Winnie Part Seven: The Deluge

Count Winnie began Nightmare Act V at clvl 60 with the following:

Base Stats
Str 34 [46]
Dex 20 [23]
Vit 261
Nrg 70

Summon Spirit Wolf @10+3
Summon Dire Wolf @10+3
Summon Grizzly @17+3
Oak Sage @12+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
Tal Rasha's Horadric Crest (set death mask): 125 def, 10% life steal, 10% mana steal, +60 life, +30 mana, 15% resist all
Assorted rings, amulets, charms, and jewels

Pooh Bear Damage: 945-1039 (992 avg)
Amplisa Damage: 51-56 (53.5 avg)

One thing different about Act V was that I actually had to give some consideration to finding some gear for Amplisa, who would finally be allowed a weapon and armor in Hell. I already had a pretty nice set helmet for her, but the armor and especially a bow were still missing. I'd been hoping all along that some nice set or unique bow would drop, which unfortunately had not happened thus far. I planned to keep an eye on the vendors, in the hopes that an exceptional weapon with some high damage mods (and hopefully some elemental damage on it) would appear. An Iceblink would be incredibly nice to have for the armor, but I'm not holding my breath on that.

Bloody Foothills had nothing but enslaved and quill rats. That was it. There was exactly one random boss, a Magic Resistant/Mana Burn quill rat, along with a few champ chill rats in a couple places. Shenk (Extra Strong/Spectral Hit) was as easy as ever. Let's move on to a more interesting area.

Winnie encountered death brawlers, imps, and blunderbores (from Act II) in the Frigid Highlands. Eldritch (Extra Fast/LEB) and Eyeback (Extra Strong/Extra Fast/LEB) drew similar abilities, although Winnie had maxed lightning resistance and was not unduly worried. However, the real focus in this area was on the items that dropped. First, Winnie found an awesome demonhide sash that dropped from Eldritch's mob: four-row belt with 17% faster hit recovery, +31 life, 23% cold resist, and 17% poison resist! That put the light belt I'd been saving and hoping to upgrade to sharkskin to shame. Winnie put this on immediately, and stashed his old three-row belt with +81 to life on it.

The other item posed more of a dilemma. About halfway through the level, Winnie found the Natalya's Soul mesh boots. They were an outstanding find, with 40% faster run, two strong resists, and a minor boost to stamina drain that would let Winnie run forever. I was never going to gamble anything better than this - not using them would be a crime! However, there was a Strength requirement of 65, and Winnie's natural strength was only 34. He was getting another +12 Strength from the very nice Corruption Gorget amulet, so that meant another 19 points needed, or four level ups. I decided that I would hold off on assigning any stat points for the next four levels, and see if anything that boosted Strength (like charms) turned up. If nothing did, I would go ahead and add the necessary points to Strength. It was worth it for those very sweet boots.

Abbadon had witches, imps, and horror archers, a draw that featured all ranged opponents. In situations like that, Winnie simply walked behind Pooh Bear and let his furry hide soak up all the projectiles. Not even an Extra Strong/Cursed horror archer was enough to shake Pooh out of his slow, measured path of destruction. I honestly thought this area would be tougher, but with no melee opponents to provide a front line for the enemies, they fared poorly on the whole.

The Arreat Plateau served up more imps, crusher beasts, slinger cats, and fire skeleton mages. Another area with nothing but ranged enemies, which proved to be an easy draw. None of these monsters charged or swarmed Winnie, giving him plenty of time and open space to cast Pooh Bear wherever the situation dictated. Once again, the more interesting story lay in the items that dropped. Winnie found two uniques mere minutes apart! The first of these was Stormguild, the unique large shield. It might have been useful in Normal, but it had been long since rendered useless and sold.

The second unique was much more intriguing. This was Thundergod's Vigor, the unique war belt (exceptional plated belt). I remember that Sirian had turned this up in our Rogue Revival game, by gambling if you can believe it. Thundergod's Vigor has some incredible abilites on it: +20 Strength, +20 Vitality, +10% max lightning resist, and 20% lightning absorb! However, there was one huge drawback - the belt had a Strength requirement of 110. D'oh! Sadly, Winnie is simply not the right character for this unique. The bonus lightning damage would be entirely wasted, and Winnie simply doesn't have enough Strength to put on this piece of gear. Nevertheless, I decided to hold on to it in stash. Because Thundergod's Vigor has +20 Strength on it, the real Strength requirement is only 90 (assuming you can use some charms or temporary Strength boosters to put it on!) and that wasn't terribly far away from the 65 that I was going to need for the Natalya's Soul boots. It wasn't inconceivable that I might turn up a bunch of rings or charms with +Strength on them, so I figured I might as well hold on to the unique. Stranger things have happened, after all.

So many high-end unique and set items dropped all at once - it was a veritable Deluge, I tell you!

The Pit of Acheron held maulers, hell clan goats, and fire-spitting salamander snakes. In contrast to the recent areas, this was all melee foes, and thus also rather easy to complete. Winnie found these enemy draws to be similar to Skulla's experience: mixed enemies were much more dangerous than all of one type (melee or ranged). All ranged meant lots of Oak Sage and advancing behind Pooh, while all melee meant Spirit of Barbs and drawing mobs into close-combat with the grizzly. It was when ranged opponents started firing while Pooh was already tied up with melee ones that Winnie ran into problems.

There was a genuinely dangerous monster grouping in the Crystalline Passage: claw vipers, witches, and corrupted rogue archers. All three of them had a ranged attack: snakes shooting bone spears, witches their blood stars, and the rogues fired arrows that not only chilled, but actually froze Pooh Bear! Not to mention, it was a royal pain to have to deal with the bone spears, which always pierced right through Pooh to hit Winnie and Amplisa. Furthermore, the snakes also had their charge attack, and always tried to close to melee range, allowing the other two enemy types to fire away in safety. Oak Sage was a necessity here. In addition to the boss above, there was also an Extra Strong/LEB viper mixed in with that same encounter group, and a particularly nasty LEB/FEB firing squad of rogue archers elsewhere in the level. Tough work clearing this section out.

One of the bosses dropped a pair of green set gloves. My guess was that it would be Sander's Taboo, and I was right. This is another nice set of gloves, and quite similar actually to Bloodfist (they both have +40 life), but for Winnie the faster hit recovery on Bloodfist was superior to the increased attack speed and poison damage on Sander's Taboo. I sold the gloves.

Frozen River had walking dead, succubus witches, and gloams. These last enemies were the worst, with their erratic movement, near-invisible appearance, and lightning bolts which pierced through Pooh. Fortunately Winnie and Amplisa both had excellent lightning resistance! There were several bosses, but one that overwhelmingly stood out: Plague Pox, a gloam boss from an Evil Urn that spawned FEB/Stone Skin, Immune to Physical/Immune to Lightning:

Good thing I had cleared out tons of space ahead of time before popping the urn! This was the first Physical Immune (PI) opponent that Winnie had faced in the game thus far, and to put it bluntly, the fight did not go well. My plan to use a druid pelt with skill points in Fissure failed miserably, as Nightmare monsters are not intimidated by slvl 4 Fissure's 30-40 damage. I would have done better just to have used a weapon with elemental damage on it. After an ungodly long time the boss did drop dead, thanks to having been hit repeatedly with Prevent Monster Heal. I intend to have a bow for Amplisa in Hell with nothing but elemental damage on it, something like 4 or more sockets and a ton of gems/runes stuck in there, along with a more normal bow for ordinary situations. Hopefully I wouldn't run into any more PI enemies until then.

Anya's quest reward druid pelt was laughable. That's twice in a row she's struck out badly - do you want to get rescued, or not?! In my final gambling session for the night, Anya then served up a Gaean spiked club: +3 druid elemental skills.

Argh, so close and yet so far away! I swear, it's a shame I'm not playing an elemental druid, with the Grand Charm I turned up in the previous act. Still, it was nice to confirm that the +3 druid tree affixes were in play for gambling, and that it was only a matter of time before I landed the Keeper's Club with +3 druid summoning on it.

The entrance to Nihlathak's temple was tight fighting for a few minutes, but Winnie and Pooh Bear made it through ok. I used the few seconds of grace period at the start to set up a town portal on the far right side, so even if Winnie had been forced out through the red portal, I still could have re-entered the area. (This may be necessary in Hell. We'll see.) Pindelskin had LEB as his extra ability.

The Halls of Anguish were a real mess to get through. Random monster draw produced prowling dead, beetles, and devilkin with their shaman attendants. Both the devilkin and the prowling dead had to have their corpses cleaned with Solar Creeper, so this was a total slog and made for slow going. All of the enemies also moved very quickly indeed and did a good job of swarming Winnie, forcing lots of retreats and backtracking to establish a clear and safe front line with Pooh. In short, this was real work of a sort that Winnie hadn't had to do since... well, pretty much ever! I suppose it was good practice for the upcoming Hell difficulty. Darned tough stuff though.

Halls of Pain weren't as bad, made up of infidels, razor spines, and blood maggots. It was the last of these that caused the most headaches, although the maggots were also the least dangerous of the three opponents - just involving lots of time and effort to kill as they bred endlessly. I should be thankful though, no need to clean up any corpses on this floor. The Cathan's Sigil amulet dropped on this floor, which irritated me because I actually thought it was going to be a good item. I really dislike the Cathan's Traps set of gear for that reason.

For the Halls of Vaught, I went down the stairs with all my extra items from town in inventory, in case I needed to Save and Exit quickly. As far as I know there's still a chance for the buggy vipers to appear on this floor, with their "poison" bone spears that do thousands of points of damage instantly! Anyway, fortunately there were no vipers on this floor, bugged or otherwise. Instead, Winnie found himself facing arach spiders, returned skeleton archers, and a small scattering of flayers with their shamans. The floor was almost entirely full of the skeleton archers for the most part; Winnie hid behind Pooh Bear and let his grizzly minion do all the hard work of clearing them out. The arachs did insane poison damage on any successful hit; no clue what it amounted to in terms of damage, but it had to be in the thousands. Winnie had to go to town after every time he took a hit, because it simply would not go away on its own.

For Nihlathak (CEB), Winnie cautiously lured out his ice spawn minions and waited until Pooh had eliminated them all. There were still a few skeleton archers in the chamber with Nihlathak, so I recast Pooh so that he would target them, until all were slain. When it was down to just Big Gray and his random summoning of minions, I had Pooh engage, and he humiliated the old man by tearing him up in seconds. Could not have been done much safer, if I do say so. Winnie got tagged by the edge of a few Corpse Explosions, but never took more than about 20% of his life in damage. (Granted, with almost 2000 life overall, that was still some 400 damage.) You'd better make sure to max fire resistance for this fight!

Starting in a new session, I was working from the Crystalline Passage waypoint to the Glacial Trail, when a group of creeping ice monster champs dropped a rare druid pelt. The Deluge of items continued, because back in town it came up golden: +2 druid skills!

The other mods were eerily similar to Winnie's previous helmet: instead of +3 to Twister, the new helmet had +1 Tornado; instead of +9 life it had +6 life, and both the old and new druid pelt had 9% lightning resistance. Strange coincidence! Anyway, this was practically a keeper item, unless Winnie would find a circlet or pelt with +3 druid summoning, which was rather unlikely. Thus I gained another point in every skill, with all the synergy support that that entailed. Winnie now had the full compliment of five Ravens! Flacco, the new Raven, had yet to prove himself, but gave all the early signs that he would be a franchise player.

The Glacial Trail was home to frozen creepers, pit vipers, and moon lord frenzytaurs. This was a bit of a tough draw, especially the last two opponents, who combined nasty melee abilities with piercing bone spears. A Spectral Hit/Cursed viper boss proved particularly troublesome, encountered in a big mob of other critters. Spirit of Barbs did a lot of the work there. At another point in time, Winnie popped an Evil Urn and the resulting viper mob literally appeared on top of him! Ridiculously cheap and unfair from the game, and poor Winnie took several hits before being able to dash out to safety. Sheesh... Bonesaw Breaker was Extra Strong/Magic Resistant/LEB, but Winnie's Solar Creeper took away the ability for him and his minions to revive from the dead, and that pretty much neutered them as a real threat. The moon lords were much worse - any reason why they have like quadruple the amount of health of all the other enemies in this area?

The Drifter Cavern can be one of the worst death traps in Act V, but on this trip it was surprisingly and pleasantly easy to complete. The enemy draw was succubi, abominables, and night clan goats (looking very out of place in these surroundings!) Winnie was helped by the fact that there was no stairs trap, he was able to move smoothly to the safer outer edge of the area, and the fact that there were few bosses here. Lots of champ packs instead, each fought in isolation with few supporting monsters, and that made the encounters easy. Not even brutal Extra Fast/LEB succubus bosses bothered Winnie - just cast Pooh Bear into the center, and they'll all go down pretty quickly. Witches don't seem to bother Winnie very much; his grizzly buddy rips them apart with ease.

Winnie hit clvl 64 at the tail end of the Drifter Cavern, and went ahead and added four level ups worth of stat points into Strength. That allowed him to equip the Natalya's Soul set boots I mentioned earlier, with their yummy 40% faster run and resist boosts. Winnie now had all the foot speed I could ever want - a definite keeper item on the footwear!

There was a strange mix of enemies on the Frozen Tundra: imps, vultures, and lightning skeletal mages. These last two enemies looked very much out of place! Overall, of course, this was a very easy monster draw, and Pooh Bear was killing most opponents in a single swipe of his mighty paws! There were about four bosses right at the entrance, all of them either vultures or skeletal mages, and then none throughout the rest of the area. Strange, but sometimes that happens. The highlight of the Frozen Tundra was finding a Pul rune in a random drop - wow! I've actually never even seen one of them before, if you can believe it. You just don't get many runes of that level in pure play. Too bad I didn't get a Mal rune, just two slots higher - there's a really nice Druid specific runeword (Rain) that would be perfect for Winnie. Still a slight chance for that to happen, of course...

The Infernal Pit featured witches, night lord frenzytaurs, and pellet shooting fetishes. There were less than a dozen frenzytaurs in the whole area, however, which meant this place was full of ranged attackers shooting all kinds of missiles at Winnie and crew. With a lot of patient luring of witches and fetishes into attack range, Winnie managed to do this area in safety, if not with particular speed.

The Ancient's Way had lightning-spitting afflicted and razon spine quill rats, but these foes occupied barely any of Winnie's time. Instead, I spent virtually the entire level dealing with carvers and their terrible shamans:

The darned things were ridiculously fast, had the ability to freeze Pooh Bear completely - to the point where he had trouble killing the shamans even when right next to them! - and endlessly revived their minions unless they were led out of resurrection range. Thank goodness for Solar Creeper! Even with its help, I must have spend an hour having Winnie slowly clear out mob after mob of these shrimps by slowly leading them away from their shamans. I guess it was good practice for Act I Hell, but what a pain in the rear! I was inordinately glad to get this area finished.

Just one more really nasty area left to go in Nightmare: the Icy Cellar. Yes, this area is worse than the Ancients and the Throne of Destruction in many ways! Winnie heads down the stairs, and immediately is hit by a closing trap: a half-dozen abominables moving down from the north, while three gloams float over the icy water. I cast Pooh Bear to block the abominables, having no choice otherwise, and then had to dance around dodging gloam lightning for the next minute while Pooh slowly killed the furries, with help from Spirit of Barbs. My caution at not moving further into the level was justified, when another half-dozen abominables appeared just a few steps to the south. Even without any bosses, this was a rough start to the level, and it remained tough throughout. The abominables are a bad opponent for Winnie, as any time Pooh Bear faces more than one or two of them, he usually gets stunlocked and then all damage has to come from Spirit of Barbs and Amplisa. Not a good situation! The gloams were also a real pain, especially an LEB/Conviction aura boss over by the treasure chest. Yikes! Conviction aura is not what you want to see on a gloam boss. I have no idea what I have had done in Hell, where they would all be Physical Immune. I don't even know what I would have done if that boss had spawned at the entrance, instead of at the end of the level with plenty of retreat room. I'd better make sure Amplisa has a bow with some decent elemental damage on it when these opponents start popping up with real Physical Immunity...

So... the Ancients. I prepped the battle site with about a million red and blue potions, way more than I knew I would need just to be safe, and got started. I thought that this fight would go relatively smoothly, since Skulla had done quite well here in Nightmare. It turned out to be a bit more lively than I expected, mostly due to some unfavorable boss traits on the Ancients. Pooh Bear focused on Korlic (LEB) first, and so the first half of the fight was fought around the central pillar trying to eliminate the Ancient with the highest defense. I had to employ Spirit of Barbs here, as Talic had spawned with Holy Freeze aura (ugh!) and cut Pooh's offensive output to a crawl. Fortunately Madawc (Extra Fast) was a non-factor as always. Anyway, things went smoothly enough, although Winnie took a fair amount of hits in the process. At one point, Talic got in a full Whirlwind hit on Winnie - I couldn't run away because of the Holy Freeze chill - and drained most of the life orb in an instant. I gulped a full rejuv instantly, but that was the closest Winnie had come to death in ages. After that, I swapped over to Oak Sage, as I didn't need to kill the Ancients faster, I just needed to make sure that Winnie survived the fight. I kept a close watch on Talic after that, and he never managed to get close to Winnie again. I absolutely must never forget that for all of Pooh Bear's strength, he can only lock up a handful of opponents at a time. Sometimes only one monster at a time. If an enemy gets around Pooh then disaster is never more than a step away, as was demonstrated in this fight.

I will have to be more careful with these guys if Winnie makes it all the way back here in Hell. But for now, Winnie moved on into the Worldstone Keep.

Worldstone 1 was full of witches, soul killer minions/shamans, and hierophant/zealot pairings. In short, this was a level full of crazy action, with blood stars, blowdarts, infernos, and blizzards raining down all over the place. Getting started was rather tough, as Winnie was swarmed right after coming down the stairs with all kinds of craziness. Once I cleared out some room and could retreat safely, the level was done without too much trouble, although I gave ground over and over again to string out the enemies and face them in smaller numbers. This level was absolutely packed with critters from end to end. Worldstone 2 had serpent maguses, poison horror mages, and horadric ancient greater mummies. The snakes were clearly the worst threat there, and yet the level was almost deserted of them, packed instead end to end with the poison horror mages instead. This just didn't pose much danger, and thus Winnie got a break with this area, which was vastly easier than the first floor. The main highlight was a Holy Freeze/CEB horadric ancient boss - a very cool customer! Worldstone 3 had witches, imps, and death lord frenzytaurs, the last of these being the only real threat. With no guest monsters, this simply wasn't a very tough area. All Winnie had to do was keep clear of the frenzytaurs, and I was careful to do exactly that.

You can get some really weird enemy draws in the Throne of Destruction, and this was no exception. The level was populated almost entirely by pit lord (balrogs), with a scattering of undead soul killers and witches thrown in. There were three random bosses, all of them pit lords; all I needed was a few storm casters and oblivions to show up, and it would have felt just like the Chaos Sanctuary. Soon enough, the rabble was cleared out and the battle against the "seal bosses" began. Colenzo proved surprisingly difficult, because his minions simply would not chase Winnie away from their master, despite repeated attempts. Eventually I had to brave the warped ones and cast Pooh Bear in Colenzo's face, downing the shaman first before the minions. Achmel was much easier: Winnie led the skeletal mages away, then eliminated the greater mummies, then the boss himself. That darned buggy "Poison Enchanted" feature had Winnie rushing off to get cured by Malah several times, however.

Bartuc (LEB/CEB) died so quickly I barely even had time to note his extra ability. His minions focused their hydra fire on the Oak Sage spirit, which did indeed kill it several times, but left Winnie relatively safe. I kept a close eye on its health and kept resummoning it. For Ventar (Extra Fast/Cursed), Winnie stood back and let Pooh Bear absord the tidal rush while refreshing Spirit of Barbs. After a tense minute or two, the enemy mob had all beaten themselves to death. Lister and his mob were Spectral Hit/Extra Fast, and by that I mean they were FAST!

There are few things in this game more terrifying than Lister and his crew when juiced up on extra speed; I knew for a fact that if Winnie were to get caught in the middle of that mob, he would be killed without question. Extreme caution required! I split up the mob with footwork and killed about half of them in groups of one and two, using Spirit of Barbs (and Prevent Monster Heal javelins) on each. Finally Winnie took down Lister himself with three accompanying minions. I've said it a couple of times before, but it bears repeating here: Winnie uses Oak Sage about 95% of the time, but when you need reflective damage with Spirit of Barbs, you REALLY need it, and all those skill points invested in it don't seem like a waste then!


The primary strategy for defeating Baal with a character like Winnie is inevitably to use his own might against him, and reflect his own blows against him with Spirit of Barbs. I've remarked on other occasions on how Baal's AI doesn't tend to engage the player, making him an easier fight for ranged characters. In this particular fight, Baal used a lot of spell effects, and his clone really turned out to be a pain in the ass. The real Baal was lurking up by the Worldstone, and yet I couldn't even reach him because the clone insisted on prowling around at the foot of the bridge. In other words, I had to kill the clone first, argh. Anyway, this still wasn't overly difficult, but it wasn't quite as easy as it had been for Skulla. Eventually I got Baal alone on the bridge, and from that point it only took about two minutes to humble the poor fellow. Looks like Winnie is going to get his shot at Hell difficulty.

Baal dropped Bonesnap, my old friend the unique maul from the Nature's Cabal variant. Unfortunately it was useless here and got sold. There was another Deluge of helpful items from Baal, although this time the equipment was for my hireling: Baal dropped two bows for Amplisa, a standard-damage Blade Bow of Evisceration that does 21-84 damage base, and an elemental bow that adds 1-120 lightning damage, 100 poison damage over 6 seconds, and had an open slot into which I stuck a Perfect Sapphire for another 10-14 cold damage and chill effect. I will have to experiment with the two bows in Hell to see which is more effective - should be fun! At the very least, I now have some real damage on hand for the inevitable Physical Immune enemies that will start popping up all over the place. Amplisa only died twice in Nightmare, and has died just four times overall the entire game thus far. (Two of them coming against Diablo, in both Normal and Nightmare - that is obviously not a fair fight for the mercenaries!) While I won't be able to keep that up going forward, I think it reflects that I've managed her pretty well thus far... and that I've used a lot of Oak Sage!

Winnie full-cleared all areas on a single pass through Nightmare, all enemies slain, no monsters parked, no Save and Exits used.

No more fooling around anymore. Time for the real challenge: Hell difficulty.