Advice needed from experienced sins


Diabloii.Net Member
Advice needed from experienced sins

Hey. I've played D2 for a while, but for some reason, the only chars I've ever bothered getting to a high level are pallies and zons. Sometimes I get bored and level up an inferno sorc just to see people act weirdly when I use it as my main attack spell, but that's another issue entirely.

Anyhow, I'm intrigued by assassins. Though rather than going traps, I'm probably going to try a physical melee build. My main concern is survivability. My old zon was a strafeazon with 20 base points into valk and decoy and about 10 into the passives with +skills. I could solo almost anything pretty easily and was never in any real danger. The only time I ever even saw my valk's health go down was through IM or when she was surrounded by like 15 mobs on 8 man hell act 4 or 5. My last paladin, just for kicks, was a defiant zealot. He was 95 resist to lightning, poison, and fire, with 90 to cold. Don't even ask his armor. Both were actually really fun, though their DPS sucked in 8 man games.

My point is that I'm used to chars who are pretty tough. But that is something this char will not be, so I'm asking for some advice on how to mitigate that. Anyhow, let me run my build by you. Keep in mind that I don't want to use elemental melee or traps and that I'm aiming for Nat's set with a second Nat claw and LoH. No idea on the rest yet, but I'm open to suggestions.

Martial Arts:
20 Tiger Strike
1 Cobra Strike
1 in all 4 Dragon finishers

The reason I only went 1 in each of the finishers is because I plan to use Dragon Claw as my main finisher, and it gets a terrible damage bonus per rank. I also wanted a point of Dragon Flight, and the other two are there because they're prereqs. I took 1 rank of Cobra Strike because I figure it will give me a decent emergency option. On Hell dif, just getting 1 charge of Cobra Strike means I can Dragon Claw with each claw having 70+% life leech, so 140+% life leech total. I think that's pretty much a guaranteed full heal.

Shadow Disciplines:

1 in everything
20 Shadow Master
20 Venom

I want Venom because I'd rather not be completely neutered against PI's. Plus it just seems like good damage for solo if maxed, though maybe I'm mistaken here. Correct me if I'm wrong. As for the 20 Shadow Master, I figure I will definitely need some kind of disposable distraction if I'm to have any chance in Hell. With 20 and +skills, I can get him elemental immune.

You will notice that this adds up to 73 skill points. I figure I can get one more skill to 20 before XP becomes slow. I'm not quite sure what to pick. Almost everything else in the Shadow Disciplines tree suffers from massive diminishing returns. Here are some ideas I've had:

10-15 Fade. If I can get lvl 20 Fade, which I figure 10-15 base points will be enough for with +skills, I'll have 50% physical resistance when combined with the Nat set bonus. I'll only be at the 9 fpa breakpoint for Tiger Strike, but if I really want to be speedy, my 1 point in Burst of Speed with +skills will put me at the max of 7 fpa, so I'm not sacrificing much there. Of course, it might be a waste because I could simply stick 3x Ber in my Nat armor and get 50% physical resist (assuming the 8% from Ber stacks with other Bers and with Nat bonus).

20 Claw Mastery. From what I'm seeing so far, my AR will be horrible, probably my main weakness offensively. This will help solve that problem.

20 Dragon Claw. Having a +3500% damage on each hit is a bit useless if they both miss. Dragon Claw may give crap for damage bonus per rank, but at level 20, it adds a pretty decent AR bonus, which is an alternative solution to my AR problem.

20 into Cloak of Shadows. This might solve my to-hit problems even better than the above solutions. Cloak of Shadows has linear gains rather than diminishing returns, too, with a very pronounced difference between 1 and 20 points.

20 into Weapon Blocking. I know that people swear up and down to do this, but I respectfully disagree. First of all, returns diminish rapidly. The difference between lvl 10 and lvl 29 is 10%. I'd only be blocking 20% of the stuff I'd be missing otherwise. I figure I'd get a better defense boost out of Cloak of Shadows. Second, this only functions when an assassin is not moving or attacking. From what I'm seeing so far, mega mobility will be the primary defense for a melee sin.

What do you all think? Or would you do something I've missed entirely? I'm really open to any suggestions on how to make this work.

Oh. And one big question I forgot in the original of this post. Does the ED on Nat Claws against undead and demons count as weapon ED? So pretty much a total of 400% weapon ED against almost everything?

And another big question I forgot. Do charge-up bonuses get added to each attack using Dragon Claw? The skill says they are. The 1.10 FAQ says they aren't. Any chance that's fixed in 1.11?
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Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Advice needed from experienced sins

The charges gets released only from the primary weapon. So that means that you will only leech 70% from your primary weapon.

Tiger Strike works best with Dragon Tail, since the ED from dtail is applied AFTER the total damage is calculated. It might be decent with dclaws as well, I've never tried it. Some people just play with dclaw without any charges. You'll do slightly less damage without TS, but you'll have higher chance to hit each time.

In my opinion, 20 points in Shadow Master is not needed. I have 9 points, and my shadow master rarely dies. She's not much of a killer, but a nice distraction/meat shield.

The problem with 20 in Cloak of shadows is that it lasts for very long, and you can't blind new monsters for a while if this skill is high.

Twenty skill points in Weapon Blocking doesn't have to be a waste. It all depends on how much skillers and +skills you have from items. Look at After level 26 you need 5 skills to get an additional 1% chance to block.

The problem I see using fade is that your attack speed will be low, no matter how you try. It's because of the Dragon Claw finishing move. If you plan on using fade, you need to use Dragon Talon instead IMO. Otherwise go with BoS.

You're right about AR. With Dragon Claw and Claw Mastery, you'll have a very decent AR. The +% to demons and undead will add to your weapons.

Venom is OK vs PI's, but you'll need a long time to kill them with venom. An alternative way to deal with PI's is to go with equipment that has chance to cast amplify or decrepify. My merc uses Reaper's Toll for example, which has 33% chance to cast decrepify.

BTW, what does DPS mean?


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Advice needed from experienced sins

I've never played a DC sin before, but this is what I would suggest.

Firstly, maxing DC and CM for the damage, and forget about tiger strike.(Nice skill but not awesome with DC like it is with Dtail. It will only effect your primary claw and therefor only be useful half the time.) Still one point cobra strike though as it can be quite handy.

I love venom, and it turns things green, poisons them, and it has a spider in its picture. Placing those points into a elemental charge up however may be better for you.(I know you wanted to keep from them, but they can be quite faster at dealing with Physical Immunes.) Venom can still be used though. It would provide faster killing in general actually, but slower killing against PI. Not trying to tell you what way to go, just giving you all the options.

As for weapon block, it should be really important in this build because you won't be using a shield. DC is just like the barbarian skill double swing, and a major difference between sins and barbs is their life. The barbarian can't block while using double swing, which is a huge loss for any melee build, but they'll have high life and defense to compensate. Sins obviously can't achieve the life or defense of a barb, so the next best thing is weapon block. Get it to ~55% I'd say, work on getting this even higher at a later part in the game. I would favor this over a shadow actually.

Now thinking about the low life and defences of the assassin, one may come to the conclusion that fade would greatly help the build. But it my opinion you will lose far too much killing speed going the fade route. With the setup you mentioned you will have a 15 fpa (both attacks in this time), where you can potentially get 10 fpa with BoS. I'd like to pointed out, nats has 30% PDR, as well as +50 to all resistances, (as well as making you appear ethereal-like and cool looking) which should cover many of the losses of fade. The faster enemies die, the less they can hit you, the less they hit you the longer you live..... and so on..... and so on.....

Useful link

Shadow Master is quite possibly the best minion in the game, the only minion that comes close is the shadow warrior. If you like having an extra meat shield along with your merc, then you could max it, personally I never cared for them that much. 10 points here should be plenty, there really smart (unlike the valkry) and they stay alive for a while, I really don't see a need to max them, you could better spend those points elsewhere.

This should be an interesting read for you:

Shadow Warrior can cast only the two skills readied in your left and right skill button, while Shadow Master can use any of the Assassin's skills, even if there are no points in it.

Both the Shadow Master and Shadow Warrior come with inbuilt resistances. However, up till the level 17, the Shadow Master gains elemental resistance at a greater rate. Beyond that, SWarriors spawn with greater elemental resistance than SMs at the same level. Shadows gain elemental resistance at these rates:
Shadow Warrior: 4 * Slvl <capped at 75% for skill-based elemental bonus>
Shadow Master: 0.75((110*lvl) / (lvl+6)) + 5 <no cap>

Though neither Shadow can become innately immune to the elements, if she spawns with +resist all equipment or receives the effects of a Paladin's Salvation aura for example, both Shadows have the ability to be completely immune to an element(they cannot absorb, unfortunately), as their resistance is pushed to 100%(being minions, they have no 75% cap).. Both Shadows spawn with 40% PDR regardless of level(this can be increased if they decide to use Fade).

The SM attacks roughly one frame faster with DC/CoT/BoI/FoF. The SWarrior attacks roughly one frame faster with BF/DFlight. Both have the same Normal Attack speed.

The SM spawns with items at a higher level than the SWarrior(this is in addition to the SM spawning with better quality equipment at higher levels, consult the other FAQs). Specifically:
Shadow Warrior item level formula: 18 + 2 * Slvl
Shadow Master item level formula: 24 + 3 * Slvl

The SWarrior has a defense bonus of 12%/level, SMs have no innate defense bonus.

The SM has a life regen of 50 hp/sec, whereas the SWarrior has a life regen of 75 hp/sec.

Both Shadows attack twice with DF/DC/CoT/FoF/BoI in one 'click' (that is, when you see your Shadow DF'ing someone, she actually has the chance to inflict the damage of two DFs in one stroke, even though only one DF is seen)

Both Shadows have an AI delay of 0.6 seconds (15 frames) before they can do any other action.

Shadow Master costs 40 mana to cast and Warrior costs 27 at level one and rises by 2 with each skill point.
I would recommend a skill placement that would look like this:

20 - Dragon Claw
20 - Claw Mastery
20 - weapon block
20 - venom/charge up
10 - shadow
6 or 9 - BoS you'll need 43 EIAS with a shael in your primed claw if you want to hit the last bp, or 51 EIAS without the shael.

I would start by getting 10 into weap block ASAP. Then work towards maxing DC and CM, after which I would I would start to level my venom/charge. Place quest skills into BoS after NM den, and make sure I get it to my desired level before entering hell. After entering Hell, I would start working for max block, and once I have my desired level of weapon block up, I would finish off everything else before ending with my shadow.

And lastly, your questions about damages. Damage to demons/undead is always treated as off weapon ed. so the 200% provided on nats claw will effect after the 200% ed on the claw. ex.

Displayed clay damage on nats is 120 - 153
Lets say you also have 149 strength (the str req. for nats armor)
Actual damage done to undead/demons 538 - 686

With 2 nats claws, your damage to demons/undead will stack. With LoH your total damage to demons would be +750%.

any way, for a guy who never played a DC sin I sure had a lot to say. Hope you find something here useful, and good luck with your assassin.


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Advice needed from experienced sins

You've got some solid ideas there and they've all been responded to; I just have one concern of your build plan - you don't have a single move that can deal with more than one you'll be taking on everyone one at a time - and it's not like a martial arts movie where they all dance menacingly around you whilst you beat on their predecessors - they'll be beating down on you in the meantime...just an FYI really. Do note that your SM will be popping traps and using some elemental skills of her own accord though.

Good luck with that Sin :)


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Advice needed from experienced sins

Well, I want to clarify a few things.

First of all, for fade vs BoS, I'm planning on using Nat set with LoH. I've plugged those values into the weapon speed calculator to get the numbers mentioned above. This is how it breaks down, assuming I'm not using any other gear.

Tiger Strike:
Fade: 9 fpa
1 point BoS: 7 fpa (fastest)

Dragon Claw:
Fade: 7.5 fpa
1 point BoS: 5.5 fpa (quite nearly fastest, 5 is max)

I'm not really worried about that, though, as I'm definitely going BoS instead. After getting to ~30, I'm seeing that fade to 20 is not really an option at all. It's simply too big of a waste of points.

Honestly, weapon block is the same thing. You're telling me that I need weapon block, and I agree. I'm telling you that I can't justify spending 20 points in it, instead of 1. I'm getting less than 1% extra block for each point beyond the first, and I'm starting to see already that this build, like my others, will be damage-starved more than anything else. Here's how WB breaks down, assuming I just put on Nat set and nothing else.

1 point weapon block: 44%
20 points weapon block: 59%

If I assume I get an additional +3 skills from elsewhere, which is not a big stretch at all, it looks like this.

1 point weapon block: 49%
20 points weapon block: 60%

Basically, I'd be spending 19 points to block 20% of what would otherwise get through. That would be nice, but I still feel like I don't have the points to spare. I think I'll probably end up needing every last bit of offensive power I can get.

Anyway, I'm starting to see the point about cloak of shadows too. It's probably too expensive and has too long of a delay to really be used as a primary solution to AR problems. I'm not too worried about AR, though. I didn't realize until now that Nat claw had Ignore Target's Defense on it.

Anyway, good read on the difference between SM and SW. I still say I like valk better than anything else. Tons of hp, tons of armor, great avoidance skills since she gets your base ranks in passives, 85% resist all not even counting possibly immune-granting gear, which gets me to their great gear. Nearly indestructible at very high ranks. I wasn't exaggerating when I gave the above examples. I think I'm probably still going to take SM over SW after reading the above article. I've looked at the gear table of the two and SM's are a lot more likely to spawn immune to stuff because they get far better gear. Plus, from what I've seen of SW's behavior using TS-DC, it's kinda bleh. Maybe it's just because I have 1 point in it so far.

A few questions.

Are the charge-up effects of tiger strike and cobra strike not cumulative? The elemental strikes obviously are, so I assumed TS/CS are too. I'm starting to suspect strongly that they're not. If they aren't, I might just reroll something else. The only way the damage potential of a physical, non-kicker sin looked decent was if the damage bonus on TS charges stacked. If they don't, may as well just spam dragon claw instead, which would prob result in some very lackluster damage overall.

And am I missing something about dragon claw? Sometimes I'll charge up TS and use DC, and I'll see one very powerful hit followed by one weak hit, which is what you'd expect given the behavior as it's commonly described. At other times, rarely, I see two distinct powerful strikes. I'm not talking about a crit or something. It's clearly two different hits that both seem to be affected by TS.

Lastly, just wanted to ask if Ignore Target's Defense works on all mobs, including bosses. If ITD works on everything, then I don't really need to buff dex beyond the bare minimum. If it doesn't work on bosses, I'll probably start channeling a lot into dex once I meet the str reqs for my gear. Lack of AR further mauled my zon's offense against a lot of things, even with tons of points into penetrate, and my sin looks like she'll end up with significantly less.

Last question. Is it possible to get eth set items? And do eth set items/uniques appear as gray on the ground or green/gold?


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Advice needed from experienced sins

I guess I should have just done this to begin with:
Click Me!
Ya it has everything you want, I was tired and wasn't really thinking straight, so I tried to help off the top of my head. (Guess I failed:hammerhead:)
In lafa:
No you cannot get eth set items. Uniques can be eth if they don't spawn Indestructible unless they always spawn eth. (shadow killer is always eth, tyreals might is never eth.)
ITD does not work on bosses. (or champs either I think)
I know there is a bug with DTalon, where if the first is miss' it will carry charges over to the other kicks. I guess it's the same thing with DC.
I'm pretty sure that TS is not cumulative, but I do know that the elemental charges are.


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Advice needed from experienced sins

TS and CS are not cumulative - they are like Phoenix strike in that charges 1, 2 & 3 act independantly. So if you have lvl 1 TS charged at 2, and lvl 1 CS charged at 3, then strike - you will do 200% damage (for TS charge 2) and will leach 80% of that in both life and mana.

In saying that - a high level TS still does massive damage - I recall (not checking stats) that higher levels go well into the thousand percentile of additional damage...