Hello! First of all, notice that this guide is based upon my experiences playing with this build through the 1.10 beta patch, and I’m writing it to help those people willing to try the Hammerdin out for the first time, or having trouble playing with one in this patch. I’ve decided to post my progress through the game too, so you have something to compare yours to, I hope you enjoy this character as much as I do
Strength – enough for your gear if you already have it, but if you’re playing from scratch, it never hurts getting some more to give you a higher flexibility when choosing gear. For example, imagine you find an armor better than your current one, but because you’re only getting strength for your ideal gear, you can’t wear it. My paladin, for example, has around 165 base strength, but you probably can get by with less
Dexterity – you should be getting enough dexterity to reach a decent block rating with holy shield on, but I don’t suggest getting much extra dexterity, since you’ll eventually find a nice shield with good block. My paladin has around 125 base dexterity, I’d say that’s enough
Vitality – all your remaining points go there, you need as much life as you can get!
Energy – I’d suggest using no points in energy, since paladins only get 1.5 mana per energy point, and you’ll have enough mana with no points here. If you really feel your mana is too low, you can get some points here, but you might regret it later when you upgrade your gear
Blessed Hammer – the skill that gives the build its name, and your main (and probably only) attack. It has been enhanced in this patch, deals full magical damage and ignores the magic resistance from Undead and Demon monsters, which means it’ll hurt nearly every monster you find. 20 points here is a must
Concentration – this aura is the only one that enhances the damage from Blessed Hammer, another skill to max. 20 points here
Vigor – this ever useful aura is now a synergy for Blessed Hammer, and will increase the damage from it by quite a lot. 20 points here too
Blessed Aim – this is the second synergy for Blessed Hammer. I suggest getting 20 points in it for a pure Hammerdin, but if you wish to get a secondary attack, you can get by with less. 1-20 points
Holy Shield – this skill will really help you to get your block to 75%, and will give you a nice amount of defense. Getting it to around level 10 after +skill items is enough, but you can max it if you have enough spare points. 1-20 points
Charge – if you want a support skill, this one is your best bet. It deals a ton of damage in 1 hit, isn’t affected by IAS so using Concentration isn’t a problem, and has a common synergy with Blessed Hammer (Vigor), so you only need a decent weapon on switch to use it effectively. The problem is Charge is currently very buggy in the beta, that’s why I decided not to spend points in it, but it should be fixed in the final release. 1-20 points
Redemption – 1 point in this skill is a must, it’s extremely useful for a Hammerdin, and will allow you to keep up with the mana costs easily once you get it. 1 point
Meditation – This aura, as Redemption, is also very handy to recover your mana, specially in hard fights (such as the Ancients), and more party friendly. 1 point
Salvation – It can come handy if you’re short of resistances, but I don’t think they’re hard to get elsewhere for a paladin, so it’s more of a party aura. I did alright with no points in it, but you can choose to get 1 here. 0-1 points
Conversion –A few points here can get you some crowd control, and you’ll probably have an easier time surviving, specially in hardcore. Keep in mind you don’t need to score a successful hit to convert the monster, so you don’t need AR to use it. If you decide to go with conversion, 5 points here should be enough. 0-5 points
Keep in mind you need your gear to have some fast cast rate, +skills, and a decent amount of mana so you can go by with no points in energy, and resistances are extremely necessary in this patch, so you should always try to find a setup that provides you with these things. This said, I’ll just give a brief rundown of the useful items, and suggest a few top items that I thought would be useful looking at the new items
Good choices here early on would be helms with +skills and/or mana, for example Tarnhelm, Lore (OrtSol), Peasant Crown, or a rare circlet. Your top choice here probably remains the Harlequin Crest, for obvious reasons, and a few of the new uniques (such as the circlets or the Crown of the Ages). The attract on the Delirium runeword (LemIstIo), coupled with the +2 skills and vitality, also make for a good helm. Since my paladin is more or less dedicated to mf now, I’m using a 3 perfect topaz crown
Anything with +skills here will do, your ultimate goal would be a +2 paladin amulet with fast cast. Some of the unique amulets are also pretty nice, especially Mara’s and the Seraph Hymn. If you come across an amulet with teleport charges, it comes very handy for mf runs
You should really get some armor with fast cast and/or +skills, and TalEth is a great starting armor. For top end choices, the easier to find is the Vipermagi or the Que-Hegan’s, but the best armor for this build is probably the Enigma runeword (JahIthBer)
There are quite a few very nice choices, I started with a Sander’s wand (an Spectral Shard would also be nice), and had enough luck to find a Wizardspike later. The Suicide Branch would also be nice, if you manage to find one. Once again, a runeword might look as one of the best (if not the best) option, the Heart of the Oak (KoVexPulThul) in a Flail, since it won’t work in scepters, but the runes are hard to come by
Rare shields can be quite good, especially paladin ones, resistances and block should be your main concern here. The best shield around is still the Herald of Zakarum for Hammerdins, but other nice shields would be the Sanctuary (KoKoMal) runeword, Blackoak, Stormshield or even the unique Aegis (Medusa’s Gaze) if you can find one
You can get pretty nice rare rings, with mana, fast cast, resistances, stats… From the unique ones, those that look more useful would be the Stone of Jordan, the Bul-Kathos Wedding Band, and the Ravenfrost
Few choices here, I would try to craft a caster belt early on, and hold to it until you find a good unique or set one, such as Trang’s Belt, Tal’s Belt, Thundergod’s Vigor, Gloom’s Trap, Nightsmoke, Arachnid Mesh or Verdugo’s Hearty Cord
One of the best options would be getting some rare gloves, good mods to have on them would be mana, resistances, strength or dexterity. From the unique ones, Magefist are good for the fast cast, Chanceguards are nice (more mf never hurts), Frostburns can help if you’re low on mana, and Hellmouths are useful against fire damage. There are some pretty nice set gloves too, such as Trang Oul’s gloves, or Immortal King’s gloves
Rares are again nice choices, and from the unique and set ones the ones worth mentioning are Waterwalks, Silkweaves, Marrowwalk, Aldur’s and Sander’s boots
Well, charms are a good place to get things lacking from your gear, such as fast hit recovery, mana, life or resistances. Ideal ones would be +1 combat paladin charms, to increase your damage
Now that the equipment and skill choices are more or less clear, let’s get to the important thing, shall we?
I played in normal with the /players 5 option, as it is a good balance between experience, drops and the time it takes to kill the monsters in my opinion. Since both Blessed Hammer and Concentration are level 18 skills, you’ll be forced to start as a plain melee paladin, so try looking for a decent weapon early on. You shouldn’t have many problems in normal, except for some ranged attackers, and a few of the bosses. A good level to finish act 1 normal would be around level 18, after getting Concentration. I suggest saving your points, spending only in prerequisites of Holy Shield, Blessed Hammer and Concentration, until level 18, and getting points in both at the same time while you can from there.
You’ll probably have a hard time using Blessed Hammer effectively until level 30 (when you’ll probably be in act 4, or late act 3), when you get Redemption, so until then you’ll still have to rely on your melee weapon, and save Blessed Hammer for especially hard enemies, such as the end act bosses, or times when you get surrounded for example. A mercenary will prove very useful this early on, I decided to use a Defiance mercenary from act 2, until I could get a Holy Freeze one from Nightmare.
Once you start using Blessed Hammer as your main attack, you’ll notice it is hard to aim at first, and difficult to use in close places, such as the maggot’s lair, or the Worldstone keep. I’d suggest getting used to the spiral pattern of the hammers, they’re always released from the same spot, more or less at the 9:30-10:00 mark. This is key for killing ranged attackers, since most of them will stay away from your hammers, and you’ll be forced to get very close to them (charge works nicely for this) and kill them with a point-blank hammer. Try to go always for the ranged attackers first, since they are the most dangerous ones usually. Code46 further tested with the hammers, and noticed that if you get really close to an enemy, and it’s directly to the left, below, to the right, or directly above you, your hammers will hit it.
The hardest place in the whole game for a Hammerdin is the maggot’s lair, since it’s very hard to even release hammers properly there. You can still hit enemies if you encounter them to the right of your character, once at a time, but you’re out of luck if they are to the left. To go through this place, I suggest relying in your mercenary to kill the enemies out of your hammer’s reach, or using your secondary attack if it deals enough damage
Another tactic that works nicely against some ranged attackers (mainly Black Souls), and against melee attackers, is making a hammer field and then retreating, forcing them to go after you and probably dying when they go through the hammers. You’ll notice that another monster that is much more dangerous now is the Balrog, with its enhanced Inferno attack. Since you’re bound to face at least two unique Balrogs (in the seal in act 4 and one of Baal’s minions in act 5), and they can be a real pain, I suggest engaging them in an open area (Baal’s chamber or the central part of the Chaos Sanctuary). Try to have them always at your right, since most of them will get hit by the hammers then. I’ve found that what works best against them (and against Lister and his minions) is releasing a hammer field before they are out, and when they get close on you wait until they start to attack, and then walking two steps back and casting more hammers until they are too close again. Lister is tougher, and you may be forced to park them outside Baal’s Chamber if you can’t kill him, that’s why it’s good cleaning the entrance to it and not just skipping the monsters there. Act 5 Vipers are worth mentioning too, since they have a very dangerous ranged and melee attack (Bone Spear and Charge), try getting as close to them as possible so they can’t use any of them, and hammer away.
The biggest challenge you’ll find in the whole game are probably the ancients, especially in Hell. Try to get some potions scattered all over the Summit before fighting them, because they’re very tough and can take quite a beating before dying. Mana potions are a must here, I got killed once when there was only one of them left because I ran out of mana. Keep in mind that you can re-spawn them by casting a town portal if they spawn with dangerous mods (extra fast, aura enchanted, lightning enchanted, mana burn or cursed come to mind), and that it might take a few tries to kill them, so if you’re close to level up it might be wise leveling before getting here. A mercenary is useful here, especially a Holy Freeze one, though he’ll probably die sooner than you’d like to. The tactic that works better here is the same one applicable to Lister or the Balrogs, casting hammers while they are far away, and keeping your distance with them (Vigor is quite useful for that)
With the hardest monsters already covered, it’s time for the act bosses. While they are all hard in one way or another, Blessed Hammer is generally very useful against them, remember to buy a few mana potions from vendors so you don’t run out of mana while fighting them. Andariel shouldn’t give you any problems if you have a few antidote potions in your belt, you can safely tank her and cast point-blank hammers until she dies. Duriel is hard for a melee character, due to Holy Freeze, but since it doesn’t slow casting speed, it won’t be such a pain for you. His charge can be dangerous, so you should dodge his initial one, get yourself to a good position to hit him with hammers, and just tank him (if you can’t, running around the run releasing hammers from time to time will eventually have the same effect). The same applies to Mephisto, once you are close to him he won’t be able to use his cold ball, his most dangerous attack, and should be easy to kill with hammers. Diablo can be hard, but I suggest tanking him too if you’ve got nice resistances and block, since his pink lightning attack barely hurts when you’re very close, and you only have to worry about his ground fire attack.
In my opinion, the hardest one for you is Baal. He has massive hit points, especially in Hell, and his attacks are quite annoying. Try to keep as close to him as possible, so he doesn’t use his mana draining attack, but considering he can teleport and has the nasty habit of releasing his cold wave to get you back, you’ll probably be seeing it a lot still. His cold attack can be dangerous if your cold resistance isn’t very good, so try to have at least 50% cold resistance when engaging him. If he feels like duplicating himself, you’re in for major trouble, since your mana will be drained out very frequently. I’ve found that sometimes making a town portal to town and coming back makes the fake Baal disappear, but this doesn’t always work. His tentacles can hurt you if there are many around, but the hammers will probably kill most of them, so they’re not very hard. Good luck with him!
Once again, I can’t stress enough the importance of resistances, especially in Hell. For all of you playing from scratch, I’d suggest using a 4 perfect diamond paladin shield if your resistances aren’t good enough, or you’ll find yourself dying a lot more than you’d wish. A nice block rate is nice to have, but resistances are more important!
As for leveling, I killed Baal in Normal at level 40. You can probably get to level 45 running Baal in Normal without much effort, and you should do so if you’re having a very hard time in Nightmare, but it isn’t really needed. What I do suggest is running Baal in Nightmare until you get level 75 or 76, since his drops are pretty good (including some elite items) and the difficulty increase from Nightmare to Hell is very noticeable, you’ll need all the life and Blessed Hammer damage you can get. I managed to play through Nightmare with /players 5 on until I got to the ancients, and then I was forced to step down to /players 1, and keep it that way through Hell (it’s already hard enough that way!). Just for the record, I finished Hell at level 81, and I’ve been running Baal for items since then, my paladin is level 87 right now and has already found a few elite uniques with around 150% magic find in my gear.
I’d like to thank everyone in the paladin forum for asking me to write again until I did it, it’s because of them you’re reading this one now. I hope you’ve found it useful, and if you feel something is missing, or I haven’t been clear enough in someplace, feedback is always appreciated
Special thanks go to Nacaa, Mack, Any1, Wurmer, Baranor, Zarkano, Alainpp66, Code46 and all the good people from the ETF (Frigya, Xora, Mort, Los, Fercil, Ben, BB, Az, DOC and many others I’m forgetting) and the Paladin forum that have endured my talk about 1.10, my paladin and my finds with amazing patience, keep it up!