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Guide:Nihlathak 101 v1.10, by mephiztophelez

From Diablo 2 Wiki

This guide explains how best to quickly find and safely kill Nihlathak, for item and Key of Terror finding purposes. It contains advice for all character types. (Source, with some corrections/additions in the thread.)

Diablo II Strategy Guide Info:


This is a tale about greed. Pure and simple, free market-ideology-capitalist driven greed. With the coming of 1.11 and the new joys of Chaos Tristram, Nihlathak has gone from being a feared, corpse-exploding creep deep under a temple to become a target for anyone who thinks a Hellfire Torch is pretty funky. At the time of writing, I feel that D-Keys are waaay overvalued and making Nihlathak a regular part of my play has rapidly and radically increased my levels of online wealth. In short, this guide is a compilation of the advice I have received along my own experiences on regularly running Nihlathak.


Nihlathak, the greasy little necromancer you meet in Harrogath. He kidnapped Anya and basically sold Harrogath out to Baal, the bastard.


Well, if the fact he's a traitor isn't enough for you, here are some more reasons:

  • A: he is the only place to get Keys of Destruction
  • B: at level 95, he is the second highest level, regularly occcuring (eg: not an 'uber') beasty in the game, ahead of even the Ancients (87) and Diablo (94). Only Baal (99) is a higher level monster, and much slower to get to. The Halls of Vaught are a level 84 area, the second highest possible ouside of uber'land
  • C: GC's dropped by him can have or be re-rolled to have the prized "of Vita" suffix, +40-45 life. he can also drop "Pestilent small charms of Anthrax" (eg: sc's with > 100poison damage. iirc: Baal is the only other place to get these)
  • D: he can drop any rune and shares the 'best' drop rate for runes >vex with Hephasto
  • E: he's VERY easy to get to VERY quickly once you know how

OK, so where is he?

If you've rescued Anya, she opens a portal to Nihlathak's Temple (aka: the Pindlegarden). Nihlathak resides in the Halls of Vaught. To get to the halls of Vaught you have to go from Pindleskin, through the Halls of Anguish, down into the Halls of Pain and finally we find him in the Halls of Vaught.

The 3 versions of the Halls of Pain. Map from this guide.

Hang about, you said it was VERY fast?

It is, theres a waypoint in the Halls of Pain. Yes, tagging this waypoint and finishing the Pindleskin quest will cause the portal outside Anya to the Pindlegarden to close. If this is of great and overwhelming concern to you, there are some links at the end of the guide that may be of interest.

Alright, I've got the waypoint, but the Halls of Pain are VAST and full of noxious critters!

yup, the Halls of Pain are a big map, there are, however, only three of them!

Both Map 1 & 2 start the same for me, out of the wp-room and head south-east. if i can keep going SE, i know i'm on map 1!, and do so until i catch a sight of the stairs from the Halls of Anguish, then it's next left and all the way to the top.

If forced to go to the SW, i know it's map 2 and the zig-zag ensues.

If there are pillars in the WP room, easy map 3, out through SW exit, keep on going in a pretty much straight line NW to the stairs.

OK, so i can find the stairs from the waypoint, any tips for the Halls of Vaught?

The "Eye Panel" shows Nihlathak's fork. Map from this guide.

I'm hurt you'd think I'd write a guide that failed to include such vital information......

The thoughtful people at Blizz put a tell-all wall panel in the Halls of Vaught that tells us exactly where the slimy little paymaster, errr traitor is!

It's known as the "Eye Panel" and while it is all over the halls of pain and appears in several places in the halls of Vaught, there are FOUR places to check. It will always be in ONE of these places and NOT in any of the others.

But theres these really nasty Tomb-Vipers down there that kill my gosu character really fast!!!

for a start, they aren't always there. they aren't that tough, and drop very fast to physical attacks. they ARE always Lightning & Poison immune.

The trouble for most people starts once they poison you. their poison cloud damage has a physical damage component. thankfully if you STAND STILL the physical damage has no effect. Shift+Attack is your friend, don't move while poisoned!

Originally Posted by Malloy

A percentage of their charge damage is included in the secondary cloud of poison. The AoE cloud. This means that you could avoid the initial poison from the spear but still get the physical + poison damage of the cloud should you run into it.

THE CLOUD IS NOT VISIBLE. This is why many people think they get killed by something that isn't really there. The cloud will stay about five seconds AFTER the initial spear's cloud vanishes. If you do not move in this time, the second cloud will not effect you. Getting knocked back will also not trigger the second cloud. You will get poisoned by the viper and get a nice percentage of life taken away from you but it won't be over time.

Best thing to do is stand still when they fire or run past them at high velocity. The cloud will only form a second or two after the spear is thrown, this gives more than enough time for a character to run past them. Should you need to stop....stop and don't run or walk until five seconds after all the clouds have gone.

Originally Posted by ilkori

Because of the way Viper Poison clouds are calculated, having integer DR can drastically improve your living chances. Effectively, the poison cloud is some minor poison damage with the monster's main attack tacked onto it (I think this is similar to the effect found on the Countess Firewalls, actually). Every frame, this gets applied, so the 50-100 physical damage reduced in half will quickly knock down even the most resiliant players with 50% DR.

On the build, it means carrying around some (fairly) nonstandard gear. A maxed PDR/MDR build with marginal resists can tank everything (except poison damage) with great success. Pure kickers will take great advantage from this since sufficient CB can be found from just your weapon and boots. More is better, but this can work well also. Poison damage is the only thing you'll have to work with.

Suffice to say, they are a minor irritation, nothing more.

Nihlathak's Corpse Explosion?

BUT Nihlathak is a necromancer and his favourite attack is Corpse Explosion, as soon as i kill a minion, he CE's my arse!!!
Yup, he is and it is.

There are four ways around this,

1: use a Natures Peace Ring (or some other bit of gear with the "Slain Monsters Rest In Peace" mod).

Originally Posted by The Arreat Summit
"Slain Monsters Rest in Peace" means that the bodies can't be resurrected or they can't be used to raise skeletons (Necromancer). They can't be used for Corpse Explosion either. It will work only if you kill the enemy with a physical damage or elemental (Blizzard or Fireball) and not magical damage. FYI: Necromancer Bone Spirit is a physical attack. The ring will work for the Paladin's Blessed Hammer skill.

Originally Posted by tarzanell
Summons are an extension of your own RIP: that is, bears, wolves, shadow masters, valks, skellies, golems, and revives will all cause monsters to rest in peace as long as you've got it somewhere (unlike mercs who need their own).

2: Kill Nihlathak FIRST, ignore everything else and just wallop the little paymaster, err traitor. This is my "deny him ammo theory" and the one i use.

3: Kill everything in his room from a safe distance and keep lobbing in some form of summonable minion to act as a "Bomb Disposal Squad" (Nihlathak will keep casting Corpse Explosions are any viable target, including your minions.

4: Nuke any corpse's before he does: skills such as find potion, death sentry, raise skeleton, redemption and corpse explosion (duh) will render them unusable by Nihlathak.

Originally Posted by ortliebj
Another less obvious but still viable way to eliminate corpses is to pop them via excessive frozen damage. Freezing Arrow, Glacial Spike and Iceblink are all good examples. NOTE: Things that “chill” won’t work, it has to “freeze” to provide a pop opportunity. Thus, Glacial Spike is MUCH better than Frozen Orb, for example. Be warned, Nihlathak can also Teleport (he can always do this, regardless of any other nasty mods he has) he has a habit of teleporting behind walls where you can't see him easily and into patches of corpses where he will nuke you as you close in to attack.

What else lurks down there

Ghosts (phys immune), skeleton archers (poison immune), flayers (fire), Arach's (fire) and there will ALWAYS be Cold Immune Ice-Boars around Nihlathak, err, phys immune Hell-temptress', Rancid Defilers, cold immune Walking Dead warriors, temple guards, poison immune archers......

Character choices, tips & strategies

Remember, you are after the second highest level monster in the game, in a level 84 area. That said, pretty much any well built character that can deal damage in at least TWO elements, should have no drama and never have to abort a run because Nihlathak is, for example, immune to Lightning.

If you are using the RIP mod, then there is nothing to stop you approaching Nihlathak like everything else, charge in and kill everything in whatever order presents itself. be warned: any kills made by your minion will be explodable by Nihlathak. unless you've given him an RIP mod somewhere.

For those of us who either A: don't have RIP for whatever reason or B: need/use corpses for other purposes read on.

The general strategy in all cases is to try to limit the amount of ammunition you give him. None of his other attacks are particularly scary, but being on the wrong end of an exploding ice-boar knocks about 1/3-2/3's of my life ball out. In a big game Nihlathak can drop my Ilkori-sin in one hit.


HOWL, quite simply leap onto Nihl, howl a little for minion suppression and wallop away. Nuking any inadvertent corpses via a Find Potion/Item or a Grim Ward will help prevent any nasty CE's.

Originally Posted by Chaotix
For Barbarian, recommend Grim Ward. This will keep minions away.
Originally Posted by Sol1
I love Grim Ward. 1 point wonder. Plus I use it on all those charging undead guys, they can't resurrect after that...


Originally Posted by ortliebj
The same that can be said about Dim Vision can be said for Cloak of Shadows for the Assassin guide. CoS and DV turn Nihl into a test of how bored you get. The challenge is almost gone completely. His AI is completely dependant upon being able to “see” very far. Incidentally, CoS and DV are also good tools to use while running past everything on the way to him.
Similarly, as cousins of that idea: Attract and Mind Blast turn this place into a hoot. If you turn the correct monsters, he will instead CE all the corpses next to himself and his closest minions, rather than the ones near you. His targeting AI is similar to most monsters in the game -- closest target first. Like all other bosses, he is not susceptible to Confuse. So, that’s only worthwhile for the fun of watching them all attack each other (I’d recommend saving that for the Cow Level myself).
Originally Posted by Jostef
Immunities... exactly why I run Nihlathak with my bonemancer. My strategy to avoid his ce is to proceed until he is right on the edge of the screen, target him with bone spear. With about 3 spears he's at about half life, and that's when the spears start killing his little minions, so I switch to ce and keep him in hit recovery until he's dead. When he dies, I've also killed all his minions, so the room is clear in pretty short order. Even if he gets a ce off, my bone armor absorbs the physical portion and 75% fire res takes care of most of that.

Originally Posted by Chaotix
My stealth bomber!
Work your way up to about halfway around the block that hides nihl's room and tap dim vision, keep summoning a golem in there until you see a exploder ogre thing. Once that explodes, Ce like crazy.

Some +life/Kill from anywhere will help keep your life-ball full from all the critters you nuke with CE too btw.

Poison Necromancers

Originally Posted by sphericalmiracle
once im in the room, lower resist and 2 novas usually sits everything down. two words: natures peace. in my experience it is too risky to try and blow up all the corpses yourself, sometimes theres one or two that you miss...for me the ring gets the job done much quicker. the only thing that gives me fits are those skeleton archers whose immunity cant be broken...ill usually dim vision them and then cast ignore.


A fair bit of success has been reported by blizz sorc's. The iceboars that are always around Nihlathak are always Cold Immune.

Originally Posted by MilkmanAl
That's how I run him, and it works very well. It is rather inconvenient to abort runs whenever he's cold immune, though.

I did it quite simple, i teleported next to him, where were no corpses, so couldn't do anything. After that few Chain Ligthings and Frozen orb, and he was dead


I have no personal experience running Nihlathak with a 'zon, however there is no reason they couldn't do it. They can certainly take things down from a distance and have access to two summons to be the bomb disposal squad. Java'zons

Originally Posted by l84dinner
I traded for a natures peace ring and just go in there with lightning fury blazing and usually nilly is dead before I even see him. I was running him without the ring and never died from the corpse explosion, but I had to be more careful. My zon has enough life to survive a hit and hit a juv potion for the next one.


Originally Posted by Baron_Karlriche
If using a pally, redemption works wonders.


Wind Druids

Originally Posted by Derisive
I'd say that without teleport, there are better Nihl runners, though a windy is viable.

Other Druids

Originally Posted by Chaotix
For any druid, Nihl can be handled easily with some summons. Work your way up to about halfway around the block that hides nihl's room. Throw 3 high level Dire Wolves in there, and follow up with a Solar creeper(Preferrably high level as well) Now,do this over and over and over, kill anything the comes close and summon a solar creeper next to you. Your mana should be drained so it will eat the corpse. Your Dire wolves will eat corpses in there, adding to their strength(just keep going continuously) after a while head in, if Nihls not dead, fury him(Make sure you've still got corpse munchers). While it takes a longer time frame, it's easily do-able.
Note: if your wolf has TONS of life and good DR/Fire resist. You can get away with being in the room fighting while your minions eat corpses. if your in the room, use Carrion vine, as you'll be taking damage.

Originally Posted by DukeOfTheUnwanted
Only technique for a werewolf druid w/o RIP is to go down with max block high vit oak sage a bear and just run to nith and kill him. High res helpes. don't go for phys immunes bc they take too long to kill and ur vit should be high enough to dispatch of nilly quick enough. Avoid killing anything but nilly


My character of choice.

I use an Ilkori-sin v1.11, kicker, flashdancer variant (NO teleport except Dragon-Flight), without RIP to run Nihlathak. I have made a habit of running /players 8 Nihlathak whenever possible.

Aside from the build-goals mentioned in Ilkori's guide, I recommend busting the 200% FHR breakpoint for the BoS sprint through the Halls of Pain/Vaught (very easy with a dual Spirit setup on switch, it's also possible to make the 68%FCR breakpoint with just these two items, also a big plus), switching to my battle-setup (Stormlash/Stormshield) for the takedown. I use the "deny him ammunition" theory with marvellous success. I do this by sprinting to the BACK of Nihlathak, mind-blasting everything in sight, then d-flighting to Nihlathak and walloping him. If things get a little hairy (eg: i screw up), i'll back off, fill the room with traps (both Lit & Death sentries) and keep tossing in a Shadow Master to defuse any potential bombs.

With a bit of care, I can safely run Nihlathak during big pubby Baal runs. I'm often "Back By Bartuc", provided the baal-runner isn't too fast (or a cheating bastard running the gauntlet of Warden). Finding a friendly Barb radically improves the margins of error.

General Minion Tips

the Vipers will kill your minions in a split second. the minon AI isn't smart enough to stop when poisoned. in short, I wouldn't recommend any build that relies on hench-idiot support, seeing the vipers = aborting the run. i have a minion, i don't need him but i often take him with me anyways. Poor Waheed my HF/Insight merc dies a lot

BUT i need easy access to the Pindlegarden!

Have a search at the amazon basin, mikeandroe has outined a detailed strategy for the Halls of Anguish. i cannot post a direct link here.

Key Drop Info

How frequently do "the Keys" drop?

Key of Terror has a 1/14 chance of dropping per kill in a 1-player game. Key of Hate has a 1/11 chance, while Key of Destruction has a 1/12 chance

You can get two, three, or possibly even more keys from a single drop. These keys are nonmagical and your chance to find magic items does NOT have an effect on their drop rate. However, having more players in the game will increase your chances.


Slayerman (for the original maps i used! cheers dude!), Malloy, tarzanell, Ernir, jleer, Baron_Karlriche, peterpaulrubens, Ilkori, AcidRane, Jostef, MilkmanAl, The Red Death, Exavian, Radiolig, l84dinner and Rares from the BB along with ortliebj, MadScientist and mikeandroe (from the Amazon Basin) and as a catch all for those i've missed, cheers to everyone at the BB and thanx for putting up with my noob questions.

If you've read my guide, GOOD LUCK!. i hope the drop gods smile on you and grant you much bounty.