Sacred 2:Kaiden's HC Shadow Warrior Defense Build and Guide

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Kaiden's HC Shadow Warrior Defense Build and Guide

By Kaiden

Guide Updated: 3/22/2009

Table of Contents:

Section 1: Introduction to the build, what it's about

Section 2: Stat/Attribut point allocation

Section 3: Skill Selection and Skill point Allocation / Discussion on other skills not chosen

Section 4: Combat Arts, Modifications, and Uses.

Section 5: Equipment, Mods to look out for, etc...

Section 6: Leveling - More on Skill Point Allocation, which skills to focus on and when to focus on them.

Section 7: Tips on playing this build (or any SW really) in HC.

Section1 - Introduction:

This is an SW build for HC, and started out being tested in SP. It's heavily defensive in skill selection, and stat point allocation. I've been playing HC since my first char in S1, and most of my chars in D2. I played for about 7 hours in Softcore Lan getting a feel for the game (and still have a char there I play with my Wife) However all of my other characters are HC.

I stayed in Single Player with this build until I managed to beat the Silver campaign in HC without dying. Many Shadow Warriors lost their lives to my stupid mistakes, and testing different CAs and skills. The basic principle behind this build and the skill selection is this:

There are two aspects to playing any ARPG, How much damage you can do, and How much damage you can mitigate or absorb. Only one of those aspects will help a character survive in HC. So 8 out of 10 skill selections were chosen with Defense in mind, and 6 out of those 8 are purely for defense purposes. (The two aspect focus skills help with damage as well, by increasing acceptible CA levels).

I'm definitely not the leading expert on SW's by any means, while like to think I'm fairly good at coming up with good builds and have even devised several fotm's in various games, I'm still fairly new to S2. The opinions here in this guide/build are simply that, my opinions, and any advice gained from this may in fact be wrong, but it's been working great for me.

Section 2 - Stat Point Allocation:

Took Qwalen's advice on splitting attributes, I was originally of the mind to go all or mostly STR for damage and attk. Stat point Allocation for this build is 50%/50% Strength/Vitality. Essentially, sacrificing 200pts of Strength will net about 5kHP, and the loss to damage and attk rating is fairly negligable. Getting the 5kHP is a good thing, because we're skipping the HP option for Grim Resilience and taking the regen option. I'd also recommend focusing on STR in the beginning, but I'll get to that in sections 6 and 7.

Another option for more HP and more Regen would be 1:2 split between strength and vitality, upping strength 1pt for every 2 points in vitality. Alot depends on keeping CTH at a respectible level and never letting it go below 80% on most of what you fight. It's mostly preference. The Shadow Warrior by default excells at dealing damage and taking damage, so you can't really go wrong with a split. What I have done up in to the 90's so far, is a 25% / 75% split.

Here are the stats and my take on why every melee SW should go full STR or STR/VIT:

Strength: Attack Rating and Damage - If we can't hit it, we can't kill it. No point here is ever wasted. Even if you have 100% chance to hit everything in the game (not likely) more points in this still adds to damage.

Stamina: This seems to be a popular stat for newly created SW's. There are many ways to lower regen times, and this is not the best way. If you put any points here, I wouldn't put many. It's not really neccessary. Now, this is my opinion and it counts mostly for melee builds, I understand the benefits of this stat for builds that need all the help they can get lowering regen times. This isn't one of those builds, and most melee builds aren't either.

Vitality: More health, and more health regen - If you're playing HC, this is definitely worth considering. If you put enough points here, it could add thousands of HP to your character.

Dexterity: Only if you're going to be using a ranged weapon. Not in this build. If you were using a ranged weapon, then what applies for Strength above, would essentially apply here.

Intelligence: Increases spell damage - Not needed for any Melee build, unless you're using mage staves or daggers.

Willpower: Increases Spell Resistance - This should be the last stat ever even considered for SWs and ONLY even considered when you're not going to be running Grim Resilience as a buff. Grim Resilience can add 100's of points to Willpower.

Section 3 - Skill Selection:

Every character can choose 10 skills that all start off at 1pt. Over the course of 200 levels, they gain another 911 skill points to distribute as they choose for a total of 921 skill points. Below, I have suggested which skills to take for this build, and I have used 896 skill points, leaving behind 25 skill points to make slight adjustments, and if I feel it's unneccessary to raise a skill as high, I'll correct the guide and update the date. For the most part, this section should serve as a basic guideline for the build.

Here are the skill choices for this build and why:

Level 2: Tactics Lore - 100+ pts (All points in this skill to level 5 to open up Dual Wield) This skill is almost a requirement for any melee build. At level 75, this skill gives us + 180% damage. At 100pts in the skill, it gives 243% damage and 12% chance to Crit. The diminishing returns don't seem to start really kicking in until 140pts. With all the focus on defense, this could even be pushed up more to help out on damage.

Level 3: Armor Lore - 100+ pts Again, this skill is almost a requirement for any melee build. This is another skill that needs to be mastered, and I'll take this to at least 100. It's on the same percentage scale as Tactics Lore, so at 100 points, we'll have 243% more armor. This skill also does a good job of reducing regen times on your CAs. I can't find the exact percentages anywhere, but at lower levels it is not quite as effective as Concentration. Concentration has a 47.4% regen reduction at level 75, and I would guess the Armor Lore is about half that or less, and mostly depends on what armor you are wearing. If anyone has the actual numbers, it would be nice to have them.

Level 5: Dual Wield - 75pts Only I'll be taking DW for damage increase mostly(not from the skill, but from using two weapons), At mastery level this offers the chance for double-hit with each attack. The Item level without penalty is capped at 250, and goes up with level, so there is no reason to take this any higher than 75 unless you need a higher attack value or attack speed.

Level 8: Death Warrior Focus - 75pts max (Put 5 points in this immediately to open up Concentration) This will be our primary Attack tree, but we will be using some attack CAs from Malevolent Champion branch as well. One thing to keep in mind here, is that between Tactics and this skill, you need 126 points to fully modify bronze/silver/gold in 4 CAs, or 199 points to fully modify all 5 CAs. I'm personally only interested in 4 of the CA's in this aspect tree, but I'm definitely interested in regen times and CA levels. I've been considering leaving this at 50, and may do so. Not a decision you really have to make until about 140-150.

Level 12: Concentration - 1pt Only Regen times can be balanced in so many ways, and points can be spent elsewhere. Personally I find the need and desire to have this skill with 1pt in it aggrivating. However, it does allow us to run two Defensive Buffs which in my opinion are both God-Like buffs, and I will go into when we get to the CA section. I can't stress how important the two buffs are. They are good enough to take 1 skill slot for only 1 skill. And if I had to raise this to 75 to use them, I'd find the skill points somewhere. Luckily, it only takes up a skill slot and not any points.

Level 18: Malevolent Champion Focus - 75 points max. 75pts in this mostly for the same reasons as Death Warrior Focus. This ends up giving me a minimum of 175 points for modifications or enough for 14 total Mod points in this branch. More than I need. Although I'll be taking all 5 CAs in this aspect tree, Beligerent Vault really doesn't need to be modded. Same with Death Warrior Focus, Depending on how bad regen times start to get, I may leave this at 50. That's where it's staying till mid 100s at least.

Level 25: Constitution - 120 The effects of Constitution vary between the classes, levels, and possibly even other skills or attributes, so the actual effects of it are hard to track down. However, at level 69 with this skill at 69, and 300pts in Vitality, it adds over 2kHP and around 38% additional HP regen. Most importantly though, at Mastery Level, this skill allows your full HP regen to happen while in combat. Extra points (And then some) may find their way to this skill before I reach 200.

Level 35: Combat Reflexes - 75pts Serious Damage mitigation. At 75 pts, not only do you have a 48.3% Evade chance, but a 64.3% chance to avoid critical hits from weapons. There's a 12% evade jump from 74 to 75pts, and then diminishing returns start to kick in, where as the avoid critical hit chance seems to remain steadily decreasing from 50+pts without any significant jump. Granted, Maxing this will bump the critical hit avoidance up about 15% and the evade chance up 13%, this can be raised via +skills items. If I have the points, I may take this to 100pts for 53.4% evade and 70.9% avoid Criticals.

Level 50: Spell Resistance - 75pts This is essentially "Combat Reflexes" for spell damage. At 75 p At skill level 75, this skill adds another bonus, it reduces "Detrimental Effects" of spells. Extra points may find their way here, but 75pts is a definite, leaving the only vulnerability on this character in the form of ranged damage and criticals. Several threads seem to dismiss Spell Resistance for a Shadow Warrior because of Grim Resilience and it's willpower bonus which increases Spell Resistance. What Willpower does not do, and the skill Spell Resistance does, is reduce the chance for spell criticals by 64.3% and reduces the detrimental effects of spells by 35.6% at level 75. Think "35.6% Less weaken effects, 35.6% less hold/stun/root time, 35.6% more Hitpoints when that scorpion boss digs in and ruins all your HC living fun" Also remember, ALL CAs are "Spells".

Level 65: Toughness - 200pts There are two reasons why I'll be maxing this. The first, is that so far, every defensive skill taken in this build excells at stopping someone from hitting me. That's great and all, it's nice to rarely ever be hit. Eventually, even if the bosses only had .0001 chance of hitting me, the fact is, that by the odds, eventually they are going to hit me, and not just hit me, they are going to crit me. This skill reduces that damage by a %. The second reason is that it adds armor across the board which will help fill in any damage type gaps in my armor, it's also a flat +X Value and it's increased with Armor Lore, so the two skills work very well together. At skill level 200, you have 188 armor to all damage types, and an 18.7% reduction in damage that actually gets through your defenses.

Now, These skills are approximates, I would love to tell you exactly where to put your points at every level, however, it depends alot on gear, and gear can and will change. I'm not going to build this character around specific gear either, because I don't plan on trading my way into exactly what I want, I'll take the gear that drops for me. Level 200 is probably where I will spend my last 100+ Skill points, because by then, I will have a very good idea of where the holes in my gear are, whether or not my regen times need some work, and whether or not my defense skills are good enough. But that information won't even apply to your character so there's no reason to be exact in a guide like this. I've provided the boundaries, and the suggestions, minimums and maximums for these skills, the details depend on playstyle and gear.

Other skills that "almost made the cut":

Sword Weapons - There are only two reasons I did not take this skill. The first is because no one knows if the double-hit chance stacks with the Dual Wield skill's chance for double-hit. That might make it worth taking and upping to 75 for more damage, but since no one seems to know, or if they do, I can't find where they've posted it.

The 2nd reason, is because it would limit me to wanting Sword weapons. With just Dual Wield, I can pick up an axe or hammer or sword, whichever has the better stats, and I know that my DW attack bonus and attack speed bonus will apply. I just won't be able to use the secondary stats on the weapons. So far, that hasn't been much of a problem, and this skill seems to be discarded on every DW build you find anywhere. This is the same reason that Shield Lore did not make it in, Shield Lore would require that I pick a weapon type and stick with it for any Attack Bonus outside of raising the Strength Stat. Dual Wield bonuses apply independant of weapon type as long as you're holding something in each hand that you can hit stuff with.

Combat Discipline - I know that numerous SW gurus and other class gurus swear by this skill, and I agree with them 100%. It can significantly increase damage output through the use of combos and regen time bonuses. If I was going for God-Like damage instead of God-like Defense, I'd pick this skill EVERY time. It comes highly recommended by just about every high-level player there is, and if you check out the ladder, it's on quite a few of the top HC chars. Still we're not focusing on damage, the SW can generate alot of damage without the need for this skill.

Speed Lore - Another good defensive skill, and if I had any more offensive or general skills I could give up for this, I'd think about it, but if you look at Grim Resilience and Reflective Emanation, then even the two Aspect Focus skills could be considered "Defense" skills. I'm not worried too much about my attack bonus with Rousing Command, Augmenting Guidon, and Killing Spree going, I've got enough attack value to hit what I need to hit. Any + Defense is a good idea though, +Defense is modified by armor and +Defense %, etc... This is a good skill to have, and Defense stops you from getting hit at all, but it will not stop 100% of attacks that you will face, it will just keep a really good % of them off your back. This was the most likely skill to get shoved into the build.

So, why choose a skill that reduces incoming damage over a skill that reduces the chances of even being hit? For an HC character, it's nice not to get hit at all. That's wonderfull, but it does happen. Even with this skill, it can and will happen. When you're fighting numerous enemies all 20+ levels above you, and you do get hit, it can hurt, especially if it's a Boss. I'd rather a Boss hit me consistantly for 40% of my health than to hit me once in 100 shots for 80% of my health.

"He won't get 100 shots with my super-duper-dynomite-1-hit-kills-everything build though", you say. Well that might be true, but face that boss 1000 times and he'll get 100 shots in and one of those shots just might be a critical hit that will have you hitting the space bar fast enough to complete the works of Shakespeare in morse code. Or worse, it might be a critical hit that does enough damage to one-shot you.

Defense keeps the hits outside Chance to Evade keeps the hits out Chance to avoid critical lowers the chance that you'll be hit for insane damage Resistances (armor) lower the damage based on damage type Toughness lowers the amount of damage that actually makes it through. And your Hit points soak up whatever gets past all of that.

So, that's it, after hours and hours and hours of reading, researching, number-crunching and playing, those are the only 3(4 counting Shield Lore) skills I even considered adding into this build. So... Without further Ado, lets get on with the CAs

Section4 - Combat Arts:

I'll only be discussing the CAs that I use in this build, you can find other guides that go over all of the CAs and I only list some modifications, but personally I follow the modification Qwalen stated in his excellent guide on CA Modifications, and made my decisions mostly based on the numbers discussed there.

Death Warrior:

Demonic Blow - This is going to be the primary attack for this build. Once you hit level 5 and have Dual Wield, this will start hitting the same target twice, or two different targets. I've put this fully modded for DOTs and Frenzied Rampage modded for double-attack and poison in a combo and I've been extremely happy with it ever since. Try to keep the regen as close to <4 seconds as possible (Which would be significantly easier with Combat Discipline, but I couldn't let go of anything else to fit it in).

MODS: Wounding - Poisoning - Trauma

Scything Sweep - Crowd Control? What Crowd? Demonic Blow + Frenzied Rampage seems to be working great at crowds, but I do have a combo of Frenzied Rampage and Scything Sweep in my second slot for instances when I have bigger crowds. So far I haven't had to use it.

MODS: Force - Intent - Rage

More Discussion on Demonic Blow, Frenzied Rampage and Scything Sweep:

The DB/FR combo works wonders, and hits mobs in any direction. The best thing about DB being first in the combo, is that it quickly knocks a few targets out of the fight immediately. When the enemies get further and further ahead of you in levels, there are times where FR and SS don't do enough damage in one hit, DB can knock a Champion out of the fight fast and then FR goes to work on everything else in the area. The downside is that Scything Sweep will hit multiple mobs in 1 swing, so it's a faster CA, FR hits multiple enemies consecutively one at a time until they are dead. The upside is that DB/FR is an all purpose combo for large groups or a large boss, and Scything Sweep or a SS/FR combo is only for one situation and requires herding to maximize it's effect.

It's something that may need to be considered if at any time it's taking you longer to kill a group of enemies than it takes you to run to the next group. At that point, you may want to switch combos/CAs. Otherwise, stick to the one-size fits all, and that frees up an Action Slot (you only have 4) for other CAs.

Rousing Command - I have this combo'd with Killing Spree, and I hit it every time it's up. With half my skills on the Defense side, I need all the attack value I can get. With the increased duration, I hit this in every fight, and 30 seconds seems to be all you need for anything less than a boss fight. With a boss fight, you're on for 30s, off for 30s, etc...

MODS: Persistence - Spur - Surge

Grim Resilience - This buff stacks with the vitality +hp/+regen, and Constitution +hp/+regen, and when Constitution hits 75, all that +regen works in combat too. If that wasn't enough, this buff also significantly increases willpower which adds to spell resistance. Take it and love it from level 1 to 200, every rune spent on this buff is worth it. Until it drops while you're fighting a boss... "Go-Go Gadget Defense Skills"

This should be your 1st buff that you are running < level 12 when you get Concentration. Why? As an HC character, level 1 GM gives you about 50HP, as you start out, that's around a 33% increase in HP, or a couple level 1 crits you can take. Reflective Emanation only reflects 20% of Melee Damage at level 1 and does not reflect all those knives being thrown at you for the 1st 5 levels, or the stones being thrown at you for the next 10 levels. If that was not enough of a reason, that 50hp goes up as you level, and the Silver mod of GR will lower your regen times so you can hit your CAs faster.

MODS: Rejuvination - Disciplin - Safeguard

Malevolent Champion:

Frenzied Rampage - Double-hit Goodness, Multi-strikes, and more poison DOT, what's not to love about this? If it weren't for the lack of another decent attack CA in this tree, I'd consider making this tree primary, but it all works together, and where Death Warrior contains 2 buffs, this tree contains 3. Combo'd after Demonic Blow in a Combo and it negates the need to use Scything Sweep.

MODS: Double Attack - Double Strike - Envenom

Augmenting Guidon - Another great on-the-spot buff for the SW. Increases Attack and Defense values, but it's an AOE, and only lasts for 15 seconds. That's enough for minions. I'd seriously consider increasing range, with the 1st Mod, but not at the loss of the 50% increase in the buff's primary focus, Attack and Defense. Add the healing effect and the Attack debuff, and it's a winner, especially with the concept of this build in mind: Defense!

MODS: Elite - Healing - Fear

Beligerant Vault - I really only use this skill to take shortcuts. Jumping off an overpass here, jumping across a river there. It can really shave hours off of travel time just by getting past obstacles, however, if I'm on a long straight road and don't have faster transportation, I'll sometimes just vault down the road, and it saves time there too. Modded for distance only, nothing else neccessary here.

MODS: Reach

Killing Spree - For the common mobs, this buff really helps clean up. For Bosses, it helps keep your mind off the common mobs that may be spawned or surround the boss. This also increases the Attack Value (Control Mod) which helps with AG, and RC to help compensate for the loss of attribute points in Strength. This and RC in a combo, and I hit it every time it's available in a fight, and at the beginning of every fight.

MODS: Control - Burst - Sear

Reflective Emanation - I have this modded to reflect ranged and spells. This not only works perfectly in conjunction with the Combat Reflexes and Spell Resistance skills, it also covers the Hole that those two skills leave behind, which is ranged damage. This buff goes on top of Grim Resilience as soon as Concentration is around, and both of these buffs together make that wasted skill slot for 1pt more than worth it.

MODS: Backlash - AntiMagic - Riposte

Astral Lord:

Shadow Veil - It has it's uses in this build, although they are limited without mods, and I couldn't justify shoving Astral Lord Focus into this build for one or two skills. I'd use skeletal fortification and spectral hand as well if I could take the focus for this aspect and mod them.

MODS: No available points

As far as CAs, that's it for this build. You can mod all of the buffs except for Grim Resilience, to work for team members, if you forsee yourself grouping alot, these mods do not "gimp" the buffs much, and you'll get better benefits from your team mates who also mod their buffs to be team friendly.

Section 5 - Equipment:

Arguably, the best mods are +skill/+Skill Tree/+All Skill and +CA/+CA Aspect/+ALL CA. I haven't used or even seen all of the mods, and can't give a definitive answer on which ones are the absolute best, but here are my observations both from playing and reading:

Armor - With All the defense this build has, high armor values are still a good idea and so are Defense +X bonuses. Secondary stats and slots are important, but keep the highest armor value possible and Defense values seem to be just as important in S2 as they were in S1.

Also take advantage of +concentration considering it seems to be the best source of lowering regen times (based on my own testing, no hard evidence) What I have seen, is that +Concentration mods lower regen times better than the same +armor and +focus mods, so when given the choice, pick Concentration if you just need lower regen times.

Weapons - I was primarily keeping +str / +Tactics type mods on my weapons and keeping an eye out for increased damage with the same stats. Then I found two weapons with -14.4% chance for opponent to evade, I equipped them and found that the hit I took in Attack value due to the loss of +Str was negligent, I don't seem to miss at all now, except for against a boss, I missed a couple times.

Another good mod is -x% opponent defense, which has a similar, but fits into a completely different formula. Either mod makes it easier for you to hit your enemies.

If you're not having a problem hitting your opponents, then mods that increase damage would be the next priority. +Damage types, +chance to inflict Open, Deep, Serious, or Deadly wounds, etc... +Any/All Offensive Skills is always helpful as well.

Opponent level for Deathblow +X% could make a great mod if you could get enough of it and if Bosses are affected by it.

General EQ Mods-

At the lower levels, look for items (sleeves, gloves, weapons, rings typically) that have high +Attack and usually come with an equal or slightly lower +Defense. If you can't hit it, you can't kill it. Always try to keep your "chance to hit opponent" no lower than 70% on most of what you fight. I tend to keep mine in the 80%+ range, but it dips every now and then and sometimes I get some good EQ and it goes over 100% on most.

Life Leech at earlier levels, will help you corner the market in HP potions. And this mod could help you stay alive in areas you shouldn't be in and if you can kill those +30 mobs fast enough to make it worth the risk in HC, then by all means, leech away. With the pure defense of this build, Grim Resilience, Constitution and 200pts in Vitality, we're doing ok on regen and if a few 1000+HP/second post level 75 isn't fast enough regen for you, then put your armor back on and stop fighting naked in HC, it's dangerous and you could lose your character that way.

Still If you're chugging potions, Life Leech is helpfull. Around Level 70ish, you can effectively leech a few 100hp per hit, and that's getting close to around 1000pts of regen per second while you're in a fight.

Opponents chance to reflect -X% would be a good mod for situational use and I beleive only shows up on Uniques. The primary question here, is "Do all of the defense skills work on reflected damage? Or is it auto-hit and non-reduceable?" If this is the case, then I would say that this particular mod would be very useful to always have on, especially when in PvP or when you know you could be fighting mobs with reflect on.

Slotting Blacksmith "Enhance" arts into your slots significantly lowers regen times. Also consider slotting Demonic Blow and Frenzied Rampage runes into slots to increase the levels with lower regen times.

Section 6 - Leveling up:

Stat points - While I'm endorsing 50%/50% allocation of stat points between STR and Vitality, Strength is where you want to start. I'd invest no less than the 1st 15 points right into STR. This will keep your damage climbing, and help you hit everything you're aiming at early on. Just keep track of how many points you've put where, I've been doing almost 15 / 5 / 15 /5 for the first 40 levels upping my damage and keeping Vitality on the rise slowly. Then you can start focusing on Vitality to even up the numbers.

After 40, I began heading towards an end split of 75% vitality (300pts) and 25% Strength (100pts). My Chance to hit on everything consistently across both my current SW's is over 100% and 60% or higher on bosses/mini bosses. Damage is still adequate enough to wipe out groups in 1-2 combos, and bosses fall in 15-20 seconds or less (Excluding the Mist).

Skill points - - Keep Tactics at level, and you will still have enough skill points to allocate for everything else. And you need 5 points in this by level 5, so you have to put them all here to begin with.

- Once you get DW at level 5, put your extra points here until it's at least 20pts invested in it, and not counting +s from equipment. The exception is at level 8:

- At level 8 you get Dark Warrior Focus. You need 5 points in this by level 12 to open up Concentration so you can run both buffs.

- Don't put any additional points in concentration. It has NO other benefit than lowering your regen times and allowing you to run 3 buffs. If you're not running 3 buffs, and therefore aren't taking this to 75, spend those points elsewhere. Put points in either of the aspect focus skills, or Armor, those skills have additional benefit that is not wasted, and you want to get them to 75pts anyway. See my description of Stamina. It can be very tempting to spend early level points in stamina and concentration to lower regen times, but the problem goes away with carefull management in other areas, and those points spent elsewhere will give you more benefit.

- Despite what I just said, when comparing stats on equipment, +Concentration gives more regen than +Armor, and +stamina doesn't hurt either.

- I personally get Malevolent Champion Focus to 5 points as well to even it out. I leave these two skills at level 5 until after level 30+

- At level 18, start saving points up for Constitution, it will give you about 25% increase in HP when you get it to about 12 - 15. Once you're here keep tactics at Max, get DW to 20, and put a point in Constitution. Once DW is at 20, raise tactics and this until it's at level.

- Armor - You'll have a few extra points to throw in here prior to level 18, and after you get Constitution caught up to level, start working on this, putting a point in tactics and Constitution every level and get this caught up to at least 30. That will significantly help lower your regen times.

- There are more optimal ways to spend the points I'm sure, I'm still no expert in the class, But you'll kill groups of 5-10 enemies with one or two combos with the above point distributions up to this level (30+) and it's not the fastest killing there is, but it's done fairly well for me.

- Keep Tactics and Constitution maxed until 75pts and then work on getting your other skills to the 75pt mark to take advantage of Mastery bonuses.

- After getting Armor to around level 30, use the extra points to get DWF and MCF up to around that level as well, or if your regen times are ok, you can continue to level up armor so that at level 75, you've got 3 skills at max.

- If you need more damage output / faster regen times, this guide is not set in stone, stop raising Tactics and Constitution, and pump up Armor, DWF and MCF to lower regen times and add more runes to your attack CAs for more damage.

- Combat Reflexes at 35, and Spell Resistance at level 50 can wait for points while you get the rest sorted out. These are the skills that need to be considered for points when you are having a problem with extreme damage. You know, you're going along just fine, wacking the crap out everything with your pointy sticks, and then BAM 25% of your life is gone in one hit from some Champion with a Halberd that managed to get past your 40% reflect on RE and crit while he was at it... Combat Reflexes deals with those hits, and so does Spell Resistance.

- Toughness should be maxed, and it's stated in numerous places on the forums, that it's a late bloomer. You'll still see a difference early on though as you start putting points in this. At 65, you're close to getting several skills at the 75pt mastery break point, and you can start throwing several points per level into this.

- At level 50, you begin getting 5 skill points per level. While maxing Constitution and Tactics, Armor and DW should get at least some of the extra points. By 90, you should have all 4 of those at 75, and 30-50 in each of the focus skills. Focus on maxing Toughness at this point, and putting some points into Combat Reflexes and Spell Resistance is the top priority. Getting Toughness to level by 120 or sooner should definitely be a goal. Combat Reflexes and Spell Resistance to 75 by about 130.

- The levels don't get any easier. Once you hit 100 you have to focus on your defense, especially if you want to be fighting bosses.

Section 7 - General Tips:

I personally play HC like most people play SC, every SW I create starts in Silver and goes straight for the two closest bosses before level 15 (White Griffon and Kobold Cheiftan). I go after the bosses, I push the campaign, etc... None of which has ever caused my death. Stupidity is the culprit EVERY time. Not lag, not skill or stat selection, and not testing the waters of possible death.

- If you're having problems starting in Silver, by all means, start in Bronze, you'll live longer.

- Even if you fully intend on using FR and have a run for it, use DB, it does more damage, and can take an opponent out of the fight early. Less people hitting you is a good thing.

- If you're not passing gear to your new HC chars, hit up the SP starting points for pots, or loot the buildings and fountains for your health pots. Also, the SW starting point is a great place to get some decent starting loot and a number of health pots. It's a fair jog from the 1st town though, but always one of my 1st destinations.

- Do the runemaster quest, it's easy, the wolves can be taken out in 1s and 2s, and there's ever so slight of a chance that you could get some runes from him on completion.

- You might be tempted to throw on RE to start with until you get concentration, but GR will add around 50-60hp immediately and that works wonders to increase your level <5 survivability. RE will only protect you against Melee damage that early.

- If you're Dual Wield, it is very much worth it to cram Tactics and pick this skill up at level 5. How does dropping the shield increase survivability you ask? Easy, they're crappy shields anyway, and DW will immediately increase your damage output significantly. Most early groups of enemies (till you get into Kobold territory) will attack you in groups of 3. Easily 50% of the time, Demonic Blow with Dual Wield knocks out 2 of the 3 in one CA, leaving a single enemy soiling my potential loot.

- If you're not walleyed <- ->, you're going to have to get used to keeping one eye on your health and one eye on your fight, I miss the health circle on the ground from S1. Always heal with every bit of damage at early levels. It's perfectly fine to over-heal, it will help keep you from dying.

- If you're going to share loot with your newly created SW, I'd offer the following suggestions: -- Rune for every CA (obvious) throw GR on immediately before leaving the island -- 20+ Health potions to get started with -- Low level poison relics. -- They'll have to wait to wear gear, but you could pass them some yellow items to sell so they can go ahead and get fully geared up at level 1.

- Don't leave the Island without your buffs.

- Try not to teleport into hot-zones.

- Make sure you have enough health potions.

- Make sure you're not lagging before you make the jump off the island.

- Most importantly, try not to leave the island unbufed, short onf health potions, lagging, and teleport into an undead hot zone with no undead potions. It's a bad idea.

- AFK'ing outside of a major town is right out as an acceptable survival tactic.

- There's an option that I think alot of newer HC players never think about taking: Running Away. When I first fought the White Griffon at level 12, I ran out of health potions and tried to finish it off. I couldn't. I was running away like a pansy with my leather skirt flying in the wind and with 23 points of health praying that it misses with it's next lightning strike. Running away worked. I ran up to the Temple, bought 11 health pots and went back and finished the job for two white items and negligable xp The moral of the story is, it's ok to test the waters, and it's ok to run away from waters that try to kill you.

- Keep lots of health pots. Store them in your bank. At some point, you'll get to a situation where you rarely even use them and they start stocking up. It's temporary and it fluctuates. Save em, pass em down to new HC chars, etc... But always have them available for when you do need them. Sometimes 10 from a store is NOT enough (Boss fights).

- Use your relics, don't just leave them down there and forget about them. Early on, they won't do you much good, as just about everything hits you with physical damage. Set them on Poison if you have any, that will help you the most against the rats and bats you're likely to face early on.

I'll continue to add helpfull bits to the guide, especially as I climb the HC US ladder and gain more experience with the mid-high levels. Currently levels 54/93 (Closed/SP testing)

Originally published at DarkMattersfor review and discussion.

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