The Poorman takes on Uber Tristram
He caught wind of the rumors about Uber Tristram. He heard how tough it is to dent the reincarnated Evil Three. He read of solo players taking them down with GearFromEbay®.
But that is not his style. He is The Poorman, and The Poorman has no use for fancy gear.
He rises from his seat on the log lying beside his meager fire. With a yank to the edge of his cloak he shakes the raindrops from his mantle. He gazes for long minutes at the darkening Northern sky, then sets a measured pace toward the foothills of Mount Arreat.
He will liberate Uber Tristram. He will fight equipped only with junk: Normal grade white items, Normal uniques, Normal rares and Normal grade set pieces. Nothing Elite. Nothing even Exceptional. No runes higher than Lem will endow the armor he wears and the weapons he wields.
The Poorman will do battle in Uber Tristram alone, and he will do it in hardcore.
Planning the Mission
The Poorman knows about the cookie-cutter builds for Tristram: They’re all based on uber itamz: HoZ, TGods, Dracul’s, Guardian Angel or Last Wish, Gores, Grief, Astreon’s and the like.
The Poorman scoffs at all such treasure. He attacks instead with superior tactics. He defends with wile and subtlety.
But The Poorman detects a kernel of sense in those cookie-cutter builds: They all use Smite. No other solo attack is as well suited to the Uber Three, and its advantages are undimmed by the bling-bling other players insist on piling atop it.
Ranged attackers get steamrolled by the Big Three. Meph and Baal in particular leap aggressively down the throats of solo players, and the friendly minion able to stand in their way hasn’t yet been born. Even if she could stay on her feet longer than a few seconds, the solo ranged warrior cannot bring to bear any attack that stacks up against the huge hit points sported by each of the Three.
Mephisto has almost unbreakable (110%) immunities to lightening and poison. Baal has the same immunity to cold. Diablo has 95% resists to all four elements. Each of the three can blow through a standoff player before she gets near to killing them.
That leaves melee, although that smackey-face style of fighting is almost as lopsided in favor of the Three. Chopping through their minions is a chore for Sisyphus because new ones spawn faster than the old ones are dispatched. While the melee player is hacking them down, the Big Boys lop huge chunks out of the most intrepid fighter’s life ball. Without high priced trinkets, few melee characters live long enough to catch a second wind, let alone get close to the taste of victory.
But Smite stands above its melee brethren because it has three qualities crucial to success. First, it is an uninterruptible attack. Second, it always hits, regardless of the enemy’s defense and blocking abilities. And third, it can carry piggyback just enough of the melee fighter’s tricks to reach the goal line.
The Poorman scrounges through the slag heaps of gear discarded by others to find those few, overlooked yet crucial items that he needs.
Almost all the damage done by the denizens of Tristram is magic. Both Baal and Diablo have hellacious elemental attacks, and Mephisto’s lightning attack is a one-hit kill against all but the very well prepared. Baal’s Specters can stack up and dish serious physical damage, but otherwise the bad news is just about entirely elemental.
For that reason Meph’s Conviction dominates the battlefield. It’s level 20, taking 125% from The Poorman’s Fire, Cold and Lightning resists. Even if our hero could keep Meph off his back while engaging the others and their minions, Conviction’s sickly green aura makes all of their elemental attacks many times more deadly than elsewise.
So The Poorman’s plan is to take Mephisto preemptively. He will spawn only Meph and his brood at first, and fight chest to chest until one of them is a smoldering corpse on the ground.
With all danger of Conviction gone The Poorman will draw Diablo out to play and hopefully send him to oblivion. The Poorman will call Baal forth last of all. When Big B falls a Standard of Heroes will fall beside him. That is all the reward The Poorman will claim if he is able to carry the day.
20 Smite (21 with adders) 20 Holy Shield (21) 20 Fanaticism (21) 8 Salvation (9)
Character Point allocation
110 STR (111 with adders) 118 DEX (144) 159 VIT (159) 15 ENG (16)
With equipment and charm adders The Poorman has 1,464 Life and 192 Mana.
The advantages of The Poorman’s particular combination of items are discussed below, as are several alternate approaches with equally humble gear. Here’s what he takes with him to Harrogath:
Choice of merc
The Poorman fights alone. He has no merc.
How the battle unfolds
The Poorman starts by repairing his gear. He will do so twice more before the battle is over. Combat in Tristram can take a bone wand from fully repaired to broken in less than three minutes, and not even The Poorman relishes a battle where his only weapon is his fist.
The Poorman guzzles antidote and thaw potions, which stack at 30 seconds apiece, grant +10% to max poison/cold resists and add 50% to poison/cold resists. (Consuming them is cheesy, but The Poorman would rather dine on cheese than caviar, and he much prefers eating cheese to eating dirt.) He puts on Treachery and exposes himself to some low Act 1 attacks until its level 15 Fade triggers, granting nearly 5 minutes of 60% to all resists plus a hidden 15% to physical resist. He replaces Treachery with the lowly Darkglow armor. With Salvation on The Poorman now carries 80/90/80/90 resists, even in the face of Meph’s Conviction. It’s not quite godly, but it’s enough so he can survive any single big hit and have an extra fraction of a second before a killing blow.
In a time long gone by, seers foretold the incarnation of the Uber Three and recorded a secret way to spawn only Mephisto. But their predictions fell from memory with the passing years and all of their recorded wisdom decayed to dust, save for a single scroll that lay hidden away in a cavern far beneath the earth. Neither man nor beast had seen it for many lifetimes: Except for The Poorman, who came upon it in his wanderings.
As his final preparation he calls to mind the ancients’ scroll and the secret it told. He smiles grimly at the thought that their foresight so long ago might now come to the aid of men.
He opens and jumps down the red portal, which puts him just on the far side of the buildings in the center of Tristram. Nighttime has fallen there.
He heads due North (toward the top left corner of the monitor) and then trots counterclockwise along the outer perimeter until he’s on the near side of Tristram:
In daylight, that same spot looks like this:
Immediately in front of The Poorman is a stone on the ground. That stone is the secret marker for spawning Mephisto. The Poorman walks up nearly to the point of touching it:
The first of Mephisto’s minions immediately surge up out of the ground. A second later Mephisto appears between the buildings just North of the stone. The Poorman has only an instant to initiate a flurry of Smites before Mephisto will cast his devastating lightning attack. But The Poorman has been hunting monsters for long years in the wild, and he knows that if he engages Mephisto the fight is over and The Poorman is dead. For to close with Mephisto he must close the gap between them, and the instant he steps beyond the stone he spawns Diablo and probably Baal as well. Against Mephisto alone he has a chance; against all of the Three together he is badly overmatched.
So he does the opposite of what Mephisto expects: He runs away, toward the bottom of the screen. Sensing an easy kill Mephisto leaps forward himself, momentarily outracing his own minions. The Poorman readies himself for that surge. Quick as a thunder crack he must whirl to face Mephisto, toggle to the hotkey for his bone wand’s Life Tap charges, right-click a Tap charge on Mephisto’s head, hotkey back to Salvation and hold down on left-click targeting of Meph to initiate a sustained Smite attack.
He either does that correctly or he dies. To get a Life Tap cast he must get the skill on his right button, and for as long as it’s there his Salvation is off. While it is down he stands exposed to Meph’s Conviction. The excess LR he wears (Orts in helm and armor and 29% in a grand charm) sustains his defense against lightning, but his cold and fire resists drop well below max and he takes damage much faster until Salvation goes back up. If he rushes and gets Salvation up before a successful Tap sticks to Meph then his resists are fine but he has zero leach. He can gulp pots in a desperate effort to keep up with the onslaught raining down on him, but 12 pots don’t last long in that extremity and when the last one is gone he is done for.
The Poorman knew this moment would come. He trained for it in Durance against Mephisto’s Act 3 cousin. His moment is now at hand, and as Uber Meph races toward him The Poorman casts Tap, brings Salvation back up and locks Meph in a Smite attack. He now has 28 seconds of Life Tap with uninterruptible 7-frame Smite attacks, connecting 3.5 times per second, leaching an average of 518 life points per second. Even that much leach cannot keep him alive, but it dramatically extends the length between fat purple quaffs.
The Poorman knows that with his lowly crown shield his Smite attack (about 370 hp per attack) barely tickles Meph’s 650,000 hp life bar. But Meph is maniacally determined to kill the warrior he towers over and won’t disengage even to save himself, while The Poorman has the inexorable force of mathematics in his arsenal. Unfortunately for The Poorman, the laws of mathematics dictate that he cannot kill Meph within the 28-second window that is now available. So The Poorman counts down the seconds aloud while the battle rages all around him, and whenever his life ball takes a precipitous hit he spends a precious purple. “ . . . 21, 20, 19,” “. . . 12, 11, 10,” “. . . 7, 6, 5 . . .”
At the count of ‘3’ The Poorman executes his life-or-death sequence again: Tap charges up/cast Tap/Salvation back up/lock Smite attack on Meph. It costs him nearly a full second and another fat purple. But The Poorman has Meph back in the unforgiving embrace of mathematics, and this time it is Meph who cannot outlast the clock.
Somewhere in the recesses of his vile mind Meph must sense that something is wrong. His life bar is down to a sliver, less than a tenth of where it began. For while he has been raging against the small paladin in front of him, barely noticing the puny physical damage from his shield, Meph has overlooked The Poorman’s lowly boots. Goblin Toes have but one useful attribute: 25% crushing blow. With another 8% cb on his crafted gloves The Poorman is landing just over one crushing blow per second. Meph’s weakness is physical resists (he has only 20%), so each crushing blow removes one twentieth of his remaining life.
Meph has never worried much about his physical resists because he starts with an enormous life pool and regenerates lost life many times faster than his enemies can remove it. But once again Meph has overlooked a humble part of The Poorman’s garb: His belt, with its 10% chance to cast Open Wounds. Meph is vulnerable to OW, and OW works with Smite. Once triggered it lasts for 8 seconds, and at a rate of 3.5 attacks per second it is all but impossible for Meph to get out from under its grasp. So for every second of the fight Meph has lost a twentieth of his remaining life, and at the half-minute mark it is nearly gone.
Now it is too late for him to worry about crushing blows, and their effect no longer matters. Of the few thousands of hit points left to him the loss of a twentieth hardly registers. But the puny direct physical damage of the shield’s Smite attacks now comes to the fore. A 370-hp attack was laughable against a 650,000 hp life bar. But with just a few thousand life points left and 3.5 of those attacks per second, Meph is not laughing. His only hope is to kill The Poorman before his dwindling life source expires.
But The Poorman’s 12 purple potions last long enough and his resist maximums are high enough – barely – to bring Meph down. The demon crashes to the earth in ruin. His minions continue attacking half-heartedly but are in disarray. The Poorman takes his time and dispatches them one by one, making certain to draw each one down to the Southwest corner of Tristram first so as not to accidentally spawn Diablo or Baal. The Poorman retraces his steps back around the perimeter, taking the red portal up to Harrogath.
He repairs his gear, refills his belt and replaces Iratha’s Crown with his 3 P-ruby crown, gaining 114 life in exchange for lightning and fire resists that he no longer needs. He replaces the LR and FR charms in his Inventory with the life charms stored in his Stash to gain 46 more life. He leaves one inventory slot open.
He gulps more antidote and thaw potions, dons Treachery again and triggers Fade. He puts Darkglow back on and recasts Holy Shield. Now he sets his aura to Fanaticism. Salvation has served its purpose and he will not use it again.
With level 21 Fanaticism he easily has a 6-frame Smite attack, cranking 4.1 attacks per second. Fana adds 390% ED as well. But the net physical damage to Baal and Diablo will total only a little more than the slower and weaker Smites against Meph because both Baal and Diablo have 50% physical resistance compared to Meph’s 20%. Their extra physical resistance will affect crushing blow as well, so despite the greater speed and power of attacks, the damage rate against Baal and Diablo is actually a trifle below the damage rate inflicted on Mephisto.
The Poorman is ready for the second stage of the battle. He fills his lungs with cold mountain air and heads back down.
Now is the time to fight Diablo because even alone Baal will be the hardest of the Three, and for that encounter The Poorman wants all of Tristram to maneuver in. Drawing out just Diablo is trickier than with Meph, but once again The Poorman’s canny wile serves him well.
He circles the Tristram perimeter just as for Meph, and approaches the same stone on the South side. But this time he goes a full step beyond it. He inches forward just until Diablo’s minions begin to spawn. Even then, when he can see the light emanating from Uber Diablo at the top edge of the screen, The Poorman goes no closer. Diablo must be coaxed out beyond the buildings. The Poorman now must run back and forth until Diablo’s fickle AI drives him out to fight. If The Poorman stops running while trying to lure out his foe, Diablo’s bone prison can trap him like a juicy morsel in a cage. Yet if The Poorman encroaches closer to Tristram’s buildings he may spawn Baal as well.
After 10 or 15 tense seconds jogging back and forth (and dodging Diablo’s Pit Lord minions), Diablo charges out to fight. It is the last mistake he will make. Alongside either of his brothers the attacks of Uber Diablo are ferocious. But when The Poorman can close on him separately Diablo is vulnerable. The Poorman casts Life Tap on him and commences to Smite. The Pit Lords, with their unbreakable immunities to all 5 forms of magic damage, are so big that only a few can crowd around close enough to attack, and they cannot distract The Poorman while Life Tap is up. After 24 seconds The Poorman recasts Life Tap, restores Fanaticism, and pounds on Diablo until he collapses. The Poorman disengages from his minions and again, one by one, Smites them to death in the Southwest corner of Tristram (the sole vulnerability of the Pit Lords is that they have just 50% physical resists). The whole encounter with Diablo has cost just a single fat purple potion.
The Poorman returns to Harrogath and rests briefly. He goes through his pre-fight routine: Repair gear, gulp more antidote and thaw potions, trigger Treachery and put Darkglow back on, cast Holy Shield and set his hotkeys to Smite/Fana. Then he makes a crucial adjustment, replacing the leftmost belt stack of fat purples with blue mana pots.
The fight against Baal will be by far the hardest to survive. The Poorman pauses to think how to make best use of the terrain. He decides to challenge Baal on the East side of Tristram, a short space South of the red portal.
To spawn Baal he has a choice. He can circle counterclockwise all the way around the perimeter to the Southeast corner and approach the gap between the buildings there, or he can head due South from the portal and spawn Baal as he runs Southward. The second option is quicker and The Poorman takes it. After just a few paces Baal and a host of his minions spawn and charge after him.
The Poorman executes the retreat/Tap/Fana/Smite sequence and locks up with Baal. He then makes two unpleasant discoveries. First, his mana ball goes empty almost at once; Uber Baal drains mana as often and easily as his Worldstone cousin, so The Poorman guzzles a blue pot. Second, the Specter minions are more dangerous to him than anything in the supporting cast of Diablo or Meph. Though they hovered on the periphery at first, once The Poorman closes with Baal the Specters circle in and attack. Baal has summoned six of them (or so it seems to The Poorman as he counts them out of the corner of his eye), and they stack on one another so all of them can combine into what is effectively a single massive attack. That by itself is bad, but even worse is that they also suck The Poorman’s mana ball bone dry. He now has Baal in his face and six Specters on his back, and the whiffing sound of his swinging shield fills the air because he has no mana to connect with Smite. His red ball takes a huge hit. He pops a purple and gets a few good digs in on Baal. Then his blue ball goes instantly empty. He pops his second blue pot and continues.
Just seconds later it happens again. He uses his last blue pot and has a few productive seconds to whittle Baal’s life bar down. But as soon as the blue pot’s regeneration is done his mana ball is sucked dry, and now he must drink purple pots to refill it. Baal and his Specters empty it mere instants after it refills. With Baal’s life bar only about half gone The Poorman knows he cannot win. Whenever his mana ball goes empty he cannot leach and is vulnerable to everything Baal and his crew are throwing at him.
The Poorman breaks off the fight and takes the portal to Harrogath. He goes through the same pre-fight steps and returns to battle. Baal’s life has regenerated to full. The Poorman casts Tap and closes. After 30 seconds the results are the same: He is nearly out of potions, he has twice come within a sliver of dying, and Baal still has a sizable chunk of his life bar intact. For the second time The Poorman breaks off and retreats to town.
He is exhausted and he is frustrated. But he is not yet beaten.
He will face Baal one last time, and will return either victorious or not at all. He goes through his pre-fight steps, checks his gear, and drops down the red portal.
The flock of Specters foiled his initial strategy, so he takes them on first. They are physically immune and he has no magic or elemental damage to wield against them. But he has a keen mind, whereas the Specters are rather dim.
He edges far enough from the portal for the Specters to see him, then turns and runs into the center of Tristram. The Specters follow like pets on a leash. The Poorman runs West across the square and between the buildings on the West side. The Specters trail behind him.
As soon as he clears the last building The Poorman cuts North, with his right shoulder along the West wall of the Northwest building. The Specters float out from behind him, but take a second to spot him again and turn North in chase. By then he has reached the Northwest corner of the same building, and cuts sharply to the right so as to duck out of the Specters’ line of sight.
Now they are confused. They drift listlessly Northward, but have lost his scent. They hover on the West side of Tristram, unable to spot where The Poorman has gone.
The Poorman knows where he is going: Straight back to Baal, who remains on the Southeast side of Tristram. The Poorman immediately re-engages him there. Baal summons fresh Specters, but only a few of them. Now the opponents are evenly matched.
As never before, The Poorman’s movements must be flawless and he must make the most of each potion in his belt. He locks up with Baal and begins the grisly work of a professional warrior. He ignores the searing pain of Baal’s attacks. The Poorman no longer sees Baal, no longer hears the sounds of combat. His stares only at his own life and mana orbs. He hears only his own voice as he counts out Life Tap’s duration. When his red ball crashes below a third he pops a purple. Five of them are already gone. As the first Tap charge is about to expire he renews it and begins the count again: “28, 27, 26 . . .” Twice his mana ball goes dry and twice he spends a blue pot. “16, 15, 14 . . .” Flurries nearly overwhelm him three times more, and he staves each one off with a fat purple.
“9, 8, 7 . . .” Baal’s life bar is at a tiny sliver. It seems to stay there an eternity. Crushing blow is now meaningless. All that matters is the direct physical Smite damage from the native 4 to 12 points of damage on his crown shield. The Poorman is down to a single purple pot and a single mana pot, and his Tap spell is about to expire. “6, . . . 5, . . . 4 . . . .” With three seconds to spare Baal twists his face skyward in the throes of a death scream:
A Standard of Heroes falls in his shadow along with a unique large charm:
Enraged over Baal’s destruction, his Dark Lords continue casting their attack spells. The Poorman ignores them.
He picks up the Standard of Heroes that lies at his feet, tucks it into the sole open slot in his Inventory, and swallows his last purple potion while Baal’s minions harass him.
The unique charm he leaves untouched. The gods can have it if they have any need of it. For the last time The Poorman takes the portal back up to Harrogath, then begins the long walk home.
Crushing Blow and Smite
Smite does not deliver a wide variety of mods that routinely appear on various gear:
But by pure fortuity, Smite does work with just the right mods for solo Tristram play:
As describe above, these features are indispensable to The Poorman’s build.
Less obvious are certain aspects of crushing blow and Smite that are not necessary, and indeed would be of little more than incidental benefit. In particular, a high percentage crushing blow and a high amount of Smite damage add surprisingly little to survivability in Tristram. Even at the extremes they merely shorten each fight, and not necessarily by a great deal.
Here is how the formula for Smite physical damage may be presented:
Decrep and Weaken penalize Smite damage, but neither one is cast in Uber Tristram so I omit their effect. (The Arreat Summit says Uber Baal casts Decrep, but I’ve never seen it.)
As shown, the formula divides into halves, with each half embraced by red parentheses. It then is easy to see why Smite players get excited by the ‘plus-x damage’ mod. Any one-point increase in the first half of the formula gets a boost from each of the bonuses with any value in the second half of the formula. Equipping Redeemer, Astreon’s or Stone Crusher gives a large and immediate increase to the first part of the formula, and a Grief weapon grants an absurdly large increase of 340-400 points.
Aside from refusing all Exceptional and Elite gear on principle, The Poorman would not find any of those weapons especially useful for Tristram. Each of the Ubers’ hitpoints are too large to take down solely (or even primarily) with direct damage. Crushing blow is the vehicle to remove most of each monster’s life. Direct damage is insignificant until the Uber’s life gets fairly low.
Accordingly, a warrior has two ways to shorten the time needed to kill the Three: Increase Smite damage for the last phase of the fight, or increase the rate of successful Crushing Blows.
Significantly increasing Smite damage with The Poorman’s build would be difficult, very risky, and wouldn’t help much. He won’t touch the Redeemer, Astreon’s, Stone Crusher or Grief. He won’t accept skill charms, +2/+3 skill ammys or +1 skill rings, so he can’t boost his combat skills much beyond 21. His Crown Shield already carries the highest base Smite damage (4 to 12) of any Normal quality shield, so he has little room for improving the first half of the Smite formula.
Much of the second half of the formula is likewise max’d out: Might and Concentration aren’t present, and Fana is nearly as high as his self-imposed constraints allow. He could nevertheless boost Smite damage by adding ED% to off-weapon gear and by adding Strength either from charms, gear or rebuilding and diverting VIT or DEX to STR. But any of those changes would open a gaping hole of vulnerability in his build without doing him much good.
For example, if he added 100% ED to his gear (by, say, dumping Iratha’s crown for a 3-socket crown with 40%/40%/30% ED jewels), The Poorman’s average Smite attack against Meph (when no Fanaticism is active) goes from 370 to 440. He’d get the same boost if instead he diverted 100 points of VIT or DEX to Strength. If he made both those changes he’d achieve average Smite damage of 511.
But both of those changes would leave him far more likely to die, and even if he could stay alive the increase in damage would barely change his offensive effectiveness because direct Smite damage is essentially meaningless against the Three until the very end of the fight.
In ideal conditions where The Poorman would not need to interrupt his Smite attack (for, say, recasting Life Tap), we can calculate how long it takes to kill each Uber based on weapon speed, IAS, cb percentage and direct Smite damage. With his actual build The Poorman should (in theory) defeat Uber Meph with a continuous Smite attack of about 121 attacks, taking 35 seconds. Boosting his average Smite damage from 370 to 511 results in a battle that requires about 112 attacks lasting 32 seconds.
By contrast, increasing The Poorman’s crushing blow percentage can significantly shorten each fight, provided it doesn’t slow down his attack speed. If, for example, he could add another 25% cb against Meph and retain his attack speed, the fight would take about 77 attacks lasting 22 seconds instead of 121 attacks over 35 seconds. The difference is easily graphed:
The Poorman did consider his options for increasing his cb percentage. The best option is making the Black runeword (Thul+Io+Nef) in a flail because Black would add another 40% cb and the flail is the fastest Normal weapon it will work in. The idea would be to have the flail as his primary weapon and the Life Tap wand on backup (along with a second high resists shield).
But a Black flail is slower than a double-Shaeled bone wand, which delivers a 7-frame Smite attack against Meph and a 6-frame attack against Diablo and Baal. By contrast, against Meph a Black flail would have a 9-frame (2.7/sec) attack, and against Diablo and Baal it would have a 7-frame (3.5/sec) attack. The cb increase, though, would more than make up for slower attack speeds. A perfect (uninterrupted) Smite assault on Meph with a Black flail would be about 11 seconds shorter than with The Poorman’s bone wand, and the flail would shave about 13 seconds off the fights against Diablo and Baal. In theory, all three of those fights would end well within the initial Tap’s 28-second window.
But using the flail would create two big problems. The Poorman is most vulnerable when he’s not leaching anything – such as during the Tap/cast/switch-to-aura sequence. Putting the Tap wand on backup means adding two steps to that maneuver: Switching to the Tap wand at the start, and switching back to the flail at the end. Weapon switches are always dicey in the middle of melee, and they are more so when the casting of a spell is involved. Hotkeying a weapon switch has no effect until after the cast is over. So clicking a cast and hitting a hotkey too quickly leaves the wrong gear in place. In Tristram, that can be bad.
Even worse, The Poorman’s leach would degrade if he fought with the flail because of its slower speed. Against Mephisto he leaches 518/sec. With a Black flail it would be only 400/second: a 23% reduction. Against Baal and Diablo he leaches 661/sec with the bone wand, and would leach 564/sec with the flail: a 15% reduction. Leach is survival in Tristram, and giving up a chunk of it is a good way for one’s deeds to be remembered (prematurely).
Skipping the merc
Life expectancy of a merc during combat in Tristram is measured in milliseconds. An Act 2 or Act 5 merc can survive for a while if one gets incredibly lucky at the outset and if the merc continually attacks a target that is Life Tapped.
But the damage they do cannot have any meaningful effect on the outcome. An Act 2 Might merc adds a modest amount to direct physical damage from Smite, but not so much as noticeably to shorten the battle.
The overriding downside of any merc is the risk he will spawn one of the Three Ubers prematurely. Whether it’s the Cold pulse of an Act 2 Holy Freeze merc, or a Rogue merc’s stray arrows, or an Act 3 merc’s elemental casts, or any of them wandering too close to the center of Tristram, the risk that they will cause a second Uber to spawn while one of the others is in battle outweighs whatever slight benefit a merc might bring.
A bone wand with Life Tap charges is easy to shop in Act 3. The Poorman (at level 81) can shop a wand with Level 5 Tap charges, which have a 25.6 second duration. He needed a higher level character to buy a bone wand carrying the highest possible Life Tap charges (level 6). Luck determines whether Larzuk punches two sockets in it rather than just one.
Aside from its Life Tap charges, the bone wand is crucial because it is wicked fast. Smite speed is based on the equipped weapon’s speed, and a bone wand has [-20] base speed.
The IAS breakpoints for Smite with a bone wand are 2%, 16%, 40% and 92%. With no IAS equipped, Smite with a bone wand is a 10-frame attack, doing just 2.5 attacks per second. With one Shael it reaches 8 frames, doing 3.1 attacks/second. A second Shael gets it exactly to the break point for a 7-frame attack (3.5 per second).
Those breakpoints matter only for fighting Meph. Against Diablo and Baal The Poorman has level 21 Fanaticism going. With no other IAS a bone wand has a 7-frame attack, and 20% IAS is the breakpoint to reach the fastest possible Smite (6-frame, doing 4.1 attacks per second), which of course can be achieved with a single Shael.
The “best” item The Poorman wears is Ravenfrost. He wears it solely for its Cannot Be Frozen mod. In Tristram a chilled smiter is a dead smiter. The Poorman considered using Hawkmail scale mail instead of Darkglow because Hawkmail is the only Normal armor that bears cbf. But he then would lose Darkglow’s +5% to maximum resists. As a practical matter that would mean 25% more damage from each fire and lightning attack and 50% more damage from each poison/cold attack (and losing Raven’s cold absorb, too). He could have beaten Meph and Diablo that way, but probably not Baal.
Death’s Guard sash also grants cbf, but it has only 8 slots and The Poorman would need an alternate source for Open Wounds. Of the few available Normal quality options for Open Wounds, each presents severe downsides. Besides Open Wounds, The Poorman has no other way to stop the prodigious regeneration of The Three: Prevent Monster Heal wouldn’t work on them, and he has no reliable way to inflict poison damage on them.
By using exclusively Normal quality gear The Poorman’s defense rating is terrible. But high defense would be largely wasted in Tristram. Against Meph it is useless, since his Conviction removes 90% of the player’s defense.
As careful readers may have noticed, The Poorman's build does not make efficient use of resists. In a nutshell he has far more of them than he needs. I built him that way to get a sense of whether he would be viable either without Treachery (in keeping with the theme of using only the worst gear imaginable), or without Salvation (to fight Meph using Fanaticism, making that battle a quicker one).
Having succeeded with his existing build I'm now pretty confident he would be just as successful without Salvation so long as I shifted some LR to FR and swapped out a few life charms for more CR when fighting Mephisto.
Doing without Treachery would be more problematic. It wouldn't make any difference to fighting Diablo. Against Baal and his Specters The Poorman would only miss Fade's 15% physical resists, and getting the Specters to hang themselves up in and behind nearby buildings would compensate for that. The hard part would be fighting Meph.
Without Fade going for him, each time The Poorman hotkeys to his Life Tap charges he loses Salvation and his fire/cold/lightning resists drop through the floor. Without a boatload of additional resist charms (which would replace most or all of his life charms), it wouldn't take much in the way of elemental hits for The Poorman to be toast.
All in all, if I were to remake him today, remained willing to use Treachery and could find a second high-resists Normal paly shield, I'd skip Salvation and put the bone wand and second shield in the backup slots and have the crown shield and a Black flail on primary. After the initial Tap on Meph, a 73%-cb/7-frame Smite flurry (using Fana) should take down Meph in well under 20 seconds. Even with reduced leach The Poorman would have plenty of pots to handle that encounter.
Grimborn, Jan. 2006. Reprinted with permission from this topic.