Diablo 2 Guide: Hardcore Sorceress Guide

HP/Mana Balance

In Hardcore where death is permanent, it is quite obvious that having a high hp is very important. However for a sorceress, this poses a problem because a sorceress also needs mana. And a lot of it. So how much hp and mana should a HC sorceress have? This goes back to the basic problem of how to allocate stat points. Where a SC sorceress might throw all 5 stat points into energy per level up, a HC sorceress will have to balance her needs between hp and mana. One also needs to consider the effective hit points one has, after considering the effects of energy shield. Below are information that will give you a greater insight into building a HC sorceress.

Stat Points Allocation

More often than not, players in hardcore will try to maximize their hp, and only invest just enough STR and DEX to use their best/desired equipment, and throw the rest into VIT. For a sorceress, the STR required is 75 in order to use a 3D-tower shield. To use a Shard, you will need 51 DEX, but it is often better to leave DEX untouched at all at its base 25 and use a wand/scepter with fastest cast and mana.

In the first 30 levels, it is advisable to pump STR/VIT/ENE in a 2/2/1 ratio until you reach 75 STR, and thereafter VIT/ENE in a 3/2 ratio. Opinions will differ on this, and depending on how twinked the sorceress is, one can even go all out for 75 STR first before ever touching VIT and ENE. More of this issue will be discussed in the Leveling Up 1-30 section.

It is good to plan ahead what equipment you want to use in the future. For example, if you plan to use Twitchtroe which adds 10 STR and 10 DEX, you would only need to increase your STR to a base of 65, and even less should you have other hand-me-down equipment from previous characters and friends.

The common practice is to obtain 75 strength after items to wear a 3D-tower shield, leave DEX alone at its base of 25, and after that put points in VIT and ENE as desired. How much of each is discussed in greater detail below, along with how much Energy Shield a sorceress should have. 80 STR is also acceptable to wear a Goldskin. Also, it is advisable to get 75 STR before you enter Nightmare difficulty and suffer resist penalties.

You need to get energy early in the game or you will keep running out of mana. The best ratio of VIT to ENE is probably somewhere between 1:1 and 1:2, lean more towards ENE if you find you keep running out of mana and more towards VIT if you find yourself going below 2/3 hitpoints often.

Once you have enough mana to solo Act 4 Hell comfortably, feel free to pump VIT for the rest of that character’s life. Or perhaps you might prefer to think like Psycho, where once you get enough hp to withstand most one-hit kills (Heph, at least 3 waves of MSLE bolts, etc), you pump mana all the way since you are guaranteed a death should you ever disconnect while soloing, whether you have 100 more hp instead of 100 (165 with one SoJ/Frostburn) mana.

The EHP Concept

Energy Shield (ES) is an important skill because it extends the hp of a sorceress by using her mana as part of her hp. For the ignorant people out there, ES takes double mana damage, meaning that if your Energy Shield is at 40%, and you take 100 damage, you will suffer 60 hp and 80 mana (not 40 mana as you might have imagined). This is the high cost of using your mana as part of your hp. Just how much high should a sorceress’ ES be then? If it is too high, you will run out of mana quickly when you take damage, while if it is too low, you are not maximizing your effective hp.

In this part of the guide, I will introduce the EHP (effective HP) concept and form the basis framework allowing for comparisons to be made between equipment that add various amounts of hp and mana. The EHP concept will be used throughout the rest of the guide, so read carefully.

First, some terminology:

HHit points you have.
MMana points you have.
EHPEffective Hit Points you have after ES, or maximum damage you can take.
ES%Energy Shield %, in decimal
DDamage dealt

Next, I’ll state some obvious formulas. Suppose a monster hits you for D amount of damage:
You will suffer (2ES%)(D) mana.
You will suffer (1-ES%)(D) hp.

Ideally, my EHP is highest when my ES% is such that when D damage is done to me, both my hp and mana reaches zero at the same time. Thus M/H = (2ES%)(D) / (1-ES%)(D). Simplifying the equation (the D is cancelled, and the ES% is brought to the same side), you get ES% = M/(2H + M). Your EHP = H/(1-ES%). Substituting ES% into the EHP formula, you get EHP = H + M/2.

Ideal ES%M/(2H + M)
EHPH + M/2

What happens if my ES% is higher than the ideal ES%? I’ll introduce a new variable ES2% where ES2% > ideal ES%. Since my ES2% is higher, my mana will be drained out completely first, before my HP drops to zero. After which ES automatically deactivates and whatever hp I have left after that is the remaining damage I can take.

Maximum damage I can take to reduce my mana orb to zero is M/(2ES2%). Taking M/(2ES2%) damage, I will suffer M/(2ES2%)*(2ES2%) = M mana and (1-ES2%)(M/(2ES2%)) hp. I will be left with H – (1-ES2%)(M/(2ES2%)) hp and zero mana after taking M/(2ES2%) damage. Hence my EHP = H – (1-ES2%)(M/(2ES2%)) + M/(2ES2%). Simplifying this, EHP = H + M/2, the ES2% cancels each other out. Thus is the prove that your EHP is the same no matter what your ES% is above the ideal value of M/(2H+M).

What does this imply? Suppose James the Sorceress has 310 hp and 800 mana. His ideal ES% = 800/(2*310 + 800) = 0.563 and his EHP = 310 + 800/2 = 710. As long as his energy shield is 56.3% or higher, his effective hitpoints is always 710. (Suppose his ES is 60%, he will take 666.66 damage before his mana reaches zero, and he will have 43.33 hp left = 710 EHP).

Now suppose he was soloing and fighting monsters, his hp is still full, but his mana orb is about half full and he suffers a timeout. He has 310 hp and 400 mana. At these values, his ideal ES% = 400/(2*310 + 400) = 0.392 and his EHP = 310 + 400/2 = 510. No matter what his ES% is above 39.2%, his effective hitpoints is 510 in this case. However, his mana orb isn’t always half full, it could be full when he suffers a disconnect! Thus his ideal ES% is still 56.3%. When his mana orb is half full, whether his ES% is 56.3% or 39.2%, his EHP is still 510.

The flaw in all the above is that it does not take into account mana regeneration. I assume all the damage is dealt to you in ONE hit or over a extremely short period of time. This is realistic (from playing experience as well) as the only damage that really matters happens in very short intervals. If I was dying slowly, I would drink a potion and teleport/TP away. Dying quickly, by definition happens very abruptly. Such events include being hit by Hephasto or Might enchanted monsters, waves of MSLE bolts and more. Hence time and mana regeneration is irrelevant in these cases.

The one case where time becomes a factor is during a timeout, a disconnect. Mana would regenerate over the course of the timeout. Suppose I take 15 seconds to timeout (the widely believed value), my ideal ES% would be then ES3% = M2/(2H + M2), where M2 here is equal to the max mana you have plus a little bit more from regeneration in 15 seconds. And where M2 > M, ES3% is obviously larger than ES%. In the above example, James ideal ES% is 56.3%, in order to compensate for mana regeneration in a timeout, I would add a few more % to this value, maybe to at most 60%. M2 can be estimated quite easily if you wanted to calculate ES3%.

What if you have already brought your ES% to a level way beyond your ideal ES%? If EHP remains constant no matter what value ES% is above the ideal value, it doesn’t really matter right? Wrong, because I’ll rather hp and mana both hit zero at the same time, than mana hitting zero before hp, so that in whatever short amount of time I have when I get swarmed, I may still have enough mana to teleport out. And when I do manage to teleport out, I’ll want my ES to be still active, because mana is regenerating, and I do not wish to spend that half second recasting ES.

One can argue that with maxed warmth and a bit of lightning mastery, you can regen enough mana to teleport out, even if your mana orb is empty. However, if what is swarming you includes mana drainers (e.g. someone tipped the Vizier Seal right on top of you) you will not regenerate any mana at all. On top of that, you are not guaranteed that your very first cast of teleport will succeed, should you get hit and enter hit recovery animation. By the time you cast your second or third, your mana would be dry should ES% be way above ideal ES%. This also applies to waypoint traps and stairtraps you need to teleport away from being swarmed. Saving and Exiting negates all these arguments, but that’s a different issue altogether.

Attempting to bring ideal ES% up towards whatever ES% we already have means to get more mana. But on the other hand, looking at the EHP formula, EHP = H + M/2, you notice that our EHP increases by 2 per one VIT, and only 1 per one ENE. Suppose a Frostburn and one SoJ is used, adding max mana by 65%, then one ENE will increase EHP by 1.65. Whatever skill points above ES3% is wasted. It is better to just dump all in VIT, once a desired amount of mana is acquired, such as 900, where you’ll be able to play comfortably with no mana potions. (Not enough mana? Static more, Orb less, Same result.)

Going back to James’ sorceress, does he have enough hp? This topic is about hp/mana balance after all. 310 hp 800 mana gives him a EHP of 710 at 56.3% ES (11 skill points). If he had 400 hp and 650 mana instead, his EHP is 725 at ES% = 44.8% (6 skill points). Here comes the tradeoff: Would you rather have 5 skill points elsewhere at the cost of having less mana to play with?

Still, ES% should not be calculated on current hp and mana values. It should be calculated on your estimated values of hp and mana at level 75, wearing equipment that you plan to get to maximize EHP. The 310 hp 800 mana should not be a current value to base on at say level 40, since he may not actually have found the SoJs he intended to wear yet. In general, ideal ES% tends to fall as one gets higher in level.

Things get slightly more complicated when you consider in the effects of Nightsmoke and Vulpine equipment. Suppose James wears a Nightsmoke. Over the course of the 310 hp damage he will take in order to die, Nightsmoke will generate 310 * 0.5 = 155 mana. In other words, James mana is increased by a virtual amount equivalent to H * C% when he takes his EHP amount of damage, where C is the conversion rate. Hence the new formulas are ES% = (M + H*C)/(2H + M + H*C) and EHP = H + (M + H*C)/2.

Ideal ES%(M + H*C)/(2H + M + H*C)
EHPH + (M + H*C)/2

Wearing Nightsmoke thus gives you more EHP by H/4. This is as good as extending your HP by 25% of your vitality. Consider the differences using Nightsmoke and a rare plated belt which adds 50 hp 30 mana and 25 fire, 25 lightning resists. Assume the popular one stone, one frostburn combo and that the Sorceress in question has 600 hp without wearing either belt.

The 50 hp on the rare belt gives: 50 EHP
The 30 mana on the rare belt gives: 49.5 mana = 24.75 EHP
The 20 mana on the Nightsmoke gives: 33 mana = 16.5 EHP
Nightsmoke gives an additional EHP of (600*0.5)/2 = 150 EHP

EHP given by rare belt = 50 + 24.75 = 74.75
EHP given by Nightsmoke = 16.5 + 150 = 166.5

Thus the Nightsmoke gives about 90 more EHP than the rare belt at 600 hp, allowing you to survive possibly one or two more hits. Is this a good tradeoff for having one less row of potions and 16.5 less mana? If a player is able to obtain resists from elsewhere other than the belt, I believe this IS a good tradeoff and Nightsmoke is better, rarely do we use potions to the point where the belt is nearly empty.

Nightsmoke has a handy -2 magic damage as well against Diablo, as well as 10% resists all itself compared to the 25% fire and 25% lightning on the rare belt. Of course, these EHP numbers will vary from belt to belt and on the hp of the sorceress. The rare belt used in the above example was a rather good belt described, yet we find it inferior to Nightsmoke in terms of EHP. Suddenly, Nightsmoke isn’t all that bad after all. However, using Nightsmoke means the ideal ES% would be about 5% higher than without Nightsmoke, or about 2 levels of ES. The tradeoff here also involves 2 skill points for 90 more EHP, and possibly more if the sorceress has more hp.

Again, the ability to convert 50% damage to mana lengthens our EHP by hp/4. When I play, I will not want to get hit at all, this ability is next to useless, but when I do get hit for HUGE damage such as an MSLE, or a tele-heph, this ability is more than useful in providing the additional EHP I may need to survive the damage. If such one-hit huge damages does not exist at all, then Nightsmoke is probably the lousiest belt a sorceress can ever have.

Similar, using this concept of EHP, one can see that the effects of Frostburn adding 40% to maximum mana effectively increase EHP by an amount equal to half of the mana added by Frostburn. At level 75, Frostburn adds about 200 mana or otherwise (assuming a base of 500 mana after other items) and this equates to roughly 100 EHP.


Again, as a general guide, the average level 75 HC sorceress has about 650 hp and 900 mana wearing one SoJ and one Frostburns. These are good values for a newbie sorceress to base on and work towards. This gives an ideal ES% of 40.9%, so ES% should be at 43%. If Nightsmoke is used then ideal ES% is 45%, so ES% should be at 46% or 49%. Once you have obtained a comfortable amount of mana to play with, throw everything into hp. The goal is thus to maximize EHP after reaching a nice amount of

The EHP concept relies on the basis that damage that comes slowly does not matter; you’ll drink a potion. Damage that comes quickly over an extremely short amount of time is the one that matters, thus EHP is the thing to maximize in HC.

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