My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon


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Oct 10, 2009
My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

This is not an exciting build that anyone can learn anything from, because this is my first character and my first time playing D2, so I messed up a lot of things. But... first matriarch! I'm excited, anyway. :)

Matriarch Plainsong
Level: 87
With/without gear:
Strength: 81/121
Dexterity: 298/312
Vitality: 100
Energy: 35
Spare points: 11

Cold Arrow: 15
Ice Arrow: 1
Freezing Arrow: 17
Multiple Shot: 4
Guided Arrow: 2
Strafe: 14
Inner Sight: 1
Slow Missile: 3
Decoy: 2
Valkyrie: 15 (18 with Harmony, 21 if I pre-buff with a +3 to passive skills amulet)
D/A/E 2/2/4
Critical Strike: 5
Penetrate: 4
Pierce: 5

I had no idea when I started playing her what sort of "build" I'd like to play -- like I said, I've never played D2 before -- I just knew I wanted to play an Amazon with a bow. So I sort of stumbled into FA and Strafe as skills I liked, and therefore clearly placed a lot of early points in places I now wish they weren't.

Cheese or no cheese, I totally want to re-spec her when 1.13 goes live, take some points out of MS, GA, Slow Missile, and maybe D/A/E and pump it into CA, FA, and either Strafe or Penetrate. (Not sure which would be better.)

Weapon: Harmony Diamond Bow
Diamond Bow
Two-Hand Damage: 123 to 148
Required Dexterity: 132
Required Strength: 89
Required Level: 54
Bow Class - Normal Attack Speed
Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion
Item Level: 85
Fingerprint: 0x881cb385
+10 to Dexterity
+248% Enhanced Damage
+9 to Minimum Damage
+9 to Maximum Damage
Regenerate Mana 20%

Switch weapon: Snowy Shadow Bow of Amplify Damage
Armor: Duriel's Shell
Helm: Stealskull
Belt: Nosferatu's Coil
Gloves: Rare Vampirebone 20% IAS Gloves
Shadow Hold
Vampirebone Gloves
Defense: 72
Durability: 14 of 14
Required Strength: 50
Required Level: 47
Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion
Item Level: 88
Fingerprint: 0x19b38cde
+8 to Strength
+10% Enhanced Defense
Fire Resist +23%
Poison Resist +17%
20% Increased Attack Speed
Rings: 2 Rare Rings
Beast Grip
Required Level: 48
Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion
Item Level: 69
Fingerprint: 0x6a4b884e
+22 to Attack Rating
All Resistances +8
4% Mana stolen per hit
8% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items
10% Faster Cast Rate

Stone Touch
Required Level: 29
Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion
Item Level: 47
Fingerprint: 0xb2d4bc13
+7 to Life
+75 to Mana
+102 to Attack Rating
Cold Resist +29%
32% Extra Gold from Monsters
Half Freeze Duration

Boots: Infernostride
Amulet: Chromatic Amulet of Craftsmanship (25% res all, +1 max damage)

Shimmering Small Charm (+5 res all)
Fine Small Charm (+11 AR, +1 max damage)
Shimmering Small Charm (+4 res all)
Foul Small Charm (+50 over 4 sec)
Ocher Large Charm of Sustenance (+24 life, +9 lightning res)
Shimmering Grand Charm (+14 res all)
Amber Small Charm of Dexterity (+1 dex, L res +10)
Coral Small Charm of Burning (L res +9)
Coral Small Charm of Strength (L res +8)
Sharp Large Charm (+29 AR, +5 Max Damage)
Shivering Small Charm
Rugged Small Charm of Frost
Sapphire Small Charm of Dexterity (C res +11, +2 dex)
Coral Grand Charm (+22 L res)
Coral Small Charm of Lightning (+8 L res)
Russet Large Charm of Winter (+10 fire res, 6-11 cold damge)
Russet Small Charm of Dexterity (+7 fire res, +1 dex)

In cube to pre-buff Valk: Athletic Amulet (+3 Amazon passive skills)
In cube for use against annoying come-back-to-life things: Nature's Peace
In stash for use in corpse recovery: crafted Hit Power gloves (for knockback)
Used against ancients: crafted Blood gloves with 10% IAS and 10% crushing blow

Resists and msc stats as of end of game:
Fire: 76
Cold: 75
Lightning: 72
Poison: 23

Strafe AR: 2795, which I think is actually pretty bad?
Strafe Damage, without merc's Might aura: 625-1011
FA AR: 5912
FA Damage w/o aura: 748-1239
(there's a little 768-909 in blue underneath, which I assume is splash damage?)

Kasim, Act II Might Mercenary:
Hone Sundan socketed with AmnAmnShael
Griswold's Heart Ornate Plate socketed with 2 perfect rubies, 1os

Noteworthy finds:
I was playing untwinked (first character and all) so everything listed was a find. :)

Other stuff I found that I think is noteworthy:
  • Eth Spire of Honor
  • a few skillers (all for Necromancers and Druids, none for Amazons, sadly),
  • All the belts I commonly see recommended for a Bowazon: Goldwrap, Razortail, and Nos Coil
  • Only one piece of M'avina's set (the armor)
  • Three Twitchthroes, one I upped and two I didn't. Really, D2, it's a nice armor, but enough already.
  • Other assorted uniques (I gather Demon Machine and Crushflange might possibly be useful in the future)
  • No really good bowazon boots whatsoever
  • No Lem to make Treachery, which I really, really want. (On the plus side, I did find a low-quality Dusk Shroud that I can cube up and use a socket quest on to make Treachery in.)
  • Plus presumably some stuff that's good that I don't know is good (including, unfortunately, presumably some stuff I didn't keep because I didn't know it was good.)

Hellforge drops:
Don't remember/Don't remember/Io.

To add insult to injuy, with the Io I had enough runes to cube into a Ko. I made Harmony in a Diamond Bow because I didn't have any 4os Mat bows. Then I headed into Chaos Sanctuary, where a 4os Mat Bow promptly dropped. Thanks, D2. (At least it was only +1 skills.)

Lots. And lots. And lots.

Most inglorious was a death running the Hell countess. I was playing in a public place so I had the sound turned off. While I was picking through the loot trying to decide where to put everything, my merc ran into the next room, triggered a bunch of monsters -- IIRC the archers -- died, and then the monsters came after me. Since the sound was off I didn't realize what was happening before I was surrounded. Thanks a bundle, Kasim.

Second most inglorious was probably being killed by a Quill Rat in my first introduction to Hell. In my defense, it was a dual Cold/Physical immune boss Quill Rat. But still. IIRC I was at Level 70 at the time, and I went back to doing WSK in Nightmare until I was at 75 to try again. Take that, Quill Rats!

I've been killed more than a few times entering a level in the Countess' tower in a middle of a pack of those annoying ghosts, too.

Normal Duriel killed me a bunch. I gather this is common for bowazons. (I eventually abandoned the bow and killed him with a big hurty stick.) Normal Diablo, too. Their Hell counterparts were WAY easier. Valkyrie FTW.

Most recent trouble spot: Nihlathak. He got me with CE several times. I don't have a screenie, but ironically IIRC he was the one who dropped Nature's Peace for me.

No, have no plans to play HC anytime in the near future!

Play notes:
Well, this was my first time playing, and it was fun. :)

I played pretty much the whole game on /players1, since by the time I learned about the /players command I think it would have made it too hard to level quickly.

I did a number of Countess runs in both Nightmare and Hell. I also did WSK runs in Nightmare to level before I hit Hell, and Pit runs to level a bit in Hell. (I know it wasn't a lot of runs by the standards of some people here... but it seemed like a lot to me!)

Valkyries rock. Harmony also rocks. I've started a new character and MAN it's hard getting used to not having that vigor aura!

I can't say I did full clears, but I think I did find all the areas of the mini-map eventually, with the possible exception of some far corners in the stupid annoying Act III jungles and maybe the Durance of Hate. I did skip the teleport arm of the Arcane Sanctuary until the end of the game because it was annoying, and one temple in Upper Kurast until after I killed Baal because it was filled with annoying vicious cold-immune snakes that kept killing me until I had knockback gloves and a few more levels on them.

I spent a lot of time starting at the Iron Maiden screenshot on Arreat Summit since I was worried about recognizing it when I saw it. I'm still not sure I recognize it when I see it, but that's OK. The bit where both my merc and Valkyrie instantly drop dead turns out to be distinctive enough. :-/ Once again, Valkyrie FTW, since I could instantly re-cast her and try again. Poor Kasim was stuck being dead until my next trip back to town.

I was very worried about Hell Ancients. I made sure I gained a level just before attacking them, I scattered arrows and Full Rejuv's everywhere, and I re-rolled a bunch of times trying to get good mods. (No one ever mentioned how hard it is to read their mods while fleeing them frantically. I settled for checking to see if they had auras or I had curses.)

In the end I think they did have an aura (Fanaticism? The one that looks like a red-orange nebula) but by the time they cast it, I felt like I was holding my own and I just went for it. They didn't have any other auras or curses and their weapons rolls must have been good (for me) because while I did go through a fair number of the Full Rejuvs I'd brought, I didn't even lose my merc.

Aside: I LOVED Harmony in this fight. Run run run, fire of a few GAs or FAs or Strafes when I had a little room between me and the nearest Ancient, run run run some more.

I thought about gaining another level before Baal, again so I wouldn't lose experience if he killed me, but I was getting impatient and I knew Ancients were usually harder than Baal, so I went for it. Lots of running, GAs, Strafes, and trips back to town for potions later, I was the proud player of my first Matriarch.

Baal quest drop: One useless rare bow and 3 blue items. Well, phooey. But hey, matriarch!

Future plans:
For Plainsong? None just now. Like I said, cheesy or not, I want to re-spec her once 1.13 comes out. (Question before the group: pumping CA and FA is a given, but which should I pump, Strafe or Penetrate)? I'm interested in seeing how she would play if I knew from the start what I know now, but not interested enough to re-build her from scratch when there are so many other interesting characters to try.

For me? I already have another Amazon, destined to be a Fishyzon (although maybe a Fishyzon-with-a-Valkyrie) running around Act 1 normal, being annoyed when her javelins run out every 60 seconds.
I also want to try a Frost Zealot Paladin (on the melee side) and maybe a Meteorb for countess running. (I know that's not the ideal build for specifically countess running, but I also want something that's versatile and that can solo hell without expensive gear, and from the reading I've done it sounds like a Meteorb would be a good choice.)

Well, that's that! Off to throw some javelins at some Quill Rats now...
Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

Congratulations! That's a pretty nice character for your first time through.

I like the strafe/FA combo.
Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

Nice going for a 1st char. And very nice finds esp the Mavina's.

IMO, besides CA and FA, you should pump Strafe for more crowd control. And maybe some to Valk too as 2nd meatshield. I guess respec will really help your char in the damage department.

And....i think you're missing a few lines in the 'Harmony' readout. Good job nonetheless despite the random skill allocation.
Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

I didn't really like my own strafe/FA amazon, so I can't give any good advice, only congratulations on making it through the game.

Did you know strafe only needs 15 or so IAS to reach the fastest speed with the slowest bow?

Why didn't you use KB gloves full time?

I love harmony too :)
Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

Congrats on your first mat! Razortail and M'avina's armor are pretty sweet finds for your first run through the game (I only have one of each, and both took a lot of MFing before I found them).

And what Pijus says is right--many older guides might talk about 2fpa strafe with faster bows and more IAS, but it's been discovered that strafe doesn't really hit any faster than 3fpa. And any bow (not crossbows, though) reaches 3fpa strafe fairly easily. More IAS is definitely nice for FA, though.
Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

Random comments:

Yep, it was FA I wanted more IAS for.

Yeah, I did leave off part of Harmony. :) This is the rest:
Adds 55-160 fire damage
Adds 55-160 lightning damage
Adds 55-160 cold damage over 5 seconds
+2 to Light Radius
+3 to Valkyrie
+2 to Mana After Each Kill
Level 10 Vigor Aura When Equipped
Level 20 Revive (25/25 Charges)

I guess I should spend some more time messing around with Knockback. I know a lot of people who know a heck of a lot more about bowazons than I do like it a lot! It was definitely great for corpse retrieval from packs of monsters and those annoying aggressive snakes. But it seems like I when I tried using it more consistently I found myself thinking: "Hey! Come back here and hold still so I can kill you!" Also when I was backtracking through an area I'd already been through, I'd shoot some monsters, they'd go offscreen, I'd follow them to see what they dropped, that activated more monsters, etc. etc.

But probably one of these days I should mess with it more.

My strategy ended up mostly working like this: Large cluster of monsters surround my merc and Valkyrie. I fire FA and Strafe into the large cluster of monsters (only Strafe if they're mostly CI). Monsters die. Unless my merc and Valk die, in which case re-cast Valk while running frantically from the large cluster of monsters suddenly heading my way. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Would Knockback make that work better or worse?
Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

2 frame strafe doesn't exist, but there is definitely a difference between 11/3 and 9/3. You get out of strafelock faster. Whether that's worth it depends on what IAS equipment you have and playstyle, but it can be useful.

The diamond bow harmony isn't useless, since you can also use it on a rogue merc or a non-amazon bow character (or on switch for the vigor aura).

Anyway, congrats on your first Mat, which is much better built than my first several characters, even if she does have a few misplaced points.

If you decide to go with a valk on your fishyzon, take a look at the 'Peace' runeword armor. It has +2 skills, is relatively cheap, and has a chance to cast a level 15 valk. The valk normally poofs pretty quick if you don't have any hard points in valk, but all you need is one hard point, so that could save you a lot of skillpoints.

EDIT: Knockback won't knock anything back if they're already frozen. You can also use decoy to help your merc/valk tank. It doesn't last long (especially at low levels, although it can get pretty tough at high levels), but even just distracting monsters for half a second can give your tanks a breather.

Knockback can knock monsters offscreen, but eventually they will run into a wall and stop. You can also cast a decoy behind them to keep them from being knocked back. I usually pre-buff the valk, so I avoid combat casting unless I have to, but if your valk happens to be behind the monster, you can use the same trick with the valk.
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Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

Gratz on the Mat. That's definitly not a bad first character through. (It's a whole heck of a lot better than my first few character attempts.)
Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

Now this is a nice piece of preservance compared to all the top-of-the-line, follow-the-guide-and-just-add-playtime Matriarchs. Big congrats on getting the title, you've earned it.

I recall the part about not beeing able to see the Ancient's mods due to running away.

As for Countess running, this is the one thing Meteorbs and Blizzballers/wallers are bad for. The Countess is FI/CI, and her minions are CI and LI. IIRC, CL/FO sorceresses from the strategy guide advertise themselves as good at Countess running, but they are pretty mana intensive.
Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

IMO knockback works best with Strafe, pierce, and some slow equipment(my own strafer uses clegs gloves+nosferatus coil). Strafe shoots fast, pierce makes sure all the monsters get hit, knockback puts everything in hit recovery. My level 20 valkyrie is pretty much immortal. Ideal conditions for this sort of thing are in narrow areas(flayer dungeon).
Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

@Pijus: Why not Blackhorn's Face, so you could use Razortail instead of Nosferatur's and reach 100% Pierce? I think Cleglaw's + Blackhorn's was the combo Nightfish used for his Witchyzon guardian.

I'm levelling an FA/Strafe zon for M'avina's set right now, and was thinking of socketing the bow with a Nef for the knockback, but I'm a bit worried that the knockback effect--while helpful with strafe--might be unhelpful with FA.
Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

@Rhone: If monsters get frozen by FA, they don't move, so they won't get knocked back. For the few monsters who can't be frozen and aren't cold immune, you probably want to knock them back for crowd control anyway.
Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

Ah, I didn't know the freeze would nullify the knockback; thanks for pointing that out. I guess that makes Nef a good choice for M'av's Caster then. :)
Re: My first Matriarch: Plainsong, FA/Strafe Amazon

@Rhone: I have 20 in pierce on my strafer. I had about 9 when I decided to use clegs+nosferatu, and maxed it so Razortail would not be necessary. Blackhorns face looks fugly.
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