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Poison & Bone Necromancer by lMarcusl

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Poison & Bone Necromancer
Bone Necro.gif
Game Diablo II
Class Necromancer
Primary Attack Poison Nova/Bone Spirit
PvM/PvP PvM
Can Solo Hell? Yes
Creator lMarcusl
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As the name indicates, the Poison & Bone Necro focuses on both Poison and Bone spells to deliver direct damage to his enemies. He acquires his primary clearing capabilities through the AoE devastation delivered by Poison Nova with support from the Lower Resist curse, and handles any Poison Immunes he encounters through the single-target focus-fire from Bone Spirit. On the defensive front, the character uses a high level Bone Wall or Bone Prison to keep enemies at bay while he works them down with his magic.

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

Playstyle

As stated above, the main ability this build focuses on is Poison Nova. The skill provides screen-wide AoE, high poison damage per tick (unlike his other Poison skills) and can be further amplified via Lower Resist to overcome poison’s otherwise heavy drop-off across difficulties. However, it is as if the devs had something against poison damage when making the game, since there is a good number of enemies with overcapped poison immunity, to a point where even Lower Resist cannot make the enemy vulnerable. As a result, the build turns to the Bone skills, particularly Bone Spirit and Corpse Explosion to take care of the problem. With Bone Spirit, Poison Nova, Corpse Explosion, and the Necromancer’s hireling, the build ends up having access to magic, poison, physical and fire damage (Corpse Explosion deals half fire, half physical), two of which he can further enhance through Lower Resist (Magic damage is sadly unaffected). This allows the character to capably clear the vast majority of areas without much issue (more on that at the end of this section).

As it so happens, the Poison and Bone tree is not limited solely to damage, but also offers outstanding defensive options with direct synergies to offensive skills. The Necromancer can therefore enjoy the company of a nigh-on indestructible Bone Wall or Bone Prison, along with a hefty defensive boost from Bone Armor. That means the Necromancer has both the ability to keep enemies at bay without having to use a curse to do so (which frees him up to use Lower Resist) and is surprisingly durable against physical damage. It is important to keep this caveat in mind however: Bone Armor does nothing to mitigate elemental damage, and the character’s items will be generally focused around +skills, meaning resistances might be lacking. I recall a rather unfortunate encounter with two Gloam bosses with nasty affixes in the Great Marsh and you do not want to know how many times I died there (getting one shot from two screens away is so much fun). The build is by no means untouchable, and his defensive capabilities can turn out to be a curse in disguise. Unlike most summons, Bone Prison and Bone Wall cannot be unsummoned. They either have to be destroyed (fat chance) or time out. If not careful, the Necromancer can trap himself in place, while piercing enemy projectiles, AoEs, ground effects etc. pummel him to death. It is especially amusing in Worldstone Keep levels 1, 2 and 3, where Baal will keep casting lightning and poison magic on your character if they are idle for too long. So while everything around you is already dead and you stand trapped in your own Bone Prisons waiting for them to time out, Baal may start dropping lightning on you that can potentially kill you due to low resistances (been there, done that). The ability to block enemy’s approach is, of course, very desirable for you as a spellcaster. Not so much for a melee combatant. As a result, this build is one of the few where I would not recommend taking an Act 2 Mercenary or even a Barbarian, since more often than not you’ll either be trapping them together with enemies they cannot escape from, or blocking them from getting to those enemies. It is, therefore, recommended to take an Act 1 Rogue (preferably fire so she does not shatter monster corpses). Unfortunately, despite the fact that the build uses Lower Resist, there is simply nothing a player can do to make Iron Wolves viable; their damage is just way too terrible later in the game.

Now I feel that at this point I should mention some specific locations where the build can feel cumbersome to use, in order for you to get a better picture of what you’re getting into. Just like Fire + Lightning characters do not particularly enjoy Chaos Sanctuary since Venom Lords are immune to Fire and 75 % resistant to Lightning (see my Trapassin or Lightning + Hydra Sorceress gameplay to get an idea), so does the Poison + Bone Necromancer utterly despise certain areas and enemies. Firstly, Guardians, Unravelers and Horadrim Ancients are completely magic immune. That means sniping them in the back line with your homing Bone Spirits is out of the question. You need to get close enough to them for Poison Nova to reach and that may mean having to make it past their hordes of skeletons. Thankfully, Corpse Explosion is an excellent tool for dealing with Skeletons of all kinds while removing corpses from the battlefield for resurrections, so bypassing the skellies shouldn’t be that much of an issue. Only Bone Warriors boast a major resistance to both Poison and Magic, but while they certainly are a headache, they do not appear in Act 2 with Unravelers etc. The one enemy that this build absolutely detests is Horror Archers, which have a 110 % resistance (i.e. unbreakable immunity) to Poison, and 75 % resistance to Magic damage. You will most definitely not enjoy your trek through the Palace in Act 2. All I can say is, if your hireling or your Bone Spirit spam can kill one of them in a pack, Lower Resist + Corpse Explosion are your friends. There are also areas in Act V Hell, particularly Arreat Plateau, that tend to have an astonishingly high percentage of Poison Immunes. If the area becomes too frustrating due to slow AoE kill speed without Poison Nova, reloading may generate a more favourable enemy composition. However, while your clear speed in these areas may drop considerably because of what are frankly ridiculous enemy resistances, you should not have an issue surviving due to your ability to close off enemies in Bone Prisons where their attacks cannot harm you, while you can spam magic on them with impunity.

Attribute Point Allocation

Strength 60

Dexterity base

Vitality 300+

Energy 60+

As is typical for casters, Strength and Dexterity should only get the bare minimum you can get away with in terms of attribute points. Usually, I tend to get my Strength to 60 on casters to be able to wear Plated Belts as soon as possible on Normal for the maximum number of potion slots, and this number is generally sufficient to carry most of the caster-focused gear I find. There are, however, situations in which you will want to go over this limit, for instance when you find a piece of gear with very high resistances, the right number of sockets for your runewording needs or extremely high health bonuses, or situations where you find you no longer need as many points due to most of your gear already being sorted out or you having large Strength bonuses from gear. Dexterity, naturally, does not play a role in this build. If you’re blocking attacks, it means you’re being attacked physically in the first place, which means you’re doing it wrong. In addition, you have your Bone Armor to soak physical damage should that occur.

Vitality is absolutely the most essential of your attributes. You want to be boosting your skills as much as possible to eliminate enemies quickly before they can cause too much trouble. That means you will first and foremost focus on +skills and only secondarily on resistances. You want to make your health pool as massive as possible so that you can withstand those stray projectiles, piercing attacks, ground effects, AoEs and damage auras that may make it past your walls or, in some cases, that may in fact be attracted by your walls and headed straight through to you (did I mention Gloams are bastards yet?). You would ideally want to make it as close to or past a 1000 hit points as you can.

However, no matter the potential risks, I believe it is crucial for the character to also build up some energy. Bone Spirit is a mana hog and takes a good deal of spamming to get things done (more on that in the Skills section), and Lower Resist, Poison Nova and high level Corpse Explosion are no slouches either when it comes to mana consumption. While in most cases high mana pool is more of a quality of life improvement rather than a necessity, I do believe that it becomes rather vital when it comes to Hell Ancients, where potion slot limitations become a factor. If things go well in your gearing, you might be able to get some pretty massive boosts to your mana pool, so there’s no need to go too far, but getting your energy to 60 should help your mana last a little longer and boost your regeneration a bit.

Skill Point Allocation

Skills

Now we get to the nitty gritty of the individual skills. Obviously, you will want your main killing tools, Poison Nova and Bone Spirit, maxed out ASAP. Now, while Poison Nova seems a fairly obvious choice due to its massive AoE, high poison damage with good tick rate (as in, every tick of poison damage from Nova does a lot of damage, which is not the case for Poison Dagger or Poison Explosion) and supportability through Lower Resist, you might be wondering why choose Bone Spirit over Bone Spear. In fact, why choose Poison Nova, a spell that can only be applied once every 2 seconds, over a spammable spell like Bone Spear that scales with cast speed? Time for some brutal honesty. Bone. Spells. SUCK.

Let us take, for example, a Necromancer with massive investment in Bone spells. 20 in Spirit, 20 in Spear, 20 in Bone Prison, plus prerequsites. That is some 64 skill points invested into just this aspect of the tree. Let us also give this character a generous +10 to all skills. Our level 30 Bone Spirit with heavy support now deals a whopping total of…2002 max damage? And Bone Spear does…3/4 of that? What?? Now to the layman that may not look that bad but keep in mind, that is just straight up Magic damage. This is not factoring in enemy resistances, which, as mentioned in the Playstyle section can get rather ridiculous, and it is most certainly not factoring in the fact we need a secondary damage source when we run in to immunities. You’d expect a much higher payoff. A Sorceress with a similar investment in Fire Ball and synergies is getting over 5000 damage in an AoE for her work. And you barely break 2k with your single-target ability. Meanwhile, Poison Nova, with the same +10 skills and 20 points invested in Poison Nova and 20 in Poison Explosion is outputting 2300 over its duration, that is some 1000 damage per second, with some 40 odd skill points invested. It’s not much either, right? But, Poison Nova does this to the entire screen, potentially multiplying that damage more than a dozen times per cast, and can have its damage boosted massively by Lower Resist. And it scales better with further point investment in synergies too. So no, Bone Spear simply does not seem like a viable AoE clearing alternative to Poison Nova, at least not for a self-found, untwinked character. The damage output and requirements to achieve that measly damage output are simply not reasonable.

Hence, the build focuses on the more easily achievable poison damage with relatively low skill investment, by maxing out Poison Nova and one of its synergies, and spends the rest of its points on supporting Bone Spirit, despite its terrible scaling, in order to handle Poison Immunes. The spell outputs more damage than Spear to a single target, which helps make up for single-target shortcomings of Poison Nova, and when it comes to AoE clear in situations where Poison Nova is not usable due to immunities, it is often more important to kill a single enemy quickly and let Corpse Explosion clear the screen (because what Necro build does not rely on this broken one-point wonder, right?), rather than rely on Bone Spear’s up-front damage to just AoE everything. In addition, Bone Spirit’s homing ability makes it ideal for taking down problematic backline enemies such as Shamans without the need to account for tracking. If you know that 4 Bone Spirits kill a monster, you allot exactly those 4 casts to that monster and you know that monster is done for. The Spirits will chase it down on their own. With Bone Spear, not only does the number of casts required increase because of lower damage, but you also may not even hit your target it it’s moving.

The good thing about Bone spells is, what they lack in damage, they make up for in defense and good internal synergy. You do not need to invest into your other offensive Bone spells in order to scale your Bone Spirit damage. Investing into Bone Wall or Bone Prison will scale your Bone Spirit just as well (or, well, just as poorly), and will provide you an impassable barrier to lock your enemies behind while they tick down to the tune of your poison damage. You’ll notice I mention Bone Wall and Bone Prison together a lot. That is because you are not strictly limited to using one or the other. Each has its benefits. Bone Prison will absolutely lock down your target and some of the surrounding enemies in their own little cage, but it then requires you to do the same for all the other enemies around, group by group, where Bone Wall will just erect one long barrier that can potentially close off multiple packs with a single cast. On the other hand, Bone Wall has a wall raising animation where Bone Prison simply pops out of nowhere, meaning enemies may have enough time to pass through your Bone Wall before it is fully up, while they do not have that opportunity with Bone Prison. In addition, while Bone Wall might just lock out your enemies with a single cast, it may also require a great number of casts just to block off a single pack, since all it creates is a single continuous line. In a cramped tomb, that one line is all you need to block a corridor. In an open surface location, a wall is not enough to block anything. Each skill has its merits in specific situations, and you’re not, fortunately, forced to choose which one you’ll use. I’d recommend maxing out Bone Prison since, aside from scaling its health, it also decreases in mana cost, but even if you do, you can still use Bone Wall quite easily, since the two skills scale each other, and both generally have more than enough health to last the full duration provided you have a solid amount of +skills on your gear. Better yet, investing in either one of these two skills nets you a pretty solid Bone Armor, since the skill, for whatever reason, actually scales better through investment in its synergies (15 damage absorbed per point) than it does through direct investment in the skill itself (10 damage per point). Cause logic.

Obviously, you will want to take all the prerequisites to make your way to Lower Resist, but you do not need to actually invest any additional points in Lower Resist after that. The skill’s scaling drops off very quickly past level 5 and you will have more than enough +skills to get it there and beyond without wasting more points.

Any points you have left over you should invest in the remaining poison synergy. You won’t have enough to max it out or really make a major mark on any of your other skills, and even this little handful of skill points can add hundreds upon hundreds of damage to your Poison Nova, where your Bone spell damage will barely change with what few points you have left to spend.

Gear

+skills. Need I say more? You want to scale your skills like a madman to squeeze out as much damage as you can from the lacking Bone aspect of your build since the poison damage will be taking care of business quite well when combined with Lower Resist. But you want those Poison Immunes to drop as quickly as possible to your Bone Spirits so that you can start popping them like balloons with Corpse Explosion, and you want your Corpse Explosion to cover as much area as possible. You achieve all that through +skills. So where do we get them?

The helmet slot is easy. You can gamble +3 Poison and Bone circlets mid-Nightmare, and you can do the same for Amulets as well. In the meantime, you can run Lore in your helmet (OrtSol) to get your +skills off the ground. The other two crucial slots are obviously your Wand and your off-hand. Getting a good wand is sadly up to luck. You can buy some really solid ones for a wagon-full of gold from magic traders like Akara or Drognan, but that obviously means stopping by their shop every time you return to town. It gets lengthy but it’s worth the effort, I believe. Meanwhile, pick up any wands you find lying on the ground. Wands are really easy to socket with Larzuk, since they cannot have more than 2 slots. If you find a non-magic wand with skill bonuses you want, or better yet a good socketed wand with 2 sockets, you can make the White runeword (Dol+Io). It is not the end-all be-all of what you can get, like many other rune words are, since you can easily end up just finding or buying a wand with +3 Poison & Bone skills with additional affixes that are far more desirable than what White offers, but it’s a good start and it’s not that hard to make nowadays, with Io runes being fairly easy to find or craft through the cube recipe (3 Hel + chipped diamond…so save up some chipped diamonds from Normal).

Bone Necro Showcase.jpg

Your offhand is a bit more difficult. Like wands, you cannot gamble them, unlike wands, you can’t buy them. So you’re left with the luck of the drop. Rares and magics are obviously always a good find, but don’t overlook even non-magic heads that drop, and above all, pick up every grey you find. You’re ideally looking for 2 sockets to make either ShaelEth for resistances or EthLum for +skills, but obviously, you want the shrunken head to first have skill bonuses you want, otherwise don’t bother. If you find a good one with the wrong number of sockets (1 or 3) you can still make some use of it by putting in a Perfect Diamond or an Um rune (NOT RECOMMENDED!), or making Ancient’s Pledge (RalOrtTal). Though you won’t get the magic find and cannot be frozen from ShaelEth, you do get better resistances. Speaking of resistances, the achievable goal you are aiming for on your chest piece is either a rare piece of armor with good resistances and perhaps some life, or, if you can find or make yourself farm the runes, you can make Smoke (NefLum) to give you a major resistance boost. Remember, projectiles that pierce through Bone Walls and Prisons will often head straight at you, and you may not be able to dodge if you’re locked in place among your bone architecture. That can mean death with low resistances, and Bone Armor won’t help you against elemental damage. If you get lucky, you can equip a unique such as Que-Hegan’s Wisdom, provided your resistances are solid enough, or you can have Larzuk socket it so you can put in one of the resistance runes. Skin of the Vipermagi is also a solid find and is even better if socketed by Larzuk. If you’re really lucky or you farm the runes on Countess etc., you can even make the Bone runeword (SolUmUm) in your chest for solid resists, +2 all skills and a robust mana boost. For this reason, I would advise against using up your Um runes for resistance boosts in your other gear, because Bone is just way too good to pass up.

The rest of your gear is unlikely to contribute to your skills, outside of a lucky ring find such as Bul-Kathos’ Wedding Band, so here is where you should try to smooth out your resistances and life. Once your head and neck piece is set, you should start spending your gold on gambling to replace any of your weaker pieces of gear, such as belts or boots, with resists, life, mana, etc. since it is pointless having all these beautiful +3 Poison and Bone amulets and circlets if you die the moment any elemental damage flies your way. It is worth noting though, that once you commit to gambling your gear, it will be harder for you to afford buying any good wands you might find on vendors, so you have to choose your priorities. The one place among these remaining slots that I think I should highlight is gloves. You can get really lucky with drops or targeted gambling here (it’s pretty unlikely with gambling to be honest), since Trang-Oul’s Claws are not really that rare and would improve your character massively through their 25 % poison damage increase and +2 to curses. Obviously there isn’t much you can do to get them specifically, all you can do is hope for the best, maybe carry some magic find around if you can. And, it goes without saying, cover your resistances and life with charms. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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