This guide describes a Bowazon who specializes in Strafe to clear out The Pit and is competent at other PvM tasks as well.
Diablo II Strategy Guide Info:
After reading these forums for some time you see the same old questions asked over and over again, so I am writing this guide with the aim of having all (well most) of the answers in one place.
This guide is based on a pit running pure strafer on Ladder – some of my choices are ladder only but where possible I will list alternative methods for NL / poorer / richer players. I only play ladder so that’s why I am limiting it this way. Plus if I have these items on ladder I can assume most others do as well as I am relatively new to D2.
Once complete and at a decent level (~78-80) she will be able to solo Hell Pits in an 8 man game.
This guide is mainly geared to a strafer using a Windforce as it seems that everyone finds a WF then thinks “I’ll make a strafer to run the pits”, other bows are of course mentioned, but the bulk of this guide is WF based. The build is Hell viable with many of the main bows/xbows, but imho it only excels with a high damage bow.
- Str – enough for gear – extra str doesn’t give extra damage.
- Dex – as much as you can spare – more dex = more damage.
- Vita – personal preference and gear/charm dependant. I recommend 50 min and ~800 life as an aim.
- Mana – BASE.
Those who have already have the items before building the char are at an advantage as you can easily work out where to stop investing in strength, but as I guide I’d say you can go up to 95 easily (for WT’s / 97 for Eagle)), any more than that will be bow dependent – Windforce mainly – 134 str rqd.
- Strafe – 20
- Penetrate – 20
- Valk – 20*
- Pierce – 70% min – more as desired
- Critical Strike – 50% min – more as desired
- D/A/E – 1 min – more as required (depending on +skills I aim for the 40-50% region).
- Plus prerequisites skills for Strafe
Valkyrie is always a point of debate for any zon build, my reasoning for maxing the valk is twofold:
- As a meat shield more life = better shield for you
- As a meat shield to help keep our merc alive and take her share of the hits.
At a minimum I suggest slvl 17 including +skills.
As you can work out this leaves many spare skill points unspent, and spending them is entirely up to you. I tend towards extra points into:
- Pierce – more pierce improves your arrow chance to pierce the 1st / 2nd /3rd etc etc target.
- Critical Strike – better chance to do double damage.
- D/A/E – if you feel you are getting hit too much...
- Decoy – both to use in its own right and as a synergy for your valk (more life for valk)
All points spent in the passive tree also benefit your merc/valk so I always prefer to spend them there as opposed to trying to hybrid my zon with either J&S skills or the Cold / Fire arrow branches.
This main area for debate over equipment is the balance between IAS (increased attack speed) and mf (magic find). Personally I have played with both full mf (30IAS) and full IAS (120IAS) and have to mention that the killing speeds are not that different. I will try and list both mf and IAS options so you can try both sides for yourself. I also realise that IAS can be added to helm, armour and bow via socketing but I will leave those permutations up to you as there are far too many to list here.
Also unlike some chars – mf sorcs for example – a strafer is very dependant on good gear, mainly because her damage is based on equipment as opposed to +skills. This is one of the reasons I stress this guide is referring to a WF based zon, simply because other bows lack the damage.
- PT = socketed with perfect topaz
- LL = life leech
- ML = mana leech
- Res = resistances
- ED = enhanced damage
- IAS = Increased Attack Speed
- CBF = cannot be frozen
- DR = damage reduction to physical
- N/A = Not available
- ITD = Ignore target defence
The main item for any bowazon and a pit strafer is no exception, I am sure we are all familiar with the main bows, (and the not so mainstream ones too), but for the purpose of this guide I will list the main 5 or so.
Windforce – the daddy of bows and the best attainable for most ladder players – huge damage, knock back and ML make this bow hard to beat.
BoTD runeword – too expensive for the majority of legit ladder players – but an excellent choice if available (I have never owned one, and I am not likely to in the near future so I’ll leave it to others to extol its virtues). Also as you don’t get ETH bows it does seem a waste of a Zod to make a BoTD bow/xbow.
Those are the 2 end game bows for most players, however some players prefer using bows from this list:
- Lycanders Aim – upgraded or not – none upgraded it makes an excellent leveling bow, and upgraded it can be used by those without a WF.
- WWS – upgraded or not (or both) - %amp + 2 sockets + Deadly Strike
- Eaglehorn – less damage but ITD means hitting is easier – some prefer this to a WF.
- Buriza / Langer Briser / Goldstrike Arch, plus many others that I have not listed.
The reason I list so few is that for a strafer speed and damage are the main aims for a bow and whilst many bows offer a myriad of mods, the above bows are available to all purses and can provide the killing power/speed we need. I am sure that some people have a godly rare bow that is comparable with any of the unique bows, but as with all rares, the number of possible mods makes it impossible to go into more analysis.
Bows (like everything else in D2) are a matter of preference and affordability, those I have mentioned are the bows I guess the vast majority of the realms are using.
MF can of course be added to a bow via a jewel or an IST rune but I STRONGLY recommend against it as there are far better options for socketing in bows. For example – Amn / ED / IAS / mana per kill / Shael / Nef etc etc.
- MF = Shako “pt” / ptopaz helm / SteelSkull
- IAS = SteelSkull / Mavinas Diadem
- Other = Tal’s mask (dual leech + res + life) / Peasant crown (poor mans shako) / Vampire Gaze (DR + Dual leech) / Crown of Thieves (LL + dex).
- MF = Skullders Ire “pt” / Enigma runeword / ptopaz armour / Chains of Honor runeword / Wealth runeword.
- IAS = anything socketed with IAS jewels – some ppl like Jewellers xxx of the xxx – where this is a socketed magical armour with a natural + to life socketed with ED/IAS jewels. / Twitchthroe (usually upgraded if possible). Good/legit * ED/IAS jewels on ladder cost a fortune, off ladder 40/15’s are widely duped and readily available.
- Other = Lionheart runeword (quite simply an excellent armour) / Duriels / Spirit Forge / Shaftstop.
- MF = Goldwrap (30mf + 10 IAS) – upgraded if possible
- IAS = Goldwrap / Nosferatu’s Coil (IAS + LL)
- Other = Razortail (a pure strafer should have plenty of skill points available to get high pierce) / Verdungos (DR + life) / Thundergods (str + life + L absorb) / String of Ears (LL + DR)
- MF = Chanceguards – upgraded if possible
- IAS = Laying of Hands (20 IAS + excellent bonus to damage vs demons) / Rare/Crafted Gloves with 20IAS and nice mods.
- Other = Set (see below)
- MF = War Travellers (WT’s)
- IAS = N/A
- Other = Cow Kings boots (mf + dex) / Set (see below) / Waterwalks (life) / Silkweaves (mana per kill) / Goreriders (damage mods)
- MF = magic or rare with mf
- IAS = Cat’s Eye (20IAS + dex) / Highlords (+skill + deadly strike + IAS)
- Other = Mara’s (attributes + resistances) / Eye of Etlich (Cold damage + freeze time + LL) / Crescent Moon (dual leech) / Atmas Scarab (% to cast Amp damage – see notes on mercenary).
- MF = magic or rare with mf / Nagel ring
- IAS = N/A
- Other = Ravenfrost (a must have ring for any zon) / rare or magic with useful mods (see below).
- Annihilus is a must if u can – and with everyone DC hunting they can usually be traded for a decent Hell forge drop.
- Skillers – Bow and Crossbow are NOT needed – a strafer kills with damage not skills. Passive and magic are useful as they boost the passives for you, your merc and your valk.
Life sc’s – aim for 800 life (or a level you are happy with) and then fill with either:
- Mf charms
- Poison damage charms
Partial Set Bonuses
Set combinations that give useful partial bonus’s and/or have useful individual items
- IK = Gloves / Belt /Boots
- Mavina’s = Gloves / Belt / Helm
- Sigons = Full for levelling as a javazon / Gloves / Belt / Boots
- Vidala’s / Artic = for levelling as a bowazon
- Angelic = Rings*2 / Amulet
A note on Mavina’s set
The bow on mav’s set has quite low damage and this means that the full set is of little use to a pure strafer. The full Mav’s set is quite useful for a FA based zon and there is already a guide by Freyas sticked on these forums.
Mod’s to aim for in your equipment
- +attributes – in this order dex = vita > str > energy. If you can get any of the 3 main attributes from your gear this means you have more stat points left to use in the dex/life trade-off.
- +cannot be frozen – usually from a ravenfrost – stops us getting slowed down by cold.
- +damage - for example on the WT’s – as this get’s multiplied up by bonus’s.
- +faster run/walk – FRW – helps us get into good safe positions quickly.
- +IAS – personal preference and there is a direct trade-off with IAS and mf, more mf = less IAS so experiment about and find a balance you are happy with.
- +knock back – crowd control and keeps us from taking hits.
- +life – keeps us alive and helps us get near our ~800 life target.
- +life leech – helps keep us alive, ~7LL is enough depending on your damage.
- +mana – enables us to keep strafing those non leechable monsters.
- +mana leech – strafe costs 11 mana and so you need some method to refill the mana pool, ~7ML is enough depending on * damage (more damage = more leech as leech is a % of damage).
- +mf – the main purpose of this zon.
- +passive & magic – good boosts to valk etc if u can get them from rare/crafted gloves.
Mods I feel are not/less important
+crushing blow / open wounds / deadly strike etc – as we need to get IAS and mf into our gear we really have no spare equipment slots to account for these mods and I know my zon kills fast enough without them. Some bows have these mods on them already, but imo these mods do not make up for the lack of raw damage.
+IAS – put both places as too much is a waste and u need to ensure you don’t have excess IAS – for example 100 IAS is a waste as you are not any faster than if you had 90. Experiment about and find the IAS/MF trade off you are happy with.
+resistances – wherever you play your merc valk and decoy should be taking the hits, the majority of monsters in the pits do physical damage, but u can play anywhere in the game with very bad resistances as the merc valk decoy should always be taking the hits. My strafer has MINUS 60 res all.
+skills – strafers kill with damage not skills (like a furyzon), some +skills is nice to boost the passives.
Bow IAS table – which I had to butcher as the formatting doesn’t work in the forums :/
In the above table a WF (and BoTD in Hydra or Crusader bow) is .
WF IAS with some possible solutions:
- 12/3 – 22 (clean WF and IAS belt = 30 IAS)
- 11/3 – 35
- 10/3 - 56
- 9/3 – 89 (Sheal’d WF + IAS belt + IAS amulet + IAS gloves = 90 IAS)
- 9/2 – 120 (with IAS jewels this is easily possible but at the cost of mf)
- 8/2 – 147 (don’t even try as you would have ~0 mf)
- 7/2 – 292 (lol! I dare you)
The below table is for Crossbows, with a Buriza being .
These tables have all been taken from the Amazon FAQ at the top of this (and every) page via the left hand side drag down menu.
For me there is only one choice for a strafer – the Act2 Nightmare Offensive Might merc. My reasons are:
- Act2 – because we will equip him with a Reapers Toll weapon and this is of huge significance to the build.
- Might – might provides an excellent boost to our damage – in some cases it can add 30% to our strafe damage, plus the might aura gives boosts to both our merc and our valks damage (plus anyone in our party).
Other mercs have there uses, but none get close to the might merc, holy freeze is nice, as is blessed aim. But both those mercs are supplanted with knock back and high AR/penetrate respectively.
- Helm – Anything with high life leech – Tal’s Mask / SteelSkull / Crown of Thieves etc.
- Armour – Anything with high defence (upgraded where possible) and good mods – Duriels / Shaftstop / Skullders / Leviathan / Stone runeword, basically anything with 600+ defence.
- Weapon – the most important item for the whole build imo, this is even more important than your choice of bow! – Reapers Toll (ETH is possible) – socketed with Amn.
Our merc is going to take huge amounts of damage and be in the front line for all attacks so lots of LL is vital to keep him alive. I aim for 20+ LL and with my preferred set up he has ~30 LL.
As a pure strafer the only thing we fear are Physical immunes (PI), now for pit running the only PI you are likely to face are PI uniques as none of the normal monsters spawn PI. However for ease of play in other areas where PI’s can spawn – Act2 + Act3 spring to mind, then you need some fast way of making them vulnerable to you.
The Reapers has 33% to cast decrepify on striking. Once triggered this means that every monster affected will lose 50% to physical resistances as well as having slower attack and movement speeds.
This affect will mean you do much more damage to those monsters and also it will remove any PI you encounter, even Stoneskin PI.
There are other methods of removing PI from monsters that can be used, and for those on NL you will have to try one of these methods as the Reapers Toll is Ladder only.
- WWS bow has 2% to cast Amplify damage
- Atmas Scarab amulet has 5% chance to cast Amp damage.
- There are other sources of both Amp and decrepify and rares can spawn with either as a mod.
As with everything in D2 ppl have many ways to do things and each prefer there own methods/ideas. As we are going to be a pure strafer, with no non physical attack bar a few optional pdsc’s we are going to have problems in certain areas – Act2 and Act 3 spring to mind so if you are levelling by questing you really need to party for these acts. It is possible to solo quest the whole game, but the PI ghosts in both acts are a real pain for our strafer.
For those who do it the fast way, ie rush from a mate through the important quests and then baal running this is the easiest way to do it.
- Normal quests until clvl 21 (usually this means end of Act2 – mid Act3)
- Then cows until 25
- Rush all remaining Acts & Ancients (& any key quests) and then baal runs until ~clvl 45
- Nightmare rush (remembering to hire an Act2 Offensive merc) and Ancients
- Nightmare baal runs until lvl 73 (for WF), or until you are lvl 75 (so merc can wear Reapers)
Now you have some choices:
- Straight to the pits – in 1 man games – excellent for levelling up our merc (he needs to be lvl 75 for the Reapers).
- Baal run to level up the merc
- Go back through Normal + NM and do any/all quests that u missed and want/need to do.
- Hell questing – A1Q1 / A1Q5 / A2Q1 / A3Q1 / A3Q4 / A4Q1 / A4Q2 / A5Q1 / A5Q3 are all the decent quests (on all difficulty levels).
Whichever you choose sooner or later you will want to venture into the pits to start mf’ing.
Pit Running Strategy
Start small and solo the pits in a single game and work your way up to a “difficulty” you are happy with at your level. The pits are an excellent place to level up our merc, so keeping him alive is a priority, and going back to town as soon as he is dead is sensible too. Once you both are lvl 75 (or higher) you should be ready to make things harder for yourself, thus increasing the drops and the exp gained.
So join Hell questing games, or any games where there are a few players and give the pits a try. Some Pit tips:
1. Use the Outer Cloister Waypoint and go backwards through the Monastery Gate and into the Tamoe Highlands. Follow the path and at some point it will fork/split with one branch leading to the Pits and the other leading towards the Black Marsh. If you take the wrong fork simple go back and take the other way. It helps to play with the map on as the entrance to the pits is shocking purple in colour and is easily seen on the map when not visible on screen.
2. If in doubt over mf/ias trade-off go full IAS for the first few runs, and gradually cut down on the IAS until you reach a comfortable point.
3. Learn the layouts, we want to kill everything as all monsters can drop good items, you soon learn how to “find” the way down to level 2 last as there only a limited number of map layout variations.
4. Strafelock – the bane of all strafers – once you have fired a strafe you will be unable to move or do anything for 1 or 2 seconds, so think before you fire and don’t be afraid to run back behind your merc/valk before you start firing. With practise you almost won’t notice the strafe lock as you will happily strafing away from a position of safety behind your merc and valk. I must say that if in doubt I always fire, as if I fire I hit and I leech so any damage taken is quickly nullified. The only dangerous area is the start of the second level when u can be faced with too many archers to be able to leech more than you loose.
5. Take it slow, your merc & valk will lag behind – she can be recast in front should u need.
6. Decoy can be used, especially near corners/intersections, however the only place I ever use it now is right at the start of the second level, just by the flame torch by the first stairs. This way if there are several archers she gets hit first and I know to be a little more cautious.
7. Use Strafe to “scout” ahead, with an empty screen fire one strafe – if 1 arrow appears there are no monsters in range so move forward. If several arrow shoot of then there are monsters in range (and in the direction of the arrows), so you can cast a decoy that way (and Valk), and advance slowly shooting off strafes. Just repeat this method until you feel comfortable with your char, and the layout of the pits.
8. In your belt keep 16 FULL rejuv’s – you will pick up so many from the pits that it’s a waste to have single life/mana potions in our belt. Plus with good ML/LL we shouldn’t need to drink potions, they are more for our merc should he run into a large pack.
9. Beware of monsters who explode on death, they can wipe ~700 life in one blast – a rejuv is in order here.
10. If your Valks heath gets into the yellow – retreat and recast, this is much better than trying to recast a dead valk.
11. The pits are not like Meph, where some rare/unique/set drops every run, some runs will produce nothing better than a flawless gem or 2, but the beauty of the pits is that unlike meph anything and everything can drop. So many runs are needed to produce results and I am dubious regarding some ppl’s claim to have found x shakos, y Stormsheilds and x Tal’s armours in 10 runs.
After the feedback from the draft it became clear that there was some call for a section that discussed modifications to gear/charms/skills with the goal of helping our strafer in other areas of the game. In her current state, she is not limited to endless pit runs, and there are other areas that can be mf’ed with no changes made. These include – Eld / Shenk & Pindle but I am sure there are more. Personally I am happy to take her into a baal run with no changes made to the existing setup, but others may cringe at the thought of -60 res all and Burning Souls.
The 4 main areas that can be changed are:
- Stat points
- Skill points
Both 3 & 4 need a lot of pre planning and so I won’t spend too much time on them, instead I will concentrate on the 2 aspects of any character that can be changed easily and quickly.
Equipment & Charms
Because a strafer gets damage from gear and not skills it means that a highly efficient strafer is not a cheap build to make. So if you are new/poor then I’d suggest a sorc to run meph to get a supply of good gear and tradable. Again I will stress that WF / BoTD are you main aims, as both provide the killing power we need. Rare bows have the possibility to spawn with as good, if not better mods than a WF, but I’d guess they are even rarer/costly than the WF. There are other good bows out there, but they all require alterations and sacrifices in order to fit the main mods on our zon.
I had planned to make this section much more in-depth but to list all combinations/permutations would take pages and pages. Instead I’ll list a few mod changes that you can consider, and leave the actual item list up to you.
Leech - As a rule less bow damage needs more IAS. This is because you will be doing less damage with one strafe, so we need to compensate with a faster strafe rate, and this may push mana costs up.
IAS/mf trade-off – One of the simplest methods to improve her longevity is to cut down on the mf gear, and increase IAS or some other aspects that you deem necessary.
Resistances – obviously minus 60 res all scares some ppl, and there are several easy solutions, again not all listed. Tal’s armour to mf in or several of the runeword armours if mf isn’t the priority.
Other easy sources of resistance are – rare/crafted jewellery – UM socketing in armour/helm – charms (either as the main mod, or as a second mod on a life/mf charm) – good rare/crafted boots (mf / frw / res are a commonish spawn) – same with rare/crafted gloves (ias / mf / res).
Life – for some areas you will lose your merc often – Chaos Sanctuary or anywhere with those pesky Doom Knights – so more life is usually called for as you will spend most of your time with just the 1 tank, and lose the precious might aura.
Open Wounds / Crushing blow / Deadly strike – are all useful, and if you want to sacrifice some mf, then they can certainly help your killing speed.
Stat & Skill points
With the above build, and depending on how high you level her and +skills gear, you will certainly have 20+ spare skill points to spend. For those who don’t want to, or can’t rely on the merc to solve the PI issue, then investing skill points in either the J&S or B&XB tree can provide a second form of attack.
The main two to consider are:
- LF – Lightning Fury – Doesn’t need synergising and we already have pierce, so 23 points gets you a nice maxed Lighting attack on switch. (if you use Titans & Lidless on switch you can have +5 extra J&S skills)
- FA – Freezing Arrow - Spending 15-25 points in FA and Cold Arrow can produce a useful backup skill to help slow and kill those PI you encounter. Having a bow with +skills can be of use here, as unlike strafe some +skills can increase the damage. Cold Charms and anything that increase cold damage/duration would also be of great use.
I suppose you could always go melee with Jab/Fend etc – but I have to admit I tried them once, and they really weren’t for me!
Lastly there is the possibility of using slightly different stat distribution.
If the WF wasn’t for you, then you would free up ~30 stat points that could be used elsewhere. You could also balance the dex/vita equation slightly differently and put more into vitality, as the zon my build produces is very dex heavy.
It is possible to alter the stat point distribution, but this really needs planning well in advance and obviously can’t be undone at a later time, so tinker at your peril.
It seems that I failed to get my versatility message across with my first attempt. (But it does say some things I like so it’s staying). The main point I failed to get across was this guide is for a pit running strafer, and this is why I suggest the gear that I do, and why I place such emphasis on a WF.
If however you:
- Don’t have a WF
- Don’t like the WF you own
- Don’t want to mf in the pit
I.e. you want to play as a strafer, not a WF based pit running strafer!
Then the character you built based on this guide is just as viable in all areas on Hell, you just need to select some different gear. Those people that think that you must have a WF in order to build an efficient strafer couldn’t be more wrong and many people will in fact claim that for a PvM strafer there are actually better bows, and certainly better equipment choices than the ones I have suggested above.
The reason I suggest and stress WF/BoTD is that my pit strafers’ equipment is all about pure bow based damage, with no extra damage mods like CB / OW / DS. So the damage you see on the character screen is pretty much close to the real damage I do to the monsters (excluding the effect of decrepify from the mercs Reapers Toll). I suggest this method as this frees up all other equipment slots for IAS+MF. But for a more versatile, play anywhere strafer, there is absolutely NO need to get all your killing power from your bow as the lack of MF frees up many more equipment slots.
A pure strafer can kill anywhere in the game with ANY bow/xbow with the right gear (and tactics). You simply get your damage from all your equipment:
- DS from Highlords Wrath
- A whole bunch of good mods from Gore Rider boots
- Extra damage to demons from Laying of Hands
- Blood Gloves can provide many useful mods as well.
The equipment list is endless.
Many ppl on these forums will tell you they own a WF and prefer to use other bows, with WWS, Lycanders, Eaglehorn and GSA being high on the list.
With other bows the listed damage on the character screen may be much lower, but the real damage you deal to the monsters once all the mods have been added will be much higher, and then increased again with decrep. The WF also has a much larger damage range, so some zon players prefer bows that give a much tighter, more predictable damage output. Although having tried both upp’d WWS and WF on my zon, the average damage is higher for the WF in all cases. But that said, the only way I can tell which bow I am using is the lack of ML on the WWS causes me to drink blue pots/switch back to WF for mana leech. So if I had a second source of ml then they would be equal as killing speeds are about the same.
Another thing to mention is that the WF has a base speed of 10, and as many of the other bows you could use have faster base speeds, this means that would be less need to cram as much IAS into your equipment in order to hit the faster strafe speeds.
I just suggest a WF because if I had to play a naked character in the pits, equipped with just a bow, no armour, boots, gloves, jewellery, charms etc, I would pick a WF.
I don’t pvp, and from what I can gather the WF is banned in many duels due to the Knock back mod. I may in the future try pvp’ing using a different bow. I am sure some ppl pvp with strafers, but from what I have read elsewhere a bowazon is not the best char for pvp.
(For those that care)
“Windiekins” lvl 88 Strafer – skills as above with spare skill points put into P&M tree
- WF “Shael” 8%
- Shako “pt”
- Skullders “pt”
- Goldwrap “upgraded”
- Chancies “upgraded” 33% - I sometimes use LoH to get 90 IAS but I find I really don’t need them.
- War Trav’s 46%
- Cat’s Eye
- Ravenfrost 20/24x
- Rare 8LL +10dex +etc ring
- Gheeds 36%
- Anni 13/10/10 – I use it for the +10% to exp
- Life sc’s * 6
- 1290 in pdsc’s
- Passive & Magic Skiller
- Cube / Keys / Scrolls
- =~350 mf with a 2*4 empty space in inventory (so I could add 8*7 = 56 more mf).
With gear on:
- Str – 140
- Dex – 395
- Vita – 115
- Energy – 30
- ~8k AR / 1.2k def
- 830 life / 350 mana
- -60 res all in Hell
Normal Attack – 1567-4005 // 1680-5134 – (second figures are with the might aura)
Strafe – 1224-3487 // 1308-4336
“Leharas” lvl 88 might merc
- ETH Reapers Toll “Amn”
- Leviathan “pt”
- Tal’s Mask “pt”
- 397-2250 // 642-4133
This guide is simply a collection of replies I have given regarding my experiences with strafing in the pits; everything is open to opinion/preference and budget. In D2 there are very rarely right/wrong ways of doing things and I am sure everyone disagrees with some point of this guide. I am equally sure I have missed points/items/strategies/options etc; this wasn’t an attempt to produce a definitive list, more a summary of what has worked/failed for me in my time pitting.
I hope it has helped those that read it needing help and I wish you all better luck mf’ing in the pits than I seem to have had.