Matriarch Tilafaiga - Brand-wielding Strafe/MS/GA/Jab Swiss Army Zon

TopHatCat64

Diabloii.Net Member
Stats

Code:
Lvl 83

Strafe Damage: 1267-1282 (w/ Might)
Multiple Shot Damage: 1119-1134 (w/ Might)
Guided Arrow Damage: 1681-1701 (w/ Might)
Jab Damage: 1654-1974 (w/ Might)

Life: 1275 (Bow mode) 1305 (Javelin mode)
Resists: 75 F, 42 C, 80 L, 56 P (Bow) 75 F, 67 C, 80 L, 75 P (Javelin)
Str: 118 | Dex: 186 | Vit: 186
Skills

20 Strafe
20 Guided Arrow
20 Jab
10 Multiple Shot
6 Critical Strike
12 Penetrate
4 Pierce

Gear

Code:
Kira's Guardian 'Shael'
Highlord's Wrath
'Brand' Demon Crossbow*
'Fortitude' Archon Plate
Laying of Hands
Verdungo's
Aldur's Advance
Corruption Eye rare ring*
Bitter Loop rare ring*
Switch: Titan's Revenge / Moser's Blessed Circle 'Shael Io'

Merc: eth 'Infinity' CA / 'Fortitude' Archon Plate / Crown of Thieves 'ias jewel'

Charms (combined stats): 169 life, 75 min damage, 13 max damage, 14% frw, 8 str, 5% fhr

Brand
Demon Crossbow
JahLoMalGul
Two Hand Damage: 114 - 175
Durability: 21 of 40
Required Level: 65
Required Strength: 141
Required Dexterity: 98
Fingerprint: 0x37b9cacb
Item Level: **
Version: Expansion 1.10+
35% Chance to cast level 14 Amplify Damage when struck
100% Chance to cast level 18 Bone Spear on striking
Fires Explosive Arrows or Bolts
339% Enhanced Damage
Ignore Target's Defense
20% Bonus to Attack Rating
+301% Damage to Demons
20% Deadly Strike
Prevent Monster Heal
Knockback

Corruption Eye
Ring
Required Level: 70
Fingerprint: 0x8e80bde2
Item Level: 87
Version: Expansion 1.10+
3% Life stolen per hit
+15 to Strength
+14 to Life
All Resistances +10
Lightning Resist +27%
Damage Reduced by 2

Bitter Loop
Ring
Required Level: 60
Fingerprint: 0x1e6a7b2d
Item Level: 80
Version: Expansion 1.10+
+85 to Attack Rating
3% Mana stolen per hit
+13 to Dexterity
+38 to Life
Cold Resist +11%
Poison Resist +25%
The Planning Stage

I've always gravitated towards physical damage characters and I've pondered a great deal on the best ways to harness a physical damage character's best friend: Amplify Damage. It's such a devastating curse that I think Blizzard intentionally handicapped each existing source of it.
  1. Atma's Scarab, The Gavel of Pain, The Vile Husk, The Cranium Basher, Witchwild String - Only a tiny 2-6% chance to cast
  2. The Gavel of Pain - Only 3 charges of the curse
  3. Lacerator - A whopping 33% chance to cast! :D...and a 50% chance to immediately to overwrite it with Terror :mad:
  4. The runeword Brand - Wow, a 35% chance to cast :D on being struck o_O and it can only be made in missile weapons :eek:
Brand, due to it's high cost of a Jah + a Lo, is easily the least accessible source of Amp. It's far down on the list of most universally useful runewords, especially for folks who don't have an Enigma yet or who want to wield the awesome might of double Dreams. But for those wackos (like me) who want to explore down the deepest, darkest paths that D2 has to offer, Brand is very intriguing. So began the planning...

I wanted to actually utilize Brand as weapon, which meant that an Amazon made the most sense as a base character with her bow skills. Gear-wise, I needed:
  • To run fast to quickly proc Amp on melee monsters and to quickly escape once Amp triggered
  • Hitting the 6 frame FHR breakpoint so that I could take a hit and then get out of melee range before being overwhelmed
  • A decent amount of life, resists, and damage reduction to survive all the extra damage I would be taking running into crowds of monsters
  • Boosts to physical damage to take advantage of Amp.
When I first started this character, all I had planned was to invest in Strafe and Multi and throw my extra points into CS/Penetrate/Pierce. The rough outline was a bowazon running into traffic, getting hit and triggering amp, pulling back, spraying cursed monsters with bolts.

When I was searching for a name, I wanted to use something to relate to Brand, since it's the lynchpin of the build. I looked on Wikipedia about actual brands, ritual scarring, and eventually tattoos. In Samoan mythology, Tilafaiga and her twin sister Taema were the first to bring the art of tattoos to the Samoan people.

Leveling and Observations

The hardest thing to wrap my head around was running into melee as a bowazon. It went against every instinct I had, after building many bow wielders. But if I wanted to Amp melee monsters, I had to stick my nose in there and take some hits.

The best monster mix was lots of weak ranged attackers like bow dart flayers or elemental archers, then I didn't even need to get into melee range to proc Amp. The worst monster mix was smaller groups of hard-hitting melee monsters like abominables, thorn hulks, or knights - I really had to be careful with how many were hitting me at once.

The ideal situation was when I quickly ran by a crowd, a passing swipe triggered Amp, and I was able to run a short distance away before vaporizing the amped monsters. Sometimes, I still hadn't triggered Amp after doing two run-bys, at which point I just pulled back and started shooting. It felt like the time I had spent trying to trigger amp's enhanced damage was now negated by having not fired off any arrows.

When faced with physical immunes, I usually tried to lead non physical immunes to them, so that I could take a hit from them instead. Most of the PI's I faced were ghosts and the fact that they stack on top of each other AND steal your mana, meant I tried to avoid getting hit by them if at possible.

Sounds like a lot of work to amp a monster, right? Well, the other lesson I learned was that not every monster has to be Amped. With a new toy like Brand, I felt the need to try and use it on every monster when I first equipped it. But that's not always efficient (1 or 2 monsters by themselves) or safe (frenzytaur champions, any unique pack with cursed). I suffered 2 deaths during my journey and both times I pushed the envelope just a little too far (taking Fangskin's charge right in the face and getting crushed by a pack of Doom Knights in the CS). It was after my first death that I swapped in Verdungo's (for the damage reduction, vit, and fhr) for Mav's Tenet (I was fast enough without the extra fast run/walk).

-

This was definitely a strange build to play and it wasn't until the last couple acts of Hell that I finally got the hang of mixing and matching all the tools in my toolbox.

I initially started with just Strafe and Multiple Shot as my two damage skills, but I ended up adding Jab and Guided Arrow to my skill set to fill tactical niches. Here's how I broke down when and where use each skill:
  • Multiple Shot: MS' huge range made it an ideal scouting tool when faced with areas filled with fast, dangerous monsters like dolls. Fires fast, so great for when I needed to fire and move around lots of incoming projectiles.
  • Strafe: Best against one or two targets when I felt safe enough to remain in one spot. Strafe's stream of arrows was the best bow skill for disrupting and pushing monsters far away from me with Brand's knockback. Narrow corridors and Pierce meant I could consistently hit every monster in a line with each Strafe cycle.
  • Guided Arrow: Excellent for when I needed to fire and really run against one or two really dangerous monsters like extra fast Heph or the Ancients. Also good for quickly picking off particularly troubling monsters in a crowd of other monsters (gloams, OK's, mummies) since GA did the most damage arrow for arrow out of my three bow skills.
  • Jab: Sometimes, when I ran into a crowd trying for an amp proc, I got surrounded, and that's when I switched to Titan's and Moser's. I always had max block with my big investment in dex, and so I had time to safely jab my way out of trouble. Also good against bosses where it was prudent to just stick close and avoid dancing around trying to avoid projectiles. (Why no Fend? I don't have any points in D/A/E, so I wouldn't trigger the Fend bug. However, Fend is best with two-handed spears with big weapon range. I needed a shield for my melee weapon switch to deal with really dangerous monsters wailing on me. Then if I'm using a shield, successful blocks would trigger the Fend bug, so I scrapped that idea)
I wasn't really sure what to expect when I started this character but I ended up with a build that was able to tackle nearly any situation the game threw at me and was a blast to play.
 
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Haywire

Diabloii.Net Member
Bravo! The rune investment was heavy, yet the result is impressive. I especially like the rings. Plus I love that zons can run like they stole something.
 
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T72on1

Diabloii.Net Member
Now that's a very cool build. Far away from any cheese you might encounter. Very well done :). Glad to read it worked out for you !!!
 

jonnyphive

Diabloii.Net Member
This is a really cool character. Brand looks like a better weapon than I've ever noticed before. I really look forward to getting past my long to-do list of cookie cutters and (once I accumulate enough wealth) making some of these outside-the-box build. I especially like the idea of mixing in the melee aspect to get up close and help trigger amp.

Once you really got the flow of the build, how steadily did you find amp triggered, and how nice was it to have such a large radius and duration? Compared to most sources of amp, level 14 is pretty nice!
 

ffs

Diabloii.Net Member
@mir The knockback could be pretty annoying for melee I'd think. A physical melee Bear Necro with synergized Bone Spear CtC is on my to do list, though because of the knockback I'll most likely go with Bonehew. I do want to try Wrath nonetheless though, either Bear melee or a hunter type non-Bear.

Nice character @TopHatCat64!
 

T72on1

Diabloii.Net Member
It's also too slow to be a good shapeshifter weapon probably. A shame, as other than that it has a few good things going for it as well.
 

sanguillen

Diabloii.Net Member
This is a really cool character. Brand looks like a better weapon than I've ever noticed before.
This was the first thing I thought of as well. I probably hadn't looked too hard before, due to the high rune cost (high to someone rune-poor, that is). But it looks like a fun character!
 

TopHatCat64

Diabloii.Net Member
Bravo! The rune investment was heavy, yet the result is impressive. I especially like the rings. Plus I love that zons can run like they stole something.
@Haywire Thanks! I always like when I get CBF from some other source other then Ravenfrost. I have so many fun rare rings that I rarely get a chance to bust out with one ring slot always filled with RF.

Now that's a very cool build. Far away from any cheese you might encounter. Very well done :). Glad to read it worked out for you !!!
@T72on1 Thanks!

This is a really cool character. Brand looks like a better weapon than I've ever noticed before...Once you really got the flow of the build, how steadily did you find amp triggered, and how nice was it to have such a large radius and duration? Compared to most sources of amp, level 14 is pretty nice!
This was the first thing I thought of as well. I probably hadn't looked too hard before, due to the high rune cost (high to someone rune-poor, that is). But it looks like a fun character!
@jonnyphive @sanguillen That was my thought as well as I was playing: Brand is a damn good weapon! Putting aside the Amp proc, it's got high enhanced damage, ITD, 20% deadly strike, PMH, a big bonus to demon damage, and knockback on one bow. Not too shabby, the only thing I'm really missing is some IAS. Heck, the CTC bonespear did enough damage on Hell P1 to kill weaker physical immunes like the bug swarms, even without being Amp'ed!

Amp triggered pretty consistently provided I had a large enough group. Like I said, one or two monsters took too long to trigger usually, so I just blasted them down from range and kept on moving. I did make sure bosses were Amp'ed - I just shoved myself in their faces until they procced.

Good stuff! I also want to use these runewords one day - nice idea :)
@Kitteh Thanks!

Congrats on another interesting build. Did you thought about using it on a druid/wolfbarb? They can use bows as melee weapons once shifted.
@mir The knockback could be pretty annoying for melee I'd think. A physical melee Bear Necro with synergized Bone Spear CtC is on my to do list, though because of the knockback I'll most likely go with Bonehew. I do want to try Wrath nonetheless though, either Bear melee or a hunter type non-Bear.

Nice character @TopHatCat64!
It's also too slow to be a good shapeshifter weapon probably. A shame, as other than that it has a few good things going for it as well.
@mir @ffs @T72on1 A Fury druid is actually the next build up on my Brand list. I did a little testing beforehand and a demon crossbow is the fastest missile weapon for Fury at 6 fpa. Even the fastest bows are 9 fpa. 6 fpa isn't that fast obviously but it was fast enough for my tastes. The true test, like you mentioned, is if the knockback drives me nuts.

@ffs Great idea on a bone necro using it! I hadn't thought of that. I built an Oath/Bone CTC necro bear a little while ago, and that worked pretty well. I'll add that one to the ledger.
 
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