Meatbag Part Five: Curses!

Meatbag began Nightmare Act IV at clvl 57 with the following:

Defiance @20+1
Holy Shield @16+1
Sacrifice @16+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)
Goldskin Chaos Armor: 748 def, 35% resist all, attacker takes 10 dam, +100% gold
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
Wilhelm's Pride Battle Belt: 75 def, 5% life/mana steal, +10 cold 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

Sacrifice dam: 467-643 (555 avg)
Sacrifice AR: 1767
Defense: 11,276

I decided to add in some quick reference numbers to show Meatbag's damage, AR, and Defense rating at the start of each act. How much higher can he raise his Defense before biting the big one? I guess we'll find out in due time!

The new piece of equipment up there was Wilhelm's Pride belt, a set item dropped by Mephisto at the conclusion of the last act. It had much higher defense and a cool 5% life steal compared to Meatbag's previous Plated Belt, so he made the switch (saving the old belt in stash). The big downside was the loss of the +48 life on the old gear, which dropped Meatbag down to just over 600 life. I decided that the next few level ups would definitely have to go into Vitality. In fact, from this point out, that should be where the bulk of his stats will be going. There's little point in adding to Strength or Dexterity any more; extra life will do the most to keep Meatbag alive longer.

Meatbag gambled a bunch of items before setting out of the Pandemonium Fortress, but no keepers. He turned up a rare set of gloves with 20% IAS and 3% MANA steal - argh, so close! Been trying to land that combo (with life leech) for ages now. Meatbag also found a pair of Frosties amongst his many tries at Gauntlets. Sadly, this item was useless and it was sold. Some of my old sorcies would have given quite a bit for that...

The Outer Steppes turned up corpulents, cliff lurkers, and doom casters. The Corpulents proved to be the toughest, although that wasn't saying much. Lurkers and finger mages died in two hits each. I know that lurkers are serious bad news for sorcies, due to speed and swarming potential, but Meatbag just laughs them off. The doom casters are a big threat to drain mana, so again a non-issue for Meatbag. (Drain his mana? This is a character who has no mana-using skills! LOL!) Two bosses and some champs appeared, with nothing rising to a major threat level. Essentially nil potion use on Meatbag's part in this area, a true rarity, thanks to easy foes and even more life leech than before on his gear.

The Plains of Despair had the same corpulents and doom casters, but doom knights as the third option. Meatbag found this out in a hurry, as a painful Fanaticism/FEB knight charged him as soon as he crossed the gates:

Meatbag had seen worse foes, and perhaps I underestimated this opponent at first. Well with the Fanaticism aura, this boss was genuinely tough! His AR boost allowed him to strike through Meatbag's defense and causing some real hurting, roughly 100 damage per swing. It didn't help that the FEB threw in some fire damage as well. Meatbag was forced to retreat down the stairs, where he could tank each minion one at a time, then finally down the boss. Meatbag made a mental note not to downplay the knights. Their high innate blocking made them troublesome.

Meatbag found Izual about 2/3 of the way through the Plains. As it turned out, he couldn't do enough damage to get through Meatbag's life leech, resulting in no potions used throughout the fight. In other words, Izzie proved to be easier here than in Normal. The battle didn't take as long either, thanks to Meatbag doing vastly more damage than in his previous trip. I took screenshots, but deemed Izual unworthy of inclusion in the report. Meatbag added the bonus skill points to Holy Shield and Sacrifice.

The City had abyss knight (mage) champs right at the stairs, then immediately a stygian hag boss that showed up Magic Resistant/Extra Strong:

Thankfully I had previous experience fighting the mothers from Rogue Revival, and knew how to take them down. Meatbag got right in their faces immediately, not allowing them to sit back and breed more pups. This would have been a very tough fight with another damage mod on the boss, like Extra Strong/Cursed. A few more steps, and then a corpse spitter boss pack popped out, sheesh! The abilities of these three foes mixed together pretty well, making for some difficult moments. The mothers would breed melee pups, the corpse spitters would devour and spit their bodies, and the mages would sit back and pick me apart at range. Divide and conquer tactics were in frequent use here, since the foes operated at different food speeds. A LEB/CEB abyss knight boss (and attending mages) made for another little pocket of trouble towards the end of the level. Never any close calls, but the fights were lively and required a great deal of concentration.

These battles also conclusively proved that the corpse spitters don't need bodies to fire off their missiles. I saw them consume non-existant corpses at least a half-dozen times. After so many patches, it's incredible how many obvious bugs are still sitting around in this game...

The River of Flame had urdars, pit lords, and stranglers. The casters took a mere two swings, the melee ones 5-6 each. Meatbag liked fighting the stranglers the most for that reason. All the bosses in this area seemed to be pit lords: Meatbag turned up a Holy Freeze/CEB and a Extra Strong/Multishot pair. The hot and cold twins!

Holy Freeze is always a bad combo for melee characters; adding Cold Enchanted on top of that was almost overkill (you can only be frozen once!) The other boss looked pretty wild, spitting out three Infernos at once and hitting with Extra Strong damage. In both cases Meatbag had to use footwork and retreating skills to separate the boss from its minions. The other two bosses (a third pit lord and an urdar boss) were much less dangerous.

I took the somewhat unusual step of clearing the River Maze before going after the Hell Forge, the reasoning being that I could retreat up there with Hephasto if he drew really unfavorable abilities, then dispatch him across the lava. Fortunately he drew neither of the abilities I most feared: Extra Strong or Cursed.

Of course Hey Fatso did have the LEB ability and Fanaticism aura, so this wasn't a total cakewalk. I found that Meatbag was able to leech enough life from the boss that the damage from the sparks was largely nullified. Hephasto managed to land a single hit, which did about 150 damage. (I am *SO* glad they changed his abilities in one of the later patches. His original Extra Strong/Cursed/Magic Resistant + two more abilities was essentially instant death for any melee character in Hell difficulty.) The Hell Forge offered up a Perfect Ruby (yay!) and a Lum rune. This was pretty useful, giving me another shot at crafting a Blood item and the potential for a Smoke (Nef/Lum) runeword armor if a nice two-socket Elite armor would drop.

The Chaos Sanctuary had the same monster mix as always: venom lords, storm casters, and knight/mage pairs. Oblivion knights quickly proved to be vastly more dangerous than all other foes put together. Oh sure, I was keeping a careful eye on their curses, trying to avoid the dreaded Iron Maiden. Then this happened:

*ONE* swing while cursed with Iron Maiden saw Meatbag reflect over 500 damage to himself. Near-instant death. After I ran Meatbag the Hell out of there and my heart recovered from the initial shock, I snapped the picture you see above. Meatbag swings VERY fast with his current weapon, meaning that he could literally kill himself without even realizing he had been cursed. Somehow, he felt this was less than fair on the part of the game designers.

The solution? EXTREME caution around all of the mages in the Chaos Sanctuary. Meatbag had to lure every single accompanying knight away from the mages and kill them in a curseless environment, then return to finish them off individually. Even this was a hairy ordeal: watch the mage animation (casting or cursing) play itself out, and then take ONE swing before waiting again for the mage AI to act. Meatbag made sure to tag each mage with his Prevent Monster Heal throwing axe so that they weren't regenerating life during this tedious process. And although it slowed progress considerably, Meatbag was able to clear out the rest of the Sanctuary without ever hitting himself again with Iron Maiden (and yes, he was hit with the curse at least a dozen more times). Of course, the Sanctuary was mostly full of knight/mage pairs, and there was an oblivion champ pack in there as well, heh. The four of them were even tougher than the usual mages, and had to be fought one at a time with considerable restraint.

Finally though it was all clear, and on to the seal bosses. Since De Seis was definitely going to be the hardest, Meatbag tackled him first:

De Seis spawned with Fanaticism aura, so Meatbag began by pulling him west. After the boss and a couple of minions chased all the way to the Vizier's wing, Meatbag went back and mugged the remaining minions at the pentagram. However, when Meatbag returned to the west corner he found that De Seis was now sporting a Holy Freeze aura! Huh?! This only made the fight that much harder. (Have you ever see how slowly a character chilled and Decreped swings? I can only imagine what my druid character Bearlin_Wall would look like!) Meatbag made sure to attack only when he was absolutely certain he would not be hit by Iron Maiden. Eventually De Seis ran himself into a corner, where he was finished off. The Vizier, in contrast, was total cake. He and his minions just seemed ridiclously weak to Meatbag. Swing, swing, dead. I suppose a caster would have had more problems; since mana is meaningless to Meatbag, their major attack had essentially no effect.

The Infector and his brood can be tough for melee characters, not least because he seems to have twice as many minions as the other two seal bosses. Meatbag set up a town portal in the River Maze for easy disposal across the lava, but this proved not to be necessary. The Infector got caught on the Sanctuary architecture at one of the lava pools, allowing Meatbag to eliminate several minions in easy fashion. Then he fought the boss one-on-one (and the Infector did some pretty serious damage all by himself!), and went back to clean up the stragglers who had gotten lost along the way. I was pleased at how much more safely/smoothly this fight went compared to Normal, when it had been a hair-raising ordeal.

For the fight with Diablo, Meatbag swapped back to his old belt for the additional 48 life, leeching not being particularly useful in this battle. The it was time to pop the seals and get the show started. Diablo gave a good fight, but overall it was easier than in Normal. I had since learned that melee characters do better by getting right up in his face, where the Lightning Breath of Doom (LBoD) doesn't quite reach. You can see this above:

I think this is a minor programming error, but whatever, might as well make use of it. Meatbag found that a full breath of the stuff would take away about 50% of his overall life (~300 health) so there was little danger of an instant kill. Diablo's cold melee attack proved to be the most troublesome, his high mlvl causing him to hit quite a lot of the time. Big D got in one good smack combined with a flame river that forced a rejuv drink, and he actually trapped Meatbag in a Bone Prison when coming out of a town portal, which forced another rejuv. (Would have taken a picture, but was concentrating on not dying!) Otherwise, two trips to town for more potions saw Meatbag through with flying colors. I cropped the death shot into the corner of the above pic.

So much for Act IV. On now to my least-favorite part of the game, the lengthy, dull, brown fields surrounding Harrogath. Hopefully the imported monsters from other acts will spice things up a bit. Meatbag will see if he can complete his second perfect full-clear on Nightmare in the days ahead.