A Guide to Wind Druids (v1.03)
"The Long-Winded Guide to Wind Druids"

For Diablo II: Lord of Destruction v1.12
(Also valid for 1.10 and 1.11)

by Explopyro

Version History:

v1.03 (14 Aug 2009) - Updated link to PlugY, a site has moved

v1.02 (29 July 2009) - Minor revisions, including but not limited to:
    Fixed error saying Shael runes add FHR in shields; thanks, Jackalope.
    Fixed error when discussing Earth Shifter, typed +5 instead of +4.

v1.01 (30 June 2009) - Minor revisions, including but not limited to:
    Clarified Tornado details; thanks, onderduiker.
    Fixed minor error regarding Moser's Blessed Circle; thanks, zixaq.
    Fixed error regarding Arctic Blast bug; thanks, Othin.
    Minor addition regarding throwing potions; thanks, danc133.

v1.00 (18 June 2009) - Initial draft.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
0.    TABLE OF CONTENTS                            {TBLCTNTS}
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I.    INTRODUCTION/OVERVIEW                        {INTR/OVR}
      A.    PURPOSE OF THIS GUIDE                  {GUIDPURP}
      B.    WHAT IS A WIND DRUID?                  {WHATISIT}
      C.    WHY TO PLAY A WIND DRUID               {WHYPLAY?}
II.   SKILLPOINTS                                  {SKILPNTS}
      A.    BASIC DISTRIBUTION                     {BSCDISTN}
      B.    RATIONALE & DISCUSSION                 {RTNLDSCN}
      C.    SUGGESTED ORDER                        {SUGGORDR}
III.  STATPOINTS                                   {STATPNTS}
IV.   EQUIPMENT                                    {EQUPMENT}
      A.    OVERVIEW                               {EQUPOVRV}
      B.    BREAKPOINT DISCUSSION                  {BRKPDSCN}
      C.    DETAILED ANALYSIS                      {EQUPDETL}
      D.    SPECIFIC ITEM SELECTIONS               {ITEMSELC}
      E.    SOCKETING                              {ITEMSOCK}
      F.    NOTES ON ALDUR'S SET                   {ALDURSET}
V.    MERCENARY SELECTION                          {MERCENRY}
      A.    OVERVIEW                               {MERCOVRV}
      B.    OPTIONS                                {MERCOPTS}
      C.    EQUIPMENT                              {MERCEQUP}
VI.   PLAY STRATEGIES & SKILL BEHAVIOUR            {STRTBHVR}
      A.    TORNADO DETAILS                        {TORNDETA}
      B.    NOTES ON OTHER SKILLS                  {SKILNOTE}
      C.    GENERAL PLAY STRATEGIES                {GENSTRAT}
      D.    DANGEROUS MONSTERS                     {DNGRMONS}
      E.    EARLYGAME ADVICE                       {ERLYGAME}
VII.  APPENDICES                                   {APPNDICE}
      A.    CRAFTING INFORMATION                   {CRFTINFO}
      B.    SOME NOTES ON HIGH RUNES               {HIGHRUNE}
      C.    THE STRENGTH BUG                       {STRENBUG}
      D.    MISCELLANEOUS RESOURCES                {MISCRESC}
VIII. CLOSING REMARKS                              {CLOSRMKS}
      A.    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS             {FREQQUES}
      B.    LEGAL & COPYRIGHT INFORMATION          {LGL&CPRT}
      C.    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS                        {TNKSCRED}

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I.    INTRODUCTION/OVERVIEW                        {INTR/OVR}
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A.    PURPOSE OF THIS GUIDE                        {GUIDPURP}

This guide is written for Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, patch version 1.12
(although there are not many substantial differences between versions 1.10,
1.11, and 1.12, so it should be valid for any of those three). Attempting to
follow advice given in this guide for other versions of the game is not
recommended.

This guide is intended to provide an overview of the "Wind Druid" character
build, and detailed advice for anybody intending to play it. The wind druid is
a simple but powerful build, and is often considered to be cookie-cutter; the
fact of the matter is, only the skill point distribution is really set in
stone and there's enough flexibility to keep things interesting.

Furthermore, this guide is written from the perspective of Single Player
gameplay, with the /players8 setting activated. For those unfamiliar with this
setting, it causes the game to behave as if it were a multiplayer game with 8
players present, treating the player as unpartied (the game increases several
variables: +50% experience yield, +50% monster life, +6.25% monster damage
per player beyond 1, so 8 players gives an additional 350% experience, 350%
life, and 43.75% damage to every monster you face). This is a substantial
difficulty increase, and in my opinion makes the game much more interesting,
so I play nothing else. Any advice I give for /players8 should also be valid
for lower player settings (although I must give a warning that doing so risks
extreme boredom).

More significant to some readers may be the Single Player aspect. This means
that I am going to discuss PvM (Player versus Monster) gameplay only, even
though the wind druid is a popular build for PvP (Player versus Player) play.
I do not engage in PvP play and, therefore, have no experience and can give no
advice regarding it. Furthermore, I can offer no guarantees that a character
built to my specifications (based on PvM /players8 play) will perform well in
such a scenario. Look elsewhere if you are seeking such information.

I also assume that the player intends to play the game without cheating.
However, I also expect that the player has access to a reasonable store of
items, possibly through an item management application such as ATMA or GoMule
that allows movement of items between Single Player characters and storage of
items in "stash files", and I assume access to Ladder runewords. This is how
I play, so it's obvious that it will influence my advice.

I provide this disclaimer not to discourage you, the reader, from taking my
advice, but merely to put it in its proper context. Anything I suggest will
work just as well for characters made on Battle.net servers, although the
difficulty of obtaining many items may vary. I wouldn't know.

B.    WHAT IS A WIND DRUID?                        {WHATISIT}

A Wind Druid is a druid focusing on the skills in the right-hand side of the
Elemental tree (primarily Tornado, Hurricane, and Cyclone Armour, but also
including Twister and excluding Arctic Blast), hereinafter referred to as
"the wind skills".

This is a spellcaster-type character build, although unlike many other casters
he is not a long-range fighter. Tornadoes move in an erratic fashion (to be
explained in a later section) and are therefore easier to hit nearby targets
with, and Hurricane damages everything in an area centred on the druid.

Also unlike many spellcasters, the wind druid is capable of getting a high
life total, several recastable minions, and two built-in elements of damage.
It is a versatile and competent build that is capable of handling any area in
the game (excluding perhaps the "Uber" areas added in version 1.11).

C.    WHY PLAY A WIND DRUID?                        {WHYPLAY?}

I'll just give a brief list of advantages and disadvantages to help decide
whether or not to make this character.

Advantages:
> Two types of damage built in, so there's very little you can't kill.
> Your main skills all synergize each other, and there are very few pre-
  requisites, so there are almost no wasted skillpoints.
> Strong offencive capability that can deal damage to groups of monsters
  (Please note: there are a few character builds that kill faster).
> Strong defencive capability, with high life and the ability to absorb
  a lot of elemental damage with Cyclone Armour (a note: this also makes you
  less dependent on resistances from items).
> It's cheap. You don't need hard-to-obtain items to make this build work,
  although they will of course improve it.

Disadvantages:
> Tornado can be difficult to aim, and some players find it frustrating (See
  PLAY STRATEGIES & SKILL BEHAVIOUR for more detail on this).
> There is still the occasional monster that is difficult or impossible to
  kill (certain uniques with the Stone Skin modifier, which adds 50% physical
  resistance; Possessed Champions that can't be cursed to lower physical
  resistance and have innate physical immunity, et cetera).
> Powerful builds can be boring after a while. Trust me.
> This build requires a lot of point-saving early on, so your character will
  be very weak initially. Normal difficulty can be frustrating, because you'll
  have none of your primary skills for the majority of it.

I'm sure there's more, but that's beside the point. There's no reason to
belabour the point here; there are advantages and disadvantages to everything.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
II.   SKILLPOINTS                                  {SKILPNTS}
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A.    BASIC DISTRIBUTION                           {BSCDISTN}

The skill point distribution for a wind druid is fairly straightforward, and
there is little variation to be made. However, it's not completely inflexible.
Here's how it generally goes:

1 point in Arctic Blast                        (prerequisite)
20 points in Cyclone Armour                    (defencive skill, synergy)
1-20 points in Twister                         (synergy)
20 points in Tornado                           (primary killing skill)
20 points in Hurricane                         (secondary killing skill)
1-20 points in Oak Sage                        (defencive skill)
1 point in Raven                               (prerequisite, utility skill)
1 point in Summon Spirit Wolf                  (prerequisite, utility skill) 
1 point in Summon Dire Wolf                    (prerequisite, utility skill)
1 point in Summon Grizzly                      (utility skill)
0-1 points in Poison Creeper                   (optional for high levels)
0-1 points in Carrion Vine                     (optional for high levels)
0-1 points in Solar Creeper                    (optional for high levels)
0-1 points in Werewolf or Werebear*            (optional: if you use Delirium)

B.    RATIONALE AND DISCUSSION                     {RTNLDSCN}

This section is going to be short; there isn't much to say. This build has an
obvious skill distribution and there's little variation.

Before discussing skills, it's necessary to discuss skill points. There are 98
potential points available from level-ups, and 12 points available from quest
rewards, so there is a total of 110 potential skill points to distribute.
However, due to the severe diminishing returns in experience gain at high
levels and the length of the game, it is EXTREMELY unlikely that a character
will reach level 99, so it is impractical to plan for 110 points.

For practical purposes it's generally best to assume an endgame level between
80 and 90 when considering a single playthrough on /players8. Generally, my
characters finish the game at level 88 if I clear most of the optional areas
and don't skip monsters, level 86 if I'm lazy. I'm going to be conservative
and assume level 84 for this discussion: that gives 95 points to distribute.

With 95 points, it's obvious that one can't complete the skill distribution
outlined above (it's 105 points without the skills I've marked optional, 109
including them, which is rather unrealistic). This is why I've marked two
skills as "1-20 points" rather than "20 points"; ideally both of those skills
will be maxed, but for practical purposes it's necessary to divide the
deficit between them (it all comes down to whether you prefer more life or
more damage; this is a matter of personal taste). Further discussion of this
can be found in the following subsection, "SUGGESTED ORDER".

So, what are we looking at here? There are four wind skills, and I would call
three of them "primary": Tornado, Hurricane, and to a lesser extent Cyclone
Armour. The fourth skill, Twister, is not very useful and will be invested in
primarily (or only) for synergy purposes. The wind skills all mutually
synergize each other, which means that putting a point in any of them will add
benefits to each of the others as well. Arctic Blast gets one point as a
prerequisite, but it's not very useful even fully synergized.

The remaining skills are all utility type skills. Oak Sage is a summonable
"spirit" pet that projects an aura that boosts your life (and the life of any
other pets or party members present, including itself). Raven allows you to
summon up to 5 birds (you can summon as many as you have ranks in the skill,
capped at 5, so with a few +skills you can get 5 for only one point invested);
they do little damage, but they're invincible and they blind the enemies they
hit. Spirit Wolf and Dire Wolf are primarily there as prerequisites for
Grizzly, which will serve as a recastable tank/distraction, although there are
situations where having the multiple, weaker distractions of Spirit or Dire
Wolves can be more useful, so don't ignore those either.

As far as the "optional" skills go, they're optional for a reason: they do not
offer much benefit. I list them because, once all of the other skills are
maxed (at character level 94), further levels if obtained will continue to
yield points to spend and you have to do something with them. The vines (the
three skills on the right-hand side of the summoning tree) are pretty fragile
and their effects are largely negligible with only a 1 point investment, but
there's nothing else to do with the points after level 94 so I point them out.

The final "optional" skill I mention is either Werewolf or Werebear, and that
probably seems counterintuitive. Indeed it is; there is only one reason to
place any points in those skills, and that is if you plan to use the helmet
runeword Delirium. That helmet has a lot to offer, but it also carries an
unpleasant disadvantage: it has a 1% chance to transform you into a Bone
Fetish when you're struck. The transformation lasts a minute, and while in
Bone Fetish form you cannot cast Elemental spells (it's treated as a wereform,
which means it allows casting of Armageddon and summoning/shapeshifting, but
nothing else); it's very annoying. There are two ways to get around it: if you
use a waypoint to switch acts while in a wereform, you change back to human,
but that's inconvenient to do; or, if you cast Werewolf or Werebear while
shifted, you become human again (it cancels your current shift). As such, if
you plan to use Delirium as your endgame helmet, you may want to consider a
point in one of these skills to counteract the Bone Fetish problem.

One final note: it is of course possible to deviate from my outline in other
ways than ignoring the "optional" skills. For instance, one could omit the
four summoning skills and choose to max out Oak Sage and Twister earlier on
(which will cause the pets to be left out if you don't get past level 90).
While I don't recommend this, it is more than possible to complete the game
without points in the pets (although it will be more difficult).

C.    SUGGESTED ORDER                              {SUGGORDR}

While the order of investment of skillpoints will not affect your character's
endgame performance, it will have a significant effect on the character's
capabilities in the earlygame and midgame and therefore requires significant
attention. However, I will not give a level-by-level breakdown as so many
guides do; I will merely explain the rationale and give general guidelines.

Before I do so, it is necessary to discuss point saving for those unfamiliar
with the practice. Essentially, it is not required to distribute skillpoints
immediately upon level-up; you can then save them for later levels when more
skills are available to invest them in. However, you cannot invest more points
in a skill than one plus your level minus the skill's required level (for
instance, take Cyclone Armour: the skill has a required level of 12; if your
character is level 20, you can have up to 9 hard points invested in it). Point
saving generally yields more optimal skill distributions than spending points
immediately, so it is highly recommended.

As such, here's the strategy for point distribution on a wind druid:

As each skill becomes available, invest 1 point in it to start and save all
other points until your character becomes level 24 (at which point Tornado
becomes available). From there, invest 1 point in Tornado every level until
level 30 (when Hurricane becomes available), then invest 1 point in both
Tornado and Hurricane each level until you run out of extra points.

From there, finish maxing the two skills in either order (it doesn't much
matter which you max first, and Tornado should be close to maximum by this
time in any case). Both of them should be finished by the mid-50s levelwise;
from there, I recommend investing the next 19 points in Cyclone Armour (I find
the defencive utility welcome by then and the bonus to Hurricane duration is
convenient).

At this point, you have a decision to make. You'll probably be in the 70s
levelwise, and in late Nightmare or early Hell if you're playing on /players8.
The reason I don't recommend investing in Oak Sage prior to Hell is because it
gains physical immunity in Nightmare for some reason (but only in Nightmare;
it's bizarre), so it won't have too much trouble surviving prior to that...
but once you get to Hell that gets taken away and the idiotic orange ball will
get itself killed (with its horrible AI) pretty frequently. At that point, it
can be beneficial to divert a few points toward Oak Sage to boost its
durability. Unfortunately, that's also the point at which monsters increase
significantly in difficulty, so you can also benefit significantly from an
increase in damage, so you have to decide how to apportion the rest of your
points between Twister and Oak Sage.

In a very basic sense, Twister gives damage (by synergizing Tornado and
Hurricane) and Oak Sage gives survivability (by boosting your life, and its
own so you're less likely to be killed when your life drops significantly by
its getting killed). However, it's complicated a bit by the fact that Twister
also synergizes Cyclone Armour, which also helps to extend your lifespan, and
also by the fact that Oak Sage benefits your summoned pets as well. The bottom
line is that there's really no wrong way to do this; just decide after each
level-up which you think you need more and put the point there.

I would, however, recommend putting 5-10 points in Oak Sage at the start of
Hell so it stands a moderate chance of not dying every three seconds.

There isn't much more to be said on this subject. If you opt for Delirium and
want a point in a wereform skill to get rid of the morph, do that whenever you
get fed up with being a fetish. If you get to a level beyond 94 and still
haven't gotten sick of this game, you can consider putting the subsequent
points you earn into the vine skills.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
III.  STATPOINTS                                   {STATPNTS}
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is going to be a short section, and fairly standard. There's not a lot to
be said about statpoint distribution.

Strength:
  Invest enough to equip whatever gear you might want to use. The threshold
  you'll most likely be shooting for is 156, for a Spirit shield (in a
  Monarch, which is the lowest-requirement shield you can put it in). If you
  don't plan to use Spirit (unlikely, in my opinion), judge by the heaviest
  item you have otherwise. This number can be decreased if you plan to use
  items that add strength, but be careful - if you later decide you want to
  change your equipment setup, you don't want to be unable to do so because
  you invested too little strength.

Dexterity:
  There are two perspectives that can be taken on dexterity. Either treat it
  like strength (and go for the minimum required to equip the items you want),
  or invest for block rate. I'm a member of the former school of thought; I'm
  not a fan of blocking, and there are plenty of reasons not to get blocking
  on a wind druid: Spirit has no Faster Block Rate and has an inherently low
  blocking chance, so it will tend to lead to block-lock and will also take an
  absurd number of dexterity points to get a decent blocking chance, and
  points in Vitality give very good returns on investment thanks to Oak Sage,
  so they're generally better off there. If you do want to block, choose a
  shield with good blocking stats (like Stormshield, Whitstan's Guard, Moser's
  Blessed Circle, etc) and invest in Dexterity accordingly.
  
  You may want to utilize a blocking calculator, such as this one, if you
  decide to opt for blocking:
  http://www.baronsbazaar.invisionzone.com/ppr/block_calc.html
  
  Otherwise, a few thresholds to consider are 35 (Heart of the Oak flail),
  75 (Wizardspike), or 136 (Azurewrath). If you don't plan to use any of
  those, leave it at base. Of course, it's possible to reduce a few of those
  thresholds, by using an ethereal flail for HotO, by socketing Hel
  runes or jewels of freedom, or by wearing items that boost dexterity. All
  caveats mentioned regarding skimping on strength also apply.

Vitality:
  Invest as many points as you can reasonably spare here. With Oak Sage,
  you'll get a significant life boost from each point. The more life you have,
  the harder you are to kill. It's obvious, but it's easy to forget.

Energy:
  Many players don't invest anything here. For the most part I agree that it's
  unnecessary: once you get past the earlygame, you'll have more than enough
  mana from bonuses on your items to get by without any points in Energy. If
  you find yourself with mana problems early on, or really at any point, feel
  free to invest a few points here to taste, but I strongly recommend against
  investing more than 50 points or, at the absolute most, 75.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
IV.   EQUIPMENT                                    {EQUPMENT}
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A.    OVERVIEW                                     {EQUPOVRV}

Diablo II is an item-based game. There's absolutely no doubt of that; the
equipment you choose to use will most likely make more of a difference than
any other factor to your character's success. There is also no doubt that the
best items in this game are extremely difficult to acquire (for instance,
runewords containing runes Vex and beyond, or "high runes"/"HRs" in common
parlance). What many players forget is that the majority of these items are
more or less superfluous - it's possible to make perfectly competent and
effective characters without using such items.

For the wind druid, choosing items isn't too difficult. There are a few
modifiers that take priority, so here's a short list ordered roughly by
importance:

> Faster Cast Rate
> +skills (+all skills, +druid skills, +elemental skills)
> Resistances
> Faster Hit Recovery
> Bonuses to life and/or mana (or vitality/energy)

Anything after that is really gravy. If you can get decent quantities of those
modifiers, you'll do fine.

B.    BREAKPOINT DISCUSSION                        {BRKPDSCN}

Here are the breakpoint tables for the Druid in human form:

Cast Rate:
FCR%   Frames
0      18
4      17
10     16
19     15
30     14
46     13
68     12
99     11
163    10

Hit Recovery (1)*
FHR%   Frames
0      14
3      13
7      12
13     11
19     10
29     9
42     8
63     7
99     6
174    5

Hit Recovery (2)*
FHR%   Frames
0      13
5      12
10     11
16     10
26     9
39     8
56     7
86     6
152    5

Block Rate:
FBR%   Frames
0      11
6      10
13     9
20     8
32     7
52     6
86     5

* NOTE: Hit Recovery (1) is used when wielding a one-handed swinging weapon,
  Hit Recovery (2) is used otherwise.

So, what does this mean? Experienced players should already know, but I'll
explain for the benefit of newer players. Diablo II runs at a constant rate
of 25 frames per second. In simplest terms, every animation has a length in
frames; the fewer frames it takes to complete an action, the less time it
takes to execute (divide the number of frames for the action by 25 to get a
rough time in seconds it takes to perform the action). The fewer frames, the
better.

In this case (referring to the tables above), we're concerned with the number
of frames it takes to cast a spell (this is affected by Faster Cast Rate, or
FCR%), the number of frames it takes to get out of a hit recovery animation
(this is affected by Faster Hit Recovery, FHR%; hit recovery animations are
triggered by certain enemies' attacks and whenever you take more than 12% of
your current life in damage), and the number of frames it takes to block with
a shield (affected by Faster Block Rate, FBR%).

See below in the section entitled "DETAILED ANALYSIS" for my recommendations
regarding the desirable breakpoints.

C.    DETAILED ANALYSIS                            {EQUPDETL}

Above, in "OVERVIEW", I listed a few modifiers that are desirable for the wind
druid. However, I provided no explanations for my choices; it is time to
rectify that mistake. I will discuss each of the relevant statistics, my
reasoning as to why it is important or desirable, and what I think is an
appropriate goal to aim for. In the next section, "SPECIFIC ITEM SELECTIONS",
I will go into even more detail and suggest specific items that can actually
meet these criteria.

Faster Cast Rate is very important for a wind druid. The way the skill Tornado
behaves, it is very beneficial to have a lot of them out on the field at once,
and the faster you can cast them, the more can potentially be touching each
enemy at once. See "PLAY STRATEGIES & SKILL BEHAVIOUR" for more on this.
In my opinion, this is the single most important modifier for a wind druid,
although it may be difficult to get by with only FCR% and nothing else
whatsoever. Ideally I recommend the 99% breakpoint (11 frames per cast); in my
experience I've noticed little difference in kill speed between that and the
next (163%, 10 frames, which is much more difficult to attain and requires
more sacrifices elsewhere). It's possible to get by with less than 99%, but I
don't recommend it if you can avoid it; if you can't avoid it, just get as
much as possible.

+skills are almost as important as FCR% for making an effective wind druid.
The reasoning is obvious; the higher level your skills are, the more damage
your spells will do, the more damage will be absorbed by your Cyclone Armour,
the more life your Oak Sage will give you, and the more durable your pets will
be. Priority should be given to +all skills and +druid skills over +elemental
skills, because druid pets benefit greatly from +skills (the way the synergies
are programmed for them, the synergy bonuses are increased by +skills for
Spirit Wolf/Dire Wolf/Grizzly in addition to hard points, unlike other
synergies). Get as much of these as you can: +10-15 is decent, but ideally
I'd recommend trying to get +20-25 to Tornado and/or Hurricane.

Resistances... resistances are actually not as important for a wind druid as
they are for many other characters, thanks to Cyclone Armour. The reason for
this is that when calculating the damage for purposes of absorption by Cyclone
Armour, the game treats your resistance as zero regardless of your actual
resistance stats. This is great if your resistances aren't so great and you
remember to keep recasting Cyclone Armour; it's not so great if you forget to
keep your armour up. Poison damage isn't prevented by it, so poison resistance
may see more use than the others (although most players don't give it much
priority over other resistances generally). I recommend trying to get all of
the resistances at least positive though, and ideally above 50 or maxed if you
can (especially Lightning, because of those Gloam type monsters in Hell),
because you never know when Cyclone Armour might drop just before you take a
hit and you'll need it. Remember, in Hell your base resistance is -100 (before
taking into account Anya quest rewards), so it takes a lot just to break even.

Faster Hit Recovery is also very important. You're probably going to be fairly
close to monsters most of the time so that Hurricane and Tornado will make
contact, which means that you'll get hit more often than many other casters.
Getting locked in hit recovery can get you killed, and it's harder to avoid
than you might think if you don't have a reasonable hit recovery rate. If
possible, I recommend the 6 frame breakpoint (which will most likely be 99%);
if not, just get as much as you can. It's not essential, but it's very nice to
have, and once you've tried it you'll never go back to playing without it.

Bonuses to mana and life are self-explanatory, and always nice to have. Life
especially, because it gets boosted significantly by your Oak Sage, and since
you're often in close range, you'll get hit often.

That's it for the modifiers I listed, although of course that's not everything
that you can get, or even everything you should care about. Those are just the
most relevant modifiers in my opinion.

Other desirable modifiers include % Damage Taken Goes to Mana (because you're
often getting hit, so why not get some free mana for it? you'll never run out
of mana with a little of this), Mana Regeneration (for obvious reasons),
Faster Run/Walk, Faster Block Rate and/or Increased Chance of Blocking (if not
using a Spirit shield; if you are, there's not much you can do), and so on.
It isn't very difficult to figure out if a modifier will be beneficial; and
when in doubt, just try it and see if you like it.

D.    SPECIFIC ITEM SELECTIONS                     {ITEMSELC}

Ah, here's the part where I get long-winded. Joy. There's a lot to discuss
here, so take a seat and make yourself comfortable... I'm going to go through
a list of possible items for each equipment slot and offer commentary and
recommendations. Don't expect me to give a simple list you can mindlessly
follow; I'm going to give options where possible, so pay attention.

I see no reason to copy-and-paste item statistics, so feel free to consult
Arreat Summit's database for that information. You can find it at this URL:
http://classic.battle.net/diablo2exp/items/

Weapons:

> Spirit (runeword: Tal Thul Ort Amn, sword, Ladder only)
  This is my top pick. It has FCR, +2 skills, and tons of FHR too, not to
  mention huge boosts to mana and vitality. The best thing about Spirit,
  though, is that it's very easy to make - all four runes involved are fairly
  common and can be obtained fairly easily from the Countess. The hardest part
  to find is the 4-socket sword (you can't find one in Normal at all); if you
  give any Broad Sword found in Nightmare or Hell to Larzuk for socketing, he
  should give it four. A Long Sword will work too, but Broad Swords have no
  dexterity requirement. Crystal Swords have the lowest requirements overall,
  but Larzuk won't be able to help. If possible, try to get one with a high
  FCR roll; Spirit is easy enough to make that you can try several until you
  get one that you find satisfactory.
  
> Heart of the Oak (runeword: Ko Vex Pul Thul, flail)
  This one is a very popular choice, but I personally like Spirit better. HotO
  has +3 skills (more than Spirit), 40% FCR (more than Spirit), and 30-40%
  resist all (which Spirit lacks entirely). However, I find the FHR on Spirit
  more than makes up for the difference (depending on where you are on the FHR
  continuum, it can get you as much as 2-3 frames, which is HUGE). HotO is
  also much harder to make than Spirit, requiring a Vex rune (which is a "high
  rune", meaning it can't be obtained from the Hellforge, although it is the
  easiest such rune to obtain); speaking personally, I do not find it worth
  the price. That said, many players swear by Heart of the Oak, and I'll
  admit it's a solid choice. You'll never catch me using it, though; among
  other things, swords are much more aesthetically pleasing than flails. It's
  worth pointing out, again, that flails require 35 dexterity to equip (25 if
  ethereal).

> Doom (runeword: Hel Ohm Um Lo Cham, axe)
  An interesting but theoretical choice. Doom requires THREE "high runes",
  including Cham, which is the second highest, so the chances of being able
  to make this weapon are slim to none. However, I will discuss it for the
  sake of completeness. It offers +2 skills (the same as Spirit), a lot of
  useless melee modifiers, and it grants a Holy Freeze aura and gives -40
  to -60 enemy cold resistance. That last bit is the reason to use this
  particular weapon - it does absurd things for your Hurricane damage against
  anything that isn't immune. It isn't worth the price, though, and the lack
  of FHR and FCR kills it for me. Also, many axes require dexterity to equip.

> Suicide Branch (unique Burnt Wand)
  This is a solid budget choice. It's somewhere between Wizardspike and
  Spirit; it only offers +1 skills (beats Wizardspike, loses to Spirit),
  10% resist all (beats Spirit, loses massively to Wizardspike), and 50% FCR
  (matches Wizardspike, beats Spirit). Spirit is easy enough to get that I
  probably wouldn't consider this one very much, but if you don't have access
  to Spirit, Suicide Branch can be a solid choice.

> Wizardspike (unique Bone Knife)
  An interesting choice if you're desperate for resistances, or want to hit
  the 163% FCR breakpoint, but otherwise I'd prefer something with +skills
  (which Wizardspike noticeably lacks). However, it is very good at what it
  does... the only problem is that it requires 75 dexterity to equip (which
  can be slightly mitigated by socketing with a Hel rune or jewel of freedom).
  
> Silence (runeword: Dol Eld Hel Ist Tir Vex, any weapon)
  Ah, Silence, the old forgotten runeword. It's one of my favourites, but
  mostly for Chargers (and other melee builds that can make use of the Hit
  Blinds Target property). It's best as a two-hander for melee builds that
  need resistances badly... but never mind that. If you put it in a one-
  handed weapon, like a Crystal Sword, with low requirements, it can make
  an excellent caster weapon too: +2 skills, 75% resist all (which is just
  insane, really), and 20% FHR (not as much as Spirit, but it's nice). It
  lacks FCR, though, and it's a lot more difficult to make than Spirit.
  If you can afford it, though, it's a great choice.

> Azurewrath (unique Phase Blade)
  Azurewrath is cool, and underutilized. It's one of my favourite weapons,
  even ignoring the story implications (which are even more reasons to love
  it). Anyway, Azurewrath boasts +1 to all skills (not great, but better than
  nothing), +5-10 to all stats (kind of useful)... why am I talking about this
  weapon again? Well, it's because in addition to that it offers a Sanctuary
  aura, which has some very interesting implications for a wind druid. The
  Sanctuary aura is bugged; it doesn't do what it says it does. What it does
  is allow the character projecting it to ignore positive physical resistances
  and immunity of undead monsters. This means that if you have Azurewrath
  equipped, you can kill physically immune undead monsters (like the ghost
  types, for example) with Tornado. Isn't that cool? There's a major downside
  to Azurewrath, though (aside from the absence of FCR and FHR), and that's
  the fact that it requires 136 dexterity to equip; you can mitigate that
  slightly with a Hel rune or jewel of freedom but it will impact your life
  total significantly regardless. It also requires level 85, which severely
  impacts its usefulness.

> Lawbringer (runeword: Amn Lem Ko, sword, Ladder only)
  Lawbringer offers even less than Azurewrath, but it's the other weapon that
  offers the Sanctuary aura. It's a pretty lackluster choice here, but it
  could make a good option for a weapon switch to use against physically
  immune or resistant undead (ghosts, vampires) or as a stepping-stone to
  Azurewrath since that sword has such a high level requirement. Make it in
  something with low requirements, if you're only going to use it for this
  purpose. This particular runeword will get more discussion later, in the
  mercenary section, so keep it in mind.

> Earth Shifter (unique Thunder Maul)
  What an awesome weapon... but not for this build. +7 Elemental skills may
  seem like it's perfectly suited to a wind druid, but you're honestly better
  off using something else. It's not worth sacrificing everything that you'd
  potentially lose from a dual Spirit or similar setup (i.e., any of the other
  weapons listed here, all of which are one-handed, plus a shield) just for +2
  more skills (and compared to Spirits, you lose +4 all skills for +7 to the
  elemental tree, which means that your pets and Oak Sage will suffer... not
  to mention all of the other great modifiers you lose, like 110% FHR, 50-70%
  FCR, some resistance, approximately 200 mana and 44 vitality, etc). Plus,
  Earth Shifter has an absolutely ridiculous strength requirement. However...
  if you have one of these, put it to good use and make an Armageddon/Fury
  werewolf - that build is amazing, and tons of fun too. Send me an email if
  you want some advice on building one.

> Other options:
  I've listed plenty here already, and Spirit is easy enough to obtain that
  you shouldn't really need more options. However, of course there are more.
  Dark Clan Crusher and Fleshrender are two unique clubs that carry +2 Druid
  skills on them; Earthshaker is a unique hammer that carries +3 Elemental
  skills, and you can get magical clubs with +2 Druid skills. Any of those
  could serve as a decent placeholder, until you get one of the weapons I
  mentioned above.

My top picks for the weapon: Spirit, Azurewrath, or Silence.

Shields:

> Spirit (runeword: Tal Thul Ort Amn, shield, Ladder only)
  Ah, Spirit again. It's easily the shield with the best spellcaster-oriented
  stats that there is (not that there's much competition). +2 skills, FCR,
  tons of mana, etc, plus it even has a little resistance (although not fire,
  sadly). The main disadvantage is that it takes 156 strength to equip (much
  more than most of the other items you may want) and has no blocking-oriented
  statistics, so it's primarily an offensive choice. I still find it hard to
  use anything else, though.

> Lidless Wall (unique Grim Shield)
  Lidless Wall is decent if you can't get Spirit (it's basically the poor
  man's version). Socket it with a perfect diamond for some resistance, most
  likely.

> Splendour (runeword: Eth Lum, shield)
  Splendour is very similar to Lidless Wall. It's a decent budget alternative
  to Spirit, but Spirit isn't really that difficult to get. I think Lidless
  Wall is probably better, but not by much - they're very similar.

> Stormshield (unique Monarch)
  If you want a blocking shield, Stormshield is one of the best. It also
  offers physical resistance ("Damage Reduction"), if that's your cup of tea.
  Some people swear by it; I don't.

> Whitstan's Guard (part of set: Orphan's Call)
  The shield with the best blocking in the game, but it doesn't do anything
  else. I'll pass, personally.

> Moser's Blessed Circle (unique Round Shield)
  Pretty good blocking stats, decent resistances, and two sockets for
  customisation (add diamonds for resistance, or Eld runes for more blocking).
  Upgrade it to a Luna to improve the block rate. That said, it's not the type
  of shield I'd pick.

> Sanctuary (runeword: Ko Ko Mal, shield)
  Sanctuary is a good blocking shield, although not quite as good as
  Whitstan's, Moser's or Stormshield, and it offers tons of resistance, some
  FHR, and a major bonus to dexterity in addition to blocking. Like the other
  blocking shields, I wouldn't use this, but it's worth mentioning if that's
  your cup of tea.

My top pick for the shield: Spirit, hands down.

Weapon switch:

Generally, you want something with utility here. There are several options,
some reasonable to obtain, some not. I'll discuss them all.

> Call to Arms (runeword: Amn Ral Mal Ist Ohm, weapon), Spirit shield
  This is the self-explanatory, obvious "if you have it, use it" option. Call
  to Arms gives oskills of Battle Orders and Battle Command, meaning that
  carrying this runeword on weapon switch gives you additional life/mana and
  an extra +skill that you wouldn't have otherwise. It also helps your pets
  and mercenary stay alive. No doubt, this is nice to have. The Spirit shield
  is there to boost the levels of the oskills.
  My take on this one: it's nice to have one, but don't fret if you don't. CtA
  is difficult to obtain (Ohm is a "high rune"), and it's not as great ingame
  as it looks on paper. Sure, you can get ridiculous life totals with both
  this and Oak Sage, but you have to stop every minute or two to recast the
  warcries... plus, my experience has been that using CtA tends to lead to
  relying on CtA for survival, which tends to lead to very sloppy play...
  which I find harmful when I then go to make other characters. In short, it's
  nothing to worry about if you don't have one of these.

> Lawbringer (runeword: Amn Lem Ko, sword, Ladder only), Spirit shield
  As discussed in the weapons section, the Sanctuary aura provided by this
  weapon allows you to kill physically immune or resistant undead by using
  Tornado. Having it on the weapon switch allows you to swap to it only in
  such situations when it's needed, and use something more suitable the rest
  of the time. Obviously, the same could go for Azurewrath, but Lawbringer is
  better suited to being used as a weapon switch because it can be made in
  something with no dexterity requirement: if you want to use Azurewrath, it's
  better to build around it and use it as your primary weapon.

> Naj's Puzzler (part of set: Naj's Ancient Vestige) or a magical staff with
  Teleport charges
  Who needs Enigma? Just get a staff with charges of Teleport instead...
  they're cheap to repair, and you can carry it on your weapon switch at no
  real loss. Anything you'd normally do with Teleport, you can do with one of
  these... just carry a couple of Ort runes and chipped gems if you need to
  repair, or else pay gold in town. Depending on the modifiers on the staff,
  the cost will vary.

> Spellsteel (unique Bearded Axe)
  See above under Naj's Puzzler regarding Teleport charges, since this axe has
  them too. It also has Decrepify charges, which can be helpful (Decrepify
  reduces enemy physical resistance, which is extremely good for this build;
  see "MERCENARY SELECTION" for more about Decrepify). Spellsteel has fewer
  Teleport charges than a staff would, however.

> The Gavel of Pain (unique Martel de Fer)
  This mallet is the only item in the game with charges of Amplify Damage.
  Like Decrepify, Amplify Damage plus Tornado can be very painful to monsters,
  plus it can help against monsters that are normally immune, since Amplify
  is capable of breaking more immunities than Decrepify can. I don't really
  recommend this one, though, because it only has 3 charges and they don't
  last very long... plus the hammer has a high strength requirement, you'll
  need to put a Hel rune in.

> Wand with Lower Resist charges
  These are more useful for characters whose primary attack is elemental. The
  wind druid's primary attack is physical, and cold immune enemies tend to be
  hard to break... so this won't be too useful.

> Wand with charges of an AI manipulation curse
  These could be fun to mess around with, but you don't need them, and I found
  whenever I tried these I would forget they were there because I never used
  them. They also overwrite Decrepify from a merc. Your mileage may vary.

My top pick: Anything works here. The weapon switch isn't necessary anyhow.

Helmets:

> Delirium (runeword: Lem Ist Io, helmet)
  Delirium is an interesting runeword. More or less all it adds is +2 skills,
  but it also has a lot of interesting procs on it. Before discussing procs,
  though, it's worth pointing out that you can put this runeword in a Druid
  class-specific helm, and it will keep its innate skill bonuses (staffmods).
  In the right helm (something with bonuses to Tornado and Hurricane, for
  instance, and maybe a third skill), you can get an absurd skill boost from
  it. The procs are good too - for the most part, a wind druid would only be
  concerned with the ones that trigger when struck, which are Terror and Mind
  Blast, both of which offer great crowd control. It's saved me before.
  Delirium has a major drawback, though, which I alluded to earlier when
  discussing skill choices. It has a "1% chance to cast level 50 Delirium when
  struck", which turns you into a Bone Fetish for 60 seconds. While you're a
  fetish, you can't cast your elemental spells! There's a solution, though...
  if you want to use this helm, consider putting a point in either Werewolf or
  Werebear; if you do, you can simply cast the transformation spell and you'll
  become human again. The other solution is to, when you transform, use a town
  portal scroll, then change acts via the waypoint and go back; for some
  reason that changes you back too. In short: Delirium is great, but it has
  some problems. It can also be difficult to find a good base helm for it.

> Jalal's Mane (unique Totemic Mask)
  +2 to Druid skills, resistances, and some boosts to stats. It's a solid
  choice, but there isn't much to say about it. It's hard to go wrong with
  this one, but it's a little low on +skills.

> Ravenlore (unique Sky Spirit)
  +3 to elemental skills, +7 to Raven, resistances, and a big boost to energy.
  I like this helm, but it's rather specialised - it doesn't do much for your
  utility skills (Oak Sage, Grizzly; +7 to Raven doesn't do much either), and
  the bird-type hats are kind of ugly... anyway, this is another good choice.
  It's hard to find, though.

> Spirit Keeper (unique Earth Spirit)
  Spirit Keeper is a weird helm. It doesn't really do anything better than the
  other unique druid helms, aside from offering a motley group of absorbs. I
  like the antler helm appearance, though... but that's not enough to redeem
  it; it's a subpar choice, but it will work if it's what you have.

> Lore (runeword: Ort Sol, helm)
  Lore is the budget option. The runes are pretty easy to come by, and if you
  put it in a druid helm with decent staffmods, you can get a lot of bang for
  your buck (no pun intended with respect to antler helms).

> Nightwing's Veil (unique Spired Helm)
  +2 to all skills, +% cold damage. This is the helm to pick if you want to
  improve Hurricane more than Tornado; I tend to take the opposite view, as I
  find that Tornado tends to do more of the killing overall than Hurricane
  does. However, Nightwing's is a solid choice for that purpose... I happen
  to think it's suboptimal, though.

> Harlequin Crest (unique Shako)
  +2 to all skills, nice boosts to life and mana, and lots of magic find.
  Bleh. You can do better. Pick any of the others before this one, unless you
  specifically want to do hunt for items... in which case, frankly, I'd still
  say to pick another. Delirium has MF too, albeit not as much, but it's much
  better everywhere else. I see little to no reason to ever use this helm.

> A good rare
  A rare druid class-specific helm has the potential to be the best possible
  that you can get. If you're lucky enough to get something with +2 druid
  skills and +3 Tornado with a couple of other decent modifiers, you can get
  the same skill bonuses as Delirium without worrying about the Fetish
  transformation. If it comes with Fast Hit Recovery and a socket or two,
  or maybe some life and mana, you'll have a helmet to be reckoned with.
  You could also try circlets - a rare circlet can get +2 druid skills,
  20% FCR, and resistances, as well as several other modifiers... if you want
  to max out your FCR, something like that might be ideal.
  On the other hand, there are also magical (blue) helmets - those can spawn
  with +3 Elemental skills, so you could potentially get one with +6 to
  Tornado or Hurricane for the biggest possible skill boost.
  Of course, anything discussed here is strictly theoretical, and is very
  difficult to actually find. Happy hunting.

My top pick for the helmet: Delirium, followed closely by a tie between
Jalal's and Ravenlore. A rare has the potential to be better than any of
those, but it's too improbable to include in planning considerations.

Armour:

> Skin of the Vipermagi (unique Serpentskin Armour)
  The best overall choice. +1 all skills, 30% FCR, up to 35% resist all plus
  the potential for even more resistance from a socket... what's not to like?
  It's not all that hard to find, either, especially compared to a lot of
  other items. If you upgrade it, the defence isn't too bad either (although,
  frankly, defence doesn't matter all that much for a wind druid). If you plan
  to get 163% FCR, it's difficult to do without this armour (although it can
  be done).

> Que-Hegan's Wisdom (unique Mage Plate)
  Somewhat similar to Skin of the Vipermagi, except instead of resistance it
  has mana regeneration and FHR, and it has 10% less FCR. It's not quite as
  good, but it's close, and it's a good alternative. Upgrade it to an Archon
  Plate for better defence, if you want.

> Rain (runeword: Ort Mal Ith, armour)
  The druid's class-specific runeword from version 1.11. I'd say it's mediocre
  at best, but it's not bad and it's easily one of the more obtainable armours
  with +2 skills. Aside from that, though, it has little to offer; a Mal rune
  is difficult enough to obtain that it probably isn't worth it, although I
  suppose it could be. However, it is worth noting that the Cyclone Armour
  proc on this armour will overwrite your own when it goes off, which isn't
  necessarily a good thing. I'm rather ambivalent about this one.

> Arkaine's Valour (unique Balrog Skin)
  If you get one with +2 skills, this is another moderately obtainable armour
  with +2 skills, which is fairly exceptional (although half of the time,
  Arkaine's only drops with +1 skills instead... pity). It also offers a
  substantial life boost (although it's level-based, so Oak Sage won't boost
  it further), FHR, and very high defence (although that's mostly irrelevant).
  It also looks pretty cool when equipped, which I think should count for
  something... it's not the best choice, but you can do a lot worse.

> Chains of Honour (runeword: Dol Um Ber Ist, armour)
  Theoretical; included for the sake of completeness. Very difficult to
  obtain, extremely good, but not worth the price. Compare to an upgraded
  Vipermagi socketed with an Um and you'll see what I mean - it's better, but
  it's not better enough to warrant the rune investment and Vipermagi offers
  FCR, which Chains doesn't...

> Enigma (runeword: Jah Ith Ber, armour)
  Theoretical. I suppose I'll discuss it for the sake of completeness.
  Enigma gives you Teleport. It also gives you +2 skills, magic find, and
  lots of other nice modifiers. Teleport could make radical changes to your
  play style, it could speed up your runs by allowing you to skip monsters...
  but really, why? Druids have a pretty slow cast speed for Teleport compared
  to other classes (a Sorceress can get 7 frames, while the druid's stuck with
  10 at best, and most likely 11). If you want to teleport around with magic
  find gear on doing speedy runs for loot, make a Sorceress instead.

> Smoke (runeword: Nef Lum, armour)
  Smoke is the opposite end of the spectrum: this is the cheap option if you
  have trouble obtaining any of the others. 50% resist all, but that's pretty
  much all it offers.

> Stealth (runeword: Tal Eth, armour)
  Another extremely cheap option. Stealth actually has a lot to offer: 25% FCR
  in addition to 25% FHR, 25% FRW, and 15% mana regeneration, and it can be
  equipped at a low level too. It's not ideal, because it lacks +skills and it
  doesn't have any resistance, but it can definitely do in a pinch.

My top pick: Skin of the Vipermagi.

Belts:

> Arachnid Mesh (unique Spiderweb Sash)
  The best belt for a wind druid, bar none. +1 to all skills and 20% FCR is
  just amazing from a belt, and nothing else comes close. It can be hard to
  come by, though, and if you don't have it, it's not the end of the world.

> Nightsmoke (unique Belt)
  Nightsmoke is an interesting choice. If you upgrade it to a Mesh Belt, you
  can fix the problem of having only three rows of potions; beyond that it has
  some very useful things to offer. 10% resist all is very good for a belt;
  it's only beaten by Credendum and possibly rares. However, that's not the
  reason to use Nightsmoke - it's the 50% Damage Taken Goes to Mana that makes
  this belt so good. If you aren't familiar with that modifier, here's what it
  does: whenever you take damage, 50% of the amount of damage you take is
  added to your mana pool. It's very hard to run out of mana with this belt,
  which makes it a good choice if you're having a hard time finding Arachnid
  Mesh.
  
> Credendum (part of set: The Disciple)
  15% resist all, plus some stat boosts. The main reason to use this one is,
  of course, for the resistances, but if you're the kind of person that likes
  to support your items with stat points from gear and invest less in strength
  or dexterity accordingly, the stat points could end up giving you a better
  life total. I prefer Nightsmoke if you want resistance from your belt, but
  Credendum offers more resistance and is a solid choice nonetheless. It's
  worth pointing out that Credendum has a fairly high strength requirement,
  which could be problematic if you decide not to go with a Spirit shield.

> Verdungo's Hearty Cord (unique Mithril Coil)
  I only mention this one because it seems a popular choice by many players
  online for other builds, although less so for wind druids. It offers
  physical resistance, a little FHR, and a very big boost to vitality (which,
  sadly, won't be boosted further by Oak Sage). I'd only consider this if you
  need it to hit a FHR breakpoint, or if you really love having lots of
  physical resistance, but there's nothing to write home about here.

> A decent craft
  The Caster Belt crafting recipe works well. You can get 5-10% FCR (not as
  much as Arachnid Mesh, but this is the only other way to get any FCR from a
  belt, so it's worth noting), as well as some mana regeneration and up to
  four random modifiers. As far as the random modifiers go, well, it's hard to
  offer specifics because every belt will be different, but it's possible to
  get 10%, 17%, or 24% FHR (which can be useful), up to 30% resistance to an
  element (but no resist all, IIRC), boosts to stats, or boosts to life and/or
  mana. If you get lucky, this is quite a good option.

> A good rare
  You can get a lot of the same things on rares that you can on crafts,
  although the main selling point (FCR) isn't there any more. A rare will
  have up to six random modifiers, but otherwise please see the above
  discussion on crafting; it's more or less the same. If you get lucky and
  find one with the right combination of modifiers, you're all set.

My top pick: Arachnid Mesh. If you can't get one, I recommend Nightsmoke or
trying your hand at crafting, depending on what you need.

Gloves:

> Magefist (unique Light Gauntlets)
  Magefists are one of the two glove items that have FCR, making them an
  obvious contender here. They also offer a decent boost to mana regeneration.
  Compared to Trang-Oul's Claws (the other gloves with FCR), Magefists are
  easier to find and can be equipped earlier. Which of those two you want to
  use is a fairly simple trade-off: Magefists' 20% mana regeneration versus
  Trangs' 30% cold resistance. I lean toward the mana regeneration personally.
  If they don't get you to a FCR breakpoint, you may be better off with
  something else, although the mana regeneration is nice regardless.

> Trang-Oul's Claws (part of set: Trang-Oul's Avatar)
  See Magefists. These are the other gloves with FCR. As I mentioned in
  discussion of Magefists, choosing between the two depends whether you prefer
  30% cold resistance or 20% mana regeneration - go with Trang's if your cold
  resistance is low, but otherwise I prefer Magefists. Either of them will
  work perfectly well, though.
  
> Frostburn (unique Gauntlets)
  If you don't want FCR from your gloves, Frostburns deserve consideration.
  They don't really offer much aside from that 40% boost to your maximum mana,
  but that can be huge, especially if you aren't investing in Energy and don't
  plan to use Stones of Jordan (see the ring section). The larger your maximum
  mana pool is, the faster your mana will regenerate also (the amount you get
  back is percentage-based), so it can affect the sustainability of your
  Tornado spamming. These gloves are well worth it if you don't need the 20%
  FCR that Magefists or Trang's offer, although if you have a lot of mana from
  other sources, the regeneration from Magefists may end up being better.

> Bloodfist (unique Heavy Gloves)
  If you don't want to use any of the above three, these are another solid
  pick. 30% FHR and 40 life are both great modifiers to have. If you don't
  need FCR and you're not having mana problems, Bloodfist is probably worth
  a look.

> Chance Guards (unique Chain Gloves)
  I only mention these because some people seem to enjoy the Magic Find stat.
  I don't find it worthwhile on a wind druid, because it's harder to fit a
  large amount of it on him and he doesn't do as well without the other items
  that could be in those slots. However, if you really like Magic Find, go
  right ahead and use these when you think they're warranted.
  
> A decent rare or craft
  If you need more resistances, a rare or craft can be the way to go. You can
  get up to three resistances on any given attempt, each of which can be up to
  30% (although, again, you can't get resist all on a rare/craft). The Caster
  recipe will provide the most benefit, most likely. However, I'd recommend
  choosing something else if possible.

My top pick: Magefist or Trang's if it gets you to a breakpoint; otherwise,
Frostburn.

Boots:

> Aldur's Advance (part of set: Aldur's Watchtower)
  These boots are often overlooked for some reason, but they're very good.
  They offer huge fire resistance (which more than offsets the deficit from
  Spirit), the best FRW stat possible, and they have Damage Taken Goes to
  Mana. A very solid pick; it's hard to go wrong with these.

> Sandstorm Trek (unique Scarabshell Boots)
  A popular choice. They have FHR, some FRW (but not as much as most other
  options), huge poison resistance, boosts to vitality and strength (which, if
  you like to use strength from items to support others, can mean even more
  life), and because they have self-repair, you can use an ethereal one with
  no worries about it breaking (although all that offers is more defence,
  which is honestly irrelevant). Despite all that, I prefer Aldur's Advance.
  
> Waterwalk (unique Sharkskin Boots)
  20% FRW isn't as good as some other options; there's only one reason to use
  these, really, and that's the massive life boost they offer. Unlike most
  other boots, Waterwalk has +life instead of +Vitality, which means that the
  life you get from them will be enhanced by Oak Sage. There are better boots,
  though; however, if you find yourself needing more life, Waterwalk is worth
  considering.
  
> Silkweave (unique Mesh Boots)
  The "caster oriented" boots, although they're really not that good. They
  offer 30% FRW, which is pretty good; 10% maximum mana, which isn't bad, and
  +5 mana after each kill, which is quite nice. You shouldn't have any mana
  problems at all if you use these boots, since Tornado only costs 10 mana to
  cast - with your innate regeneration, plus the bonus from kills, I'd be
  surprised if you ever ran out. However... it's doubtful that you'll have any
  mana problems even without these boots, so it's probably better to use
  something else if you have a better option (Aldur's, Aldur's).

> War Traveller (unique Battle Boots)
  These are the Chance Guards of the boot world. Use them if you're crazy
  about Magic Find; otherwise, forget about it (I advise the latter).

> A good rare or craft
  If you don't have any of the aforementioned options available, or you find
  yourself needing more resistance, try looking for a rare or crafted boot.
  You can get up to 30% resistance to each of three elements, as well as up
  to 30% FRW and possibly some FHR. Caster boots also provide mana
  regeneration, although it shouldn't really make much of a difference.
  Gamble or craft until you find something you're satisfied with; it's hard to
  make exact recommendations, since your needs may vary.

My top pick: Aldur's Advance. Sandstorm Trek is a close second.

Amulets:

> A good craft
  Undoubtedly, the best amulet you can get is going to be a crafted one,
  although it's very difficult to get a good one of these (it can take
  hundreds upon hundreds of attempts). Use the Caster recipe; what you're
  looking for is +Druid or +Elemental skills, FCR, and whatever other bonuses
  you happen to get (resists are nice, life is nice). The downside of this is
  that it requires a very high level character to be able to craft the best
  amulets, and crafted amulets have disproportionately high level requirements
  (+2 class skills amulets require level 89 to equip). See the appendix on
  crafting for more information; the ideal amulet is obviously something with
  +2 druid skills, 20% FCR, 20% resist all, and +60 life, but that's extremely
  unlikely to ever appear. Try to get as close as you can.

> A good rare
  Crafts are generally better than rares because they can get more FCR. A
  crafted amulet can get up to 20% FCR, while a rare can only get 10%.
  However, rares have much lower level requirements, which can be significant
  considering the extreme requirements on many crafts. It's more or less the
  same modifiers that you're looking for: +skills, resists, FCR, and life or
  mana. Gamble away, and use the best one you find.

> A good magical
  Rares and crafts are generally better, but a few magicals are worth
  mentioning as well. This is mainly because the best affixes in many of the
  categories are restricted from spawning on rares: this means, for instance,
  that if you want +3 Elemental skills from the amulet slot, a magical amulet
  is the only way to get it. You can only get one modifier in addition to the
  +3 skills, though. A few of the better ones here are: Gaean Amulet of the
  Apprentice (10% FCR), or Gaean Amulet of the Whale (up to 100 life). I find
  that generally these aren't quite as good as a rare or craft with +2 druid
  skills, but they're definitely among the better amulets you can get. Another
  point to mention here is that these usually have much lower required levels
  even than rares, which can be beneficial.
  
> Mara's Kaleidoscope (unique Amulet)
  Mara's is a very good amulet, but it's nothing special, and a good specimen
  of any of the above three categories will outdo it. +2 skills, 20-30 resist
  all, and +5 to all stats is nothing to sneeze at, though; it lacks FCR,
  which is the major reason not to use it.

> Other options
  Anything which offers +skills can do in a pinch, although I'd recommend just
  gambling until you get something better. Seraph's Hymn, Telling of Beads, or
  The Eye of Etlich can all work if you have nothing better to use, but none
  of those are anything special and I don't recommend them.

My top pick: Craft and gamble until your eyes bleed, then use the best one you
found.

Rings:

> A good rare or magical
  Anything with FCR (10%) and resistance (up to 15% resist all, or 30% to
  individual elements) will work well. Rings can have a lot of modifiers on
  them, and it's hard to predict exactly what kinds of things you'll tend to
  find, so just use the best resistance/FCR rings you have.

> The Stone of Jordan
  This infamous ring is an obvious choice. +1 to all skills and a bonus of 25%
  to your maximum mana makes it a very difficult ring to pass up; if you don't
  need the ring slots to fill holes in resistance or FCR, Stones of Jordan are
  great if you have access to them, but they're hard to get.

> Bul-Kathos' Wedding Band
  Inferior in every way to The Stone of Jordan. It also has +1 to all skills,
  but instead of the massive mana boost it offers life/level (which is not
  affected by Oak Sage) and life leech, which is useless for a wind druid.
  This is also generally harder to find than SoJ, so I don't recommend it, but
  if you happen to have this and not the other, it can easily serve as a
  substitute.

> Raven Frost
  A popular ring for the Cannot be Frozen modifier. However, a wind druid
  doesn't need it. Being "frozen" (i.e., slowed by cold damage) slows your
  run/walk speed and your attacking speed; it has no effect on casting speed.
  As a wind druid, I find that the majority of the time is spent standing
  stationary and casting rather than moving around, so being frozen doesn't
  noticeably hinder you, since it doesn't affect cast rate. If you really
  can't live without this ring, go ahead, but it's a waste.

> Dwarf Star
  An honourable mention, primarily. The 40 life it offers will be boosted by
  Oak Sage, so using these can provide a decent increase to your life pool if
  you find that you need one. Other rings are better, though.

My top pick: Rares or magicals with 10% FCR and some resistances are all you
need; if you don't need them to get to your desired FCR breakpoint and have
the Stones of Jordan to spare, by all means swap those in if you can.

Inventory:

> Hellfire Torch
  No surprises here. Hellfire Torch is great if you can get one (a note: this
  isn't available in Single Player by default, but it can be obtained by using
  PlugY). +3 to Druid skills and up to 20 resist all for only two inventory
  spaces is ridiculously overpowered. However, you risk running afoul of the
  Strength bug if you aren't careful when using this; see the Appendix for
  more details. You can only carry one of these.

> Annihilus
  Another obvious choice if you have it. +1 to all skills and up to 20% resist
  all at the cost of a single inventory slot is overpowered, and the bonus to
  experience gain is even better. You can only carry one of these. Again, you
  risk running afoul of the Strength bug if you aren't careful, though; see
  the Appendix for more details. (Note: this can't be obtained without PlugY).

> Natural Grand Charms
  No surprises. If you have these, it's worth using them - as many as you can
  reasonably squeeze in without hampering your ability to enjoy the game by
  picking up items is what I'd recommend. However, you don't need them - your
  character can be functional without them, obviously, but they'll offer
  significant improvement. If possible, try for life or FHR as the second
  modifier, but even plain these will be very beneficial.

> Other charms
  If you have more room to spare, small or large charms with bonuses to life
  or resistances can be helpful.

That's more or less all I can say about item selection. I've given a fair
number of options for each slot, at various levels of obtainability; choose
wisely.

E.    SOCKETING                                    {ITEMSOCK}

Several of the items I mentioned above (for a variety of different slots) are
capable of having sockets added. For the most part, I did not discuss what to
put in the sockets; I will do that here, because it's generally the last thing
you should decide.

My approach to socketing is that you should use them to fill in holes in your
build (i.e., improve statistics that might be lacking in other areas).
Depending on the specific item choices you made, you may be lacking resistance
(the most common problem, generally); you may find yourself wanting more life,
more mana, more FHR, et cetera. There are solutions to all of these problems.

If you're short on resistances:

Scintillating jewels are the best option for resistances, generally (11-15%
resist all, plus the potential for a suffix, and you can socket them in
anything). Magical jewels can have up to 30% resistance to a single element,
plus a suffix; rare jewels can get up to 10% resist all and 30% to each of
two distinct elements.

If you don't have good jewels, Um runes add 15% resist all when socketed in
helms or armour (they provide 22% in shields, but Open Wounds in weapons).
Shields will probably not be a concern since it's likely you'll be using
Spirit, but perfect diamonds are generally used there for 19% resistance.
Ral/Ort/Tal/Thul runes add 30% resistance to a single element in helms and
armour, 35% in shields. Perfect rubies/sapphires/emeralds/topaz add 40%
resistance in shields.

Socketing for resistance is straightforward; depending on which resistances
are lowest, you may want to use an insert with a boost to all elements, or to
only a single one. Try to get every resistance above 50% if you can, but it's
not the end of the world if you don't. Also, Um runes are much more difficult
to obtain than most of the other options, and they have more potential uses
(runewords, etc), so it may be worth conserving them.

If you want more life:

Perfect rubies add 38 life when socketed in helms or armour. These aren't a
bad choice as far as socketing goes, actually, because the life they add will
be multiplied by Oak Sage.

Jewels can get affixes that add life, but only up to 20. A jewel with a good
second affix, or a rare jewel with several other good affixes, could still be
very worthwhile, however. Jewels cannot add Vitality.

Io runes add 10 Vitality, but that's actually just strictly worse, since the
druid gets 2 life per point in Vitality and, moreover, +Vitality from items
doesn't end up being multiplied by Oak Sage. Theoretically, a Jah rune could
be used as well (+5% maximum life), but as that's additive with Oak Sage (and
prohibitively difficult to do), a perfect ruby is much more sensible (and
actually probably gives more life too).

If you want more mana:

Perfect sapphires add 38 mana when socketed in helms or armour. I doubt that
you'll really need this - mana isn't much of a problem generally and there are
better things to put in the sockets. It's not a bad idea to socket sapphires
at lower levels, though, because mana can be more of an issue then than later
on.

Jewels can get affixes that add up to 20 mana or up to 9 Energy. A jewel with
a good second affix, or a rare jewel with several other good affixes, could
be worthwhile, but generally the perfect sapphire is better if it's mana you
want.

Lum runes add 10 Energy, which is worse than 38 mana (Druids get +2 mana per
point of Energy).

Tir runes (and Aureolic jewels) add +mana after each kill, which could be an
interesting option. Again, though, I wouldn't recommend going for these unless
you're struggling with mana (although a rare jewel with the Aureolic property
and several other good modifiers could be amazing).

Generally, I'd recommend going for something else over mana adders, but if you
find yourself having problems keeping up with the cost of your spells, it's
worth considering these.

If you need more FHR:

Shael runes add 20% FHR when socketed in helms or armour. This is easily the
best choice if your FHR is low, but if you're using dual Spirits, more FHR is
largely unnecessary. Jewels with the suffix "of Truth" add 7% FHR, but this is
only worthwhile if the jewel has other good modifiers, or if that 7% is enough
to get you to the next breakpoint. Jewels of Truth do work in weapons, though,
which Shael runes do not.

If you're using an item with high requirements:

Hel runes reduce the strength or dexterity requirements of a weapon by 20% and
any other item by 15%; jewels with the suffix "of Freedom" reduce them by 15%
anywhere. This can be useful if you're using something like Azurewrath (with
its high dexterity requirement), for instance. A rare jewel can get the affix
"of Freedom" along with up to three other modifiers, which can be very useful.

If you want slightly better Hurricane damage:

The unique jewel, Rainbow Facet, comes in eight varieties; each of them offers
+3-5% to <element> damage and -3-5% to enemy <element> resistance, and in
addition has a spell effect triggered either when you die or when you gain a
level. The cold variety can be mildly useful for a wind druid, as it will
improve Hurricane's effectiveness (it's roughly equivalent to a +skill for
Hurricane, although that's not all that accurate an assessment).

If you don't need anything else and have one of these to spare, it's not a bad
choice, although I think it would be put to better use by a different
character (since generally, the druid relies more on Tornado for killing while
Hurricane is supplementary). However, I strongly recommend filling all other
holes in your build, especially resistances, before considering one of these.
In truth, it really takes several of these to make a big difference, and
usually you won't have more than one or two open sockets to utilize, at most.
The "die" variety casts a high-level Blizzard when you're killed, and is
generally better than the "level-up" variety which casts Frost Nova (although,
truthfully, neither effect is all that significant).

For shield blocking:

If you're using a shield for blocking, it's worth considering Eld runes. Each
one socketed in the shield adds 7% chance to block, which can save quite a bit
of Dexterity. However, my recommendation tends to be against blocking as a
wind druid, which I've already made clear; however, since the amount of
Dexterity needed to get a good block rate is quite large, if you choose to go
with blocking you may find these desirable to use.

F.    NOTES ON ALDUR'S SET                         {ALDURSET}

You'll probably notice that, among the equipment choices I described, only one
piece of this set appears (Aldur's Advance, the boots). This is because,
overall, the set is subpar and a selection of other items will significantly
outperform it. Moreover, only the boots are good on their own (the boots are
excellent, though); the rest of the items are extremely weak, and the full set
bonuses do little to make up for that.

However, the set does have its points. It gives your character a glowing aura
while wearing all four pieces, and it offers major boosts to stats (well, it's
something I guess), which means you can save on points if you know in advance
that you're going to be using this set and plan ahead for it. It also has very
decent resistance stats, and the set gives you plenty of open sockets to work
with (although, sadly, three of them are in the weapon which makes them
somewhat more difficult to utilize).

I don't recommend it, but if you want to use this set, it can work, although
not as well as a well-chosen selection of other items will. The complete set
offers an additional +3 to druid skills and the armour has +1 to elemental
skills, which seems pretty paltry compared to what other items in those slots
could give you, but it does leave the shield open for Spirit, and you still
have the belt, gloves, both rings, and amulet slots open to try to make up for
the set's glaring weaknesses.

The primary problem with Aldur's set is that it lacks FCR. There's none of it
anywhere on the set. That means that you pretty much HAVE to use a Spirit
shield, two magical or rare FCR rings, Magefist or Trang-Oul's Claws, a
crafted amulet with FCR, and either a crafted belt with FCR or Arachnid Mesh
if you want to have any hope of getting to the 99% FCR breakpoint.

If you have a fair quantity of skill charms (to help make up for the low
+skills number on the set itself), a setup like this will do fine. However, I
must repeat, and stress, that it's very easy to put together a setup that does
not include Aldur's set, will be easier to obtain than Aldur's set, and will
perform better. Use the set at your own risk.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
V.    MERCENARY SELECTION                          {MERCENRY}
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A.    OVERVIEW                                     {MERCOVRV}

Choosing a mercenary for the wind druid is interesting. For many builds, the
standard approach seems to be to choose the Town Guard from Act II which
offers the aura most beneficial to that particular build, and then either
equip him for the best melee damage (to supplement the character's damage)
or give him an Insight runeword weapon (which offers among other things the
Meditation aura to help the character's mana regeneration). The wind druid
needs neither of these.

The wind druid's mercenary is chosen with one specific thing in mind: the
curse Decrepify. This curse slows monsters' movement by 50% and reduces their
damage by 50%, but more importantly it also applies -50% physical resistance.
That might not sound like much, but trust me, it's huge. Decrepify will do
more to boost a wind druid's Tornado damage than anything else, period (well,
Amplify Damage will boost it more, but there's no convenient source of that;
I should say, it will boost his Tornado damage more than anything else he has
access to). This is the single most important part of the build: Decrepify is
what turns the wind druid from a solid/good character build to a really
exceptional one. I cannot stress this enough.

So, what does this have to do with mercenaries, you're probably asking? Well,
there are a few weapons that have a fairly high chance to cast Decrepify built
in, and these can be equipped by the mercenary. The weapons are:

> Lawbringer (runeword: Amn Lem Ko, sword, Ladder only)
> The Reaper's Toll (unique Thresher)
> Wrath (runeword: Pul Lum Ber Mal, bow, Ladder only)

That brings me to another point worth discussing - why focus on Decrepify,
somebody might ask me? Why not try to get a weapon with a chance to cast
Amplify Damage instead? There are several reasons for this. The first is that
there aren't any weapons with a high enough chance to cast it reliably and
consistently, unlike Decrepify. Amplify Damage also doesn't last very long at
a low level (which it usually procs at). Furthermore, the slowing effect from
Decrepify can keep the enemies in range of your tornadoes longer, meaning that
Decrepify can actually be more effective for killing anyway. Amplify Damage
has its uses - you will do more damage with it than with Decrepify, and it is
capable of breaking more physical immunities than Decrepify is, but it's just
not practical. Of course, if you're playing multiplayer with a Necromancer,
that's another story entirely; by all means, ask him to cast Amplify Damage
for you and enjoy it while you can.

As far as the above listed weapons go, Lawbringer and The Reaper's Toll are
not prohibitively difficult to obtain, while Wrath is. As such, I'm going to
primarily discuss the former two. Lawbringer can be wielded by a Barbarian
mercenary from Act 5, while The Reaper's Toll can be wielded by a Town Guard
from Act 2. Both are solid mercenary choices and have their advantages and
disadvantages (I'll discuss the Act 1 Rogue briefly for the sake of
completeness, but for all practical purposes the choice is between the other
two only).

Regardless of the mercenary you choose, though, the philosophy is going to be
more or less the same. Get a weapon with a chance to cast Decrepify, and then
load up the other gear with as much attack speed as you can get (as well as a
little life leech to help keep them alive). The faster your mercenary attacks,
the more reliably your enemies will be cursed.

A note about mercenary hiring: since patch 1.11, mercenaries hired will always
be near your character's level regardless of the difficulty setting in which
you hire them. However, mercenaries hired in Normal have slightly better stats
than those in Nightmare, and likewise Nightmare mercenaries have slightly
better stats than Hell mercenaries. Always hire in Normal unless you want one
of the Town Guards with an aura unavailable there, in which case hire in
Nightmare. Never hire mercenaries in Hell.

B.    OPTIONS                                      {MERCOPTS}

Option 1: Act 5 Barbarian Mercenary with Lawbringer runeword sword

These guys don't seem to be used very often, but it's a mystery to me why not.
The barbarians are really a solid mercenary choice - they're durable, thanks
in part to their high life totals and in part to their use of Bash and Stun to
keep enemies from attacking them as frequently; they have a fast rate of
attack, and they have a built in poison length reduction which also helps them
with survivability.

The main selling point, though, is that the barbarians' AI
is by far the best out of all of the mercenary types. They seem to be willing
to rush into combat, and they don't suffer from the same problem as the Town
Guards from Act 2 who seem to like to stand around and stare at the walls.

Another thing I like about this choice compared to the others (well, primarily
compared to The Reaper's Toll) is that Lawbringer offers a much higher spell
level of Decrepify, so it will last longer once it goes off.

The main disadvantage of the barbarians, however, is that their melee damage
isn't all that good. They're tanks, basically. For a wind druid's mercenary,
though, that doesn't matter - we don't need the mercenary to be killing on his
own, just to be casting Decrepify for us. He will do damage, just not as much
as a Town Guard would (the problem isn't only the barbarian; Lawbringer isn't
a very damaging weapon). Thanks to Lawbringer, he'll have Sanctuary, though,
so he will still be helpful when fighting undead.

As far as equipping him goes... make the Lawbringer in a two-handed elite
sword with a fast attack speed; get an ethereal sword if at all possible,
since ethereal items don't degrade when equipped on mercenaries and will give
better damage. Legend Sword is your best choice here - it's the fastest one,
and it will get three sockets when given to Larzuk. Other good options are
Balrog Blade or Champion Sword, but try to get a Legend Sword if possible.
For his other equipment, see subsection C, MERCENARY EQUIPMENT.

Option 2: Act 2 Town Guard with The Reaper's Toll

Ah, the Town Guards, everybody's favourite mercenary. If you want sheer
physical damage from the mercenary, this is the one you want. He attacks fast,
can be given a large variety of weapons (and many polearms are quite
damaging), and does the most damage of any mercenary. They also have innate
auras. All of this combines to make them quite popular.

They have problems, though. They can be quite fragile (they seem to get killed
frequently), and their AI is buggy, which can cause them to stand around and
do nothing when you might want them to act otherwise. They sometimes get lost,
too, although you can remedy that easily with the use of a town portal.

As for equipment... The Reaper's Toll is pretty much non-negotiable, although
I will discuss several other popular options to explain why this is the case.
If you can get an ethereal one, so much the better, but a plain one works just
fine (ethereal can be overkill); socket it with an Amn or Shael rune depending
on whether you'd prefer him to have more attack speed or life leech. For the
helm and armour, see the discussion in subsection C, MERCENARY EQUIPMENT.

Let's discuss other options for the weapon. An obvious one, one might think,
is Insight (runeword: Ral Tir Tal Sol, polearm, Ladder only). Many caster
builds use Insight mercenaries for the Meditation aura, which ends up more or
less giving them an unlimited mana supply (it's not quite so simple, and many
can still run out even when using it, but it's close enough). The wind druid
doesn't need it, though. Tornado only costs 10 mana per cast, and that never
increases with more levels in the skill - the same goes for Hurricane, too,
but Tornado's the primary concern because it's the one you'll be spamming. As
such, the druid's innate mana regeneration, possibly supplemented by Magefist
and/or a few Caster craft items, and perhaps the occasional mana potion, will
be more than enough. It's wasteful to use Insight when you can get by without
it and kill everything so much faster thanks to Decrepify, although at low
levels before The Reaper's Toll (or Lawbringer) is available it might be worth
using temporarily.

Another one people might think of (or at least people familiar with the online
economy, etc) is Infinity (runeword: Ber Mal Ber Ist, polearm, Ladder only).
Infinity is one of the most powerful runewords in the game, because it grants
a Conviction aura (which reduces enemy fire/lightning/cold resistances). It's
wasted on a wind druid, though. The wind druid primarily does physical damage
with Tornado; Hurricane is supplemental, and is not really suited to being a
primary killing skill. Furthermore, Infinity is an item that must be classed
as theoretical, since it contains two "high runes", so it is extremely
unlikely to be obtained.

There's also Obedience (runeword: Hel Ko Thul Eth Fal, polearm, Ladder only).
This runeword is very damaging, and it offers Enchant to help the mercenary's
attack rating (i.e., chance to hit). If you want the mercenary to do a lot of
damage, this weapon works great, but The Reaper's Toll is also damaging and
with Decrepify included will kill almost as fast, in addition to helping you.

I could go on and list more weapons, but it's fairly obvious already that
The Reaper's Toll is by far the best option if you want to use this type of
mercenary. Now, on to the next topic... auras.

There are six possible auras for the Town Guards, as follows (the aura is
determined by the type of mercenary you hire and the difficulty level in
which you do so):

Normal/Hell Offencive Type - Blessed Aim aura
Normal/Hell Defencive Type - Defiance aura
Normal/Hell Combat Type - Prayer aura
Nightmare Offencive Type - Might aura
Nightmare Defencive Type - Holy Freeze aura
Nightmare Combat Type - Thorns aura

Of these... Thorns is fairly useless (it returns damage to melee attackers,
but it's not very effective), and I wouldn't recommend Blessed Aim (it will
improve his chance to hit, but that's not much of an issue generally; the
reason to use this mercenary is if the character needs the AR boost, and the
wind druid is a caster).

Might and Holy Freeze tend to be the most popular. Might will give him more
physical damage, while Holy Freeze slows nearby enemies (note that Holy Freeze
is not a cold damage-based slowing, so it will stack with slowing due to cold
damage, for instance from Hurricane, and it can slow cold immunes). Either of
these is a solid choice; it's hard to go wrong here.

Prayer and Defiance are less often used, but they're both competent, and have
their uses. Prayer restores health over time, and is especially good if
combined with Insight (strangely, Meditation carries the healing from Prayer
as well, so you'll get double the healing). Defiance multiplies your defence.

I'd recommend choosing between Might, Holy Freeze, Prayer, and Defiance. They
all have their uses, so it depends on your personal preferences. Personally, I
prefer Barbarians anyway.

Option 3: Act 1 Rogue with Wrath runeword bow

I'm not going to discuss this one in much detail, because it requires
theoretical runes and isn't necessarily any better than the two options I've
already outlined in detail. In fact I might go so far as to argue that it's
worse, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless.

The primary advantage of the Rogue is that she attacks at a range, unlike the
other two which are melee fighters. The disadvantages are many, though...
she's fragile, she often spends more time moving around than shooting, and
if she gets surrounded she is unlikely to survive. However, since the druid is
often going to be in melee range, the monsters will most likely focus on him,
which may help her to stay alive longer.

The main problem with this setup is the fact that Wrath has two curse procs on
it: 30% chance to cast Decrepify, and 5% chance to cast Life Tap. Life Tap
will overwrite Decrepify if it goes off, which can be inconvenient.

I don't see this choice as being worth it, primarily due to the high rune cost
and the fact that the curses overwriting each other could be frustrating. If
you want my advice, stick with one of the other two options, and my preference
is for the barbarian.

B.    EQUIPMENT                                    {MERCEQUP}

This section is for discussion of non-weapon equipment for the mercenary.
There is little to no difference in the type of equipment you should use for
each of the mercenary types detailed above, so there's no reason to have
separate sections for each one.

The general philosophy is clear: you want to get the mercenary the fastest
possible attack, to give more frequent casting of Decrepify, and life leech
for survivability purposes. If possible, it's also helpful to get resistances
or physical resistance, although it's not difficult to make do without.

Use this calculator to determine mercenaries' attack speed breakpoints:
http://diablo3.ingame.de/tips/calcs/weaponspeed.php?lang=english

For mercenary hit recovery tables, I'll direct you to Librarian's FAQtoids:
http://www.mannm.org/d2library/faqtoids/faqtoids_eng.html
For space saving purposes, I'm not going to reproduce them here.

Armour:

> Treachery (runeword: Shael Thul Lem, armour)
  This is by far the best choice. 45% IAS is just ridiculous, and that's just
  the beginning. It gives a chance to cast Venom, which will give him poison
  damage (helpful against immune or resistant monsters), but more importantly
  a chance to cast Fade when struck, which will add 60% resist all and 15%
  physical resistance. It also has FHR. If possible, put it in an ethereal-
  bugged armour for extra defence (if you're not familiar with this bug:
  socketing an ethereal armour with the cube recipe will cause the ethereal
  defence bonus to be applied again; the recipe is Tal + Thul + P. Topaz +
  Armour item = adds random number of sockets to armour item).

> Stone (runeword: Shael Um Pul Lum, armour)
  If you like defence, this armour has tons of it. If you use an ethereal-
  bugged armour (see above for explanation), you can get more than 4000
  defence with this runeword. It doesn't have much else to offer beyond that,
  though, and it has no IAS...

> Duress (runeword: Shael Um Thul, armour)
  This is a great armour. It has high defence, Crushing Blow, FHR, and some
  resistance too. In an ethereal-bugged armour, it can almost compete with
  Stone for defence (but not quite... a very good Duress might compare to a
  mediocre or poor Stone when it comes to defence). I prefer Treachery, but
  Duress is a solid choice too and may serve you better during boss fights
  (where Crushing Blow is more noticeable).

> Twitchthroe (unique Studded Leather)
  The other armour with IAS. It's nowhere near as good as Treachery, but
  it's a decent substitute if you can't get one. You can socket it; depending
  on what you want more, you can try to make up for its lack of resistance, or
  add more IAS or FHR, etc.

> Shaftstop (unique Mesh Armour)
  Huge physical resistance makes this one a popular choice. Upgrade it if
  possible, and an ethereal one is even better. It has no IAS, though, so it
  doesn't help with the goal of helping speed up Decrepify procs. You can
  socket it to help make up for the lack of resistance, or to add FHR or IAS.

> Leviathan (unique Kraken Shell)
  Huge physical resistance, great defence, and massive strength. Sadly, it's
  indestructible so there's no way to get an ethereal one. Again, though, it
  lacks IAS, so it's not ideal. You can socket it to help make up for the lack
  of resistance, or to add FHR or IAS.

> Fortitude (runeword: El Sol Dol Lo, armour, Ladder only)
  A very popular choice online, but it requires a "high rune" so it's much
  more difficult to obtain than the others above. It's a great armour, though:
  high defence, Chilling Armour for even more defence, it adds tons of
  physical damage, adds life, and resistance. It doesn't have IAS, though, so
  it's not the best choice for spreading Decrepify. I'm only mentioning it
  for completeness.

> Guardian Angel (unique Templar Coat)
  For some reason this is a popular choice with online players, but in my
  opinion it's terrible. Mercenaries do get decent innate resistances, but
  without a lot of help from the other items, they're not going to get high
  enough to take advantage of the increased maxima granted by this armour.
  If you socket it and the mercenary's helm with Um runes or Scintillating
  jewels, you might be able to (or if you use a high-resistance helm like
  Kira's Guardian or Rockstopper)... but it's not worth it. Just use something
  else, trust me.

> Magical or rare armour
  As a last resort, if you don't have access to any of the above, you can
  always try to get a magical or rare ethereal armour with high enhanced
  defence; it's better than nothing.

My top pick: Treachery, obviously. It's not very difficult to get, and it's
clearly the best choice.

Helmets:

> Andariel's Visage (unique Demonhead)
  This is clearly the best choice - it has everything you could possibly want
  (20% IAS and life leech); the only problem with it is the -30% fire resist
  penalty it carries. You can counteract this by socketing it with a Ral rune
  or a jewel with the Ruby (fire resist) prefix; if it has a suffix, ideally
  of Fervor, that's even better. If you can get an ethereal version of this
  helm, do so; it has more defence.

> Tal Rasha's Horadric Crest (part of set: Tal Rasha's Wrappings)
  A great all-around mercenary hat. 15% resist all and 10% life leech, it's
  hard to go wrong with this one. Socket it with a jewel of Fervor if it'll
  get you to a breakpoint. Unfortunately, set items can't be ethereal.

> Vampire Gaze (unique Grim Helm)
  Another great all-around hat. It's very similar to Tal Rasha's, except it
  offers physical resistance instead of elemental resistance. Socket it with
  a jewel of Fervor if that will get you to a breakpoint. It's even better
  when ethereal, if you can get one. Ethereal or not, though, don't upgrade a
  Vampire Gaze - it's one of several items that can actually lose defence when
  upgraded, so it's a very bad idea to try.

> Guillaume's Face (part of set: Orphan's Call)
  No IAS and no life leech... what is this hat doing here? Well, Guillaume's
  Face is a very good helm even without them, although if you use it you
  should try to make up for it elsewhere. It has 30% FHR, which is very
  helpful for keeping the mercenary alive, and the Crushing Blow is great
  when fighting bosses (for those not in the know: Crushing Blow does a fixed
  percentage of the enemy's current health as damage), and Deadly Strike will
  do wonders for his damage. A very solid offensive choice, if that's what you
  want. Socketing it with a jewel of Fervor isn't a bad idea if it will get
  you to a breakpoint.

> Crown of Thieves (unique Grand Crown)
  Tons of life leech, with some other nice modifiers. This is a great budget
  option. Socket it with a jewel of Fervor if it'll get you to a breakpoint.

> Stealskull (unique Casque)
  Less life leech than Crown of Thieves or Tal Rasha's, but it offers IAS and
  FHR instead. Socket it with a jewel of Fervor if it'll get you to a
  breakpoint.

My top pick: Andariel's Visage is clearly the best, but any of the others will
do in a pinch. Guillaume's may be better when fighting bosses.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
VI.   PLAY STRATEGIES & SKILL BEHAVIOUR            {STRTBHVR}
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A.    TORNADO DETAILS                              {TORNDETA}

Tornado is a very strange skill. To start with, it's a spell that does
physical damage, although that isn't too uncommon for Druid spells. It also
moves in erratic patterns. However, that's only the beginning. When
considering the technical details of how the skill actually works (and how and
when it applies its damage), it is very interesting and also very misleading.
As far as I know, its behaviour is not fully understood, but there has been a
substantial amount of progress made and we know enough to understand it in an
intuitive way. Before I say anything more, I want to make one thing clear: as
you'll come to see, the damage numbers listed for Tornado are very misleading,
and it's a much more deadly skill than they would seem to indicate.

As a disclaimer, this section is going to contain some speculation and I will
do my best to indicate it as such. I will attempt to explain everything as
simply as possible, but I cannot guarantee success.

Tornado has a NextDelay of 25 frames. NextDelay is difficult to explain, and I
will not attempt to do so, but rather direct you to this link:

http://www.mannm.org/d2library/faqtoids/nhd_eng.html

Basically, it's a property of some skills or missiles that does the following.
When a monster is struck by a missile with the NextDelay property, it will be
unable to be struck by another missile with that property until the NextDelay
timer of the first missile expires. It can cause skills to interfere with each
other in multiplayer games, among other things.

In theory, this 25 frame NextDelay would make Faster Cast Rate useless with
Tornado, since it wouldn't matter how fast we cast them, each monster could
only take damage from one each second (a second is 25 frames). However,
playing as a wind druid for any length of time will make it clear that this is
not the case: spamming Tornado at enemies does indeed cause more damage more
quickly if a faster cast rate is employed. Therefore, Tornado must behave
differently in some way than other skills with NextDelay.

A group at the Amazon Basin did some experiments with this and figured out to
a certain extent what is going on. The original discussion can all be found at
this link, and makes fascinating reading, but I will summarize it:

http://www.theamazonbasin.com/d2/forums/index.php?showtopic=78001

Tornado deals damage in two ways. The first way is by collision of the Tornado
missile with the enemy; this is affected by the NextDelay as expected, meaning
that only one such collision can affect each enemy in any 25-frame period. The
collision deals the listed damage for the tornado skill.

The second way is through an "aura pulse". Each tornado has an aura associated
with it (the auras are invisible, but the pulse damage is applied within a
radius of 2 yards or 3 sub-tiles). Every 15 frames, the aura "pulses" and
deals the listed skill damage to any enemies currently overlapping it. This
pulse damage ignores NextDelay. Each tornado lasts for 75 frames (3 seconds).

Onderduiker provided these diagrams to aid in further understanding of Tornado
behaviour, and I reproduce them here with permission:

          _
      _ _| |_ _
     |  _ _ _  |                           _           _ _ _
    _| |_|_|_| |_            _           _|_|_        |_|_|_|
   |_  |_|_|_|  _|          |C|         |_|C|_|       |_|C|_|
     | |_|_|_| |                          |_|         |_|_|_|
     |_ _   _ _|
         |_|

   Tornado (Size 3)         Size 1       Size 2        Size 3
   9 sub-tiles              1 sub-tile   5 sub-tiles   9 sub-tiles

   2 yard radius
   (3 sub-tiles)

His comments:

"The vast majority of targets are Size 2-3: only Sand Maggot Eggs, Mummy
Sarcophagi, Flying Scimitars, Bone Prisons and Lightning Spires are Size 1.
For reference, players, hirelings, and pets are all Size 2.

The tornado's periodic damage will only be applied when the target's central
sub-tile (C ) is within its radius, while its collision damage will be applied
when it overlaps any sub-tile: due to Next Delay a collision check can only
occur 1 second after the previous tornado has collided with it, but as long as
the next tornado is still overlapping the target when Next Delay expires, its
collision damage will be applied.

A tornado's periodic damage cannot be blocked, but an Amazon can Avoid and
Evade it, and an Assassin can Weapon Block it. A tornado's collision damage
can be blocked, avoided or evaded."

If multiple tornado auras are overlapping the same target when the pulse
triggers, the target will take damage from all of them. If a tornado aura is
in contact with multiple targets when the pulse triggers, all of the targets
will take damage from it.

That is the reason that Faster Cast Rate is so important for a wind druid. The
faster you can generate tornadoes, the more of these auras will be present at
once, meaning there's that much more potential for damage and that much more
potential that more than one aura will overlap the same enemy.

That's only part of the story when it comes to Tornado's behaviour, though.
It's also necessary to have some understanding of Tornado's pathing.

The paths followed by the Tornadoes seems to be random. At least, I have been
able to find no consistent pattern in them. They do not always appear in the
same place relative to the Druid, and they move erratically.

However, the path has some sort of dependency on the Druid's location, and as
long as he stands in one place and does not change the direction he's facing,
every Tornado he casts will follow the same path. However, if the Druid leaves
a location and later returns and casts Tornado there again, the path will be
different (although I only have my own subjective observations to support this
statement and I could easily be wrong: it's possible that the "location" is
quite small and is difficult to return to; I do not know).

From all of this information, we come to two conclusions.

First, that FCR is vital when maximizing Tornado damage (anecdotally, I've
found that there is a huge jump in effectiveness when reaching the 99% FCR
breakpoint, but little difference between 99% and 163% in effectiveness even
though they have a different subjective "feel" to them when playing. I've
played with setups at a variety of different FCR levels, and while I liked
163% best I find 99% is more than satisfactory and tends to allow much more
freedom in choosing items, so yields better results overall).

Second, that we now know the optimal tactic to use while playing. The Druid
should attempt to find a position where the Tornado path is satisfactory
(meaning, more or less, that they move in a path that will bring them into
contact with lots of enemies), and then stay there and spam-cast Tornado until
either the enemies are all dead or the Tornado path is no longer any good, at
which point it's necessary to manoeuver further until you find another good
location. If the Tornadoes aren't going where you want them to go, it does not
make sense to stand there and continue firing them.

Because the Tornadoes only last for 3 seconds and the Druid generally needs to
be up close in order for Hurricane to be effective, the location you choose to
attack from should generally be fairly close to the monsters. However, it is
wise to avoid being struck by melee attacks; I do not recommend rushing into
combat like a madman or a melee character.

B.    NOTES ON OTHER SKILLS                        {SKILNOTE}

Hurricane:

Hurricane isn't quite as complicated as Tornado is, but there are still a few
subtleties. Hurricane is basically treated as somewhere between a "buff" (or
beneficial, lasting spell effect) and an aura. It lasts for 10 seconds plus
2 seconds for each hard point you have in Cyclone Armour, which is why I
recommend maxing that skill before Twister (which is a damage synergy).
Casting Hurricane gives the Druid the Hurricane buff status if he does not
already have it; casting it while Hurricane is already active will reset the
duration of that status.

While it's active, Hurricane has a "pulse" that triggers every 20 frames (or
0.8 seconds). When the pulse occurs, Hurricane deals cold damage to every
enemy within its radius (surrounding the Druid). There is no way to change the
rate at which the pulses occur.

Because Hurricane's pulse damages monsters in a fairly small radius around the
Druid, using it effectively requires being in close range. This interacts well
with Tornado, since they have a fairly short range as well thanks to the 3
second duration, and also, if you're up close, there are fewer potential paths
for the tornado to take between you and the target, so it's easier to hit.

Cyclone Armour:

This skill absorbs elemental damage. The amount of damage it prevents can get
quite high; it's not unheard of to get it to prevent over 3k damage. By
elemental damage, the skill refers specifically to fire, lightning, and cold
damage; it does not do anything for magic damage, poison damage, or physical
damage.

Cyclone Armour is a buff; casting the spell causes the Druid to gain the
Cyclone Armour status, which is indicated by three white streaks orbiting him.
The status basically has a "life pool", so to speak: the amount of damage it
absorbs is kept track of, and once it's absorbed too much the status will
expire (the game gives no way of determining how many points remain, although
the animation will change from three white streaks to two and then one as the
armour takes damage). Recasting it before this occurs will reset the damage
it's taken.

There is a subtlety involved with this skill: the damage it absorbs is
calculated as if you had 0 resistance to the element of the damage, regardless
of your actual resistance statistic. If you have -100% resistance, you will
not suffer the consequences while Cyclone Armour is active. However, once the
armour drops after taking too much damage, damage to your actual life will be
calculated using your resistance stats (yes, this is obvious).

The implications are obvious. Keep Cyclone Armour hotkeyed and try to refresh
it before it goes down, or immediately afterward in the worst case. As long as
you keep doing this, even if your resistances aren't very good, you shouldn't
have any trouble dealing with dangerous elemental attacks (for instance,
Gloam-type monsters). It's worth paying attention to Cyclone Armour; if you
don't notice when it goes down, you can start having problems.

Oak Sage:

Oak Sage is a summonable pet with an aura; the aura increases the maximum life
of everything in range. Obviously, this is extremely useful: with enough
+skills, it can nearly triple your life. Its aura also boosts its own life,
but its base life is pretty low, so it never gets all that durable (if you get
it to a high enough skill level, it can eventually tank a few hits; more if
you use Call to Arms, but that runeword is difficult to obtain).

There are some weird things about it, though. First of all, it has horrible
AI. It seems to like wandering around between you and the enemy; more to the
point, it seems to frequently move directly into the path of projectiles or
to intercept enemies, despite the fact that they're going to kill it and it
can do absolutely diddlysquat to them. That can get frustrating; just keep an
eye on its health bar and be prepared to recast it (a hotkey for it is
probably a good idea).

It's very important to pay attention to your Oak Sage, because if it dies,
your life total drops by a huge amount (and you won't notice it because the
maximum drops as well; you'll be at the same percentage of the new, lower
maximum as you used to be of the higher maximum). That can get you killed,
quickly (dropping from 3.5k life to 1.2k life, for instance, is extremely
problematic if you don't notice it and correct it quickly).

A few other notes about Oak Sage: like all "spirit" pets, it's immune to
poison (in all difficulties) and physical (only in Nightmare difficulty). I
have no idea why they behave this way, but it makes the Oak Sage much easier
to keep alive in Nightmare with fewer skill points in it; this only makes the
challenge increase shock of entering Hell all the more jarring and difficult
to adjust to. Try not to rely on this too much.

Furthermore, it's a good idea to understand how Oak Sage interacts wtih the
various types of life boosts from gear. It will not multiply life obtained
from the following properties on items (this is actually true for all life-
multiplying effects):

+Vitality
+life/level
+Vitality/level

And it stacks additively with any other life-multiplying effects, which
includes Battle Orders and +X% maximum life from items (i.e., Jah rune's
socketing effect, not that I recommend ever using one of those for that even
provided that you are somehow able to obtain one).

Regardless, what this means is that +life is a much more valuable modifier
on items than +Vitality, +life/level, +Vitality/level, or +X% maximum life.
It's generally not all that important to keep in mind, because other criteria
will generally determine which items you do or do not want to use (as I've
outlined in some detail in previous sections), but it's worth noting.

Arctic Blast:

It's a 1 point skill that's taken primarily as a prerequisite, and as such
it's not really all that useful. It does have its purposes, though: it can be
mildly useful when dealing with physical immune monsters that can't be broken
by Decrepify but which aren't cold immune; while Hurricane and the mercenary
are hitting the monster, there's no reason not to use Arctic Blast. The damage
is very low, but every little bit helps sometimes, and it provides more
reliable slowing than Hurricane does.

It's basically a cold-damage equivalent of the Sorceress' Inferno skill. I had
previously believed that Arctic Blast did not suffer from the Inferno bug that
causes it to deal half of the listed damage, but I've been informed that this
is not the case and that Arctic Blast does indeed suffer from the bug (thank
you, Othin).

Raven:

Raven is a 1-point prerequisite skill as well, but it's quite useful in many
situations (although I don't recommend using it all the time).

You can summon up to 5 ravens (actually, 1 per skill level, capped at 5), and
you're practically guaranteed to have a high level of the skill with just 1
point thanks to the tons of +skills you'll be wanting for the rest of your
skills. Ravens are invincible; they don't even have life. Each of them has a
preset number of attacks it will make (based on your level of the skill), and
once it has made that many attacks, it will disappear.

Ravens do effectively no damage (I don't think I've ever seen the skill at a
high enough level to do more than 30 damage per hit). The only reason to use
them is the fact that they have a decent chance to cause blinding on enemies,
which against certain types of monsters is very advantageous (Gloams, for
instance, or fire skeleton archers, etc). It's not a huge advantage, but it
can help; if you're having trouble with enemies that use high-damage ranged
attacks, try using Ravens and advancing slowly to let them blind a few of them
before you get too close. Most of the time, though, they aren't worth the
trouble of casting, because the blinding overwrites Decrepify (it's the same
effect as Dim Vision curse).

Spirit Wolf/Dire Wolf/Grizzly:

These three skills synergize each other, but unlike the druid's other
synergies, it's coded as passive skills instead (unlike the others, these
synergies were present in game version 1.09, which may explain why it's coded
differently. I wonder why they never changed it). That means that +skills will
increase the synergy bonuses in addition to benefitting the skills themselves,
unlike most other synergies (there are a few other exceptions, but not for the
druid, so I won't list them). Grizzly adds damage to the other two; Spirit
Wolf adds Attack Rating and Defence; Dire Wolf adds life. This is mostly just
a curiosity when it comes to the wind druid, though, because you'll only be
putting (at most) 1 hard point into each of these skills, and it's very likely
you'll have the same number of +skills to all of them.

You can only have pets from one of these three skills active at once (that
means you get either 5 Spirit Wolves, 3 Dire Wolves, or 1 Grizzly). All three
have their uses, although most of the time you'll probably be using the Bear:
he's a major tank even at just 1 point with some +skills. However, sometimes
it's better to have multiple distractions, and in those kinds of scenarios
it's not a bad idea to opt for three Dires or five Spirits instead (the Spirit
Wolves die a lot faster, but Dires can be pretty sturdy). Just remember that
whichever pets you use, they aren't going to be doing any significant damage;
like Ravens, you use them to distract enemies, not to kill them.

Werewolf/Werebear and Delirium:

I've discussed this earlier, but it deserves a place here as well. The
Delirium runeword carries a strong disadvantage - it has a 1% chance to cast
"level 50 Delirium" when struck, which causes you to be transformed into a
Bone Fetish for 60 seconds. This isn't horrible for melee characters because
they can still attack and it actually offers some bonuses to attack speed, but
for a caster it's rather crippling since you can't use your spells.

Specifically, it restricts you from using all Elemental spells except for
Armageddon, and any non-Druid skills. In that respect it's the same as any
wereform, and in fact it's programmed identically to those.

If you're using Delirium and this happens to you (and trust me, it will;
frequently), you'll probably want to get out of it before the minute expires
(although, of course, you can simply run around like a headless chicken until
it wears off if that suits your fancy instead; that can be fun sometimes).
There are three ways to get rid of this debilitating status; one of them is
impractical, but the other two work well.

The first (and the impractical) solution is to get hit again and cause the
Delirium effect to trigger again. When it does, you'll become human again.
I've seen this happen before, but as it's a 1% chance to trigger, don't count
on this - either resign yourself to being a fetish for a bit, or use one of
the other methods.

The second solution is to use a waypoint to travel between acts. Doing this
causes shapeshifting effects to be cancelled for some reason (try it on a
Necromancer wearing Trang's set for an interesting result too). This can be a
bit of a hassle, but it's easy enough to use a town portal to go back to town,
hit the waypoint a couple of times quickly, and then get back to what you were
doing beforehand.

If you find that frustrating, put a point in either Werewolf or Werebear. When
transformed, casting a transformation skill will return you to human form even
if it isn't the same skill as the one you're currently transformed by. This
works on the bone fetish form, so all you have to do is cast Werewolf once
after being fetished and you have no problem whatsoever (just don't cast it
twice, or you'll have to cast it a third time to stop being a wolf).

C.    GENERAL PLAY STRATEGIES                      {GENSTRAT}

The wind druid is not a difficult character to play. As such, there is not all
that much to be said here that has not already been addressed in earlier
sections (regarding skill behaviour and function, etc). If you know how the
skills behave and when to use each one, there's not all that much more to say.

It is a good idea to be accompanied by Oak Sage at all times, as well as by
your choice of the "animal" pets (either Spirit Wolves, Dire Wolves, or a
Grizzly, whichever you prefer). Try to keep these hotkeyed and recast them
whenever they die or are close to dying (especially in the case of Oak Sage,
it is always better to recast it than to let it die, because your life total
will stay stable rather than dropping for a brief period). It's a small thing,
but when recasting Oak Sage, it appears where your cursor is, so move it away
from the monsters first. It won't last long if you cast it on top of them.

If your Oak Sage dies, retreat momentarily until you can get it recast; that
should become your highest priority. Don't wait until the fight is over; that
can get you killed. It's easy to forget how fragile you are without the huge
life bonus it gives you.

Choosing between Spirit Wolves, Dire Wolves, and Grizzly is largely a matter of
personal taste. The Grizzly is much more durable than the others, but the
advantage of using wolves is that there are more of them, which means they are
capable of distracting multiple groups of monsters in different locations.
Spirit Wolves generally die very quickly and need frequent recasting; Dires
less so, and the Grizzly will probably stick around for a while (although no
matter how many +skills you have, he will sometimes die).

One thing you can do with these pets is use them for scouting. If you're in an
area where you know there are monsters near or beyond the edge of the screen,
you can summon a wolf or bear there and see if they attack it. Letting it lead
monsters to you is generally safer than rushing in, because in most cases the
animal will draw attention from fewer monsters than you would. This technique
is most useful in areas like the Throne of Destruction, where there are lots
of monsters packed into a tight space, but there are plenty of corners that
prevent them from seeing you.

If you notice that your pets are getting killed very quickly (especially the
Grizzly Bear, not so much the others), that should serve as an indication that
the monsters are dangerous and should be treated with caution. The Grizzly
will most likely have more life than you, so if he is getting killed quickly,
chances are something there will stand a good chance of killing you and you
may want to consider retreating. Using a pet (either the Grizzly or a wolf) to
lure away a few monsters at a time may be a good idea in such a scenario; it
often indicates a boss pack with a nasty combination of modifiers.

Ravens are more situational, although it's not necessarily a bad idea to have
them out at all times (the issue is that their blinding interferes with the
mercenary's Decrepify). It's generally a good idea to use them when in an area
containing monsters with powerful ranged attacks (such as Gloams, skeleton
archers, Tainted types, and so on), because they will be unable to use those
attacks when blinded. On the other hand, if you forget to summon your Ravens,
you may not notice the lack of them.

As far as actually fighting monsters, things are pretty simple. I've discussed
this before in various places, but the general idea is to get close enough for
the monsters to be in range of Hurricane, and then find a place to stand which
has a good Tornado path (remember, the Tornado path doesn't change as long as
you stay in the same location and don't change the direction you're facing).
It's important to make use of the Shift key for this (by default it's Shift,
but you can change that in the game menu): holding Shift will make your
character stand in place rather than moving when you left-click, if you didn't
already know that. If the monsters move enough that the Tornadoes are no
longer hitting them, try turning or moving around to find a new location that
has a better path.

Tornadoes will pass through monsters and keep moving until they disappear
three seconds after casting, so generally you want to try to hit as many as
possible with each one. Also, if the mercenary has managed to Decrepify some
monsters but not all of them, try to focus on the cursed monsters first, as
they will die much more quickly.

Cold immune monsters generally aren't too difficult to deal with, because you
can still kill them with Tornado. It's unlikely that they will cause much
trouble, although it's worth pointing out that there is less incentive to
remain in close range when fighting them than with ordinary monsters, since
Hurricane will do nothing.

Physical immune monsters are a bit more problematic. Many of them can have
their immunity broken by Decrepify, but after that they will have extremely
high physical resistance and your Tornado will not be very effective against
them. It can still kill them (although if you have too few +skills, you may
encounter problems with regeneration), but it's important to stay in close and
allow Hurricane to hit them. Sometimes, if you notice that Tornado isn't doing
much and they aren't cold immune, it's more effective to switch to Arctic
Blast instead (yes, even with only one point in it) while you're letting
Hurricane do the job. Every little bit helps.

Especially in areas with lots of monsters dealing elemental damage (but that
can happen anywhere, thanks to boss modifiers such as Fire/Cold/Lightning
Enchanted), keep an eye on your Cyclone Armour. If it goes down and you don't
notice it, you'll begin taking damage from attacks you used to shrug off and
it can become more difficult to stay alive (especially if your resistances are
low, or negative). I generally refresh it out of habit every time I have to
resummon one of my pets, or whenever I notice that some of the white swirls
are missing, which indicates that it's taken significant damage (or whenever
it drops, of course, but that goes without saying). It's well worth hotkeying.

D.    DANGEROUS MONSTERS                           {DNGRMONS}

There are several types of monsters that can be dangerous even to a fully
powered, high-level wind druid. This section will bring attention to them,
explain what makes them dangerous, and offer suggestions for handling them.

> Tomb Vipers
  These are located only in the Halls of Vaught (Nihlathak's area). It's well
  known that they have a bugged poison cloud attack, which can do surprisingly
  high damage to characters. Basically, the poison cloud (which actually
  persists invisibly sometimes even after the animation disappears) also deals
  the vipers' physical attack damage every frame while you're in it (although
  it doesn't seem to happen if you're standing still, only if you're moving,
  and especially if you're running). Having a high quantity of integer
  physical damage reduction can help protect a character against it, but wind
  druids generally don't have much if any of that on their equipment. Swapping
  in Nature's Peace rings could help slightly, but I wouldn't recommend
  relying on them as they won't negate the damage entirely, just reduce it.
  There isn't really a good strategy for dealing with these, aside from trying
  to kill them quickly (they don't have much life) and moving slowly, walking
  instead of running; you may have to do it without a mercenary, though,
  because chances are good he'll get himself killed in the clouds.

> Succubi (mainly the physical immune type in Worldstone Keep Level 3)
  Succubi aren't normally a problem: they have very low life compared to most
  other monsters, and Tornado rips through them (however, their ranged Blood
  Star attack does physical damage and can be quite nasty if they get the
  right modifiers, such as Aura Enchanted: Might/Fanaticism/Blessed Aim, Extra
  Strong, etc, since many types of them also cast Amplify Damage). However, in
  the Worldstone Keep (only on level 3), there are a type of Succubi that are
  physical immune, and they can cause serious problems. Hurricane isn't quite
  damaging enough to kill them on its own, although it works if you're patient
  enough; Decrepify can break their immunity, but their resistance will remain
  quite high and Blood Star seems to kill the mercenary fairly quickly because
  he won't be leeching any life. All I can recommend when fighting these is to
  take it slowly, try not to fight too many at a time so you don't get
  overwhelmed, and maybe use Ravens to blind a few of them so that there are
  less projectiles to worry about (although this will make them take longer to
  kill because of its interference with Decrepify).

> Unbreakable physical immunes (especially when also cold immune)
  These can be a problem, although they're fairly scarce. This occurs when a
  naturally physical immune monster becomes a Possessed Champion (which makes
  it immune to curses), or when a monster gains 110% or more physical
  resistance (Decrepify works at 1/5 effectiveness against immunity, so it
  reduces the resistance by 10%; a monster is no longer immune once its
  resistance drops below 100%), which occurs when a monster with innately high
  physical resistance becomes a unique with the Stone Skin modifier (which, in
  addition to boosting the monster's defence, adds 50% physical resistance).
  If the monster has less than 120% physical resistance, it can be broken by
  Amplify Damage, although the only source of charges is The Gavel of Pain
  (which only has 3 of them, so it's less than ideal, in addition to being a
  two-handed weapon with a high strength requirement). Dealing with such
  monsters is difficult, as there isn't much you can do: if they're not cold
  immune, you can use Hurricane and Arctic Blast while the mercenary attacks
  with whatever elemental damage he has (if he's equipped with Lawbringer and
  Treachery, he should be able to deal some fire, cold, and poison). If the
  monster is cold immune, however, you don't have many options; either stand
  around and wait while the mercenary kills it (with Treachery, the poison
  damage should do it eventually, or if it's undead, Sanctuary will let his
  physical damage through also), or park the monster someplace convenient
  and move on. If you use Azurewrath or Lawbringer (or have one as a weapon
  switch), the Sanctuary aura will let your Tornadoes ignore the physical
  resistance of undead, even if they're immune, so keep that in mind. However,
  there's no shame in running from something you can't kill, or from something
  that would take your mercenary fifteen minutes to kill.

> Bone Fetishes ("Dolls")
  These can be found primarily in Act 3, but they also appear in the Throne of
  Destruction (where, frustratingly, they're coloured red and blend in with
  the scenery) and a few other areas in Act 5. When killed, they explode and
  cause large amounts of physical damage to nearby players (but mercenaries
  and pets are immune to it, for some reason). As a wind druid, it's very easy
  to kill a lot of these at once with either Tornado or Hurricane, as they
  don't have a lot of life... they can often come out of a side passage or
  around a corner and surprise you, and it's not hard to kill them without
  noticing they're there. Because the wind druid is a relatively close-range
  fighter, it's easy to misjudge the distance and get caught in the blast. If
  you kill enough of them at once, it's pretty much instant death. All I can
  say about dealing with them is, be cautious in areas that might contain
  them, move slowly; only fight a few at a time if possible, and let your
  mercenary or pets get their attention and keep them away from you if you
  can. Tornado and Hurricane both have a longer range than the dolls' blast
  radius (which is pretty small), so if you're careful you can avoid being hit
  by it most of the time. If you're inattentive, though, these can and will
  kill you.
  
> Scarab Beetles
  These ordinarily aren't too dangerous, but their charged bolts can rip
  through Cyclone Armour pretty quickly (and there will be a lot of those,
  because Tornado usually puts them into hit recovery and causes them to be
  released, and it hits many of the beetles at once; so does Hurricane). If a
  boss pack of beetles has "<Element> Enchanted" modifiers (especially if it
  has more than one), be very careful and refresh Cyclone Armour frequently,
  because those modifiers seem to add significant damage to the bolts.

> Gloams ("Willowisp" monster types)
  These actually aren't as dangerous for a wind druid as they are for nearly
  everything else, thanks to Cyclone Armour. As long as you pay attention to
  it and keep refreshing it when it gets weakened or when it drops, you'll be
  able to comfortably tank their lightning while fighting them. They can still
  be dangerous if they get "<Element> Enchanted" type modifiers, especially
  multiple of them, because the bonus elemental damage gets added to their
  lightning attack and will make your armour run out much more quickly, but
  they're still very manageable as long as you don't get reckless. As long as
  you make good use of Cyclone Armour, you can more or less laugh them off.

E.    EARLYGAME ADVICE                             {ERLYGAME}

The wind druid is a very powerful character at mid and high levels, but he's
very weak initially and that can be off-putting for many players. As discussed
earlier under SKILLPOINTS : SUGGESTED ORDER, it is generally best to avoid
spending more than one point in any skill until Tornado becomes available at
level 24. However, this means that the wind druid will really struggle prior
to this point (and also for a few levels afterward, as it's difficult to
sustain Tornado casting with the amount of mana you have at that level). Once
you get to level 30 and can get Hurricane, though, it's more or less smooth
sailing, as it's extremely powerful early on and will probably do most of the
killing in late Normal and early to mid Nightmare (plus it doesn't require
continuous casting, so it's less of a strain on your mana pool).

Prior to getting Tornado and Hurricane, though, expect to struggle. In the
beginning, expect to play more or less as a melee character without any melee
skills - it's not pleasant, but there's little else you can do. If you have
access to some twinking equipment, you can make this a lot easier; I'll offer
a few suggestions. Cleglaw's set is pretty good, although the sword has a
steep dexterity requirement (if you socket it with a Hel rune and use some
charms and other gear to get a temporary boost, you can get around it). Using
the ring and amulet from the Angelic set once you reach level 12 is probably a
good idea to make it easier to hit things. Sigon's set is another good choice,
as long as you supplement it with a good weapon, although you'll have to pump
strength to be able to equip it. It's hard to recommend specific weapons, but
a lot of the low level uniques will work; see Arreat Summit for a list.

Another option is to use throwing potions (although you'll probably have to
do some meleeing as well, because it's difficult to maintain a supply of them
when you're actively using them). The gas potions especially do good damage
early on; if you put the potions on one weapon switch and a melee weapon on
the other, you can use the potions to soften up enemies before swapping
weapons and bludgeoning them to death. It's worth noting that if you sell an
incomplete stack of throwing potions to a vendor, and then buy them back, you
will end up buying a full stack so it's possible to replenish them.

Yet another option is to use a bow. Many bows have dexterity requirements, so
you have to be careful here - you don't want to invest points you'll regret
later, so stick to bows with dexterity requirements under the final number you
decided on earlier (which I suspect might be base), and use charms or gear as
needed to boost it higher temporarily. There are a few options here, but what
I'd recommend is either using a Long Bow with as many sockets as you can get
(the maximum is 5 sockets, but you can't find one with that many in Normal),
filling them with gems or jewels that will add elemental damage, and using
that until it becomes ineffective. Another option is Raven Claw, the unique
Long Bow - it fires Explosive Arrows, and can be equipped at level 15. It
won't be nearly as good here as it is on a Sorceress with Enchant, but it's a
lot better than nothing. As with melee, it's a good idea to equip the ring and
amulet from the Angelic set for the Attack Rating boost.

By far the best option, though, is something that is often considered cheesy.
Jewels with the suffix "of Envy" (which adds 20 poison damage over 2 seconds)
have no level requirement (assuming they don't have a prefix that raises it),
so if you socket enough items with them, you can get ridiculous poison damage
as compared to the amount of life monsters have at that point in the game. I
generally recommend using a 5 socket Long Bow, 3 socket Breast Plate or Ring
Mail, and a 3 socket Mask, as they have the most sockets and the lowest
requirements (although a good case can be made to use a 4 socket Hunter's Bow,
as it has a faster attack speed; however, it has a dexterity requirement).
This setup will allow you to kill everything in Act 1 (barring some Super
Uniques like the Smith and Andariel) with one or two arrows. Add an Angelic
amulet and two Angelic rings once you reach level 12 if you can; adding
Death's Guard and Death's Hand for attack speed is a good idea too. The "Envy
rig" begins to suffer a bit in Act 2, but it should last you long enough to
get to level 24. You can also combine this idea with one of the others, and
instead of using the Envy bow, use a weapon and shield with Envy gear in the
other slots. Jewels of Envy can be difficult to find, though, but the best way
to find lots of them is to take a character with high Magic Find and
repeatedly clear Act 1 Normal (especially the early areas, Blood Moor, Den of
Evil and Cold Plains specifically).

Also, get a good mercenary. It'll make a huge difference, especially if you
equip him well (I'm thinking of a Town Guard here mainly, the Rogues aren't
as useful in my opinion). Many of the early unique polearms or spears can do
respectable damage, and might come with life leech or other useful modifiers;
try to get him an armour with decent defence and a helmet too (Duskdeep is
great, as it adds 8 maximum damage - amazing for its level).

If you're playing untwinked... well, good luck. It's possible to do, although
it might be difficult to keep up with /players8. Obviously, you'll have to
disregard the above suggestions regarding specific gear, but the suggestions
of melee and/or a bow, supplemented by poison gas potions, should still be the
best approach. You'll probably be spending more time in the shops trying to
find decent items to equip on both yourself and the mercenary.

Regardless of what method you choose, it's going to be a difficult trip. If
you're playing on /players8, you should hit level 24 in late Act 2 or early
Act 3; level 30 by late Act 3 or early Act 4. If you use a lower players
setting, obviously, this will take longer (/players1 will probably lead to
level 30 occurring in early Act 5). Once you get to level 24, you should begin
to transition from melee to full-time casting; stock up on mana potions, start
transitioning to caster-style gear instead of melee-style, and start killing
with Tornado primarily. This is a good time to practice getting the aiming
down, and getting a feel for how the skill behaves - you'll be using it for
the rest of the game, after all. Once you reach level 30, you're more or less
out of the woods - Hurricane is great when you get it and will carry you for
a while (to mid-Nightmare), at which point when you can start equipping some
of your endgame items and you'll be home free.

The early bosses can be quite challenging (Duriel is the hardest, but the
others aren't exactly easy). Duriel will be especially difficult because he's
right at the point where meleeing stops being effective, but it's quite
possible that you might get to him without having Tornado (although ideally
you'll hit level 24 prior to him; try clearing out some of the false tombs if
you need a few levels). You may have to rely on your mercenary a bit, and if
so you'll probably need to heal or revive him/her many times; don't be stingy
with your rejuvenation potions or gold, because this is the point when you'll
need them the most.

There's not much more advice I can give, except this: don't give up. It can be
very frustrating to get through the earlygame with a wind druid, but it gets
better once you're out of Normal.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
VII.  APPENDICES                                   {APPNDICE}
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A.    CRAFTING INFORMATION                         {CRFTINFO}

I've made references to crafted items in many places in this guide, but I have
done so vaguely and left many details regarding them unclear. The purpose of
this section is to correct that mistake; this is intended to serve as a mini-
guide to effectively crafting items (although my focus will be on items for
the purpose of use for a wind druid, it will be easy to adapt the information
to serve other purposes).

Crafted items are created by transmuting a magical item (of a specific type)
in the Horadric Cube along with a specific type of perfect gem, rune, and any
magical jewel (the item type, gem type, and rune type are specified by the
crafting recipe you want to use).

So, how does crafting work? Crafted items receive several fixed properties
(usually three), which depend on the recipe used, and then up to four random
modifiers (like rare or magical items); the number of random modifiers depends
on the item creation level (ilvl) of the output item. An ilvl of 71 or greater
will guarantee that the item receives the maximum number (4) of affixes.

The selection of these properties is random, although there is a small amount
of control that can be had. Every affix has an "affix level" (alvl) associated
with it, which is the minimum ilvl the item must have in order to be eligible
to receive the affix. If there are affixes that you do not want on the item,
you can attempt to restrict the ilvl to be below the alvl of the undesirable
affix (although this may not always be convenient to do). Likewise, if there
is an affix that you do want on the item, you should try to ensure that the
ilvl is at or above the threshold set by the alvl of the affix you want.

The ilvl of a crafted item is determined with this formula:

floor(0.5*ilvl) + floor(0.5*clvl)

where ilvl here is the ilvl of the input item (which has to be magical), and
clvl is the level of your character. By "floor", I'm referring to the floor
function, or in simpler terms, rounding down to the nearest integer.

Determining the ilvl of the input item can be difficult. If you use an item
management utility like ATMA or GoMule (see the resources section), you can
determine the ilvl directly by examining it in that program; if not, you'll
have to work it out based on first principles.

The ilvl is determined by the source of the item. If it was dropped by a
monster, the ilvl will be the monster's level (or mlvl). The mlvl can be found
on Arreat Summit for monsters in Normal, while in Nightmare and Hell it's
determined by the area level of the area in which you found the monster. I
don't have a list of the area levels available, but the information is out
there. Note that there is a bonus of +2 to the mlvl of Champions, and +3 to
Uniques and their minions. Super Uniques have set mlvls; some commonly run
bosses are as follows: Hell Diablo drops ilvl 94, Nihlathak drops ilvl 95,
and Baal drops ilvl 99.

If the item was bought from a vendor ("shopped"), NOT gambled from a vendor
("gambled"), its ilvl will be equal to your character's level plus 5. If it
was purchased during a multiplayer game, the ilvl will be determined by the
clvl of the FIRST character to talk to a vendor in town (the vendors will all
be reset once every character leaves town, and then the ilvl will be
redetermined when another character speaks to a vendor; as long as there is at
least one character in town, the vendors' inventories will remain constant).

If the item was gambled, its ilvl will be randomly selected from the range
clvl - 5 to clvl + 4, where clvl is your character's level.

Okay, enough digression about determining ilvls. Now you know roughly how to
figure out what ilvl you're going to get out of the craft; now we need to find
the target ilvl that we want.

To do this, we need the affix levels of everything we want on the item... but
there's an easier way. This affix calculator does all of the hard work for us:

http://diablo3.ingame.de/spiel/expansion/itemdb/affix_index.php?lang=en
&version=lod&patch=111

Just choose the item class you want to see affixes for, click "Show Affixes",
then on the next page you can enter an ilvl (the default setting is all) and
it will show all of the affixes that are eligible at or below that ilvl. If
you look at the list of all affixes, it also displays the alvl associated with
each, so you can use this easily to figure out what's available and what ilvl
of output item you're going to want.

Furthermore, the calculator also provides information as to the frequency with
which each affix is selected; this will allow you to calculate a rough
probability of how likely you are to get something close to what you want.
It's difficult to find the probability with very good accuracy, though,
because there are so many variables involved.

On to specifics. I've mentioned several recipes as desirable for wind druids,
so I'm going to focus on those here. They are (courteous of Arreat Summit):

> Caster Amulet
  Ingredients: Magical Amulet
               + Ral rune + Perfect Amethyst + Any jewel
  Preset modifiers:
    5-10% Faster Cast Rate
    Regenerate Mana 4-10%
    +10-20 to Mana

> Caster Belt
  Ingredients: Magical Light Belt/Sharkskin Belt/Vampirefang Belt
               + Ith rune + Perfect Amethyst + Any jewel
  Preset modifiers:
    5-10% Faster Cast rate
    Regenerate Mana 4-10%
    +10-20 to Mana

> Caster Boots
  Ingredients: Magical Boots/Demonhide Boots/Wyrmhide Boots
               + Thul rune + Perfect Amethyst + Any jewel
  Preset modifiers:
    Increase Maximum Mana 2-5%
    Regenerate Mana 4-10%
    +10-20 to Mana

> Caster Gloves
  Ingredients: Magical Leather Gloves/Demonhide Gloves/Bramble Mitts
               + Ort rune + Perfect Amethyst + Any jewel
  Preset modifiers:
    +1-3 Mana after each Kill
    Regenerate Mana 4-10%
    +10-20 to Mana

For amulets, the desired output ilvl is 90 or higher, in order to enable the
+2 class skills affixes to spawn. In order to facilitate this, the ideal is to
gamble and craft with a character of level 93 or higher, which guarantees
every amulet attempt will be eligible. The lower the level of your crafting
character, the more the chances of getting an eligible amulet will decrease
(although, again, if you use ATMA or GoMule, you can check the ilvls with it
and discard ineligible amulets without wasting crafting materials). A level 88
character is the lowest possible that can still obtain eligible amulets,
although only 1 in 10 gambled amulets will be such. Of course, lower ilvl
amulets can still get +1 to class skills or +2 to tree skills, so it's not a
total loss if you are unable to craft with a high enough level character.

If you are crafting for other slots, it really depends what affixes you want.
Generally, I find that any ilvl high enough to guarantee four affixes (i.e.,
71 or higher) is more than sufficient, as there are less high alvl affixes
that are desirable on belts, boots, or gloves. All I can say is, play with the
affix calculator and figure out what ilvl you like.

Generally the most popular crafting recipes are: Caster amulets, Blood gloves,
Blood belts, Hitpower gloves (for Bowazons), Caster belts, and to a lesser
extent Blood rings, Blood boots, and Safety amulets. Look at the preset
modifiers, and see if it looks like something you'd like if you could add four
random affixes to it.

It's worth mentioning that crafted gloves can get +skills as one of the random
affixes, although only +1-2 to each of the following trees can appear:
Amazon Javelin & Spear, Amazon Bow & Crossbow, Amazon Passive & Magic, and
Assassin Martial Arts. Blood gloves are popular for this, as well as for the
fact that they come with Crushing Blow and life leech, and can get among other
things mana leech and IAS.

Blood belts are useful for the Open Wounds, Hitpower gloves for the Knockback,
Caster belts for FCR, Blood rings for life leech, Blood boots for life leech,
and Safety amulets for increased chance to block. I mention these only because
they're generally the most popular recipes after Caster amulets and Blood
gloves, which are generally considered the best crafting recipes and are the
most widely used. Most of these items have little application to wind druids.

B.    SOME NOTES ON HIGH RUNES                     {HIGHRUNE}

Ah, high runes. They're a very commonly discussed subject, and can be
controversial at times, so I thought it was worth including a section here to
offer some information about them (especially since I've mentioned them in
several portions of the guide). It is commonly abbreviated "HR".

The definition of the term "high rune" isn't all that clear - generally, it
refers to any rune that cannot be obtained through the Hellforge quest, which
would be Vex, Ohm, Lo, Sur, Ber, Jah, Cham, and Zod. This is how I generally
use the term, although I sometimes exclude Vex.

However, on Battle.net, the term "high rune" or "HR" is generally used more
to refer to runes of a certain trading value, and therefore the list sometimes
is altered to reflect current trading preferences. This differs depending on
whom you're talking to, but it can sometimes also include Ist, Mal, Um, and
possibly Gul (although less likely), and it may exclude Sur, Cham, and Zod, as
they generally have fewer uses. Because this is so variable, and reflects
trading value rather than the actual difficulty of finding them ingame, I will
generally ignore this definition and focus on the previous one; I mention this
only to explain how the term is commonly used elsewhere.

Firstly, some notes about the Hellforge quest. In Normal, it drops runes from
El to Amn; in Nightmare, from Sol to Um; in Hell, from Hel to Gul. The chance
of obtaining any given rune in each difficulty is the same, 1 in 11. On
average, for each 11 characters completing the Hellforge quest in a given
difficulty level, you should expect to receive one of each potential rune
(though in practice, of course, this rarely occurs; remember we are discussing
probabilities here).

Many players use the Hellforge quest as a method to attempt to obtain runes,
generally to attempt to use the cube recipes to upgrade to high runes, but
also to obtain quantities of mid-level runes. This is usually done by creating
many characters and using a high level character to rush them through the
quests in a multiplayer game (either on Battle.net, or through TCP/IP games;
it is also possible to do this with a single computer if you use a utility
that allows you to run multiple instances, although attempting to do so on
Battle.net can get your account banned).

Here is a link to some analysis that shows how many Hellforge quests it
generally takes to obtain high runes, and also to obtain many runewords that
contain high runes. It's worth a look to put things into perspective.

http://www.theamazonbasin.com/d2/forums/index.php?showtopic=78314

Alternatively, many players hunt runes in Lower Kurast, thanks to a bugged
type of chest there that offers a much higher chance of obtaining high runes
than normal. This is a popular method of search in diii.net's Single Player
community.

The chests are located in oblong huts near the large campfires (they have a
distinctive appearance; it's a campfire surrounded by a circle of slim, tall
torches). Each campfire should have one hut to its northeast and one hut to
its southwest; the northeast hut contains a single "super chest" and the
southwest one contains two of them. There will be either one or two such
campfires in a given Lower Kurast map, so a given map will contain either
three or six chests.

The most popular players settings to run this on are 3-4 and 7-8 (3 and 4 have
the same drop patterns, as do 7 and 8). There is a 1/65536 chance of obtaining
each of the following runes: Lo, Sur, and Ber on /players3 or /players4, and
Vex, Sur, or Ber on /players7 or /players8 (there are other possible drops,
obviously, including mid-level runes, but these are generally the noteworthy
ones). My preference leans toward /players8 for doing these runs, because it
yields more finds in other item types (gems, charms, and rare/unique items),
but I believe /players3 is more popular for rune purposes.

A word of caution: it can take a lot of these runs to find such runes, and of
course this is rather dependent on luck; I've done many runs, and have yet to
find a high rune in any of them. It's quite possible to do thousands of runs
and not see any high runes; the probability may be much higher than that of
finding such a rune elsewhere, but that doesn't mean it's a high probability.

Basically, what I'm trying to get at here is that high runes are very
difficult to obtain. Their drop rates are so low that it is extremely unlikely
that you will see one, and attempting to cube to one is a daunting task that
will take a long time and lots of work, as is Lower Kurast running. It's
generally a matter of luck as to whether or not you see them.

On the other hand, high runes are frequently traded on Battle.net (both on
Ladder and on non-Ladder), to the point where many if not most players
consider them a form of currency. The discrepancy may be due to duplication
(or "duping" as it is frequently called); as a result, many runes obtained
through trading may be prone to spontaneously disappearing, or "poofing" in
common parlance, due to Blizzard's anti-cheating measures (although from what
I have heard, these measures are not very thorough). I do not know much about
duplication, nor do I want to know about it. Trade for duplicated runes at
your own risk.

So why all of this discussion about high runes? Primarily it's to put things
into perspective: many players like to suggest using lots of them when giving
build advice, without taking into account the difficulty of obtaining them (or
with the expectation that the player will avail him/herself of the results of
duplication online, or use a cheat program in Single Player). I cannot stress
this enough: high runes are NOT necessary in order to make a competent
character, and you do NOT need them to stand a chance of completing Hell
difficulty! I have made many suggestions for item choices in the appropriate
section above, and while high runes do make an appearance, you will notice
that the items using them are never my top choice and I provide plenty of more
reasonable alternatives to them. I also left out a popular choice in the
socketing section (Ber runes for physical resistance) intentionally, because
I believe it's a foolish and wasteful use of those runes even if one has them.

Will having high runes make your character better? Yes, I cannot deny that, if
you use them properly they will offer you significant benefit. Does the
improvement given by high runes warrant the level of difficulty and work
required to obtain them? My answer to that is a resounding NO. If you doubt my
qualifications to comment on this, allow me to mention that I have found and
cubed several high runes throughout my Diablo II career; I have used them, and
I find they generally aren't worth the time investment.

C.    THE STRENGTH BUG                             {STRENBUG}

This may not be of concern to many players, but it's well worth knowing about,
as it can cause serious problems. Many people seem to be unaware of the
implications of this bug, and it's always bothered me that there seems to be
so little concern about it.

The bug actually occurs with both strength and dexterity, as it pertains to
item requirements, but I call it "the strength bug" for convenience and will,
for shorthand purposes, discuss strength primarily. Anything I say here
concerning "strength", "strength requirements", "+strength from charms", etc
should be understood as applying to dexterity as well.

This bug occurs when a piece of equipment (usually something with a high
strength requirement) is equipped by a character without enough strength from
hard points and other equipped items to meet its requirements. The key here is
that in order to avoid the bug, the character must have enough strength from
hard points and OTHER EQUIPPED items, and cannot include strength bonuses from
the item in question itself, or from charms in the inventory. If charms are
used to support an item, or if the item is supporting itself (which can occur
if an item has an innate strength bonus, and was equipped while some other
item was providing a bonus to strength enough to meet its requirements, and
the second item was later removed), the bug will result.

So what is the strength bug? If an item is supported in such a way as to cause
it, what happens is that the game will only sometimes recognize that the
character is equipping the item. To the player controlling that character, all
will seem normal, but in multiplayer games other players will see the
character as if the item were not equipped.

That may seem insignificant, and most players tend to think of it as such.
What's the harm, you might be asking? Isn't it just an aesthetic issue? Why
should it matter if other players don't see my character looking the same way
as I do?

Here's why. Aside from changing the character's appearance, certain items can
have an effect on the character's animations. This is a problem with any item
that has a speed-altering statistic (IAS, FCR, FRW, FHR, FBR) or which will
change the animation used for an attack (weapons, for instance, have a
different attack animation than the unarmed punch). What will happen in this
case if such an item is strength-bugged is that the animation will play for
you at the correct speed, but will be displayed to other players at the speed
with which it would have occurred if you lacked the strength-bugged item.

This can and will cause substantial desynchronization problems, as the two
game clients will receive very different information regarding the character's
actions. It can also interfere with where the game thinks the monsters are,
because they may (for instance) have been put into hit recovery by an attack
that the other player's client doesn't see because it thinks your attack speed
is slower than it is, so on their screen the monster will continue moving and
all of a sudden their game has lost track of the monster and displays it in
the wrong location.

Likewise, if, for instance, an item provides FRW and is strength-bugged, the
character's movement speed will be reported differently to both players. Any
information the other player receives regarding your position will be
incorrect, and monsters' reactions and positions will be displayed differently
to both players, which will make it much more difficult to tell what's going
on (everybody will be seeing something different, and all of the information
will most likely be wrong).

It's easy to see why this causes problems. The end result is that it makes the
information displayed to other players about the game status unreliable:
monsters may not be where the game is displaying them; monsters may be present
where the game says there is nothing; projectiles may not be where the game
tbinks they are, and so on. Being attacked by invisible monsters and being
unable to harm anything because the monsters you're targeting aren't actually
there is very frustrating, and can easily get players killed.

This doesn't just affect the other players, in case you think you can do it
and get away with being selfish; once the other players start receiving
incorrect information as to where you and the monsters are located, their
actions will be affected accordingly, which can then be reported incorrectly
to you and cause further desynchronization. There is a profound snowball
effect involved.

The long and short of this is: it is unadvisable to strength-bug items when
playing in multiplayer games. I strongly recommend trying to avoid doing this
whenever possible if there is the slightest chance that the character will be
participating in multiplayer games or interacting with other characters in any
way whatsoever. While this may require slightly overinvesting in strength (or
dexterity, as remember, dexterity requirements suffer the same problem) in
order to safely equip the items you want to use, I find that much more
palatable than the alternative. It's just polite not to risk your friends'
lives, isn't it?

D.    MISCELLANEOUS RESOURCES                      {MISCRESC}

There are many resources well worth consulting for Diablo II information. I
consulted several in the writing of this guide, and while substantial
information has been reproduced here, I thought it best to provide links to
many useful tools for further use as well.

> Arreat Summit:

http://classic.battle.net/diablo2exp/

This is an obvious one, a Blizzard-approved compendium of information. Sadly,
not everything there is correct, but there's still a lot of useful information
to be had (the item databases especially are very convenient).

> Librarian's FAQtoids:

http://www.mannm.org/d2library/faqtoids/faqtoids_eng.html

An amazing compilation of useful tables and data, as well as descriptions of a
lot of common bugs and issues. There's tons of information there, and I
consult it frequently.

> Affix Calculator

http://diablo3.ingame.de/spiel/expansion/itemdb/affix_index.php?lang=en
&version=lod&patch=111

As previously mentioned when discussing crafting, this is an excellent tool to
use when trying to figure out what properties an item can and cannot have.
It's helpful when considering gambling also, so you can decide at what
character level it starts to be worth your money.

> Attack Speed Calculators

http://diablo3.ingame.de/tips/calcs/speedcalc_titanseal/speedcalc_english.php
http://diablo3.ingame.de/tips/calcs/weaponspeed.php?lang=english

Useful for determining breakpoints for attack speed. The first link (which is
TitanSeal's calculator) is more accurate for wereform druids and other
characters when shapeshifted, but it seems to be off for mercenaries. The
second calculator linked has the correct breakpoints for mercenaries, but is
less accurate for wereforms.

> Skill Damage Calculator

http://diablo3.ingame.de/spiel/skills/calc/index.php?lang=en

There are others, but this one's convenient.

> ATMA and GoMule

http://atma.diabloii.net/
http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=194865&package_id=229852

Single Player item-management applications. They also contain useful drop
calculators, in case you want to figure out the best place to search for a
given item. Among other things, they allow you to move items between
characters and create "stash files" for external storage (both programs are
compatible with the same stash file format).

> Runeword Mod and Red Rune Mod

http://www.d2offline.info/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=334

Runeword Mod is a modification that makes the Ladder runewords accessible in
Single Player; Red Rune Mod makes runes' names appear red ingame to make them
easier to see. The original site that used to host them is down, so we've
mirrored them at d2offline.

> PlugY

http://phrozenkeep.hugelaser.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=133&t=53027
http://djaftal.chez-alice.fr/

A modification that allows you to fight Diablo Clone and experience the "Chaos
Tristram"/"Uber Tristram" quest in Single Player. However, it also offers
other features that can be used for cheating purposes, so use with caution.
PlugY version 9.00 is fully compatible with Diablo II: Lord of Destruction
version 1.12.

> Blizzard's FTP for downloading patches

http://ftp.blizzard.com/pub/diablo2exp/patches/

Here you can find any patches for Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, if for some
reason you need to download them.

> The Amazon Basin Diablo II Forums

http://www.theamazonbasin.com/d2/forums/

A great place to discuss all things Diablo II. There's lots of information
available in the archives and in older topics there as well.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
VIII. CLOSING REMARKS                              {CLOSRMKS}
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A.    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS                   {FREQQUES}

Questions on various subjects, from myself to the guide to wind druids, etc.
Feel free to add your own.

Q: Are you from England?
A: No, but I'm asked this frequently. I'm actually from the eastern United
   States, but I prefer to use British spellings and have a mild accent,
   despite the fact that neither I nor my family are of British descent, nor
   have we spent any time in the UK.

Q: Why do you use the name Explopyro online?
A: It's a long story. When I was younger I wanted to write a story about an
   imaginary society that discovered explosives before the wheel, and the
   strange way in which they developed; I needed a name for their chief god,
   and Explopyro was what I eventually decided on. I never finished the story,
   having only written a lengthy prologue, but I'd already started using the
   name as my handle online, so I kept doing so. I use it more out of force of
   habit than anything else these days, as I don't really like it that much in
   all honesty.

Q: Tell me about yourself.
A: That isn't a question... but okay. At the time of this writing, I'm 20
   years old, currently a university student, and living in the eastern United
   States. That's all I'll disclose here.

Q: Why don't you play on Battle.net?
Q: Why do you play Single Player?
A: There are a lot of reasons for that, but discussing this subject generally
   causes flame wars on the boards, so I'd really rather not.

Q: Why is this guide so long?
A: I wanted to be thorough; I tried to include everything that I thought may
   be relevant. More to the point, I started writing this guide and realized
   that I have a lot to say on the subject, so I decided it was best to say
   it all. I'm of the opinion that more information is always better.

Q: Why did you write this guide?
A: I've been dissatisfied with the quality of most Diablo II guides for a long
   time now, and for a while I'd been thinking about writing my own in order
   to attempt to fill the void. The wind druid was an obvious place to start,
   because it's one of my favourite character builds and I have a lot of
   experience with it, and therefore I have a lot to say on the matter. I may
   consider writing more guides in the future; there are a few other builds
   that I would definitely consider doing one for, although I doubt I would be
   able to reach the same level of detail.

Q: If you play Single Player, you can use Hero Editor.
A: That's not a question... but yes, you can. You can also choose to buy a gun
   on the street and rob a bank, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you
   should. I'm strongly of the opinion that games are more fun when played
   without cheating, and therefore I disapprove of the use of Hero Editor in
   Diablo II (and for the record, I have tried it before. I prefer legitimate
   play, and I can say that having experienced the alternative). As such, I
   will offer no further comment regarding its use; if you want to do so,
   I can't stop you, but if you do, don't play multiplayer or trade with me or
   ask me for advice.

Q: Why did you leave out <X>?
A: I'm not perfect, and I may have overlooked something. If you think I left
   something out, please feel free to send me an email. If I think your
   addition is warranted, I will add it to a future version of this guide and
   give you due credit in the acknowledgments section.

Q: What is the ideal equipment?
A: It really depends on your needs. I don't think this is a question worth
   answering, for the most part. Just make sensible choices, stop worrying
   about what is "ideal", and get back to playing the game instead.

Q: You used an abbreviation I didn't understand. What does it mean?
A: I hope it's clear from the writing what every abbreviation stands for; I've
   tried to use the full term at least once before using any abbreviations for
   it. If something is unclear, please send me an email and I'll explain it,
   and I'll also try to rewrite that section to make it more clear what the
   abbreviation stands for.

Q: What are those goofy words in curly brackets next to the section headers?
A: Those are intended to be used as search codes, for easy navigation of the
   guide with Ctrl-F. Each code is only located in two places: in the table of
   contents, and at the beginning of the section it's associated with. Use
   Ctrl-F once to go to the section, then use it again to be taken back to the
   table of contents.

Q: Why didn't you include the exact stats of items?
A: That information is readily available on Arreat Summit, so I didn't think
   it was worth bloating this guide further by including them; it's long
   enough as it is. I'm assuming the reader has at least a passing familiarity
   with Diablo II, and therefore I assume a moderate level of familiarity with
   the items. If you don't know what an item does, it's easy to look it up.
   Also, I've noticed that many guides are nothing more than a glorified list
   of items, with the majority of the space taken up by items' stats; I wanted
   to do something different.

Q: For multiplayer cooperative purposes, what character makes the best partner
   for a wind druid?
A: I'd have to say probably a summoning necromancer. His skeletons will be
   much harder to kill thanks to the druid's Oak Sage, and he will probably be
   casting either Decrepify or Amplify Damage, both of which will greatly
   benefit the druid. The druid will be able to kill monsters easily and
   provide a steady supply of bodies for the necromancer to use, either for
   replacing dead minions or for Corpse Explosion purposes. Both of these
   characters are very strong on their own, and both are capable of completing
   the game solo on /players8, but they would be nigh unstoppable together.

Q: How will wind druids be affected by the upcoming 1.13 patch?
A: I don't know, and neither does anybody else. We'll find out when the patch
   is released, and almost certainly not a day before.

Q: I have a question you didn't answer here. Will you answer it?
A: Send me an email, and I'll respond as soon as I can. If I think others will
   benefit from the answer to your question as well, I'll add it to a future
   version of the guide.

Q: How can I contact you?
A: My email address is explopyro[at]verizon[dot]net. Send me an email with a
   descriptive subject line (it's probably a good idea to mention Diablo II
   and wind druids in it), and I will reply as soon as I can. Please use
   proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation when contacting me, however; it
   peeves me to no end when people do not.

B.    LEGAL & COPYRIGHT INFORMATION                {LGL&CPRT}

This document is copyright (C) 2009 to Mitchell C. Bender (alias Explopyro),
and may only be displayed online by sites which have the express permission
of the author. If you see this somewhere and suspect that that is not the
case, please contact the author immediately.

Users have the author's permission to make digital or print copies of this
document for their own personal use only. This document may not be reproduced
or distributed for profit.

The author can be contacted by email at explopyro[at]verizon[dot]net. Please
feel free to send email with questions, constructive criticism, or comments
regarding the guide. Please do not send spam, flaming messages, et cetera.

C.    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS                              {TNKSCRED}

While this guide was written by one person, it would never have been possible
without substantial prior work having been done by others, in addition to the
assistance and support of many during its writing.

Special thanks go to:

rking, Lucas, Kel, Ras Algethi, and everybody else at the d2offline forums for
the inspiration to write this guide, and for their critique and support.

onderduiker, T-Hawk, and all of the other dedicated testers at the Amazon
Basin forums whose hard work helped to determine many strange details of how
this game behaves. Thanks to them, this guide is much more complete.

The DiabloII.net Single Player Forum community (now diii.net), for their
diligent testing of Lower Kurast and other "super chest" locations.

Previous guide authors at various sites (too many to count or to remember),
whose work I may at times have consulted for information; also, special thanks
to the authors of subpar guides, without which I would never have been
inspired to write this one.

Blizzard, Blizzard North, and the team responsible for creating Diablo II.
It's more than ten years later, and people are still avidly playing the game
they created, so they must have done something right.

And last, but certainly not least, to you, the reader, for trudging through
my long-winded blatherings. Hopefully you found them to be of some use.