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1.10 Martial Artist Guide by CrimsonKnight

Version: 1.30 | Updated: 06/04/04

                  Diablo II: Lord of Destruction Martial Artist FAQ
                                     Patch 1.10

                                     <Ver. 1.3>
Legal Stuff:

Before we begin...

This FAQ is Copyright 2004 CrimsonKnight (Michael Gelshion).

You may only use this faq for personal use.  Any attempt to copy, re-post, or 
sell this document without permission will result in your paying a hefty fine
as defined under Title 17 Chapter 5 Section 506(d) of US Copyright Law.

As of right now, only GameFAQs has permission to display this FAQ.  However,
if you would also like to post this FAQ(unedited) on your site, and without the
risk of breaking the law, send me an email at Nevalis10000@hotmail.com.  Simply
ask, and most likely I will be happy to help.

Also, all references, characters, and names in Diablo II: Lord of Destruction
are Copyright by Blizzard Entertainment.

Anyhow, on with the FAQ.

Table of Contents:
To go directly to a particular section, simply hit Ctrl+F and copy/paste the
the word found in the brackets as well as the brackets.

I.    Introduction [Intro]
II.   Changes in Patch 1.10 [Patch]
III.  Skill Trees for Martial Arts/Shadow Disciplines [Skills] [Shadow]
IV.   Suggested Builds [Build]
V.    Stats, stats, stats [Stats]
VI.   Is a mercenary right for you? [Mercs]
VII.  Equipment [EQ]
VIII. Act Boss Guide [Bosses]
IX.   Credits [Cred]
X.    Contact Information [Contact]
XI.   Version Updates [Updates]


     Lets get better aquainted with our very deadly friend, The Assassin
             and a brief introduction to the purpose of the FAQ.

    Like many stories have told, the Assassin is one who uses speed, deception,
and the shadows as a means of survival.  The Assassin is a unique class that
provides Diablo players with the opportunity to think a little bit more than
your average Barbarian/Sorc in terms of which skills to use while slaying the
demonic hordes.  There are three possible paths one could take when building
an Assassin, either pure martial arts, pure traps, or hybrid(both traps and
martial arts).  Before patch 1.10 introduced skill synergies, one could make an
effective hybrid build in order to utilize all skill trees.  While it's still
possible to do it now, it would not be nearly as powerful as going either pure
traps or pure martial arts.  I think you know which I favor more :P.

    The purpose of this FAQ is to provide some advice with skill and stat
allocation for those interested in making a deadly assassin that is capable of
handling her own in the now harder Hell mode.  It is meant to hopefully give
you some insight on the changes made to the class in the latest patch since
I haven't seen any updates for the previous Assassin FAQs.  Of course, in the
end, you don't need to follow this word for word, and I highly encourage you
to choose a build that suits you best.  Also this FAQ assumes that you have at
least the fundemental knowledge on how an assassin's charges/finishing moves
work.  If you don't, I suggest you read a more general assassin FAQ before
continuing with this one.


                         What changed in Patch 1.10?

    Well, for starters, the overall difficulty has increased substantially.
What this means is you really need to keep your wits about you when treading
through the harder difficulties, especially if you aren't sporting top notch
equipment.  However, you now have skill synergies to possibly look into when
creating a new character, opening up more possible and practical builds than
originally possible.  Think of a synergy as a bonus you receive by investing
points in another skill.  For example, Phoenix Strike receives bonuses from
Fists of Fire, Claws of Thunder, and Blades of Ice.  So, if you put points into
those synergies, the respective elemental damage of Phoenix Strike will
naturally increase.  However, the bonus only applies to the points you actually
invested in the skill.  Using +skills eq will NOT apply synergy bonuses.
Anyhow, All classes have the ability to make use of synergy based builds,
but this FAQ primarily focuses on the synergies associated with the Martial
Artist.  The patch also provided skill tweaks, new unique items, new horadric
cube recipes, etc, but there are other sources that will go into much more
detail, concerning the subject matter of overall changes.


                                 Skill Trees


I will give a brief breakdown of each ability, and how useful you may find it
during your travels through the corrupted realms.  Again, just because I think
something isn't terrific doesn't mean it is.  Maybe I overlooked some exploit
that makes a seemingly useless skill incredible, and wouldn't it be cool to
prove me wrong? 

                                Martial Arts

Level 1 Skills:

Name: Tiger Strike
Type: Charge up skill
MP Cost: 1
Desc: Consecutive hits add damage bonuses.

What it does: Each charge increases the damage modifier of the first
              attack/finishing move used to unleash the charges.

Breakdown: This is an amazing skill that is as mana efficient as you could get.
           At level 20 the third charge gives you a damage modifier of 1440%.
           Needless to say, that is most likely the biggest mod for any skill
           in the entire game.  Maxing this skill wouldn't be a bad idea, but
           it gives you less skill points to use for synergies.

Suggested skill point allocation: 
           Either Max, or 10, or 1(if you intend to boost this with +skills eq)

Name: Dragon Talon
Type: Finishing Move
MP Cost: 6
Desc: Kick your enemies out of your way.

What it does: As the description says, you kick your enemies.  However, kick
              damage is not based on your weapon damage, unless you have a
              katar tied to your boot...Anyway, it's:

              (str+dex-20)/4)*(100+skill_bonus)/100 + 

              (str+dex-20)/3)*(100+skill_bonus)/100 + 

              Did you get all that?  Basically it means if you intend to use a
              kick skill, prepare to invest a lot of points into strength and
              dexterity.  Also, a pair of shadow dancer(unique myrmidon boots)
              will add 83 bootmindam and 149 bootmaxdam, which is very nice.
              However, the boots are not exactly easy to come by.

Breakdown: Dragon talon is nothing special.  At Slevel 20 you'll do up to 4
           kicks, but the damage modifier leaves more to be desired.  It's not
           a horrible skill, just not practical for the later difficulties, at
           least, I never received much help from it.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           Only 1 as a prerequisite.

Level 6 skills:

Name: Fists of Fire
Type: Charge up skill
MP Cost: 2
Synergy: Receives a 12% fire damage bonus per level of Phoenix Strike.
Desc: Consecutive hits add fire damage.(Must equip at least 1 claw to use this)

What it does: 

      Charge 1: Adds fire damage to your attack.
      Charge 2: Causes fire damage to hit all within a radius of 2.6 yards.
      Charge 3: Creates a small fire that will burn on the ground, dealing
                damage every second.

Breakdown: If you intend to learn Phoenix Strike, and I encourage just about
           all martial artists do, then it wouldn't hurt to invest in this
           skill when it first becomes available.  The damage is rather low,
           but using it against Andariel, and in the beginning of Act 2 is
           better than nothing.  However, it is a synergy for Phoenix Strike,
           making it a strong candidate to max even if you don't use it later
           on in the harder difficulties.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           Either Max if you want to take advantage of the synergy bonus, 
           10 points if you also want to apply a synergy bonus elsewhere, or
           just 1 as a prereq for Phoenix Strike.

Name: Dragon Claw
Type: Finishing Move
MP Cost: 2
Desc: Slice and dice your enemies with your dual-claw weapons.

What it does: As the description implies, it is simply a basic attack that uses
              both claws at once.  Obviously you'll need to wield two claws to
              use the skill.

Breakdown: The use of this skill brings up the neverending debate over the
           dual claw assassin or claw/shield assassin.  Personally, I always
           opt for dual claw simply because it looks badass and is more fun.
           If you wish to play it safe, you may as well be a concentrator
           barbarian.  Anyhow, this skill doesn't add a significant amount of
           damage, only 145% at level 20, though its 515% attack rating bonus
           is quite nice.  Most likely, if you play dual claw, this will be
           your default attack, since assassins need all the damage modifiers
           they can get.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           Max if you use dual claw, 10 points if you also want to use
           Tiger Strike, or 1 if you use a shield and need it as a prereq.

Level 12 skills:

Name: Cobra Strike
Type: Charge up skill
MP Cost: 2
Desc: Consecutive hits adds life and mana stealing.

What it does:

      Charge 1: Provides life leeching
      Charge 2: Provides minor life and mana leeching
      Charge 3: Provides improved life and mana leeching

Breakdown: I can't count how many times this skill has saved me from playing
           the corpse retrieval game.  The great thing about this move is it
           works like a rejuvination potion, meaning you're instantly
           replenished.  Even with the skill at level one, you're capable of
           leeching back 80% life and mana, which is just insane.  This is a
           must have skill for martial artists.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           1 is more than enough.  + skills eq only adds a thicker coat of
           frosting on the cake.

Level 18 skills:

Name: Claws of Thunder
Type: Charge up skill
MP Cost: 4
Synergy: Receives an 8% lightning damage bonus per level of Phoenix Strike.
Desc: Consecutive hits add lightning damage.(Must equip a claw to use this)

What it does:

      Charge 1: Adds lightning damage to your attack.
      Charge 2: Creates a nova effect, hitting all enemies within the radius.
      Charge 3: Unleashes many charged bolts that travel randomly from you.

Breakdown: Lightning damage has been notorious for being risky to use.  With a
           damage range of 1-x, I won't argue against that claim.  However, I
           still think lightning damage is very deadly if you're willing to
           accept the fact that you may only tickle enemies at times.
           Regardless, this skill is helpful while you level up to Phoenix
           Strike, and much like Fists of Fire, it serves as a synergy for
           Phoenix Strike.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           Either Max if you want to take full advantage of the synergy bonus,
           10 points if you'd like to invest in other skills, or only 1 as a
           prereq for Phoenix Strike.

Name: Dragon Tail
Type: Finishing Move
MP Cost: 10
Desc: Knock back your enemies with an explosive kick.

What it does: When used, this skill cause the assassin to do a spinning kick
              that causes fire damage to everything within a radius of 4 yards.

Breakdown: If you don't plan on using dual claw, but must have a finishing move
           then this skill is an option.  The drawback, besides the high mana
           cost, is the damage modifier is fire damage, meaning a good portion
           of the enemies in hell mode will laugh at your silly spins.  It's
           still great for crowd control, but it's a shame that its damage is
           one element.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           Either Max if you decided to use claw/shield, or 1 as a prereq to
           Dragon Flight, or none at all if you chose Dragon Claw as your

Level 24 skills:

Name: Blades of Ice
Type: Charge up skill
MP Cost: 3
Synergy: Receives 8% cold damage bonus per level of Phoenix Strike.
Desc: Consecutive hits add cold damage.

What it does:

      Charge 1: Adds cold damage to your attack.
      Charge 2: Causes a spray of ice to hit all within a radius of 4 yards.
      Charge 3: Freezes enemies for a certain amount of time.

Breakdown: This skill is somewhat useful while on your way to the extremely
           helpful Phoenix Strike ability.  Like the previous two elemental
           claw attacks, the damage on this isn't fantastic in Hell mode.
           In the previous patch, the "Freeze" duration of the third charge
           only chilled enemies, which somewhat defeated its purpose.  However,
           it seems Blizzard fixed this mistake and it now actually freezes.
           Overall, the skill serves best as a prereq, since Phoenix Strike can
           do a similar attack except with more power and greater range.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           1 as a prereq for Phoenix Strike.

Name: Dragon Flight
Type: Finishing Move
MP Cost: 15
Desc: Teleport to your enemies and destroy them with a kick.

What it does: The description more or less explains it.  You teleport to the
              nearest enemy and give it one devastating kick to the face.

Breakdown: The damage and AR modifiers at Slevel 20 are quite insane, 575% and
           535% respectively.  It also lets you escape from crowds by teleport
           kicking out of the mess, but don't rely on it.  Despite the power,
           it has several drawbacks.  One being the somewhat pricy mana cost,
           a second being the lag time between kicks, and overall it isn't
           great for crowds.  It's nice for Act bosses, and would be for PvP,
           but against classes with minions *coughNecrocough*, you'll just
           waste your time kicking them rather than their master.  In the end,
           it's not worth your skills.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           If you're determined to use this skill, then Max it, otherwise don't
           invest here.

Level 30 skills:

Name: Phoenix Strike
Type: Charge up skill
MP Cost: 4
Synergy: Receives 10% fire damage bonus per level of Fists of Fire.
         Receives  6% fire damage per second per level of Fists of Fire.
         Receives 13% lightning damage bonus per level of Claws of Thunder.
         Receives 10% cold damage bonus per level of Blades of Ice. 
Desc: Adds elemental novas to attacks.

What it does:

      Charge 1: Sends a meteor crashing down on foes, and the ensuing fire will
                continue to damage for quite some time.
      Charge 2: Unleashes a chain lightning attack.
      Charge 3: This charge freezes opponents with shards of ice.

Breakdown: If you haven't guessed it by now, this is my single most favorite
           move for the assassin and possibly the entire game.  What's great is
           it covers 3 out of the 4 elements in one skill.  Prior to patch 1.10
           this skill was just something to hurt stuff that had physical
           immunity, but thanks to synergies, it has the capability to be 
           pumped up to almost epic proportions.  Of course, the sorc versions
           of the charges will always be better, but hey, casting spells is all
           they can do.  Some argue that meteor takes too long to be effective,
           but I feel with some practice, and a little strategy, it is your
           most powerful move, save for when you're up against fire immunes.
           Another bonus is the damage from the fires after the meteor crashes
           seem to stack if you use the skill multiple times in one spot.  This
           is especially useful for act boss fights.  The chain lightning
           attack, while risky, can deal a lot of damage.  Then, of course,
           there is the chaos ice bolt attack.  However, where it lacks in
           damage, it makes up for in completely freezing the enemies, which is
           great for shattering those that would normally be resurrected.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           Max this baby.

                             Shadow Disciplines

Level 1 skills:

Name: Claw Mastery
Type: Passive
Desc: Improves your skill with claw-class weapons.

What it does: Provides damage and attack rating bonus as well as critical hit
              chance for aforementioned weapons.

Breakdown: Not much to say here.  If you're using claws, max this skill.  If
           you're not using claws, why are you playing an assassin? :P  Sure,
           there are builds that take advantage of burst of speed and use
           heavy weapons, but that ruins the whole aesthetics of the class.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           Max it, or only 1 as a prereq if you want to use a big ugly weapon.

Name: Psychic Hammer
MP Cost: Initially 4, cost increments by .25 mana per level.
Desc: Use your mind to crush and push back your opponents.

What it does: More or less dazes one opponent for a very short amount of time.

Breakdown: I have yet to see a use for this skill.  It does pitiful damage,
           even at level 20(56-78 damage?!), that isn't even acceptable in
           Act IV Normal.  Anyway, this skill isn't worth anything, in fact you
           would think it would have been improved in patch 1.10...oh well.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           Only 1 as a prereq and just ignore the skill entirely.

Level 6 skills:

Name: Burst of Speed
MP Cost: 10
Desc: Increase attack and movement speed for a period of time.

What it does: As crazy as it sounds, it makes you move quicker and attack 

Breakdown: This skill is great.  Not only do you become a track star, but you
           will usually get off many attacks before the enemy even begins its
           attack sequence.  Unfortunately the skill experiences sharp 
           diminishing returns only a few skill points into it.  Regardless, no
           assassin should be without this skill.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           2-3 would be a safe bet. Up to 5 wouldn't hurt.

Level 12 skills:

Name: Weapon Block
Type: Passive
Desc: Chance to block when you are wielding two claws.

What it does: Allows you to parry just about any attack with your weapons.

Breakdown: Much like Dragon Claw, your investment in this skill depends on
           whether or not you're using dual claws.  If you are, then you must
           put some points in this if you wish to survive.  If you are using a
           shield, then obviously this is useless besides it being a prereq.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           If using dual claw, up to Slevel 10(anything after isn't worth it).
           If using a shield, only 1 as a prereq.

Name: Cloak of Shadows
MP Cost: 13
Desc: Cast a shadow to blind nearby enemies for a period of time.

What it does: Everything within a 20 yard radius will be covered with smoke.
              Their defense will be lowered, while you receive a bonus to

Breakdown: This is probably one of the more useful prereqs that the Disciplines
           tree has to offer.  It's great for crowd control as any enemy that
           isn't within melee striking range will just stand there and do
           nothing.  The fact that it also makes affected enemies easier to
           hit, while technically allowing you to avoid more hits is merely a
           nice added bonus.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           Just one point is necessary.

Level 18 skills:

Name: Fade
MP Cost: 10
Desc: Raise all resistances and resist curses for a period of time.

What it does: Basically this is the combination of the Cleansing and Salvation
              Auras that a Paladin has.

Breakdown: Your need of this skill depends on two things.  If your resistances
           are suffering so much that you can't get through an area, this may
           be for you.  Or, if you want to use the Venom skill, you will
           need to invest here as a prereq.  Personally, I don't use it since
           I'm greedy and rather invest the point in a synergy, but this skill
           is purely your call.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           None, or at most 1.

Name: Shadow Warrior
MP Cost: Initially 27, cost increments by 1 every two levels.
Desc: Summon a shadow that mimics your skills.

What it does: Gives you a clone that can use the abilities you are currently
              using.  For example, if you have Dragon Claw on the left skill,
              and Cobra Strike on the right, the warrior can only do those two

Breakdown: The Shadow Warrior is a welcome addition to your repetoire of
           abilities, but most importantly, you now have a virtually infinite
           meatshield.  Unlike those expensive mercenaries, this one can keep
           coming back as long as you have the mana to cast it.  Though useful,
           it's best if you just save your skill points for the superior
           Shadow Master at level 30.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           Just 1 point will suffice.

Level 24 skills:

Name: Mind Blast
MP Cost: 15
Desc: Use your mind to stun a group of enemies and convert the feeble-minded.

What it does: This will always stun a relatively decent sized cluster of
              enemies, and will ocassionally convert some to fight for you for
              a very short amount of time.

Breakdown: I personally really like this skill.  Not only can it hit a group
           from any distance, granted they are on the screen, but it can
           provide relief from an onslaught of enemies.  It's especially fun to
           convert some enemies in a crowd, sneak in to unleash a few meteor
           attacks, then stand back as they are burnt to death while trying to
           beat up their buddies.  The only drawback is if you get unlucky and
           can't convert enemies, you'll find yourself quickly running out of
           mana, while spamming this spell.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           1 if you want to have more crowd control or no points at all.

Level 30 skills:

Name: Venom
MP Cost: 12
Desc: Add poison damage to your weapons.

What it does: Once again the description explains it.

Breakdown: This is yet another source of damage to tackle physical immunes.
           The cool aspect to this skill is the poison damage is dealt
           incredibly fast, in .4 seconds to be exact!  This skill would be
           amazing if poison damage still stacked, but unfortunately it no
           longer does that. At Slevel 20 it does 425-445 damage within that
           time, but I haven't found this skill too useful.  For the two points
           needed to get this skill, I could invest that in a synergy for
           Phoenix Strike and add more damage overall.  I was informed that
           Blizzard fixed another error and the game now allows you to have
           both Burst of Speed and Venom activated at the same time.  This
           makes the skill actually practical.  If you feel that you're not
           dealing enough damage, invest a point here.  At worst it's small
           boost of damage.  If you have +skills eq, it only makes it that
           much more potent.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           None, or any number of points you feel is necessary to help you
           through a situation.  Only invest 1-5 if you have decent +skills.

Name: Shadow Master
MP Cost: 35, cost increments by 1 mana every two levels.
Desc: Summon a powerful shadow of yourself

What it does: Much like Shadow Warrior it is a clone of yourself.  However, the
              Shadow Master is able to use ALL assassin skills, even ones that
              you've never gained, ie. Traps.

Breakdown: Before patch 1.10 was released, the Shadow Master was kind of an
           idiot.  It would usually waste its arsenal on petty skills like
           Blade Fury or Psychic Hammer.  However, it seems Blizzard sent
           the Master back to school, and it now is rather useful in combat.
           For starters it seems to always have some sort of Fade effect or
           Burst of Speed, coupled with Blade Shield and Venom.  Also, it
           now does charge attacks and finishing moves a lot more frequently,
           and even benefits from synergies.  However, it only gets the bonus
           if it uses the skills(ie. to get the Phoenix Strike bonus to its
           meteors attack, the Shadow Master would have to use Fists of Fire).
           And if your Shadow Master dies, the newly summoned one has to
           rebuild its synergy table all over, so it's not as helpful as it
           seems.  Despite it dying very quickly to act bosses, this is a great
           summon to have at your disposal.

Suggested skill point allocation:
           At least 1 point, add more as you see fit.


...A Martial Artist has no use for such things.


       Big deal, you showed us all the stuff we already knew, where does
                         this FAQ start covering new stuff?

Now, you may be wondering how to optimize skill point allocation with the 110
skill points you will receive throughout your assassin's career.  At the given
time, I only have one Martial Artist build,  but I may include more later on.
Also, this build will get you through Normal and Nightmare mode fairly easily,
but in Hell mode, don't expect to dominate.  Many times you will need to
exploit the monsters limited AI, often taking on a defensive role to safely
get through certain areas.  However, with patience, you should make it through
victorius.  Note that reaching level 99 is a difficult and very boring task.
Hell, leveling beyond 90 is a pain in the ass.  Having said that, do not expect
to have all 110 points at your disposal.  Expect to realistically have around
90-100 points.  

If you are unsure how to distribute skill points between skills
you use and synergies, you can follow this simple yet effective plan, which
being, save synergies for last.  Basically if your build intends to make use
of a synergy, it would be a safe bet to invest in it only after your other
skills have reached the desired levels.  I mean the whole point of synergies is
to make killing stuff easier, but what good is it if you can't kill properly in
the first place?

20 Phoenix Strike
20 Dragon Claw
20 Claws of Thunder
20 Claw Mastery
19 Fists of Fire
 1 Mind Blast

all remaining points for prereqs

Unused skills: Dragon Tail/Flight, Fade, Venom

Of course this is only suggested if you have really good eq with +skills so
you can get away with only investing one point in the shadow discipline skills.
Maxing Claw Mastery would be your first objective with any Martial Arts build.
Your next goal would be to either Max Dragon Claw or alternate between
Dragon Claw and Phoenix Strike, or you could Max Phoenix Strike first and work
on Dragon Claw afterwards.  Once those three skills are out of the way, start
pumping up Fists of Fire and Claws of Thunder for synergy bonuses for Phoenix
Strike.  I chose to alternate between the two synergies, so that neither attack
would be weak when I entered Hell Mode.

If we wanted to go for a build that's more suited for up and coming assassins,
it may look something like this:

20 Phoenix Strike
20 Claw Mastery
15 Fists of Fire
10 Tiger Strike
10 Dragon Claw
10 Claws of Thunder
10 Weapon Block
 4 Shadow Master
 3 Burst of Speed
 1 Mind Blast

With this setup you enjoy a 150% fire damage/90% fire damage per second bonus
to Phoenix Strike as well as a 130% lightning damage bonus to Phoenix Strike.
Your meteor will do around 895-1025 damage on impact, and 822-858 damage per
second.  No where near the thousands of damage a Meteor sorc can do, but it'll
take care of PI's with relative ease.  The lightning attack will do 2-1702
damage.  Again, a Lightning sorc will do much much more, but would require 80+
skill points, whereas you only need to dedicate 30 to get the listed damage.
The reason why I don't also invest in the cold synergy is because its damage
never reaches any significant amount, even with the optimal setup.  Besides,
the chaos ice bolt attack is mainly used to freeze enemies, and you don't need
any synergy to do that.  I also split the skill points between Tiger Strike
and Dragon Claw just so you can enjoy some damage and AR bonus while you use
Phoenix Strike.  If you decided to not go dual claw(shame on you), you can use
the extra points for Burst of Speed/synergies/or whatever skill you feel would
help your situation the most.

Note that the latter build assumes you have no +skills eq whatsoever.
Naturally, the more +skills you get, the less you can invest in Shadow

Now that you've given me some crap builds, what stats are needed to play them?


I really won't go too in depth with discussing what each stat does, but simply
suggest how you can best benefit from certain stats.

Str - For this you really only need as much str as your equipment demands of
      you.  If you intend to use Natalya's Odium, you'll only need 149 str.
      If you plan to use heavier armor/weapons, or kick skills, you will need
      bring this stat to around 200+

Dex - Dex is a necessity for assassins, especially Martial Artists.  What good
      are your badass abilities if you can never hit the guy?  I always try to
      invest at least 1 dex per level.

Vit - Vit is also a very important, but when isn't it?  You'll want to start
      pumping this up a lot once you enter the later difficulties such as
      Nightmare and Hell mode.  Of course if you need higher str for the
      aforementioned reasons, Vit will be the one taking the cut.

Nrg - Why would you bother investing in this skill when Cobra Strike is a
      virtually limitless pool of rejuvination?

Suggested stat allocation per level:
Until you meet your minimum str requirements for your eq, going 2 str, 2 dex,
1 vit works out fairly well.  Once you're done with strength, switching to
2 dex, 3 vit isn't a bad idea since each point of vitality adds 3 hp.  Of
course if you're having trouble hitting stuff, add a little more to dex, or
if you're dying too often, pump up vitality a bit more.


          Hey, Chief?  Should I inquire the services of a Mercenary?


A mercenary is never a completely bad idea.  At worst they give you a few more
slots to store eq if you run out of room in your stash.  Several mercenaries
can prove useful, granted they can live long enough.  Such allies are either
the Act II Nightmare Offensive Merc with either Might or Holy Freeze.
Personally, I like the Might Merc just because the Assassin needs all the extra
damage she can get.  Another possible option is one of the Mages in Act 3,
more specifically, the Cold damage Mage.  He can provide help in slowing down
massive groups of enemies, but he is rather weak, and will most likely suffer
quick and painful deaths in Hell mode.  Though, in general, with the Shadow
Master at your disposal, having to spend money for a meatshield isn't that

 Now that you've filled my head with stupid information, what eq should I use?

There are so many pieces of equipment in the game, I can't really suggest an
optimal setup.  However, there are a few essential criterias to look for your

1. Claws:  The one downside to playing the assassin is the damage on their
   weapons is pretty weak compared to weapons of similar quality.  Elite
   claws only have 52 as high range damage...Of course you'll want the claws
   that want the highest attack and the fastest attack speed, but put more
   emphasis on the speed of the weapon.  If you can do either 50-100 damage a 
   hit with a fast claw or 45-90 with a very fast claw, go with the latter.
   Though the patch introduced new unique claws, I still feel Bartuc's is the
   best choice, especially if you give it the wpn upgrade.  You receive great
   +skills (+2 assassin, +1 martial arts), lifeleech, a very nice 20% AR boost,
   and a beefy +20 str and +20 dex.  What more could you ask for?  

2. Resistances:  This is almost a no brainer considering the hefty -100 penalty
   you incur in Hell mode.  Try to get stuff with Resist all, so you can save
   eq slots for other things.   

3. +skills: While not as necessary as resistances, having +skills provides
   several advantages.  For one, it adds more power to maxed out skills.
   Another bonus is you can forego a few points in a certain skill that you
   need but wouldn't invest much in anyway, such as Burst of Speed.  These
   saved points can be used to pump up synergy skills.

4. Life/Mana Leeching: While Cobra Strike covers the need to get tons of
   leeching, it's still nice to be able to use Phoenix Strike constantly
   without having to worry about running out of mana, or being forced to use
   Cobra Strike to heal constantly.

5. +stats.  Again, it's not insanely important, but having decent +stats on eq
   will allow you to save stat points from levels.  Usually +str eq helps since
   it lets you get away with investing less overall but still allows you to
   wear the eq you need.  However, be careful if you're trying to minimize
   your str point allocation, especially if you don't know what your final set
   of equipment will be.  There's nothing worse than being short of some str
   to put on some awesome piece of armor or weapon.

If you can somehow manage it, completing Natalya's Odium and using a Bartucs
Cut-throat as your secondary weapon will make you into a powerhouse.

Other viable options are Shaftstop, VampGaze,Perfect Jade Talon, Shadow Killer,
Shako, String of Ears, Arachnid Mesh, Bul-Kathos Wedding Band, Mara's
Kaleidoscope, etc.  Basically any eq that is hard to get and expensive to
trade for would be useful for your assassin, assuming you have some idea on
what equipment stats would suit you best.

As far as charms are concerned, getting a hold of the Annihilus charm would
greatly help.  However, for us unlucky or poor folk, charms that offer
resistances, especially resist all are very useful.  Also, charms that grant
elemental damage never hurts, and +skill grand charms are nice if you come
across them during your adventure.


                                Act Boss Guide


    In this section, I will cover some tips and strategies that have helped me
endure the difficulties in solo mode.  Granted, in Hell, some battles took 
quite a while to finish, but the satisfaction of knowing it was possible made
it worthwhile.  In an effort to save both your time and mine, I won't go into
detail about describing each boss and what their attack patterns are.  Again,
many other FAQs do a fine job explaining those already.

    [Act I: Andariel]

    Normal Mode
    Suggested Level: 13-15
    She's not too tough, especially if you gained Fists of Fire.  Make sure to
    clear out all the monsters in the previous chamber and lead her in there.
    Obviously, quaff an antidote to receive a temporary poison resistance, and
    quaff as necessary, while charging up Tiger Strike and Fists of Fire.  She
    should drop fairly quick.

    Nightmare Mode
    Suggested Level: 40+

    If you did a fairly decent job collecting eq that provides enough
    resistances to keep you above 40 in all elements, as well as using a claw
    that does over 30 damage, you should be in good shape.  Same strategy as in
    normal mode, except now you should have the highly versatile Phoenix Strike
    skill.  Simply unleash as many meteors on her as you can.  The battle may
    end even quicker than in Normal Mode.

    Hell Mode
    Suggested Levels: 60+

    If you've made it to Andariel here, you'll have a good idea on how the rest
    of the game will be, except each passing act will be more difficult than
    the previous.  However, hopefully you will have completed Natalya's Odium,
    and acquired all the best stuff a character could get at this point (j/k).
    Actually, while the strategy isn't much different than before.  Her poison
    attacks drain much faster, and she packs a bit of a punch.  Use Cobra
    strike in a mix between tiger striking meteor attacks.  It may take longer
    than expected, but she'll drop.

    [Act II: Duriel]

    Normal Mode
    Suggested Levels: 18-20

    The Shadow Warrior makes a nice decoy for this battle, especially to take
    the hit from Duriel's nasty charge attack.  Unfortunately, there's no way
    to avoid his Holy Freeze effect, but Burst of Speed should minimize the
    penalty.  For this battle, be sure to almost always have Cobra Strike 
    charges orbitting around you since he can deal damage that your healing
    potions won't always be able to recover in time.

    Nightmare Mode
    Suggested Levels: 45+

    If you haven't noticed by now, most strategies won't change much between
    difficulties, mostly because their attack patterns won't differ much.  In
    Nightmare, you will use the Shadow Master as your decoy, and be sure to
    recast her whenever possible.  This time you have the mighty meteor attack
    to aid you, so crash a few on Duriel and let the Shadow Master keep Duriel
    preoccupied, while the fires drain his life.  Since he is obviously
    stronger, keep a closer watch on your health.

    Hell Mode
    Suggested Levels: 65+

    The only real challenge here is Duriel really hurts now, and will usually
    take out your Shadow in 2-3 hits.  Unfortunately the cast delay between
    Shadows may often prevent you from immediately summoning another after
    Duriel slashes her away.  Since you will most likely be running around a
    lot, you will need to adjust your strategy a bit.  Still crash meteors on
    Duriel, but in such a way that it forms a large area of burning fire.  You
    will now run around and have him chase you within that area.  Also, hit him
    with the chain lightning and ice bolt attacks for added damage and to slow
    him briefly.  This isn't much harder, but since you're moving a lot this
    time around, be wary of that charge attack, which is even nastier.

    [Act III: Mephisto]

    Normal Mode
    Suggested Levels: 23-25

    Honestly, I think the Travincal Council are tougher than Mephisto mostly
    because each unique can have a fun effect that only becomes more fun when
    stacked with an even greater effect.  Can we say Convictioned, Cursed, and
    Mana Burned against Extra Fast and Extra Strong enemies that are Lightning
    Enchanted?  Anyway, make sure your lightning and cold resists are fairly
    high, perhaps 50+ since he often casts spells of those elements.  He also
    likes to use poison, but it's nothing an antidote won't fix.  Using Blades
    of ice is helpful here to slow down his physical attacks.  Couple this with
    Tiger Strike and Claws of Thunder for a relatively clean victory.

    Nightmare Mode
    Suggested Levels: 50+

    Mephisto is tougher this time around, but the Council is much worse since
    the uniques have an added affect from their already annoying repetoire.
    If you get by them alone, Mephisto shouldn't be a problem at all.  If you
    have any eq that grants "cannot be frozen", the battle will be much easier
    to handle.  Much like fighting Duriel, keeping Mephisto within the area of
    fire made by Phoenix Strike as a nice constant source of damage.  Combine
    Tiger Strike with either chain lightning or ice bolt attacks, and victory
    should be achieved.

    Hell Mode 
    Suggested Levels: 70+

    (Travincal Council)
    By now The Council is a bit insane.  Odds are just about all unique monster
    affects will be represented amongst all the council members.  Unfortunately
    they made Brem SparkFist always lightning enchanted in this patch...Anyway,
    the key to fighting The Council is to first clear out all the enemies by
    the waypoint and entrance to the Durance of Hate.  Now, try to separate the
    large group by slowly leading them away from the entrance.  Mind Blast and
    Cloak of Shadows will be your friend here as it will cause the minions to
    only chase after their converted buddies.  Use this opportunity to either
    launch a string of meteors at the cluster, or chaos ice bolt attack if they
    are immune fire.  Be sure to use Mind Blast every few seconds to keep at
    least one minion converted.  Though this may take a while, it's the safest
    way to get through this often frustrating part alone.

    Having done away with The Council, Mephisto should seem much easier.
    However, don't let your guard down.  This is Hell Mode, you know.  If your
    resistances aren't above 40, be prepared to take a fair amount of damage
    should you get hit by his attacks.  For some reason he is immune to leech
    affects as far as I experienced fights against him, which means potions 
    are now your best friends.  A fairly effective strategy here is to lay down
    a few meteor fires, and then focus on Tiger Strike, while sending down
    another meteor every so often.  Don't feel bad if you need to make a quick
    trip to restock on potions.  Eventually you will prevail.  You are an
    assassin afterall. :P

    [Act IV: Diablo]

    Normal Mode
    Suggested Levels: 30

    It's almost imperative that your fire and lightning resistances are at max
    for this fight.  Even then, his attacks can do severe damage.  If you can,
    get really close to Diablo, so his lightning attack will miss you entirely.
    Unfortunately, your Shadow Master will usually literally go down in flames
    when Diablo unleashes his ring of fire.  Using Clegaw's Pincers(set chain
    gloves) may help since it will slow Diablo by 25%.  Like the other bosses,
    scorch Diablo with meteor attacks, while combining Tiger Strike and Cobra
    Strike for extra damage and massive leeching.

    Nightmare Mode
    Suggested Levels: 50+

    The Oblivion Knights in the Chaos Sanctuary are really starting to become
    a problem with their frequent use of Iron Maiden.  Unless you're a necro or
    sorc, you will passionately hate this curse.  After releasing all the seals
    it's time for round 2 against Big D.  Again, fire and lightning resistances
    should be maxed to stand a chance.  Nothing really has changed, so simply
    repeat the strategy from before, but use more caution.

    Hell Mode
    Suggested Levels: 75+

    If you haven't thrown the game out in disgust because of the amount of
    times you died to Iron Maiden, I applaud you.  However, unsealing Diablo is
    when the fun begins.  I can't emphasize how important fire and lightning
    resistances are for this fight.  If you got away with it in Normal and
    Nightmare, your chances of three-peating such a feat is very unlikely.
    Getting caught in either his lightning or trailing fire attack will result
    in either death or death.  Using eq and cold affects to slow him down will
    help immensely, and if you intend to pummel him with meteors, be prepared
    to create the giant area of fire.  Though a futile effort, summoning the
    Shadow Master can sometimes distract Diablo enough for you to sneak in a
    few attacks, but most of the time she'll be vanquished with a simple fire
    attack.  This battle may take awhile, so don't be surprised if you need to
    portal back to restock potions and to repair your eq, more importantly
    your weapons.

    [Act V: Baal]

    Normal Mode
    Suggested Levels: 33-37

    Baal is not so bad the first time you encounter him.  Though his attacks do
    considerable damage, he is not very aggressive.  Luckily, you can exploit
    this by launching several meteor attacks on him and stand back and let the
    fires do the work.  If he teleports, repeat.  Using the tendrils as sources
    of either healing with Cobra Strike or to charge up skills to unleash on
    Baal.  Your Shadow Master is pretty useful in keeping Baal in place for
    this fight.

    Nightmare Mode
    Suggested Levels: 53+

    The difficulty this time around will depend mostly on your damage
    capabilities, and your chance to hit.  As the final boss for this
    difficulty level, don't expect a high chance to hit, but anything above 80%
    should be fine.  Like in Normal mode, take advantage of his preference to
    stand still and burn him with meteors.  However, he attacks more often now
    and likes to teleport, so the time it takes to defeat him will vary.

    Hell Mode
    Suggested Levels: 80+

    As the ultimate final boss, not counting Diablo clone, expect a rather
    tough fight.  His tendrils now appear more frequently, in larger numbers,
    and do much more damage.  Sometimes you may find yourself caught in
    between a cluster, and the most you can hope for is to Cobra Strike your
    way out.  Baal teleports almost constantly now, so the meteors tactic is
    severely hindered, though is still useful.  I would usually fully charge
    Cobra Strike, Tiger Strike, and 1-2 charges of Phoenix Strike on the
    tendrils, and quickly try to hit Baal before they wore off.  Even with
    16,000 AR, my chance to hit was only in the low 80's.  As a soloing
    assassin, this WILL be a long fight.  My claws shattered nearly twice, and
    I ran out of money buying potions.  Though you may die once or twice,  Baal
    doesn't regenerate life too quickly, so steady meteor attacks will always
    be progressive.  With a final attack with your claws, Baal's reign of
    destruction shall cease, with you relishing the moment briefly before
    slinking back into the shadows.





I would like to thank Blizzard for creating an insanely addictive game that has
wasted a good portion of my time for over 2 years.

I'd also like to thank the various DII:LoD resource sites such as Arreat
Summit and Diabloii.net for providing me with immense amounts of information.

Also can't forget CJayC for GameFAQs.


                             Contact Information


If you wish to make any comments, whether it be to complain, praise, correct,
add to the FAQ, or perhaps use it on another site, send me an email at
Nevalis10000@hotmail.com.  If for some reason that email doesn't go through,
and you must send me your comments, you can use Nevalis10000@yahoo.com.
However, I rarely check that account.

                               Version Updates

   [Version 1.0]
   Completed January 12.  Since this is the first version, nothing has been
   altered or fixed yet.  Hopefully, it can marginally stay unchanged...

   [Version 1.1]
   Completed January 15.  Fixed some spelling errors, and added an Act Boss
   Guide.  Fixed Blades of Ice Description.  Thanks Benny Tsai!

   [Version 1.2]
   Completed January 27.  More minor corrections made.  Added some more to the
   equipment section, and fixed Venom description.  Thanks Duo Maxwell!

   [Version 1.3]
   Completed June 4.  Few fixes.  Corrected the error about using Fade and 
   Burst of Speed simultaneously...darn.  Provided some more info on 
   Shadow Masters.


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