Meatbag Part Three: Fun in the Sun

Meatbag began Nightmare Act II at clvl 43 with the following:

Defiance @20
Holy Shield @10
Sacrifice @7
Redemption @3
All prerequisites (Smite, Charge, Holy Bolt, Blessed Hammer, Prayer, Cleansing, Vigor) @1

Crafted Hit Power Truncheon: 64-86 dam, 7% life steal (socketed Amn rune)
Glorious Ancient Armor of Remedy: 332 def, -25% poison length
Ancient's Pledge Akaran Targe
The Face of Horror unique mask: +25 def, +20 strength, 10% resist all, hit causes monsters to flee 50%
Ocher Heavy Gloves of Alacrity: 20% IAS, 18% lightning resist
Russet Plated Belt of the Mammoth: +40 life, 11% fire resist
Rare Chain Boots: 20% Faster Run, 10% Faster Hit Recovery, 31% Enhanced Defense, 17% lightning resist, 16% poison resist, -25% poison length
Rare Ring: +1 max damage, +77 AR, 3% life steal, 14% cold resist, 7% poison resist, -25% poison length
Cathan's Seal ring: 6% life steal, -2 dam
Rare Amulet: +14 AR, +3 life regen, +11 stamina, 7% resist all

In between Acts I and II, I made a brief stop back in Normal, where Meatbag socketed an Amn rune into his very fine crafted truncheon. That brought my total life leech up to a healthy 16%, which would exactly cancel out the 8% Sacrifice self-damage penalty here in Nightmare. (Life and mana leech are cut in half in Nightmare, cut by 2/3 in Hell.) As far as the rest of my equipment, I was in the market for an improved amulet (still wearing one that I found in Act I Normal, for heaven's sake!) and a better ring to replace Cathan's Seal. A nice rare with life steal plus other goodies would be just the thing. I was collecting rubies for use on some kind of Blood crafting recipe, and either a ring or amulet looked like a good bet.

Down in the Sewers, I faced lots of skeletons and mummies. Pretty much everything was undead, except for a few Invaders on the second level. For some odd reason, I didn't find any skeleton archers though - the Sewers are usually crawling with them. I drew lots and lots of skeleton mages instead, which were generally similar. The archers have arrows that can be blocked, and while mage fire autohits, it can be resisted - thus probably a wash overall. The biggest problem was taking self-damage from Sacrifice. No life leech off of skeletons, remember! I used a lot of Redemption to compensate.

Radament drew Extra Strong for his additional ability:

This actually made him significantly more dangerous, raising Radament out of the cakewalk threat level. I had to use some care in dealing with those black star things that the greater mummies shoot. (Does Extra Strong get applied to that attack? It sure felt like it!) With Redemption to eliminate the minions though, this was handled without any real crisis points arising.

The inability to leech life from the Sewer's skeletons had been the one thing holding back Meatbag. When I ventured out into the Rocky Waste, that issue vanished and he was able to cut loose without interruption. The monster mix was vultures, leapers, and beetles - all melee attackers, and only the beetle sparks posing even the least bit of danger. Without Sacrifice causing self-damage, Meatbag completely owned the enemies. Vultures and leapers were dying in two hits, and occasionally even one! I ran into a couple of boss packs, and killed them so fast I didn't even have time to note the abilities. Five or six swings to take down a boss/champ. "Extra Dead" Enchanted, we'd call them in one of my online variant teams. Wow. Meatbag hadn't been this dominant since the early stages of Normal difficulty! I tried to enjoy it as much as possible, knowing it wouldn't last forever.

The Stony Tomb was mostly skeletons, slowing down Meatbag and forcing a lot more potion usage from Sacrifice. There were several bosses, just nothing that really posed a great threat, even with monsters right on top of Meatbag at the stairs on both floors. Poor Creepy was owned, killed in 10 seconds as he tried to teleport away.

The Dry Hills had nearly the same monster mix as the Rocky Waste, only exchanging beetles for spear-throwing cats. This was even easier, if anything, since Meatbag's extremely high blocking had little trouble stopping the spears he wasn't able to dodge. Total ownage from start to finish across the desert sands. I held off on using Redemption for a few minutes to snap a picture of some of the carnage near the entrace:

Here Meatbag takes down the last remaining minion from a boss pack, having already dispatched the boss kitty earlier (blue body on the left). The blood all over the ground is from Sacrifice usage; every time Meatbag swings, a little drop of blood appears, whether or not he hits the target. At the end of a large battle, that can often make for quite a scene! Most of my pictures don't show this too well, since the bodies disappear when using Redemption. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Halls of the Dead had a Stone Skin/Extra Fast spear-throwing cat boss literally ON the stairs. Battle went very smoothly though - thank goodness for 65% blocking! Elsewhere, the level was mostly Hollow Ones + skeletons/mummies. While this wasn't all that dangerous for a Redemption user, it did become tedious. The biggest danger in the Halls? Mummy makers! They had a lot of hit points, and I didn't realize right away that they are another foe against which life leech doesn't work. Meatbag damn near killed himself via Sacrifice damage before I realized what was going on and hastily gulped a rejuv. Yes, his life actually went down under 100 into the critical zone. That would have been one of the all time dumbest deaths for a character who is trying to simulate Hardcore mode. At least I picked up on my mistake here, and not in the Tombs at the end of the act where there were more dangerous enemies about.

Even though Bloodwitch was Extra Strong/Cursed/Spectral Hit, she didn't cause any serious problems. Pure melee opponents just aren't that tough, since they so rarely hit Meatbag. The only thing that has me worried is a boss with one-hit kill potential, which won't arise until Hell difficulty. We recently faced an Extra Strong/Cursed/Spectal Hit/Might Enchanted Hephasto with the druid team in Hell, who was doing 1500+ damage per swing. If Meatbag ever reaches that point, he won't be getting anywhere near melee range!

The Far Oasis had beetles, vultures, and crows. Crows? Are you kidding me?! Vultures and crows died in two hits, beetles in three. Killed a Cursed/Teleportation crow boss in TWO HITS! What a joke. The Lost City had more of the same, with zombies/marauders/melee cats. Yawn. When did this game get so easy?!

In case you couldn't tell, the deserts were by far the easiest parts of Nightmare Meatbag had encountered. When I thought about it, that did make sense. Wide open areas, plenty of retreat room, foes heavily dependent on melee damage, few bosses and champs to deal with. Meatbag himself was also vastly stronger than he had been at the start of Act I; he continued to use that VERY nice crafted truncheon, higher levels of Sacrifice had his to-hit higher than it had been in ages, Meatbag's to-be-hit was under 15% against most foes, and Holy Shield provided a near-godly blocking percentage. All that combined to make the deserts of Act II easier in Nightmare than they had been in Normal, if you can believe it. Now the question was whether that would hold up as well in the more confined underground reaches ahead...

The Ancient Tunnels had lightning mage skeletons, mummies, and invaders. Once again, skeletons were the toughest due to the lack of life leeching ability. Meatbag had a close call when facing a double boss pack (skeleton + invader); his life went under 100 and I gulped a rejuv instantly. Whew! Reflected Sacrifice damage had been the biggest problem there. I managed to make it through without any more close calls.

Meatbag turned up another Flawless Ruby in the Ancient Tunnels, allowing me to craft a Blood amulet using a spare Amn rune. I got a rather good result: 4% life steal, 10% faster run (30% total with boots), +10 life, and 5% resist all. That was a gigantic improvement over my former amulet, so I made the switch. I also managed to gamble a better rare ring around this point, with another 4% life steal plus some AR boost and mid-range resists. I sold the crappy Cathan's Seal ring, it having served its emergency purpose well.

The Claw Viper Temple was all vipers on the first floor - lots and lots of snakes. There were no fewer than four bosses there (including Cursed/Mana Burn on top of the stairs, sheesh!) but generally nothing was too tough. While their melee attacks were completely useless, the viper charges (which are another Ignore Target Defense attack, argh!) sometimes pingponged Meatbag around a bit. I made a note to try and find some more hit recovery items for Meatbag; that's one thing that he lacked on his gear (I had only 10% total). I tried to offset this by fighting the vipers at melee range, as shown in the picture above. I also did a lot of retreating around corners, to cut down on their charge angles. They would still charge even at point-blank range at times, however. Blah.

Claw Viper Two is among the worst death traps in the game, a fight in a sardine can against Fangy plus the inevitable Hollow Ones and their revivable minions. I was determined to use extreme caution and take no chances. Meatbag slowly drew out a few vipers, then the Hollow One skeleton minions (yay Redemption and corpse cleanup!) This cleared enough space kill two Hollow Ones on the top part of the screen, then race onto the altar, where I took this screenshot:

From here, Meatbag worked through all of Fangy's minions one at a time, drawing them back to the stairs for easy disposal. When Fangskin was the only one left, I slew him in insolation. Extra Fast/Extra Strong/LEB is nothing to mess around with! The whole operation went over like a textbook job, couldn't have gone better if I do say so.

The Palace proved to be relatively routine, horror archers notwithstanding. It was amazing how the melee creatures in there were completely unable to harm Meatskin. The archers and mages presented the only threat, yet maxed resists + 65% blocking made both of them not too bad. Fire Eye cowered in the corner when being slain. I almost pitied him as I bashed his brains out from behind.

The Arcane Sanctuary was basically a breeze too. Due to the open space in the Sanctuary, I took off the Face of Horror when fighting Spectres, to prevent them retreating off into the ether. They were considerably less dangerous than they had been in Normal, dying faster and hitting much less often. (I'm not looking forward to them all being Physical Immune in Hell though, should Meatbag make it back here one final time.) The vampires just couldn't do much against a character with 75% fire resistance. And the goats... The poor Hell Clan were laughably bad: 75% odds for Meatbag to hit, 12% odds for them to hit him, 65% blocking, and no more than 3 hits to kill them. I could walk into goat mobs of any size with complete impunity and down them all without needing to drink potions. Literally as easy as Act I Normal critters.

Is the Summoner ever difficult? I counted: five swings (while under Weaken curse!) to take him down. At least the screenshot came out looking awesome.

In full-clearing one of the extra branches of the Arcane Sanctuary, Meatbag turned up an awesome new helm: Sazabi's Mental Sheath, a basinet with +1 to all skills, +100 defense, and mid-level fire and lightning resists! Excellent! That put the Face of Horror to shame, and I happily retired the old helm into Fara's keeping. Looking over the rest of the Sazabi set on the Arreat Summit website, I'd love to get my hands on either of the other set pieces (a nice sword and very fine armor). The odds of them turning up in pure play are a million to one, but I'll cross my fingers and hope for the best! The helm is a true keeper, something Meatbag will likely wear to the end of his days.

The Canyon of the Magi had Crushers, maggots, and beetles. I saw some swarming at times (see above), which wasn't all that much cause for concern. Even in large numbers, the Canyon foes presented relatively little danger. The worst situation was a FEB/Extra Fast beetle, the same buggy interaction between the sparks and fire damage causing much more pain than usual. Something is not right about that particular combo...

Down in the False Tombs, I ran into my first Physical Immune (PI) boss of the game, a Stone Skin apparition:

I went back to my stash in town, where I had saved a dirk with 100 poison damage on it for exactly this sort of occasion. Well, that DID get the job done, but it was so agonizingly slow that I made the decision to find a different solution for PI enemies in the future. I stabbed so many times with the dagger that the darn thing nearly broke. Of course, that was the problem: poison won't stack in Diablo, so repeated stabbings had no real effect. I began combing the merchants in town on each trip for a weapon with boosted fire or lightning damage, and soon found one: a mace with 40-70 added fire damage. That proved to be a good thing, as the second False Tomb had another PI apparition boss! This second one with the new mace went considerably faster, and I downed him in about two minutes. I returned the fire mace to my stash for potential future use as needed.

One of the False Tombs had a nasty Gorebelly boss + two Unraveller bosses hairball, all encountered in the same room together. There were a good three dozen skeletons in there accompanying the dual greater mummy bosses and THEIR minions, and of course one of the bosses was cursed and another one Might Enchanted, so they were all synergizing their abilities together. Yeouch. Took a lot of retreats and potion usage to clear out that room. Another tomb had this difficult boss at the treasure chest:

Extra Strong/Multishot is always a combo to be feared, regardless of the situation. Throw in several attending Unraveller minions, all shooting their black star attack as well, and Meatbag was in a deadly situation indeed. I was so busy trying to get a screenshot of the boss, I ate a full volley of shots from the boss and saw my life plummet. Ahhhh! Gulped a rejuv, took the shot you see above, then backed off and took the fight more carefully. I swear that trying to snap these pictures is going to get me killed someday. Meatbag may not be hardcore, but he's got a perfect record going so far, and I do NOT want to lose that if at all possible!

Kaa actually wasn't too bad:

Of course, that's mainly because he drew the useless Teleportation ability to go along with his usual three. For once, I was glad this wasn't D2 classic, with its Heal-a-portation headaches. Plug him with Prevent Monster Heal weapon (now using an upgraded throwing axe version), do not engage unless life is maxed, keep drinking potions. Meatbag handled the situation with the minimum risk possible for a melee character.

I followed the example of many other experienced players and left the Maggot Hole for last in the act, not wanting to make space for the silly Horadric Staff in stash. The close quarters down there actually favored Meatbag: no swarming! One on one against beetles, maggots, and bugs, it was no contest. I mowed them down like wheat before the scythe, walking right down the tunnels from one foe to the next. This is a bad area for casters, clearly not for the Defiant pally!

Coldworm's chamber was packed as usual, including beetles as well as maggots. Hmmm, don't remember seeing that before. Meatbag was quickly hopelessly surrounded, but I didn't care. Swing, swing, swing - they'll all die before I would. Any time his health began to drop, I swapped auras over to Redemption, and there were *SO* many maggot corpses on the ground that his life and mana instantly restored to full. Kinda hard to die with an endless supply of full rejuvs on hand!

The True Tomb had no Unravellers, yay! Just because Redemption can pull their teeth doesn't mean they don't still cause lengthy fights. The toughest spot was a room full of a double beetle boss pack (Mana Burn/Cursed and FEB/LEB, the latter doing buggy damage). LOT of sparks flying around in there, fortunately Meatbag was able to make a stand at the doorway. The FEB/LEB boss was worked down to a sliver, then slain with throwing axes at distance. (That death explosion is still bugged in Nightmare, as far as I know. Not going to experiment and find out!)

Duriel can be summed up with this smiley:

He was completely unable to drain my life below 2/3 on the orb. His attack rating was just not high enough to get through my Defense consistently, and I always kept him at melee range so as to avoid his Charge attack. There was a Combat shrine in the True Tomb, and I saved it for use right before the Duriel fight. Although the damage boost was minor, the 4x AR really helped me get in some choice licks. I took Duriel down to less than a third life (around the "D" on his health bar) before it wore off, and then finished the job - just whiffing a lot more often. Total potion usage was about eight reds and no purples. Total ownage!

That was all she wrote for Act II, which really had been fun in the sun for Meatbag. Better gear and better skills carried him past all the challenges he had faced, with only a handful of close calls. On now to Act III, where I wouldn't mind trekking through the jungles - but feared greatly the stair traps of the Kurast Temples... Meatbag will see you there.