Winnie Part Ten: Snakes... I Hate Snakes

Duke Winnie began Hell Act II at clvl 74 with the following:

Base Stats
Str 53 [65]
Dex 20 [23]
Vit 312
Nrg 70 [75]

Summon Spirit Wolf @11+5
Summon Dire Wolf @10+5
Summon Grizzly @20+5
Oak Sage @16+5
Spirit of Barbs @20+5
Raven, Poison Creeper, Carrion Vine, Solar Creeper, Spirit of Wolverine @1+5

Hierophant's Spiked Club of Evisceration: +2 druid skills, +60 max damage
Coral Hard Leather Armor of the Squid: +78 life, 29% lightning resist
Large Shield, 3 Perfect Diamonds: 58% resist all
Rare Antlers: +2 druid skills, +5 energy, +6 life, 9% lightning resist, 30% fire resist (socketed Ral rune)
Bloodfist (unique Heavy Gloves): 10% IAS, 30% faster hit recovery, +5 min damage, +40 life
Natayla's Soul set boots: 40% faster run, 16% heal stamina drain, 15% cold resist, 20% lightning resist
Rare Demonhide Sash: 17% faster hit recovery, +31 life, 23% cold resist, 17% poison resist
Rare Ring: 24% lightning resist, +66 mana, 6% magic find
Cobalt Ring of the Fox: 27% cold resist, +10 life
Rare Amulet: +1 druid skills, 11% resist all, +12 strength, +2 dexterity, +6 mana, 4% life steal

Javelin of Vileness: Prevent Monster Heal
Chromatic Buckler of the Fox: +10 life, 29% resist all
Assorted rings, amulets, charms, and jewels

Amplisa Equipment
Rare Short War Bow: 9-17 damage, +111 AR, 1-100 lightning damage, 100 poison damage over 6 sec, 10-14 cold damage
Glorious Ancient Armor of the Colossus: 329 def, +58 life
Tal Rasha's Horadric Crest (set death mask): 125 def, 10% life steal, 10% mana steal, +60 life, +30 mana, 15% resist all

Pooh Bear Damage: 1525-1635 (1580 avg)
Amplisa Damage: 222-374 (298 avg)

Winnie had now completely maxed out his Summon Grizzly and Spirit of Barbs skills. Any more damage for Pooh Bear would have to come through items with +skills on them. I would dearly love to find a druid pelt with +2 druid skills and +3 summon grizzly! Not likely to happen in pure play, of course. The remaining skill points were intended for Oak Sage until it was maxed, and then finally dumped into Spirit Wolves, for the AR synergy. This seemed more useful than adding more life via points in Dire Wolves; Pooh Bear had enough life already.

The early parts of Act II are quite a bit easier than Act I; well, maybe not in Normal, but definitely so in Hell. The Sewers are very much a part of that, as there are no stairs traps on any of the floors and lots of room to work over all of the enemies. The burning dead archers are definitely the greatest threat in there, although much less so for a character with ranged or indirect damage like Winnie. Anyway, Winnie saw lots of those very burning dead archers on Sewers 1, and most of the bosses were the same monster type. The most interesting part of the floor came when an Extra Fast/Cursed/CEB melee burning dead boss emerged from a side tunnel just as Winnie was in the process of fighting a Multishot/Teleportation/CEB burning dead archer. I had enough retreat room to string the pair of them out and fight the two threats separately, so this wasn't terribly dangerous. The Forgotten Tower and the Pit 2 had been enormously more difficult.

Sewers 2 was an all-melee draw: burning dead, sand raiders, and mummy preserved dead. While the lack of archers was a nice break, this level seemed to have a thing for Extra Fast bosses, and that's always a dangerous trait when large mobs of melee critters are concerned. At one point, Winnie faced off against a sand raider boss named Wrath Slime: Mana Burn/Cursed/Stone Skin. Then Winnie turned the corner and ran into a second mummy boss with the same name, this time sporting FEB/Teleportation/Extra Fast attributes! Weird.

That's an old bug (or is it a feature?) in D2 that no one has ever bothered to correct. I had to do a lot of footwork on this level with Winnie to stay ahead of the Extra Fast bosses (there were four of them!) but otherwise handled things OK.

Sewers 3 threw in huntress cats to go along with the burning dead skeletons, melee ones and mages. The main battle shaped up in the middle of the level, where a double mage boss pack (Mana Burn/Magic Resistant/LEB and Teleportation/FEB/CEB) combined with a whole lot of melee opponents to create a giant hairball. Oddly enough, one of the boss mobs seemed to get "stuck" in mid-attack, with six different enemies animating at exactly the same time!

Look at the bottom-left corner of that picture, and see how the mages are all frozen in the exact same casting animation? OK, I'm not sure how well it comes across in that screenshot, but trust me on this. I found it extremely amusing, as the burning dead mages moved like a synchronized swim team for almost a full minute before Pooh Bear broke their formation. Radamant came up Extra Fast/Multishot/Mana Burn, and was defeated through the tried and true process of luring away his minions and detroying their corpses. It was a really easy battle, to be honest. Not even worth posting the screenshot.

Outside in the Rocky Waste, Winnie was confronted by sand leapers and two types of kitties, melee huntresses and spear-tossing slingers. The leapers proved to be the toughest opponents, much worse than I expected. My previous experience here with Skulla had dealt with them pretty easily, but Skulla had necromages to pin the leapers against terrain obstacles and then dispose of them. Winnie just had Pooh Bear, and the erratic movement of the leapers had them jumping all over the place and smacking Winnie himself around. I ended up taking a lot more hits than expected, which was a problem when bosses showed up. A couple of Mana Burn bosses were extra trouble, forcing the drinking of numerous mana potions just to keep resummoning Pooh Bear for positioning purposes.

Winnie next entered the Stony Tomb, and surprise! The stairs trap immediately hit him upon heading down the stairs:

There was a horror (skeleton) boss right at the entrance, who came up Cursed/Might aura/Mana Burn - a pretty dangerous mix! Cursed and the Might aura meant roughly 4x normal damage, while Mana Burn deprived Winnie of the energy he needed to cast spells and respond to the situation. Now the one saving grace here was that horrors are slow-moving opponents, like most undead creatures. I had enough time to walk, not run, around the boss mob as it encircled Pooh Bear and calmly proceed up a side tunnel to clear out some space around the stairs. Initially I headed Winnie south, but skeleton mages started entering the picture from that direction, so I turned him east instead where there was blessedly an empty passage. When the boss was closing in, I portaled Winnie back to town, returned to the main entrance down the stairs, and used the cleared-out space to eliminate the enemies. I thought that was the worst of it, but the rest of the level was packed with more bosses, including a double boss encounter of FEB/Cursed/Extra fast horror and Cursed/LEB/FEB dung beetle together in a room off to the south. Funny thing is, usually the Stony Tomb is a fairly tame area. Not on this occasion though.

Stony 2 was also trapped on the way down, however almost all of the foes there to greet Winnie and Pooh were poison mages, and that just wasn't a real threat because poisoning Winnie multiple times didn't do any additional damage! I swapped over from the usual Solar Creeper to Carrion Vine, and as each skeleton hit the floor it would be devoured by the vine, its life offsetting the damage taken from the poison. This stairs trap was thus beaten pretty easily. Creeping Feature and his minions came up Extra Strong/CEB/LEB/Conviction aura, and this DID prove to be a tough combo:

All of Creepy's sparks had that buggy "cold lightning" attribute to them, and the damage was magnified by the Conviction aura many times over. Plus, Creepy and all the other mummies were hitting for Extra Strong damage as well. Amplisa died, somewhat surprisingly, when she was hit by a barrage of sparks at one point, and I had my hands full fooling around with renewing Pooh Bear, Spirit of Barbs, Solar Creeper, and Raven, all the while dodging the charged bolts. Thank goodness these guys were slow. I thought that would be it, but then the treasure room had a Magic Resistant/Cursed/Fanaticism aura horror boss - sheesh! What a pain in the ass this place turned out to be. I hoped this wasn't an omen for the rest of Act II.

The Dry Hills was one of those desert areas divided into an upper and lower level, yet all of the bosses turned out to be in the smaller bottom section. Interesting. The monster draw involved undead scavenger vultures, cape leapers, and spear cats (who actually tossed exploding potions). The leapers were again the main threat, due to their unpredictable movement. None of the bosses turned out to be particularly dangerous, although I was amused to see one of the vultures show up with the Multishot ability - what exactly do they shoot? Heh.

Halls of the Dead 1 was plesantly untrapped, with an entry room devoid of monsters. Things quickly changed when Winnie entered the first passageway, as he ran into gigantic mobs of returned skeletons and their hollow one attendants. Now I had plenty of experience practicing with resurrectables back in Act I, and yet the sheer overwhelming number of opponents here caused major problems. This running fight began against an Extra Fast/Spectral Hit/Teleportation hollow one, during which a Spectral Hit/Stone Skin/Mana Burn spear cat showed up and began tossing javelins at Winnie, followed by a CEB/Stone Skin/Magic Resistant hollow one attended by four hollow one champs (pictured above), and finished off with ANOTHER hollow one boss, Holy Freeze/FEB/Teleportation. Naturally, every single one of these hollow ones had revivable skeleton minions with them, so the carnage quickly great to ridiculous levels. Thank goodness there were tons of Magic Resistant and Teleportation boss abilities in there, rather than genuinely dangerous ones. Quite a mess clearing out this floor, even if Winnie wasn't in dire peril so long as I kept a cool head.

Halls 2 had a very minor stairs trap, perhaps not even deserving of the name. Just a hollow one and its returned skeleton attendants, who were handled with ease. (Of course, I did not know they were alone at the entrance until after the enemies were dead!) The rest of the level had more of the same opponents from the first floor, with the addition of decayed mummies for a second revivable - umm, great. A particularly interesting fight came when a Cursed/Extra Strong/Spectral Hit spear cat teamed up with an Extra Fast/CEB/FEB mummy, lots of damage modifiers in play:

I didn't even bother to write down the boss abilities for a TRIPLE hollow one boss pack together in one room, since I had been doing too much of that already! Winnie did a lot of retreating to string out the three dozen or so skeletons, and didn't engage the bosses until their corpses had all been cleaned by Solar Creeper.

Halls 3 proceeded routinely for the most part, the usual mix of bosses and champs that you see everywhere in Hell. Winnie had lured so many resurrecting skeletons away for disposal that he would be seeing them in his sleep for weeks! Then I reached the treasure room, and got a look at Bloodwitch's boss abilities: Extra Strong/Cursed/Might aura/FEB. Dear Lord! Run awaaaaaay!

What choice did I have? I turned and ran, and didn't stop running until Winnie had nearly reached the stairs. That retreating action pulling Bloodwitch and her crew (and that awful Might aura) away from the many hollow ones in the treasure room, creating a 6 on 1 fight as opposed to 16 on 1. I then proceeded to lock up the boss with Pooh Bear, and - very carefully! - slay Bloodwitch with Spirit of Barbs. She killed herself so fast it was scary. That brought an end to this preview of the False Tombs, which Winnie had generally handled with flying colors. So long as he could avoid a nasty stairs trap (which sometimes pop up in the Tombs), I figured I would probably be OK. The next true danger would be Claw Viper Temple 2, which I was doing my best not to think about.

The Far Oasis was the land of Physical Immunity, as Winnie drew large numbers of itichies here. Then the first beetle boss popped up LEB/Extra Strong/Stone Skin, which created another Physical Immunity on him as well! I was pleasantly surprised to see how well Amplisa did against the itchies, who were going down in about 4-5 shots. They definitely don't have much life underneath that immunity to physical damage. This area took quite a while to clear, due to the need to rely on Amplisa, but there wasn't much danger. There never is much danger in the desert areas of Act II. Beetleburst came up Magic Resistant/Spectral Hit/Holy Shock aura, and frankly was one of the easiest bosses in the whole Far Oasis.

On to the Lost City, and the totally pointless Black Sun quest. Winnie found a triple boss pack of shambling zombies right near the entrance, although the three of them (Cursed/CEB/LEB, Extra Strong/LEB/Spectral Hit, FEB/Stone Skin/Magic Resistant) were far enough apart that they were taken on one at a time. The last boss was Physical Immune thanks to his Stone Skin, and his Magic Resistant ability meant that Amplisa's elemental damage was virtually cut in half. Pretty long fight there, but Winnie got it done OK. Dark Elder and his crew were Extra Fast/Magic Resistant/Extra Strong/FEB, which wasn't all that tough either. Nonetheless, this is not one of my favorite places, despite its relative safety. I don't really like the darkness, and the ability of the desert cats to chuck rancid gas potions over the top of the buildings is a major pain. Glad to get out of here.

The Ancient Tunnels are probably one of the least-visited areas in the whole game, with nothing particularly compelling down there. I never mind clearing it out though, as it's one of the few places where the game won't hit you with a stairs trap on entering and there are no greater mummies to revive opponents. On this trip through the Ancient Tunnels, however, things were more lively than they had any real right to be. Shortly out of the gate Winnie was confronted with an Extra Fast/Extra Strong/Cursed invader boss, who was defeated using Spirit of Barbs and some extreme caution. The middle of the Tunnels was dominated by a fight against a double boss: Conviction aura/CEB/Stone Skin horror mage and LEB/Teleportation/Extra Strong invader. The Conviction aura on the mage was the real threat there, as each cold-enhanced bolt of lightning that the boss threw did a full 500 damage! Not to mention that the invader boss was running around sparking all the while, each of those charged bolts doing 200+ damage as well. You really feel the lack of resistances when they are rudely taken away - Conviction can be an extremely dangerous boss aura! Winnie fought a running battle against these two, who kept retreating again and again into new enemy groupings, long after their initial minions were dead. I chased them through three different rooms before finally cornering them against a wall and getting the kill. The Teleportation ability on the invader boss actually made him tougher for a change, as he blinked out of several certain death situations.

Finally, the treasure room was ridiculously, unbelievably packed with enemies:

A good three dozen of them, by my count. There were about 15 horror mages firing off electrical bolts in a crazy barrage; I've never seen anything quite like it. Pooh Bear was absorbing the lightning shots at a wince-inducing pace, soaking up the damage for Winnie. Screenshots don't do it justice, you really would have had to see it in motion. I don't record videos while playing though, unfortunately. A retreat into a very narrow chokepoint and repeated summonings of Pooh Bear sufficed to solve this problem.

The Fire Towers in the Valley of the Snakes took less time to clear out in Hell than in Nightmare. Greater damage on the part of Pooh and Amplisa, or not as much scaling up of Fire Tower life in Hell? I dunno. Remember, Winnie clears out everything in this game.

Winnie had a bit of trouble getting in the door of the Claw Viper Temple, with about five vipers waiting there at the entrance, but after a frantic minute or two of scrambling he secured a path inside. It turned out that the monster draw was all snakes, salamanders and claw vipers, who were doing their usual charging all over the place and inflicting knockback status on Pooh:

Pretty nasty opponents, however at least there were no guardians and their skeleton minions to complicate matters. While Spirit of Barbs is perfect to run against snakes, I mostly continued to use Oak Sage, since I was afraid for Winnie's safety. There were times when I thought I was perfectly clear of the fighting, only to have some viper flash halfway across the room out of nowhere, and smack Winnie back three paces. Definitely safer to stick with the life buff, even if it meant slower going.

I found the entrance to Claw Viper 2, only to have the game crash on Winnie when he was halfway through the first floor! Wow, what a disaster. I didn't lose anything in town, but now I would have to work from the waypoint and brave another potential stairs trap just to get back into Viper 1, and then fight all the way to Viper 2 (which was nowhere near the entrance). Sigh.

On the return trip to the Claw Viper Temple, Winnie found that the salamanders had been replaced by embalmed mummies, which was a much easier draw. (Whew - still no guardians!) Although the mummies technically had more life and did more damage than the snakes, it was no comparison. The mummies were slow as dirt and were never going to be able to swarm Winnie like the vipers could. The map layout was also very favorable for Winnie's quest; to understand why, take a look at this:

Here's a quick primer on Diablo tactics, in case you aren't familiar with some of these concepts. The key thing is to have retreat room, space in which to hit and run away from the monsters. Unlike the original Diablo, in D2 you can never really stand and fight, due to the general pointlessness of Defense rating and 4x monster AR. Thus you need room to hit and run, and room to avoid getting swarmed under and killed. That's why this map layout holds such a nice draw for avoiding stairs traps and dealing with potential early disasters. The long, dead-end corridor to the right of the entrance, which was almost entirely devoid of enemies, gave Winnie that critical space to fall back and carry out a fighting retreat with Pooh. Assuming he was pushed all the way to the end of the hall, I could port out to town (yellow X) and then return back via the stairs, pulling off this same move over and over again indefinitely until any enemy mob was destroyed.

Now as it turns out, that portal parking move wasn't quite needed here, but it was a narrow-run thing. Winnie faced a double snake boss pack (Extra Strong/CEB/FEB and Cursed/Magic Resistant/LEB) in the first room, marked above, and retreated almost all the way into the back corner before they were finally downed. The rest of Viper 1 was pretty uneventful, although the mummy makers could not be destroyed fast enough and simply bred themselves out. They seem to create about 20-25 mummies before giving out, which definitely got a bit hairy for a minute or two!

Alright. Claw Viper Level 2, the area I had been dreading for a long time. Guess we have to do this, right? Winnie heads down the stairs, and I patiently lured out three vipers in isolation for disposal. So far, so good. I'm slowly edging Winnie further and further into the main chamber, and starting to wonder where Fangy and his crew were. I could hear them hissing in the background, but where were they? Then Amplisa started firing into the center of the room, and the Ravens flew over in the same direction, and I knew that I had caught a major break: Fangy had spawned on the platform itself!

It doesn't get any easier than this, folks. Pooh Bear killed the snakes running around loose on the bottom floor, then I summoned him next to the altar and let Fangskin destroy himself via Spirit of Barbs. To make matters even easier, there were no guardians anywhere on Viper 2! Just a handful of salamanders and claw vipers, plus Fangy's crew on the platform. I swear, I have never seen an easier draw for Viper 2 in Hell before, never. It's rare even for Fangskin to appear up on the platform, much less for there to be no guardians on this floor. All I can really say is - I'll take it!

I think this was a case of fate paying Winnie back for the game crashing on the previous trip into the Claw Viper Temple, and his inability to turn up a Keeper's club (+3 druid summoning) in roughly ten million gambles. Let's hope that the fickle goddess Fortuna continues to smile on this quest. Winnie will see you next for the concluding second half of Act II.