The Trap Assassin
Almost two years after mentioning this guide in my first post and several promises of doing so, it's about time I translated it. So here it is. Enjoy.
The Ancient Greek Trench War
For a long time, it seemed that the Brigand's auras and Study Prey were the only way of making traps inflict good damage on the long run. Without buffs, progress in Legendary is sluggish at best. Pet bonuses do not help them in the regular game, and burn damage has little effect beyond looking nice. A long overlooked bonus granted by the Warrior's Battle Standard, however, increases the damage of almost everything in its radius, including trap bolts, by up to 274 physical points!
The idea behind the build at hand is to make use of that bonus as often as possible, using the traps' rapid rate of fire as well as flurries of throwing knives to deliver it to the enemy.
And this works quite well, to say the least. Especially on Legendary, thanks to high %physical bonuses.
What is more, the Assassin needs fewer skillpoints for this than the Brigand, can make do with little -recharge, and is quite safe to play, which makes him an interesting build for new players. Old boys, on the other hand, can explore some interesting possibilities opened up by specific equipment.
Standard bonus affecting traps and knives
The basic principle is quite simple: Our "trench fighter" builds a fortification consisting of three traps and a Standard, then lets the enemy storm it with their clubs. When they are cleared he attracts the next wave, or moves the "front" forward.
This makes his progress depend a bit on how often he can construct a new Standard (recharge). However, thoughtful placement does allow players to use each one for a relatively long time.
Tactical support comes in the form of confusing knives, Warhorn stun, the Standard's other benefits (45% damage absorption, +skills, -50% energy cost) and whatever else the player chooses to do.
Actually, the only other thing he needs to do at this point is survive, and maybe replace the occasional trap. But why stop at that?
"Don't forget your stick, Lieutenant."
"Rather, Sir. Wouldn't want to face a machinegun without it!"
- Blackadder goes forth
The beauty of this Trapper is that, after completing the core build relatively early, you are left with a lot of points to distribute freely according to your preference and playstyle.
As a general direction, he can become a Fighter, Caster, or both.
Let's call the last one a Hybrid (for lack of a better word, since he excels at both).
...is initially not much of a trapper, but rather resembles the ordinary assassin in style and gear. Fighting through trash mobs with Warwind and Onslaught (maybe even dual wielding), the knives are used only to help distribute the poison. Usually able to defend himself, he only takes the time to construct fortifications to ensure victory against larger groups or bosses.
He is a straightforward char who capitalizes on the strength and dexterity granted by the masteries, needs little to no -recharge, and is therefore a good choice for newer players. By finding the right gear, he can gradually evolve to become the Hybrid.
- Attributes: str / dex about 2:1, int of a youghurt.
- Equipment: The usual Warrior stuff.
...tries to stick to the basic idea as much as possible, as early as possible. Accordingly, he strives to have traps and Standards up all the time, while supporting with knives. Melee skills are only used in emergencies, and are not trained for. - His main goal is the reduction of recharge time.
This requires him to increase his intelligence in order to wear things like Archmage's Clasps. On the other hand, he also needs strength and dexterity - to carry a decent shield, to block better, and to hold or wear any other equipment that may reduce recharge times (Hunter's Helm, Tracker's Hood, Ceremonial Buckler...) or support his traps (MButi). All those requirements, in turn, make him appreciate equipment which reduces them, like a Captain's Signet or Hephaestus' Shield.
The advantage of the caster lies in his flexibility, and trap/knife damage being completely independent of player attributes. By disregarding melee, he can train them for the sole purpose of wearing equipment - which is perfect for players who would like to play trapper style, but need or want to do it with whatever rag-tag -recharge gear they have or find.
And it is worth collecting, not only for more Standards: At about -80% recharge, knife throwing becomes a spammable attack, allowing for some active buttkicking from the Caster himself. It also allows him to have a permanent escort of Ancestor spirits (they, too, get the Standard's bonus!), which makes him a petmaster on top. With enough intelligence to carry Hades' Scepter, he can temporarily increase their number to eight.
- Attributes: Mixed, depending on the equipment. Do not affect damage.
- Equipment: Whatever reduces recharge, or strengthens knives and pets. See below.
...is a fighter as well as a caster who, thanks to excellent equipment, can get rid of recharge time while still focusing on strength (and still having room for resistances, +skills and melee/knife/pet bonuses). Except for the ability to summon MOAR! Ancestors, he combines all combat abilities of the above two classes.
However, he is extremely gear dependent, and therefore restricted to "rich" players (or cheaters), or to be held as a future goal for those starting out as Fighters.
- Attributes: Like Fighter
- Equipment: Odysseus' Armor, Tracker's Hood, Talisman of the Jade Emperor, Polaris, Lykaion Malleus, SBCs.
Obviously, the transitions between possible variants are smooth. Besides, I would not stop anyone from supporting his traps as a staff mage or archer (with no recharge Lethal Strike...).
Do whatever you like - the char allows it.
Maiev the Fighter, striving to become a Hybrid.
Equipment & Tips
- When using +skills, the tooltips will not always show the correct Standard bonus. It works perfectly, though, going up to 274 at level 14.
- The Standard's aura boosts itself, ending up one level higher than initially stated. Placing one Standard while in the radius of another yields one more level.
- When using the Fanpatch, Triumph is another great boost to your fortification by protecting it against melees (even more) and reducing enemies' physical resistance. It does, however, draw aggro to the Standard, which is rather fragile in normal.
- Since keeping the Standard alive is crucial, an obvious thing to do is to spread out your summons, especially when facing AoE attacks.
- The added physical bonus greatly exceeds the innate pierce damages of both knives and trap bolts. Therefore points in BS, and Improved Fire Mechanism for traps, are more important than the base skill levels.
When points are scarce, level 1 traps will do. They also cost less mana to build. Likewise, knives can be left at 1-max unless you really want the extra bang.
- Fun fact: After being granted some damage to its "hands", the Standard, just like some ranged pets, occasionally performs a melee attack.
- The only way of boosting trap damage further are ally auras, which in the Assassin's case means magic scrolls or other party members. Considering the latter, your best friends are Hunting (Pierce damage boost, high level Study Prey) and Nature (SotP, HoO, Plague). Team up with a Ranger for insane traps and wolves.
- Blade Honing does not affect the traps. Not even the flat pierce damage. The latter gets added to your knives, and more pierce conversion helps your spear if you also have lots of +% pierce damage on you. (If not, enemy pierce resistance might cancel the benefit or worse.) You decide whether it is worth the points.
- What you can do is increase the damage the enemy receives, by reducing their physical and pierce resistances. Triumph, as mentioned, does this. So do Monkey King relics on jewellery, which also apply on knives. Sheng Nong or weapons which inherently do this (Sapros, Boreas, Defiler, Bramblewood) work too, but only on direct attacks with that weapon.
- The best way to reduce both physical and pierce resistances is using a Mbuti's Advocate (Anouran MI spear), which grants a chance to cast Study Prey - even when throwing knives! This allows you to spread it from afar, with many opportunities of activating.
It also works well in melee, combined with Onslaught and Lethal Strike. But even if you are a low-strength Caster, using War Wind with a Sheng Nong'd, Mandrake-poisoned Mbuti can ruin a small crowd's day.
- Lastly, another way to more damage when using many small attacks is to reduce enemy armor. Weapons like The Last Emperor, suffixes like "of Ruin" (direct attack only) and Hamstring all make each bolt/knife hurt a bit more.
This is where a partner with Dream can shine (especially pet Ritu / trap Illu), because Chaotic Resonance annihilates around 300 points of armor in an AoE.
- Standard and equipment bonuses all add up on your knives. So do special effects like leech, stun or reduced resistances. They are more like arrows than spell projectiles.
- The one exception to this are bonuses on weapons (and shields), which only affect knives via global %, or granted skills. Fortunately, there are affixes (e.g. Tyrant's) and relics (Thanatos, Achilles) which increase physical or total % nicely - if you want to focus on damage.
- Generally, the key to good knife damage is to stack as many flat bonuses of a type as possible on them, and then boost that same type(s) by many %.
Tracker's Hood, for example, increases the knives' base pierce damage by 100% and grants another 40 flat lightning which, in turn, would profit from %lightning and, in this case, intelligence.
- Physical and pierce damage on knives do not care about str/dex. Yet this char should use those, especially physical, because they are already present and supported.
Items like the Pendant Of Immortal Rage or Ares relics help here. Phantom Bane and Ring of Dexterity are worth a look, too.
- Battle Rage and its mod affect knives! Due to their numbers, this can be quite useful: Up to 80 points per knife (before +%) and 25% chance of another 300.
- Open Wound (chance of bleeding) works as well, as long as you carry a bladed weapon. In normal difficulty, blood/poison knives are a viable option.
- For survival, your primary equipment should always include a shield. The best one, obviously, is Aionios. Ankil is good too, for extra blocking, and so is a Vengeance with good affixes and a Turtle Shell.
Casters already have some strength from masteries, and should have little trouble ending up with at least a medium shield thanks to -requirments, like the "Flowing Shield of the Euphrates" or an epic Vengeance.
If you want to get by without strength for some reason, as always, use Santa's inedibly hard peppermint.
- Strong guys can put one or two Onagers on switch to quickly regenerate mana.
- As it should be, bows are an Assassin's friend! Early on, they are great Envenomed Weapons, and a cheap alternative to knives for luring enemy groups.
Later, the ability to deliver Nightshade and Hamstring slow, Lethal Strike / Onslaught damage and stun, and other weapon effects from a distance makes them great for sniping bosses.
- Casters who use Ancestors a lot may think about getting physical pet gear for them. The % bonus works on their damage, the added damage, and the Standard's boost.
- Though it's neat to have, there may be better options than going all the way up to 500 int just to hold Hades' Scepter. The extra Ancestors' cooldown cannot be reduced, and you must not switch back to your shileld while they are up.
If you also own the Demonskin Walkers, though, or want to support with staff shots, more power to you.
- The best artifact to get is certainly the Jade Emperor's Talisman. Resistances, recharge reduction and an ally aura are all useful to us. Thot's Glory and Polymath are good for Casters, for their requirement reduction. And those focusing on throwing knives may like anything that grants flat bonuses, like the Tyrant's Fist.
UBER PRO TIP