Guide-"The Atheist" - able to kill everything in the entire game, solo, 8p games I. INTRODUCTION That's right, you read it correctly. After many hours spent reading and playing, I've finally come up with what I believe is the best possible character in D2 LOD 1.11. My mission was to come up with something just as good as a hammerdin that WASN'T a hammerdin, but I humbly believe this build is even better, and I'll explain more on why later. This is my first guide, so I apologize in advance for anything sub-standard. Table of Contents: I. Introduction II. History III. The Build IV. Skills V. Equipment VI. Stats VII: Inventory VIII: Mercenary IX: Strategy, et al X: Conclusion XI. Last Words Why this build? This build has ultimate survivability via lifetap. It has huge physical damage and tank-ability. It has an effective and non-annoying(more on this later) way to handle oblivion knights. It can do the ubers. It absolutely ravages monsters even in 8 player games. Oh, and did I mention it can do all this solo? It is basically the ultimate balance between power and flexibility in my eyes. If you want to learn more about the theory behind this, read the next (History) section. Otherwise just skip to section III, the build. II. HISTORY Note: You might not want to read this, it is not necessarily relevant to the build and may be boring and unnecessary to some, but I included it for people who may want to understand my thought process and mental background for coming up with this build. I started playing D2 as a barbarian in 1.10. I was obsessed with leech. My idea was, try to do as much damage, get as much life, and as much leech as possible, and I'll never die, sweet, I'm awesome at this game! After making several WW barbs and zealers, I discovered the bane that is Iron Maiden. I was done with melee chars. I then went on a Sorceress mission, trying desperately to come up with something that would not have a problem with immunities, let alone dual-immunities, and also ensure good survivability. I wasn't satisfied with meteorb sorc's because I didn't like the skill of meteor and felt orb didn't do enough dmg in 8 player games, plus the first time I saw Lister spawn both fire and cold immune, I shunned this build forever. After much experimentation, I realized that sorceresses were just not for me. The only sorc I felt was viable with enough killing power and flexibility was a dualdream enchantress, but I felt that survivability on a sorc was not good enough for a melee-enchantress, and I finally gave up sorc's for good when I was disappointed with the max attack speed of ranged enchantresses. If it wasn't for this, this is the char I would've built. I also made an avenger, but like a melee sorc, I did not like to have to use potions all of the time. I then concluded that I needed a character who attacked at a range. This brought me to amazons. I tried making a lightning zon who was also tank-oriented, for lightning immunes, but tanking was too difficult without a shield. When I found out that ranged physical attacks aren't affected by Iron Maiden, I got excited and thought that a bowazon would be the ultimate char. Unfortunately, not having a shield in my opinion is a huge liability. Not to mention that strafe-lock was annoying, and multishot was hugely mana intensive. Finally, my damage was not as good as what I'd hoped. Perhaps I put too many points into vit and didn't load enough on dexterity (I am life/survival obsessed), I'm not sure. I still think there is potential for the amazon class. ***FOR THOSE THAT SKIPPED THE HISTORY SECTION, START READING HERE*** III. The Build But going through all of this, I realized something profound (in a diabloII sense )...for about 90% of the game, there is nothing that beats a good old life-stealing, life-tapping zealer. It's the ultimate tank except perhaps one could make an argument for a WW Barb, but I think most would favor zealers. The Atheist" however recognizes zeal's limitations, and in fact, its impotence in dealing with Iron Maiden areas. You zeal when IM is cast on you and you're dead, that simple. The Atheist thus recognizes the power of the elements of the world (lightning!) to give him a skill in addition to zeal, to allow him to handle these situations with effectiveness. Note that a 20 point holy shield allows for a Smite powerful enough to kill ubers/act bosses with ease. What's more, the 20 fanaticism makes zeal insanely powerful even without any points into it or its synergy! Maxed fanaticism + some kickass weapon like an ebotd, and you have some HUGE damage. Ok, so the mission is to figure out how such a paladin can use his extra skill points into having an effective way to deal with oblivion knights. Wait a minute, ranged attacks aren't affected by iron maiden right? Wait, fanaticism is an amazing way to increase damage and attack speed of ranged attacks, a la Faith-Zons, right? Holy batman! Lots of defense can only help a ranged attacker right? So with maxing only two skills, fanaticism and holy shield, we have the CORE of our build covered! Ok, how do we go about this...let's think logically... As mentioned, even without any points in zeal or sacrifice, zeal's insanely powerful. So our next step should be to figure out how to enhance or ranged attack, whatever it may be. Hey, by the way, since we have so many skill points to spare, and we want an emphasis on survivability (why else would you play a life-tapping zealer?) why not throw 10 or so points into resist lightning for its passive bonus to max light resist, so that we don't fear gloams/souls. So, our ranged...OH DAMN! Light bulb, resist lightning synergizes holy shock. If we go dual dream, or even just one dream (helm) if we use a bow for our ranged attack, we could potentially add some kick-*** lightning damage to our ranged attack. Since we're not using a throw or bow skill, this could really help! Boom, 20 points into resist lightning. Since our zeal is already amazing, and we have so many skill points still left, and our defense is approaching the point of diminishing returns for PvM (else we'd consider putting points into defiance for its bonus to holy shield), let's also max salvation. We need to get that ranged attack as powerful as possible so that we're not David throwing stones at those chaos sanctuary goliaths (er I know david won but..you get what I mean!). The formula is thus: A maxed fanaticism hugely benefits both our zeal and ranged attack, damage as well as speed, a maxed holy shield benefits our block and defense when we're zealing and possibly ranged if we use a one handed ranged weapon (more on this later), as well as giving us a powerful smite attack. Maxed synergies to holy shock, if we use dream runeword(s), enhances our attacks and importantly, our ranged attack, letting it pack that extra punch. The skill breakdown then is as follows. IV. SKILLS 8 in prereqs 1 in zeal 1 in vengeance ( useful to have for the rare physical/lightning immunes) 20 fanaticism 20 holy shield 20 resist lightning 20 salvation = 90 points, level 78 it is very feasible to have 10 more points (lvl88) and you'll have even more if you go on to lvl 95 etc.. As far as where to put them, you have 5 choices. Choice#1 - rest into defiance for more defense. I don't recommend this, as more defense at this point will give very little returns on monster's % to hit you. Choice#2 - rest into sacrifice. If you want to pump your zeal damage even higher. This is kind of unneccesary to me as you already do so much with a good Ebotd, plus all your crushing blow... choice#3 - rest into zeal for damage and attack rating. This is reasonable I guess, but as mentioned your zeal damage is already sky-high, putting points here isn't going to increase it that much (6% per lvl) and in my experience, there are better ways to help your attack rating than wasting points here. The only reason I say that this is a reasonable choice is because this is the attack you're going to use for 90% of the game. But the point of this build is to get your ranged attack as strong as possible since your zeal/smite is sufficient to dominate the entire game save iron maiden. choice#4 = rest into blessed aim. Hard skill points in blessed aim give a passive bonus to attack rating per lvl. I'd only choose this if you use your ranged attack a lot because you think it's cool or something. AR is very important for that. This won't increase your AR that much, and your zeal's AR isn't that lacking anyway...so this could be a waste, it's up to you if you feel you're not hitting enough. Keep in mind if you use Last Wish, you won't need AR. This choice is just if you feel your ranged attack isn't hitting enough. Choice#5 = putting points into one point wonders like redemption and its prerequisites. I don't find this really necessary, but it can't hurt. Prayer or Vigor might be useful. V. Equipment The first thing you should decide is what ranged weapon you'll be using. I'll say what I think works the best but A) you might not have/afford it and B) you might come up with or decide that something else works better. Weapon 1: A good one handed throwing knife or axe, my pick is: Ethereal Warshrike Winged Knife. Why this weapon? What can I say, it's godly for this build. I've read the guides who say use gimmershred on switch - but to have to do this and repair over and over, that's just lame if you ask me. This has an increased stack size so it takes a while to run out. A Note on throwing weapons: If you plan on using this a lot however, I recommend keeping an extra one in your inventory so if and when it does run out, you can use the other and by the time that runs out, the first one will have repaired itself. With a one handed throwing weapon, this set up allows you to use a shield, and not just any shield, but a dream shield. This boosts your damage hugely due to the extra lightning damage from having two dream runeword. Since you've fully synergized your holy shock, this maximizes this build's power. What's more, you can get some really fast speed with some of these weapons, increasing your damage output. Because warshrike is a knife and not an axe, it can hit some really fast breakpoints, like around a 5 frame attack. It has a piercing attack, which rules for ranged attacks (imagine how much this helps in the chaos sanctuary). Yes, Lacerator has chance to cast amp dmg, but the inherent weakness to throwing weapons is that they hit one target at a time. By using WarShrike, you're faster and you can pierce, which means you hit more enemies faster, = more damage. Also, I love WarShrike's higher min-damage and overall more consistent damage. This helps for leech and also just to make sure you're doing at least some damage per throw, since lightning's damage is also a range of 1 to max. The only thing this weapon reallylacks is ITD (ignore target defense). Other choices: Ethereal Lacerator, any one handed throwable with FAST speed (base weapon speed as well as IAS), high damage (ethereal is best), and other mods to look for are ignore target's defense, pierce, knockback, life leech, deadly strike. Oh and of course, make sure it replenishes quantity! Diablo II should be FUN, repairing all the time is not fun. You could also use a bow. However I don't recommend it. Reasons not to use a bow: reason#1: they're slower. Try getting yourself out of a jam in the chaos sanctuary, you hear the curse, you're not sure if iron maiden is coming, or is already there, but you can't hover over to see if it's a doom knight or an oblivion knight because 5 venom lords and 5 wraith thingies are surrounding you, of course you use the tactic any ranged fighter does: you run, you shoot as much as you can, then you run again, repeat til dead or it's safe to zeal. Ok, try doing this with NO shield and with only a mediocre attack speed. AND you won't have the heavy lightning damage since you'll only be using one dream runeword. I don't care how many godly mods you have on your bow, I highly doubt you're going to make all this up with one. Windforce will give you huge damage yes, but horrible min damage and not a great speed. I just don't think it works as well, but you're welcome to test. Perhaps some specific runewords if socketed in the correct bows might work decently..silence maybe? I don't know. Just remember that speed and damage are far and away THE most important things to go for - and with a warshrike you get a way better speed than you could by using any bow because of the max breakpoint for a bow, AND you get just as good if not BETTER damage by letting you use a second dream runeword. Which brings us to reason #2: no shield. This is so horrible, both for lack of the defense and lack of the 2nd runeword which gives so much extra damage, not to mention the MODS. On a dream runeword, you get FHR, resists, some MF I believe, and random stuff that adds up. Shield 1: Dream runeword. Get one with as high resists and FHR as possible. This enchances your lightning damage hugely. Helm: Dream runeword, for the same reason. Even when you're not attacking at range with the dream shield to go with it, the lightning damage here will help you kill physical immunes. Weapon 2: eth BOTD berserker axe. Ah, the old crow. This is my weapon of choice. HUGE damage output, lots of IAS, huge leech, HUGE attribute bonus...man, what's not to like. Well, the poison nova is annoying. What a great weapon though. Other options: Last Wish is something to consider. It has its own lifetap, opening up options like SS or HoZ or even another dream for the shield, and it's huge crushing blow might make up for the lesser damage than botd. This might in fact be the better weapon. Definitely better vs. act bosses especially with smite because of the CB. I might use this weapon regularly, I don't know! That's the beauty of zeal, it doesn't even matter, you absolutely ravage everything but the chaos sanctuary as is, even in 8 player games. If you can't afford ebotd or last wish, you probably can't afford this build anyway but another interesting option is Grief. Huge damage, ITD, and its weakness--attack speed--is mitigated by the fact that you have fanaticism going, not to mention zeal's inherent quickness. Just something to think about, I haven't actually crunched the numbers or tested. Truth be told I've never bothered to make or trade for a grief since I only play PvM. Shield 2: This is probably the toughest choice for this build. There are really only three elite shields for melee-based paladins: Exile, SS, HoZ. As good as people say HoZ is, I don't think it's right for this build. Its biggest boasting feature is huge resists - but if you can make exile with +45 resists, and get good resists on your dream helm, and a high resist on your armor...and a few charms...Not to mention that when I'm zealing, I could probably even get away with non-maxed resists...The more you look at it, the more HoZ is inferior. Ok so that leaves SS and Exile. SS's real boast is the damage reduction. With this build however, it's not really needed. You're life-tapping and leeching so much, it doesn't matter how much damage you take. Perhaps if you had no FHR but you're using dream-helm...I really think the build is based on lifetapping so Exile is my choice here. It also has some other nice mods like freeze target, +5 to a couple max resists, defiance aura, etc. Awesome shield if gotten with +40-45 resist. Conclusion: Exile. Armor: CoH would certainly be great for this build, but I use Fortitude, and I suggest you do too. Its 300% ED helps your ranged attack, and you can make up the resists, leech, all the good mods of CoH elsewhere. Remember, the point of this build is to help that ranged attack as much as possible, knowing that the overpowered zeal skill can work its magic even when the gear and skills aren't tweaked perfectly around it. And for helping the ranged skill, 300% ED is just what the doctor ordered. This will get its physical damage up to respectable levels which, combined with the lightning damage, will make it formidable. Enigma is also certainly a great armor, and if you're only interested in running act bosses, its teleportation and MF might make you choose to work around that, as you won't really even need the ranged attack then. Still, overall, the best armor for this build is Fortitude. The only thing you're missing with it really is the +2 skills. That kinda sucks, but remember, the atheist does not become blinded by the power of zealotry: we need to enhance our ranged attack since the cost to zeal does not negate its power to absolutely dominate. That's what you need to keep focused on, or you'll turn yourself and your build into just another zealer and come crying saying you can't kill anything with your ranged attack and that it's useless. The key to the build, the "secret formula" is to compromise power (of zeal) for flexibility (power of ranged attack). Conclusion: Fortitude. Belt: Tgods. With your maxed lightning resist, throw on this belt and you never have to worry about burning souls or gloams again. The lightning dmg and str bonus it adds is just gravy. This belt is so awesome, just trust me and use it. When you're in a baal run and you get to the 3rd floor of the worldstone keep and you see corpses and gold everywhere, with people typing "souls" and "****" and "WHY DID YOU PUT THE TP THERE" and you're just tanking and smiling without even having your red bulb drop a centimeter, you can thank me. Amulet: Highlords Wrath. 20 IAS, +1 skills. Godly for this build. The only things that come close are mara's and cat's eye. Mara's is great don't get me wrong, and might be a better choice if you have enough IAS elsewhere but are lacking resists--but with the right gear, you'll have enough resists and need the IAS here. Ring1: Ravenfrost. Has the CMB mod and adds to Attack Rating. Cool beans. Ring2: BullKathos. When you look at what you're missing most, it's +skills. Of all the rings that give +1 skills, this one comes with a life bonus and life leech. Easy choice I think. Only other option I think would be CarrionWind for its twisters, leech, poison resistance. Or a dual resist ring if your resists aren't maxed.