Hi all! I’ll start by telling you that this guide may seem incomplete to many folks. You won’t see technical stuff like break points, damage formulas, or scientific explanations of any sort. That’s not my thing. I am an experiential player, and this guide reflects a niche character I took to Guardian in my general style of play:
- single player solo, PvM
- full area clears, ALL monsters put to rest
- hardcore, untwinked (zero items muled on)
I acknowledge the excellent Fire Druid Guide, found here in the Strategy Compendium. It is very well done, and will give you stat junkies the scoop on the details I leave out. I will refer to this guide a number of times here, so you might just want to keep it open.
My character was inspired by this quote from that guide:
Q: How do I deal with fire and physical immunes?
A: Run for your life! A dedicated fire druid can’t really defeat a FI/PI. Some druids use act 1 cold mercenaries to fight them, but most druids simply run past them or let their party destroy them.
I don’t park anything or MP, and wanted to play this character, so some build adjustments were needed. This particular fire druid specializes in Volcano, using Dire Wolves (crowd control) and an Act 2 HF merc (crowd control & elemental damage). He also will be no block, max life, max resists, which is my general preference for ranged hardcore characters.
Important note: In Single Player, there is a very frustrating bug with Fire Enchanted bosses, and the Ancients in particular. I won’t go into details, but trust me that SP HC builds need to avoid melee action with, and proximity to one of these nasties when they die. This bug is a one-hit killer, and somewhat influenced my build.
Stats & Skills
Strength – Standard answer applies: enough to equip your armor. Dusk Shroud requires 77, so I aimed for that. Since you will be mainly a melee (or bow) druid until level 24 pump strength early for damage.
Dexterity – Base will work. Weapons with + druid skills include the club/barbed club family which have no dex requirement. Remember, this is a zero block build. You don’t plan on getting hit. The idea is to use your summons and merc for blocking.
Vitality – Again standard answer: all remaining points. My build will give you 350 or more. With Oak Sage life will be 1800+.
Energy – I used +mana and mana regen gear, plus Solar Creeper. But to prepare for the Ancients and Baal, I put 65 points there. Why 65? I don’t really know – instinct I guess. I could have gotten by with less. Druid experts will offer that base is adequate & might be.
For skills, I chose to specialize in Volcano because it deals both fire and physical damage (recall my goal of killing every monster). I don’t go through any damage discussions in this guide. The Fire Druid Guide covers them very well. Summons are required with a no-block build. No shifting skills are used.
Firestorm – A pure fire druid would pump this synergy, but you will need points for summons. (1 point)
Molten Bolder – Synergy to Volcano adding physical damage. This is a great skill in the Maggot Lair or Arcane Sanctuary and against monsters that move up tight to walls or objects. It also features knockback which is useful at times. I maxed this one last. (20 points)
Volcano – Your main killer, max ASAP. It works best on stationary targets and has a 4 second timer. So it is best aimed on a monster after it engages with your merc or summons. It’s quite efficient when used in “funnel areas” like doorways where monsters just continue to advance, replacing their fallen mates. With practice, this skill can also be aimed to halt an oncoming monster by putting it into block animation, or even block-lock. After getting the HF merc this skill is much easier to use. (20 points)
Cyclone Armor – Optional with this build. Since you melee early in the game, it can help, especially in HC. But later on it may feel like the points are wasted. Even if used, I recommend five or less since +skills will boost it to a respectable level. (0-5 points + 0-1 Arctic Blast)
Oak Sage – In HC this is an obvious choice. As a fire druid, you want to kill with your skills and keep your meat shields up as long as possible. With +skills, ten is a very good investment here, but if you elect to pump Dex over Vit, more points here will offset. (10+ points)
Raven – With +skills can be a useful distraction against act bosses. (1 point)
Spirit Wolf – The summons synergy is not needed with this build. (1 point)
Dire Wolf – Your primary line of defense, these have been buffed up in 1.10 and can take quite a beating. The damage is also impressive in Norm & NM. Keep these three furry friends up at all times, and cast in front of charging beasts as needed. Pump to 10 as soon as you can, and use as a sink for all remaining points. (10-20 points)
Grizzly – The bruin’s damage was nerfed in 1.10, but with Oak Sage and Dire Wolf life bonuses, his durability is amazing – mine had 8800 life at lvl87! Even if he can’t kill anything, he can tank it. This guy will get you past act bosses and the Ancients. (1 point)
Poison Creeper – This skill helps in Normal, but is also effective against Diablo (1 point)
Carrion Vine – If you go with Dexterity over Vitality, this vine will help keep you alive, and dispose of corpses. (1 point)
Solar Creeper – If your gear doesn’t offer high regeneration, this vine will keep your mana topped off, and dispose of corpses. (1 point)
A fire/summoner is not item dependent – perfect for untwinked play. The items that are covered in the Fire Druid Guide apply, so I won’t repeat all of that. And since I play untwinked, I don’t find any higher end stuff anyway. So I’ll briefly go through what characteristics I find useful in each slot.
Weapon – In the early game you are melee or bow, so use anything you find or can gamble that has low Dex requirements. As soon as you shift to a caster, you might try to buy a wand with faster cast, +mana, or sockets for resist jewels. Beginning in NM you should be able to gamble a club or spiked club with +druid skills, but continue to shop/gamble throughout the game until you get a +2 druid skills club. Alternately there are a number of unique weapons with low Dex that add +skills.
To assist with FI monsters in Hell, you should invest in a wand with Lower Resist charges on the switch. They are reasonably cheap, and available from wand merchants. Some FI monsters’ immunity can be broken with these charges, but not all. During tough fights it’s worth the time and repair cost to check.
Shield – Even though the build is no block, a shield is very important for resists. A 3 P-diamond shield works great. Caster crafting can work well. But I think the best overall option is a Rhyme Grim Shield. It’s light, the runes (Shael/Eth) are easy to find, and with +25 resist all, mana regen, and cannot be frozen you can’t do much better.
Helm – Look for +druid/elemental and +3 volcano pelts. Resists are also very nice. If you are lucky you can find a “white” pelt with excellent +fire/summons skills and 2 sockets. Then with Ort/Sol you have Lore giving +1 skills and +30 lightning resist on top of your other mods.
Armor – Look for resists, faster cast, +mana/life, and mana regen, all in a lightweight package. Stealth (Tal/Eth) is a great early to even late game choice. A few lightweight unique armors will give +skills as well.
Belt/Gloves – Caster crafting may be your best and cheapest option. These are great slots to get some resists.
Boots – In addition to resists (see a theme here?) you want faster run/walk for your evasive maneuvering. No block means you need to keep moving. And speed will save your skin against Diablo, gloams and the Ancients.
Amulet – +2 druid skills or +3 elemental skills are the end game goals. Any other useful mods are gravy. In the early game +skills and resists are preferred.
Rings – Faster cast, +mana, +life, resists – normal caster stuff. You can gamble some pretty nice rares here.
Charms – As usual, whatever resists you are missing, +life/mana, faster run/walk, and elemental or summons skillers.
As a hybrid build, the fire/summoner is not a fast killer. You will not generally wreak havoc on all that you encounter – unless you proceed with discipline and caution. If played methodically, this build can defeat any enemy in the game.
In Single Player you can set the player difficulty. I recommend /players8 in the early game, possibly through all of Normal if you are an experienced player. I used /players5 in NM and /players3 in Hell except act bosses and The Ancients. This keeps your level relatively equal to the monsters and allows you to avoid mind-numbing experience runs. These settings may be a little high (reckless) for a beginning hardcore player, so adjust accordingly.
Mercenaries are pretty straightforward. Your rogue will help you while in melee, but you really need a tank when moving to caster mode. The Act 2 Defiance merc is probably your best choice until you can replace him with the Act 2 Holy Freeze version in NM. Holy Freeze is almost a requirement for a druid specializing in Volcano. You need the monsters slowed to keep them atop your killing power.
Merc equipment choices must include as much elemental damage as you can find. This is your main approach to defeating FI/PI bosses. You can get this on all three pieces of gear – helm & armor by using elemental jewels placed into sockets. My choices were lightning and poison damage since skills covered fire, and Holy Freeze already had monsters blue. Of course life leach is needed, but another excellent weapon mod is open wounds. Since you will sacrifice defense with this approach, your merc will be somewhat fragile. You should pump him potions (you’ll need very few yourself) and be ready to retreat just to allow him to heal. You will also need to resurrect him more than you will like. But do not attempt to complete this mission without him. Your summons and then you will be swarmed – and in hardcore that means game over.
Your mercenary will die against most act bosses. There is almost no way to avoid this, so plan accordingly.
You will be a standard melee (or bow) druid until lvl24 when you get volcano. Just remember that you are not a powerful hero in this mode. Play safely and you should be fine. Put points into pre-requisites and single-pointers as they become available. Get your three wolves, put a few into Oak Sage to keep everyone alive, and Fissure as an early elemental attack.
Al lvl24, you switch gears with Volcano. Use it early to get used to the aiming and four-second timer delay. I recommend putting a point into this skill at every occasion until it is maxed. Since Grizzly is your only lvl30 skill, and you need one point there, this shouldn’t be any problem. Then work on synergies, wolves & oak sage in any order. It all depends on your own play style and your opinion on what skills seem too weak. If your wolves (your main defense) are getting slaughtered too quickly, invest there or in oak sage. If you want to kill faster, pump synergies. You get the idea.
One of your main challenges will be in keeping track of all of the activity, and switching skills. Unless you play assassins, this may be unfamiliar territory. Unfortunately nearly all of your skills are right-click so you will do a lot of switching. I recommend you hot-key Volcano, Fissure, Wolves, Grizzly, Oak Sage, vine (if used), Cyclone Armor (if used), and Town Portal on the right. You will use them all, and need to be able to hit them quickly. Practice, practice, practice. After lvl24 I put Molten Boulder on my left click for occasional knockback or attacks, but mainly to avoid accidentally running into the battle and a near death experience, or worse!
In general you should play cautiously by advancing until you wake up a group of monsters and then retreating again to put yourself into a safe, rear position. Then allow your tanks to engage the melee fighters and absorb all of the ranged attacks. Be ready to side step piercing attacks (serpents and gloams). If monsters come from multiple directions you can cast wolves in front of them to halt the approach. Place volcanoes quickly, but carefully under an engaged group, or preferably a boss (especially if a shaman). You only get one location choice every four seconds.
Always keep your minions and merc alive. Keep your eye on the oak sage – ranged attackers target it often. Use your party as a barometer to monster pack difficulty. If they are slaughtered quickly, retreat immediately, recast everyone and reposition to fight a few at a time.
Act bosses are generally not your biggest problem. Andariel is simple with fire as your main attack. Duriel is easily handled by tying him up with ravens, grizzly, and merc while you slow cook him. Mephisto isn’t very difficult if you keep him distracted with ravens, wolves and your merc – just beware his cold attack since you have no blocking.
Diablo is annoying, but if your resists are high you can absorb his fire ring, and you should be able to side step his other attacks. Your goal is to keep a grizzly in his face and a volcano up his butt. This battle takes caution and patience. Baal is your toughest boss. His cold wedge and mana drain attacks will keep you off balance. But like Diablo, if you keep ravens & oak sage up, and a bear in his face, you can fry him as well.
Your party will take a beating in the Chaos Sanctuary because of Oblivion Knights and Iron Maiden. Be prepared to retreat often and return to town to resurrect your merc. You generally will not be in a lot of personal danger, but the area will be very irritating. Patience is the key here.
FI/PI bosses will be tough. But they can be beaten if you wipe out the minions first and attack with everything you have. You may be lucky, and a wand with Lower Resist charges may break the fire immunity. If not, your merc and his elemental damage (open wounds is extremely helpful here) will slowly take the monster down. Your grizzly should be able to keep it pinned somewhere while you get the job done.
Nihlathak is easier in 1.10. Just be sure not to stand on top of a corpse during the fight and keep your Oak Sage alive. With your high life, your party can survive his CE attack, and your vine can assist in cleaning up corpses as you go.
Be extra careful with frenzytaurs. Your merc’s aura does not slow them, and when extra fast or might-enchanted, they are extremely dangerous. Try to break up these packs and take them on one or two at a time.
With no blocking, gloams are very dangerous to you. Try to wake them up in small groups, and get them to follow you back a bit. Side step incoming lightning, and retreat to regroup as needed.
Lister’s pack is quite tough. Do not get hit, or stun lock will send you to the your grave. Clear the entire level before taking on Baal’s minions. Then you can lure out one or two at a time making them doable.
NM & Hell Ancients are by far your toughest foe – aren’t they always? Here’s where all of the practice in switching skills and evasive tactics will pay off. The basic procedure is to place the grizzly in a position to tank all three and burn them to a crisp. Before the fight, unsummon the vine to keep it from leading one of the big three toward you. Immediately after they spawn & engage the ravens/merc/grizzly, check their mods. If any one of them is Fire Enchanted, cast a TP and reroll. Remember the FE bug I mentioned at the top? It is a one-hit killer no matter how much life you’ve built up.
After you take care of that problem the fun begins. You have no blocking and cannot let yourself be hit. Keep your merc alive for as long as possible. He may be able to seriously injure or even kill one of the Ancients before dying. Listen for Korlic’s leap attack warning – if you hear it, immediately side-step. Keep your Oak Sage up. It will be targeted often, but is critical to keeping your meat shield alive. Try to keep your grizzly in the same position, and yourself clear of the main action. That will attract the three to the same relative area, and a volcano placed near your bruin will hit one or more of them pretty frequently. If you have time, ravens will take some of the hits and keep your grizzly alive longer. Be patient, and careful. Keep this process up and one will soon fall. Then another. Probably one of them will be FI and will take longer, but hang in there, and you will be victorious.
This guide was written based on my experience with one character. It is certainly not the definitive source on how to build a fire/summoner druid, especially if you twink items to your character. It may not be technically the best build, and probably can be tweaked to be even more effective. But it worked for me.
This was a very fun character to play, and if you decide to start one, I hope I gave you at least a couple helpful hints.
I again want to acknowledge the members of the Druid Forum, and Garbad_the_Weak specifically for the general fire druid guide that inspired this build. And thanks also to members of the Single Player Forum for their critical review and input.