Winnie Part Six: Winnie's Revenge

Count Winnie began Nightmare Act IV at clvl 58 with the following:

Base Stats
Str 34 [46]
Dex 20 [23]
Vit 251
Nrg 70

Summon Spirit Wolf @10+3
Summon Dire Wolf @10+3
Summon Grizzly @16+3
Oak Sage @9+3
Spirit of Barbs @13+3
Raven, Poison Creeper, Carrion Vine, Solar Creeper, Spirit of Wolverine @1+3

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
Rare Amulet: +1 druid skills, 11% resist all, +12 strength, +2 dexterity, +6 mana, 4% life steal

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: 854-945 (899.5 avg)
Amplisa Damage: 48-53 (50.5 avg)

With Act IV being the game's shortest act, I didn't have any particular goals in mind (aside from staying alive). I wanted to put the Izual skill points into Oak Sage for the extra life boost, and then spend Act V's skill points working towards maxing out what I expected would be the two most important skills for Hell: Summon Grizzy and Spirit of Barbs. I did also want to put on a better showing against Diablo, since Winnie almost got himself killed there in Normal.

The Outer Steppes were full of flesh spawners, corpulents, and doom casters (finger mages). Getting started in the area was a bit on the tough side, as there were five spawners and a corpulent boss pack (Holy Shock/CEB) right upon crossing the entryway. I set up a town portal as an alternate entry point in case Winnie was forced to retreat back up the stairs, but fortunately that wasn't needed, although I did have to do a lot of running around with Winnie to stay out of harm's way. Most of the other bosses in the Steppes were spawners, a bit of a bad draw. Pooh Bear fights best against individual targets, where he can apply all of his damage in one go. Breeding monsters like the spawners or maggots create problems, since the grizzly can only target one at a time. The highlight of this area was finding a Grand Charm with +1 druid elemental skills on it - argh! So freakin' close on getting a priceless item. I will probably try rerolling some grand charms in Hell for the slim chance of hitting on a +druid summoning charm, but that would have been really, really nice to get here.

Winnie enters the Plains of Despair and starts taking note of the monster draw. Flesh spawners again, and corpulents, and doom casters - it's the same mix of enemies!

This really wasn't a good thing, as I quickly grew tired of fighting the same opponents endlessly. There were quite a few bosses in the Plains, most of them doom casters or spawners. An LEB/Cursed spawner boss led Winnie on quite a merry chase, forcing me to retreat across half the level before finally slaying her back by the entrance. That one was a real pain. Izual didn't show up until about 90% of the level had been cleared. He died very quickly for a change, Pooh Bear getting in some nice hits and Spirit of Barbs contributing with reflected damage. I added the two skill points to Oak Sage, taking it to slvl 11+3, for a 95% bonus to life. Decided to add one more point there for the nice 100% bonus, then go back to Summon Grizzly for a while.

The City finally had some different enemies to fight. Pit lords, abyss knights, and dark familiars (bats). There were hardly any bosses, the only one of note being a Cursed/Extra Strong pit lord. That would have been scary, if pit lords weren't slow as a fat child after eating thanksgiving dinner. Believe it or not, the bats were the biggest irritant here; their erratic, speedy movement meant that they hit Winnie far more often than the other monster types. I'm not sure any of the pit lords even hit Winnie once. They are just so easy to tempt and dodge their weapon swings.

An interesting set item dropped in the City: Tal Rasha's Horadric Crest death mask. It's not useful for Winnie, but I decided to hold on to it for Amplisa assuming we both survive to reach Hell difficulty. (Do hirelings actually benefit from life/mana steal? I have no idea, and it will be fun trying to figure it out empirically!) Although the odds of getting any other set pieces for Amplisa are microscopically low, I think it would be really cool to get even one or two partial set bonuses in play.

The River of Flame was... well, strange. First of all, the Hellforge was closer to the stairs down from the City than I've ever seen before. Winnie walked right from the steps, found a circular platform with offshoots leading north and south, and the Hellforge was immediately off the north branch. I backed off when the quest popup appeared, in order to clear out some needed retreat space for Hephasto. The enemy draw was comprised of grostesques, urdars, and more pit lords; fortunately, the last two groups predominated, creating a level full of heavy-hitting melee foes. Very fitting for Hey Fatso's hangout. There were several urdar and pit lord bosses - I was hit by one of them, an Extra Strong/Teleportation urdar, and the blow did 300 damage. Keep in mind: this is Nightmare (not Hell), and that was only one boss affix that boosted damage. I will have to be really careful if Winnie comes back here a third time. Imagine Extra Strong/Cursed/Might aura synergizing together!

Hephasto was Spectral Hit/Holy Freeze aura/Mana Burn, and thus not that dangerous. The tricky part was removing his surrounding "minions"; the Hellforge was packed, and I lured out two boss packs from there without waking Hephasto. Isolated by himself, he was easily defeated using Spirit of Barbs. The Hellforge quest offered up a Perfect skull and a Shael rune. Not bad, but I could have gotten better there. Winnie hasn't had much luck with runes: he's turned up 1 Ort rune, 0 Thul runes, 2 Amn runes, and nothing higher than that thus far. Pretty slim pickings for a character on the verge of completing Nightmare. I'm likely going to need the Ral/Ort/Tal "freebies" from the Act V quest in Normal AND Nightmare just to complete the Cube recipe upgrading Winnie's rare light belt to sharkskin.

Ahh, the Chaos Sanctuary. Always an area that's both fun and dangerous at the same time. The venom lords, stranglers, and doom knights inside were little more than cannon fodder for the true battle that was being played out, matching Winnie and his minions against the oblivion knights and theirs. The key to beating the oblivions was to take advantage of their AI programming; when threatened, they will cast Decrepify and flee in the opposite direction. Chasing them back deeper into the Sanctuary stretches out fights and can lead you right into some nasty ambushes - don't play their game! For Winnie, the answer was to summon Pooh Bear behind the oblivions, over and over again, forcing them up against the wall or into a corner from which they could not escape. Naturally, this is the same tactic that necromancers should employ with their golems, only it was even more effective with a beefy grizzly bear on hand. Remember when there was one boss in the whole Chaos Sancutary, prior to the expansion? Winnie fought four bosses before reaching the pentagram! Nearly every boss in the place was an oblivion (there was one venom lord boss, Extra Fast/Mana Burn, but that was it), with the most interesting combination being a Fanaticism/LEB oblivion and his crew. It was also pretty interesting to see how wildly unbalanced the oblivion Iron Maiden curse works out in practice: there would be a mob of a dozen melee critters beating on Pooh with little effect, then Pooh would get hit with IM, and kill himself in literally *TWO* hits. Craziness. The danger factor here for a melee character is ridiculous.

Soul Harvest, the unique scythe, dropped at one point in the Chaos Sanctuary. The artwork was very cool, but sadly this item had no use.

I started with De Seis' seal; he spawned Extra Strong/Fanaticism aura/LEB. Ever since they changed his minions from oblivion knights themselves to mere doom knights, this guy has been a total joke, and this run was no exception. Winnie mopped up the doom knights quickly, and De Seis was no threat by himself. The fight with the Infector (Extra Fast/Spectral Hit/FEB) was amazing: Pooh Bear stood in place and tanked the entire mob to death!

I was fully expecting to have to retreat and string out the minions, and it just wasn't necessary. As for the Vizier (Extra Strong/FEB/Spectral Hit), I was simply stupefied at how pitiful he's become. Pooh hit him three times, and that was it. The Vizier was dead in about four seconds, and I barely got a screenshot off. Impressive stuff! I'm not even having to dig into my bag of tricks to do these sections, which bodes well for surviving in Hell where things will be tougher.


For the final boss, I prepared a stash of red and blue potions to the south of the pentagram, as well as loading up on more in inventory. With fire and lightning resistance maxed, there was no need for any shifting of gear, and Winnie had nearly 1000 life on hand even when giving up Oak Sage in favor of Spirit of Barbs. I was as ready as I could ever be. It was time to fight Big Gold:

Remember that Diablo had given Winnie huge problems on their original encounter in Normal. Amplisa had been killed for the first time, and Winnie took a serious hit and was in dire peril for a moment. However, back at that point in time, Winnie had only been clvl 27, with neither of his primary boss-killing skills in play: Summon Grizzly and Spirit of Barbs. I intended to do better in this battle, and having more powerful skills made a real difference. Of course Amplisa died again, but I knew she would die. With the insane 10x damage multiplier that act-end bosses do against hirelings, it's almost impossible to keep them alive. So I didn't worry about her, and focused on keeping Diablo contained, not letting him run free - which is when he's the most dangerous. Pooh Bear did a masterful job of this, and while Winnie had to drink quite a few blue potions to keep resummoning him (and the Spirit of Barbs, as it was repeatedly destroyed by spell effects), the outcome was not in doubt. Diablo never got free of the south end of the pentagram - Winnie's Revenge indeed. That was for poor Amplisa, you fire-breathing bastard.

Diablo dropped a number of rare items, but unfortunately none of them were useful. He also dropped the Cathan's Mesh chain mail set item, which was practically an insult at this stage of the game. Only one more act to go in Nightmare!