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A Guide to Untwinked, Single-Pass HC Play, V0.2 (by HC Gunther)


Well-known member
Guide Author
Mar 14, 2020
originally posted by @HC Gunther on May 22, 2008

A Guide to Untwinked, single-pass HC play, V0.2

A common tournament type is for untwinked, single-pass HC characters. This guide is about getting such characters through Normal with the maximum amount of loot. This is written for the player who hasn't played untwinked, single-pass characters in a while.

A PM from Thyiad prompted me to post this. I have been writing it as I work my current set of characters through Normal. One character is in Kurast and the rest are in Act 2. I have been playing Diablo II for years and haven't had much success, so I scoured this board for all the advice I could find. A lot of this comes from jiansonz's Guide to Untwinked, Single-pass, early game Magic Finding, which I strongly recommend reading. This guide doesn't repeat the why's behind the MF advice. As I don't have the experience that most of the posters here have, I probably have quite a bit wrong, so I beg your indulgence and request your feedback.

Difficult Level
This assumes that the player will play at /p8 with the exception of Act Bosses and the Countess. The Countess should be killed at /p1 to maximize rune drops. Killing Act Bosses at higher than /p3 doesn't provide any better drops (but does provide better experience).

Estimated character level (clvl) when finishing each act:
Act 1: 20
Act 2: 27-28
Act 3: 33-35
Act 4: 36-39
Act 5: 45-50

All of your points go here first until it reaches 36, then that may be it for a long time. If you are planning on equiping a weapon that requires a strength greater than 36, then you will need to increase your strength accordingly. The next point in the game where you need to have a particular Strength number is 63 at the start of Act 5 at approximately level 39. A good interim goal is a Strength of 60 at level 23 when Plated Belts are available through gambling. Plated Belts are the first belt to have 4 rows of potions and the cost in Vitality is offset by the advantage of being able to carry more red and rejuv potions.

If you have a melee character, you will want to have 75% chance of blocking. Any character with enough Dex for 75% chance of blocking will have enough Dex to have a 95% chance to hit. How much Dex you need depends heavily on the % Block of the shield that you use.

In Act II, Drognan sells Bone Shields of Deflecting. Assuming that you are level 20 when you arrive at Act II, you should have the following Dex points to have 75% blocking with that shield:
Paladin - 58 Dex, 2.1 dex points per level there after
Amazon/Assassin/Barbarian - 62 Dex, 2.3 points per level there after
Druid/Necromancer/Sorceress - 65 Dex, 2.5 points per level there after

Depending on your build, you may need some points here. For HC, it is generally better to drink potions and have a large amount of life than spend points on Energy.

Where you want to put the rest of your points.

Trading and Gambling
In Normal, there is a cap for the item level (ilvl) sold in trading sales: 12 in Act 1, 20 in Act 2, 28 in Act 3, 36 in Act 4 and 45 in Act 5. There is no cap for gambling. Ilvl for gambling items is -5 to +4 of your character's level (clvl) and the ilvl of shopping items is clvl+5 up to the cap.

Trading is best for picking up items with very particular values, such as a number of sockets or certain +skills. Gambling is best for picking up items not available for trading.

Occasionally, you will need to do a lot of "power shopping" - repeatly popping out of town briefly to restock the NPC's inventories so that you can buy the exact item you want:
When you hit level 6 at Rogue Encampment
3 socket Ring Mail from Charsi
2 socket Helm from Gheed

When you arrive at Lut Gholein
Bone Shield of Deflecting from Drognan
Max MF (25%) for both your gloves and boots from Elzix and Fara

When you arrive at the Kurast Docks
Staffs with Teleportation/Enchantment charges
Wands with Confusion/Life Tap charges
+1 Skill Tree Hatchet Hands from Hralti
+1 Dirks of War Cries from Asheara (Should be there, but I have been unable to find them)
+1 Balanced Knife of War Cries from Asheara (Should be there, but I have been unable to find them)
Coral Belts/Heavy Belts (21-30% Lightning Resistance) from Asheara

When you arrive at Pandemonium Fortress
+1 Class Skill items from Halbu and Jamella
Light Plated Boots of Luck (26-35% MF) from Halbu
Staffs with Blizzard/Frozen Orb/Meteor charges
Wands with Attraction/Lower Resistance/Poison Nova charges
Garnet Plated Belts (21-30% Fire Resistance) from Halbu
Plated Belts of the Tiger (+21-30 Life) from Halbu

When you arrive at Harrogath
3 socket Artisan´s Great Helm from Larzuk
Greaves of Luck (26-35% MF) from Nihlathak/Anya
+2 Skill Tree items from all vendors
Plated Belts of the Colossus (+41-60 Life) from Larzuk

Plan for Trading & Gambling
Lvl   6 3 socket ring mail available at Charsi's
        2 socket helm available at Gheed's
Lvl   7 Belt available at Charsi's. 3 rows for potions
        Spiked Shield available through gambling. Best shield for a while
        Wands with Dim Vision charges and staffs with Frost Nova charges available
Lvl   9 Morning Star available through gambling. Best melee weapon for a while
Lvl  11 Short spear available through gambling. Best thrown weapon for a while. 40/40
Lvl  12 Gamble for MF gloves and boots (5-15% MF)
        Staffs with Frost Nova charges from Akara now useable
        Wands with Dim Vision charges from Akara now useable
Lvl  15 Bone Shield available through gambling. Best Normal shield for Str < 75
Lvl  17 Gamble for gloves and boots "of Fortune" (16-25% MF)
        Maul available through gambling. Best damage for Str < 99 2H weapon. 69 Str
Lvl  20 Circlets available through gambling
        Pike available through gambling. Best damage for Normal Spear/Polearm. 60/45
Lvl ~20 Once at Lut Gholein, buy gloves and boots "of Fortune" from Elzix and Fara
        If you have hired a Act 2 Merc, gamble for a Pike
        If you have a melee character, buy a Bone Shield of Deflecting from Drognan
        Wands with Terror charges available from Drognan
        Keep an eye out for 3s Breast Plates for once you have the cube
Lvl  21 War Hammer available through gambling. Best damage for 1H weapon. 53 Str
Lvl  22 Circlets are practical to acquire through gambling
Lvl  23 Plated belt available through gambling. 4 rows for potions. 60 Str
Lvl  27 Start gambling for Boots of Luck
Lvl  28 Great Maul available through gambling. Best damage for 2H weapon. 99 Str
Lvl  ?? Once you have 2 circlets of MF and Boots of Luck, gamble for MF amulets

When you get to Act 2, hire an Act 2 merc. The damage increase of a Pike (14-63, 38.5 average) over a bow is huge. For example, a level 19 rogue with a 3 socket Long Bow with 1 chipped emerald and 2 chipped rubies does 29-47 damage and a level 19 desert merc with a plain Pike does 45-143 damage. Once you get the cube, you can roll a Savage polearm for your Act 2 merc. If your build/playing style is more appropriate for a rogue, wait until you have/can make a really nice bow and rehire the rogue.

The IAS breakpoints for the Act II merc's Jab attack with a Pike are as follows: 0 for 10 fpa, 9% for 9 fpa, 24% for 8 fpa, 54% for 7 fpa, 129% for 6 fpa. The IAS breakpoints for a Savage Bardiche, Poleaxe, Lochaber Axe or Partizan: 0 for 9 fpa, 11% for 8 fpa, 35% for 7 fpa, 92% for 6 fpa. The IAS breakpoints for a Savage Voulge, Halberd or Bill: 0 for 8 fpa, 20% for 7 fpa, 65% for 6 fpa. The IAS breakpoints for a Savage Scythe, War Scythe or Battle Scythe: 0 for 7.5 fpa, 8% for 7 fpa, 44% for 6 fpa.

General Cube Recipes
When you get to Act 2, you are better off to go the Halls of the Dead to get the cube before tackling Radament. When you get the cube, don't cube up your non-topaz chipped gems! Save them for Hell and use them to re-roll a Cryptic Axe, a Great Poleaxe, a Giant Thresher, Ghost Spear or a War Pike until it gets a "cruel" prefix. Cube up your Rejuvenation Potions into Full Rejuvenation Potions and then always carry Full Rejuvs with you. If you are below clvl 24, cube all your amulets into rings to find MF rings (you will get on average a MF ring for every 51.6 amulets cubed). When you hit clvl 24, cube the rest of your jewelry (you will get on average a MF ring for every 61.7 amulets and a MF amulet for every 45.9 rings).

A useful cube recipe for Normal is to use a diamond (flawed preferably), a staff, a Kris and a belt to make a Savage polearm. If you are lucky enough to get a Partizan (Str 113), use 3 chippies to re-roll the Partizan and add two sockets, then put two Jewels of Freedom into the sockets. With luck, you will have an awesome weapon for your Act 2 merc to use for a very long time.

Another useful cube recipe is to use a magic head, 2 skulls (flawed preferably) and a spiked club to make a magic shield of spike. The head will be re-rolled at ilvl 30, so it will have 1-3 skills, each skill has a 20% chance of being a Tier 5 skill (Summon Resist, Iron Golem, Bone Prison, Attract, Decripify), a 50% chance of being a Tier 4 skill (Blood Golem, Poison Explosion, Bone Spear, Confuse, Life Tap), a 20% chance of a Tier 3 skill (Golem Mastery, Skeletal Mage, Bone Wall, Iron Maiden, Terror) and a 10% chance of a Tier 2 skill (Clay Golem, Poison Dagger, Corpse Explosion, Dim Vision, Weaken). Even if you don't have a Necromancer, this will let you convert a low-value head into a high-value head. Heads can be re-rolled.

Unless you are VERY lucky, the top end for MF for your rings in Normal is 15% (you need to cube up a "Felicitous Ring of Chance" or a "Fortuitous Ring of Chance" to get over 15% and that is very unlikely). The next step up in MF is "of Luck", which requires a clvl of 56 to get from cubing amulets. Once you get two rings with MF in the 14-15% range, you are re-rolling amulets so that you can re-roll the rings. With amulets, "of Fortune" (MF 16-25%) can be gotten from cubed rings when you hit clvl 24 and "of Luck" (MF 26-35%) when you hit clvl 36. For clvl's 31-35, you can get an amulet of Luck through gambling every 57-59 amulets (3.6 mil - 3.7 mil). Your chances of gambling an amulet of Luck drop steadily from there. Once you have a high MF amulet of Fortune, you probably should save your rings until you hit clvl 36.

You can also use the cube to up rare and unique items to an Exceptional base item. For example, let's say that you gambled a rare Long War Bow which has some really useful mods. You can up it by cubing it with an Ort (9), an Amn (11) and a Perfect Sapphire. The bow will become a rare Gothic Bow (the Exceptional version of the Long War Bow) with the same mods as the bow had before. You can up rare armor by cubing it with a Ral (8), a Thul (10) and a Perfect Amethyst. You can up a unique weapon by cubing it with a Ral (8), a Sol (12) and a Perfect Emerald. For example, if you upped a Bonesnap, it would become a War Club with the same mods (+200-300% ED, +100% Damage To Undead, 40% CB, 30% Cold Resist, 30% Fire Resist) as before. You can up a unique armor by cubing it with a Tal (7), a Shael (13), and a Perfect Diamond. Be careful about the increased requirements whenever you up an item. For example, the requirements for an upped Bonesnap jump to clvl 25, 124 Str. For same characters, it makes a lot of sense to gamble a qlvl 1-4 weapon to get a rare and then up a rare with good mods. For example, if you had a throwing barb at clvl 35, you could gamble Throwing Knives, hoping for a ED mod such as "Savage" or "Merciless" and a leech mod in a rare with some other good mods. Then you up the rare to a Battle Dart, increasing the base throwing damage from 4-9 to 11-24.

In general, you want to craft at a crafting level of 31 or better, which means a clvl of 30 or better. Your crafting level is your clvl/2 (rounded down) + the ilvl of the item crafted/2 (rounded down). Note: there are other parts to the crafting formula, but they are unlikely to matter in untwinked Normal. Use ATMA to see the ilvl of your item. For found items, the ilvl is the level of the monster that dropped it. For bought items, it is clvl+5, capped at 12/20/28/36/45 for Acts 1-5. For gambled items, it is a number with +4/-5 of your clvl when you gambled. At a craft level of 31, you have a 60% chance of 2 additional magic affixes, 20% chance of 3 additional affixes and a 20% chance of 4 additional affixes. With a craft level of less than 31, your chances for each number of affixes is 40/20/20/20 for 1/2/3/4. The next break point is a crafting level of 51, which you may hit at the very end of Normal.

In order to acheive a craft level of 31, the earliest you can craft is clvl 30. Gamble the item you need and if you get an ilvl of 32 or better (30% chance), then you will have a craft level of 31 (or 32 if the ilvl is 34). For many craft items you will have to gamble the item if you want to craft it while your clvl is in the 30's. For example, the highest ilvl Light Belt you can buy is 20, which would mean that your character would have to be clvl 42 to achieve a craft level of 31.

The downside to crafting is that if you craft an awesome item, it will have a very high clvl requirement. For example, if you craft an item with 4 affixes, one of which has a clvl requirement of 18, then the clvl requirement would be 18 (highest clvl requirement) + 3 * 4 (number of affixes) + 10 = clvl 40. A bummer if you crafted it at clvl 30.

Everything depends on your build and the items you have already found, but probably the most useful item you can craft is a belt. For magic users, craft a Caster Belt with a magic Light Belt, Ith (6) rune, Perfect Amethyst and any jewel. A Caster Belt has only 2 rows for potions, but 5-10% Faster Cast Rate, (4-10)% Regenerate Mana, +(10-20) To Mana, plus 1-4 magic affixes. For melee characters, craft a Blood Belt with a magic Belt, Tal (7) rune, Perfect Ruby and any jewel. A Blood Belt has 3 rows for potions, (5-10)% Open Wounds, (1-3)% Life Stolen Per Hit, +(10-20) To Life, plus 1-4 magic affixes. The affixes for belts aren't exciting, but alvl 30 has two good ones - "Faithful" (+4 Defense per Level) and "of the Colossus" (+41 to +60 to Life). alvl 30 would mean a craft level of 33 for a Caster Belt and 36 for a Blood Belt.

If your character is a two-handed weapon character such as a Berzerker or Werebear, a Hit Power weapon can be a good choice. A Hit Power weapon has +(35-60%) Enhanced Damage, 5% Chance To Cast Level 4 Frost Nova When Struck, Attacker Takes (3-7) Damage plus 1-4 magic affixes. A Hit Power weapon requires a magic blunt weapon, a Tir (3) rune, a Perfect Sapphire and any jewel. Enhanced Damage increases the weapons base damage, so you want a high a base damage as possible. For blunt weapons, the choices are War Hammer (1H, 19-29 damage, 53 Str), Maul (2H, 30-43 damage, 69 Str) or Great Maul (2H, 38-58 damage, 99 Str). If you craft at a level so you get alvl of 25 (craft level of 37 for a War Hammer, 35 for a Maul and 41 for a Great Maul), you have a 2.4% chance each for Snowy, Static or Fiery.

A Blood Weapon provides the same Enhanced Damage as a Hit Power weapon, but costs a much higher rune (Ort 9) and uses an axe. The biggest damage axe (Giant Axe) doesn't do as much damage as a Maul (22-45 versus 30-43) for essentially the same strength requirement (70 vs 69). The other attributes of a Blood Weapon are more desireable that those of a Hit Power weapon - (1-4)% Life Stolen Per Hit and +(10-20) To Life. So you have to decide if the additional life and life leech are worth the additional cost and decrease in total damage.

The rest of the craft items are real hit-or-miss and may require several attempts before you craft something worth using. Therefore, you ought to wait until later in Normal when you have enough perfect gems and runes that you can afford to waste some.

With a little luck, a Hit Power Shield can provide you an excellent defensive shield. A Hit Power Shield requires a magic Gothic Shield, Eth (5) rune, Perfect Sapphire and any jewel. A Hit Power Shield provides good blocking (46%/41%/36% + 5-10%) and defense (30-35), 5% Chance To Cast Level 4 Frost Nova When Struck, Attacker Takes Damage of (3-10), plus 1-4 magic affixes. A craft level of 33 seems to be the best, offering a high chance for an improvement in blocking as well as a high resistance prefix (Rainbow, Cobalt, Garnet, Coral, Jade). If you get the "of Deflecting" suffix (1 out of 7 crafts at craft level 33), you have a great defensive shield. If you get the "of Blocking" suffix instead (1 out of 6 crafts at craft level 33), you have a very good defensive shield.

Another item worth pursuing for a combat character is Blood Gloves. Blood Gloves require magic Heavy Gloves, a Nef (4) rune, a Perfect Ruby and any jewel. Blood Gloves have (5-10)% Crushing Blow, (1-3)% Life Stolen Per Hit, +(10-20) To Life plus 1-4 magic affixes. In Normal, you want MF on your gloves. At a craft level of 33, you have a 13.4% chance of getting "of Fortune" and 13.4% of getting "of Chance" while having a shot at "Faithful" or +1 skill trees.

A Safety Shield is an option for a non-blocking character. A Safety Shield requires a magic Kite Shield, a Nef (4) rune, a Perfect Emerald and any jewel. Kite Shields have poor blocking (38/33/28) and require a strength of 47. A Safety Shield has +(10-30)% Enhanced Defense, +(5-10)% Magic Resistance, (1-2) Reduced Magic Damage, (1-4) Reduced Damage plus 1-4 magic affixes. At clvl 31, one out of every 3 shields will have either more Damage or Magic Damage reduction.

A Blood Shield can be crafted from a magic Spiked Shield, Ith (6) rune, Perfect Ruby and any jewel. A Blood Shield has below average blocking (40%/35%/30%), but requires less strengh (30), provides life leech (1-3% per hit) and +10-20 life in addition to Attacker Takes (4-7) Damage plus 1-4 magic affixes. The best possible user of a Blood Shield is probably a Paladin. At craft level 40 (alvl 35), you have a 7.5% chance of getting an affix of +1 Paladin skill tree or +1 Paladin skills. The Paladin's Holy Shield can make up for the poor blocking of the Blood Shield.

Hit Power Gloves can be useful for certain builds because they have Knockback but they require an Ort (9). They also have 5% Chance To Cast Level 4 Frost Nova When Struck and Attacker Takes (3-7) Damage. Hit Power Gloves require magic Chain Gloves, an Ort (9), a Perfect Sapphire and any jewel. Again, you are going to want to get MF on these gloves. At a craft level of 31, you have a 13.9% chance of getting "of Fortune" and 13.9% of getting "of Chance".

Blood Boots are similar to Blood Gloves, providing +(5-10) Replenish Life instead of the Crushing Blow and requiring Light Plated Boots and an Eth (5) rune. The downside to Blood Boots is that you can't get "of Luck", so Blood Boots can never match the MF of magic boots and a high MF is the goal through Normal.

Steel - Tir (3) + El (1) for Swords/Axes/Maces
20% Enhanced Damage, +3 To Minimum Damage, +3 To Maximum Damage, +50 To Attack Rating, 50% Chance Of Open Wounds, 25% Increased Attack Speed, +2 To Mana After Each Kill, +1 To Light Radius. A very cheap runeword. You can buy a 2 socket Flail from Fara for the best combination of damage and speed. A Paladin using Zeal with a Steel Flail has 6 fpa speed.

Malice - Ith (6) + El (1) + Eth (5) for Melee Weapons
+33% Enhanced Damage, +9 To Maximum Damage, 100% Chance Of Open Wounds, -25% Target Defense, -100 To Monster Defense Per Hit, Prevent Monster Heal, +50 To Attack Rating, Drain Life -5. You can buy a 3 socket Spetum from Fara to make this for your merc. Ideally, you would combine this weapon with something that provide life leech as the Drain Life will make you slowly lose life.

Leaf - Tir (3) + Ral (8) in a Staff
+5-30 Fire Damage, +2 mana per kill, +3 to Fire Skills, +33% Cold Resistance, +3 Inferno, +3 Fire Bolt, +3 Warmth. Go to Drognan and look for a 2-socket staff with +3 Fireball (either +3 Enchant or +3 Fire Wall would be better, but good luck finding them!). This runeword will incredibly bump your fire skills and you can use the staff probably through all of Normal. You must buy the staff from Drognan because after Drognan, all items are magic and therefore cannot be used for a runeword.

Zephyr - Ort (9) + Eth (5) in a Bow or Crossbow
7% Chance to Cast Slvl 1 Twister When Struck, +33% Enhanced Damage, +1-50 lightning damage, Increased Attack Speed (25), -25% Target Defense, Faster Run (25), +25 Defense, +66 Attack Rating. Useable by both an Amazon and a Act 1 Rogue. Not a great weapon

Strength - Amn (11) + Tir (3) for Melee Weapons
+35% Enhanced Damage, 25% chance of Crushing Blow, 7% life steal, +2 mana per kill, +10 vitality, +20 strength. 2 socket weapons aren't hard to find, though you will want with a large base damage. The mana per kill and life steal mean that you can you can use this weapon constantly in a mana-using attack such as Concentrate, Frenzy, Whirlwind, Zeal, Vengeance, Martial Arts attacks and wereattacks. The strength bonus will help you equip high-STR, high-defense armors such as Gothic Plate from Halbu or Full Plate Mail from Larzuk

Edge (requires RWM) - Tir (3) + Tal (7) + Amn (11) in a missile weapon
Level 15 Thorns Aura When Equipped, +35% Increased Attack Speed, +320-380% Damage To Demons (varies), +280% Damage To Undead, +75 Poison Damage Over 5 Seconds, 7% Life Stolen Per Hit, Prevent Monster Heal, +5-10 To All Attributes (varies), +2 To Mana After Each Kill, Reduces All Vendor Prices 15%. Lots of different possible bows. An excellent weapon for a Fishymancer as all of your summons will return 810% damage. Also good for an Amazon against act bosses (all demons).

Insight (requires RWM) - Ral (8) + Tir (3) + Tal (7) + Sol (12) for Polearms/Staves
Level 12-17 Meditation Aura When Equipped (varies), +35% Faster Cast Rate, +200-260% Enhanced Damage (varies), +9 To Minimum Damage, 180-250% Bonus to Attack Rating (varies), Adds 5-30 Fire Damage, +75 Poison Damage Over 5 Seconds, +1-6 To Critical Strike (varies), +5 To All Attributes, +2 To Mana After Each Kill, 23% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items. 4 socket polearms don't exist in Normal, but you can buy a 4 socket Gnarled or Battle Staff from Drognan. For a spellcaster, the FCR and massive mana recovery would be a huge boost.

Rhyme - Shae (13) + Eth (5) in a Shield
Cannot be Frozen, 40% Faster Block Rate, 20% Increased Chance of Blocking, Regenerate Mana 15%, +25% to all Resistances, +25% to Magic Find, +50% Extra Gold from Monsters. Probably the best runeword you can make in Normal, but it will take a lucky drop to get a Shae. A Bone Shield is an excellent choice for this and socketed Bone Shields are available from Drognan. This can also be made in socketed heads.

Not Useable Runewords
Holy Thunder - Can't be made in Normal as it requires a non-magical 4 socket War Scepter
Honor - Probably can't be made in Normal as it requires finding a 5 socket War Staff
Spirit - Can't be made in Normal as it requires a 4 socket sword or shield

Not Very Good Runewords
King's Grace - Strength costs less and provides Crushing Blow
Lore - You want MF from your helm
Nadir - No MF and reduced gold is not what you need
Radiance - Another no MF helm runeword
Stealth - You want MF from your armor. If you don't care about MF, great for a caster
Ancient's Pledge - use Rhyme or a PDiamond shield instead

Charged Items
I have recently started using them. For not a lot of money, they can fill holes in your character's skill set. Items besides wands and staffs can have charges, but I rarely see them in stores. It is very expensive to recharge items, so I just buy a new wand/staff. Here are the charges I find useful and where I use them:

Act 1
I find a staff of Frost Nova very useful for the open areas - charge into the center of the group, freeze them, then let your rogue kill the slowed characters. In the Jail/Catacomb areas, a wand of Dim Vision helps with skeleton archer/skeleton mage packs.

Act 2
Frost Nova/Dim Vision charges will continue to help by slowing/blinding monsters. A wand with Terror charges can sometimes cause a monster in the Maggot Lair to run away so you can get far enough around a corner to get your merc to follow you. Don't Cast Terror right on the monster - cast it a little towards you so the monster will flee from the spot casted. Cast it quick because if any of his buddies move next to him, he won't have anywhere to run. You can also use the Terror charges to move a pack away from a teleport arch in the Arcane Sanctuary if you can't kill from afar.

Act 3
A staff with Teleportation charges can get you out of bad situations. A staff of Enchant can boost you and your Merc's damage and AR. A wand with Confuse or slvl 2 Dim Vision charges can provide crowd control (Confuse has a slightly bigger radius at 4 yards vs 3.3 and a one second longer duration).

Act 4
A wand of Lower Resist can make your elemental attacks more effective against bosses. A wand with Attraction charges can provide crowd control. A staff with Blizzard charges can slow down a pack. A staff with Frozen Orb charges can allow you to send a freezing ball ahead of you.
Locations of Note

Blood Raven
Because she moves around so much, I find Strangling Gas Potions to be the most effective weapon against her. Throw the potion, run around while she turns green and then when she is about to return to normal color, throw again. Repeat lots of times. When she is almost out of life, sometimes I will charge here and give her the coup de grace. The Strangling Gas Potions also help keep her minion numbers down.

Caves, Level 2
There are four tunnels that feed the main area. If you move into the middle of the main area, you will be attacked by 3-4 packs. Instead, move down the left side of the screen, defeat the monsters in the first tunnel, move through that tunnel and then clean out the tunnels at the bottom of the screen. Clear out the tunnel in the middle left last.

Tower Level 5
Clear the two rooms with money, then switch to /p1 before you go nearer to where the countess resides. Switch back to /p8 after killng the countess.

The Pit, Level 2
This level is one big monster party room. If you charge to the middle of the room, you will get surrounded. Stick to the left wall and then clear out the room counterclockwise.

The Smith
The layout of this room on Jail 1 is almost always the same - to the right of the door is a narrow hallway leading to a room. There is a Devilkin Shaman at the end of the hallway with Devilkins in front of him. A pack of monsters will come from the left. Your goal is to kill all the monsters in the room before killing The Smith. Once you open the door, retreat from the room to kill the pack that charged you and to kill some Devilkins. Once they are dead, go through the door and turn right to kill the Devilkin Shaman. Then go to the left side of the room to kill The Smith.

She is pretty easy to kill and you can probably keep the difficulty level at /p8 for her. /p8 won't give you more drops, but will give you more experience. Having your character and your rogue drink antidote potions before the battle will boost your poison resistance for 30 seconds (and drinking mulitple potions will extend the time). Andariel has a -50% resistance to fire (as opposed to 50% resistance to cold and lightning), so toast her.

Radament has no resistance to fire and lightning, but does have resistance to cold (40) and poison (50). Once I starting encountering his skeletons, I normally charge his area and attack him directly. Having your character and your merc drink antidote potions before the battle will boost your poison resistance for 30 seconds. Keep an antidote potion for after the battle when you are still poisoned.

Claw Viper Temple, Level 2
If you charge into the big room, you will get surrounded by monsters with knockback. Stay in the small room and try to kill all the monsters you can from there before entering the big room.

The Summoner has relatively few HP's (129-172) and no poison resistance, but has a relatively high AC (153) and resistances to fire, lightning and cold (50). If I have summons, I put one on his platform to distract/kill him.

Duriel has a higher resistance to cold (50) than to fire, lightning and poison (20). Having your character and your merc drink thawing potions before the battle will boost your cold resistance for 30 seconds (and drinking mulitple potions will extend the time). As 3 of Duriel's 4 attacks (Charge, Jab and Smite) can be blocked, a high blocking is very important. Immediately cast a TP when the battle starts - by not moving, your merc will take Duriel's first charge and you can use the TP to retreat if necessary. Attacks are slowed by his Holy Freeze aura, but not spells.

Mephisto's has 25 cold resistance, 33 fire and lightning resistance, and 50 poison resistance. Take Lightning Resistance charms to withstand his lightning attack. You can use the Moat Trick to safely kill him from a distance. Tanking Mephisto is also a good strategy. He can be leeched in Normal and a wand with charges of Life Tap will help.

Diablo has 33 resistance to fire, lightning and cold and 50 resistance to poison. Take Fire Resistance and Lightning Resistance charms to withstand his attacks. If your character uses elemental attacks, using a wand with charges of Lower Resist will lower Diablo's resistance by 31 for 20 seconds.

Nihlathak has no resistance to fire and lightning, and 70 resistance to cold and poison. A skill that disposes of corpses is very useful against him (Corpse/Poison Explosion, Redemption, Carrion Vine/Solar Creeper).

The Ancients
Madawc the axe thrower has 70 resistance to lightning and cold, but no resistance to fire and poison. Talic the WW and Korlic the leaper have 70 resistance to fire and poison, but no resistance to lightning and cold. When you're fighting Talic, get right up to some kind of edge or a wall and put yourself between him and that wall/edge. This way, he is unable to use his Whirlwind attack (hat tip: MukTuk). A wand with Life Tap charges can help you/your merc (hat tip: stephan).

Baal and his minions are very tough to kill. At this point, you should have a well-developed high-damage attack to take them out.

Notes for character types
* To kill Diablo, constantly shoot Guided Arrows while running around - the arrows will always hit.
* To separate the Ancients: before you hit the altar, drop the decoy right by Madawc, between him and the altar. Being a ranged attacker, he will move away from his "enemy", that is, away from the altar and his friends. Simultaneously, move in the other direction. Talic and Korlic (or sometimes just Talic) will follow you (hat tip: Cygnus).

* If you have summons, arm your merc with a Pike instead of a Savage Polearm. The Pike has longer range and can reach over your summons

* If you are playing in a single-pass tourney and are using skeletons/skeletal mages, don't clear the Blood Moor initially and enter the Sewers from the stairwell and then go right. This will leave you two areas to go to refresh your army if they get wiped out in an Act Boss battle.
* A possible strategy for defeating act bosses is to cast IM on the boss then constantly cast Clay Golem. Another strategy (particularly for Baal) is to summon one or more cold skeletal mages and a Clay Golem, then cast Decrepify on the boss.
* Versus the Ancients, keep a Bone Prison dropped around Madawc all the time until you're done with the other two. Talic and Korlic can escape prisons, but Madawc just stands there and shouts (hat tip: Thrandir).
* If you are a Fishymancer, arm your merc with a Pike instead of a Savage Polearm. The Pike has longer range and can reach over your summons

* Use Telekinesis (1) to safely pop chests, (2) to separate mobs especially if you run into immune monsters that your merc has to kill, (3) to open doors from a safe distance and giving you some space between you and whatever's lurking in the next room, (4) to hit Evil Urns (hat tip: branmuffins and MukTuk).
* For Duriel, (1) wait until Duriel engages your merc, (2) teleport in a straight line across the chamber - once right behind Duriel and then further in the same direction, (3) cast a spell or two while the merc engages, and (4) repeat the other direction (hat tip: BobTheWarrior).
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