Summoner Druid in PTR Patch 2.4 Diablo II: Resurrected - Multiple Summons, New Challenges
Longtime fans of the Druid class in Diablo II: Resurrected rejoiced upon hearing that a long-held dream has come true: Druids will be able to summon all their Ravens, Wolves, and a Bear at the same time in Patch 2.4!
With this change comes questions about the new viability of the Summoner Druid build. What has changed? Are there new challenges? Has this build changed their projected survivability and utility? Do they still require insanely expensive gear?
The answers to this are: a lot, yes, yes, and mostly yes. Life is looking bright for the Summoner Druid, although there are still some areas for improvement.
Raven Improvements in Patch 2.4
The first iteration of Ravens in the PTR for Patch 2.4 were absolute killers -- think Ginsu knives with wings -- but they lasted so little time that you spent all your time recasting them.
In our previous article, we had pointed out this problem and asked that the lifespan of the Ravens be extended
so we weren't having to spam this spell quite so much. This was fixed later in that PTR and carried over into this patch. The duration was greatly increased, but the damage was dialed back a little bit. Overall, it was a perfectly acceptable compromise, making the Ravens much more user-friendly.
Multiple Wolf/Bear Summons
We tested the Summoner Druid build we created and refined five weeks ago with the first D2 Patch 2.4 PTR, and found that it works well, with only a minor change. We've updated this guide -- just realize that this build won't be ready to go until Patch 2.4 goes live:
Summoning Druid Build in Diablo II: Resurrected
Being able to summon all your Wolves and Grizzly together was the biggest change for the Summoner Druid in this PTR build. You can summon a maximum of 5 Spirit Wolves, 3 Dire Wolves, and 1 Grizzly, with 5 Ravens, one Spirit, and one Vine if desired. We joined with the multitude of other Druid fans in voicing our opinion that this was a much-needed change to make this viable. Blizzard listened to the community and responded, resulting in this glorious view:
Having full summoning capability turned this single-target specialist build into a solid AoE farmer as well, without sacrificing its boss-killing capabilities. While the first iteration without the full complement of summons struggled heavily doing Hell Secret Cow Level, the expanded zoo handled the huge cow groups splendidly. Losses were infrequent, mostly among Ravens left too long without being re-summoned and running out of attacks, and the occasional death of the Oak Sage spirit.
This PTR is also testing new Uber Diablo/Dclone mechanics that extend the Uber Diablo spawn across an entire regional database, with new messaging to alert you to the spawn progress. The Summoner Druid with expanded zoo killed Uber Diablo three times without dying and without even losing the Mercenary. Occasional resummons of Spirit Wolves, Oak Sage, and the occasional Dire Wolf was sometimes required. While these were not the quickest Uber D kills on record, they were safe for the druid and the outcome was never in doubt.
Results of extended minions:
Much better spatial coverage -- large mob groups now viable for this build
Capable of taking on act bosses and Uber Diablo with relative ease
It's safe to say that the Summoner Druid has experienced a tier change as a result. While we formerly called the Summoner Druid a "D-tier novelty build with expensive tastes", it's now firmly in the range of a B-tier build, capable of taking on multiple types of content with relative ease and low risk. Its relatively slow speed in doing so keeps it from being A-tier, but it's a major improvement. It still has expensive tastes, but most endgame builds do.
Immunities Still an Issue, But Manageable
Prior to this change, Druids were faced with choosing between Spirit Wolves, which delivered Cold damage with their Physical damage, or the higher Physical-only damage of the Dire Wolves or Grizzly. Being able to summon both means that Physical Immunes are a worry of the past, since you'll already have Spirit Wolves summoned to deal with them -- right?
Not so fast.
This build still struggles with Physical Immunes, even with the partial cold damage of fully-invested Spirit Wolves. Yes, you can defeat Physical Immunes without breaking the immunity, but it's very,
slow. Cold Immunes are less of a problem -- in fact, they don't really seem to be much problem at all. However, the rare Physical and Cold Immune mob does come along, and when that happens you may as well just leave the area.
You have to use a Mercenary that can use an item that will deliver Amplify Damage or Decrepify. The new dual-wield Frenzy/Iron Skin/Taunt Act V Mercenary can use the Runeword Lawbringer in the off-hand position to apply Decrepify and remove Physical Immunity, making your life much easier (Act V dual wield mercs can only use 1-handed swords). There are much better choices for the main hand, mostly due to the complicated way that the Mercenary dual wield algorithm fails to recognize certain weapon properties on the offhand. Lawbringer is not as affected by these as other weapons, making it a perfect offhand choice.
The Act V is better than the usual Act II Mercenary as they are much more aggressive and better at joining your zoo; the Act II mercenary tends to want to hang around in the backfield with your Grizzly.
And yes, the Act V Merc's Taunt has the bad habit of cancelling out the Decrepify, but Decrepify reapplies so quickly it doesn't make much of a functional difference.
Enigma has turned from "nice to have" into "must have" for this build to shine.
The bigger zoo poses a real control issue. The menagerie spreads out very quickly, and without the help of Enigma or another teleport object such as Naj's Puzzler, keeping the zoo together and working on the same set of mobs can be a challenge.
To some extent, you can cast your beefed-up Ravens in the direction of mobs you want to target, which will attract the attention of varying numbers of your minions. However, minions that are spread out in the opposite direction may not get the hint.
Unfortunately, the Grizzly's AI hasn't improved overall; it still has a gift for wandering off in the wrong direction.
You don't need a lot of extra Run Speed to outrun your minions.
It can also be hard when the group splits between scattered mobs.
Some zones like Arcane Sanctuary are practically impossible without some form of Teleport to bring the gang back together. You can burn a lot of Town Portals, but that gets old fast.
Thankfully, the improved AI that brings separated minions back to you does help somewhat, but Enigma really is key to the long-term enjoyment of this build.
However, Enigma brings it own share of complications, namely exposing the Druid to mortal danger if they miscalculate the stomp. You want to land near a group of mobs, but landing right on top of them exposes the Druid to attracting aggro too soon and possibly not making it out of the fray alive. The Act V Merc's Taunt seems to help with this somewhat, but it's not 100%.
I found this caused my Druid's health to dip precariously, which led to a slight change to the build: adding 1 point into Poison Vine as a prerequisite and at least 1 point into Carrion Vine, which eats corpses to give health back to the Druid. With +Skillers, summoning a quick Carrion Vine can return enough health to erase this problem, although the Carrion Vine dies a lot. It was useful enough that I put it on my right-click to summon whenever I needed to get my health back up. This only works because Ravens no longer needs to be recast so often or so quickly.
This changed my mind about the utility of the Carrion Vine, which I had called useless in the previous iteration of this build. But then again, with so many fewer summons to manage, Enigma wasn't as mission critical.
Remaining Issues with the Summoner Druid
As great as this change is, there are still some outstanding issues with the Summoning tree that keep it from reaching its full potential, as well as some shortages in the gear department.
The deep synergies between the minion types still leave very limited choices for how to invest your points as a pure summoner.
Hybrid summoner builds will need to make some tough choices about survivability vs. damage output when choosing synergies. Careful testing might come up with the perfect way to balance out these synergies, but for now, the pure summoner build invests in all of them.
The Vines still lack utility, lending nothing to Summons at all.
The only one that has proved at all useful is the Carrion Vine to deal with the Druid getting beat up teleporting in with his minions and getting some aggro, but the Poison Vine and Solar Creeper remain completely useless. All Vines share the problem of extreme delicacy. Having summoned mobs that contribute little to nothing and require constant recasting is just not a useful investment of points. Vines should still be reworked at some future date.
There are still no Druid-specific items we're aware of that support Summoning.
Perhaps a Summoning-focused item would be a good Runeword to create for Season 2 of the Ladder? It might encourage more people to try the Druid on the Ladder and beyond.
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