D2R Tigertail KickSin Build Guide
D2R Builds , Diablo 2: Resurrected , Game Guides
Introduction & Overview
The Martial Arts Assassin is not very popular due to the Trapsin builds being easier to play and also very effective at leveling and farming high density areas. That being said, Martial Arts received a rework since the vanilla version and can resort to all kinds of elemental damage types through various skills. The core concept revolves around performing specific "Charge Up" skills to gain stacks (colored orbs orbitating around the assassin, max 3 stacks, also called charges) to then use a finishing move/kick to unleash the special effects associated with the charges possessed at the moment of execution. This opens up a wide range of possible combos resolving in deadly magical finishers, unleashing meteors, multiple chain lightnings, novas or other special effects all going off at the same time with some strategic play, or enabling some of the highest hitting attacks in the game. Skill ceiling of Martial Arts system is very high compared to many popular builds with high damage and relatively simple gameplay, it's easy to perform decently but difficult to min max every different situation you'll come across, excellent performance and correct gearing choices will be rewarded with insanely high damage and a build capable of almost one shotting Diablo in Hell difficulty with one kick while deploying multiple Death Sentries at lightspeed.
+ Insanely High Damage Potential
+ Fast Movement speed
+ Great Self Sustain
+ Corpse Explosion Traps, Weapon Block
+ Damage Type Versatility with variants
+ Area Crowd Control
- 4 yards AoE Radius damage
- Extremely Gear Dependent in Hell
- High stats requirements
- Difficult to Master
- Expensive Best In Slot Gear
- SHadow Master A.I.
Build Gameplay & Mechanics
Your gameplay will revolve around executing Charge Up skills (Tiger Strike) to release their effects with Finishing Moves (Dragon Tail). Tiger Strike will be our main Charge Up skill used and Dragon Tail the Finishing Move. The kick from Dragon Tail will generate a Fire elemental explosion within 4y range from its impact and damage of the kick will be multiplied for skill level % shown in menu tooltip, for example 3 charges of Tiger Strike at level 30 will give a 2000% multiplier to Dragon Tail kick damage which will generate a Fire explosion for +600% the damage of the kick, enabling incredibly high damage output. Physical Immunes will take 0 fire damage from the explosion if the kick won't deal any damage, while Fire Immunes will only get damaged by the physical portion of Finisher damage. Tiger Strike charges "only" augment the attack rating and damage bonus of the Dragon Tail kick, you'll be hitting for more than 20k damage with decent boots by the end of Nightmare around lvl60-65. Once you execute your finisher you consume one charge so ideally once you have 3 charges, Dragon Tail + Tiger Strike should be alternated to spam fully buffed explosive kicks as opposed to spending all 3 charges then rebuiding them.
You will be fighting at capped Attack Speed so every combo has to be executed as fast as possible while maintaining mental control of the various possessed charges (and ideally foreseeing if and how many of Cobra Strike or other charges you will need to overcome specific scenarios you'll come across). While this last aspect won't be as dominant as with a Phoenix Strike build or other elemental strikes centered builds, it will need some practice to fit those Cobra Strike charges in when you need them and later on against phys/fire immunes to use Phoenix Strike or Thunder Claws charges eventually mixed with other charge up skills, or switching to Lawbringer/Azurewrath + Shield setup for Undead physical Immunes (more on this later in Weapons section). Another way to deal with physical immunes when there is at least one non immune monsters around, you can kite it towards the immune pack and kick it, the Fire explosion generated will most likely kill any non-fire immune.
Early on Cobra Strike will be noticeable only at 3 charges over a 3 charges Tiger Strike Dragon Tail finisher to work as a pseudo-Full Rejuvenation Potion, but in endgame with good gear 1 charge will usually recover your whole life, 2 charges to get that sweet Full Rejuvenation Potion effect "on demand" when executed on non-physical/leech immune monsters. Being able to execute a "Cobra striked" finisher will be vital sometimes to save yourself from death if you are out of potions.
Attack rating will be an issue unless you specifically look for solutions through gear and/or buffs, Demon Limb high level Enchant is an amazing solution for pre-buff at Stash and should last more than 10 minutes per cast, Call To Arms runeword tremendously help in Hell increasing our life pool and survivability since we are melee and thus we get hit quite often. While you can destroy Normal without thinking about having dedicated boots, it will be beneficial to keep your boots somewhat up to date every 10-20 or so levels, in Nightmare and once you reach Hell you are going to need good gear to get through it or you will have an overall frustrating experience between low hit chances, survivability and damage. You'll also have an excellent crowd control tool to help you mitigating threats, Mind Blast so make sure to use it specially when there's a lot of density to keep things under control while you charge up and strike.
As stated in the cons for the build, it is heavily gear dependant and the gear needed will differ even more between a Burst of Speed or Fade build. Without the right equipment you'll be weak, your hit chance will be terrible and your life pool small due to both high Strength and Dexterity requirements, for such reasons having 20-40 All stats coming from Torch and Annihilus charms alone will help a lot with putting more points into Vitality and that is also why this build is not a Ladder starter. The gear we're going to use will give us even more stats, invaluable elemental and physical damage reductions plus life and mana leech while ideally Max Damage/Attack Rating/Life charms will be the best choice to use, but as a budget choice even just using 15-20x mid rolled plain Life small charms or equivalent large/grand charms will give you the Life boost needed not to worry too much about death, specially if you go with the Call To Arms runeword weapon swap setup reaching 2k Life mid 70s is doable.
It must be said that there are really so many possible different combinations of Martial Arts builds, some even wearing sword + shield and designed for Uber kills or in general builds designed to be "meta" or close to for some kind of activities. Although this build is not META by any mean, its highest damage skill can compete with other powerfull skills in the game and it is to play with the idea of having fun while playing a somewhat mechanically harder and challenging hybrid melee character, wielding dual Claws preferably and limited to 1 point wonder Death Sentry ideally to raise its AoE/high density farm potential (but not necessary if you wanna do a pure melee build/challenge). Some might rightfully argue that a Last Wish-Phoenix/Sanctuary Runewords Dragon Claw Kicksin shooting 20 kicks per second with insanely high Crushing Blow % will outshine this build or many other Martial Arts builds, but we could also argue that the cookiecutter builds with a "win" button get old and boring pretty fast for most people, and that is why this and many other builds exist: to bring diversity and replayability to the game we love while experimenting other viable playstyles. This build guide is based on using Burst of Speed as Assassin choosen buff which lets us bring way less Attack Speed modifiers on gear, for this reason is not particularly hardcore friendly and in general it is not meant to be a Ladder starter build since you will definitely need specific gear in Hell to get through.
Attack Speed Breakpoints
Weapon Speed Modifier (WSM) defines how quick your weapon is, if you are using two claws you need to use the average WSM of your two claws.
For trap laying, 61% Increased Attack Speed is the required amount to reach 9 frame breakpoint (Traps use IAS instead of Faster Cast Rate and weapon base speed doesn't matter for this purpose) and here there are most used weapons speed infos:
Normal tier fastest claws are Blade Talons (-20), followed by Katars, Claws and Scissors Katar (-10)
Exceptional fastest claws are Greater Talons (-30, Bartuc's Cut Throat Unique) followed by Greater Claws (-20)
Elite fastest claws are Runic Talons (-30) followed by Feral Claws (-20, Firelizard's Talons Unique)
Other popular weapons: Phase Blade (fastest weapon -30), Wizardspike unique (-20, Bone Knife base), Flail (for trappers Heart Of The Oak, 0 speed)
To hit 7fpa (frames per attack) with Tiger/Cobra/Phoenix Strike, using -30 weapon you will need +60% attack speed on gear with Fade setup, +23% with lvl1 Burst of Speed or nothing starting from lvl7 Burst of Speed. Using a -20 speed weapon you will need +86% attack speed with Fade, +39% with lvl1 Burst of Speed and +10% with lv7.
To hit 7fpa with Dragon Tail kick instead you will surely need a Burst of Speed setup as it would require otherwise +187% attack speed to cap with Fade even by using a the fastest weapon in the game, while with a lvl7 BoS you need +44% for -30 speed weapons and +65% with -20 speed.
Kick Damage Equation:
MinDamage= (str + dex – 20) / 4 * (100 + skill_bonus) / 100 + BootMinimumDamage * (100 + (str * StrBonus / 100) + skill_bonus + non_weapon ED + Aura_bonus) / 100
MaxDamage=(str + dex – 20) / 3 * (100 + skill_bonus) / 100 + BootMaximumDamage * (100 + (str * StrBonus / 100) + skill_bonus + non_weapon ED + Aura_bonus) / 100
This equation needs to be worked left to right following the mathematical order of operations. Drop decimals when you get them from division and here's some boots kick damage values:
Plate Boots Min dmg 10 Max dmg 20 (Strenght Bonus 120 for all of them)
War Boots (Gore Rider not upgraded) Min dmg 39 Max dmg 80
Myrmidon Greaves (upped Gore Riders) Min dmg 83 Max dmg 149 (highest amount)
The following effects are carried by the kicking skills:
Life Leech, Mana Leech
Elemental Damage, Magical Damage
Chance to cast X on striking
Crushing Blow, Open Wounds
Prevent Monster Heal
Ignore Target Defense
Hit Blinds, Freeze, Slow Target
Hit Causes Monster to Flee
Mods like Deadly Strike or Damage to Undead/Demons DO NOT work with kick skills damage, Enhanced Damage from armors like Fortitude works.
Without further discussions it's time to take a look at the exact Attack Speed breakpoints and infos about kick damage formula and which sort of damage modifiers work with them or do not work, before talking about gear options and build variants in the next section.
Gear options and variants
Weapons: Bartuc's Cut Throat, Firelizards, Jade Talon, Chaos or Plague runewords.
If using Sword+Shield combo, budget awesome choices are Phase Blade Lawbringer mainhand plus Spirit Monarch which will allow us bringing Call To Arms Crystal Sword + Spirit Monarch in Weapon Swap (more on this later), while most expensive options include Grief, Phoenix or Last Wish Phase Blade for insane damage + Crushing Blow and Phoenix Shield for fire resistance debuff on enemies and further +400% enhanced damage to our kicks (although prohibitely expensive setup, that's why it was listed in cons as extremely gear dependant to reach her full potential).
Bartuc, Firelizards or Jade Talons will be ok weapons to have for Hell progress, Chaos can be used as it is very powerfull and will boost your otherwise much weaker charge up skills hits while a base with jmods +3 tiger claw/dragon tail/third skill and 3 sockets (or without any to get them with Lazurk) would be the ideal base for a Plague (and hope for +2 all skills), although I would build such a powerfull weapon only if you end up loving this build and you really wanna bring it to the next level (cleansing aura is very nice to have, while poison res debuff on enemy synergize well with Venom variant of this build). Otherwise the uniques can still be enough anyway since it's not vital to have none of those 2 runewords.
Early on: Pattern, Strenght runeword (ladder only) lv23, +2 assassin skills magic claws from Anya Hell shop, you can actually get very good leveling claws or if you get lucky some profitable ones (although the gold price for those with multiple +3 skills will be very high so vendor price reduction 25-30% through Edge runeword + Gheed's Fortune grand charm is highly suggested). You are looking at fool's magic weapon of quickness (+40% attack speed, + max damage/attack rating based on level) or +2 assassin skills with +40% ias ideally to be bought with your Ladder starter character once you reach Hell Anya for the first time, leveling without decent gear will make things much harder due to low chance to hit and overall poor performance.
Weapon Swap: Calll To Arms Runeword with Spirit Monarch
if you choose to run a high level fade setup physical sunder charm won't be too bad to wear if you really want it and fire resistance to counter fire sunder charm malus can be gained from 1 Firelizard's Talon, small charms or Laying of Hands, however it's not imperative for this build to wear any sunder charm at all.
The budget smart choice will be indeed Lawbringer Phase Blade + Spirit Monarch runeword as swap setup (there are also usable unique shields but for it's low cost nothing comes close to Spirit) since Sanctuary aura from Lawbringer will set physical resistance to 0% for all undead type enemies which means ghosts and other physical immune undeads will lose their immunity, on top of having chance to cast Decrepify on striking which will increase your damage and reduce monsters damage dealt. If you are unsure which sunder charm to use, go with Fire as it will bring the bigger benefit since we got Lawbringer aura already.
Azurewrath unique Phase Blade also has a Sanctuary aura but is generally easier to get a Lawbringer, while Lacerator is also a good option for weapon + shield setup with 33% chance to cast Amplify Damage which will double your damage and conveniently buff also Corpse Explosions from Death Sentry.
Helms: Harlequin Crest (Shako), Flickering Flame* Runeword, Delirium Runeword (if you wanna get creative with the crowd control), Guillaume's Face, Crown Of Ages, Flickering Flame viable to counter Fire Sunder Charm and source of -% enemy fire resistance
Early on: Lore Runeword, Peasant Crown, Sazabi Helm, +3 martial arts magic helm from Anya Hell shop, +2 assassin skill or +3 martial arts coronet rare/magic circlets with decent extra affixes like All Resistances or "Everlasting" suffix (damage reduced by up to 25)
Body Armor: Fortitude Runeword is one of the best for this build, Enigma can be used to help with Strenght requirements and for the other awesome bonuses but since you already have very fast run speed thanks to gear + Burst of Speed, it is not needed unless you wanna try to increase the effciency and cleartimes with Teleport although will change the playstyle quite a bit. Chains Of Honor if you need the resistances is amazing as well with +65% and +2 all skills.
Budget choices could be Smoke Runeword for all resistances and some faster hit recovery, Duress for many offensive stats, Treachery with Burst of Speed setup allows overcap of attack speed to heavily counter freeze effects (just recast BoS if you get a Fade proc) or for Fade setup gives much needed attack speed, Corpsemourne for niche Corpse Explosion + Death Sentry Tigertail Kicksin who specializes into rapidly targeting strategic targets to unleash a domino effect of corpse explosions between the item charges and Death Sentry, Naj armor if you don't have nothing better. Stealth Runeword or Darkglow early on are perfect choices.
Gloves: Dracul's Grasp are among the best gloves you can wear, Steelrend also can be good, +3 Martial Arts +20% increased attack speed magic gloves are very rarely found in Anya Hell shop, while "+2/20" rares with up to 3-4 extra stats can only be acquired through gambing, monsters or trading, or also crafted gloves with Crushing Blow and 20% attack speed are good.
Budget choices could be plain +3 martial arts gloves from Anya Hell shop which are much more common, Sanders Gloves early on for 20% increased attack speed.
Boots : Gore Rider upped to elite with cube recipe will be your best option probably, although some people prefer the Shadow Dancers or the Goblin Toe upped twice to Mirrored Boots for the max crushing blow amount in this slot. Tri-res with faster run walk rare Mirrored Boots or Myridian Greaves can also work due to highest kick damage.
Budget options are magic elite boots like Myrmidon Greaves with at least one high important resistance and faster run walk, magic find or specially -requirements % will help, what matters the most is the kick damage when upgrading boots just like smite damage on shields for Smiters. Strenght requirements will get pretty high for elite boots, be aware of it when upgrading.
Belt: Arachnid Mesh for the +1 all skills, Verdungo Hearty Cord for tankiness and damage reduction and similar defensive belts.
Budget options, the belt from The DIsciple set with +stats and +15 all resistances, Goldwrap, rare belt with Faster Hit Recovery, Lightning/Fire resistance, Life/Mana, attributes.
Prebuff: Shadow Disciplines +3 amulet, +1 all skills rings like Bul Kathos Wedding Band or Stone of Jordan, Shadow Dancers boots all to cast highest level possible Fade for builds using it or Burst of Speed to overcap attack speed.
Demon Limb unique Tyrant Club is very important for high Enchant which will last long and give enough attack rating not to wear Angelic set anymore nor Blessed Aim aura from Act 2 Merc.
You can proc any chance to cast upon being hit skill if needed by going in Act 4 River Of Flame Waypoint to stand in the fire columns close to Hadriel.
As amulet we can wear high level uniques like Highlord's Wrath if we need attack speed, Metalgrid, Mara's Kaleidoscope for +2 all skills and nice boost to resistances, +2 assassin skills rare amulet with high rolls to stats like all resistances/life/attributes.
Budget choices +3 martial arts magic amulet, Angelic amulet (+ring/s), chromatic magic amulet.
For Rings we will use Raven Frost ring if not overcapping attack speed to overcome freeze effects and to also get attack rating, dexterity and cold absorb, Bul Kathos Wedding Band is also a very nice option just like rare dual leech rings with life/strenght and all resistances.
Budget rings could be a magic scintillating ring (up to all res +15) with also a second stat roll on it (ideally strenght or dex up to +20), a low dual leech ring or a ring with an high roll of the leech you are needing the most plus another usefull roll with it, based on what you need the most.
Skills & Breakpoints
The core of the build barely uses 60 skill points so there is wide room for hybridizations and customization.
Here are the fundamental skills you need to put 20 points into:
Tiger Strike, Dragon Tail, Claw Mastery (if using Claws otherwise skip)
1 point wonders:
Cobra Strike, Weapon Block (if using Claws), Mind Blast, Death Sentry, Dragon Flight + prerequisites for them.
If using Burst of Speed setup, calculate how much increased attack speed you get from gear and adjust its level accordingly, at level 1 it gives +21%, 37% at level 5, 45% at level 10 and then 1% every level up til 16 when diminishing returns makes for unworthy gains, usually 1 point with enough +skills on gear should be enough to reach lvl7-10, if need more due to slow weapons put hard points.
If using Fade setup, you'll probably end up wearing Treachery or a lot of attack speed somewhere else, but still you wanna max Fade as it gives a lot of valuable physical damage reduction.
remaining points investment will determine the build variant:
(Requires Claws) 20 Claw Mastery, 20 Phoenix Strike rest into Claws of Thunder for synergy to deal with Physical/Fire immunes packs without Lawbringer or Sunder Charms.
20 Claw Mastery, 20 Shadow Master (at skill lv17 gains last gear upgrade), rest into Mind Blast to manipulate its A.I. into casting more Mind Blasts.
20 lightning Sentry, 20 Death Sentry, rest in Fire Blast for synergy to make a Tigertail Trapsin hybrid
20 Dragon Talon, 20 Venom, enough to reach 17 with +skill in Shadow Master, rest into Fade with high Crusing Blow gear improve single target damage and possibly run Ubers (if using Treachery armor put skill points into Mind Blast) instead
Skill breakpoints are the number of frames needed to perform an action
Faster Cast Rate -
15 frames 8%
14 frames 16%
13 frames 27%
12 frames 42%
11 frames 65%
10 frames 102%
9 frames 174%
Faster Hit Recovery -
8 frames 7%
7 frames 15%
6 frames 27%
5 frames 48%
4 frames 86%
3 frames 200%
Faster Block Rate -
4 frames 13%
3 frames 32%
2 frames 86%
1 frame not attainable as it needs 600%
The ideal mercenary can be an Act 2 merc with Might aura (Blessed Aim is also viable if you really wish to go for it instead of Might) and Infinity for Conviction aura, or Pride Runeword for Concentration aura. Reaper's Toll unique is great for decrepify procs without Lawbringer, Ethereal version is way more expensive but has ideal damage values, while other budget earlier options can include Honor, Obedience, Insight Runewords, upped Blackleach Blade, upped Kelpie Snare, Tombreaver (eth versions are always better for merc).
Budget body armor could be Smoke, or much better offensive yet also good defensive option thanks to Fade proc is the Treachery runeword in a Dusk Shroud or higher Strenght requirement ethereal armors if for merc only. Other good budget merc options are the Guardian Angel templar coat unique, Duriel Shell, Naj Plate, while the best ones are Duress for high Crushing Blow setup, Leviathan or Shaftstop for damage reduction, Fortitude or Chains of Honor in a Great Hauberk (or other ethereal elite bases) for a lot of extra damage.
Budget Helm slots are Undead Crown early on for some life leech, Peasant Crown for +1 all skills, Lore runeword then going less budget Tal Rasha head is probably the best life leech cheap merc helm you can get usually offering all resists and 10% life leech which is huge for the merc and opens up more offensive options for weapon slot, or straight up enables reaching very high life leech amounts (31%) to turn your merc into a deadly self sustaining tank, Vampire gaze is also a mid budget option with great value while the most expensive yet great options are Harlequinn Crest Shako unique or (eth) Andariel's Visage with Ral rune, Crown of Ages, Kira's Guardan for cannot be frozen, while for high Crushing Blow merc builds Guillaume's Face from Orphan's Call set is the best option with a noticeable 35% crushing blow chance.
Generally Increase Attack Speed Jewels are the way to go on merc helm, Shael/Amn are good budget choices for weapon sockets.
Although Fortitude armor has a massive damage modifier Treachery can still compete due to 45% attack speed and high level Venom too on top of fade proc. If you add up a 15% ias jewel in a tal rasha head for example that's gonna be a lot of ias added to his powerfull weapon of choice!
Act 5 merc is "less popular" but can also be used with success by really wanting it, but needs quite good gear to stand a chance in comparison to the Act 2 merc overall utility, when wearing Lawbringer or Vile Husk as budget option it can be usefull for melee builds, otherwise a frenzy Grief + Last Wish act 5 merc with Fortitude/Chains of Honor/Treachery and Andariel Visage or Guillaume's Face will obliterate almost everything you will throw at him.
Act 1 merc can be used with success wearing an Harlequinn Crest or Tal Rasha Mask for example with Faith Runeword is the best choice, Insight also has popular utility but not very much needed unless you totally lack mana leech and don't wanna use Cobra strike ever.
The Tigertail Kicksin build is definitely a fun build to play through Normal and it feels rewarding to kick things while causing explosions erasing hordes of enemies also supported by the Death Sentries. It becomes increasingly challenging from Nightmare act 4 and will hit a wall with Hell difficulty unless supported by the correct equipment, but once you get all pieces together it's able to make her way to Hell Baal and then farm Cows or other areas. If you are looking for a challenging yet fast paced rewarding melee build with high room for customization (and perhaps your first Martial Arts build), this is a great one to play as it will be simple to run through Norrmal and will also be challenging enough going up with difficulties, plus you'll get to know the Martial Arts system and use the various respecs to try variants and understand if you'll ever want to play other types of Martial Arts Assassins which can be equally fun with majestic animations and all kinds of elemental damage at her disposal (like in the case of a pure Phoenix Strike build), although it must be said that the Tiger Strike + Dragon Tail combo is the actual Assassin hardest hitting one hit skill combo.
Thank you for taking your time to read and learn about this particular build, I hope you found this guide usefull, now go have fun with your explosive Kicksin!