Summoner Druid in PTR Patch 2.4 Diablo II: Resurrected - Problems, Limitations, and Solutions
2022/02/01 at 9:10 AM
Longtime fans of the Druid class in Diablo II: Resurrected have held out hope that a true Summoning Druid build might become a reality. With several changes to the various minions in the latest patch, including new/improved synergies, a huge buff to Ravens and Dire Wolves, and other improvements, it appeared that we might be on the road to such a reality.
This article will examine the problems and limitations with the build as it exists on the 2.4 PTR, even though it could be turned into a viable build with expensive gearing. We end with proposed solutions that will go a long way toward making the Summoner Druid a viable build for Diablo II: Resurrected -- without insane gear requirements.
The Story So Far
Despite the changes made to the tree in the PTR, the Summoning Tree for Druids will not make the Summoner-focused Druid anything other than a D-tier novelty build with expensive tastes. Right now, the normal state of the Summoning tree remains what it has always been: a source for a few support minions for Elemental builds or a component in any one of a number of variably-successful hybrid builds. The class fantasy of a lone Druid out with his trusty nature minions isn't here yet.
This is a huge disappointment for those of us who jealously watch the other major summoning class/spec, the Summonmancer, stomping the world as an S-tier build. With the ability to skill for up to 37 minions between the Golem, Skeletons, Skeleton Mages, and Revives (not including the merc; everyone gets one of those), and gear to allow for even more than that (up to over 70 by most counts), Necros are the undisputed kings of the summon. While Druids don't necessarily want to enslave every bunny in the forest, we'd like to be taken seriously as masters of the nature summons.
That said, with the help of Wowhead writer
, an experienced Summonmancer who helped brainstorm gearing strategies for a Summoning Druid build, we got a viable Summoner Druid working. At this point, it's only an endgame build that works after level 76 with expensive gearing, but it actually works surprisingly well as a boss-killing spec.
Summoning Druid Build in Diablo II: Resurrected
The Build In Practice
Once we refined the gearing, it was time for testing. After playing with the Spirit Wolves (not enough damage, more squishy) and the Grizzly (too little spatial coverage, weird AI problems where the bear would sometimes just walk away from targets), we settled on Dire Wolves as the right balance of durability, high damage, and coverage for our Druids. We also found the Oak Sage the most useful.
The buff to Ravens is a game-changer for the Summoning build, although the fact that the Ravens don't last very long means that you spend most of your time in the back field resummoning the Ravens. One nice thing was that by casting your Ravens at the enemies you want to target, the Dire Wolves will usually also target in that direction. Minions can be frustrating as there is no way to tell them exactly where to fight, but this gives a little bit of control to directing them. They didn't always follow the Ravens, but they did it enough that you could mostly keep everyone together.
Tests on end-level bosses in Hell proved that none of them could stand up to this build. They all went down very quickly and with little to no effort on the part of the Druid, except some Raven recasting. They had more problems with semi-large groups such as those in Chaos Sanctuary, although the named bosses proved to be less of a problem than the large group of minions accompanying them. Even though it took awhile for the Ravens and Dire Wolves to chew through them, it remained a very safe build for the Druid himself.
The lack of AoE mainly presents itself when attempting to do levels like the Secret Cow Level with any speed. You can grind your way through it, but it's never going to be the best build for this level. Leave it to the AoE specialists.
's video to see the the build in action:
Summoning Skills Tree Problems
The Summoning Skills tree can be divided into four categories.
- Oak Sage, Heart of Wolverine, Spirit of Barbs
- Just Ravens.
- Spirit Wolves, Dire Wolves, Grizzly
- Poison Creeper, Carrion Vine, Solar Creeper
Problem 1: You can only have one type from each category.
Oak Sage is the most common pick here, and with the changes to Oak Sage in Patch 2.4, it will remain the top pick for a couple reasons. First, changes to Oak Sage means that it's now pretty hardy, which is a huge improvement. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Heart of the Wolverine or Spirit of Barbs. These spirits are now comparatively squishy and die off fast compared to Oak Sage. Plus, if you're going to run a true Summoner build in upper level Hell, your wolves need Oak Sage to stay alive. You're going to have enough work recasting your Ravens over and over without having to do the same thing with your Wolves.
There is only one Ravens spell, so there is no choice to be made here. Ravens have gotten a massive buff and they hit like the proverbial ton of bricks. But they're a damage spell with an animation, not true minions, so they are not affected by auras or buffs. They also offer no synergy to your other minions, although they get damage synergy from your Wolves/Bears --12% per level for each point in each of the three types. They also last a very, very short time, which means as a pure Summoner, almost all of your time is going to be spent standing in the backfield recasting your Ravens ... over and over and over again. For variety, you may even have to resummon a Wolf. What fun!
You can have up to 5 Spirit Wolves, OR 3 Dire Wolves, OR 1 Grizzly summoned at a time. This has long been a huge bone of contention with Druids. Necromancers can summon up several different types of similar minions, so why can't Druids have both wolves and the bear out at the same time? Yes, Necros can only have one type of Golem, but that doesn't really compare. Golems are singletons; skeletons and revives form the army. Druids can either have one (very tiny) army of Wolves or a single Grizzly. The spatial coverage is no where near the same.
Vines don't appear in builds for a reason: they're not useful. The Poison Vine has comparatively low damage, is very slow, and offers a synergy to Rabies, which Summoners never use (and even Werewolf druids hardly even use). The Carrion Vine returns life to the Druid and the Solar Vine returns mana to the Druid, but a Summoner Druid standing in the back frantically recasting Ravens at 6 mana per cast isn't going to get hit much or run out of mana. As they stand, Vines offer no benefit to a Summoner Druid and it isn't worth investing single point in any of them.
Problem 2: Heavy minion synergies seriously curtail flexibility.
The synergies that are meant to buff minions to complement one another actually have the effect of chaining these together, locking you into an inflexible path. You have no choice but to invest all your points into all the Wolves/Bears just to keep them minimally effective and alive. These synergies are what they share among themselves as Wolves and Bears:
Spirit Wolf: Gives +25 Attack Rating/Level and +10 Defense/Level
Dire Wolf: Gives +15 Life/Level
Grizzly: Gives +10 Damage/Level
Ravens also get 12% extra damage for every level in Spirit Wolves, Dire Wolves, and Grizzly (but offer no synergy in return).
While these look great on paper, once you realize that you need all these synergies for your minions and Ravens to function, it begs the question of why the minions are purposely built to need them. Add to this that they don't have good survivability at higher levels without the additional Life from the Oak Sage, so you need to invest max points in that as well.
As it stands now, to have minions even capable of operating at higher Hell levels, you need to put maximum points into Spirit Wolves, Dire Wolves, Grizzly, and Oak Sage, and all your remaining points into Ravens and Oak Sage. That leaves only 10 points left over, which you can put into something for yourself like 1 point into Arctic Blast and 9 points into Cyclone Armor. But there is nothing more you can do to help your minions.
Problem 3: The "rotation" is repetitive and gets boring quickly.
To have viable minions, you need to put all your points into your Ravens, Wolves/Bear, and Oak Sage. What's left for the poor Druid to do? The answer is to stand back and recast Ravens over and over again, since you'll use them to target specific mobs and they'll be disappearing quickly during each fight. For variety, you may need to recast a Wolf or maybe your Grizzly to reposition it.
Summoner Druid is nearly a one-button game. The upside to this is that it's a very easy build to run, but it's also not a lot of fun for more than an hour or so.
Problem 4: Druids have no support skills to assist their damage-dealing minions.
The problem is there is nothing you can do that supports the activities of your major damage-dealers other than resummon them when they die -- even if you had any points to spare on such an activity. Summonmancers can cast many different types of Curses on opponents depending on the situation, but Druids have no ability which assists their minions at all. They could learn an elemental spell or shapeshift to add some damage, but casting spells or hitting things takes away the key skill in this build as it currently stands: endlessly resummoning your hard-hitting Ravens.
Problem 5: Gearing for endgame is very expensive.
This is not a build that works within a budget. While you don't have to worry too much about personal defense or mana regeneration, you have to invest heavily into +Skills to get your summons up as high as possible (gotta feed those synergies). You'll be using Beast and Spirit as your main setup, with Call to Arms on switch for buffing. The Unique weapon The Reaper's Toll on an Act II Mercenary pretty much wipes out Physical immunities/resistances. Enigma for teleport helps reposition minions quickly. These aren't just nice-to-have items; the build grinds to an unmanageably slow crawl without them. If the gearing required to make a build work means a child with a sharpened crayon could kill Hell Baal while wearing it, the problem is that the build has serious weaknesses that need to be addressed.
Proposed Solutions to Fix Summoner Druid
The Summoning Skills tree deserves a place as a leader, not a follower. While it may never be the "best" build for Druids, it has the potential to be a lot more fun and effective than it is now. With that, here are some proposed solutions to improve life for the Druid Summoner:
Remove the restriction against having Wolves and Bears working together.
This it, by far, the most-requested change from Druids for making Summoning work. By having our own combination of DPS, caster, and tanks in Nature's army, it brings the Druid in line with the other iconic summoner class, the Necromancer. Also, consider increasing the number of Wolves we can summon.
Rework the Vines to support summoned Minions and the party -- and give the Druid something else to do.
Carrion Vine and Solar Vine only affect the Druid, and not in a way that's helpful. Reimagine the Vines. Instead of buffing the druid, have them debuff the enemies they slither through. Lower physical resists. Lower their speed or damage output. Lower their resistance to Cold to support the Spirit Wolves. Give the druid some strategic tools to help their minions out, when they get a break from recasting their Ravens, of course.
Extend the lifespan of Ravens, at least a little.
The main job of a Summoner Druid comes down to one thing: recasting Ravens. This directs damage to the correct place. Resummoning them quickly seems to work well to helping thin out large groups faster. But that said, they disappear after 5 hits, and even if all you did was restrict yourself to recasting them when they disappeared, you'd still have no time to do much other than stand in the back and recast Ravens. It's amusing at first, but the novelty wears off.
Re-examine the heavy minion dependence on synergies.
Right now, you can't leave any of the minions out or fail to invest all points in them, because the synergies are required for the other minions to work at all. In fact, the Oak Sage is also nearly a requirement as well, making them dependent on not one but two things -- the synergy from Dire Wolves and Oak Sage -- just to keep them from dying like flies. The synergies meant to build them up just locks Druids into having no option of where to put points.
The lockstep requirements of the synergies also means that it's going to be hard to use this as a leveling build. Good leveling builds usually rely on the ability to invest heavily in one or two abilities early on, but with the Summoner Druid, you'll need to spread out the points among your five key abilities to keep a balance between damage output and survivability. Putting a lot of early points in Ravens and hope you can just keep ahead of the damage only works during the very earliest levels when you don't have a lot of mob density to worry about and don't need tanky Wolves to keep them off you. Once you start encountering large groups like the pygmies in Act III, all bets are off.
Requiring these synergies -- including not one but two to keep your minions alive -- severely limits choice for Summoner Druids.
Add in some specific gearing for Druid summoners.
Out of the druid-specific Pelts, not one of them gives any pluses to Summoning Skills. Jalal's Mane gives +2 to all Druid Skills, but also +2 to Shape Shifting. Cerberus' Bite also gives +2-+4 Shape Shifting. Ravenlore gives +3 to Elemental Skills, and Spirit Keeper gives +1-2 to Druid Skills. A pelt with +Shape Shifting skills, perhaps with a support aura of some kind and +Faster Cast Rate (so you can resummon your Ravens that much faster, of course) would be a start. Maybe give us some gear that would allow us to cast more Wolves than is normally allowed?
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