With the announcement of D2:R as well as the resurgence of popular mods like Plugy and Path of Diablo there are undoubtedly many players who are looking to get back into Diablo 2. I wanted to make a post highlighting good resources as well as discussing some important game knowledge for new/returning players regarding the Sorceress class in particular as it is one of the most popular classes in Diablo 2. Most of the advice in this post is targeted at someone playing solo self found unmodded (with the exception of ladder rune words enabled) Diablo 2.
I redownloaded diablo 2 after not playing for over a decade a few months ago and I ended up doing a lot of research into building/leveling an endgame Sorceress. I ran into a LARGE amount of conflicting information, some of which was very dated or just straight up incorrect, as well as many diablo 2 veterans giving advice that was only applicable to very high budget builds/fully leveled characters. This post is not meant to be a full sorc guide but instead I wanted to address some common points of contention regarding building a sorc as well as listing some of the more useful resources I found. I will talk briefly about gear/itemization, farm spots, skills/attributes, leveling, and common builds.
Here are some of the more useful guides I used as cross references:
MrLlamaSC comprehensive blizz sorc guide:
MrLlamaSC leveling guide for normal, has hell and nightmare on his channel as well:
Sasja Meteorb sorc guide:
Lower Kurast FAQ:
Human Bot Project playlist:
Here leveling means from act1 normal to killing Baal in Hell for the first time, as actually leveling to 99 is not something most people will have the patience for. The leveling guide linked above is fairly comprehensive but here are a couple things to keep in mind.
- Nova sorc is the best leveling spec in normal because it is a low requirement aoe spell. Aoe spells are rare in early game Diablo but kill packs of monsters dramatically faster than higher damage single target spells.
- Frozen Orb is the best leveling spec in nightmare because it is a very high damage aoe spell. Frozen orb can fall off in endgame due to a lack of synergy but early on when you can't max out any skill frozen orb does very very high damage compared to other Sorc spells.
- Meteorb is the best spec to open up hell (kill Baal for the first time) because of the high amount of cold immunes. As a low level solo player with bad gear there really isn't any other option to fight cold immunes without mixed attacks.
- Important: You only get 3 respecs, I would recommend being very frugal about respeccing as it is going to be a very long time before you can comfortably farm Diablo and Baal in hell mode for the respec mats. The standard strategy is to start as a Nova Sorc, respec to frozen orb for nightmare, then respec to Meteorb for hell and then respec to Blizz sorc for endgame farming. The problem with this strategy is that Blizz Sorc is way more efficient farming than Meteorb Sorc, however Blizz Sorc has an incredibly hard time killing Diablo and Baal (due to Lord De Seis cold immune and Throne room cold immunes/wave2) at low levels with bad gear. Because respeccing to Blizz sorc spends your last free respec you are essentially locked in without a good way to farm the token. There are three ways around this: Option 1 is to stay as Meteorb until your Merc gets enough gear/levels to tank cold immunes. I ended up doing this and I would not recommend it. It takes too much time to gear/level up your merc as a Meteorb Sorc and it would expediate the process massively to do the same amount of farming as a Blizz sorc. Option 2 is to level through normal as a cold sorc, this is definitely slower than nova sorc but honestly normal doesn't take too long relatively speaking and it saves you a respec. Option 3 (what I would recommend) is to simply lock in as a Blizz sorc and forego respecs until your mercenary can kill Lord De Seis on his own.
- Your Merc is useless in Hell difficulty until the early level 80s, and even then it is very difficult to keep alive. The merc doesn't really become self sufficient until ~level 90 with life leech gear. Don't bother spending gold on rezzing the merc while opening up Hell, you can always rehire at a higher level when you decide to start using one.
- The sprit rune word in a crystal sword is the largest power boost you can easily get while leveling.
- Strength is only useful to equip gear, around 50 strength is enough until you get to endgame. Getting a spirit shield is 156 strength, but it is pointless to invest points into strength until you can afford the high strength cost and you actually have a monarch shield to put spirit into. I wouldn't touch strength until you can respec in endgame for the 156 strength requirement. Some guides advise against statting this much strength for spirit shield but that is bad advice. The Spirit rune word is both cheap and incredibly powerful and is 100% worth the strength investment.
- Dexterity is completely useless until you get an Ali-baba sword as a MF switch weapon. The extra block chance from dex isn't a bad thing but it comes at a price of vitality, which really isn't worth the tradeoff.
- Vitality is your main stat dump. The other 3 stats simply don't benefit the Sorc in combat enough, so vitality is the only viable option.
- Energy has a lot of arbitrary recommendations depending on the guide you look at but the truth is you can sustain your mana pool with 0 energy. It's more of a convenience stat, as early on points into energy will help you to not have to fill your inventory with mana potions. Spirit runeword + good uniques will make energy obsolete eventually. Starting out it's really up to the player how much Energy they want.
- Warmth – similar to Energy, this one point wonder is more about your sanity/convenience than it is about making your character better in combat. With good gear you can remove the standard one point of warmth and barely notice, but it is still probably worth the one point while leveling. Mana pots provided the majority of your mana regen.
- Frozen Shield/Static/Teleport- These skills are incredibly useful and are always worth the one point investment regardless of build. Basically every source will agree on this so I'm not going to go into detail.
- Energy Armor- There was a lot of conflicting advice regarding this skill but long story short it isn't worth the 4 point requirement. If you could get it for free on a switch weapon then it's worth using but the 4 points are too steep a price. Energy Armor ignores your resistance when it calculates damage done to mana, so in hell this usually means one or two hits will drain all of your mana and leave you unable to teleport. It's still better to have it on and chug a mana pot to teleport away, as the damage done to mana can still save your life if you teleport into a dangerous pack but it isn't good enough to warrant a a 4 skill point investment.
- Fireball- Easier to aim than meteor and will be your main damaging spell if you play Meteorb. Cast this while meteor/frozen orb are on CD.
- Meteor- does the most damage and is worth using on large packs/ bosses but is finnicky to aim and overall less useful than fireball
- Blizzard- This spell is overtuned, but doesn't really snowball ahead of other spells until you have enough points to beef up its synergies. Blizzard does more damage to monsters that walk through it (Mephsito is a great example, when moat tricking he will strafe inside the blizzard and die very quickly)
- Frozen Orb- Very strong early on, but only has one synergy.
- Cold Mastery- This will add a lot of damage in hell but maxes out benefits at -175% CR. It depends on what you are fighting so in certain farm spots only -150% CR is needed. Mephisto specifically benefits from cold mastery up to the -175% max. Most Sorc guides go into this in more detail.
- Glacial Spike- Only useful to freeze packs in place, does less damage than Ice blast with the same point investment
- Ice Blast- The fireball equivalent for a Blizz sorc, cast this while blizzard is on CD.
Common Builds and their viability:
I briefly mentioned frozen orb and nova sorc in the leveling section but they are not viable endgame builds so I wont mention them here.
- Blizz sorc- The best all around Sorc build. There are better builds for farming but they all require an infinity runeword which is not something you will make in solo gameplay anytime soon. The reputation this build gets is not overblown, it simply does way more damage than other budget Sorc builds. The tradeoff is of course you cannot kill cold immunes. You can mostly get around this downside with a strong merc.
- Meteorb sorc- Good for opening hell and farming the pit and Countess early on. Blizz sorc does 2 to 2.5 times as much damage as meteorb which makes it strictly worse even though there are a couple spots it is better at farming because of cold immunes.
- Lightning Sorc- High damaging endgame lightning build. Not viable until you get Infinity on an act 2 Merc.
- Phoenix Sorc- High damaging endgame fire build. Not viable until you get Infinity on an act 2 Merc. Infinity takes a very long time to get as a solo player without hacks.
- Magic find is the most useful stat unless you are farming runes/charms. Most stats only increase your killing power whereas Magic Find cuts down on the number of runs needed (on average) for any particular item. Boss running is typically the most useful farming and stats like + to all skills only affect the time taken to fight the boss. Killing Mephisto 5 seconds faster for example is simply not the same benefit as needing 10 to 20% less total runs to get certain uniques. Keep in mind that Magic find has diminishing returns, 0-100% magic find is very very strong while Magic find tends to be less useful past ~300%
- + All skills is difficult to find outside of cheap runewords early on but it is the most useful combat attribute for obvious reasons. Many video guides are misleading as they feature characters with inventories full of skillers +torch and gear loaded with + all skills. With enough + all skills players 8 hell can be trivial even with non-meta gear/builds.
- Faster Cast Rate- FCR is both a dps increase and a survivability increase as with better FCR you are more likely to be able to teleport out of a dangerous pack without getting interrupted by damage. Most guides go over breakpoints for FCR.
- Resistance- The best defensive stat until you hit max resists. Opening hell for the first time is a bit easier if you can stack resistance instead of other stats but it's worth considering dropping resistances to making farming more efficient.
- Life- Pretty self explanatory but slightly less useful than the above stats as your gameplan is to never get hit.
- Defense- Defense is actually dodge chance in Diablo, defense can make teleporting out of melee range more consistent but isn't the most useful stat.
- Any stat not listed above is either worthless or has niche usefulness for a Sorc
- Tal Rasha's Set is NOT budget. The chest piece specifically is not easy to get as a solo player. A lot of guides have this as a budget or a mid-level option, but the drop rates don't agree.
- With the exception of arachnid's mesh (which is a mid level item) there aren't very many useful belt/gloves/boots uniques. The really cheap compromise is the Sigons 3 piece until you can get war travs/chancies/arachnids
- Shako (harlequin crest) is probably the most all around useful unique in the game. This is the only unique that is worth target farming (I'll go over how in the farm section).
- The Oculus is a very useful budget to mid-level item that a lot of guides don't recommend. I would prefer if it didnt have the chance to teleport but it has actually saved me more times than it has killed me, and the other stats on this weapon are very very strong.
- Rings and amulets are going to be worth picking up at rare or magic quality for much longer than other slots. Rare amulets can roll similar to endgame unique amulets.
Over the years people have figured out the best farming spots in diablo 2 but there is no one single perfect spot. I'm going to rank the most common endgame farms and explain the various pros and cons in regards to a Sorc.
S Tier: Unrivaled in at least one aspect
– Hell Andariel. This is BY FAR the best place to farm useful uniques early in endgame due to the quest bug. Almost any item that Hell Andariel can drop has a much higher drop rate from Hell Andariel than any other source in the game. It's a good idea to target farm Hell Andariel until you get a Shako, as you will probably get most of Andariel's other useful drops while farming. The biggest downside is that Hell Andariel stops giving xp fairly quickly
– Lower Kurast. With the double campfire setup Lower Kurast is mathematically the best place to farm high runes by a large margin. It's also the best place to farm charms, you need just enough gear to survive and you can max out player count while clicking all the interactables. Lower Kurast isn't worth farming for uniques or experience.
– Hell Baal. Due to roleplay in-between waves and the cold immunes in the throne room and wave 2, it's not the fastest boss to farm for mid-level uniques, but it is the best boss to farm for xp and end game uniques. Needs a capable merc to farm effectively
– Countess (any difficulty). Most of the runes Countess is capable of dropping can be farmed much quicker than any other method. Hell countess is a particular challenge for a blizz sorc (requires a good merc) however and it isn't worth farming countess to cube up to high runes.
– Secret Cow Level (any difficulty). This is the best place to farm gems and bases/sockets, also pretty decent for runes. Not great for xp or uniques.
A Tier: Excels in some areas
– Hell Mephisto. The moat trick makes farming this boss fast and easy even with bad gear. Would be in S-tier but Andariel has straight up better odds than Mephisto for a lot of gear. Still the best source for arachnids mesh.
– Ancient Tunnels. A level 85 area without cold immunes, non-dangerous mobs, and decent mob density. For Blizz Sorc general farming this is the spot. The biggest downside is that it isn't the best place to farm for anything in particular.
– The pit. A level 85 area with very high mob density. This isn't viable for Blizz sorc due to cold immunes but is better than ancient tunnels for meteorb or infinity sorc builds.
– Nightmare Andariel. The best place to farm if early hell is giving you difficulty. Famously the best place to farm stone of jordan, also has the best chance to drop skin of the vipermagi which is a good budget chest armor.
– Pindleskin. Incredibly convenient to farm and gives good xp. The drop rates are pretty bad compared to bosses though.
– Hell Diablo. Can be dangerous for low geared characters and requires a capable merc if you are running blizz sorc. Good xp and uniques, but is slightly outclassed by baal runs. I read that chaos sanctuary runs can be similar xp to baal runs but I don't think this is possible with a solo character. You would need multiple people to activate the 3 unique packs simultaneously for this to be better xp per hour than Baal.
– River of Flame. A good high mob density level 85 area without cold immunes, however it is a bit more dangerous to farm than ancient tunnels.
B Tier: Good to break up the monotony
– Threshsocket. Cold immune, so not an option for blizz sorc, also has travel time compared to pindleskin but is worse xp and similar drop rate to pindleskin.
– Nihlathak. Can spawn cold immune and his minions are cold immune. If you aren't running blizz sorc can be decent but is probably still worse than pindleskin.
– Arcane Sanctuary. The ghosts have double rune drop rate, but either the secret cow level or lower kurast are better for runes.
-The Mausoleum. This is a good place for early hell characters to farm as there are no cold or fire immunes and it is level 85. However the monster density is pretty bad and the area itself is small.
– Travincal. The council members are considered the best gold farming spot, howerver they come with at least one cold immune and gambling has particularly bad odds for farming uniques. Gambling can still be good for getting good statted rares in some slots.
Most guides provided heavily conflicting information regarding building a good merc. I wanted to talk about some of the more common misconceptions-
- The insight runeword is not worth the time it takes to make for the follower. Just like warmth and points into energy the meditation aura provided by insight can be overkill and provides mana regen that you can get from potions anyways. It also does not help the main purpose of your merc until you get an infinity which is to kill cold immunes for you.
- Your merc's level is more important that its gear. I spent a ton of time farming out my low 80s merc an eth bugged stone runeword armor and it barely had an impact on his survivability despite almost 4000 defense on one item. With the same gear at level 92 my merc is now mostly self sufficient.
- Life leech and attack speed are what keeps your merc alive. Bonehew, Reapers Toll, Andariel's Visage, and Vampire Gaze are all good items to help with this
- The Might aura from hell offensive mercs can be better for a cold sorc than the nightmare holy freeze mercs. Remember the main objective is to kill cold immunes, however the aura itself doesn't actually make a huge difference.
- Undead Crown can be a good cheap tech item for the merc as a lot of the problem mobs (blood lords in throne room, wave 2, Lord De Seis) are all undead.
- You can rehire a different merc if you want to try something new, they only require a couple relevels.
- EDIT* Shift 1-4 will feed potions to your merc
That's it, I mostly wanted this to be a supplement to what is already out there, as a lot of guides make assumptions for new players and gloss over some important info. Let me know if anything is incorrect and happy hunting!
- Sorceress PvM Untwinked Builds
- Every Diablo 2 Character Build: A Response to “There will only be Hammerdins and Sorcs”
- 1.15 wishlist! Here’s mine, what’s yours?
More about DiabloPost: "Diablo 2 Returning/New Player Sorceress Tips and Guidelines" specifically for the game Diablo. Other useful information about this game:
- All the good/bad memories about the D2 holy grail that I completed last night(long post warning)
- Is there an unconventional build that you really enjoy?
- D2 Endgame details for newcomers
- Some context for the original intent behind the Amazon’s design and why VV’s version is not faithful to it
- D4 should let you opt out of shared experience.
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