Energy Sorc Guide, 2nd draft The Energy Sorc Guide aka Zarhrezz' Guide to Insanity Introduction Insanity you say? Only if you feel that anyone taking a base vitality sorceress using no life boosting equipment (other than the incidental life/vitality that happens to be on her equipment chosen for different reasons) through hell is insane. Solo, of course. This guide is not a complete and fixed character guide like the ones commonly found in these forum. It outlines a basis for skills, stats and equipment to be used, but while the stat distribution and equipment selection do not offer much room for experiment, there is room in the skill department to give different flavors to this build. The basis is of course Energy Shield and how to base a character on it. This guide is aimed at PvM only, for the simple reason that an Energy Shield build is not viable in PvP, considering the damage ranges involved. What we need to know about Energy Shield Before we build a character on a single skills, we should first learn all we can about said skill. First let us look at what Energy Shield can do for us: Energy shield redirects a certain % of damage to mana, making the sorceress lose mana instead of life. The % is based on the skill level of Energy Shield. The maximum % that can be attained is 95%, at skill level 40 Energy Shield. This means that only 5% of the damage being inflicted on the sorceress will affect her life. Almost all types of damage are affected by Energy Shield, not affected are poison damage and life loss from Open Wounds. I'm not entirely sure about Crushing Blow, but from playing experience I'd say Crushing Blow damage is not affected by Energy Shield. The damage redirected to mana by Energy Shield is modified by a factor that is dependant on the skill points invested in Telekinesis. With no points invested in Telekinesis, each point of redirected damage will cost 2 mana. This means 100 damage inflicted upon a sorceress with a 95% Energy Shield and no points in Telekinesis will lose 5 life and 190 mana. This is of course not a good thing, luckily there is the synergy with Telekinesis to help out. Each point in Telekinesis lowers the factor at which prevented damage is taken from mana by 6.25%, which gives us the following formula: mana lost = damage redirected * (2 - 0.0625*TK) where TK is the total number of skill points spend on Telekinesis (so called "hard skill points"). With 20 skill points invested in Telekinesis, we find: mana lost = 0.75 * damage redirected. Repeating our previous example, we now find 5 life lost and 71.25 (72) mana lost. This is of course alot more manageble than the 190 mana lost that we found earlier. The power of Energy Shield and importance of Telekinesis become more profound when looking at the damage resolution order. If damage is inflicted on a character, certain steps are resolved in a specific order before final life loss is determined and applied. For us, the following steps are of importance: Energy Shield: This is where the damage is redirected by Energy Shield and mana loss due to Energy Shield occurs. Damage Reduced by X/Magic Damage Reduced by X: The damage that is not redirected by Energy Shield is reduced by the appropriate amount and possibly nullified. Resistances: Resistances are applied. This phase does not just include the resistances listed in the character screen (Fire/Cold/Lightning/Poison) but also Magical damage and Physical damage (gained from equipment like Shaftstop). This phase is also where curses like Lower Resist, Amplify Damage and Decrepify are applied, as is Conviction. X% absorb: %-wise absorb is applied here. I won't go into details here, since we aim to avoid this phase. +X absorb: See above. Damage Goes to Mana: Mana is gained based on the amount of damage still left at this point. Ouch: Damage is applied to life. Mana Burn: Technically not part of the damage resolution, but part of the hit resolving that occurs after damage resolution. I mention it here to indicate that it will not take down Energy Shield before Energy Shield gets the chance to redirect the damage. Now what does all this tell us? First it tells us that our mana will take big hits, since Energy Shield will be redirecting unmodified amounts of damage to our mana. A huge mana pool is thus vital for the survival of a character relying on Energy Shield to stay alive. Secondly, (Magic) Damage Reduced by X takes effect after Energy Shield. Read that again, since it's the most important property of Energy Shield. The reduction is done on the damage not redirected by Energy Shield. For a 95% Energy shield, the amount not redirected is small and thus easilly negated by (Magic) Damage Reduced by X. If we go back to our previous example and give ourselves Damage Reduced by 7 (from socketing a Sol rune in our armor, for example), we see that the 5 damage getting through our Energy Shield is negated and we only take 72 mana loss. Now if we also consider that negative resistances (due to Nightmare/Hell penalty or being under Amplify Damage) only increase the damage that passes this stage, our path becomes clear: we will aim to not have any damage reach this stage (rendering us immune to negative resistances, Conviction, Amplify Damage, etc.). Note that by choosing this path, absorb gear and Damage Goes to Mana gear is rendered useless too. There won't be any damage in this stage for these mods to work on, so they will have no effect whatsoever. Of course that also means that we will not be taking any life loss other than life loss due to poison (no monsters inflict Open Wounds, so we don't have to worry about that), rendering Replenish Life and +Life after kill items also useless...just not as completely useless as the before mentioned mods. Another point worth mentioning is that Energy Shield is a skill that can be pre-buffed. See also the equipment section. Skill distribution Now that we know what Energy Shield does, we can outline our base build: Code: Energy Shield: 20 Telekinesis: 20 Charged Bolt: 1 Lightning: 1 Chain Lightning: 1 Teleport: 1 Not much to it eh? With only 44 skill points allocated, we still have 47 skill points to distribute when aiming for level 80 with all quest that give skill points completed. Of course there are a few skills that deserve 1 skill points for almost any build: Warmth, Static Field and Frozen Armor. This means we'll still have 44 skill points unspend...and this is where your own creativity comes into play! Stat distribution Stats are pretty much tied down in this build. We will need all the mana we can get to keep Energy Shield up and running, so each and every point not strictly needed elsewhere should go into Energy. Strength depends on equipment, see the equipment section for recommended gear (and thus strength). To sum it up: Code: Strength: 65 or 111 Dexterity: base Vitality: base Energy: everything else Equipment As you might have gathered by now, this is not a standard build, not a cookie-cutter build and now I'll just add that it's not a cheap build either. You'll need very specific gear, so you'll need to twink and be reasonably wealthy. As mentioned before, we'll need to cast a skill level 40 Energy Shield. Which means we need to get a +20 to Energy Shield when we cast it. Further we need all the mana boosting we can get. And we need a reasonable amount of Damage Reduced by X and Magic Damage is Reduced by X. This limits our equipment selection a great deal, but luckily the mods we require often come together. This gives us pretty much the following equipment setup/options: Armor: Options are Que-Hegan's Wisdom (10 MDR), Skin of the Vipermagi (13 MDR, resists irrelevant), Gladiator's Bane Headgear: Harlequin Crest or rare circlet with +2 Sorceress/Lightning skills, 80+ mana, 15+ energy, 2 sockets, Damage Reduced by 6-7. Very specific mods, I know, but without them, Harlequin Crest is simply better. Belt: Arachnid Mesh. Boots: Silkweave. Gloves: Frostburn, Magefist can be considered in some builds. Rings: Stone of Jordan. Amulet: Any Amulet with needed +skills and mana/energy/damage reduction. Weapon: Memory runeword in a staff with +1-3 Energy Shield. The mods on Memory are very good for this build, but for specific builds the staff can be used as a pre-buff switch to cast Energy Shield at skill level 40. If a switch weapon is used, the right skills for the build are most important, along with mana and energy. Shield: If a one-handed switch weapon is use, Lidless Wall is the shield of choice for it's +1 to skills, 10 Energy and 10% maximum mana. Note that the armors other than Gladiator's Bane should not be considered end-game gear, unless you have the rare circlet mentioned before, an Powered/Arch-Angel's Amulet of Life Everlasting with Damage Reduced by 20 or better or use a 1-handed switch weapon and socket your armor, headgear and shield with Sol; otherwise you'll only have Damage Reduced by 14 from Sol in armor and headgear, which isn't quite enough. 20 should be considered a minimum for both Damage Reduced by X. For Magic Damage Reduced by X a few points less would be acceptable, but nonetheless unadvisable considering the fact that resistances will most likely be at -80% which means close to doubling elemental damage that does get through, something physical damage does not suffer from. Also note that with +6 Energy Shield and an overall +10 to +12 to (lightning)skills, we'll still need 2 to 4 Sparkling Grand Charms to reach skill level 40 Energy Shield. I never said that would be easy, now did I? On the bright side, you'll have a rather nice skill boost on any other skills you decide to use. How to get to where we want to be Now that we have figured out what general skill distribution to use and how our stats and equipment will look, we first need to get to the point where we actually can use it all. The early levels are straightforward...use whatever suits you. You won't be using skills all too much (except maybe Static Field), like most any low level character. Early stat points should be spend on strength...pump strength to 65 before starting on energy (so you'll have a wider armor/weapon selection available to you). Skills should be spend on prerequisites and on Telekinesis. Of course more of a balanced skill point allotment can be considered if your main attack spell is a lower level spell. Early equipment should offer alot of +life and all the defense rating that you can find...this is simply low level survival, unaided by our Energy Shield. From level 23 onwards, twinking spell-caster gear should start. You should have the strength to wear any spell-caster armor that becomes available, and you should use it. Try to get as much +skills as soon as possible...at level 30, +5 to all skills and another +4 to fire skills is easilly possible. Items to consider are Leaf runeword staff, for example in a staff with +3 Fireball (you can just buy this kind of staff!), Lore runeword headgear, Magefist, Eye of Etlich amulet, The Spirit Shroud or Skin of the Vipermagi armor, Stone of Jordan should go on at level 29 and never go off again. At this point, Energy Shield should get some protection going and you should still have enough firepower to take most monsters out at a safe range. Energy shield should be taken to the point where it is cast at skill level 16 as soon as possible (gain up to and including skill level 16 is 5% per point increase, after skill level 16 this drop to 2% per skill point, later on it drop to 1% per point). If you can kill at a decent rate, spend on Telekinesis, maxing it as early as the late 30s. From there work on maxing Energy Shield should commence, only to be halted if firepower starts to fall noticibly short. As levels progress, equipment should improve with items like Gloom's Trap and +skills charms as needed. The biggest boost to Energy Shield comes at level 37 with a Memory staff. The base staff should have +3 Energy Shield, bonuses to your offensive skill(s) of choice are of course a plus. Near the end of Normal difficulty, Energy Shield should be at an effective skill level 25-30 and gear should be all caster gear with sufficient Magic Damage Reduction to safeguard us from magical attacks. To be on the safe side, a Sol socketed in the armor of choice could be considered, but I found that even with no Physical Damage Reduced by X, physical damage was never a problem. Going though Nightmare shouldn't prove too hard. Defenses should be in place and the main attack spell should be dealing enough damage to take care of most anything on your way. The merc in combination with a secondary attack spell should take care of uniques immune to the main attack spell. At the end of Nightmare we should be around level 70-75 and the main attack spell should be maxed and work on the secondary attack spell should be underway, to be finished in hell. The mercenary was only briefly mentioned before, but his importance as a tank should not be underestimated. I would advise to hire a Defiance merc as soon as possible and never to trade him again. His Defiance aura works very nicely with the bonus from any of the cold armors and the defense bonuse granted by a Memory staff. It shouldn't be too hard to attain 9000 Defense Rating when end-game gear is equiped. Now what? So now we are where we want to be (sort of)...in Hell. Of course we have nice gear, a big fat Energy Shield and a great deal of mana to support it, a nice merc giving us a nice defense boost and 2 skills that can kill things at a decent speed. Pretty much everything needed to succesfully make it through Hell. But what are the things to be afraid of? First and foremost: Mana Burn uniques and their minions. Well yes, but we have a big mana pool right? And the Arreat Summit tells us that most monsters don't deal more than 100 damage max and Mana Burn does 4 times that amount in mana damage...it shouldn't be a problem at all if you take the incidental hit from them! True. If the information on the Arreat Summit would be correct. Either Mana Burn is bugged or the Summit is lying, but even 2000 mana will be gone in a single hit from almost any Mana Burn monster (unique or minion). And almost anything in hell can kill you in less than 3 hits when Energy Shield is gone. Extreme caution should be taken when facing Mana Burn packs. Let your mercenary handle the tanking but stand back yourself. Find something else to show of your taking prowess on. There is a little good news though: due to the high mana pool, mana regeneration is such that even right after a Mana Burn hit, you'll be able to teleport away. Which you should, really. Our other great friend will be poison. Energy Shield does nothing against poison. We will have less than 400 life and -80% poison resistance. You get the idea. The good news? With Energy Shield up and sufficient Damage Reduction on our equipment, nothing is capable of dealing that final 1 damage to kill us. It's perfectly possible to tank the 4th and 5th group of Baal's Minions while at 1 hp with this build. I've done so at least 10 times in Nightmare when leveling up. But although possible and kinda cool, it's generally still a bad idea to run around in Hell with just 1 life. Another nice thing that we will encounter and come to love is Blood Mana. Considering our mana pool will be about 5-6 times our life total, some of our pals in Act V will make a habit out of casting it on us. And if you have 400 life, casting a spell that takes 30-40 life gets painful rather quickly. However, given some life potions and some care in playing, it is nothing that will kill us, just slow us down and annoy us. A good tactic is actually to teleport into melee range of a group of Blood Mana casters, since they have the tendency to cast Amplify Damage or a curse that lowers your Defense Rating when you're close, overriding the Blood Mana. And it's not like Amplify Damage affects us to begin with. Other than the forementioned 3 things, there is not alot in hell that is an overly great threat to the Energy Shield sorceress. Of course there are uniques with combinations of mods that make for extreme damage ranges, but I've never encountered any that could take down Energy Shield in less than 3-4 hits...and those kind of combos tend to kill other characters with those 3-4 hits. Monsters that are considered dangerous by others can be considered petting-zoo material to the Energy Shield sorceress. For example the Extra Fast/Extra Strong/Cursed Frenzytaur unique pack that I tanked in Baal's Throneroom at Hell difficulty. You said something about you having issues? Well, that should be obvious by now. But let's restrict ourselves to game-related issues. First there is an issue with certain Super-uniques and Bosses that allow them to kill you even while they're already dead. I've died to poisoning by Mephisto and Achmel the Cursed. I got poisoned, went down to 1 life and after they died, I died, the message stating I was killed by them. How? I don't know. It shouldn't be possible, but somehow it is. Conclusion: Stay out of poison range of those two. Another death that I cannot explain was to a minion from Bonesaw Breaker. He charged me, I died while still having mana left. Doing the calculations shows that it shouldn't be possible to deal enough damage to kill me without also completely draining all mana. In this case, 1/3rd of my mana was left. So somehow some damage either ignored the Energy Shield, or somewhere in the damage resolving stack after the Energy Shield the damage got boosted by an unknown factor to such an extend that it could kill me. So you might try to avoid being charged by them walking dead thingies. Mana Burn was already mentioned, it drains alot more than it should as indicated from the descriptions/numbers on the Arreat Summit. And since we rely on mana to keep us alive, this is an issue of importance to us. The only solution is stay away from Mana Burners if at all possible. There is one positive issue too: Energy Shield doesn't always go down when you reach 0 mana. Sometimes you'll be drained to 0 mana and the shield will stay up...and with the mana regeneration of this build, very soon a buffer big enough to take a few more hits is again in place. Not that recasting Energy Shield is a big problem, but hey, it's still nice. Next draft will add details on Mephista, some alternative build suggestions and I guess anything else that is requested =) So feel free to ask for additions/clarifications/motivations.