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Diablo 2 Guide: The ‘Shadow Walker’ (Pure Claw/Venom)

Guide by: Duncan Idaho -

1. Introduction

Diablo 2 Guide: The 'Shadow Walker' (Pure Claw/Venom)Hi everyone!

Some of you know me, some of you don’t. So I’ll quickly introduce myself. I’m a fan of soloing HC assassins in players8 mode, and particularly close combat, C/C assassins. I’ve read some posts asking about C/C assassins using Venom, but have never seen a guide about that build which was the first I tested in 1.10. My 1.09 assassin was using CM/DC/CoT/WoI and was of course not efficient in 1.10

If that build asks for real good equipment to be playable in Hell mode, it is really fun to play, since it asks a real mastery of various skills. This is (for the moment) the most fun build I’ve tested

This assassin is not a hybrid in the sense of a combination of MA/Trap skills, but she makes much use of Shadow skills. She chooses to follow the path of the Shadow.

Finally, I’ve not tested it in PvP, but I believe it’s more a PvM build.

Advantages of the C/C assassin :

  • Less need of dexterity, so more vitality
  • Block is not divided when running, and you can block magic attacks
  • More chance to hit : DC’s AR bonus is awesome !
  • Attacks are faster (5 frames per swing, instead of 7 for a C/S using claws)

Drawbacks of the C/C assassin :[*]Less defense, and in general less PDR[*]In general less resistances (except if you use Jade Talon)[/list]

2. Abbreviations

C/C : Claw/Claw
HF : Holy Freeze
DC : Dragon Claw
CoT : Claws of Thunder
DF : Dragon Flight
CM : Claw Mastery
BoS : Burst of Speed
CoS : Cloak of Shadows
WB : Weapon Block
MB : Mind Blast
SW : Shadow Warrior
SM : Shadow Master
BF : Blade Fury
DS : Death Sentry
BShield : Blade Shield
CS : Critical Strike
DStrike : Deadly Strike
OW : Open Wounds
ITD : Ignore Target’s Defense
PMH : Prevent Monster Heal
CB : Crushing Blow
CTC on striking : Chance to Cast on striking
Life Leech : life leech
ml : mana leech
res : resistances
FR : Fire Resistance
CR : Cold Resistance
LR : Lightning Resistance
PsnR : Poison Resistance
PRD : % Reduce Damage
FHR : Faster Hit Recovery
FRW : Faster Run Walk
CBF : Cannot Be Frozen
PI : Immune to Physical
AR : Attack Rating
Slvl : Skill Level
Clvl : Character Level
Str : Strength
Dexterity : Dexterity
+ % ED : + Enhanced Damage


Max SM
My first impression was that, contrary to the 1.09 version, a soloing assassin desperately needed a Shadow. If MB allows you to have extra ‘tankers’ most of times, having a Shadow makes the job easier (a lot easier !). And seeing a Shadow killing some monsters of her own is sweet

Max DC

Well, AR and Dmgs … main attack

15-20 CM
Of course that type of assassin will rely on claws. Maxing CM is not a must-do, since the AR bonus is negligible before DC’s one. 15 pts allows to have a good CS %, and with good +skills you’ll have the max %.

Max Venom :
Venom IS a great skill. It adds a lot of poison damage, and last the durations of 1 DC attack at top speed. Very useful, and quite deadly against monsters who don’t have high Poison res.

1-5 BoS :
Really important. If you start with no stuff at all, you’ll need to invest some points in it. The number of skill points depends on the equipment you want to use on the latter stages of the game.

1-5 WB
WB allows to block with claws. Less effective than a shield, it does not need dexterity investment, and does not suffer ‘running-penalty’. Once again, the number of skills points depends on the equipment you’ll have later. I think that a 9-10 slvl is good for PvM.

1 CoS
A must-have in 1.10. Raises your defense, lowers monsters or enemy’s one, prevents monsters (except bosses/Oblivions Knight) from using spells, creating broodlings, fleeing (fallens, etc …). It’s only drawback is that you have to wait for the last one to fade to be allowed to cast another one. It will be really useful since DC is no longer uninterruptible, so you must not be rounded by monsters !

1 MB
Once again a must-have.

1 BF :
Here is a small thingy which is a GREAT improvement. Adds ¾ of your total claw damage. Will provide a great attack against dangerous monsters, and is not affected by IM !! Beware, CM needs AR, so if you’re using an ITD weapon, do not forget to put the other one claw as the ‘off-hand’ claw (equip the second claw last).

0-1 DF :
A ‘comfort’ skill, always useful

0-1 DS :
Also a comfort skill. I’ve not used it since I played in 8 players mode.

0-1 BShield :
Only to make your assassin look cool… the interest is really limited.

0-1 Cobra :
That skill will be useful if you start from crap. It asks to put a 1-prereq skill pt in Tiger.

4. Stats

That’s the easy part
For the one playing HC :
Str : what needed to wear your equipment
Dexterity : idem
Energy : nothing
Vita : all the others skill points

For the players in SC :
Str : what needed to wear your equipment
Dexterity and vita : what you want (100 pts in dexterity <=> 75% skill-like ED=.
Energy : nothing

5. Equipment

As you surely guessed, that build is far less flexible than a kicker or a trapper concerning the equipment. Each time I’ll try to give several possibilities.
In Normal mode, magic or rare pieces of equipment will do the job. However, be careful with resistances (specially lit and fire)
In NM mode, you’ll probably need a better equipment. Starting from crap will surely be hard ^^, and I can only advise to use crafted items to enhance your equipment. Don’t hesitate in running Mephisto in NM too
In Hell, you’ll need to have a good equipment, and a really good one if you play HC, with PDR


Let’s start with Weapons. Top claws are of course Bartuc, Jade Talon, Firelizard’s Talon and Nat Claw.

  • Bartuc : Everybody knows these. +skills, +str, +dext, good dmgs, can be upgraded in solo and ladder (even if it’s not the better weapon to upgrade), Life Leech, FHR. In my opinion, you need at least one
  • Jade Talon : A ‘shield-claw’, because of the resistances. Brings mana leech (10-15% ml). Finally, it brings FHR too. Yet, its damages are quite low compared to the other claws, and it cant be upgraded, and it does not grant high skill boost.
  • Firelizard’s Talon : A great claw, with good fire dmg. That claw can also be used against PIs with Tiamat and Venom.
  • Natalya’s Mark : Good dmgs (don’t forget the ED vs. demons and undead). It deals more dmg than a non ethereal Bartuc. ITD mode is also good, specially when used with BF against bosses and champions. Yet, it lacks … everything else. So use it only with the complete set.

I don’t speak about Fury and Chaos claws, which are really good (since CM does not bring 100%CS, fury is now a really good choice). They need HUGE amount of gold or Ort runes to repair.


  • Vampire Gaze : well, everybody knows
  • Tal Rasha’s Horadric Crest : There too a good helm. Higher Life Leech and ml, resistances, but no PDR.
  • Harlequin’s Crest : Useful for its life bonus and PDR. Good, but IMO not the best for that build.
  • Crown of Thieves : The better Life Leech helm, with a good bonus dext. Really good in later NM, not really hard to find, but will surely be not enough for Hell.
  • Rockstopper : FHR, res, PDR. Really good one. Its only drawback IMO is that it grants no Life Leech or ml (in diablo3, possibility to ‘mix’ 2 items to have some of the bonuses of both ?)
  • Stealskull : A lesser ‘Tal mask’, but with ml.
  • Natalya’s Totem : Res, str, dext, magic DR. But once again, since it has no Life Leech, ml or PDR, I would only use it in NM mode or in Hell with the complete set.


  • Shaftstop : One of the most used pieces of armor : lots of PDR and life. Quite a good AC, more if upgraded, without having a high str requirement.
  • Lionheart : Excellent runic armor (110 hp), resistances,. Yet, it does not grant PRD
  • Nat Armor : Same thing than for the helm : best used with the complete set.

For a low and mid lvl assassin, a good crafted or rare armor, or Twitchtroe, can be good enough


For me, String of Ears is THE belt. Brings PRD and Life Leech. If you have no String, you can use a good craft/rare belt, or Wilhelm’s Pride. Hwanin is good too, for it brings PMH
Of course, the combo Sigon Belt/Gloves is as usual really useful !
The Death set belt can be a good option too (CBF)


  • Natalya’s Soul : Good res, but once again I would use it with the complete set if you have better boots
  • War Travellers : Really good ones !!
  • Gore Riders : great for mods such as DStrike, CB, OWsympa pour les mods (DS, CB, OW).

Of course, Sigon Boots used with another part of the set brings 10% Life Leech
You can also use crafted boots if you have some luck 😉


The amulet is a real important part of the equipment, since the various bonuses it brings will surely decide what you’ll wear on armor/gloves

  • Highlord’s Wrath : For me, the best since the 1.10. DStrike is awesome, and the IAS is great since you won’t need any other source of IAS. With a slvl 20 CM, and a clvl 90 char, you’ve got almost 50% chance do deal double dmg!
  • Crescent Moon : Very good since it grants Life Leech and ml
  • Mara’s Kaleidoscope : If Crescent Moon grants Life Leech and ml, with that amulet you’ll have skills and resistances. Yet, real good crafted amulets can do better (with a lot of luck)
  • The Eye of Etlich : A great amulet : +1 all skills and Life Leech

Crafted amulets are sometimes awesome. It’s quite easy to obtain the different parts of the recipe, yet it needs luck to have top crafted amulets


The goal here is to have Life Leech and res.

  • If you have no CBF on your stuff, of course keep a Raven on you (or at least in your stash) or some monsters will cause you troubles.
  • Crafted rings (or rare) are best, with Life Leech, res, dext, life, str …
  • For low lvls, Cathan are of course really useful
  • Bul Kathos rings are really good now, but they just have low lvl Life Leech (5% max)


Gloves are like amulets : very important

  • Sigon’s Gloves : Well, with the boots or the belt, you’ll have 30% extra IAS. Great !
  • Crafted Gloves : if you have no other IAS source, try to have 20% IAS crafted gloves (or rare of course). If you manage to obtain 20% IAS / +2 MA skills, that’s even better 😉
  • Laying of Hands : These gloves rock, since they afford 20% IAS and a high source of dmg against Demons
  • Venom Grip : These exceptional unique gloves are good. They bring 5% Life Leech. They don’t bring IAS
  • Soul Drainer : These 1.10 gloves grants Life Leech and ml, and cast Weaken on striking. So it’s really useful. Alas, They don’t bring IAS
  • Dracul’s Grasp : Life Leech has been nerfed. Blizzard gave us Dracul’s Grasp. For me they are the best. They cast life tap on striking, grant Life Leech, str, and 25% OW. With life tap you can leech on every non PI monster (so even skeletons)

Of course, for all of these they are quite a lots of other possibilities. I’ve only put the ones who seemed the most interesting to me, and I can have forgotten some (and perhaps a lot 😉 )

6. Jewels, runes and charms

IMO, the best way to socket your claws is (if they are not runewords of course) with a jewel +3x% ED/+1x mas dmg (finding 40%/15max is utopia). For all claws, these jewels are better than the Ohm Rune, given the ED and the max dmg are decent. Don’t hesitate in socketing a claw, in the 1.10 it’s now possible de unsocket quite easily. All you’ll loose is the jewel or the rune.
Concerning armors and helms … well it’s depend on what you lack. If you lack resistance, find a resistance jewel. Additional ED/Max jewels are a really good option too.
Finally, for the luckiest and/or richest, it sometime can be useful to socket your armor/helm with the Cham Rune, since it will save you a ring.

Concerning Charms, they mainly should be Max dmg/AR/other mod, or resistance charms.

Another important thing is your FHR. The breakpoints are the following (in 1.09, I don’t think they’ve changed in 1.10) :

FHR Frames


You can try and reach the breakpoint you aim at by using charms in addition of your equipment. Don’t forget that a magic charm and 3 perfect gems reroll the properties of the charm

7. Against PIs

Against these charming damn creatures, that assassin has got several options. I’ve not talked about the alternative weapons.
It must be taken into consideration that Venom does good dmg against PIs, but some of them have the bad idea to have good resists against Poison (and some are even immune to Poison, such as ghosts and the baboon monsters in Nihlathak temple)


  • The unique FireLizard’s Talon grants huge damage of fire. It is of course possible to add a jewel with magic dmg.
  • The Chaos runic word, with huge magic damage, to which almost non of the PIs will resist (very little monsters are Magic Immune)
  • A magic claw dealing elemental (fire/cold/lit) dmg.
  • A socketed claw with runes/gems/jewels adding elemental dmg.
  • A weapon with elemental damage and ITD.
  • Gimmershred
  • The Famine runeword (really great !!!)


  • Tiamat Rebuke, socketed with a good elemental jewel
  • A 3 socketed shield, with elemental jewels

Another possibility is using a weapon casting AMP, that will almost always break the physical immunity (such as Atma amulet). Don’t forget that you can use BF to protect you from these PIs, since against them you won’t leech life.

8. The Hireling

You’ll have the choice between the Might hireling or the Holy Freeze one. The first will bring you additional damage, and will deal higher damage himself, while the other will slow the enemies. He will need good equipment too, principally Life Leech and PDR.

In my opinion good equipment would be the following :

Armor : Shaft or LionHeart
Helm : Vampire Gaze or Tal Rasha’s Crest
Weapon : Well … my preference goes for Hone Sundan, specially if you can have one ethereal upgraded into elite version. Socket with 3 Amn runes 😉

9. Some tactics

Normal mode

The goal is to be able to use DC quickly. Of course, at the beginning, you won’t do enough damage to leech back the mana spent. But when you find enough ml, use DC.

The Normal mode should be easy. Put some points in SM, and spend some points in Venom too. Since the monsters resistances are pretty low, Venom will be a quick killer ! Don’t forget to put 1 point in CoS and MB

The amount of skill points invested in BoS should depend on which equipment you want to use later in the game. Of course, if you start from crap, don’t hesitate in putting some points in it (5 I’d say).
Finally, if you want to use BF, don’t wait.
Try to wait for clvl 50 before entering NM

NM mode

Things tend to become a little bit harder. Up until clvl 60-70, just level up CM, DC, Venom. You can also spend additional points in WB. In general, a total of 9-10 in that skill is quite enough in PvM, with skill bonuses. Put some points in SM when you see it becoming too feeble. You’ll probably have to use CoS and MB sometimes; in general, use CoS against ranged monsters, and MB against large mobs.

Don’t forget to hire your mercenary in act 2. The ‘conversion bug’ does not exist anymore in 1.10, so don’t worry. Don’t hesitate in doing Mephisto and Baal runs in case of poor equipment.

Hell mode

Things become tricky here. You’ll need to use a lot CoS and/or MB. If you have Dracul’s Grasp, now that the Life Tap curse and CoS override each other, so cast CoS first, and once Life Tap has been cast, use only MB. CoS and MB will clearly be your best friends!

Don’t hesitate into using BF against Fire Enchanted monsters, since they can deal huge damage, and can hurt you to death when dying.

10. My build and Alternative Build

This is the equipment I use :

Natalya’s Odium set

  • One 36%ED/12 max jewel in claw
  • One 32%ED/1-77 lit dmg jewel in Helm
  • One Cham rune, 2 3x%ED/+1x max jewels in Armor

Dracul’s Grasp
Highlord’s Wrath
Perfect upgraded Bartuc
(almost) Perfect String
2 Life Leech crafted rings with resistances

As you see, it’s good stuff, but I’ve spent in it the best I’ve found in 3 years of intensive playing.

An alternative build possible use FoF. As you surely know, FoF, when liberated, transforms a percentage of your physical damage into fire damage. The goal is to have your SM at slvl 17 with +skills, and have a high slvl FoF (you can eventually not max out CM, and put only 15 pts in it). It works very well too, yet you’ll need mana potions some times

There it is, please give feedback.

PS : I’m not a native English speaker, so I hope I did not make too many errors 😉

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