Winnie Part Five: Corruption Gorget

Count Winnie began Nightmare Act III at clvl 53 with the following:

Base Stats
Str 34
Dex 20 [21]
Vit 221
Nrg 70

Summon Spirit Wolf @8+2
Summon Dire Wolf @10+2
Summon Grizzly @14+2
Oak Sage @8+2
Spirit of Barbs @13+2
Raven, Poison Creeper, Carrion Vine, Solar Creeper, Spirit of Wolverine @1+2

Shaman's Barbed Club: +1 druid skills
Coral Hard Leather Armor of the Squid: +78 life, 29% lightning resist
Large Shield, 3 Perfect Diamonds: 58% resist all
Rare Hawk Helm: +1 druid skills, 10% faster hit recovery, +9 life, 9% lightning resist
Bloodfist (unique Heavy Gloves): 10% IAS, 30% faster hit recovery, +5 min damage, +40 life
Rare Chain Boots: 30% faster run, 12% poison resistance, 15% magic find, 14% chance to cast Nova
Viridian Belt of the Whale: +81 life, 19% poison resist
Rare Ring: 24% lightning resist, +66 mana, 6% magic find
Cobalt Ring of the Fox: 27% cold resist, +10 life
Prismatic Amulet of Luck: 19% resist all, 29% magic find

Javelin of Vileness: Prevent Monster Heal
Blood Crescent (unique Scimitar): 3-10 dam, 15% IAS, 15% life steal, 33% open wounds, +15 life, +15% resist all
Assorted rings, amulets, charms, and jewels

Pooh Bear Damage: 605-687 (646 avg)
Amplisa Damage: 41-46 (43.5 avg)

My goals for Winnie in Act III (besides staying alive!) were to try and upgrade his light belt in stash to a sharkskin one (requiring a Thul rune or several more Ort runes) and to attempt to gamble an amulet with +druid skills of some kind, ideally one with other useful affixes. I wanted to hold off on gambling clubs and circlets until Winnie reached clvl 60, at which point in time he would be able to have a chance at +3 druid summoning items. Yeah, he could conceivably get that earlier on a circlet, but with all the endless available mods on circlets, and their high cost, I wasn't exactly holding my breath there! Better to try and turn up an amulet first, since I at least had +1 on Winnie's current club and druid pelt.

Kill the Wanderer's flesh pups, and literally the first enemies Winnie encounters are a double boss pack of festishes. One of the bosses was Cursed/Teleportation, not sure of the other. They had the good grace to drop the Jade Figurine, and so 5 minutes into Act III Winnie is already sporting his 20 extra life. Excellent.

The Spider Forest proved to be a bit tougher for Winnie than I had remembered it being with Skulla, the character of mine with the most similar build. The jungles were a great place for a skeleton necromancer, with a near-endless supply of corpses to work with and plenty of room to get all of the mages into play. The open spaces weren't as good for Winnie, who relies on having one VERY strong minion rather than a lot of weak ones. Routine random enemies posed no issue, yet when Winnie came across the fetish villages, it could get a little crazy - way too many ankle-biters running around to shield Winnie effectively with just Pooh Bear for a tank! Taking hits in places like this was unavoidable. I found that running Carrion Vine instead of Solar Creeper was rather effective, healing the minor cuts and bruises from fetish blowdarts in a manner similar to life regeneration. (This tactic works well against LEBs and their sparks too.) On the whole, this area involved some work but wasn't too bad. The underground areas are where the real danger lies.

Like the Spider Cavern! Winnie found this area first and headed down the steps. There were not one, but two spider bosses right past the entrance, neither of them Sszark fortunately. (He and his mob always spawn in the southwest corner of the map, and you'd better clear out the rest of the level first with a Hardcore character!) There were a lot of lampreys (maggots) in this dungeon too. Winnie's really not the best character to fight them either, for the same reason as the fetishes: Pooh can only attack one of those little maggots at a time. Anyway, so Winnie cleared the whole level except for the area around the golden chest, and out comes Old Buy A Vowel (TM) with his whole crew. Third ability Extra Fast, holy crap!

Yeah, that's definitely not what you want to see with this guy. Winnie swapped to Spirit of Barbs, I recast Pooh about three times, and it was over in mere seconds. Those Extra Strong/Cursed types do themselves in with reflected damage incredibly quickly, I tell you. Three cheers for Spirit of Barbs!

Arachnid Laid was all spiders, two different types, and pretty routine overall. The two bosses were FEB/CEB and FEB/Mana Burn. Winnie took a hit here at one point and got poisoned - OK, fair enough. That single hit from a normal monster (not a boss or champ) left him poisoned for over two minutes, and did something like 500 damage, to a character with 75% poison resistance. It's just insane how much damage poison does now in this game, especially considering that throughout most of D2's patches it was a complete joke. Someone went overboard with the tweaking of the game mechanics here - not like Blizzard's ever done that before...

- There were more fetishes in the Great Mash, but mostly it was full of drowned corpses (zombies) and thorned hulks. With an area full of slow-moving melee hitters, Winnie was in no danger and did this area in complete safety, if not with particular speed. Pooh Bear was useless against the river stalkers at the chests, so Winnie employed a combination of his PMH javelins, Amplisa's bow, and the Raven pecking attacks to defeat them:

Don't laugh! When I say full clear, I kill everything.

Flayer Dungeon was near the entrance to the Flayer Jungle, so Winnie headed in there first. Flayer 1 was rather tame, aside from an exploding doll boss that came up Cursed/Holy Shock aura. I made sure Winnie stayed out of that death explosion. Flayer 2 had a lot more flayers and soul killers; worst threat was probably a CEB/LEB shaman boss. Much to my disgust, the set round shield Whitstan's Guard dropped AGAIN on this dungeon floor. Winnie only gets a handful of unique/set drops throughout the game, and to have two of them wasted on the same useless item appearing twice! Well, it was frustrating, to say the least...

Flayer 3 was mostly empty, which seems to happen a lot. Endugu was about the only one down there, but he drew Extra Fast and was zipping around like crazy. Not a threat with no melee damage abilities and Winnie having maxed fire resistance, and yet still enough to keep you on your toes. Grabbed the brain, and headed back up to the jungles to do some more trekking.

The Swampy Pit is probably my least favorite area in Act III - it just seems so useless! The Flayer Dungeon would have been enough, I think. (Of course, almost everyone just skips this area, since it's fairly long and offers nothing of interest for clearing it.) Anyway, Pit 1 was mostly undead soul killers, with a few gloams thrown in. Winnie ran into a champ pack of gloams near the stairs, and Pooh tore them apart with savage ferocity. Each champ went down in 2-3 hits, and all four were dead in mere seconds. Impressive stuff! Pit 2 had more undead dolls, including some champs, plus fetishes and drowned carcass zombies. Biggest danger was a Magic Resistant/Cursed zombie, and that wasn't much of a danger. Pit 3 had one of the maze formations; it was almost deserted (no bosses or champs) and the gold chest at the end held nothing of value. One cool thing: the music in the Swampy Pit is the same as the music from the Monastery levels in the original Diablo! I don't know if that was changed, or I just never noticed it before. Either way, the music from Diablo was incredible. D2 just doesn't compare.

The Flayer Jungle was all fetishes, flayers, and soul killers, aside from a tiny hanful of slime prince frogs that would pop up by the river's edge. At times all of these fourth-graders threatened to swarm Winnie and surround him. Patient play saw Winnie through this area, retreating frequently and resummoning Pooh to establish a new front line whenever the original one was flanked. It helped that the flayers would mostly attack whatever was closest to them - and I made sure that was Pooh Bear! The Ravens actually helped out a lot here too, blinding the blowdart shooters and occasionally the shamans as well, which would take them out of the fight for a few seconds. Every little bit helped. The Gidbinn boss was a CEB/LEB flayer, and the quest reward ring was junk.

Stormtree drew Cursed as his third ability, yikes! This made it necessary to use Spirit of Barbs, as Pooh was taking too much damage and getting locked in stun recovery. What happens when a bunch of hard-hitting, Extra Fast minions all start beating on a Cursed target with reflective damage in play? They knock their own light out rather fast. Scarily fast, I should probably say...

There were hell buzzard vultures, doom apes, and zakarumites in Lower Kurast. This area just wasn't that interesting, aside from watching Pooh kill most vultures in a single hit - which was awesome. Yeah, they really don't have much health.

The Kurast Bazaar was definitely a little bit tougher, with thrashers and two different types of zealots (zakarumites and faithful) running around. The sextons weren't difficult, considering that Winnie could stuff Pooh in their faces as needed, but there were a couple of tricky thrasher bosses, one of them coming up LEB/Spectral Hit and another one Extra Fast/Holy Freeze aura. That second one created a bit of a speed problem! Winnie gambled a rare amulet on a trip back to town that almost fit his needs perfectly: 32% lightning resist, 28% poison resist, and +2 barbarian masteries. Too bad the +skills bonus wasn't in the right field... (Yeah, I know, 1 in 21 odds, but it doesn't hurt to think positively!) I saved the amulet because of the resist boosts.

That brought Winnie to first of the dreaded Act III temples, home of some of the worst stairs traps in the game. Let's just say that at times like this, it was nice to have Oak Sage and robust Vitality providing over 1600 life! Ruined Temple was up first (might as well get it out of the way). Winnie heads down the steps, and draws the left-facing T formation. There are three spider maguses right below the stairs, and as Pooh Bear walks towards them to engage in combat, he wakes up some flesh hunters from the main room, who start pouring into the entryway. Not good! I run Winnie over to the room on the right, intending to cast Pooh behind me and make a stand in the doorway, only to find another half-dozen flesh hunters in that room already. Not good, not good at all! I immediately reverse direction, wind Winnie through the chaos now boiling over in the entryway, towards the room on the left. Holy crap, here comes Sarina with her whole crew!

I just managed to get Winnie into the left room and block the doorway with Pooh in time. From here, Pooh would tank down Sarina and all of the other flesh hunters without Winnie coming under further attention. Whew! This was a tough, tough encounter, even if Winnie was barely scratched. Amplisa somehow came through unscathed, the monsters choosing to target Winnie and Pooh while ignoring her. Whatever works, I guess. The five stat points from the book went into Vitality.

The Disused Fane wasn't immediately trapped at the stairs, however spider maguses and flesh hunters (a repeat of the Ruined Temple monster draw) immediately started moving into the entry chamber from the left side. Winnie had just enough time to cast Pooh over there to block the entrance, and thereby avoided a potentially sticky situation. After that the level was rather tame, the only other threat coming from four flesh hunter champs, and Winnie had plenty of retreat room to deal with that situation.

There were no horadric ancients in the Kurast Sewers, which made the area a heck of a lot faster and easier to complete. The undead dolls were the biggest threat with their death explosions, and Winnie was able to avoid them most of the time by staying away from his minions when they were engaged. On the rare occasions where Winnie did get hit by death explosions, he took a lot of damage, 200 or more - ouch! The biggest danger was an undead doll boss that came up LEB/Fanaticism aura, which wasn't exactly a good combo. Riftwing drew Cursed for his extra ability, and was easily defeated.

Winnie gambled a Chromatic amulet with 27% resist all on a trip back to town. Nice! I swapped to this in replacement of the Prismatic ammy with only 19% resist all. This was much more interesting than Upper Kurast, which was full of slow melee enemies (thrashers, winged nightmares, etc.) that presented no threat. On to the legitimately dangerous remaining temples.

First up, the Forgotten Temple. There was a beetle boss right on the stairs (FEB/Conviction aura) and that's always a really bad thing, as it doesn't allow time to set up a clear front line with Pooh Bear. My grizzly companion locked up two of the beetles at the bottom of the narrow entryway, but three more circled around him and headed straight for Winnie, pausing to kill the Oak Sage spirit in the process! (You see it exploding in the picture above.) Fortunately I was on top of this immediately and resummoned Oak Sage in time for Winnie to dash through the scrum, emerging on the right side of the columns with relatively minor injuries. This was not a comfortable situation by any means! I was just lucky that there hadn't been any more monsters in the next room, or Winnie likely would have had to drink some purples off of belt.

Then Winnie went into the Forgotten Reliquary, and things were much, much worse inside!

There was a full blown stairs trap that closed upon Winnie the instant he entered. Four spider maguses and a vampire boss pack (Stone Skin/Extra Strong). I didn't even have time to catch my bearings before the spiders had trapped Winnie up against the wall, and started pounding on him unmercifully. Meanwhile, meteors are dropping from the sky like hail, and Pooh Bear is off on the top of the screen doing pinprick damage to the Stone Skin boss. No, silly bear! Come free me! It was all I could do to juggle the skill hotkeys and keep refreshing Oak Sage (which was again taking a royal pasting) and resummoning Pooh Bear next to me, waiting for him to spring Winnie from the trap he was in, all the while drinking rejuvs off belt. I managed to keep Winnie's life from ever falling under half, but it took four full rejuvs before Pooh killed off the spiders and I could get clear of the wall. Geez! Talk about unfair. This *WOULD* have been a Save and Exit fight in Hell. I knew I could survive because the enemy attacks were only doing ~50 damage each, and things won't be nearly so easy should Winnie make it back here a final time.

I really hope Blizzard doesn't repeat this nonsense in D3. Stairs traps have no place in this game.

The Disused Reliquary had no stairs trap - yay! Winnie was able to get into the level without being attacked for a change. What it did have was a nasty, NASTY double boss pack of serpent maguses: CEB/FEB and (the really dangerous one) Extra Fast/Fanaticism aura. Yeouch! Are you kidding me?! Luckily, Winnie didn't run into this mob until the last room of the level, and all I saw was a tidal wave of snakes moving at warp speed surrounded by the glowing red Fanaticism aura. I gave ground - uh, a lot of ground. In fact, Winnie ended up retreating back through the whole level before the double boss pack was slain. Pooh was getting hit by multiple charge attacks per second, and with stunlock was completely helpless. Spirit of Barbs did all the damage in this fight, and quite frankly saved the day. No pix, sorry, busy not dyin. Very tense stuff, even if Winnie never took a hit during the battle.

The Ruined Fane was tame by comparison, with no stairs trap either and more snakes inside. There was an LEB/Extra Strong snake boss inside, which was no pushover, but overall it was infinitely easier than the previous three temples. That brought a close to one of the worst parts of the whole run through Nightmare, and a series of absolutely brutal encounters. I tell you, I am not looking forward to going through this area again in Hell...

In my last gambling session of the night, Winnie hit the jackpot on an amulet:

+1 druid skills, 11% resist all, and sundry other minor goodies. The only flaw with this amulet was its name - what in the world does "Corruption Gorget" mean?! I know what those words mean separately, but they don't make any sense together! Whatever. Another +1 to all skills meant a meaner, tougher, more badass Pooh Bear, who was now approaching 1000 damage per attack. Excellent. (And I swear that I wrote the introduction sections at the beginning of this page BEFORE I gambled this amulet. Not a case of intentional foreshadowing!)

Travincal is without a question the best individual area in the game, and I enjoyed it very much on this playthrough. It seemed a bit empty, but maybe that's because this is still only Nightmare and not Hell. The most entertaining aspect of Travincal was a double boss pack right in the center of the city on the raised altar platform, with a Magic Resistant/Multishot hierophant and a Stone Skin/Conviction aura vampire boss. The latter of these was particularly annoying, and took quite a while to kill even after being tagged with a PMH javelin. I managed to lure out the Council members in groups of one or two for quick disposal, and they went down in surprisingly easy fashion. Geleb (Extra Strong/FEB/Multishot) dropped the flail, while Toorc (CEB/Mana Burn/Stone Skin) got trapped against a wall and mugged by Pooh Bear:

That red puddle on the ground is all that's left of Geleb. The screenshot for Ismail didn't come out, and I don't remember what extra ability he drew. I expected a better fight from these guys, but Pooh Bear just crushed them all with a few swipes of his mighty paw. Perhaps in Hell I will have to use some actual tactics for these fights!

I should also mention that having four Ravens instead of three (and at a higher skill level) seemed to make a difference. New Raven T-Sizzle (Terrell Suggs) brought the operation to a whole new level. If they all concentrated on a single target, it was definitely going to be blinded. This was genuinely useful against hierophants and vampire lords, enough so that I really started making an effort to refresh the skill whenever one of the Ravens disappeared. Amazingly enough, the useless ubervariant skill was slowly becoming an integral part of my overall tactics...

Durance 1 was almost entirely cadavers (mummies), and all three bosses that spawned on the level came with non-threatening abilities; lots of Magic Resistant and Teleportation attributes. This area was rather quickly cleared. Durance 2... urgh. I've made it clear in past reports that I detest the gigantic size of this level, which is a completely pointless time drag for the full-clearing player. The level is so goddarned long that it takes two screenshots just to display the full minimap!

I only got half the level in that picture, and I'm not wasting space with another. Facing endless swarms of the same monsters is just tedious, due to the fact that Durance 2 gets no extra boss/champ encounters despite being roughly eight times its original size. As any veteran D2 player knows, the bosses provide all of the excitement in the game's random levels. Normal enemies are little more than speedbumps to be driven over, and so when a giant level is full to the brim with nothing but these encounters... well, it gets old very, very fast. At least in other repetitive sections of the game, there are various small tweaks to keep things relatively fresh (different quadrants in the Arcane Sanctuary, subdungeons in the Kurast jungles and Arreat highlands, different monster draws on each floor of the Catacombs/Palace/False Tombs/etc.) This is just a sloppy fix thrown in at the last minute - which did nothing to stop Mephy magic find runs, I should add - and it shows.

In contrast, out of all the end-of-act areas, Durance 3 and the Chaos Sanctuary are by far my favorites. The risks here are considerable, but you CAN manage them with patient and careful play. I had Winnie skirt the south edge of the map upon entering, making his way to the southwest corner where Pooh Bear calmly dispatched a half dozen blood lords. Winnie next moved through the main doorway; the only immediate opponents were two more blood lords, also taken out quickly. I successfully lured two council members back to the entry room one at a time for easy disposal, and then pulled out the sparking one himself (Conviction aura, LEB/Mana Burn):

With no minions or blood lords to help out, Bremm fell easily to the might of Pooh. Maffer drew the dangerous Cursed ability (Extra Strong/Extra Fast/Cursed) but fortunately he ran right into Pooh as well, and killed himself quickly with reflected damage. Next up, Winnie cleared out a Teleportation/Mana Burn blood lord pack over in Maffer's room, thinking to himself that it was a good thing he was able to deal with them separately from Maffer! Wyand (Mana Burn/Teleportation/Stone Skin) ended up with some lousy boss abilities, and frankly just got owned badly by Winnie's crew. I almost felt sorry for him.

Mephisto - what is there to say about this guy? He's a total joke for any character with a minion that can employ reflective damage. Winnie simply swapped over to Spirit of Barbs and sat back in perfect safety as Mephisto beat himself to death attacking Pooh Bear. Winnie didn't take so much as a single point of damage. Rather pathetic. Diablo and Baal put up a much better fight.

No deaths for Amplisa, and a shiny new amulet to play with. I'd say that Act III was a rousing success!