Zod Sept - Planning & Progress

ffs

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In the last couple of years I've been quite lucky with direct Zod drops, and recently I thought about doing a sept with them given I'm up to seven.

My last sept took over 2 years from start to finish, I'm not really a questing kind of player normally :) and I'll take this one easy as well. Probably I'll even find more candidate items along the way, which could make things more interesting.

Zods
Here's when and how they dropped:
I didn't copy individual posts from the old forums, so I'll link to the old ones for those prior to RFL 2020:
  • #1 - untwinked 99er Necro - Feb 2018 (Pit) – used on eth Death Cleaver
  • #2 - untwinked 99er Necro - Feb 2018 (Pit) – used on eth GPA BotD
  • #3 - testing P7 Pit Bowazon - Oct 2018 (Pit)
  • #4 - untwinked 99er Paladin - 2019 RFL - Jul 2019 (Chaos) – used on eth BA BotD
  • #5 - Hammerdin - OBP tournament - Feb 2020 (RoF)
  • #6 - PN/CE Necro - 2020 RFL - Apr 2020 (Cows)
  • #7 - Nova Sorc - 2020 RFL - Apr 2020 (Cows)

Three Zods were already used on an eth Death Cleaver and two BotDs (BA and GPA). Meaning those items will (likely) need to be used, with 4 Zods left to play around with. At the moment I could cube 2-3 more if need be, but so far I like the idea of using only direct Zod drops.

Items
These are the current candidates:
1_eth shifter.jpgScreenshot012.jpgScreenshot013.jpgScreenshot014.jpgScreenshot015.jpgScreenshot016.jpgScreenshot017.jpgScreenshot018.jpg

It would be cool to find something like eth Stormlash or eth 3os Tomby, and I do hope I will, but for now I figured the above is actually enough to work with to go for a sept of weird fun builds.

Current Status & Planning
This is really just based on initial brainstorming and having briefly checked attack rates here and there, so the below is nowhere near final at all. I'll try to avoid cookie cutter builds and hope to include niche builds I've never played where I can. In some cases achieving both seems to be difficult though.

Amazon
Completed:
Mat Thread
Zod item: Death Cleaver
Build: Passivezon with Wrath switch & Pride Merc


Assassin
Completed: Mat Thread

Zod item: BotD Great Poleaxe
Build: Bear Assassin with Blade Shield and DS & SW support


Barbarian
Completed: Pat Thread

Zod item: BotD Berserker Axe
Build: Wolfbarb with Beast offhand


Druid
Completed:
Pat Thread
Zod item: Earth Shifter
Build: Fury & Armageddon
Excited about this one as well. The eth Earth Shifter is among my favorites of the above items. It's a bit of a shame I just recently made a Druid with Earth Shifter (non-eth and Shael'ed). But this weapon must be used on a Druid obviously, and the previous one had a focus on casting anyway, switching in and out of Wolf form frequently. This char will of course focus on physical damage to the max, with a build similar to if not the same as explained in this classic guide, albeit with a slower (but heavier hitting) attack.

Necromancer
Zod item: Windhammer
Build: Melee Bear with Beast or Pride IG and summons
Similar to the Druid, I recently played a Necro bear with BotD GPA. He was very powerful and it would have been a perfect fit for this sept. But since I already plan to do something similar to what I've done before with Druid, he needs to find another way...

While Windhammer doesn't offer any CtC/synergy shenanigans, at least it provides 8 FPA just as 2-hand BotD did. He needs Fanaticism to achieve this, which will likely come from Beast IG. An alternative is Faith Merc with Pride IG. I have a low-roll Pride which I don't use much anyway (or at least will try and replace with a better roll one), so this would be a nice use for it. Apart from a sturdy IG, he'll use summons to get some protection.

Paladin
Zod item: Heaven's Light
Build: TBD (likely Zeal/HF)
The weapon would be nice for a Furysin as well, but Blade Fury doesn't use durability and doesn't require a Zod... where's the fun in not wasting a Zod and a socket? :D As for skills, not sure yet but @PhineasB suggested going for a Holy Freeze Pally with it. As with most of the builds here, I've never played one, so why not? Might also go for a different aura though. I plan to play this char rather late into the sept, so probably a few years to think about it. ;)

Sorceress
Zod item: TBD (maybe upgraded Ribcracker)
Build: Enchantress with physical damage focus
I played several melee Sorcs/Bear Enchantress variations, in particular the insanely powerful Dream Sorc and another one using Holy Fire with Dragons and HoJ. But relying primarily on physical damage will be a novelty.

Very undecided about the weapon. Ribcracker could work, but will only hit 9 FPA, or 8 FPA with Beast. But probably the one frame improvement doesn't make it worthwhile and it would be more reasonable to be able to cast all the time. She will need to use Blizzard to slow things down, and Static will likely need to be abused as well.

I'll likely play her last because of all the chars above, I'm the least sure about this one. In the above sketch she'll be very fragile either way with slow attack speed, and worst case just resort to spells in order to clear things, which is not the idea of course. We'll see if something else comes to mind.

***

Anyway, that's the current thoughts on key items and builds. I'll think about precise setups and builds as I go along. Again, this will be a long-term project and I'm 100% sure that much of the above will change drastically. :) But I'll take it nice and slow and see if any other interesting items drop or more ideas come to mind. In the meantime, any other thoughts or suggestions are welcome of course!
 
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Maltatai

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Maybe the amazon should use a two-handed weapon instead to be rid of the long blocking animation when using swinging weapons, and also since she will have strong support and you predicted that she might not have that much excitement as it is?

The sorceress could use frost nova to slow things down, it has better chill length and is surer to hit than blizzard, besides being rarely used.
 

ffs

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Frost Nova is an interesting idea, could help indeed and I've never used it, which is a plus.

I considered 2-handed weapons for Amazon but they are way too slow, they'd bascially max out at 10 FPA at best with Fana etc. Some of them can achieve 8 FPA with Bear, but I don't want to use Beast with her as it would defeat the purpose quickly triggering Decrepify via Wrath switch. Another option could be to swap Death Cleaver and BotD BA, they are pretty much interchangeable... Actually I'm not sure why I said she wouldn't be exciting, the more I think about it the more fun it sounds. :)
 
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Albatross

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Coldsteele Eye looking good, maybe use it with the sorc?

It's a -20 base with 20 IAS built in, she would benefit from the slow target/blind, and could use a Phoenix shield for extra fire and physical damage. If Firestorm gets boosted by Fire Mastery, with -FR it might actually do noticeable damage :D

If you only need crowd control, 1pt Frost Nova with some +skills and decent Cold Mastery will work better than Blizzard. That way there are enough points to max Frozen Armor and dump the rest into CM to prolong the cold/freeze duration.

Edit: think I got pwned by Maltatai's quick edit regarding Frost Nova :)
 

ffs

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@Albatross I thought about Coldsteel Eye, but it's actually slower attack rate than Ribcracker. The combination with Phoenix could be interesting though for sure. As mentioned she seems the most difficult character to build something interesting with that also works well enough...
 

Albatross

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Didn't know Ataghan is capped at 10 frames, at least you don't need any extra IAS when using Beast to reach 2.5 attacks per second.

Edit: nevermind the part about beast, I've mixed everything up. Serves me right posting while I'm waiting for builds to deploy (work) :D

Screenshot 2020-09-23 at 12.49.17.pngScreenshot 2020-09-23 at 12.48.45.png
Screenshot 2020-09-23 at 12.57.37.pngScreenshot 2020-09-23 at 12.57.52.png
 
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Luhkoh

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I say definitely use that bonehew on the necro. Bear necro with synergized bone spear procs sounds fun! Looking forward to the project.
 
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ffs

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@Luhkoh already did that (with mediocre results) :) granted one could do it a little differently, but I pursued the general idea in the past... Admittedly same problem with Druid, but there's little wiggle room Earth Shifter, so I think that's excusable! For the other chars I'd like to try whacky things I haven't done before.
 

Luhkoh

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haha... i knew id seen that idea before...😅. Yeah gotta do something different for sure then!
 

ffs

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Yesterday after work I was feeling like some lazy running so I figured why not get this started.

Seemed to me like the alphabetical order more or less also resembled the order of "certainty" as to build and gear, so I picked up the amazon first. She's called ZodZon and is about to enter RoF in normal at lvl 29.

Twinking approach was the same I use with most non-caster builds: Envy jeweled bow, helm and armor to start things off, adding Death's set with Hel'ed weapon at lvl 6 and with the help of some strength GCs, plus Hsaru's boots and shield. Alternating between Envy bow and Death's depending on the situation.

I figured to speed things up I'd go with a Java build until she'll be able to use her end game gear. Accordingly she was ready to use her first powerful skill with Charged Strike at lvl 18, and equipped this nice twinking Javelin at that point:

Screenshot014.jpg

The only thing holding back a Java in normal and NM is mana upkeep, and this inconspicuous item is godsend in that regard. The 5 MPK already meant barely any potting was required, and after equipping Wall of the Eyeless at lvl 20 it was like playing mana only ES Sorc with Warmth and Insight. :) Stealth, 2x Manald (now replaced by 2x SoJ) and Eye of Etlich completed her gear.

Being a Java that's about to get access to Lightning Fury, the rest of normal and NM will be among the easiest D2 experiences one can have, so I'll provide another update at the end of NM when I hopefully will begin to transition to the actual melee/passivezon build.

I gave some more thought to end game build and gear, leaning towards this:

Gear:
  • eth Zod'ed Death Cleaver:
  • Screenshot004.jpg
    [*]
  • Stormshield, socket TBD
  • Really nice rare circlet with +2 Passive, 20 FRW, 30 IAS, 57 ED, 8LL, 7 iPDR:
  • Screenshot002.jpg
  • HLW
  • Fortitude or CoH (TBD)
  • SoE
  • WT
  • Raven
  • Rare leech/stat/res ring
  • LoH or blood craft gloves with leech/resist (TBD)
  • Switch: Wrath Diamond Bow (to apply Decrepify with Strafe)
  • CtA swapped in from inventory (I expect this is necessary given high dex/str investment for the gear)
  • Merc: A1 Faith actually Might + Pride seems ideal (see edit below)
Build:
  • 1 Critical Strike *
  • 10-20 Strafe (TBD)
  • 20 Penetrate
  • 20 Pierce (want to use SoE)
  • 20 Freezing Arrow**
  • Rest TBD (likely Strafe, Cold Arrow)
* Going for a Passivezon that doesn't even skill her best passive :D Deadly Strike from Death Cleaver and HLW guarantee double damage, so CS is not required.

** The alternative is Valk, but I think D/A/E could too annoying, I already hate it in normal... Currently I'm leaning towards Freezing Arrow for better crowd control and hopefully making gameplay smoother overall. Together with Wrath's Decrepify this should provide a comfortable slowdown to let her hack away with her poor standard attack.

EDIT:

It just occurred to me that the above gear provides enough IAS to get her to 8 FPA without Faith Merc (as opposed to more or less automatic 7 FPA with Faith Merc, which is the fastest possible for this). This leads me to believe a better Merc option is Might + Pride. I don't worry too much about AR issues with max Penetrate and -33 def from Death Cleaver, whereas the aura ED outperforms the 1 frame attack rate difference, and I can still apply Decrepify with Wrath on top of Pride + Might from Merc. Sounds like a lot of damage and better than the initial idea.
 
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ffs

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I pushed the Zon a good bit further yesterday, making her way through early A2 Hell now.

As expected, Java gameplay throughout normal and NM was swift, brutal and merciless. After arriving in A5 NM, I took my usual leveling stops at Eldritch and then Pindle in order to transition to the end game gear as quickly as possible. In this case this meant Pindle runs until lvl 73.

Then I switched to the exact build and gear as described above, with Pride/Might Merc. LCS at lvl 78 in early A2 Hell:

Screenshot012.jpg

Damage numbers aren't bad as is, but of course it's actually 200% of that since damage is doubled for every hit (or will be rather, at lvl 78 I'm only at 97% or so :)).

Charms are 6x Sharp GCs with 21-39 life each, 8x Fine SCs with 5-20 life each. I guess in general I better get used to much of that gear and inventory screen, because I think it will look very similar for many of the chars in this sept. :D

As for gameplay: Awesome. Basically everything works as intended, somewhat surprisingly. ;) I’ll record some gameplay and will post it when she’s Mat’ed.

Strategy is simple: Shoot 2-3 rounds of arrows on Wrath switch and immediately engage with melee switch to utilise the Decrepify. As for PIs: If they're just PI, I normally simply use FA on Wrath switch since it’s the most convenient way. Against PI bosses that are cold immune, I use Wrath for Decrepify to break them, then switch to Death Cleaver and focus them down. Still reasonably fast, and that basically covers things. :) Didn't encounter any unbreakable PI/CI yet, not sure they exist either tbh.

The only thing I underestimated a little bit is the pretty short lvl 1 Decrepify duration from Wrath procs. I switch weapons a little more often than anticipated. But it’s still perfectly fine, only for bigger groups and tougher boss packs I usually switch weapons 2-3 times, against normal small-ish groups I just fire one volley with Wrath and then stay on Death Cleaver switch. Even if Decrep runs out during the fight, this still cleans things up quickly.

I’d say skill use on bow switch until now is roughly 40% FA, 30% Strafe and 30% Guided Arrow/standard attack.

So far 0 deaths and she didn't even encounter any noticeable survivability issues at all, to my surprise. In addition to 49% PDR with Stormshield and SoE, she has 14 iPDR on top of it from circlet and SoE which seems to do quite a lot as well. Overall she is much tankier than I had anticipated. I do use CtA, but that’s really mostly for the Merc since he has barely any life upkeep with Pride. Zon doesn't really need it frankly, at least until now.

With that in mind I also tried Phoenix instead of Stormshield at one point, because with the latter it felt like even going a bit overkill in safety. Phoenix brought Max dmg from 5.5 to 6.9k and the harder hits were noticeable. However, given the 11 frame delay caused by Firestorm procs from Phoenix, I believe this doesn’t actually result in a DPS improvement. Currently still using Stormshield and I certainly can’t go wrong with it. But I’ll look into other shield options before Mat‘ing her.
 

ffs

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Yeah the gameplay is interesting for sure. Certainly not as powerful as cookie cutter builds, but so far P5 Hell was fine. Likely I'll drop to P3 going forward to keep things smooth. ;) Overall I'd say it's comparable to other "strong enough" niche builds I've tried in the past.

So far CTH doesn't seem like much of a problem. Her current AR is relatively low but she's only lvl 78 at the moment, it will be higher as she gains levels. Indeed -33% from DC helps.
 

ffs

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Amazon is now lvl 81, A4 Hell (River of Flame WP).

The struggle is getting real. :D Lots of nasty enemies, and the lack of AoE is painful at times, in particular vs CI monster types that spawn additional mobs to deal with. FA does what it can, but it's becoming less useful. Reduced freeze duration from FA is noticeable now that monsters don't die that quickly. Maybe skilling Ice Arrow instead of Cold Arrow as synergy would help, although the extra FA damage is welcome against PIs. The short Decrepify duration from Wrath is becoming more of a problem, too, with fights taking longer in general. Anyway, now turned it down to P1 and I guess she's still progressing okay, but at her own pace. ;) Should Mat her in the upcoming days in any case.

In the meantime I've been planning the next char, I'll be keeping it alphabetical and going Assassin next.

Currently I have this plan for her:

Gear
  • BotD GPA
  • Screenshot019.jpg
  • GFace (socket TBD)
  • Fortitude or CoH
  • HLW
  • LoH
  • SoE
  • Gore
  • Raven
  • Rare stat ring
  • Switch: CtA/Spirit + Beast in inventory
  • Merc: Might / Infinity
Pretty sure Infinity is needed to help with CtH since I cannot boost AR from skills. Will look into other options though.

Build
  • 20 Blade Shield
  • 20 Death Sentry
  • 20 Shadow Warrior
  • 1 BoS/other pre-reqs
  • Remaining points TBD, been thinking about Fire Blast for extra DS shots, Mind Blast or Venom.
I'm hoping SW will help by casting DS frequently while I have it on RMB when in bear form, but never tried this so I'm not sure how well that works. Otherwise I'll just cast DS before shifting and engaging bigger groups.
 

ffs

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Finished the Amazon now:

Screenshot026.jpg

Mat thread.

A5 was easier again, but rather eventful. I still played on P1 just to keep things moving at a reasonable pace.

Can't say it was always fun to play her ;) but interesting for sure. Very unique gameplay and still viable, but of course not super strong.

Looking forward to the Assassin, I have high hopes for her!
 

ffs

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Been playing the Assassin in the meantime, she's now in Hell A3.

Same as with Amazon, I went for the normal/NM cookie cutter option (in this case Fire Traps) in order to go for the actual/intended gear and build as soon as possible. Her target level was 69 to equip BotD, which I got to again doing Eldritch and Pindle runs in NM.

Then she equipped pretty much exactly the gear mentioned above.

I knew the Assassin would be more poweful than the Amazzon, but I'm still surprised by how easy things are. "Fun" builds like this rarely manage P8 Hell, but this one has little trouble, at least until now at . Even A2 Hell was done largely on P8 despite PIs being annoying at times. I tested different options to address them. While the Merc is using Infinity, I also have Reaper's stashed, which despite the horrible CtH without Infinity was pretty smooth gameplay and a viable solution in general. Infinity does provide better consistency though by solving the CtH issue pretty much single-handedly. I also tried using Atma's, which can take long to trigger, though.

My favorite solution for her at this point is swapping in Lawbringer (carrying it in the cube, running with 2x4 open space) to trigger Decrepify very quickly while still benefiting from Infinity. I don't run CtA (Sin is at >3k life just from Beast), so I don't mind swapping one pair of weapons every once in a while. Of course when going down to lower player settings, Death Sentry is great support against PIs as well.

She even found a couple of interesting things along her journey so far:

Screenshot006.jpgScreenshot005.jpgScreenshot004.jpg
Screenshot007.jpg

Think I should be able to wrap things up with her by tomorrow before going on vacation on Friday. Next Mat/Pat will have to wait a little bit. :)
 

J-Dog

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Forget LK runs. Just go and make a Bear Assassin with Blade Shield and Shadow skills and the Sur's will drop. Awesome character 🙏