D2:Builds:Sorceress:Solo MF Sorc
Jebus' Solo MF Sorceress Build Original Post
First of all, anyone who's a veteran will likely gain nothing from this, except maybe a few chuckles (hopefully due to my jokes and not from my suggestions), however, they may find themselves reconsidering a few things (I hope) if they're playing a more cookie-cutter style character.
Secondly, toss out everything you think you know about mf sorcs and mf runs. It will make understanding the concept behind this 'build' much easier, as the build is based around multiple factors all meshing together for a unified effective whole, both in immediate effectiveness as well as a longterm goal in mind.
To begin with, this guide is for someone literally JUST starting out, with no gold, no gear, and no characters. This guide will also give you tips on how to survive certain encounters and a general overall gameplan for longterm mf viability.
I've experimented with about 8 or 9 different types of MF sorcs in the 5 or so years I've been playing D2C/X, and this is by far the most effective I've ever made.
STR - I usually go to 110 (106 for a Troll Nest, 110 for War Gauntlets) though really you can stop at 95 (for war travs).
DEX - nothing at all.
VIT - roughly balanced with Energy at about 40/60. By end game (level 90+) you should be hitting about 800-1k health with gear (no charms).
Energy - as much as you can manage. By end game you should be up around 1k-1200 mana with gear (again, no charms).
The strength is the easiest stat to figure out, as all it's there for, is so that you can equip gear. I highly recommend against going for a monarch, as while the benefits are nice for a spirit or a 4 facet shield, the longterm benefits are not going to outweigh the stat point cost, since the benefit of a spirit for this build will only be really useful around level 40-70. The 110 I usually use is primarily for either a Rhymed Troll Nest or magical War Gauntlets (cheap mf).
As many of you might be familiar, I'm adamantly against going for max block on an mf sorc for several reasons. The biggest being that while block is a great thing, you WILL eventually fail to block, and thanks to the stat point investment, you're health and mana will not be at the levels it needs to be for eshield to be effective, and while you may be able to bring your health up to reasonable levels, it still won't be enough to save you from getting one shotted. Check out the old thread if you want details beyond the most obvious one I just cited.
VIT and energy work hand in hand with this build in conjunction with Energy Shield. Basically, by end game, it will double your ability to take damage, and while you'll certainly get hit due to having no block, you WILL be able to take multiple hits, affording you ample time to make an escape, as well as being able to get right in act bosses faces and stand at ground zero of huge mobs with no fear of dying.
 Skill Allocation
This build is basically a tri-elemental build. Really, it's just a Meteorb variant, but with some critical differences.
- 20 Frozen Orb
- 10-20 Cold Mastery (option is yours, though I prefer to max CM even with the reduced returns as it's going to be your primary workhorse)
- 20 Meteor
- 10 Fire Mastery
- 1 point in all cold skills except Chilling armour (nothing)
- 1 point in every lightning skill
- 1 point in every fire skill except Enchant and Hydra
All remaining points get dumped into Chain Lightning. You'll never (at least probably never) max it, but it will be at killing levels by the time you start doing hell mf runs (around slevel 10-13).
As you'll likely note, this character is nowhere near as powerful as a synergized character, and this is intentional. The reason for this is that this build is geared STRICTLY for solo mf runs. If even one other person joins a hell game they're running, they'll begin to have trouble with kill speed, however, they'll likely be the most survivable character in the game. After going over the various stats and health of the key monsters (mostly superuniques and act bosses), having ridiculous damage levels in a solo run, while great for kill speed, is somewhat redundant. The bulk of time during an mf run is reaching the monster you wish to kill, not actually killing it. Thus, damage levels are significantly lower than more common builds, but the loss is negligible longterm for several reasons which hopefully will become apparent by the end of the guide.
There are a few things which need explaining though.
Q: Why Shiver armour and not Chilling?
A: Shiver armour actually gives a better defensive bonus than Chilling armour, as well as lasting just a little longer (though really that's likely never going to be an issue). You're never going to be wearing any armour of seriously defensive worth, but it's always better to have it than not, and for the two skill point investment, it's more than worth the cost for the added benefit. Further, Chilling armour will never do any significant damage, so using it in favour of Shiver armour is rather pointless.
Q: Thunderstorm? Why?
A: It's never going to kill anything for you. The only reason you take it, is for the built in 'stun'. It's not a real stun like the result of the barb attack Stun, but what it will do is make virtually any monster it hits, momentarily stop whatever it's doing. Again, it's a single point value add, that while the point may help increase your damage with CL, the value add of TS at even a single point far outweighs any minor advantage a little more damage is going to net you.
A: This is actually optional. By endgame, you'll have so much mana, that you'll NEVER have mana issues even if you get tagged by mana burn, as you'll be regenerating it so fast, that I usually can't even switch to teleport fast enough not the be able to teleport before the mana regenerates enough to do so. The truth is, at low levels, warmth will never benefit you since you'll have so little mana, that any benefit from warmth will be completely useless. At mid levels (40-60) while you'll probably gain some benefit from it, you could easily do without it, since you'll still be relying heavily on potions. By endgame, you won't even need to carry around mana potions (seriously), as you regenerate mana so quickly that any benefit from warmth will be completely redundant. That said, I STILL end up putting one point in it :) Never any more of course, but I suspect it's due to an old habit more than anything (kind of like a security blanket ;)).
There are only two choices for mercs for an MF sorc. The most obvious being the Act 2 NM Defensive holy freeze merc, for obvious reasons. The other is the act 5 Barbarian, but only if you have the runes for a Lawbringer (Amn Lem Ko) and a decent elite 3 socket sword.
Regardless of which merc you opt for, make sure you get as much leech on him as possible. By hell, you should be up around the 25-35 life leech area while doing around 500-2500 damage. Anything short of this will have you raising the merc every run.
End gear for the act 2 merc will be a Reaper's Toll, a Skullder's Ire, and a Crown of Thieves (all ethereal if you want higher defense and damage stats). Between the weapon and the helm, you should have more than enough leech, so socket the weapon with whatever you feel like, while socketing the armor and helm with a perfect topaz each. Until you get your hands on a Reaper's toll though, go for weapons that have good leech with as much damage as you can muster. A good alternate that's relatively easy to come by is a Kelpie Snare, but I don't find it as useful as something like a Spire of Honour IMO. Basically, you're just looking for big damage and leech.
End gear for the act 5 merc will be a Lawbringer on an eth Balrog Blade or either eth Colossus Swords/Blades, a Skullder's Ire, and either a Crown of Thieves or an Arreat's Face (again all Ethereal for better damage and defense stats). All socketed with a perfect topaz except the Lawbringer of course.
The choice of which merc you go with will be dependent on what you intend to run long-term. However, thanks to the new patch and the new merc hiring, you can try both or even swap them around as you feel like depending on what you'll be running that day.
The reason for the Reaper's Toll is the decrepify on hit, which is also one of the mods on a Lawbringer. Slower monsters means less threat and easier to control monsters (mobs and singles). The added benefit of a Lawbringer, is the sanctuary aura which repels and adds big damage to undead (which is a HUGE benefit in hell), which makes dealing with superuniques like Pindle a total breeze, however, since the barb merc has no aura, things will be moving faster than with the act 2 merc. Also, the Lawbringer will be doing significantly less damage than a Reaper's Toll, so the merc's killing ability will be reduced, however it should be noted that the merc is not there to kill for you, so much as tank and draw fire as well as slowing things down for you to kill. Take a look at the Lawbringer's mods, as there are several that add nice benefits (like RIP, which is a huge boon against monsters that can be raised again).
I'm still a little on the fence as to which is superior, so experiment with both to see which you prefer, but I have to admit, the barb merc's sanctuary makes teleporting areas with undead (ie. Burning Souls) MUCH safer.
Once again, this guide assumes you're starting out literally from scratch, with absolutely nothing, and without the benefit of charitable arsians ;) You could call it a personal character definition, but I've always been of the mentality that only you can do things for you. Relying on and hoping for aid from others is a surefire way to fail at anything you may do. Of course that's not to say anyone who receives items or help in some way from friends/acquaintances is somehow less of a person or anything, what I'm saying is, you should never rely on it, nor count on it. Expect the worst and hope for the best is what I'm getting at here.
Starting out, you'll obviously have nothing, so your first task (besides leveling) is to pick up every miniscule piece of crap that drops and sell it ;) It's a chore, and nobody likes doing it, but it's the only way to get started, and you'll be surprised at how much gold you'll accumulate by doing so. Obviously, there are certain items that will usually net you better results, but I won't even bother mentioning them, as anyone who's played for even a couple of hours will know what I'm talking about here.
After this initial short period of basic gold farming, you should be good for quite some time and can concentrate on leveling. Don't be concerned with MF at this point, as it's all about survival early on.
I'll leave it to you to decide when you want to start MF runs, but it can be quite beneficial to run some normal baal and meph runs for some low end gear, but it's going to be pretty tough going at this stage. I'd actually recommend concentrating on leveling and progression more than MFing until at least 70.
 Gear Suggestions
 Low End Gear
The ideal poor man's MF gear is going to be:
- 25 MF gloves
- 35 MF boots
- 4 socket armour with 4 perfect topazes
- 3 socket helm with 3 perfect topazes
- 2 MF rings (ideally 25+)
- MF amulet (ideally 30+)
- Rhymed shield (though Milabrega's will do in a pinch)
The above should get you to around 350 mf without problem, and is easily achievable by anyone at all via gambling for the most part. You can ramp it up further by tossing on a 4 socket armour and 3 socket helm on the merc, but this won't fly past NM longterm.
 Mid Range Gear
Good mid-range gear will be:
- Chanceguards (40 MF max)
- War Travellers (50 MF max)
- Goldwrap (30 MF)
- Skullder's Ire (dependant on level)
- Harlequin Crest (50 MF)
- 2 Nagelrings (60 total MF max)
- MF amulet (45 MF max on magical)
- Oculus (50 MF)
- Rhymed shield (25 MF)
If you can pop an Ist in the Oculus, that will add another 30 MF on top of this. At around level 70, with the above gear you can hit upwards of 500 MF without charms, and 600 is quite achievable even without a merc. At one point last ladder, I managed to break 750 MF with the merc. It should be noted however, that this gear is really only viable up through NM. It's certainly possible to use this setup in Hell, but your life will be harder than with the 'perfect' gear setup.
 End game gear
- Full Tal's (Isted Orb, and 2 perfect topazes in the helm and armour)
- Perfect Chanceguards
- Perfect War Travs
- 2 perfect Nagels
- Rhymed Troll Nest
At this point, there are a LOT of variables with regards to exact MF values, since you'll likely have between 4-12 7 MF small charms (or more) and a Gheeds, so your MF total will come in anywhere between 350-550 usually, but is actually possible to go much higher. The other obvious benefits are that you'll likely have max resists in Hell without the aid of charms, able to break 9 frames (8 if you use certain items on switch), and a huge boost to health and mana.
It's not unusual for people to mention feeling invincible with this gear setup and this build, as for all intents and purposes, the only way you will die is if you WANT to die, or you aren't paying attention for several seconds. Even lag may not kill you most of the time.
 MF Strategy
I wouldn't say that there are any hard and fast rules regarding when to go where to MF, but the obvious rules about survival are primarily what will determine when you are ready to move onto tougher areas, so you'll have to decide when you want to start doing X run. As long as you can survive, you should be fine.
A few notes about this build and MF in general though:
- This build focuses largely on superuniques and act bosses. It's certainly possible to do things like Pit runs, but they will not be as effective and will likely take far longer than it's worth.
- Since this build is focused on solo mf runs, doing areas like the Pit (or any of the other mlevel 85 areas) are going to produce very little, as those areas are really only beneficial to farm in large games (ideally 8 players) when drop rates rise dramatically, thus giving reasonable odds of dropping decent items. The obvious problem with trying to do this with this build is that kill speed will be horrendously slow. However, it should be noted that once you attain a large cache of high level items, all that will remain for you to obtain are the extremely rare items like Tyreal's, which can only drop from Hell Baal or in the mlevel 85 areas, but this will be VERY far in the future at which point you should have an enigma'd hammerdin anyway which will make farming the Pit or soloing Hell Baal significantly easier.
- Don't expect to see good items drop every other run. The only true surefire way of obtaining good drops is to continually do mf runs. It's purely a question of numbers. If you do enough runs, you WILL eventually get the items you're looking for, but it's going to take time. You'll certainly get lucky once in a while and have a few runs where you get great drops, but overall, be prepared for many, MANY runs where nothing but crap drops. It's the nature of MF runs, that anyone who's done them extensively will tell you, it's 99% tedium highlighted by 1% orgasmic joy ;)
- It's always better to have higher MF, however, as most will probably know, beyond 200-250 MF, the diminishing returns for uniques/sets/rares makes going for really high MF very unappealing. To give you an example of the kind of difference this makes, at 200 MF, you have a 111% increased chance of an item that drops being a unique. Now this doesn't mean every item that drops will be unique, but rather it means that the odds of that item being a unique basically doubles. So if a monster has a 0.1% chance of dropping a unique of a particular item, it would now have roughly 0.2% chance to drop a unique. The pertinent point about the above though is that if you were to increase your MF from 200 to say 600, your odds for a unique dropping would only increase to 176% as opposed to the 111%. As you can see, the returns are vastly diminishing, so you'll want to keep that in mind when balancing survival with MF.
That said, here's a general guide that I tend to follow for MF runs and when to do what:
- Levels 01-50 Nothing. Level like no tomorrow, and focus on survival.
- Levels 51-75 Continue leveling, but begin to acquire cheap MF gear (like the magical gloves/boots/rings, etc). You can at this point try to farm Normal Baal, as he can drop some useful low end survival gear as well as having decent odds of dropping useful mf gear like Chanceguards and Goldwraps.
- Levels 76-85 By this time you should have finished Hell, however, I'd highly recommend against doing Hell MF runs at this point, as you'll likely be wearing survival gear only, and will likely not be able to survive Hell runs in MF gear. Farm NM Baal/Pindle/Eldritch/Shenk. Pindle, Eldritch, and Shenk are only in there due to how easily accessible they are and how easy they are to kill in NM. Your real target is Baal. He has the best odds in the game to drop the mid range gear like Skullder's, Oculus, Shakos, etc. He takes time to get to, but is well worth the trouble. NM Meph cannot drop several of the mid range items listed above, so IMO, is not worth the time investment, even though he's really rather easy to get to and kill. You should also seriously consider farming NM Andy, as she has the best odds in the game to drop a SoJ, as well as having higher odds in general of dropping rings overall due to her TC range. You're not going to get any Wisps off her, but you'll likely get a good supply of Nagels, high/perfect Manald's, Ravenfrosts, Dwarf Stars, etc.
- Levels 86+ By this time, you should be sturdy enough even without the perfect gear to survive Hell MF runs without much risk. However, if you don't have the end game gear (which most will not), make sure to balance survival with MF, as it's no good having 800 MF if you can't kill anything or survive long enough to kill anything. Dropping MF to 250 is more than reasonable, as the important thing is that you can actually DO the runs, rather than striving for ridiculously high MF.
- Levels 90+ This is your endgame target level. At this point, you can now gamble every type of spawnable mod on items (including +2 skill amulets), ilevels on items popping from chests can be 90 thus making any mod possible, you can now craft the highest mods possible as well as having the best odds of max mods on crafting, will likely be at endgame skills and stat allocation, and in general be one tough bitch ;) Besides MF, this character will also now double as your crafter and your gambler for all other characters that follow. You should now be able to solo everything in the game with ease (if not complete speed), and should have no real problem rushing others (though any more than 2 players can become a little slow in Hell due to kill speed).
 Quick Leveling Tips
I won't bother telling you how to go about leveling, as that's going to be an individual decision based on things like available time and whatnot. What I can tell you is a general idea of when to move on in difficulty as well as give suggestions as to what worked well for me. Note that all the following are public games (ideally 8 players). You could recreate the same thing with arsians, but there really aren't enough to do anything besides Baal runs really. It should also be noted that since there are now many arsians who are of high levels, there's really not much benefit to leveling the 'old fashioned way', but if that's your only option for some reason, check out the old thread for where to go at what level to maximize your exp gain.
- Level 01-15 - Trist runs. It's remarkably simple. Everyone goes to Tristram and kills the big exp monsters there (Griswold, a champ pack in the center of town, and usually 2 or 3 uniques). Some like to stay and kill everything there. Go with the flow.
- Level 15-20 - Tomb or Trav runs. This can be annoyingly difficult or ridiculously easy. If there's a high level character in the game, they will be able to clear out the tombs like a scythe through wheat and you'll gain levels like nobodies business, however if there isn't, it's going to be slow and arduous with 8 people in the game, all of which have junk gear and virtually no skills to speak of.
- Level 20-24 - Moo. 'Nuff said. It should be noted that at level 20, you get almost nothing from cows, however with 8 players in the game, it's still worth doing at 20, otherwise, wait until 21.
- Level 24 - Ancients. Either find a kind arsian (recommended) or even just make a public game. You'd be surprised how helpful Bnet people can actually be sometimes (when they're not being complete ignorant retards that is).
- Level 25-50 - Normal Baal runs. It always tickles me that the 25 levels to get to 50 will probably take HALF the time (if not less) than the first 25 levels to just start Baal runs.
- Level 50 - You should have no problem soloing NM at this point, and should be able to solo all of NM in about 2 hours tops. With this build it's really not necessary for anyone to rush you at all. Even NM ancients should pose no problem solo.
- Level 51-75 - NM Baal runs. There is a caveat though, in that if you intend to solo Hell, I'd wait until 80 before moving on.
- Level 76+ - You should be able to solo Hell at this point, though it will take you longer than NM, and will likely for the first time, make you feel vulnerable until you can acquire some decent survival gear. Once again, I'd farm NM Baal for items before tackling Hell.
- Level 76-90 - Hell Baal runs. You can actually stop at around 85, as that should make you sturdy enough to do any Hell MF runs now. The big problem is, since there are no more working bots/maphacks, there will be very few people willing to traverse WSK. That is, except for you ;) With this build, even without a BO, your survival rate is going to be exponentially higher than other more common sorc builds (even moreso if you have the barb merc with Lawbringer). With a BO, there's only 1 thing that can kill you, and that's getting instantly stunlocked by 15+ Burning Soul lightning hits. Sadly, this isn't as uncommon an occurance as one would think (as it's mostly dependant on where they are in the room and where you teleport within that room), but usually, you should be able to survive several hits from them before being in danger, which usually gives you ample time to get away.
- Level 90+ - MF, MF, more MF, MF again, pron break, yet more MF. Generally in that order. At this point, your goal is simply to do as many runs as fast as you can manage. Just be aware that if you are finishing runs in under 2 minutes (120 seconds), you WILL get an RD after about 12-15 runs. So add in a few more monsters to your run regimen to bring it up into the 3-5 minute range.
 Recommended MF Runs
Once again, largely opinion, as some people swear by Pit runs, while others like myself know they're useless ;)
(note that runs in normal will largely be done at a later stage to acquire certain items that one may be missing and generally is not very beneficial to farm)
(NM runs are primarily only to get yourself some basic mid range gear, that once you have them, should move onto Hell)
Andy, Eldritch, Shenk, Pindle, Baal
(longterm) Andy, Meph, Eldritch, Pindle
(far off in the future) Baal or Pit runs
I would actually recommend against running Baal in hell in general, until you're ready to start trying to farm the extremely rare items like Tyreal's, as the time investment and risk is simply not worth the returns. But if you're stocked for higher level items, you may as well at that point.
 Specific Monster Strategy
Your primary targets are going to be Andy, Meph, Pindle, Eldritch, Shenk, Baal, and possibly Countess. Each has a different strategy in Hell (I only discuss Hell, since in any difficulty prior to hell, if you have problems with any of the above, you're doing something wrong ;)), so I'll try to give a quick and dirty 'How-to' on each.
As strange as this may seem, Hell Andy is IMO, actually the toughest boss to take down, even moreso than Baal if you don't count the minions getting to him. I'd recommend clearing away any stragglers that you can before triggering her, as the more targets there are, the higher the chance that your merc will focus on a monster other than Andy, which is going to make your job a lot tougher. Also, don't enter the antechamber before the main chamber, as all they'll do is slow you down, and cause more of an annoyance than anything. If you leave the big door closed, they won't awaken. Once Andy is awake, teleport right on top of her and static her down to half (or close to it) and immediately teleport a SHORT distance away (if you can't survive even this little damage, you're here WAY too early). If you teleport too far, she'll decide to use a ranged attack which is what will likely get you or your merc killed. It's roughly about the radius of a meteor that you want to teleport so that your merc will take a few steps towards her, but you'll then be out of reach of her melee attack and focus on your merc. The choice of which attack to use is up to you, but IMO FO is far more suited to Andy and Meph since they don't have enough life to warrant the time investment needed for Meteor. Once she engages the merc, take a few steps back (do NOT teleport as your merc will come with you) so that your FO ends right inside her. She should fall in about 5 or 6 FOs depending on your positioning. During this time, you'll want to watch your merc's life very closely (even moreso than your own believe it or not). If his life bar drops AT ALL, feed him a healing potion. If his life drops to 2/3 or less, feed him a rejuv. If his life drops to less than half, feed him a full rejuv immediately as the next hit WILL kill him. If your merc does die for whatever reason, don't panic, she's actually quite easy to kill provided you keep your cool. Draw her down into the long hallway that runs Northwest and Southeast. Run/teleport to one end (doesn't matter which), wait for her to follow, and teleport to the other end. As she's walking towards you now, spam her with FOs until she gets close, then teleport towards the other end and repeat until she dies. The only drawback to this method though is that it takes longer to kill her, and of course you won't be able to let your merc get the last hit in to maximize your MF (that is, if you were to decide to use this method than the more direct approach I described above of course).
Meph is without question the easiest target to kill among the ones I've listed above. Everyone knows the moat cheese (and note that it's not a 'trick', it's cheese), and everyone also knows how damn long it takes to kill him with it. If you need to use the moat cheese with this build, you're doing something wrong as well as wasting a crapload of time. When you enter Durance 3, teleport Northwest and continue teleporting (almost a straight line) until you stop at the circular island in front of the red portal where the bone bridge will rise. If done correctly, you'll usually arrive there without waking any of the council members, but this is partly dependant on where they spawm as it's not fixed. Once there, it's generally a good idea to toss up a tp, as insurance, though really, I can't even remember the last time I've ever needed it or used it. Teleport halfway towards Meph, which should land you right on top of the circular symbol on the ground. This should trigger Meph into charging you, but may not. If he doesn't charge you, start teledodging in a small area around you (don't go too far), and he will eventually come towards you. Once he approaches, fire an FO at him, and as he gets close (you should know the range of your static field by now), static him until he drops to half, while your merc engages him and draws his fire/attacks. Then step back so that your FO ends inside him and spam until he's dead. This shouldn't take any longer than 15 seconds tops and can be as fast as 10-12 seconds. Once again, pay attention to your merc's health. He shouldn't need as much babysitting as with Andy, but he still may get into trouble so watch his health. You really shouldn't be in any danger at all against Meph, especially with a merc tanking him, but if for some reason the merc dies, Meph's attacks are slow and predictable as well as very precisely timed and you should be able to notice the 'beat' of his attacks which should make your job of teledodging a cakewalk as well as being able to spam him with FO while you do so. In fact, you don't even HAVE to teledodge, as more often than not, I just walk around as he fires his snowball, lightning, or charged bolts at me.
Pindle now poses a fairly significant threat than he did in 1.09, as his minions and himself do CRAZY charge damage. It's here that the barb merc is most effective, as the sanctuary aura will usually stop their charge in midstep and keep pushing them back away from you, making your job almost ridiculously easy. Once through the red portal, teleport up to just a little inside the doorway (you should be almost a quarter way into the hall) and start spamming FOs right down the middle of the hall. Don't worry about Pindle being Cold Immune, your primary job right now is to take down his minions and if he isn't CI, you'll take him down at the same time. Due to the cramped nature of the area, you usually won't be able to let your merc get the last hit unless he's CI, so don't even bother trying. Watch the merc's health again as he will probably be able to take one charge hit, but rarely two, so be ready to feed him a potion if his health drops at all. There's really nothing more to Pindle than this. Spam FOs at him :) Obviously if he's CI though, you'll want to static him to half and then finish him with either Meteor or CL. He should pose no real problems though.
Eldritch will ALWAYS spawn Cold Immune in Hell and will often spawn with at least one other immunity (usually fire), so he can be tricky since he and his minions will also always spawn with extra fast. Once through the WP, teleport North until you can see the round disc like shape on the ground and drop a few meteors in that area. Then range trigger them (if they haven't already woken up) and let the merc get surrounded while you maintain a good distance (your merc should be nearly at the edge of the screen). Spam meteors all over them and mop up with Static/Chain Lightning on Eldritch if he's also fire immune. You CAN teleport into their midst if you want, but there's really no benefit to doing so except to put yourself in danger unnecessarily. Watch for ranged attackers and any other non CI monsters that may come into the area, as they'll usually be fire immune. I can't even recall the last time I had to feed the merc a potion while doing Eldritch, but as always, watch his health. FYI, Eldritch doesn't have great odds of dropping decent items, but he does drop them from time to time.
I've recently stopped running Shenk, as the time it takes tends to outweigh the benefits, since quite often there will be 3 or more champ/unique ranged packs around him that can make killing him a pain. It's not so much that they're a huge threat, but rather the annoyance of getting Occy locked by multiple ranged hits which will slow you down in actually killing Shenk himself. However, if you do want to do him, use a similar strategy to Eldritch. Keep your merc between you and the mob and drop meteors on anything that moves. Watch for non CIs and toss FOs at them when you can.
Baal himself is actually fairly easy to take down (just a little time consuming due to his high health). His minions on the other hand can be a pain and is the bulk of the time consumption in doing Baal runs. Assuming you get to the throneroom without problem (as this is the biggest difficulty in most cases), the first wave is always FI, so spam FO at them while the merc keeps them busy.
As SOON as the last one is dead, start dropping meteors in the general area where the waves spawn. Don't just drop them in the same spot, but spread it around a little to maximize the coverage (you should be able to drop at least 5 or 6 before they spawn). The Horadrim Ancients should be your primary targets here first, as they'll keep raising the bone mages if you don't. Keep dropping meteors until they're all dead. The barb merc is crucial here, as the sanctuary aura will often interrupt casting as well as keep pushing them all back, giving you a decent berth with which to cast from. Once the Horadrim are dead, pick off the bone mages. I'd actually suggest teleporting right on top of them one at a time, as the merc will often one shot them dead as soon as you do. You could try CL here, but I often find that it's damage range isn't ideal in this area due to the size of the throneroom.
Once again, once the second wave is dead, start dropping meteors in the spawn area. Once the council spawns, switch to FO and spam them as much as possible, taking care to teledodge or move out of the way of Bartuc's lightning.
Once the council is dead, don't bother with meteors any longer, as both Ventnar and Lister's packs are going to be fire immune or will have 95% fire res, making meteor a wasted effort. Instead, this is where your barb merc will show how tough a bastard he is. When Ventnar spawns, they'll immediately swarm your merc. Toss FOs in their midst as fast as you can, and be amazed at how your merc's life doesn't even budge.
After the venom lords, Lister's pack will spawn and is the only real threat to your merc's life. So much so, that I'd actually recommend teledodging and spamming FO at them while you dodge. Sadly, this takes time. The other option is, to stand right next to where Baal is at the entrance to the Worldstone Chamber. This forces them to approach only one at a time due to their size, allowing the merc to tank them on the steps while you spam them with FO. The problem is, it requires that you pay very close attention to your merc's health, as they can often one shot him if he's hurt even a little. Regardless, it's more than doable and once they're dead, it's on to Baal. If your merc died, go back to town and raise him, as you'll want his MF to add to yours for Baal.
As soon as you enter the Worldstone Chamber, teleport right on top of Baal and static until he's down to half. Take a few steps back now, and start dropping meteors. It should be noted however, that by using meteor, there's a very good chance your merc won't get the last hit in, so if you want to maximize the MF, use FO instead, but know that it WILL take longer. With your merc tanking Baal, all you need to do is spam him with meteor or FO until he's dead. No fancy teledodging, no run and gun, nothing special at all, just spam until he's dead. Watch the merc again as usual, though he shouldn't have TOO much trouble with him. Just be aware that mercs do 1/8 damage to act bosses in Hell, so their leech is going to scale along with their damage, which also means that the last hit will often take some time even when they're down to a sliver.
There's nothing particularly tough about Hell Countess, except that she always spawns Cold & Fire Immune as well as Extra fast, so she can be a pain to deal with. There's two ways to deal with Countess, the in your face method, and the safer stand offish method.
In Your Face™ is just as it sounds. Teleport to one of the corners in the main room where she usually spawns and static about 5 or 6 times. Then drop meteors on the minions until they're dead. Then use CL on the Countess until she's dead. The merc should have no problem tanking them while keeping them off you.
Stand Offish is a little more cautious (duh). Teleport to one of the side halls that leads to the main chamber and range trigger the minions. They'll start coming through the doorway, while you stand at a reasonable distance and meteor them as they come through. The merc will keep them busy (often standing IN the doorway) so you shouldn't have any problems taking them out fairly quickly. Once the minions and any stragglers are dead, enter the main chamber (or wherever the Countess is) and static/CL until she's dead. This method actually isn't that much slower than the In Your Face method, and is obviously much safer.
A note about act bosses: Most act bosses are actually pushovers in general, if you teleport right on top of them. They'll almost always use a melee attack which is usually going to be their weakest. A perfect example of this is Diablo. If you teleport right on top of him, he's ridiculously easy to defeat, as one of his biggest attacks (the red inferno like spray) will actually overshoot past you and always miss. If you stand off at a distance, they're FAR more dangerous, as almost all of them use some form of elemental attack that does ridiculous damage and usually with some secondary effect like slow or stun. Even with a more common sorc, standing right on top of them is a far safer place to be than off at a distance (at least until they engage the merc ;)).
 Final Notes
The primary focus of this build is survivability. She can solo anything and everything in the game short of Ubers/DC (though I suspect she'd be able to handle DC, albeit slowly), and as such is aiming at the basic premise behind MF runs, and that's approaching the law of large numbers (granted on a smaller scale of course), where eventually, the odds pay off. The only way to do this is with guaranteed survivability. With the mana/life distribution coupled with E-shield, she's arguably one of the toughest characters without a BO in the game IMO. With a BO, she's almost unkillable with end game gear.
So the concept behind this build is that she is able to complete all the runs she starts, and banks on the fact that she's going to be doing a LOT of MF runs, which will eventually pan out in items, as well as affording you the ability to survive through the game entirely solo at any point in her career regardless of what gear you may have. When I got my sorc up to 80 on the second day of reset, I had absolutely garbage gear. In fact, to my chagrin, I discovered I was wearing some cracked boots or gloves (I can't recall which) during a hell Baal run.
The one drawback with this build is that there can be a tendancy to become lazy in how you play the game. I often find myself not caring if I get hit by Meph's snowball instead of teledodging, as that would require that I actually do something ;) It can produce overconfidence in your ability to survive, which then makes playing other characters a little tougher, as well as lulling you into a sense of security even though it's still possible for you to be taken down fairly quickly (usually only by huge mobs of ranged attackers and melee attackers stunlocking you for 5+ seconds).
If you're having trouble surviving, you may want to try this build out. It's not glamorous, she doesn't do 'godly' damage, she'll never be able to do any kind of PvP, but what she is, is one tough bitch that will be your primary MF workhorse for as long as you decide to keep MFing.
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