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Guide:Key of Destruction Fishymancer v1.11, by Cyber Dragon

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This guide provides detailed strategies for running Nihlathak in order to score items and the Key of Destruction. It's specifically written for Necromancers, but has plenty of general information useful to all characters. (Source. See thread for updates.)

Diablo II Strategy Guide Info:


Hey all! I've lurked around the forums quite a bit between the endless ravages of teen life,, and key running, and I must say, we Necromancers are a robust bunch. Our skeletons are beefy and our skills with the dead are strong. We're nigh untouchable, even in 8-player games except for the elemental/ranged attackers (Gloams that strike fear into the hearts of all adventurers).

The dawn of v1.10 gave rise to a new breed of Necromancer, hereby dubbed the Fishymancer. With the skill selection available to this build, there is not one place that this lord of the dead cannot solo, with a bit of ingenuity. However, one of the greater challenges of a novice Fishymancer will be himself... or rather, Nihlathak, the Necromancer of the other side.

Herein lies a Trang-Oul Fishymancer's tales and strategies for defeating one of the most notorious foes you will ever face; one of your own!


Now you're probably asking, "What do we need equipment for?! We already got a huge *** list on the actual build guide for Fishymancers!"

The reason is simple. Nihlathak is a truly unique enemy in the game, seeing as he is the only opposing "monster" that can also utilize the Necromancer skill Corpse Explosion (henceforth referred to as "CE") to vanquish his enemies. That alone gives him an advantage when adventurers dare to invade his temple, and an executioner's reputation in Hardcore where lives are only lived once.

For You (Necromancer)

There are two simple items that must be acquired in order to feasibly run Nihlathak. They are as follows:

  • Item with "Slain Monsters Rest In Peace" ("Lawbringer"/Nature's Peace/Tyrael's Might)
  • Item with "Teleport" (Charged Amulets/Enigma)

"Slain Monsters Rest In Peace" (henceforth referred to as "SMRIP") is a modifier that prevents a corpse from being utilized once the offending monster has been slain either by physical or elemental damage.

"But that's no good for Fishymancers Cy! We want to blow things up or raise more skellies/revives!" you say. Oh, really? Let's say you're confronting Nihlathak, and you decide to duel him with CE. By blowing up say... 2 Corpses, you end up creating an additional 6+. However, you won't be able to blow them all up before Nihlathak uses his CE, churning upwards of thousands of damage upon you and your army. Add to that the fact that you usually CE some more and make another 6+ corpses and you see what I'm getting at. Going in there with corpses explody is the last thing you want to do when facing Nihlathak.

Here's the thing though, Corpse Explosion deals proportional damage based on a target corpse's life that is split into (here it is!) 50/50 Physical and Fire damage. That's right. Noticed something? It deals physical and elemental damage! SMRIP does indeed work with CE, and is the key to defeating Nihlathak. After all, what good is CE when none of the bodies can be blown up to begin with? Utilizing this modifier will allow you to spam CE while simultaneously nullifying any monsters that perish to it. Meanwhile, your minions will generate an additional corpse or 2 at a much more controlled pace, allowing you to silence more hordes of foul demons. Pure genius I say!

SMRIP can be found on a "Lawbringer" runeworded sword/hammer/scepter, Nature's Peace Ring, or Tyrael's Might Sacred Armor. The items are obviously listed in order of cheapest to most elaborate. "Lawbringer" is a fairly easy runeword to make. The runes are Amn + Lem + Ko, so it's not a huge investment of resources to make one. Nature's Peace is a bit pricey, but it can also be used, although not as convenient as having "Lawbringer" on switch. Tyrael's Might... let's move on, shall we? (X3)

A teleport modifier, albeit optional, is highly recommended if you use Revives at all. And believe me, you will if you decide to follow this Key Run Guide. Its sole purpose is to concentrate your minions so that they can properly engage the masses of Ice Spawn that Nihlathak surrounds himself with (as well as other assorted minions that may be in the room). Using it will make your job easier, especially if your revive preferences are similar to mine!

The cheapest option for teleport is a charged ammy. However, those with the funding can use Enigma as well. I gather that most people will be using the amulets though... for obvious reasons. (>D;

DISCLAIMER: Your SMRIP item is not to be used until you are about to enter Nihlathak's room, at which time you should switch to it in order to avoid being blown up. Those with mad confidence/their own methods can take him on without SMRIP, but those without should switch to SMRIP at this time!

For Him/Her (Mercenary)

Now you're probably thinking, "Why would anyone need anything on their mercenary?!" Well, I'm not going to advocate anything that I'm recommending to you. Your Might mercenary (you do have one... right?) doesn't need anything too special. The usual pack of high damage, leech, and resists are pretty solid.

Whatever you do though, DO NOT give him an SMRIP item (i.e. Tyrael's Might). Mercenaries are the single most powerful source of minion damage in a Fishymancer's army, and he will silence EVERYTHING he touches if you load him with Tyrael's Might. This is not good, since neither you, nor Nihlathak can use CE! Don't do it!

What you may want to consider is armor with "Damage Reduced By xx" mods. Notice the lack of a % mark there. This means that you should look for hard numbers of damage reduction, like a Gladiator's Bane for example, which spawns with 15-20 damage reduction.

Why do you need this? Two words: Tomb Vipers. Everyone who runs Nihlathak knows that you're bound to meet these bad boys sooner or later, and they pack a wallop. Fishymancers are content with thinking their Skeletons are nigh invincible, but you forget about the wrench in the system. Tomb Vipers have a poison missile attack, similar to the Amazon's Poison Javelin skill, which fires a projectile that leaves a poison trail behind. You're not concerned about the poison missile, it's the wake of it you're worried about. Diablo II is run at 25 frames per second (FPS). Poison attacks like this deal damage each frame. What most people find out the hard way, is that the Tomb Viper's poison missiles are bugged. They deal an additional 30 physical damage per frame, which has a 5% chance of being a critical hit that deals 60 damage. Again remember that this is per frame, and that there's 25 frames in 1 second of Diablo II. 30 damage x 25 FPS = 750 damage/second without criticals. Wow... no wonder why mercenaries die so easily in those clouds.

Your only chance of having a mercenary survive walking through those poison trails is by giving him said "Damage Reduced By xx" modifier armor. By reaching 30 damage reduce, you will greatly increase you mercenary's survival rate. He's liable to traipse through the clouds like an idiot (and believe me, he will). Another item of particular interest in this regard is the Sol rune, which adds "Damage Reduced By 7" to helms/armor/shields that it is socketed into. Sol runes are quite common, so it shouldn't be hard obtaining a handful if you want to use them.

Some good choices to look at (for those on a budget) are:

  • Any Helm (Sol rune socketed) [0]/[7]
  • Duskdeep Full Helm (Sol rune socketed) [7]/[14]
  • Iron Pelt Trellised Armor (Sol rune socketed) [15-20]/[22-27]
  • Gladiator's Bane Wire Fleece (Sol rune socketed) [15-20]/[22-27]

For those of you with less financial deficit, you could consider these options (that is, if resurrecting your merc is too much of a hassle, or you could be mean and leave him dead): (:P)

  • Jeweler's Armor* of Amicae (4 Sol runes socketed) [8-15]/[36-43]
  • Jeweler's Helm* of Amicae (3 Sol runes socketed) [8-15]/[29-36]
  • Jeweler's Circlet* of Life Everlasting (3 Sol runes socketed) [10-25]/[38-53]
  • Arkaine's Valor Balrog Skin (Sol rune socketed) [10-15]/[17-22]
  • Steel Carapace Shadow Plate (Sol rune socketed) [9-14]/[16-21]

[x]/[y] = Base Damage Reduce / Damage Reduce w/ Sol

  • = Armor/Helm/Circlet refers to anything of that class, i.e. All circlets, body armor, or head gear that your mercenary can wear (elite versions preferably)


Ah.. here we are. The meat of the Guide. From this point onward, you will have several hand-crafted diagrams to assist in your understanding of my methods. Please refer to them whenever in doubt, because they will help you.

Every Destruction Key runner goes from the Waypoint, so I assume you will do the same.

Special monsters are considered those that spawn from Evil Urns or are hard coded into spawning on that floor (Ice Spawn near Nihlathak in Halls of Vaught). Evil Urns are good ways of fighting Champions/Unique packs, so click them if you feel like wasting a batch of monsters (and time if you're really running Nihlathak). They only spawn one Champion or a Unique with several minions anyway, and sometimes none at all too.

Halls of Pain

Floor Plans/Designs:

  • 3

Opposing Monsters:

  • Blood Maggots/Blood Maggot Young
  • Hierophants/Zealots
  • Infidels
  • Night Lords
  • Razor Spines
  • Temple Guards

  • Blood Clan (Demon)
  • Flayers (Demon)
  • Grotesque/Grotesque Wyrms (Demon)

  • Guardians (Undead)

Opposing Monsters (Special):

  • Death Brawlers
  • Prowling Dead (Undead)

Key Revives:

  • Night Lords
Halls maps.

The Halls of Pain are simple in design, and by following this map I've made, you will have no trouble at all reaching the stairs to the Halls of Vaught. Just be sure to raise a full army of Skeletons and possibly Mages as you make your way through, and be wary of the enemies. Hierophant Blizzards are nasty for the unprepared, especially if a Conviction Unique monster is nearby! Night Lords will make excellent revives so long as they can keep up with you. Those with Enigma can teleport to gather them, and those without can either wait, or ditch them. They are an asset, but they are not vital. Or course you could always skip the enemies, but then you're not really a Fishymancer then, are you? (:P)

Halls of Vaught

Floor Plans/Designs:

  • 4 (1 with 4 variations)

Opposing Monsters:

  • Arach
  • Night Marauders
  • Tomb Vipers

  • Flayer Shaman/Flayers (Demon)
  • Hell Temptresses (Demon)
  • Slayers (Demon)
  • Wretched Defilers/Menace Worms (Demon)

  • Ghosts (Undead)
  • Prowling Dead (Undead)
  • Returned Archers (Undead)

Opposing Monsters (Special):

  • Hell Temptresses (Demon)*
  • Ice Spawn (Demon)
  • Putrid Defilers (Demon)

Key Revives:

  • Hell Temptresses
  • Returned Archers
  • Ghosts
  • Tomb Vipers
Find Nihlathak quickly.

Hell Temptresses spawn regularly, and can also appear when you click on an Evil Urn as a single Champion/Unique pack

At last, the moment you've waited for!

The floor plan of this area is one everyone should know, with the only trick involving the path to Nihlathak. By following the directions of this diagram, you will easily reach him, sometimes on your first try! If the diagram is unclear, simply follow the path that has the specified pattern on one of the corresponding green walls (the pattern only spawns on the correct path anyway).

Don't be fooled upon entering the floor that you'll be in for a cakewalk though. Sometimes Tomb Vipers immediately attack you upon entering this floor, so don't be surprised if you get ambushed and lose a good 6-8 Skeletons along with your Might mercenary. Yes, you read right. Remember, Tomb Vipers are one of the single most deadly monsters in the game, more than the dreaded Gloams/Burning Souls of the Worldstone Keep. You should be thankful they only spawn here. If necessary, revive the 1 or 2 Tomb Vipers your minions do happen to kill before dying, and hope they can tank for your remaining forces. Attract and Dim Vision will be extremely useful in dealing with these fiends. Simply cast Attract on a Tomb Viper, and watch as his friends concentrate on him. Just make sure you draw all Tomb Vipers in the vicinity to the attracted one, so you can CE and kill them all. It is imperative that you do not lose your army here.

The approach to Nihlathak is a simple one. Make your way down the correct path, reviving any ranged monsters that you happen to find. Hell Temptresses and Returned Archers make the best revives, since your mercenary's Might will amplify their damage, and your Amplify Damage Curse will do so even more. Ghosts are the only worthwhile melee monsters to revive, since they are ethereal and can pass through your skeletons with ease. Tomb Vipers, while generally not used, are an asset if none of the other three are available on the floor. Their poison immunity gives you a robust minion against enemy Tomb Vipers, and their poison missile is deadly when used for your purposes. Also, their charge attack can stun lock most other monsters with ease.

When dealing with enemy monsters, remember that Hell Temptresses are deadly in tight swarms. Their Blood Stars will suck the life out of you (no pun intended) if you either don't have max block, or are running around like a headless chicken. Same story with Returned Archers incidentally. The best way to deal with them is to Attract the one in the center of the pack before Amping the surrounding ones. As for Ghosts, they will usually stack themselves for you, since a swarm tends to target an individual minion in your army. This allows you to concentrate fire, and eliminate them easily. CE will usually kill all of these monsters fairly quickly, but it's far better to revive them as your own.

Nihlathak Attack.

As for the other monsters, Night Marauders are a nuisance to fight. Either Amp them and CE, or Amp and let your minions deal with them. Arachs are laughable, but don't get so overconfident as to let them bite you. Their poison lasts a long time, and the damage is enough to drain you to 1 HP from 900 (I've been bitten before), and that's with +75 Poison Resist! Flayers and their Shamans are easily dispatched as well, along with Slayers and Prowling Dead. The most annoying monsters (other than Tomb Vipers) are the Wretched Defilers though, because they will infect every monster in sight with the aura to spawn Menace Worms on death. While they aren't deadly at all, they make it a pain in the *** to select the good revives out of the crappy ones. Clogging up your graveyard is truly evil. (XD)

Regroup just outside of Nihlathak's chamber, switch to your SMRIP item now, and try to make sure your revives are all one species: So that means, all Ghosts/Hell Temptresses/Returned Archers. If there aren't enough key revives for a pure batch, either mix them up, or raise what you can and ditch the rest. Once you've rounded up your army, inch down the side paths until you can teleport (as shown in this diagram) into the entry ways. DO NOT teleport across the wall to the center of the room. Doing so will show you the cursed letters in red. Why? A 180º field of vision means you have corpses dropping left, right, and center. Keeping track of them all is difficult, and will get you killed if you don't pay attention (Trust me. My only death while making these runs so far has been this way). Narrowing your field of vision to 90º via the proper entry ways will focus your efforts to nullify CE via SMRIP, and allow your ranged revives to pick up the slack your skeletons miss. This is why I stress a pure batch of revives. Such a group of single species revives can tear through the Ice Spawn with ease. My runs usually see me raising 16 Hell Temptresses/Returned Archers/Ghosts, all concentrating their fire/attacks on single Ice Spawn that advance. Once one drops, I CE it, and let the spirits soar! Nihlathak will practically panic at not being able to CE himself. Once you've pretty much cleared the room, Decrepify Nihlathak (while keeping up with CE sweeps) and sit back and laugh as your army tears him apart. If you're cruel, you can teleport on top of him and let your full army smack him all at once. In this particular situation, Amp should not be used, lest you wish to run the risk of him teleporting out of the room over to bodies that you might not have SMRIPed. (:S)

That's it! That's all there is to it. Once he explodes, nab your Destruction Key(s) (if one/any happen(s) to drop), and save and exit your game. You can then do something else, or (like most people) repeat the run in hopes of another key!


Listed below are hotlinks to each of the individual diagrams featured in the strategy section above. Feel free to save them for personal use. Just remember that I do hold rights to them and that they're copyrighted by me. Bottom line: Don't be stupid.

  • Halls of Pain - Floor Plans
  • Halls of Vaught - Path to Nihls
  • Halls of Vaught - Teleport Positioning
  • Destruction Key Run - Master Diagram


Thank you for reading this Mini-Guide! Necromancers are some of the most fun classes in builds out there, and we're one of the strongest classes as a whole. Hey, we conquered Pandemonium; what's a little wuss like Nihlathak got against us? It's easy as pie to run for Destruction Keys if you know what you're doing!

Good luck, and happy key hunting!

Master image, combining all 3 views.