Guide to Untwinked, Single-pass, Early Game Magic Finding (by jiansonz)


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Guide Author
Mar 14, 2020
Originally posted by @jiansonz on December 27, 2007

I base my characters on the concept of 'Magic Finding while Questing'. I have come to the conclusion that an untwinked single-pass character needs every opportunity he/she can get to have some nice items drop.

My endgame equipment is usually a mixture of some basic runewords, gambled (usually) rares, shopped magical items, crafted items and often some set combos and uniques than have abilities that can't be found as random affixes. Gambling is important for many item slots.

My characters have two phases in their "careers". The first phase is a treasure hunt, where I try to gather a versatile and potent "toolbox" of interesting and useful items. Near the end of Nightmare is usually the high point of this treasure hunt. I have broken the 500% MF mark for the merc's kills a number of times. The second phase is the full clearing of what is left of the game, with a focus on 'power-, crowd control and survival' equipment and an attempt to foil any ambush attempts the game has in store for me.

The length of these phases varies a lot because of the character build, tournament rules, etc. Sometimes the treasure hunt ends in act IV Normal, sometimes it goes all the way up the Hell Act III temples. Sometimes the transition between the phases is seamless, but very often there is a marked shift in gear when I start in Hell because of the big resists penalty and a need for a greater margin for error.

More magic find equipped does not only mean more set/unique items, it also means more magical and rare items, which both increases the chance to find some useful magical/rare items, but also boosts the character's wealth, resulting in more gambling chances.

When I read tournament updates, if often strikes me how good my equipment is compared to what many other players have at a similar stage of the game. I have also read some appreciating comments on my ability to stock up on MF gear. The purpose of this guide is to describe how I get the MF value as high as possible throughout the treasure hunt. I think it can help (especially) tournament players acquire better stuff along the way.

Obviously, I assume you play untwinked and single-pass. I also assume that:
- you play on /p8 through Normal and Nightmare, with a few exceptions in some act boss and Ancients fights.
- you use ATMA or a similar program as an extended stash
- you pick up and sell most valuable items. You are probably not as thorough and patient as I am, but you do bring back and sell most of the valuable stuff.

Act I Normal:
The main goal is to have each one of your first 10 chipped topazes working for you ASAP, plus adding MF gloves and boots as soon as possible, then keep trying to improve these throughout the act.

Get STR 36 as soon as possible. You can have it at level 6 with all classes except the sorceress, who has to wait until level 7. The reason is that you want to wear a Ring Mail, since that is the only shoppable armor in act I that can have three sockets. Ring Mails can be bought from Charsi from character level 6 and onwards. She will offer a non-magical Ring Mail for sale more often than not, and every time there is a 1/9 chance that it will have three sockets. Power shopping using the Cold Plains waypoint is the most effective way to get them. They cost about 3600 gold, so you need to pick up and sell all sorts of junk from the beginning to be able to afford two of these early. You also need two 2-socketed helms. It does not matter much which type of helm you get. You will likely be well ahead of the monsters in level for quite some time so they will have trouble hitting you anyway, plus the difference in Defense is minimal. Just pick the 2s helms you think look best, or the ones you find for sale first, or Caps because they are the cheapest... You may even find some suitable helms out in the field.

Your first five topazes should of course go into the character's armor and helm, so that they count when you open containers as well. Once the sixth topaz falls, your gameplay should change completely. Ideally, your merc should now kill ALL the monsters in the entire treasure hunt. Even I do not have that kind of patience (especially not with Fallen Shamans!), but I do let the merc kill the majority of the monsters, including all bosses, if possible.

Save all magical rings and amulets. They will pile up, along with many chipped gems and rejuve potions. You will need 2-3 saving breaks in the act to mule off stuff to make room for the next haul.

Leather Gloves and Boots ‘of Chance’ (5-15% MF)
When you gamble gloves and boots in the early game, you should always pick these base item types, the two “lowest” ones. The reason is that they can get a particular affix at a lower item level than the other types. These two need to be at least ilvl 13 to support ‘of Chance’. Since the item level on shopped items in Act I is capped at 12, they can't be shopped here; they must be gambled or found. The item level of gambled items varies between clvl-5 and clvl+4, with equal chance of the 10 different outcomes. This means that what we seek can spawn already at clvl 9 gambles, but the chance is then too low for it to be practical, especially since the levelling goes so fast at this stage.

I usually start gambling for these items at clvl 12, especially if I have reached this level while Coldcrow is still alive (so you get to use extra MF on her if you manage to gamble what you want – I take her corner of the Cave after all of Cold Plains, Crypt, Mausoleum and Cave level 2).
True, there is only a 40% chance that the ilvl will be high enough at this stage, but:
* 75% of all gambled magical items will have a suffix.
* There are very few suffixes this low in level, so if the ilvl is high enough, you have good odds for ‘of Chance’.
* Items ‘of Thawing’ sell for more than their gambling cost, so you sort of get an extra gambling chance when that suffix spawns.

Keep improving your gloves and boots this way. Gamble as soon as you have the cash. If you manage to score both gloves and boots above 10% MF, you can be satisfied with that and save up the gold for a few levels.

Leather Gloves and Boots ‘of Fortune’ (16-25% MF)
This is the next gambling stop. Ilvl 17 is needed to support these. I usually start going for them at clvl 17 (just around the Countess and the entering of Tamoe Highlands). Just keep trying to improve them for the rest of the act. If you are close to a level-up, save the gold and gamble after you level up. The cost per pair increases a few hundred gold, but the higher average ilvl makes up for that by improving the chances to get what you want. The Nova Shield suffix will spawn now and then, cashing in for some nice 4000+ gold, which means one extra gambling chance and some spare change.
(sidenote: if they spawn with ilvl 19+, gambled rare gloves/boots have great resist potential as well, since that ilvl opens up the Cobalt/Coral/Garnet prefixes). I have scored jaw-dropping rares already at clvl 16-17 a number of times.)

If Andariel drops a Topaz, put a smile on your face and use the Topaz instead of a flawed in act II (see below). Oh, you did save the late Act I Gem Shrine(s) to make this beauty even bigger, right?

Act II Normal:
One nice thing in this act is that you can actually buy gloves and boots ‘of Fortune’. Check Elzix and Fara for yellow colored versions of the two lowest types of both. Leather Gloves and Boots are still preferred, because they can get a single resist up to 30% in addition to up to 25% MF. Small chance, sure, but it's certainly there.

3s Breast Plates and bigger-than-chipped topazes.
Finally, we get a chance to get rid of that stupid run speed/stamina penalty on the Ring Mails! Once you have the Horadric Cube, there is the ability to cube up chipped topazes to bigger ones. My advice is to leave them at flawed, and use those in 3s Breast Plates Fara sells. The difference between flawed and regular is smaller than the difference between chipped and flawed. Three flawed topazes will improve each armor from 27% to 39%, which is significant, and a good improvement for the small cost. 39% is more than half of what three perfect topazes will achieve, and at 1/81 of the cost! (cost, value, or however you put it...)

Improving the helm with bigger topazes at this stage is a waste, IMO. I think it is better to gamble circlets in the meantime, and wait until 3-socketed helms are available, and go straight to perfect topazes for those.

Circlets of Fortune/Luck
Circlets are qlvl 24, so they can be gambled already at clvl 20 (so it's possible already in (very late) Act I!) but it starts to become somewhat practical at clvl 22. At level 20-21, you often need to refresh the gamble window literally 100 times in a row before you might see one. Prime time Circlet gambling for MF items starts at level 22 and ends when you can shop Artisan's Great Helms from Larzuk at clvl 39. A Circlet can never have a lower affix level than 27, so in act II, they have way WAY better potential than just about anything else you can gamble or buy. Static/Fiery/Snowy damage, 40% single element resists, Scintillating resist all, +1 to a skill tree, Fortune/Luck, Mammoth +life, all that is available. Here is where I spend the majority of the money in act II. Just make sure you can fit in all the circlets that sell for more than 10k so you can save them, mule them off and sell them in later acts or in NM/Hell.

The Major Ring/Amulet Cubing Spree
IMO, the best time to cube all the junk jewelry you have saved up is at level 24 (which I nearly always reach in the Maggot Lair). Jewelry that get 3->1 cubed at level 24 will get ilvl=18, which allows for the Cobalt/Coral/Garnet prefixes. When it comes to MF, Rings can get Felicitous, Fortuitous or ‘of Chance’ at this stage. Amulets can also get that, plus ‘of Fortune’. You are very likely to see at least some MF improvement in the jewelry now. For the rest of the game, I keep a 2x2 space in the stash reserved for extra rings and amulets to cube.

Boots of Luck
Boots need to be ilvl 27 to support ‘of Luck’, and they must be magical. So near the end of the act, it might be worth it to mix up the endless circlet gambling with some boots. I usually get to clvl 27 in Canyon of the Magi. That's when I start to aim for Boots of Luck. Of course, such gambling may result in some nice 20+% MF, dual 20%+ resist, FRW rare boots instead. Nice, might be something to wear in NM, or in tough boss fights like against Diablo later.

Amulet of Fortune/Luck
If you have already scored two good Circlets of Luck, your amulet's MF is less than stellar and the cash just keeps piling up, amulet gambling is good outlet for that gold. Very expensive at this stage, but certainly with nice potential.

Acts III and IV Normal
There is surprisingly little you can do in these acts, other than to keep up the Boots/Circlet/amulet gambling (give priority to whichever has the most improvement potential).
Halbu can sell Light Plated Boots of Luck (but not Greaves of Luck, the ilvl is too low).
Cube topazes as high as you can, but try to always have a flawless ready, in case you find a gem shrine. Start to keep an Eth rune around in the stash at all times...

Act V Normal
Make sure your effective STR is at least 63 by the time you reach level 39. Now is the time to look for Artisan's Great Helms at Larzuk's shop. It is the only type of 3s helm you can buy in Normal (and you won't be able to buy any in the first two acts in NM either – Mask type helms from NM Ormus is the next chance). You will probably need two perfect topazes to beat the MF of your current Circlet of Luck, so switch when you can achieve that. Keep filling up two Artisan's Great Helms with PTopazes through the act. It varies a lot how succesful one is with this.

Greaves of Luck
If you are not yet satisfied with your MF boots, there is a good chance to buy a nice pair in this act. Larzuk's armor window is usually so full of items that he rarely sells any boots at all (they get added last in the sequence) but it's easy to shop some nice Greaves of Luck from Anya.

Rings of Fortune
These require ilvl 42, so it can be worth gambling for these in the later half of the act, if all the 'of Luck'-capable slots have good MF items.

Once a Shael rune drops, make a Rhyme shield in the best 2s shield you have saved up so far. If you have none, go back to Drognan and buy a 2s Bone Shield.
Sometimes a Shael drops in act 4 Normal, sometimes you can go through the larger part of NM without seeing one, or being able and willing to use valuable resources to cube one.

Optional socketing of a juicy circlet
Sometimes you just love a particular circlet, and sometimes tournament rules force you to use all Normal rewards while still in Normal. A rare or even magical circlet can be a great choice, since it will be of use to you for such a large part of the game. Remember that you have 50% chance to get two sockets in a magical circlet. If you get that in a Circlet of Luck, you just made an item with more MF potential than a 3 PTopaz helm! Other examples include a magical or rare circlet with Static damage (my rogue mercs usually need all the damage output they can get), something with awesome resists, +skills, Teleport charges, etc.
Remember that you will quite likely find a Hel rune before the endgame, and can switch out topazes for resist runes/jewels, damage- or IAS jewels in the circlet you socket now.

Early Nightmare and 4s armors:
The armor with the least requirements that can have 4 sockets is the Gothic Plate, which requires STR 70. From NM Outer Cloister and onwards (and in some particular areas before that), any Gothic Plate, Full Plate or Ancient Armor can drop with 4 sockets. If you have filled PTopazes in both your 3s helms and they keep piling up, you may want to try socketing an armor yourself, with the recipe. Problem 1: there is only 50% chance to get 4 sockets. Problem 2: the recipe requires a perfect...topaz! Sadistic bloody programmers!...
If you really can't find any 4s armors, Hratli, Halbu and Larzuk start selling Jeweler's Gothic Plates once you reach level 66.

Notable Set item combinations:
Sometimes, you get lucky with early set items that fit the treasure hunt plan well. But in order to be useful, they have to pull their MF weight, or (in NM, mostly) provide some nice extras. I list the most commonly found and useful combos I can think of. Feel free to add more of these to the thread!

Arctic Binding + Furs, +40% MF
Can be found as early as halfway into act I. Provides nice resists (especially cold) and Defense, but the 2-row belt and the fact that a 3x flawed topaz armor is pretty much just as good for MF leaves this combo in the dust pretty soon.

Arctic Binding + Mitts, +40% MF
Now, this is more like it! The gloves have IAS, and the MF value for the slots can only be equalled with perfect Chance Guards, and only be beaten if you involve an MF belt. If you can live with fewer potions, this combo is great for a long time.

Arctic Binding + Horn, +40% MF
High MF for the slots used, but impractical if you are any sort of fighter other than an elemental bowazon.

Tancred's Weird + Crowbill, +78% MF
If you don't need physical damage, this is as good as it gets for these slots (barring Gull or Blade of Ali Baba).

Tancred's Weird + Hobnails, +78% MF
Not bad either, and the boots have useful abilities. Higher MF than perfect Luck boots and amulet.

Tancred's Weird + Skull, +78% MF
Good combo before the 3s helms become available.

Vidala's Snare + Barb, +50% MF
High MF for the slots used, but impractical if you are any sort of fighter other than an elemental bowazon.

Vidala's Snare + Fetlock, +50% MF
I love this combo! Resists, foot speed, +life. Has a lot going for it but will eventually have a hard time fighting off two good Fortune rares or Luck items in these slots.

Vidala's Snare + Ambush, +50% MF
Rarely found combo, but pretty good and will survive at least until the first Fortune amulet...

Sigon's Sabot + 2 other Sigon's items, +50% MF
Good potential for use in NM, and throughout the game under some circumstances. Fighter characters should make sure to include the gloves, for the massive IAS.

Angelic Halo, Wings, and Sickle, +50% MF
If you don't need physical damage, this is an abslolutely roXXor combo, with +1 all skills, +95 life, super fast attack speed, massive +AR, etc. The MF can be beaten with Fortune ring and Luck amulet, but they will have to fight to pry this off of you. Add a second ring for an extra 50% MF and the deal is sealed. Involving Angelic Mantle instead of Wings or Sickle is not as good, since the MF loss is a bit much, but it could be useful in some situations, especially if fire resistance is an issue (the armor has a whopping +50%).

Arcanna's Sign is too damn rare to speculate much about, but if you do find it early, it should work well together with the staff, or the helm early on.
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