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I played this game years ago and I've been playing again recently. While I realize most Diablo 2 players use battle.net, I've always played in single player mode. I've never made it quite this far before in the game on single player and I was curious if it is realistically possible to get through the hell difficulty with my necromancer. All of my points are in summoning skills.

I have the option to respec again now that I'm on the hell difficulty so I really have two questions:

  • If it is possible for me to play this difficulty level with all of my spells in summoning, how should I redistribute my skill points?
  • If not, what is a good build for the necromancer in which I can use some the of the summoning skills; such as golem, revive, and raise skeleton?

Thanks for any help you can give.

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I would imagine boss fights, especially diablo and baal, will be troublesome, you'll have to go resurrect up an army over and over again till he dies. –  z ' Nov 19 '11 at 21:50
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All points in summoning is not recommended. A couple points in Corpse Explosion and one (just one) in Decrepify or Lower Resist are very useful. Most points in summoning is very playable, though. –  Sjoerd Nov 22 '11 at 0:02

9 Answers 9

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I tried this once upon a time, and found that some of the boss fights were quite complicated and difficult. You can definitely make it work, although you might want to consider some of the Necromancer/Summoner builds available around the internet. They'll show you what skills to prioritize and what equipment to search for.

This one in particular seemed quite complete, but there are many to choose from.

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Indeed. Getting past Baal without a few points in Decrepify is quite hard, since he'll mow down most of your minions with ease if he's not weakened. The same goes for Diablo, to some extent. –  oKtosiTe Nov 20 '11 at 9:33
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Decrepify + Clay Golem + act2 NM defense hireling = very slow Baal, who will never summon his brother anymore. Although it might take some time, your army will kill him without too much trouble. Killing Diablo is the main problem (although his seals are straightforward). –  Sjoerd Nov 22 '11 at 0:22
    
How do you distribute points between health, mana etc with each level for the summoner? This one always hurts me to the point I am dying in Kurast on Nightmare a lot. –  ヴァイシャリ Nov 7 '12 at 15:44

I would argue that summoning necromancers are the easiest character type to play through hell difficulty with. My experience fighting all of hell as a summoner in single-player, bosses included, was mostly a cakewalk. This is true for several reasons:

  • Summoners put up a lot of bodies with a lot of health. You can get anywhere in the range from 10 to 30 allies depending on your build. This leads to incredible damage mitigation, as you will rarely be even targeted by an enemy due to your mobs.
  • Your summons scale with difficulty. A clay golem may be easily slain in normal difficulty by any boss, but in hell difficulty his hit points go into the hundreds to thousands (even at skill level 1!)
  • Slowing effects. Slowing and stunning are some of the most powerful abilities available in most games. An enemy that cannot move or act is an enemy that cannot hurt you. Decrepify is my summoner's lifeblood. A 50% reduction in speed cannot be ignored. Couple this with the slowing effects of the clay golem, and you will reduce enemies, including end act bosses, to a crawl.
  • You will trigger hit stun often. Having more than 10 allies means you are applying a vast number of individual attacks against an enemy at once. Even though your summons weak attacks are unlikely to stun, having 10+ chances to stun per second gives you a good stun rate. Permanent stun lock is a real thing when considering the slow effects noted above.
  • One point wonders. Necromancers benefit from one point skills more than any other class. A one point skill is any skill that becomes immediately, and consistently, useful and viable with only one point in it. Examples include: Dim Vision, Decrepify, Amplify Damage, any of the Golems, Revive, Corpse Explosion, and Life Tap. If you also consider the sheer amount of +skill items you are likely to find (giving anywhere from +3 to +10! to all your skills depending on your luck), the list expands to include skills like: Bone Armor and Bone Wall.
  • Auras benefit you greatly. With any of the rune words that bestow an aura or the Act 2 mercenary, you will be applying bonuses on many targets, effectively squeezing more value out of those auras.

There are also some tricks to increase your overall effectiveness as an undead master. For example, there are particulars about your summon's AI that can be exploited. Normally, your summons will collide with each other, which means that only a set number of them can gang up on an enemy at a time. You can get around this with the spell teleport. Necromancers do not get this skill, but you can find weapons with charges of it on them. Keep these items. Teleport is a powerful defensive ability, teleport when you are bringing 30 skeletons with you is a devastating weapon. When you teleport, all of your minions move to your exact destination with you.

Now here is where the trick is: if you teleport on top of an enemy, all of your minions will engage, all overlapped, with that enemy. This can be dangerous with enemies like Diablo that have powerful area of effect attacks, but if you execute it right you can permanently stun lock him with this technique. For example, I defeated hell difficulty Baal without losing a summon in less than two minutes. The technique goes as follows:

  1. Apply a decrepify curse on your target.
  2. Teleport on top of your target (your minions will follow).
  3. Step away from your enemy.
  4. ???
  5. Profit!

The slow from your clay golem and decrepify (and any cold skeleton mages you have) all stack to slow Baal down to a crawl. Your minions many, many, many attacks cancel all of Baal's attacks before they happen. He will remain stunlocked until he dies. You just need to keep decrepify up on him at all times.

I will warn though that a effectively built summoner can get boring to play, as you will often have to do little aside from cast a curse or a corpse explosion and then wait for the battle to end. However, it is a safe and powerful character to play, that is unlikely to hit the effectiveness wall in nightmare or hell that other character might encounter. Summoners are mostly about learning about your minions and corralling them properly to get them to do what you want.

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+1 for being generally right, but I wish I could give more for recommending legit teleport-charged weapons over a duped Enigma. –  KRyan Dec 9 '13 at 7:46

I find in all three difficulties that as long as your skeletons are reasonably durable and can kill at least one enemy in a pack, Corpse Explosion will do the rest of the work for you.

There's a tough balance between points on Corpse Explosion and Skeleon/Skeleton Mastery that you need to maintain as you level up; the hardships that I face when putting too much focus onto Corpse Explosion are:

  1. Boss battles - Corpse Explosion is useless for these and you will need to rely on the power of your skeletons. Duriel in particular gives me a lot of trouble here because there are no enemies in his environment (nothing to convert into new skeletons).
  2. Small groups of really tough enemies.
  3. Ranged enemies that are really spread out.
  4. I often find my skeletons attacking smaller targets, meaning the Corpse Explosion damage is minimal against other larger enemies in a pack.
  5. You find your mana running out extremely quickly if you push too many points too early on.

From memory, once you get into the final acts of Nightmare and throughout Hell you'll find that your skeletons act as more of an indestructible wall than a damage dealing source. I slowly made my way through hell using skeletons by sitting back until they finally kill something and then bombed the rest. The ones that don't die normally aren't far off and once a second or third falls it's game over for them.

You can add a lot of damage dealing potential to your skeletons using some Runewords that add Fantacism or similar.

As for which summon skills to use - I strictly use Raise Skeleton, Skeleton Mastery and Summon Resist. I have never placed points into the Raise Skeletal Mage, Golems or Revive.

Back all of this up with a curse of your choice (I find Iron Maiden, Confuse and Lower Resist to be the most effective). Attract is also a good skill to have a point in just to get your initial kill when you have no skeletons.

I play a lvl 92 Necromancer with the above and it is by far my favourite and most fun class/build.

Side note: Corpse Explosion in the Secret Cow Level is hilariously overpowered. The Hell Bovines are so tightly packed that you can kill 20+ per cast. I highly recommend trying this some time!

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+1, good points. Also, I think this is the highest hyperlink-to-content-ratio I've ever seen =) –  jadarnel27 Dec 8 '11 at 0:05
    
It's to emphasise the awesomeness of Corpse Explosion :P –  Marty Dec 8 '11 at 0:15
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Not mentioning Amplify Damage is a huge omission. I think LR can only ever be preferred over AD versus unbreakable physical immunities. Maybe that's the reason your skeletons had trouble killing things. –  Rotsor Dec 19 '11 at 2:15
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I generally found the Necromancer and Paladin to be two opposites that definitely attract, so if you play online with a friend, try this combination. The paladin's auras spread to your minions, so Thorns, Fanaticism, Holy Freeze etc are naturals for a Paladin in the same party as a minion mancer. –  KeithS May 1 '12 at 0:08

Summons don't scale very well as you go higher in difficulty. The damage they can take and dish out just doesn't keep up with the minions of hell. Surprisingly, the Clay Golem is the best summon you have in hell. It has the highest health, slows the targets and costs almost nothing to cast after he dies. It acts as a tank while you can sit back and cast bones spells.

My personal favorite Necromancer build is to use Bone Spear as your main nuke spell. It goes through enemies so it can hit many targets when you get better at using it. With Bone Spear I would use Lower Resist and Decrepify. Lower Resist makes you hit harder and Decrepify slows the mobs so they don't hit you at all.

I know this isnt the build you were looking for. It is only the build I have the most experience and success with in hell. Hope it helps.

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Summons scale much better than Bone Spear does. –  Sjoerd Nov 22 '11 at 0:17
    
Did you play Diablo II after 1.10 came out? The skeletons are very powerful since. Bone spells -- not so much. –  Rotsor Dec 19 '11 at 2:17
  • 20 to Raise Skeleton
  • 20 to Skeleton Mastery
  • 9 to Summon Resist
  • 1 to Decrepify
  • 20 to Revive
  • 20 to Corpse Explosion and spend the rest as you like

The only reason I said 20 in Revive because if you can get the Enigma then your army will be easily recovered when you Teleport and you have no idea how strong revives can be in hell. I can kill every thing in hell and any player on Battle.Net in no time. You just need to make a big army and simply teleport on the target. I guarantee you no one will be able to beat you.

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I would say no. Skeleton Mages are a complete waste of time. Revives only if you are going to go mana heavy as without something to give you Teleport (Enigma for the skill, or Teleport charges on an item), they are basically left behind / waste each time you move on from where they were spawned. So Revives waste a LOT of mana you could be using more effectively with Corpse Explosion. Golems just don't do the damage, though some argue in favour of Iron Golems. I present below the base setup for a Summoner Necro and possible additions.

Primaries (0-40)

Always put your first 40 points into Skeletons (more important) and Skeleton Mastery (slightly less so, so progress it a bit slower and rather have more skeletons). It's FAR better to have 20 + 0 points in Skeleton Mastery and 20+4 points in Skeletons (for a total of 10 skellies) than the reverse... Skeleton Mastery doesn't matter as much to get over 20.

Don't waste points in Curses. Use wands, curse and switch back if you have your Skeleton bonuses on the other set of equipment. Alternatively, spend 1 point each in Amplify Damage, Decrepify and/or Iron Maiden.

Remember to get Mercs with offensive Auras in Act 2 (Nightmare, Hell, NOT normal).

Secondaries (40-100+)

Corpse Explosion + Clay Golem + Iron Maiden

Corpse Explosion is immensely powerful and requires 0 points in synergies, and had damage improved for 1.13d. A 6th-level skill with one prerequisite point (Teeth), it is, aside from Skeletons, the Necromancer's most scalable skill. Because it always does a percentage of the monsters' health in damage, it will do it's job admirably right through Hell difficulty. Get it's radius up to a good level and you will explode screens' worth of enemies... if you do only this, you can easily also afford Clay Golem for slowing enemies / bosses. Of course CE has no use against bosses so you will need to rely on Skeletons / Clay Golem there. Skeletons create the initial corpses and then mop up after the last explosion, as well as keeping you safe. Also remember that CE does part fire and part physical damage, so the only enemy you won't be able to touch with it are rare, Hell-difficulty bosses with Physical AND Fire immunity. You may put one point in Clay Golem, or you may want to max it. I find level 6 is where the Golem's slow benefits begin to drop off (44% slow at that level).

Iron Maiden / Decrepify / Amplify Damage completes the picture by working well in conjunction with your Skeletal troops; IM especially good for melee-heavy bosses. Again, invest 1 point or get a wand.

Golems

I agree with others that Golems will not max your survivability (again, from a hardcore perspective). Some swear on Iron Golems' Thorns as well as being made with special items to provide auras for Skeletons (fair enough) but the simple truth is that Skeletons can be used along with Iron Maiden and you will have plenty of points free to invest elsewhere instead of spending 40+ on making the Iron Golem worthwhile. Blood Golem does have the kill-by-proxy feature removed in 1.13d though, making it a little more usable.

Poison (Nova)

Along with 2 synergies maxed. Maxing synergies for Poison Nova is going to cost you a vast amount of points and not going to be as strong as Corpse Explosion in Hell, even for a pure Poison Nova build. Still, I suppose it would be nice to watch the poison doing its (rather inconsequential) damage alongside your Skeletons and Iron Maiden.

Bone Spear or Bone Spirit

Along with 2 synergies maxed. This is an option, but it won't scale well at all. For Bone Spear, you need to go all out with 100 points dedicated and it still won't do what Corpse Explosion can with fewer than 20 points.

Bone Wall + Bone Prison + Bone Armor

For the paranoid Hardcore player. The Walls and Prisons are tough, but not indestructible by Hell Difficulty, though you can spam them, and your Skeletons will be scattered between. The Bone Armor will help somewhat against arrows and so on, offering up to 1000 points protection against physical damage with maxed synergies.

Remaining points after maxing secondaries

I'd either increase the radius of my primary curse, or improve summoning, most likely Summon Resist. If you really have nothing better to spend the points on, Skeleton Mages are an option for your last 20 points as they benefit anyway by your mastery and are cheap to cast; alternatively get Blood Golem as a synergy to improve your Clay Golem's life.

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"Skeleton Mages are a complete waste of time" Are you for real? Especially cold skeleton mages are a beast. You can get 8 or more monsters immensely slowed down in no time. I find your suggestion to be partially true. Also skeleton mages act like a second barrier between you and the enemy with the first one being the melee skeletons, merc from Act II and usually a clay golemn. Since the question is about summoner build putting so many points in bone and poison skills IS a waste of points indeed. Corpse explosion is definitely a good skill to have but only using an item. –  rbaleksandar 2 hours ago
    
@rbaleksandar From the point of view of fast play, they are a waste of time. But if you're willing to be meticulous about resummoning cold mages every time you lose one, then I guess they can definitely help quite a bit (provided their missiles hit) with the slow effect you mention. This could be quite useful in hardcore Hell, I suppose. Personally I find it easier for fast play to just get 10m radius CE + Amp and blast the living **** out of everything that gets in the way, with fewer summons. Also, mage points could go into something reliable for HC survival, like bone wall, cage or armour. –  Arcane Engineer 1 hour ago

As above, don't put all points into Summoning, since a lot of the skills are useless. 20 Skeleton, 20 Skellie Mastery, 1 Amplify Damage, 1 Decrep/Lower Resist, and max Corpse Explosion. Should be able to get you through everything with points to spare.

Boss fights are doable, just slow.

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Don't forget summon resist.. Skeletons in nightmare/hell without summon resist are simply sacrifices. –  Marty Dec 7 '11 at 4:41

Answering as a Necromancer with all points on summoning skill, Currently playing in Hardcore realms :

  • lets talk about boss kills : put your summons on (warriors, mages, Clay Golem, revives + the hireling - I use Act 1 Cold arrow mercenary), Curse Boss on Sight with -Iron Maiden- when your clay Golem hit boss it will get the full attention of boss on it(we call it Agro), cast iron maiden on boss and let he kill himself, don't worry if Clay Golem falls, you don't need anything to re-summon it, so re-summon it when you see its health going near end, continue this and you will have the dead Boss under your feet. [ oh, how do you get iron maiden while you have all skills on summoning? just buy one magic wand from any weapon vendor with at least one iron maiden skill on it]

  • lets talk about one large stack of monsters who look really tough to kill, question is how to kill em? answer is don't make your hands dirty, let them kill themselves ! cast attract on them, and watch them kill each other while your army of summons helping them get rid of each others existence. [same as up, the magic wand with one attract skill help you on this way]

  • the last part of our encounter in Diablo 2 world are Champion or rare monsters who are immune to attract, so use iron maiden on them and bang ! hope it helps

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I loved the idea of letting the monsters do the dirty work and your summons 'helping' them... hehehehe –  Fabricio Araujo Jul 7 '12 at 22:54
    
It's cool but I do believe that the person who asked the question meant ONLY summons and nothing else (curses or bone/poison skills). –  rbaleksandar 2 hours ago

Summons only (=> no curses, no bone/poison skils at all!) is very, very difficult and you have to make sure you have plenty of cold mage skeletons plus a clay golemn at a decent level and maybe use the merc from Act I with the Cold arrow ablity as @ok suggested so that you can slow the boss down to a minimum, which is usually done by simply putting a single point in the Decrepify curse. I'm playing for the first time a Necro summoner (this is also my 4th or 5th playthrough so I don't consider myself to be a pro) and to be honest I think that Necro Summoner build is really overpowered if you use Decrepify for example in a combination with all the minions you have. First of all you lvl up pretty fast (compared to other builds even from other classes) once you get a bunch of your minions on the battlefield. I finished Normal difficulty with +3/4 lvls above the rest of my other heroes I'm playing with. I just defeated Diablo on Nightmare difficulty and it was a child's play (didn't have to use a single potion let alone take any dmg). I do believe that with Baal it'll be the same. For the whole Normal difficulty and in Nightmare up to Act V (I've just started it) I died only once due to the fact that I got stuck between my minions (this is one of the biggest drawbacks of the Necro Summoner and close encounters in narrow spaces such as the Magot's lair due to the somewhat stupid AI when it comes to pathfinding). On Normal difficulty I discovered that without Decrepify I had major difficulties defeating Diablo let alone Baal so I had to use the Reset Skills perk from Act I to put a single point in the branch in section Curses so that I can get that skill. And second of all you can spear a lot of stat points when it comes to Dexterity and even Strength.

Is it worth doing all that minions-only combination thing when you can just use Decrepify - most certainly not (omho of course :)). I find the combo Decrepify + Clay golemn (even at a lower level like 3-4) combined with 1-2 cold mage skeletons to be a winning ticket. Add to this the merc from Act II with Defensive or Offensive aura and you are good to go. Merc from Act II is a beast for summoner builds (druid or necro) since it gives a huge defense or offense boost to all your minions and this is something that proves to be extremely valuable later on in the game. Due to the incredible effectiveness of the Decrepify curse but also the mana it requires I suggest putting plenty of points in Enegry and of course Vitality (mostly for the stamina so that you can run around and curse the enemy really fast while it is concentrated on fighting your minions). Strength is useful only for the armor, helms and boots you might want to wear in case some monster passes your barrier of skeletons, merc, golemn and a bunch of revived monsters (very unlikely but Murphy's law is in fact real so who knows :D). I'm lvl 60 now and my Dexterity is 30. Can't hit sh*t but who cares - I have my wand only for the perks it gets me and not to use it in close combat. That's my minions' job. ;)

I've read in one comment that putting a couple of points in Decrepify is advised. I disagree. Due to the fact that you have a Necro Summoner it's obvious that you won't be getting any close combat action thus dexterity (and therefore attack rating) are useless. The points you put in Dexterity you can spend in Energy and Vitality. This leads to a high mana replenishing thus you can cast Decrepify at short intervals of time without worrying that you won't have the mana for it. The only thing leveling up Decrepify does is to increase its duration. The radius of 4 and the weaken + amp dmg effect stay constant. Unlike amp dmg where 3-4 points are okay (with an item for example) since it increases the area of effect leveling up Decrepify above lvl 1 is omho a waste of skill points which you can invest in your summon tree.

A tip for difficult fights with a Necro Summoner - open a portal near the boss fight for example (in case of Diablo try to open it a little bit further since he tends to cast bone prison on it and you might get a nasty surprise!) and you can easily jump through all the previous acts in order to re-summon the minions that were killed in the fight. I find this tactic to be very nice and it ensures that 1)you won't get killed by accident and 2)you will get plenty of minions, mana and health without the need to touching your stash with potions.

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