Skill census/analysis of the SPF Mat/Pat/Guardian build compilation

Serdash

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Inner Sight was maxed on my BotD Tankazon. It was seriously way better than having to stack on excessive attack rating boost into my gear. It also opened up not needing a blessed aim mercenary in favor of a might one to boost damage. One of the Amazon's most underrated skills imo
 

Swamigoon

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Dodge, Avoid, and Evade

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Most Amazon players use these merely as prerequisites for Valkyrie. Diminishing returns also diminish incentives to keep investing more in them. Nevertheless, I did find three M/Gs that tried to max one or more of these defensive passive skills.

@TopHatCat64 tried to max both Dodge and Avoid while building Matriarch Marzipan, a "fuzzy dodger." The write-up uses the phrase "doing the Wile E." to describe how this combination lamentably rendered the character unable to attack and simultaneously unable to run away when surrounded. After a respec and placing only a few points in Dodge and Avoid, Marzipan performed much better.

Yisselda, one of @maxicek 's many "two-handed-sword" users, succeeded with 20 points invested in Dodge.

@Drystan put the maximum twenty points into all three of these skills for Guardian Parthenia. Battles with this heroine required quite a bit of Drystan's patience. A summoned Valkyrie gets the same benefits from D/A/E as the character, and these made Parthenia's Valkyrie very difficult to eliminate. Summary: " Not the most fun or active character, but I did want to try a Passivezon."

One more notable write-up: @Insane Wayne 's legendary adventures with Alkithoe. You need to dig five pages deep into that thread to get to a Photobucket screenshot link of all of her skills investments. I want to highlight two of I. W.'s anticlimactic comments about Alkithoe's skills:
  • "Heavily diminishing returns on the D/A/E, but every point helps."
  • "A beefed-up valk is the most powerful tank in the game. Very few mobs can kill her."
 
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intersilva

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I also maxed IS on a Baranar's-wielding Meleezon, sadly she's been lost to the entropy of hard drive failure. I found it made a big difference for the whole squad, but her especially. I ought to make another, she was lots of fun and way more powerful than I ever would've expected.
 
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skiffcz

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Reading through this thread feels like when the T-800 found the weapons stash assembled by Sarah Connor. Slowly picking them up, one by one, satisfied smile gradually building and finally uttering a single word.

"Excellent"

Keep em comming! <3
 
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Swamigoon

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@Serdash and @intersilva , I vageuly remember experimenting with a heavy Inner Sight investment on a realm character a long time ago, probably about 15 years ago now. Ever since I forsake b.net for the much more enjoyable single player experience, I haven't paid much attention to that skill. I should, though.

Almost ten years ago, the 1.13 patch arrived with a few synergy updates. I remember thinking to myself that it might have been interesting to have Inner Sight and Slow MIssiles synergize each other. For example, points in each could have increased the others' spell duration, similar to the way the Barbarian's Shout/BO/BC skills synergize each others' durations. I wonder whether that would have been sufficient incentive to see more players choose to invest more points in those two spells.

I had another question about Valkyrie: if your Amazon has no skill points at all in Valkyrie, but uses both a Peace runeworded body armor and a Harmony runeworded weapon, does the "proc" Valkyrie minion evaporate shortly after getting summoned, or does it stick around and fight? (I haven't tried this. I play vanilla, without the RWM that enables runewords like Harmony.)
 
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Serdash

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@Serdash and @intersilva , I vageuly remember experimenting with a heavy Inner Sight investment on a realm character a long time ago, probably about 15 years ago now. Ever since I forsake b.net for the much more enjoyable single player experience, I haven't paid much attention to that skill. I should, though.

Almost ten years ago, the 1.13 patch arrived with a few synergy updates. I remember thinking to myself that it might have been interesting to have Inner Sight and Slow MIssiles synergize each other. For example, points in each could have increased the others' spell duration, similar to the way the Barbarian's Shout/BO/BC skills synergize each others' durations. I wonder whether that would have been sufficient incentive to see more players choose to invest more points in those two spells.

Honestly the duration of inner Sight is perfectly fine, and it has a dirt cheap Mana cost to boot so it's not awful to recast.
 
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Swamigoon

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The final P&M column holds the offensive passive skills.

Critical Strike

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Diminishing returns from higher skill point investments in Critical Strike has not deterred 21 M/Gs from maxing the skill. Many of the Fendazons maxed this skill, such as Naab's Mari and sirpoopsalot's NoName. So did some strafers, including nermind's amaXII, Arkardo's Welgoedmikkenhe, and scrcw's Instagib. As you might expect, so did several single-tree P&M 'zons; Honey by Grape maxed Critical Strike after a respec, during a two-day-race to matriarch that was fun to read about.

Penetrate

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Lots of matriarchs and guardians boosted their attack ratings with this skill. Too many favorites here, but I think I'll spotlight VoX Dei's Atalanta "the Berzerkzon." She's a worthwhile demonstration of maxed Penetrate: nothing but P&M tree skills, maxed Valkyrie taking advantage of Penetrate as a synergy, high damage by building strength instead of vitality, gear with IAS to accelerate spear attacks, and the 0skill that wipes out defense - all combine for an intruguing "gotta hit them before they hit me!" playstyle.

Just be careful to remember that the Blessed Aim aura interferes with this skill, so don't hire an offensive mercenary from normal or hell act 2 if you choose to invest points in Penetrate.

Pierce

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It's possible to achieve 100% chance to pierce from gear, so different players' will have different investments in Pierce, depending on equipped items.

Some strafers that maximized Pierce: Bendis by @nebux , Gilraen by MuddyWaters, and DoYouLikeMyHair by Crazy Runner Guy. (With a name like that, you would think that CRG's Amazon wears a pretty tiara or diadem, but no - she is a medusa build, and hides her golden ponytail behind a Blackhorn's Face!)

Alys by Hector was a multiple-shot specialist that maxed all three offensive passive skills. Money quote: "yes I know of diminishing returns but I wanted pure offense themed char!"

A recent 99er has 20 points in Pierce, none other than @PhineasB 's lightning javelin tosser, Quinta.

The next post will be about the cold skills in the B&X skill tree. Thanks again for all of your comments and participation! - Swamigoon
 

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Cold Arrow

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It appears that this skill has always been used either as a prerequisite or as a synergy to increase Freezing Arrow's damage.

If there was a character that appeared to have used Cold Arrow as a late game skill, I didn't find it. This might be a fun "Cold Rogue wannabe" challenge, to max Cold Arrow (and its synergy), and try to defeat Hell difficulty Ball with it.

Ice Arrow

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Three uses for Ice Arrow: actually use it to damage and briefly freeze an individual foe, put a point in it to increase Cold Arrow's damage, or put a point in it to increase Freezing Arrow's freeze duration by a frame or two. (Um, well, in Hell difficulty, it lengthens FA's freeze time by slightly less than one animation frame!) :rolleyes:

Glacier by @PhineasB maxed all three Amazon cold skills in a bid to get the highest possible effects out of her 'Ice' runeword bow.

(There was also a report of maxed Ice Arrow in @Russell.s write-up for Guardian Dosmingo, but to be honest, it seemed like a typo or honest mistake. Like most of the other "Fishyzon" variants in the compilation, I suspect it's more likely that Dosmingo actually maxed Cold Arrow for its FA damage synergy, rather than Ice Arrow for it's minuscule freeze duration synergy. Nevertheless, that's merely a minor quibble - it was still rather exciting to read about Dosmingo's epic battle against the Ancients.)

Freezing Arrow

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The most powerful Amazon cold skill turns out to be the most popular bow/crossbow skill in the compilation. I've been stashing all of the "cold damage" small charms identified so far. The write-ups all seem to agree that those charms are way better than the Ice Arrow synergy for pumping up this skill's freeze duration, so I look forward to trying them out as "twinkie charms" on a Freezing Arrow Amazon someday.

I guess the guardian I choose to highlight here is actually the one that didn't quite max the skill before achieving guardian status. When building another Fishyzon variant with ElJuago, HP_Sauce put some points in Valkyrie, and then kept Charged Strike and Freezing Arrow "evenly powered" as she progressed through the game. By the time Hell Ball went down, those two skills were both still two levels shy of getting maxed!

(edited to correct spelling)
 
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Swamigoon

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Magic Arrow

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I like this skill for the unlimited ammunition; the little bit of extra magic damage is nice too. But like many of the other Amazon attack skills, Magic Arrow doesn't improve attack rating (even though the game claims otherwise). If you're lucky enough to find and equip one, the unique Witchwild String bow automatically transforms the normal attack of any character of any class into a skill level 20 magic arrow attack.

A few players pumped up this skill to use it for a backup attack. For Guardian Atropos, Mursilis used Freezing Arrow as her primary attack, and put thirteen points into Magic Arrow to use against cold immunes. That happens to be the minimum investment necessary to bring its mana cost down to zero without any +skills equipment or charms. Matriarch Tika by pharoah also used MA as her backup skill to FA.

Cormallon's Janina maxed MA to use with Multi-shot. @PhineasB 's Striker, @Corax 's Quoththeraven, VoX Dei's Elunamara, and esd's Artemis each maxed MA as a backup for Strafe. (Artemis is one of the oldest matriarch's in the collection, posted 16 years ago!)

Jason Maher had two matriarchs that attacked using Magic Arrow exclusively: Birgitte and Ursula.

Multiple Shot

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Higher skill levels spray more missiles, but do so at higher mana costs. That makes this another skill for which different players will have different opinions for their "sweet spot" skill level, balancing area-of-effect and mana cost with equipment mods such as "mana stolen per hit." Carefully and properly aiming the volley is still important, because many equipment mods (such as crushing blow) only trigger on the two centrally aimed arrows in the middle of the spray.

Note that a few of the M/Gs didn't invest all 20 "hard points" into Multiple Shot, yet still effectively "maxed" it, by using +skills equipment (or even skill shrines or Battle Command) to get the effective skill level up to 23. This is because the maximum number of arrows in a volley can't exceed 24, so having an effective skill level of 24 or beyond is actually detrimental - it just makes an attack cost more mana without providing any additional benefit.

Nevertheless, there were a handful of Amazons that put all 20 points into Multiple Shot, giving them freedom to take advantage of gear with other useful mods (instead of +skills) to succeed: Solar Ice's Danielle, Ugla's Azalea, nermind's amaXII, and @Pb_pal 's Mallorn.

(Coming soon: observations of Guided Arrow and Strafe.)
 

Swamigoon

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Guided Arrow

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Guided arrows always hit and never pierce. Isn't it strange to have a bow skill that gets no benefits whatsoever from Penetrate and Pierce? I really enjoyed this skill when I tried it many years ago.

RobbyD made three max-GA matriarchs: Blitzkrieg, Wendeh and WildBetty. Several other Matriarchs featured GA as their chosen boss killer skill. Among them, @TopHatCat64 's Tilafaiga, Jason Maher's Rhiannon, TheNix's KaySarahSara and ps2v12's Alannah are intereresting reads. However, I think my favorite GA read was the one about Guardian Ruby. If any skill can compensate for a malfunctioning mouse, Sidhe proved with Ruby that GA can overcome even glitchy gaming hardware!

Strafe

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Almost as popular as Freezing Arrow, Strafe is the second most popular B&X skill in the compilation.

Every attack glues the Amazon's feet to the ground through a strafe cycle, until each and every missile is on its way. This "strafe lock" side effect can be pretty dangerous, especially when playing hardcore, so for this skill I'd like to salute all of the Guardian strafers. In particular, I salute khuzgan, who did it untwinked with Siri_V.
 
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Swamigoon

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The last column in the B&X tree has the Amazon's fire skills.

Fire Arrow

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Several players maxed this for its synergy to Exploding Arrow or Immolation Arrow (or both). Almighty Cow's ForestFawn maxed Fire Arrow alone, to fully synergize an old way-overpowered bow that fires exploding arrows as its normal attack.

Vox Dei's Bellatria and NagisaFurukawa's Vivio used a maxed Fire Arrow by itself (no synergy) to use on a switch weapon.

Many "magezon" characters use the Exploding and Freezing Arrow skills, in order to take advantage of area-of-effect mass elemental damage. It might be an interesting challenge to instead try a "Rogue wannabe" magezon that uses fully synergized Fire Arrow and Cold Arrow skills -- much more challenging, because those skills only attack one foe at a time.

Exploding Arrow

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Several SPFers built a traditional magezon with maxed and synergized Freezing/Exploding Arrow skills. Elanus_Leucurus by bcoe wasn't overly impressed with Exploding Arrow, but FreezeFrame by Crazy Runner Guy, Seraphine by @LprMan , and both Birgitte and Ygritte by zaphodbrx wrote quite nice things about this fire skill.

Other EA specialists include zaphodbrx's Purba, who used it along with Plague Javelins, and OldSoldier's Penelope, who used it with Lightning Fury and a Valkyrie.

Immolation Arrow

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This skill became a bit more powerful after patch 1.13; now it makes larger, longer-lasting, and subjectively "prettier" flaming pyres under monsters.

Most Immolation Arrow zons were cold/fire magezons, but others used Valkyrie or some other skill to supplement IA. If you're interested you might enjoy reading about Vidala by @D2DC , Gabrielle by RIP, Martina by @jiansonz , Kikyo by NagisaFurukawa, Quedra by moo-cow, @JoeBruce 's Crazy Cho, and Farah by zaphodbrx.

-----
Those are some of my thoughts about some of the Amazon Matriarchs and Guardians and their skill choices.

I used the max() function in my spreadsheet program to determine whether there were any matriarchs or guardians that did not put the full 20 points into any skill. The only Amazon that did not max any skill was @Drystan 's novelty Amazon, One. For another "never been done before in the SPF" challenge, it might be curious to see someone achieve mat or guardian with an Amazon that artificially limits hard points to no more than 19 in any skill (or even 18, or 15, or whatever limit seems interesting).

Thanks again to each of you for reading and sharing your comments! Next post, I'll start sharing some thoughts about the Assassin's Martial Arts, starting with the elemental charge-up skills column.
 

Swamigoon

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Fists of Fire

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Although the skill description says it only works with claw-class weapons, I think it's kind of neat that Fists of Fire also works with bare fists (no weapon equipped - the same is true with Claws of Thunder and Blades of Ice.)

Each of the 22 matriarchs and guardians that maxed Fists of Fire also maxed its co-synergy Phoenix Strike; lots of players love to drop a strong meteor as a coup-de-grace. The build of Lanfear by zaphodbrx maxed FoF and PS, but only put one point in CoT and three in BoI. He also confirmed that with both maxed, the meteor's fire damage from one phoenix charge is a lot more substantial than that from FoF charges.

Usurper's AcidQueen and @maxicek 's Ultima are other martial artists that focused on the fire charge-up combos but left the lightning and cold skills unsynergized. Usurper mentioned that the other PS charge-ups were still sufficiently effective as backups against fire immunes.

Claws of Thunder

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It looks like Claws of Thunder is only very slightly more popular than Fists of Fire.

Martial artists that maxed Claws of Thunder and Phoenix Strike charge-ups, but left fire and cold charge-ups with minimal skill points, include: @maxicek 's Gogo_Yubari, humbuggerer's Zappa, @DaveWThe2nd 's EatMyFeetMofo, and @D2DC 's Iratha. Also, it's notable that RobbyD chose to put the rest of Osterizer's leftover skill points in Claws of Thunder, after finishing her build's main skills.

Blades of Ice

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When my assassin lands three BoI charge-ups, the finishing move is kind of like a melee version of the Amazon's Freezing Arrow skill.

VoX Dei's Shaula and @TopHatCat64 's Shayera and Belladonna were the only three matriarchs I could find that focused on Blades of Ice while leaving the fire and lightning charge-ups as one-point-wonders.
 

Drystan

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I love the in-depth analysis of these you do. You must put in a real lot of time and effort into putting each character into a spreadsheet with each skill set. I just want to say that I don't think my "Guardian One" should be considered for anything. She has been mentioned a few times, but was intended as a HF rushee, that I kept in the same instance as a character I was running to Guardian. She was intended as a joke Guardian - legitimately the lowest level Guardian you can get, but her skills and abilities shouldn't be considered in any realistic spreadsheet/stats. XD
I appreciate the write-ups, even if some of it does go well beyond my experiences or understanding of the D2 and character stats. Still interesting. :)
 
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Swamigoon

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I'm glad for your clarifications, @Drystan . (I'm still glad your "joke" Guardian is in the compilation, if for no other reason than to document how you did it, and to add a bit of humility to the rest of the compilation. I also think she definitely holds her own in company with the more snarky "novelty" entry!)

Tiger Strike

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Unlike the elemental charge-ups in the first column, those in the middle column may be used with any weapon (not just claws.) Tiger Strike is the second most popular of all six charge-up skills.

I found wide variety in other skills chosen to complement maxed TS. Blacklotus by @Corax used Venom and normal attack (with a shamefully crazy choice of weapon) to release it's charges, and Tiger by @PhineasB shared maxed TS and normal attack with a maxed Shadow Warrior. All four dragon finisher skills were represented; most, including @Drystan 's RhanaSwiftblade, Caly's Cal, and @Vang 's anonymous matriarch, maxed Dragon Tail as TS's finishing move. Darkflight's OleMartin finished with Dragon Talon, with maxed Death Sentry to accelerate progress after the first enemy in a pack was defeated. Neksja's Tiago could choose either maxed Dragon Tail or maxed Dragon Talon as the finisher. DeathAndDecay's GhostOfWar combined TS with maxed Dragon Flight. Elfie's Kitty-Kat combined TS with maxed Dragon Claw and Venom.

Cobra Strike

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Some players ignore this skill as a prerequisite. A few use this as a one-point wonder charge-up to steal life and/or mana. Nobody has completely maxed this skill (yet!) on a matriarch or guardian, but NagisaFurukawa came close with matriarch Vita. According to the write-up, she was a themed build, part of a tribute to a manga/anime series, and NagisaFurukawa found a good way to incorporate the Cobra Strike skill within that theme. Personally, I enjoy reading about themed builds, and I appreciate our SPFers that use D2 as a vehicle for fandom expressions! It looked like Vita had plenty of fun and challenge as she made use of cobra charges with a two-handed maul. Here's the poignant quote that closely matches my own CS experiments: "plenty of NDEs, as Cobra Strike made for some epic races against time."

Phoneix Strike

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This is the most popular of all six charge-ups. It also requires more micromanagement than the others, in order to carefully release the correct finishing effect, depending on a target's immunities and weaknesses. This is a mood dependent skill for me. I like this skill when I want to map some hot-keys, engage carefully, savor challenges, and really get engrossed in the game. I don't like it when I'm in the mood to just mindlessly hold down a mouse button and let the game auto-hack-and-slash through areas for me.

Most PS assassins maxed one or more of the elemental charge-ups. Among those that maxed (or nearly maxed) all three are @PhineasB 's Phoenix, Grape's Anne, Nightfish's FallFromGrace, Megalomania's Maria_Anna, @maxicek 's Serafina, and NagisaFurukawa's Vivio. I also found many that maxed or heavily synergized PS's fire and lightning charges, and almost all of them are engaging reads, so I'm listing almost all of them: Arianne by zaphodbrx, Faith by @jiansonz , Katya by Colorless Green, Lauree by Milb, Philautia by @Kitteh , Sonia by humbuggerer, WhoopsieDaisy by sirpoopsalot, and Xenja by @maxicek .

Death Master's Chun-Li was a maxed Dragon Talon kicker who used PS as a secondary skill for handling PI enemies.

Another popular skill among Phoneix Strikers is Shadow Warrior; I will mention some of those later, when I get to that skill tree.
 

Swamigoon

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The right column of the martial arts tree consists of a sequence of four finishing move skills.

Dragon Talon

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The first time I played an LoD assassin, I thought "boots as weapons" was novel enough, even though it seemed a bit derivative of paladins' "shield as weapon" feature. I later learned that there are several equipment mods, such as elemental damage, that just don't apply to Smite's shield attacks, but do work with kicking attacks such as Dragon Talon, which I think is nice. The knockback effect seems consistent with the paladin's and barbarian's comparable entry-level skills, Smite and Bash.

There are plenty of Dragon Talon kickers in the compilation, and as you can see in the histogram, they had a wide variety of skill point investment levels. In previous posts about charge-up skills, I mentioned a few that use it to release charges. There are several more kickers that just use D-Talon by itself, rather than as a charge-up finisher: @Peytron 's Shadow-Dancer, humbuggerer's ex-girlfriend, and Brak's Pestilence. Also, there are more than a dozen which are "kick and trap" dancers, that combine melee with maxed Dragon Talon and various fire or lightning trap skills. I'll just highlight four dancers here: @PhineasB 's Silence, @crawlingdeadman 's Melisandre and DoroteaSenjak, and @Russell.s 's Sable. (If I didn't list your favorite dancer example, please reply and share it!)

Dragon Claw

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This is the only finishing move (other than normal attack, I suppose) that uses claw weapons instead of boots. By choosing this skill, a martial artist may have more flexibility in boot choices - she could even wear lowly Tancred's Hobnails (and get nice MF if she also wears the set amulet) without nerfing this finishing skill.

The SPF has adopted the word "aggressin" for builds that feature Dragon Claw, particularly those that synergize maxed DC with maxed Claw Mastery. I spent just a little time looking for information about the attack rating bonuses of these two skills. It is not clear to me whether Dragon Claw multiplies, adds to, or replaces Claw Mastery's AR bonus, so I'm hoping another reader will be able to clarify.

Six interesting aggressin M/Gs: Joscelin by moo-cow, Jaggascicle by humbuggerer, ORen_Ishii by @maxicek , Sung Lee by shleefin, Maxime by stephan, and Lanfear by zaphodbrx.
 

Swamigoon

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That makes sense, @ioupain . I think it would be fun to experiment with an aggressin someday. Since I learned that Blade Fury is a skill that ignores Claw Mastery's AR bonus, I started to wonder whether Dragon Claw might suffer from the same omission, and so far I haven't found anything either confirming or denying it.

Dragon Tail

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I forgot to mention that Dragon Talon gets repeated attacks on a single target at higher skill levels. Dragon Tail will only attack a target once; however, in addition to kick damage on the target, it also produces an explosion, which both knocks back and inflicts additional fire damage to the target and other nearby monsters. It's area of effect is larger than Fire Blast's explosion and much larger than Mind Blast's knockback zone.

Dragon Tail and Mind Blast are the two assassin skills that inherently knock back many enemies at once. Other classes have attacks that can knock back a single target, but to my observation, no other class has a skill that instantly knocks back a group of monsters.

The amount of fire damage is a multiple of the physical kick damage. With elite boots, and some maxed Tiger Strike charge-ups to magnify the physical damage even further, a maxed Dragon Tail's explosion can pack a big wallop. However, because of this dependency on physical damage, monsters with physical resistance suffer reduced physical damage from the kick, which in turn reduces the explosion's fire damage. Moreover, kicking a PI monster causes no physical damage, which in turn also eliminates the explosion's fire damage.

It's not surprising that most of our maxed Dragon Tail M/Gs also maxed Tiger Strike, but then used some other skill, usually maxed Phoenix Strike, to handle physical immunes. With this trio of skills, @DaveWThe2nd 's EatMyFeetMofo grouped up to achieve Guardian, and Tanksaabas' Mystique, @maxicek 's Gogo_Yubari, and Caly's Cal achieved Matriarch. AcidQueen by Usurper and Sonia by humbuggerer used maxed DTail with phoenix charge-ups, but did not pump TS for extra fire damage - humbuggerer explained: "I decided to use Dtail as a finisher because the group knockback made things much safer." VoX Dei's Shaula_II used maxed TS and DTail, and used a mercenary instead of a skill to handle PIs.

Dragon Flight

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She can teleport! But only into harms way, never away from potential danger. Also, there's a casting delay; she has to wait a second before she can teleport again. This skill has the highest damage of the kicking finishers. Here's a superficial comparison of all three:
  • At skill level 1, Dragon Flight fully doubles her boots' damage, compared to Dragon Talon's 5% damage increase and Dragon Tail's 50% fire damage.
  • At skill level 21, DF kicks with sevenfold damage, but DTalon can match and possibly even exceed that much damage with four quick kicks of almost two-and-a-half times damage each. DTail explodes for three-and-a-half times fire damage.
Only two assassins in the compilation maxed Dragon Flight: Guardian Ashura by Evah and Matriarch GhostOfWar by DeathAndDecay. Nice comment by Evah: "Overally, DF was an interesting (at least) skill that combines good damage and extreme mobility. There is no better skill to get rid of key monsters who stand in the middle of CoSed/MBed crowd of minions: Oblivions, all kinds of resurrectors. I don't regret those 20 skill points."
 

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Burst of Speed

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There were five max-speeders: Kiera by Solar Ice, Signum and ssregisin by NagisaFurukawa, Linuviel by @Maltatai , and Janis by Grape.

I believe many players that use Burst of Speed don't bother maxing it, but instead carefully tune their BoS investment to complement the FRW or IAS mods on their assassin's equipment, in order to achieve a particular speed breakpoint.

Another nice BoS application is for a "shopping assassin" support character, who can quickly repeat vendor runs, looking for particular items, such as nice bases for low-level runewords, or items with desired spell charges. (I wonder if anyone has ever used a run counter to time their shopping sprees?)

Fade

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Fade gives lots of defensive benefits at once: resistances, shorter posion durations, shorter curse durations, and even a little bit of physical resistance. The only drawback is that it also reduces most shrine effect durations, so it's recommended that a player temporarily switch to Burst of Speed before activating an experience or resistance shrine, then reactivate Fade only after getting the shrine buff.

One of my favorite Fade features happens in multiplayer games: the translucent camouflage lets multiplayer assassins easily hide behind Qual-Kehk, in order to jump out and yell "boo" when other players stop by to resurrect their mercenaries. Good times.

Surprisingly, I thought I would see a lot more guardians than matriarchs with maxed or nearly-maxed Fade, but it turns out this skill is pretty equally distributed in both HC and SC. A few write-ups that I enjoyed: bcoe's Progne_Subis, @maareek 's Kerrigan, @TopHatCat64 's Belladonna, and srrw's Ghost.

Venom

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There is only one assassin skill more popular than Venom. Its poison only lasts for ten animation frames, so it favors an "attack quickly and often" playstyle - you usually get Venom's full poison damage from each strike. Personally, I tend to play with "hit and run" tactics when I use other poison skills with longer durations. I suppose there's a subtle gameplay psychology observation there - if a repeated strike resets a long poison timer, I feel less incentive to keep attacking with that poison attack.

Since there are so many maxed-Venom builds in the compilation, I'll try to note a few that haven't already been highlighted in other posts. Dracona by @ch1zra and Mirri by Thomh are interesting venomous martial artists. Jdkerr's Phusis and crazymatt1's Koga_Ichiban are curious ranged attackers that use Blade Fury with Venom. Monza_Murcatto by @maxicek added Venom's poison damage to attacks with a Kingslayer runeword sword, and @PhineasB 's Chaos was just one of over a dozen whirlwinders that poisonously pirouetted.
 

Swamigoon

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Guide Author
Apr 18, 2020
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Claw Mastery

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The assassin's passive mastery, seemingly patterned after the various barbarian weapon masteries. Unfortunate that its passive attack rating bonus is ignored with the Blade Fury trap, but the damage bonus does work with BF.

Some mastery martial artists include Pandemonium by frosty, @Drystan 's RhanaSwiftblade, and RevenantsKnight's Mirenne. Two rather different blade fury builds with max mastery are naranjadita's Shmassassin and @PhineasB 's Cat. Many assassins maxed Claw Mastery to get the most out of a dizzy Chaos runeword: barren's Sneaky-Barren, Colorless Green's Rheya, @ffs 's FML, zaphodbrx's Chaotica and Xena, @Drystan 's Kara, and srrw's Ghost.

Weapon Block

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Would anyone like to complete a maxed Weapon Block build? Nobody yet has reported doing so here, surely because the diminishing returns for WB are so extremely steep after level 10. Shield users can get up to 75% block against physical hits by sufficiently pumping dexterity; on the other hand, our weapon blockers choose instead to block a little over 50% of physical and elemental hits, without the need for high dex.

Four assassins put ten or more hard skill points into Weapon Block: @nebux 's trapper Lili, @ffs 's whirlwinder FML, NagisaFurukawa's aggressin ssregisin, and Evah's guardian kicker Ashura.