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Fire Summoner Druid by lMarcusl

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Fire Summoner Druid
Summoner Druid.gif
Game Diablo II
Class Druid
Primary Attack Summon Grizzly/Fissure/Volcano
PvM/PvP PvM
Can Solo Hell? Yes
Creator lMarcusl
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Have you ever wanted to be able to summon a whole another player character to do your bidding? Take all the hits, aggro all the monsters, deal all the damage? Then there’s something very wrong with you. And there is something very wrong with me too cause I made a build around just that.

The Fire Summoner Druid invests heavily into the Summon tree to conjure up beefy pets to fight his way through the hordes of Hell, one bite at a time. To complement its pets’ monstrous single target physical damage, the Druid uses Fissure and Volcano as supporting damage for AoE and Physical Immunes.

This guide was written and tested for an untwinked, self-found playthrough across all difficulties using patch 1.14d.

Playstyle

Playing a Summoner Druid has always seemed a sketchy concept to me, especially after experience with playing a Summoner Necromancer. Druid’s pets are less numerous, have seemingly no ability to gain resistances from the tree (no Summon Resist, after all), deal exclusively physical damage which poses a problem on Hell difficulty, and the Druid does not even have access to Curses to help his pets in the fight. It seems a lost cause from the very start. It is true that the Summoner Druid cannot be played like a Summoner Necromancer. But that’s a good thing. After all, what would be the point of having two summoners in the game that play exactly the same? The Summoner Druid does have all these shortcomings, true, but he also has the tools to overcome them in his own unique way, and gains a number of advantages the Necromancer does not have.

Because of the lack of elemental damage on summons and the inability to take away enemy physical immunities through curses, the Summoner Druid cannot focus on summoning alone, and must contribute his own share of damage through offensive magic. In order to be able to afford suitably powerful summons, the build cannot focus on the more bombastic higher tier abilities such as Armageddon or Hurricane due to a shortage of skill points. Tornado, one of the other usual candidates among the elemental skills, is also wholly unsuitable for the Summoner’s purposes, as it deals physical damage, the one damage type the build has no shortage of. As a result, the build focuses on the fire portion of the tree, namely Fissure for AoE damage and Volcano for focused single target.

Using these skills, the Summoner Druid, well, at this point Fire Summoner Druid, assists his pets in combat, cutting down enemy ranks to manageable size and helping burn down those his summons are unable to damage. In addition, the Fire Summoner uses other aspects of the available trees to improve his pets’ combat capabilities via Heart of Wolverine, prevent enemies from regenerating through Poison Creeper, and potentially assist with some minor crowd control through blind from Ravens and knockback from Molten Boulder from the Elemental tree. And while the Fire Summoner’s pets are lacking in numbers, they make up for it in sheer strength to a point of being able to outdamage most Necro armies.

Attribute Point Allocation

Strength 90-135

Dexterity base

Vitality 350+

Energy base

Normally, a caster character would only want to have its stats high enough to equip a decent assortment of light armors and focus the rest on health and mana. Not quite so with the Druid. Unlike other caster classes, the Druid doesn’t really have a dedicated caster weapon of his own, like a wand, staff or a sceptre. Instead, his spell bonuses can come on clubs (club, spiked club, and their Exceptional and Elite equivalents) in the form of the Shaman’s or Hierophant’s prefixes. And these items come with a decent strength requirement. Similarly, where a caster Paladin might enjoy the support of his Paladin shield and a Necromancer will be poking his fingers through the nose of a shrunken head (Necros are weird I tell you), the Druid enjoys no such support and is left to his own devices in terms of his offhand.

Therefore, depending on how ambitious you are in terms of weapons in particular, you will want to get your strength to at least 90 to be able to equip Truncheons, or all the way to 135 to also equip Tyrant Clubs. Being able to equip these will maximise your chances that you will be able to equip any clubs that drop or that you gamble that happen to roll the right prefix. Tyrant Clubs and Truncheons are on the lower end of Quality Levels (which determines where the item can drop) among Elite items, so you are likely to find quite a few of them over the course of your playthrough. However, the difference between 90 and 135 Strength is a lot, so investing all the extra points just to be able to equip Tyrant Clubs might be a bit of a waste. If it doesn’t pay off, or rather, if you end up finding a Hierophant’s club of a lower level or tier and you decided to go all the way to 135 Str, you can simply respec your attributes at Akara.

Dexterity and Energy should receive no additional points past their initial number. Dexterity is irrelevant for you as a caster, as you don’t intend to do much blocking and don’t need any attack rating. You also do not spam spells like other casters do, since your spells of choice all come with a cooldown (2 seconds for Fissure, 4 for Volcano), so Energy is not really as important to you as it is to other offensive casters.

What is very much important to you is Vitality. As mentioned before, your summons are not numerous at all, definitely not compared to Necromancer’s skeletal legions. That means you and your Mercenary will be drawing a lot more aggro than you’re used to on a summoner and you might end up taking some stray hits. The Druid, being considered a spellcaster class, shares the same pitiful Health gain per Vitality as Necromancer and Sorceress, so you want to have as many in Vitality as you possibly can so you get to hang around long enough for your pets to do their grisly work (I crack myself up sometimes). Plus, it’s not like you actually need those attribute points anywhere else.

Skill Point Allocation

Skills

You might have noticed I’ve been somewhat dancing around the issue of what pets you’re actually going for. There are proponents of Dire Wolves, there are proponents of Grizzlys. I believe only one of the groups to be correct, and I dare you to prove me wrong. Then I’ll send my Grizzly after you and we’ll see how argumentative you feel after it eats your face off.

The core reason for why Summon Grizzly is absolutely the only choice in my eyes is twofold. Firstly, let’s talk survivability. Let us take, as an example, a Druid with mere +4 to all skills and 20 points in Summon Grizzly and Summon Dire Wolf. Both pets would have 85 % all resist, since Druid pets gain these passively with skill levels (something the game does not bother telling you, how nice). Looking at the resulting health totals from these skill levels, this gives us a Grizzly with some 4.5k life and Dire Wolves with 826 life. Put together, the Wolves don’t even come close to Grizzly’s health pool. Worse yet, the wolves don’t have all their health put together, there’s three of them, each with mere 826 health. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever played Hell difficulty with a character with 800 health, but I got two words for you. Hit. Recovery. If an attack takes more than 1/12th of your max hit points, you get put into a “short” stun animation called hit recovery. With 800 health, just about every attack on Hell puts you in hit recovery. That means your wolves will barely be attacking and killing. They’ll just be taking a beating and dying, for the most part. The Grizzly, on the other hand…well, I don’t think he got the memo on what hit recovery even is. With his health pool, he can stand in the middle of an army of demons and chances are, he’ll be able to eat his way through a good number of them, seeing as he has 85 % resist, an insurmountable amount of hit points and regenerates 143 hit points per second (compared to the wolves’ 20). So one point for Summon Grizzly.

Secondly, let’s compare the two summons in terms of damage output using the same skill levels from the example above. It is important to point out here that all enhanced damage bonuses are additive with each other, not multiplicative. Now, this is important for a few reasons. Firstly, Grizzly Bear on level 24 as in our example says on it that it gives “Damage: +255 percent”. What do you mean who wrote it on the bear? It’s not written on the damn bear, it’s what the skill says! Are you dense? Jesus these people sometimes. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right, well, what’s not quite clear from the text is whether this damage bonus applies to your other pets Summon Grizzly synergises with, or whether that bonus applies to the Bear as well. The answer is b, it applies to the Bear too. So the damage number you see listed on your Summon Grizzly is not the base damage number that will be used for all enhanced damage calculations, such as enhancements from your Might Merc or your Heart of Wolverine. The damage shown already has the 255 % increase included, meaning the base is actually on average somewhere around 400. The fact this enhancement from Grizzly applies to the Dire Wolves is obvious. But Dire Wolves come with a special ability. They can consume monster corpses to enrage themselves, giving themselves 100 % enhanced damage. That enhanced damage, once again, builds on the base damage of the Wolves, not the one you see listed on the skill after Summon Grizzly synergy. Without Summon Grizzly synergy, these level 24 Dire Wolves deal 111-119 damage. And that gets doubled when enraged. Any enhancements from Merc or Heart of Wolverine also work with this base damage. You can see where I’m going with this. Put together, the Dire Wolves without Summon Grizzly synergy cannot exceed the Bear’s own unenhanced damage. Any increases applied to the damage of both pets will scale significantly better on the Bear than on the Wolves. In addition to that, with the Bear being a single entity, there is no risk of your pets spreading their damage too thin to kill anything. The Bear will single out a target and maul the everloving crap out of it until it dies or runs away. The one spanner in the works is that the Grizzly has a bash attack, which will knock enemies out of the Bear’s aggro range if there are multiple enemies surrounding him. The Bear will therefore occasionally switch targets, but his damage output is still indisputably higher than the Wolves’. Plus, since the Bear is one summon, it is much easier to quickly reposition most of your damage output by resummining the Bear elsewhere if you need to eliminate a key target that’s threatening you or that is interfering with the fight (shamans etc.). To further continue the grotesque beating of this dead horse, the Bear’s bash attack also deals slightly more damage than his normal attack, and compared to the Wolves, the Bear has a faster attack animation. Honestly, I think now he’s just showing off for the hell of it. It’s like smashing a guy’s kitchen window after you’ve already burned his house down. It’s excessive. Two points and match win for Summon Grizzly and one cautionary warning for bad manners.

Now that we know that I’m right and everyone who has faith in Dire Wolves is wrong, how does that affect the build? Well, it’s actually kind of a big deal. If we were building for Dire Wolves, then we would absolutely, definitely have to max out wolves to maximise their survivability (what little of it there is) and their base damage, and we’d also pretty much have to max out Summon Grizzly for the much needed damage synergy (and also so that we can switch to Summon Grizzly when we realise Wolves suck). But if we’re focusing on the Grizzly, it turns out the Summon Dire Wolf synergy is not nearly as important. Synergy from Dire Wolves gives your Bear extra health. Thing is, your Bear has health to spare. You could probably build a whole Barbarian from the Bear’s health and the Grizzly would still be doing fine in terms of tankiness. That means we can take some points away from the Dire Wolves to build up other aspects of the character.

As discussed, Summon Grizzly quite enjoys damage enhancements (he also likes honey). He scales really well if further supported by damage auras (he can also scale trees…I swear I’ll stop). With the points saved on Dire Wolves, we can give our Bear the supporting effects of a stronger Heart of Wolverine than you would normally be able to afford. While the damage increase pales in comparison to what the Bear skill provides, the Heart also gives an attack rating increase, though I’m honestly not quite sure how important that is to the Bear and to summons in general. Personally, I’d say they bearly care (I said I’d stop, I didn’t say it’s gonna be any time soon). Obviously, it has some effect, otherwise there’d be no point in Spirit Wolves increasing your pet’s attack rating, but what your pets’ attack rating base is, I can’t tell you. Regardless, between Summon Spirit Wolf synergy and Heart of Wolverine, whatever the Bear’s attack rating was will be a lot higher, aight? The important thing is, where pet synergies affect only your pets, Heart of Wolverine also affects your Merc and if there’s one thing better than one extra character doing all the dirty work for you, it’s two. Giving your Mercenary that extra little bit of support will make your playthrough a little bit less of a waiting game. In order to get the most out of your Mercenary, however, you have to learn to position your Bear properly. Unlike Necromancer skeletons, your pets do not require corpses to be summoned, so you should take full advantage of the ability to move your pet at will. Always summon your Grizzly ahead of you to draw as much aggro as possible onto the Bear. While the pet may take a beating as a result, at least you won’t have to pay 50k gold to revive your Merc nearly as frequently. Whenever your Mercenary starts taking a pummelling, pull him back and summon your Grizzly ahead so that enemies switch targets to your replaceable summon. You will see me do this a lot in the gameplay video at the end and while it does often result in the Bear’s death despite his high health pool (Amplify Damage and Decrepify make his survivability a lot worse in Chaos Sanctuary), it only costs a bit of mana to bring him back. Same cannot be said about most summons or your Mercenary.

Fire Summoner Showcase.jpg

Moving on to the Elemental tree, to goal is to use what points we have been able to save on the summons to build up a decent secondary damage source. That leaves us with only a few options. The wind portion of the tree is pretty much useless to us, as neither Hurricane nor Arctic Blast will be able to output enough damage with the points we can invest in them. On the fire side of the tree, Firestorm can potentially output decent damage, problem is, it is a very close range skill, which puts the character in danger, and it moves randomly, making it hard to aim at the right target. We need an AoE option to help out with clearing and a single-target option to kill Physical Immune bosses, and Firestorm doesn’t really fulfil either role. Its AoE is small and unpredictable, and unpredictability makes it difficult to use on single specific targets. Molten Boulder, while generally decent as a crowd controlling skill with some potential for decent damage with enough support in an Elementalist build is simply not suitable for what we need. The skill is only capable of knocking back enemies up to a certain size. If the skill is incapable of knocking an enemy back, it explodes, and the skill’s damage output drops considerably. In addition, Molten Boulder doesn’t really synergise well with any of our other potential candidates. The only synergy it provides is to Firestorm which we already dismissed and Armageddon, which doesn’t suit the single target role to pick up when Molten Boulder fails. Another synergy it provides is to Volcano, but it scales the skill’s physical damage, which we already have in abundance. Molten Boulder is, however, invaluable as a crowd control tool for enemies affected by its knockback, and it should be used to mitigate incoming damage for your Mercenary and Bear.

That leaves us with two candidates and it turns out, these two are exactly the right ones for the job. Fissure creates random cracks in the ground in a large AoE and deals decently high fire damage at an extremely high frequency if an enemy steps on one of these cracks. While the randomness of the Fissure’s placement makes it very poor at focusing on a single specific target, it is ideal for thinning out large groups of enemies, especially those that have to move through the area the Fissure is in (the skill seems to have more trouble hitting stationary targets). Volcano is the exact opposite. It is a stationary vent that opens at a location of choice and starts spitting out balls of fire, dealing both physical and fire damage. These balls of fire land randomly, unpredictably, and do not stay on to deal continuous damage like Fissure cracks do, making them essentially irrelevant for damage. The main power of the skill does not lie in the random fireballs it throws around, but in the volcano vent itself. Any enemy standing on top of the volcano will be taking continuous fire and physical damage. Now, while Volcano’s damage is significantly lower than Fissure’s and the frequency with which it deals out damage also seems to be lower, the fact you can aim it on a specific stationary target makes it a useful tool for eliminating Physical Immune enemies and even the meager physical aspect of the skill can help out your Bear and Merc when fighting a tough Fire Immune unique. The two skills also synergise with each other very well, as Volcano boosts Fissure the same way Firestorm does, and Fissure boosts Volcano’s fire damage, which is the part you are after. A few points worth mentioning about both spells: Like most Druid fire spells, these skills are ground-based. That means obstacles on the ground get in their way and impassable areas flying enemies can cross (such as those found in Arcane Sanctuary, oasis pools in Act 2 desert etc.) are unreachable to them. Also, Volcano cannot be placed too close to a wall; the vent will simply not appear. This does make both skills somewhat finicky to use, but that could be said about pretty much every spell from the Elemental tree. Nature, it turns out, is hard to control.

Returning back to the Summoning tree, I should highlight two other skills the Fire Summoner gains access to, namely Raven and Poison Creeper. While it is significantly more difficult for the Druid to gain access to a lot of +skills than it is for other caster classes, you can and should get at least +4/+5 to all skills. That means you will be able to summon a full 5 Ravens. In terms of damage output, forget it, there is nothing to see here. Ravens do, however, have the ability to occasionally blind enemies, which can help somewhat with reducing the amount of aggro you and your companions draw. However, I found the constant need to resummon the Ravens to keep them around enough of a hassle compared to the minimal effect they bring, that I chose to not use them for the majority of my playthrough. It is a tool you can use to some effect, it’s just about whether you even want to spare the brain space to do it. One skill you should definitely find the time to use, though, is Poison Creeper. It absolutely does not matter how many points you put into Poison Creeper: it will still deal pretty much no damage and die at the first sight of an enemy. However, the skill’s poison ground effect can be very handy indeed. When enemies are poisoned (or they have Open Wounds), they are unable to regenerate health. When you encounter some of the tougher enemies on Hell difficulty, especially those that are highly resistant to your primary damage types, the last thing you want is for them to regenerate what little damage you are able to deal to them. Poison Creeper helps you deal with this problem elegantly by creating a ground effect that poisons anyone it touches. At that point, your Poison Creeper may and will get killed off by anything that hits it, but the ground effect will persist for several seconds. With higher skill levels (through +skills) the effect’s size increases, affecting more enemies. Through repeated applications of the effect, you can neutralise enemy regeneration without having to equip poison damage or Open Wounds on your Mercenary (which might be hard to do).

In the case of this build, I feel I should also highlight your skill progression. Your fire skills really only gain on importance once you start approaching the end of Nightmare and Physical Immunities start appearing. You should therefore spend your time on Normal and most of Nightmare building your Summoning tree to the desired levels and only then would I advise getting started with your Fire skills, which you can build up either simultaneously or one by one starting with Volcano since you are likely to start encountering Physical Immune unique monsters before running into groups of Physical Immunes.

Gear

This is where things can get tough for you. Not because there is a ton of things you absolutely have to have to succeed (that is more the case with martial builds), but because the things you’d ideally like to have are hard to come by. As a Druid, you lack access to spellcasting weapons specific to your class and have to look for Clubs, which can spawn with a wide assortment of martial affixes you have no use for. From the very get go, it is therefore harder for you to get the weapon you want to boost your skills, where most casters are able to straight up buy it from a magic vendor if they have to. In addition, your class-specific item occupies the helm slot, i.e. the slot where you could have easily sorted out your +skills on your own by gambling circlets. Where Necromancers have their weapon and shield setup already sorted with wands and shrunken heads and Sorceresses can buy a +2 skill staff, with the additional chance of finding a good orb so they can use shields, your class-specific item overlaps with an easy gear slot and you have no clue what to do with your hands.

So let’s work on that. Firstly, starting around mid-Nightmare, start gambling clubs (not maces, not mauls, clubs specifically). The likelihood you will be able to buy one with +skills straight up from a smith is negligible, as maces keep upgrading as you progress through the acts and difficulties. A Necromancer can stop by a magic vendor in any act and he’ll be able to browse through a list of wands. You walk up to Charsi on Hell and she’s selling Jagged Stars and Reinforced Maces, not a Club in sight. On the plus side, at least you are able to gamble for your weapon (Sorceresses, caster Paladins and Necromancers have no such luck) and you do it for fairly cheap prices, so you get a lot of goes at it. No other affixes on your club really matter other than +2 to all skills. You don’t even really care about cast speed. It is important that you focus on all skills rather than just one tree or the other. Both are equally important. If you have to choose, the preferred tree is Elemental, as that tree I feel needs the most help.

Your shield does open some interesting possibilities though. You can use the slot to sort out your resistances through Ancients’ Pledge (RalOrtTal) or better yet Rhyme (ShaelEth), but since you do not generally want to be involved in combat too much and want your Might Merc and Bear to do the tanking, you do not necessarily have to max out your resistances. As a result, you can opt for Splendor (EthLum) to make up for the +skills you might be missing on your weapon. There are also two unique/set options that can suit you quite well but might not find use in the hands of other classes: these are Lidless Wall and Sigon’s Guard. Both of these provide you +1 to all skills. In addition, because they are uniques rather than runewords, you can socket these with an Um rune or a diamond to gain resistances you would otherwise lack on a +skill runeword like Splendor.

Your amulet should most definitely be another +skill slot for you, which you should fill out through targeted gambling so that you don’t have to rely on random drops. Your helmet might receive the same treatment (circlet gambling) but since the option for Druid pelts is here, you can take advantage of that as well. If you find a pelt with good enough skill bonuses, be it non-magic, magic or rare, you can use it to bridge your way to that +2 to all skills circlet you were looking for. Alternatively, should the skill bonuses on the pelt be good enough, you can make the Lore runeword (OrtSol), either as a temporary measure or even as the item you finish the game with. Also, don’t forget about the option of socketing your helmet via Larzuk’s quest reward. If you have a good pelt or circlet in terms of skills, you can socket it to sort out your resistances as well. You won’t need sockets on your weapons like a martial build would so helmet or shield is one of the best slots for your socketing.

Your chest is sadly likely the place where you sort out your resistances. Sadly because, like all other classes, the Druid received a class-specific chest runeword in patch 1.11. However, as a Druid, you will have a hard time getting your hands on it, as it requires the Mal rune. Mal can drop from Countess and from the Hellforge on Hell difficulty, but it is even more difficult to find that the elusive Um rune. Your chances are therefore slim. Your second best option is either some lucky uniques like Skin of the Vipermagi or Que-Hegan’s Wisdom if you’re looking for some more +skills, or the Smoke runeword (NefLum) for resistances. Without these, you’ll have to settle for a resist rare.

Speaking of resist rares and settling, that is what the remainder of your gear is likely to look like. Given the difficulty with finding a suitable casting weapon, it is likely you won’t have the gold to spend on gambling your other pieces beside your amulet and circlet. That means you will simply be looking for anything to improve your survivability on both your rings, your gloves, belt and boots. Health, resistances and faster hit recovery are pretty much the core. You don’t really have to look for much extra mana or even faster cast rate as the rate of your offensive casting is predetermined by cooldowns. Finally, for your Might Mercenary (Might because it scales the Bear’s damage so well) you would ideally like a good weapon so he can somewhat assist your Grizzly in terms of damage. Alternatively, he can also be your way of dealing with enemies you as a build have trouble dealing with, namely Physical + Fire Immunes. To that end, you can carry around a weapon with Amplify Damage on striking to give to the Mercenary at times of need, or, if you find such an item, you can give him access to Open Wounds, which bypasses Physical Immunity (it deals damage as negative regeneration).

Overall, the character’s gear has a fairly high ceiling that may be more difficult to reach than it is for other caster classes in terms of boosting your skills. On the other hand, the character’s floor is relatively high. Even without a generous amount of +skills, your fire spells will be able to do their job reasonably well. And even if your +skills are lacking and your resistances are middling at best, don’t worry. You still get to summon what is essentially a fully geared up Barbarian with overcapped resistances at will. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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