Armageddon Wolf Druid Guide v1.04
"It's a bird, it's a wolf... it's raining fire!"

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

by Explopyro

Version History:

v1.04 (11 March 2010) - Added section (IV)(F), fixed an omission in (VI)(B).
v1.03 (09 March 2010) - Fixed a few more omissions; thanks, rking.
v1.02 (09 March 2010) - Fixed a few more omissions.
v1.01 (06 March 2010) - Fixed a few minor errata and omissions.
v1.00 (01 March 2010) - Initial draft.

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0.    TABLE OF CONTENTS                            {TBLCTNTS}
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I.    INTRODUCTION/OVERVIEW                        {INTR/OVR}
      A.    PURPOSE OF THIS GUIDE                  {GUIDPURP}
      B.    WHAT IS AN ARMAGEDDON WOLF DRUID?      {WHATISIT}
      C.    WHY TO PLAY IT                         {WHYPLAY?}
II.   SKILLPOINTS                                  {SKILPNTS}
      A.    CORE DISTRIBUTION                      {COREDSTN}
      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.    OBEDIENCE VS. EARTH SHIFTER            {OBEDERTH}
V.    MERCENARY SELECTION                          {MERCENRY}
      A.    OVERVIEW                               {MERCOVRV}
      B.    EQUIPMENT                              {MERCEQUP}
VI.   PLAY STRATEGIES & SKILL BEHAVIOUR            {STRTBHVR}
      A.    SKILL NOTES                            {SKILNOTE}
      B.    GENERAL PLAY STRATEGIES                {GENSTRAT}
      C.    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}

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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 Armageddon Werewolf Druid
build and provide detailed advice for anyone intending to play it. This is an
interesting variant build and is not seen very often, but it's surprisingly
effective and very enjoyable to play. However, please be forewarned: this is a
very item-dependent character and is not easy to make. In addition, for those
familiar with my earlier work, this guide will not be nearly as open-ended as
my previous one, as this build is much less flexible itemwise.

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, and I
will completely discount PvP (Player versus Player) play. I do not engage in
PvP play and, therefore, have no experience and can give no advice regarding
it; look elsewhere if you are seeking such information. However, I can say
with no reservation that this build will not work well against players.

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 AN ARMAGEDDON WEREWOLF DRUID?        {WHATISIT}

An Armageddon Werewolf Druid, as the name implies, is a hybrid Druid build
focusing primarily on Armageddon and melee combat while in Werewolf form,
usually using Fury.

This build began as something of a thought-experiment. It began with
consideration of the unique hammer Earth Shifter and how best to make use of
all of the modifiers it carries: it's one of the most powerful physical melee
weapons in the game, yet it also gives a massive boost to Elemental skills, as
well as having a chance to cast Fissure. That's a rather eclectic set of
modifiers, but supposing we want to make use of all of them on the same
character... well, it'll have to be a Druid, and it will need to be capable of
both physical combat and make use of Elemental skills in some way.

All of this leads naturally to a build relying on Armageddon: it's the only
Elemental skill that can be cast while shapeshifted, and we're going to want
to shapeshift in order to get the best damage output from the weapon.
Furthermore, Armageddon is a skill that complements melee well, since its
effect is centred on the Druid and being in melee range maximises the chance
of monsters being hit by the fireballs it drops. Using Armageddon also allows
us to maximise the effectiveness of the Fissure proc, since they share
synergies. Even better, Werewolf druids can get effective physical damage
without heavy skill point investment, so there will be plenty of points
available to spend in the Elemental tree.

Although this build is a melee/spellcaster hybrid, it plays primarily like a
melee fighter because of the way Armageddon works (it is a passive effect
which works while you do something else).

Armageddon Werewolf Druids are frequently something of a glass-cannon build:
they are rather fragile and often die easily, but they hit very hard with both
physical and fire damage. As a result, they can be challenging to play well.

As previously mentioned, this build was primarily designed around Earth
Shifter, and therefore it will not behave optimally without that weapon
(although it is by no means impossible to make one without it). This guide
will attempt to address both situations, although the primary focus will be
on the Earth Shifter version.

C.    WHY PLAY ONE OF THESE?                       {WHYPLAY?}

I'll 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 immunities are rarely a problem.
> Very high damage for both physical and fire.
> Challenging but interesting to play; you'll be more than capable of getting
  through Hell, but it's not a mindless build and feels quite rewarding to
  complete.
> Extremely flashy and fun to watch in action; if you like special effects,
  this might be the build for you.
> These aren't a common build, so you'll get plenty of style points.
> If you have an Earth Shifter, what else are you going to do with it?

Disadvantages:
> Fragile. You'll be a glass cannon, so I don't advise doing this in Hardcore,
  and I'd recommend stocking up on Full Rejuvenation Potions.
> This build takes a long time to get going. You probably won't reach full
  capacity until the beginning of Hell at the earliest.
> There aren't enough skill points to fully maximise all of your skills, so
  it's necessary to make trade-offs.
> Item-dependent. This character doesn't function well without several rare
  and difficult-to-obtain items, including but not limited to Earth Shifter.
> There are still some monsters you can't kill (fire/physical immunity is not
  unheard of).
> Did I mention it's fragile?

I'm sure there are more, but I won't belabour the point too much. There are
advantages and disadvantages to everything.

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II.   SKILLPOINTS                                  {SKILPNTS}
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A.    CORE DISTRIBUTION                            {COREDSTN}

There are a lot of options here, but the core is fairly standard, so I'll try
to keep things straightforward.

Elemental Tree:
20 points in Firestorm                      (synergy)
1+ points in Molten Boulder                 (synergy)
1+ points in Fissure                        (prerequisite, synergy)
20 points in Volcano                        (synergy)
20 points in Armageddon                     (primary killing skill)
1 point in Arctic Blast                     (prerequisite)
1 point in Cyclone Armour                   (prerequisite)
1 point in Twister                          (prerequisite)
1 point in Tornado                          (prerequisite)
1 point in Hurricane                        (prerequisite)

Shapeshifting Tree:
1+ points in Werewolf                       (primary wereform skill)
1+ points in Lycanthropy                    (passive bonus)
1 point in Feral Rage                       (prerequisite, utility skill)
1+ points in Fury                           (primary killing skill)

B.    RATIONALE AND DISCUSSION                     {RTNLDSCN}

The core distribution above should be somewhat obvious given the build
description. However, I'll discuss it in more detail below.

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.

Firstly, the core distribution:

As you will no doubt know if you've made spellcasters before, spell damage is
largely dependent on skill level and synergies. As such, if we want Armageddon
to be useful (and what would an Armageddon Werewolf be without it?), it will
need 20 hard points as well as a substantial number of points in synergies.
That is non-negotiable. The question is: which synergies should we choose?

There is a natural answer if we plan to use the Earth Shifter. That hammer
comes with a substantial chance to cast Fissure on striking, so if we're going
to use it, it makes the most sense to choose the synergies that benefit
Fissure as well as Armageddon. As long as we'll be making some use of Fissure,
we may as well make it as strong as we can. Therefore, the synergies to invest
in first are Firestorm and Volcano.

We will also need 1 point in all of the prerequisite skills, of which
Armageddon has many (unfortunately).

From there, we'll also need at least 1 point in all of the Shapeshifting
skills we plan to use. Fury seems to function reasonably well without too many
points, so it's safe to avoid investing too many there; the same is true for
the most part of Werewolf and Lycanthropy. Feral Rage gets 1 point as a
prerequisite for Fury, although it's also useful for utility if your gear has
insufficient life leech.

The core distribution as outlined above consumes 71 points. That leaves us 24
more points to distribute by endgame. There are several considerations as to
where they should go; those 24 points aren't enough to fully maximize all of
the skills we'd ideally want (nor, in fact, would be the 39 points total we'd
have remaining if we somehow reached level 99).

Option 1: Further Synergise Armageddon

With just the core, Molten Boulder and Fissure have both been left at 1 point.
Molten Boulder is another damage synergy for Armageddon, and will offer a very
significant damage improvement if we put more points in it.

Fissure will add more duration to Armageddon, but it's not nearly as important
(the duration of Armageddon is 10 seconds + 2 seconds per level of Fissure, so
it will start at 12 seconds with the core build). 12 seconds is plenty - it's
actually surprisingly long, and you'll quickly get used to recasting it as
necessary (as long as you keep it bound to your right mouse button you'll be
fine, and there's little reason not to since you can't cast much else while in
werewolf form).

My recommendation: After dealing with all of the other considerations, all the
points you still have left to spend should go into Molten Boulder.

Option 2: Improve Fury

At just 1 point, Fury isn't all that impressive (although with a good weapon,
it's still effective). Adding more points to Fury will improve your Attack
Rating, which is important if you want to hit things, as well as your damage.
It's also important to make sure you get at least slvl 4, so that you'll be
guaranteed 5 hits.

My recommendation: 5-10 points here is probably a good idea to improve your
melee damage. At the very least, be sure you get 5 hits.

Option 3: Improve your Shapeshifting Passives

Points in Lycanthropy will improve your life, as well as extend the duration
of your shapeshifting (which is convenient but not necessary).

Points in Werewolf improve your Attack Rating as well as affecting your attack
speed. It's important to make sure you hit the fastest speed breakpoint you
can. Consult TitanSeal's Attack Speed Calculator:

http://diablo3.ingame.de/tips/calcs/speedcalc_titanseal/speedcalc_english.php

My recommendation: After dealing with attack speed considerations, if you feel
like you need a bit more life or AR, add a few points, but it probably isn't
worth putting more than 5 hard points in either.

Option 4: Add Summoning Skills

Depending on your play style, you may find it useful to invest a few points in
getting a weak Oak Sage, Heart of Wolverine, or possibly Grizzly. The vines
probably aren't worth it, although Carrion Vine is a possibility as well.

Don't expect too much here, though. You probably won't have enough points to
take full advantage of any of these skills unless you cripple yourself
elsewhere (for instance, while Grizzly works well at 1 point for a Wind Druid,
that's due in large part to the fact that he'll have a maxed Oak Sage and tons
of +skills to boost both of them. An Armageddon Wolf's pets are likely to be
fragile and, as such, much less useful).

My recommendation: Possibly 1 point in Oak Sage, or maybe 1 point in Grizzly,
but most likely I'd skip them.

Overall recommendations:

After completing the core of the build, I'd give priority to making sure that
Fury is reasonably effective, then consider Werewolf and Lycanthropy, then put
the rest of the points into Molten Boulder.

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.

Early on, you're likely to want to focus on Firestorm. Don't worry too much
about saving points, although you'll probably want to save a few so that you
can put 1 point in each skill you'll be using as it becomes available. At this
point in the game, you'll probably be killing with a combination of Firestorm
and melee (whether in Werewolf form or otherwise). Fissure will also be a
useful skill to use, since it will be synergised by Firestorm.

You can switch your focus from Firestorm to Volcano once it becomes available,
if you want to, although it won't make too much of a difference. Once you hit
level 30 or 31, Armageddon will become available and you should invest all
further points into it until it's maxed. From there, you can either finish
maximising Firestorm and Volcano, or else stop to invest a few in Fury before
going back to do so.

From there, it's up to you - after the core is finished, the order in which
you invest points will largely depend on the individual skills you've chosen.

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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 want to use. Earth Shifter requires
  253 strength to equip, and it's unlikely you'll want to socket it with
  anything other than a Shael, so you're going to need a lot of this if you're
  using that weapon... this is one of the major reasons this build ends up
  being so fragile.
  Strength also increases your melee damage (you get 1.1% additional skill ED%
  for each point of Strength with a maul; the numbers are slightly different
  for other weapon types), so those points are not completely wasted.
  Remember to be wary of the strength bug (see Appendix).

Dexterity:
  Because you'll be using a two-handed weapon, you aren't going to have a
  shield with which to block. Also, Earth Shifter has no Dexterity
  requirement. Therefore, the only reason at all to invest in Dexterity is
  Attack Rating. It's probably not worth doing unless your AR is extremely
  low and you're having trouble hitting, and even then there are better ways
  to go about fixing that problem (see discussion in the item section).
  If you are not using Earth Shifter, it may be necessary to invest some in
  Dexterity in order to be able to equip your weapon.

Vitality:
  Invest as many points as you can reasonably spare here. Unfortunately,
  unlike most other Druid builds, you won't be able to have a high level Oak
  Sage to multiply it, but you'll still get a bit of multiplication from
  Lycanthropy and some life is better than nothing. It's extremely difficult
  to deny that survival is important, and Vitality helps you survive.

Energy:
  This build has very little need for mana, and your statpoints will be
  spread very thin as it is. Don't invest any points in Energy; you don't
  need them and will receive insignificant benefit from them.

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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.

However, for this character I am going to depart from my usual stance and say
unequivocally that this build requires certain difficult to obtain items in
order to function as intended, and therefore I shall not put as much effort
into recommending 'budget' options as I normally do.

Here is a list of modifiers that are desirable for this build:

> +skills (+all, +druid, +elemental primarily, less so other trees)
> -X% Enemy Fire Resistance
> +X% Fire Skill Damage
> Resistances
> Life leech
> Mana leech
> Attack Rating
> Increased Attack Speed (within reason: see next section)
> Crushing Blow, Deadly Strike, Open Wounds
> Fast Hit Recovery
> Physical Resistance (Damage Reduced by X%)
> +life

That list is ordered slightly by priority, but all of those modifiers are
important to this build's success and it would be a mistake to ignore any of
them. More detail will follow in subsequent sections.

B.    BREAKPOINT DISCUSSION                        {BRKPDSCN}

> Hit Recovery (Werewolf)
  FHR%   Frames
  0      7
  9      6
  20     5
  42     4
  86     3
  280    2
  
Comments: FHR is nice, but if you don't have any, don't worry too much - the
druid has a very fast base recovery rate in werewolf form. That said, even
just a small amount will give you a significant improvement; it's worth it.

> Block Rate (Werewolf)
  FBR%   Frames
  0      9
  7      8
  15     7
  27     6
  48     5
  86     4
  200    3
  
Comments: You almost certainly won't be using a shield, as wereforms tend to
fare better without them, but in the odd case that you are, this table might
be useful.

> Attack Speed
It's complicated, consult this calculator by TitanSeal:

http://diablo3.ingame.de/tips/calcs/speedcalc_titanseal/speedcalc_english.php

A few thresholds to keep in mind, however:
-Earth Shifter with a Shael and slvl 15 Werewolf hits the fastest breakpoint
 possible for Fury with a Thunder Maul, 7/7/7/7/12
-Earth Shifter with a Shael, slvl 8 Werewolf, and 20% off-weapoin IAS hits the
 fastest breakpoint for Fury, 7/7/7/7/12
-With a Shaeled Earth Shifter and no off-weapon IAS, you will be swinging at
 10/10/10/10/17 (way too slow) with slvl 1 Werewolf
 slvl 2 Werewolf brings that up to 9/9/9/9/16
 slvl 5 Werewolf brings that up to 8/8/8/8/14
-Earth Shifter with NO Shael and slvl 1 Werewolf gets 13/13/13/13/23;
 increasing the Werewolf slvl to 15 gets it to 10/10/10/10/17, or the
 equivalent of slvl 1 Werewolf with the Shael. Either way, that's far too
 slow. Also, without the Shael, the attack speed will cap at 8/8/8/8/14,
 instead of 7/7/7/7/12, and it will take a lot of off-weapon IAS% and/or a
 very high Werewolf slvl to reach that cap.
 
In case it is not obvious from the examples above, the primary variables
affecting attack speed are weapon IAS% (WIAS%) and Werewolf skill level;
off-weapon IAS% plays a secondary role and is much less effective. This is why
I keep saying to invest in Werewolf "within reason" - depending on your gear,
you may need different levels of it to reach the fastest speed breakpoint.
Of course, you can also keep +skills gear (like two Spirits) on the weapon
switch and use that to elevate your Werewolf level at the time of casting to
help with this. It's very important to reach the fastest breakpoint.

General comments:

So, what does this all 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 perform attacks (Fury is actually a sequence of five
attacks, hence why it's listed as five numbers; the last attack is slower than
the preceding four), which is affected by Increased Attack Speed (IAS%) and
Werewolf skill level; 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 further discussion
regarding the desirable breakpoints.

C.    DETAILED ANALYSIS                            {EQUPDETL}

Above, in "OVERVIEW", I listed a few modifiers that are desirable for this
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.

> +skills (+druid, +elemental, possibly +other trees)
  +skills are very important for this build. They're the primary way to
  improve Armageddon's damage; since Armageddon is the heart of this build,
  you're going to want as many of these as you can get. Armageddon seems to
  have some kind of increasing returns on damage with further +skills,
  although I don't know the exact formula; at the very least, it certainly
  does not suffer from diminishing returns. +all skills, +druid skills, and
  +elemental skills will all improve Armageddon.
  Aside from that, +skills can also be valuable for other skills. Bonuses to
  the shapeshifting tree will improve Werewolf, Lycanthropy, and Fury, all of
  which will receive significant benefit; also, if you've elected to invest in
  summons, you might receive some benefit from bonuses to the summoning tree.
  I wouldn't sacrifice other modifiers for summoning boni, however.

> -X% Enemy Fire Resistance
  As far as improving fire damage goes, this modifier is perhaps the most
  important one there is. It will actually give even more improvement than
  +skills do, but unfortunately it's a very uncommon modifier and does not
  appear on many items. Think of it like this: if the enemy has no resistance,
  your damage will go up by the percentage its resistance is reduced: going
  from 0 resistance to -25% resistance gives you 25% extra damage. The more
  resistant the monster is, the more it helps you: against a monster with 75%
  resistance, you'll go from doing 25% of your normal damage to 50%; that's a
  100% improvement, i.e., you just doubled your damage. Unfortunately it
  doesn't work against immunity - they'll still be immune - but against
  everything else, trust me, you'll be astounded by how much this helps.

> +X% Fire Skill Damage
  It's not nearly as good as -X% Enemy Fire Resistance, but every little bit
  helps. There aren't many items that carry this, though, and the most
  convenient source - Rainbow Facets - carry -X% EFR as well, so it's
  something of a moot point whether or not you'll have any of this.

> Resistances
  In order not to die in late Nightmare and Hell difficulty, you need to have
  appreciable elemental resistances. It's especially difficult to obtain them
  on builds such as this that don't use shields, because that's often the most
  convenient slot from which to obtain them. After the Hell penalty of -100%
  to all resistances, it's quite difficult to get into the positives, even if
  you take the +10% per Anya quest into account. Ideally, you want to get them
  as high as you can, but 50% each is a reasonable goal to shoot for - that
  will actually be quite difficult, so just do your best.

> Life leech
  You're going to be dealing massive physical damage, and life leech combined
  with that goes a long way toward helping you stay alive. It's not perfect,
  and it won't make you invincible, but it'll at least give you a fighting
  chance. The more you have, the better.

> Mana leech
  As long as you're hitting things, why not get some mana for it? With just a
  small bit of mana leech, you won't have to worry about the mana costs of
  maintaining Armageddon or Werewolf. 2-3% is plenty.

> Attack Rating
  You can't kill anything if you can't hit it, no matter how much damage you
  do. Attack Rating helps with that. In my opinion, the minimum you'll want to
  have in Hell is around 8000-9000 AR, although more is always better. I tend
  not to like playing with less than 10k AR in Hell on most melee characters,
  but a little less than that is fine and it's difficult to get extremely high
  AR with this build, due to the low base Dexterity you'll probably have and
  not having many points for Fury and Werewolf.

> Increased Attack Speed (within reason: see 'BREAKPOINT DISCUSSION')
  The faster you hit, the faster you kill. Also, the faster you swing, the
  less likely your attack is to be interrupted by enemies hitting you;
  also, the faster you attack, the more likely you are to hit your enemies
  before they move out of range. It's especially important for Fury because
  Fury is a 5-attack cycle, and once you start swinging you're committed to
  making 5 attacks. The faster your swing speed, the more quickly the cycle
  ends and you can provide new input to your character.
  All of that said, IAS% on gear isn't always useful for shapeshifting druids.
  Please see above under 'BREAKPOINT DISCUSSION' for more details, but often
  off-weapon IAS% has very little effect on the druid's actual attack speed,
  because it is not factored in nearly as significantly as Werewolf skill
  level and on-weapon IAS%. It's important to get the attack speed as fast as
  you can, but there's no reason to use gear that won't actually provide any
  benefit, so be sure that any IAS gear you use is actually helping you.
  
> Crushing Blow, Deadly Strike, Open Wounds
  The quintessential melee modifiers, these are always useful. Crushing Blow
  deals a fixed percentage of enemy life in damage when it triggers, Deadly
  Strike deals damage equal to twice your maximum physical damage when it
  triggers, and Open Wounds is a poison-like effect which lasts 8 seconds, and
  the primary use of which is to prevent monsters' life from regenerating
  (although it also does some damage). It's well worth obtaining at least some
  of each of these, if you can.

> Fast Hit Recovery
  FHR contributes a great deal to your survivability. The faster you can
  recover from hits, the less time you will spend not attacking (and hence not
  leeching life). It's also easier to extricate yourself from dangerous
  situations if your hit recovery is decent. Werewolves have decent built-in
  hit recovery (7 frames at 0% FHR), so it's not the end of the world if you
  can't get any, but improving that to 5 or even 4 frames will go a long way
  toward mitigating the fragility problem. Unfortunately, it's difficult to
  find decent FHR on most of the items that are otherwise desirable for this
  character, so it often falls by the wayside...

> Physical Resistance (Damage Reduced by X%)
  If you can get enough of this, it can be worthwhile, although it doesn't
  seem to do very much in small quantities. It reduces the physical damage you
  take by a static percentage, but in my experience it doesn't seem to make a
  noticeable difference until you reach 30% or so (it's also worth noting that
  it is capped at 50%). I generally don't like to seek this modifier out, but
  if it comes on an item I find otherwise attractive, so much the better.

> +life
  The more life you have, the harder you are to kill. Life boosts from items
  will actually provide slightly more to your life pool than they say, thanks
  to the multiplier applied by Lycanthropy.
  It's worth noting that +life is a superior modifier to +Vitality, +life/lvl,
  or +Vitality/lvl. The latter three modifiers are unaffected by effects which
  multiply life (such as Lycanthropy and Oak Sage), while +life is.

There are, of course, other modifiers which may prove useful, but those are
the main ones. There are a lot of them, so we definitely have our work cut out
for us in choosing which items to use.

D.    SPECIFIC ITEM SELECTIONS                     {ITEMSELC}

This part always gets long, so bear with me. I'll try to provide several
options for each equipment slot at varying levels of attainability; however,
it's important to note that for this build the requirements are much stricter
than they are for many others, and there may not be many alternatives if there
are any at all. Several items are practically non-negotiable for the
Armageddon Werewolf, and it is unfortunate that they are often very difficult
to obtain as well. There's no way around it.

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:

> Earth Shifter (unique Thunder Maul)
  This weapon is the reason the build exists. Massive physical damage, plus it
  comes with +7 Elemental skills to pump Armageddon to ridiculous levels, 33%
  Crushing Blow, and 25% chance to cast a mid-level Fissure (which you can
  synergise, so it'll do some damage) on striking. Plus, it has a little IAS,
  which helps it not be ridiculously sluggish (although it needs a Shael to
  become fast enough to be usable, in all honesty). This build is pretty much
  designed to take full advantage of every modifier this hammer has to offer.
  That said, Earth Shifter has one major disadvantage: it requires 253
  Strength to equip. That will help you take advantage of the ridiculous
  damage it does, but it also makes you into a glass cannon because every
  point you put into Strength is a point that can't go into Vitality.
  The second problem with Earth Shifter is that it's very difficult to find:
  it's in Treasure Class 87, which is the highest TC and therefore one of the
  least likely to drop (and most monsters can't drop it, it can only be found
  from Super Uniques/Bosses, and Champions/Uniques in alvl 85 areas). I'd go
  so far as to say it's comparable to a high rune in rarity...
  The bottom line, though, is that this hammer is a big part of what makes the
  build. You could forego it, but it won't be quite the same.

> Obedience (runeword: Hel Ko Thul Eth Fal, polearm, Ladder only)
  It's not Earth Shifter, but it's a very good alternative. It doesn't have
  any +skills, but it does have -25% Enemy Fire Resistance. As long as you can
  get a few +skills elsewhere, Armageddon will still be very strong,
  and actually it's quite possible that it will be more effective against
  heavily resistant monsters. Also, it's not quite as big a gap in +skills as
  it looks, because you can carry +skills on switch, cast Armageddon and then
  switch back to Obedience for combat (it'll be a hassle, but it's doable).
  Aside from that, Obedience is an excellent beatstick: 370% ED guaranteed is
  quite nice, and it also has 40% CB, 40% FHR, and 25-35% resist all... plus
  the chance to cast Enchant will do wonders for your AR. The only drawback
  is that it's a little slow because it carries no IAS: the fastest you'll be
  able to get one is to 7/7/7/7/12 (the same breakpoint as Earth Shifter,
  actually) if you make it in a Thresher and have at least slvl 11 Werewolf.
  If you don't have Earth Shifter, Obedience is the best weapon you can get;
  the main difference is that Armageddon will be slightly weaker with
  Obedience and you won't have the Fissure procs from Earth Shifter (or the
  convenience of being able to cast Armageddon without swapping weapons).

> Ribcracker (unique Quarterstaff; upgrade to Stalagmite)
  A staple of shapeshifter druids everywhere. It's fast, it hits hard
  (especially if you upgrade it), it has tons of Crushing Blow and FHR%, and
  it has practically negligible stat requirements. It will need a Shael if
  upgraded to maintain the same attack speed.
  The main problem here is that... it isn't Earth Shifter. Ribcracker will
  serve you well for the physical part of the build (the damage isn't quite as
  good as Earth Shifter, but it'll hit about 2 frames faster), but it doesn't
  benefit Armageddon any. Also, because you won't have many points in Fury,
  you won't see nearly the damage output a pure Fury druid would get with it.
  Armageddon won't suffer quite as much as you'd think if you carry some
  +skills gear on your weapon switch to use for casting it, then swap to the
  Ribcracker before you start swinging, but that can get to be quite a hassle
  when you need to recast Armageddon every 12 seconds.
  Essentially, Ribcracker is the thing to use if you're interested in playing
  this build, but can't get your hands on Earth Shifter. It does have one
  major advantage, though: because it doesn't have the huge strength
  requirement to equip it, you won't be nearly as fragile with Ribcracker.

> Tomb Reaver (unique Cryptic Axe)
  Tomb Reaver is a superb shapeshifter weapon, but it would be a shame to
  waste it on a build that isn't well-suited to using it. That said... it's
  fast, it hits hard, it has sockets for customisation, and it offers lots of
  resistance, so it's definitely a good choice. It would just be put to much
  better use on a purely physical shapeshifter build, and it's prohibitively
  rare, so I cannot in good conscience countenance using it here.

My recommendation: Earth Shifter, obviously.

Weapon switch:

> Spirit sword and shield (runeword: Tal Thul Ort Amn, sword/shd, Ladder only)
  +4 to all skills is useful for prebuffing. The idea here is to swap to this
  set of weapons when casting Werewolf or other skills that would benefit from
  the boni (for instance, summons, if you elected to get them), then switching
  back to your primary weapon for combat purposes. If you don't have an Earth
  Shifter, you can also use these to get a bit of extra power for your
  Armageddon. The strength requirement of 156 for the Spirit shield isn't an
  issue if you're using Earth Shifter, but if you're not, and if the rest of
  your items require significantly less, it might be worth substituting a
  Lidless Wall or Splendour shield, trading off +1 skill for more life.

> Hexfire (unique Shamshir) with Spirit shield
  Hexfire offers +3 to Fire skills, which means it boosts Armageddon more than
  Spirit will; it can also be socketed with a Rainbow Facet for slightly more
  of an increase. However, it's significantly worse for precasting Werewolf
  and Lycanthropy. This option is only useful if you are not using Earth
  Shifter, in which case Armageddon will likely be cast from the weapon switch
  rather than the primary weapon; otherwise, Spirits are better.

> Call to Arms (runeword: Amn Ral Mal Ist Ohm, weapon) with 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.
  This is great if you can get it, and it would help to mitigate the low life
  total you'd otherwise have... but it's difficult enough to obtain that it's
  probably not worth considering (thanks to the "high rune" Ohm it contains),
  and it's by no means necessary for your success.

> Whatever +skills you can cram in with other items
  See above discussion of Spirit for the rationale. However you choose to get
  them, some extra +skills on your weapon switch will be helpful for elevating
  your Werewolf slvl and anything else you'd cast outside of immediate combat.
  There's no real sense in using anything else here, because the other options
  would probably be items with charges, and you can't make use of them while
  you're in wolf form.

> Demon Limb or Todesfaelle Flamme
  Enchant charges will do wonders for your Attack Rating, which you might find
  otherwise difficult to raise to useful levels. Actually, you don't even need
  to carry one of these on your weapon switch; because Enchant lasts so long,
  you can keep it in your inventory or in your stash in town and refresh it
  whenever necessary.

My recommendation: Dual Spirits. Demon Limb etc might be useful as well if
your AR is low.

Helmets:

> Ravenlore (unique Sky Spirit)
  By far, Ravenlore is the best helm for this build. Nothing else comes
  remotely close to it; it's just THAT good. It has everything you could
  possibly want (well... pretty close): -10-20% Enemy Fire Resistance, +3 to
  Elemental skills, 15-25% resist all, and you can add a socket for
  customisation... +7 to Raven and 20-30 Energy are nothing to sneeze at
  either, although they aren't too significant. Of course, the primary thing
  that makes this helm so good is the reduction to enemy fire resistance -
  coupled with the +skills, this helmet does absolutely INSANE things for your
  Armageddon damage. It's difficult to obtain, though. In all honesty,
  however, I consider this helm practically mandatory for this character.

> Jalal's Mane (unique Totemic Mask)
  This seems to be the 'standard' helm for most Druid builds, and it isn't
  bad, but it simply pales in comparison to Ravenlore. It offers +2 to Druid
  skills, an additional +2 to shapeshifting, tons of stats, 30% resist all,
  and 30% FHR. Those are some great modifiers, and it will work well if you
  are unable to obtain a Ravenlore (Jalal's is much more common). You can also
  add a socket for customisation.

> Andariel's Visage (unique Demonhead)
  +2 to all skills, 20% IAS, and lots of life leech. The only problem with it
  is that it has -30% fire resistance, so it's practically mandatory to socket
  it with a Ral or a jewel with the Ruby (fire resist) prefix. If you can do
  that, however, this is a fabulous helm. Unfortunately, it still can't really
  hold a candle to Ravenlore.

> Cerberus' Bite (unique Blood Spirit)
  A very melee-oriented helm. It has great modifiers for helping your Fury:
  tons of life leech, as well as a huge bonus to shapeshifting skills, as
  well as some Open Wounds and Attack Rating (although unfortunately it's %AR
  rather than straight +AR). Because it offers nothing to Armageddon, I think
  it's outclassed by the other options.

> Delirium (runeword: Lem Ist Io, helmet)
  If you put it into a class-specific Druid helm with good innate +skills
  (staffmods), you can get great +skills from it (ideally you'd use something
  with an innate +3 to Armageddon and possibly something else useful). This
  will give you the most +skills you can get from your helmet, although
  Ravenlore will prove more effective for boosting Armageddon damage. However,
  the procs (Confuse, Terror, and Mind Blast) that Delirium offers could add
  significantly to your survivability, and therefore it could be worth using
  for that purpose.

> Something else
  Aside from the above, your best bet is probably to take a magical, rare, or
  even plain class-specific Druid helm with good staffmods and/or +skills,
  socket it, and stuff it full of Rainbow Facets (a rare can get 1 socket,
  magical 1-2, and plain 1-3).

My recommendation: Ravenlore, although Delirium may be better if you are using
Obedience rather than Earth Shifter.

Armour:

> Skin of the Vipermagi (unique Serpentskin Armour)
  +1 to all skills, and up to 35% resist all. What's not to like? You need to
  get resistance somewhere, and this armour is very helpful in getting it. It
  also has a potential socket, for up to 15% more resistance, or possibly FHR
  or a Rainbow Facet. You can upgrade it to substantially increase the
  defence, but it's doubtful whether that will be helpful.

> Naj's Light Plate (part of set: Naj's Ancient Vestige)
  +1 to all skills, 25% resist all, +65 life, and a potential socket. It's
  very similar to Vipermagi, and either of them will work.

> Chains of Honour (runeword: Dol Um Ber Ist, armour)
  While this is a theoretical runeword, it's worth mentioning here because
  it's almost certainly the best possible armour for this character. It offers
  +2 all skills, 65% resist all, 7% life leech, and some physical resistance.
  It's prohibitively difficult to obtain, and it's not worth the cost for most
  builds, but if you have access to it, it's the perfect choice.

> Fortitude (runeword: El Sol Dol Lo, armour, Ladder only)
  Another theoretical runeword. 300% off-weapon ED is ridiculous, and will
  help your physical melee significantly. It also has 25-30% resist all, a
  big boost to life (although it's level-based, so it won't be boosted by
  Werewolf/Lycanthropy), and huge defence, plus a chance to cast Chilling
  Armour for even more defence. It also offers several other miscellaneous
  useful modifiers. It doesn't do anything for Armageddon, but it's still
  quite the armour and it's difficult to go wrong with it.

> Arkaine's Valour (unique Balrog Skin)
  While it doesn't have any resistance, this could still be a good choice.
  It can potentially have +2 to all skills, up to 15 PDR, and 30% FHR, which
  is great as long as you can make up the resistance elsewhere. It also has
  high defence and a boost to life (although unfortunately it's level-based,
  so it won't be boosted by Werewolf/Lycanthropy).

> Duress (runeword: Shael Um Thul, armour)
  The quintessential melee armour, it offers Crushing Blow, a small bit of
  resistance, tons of FHR, and significant defence.

> Treachery (runeword: Shael Thul Lem, armour)
  While it adds nothing to Armageddon, this is an excellent choice. 45% IAS
  might help get to the breakpoint you want depending on your Werewolf level,
  it offers a bit of FHR, and it has a chance to cast slvl 15 Fade when struck
  (which, since you have no shield, will probably happen often enough to rely
  on). Slvl 15 Fade gives 15% physical resistance and 60% resist all; that is
  definitely nothing to sneeze at defencively, and will go a long way toward
  keeping you alive. The Fade only lasts for about 3 minutes, so it's not very
  practical to try prebuffing it and then swapping to another armour.

> Smoke (runeword: Nef Lum, armour)
  It's easy to make, and it has 50% resist all. That's all you get from this
  one, but if your resistances are low, it might be just what you need.

My recommendation: Skin of the Vipermagi, unless you can afford CoH.

Belts:

> String of Ears (unique Demonhide Sash)
  Tons of life leech and physical resistance, but that's all you get. That
  said, this is one of the best sources of life leech, so it's well worth it.

> Nosferatu's Coil (unique Vampireskin Belt)
  Lots of life leech, and a bit of IAS (which might be nice, depending on
  where you are on the Werewolf slvl continuum). It also has a bit of strength
  and some Hit Slows Target. If you're already at the top attack speed
  breakpoint without it, String of Ears is better.

> Arachnid Mesh (unique Spiderweb Sash)
  +1 to all skills is basically all you get here, although it also has a bit
  of Hit Slows Target. If you're really desperate to improve Armageddon at the
  expense of melee capability, this is the belt for you.
  
> Credendum (part of set: The Disciple)
  15% resist all, as well as big boosts to strength and dexterity. The primary
  reason to use this belt is to fix a resistance problem...

> A decent craft
  The Blood belt recipe gets you some interesting things - life leech and Open
  Wounds, primarily, but if you get lucky you can get some other nice
  modifiers as well (primarily you're looking for resistance and FHR here, or
  maybe some life boosts).

My recommendation: String of Ears, unless you need IAS from Nosferatu's Coil.
If you have neither, then craft away.

Gloves:

> Dracul's Grasp (unique Vampirebone Gloves)
  These have life leech and strength, but the primary reason to use them is
  that they give you a chance to cast Life Tap on striking. With Life Tap,
  it's much harder to die. There's not much to say about this; it's an obvious
  choice... however, I'm not overly fond of them. It only has a 5% chance to
  go off, so it's capricious and unpredictable, and it also can lead to sloppy
  or lazy play if you start relying on it too much.

> Lava Gout (unique Battle Gauntlets)
  20% IAS and a small chance to cast Enchant; if you find yourself lower on AR
  than you're comfortable with, these are one possible solution to that
  problem. It's not perfect, because it's only a 2% chance, but it will go off
  eventually and once it does, it'll last a reasonably long time.

> Magefist (unique Light Gauntlets)
  The only modifier on these that really matters is the +1 to Fire skills,
  which boosts Armageddon; this is the only source of +skills for the glove
  slot for this character. Magefist isn't a terrible choice, but I find it's
  generally better to use the glove slot to get some useful melee modifiers
  and get my +skills elsewhere.
  
> A decent craft
  Blood gloves are great. They come with 5-10% Crushing Blow and 1-3% life
  leech built in, and they can get plenty of other nice modifiers - ideally,
  you want a pair with mana leech as well. It's even better if they come with
  resistance as well; also, you can get 10% or 20% IAS, which might be useful
  depending on where you fall on the Werewolf slvl continuum.

My recommendation: If you really think you'll need Life Tap, go with Dracul's.
Otherwise, if you have no mana leech, a decent pair of Blood gloves might be
more useful.

Boots:

> Gore Rider (unique War Boots)
  These are the most convenient source of Deadly Strike, and the Crushing Blow
  and Open Wounds they carry come in handy too. They also have a nice amount
  of FRW, which is always convenient. Gore Riders are the best melee boots,
  bar none, and they're clearly the best option here.

> Goblin Toe (unique Light Plated Boots)
  They have more Crushing Blow than Gore Riders, but nothing else to offer.
  You don't really need more CB on this build, but it's not horrible, so
  they're better than nothing.

> Sandstorm Trek (unique Scarabshell Boots)
  These offer 20% FHR and 20% FRW, among other modifiers, which is the primary
  reason to use them. They have self-repair also, so if you have an ethereal
  pair you can take advantage of the extra defence.

> A good rare or craft
  Either craft Blood boots, or gamble or look for a rare. Primarily, you're
  after FHR or resistance, although Blood boots will also come with a bit of
  life leech, which is always useful.

My recommendation: Gore Rider is the uncontested best choice here, although if
you're short on FHR you may want Sandstorm Trek.

Amulets:

> Angelic Wings (part of set: Angelic Raiment)
  Paired with an Angelic Halo or two, this amulet provides an absurd boost to
  Attack Rating. Without this amulet, it's difficult to obtain a viable chance
  to hit.

> Highlord's Wrath (unique Amulet)
  +1 to all skills and Deadly Strike based on character level. If you can make
  up the Attack Rating without the Angelic set, this is by far the best amulet
  to use, but that's a rather unlikely scenario.

> Mara's Kaleidoscope (unique Amulet)
  Fairly mundane, but it isn't bad. +2 to all skills, 20-30% resist all, and a
  meager boost to all stats. If your Attack Rating is fine, and you're
  suffering from resistance problems, this might be a good choice.

> Metalgrid (unique Amulet)
  This amulet is very rare, but it's not bad if you can get one. It offers
  25-35% resist all, 400-450 AR, and a bit of defence (as well as charges of
  Iron Golem and Iron Maiden, although both are pretty useless).

> A decent rare or craft
  Anything with +druid skills and resistance will do, provided you don't need
  the Attack Rating boost from Angelics.

My recommendation: Angelic Wings.

Rings:

> Raven Frost (unique Ring)
  Huge boosts to Dexterity and Attack Rating, as well as Cannot Be Frozen.
  This is basically non-negotiable; you're going to need at least one of
  these. Getting frozen with an attack as slow as this character's (7 frames
  at the absolute fastest with Earth Shifter) is a recipe for death,
  especially when you're unlikely to have a lot of life.

> Angelic Halo (part of set: Angelic Raiment)
  When paired with Angelic Wings, it provides an absurd boost to Attack
  Rating, which is likely to be needed to attain a decent chance to hit in
  Hell. It offers very little else, though.

> Bul-Kathos' Wedding Band (unique Ring)
  +1 to all skills, as well as 3-5% life leech and a small life boost (sadly
  level-based, so it won't be boosted by anything). If you don't need Angelics
  for some reason, and you have one of these to spare, by all means use it.

My recommendation: Angelic Halo and Raven Frost.

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).

> Skill Tree 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.
  The difficult part here is finding the balance to strike between Elemental
  and Shapeshifting skills, as they benefit different aspects of your
  character; "salt to taste", effectively.

> Resistance Charms
  If you're low on resistance, this is one way to go about fixing them. You
  can get up to 15% resist all or 30% resistance to a single element per Grand
  Charm; although it would be more efficient to use Small Charms (which can
  get up to 5% resist all or 11% to a single element each), it's less likely
  that you'll have enough of them.

> Other charms
  If you have more room to spare, small or large charms with bonuses to life
  can be helpful. You're not going to have much life, so any way to boost it
  will be significant.

That's more or less it for equipment selection. There aren't quite as many
options for this build as there are for many others, but there are still a few
choices to make...

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.

If you've selected items from the choices above, you'll probably only have two
sockets at most to fill: one in the helmet and one in the armour (there's no
reason to put anything other than a Shael in your weapon). There are three
major inserts you'd consider using:

> Um runes/Scintillating jewels for resist all (15%/11-15%)
  If you're short on resistance, you'll probably want to fix that before
  anything else, and you're likely to be low because you won't have a shield.

> Rainbow Facets (fire variety) for +3-5% fire damage/-3-5% enemy fire resist
  The best way to maximise your damage output. Reducing enemy fire resistance
  will do more for your Armageddon damage than anything else, and the bonus to
  fire damage that they come with is helpful too. I prefer the "100% chance to
  cast Meteor on Death" version to the "100% chance to cast Blaze on level-up"
  version, but neither of those effects do much of anything.

> Shael runes for 20% FHR each
  FHR is surprisingly helpful for survivability purposes, and most of the
  items you'll be considering probably won't have much of it.

Those are probably the only options you're going to want to consider.

F.    OBEDIENCE VS. EARTH SHIFTER                  {OBEDERTH}

While Earth Shifter was the inspiration for this build, it is a very rare item
and therefore is unlikely to be available for the use of most players. That
does not, however, mean that most players cannot make one of these characters;
a variant using Obedience will work almost as well, and is actually capable of
being superior in several ways.

Comparing the two weapons, their physical capabilities are very similar. If
made in a Thresher, Obedience hits the same speed breakpoint as Earth Shifter
(it maxes out at 7/7/7/7/12 with slvl 11 Werewolf, comparable to Earth Shifter
reaching that breakpoint at slvl 15 Werewolf; at lower slvls, IAS% gear can
come into play but they're still pretty similar).

The stat requirements of a Thresher, in total, are very similar to the total
stat requirements of a Thunder Maul (Earth Shifter requires 253 strength while
Obedience requires 122 strength and 95 dexterity). As a result, the druid's
life total will be similar with either weapon choice.

Both weapons have similar physical damage (Obedience's guaranteed 370% ED ends
up being equivalent to a mediocre Earth Shifter roll after the difference in
damage between the base weapons is factored in). They also have similar
amounts of Crushing Blow (Earth Shifter has 33% and Obedience has 40%).

Obedience has 40% FHR and 20-30% resist all, both of which Earth Shifter lacks
and are hard to get on items you'd otherwise want to use on an Armageddon
Wolf. It also has -25% enemy defence and an Enchant proc, which makes it much
easier to get a decent chance to hit, and can quite possibly open up an amulet
and ring slot since Angelics may no longer be necessary. Earth Shifter has the
25% Fissure proc, which is not insignificant, but the defencive mods might end
up being more useful especially when the character has a lowish life total due
to heavy stat investments...

After that, there's the main point of contention. Earth Shifter has +7
Elemental skills, while Obedience has -25% Enemy Fire Resistance. Those are
actually pretty comparable also; in fact, if you choose items elsewhere to
make up for the difference you can get just as good Armageddon damage with
Obedience (if not better, actually). Obedience + Delirium is very comparable
to Earth Shifter + Ravenlore (provided that you cast Armageddon from a weapon
switch using Spirits in the Obedience setup but not the Earth Shifter setup,
Obedience + Delirium gets +9 Armageddon/-25% EFR while Earth Shifter +
Ravenlore gets +10 Armageddon/-10-20% EFR, plus the potential of a Rainbow
Facet in the helm). Against heavily resistant monsters, Obedience could win
out... but even if not, the point is that they're very similar setups.

What it really comes down to, then, is that Obedience can be just as good. The
only downside is that it's not an insignificant hassle to swap weapons every
12 seconds in order to recast Armageddon, especially mid-combat, and that
issue does not present itself if you're using Earth Shifter but it does with
anything else. Aside from that, it's a straightforward trade-off of the
Fissure proc and slightly better physical damage of Earth Shifter versus the
defencive mods and better chance to hit of Obedience.

Of course, there's also the issue of style points; although a character
wielding an Obedience Thresher still amasses plenty of those, it just can't
compare to Earth Shifter in that department (in my humble opinion).

The primary point to take away from this is that there's no reason to abandon
this build if you happen not to have Earth Shifter. An Obedience Thresher is
an attainable weapon that will serve you just as well.

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

A.    OVERVIEW                                     {MERCOVRV}

While the Armageddon Werewolf Druid makes unorthodox choices in many areas,
mercenary selection is not one of them. The best mercenary for this build is a
fairly standard setup, and frankly there isn't much to say here that wouldn't
be said about choosing a mercenary for any character.

For several reasons, which I'll discuss momentarily, this character benefits
most from an Act 2 Town Guard. There are a few options as to aura selection
and equipment, but it's not too open-ended.

While the Town Guards have several disadvantages (primarily, they're a bit
fragile, and their AI isn't very good), the auras they provide are very
beneficial, and they're capable of using several weapons that can also provide
practical benefits for the character. The primary reasons I recommend the Town
Guard are these: (1) because you won't have that much skill ED%, a Might aura
can actually have a significant impact on your melee damage, and (2) they can
use The Reaper's Toll, which provides Decrepify.

For those who don't know, here is the list of auras from mercenary types:

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

Might is probably the best option, as I've already discussed, but there are a
few alternatives. Holy Freeze can help you with survivability issues, because
it will slow everything; if you're having a hard time staying alive, you might
receive more benefit from the crowd control it provides. I might also consider
Defiance, but you probably won't have enough defence from your gear to really
benefit from it. If you're having AR problems, Blessed Aim could be a good
choice too.

If you want to avoid Town Guards (which I don't recommend), you could go with
a Rogue from Act 1 (primarily for Inner Sight to improve your chance to hit,
but she can also provide a bit of crowd control with Cold Arrow or if equipped
with Delirium), an Iron Wolf from Act 3 (the cold variety, most likely; frozen
enemies aren't as dangerous), or a Barbarian from Act 5 (they're really
durable, they can equip Lawbringer for Decrepify, and they have Bash and Stun
which are useful for crowd control and help him survive). However, I will not
discuss these options further in this guide.

B.    EQUIPMENT                                    {MERCEQUP}

Assuming you've elected to use a Town Guard, whichever aura you happen to
like, he's going to need equipment. That's what this section is for.

For attack speed breakpoints, consult TitanSeal's calculator:
http://diablo3.ingame.de/tips/calcs/speedcalc_titanseal/speedcalc_english.php

Here's the hit recovery table for Town Guards, if you need it:
FHR%     Frames
0        15
5        14
9        13
14       12
20       11
30       10
42       9
60       8
86       7
142      6

The general goals when equipping him are to obtain at least some of the
following:
> Defence, FHR, and/or Physical Resistance to help keep him alive
> Life leech, even more important to his survival than the above
> IAS to speed up his attacks, especially to help encourage Decrepify procs
> Crushing Blow, Deadly Strike, or Open Wounds
> Resistances

And now, on to the specific item selections:

Weapons:

> The Reaper's Toll (unique Thresher)
  An all-around amazing weapon. It has a high chance to cast Decrepify, which
  both reduces enemy physical resistance (making both your and the mercenary's
  attacks more effective) and provides safety and crowd control by slowing and
  weakening them. Beyond that, it also does great damage, has tons of Deadly
  Strike, tons of life leech to help keep him alive, and ITD as well (which is
  sometimes handy). Socket it with a Shael or an Amn, depending on whether you
  think he needs more attack speed or life leech.

> Insight (runeword: Ral Tir Tal Sol, polearm, Ladder only)
  This weapon's pretty easy to make, and if you put it in a good base weapon
  (some kind of elite polearm, especially if ethereal) it will do quite good
  damage. It also comes with Meditation aura, although you shouldn't really
  have enough mana problems in order to need it.

> Infinity (runeword: Ber Mal Ber Ist, polearm, Ladder only)
  While it's theoretical and prohibitively difficult to obtain, the Conviction
  aura would make Armageddon even more devastating. It also has very strong
  physical capabilities, so the mercenary's damage output will be good.
  However, it's very unlikely that you'll ever see one of these.

> Obedience (runeword: Hel Ko Thul Eth Fal, polearm, Ladder only)
  Obedience is a very big beatstick, especially if you put it in an ethereal
  elite polearm, and the chance to cast Enchant helps the mercenary's chance
  to hit significantly. It also has a decent amount of resistance on it, which
  is unusual for a two-handed weapon. Aside from physical damage, though, it
  doesn't have too much to offer.

> Kelpie Snare (unique Fuscina)
  While it won't do much damage even if you upgrade it, Kelpie Snare's 75% Hit
  Slows Target can completely disable monsters, especially if coupled with a
  Holy Freeze aura. This is something you use for safety, not for damage.

> Woestave (unique Halberd)
  Very similar to Kelpie Snare; it offers slowing, freezing, and blinding, so
  it allows him to disable monsters. He won't kill anything with it, though,
  even if you upgrade it twice...

> Other options
  These aren't the only options by any means; if you can't obtain any of them,
  you can always just try to get as much physical damage as you reasonably can
  from his weapon.

My recommendation: The Reaper's Toll.

Armour:

> Treachery (runeword: Shael Thul Lem, armour)
  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 also has tons of FHR. If you want to keep
  your mercenary alive, this is one of the best ways to do it.

> 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).

> Shaftstop (unique Mesh Armour)
  Huge physical resistance makes this one a popular choice. Upgrade it if
  possible, and an ethereal one is even better.

> 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.

> 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. However, it lacks FHR and IAS,
  so you might be better off with something else.

> 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 recommendation: Treachery or Duress, depending on your preferences.

Helmets:

> Andariel's Visage (unique Demonhead)
  20% IAS and tons of life leech make this an amazing hat; 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.

> 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. 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)
  This is an amazing helm as far as offencive modifiers go, and it also has
  30% FHR. It's definitely the best choice for boss fights, but because it
  lacks life leech, you might have problems keeping him alive elsewhere unless
  his weapon has some (which The Reaper's Toll does, for instance).

> Crown of Thieves (unique Grand Crown)
  Tons of life leech, with some other nice modifiers. This is a great budget
  option.

> Stealskull (unique Casque)
  Less life leech than Crown of Thieves or Tal Rasha's, but it offers IAS and
  FHR instead.

My recommendation: All of these have different purposes, and you might find
you prefer one to the others... but they'll all work well.

Socketing:

Here are the primary options you'll want to consider for socketing in the
mercenary's items:

> Amn rune in the weapon for extra life leech
> Shael rune in the weapon for IAS
> Jewels of Fervour in the helmet or armour for IAS
> Shael runes in the helmet or armour for FHR
> Um runes, Scintillating jewels, or Ral/Ort/Tal/Thul runes in the helmet or
  armour for resistance
> Perfect rubies for extra life

Depending on which specific items you chose, your mercenary may be lacking in
some area or another. Use the sockets to shore up his weaknesses.

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

A.    SKILL NOTES                                  {SKILNOTE}

Armageddon:

Armageddon is treated as a "buff" or beneficial spell effect. It lasts for 10
seconds + 2 seconds for each hard point in Fissure, which means the duration
will be between 12 and 50 seconds per casting. It also has a 6 second casting
delay, meaning that after it's cast you cannot cast any other timered spell
for 6 seconds. While Armageddon is active, fireballs will fall from above and
land within a 5.3 yard radius of your character. Armageddon always costs 35
mana to cast, irrespective of skill level. Casting Armageddon before a
previous cast of Armageddon has run out will simply reset the timer.

It's also worth noting that Armageddon is the only non-Shapeshifting, non-
Summoning skill that can be cast by a Druid while in a wereform.

I have not been able to discern a general pattern in where the fireballs fall;
however, it is important to note that the Armageddon effect follows the
character, in contrast with the Sorceress' Blizzard which is a stationary
effect. As such, it is well suited to melee combat: while the character is
fighting monsters at close range, the fireballs Armageddon generates will be
more likely to hit something.

It is difficult, however, to intentionally aim Armageddon at monsters. As
such, despite the fact that the build is focusing on it, in large part it
plays like a supplementary skill. When you want to kill something, the
approach is to activate Armageddon and then start swinging your weapon. It's
possible that Armageddon will get the kill, but it might not; if Armageddon
hits, the battle will be over very quickly, but if it doesn't, you should
still be able to handle things. Of course, Armageddon works best when fighting
groups of monsters or large monsters, because in those cases it is more likely
that the fireballs will make contact.

It is worth pointing out that the damage numbers the game gives for Armageddon
are misleading and seem low. 7k-8k damage is actually quite substantial,
especially if you have a source of -% enemy fire resistance, and will take off
as much as a quarter or more of most monsters' life even in Act 5 Hell on
/players8. Even a lower damage number will have a significant impact;
certainly more than would be expected given a naive numerical comparison to
most other skills.

Fissure:

Fissure is an interesting skill, and has some quite strange behaviour. It
seems to be most effective against groups of monsters. While this character
will almost certainly not be casting Fissure directly, it is still instructive
to understand how it works.

When cast, Fissure causes a number of vents to appear. Specifically, it
generates 14 vents randomly over 3.2 seconds (80 frames) in a 10 yard square.
Each vent lasts for 84 frames and damages anything that collides with it,
although it has a NextDelay of 5 frames. The vents also have LastCollide,
which means that they can't collide with the same target twice. However,
colliding with another target resets LastCollide and enables it to collide
with its original target again; it only keeps track of the most recent target.

What this adds up to is that Fissure is most effective against large groups
of monsters, especially when they are moving over the vents. Stationary
monsters can still be affected by it provided other monsters are colliding
with the vents, but the monsters' moving seems to help ensure that the damage
is consistently applied.

For the Armageddon Wolf Druid this is mostly academic, as he has very little
control over the Fissures he casts. However, it may help to assess the
relative effectiveness of the Fissure procs compared to other damage that is
being done.

Many thanks to Onderduiker for this information, the original posting can be
found at:
http://www.theamazonbasin.com/d2/forums/index.php?showtopic=82428&st=0
&p=907360&#entry907360

Werewolf:

When cast, Werewolf changes your character into wolf form and enables/disables
the use of certain skills. Casting Werewolf again while in wolf form will
return the Druid to human form. The Druid will also return to human form after
a preset duration expires (by default this is 40 seconds, but it can be
increased via points in Lycanthropy). Werewolf also gives a static +25% boost
to life and stamina, as well as variable bonuses to attack speed and Attack
Rating that are affected by the skill level.

The attack speed provided by Werewolf has a more significant effect on the
actual length in frames of the attacks than off-weapon IAS from items. The
formulas are rather complicated, so the easiest way to determine whether
further points in Werewolf will be useful for this purpose is by consulting a
calculator such as TitanSeal's:
http://diablo3.ingame.de/tips/calcs/speedcalc_titanseal/speedcalc_english.php

Further technical information on attack speed formulae can be found here:
http://www.mannm.org/d2library/faqtoids/ias_eng.html

Lycanthropy:

Lycanthropy is a passive skill that enhances Werewolf and Werebear.
Specifically, it increases the life boost by 5% per point and the duration by
20 seconds per point. That's all it does.

It's worth noting that percentage based life boosts, such as those provided by
Lycanthropy, are additive with all other percentage-based life boosts (e.g.,
from Oak Sage or Battle Orders). Also, only life obtained from hard points in
Vitality and/or +life from items will be multiplied; +Vitality, +life based on
character level, or +Vitality based on character level will not be boosted.

Feral Rage:

As Feral Rage is a prerequisite for Fury, this character will always have a
point in it, and it's useful in some situations.

Feral Rage behaves similarly to the Assassin's Charge-Up skills; it provides
variable boosts to life leech and run/walk speed based on how many hits have
previously been made with it. The charges will also apply to other skills, so
if you build up a few hits of Feral Rage and then switch to Fury, you can
still benefit from the life leech until the charges' timer runs out. It seems
to take about 3 hits to reach the maximum level of charge.

Also, unlike Fury, Feral Rage is a single-target attack, which could
potentially be useful in some scenarios if you want to have more control over
which monster you are hitting.

Fury:

Fury behaves very similarly to the Paladin's Zeal. It is a multiple-hit
sequence that can target several enemies near the Druid; like Zeal, it gains
1 hit per level, capped at 5 hits total, so skill level 4 or higher is
necessary in order to get 5 hits. Because the final hit in the sequence is
slower than those preceding it, it is worthwhile to obtain as many hits as
possible in order to be able to attack more frequently.

Raven:

If you choose to use Ravenlore, and/or if you decide you want to invest a few
points in summons, you'll have to get Raven. It can actually be quite useful.

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 +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. However, it's important to note that they may not
always be worth casting because their blinding effect overwrites curses (it's
effectively the same as Dim Vision) and so may overwrite Decrepify or Life Tap
if you are using either.

Spirit Wolf/Dire Wolf/Grizzly:

While electing to invest in these skills means you'll have fewer points for
Armageddon synergies, it may be worth it in order to have a recastable
distraction.

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 this build, 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.

B.    GENERAL PLAY STRATEGIES                      {GENSTRAT}

Knowing how the skills behave goes a long way toward helping you figure out
how to play the character; it's difficult to give advice that's too specific
because everybody has a different play style. However, there are a few things
that I can say.

Firstly: it's important to stay in close range to maximise the chances that
Armageddon will hit monsters. Because you'll be using Fury, it's easy enough
to do this. However, when in melee range, it's very easy to get surrounded.
Especially if you're using Earth Shifter, you probably won't have much life,
and won't have a shield, so it's very easy to die once you're surrounded. This
is especially true if you're low on FHR, as you can get stuck in the hit
recovery animation and become unable to escape.

As such, I don't recommend rushing into combat blindly. Take your time, and
try to stay at the edges of the pack whenever possible. If it looks like the
monsters might be able to surround you by the end of your next Fury cycle, it
makes more sense to reposition than to use Fury again and end up stuck before
you're able to respond again. You can't play this druid like a well-geared
Zealot, simply wading into packs of monsters and holding down left-click until
everything is dead. Or, well, you can, but you will most likely die.

No matter how much care you take, however (especially if you have no pets,
which isn't uncommon for this build), it is likely that you will still end up
in sticky situations frequently. It's important to keep a good supply of
Rejuvenation and/or Full Rejuvenation potions on hand for those situations; I
like to keep at least three rows of them in my stash at all times, in addition
to one or two columns of the belt. You may be surprised by how many of them
this character goes through; unfortunately, emergencies seem to happen often
when you have a small life total.

I like to keep Armageddon bound to the right mouse button so that it's easy to
recast it whenever it wears off. I usually try to keep it active at all times
whenever I know there are monsters in the area; that way, as I explore, if I
encounter monsters, there's a greater likelihood that they'll be hit by
Armageddon before they reach me or I reach them.

I also generally keep Werewolf bound to the right mouse button on the second
weapon switch, so that I can quickly swap weapons and recast it when needed.
After a fight with a reasonably-sized pack, I find it useful to unshift from
werewolf form and reshift in order to reset the timer; that way, it's less
likely to expire mid-combat. If Werewolf does expire in combat, retreat and
then recast it as soon as possible; there's very little you can do in human
form aside from waiting and hoping for Armageddon to hit, and you will be even
more fragile than usual since the life bonus from Lycanthropy disappears.

It's worth pointing out that you can end up in a bad situation if Werewolf
expires right after you recast Armageddon; the 6 second casting delay from
Armageddon will prevent you from recasting Werewolf until it runs out, and
that leaves you vulnerable and unable to attack. There isn't too much you can
do to avoid this, however, aside from keeping Werewolf refreshed so it's
unlikely to wear off. If this does happen, disengage from combat if you can
and keep your distance until you can transform again.

Of course, it's possible to take advantage of hotkeys if you want to have
other skills readily available, but aside from being able to quickly swap
between Fury and Feral Rage on the left mouse button I have not found much use
for them on this character. If investing in summons, however, those may be
worth hotkeying as well in order to be able to quickly recast them when they
die (as they will).

Fire immune monsters that are not also physically immune are not difficult to
deal with; you can simply kill them in melee like anything else, the only
difference being that there will be no sporadic massive damage from Armageddon
to help.

Physically immune monsters are substantially more dangerous, primarily because
you cannot leech life from them. Armageddon will kill them fine when it hits,
but in order for it to do so you need to remain close to them (and therefore
often within range of their attacks). Decrepify from a mercenary helps some,
but it's not a perfect solution and he can often get killed before he's able
to cast the curse as well (also due to the lack of life leech).

C.    EARLYGAME ADVICE                             {ERLYGAME}

Like many character builds in Diablo II, the Armageddon Werewolf takes a long
time to get going. In particular, Earth Shifter cannot be equipped until level
69, which isn't likely to come until late Nightmare or early Hell (most likely
it will be around the beginning of Act 5 Nightmare assuming /players8). This
means that it's not really feasible to play the character as intended until
fairly late in his lifetime, and that other strategies are necessary in order
to be able to reach that point.

When first starting, you should be able to get by with just normal attacks.
As you begin to invest points in Firestorm, you can start using that skill;
it's reasonably effective early on, although the mana cost is prohibitive
enough at that point that you can't use it exclusively (and will probably need
to drink potions). It isn't really practical to start using Werewolf at this
point, however; the mana cost of transforming is reasonably high when you're
just starting out and is better spent on Firestorm while you melee in human
form. Once Molten Boulder and Fissure become available, you can start using
those as well, although Firestorm will probably still provide the best damage
output overall. Once you get Volcano, you can start using that instead,
especially if you decide to invest further points in it rather than Firestorm.

Like so many other characters, there are also other approaches you can take
early on: you can use poison gas potions, or (if you have them) socket items
with Jewels of Envy for a ridiculous amount of poison damage compared to
monsters' life at that point in the game (although some people consider that
to be rather cheesy).

Once you reach level 30, Fury and Armageddon become available and you can
change your play style to incorporate them. Ribcracker (non-upgraded) becomes
available at level 31, and with that weapon and a 1-point Fury you should be
easily capable of killing through mid-Nightmare. The only difference between
play at this point and the final setup is that it's advantageous to use a
weapon switch to cast Armageddon at a higher skill level (e.g., dual Spirits),
then switching to Ribcracker in order to use Fury; once you can equip Earth
Shifter, casting Armageddon with your primary weapon active becomes more
powerful thanks to its +7 Elemental skills.

Fury with a non-upgraded Ribcracker starts to become a bit lackluster in late
Act 4 of Nightmare, but by that point you should be getting close enough to
level 69 that it should carry you the rest of the way. However, you may reach
a point at which it seems expedient to upgrade Ribcracker; you can do so,
although I don't advise it unless you have plans to use the upgraded
Ribcracker on another character.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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 this character, 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 this
character, so I'll focus on those here. They are (courtesy of Arreat Summit):

> Blood Gloves
  Ingredients: Magical Heavy Gloves/Sharkskin Gloves/Vampirebone Gloves
               + Nef Rune + Perfect Ruby + Any Jewel
  Preset modifiers:
    5-10% Crushing Blow
    1-3% life leech
    +10-20 to Life

> Blood Belt
  Ingredients: Magical Belt/Mesh Belt/Mithril Coil
               + Tal Rune + Perfect Ruby + Any Jewel
  Preset modifiers:
    5-10% Open Wounds
	1-3% life leech
	+10-20 to Life

> Blood Boots
  Ingredients: Magical Light Plated Boots/Battle Boots/Mirrored Boots
               + Eth Rune + Perfect Ruby + Any Jewel
  Preset modifiers:
    Replenish Life +5-10
    1-3% life leech
	+10-20 to Life

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 Calculator

http://diablo3.ingame.de/tips/calcs/speedcalc_titanseal/speedcalc_english.php

Useful for determining breakpoints for attack speed. TitanSeal's calculator is
by far the most accurate for wereform speed calculations.

> Skill Damage Calculator

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

There are others, but this one's convenient.

> Physical Damage Calculator

http://diablo3.ingame.de/tips/calcs/dmgcalc/dmgcalc.php?patch=110&lang=eng

For conveniently figuring out how much damage weapon-based attacks will deal.
It requires a lot of detailed input, however, to cover all of the variables.

> 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: What about a Hurricane Werewolf?
A: I won't discount the possibility, but it's not nearly as practical. Unlike
   Armageddon, Hurricane can't be cast while shapeshifted, so it would be more
   inconvenient to keep it active than Armageddon. Furthermore, Hurricane is
   not nearly as powerful as Armageddon is, especially if only partially
   synergized, so its purpose would primarily be defencive, to slow enemies.
   It might be an interesting build, but it would be much more difficult to
   get right in my opinion.

Q: What about Cyclone Armour?
A: Without significant points in synergies, the protection it offers will be
   pitiful, and this character doesn't have the points available.

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 does this guide look so much like your Wind Druid guide?
A: I liked the format of my previous guide, and to be perfectly frank, there
   were some sections that were still relevant and didn't need to be changed.
   However, most of the information outside of a couple of boiler-plate
   sections is new and hopefully relevant. I'm not planning to pursue legal
   action against myself for plagiarism.

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: 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 this guide 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) 2010 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, sheepish, Bisco, and everyone else at d2offline who offered
feedback, support, and suggestions during the writing of this guide.

Ghostkat at the Amazon Basin for catching a few omissions in previous versions
of this guide.

onderduiker 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.

Liquid_Evil at the DiabloII.net (now diii.net) Single Player Forum, who wrote
a guide to a similar build quite some time ago. His guide inspired me to put
my own spin on the character, which in turn inspired this writing; for further
information, his work is also well worth consulting. It can be found here:
http://diablo.incgamers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=614088

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.

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.