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Avenger by lMarcusl

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Avenger Paladin
Avenger.gif
Game Diablo II
Class Paladin
Primary Attack Vengeance
PvM/PvP PvM
Can Solo Hell? Yes
Creator lMarcusl
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The Avenger is a Paladin build focusing on dealing high elemental damage through the use of Vengeance supported by the Conviction aura. This combination of skills allows the Avenger to laser-focus on his key abilities without the need to invest into a broader range of skills, as Vengeance’s variety of damage types provides the character sufficient versatility to handle any elemental immunities that stand in his path. This guide was written and tested for an untwinked, self-found playthrough across all difficulties using patch 1.14d.

Playstyle

Similar to the Zealot, the Avenger is a melee build relying on heavy defences to remain in melee and deal sustained damage. Unlike the Zealot however, the Avenger’s main attack, Vengeance, covers all the bases for overcoming even Hell difficulty enemies, eliminating the need for additional investment in other damage sources. This allows the Avenger to focus fully on Vengeance damage, and once its damage capabilities are close to capped, even pick up a few utility points without significant cost to the build. In that respect, the build is fairly single-minded and “easy to play”, as it pretty much spams Vengeance until everything is dead. However, the build is still first and foremost a Paladin, and as such, has many limitations to overcome such as fairly low health compared to other melee builds like Shifter Druids or Barbarians. Being a melee build with low health always carries significant risks, since defence rating and block chance are an all-or-nothing defensive mechanic. That means the character always fights on a razor’s edge and it only takes a handful of unlucky strikes for the character to be on the verge of death. Paying close attention to positioning, gauging potential enemy damage output and knowing when to flee are important skills to have for this build to be successful.

Attribute Point Allocation

Strength 150

Dexterity 125

Vitality 220+

Energy base

As is usual for martial classes, attribute allocation is fully dependent on the type of gear you intend to wear. Now, as enticing as it is to try to go for a glass cannon with a two-handed weapon that can one-shot everything in sight, that goal simply isn’t realistic. The character has no abilities to increase its health pool to soak up damage, nor can one realistically expect to find a weapon with sufficient attack speed and damage output to overcome enemy health pool and resistance increases with difficulty levels. The character thus has to rely on the tried and tested sword and board playstyle. Since Conviction provides no attack speed bonuses, unlike Fanaticism, it is vital that the weapon of choice has very high attack speed. This limits the character mostly to swords and axes. To wield the vast majority of these, the character will require 150 Strength and 125 Dexterity. These stats will also allow the character to carry the majority of available shields and a decent number of body armor types.

If the gear you find helps meet these requirements, you can skip on some hard attribute points and shift these to Vitality. However, be careful not to make yourself reliant on a piece of gear you might end up replacing. It’s nice if a belt gives you 24 Strength to allow you to pump your Vitality instead (i.e. in a sense the belt gives you 24 Vitality). However, if that belt then provides mediocre resistances and low armor that you don’t expect to be satisfactory all the way through Hell, then you’re just committing yourself to using that belt for several levels if you find a replacement. Obviously, the remainder of your points should go into Vitality to make your squishiness just a little bit less of an issue.

Now, the matter of Energy. Energy is a sore, sore point for the Avenger. Vengeance gulps down mana at a vulgar rate. To make matters worse, it does not allow particularly good mana leech either, as it deals most of its damage in unleechable, elemental form. Note that it does not convert all your damage to elemental, the elemental portion is simply added on top of your base physical attack. Though that means that you can leech at least some mana back from your attacks, you need a truly hefty amount of leech, somewhere around 15 %, to have a hope of paying for Vengeance’s cost with some consistency. The sad truth is that firstly, your health points will already be uncomfortably low for a melee character, so you cannot really shift any points to Energy from Vit. Secondly, Paladin’s mana growth per Energy and per level is also quite tear-inducing, or rather, the ratio of mana gain to mana spent simply doesn’t increase very favourably: with 1.5 mana gained per point in Energy, it takes more than a level to increase your mana pool sufficiently to pay for a single additional Vengeance strike (Vengeance clocks in at somewhere around 9 mana). That means any investment you would make will likely barely register.

As a result, it is highly recommended, in fact, borderline necessary that you carry some items increasing your mana by a solid amount, otherwise you might find yourself going to town for mana potions, well, frankly about once per two or three enemy packs. And that is simply not acceptable. It is likely that you will eventually phase these mana items out once you stack your mana leech high enough. However, as you will see in the Gear section, the Avenger thankfully has sufficient freedom in equipment choice to allow you to carry around items such as these far longer than any non-Paladin class, so you can technically carry, say, a +90 mana amulet around by the end of Hell. Nevertheless, you should do your utmost to get your mana leech sorted in a timely fashion, be it through crafting, socketing or gambling. Otherwise, you might find yourself unable to beat Hell Ancients solely due to the fact that you keep running out of mana potions by the time the first Ancient is at half health.

Skill Point Allocation

Skills

Naturally, the core of the build, Vengeance and Conviction, have to be maxed out. These two combined allow you to utterly shred enemy defences and crush enemy resistances into the dirt. That is obviously extremely valuable for Vengeance, since it is something of a gift and a curse to be dealing all three elemental damage types with one attack. It means that no enemy will ever be fully immune to Vengeance, since enemies are limited to a maximum of two immunities on Hell. On the other hand, it also means your attack is always being resisted by something, since almost every enemy has an elemental resistance of some kind on higher difficulties, with Immunities being ever-present on Hell.

That is where Conviction comes in. While your damage output will still suffer somewhat against Immune enemies due to the decrease in resist reduction effectiveness when breaking immunities (you only apply 1/5th of your resistance reduction when breaking an immunity) all the other elemental resistances will be reduced to such an extent that you will barely notice the difference. And, naturally, enemies with no elemental immunities, such as Sand Maggots, will just melt under Conviction’s effects. The effect is very similar when it comes to boosting your chance to hit. Where other characters would badly struggle with hitting enemies, you, with your measly 2300 odd attack rating, will be sitting comfortably at 95 % hit chance, even though your character sheet will be claiming you have barely 62% chance to hit.

That alone is a significant boost to your damage, since where other characters will be doing perhaps 75 or 80 % of their actual damage due to misses, you will be at full damage output. It is important to note, however, that the defence reduction provided by Conviction is additive with enhancements in enemy defence. That is not generally an issue, since monsters simply have their defence rating and that’s that. However, Stone Skin monsters have a 100 % defence increase, meaning Stone Skin and Conviction will almost negate each other. It is important to keep this in mind, particularly against Hell Ancients. Where other builds might want to avoid nasty auras, Cursed, Extra Strong, Extra Fast, Mana Burn, Lightning Enchanted and such, you have to add Stone Skin to the list of affixes you don’t want on your Ancients, since missing will just mean you’re throwing approximately 1/20th of your mana pool down the drain per swing. The issue is further exacerbated by Madawc’s Shout so…yeah, Hell Ancients are fun times.

Other enemies though…ouch, poor guys. Their resistances to your attacks are worthless and their defence rating evaporated. As a bonus, Conviction seems to have an interesting interaction with opposing Conviction auras. Only the higher level Conviction applies, so if an enemy monster is trying to throw Conviction at you, it’s SOL, you will suffer no effects and the monster will get its resistances and defence turned to paste. However, keep in mind that Conviction is an enemy-only aura. It does not apply to your Holy Freeze Merc, so enemy Conviction will still apply to him fully. Expect him to die a lot because of this. In fact, expect him to die a lot in general unless he is well geared. Where a Zealot with Fanaticism helps the Merc deal more damage and therefore leech more health, and increases his attack speed to increase his damage output and leech further, all Conviction does is help him hit enemies better, which is not generally a problem for hirelings. However, your play experience will feel distinctly shittier if you don’t have your Holy Freeze aura bot around with you so as painful as it is, keep resurrecting the idiot no matter how much he keeps getting himself killed. At least your enemies have something else to hit beside you, and isn’t that what friends are for?

This brings us to defences. As mentioned before, Paladins are on the squishier side of the melee spectrum since they don’t have Battle Orders, Lycanthropy or Oak Sage to boost their health. In addition, they don’t have access to tanky summons like Druids, Amazons or Assassins do to draw aggro, they have no crowd control the likes of Cloak of Shadows, Mind Blast, Shock Wave, Freezing Arrow or War Cry, they cannot mitigate damage through something like Battle Cry or draw ranged enemies in through Taunt. All they have is the sharp stick in their hand, the plank of wood in the other, a squishy Mercenary at their side, and that’s it. It’s just you and your Merc against the world, with no crowd control outside of Merc’s Holy Freeze in sight. That’s…that’s not great. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that’s pretty terrible. Thankfully, the Paladin has one saving grace: Holy Shield. It beefs up your armor rating, so most attacks don’t damage you. It provides a flat bonus to your block chance, so your chance to block, even if not capped, will always be extremely high to provide another layer of evasion. In addition, and that’s something the skill does not tell you, it boosts your block rate to a point where any faster block rate boosts will become irrelevant (block animation with Holy Shield applied is 2 frames). That means your shield is almost always ready to get those satisfying dings and protect your health pool. Plus, the quick animation time does not get in the way of your attacking, so you get both your survivability and your damage output, without one interfering with the other. As much as I would like to tell you you have other options, Paladins really don’t. Without your shield, you’re worse off in melee than any other martial class so you simply have to take Holy Shield.

With these three skills maxed, we’re left with some 20 odd skill points to spend. Our defences are covered as much as they can be by Holy Shield and armor increases from Defiance synergy generally aren’t worth it due to diminishing returns. Conviction has no synergies. What to do, what to do. Well, firstly, as mentioned in Attribute Allocation, the Avenger suffers from some pretty major mana issues. There are two ways to resolve this problem with Skills. Firstly, there’s Redemption. While in combat you will always want to keep your Conviction up to maximise damage, once the fighting is over or you’ve killed enough enemies, you are likely to find yourself fairly tapped on mana. With just a few skills points invested in Redemption, you can fill up your mana globe and move on or keep fighting without having to chug those mana pots to recover. This will go quite a distance in alleviating your mana problems, though it definitely cannot substitute for some girthy mana leech or mana pool increases.

Avenger Showcase.jpg

Then there is Meditation. It is an odd beast. On one hand, Paladin’s mana recovery rate is fairly low, since recovery rate is dependent on mana pool size. The more mana, the more regen. However, Meditation’s percentage regen is so massive that even Sorceresses get jelly. Now, unlike Redemption, Meditation takes a while to refill your mana. You cannot just switch to it mid-combat and expect to gain a significant amount of mana back. On the other hand, it is not dependent on corpses being present. That means you don’t have to stand around on the battlefield, waiting for your mana to recover. You can simply switch to Meditation while travelling from pack to pack and your mana will recover passively. In addition, it can be great help in fighting the Ancients, which provide no corpses for Redemption, but give you a lot of time towards the end of the fight to stand back and regenerate (you can simply put a pillar between you and Madawc and he’ll keep throwing axes into it while you recover). That means your mana issues towards the end of the Ancients fight, when you’re struggling with leech due to Madawc’s Shout and are likely almost out of potions, won’t be as severe, since your regeneration will refill your mana globe very quickly. Both of these skills are a minor investment. One point in Meditation is all you need since the growth per level is not particularly impressive past the initial 300 % jump, and Redemption does its job quite well at around 3 points already. However, at that point investment, it will only be good enough to recover your mana. If you wanted to rely on Redemption for health recovery, you would have to invest significantly more points, since your health pool is significantly larger than your mana pool. You can choose to skip on Meditation to boost up your Redemption more instead but I think Meditation is good enough to be a one point wonder for you.

After that, you will still have a bunch of points left. What would you say to gaining a bit more survivability and damage at the same time? Sounds good? Thought so. Vengeance benefits from synergies in the Resist auras. Now while that in itself does not sound all that amazing considering Vengeance’s already solid damage output, every two passive points invested in each of these auras passively increase that particular resistance cap by 1. As mentioned, your health is nothing to write home about. Now, while your physical mitigation is covered fairly well, there aren’t really many ways to mitigate elemental damage other than soaking it with health. You cannot block it, your armor cannot help you evade it, once you cap your resistances, all you can hope for is some absorption from lucky unique items. Well, Paladin has a way to increase the cap for these resistances, so why not take advantage of it when it also boosts your damage at the same time? As mentioned, the cap increases with every two hard points invested, so always increase the skills in even numbers. All you get from the odd levels is 10 % damage, which isn’t really worth it on its own.

Gear

If you’re tired of me complaining about Paladin health pool and mana issues, you’re in luck. Now I get to praise Paladins for something. It’s a no-brainer that you want to increase your mana pool, get a bunch of mana leech and get some extra hit points for yourself on your gear if at all possible. What allows you to do so without significant sacrifices is exactly the fact that you’re playing a Paladin. Being a Paladin means carrying a shield. Now, one thing shields are good for aside from blocking is covering your resistances. With a simple Rhyme runeword (ShaelEth), you get resistances galore, cannot be frozen which is oh so glorious, magic find, mana regen…just, everything you can wish for. And since you’re playing a Paladin, you don’t have to settle for some pedestrian Luna or Aegis or what not. You get to put this into Paladin shields, which naturally come with their own all-resist bonus. Ergo, your resists are already massively boosted just by virtue of you playing a Paladin. That opens up more freedom for you to carry mana and health boosting items, mana leech rings etc., since you don’t have to worry as much about resistances on your items as other classes might. If you manage to find the Lum rune or take the time to farm it from Countess, you can make the Smoke runeword (NefLum), which, when combined with Rhyme and your Pally shield, will pretty much cover most of your resistances on their own. Just make sure you put those runewords into some higher tier items, so they give you a decent amount of armor as well to make Holy Shield truly shine, no pun intended. You can generally keep upgrading your shields as you play since Shael is easy to find. You’ll have to be a lot more careful with your Lum investment.

After that, you just have to focus on the vital things. Make up for any gaps in resistances, cover that mana and health, get that leech. Most of these you’ll either find as you play or you can do some targeted gambling to gradually fill out your item slots, one by one. You’ll most definitely want solid attack speed, so attack speed gloves are a must, as is a fast weapon. And weapon is the one place you cannot afford to compromise.

You absolutely, definitely want a really powerful weapon. It’s the difference between crushing your way through the game or barely scraping by in Act 1 Hell. Your defences are entirely reliant on percentages. Percentage chance to be hit through armor, percentage chance to block. If enemies hang around long enough, you will get those unlucky rolls. And with your unboosted health pool, it only takes a couple of unlucky rolls in a row for you to get thrown back into town naked.

Therefore, you will most definitely want to get yourself a Cruel weapon (200 % enhanced damage and above) with solid attack speed, socketed with Shael if possible. If you got your other gear slots covered, gamble one handed swords, maces and axes until you get one. Hell, maybe even if you don’t have your other slots fully covered, focus on the weapon. Break the damn bank if you have to. If you find a powerful unique or rare that’s worth upgrading to Elite, keep it and perhaps even take the time to farm up those runes you need for the recipe in Forgotten Tower. The hours you might spend on that may be painful (Paladin isn’t the best at running Countess) but it might just save you dozens of hours you’d spend running out there helplessly, struggling to kill anything. Sadly, a lot of the things you want converge. You want a Lum rune for Smoke, but you also want Lum (and Pul) for the Unique weapon upgrade recipe. You want an Um rune to make Crescent Moon but you also want an Um rune to upgrade Rare Exceptional weapons to Elite. Um rune is definitely a key piece for your weapon slot. If you have yet to find a Cruel rare but already found a good base (say, Falcata or Small Crescent) with three sockets to make Crescent Moon, don’t hesitate to make Crescent Moon and finish the game with that (and if you don’t have the Um rune yet, keep the socketed weapon around for when you do). If you have a powerful Exceptional rare, farm that Um rune and you’re set for the rest of the game. Obviously, having a good weapon doesn’t mean you no longer have to worry about getting offed by a couple of hits in a row you failed to block. As you will see in the demonstration video below, you still have to be very careful and peel enemies in smaller groups to reduce the risk of dying to a minimum (though I was, obviously, extra careful so I don't die in the video; you can run Chaos Sanctuary with this build faster than I did).

If Countess running for mid-high runes such as Um doesn’t sound like your cup of tea and you’d rather just do a single pass through the game and move on, there are still ways you can get to that top notch weapon without much issue. Cruel weapons can be both bought and gambled. If you find Charsi or Hratli etc. offering a Cruel elite weapon, that can totally be the weapon you finish the game with. Just get it socketed by Larzuk, put in Shael and any other runes or Jewels that would be beneficial (magic weapons get more sockets than Rares and Uniques) and you’re done. But you really want to maximise your chances of getting that weapon. That means you want to keep checking those vendors when you stop by. Alternatively, simply pick up good Elite weapon bases with good attack speed and bring them to Charsi for Imbues. You get three shots at it and if one of those Elites ends up with the right affixes, you eliminate your worries with finding Lum and Um runes somewhat. Then you just pop a Shael in the weapon with Larzuk's help and you're golden. Which means you don't want to waste Larzuk's quest reward either. You might end up kicking yourself midway through Hell difficulty, when that great weapon finally drops and you can’t socket it until Act 5 with Shael because you wasted your rewards from Normal and Nightmare on nonsense. Your gameplay pattern is simple: turn on Conviction and spam Vengeance. So put that focus on the gear aspect of the game. You might be surprised how satisfying the results end up being when your efforts pay off. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Well, folks, that's all for this build. Hope you enjoy playing it;-)