This is a min-maxed vanilla embermage build. It's named "Tri-Sorc," as a tribute to the D2 build of the same name, because it features a flashy-looking damage skill from each of the three elements. However, Frost Wave is the main damage skill, and it is fundamentally a Frost Wave build.
This build can be viewed as a replacement for the old frostmage build.
Recently there's been an uptick in posts in the old frostmage thread by new players (or at least new posters) who (i) are confused by many posts now that the armory build links are dead, and (ii) obviously aren't reading the entire thread. If they were reading the entire thread, they'd have noticed things like this post:
Chthon wrote:The OP was written back before we had the benefit of understanding how a lot of the mechanics worked. Perhaps it's getting close to time to retire this thread and replace it with a revised version?
So I decided to dedicate the time to write down a modern alternative that was created with the benefit of knowing how most of the mechanics work. I should have done this back when I wrote that post, but I guess it took this new (frost) wave of utterly confused people to spur me to get off my butt and do it.
For TL2's game mechanics in general, read this post and this post.
For embermages generally, read this thread. Also read everything ever posted by armis and mammothhunter.
For frostmage discussion, I'd recommend reading the discussion starting with Finraziel's post on page 8 of the old frostmage thread, and continuing through mammothhunter's last post on page 12.
Note for newbies: Seriously, read them. I'm not kidding.
- Frost Wave: This is your bread-and-butter damage skill. When in doubt, cast Frost Wave.
- Hailstorm: Primarily useful for its damage boost status effect and stun/freeze. Use it to soften up and slow targets that won't die instantly to Frost Wave. Also, you can cast this over walls to hit monsters that you otherwise couldn't reach.
- Ice Prison: This skill has numerous uses:This is the most versatile skill in the embermage skillset. If you don't love it, that means you don't know how to use it.
Like the name implies, Ice Prison can be used to imprison a foe, either to keep it away from you, or to hold it still so you can wail on it.
But it's more than just that.
It's also a fortress. Cast Ice Prison on yourself and pretty much nothing can hit you.
It's also a "hex." Remember Iron Maiden from D2? Well this is that. Especially as monsters grow stronger in elite/high NG cycles, the %_thorns effect does tons of damage. In elite Tarroch's Tomb, you can drop one over a spawn point and spawns will often will kill themselves on it before breaking free.
It's also a glorious AI abuse mechanism. TL2 monsters are dumb. You can use Ice Prison to screw with their pathing and targeting priorities.
It's also a nuke. When you cast a new Ice Prison, the old one shatters and deals the shatter damage from the tier bonus. That's a LOT of damage, especially to a monster stuck in the middle getting hit by every pillar at once. At rank 15, the recharge goes down to 2 seconds, so you can trap a monster and keep blowing up the prison around it over and over. (This is remarkably effective on bosses.)
- Ice Brand: A simple passive. Just free damage that synergizes with your main damage skill.
- Immolation Aura: Used purely for the %DR tier bonuses.
- Blazing Pillar: Used primarily as a fire-and-forget damage skill. (Fire-and-forget is a crucial feature for every damage skill other than Frost Wave, because any cast time spent on other skills is cast time that's not spent on spamming more Frost Wave.) Also useful for doing damage while fleeing (i.e., when you can't afford to hold still and spam Frost Wave). The homing also makes it useful for responding to surprise attacks from behind (because it's faster than bringing the mouse cursor around behind your character to cast Frost Wave). The increased charge gain is also nice.
- Thunder Locus: Primarily used as another fire-and-forget damage source. Again, also useful for doing damage while fleeing. Also, you can cast this over walls to hit monsters that you otherwise couldn't reach.
- Death's Bounty: Explained below:There's several components to this skill, and they're all good:
First, there's the heal. More than just saving you on potions, it can save you. This can heal much more life than a potion, and faster. The more life part matters later when you've got enough Richileaus that a potion isn't a full heal. The faster part matters because getting hit again before your hp gets out of the red zone gets you killed.
Closely related to that is the fact that it tops you off, so you're more resistant to one-shot kills. Most people don't drink a potion at 90% or 95% health. It's bothersome and expensive. And then a troll hits you and you die. And, every now and then, that extra 5% or 10% health would have made the difference between living and dying.
Second, there's the mana. This frees you from the constraint of keeping your build within your mana budget. You know how some people recommend not maxing PBolt in a PBolt build because "it's too expensive"? Well, Death's Bounty is the solution to that problem and others like it. This is especially important early on when you don't have Borris helping with your mana pool. (Actually, regen speed is what matters, not the size of your mana pool. But in TL2 the former is affected by the latter.)
Third, there's the slow effect. Stacked with freeze from Hailstorm, monsters are thoroughly snared. You've got lots of time for casting before they get close enough to force you to move -- which means they die before they get that close.
Fourth, there's the stun. Again, stacked with Hailstorm, you've got a chain stun.
- Frost Phase, 1 point: Teleport.
- Elemental Attunement, 1-5 points: Bonus to elemental status durations. Chance to freeze and/or poison monsters that are approaching you. (Also might burn and/or shock, but neither of those is going to reduce its ability to hurt you, and the damage is trivial.)
- Charge Mastery, 0-5 points: Spend more time in free-cast state, with minor damage boost.
- Frozen Fate, 0-1 points: Freeze survivors that somehow avoided getting frozen by Frost Wave.
- Prismatic Rift, 0-1 points: Off chance of saving your hide by randomly teleporting a foe away. Nearly useless because of the number of one-hit/few-hit kills on higher difficulties/tiers. ("If Prismatic Rift gets a chance to trigger, you're probably already dead.")
- Fire Brand, 0-1 points: Free damage, synergizes with Burning Pillar (and Elemental Attunement to a lesser degree). But Burning Pillar isn't your main damage skill.
- Lightning Brand, 0-1 points: Free damage, synergizes with Thunder Locus (and Elemental Attunement to a lesser degree). But Thunder Locus isn't your main damage skill.
First of all, get to know Borris. This guide is assuming a huge stat pool that can only be achieved through lots of help by Borris.
Second, crits matter. Due to the way that the damage mechanics work, investing some stats in Strength and Dexterity for critical hits yields better damage on average than throwing everything into Focus. In fact, for those brave enough to go without a shield, mammothhunter suggests using a combination of stats and items to build an "always-crits" Frost Wave mage.
With that in mind:
- If using a shield, just enough Vitality to reach max block (75%) after accounting for the shield's block mods, block enchantments on the shield, and the Block VI spell scroll. (Probably around 300ish.)
- If not using a shield, ZERO Vitality.
- If using a shield, somewhere between 375 and 425. This will yield 47-49% crit chance (and dodge chance too). Beyond that, the diminishing returns formula gets too extreme. You need to get the remainder of your crit chance from items.
- If not using a shield, enough to reach 100% crit chance. This probably takes less Dexterity than with a shield because the second weapon gives more sockets for Whorlbarb Skulls. You might still consider adding Dexterity up to 375-425 for dodge.
- Strength: Enough to reach the critical bonus cap, taking items into account. The critical bonus cap is 500% from all sources; and critical bonus from Strength is capped at 450% at 999 Strength. Realistically, you won't be able to afford more than 400-450 Strength, and will need to make up the rest through items. Reaching the cap is not realistic if you use a shield; so you will have to settle for getting close.
- Focus: Put everything else into Focus. You should end up with 1000-2500 points in Focus.
- Right hand: Netherrealm Wand; socket with Cast Speed Chaos Ember and/or Whorlbarb Skull (crit chance) and/or Rambren Skull (crit bonus); enchant for cast speed, crit chance, and crit bonus.
- Left hand: Either...
- Centerwing (shield); enchant for block and dodge. (Socket as armor.) OR...
- Netherrealm Axe; socket with Cast Speed Chaos Ember and/or Whorlbarb Skull (crit chance) and/or Rambren Skull (crit bonus); enchant for crit chance and crit bonus.
- Head: Spellweaver Helm
- Alternatives: NG3+ General Grell's Hornhelm, NG3+ General Grell's Headpiece, Inquisitor helm with 14% cast speed
- Amulet: Transcendent Icon
- Shoulders: Transcendent Mantle
- Chest: Ascendant Armor
- Alternative: Inquisitor
- Gloves: Gauntlets of Workings
- Alternative: Inquisitor with 6% cast speed
- Rings:2x Antikythering, or 2x Emberweave Ring, or one of each
- Alternative: Inquisitor
- Belt: Transcendent Sash
- Pants: Ascendant Pants
- Boots: Transcendent Shoes
- Alternative: Inquisitor
- Spell Scrolls: Block VI (if using a shield), Dervish VI, Dervish V, Dervish IV. (If you don't like Dervish, consider Treasure Hunter, Barter, Adventurer, or summons of your choice.)
All armor should be enchanted 3x by Borris for stats (repeated until you get three good critical enchants), then finished with a final enchantment from the Grandmaster.
The following socketables should be spread across the armor sockets:
- Enough Limoanies to reach 75% DR, taking into account other items and Immolation Aura.
- 4x Zardon's Mighty Skulls (missile reflect)
- Riechliu (health) in all free spaces.
Notes about sets:
- You need 6 pieces of Transcendent/Ascendant (gives 15% cast speed).
- If you're willing to trade away some nice mods to do so, you can also get 4 pieces of Inquisitor (gives 6% cast speed, plus cast speed on the pieces themselves). I'm not a big fan of this tradeoff, but it's there if you want to make it.
If you want to, you can get a second copy of your main wand, and swap between a Centerwing for block and a Netherrealm Axe for more damage. Alternatively, if you've set your stats for the Axe as main (i.e., no Vitality), then you might want to use a Parma's Coal-Burner on swap since it gives a ton of block even with no Vitality.
Pet travel items:
You can use this trick to get a zero-second pet return time. Get an Iron Sword from Notch's Mine (any NG tier) plus any item with at least 20% faster pet return time (Hexenjaeger Helm works for embermages) and keep them in the last two spots in your inventory. When it's time to send the pet to town, equip these items first, and your pet will return instantly.
Interim items are items you use while developing your character, before you obtain your endgame items. Since you're going to throw away these items, don't concern yourself too much with them. They don't have to be perfect, neither do their socketables or enchantments. In general, look for gear with the following mods:
- % Damage reduction
- cast speed
- Large attribute bonuses, especially Focus
- Ice damage bonus
- Critical chance
- Critical bonus
- Missile reflect