A2 merc optimisation for AT runs


Diabloii.Net Member
Hello, I'd like to discuss some gear options in an effort to get the most of the A2 merc in my AT runs.

He's primary goals are killing CIs and keeping the blue bulb full through meditation. I feel that the run overhead (save, load, travel) makes it inefficient to skip CI since they go down really fast even the setup I'm currently using:

eth CV insight 16/244/6
AP fortitude
kira's (CBF was just that important and LL proved to be unnecessary)

Do I remember correctly that insight is actually a top tier desert merc weapon because of CS (and decent damage)? I'm willing to try a configuration without meditation if there's something that can heavily out-damage it.

I've checked all elite polearm bases and concluded that an eth GPA is slightly ahead of the competition in terms of DPS, just need to find a 4 OS one first. It also has the tightest damage range which should be helpful in killing a CI boss as fast as possible.

My next big debate is: fortitude or treachery. The initial idea was higher damage is better to burst down the occasional CI. However, the merc's might aura triggers seldom because he doesn't get to attack much, would treachery help trigger the might aura? Besides, faster attacks mean more chance to score critical hits. With all this in mind, I'm leaning towards treachery.

To replace kira's with something more useful, I'm willing to stuff my only cham into a helmet of choice, as far as those go.. does gface even come close to andariel's?

The way I see it +skills and almost double the strength is more reliable damage. I'm not sure how DS interacts with CS and the merc's natural chance to score a critical though. The CB is near useless since the runs are done on P1 and the bosses don't have enough HP to make a difference. Let's not forget static field which will bring most of the them to 50% HP anyway. Additionally, the 20 extra IAS will take both the GPA and my thrusty (pun intended) CV to the next breakpoint. Apart from those two nothing comes to mind. Theoretical circlets are.. well, theoretical :)


What about Reapers or Tomb Reaver, with a 1.07 MPK ring on you to compensate for the lack of Meditation?


Diabloii.Net Member
I don't have an 07 MPK ring, but the sorc might be fine without one.

Looks like I've got one eth reapers with decent ED, jab breakpoints are at 42 and 75 IAS (attainable with a shael). The built in DS should be comparable to CS on insight, the decrep proc might be unreliable, but could be of use when running into a stone skin CI boss.

Apparently, I've also found an 3 OS eth tomb reaver at some point, not the best rolls though. IAS is a non issue with its built in 60, but in terms of DPS I'd have to stuff it full of Lo runes.. that's an experiment I can't afford :D A cheaper option would be keeping fortitude and adding shaels/jewels to reach 105 IAS.

Thanks for the ideas, I'll try out the reaper's for sure.

Edit: typos and stuff
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Diabloii.Net Member
Reaper’s is going to be the most efficient way to handle CIs in AT because Embalmed and Plague Bearer mobs have 50 base DR and Invader/Horror Mage have 25 and 33 DR respectively. With that said, it might be much better for QoL purposes to keep Insight, especially on a Sorc focusing on MF (I’m assuming). Treachery/Insight should maximize crit procs and get that Might up fast, and it has 15 DR/60+ resists/curse reduction when Fade procs.


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Personally, I like Insight too much to give up on it. It or an ethereal Reaper's Toll would probably be the options I'd look to. Infinity likely has legs as well, lets you play around with putting points in Frozen Orb to boost your GS and IB, that kind of thing. At the end of the day, if I were running a specifically timed session of AT running, I would test a Reaper's Toll setup if I had a good ethereal version and see how it compares, but even if it were better, it's not likely to be much better than Insight, and for extended running periods (such as an MFO or the like) the comfort of Insight probably outweighs the extra damage. Just as a small aside, even though we're all familiar with Insight as a common, basic item, it's still actually one of the most powerful runewords in the game for just turning monsters into mush, the thing is insane.

As for armor/hat: I haven't tested Treachery/Andy's, maybe it procs Might faster, but Might doesn't add that much more damage than Fort does naturally so I'd rather not focus on the proc. I don't have a Fort, so when I run it's Insight/CoH/Andy's(Cham). I've tried running with Kira's instead of Andy's to avoid the Poison Nova making it tougher to see, but I keep coming back to Andy's.

A very good Andy's is one of the first things I would Cham (personally it's the only thing I've put in a Cham in so far) because of its versatility, and for an AT runner's merc I don't see much value in a Guillaume's Face. Deadly Strike and Critical Strike are separate sources of double physical damage, the CB doesn't add much so it's really just +15% off-hand damage and a few % chance to double damage (which, again, is basically a proc.) Don't take that as a "you should Cham your Andy's!" though, as in my opinion/experience, the choice between putting that first Cham in a Harlequin Crest or Andariel's is a big one as both are extremely versatile, the former for characters and the latter mostly for mercs, but there are still other compelling uses for a Cham, as well. Fort/Kira's/Insight will still dispatch CIs quite well, if you decide not to use your Cham.


Diabloii.Net Member
This is probably not the best set up, but on a budget, my AT Merc:

Eth Insight Cryptic Axe
Eth Andariel's Visage (Ral)
The Galdiator's Bane (Ort)

The aim was to get:
  • Cannot Be Frozen
  • Life Stolen
  • Good Lightning Resist
  • Good Poison Resist
  • Straight DR and MDR
  • Poison Length Reduced
  • 10 Frame Hit Recovery (30% FHR)
  • Originally planned to swap out Ral for a 15% IAS / Fire Resist Jewel to reach 35% IAS for 6 frame attack with eCA but never found it
This is a defensive set up, rather than something to take down cold immunes, but he does OK with those. The merc will almost always be poisoned, however, Glad's Bane is actually rather good for the unique combination of mods it offers. Plus it doesn't require any high runes...


Diabloii.Net Member
I'd switch the CV for Thresher. Otherwise I used GBane for my AT setup as well.


Diabloii.Net Member
Yes, Thresher is better due to the faster base weapon speed, but I usually pair Thresher with Treachery as the breakpoints for IAS work out pretty well (5 frame attack with Thresher and 45% IAS from Treachery).


Diabloii.Net Member
Relevant in Forti vs. treachery https://forums.d2jsp.org/topic.php?t=54233648

Bottom line is: use treachery with trt AND a might merc or forti with everything else if you are looking for damage, treachery is always better for defense unless merc can leech.

I would personally chunk mana pots and leave insigth in area runs, but that's opinion not math. Check your times.
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Diabloii.Net Member
I'd stick with Insight. I'm using it on all Blizzard Sorcs except for Travincal runner. There are advantages of other weapons as mentioned, but are they significant enough to give up Meditiation? These are P1 runs, Decrepify and faster aura triggering are not going to have much of an impact as everything dies immediately either way. I believe there's only one mob type that can spawn CI bosses in AT. Maybe telestomping the occasional CI with Merc is a second slower than having Infinity break them. But is that worth dropping Meditation? :)

For armor I'd also go (ebug) Fortitude + Andy, most powerful setup for caster Mercs by a wide margin... Unless a particular target requires adjustments (like Nihlathak for 99ers or Travincal), I'd go with that irrespective of the weapon choice.


Diabloii.Net Member
Might help if you want to play a bit with the numbers.
Might help, uh? Hehehe.

Anyway, numbers dont lie. Make ~10 runs with and without Insight and check your run times. I think it's a matter of playstyle. I dont like relying in Insight for all my casters these days, specially with mana pots dropping everywhere in area runs.


Diabloii.Net Member
Hardly a scientific test, but I did 25 warmup runs so I wasn't the actual worst (just approximately the worst) and then did 25 runs each with Infinity and Insight. Rest of the setup was Fort/Kira's.

at runs infinity test.jpg

at runs insight test.jpg

Saying too much in regards to long-term trends isn't really possible, but I can say for certain that having to use potions is a very real cost. I have 908 mana after BO, still averaging a potion per run with Infinity. Mana burn, as you can imagine, absolutely sucks. Using Shiver Armor gives you a buffer, definitely, but if you goof on your teleporting positioning it can get rough.

I only counted 3 monsters the merc had to kill with Infinity (by comparison, I had one run with Insight that had 4 CIs). In terms of the runs themselves, I picked up much more items in the runs with Insight, the runs with Infinity were pretty consistent with 5-7 bosses, the Insight runs were more feast or famine with quite a few at 4 or 8 packs. The variance of small samples, in other words.

Infinity felt better than I expected. Definitely noticed less GS/IB needed to finish things off overall, but I'll quote Grip on the subject:

I compared numbers with and without Infinity. But, I think Infinity is pretty much weapon that could give advantage to slower players in comparison to Insight so they don't have to deal with CI's. If you are very fast runner, then it seems to me all the advantage Infinity gives melts away cuz of drinking pots cuz of mana burn and you have to pick them up more frequently. In the end they come up somewhat even, but Insight is definitely offering more relaxed running overall.
Adjusting things a little bit I'm sure I could get the frequency of needing potions down a bit, and the runs are easy enough with Infinity so further testing seems in order.


Diabloii.Net Member
@Yng True, I only had CE in mind for some reason. You're right of course, mob types other than Embalmed are also breakable CI with those modifiers.


Diabloii.Net Member
Use 2 row of mana pots and 1 rejuv on the belt in the infinity runs if you arent already. Do you use tk to pick them ?
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Diabloii.Net Member
Tested a reaper's setup with double SoJ to offset the lack of meditation, but would still run out of mana every other run and as maareek says, mana burn can really slow you down when running without insight.

When talking about improving on sub 40s AT runs, frequently picking up pots is just out of the question which means insight will have to stay. Besides, I'm wouldn't bet on reaper's killing a boss faster during such a short time frame (1-2s) as it relies on decrep. Additionally, +2 skills from andariel's and BC should (at least that's what I've read on another forum) boost the CS to level 9 (54% chance to crit).

I think the merc is doing better against CIs even without the cham in andariel's (any reason to cham a non eth one, btw?), but I think he needs treachery. The CV is just too slow to pair with a fortitude. If I get lucky and get a faster base I'll repeat the tests with breakpoints in mind, but I'm still biased towards more attack speed to trigger might as soon as possible and score more crits.

I don't have an infinity or the runes to make it so I can't try that setup, it does look interesting if you have a FCR/preferably 07 MPK ring.

Thanks nulio, will definitely look into the calc!


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Perhaps I've overlooked something, but I'm not 100% sure what your main character is. You mention a sorceress briefly and in a different place you are talking about cold immunes being the job of your merc, so I will assume that it's about a blizzard sorc.

AT are so easy for blizzard sorcs (in particular at /p1, the optimum when concentrating on bosses) that the merc does't need expensive runewords like Fortitude or Infiinity. I don't think it would make him significantly faster (see also maareek's screenshots). In fact, I think that not having Insight might lead to an empty bulb more often and that would slow you down more. There's not much there which freezes mercs, so he also doesn't need CBF.

You also wrote that your merc doesn't get to attack much, so why bother with a runeword like Fortitude then? Why having CB? Why a might merc rather than one with holy freeze? That would be much more useful for a sorc and if he doesn't have any leech, it might be a good idea to have the one with the prayer aura. His job seems to be providing auras (his own one and those from his gear) and distracting the enemies while concentrating on survival and occasionally dealing with a cold immune (which the sorc can meanwhile pin to a wall with telekinesis).

I think the merc of my blizzard sorceress wears Andy's+Ral, Treachery and Insight. He has no problems with those few cold immunes in the AT (almost all the rest is killed by the sorc) and he almost never dies (including during the Pindle run at the end), not even when doing /p7 LK runs.

Regarding the activation of the merc aura: Each time the merc makes a "decision" while enemies are near, there's a chance that he's doing it. The higher it is, the dumber he gets, i.e. the longer it takes until he activates it. You can probably speed that up by making him make new decisions in a quick succession, like by teleporting around. I don't think it's worth wastingany extra time with that in AT runes, however. Either he gets it on his own during your teleportations or he doesn't.

An eth 4 socket GPA is pretty rare and the Insight runes are common, so you better use that weapon for something like Infinity. There's nothing fron with having Insight it it until you are ready for making Infinity, however. Otherwise it's a CV. Regarding the level of (edit) charged critical strike, I think it's worth rerolling it until it's at level 6. Andy's helm makes it +8 BTW.

Edit: An eth 3 socket Reaper's might be one of the very few uniques that could be worth zoding in single player, even one with stats below average.
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