Diablo 2 staves, though they can provide nice bonuses to spells, are very little used in Diablo 2, since they make carrying a shield impossible. A shield is mandatory for a high-level Sorceress, for the blocking, and usually the huge three-diamond socketed resistance. In the Expansion shields are much less useful for blocking, doing virtually nothing if you don’t add Dexterity. A Clvl 50+ Sorceress who hasn’t added a lot of Dexterity will have just 5% blocking, which is just 5% more than the same Sorc carrying a staff.
So the biggest trade-offs are the +skills on a staff vs the big +resistance or other mods you can get from a shield. There would be a much bigger debate if not for Orbs, which can give the same bonus skills and other nice mods, and still be used with a shield. Still, a very good staff, or one of the excellent Unique staves is not a bad choice for a Sorceress, if she can make up the resistance she’d usually have on a shield.
Staves do poor damage, and are not effective for dealing damage through any sort of quality armor. Their greatest attribute is their ability to carry bonus spell levels for the Sorceress, and she can turn them to use as a bashing weapon, but her Attack Rating will usually prevent her from making contact a sufficient percent of the time, and her damage will be low in any event.
Also, staves with good skill level bonuses on them tend to be very expensive, and the enormous repair costs for these weapons are another reason to not damage it on the hard skulls of monsters.
Interestingly enough, a Barbarian who has invested points in Mace Mastery will also do increased damage with staves, though this is seldom useful in practice, since most maces outclass staves in damage and speed.
- Inherent bonuses: Staves can have +1-3 points to up to three skills from any of her skill trees. Bonus skills greatly increase the repair price of a staff though, so resist the urge to do any melee with a good staff.
- Damage Bonus: This determines how you multiply the item damage by your stats to reach the actual damage. Each 100 points in that stat doubles your weapon’s total physical damage. All Staves (staff) are 100 Str, which means every 100 points in Str doubles the weapon damage.
- Item Level: Used in many in-game calculations. Monsters must be of this level to drop the item, and it factors in when you get to gamble for this item type as well.
- Weapon Speed: A relative comparison to other weapons of the same type. 0 is the base -10, -20, etc is faster, 10, 20, etc is slower, always in increments of 10. Each 10 is equivalent to an SIAS item. Characters are abbreviated to their first letter, with Am = Amazon and As = Assassin.
- Range: Goes from 1 (least) to 5 (most), and is identical for all weapon types. I.E. a 3 sword = a 3 spear = a 3 hammer.
- All Staves are wielded in two hands.
Exceptional staves can only be found on Nightmare and Hell diff levels in Diablo II. In the Expansion they are dropped by Monster levels, and can be found in late Normal, and all through Nightmare and Hell.
- All Exceptional items are Clvl 25 in Diablo II. Some are a bit lower in D2X, but none are higher.
- Numbers in () Are stats in the Expansion that differ from the stats in Diablo II.
Elite items are only found in D2X. Elite staves can be found in Acts 4-5 Nightmare and all through Hell difficulty.