The Bone Mage is a necromancer build that makes use of the Bone Spells for killing. A Bone Mage may also use a merc and/or minions for tanking, but the focus of the build is the ability to cast high damage spells quickly. I have Patriarched my Bone Mage, Necundus, who got through the game without twinking or trading. There has also been an untwinked Guardian Bone Mage on the SPF HC Ladder.
Strength is really only useful for wearing/wielding items for this build. Therefore, one should know what is going to be used for equipment while planning this build. Most of the decent caster armors have a pretty low STR requirement. In addition, wands and necromancer shields have low STR requirements, as well. I would suggest 70 to 80 with all of the +stat items, which should allow most of the armor, helms, and shields that a caster would want to use.
DEX is used for equipment selection and blocking (as well as a little AR and defense). There is really one question that you should ask when it comes to DEX, do I want to get the blocking or not? In my mind, this question is an equipment question. This build is extremely mana intensive. So, if you know that you are going to have a SOJ or Frostburns to get you to the mana you need, you can go for the blocking. However, remember that the base blocking of the necromancer totems is pretty low. You may look at something like 50-60% blocking in lieu of the 75% max to keep your total investment low.
A lot of points will go here. Necromancers donâ€™t get a lot of hit points per point in VIT, but every little bit helps. Life is good, especially in 1.10.
This is another questionable one. Again, this is equipment sensitive. If you are going to use Frostburns or Stones of Jordon, you can reduce your expenditure here and go for DEX for blocking and VIT for more life. If you donâ€™t have access to these, or just prefer the challenge of not twinking your characters, then more points in here is helpful. Just remember, though, that mana potions are sold at the store. Donâ€™t go overboard here, or you may end up without enough life down the road.
Here is the basis of the build. Skills are the name of the game, and it is the thing that will make or break your character. Here again, there will be choices to be made.
Poison & Bone Tree
This is where most of your skill points will be spent. The following is a discussion of all of the skills:
This skill got a lot of improvement in the new patch with the synergies. It is a very nice skill in the early part of the game, but will quickly lose pace with the monsters life, especially at high players settings. However, it is a synergy with your end-game attack spells, so it doesnâ€™t necessarily hurt to put a few skill points here, initially. However, I would suggest only putting 4 or 5 at the most in here initially, and then only if you are going without minions. It is better to save your initial skill points for some of the later spells.
This skill is truly a one point wonder. I highly recommend putting a point in this, and having it active all the time, but there really is no reason to put anything more into it. The synergies for this skill actually allow it to adsorb more damage than points in the skill itself. Since you will be maxing those skills, anyway, this skill will be pretty decent, without additional investment.
This is a very nice skill, very useful for clearing out lots of monsters, especially if they arenâ€™t fire or physical immune. However, I would again only recommend one point in it and let +skill items get it up to a usable level. More skill points just increases the size of the explosion, not the damage, and it doesnâ€™t synergize with your main skills. It is quite easy to get this to usable level without putting a lot of points here.
This skill is an absolute necessity, especially until you get Bone Prison. Not only is it a synergy with your attack spells, it is a synergy for Bone Armor and Bone Prison. This is a skill you will eventually max.
At 18th level, you are ready to really start damaging some bad-guys. With your first point, you will be doing a lot of damage. This is where your big decision is made. Do you go for Spear as the primary attack? Or do you use the Spirit? Fortunately, you donâ€™t have to make that decision for a little bit, so for now, use and enjoy Bone Spear, and know that no matter what, you will be maxing this anyway, so put as many points as you like in it.
This is one of your crowd control skills. There are three really nice features of Bone Prison. First is that it is a synergy with Bone Spear, Bone Spirit, Bone Wall, and Bone Armor. The second is that its mana cost drops every level, while its life goes up. The third is that it completely surrounds your enemies, not allowing them to simply walk around your barriers. There is a couple annoying little drawbacks, though. The first is that it is possible to imprison yourself with the thing that you are trying to keep away from you. The second is that sometimes with close groups, the prison has gaps, which lets the bad guys out. However, the benefits FAR outweigh these little annoyances.
This is the spell that deals the most damage to a single opponent that this character has, excepting the possibility of Corpse Explosion. The best part of Bone Spirit is that it is self tracking, and it will pass through other opponents to hit its target. This means that if you are facing an aura-enchanted boss, it is a simple matter to take him down to weaken the rest of the pack. You also donâ€™t have to worry about actually aiming with this spell, as you can simply hold shift down and spam it and the spirits will find their own targets to damage. This is definitely a skill you will max, even if you decide that it isnâ€™t your primary skill.
The Spear/Spirit debate:
There has been a very long debate over which to use, Bone Spear, or Bone Spirit. The issue comes down the this difference: Spirit does more damage to an individual creature, Spear doesnâ€™t do as much damage, but pierces, allowing it to hit more creatures, thereby having a higher damage potential.
Hereâ€™s my take on this:
Max both. They synergize each other, so this isnâ€™t a waste. If you like Bone Spirit more, you still can use corpse explosion for doing damage to many enemies. If you prefer Bone Spear, you still have Spirit for dealing with individuals (like Act bosses). To me, it is a matter of playing style.
Most builds would recommend putting 1 point in every curse (or even just the non-AI curses) and letting +skills raise them to usable levels. I disagree with this approach in 1.10, and with this particular build. You simply donâ€™t have the points. In addition, some of these curses will not ever really be useful to you, so there is no point in wasting your points on them.
Hereâ€™s the skinny, the only curse that I make a lot of use of is Decreptify with this build. The reason is that none of the other curses are really that helpful with my primary damage spell. If you have a merc who doesnâ€™t have a lot of life leach, you might use life tap. Amplify damage is great for damage, but Decreptify has too many nice features for me to use it consistently. My suggestion is to put one point in Amp Damage, Weaken, Terror, and Decreptify. Lower Resist wonâ€™t help you, because it doesnâ€™t work on Magic Resist anymore, so donâ€™t waste you skill points getting it unless you plan on a lot of party play with Sorcs.
You can also make use of the AI curses for crowd control and dealing with magic immunes. I would still recommend only one point in these curses, and letting your equipment get them up to longer durations.
My builds havenâ€™t used them. I do enough damage on my own that I really donâ€™t need them. However, with as powerful as the summon tree became with this patch, it wouldnâ€™t be impossible to play a hybrid. In addition, it is possible to use a Clay Golem as a tank for this build (this is exactly what Vex_Nemox used for his Guardian).
I am not going to go into specifics on what items to use. However, I will state what I think the focus of your gear should be.
Wand â€“ There is nothing that will be better here than a good wand. Wizard Spike might be worth the sacrifice for the faster cast, but I really donâ€™t think that anything would replace wands for this build. What you are looking for here is +skills, especially +poison and bone, +to necromancer skill levels, and +to your attack spell. If you have the runes, the White runeword (Dol+Io) is fantastic for this build, even better if you go with a hybrid, as it gets +3 to skeleton mastery. My dream wand is a Venomous Wand of the Magus, with a +3 to Bone Spirit, +3 to Decreptify, +3 to Bone Wall, but that would be a very rare find. Boneflame, one of the new unique wands deserves a special mention here, as it is pretty much perfect for this build.
Shield â€“ Find yourself a decent necromancer head for the +skills. It is actually possible to find totems with +3 to trees, but they are pretty rare. My suggestion is to find one with +3 to your primary attack skill and socket it with the Rhyme runeword (Shael+Eth). Totems can only ever get 2 sockets, so none of the other runewords are possible.
For the rest of your gear, I would focus on resists, +skills, faster cast, mana, mana regeneration, and resists. Oh, and make sure that your resists are pretty high, too.
Well, here is my strategy for skill placement from level 1-30. This gives a pretty decent balance between offense and defense, which is the best thing about this build.
Skill point Skill Placement
Level 2 Teeth
Level 3 Amp Damage
Den of Evil Bone Armor
Level 4 Teeth
Level 5 Teeth
Level 6 Corpse Explosion
Level 7 Weaken
Level 8 Teeth
Level 9 Teeth
Level 10, 11 Save
Level 12-17 Bone Wall
Level 18, 19 Bone Spear, Bone Wall
Level 20-23 Bone Spear
Book of Skills Terror
Level 24 Decreptify
Level 25-29 Bone Prison
Level 30 Bone Spirit
I would then start to look at my play style and what I want to do. If I am going to use the AI curses as part of my strategy for crowd control, Bone Wall makes a whole lot more sense to use as my barrier, since Bone Prison also prevents the monsters from attacking each other. I would also pick which attack spell I was going to focus on. I would then max my primary attack spell, max my primary defense spell, max my secondary defense spell, and then my secondary attack spell.
There are three Magic Immune creature types in the game that I have encountered in Hell. They were the Plague Bearers in the Lost City, all Horadric Mummies (Guardians, etc.), and then Yeti in Act V. Since your primary attacks deal all magic damage, you need a way to take down these nasty little beasties.
The first way will pretty much only work for the Horadric mummy type monsters. They always spawn with undead around them. These undead are not magic immune, so you run around trying to get the skeletons near the Mummies, then prison them all together, and explode them all to death.
The third way is to let your merc take them down, then explode them to kill the rest of the group. This can work with prison and an ACT II merc, since he reach over your prisons and attack, as long as there arenâ€™t too many of them. Once he has a couple down, corpse explosion the rest. However, it is much easier to do with a Rogue merc.
A fourth way is to let minions take them down, if you went for a hybrid. This shouldnâ€™t be terribly difficult to do, if you have the minions to do it.
A fifth way is to use the AI curses and let them kill each other.
I would pick the Fire Rogue merc from Act I as my merc for this build. The reason for this is the strategy for this build is to keep the baddies away from you and nail them with ranged attacks. Keeping the monsters away from you is easy with Bone Prison, Bone Wall, the AI curses, and possibly a golem. There really isnâ€™t any need to have another tank. The Rogue adds depth to your damage, being able to deal physical and fire damage in addition to your magic damage. Remember, Decreptify will remove physical immunity, so if you found a Physical Immune/Magic Immune creature, you can still get your Rogue to do damage to them beside the fire damage.
I could also go with an Iron Wolf Merc from Act III. I personally donâ€™t like these guys as much, but if you prefer, they will work. I would pick the lightning guy, as they have okay damage, all of their attacks are ranged, and they donâ€™t have an issue with shattering corpses.