Introduction(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 lot. +50 DA is the least of it. Pretty much all of the heal procs have gotten better. Dryad heals slightly more, Wayward Soul gives 100 more Armor, Giant’s Blood lasts longer and gives more regen, Wendigo Totem heals for 1 % more. Ghoulish Hunger now improves cast speed AND amplifies all of the build’s heals by 40 %. The cooldown caster playstyle is also a good fit for the Sunder meta, as the build loses next to no damage while dodging Sunders or trying to stay away while Sundered. The evade button also makes the kiting playstyle easier. Add to that Nullification and the disturbingly low cooldown on Mirror and the build is in a good place to combat Sunders of all kinds. SR80-81 viable, could likely push it to 85+.
Once I was done recreating some of the core archetypical ARPG builds I’ve covered in my previous overviews, I set out on a new mission: to have at least one build for every damage type. Starting off with elemental, I already had a pure fire build and a pure lightning build, as well as a tri-elemental build. All I was missing was cold. There was just one small issue. There were hardly any pure Cold skills in the base game. There was OFF and that was it. Everything else was combining damage types in some way, either with Acid, Pierce or Lightning. So a compromise would have to be made. I enjoyed my adventures with Elementalist Druid back in D2 quite a bit, so I decided to go for a lightning/cold weather-controlling spellcaster. Wind Devils, Storm Totems, with the TSS “Blizzard” as my main weather-based Druidic attack. And what do you know, there’s an entire set built just around this Cold/Lightning playstyle and the class combo’s even called Druid. Perfect.
There was another issue however. Without going for the Iskandra set, there was no way to leech off of TSS. Storm Totems and Wind Devils would bring nothing to the table in that regard either. This had me sufficiencly concerned about the build’s sustainability at the time (mind you, that was still in the early days of my GD playing), that despite creating it very early on I put off playing it at higher difficulties and endgame for quite a while. There were various non-leech sources on the devo tree and skill tree (essentially just Wendigo Totem), but I didn’t have faith that those would be sufficient to keep the build alive even with the insane amount of CDR the Trozan set provides. It wasn’t really until I saw @Monceaux’s heal-based build that I felt confident the concept could work and came back to finish the build. Over the course of that process I eventually dropped Storm Totems from the build. There were already enough cooldowns to keep an eye on and enough buttons to press. Not only could I use the skill points better elsewhere, I also found the skill interesting enough that I’d rather do it proper justice on a fully dedicated build at a later time.
Now let’s get to the elephant in the room. Why in the everloving fuck am I using Codex of Eternal Storms instead of Rolderathis’ Tome. Well, I was using Rolderathis for a long time in fact. Codex of Eternal Storms didn’t even do what it does now for the majority of this character’s existence. But not only did I find what the Codex does very intriguing and cool when it was overhauled, it turns out, it also fits the build very nicely. Is it better than Rolderathis’ Tome? Probably not. But there are certainly reasons to at least consider it.
So, reason no. 1: the granted skill. “Wait, didn’t you just say the build had enough buttons to press?” In this case we’re not really adding a button to press, but rather exchanging one for another since we no longer need to keep Wind Devils up. Crucially, the addition of Call the Storm from Codex provides us another skill to use as a proc source. Originally, this job was done by the Storm Totems but after I removed them, I was short one skill to trigger all the on-attack devotions. Now, there is the option to just take 1 point in transmuted Callidor’s Tempest, but I’m personally not a huge fan of taking skills just to have a way to proc devos. I’ll do it on summoners cause there’s often no other choice but I try to avoid it otherwise. Not because it’s bad or anything. It just doesn’t feel right to me, it’s a very mechanical reason to use a skill, rather than a reason that originates from the flavour of the build, if you get my meaning. With the Codex we not only get a very flavourful skill that fits the build, we also get a smooth way to proc Ultos (even at low-ish crit chance the damage happens periodically across an area giving us a lot of procs) and get an additional source of damage we can just fire and forget.
Reason no. 2. I’ll confess that despite seeing that Monceaux had success with a purely heal-sustained Trozan Druid, I was still a bit worried. And so, to be safe, I decided to include Bat and bind it to Wind Devils. Codex makes that option better, since we now have permanent uptime on all 4 WDs without having to do anything, so Bat will keep healing us regardless of whether we’re attacking or running around. It helps that we’re able to convert a decent portion of Bat’s raw damage through the belt and the rings to Cold or Lightning without really having to break much of the gear setup to do so. While the belt isn’t ideal and we’d rather have Arcanoweave Cord, we don’t lose that much by deviating since two nodes of TSS are maxed regardless. The rings come quite handy and might have even been my go-to before going for Bat, since there is only one RR ring we miss out on (Eternal Haunt), which would only affect one half of our damage and we otherwise have no source of DR. On a somewhat related note, because I was still so worried about the build’s sustainability, the defensive devo path I ended up taking (namely Bat and Ghoul) landed me on some lifesteal, and so I incidentally kinda broke the purely heal-based concept of the build along the way anyway.
Reason no. 3, though a very minor one. Rolderathis’ Tome reduces the target area of TSS, which makes it a more consistent single target nuke. But having a bit wider of a spread on the shards can be a boon as well, since they come bundled with a nice bit of freeze. Without the tome we’re able to permanently lock down larger groups of heroes so we have less to defend against. It’s a minor factor, but it’s worth pointing out that Rolderathis is not just pure upside all the time.
Reason no. 4: the cooldown. It just so happens that without Rolderathis’ Tome, the cooldowns of TSS and Dryad almost perfectly align. On my in-game setup TSS has 0.1 s shorter cooldown than Dryad. However, since there is some cast time to consider, every single time I cast TSS, Dryad procs. That is not the case with Rolderathis. Dryad will proc most of the time, based on the timing of the TSS dropdowns (the shards don’t all drop at the same time so even if Dryad isn’t off cooldown at the time of TSS casting, it may still proc on some of the final shards that land) but it doesn’t proc every time, reliably. So it can create some nasty gaps in healing. Now, your answer might be “well then just don’t bind Dryad to TSS, dummy, put it on Chain Lightning”. And yeah, that is a solution. But it’s in conflict with one key aspect of the build. We can kite. Oh boy can we kite. The vast majority of the build’s damage comes from TSS. And TSS is a cooldown skill. Which means we can retain the majority of our damage while running away from damage at full speed, if we have to. And with Dryad bound to TSS and Bat on Wind Devils we also get to retain almost all of our sustain while doing it (the only thing we miss out on is Wendigo Totem heal and leech aura). That would not be the case if Dryad was on Chain Lightning, which not only requires that we spam, but is also extremely short range and puts us potentially in danger.
Two more things I want to mention before moving on to performance. Firstly, the amulet. While Starfury Emerald would be a no-brainer before 9.8, there’s actually a new interesting option that I haven’t tried. Night’s Embrace has just received a %WD mod to TSS, making it now possible to get leech on TSS without the Iskandra set. So there may now be a way to just do away with a good bunch of the proc healing and sustain off of standard leech. Some portion of heal procs should probably still be retained, just cause Trozan makes it all so efficient by cutting the cooldowns nearly in half (Chariot in particular has 100 % uptime on the DA and armor, as long as you’re getting hit regularly), but it’s possible the whole Dryad/Bat aspect could be dropped completely. Obviously in that case the build should drop Codex and go back to Rolderathis to get as many TSS casts down as possible. Unlike Codex, Rolderathis can also get cast speed, so between improved CS on Chain Lightning and access to leech on a lower CD TSS, it’s quite possible this is an entirely viable route. However, the build’s damage will go down a bit since losing Starfury Emerald essentially means losing 20 % total damage on TSS, which the %WD mod on Night’s Embrace won’t fully make up for.
The second thing is, if you want to be optimal, there really is very little reason to max out Wind Devils the way I have. All we get out of the core skill is the electrocute damage and the impaired aim percentage, since we’re doing barely anything about converting the physical (there’s actually an astounding shortage of ways to convert the phys on WDs directly; there’s only 4 items in all). However, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. If I’m not gonna max out Wind Devils on a wind Druid with Codex of the fucking Storms, then when will I? Every other build I use the skill on just takes them for the RR. I wanted to have at least one build where I fully max the thing, but there can be no doubt that it is incorrect to do so. If you want to be optimal, take those points out and slap them in Wendigo Totem.and either Overload or Fabric of Reality.
Well those worries were unfounded weren’t they? This is a very, very solid build. Not quite entirely unstoppable, but very solid indeed.
Its damage is very good, both on single target and on AoE thanks to the combination of TSS and Call the Storm. TSS in particular noticably chunks down enemy health with every cast and it’s cast very, very often with all the flat and % CDR. Cold + Lightning is one of those lucky combinations of damage types that doesn’t really have a weakness. There’s no enemy that’s highly resistant to both. While Fire and Cold builds might curse Fabius for his resistance and Fire and Lightning builds want to tear their hair out at the sight of Grava or Iron Maiden, we don’t have that problem. Any enemy that is resistant to one of our elements is weak to the other. Kuba, Moose, IM, Grava, Fabius, Valdaran, all melt (or well, freeze) to our damage. So even though we’re playing with a single rr mastery, only use one -%rr devotion and skip out on an rr ring, we’re very well off on damage against everything, so much so that even enemies that are highly resistant to one of our damage types really don’t feel particularly different to fight than any regular enemy.
The build has excellent crowd control with all the freeze from TSS, the Trozan proc, the Trozan freeze retal and the boots proc, plus it has a tiny bit of stun from Call the Storm and Ultos. This allows the build to permanently lock down entire groups of heroes unless there are cc resistants among them and it can nuke them comfortably and safely at any distance, since TSS can be cast across the whole screen. In addition, our 4 Wind Devils apply 57 % impaired aim which drastically reduces incoming ranged damage from enemies that don’t happen to freeze.
The build sustains well enough from its many sources of healing, all with brutally reduced cooldowns, and also has pretty unethical uptime on Mirror. On my current setup Mirror has a cooldown of 12 seconds and duration of 3. That gives us a 9 s downtime. However, since we’re using the Eternity relic, over those 12 seconds of cooldown Eternity has enough time to proc twice. So that brings us to 7 s downtime. 7 seconds of vulnerability, 3 seconds of immunity. So 30 % of the time we’re immune to damage. Think of any dangerous enemy with a single, particularly powerful ability. Perhaps the Meteor from Aleksander. Or the breath attack from Kubacabra. Wraiths from Reaper. Well, you get to be immune through all of them, every time. That. Is. Disgusting. Any debuffs they land on you? Even with 1 point investment in Nullification, you get a dispell on about a 15.6 second cooldown. Over that time Eternity will shave off another 3 seconds. So that’s a 12.6 s cooldown on Nullification. You get to periodically get rid of any rr, DA shred, fumble, DR etc. applied to you, or dispell opposing buffs like Rashalga’s red aura, Kymon’s, Anasteria’s or Okaloth’s projectile rain, dramatically cutting down the threat those enemies pose.
But of course, there are enemies that aren’t threatening periodically, by regularly landing nasty debuffs or having particularly powerful nukes on a cooldown. Some enemies are threatening all the time, with everything they do, from basic attacks to their minor abilities. Well, do they have a gap closer? If not, they’re no threat at all. If you run into Rashalga at SR80 and you’re not quite confident that you’ll be able to tank her blows, just don’t. You don’t have to be there at all when the damage happens. The build can and has repeatedly killed Rashalga between SR78-80 without taking even a single hit from her if it so chooses. She can’t gap close, she pauses periodically to cast skills we don’t care about so we can just run circles around the arena and drop TSS and Storm on her head every few seconds until she keels over. There’s zero threat. “But surely, so much running around, so much less DPS, that has to take forever”. How does less than 50 seconds sound? Cause that’s how long it takes for TSS to kill Rashalga without us taking any damage from her at SR80. This is an option against every boss you might find threatening that can’t punish you for creating distance. It might not work on Fabius, Iron Maiden, Korvaak or Kymon, but it does work on most of the enemies you’d consider dangerous on most builds. Theodin, Rashalga, Reaper, Gargabol. You can tank them, especially with the high Mirror uptime, but if you’re not sure you can, you don’t have to, which is an option melee or spam/channeling caster builds don’t have.
The only points of weakness that I’ve been able to identify are as follows. Firstly, vulnerability to cc. Our trap resist isn’t particularly high, which isn’t an issue since we’ve got Nullification. Issues arise if Nullification has already been expended beforehand and we get trapped in an awkward spot. Mirror gives us 3 seconds to get out, but that may not always be enough and there are enemies that can chain-trap us, such as Mistborn Hunters or Skeletal Monstrosities. This has resulted in some deaths, but the build is fast enough in both chunks and boss rooms that it can usually recover.
Secondly, and lastly, enemies with gap closers. The build can tank your regular encounters with Fabius or Iron Maiden just fine, from 75 all the way to 80, with a variety of mutators (except maybe Cruel or Cruel + Brutal). It can stand its ground against potentially dangerous enemies, such as Reaper, so even though it could theoretically kite those encounters, it’s not forced to resort to this playstyle except for those rare, very high threat encounters such as Gargabol or Theodin’s second phase. But some enemies can, though rarely, nuke you down in melee and punish you if you kite. I was fortunate enough to only encounter Korvaak once and it was only at SR75, so the fight wasn’t much of an issue. I haven’t fought Morgoneth but I don’t imagine him being particularly problematic with our suite of tools (Nulli and Mirror). The one enemy that handed me a defeat and cost me a run was Kymon. Which was odd cause I have fought him numerous times before and never had an issue. His projectiles from the sky can be dispelled since it’s a buff he places on himself, and without those, he’s easy to defeat. But inexplicably, in my final run with not particularly nasty mutators (some extra flat Aether and Chaos damage and reduced player DA were the most notable) he seemed to crit me with one of his normal swings at SR79 and killed me from full. That in itself wouldn’t be irrecoverable, if it weren’t for the fact that I got a time-waster chunk earlier (the Gazer Prime encounter) so my clock was low enough that the death ran me out of timer.
That’s pretty much what it takes for this build to fail a run. An unexpected death from an attack you wouldn’t think to Mirror through, from an enemy you think you shouldn’t kite (even though Kymon is technically kitable as his leap has a 7 s CD) after you’ve already lost timer on a time-waster chunk. That is not to say the build is otherwise utterly invincible. Like I said, I have died with it a few times across the 10 runs. But it recovers very well and has very few encounters it’s even slightly worried about. Korvaak would probably be the one troublesome fight, and even there you can just Mirror through the 3 hit combo and dispell the DA debuff from the projectile spiral. But the 9/10 score is still probably deserved, because despite its many strengths, the build still doesn’t quite reach that 10/10 level where SR80 feels like SR60 and it can just walk through content like it’s not there. The build doesn’t feel a particular bump in difficulty between SR75 and SR80, but it is most definitely killable and doesn’t let you just autopilot through everything. It does require judicious use of your mobility skill and Mirror and Nullification to minimise the risks, and in that way, is more of a very powerful finesse build than an unstoppable juggernaut.
As usual, here are the SR75-76 and SR80 sections of one of my runs to show the build in action.