These are my thoughts reflecting back on the character that I played for our Low Rent Legion variant of Diablo 2 Resurrected. When I saw that the visual remake for Diablo 2 was getting ready for release, I decided that I wanted to run a team variant and the Low Rent Legion concept (with some minor modifications) looked like it would be fun to try. This was not intended to be a super difficult variant setup and indeed we ended up breezing through the game without too much trouble most of the time. That wasn't to say that we didn't hit some real hairballs at times though and on the whole I think that the challenge level came out just about perfect for a relaxing and entertaining group venture.
I was open to playing any of the roles on the team as needed and my plan was to make sure that we had at least one Necromancer and one Paladin. They were the two roles that I viewed as being the most critical for skeleton minions, Amplify Damage curse, and Might aura to juice up the rest of the team. It turned out that the Necromancer role was extremely popular, with three different people expressing interest in that position, although eventually two of them had to drop out due to time conflicts. Dp101 was similarly very interested in running a Paladin - although I think in retrospect she might not have been quite so eager if she had had more familiarity with melee combat in Hell difficulty! That left me free to pick one of the more offensively oriented roles and I fell in love with the concept of the Charged Bolt sorcie right away. The Sorceress is my favorite class in Diablo 2 (which I oddly haven't written too much about on this website since I played them to death back before I started it) and the fast-casting Charged Bolt mage was one of the rare builds that I hadn't tried before. I ended up being the only source of lightning damage on our team and my role was critical whenever we encountered zones with heavy fire or physical resistance. I provided zero utility to the team, only raw damage, but that was still an important position to have.
It was a real pleasure to plan out the character build for Electric Tsunami and I wound up with one of the tigher setups that I can recall having for a D2 character. Initially I spread out my stat points equally between Strength, Vitality, and Energy during the early level ups. It's always tricky to plan out how many stat points to put in each category for a Sorceress since they start with such absurdly low Strength. I also believe that at least some Energy is needed in the early parts of the game or else your character runs out of mana too fast no matter how much Warmth they might have stacked. Electric Tsunami had fairly low Strength all through Normal difficulty only for me to respec at the start of Nightmare difficulty to hit the 43 Strength needed to wield a Crystal Sword for the 4 socket Spirit runeword. Spirit also provided +112 mana which allowed me to drop down to the base 35 Energy and put more stat points into Vitality. I think it was the right decision to invest into Energy early on given that I could direct those stat points back into more HP later when getting additional mana from gear.
I pretty much assigned all my stat points into Vitality from that point on until reaching the start of Hell difficulty and upgrading into Electric Tsunami's final gear setup. A Lionheart runeword in the chest slot provided enough Strength to make a 4 socket Spirit shield viable which necessitated respecing again to hit the required 156 Strength. This allowed Electric Tsunami to hit 1170 HP by the end of the game which felt positively massive compared to my previous spellcasters. She had significantly better gear than any other character that I've ever played and this was responsible for hitting max resistances so easily despite not running a 3 Diamond shield. With an elite armor for the Lionheart base and SLVL 26 Frozen Armor, Electric Tsunami actually had enough defensive rating to mean something. Monsters would only hit her about 60-70% of the time which meant that she did dodge some of the incoming blows when she was standing still to pump out Charged Bolts. Her equipment also granted her 55% faster hit recovery and that was a very big deal as well, cutting the hit recovery animation from the base 15 frames down to just 9 frames. This was a major reason why Electric Tsunami was able to survive throughout the whole run: inherent safety from ranged spellcasting + high HP + maxed resistances + lots of faster hit recovery. Compare her character sheet above to the same screenshot from my Rogue Revival character Svava from 15 years earlier. It's amazing how big of a difference a more relaxed variant, much better equipment, and my own improved skill at building characters could make.
The skilling order for Electric Tsunami was one of the simplest that I can remember for any character that I've played. She put one point in Charged Bolt and one point in Warmth and then proceeded to max out Charged Bolt up to the allowed limit of base SLVL 20. Then I put points into Lightning for the synergy until hitting CLVL 30 and unlocking Lightning Mastery. At that point Electric Tsunami maxed out Lightning Mastery followed by the Lightning synergy and then was essentially done for the rest of the variant. I initially skilled up Warmth afterwards to increase her mana regen rate only to find that it didn't seem to make much of a difference. Electric Tsunami guzzled down mana potions from the first day of her journey until the very last trip through the Secret Cow Level, Warmth be darned. As a result, I switched those Warmth points over to Frozen Armor during the Hell difficulty respec and then went back to maxing Warmth afterwards. She almost finished completing Warmth when we concluded our variant run, it was sitting at a base SLVL of 16 when we finished. I placed one point in Ice Bolt for humorous purposes but it was never used for anything serious. Charged Bolt was the only skill that saw any real use from the beginning to the end of this character's days.
As far as +skills gear went, I was able to get Electric Tsunami up to +7 to her lightning skills for SLVL 27 maximum. She was getting +3 from Heart of the Oak, +2 from her Spirit shield, +1 from her Lore helmet, and +1 from her amulet. We were unfortunately limited here by the Low Rent Legion variant that disallowed the various chest runewords that provide +2 to class skills. Electric Tsunami also had terrible gambling luck and could never turn up anything with +2 sorcie skills or +3 lightning skills for the helmet slot. I gambled close to 10 million gold on circlets without ever getting those affixes to appear; we found +3 to sorcie fire and cold skills but never lightning, argh! We did find an amulet with +2 lightning skills but it would have dropped me below the next fast cast framerate breakpoint and that wasn't worth it for only +1 skills. Electric Tsunami's Charged Bolts still did plenty of damage, shooting out 24 of them at a time that each dealt 233-254 damage at a VERY fast rate, but we easily could have had 20-30% more damage on them with a little bit better item luck.
Speaking of item luck, I apparently used it all up at the start of Hell difficulty when we had the incredible fortune to see a Vex rune drop. This allowed us to make a Heart of the Oak runeword for Electric Tsunami when a 4 socket flail dropped in the same session, indicating that this runeword was fated to be. Heart of the Oak is used in legitimate builds pieced together by players who rerun areas endlessly in search of loot. This was the best item that any of my characters had ever acquired by an order of magnitude and I tried to live up to this incredible weapon drop that I doubted I would ever get to use again. We didn't even make use of the Oak Sage charges since they were forbidden by variant rule and it was still downright amazing! The Spirit runeword was an easy choice for the shield slot with more +skills, more faster cast, more mana, and decent elemental resistances in everything except fire. I was not punished here thanks to Heart of the Oak covering what would otherwise be a resistances hole in my build. Spirit was also made viable as a runeword thanks to running Lionheart in the chest slot which granted 25 Strength (stat points which could be placed into Vitality instead), 50 HP, another 20 Vitality, and another 30 resist all. This was significantly better than Smoke which was the other runeword I was looking at, which would have had higher resist all but none of the other goodies on Lionheart. In the absence of being able to use something with more +skills on it, this was the best that Electric Tsunami was going to do.
The other two key items in this character's build were the amulet and belt, both of them crafted by other players and donated to me. The amulet was absolutely amazing for having +1 lightning skills, 8% faster cast, a big bonus to fire resistance (the one category not covered by the Spirit shield), and then a pair of handy bonuses to total mana. Outside of having more +skills on it and rolling health bonuses instead of mana ones, this was about the best I could ever do. The crafted belt had some decent resists and most importantly 6% faster cast. Along with two rings that each had 10% faster cast, this allowed Electric Tsunami to hit the 105% faster cast threshhold to drop her Charged Bolts down to 8 frames per cast. The default rate is 13 frames per cast and let me tell you, those Charged Bolts were coming out FAAAAAAST when I held down the mouse button. I had never reached this much faster cast stuff with a previous character and it was a giddy pleasure to watch Electric Tsunami mow down opposing monsters with wave after wave of electric energy. Her name was well chosen! The rest of her stuff filled out the remaining resistances needed to hit the 75% cap and most of her charms simply added more health to help stave off dying, nothing special there. We never had the good fortune to find any +skills Grand Charms that she could use.
I do have to mention one other thing: Electric Tsunami never died! I put a death counter on the Livestream broadcast thinking that it would be funny to increment it as the variant played out only to turn the whole thing into a joke by never dying at all. She came close only a couple of times, I saw her health fall to 300 HP on several occasions when undead dolls exploded or Nihlathak used his Corpse Explosion or when we ran into disasters like in the Secret Cow Level. But I always reacted fast enough to hit the full rejuv button and I guess that I've trained my Diablo 2 instincts pretty well over 20 years of playing this game. This screen should really be congratulating Guardian Electric Tsunami, not Matriarch! And I recorded every game on Livestream so there you have it, indisputable proof that Electric Tsunami completed the whole game from start to finish without ever biting the dust. She's the first character that I've played to finish the entire game without ever dying; my Necromancer Skulla was the closest before this when he perished against the Ancients in Hell difficulty.
A variant team would be nothing without the other players and Electric Tsunami's deathless status was heavily due to their vital contributions to the group. In alphabetical order, here are a few final thoughts on the other members of the Low Rent Legion group:
Boro (LRL_PunchingBag): I expected that the Barbarian would be one of the big damage dealers on the team but Boro took his character in a different direction and wound up playing an incredibly useful utility role. Normally Barbarians aren't known for their use of Howl and Find Potion skills, however Boro made ample use of both which kept our potion-hungry team chugging along and the group safe from getting swarmed by monsters. We likely would have been able to avoid the disaster against the Hell difficulty cows if Boro had been able to make the last session and shout away the Hell Bovines. LRL_PunchingBag made great use of the weapon swap ability and I often spotted the character firing away with a crossbow when it was too dangerous to melee on the front lines. Boro also switched over to Bash for some additional crowd control whenever it was feasible and together with Dp101 the two of them were very good at tying up otherwise nasty bosses. I think that Boro kept running into the equipment limitations of the variant more so than many of the other character builds as some of the runewords he wanted to use were disallowed and this led to some frustration at times. We were super happy to have him on the team though and I'm glad we were able to run the final extra session to take LRL_PunchingBag up through Baal.
Burninator1729 (Bootica): I still think that this was the best-named character of the bunch. Burninator1729 has been one of the longest-running viewers of my Livestream and I'm glad that we were finally able to take part in a joint gaming venture. He played Bootica as a flexible Assassin who could switch between tossing Fire Traps when we needed more splash damage and then convert over into a melee kick Assassin for single target punishment. The Assassin kick animation is ridiculous and it was a ton of fun to watch Bootica tear apart bosses when juiced up with Might aura and Amplify Damage curse. Burninator1729 had the most single target damage of any of our characters and therefore Bootica turned into a bit of a boss killer expert, especially against the act end bosses who went down like bowling pins. Thanks for taking part in this team so that I could hear what your voice actually sounded like!
Dp101 (ArchaicMight): The Paladin role on this team was both one of the most critically important and also arguably the most difficult to play. Dp101 selflessly volunteered for this position and did a fantastic job despite the vicious pounding that ArchaicMight was often taking throughout Hell difficulty. I know that it had to be frustrating playing a purely melee character who had to spread stat points thin across Strength, Dexterity, and Vitality while being stripped of the skills that typically keep a Paladin alive like Holy Shield. Plus the only way to deal damage at any kind of realistic rate required Sacrifice, a skill that self-damaged the character - ouch! Dp101 had less experience at this game than some of the rest of us and this was also a reason why her character died on many occasions. Brutally difficult to play melee character combined with a newer player was a potential recipe for disaster. But Dp101 hung in there with the rest of the group and improved immeasurably over the course of our team's duration. Outside of the Secret Cow Level, ArchaicMight barely died at all during our final session even though we were hitting the hardest parts of Hell difficulty. Dp101's Might aura and ability to Smite-lock enemies were immensely valuable for the functioning of the rest of the team even if the Paladin role wasn't getting much of the glory. Next time around, I promise we'll give you one of the DPS caster roles for a change of pace!
Gario (LRL_Gariomancer): We started out with three potential Necromancers but quickly dropped down to just the one played by Gario. He played the role exactly as I was hoping it would be played and turned into the other great utility member of the group. We found ourselves in all sorts of trouble whenever Gario was 10 minutes late to our team sessions, running around like chickens with our heads cut off during the brief minutes before our skeleton Necromancer could arrive to save the day. It turns out that SLVL 30 skeletal warriors backed by SLVL 30 Mastery are pretty darn sturdy even in Hell difficulty! Who needs the Revive skill, heh. Gario was up to a full dozen of those melee skeletons by the time that he maxed out his gear and the minions were truly indispensible blocking dummies throughout the whole course of the variant run. My top directive in every big fight was to find a safe spot just behind the skeleton wall where I could cast in safety. Gario also kept the enemies blanketed with Amplify Damage curse at all times and he was a master at keeping himself safe, with only a tiny handful of deaths that counted in the single digits. We absolutely could not have made this team possible without the role played by Gariomancer.
IAndrosov (LRL_Psycho): Finally we had the other all-offensive spellcaster of the group in the form of IAndrosov's Fire Blast Assassin. We were originally set to have multiple different sources of fire element damage, between a fire Bowazon and a Firestorm Druid, only for the other players to drop out in the middle of Normal difficulty. (The running joke afterwards was an endless series of equipment drops for Amazon characters that we couldn't use.) This left IAndrosov as the only character going pure fire damage and his Fire Blasts were hitting for a ton of damage by the end of the game. Fire Blast has a bunch of synergy skills and IAndrosov was doing nothing but pumping them with every level up. He mentioned at one point that he felt bad about not contributing any utility functions to the team but that was perfectly fine given the setup that we had. Sometimes you just need a whole lot of fire damage as a result of putting 95 skill points into Fire Blast and all of its synergies over the course of the whole variant run. We really felt the absence of IAndrosov during the few sessions that he had to miss whenever we ran into Lightning Immune enemies and my character was rendered helpless. It was great having you on the team along with everyone else.
Well, I think I'm finally out of things to say for once. This was a lot of fun and perhaps we'll look to run some more team variants down the road in a few months. D2R is about to get its first gameplay patch update which means that there will be new character builds and new equipment to test for the first time in over a decade. I have the idea for at least one more team variant already; we'll have to wait and see what develops over time. Thanks again to all of you for joining me in this venture!