Meatbag Part Four: Golden Treasure

Meatbag began Nightmare Act III at clvl 53 with the following:

Defiance @20+1
Holy Shield @14+1
Sacrifice @14+1
Redemption @3+1
All prerequisites (Smite, Charge, Holy Bolt, Blessed Hammer, Prayer, Cleansing, Vigor) @1+1

Crafted Hit Power Truncheon: 64-86 dam, 7% life steal (socketed Amn rune)
Blessed Russet Armor: 400 def
Ancient's Pledge Akaran Targe: 153 def, 48% fire/lightning/poison resist, 43% cold resist, 10% damage taken goes to mana
Sazabi's Mental Sheath: 183 def, +1 all skills, 20% fire resist, 15% lightning resist
Ocher Heavy Gloves of Alacrity: 20% IAS, 18% lightning resist
Russet Plated Belt of the Colossus: +48 life, 20% 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: 3% life steal, +1 max damage, +77 AR, 14% cold resist, 7% poison resist, -25% poison length
Rare Ring: 4% life steal, +1 max damage, +85 AR, 7% fire/cold/poison resist, 15% lightning resist
Crafted Blood Amulet: 4% life steal, 10% faster run, +14 life, 5% resist all, -1 dam

The very first thing Meatbag did in Act III was check the merchants to see if anything good showed up (something he usually did on each trip to town anyway). Lo and behold, Hratli had a Blessed Armor on sale, 400 defense right on the nose. That was an upgrade from his old Ancient Armor with 332 def (aquired in Act V Normal), so I made the switch. With Defiance and Holy Shield, Meatbag's Defense rating rose from ~6500 to ~7200. Fetishes had 10% odds to hit.

Venturing out into the Spider Forest past the Dark Wanderer, Meatbag quickly discovered that the going was... easy? Yep, just as the deserts of Act II had proved to be relatively low-stress, the first jungle area of Act III eased Meatbag into the swing of things. The monster mix was fetishes, mosquitos, and thorned hulks. All of these foes relied on melee attacks to do damage (aside from the feeble mosquito poison) and thus were easily stopped by Defiance aura. Even better, aside from the thorned hulks, they were all low hit point foes! Fetishes died in two hits, the suckers sometimes falling in a single swing. Meatbag was killing boss packs without even realizing he was fighting them - extra dead indeed. (Even with extra life, a mosquito boss still fell in four hits. Very nice.)

A pack of thorned hulk champs dropped the Jade Figurine. Meatbag will take that extra 20 life, thank you very much. The other highlight of the Spider Forest was turning up a Shael rune. I had no doubt that Meatbag would be using this in one way or another at some point down the road.

Meatbag found the Arachnid Lair first (next to the waypoint as always), and ventured down immediately. The dungeon was misnamed, being filled almost entirely with fiends (bats). With maxed lightning resist, this generally wasn't a very dangerous area either. The liveliest fight came against a fourpack of fiend champs, who were picking up the edge of a Might aura from another fiend boss offscreen! Interesting times for a minute there.

The Spider Cavern was also misnamed, mostly inhabited by maggots (giant lamprey). Meatbag left Sszark's corner for last and methodically cleared out the bugs. The best fight in this area came against another champ pack of lampreys, who were breeding out the wazzoo. Just as in Coldworm's chamber, a quick swap to Redemption aura refilled Meatbag's life and mana instantly, making things a lot easier on me. Sszark drew LEB status (see above!), so he had to be handled with extra care. Meatbag successfully separated "Old Buy-a-Vowel" from his minions and took him down in an isolated corner. Never got hit once, the Curse only coming from his errant sparks. That's by far the best job I've ever done against Sszark with a pure melee character.

Note that Meatbag didn't hire a mercenary for the Spider Cavern, nor would he anywhere else in this act. I was feeling guilty for doing so in Normal, when it definitely had not been necessary, so I decided to punish myself by going solo for the rest of the act. If Meatbag makes it to Hell with no deaths, I'll reevaluate things and decide whether or not to hire one. Meatbag is not built to deal with Physical Immune (PI) monsters, so I will probably have to hire an Iron Wolf merc for areas that have them in large numbers. Have to get there first though!

Meatbag found the Flayer Jungle next, drawing one of those weird jungle formations where the Forest connects directly to the Jungle with no intervening terrain. I correctly deduced from this map info that the Great Marsh would be a dead end. (I've been getting a lot better at this, though still far short of some of my Rogue/druid teammates.) Rather than push into the Jungle, Meatbag continued exploring until he reached the Marsh. The monster draw there was almost identical to the Spider Forest, with vultures instead of mosquitos and a slightly stronger version of the walking trees (bramble husks). The vultures were barely more difficult than the mosquitos, dying easily in two hits, so this was another low-pressure area. Large and rather relaxing. Meatbag full-cleared as always, happy to pick up some experience in non-threatening regions.

The Swampy Pit (and waypoint) were right at the Flayer Jungle entrance, so Meatbag ran that dungeon first. The first floor had a double mummy boss and their attending minions in a room together, fortunately neither of them particularly fast. Floor two was virtually all zombies, including a triple boss pack in a rather small area. One of them came up Physical Immune!

While Teleportation was useless, the Stone Skin ability combined with innate physical resistance created that immunity. This boss could not hurt Meatbag, the zombie boss almost never connecting on a hit. However, Meatbag's lack of elemental damage dragged this out over an extended, dull, five minutes of tedium. (I had the TV on watching a baseball game while holding down the attack button, heh.) Thank goodness that Teleportation doesn't regenerate health in D2X! That boss would have been parking material. (Of course, the boss wouldn't have been PI in D2 classic either...)

Floor three of the Swampy Pit was almost entirely deserted, only a few Fetishes and no bosses. Weird.

The Flayer Jungle had flayers, soul killers, and vultures. In other words, almost entirely the little buggers and their accompanying shamans. Sometimes this made for fair-sized mobs:

I could have pulled retreating moves to avoid Meatbag getting swarmed, but generally I just... didn't. Meatbag could hold his own with ease against even huge numbers of flayers, so what was the point of expending extra time and energy? Meatbag still had those tactics in his back pocket for use in Hell difficulty, if needed. The flayers simply didn't have a high enough attack rating to connect with any frequency (to-be-hit around 11%), and did little damage on the rare occasions when they did. Even better, with so many corpses around, Meatbag had an instant heal on demand whenever he wanted it:

Haha, up to heaven with the little ghosties. Redemption is an awesome skill, even at low levels.

The Gidbinn boss was an LEB/Teleportation flayer, who died in three hits. Heh.

That brought Meatbag to the Flayer Dungeon, often a dangerous location due to the cramped quarters and undead flayers with their death explosions. Floor one was flayers, undead flayers, and bats mixed together. Meatbag immediately faced an Extra Fast/Extra Strong undead flayer that had him racing around in what was little more than a sardine can. He soon found that the little dolls were not dangerous themselves (well... not dangerous when lacking the EF/ES combo!) It was their death explosion that did all the damage, so by taking care not to kill any of them except at full life, he could be sure to stave off critical injury.

Boss handled, and he drops a gold-colored Full Plate Mail. Unique armor, wow. I couldn't remember what that was off the top of my head, but it almost had to be pretty good. Meatbag made a quick trip to town, where Cain IDed it as Goldskin, an armor with 126% increased defense and other goodies. Wow, just what he needed! That is, if I can upgrade it to its Exceptional equivalent, making use of that VERY sweet boost to defense. Alt-Tab out to the Arreat Summit, check the Cube formulas... Well, Meatbag needs a Perfect Diamond, Tal rune, and Shael rune to pull things off. And, miracle of miracles, a Shael rune just dropped back in the Spider Forest! (Ah, so there WAS a reason I mentioned that a minute ago!) Time to finish the recipe:

Defense 748! That's better than I could hope for even from most Elite armors, with an excellent boost to resists as well. Goldskin is a nearly perfect fit for Meatbag, as good as I could possibly hope to get without twinking gear. I had been planning to use my Imbues on Elite armors, but no need for that now! Meatbag would be free to use them on upgrading other parts of his setup. The one downside was the 140 strength requirement: Meatbag was sitting on 120, his target goal. With the Lam Esem quest coming up, he could reach that mark in three more level ups, and be sure to get the armor in play before the end of Act III. I made that the immediate goal for the near future.

There were still two more levels of the Flayer Dungeon to tackle, of course. Flayer two had a ghost boss pack right at the stairs, LEB/Mana Burn. There was absolutely no room to do this fight, and Meatbag just tanked them down. I have no idea how I would have done this fight in Hell, with them all PI. Probably retreat to town, hire a cold merc, and let him do the work. A couple steps further into the level, and out popped a double Flayer boss pack, FEB/Extra Fast and CEB/Extra Fast. The hot and cold duo! Thankfully Meatbag managed to fight each boss one at a time, but it was still quite hairy. Sheesh!

The third floor is always a big maze with relatively few enemies, not one of my favorite areas of the game. Meatbag found the chest about three quarters of the way through the level. Endugu was FEB/LEB meaning he had to be given a wide berth and treated with caution. That death explosion is still bugged as far as I know, and Meatbag won't be attempting to find out the hard way! Endugu may have had enough magical resistances to stop a half-dozen sorcies, but he fell to a hail of throwing axes launched from a safe distance.

The last fight in the jungles always comes against this guy:

Meatbag drew out two minions first, killed them, then lured out the boss. Even with Stone Skin adding some physical resistance, this was a very easy fight. Keep swinging, drink reds as needed. Meatbag can do that kind of battle in his sleep by now.

On to Kurast, one of my favorite parts of the game. Although the jungles look cool, they're also a bit bland and drag out a little too long. All of the areas in Kurast are fun to play - especially Travincal, probably the best single region in the game. Lower Kurast had apes, vultures, and leapers - all melee opponent. None of these foes are dangerous for Meatbag, and the area went smoothly. Leapers may be a bad draw for your sorcie or necro, not so much for the Defiant pally. They jumped around a bunch, but died in a mere two hits. A double boss pack (Extra Strong/Holy Fire ape and Extra Strong/CEB vulture) guarding the door to the Kurast Bazaar was the main highlight.

Kurast Bazaar had thrashers, faithful (zealots), and itchies. None of these were difficult, but they all required more hits (4-5) than the critters in Lower Kurast. Meatbag ran into four bosses, none of them difficult or noteworthy enough to write down. I'm skipping through these areas quickly because there wasn't much to report. If the enemies are all melee, they're not going to have much success against Meatbag.

This brought Meatbag to the first of the six temples in Kurast, home of some of the deadliest stairs traps in the game. Your normal Realms player would never even consider entering anything beyond the Ruined Temple for the Lam Esem quest. Meatbag, of course, is full-clearing the game, so here we go. The Disused Fane had a very small open space at the stairs, then immediately threw out a double vampire boss pack as soon as Meatbag left the entry room:

In addition to that Cursed/Extra Strong boss above, there was another Cursed/Spectal Hit one right behind him, although thankfully Meatbag was able to separate them with some quick footwork. Meatbag was thoroughly glad that Cursed only applies to physical damage and not fire! A Lower Resist curse or Conviction aura would have been especially painful here. There were also spiders and some very fast rogues in this area. Not too bad once the initial stairs region had been cleared, of course. Overall, I'd rate this a medium-difficulty stairs trap.

The dreaded Ruined Temple stairs were trapped, but not badly (only six enemies, no bosses/champs). Call this a low-difficulty trap, particularly for a character like Meatbag who can deal with being swarmed. With some careful movements, Meatbag managed to wake up half of Sarina's minions first, killed them, then faced the old girl with only one accompanying minion. Sarina was Stone Skin in addition to her usual abilities (Extra Fast/Spectral Hit), and posed no threat without her usual mob. Once she was out of the way, the rest of the minions were mopped up at leisure, and Meatbag retrieved the black book. 5 more points to strength (to 135 overall, one more level up needed for Goldskin).

Meatbag ventured next into the Kurast Sewers, another area most players try to skip as much as possible. The monster draw here was mummies, mosquitos, and undead flayers - the last of which posed the only real threat. Meatbag soon discovered that sometimes he would take a lot of damage from their death explosion, and sometimes he would take none at all. I couldn't figure this one out for the longest time, then it hit me like a ton of bricks - blocking! Meatbag was blocking about 2/3 of the explosions with his shield. Either way, he still took far more damage from the little dolls than all other monsters combined. Meatbag was glad he didn't have to face the horror/unraveller combo though.

Riftwing and his crew were parked up on the ceiling near the entrance to level two, as always. Meatbag woke up the minions one at a time by pegging them with throwing axes, making for a very easy fight. Riftwing himself blinked around a whole lot with Teleportation (he drew Extra Fast as the third ability) and didn't achieve a whole lot else.

Upper Kurast was very similar to the Bazaar, adding cantors to the mix and vultures in place of the itchies. The vultures were, if anything, even easier than the swarms of bugs, and Meatbag found that the cantors weren't too tough either. He could kill the faithful before they could be healed, pulling most of the teeth from that threat. There were four more bosses, and two of them encountered together, but no close calls and relatively little stress.

That left the other four temples to be handled. Ugh. Meatbag may not be Hardcore, but I've got a perfect record going, and I would love to get through Nightmare with a clean slate. Still, it was now or never, so time to bite the bullet and get them over with. The Forgotten Reliquary stairs were trapped, but again not terribly so. There were only about seven enemies, no bosses, and all of them melee. Meatbag could deal with that. Otherwise it was unremarkable, only a single easy boss inside.

Then it was down into the Forgotten Temple, and the alarm bells were going off like crazy!

I snapped the above picture one second after coming down the stairs. Seven serpent maguses (magi?) were on Meatbag in an instant, charging like crazy and pingponging him left and right. Those damn snakes and their charges function as an Ignores Target Defense attack, against which all of Meatbag's defense was useless! Even worse, with every hit they did cold damage and chilled his attack to a crawl. Meatbag drank furiously from his belt and inventory, only to find that as the fight was winding down, he had been knocked into the left room where a Cursed snake boss and his minions were eager to leap into the fight. Good grief! No more pictures, it was enough trying to survive that hairball. Had to drink some rejuvs to get through this, would have been absolutely brutal in Hell. After the entry the area was relatively easy, thankfully, but still. I'd rate it an 8/10 in terms of nasty stairs traps.

Fortunately the game did let up a bit after that mess. The Ruined Fane had no stairs trap, only a single bat boss, and was very quiet. The Disused Reliquary was similarly quiet. Only a Holy Freeze/LEB (ha!) beetle in there. It was nice to avoid deathtraps for a change. So the worst of the act was now beyond Meatbag, but there was still work to be done before getting out of Dodge in one piece.

Travincal was great fun as always. It was almost completely hierophant/zealot combos, with very few vampires. Meatbag was pretty happy with that melee-heavy draw. Fun bosses included a Cursed/LEB hierophant (every spark cursing!) and another Multishot/Stone Skin hierophant. They started out near one another, so Meatbag had to lure them apart before finishing them off. As always, I made sure to clear the entire level (including the stygian watchers!) before taking on the bosses in the central room.

The Council Members were lured out one at a time and killed without much difficulty. The biggest surprise was underestimating the Conviction aura that Geleb drew; his FEB corpse explosion did about 400 damage, taking Meatbag down to only 150 life. Yikes! Have to remember that combo for the future... Meatbag leveled up during the Council fight and raised strength to 140, allowing him to wear Goldskin. I snapped a shot of his new character screen:

Over 10,000 defense and maxed resistances across the board. Whee!

Durance 1 had mummies, vampires, and undead flayers. The most interesting fight was against a Stoneskin/Mana Burn vampire, who was probably something like 95% physical resistant. Meatbag stood there swinging for... some time. I really need to find him an upgrade to his fire damage mace (something like 40-70 dam) before entering Hell. Any weapon with 5-6 sockets and a bunch of socketed runes should suffice. One thing I did notice was a ton of extra gold dropping thanks to Goldskin armor. Not a whole lot of use for it beyond gambling, but Meatbag wasn't complaining. "Golden treasure" indeed!

Durance 2 was the same, except maulers instead of vampires. Woestave, the unique halberd, dropped there. Useless, sadly. The larger question though: why the hell does Durance 2 have to be so huge?! Argh.

There's the completed minimap, after about 45 minutes of dungeon crawling. And there's actually quite a bit that doesn't even fit on the screen. I simply don't understand what Blizzard was thinking here. The level doesn't have any additional bosses, so making it bigger doesn't make things harder, just... tedious. And I understand that the problem was players on Realms doing endless Mephy runs with magic find gear, but so what? Why is it necessary to then break the game for everyone NOT exploiting loopholes? It's not like the MF mules don't just leap through the level to the exit with a teleporting sorcie or barb/druid ubertank anyway. Bah. I hope Bliz isn't this sloppy in World of Warcraft. Probably they are though.

I love Durance 3. The fights down there are always entertaining, and they CAN be managed with an appropriate degree of caution in most cases. Meatbag first carefully lured out and killed about eight blood lords in the opening room, sticking to the lower wall to avoid waking up anything else. He next drew out Bremm and one minion, and Bremm's Extra Fast had him really zipping around like crazy! Holy Shock was a non-threat though, fortunately. Those two by themselves were taken down without much fuss. Next up an Extra Fast/Stone Skin blood lord boss pack, also flying around like crazy - another fun fight! Meatbag wouldn't have wanted to face them AND Bremm at the same time, no siree! The boss took several minutes to kill, him something like 90% physical resistant and leeching back small amounts of life with his fireballs. A merc would have sped things up considerably, but Meatbag resisted the temptation.

Meatbag then drew Maffer (Spectral Hit along with his usual Extra Strong/Extra Fast combo) away from his corner, fought him back by the entrance and won easily. Maffer had no minions with him, making it a lot easier. There was another, much easier, blood lord boss back in Maffer's room (Extra Strong/Spectral Hit), sheesh! Are five bosses and one of the Prime Evils enough for this dinky little level?! Then it was over to Wyand (who drew LEB, see the picture above) and his non-boss blood lords. Meatbag put in a lot of work to clear this real estate.

Meatbag discovered that for whatever reason, life leech didn't work against Mephisto. This added an extra element of danger to the fight. Still, with maxed resistances and high blocking (which worked very well against the dreaded cold shot!), the fight never reached a critical point. Meatbag went back to town three times to restock potions, the fight taking about five tense minutes. Meatbag spent the whole fight poisoned though, just watching the red life orb go up and down. Mephy dropped a nice new set belt with 5% life steal and some other goodies! Meatbag will be taking a better look at that in the next act.

Three acts down, two more to go. Really more like one and a half, given the shortness of Act IV. Meatbag still has hopes of completing a perfect run through Nightmare, so stay tuned.