PvM Earth Shifter Druid Guide by Liquid_Evil

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1.11 PvM Earth Shifter Druid Guide (v1.0)
Originally posted by Liquid_Evil, Dec 1, 2007

The 1.11 PvM Earth Shifter Druid Guide

Table of Contents
I. Introduction
II. Stat Placement
III. Skill Placement
IV. About the Build
V. Gear Selection
VI. Formulas
VII. Mercenaries
VIII. Thanks

I. Introduction
As the Druid picked through a collection of Gheed's junk wares, his steely eyes searched and scanned the assortment of sub par weapons before they finally fell upon *it*...a maul of such raw power that it couldn't fail to ensure his success in the conquest of Baal. Quickly, he dug through this bargain bin, tossing aside Puss Spitters, Brainhews, and Stormriders to get to his prize. His fingers curled tightly around the handle as he hefted it out of its neglected home. He barely had the strength to wield this behemoth of a weapon, but knew at that moment that this is what he would use to bludgeon his way to the Prime Evils. His lips parted in a smile as he thought about the potential of this hammer... He would simultaneously crack open fissures in the earth and the skulls of demons to conquer this world. A chilling laugh rattled out of his throat as he paid mere gems for his newfound prize and walked away to begin his adventure.

This build is based around the Earth Shifter Thunder Maul and I believe that it capitalizes best on the hammer's assets to make for a fun, rewarding character.

Earth Shifter
Thunder Maul

Two-Hand Damage: (115-132) To (630-720) (372.5-426 Avg)
Required Level: 69
Required Strength: 253
Durability: 60
Base Weapon Speed: [20]
+250-300% Enhanced Damage (varies)
+50% Damage To Undead
+7 To Elemental Skills (Druid Only)
25% Chance To Cast Level 14 Fissure On Striking
10% Increased Attack Speed
33% Chance of Crushing Blow
10% Faster Cast Rate
Level 14 Volcano (30 charges)
(Only Spawns In Patch 1.10 or later)


At first glance it offers the following as the most notable mods:
Huge Damage- This is the highest, base, raw physical damage of any unique item in the game.
Crushing Blow- The greatest boss-killing mod comes with a nice 33% standard.
+7 Elemental Skills- This huge amount given to a specific skill tree makes it ideal to capitalize on.

So basically we have a huge, damaging, 2-handed weapon that comes with a bonus to a skill tree that doesn't require physically damaging weapons to be effective. On the surface, this looks like a problem. I've seen a lot of people propose using it just as an elemental druid weapon (to make use of the skills) and more still try and pawn it off as a pure charger weapon (to make use of the damage). This particular build, however, does a good job at using all of the Earth Shifter's assets and here's why...

Since it offers bonuses to Druids, the character class should be a Druid. Since it has such great physical damage and crushing blow, it should be a Druid that uses a melee attack. Since all of the best melee attacks are found in the Shape Shifting tree, it needs to be a Wolf or Bear. Since the weapon is faster, and therefore, more effectively damaging, on a Fury Wolf than a Maul Bear, it needs to use Fury. Now, to capitalize on the all the juicy skills, we need to be able to cast an elemental spell. You can only cast one elemental spell in wereform...Armageddon. To make the most use of that maul, the build we want is a Fury/'Geddon variant.

When it's spelled out like that, it looks almost intuitive, doesn't it? Now even some of the other mods look more appealing.

10% IAS- This weapon may look bulky and slow, but a Shael rune socketing will net you a 7 fpa Fury attack.
25% Chance to Cast Level 14 Fissure- Fissure is one of the most underrated Druid spells. It will be synergized with the proposed skill set and it offers an area of attack spell to compliment a shifter druid's more melee-oriented arsenal. A 3.2 second bonus of ~800 fire damage isn't anything to sneeze at.

II. Stat Placement
Strength- You'll need 253 to be able to equip the Earth Shifter so be prepared for a heavy investment. Although this is a large number of stat points to spend in a non-vita area, an indirect bonus comes in the form of extra Fury damage. Maul-type weapons have an innate attribute that translates points in strength to more enhanced damage than other classes of base weapons. (1.10*str / 100)
Dexterity- None is needed. You will not be blocking and there are easier ways to boost attack rating.
Vitality- All you can spare. Once strength is taken care of, boosting this should be your main concern.
Energy- Zip. Zero. Nadda.

III. Skill Placement
20 Fury
20 Armageddon
20 Firestorm
20 Volcano
1 Werewolf, 1 Lycanthropy, 1 in all the pre-requisites to Fury

The remaining points can be spent in any of the following areas to taste:
Molten Boulder- This synergizes Armageddon's damage even further.
Lycanthropy- This will boost your life in wereform. If you have an inclination that you will be partying with other Druids that utilize Oak, then points are better spent here.
Oak Sage- This will boost your life and the life of your party. The only drawback is that a low level Oak Sage is often killed quickly in Hell.
Heart of Wolverine- This spirit is tougher than Oak and will enhance your Fury damage as well as your party's physical damage.
Fissure- Points spent here will lengthen the timer, but not the damage of Armageddon. If you are impatient with the rain of fire and would like it to last longer, then this is an option, but I'd recommend any of the above before considering this route.

The skills should be pretty straightforward for the build. We need Fury and Armageddon as our main damage sources and a point in the wolf skills to remain in that form with a decent amount of health. We choose to max Firestorm and Volcano because they not only synergize Armageddon, but also because they synergize the level 14 Fissures that will randomly go off.

IV. About the Build
This build is played like a standard Fury Druid for the most part. Armageddon should be treated like supplemental damage to your Fury instead of as a main killer. Its fire damage is impressive, but very sporadic. That skill is most effective when you get yourself surrounded or when you have packs of monsters chasing after you. The length of Armageddon is also relatively short and will need to be recast every ~12 seconds which becomes less of an annoyance the more you play and will soon be second nature. The Fury speed is somewhat slow to anyone that has built a Werewolf around a Ribcracker or Tomb Reaver, but still very competitive in my opinion. The chance to cast Fissure on the Earth Shifter will interrupt Fury, but the minor delay isn't really enough to be troublesome. Depending on gear and mercenary choice, 1,800-10,000 Fury damage (7 fpa) and 6,200-7,000 Armageddon damage should be close to the end game numbers you'll be looking at. There isn't a huge learning curve to this character and with minimal hotkeys you just need to remember to keep the fire falling and the Fury claws fighting.

V. Gear Selection
When deciding on items, you'll want to exploit +All skills and +Druid skills to boost both of your main offensive skills while indirectly raising your attack rating and life. Other mods to look for are resists, +life, crushing blow, deadly strike, and attack rating.

WEAPON:
Earth Shifter- Go big or go home. Your only option if you want an Earth Shifter Druid.

WEAPON SWITCH:
Demonlimb- I like the spectacular bonus to attack rating. Cheap too.
Other options are 'Call to Arms'/ 'Spirit' Monarch for a life boost or anything with +skills or +Druid skills to aid in transformation.

HELMS:
Jalal's Mane- Great resists, FHR, and a +strength bonus on top of lots of juicy Druid skills make this old favorite hard to beat. It benefits every aspect of the build.
Guillaume's Face- 30% FHR, 15% DS, 35% CB, and +15 to strength make for a spectacular melee helm for an emphasis on a good Fury.
Rare/Magic/'Delirium' Pelt- Appropriate +skills can make these tailor made helms very successful on this character type.

GLOVES:
Dracul's Grasp- +Strength, +life after kill, gravy open wounds, but most importantly a 5% chance to cast Life Tap. They are the ultimate safety gloves and offer the most in terms of keeping your character alive.
Laying of Hands- The IAS is useless, but 350% damage to demons makes them almost equivalent to a Fortitude armor in PvM.
Steelrend- A bonus to this build is that you'll have the base strength required to utilize the unique pair of ogre gauntlets. They come with some %ED, some nice +strength, and a nice chunk of crushing blow (10%) which is always a welcome addition to a melee character's arsenal.
Magefist- If you're trying to have an emphasis on the Armageddon half of your build, look no further than these.

ARMOR:
'Chains of Honor'- I think this runeword benefits this build the most. It offers some great offense: +2 skills to boost both of the main attacks, some nice +strength, and lots of gravy enhanced damage towards monsters, while maintaining an awesome defense in the form of +65 resists, 8% PDR, and some minor life replenish and leech.
'Enigma'- We can't utilize the teleport, but +2 skills, 45% FRW, and scaling +strength make it a nice alternative.
Arkaine's Valor- +2 skills, 30% FHR, and a nice life bonus aren't mods to sneeze at.
'Fortitude'- Good resists and life on top of 300% enhanced damage makes for an impressive melee armor, but it only really benefits the Fury side of this build.
'Duress'- Great FHR and some minor resists coupled with Crushing Blow and Open Wounds makes a cheap alternative to some of the more expensive armors, but again, it only really benefits the Fury half of this character.

BELTS:
Arachnid's Mesh- This is the only belt that offers +1 skills, so I find it the most beneficial in terms of increasing the offensive power of this Druid. The slow target modifier is also gravy.
Thundergod's Vigor- Awesome +strength and lightning resists. If you're having trouble with Gloams, look no further than this belt. Definitely a nice option if you are looking to increase your defensive staying power.
Wilhelm's Pride- A good source of dual leech if you're having mana problems. Using it in conjunction with Guillaume's Face adds a partial set bonus of +35 life.
String of Ears- Life leech on top of PDR and MDR. A good survival belt but I'd opt for one of the above first.
Hsarus' Iron Stay- If your AR is poor, use these in conjunction with the boots for +10 AR per lvl.

BOOTS:
Gore Riders- Open Wounds, Crushing Blow, and Deadly Strike rolled into one convenient little pair of boots. Hard to beat.
Goblin Toe- Excellent Crushing Blow, but that's about it. If you don't mind the lack of FRW, they make a good footwear option.
Immortal King's Pillar/Aldur's Advance- These boots both offer +life and speed. Depending on whether you want higher fire resistances or a better attack rating will be the deciding factor between the two.
Hsarus' Iron Heel- If your AR is poor, use these in conjunction with the belt for +10 AR per lvl.

AMULETS:
Highlord's Warth- Great lightning resists, +1 skill, and scaling Deadly Strike to take your effective Fury damage to new heights.
Rare/Crafted- These have the potential to be spectacular. Look for +2 Druid skills, +stats, +resists, and FRW (crafted only) among other mods.
Mara's Kaleidoscope- +2 skills, minor stats, and a healthy chunk of resists. Nice.
Angelic Wings- No +skills, but a nice +life boost and huge AR bonus when used with an Angelic Halo.

RINGS:
Ravenfrost- At least one of these! It's a cheap source of 'Cannot Be Frozen' and a great way to boost your attack rating.
Rare/Crafted- Potentially great +stats, resists and dual leech.
BK Wedding Band/SoJ- This build loves extra +skills.
Angelic Halo- Just another way to boost AR when used with its amulet counterpart.

CHARMS:
Spiritual skill charms- They increase, life, AR, and Fury damage. The %enhanced damage to Fury really shines with a huge base damage weapon like the Earth Shifter. Natural skillers (+elemental skills) aren't nearly as beneficial.
Steel charms- Hitting consistently should be a priority.
Life charms- More life = better tanking abilities.

FRW, FHR, and Resistance charms might also be applicable depending on gear. (And of course, Anni and Torch if you're realm)

VI. Formulas
Faster Hit Recovery
Werewolves are blessed with the best hit recovery of any character. It isn't a crucial mod in PvM, but I try to always have at least 20% on my wolves for a minimum 5 frame recovery (which is surprisingly easy). Fury is an interruptible attack so having a little can be very beneficial in mob situations. Tailor gear accordingly but don't feel like a 3 frame is even close to necessary.

Frame- FHR%
6- 9
5- 20
4- 42
3- 86

Chance to Hit
100 * AR / (AR + DR) * 2 * alvl / (alvl + dlvl)
AR = Attack Rating; alvl = Level of Attacker; dlvl = Level of Defender; DR = Defense Rating

That's a lot to calculate, but I try and aim for ~10,000 AR on my melee characters. With most Act 5 Hell monsters, it gives me better than an ~80% chance to hit them. With a weapon like Earth Shifter that isn't exceptionally fast, attack rating becomes more of an issue at contributing to effective damage. Steel charms and Enchant charges are great ways to boost AR, but don't sweat if it you don't achieve the 10K mark as you can get by with much less. As you level past the mlvl of your enemies, you'll find you hit more often.

VII. Mercenaries
Finding a suitable mercenary is a keystone to crafting a successful character. They are a matter of taste, but I have listed a few of my favorites in order of how I rate them.

Act 2 Might- Sends effective Fury damage to new heights.
Act 2 Holy Freeze- This guy takes care of any crowd control issues you might encounter. The only real time I find it as a godsend is fighting Lister and his pack though.
Act 2 Blessed Aim- Helps to remedy any AR problems.
Act 1 Rogue- They are similar to a Blessed Aim merc in that they cast Inner Sight to indirectly improve your chance to hit. A 'Harmony' bow can be used to provide you with a very welcome Vigor Aura to speed.

Equip mercenaries with slow target, +skills, Crushing Blow, a CtC curse (if applicable), and an appropriate amount of IAS whenever possible.

VIII. Thanks
-Lothric, for the inspiration needed to write this guide.
-Tommy Gustafsson, for all his testing and knowledge of game mechanics. I borrowed the CtH formula straight from his archive.
-The Druid and Single Player Forums. Those subsections alone make dii.net worth a bookmark.
-And of course you for reading. :wink3:

Comments welcome and appreciated.