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Diablo 2 Guide: The Ninja

Guide by: Frogboy -

The Frogboy’s Ten-Minute Guide to Ninjutsu or “You maxed out WHAT?!”

Ninja Assassin Introduction

Diablo 2 Guide: The Ninja

I am a lurker. I hide in the darkness, biding my time, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. I watch what happens around me with quiet calculation. When the time is right, I move with the swift and deadly accuracy of a viper. Thus, after reading all the standard build guides over and over again, I decided to try something…a little different.

If you are expecting a revelation of the next superpowered character build, you are sadly mistaken. A true Ninja is a challenge to play at higher levels. You will die. A lot. But do not be discouraged. You will have a blast getting killed. A lot.

This guide is the fruit of playing many boring cookie cutter builds. I got sick of Meteorbs and Hammerdins. I was inspired by Mongojerry’s unique take on underpowered builds, especially his revolutionary usage of the Barbarian’s taunt. I started thinking of some other little-used skills. Then I found C-Beat’s Dragon Talon guide, and a spark finally caught.

If you read the Assassin general FAQ you will find that many mods carry over onto kicks. What you may have missed is that those same mods carry onto the blade skills. So what do you get when you create a character with maxed Blade Fury, Dragon Talon, and Cloak of Shadows? Well, aside from a lot of laughs from your friends, you get a true Ninja.

This build was designed with a lot of room to spare for personal tastes. Treat it like a new recipe. There are only three main ingredients, everything else is “season to taste.”

Note: This is my first and probably only guide. If anything is incorrect, make a note of it, but don’t expect me to change it ;P

How to Build a Ninja


Strength – Around 200 with gear
This build has to be strong. Strength contributes directly to Blade Fury, Blade Shield, and Dragon Talon. You absolutely must wear Myrmidon Greaves. Upped Goreriders are 156, and Shadow Dancers are 167.

Dexterity – Enough to maintain 75 % Blocking
This depends entirely upon your gear. Attack rating is not very important with Cloak of Shadows active, but you have to be able to block. This usually needs to be around 150 with gear if you use a shield.

Vitality – Everything else
With hits in Hell topping 1000 Damage, you need all the life you can get. Damage reduction helps a lot here, as do resists.

Energy – Zilch
Dragon Talon costs 6 points. Blade Fury costs less than 4 Points per Blade. Use + Mana gear.


Martial Arts

Dragon Talon – 18-20 Points.
The Number of points here depends on your +Skills Items. You get one extra kick for each six points, so make sure you’re not wasting two extra skill points if it doesn’t give you an extra kick. The kicks are rapid-fire at 2 fps, and they all hit the same target. Throw in some Crushing Blow, and this gets scary.

Tiger Strike – 1 Point + Skills
Talk about a one-point wonder. At level one, three charges significantly boosts the damage on your initial kick with DT. Remember, that’s only the first kick, but this is still worth one point, especially if you have some +Skills involved.

Cobra Strike – 1 Point + Skills
Another amazing one-point skill. Mix three charges of Cobra Strike, three charges of Tiger Strike, and one maxed Dragon Talon, and your days of Leech gear are over.

That’s it for the Martial Arts tree. Simple, huh?

Shadow Disciplines

Claw Mastery – 1+ Points
This is where your extra points go. Blade fury takes its damage from your total weapon damage, in a manner of speaking, so anything that raises your base damage is very good. 1 point adds 30% extra damage. After that, the bonus is 10% per point and never tapers. However, at only a third the effectiveness in each spent point after the first, this skill can wait.

Psychic Hammer – 1 point (prerequisite)
You’ve got to be kidding me. Ninjas have mastered their bodies. Let the silly monks master their minds.

Burst of Speed – 1 Point + Skills
Ninjas must be fast. They must be able to run and hide. However, attack speed means next to nothing with Blade Fury and Dragon Talon. And with the diminishing returns on run speed, some good boots will get you where you need to be better than wasting skill points.

Cloak of Shadows – 20 Points
This is a very difficult skill to use. When you can run like the wind, it’s hard to hold back and let this skill work. However, at high levels, it is unbelievably fun. CoS can reduce an enemy’s defense almost to nothing. That is equivalent to an exponential Attack Rating boost. It means you can focus on damage in your gear and strength in your stats. It also provides a moderate defense bonus. It’s not as good as a defiance aura, but it’s a darn sight better than nothing.

Weapon Block – 10 Points
This one is tough. You really have two options here. Since mods from a secondary claw do not carry over to Blade Fury or Dragon Talon, you might want to use a shield since you can achieve a higher block and probably get some nice resists. The other side of this, though, is that weapon block faces no penalties for movement. With ten points in this skill, you’re only going to get hit half the time, period. Run all you want. If you do choose a shield, though, make sure you get one with high resists. My opinion? Simple. What Ninja ever used a shield?

Shadow Warrior – 1 point (prerequisite)
She’s good in normal, but not good enough to waste any points on.

Shadow Master – 1+ Points
Another tough call. She’s a great tank, but how many points? If you can cast her at Level 17 she gets all her shiny new equipment. It depends on your gear. I leave this one to personal taste.

Fade – 1 Point + Skills
For Emergency Use Only. if you’re using a shield or Jade Talon, then resists, so resists shouldn’t be too hard to come by. As for the Physical reduction, it’s too scant to make a difference. One Rockfleece is worth ten of these skill points and a lot easier to get.

Venom – ? points
Again, personal taste. This is a great skill to combine with Blade Fury, since its attacks are faster than venom’s duration. If you always play in a party and can get away with being a consistently ranged attacker, go for it. It’s not that great for solo play, however. The monsters come too fast.


Fire Blast – 1 point (prerequisite)
Honestly, a Master of Stealth throwing Molotov Cocktails?

Wake of Fire – 1 Point (prerequisite)
Still fuzzy on why a Ninja would want to illuminate a room and blow her cover.

Blade Sentinel – 1 Point (prerequisite)
This is a fun skill, but doesn’t do enough damage to be worthwhile.

Blade Fury – 20 Points
This is the Ninja’s weapon of choice. Yes, the direct damage is low. It is graded to generally make up for the lost damage on your claw. But don’t forget the ¾ weapon damage. This skill essentially puts you at a 6 fps attack with your melee weapon and almost all its bonuses. Yes, Crushing Blow transfers. Yes, Enhanced Damage transfers. Yes, Knockback works. Yes, Leech works. Yes, Chance to Cast Spells on Striking works. Oh, and did I mention she’s standing ten yards from her adversaries? Think about that. She’s like a Javazon throwing at 6 fps who never runs low on ammo.

Blade Shield – 1+ Points
Strictly speaking, this could be optional. Ideally, you’re rarely close enough for it to work. However, when you do need it, your leech gear will transfer. That mean monsters coming into your range are restoring your life and mana every second. Try 15-20% of 200+ damage per monster per second. Doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? Well, don’t get ahead of yourself. Leech is cut to 10% of your gear’s total in Hell. 20% = 2%. Doesn’t sound so great now, does it? This is a great skill in Nightmare, though, and it does look cool.

That about does it for skills. If you follow this plan, the build is essentially complete at 82 Skill points, or level 70. That leaves a lot of wiggle room for seasoning to taste. Go Knuts!

How to Play

General Strategy

This build is all about finesse. Remember, this is marginally a Role-Playing Game. So, play the role of a Master of Stealth. The main idea of this build is threefold:

1: Don’t get noticed.

2: Don’t get hit.

3: Hit hard and fast, then RUN!

We’ll take them in order. First, don’t get noticed. This build is the epitome of patience. You must go slowly! If you are swarmed, you have no crowd controls. That means no traps, no corpse explosions, no group knockback skills. A Ninja peeks around corners, makes a noise, and lures her prey to their death while their buddies are snoozing. Cloak of Shadows is essential. Unfortunately, its duration sucks! However, it is relatively cheap to cast, and is a lifesaver in many situations. The monster AI, however, must not be underestimated. Once they start after you, CoS does nothing until they are rerouted, usually through an attack. Which brings us to Point No. 2

Don’t get hit. If there is a better way to stay alive than not getting hit in the first place, I don’t know what it is. This is where Blade Fury comes into play. When the monsters see you and move to attack, you cast CoS and run. As they follow you they are separated and you begin firing Blades at them as fast as possible. Remember, Blade Fury’s speed is set at 6 Frames, or 4 blades per second, so IAS means diddly here. When the enemy is hit with a blade, their AI resets, and they begin to meander due to CoS. At this point, you have two options. You can continue to pelt them with blades, which almost always hit due to the defense modifier on CoS, or you can move on to point 3.

Hit hard and fast, then run! If the monster you are up against is particularly strong, or if it is unaffected by CoS (bosses, champions, etc.), your next move will be a decapitation strike. Make your way to the target, charging Tiger Strike and Cobra Strike on the way in. Use Dragon Talon on the big guy. Retreat. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Specific Tactics

This build is a little rough to play, partly because you never really know how hard you are hitting. Blade Fury has a casting animation, so there is a short delay anytime you release the mouse button. In order to get the most out of your 6 fps attack, you will need to stand back, stand still, and click on a place behind your target. Personal Note: Why in the hell Blizzard made Shift the default “stand still” key is beyond me. Right handed players should immediately switch it to the space bar. Trust me, you’ll love it.

Since you’re not actually targeting an enemy, you can’t see his life. This is usually not a problem, though, because all the big boys are going to be taken down with Dragon Talon, which is targeted. For the most part, though, you’ll find yourself running around with the pointer near the edge of the screen. As soon as you see an enemy, hold the space bar (See above) and you will let fly a barrage of Blades. Aim at the enemies farthest offscreen and you will kill them before they know it. As the rest start toward you, they will be caught in the crossfire.

This is where your Shadow Master is crucial. She will usually throw out just enough traps to slow the pack down, and your attack is fast enough to keep one or two enemies in recovery-lock at all times. When they get too close, either run away and regroup, or switch to Dragon Talon and clean up. Places that most builds hate are the places the Ninja shines. The Maggot Lair is a Ninja’s dream, and the Arcane Sanctuary just lines them up for the slaughter.

The other end of the stick is a real pain, though. Wide-open spaces are a nightmare. The Flayer Jungle is nerve-wracking. You are surrounded before you can even get started firing. This is where CoS becomes important. If you get swarmed, drop a CoS, stand still, launch into Blade Fury, and start spinning slow circles. You will begin to thin out the ranks relatively quickly. A Holy Freeze Merc will help a lot in this situation.

Choice of Mercenariess is debatable, though. The Holy Freeze merc will slow everyone down, making targeting and strategic retreat much easier. The Might Merc will increase the damage of both Blade Fury and Dragon Talon. There’s also something to be said for having a Barbarian Merc for use as a human wall. Which you choose is up to you.

One last thing here. This build must be treated as a melee character. Unless you have a way to beat Physical Immune Monsters, you’re screwed. Elemental Damage transfers to all your attacks, though, so you should be okay, as long as you have some mixed elemental damage. Open Wounds always works well in this situation.

Here Comes The Science!

Well, the logic, at least. This build works because of your gear and your playing skills. If your gear has low damage, you will die. If your gear has no useful mods, you will die. If you are too slow, you will die. If you are too fast, you will die a lot. Remember, the Way of the Ninja is Stealth.

I will not go into which mods transfer to your skills. Read naliworld’s general FAQ for that. I will simply mention which mods are most useful to a Ninja.

– Crushing Blow is critical. It’s like casting Static Field on one enemy. Shoot for at least 50%, preferably 100% or more. Use Guillaume’s Face, Goreriders, Rattlecage, Stone Crusher, Stormlash, anything you can get with Crushing Blow. The only downside here is that Crushing Blow isn’t as effective with Blade Fury. Console yourself with the 6 fps attack from half a screen away.

– Open wounds will carry onto both skills, and is not resistable. This is much more effective than poison damage, so if you can find this mod, hang onto that item.

– Ignore Target Defense is your savior. It only works on normal monsters (no bosses or champions), but you will mainly be using Dragon Talon for those guys anyway. With ITD, you always have a 95% chance to hit, as long as you don’t tackle monsters more than about 5 levels above yours. Even then, you will still be in the high 80’s or low 90’s. Get this mod.

– Chance to Cast Static Field on Striking is a big help, too. This is the closest thing you will have to a crowd control skill. If you can find a weapon with this mod, use it.

– Increased attack speed means next to nothing. Save your mod space for more useful mods, like resists. Since your attack speeds on your two primary skills are set, you are already as fast as you will get. Combine that with Burst of Speed, and IAS fades into the sunset.

– Enhanced Damage is almost as important as Crushing Blow. This transfers to Blade Fury (not Dragon Talon). Since we are adding ¾ of your weapon’s total, every point you can wring out makes your blades deadlier.

– Elemental Damage also carries over onto Blade Fury and Dragon Talon. If you’re lucky enough to have a set of Firelizard’s Talons or a Stormlash, you’re way ahead of the game. Look for smoldering charms of winter and storms. They’re pretty cheap, and they add up fast. The elemental damage on kicks doesn’t show up on the character screen, but it does transfer.

– Leeching is good with Blade Fury, but a quick Cobra Strike with Dragon Talon can be substituted. Since your Blade Fury damage is usually relatively low, you will need to shoot for at least 15-20% leech before you see real results. Before you discount this as a waste, however, remember that Blade Shield will leech as well.

I don’t like to go into specific gear, but I will say that this character is a little difficult to play untwinked. However, this build is for people who are tired of their endless unstoppable MF runs with their lvl 96 hammerdin, so twinking is probably not a problem. Shoot for some of the higher end stuff, like Firelizard’s, Shadow Dancers, Gaze, Stormshield, Steelrend, etc, but don’t overlook mid-range items. Goreriders, Guillaume’s Face, Rattlecage, Moser’s Blessed Circle, Duriel’s Shell, T-God’s, Hellmouth, Tiamat’s Rebuke, Rockstopper, Duress, etc. are all good mid-game choices. If you use a shield, find one with resists, then socket it. Stormshield is incredible, with Strength and PDR, but it is expensive. Moser’s Blessed Circle with two Perfect Diamonds yields 63% resist all and 62% blocking. Not too shabby. If you can find the runes for a Chaos claw, use it. It has added damage and two chances to cast pretty high-level spells on striking. Overall, just look for useful mods and high damage. Be creative.

I will, however, sound off about one particular Set of gear. Sell your soul for Natalya’s Odium. In case you haven’t looked at it recently, I will take the time to list all of the mods that it has that help a Ninja:

– High Resists
– 30% PDR
– + Strength
– + Dexterity
– 14% Dual Leech
– 40% Faster Run/Walk
– High Damage Claw, Even higher vs. Undead and Demons (That’s practically everyone)
– + 3 to Skills
– Ignore Target’s Defense – Every Blade Hits!
– Cold Damage
– Socketed Armor

Good Luck beating that set of mods with any other 4 pieces of gear. It even leaves room for a shield, or you can switch to a higher damage primary claw (Firelizard) if you prefer to use Weapon Block and you will still get set bonuses if Nat’s Mark is in your off hand. The only downside is the low-damage boots, but this build is only secondarily about high-damage attacks. The most important aspect is enhancing blade fury and, of course, looking cool.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow…

Well, that about wraps it up. This build is certainly not for everyone. It is a uniquely interesting and different build than most, however. It utilizes skills that are rarely seen for what they are really worth, much like people who create charged bolt sorceresses. If you’ve ever sat back and said to yourself, “Man, this is all old hat. I need a challenge.” Try this on for size. One size definitely does not fit all, but it looks real good on you if you wear it right. Enjoy, have fun, and Go Knuts!

Thanks to:

C-Beat, for his Dragon Talon Guide
Naliworld, for the Assassin general FAQ, which explained which mods carry to Blade Fury and Blade Shield
Blizzard, of Course
Um…That’s really pretty much it. I kinda pulled this build out of my butt, so you can blame me for any errors. Nobody had direct input.

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