This page concerns the class history for Diablo II: Lord of Destruction.
Prior to the expansion, the amazon was a heavily played character class with fairly decent damage output. The expansion pack introduced some powerful unique bows and crossbows, allowing players to kill other players and monsters much faster than most were used to.
Lord of Destruction
In the early patches, the unique ballista Buriza-do Kyanon and the unique elite bows Windforce and Eaglehorn were some of the most sought after uniques in the game. These weapons had improved damage as well as several useful properties such as allowing arrows to pierce their target, slowing the target with cold, or knocking the target away from the character.
A powerful build combined items with piercing attack, such as the Buriza-do Kyanon, and the skill Guided Arrow. This skill caused the fired arrow to seek out its own target. Combined with piercing, a guided arrow sought out its original target and struck again, up to five times, leading to enormous damage. However, in later patches changes were made which made this tactic unusable.
Amazons also received the class-specific javelin Titan's Revenge, featuring high damage and ideal statistics for an amazon. "Javazons" typically used the passive skill Pierce and the javelin skill Lightning Fury. A piercing Lightning Fury javelin thrown at a large pack of creatures usually hit three or four times in quick succession, unleashing a deadly storm of lightning bolts powerful enough to mow down the pack in one or two casts.
Amazons thrived up through patch 1.09 mainly through their ability to clear large groups quickly while in the secret Cow Level.
Patch 1.10 fixed problems with the elemental arrow skills to properly add the physical arrow damage to the attack. It also introduced more powerful runeword for bows but the increased game difficulty may have offset these benefits.
With Guided Arrow being changed to not seek a target after piercing, javelin-using amazons became more popular than their bow-wielding variations. The synergy bonuses added to the Spear and Javelin skills and changes to the Cow level (making it no longer the primary choice of levels to gain experience) contributed to the change in balance.
A significant number of players tend to play with javazons that focus on the skill Charged Strike. This is a very gear-dependent build, requiring many +javelin skill items in order to make the character build effective. Equipped with ideal gear, it is possible to reach 12,000 damage, shooting 12 different bolts. Farcasting — Charged Strike is a melee skill; farcasting allows the user to cast it at a distance — is often abused with charged strike amazons. While it can be done manually, it is far more common to see amazons use a third-party program to farcast.
In terms of play experience, the Assassin switches between skills perhaps more rapidly than other classes, which can result in something of a "function key staccato" in order to perform a sequence of moves. For this reason, the player base of the class was sometimes thought of as more difficult than that of other classes.
Martial arts provide a new style of attacking enemies; they introduce the concept of "charges." Each of her martial arts attacks, instead of producing an immediate effect, adds a "charge" to her. These charges last as long as the assassin is in combat; or until the time limit on the charge expires annulling the charge, or a cancelling aura is applied. She can hold up to three charges of a given attack type, and she can potentially have three charges of every attack active simultaneously. She then needs to perform a "finishing move" (perform either a normal attack or use a martial arts skill of the sort called a finishing move), at which point all the charges release. Depending on how many charges were built up for an ability, the "finishing move" effect changes. Phoenix Strike for example, releases a meteor with only one charge, a chain of lightning with two charges, and a chaotic blast of ice with three charges.
Despite the assassin's low hit points, she is one of the simpler classes to play due to the Mind Blast skill, which stuns or converts an area of enemies, rendering them essentially harmless. But she is also one of the most complex characters to play due to her charges and releasing attacks.
Lord of Destruction
When the expansion was released, the class was notoriously bug-ridden. There was a brief episode when she could kill anything in the game by converting them with Mind Blast and waiting for them to unconvert, which erroneously reduced their hit points to 1, but this was quickly fixed.
The assassin had to rely heavily on melee to do decent damage, as her trap skills (devices planted anywhere on the screen to shoot fire or lightning at the enemy) did negligible damage. The assassin's weapon of choice, claws and (often dual-wielded) katars, were on the low end of the damage scale, forcing her to rely on elemental melee skills alone. The buff skill Burst of Speed was a common sight, greatly increasing her movement and attack speed.
Patch 1.10 greatly improved the trap skills tab with some of the best synergy bonuses in the game, but also rendered melee combat suicidal in Hell difficulty, causing both trees to switch in terms of efficiency. Lightning Sentry with synergies is one of the most powerful spells of any character in the game. Two or three castings of Mind Blast can stop an entire pack of monsters dead, with Lightning Sentry as the coup de grâce. The fire traps are both weak and bugged, and usually not recommended for Hell difficulty, so most trap assassins choose Fire Blast as their weapon of choice against lightning immune creatures.
Another major advantage the assassin received in patch 1.10 was the additional bonuses granted to the skill Fade. Previously, fade granted the assassin a plus resistances bonus based on the skill level, but after 1.10 it also provided the assassin with damage reduced by a percentage (1% per skill level) as well as 75% curse reduction, making fade one of the best skills available. Claw block, arguably another one of the assassin's greatest skills, allows the assassin to block while wielding 2 claw type weapons. The advantage does not lie so much in the block percentage, but more on the fact claw block blocks everything in patch 1.10 onwards, including the splash damage from spells such as fireball or glacial spike. Any type of attack, whether elemental, magical, physical or neither (blessed hammers) is subject to claw block. With the addition of the "Chaos" runeword (+1 whirlwind), melee assassins were revived, being able to keep up with large groups of monsters in hell, while using traps and mind blast in the mix. One of the biggest problems for the whirlwind assassin was the poor durability of claws and repair prices. On average, Chaos loses 1-3 durability per Whirlwind, making repairs frequent. With a sky high repair price of 1.2 million gold and upwards, keeping Ort runes on hand was a must.
All of these advantages made the assassin surprisingly one of the most dangerous characters to duel in 1.10 to 1.1. Although rarely played by inexperienced players and not as well known in general, a vitality based (ghost) assassin fully geared and built properly has around 4000+ hit points, on average doing 3200+ damage (with venom) and has between a 60-64% chance to block everything. Any character that has a 60% chance of blocking anything thrown at them with full damage reduce is a force to be reckoned with. For casters, assassins can be nearly impossible to kill, being constantly mind blasted and having no skill to recover from wake of fire (when combined with any stun-based effect, wake of fire continues to stun and knockback its target, but skills such as smite and whirlwind negate its effects). Wind druids, in particular, have a very hard time against well made ghost assassins, seeing as how Tornado must make it through claw block as well as the assassin's damage reduce before inflicting damage.
Surprisingly, a strong challenger to the greatly imbalanced hammerdin of 1.10 onwards is the assassin. Claw block was and still is the only to way to actually block a hammer. Although a tricky duel—hammers on average doing 12k unresistible damage—a properly played assassin can take down the mighty hammerdin. Important strategies for such a duel include using mindblast in succession with traps, making sure you have large percentages of open wounds a very high claw block (61% plus), and using hit and run tactics. Using defense negating items also help a great deal, seeing as how paladins generally have around at least 20,000 defense.
There is a common misinterpretation of the skill "Blade Fury", maybe due to the lack of understanding and information about the game engine. "Blade Fury" is a skill that makes an assassin throw lots of consecutive shurikens with damage based on a % of weapon damage, actually 3/4 of the damage of one-handed weapons and 3/8 of the damage of two-handed weapons (this is not documented), and also, if the player is using a claw-class weapon, the bonus damage and chance to critical from the skill "Claw Mastery" is applied to the shurikens. This leads to an interesting and quite damaging 'machine-gunning' technique. Based on the misleading skill description, many players equip their assassins with a heavy two-handed weapon like a pike or a maul (the most damaging but slowest weapons in the game) while using the 'Blade Fury' skill, unaware that they are doing much less damage than an assassin that uses a Claw with maxed Claw mastery, both by the fact of the lesser % dealt with two-handed weapons and by losing the mastery bonus.
One common exploit for the Assassin is the first-level spell Psychic Hammer. This spell deals negligible damage but adds knockback and stun. Used in a similar way as a hammerdin, the scrolling exploit allowed the assassin to keep your opponent in stunlock even when off the screen. Coupled with fast cast rate items, it will slowly whittle down an opponent's health while not allowing them to take any action. This has given dueling assassins a very bad reputation on Battle.net.
In classic Diablo II, this was one of the popular characters classes for power-leveling and dueling.
Lord of Destruction
The monster's global 50% physical resistance introduced in the expansion took a major toll upon the damage output of barbarians; physical immune monsters became a problem and forced many barbarians to get the magic damage Berserk skill. The critical life steal and mana steal item properties were weakened in several ways as well. Still, barbarians were one of the stronger classes in the game, yielding only to amazons and sorceresses.
With the arrival of Patch 1.10, the global physical resistance was removed, but the greatly increased difficulty made melee combat tricky. The class became highly item dependent, and mostly popular among "rich" players, with rune words such as Breath of the Dying being notoriously hard to find or make.
In summary, the class is fairly straightforward to build up, but a barbarian without a particularly selective skill build will have some serious problems in later on in the game, and having access to high end items is almost a requirement for Hell difficulty.
With the dawn of patch 1.10, a new melee dueling build of barbarians quickly rose to become very popular - the Barbarian versus Caster, abbreviated and referred to as the BvC. This double-weapon build implements the use of the new runeword Beast (made in a berserker axe) in conjunction with a high-damage runeword weapon (commonly a Grief berserker axe or an ethereal Breath of the Dying berserker axe). BvCs use teleport granted by the Enigma runeword in conjunction with whirlwind to deliver quick attacks. They also use a new function of the Leap skill - a hidden stun radius, which is often used to stay an opponent so it is easier to tele-whirlwind them. They are even capable of easily dispatching the dreaded desynching hammerdin with general ease with the help of the Widowmaker unique ward bow which gives any user the guided arrow skill previously available only to amazons. BvCs use special attack effects such as Open Wounds and Deadly Strike to deliver even more potent attacks. This new build is now well known, and can be very deadly in the right hands. Now, the Whirldwind Barbarian is considered the best PvP build to long-time pros, though some disagree.
Lord of Destruction
In the expansion pack beta, the druid was a formidable character. Skills such as Werebear and Hurricane at a high level made the class very hard to damage. This was fixed before the beta ended, and the skills have seen several balancings in subsequent patches.
When the expansion pack was released, the druid had become a harder class to play. His elemental spells had lost a lot of their former potency and most were on a long skill timer and usually missed or were otherwise very difficult to aim. Werewolf based druids stood a better chance in Hell difficulty, but even then, the werewolf was not very resilient compared to many other classes. This problem wasn't remedied until patch 1.10.
In Patch 1.10, the new skill synergies greatly changed the gameplay of the elemental druid. Armageddon could now be cast in animal form (which was rarely used, due to the large amount of skill points required for such a build, and the fact that the fire spells were still very weak and could not be cast rapidly due to casting delays), while the ice and tornado half of the elemental skills tree and Tornado and Twister in particular received massive damage boosts.
Patch 1.10 did not alter the play style of the shapeshifter much. The contemporary werewolf still relied on Fury to deal large amounts of melee damage quickly. The life steal provided by Feral Rage was enough to render a high level druid near-invincible, given a good unique or runeword weapon. Rabies was used occasionally in duels, mainly because it was not affected by poison length reduction. The often neglected summoning tree was already underpowered when the expansion was released, and continued to be rarely used after patch 1.10, despite some improvements to the tree via the new skill synergies.
Prior to the expansion, the necromancer was a moderately powered class, with many necros using the damage reflecting curse Iron Maiden, Corpse Explosion, and revived monsters to deal damage. While somewhat slow to kill, the fact that the health of revived monsters scaled with number of players allowed the necromancer to almost ignore game size, while all other classes had a much tougher time in large player count games.
Lord of Destruction
The release of the expansion radically changed the strategies of most necromancers. Monsters had so much life and physical resistance that Revive and Iron Maiden failed to do any significant damage, revived monsters no longer scaled up with number of players in the game, physical immunes were a roadblock, summoning spells in general were far too weak to be more than a distraction and necromancers were forced to use the direct damage spell Bone Spirit exclusively to make progress in Hell difficulty, Bone Spirit being one of the least efficient direct damage spells in the game (particularly for the rather bizarre mana cost of the spell).
In Patch 1.10, the Necromancer was redefined by the modifications to Raise Skeleton. This formerly under-used low level skill received a major boost and gave the player significantly stronger minions, capable of clearing Hell difficulty on their own with the Amplify Damage skill, which now removed physical immunity. Patch 1.10 also brought about a rebirth in bone skills. Previous to this patch, the Necromancers most powerful bone spell, Bone Spirit, dealt negligible damage. Patch 1.10 added synergy bonuses to the bone spells, increasing their damage immensely. A properly built necromancer fully geared can deal Over 6k bone spear damage, which is 6000 damage that cannot be resisted, making the necromancer extremely effective at dueling melee characters in particular. Similarly, the three Necromancer's poison skills, Poison Dagger, Poison Explosion and Poison Nova were also immensely strengthened with introduction of synergies, thus allowing entirely new style of play to develop with poisonmancer.
The class-specific necromancer set, Trang-Oul's Avatar, was modified in 1.10 in a curious way. It now turned the wearer into a "vampire"-class monster and granted the ability to use the sorceress skills Firewall, Fireball and Meteor. This allowed the necromancer player to ignore direct damage skills entirely and rely on the set's fire skills to deal direct damage. However, with a certain glitch, it makes the full set almost useless for a Necromancer who doesn't use summoned creatures, an exception being the Necromancer who relies on the poison skills, these generally don't need a fast cast rate. When wearing the full set, it reduces the player's spell casting speed down into the negatives.
Prior to the expansion, many considered the hammerdin build combined with a known game bug, to be a better strategy in comparison to melee combat paladins.
Lord of Destruction
The expansion pack weakened the hammerdin builds, and the advent of immunities and a global 50% physical resistance put many paladin builds incapable of dealing elemental damage at a major disadvantage. Fanaticism was boosted greatly and replaced Concentration as the aura of choice, but due to the global physical resistance, the class actually did less damage than before the expansion.
Since this patch introduced items with built-in auras, many players felt that the main selling point of the paladin had been given away to other classes, although some of the required items using auras were rare. Patch 1.10 also fixed the bug that allowed "aura flashing" (rapidly switching between an enemy-affecting and a party-affecting aura to get the benefits of two auras at once), which affected some paladin bugs negatively.
The global physical resistance was removed and the game difficulty had been increased enough to make some of the defensive auras more useful. The newly implemented skill synergies allowed paladins to boost their skill damage to new heights. In particular the Blessed Hammer spell that now, besides increased damage, also ignored resistances of undead and demon class enemies, caused a renewed interest in hammerdin builds, with many players once again considering it overpowered.
Hammerdins are currently the 'Buriza zons' of 1.10 and onwards, being able to deal up to 19k unresitable/blockable damage (barring the assassin skills clawblock, which allows the assassin to block hammers).
As examples of common Blessed Hammer abuses, in duels, using the Enigma runeword which provides the Teleport skill, the paladin player can teleport on top of the opponent and kill the player in one hammer hit, which is considered unfair by other classes. The new items with the damage +x modifier increase the damage of the Smite (shield bash) skill though, which makes the melee paladin a decent boss killer. The paladin-specific runeword Exile features a chance to cast Life Tap on striking, which renders the Zeal-using paladin near-invulnerable against normal monsters and most bosses. High-end Zealer (Zeal-user) equipment became some of the most expensive and most difficult to find.
In Patch 1.11, shortly after the addition of the new Pandemonium Quest Smiter Paladins (who primarily use the Smite skill) became popular as they are one of the few cheap and common builds that can solo Uber Tristram. The reason for this is that Smite can apply Crushing Blow (which is a chance to reduce an opponent's remaining life by a set percentage; this percentage varies depending on the type of opponent) and Smite also stuns and bypasses both defense and blocking to automatically hit.
Prior to the expansion the sorceress was a reasonably popular character class. The announcement of timers on some of the more powerful spells, elemental immunities, the weakening of Static Field and the introduction of the Blood Mana monster curse for the expansion pack caused some players a lot of grief.
Lord of Destruction
When the expansion was released, it became clear that the abundance of +x to skills items and the increasing returns on spell damage more than made up for the skill timers. The damage a well built sorceress could put out rivaled other classes, enough to kill some monsters in only a few seconds. The layout of the Bloody Foothills caused the spell Firewall to work particularly well against monsters in that area. When the attention shifted to the Cow Level as the main hunting ground, sorceress players adjusted and used the area effect Nova spell with as many faster cast rate items as possible.
When patch 1.10 arrived, the exploitation of the Cow Level and the Nova spell became a thing of the past. The seemingly random implementation of synergy bonuses rendered many old builds useless and greatly boosted other, sometimes fairly odd builds. The lowly Fireball skill became the weapon of choice for many contemporary sorceresses, thanks to its large damage synergy from Meteor. Blizzard turned out to become the most powerful cold skill, though many Fireball users got Frozen Orb instead because it worked well even without synergies. Pure Lightning sorceresses, in combination with the Ladder-only runeword Infinity and the godly unique diadem Griffon's Eye, were able to ignore the immunities of practically any monster in the game. A fighter subclass also emerged, using missile weapons with piercing and exploding missiles or melee weapon Runewords with various oskills such as Zeal or Vengeance in conjunction with the improved Enchant skill, which added fire damage and more importantly, Attack Rating, allowing melee attacks to hit more often and with more damage.
Another variant exploits the fact that Lightning Mastery on a Sorceress affects all lightning skills. When the runeword Dream is used in both a helm and a shield, the effect is a level thirty Holy Shock aura. Combined with high levels of Lightning Mastery, this "Dual Dream Enchantress" is one of the highest damaging melee classes in the game. Such builds rely on the runeword Passion in a weapon, giving access to the Paladin skill Zeal (repeated hits in a small amount of time), and enough Increased Attack Speed modifiers such that the Sorceress is able to pull off as many as 5 attacks a second, all potentially dealing a large amount of lightning damage. Coupled with Enchant and Fire Mastery, the build can become extremely powerful, but is rarely seen due to the cost of obtaining the required equipment.
The class as it stands is still very formidable, though the skill set is very counter-intuitive due to the seemingly random synergy bonuses. Weaker low level skills such as Fireball, Lightning and Ice Blast can become immensely powerful after synergies, while some of the higher level skills have no synergies or bad synergies and are ignored. The sorceress does not have a complicated skill set, and players typically pick one or two main skills and max them. She has a few defensive skills to offer, such as Chilling Armor and Energy Shield; however, some sorceresses prefer to pay more attention to their offensive spells, rather than putting points into defensive abilities. Teleport is used by many sorceresses. Using Teleport with a powerful attack, and stacking multiple "magic find" items are common strategies seen online. Magic find increases the chance of finding "Unique" items in the game, with many starting players creating dedicated "magic find" sorceresses to collect useful items for trading and equipping later characters.