Bowazon by lMarcusl
The Bowazon is an Amazon build based around long range combat and mobility, preferring to keep her enemies at arm's length while she peppers them with arrows. While her attacks are not as potent as those of other characters, she compensates for this with unparalleled rate of fire, as well as a multitude of abilitites which allow her to fight unthreatened and uninterrupted by enemy attacks.
This guide was written and tested for single player playthrough across all difficulties using patch 1.13. It is intended for untwinked play and will assume that the player has to rely solely on the items they find when playing the character. As the guide is written for a complete single player playthrough, the target character level will be 84.
The Bowazon is a firm believer that every demon has a God given right to have an arrow in the face (or the knee), and she is here to deliver. Hiding behind the tanky Valkyrie, she dispenses large amount of aerodynamic pointy sticks through the enemy exterior, essentially transforming them into a glorified pin cushion. While her quickness in engaging the enemy is unrivaled, as she can easily deliver damage to her targets long before they even appear on the screen, she pays for this with a number of disadvantages when compared to other characters and builds, creating a need for tactical and careful play. Her skills and weapons generally do not deal as much damage as would be desired, necessitating a strict skill build and attribute allocation to make the most of her potential.
Fortunately for her though she does not kill as fast as others, she has the advantage of long range engagement, a very tanky summon, as well as a number of other skills such as Freezing Arrow or Decoy which serve to help her stay safe while she wears the enemy down from afar. Due to this, despite her lack of damage, she is a very powerful build, which can solo Hell just as easily as her physically more impressive friends.
Attribute Point Allocation
Proper allocation of the Bowazon's attributes is vital to her success and she needs to spend her points very carefully in order to be effective all the way through the Hell difficulty. The biggest issue the Bowazon has to deal with is that unlike the Assassin, Paladin or Barbarian, she has no Mastery skills or Auras to help her in combat. This creates two fundamental issues for the build: a) her attack rating is anemic to say the least b) her damage is nowhere near where it could be. To make things worse, most of her skills do not particularly help in these departments, especially when it comes to attack rating.
Therefore, Strength needs to get only as many points as is absolutely necessary and not a point more. The highest Strength requirement for bows is 140, while for crossbows it goes up to 165 (163 to be exact). It is NOT recommended to aim (pun freaking intended) for crossbows from the get-go as while they do provide better damage than bows, they do not possess supreme attack speed (except for Repeating Crossbows which act more like bows but with even higher attack speed and even less damage). I would only recommend Crossbows for advanced players with good ability to judge a situation or for those who have already found a decent rare/unique crossbow during their playthrough which they intend to finish the game with. I would think that I fulfill both criteria and it didn't pay off anyway (I found Hellcast, added a Shael Rune and intended to upgrade the weapon all the way to Colossus Crossbow, but unfortunately didn't find the necessary runes and never made it past Ballista). It is a big gamble to go for Crossbows as you don't know if you'll ever get a good one and putting points in Strength hurts. Honest! It physically hurts to click the button to add Strength. The attribute gives you NOTHING. Your damage is determined by Dexterity alone, so the only thing Strength does for you is fulfill item requirements. Also, the Bowazon is a ranged build so high armor is useless to you making the stat even more useless. Spend extra points at your own peril (I'll find you and beat the crap out of you if you get it above 165!). What you see in the picture is the absolute maximum of what Strength you should ever have. If you don't want to go for crossbows, feel free to move 25 points from Strength to...something else.
Dexterity is the very essence of this build. Not only is it required for bows (highest requirement being around 190), it also adds damage which you sorely need, as well as increases your attack rating, which you need even more desperately. This should and will be your primary stat, so pour as many points as you can spare here. You'll not like your gameplay experience if you don't.
Vitality is the hairy stat in this build. There is no strict limit how high you should get it unlike Strength, yet it is still needed. Keep in mind however, that you are a ranged and ranged only character. You are not a Javazon who needs to close in every now and then, or a Sorceress who can pummel anyone with Fireballs if they get in her face. You kill slowly, so you need to do it from range. Never ever have an enemy right in front of you, always kite them away or you'll stand no chance (the only exception being if the enemy is being Freezing Arrowed to death, then it's ok). Therefore, your Vitality investment doesn't need to be as high as with other characters IF you play carefully and always mind your surroundings (Batman reference FTW). Large AoE spells and stray missiles still do pose a problem however and your resistances might not be all that great since you are not using a shield and other affixes on items might be more important, so you still need to get your Vit up. I wouldn't recommend going lower than 80, even with a hundred there was a bunch of close calls in my playthrough and it's better to be safe.
Last and by all means least there is Energy. Even though your character is in a way a hybrid between a fighter and a caster (you do use your weapon to attack but you also spam skills from range like crazy), do not invest any points into Energy. You need Dexterity too damn much to waste points here and more importantly, even 60 points in energy wouldn't save you, as Freezing Arrow eats mana for breakfast. Getting out 4-5 extra arrows for your Mana isn't worth the investment. At the start of the game Mana will most likely be your biggest problem and in fact will remain so even in Hell, as regardless of your mana steal, Freezing Arrow deals very little physical damage from which you can steal mana. The rest of your skills are not that Mana intensive, but unfortunately also need to be spammed a lot. The only way your mana will be pretty ok will be if you get ca 10% mana steal or you use a crossbow (crossbows deal more damage per shot, giving you more mana stolen, plus enemies will die with fewer uses of your skills due to the increase in damage). Even then, it is still better to drink potions than waste stat points; potions are aplenty, stat points are not.
Skill Point Allocation
Moving on to skill points, the issue doesn't become any easier. To be frank, most bow skills suck. That goes especially for Strafe. While it does provide a great firing speed and also autoaims for you, better yet even fires at enemies off screen giving you a great head-start into every fight, it suffers from three issues. Firstly, it provides absolutely no attack rating bonus. That means your chance to hit will rely solely on your Dexterity, while other characters can rely also on a Mastery or Aura, plus extra attack rating from the attack they use. You get nothing. Second, its damage per shot is actually lower than the damage of your normal attack, as it only takes 3/4 of your weapon damage into consideration. Even at level 20 you'll still be sacrificing damage with Strafe, though in exchange you get a large amount of shots off, helping either with focusing down a single monster or covering a larger cluster of enemies with arrows. Admittedly, enemies will not be dying that fast if you spread out your shots a lot (sometimes it's better to use Freezing Arrow if you want to nuke something down) but on the other hand, when enemies do start to drop, they will most likely all drop at the same time due to the way you divide your damage. Still, I believe it absolutely necessary that you have the Might Mercenary from Act 2 Nightmare along with you as you really need that extra damage from his aura, and he can add entire hundreds for you. Until then, make do with Blessed Aim. Third, the skill has no synergies. Level 20 is as good as it's ever going to get. Despite all these disadvantages though, it is worth putting all 20 points into it. While the damage doesn't increase very much, what does increase is the minimum amount of shots you will fire with each use of the skill, starting at 2 and finishing at 7. Thus while the initial levels of Strafe make it barely worth using against single monsters, with additional levels, the amount of arrows fired will be significant enough that the decrease in damage will be all but irrelevant.
Freezing Arrow will be another basic pillar that will hold your build up. Not only is it priceless against monsters which can be resurrected (Fallen, Skeletons etc.), it also provides you with a vital survival skill, as before you gain this skill you will have trouble dealing with enemies who charge directly at your character, as well as enemies who deal significant enough damage that they need to be killed ASAP. Finally, it will also be your main source of non-physical damage, useful against Ghosts, Itchies etc. It also increases your attack rating quite a nice amount, giving just a little extra incentive to use it against monsters you have trouble hitting (such as Act Bosses). While its damage even at level 20 will require you to spam a lot until you down a monster, it provides you with a War Cry-like effect, essentially giving you as much time as you need to kill the group of enemies targeted. Note however that the freeze duration isn't all that great, meaning you will barely have enough time to fire off a Strafe before you have to use the skill again. You'll get the biggest kick out of the skill towards the end of Hell, as the synergy with Cold Arrow will give it a very nice and so, so much needed damage boost.
The final skill maxed out in this build is of course the Valkyrie, without which this would all fall flat on its face. She is the best. Tank. Period. And you won't be able to make any progress without her later in the game. In fact, it won't be until level 30 that the build will start showing its true potential for greatness, as your Strafe will start getting decent amount of shots off, and you'll finally have a good summon to tank for you (your low amount of life will mean that Decoy will serve as nothing but a temporary distraction).
However, with these skills alone, you wouldn't make it very far. There are another six skills that I need to mention, as even though they are not maxed, you will not be able to live long without them.
Due to the fact that the life of the Bowazon is so plagued with problems concerning attack rating, it is necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary to get Penetrate to at least level 10 (you could move some points from Cold Arrow to Penetrate if you really really have to but you'll be sacrificing power on one front or the other; it's best to just keep it balanced). Even with Penetrate at 10 and Dexterity above 200, your chance to hit will suffer a lot, sometimes dropping as low as 60% and only rarely getting higher than 80%. Unfortunately, there simply aren't enough points, otherwise, Penetrate would definitely deserve more. Though the few percent off of your low attack rating don't amount to much, things would be much worse without it.
Pierce is another necessity of this build. While the number of points could be debatable, I would argue to dedicate a full 5 points into it, as pierce will make your mana go a lot lot further when it comes to Freezing Arrow. Not only will it make the skill an overall better crowd control ability, it will also greatly boost up your damage which becomes vital especially against Physical Immunes such as ghosts. Remember to always try to lure them into a position where they will be close to a wall or another obstacle, against which you can make the arrow explode if it pierces through your target. Freezing Arrow will hurt your Mana reserves either way but this will make the little mana you have do a lot more for you. Similarly, Pierce greatly benefits your Strafe as you will be able to strike past the initial wall of monsters, essentially increasing the amount of shots which your Strafe can fire.
Next on the list is Critical Strike and while you do not dedicate any points into it, it is essential that you keep this skill in mind. It is mainly because of this skill and Penetrate, that finding +skills for the Bowazon may be kind of a big deal. While you cannot exactly stack up on +skills and expect to do great, it is important that you keep in mind what it provides you. Extra damage and attack rating is exactly what you need so +skills become a lot more important than they would otherwise be for a straight up fighter class.
As mentioned before, Decoy will become an important trick for you later in the game as even though your Decoy won't live very long, at least you will. If attacked you will drop like a fly so you very much need to keep this skill ready to occupy any monster who finds its way past your defensive wall of the Valkyrie and the Mercenary you will be running around with.
Another important skill I need to mention is Slow Missiles. Since you will most of the time avoid melee enemies like the plague, the other issue arising is of course the fact that you can't exactly kite all the projectiles and fight at the same time. It is important that you use this skill when engaging groups of ranged enemies, as otherwise you'll just find yourself running around between shots and not actually doing any damage (or worse yet you'll just straight up die). Slow Missiles will help you deal with this problem, as well as give you more time to fire off Strafe when dueling with a ranged monster which picked you as its personal nemesis. In a ranged fight, it's all about who gets shot first, so make sure your shots travel faster than theirs. The skill also decreases range of several annoying projectile types, such as Charged Bolts from lightning enchanted, and Inferno from Venom Lords and Fetish Shamans, which will help a lot with your survivability.
Last, there is the Guided Arrow skill. While you won't be putting any points into it, it is an extremely important ability to have. First off, it always hits, meaning it will come in handy against enemies with high defense (extremely efficient against Madawc) plus it allows you guaranteed hits which you might need for various reasons (such as delivering the Amplify Damage curse, Crushing Blow etc). It is also able to chase down enemies which try to run (a speciality of Baboon Demons and Oblivion Knights) and it passes through monsters to its target, making it ideal for picking off specific monsters behind a crowd (Unravellers, Fallen Shamans, Hierophants etc). All this makes it a good skill to have on your left mouse button. Do NOT have Strafe on your left mouse button. When using strafe, just as any other multi hit attack (Zeal, Fend, Fury) you will be locked in place and unable to move, making you a prime target for a quick kill if you are not in good position. The last thing you want when running away is to misclick and start firing Strafe in the middle of a group of monsters. The thing will get you killed if you are not careful which is why I don't recommend crossbows to less advanced players. Stand in the wrong spot one second too long and you're dead. You need to keep mobile.
As far as your level progression is concerned, I know you will hate me for this but I have to say it anyway. Do not invest any extra skill points into any of your skills until you get to Penetrate and Strafe. That means that pretty much until level 24 you will only be using skills on level one but trust me, you need that. It will make your progression after level 24 much faster and the points in Cold Arrow wouldn't do anything for you anyway. Up to level 24 your best friends will mostly be Cold Arrow and Guided Arrow as you won't have much else to down Bosses with but after that things will get a lot better - around level 27-28 you should really start feeling the strength of Strafe kicking in and after level 30, your new skills will start kicking ass very quickly as well. As soon as you gain access to Penetrate, start putting points into it until it's level 10 and similarly, increase your Strafe level until you simply run out of points (which won't happen until after level 30). Once you hit 30, you should start spreading out skill points between Valkyrie, Strafe, Pierce and Freezing Arrow (Penetrate will be level 10 by then) and continue doing so until all these skills are at the level shown in the picture. Only after that should you start putting points into Cold Arrow, which you will be increasing until the end of your Hell playthrough.
Finally, there is the issue of gear, and here the Bowazon becomes surprisingly simple. You don't really need that much. Your resists don't need to and most likely won't be very high since you are not trying to stand in the thick of things, your defense is mostly irrelevant and really, what else is the gear for? Well, there are a few things we need and there are also a few things we can do about it.
First off, attack speed is key. The Strafe lock is a nasty thing and you want it to be as short as possible. This goes double if you are using crossbows. Never ever use a weapon that has less then fast attack speed and even then you better have at least 30% increased attack speed off the weapon or you'll be putting yourself in danger. The Shael Rune will become your very good friend very quickly as any ranged weapon you can put it in should have it. Also, screw gloves with their +skills into passive or bow skills or whatever, you should have at least 20% IAS there since it's the most likely spot you can find it at. Never sacrifice attack speed for damage and that goes especially for your gloves.
As for your armor, there is a very neat and easy to find runeword called Peace (Shael + Thul + Amn). While it does not provide great resists, it does provide a couple of very important things. +2 to all Amazon skills = extra crit chance (it adds and extra +2 to critical strike for good measure as well), extra attack rating, extra pierce, extra damage on your Freezing Arrow. Faster hit recovery = you not really as much dead as you'd have thought. But the greatest gem of all, it gives you chance to summon Valkyrie on striking. While that might not seem as much, not only is the rune word available already at level 29 and will get you level 15 Valkyrie right from the start, it also allows you to resummon her without expending mana (plus valkyrie has a cooldown otherwise, making it impossible to resummon often) and will more often than not put her in more advantageous position than she was in before (which is nice since she walks very slowly.) Though you might later replace it with some better armor, I have used it for the entirety of the game and was pretty satisfied with my choice.
A great problem you might run into (and most likely will) is finding a good weapon. The esential thing needed is to define what a good weapon is. A good weapon is either a bow with greatly increased damage or a crossbow with greatly increased attack speed. And since greatly increased attack speed is something not very common, we shall focus simply on the bow for now. The damage of bows is overall nothing great so you need to forsake other bonuses you might desire and focus on damage. It is important that you remember that a good bow can be bought, not just gambled or found. It is very much possible to buy an elite bow with over 150% enhanced damage which will last you through the rest of the game (been there, done that). Anything extra you can get on it is just icing on the cake. Remember that rare and unique items can be upgraded through the horadric cube to the next tier (normal to exceptional, exceptional to elite) if you find the right runes, so even though you may have found a silly rare long bow, think about whether it might not be useful later on. If it has significant enough % enhanced damage, it most likely will, so don't just throw it away. There are also two rune words you need to be aware of, namely Ort + Eth and Shael + Ko + Nef. Both are specifically for ranged weapons and both provide very decent attack speed and damage increases. While for bows this damage increase might not be enough, it is good enough for some faster crossbows and the extra attack speed might make it a viable investment. Also, you can make your job a lot easier if you keep a bow with Amplify Damage on striking, ideally also with some poison damage on it as in some cases it will be faster to just remove Physical immunity from monsters, rather than spam Freezing Arrow on them. Plus, monsters immune to both Cold and Physical damage are not a rarity on hell.
Last thing I need to mention is some modifiers you should keep an eye out for. A decent amount of mana steal will be of great help to you as you will be eating through your mana very quickly without it and the multi-hitting nature of Strafe allows you to drain a lot of mana back to pay for your spells. Life steal will not be as important as you shouldn't be getting hit too much, but you should definitely have at least 3% mana steal if you want to be self-sufficient. You should always carry around with you a charm with some cold damage or some other item that you know you will be keeping until the end of the game. Strafe will become a much better crowd control tool when everything you hit with that huge volley of piercing arrows gets slowed down considerably. Your Valkyrie and your Mercenary will thank you for the extra survivability, especially since you can't afford to have Holy Freeze Merc along with you. Unless you have an item with Prevent Monster Heal on you, you should also carry some charm with poison damage, because since you don't deal much damage, monster regeneration can become a problem. Beside these basics, the Bowazon is one of the few builds which greatly appreciates Knockback, Hit Blinds Target or Hit Causes Monster to Flee as it helps keep enemies at bay and allows your tanks to survive a lot longer. Also, since Strafe is such a global attack, Crushing Blow and Open Wounds do a lot more for you than they would on any other character so if you can get some gear with these, keep it at least for the Boss fights, if not for the entirety of the playthrough. _________________________________________________________
Well, folks, that's all for this build. Hope you enjoy playing it;-)
|Bowzon by Muroidea • Javazon by DeathMars|