Why Mageazons? For me, creating the mageazon was something I chose to do because I was sick and tired of the usual builds. Lightning Fury amazons are too overpowered and tear through groups of non-Lightning Immune monsters with such speed that it puts even the best Whirlwinding barbarians to shame. Strafeazons and Multizons are both heavily equipment dependant, both in bow and their precious breakpoints. A mageazon is different. This is a girl you can take through the game pretty much untwinked. There are only a few really godly items for this build and they are all VERY common.
You mean I can build this myself?
Certainly. Even if you have never touched a bow before in your life, you too can experience the ecstasy of firing bolts or arrows that explode, explode and burn, or freeze hoards of monsters with the click of a button. Yes, you can do the same thing with a sorceress, but even though you can’t compete with their power, every shot you fire is dual damage: Fire/Cold AND physical. This gives you a distinct advantage that truly makes this build viable.
Don’t you need all kinds of great equipment?
Certainly not! There are a few desirable items that would really enhance her greatly, but none that are vital to your survival. Unlike Strafeazons who are dependant of the damage listed on their bow to strike down their foes or Lightning Fury Javazons who I have never seen without a set of Titan’s Revenge in their right hand, you could potentially go through the game with a Cracked Short Bow you found right out of the gate. Granted, it’s not advisable to do that, it can be done. This is because your arrows serve as a means of travel for less powerful versions of sorceress spells more than damaging items.
How do I build one of my very own?
Before we actually build one, let’s take a look at the different skills you are going to be using. Once you understand the skills themselves, you can better understand the mechanics of playing her.
Fire Arrow: This is a nice skill to open the game with. It’s fairly cheap mana-wise at early levels and gives a tidy boost of damage that is useful for dealing with those early superunique monsters, e.g. Corpsefire, Blood Raven, Coldcrow, Rakanishu, etc.
Exploding Arrow: This skill is basically like strapping a Fireball to your arrow. It deals splash damage over a small radius, enabling it to hit several monsters. It is quite useful for disposing of tightly packed archer groups. The thing that you have to remember about Exploding Arrow is that the listed damage on the skill tree is the amount of splash damage it does. This is where you get the illusion of strapping a Fireball to it. The explosion is independent of the arrow itself, meaning that the arrow need not hit the target to trigger the splash. However, % Chance to Cast on Striking modifiers do not apply, as the arrow itself did not hit. This is useful, as the splash is independent of your Attack Rating. See why the arrow is only a means of travel for the skill?
Immolation Arrow: This skill is quite similar to Exploding Arrow in that it deals splash damage. The major difference is that Immolation, like its name suggests, burns for a time. While Exploding Arrow is like the Fireball spell, this skill is more like Meteor. Be aware, though, that this skill has a one second cast delay. There are some ways to utilize this which will be covered more in the strategy section.
Cold Arrow: Very useful skill for most of Act One, even at level one. Chilling monsters is very handy when you don’t have anything to block their path other than your own body or some carefully selected bit of fence.
Ice Arrow: This is the more powerful cousin of Cold Arrow. This skill allows your arrow to freeze the target completely. Of course, the chill length often differs from the time listed in the skill tree. Chill times are affected by monster resistances. The base number listed is only applicable if the monster has 0 cold resist. Monsters like Ghoul Lords have a very high cold resist (which is why they are Immune to Cold in Hell,) so, even in Normal, they only remain frozen for a few frames. As well, chill times are cut in half in Nightmare and down to Ό of their listed time in Hell.
Freezing Arrow: This is the third and final splashing skill that the Amazon has. This skill is very powerful. If Exploding Arrow and Immolation Arrow are like Fireball and Meteor, respectively, then Freezing Arrow is the Glacial Spike of the Bow & Crossbow tree. As with the other two, Freezing Arrow is less Attack Rating dependant than most skills, but a decent level is necessary to maintain a shred of accuracy. The only drawback to this skill is that it eats mana like there’s no tomorrow. Many builds use this skill as a way to stop the enemy in their tracks, especially Strafeazons who suffer from Strafe Lock (when using Strafe, you become immobile, much like Zeal or Fury.)
Before I move onto the Passive and Magic tree, I must bring something to light. Freezing Arrow’s duration is fixed at 2 seconds. It can be raised by putting points into Ice Arrow, however, this is quite a waste, in my opinion. There’s something that many people don’t realize. Cold length stacks with itself. This means that if you have a charm in your inventory that adds X-Y cold damage (the duration of cold damage is actually a hidden stat on most items,) it will add to the duration of the Freezing Arrow. Some items are very good for this purpose. These will be covered further down.
Valkyrie: This is the ultimate tank. At first, she may not seem like much. Her AI is pathetic, she is slow and often gets lost, and she won’t attack what you want her to. The plus side of her is that, when she gets in front of you, she STAYS there. Her spear attack has been upgraded since .10 came out and her attack is faster than it used to be. She also gains various hidden bonuses, as well as gains all your synergies in the Passive and Magic tree. This is determined as thus (taken directly from the Arreat Summit):
resistances are equal to their level * 2, to a max of 85. So a level 10 Valkyrie will have +20 Resist All. Valkyries also get a hidden synergy bonus from Decoy, where every physical point in Decoy will add +2 Resist All. The whole formula comes out as = (Valkyrie level + Base Decoy Level ) * 2
The equipment that a Valkyrie is spawned with is based on her Magic Level, i.e. the ilvl that her equipment is spawned with, therefore denoting which mods can be spawned. The Magic Level of any Valkyrie is equal to a base of 25 at level 1, and increases by 3 for each level. So a level 15 Valkyrie will have a Magic Level of 25 + ( 14 * 3 ) = 67. The formula works out at Magic Level = 22 + (Valk Level * 3)
Valkyries receive a bonus of Dexterity of +12 per level. A level 12 Valkyrie will have 144 dexterity points. Valks gain bonuses of attack rating and defense much like any character, but this is not reflected in their skill description.
As you can see, it is very beneficial to have a Valkyrie fighting at your side. A word of caution, though. There is now a five second cast delay when you summon one. This also translates into Immolation Arrow, leaving you without it for offense. Keep this in mind during boss battles and do not be afraid to run if you get in over your head. Her life regeneration is very high and she can be ready to go from near death in just a few seconds.
Pierce: Another passive skill that is very beneficial to the mageazon. Pierce gives a chance for an arrow or bolt to pass through the enemy and continue on, making it quite good for dealing with packs of monsters. Some items have a modifier of Piercing Attack Those items stack with this skill, meaning you need fewer points into the skill itself. Not all items have the same percentage of pierce, though.
Here are some of the items and their piercing percentages:
Razortail (unique Sharkskin Belt): 33%
Stormstrike (unique Short Battle Bow): 25%
Ichorstring (unique Crossbow): 50%
Doomslinger (unique Repeating Crossbow): 33%
Kuko Shakaku (unique Cedar Bow): 50%
Buriza-Do Kyanon (unique Ballista): 100%
Demon Machine (unique Chu-Ko-Nu): 66%
Gut Siphon (unique Demon Crossbow): 33%
Note that most of these are crossbows. This is due to the nature of a crossbow. It is much more powerful than a bow. However, they are quite slow in most instances and require more investment into strength and dexterity than most mageazons can afford.
One Point Wonders:
Decoy: This skill WILL save your life more than once. With the slow speed of the Valk, you will want something you can spam ahead of you to scout for enemies. This allows you one such scout. Her life is yours +X% per level where X is the level of Decoy times ten. Decoy also gives a passive bonus of 20% more life to your Valk per level. It’s not bad to put a few spare points into by any means.
Slow Missiles: I just recently discovered the true joys of this skill. Upon casting, almost all enemies on your screen will fire javelins, arrows, or elemental bolts much slower than normal, allowing you to dodge them with ease. This is quite handy, as it also slows the bolts from Lightning Enchanted Bosses and the Scarabs of Act Two who spit lightning when you strike them. It is one of the few party friendly skills an Amazon has, as it will slow them for everyone on screen, regardless.
Now, we get into the meat and potatoes of the guide: building her. First, you should decide if you are going for a pure Mageazon or if you are going to make the hybrid known as a vamp. Vamps use mana leech to keep the blue orb full, while purists use as little/no mana leech as possible, relying on mana regeneration.
Once you decide how she is going to replenish her almighty mana pool, you can start placing points. Final skill placement for a basic Fire Mageazon would look something like this:
20 Immolation Arrow
20 Exploding Arrow
20 Fire Arrow
1 into all prerequisites
Build finished at Lvl 80-85
There is one fundamental flaw in this build, though. There is no way to deal with fire immunes. Sure, you could potentially start pumping Freezing Arrow like mad and pray for the best, but it’s not going to work that well.
However, you can hybridize this build some. This opens up a whole world of customization to you. A sample of this would be:
20 Immolation Arrow
10 Exploding Arrow
10 Fire Arrow
10 Freezing Arrow
10 Cold Arrow
1 into all prerequisites
Build finished at Lvl 80-85
Notice that, even though this build finishes out at the same time, the damage is more well-rounded. The customization looks like this: If you want to spend less mana on Freezing Arrow, put fewer points there and supplement it with Cold Arrow. The damage will be lower, but you will be able to send more out before you are depleted of mana. This goes back to the old question of Speed vs. Power.
Stat placement looks something like it would for any other spellcaster:
Str: enough to use your gear (~80 or so)
Dex: Enough to use your gear, plus the occasional pump for an Attack Rating boost. (~60-90, depending)
Vit: Vitality is life. If you are getting smacked around, put more here. About 100-120 should be sufficient for most people.
Energy: This is your most important stat, IMO. Just like any other spellcaster, you are worthless without mana. Everything you can spare goes here.
The next step would be item selection. If you are planning on going through the game untwinked, you can skip over this section. If you have someone that can spare a few midlevel items, then, by all means, read on.
Bows: Unlike most Amazon builds, the bow you get is not very dependant on attack speed and SHOULD NOT HAVE KNOCKBACK. I cannot stress that enough. It’s frustrating to have a monster knocked out of your Immolation fire because of a stupid modifier. Now, let’s look at the best bows you could get, most of which are cheap.
Kuko Shakaku is an excellent bow for its inherent pierce, +3 to all Bow and Crossbow skills, +3 to Immolation Arrow, and excellent fire damage built into the bow. All and all, a good bow through Nightmare, but with the high number of Fire Immunes in Hell you will want to upgrade some.
Another idea would be a Wizendraw, possibly upgraded. Now, it gains the ability to subtract from the enemy’s cold resist, much the way Cold Mastery does for a sorceress. It’s not that great, but still, a good bow.
Then there’s Witchwild String. Where to start high damage, Fires Magic Arrow (Lvl 20 no ammunition required,) 2% Chance to Cast Lvl 5 Amplify Damage on Striking, two sockets, 40% resists. This is a dream bow for most mageazons, but there are better out there.
Lycander’s Aim deserves special mention here, too. +2 to all Amazon skills, another +2 to Bow and Crossbow, mana leech, which is moot with a build like this unless you are going for the vamp, high damage inherent in the bow, and some other modifiers that are just gravy. It’s requirements are high, but I think that the skillers make up for it.
The bow I used and still love is the Skystrike. Low requirements, 1-250 lightning damage, +1 to all Amazon skills, and 2% Chance to Cast Lvl 6 Meteor on Striking. Compared to some other bows, this seems not nearly as desirable, but the lightning damage can help you take out some of the Fire Immunes.
Helms: Mostly, we’re treating mageazons like we would any other spellcaster. The best helms would be Harlequin Crest, Peasant Crown, Tal Rasha’s Horadric Crest (if you are going for a vamp sub class), Andariel’s Visage, or a rare circlet with + to Amazon skills, life, mana, resists, and any other mod you can get. However, this build can succeed with just a two socket helm that has a couple of Perfect Sapphires in it. An expensive solution can also be found in the runeword Delirium (Lem+Ist+Io). Just be cautious that you don’t get hit TOO often, as being turned into an Undead Flayer isn’t too fun.
Armor: Again, + to skill items are great, but not necessary. Some items to look for include Skin of the Vipermagi, The Spirit Shroud, Skullder’s Ire (if you plan on doing Magic Find runs with her, which is very viable,) Que-Hegan’s Wisdom, or even Silks of the Victor, if you want to take your strength that high. However, just like with helms, there is a cheap and easy solution. Eth runes in your armor for regeneration work well. The expensive options here are, again, runewords. Chains Of Honor (Dol+Um+Ber+Ist) and Enigma (Jah+Ith+Ber) are quite powerful in this capacity.
Gloves: There are many people who will say what they think the best gloves are. Most agree that M’avina’s gloves are the best because of the partial skill bonus that can increase your cold duration on your Freezing Arrow. However, this takes four pieces of a set that is quite hard to get together. The best alternative in their stead is Frostburns. They are quite cheap, boost your mana pool by 40%, and can tack on an extra two seconds of cold duration. Chance Guards are also applicable if you plan on doing any Magic Find runs with her.
Belt: Not much to say about the belt itself. The most elite belt you could get would be an Arachnid Mesh. The other, as mentioned before because of it’s inherent piercing ability, is Razortail. This belt is my favorite for any Amazon. However, unless you are going for Magic Find, almost any belt you find will suffice. If you do go for Magic Find, an upgraded Goldwrap is your best bet.
Boots: Not much to say here, either. War Travelers if you plan on doing Magic Find runs, but even they have requirements that are kinda high for this build. Silkweaves are a possible option, too, with their +10% to maximum mana.
Jewelry: There are a few things you really want to look for in the way of great jewelry. One would be Raven Frost, which gives a Dexterity bonus, Cannot Be Frozen, and an extra 4 seconds of cold duration. Your amulet choice should be The Eye of Etlich. You can get up to an extra ten (!) seconds of cold duration from it, +1 to skills, and life leech. The other ring slot can be filled in many ways, but one of the best options would have to be a Stone of Jordan. Even more mana, +1 to all skills, and some gravy mods make this your best choice. If you plan to go out for Magic Find, swap the rings out for a pair of Nagelrings and the amulet for a rare with more Magic Find (or not, the choice is yours.)
Your play style will be quite similar to that of a sorceress for a long time. Hit and run is the name of the game. Once you get your Valk and a nice mercenary (if you chose to get one. I’ll compare mercenaries below,) the game changes considerably. Usually, you want to move slowly, especially in tight corridors. Occasionally stop and set a Decoy ahead of you. If it starts to be attacked, or your mercenary goes forward and starts wailing on something, move in. If they try to run, hit them with a Freezing Arrow, then set an Immolation Arrow to burn under their feet. If they stand and fight, then just fill them full of Immolation Arrows until they drop. If the enemy is ranged, turn on slow missiles and dodge their fire while returning your own.
I cannot stress this enough: THIS IS NOT A LOW DAMAGE SORCERESS. This is a build that utilizes elemental damage over physical to fell her foes, much in the same way that a melee sorceress isn’t a low damage Barbarian or Paladin.
Now I come to the tricky part: Immunes. Fire Immunes are less of a problem than you think. A good level Freezing Arrow can stop them easily and, while the merc and Valk mop up (especially with Fallen camps,) you go for the bosses/shaman. Cold Immunes can be tricky, especially the Vampires. They like to run away a lot, meaning you have to back them in the corner. Physical Immunes are a pain in the butt, but are easily routed. The problem is that the biggest source of physical immunity, the Ghost family, seems to be impervious to Immolation Arrow when they stack on each other, meaning you can’t burn them all at the same time. While this isn’t a huge problem, it is an annoyance.
Quick Leveling Guide
Here is a sample leveling guide. While I don’t expect you to strictly adhere to what I say here, this gives a general outline of how you should spend your points.
2 Fire Arrow
3 Magic Arrow
4 Inner Sight
5 Critical Strike
Free (den) Fire Arrow
6 Cold Arrow
7 Multiple Shot
8 Fire Arrow
9 Fire Arrow
10 Fire Arrow
12 Exploding Arrow, Slow Missiles
14 Exploding Arrow
15 Exploding Arrow
Radamant Exploding Arrow
17 Exploding Arrow
18 Ice Arrow
20-23 Exploding Arrow
24 Decoy, Immolation Arrow, Evade
25-29 Immolation Arrow
31 Freezing Arrow
32-45 Immolation Arrow
At this point, you can customize your build by putting points where you want them. Most of the big issues have been taken care of at this point. Hopefully, this will help you through Normal and a big portion of Nightmare.
Now, we come to the all important piece at the end: the choice of mercenary. Let’s basically can the Act Three mercs. Their AI is worthless compared to the others. They think they can go into melee range with their spells. That leaves us with Rogues, Desert Warriors, and Barbarians. Toss the Barbs out the window right now. They like to use Bash. A lot. It has the nasty side effect of knockback, something that you are trying to avoid. The other two have their merits.
The Rogue has good AI and knows to stay out of the fray and can bolster your attack with more arrows. The drawback is that you will be competing for bows. If you have the equipment to spare for her, then this isn’t a problem.
The Desert Warriors all come with different auras. For starters, let’s throw out the Thorns merc. The object of the game is to avoid being hit. Might can go as well, since you won’t be dealing as much physical damage as you will magical. Blessed Aim is just lame, so it’s gone. This leaves Prayer, Defiance, and Holy Freeze. All three have merits. Prayer, while much less commonly used, can save your life at higher levels. The regen rate is very respectable. Defiance will up the defense of you, the merc, the Valk, and your Decoy. What more could you ask for? Holy Freeze is also a very viable option, as it will chill even Cold Immune monsters, making those cowardly Vampires a little easier to damage.
So there you have it. This is the end of the guide. I thank you for reading it.