hide results

    1.12 Wind Druid Guide by Explopyro

    Version: 1.03 | Updated: 08/14/09 | Printable Version | Search This Guide

    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.