The [Hopefully] Definitive Guide to Running the Countess [in Hell difficulty]


Diabloii.Net Member
... and you thought this guide would never progress beyond the draft version, didn't you? For the most part, so did I. :tongue: But since I've been tinkering away at a few runs, and since the original idea was started ~18 months ago, it's probably time to finish this project up.

There have been a few modifications from the original version. I've played a few more build varieties, and tried Countess runs with many of the ones that were highly mobile, and I've refined my opinions a little (and tried to incorporate much of the knowledge and suggestions from the original discussion). That said, a lot of the guide is somewhat unchanged, so I guess I didn't screw up the first effort too badly.

Anyways, onto the guide...

... and yes, this is the final version... (I think... I hope... I pray).


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Table of Contents
- The Purpose of This Guide
Things You Should Know Before Running the Countess
- Should I have MF on during my Countess runs?
- What About /Players settings?
Rune Drop Rates
- Quick Info about Normal and Nightmare Difficulties
What Makes a Character Build Successful at Running the Countess?
- Transportation Speed
- Killing Ability
- Survivability
- Selectiveness
The Best Countess Runner: Lightning-based Sorc
- Why Use A Sorceress for Countess runs?
- Why Use a Lightning-based skill?
- Comparing the Different lightning-attack skills
- What about a Backup Attack for the Lightning Immune archers?
- Defensive Strategies for the Archer Lovers
Running the Countess with a Non-Lightning Sorc
- Getting Enough FCR on your Sorc
- Max. Blocking vs. Max. Life
Running the Countess with a Non-Sorceress
So, what else can I do to help my Countess runner?
- Character Level
- General Strategy for Fast Countess Runs
What About Those #@&%ing Archers?
- Drink Some Potions
- Choosing the Best Merc (and Outfitting Him)
Other Resources (Rune-Finding and/or Countess Related)
Thanks, and Such

Hi all. My name's Kevin, but most of you know me as 'poops. I've been playing D2 for almost 4 years now, and lurking (or spamming) around the Single Player Forum for much of that time. Similar to a lot of people, I occasionally like to try different items and build ideas, and sometimes that means that I need to gather runes to make some exotic, or not so exotic, runeword.

Running different areas for top-end runes (and runewords) has already been covered pretty extensively elsewhere. I do have a few links for this info in the appropriate section of the guide, but that's not the purpose of this guide.

The Purpose of This Guide
This guide is designed explicitly towards running the Countess - for runes - in the most efficient manner possible (in Hell difficulty).

I don't claim to be the biggest, baddest, smartest expert on this topic, but I'm certain that I've done over 8000 Countess runs in my D2 career using a variety of different builds (actually, I think I'm probably over 12000 Countess runs, but I seldom keep track anymore). If you have ideas or suggestions though, please feel free to share them. This isn't designed to be a "I know more than you noobs" thread - as I mentioned, this is for running the Countess - for runes - in the most efficient manner possible. Period. If your ideas contribute to the overall knowledge on this subject, I thank you.

Also, I'm well aware that Hellforge rushing is another reliable way to attain medium-high runes (and that it's the most time-efficient, sure-fire method to eventually attain high runes). If that's the approach you choose to take, good for you. Rushing (so far) is simply not for me, and therefore I choose the Countess (or trade, now that it's allowed in these parts).

Things You Should Know Before Running the Countess

Before you begin you should know that the Countess has a few special rules that make her different from a lot of targets that are often re-run (i.e. MF targets such as Mephisto or Pindleskin). If you aren't familiar with the rules-of-thumb for running the Countess, and don't want to waste your time, you should probably read this section.

Should I have MF on during my Countess runs?
Personally, I answer a loud and resounding: NO!!! - if you're only after runes. Here's why (short answer): MF does not affect rune drops. Also MF does not help you survive or kill faster.

The long answer explains my opinion somewhat more.

If you're focused on finding runes from the Countess, the only thing that you should worry about is minimizing your average time per successful run. What I mean by 'successful run' is any run that you can successfully collect any/all of the runes that dropped. If you die along the way, obviously it's going to slow you down. MF gear is often not focused on providing the best survival options, therefore removing all MF gear and using survival gear is more likely to help make you successful when you encounter those nasty double/triple archer packs (more on that subject below).

Remember, with +life, +mana, FCR, +skills, +FHR, +FR/W and several other things you'll kill faster, survive longer, and travel quicker. There's always room for improvement. MF does not provide any real benefit to any of these areas.

That said, it is definitely possible to get good item drops from the Countess in addition to her runes, and having MF will help there. Some of the better 'survival' equipment (example: Harlequin's Crest, Tal's Set) does indeed come with +Magic Find too, so it's certainly nothing to frown upon if it fits on your runner. If you're after S/U items, and don't mind slowing your run times a little, you can hunt for items while farming runes (kindof like "killing two birds with one stone"... or as we used to say in High School, "getting two birds stoned at once" :grin:).

However, there are about 15 other MF targets that are equal to, or better than, the Countess - which is why I choose to farm my items elsewhere (except socketables - which with a large quantity of runs, you'll find a few).

What About /Players settings?
Essentially, you want to minimize the number of other players in the game. In Single-Player, that means using /players1 exclusively. Do not run the Countess on /players8 if you want to collect runes. The reason is how the Countess drops items:

Without getting too in-depth, basically the Countess has two item-drop-checks. The first drop-check that occurs is a (mostly) normal item drop, which is why she likes to throw Town Portal scrolls all over the place when you kill her. The second drop-check that occurs is her special rune drop. Combining these two drops, the maximum number of total items she can drop at one time is 6.

If you increase your /players settings, it increases the chance that the Countess will drop more items in her first item-drop. You don't want her to throw out 6 different items during this drop because the odds of them being armor, weapons, gems, or whatever, is high - and the odds of receiving a rune from the first drop are minimal. If she drops 5 items from the first check, that means that she is only capable of dropping a single rune from the second drop check - and you want her to drop multiple runes.

And before you ask, no, there is nothing you can do to inhibit the first drop-check and encourage the second one. The best you can do is try to limit the number of items spawned in the first drop, so that if you're lucky with the second one, it will be able to spawn all of the runes it can. Hence /players1.

Since this is a guide about Countess, and she also drops a commonly farmed item (at least, on closed BNet), I'll quickly mention that too. Yes, I'm referring to Keys of Terror. They're useless to non-ladder players, but for the ladder-runners, these come from the Countess' first drop-check - opposite of her runes. So, you have to prioritize if you want a large number of people in the game to maximize your chances for keys - or a small number of people in game for the maximized chance for runes, or something in between.

Rune Drop Rates
Here's the section a lot of you probably want. I did not figure out any of these values myself (search function, FTW!), so if they're wrong, blame Durf.

Also, I do not know if all of these are up-to-date for version 1.11b (I think the # per 100 runs is from 1.10) - since the Countess can now drop a key of terror, that does have a slight affect on runes as well.

Finally, I've heard mentioned that the 'rule-of-thumb' is One Ist per 1000 runs (including cubing runes to upgrade them). I would say this is relatively consistent with my overall experience. Sometimes you're lucky and can average an Ist every 500 runs, and sometimes you aren't, and average 2000 runs per Ist. The 'actual math' puts it somewhere's nearer ~920 runs (by statistical probability - and counting cubed runes).

Thanks to Warrior of Light, Hakai_no_Tenshi, and Thrugg for these
numbers (per column, respectively).  I'm lazy - if you're
ambitious enough to fill in the <unknowns>, please let me know.

| Rune / |  % Chance to    |  Odds per run  |  # found per |  
| Item   |  Drop each run  |  on /players1  |  100 runs    |    
| Key of |  7.3336%        |  1:14          |  <unknown>   |
| Terror |                 |                |              |
| El     |  49.46%         |  1:2.41        |  40.345      |
| Eld    |  32.97%         |  1:3.42        |  26.897      |
| Tir    |  27.48%         |  1:4.03        |  22.414      |
| Nef    |  18.32%         |  1:5.85        |  14.943      |
| Eth    |  19.24%         |  1:5.59        |  15.690      |
| Ith    |  12.82%         |  1:8.21        |  10.460      |
| Tal    |  16.04%         |  1:6.64        |  13.075      |
| Ral    |  10.68%         |  1:9.78        |  8.717       |
| Ort    |  11.23%         |  1:9.33        |  9.152       |
| Thul   |  7.480%         |  1:13          |  6.102       |
| Amn    |  6.858%         |  1:15          |  5.593       |
| Sol    |  4.570%         |  1:22          |  3.729       |
| Shael  |  3.622%         |  1:28          |  2.952       |
| Dol    |  2.411%         |  1:42          |  1.968       |
| Hel    |  1.864%         |  1:54          |  1.517       |
| Io     |  1.235%         |  1:81          |  1.011       |
| Lum    |  0.9457%        |  1:107         |  0.769       |
| Ko     |  0.6247%        |  1:160         |  0.513       |
| Fal    |  0.4821%        |  1:212         |  0.387       |
| Lem    |  0.3145%        |  1:318         |  0.258       |
| Pul    |  0.2440%        |  1:423         |  0.194       |
| Um     |  0.1540%        |  1:635         |  0.130       |
| Mal    |  0.1395%        |  1:739         |  0.111       |
| Ist    |  0.0907%        |  1:1109        |  0.074       |
| Gul    |  0.0007923%     |  1:123870      |  <unknown>   |
| Vex    |  0.0005183%     |  1:185805      |  <unknown>   |
| Ohm    |  0.0004812%     |  1:216650      |  <unknown>   |
| Lo     |  0.0002970%     |  1:324975      |  <unknown>   |

Note, the Countess can only drop up to an Ist with her
special rune drop - the Gul, Vex, Ohm, and Lo are only
possible from her item drop, and therefore have much worse
odds of appearing.

Quick Info about Normal and Nightmare Difficulties
In normal difficulty the Countess can drop up to a Ral. In Nightmare difficulty the Countess can drop up to an Io in her rune-drop, and up to a Ko in her item drop.

In Normal and Nightmare, the odds for her to drop low and medium runes is very similar to the table posted above. If you're after a low-end rune, it still makes sense to do runs in Hell (if you're capable) - maybe she'll drop an Um to go with that Shael you're looking for.

What Makes a Character Build Successful at Running the Countess?
I have tried a bunch of different builds for this task, and I can basically say there are a lot of builds that can be effective (or fantastic) at running the Countess for runes, and each of them will have (at least) three things in common, and there's a fourth topic that describes a good 'playstyle'.

Transportation Speed:

On a good Countess map you're likely looking at 25-30 teleports. If you manage to travel a single FCR breakpoint faster, without sacraficing your kill speed, you'll save ~1 second per run. Likewise, FR/W makes sense for helping you get through town quickly, and if you're not playing a teleport-enabled build, FR/W becomess even more important. If you're not playing a sorceress, I also recommend you consider skills like Whirlwind or Dragon Flight that you can use to bypass large (or dangerous) groups of enemies you encounter, or maybe keep a something with teleport charges - like Naj's Puzzler - on weapon switch.

Since a majority of your run-time will be spent during transportation, it's possible this is "more" important than the other factors (although, like everything in D2, you always want to balance all of the important factors with your builds to make them successful).

Killing Ability:
The quicker you can kill everything in the Countess' chamber (or if it's in the way during transportation), the quicker you can safely collect the runes that drop.

Because the Countess is always Cold and Fire immune (and never immune to anything else), it makes sense that your primary attack focuses Lightning, Physical, or Magic damage (Poison will work, but its kill-speed is too slow for my tastes). Likewise, the most consistently dangerous monsters you face will be Dark Archers - which are always Lightning Immune. There are some methods to safely 'ignore' the archers, so you might not need to kill them - but in that case you will be putting yourself in more danger on occasion (however, by proper planning to ignore them, you might increase your other speeds significantly. There's more on this in the 'Archer Lover' section).

Also, some people don't mind letting their merc get the kill, but I find that means my kill-ability is stunted since I often end up waiting around for him to do his job because he was fighting the other 15 monsters that spawned that I could have killed on my own. For me, that rules out some common sorceress builds like Meteorb and Blizzballers - since the Countess is always FI/CI in Hell (although you can certainly do ok/good/great with these builds if you play them well).

If you die and have to get your corpse, it's going to cost a lot of time in that run. If you Save and Exit and have to restart in town, it's going to cost you the runes she would have dropped in the run. Both situations are irritating when you're trying to decrease your time per successful run. Damage reduction, +Life gear and +resistances will help a lot here.

This isn't build-specific, but if you spend 10 seconds per run sorting through the Countess' drops and realize that 99% of the time the items dropped are useless to you, that means that you're waisting 9.9 seconds per run (by my math). If you're after a Ko rune and don't need Sols, don't pick them up and cube them - the time required does add up, and you'll almost certainly find the Ko first. Sometimes it does make sense to cube, but not always (for example, if you're trying to collect 50 Ral runes for crafting, collecting and cubing Tals, and maybe even Iths, makes sense. If you only want one Hel to resocket your Stormshield, grabbing Dols may make sense, but I doubt you'll find Shaels to be useful to your cause. I recommend that you use your best judgement, but don't be afraid to accept that your initial guess was the wrong one - change your grab-strategy as necessary).


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

The Best Countess Runners: Lightning-based Sorcs

Notice a change from last time? This section used to focus entirely on CL/FO sorcs, but I've tried the other ligtning-based builds quite thoroughly now, and came to the conclusion that each has advantages and disadvantages over the others, and the differences in personal preferences are as significant as anything else.

Why Use A Sorceress for Countess runs?
This has a very simple answer: Teleport. High mobility, 'reposition merc' provides great safety, and you can easily skip past monsters that stand in doorways that would force you to fight them with a lot of other characters. Since you have to go through 6 areas to reach the Countess (Black Marsh and the 5 Tower Levels), bypassing monsters reliably is important to not getting slowed down. If you can get Teleport from other sorces (read: Enigma), you probably don't need to be running the Countess for runes. If you're going to count on charges of Teleport from items (read: Naj's Puzzler), you're going to spend a lot of $$$ (and time) on item repairs.

Why Use a Lightning-based skill?
Another very simple answer: The Countess is always Fire and Cold Immune, so if you don't want to wait on your mercenary to make the kill (which adds a fair bit of time over thousands of runs), Lightning is "where it's at" with a sorceress.

...(and all you Meteorb-lovers and sorc-haters don't need to get your panties in a knot quite yet; I'll give you your love in a minute ;-).

Comparing the Different lightning-attack skills
As I said previously, these are all very effective against the Countess, so it's as much personal preference as anything. Nevertheless...

There are basically 3 good "builds" you can focus around this tree (sorry, no Thunderstorm sorcs today, folks. Also, each will surely spend 20 points into Lightning Mastery, so I'll discount that commonality.):

1. Lightning / ChainLightning
2. Charged Bolt / Lightning
3. Nova

Lightning / Chain Lightning has the advantage that it's got the highest top-end (and average) damage, a low mana cost (relative to your casting speed and the other skills), and fantastic crowd control. The disadvantages are that these spells are cast at a slower speed than Charged Bolt and Nova and they have a very low 'minimum' damage as well ('cause it sucks when you cast lightning twice to kill 98% of the monsters, then three more times to kill the final survivor).

Nova and Charged Bolt are more similar to evaluate. They both benefit from a relatively "tight" damage range (so you won't have a "straggler" like with CL/L), and they both can be spammed a lot faster than Lightning and CL. An additional advantage of Charged Bolt is that it allows you to maintain good, safe distance from your target, and is probably the lowest mana-cost solution overall. The advantage of Nova is it's rapid-and-large area of effect, as well as that it requires the smallest investment of skillpoints.

My own personal preference - at this time (and with good equipment) - is a Nova-based build. This is the sorc that can be played most aggressively, and I like that. In addition, the high minimum damage means you can easily and consistenly force monsters into hit recovery, and your fast-spamming will keep them there (and monsters can't hurt you if they can't get out of hit recovery). In addition, you're left with plenty of extra skillpoints to spend on something else that's fun.

The main problem with a Nova-build is it can require some pretty decent equipment to "get where you want", so it might not be best for the poor among us. For "those less fortunate", I like the CB/Lightning build because of the low mana cost, the reasonable safety, and the spam (yes, as my posting habits reflect, I enjoy spam).

What about a Backup Attack for the Lightning Immune archers?
Basically a lightning-based sorc has three good choices for a backup attack (and a couple of defensive options that I'll get to in a second). The best choices for attacks are:

1. Firewall (one of the underrated powerhouse skills)
2. Fireball (the spammers choice, maybe)
3. Frozen Orb (the old standby)

I love Firewall, and have used it at least 4 times on different sorcs. It has fantastic damage for a small investment of skillpoints. But that's where the advantages end, so I don't like it as much as the other two options for a Countess runner.

Fireball is a choice worthy of a spammer, but it's problem is that it requires a higher investment of skillpoints than the other two options. Basically, if you're not making a Nova-primary build, then your Fireball's going to suck compared to the other backupss (also FYI, despite what you may think, you will probably get more damage from spending points into the Firebolt synergy than you will the Fire Mastery. Before blowing a bunch of skills into the mastery, consult a skills calculator - you'll see what I mean). For rich nova-sorcs like me, I actually like this more, mostly because it's a break from making my 140th sorc using a Frozen Orb backup, and it means I get to spam even more. Yay spam.

Frozen Orb is - as always - a solid choice. It might not have the pure damage that Firewall does, but it has the best crowd control of the bunch, and requires the least skillpoints and is possibly the least item-dependent. Unless you're rich, this is probably the best choice - and even then - it's possibly the best choice (in my case, it's just that this option is the least fun to me at this point of my career :p).

Sidenote about Cold Mastery:
If you're making a dedicated Countess runner and if you use Frozen Orb... and if you go for a really high level and/or have excellent equipment, 22 'soft' points in Cold Mastery is all you'll want (-125% Cold Resistances will maximize your FO damage against LI archers). After that, put all points into a different skill, since additional points in Cold Mastery will be complete ineffective on Countess runs.

<-- I've discounted things like Rainbow Facets and Lower Resistance curses that lower a monster's cold resistance further. If you have some of these, you won't even need 22 'soft' points to maximize your mastery's effectiveness.

Defensive Strategies for the Archer Lovers:
As per the original thread, I'll include this oft-mentioned subject, though I don't entirely endorse it. A few folks in that discussion mentioned that they simply ignored the archers whenever they spawned on a Countess run. They found their builds plenty safe, and were able to still safely collect their runes at a satisfying rate (with a few difficulties for a very-tough spawn).

From what I can see, the most popular solution was to use a pure-lightning sorc (which, by the way, has a much higher-damage main-attack than a dual-tree sorc). The extra damage was enough to make spanking the Countess and her cronies even easier, and with a good merc and some skillfult play (and good equipment) they were able to grab their runes... fair enough.

Another option would be to use Energy Shield to reduce the archer's damage a lot. It makes sense, but every time I've tried Energy Shield, I've been completely underwhelmed (manaburn monsters really suck with ES sorcs). I simply don't like the skill (for PvM play). If it works for you, then good for you. If you do this, then you should spend skillpoints into the Telekinesis synergy instead of Energy Shield itself.

Personally, I've died to those archers enough times that I still enjoy killing them (and they do occasionally drop a good item or three). It's also nice to have the luxury to occasionaly stand comfortably over your spoils at the end of the battle instead of grabbing what you can and exiting immediately. That's why I wouldn't choose either of these options.

Running the Countess with a Non-Lightning Sorc
So you don't have a lightning-based sorc, but you've got a Meteorb, and you don't really want to build a new sorc just for the Countess. Or perhaps you just love your Blizzballer and need a Hel rune to resocket her Shako with a Facet instead of a PTopaz. Whatever the reason, you'll be glad to know that non-lightning sorcs can still be very effective Countess runners (very-effective, even comparable overall - but not necessarily quite as absolute-top-end on the performance scale).

The main benefit in this case is to have a mercenary that can kill the Countess quickly on his (or her) own. The most common solution is, of course, using an Act2 merc that wields a big, mean, hurtful polearm or spear. With a minimum number of additional players in your game, the Countess will have relatively low life, so a merc should be able to take her down quickly. So, do you just stand there and make funny faces and rude gestures at the Countess while waiting patiently for your merc to kill her? That's always an option, but you can also use Static Field to lower her health very quickly to 50% - and you can use Telekinesis to keep her locked in hit-recovery so she doesn't do anything (read: attack) to distract your merc.

One more thing about Telekinesis that is sometimes nice, and sometimes annoying, is the knockback. If you find it annoying, you can try to pin the Countess against the nearest wall so she doesn't get knocked out of the range of your merc. Another method, that requires a little more finesse is to keep her directly between you and your merc - then the knockback pushes the Countess directly into your merc (and he acts as his own wall).

Getting Enough FCR on your Sorc:
In case you didn't know, Faster Cast Rate = FCR, and there are certain plateaus (aka breakpoints) where adding more FCR will help reduce the amount of time necessary for your sorc to cast a spell - but adding more FCR will not reduce your casting time if you don't reach the next breakpoint. Also, reaching a higher FCR breakpoint will not reduce casting delays. Now that the basics are out of the way...

63 FCR is what many people consider a "minimum" breakpoint. Personally, for running the Countess, I would prefer 105 FCR as a "minimum", and overall, since I like spammer sorcs, I actually prefer the maximized speed provided by 200 FCR.

The primary reason I feel this is that the majority of your time on a Countess run will be spent teleporting - so if you teleport a little faster each time you cast it, once you start to do hundreds (or thousands) of runs, that little bit of saved time each run can really add up. Yes, 105, 63, and even 37 FCR sorcs can be effective Countess runners - they're not my cup of tequila, but they can work just fine.

If you want to pursue 200 FCR, I've got a lot of detailed advice about the required equipment in the original draft of this guide (in this post, actually). But since I'm a little less adamant about it these days (and since this sorc-section is too long already), I'll skip most of the details this time around.

Max-Blocking vs. Max-Life.
If you're pushing for the 200FCR breakpoint, none of the shields you have available will have very good base blocking percentages. For that very reason, I recommend a low-blocking approach until you can push your maximum life to ~800+ (after that you can decide whether to pursue more blocking or continue increasing life). If you do decide to pursue life over blocking, keep in mind that a Wizardspike requires 75 Dexterity if that's your weapon of choice.

If you go with a lower FCR breakpoint, you have many more shield options (Stormshield, Whistan's Guard, Moser's Blessed Circle, Sanctuary, Lidless Wall, and Visceratuant are probably the most popular). Depending on which shield you choose and your personal preference, it may make sense to pursue max-blocking. There's no right or wrong answer, but my personal opinion is 750 life is still a 'minimum' that you should try to attain with any "caster" build with ~50+ resistances - even if reaching 750 life and 50+ resistances means that you can only have ~40% blocking.

One complaint that I do have about blocking on sorcs is their slow block-recovery speed. With a large pack of archers around, it is possible to spend 1-2 seconds in block-lock, and D2 really isn't fun to play when you can't even move your character. If you look at a max-block approach, I also recommend you try to get a little Faster Block Rate on your equipment.

Running the Countess with a Non-Sorceress
Don't like the ladies, huh? Find them too fragile? Or just haven't built one yet? Whatever the reason, here are some tips that might help you do reasonably well with Countess runs without teleport (though you will be slower. Period).

Yes, Teleport is the primary reason for choosing sorceresses. I've already explained why, so I won't go into that again. However, if you don't have teleport, you're stuck with occasionally walking/running through a doorway into a wall of monsters. If it's the wrong monsters, you can easily get yourself killed. It's also easy to get forced/side-tracked into fighting a bunch of monsters that you might not really want to fight if you'd had time to think for a second after running into them.

First and foremost, you're going to be spending a lot of time travelling. So you'll want to increase your Faster Run / Walk speeds as much as is reasonably possible (without sacraficing your other needs). Sometimes you can run through a door and past a group of monsters before they really get 'in gear' and have a chance to attack you. Barbarians, Assassins, and Paladin's have a natural advantage because they have some skills that help here (and Rogue mercenaries can equip a 'Harmony' bow for the Vigor aura).

Second, if you can, bypass the crowd - even if it means going 'through' them. A barbarian can use Whirlwind to twirl directly through a large pack and out the other side. Likewise, Assassin's have Dragon Flight, which can be pretty useful to jump to the other end of a swarm. Another option is to have an item with teleport charges and only use a charge for the crowds you can't run past (or you're gonna run out of charges fast).

Third, you NEED crowd-control. Since you're often running semi-blind through tight spaces - and into an occasional pack of dangerous monsters - you will want something to make sure the whole pack doesn't completely swarm and destroy you. Crowd-control skills (or items, like a Delerium helm) can obviously make the difference between life and death here.

So, what else can I do to help my Countess runner?

For me, having tried many different builds against running the Countess, there was one common theme in determining how successful a Countess runner was:

Character Level:
Those archer's hurt - sometimes they hurt A LOT. For some reason, every character I've tried against the countess became less fragile once they reached level85 or 86. Yes, some of them weren't very fragile to begin with - and others we're still a little fragile after that point. But irregardless, once they got to level 85 or 86, it always seemed to provide just enough improvement to make a difference consistently. And once I hit level ** or 89, the runs always seem to be almost completely safe.

I haven't figured out why, but if I had to guess I suspect it would have to do with the affect that different monster/character levels have upon the Chance to Hit formula. Once you get to level 85 or 86, the affect is big enough to be noticable... I'm guessing.

General Strategy for Fast Countess runs:
- Reroll a good map. About ~15 minutes should get you a map that you can teleport to the Countess in 30-40 total teleports. If you spend a few hours you might be able to get that down to 25-30 teleports (or even less - but I don't worry about that). I'm against using the -seed command, so I'm not going to explain it.
- When trying to find your way through your new map, in the Countess' tower you will want to always turn left on the first 4 levels.
- Your merc is a tank - he is not a killer - and you want him to survive. Equip him with gear that helps him, and you, survive.
- The only dangerous monsters are archers (the Countess' death explosion can be nasty too, so don't stand too close and have some resistances).
- Some builds will want to focus on killing bosses as fast as possible sometimes, and 'thinning the crowd' other times. Other builds might have an exact opposite strategy. Be aware that there are a good strategies for your build, but you'll have to figure them out yourself (or ask specific question with specific details if you want help).

What About Those #@&%ing Archers?
If you've read this far, you've heard me mention repeatedly that Dark Archers can be quite dangerous, especially if you get cursed, and that they are also lightning immune. If you've run the Countess before, you probably know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, you should be aware that really there are only two dangerous things when running the Countess. The first danger is the Countess' death explosion - she is often always Fire Enchanted, so if you're standing too close to her when she dies, it's going to hurt. The solution, of course, is to not stand close to the Countess :p.

The second (and most common) dangerous thing that you'll encounter during Countess runs are the Lightning Immune Dark Archers that spawn in her tower. Usually, even these archers aren't too big of a deal, but if any boss-pack near them manages to curse you, look out. It's especially troublesome when they spawn in a boss-pack that's extra-fast/extra-strong cursed - and then the Countess spawns with a Might aura... When this happens (perhaps once every ~300 runs) I've seen them kill me and my Act2 merc in roughly two seconds, and I've seen them take down a merc alone in about 1 second. Sometimes it's so fast you don't even have the time to feed the merc Full Rejuv's.

So, do you just resign yourself to fate when you encounter this situation? Of course not! If you want to save and exit, that's your own business, but aborted runs have a 100% failure rate. Even if you die 9 times out of 10 trying to fight, you still succeed occasionally (and it's a great feeling when you do win a tough battle). Eventually, I've learned enough that what killed me 90% of the time early in my career is down to about 3% now - through lots of practice and trial-and-error. Of course, I'm referring mostly to softcore - if you're playing hardcore you should do what you must to survive (I still feel that save & exit to avoid death is cheesy, but it's your choice ;-).

Nevertheless, when the carp hits the pan, there are a few things that I've found really help your survival rate - a lot:

Drink Some Potions.
Yes this is obvious advice. Hopefully you won't rely on drinking potions often (because it'll slow your runs down), but, sometimes it's a choice between drinking a potion or imminent death - call me crazy, but I try to choose not imminent death.

Choosing the Best Merc (and Outfitting Him)
I stated earlier that during Countess runs, your merc is a tank - he is not a killer - and you want him to survive. You may have noticed by now that I've repeatedly mentioned concern around getting cursed, and I've barely mentioned things like conviction auras and elemental resistances. This is telling, since within the Countesses tower physical damage is almost always more dangerous than elemental damage. There aren't many (any?) builds that are able to absorb huge amounts of physical punishment and also move/kill quickly enough for high performance Countess runs, which is why a good merc may be important to your Countess runner. At a reasonable level with modest equipment, he'll have a minimum of 1500 hitpoints (often much more than that) that you can use to your advantage (i.e. meatshield anyone?).

Given all of this information there are three primary things that will help keep your merc tanking (and keep you alive):

1. Damage Reduction > Resistances. If the physical damage is what scares you, why not protect yourself against it? The same is true for your merc. In my opinion, that means that resistances are a lower priority than damage reduction when running the Countess.

2. Life Leech (aka LL). If you've ever played this game into NM difficulty, you're surely aware that LL is a critical component to successfully using your merc as a tank. With the exception of Ghosts, every monster in the Countess' tower is leechable, so decent LL will go a long way towards keeping your merc alive.

3. Crowd Control. As always, individual monsters are seldom the dangerous ones - often it's the swarms that will overwhelm you (or the merc).

With my assorted Countess runners, I've tried Holy-Freeze, I've tried Defiance, I've tried Might, I've tried Act3 Cold mercs, and I've tried barbarians. I haven't yet tried Rogues or the other two elements from Act3 mercs, so this isn't entirely complete advice. Since you're looking for a tank, I think you can safely rule out the ones I haven't tried as the best option for a Countess runner.

Act3 mercs seem to die the fastest to those stinking archers. Barbarians are solid, but their available weapons to provide crowd control are much more limited than their Act2 counterparts. Since I use a sorc, I tend to stay away from Defiance mercs as well (their aura doesn't really benefit my sorc very much). Of course, if you're using a build that's based upon physical damage, then a Might merc is also a reasonable option - you'd loose some crowd control, but gain significant killing speed.

For a sorc, there are two options I like a lot. The first is probably the most common mercenary choice - a Holy-Freeze Dessert Warrior. Good crowd-control from the aura and decent tanking ability. What's not to love? However, I also enjoy an Insight-wielding Prayer mercenary for the ~60+ life regenerated per second. Prayer mercs tend to be a little more fragile than his other Act2 counterparts however, but if your sorc is taking so much damage that you must drink potions continuously, you might consider trying this option.

For armor, I like a Shaftstop armor - that 30% DR is pretty hard to beat. Arkaine's Valor and Leviathan are probably comparible options, but they can be harder to find. Other options will work, but they're all a step down.

For a weapon, it's pretty hard to beat The Reaper's Toll (great crowd control, and good life leech). If you're using a Might merc, then IMO a Reaper's is the best option - period. Other solid options are the old standards: Hone Sundan, Kelpie Snare, Honor, Insight, etc. On Barbarians I like a Doombringer or even a Crainte Vomir. On prayer mercenaries, or mana-dependent builds, I like an Insight even over the Reaper's Toll.

For a helm, I prefer a Vampire Gaze for the nice boost to DR and LL. Another option that's often mentioned and yet still forgotten is a Delerium helm - if you're lacking in crowd control, or perhaps using a non-Act2 merc, this might be the best option available. Of course, Harlequin's Crest is a reliable standard as well.

Other Resources (Rune-Finding and/or Countess Related)
Some of these summaries are written entirely by me, and it's been a while since I read all of these treads/guides in detail. If you feel I've missed a signficant point or two that should be mentioned, let me know. Also, if you'd like to nominate another thread for a linked resource, please let me know.

Urlik's Rune Finder's Guide, 2.0
Summary: A must-read for high-end rune hunters playing version 1.10 or later. Detailed math provided, with great suggestions on strategies and tactics, semi-definitive answers on "What's the best place to fine rune X?", and how chest-drops work (which could be quite informational for Lower-Kurast runners).

Ragnarod's 1.09 Hell Forge Rushing Guide
Summary: Hellforge rushing (HFR) is perhaps the safest way of getting mid-high runes in 1.10 and 1.11, since it doesn’t depend as much on your luck as other methods, such as running the Countess or Lower Kurast. Basically, your goal is getting a character to Act 4 Hell, so you can complete the Hellforge quest in 1.10/1.11 and get the runes it drops. For each character you rush successfully, you’ll get a rune from Sol to Um off the Nightmare quest, and from Hel to Gul off the Hell quest.

The easiest way of getting a character to Act 4 Hell to get the quest reward is by rushing him, completing only the quests needed to advance acts with the help of a stronger character. Rushing was easier in 1.09, so I suggest you to rush your characters in that version, and convert them to 1.10/1.11 to complete the quests there, to save time.

Note that there are some technical, and even ethical, difficulties that may be associated to Hell Forge Rushing. Due to forum rules, some specific details were omitted from the HFR guide, and if you're concerned about the ethical impact, try searching around the forums for some of the previous discussion threads.

Getting Technical
Summary: Due to some intricacies within the game mechanics, the actual results for how often the Countess will drop a particular rune are slightly different than the statistical probabilities. Warrior of Light wrote a simulator to determine the Countess's exact chances for a particular rune to drop in any run.

Which Runewords Work in Single Player? (version 1.10, with updates for 1.11)
Summary: Self-Explanetory

Bonus Link: I've come a long ways, huh? :grin:

Thanks, and Such
- to the folks that took the time to read and respond to the original thread

- to anyone who spa... er... posts below with questions, suggestions and ideas ;-)

- to Durf, for the continually open tab at the bar. Let's all blame Durf for making this guide even longer than the original.

- And, of course, the Countess - how would I be able to amass enough El runes to cube a Zod without you? You're an inspiration of mediocrity (which leads to eventual animosity, and finally, aversion).


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Great Guide, I blame Durf.
I just want to throw out however, before you call this definitive that this is the run I love a IK MF/GF Barb best on.
I just seem to not need TP to Whip through this run and if I FindItems-Cry bodies in route I seem to find more good stuff runes/jewels etc on this run.


Moderator Single Player
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Nice guide sirpoops :thumbsup:
One vote for adding it to the guides page, if it isn't already.


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

@BobCox, as one of the builds I tried specifically for this thread, I built an IK-Whirlybarb, with max'ed Increased Speed instead of Shout. My conclusions:

Effective? ... yes.

Solid and Safe? ... absolutely.

Viable Countess Runner? ... without a doubt.

Comparable speed/performance to any properly built sorc? ... not on your life.


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Nice guide sirpoops. Id say its close enough to definitive. I think the barb would be good if you weren't going just for runes, but when you talk about running countess speed should be the number 1 thing. There will always be people who prefer other types of char but like you said, without teleport, it just isnt worth it if your going for runes.


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Props to all the hard work you put in, but this is way too long for a guide on a side topic like this. The essentials:
-rune range,
-no-drop story (runes fill no-drop slots (x out of 6), players1 gets highest no-drop, key doesn't affect it, neither does mf)
-countess+minion hp and res stats, maybe archers
-builds (lightsorc+bps, maybe merc, clvl) Link to light sorc guide.
-gains in runes/time

20 pages for Countess, cover every boss/area extensively like it, you'd have a big fat *** book.


Moderator Single Player, D2 Assassin, Barbarian
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Dammit, poops, I'm going to have to alter the thread link in the Stickies now. Grrr. Well ... I should make you do it yourself. :tongue:


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Awesome guide, Poops. :thumbsup: Definitely definitive (LOL, that can't be proper English).


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Great work SirPoops. Nice bonus link at the end.


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Nice work, poops! :thumbsup:

Slight nitpick: the thread by WoL you linked to contains a small error (scroll down to the last post). He seems to have posted an updated version here.

I took the liberty of dragging those numbers through a spreadsheet. Someone else can prettify them, and convert the thousands and decimal separators into something the US folks can deal with. FWIW, I'd put more weight behind these numbers than any "mathematical" attempts at solving the countess' odds (mine included :badteeth:)

               [B]Dropped in # of runs[/B]
[B]Item[/B] ,0000  1.000.000,0000  1.000,0000  100,0000  1,0000  [B]Odds per run[/B]  
Key of Terror     73.337.935,0000     73.337,9350     73,3379    7,3338  0,0733  1:14          
El               403.080.127,0000    403.080,1270    403,0801   40,3080  0,4031  1:2           
Eld              268.716.102,0000    268.716,1020    268,7161   26,8716  0,2687  1:4           
Tir              223.987.911,0000    223.987,9110    223,9879   22,3988  0,2240  1:4           
Nef              149.319.452,0000    149.319,4520    149,3195   14,9319  0,1493  1:7           
Eth              156.864.456,0000    156.864,4560    156,8645   15,6864  0,1569  1:6           
Ith              104.473.409,0000    104.473,4090    104,4734   10,4473  0,1045  1:10          
Tal              130.668.699,0000    130.668,6990    130,6687   13,0669  0,1307  1:8           
Ral               87.073.873,0000     87.073,8730     87,0739    8,7074  0,0871  1:11          
Ort               91.517.589,0000     91.517,5890     91,5176    9,1518  0,0915  1:11          
Thul              60.963.875,0000     60.963,8750     60,9639    6,0964  0,0610  1:16          
Amn               55.954.644,0000     55.954,6440     55,9546    5,5955  0,0560  1:18          
Sol               37.253.215,0000     37.253,2150     37,2532    3,7253  0,0373  1:27          
Shael             29.572.706,0000     29.572,7060     29,5727    2,9573  0,0296  1:34          
Dol               19.644.102,0000     19.644,1020     19,6441    1,9644  0,0196  1:51          
Hel               15.247.107,0000     15.247,1070     15,2471    1,5247  0,0152  1:66          
Io                10.070.967,0000     10.070,9670     10,0710    1,0071  0,0101  1:99          
Lum                7.777.632,0000      7.777,6320      7,7776    0,7778  0,0078  1:129         
Ko                 5.100.457,0000      5.100,4570      5,1005    0,5100  0,0051  1:196         
Fal                3.977.802,0000      3.977,8020      3,9778    0,3978  0,0040  1:251         
Lem                2.552.422,0000      2.552,4220      2,5524    0,2552  0,0026  1:392         
Pul                2.045.544,0000      2.045,5440      2,0455    0,2046  0,0020  1:489         
Um                 1.255.210,0000      1.255,2100      1,2552    0,1255  0,0013  1:797         
Mal                1.189.315,0000      1.189,3150      1,1893    0,1189  0,0012  1:841         
Ist                  740.598,0000        740,5980      0,7406    0,0741  0,0007  1:1350        
Gul                    9.273,0000          9,2730      0,0093    0,0009  0,0000  1:107840      
Vex                    5.041,0000          5,0410      0,0050    0,0005  0,0000  1:198373      
Ohm                    5.425,0000          5,4250      0,0054    0,0005  0,0000  1:184332      
Lo                     2.930,0000          2,9300      0,0029    0,0003  0,0000  1:341297
P.S.: Kudos for digging up that "young poops" thread. Nice read :wink3:


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Great work, Kevin :thumbsup:

As for me, i ran a lot (o.k, not that much, but i did surely 1k runs) Countess with my IK Whirl/Zerk Barb and he is good runner...O.k, not as fast as any sorc, but still not slow and very safe...

Points in increased speed are good idea, and as a adition i used very often Howl for clearing doorways, tight areas, and also i found tele charges on items usefull (namelly on ammys)...Not for teleporting through the whole area, just for teleporting behind the wall (if entrance to the next lvl was here) - it decreased time spend on run alot...Also tele in last lvl directly to chamber with Countess is great idea (better then run around)..

My two cents



Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Something completely different: P1 might not be the desired playersX setting, according to this atma readout (below). Countess seems to have a weird TC listing, odds for the higher percentile runes improve when scaling up the PX. Maybe due to inherent chances at dropping runes, aside from the no-drop rune-drop. See for example the runes about Ist, much better than at p1. Also better chances at Gul-Lo, but still not that hot.

Numbers per playersX are chances 1/y to drop given rune.
rune	players1	players3	players5	players8
el	2,41	2,02	1,92	1,92
eld	3,42	2,81	2,66	2,66
tir	4,03	3,3	3,12	3,12
eth	5,59	4,55	4,29	4,29
nef	5,85	4,76	4,48	4,48
tal	6,64	5,38	5,07	5,07
ith	8,21	6,64	6,35	6,24
ort	9,33	7,53	7,09	7,08
ral	9,78	7,89	7,42	7,42
thul	13	11	10	10
amn	15	12	11	11
sol	22	17	16	16
shael	28	22	21	21
dol	42	33	31	31
hel	54	43	40	40
io	81	65	61	61
lum	107	85	80	80
ko	160	128	120	120
fal	212	170	159	159
lem	318	255	239	239
pul	423	338	317	317
um	635	508	476	476
mal	739	591	554	554
ist	1109	887	832	832
gul	123870	96546	91081	89259
vex	185805	144819	136622	133889
ohm	216650	168860	159301	156115
lo	324975	253289	238952	234173


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Unfortunately, ATMA is wrong about the countess. IIRC, it either ignores the 6-drops cap or the picks above 6.


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Unfortunately, ATMA is wrong about the countess. IIRC, it either ignores the 6-drops cap or the picks above 6.
IIRC from my dropcalc calcs, it only does 6, ignores the 7th.



Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)


Silospen on dropcalcs :
Think people would notice if I missed out act bosses and superuniques? I could just randomly generate a reasonably small number, I bet thats what Tenshi did. Like it makes any real difference :p


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)


Silospen on dropcalcs :
Think people would notice if I missed out act bosses and superuniques? I could just randomly generate a reasonably small number, I bet thats what Tenshi did. Like it makes any real difference :p
Just because I say something, doesn't mean I do it.

I mean, I've said I like men loads of times, yet that doesn't make me ***.

Edit: *** is censored? ****ing hell.



Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

Nice work poops. I'm not a huge countess runner but I read it all anyways and it has some great information.

P.S. I have no idea why but I totally remember reading your "young poops" thread that you posted as a bonus. Why in the name of hell would something random like that stay embedded in my memory? Hell I can barely remember yesterday!


Diabloii.Net Member
Re: The (Hopefully) Definitive Guide to Running the Countess (in Hell difficulty)

*** people do no exist on the internets :eek: