(this section will repeat between my build overviews; you can skip to Build Concept if you’ve read one of my overviews before and are familiar with my rating system and test criteria)
Patch 9.8 brought, among other things, major changes to the Shattered Realm. Given that SR is where I do my endgame build testing, with the release of the patch I decided to redo all the testing for all my builds. And since I’d be putting in the time and noting down all my results anyway, I thought I might as well post the builds and their scores publicly for others. Who knows, maybe you’ve been thinking of trying something similar and are curious if it even works. Or maybe you’re just morbidly curious and like that tickly feeling in your brainhole when you see someone play something utterly stupid.
Now, what exactly does this testing entail? Each character has to do 10 SR75-80 runs (I used to do 5 runs but I’m expanding it to 10 for this second wave). Every run completed within timer counts as a success. It takes 6 successes (over 50 % success rate) for me to consider a build complete. If a build keeps failing to meet that quota, I keep improving it till it works. Ergo, no build I post here will have a lower score than 6/10, because if it doesn’t have over 50 % success rate, I’m not done improving it and it doesn’t get posted.
Three rules were followed to make the results more representative:
- no consumables other than healing and energy elixirs can be used;
- no shrines can be taken; if a build has bad resists, it’ll have to make do with bad resists, Rattosh isn’t gonna be saving its ass;
- no mutator hunting; if I get shitty mutators, I’ll have to succeed with shitty mutators.
Other than that, it doesn’t matter in what manner the runs are completed. If a build takes twice as long to finish a run than others do, that’s perfectly fine as long as it successfully finishes. Doesn’t matter whether the build has to dodge Nemeses in shards like the plague or whether it hunts them for sport, doesn’t matter if it has to kite like crazy or stands its ground with ease, doesn’t matter if it completes the runs deathless or not. Only thing that affects the score is completion within timer. Generally, a weaker build that is slow, fragile, hard to play etc. will end up with a lower score regardless because its shortcomings will affect its reliability across the 10 runs.
Now, two final things before we get to the build itself:
As mentioned in the title, this is a build overview, not a build guide. What’s the difference? Well, a build guide says “this is the way you should build this type of character”. What I’m saying is rather “this is what I did, here’s why I did it this way, here’s how it turned out”. It’s more of a documentary, a post-mortem, rather than an example to be followed. “Wait, that’s just a fancy way of saying you make shit builds,” you might say. No, not exactly. I try to make a strong character without deviating from the concept of the build. But the concept of the build might not necessarily be something one should even be doing in the first place While my build concept and the in-game support will often align to create a reasonably predictable, almost cookie cutter build, just as often I’ll just be doing something abundantly demented for my own reasons. I’ll always endeavour to explain in the Build Concept section why I chose to do a thing a certain way, but I don’t want you to get the impression that what I’m presenting is a thing you should necessarily be doing.
I’m also by no means hyperfocused on optimising the crap out of a build once it’s in a workable state. There will almost always be things to optimise on my characters, but frankly, I prefer spending an hour theorycrafting a new character rather than shuffling an existing character’s devo tree, gear, component and augment setup just to squeeze 5 % more damage out of it. I don’t care that much.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the build itself.
Alright, in the midst of FG’s release, I took a little detour and had myself some Necromantic fun, but it was time to get back to work. There was still plenty of Oathkeeper goodness to explore. Eye of Reckoning (“Huh, me?”) it’s your turn (“But I didn’t know we were doing oral exams today!”). Shut up and get to the blackboard you whiny wimp! …I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t end up a teacher after all.
Thing was, just any ol’ Whirlwind build simply wouldn’t do. You can trust me to find some stupid reason to make things more difficult for myself than they ever needed to be. Today’s limitation: flavour. So, back in the days of Diablo 2, I never really gravitated much towards Whirlwind. It might have been all the rage at the time and any self-respecting ARPG has had to have an equivalent ever since, but I was unimpressed. Not that Whirlwind wasn’t a very cool way to spice up a potentially dull melee class, but in D2, it was saddled with a variety of issues. Massive damage penalty to start with, high mana cost, awkward mechanics. I was more of a Frenzy guy, cause dual-wield was pretty novel at the time. I only got to doing some Whirlwinding much, much later, towards the end of my D2 days. And, to differentiate the build sufficiently from my Frenzy Barb, I insisted on using 2-handed weapons. Flavour-wise, it just made sense. 2h weapons are very damaging, but slow. Whirlwinding is inherently fast. So fast attacking skill + big powerful weapon = win. Obviously in the mechanics of the game things will be balanced out by the big weapon Whirlwinding slower, but let’s not get bogged down by silly things like logic or facts.
I wanted to follow that same logic in GD. Issue is, at the time I was still building around mastery synergies first and only started looking into the gear when I was nearing the levels where endgame items became obtainable. And so, I picked my mastery combination without acquainting myself with what gear I might want and whether the mastery combination gels with it. Boy was I in for a surprise.
When I set out to create this character, I first looked at the damage types available natively on EoR. Physical, Fire, Lightning. Huh. That’s a lot for one skill. Which to pick? Though I hate Diablo 3 with a passion, I have to give it some credit. The myriad damage variations (or “runes”) on each skill did look pretty cool. Fire Whirlwind in particular looked awesome, shame it was utterly useless. I was hoping to give it some redemption here. Demo seemed like a perfect choice for that, so I made the character a Shieldbreaker.
And this is where the problem started. Cause I was limiting myself to 2h weapons only, and that just doesn’t work with Fire. There’s a grand total of three 2h weapons that provide major support to EoR: Death’s Reach, Wrath of Tenebris and Gutsmasher. I guess an honorable mention should go to Temporal Arcblade, the giantass lightning sword that deals…Aether damage, for some reason. So two weapons with built-in wild conversions, a phys weapon which, no thank you, I’ve tried doing phys on Demo once and I learned my lesson. And an Aether sword. Nothing for Fire. Not that there aren’t good 2h Fire weapons, this thankfully isn’t the 2h ranged situation. But in order to do something decent with Fire EoR I needed to convert its Phys and Lightning to Fire, and the available weapons were just no help at all. At best there were a few weapons like Warhammer of Heavenly Judgment or Worldeater that at least converted some of the Phys, but only some. About half was left unconverted and fuck if I knew how to get the lightning over. Double Bands of Eternal Pyre and Shadowspark Hood, maybe? And how the hell do I cap EoR and Soulfire with gear like that? And so I did something that, up to that point in my GD career, I have never done, at least not before hitting endgame. I settled. I gave up on the 2h idea and used dual Alladrah’s Spellblades instead cause they at least actually supported the skill in the damage type I was after (for those curious, the final build ended up something like this at the time; I tested it in the past to a performance of 3/5, it was fairly fast but unreliable cause it was squishy).
That was the state of the build until patch 9.8 came around. With its arrival, finally, after years of hoping I could turn this build around and stop compromising, I got my wish. Blazerush received guaranteed full Lightning to Fire conversion and, depending on the rolls, possibly full Phys to Fire conversion in a single gear slot. When I started these Overviews I honestly couldn’t wait to get to this build so I can finally put it together the way I wanted and test it out. I was so committed to making this build 2h, I’m not even presenting the performance for both versions of the build in this Overview. Frankly, I don’t give a crap about the Alladrah variant, it’s not the build I wanted to make. THIS is what I wanted all along.
1.2 UPDATE: Very few changes. The build has gained around 120 DA, which is a very nice defensive boost. The helmet has also had its leech number increased, but that doesn’t come close to making up for the fact leech has globally been made 30 % less effective. Overall the build can do SR80-81 fine, if not the fastest. The main problem it faces is that some of the Sundering enemies make finding the right time to channel EoR a bit difficult. If you’ve got Alkamos or Dravis just shitting out Sunders like they’re going out of fashion, you either have to accept taking a lot more damage, or accept that you won’t be doing any damage for half the fight.
Since I wouldn’t be sporting any item skill modifiers to boost EoR anymore (cause they all come bundled with hard conversion except for Sandreaver Bracers), I would have to settle for just trying to cap both EoR nodes and then crank as much RR, AS and % damage out of the build as I could to get the damage up that way. That brought in the boots, the pants and the medal (which was also required for the Alladrah version to enable DW). On the belt I wanted +1 to Oathkeeper and % fire damage, and Infernal Knight provided both. And since I already had one piece and didn’t have a clear idea what to use on chest, I put on the armor as well as that at least provided extra RR through Thermite Mines. The shoulders were then just an easy pick, if for nothing else than the fact I essentially got 14 % total speed out of a shoulder slot that way. I squeezed extra +skills from the helmet and amulet as best I could, though these are far from the only options. I naturally took the only fire RR ring available. The other ring slot really could be anything. A source of extra OA, extra attack speed, damage or cc resistances, Thermite Mines points. I figured, since I’m already spinning, spitting around spirals with Soulfire and with Eye of Korvaak (a real lifesaver for horde control, let me tell you), might as well spit out some more with Reign of Ice and Fire, cause that packs attack speed, OA and covers the middling Elemental res. In the end, the build still did end up losing a good chunk of damage due to the lack of item modifiers (more than 10 % compared to the Alladrah version), but it seemed that, in the process, it at least fixed the prior version’s low OA and phys res.
Hope this works, wouldn’t want to give up on this build twice.
Aha! Might not be a breezy 10/10, but for a build with no skill modifier support to its main skill, 80 % success rate is not too shabby. It is technically better (the best kind of better) than how the supported Alladrah version was doing a few patches back. If I were to stretch that one to 10 runs it would have been an average of 6/10, so…yay! Progress. But also, FUCK SR!
Despite what the number shows, I had an absolutely miserable time with these runs. Not entirely through any fault of the build itself, mind you. RNG was just having a real fun time with me this go around. I simply COULD NOT get Gargabol off my ass these 10 runs. Across the 240+ runs total that I’ve done for my overviews so far, I’ve never had a stretch of 10 where I encountered Gargabol this much. And this build HAAATES fighting Gargabol. Hell, I hate fighting Gargabol at the best of times. But on full melee? With fire damage? With survivability issues? Forget it. In these 10 runs I’ve had to fight him 7 times (and one more time in my only mulligan run with this build). Thankfully he only cost me one run. It was almost 2 though. The other run I failed, well…can’t say the RNG was THAT horrible. But it wasn’t good either. The death came from a combination of Benn’Jahr and 3 Ancient Gargoyle heroes. So permanently shredded resists (the main issue is the shredded phys), constant area denial through the Gargoyle -33% health pools, and occasional entrapment from Benn. Biffed it there, but recovered fairly well. Still, it was at SR80 so that death cost me a lot of timer. Enter the boss room with about a minute thirty on the clock and…Iron Maiden, and Korvaak. Ran out of timer 10 seconds before finishing off Korvaak’s final phase. Motherfucker!
But as much as I can bitch about RNG, it’s not entirely its fault. Cause the simple truth of the matter is, the build is simply vulnerable to these things, where other builds might not mind as much. While the build may have lost a good bit of damage compared to the Alladrah version, its damage output is still pretty respectable. And it’s questionable how much of that damage on Alladrah was actually real, cause Alladrah adds flat burn to EoR that will majorly throw off the sheet DPS number. It’s possible the damage may be almost the same, cause outside of the change in the sheet DPS number I really couldn’t feel a difference. The build cuts its way through enemy hordes with awesome speed and it does amazingly well on timer, even in chunks that aren’t super dense. It also has excellent crowd control and damage mitigation in those situations, cause Eye of Korvaak is an absolute monster in that respect. As long as there isn’t an Unstoppable or an otherwise petrify-resistant enemy in the mix, enemy hordes just don’t really get to do much. The build can just straight roll up to an Arcane and even if it takes 20 seconds to kill it, the Arcane won’t get to dispell cause it’s chain-petrified. Eye of Korvaak is amazing and goes great together with EoR. Even if crit chance against a given enemy is low, EoR hits so often that it will crit very soon and quite often. And when it does, Eye of Korvaak then drops enemy DA, making it much easier to keep those Korvaak procs coming from that point on. While Diseased enemies might be a pain in the ass early in a fight due to complete absence of disrupt res, once the character spins its way close to them, they don’t get to disrupt ever again as long as they’re petrifiable.
On the defensive front is where things get hairy. Not in crowds, thanks to the great AoE on EoR and excellent crowd control from Korvaak’s petrify. It’s in bossing that the problems rear their ugly head. Compared to the Alladrah version (which, addmittedly, could definitely be improved by switching over to Turtle etc. to make it more defensive) the build has definitely taken a step up in Phys res. But its armor is still low, it’s lost a good bit of DA compared to the DW variant and overall it’s still just not quite survivable enough to comfortably snuggle up to the most dangerous enemies in the game. And that’s sadly the only way the build knows how to fight. If things get really shaky in melee on, I dunno, my Ultos Warder or Belgo Blademaster or Morgo Reaper, whatever other downsides those builds may have, they have options. CD Primal Strikes, RoS, Bone Harvest. They can just quickly pop these and run until they chip off those final bits of health from the boss. They can’t go about the whole fight that way, but if, say, the boss has a low-health enrage they can’t withstand in melee, they can weave in and out. With EoR, you’re either EoRing, or you’re doing nothing to the enemy health pool. So if Gargabol threatens to one-slap you with nearly every move he makes, well, you don’t really have much choice. Just gonna have to risk it and get the hell out of there if that slap comes and you happen to survive. Then you take a breather, and take another gamble after, until one of you dies. Noone knows which one.
Now, this is not a frequent issue. Not even against the usual suspects like Fabius or IM. IM in particular may take a while because of her high Fire res and DA (so fewer or no Korvaak procs and no crit damage benefits) but she’s tankable. It’s the really hard fights, like Gargabol, Korvaak, Theodin, Grava, that can really reveal the build’s vulnerabilities. And since Gargabol was literally on top of my ass on almost every run this time around, well, I got to experience that shakiness a lot. And let me tell you, it doesn’t feel good on an EoR build to not be allowed to EoR in one half of a boss fight.
There are a few tricks the build has up its sleeve though. They don’t necessarily get to be of much help when you end up getting one-slapped by Gargabol, but they help make those occurrences less frequent and make recovery from low health a bit more feasible. Firstly, there’s the Oh Shit package of Blast Shield, Resilience, Prismatic Rage, Ghoul and Serenity. If you get the crap beat out of you, this assortment should help you get back on your feet as long as you got to keep at least a silver of health. It’s a one-time deal though. You’re gonna have a pretty sizeable window afterwards when all of these are down. Beside that, the only defensive layers are the constant DR from Soulfire, the intermittent absorb from Ascension and selective Fumble from Flashbang. Selective because Flashbang is taken more as just a 1 point wonder to perhaps save the build from those big one-hitters every now and then, and nothing more. The skill’s duration is too low and would demand too much EoR interruption for frequent use, so it’s only really used on those super dangerous enemies like Grava. It’s not that much of a defensive layer outside of that and is, obviously, unreliable. The final tool is mobility. Since the build can deliver its full DPS on the move, spinning around the enemy instead of in place can be a valuable survival technique, cause some attacks, particularly projectiles will just find air. IM’s Forcewave (sometimes), Kymon’s belly blast, Grava’s wing flap, Valdaran’s barrage. Those last two in particular are very nasty. Grava is obvious, he’s an ass at the best of times and especially so against melee fire builds. And while Valdaran might seem an easy target, between Soulfire, Reign of Ice and Fire and Eye of Korvaak, this melee build has a lot of projectiles going around constantly and you might get shotgunned. Spinning around Valdaran negates his barrage almost entirely. The build also has sufficiently good cc resists that it can utilise the mobility in hordes as well to mitigate damage and weave its way towards hgh priority targets it needs to kill/chain-petrify, like healers, Arcanes, Diseased etc. The only weak cc res is trap, which thankfully still lets the build spin to deal damage, heal up and proc Korvaak. And with Ascension up, even that res is fairly well covered. As mentioned though, most of these tools just don’t really do anything to prevent the build from getting one-shot by those extra powerful enemies. Almost everything else is a cakewalk but if you got Korvaak staring you down… Better weave in and out between attacks, hope for no crits and hope that the 25 % DR and fumble will pull you through. Thankfully, the build is so fast in chunks and against your average boss that it has some wiggle room and can afford the occasional death and recover fairly easily. Your RNG just has to not be absolute shit like mine was. The fact that the build does need to hope for decent RNG still shows, though, that it’s reliability simply isn’t quite where you’d like it to be.
As usual, I’m gonna leave you with the SR75-76 and SR80 parts of one of my runs. Almost forgot to mention, aside from having shit boss RNG, my mutator RNG wasn’t much better. Here we have my average run: nuked health, increased enemy res, -10% TDM, increased enemy cc-res so worse petrify. That’s 4 out of 7 mutators screwing with me. No helping hands in sight. As a result, I played it a bit more careful than usual (you’ll see me giving Ramzul’s swings a wider berth than normal). I’m also temporarily operating with -1 functional finger on my left hand so some of my inputs are a bit inaccurate or not going through when I expect them to, so I’m also being a bit extra careful because of that. All things considered, the SR75-76 time is pretty damn solid despite these mutators, but I slowed down on the SR80 just so I don’t lose any more runs. That time is relatively bad for a build with this level of DPS.