Diablo 2 Guide: Blova Sorceress

I. Introduction

Blova is the term used to denote a PvM Blizzard/Nova hybrid sorceress (originally coined by maareek). Using these two attacks, a Blova handles very well throughout the progression of the game and makes a very formidable and competitive MF’er in several Hell areas. Like many hybrids, however, this build requires higher end items to effectively power dual skill trees. Still, if you like a lot of diversity in your MF targets, this build is exceptionally flexible, wonderful in Baal runs, and very enjoyable. It’s definitely a diamond in the rough and a welcome relief to more conventional, mainstream MF’ers.

Word about the authors
Far from a solo effort, this guide was the product of several minds. Having built one of these characters for myself, I found it odd that there wasn’t an established guide for what I perceived to be a topnotch build. To remedy this, I enlisted the help of the Blova pioneers—maareek, BobTheWarrior, and bcoe—to assist in this endeavor. I learned a lot during this collaboration as they all provided valuable insight and were instrumental in creating this finished product. I tried hard to incorporate their research and perspectives, many times completely verbatim, into this body of work, so it seemed fitting to credit them properly as coauthors. However, because all of our names in the title looked more than a bit awkward, I—as the project’s ringleader—thought it fitting to brand our group as “Liquid Circus” for the sake of reducing the clutter.

II. Stat Placement

Blova stats require little more than enough strength and dexterity to equip end game wares; the rest should be spent in vitality. Max block is gratuitous and the character handles better with no emphasis on block/dexterity.
*156 final strength is strongly recommended as the necessary power to properly play the build will be very tough to achieve without a “Spirit” shield.

III. Skill Placement
-1 Warmth
-1 Telekinesis
-1 Static Field
-1 Teleport
-1 Frost Nova
-1 Glacial Spike
-20 Nova
-20 Lightning Mastery
-20 Blizzard
-20 Ice Blast (this build shines as a Baal/boss runner where Ice Blast greatly outpaces Glacial Spike for overall effectiveness)
-1+ Cold Mastery (typically enough to net -125% enemy cold resists) *See below for explanation on Cold Mastery
-Remaining points should be spent in Ice Bolt to increase damage of Blizzard, GS and Ice Blast

*The math regarding synergy versus CM gets tricky when there are many different variables that change between players (clvl, quality of cold % enh. items, etc), however, with a typical setup, we determined that for both Blizzard and Ice Blast, -125% cold resistance provides the best damage versus a 50% resistant monster (like Baal). And just to be clear, the additional points pulled from CM were placed in Ice Bolt to synergize Ice Blast. CM that offered -125% had a 400+ damage advantage for Blizzard damage and a 300+ damage advantage for Ice Blast. However, with better gear and higher levels, -150% enemy resistance can eventually beat out -125%. If you plan on utilizing the highest quality gear or getting to obscenely high levels, then more hard points into CM is something to consider.

Here’s a more in depth analysis of the testing courtesy of maareek for those that are curious:

Spoiler

In order for this build to do enough damage to be really viable, a lot of +skills are required. A total of +12 skills is a good benchmark, though if you have -res gear (or + damage gear for cold) then you may be able to get by with less. The reason for such a focus on +skills lies with the main attacks: both Blizzard and Nova scale up massively in damage with each increased skill point. Adding to that is the fact that being within Nova range of a monster is very dangerous if they aren’t in hit recovery, so the whole aim of a successful Blova is a powerful enough Nova to inflict hit recovery while casting as powerful a Blizzard as possible. With more people in the game, this becomes more difficult, but that issue typically lies with b.net chars, who will have access to the Annihilus and Hellfire Torch, which makes it much easier to ramp up the damage.

IV. Playing Techniques

The Blova sorceress requires quick shifting from the stand back caster mindset of a Blizzard sorceress as well as the aggressive, dive-in mindset of the Nova sorceress. A successful combination of those opposite concepts relies both on confidence in your attacks (i.e. knowing that your Nova does enough damage to put monsters in hit recovery) and proper layout of skill hotkeys for rapid switching. The first of those largely depends on your wealth, but the second depends entirely on you. Place your keys so that you can immediately switch between Teleport, Blizzard, Static, Ice Blast, Nova and Glacial Spike (if applicable). To accomplish this, hotkeys may be assigned thusly:

Teleport on “R”
Ice Blast on “E”
Glacial Spike on “Q”
Static Field on “A”
Nova on “D”
Blizzard on “F”

This is another example:
Blizzard on “A”
Static Field on “S”
Teleport on “D”
Nova on “F”
Ice Blast as default left click

There’s obviously more than a few good hotkey setups, but the two outlined above represent a good thought behind the placement: skills that are used in tandem should be bound to keys that are close together.

**Because of Nova’s massive mana requirements, using Static Field first tends to be very beneficial.

V. Gear Selection

The aim of your gear is to get you the following:
+Skills
105 FCR (this is essential for a good application of Nova)
Resistances (you’ll be in range for Death Cold Novas, LE bolts, sometimes even FE explosions, so good resistances will make your life much easier)
FHR (we recommend 60% for an 8 frame hit recovery, which you can get with “Spirit” and a Small Charm of Balance).
MF (once the above safety and kill speed issues have been addressed, you are free to pile on the MF)
Helm: If you don’t have a Griffon’s Eye for this slot, you should be using full Tal’s set. The -eLR makes a huge difference in damage output and without it you won’t be putting most monsters in hit recovery with your Nova. Nightwing’s Veil is a distant third option to the two former candidates, but has its place if you want a better area runner.

Weapon: Obviously Death’s Fathom should be your end game aspiration, but a “Heart of the Oak” or an Oculus will work just fine. Eschuta’s is a poor choice because the mods on the other options greatly outweigh Eschuta’s pitiful increase to Nova damage. A “Spirit” weapon is also an option, and Tal Rasha’s Lidless Eye works if you’re going with the full set.

Amulet: Tal Rasha’s Adjudication. Even if you aren’t going full Tal’s, wearing the amulet, armor and belt makes a great combo for a build aiming towards MF. If, however, Magic Finding is not your purpose, whatever your best option is should work fine: Mara’s Kaleidoscope, rares, or crafts.

Armor: Tal Rasha’s Guardianship for MF or budget, otherwise “Chains of Honor” or Skin of Vipermagi.

Shield: “Spirit” Monarch. There is virtually no reason to use anything else and this was a main staple of all our Blova characters for good reason; the mods are simply too useful to go with any other option. Max block does not equate to max safety for this build.

Gloves: Trang-Oul’s Claws or Magefist if you need the FCR, Chance Guards or Frostburns if you don’t.

Belt: Tal Rasha’s Fine-Spun Cloth for MF or budget, otherwise Arachnid’s Mesh.

Rings: Stone of Jordan x2. If you don’t have them, then we recommend that you make up FCR with the rings and wear Frostburns or Chance Guards.

Boots: War Traveler’s for MF, otherwise wear whatever fills your needs. Aldur’s shores up your Fire Resists, Sandstorm Trek’s shores up Poison Res and, with “Spirit”, puts you 11% FHR short of 7 frame recovery; rare boots can also supply a variety of neat mods.

Charms: A combination of Sparking and Chilling supplemented with a Gheed’s and various smalls to fill holes in your setup. Sprinkle the rest of the inventory with MF smalls (as well as the obvious Hellfire Torch and Annihilus if on realm).

VI. About –eLR

Why is wearing Griffon’s or going with Full Tal’s so important? Simply put, it’s because most monsters in Hell have resistances. That means that you’re only getting through a percentage of your listed damage to the monster. You can, theoretically, add enough skill points to power through those resistances, but reducing the resistances themselves with typically give much better results, especially if they have fairly high resistances. For instance, if you have a listed average of 1700 damage and you’re attacking a monster with 75% lightning resistance, you will actually be dealing a mere 425 damage per hit. On the other hand, if you have 1200 average damage and -15% lightning damage (which is the -eLR you get from Full Tal’s or lowest roll Griffon’s) you would do 480 damage per hit. Most monsters have a mere 50% resistance, or lower, but even then the -eLR will tend to be a better option.

VII. Mercenaries

Because Nova is such a mana hog, it’s very difficult to suggest anything but an Act 2 Merc wielding an “Insight” polearm unless you want to be reliant on potions. Which type you choose largely depends on personal preference. Might mercs have the benefit of added power against dual immunes and bosses; Prayer mercs up the ante in terms keeping your character alive via replenish life; and Holy Freeze mercs increase the safety margin by slowing enemies. The writers of this guide have had success with all three types.

VIII. Comparison and Analysis of MF Areas

We independently ranked each MF area on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the worst and 10 being the best) to give readers perspective; the average of our scores is also supplied to give an overall impression of the areas. The average ranking is set aside in highlights and brackets.

Countess: 9, 9, 8, 9 [8.75] Very easy with the hit recovery supplied with Nova. Blizzard allows you to deal with archers, if necessary as well. Use Glacial Spike to keep them still while you grab the runes/key and bolt. As good as any runner for this target.

Summoner: 9, 10, 8, 10 [9.25] Blizzard him from far away or Nova him from directly on top. The dual elements allow you to deal with surrounding monsters if need be. As good as any runner for this target.

Nihlathak: 8, 6.5, 2, 5 [5.375] Admittedly not the best build here. Because Nihlathak’s a bit on the tougher side, swap a SoJ for Nature’s Peace to combat his Corpse Explosion. When Nihlathak spawns only CI, things are easy: teleport on top and Nova away, though a potion may be required. LI is a little tougher, since it can be tough to kill him with Blizzard depending on the spawn and the monster density. Be careful about letting the merc engage monsters or you may be hit with an unexpected CE. We’ve also noticed that if he casts CE on the corpse just as it dies it still goes off even if you kill it, but if he doesn’t then it’s not available so RIP is definitely not foolproof. CI/LI Nihlathak is quite the pain, but sort of rare. We advise teleporting on top of him and using Nova on the boars. Be prepared to use a few potions, and then let the merc get the kill. Our most experienced Nihlathak runner suggested a second Nature’s Peace for the PDR, a “Sol”ed Tal’s Armor, and ~40 integer PDR (to nullify the viper’s poison cloud damage) for those dedicated to Destruction Key runs.

Key Running: [7.79] Overall, very good at the task and definitely capable of all three runs.

Pindle: 9, 10, 7, 10 [9] Like most builds that get to Pindleskin, a Blova can run him just fine. However, Barbarians and pure Blizz sorceresses can pack more MF while killing just as fast or faster. The advantage of being able to take down CI Pindle, as well, does help to alleviate that difference some.

LCS shots of Nihlathak/Pindle runs: Blizz, Nova, Glacial Spike, Ice Blast

Andariel: 8, 8, 8, 8 [8] Very good at running her, but much slower than a sorc with a powerful Fireball or a synergized Blizzard.

Mephisto: 9, 9, 8, 8 [8.5] Solid power with a decent backup to deal with nearby vampires if necessary makes this a great runner for Meph. There are a few characters that can potentially perform better, but a Blova can do very well and keep your running options open for other targets at the same time. Other chars can pile on more MF and more power, but with nice enough charms to make up for the MF this is as good an option as any.

Pits: 9, 8, 6, N/A [7.67] Because of immunes, a Blova plays more like a Nova sorc with a Blizzard backup, but she’s still extremely capable. Griffon’s is very highly recommended for these runs, with Nova being the main attack, to ensure hit recovery and, thereby, assure safety. Rogues can spawn CI/LI, which can be annoying, and archers can spawn CI/LI, as well, which can be dangerous. Definitely a good Pit Runner candidate if you are lacking “Enigma,” though a switch to “Crescent Moon” might prove more beneficial to a Blova dedicated to this type of run.

AT: 9, 9, 9, 8 [8.75] Excellent runner. As with other targets, a pure Blizzard sorceress can pile on more MF with a little more power, but I think the ability to deal with most CIs raises the Blizz/Nova’s rating here. Swapping items for a greater emphasis on the cold damage half of the build is advisable for prolonged AT sessions.

Baal (p1/p8/p3): 9, 9, 10, 10 [9.5] A Blova handles these runs like a dream and two of the collaborators noted that this was the main reason they built this character. Clearing the throne shouldn’t be an issue. Look to take out ranged attackers (OK’s, Gloams, Witches, Vampires) first, then address the melee enemies. Wave two can be a bit tedious, with being poisoned forcing a retreat to town or an Antidote, but no dangers besides. For Baal, remember not to neglect Static and Ice Blast. One of the coauthors noted that this is perhaps the best non high rune dependent Baal runner in existence. That sentiment is supported in that several of our solo /p8 Baal times averaged right around 4 minutes a run. This is because the Blova sorc has a counter to the normally problematic monsters. For example, Gloams succumb to Blizzard and Dolls are kept at bay with Nova. Blizzard is great against tightly-packed minion waves and Nova is terrific against the second wave cold immunes. A coauthor proposed the notion that a Blova is second only to a Lightning Sorceress with “Infinity” as a level 99 runner and second to none in relation to balancing power, MF, and the ability to kill, as a Baal-running Magic Finder.

IX. Character Examples

The collaborators of this guide have included stat screenshots from each of their characters (all built in SP, so no access to Annihilus and Hellfire Torch) to give you a ballpark number of what you can expect out of your own Blova.

LCS numbers for BobTheBlizznova: Blizz, Nova.

LCS numbers for Sturnella_Magna: Blizz, Nova.

LCS numbers for Blova: Blizz, Nova, Ice Blast.

LCS numbers for Beacon: Blizz, Nova.

Here is also a YouTube VIDEO highlighting a Blova during a series of average MF runs.
*Quick video disclaimer- I’m traditionally a Druid player so if my sorc skills look somewhat subpar, it’s because they are. 😉

Here’s another VIDEO, this time from the perspective of maareek’s Blova sorceress fighting her way through a Baal run (complete with CI Lister).

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