets me amplify whole crowds in a hurry and I can get back to doing other things, like casting attract or CE. You'll be pretty slow if you need to cast Amp 4-5 times before you've got every monster. Time is money.

10) Decrepify: Another great curse. Monsters are slowed by 50%, their damage is reduced by 50% and their physical resistance is lowered by 50%. This is extremely handy against act bosses but is _not_ recommended against normal enemies. At first glance it might seem that it does more than Amp but if none of your skellies die why would you need stuff to be slowed and weakened? That's right, you don't need that.

Do not forget to cast this curse against act bosses, though. You will notice a huge difference in your troops' performance. But even against act bosses you can probably make do without it once your clay golem starts working on the bad guy. Then you might want to overwrite your decrep with amp for another 50% more damage.

11) Dim Vision: Handy to use at the start of a battle or to stop ranged attackers. It also keeps reviving monsters from raising their dead, as they can't see them anymore. It’s also great to stop Gloams from frying you. I almost never used this curse, though. Using Attract in combination with Amp is far, far superior to using DV. The only real use I have for this is to blind ranged attackers if there's a really big horde of them.

12) Attract: The crowd control curse. This one really rules. Cast it on a monster and all the other monsters start attacking it. This curse cannot be overridden by other curses. (Meaning if you cast amp damage on top of it, the attract curse stays active.) What makes this curse so useful is that a) Monsters stop attacking your troops and b) you can cast amp damage on all the other monsters that are currently attacking the victim of this curse. This gives you crowd control and more damage. (Remember, if you cast amp damage on top of dim vision the dim vision curse is gone). When facing a boss pack, cast the curse on a minion, not the boss as it doesn't work when cast on bosses.

By the way: You do not cast attract on the monster to kill it. You're casting it to keep several enemies busy. I'm stating that because some people asked why to bother with this curse, as it doesn't really kill the monster.

I find this curse most useful when I either face very strong enemies (or just lots of them) or when I have no skellies because I'm just starting to play. Once you have your army you don't really need it too much anymore.

13) Lower Resist: This curse has one situation where it is handy, if you have points to spare you might want to consider putting 1 point here at most. There are some enemies in the game that have more than 120% physical resistance. This means that they will stay PI, even after you cast amp on them. This only applies to a few choice bosses and you can kill them without LR, but LR makes it a just a bit faster. There will be more on that later, in the section about Physical Immunes.

14) Iron Maiden: Only as a prereq if you want LR.

15) Life Tap: This curse returns 50% of the damage your troops deal as life. At first glance this sounds like a very good thing but life tap is still not very useful for this build. Once your merc gets any leech at all he will easily leech back the life he loses. My skellies rarely died, too, so I prefer to keep my enemies amp'd rather than life tap'd. Might be useful for the early stages when your merc has no life leech of his own or if you are in an MP game and have some fragile chars along.

16) Bone Armour: This skill might be handy in Hardcore. Personally I don't like to use it that much but with the marrowwalk bug it gives you great protection for low costs.

Skill Points - Comparison of Curses

There are several curses that have somewhat similar effects. The trick here is to figure out which of these are the best pick for you for a given situation. Note that the answer to these questions is not "always use curse 1 and never curse 2" but rather "use curse 1 here and use curse 2 there".

1) Decrepify vs. Amp Damage:

Quite often people have asked, which of these two was the better curse, so I thought I'd add a small paragraph about that. Some people argue that the -50% speed and damage decrep provides make it the better curse, but actually you won't need those things very often. Remember, the -50% damage and -50% speed don't do anything for you if you don't take any losses without them. So long as your army doesn't take heavy losses, there is no reason to use decrep, especially since it takes a while to affect larger crowds with this curse. In most cases, amp is the better choice. Decrep enters the scene when you come up against single, tough enemies. Either Act Bosses, or regular boss packs with nasty mods (extra strong, fanaticism or might aura). Lister is a good example here. If he is extra strong and fanatic I usually use decrep instead of amp.

2) Dim Vision vs. Confuse vs. Attract

Another argument I've frequently seen is which of these crowd control curses to use. I've already brushed this argument when I talked about the individual curses, but I think this deserves its own paragraph as it's being brought up that often.

All of these curses serve when it comes to stopping monsters from hurting you, no argument here. The key factor is that you cannot override attract with another curse (attract on the other hand, can override other curses) which allows you to keep a group of monsters busy and under the effect of amp damage. None of the other curses can do that for you.

Confuse does make all the monsters attack each other, but as the damage they deal is so small compared to their life it's not really a valid alternative to attract.

There is one situation where I'd cast dim vision rather than attract. When you're dealing with very dangerous ranged attackers and can't take the time to aim attracts but just want to fling a curse in the general direction of the monsters. Like Gloams that are shooting at you from off-screen for example. I'd dim vision those, then teleport up close and amp & attract them. Against regular archers I still prefer using only attract as it works just fine here.

You will probably notice that it's not necessary to cast attract all the time. In most battles your forces will do just fine without it (or another crowd control curse). But don't forget that you have those crowd control curses. They'll be helpful to you at the start of a session when you have only your merc and nothing else.

Gear - Untwinked

The first thing you need to know about this build is that it can basically beat the game "naked", which makes it perfect for playing untwinked. (To me, untwinked means that you start with nothing and do little to no boss runs and thus you'll never have a lot of godly items)

I'd suggest always picking up flawless gems and cubing them to perfect. There are a lot of things you can do with them that will help you survive. You might want to have a few of every gem of every quality, just in case you want to upgrade some runes.

What we're looking for in equipment are the following things: MF, Resistance to Lightning, + skills and to a lesser extent: resistance to all elements.

Now I'll cover some of the "cheap" choices, slot by slot.


  • Wand with + 3 RS and good other mods. Ideally something with + X to summoning tree and +3 to SM


  • 3 Socketed Crown (or other headgear) with Ort Runes or Perfect Topazes (PTopaz), depending on your need.
  • Tarnhelm socketed with a PTopaz
  • Peasant Crown

Body Armour

  • 4 Socketed Gothic Plate (or other armour) with Ort Runes or Perfect Topazes
  • Wealth Runeword (LemKoTir)
  • Skin of the Vipermagi


  • Sigon's Guard with a PDiamond
  • Rhyme Runeword (ShaelEth)
  • Whitstan's Guard with a PDiamond


  • Resist all ammy (Cube: 1 Perfect Gem of each kind + 1 magic ammy)
  • Rare resist all ammy with good other mods
  • Ammy of Teleport (You will want to gamble for one of those in any even)
  • Crafted safety ammy with 10% blocking (see the Arreat Summit for info on crafting items, crafted items are like rares but they come with a few "built in mods. The saftey ammy comes with 1-10% increased chance for blocking. It is possible (maybe even easy) to get one with 10% blocking and resist all.)


  • Rare or Magic Boots with Resistances, MF or Faster Run / Walk
  • Treads of Cthon
  • Natalya's Soul


  • Rare Belt with resis
  • Goldwrap
  • Nightsmoke


  • Frostburn
  • Chance guards
  • Trang Oul's gloves
  • Rare gloves with resis, MF


  • Coral Rings (Cube: 1 Magic Ring + 1 Perfect Topaz + 1 Rejuvenation Potion)
  • Magic or Rare ring with Resis and MF
  • Nagelrings

Gear - Twinked

If you already have a decent array of items you will have an easier time beating the game. Here I'll list only the top choices for each category. You won't necessarily have some or all of these items but don't worry. As I said before, you don't need any of those; these are simply the top choices. In this section, the first emphasis is on kill speed, with only a small thought given to MF. For MF gear check the MF section further down the road. (Note that this is just the top picks that I'd use if I had everything that was available. You do *not* need anything of this to beat the game.)

Feel free to experiment with the gear you have, you don't really need anything. If you're not interested in MF focus on + skills (espcially for the summoning tree) and resis.


  • Weapon 1: Arm of King Leoric
  • Weapon 2: Beast Runeword (on switch)

(on you have access to another decent runeword for this slot: Oath. You'll get another 125% damage for summoning the heart of wolverine)

  • Naj's Puzzler if you have no enigma


  • Harlequin Crest

Body Armour

  • Enigma Runeword
  • Skin of the Vipermagi
  • Arcaine's Valor (+2)


  • Homunculus (PDiamond)


  • Mara's Kaleidoscope
  • Resist all ammy with good other mods (+3 to summoning tree, ideally)
  • (Rare) Ammy of Teleport with good other mods, this (the teleport part) is a "must" if you don't have enigma (not the ammy itself but teleport)


  • Wartraveller
  • Marrowwalk


  • Arachnid Mesh


  • Frostburn
  • Trang Oul's Gloves
  • Good Rare gloves


  • Stone of Jordan
  • Wisp Projector


  • Resistance Charms of all kinds
  • Summoning Grand Charms

At high skill levels your skellies will do insane damage, if you can get a lot of + skills you will probably be able to beat the game using nothing but skellies. Note that revives do not ramp up like this; their strength increases more linear.

Having the beast rune word on switch would increase your killing speed quite a bit (because of the fanaticism aura) but it's very expensive. If you have to choose between Enigma and Beast, go for Enigma. Also don't forget that fanaticism's effect is halved for party members.

Hireling - Choice & Gear

Our final Merc will be a Might Merc. (Act 2, Nightmare, offensive Merc). He has the edge over everything else that is available. (For explanations check the next section). In normal I'd suggest using an Act 2 defensive Merc, though an Act 1 Merc could do well, too, if you have a decent bow for her to use. Still, I'd prefer the one with the aura.

Make sure your merc is always the same level as you are. Leveling him may take a while at first, but it will pay off in the long run. If you put off leveling him for too long he will never start to gain any real experience as the amount of XP he gets is dependent on how close his level is to the level of the monster he fights. (Keeping his level close to yours is especially important for your final merc. It isn't really such a big deal if the first one lags behind as you're going to fire him in Act 2 Nightmare anyway.)

As for the merc's gear: Make sure he has decent equipment. Don't just treat him as a walking aura. If you're untwinked it might be a little harder for you to get great gear but do try to keep him supplied. Shaftstop would make great armour and it's not that hard to find, same for Vampire Gaze, which would be your top choice for a helmet. (Both items socketed with res all jewels if you can manage that). A decent weapon would be an ethereal polearm with the Honour rune word. That is very easy to get and provides decent damage and life leech. On the unique side of things, Bonehew is an excellent late game choice that isn't all that hard to come by. Tomb Reaver would be your very high-end choice. The most popular act 2 merc weapon, The Reaper's Toll, is a *very* poor choice for this build as the merc will constantly override your curses which is something you don't want.

As a thumb rule, try to give your merc damage, leech, resistances and damage reduction.

There are lots of good setups for your merc, here's what I currently favor on my necro:

Merc - Allround Gear

The lazy man's choice, so to speak. Getting crushing blow, damage, leech and DR all in one setup means you never need to switch. The weapon is the most flexible slot in this one, anything with good damage and leech will do. I like my arrioc's for the +4 to might and it does decent damage being ethereal.

  • Weapon: Arrioc's Needle (Amn) / Tomb Reaver (Amns & Shaels, depending on number of sockets, look at breakpoints to find out what you need)
  • Armour: Shaftstop (not upgraded because it makes no sense to upgrade it)
  • Helm: Guillaume's Face

Hireling - Comparison of available Mercs

Act 2 vs. everything else
Act 2 mercs come with one big advantage: Their Aura. Nobody else has one and that gives Act 2 mercs the edge over every other merc, almost regardless of what char you play. This is especially true for this build as you have a lot of minions that will benefit from your merc's aura.

Might vs. Thorns
Might makes all your skellies and physically attacking minions stronger whereas thorns only works if a physically attacking enemies hits something. So, Thorns is weak when you fight few enemies or enemies that don't attack physically. Might doesn't care. It's always strong.

Might vs. Prayer
If you use your curses cleverly your minions will not get hit very often and hence they won't need any extra healing. Even if they do get hit, they are durable enough to withstand a few hits and regenerate fast enough so that you rarely lose any minions. The benefit of might outshines that of prayer by far.

Might vs. Blessed Aim
Blessed Aim helps your skellies hit. On paper this seems to be a good choice but once you are actually in the game you will notice that your skellies have no problem hitting stuff. That makes the blessed aim merc pretty redundant for our build and certainly not more useful than might.

Might vs. Defiance
Defiance improves your Skellies defence, aiding them in surviving melee attacks. Looks like a good choice at first glance but skellies have absolutely no problem surviving even in late hell so you don't need the defiance merc.


Basically there is not much to say about hardcore. Your strategies and gear choices stay the same as the build was supposed to be able to beat the game without dying.

In general, it is a good idea to progress a little more slowly in hardcore, level up a bit more, sell a lot of stuff and gamble. Gloves, Belts and Boots are common choices here. Watch for resistances here.

The section about untwinked gear applies to hardcore, too. Just make sure you focus on resistances more than you'd do in SC.

Basically, you have to be a lot more careful in HC as once you're dead you stay dead (big surprise here). I'd suggest completing the game in softcore at least (with any char) once before trying hardcore. Take a good look at what monsters in hell can do and remember the dangerous ones.

I advise against reckless moves like running too far ahead of your army, that will probably get you killed sooner or later. Also be careful in areas that spawn Gloams. If one of them has conviction you could get in deep trouble.

Another known issue are Fire Enchanted bosses. Make sure stay away from them at all times. The bug is vicious and triggers whenever the game feels like it. NOT just when the boss dies. You have been warned. Have a care with Cold Enchanted bosses and Stygian Dolls, too. These two aren't bugged that badly but they can hurt.

Running vs. Walking: Another of those things that are frequently brought up. Personally I prefer running for several reasons. For one, walking looks strange to me and I prefer to be as fast as I can. I got my necromancer to guardian without dying and without walking so I guess I can safely say you don't have to walk. Just don't charge along blindly leaving your minions behind. That's not really a good idea.

Tactics for specific Monsters and Areas & Frequent Problems

This section will include all those random tidbits of knowledge that don't really belong anywhere, as well as some tactics for act bosses and certain difficult areas.

A note on Player Settings
You should be able to take most, if not all of normal and nightmare on players 8. (assuming you follow the skill progression, that is. If you max the mastery first you will be a lot slower) If your gear is top notch you should be able to do the same on hell. Note that in players 8 hell your main problem is not getting killed, but running out of patience waiting for monsters to die.

The most annoying areas are undoubtedly the Arcane Sanctuary and The Maggot Lair. The passages are very narrow and your minions can't properly engage your enemies. The easiest way to beat those areas is to set the game to players 1, unsummon all of your minions and let your merc and CE do the work. (This applies to Hell difficulty. Normal and Nightmare shouldn't be much of a problem)

Shouldn't be much of a problem due to the large amount of monsters she keeps around. Replacing lost skellies is easy here. In hell you can also use CE against her.

Only a problem in normal. People usually only have difficulty with him if they forget to cast decrep and spend their points differently from the suggested skill progression.

Another weak boss. As usual, keep him decrep'd and you should be fine. Maybe consider reviving a few council members.

A lot of people have problems with him, too. Usually this happens when they forget to cast Decrep, don't cast the clay golem or don't have points in SR.

Q: I get pwnd by normal Diablo! What gives?
A: Here are some thoughts that might help you:

1: Follow the skill progression. Roughly 2/3 of all people that asked this question just put their points in random skills and then wonder why it doesn't work. Max RS first, SM after that and put points only into skills you need right now. That means that on the curses tree you get only decrep and the prereqs of it before fighting diablo. Everything else should be spent on your skellies.

2: Use your skills. About 1/3 of all people that asked this question didn't use their skills properly. First, cast decrepify on diablo (and refresh the curse as needed). Have your clay golem out to slow him down further. Recast it as soon as it goes down. 90% of the time diablo will focus on this guy (no idea why, he just does) If one of your skellies goes down, recast it immediately. There should be plenty of bodies around, usually.

3: It is possible to bring down normal diablo on players 8, I have repeatedly done that in HC untwinked. But if you find that you followed step 1 and 2 and still have problems you can lower the player settings to 1.

Baal's Minions
CE makes short work of them. I like to use amp against all of them, except against Lister if he spawns with might or fanaticism.

May take a while to kill in normal play. Teleport is important. Decrep and clay golem are used as usual. If you intend to run him, check the appendix about the CB Set-up.

Physical Immune Monsters
Amp takes care of all normal PIs and most bosses. The others can be defeated with CE or by reviving monsters that use elemental attacks. Lower Resist helps, too.

Usually they shouldn't be much of a problem. Try evading their lightning if you can, Amp them and use CE as the first goes down. Teleporting right next to them is a good idea unless you are dealing with a conviction boss. Dim Vision is nice but I found that I rarely needed to use it. Keep your merc's resists up.

Blocked Doorways
Quite often people have problems getting through doors or narrow passages blocked by a few monsters. Only one or two of your skeletons will be able to attack and monsters may take forever to go down that way. Fortunately, there are some ways to deal with this: The first option, available to all necromancers, is to cast terror several times. That scares monsters away from the door and you will be able to move in. The second option is a bit more straight forward and this will probably be your preferred way of solving issues like that in later stages: Just teleport into the room.

Getting the first corpses
Well, once you've got your army you're pretty much unstoppable, but what about the start of session when you don't have any army?

Some people like to visit earlier acts to get their first skeletons, but I found that to be unnecessary. Your merc should be more than sufficient to get those first few corpses. Just make sure you put those crowd control curses to good use to keep him alive. Also, consider casting CE on the first few corpses, rather than beginning to raise your army immediately. Usually it's faster to cast CE on the first two corpses and then have about 20 dead monsters rather than raise skellies or revives immediately.

Once you've reached Act 5 you could just pop through the red portal and raise the dead bodies in Pindle's Garden as skeletons. Personally, I never found that to be necessary but it's still nice to know.


A general note about revives
They are all next to immortal unless their timer runs out. Hence monsters with a lot of life (or physical immunity) don't make better revives. That being said, there are several kinds of monsters that make good revives:

Archers like Dark Rogues or Skeleton Archers are excellent choices as they don't need to close with the enemies and thus can never get in each others ways. Those are probably my favourite revives. Spear Cats are okay, too, but they seem to be less effective than the archers.

Succubi make good revives if nothing else is available. Their attack is physical but they are a bit erratic. An annoying side effect is that a lot of them cast their own curses. Usually you will want another curse to be in effect so you may not like some types of succubi. Experiment a bit to see which ones you like.

Ghosts are great revives for the arcane sanctuary. They can't block each other's path, which is awesome in this place.

Standard Melee Monsters are solid choice. Examples are Serpent Magi, Doom Knights, Desert Raiders, Dark Rogues, Beetles, Balrogs, Yetis and Thrashers. All of these make decent revives especially if you can teleport.

Gorebellies and their look-alikes (the big guys with the clubs) deserve special notice as they have Crushing Blow. If you're entering a tough battle against an act boss or the Ancients consider looking for a couple of these guys. Note that you can bring them from act 4 to act 5. Just make sure you can quickly get to where you need them, so you'll probably want to leave your town portal open in act 5 and get the Urdars without using a new portal.

Vampires are okay if you need to take something down that's PI and stays PI. They are also useful in the Arcane Sanctuary, as they don't need to close with their enemies. They're not as good as ghosts there but better than Goatmen.

Not every monster that you fear makes a good revive. Gloams are poor choice, as are Stygian Dolls, or any other erratic creature, for that matter. (Gloombats, Fetishes, Fallens) Slow moving creatures like Mummies, Zombies, Cadavers, Maggots or Corpse Spitters are very poor, too.


Well, this will be a short one, but I does need mentioning as having a good hotkey setup will make you just that much more efficient. Here's what I suggest, it may seem a bit weird at first, but once you got used to it you will not want to go back, I promise you that.

(Note, the point here is not to assign the skills the way I did, the point is using the letter keys for hotkeys. I do have some thought behind assigning them the way I did but maybe you'll find that it doesn't suit you.)

  • Q: Skill 1: Corpse Explosion
  • W: Skill 2: Fire Golem
  • E: Skill 3: Clay Golem
  • R: Skill 4: Teleport
  • A: Skill 5: Amp Damage
  • S: Skill 6: Dim Vision
  • D: Skill 7: Decrep
  • F: Skill 8: Attract
  • Y/Z: Skill 9: Raise Skeleton (this on is "Z" for americans and "Y" for german keyboards)
  • X: Skill 10: Revive
  • C: Skill 11: unassigned, for use of optional skill

  • F12: Town Portal

  • T: Skill Tree
  • Z/Y: Character Screen ("Y" for americans, "Z" for germans)
  • U: Quest Screen
  • I: Inventory
  • O: Merc Screen
  • Number keys 1-4: Potions (1+2 Health, 3 Mana, 4 Rejuv)

Appendix A: Magic Finding and Boss Running

A lot of the things I'll say here have nothing to do with the necromancer build, but apply to MF in general. It might still be interesting to some and it covers quite a few frequently asked questions about magic finding. Still, it can be skipped in good conscience if you don't want to do any serious MFing.

Things I'll cover here are the basics of how MF works, where to MF in the various stages of the game and how to compare your MF results. (Like, comparing your finds from Mephisto to what Baal gives you)

First up let me repeat once more that magic find works on act bosses just fine. Regardless of what blizzard or anybody else says. Several people (including me) have done extensive testing on that and have verified that MF works just as it always has.

Okay, that being said, how does it work? Well, let's say a monster has a 1% chance of dropping a unique item. If you wear MF gear that gives +100% chance to find magic items his odds will be 2%. If his odds were 4% before they are 8% afterwards. Simple right?

Now, one more thing you need to know about Magic Find is that there are diminishing returns. Meaning that your actual MF percentage is lower than the sum of MF you get from your items. That means that every single point of MF helps you less than the last. But that doesn't mean it's a bad idea to try for as much MF as possible. It is only a bad idea if it slows you down a lot. With this build you shouldn't really have those problems as you can sacrifice basically everything for the sake of MF without endangering your life or slowing down.

Oh, and in case any body was wondering MF works just fine with your minions. (I've seen this being asked a couple of times on various boards)

Word of Advice: All the Act Bosses are a lot easier to kill if you have crushing blow. (Check the section about CB for more info)

There's one last thing we need to cover before we move on: How to reroll maps. Let's say you don't like the map you have because the waypoint is far away from where you want to go. Now, just change difficulties and you'll get a new map. Of course you have to explore it again and it might not be good but after a few tries you'll probably get a good map. As you'll have to do quite a few runs to get what you want it does make sense to spend some time looking for a quick map. After you've got one, keep that map. Some people may tell you that maps "dry up", meaning that after a while you don't get any good results anymore. I have not been able to prove that something like that does happen. I did about 500 Meph runs on the same map and results didn't change noticeably. The first 30 runs yielded the same average number of uniques as the last 30 runs, etc. But we'll get to the comparing part later on. For now let's just say once you've got a quick map, stick to that until you're done running. Oh, and by the way: Maps change once you enter MP games so be aware that you'll lose your perfect map if you go MPing.

Okay, let's get started: Whom to run? Common targets are Nightmare Mephisto, Hell Mephisto, Hell Pindleskin, Hell Thresh Socket, Hell Eldritch, Hell Shenk and Hell Baal, and of course the level 85 areas in Hell, namely the Worldstone Keep and the pit. Now we can tick these areas off one by one.

Nightmare Mephisto

The good things about him are that you can run him quickly if you have a short map and that he drops very well, just like all the act bosses. And you can access him without fighting a lot of monsters (unlike Diablo and Baal). He is probably your first stop in your MF career. Personally I ran him only long enough to get a few basic items so that I could get to Hell Mephisto. This build is not perfect for running Meph but it can cope well enough.

Hell Mephisto (max TC 78, lvl 87)
Now, this is where the fun starts. As always with Mephisto, it's important to have a good map. (A Waypoint close to the stairs down). Everybody runs him because it's very quick and the results are good. I'd suggest moving on after you've gotten most of the items you can reasonably expect him to drop. Which means most items of TC 72 and lower. While Mephisto can drop up to TC 78 his odds for TC 75 and TC 78 are low and very low respectively so you will probably get those items quicker from other places. (In other words, don't run Mephisto for Stormlash). Same as with NM Meph, this build isn't perfect but it can manage.

If you plan to farm Mephisto (NM, Hell, or both) for a lot of gear you should seriously consider doing this with the perfect char (imo), a Meteorb-Sorc, or a blizzard sorc which seems to be all the rage lately. Note that you do *not* need any gear from mephisto to beat the game with this build. This is probably only something that's interesting for you if you intend to run mephisto a lot. (500-1000 runs are a common number here. By then you'll have gotten most of the things he can give you)

Hell Pindleskin (max TC 87, lvl 86)
Pindle can be found on the other side of the red portal in Harrogaths. He used to the last stop in an MFer's life. No more. He cannot drop Tyrael's Might, the rarest item in 1.10. (He also can't drop Azurewrath and the Arachnid Mesh) Also he no longer drops that much better than other monsters making it actually more profitable to run other places. Still if you want to run him this build can take him down very fast.

Hell Thresh Socket
He's on the Arreat Plateau, right next to the entrance to the cave. Another of the main MF targets in 1.09. Still good but no longer as much out of the ordinary as he used to be.

Hell Eldritch and Hell Shenk
Those two can be found close the Frigid Highlands waypoint. That's actually the main thing they have going for them: Being quick to run. They pose no problem for this build and if you enjoy running them they are good for some lower upper class items.

The level 85 areas (max TC 87)
In those areas normal monsters have a level of 85, champions are lvl 87 and bosses are lvl 88. This means that bosses and champions can drop every item in the game. Most common choices are the Pit (Act 1, Tamoe Highlands) and the Worldstone Keep. The difference between the two is that the monsters in the Pit are easier to kill, but the WS K has Baal at the end of it, which tips the balance in its favor for me. Also I enjoy playing in the WS K more because it's more dangerous and thus less boring.

Hell Baal (max TC 87, lvl 99)
This guy can actually drop every item in the game and as he is at the end of one of those lvl 85 areas the time you spend getting to him is well spent from the item hunter's point of view.

Now, on to part 2: How to analyse your findings, this is only interesting to you if you want to compare your findings to those of others or if you want to compare your Mephisto results to your Baal results. First of all you need to know about failed items. A failed unique item is a rare item with 3 times the normal durabilty; a failed set is a magic item with 2 times the normal durability. (For example, let's take a colossus voulge, a failed unique would have 150 durability, the failed set would have 100. Obviously you need to know the base durability in order to check this) A failed item can be created in two different ways:

1) The game tries to create a Unique (or Set) item but the base item that has been selected doesn't have a Unique (or Set) version. This is what would happen all the time when the game tries to create a Unique / Set Colossus Voulge.

2) The game tries to create a Unique (or Set) item but the monster that drops the item has a level that is lower than the quality level (qlvl) of the item. Let's take an item with a high qlvl (87), the Arachnid Mesh (unique Spiderweb Sash). Now, let's say you kill Pindleskin and he decides to drop a Spiderweb Sash. As Pindle's level is 86 he cannot drop the Arachnid Mesh and thus you'll end up with triple durability Spiderweb sash.

Ok, but what about bows or other ranged weapons? Well, there's no way to check if those are failed or not. But sometimes you can deduce a few things: For example a blue grand matron bow you got from hell baal can't be a failed item. Neither can a yellow short bow.

So, now that we've gotten the basics out of the way we can start comparing our findings. What you need to count is the total number of Sets and Uniques. (Total number = regular Uniques + failed Uniques). Obviously you have to disregard runs where you got things like a blue Crusader Bow where you can't be sure if you've gotten a failed item or not. (you can say for sure that a yellow crusader bow from hell baal can't be failed, though) Also you need to count the total number of items you got, as well as keep track of how many runs you did.

If you do all that and do a statistically significant number of runs you will find that Baal and Mephisto have exactly the same odds of dropping you a Unqiue or Set item. (Personally, I did 500 Mephisto and 200 Baal runs (while taking notes, in total I probably did "some" more); but something like 50 should show you the right tendency, too. Remember not to change anything while taking notes (MF percentage, player settings, etc).

Appendix B. MF Gear

Generally speaking, the perfect MF gear gives you 75% LR, a decent ammout of + skills and (surprise) a lot of MF.

I'd suggest using something like this, which is my MF gear for the WS K and Baal:

  • Weapon: Ali Baba with 2 Ists
  • Shield: Homunculus (PDiamond)
  • Switch: Naj's Puzzler ( for teleport)
  • Helm: PTopaz Shako
  • Armour: Skullder's Ire (PTopaz)
  • Gloves: Chance guards
  • Belt: Goldwrap
  • Ring1: Nagelrings
  • Ammy: Mara's
  • Boots: War Travs

Charms: 1 Gheed's Fortune and a lot of 6-7% MF small charms, preferably with Resis as a second mod. Add enough 11% LR charms to get to 75% Resistance to Lightning. I'd suggest keeping a 2 x 4 area clean so you can pick up at least one item. Reason being that this saves you quite a bit of time compared to opening the cube everything you need to check out an item.

The good thing about this set up is that it gives you a lot of gold find, too, which helps paying for repairing charges.

Where to get all these charms? Pick up every Flawless Gem and cube it to Perfect. Then get some high level small charms (from the WS K or the Pit) and start cubing. It took me about 300 PGems to get all the charms I wanted. If you play a lot of different builds and get them to pat / mat / guardian you'll end up finding a lot of useful charms just questing.

Now, you might not have all of these items, here are some alternatives:

  • Nagelrings can be replaced with Wisp Projectors if you have trouble against gloams.
  • Enigma Armour can be replaced with Skullder's Ire (PTopaz), Wealth Armour or 4 PTopaz armour and an Ammy of Teleport. (I'd advise against boss running without Teleport, it is a lot faster if you can move your forces as needed.)
  • Homunculus should not be replaced unless you really have to. +4 to curses, great blocking and a ton of resis are hard to beat. Sigon's Shield can be used if you don't have the Homu.
  • The Blade of Ali Baba can be replaced with a Gull Dagger.
  • The Harlequin Crest can be replaced with a good Tarnhelm or some simple 3 PTopaz headgear.

Appendix C. NF's Crushing Blow Setup (tm)

NF's patented Crushing Blow (CB) Setup consists of three parts, all of them really easy to get:

1) A 6 sockted weapon (I used a Phase Blade) with 4 Eths and 2 Shaels OR 4 Eths 1 Shael and 1 Um (Open Wounds pwns). This makes sure you can hit Baal, even if your AR is extremely low. (Remember, normal "Ignore Target Defence" doesn't work on Act Bosses, but "-100% Target Defence" does. UPDATE: -Target defence is at half efficiency vs bosses so getting 6 Eths in a phase blade is probably a better option than 4Eth2Shael) (basically a 4 socketed weapon with 4Eths is enough, too. But it's not that hard to find something with 6 sockets)

2) Gore Rider or Goblin Toe. Those provide crushing blow and open wounds in the case of Gore Riders, I'd go with Goblin Toe if you don't have gore riders or if you have an um rune in your phase blade

3) Guillaume's Face: This provides the biggest chunk of CB.

These three items together can reduce the time you take to kill Baal to a fraction of how long it would take using only skellies and your merc. Note the physical resistance affects CB and Baal starts with 50% PR. With Decrep you get him down to zero but with amp damage you get him down to -50%, which increases the damage CB does. But he may be easier to kill with Decrep because of the slow effect.

Now, what shield do we use with our Phase Blade? Ideally, Stormshield. If you don't have that, any shield with decent blocking and resis will do. A Rhyme Tower shield is a cheap alternative. Don't forget that you'll use this shield only against Baal himself so it doesn't really matter if your resis drop a little on switch.

What's the point of all this? Well, bascially it's just something you can do to speed up your baal running a little. If you don't need your weapon switch for teleport it's free anyway and the boots and helm can fit in the cube so you can switch those out in the time it takes baal to walk through the portal. Of course your merc can take care of baal on his own but sometimes it's nice to show the youngsters what old people can do besides playing bingo...

Appendix D. Multiplayer Games

I haven't been able to test this aspect of the game very extensively, due to my bad connection, so I'm relying heavily on what people told me here. By all reports your minions don't cause as much lag as you'd expect, which is good.

But your large number of minions can make it hard for other players to see what's going on. Characters like a fanatic paladin may have trouble seeing their targets and they might miss being cursed with Iron Maiden, which is probably fatal for them. (you might still get a good laugh out of it, though... ^_^)

This build works best in concert with other chars that focus on dealing physical damage, like Paladins, Shapeshifter Druids, Amazons or Barbarians, because they benefit from your main curse. Some of these increase your killing power though auras or spirits which is nice.

Spellcasters like Sorcs or Elemental Druids will probably appreciate your crowd control skills but other than that they probably work less good with the build than other chars. They don't increase the damage you do and you don't increase their damage either. Cold spells will often shatter monsters leaving you with no corpses to work with.

The worst partner for this build is probably another skelliemancer, though. Your minions will probably get in each other's way (not to mention the added confusion) and there's really no need for two cursing characters along.

On a sidenote, it might make sense to ask other players if they'd be willing to remove their Nature's Peace rings for the duration of playing as those render corpses useless to you and that's not really good.

That being said, make sure you have a group of people that need / appreciate what you can do for the party. And that is mainly crowd control. Between your curses and your minions you can make the world of diablo a pretty safe place for some of the more fragile builds.

Appendix E. Where to post your questions / comments

Before asking a question I would ask that you make sure it is not covered in the guide. If it is and you still ask, I usually won't bother replying unless I'm feeling extremely nice. If you have valid questions or comments please bring them to the SPF and either post in an existing thread or start a new one if you can't find the one with the latest version of the guide. I rarely read the posts in the strategy compendium so whatever you have to say might go unheeded if posted there.

Don't send me PMs about guides. Post in the thread instead!

Appendix F. Credits

In no specific order I want to thank:

  • Lone_Wolf for pointing out that Gore Riders are better than Goblin Toe
  • Serdash for proofreading the entire (!) guide
  • Hakai_no_Tenshi for atma
  • Gohanman for comming up with the name Fishymancer
  • Kung_Poo for writing those funny stories about his necromancer
  • Thrugg, Shade and Tenshi for providing all the info about the inner workings of the game one could ever want
  • Randall for Flavie
  • RTB for the FE Mod
  • The SPF for being such a great place
  • Buzull for inspiring me to start a HC sept and for hosting it for a while
  • Everyone I forgot for not being angry about me forgetting
  • Everyone who read one of my guides and decided to use them for his chars (especially if you followed my assassin guide I love you )