Diablo 2 Guide: Hardcore Sorceress Guide

Equipment

It is often said that what makes a character is the equipment he wears. This is quite true, especially in the case of a Barbarian. How effective a character is in combat heavily depends on what equipment is worn, a character can survive longer if his equipment gives maxed resists as compared to another one without. Before delving into the equipment options available to a sorceress, we first need to understand why certain item prefixes and suffixes are highly sought after, and why they are important.

This section goes through the equipment you will eventually use in the long run (i.e. at level 75) and not equipment to be used during the first 30 levels of playing. These twink equipment is discussed in the section Leveling Up 1-30.

Things Important to a Sorceress

1. Maxed Resists. Resists are highly important as magic spells are one of the more potent sources of damage and they cannot be blocked. 75% resists is twice as good as 50% resists because you take 25% damage in the former and 50% damage in the latter. Lightning resists should always be maxed no matter where. When running exp in areas with other forms of elemental attack, it is also wise to max those particular resists.

2. Blocking. Blocking is the equivalent of physical resistance. Just like maxed elemental resists, it is also important to have a high block rate to increase your chances of survival in a timeout or lag spike. However, a point to note is that blocking rate is not as important for a non-solo sorceress.

3. Hit recovery (HR). When you get hit successfully, whether you manage to block it or not, you will enter hit recovery animation. During this animation, you are unable to do anything except drink potions (sounds illogical huh?). Wearing fast and fastest HR equipment reduces the length of HR animation, allowing you to be able to react faster, such as teleporting out of a hotspot. It is recommended to get either 2 fast or 1 fastest HR.

4. Hp/mana and fast cast. After considering the above 3 more important issues then comes Hp/mana. These are secondary to having maxed resists. Fast cast is important for killing speed, but are also secondary to resists. Refer to the Tweaking section for a discussion on how much tweaking is really needed.

5. +STR/DEX. These equipment, should you have them allow you to invest less into STR/DEX to achieve the desired amount of STR/DEX. A +16 STR equipment means 32 more hp or mana to a sorceress, and more for a Barbarian with Battle Orders.

6. Damage to mana, +skills. These are just additional bonuses that are not really important, they are just the icing on the cake, and if your equipment happens to have some of the above and this as well, then good. If not, don’t worry. A level 20 orb and level 21 orb isn’t going to be much different.

7. Defense. Defense is irrelevant to a sorceress as a sorceress’ main defense comes from her blocking. No way is a sorceress able to achieve the STR required to wear extremely high Def armours. (Ok, a Holy Ornate Plate of Simplicity with other nice stats might exist, but chances are, you won’t have such an armour.) If you happen to have 500 defense +hp fastest HR good resists mage plate then fine but otherwise don’t worry about it.

The Equipment

Weapon

•  Spectral Shard (Fastest cast, +10 resists, 50 mana, 51 DEX 35 STR req)
•  Umes Lament (Fastest cast, 40 mana)
•  Maelstrom (Fastest cast, 40L, 13 mana, Half freeze)
•  Wyrm/Resist Wand/Scepter of the Magus or rare equivalent (Fastest cast, +mana, +resists)
•  Culwen’s Point (Faster block, faster hit, +1 skills, 45 DEX 51 STR req)

Sorceress mainly get their casting speed from their weapon and the most popular choices are Umes and Maelstrom because they have no requirements to equipment them. However they are harder to get than a Wyrm’s Wand of the Magus which can be obtained from shopping with Akara in Nightmare or higher Acts, and these magical wands also have no DEX requirements either.

Spectral Shard is the choice for most sorceress in hell difficulty because of it’s high mana and 10 resists, and these sorceress also have enough equipment worn to get the +26 DEX needed to equip one. Twitchthroe gives 10, and a rare amulet with 16 DEX will suffice. However, if you do not have +26 DEX from items, it is better to use a Wyrm’s Wand of the Magus and put the 26 stat points into VIT/ENE instead (52 hp or 52 mana, and in the case of mana, it beats Shard since the magical wand adds even more mana on top of that).

Culwen’s Point is rarely used by any sorceress and if it is, it is mainly for the +1 skill in Nightmare and lower dificulties.

Shield

•  3D-Tower Shield (51C/48P/57L/48F, 44% block, 75 STR req)
•  Wall of the Eyeless (Fastest cast, +5 mana per kill, 3% mana steal, 40% block, 27 STR req)
•  Sigon’s Guard (+1 skills, 64% block, 75 STR req, level 6)

Generally, a 3D-tower shield is used in Hell difficulty and nothing else, although if your other equipment are good enough to max your resists without the 3D-tower, the Wall is viable since it only has 4% less block than a 3D-tower as well as fastest cast rate which appeals to tweakers. Wall of the Eyeless is great twinking equipment at low levels (1-40) because of the +5 mana per kill, and so is Sigon’s Guard because of the high block and +1 skills. Use these only if you can manage to max resists, and this is generally possible in Normal and Nightmare difficulty. Some players keep a Sigon’s Guard specifically for use when soloing Duriel.

Armour

•  Twitchthroe (+25% block, +10 STR, +10 DEX, SiaS)
•  Heavenly Garb (10% resists, 25% mana regen, 41 STR req)
•  Rare Mage Plate (Resists, Hp/Mana, HR)
•  Goldskin (30% resists, 80 STR req)

Twitchthroe is probably the best armor for a solo sorceress as the 25% additional block nearly halves your chances to be hit from 56% down to 31% with a 3D-tower shield. It also adds 10 DEX towards using a Spectral Shard, and 10 STR so that you only need a base of 65 STR to equip the 3D-tower, giving you a net of 20 hp/mana more.

Goldskin is great for the resists but it slows down running speed significantly as it is considered as a heavy armour. Sorceress tend to avoid this armour unless they are unable to obtain resists elsewhere (perhaps in order to tweak). A Heavenly Garb is not terribly useful as it’s resists can be beaten by a good rare mage plate, and the mana regeneration is insignificant once you reach high levels of warmth.

Plenty of sorceress use a rare mage plate with resists and hp/mana. This is a good choice if you party a lot and do not generally need as much block as a solo sorceress. However, I must stress that a Twitchthroe and 3D-tower shield combo cannot be beaten in terms of defensive capabilities by even the best mage plate with the highest defense and it would be best to wear this setup all the time. More on this will be discussed below.

Helm

•  Rare Helm/Cap/Etc (Resists, Hp/mana)
•  Tarnhelm (+1 skills, 25%-49% item, 75% gold)

Tarnhelm is only used in lower difficulties where it does not compromise resists mainly for the +1 skills to augment the weak low level skills. A rare is almost always used, unless maxed resists can be obtained without a rare helm. Tarnhelm is also used by item finder sorcs.

Gloves

•  Frostburn (+40% max mana)
•  Magefist (Fastest cast, +1 fire skills)

In hardcore, hp is important for any character and the mana pool of a sorceress is smaller than that of the softcore counterpart. Mana is often an issue in the first 50 levels and the Frostburn’s +40% max mana is more valuable than a Magefist. In terms of mana regenerated per second, Frostburn increases this by 40% while Magefist increases this by 37%. Thus the real difference between Frostburn and Magefist is +40% max mana versus the fastest cast ability and possibly some improved fire skills.

Generally, the 40% more mana means a lot more than one level more of every fire skill because static field is the main damage dealer, doing slightly more damage with perhaps meteors or firewalls doesn’t really make much difference. Most sorceress in hardcore settle with 3 points of fast cast (3 and 4 points cast at the same speed). Remember that the mana added by Frostburn can also be used as Energy Shield. At level 75, Frostburn gives about 200 mana and this translates to 100 EHP (effective HP).

If you’re very lucky and acquire two very high quality fast cast jewelry items (one amulet one ring), Magefist will be able to offer a +25% cast rate improvement (from 10fpc to 8fpc) instead of just +10-11% (one fast cast jewelry only, from 10fpc to 9fpc). Under this rare circumstance, if you think your main bottleneck is Static Field casting speed and you feel you have life and mana to burn (unlikely in Hardcore play), you may consider replacing Frostburn with Magefist.

For the full analysis of Frostburn versus Magefist, refer to the Tweaking section.

Boots

•  Rare Boots/Greaves/Etc (Fastest Run, Resists, Hp/mana, HR)
•  Threads of Cthon (Fastest run, 50% stamina drain, 10 hp, 30 STR req)
•  Vidala’s Fetlocks (Fastest run, +150 stamina, level 14, 50 STR req)
•  Tearhaunch (Faster run, +5 STR, +5 DEX, 10% resists, 70 STR req)

Threads of Cthon is generally a good twink equipment to use early on, and so is Tearhaunches and Vidala’s Fetlock. However, a rare is almost invariably better, which can be seen quite obviously. These set and unique boots are generally stop-gaps until good rare boots are gambled or found.

Belt

•  Nightsmoke (50% damage taken goes to mana, +10% all resistances, +20 mana)
•  Rare Belt (Resists, Hp/mana, HR)

As it is, Nightsmoke as a belt is currently both overrated and underrated for different reasons. It is overrated because mana drain from energy shield is twice the shield life and Nightsmoke mana gain is being computed after Energy Shield has reduced the damage. Suppose I have a level 7 Energy Shield (46%), and I’m hit for 100 damage. Without Nightsmoke, I lose 54 life and 46*2 = 92 mana. With Nightsmoke, you lose 54 life and 92-27 = 65 mana. Now, as a sorceress, one obviously does not plan to be hit for 100 damage that often. In the meantime, by Nightmare Act 4, with a pretty good mana pool, the difference between a 65 mana hit and a 92 mana hit (given that such hits aren’t going to happen very often) isn’t big.

However, if you consider the effects of Nightsmoke as a whole, it adds more effective hit points (EHP) than any rare belt can. Wearing Nightsmoke, the additional mana generated from being damaged means more EHP, and a sorceress can extend his EHP by a value equal to 1/4 of each hp, allowing him to survive 2 or 3 more hits. Should a player be able to obtain maxed resists from elsewhere but the belt, the Nightsmoke is probably a better choice for survival than even the best rare belts. Read the Hp/mana Balance section for more on the EHP concept and a full discussion and example comparison between a good rare belt and Nightsmoke.

Amulet

•  Prismatic Amulet, hopefully rare with other mods
•  +1 skill Amulet, hopefully rare with other mods

On the rare amulet, good resistances are essentially a must, but if you’re very lucky, you might have +1 or even +2 to all skills on top of that. When thinking of replacing an amulet with great resistances but no skill bonus with one with a skill bonus but poor resistances, consider that replacing a rare ring with a SoJ is probably a better deal.

Great things to look for on an amulet are also minus magic damage, hp, mana and possibly +DEX to contribute towards using a Spectral Shard.

Rings

•  The Stone of Jordan (+25% max mana, +20 mana, +1 to all skills)
•  Fast Cast Ring (Resists, Hp/mana)
•  Any ring that helps to max resists

One of the most effective combinations is to use a SoJ and a rare ring, where the rare ring supplements resists. Try to obtain fast cast on either the amulet or the rare ring as well. Having fast cast on both the amulet and rare ring generally doesn’t improve casting speed as 3 and 4 points of casting both cast at 10fpc. See the Tweaking section for more on fast casting.

One point worthy of note is that an SoJ increases base mana by 25%. At level 75, this probably translates to about 120 more mana (assuming base naked mana of 480, which is realistic), which is equivalent to 60 EHP (effective hit points) when considering in the use of Energy Shield. Thus an SoJ is equivalent to a ring that gives 40 hp and 40 mana (40 + 40/2 = 60 EHP), so the differences between an SoJ and such a ring is the +1 skills and other modifiers on the rare ring. Read the Hp/mana Balance section for more on the EHP concept.

Staves

•  Iron Jang Bong Staff (Fastest Cast Rate, +1 to sorceress skills)
•  The Salamander (+2 fire skills, +20% fire resistance)
•  Arcanna’s Warstaff (+1 to all sorceress skill levels)

As a HC sorceress, never ever use a staff as you will have 0% block without a shield. Twitchthroe’s +25% block only works in conjunction with a shield, although the block% display isn’t changed on the shield. The only time when using a staff is acceptable is in Act 1 and 2 of Normal difficulty, where a good defense armor actually works. Staves are twink equipment.

Armour/Shield In-depth Studies

First off, we will look at which armor is better, Twitchthroe or a rare Mage Plate provides about 500 DR, and up to 59 hp 59 mana and perhaps some resists, while using a 3D-tower shield. However, we also need to subtract 20 hp for the effect of Twitchthroe’s +10 strength, thus the relative advantage is at most 39 + 59/2 = 68.5 EHP and some resists. It’s reasonable to have about 600-750 life when fighting in Hell Act 4, and be close to level 75. We will use these numbers to fold DR and blocking rate into our rating system.

The characteristic AR of Hell Act 4 is 1484 (371 times 4, an Urdar), and the characteristic monster level is 80. Using these numbers, let’s compute your chance to be hit with Twitchthroe, taking blocking and a 60% Shiver Armor into account:

200 * 1484/(1484+130*1.6) * 80/(80+75) * (1-.69) = 28.1%

For the rare Mage Plate:
200 * 1484/(1484+580*1.6) * 80/(80+75) * (1-.44) = 35.6%

Thus, Twitchthroe gives over 21% (1-28.1/35.6) better physical defense than a rare Mage Plate, and at least half the danger in the usual leveling areas of Hell Act 4 is physical, assuming you’ve maxed the relevant resistances. Then the 68.5 EHP advantage of using the Mage Plate instead only provides 10.5% (68.5/650) better physical survivability and 10.5% better magical survivability, and is seen to be inferior. That’s a rather good rare plate just described, yet we just found it inferior to Twitchthroe that anyone can gamble by mid-Nightmare or so.

Rare Ornate Plate with the simplicity attribute and 800 DR can’t be counted on for more than about 30 EHP, and that’s probably generous. Then, we have to throw in a negative 74 EHP modifier, for the 37 extra points of strength above 65 you need to put in to wear the armor.

200 * 1484/(1484+880*1.6) * 80/(80+75) * (1-.44) = 29.7%

With such high DR Ornate, you’re still more likely to be hit than with Twitchthroe! And this isn’t even when you’re running! Then, the Ornate’s 44 EHP disadvantage buries it further. Not to mention the incredible difficulty of obtaining an 800 DR Ornate with the simplicity suffix with other attributes worth 30 EHP.

So, if you’re going to go with a 3D-tower, Twitchthroe is the only sensible armor choice for the long haul. We now proceed to investigate the few viable equipment configurations not involving a 3D-tower shield.

As has been seen above, 44% blocking is vastly inferior to 69% blocking, and in the meantime, it’s practically impossible to find a shield with better non-blocking attributes than the 3D-tower. Twitchthroe makes up for the socketed tower’s blocking disadvantage, and in fact brings blocking to near maximum. But it’s only other property that’s useful to a Sorceress is +10 strength, which isn’t that big a deal. So the one combination that could compete would be a shield with very high blocking on its own and good other properties (either rare or Sigon’s Guard), combined with a rare armor with high DR and good other properties, or maybe a unique armor with not-so-high DR but awesome other properties (i.e. Goldskin). We now investigate exactly how good the rare shield and rare armor would need to be to compete.

There are essentially two classes of possibilities, one best represented by rare Bone Shield (60%) + rare Mage Plate, and the other by Tower Shield (64%) + Goldskin. As we saw earlier, rare Ornate setups can’t be expected to be better than rare Mage Plate setups.

With 60% blocking and 600 total DR before Shiver Armor, we can use our formulas to estimate the number of EHP necessary for the rare Bone Shield + rare Mage Plate to compare to Twitchthroe + 3D-Tower Shield:

200 * 1484/(1484+600*1.6) * 80/(80+75) * (1-.6) = 25.1%

This provides about a 12% physical defense advantage over the Twitchthroe setup. This is an overestimate since we aren’t taking running into account. However, is the rare Bone Shield and Mage Plate able to make up for the 50% resists offered by the 3D-tower shield? If not, one might have to give up some hp/mana items such as rings in order to boost resistances.

In a nutshell, the best rare Bone Shield and best rare Mage Plate you’ll ever find probably won’t combine to be any more effective than Twitchthroe + socketed Tower Shield. You would need 60% blocking on the shield, 500 DR on the Mage Plate, about 130-140 points of resistances/life/mana between the two items for equality. However, this IS the one combination that can conceivably be equal or superior at all, and conveniently, it provides slightly faster running speed as well.

It should be mentioned that rare Mage Plate + 64% Tower Shield setups are also part of this class. With the Tower, you lose 30 EHP from the strength requirement going from 60 to 75, but gain slightly more than that from the improved physical defense, but the difference is so small that the running speed disadvantage probably means the Bone Shield is superior. Sigon’s Guard looks pretty good on paper here, but in practice you’ll end up being too desperate for resistances to end up with an advantage over Twitchthroe + 3D-Tower Shield.

For Tower + Goldskin, you have 64% blocking and about 320 total DR before Shiver Armor, so:

200 * 1484/(1484+320*1.6) * 80/(80+75) * (1-.64) = 27.6%

This is only a 1-2% physical defense advantage over Twitchthroe + 3D-Tower. However this means that the Tower must try to make up the remaining 20% resists and 20 EHP (+10 STR from Twitchthroe) when we are already demanding the +20% blocking attribute on the shield. Sigon’s Guard’s +1 to all skills attribute can be considered to be worth not a lot, especially if the sorceress’ skills are already developed to high levels.

One can argue that the only time Twitchthroe matters is versus melee attacks, which you won’t get into if you party 90% of the time. However, you will get disconnected sooner or later, or the necromancer you party with would. Who cares about blocking if one never get disconnected? A sorceress would never be hit by melee in such a never-disconnect world, in such a world, then would a mage plate with resists and HP be better.

What remains to be stressed is that Twitchthroe and 3D-tower shields are relatively easy-to-obtain equipment as compared to the high defense rare armours and rare shields we have used to discuss the above.

Understanding +Skills Items (Extract from VenomousVixen’s Complete Sorceress Guide)

Starting with Nightmare difficulty, you can buy staves that give +2 to all sorc skills. The vendors will sell them for as little as 5000 gold. Are you getting an amazing deal? Or do the vendors know something that you do not? In this last part of the Skills section, I will try to explain the value of +skills items.

The first thing to note is that +skills items add only to skills in which you already have a point invested. So, the more skills there are that have points invested in them, the more you could potentially benefit. On the other hand, once you learn all of your favorite spells, you will not be using half of your spells due to the fact that some spells are mere prerequisites for better ones. Does all this wasted extra skill matter? No. When you are trying develop your skills, all you care about is having as many points as you can usefully get in your favorite skills. A +skills item does this generally better than a staff that adds only to specific skills. Skills which you can usually expect to have include: Warmth, a cold armor, Teleport and ES. That is already at least 4 skill points that a +1 skills item would be collectively giving you, at least 8 skill points if your items give +2 skills, and so on. Of course, the number of extra skill points goes up when you factor in whatever offensive spells you use. That is quite a lot of extra skill points to be getting all at once, and all of them useful.

Is there ever a time when the benefits of +skills items would not be missed? Perhaps there are two: when your char is either very low or very high level. A low-level char (say, less than level 25) will not have access to all desirable skills because of level restrictions. So, +skills items would have limited effect. A high-level char (say, 60+) will have accumulated well over 60 skill points. Some skills may already be maxed out by that time. But adding a few skill points to an already very powerful spell gives you: a very powerful spell. The extra advantages conferred by +skills items would be dwarfed by the sheer number of skill points already invested in your favorite spells. I would like to suggest, then, that the benefits of +skills items increase and decrease along a bell-shaped curve that starts out low, peaks rapidly at about level 30, stays high until somewhere in the range of level 60-70, then starts to fall rapidly until level 80 or so, when it is low again. The more general point would be that +skills items help you best when (a) you do not already have a large number of skill points invested in your favorite skills, and (b) you make use of multiple offense-oriented skills. A sorc who makes use of, say, 6 offense-oriented skills gets much more out of +skills items than a sorc who makes use of only 2 such skills.

It must be kept in mind that this analysis ignores other factors that are relevant to determining whether you should equip a particular +skills item. For example, if you have low resistances, then a diamond tower shield would likely be more useful than Sigon’s shield. Another example is the debate between CP and Shard. Some sorcs do not care about the +1 skills from CP because they place higher value on the casting rate bonus from Shard. But if you are interested in understanding just +skills items on their own terms, then I think the “bell-shaped curve” theory is on the right track. (Perhaps the curve peaks sooner/later depending on a higher/lower total number of +skills points granted by your equipped items, but this is more detail than I care to go into.)

There are some additional benefits to having +skills items early on that you should take advantage of. Because you will have extra points in all the offensive spells you are currently using, the +skills bonus helps to ensure that your spells are not too weak to keep you alive. Further benefits follow from this. First, you can afford to start investing a few skill points in prerequisites for higher-level spells you do not yet have. Second, you can afford to instead invest some more points in Warmth, which is usually not a bad thing to do. Third, you can delay a difficult decision as to what major spell you should get next, or start specializing in, and instead invest points in other places.

Finally, it should be noted that for some skills, you are likely to end up relying on +skills items to boost them so that you can invest your skill points elsewhere. Try to anticipate this. For example, if you have decided that you want to get SF up to level 10, do not invest 10 points if you expect to be getting several +skills items. The exact number of +skills points that your future items will give you is not easy to predict, but if you are trying to invest your skill points optimally, then you will need to try to guess. If you are having trouble guessing, then +2 is a decent conservative estimate.

Imbueing

There are only 3 imbues over the lifetime of any character, hence they should be used very carefully, and at the right times. Imbues are based on character level, meaning if you are higher level, more prefixes/suffixes become available to you in the imbue. Every prefix/suffix has a associated level value. In an imbue, the prefixes and suffixes available to you is your character level + 6 (Chaos Sanctuary webpage says +4, which is incorrect).

What is the best level to imbue at? For armours such as boots, helm, belt, gloves, armour, the best level is at level 30. This is because the Holy prefix is a level 36 prefix, and +hp, +mana and +resists prefixes and suffixes are at levels below 36. Similarly, a weapon is best imbued at level 29, because the King’s prefix is level 35, and the Merciless and Slaughter is below 35. Imbueing at level 29 for weapons and 30 for armours may not guarantee you a good imbue, but it is the level where you have the BEST chances.

What should a sorceress imbue? Seeing as how most of the sorceress’ equipment can be gambled for the best choice is to imbue a mage plate. Imbueing a wand/scepter is not a good choice because fastest cast and +mana are just 2 out of over 30+ possible prefixes and suffixes available to a weapon. A exceptional belt could also be a good imbue choice because it has 4 rows, even a demonhide sash. Another possible imbue choice is a Grim Helm, take it as a gamble for a high defense cap.

If you already planned to use Twitchthroe, the sorceress’ imbues could be usually better used on weapons that some of your other characters use, such as an executioner sword, a lance or a gothic bow. Even if you do not have other characters of other classes to imbue for, you might get a good weapon imbue to trade away for a pair of good boots or helm or a fast cast ring with resists and mana.

Conclusion

A good sorceress setup one can aim for is Frostburn, 1 SoJ, Shard, Twitchthroe, 3D-Tower Shield, Nightsmoke, Prismatic amulet with nice stats, Fast cast ring with resists, rare helm and boots with resists and hp/mana and HR. With this setup, the sorceress has 69% block, 90% resists (10 shard, 10 Nightsmoke, 50 shield, 20 amulet, you need 125% to max in hell), +1 (SoJ) or +2 skills depending on the amulet, and 3 point cast.

Nightsmoke extends your EHP (read the Energy Shield Discussion under the section Hp/mana Balance) by about 100 over an average belt with hp/mana, and the remaining 35% resists and HR is easily covered by the fast cast ring, rare helm and rare boots. If the +16 DEX is unavailable from the other equipment for the Shard (+10 from Twitchthroe already), a Wyrm’s Wand/Scepter of the Magus or Umes/Maelstrom is perfectly fine too. Also, the Frostburn and SoJ both add to EHP as compared to Magefist.

Prioritise your needs as you advance from difficulty level to difficulty level and swap in equipment as needed. Obviously not as much resists is needed in nightmare as in hell and a few resists equipment could be swapped out in favor of +skills bonus (e.g. Tarnhelm) until you reach hell.


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