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 Diablo 2 Summoner Guide

 
   
 
 
Diablo 2 Summoner Guide

-Diablo 2 Summoner Guide (1.13)
-V3.00 (09/06/10)
-By Sean D'Hoostelaere

DISCLAIMER:
This is property of Sean D'Hoostelaere. This may be not be
reproduced under any circumstances except for personal, private use. It may not
be placed on any web site or otherwise distributed publicly without advance
written permission. Use of this guide on any other web site or as a part of any
public display is strictly prohibited, and a violation of copyright.
In plain English, this means that it is against the law for you to copy this
guide. If you want to print it out, that's fine, but I do not permit its use
anywhere on the web or for it to be used for anything profitable.

 _________________
/                 \
|*****************| 
|Table of Contents|
|*****************|
\_________________/

I.      Overview of the Summoner
IV.     Skill List
    a. Summoning Skills
    b. Poison and Bone Skills
    c. Curses

V.      Skill allocation
VI.     Stats
VII.    Equipment
    a. Helmet
    b. Armor
    c. Gloves
    d. Belt
    e. Boots
    f. Weapon
    g. Armor
    h. Jewelery

VIII.   Mercenary
IX.     How to Use/ Leveling up 
    a. Skeleton damage (just for show)
    b. Skeleton mage damage (to make my point)
X.      Contact Me
XI.     Credits


I. OVERVIEW OF THE SUMMONER
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
The Necromancer class is one that focuses on, as the name describes, using and
manipulating the dead. His three skill trees focus on cursing the enemy, 
creating bones that he uses to attack his foes, and in some cases he even 
can raise the dead to fight for him. It's this last tree that we are going to
be looking at- the summoning tree.

If you haven't played Diablo 2 in a while, Summoners are not what they used to
be. In the old days, people used to max blood golem and revive while using
bone spells from the back lines. The "synergy" idea that was introduced in
v1.10 of Diablo 2 totally reworked the necromancer (indeed, it changed almost
every character.)

What this means for the summoner is that it's no longer feasible to put points
into bone spells and into summoning- a necromancer is best served to focus on
either one or the other. The good news is that where the skeletons were not
of much use in prior versions, raise skeleton is now a powerhouse skill and
the skeletons can do some very serious damage to anything that gets in their
way. For this reason, the summoner will put his primary focus into the skills
raise skeleton and skeleton mastery, and all other skills that he uses will
be a method of backing up the skeletons and enhancing their ability to kill.

Summoners are VERY skill dependent. What skills you choose have a large
effect on how powerful your summoner is in certain situations. HOWEVER, the
summoner is NOT item dependent. You don't need amazing equipment. A necro that
knows what he's doing can actually solo hell with no equipment whatsoever-
they're that durable.

Ulimately the Summoner is a great character to start with- it's not complicated,
it's powerful, and for Battle.net users, summoners are always popular because
they provide some much-needed cannon fodder to take the focus away from the
other players.

IV. THE SKILLS
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
Skills in Diablo 2 are broken up into three parts, represented by the three 
trees that the necromancer has. I'll only include abilities that you ought to 
be aware of in case you choose to utilize them. If they have no place, then 
I'll ignore them entirely.
 _  _  _  
/ \/ \/ \

IVa. Summoning Skills
#########################
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Raise Skeleton~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 1
 Effect: Raise a skeletal warrior from the corpse of a fallen enemy

 Raise skeleton creates the most basic minion for the necromancer- a skeleton
 that wields a sword and shield. Generally very weak, the skeleton is a suicide
 runner, running headlong into danger to hack away at whatever it can get its 
 hands on first.
 
 While fairly weak on its own, the raise skeleton ability is actually the 
 strongest of all summoning abilities. "United we stand, divided we fall."- as
 your levels increase, your number of skeletal warriors will increase. While 1
 skeleton may not stand a chance, maybe 10 skeletons can get the job done.

 When coupled with Skeleton Mastery, this is the core ability for any summoner.
 Your summoner will live and die by the proficiency of this skill and the one
 below.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Skeleton Mastery~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 1
 Effect: Increases the life and damage of your skeletons and revives.

 This ability runs hand-in-hand with raise skeleton. While raise skeleton raises
 the number of skeletons you have, this ability makes your skeletons more 
 powerful. Used in conjunction with raise skeleton, you get 10 skeletons dishing
 out 200 damage apiece at a fairly rapid rate.

 However, Skeleton Mastery goes even further- it also increases the damage and
 life of revives. While not initially useful, people who max this skill for 
 their skeletons will find a very solid revive spell waiting for them at the end
 of the road.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Summon Clay Golem~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 6
 Effect: Summon a golem from the earth to fight for you

 Summoners can also erect golems from nothingness to fight for them. Clay golems
 are the most basic of these creatures.

 Despite being the most basic, clay golems are invaluable to a summoner. They 
 have a much higher maximum life than other golems, and they also cause any 
 target they hit to slow down. This means that your clay golem can sit there and
 take a vicious beating from anything that comes your way, while additionally 
 slowing them down. In conjunction with skeletons, this is a very effective 
 method to defeat bosses.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Golem Mastery~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 12
 Effect: Increase the life, attack rating and speed of your golem

 Attack rating can be somewhat useful, depending on your use of the golem. 
 However, I will not be discussing the in-depth purposes of an attack golem.
 
 STILL, increased speed and life can be quite useful. If you're trying to make
 a tank, the more life is (obviously) better. The increased speed is also 
 very useful when dealing with archers. Golems can run up to ranged attackers
 and quickly draw their fire while the skeletons amble along aimlessly.
 For those of us who use golems, this ability is essential.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Raise Skeletal Mage~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 12
 Effect: Raise a mage from the corpse of the fallen

 Like raise skeleton, you take a corpse and create a skeletal warrior to fight
 for you. However, these skeletons cast spells- fire, ice, lightning and poison.

 Skeleton mages fill a great side role to your skeletons. They're nowhere near
 as powerful as the regular skeletons and are in the eyes of many people not
 all that useful. However, they should not be ignored entirely. Having minions
 that can do elemental damage is very useful when the physical immunes come
 around.

 While they pale in comparison to your regular skeletons, they're worth a look.
 How many points you invest is up to you, and will be discussed later on.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Summon Blood Golem~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 18 
 Effect: Summon a mass of blood and flesh to fight alongside you

 Oddly, you don't need a corpse to make a blood golem, despite the name...

 Anyhow, the blood golem is the second of the four types, and it is fairly 
 sturdy. While it doesn't do tremendous damage, it has the wonderful ability
 of life leech, which means it is fairly competant at staying alive.

 An old trick from the earlier Diablo days was to use a blood golem in
 conjunction with iron maiden. Iron maiden causes the enemy to take more damage
 than it gives to the opponent. When the enemy attacks the blood golem, the 
 damage dealt back by iron maiden gets leeched off by the blood golem. In this 
 way, the blood golem is nearly invincible.
 Oh, and an added bonus- your life is linked to the life of your blood golem, so
 assuming that you use iron maiden correctly, your health will always remain 
 full.

 However, it has some drawbacks; it gets nowhere near as much life as a clay
 golem, and it cannot slow the enemy. Iron Maiden is also very limited- in 
 nightmare and hell, it is often nigh on useless, as returning 70 damage to a 
 monster with 4000 HP really isn't good compared to a horde of skeletons.
 There's also the final drawback of linking HP- if he dies, you end up with 
 next to no HP, and quickly follow suit.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Summon Resist~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 24
 Effect: Raises all resists on your summoned creatures

 There's not much to say about this skill- it raises the resistances of all of
 your monsters. Every summoner needs this skill to keep their minions alive. 
 Of course, there's limits- past level 5, the points yield results far too 
 little to be worth your time. Instead, +skills will bring your summons up to
 maximum resists.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Summon Iron Golem~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 24
 Effect: Transform a weapon into a massive mechanical golem

 Iron golems are, like all golems, good in their own way. However, bad news
 first this time: To make an iron golem, you need a piece of equipment. You must
 throw the piece of equipment on the ground and summon the golem out of the 
 weapon/armor. When you summon your iron golem, that weapon/armor goes away. 
 Forever. 

 HOWEVER, that aside, the iron golem is quite powerful. Golems retain the 
 properties of the items used to create them, which means that you can take 
 a weapon with crushing blow, and your golem will have crushing blow. If you 
 have open wounds, your golem will cause open wounds. The iron golem also has
 an automatic thorns aura to deal damage back to the enemy.

 The thing is, the bonuses of an iron golem with crushing blow don't merit 
 ruining a weapon that has crushing blow, and as for thorns, it's as bad as a 
 blood golem, only this guy doesn't even get healed for it. 

 ~~~~~~~~
~~Revive~~
 ~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 30
 Effect: Raise specters of fallen foes to battle alongside you

 This spell is very simple, yet very difficult to use properly. What it does is
 quite straightforward: you cast revive on a corpse, and a shade of the enemy
 that just died comes to life and fights for you with their same attacks. 
 The difference is that their HP and damage is given significant boosts from 
 what the original monster had, which means you not only get what you killed, 
 but your version is even better! 

 In conjunction with corpse explosion, this skill is DEVASTATING. Doing 5x the
 damage of its enemy counterparts and having 6x the HP, add on that the enemy 
 is now at 30% HP from corpse explosion, and one revive can possibly take out
 an entire horde on his own.

 However, revive has limitations- the revives are dumb as bricks. Once you're 
 done killing all nearby monsters, a revive becomes useless, and it is utterly
 incapable of walking behind you. It will get stuck in the most bizarre areas
 and never unstick.
 
 Revives last only three minutes, and if you walk too far away from them, they
 disappear outright. Again, this makes them fairly limited outside of intense 
 battles.

 That being said, they are vital to summoning necros, as they are a great 
 support to your skeletons. Every summoner should use them. You simply need to
 bear in mind their limitations, which is why most people never spend more than
 one point into revive, as skeleton mastery is the skills that raises their HP
 and damage.
  _  _  _  
 / \/ \/ \

IVb. Poison and Bone Skills
############################
 ~~~~~~~
~~Teeth~~
 ~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 1
 Effect: spew little bone teeth in several directions

 Well, it's a great skill for a bone necro, but you're not attempting to damage
 enemies with bone spells. 

 BUT, it's a prerequisite for corpse explosion, so put a point here.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Corpse Explosion~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 6
 Effect: Destroy enemy corpses to deal damage to everyone nearby

 This is the single best necromancer ability in the game. Corpse explosion does
 60%-100% of the health of the monster, which means that no matter how far you
 are into the game, it will do massive damage. The problem lies in range- you 
 need lots of points to make it good.

 However, despite requiring 20 points to be effective, every necro uses it; 
 it deals dual fire/physical damage, which means that almost no enemy is immune
 to it completely, and with a couple of well-placed explosions, you can 
 decimate entire hordes in no time flat.

 No matter what your skill preference, corpse explosion can always be useful.
 Some people prefer not to max it, but no good summoner goes without it.
  _  _  _  
 / \/ \/ \

IVc. Curses
###############
Curses are an essential part to any necro build. Each curse has a use, and they
can be used for different situations to make necros more versatile than even
the paladin with his auras.

Curses generally are the same at level one as at level twenty. The radius of the
curse may increase, or the length of time, but the MP cost never raises, and 
the effects rarely change when you level up.

For this reason, it's ALWAYS one point into a curse- never more. +skills will
take care of the rest. 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Amplify Damage~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 1
 Effect: Lowers enemy defense

 Such a simple definition for a curse that is actually much better than just a
 simple reduction of defense. 

 Curse actually lowers physical resistance by 100 percent. That means that an
 enemy with zero physical resistance will take double the damage. However, amp
 is even more valuable with enemies who DON'T have 0 percent resistance.

 Let's say they are 50% resistant. Amplify damage will lower their resistance to
 -50%, which will triple the damage that you would have normally done. Up it a
 notch to 75%, which changes to -25%, and your damage is five times as much as
 it would have been.

 It gets better still, though. Amplify damage removes immunties. You see, an
 immunity isn't simply a computer telling the game that the monster can't take
 damage. Immunity is where the monster has 100% or more resitance and therefore
 is effectively immune.
 This means that unless the enemy is 200% resistant to physical damage, the use
 of amplify damage will ALWAYS remove their immunity.

 For the most simple curse, this is by far the most useful, ESPECIALLY for 
 the summoner, who can double, triple, or quintuple his minion damage with only
 one point. 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Dim Vision~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 6
 Effect: lowers the sight radius of all enemies affected

 Dim Vision is, at first glance, not much of a spell. Vision range really
 doesn't seem all that important. I mean really- how often do you worry about
 your light radius on your character, right? For that reason, it's easy to blow
 off Dim Vision and ignore it.

 However, the use of the spell can be summed up in one word: archers. Most D2
 players will tell you that the most dangerous enemies in the game are the
 ones who attack from a distance. Gloams are the infamous lightning casters in
 A5 who rip players in half on a regular basis. However, with dim vision you
 can stop the gloams from even seeing you, which can give you an opportunity
 to pick off the other enemies before focusing on them.

 It really is an often underrated spell that is very useful when used properly.

 ~~~~~~~~
~~Weaken~~
 ~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 6
 Effect: Lower the damage that enemies do

 This spell isn't very useful to you. It lowers damage that the enemy does by 
 a small amount, but 98.6% of the people who get weaken are going to eventually
 get decrepify, which is FAR better than weaken is.
 
 (By the way, did you know that 56.4% of all statistics are made up?)

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Iron Maiden~~ 
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 12
 Effect: Send damage back to foes at multiples of the damage dealt to you

 A very useful curse in parties of melee units. You can quickly deal back some
 fairly significant damage.

 ... At least, that's true in normal difficulty. In nightmare and hell, the 
 curse is nigh on useless. As I said when discussing blood golems, iron maiden
 simply doesn't dish out enough damage for the high HP amounts that the monsters
 have in Nightmare and Hell. Put a point into it for early on, but you're not
 likely to ever use it past normal.

 ~~~~~~~~
~~Terror~~
 ~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 12
 Effect:  Send your enemies running in terror

 Effective at removing your enemies from around you, this curse can be VERY 
 useful for those of us who are more defensive. Sending your foes running away 
 in terror can be good if you need a break; just remember that it doesn't last
 forever.

 It doesn't work on champions, super uniques, bosses or players. Learn to 
 effectively use this spell and it will save you more than once.

 ~~~~~~~~~~
~~Life Tap~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 18
 Effect: Suck the life out of your foes

 VERY useful skill. For every point of damage you inflict, you recieve 50% back
 to your own health. The reason for this invaluability is for the summoner;
 a summoner can unleash a group of skeletons upon the foe and the skeletons will
 heal back the damage that they deal. It's very similar to the blood golem/iron
 maiden combo, only this one happens to be much more effective (it's used in 
 chaos tristram.)

 If you have melee classes playing alongside you, using this curse will make you
 a very popular guy, indeed.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Decrepify~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 24
 Effect: Make monsters weaker all around

 Considered to be the most all-round useful curse that the necromancer
 has in his arsenal. It slows down the monster, lowers the defense AND attack.
 It's an ideal boss spell, as it leaves bosses prone to lots of attacks.
 In conjunction with a clay golem, it can make bosses slow down to an utter 
 snail's pace. Add on that their damage is reduced and their defense lowered,
 and this is a total boss killer. 

 When in doubt, decrepify them all!

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Lower Resist~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Required Level: 30
 Effect: Lower the resistance of your enemies

 A definite crowd pleaser, this is conviction in curse form. While not quite 
 as powerful, this curse can be devastatingly useful in a group of sorceresses.
 Seeing as it seems like 85% of the players these days are using a sorc, this
 curse makes a lot of sense.

 _  _  _  
/ \/ \/ \
\_/\_/\_/

V. SKILL ALLOCATION
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

First, let's get the list of skills out of the way. From there, we can dig
into what to choose, and why.

There are a total of 110 points that can be spent in the course of the game.
However, giving the realistic expectation that you will never reach level 99,
most players assume 95 skill points instead, which gets you all the way to
level 84. Your distribution, with that assumption, should look like this:

Raise Skeleton            20
Skeleton Mastery          20
Corpse Explosion          20
Skeleton Mage           1-16
Clay Golem              1-16
Golem Mastery              1
Blood Golem                1
Iron Golem                 1
Revive                     1
Summon Resist              5
Amplify Damage             1
Dim Vision                 1
Weaken                     1
Iron Maiden                1
Terror                     1
Life Tap                   1
Decrepify                  1
Lower Resist               1
Teeth                      1
                  TOTAL:  95

Raise Skeleton and Skeleton Mastery are a given- without those two you aren't
going to be much of a summoner! Points into each of the summoning skills is
also a given- we need a golem, we need some mages, and we need revives. 
Revives are a one-point wonder; you'll be wearing lots of +Skills with this
build and you'll receive plenty of bonuses from that. Summon Resist, as was
mentioned before, is a skill that has diminishing returns with more and more
points, and so five is generally the recommended amount. And finally, we take
the curses that we want (generally every curse but confuse and attract) and
place one point into each of them. And since we'll use Corpse Explosion, you
need a point in teeth. So far we've used only 60 points. That means
we have 35 more to use. How to best use them?

First, I recommend 20 points into Corpse Explosion. This spell really does a
lot of damage when you use it, and once you've killed one monster, it starts
a sort of chain reaction where each new corpse explosion kills another monster,
which in turn leads to another corpse explosion, and before you know it the
entire group of monsters is gone.

Now, it's easy to write off putting points into CE as irrelevant when you
look at the numbers. The difference in the explosion's radius between level 10
and 20 is only 3.4 yards. When you've already got 5.6 yards, that doesn't seem
like much of a change. 

However, there are two points against this argument. First of all, 5.6 yards
isn't all that large, and the more range you can get out of this spell, the
more it can take advantage of the riduculous damage it does. Secondly, you have
to look at it in terms of total area, not radius. For those of you who
are not math oriented, let's dust off our geometry textbook and look at Area.
The area of a circle is calculated as Pi (3.14) * radius squared. So with
a level 10 CE, your total area is 3.14 * 5.6^2, or about 99 square yards. 
With a level 20 CE, the total area increases to 254 square yards, over twice 
as big. Suddenly we see that the increase is much better than we had originally
thought, and there's a good reason to put all 20 points there.

That leaves us with 15 points to spend. Where to spend them? This is something
that is completely up to you and depends on you and your playing style. However,
there are two schools of thought on this one. The first school is to pump
up skeleton mages, while the other is to pump the clay golem. Both sides have
their merits, so let's look at each one. 

Skeleton Mages are the natural fit for a summoner. First, it's more skeletons,
which only helps your horde look all the more impressive. Second, they provide
non-physical damage to your team that can help with the physically immune
monsters that you run into. With fire, ice, poison AND lightning skeletons, you
can really diversify your mages so that you face no enemy that's completely
immune to your attacks.

The problem with skeleton mages is in the damage they deal. While it's *decent*
elemental damage, it doesn't hold a candle to the damage of your regular
skeletons. They'll be sitting in the back picking away at the enemies at a
VERY slow rate. Still, the best argument I've heard for using skeleton mages
is "Why not? What else are you going to invest your skills in?"

Enter the Clay Golem. With high HP and a chance to slow the target, clay
golems are a distraction, pure and simple. Take everything you know about 
the Grizzly Bear for a wind druid and amplify it. The Clay golem is designed
to absorb damage and to keep the enemies focused on itself rather than on
something else. As an added bonus, it slows down your enemies, which makes it
tougher for the enemies to kill both you and your minions. 

As you add points to Clay Golem, you increase both its HP and the chance that
it has to slow an enemy down. With one point, that chance is 11%, and with the
extra 15 points, you increase that chance to 60%! It's life also rockets up
from ~350 in hell to over 2,000.

However, as with other skills the necro has, the returns of pumping clay golem
diminish hugely as your skills increase, and a player with lots of +skills
equipment may actually do themselves a disservice by pumping this skill. The
mana costs jump in a huge way when you get past level 20 while the returns are
minimal. Sure, the golem has a lot more HP, but to be honest it has enough as
it is. In addition, the chance to slow target at level 35 is only 68% vs. the
60% it was at level 16, so you're not improving on much with those extra 19
levels.

My ultimate recommendation is that equipment-poor players should add those
points to clay golem, while more wealthy players should opt for skeleton mages.
A wealthier player would equip his mercenary with infinity anyway, which will
only make your mages better.
Whichever you choose, keep using mages and the clay golem regardless. Even if
your mages/golem are weak, having them on the field beats not having them there.

One thing I considered was golem mastery, but it's not worth putting more than
a single point into this skill, because while it keeps mana costs down, it
provides less HP and the chance to slow target does not increase. So if you
decide to use the clay golem, your best bet is to stick with increasing the
clay golem skill, not golem mastery.

NOW, there is the matter of skill points after you hit level 84. Technically
there are 15 more skill points that you could spend, and I need to at least
explain how you would do that. There's also 4 potential points that you can
save once you have good equipment: only put one point in summon resist. With
good equipment, your +skills are incredibly high and that means that your
summon resist will be high. As we mentioned before, it's got diminishing returns
and so the difference between having one and five in the skill is negligable.
So in reality, at the end of the game you can have 19 skills to allocate. What
to do with them?

First, go ahead and max skeleton mages to get the most out of your mages. After
that, it's really up to you. A point in bone armor and then pumping bone wall
will give you another obstacle to distract enemies, but more importantly you
can create a pretty useful bone armor that will absorb a few hundred damage.
The other option is to put points into golem mastery. I know, I said ignore
golem mastery earlier, but that was in a different situation, where you did not
have good gear. If you do have good gear, your clay golem will already be a
high enough level that you'll be getting to that threshold where it's just
needless increasing the MP cost of the golem. Increasing golem mastery lets you
pump the golem's HP while keeping the MP cost as low as possible. 

So with good gear, your theoretical skill allocation at level 99 would be:

Raise Skeleton            20
Skeleton Mastery          20
Corpse Explosion          20
Skeleton Mage             20
Clay Golem                 1
Blood Golem                1
Iron Golem                 1
Revive                     1
Summon Resist              1
Amplify Damage             1
Dim Vision                 1
Weaken                     1
Iron Maiden                1
Terror                     1
Life Tap                   1
Decrepify                  1
Lower Resist               1
Teeth                      1
Golem Mastery           1-16
Bone Armor               0-1
Bone Wall               0-15
                TOTAL:   110

###########################

Now, when do you distribute them?

First of all, in version 1.13 you get the truly great ability to reset your
skills three times with each character, for free. Just complete the Den of Evil
and ask Akara to do it for you. This means that if you want, you can pump
skills that may not be useful later and just reset your skills at a higher
level to negate it. Having said that, the summoner never needs to do this, as
the spells he wants are available from the very beginning and should be
utilized right away.

To start, put points into raise skeleton. You ultimately have to decide both how
much mana you're willing to spend on each skeleton (raise skeleton increases MP
cost; skeleton mastery does not) and how many skeletons you want (raise 
skeleton increases the number of skeletons; skeleton mastery does not.)

Personally, I go for level 6 Raise Skeleton initially. That will bring you to
four skeletons, which is more than sufficient as your basic army. Next, get a
point into amplify damage, teeth and corpse explosion. From there, you can
dump all points into skeleton mastery. Get skeleton mastery to AT LEAST level 15
before touching raise skeleton again. Maxing it can't hurt, either. You see, 
skeleton mastery adds a fixed amount of damage to your skeletons, while raise
skeletons adds percentage. Therefore, skeleton mastery is more beneficial early
on, but when you have level 15 or greater into mastery, raise skeleton begins
to yield much better returns. While another 10 damage per level doesn't seem
like a lot, take into account that you have 8 or 9 skeletons, and that amplify
damage doubles that.

Now, there's the matter of clay golem, golem mastery and decrepify. While you're
busy maxing your skeletons, you also need to make sure to get these skills as
well. The most important thing is that you have these skills by the time you get
to the end of Act 4. Diablo, the Act 4 boss, is the single toughest enemy for
a summoner and his spells wipe out your entire horde in virtually an instant.
To combat this, you need to slow him down using a combination of decrepify and
the clay golem's slowing ability. You could also put a point into skeleton
mages if you want- get a cold mage and let the cold effect slow Diablo down.
However, you may prefer to wait; put that point into the regular skeletons
to beef them up. Hire an Act 1 Mercenary with cold arrows instead.

At this point you can finish leveling raise skeleton and skeleton mastery.
Once your skeletons are taken care of, quickly get revive, attract and lower
resist. That should put you into your 40s, which means you'll be midway through
Nightmare. I recommend putting your points into summon resist at this point.
From there, max corpse explosion. As you're probably noticing, summoning is
both boring and is starting to get a little slower (that is, things are not
dying quite as fast as they used to.) Corpse Explosion's increased range will
help your necro to kill more enemies faster. 

And then finally, as you finish maxing that you'll probably be entering hell
mode. As we said before, it's up to you what skill you choose to max next. You
get plenty of time to do that as you work your way through hell. Then... well,
that's all there is to it!
 _  _  _  
/ \/ \/ \
\_/\_/\_/

VI. STATS
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
Your Necro has four stats to consider: Strength, Vitality, Energy and Dexterity.

\   /\   /
 Strength
/   \/   \
While is used to determine damage, that really doesn't matter for
a summoner. Instead, strength only serves one purpose- to allow yourself to 
equip the items you want to equip. 

Your strength is based on how good your equipment is. The highest strength that
you will ever need is 156, for a monarch shield with the spirit runeword. And
if you don't have spirit, it's only 118 if you decide to wear Marrowalk
boots. And with neither one, the requirement is even lower! Base what strength
you need on what you have- you may find you don't very much strength at all!

\   / \   /
 Dexterity
/   \ /   \
Dexterity is a matter of preference; the homunuculus shield for necros has a
block rate of 72%. Due to this detail, max block is quite obtainable. On the
other hand, why do you want it? You're not fighting and using your block: the
necro sits in the back and avoids combat whenever possible. That's the whole
point of a summoner.

Personally, I wouldn't bother, but if you want to, put in as much dexterity as
you need for max block with the homunuculus (if you don't have homun, DON'T
BOTHER.) I'll leave you to look up the amount of dexterity for that yourself.

\   /\   /
 Vitality
/   \/   \
The most important of the stats- place every extra point into vitality. Part of
the reason is that there's no reason to place points elsewhere, but the other
reason is that when you consider that a summoner loses every summon he creates
when he dies, dying becomes a pain in the ass; the less you die, the less you
have to rebuild your army.

\  /\  /   
 Energy
/  \/  \
NO POINTS IN ENERGY. Summoners don't use much mana once their minions are 
created, so you have no good reason to get energy. Any mana you need will
come from equipment.
 _  _  _  
/ \/ \/ \
\_/\_/\_/

VII. EQUIPMENT
###############
Summoners have very few needs, really. Because they don't often get into the 
battle, equipment to benefit your summoner isn't vital. The skills you may want
to consider:

+Skills -Single most important stat; go for this before all else.
+Resist -Due to your distance from the battle, elemental damage is the most
         dangerous enemy of the summoner. As a result, resists are your savior.
+Life   -In the same way, the more health you have, the more durable you'll be.
+FHR    -Faster Hit Recovery is important for when you're stupid and get caught
         in a mob. With no means to fight back, you need to get out ASAP, and
         to that end, FHR is important. However, a good necro should never run
         into this problem, so I generally ignore this in my equips.
+Mana   -In some ways, +mana isn't necessary because once your army is built
         your mana demands should be small. However, liberal use of Corpse
         Explosion can take a toll on your mana, and for people who don't want
         to chug mana potions, this can be useful.
+Stats  -Not particularly important, but early on when you don't have many
         options, look for items that provide +strength, vitality or energy.
         The more +strength you have, the less strength you need to invest in,
         letting you invest in vitality. And of course, +vitality and +energy
         provide more life and mana, respectively.

Because the demands are so simple, you really don't need to focus on nice rares
with amazing mods; simple uniques will do. Runewords also provide some pretty
nice bonuses for your necromancer.

For each piece of weapon and/or armor, I'll list a few options, and you can
decide (based on your personal wealth) what's in your price range and what will
work best for you. For every item that I recommend, I'll put a ** next to the
name. From there, I will list them from most to least useful.

******************************************************************************
**                            VIIA. HELMET                                  **
******************************************************************************

/**Harlequin Crest (unique shako)
\Required Level: 62
/Required Strength: 50
\+2 To All Skills
/+ 1-148 To Life (Based On Character Level)
\+ 1-148 To Mana (Based On Character Level)
/Damage Reduced By 10%
\50% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items
/+2 To All Attributes

This helm is pretty easy to obtain online, and does wonders for your necro. It
hits almost all of the things that we want- life, mana, +skills. The Damage
Reduction is also never a bad thing, and will only help to augment the necro's
durability.
If you can afford it, socket the helmet and add and um to make it the trifecta
of all helmets.

/Rare Circlet
\Various Stats

A circlet can carry all kinds of stats at one time, including +2 to necromancer
skills, +2 to summoning skills, +life, +mana, +FHR, +resists... theoretically
you could get a circlet with all of those things, and if you manage to get a
circlet with even just 2 necro skills and 2 summoning skills, it may be worth
grabbing just because it pushes your skeletons that much further towards
excellence. I prefer the harlequin crest because I'm a fan of that life/mana
boost, but of course a circlet could have those mods on it.
Ultimately circlets are a good place to start if you don't have much to your
name yet; a +2 necro skills circlet can be found fairly easily in Hell, and if
you find one with +2 of another class, you can probably trade for a necro one.

\Delirium (3 Socket Helms) Lem+Ist+Io
/1% Chance To Cast Level 50 Delirium* (morph) When Struck
\6% Chance To Cast Level 14 Mind Blast When Struck
/14% Chance To Cast Level 13 Terror When Struck
\11% Chance To Cast Level 18 Confuse On Striking
/+2 To All Skills
\+261 Defense
/+10 To Vitality
\50% Extra Gold From Monsters
/25% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items
\Level 17 Attract (60 Charges)

Delirium has a lot of pretty unique mods on it. The +2 skills obviously stands
out immediately, but there are several "when struck" abilities that are kind
of nice for a necro to have. In particular, the chance to cast terror is very
useful for you- if an enemy hits you, there's a chance that they'll all 
run away, providing you with some further protection. Extra vitality also 
helps quite a bit. 
One of the nice things about Delirium is that all three runes, while rare, are
not hard for you to find. Even Ist can be obtained both from the hellforge in
the River of Flame and from the countess (the countess always drops at least
one rune, and that rune can be as high as an ist, at levels MUCH more common
than other monsters). So while I'd rather have a Shako myself (which is worth
less than an Ist, for whatever that's worth), the delirium helm provides an
alternative for those without the means to collect uniques, especially single
player.

\Peasant Crown (unique war hat)
/Required Level: 28
\Required Strength: 20
/+100% Enhanced Defense
\+1 To All Skills
/15% Faster Run/Walk
\Replenish Life +6-12
/+20 To Energy
\+20 To Vitality

A poor man's harlequin crest, the peasant crown has most of the same bonuses-
+Skills, life and mana. It's much easier to get one of these things, so aim
for this early on to give yourself some nice, well-rounded bonuses.

\Undead Crown (unique crown)
/Required Level: 29
\Required Strength: 55
/+30-60% Enhanced Defense
\+50% Damage Vs. Undead
/+50-100 Attack Rating Vs. Undead
\Half Freeze Duration
/5% Life Stolen Per Hit
\Poison Resist +50%
/+40 Defense
\+3 To Skeleton Mastery (Necromancer Only)

This is a helm that may be kind of hard to find, if only because I can't imagine
many people keep these things. However, the +3 skeleton mastery is really
helpful for a summoner. It lacks any other good mods, but for a level 29
necromancer, you get what you can find, and +3 skeleton mastery is about as
good of a helmet as you can find, most times.

\Lore (2 Socket Helms) Ort+Sol
/+1 To All Skill Levels
\+10 To Energy
/+2 To Mana After Each Kill
\Lightning Resist +30%
/Damage Reduced By 7
\+2 To Light Radius

Lore is a very simple helmet to get, which is why it makes the list. If you're
playing offline, it can be tough for a low-leveled summoner to get uniques,
but getting ort and sol should be VERY simple. +1 skills and +10 energy make
this helm a solid choice for a poor necromancer. It's not as good as the other
helms on this list, but it's great for a necro on a budget, or one without the
means to get ready access to uniques.
******************************************************************************
**                             VIIB. ARMOR                                  **
******************************************************************************

Armor has a tendency to be the most expensive part of the build, because many
runeword armors are incredibly useful for a summoning necromancer. However,
once I've listed the expensive runewords, I'll have some more affordable armor.

\**Enigma (3 Socket Body Armor) Jah+Ith+Ber 
/+2 To All Skills
\+45% Faster Run/Walk
/+1 To Teleport
\+750-775 Defense
/++0-74 To Strength (Based On Character Level)
\Increase Maximum Life 5%
/Damage Reduced By 8%
\+14 Life After Each Kill
/15% Damage Taken Goes To Mana
\+1-99% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items (Based On Character Level)

The stats on Enigma are fine; +2 skills, damage reduction, strength... but
really, all we care about is teleport. With well over 20 minions running around,
the necromancer's horde can be VERY chaotic, with skeletons all over the place
going who knows where. This makes sending your mob after particular enemies
rather difficult. Enter enigma. With this equipped, you can teleport somewhere,
which immediately brings ALL of your minions directly to your side. With this,
you can teleport up to an enemy and your horde will all immediately lock on and,
in all likelihood, slaughter the enemy.
Other armors have better stats for your necromancer, but the simple use of
teleport outweighs the rest.

\Chains of Honor (4 Socket Body Armor) Dol+Um+Ber+Ist
/+2 To All Skills
\+200% Damage To Demons
/+100% Damage To Undead
\8% Life Stolen Per Hit
/+70% Enhanced Defense
\+20 To Strength
/Replenish Life +7
\All Resistances +65
/Damage Reduced By 8%
\25% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items 

+2 skills, +65 to all resists, 8% damage reduction... this armor has it all.
CoH is actually one of my favorite armors in general, regardless of the class.
However, it doesn't have teleport. While it's not quite as expensive as enigma,
it's pretty darn close, and you might as well go the extra step and get enigma
for the ability to teleport.

\Bone (3 Socket Body Armor) Sol+Um+Um
/15% Chance To Cast level 10 Bone Armor When Struck
\15% Chance To Cast level 10 Bone Spear On Striking
/+2 To Necromancer Skill Levels
\+100-150 To Mana 
/All Resistances +30
\Damage Reduced By 7

Essentially a lesser, more affordable Chains of Honor. Lots of resists, +2
to necro skills and a bunch of mana gives you a great mid-level armor. Two Ums
can be kind of hard to come by, but certainly easier than Um, Ber and Ist!

\Skin of the Vipermagi (unique serpentskin armor)
/Required Level: 29
\Required Strength: 43
/+120% Enhanced Defense
\+1 To All Skills
/30% Faster Cast Rate
\Magic Damage Reduced By 9-13
/All Resistances +20-35

And yet again we take a step down- resists are typically lower, and the +skills
are not as high. While this armor is great on characters where Faster Cast Rate
is important, it's not important to you, so it hardly matters. However, the
resist/skill combo is hard to pass up if you don't have one of the above
runewords.

\Trang-Oul's Scales (set Chaos Armor)
/Required Level: 49
\Required Strength: 84
/+150% Enhanced Defense
\Requirements -40%
/40% Faster Run/Walk
\Poison Resist +40%
/+100 Defense vs. Missile
\+2 To Summoning Skills (Necromancer Only)

Really we're only looking at this thing because of the +2 summoning skills.
However, that does count for something all on its own. It also provides 40%
run/walk, which makes you a lot faster than you would initially think. Other
than that, it's a pretty forgettable piece of armor.

\Smoke (2 Socket Body Armor) Nef+Lum
/+75% Enhanced Defense
\+280 Defense Vs. Missile
/All Resistances +50
\20% Faster Hit Recovery
/Level 6 Weaken (18 Charges)
\+10 To Energy
/-1 To Light Radius

For two very low runes, you get +50 resistances and 20% FHR, along with an
energy boost. Obviously this is not an end-game armor, but the value is HUGE
for a low-leveled necromancer that's just getting started; 50 resists can do
a lot for you when you're in normal and even into nightmare.

\Lionheart (3 Socket Body Armor) Hel+Lum+Fal
/+20% Enhanced Damage
\Requirements -15%
/+25 To Strength
\+10 To Energy
/+20 To Vitality
\+15 To Dexterity
/+50 To Life
\All Resistances +30 

The requirements on this armor are higher than smoke which is why it's at the
bottom of my list. However, the bonuses to all of your attributes is very
welcome, as is the straight life boost and the +30 resists. This is better
than any random magic/rare armor you're going to find- that much is certain.

******************************************************************************
**                            VIIC. GLOVES                                  **
******************************************************************************

As a whole, gloves tend to be the least important piece of equipment for
a summoner. The reason for this is that most classes use gloves to either
increase their attack/casting speed, or in the case of melee classes, gloves
provide some of the primary means for leeching life. A summoner needs none of
these things, so what is best for you is really simple- find gloves that provide
life and/or mana. Now there are a couple of uniques worth mentioning, but first
let's look at crafting some gloves. If you want life, you'll be crafting Blood
Gloves, while mana seekers will craft Caster Gloves. While uniques are better,
crafting is easy and can be done the moment you get the Horardric Cube, and
a decent set of crafted gloves will carry you all the way until you get the best
pairs.

For Blood Gloves, combine a set of MAGIC heavy leather, sharkskin or vampirebone
gloves (it must be one of those three) with a Nef Rune, a Perfect Ruby,
and any jewel. Blood gloves will provide 10-20 life, along with a random
assortment of bonuses that gloves can give, including up to 40 mana.
On the opposite side, caster gloves require you to take a set of MAGIC leather,
demonhide or bramble gloves and combine it with an Ort Rune, a Perfect Amethyst
and any jewel. Caster gloves provide 10-20 mana and 1-4% mana regeneration in
addition to the bonuses that gloves can already get; theoretically you could
get up to 60 mana from your gloves, which is a nice bonus!

As for unique/set gloves to get:

\**Bloodfist (unique heavy gloves)
/Required Level: 9
\+10-20% Enhanced Defense
/+10 Defense
\+10% Increased Attack Speed
/+30% Faster Hit Recovery
\+40 To Life
/+5 To Min Damage

These are my favorite gloves because they provide a large life boost along with
a bunch of Faster Hit Recovery. I also typically don't need a lot of mana, so
the bonuses that most of these other gloves provide do not do much for me.
It's also a consistent, large life boost when compared with the 10-20 that
blood gloves provide.

\Sander's Taboo (set heavy gloves)
/Required Level: 28
\Adds 9-11 Poison Damage Over 3 Seconds
/+20-25 Defense
\+40 To Life
/+20% Increased Attack Speed

Weaker bloodfists; easier to find, but completely inferior- get bloodfists if
you're going for an all-life set of gloves.

\Frostburn (Unique Guantlets)
/Defense: 47-49
\+10-20% Enhanced Defense
/+30 Defense
\+5% Enhanced Damage
/Maximum Mana 40%
\Adds 1-6 Cold Damage, Cold Duration: 2 Seconds

These gauntlets are straightforward in their purpose: straight mana boost. The
40% boost is HUGE, and will go a long way towards helping your mana out.
However, that's all frostburn has, and it's not all that exciting. For the
summoner who wants mana all the way, go with frostburn.

\Magefist (unique light guantlets)
/Defense: 24-25
\+20-30% Enhanced Defense
/+10 Defense
\+1 To Fire Skills
/20% Faster Cast Rate
\Regenerate Mana 25%
/Adds 1-6 Fire Damage

This pair of gloves does two things. First, the mana regeneration helps with
that mana problem mentioned earlier. Second, +1 fire skills will provide a bonus
to corpse explosion, which is technically a fire attack. These gloves are unique
from all other gloves the necro uses because they *almost* provide some +skills
for him to use. Still, I find the mana/life bonus more important- Corpse
Explosion really doesn't benefit much from a +1 bonus, as it's deadly enough
already.

******************************************************************************
**                              VIID. BELT                                  **
******************************************************************************

As with gloves, you could try crafting a caster or blood belt for the guaranteed
life/mana bonuses that they grant. Where gloves can provide pretty significant
mana bonuses, belts can provide a huge life boost (up to 80 on a blood belt!)

The recipe for a caster belt is a MAGIC Light, Sharkskin or Vampirefang Belt,
one ith rune, one perfect amethyst, and any jewel.
For a blood belt, you need a MAGIC, Belt, Mesh Belt or Mithril Coil, along with
a Tal Rune, a Perfect Ruby, and any jewel.

Make sure to use at least an exceptional belt so that get the maximum amount of
belt boxes possible!

\**Arachnid's Mesh (unique spiderweb sash)
/Required Level: 80
\Required Strength: 50
/+90-120% Enhanced Defense
\Slows Target By 10%
/+1 To All Skills
\+20% Faster Cast Rate
/Increases Maximum Mana 5%
\Level 3 Venom (11 Charges)

This belt is expensive and has a VERY high level requirement, but it's the
only belt in Diablo 2 to offer a +skill. The other skills are pretty unimportant
to you, but as I said in the beginning, having some +skills is always your top
priority.

\Trang-Oul's Girth (set troll belt)
/Required Level: 62
\Required Strength: 91
/+75-100 Defense
\Requirements -40%
/Cannot Be Frozen
\Replenish Life +5
/+25-50 To Mana
\+30 Maximum Stamina
/+66 To Life

This belt provides three great mods: Cannot be Frozen, +life, and +mana. I would
actually recommend this belt over Arachnid's Mesh if you haven't got cannot
be frozen somewhere else on your person. Just a great belt all around.

Credendum (set mithril coil)
Required Level: 65
Required Strength: 106
+50 Defense
All Resistances +15
+10 To Dexterity
+10 To Strength

Not a particularly exciting belt, but it provides +15 to all resists, and the
strength/dexterity bonus will help a bit with equipping everything that you
want to equip. Not particularly useful, though- probably better off getting a
crafted belt unless you really need the resists.

******************************************************************************
**                             VIIE. BOOTS                                  **
******************************************************************************

Boots round out the secondary armor, and as with the belt and gloves, you
can't really expect too much from them, and so crafting a pair might be a good
idea. As a matter of fact, crafted and/or rare boots are the best option for
you.

\**Rare/Crafted Boots
/Various Stats

Boots can come with 31-40% resist of all four elements, and so a lucky person
could conceivably craft a set of boots with 31-40% resist all, along with a 30%
faster run/walk bonus. Throw a mana/life boost into the mix, and these work
better than any of the unique/set boots you can find. Of course, it may take
MANY tries to successfully craft a set of boots with those stats. It's worth
the effort, though.

\Marrowalk (unique boneweave boots)
/Defense: 183-204
\+170-200% Enhanced Defense
/+20% Faster Run/Walk
\+1-2 To Skeleton Mastery (Necromancer Only)
/+10-20 To Strength
\+17 To Dexterity
/Regenerate Mana 10%
\Heal Stamina Plus 10%
/Half Freeze Duration
\Level 33 Bone Prison (13 Charges)
/Level 12 Life Tap (10 Charges)

A pretty useful set of boots with nice all-around bonuses. The strength bonus
is always nice, and the mana regeneration is useful (see Magefists). However,
what makes marrowalk boots great is the boost to skeleton mastery. Like
Arachnid's Mesh, no other boots provide this bonus, so it's very useful if only
for that.

\Aldur's Advance (set battle boots)
/Required Level: 45
\Required Strength: 95
/Indestructible
\40% Faster Run/Walk
/+180 Maximum Stamina
\10% Damage Taken Goes To Mana
/Heal Stamina Plus +32%
\+50 To Life
/Fire Resist +40-50%

+life, huge fire resist and one of the highest faster run/walk of any boots,
these are a solid choice for anyone. You don't think about Faster R/W until you
get it, and believe me- it makes a noticeable difference.
(IK boots provide the same R/W and nearly the same life bonus, so they work as
an inferior version of these- worth looking into)

\Waterwalk (unique sharkskin boots)
/Required Level: 32
\Required Strength: 47
/+180-210% Enhanced Defense
\20% Faster Run/Walk
/+100 Defense Vs. Missile
\+15 To Dexterity
/+5% Maximum Fire Resist
\Heal Stamina Plus 50%
/+40 Max Stamina
\+45-65 To Life

About the only reason worth having these is the huge life boost. The rest of
the stats are negligable. The extra fire resist is cool too, if your resists
are high enough to take advantage of it.

\Silkweave (unique mesh boots)
/Required Level: 36
\Required Strength: 65
/+150-190% Enhanced Defense
\30% Faster Run/Walk
/+5 To Mana After Each Kill
\Increase Maximum Mana 10%
/+200 Defense VS. Missile

Where Waterwalk boots give lots of life, these give a big mana boost. And like
the Waterwalk, that's all they do, and it's probably not worth searching for
them just for that.

******************************************************************************
**                            VIIF. WEAPON                                  **
******************************************************************************

Your weapon can make a VERY significant difference in how you perform. Right
from the beginning, finding a strong wand is an important part of every
summoner's life. Grab a +Raise Skeleton and +Skeleton Mastery wand ASAP- you
should easily be able to find a wand with +2 in both if you just shop at Akara
for a bit.

Past a wand like that, the weapon of choice for a summoner can vary wildly
depending on what your wealth is and what you're looking to achieve. As we'll
discuss, the best weapon doesn't provide many useful mods at all, but one mod
on its own outweighs every other weapon you could choose.

\**Beast (5 socket axes/scepters/hammers) Ber+Tir+Um+Mal+Lum
/Level 9 Fanaticism Aura When Equipped
\+40% Increased Attack Speed
/+240-270% Enhanced Damage
\20% Chance of Crushing Blow
/25% Chance of Open Wounds
\+3 To Werebear
/+3 To Lycanthropy
\Prevent Monster Heal
/+25-40 To Strength (varies)
\+10 To Energy
/+2 To Mana After Each Kill
\Level 13 Summon Grizzly (5 Charges)

As with enigma, this weapon has pretty ordinary mods. Great modifiers for
a werebear sorceress, but for the most part, the summoning necromancer gets very
little benefit from these things. However, as with enigma, there's only one
modifier that matters on this weapon: the level 9 Fanaticism Aura.
Fanaticism provides damage, attrack rating and attack speed for your skeletons.
With these bonuses, your skeletons become noticeably more effective killing
machines, particularly since there's an AR boost to go with it.

\Arm of King Leoric (unique Tomb Wand)
/Required Level: 42
\+50% Damage To Undead
/10% Chance To Cast Level 2 Bone Prison When Struck
\5% Chance To Cast Level 10 Bone Spirit When Struck
/+ 1-123 To Mana (Based On Character Level)
\10% Faster Cast Rate
/+2 To Terror (Necromancer Only)
\+2 To Raise Skeletal Mage (Necromancer Only)
/+3 To Skeleton Mastery (Necromancer Only)
\+3 To Raise Skeleton (Necromancer Only)
/+2 To Summoning Skills (Necromancer Only)
\+2 To Poison And Bone Skills (Necromancer Only)

This is a great wand to keep in your inventory to equip when you're building
your army. There's a very nice mana bonus (helpful for the high mana cost for
your skeletons), and of course the HUGE +skills of skeletons is just awesome.
However, there's nothing else to this wand, and so once your army is built,
equipping something else is highly recommended.

\Heart of the Oak (4 Socket Staves/Maces) Ko+Vex+Pul+Thul
/+3 To All Skills
\+40% Faster Cast Rate
/+75% Damage To Demons
\+100 To Attack Rating Against Demons
/Adds 3-14 Cold Damage, 3 sec. Duration
\7% Mana Stolen Per Hit
/+10 To Dexterity
\Replenish Life +20
/Increase Maximum Mana 15%
\All Resistances +30-40
/Level 4 Oak Sage (25 Charges)
\Level 14 Raven (60 Charges)
/+50% Damage To Undead

This is the classic "caster" weapon. The 40% faster cast rate and +3 skills is
fantastic for classes that need to hit a FCR breakpoint. However, you don't need
any FCR in this build, and so while the resists are nice and the +skills are
certainly great, Heart of the Oak is awfully expensive and really isn't worth
it sometimes.
Summoners who make liberal use of teleport swear by this, but you'll need
to consult another guide beyond this one if you intend to do that.

\Spirit (4 Socket Swords/Shields) Tal+Thul+Ort+Amn
/+2 To All Skills
\+25-35% Faster Cast Rate
/+55% Faster Hit Recovery
\Adds 1-50 Lightning Damage
/Adds 3-14 Cold Damage 3 Second Duration
\+75 Poison Damage Over 5 Seconds
/7% Life Stolen Per Hit
\+250 Defense Vs. Missile
/+22 To Vitality
\+89-112 To Mana
/+3-8 Magic Absorb

Generally speaking, if you don't have one of the above weapons, just get a
spirit sword instead. Lots of Faster Hit Recovery, +2 skills and a bunch of
life and mana. It's also incredibly easy to get one- just find a broad sword
with four sockets, which can be picked up as early as Nightmare mode. A +2
raise skeleton wand is more than enough to hold you over to that point, and
from here a spirit sword is really all you need until you can get one of the
best weapons.

******************************************************************************
**                            VIIG. SHIELD                                  **
******************************************************************************

\Rare Necro Shield
/Various Stats

The necromancer's unique shield comes with innate +skills attached to it on
top of the mods that can come from it being rare, which means you can get +3
raise skeleton, +3 skeleton mastery, and THEN get +2 to necromancer skills
and summoning skills.
And as with the circlets, you can also get other mods you like such as resists,
life, mana, etc.
Like with the rare circlet, this is a fairly simple thing to look for- just
pick up any and all rares that you find and see what the stats are. And like
the circlet, there are other options that are easier to obtain, so you probably
won't even bother with these.

\**Homunuculus (Unique Heirophant Trophy)
/Required Level: 42
\Required Strength: 58
/Chance To Block: 72%
\+150-200% Enhanced Defense
/+5 To Mana After Each Kill
\40% Increased Chance of Blocking
/30% Faster Block Rate
\+2 To Necromancer Skill Levels
/+20 To Energy
\Regenerate Mana 33%
/All Resistances +40
\+2 To Curses Skills (Necromancer Only)

Solid all-around shield. Mana regen, +20 energy, +2 to necro skills, and resists
to all give a very nice set of skills for any necromancer. 
Between this and the Spirit shield, it's ultimatley up to you what you choose.
I personally prefer the Homunuculus because there's a nifty +2 curses, along
with better resists. However, Spirit offers more mana and a BUNCH of FHR, so
you really can pick based on your needs.

\Spirit (4 Socket Swords/Shields) Tal+Thul+Ort+Amn
/+2 To All Skills
\+25-35% Faster Cast Rate
/+55% Faster Hit Recovery
\+250 Defense Vs. Missile
/+22 To Vitality
\+89-112 To Mana
/Cold Resist +35%
\Lightning Resist +35%
/Poison Resist +35%
\+3-8 Magic Absorb
/Attacker Takes Damage of 14 

As with the Spirit sword, this is an awesome piece of equipment and I highly
recommend it for you as soon as you can get it. Of course, that may take a
while- it requires a 4-socket shield, which cannot be obtained until Hell mode,
and then it's fairly difficult to find a monarch shield. However, with the
shield in hand, the runes are easy to obtain. 
The strength requirement is pretty high, but good equipment will offset that.
This really is one of the best shields in Diablo 2- there's a reason that a
spirit with 35% FCR is worth as much as an Enigma: everyone wants one.

\Boneflame (unique succubus skull)
/Required Level: 72
\Required Strength: 95
/Chance To Block: 30%
\(Necromancer Only)
/+120-150% Enhanced Defense
\+20% Faster Run/Walk
/+2-3 To Necromancer Skill Levels
\All Resistances +20-30
/15% Chance To Cast Level 3 Terror When Struck

With the potential for +3 skills, boneflame is somewhat worth mentioning.
However, that's about all it has going for it. Inferior resists and no mana
bonus make it less desirable than homunuculus and spirit, and it's also much
harder to find owing to the level requirement on it. If you have a good one,
then great! You don't need to waste your time, though.

\Necromancer shield
/Various stats

Just look for a necromancer head that provides +raise skeleton or +skeleton
mastery. The more the better.

******************************************************************************
**                              VIIH. JEWELRY                               **
******************************************************************************

\**Stone of Jordan (unique ring)
/+1 To All Skill Levels
\Increase Maximum Mana 25%
/Adds 1-12 Lightning Damage
\+20 To Mana

There's a reason the Stone of Jordan is so darned expensive! With a +skill and
a mana boost, casters love this ring. You're no exception- your ultimate goal
is to wield dual SoJs in order to take advantage of the +2 skills.

\Bul-Kathos' Wedding Band (unique ring)
/+1 To All Skill Levels
\+0-49 To Life (Based On Character Level)
/3-5% Life Stolen Per Hit (varies)
\+50 Maximum Stamina

Of course, this is an interesting alternative with its own merits as well.
Extra life is something really important for a necro, just like extra mana. Plus
there's still that +1 skills modifier which is what is most important. 

Ultimately when it comes to SoJ versus Bul-Kathos, use your judgment. If you've
got 2 SoJ rings and find you've got more mana than you need, swap out for BK.
I personally find you can never have enough mana, which is why I prefer SoJ.

\Rare Ring
/Various Stats

Not much to this one, because there are no rares with +skills and therefore
there's no ring better than the two listed above. However, as you are building
wealth (SoJ and BK can be very expensive), find a ring with resist-all, as
well as possibly some life and mana. Resists are the best thing for you,
though- you can get some pretty good res-all on a rare ring.

#####################

\**Rare Amulet
/Various Stats

As with all previous rare items, you can get some pretty amazing mods on
an amulet that sweep the competition. You can get +2 necro skills, +2 summoning
skills, +20 resist all, +60 life and +20 energy all on one amulet! Clearly this
would blow anything else out of the water. However... how the heck are you
going to find one of those? It's possible, sure- I don't think I've ever seen
one, though. In general, finding a +2 necro amulet with life/mana/resists is
pretty solid and worth keeping. Having said that, perhaps Mara's Kaleidoscope
is also worth a look- expensive, but easier to come by than a perfect amulet!

\Mara's Kaleidoscope (unique amulet)
/+2 To All Skill Levels
\All Resistances +20-30
/+5 To All Attributes

Mara's Kaleidoscope is by far the most popular amulet for pretty much everyone.
The +2 skills are the most appealing aspect, but of course the 20-30 resists are
also incredibly appealing. The attributes are just window dressing, at that
point. You may not get the max +skills, but you get two very important stats in
one nice package.

\Golemlord's Amulet
/+3 Summoning Skills

Cheap, effective- a golemlord's amulet will provide a hefty summoning bonus
and is easy to get.
 _  _  _  
/ \/ \/ \
\_/\_/\_/

VIII. MERCENARY
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
Act 2 mercenaries give auras that will affect your entire party... Is there 
really any question? Use an act 2 mercenary!

The only viable option is the might mercenary, which is found in Nightmare and
is the offensive mercenary. Might will increase the damage of all of your
skeletons, which is a crucial thing. Of course, before you get to nightmare,
grab a normal offensive A2 mercenary for his Blessed Aim aura- while attack
rating isn't as important as damage, it is nevertheless a useful effect.

Now, as for equipment. 

WEAPON
++++++++
In the past, I had always suggested equipping a Pride runeword. The
concentration aura on top of the might aura and the fanaticism aura from
beast gives an unbelievable damage boost to your skeletons. However, after
actually testing it out, Pride made no sense. Pride causes your mercenary
to freeze the opponent, and since your mercenary is your strongest minion,
he's going to do a fair bit of killing. A frozen enemy is an enemy who, when
killed, leaves no corpse. That means no more skeletons, and no corpse explosion.
Terrible idea on my part, really. 

Instead, I went with the conventional wisdom of Diablo 2 and picked out a much
nicer polearm for your mercenary- Infinity.

\**Infinity (4 Socket Polearms) Ber+Mal+Ber+Ist
/50% Chance To Cast Level 20 Chain Lightning When You Kill An Enemy
\Level 12 Conviction Aura When Equipped
/+35% Faster Run/Walk
\+255-325% Enhanced Damage
/-(45-55)% To Enemy Lightning Resistance
\40% Chance of Crushing Blow
/Prevent Monster Heal
\0.5-49.5 To Vitality (Based on Character Level)
/30% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items
\Level 21 Cyclone Armor (30 Charges)

I realize this is a very expensive runeword; that's why it's the best, though.
Infinity provides the mercenary with a bunch of good mods: faster run/walk,
Prevent Monster Heal (very useful against champions and bosses) crushing blow
(also good for bosses) and a life bonus. But as with any aura weapon, what
we really like is that it adds an automatic conviction aura. Conviction is
traditionally used with elemental characters such as a sorceress as it lowers
the resistance of all enemies to the elements, making them susceptible to your
spells. However, Infinity has an oft-ignored secondary feature: it lowers
enemy defense. As a consequence, your skeletons will be much more capable of
hitting the enemies, which in turn means they will connect more often. People
pointed out to me that while pride may increase damage, this increase in chance
to hit will typically lead to more overall damage because the skeletons miss
less.

\Obedience (5 Socket Polearms) Hel+Ko+Thul+Eth+Fal
/30% Chance To Cast Level 21 Enchant When You Kill An Enemy
\40% Faster Hit Recovery
/+370% Enhanced Damage
\-25% Target Defense
/Adds 3-14 Cold Damage 3 Second Duration
\-25% To Enemy Fire Resistance
/40% Chance of Crushing Blow
\+200-300 Defense
/+10 To Strength
\+10 To Dexterity
/All Resistances +20-30
\Requirements -20% 

A very much overlooked runeword, Obedience provides some of the best mercenary
mods available. A HUGE damage bonus, a large chance of crushing blow, extra
resists, and a chance to cast level 21 enchant, which increases the damage
and has an enormous effect on your merc's attack rating.
The only reason I would recommend infinity over this one is because of the fact
that it helps out all of your minions- this is one of my go-to runewords for
any other mercenaries, particularly because none of the runes are all that
difficult to get; all can be obtained from the hellforge in nightmare.

\Insight (4 Socket Polearms/Staves) Ral+Tir+Tal+Sol
/Level 12-17 Meditation Aura When Equipped
\+35% Faster Cast Rate
/+200-260% Enhanced Damage
\+9 To Minimum Damage
/180-250% Bonus to Attack Rating
\Adds 5-30 Fire Damage
/+75 Poison Damage Over 5 Seconds
\+1-6 To Critical Strike
/+5 To All Attributes
\+2 To Mana After Each Kill
/23% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items

Insight is the staple runeword of most mercenaries in Diablo 2. You can get it
early on by finding a 4 open-socket Voulge, and the runes are not hard to get,
with sol being an easy find late in normal and early in nightmare (particularly
at the countess in nightmare). The damage bonus is great for an early polearm,
and of course insight provides you with a great source of mana, which can be
a frustrating point for any character before they start collecting good
equipment with mana bonuses built in.

ARMOR
+++++++++
Another weird (somewhat stupid) choice on my part in prior editions: I always
went with Guardian Angel due to a mercenary's natural resists. Of course, what
I failed to recognize was that while a mercenary does get natural resists, they
never get to 90, which makes guardian angel totally worthless.
So instead, here are a few of the popular armors that people use.

\**Fortitude (4 Socket Weapons/Body Armor) El+Sol+Dol+Lo
/20% Chance To Cast Level 15 Chilling Armor when Struck
\+25% Faster Cast Rate
/+300% Enhanced Damage
\+200% Enhanced Defense
/+15 Defense
\+1-148 To Life (Based on Character Level)
/Replenish Life +7
\+5% To Maximum Lightning Resist
/All Resistances +25-30
\Damage Reduced By 7
/12% Damage Taken Goes To Mana
\+1 To Light Radius 

Fortitude is an awesome armor for melee characters in general. Defense bonus,
life bonus, resist bonus, and then a 300% enhanced damage bonus that will
do amazing things for the overall damage of your mercenary. Plus there's a
chance to cast chilling armor, which further elevates your defense.
As with all good things, it's expensive, but there's really no beating fortitude
for its usefulness. 

\Treachery (3 Socket Body Armor) Shael+Thul+Lem
/5% Chance To Cast Level 15 Fade When Struck
\25% Chance To Cast level 15 Venom On Striking
/+2 To Assassin Skills
\+45% Increased Attack Speed
/+20% Faster Hit Recovery
\Cold Resist +30%
/50% Extra Gold From Monsters

Obviously the assassin skills are useless! However, treachery has a bunch of
mods that are nice for a mercenary. First there's the chance of casting fade,
which can provide a large resistance and damage reduction boost. Then there's
the chance ot cast venom, which will add a nice boost to your mercenary's
damage. And lastly there are the increased attack speed and faster hit recovery,
which is never a bad thing for a mercenary! 
I'd never heard of a mercenary using treachery until recently, but it has taken
the community by storm, and is now the popular budget armor for all mercs. With
Lem being a moderately high rune at best, everyone should be able to find the
necessary runes for this armor.
There is one drawback to treachery- the runeword provides no defense bonus to
your armor, so you will want to find a VERY high-defense armor if possible.
Of course, if you want a similar armor that has a defense bonus, look no further
than gloom.

\Gloom (3 Socket Body Armor) Fal+Um+Pul
/15% Chance To Cast Level 3 Dim Vision When Struck
\+10% Faster Hit Recovery
/+200-260% Enhanced Defense
\+10 To Strength
/All Resistances +45
\Half Freeze Duration
/5% Damage Taken Goes To Mana
\-3 To Light Radius 

Another piece of equipment that never seems to get mentioned. It's a decent
bit of armor with solid resists, FHR and defense. The chance to cast dim vision
is kind of cool as well, although you may find yourself just casting over it
with some other curse anyway.
It's not really worth using over treachery in most cases, but the defense bonus
and dependable resist bonus may be worth the increased cost.

HELMET
+++++++++
One of the most important mods on equipment for a mercenary is the amount of
life stolen per hit, or life leech. You may have noticed that none of the
weapons or armor I mentioned have these on them. That leaves us with a helmet
to find with life leech. Fortunately, several helmets provide very good life
leech for us.

\**Tal Rasha's Horadric Crest (set death mask)
/Required Level: 66
\Required Strength: 55
/10% Life Stolen Per Hit
\10% Mana Stolen Per Hit
/All Resistances +15
\+45 Defense
/+30 To Mana
\+60 To Life

Despite the fact that this is technically meant for sorceresses, it's a really
good mercenary helmet. Life leech, good life bonus and a nice resistance boost.
One of the really nice things about it is the consistently good life leech-
many helmets provide varying degrees of life leech, and it's nice to get one
with some consistency.

\Crown of Thieves (unique grand crown)
/Required Level: 49
\Required Strength: 103
/+160-200% Enhanced Defense
\9-12% Life Stolen Per Hit
/Fire Resist +33%
\+35 To Mana
/+50 To Life
\+25 To Dexterity
/80-100% Extra Gold From Monsters

The Crown of Thieves is another great life-stealing helmet, with up to 12%
stolen! Plus there's a life bonus and a nice dexterity bonus.
Typically people ignore this in favor of the Vampire Gaze or Andariel's Visage,
but I'm not quite sure why it's never mentioned. The fact that it steals life
better than the other two is at least worth a mention.

\Andariel's Visage (unique demonhead)
/Required Level: 83
\Required Strength: 102
/+100-150% Enhanced Defense
\+2 To All Skills
/20% Increased Attack Speed
\8-10% Life Stolen Per Hit
/+25-30 To Strength
\+10% To Maximum Poison Resist
/Fire Resist -30%
\Poison Resist +70%
/15% Chance To Cast Level 15 Poison Nova When Struck
\Level 3 Venom (20 charges)

This helmet serves one purpose, really- providing the strength bonus needed for
a mercenary to equip a Colossus Voulge, which typically requires more strength
than a mercenary gets. Of course, the catch to that is a very high level
requirement, which makes it an end-game helmet rather than one useful early on.
I personally don't like it because I don't like the -30% fire resist, but I can
understand why people with an infinity in a CV are anxious to get their merc
to that strength requirement.

\Vampire Gaze (unique grim helm)
/Required Level: 41
\Required Strength: 58
/+100% Enhanced Defense
\Adds 6-22 Cold Damage - 4 Second Duration
/15% Slower Stamina Drain
\6-8% Life Stolen Per Hit
/6-8% Mana Stolen Per Hit
\Damage Reduced By 15-20%
/Magic Damage Reduced By 10-15

Not the greatest life leech out there, but there's a huge damage reduction bonus
that will do very nice things for your mercenary's survivability. Kind of an
average helm beyond that, though.
 _  _  _  
/ \/ \/ \
\_/\_/\_/

IX. HOW TO USE/ LEVELING UP
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
Summoners are EASY to use. All you have to do is kill an enemy off (use a 
mercenary to kill your first enemy- go to the blood moor) and then you can
create your first skeleton. From there, let the good times roll! Your skeleton
will kill another enemy, you create another skeleton, and it's a chain reaction
that will eventually create an entire army.

Basically, you just watch them kill the enemy. Cast Amplify Damage or Decrepify
when necessary. When you're in a group, use lower resist, and throwing in an
attract or two doesn't hurt.

When you reach the middle of nightmare, your skeletons start to suffer a 
little. Time to whip out corpse explosion. One corpse can flatline an entire
army, and since you have 10 or 15 skeletons working at once,in conjunction with
CE, it's possible to kill 50 enemies in a matter of seconds. When used right,
this build is the safest AND fastest-killing build of them all.

Use the skill allocation advice that I gave, and as long as you take it slowly,
you will never have a problem beating the enemy.

If you DO have problems, join a party- summoners are always welcome in groups,
as they provide lots of protection for people that cast spells.

XI. CREDITS
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

The Arreast Summit (http://www.battle.net/diablo2exp/)- Best website on the 
    net for Diablo 2; I owe them a lot of information.

GameFAQs and CjayC- My favorite gaming website, it's a pleasure to write here.

VERSION HISTORY
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
1.0- I split up my necro guide into two parts. This is the summoner half.

2.0- I added several tweaks and some interesting information about skeletons
     that should prove useful for everyone.

2.01(6/07)- Housekeeping

3.00(9/10)- After nearly five years of completely ignoring this guide, it's
     time for a makeover. The guide has been completely gutted and refitted with
     information that is more useful and more helpful (hopefully!)

Copyright 2005-2010 © Sean D'Hoostelaere
 

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