Diablo 2 Guide: Hardcore Sorceress Guide

Combat

Most of the time, you would be in combat with monsters, since the sorceress is extremely fragile in nature, more care has to be given in the movement and casting of spells during combat to avoid dying. Knowing what to do in certain situations and remaining calm is one of the key things to being a good sorceress.

Moving Around

There are 2 ways to move around, both have its merits and drawbacks. The first is to have Run toggled on all the time. This has the benefits of being able to move quickly at all times and if caught unaware, it is quick to simply run away. Of course, running is also better in terms of covering large areas. However, the drawback is that you may run too fast into a group of monsters, attracting more monsters than necessary at one time. stamina will be used up and when you need to run away, you would also need to have enough stamina in reserve. To stop running, the Shift key can be used, but usually this also involves changing the default spell hotkeys from F1-F8 to ASDFQWER. Most players play with Run toggled on all the time, since stamina is usually not a factor with high vitality in hardcore play.

The second method is to have the run key toggled off and using the Ctrl key to accelerate and decelerate as needed skillfully. The Shift key can still be used as well to stop moving immediately. Although this method seems worse than being able to move quickly all the time, it allows you to position yourself more accurately before/while using certain spells. Some players say that once you get fastest run/walk boots, you will discover that your walking speed is fast enough, perhaps even too fast, when venturing into unexplored areas.

Assigning mouse buttons and hotkeys

By default, the left mouse button is used to initiate a melee attack with a weapon, while the right mouse button is normally used to cast spells. However, it would be advisable to assign glacial spike to the left mouse button since you do not want to walk up close and melee accidentally while moving or running away. This is a pretty safe assignment, where you stop for a moment to cast glacial spike accidentally, so do the enemies as they get frozen for an instant.

Some players use the left mouse button in conjunction with the right mouse button to execute spell combos, such as spike/static so that hotkeys do not need to be used, reducing the amount of time needed to cast the spells. Another common combo is spike/firewall. Note that only projectile type spells can be assigned to the left mouse button and that you must target the monster specifically to cast it unless you hold down the Shift button (which prevents you from moving).

If you have a third mouse button, you could consider changing it from turning on and off the automap into a second Alt key for seeing items on the floor.

The default hotkeys for spells are F1-F8, they are pretty convenient in themselves in that they are grouped in 2 bundles of 4, allowing you to feel them and hit the correct hotkey in the dark quickly should your hand leave the keyboard for any reason. Some players place the 4 main spells they use on F1-F8 because it allows their fingers quick access to the potion slots 1-4, while others put the 4 main spells they use on F5-F8 so that their thumb rests the letter I or P to access the Inventory (to drink potions mainly) and Party screens quickly while in combat.

While these default hotkey assignments may not be optimal, they can be changed. F9 for centering the auto-map can be changed into a backup for potion slot 4 since centering the automap can also be done by turning it off and on again.

Many players have also found it more convenient to use their spell hotkeys as ASDFQWER so that their hand rests in its natural keyboard position. Not only are the potion keys quickly accessible, so is the Shift, Ctrl and Alt buttons. Customize the hotkey assignments as you see fit, but the main thing to consider is the ability to quickly switch hotkey spells and to drink potions in an emergency.

Moving in Combat

One of the most important aspects of a sorc’s game is speed. In many situations, she will need to act quickly to avoid certain death. The speed with which she needs to act is a often a function of time and space. More specifically, it will be a function of how fast the monsters are and how much space separates you from them. There are some relevant concepts you should always keep in mind when fighting monsters, until awareness of those concepts becomes “second nature” to you.

In wilderness areas, be aware of how quickly monsters can close the gap between you. There will always be some monsters in each Act that can move very quickly, perhaps even faster than you can run. As soon as you identify a monster (or monster pack) as being fast, you need to decide what to do in order to stay out of melee range. If you have time to cast spells, then you should try to do spell damage and slow them down with cold spells, and then run/teleport to a safer position. If the monsters are too close to safely cast spells, then sometimes running will be sufficient. But if the monsters are as fast as you, then you are only delaying your problem. At some point, you would have to start teleporting.

Moving in smaller, confined areas is far more dangerous for a sorc than moving in wilderness areas. Hallway-like areas can become clogged with monsters, making escape on foot more risky. Further, because of less available ground space, teleporting to safety becomes much more tricky. In your haste you may sometimes land in a worse place than the one you just left, or you may not see clearly where to teleport to if the passages are twisting and have obstacles. Because a sorc has less space to work with, she must use it wisely. The first order of business is to try to clear out your initial starting area, so that you have a safe place to escape to in case you get into trouble later on. Then proceed area-by-area, enlarging the amount of safe space you have behind you. This simple system will work in all cramped areas of the game, and can be thwarted only by teleporting monsters (there are thankfully not too many of these), revived monsters (you should never see many of these if you have cold spells) and ghosts (which can pass through objects and in some places can come at you from any angle).

Sorcs who do not use cold spells have a special problem in that they do not really have a way to slow down the monsters unless they have someone to tank for them. If fast monsters come after you, running will often not give you enough space to safely cast spells before the monsters reach you. The Teleport spell becomes all the more important for these sorcs. Nothing is faster than teleport. If you are not using cold spells, get used to the idea of Teleport as a frequent means of transportation. Many of your battles may well begin not with a display of sorc pyrotechnics, but rather, with some backwards teleporting intended to give you time to safely cast your offensive spells.

Since speed is so important, you will always want to find items that grant fast/faster/fastest speed increases to abilities such as walk/run, hit recovery, and spell casting. In all of these cases, the benefits stack. You probably do not need more than fastest hit recovery, and a little less than that might be acceptable. Continue on to the spell casting rate section to find out more about the benefits of stacking casting rate bonuses.

Escaping Danger

Here is probably the single most important tip for survival as a sorc. Before entering into any potentially dangerous situation, you should always have the following question already answered and actively on your mind: What is my escape route? Usually, the only common monster that should ever kill you is the “lag” monster, because before you get into too much trouble to handle, you should already be following your escape plan.

The most natural means of escape is to run, usually (but not necessarily) back to wherever you just came from. Even if the monsters are as fast as you, you can still prepare a Teleport or town portal (TP) while running. You might instead just outright teleport to wherever it was you were going to run. If you just came from a waypoint, you might think to use that instead. However, waypoints make for undesirable escape routes for a couple of reasons. First, it takes a fair bit of time to activate them and select a new location (which is usually town). During this time, the monsters may catch up to you. This is all quite sporting, but the stakes are rather high. Second, it would no longer be advisable to return by that waypoint because it will probably now be mobbed. Using a TP is probably quicker and will give you an alternate way to get back, instead of two bad ones (mobbed waypoint versus making the trip on foot). If your choice is to escape by going back to town, then try to use a TP. You could afterwards use the nearest safe waypoint, possibly with a little extra running involved, to get back to the monsters.

If you think you have time to cast a cold spell to slow the monsters down before they meet you, then try that first. But understand that if you let a monster get within melee range, it may still be able to hit you even if you successfully cast a cold spell, since you used up some time in casting the spell, during which the monster may be swinging a weapon at you. And if it attacks you, you may be slowed down due to blocking or hit recovery, during which time most of the other melee monsters in the area will try to mob you.

This is easily one of the most dangerous situations you will find yourself in. You may or may not be able to get off a spell, depending on whether the monster hits you, how frequently that monster type attacks, and how many monsters are attacking you at once. If you choose to cast a spell, then Teleport is preferable to a cold spell, for the reason just given, and also because Teleport takes effect immediately. Usually though, your best bet in this case is to try to run, hoping that you outrun the monster’s attack swing. If you have Teleport hotkeyed, as opposed to having it set to the right mouse button, then running has an advantage over teleporting in that your response time to issue the command is usually a little faster because you do not need to take the time to switch hotkeys. If your attempt to run succeeds, you will have put a little space between you and the monster(s) and you can now get a spell off. If you do not succeed, the monsters have nearly 100% chance to get past your armor. If you do not block the hit with a shield, you will thus be injured, and possibly get mobbed during hit recovery.

The only time you should not necessarily consider running as the immediate response to a melee attack is if you happen to have a very high DR. If the monsters are too close, then you can take a chance on them taking a swing or two at you, since they may be more likely to miss than hit, given the combined defenses of your armor and shield. This is not to say that it is ever a good idea to have monsters swinging at you, but you have a good chance in this situation to get off a spell, so teleporting is safer than it would be otherwise. Consult the discussion of armor in the Items section to learn more about the relevance of armor.

If and when you are hit, you might still be able to get away if there is only one monster. But what do you do if you are mobbed? Sometimes death comes so quickly that you have no time to react. But if you are not immediately killed, there are two main options. One is to keep trying to teleport out of the mess. (This is when having items that increase spell casting rate can really save your skin). When trying to teleport, click the mouse button repeatedly, but not wildly. If you keep clicking the button wildly, then if you ever do get to teleport, you might teleport wildly as well. Who knows where you will end up? You could conceivably make your situation even worse than it was. But if you cannot even get off even a single teleport, then blasting your way out of trouble is certainly not possible. The only other option for trying to avoid death is to leave the game.

Taking advantage of monster behavior

One thing you must become adept at if you are to survive is managing crowds of monsters. I will say a few words here about a few specific scenarios.

When you move, the entire crowd of monsters more-or-less moves with you. After all, they all want to kill you. Understanding this behavior allows you to treat crowds almost as you would treat individual monsters, especially if most of the monsters in the crowd use melee attacks. The main idea is to cast an AoE spell on top of the crowd — or an area where the crowd will soon be — and then reposition yourself so as to keep the monsters in the area affected by the spell. The simplest example of this is casting Blaze on a crowd and then running around the edges of the affected area, or teleporting back and forth across two opposite ends of it.

When faced with a boss monster and its minions, you often will not get the move-all-as-one behavior just described. So what you need to do is treat the minions as you would individual monsters, killing the boss either first or last, depending on how it interacts with its minions. Generally speaking, when monster resurrection/spawning is involved, you must kill as soon as possible any monster that is doing the resurrecting/spawning. An alternative is to try to separate the boss from its minions, but this is usually not easy, as sometimes the minions will not follow very far from the boss, or the boss has surprisingly long range with its resurrection ability, or the monster will keep spawning an endless number of minions. When monster healing is involved instead (and you will see this in Act3), it is usually better to kill whatever is easiest to kill, since dead monsters do not get healed.

Although monsters are sometimes smart enough to retreat from battle, they ultimately know only to come after you. But since you can move around wherever and for whatever reason you like, you are “smarter” than the monsters in that you can lead them where you will. So use terrain to your advantage by making mental notes of good places you see to stage future battles and then leading the monsters there. There exist bottleneck areas, obstacles, and walls in every Act. Learn to use them. For example, if you see a monster hiding around a corner, shooting FO at it is not a bad idea, since the ice bolts will soon have a clear path to the monster, while you are safe from attack. In Kurast, Travincal, and the alter room of the Claw Viper Temple, there exists high ground you can use to give you an advantage over some of the melee monsters.

Management of Health and Mana

If you are in the middle of combat, you should always drink a health potion once your life orb has less than 70% health. This is because the next hit might well kill you. On higher difficulty levels, you should drink one at any time you incur damage, since the monsters hit so hard, and it takes time for the orb to refill. In fact, I strongly recommend having at least one column of full rejuvenation potions in your belt for emergencies. If your life orb is above 90%, and you are avoiding taking more hits, and you have items that replenish life, then you can often just let your life replenish back to 100% without the aid of potions. And of course, take advantage of any potions that fall to the ground.

You will sometimes find that you are spending mana at a dangerously fast rate. And the last thing you want is to run out of mana in the middle of a battle. There are some things you can do to help yourself out without sacrificing your effectiveness in combat:

1.Are you bulking up on expensive spells without adding anything to Warmth? Powerful spells are great, but if casting one a few times drains half your mana, then maybe you need more Warmth.

2.Are you racing to get high-level spells before you have the mana and mana regen ability to support them? Just because a spell is available does not mean that you should use it. The level restriction of a spell does not necessarily reflect its effectiveness in combat. Anyone who has ever used SF knows this well.

3.Are you casting a particular spell repeatedly when fewer castings will do? Spells like FO can be devastating, but casting 10 in rapid succession will often do no better than casting half as many and casting a few more times of static field instead. You need to keep track of how your spells are affecting the monster’s HP in order to gauge how many castings you need. Also, look into the possibility that there are more effective ways to target your spells than how you are currently doing it.

4.Are you stacking your casting rate bonuses and using mana-intensive spells, but not adding to Warmth? One popular spell when stacked casting rates are in effect is FO, but that will drain your mana orb in a hurry. You need to get lots of Warmth if you are going to be spending mana at much higher rates than usual.

5.Are you using spells in a situation where the monsters are highly resistant to the spell type? You can cast CL at a pack of Storm Casters until the cows come home, but whatever mana you do not waste doing that they will drain, and then you will have nothing.

6.Do not use mana potions from your belt until your mana orb is nearly empty. This is because you have a chance to regenerate some mana as the potion is taking effect, thus maximizing the total mana regained during that time. If your mana orb is as much as half full, then you do not need to drink a mana potion anyway.

7.Do not be afraid to back off from a battle. If you have the space to work with, run away from the monsters so that your mana has time to regen. If you think you cannot get your mana back quickly enough for it to be useful, get back to town as quickly as possible. It is better to be a chicken than a sitting duck.

Setting up a TP every once in a while is not a bad idea. When you are outmatched by the monsters, you can often run back to it and thereby get to town quickly. This is especially useful in Act4, since running back to town may mean leaving monsters on the stairs of the Pandemonium Fortress. If you do not have any of the waypoints for Act4, then this is a very bad thing to have happen.

Some Particularly Problematic Monsters

Might Enchanted: The might aura eventually needs to be feared. In Hell Act 4 it is sufficiently high level to be significantly more dangerous than the Cursed boss attribute, especially since the aura lends itself to other monsters as well. Supposing the monster is level 60, the aura is level 15. Doing +180% more damage or 2.8 times more damage, a few hits are more than enough to slaughter any sorceress. And of course if you are cursed while being hit by a horde of Might-enchanted monsters…

Hephasto: Be aware that when a monster with the cursed attribute hits a target, it has a 50% chance to curse everything in the vicinity. Also, the attack that curses you does not receive the double damage bonus, though subsequent attacks will. So if you have a good life total and Energy Shield level, you can often survive one hit from Hell
Hephasto. But if you’re cursed at that point, TELEPORT OR RUN THE HELL AWAY AND RETURN TO TOWN and get that Amplify Damage removed, or you will almost certainly die. Hephasto hits for 357-537 damage in Hell difficulty (Extra Strong = x3 damage) without an additional helping attribute (pray that he’s not Aura Enchanted with Might; if he has Might and Teleportation… don’t make a habit of regularly fighting Hell Hephasto okay?), which you can usually survive at that point. You probably cannot survive a follow-up hit for double that amount.

Lightning Enchanted: With good Lightning Resistance, these are annoying, but usually will not kill you if you know what you are doing. The real danger is a Lightning Enchanted monster with the Multishot attribute as well. Multishot multiplies the number of retaliatory charged bolts released… and thanks to how Charged Bolt works, these bolts are stacked on top of each other, so you end up seeing thick white “bolts from hell”. Continuing to fight one of these is usually not worth the risk; RuthlessPsycho died to one.

Undead Stygian Dolls and Undead Soul Killers: These monsters are found in the Durance of Hate levels and Sewer levels below Kurast. Their death explosion damage actually increases with the number of players in the game since their hp scales. Basically, if you’re near one when one dies in an 8 player game, you’re probably dead. If you see them, town portal out and enter another game, don’t think about behaving otherwise. They are that dangerous. It is also a good idea to hire a cold mercenary.

Other Tips

Sorcs by far at most prone to lag deaths as their hp is little, and they don’t have any form of minions. Hence, always try to party. Even a barb or a pally helps and you generally clear more than twice as fast in the first 30 levels, where you have not developed your high level powerful skills. Obviously, try not to leech, help by casting static and frost nova. Unless you have chosen to be a pure soloist that is.

Always have some method of chilling enemies. Frost nova works well, and so does Orb, and investing at least 1 point into either of them are both worth it. Not only does monsters move slower, they deal damage twice as slowly.

If the connection is laggy, keep an extra distance between you and any monsters on the screen as very likely, you are de-synced with the server, you may find yourself in the ever annoying position of being hit by melee monsters apparently half a screen away. Be extremely careful of the slow but hard hitting monsters – vultures, ghoul class monsters, and doom knights as this is the most likely way they will hit you. If you see them apparently trying to swing at thin air, you’re actually the target, so move!

In open areas take on packs of melee monsters as large as you can comfortably handle. Since all your attacks hit multiple targets it won’t take much longer to kill a pack of 20 than a pack of 5, providing they don’t kill you first of course. This is really the key principle of sorceress power leveling. Play it safe in a new area at first, take on a few at a time and work your way up and check the spawn. When ranged monsters are mixed in, go more slowly as these do get significantly more dangerous with numbers, most notably in Canyon of the Magi and City of the Damned. Try to lead the melee monsters away first and deal with them separately.

When chain casting static field, hold down the right mouse button rather than repeatedly clicking it, it’s faster. This works well for other spells too; click on the area (not a monster or you’ll be locked on it) you want to shoot at, hold down the button and move the mouse. This technique allows you to make full use of increased cast rate items.

Try to play in large 6-8 player games. The power of static field is often wasted in small games.

Try to check boss attributes before a fight if possible. Though MSLE is a very lethal combo, there are other very dangerous ones such as teleport/extra strong/cursed, might/cursed and extra fast/fanaticism which should be treated with great caution if not avoided altogether. Against holy freeze be prepared to teleport a lot, and if lag messes up your teleportation, leave the game.

Only solo in areas with no dangerous monster types. Flayers and vultures hit very hard, and undead Stygian dolls and undead souls explode when they die. Avoid areas with such monsters and other fast moving creature types such as rogues and saber cats. The only real areas with no extremely fast moving monsters are the entire Act 4, far Oasis, Sewers Level 1 and 2, Harem and Palace Cellars, Ancient Tunnels and Blood Moor.

Keep an eye on party members’ hit points, if they start dropping with no attempt to heal they are probably lagged and your priority becomes to protect them. Run close to the monsters surrounding them to try to get them chasing you instead, freeze them with glacial spike, and chill them with orb/frost nova and hope they drop or un-lag before they die.

Should someone really die next to you, and you know it is a timeout death (HP drops slowly over 10 seconds), the next important thing is to attempt to loot the corpse before he drops out. Teleport away from the corpse to get monsters to chase you and move away from the corpse, start drinking potions stored in your inventory and teleport back and loot half the corpse. If you can, drop some of the equipment you looted and try to loot the remaining ones. Obviously, if it is too risky such as you lag yourself, don’t do this.

Do not cast firewall and mass meteor when partied with other people, unless their graphics card can handle it. Fire spells tend to kill the framerate of older graphics card and cause so much lag that it can kill, intentionally or not. Firewall is best reserved for dispatching tough bosses that have been pinned down by your allies and on things stuck across bridges.

Realize when relying on party members or their minions to tank for you that if they drop connection, TP out or do a panic save-and-exit that all the heat will suddenly be on you. Be prepared and always leave yourself an escape route. Be aware of how your partners operate, make sure they know how you operate too. Refer to the Communication section for more on this.

Try not to use the telekinesis spell too much. The sound of that spell being cast severely annoys other players, even if the only things it is used on are trapped souls, mana potions, piles of gold and perhaps a few armours that are worth some gold. If you grab a rare, inform the party about it even if it sucks, and then maybe drop it for them to see.

Always be alert for all LEBs and MSLEBs. It is generally ok to chain static a LE, assuming everyone in the party has maxed lightning resists, the lightning bolts don’t hurt much, but MSLEBs are different. When you are facing a boss that you know is always lightning enchanted such as Bremm and Kaa, there is a very good chance that it is multishot as well. When opening seals, after the monsters have appeared, cast static once, listen for the telltale sounds a LE/MSLE and if you hear an LE, mouse-over to see if it is multishot before starting to chain static.

When playing any character, try to aim for the long term benefits. No doubt this may mean it is harder to level the first 30 levels perhaps (especially with super low mana for a sorceress), it will pay off.

Type “fps” in the chat window in the game so you can see your ping. This will give warning of lag spikes. Monitoring the pattern of pings as they go up and down should give you a general idea of whether it is safe to play or not.

Be wary of PKs. A level 27 paladin hanging around act 2 normal and demanding to party up is probably a PK. Know the standard PK tricks and avoid them if you suspect anything fishy. Simply leave the game when you see a PK coming, or if you are paranoid, the moment they declare hostility.

Never make the entire playing field invisible by opening both the character and inventory screens unless you are in town. This is a very embarrassing way to get killed, so is falling asleep at the keyboard.

Anything you aren’t using right now or carrying as an alternate piece of gear should be given away or transferred to another character (muled) so you don’t lose it if you die – especially if it’s valuable.

Know which waypoints are dangerous to travel to, and keep within yourself a list of waypoints that shouldn’t be touched after the game is a certain amount of time old.

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