I should have asked this question years ago... (survivability)

TestyFish

New member
Mar 17, 2020
12
11
3
33
Detroit MI
I've been playing this game off and on almost since it came out (started back in 2002 or so), and I've almost always played summoner characters. I always wanted to get a Summon Druid to work, but it was rough for all the obvious reasons. I discovered this forum way back in 2004-2005 or so (well, the other one) and have been playing off and on since then.

Here's the embarassing part: I can't seem to get a character to play easily through Hell difficulty. Even if it's level 82-85 or so, I find my merc dying frequently, and unless I really pay attention, my life bulb gets deleted and I find myself corpse running. Maxed resists, a belt of purples, doesn't seem to matter much, unless I'm playing a character with summons I have huge difficulties surviving. Strafe Amazon with valk, any necro, or druid builds with a grizzly are the only ones I've really done well with.

So my question is this: What am I missing? Is my gear terrible? Do I need to take time to farm NM Meph or NM Pindle to get some uniques to take into hell? I generally have +5 or so to skills, but I've never reached a clearspeed that makes me feel safe, even on /p1. I see posts from back in the day where Nightfish recommends getting rid of the summons to do more damage and "DPS Tank" the enemies, but that's never worked for me.

So what am I missing? Any advice for someone who knows a ton about game mechanics (including the weird poison creeper mat interactions, nextdelay, lasthit, and even trying to accurately calculate firestorm damage on a fire druid), but can't seem to keep a character reliably alive?

My suspicion:
I bet the issue is that I have seen videos of pitzerkers doing their thing and I am playing too aggressively for my gear level. My merc is underleveled for mlvl 85 (since they're usually 75 or so when I start Hell) so they get killed fast, and then if I'm playing a caster character they get overwhelmed without the mana regen from insight. I think maybe I just have to level a bit and get xp at NM Pindle/Meph/Baal before starting in alvl85 zones.

I'm hoping for any advice to a player who understands calculations, builds, and mechanics...but maybe not the more subtle skills of how many enemies to pull, how fast to go at what gear levels, and how to gear up an untwinked character toward the end of NM without the summon safety blanket. Any tips appreciated, thanks!
 

Maltatai

Active member
Mar 17, 2020
425
175
43
Sweden
How do your characters compare to the untwinked guardians in the lists?

There are myriads of nasty tricks to survive hells different areas, perhaps we could start with a specific character and his or hers particular difficulty?
 
Last edited:

TestyFish

New member
Mar 17, 2020
12
11
3
33
Detroit MI
Soceresses in particular are pretty rough for me. It seems like the merc dies and is in constant need of repositioning. I have a FO/FB sorc that has a merc that dies instantly to CI monsters, because the chill is important so the merc doesn't get stunlocked, preventing LL. The damage is pretty solid, but Woodfist generally smacks around my mercs pretty hard, as he's one of the first guaranteed CI uniques with high damage hits. FB took him down, but the merc was completely hosed.

Likewise, Any necro caster (poison nova being my most used) requires liberal use of attract to stay alive, or to spam revive...which limits my use of CE. Trap Assassin is a similar position, where Cloak of Shadows into Death Sentry is the easiest way to victory in hell, particularly since LI/FI enemies are pretty rare.

I think it's a killspeed issue. I don't think any merc is meant to go toe-to-toe with Woodfist for more than a few seconds, and most of my characters just don't have the power behind them necessary to take him down. Most of my characters play on /p8, so I get a ton of xp, but no rerunning of bosses to get items. My mercs usually have LL, but their damage and defenses might just be too low.
 

Pyrotechnician

Active member
May 11, 2020
229
64
28
Pennsylvania
Hey, good question, and fun topic. Being able to survive is always important (take it from someone that started off playing softcore but eventually moved to almost fully hardcore). Here is a few things to remember:

- The videos of pitzerkers and speed magic find runs that you see from the great forum members here most of the time are tweaked out with the best possible gear for their build and level. Half of why they are so fast is because they are really good players. The other half is because their gear is really good. There is huge difference in damage between a level 25 blizzard, and a level 37 blizzard. If you were to look at a video of an average player, you would see some very stark differences in playstyle and run times. I would record something but never really figured out how to do that, and haven't played in so long I'd probably get myself killed. I would try to find an old thread where someone recorded video that wasn't griph, or frozzen, or nulio, or fabian.

- I've always found that once you've reached say level 30/31 (+11 skills) depending on the build is really where it starts making or breaking the build. You mentioned you don't rerun areas or bosses, so this may be difficult to gather the items you would need to get those extra skills, but if thats something your playstyle would allow, farming NM meph and then hell meph are always solid choices to gather basic good gear. The pits and other level 85 areas really are just to get those really high end/rare items that either give you that last extra edge or complete the grail. You also mentioned that immunes are a problem, you will probably also notice from the videos they are not running areas that don't make sense for their builds (i.e. have a lot of immunities to the skills they are using). A blizz sorc is always running the ancient tunnels because there are limited cold immunes, sometimes if the immunities are too much of a pain, its sometimes better to just skip the enemy if it takes too much time.

- Unless you are a barb or paladin or other melee based character, you are not really meant to "tank" the damage of enemies. You want to have enough health to survive a hit, but you don't ever really want to be smack dab in front of them or within the range of their attack unless you have the gear to back that up. Keep your distance especially with caster characters, you want to be within enough distance to land your attacks and then move away if necessary. Whenever I'm playing with a sorc or similar character with teleport I have my main attack skill on my right hand side assigned right next to teleport, so that I can effectively cast, and then swap to teleport to reposition if necessary.

- If your merc can't tank a hit, don't make him (especially on a character with teleport), abuse the teleport function to reposition him, at lower levels sometimes really his only purpose is to provide meditation or another aura. The more times he dies, the longer it makes a run take so sometimes the best option is just to not let him fight. I've found that really basic gear can make him survive pretty well, this would be a high damage insight runeword (the difference between an exceptional pole and elite pole makes a big difference in damage and obviously impacts the amount of life leech, a life leach helm like tals (which also gives resists so yay!), and something like a shaftstop for damage reduction or treachery for fade procs and faster attack speed (faster attacks means more life leaching and that fade gives some nice res and damage reduction).

- Level difference on a merc does make a pretty significant difference on the chance to hit calculation for your merc. If the merc is in the 70s in the monsters are 85-88 its going to be painful until they are about on an even playing field. There have been some threads on this before I think so you might be able to find something that would tell you why hes not hitting if you poke around the old site, and if hes not hitting hes not leeching life, and of course dies.

And, just an FYI, summon druid is always going to be a rough build, they are nothing like summon necros in that even a fully decked out one is never going to reach the damage output of a necro, although they will almost certainly be tankier. I never did a full summon druid, the closest I ever got was a fire hunter druid and that was still pretty painful in terms of progression even with stellar gear. You'll definitely survive, it just won't be fast.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Miron and Pb_pal
Mar 16, 2020
4,292
331
83
If I'm playing untwinked, I will usually spend a bit of time at NM Mephisto, specifically aiming for gear for the mercenary. Things like Rockstopper, Tal's mask, Duriel's Shell, and Shaftstop are the big ones I aim for. The damage reduction, life leech, and resists are very important for his survivability in Hell until you can get your hands on the really nice goodies like CoH, Fort, Andy's, and Delirium. As a sorceress, definitely abuse the ability to teleport to get your merc out of danger for a few more seconds for health potions to help out (esp. if you find you have to spam rejuvs on him). Even with the unique items I mentioned above, until he is at a decent level, your merc will still struggle quite a bit due to not having high enough defense, being too close to the monster's level, and not having a large enough life pool to prevent being put into hit recovery.
 

intersilva

Member
Jun 5, 2020
30
32
18
Abuse teleport. It might feel time consuming to constantly reposition but it's less time consuming (and way less expensive) than going back to town to revive your merc. If I'm doing meph I don't bring the merc, he usually just gets in the way and dies a lot. You can also use teleport to split dangerous packs up pretty easily if necessary, like perhaps ancients, this is something you just have to get a feel for. Generally though, I will just teleport past anything I can't kill.
 

TestyFish

New member
Mar 17, 2020
12
11
3
33
Detroit MI
Alright, the general advice that I'm getting here is that I need to think of it like an old school RPG - grinding for gear/xp is important. Having played a lot more on /p8, I was always ahead of alvl, but my drops weren't enough to keep my merc geared, especially. I'll have to start taking that more into consideration. I've got a windy druid that I've been enjoying, will probably start farming up some items from NM pindle or Hell Meph to get my merc better geared. Having a grizzly with maxed resists is also nice, given that they go up to 85% resists. I think that's slvl 17 after +skills iirc, so I'll probably throw in 10 hard points.
 

saracen85

Active member
May 1, 2020
145
245
43
Merc survivability is puzzling.. My experience with them:

For my summon druid, the merc (Might/Obedience) actually hold its own, having an upwards of ~8k max damage. Survivability is further increased with carrion vine (I started to put 1 point in this skill whenever I use spirits). Of course, this merc fights alongside a very tanky bear.

However, Might/Obedience mercs on other builds do not fare well, namely my Flaming Rabies wolf (no bear) and Phoenix striker (no shadow)

Generally, my mercs that use reapers toll survive really well, same goes with any builds that have Lifetap procs.

Prayer/Insight mercs = durable

Non-prayer/Insight mercs = fragile unless wearing fort.

Those that were buffed by BO = durable
 

Pyrotechnician

Active member
May 11, 2020
229
64
28
Pennsylvania
Right, I think I just underestimated the grind necessary *before* beating hell mode.
There is no grind necessary before beating hell mode. Many people have beaten the game without revisiting an area and doing full clears. Unfortunately you are comparing top tier runs with playing through the game, and they are not the same. You can beat the game without grinding, you might die a couple times yeah, but its also not necessary to kill every monster you come across. You can skip things, it all just depends on what you want to accomplish with the game.

For me it was originally getting to end game as fast as possible which eventually evolved into surviving the journey from normal to hell without dying with as many fun builds as possible. Its all about what you want do to.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Grisu

art_vandelay

Well-known member
Mar 16, 2020
310
509
93
- The videos of pitzerkers and speed magic find runs that you see from the great forum members here most of the time are tweaked out with the best possible gear for their build and level. Half of why they are so fast is because they are really good players. The other half is because their gear is really good. There is huge difference in damage between a level 25 blizzard, and a level 37 blizzard. If you were to look at a video of an average player, you would see some very stark differences in playstyle and run times. I would record something but never really figured out how to do that, and haven't played in so long I'd probably get myself killed. I would try to find an old thread where someone recorded video that wasn't griph, or frozzen, or nulio, or fabian.
Actually I think what makes the biggest difference is actually knowing where monsters (and what monsters) will spawn ahead of time and killing them before they realize you're even there. Everyone can accumulate the best gear in time if they're just patient and you can get close enough in efficiency to the top where even Gripphon says that it boils down to luck and not skill whether you'll be successfull in finding stuff.

So I guess it's all about choosing the exact battles you want to fight and then only fight those and no others (skip immunes) whereas playing through the game you will not have that luxury. Pit Singer does really well in Pit but not so much in WSK, no amount of skill can make him good there, he just sucks there. Super specialized builds usually only do well in one area (or a few) but have many where they are mismatched.

Also, great life advice in general: Best way to be successfull is to not share your failures while improving at the same time and only showing your successes. Even if you fail as much as the next guy you'll look a lot better by comparison 🤪 (Yeah, I know, it's actually horrible advice...)
 

Maltatai

Active member
Mar 17, 2020
425
175
43
Sweden
Some general advice:
Never try to attract more monsters than you can keep in check with freezing, curses, hitting them, slowing them or whatever. If they are immune to your methods of weakening them obviously try to fight them one at the time.
Prevent healing. PMH or open wounds negates the drawback of enemy regeneration while you move and skirmish and fall back to avoid being swarmed and caught and overwhelmed.
Use all obstacles available to split enemy groups and make them get in the way of one another. Let urns and barrels be until you are sure you won't need them to fight the next group of monsters more easily.
Get a cheap Nadir hat and cloak when descending down dangerous stairs to negate stairtraps. It's an expensive but devastating way to shut down most opposition in general, and will help the attack rating of you and the hired help too.
Slow everyone if at all possible.
Blow up the corpses with a Black blunt weapon. Black corpse explosions matter, a lot in cramped situations. Even the sorceress will need those to make life easier against cold immune bone warriors and their pesky ressurecting guardians.

Here is a thread with a summary of what I would consider decent equipment for a sorceress before entering hell and a summary of why and how I think iron wolf mages can work well for a sorceress with three damage types. So far the three witches have almost completed nightmare without ever losing their mages, and I have seen them perform very well in hell with a couple of other characters as well.
https://www.diabloii.net/forums/threads/the-misadventures-of-three-sorceress-archmages.966310/

A guardian thread with a deeper discussion of PDR/MDR defenses (@Jocular :s question answered in post 9) and what you can expect from it. I absolutely recommend looking for some of that.
https://www.diabloii.net/forums/threads/guardian-askungen-the-green-amazon.867045/

Wulfgar, the undefeated mercenary. Leap, war cries and damage reduction protected him throughout the game.
https://www.diabloii.net/forums/threads/guardian-izzor-the-leapfrog.927643/

A discussion about the merits of different melee hirelings for an enchantress.
https://www.diabloii.net/forums/threads/input-welcomed-re-2h-melee-enchantress.963276/
 
Last edited:

TestyFish

New member
Mar 17, 2020
12
11
3
33
Detroit MI
Those are excellent threads to read through, thanks for the links. I've always liked the barb mercs for their naturally higher regen and stuns, but I'm also biased toward an insight A2 merc. That may have kept me from upgrading my merc's damage quickly, as I kept around a lower damage insight rather than upgrading to exceptional/elite polearms as quickly.

I think it's a combination of seeing timed MF runs, and not considering the difference in playstyle necessary for the lower gear level. I think I've got in mind a few adjustments I intend to make. That said, I'm still open to tips or considerations that haven't yet been mentioned. This has been a lot of food for thought.
 

Tenecabo

Member
May 14, 2020
24
58
13
Also, know when to skip stuff. Those superfast runs you see out there are not only with optimized builds, but in areas that players will rerun over and over, optimizing their gear for just that encounter. It's a whole lot different when you do a playthrough and are faced with immunes. Unless you have infinity, immunes are always going to slow you down. I'm doing a playthrough on a javazon right now, I stopped ressing the merc and just bypass immunes I don't *need* to kill. Works much better.
When my java is done, she'll be tearing through cows and look like she's all powerful. But if I take my cow set-up (no merc), I wouldn't be able to do a baalrun with her.
 

Jocular

Member
Jul 17, 2020
27
44
13
Some general advice:
Never try to attract more monsters than you can keep in check with freezing, curses, hitting them, slowing them or whatever. If they are immune to your methods of weakening them obviously try to fight them one at the time.
Prevent healing. PMH or open wounds negates the drawback of enemy regeneration while you move and skirmish and fall back to avoid being swarmed and caught and overwhelmed.
Use all obstacles available to split enemy groups and make them get in the way of one another. Let urns and barrels be until you are sure you won't need them to fight the next group of monsters more easily.
Get a cheap Nadir hat and cloak when descending down dangerous stairs to negate stairtraps. It's an expensive but devastating way to shut down most opposition in general, and will help the attack rating of you and the hired help too.
Slow everyone if at all possible.
Blow up the corpses with a Black blunt weapon. Black corpse explosions matter, a lot in cramped situations. Even the sorceress will need those to make life easier against cold immune bone warriors and their pesky ressurecting guardians.

Here is a thread with a summary of what I would consider decent equipment for a sorceress before entering hell and a summary of why and how I think iron wolf mages can work well for a sorceress with three damage types. So far the three witches have almost completed nightmare without ever losing their mages, and I have seen them perform very well in hell with a couple of other characters as well.
https://www.diabloii.net/forums/threads/the-misadventures-of-three-sorceress-archmages.966310/

A guardian thread with a deeper discussion of PDR/MDR defenses (@Jocular :s question answered in post 9) and what you can expect from it. I absolutely recommend looking for some of that.
https://www.diabloii.net/forums/threads/guardian-askungen-the-green-amazon.867045/

Wulfgar, the undefeated mercenary. Leap, war cries and damage reduction protected him throughout the game.
https://www.diabloii.net/forums/threads/guardian-izzor-the-leapfrog.927643/

A discussion about the merits of different melee hirelings for an enchantress.
https://www.diabloii.net/forums/threads/input-welcomed-re-2h-melee-enchantress.963276/
OH hey, I remember that thread! Did I ever tell you how helpful your answer was? I made a PDR Riftadin and it was a breeze through hell. I think the build is the perfect use-case since it's a melee character with very little life leech, and zero crowd control beyond Frozen Orb.
 

JoeBruce

New member
Jun 18, 2020
4
6
3
+1 for great thread/topic

If you are looking for survivability tips, then I wouldn't look to elite runners with elite gear. While people like Nightfish had some amazing accomplishments, the game doesn't seem so hard when you are twinking elite runewords at lvl 40-50 and using Enchant from Demon Limb on every character. Look to people who play methodically and use all the tools. Maltatai is a great example of that; so is jiansonz. As some have said, you do not have to grind for gear to make it through the game. I have Guardian'd a couple of characters doing full clear, single pass, and others have done it dozens of times. My Magezon managed to beat the game doing full clear single pass because I had a "Black" runeword flail on switch. Someone mentioned looking at the untwinked Guardian/Pat/Mat threads, and I would second that advice.

Go slow. Magic find as you play. Learn how to outsmart the dumb AI of your mercenary and the slightly-smarter AI of the monsters. If you want to stop and MF an easy target, go for it. But if that gets boring, consider what you can do to just progress as-is; crafting is a great way to earn a couple of nice mods on the right item (a lot of my A2 mercenaries use crafted Blood helms and sometimes armors, especially if I have a great weapon that lacks life leach). There are a lot of 1-point wonder skills out there that can help a weak character overcome tough spots: Conversion for a Paladin, Battle Cry for a Barb (Leap Attack, Howl, and Taunt are really nice too), Teleport for a Sorc (see below), several/most Necro curses. I often cast minions like Grizzly Bear, Clay Golem, and Decoy in front of me to draw out monsters I have not seen yet, especially through doorways in dungeons.

After reading some of this thread last night, then playing my Sorc, I was wondering how much of my teleporting is just to reposition the mercenary or to move myself through the map. I would guess at least 50/50, maybe even more on the side of reposition the merc. It is a very handy skill.

And to piggy-back one more comment off of Maltatai, damage reduction is a really nice mod. I've read builds that go full physical damage reduce (PDR), but even 25-50 can be very helpful. My Fury Druid is questing through Hell right now and I've kept a +2 shapeshift, +25 PDR magic amulet on him just because I think that helps with his survivability more than something like a Highlords Wrath (or whatever it's called). Magic Damage Reduce (MDR) can be really helpful if you are struggling to get resists up (resists I think are more important if I'm remembering how damage taken is calculated, but MDR is a decent substitute and/or addition).
 

Jamie

Member
May 25, 2020
78
51
18
Meechigan
I remember when I was an online player and unless I twinked out with Sigon's gear and had gear lined up, I had issues playing in a one player game. I believe it's because I played SP once, horribly I might add, and then went right to bnet and had to slowly learn from there and was getting rushed and whatnot. After coming back to single player, I do all my "walkthroughs" or "playthroughs" on P8 setting, regardless of what character or softcore/hardcore.

Playing solo permanently, allowed me to learn all sorts of tricks to playing the game, how to abuse the AI, when and where to farm for gear, when to decide to move on from Normal Baal to Nightmare, Nightmare Baal to Hell, when to stop farming NM and Hell Mephisto and work on finishing out the final acts and eventually the game. Memphisto in NM and Hell is definitely worth farming for most characters and worth finding a super quick map for. Doing Baal in Normal is worth it for up into at least the 50s if you feel you need more strength and gear. Doing Eldritch/Shenk/Pindleskin runs are worth doing over and over in all difficulties, especially if you are still getting decent experience from those runs. Eldritch and Shenk is right next to the first WP and Pindle through the portal after you rescue Anya(if you kill Nihlathak, DON'T get the waypoint in between the portal and Nihlathak, or portal will close. Only do that if you don't want to kill Pindle anymore and only want to do Nihlathak runs. But without the Ubers of bnet, I probably wouldn't worry about running Nihlathak).

Save rejuvenation potions, all gems and runes throughout your playthrough and cube up Full Juvies for when you are facing a difficult boss. Cube your gems for crafting or charm rolling or for use in items. Cubing runes up can help you reach something you need and certain ones are worth keeping as is for crafting.

If you are using some type of caster or character that constantly needs mana, Tir Runes are your best friend. For instance, I just started a hammerdin on HC and he is level 22 and in Act 2. I found a 3 socket targe with 10 to all resist and put 3 Tir Runes in it. I bought a +3 hammer scepter with 2 sockets from Drognan and put 2 Tir Runes in that. So now I can do a 200+ Blessed Hammer and every kill grants me 10 mana. So I rarely have to ever use a mana pot, as most monsters die in one hammer and in large groups it wipes out a huge area of monsters.

Another huge factor is knowing all of the math behind the game. Know your character's breakpoints for FCR and FHR if needed. Decide on whether your character is going to be max block, pure vita and low block or some combination. If you waste skills early, reset them so you don't waste a single skill making your build later on, you get 3 free shots at this.

Act 2 Merc is almost always going to be your best bet. I noticed you mentioned a sorceress. I've made more sorceresses than any other character the last 20 years, by far. Unless you have a bunch of gear you are going to twink your character with, a pure Blizzard Sorce I find to be the best by far. Even with twinking, I think I prefer a Blizzer to a Lightning or Fire. Blizzard Sorc wrecks through everything. You can easily get to NM Mephisto and run the Hell out of him until you have some items you want(occy, wiz, vipermagi, peasant crown, wtravs/wwalks, decent jewelry, magefist, tal's belt, tal's ammy if you're lucky, decent charms). Make sure you get an Act 2 NIGHTMARE Merc along the way, as he is critical to making a pure Blizzer work. You'll want to make him an Insight as soon as you can and then focus on getting some type of life leech and attack speed if possible. Tal's Helm or Vamp Gaze is a great item to fit these needs. You can find unique armors that have life leech, crushing blow, resists or can create one that helps with defense, life, attack speed, damage, resists.. any combination of those or focus on just one. What I mean is say a 4 socketed armor with IAS jewels, Enhanced Damage jewels or some combination. Or you could go for a cheaper runeword like Smoke or Duress. Durial's Shell is a great find for a Merc as well.

But you can moat Mephisto and not have to worry about you or your Merc dying while you fish for gear. The key to keeping your Merc alive, is TELEPORT! If he's in trouble, teleport him to safety and feed him potions if you must. But with being purely Blizzard, you will need to static all cold immunes as far down as they go, that you can't avoid by teleporting around. Most cold immunes you can avoid by teleporting on past, but Travincle, Chaos Sanctuary and Ancients will be the places your Merc has to be strong enough to survive with your help. After you take out the non cold-immunes, static them dowm and teleport/use potions/constantly cast telekinesis to assist in your might merc being able to kill those cold immunes.

Once you can start farming Andy, Mephisto, Ancient Tunnels, Pindleskin, Baal, Cows all in Hell.. thinks start becoming very easy. Getting to Ancient Tunnels is easy with a Blizzard Sorc and AT is extremely easy with a Blizzer on any player level. You can spend time there leveling up all day, if you want and hope to find gear, runes and runeword bases while you're at it.

The Pits, Countess, Shenk and Eldritch are kind of off the table as a Blizzer and CS/Diablo is a little more difficult, but the rest is very easy as you level up and find more gear. The Blizzer I currently have on SP can very easily farm items and XP from Baal in an 8 player game, with herself and her might merc.

I have started every "restart" of D2 with a Blizzard Sorc and used her to farm for the rest of my characters, or at least the ones I'm not doing an untwinked, self found run on. Hell Trav and CS will be your main battles, but if you have patience, they are easily doable. Just remember to take things with patience.
 
Last edited: