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Why is Enigma superior to Bramble?

Mobility, to a certain extent, is far more important than the damage you deal. ( Mobility >>> Damage )

Lots of people connect 'a good pvp character' with 'high damage' and thus see a bramble armor as the obvious answer to their Whirlwind assassin armor question. I agree that a ~6K attack looks funky, but think about it; what use does an awesome attack has when you can't hand it out to anyone?

That is the first problem bramble causes; with bramble you'll have to resort to walking/running and Dragon Flight. Dragon Flight is an amazing skill, but unfortunately its way too slow, interruptible and buggy to fully rely on. Walking/Running brings along another problem; while doing so, your claw-block will drop to 0%.

Obviously, your lack of mobility will have a tremendous effect on your chances of winning. Competent casters will no doubt take advantage of your predictable movent. You can't savely exit hammer-fields or regroup when a smiter triggers life-tap on you, et cetera, et cetera.

Lets take a look at Enigma. The most important thing is, ofcourse, the +1 to teleport. Teleport allows you to move unpredictable, keep up your claw-block and suprise opponents who are 2 screens away. Enigma increases your walking/running with 45%, even though I just classified running as something 'not desired' it's inevitable; so when you have to, the faster the better. Furthermore, enigma provides strength; although its not needed when you make certain decisions (i.e. no angelics, no shadow dancers), it helps to stay at base or close to base strength. Last, but certainly not least; enigma increases your base life with 5%. Whoever thinks that is useless is retarded and should quit this game a.s.a.p.

Enigma goes hand in hand with a 85% decrease in damage opposed to bramble. That's pretty much, but you gain such more valuable things. Besides, this loss can be limited to only 40% with the use of bramble as a prebuff armor.

For the people who skip anything that is somewhat longer than 3 words, or for those who like things in a nutshell;



High damage

Predictable movement

Little active claw-block


Less life

Relatively low damage


(Always) active claw-block

More life

What is Trap-locking?

Trap-locking refers to the act where you prohibit your opponent from moving/fleeing/attacking with the use of Mind Blast and (low level) Traps.

Your opponent wont be able to do anything because he is constantly forced into Hit-recovery. Normally, you'll have to deal an amount of damage that equals at least 1/8th of someone's life to put him into this recovery animation. Along with Mind Blast you won't (Read [What is the purpose of maxing Mind Blast?] for more info on why). The traps that are used to set up this lock are Lightning Sentry and Wake of Fire.

Locking can be done in many ways. Almost every character needs a different approach. The following diagram shows a way to lock non-jumpy opponents;

Namelock your opponent with your right mouse-button pushed down. Switch your right skill to MB, switch MB to LS, switch back to MB, switch to WoF. Tele -> WW

Now, to clear up what I ment with 'jumpy opponents'; some people take a run for the hills as soon as you mind blast them once. Naturally, the method you see above won't work since they are long gone before your first trap even sets in. Thats why you'll have to master different techniques versus different opponents. As an example, you could place one or more WoF's prior to your first mind blast, so that the traps will already be hitting.

I hope its clear that there is no 'perfect way to lock'. There is no real formulae you'll have to live up to. You don't necessarily have to use LS and WoF. Mess around a bit with combinations and use whatever suits your playing style.

Some tips though; WoF is your best friend when facing Amazons. Since WoF shoots its waves so fast, the amazon will be busy doing two things; either evade/dodge the waves or being put into a hit recovery animation, when you are on top of her she'll be blocking aswell. In other words; way too occupied to attack, nice for us.

Due to its long range, Lightning Sentry works better versus fast running opponents.

What is the purpose of maxing Mind Blast?

With Mind Blast you can gain a little bit of control over your opponent; it pushes them back and prohibits their movement (it's effectiveness is affected by your opponents grade of FHR).

Sure, alright, awesome... why would I max it? There are two reasons to do so;

Ever noticed that little swirl that appears above one's head after a mind blast? Whenever that swirl is visible, the character will be put into hit recovery by anything that hits him. Regardless of the amount or type of afflicted damage. The duration of the swirl increases every level untill it reaches its maximum of 10 seconds at skill level 41. A longer duration helps you setting up and maintaining a proper lock.

Secondly, a high level mind blast hurts. A lvl 50 mind blast sports 336-346 damage, 28-29 damage after the PvP penalty and 50% DR. That sure looks like it would be just a small tickle to any character. That is true, but even tickles leave bruises after a while. A high level mind blast along with 65% fcr or higher can't be ignored on the long run. Beside that, it's fun as hell to kill people who lack DR with merely mind blast. Mind Blast is also a good finisher for 1 life runners.

A third argument used to be that a high level mind blast would cause your Shadow Master to cast it more often. However, after a series of tests I have been unable to find any relation at all between the level and the frequency of which the Shadow Master uses the skill in question. If you have any extra thoughts, arguments or findings on this matter, don't hesitate to contact me.

How does Venom work?

Venom is, without a doubt, the most effective poison damage source in the game. The reason why is because it's duration is so amazingly short.

This duration is 0.4 seconds on Normal difficulty. On nightmare and hell difficulties however, it will become a bit longer. This is because Nightmare and Hell have a hidden Poison length penalty; -40% for Nightmare and -100% for Hell. This means that with these penalties the duration, aswell as the damage gets multiplied. On Nightmare, a 1000 dmg attack in 0.4 seconds becomes a 1400 dmg attack in 0.5 seconds. On Hell, this 1000 dmg attack in 0.4 seconds becomes a 2000 dmg attack in 0.8 seconds.

For the thinkers among us; I whirl with 4 frames between each hitcheck, a longer duration takes more frames to complete the attack, doesn't the -100% PLR penalty mean trouble to me? The answer is No, you will always deal more damage on Hell than you would on Normal. Click here for clarification.

+% Poison skill damage modifications; logically, a +25% item (such as on Trang-Oul's Claws) would increase your damage with 25%. Completely true, but that is not all. +% modifications act twice on venom; the first time occurs when you cast venom, the second time when venom is active and you keep wearing the item that gave the bonus.

Let's say your venom skill displays 1000 damage. You equip an item which grants +50%. Your skill will now display 1500 damage (1000*1.5). When you cast venom and take a look at your character screen, without taking off the +% source, you'll notice that your damage has increased not with 1500 but with 2250! (1500*1.5) Unequipping the +% source will cause the added damage to drop to 1500.

Another one of venom's great features is that it completely bypasses Energy Shield and Bone Armor.

Unfortunately, venom is dominant in relation to other poison damage sources. It will convert all durations to 0.4, 0.5 or 0.8 seconds. Great, extra damage, right? No, only the duration is converted, not the damage. As an example, Ill show what happens to a 290 poison SC;

A 290 SC deals its damage in 10 seconds. Along with venom, this becomes; 290*(0.4/10) = 12 psn damage, without the PvP penalty and 75% resists. So every 290 SC will increase your damage with 12/6*0.25 ~ 1. The morality of this little story: DO NOT USE POISON CHARMS ALONG WITH VENOM.

Does Venom negate deadly/critical strike?

No. Same goes for any other elemental attack. This misunderstanding originates from the fact that the DS/CS spark animation is being overridden by the cold/lighting/fire/poison animation.

This can be proven with the following test;

With Hero Editor, we create the following;

 A 78-79 damage claw with 100% deadly strike.

 An assassin with level 40 venom.

 An opponent with 5000 life, 0% DR and 75% poison resist.

The test is as follows; You hit the opponent and write down how many life he has lost. According to this number you can conclude if DS occured yes or no.

Physical Damage:

104 - 105

(17 - 18 PvP damage)

Poison Damage:

1075 - 1095

(45 - 46 PvP damage)

Minimum Life loss with DS/no venom:

17*2 = 34

Maximum Life loss with DS/no venom:

18*2 = 36

Minimum Life loss with DS/venom:

17*2 + 45 = 79

Maximum Life loss with DS/venom:

18*2 + 46 = 82

Hits without venom:

5000 -> 4966


4966 -> 4932


4932 -> 4896


4869 -> 4862


4862 -> 4826


Hits with venom:

5000 -> 4921


4921 -> 4841


4841 -> 4760


4760 -> 4680


4680 -> 4598


As you can see, the results live up to the rules we set earlier.

What is the Anya-Bug?

Anya is that lovely lady you have to rescue in Act5. Mala then gives you a scroll of resistance which grants you +10 to all resistances. This quest can be done each difficulty, so you'll end up with +30 to all resistances from this quest.

Giving those nice resists is awfully kind, too bad there is a small catch; Whenever you die in a game, those +30 to all resistances disappear. This can not be seen on screen, but they are gone.

Re-entering the game each time you die solves this problem.

FCR Breakpoints

FCR frames









FCR required









Weapon Block

Weapon block is yet another amazing Assassin skill. It allows you to block anything; Fireballs, Blizzards, FoH, Smite, Hammers et cetera, et cetera. The only exception are so called 'ground-spells' such as a Firestorm or the fire that Meteors leave behind. Second sweet thing; it only requires skill points, so you'll get block along with high life.

There is one major downside though. With 'ordinary' blocking, your chance to block drops to 1/3rd of it's original value when you run. For Weapon block, this penalty is way worse; it drops to 0% when you run or walk. It stays at it's full capacity when standing still, attacking or teleporting. This is one of the reasons why Enigma is so vital.

Weapon block takes 5 frames to complete and can only be sped up by 1 frame with the use of Guardian Angel.

Weapon block suffers from so called deminishing returns; you'll have to spend more points each time you want 1% extra block.


Corresponding skill lvl

with previous block %

57% block



























FHR Breakpoints

In my opinion, 60% is a nice percentage to achieve without wasting too much skill points.

FHR frames









FHR required










Fade is the skill that makes an assassin translucent. It's an amazing skill for three reasons;

It provides resistances.

It reduces the durations of curses.

It provides physical damage reduction.

Curse length reduction is priceless, I think anyone will know why; you can't get rid of curses like life-tap, iron-maiden, amplify damage or lower resists fast enough.

Fade grants 1% DR each level; a level 20 fade (whether this level is obtained by spending skill points on fade or due to +skills does not matter) will add an addition 20% DR to any DR you might already have (or not). Fade's level is only important when you cast it, that means you can prebuff fade to reach the maximum of 50% DR when you duell.

Determining the amount of skill points you need to spend on fade to obtain 50% DR is easy;

Base Fade level = 50 - (DR from gear + skills from gear);

Lets say you are using the following gear:



Arachnid's Mesh

Trang Ouls Claws

Gore Riders

Mara's, 2x Raven Frost

9x Shadow skillers. Torch, Annihilus.

CTA, Lidless, Battle Command

DR from gear


10 (Shako) + 8 (Enigma)



Skills from gear


2 (Shako) + 2 (Enigma) + 1 (Arachnid) + 2 (Mara's) + 13 (Inventory)
+ 1 (CTA) + 1 (Lidless) + 1 (Battle Command)



Base Fade level = 50 - (18+23) = 50 - 41 = 9.

So, with that setup, you'd have to spend 9 points on fade and cast it with your CTA switch while Battle Command is active to reach 50% DR.

Primary Claw

Positioning of claws matters, a lot. Whenever the game looks around for mods (IAS, open wounds, crushing blow, et cetera) to add to or use for attacks like kicking, blade fury and trap laying it only looks at your primary claw.

Now, basically your primary claw is the claw you equip first, regardless of its position. However, when you switch your weapons tab, to use battle orders for example, the game forgets which claw you equipped first and just takes the claw above the gloves as primary.

Because of this, its best to consider the glove-side slot as the primary claw slot;


Whirlwind is a dynamic attack which makes hitchecks at your opponent at certain intervals while you are in range. These hitchecks are made either each 12th, 10th, 8th, 6th or 4th frame. A lower frame means potentionally more hits and thus more damage.

Faster run and walk increases your ww-speed aswell. Not as in how many hitchecks are done, but in how fast you whirl from A to B. It does have a certain effect on the total amount of hitchecks though; since you are moving so fast, you are less long in range as when you would be moving slower and thus you will perform less hitchecks. This is a good thing though, imagine what will happen when you whirl slow as a turtle; palading will be able to smite you even though you are whirling away and bone spirits catch up with you when you do a drive-by-whirl versus a bone necro.

The frame at which whirlwind operates is determined by the speed of the claw in question. You calculate claw speed by substracting the IAS on the weapon from it's base speed. You can find base speeds at the Arreat Summit. Base speeds are listed between brackets; [x]

Whirlwind Frame

Claw Speed






33 or higher

32 to 25

24 to 10

9 to -12

-13 or lower

Example: We have a War Fist with 20% IAS on it. The base speed of a War Fist is 10. The speed of this claw is; 10-20 = -10. This claw has hitchecks every 6th frame.

As you might know, there are certain claws with base speeds of -20 and -30 (such as runic talons and feral claws). These claws do not need any additional IAS. This is important to know to determine whether a o-so-godly looking claw is really that useful; no 4 frame WW is crap.

This leads us to one of the most common screw ups: Ethereal Jade Talons. These eth claws need to be socketed with a Zod rune, which means that they stay at 6 frame hitchecks (base speed op -10 with no addition IAS) and will deal less damage than a non-eth one (with an IAS jewel) would. So whenever you go looking for a Jade talon, make sure you look for a nice non-eth one and place a IAS/x jewel in it.

Claw Positioning Bug

This positioning bug is IAS related, it allows you to reach the fastest attack breakpoints with far less IAS than normal.

Normally, the base speeds of the two claws you wear are averaged; A suwayyah [0] along with a Runic Talon [-30] results in an average speed of ((0) + (-30)) / 2 = -15. Based on this number, the various IAS breakpoints are set. The lower the number, the less additional IAS is required.

With this bug things change; instead of averaging the two claws a totally different formulae is used to get to that final speed number.

RC = Base speed right claw (above the boots)
LC = Base speed left claw (above the gloves)

(( [RC] + [LC] ) / 2 ) + ( [RC] - [LC] )

In order for this bug to show up, you must equip your fastest claw first above your boots. Then you equip the other. This order is absolutely crucial. Lets run the two claws we used before through this formulae;

Our Runic Talon is the fastest claw, so we equip it first above the boots (so it's our 'boots claw'), then the suwayyahs above the gloves (our 'gloves claw');
(( [-30] + [0] / 2 ) + ( [-30] - [0] ) = -15 + -30 = -45.

-45! That's three times faster than with 'ordinary' equipping. Mind though, whenever you switch weapons to cast Battle Comman for example, the positioning is reset and everything is calculated as it should. You'll have to re-equip claws in the proper order.

Personally I think it's too much of a hassle to exploit this bug, but for those who wish to follows an IAS table for reaching 9 frame trap laying. The claw with the base speeds listed left need to be equipped first. For base speeds, check the Arreat Summit.





































x = Not Applicable


The following download is a Diablo II character file. It's a Ghost Assassin according to the build posted; it has the best gear remotely possible. Place it in your Diablo2/save folder. (Around 5 Kilobytes)

Ghost Assassin

The The next is a Hero Editor along with all the items in the game. You can use it to modify the Ghost or create characters of your own. (Around 5,5 Megabytes)

Hero Editor

Dragon Flight

Dragon Flight is a teleport-attack skill. It teleports you to your enemy and tries to deliver a kick. In 1.09 this used to be an amazing skill, mainly because it reached for over 2 screens. Now, it has a few extremely annoying features; one of them is that it reaches for 1 screen only. Dragon Flight also needs a clear line of sight, so any trees, puddles or houses between you and your opponent will interrupt the skill.

A Dragon Flight animation takes 23 frames and cannot be sped up in any way. Even though it's a slow and highly interruptible skill, it still is an awesome skill to hit casters. The most frequently used tactic is to chase with teleport and when near, initiate Dragon Flight to kick in.

The things that work with Dragon Flight (and with kicks in general) are;

Life Leech

Mana Leech

Elemental Damage (Venom included)

Magical Damage

Chance to cast X on striking

Crushing Blow

Open Wounds

Prevent Monster Heal

Ignore Targets Defense

Hit Blinds Target

Hit Causes Monster to Flee

Hit Freezes Target

Hit Slows Target

+ Attack Rating (Fools included)

+ % Enhanced Damage

Please note that any of these modifications are only applied when they are found on any gear EXCEPT your secondary claw. Any mods on your secondary claw are disregarded.

Things like Elemental Damage, Magical Damage and +AR on your claw will not appear on your character screen, while in fact, they do get applied.


Although I planned on writing these from scratch, I decided not to. Speederländer wrote an amazing guide which focuses almost solely on strategies. You can check his guide here:

Speederländer's strategies


Huge thanks to the following people:

Morotsjos / Matias
For sharing his ghost assassin gear and always willing to give a second opinion on lots of crazed ideas.

Faulk / Aki
For helping me out bigtime with testing all sorts of setups and features on open battle.net

m72mc / Mikael
For proof-reading, bug-reporting and providing suggestions to fine-tune the various calculators.

Poeten / Tommy
For being bestest.

Greater Talons versus Runic Talons

Greater Talons

Runic Talons

Base Speed



Str requirement



Dex requirement




21 - 35

24 - 44

Ah, the runics have higher damage, so we choose these right? No no. Lets take a better look at the damage difference between a Greater Talon and a Runic Talon:

We have to following:

Both claws with a 350% ED Chaos runeword in them.

Level 30 Claw Mastery (151% ED)

120 Strength

120 Dexterity

The formulae's to calculate a claw's damage (on-screen) are the following:

Statbonus: ([Dexterity x 0.0075] + [Strength x 0.0075] + 1)

Minimal Damage: {((Statbonus) + (%Enhanced Damage/100)) x Min-dmg on Weapon}

Maximal Damage: {(([Dex x 0.0075] + [Str x 0.0075] + 1) + (%Enhanced Damage)) x Max-dmg on Weapon}

Lets start with the Greater Talon:

Min-dmg on Weapon: (21 * (3.5+1)) = 94,5 = 94

Max-dmg on Weapon: (35 * (3.5+1)) = 157,5 = 157

Statbonus: ([120 x 0.0075] + [120 x 0.0075] + 1) = 2.8

Minimal Damage: {((2.8) + (151/100)) x 94} = 405,14 = 405

Maximal Damage: {((2.8) + (151/100)) x 35} = 676,67 = 676

So, this greater talon has a total damage of 405 - 676. That is an average of; (405+676)/2 = 540,5

Lets move on with a Runic Talon:

Min-dmg on Weapon: (24 * (3.5+1)) = 108

Max-dmg on Weapon: (44 * (3.5+1)) = 198

Statbonus: ([120 x 0.0075] + [120 x 0.0075] + 1) = 2.8

Minimal Damage: {((2.8) + (151/100)) x 108} = 465,48 = 465

Maximal Damage: {((2.8) + (151/100)) x 198} = 853,38 = 863

This runic has a total damage of 465 - 863. That is an average of; (465+863)/2 = 664

Woah, so a runic has 123,5 more average damage?! Yes, too bad that is without the PvP penalty. After this penalty, the difference is only; (123,5*0,17) = 20,99 = 21. Add anoter 50% Damage reduction and we have a difference of only 10 damage.

The damage difference between greater talons and runic talons is pathetic, on top of that, a runic talon requires way more strength and dexterity. This means that a greater talon is superior to a runic because it gives you way more options of gear swapping while still staying at base strength/dexterity.

All in all: Use a greater talon, not a runic! (well, ok, unless you dont have any problem-giving gear-swaps and you'll be able to use runics with base str/dex anyway)


A fools claw refers to a claw with the “Fools” mod. This is a prefix which grants AR and max damage based on your characters level. This type of claw is used to, what else, boost your Attack Rating.

When looking for such a claw you should pay attention to it's speed; it has to hit 4 frame hitchecks with Whirlwind for it to be effective.

A valuable thing you can have on a fools claw is Knockback. Although its not a must, its nice enough too look for it or even socket your claw with a Nef. It comes to personal preference on this one really, so try it out and see what you like. If you decide to discard knocback or you have it as an auto-mod, socket your foolsclaw with UM(’s). The more chance to trigger open wounds the better.
An example of a pretty awesome fools;

The IAS is for holding up 9 frames trap laying. This brings us to another rather important part; the position of the claw. When you equip your fools as a primary, you'll notice that your Whirlwind attack rating will rocket, which would imply that both your claws operate with that amount of attack rating. This is not true, only your fools will benefit from the AR.

Despite this, it still best to equip the fools as a primary; when you whirlwind, the first hit will be your primary claw, after that both claws will hit every x frames. Versus some opponents, you'll only get one chance to hit them. Naturally, you would like this chance to be as high as possible, with your fools being the claw with the highest AR/chance to hit you'll have to make it your primary claw.