Jebus' Standard Hammerdin Guide
Quite possibly, one of the simplest character builds of all time, while simultaneously being one of the most overpowered builds as well. It's dead simple to make, and is almost impossible to screw up without something like a mouse freaking out and randomly clicking skills during allocation.
I don't really know if this 'guide' even needs to be written, as really, there's only one way to make this character, but if anyone isn't familiar with Hammerdins, this should give you the low down.
STR - 110-120 though this will be dependant on what you end up using for your end game armour
DEX - 115-125 enough to maintain 75% block with holy shield
VIT - Everything you can manage
Energy - 50 (see below)
STR is pretty straight forward. It's only raised to be able to wear/use gear. Ideally your end game armour is going to be an Enigma and will probably be something like an Archon Plate, Dusk Shroud, or Scarab Husk, though you can use bigger armour, but generally speaking there isn't all THAT much benefit to going higher, since finding a 3 socket Archon (103 STR) with 500+ def isn't that difficult.
DEX is basically just there to maintain max block with the aid of Holy Shield. It should be fine around the 110-120 area, but as you get up into the high 80s and low 90s, pay careful attention to your block (WITH Holy Shield) and allocate the final stat points accordingly.
VIT is your most important stat. You'll want to drop as much into VIT as you can safely manage, and by end game, should be well into the 300+ range, with your health being in the 1600+ area.
Energy can be left at base, as you'll be getting most of your mana from gear and charms. Personally though, I like to raise it to 50 as a safety measure, but is really not necessary.
This is where the Hammerdin build is defined. There's basically only one way to make a Hammerdin.
20 Blessed Hammer
20 Blessed Aim
1-20 Holy Shield
3 Defiance (see below)
If you're going for a 'pure' Hammerdin build, you'll want to max Holy Shield (last). If, on the other hand, you opt to make the din a touch more well rounded, you can fill out a few other skills as single point investments (Conviction, Fanaticism, Salvation, etc.). Truthfully though, you really don't need the other skills, as while they may be debatably useful as you level, longterm, they simply won't give you any real benefit.
It should be noted that to reach the max skills listed above (not counting Defiance) you'll need to hit level 97. Obviously that's not likely in most cases, so count on hitting roughly level 90, which if you max Holy Shield last, you should achieve an slevel 12 which will be your endgame skills layout.
The 3 Defiance slevel is only listed there as the final skillpoint expenditure if you somehow manage to achieve level 99. It's really only there as a suggestion if you manage to exceed level 97, as it's the only skill that will garner any longterm useful benefit (as a synergy to Holy Shield), but won't ever actually be used as an active skill. In most cases, Defiance should only be a single point investment as a pre-requisite to Vigor, so don't be a nub and drop 3 points into it at level 30 or something.
Also, the single point in Redemption is somewhat optional, but is one of the most overlooked single point investments for a Hammerdin. With the gear listed below, you'll probably be hitting somewhere in the +12-16 skills area, which will translate to an slevel 13-17 which equates to at least an 80% chance of redeeming corpses resulting in a minimum +90 health/mana per corpse. In most cases, this means you'll probably fill both orbs in a blink of an eye while using up most corpses on the ground (another great side benefit).
There really is only one longterm option for armour for a Hammerdin, and that's the Enigma. It's certainly possible to build and play a Hammerdin without one, but honestly, you'll be so hamstrung without it that it really isn't an option.
As mentioned above in the strength requirements, select a base armour with a minimum of 450 def which shouldn't be at all difficult among Dusk Shrounds, Scarab Husks, and Archon Plates. You can certainly opt for heavier armour, but the strength requirements will make them unappealing, not to mention almost impossible to trade if you ever decide to get rid of it, so have a little patience in selecting a base item.
Ideally, you'll want a shako (Harlequin Crest). The damage reduction, the +2 skills, as well as the +life and +mana make this the ideal helm for a Hammerdin. If a shako is simply not an option for whatever reason, try to go for something like a +2 Paladin skills helm/circlet, ideally with +life/mana and FCR (a +2 din circlet with +20% FCR will be worth a great deal in trade value).
There's basically two options here, either a Verdungo's Hearty Coil, or an Arachnid Mesh. Both are difficult to come by, so be prepared to settle for second string items like a String of Ears, or maybe even a crafted caster belt.
Upped Magefists. That's your only real viable option. Lesser options are crafted caster gloves, or perhaps even something like Chanceguards, however, the benefits of wearing something like chancies is grossly overshadowed by how slowly you'll be casting with them. Magefists are really your only reasonable option to be able to make the minimum 75 casting frame break until you have the gear to allow you to forgo the 20 FCR from magefists.
Eth Sandstorm Treks are your ideal footwear. However, considering how expensive eth treks usually are, good alternates are Waterwalks, Silkweaves, War Travs, or Gore Riders. Each has strengths and weaknesses, so decide which is most suited to you and what you plan on doing with your din.
You have two options here, either a Herald of Zakarum, or an elite paladin shield Spirit with +45 res. There's arguments for both as to which is superior, but either choice is a good one, and will be dependant more on whether you decide to go for the 75 or 125 FCR framebreak.
Ideally, you'll want to make yourself a Heart of the Oak. The +3 skills, 40% FCR, and up to 40 res all make this the ideal Hammerdin weapon. However, until you can afford to make one, plan on something a little less pricey. Other options are a Spectral Shard, Wizardspike, or even a Spirit sword will all fit the bill nicely, in fact, there are some fairly compelling arguments for opting to use a Wizardspike longterm, even without the +skills, especially if you decide to strive for the 125 FCR framebreak.
Ideally, you'll want a magic/rare amulet with +2 skills and 10% FCR. There are of course many other alternates like a Seraph's, or a Mara's, which are also fine choices. Ideally, you'll want a crafted amulet with +2 skills, +20 FCR, and any other side mods like resists, mana, DR, etc. Just be aware that crafting an amulet of this type will take you FOREVER, and will need to be done by someone at LEAST clevel 90 (ideally 93+), as well as potentially being unusable until clevel 95. Fortunately, they've finally patched crafting so that it's no longer possible to get items with level 115 requirements ;)
Believe it or not, SoJs and BKs are actually not that great for a Hammerdin. What you'll really want, is 2 10% FCR rings with as much +mana on them as you can find, and ideally, with resists and damage reduction. Both SoJs and BKs can be used in place of the FCR rings of course, but if you do, you'll need to make up the FCR elsewhere to bring up the casting rate to a minimum of 75, so choose based on what other gear you have available.
Ideal Gear (or the end-game gear you want to shoot for):
Helm - Shako
Armour - Enigma'd Archon Plate
Belt - Arachnid Mesh/Verdungo's
Gloves - Upped Magefists
Boots - Eth Treks
Weapon - HotO
Shield - HoZ
Amulet - Crafted +2 skills with 20 FCR
Rings - 2 FCR rings with +100 mana each
There's a certain amount of variation that's possible here, as you're going to want to make sure you can hit the 75 FCR breakpoint, which is really your primary limiting factor, so some juggling will be in order.
Cheap Gear (gear that anyone at all can obtain):
Helm - +2 skills rare circlet
Armour - Principle or Vipermagi
Belt - 10 FCR crafted caster belt
Gloves - Magefists
Boots - Silkweaves/Waterwalks
Weapon - Spirit sword (30 FCR minimum)
Shield - Spirit Paladin shield (30 FCR again)
Amulet - +2 Paladin skills amulet
Rings - 2 FCR rings
Of interesting note, the cheap gear will actually be easier to hit the 75 frame break, allowing you a little more leeway in what you can afford to wear, as well as being possible to hit the 125 frame break (which isn't possible with the end game gear without swapping out the HoZ for a Spirit shield).
 Optional Gear
Call to Arms on weapon switch. I say optional, though really, longterm, it's almost a must have in my mind. You certainly can live without it, and it's more than possible to run your entire career without one, but with it, you turn a tough bastard into the freaking Hulk. Even with the crappiest CTA ever made, it will make your life significantly easier, as well as making your merc almost unkillable (exception going to IM of course). I'd almost say it's worth obtaining a CTA over an Enigma first, but that's a tough call and I'd likely change my mind depending on my mood at the time you asked me. Regardless, it's definitely worth considering, especially if you intend to use a Hammerdin as a primary workhorse in some fashion.
 The Merc
I've recently changed my mind about the optimal merc for a Hammerdin, as the most common act 2 NM Defensive merc (Holy Freeze) is actually not all that useful in Hell where you'll be spending the bulk of your career with the din, primarily because Holy Freeze is almost useless in Hell in the one way that it really helps a Hammerdin in that monsters in Hell don't slow down almost at all. With that in mind, I can only recommend the Normal/Hell act 2 Defensive merc (Defiance), which grants a non trivial slevel 18 Defiance aura that will grant a 240% defensive boost, raising your def up into the 15k def area or more (depending on your gear).
The Hammerdin is also the one class that I'd say is a must to have an Insight on the merc longterm, as you'll never have enough mana to maintain the constant casting necessary to be effective (both in teleporting and tossing out hammers), so find yourself the biggest 4 socket polearm you can put on the merc and rune it up. A few things to note though, an eth Colossus Voulge generally won't be an option until around level 90-91 due to the strength requirement, as you won't want to have gear on him with +STR, nor will you want to waste the sockets on his gear for +STR gems/jewels, so try to go with something like a Cryptic Axe until then. Also, when making the Insight, don't settle for anything less than a level 15 Meditation, as anything less can cause problems in the mana regen area, so be ready to unsocket and remake the Insight a few times.
As for armour and a helm, you can still go with a Skullder's and a Tal's Mask, both socketed with a perfect topaz, but I have to recommend going with an upped Shaftstop and an upped Vampire Gaze. The combined DR will hit 50%, and if you can swing it, drop 2 Bers in them to raise it further to 66%. Besides Tomb Vipers, IM, and mini Ubers (especially Lilith and her ridiculous poison damage) even without a CTA, the merc should survive anything that gets tossed at him.
 Various Notes
For those unfamiliar with the Hammerdin, Blessed Hammer is essentially a spell (untimered), and as such, falls under the same breakpoints and rules as any other spell, with one big exception. Hammers receive the damage boost from Concentration, which is how Hammerdins do such ridiculous damage.
 Magic Damage
It's also important to understand that hammers are considered magic damage, so against monsters that are magic immune, this can pose some problems, especially since you'll have no other backup to rely on (aside from the merc). However, the big monster that SHOULD pose a problem due to their magic immunity, Horadrim Ancients, aren't actually immune, due to their being undead which is broken by Blessed Hammer (thanks Tenacious D). The only monster in the game that IS completely resistant to hammers, are Wailing Beasts, which I believe only spawn in act 3, typically in the various temples within the Kurast Bazaar and the surrounding areas. Not a place many people spend a great deal of time in, so really isn't much of a concern. For all intents and purposes, longterm, hammers can take out anything in the game.
 Hammer Dispersal
You'll also need to familiarize yourself with the dispersal pattern of hammers, as it can be a little tricky to get the hang of them. The initial release point will appear to be immediately to your left and slightly up (around the 9 o'clock to 9:30 position), so your ideal striking position is going to be to the target's right and slightly down. However, the ACTUAL release point for hammers is from absolute center of your character (meaning from inside the middle of your character), which is why you'll notice Enigma'd Hammerdins teleporting right on top of monsters and nailing them immediately. What's actually happening is they're teleporting right on top of them, and as they cast, the hammer is striking as it leaves the character's body. Often the display will appear as though the character is out of optimal striking position (often to the monster's left, which would appear to be the worst possible striking position), but will still strike due to the actual spawn point of the hammers. It should be noted though, that without an Enigma, or some other way of teleporting on top of a monster, this method of striking will be virtually impossible most of the time, so practice getting into position until you can obtain an Enigma, at which point you can be lazy like me ;)
 Casting Frame Breaks
As I've already mentioned many times by now, FCR will be your defining element as a Hammerdin, as it will dictate much of what gear you can wear, over simply taking +skills items, or various other beneficial mod items. There's a fine balance that needs to be achieved to maximize your damage, with being able to dish out the damage at a relatively fast rate, which can be tricky. Just remember that if you cast too slow, it doesn't really matter that each hammer does 15k damage, since none of them will hit anything before you die.
Paladins have the following casting frame breaks:
0% fcr - 15 frames
9% fcr - 14 frames
18% fcr - 13 frames
30% fcr - 12 frames
48% fcr - 11 frames
75% fcr - 10 frames
125% fcr - 9 frames
I'm not certain if there even IS an 8 frame break, but if there is, I'd imagine it's ridiculously high and impossible to achieve for a hammerdin. Most, if not all Hammerdins will opt for the 75 frame break, as it's quite achievable even with 'junk' gear without giving up anything. I used to bemoan the benefit of going for the 125 frame break, but after much experimentation and consideration, I have to say that the final break is definitely worth the minor concession in damage. The difference in immediate applied damage is just over 8%, but as soon as you apply time, the difference is immediate. You can simply apply more damage faster at the lower frame break with the damage scaling upwards as time progresses. Add in the benefit of faster teleporting (which directly equates to time savings per run as well as lower risk while teleporting), and there's no downside to going for 9 frames.
I'm honestly a little sheepish and embarassed that I haven't come to this conclusion sooner, as it's rather significant. 125 FCR is not optional IMO, but feel free to experiment for yourself. You'll see the benefits of 9 frame casting in larger games moreso than solo games, as the more health monsters have, the more pronounced the difference will become due to taking longer to kill things which will simply illustrate the benefit more markedly.
 FHR Frame Breaks
Something that people tend to overlook or gloss over is FHR (Faster Hit Recovery). For any teleporting character, FHR can make or break you, especially against fast hitting monsters. In the case of the hammerdin, since he casts relatively slowly compared to say a sorc, it's even more important, as a sufficiently fast casting sorc can often forgo FHR since they can teleport so quickly, monsters often don't even have time to attack. Here's the breakdown for Paladins, brazenly stolen from AB:
|Frames||Faster hit recovery|
Obviously, going for 3 frames isn't very realistic, but going for 7 or 6 is quite achievable, and should be your target, as it will allow you to teleport far more safely, as well as keeping you tossing the hammers out even when getting tagged by mobs/ranged attackers. You'll really see how important FHR is when going up against Tomb Vipers/Salamanders in act 2 in particular, as in a group they can keep knocking you around so you can't toss out even a single hammer if you don't have enough FHR, which directly translates to a dead hammerdin, which is a Bad Thing™. Save a few of those small FHR charms, they'll make all the difference.
 Magic Find
I should mention first, that a Hammerdin is not an ideal starting mf character, as they tend to have higher gear requirements just to get going than most characters, so if you're starting out again, or don't really have much in the way of decent gear, I'd hold off, and go for a more generic mf sorc build until you can swing some toys for trade fodder.
That said, it should also be noted, that using a Hammerdin as your primary mf character can be very rewarding, however, you should realize several things before you decide to do so.
1. Hammerdins will NEVER be able to wear as much MF gear as the Queen of MF, the MF sorc. On average, an mf sorc will likely be able to wear nearly double that of a Hammerdin, and still be just as effective/survivable (with the right gear) as she is without the MF gear. This is something you'll have to understand and come to terms with, however, remember that mf beyond 250 drops significantly in returns, such that while it's always better to have more mf, it's not going to net you a significantly improved set of drops, except when looking at very large numbers of runs (several thousands).
2. Hammerdins will be slower at reaching their targets as compared to an mf sorc. It should be noted though, that the difference is really negligible in the long term, especially since the hammerdin will be doing longer runs in general due to his ability to handle ALL mf scenarios within the game.
3. By the time you decide to switch full time to the Hammerdin for MF runs, you should be quite well stocked for higher end gear for all other characters you have, as you should no longer be relying on large quanitities of runs against a small set of monsters for drops, but rather your targets should have switched to the difficult or lotto level drop items such as Tyreal's Might. Unfortunately, there is no way around aiming at a longterm goal of several thousands of runs for such targets (short of eBay), against the difficult or risky monsters, which is what the Hammerdin is ideal for, over say an MF sorc. Expect a LOT of garbage to drop, even moreso than previous MF characters. You're not aiming at the chump change stuff now, you're aiming at the stuff that's so rare, you'll likely never see one in several years of D2, so a certain amount of patience and dedication is required now.
 Final Notes
Well, that's about it really. As you can see, the build is dead simple as far as skills and stats go, but does rely quite heavily on gear to be really good, though even with junk gear, he's quite impressive.
I'm fairly certain I'm forgetting a couple of critical points somewhere, but I can't recall what they are right now, so you'll have to discover them yourself :)
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