Diablo 2 Druid Fire to Wind Starter Guide

Diablo 2 Druid Fire to Wind Starter Guide

Introduction

This Diablo 2 Druid Fire to Wind guide gives an overview of the key details on the core builds; explains the progression from Fire to Wind; and offers thoughts on gear for each stage and end-game options.  Big thanks to art_vandelay who pulled together much of the content and details before I stepped in to finalize the Guide.

Druids offer three main play styles: Shapeshifter (physical melee), Elemental (caster), and Summoner (often with bow).  The first two each offer two very different experiences (Wolf/Bear and Fire/Wind, respectively).  Grizzly is a sturdy summonable tank for any build, even with 1 point.

Shapeshifters can be very solid and fun to play, but they generally need a high damage and fast attacking weapon to shine.  This makes them tough as a starter build.  Instead, as a starter Druid build, this guide focuses on Elemental skills, recommending progression as a pure Fire Druid until respecing to a Wind Druid in late NM when Fire Immunes (FIs) start showing up in numbers.

Druid is probably one of the more challenging Classes to start out, along with Barbarian.  But this build approach is plenty powerful, if requiring a bit more patience than some of the other Classes due to the mechanics of the skills and solution for immune or high-immune monsters to the main skill in each phase of the build.

Diablo 2 Druid Fire to Wind Build Overview

The approach is to play as a Fissure Druid until around Act 4 NM (when FIs start showing up) and then switch to Wind Druid.  The main advantages of this choice are:

  • Easy to gear with cheap stuff, think “Leaf” runeword.
  • Fissure is powerful all the way to act 4 NM, and Volcano, Grizzly and merc can more than sort the stray FI that shows up before that.
  • As a result, there will be few immunes in both halves of the playthrough, because Hurricane’s cold damage helps sort out any Physical Immunes (PIs) once the switch is made to Windy build.
  • Strong summon in the Grizzly.
  • Mana cost on the skills used is fixed and easily affordable with the help of Tir runes before Insight becomes available. And even without Insight, it’s not a problem to manage mana with +mana per kill items and pots.

The challenges, however, are real and not to be minimized:

  • Defensive measures can disappear at a moment’s notice (Oak Sage, Cyclone Armor) and thus need careful attention if relying on them (especially Cyclone Armor with low innate resists).
  • Cast delay on fire skills is frustrating. I get Fissure, but Firestorm?  Really?!?  Sorc can spam her focused attacks without delay.   And 4 seconds for Volcano?!?  I still don’t understand what the developers were thinking.
  • Tornado can be irritating with its seemingly random path. It requires you to stand directly next to a monster to always hit.  This can be dangerous.
  • Fissure can also be frustrating against stationary monsters.
  • Wind means PIs are the challenge, and some of those also have mana burn (Ghosts), and some areas are quite frustrating with lots of PIs in narrow areas (Maggot Lair/Arcane Sanctuary).

Stats

Pretty straight-forward in my view, but I also don’t advise worrying about block (unless in HC and then only with high innate block chance shield).

Stats – Target Values

For the core build, this is straightforward:

  • Strength: minimum necessary to equip gear (possible end-game could theoretically be 48 for Broad Sword or 43 for Crystal sword if using Spirit and have other low-stat items; 156 if a Spirit Monarch is on the menu)
  • Dexterity: minimum necessary to equip gear
  • Vita: all extra points here
  • Energy: none

I am generally not a fan of blocking, especially with Druid’s dreadfully slow block speed that can really slow down the damage he dishes out if block is successful.  Even though the return to investment on Vita is lowest possible, max Vita is still the best option to avoid block-lock, especially if Faster Hit Recovery is reasonable.

Stats – Progression

A great resource for new players is this guide by HC_Gunther (and the one linked in it by jiansonz) about untwinked, single-pass tournament playthroughs.  It highlights stat approach to allow early focus on MFing.  For anyone playing a first D2 character, this is an invaluable resource to build up some early gear and make progress smooth.  Even if this is not the first character, this is still a great resource for tips and ideas of solid gear for Normal and into Nightmare.  It makes the early progress easier, and even if the playthrough isn’t single pass (not rerunning areas), there is great info there.

Other Stats – Faster Hit Recovery

There are other stats that can be improved by gear (i.e., stat points can’t impact these, or only do so indirectly).

For the Druid, especially when converting to Windy, Faster Hit Recovery is key because he will often be in the face of enemies.  There is something called stun lock, where successive physical enemy attacks put the character into hit recovery so they can’t move, and gets hit again, etc.  Faster Hit Recovery (FHR) reduces the duration of the “hit recovery” animation, allowing the character to get moving (or attack) quicker. I always aim for the 86% breakpoint, especially moving into later Nightmare difficulty where enemies start hitting harder (99% if one-hand swinging weapon is less realistic unless twinked or late level).  That is generally doable with charms and items (Shael in armor gives 20% FHR), but I think 56% should be the minimum to aim for.

Note: Resists aren’t as important due to Cyclone Armor’s resist absorb, but still necessary in Normal and NM while Fire build and useful even for a Windy if Cyclone Armor gives out.

Skills

Fire Build (Normal and Early Nightmare)

The first 10 points go into Firestorm, then 1 in Molten Boulder at level 11 and from then on all in Fissure followed by maxing Firestorm. Once Firestorm and Fissure are maxed out you put your remaining points into Volcano for even more Fissure damage.

A word on Oak Sage and Grizzly:

  • Once available, a point can be put in Oak Sage, to give a solid life boost when it’s alive. But that’s the problem: keeping it alive at one point.
  • Personally, I would skip it and consider instead sinking points into Grizzly even though it slightly weakens the fire skills (due to needing prerequisite skills. Grizzly is that nice to have to take the heat off the Merc in my experience.
  • But a pure fire Druid can do just fine through Normal without any summons, and then decide whether another tank (this one castable) makes Grizzly worth having if the fire skills feel strong enough, or extra life would be handy, even if it means recasting Oak regularly.

Core skills:

  • Fissure: An area of effect attack that opens holes in the earth from which fire damage emerge. As enemies move through the fire field, they take high fire damage, and it can devastate packs that aren’t FI.  Casting delay is a drag (2 seconds), but the Druid can do other things like recast Grizzly or Sage or reposition between casts.
  • Firestorm: On left click, very nice to push fire damage into enemies at close range. It makes three twisting streams of fire/molten earth in the direction the Druid is facing.  Because Fissure isn’t as strong against Act Bosses, this skill is handy if the Druid can tank the Boss.
  • Volcano: Provides physical damage and fire damage from Volcano cast beneath the target, with radius around the Volcano taking damage.  Per the skill write up: “Targets in the radius of effect from the Volcano take fire damage per second, but if they get hit or not is largely random. One monster can die immediately while another could last the entire Volcano with only minor damage. Where the little fireballs land has nothing to do with which monsters take damage; the graphical effects are just eye candy.”  It’s a solid backup to help with dealing physical damage but, as noted, the 4-second casting delay limits how much help it can provide.

Windy Build (Late Nightmare and Hell)

Assume we are around level 55 when hitting Act 4 NM. That means 62 skill points including all the quest rewards so far. Seven of those go into Grizzly and its prerequisites as well as the mandatory point into Arctic Blast and Twister. Then we max out Tornado which means we have about 35 remaining points.

There are two choices.  First, distribute evenly between Cyclone Armor (CA) and Hurricane. Both serve as a Synergy to Tornado and Cyclone Armor will be part of our defensive setup. At the same time Hurricane starts out at a 12 second duration which grows by two seconds for each point into Cyclone Armor. Because we are lazy and don’t want to recast Hurricane every 12 seconds, we invest into both skills evenly.  Second, sink all points into maxing CA with a point into Hurricane.  This makes for weaker Hurricane (cold damage), but it’s generally not necessary to deal with PIs yet.  And maxed CA means resist don’t need to be prioritized on gear, which is helpful when entering Hell.

Once both are maxed we either go Oaksage for more life or Twister for more damage, depending on how safe/powerful you feel at the moment.  There will essentially be no spare points. Since we can’t cast any elemental spell (except for Armageddon) while in Wereform that means the entire Shapeshifting tree is off limits. The vine summons are very weak and not worth the time investment needed to maintain them. The spirits after Oak Sage do not benefit us at all.

Core skills:

SkillNotesIcon
TornadoSends a cyclone out from the Druid (erratically) dealing large physical damage when fully synergized. As noted, its path is unpredictable, but it generally goes out in a “cone” 45 degrees on either side from where Druid is pointed.  By right-clicking behind enemies and moving the cursor back and forth, the aiming issue is less important.  And he can also run up and cast in the face of enemies to avoid erratic path and mostly guarantee hittingTornado
HurricaneCreates a circle of cold damage around the Druid. It’s not really worth casting until CA synergy to increase the timer is relatively high.  With other synergies, it deals a critical second damage type for PIs (and to whittle down non-CI mobs).Hurricane
Cyclone ArmorAbsorbs elemental damage, but not poison. It also doesn’t help with projectiles that have physical component, so beware quill rats and skeleton archers!  But it makes resists other than poison largely beside the point when the skills are maxed. And poison can usually be managed with pots or potions.Cyclone Armor
Summon GrizzlyRecastable tank. Even with 1 point, it is quite sturdy and critical to keep heat off the merc and occupy monsters as the Druid casts his Tornados.  One draw-back, is that it’s attack has knockback, which can push monsters out of face-tanking range for casting Tornados.  But well worth the tradeoff.Summon Grizzly
Oak SageOak Sage: Adds life the party, but is super-fragile. I’ve gone back-and-forth about whether it’s worth it, compared to buffed Grizzly.  But it is for questing, even if it needs recasting regularly.Oak Sage

 

Gear Recommendations

I’ve broken gear approach down by untwinked playthrough and higher-end/twinked gear.

Untwinked

There isn’t a lot to be said beyond the approach laid out in the HC tourney single pass guide.  Drops will be what they will be.  But the focus should be items that give MF, resists and + skills, and thinking about Tirs in weapon and other open sockets as needed for mana per kill.  The Leaf runeword is also great for +3 fire skills, even at expense of shield and resists.

Another option with the Druid, however, is to deprioritize MF and instead focus on powering up the attacks and mobility.  As noted, one plus to this Druid build/progression is that it is reasonably powerful with pretty basic gear that you can expect to find on the playthrough, especially if doing some limited rerunning of areas/targets.  Under this approach:

Fire Build

  • Weapon: (1-12) Anything will do; (13-18) Weapon with Tir Runes as available; (19-respec) Leaf Runeword
  • Shield: Nothing after Leaf
  • Armor: (1-16) Armor socketed with Rubies/Sapphires; (17-respec) Stealth Runeword
  • Helm: (1-18) Helm socketed with Rubies/Sapphires; (19-?) Helm with two Ral Runes; (?-respec) Lore Runeword (preferably in a +Fissure pelt)
  • Gloves/Belt/Boots/Jewelry/Charms: Anything with Resistances, Life, Mana, Faster Hit Recovery or Faster Run/Walk

Windy Build

  • Weapon: Spirit Runeword or Weapon with Tir Runes
  • Shield: Rhyme Runeword (Block Option), Splendor Runeword (poor man’s damage setup), Ancient’s Pledge Runeword/3 PDiamond shield (resists), or Spirit if you are lucky enough to find or cube a 4os Monarch.
  • Armor: Stealth Runeword or Smoke Runeword (Lum rune should be manageable).
  • Helm: Lore Runeword (preferably in a +Tornado pelt)
  • Gloves/Belt/Boots/Jewelry: Same as for fire.
  • Charms: Same as for fire, additionally Skillers.

If you’re lucky you might find one of these Uniques and Set items along the way.  All are reasonably possible to drop, so it’s likely to find at least some of these, especially if doing some limited rerunning and/or going for a higher MF approach:

  • Bloodfist (Heavy Gloves): +40 to Life/+30% Faster Hit Recovery. Very solid choice for gloves and not too rare.
  • Magefist (Light Gauntlets)/Trang-Oul’s Claws (Heavy Bracers): The only two FCR gloves in the game. Magefist gives mana regeneration while TO’s has +30% to cold resistance.
  • Nightsmoke (Belt): +10% to all resistances, +20 to Mana and +50% Damage Taken Goes to Mana. Especially useful for the Wind Druid who has to get up close and personal to do damage (up’ed via cube recipe to get 4 slots per row).
  • Sander’s Riprap (Heavy Boots): +40% Faster Run/Walk. Only has one useful stat but can drop quite early.
  • Natalya’s Soul (Mesh Boots): +40% Faster Run/Walk and +15-25% Cold and Lightning Resistance. Better than Sander’s but can still be outclassed by rares later on.
  • Peasant Crown (War Hat): Similar to the Lore Runeword, it essentially trades Lore’s Lightning Resistance for more Life/Mana as well as 15% Faster Run/Walk. Definitely better than Lore if socketed with an Ort Rune however it is questionable if this unique is worth a socket quest.
  • Lidless Wall (Grim Shield): +1 to all Skills, +10% to Maximum Mana, +20% Faster Cast Rate, +(3-5) Mana per Kill, +10 Energy. Essentially a better version of Splendor without the Magic Find.
  • Wall of the Eyeless (Bone Shield): +5 Mana per Kill, +20% Faster Cast Rate and +20% Poison Resist. Can be quite useful and serve the same purpose as a shield with Tir Runes (albeit at a lower return per kill)
  • Skin of the Vipermagi (Serpentskin Armor): +1 to all Skills, +30% Faster Cast Rate, +(9-13) Magic Damage Reduce, +(20-35)% to all Resistances. Arguably the second-best armor for a Wind Druid (behind Enigma) and absolutely socket worthy.
  • Wizardspike (Bone Knife): +50% Faster Cast Rate, +15% Mana Regeneration, +15% to Maximum Mana, +2 Mana per level and +75% to all Resistances. This is the best weapon for a Wind Druid that is not a Runeword.
  • Suicide Branch (Burnt Wand): FCR and + skill
  • Spectral Shard (Blade): Resists and FCR
  • Harlequin Crest (Shako): Probably the end-game option for Windy, and worthy of a socket, due to +skills, MF, and +life/mana
  • Jalal’s Mane (Totemic Mask): Another solid helm due to +skills, FHR, resists and stats. I think it’s socket-worthy if moving into later hell and another option hasn’t dropped.
  • Magic/rare pelt and circlet: It’s worth picking up all of these once into mid-NM, as +skills and staff mods on pelts and FCR/skills on circlets can be quite nice.

One runeword needs to be mentioned as well:

  • Lawbringer Runeword (Amn Lem Ko): This runeword can be made in Scepters, Hammers and Swords with 3os and among other things sports a level (16-18) Sanctuary Aura when equipped. Testing has confirmed the ignore undead monster physical resist works on Druid if he wields it, which allows him to deal with some of the more challenging PIs (Ghosts). And the undead knockback is very handy to keep those monsters at bay.

Twinked

Many of the above options are nice to be able to equip if twinking.  But below are what are probably the optimal gear for a Windy (focused on end-game for Hell and possible leveling/running areas).

A lot of these options will not be available for anyone starting out, even if they’ve played a few characters through first.  The above options are all quite solid for taking this character through the game, so no need to delay playing until the optimal end-game gear is available.

  • Weapon: Heart of the Oak (+3 skills, FCR, resists, stats); Lawbringer if running undead areas
  • Shield: Spirit (+skills, FCR, FHR, mana)
  • Switch: Call to Arms makes Oak less needed to rely on
  • Helm: Harlequin Crest (+2 skills and major boost to mana and life pools, with MF as a bonus); +skills Druid circlet/pelt with other nice mods
  • Armor: Skin of the Vipermagi (as noted, worthy of socketing); Enigma is end-game option for leveling due to easy repositioning through teleport
  • Amulet: Mara’s Kaleidoscope (+2 Skills and resists); Rare/Magic/Caster Craft (+skills, FCR, resists, stats)
  • Boots: Silk Weave (+ mana per kill); Rare; Sandstorm Trek (massive poison resist, FHR, stats); Aldur’s (big life boost, FRW, fire resists)
  • Belt: Arachnid Mesh (+1 skill and FCR); Rare with FHR and stats; Goldwrap up’ed for fourth row of potions and MF
  • Gloves: Magefist/Trang’s if needed to hit 99 FCR breakpoint; Bloodfist (FHR, life)
  • Rings: Stone of Jordan; Bul Kathos Wedding Band; FCR ring if needed for 99 FCR breakpoint
  • Charms: Natural GCs; resist GC/SC with vita/FHR; mana, especially if merc has Reaper’s Toll

Mercenary

Merc Choice

A5 is a solid choice for Windy if a Lem has dropped (for Lawbringer).  That said, I had trouble keeping him alive due to low damage and limited leech, and the Lawbringer is helpful only if he’s alive to cast Decrepify.  In fairness, my attempt has a single-tree build, so I didn’t have Grizzly to help tank.

Aside from that, A2 is clear choice.  Nightmare Offensive for the Might aura is nice to give the Merc more damage and better leech (and I guess more damage to the Grizzly but he’s not really doing key physical damage).  Might is useless for the Druid though.  Holy Freeze or Defiance are solid choices for defensive purposes.

Mercenary Gear

A1 Rogue merc with chipped gems in 3os bow is useful backup to start out, especially rubies and emeralds, or any Envy jewels that happen to drop.  If Countess is re-run, Tal runes really up the poison damage (Ral will go to Leaf).

But early game is generally driven by the Savage Polearm Recipe (using any type of diamonds) for A2 merc, hoping for a Partizan that can be rerolled with chipped gem recipe to get 2 open sockets that can accommodate -15% requirements jewels that have hopefully dropped.  With some + strength gear, he can often equip such a weapon when the weapon becomes equip-able based on the Merc’s level.  Before that, a gambled Pike works well.

I often then keep rolling Savage Polearms, hoping for a second Partizan to be equipped when the Merc gets enough strength to use without -15% requirements jewels, for a further damage boost. I don’t find that the other gear matters much, but a circlet with life leech (gambled) is helpful, or armor/helm needed to hit strength requirements.

Next, keep an eye out for a Partizan (or any polearm) in Act V Normal or early NM.  Between ilvl 26 and 40, they can roll no more than 4 sockets, which allows Insight for a major damage boost over Savage Partizan.  Mana regen is nice from the Meditation Aura, but the damage boost is really what we’re after to help the Merc’s tanking and leeching.

As we move to endgame, an elite polearm Insight will be hard to beat, especially if ethereal, unless Reaper’s Toll is available (with Decrep proc).  As noted, an A5 merc with Lawbringer is also worth keeping in mind for the Decrep that ups Tornado’s power.   But he may be squishy due to low damage (even in elite sword).

For armor, Treachery is a great, relatively cheap option along with Duriel’s Shell (IAS from Treachery increasing odds of Decrep proc, and Cannot Be Frozen helping with the same).  For helm, Guillaume’s Face is solid for Crushing Blow and Vampire’s Gaze is great for life leech and damage reduction.  Andariel’s Visage is probably end-game for +skills and increased attack speed, and -fire resist manageable at the higher levels needed to equip it, especially if paired with Infinity.

Gameplay

Below are some high-level notes on progressing through the game, based on the suggestions above about stats, skills and gear (focus on non-MF approach and fastest playthrough option).

(1-12) Stand on weak enemies casting Firestorm but kite dangerous enemies such as Rakanishu and Treehead Woodfist. Buy a “Mana per Kill” weapon early on to help out with mana upkeep. Reserve 10 strength so you can equip a belt which you can gamble from Gheed at level 8. Always keep diamonds of any quality!

(12-17) At level 12 you get Fissure which can be used to full effect by kiting enemies. You should stay in act 1 and run the countess until you are level 17. You are looking for: LeafTir Ral; StealthTal Eth

(18-24) Quest through act 2. Here you can cube Savage Polearms with the Diamonds you saved and give the best one to your merc. In the Arcane Sanctuary Fissure tends to not work properly. That means you will have to rely on your Mercenary and Firestorm. Also, it helps to explore the AS in this order to minimize your pain: Straight – Teleport Pads – Stairs – MC Escher. (Note: This won’t mean you find the Summoner any faster, it just means that you always try to go the path of least resistance). The Maggot Lair is similar in that Fissure has a hard time in the narrow Tunnels but works fine in open rooms. Here you can use Firestorm in the Tunnels.  Duriel should be kited, it helps to have Stealth and Faster Run/Walk boots so you can outrun him while casting Fissure ahead so he runs through the next Fissure field.

(25-26) Quest through act 3. The best way to fight Mephisto is to keep him moving at all times, pulling him over your fissures in the process (Firestorm and face tanking may also work in spurts with some trips to town). If you are not at least level 25 by now you should run Battlemaid Sarina in the Ruined Temple located in Kurast Bazaar.

(27-29) Quest through act 4. You will need a Mercenary to help you with the Grand Vizier since he is always Fire Immune! The killing speed is notably slower here because of Doom Knights which have a fire resistance of 80% in normal already. This will change in act 5.

(30-40) Quest through act 5 and level on Eldritch and maybe Pindle later on or Baal.

(41-55) Quest through acts 1 to 3 of Nightmare. This includes a stop to run the Countess in A1 (teleport staff is handy for this) for key runewords or runes for resists in armor:

(56-70ish) either run to RoF WP or respec upon arrival in A4 NM

  • Ditch the leaf and equip tir weapon/spirit with rhyme/splendor/ancient’s pledge and get used to your new skills.
  • In act 5 quest and level in diverse areas such as eldritch, HoA/HoP. can save ancient’s for last. use your grizzly to scout.

(Hell Difficulty):

  • Quest through, ignore physical immunes as much as possible and use grizzly to “park” them (i.e., cast grizzly on them, run away and then cast grizzly in front of you).
  • AS + Maggot lair: let your minions tank while hurricane slowly kills ghosts and itchies.
  • Duriel: keep him busy with the bear.
  • Mephisto: face tank him (moat trick is also an option, but aiming Tornados may be challenging)
  • Diablo: keep Cyclone Armor up, try to position so merc is on other side from Druid, and cast oak behind Merc; Lightning hose won’t do any damage while face tanking and Firestorm should be manageable with CA and drinking healing pot when that attack’s animation starts
  • Ancients: Try to split them up (de-summoning Grizzly and Oak can help), then take on no more than two at a time. Amp is nasty, so consider casting TP to reset if one is amp’ed, especially if not the last one.

Endgame

Windy Druids can farm pits quite well because there aren’t physical immunes. He can also do Pindle, and Lawbringer especially shines here due to breaking physical resists and knockback making for safe runs.

But Druids are painful for leveling into mid- to late-90s compared to other classes (says he who has a level 97 Untwinked 99er Druid). Windy is probably fastest option, but still . . .  Lister/Ventar runs are probably the best option for leveling from XP standpoint in early and mid 90s, but Pit runs may be more enjoyable especially due to ability to pack on MF.  I also did p1/p7 Chaos Sanctuary runs, switching to p7 for Vizier and Diablo, and have switched to Nihlathak runs for level 97 with better XP results than either CS or Baal.


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Rush

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This is a starter guide for someone new to the Druid class.

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