Hi, everyone. I am Magdelen from the USEast realm; some of you may recognize my name. In any case, I've been tinkering with this unique build, as inspired by MongoJerry. After extensive testing in single player, I've made a setup that allows you to solo hell in 1players mode with EASE, and also kill relatively well in 8 player games (better than some Babas are right now, I believe).
Alright, here we go.
Strength: You need just enough strength to wear your equipment. Excessive strength helps very little, as your physical damage is not all that impressive. Your goal is to reach 133 Strength, which will enable you to wear Stormshield socketed with a -15% requirements jewel. There is no need to worry about body popping; not only does 1.10's new corpse system prevent that, but it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to die with this build. If you follow my build to the letter, these are the items that will give you strength:
+15 (Nosferatu's Coil)
+30 (Breath of the Dying)
+20 (Chains of Honor)
+2 (Harlequin Crest)
Considering a perfect Annihilus and 10 base strength, this gives you 97 strength. Putting 36 points in strength will be enough. Depending on what kind of gloves and rings you use, this number may be even lower. Assuming a level 90 Sorceress, you now have 460 - 36 points left, or 424.
Dexterity: This is, I believe, the most important attribute for this kind of character. Without the advantages of combat skills that boost your attack rating, like other classes, you will need a good dexterity investment. Conversely, a large dexterity amount is needed to max blocking for Stormshield, so just doing that should work fine. I like to put in enough points to max block at level 99, just so that it's taken care of (the points won't be wasted, as the significant boost to AR is incredibly useful). Around 240 Dexterity after equipment is good.
+30 (Breath of the Dying)
+2 (Harlequin Crest)
+20 (Raven Frost)
And, any other bonuses from rings, gloves, and charms. 240 - 72 is 168. With a base dexterity of 25, that's an investment of 143 points. 424 - 143 is 281 points left to work with.
Vitality and Energy: These are also important. Werebear and Battle Orders will boost your life and mana to amazing levels, and they are both dependent on your base life and mana. However, you will not need that much mana because even with Energy Shield, you will have maxed Telekinesis and Warmth, both of which should keep your mana orb full. About 50 points in Energy should be good, and the rest into Vitality. Feel free to vary this as much as you need to. Don't forget that Breath of the Dying, Harlequin Crest, and Annihilus are adding to both these stats as well.
20 Enchant - Your main source of damage. No matter what, you aren't going to be dealing much damage with your weapon, so you must press every advantage you have. This skill actually gets very amazing in 1.10 at higher levels.
20 Warmth - Synergy to Enchant, and awesome for keeping your mana intact.
20 Fire Mastery - Boosts Enchant damage TWICE (I'm not going in depth about this, just trust me here). I don't know why people are saying the opposite, but in 1.10, Fire Mastery DOES boost fire damage added from charms and equipment. The best charm possible, a Flaming Small Charm of Incineration, would add 26-42 fire damage normally, which becomes 83-134 fire damage with a level 28 Fire Mastery.
1 Static Field - You won't be using this much, since you can't cast it in Werebear form, but it is still useful for bosses such as Baal.
20 Telekinesis - Reducing the hit to your mana is crucial to ensure that your Warmth is keeping your mana intact.
1 Shiver Armor - Increased defense means you get hit less often, improving your taking ability even more.
1-20 Energy Shield - The natural advantage of a melee Sorceress. Energy Shield, combined with blocking and damage reduction, allows you to tank ANYTHING in the game. You will be able to scoff at Fanatism Stygian Dolls as they deal blows that are easily ignored. At level 18, Energy Shield absorbs 73% damage. With 75% blocking and 50% damage reduction, you are taking 3.375% damage from monsters. Let's say that a Fanatism Stygian doll deals 1,000 damage. I don't think they deal THAT much, but I'm not sure. With this damage reduction, they will be dealing 34 damage per hit. When you consider that you will be having 3k life, a merc to tank hits, Holy Freeze to slow them, and your considerable Defense rating, tanking even large groups of them becomes easy.
Energy Shield is the last skill you will max. At level 1 Energy Shield you will have used 91 skill points including prerequisites. At level 90, you will have a level 11 base Energy Shield. At level 99, you will have a perfect level 20 base Energy Shield.
A note about damage taken goes to mana: this factors in a tricky way; MongoJerry was right when he said this is NOT a good idea. To sum it up, Energy Shield will absorb a lot of damage, but DTgtM is calculated AFTER reductions, meaning you will lose a lot of mana but gain very little.
Harlequin Crest - I cannot stress how good this helm is. Melee characters that I know on the ladder are abandoning other choices such as Crown of Ages. The reason why Crest is so much better is that most of the mods on Crown are useless to you. You do not need the resists, as you will be maxed in hell. You do not need the 5% extra damage reduction, as you will be maxed in that too. You will miss the -1 to all skills, and the 2 sockets will do nothing for you. Common choices are 40/15 jewels (which do nothing since your base damage is so low, and you don't need IAS since you won't hit a breakpoint), Cham rune (Raven Frost gives you CBF), resistance jewels (which you don't need), Ber runes (which you don't need), Jah/Sur runes (boosts in mana and life will help you little, since they are added to the bonuses from Battle Orders and Werebear, resulting in little overall gain), and +to life/mana jewels or gems (which are good, but Crest gives MUCH more life/mana). The 30% FHR is the only advantage Crown holds over Crest, but we will be compensating with charms; compensating the -1 to all skills, +2 to all stats, and the bonuses to life/mana is infeasible with charms. You will most likely be socketing this with a jewel that has 7% FHR unless you are extremely lucky.
Stormshield - The bulk of your DR, good blocking, good resists, and a fast block rate make this the shield of choice. In a perfect world, you would have a +10 all resists, -15% requirements, 7% FHR rare jewel to socket this with. More realistically, get a 15% requirements jewel with resists (+all or +to one).
Chains of Honor (Archon Plate) - Low strength requirement, nice defense, DR, resists, +2 to all skills, life steal, and large bonuses to Undead and Demon are all godly. There is no substitute for this.
Highlord's Wrath - Mainly for the +1 all skills, IAS, and deadly strike; again, you aren't dealing much physical damage, so increasing it is good for your leech. This, combined with your Gore Riders, will give you a very good chance to critical strike.
Gore Riders - Three good mods which are all useful; you aren't getting Crushing Blow or Open Wounds anywhere else.
Nosferatu's Coil - Life leech, IAS, even slows the target. Above that, +15 strength saves you some stat points. Perhaps scorned in PvP, but hey, I yearn for the day when someone complains about a cheap melee Sorceress.
Raven Frost - Get one as close to perfect as you can. This ring is amazing.
Rare Gloves - Mandatory mods are 20% IAS and 3% Mana leech, with priority on the IAS. Other good bonuses are the usual + to stats, fire or poison resist, etc.
Rare Ring - Ideally, this would have dual leech with + to AR and resists. Get as close to this as possible. Other good mods are the usual as well; + to stats, life, mana, resists.
Breath of the Dying (Phase Blade) - Some people look down upon this since Phase Blades can't be ethereal, thus reducing their damage potential. We are picking this not for the huge damage bonus, which is nice, but for the IAS, +30 all stats, dual leech, and PMH. A Passion phase blade would not work here since you are in Werebear mode, although it is a very good substitute. Otherwise, go for a mass Shael'ed phase blade.
Weapon Switch: Call to Arms and Lidless Wall - A +6 to BO Call to Arms is even more essential to this build, because it reduces the frequency that you will need to rebuff. Also, its full potential can be realized, as you need BOTH life and mana, whereas other classes do not need more mana usually.
Inventory: Beast (Anything) - This is used to refresh your Werebear as needed. Keep it in your inventory; you will use it whenever you get a reprieve from fighting.
Inventory: Prebuff equipment (Arachnid Mesh, Magefist, 2x SoJ or BK rings, Mara's Kaleidoscope or Seraph's Hymn) - This stuff actually takes up very little space; depending on how good your charms are, you may be able to carry this around everywhere.
This is your typical buff routine: equip all buffing equipment except Beast. Switch to CtA/Lidless. Cast Battle Command twice, Battle Order once. Cast Shiver Armor, Energy Shield, and Enchant. Put on Beast; put CtA in your inventory. Cast Werebear. Replace Beast with CtA, switch back to BotD and Stormshield. This sounds like a tedious thing to do, but with practice you will get fast at it, and it is the perfect thing to do between spawns of Baal's minions.
Charms - Get as good an Annihilus as possible. Other charms that are good are ones with the Flaming prefix, + max damage charms, +str or dex charms, + life charms, +1 to fire skills charms, and + resist charms (if you need them). You will also need 32% FHR somewhere in your charms, so mix and match, and trade to your liking. This is probably the hardest part of this character to finish, since charms have such high potential. Also, remember that your charm space is limited by your prebuff equipment.
Mercenary: Act 2 Defiance (hire it from normal difficulty, defensive) or Act 2 Might (hire it from nightmare difficulty, offensive) - Might, as we discussed before, does not add much due to your base damage, but it is a possible alternative. This is the choice of defense versus offense here. Testing with both shows equal benefits, so you decide. Defiance's benefit is lessened with the use of Shiver Armor; on the other hand, Might's is as well with the large ED on BotD. They are both still useful, though, and they both benefit the merc greatly as well.
Weapon - Doom (ethereal Cryptic Axe): Holy Freeze slows down the monsters and makes it nearly impossible to get swarmed. Basically, fighting will be 2x easier with this. Doom also give the merc a large damage capacity (around 4.6k max damage at level 90, more with Might).
Helm - Delirium (ethereal Corona): MongoJerry was right when he said this is the best item in the game. It is still heavily underutilized today on Battle.net, but this thing makes getting swarmed IMPOSSIBLE. Howl will ensure that your merc stays alive, as does Mind Blast. Confuse is incredible for large swarms of enemies; it gives you a huge window where you can whack without retaliation. Also, the +2 to all skills boosts your merc's Defiance or Might.
Armor - Chains of Honor (ethereal elite armor): Ethereal Sacred Armor requires 222 strength to use, so that's out. Any good ethereal elite armor will do, preferably Superior, since the defense varies very little. All the things mentioned before: life leech, DR, etc. are good, and the +bonuses to Undead and Demon are actually useful here.
An alternative is Bramble to give your merc THREE auras; use it if you think Thorns will be good.
What you will have now is an Enchant that adds about 5k fire damage; your physical damage will be around 900 or so. With the 110% IAS, your Werebear speed will be amazing. You will be able to tank ANYTHING in the game with ease, even Fanatism Lister and his minions. You have 50% DR, 75% block, a good ES, high defense, around a 90% chance to hit enemies, 3k life, 1k mana, max resists, and a merc supplying two awesome auras.
...Even so, you will not be a solo killing machine. Killing does go fast with your merc and yourself, but you still cannot compete easily with the cookie-cutter builds. You will have to be a wimp in PvP; seek out games with level 70s or slightly higher. They will probably not be expecting you and their fire resist will probably be low, so combined with your Nosferatu's Coil, you SHOULD be able to get some good whacks in, as well as your merc. The main downside to dueling is your heavy reliance on your merc, and 50k a pop gets used very quickly.
Next ladder reset, I plan on making this. Yes, it is VERY expensive, but not out of reach. I would not be able to do solo Baal runs, due to speed issues, but I would probably NEVER die, even to lag.
One more thing: mana burn monsters are a pain. It's best to let your merc deal with them if you are having trouble. Usually, it's not an issue unless they have Might or Fanatism as well.
There you have it, likely the most expensive character ever made, with the lowest proportion of killing speed to cost ever. Yet, if you are not sane of mind, be sure to try this out.