Meatbag Part Seven: Reality Check

Meatbag began Hell Act I at clvl 67 with the following:

Defiance @20+1
Holy Shield @20+1
Sacrifice @20+1
Redemption @7+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
Four Diamond Royal Shield: 162 def, 78% resist all
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
Raven Frost Ring: +213 AR, 15-45 cold damage, +20 Dexterity, +40 mana, Cold Absorb 20%, Cannot Be Frozen
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

Alternate Equipment
Hurlbat of Vileness: 24-34 dam, Prevent Monster Heal
Smoking Balanced Axe: adds 69-105 fire damage
Spirit Shroud Armor: 295 def, +1 skills, replenish life +10, -8 magic dam, Cannot Be Frozen
Plated Belt of the Whale: +84 life
Telling of Beads Amulet: +1 skills, 18% cold resist, 49% poison resist, attacker takes 9 dam
Amulet of Colossus: +52 life

Sacrifice dam: 552-776 (664 avg)
Sacrifice AR: 2532
Defense: 12,218

Meatbag's character screen (shown above) demonstrates the good and the bad elements of arriving in Hell difficulty. On the plus side, his defensive attributes were still as impressive as ever. 12,000+ Defense rating (enemies still getting about 10-15% odds to hit him), a goodly amount of life at 816 and climbing, and outstanding resists across the board. Now the bad news: Meatbag's offensive capabilities were less than stellar. 664 average damage might sound impressive, until you bear in mind that most enemies in Hell have something around 5000 hit points. And that's not even factoring in the global physical resistance!

In a way though, this is what I wanted. Meatbag's character design was all about emphasizing a defensive mentality and seeing how it would fare. Besides, Meatbag still had hopes of upgrading to a better weapon sometime in the near future. The most likely option was a Crafted Blood axe of some kind; Meatbag already had the Perfect Ruby and Ort rune in stash, and was awaiting a nice elite axe to drop. His offensive had struggled early in Nightmare as well, you may recall, before crafting his very nice truncheon - the weapon Meatbag was still using five acts later!

Nevertheless, the Blood Moor remained a brutal reality check for Meatbag. Zombies took a LOT of hits to kill - like 12 to 15. Fallens and quill rats died much faster, fallens in 3-4 and quill rats about 6-7, so clearly there was some physical resist at work there. (The Arreat Summit cleared this up, explaining that zombies have much higher total hit points and higher physical resistance.) The good news was that Meatbag's Defense still held up well, the problem was a simple lack of offense. Of course, the other huge difference with Hell difficulty is the vastly increased incidence of boss packs. Meatbag fought SEVEN boss packs in the first quarter of the Blood Moor, including this pair of fallen bosses:

Now neither of these was difficult, but that wasn't exactly the point. All these bosses involved a lot of work (especially a Stone Skin zombie who turned up Physical Immune), which may have skewed Meatbag's perceptions a bit. Good grief, Blizzard! All told, it took something like 45 minutes to clear the first area. This was depressing, to say the least...

The Den of Evil confirmed the situation of the Blood Moor: Meatbag's defense was fine, his offense desperately needed an upgrade. Gargantuan Beasts took 20 hits to kill - thank goodness everything was extremely slow-moving! By this point, Meatbag was using his Prevent Monster Heal axes on just about every non-fallen enemy to cut down on the tedium. The Den skill point went into Redemption, taking it to slvl 8+1.

The Cold Plains continued the same story from the Blood Moor, although by now Meatbag was getting used to the flow of things. A cottage right at the outset of the level was helpful in controlling the monster population, especially the Physical Immune boss above. I thought it might be fun to write down all of the bosses Meatbag encountered in a single area, so I started jotting them down in my notes. Here's what the list looked like for the Plains:

Gargantuan Beast, Stone Skin (PI)/Extra Strong/Mana Burn
Dark Spearwoman, Magic Resistant/Teleportation/Mana Burn
Fallen Shaman, FEB/CEB/Teleportation
Dark Spearwoman, Stone Skin/Mana Burn/CEB
Fallen Shaman, Teleportation/Mana Burn/Fanaticism aura
Fallen Shaman, Spectral Hit/FEB/Cursed
Fallen Shaman, Extra Strong/Mana Burn/Conviction
Fallen Shaman, Teleportation/Mana Burn/CEB
Bishibosh, Megic Resistant/FEB/LEB/Cursed

The Stone Skin rogue boss was about 90-95% physical resistant, took for-ev-ah to kill. Otherwise, the Cold Plains were practically a Fallen shaman convention - six different bosses of that type! All told, NINE different bosses appeared, including the always-present Bishibosh:

These fights were long and grueling ordeals, with a high level of danger. Meatbag was forced to retreat again and again back to safe ground, in order to avoid being surrounded. Thank heavens for Redemption aura, which at slvl 9 was now cleaning up corpses practically the moment they touched the ground. I don't even want to think what the shaman bosses would have entailed without reliable corpse cleanup. Progress was slow, but Meatbag was indeed progressing. It certainly wasn't any worse than Rogue Revival's painful trek through the same regions!

Next up was the Cave, where Meatbag came down the stairs and right away saw the glow of an archer boss off to the right, below him on the next level down. I moved him to the left, well away from that threat for the time being, and into a Cursed skeleton boss pack. Ugh, no life leech. With no room to retreat (without waking up the archer boss), Meatbag had to take on the full boss pack with little maneuvering room, no chance to pull the divide and conquer strategies that he had employed out in the Moor and Plains. The fight was going perfectly fine for the first 30 seconds... and the the boss landed a blow, the Curse effect played, followed by two more minions INSTANTLY hitting Meatbag, and that was the end of that.

See, that's all it takes to slip up and end things. One mistake, and I'm far from perfect. Meatbag's fabled Defense failed him in the end, three hits connecting in the span of maybe half a second, leaving me no time to drink a purple rejuv. And that's not really out of the span of probability either: even if each foe only has 10% odds to hit, it's not improbable that two or three blows will hit together at the same time, especially when you consider the thousands and thousands of enemies you fight in this game.

Tactically speaking, this was a mis-managed fight. I could have done more; I could have been more diligent in separating the enemies with footwork or portal parking moves, I could have been faster drinking potions when needed. On a strategic level though, this was pretty much bound to happen at some point sooner or later. Meatbag simply didn't have enough offense or uber gear to continue going toe-to-toe with every monster in the game without suffering a death at some point. ALL of the worst threats in this game are shoved in the face of melee characters. A character like Meatbag can never avoid danger, due to the need to get close to every foe. It's sooooo much easier with a weredruid or uberbarb tank, if only because they have so much more life to play around with (just ask Bearlin_Wall, my druid variant team character!) This was bound to happen sooner or later in Hell. I wish Meatbag had made it further, but them's the breaks.

Now Meatbag is not a Hardcore character. Obviously I could keep playing with him if I desired. However... with him having suffered his first death, I can't summon up the patience to work through the tedium of slowly clearing each area. I always intended to stop playing Meatbag once he suffered his first death, so that's where he'll be stopping. There's no need to be saddened though; my goal all along was to complete Nightmare, and Meatbag passed that test with flying colors. As I said before, he exceeded every expectation I set for him, and became one of my favorite characters. Meatbag also proved to me that I was fully capable of playing in Hardcore, something that I very much doubted previously. All in all, a very successful character.

Meatbag's journey comes to a close here. I hope you enjoyed reading his tale, and perhaps it will inspire you to try something similar on your own.