My Experience with MA Assassin – Build / Findings / Equipment Guide

Hey everyone!

When I heard that MA is getting an overhaul, I jumped at the opportunity to build yet another variant to my favourite class in Diablo 2. Having read through the patch notes, there were a few key things that really stood out and gave me optimism that Martial Arts can really shine. Let's take a look at them:

Charge up skills no longer require a finishing move. Any melee attack, including the charge-ups themselves can proc the effect. Charges don’t expire from attacks, only time.

This is likely the biggest change, and for good reason. We're no longer looking to charge up some damage and discharge it all at once. We're now charging…always. The result is some really pretty numbers, as well as some devastating effects (assuming you can keep up your attacks… more on that later).

Claws of Thunder: Gain Lightning Damage to Attacks, Release a Fork Lightning, Cast Static Field.

This was interesting to see! Our own personal version of crushing blow… kinda. With an added aesthetic bonus of lighting up every monster in a 3 screen radius!

Cobra Strike: Gain Lifesteal & Manasteal, Attack reduce monster defense, Gain Life & Mana on hit.

Cobra strike was always laughable, as you could get the same effect from Dracul's Grasp. However, seeing as how we're always looking to proc and keep up charges, adding Cobra Strike to the mix is a no-brainer. This skill now feels like you're always wearing Drac's and Soul Drainers at the same time, all the time.

Dragon Flight cooldown is reduced by 0.5s for every active MA charge.

This is a fantastic change. With 12 charges up at all times (assuming you're up for it…more on that later), you're able to teleport all over the place, freezing enemies along the way.

All charge skills gain synergy from each other.

Pretty obvious. The more we pump into MA, the better our damage output.

Great changes. What should we consider?

For one, we need to keep our charges up, so we should proc charges as fast as possible. This pretty much means one thing: dual claw. This is definitely a tough choice for HC, one I likely wouldn't make. However, considering your damage really shines at the peak of your charges, getting double the procs per attack makes a huge difference in clear speed and survival (think Cobra Strike). No brainer for SC though, and it's fun.

Another thing to consider is +skills equipment. MA Sin benefits greatly from +skills, much more than %enhanced damage. With my current +27 to MA, I am reaching about 19k damage with all my charges. Pretty much anything in front of a fully charged attack melts like butter, bosses included.

Sounds good, so is the new MA worth building?

Well… that really depends on what you're looking to get out of the character. What I was looking for was to see how far I could take her and to determine what kinds of tweaks would be required to really bring this spec up to speed with the rest of the best. Let's answer some basic questions:

Can MA Sin clear "classic" D2 content?

Oh yes. You're a god when it comes to Chaos and Baal in Hell. There's really nothing that can stop you.

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Can MA Sin clear Ubers?

Just did it this morning to test, and yes! Was able to clear without much issue, but I would say it was a struggle compared to other uber-specialized specs out there (also compared to my shockwave druid). 85% of your damage is elemental, so it's really a game of patience.

Can MA Sin clear maps?

Here is where we run into a snag… It really depends on the map. Being Melee, you're going to run into the struggle that all Melee has to deal with: getting hit a hundred times per second and having to recover fast enough to keep up damage. There are maps out there like Dim Cellar or Musty Crypt that have some nice walls to keep you from getting railed. Those maps are easy to tear through. 1300% Dim Cellars are fun, and are never really a challenge (watch out for amp + fana + might). However, if you plan on stepping out into a wide open map like Burnt Forest at density over 1000%, good luck. You'll spend the majority of your time being stunlocked, unable to proc charges, and slowly dying until you are no more.

Is MA Sin good for Hardcore?

As someone that plays HC almost exclusively, I would say be prepared to die in maps. I chose to go SC this season as I really wanted to experiment and figure out what works. Glad I did! I could probably get through the game just fine on HC but I probably wouldn't step into maps over density 500%, even fully decked out. Since my last gear-upgrade, I haven't died for a few days, and don't really plan to either; I'm at a point where I am practicing for HC.

Is MA Sin FUN?

Absolutely. She's fast. She's terrifying. She shreds everything in her path. She's stylin' (I'm considering calling the build Charge Master or… Galaxy Sin) with her 12 charges constantly circling around her.

Let's get into the gear.

As I was building the character, I landed on this Budget setup:

Slot Equipment Notes
Weapon Natalya's Mark Sockets not necessary, but help.
Offhand Jade Talon Sockets for sure, socketed with some +14-+15 all resistance jewels.
Helmet Natalya's Totem 3 Sockets isn't necessary, but Um runes or Melee splash or PTopaz are a good choice.
Armor Natalya's Shadow 3 Sockets recommended. Slot with 2 Shael runes and a Melee splash with 15 all res or Um rune.
Gloves Dracul's Grasp OR Rare MA gloves. Aim for 2 to MA, 20IaS, and some life leech.
Boots Natalya's Soul
Amulet Cat's Eye or Highlord's Wrath Attack speed helps πŸ™‚
Ring Raven Frost Obvious choice
Ring Carrion Wind Pretty flexible here. I didn't find Carrion Wind particularly useful (I also happened to find a BK early in the season)
Belt Good ol' Dungos %PDR, Vit, and 10FHR are all great

From this gear, we get some great bonuses:

  • 45% Physical Damage Reduction
  • Maxed Resistances
  • Great Life and Mana Leech
  • Ignore Target Defense (No need to worry about AR)
  • 80% FHR (you need 86%, so get some small charms)
  • 3 to 8 skill bonus to Martial Arts – a good start

This gear will let you get into the build and start to play around with some low-tier maps (or some nice mid Dim Cellars). It's quite enjoyable due to its strength and safety.

Here's what I'm rolling with now:

Slot Equipment Notes
Weapon 3os Bartuc's Claw Sockets really help! You can start with some budget Eth Eth setup, and eventually move to Lo Lo or Lo Ber. The third socket is populated with a PSkull, as I lack any form of Mana Leech.
Offhand 3os Jade Talon +91 all resists. I've been too lazy to up that to 95% but I don't think its really necessary.
Helmet 3os Andariel's Visage Currently socketed with a Ber + Ber + Splash/15%IAS Jewel. Great for the attack speed, the leech, the strength, and + skill bonuses.
Armor Chains of Honor Leech, Resists, %PDR, Skills. Fantastic.
Gloves 2MA, 20IAS, 20 fire res, 6STR, 3LL Bramble Mitts I'm too scared to corrupt this beauty.
Boots Shadow Dancers 30FHR, 20 Dex, and a 6 to all res corruption. Love them.
Amulet Highlord's Wrath Really needs a +1 to all skills corruption.
Ring Raven Frost 5% PDR corruption
Ring BK Wedding Band +Skills, Leech, and Life. Could really use a 6% PDF corruption to reach the limit.
Belt Good ol' Dungos Still great.
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From this gear, we get some similar bonuses with a kick:

  • 44% Physical Damage Reduction. With the corrupted BK this would reach 49-50%.
  • Maxed Resistances… still.
  • Nearly 70% Life Leech with Cobra Strike. 3% Mana leech is more than enough.
  • 100% FHR (no need for charms)
  • Max attack speed, even under Decrep curse
  • +13 to Martial Arts

My charm inventory is what you would expect. 9 MA Lifers (267 life in total); torch; anni; bulky life small charms. This brings us up to +26 to Martial Arts. +27 if you decide to use Call to Arms as I do.

Show me the Damage!

It's pretty!

  • Fists of Fire: 3956-4351 x 3 + 989-1087
  • Claws of Thunder: 1-9446 x 2 + Static Charge
  • Blades of Ice: 2349-2471 x ? + 50% Weapon Damage where 80% is converted to Cold

Skills and Stats

Stats are pretty straight forward. Enough STR and DEX to wear gear, and the rest into VIT. My Chains of Honor is in a Dusk Shroud (77 STR requirement), bringing us to a 97, which unlocks Bartuc's Claw, bringing us to 107, which unlocks Andariel's Visage, bringing us to 137. A few more points brings us to the yikes-y 167 Shadow Dancer STR requirement, which Torch and Anni take care of.

Skills, however:

Shadow Disciplines

  • 1 to Claw Mastery
  • 1 to Burst of Speed
  • 1 to Weapon Block (a huge shame, honestly… more on this later)
  • 1 to Fade
  • 1 to Venom (it's not much, but it helps)


  • 1 to Fire Blast
  • 1 to Blade Throw
  • 1 to Wake of Fire
  • 1 to Blade Fury
  • Max Blade Shield

Martial Arts (Yes!!)

  • 1 to Dragon Claw
  • 1 to Tiger Strike
  • 1 to Dragon Talon
  • Max Fists of Fire
  • Max Claws of Thunder
  • 1 to Dragon Flight
  • Max Blades of Ice
  • Remaining points to Cobra Strike

The Ugly Stuff

Let's go over some of the stuff I mentioned previously and review:

Damage that comes from Charges can be difficult to deal with, but technology helps to overcome

You start is almost no damage, slowly building it up, and must now maintain it. No engaging monsters for 5 seconds of time means you need to do it all over again. This isn't that much of an issue until you are faced with a pack of Blood Lords that have might aura. You will sometimes need to run around and collect charges before you can engage big packs like that.

Secondly, building up charges in large density maps can be really tough. You're constantly dealing with stunlock, so you can't get enough attacks off to proc charges. Oh, and once you get hit by decrep, charges are even harder to build up (although you can get around this with 70% attack speed bonus from your equipment sans weapon). This combined experience is why I don't even bother stepping into Burnt Forest anymore. I stick to maps like Dim Cellar where walls are a thing.

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The need to retreat is a great reason to invest into Blade Shield. Blade Shield will attack no matter your situation, which is great for leeching life and killing off annoying ranged mobs. It's a life saver.

Cycling Charge-up Skills

There is a potential issue with cycling between your charge-up skills. The cycle can be very tedious when done manually… not that I know. I use Razer peripherals, which come with the privilege of easy Macro management. I use Mouse 5 to toggle a macro that cycles between the 4 charge-up skills every 400ms. I would highly recommend anyone do the same if they decide to take MA Sin seriously.

I feel like Weapon Block could be better

Weapon block is actually very interesting in the sense that it can block spells. I don't particularly notice this effect, but its still cool nonetheless. What's not cool though is that I have no motivation to put any more than 1 point into weapon block. WB caps out at about 55-57% at 15-20 skill investment. Pumping out 20 points and getting bonuses from gear really won't get you much farther than that, so why even bother investing points? I feel like this skill needs to be revisited to really make MA Sin shine. Perhaps a bonus similar to Paladin's Concentration aura? Being able to proc charges as you are getting shredded by hundreds of mobs will alleviate some of the drawbacks of the build.

Final Thoughts

Greendude, I know you're looking for feedback about MA sin, so here it is:

Damage: 10/10

When I was in the early stages of building out MA, I felt like damage was an issue. I am happy to say that damage is really no issue at all. Skillers and gear make a huge difference! In fact, I'm pretty sure that the damage is going to get nerfed next season.

Speed: 6/10

I feel like a mean elemental tornado, but a really small one. You will rip through maps at a decent pace, but nothing like other dungeoneers that invest similarly into their gear. High density clearing is limited by hit recovery, so Dragon Flight pack hunting isn't much of an option.

Survivability: 5/10

Not much more to say other than what I have written above.

Style: 11/10

What can I say? MA is pretty damn cool. Seeing all the charges stack up and ripping through monsters in a quad-elemental fury looks and feels great.


I'll record some videos and edit this post sometime soon.

Thanks for reading.

– Source

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