Matriarch Kalita- pure spearzon I usually don't write mat/pat threads, but this is an exception. Kalita was a pure spearzon, and I built her without using Fend. This was a deliberate design decision; Fend is notoriously bugged if you're using Dodge or Avoid. First, let's do the skills. These are hard skill point totals:1 Jab 1 Power Strike 1 Poison Javelin 1 Lightning Bolt 20 Charged Strike 20 Lightning Strike 1 Critical Strike 1 Penetrate 1 Inner Sight 1 Slow Missiles 5 Dodge 5 Avoid 5 Evade 12 Decoy 20 Valkyrie Remaining points are going into Decoy until it is maxed; after that (if I level her that far), points will probably go into Power Strike for the synergy boost. Now for her gear: Weapon: ethereal Hone Sundan, with three resist/IAS jewels Switch Weapon: beta 'Call to Arms' divine scepter (this one moves around a lot) Switch Shield: Lidless Wall (just for the +skill to prebuff) Armor: 'Fortitude' scarab husk Helm: Kira's Guardian with resist/IAS jewel Gloves: Lava Gout (Enchant helps my AR when I need to use Jab) Boots: Marrowwalk (was using Waterwalk before this, but then remembered the Life Tap charges) Belt: Thundergod's Vigor Ring: Stone of Jordan Ring: Raven Frost (thinking of swapping this out, since Kira's has the CBF, but the AR/dex is still nice to have) Amulet: Cat's Eye (IAS and FR/W, mmm!) Charms: two Acrobatic charms with +life, various AR/resist charms And my merc, a Normal Combat (Prayer) merc named Mizan: Weapon: ethereal 'Insight' giant thresher Armor: 'Duress' cuirass (yeah, base type sucks, flame me) Helm: Crown of Thieves with IAS jewel My life with gear was 1370; with a BC and BO prebuff, it soared to 2434. This was enough to get me through most situations. After prebuffing and triggering Lava Gout's Enchant proc, my Jab damage was 846-1840; Charged Strike and Lightning Strike were at 1-1158 (7 bolts) and 1-1131, respectively. My chance to hit generally hovered around 60-70%, which would be abysmal for most melee characters. However, the lightning spear skills don't need to hit to release the lightning, so it wasn't so bad. It did mean that Jab was a bit slower to take out LIs, and I couldn't rely on leech (even if I'd had some). This latter point was why I went with a Prayer merc with Insight. It nicely made up for the lack of both life and mana leech, and kept me topped up in all but nasty situations. As an aside, I did pull my Infinity over to this girl for a test drive, and found that Insight was actually more helpful for this build. LIs were not a serious enough issue to warrant such an expensive runeword, especially since it was a tradeoff between that and the healing/mana regeneration of an Insight merc. Without Insight, I found I was scrabbling for mana potions all the time, and it quickly became annoying. This was actually a pretty fun character to play. If they weren't lightning immune, Charged Strike took them down in short order. If they weren't LI, and scattered (fallen, etc), Lightning Strike wore them down, and I could CS individuals to death until LS stopped arcing. If they were LI, then Jab with my Hone's innate 45% crushing Blow took them down quite quickly. Mixed mobs of LI and non-LI usually had me poking an LI with LS, which would slowly wear the LI down (physical damage when I managed to hit, plus the fire damage from Lava Gout and its Enchant proc), and fry the non-LIs with the bolts. I'd repeat until the LI was down, and switch to another so long as non-LIs were still alive. If I was left with only LIs, I'd switch to Jab, and if left with non-LIs, I'd switch to CS. As for the lack of Fend, I was going to be shieldless (using a spear kind of carries this drawback). As a result, I wanted to mitigate the damage I'd take, especially since my resists were poor for most of Nightmare and early Hell, until I could wear Kira's, so I decided to drop five points into each of the evasion skills. This would make Fend virtually useless, with the bug, so I decided to forego it entirely. Most of the time, I was doing single-poke attacks, and any attack would either miss (in which case my attack doesn't get interrupted), hit and cause hit recovery (causing my attack to be interrupted), or (if I put points in the evasion skills) hit and be negated by Dodge or Avoid (again causing the attack to miss). The first part of the equation, the attack not hitting at all, is constant, so it basically boils down to getting hammered and having my attack interrupted, or avoiding a hammering and having my attack miss. Duh. It's a no-brainer. Even if they weren't helpful for the build, I'd have put a point in each just to be able to get Valkyrie. Still, I'm glad I put points here. There were a few times when they triggered enough and my life dropped enough to let me know I'd have been dead without them. The Avoid skill occasionally made it hard to get off attacks against large mobs of ranged attackers, but my answer to this was simple. A quick sidestep gave me a chance to cast Decoy in the middle of the mob, and once they started targeting that, I could close the distance and start using Jab or Charged Strike on them. Some ranged attackers would even retreat from the Decoy, which would give me the opportunity to get Lightning Strike arcing around while I picked them off one by one. Valkyrie and the merc were great for this build. With maxed Valkyrie, hard points in D/A/E, and a bunch in Decoy, the Valk was virtually indestructible. After prebuffing me and casting her, she had 3784 life, plus BO, so she had absolutely huge life. Decoy was used to take the heat off myself and the merc, and beat a hasty retreat if the situation called for it. With a tough Decoy, it usually lasted through the battle except when fighting nasty opponents, such as frenzytaurs and Amp-casting, Blood Star-tossing succubi. One thing I thought would be a huge obstacle turned out to be pretty easy, and that was Iron Maiden. My approach for this was simple: cast Decoy next to the nearest OK. He'd cast Decrepify on it, and then usually run away from it. Kind of like what your parents would tell you about bees, and how they were more afraid of you than you were of them. Depending on which side of him I cast it on, he'd run away from me, or towards me. If he ran towards me, Charged Strike took him down. If he ran away, I'd cast another so he had something to curse that kept him busy while I dealt with the group of doom knights and other monsters. With a bit of patience, I got through all three difficulties without a single IM death, though my merc and Valk occasionally succumbed to it. There was a somewhat amusing incident over by the seal of Lord de Seis in Hell. One of those little pillars with the fire atop it was in the corner, and an OK had spawned behind it. No spear was mighty enough to reach it; not mine, my Valk's, nor my merc's. Normally, I'd just leave him there and move on, but as I hadn't popped the seal yet, I needed to guarantee he wouldn't IM me while I was dealing with de Seis and his mob. I was on the verge of running to town to buy a bow and begin the tedious task of killing hm with arrows, but then I noticed one of the monsters had dropped a stack of javelins. With a low-level Lightning Fury (T-God's giving me the skill), and a trip to town to buy more javelins, I ended up taking him out before popping de Seis's seal. Unfortunately, I didn't take a screen shot of that. I should have, though, as it was kind of funny. I did run into the odd LI/PI baddie. These tended to be more tedious than threatening, as my merc had open wounds on his Duress armor and a bit of poison from Insight; I also had a bit of cold and fire damage from Lava Gout and Raven Frost. This meant all we needed to do was keep poking, and eventually we'd emerge victorious. One boss had me kind of worried though, and that was a PI/LI/Might aura/cursed frenzytaur. Even with my prebuffed life, a single hit took over half my life, so I just hung back and spammed Decoy. This gave him something to focus on while the merc and Valk slowly killed him. The nastiest monsters were, without doubt, the Amp-casting succubi; these girls could take huge chunks out of my life with their Blood Stars after Amping me. They also scattered in random fashion, which made it hard to get them to focus on the Decoy. Fighting these monsters made me glad I'd invested in the evasion skills. Act bosses were generally quite easy. The hardest was probably Hell Andy, because my poison resist wasn't the best, and she often ignored the Decoy and Valk (after quickly killing the merc). Hell Duriel was easy enough, and by the time I'd hit Meph, I'd had the presence of mind to switch my boots to Marrowwalk. Life Tap made every act boss from then on a piece of cake, and the LT helped out a couple of other times with nasty LI monsters. I think I only died twice. The first time was in Act III Nightmare to a pack of explodey dolls, and the second was in Act I Hell to some random boss in the early areas. This latter was just a case of sorely misjudging the monster difficulty ramping in Hell; in my defense, though, I believe I was playing /p8 at the time (as for all of Normal and Nightmare). I also had a very close call with Hell Ancients; upon killing one of them that was fire enchanted, the death explosion took me from roughly 2400 life down to under a hundred. Ack. Some observations: Charged Strike rocks. I mean, anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big fan of my boltress, and CS is a similar skill. However, it has one benefit: the bolts seem to originate from the monster, not the character. This means that even with small targets, lots of the bolts hit. With fat targets, you're pretty much guaranteed to hit with all bolts. Lightning Strike is awesome looking, and watching the bolts bounce back and forth for seconds at a time is mesmerizing. However, it's woefully underpowered. LS is affected by the nextdelay bug. For those that don't know, nextdelay is a 'feature' that triggers when a nextdelay attack strikes a target; that target becomes immune to all nextdelay damage for a set number of frames (depends on the initial attack). Nextdelay is the reason Inferno and Arctic Blast can't damage anything past Act I Normal, and why a fast Strafe means half your arrows pass harmlessly through your targets. This temporary immunity had its use back in the days of '80s platform games, to prevent the same bullet/missile/etc from hitting the same target multiple times, but in this day and age, it's disappointing. Let's hope Bliz removes this 'feature' in a future patch. I mean, Lightning Strike and Lightning Fury are both clvl 30 skills. LS requires melee, with all concomitant risks. LS with a spear precludes a shield; LF guarantees a shield can be used. LF benefits from Pierce, releasing several times the listed number of bolts, and is unaffected by nextdelay, so they can all deal damage. LS will arc around and look pretty, but only deal damage for the first few bolts in most cases. Dodge/Avoid/Evade are lifesavers, if you plan for their use. Decoy is the smartest minion in the game, without a doubt. She always tanks what you want her to tank, and never wanders off to do something stupid. With enough points invested, she can tank a great deal. A heavily-synergized Valkyrie is a juggernaut. She's virtually impossible for monsters to kill, short of Iron Maiden, and she can lay the smack down like nobody's business. Having two mobile mercs plus a Decoy gives you plenty to hide behind. Using a spear gives you the reach to poke over the shoulders of your merc, Valk, and/or Decoy. Anyways, all done. I know I can be long-winded at times. Thanks to anybody who took the time to read this.