(this section will repeat between my build overviews; you can skip to Build Concept and Setup 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 trying to make something similar. 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: 1) no consumables other than healing and energy elixirs can be used; 2) 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; 3) 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, one final thing 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 the build I set out to create as good as I can 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 in the first place. With that out of the way, let’s get to the build itself.
Build Concept and Setup
1.2 UPDATE: The build has gained a bunch of skill levels on Ember Claw, Infernal Breath and Ground Slam, plus overcaps on Hell Hound and Briarthorn, freeing up 4 skill points for use in any of the available pet skills: Lightning Strike, Storm Spirit, Conjure Primal Spirit, Ember Claw or Manipulation. Despite a loss of some % total damage on amulet and offhand, the build still performs extremely well. Comfortable SR85-90.
As you may have read in some of my pervious build overviews, when I started playing GD all those years ago, I immediately jotted down a few general concepts I wanted to try out in the game, each of them representing one of the major ARPG build archetypes. Sword n’ board, 2h melee Barbarian, wizard, shooter, etc. Today, we get to the summoner. Now, while I would have loved to recreate my most powerful build from D2, the Skelemancer, that would have to wait until the release of AoM. For the vanilla game, there was one clear, no-brainer choice. The Conjurer. gasp Who would have ever though of putting together the only two classes from the base game with direct synergy for summoning. Marcus, you’re such an innovator! I know, I know. It’s a hard life being me.
Now, one thing that I stipulated right from the get go was: If I’m going to be a summoner and I can’t be raising/razing a family or two as a Necromancer, then I’m gonna go to the full extreme of being a Beastmaster. I’m gonna have the full menagerie from the tree: the hound, the raven, the briar, the manticore, all of them. Now they have an interesting spread of damage types. There’s phys and bleeding on the briar, phys, bleeding, piercing and poison on the Primal Spirit, phys, fire and chaos on the Hound and Lightning on the Raven. Consolidating all that into a single damage type would be a bit of a challenge, so I focused on just the core of each pet. We got physical, fire, chaos and lightning. There’s nothing that can be done about the bleed so I ignored that. Among these, we already got two elemental damage types. Chaos is present only on the hound and is just one of three damage types it deals, so if we miss out on that, it’s not gonna be catastrophic for its damage numbers. And as it turns out, converting the physical present on 3 of our 4 pets fully into elemental is a piece of cake. All it takes is the rings from the Bysmiel set and Bysmiel’s Mindweaver and we’re sorted. And wouldn’t you know it, both Shaman and Conjurer have elemental rr. Purrfection
A good bit of the setup then just kinda clicks together on its own. When looking for options to boost any of our pets, Beastcaller stands out (especially since Lost Souls set didn’t exist back then) since it supercharges Briarthorn while also boosting both of our masteries and directly synergising with another one of our pets, the Hellhound. Also, unlike the Bysmiel set (which we’ve already halfway started on) the set leaves the amulet slot open for the utterly ridiculous Zaria’s Pendant. So Beastcaller it is. Fits the Beastmaster flavour perfectly, too. The offhand is simple as well. And it looks just as illegal as the amulet (how it’s ok for these two items to exist I’ll never know). The rest of the gear then sorts out missing pet resists (which, aside from Bleed, are capped, don’t let GT lie to you, it doesn’t include Oak Skin or BoD bonuses), player resists or brings in relevant skill bonuses to cap at least the Hellhound and the Briarthorn, since we modify them so heavily.
The devo route then goes for the expected Mogdrogen (Ishtak wasn’t even in the game at the time right? Neither was Korvaak so not much choice there). Since all the tier 3 tri-elemental damage devotions involve summons (Currents and Seekers), which we can’t bind to our summons, I then took the damage devotions that were within reasonable reach so that our pets have some extra oomph to their attacks (Bull Rush is fully converted to elemental).
On the tree we’re unfortunately unable to fully juice all the pets, so Primal Spirit gets paid a bit of a lip service. Raven only has its base skill maxed without the Lightning Strike, something I’ll have to remedy when I make a fully dedicated Raven Familiar summoner down the line. One omission that may seem notable is the lack of even a one point investment in Wendigo Totem and Blood Pact for the healing and leech. All I can say is…
Who needs it? Are you actually implying that either we or our pets could do such a silly thing as “die”? Pffft. I don’t know where the challenge lies for this build, but I can tell you it’s not at SR80. Might be SR90, might be SR100. But at 75-80 it’s a cakewalk.
So firstly, our pets don’t die. Hell, their healthbars generally don’t even move. They can be standing in the middle of a couple of traps, with 5 heroes and Grava wailing on them at SR80, and those healthbars stay fixed in position. That’s not hyperbole, that’s what happened in my 10th run. About the only enemies I’ve seen make an actual dent in their health pool are Anasteria and Reaper. In the 10 runs rated here I’ve had a pet die twice. Both were in the same fight. Other than that, they’re essentially immortal until you start messing around with Superbosses (they can’t tank Callagadra at all in this setup, Wendigo is probably mandatory there) or doing 4pulls at SR80. And even in the latter case, the main reason for their health going down will probably be something like “they’re hitting Zantarin now so they can’t leech” (that was the actual case when I tried a 4pull at SR80 for the funzies, it was an easy room though).
As for us, we’re very safe as well. That 57 % phys res (58 % for me in-game) shows cause even if, miraculously, someone decides to start focusing us, most of the time we don’t even have to kite. We can just tank it and wait for our pets to do the honours. We’ve got DA aplenty, solid resists, a ton of health, % absorb from Primal Bond, % DR from Hellhound and three percentage based heals (Mend Flesh, the glove proc and BoD) to top us up on the regular. Aleks can drop meteors on our skull all he wants, at most he’s doing like 25 % of the character’s health. That’s if he happens to target us at all. And if he’s even able to execute his skills, cause pets seem to just utterly break the game’s AI at times. You’ll see right at the start of the SR75 run how Benn’Jahr completely fails to summon his obsidian shards through the entire fight. That will happen on the regular to a number of bosses. As if our life wasn’t easy enough given that most of the time, we’re not getting attacked at all. And if we are, we can also use the miraculous ability to walk away leisurely and we’re fine. And it doesn’t even cost skill points.
I have pretty much only two bad things to say about this build. Firstly, it’s not as fast as, say, the Fire Retal Commando. It will generally not be ending chunk 3 of SR 80 with 10-12 minutes on the clock, because there’s a limit to how many enemies the pets can damage at once. Their AoEs aren’t that massive. Generally unless it’s standing next to them, they’re not damaging it. So some fights will slow you down a bit, but that’s about the best they can do. If, however, you did manage, somehow, to get yourself killed, this slowdown might be sufficient to run you out of timer. Theoretically. IF you died. Somehow.
Secondly, because every run is such a surefire victory unless you literally go out of your way to get yourself killed, it can get a bit dull. The run isn’t really a challenge, more of a time tax on you getting to your loot, if that’s what you’re after. Admittedly, that’s more of an issue if, like me, you’re in it for the long haul and do SR75-80s, where some more variety would be welcome. SR75-76s won’t tax your patience nearly as much. But there will be some lack of excitement cause you really don’t have to try hard with this build. Everything just keels over in your presence. Or, well, in the presence of your assorted beasties, cause you’re not really putting in much work on the team, let’s be honest
As usual, here are the SR75-76 and SR80 snippets of one of my runs so you can see the build in action.