Hello all. I have been playing and posting about 1.09 since mid-2009. Yeah, I'm very, very late to the party here, but there's a story to the anachronistic madness I have wallowed in for the better part of two years. I would like to tell that story now as a presentation of my full Septemvirate of 1.09 characters.
Back in 2002, I was in an Electronics Boutique, and after having been soured on RTS with Homeworld, I asked the guy in the story for a recommendation of a Real-Time game that was fun but allows for breaks when you need them. He suggested Diablo 2. I bought it. So starts my story. I played a little bit with the orginal classic that came in the box (1.03), at least enough that I remember the countdown after you kill Diablo, but it wasn't long at all until I decided to invest in the Expansion since it obviously was needed to complete the story. I did some online research at the time and found a site called "The Tomb of Knowledge", which I relied on pretty much exclusively for my first go at the game. I had no knowledge of ATMA or any external muling, so each character was untwinked with only the game stash to work with. The "Knowledge" from that site was also very limited (and some wrong, such as the 3-chip recipe, which was still listed as producing only a Long Sword with 3 sockets).
My original character was a Paladin (Fanatic Zealot), followed by a Frenzy Barb, and then a Blizzard Sorc (since the Blizzards from the Act 3 Travincal mages impressed me with the smack it put on my characters). I also had aborted attempts at a Molten Bolder Druid (darn that picture on the box!) and an Assassin. My sorc met an early demise at, apparently, Nightmare Duriel (Blizz vs CI Duriel - you do the math), which somehow resulted in her losing all of her gear (I'm guessing some failed attempts at corpse recovery are to blame, but I don't remember exactly so it was down to the Pally and the Barb. It apparently took me quite a while to get my characters through Hell, because by the time my Pally embarked on his doomed attempt at getting by the Hell Ancients, 1.10 was available. My Barb was behind him, and I remember having high hopes for the Barb. Well, I tried to best the Hell Ancients for a long while with the Pally, with no luck. I remember going back and collecting potions to cube fresh Full Rejuvs to have another crack at them, but I finally tried installing 1.10 since I heard about the better drops and items from that patch. However, as you would expect, my characters were woefully ill-equipped for 1.10, and, frustrated to no end, I put away my game discs and D2 and I went our separate ways.
As it turns out, I had apparently saved my character files when I bought a new computer (not at the endgame, but with the Barb and Pally at level 59 in Hell Act 1). My Pally was sporting a Zakarum's Hand (which I bet was still his weapon against the Ancients) and the Barb was sporting a Butcher's Pupil and Aldur's Rhythm (actually a pretty nice combo - that's probably why I had high hopes for his chances). I posted about this discovery here.
My Journey to Creating the 1.09 Septemvirate
So, after a long departure into other time-wasting activities, I finally decided to give D2 another try. Since my original FAIL was in 1.09, I wanted to beat that patch in SP before doing anything else. I chose a Frenzy Barb since that was my other Hell-level character and I remember having high hopes for his chances before I ruined everything by updating patches. So, RobbyD was created. His trip through Normal and early Nightmare was just as filled with n00b blunders as my first go went back during my original try, as my introduction to this forum was a post announcing my intention of putting a combination of gems and runes in a sword to take on NM Andy and asking a completely misinformed question about poison damage.
Well, after a copious amount of help from many folks here (I'm sure many folks remember my never-ending questions), I did manage to salvage him, Pat him, and finally make him into a Magic-Finding Powerhouse that is currently level 98. I ran into a similar problem with Hell Ancients the first couple of times, but I think the main problem I was having was that my game head got all scrambled and I was not fighting them smart. I ended up beating them and the game with Fleshrender + Aldur's Rhythm. Based on Flux's old Magic-Find Barbarian guide, I started running Mephy with him and collected a good portion of the gear that would later be used by other characters, including the Buriza that inspired my second character...
WildBetty (my second character to reach level 99) was originally created because the first responses to my questions about 1.09 indicated that an Amazon was overpowered in the patch. So, I had started WildBetty untwinked in case my Barb failed - so when that Buriza dropped, I knew she was destined to become a BuriZon. I had learned about muling and had collected some nice early-game twinking items, so I was able to outfit her to be pretty much untouchable in the early game. By this time, a friend of mine from work bought and started playing the game, but he went straight to 1.12 (current at that time). I had learned by that time about the Gull dagger and wanted to run normal Coldcrow for it (for my Barb to wield offhand for the killing blow in Mephy running), so he and I started a bet to get the Gull from Coldcrow. The winner got to pick and name the loser's next character. Well, I lost the race, and thus my next character was determined to be...
JebediahYoder, a Druid. Having had my initial bad taste with a Molten Boulder Druid from the early days (again, darn that picture on the Expansion box), I needed to do some serious research on viable Druid builds for 1.09 (which is famously not an elemental Druid), but I was not able to access this site at that time, so I got on another site and learned that a Lycanthrope was the way to go. Fury Wolves are the classic cookie-cutter, but I was also informed that a Maul Bear was extremely viable as well. I pumped Lycanthropy and played with 1 point in each of Wolf and Bear before finally deciding on the Bear. The trouble with shapeshifters in 1.09 is the lack of a good solution for the unbreakable and incredibly common PI bosses in Hell... so that, along with my research on 1.09 bugs, led me to try out the famous +3 skills Lightning Hose Act 1 Merc to help with dealing with PIs. As it turns out, I lucked into using 2 beneficial bugs at the same time, as my original quest-granted Rogue Merc was a Fire Arrow merc, which also benefits from the overpowered Amazon Fire Arrow bug. She is an incredibly effective merc.
At this point, I had not wanted to finish a full Septemvirate, but I had learned of the beta 1.10s runewords and wanted to create a character that could be successfully converted to 1.10+. Since I had read so many references to a MeteOrb as a cookie-cutter MF character, I started ClimateChange, built very closely to Sasja's guide. ClimateChange was so successful, even with "wasted" points into skills that would become synergies after transition, especially with cow runs, that she became my first level 99 character even though she was my fourth character to start work on. I started deviating from Sasja's skill allocation in the late 90s to give her a point in Enchant to help out the merc, and a couple points in Static to expand the radius (helped a lot with cows).
My Barb maintained MF duties while I worked on other characters, and I started talking to a bud from this forum, pegleg, who introduced me to the idea of running Ancient's Way for top-end 1.09 gear (there are no special high-level areas in earlier acts, so Ancient's Way/Glacial Trail/Crystalline Passage are the only Champion/Unique populated areas capable of dropping anything in the game). On my very first try in the Ancient's Way, Tal's Armor dropped for my Barb. The Tal's 3-piece (helm, armor, belt) is the best way to make a 1.09 Zon into a MFer, so I got her set up to do some cold caves herself, and it wasn't long until she landed a Schaefer's Hammer. Pegleg informed me that the Hammer was the best Zealot weapon in the game, and the Barb had actually gotten an HoZ from Mephy the first run testing out the shiny new Baranar's Star he had finally dropped, so that pretty much meant that I should do a Pally, so...
Schaefer was created. I went pretty cookie-cutter with him following Asmo's Fanatic Zealot build, but I did find enough alternative sources to find out that Sanctuary is a 1-point undead PI-breaking wonder (think Ghosts, and PI Pindle), so I incorporated that into the build, and I'm very glad I did. I also invested enough points into Thorns to test the 1.10 patch note about a main character with 18+ points in Thorns being immune to melee attacks. Well, since I went with a Defiance merc and had Holy Shield with HoZ, it was actually hard to get hit to test it, but I did find that, even with 18 points in active Thorns, the Pally still takes damage from melee attacks.
Since I was only two characters shy at this point, I figured I was pretty much committed to a Septemvirate. A Necro and an Assassin were my last 2 characters.
I have long read that the Necro got such a big buff in 1.10 because he was so underpowered in 1.09, so I figured I should NOT save that character for last. So, I started researching 1.09 Necro builds, which turned out to be by far the most challenging because there are so few builds out there. The good thing was that I had plenty of good gear, including 2x Homonculus, a Shako, SoJ, and a number of skillers. So, I finally decided on a build and started work on MasterGomez, which represents my biggest innovation in build design, as I had to work around curses that don't break immunities and couldn't count on skellies for the build. My answer was to go with what I dubbed a Melee/Minion Artillary Necro (MMAN), which relied on a strong Merc and Iron Golem, with revives for tanking, and maxed (with 'White' in a +3 Bone Spear wand shopped from Normal Drognan) Bone Spear benefitting from a Lower Resists curse that impacts magic damage. Ironically, this build, the most precarious character in my Sept, is the only character to never have died (a couple close calls, though). One of the ideas I thought so nifty at the time turned out to be a dud though - the idea was to use HST from Blackrog's Sharp to help with tanking - well, I learned the hard way that there is a level difference calculation for HST to activate - and thus that provided no help in going through Hell. Still, I was pleasantly surprised at the fact that this character was able to get through the game (and was actually quite powerful on P1), even without the buffs that later patches would bring.
I was finally ready for my last character, the Assassin, which is very bug-ridden in 1.09, both favorable and unfavorable. My research into Assassin builds in 1.09 revealed that there were Phoenix Strike builds and... Phoenix Strike builds with variations. The lack of kick damage on boots made a kicker weak, the lack of synergies made a pure trapper a hard road (though Death Sentry was mentioned as a secondary skill), but then Eric Xanthu mentioned another variation to me, the Blender. The explanation gave (both here and in old posts on other boards) made me drool at how awesome this build sounded. So, Osterizer was created as a Phoenix Strike/Blade Shield (Blender) Assassin. Getting her to Matriarch completed my Septemvirate. I would like to get her leveled high enough to try out the Blender side again with cows.
My Take on Each Character and Thoughts on Alternatives
One thing I really like about my eventual decision to finish the Sept is that it got me to play characters that I didn't naturally gravitate to. I am most comfortable with Melee characters with straigtforward gameplay. This journey showed me the fun of casters and, especially, rangers as well. Funny thing is, I never even started a Zon back in the day, which is funny since she is the strongest overall character I have made. So, I'll post my general take on each character and changes I would make if I ever did them again:
Frenzy Barb: Overall a very strong character. It was pure luck that I landed the most effective MF boss runner in the patch as my first character. Unparalleled for Mephy running, and also completely viable for Countess, Pindle, Baal, Cows, cold caves... pretty much anywhere but the CS... ONCE I figured out that MSLE had to be solved in 1.09, especially for a melee character. I obviously made some n00b mistakes I would correct if I made a 1.09 Frenzy Barb again - points in 3 different masteries, ignoring warcries until I found out the power of BO, pumping Iron Skin instead of Shout, etc. However, he's quite powerful as he is, so done right, he'd really be a cannon.
Strengths: Plowing mano-e-mano with any pack of hard-hitting monsters - Lister's Pack, Yetis and Blunderbores don't seem to really bother him at all. You can load him to the gills with MF gear and he's still a tank.
Weaknesses: Mana-burn PI Frenzytaurs - he can still be overpowered by an especially tough unique, but that's pretty much limited to Frenzytaurs and cow packs.
Multi Shot/Guided Arrow Buriza Zon: Pretty much unstoppable (piercing Buriza GA destroyed bosses, MA destroyed packs, bugged Fire Arrow was a very cheap PI solution, FA was very effecive for packs of natural PIs and to keep cows frozen to protect my merc), especially with the Nef in the Buriza (a decision I most definitely do not regret)... EXCEPT PI/FI/CE bosses (which Hell Lister often is). Funny thing, as she got really high up in levels, I pretty much ran out of effective places for points - Valk was maxed, D/E/A were pumped to a plateau, etc. I ended up putting points in Penetrate and Pierce at the end (the Pierce was to test out a Melody GMB I made for cows with Frozen Arrow), so if I were to do it again, I would make a hybrid Zon with a Lightning Jav skill to deal with PI/FI/CE Uniques.
Strengths: Destroys anything not PI/FI - great for cows and any bosses (even Diablo). She's great at Countess, Mephy, Pindle, Baal, and cold caves... basically all MF targets, and with 3-piece Tal's, she sports great leech, MF, and resists.
Weaknesses: Hell Ancients - since she doesn't tank, it's hard for her to keep the leaper from leaping, and her lowish defense means the thrower gets her too. I had to go with full 1337 Burrito PvP gear (Clegaw's Gloves, Blackhorn's Face, Nosferatu's Coil) to deal with them. Also, as mentioned, when Lister spawns PI, she has to park him.
Buriza Maul/Shock Bear: I don't think I would change anything I did for him - the investment to get Hunger was well worth it as an IM solution (it really worked) and as a quick way to fill the bulbs (red pots are especially bad for Druids - so Hunger was a much faster way to fill bulbs without popping a fat purple). The skill allocation was much tighter on this character than others I built (not yet complete when he was patted at level 83), so he's a bit like 1.10+ characters in the lack of flexibility. The bugged +3 skills Act 1 Merc really is a good choice for this character, as he really didn't have a good PI/CI solution (other than the standard 1.09 solution of Baranar's Star/Tiamat's Rebuke on switch - but I much preferred the Athena's Wrath on switch for casting Grizzlies and shapeshifting).
Strengths: The ultimate tank, even with a 2H weapon his defense is high, and with a Shael Buriza, he swats very fast. Mows through most boss packs quite effectively, and deal with hard hitting bosses well (like Ancients). Hunger is a surprising benefit, as it's an IM solution and also gets him back to full bulbs fast when he's in trouble.
Weaknesses: With the +3 skills Rogue Merc, he doesn't get the aura help, so he's a tad bit underpowered for really challenging situations... such as cows - he gets overwhelmed in P8 cow games, and the merc isn't around for long to help.
MeteOrb Sorc: Surprisingly powerful against non-FIs, even on P8. I did also notice the Static bug, which really helps with running Mephy, Snapchip, and Thresh. FO is a little slow for FIs on P8 though, so the merc really has to be tough. I ended up putting Gladiator's Bane and an eth Gaze on him to make his as effective a tank as possible. Obviously, if I didn't mean to convert this character to 1.10+, I would not have pumped Fireball and Fire Bolt like I did, but would have invested in a Lightning skill to make her a tri-elemental. As is, I am happy with my decision to put a point into Enchant and a couple to pump the radius of Static. I'm also happy with the decision to go PDR/Max Block with the Stormshield and pumped Dex - she's hard to hit.
Strengths: The best at cows out of my crew, Meteor DESTROYS any non-FIs. Bugged Static make certain bosses especially easy for her on P8. FO is an effective, if not devastating, alternative FI skill. She also took out Hell Ancients surprisingly easy.
Weaknesses: Obviously, CI/FI. Not usually an issue, as the merc is usually able to deal with those (with the help of Telekinesis), but I remember in Hell CS, there was a FI/CI OK that had taken out the merc with IM, so ClimateChange had to stab him with the Wizzy she had on switch. She also has trouble with certain bosses, like Baal.
Fanatic Zealot: This guy could handle anything in the game... EXCEPT monsters that ignore defense... and let me tell you, they (Blunderbores and Lister's pack) REALLY knock him around. He can't run Baal for that reason. Blessed Aim boss packs are also extra tricky for him. But as offense goes, he's a terror - Fanatic Zeal mows through most monsters, Sanctuary DESTROYS undead PIs, Zeal with Lightsabre/Tiamat's on Conviction switch handles most other PIs, and pumped Vengance is plenty to handle PI/LIs. He runs cows really, really well, as well as Pindle (I replaced his Griz armor with Skullder's for his MF duties, and even with a little slower Zeal, he does just fine). I obviously would have pumped Vengance and not Thorns if I had already known the answer to the immunity to melee attacks question. I also would have used Baranar's Star over Lightsabre if I had a spare one when I built him (when I did finally find a Baranar's, I had already socketed his Lightsabre with a perfect Bright Jewel of Thunder, so I didn't want that to go to waste).
Strengths: Offensive skills deal with anything in the game, and with Holy Shield + Defiance Merc, he's got the highest defense of any of my characters. Great at Countess, Cows, and Pindle.
Weaknesses: Monsters that ignore defense, CS (he doen't have an obvious IM solution, and he got 1-hitted by IM in his quest CS by an OK).
MMAN: What to say here - a Necro in 1.09 is tricky. Skellies are throwaways, curse don't break immunities. I think, given the limitations, this is as good a balance as I could have come up with. He was quite powerful against non-PIs, but Bone Spear, even with the benefit of LR impacting magic damage, was weak on higher player settings, and CE doesn't scale in 1.09. I didn't know the level calculation of Slow Target from the Blackrog's when I planned this, though, but I still can't think of a better weapon for a Necro who wants to melee a little. I guess I would try it with a 'Strength' knife if I did it again, or maybe just pop an Eth rune in the Blackrog's to help him hit and find a source of CB elsewhere in his gear.
Strengths: Protection - even being the weakest character in 1.09, he never died in his quest for Patriarch. He's also the best at dealing with tricky monsters (Fetish Dolls, exploding dudes, Nilly) and waltzes through most of the game. When I dropped to P1 for Hell, CE was devastating.
Weaknesses: PIs. Even pumped to the tilt, and benefitting from LR, Bone Spear stuggles at killing PIs.
PS/Blender Assassin: Here's what I learned - don't expect the Blender side of this build to help you in questing through Hell. The Blender has some specific gear requirements - Iceblink, G-Face, Gob Toes, and I know Eric Xanthu went with a 'Black' Scourge... but I had enough trouble with chance to hit with the 'Strength' Claws, so I can imagine the trouble hitting with a non-claw. However, the stacked CB (which scales with player settings in 1.09) was very effective for any non-PI in the game. However, I think G-Face and Goblin Toe (with maybe a really sweet pair of Blood Gloves with 20%IAS and +2MA Skills) is plenty of CB - I really noticed an improvement when I went with the Bartucs in Hell Act 5, so if I were to do this again, I would focus on pure PS for questing, and save the Blender gear for high-level cowing.
Strengths: Great summon (Shadow Master is the best summon in 1.09) and the bugged Claw Mastery + stacked CB mowed through all non-PIs. The third charge of PS freezes for a long time (but doesnt necessarily hit everything first shot), and the second charge deal with monster groups very nicely (once you get used to releasing it).
Weaknesses: PIs (again). When she lost the level advantage, the benefit from the Blender freezing went away, and she turned out to be pretty fragile (even with Max-block Stormshield). The 'Strength' claws ended up being underpowered for late-game questing.
Prologue (What to do now?)
I have one final stated goal for 1.09 - get the Vex drop from 1.09 Hell Countess. Over this past extended weekend, I managed 2x Um, 1x Mal, and 1x Gul (oh, so close) - I'll be posting screenies in the IFT when I get the chance, and I'm going at it with 5 characters (Barb, Pally, Sorc, Zon, Druid - each runs Countess until the inventory is full, then start with the next one to minimize ATMA muling). I also want to get my Barb to level 99 since he's almost there (not going to get there running P1 Countess, so he will need to get to some end-game MFing once again once I get that Vex).
After that, I expect to take my Sorc to 1.10a (probably make 1.10a CtA) for some BKWB Andy runs and then to 1.10s for some HF collections to make a proper CtA along with some Crescent Moons and maybe a Delirium or 2.
I also am thinking about trying to take that level 59 original Pally of mine and Patting him nice and proper untwinked, but using what I know about the game now.
And, of course, I'm deciding on what 1.13 characters to start (I look forward to these crazy rune drops everybody keeps reporting).
Thanks for reading - I hope you enjoyed my stroll down memory lane.
If anybody wants to see any particular screenie, let me know. I've taken a lot of screenies and posted a fair number in various places, but I didn't link any specifically to this post.