Winnie Part Eleven: Land of Endless Physical Resistance

Duke Winnie continues Hell Act II at clvl 77.

Starting out with the Palace, Winnie encountered cold skeleton mages, dune beasts, and blunderbores in the Harem Level 2. Shockingly, there were no bosses or champ packs at all on this floor! That almost never happens in Hell. As such, I have no pictures or interesting stories to relate, as Winnie strolled through this area and mopped the floor with the normal critters. Palace Cellar 1 was back to the usual run of things, with bosses galore all over the place. The monster draw was the same except that the blunderbores were replaced by invaders, and the cold skeleton mages were now shooting fire. This floor seemed to have a Cursed theme, as there were three different bosses that came up with that affix. Most amusing was a Cursed/Extra Strong/FEB... skeleton MAGE boss. Two different abilities that boost melee damage on an enemy with no melee attack - ha!

Palace 2 was where things started to get interesting. Winnie entered the level from the southeast corner, and began by heading north. He immediately encountered a champ four-pack of blunderbores, mixed in with more regular blunderbores, and that was trouble. Those guys have a stun attack that can completely paralyze Pooh Bear, which forced Winnie to use Spirit of Barbs, and that meant danger with no bonus life and a bunch of high-damage opponents. Of course with proper retreat room this wouldn't have been a problem either, but Winnie encountered the champs immediately upon entering the level, with no empty space to fall back upon. While running in circles around this mob near the stairs, another mob of blunderbores began wandering into the picture, this group including a boss: Spectral Hit/Teleportation/Cursed. Ugh. Although those other abilities were duds, the Cursed was very bad news indeed. So now Winnie is still running in circles, trying to deal with this mixed mob, and a skeleton mage boss (CEB/Extra Fast/Extra Strong) and crew shows up at the grate windows and starts firing away with their lightning bolts. Yeargh! What a mess. Once again, the saving grace was the slow speed of the monsters. Everything was slower than Winnie, and that meant I could stay ahead of them, albeit with a lot of mousework and a lot of careful tactical movement. Finally, after long minutes of effort, the melee blunderbores were all dead and I could cast Pooh Bear into the middle of the skeletal mages. The rest of the level was easy after all that - the worst problems always come with getting started in this game. If you have room to retreat and fight, you can survive most anything!

I thought that Palace 3 would be easier, and yet it actually turned out to be worse, if you can believe it. Winnie faced the usual blunderbore and invader melee threats for a while, then about halfway through the level he came across one of the worst ranged threats I've ever seen. There was a double boss pack of horror archers (archers, not mages) who took cover behind a lengthy fence and sniped away at Winnie and his crew, close to a score of them in total counting the regular enemies plus bosses and minions. Their abilities? Multishot/FEB/Teleportation... and CEB/Might aura/Cursed. Oh. My. God.

I don't often post double screenshots like that, but these dual bosses justify them. The damage from each skeleton shot was multiplied about four times over by the boss abilities, doing roughly 400-500 each. That's with EACH shot, and like I said before, there were about TWENTY of those archers, dug in behind formidable cover, all firing away at Winnie. I did my best to hide behind Pooh Bear, but with that much flak in the air taking hits was inevitable. Without Oak Sage in the background, I think Winnie might well have died here. As it was, I had to keep retreating over and over again back to town to buy more red potions, and race around the corner to let them work their healing in safety. Fighting that many enemies at once was impossible; Winnie had to lure the archers out in groups of one and two through the doorway, all the time dodging that absolutely lethal barrage. I must say, for a Hardcore character it does get the blood pumping! Luckily I did manage to down the Multishot boss pretty quickly (yes - dancing around with a Multishot, Cursed, Might aura boss, fun stuff!) but the second boss with the Cursed and Might aura was lurking in the background, and that bastard wasn't killed until the very end. This was a tough, tough battle that really pushed me to my limits with this character. While it makes for a great story, I would have rather avoided it entirely, if that had been possible. (I wonder how many players actually clear all four levels of the Palace out completely? Not many, I'd wager.)

Fire Eye was FEB/Extra Fast/Mana Burn/Magic Resistant and thankfully formed a very anti-climactic end to the Palace.

The Arcane Sancutary was going to be a major chore to complete. I knew this before I even entered the place. It was full end to end with Physical Immune spectres, which represented a danger for Winnie that was enormously greater than that posed by the hell clan goats and the ghoul lord vampires. I scouted out the four quadrants upon entering to look for the M.C. Esher "distorted perspective" quadrant first, which is the easiest in terms of terrain for dealing with boss groups. This turned out to be in the southwest corner, so Winnie headed over to clear this area first. Soon enough the first boss pops up, and lo and behold, of course it was a spectre: Spectral Hit/LEB/Stone Skin.

I appreciated the completely useless Stone Skin ability, but destroying the boss still involved a lot of time and effort, pegging him and his minions with PMH javelins and then waiting for Amplisa's elemental damage to wear them all down over time. Winnie hits the second boss at the back end of the quadrant, and guess what? Another spectre, Teleportation/Extra Strong/FEB. Uhh, great. Boss #3? Spectre #3, Stone Skin/LEB/Mana Burn - come on! At least the game had a sense of humor there, creating a boss with Stone Skin and Mana Burn traits on a monster that was already Physical Immune and innately mana stealing! Anyway, you can see where this was going. There were four bosses in the first quadrant, and three of them came up spectres... and the fourth one was a Stone Skin goat boss, who was ALSO Physical Immune! It just wasn't Winnie's lucky day. Fortunately, the goats and vampires were total stiffs, not even putting up token resistance. Pooh Bear owned them completely, and downed them without breaking a sweat. In fact, even with the spectres this area was relatively low danger overall. So long as I was careful and took my time with Winnie, the possibility to get swarmed and killed was pretty minor, and the ghoul lords couldn't do damage anywhere near that of the skeleton archers in the Palace. Everything just took a long time to clear out. I've seen a lot of Hardcore characters get killed in the Arcane Sanctuary, which is almost always due to rushing things. With due patience, using the terrain obstacles to lure the spectres away from the rest of the monsters and trap the goats for easy disposal, the Arcane Sanctuary really isn't that bad.

The Summoner was hiding out in the very first quadrant Winnie explored, much to my surprise. I lured away all of his accompanying minions, which were mostly irrelevant except for the 4-5 spectres he had with him, and disposed them all out of range of the Summoner's firewalls and glacial spikes. Rather than fiddle with Amplisa, I used Sirian's trick of running onto the platform, opening a town portal, and then returning back immediately, which groups all of the minions around you, up on the platform with the boss. He went down in about five seconds after that, heh. Winnie grabbed the Canyon waypoint, and then faced the sinking realization that he still had three more quadrants full of Physical Immune monsters to wade through. Ummm.... fun? This is one occasion where I hate the full clears, sigh.

Several hours later, everything was finally done. In an odd twist of fate, there were no bosses at all in quadrants three and four, and only a couple in the second quadrant. Almost all of the tough fights had been in that first section, the path that led to the Summoner. There's really not much more to say, aside from the fact that Winnie will be having nightmares about spectres for the next few weeks.

With the clearing of the Arcane Sanctuary, Winnie had now gone further than any of my other Hardcore characters. (Skulla is still alive and parked at the same spot, having just finished the Palace.) Everything from this point forward would be breaking new ground for me as a player.

The Canyon was full of beetles, maggots, and spear cats. This was a bit on the tough side, and the place was absolutely packed with monsters of all kind, with lots of bosses and champs thrown in. There were many occasions where Pooh Bear was completely surrounded by maggot young and beetles, and the overflow enemies spilled around the pileup to target Winnie himself, forcing a lot of running - not to mention dodging of spears! I also noticed that the maggots took unusually long to kill, with their immunity to poison allowing life regen to be a major factor. Amplisa's poison damage on her bow typically cuts down on opponent life regen. The most dangerous boss was a Cursed/Extra Strong/Spectral Hit spear cat, who was fortunately fought without too many beetles and maggots in the area. Winnie had to pull retreating moves on a number of occasions though, and the start of the area had been quite hairy indeed. It was nice to get the whole Canyon cleared to make a safe run at the seven tombs.

The True Tomb was the one on the extreme far right, Tomb #7, so I had Winnie begin on the left side at Tomb #1 and work clockwise around the Canyon. Winnie comes down the stairs, and was immediately faced with his first boss: Magic Resistant/Extra Strong/Stone Skin apparition boss. More physical immunity... great.

It was a good thing that I had plenty of practice by now in how to deal with these threats. Back off a little ways, get the apparitions tied up on Pooh Bear, tag each of them with PMH (or as many of them as possible, it's hard to tell sometimes) and then wait for Amplisa to wear them down slowly. Although this was a real pain, I knew that I could deal with such threats. Just so long as Winnie didn't get a Tomb consisting of apparitions + unravellers, to add resurrection to the mix, I was confident that he would be OK. So what are the other monsters in Tomb #1? Ghoul lord vampires... and burning dead/unravellers. Crap.

At least you don't always encounter the apparitions and the unravellers together in packs, the way that the skeletons are always surrounding them. Apparitions in isolation could be handled as usual, albeit with some extra care to make sure that ALL of their corpses were consumed by one of Winnie's vines. When the two monsters popped up together, Winnie's only recourse was to run far, far away and lead the ghosts with him, so that they could be slain safely out of resurrection range. I could do this, but wow, what a pain in the rear every time it kept popping up. The treasure room in Tomb #1 actually had a double boss pack: Extra Fast/Holy Shock aura/Stone Skin apparition boss and a Stone Skin/CEB/Mana Burn unraveller, with all of the attending skeleton minions. I had to pull all of that huge crowd back to the stairs for safe disposal, kill the apparition boss itself, then return to mop up the unraveller boss. All this was in the first corridor! Second corridor had a THIRD apparition boss, Stone Skin/Cursed/Mana Burn. But wait - still not done yet! Winnie opened the door to the third corridor, and apparition champs fly out. The whole of Tomb #1 was completely full of apparitions!

Even after that threat, Winnie still had to clear out a mummy sarcophagus (in a room with two unravellers, more fun there) and the last chamber had ghoul lords everywhere, Extra Strong/Mana Burn/Spectral Hit boss along with ghoul lord champs. What a tomb, five bosses and two champ packs in a standard-sized tomb. If the other five False Tombs are like this, I think I'm going to go crazy...

Tomb #2 had the segment with a long entrance corridor running off to the left that joins another parallel corridor that eventually doubles back the opposite direction. I've always been suspicious of this opening ever since the Rogue team got annihilated with this draw in the Claw Viper Temple. On this occasion it was busy with monsters as usual, featuring a double unraveller boss pack (Spectral Hit/FEB/Teleportation and Multishot/Mana Burn/FEB) along with their many burning dead minions. These would have been trouble enough, however mixed in with them were lots of gorebellies, and I've mentioned previously the problems caused by their stun attack on Pooh Bear. I fought tenaciously, giving ground, swapping between Oak Sage and Spirit of Barbs depending on whether gorebellies were in play, casting Solar Creeper again and again to target corpses on the ground as I fell. It was hard work, and I was forced out of the entrance two different times (returning through portals I had prudently set up ahead of time at the end of the entrance corridor). On some level though I did enjoy these battles. My handling of this character had come enormously far from the outset, with Winnie now able to dance his way through large swarms of Hell enemies and eliminate them with pinpoint precision through careful management of his two minions.

Once Winnie had gotten his foot in the door, I went to work in earnest. Shortly he came across a particularly nasty gorebelly boss pack, CEB/Cursed/Stone Skin, who also came up Physical Immune with the added Stone Skin physical resistance. Winnie fought them tooth and nail across the length and breadth of the level, giving ground constantly and mixing it up with Spirit of Barbs. It took four full rooms to eliminate the minions, and Amplisa finally got the kill against the isolated boss right next to the stairs. Great stuff! I had yet to see the third enemy draw for the dungeon despite clearing out lots of rooms. Maybe this was just a two-monster area?

Ummm, no. Apparitions again, including multiple boss packs. Unlike Tomb #1, which had been almost all apparitions with a handful of unravellers, this one was mostly the latter, with a scattering of the ghosts to accompany them. I'd say this was marginally better, but still pretty bad overall. Can Winnie get one Tomb that doesn't have unravellers + physical immune resurrectables?! There were furthermore two mummy sarcophogi in Tomb #2, both in rooms with multiple unravellers, and it just took ages clearing out all of the mummies that they spawned. Over an hour to clear each of the first two tombs. Well, it *HAS* to get better in the next one, right?

Three apparitions met Winnie at the entrance to Tomb #3. Well, just so long as there aren't any unravellers - nuts. A wave of burning dead met Winnie at the first door he opened, putting an end to any such hopeful notions. So yes, that's three consecutive tombs with the apparitions + unraveller combo, good Lord... Anyway, Tomb #3 turned out to be full mostly of the third monster type, the preserved dead mummies, although of course there were plenty of ghosts, burning dead, and unravellers to go around as well. (Yes, Tomb #3 was full of three resurrectable opponents!) These mummies drew some interesting boss combos; wouldn't you know it, the first two of them both turned up Stone Skin and thus rolled Physical Immunities!

One was Teleportation/Stone Skin/CEB and not that bad, whereas the Cursed/Might aura/Stone Skin mummy and his minions were notably more difficult. The mummies hit pretty hard, their weakness lying in their slow foot speed. There was another mummy boss later in the level, along with some mummy champs, a pair of unraveller bosses, and (fortunately!) only a single apparition boss. Compared to the first two tombs, Tomb #3 was actually notably easier, simply because the mummies made for relatively easy opponents. Cleaning up every corpse that hit the ground may have been tedious, but it was doable. Anything so long as the whole level wasn't full of Physical Immune enemies!

Tomb #4 had beetles, vampires... and burning dead/unravellers. No apparitions, finally! I didn't care that this was the fourth tomb in a row with unravellers, not having to deal with more ghosts was a major plus as far as Winnie was concerned. The main enemy turned out to be the beetles, who were pretty easy for Pooh Bear to tank after the horrors of the past three tombs. In an ironic twist of fate, all three beetle bosses had the Stone Skin ability, making them all Physical Immune: Devil Bender (Mana Burn/Stone Skin/Teleportation), Gut Eater (Stone Skin/Teleportation/Magic Resistant), and Bone Maim (Spectral Hit/Cursed/Stone Skin). I swear, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried! It was almost a shame that this wasn't Kaa's Tomb, as the draw was so friendly.

Tomb #5 was full of more beetles, mummies, and apparitions. While I was glad to see the unravellers drop out, the apparitions were back again. Sigh. Anyway, this area wasn't too bad, as only one apparition boss appeared; most of the enemies were mummies or beetles. Oddly enough there were two more Stone Skin bosses that popped up with Physical Immunities, although by this point Winnie could probably beat Diablo himself if he came up PI, having gotten so much practice in these blasted tombs! This area was mostly uneventful, aside from another mobbed encounter with a mummy sarcophogus:

With all of the other False Tombs cleared out, Tomb #6 had to be Kaa's hangout. Winnie fought a CEB/Magic Resistant/FEB mummy boss right at the entrance - so far so good. Around the next corner were a couple of ghoul lord vampires, even better. Then the third enemy showed up... and it was apparitions. Again. That means that Winnie ended up drawing the one opponent he truly did not want to face in five out of the six False Tombs. I may have caught a break on the second floor of the Claw Viper Temple, but that luck had been paid back in spades here in the Canyon of the Magi.

Kaa's Tomb always goes on forever, and yet the strange thing is that due to the way this game is programmed, it doesn't get any additional boss/champ pack encounters. You get the exact same half-dozen or so bosses as in the other False Tombs, even though Kaa's Tomb is about triple the size. This actually makes Kaa's Tomb the easiest to do by far, since there is so much more room to retreat and the odds of facing double or triple boss packs is greatly reduced. As far as I can tell, the placement of bosses seems to be almost totally random, aside from one always being present at the treasure chest. Thus the smaller the level, the more likely you are to get screwed over by having multiple bosses "clump" together. For this trip through Kaa's Tomb, mummies again seemed to be the dominant opponent. Winnie ran into two more Physical Immune mummy bosses, as Stone Skin continued to be an extremely popular boss trait. Between the spectres in the Arcane Sanctuary, the apparitions in the False Tombs, and numerous PI bosses, this really had been the land of endless physical resistance.

Kaa himself was in the very last room I explored, and he also ended up drawing Stone Skin as a boss trait. Fortunately, the unravellers don't have enough physical resistance for that to create an immunity, although it did stretch out the battle a bit. Lure the minions away, destroy all the corpses, and then finally destroy the boss himself. While Kaa is always a dangerous encounter with his five boss abilities, Winnie had no difficulty pulling off this encounter.

Finally - finally! - the False Tombs were at an end. One more game session would be enough to run through the True Tomb and Maggot Lair, and then hopefully get out of Dodge intact against Duriel. I was more than ready to be finished with this section of the game.

New session, and hopefully the final one in Act II. The short trek through the Canyon of the Magi was strangely deserted, with only a couple of crushers and maggots barring Winnie's path. Inside the True Tomb, Winnie quickly discovered that he had drawn a monster mix made up of gorebellies, preserved dead mummies, and burning dead/unravellers. Perhaps not the greatest mix in the world, but no apparitions, yay! Winnie still ended up with apparitions in 5/7 tombs, and unravellers in 5/7 as well. Getting into the True Tomb was surprisingly difficult, as there was a VERY large mixed mob of all three enemy types in the first room. I had to retreat back and forth between town portals and the stairs, making use of a narrow hallway to work the monsters over, until they were all finally dead. No pictures of this action, it was difficult enough staying alive!

After that, the True Tomb was very long and pretty unexciting. It suffers from the same phenomenon I mentioned above in discussing Kaa's Tomb, in that the same number of bosses gets distrubuted over a much, much larger total dungeon area. Thus 90% of the time in the True Tomb is spent wading through normal monster, and they just aren't all that tough compared to facing a half-dozen bosses in a sardine can like Winnie had done in some of the False Tombs. Fought some bosses and seemingly ENDLESS hordes of burning dead, the toughest one probably an Extra Fast/LEB/Multishot unraveller. Winnie didn't reach the Orifice chamber until the very end of the area.

However, I still needed to go get the Horadric Staff! That was actually done by design, as I prefer not to carry that silly thing any longer than necessary. Thus Winnie headed off to the Far Oasis, and down into the Maggot Lair. This place was full of itichies, maggots, and beetles - the first of these opponents being Physical Immune, of course. Do you have any idea how tough it is to get the merc companion to shoot at the itichies around those narrow twists and turns? Ugh. I had to do a lot of portaling maneuvers just to get Amplisa in the right spot, otherwise Winnie was completely helpless against those darned bugs! Because of the tight corridors there was virtually no danger whatsoever (Pooh could block everything with ease), just another long slog through waves of PI opponents. The ultimate insult came on the second floor, where a pair of maggot bosses drew Stone Skin together and both came up PI immune as well! One was Stone Skin/Extra Fast/Teleportation, and lept around several walls, forcing tedious re-placement of Amplisa over and over again. The other was Stone Skin/LEB/CEB, and was crammed into a tiny room with a half-dozen other maggots, the "cold electricity" sparks bouncing around everywhere, virtually impossible to dodge. That boss was a real piece of work.

Coldworm's chamber was ridiculously packed with maggot mothers and their young. I think there was something on the order of 15-20 mothers in there all breeding their young in unison, creating a living wall of flesh that blocked access to the treasure chest with the Staff inside. For long minutes on end, Winnie simply stood at the entrance to the room watching Pooh Bear destroy one maggot young after another. It was impossible to make any progress until the mothers bred themselves out (thankfully, they do have a limit and won't lay any more eggs once they reach it). Then Winnie, Pooh, and Amplisa began the long, slow venture of thinning out the mothers as well, who were all immune to poison and therefore regenerating life constantly. This was particularly irritating when they would burrow underground for a little while, regenerating health all the while. I had to do some focused casting of Pooh to keep his attention on the proper, already-damaged maggot mothers. Eventually they were thinned out enough to be able to reach Coldworm herself, and Winnie was able to cast Pooh up against her, plus get a PMH "tag" on the boss to ensure that the damage inflicted wouldn't vanish with time. After that, mopping up the remaining maggots proceded like clockwork. This would have been a lot more dangerous if there hadn't been dozens of maggot young corpses on the ground, providing endless life and mana restoration via Carrion Vine and Solar Creeper. Every time Winnie was poisoned, I simply turned on Carrion Vine and let it heal him effortlessly!

For the final battle with Duriel, I swapped over to a plated belt with +90 life on it. Aside from that, there wasn't any real need to make alterations. Winnie's employment of minions and reflective damage is one of the few really useful strategies against Duriel, and I was not overly worried by the battle. Time to get this Act over with!

Duriel went after Pooh Bear exactly as I expected. With his high life total, Pooh Bear could absorb about five hits before being destroyed, which was more than enough time to resummon my furry companion. With Spirit of Barbs pounding out 500% reflected damage, this battle was over very quickly. Duriel punched out his own lights in about two minutes, with Winnie not even taking so much as a point of damage in the process!

Thus ended a painfully long concluding run through the second Act. Winnie will return with more adventures from the steaming jungles of Act III, including a troubling future appointment with the six Kurast Temples.