I've been wanting to make this guy for a long time, and finally got around to it. The Lightning Wolf was chosen quite awhile ago when I saw someone in the Sorceress Forum talking about how it should be, theoretically, viable with really nice gear. Being in possession of nice gear myself, I decided to give it a shot.
I was somewhat disheartened when Sirpoopsalot tried one out on his LuckyLucy build, and found it ineffective. Taking his findings into consideration, I felt I had a plan that would provide the Wolf with a much better environment to prove his mettle, and set out to see if I could make it work.
Character name : Blighter
Character type : Necromancer
Character level : 88
Character exp : 1460695859
Strength : 95 (112)
Energy : 25 (52)
Dexterity : 26 (37)
Vitality : 384 (401)
Life : 1193 / 973
Mana : 556 / 199
20: Poison Nova (38), Poison Dagger (38), Poison Explosion (38) and Corpse Explosion (38)
6: Golem Mastery (18)
1: all curses except Attract and Confuse (17), Summon Resist, Iron Golem and required skills (13)
Poison Nova does 7267-7501 damage, and under the effects of a Skill Shrine, Poison Nova's max damage was just shy of 8100.
Corpse Explosion has a radius of 15 yards, which basically means I can cast it in the Pits and hit Andariel. Easily worth the points, and the 52 mana cost. The only issue I have with it should be fairly widely known to those who've maxed it before: the game for whatever reason underestimates the range of the skill and you'll often have to find and click on a corpse yourself to hit a monster a good distance away. Small thing, though.
Level 13 Summon Resist adds 61% res all, which makes the IG immune to Lightning (base res of 50), as well as the base immunity to poison. It's awfully nice having a minion that can stand in the middle of gloam fire and not notice. He also has 4557 hitpoints, to back up those resistances.
Charms:Code:Harlequin Crest Shako Defense: 119 Durability: 12 of 12 Required Strength: 50 Required Level: 62 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 87 Fingerprint: 0xab1ea076 +2 to Strength +2 to Energy +2 to Dexterity +2 to Vitality Damage Reduced by 10% +36 poison damage over 2 seconds 50% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items +2 to All Skill Levels 100% Chance to cast Level 23 Venom When You Level Up +132 to Life (Based on Character Level) +132 to Mana (Based on Character Level) +4% to Poison Skill Damage -5% to Enemy Poison Resistance Socketed (1: 1 used) Rainbow Facet Jewel Required Level: 49 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 87 Fingerprint: 0xe4ec1bc2 +36 poison damage over 2 seconds 100% Chance to cast Level 23 Venom When You Level Up +4% to Poison Skill Damage -5% to Enemy Poison Resistance Mara's Kaleidoscope Amulet Required Level: 67 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 88 Fingerprint: 0xa543c7e9 +5 to Strength +5 to Energy +5 to Dexterity +5 to Vitality All Resistances +30 +2 to All Skill Levels Skin of the Vipermagi Serpentskin Armor 'Shael' Defense: 279 Durability: 24 of 24 Required Strength: 43 Required Level: 29 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 59 Fingerprint: 0xec2f34c +120% Enhanced Defense Magic Damage Reduced by 10 All Resistances +33 20% Faster Hit Recovery 30% Faster Cast Rate +1 to All Skill Levels Socketed (1: 1 used) Shael Rune Inserted into a Serpentskin Armor 20% Faster Hit Recovery Required Level: 29 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Death's Web Unearthed Wand One-Hand Damage: 22 to 28 Durability: 18 of 18 Required Strength: 25 Required Level: 66 Staff Class - Normal Attack Speed Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 86 Fingerprint: 0x453454dd +36 poison damage over 2 seconds +8 Life after each Kill 150% Damage to Undead +2 to All Skill Levels +12 to Mana After Each Kill +1 to Poison and Bone Skills (Necromancer Only) 100% Chance to cast Level 23 Venom When You Level Up +3% to Poison Skill Damage -48% to Enemy Poison Resistance Socketed (1: 1 used) Rainbow Facet Jewel Required Level: 49 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 87 Fingerprint: 0xe1e08755 +36 poison damage over 2 seconds 100% Chance to cast Level 23 Venom When You Level Up +3% to Poison Skill Damage -5% to Enemy Poison Resistance Homunculus Hierophant Trophy Defense: 186 Chance to Block: 72% Durability: 20 of 20 (Necromancer Only) Required Strength: 58 Required Level: 49 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 88 Fingerprint: 0x4325df68 +20 to Energy +162% Enhanced Defense +40% Increased Chance of Blocking Regenerate Mana 33% All Resistances +40 +36 poison damage over 2 seconds +2 to Necromancer Skill Levels 30% Faster Block Rate +5 to Mana After Each Kill +2 to Curses (Necromancer Only) 100% Chance to cast Level 23 Venom When You Level Up +4% to Poison Skill Damage -5% to Enemy Poison Resistance Socketed (1: 1 used) Rainbow Facet Jewel Required Level: 49 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 87 Fingerprint: 0xe45c3045 +36 poison damage over 2 seconds 100% Chance to cast Level 23 Venom When You Level Up +4% to Poison Skill Damage -5% to Enemy Poison Resistance Trang-Oul's Claws Heavy Bracers Defense: 71 Durability: 16 of 16 Required Strength: 58 Required Level: 45 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 99 Fingerprint: 0xedce7205 +30 Defense Cold Resist +30% 20% Faster Cast Rate +2 to Curses (Necromancer Only) +25% to Poison Skill Damage The Stone of Jordan Ring Required Level: 29 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 86 Fingerprint: 0xb5e5d7e5 +20 to Mana Adds 1-12 lightning damage Increase Maximum Mana 25% +1 to All Skill Levels Arachnid Mesh Spiderweb Sash Defense: 136 Durability: 12 of 12 Required Strength: 50 Required Level: 80 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 87 Fingerprint: 0xa4317188 +116% Enhanced Defense Increase Maximum Mana 5% 20% Faster Cast Rate +1 to All Skill Levels Slows Target by 10% Level 3 Venom (11/11 Charges) The Stone of Jordan Ring Required Level: 29 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 88 Fingerprint: 0xdd693e17 +20 to Mana Adds 1-12 lightning damage Increase Maximum Mana 25% +1 to All Skill Levels War Traveler Battle Boots Defense: 123 Durability: 48 of 48 Required Strength: 95 Required Level: 42 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 88 Fingerprint: 0x746f9fd7 +10 to Strength +10 to Vitality +158% Enhanced Defense +15 to Minimum Damage +25 to Maximum Damage +30 Maximum Durability Attacker Takes Damage of 5 46% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items 25% Faster Run/Walk 40% Slower Stamina Drain Naj's Puzzler (on switch) Elder Staff Two-Hand Damage: 200 to 232 Durability: 35 of 35 Required Dexterity: 37 Required Strength: 44 Required Level: 78 Staff Class - Normal Attack Speed Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 86 Fingerprint: 0x781868e2 +35 to Energy +70 to Mana +150% Enhanced Damage Adds 6-45 lightning damage 30% Faster Cast Rate 150% Damage to Undead +1 to All Skill Levels Level 11 Teleport (68/69 Charges)
The Inventory was completely stuffed; I wanted to force in every last bit of assistance I could. In questing gear he has 171 MF, which I don't think is bad at all considering his damage numbers.Code:Gheed's Fortune Grand Charm Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 62 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 87 Fingerprint: 0xf1ca2ced 114% Extra Gold from Monsters 40% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items Reduces All Vendor Prices 12% Fungal Grand Charm of Balance Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 42 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 99 Fingerprint: 0xb5ce1daf 12% Faster Hit Recovery +1 to Poison and Bone Skills (Necromancer Only) Fungal Grand Charm of Dexterity Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 42 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 82 Fingerprint: 0x4e0c84fb +4 to Dexterity +1 to Poison and Bone Skills (Necromancer Only) Ruby Small Charm of Balance Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 32 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 72 Fingerprint: 0x57081415 Fire Resist +10% 5% Faster Hit Recovery Coral Small Charm of Good Luck Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 33 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 88 Fingerprint: 0x99a1b31b Lightning Resist +9% 7% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items Emerald Small Charm of Balance Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 32 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 82 Fingerprint: 0x8556fc91 Poison Resist +11% 5% Faster Hit Recovery Shimmering Small Charm of Storms Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 37 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 88 Fingerprint: 0x35d55041 All Resistances +5 Adds 1-20 lightning damage Shimmering Small Charm of Good Luck Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 33 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 66 Fingerprint: 0x90d35ed0 All Resistances +4 6% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items Shimmering Small Charm of Inertia Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 27 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 74 Fingerprint: 0x41688368 All Resistances +3 3% Faster Run/Walk Fungal Grand Charm of Fire Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 42 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 88 Fingerprint: 0xeb50a7d4 Adds 1-3 fire damage +1 to Poison and Bone Skills (Necromancer Only) Fungal Grand Charm Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 42 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 86 Fingerprint: 0x761e21cc +1 to Poison and Bone Skills (Necromancer Only) Fungal Grand Charm Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 42 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 83 Fingerprint: 0x932a0451 +1 to Poison and Bone Skills (Necromancer Only) Amber Small Charm of Vita Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 39 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 99 Fingerprint: 0x4a023ff8 +17 to Life Lightning Resist +10% Ruby Small Charm of Vita Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 39 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 80 Fingerprint: 0xdc04266c +20 to Life Fire Resist +10% Emerald Small Charm of Vita Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 39 Item Version: Expansion Item Level: 99 Fingerprint: 0x5dc2e8fc +17 to Life Poison Resist +10% Amber Small Charm of Fortune Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 32 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 85 Fingerprint: 0x1e9f2d13 Lightning Resist +10% 5% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items Russet Small Charm of Good Luck Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 33 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 81 Fingerprint: 0xd8bdc1f7 Fire Resist +6% 6% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items Ruby Small Charm of Fortune Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 32 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 66 Fingerprint: 0xa4bd86fc Fire Resist +11% 4% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items Jade Small Charm of Good Luck Keep in Inventory to Gain Bonus Required Level: 33 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 80 Fingerprint: 0x72e91888 Poison Resist +8% 7% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items
Flux, Lightning Iron Wolf Mercenary:
The Spirit took 26 Hel runes to roll, which was all I had. Prior to the current helm, he used my +15/-16 Griffon's socketed with a Perfect Amethyst. With that and the Vipermagi, he could equip the shield at level 77. Kept that hat until 83, when he could wear the current one.Code:Skin of the Vipermagi Serpentskin Armor Defense: 279 Durability: 24 of 24 Required Strength: 43 Required Level: 29 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 49 Fingerprint: 0x775f06d6 +10 to Strength +120% Enhanced Defense Magic Damage Reduced by 10 All Resistances +33 30% Faster Cast Rate +1 to All Skill Levels Socketed (1: 1 used) Perfect Amethyst Inserted into a Serpentskin Armor +10 to Strength Required Level: 18 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Griffon's Eye Diadem Defense: 208 Durability: 20 of 20 Required Level: 76 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 88 Fingerprint: 0x7abdaa02 +154 Defense Adds 1-74 lightning damage 25% Faster Cast Rate +1 to All Skill Levels 100% Chance to cast Level 41 Nova When You Level Up +18% to Lightning Skill Damage -25% to Enemy Lightning Resistance Socketed (1: 1 used) Rainbow Facet Jewel Required Level: 49 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 88 Fingerprint: 0xd1c52425 Adds 1-74 lightning damage 100% Chance to cast Level 41 Nova When You Level Up +5% to Lightning Skill Damage -5% to Enemy Lightning Resistance Crescent Moon Crystal Sword 'ShaelUmTir' One-Hand Damage: 14 to 44 Durability: 13 of 20 Required Strength: 43 Required Level: 47 Sword Class - Fast Attack Speed Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 41 Fingerprint: 0x2b599f7f +197% Enhanced Damage 20% Increased Attack Speed Ignore Target Defense 25% Chance of Open Wounds +2 to Mana After Each Kill +11 Magic Absorb 10% Chance to cast Level 17 Chain Lightning on striking 7% Chance to cast Level 13 Static Field on striking Level 18 Summon Spirit Wolf (30/30 Charges) -35% to Enemy Lightning Resistance Socketed (3: 3 used) Spirit Monarch 'TalThulOrtAmn' Defense: 210 Chance to Block: 42% Durability: 44 of 44 Required Strength: 146 Required Level: 54 Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 81 Fingerprint: 0x1461a314 +22 to Vitality +108 to Mana +250 Defense vs. Missile Lightning Resist +35% Cold Resist +35% Poison Resist +35% Attacker Takes Damage of 14 55% Faster Hit Recovery 35% Faster Cast Rate +2 to All Skill Levels +4 Magic Absorb Ethereal (Cannot be Repaired), Socketed (4: 4 used)
QuestingCode:Kelpie Snare Fuscina Two-Hand Damage: 77 to 142 Durability: 19 of 35 Required Dexterity: 25 Required Strength: 77 Required Level: 33 Spear Class - Normal Attack Speed Item Version: 1.10+ Expansion Item Level: 88 Fingerprint: 0x521658c3 +10 to Strength +150% Enhanced Damage +30 to Minimum Damage +50 to Maximum Damage Fire Resist +50% Slows Target by 75% +1 to Life (Based on Character Level)
Started off with gemmed crystal sword, envy jeweled mask and breast plate, with arctic belt and gloves and hsarus' boots and shield. Swapped in Sigon's boots+belt+gloves at lvl 6. Switched to Iratha's + Treads + Ravenclaw and 2 rare leech rings at 15. p8 all the way to act 4, then p1 throughout that act, returning to p8 in act 5. Leveled from 29 to 30 in act 4 (leveled up after popping the third seal), switching into caster gear at start of act 5. Peasant Crown, rare amulet (+1 necro skills, 15 res all, mana), Skin of the Vipermagi, Spirit sword, Rhyme shield, magefist, nightsmoke, nat's boots and 2 SoJ's until 42. Made first Iron Golem after switching into caster gear, created from an IK Maul.
With one point in IG and Golem Mastery, you'd expect the Golem to be fairly weak, but he stood up well. The hydras from wave 3 got him, but the only other time he really took damage was when he was surrounded by 5 frenzytaurs in the WSK. Didn't remake him until I could swap Homunculus in for the Rhyme, then twinked in a CV Insight (always hated CVs, but now they seem almost useful) and some low level unique polearm for IGs during Baal runs, but Lister kept owning them and I finally just made the golems from shopped weapons until I moved on to NM.
Baal was tough early on (first run took forever), but after I switched the merc (then a prayer merc) over to eth Kelpie + Guillaume's(Ias jewel) + Twitchthroe I didn't have problems with him. Still wasn't blazing fast, but poisonmancers aren't good boss runners, anyway. Leveled to 49 before entering Nightmare.
Started off by popping the facet into the homunculus and making another Insight IG, out of a Colossus Voulge (finally found a use for an otherwise useless base, yay) and set to work. Act I was a cakewalk, save for Andy, who plowed through the merc and IG in very short order. Managed to finish her off solo easily enough and proceed. Found a Wasp Nest bosspack along the way, though. Act 2 was similarly easy, though I did lose the IG to a ES cursed Mummy bosspack in the Staff room. Couldn't find a good item in the shops, so I went with Gumby vs Duriel, with no issues. Twinked in two more CVs, made Insight and formed another IG. Lost him to cursed ES Thrasher pack and then had another poof in the Flayer Jungle. Shopped a Ferocious Great Axe for a base. Mephisto required a couple trips to town, but no real danger.
Act 4, was a pain. At least in the beginning. Venom Lords are Poison Immune in NM, and with only the -5 from the Homunculus kills were slow in coming at p8, so I dropped to p5 until the RoF. Hephasto was no worries, and the forge dropped a Lem, which was nice. Got to the waypoint at level 65, so I did a full clear plus a little bit of the CS to hit 66 then twinked in Death's Web (and Mara's, though that's rlvl67), Harley, War Trav's and Mav's belt, as well as putting Spellsteel on switch in case of IM, and hit the CS for real. Venom Lords spawned, but with the DWeb in hand were no match for the massive damage, even at p8. Lost the merc twice to IM, but the golem remained intact. Diablo was kind enough to use, almost exclusively, his lightning attack (which is useless against the LI Iron Golem) and was polished off with little fuss.
The Ancients started out looking rough, as I quickly had to feed half my reds and a purple to the merc, but a teleport and a change in position later they lost their luster and fell quickly. Decrepify + Kelpie makes even the stoutest fighters impotent. Lost 2 IGs in the WSK: the first to a bosspack of frenzytaurs, the second to IM. A third died at the hands of wave three's hydras on my second Baal run.
Speaking of the minions, waves 4 and 5 were quite a pain because of their high health. Had to take a fighting retreat approach, which isn't easy because the IG has very similar AI to a barb merc: he always goes looking for a fight and he almost refuses to retreat once he engages. Waheed's happily staying away from the action, but the golem keeps jumping back into the fray before I can get back in nova range. Lots of TP's taken to heal through that part.
Took Baal on at p8, and he wasn't a problem (again, Decrep + Kelpie are imba) but took awhile. After that second run, I went back to Normal and hired the act 3 merc before proceeding to Hell. At this point Blighter was level 74 and the merc was level 72. Gave him Spirit + Lidless + Skin of the Vipermagi and Harley. Let him show off in Pindle's garden, and saw potential.
First death for the char came in the first Pits run, on level two. Got caught by the arrows from an ES LE archer pack. Died another three times, most from just not drinking a potion in time. Lost at least four Iron Golems due to D2 not saving teleport as my default skill on switch, which was extremely annoying.
Ran the Pits from level 75 to level 88. From 75 to 80 I ran at p7 in questing gear. From 80 to 87 I ran at p5 in MF gear (after swapping in Arachnid's I changed an SoJ for a 30% Nagel and 3 skillers for a Gheed's and several mana/resist SC's of MF). At that point, I had re-cemented my previous feelings about running the Pits and changed back into questing gear.
I probably lost over 10 IG's in the Pits to various things (mostly to Amp/ES or other bad spawns archers, or to multiple bosspacks including EF, ES and amp) and by the end was really feeling bad over the loss of Rals. Switched over to a Kelpie Snare Golem (making him immune to Fire/Light/Poison) and used DV a lot more. Runs slowed down, but no more deaths. Blinded packs with the golem adding the 75% slowdown from Kelpie to the boss made things almost boringly easy.
Leveled up til 88 in the Pits before moving on. Technically the build finished at 87 (counting in the skill adding quests) but I wanted to see how he could do running in killing gear. Very well, indeed, was the answer.
Took on Act I at p7, with no troubles. Dropped to p1 for Andy, and it still took a little while. Decrep+slow from Kelpie kept her manageable while the merc and I whittled her down (to be honest, we were probably doing almost equal damage; poison sucks hardcore vs Andy). One trip to town was required to heal the IG, but only because I was overly cautious. She dropped crap, and we moved on.
Took on Act 2 at p7, as well, until I got almost to Radament. Then I dropped to p1, and decided to keep it there. I've already taken a poisonmancer through Hell at high psettings, so I didn't feel the need to do it again. Easily could, but time is short until the MFO and I have other projects to complete and a new runner to get in shape, so I decided to stay at p1 and hurry through. Radament spawned with Conviction, was surrounded by horror mages - including a bosspack - and really didn't want to die. I had to drink a couple potions while I was running around poisoning everything, and shove a few more to the merc (he does love to follow you into trouble) but after the minions fell it was just a matter of time.
Teleran through Act 2 quickly. Ported right on top of AT, so I did a p7 full clear before pressing on (back at p1). Summoner was on the first branch I looked. Had to search all of the tomb before I found the entrance to Duriel. I don't think he managed to really land a hit on anybody, and went down quickly.
Act 3 involved more teleport action. Everything at p1 except LK (gieb Lo plz) and Meph, which were p3. Was glad I had the Kelpie IG when I got to the Council - fire immune minions need not fear bugged hydras - and had to rely on the merc to kill a champ pack of dolls as soon as we entered the Durance, which he did well. Level 3 was packed - there were either three or four bosspacks right through the large door - but nothing proved dangerous. Went to p3 for Meph after seeing how easy Duriel had been. He went down as easily as the last boss, just took a little longer. The armor rack in Durance 3 dropped a Lacquered Plate, so I went back and got Durance 2 waypoint just in case I want to try to rack a Tal's armor for the novelty of it.
The merc got a little more action in Act 4, finishing off corpse spitters and creating the first corpse with the maggots. Had gloams in the Plains of Despair, and they hurt. Dim Vision is imba, though. Izual dropped in seconds, as did Hephasto. Um from the Forge made sure the char paid for himself in rune terms that really matter. Got through the Chaos Sanctuary without the golem taking any damage from IM, though he got into the low yellow from Lord De Seis's pack. Diablo got me in a bone prison and almost took out myself and the merc with an early lightning hose (both bars barely showing any red), but after that he went down quietly. Forgot to up it to p3 before he spawned, but still got 6 items so it worked out.
Slingers and archers greeted me at the start of Act 5. Had 2 NDEs at their hands. D2 obviously had it out for me now, since they spawned in every outdoor area, and vipers spawned in every underground area. Can't believe I didn't drop to one bosspack of vipers I spawned from an urn (can't explain why I ever click those things) which hit me with somewhere between 5 and two million shots at the same time. If not for my "Oh, excrement" rejuv reflexes he'd have bought it. No gloams at Anya, but 2 types of witches and more vipers. More NDEs than I care to count. Lost the Kelpie golem at Anya, Frozenstein's pack wore him down and a pack of witches behind them ate him up before I could teleport him out. Made another Insight one. Almost lost him to a dual bosspack of Cursed/ES lancer rogues.
Stopped at Ancient Way waypoint, which was across the map from the Summit. When I started back, the spawn was skeleton mages + vipers + Frenzytaurs. Lost the Insight golem to a cursed, ES bosspack of frenzytaurs, switched back to Kelpie base and went a little more carefully. No issues getting to the Ancients. They spawned with Conviction and little else. The leaper wanted to focus on the Wolf, so I used teleport to split him from the pack and dropped him swiftly. Took the other two as a team, but they dropped in short order. WSK 1 had poison immune vipers. Level 2 had poison immune defilers (including one unbreakable PoI/LI boss; the second such monster I had seen [Griswold]) and level 3 had witches and Oks plus some not very dangerous spawn. Throne had witches, OKs and unbreakable poison immune dolls. Merc mowed down a champ pack of the latter near the door and DV took care of the witches. Throne room was stuffed with OKs, but the enormous radius of CE cleared it quickly. Waves 1-3 were no issue (lost the merc to the hydras, but the immune golem was sturdy), then came wave 4. The bane of poisonmancers. Unbreakable immunity, plus high fire resistance, plus extra fast equals a real pain. Separated the pack into, roughly, two groups, and had the merc fire away while I waited for a corpse. Ventar forced one retreat to town to heal the IG, but other than that we got through with little problem. Lister an crew don't pose much threat, and dropped in no time. Went into Baal's chamber, teleported on top of him so the IG could get to work. He cloned himself right off, so that made things tougher, but we started slugging away and made good progress. We had the clone almost dead when disaster struck ... the power went out. ... ... ... ... Feck. Insert random five pages of obscenities here. In a humorous turn of events, I had found an ethereal socketed unearthed wand in the WSK shortly before, and was, given the situation, now happy it hadn't rolled unique.
Most annoying part was that I was trying to finish up so I could write up what happened before I left for work. Not enough time left after that, and my will was sort of crushed. Came back later and started back. Fortunately the Ancients and the WSK waypoint were saved before the sudden stoppage of play, so I set back out from the waypoint, and noticed my maps were saved, which was nice. Level 2 had poison immune Vipers, exploding boars and bats. Level three greeted me with OKs and witches again, with boars and their herders. Almost lost the golem twice to bosspacks of OKs backed up by witches (those stars hurt when amped, 4.5k hp or not) but he pulled through. Stairtrap with bosspack of frenzytaurs in the throne, but handled it fairly easily. Around the corner? Bosspack of OKs. At the entrance to the throne room had a clump of gloams + 2 packs of Oks and a bosspack of Frenzytaurs. Gloams are poison immune, but gigantic CE beats them every time. Throne room was almost barren.
First 3 waves were no issue, barely a scratch between the three of us. Ventar again forced a single retreat to town, but the merc finally brought one (then another) down, and CE cleared up. Lister and company were a joke. Baal was taken at p1. Teleported to him so the golem could get going, and cast decrep in the meanwhile. No clone this time, and I switched over to LR after the golem got going. He's still able to do a little damage with just the Kelpie, but his resistances are just too high to not use LR on him, and he's not really dangerous when slowed, anyway (as opposed to, say, Diablo).
-Normal HF: Ort
-NM HF: Lem
-Hell HF: Um
-Hand of Broc in Normal Catacombs
-Blinkbat's Form from Normal Diablo
-Lum rune from NM Summoner
-Blackbog's Sharp in NM Great Marsh (just seems fitting for a poisonmancer to find, no?)
-Titan's Revenge in NM WSK
-Dracul's Grasp in the Pits
-Failed set Scourge in the Pits
-+4/-4 Fire Facet from a corpse in the Pits
-Ethereal Ginther's Rift in the Pits
-Taebaek's Glory in the Pits
-Hexing skiller in the Pits
-String of Ears from Hell Radament
-Gheed's from a corpse in Harem level 2
-Ethereal Spire of Lazarus in Plains of Despair
-Naj's Light Plate from Eyeback the Unleashed
-M'avina's Embrace from the Barbarian corpse outside the Ancient's Way
-Lots of socketables (0os eth CV, 0os eth GPA, 14% Superior +3 Matriarchal Bow...0os :(, etc.)
-Plenty of low/crafting runes (including several Hel runes, which I was very happy to see), though I'd say he burned up more than he found.
He outperformed my expectations. Granted, my expectations had gotten pretty low after hearing sirpoopsalot's experience with his, but I was hoping with Lower Resist and the tanking golem it would work. And I was right. He's capable of killing in higher player setting games (and not in the barely out-pacing monster regen way, either). That said, he didn't reach my hoped level of ownage. Not surprising, though. What popped into my head after testing him out a little bit still sounds right to me: he kills about as fast as my (mostly) untwinked blizzballer did when I was first starting (though the blizzballer was at p1). After dropping to p1, I discovered that the merc was considerably stronger than my old blizzballer; I just let him and the golem handle packs from time to time.
As for his overall AI: he likes to stay close to you. Not right on top of you, but, say, similar to the "leash" a unique has on its minions. This is very handy when he's doing his one notable stupid merc trick: firing lightning into a solid obstruction, but troublesome when you're running through the middle of a pack to poison shamans, OK's, etc. He does quite well at getting himself out of these spots most of the time, but when he can't he drops in about half a second. Which is true just about any time he's getting hit. He has very low hitpoints (barely more than the character) and abysmal hit recovery (to give you an idea, he's at 10 frame recovery with the 55% FHR from spirit) so he's going nowhere fast if anything gets to him.
While he likes to stay near you, he also really likes to stay away from monsters. Coupled with his affinity for casting Charged Bolt this results in a lot of lost damage potential. You can use his AI to force him close to monsters to increase CB damage, but he'll only cast 1-3 times before running away and it's too tedious to do against anything but poison immunes. If you're careful, however, this is one of the best ways to deal with champ/boss dolls with this build.
The frustrating part is the Lightning Wolf merc could be very powerful if he cast Lightning more often. He can take half a bar of life off a p5 monster with one cast of Lightning, but only casts it maybe 1/3 of the time (I've read and been told 30% and 40% by different sources, and definitely agree that the frequency is somewhere between those two). The rest of the time it's Charged Bolt. That wouldn't be a problem, except his AI keeps him well away from the actual monsters, meaning his bolts do precious little damage (still more than the golem, for the most part) in comparison. If the frequency were changed on those attacks, he could definitely be a powerhouse with the proper gear.
Just in case you're curious, the CtC Nova when you level up from the facet in the Griffon's does work on the merc. Proced a few times, and owned whatever happened to be around him at the time. Come to think of it, if they changed the skills on the Wolf to Lightning and Nova I'd be very thrilled.
Since I knew that sirpoopsalot had some experience with the Lightning Wolf, I talked to him early on in this project, and he gave me one rather empathic piece of advice: teleport. I had been planning on having Harmony on switch before this, but changed over to Spellsteel as a mid-game source and Naj's as a late game source of teleport. I have to thank poops for his advice, as having the teleport has saved me lots of headaches - but not really with the merc. He does well at keeping himself out of danger (it's without a doubt his highest priority; he disengages and runs away whenever anything gets in striking distance) but the golem definitely requires a source of teleport to keep with you. Don't get me wrong, I've had to save the merc a few times, but the golem has taken by far more charges.
With all that said, I guess the question remaining is if I'd recommend using the Wolf to others. No, I wouldn't. Frankly, most people don't have the wealth to blow on him - with lower gear than this he's pretty crappy, even just using Spirit instead of CM makes for a large dropoff - and he doesn't provide any real advantages over the other mercs. I'm glad to have used him once, and especially glad to have seen that he can be viable, but I doubt I'll ever use one again.
I love the ability to have Insight without the merc holding it, and I love having him there as a customizable tank, a job he does well...90% of the time. Against normal monsters and most bosspacks he's sturdy as can be, but that last 10% of the time he goes from upright to horizontal in about half a second. This could almost certainly be corrected by adding more points in the Mastery or using a more defensive oriented base, but maxed CE speeds up runs by quite a bit and I wasn't convinced enough that a better base would improve things to use more expensive stuff.
Rusty's AI is very, very similar to the barb merc - if there's anything around he's running right at it and swinging away - which is definitely a two-edged sword. On the one hand, he never runs away from combat or avoids monsters like the desert merc, but, in contrast, he doesn't get the concept of retreat. Before using the teleport switch I lost several IG's on Normal Lister because I couldn't get him to disengage in a fighting retreat. He does do a good job of leaving what he's attacking to follow you if you're running through, though. Just be careful to pause every now and again so he has a chance to make up a little group (casting a nova works nicely).
As I mentioned, at the end of my Pit running I switched over to a Kelpie Snare base instead of the Insight. I was hoping that being immune to fire and having 75% slow would keep him safe enough that I'd have time to save him with a teleport if things got bad. I must admit that the fact, which should have been obvious, that this would also solve the biggest problem of a poisonmancer (namely, killing act bosses) didn't occur to me until I was in the situation. I think this is a finding that has uses elsewhere - fishymancers, for instance - and it makes me strongly wish that the charges of IG on Metalgrid worked properly (melee build with Kelpie + Reaper's, anyone?). I think the Kelpie Iron Golem needs a little more exploring, though I don't know if I'll be able to get around to it. We'll see.
I feel a little bad about not going through at p5 or higher, but I just couldn't justify the extra time (mostly the muling time with the extra drops and no inventory space).
I like the Lightning Wolf, I really do, and I think he's certainly viable if you have a lot of wealth to spend on him, but I just don't think there's any build he really belongs with. That, sadly, includes this one. I think the Insight Golem would be much better paired with either a Harmony Rouge (added foot speed is extremely helpful for a poisonmancer, and the elemental damage is complimented very nicely by LR) or a Prayer merc (I'm not a fan of Prayer mercs, but in this case I'd use it). Personally, I would lean strongly towards the Harmony merc for the high FRW, as that, combined with teleport on switch, would greatly speed up both the safety and speed of runs with the char. Might's an option, as always, but if you have an act2 merc you should be getting the damage from him and with big hurty stick it's worth giving up that extra damage to help keep your Insight going with the life regeneration.
Both of these minions have very good AI. I never had to wonder what had happened to either one (save the 2 times the golem poofed) like sometimes happens to Waheed. In that way, I think they're quite complimentary, not to mention the more obvious complimentary aspect. If, as previously mentioned, the merc's attack skills were changed, or, at least, the lightning frequency was raised, I think this could be as good, or better, as any poisonmancer setup out there.
Despite my previous statements, one possibly viable alternative for the Iron Wolf would be using him as the merc for a char like my previous poisonmancer, using the skeletons as tanks, which would provide 3 elemental damage types for the party. Wouldn't have to worry about losing the Iron Golem and the wall of skeletons should keep the merc fairly safe. The fire skills would also give you a way to help the merc with unbreakable poison immunes. You're still probably better off with one of the alternatives, though.
-Sirpoopsalot, for the helpful advice and the consistently inspiring builds
-NagisaFurukawa and nualum, who traded me Insight bases for the Golem
-maxicek, for one of the +4/-5 facets
-Ravenlord, for the +3 Shimmering SC of Inertia
-Ashmer Amadeus, for the Fungal of Balance
-bassano, for the ilvl88 SoJ
-Fabian, for giving away the Amber and Emerald SC's of Vita
and thanks, lastly, to you, for reading this. I hope you got something worthwhile out of it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Comments, suggestions, and accusations of loss of sanity are, as always, welcome.
As for my upcoming plans, I have two more projects fleshed out, but I'd also like to make a new char for the MFO (as good as Blizzy has been to me, I think she's earned a rest). I might have time to finish one of those projects beforehand, but no promises.
Thanks, again, and good luck with whatever you are working on.