(grumble stupid 10,000 character limit) -> pt 1 follows:
The Corrupted Televangelist
This character breezes into town, has a big revival meeting, preaches hellfire, takes all the money and runs.
It is extremely cheap, and extremmely powerful, with the drawback that (as of ladder season 2) it is strictly ladder only.
When you have both the main components of this build, you will have a vast army of practically invincible, but totally disposable, minions. You will run around casting high level Corpse Explosions like there is no tomorrow. By level 40 your skills will be sufficient to ensure being able to solo the rest of the game without spending another skill point. The greatest danger with the build is that it will be too easy, and you will grow bored.
Strength is fairly important early on, because some of your equipment options at low levels have high strength requirements. However most of your gear is based around runewords, so you can pick and choose how much strength you will need. If your end game dream equipment includes an Enigma in Archon Plate, then you need lots of strength. Defense is not a huge factor for this build though, so you can comfortably get away with 70-100 for most of the game.
Dexterity is fairly important early on, because some of your equipment options at low levels have high dexterity requirements. Like strength, since you can pick and choose base equipment for your runewords you can tailor this to some extent. Blocking is not a factor, because your main equipment options are two handed weapons and you will not be using a shield. I found that even with 80+ dexterity my attack rating did not even break 500, and my chances to hit were so low that I hardly bothered attacking anything, playing more in the style of an Artillery-mancer or Overlord. (Ie cast Corpse Explosion and run around picking up the gold while the minions do all the dirty work)
Points not spent on strength or dexterity should go here. I had quite a few stat points saved up rather than spent on vitality, just in case I found some really juicy item with a high strength requirement.
Spend no points here. Even chain casting high level Corpse Explosions will most likely not cause you to run out of mana. Once my core equipment was secured I was regenerating 10 mana every second, with a base mana pool of 150.
The two key pieces of equipment for this build are both new ladder only runewords. Edge (3 Socket Bows/XBows: Tir-Tal-Amn) and Insight (4 Socket Polearms/Staves: Ral-Tir-Tal-Sol)
Both of the runewords have excellent mods (such as high enhanced damage), but the main thing they are used for in this build is the auras they grant.
Edge grants a level 15 thorns aura which returns 810% of physical melee damage. When combined with Amplify Damage, that goes up to a whopping 1620% damage returned! The level at which you can equip Edge is the greater of the level requirement of the base item (25 for most exceptional items) or 25 for the Amn rune.
Early on I felt that it was important to squeeze as much out of the bow as possible, and so I made it in an exceptional bow. In retrospect I discovered that Edge lacks one thing above all else - a bonus to attack rating. My Necromancers attack rating was pathetic, I had less than 40% chance of hitting normal monsters in Nightmare (even though I'd pumped Dex above 80 to meet the minimum stat requirements for the Bow).
Because of the attack rating issue it is extremely misleading to describe Necromancers using Edge as 'Bowmancers'. And it also makes me reconsider whether it was worth the effort of creating the 3 socket exceptional bow (find a low quality exceptional bow of the right type, upgrade it to a normal quality exceptional bow of the same type, get larzuk to socket it (it will have 3 sockets, because when you upgraded it its iLvl was reset to 1)).
Insight grants Meditation at a level between 12 and 17, which increases your mana regeneration by between 575% to 700%. The level requirement for Insight is the greater of the level requirement of the base item, or 27 for the Sol rune. I made it in a normal Poleaxe, and its listed damage on my Merc is better than that of the Hwanin's Justice he was using previously. On top of the listed damage, it also has some Critical Strike. I am now kicking myself for not putting it into an Exceptional polearm.
The mana regeneration is incredible. With a base mana pool of a mere 150 and a level 16 Meditation aura, I regenerate approximately 10 mana per second. Over three minutes that is one thousand eight hundred mana regenerated, enough to keep forty Revives going, or cast sixty level 16 Corpse Explosions (one every three seconds). If I doubled my mana pool to 300, which would be easy enough to do, I could keep eighty Revives* active continuously, or cast one hundred and twenty Corpse Explosions over three minutes - without even putting a dent in my mana reserve. Let me tell you, this build makes baby Nihlathak cry.
*Just by way of example, of course I'm not suggesting it is even remotely possible to get anywhere near that level of Revive.
The only choices here are an Act 1 Rogue, or an Act 2 Desert Merc. You have two main runewords, and both of them are weapons, so your merc has to have at least one of them.
I chose to go with a Prayer merc to abuse the Meditation/Prayer synergy. But there are other ways the decision could go.
The pros and cons of the Rogue:
The worst thing about the Rogue is levelling her up. It takes for freaking ever to get her to 25. If you are going to go with the Rogue, you will save a huge amount of time and effort if you use Edge yourself to beat the last sections of Normal, and then hire a Rogue in Act 1 Nightmare. A potential disadvantage is that she avoids getting into melee, and so the Thorns aura is not much benefit to her.
The main advantage is that I think she has a much better chance of hitting with the bow, and should have quite high damage due to her high Dex and hidden damage bonuses. Other advantages are that she won't die as often as the Act 2 Merc, and if you are not the one holding Edge, then if you are mucking around with your weapon switches your army doesn't lose the better part of its killing power.
For the Desert Mercs there are a number of options available to you:
- Prayer - good, provides bonus synergy for Meditation
- Defensive - very bad, this is the worst one you could pick because you want your troops to be hit so the Thorns will activate
- Blessed Aim - okay, might help your attack rating problem with Edge
- Might - okay, will help your side do a little extra damage (but will not help your main attacks; CE and Thorns)
- Holy Freeze - bad, slows enemies so less Thornage, and shatters corpses (normally I think this is a non issue because noone could ever use all the corpses anyway, but if any build can, its this one)
- Thorns - bad, pointless even. Multiple Thorns auras from different sources do not stack
The pros and cons of the Desert merc:
Somewhat easier to level if you hire them at level 13 compared to level 7 for the Rogue.
Will get into melee a lot, but will get butchered by boss packs of archers.
I did not find the Prayer aura all that useful. It might be good through normal, but in Nightmare gaining 10 hp every two seconds (20 every two seconds with meditation) is not much. I also didn't really care whether any of my minions (with the exception of the merc) lived or died. When it was needed it was too low, because the monsters would be doing too much damage too quickly.
Blessed Aim solves the same problem that just using a Rogue would. The Rogue is better against ranged attackers, so going with the Rogue instead of the Blessed Aim merc would make for a better all round character.
Might is a good merc, but my feeling is that if you are going to make a Necromancer that uses a Might merc, Corpse Explosion, Amplify Damage and minions, then you should probably just go with a full on Fishymancer, which you would be pretty close to anyway. The discussion over whether a Fishymancer would be improved by adding Edge is fairly technical, but I think ultimately when your focus is on the killing power of Skeleton Warriors, there are better auras available (eg Fanaticism).
The main skills for this build are:
- A golem (Fire or Clay, either is good)
- Corpse Explosion
- Amplify Damage
It goes something like this:
- 1-5 Amp
- 6-11 Clay Golem
- 12-17 Golem Mastery
- 18 Teeth
- 19-23 Corpse Explosion
- 24 Summon Resist
- 25-29 Blood Golem, Raise Skeleton, Skeleton Mastery, Skeletal Mage, Iron Golem
- 30-39 Revive
My aim is to by level 30 have put a point into all the summon skills except Fire Golem. And spread the rest of the points between the Golem, Corpse Explosion, and Amplify Damage.
I find a low level Amp has a frustratingly small radius. Increasing it to 4 yards is good, six yards is better. After that matching its radius to the radius of Corpse Explosion.
Corpse Explosion is one of my main ways to burn mana, but prior to getting Insight I didn't use it much, but I still put half a dozen or so points into it so that when I did get Insight it would have a somewhat less pathetic radius.
Levels 30 through 39 I put a point into Revive.
From level 40 onwards you don't need to spend any more skills points, but if you do, the places to spend them depend on which variant you are going for.