I decided to make a new thread, because the guide no longer can fit in a single post. I prefer this over having to link back and forth between posts in a single thread.
The guide includes the following changes:
-Layout change in order to make it easier to follow. This is also meant to make it easier to know where new sections begin.
-Added comments about MFing in The Mausoleum
-Added comments about MFing Pindleskin
-Added a section on obtaining max resistances in Hell difficulty
-Added suggested Spirit shield bases with reasoning behind it
-Added a section that will serve as a game log as I play a hdin through Diablo II: LoD "untwinked"
-incorporated other suggestions/input from the last thread, located here.
-Re-worded some sections so that they are not as confusing and corrected some misspellings.
a) Why I'm writing this and my personal experience with a Hammerdin
b) Why someone would want to make a MFing and grushing Hammerdin
a) Skills to invest in and the order to do so
b) Why you want the defensive auras
a) Suggestions for someone just starting out
b) Possible upgrade alternatives
c) Suggested final gear selections
d) Possible Non-Ladder alternative gear
5) Mercenary options
6) Magic Finding Areas - Tips
a) Act 1
b) Act 2
c) Act 3
d) Act 4
e) Act 5
7) Rushing - Includes how to rush another player and tips/suggestions
a) Other uses for your Hammerdin
b) Skill and stat point quest tips
c) General tips - Includes why Blessed Hammer works so well
d) Reaching Max Resistance
e) Facts and figures (such as breakpoints and formulas)
9)Untwinked Log: Smitty plays the game "untwinked"
a) Why I'm writing this and my personal experience with a Hammerdin
First, let me state that this guide is probably more in line with Ladder play than Non-Ladder. The reason is because my gear selection and experience is highly dependent upon items that are Ladder Only items. I do include a section for Non-Ladder friendly items, but this is with the understanding that I have never diverted from using Ladder Only items on my own Hammerdins.
Having said that, I feel I should answer not only why I'm writing this guide, but why I feel qualified to do so. I feel that a lot of questions tend to be asked in regards to MFing with a Hammerdin. It is clearly something that many people want to know about, and it is asked about on a regular basis. I've searched the forum for a guide made specifically for MFing with a Hammerdin, but the only thread I have found is a discussion thread. I feel there needs to be a guide that people can be directed to for basic information, as well as strategies to optimize the performance of their Hammerdin.
The reason I personally am doing this is because I have now made three Hammerdins (over the course of the last three ladders) purely for the purpose of MFing and grushing friends. I've tinkered with gear, and feel I have a firm handle on what is absolutely needed gear-wise, what gear will significantly increase the survivability and productivity of your hdin, and what is simply overkill (read: gear that is not needed and probably better off put on a different character of yours or traded).
I also want to take this opportunity to say that everything in this guide is simply a suggestion based around my own personal experience. I am sure other people feel some equipment I suggest should be swapped out for other gear, or that gear I say is optional really needs to be included in a final setup.
As said, I am basing this off of what I have found to be both practical and efficient. One final word of warning, this is not meant to be a PvP Hammerdin. There are other guides used for PvP, if you try to duel with this character you will be at a distinct disadvantage.
b) Why someone would want to make a MFing and grushing Hammerdin
The purpose of this character is to allow the player to Magic Find anywhere in the game and grush using a single character. If you make a character to MF in a single area then it will probably be faster than a Hammerdin (although, not always). The only thing this Hammerdin cannot do is complete the Mini-Ubers or Uber Tristram.
The goal of this character is to be a versatile Magic Finding character that can also rush. You will be using this character for overall versatility with relative speed, not for specialization. This character is meant to be relatively affordable as well. You're not going for the absolute best gear in the game. Why? You simply do not need it and it is wasted on this character.
I decided to start with character stats because it really is one of the most straight-forward section of this guide aside from skill placement. However, there are some exceptions. They have to do with gear selection and will be explained in the "Suggestions for someone just starting out" subsection.
One thing people need to understand is that a Hammerdin used for MFing and grushing does not need to have perfect stat allocation in order to be viable. My very first Hammerdin has about 50 wasted stat points and it never impacted his overall performance in the least. Having said that, In most cases, your basic stat rundown will look like this:
Strength: This is actually more complicated than people make it out to be. Yes, the basic mantra of "enough to wear your equipment" does hold true. However, for some people this will mean no points will be added into strength due to a low requirement Enigma, and for others this will mean quite a bit needs to be placed into strength. The deciding factors are as follows.
-Are you starting with a Hellfire Torch and an Annihilus, or do you need to get them later at some point?
-How much strength do you need to use your Enigma (if you have one)?
-What type of Paladin Shield are you going to be using?
Generally, if you have an Enigma the answer to the amount of strength you need is going to be, "enough to use my Enigma". Once it is on, you will be able to equip pretty much anything else you would like to use. The exceptions may be your boots if they are War Travelers and your shield, but I do have suggestions later on in the equipment section to avoid that difficulty.
If you do not have an Enigma and still want to start your Hammerdin, I would highly suggest viewing the "Suggestions for someone just starting out" section. I will have a number of suggestions to help you minimize on wasted stat points, because without an Enigma you probably will end up investing points into Strength that you end up not needing.
Dexterity: This depends on the type of shield you are using. You want to have max block (75% blocking) when walking/fighting/standing.
The forumula for max block is Total Blocking = [(Blocking * (Dexterity - 15)) / (Character Level * 2)]
If you're not a fan of math, you can use the max block calculator lockated here. When I calculate max block on my Hammerdins, I do so with the assumption that they are at level 95, lower the block % bonus I'll be getting from Holy Shield by 2%, and not include the +10 Dexterity bonus from Heart of the Oak (my weapon of choice--more detail later). My current Hammerdin is using Waterwalks as well, and I am not including the extra +15 Dexterity bonus they grant either.
The reasoning for not including the dexterity bonus is different for the two items. I do not include it for the HotO because I want some leeway. If I happen to go to level 96, I want to know that I will still have my 75% blocking. I do not intend to ever actually reach level 95 because I only get experience from MFing and grushing, but I like to plan ahead. You could argue that I should just go ahead and plan around him being level 99 in that case. We'll leave it at you can say "I told you so" if I ever actually get to level 99 with him. The bottom line is that my ability to do this simply illustrates how flexible you can be with your stat points without it impacting performance.
As for Waterwalks, I do not include the dexterity form them because I do not intend to use them anymore if I find a pair of War Travelers. I do not think War Travelers are important enough to trade for, but I will explain that reasoning further along in this guide. For now just know I'm using Waterwalks because that's what I happened to have when I made the character and I want to be able to swap them out without it impacting my blocking %.
Vitality: Everything that isn't going into Strength or Dexterity.
Energy: This does not get any points invested into it.
a) Skills to invest in/order to do so
In my mind, the skills you invest in for a Hammerdin are a no brainer. How you use them is a completely different story. If you follow my guide to the T, this is what your skill allocation will look like when you're done:
Prayer - 1 point
Defiance - 1 point
Cleansing - 1 point
Vigor - 20 points
Meditation - 1 point
Redemption - 1 point
Salvation - 1 point
Might - 1 point
Blessed Aim - 20 points
Concentration - 20 points
Smite - 1 point
Holy Bolt - 1 point
Charge - 1 point
Blessed Hammer - 20 points
Holy Shield - Varies
Working under the assumption that you have been grushed, place a point into all of your defensive auras and Holy Shield before you start maxing skills. Max your skills in the following order:
Vigor (purely for faster running--helpful while leveling)
Holy Shield likely will not be maxed. You have a total of 110 skill points to use and the four skills prior to it add up to 80. If you take my advice, you will need 10 skills points for prerequisites and useful defensive auras. This means you have exactly 20 left over for Holy Shield. If you decide not to invest in some defensive auras and end up with extra points, put them in Defiance to beef up your Holy Shield defense bonus.
If you are playing through the game, my general suggestion is to get every single Defensive Aura (other than the individual resistance auras) and Holy Shield as they become available to you. When you are not adding points into new skills, start to max your skills in the order I suggested above.
Since writing this guide, I have started to play a Hdin through the game "untwinked". I'll will update my progress at the end of this guide as I can with suggestions and general information I think is useful as I'm playing through. Just keep in mind I have a very busy work life, so it may be slow going.
b) Why you want the defensive auras
In my opinion, these skills will be invaluable to you, especially if you do not have a mercenary.
Prayer: This skill is ultimately important because of the synergy bonus it provides to both Cleansing and Meditation. If you are using Cleansing and Meditation you will receive the healing bonus of Prayer on top of the affects of the skills higher on the tree. If that's not a heck of a synergy bonus, I honestly do not know what is. Keep in mind, you'll never actually be using Prayer, but you do need it to get to Vigor all the same.
Cleansing: Cleansing reduces the time it takes you to recover from poison and curses. This is invaluable in the Throne of Destruction and just may save your butt in the Chaos Sanctuary as well. I'll go into more detail in the MFing section of this guide, but you really need this skill. Thankfully, it's a prerequisite for Vigor as well, so you're going to get it no matter what.
Meditation: Aside from Redemption, I would say this is the most important non-required defensive aura. If your mercenary dies or you do not have one (especially in a pack of mana burn monsters), you will need this skill. There are many times I have to put Meditation on and hack away at monsters at lower damage, because if I didn't, I simply would never have mana to do it.
Another situation I've found I need Meditation involves the Worldstone Keep. If my Merc dies on the way to the Throne (Iron Maiden), I often times need to stop once I find the stairs and regain mana. Sure, I could kill monsters and then use Redemption, but that's much more risky. Regardless, without Meditation you need an Insight merc and he has to stay alive at all times.
Redemption: If you don't want to be chugging Full Rejuvenation potions fairly often, then you need to get this skill. I almost never use a potion. Part of the reason is because of my Insight merc, the other reason is Redemption. Once your life starts to drop below 50-66% (depending upon the situation), switch to Redemption, get your life back, and then go back to Concentration and finish killing everything in sight. This is a must have skill. You'll have all the prerequisites already, so it's just a matter of investing a single point for a major survivability boost.
Salvation: Salvation is another one-point wonder because of the res bonus. Having said that, I honestly never use it while MFing or Rushing. However, for a single point, I personally think it is worth the investment, especially if you plan on helping out with Uber Leveling. The bottom line is that you really can skip this skill if you want, but I personally get it on every Hdin I make.
This will probably be one of the most debatable sections of this guide. Keep in mind that the first two subsections are not how I created my Hammerdins. My general feeling is that you should MF with another character to build wealth, and create your Hammerdin once you have his equipment. I know not everyone wants to do it this way, so I have included my suggestions on how to go about starting a Hammerdin with minimal equipment. You will need to keep in mind that his versatility will be impaired until you have his gear complete.
a) Suggestions for someone just starting out
There are three things you need before you can MF as easily as a Sorceress can.
-Very close to 75 resistance in Hell Difficulty in all 4 categories
-75% Faster Cast Rate
Without these three qualifiers, you can use a poorly equipped Sorceress to MF more efficiently than any Hammerdin. I will refer back to this as the basic setup later in the guide. Having said that, I do have some additional suggestions.
-Make sure your Enigma is in an armor with a low strength requirement. A Mage Plate is my personal favorite because you can easily have over 1000 defense with it and stand a good chance of not having to put a single point in strength (this depends upon your Anni and Torch). However, I've used a Dusk Shroud before and my current Hammerdin is using a Wyrmhide simply because that's the first 3os armor I found this ladder that didn't have more than 100 as the strength requirement. Yes, that's a hint, but I'll be blunt now. Try to keep the strength requirement under 100. The reason is because there's no need to have an armor with huge defense. This is PvM. I'll give another reason when I get into shields.
-Start with a Wizzardspike. This is especially important if you do not have a Hellfire Torch and/or an Anni. It will give you 50% Faster Cast Rate, a lot of mana, and huge resistance. Some people prefer to use this in place of a Heart of the Oak for their "end-game" gear. I disagree for a MFing/grushing Hammerdin.
-Find a white or 4os Paladin shield with at least 35 resistance that does not have more than 100 required strength and make a Spirit out of it. Why am I hung up on 100 strength? Honestly, I'm not. It's just that if you use a Kurast, Zakarum, or Vortex shield (all shields over 100 Strength) you're going to need to be at least level 92 in order to have enough strength to use it with a Mage Plate Enigma. The other option is to put more points into strength, but it's not needed. I used a 45 resistance Crown Shield on my first two Hammerdins. In you're wondering, that's the normal version of a Vortex Shield. It had no impact on my Hammerdin's versatility. Having said that, any Spirit Shield will work with a Wizzardspike. It will get you to 75% Faster Cast Rate even if you roll a 25% FCR Spirit, and that's all you need.
-Good shields to start with are ones in the range of 50-52% base block rate. This give you a large number of possible shields to switch to if you find one worth upgrading to. If it has lower than 50% block it's really not worth it in my mind anyway. Your defense does not matter, just the resistance. Honestly, a high base block really isn't very important either for PvM, it just doesn't hurt to have one that is at least halfway decent. Possible shields to start with:Heraldic Shield (50% block), Aerin Shield (52% block), Crown Shield (55% block), Protector Shield (50% block), Gilded Shield (52% block), Sacred Targe (60% block) and Sacred Rondache (58% block BUT 109 str req).
-Save 20 stat points for max block if you do not have a torch and anni AND get 40 less dexterity than you will need. First, figure out how much dexterity you will need for max block with a 50% blocking shield (unless you have a different one you intend to use for good, then just calculate it with your own shield's blocking). Now, invest dexterity until you are 40 stat points below what you will need for max block. Next, save 20 stat points that you do not use. This way, when you get a torch and anni, you will make up at least 20 of the extra 40 you need. Then it's just a matter of investing extra points from the 20 you saved. Once you are at your max block number, you can just put the rest into dex, and not have to worry about having wasted stat points.
-My personal feeling is to go with a 50% block shield first. This will allow you to upgrade to ANY of the other shields. 52% is fine as well, but you may need to put more dexterity in. The ONLY time I would recommend going with a shield having 55% block or greater is if the base res is 40 or higher. If you don't follow my advice, it will restrict your upgrading possibilities greatly.
-Get a torch, any torch. It does not have to be a Paladin Torch. You will still have the resistance and the stat bonuses from the Torch, even if it's not a Paladin Torch. You can get a cheap Necro, Barb, Druid, Zon, or Sin torch for a handful of pgems sometimes. Once you build up wealth, you can swap it out for a Paladin torch to gain the +skills. This will save you both strength and dexterity points later because you won't have had to invest hard points in them for lack of a Hellfire Torch.
-If you find a ring with high fire res on it (20+), keep it. This will always be an issue with your Hammerdin due to Spirit lacking any. It will help to take care of this issue early on and then upgrade your ring as you find more.
-Craft caster amulets as you play, regardless of your level. The formula is 1 Perfect Amethyst + 1 Ral Rune + 1 Jewel + 1 Magic (blue) Amulet. Put them in the cube and keep the ones with at least 10% Faster Cast Rate. Chances are you'll need this with your final equipment, and it will make it much easier on you if you have been making them right along.
-Your helm, boots, gloves, second ring, amulet, and switch items do not matter when you start out. I would suggest to use them in order to get 75 max res in Hell difficulty and then focus on Magic Find. You will not be MFing in every area, because you do not have the ability to do so. I will go into more detail later on. I will also detail the importance of each bit of equipment so you know the order to upgrade in.
-If you do not have an Anni, use charms that give you 10 Strength and Dexterity. This way, you will at least save 20 stat points when you do get one. If it has more than +10 to all stats on it, then you will end up with some wasted points. However, it's a heck of a lot better than if you didn't use the charms.
b) Possible upgrade alternatives
This section severs as a list of possible items to use in place of the suggested final setup until you can get everything you need. I'm sure I will not think of everything, so if I forget something feel free to suggest it and I can add it into later versions of this guide. I will not be including alternative Armor, Weapon, or Shield choices. As I stated earlier, without an Enigma I think it is hard to consider a Hammerdin as a viable MFer. With that in mind, I consider the Wizzardspike+Spirit shield the cheapest option to get 75% Faster Cast Rate while maintaining high resistance, and therefore consider them "fixed" items in this section of the guide. While reading this you should also take note that I am not including what I consider to be the setup MFing Hammerdins should aim for.
3os Helm with 3x Perfect Topazes - This will be your cheapest option. If you have 75% resistances in Hell Difficulty there is no reason not to use this. You'll get 72% Magic Find out of the deal.
Peasant Crown - It's basically a mini-Shako. You'll get Life, Energy, skills, FRW, and Replenish Life. Nothing is wrong with this helm at all. I would consider socketing it with either a Ptopaz or Pskull. However, you probably should just save your socket quests for something more important.
Rockstopper Sallet - Resistance, Damage Reduction, Faster Hit Recovery (though it is not needed for a MFing/Rushing Hammerdin), and Life. Overall great helm.
Stealskull - Some FHR and Magic Find. Not a bad helm, but there are much better options.
Crown of Thieves - You'll get some fire res, life, mana, and even some gold find out of this helmet. I honestly feel it's better as a Merc helm if you find it, but if you need the fire resistance then it's not a bad choice. Just keep in mind that the strength requirement is over 100, so you'll have to be a fairly high level to use it if you're using a low strength Enigma.
Vampire Gaze - The only real desirable mods for a Hammerdin are the Damage Reduction. If you get your hands on one, I'd put it on your merc or trade it before you use it yourself.
Tarnhelm - You get +1 skills, magic find, and gold find. It's a decent helm, but really not what you're going for in the end.
Lore - Made out of a 2os Helm using Ort + Sol. You will get +1 Skills, 30% lit res, some mana, and 7 damage reduction. It's a good cheap alternative.
At this point, pretty much any Unique amulet you find will be helpful. Just do not base your stats around it if you end up using one, even if you get really lucky and find a Mara's. This is because you will need Faster Cast Rate on your amulet later on, so you will not be using it when fully geared.
My personal suggestion is to use either a Rare or Crafted amulet with high resistance. I'm not making a big deal about this selection because my Hammerdin's amulets have always been high FCR crafted amulets with the other stats being 100% random. Again, we're going for versatility and affordability. There's no need to break the bank on this slot.
There are only two alternatives that I will comment on at this point. The reason is because the two gloves that I consider the best options are both really easy to get your hands on.
Frostburns - They will give you a great amount of mana, which is always helpful. However, beyond that they won't offer much help.
Trang's Gloves - Some people prefer these over Mages (which are what I use for 125% Faster Cast Rate during rushes), but I tend to not really use them. The 30% Cold resistance can be made up from other items and they really offer nothing else beyond the faster cast rate.
Like I said, you will want a high fire res ring to make up for Spirit's shortcomings in that area. The other ring slot is wide open, which I will explain in the next section.
A nice rare to start you off isn't anything to scoff at and one of the end-game belts is very easy to obtain. However, if you want to be able to put a name to something as an alternative, I'd say to use either a String of Ears or Gloom's Trap. The String will reduce damage you take while the Gloom will boost your mana a bunch and give you a little life.
Infernostrides - These will help quite a bit for their Fire Res. Beyond that, they really have nothing else to offer.
Waterwalks - These are great. They give you life and add to your max Fire Res. Like I said, I'm using them right now because I had a pair laying around.
Silkweave - This is basically just for the 10% mana. You really don't need it, but it doesn't hurt.
Hotspurs - These will probably cost you more than they are worth due to the fire res on them. However, if you find a pair they are great until you get something better.
Rares - These would be great. Look for something with FRW, FHR, and res on them. This is one of those slots you can pick up a little magic find really easily on.
c) Suggested final gear selections
In this section I am going to be going through what I think your final gear should be. I will also be telling you how important I think each piece is for overall versatility and survivability so that you can prioritize what you trade for.
Head - There should be no doubt in your mind what I'm going to say. Shako, Shako, Shako, and Shako. A lot of life, mana, some Damage Reduction, 2 skills, 2 stat points, and 50% magic find. This helm cannot get any better. This is a relatively cheap piece of equipment on most realms and it will help you more than any other piece of equipment in the process of upgrading aside from the CtA. Get it soon in your Paladin's life, stick a Perfect Topaz in it, and go along your way.
Amulet - You will want to aim for an amulet with at least 15% Faster Cast Rate because it will allow your Spirit Shield to have as low as 30% FCR and still give you 125% FCR for rushes. If you have a high res shield with 35% FCR then 10% on the amulet will get you where you need to go. Other mods to look for are life, mana, res, paladin skills, and magic find. Don't bother trading for a godly amulet, though. You do not need it and it will be a wasted investment. What you NEED is high FCR, but beyond that this is not a high priority item to upgrade.
Do not bother with a Mara's as your amulet. You will not need the resistance, skills, or stats. If you are unsure about how to obtain 75 all res in hell without it, please see the section titled "Reaching Max Resistance".
Rings - 1x High MF ring and 1x Ring with high fire res (of course these two can overlap!). I am currently using a self-found 30 MF Nagel and a high res ring. I make it a point of saying self-found because the fire res is the only high priority aspect of these items. Once you have one with high fire res, these slots are upgraded as you find better items for them. VERY low priority. Also, do not bother putting a Stone of Jordan on this Paladin. If you find one, put it on another character or trade it. This Paladin does not need it and it will be wasted on him. People can debate me on this, but I've used zero, one, and two SoJs on MFing/rushing Hdins. They don't make a lick of difference.
I will say this in regards to rings, it does not hurt to have a Nature's Peace in your inventory for when you farm Dkeys. I've found it does help quite a bit, especially if Nihlathak teleports and you don't notice it.
Weapon - Heart of the Oak. I'll grant that it has less resistance and FCR than a Wizzardspike. However, that doesn't matter. You can easily get the res you need without a Wizzardspike and you do not need the extra 10% FCR - Especially with a 35% FCR Spirit. They give you the same amount of mana, HotO will give you a load of replenish life, and it will give you +3 skills. You don't need huge damage, but you still want around 9-10K as your final hammer output, and it's really hard to do that without HotO. Saying that, this is actually not a high priority upgrade. I would say it probably does fall in line after your Shako based on the impact it will have on your character, but it's much more difficult to obtain, making it much less practical to go after it early on.
Armor - There is no question. You are using Enigma, otherwise you might as well use a sorc to MF and you sure as heck won't be rushing anyone.
Shield - Like I said, you're going to want a Spirit. Your final goal is a shield with high base % blocking, 45 Res, and a low strength requirement. Beyond that, there's really no one shield that is best. Defense does not really matter at all. Upgrading this isn't a huge priority, but if you find a higher res shield that fits into your block % it doesn't hurt to upgrade as long as it gets a decent FCR %. Like I said earlier, good shields to start off with are Protector Shields and Heraldic Shields because they have a 50% base blocking percent. This makes them easy to upgrade, because anything that fits into your strength requirement and has at least 50% blocking is usable. The only time I'd use something else is if it has at least 35 base resistance, because you'll be hampering your upgrading options otherwise.
Note that you can remove the runes from your spirit shield. You do this by placing the shield, a Hel rune, and a scroll of town portal into the Horadric cube and transmuting them. The runes will be destroyed, but you can try to roll a higher FCR spirit. This is very useful if you happen to find a really high resistance spirit and get a low FCR roll.
Gloves - 75% FCR setup is Chance Gaurds. This is so unimportant that you can wait until you find your own pair, even if it takes you thousands of runs to do so.I use Mages for my 125% FCR setup. Like I said earlier, Trangs is fine, I just prefer the mana regeneration from Mages. These are fairly important to have, but you really don't have a reason to look for them until you get your hands on an Arachnid. Chances are you'll find Mages long before you get one.
I'll grant that you can substitute two 10% FCR rings, but you do want both the Mages and Arachnid eventually.
Belt - 75% FCR setup item is a Goldwrap. This is one of those items that you really should not bother trading for. You'll find one eventually, so it's pointless to seek it out, especially because you don't need this for survivability at all. One suggestion by another member is to up the Goldwrap so that it has 16 slots for potions. Personally, I really don't see a need for this, but if you find yourself using a lot of potions, then go for it.125% FCR setup belt is... you guessed it, Arachnid. This will probably be one of the hardest items to get your hands on. I got lucky and found one, if I didn't I probably still wouldn't have one this ladder.
As far as priorities go, it's probably the lowest on the list. Sure, you can't hit 125% FCR without it (though 2x FCR rings will take the place of it), but this is end-game gear, Arachnid is the best, and unlike a Mara's or SoJ, it will have a huge impact on your character. I will say this; there are ways around the difficulty of rushing with 75% FCR. Due to this, I would say allow the Arachnid to be the last item you trade for--aside from maybe the boots.
T-Gods is also an option for when you're in the Throne of Destruction. Sometimes Souls can pack a huge punch, but I've personally never needed one. Still, you can always try it and see how it works out.
Boots - War Travelers. These are completely unimportant. Seriously, the only thing you use them for is the Magic Find. A good rare with MF and fire res can be better, but all the same, these are what you're going for in the end. These rank with the Arachnid in how badly you actually need them.
Weapon Switch - Call To Arms. Get this ASAP. Not having it will hinder you greatly in every aspect of what you do. The only reason I said get the Shako first is because it's much cheaper and they seem to multiply faster than rabbits on the realms, meaning they are easy to trade for. Regardless, trade for a CtA or make one the first chance you get.
Shield Switch - Any random spirit Paladin shield. You're using it for the +2 skills because it will increase your BO level from the CtA. This is easy as heck to get. Find a 4os Paladin shield and make a spirit, BAM, done.
Charms - Like I said earlier, you should trade for a really cheap Hellfire Torch ASAP. I've seen low Druid, Barb, Sin, Zon, and Necro torches go for ten pgems. The stats don't matter, you're just looking for something to base your Paladin Torch off of. If you follow my advice, resistance is far more important than stats. Ideally you want a 10 stat torch with 15+ resistance. That way, when you upgrade to a Paladin torch you're sure to have the strength you need no matter what so you can still just focus on resistances.
You will also want to get an Anni when you're able to. I like it before I even make the Paladin, but if you have to hold off, go cheap to on stats and try and get 15 res. You don't need it for the stats, you need it for the res.
Gheed's - You don't need it. Wait until you find one, because you will eventually.
You really do not need any other charms unless your resistances still are not at 75 in Hell. If they aren't, stack some res with charms. If they are, just start putting the small magic find charms you find in your inventory.
d) Possible Non-Ladder alternative gear
From what people have said, you really should not have any problems archiving your end-game setup on NL. Apparently Spirit Shields are easily gotten, so you should still aim for it.
However, assuming you simply cannot get a Spirit Shield, I'd suggest switching it out for either a Lidless with a Pdiamond in it or a Sanctuary. Sanctuary will help you with the resistance, but you will have to sacrifice a lot of MF for FCR. It's really your choice, as I've never done either.
5) Mercanary options
My personal preference is an Act 2 Prayer mercenary. Other options are Holy Freeze, Defiance, or an Act 1 mercenary. I've used all of the Act 2 mercenaries mentioned and will give the ups and downs of each. I know of people that use an Act 1 Merc, but I do not have any experience using one myself. I'll try my best to give the ups and downs, but I would love for people that use one to give me their views on why Act 1 is better than an Act 2.
Make note that mercenaries are not needed, they just make things much easier. If you do not have one you will constantly be stopping/running in order to replenish your mana with either Redemption or Meditation.
Act 2 Prayer - I love this because the Insight causes Prayer to heal you twice as much as it normally would. Pros include bodies not disappearing, constantly being healed, high physical damage, and the ability to tank a large group of enemies. Cons are that he can die easily from Iron Maiden and he does not directly increase your survivability if you're taking a lot of hard hits all at once. You'll need to use Redemption fairly often in Chaos Sanctuary with this Merc, and may end up not having his help for the bulk of your time there.
Act 2 Holy Freeze - I personally do not care for this one because it causes enemies to shatter. Shattered enemies do not leave bodies that I can use Redemption on, Smitty no like. The pros are that he deals high physical damage, can tank enemies extremely well due to the freeze, and makes packs infinitely more manageable due to slow. The cons, as mentioned, is that you do not have nearly as many bodies for redemption. Also, like the Prayer merc he tends to die easy from Iron Maiden, though it is easier to prevent.
I'm going to make a note that how many enemies actually get shattered is up for debate. I believe a great deal, but others feel that very few actually get shattered. I think this may be a question for the statistics forum.
Act 2 Defiance - Defense really doesn't do much for a PvM Hammerdin in my opinion. I'm just throwing this out there because I know there are people that swear by it. The pros are that you will take far less hits, he can deal out great physical damage, and he is a great tank. The downside, on top of the Iron Maiden issue, is that defiance really doesn't help you 90% of the time.
Act 1 Merc - As I said, I really do not have first hand experience. As far as I can tell, the pros are that they can do high damage, is a ranged attacker, and will not die from Iron Maiden. My perceived downsides to this merc is that she cannot hold up to large packs of enemies, does not add to crowd control, and does not constantly replenish your mana (and life in the Prayer merc's case).
Act 2 Merc Equipment options:
Helm - I prefer Andy's socketed with a Ral rune personally. However, other options are a Gskull, G's Face, Crown of Thieves, and a Vamp Gaze to name a few. What you're really looking for is something with Life Leech. If you can't get that, then your next best bet is something with some combination of Crushing Blow, Deadly Strike, and Open Wounds.
Armor - I tend to shoot for an Eternal Fortitude with them. Decent res, defense, and life. It's everything they need. CoH isn't a bad option, but really any high defense armor with res you find will get the job done until you can upgrade.
Weapon - Insight. Start with whatever 4os Polearm you can find, and then upgrade as you find better ones. I started with a Poleaxe and upgraded a few times. Now I'm using an Eth Thresher on my guy. Just upgrade his weapon as you can. You want him for the Meditation, not to be attacking.
6) Magic Finding Areas - Tips
Now we're getting to the good stuff. I've talked this entire time about making sure your Paladin can survive, now it's time to talk about just what this fellah can do. In this section I will make notes about how fully-geared your Paladin should be before you can attempt to MF in each area. However, that is just my estimation based on experience. If you try to run an area and it is too hard, then wait until you have better equipment and are more used to using your Paladin.
This entire section is based off of the 75% FCR setup.
a) Act 1
The Mausoleum is located in the Burial Grounds, which is where you fight Blood Raven. It is noteworthy because it has an Area Level of 85, meaning almost any item in the game can drop here. Personally, I do not prefer it over The Pits, which are found later in Act 1 and also have an Area Level of 85. The reason is because not nearly as many monsters are located in this area, and there are very few boss packs. When you're killing in an area with a level of 85, you're trying to kill a lot of enemies fast. There just isn't that many monsters here. However, if you are poorly geared, then The Pits may be difficulty for you. The Mausoleum will not be, so in that case it's worth checking it out.
It's very easy to MF in, you could do it with just about any setup you want.
The Countess - This mini-boss is located in the Forgotten Tower in the Black Marsh section of the map. As best I can tell, the tower spawns in a random spot in the Marsh. However, if there is a river running through the center of Black Marsh or on the South Eastern side, the tower tends to be located near it. Also, if you teleport clockwise from the stairs in each level of the tower you will tend to come to the next level quicker than if you teleported the other direction.
In my opinion, this boss is good for running in Normal to find Ral runes and in Hell to find Keys of Terror or higher runes. You should be able to run this area easily in all three difficulties with just the basic Enigma, Wizzy, and Spirit Shield setup.
The Pits - In the Tamoe Highlands there is an area that has a Treasure Class of 85, which is the highest in the game, and means almost any item can drop there. This is great, because the monsters are really easy to kill. It's called The Pits, and you probably will want to run it in Hell Difficulty. Keep in mind Lit Sorcs will put you to shame down here, but what you lack in speed in this one area you make up for in versatility everywhere else. Besides, with an Insight merc you can clear this area pretty quickly. Don't bother doing this in any difficulty other than Hell. You should be able to do it with the basic setup, but be careful of the Archers. They can be a pain, and if you run into a boss pack take them out quickly.
Andariel - This is Act 1's boss. She is located in the Catacombs. Level 2 of the Catacombs should follow a counter-clockwise pattern, while level 3 is random. She is worth running in both Nightmare and Hell difficulty for the Jewelery she can drop and should not pose a problem with the basic setup in either difficulty.
a) Act 2
The Summoner - He is located in the Arcane Sanctuary. The map is completely random, so you will simply have to try your luck and see if you can find him. You run this mini-boss in order to find Keys of Hate in hell difficulty. You should be able to run this area with the basic setup and have no problems at all.
One recommendation I have is to kill the monsters and open the chests at the end of each path. The chests are super-chests, which means the items they drop will always be blue or better. Also, I've found two HRs over the years by doing this.
The Tombs - The seven tombs located in the Canyon of the Magi can be great for finding gems and runes. I tend not to Magic Find here, but I did for a little while in Hell difficulty and was very happy with what I found. You need to be very careful in here. A fully equipped Paladin should not have any problem at all, but if your resistances are low or you do not have much life I would hold off until you have at least a Shako and CtA.
a) Act 3
Trav - This area is run because there are a lot of Super Unique monster and they drop a lot of gold, which is great for gambling. Your main goal is to kill the Council and see what drops. I would recommend doing this in either Nightmare or Hell difficulty. Nightmare should not give the Paladin with the basic setup any difficulty. However, you have to be extremely careful of Fire Enhanced monsters because they can kill you when they die because the fire explosion does more damage than it would in Hell Difficulty. If you do not have max Fire Res, do not run this area.
In Hell difficulty, I would recommend having a CtA before you attempt to run this area. It can either be really easy, or very difficult. Even when difficult, you should be able to kill them without much of a problem. However, your focus is also on the time it takes you to kill them. This is supposed to be a quick area, so if it takes you more than a minute to kill them, then you're spending too much time here and need to wait until you have better equipment.
Mephisto - You'll find Mephisto in the Durance of Hate. The Durance follows a clockwise pattern and he is worth killing in both Nightmare and Hell difficulties. The trick is getting to Meph without triggering many Council members. One option is to simply teleport right to Meph, kill him, then go to Act Four. What I like to do is teleport to the South West corner of the map, then into the room just North containing Maffer Dragonhand. I kill Maffer and any enemies there, check the armor stand, and then go kill Meph. I find the armor stand tends to drop nice Paladin shields.
A Paladin with the basic setup should be able to handle Mephisto in Nightmare without any difficulty. Hell might pose a minor problem, especially without max resistance, but you should be able to pull it off. Have potions ready just in case if you are not well equipped in Hell. A CtA and Shako should make this easy though.
a) Act 4
Diablo - There are a few different ways you can do this. The first way is to simply clear every single monster in the Chaos Sanctuary. This will take a while, but in hell difficulty you could find some decent drops. Another option is to clear the seal areas, then kill the seal bosses, and go for Diablo. I prefer this method because it takes less time and gives me a chance to find some socketables. The third option is to open the seals, kill the bosses, kill Diablo, and then look to see what dropped. This is the fastest way, but the most unsafe. I don't prefer to do it that way.
This area is worth doing in Nightmare because you can do it very quickly even with the basic setup and get some decent drops. In Hell difficulty you'll get great experience and you have a chance for some really good drops as well. However, I don't think this area should be attempted in Hell until you are fully equipped at your 75% FCR breakpoint. You will need everything you've got for this area, especially if your merc dies.
Note that you can try and avoid having your merc die two ways. The first way is to simply teleport away from monsters, use Cleansing, and then go back in for the kill. This is very time consuming and I prefer to just let him die instead because it doesn't slow me too much not having him anymore. The second option is to teleport right onto the Oblivion Knight. Usually they will cast Decrep over the Iron Maiden, but not always.
Just remember to teleport on top of Diablo when you're fighting him. If you don't then he may be able to hit you with his lightning attack.
a) Act 5
Frigid Waypoint - There are two monsters located near the Waypoint in the Frigid Highlands. One is Shenk the Overseer in The Bloody Foothills (the one you kill for the socket quest) and the other is Eldritch the Rectifier in the Frigid Highlands. For Magic Finding purposes, these two are great because they have a double drop and are right by the WP. You can kill them both in under 30 seconds total. Only bother running this for Magic Finding purposes in Hell. A great way to level a merc is to bring him here in Nightmare or Hell and let him do most of the killing. If he's not able to, then he's not ready to level in this spot. You should be able to kill both of them without any problems using the basic Hammerdin setup.
Pindleskin - Pindleskin is located right inside the portal that Anya crates when you rescue her. He has the ability to drop any (correct me if I'm wrong!) item in the game, and is very easy to kill.
Be aware that this portal will disappear if you have killed Nihlathak and have the Waypoint to Halls of Pain. In my opinion, it is best to make the choice between either running Pindleskin or Nihalthak.
Nihlathak - You will find Nihlathak in the Halls of Vaught. You will only run him in Hell difficulty in order to find Keys of Destruction. Also, if he drops a Grand Charm is is the equivalent of a Baal Grand Charm.
The WP that will bring you close to them is the Halls of Pain. There are only 3 maps for the Halls of Pain, which makes it very easy to find him. First, if you go through the Waypoint and it is a large open area, the stairs to the Halls of Vaught are West-South West. If you spawn on the Northern part of the map, and you can teleport to the East, then the stairs are to the North East. If you spawn in the North, and cannot go very far to the East, then the stairs are in the South West. Trust me, you'll pick up on the pattern after a little while.
Once you have found the stairs look for a painting on the wall in each of the four corridors. If there is once facing you on the corridor, then that is the one that Nihlathak is in. Don't get confused, because some corridors have paintings that are not facing out onto the computer screen. Again, once you see it a few times you'll know what you're looking for.
Only run Nihlathak if you have at very least a CtA or a Nature's Peace. You need to be able to either survive a couple Corpse Explosions or to make it so he cannot cause them to explode. In my opinion, you can probably run him with the basic setup and a Nature's Peace or CtA. However, I personally would not do it until you are completely geared.
Baal - The grand daddy of all MF areas. You're in this for experience and drops. He's worth running in Normal, Nightmare, and Hell difficulty. The level of the Worldstone with the Waypoint on it follows a Counter Clockwise pattern, but the next level does not. If you plan on running Baal I would suggest having your entire setup complete. You can probably do it with max resistances and a CtA, but it doesn't hurt to be fully prepared. Keep in mind, Baal is relatively easy to kill. Your preparation is for the throne that might have Souls, Dolls, or Oblivion Knights. Once you have the throne clear you're set.
For the first and second wave you can just spam hammers. You will want to refresh your BO at the end of the first wave, because at the end of the second you will probably need to switch to cleansing in order to remove the poison. There's no question about this, you have to get rid of that poison.
For the third wave you can spam hammers as well, though you will probably end up wanting to use redemption after they are all dead before the Hydras disappear. At this point, teleport back a little bit.
When the 4th wave comes you should already be spamming hammers. You teleported back so that they could run to you, instead of automatically surround you. You can probably tank them no problem, but it's silly to take chances. This becomes especially important if you do not have a mercenary to take some of the hits for you. You should do the same thing for the 5th wave.
If you do not have a merc, pick up whatever mana pots fell. You will probably want a couple extra life or rejuvenation potions. Due to Baal's attack that drains all your mana, you will end up using Meditation the entire battle if you don't pick up the mana pots. The life pots are just to help out in case you need it. If you have an Insight merc you don't need to bother picking anything up.