(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.
This build was created to cover a number of gaps in my build collection. Though by this point I had a wide range of characters, I had yet to make a build centered around Cold damage. That is not to say I made absolutely no use of Cold damage, but I didn’t have a build that works off of Cold exclusively. When I first set out to create a Cold build on Druid I was forced to compromise, since so many of the abilities were paired with Lightning. My one other major Cold build once again went dual, this time with Vitality. This time around, I wanted to do Cold proper.
The second gap was in the range of skills that I’ve used. Despite the fact that by this point in my GD career I had a build for 5 out of the 8 possible Nightblade combinations, I had done a remarkably good job of avoiding the majority of Nightblade active skills. I’ve used the DW WPS plenty, I’ve used the passives, buffs and auras, but among active skills: I’ve used Ring of Steel as supplementary AoE on my Belgo Blademaster and I’ve used spam Phantasmal Blades on my Witch Hunter. That’s about it. I used Blade Trap briefly on a failed version of that Witch Hunter until I was forced to drop it, and I’ve used a 1 point ABB only to get access to Lethal Assault on my Acid Dervish. Shameful.
So to delve into Nightblade proper before I exhaust all the class combinations it has to offer, I decided to focus this build on Cold-converted Amarasta’s Blade Burst (ABB) and juice that skill to the stratosphere. I would pack every single item skill modifier for ABB onto the build to repent for how much I’ve overlooked the Nightblade skill tree. And since I’m a big fan of the concept of an antimage (though I hate Antimage in Dota), I decided to make the character a Spellbreaker, to cover one of the three remaining Nightblade mastery combinations.
1.2 UPDATE: So, um, as predicted in Performance, the build has gained an absolutely absurd amount of damage. 80k DPS. It was great before, it’s disgusting now. And its primary enemies in Kubacabra and Moosilauke have both been tuned down (Kuba should heal less, Moosi crystals are no longer impervious to Cold). Done 80-81, definitely could go to 85-86, just haven’t tried yet. The only possible obstacle is the low-ish health, but the phys res is great (and 1% higher than before). GT update removed Resistant prefix from the medal, an Acid res roll is required there (or elsewhere).
I said I was going to pack every single ABB modifier onto the build and I bloody well meant it. To not have to fuss about getting another attack to fill in the gaps between ABBs, I decided to use Amarastan Crusher, turning ABB into the sole focus of the build, as was intended. I then got the desired conversion through Olexra’s Chill, as that is the only way to flip the Acid on ABB to Cold. Gargoyle Gaze, Iceskorn Talons and Ilgorr’s Eternal Curse then completed the collection of ABB item skill modifiers. The rest of the gear was focused wholly around capping both ABB nodes, increasing flat damage, and improving the attack speed, since Olexra’s Chill is completely lacking in that department and Amarastan Crusher isn’t overendowed on speed either. For a major portion of its existence this build has been using Ellena’s Necklace on the amulet, but in patch 126.96.36.199 the amulet lost the RR on Veil of Shadow, which was the main reason I was using it. I would have liked to swap it over for a Night’s Embrace, which provided a weaker version of the same modifier, but I sadly couldn’t afford to do so. The main reason was that, with the affixes that I had on my other greens, I had a pretty big hole in my Lightning resistance without an Ele res roll on my amulet. My Ellena’s Necklace had that covered, but here was Night’s Embrace providing all of…24 % Cold resistance, the resist I had more than sorted. So I had to make do with a Kaisan amulet instead and let go of the extra RR.
One thing worth mentioning before I move on to performance: in this one rare case the order in which you equip your weapons for DW matters a lot. For whatever reason, when dual-wielding ABB only attacks with the offhand weapon. The main hand doesn’t get used at all. And since Amarastan Crusher is a physical weapon, for which we have no conversion to Cold, it’s imperative that Olexra’s Chill is the weapon we attack with else the WD we do will be wasted.
When I set out to make this character back in the day I half expected it to be a massive meme. I haven’t heard much buzz about spam ABB at the time, probably partly because Amarastan Crusher used to cut ABB’s damage in half for a big portion of its existence (until patch 188.8.131.52). I also assumed my choice of Arcanist as the other half of the character would end up biting me in the ass, what with its lack of cold RR. What I ended up with blew me away.
This build is outright filthy. Because Amarastan Crusher turns ABB into a spam skill, the build is all AoE all the time. Clearing the way through SR is an absolute breeze (a cold one at that). The AoE coverage is solid and constant and the damage is great, helped in part by the build’s great OA and decent crit damage on ABB through item modifiers. The build sweeps its way through hordes with ease, and groups of heroes die just as fast as a single hero individually, making for great chunk clear times and big timer bonuses. On single-target, where one would expect the build to fall short, it doesn’t. It’s not a speed demon like a dedicated single target nuker would be, but it’s more than capable. The one instance where the absence of a second RR mastery does end up having a noticable effect is in fights with high resistance enemies. Pretty much the only notable ones among these are Kubacabra or Moosilauke. Kuba, of course, because of her tendency to heal and thus undo what damage we do put out, and Moose because of his infuriating crystals. Neither of them are an issue per se, as they’re not really threatening damage-wise, but they do make the lack of second RR mastery apparent. Beyond them though, the build does splendidly against any boss you can imagine, or, at the very least, doesn’t struggle against anything. That combined with great speed in chunks makes the build extremely comfortable and fast in SR.
Survivability is where the choice of Arcanist pays dividends. Despite a middling health pool and low armor, the build is extremely safe and resilient. With 40+% phys res, safe overcaps, solid DA, 25-30 % dodge, 23% fumble, 23 % absorb, 14-16% constant DR (possibly going up to 33 % DR against Elemental), two Oh Shit buttons in Blade Barrier and Mirror, and on-demand dispell on Nullification with low cooldown (only fitting for a Spellbreaker), there’s no situation the build isn’t equipped to handle safely. The build can get itself out of tough situations with ease. High damage coming in? Lots of debuffs stacking up? Just Nulli them. Situation still bad? Mirror. Still bad? Blade Barrier. Still bad? Nulli is off cooldown again. Another major aspect of the build’s defensive layers, aside from the ability to just kill everything pretty damn fast, is Freeze. Though Amarastan Crusher turns ABB into a spam skill, it does not remove its CC capabilities as would be the case with other spam transmuters (Quick Jacks, Thunderous Strike, etc.). The CC percentage may only be 30 % but when ABB is all you do all day long that Freeze is just up all the time. Add to that reliable Freeze from transmuted Ring of Steel, plus freeze retal on Frostdread Presence on the chest, and freeze from the boots proc and the build winds up with outstanding control over hero groups. As long as they’re packed relatively close together and don’t have an Unstoppable among them, a lot of the time Heroes don’t get to do much of anything. Arcanes and healers in particular are just a non-issue, the build can straight walk up to them and chain freeze them until they die. Generally Arcanes get to execute about half an animation, then they freeze, interrupting whatever skill they were about to use, they reset, try another skill, freeze midway through, and this continues till they’re dead. Absolutely filthy in every regard.
And you know what the crazy part is? Promise not to tell anybody? Ok. Come here. whispers This build is already excellent and it’s about to get boosted out of this galaxy. If patch 1.2 goes through the way it’s planned at the time of writing, let’s see:
Jesus fucking Christ! So that’s 18 % total damage increase to the build AND 20 % IAS AND “significantly” increased flat damage. Uuuuh… I for one welcome our new Amarastan overlords! It’s quite likely this build will break math and turn into a 15/10 build in the future.
Here are the usual SR75-76 and SR80 parts of one of my runs. Note the completion times. In terms of recorded runs, this is currently the closest rival to my Fire Retal Commando in terms of speed, which is just ridiculous. And for all that speed, it’s also very safe. Across the 10 runs (no mulligans this time) the build has only died once and had two close calls. Other than that, absolute ease. One of the close calls is in the SR80 boss room below. That is to say, this is the exception not the rule. SR80 is very, very comfy with this build and I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes an SR85 farmer after 1.2.