Top 10 Best Ladder Starter Builds

25.02.2023 - 11:20:41
D2R Builds , Diablo 2: Resurrected , Game Guides

Top 10 Best Ladder Starter Builds

Top 10 Ladder Starter Builds

In this guide we will run through the 10 most efficient characters and builds to start a ladder season and allow you to progress through the game quickly, and begin farming D2R Ladder Items and runes. Each class has their own strengths and weaknesses, and specific areas in Hell that they can farm efficiently to start building up in game currency. You can either go on to climb the ladder to 99 with this character, or simply use it as a starter to build your main ladder character with end game gear!


10: Corpse Explosion Necromancer

First on our list is the Corpse Explosion Necromancer. Corpse Explosion is an extremely strong skill in Hell difficulty, it deals a combination of Physical and Fire damage to enemies based on the life of the enemy’s corpse you are exploding. The build really shines in the Cow level, where Hell Bovine have large amounts of life (and therefore when they explode, they deal large amounts of area damage!). The trick with this build is getting the first 2-3 kills, which can sometimes be slow, however once you have them simply cast the Amplify Damage curse on the remaining cows and spam Corpse Explosion until the screen of cows disappear! The Corpse Explosion skill can be used alongside a few different Necromancer builds, my favourite is the Poison Nova build (however this can take some time and gear to be effective in Hell) or the Summon Necromancer which is an effective way of progressing through the game safely.

The initial playthrough on this character can be slow, which is why the build isn’t closer to the top end of this list. There are a few tricks that can be used to make this smoother that are commonly used by speed runners. The main method is to start with the Teeth skill and place as many points as you can here until the Bone Spear skill is available, then switch to this. Once you are in Nightmare and farm The Countess for a Tir, Tal and Amn Rune you can make the “Edge” Runeword in a bow and change to a Summon build. “Edge” will provide your Summoned minions with the Thorns Aura and cause monsters to take damage when they attack them. This is a very effective method to complete Hell difficulty, and can be maintained when you begin farming.

9: Singer Barbarian

Barbarians are a difficult class to commence a Ladder season with, as they are the slowest to progress through the game solo. If you can find a group to play with then they become far more viable, and you can support them with your warcries. This Barbarian build focuses on the Warcries skill tree and in particular the War Cry skill which stuns surrounding enemies whilst dealing damage at the same time. The build is an excellent support character but also a very efficient Travincal farmer. Travnical is a popular early ladder farming location given the Council Members have the highest chance of dropping a High Rune than anything else in the game, but also the amounts of gold that they drop allowing you to gamble some additional items. The Singer build is safe as the Council Members will be stunned and unable to attack you, they will still initially cast their Hydra ability however so it is important to maximise your Fire Resistance. Once they are all dead you can use the Find Item ability to give yourself an extra chance of finding Runes, Items and Gold.

I mentioned that playing through the game as a Barbarian is tough, and I would always recommend trying to find a group to play with to get you to Hell Act 3 so that you can farm Travincal. If you are unable to find a group, then the most efficient playthrough method is using Mace Mastery and the Double Swing ability until you reach Level 30 and Whirlwind becomes available. The Singer build only really becomes viable at higher levels once you can max out the skill and synergies to get the most damage.

8: Pitzerker Barbarian

The Pitzerker is a build specifically formulated for farming The Pit in Act 1. The Pit is a very popular area to farm given the low life of the monsters contained within (due to being in Act 1) but also the Area Level being high enough so that Champions and Elites can drop any item in the game. The Pitzerker build focuses on the Berserk ability to deal damage, whilst utilising the Howl ability to scatter enemies and the Find Item ability to boost our chances of finding loot. Berserk converts your Physical damage to Magic damage and is guaranteed to hit, so a strong and consistent damage dealing spell. When farming The Pit you only want to kill Champion or Elite monsters as they have the highest likelihood to drop valuable items, we therefore use the Howl ability to scatter all non-champion and non-elite monsters and allowing us to focus on the primary target. Once they have been killed, remember to Find Item on the corpse.

The build isn’t viable early game so an alternative is required to progress through the game, take a look at the final section of the Singer barb for an effective way of getting to Hell and allowing you to begin farming.

7: Fist of Heavens Paladin

The Fist of Heavens Paladin is a build that has recently been made viable by the change to Holy Bolt now dealing damage to both Undead and Demon types of monsters, whereas previously it only dealt damage to one of those. The build is an excellent Chaos Sanctuary and Travincal farmer with budget gear, and shines in high density areas with Undead and Demons. The only reason it does not appear higher in the list is due to the slower playthrough with damage limited to these types of monsters, therefore if you want to play this build as early as possible you will need to find a group to play with. As you may have guessed the build focuses on the Fist of Heavens skill which brings down a bolt of Lightning which separates until multiple Holy Bolts on impact, the more monsters around the more Holy Bolts and therefore the more damage you deal!

If you haven’t got a group to play with you will need an alternative build to progress through the game with. The most efficient method of levelling and progress is to maximise the Holy Fire Aura with 1 point in Zeal through Normal difficulty. When you reach Nightmare you reset your skills and stats and switch to the Hammerdin build which will see you through the rest of your playthrough into Hell. Once you finish the game you can again reset your skills and go to the Fist of Heaven build to commence farming.

6: Trap Assassin

Excluding the Sorceress, the Trap Assassin is one of the fastest builds to progress through the game and complete Hell difficulty – progress does begin to slow in Hell with lots of Lightning Immunes to overcome, however this is still possible with a Lower Resist wand. The build focuses on the Lightning Sentry trap as the main damage dealing spell, supplemented by the Death Sentry trap to cast Corpse Explosion once the Lightning Sentry traps have done their work. The build plays in a similar way to the Corpse Explosion Necromancer, in that you have an initial spell to kill 2 – 3 enemies then the Death Sentry trap to cast Corpse Explosion and take care of the rest. The build shines in high density areas and the goal is to complete Hell difficulty as soon as possible and farm Hell Cows until you gain enough currency to get an Infinity for your Mercenary. As soon as you build this Runeword you will be able to farm anywhere in the game.

Progressing through Normal and Nightmare difficulties with a Trapsin is extremely fast. Focus your points as much as possible into the Wake of Fire trap, and the Fire Blast skill for the early levels as a synergy. This trap deals huge amounts of damage in the early game and will allow you to cast traps and run through the game. Once you reach Nightmare Travincal in Act 3 you will need to switch to the Lightning Build and focus on the Lightning Sentry trap. You will also need to purchase a wand with Lower Resist charges, you can get this from a wand vendor but you may need to reset their inventory a few times. Use the Lower Resist wand on any monster who is Immune to Lightning to allow you to kill them!

5: Javazon

The Javazon is another very efficient farmer in high density areas and you will spend most of your time in the Cow level once you have completed the game. The build is focused around the Lightning Fury ability, which launches lightning powered javelins into groups of enemies and releasing lightning bolts in all directions. You can combine this with the Pierce skill in the Passive and Magic skill tree to allow this skill to hit multiple times and cause devastating damage. With early game gear the build is very much limited to the cow level given there are no lightning immune monsters there, however it is very efficient and will allow you to generate currency at a good rate.

Playing through as a Javazon is fairly straight forward, the Power Strike ability is available early on and does good damage with a few points inside. You can then obtain Charged Strike a bit further on which provides a good boost, and finally Lightning Fury at Level 30 which takes care of monster packs in no time! Similar to the Trapsin you will require a Lower Resist wand for your journey through Hell difficulty, however this is easily obtained from a wand vendor after a few resets.

4: Fire Sorceress

The Fire Sorceress is the first of 3 Sorceress builds to appear on this list and the only reason it doesn’t place higher is due to the amount of Fire Immune monsters in Hell difficulty. This will significantly reduce the amount of areas you can comfortably and efficiently farm. There are two main builds available to the Fire Sorceress – Fire Ball and Hydra. The most common is Fire Ball as the skill is available at a much lower level, and can achieve high amounts of damage with a fast cast rate. Hydra is also strong, however the skill isn’t available until Level 30 and you’ll therefore need to be a bit more patient before using it. The farming locations for both builds are the same and will primarily be Andariel, Mephisto and Stony Tomb in Act 2. Both Andariel and Mephisto are extremely popular farming locations due to their likelihood of dropping valuable Unique items. Stony Tomb is a lesser known farming area, however does not contain any Fire Immune monsters and has a high enough Area Level to drop any item in the game from Champion and Elite Monsters.

Progressing through the game as a Sorceress is a breeze and is by far the fastest way to get into Hell difficulty and begin farming. The most efficient method is to start as a Lightning Sorceress initially with the Charged Bolt skill, then swapping to a combination of Static Field and Nova. This build will progress you through Normal difficulty with no problems at all. Once you get into Nightmare and you are level 30 – 40 you should swap to the Blizzard build for most efficiency, alternatively you could progress with the Fire Ball or Hydra build from this point onwards however will be less efficient.

3: Hammerdin

The Hammerdin is an extremely strong early Ladder character given his ability to farm almost anywhere in the game with budget gear, the only reason it falls behind the 2 Sorceress builds is due to the mobility they get from Teleport. The most popular locations are a combination of The Chaos Sanctuary and Travincal, both areas are well known for dropping High Runes and Champions / Elites in The Chaos Sanctuary also have a good chance of dropping high value unique items.  The build simply requires a “Spirit” sword and shield to work well, which can be obtained as early as Nightmare Act 1 after farming The Countess and finding bases. The build focuses on the Blessed Hammer skill as the primary damage dealer with the Concentration Aura on at all times to provide a damage boost. The character has good mobility through the use of the Vigor aura, you can also buy a staff with teleport charges to allow you to get to the entrance of The Chaos Sanctuary even faster. The playstyle is very easy, simply find packs of monsters and cast Blessed Hammer (with Concentration Aura on) until they all die!

Playing through the game as a Hammerdin is also very straight forward. The Blessed Hammer ability isn’t available until Level 18 so a different strategy is required initially, however once you reach Level 18-20 you can reset your skills and begin your hammer journey. For the early levels concentrate your points into the Holy Fire aura as much as possible and gain a single point in Zeal. The Fire damage from the Aura is excellent for Normal difficulty and will carry you through with ease.

2: Nova Sorceress

The second Sorceress build to make an appearance on the list is a Lightning build and focuses on the Nova ability. Lightning builds are excellent Key farmers early in a Ladder season, with only Nihlathak (who drops Destruction Keys) able to be immune – and if he is, simply skip and go onto a new game. Survivability has historically been an issue for the Nova Sorceress, however, with recent changes to mechanics of the Energy Shield skill this is greatly improved and is now extremely viable. Focus your skill points into the Nova ability and it’s synergies, then the synergies for Energy Shield and you will have a strong early Ladder character. Alongside key farming, the Nova Sorceress shines in the Arcane Sanctuary where there are no Lightning Immune monsters. The ghosts in the Arcane Sanctuary have a small loot table that they drop from, within that loot table are Runes which makes it a very good place to farm for High Runes! One thing to make sure when you are farming this location is that the ghosts are standing over paths, if they are over the black abyss when you kill them they will not drop any loot.

The most efficient early playthrough build for a Sorceress is using the Nova ability, therefore this build can be played almost immediately. Start with the Charged Bolt and Static Field skills, then dump all of your points into Nova when it becomes available. The playthrough will slow down slightly when you get to Hell, however as per other Lightning builds you can buy a Lower Resist wand to help. With the Sorceress’s excellent mobility, you can also just skip Lightning Immune monsters altogether!

1: Blizzard Sorceress

Number 1 on our list is the Blizzard Sorceress – early in a ladder season you will see plenty of these builds progressing through the game! The Blizzard sorceress has no real weakness early in a ladder season. The Blizzard skill itself deals huge amounts of damage with very little investment into gear, and combined with the Cold Mastery skill the boss damage is also plentiful. With the build you will be able to farm the most lucrative areas of Hell difficulty with as little as a “Spirit” sword and an “Ancients Pledge” shield. Focus all of your points into the Blizzard skill, Cold Mastery and Blizzard synergies whilst also gaining 1 point in Teleport and Static Field. The build is most commonly used for Boss farming (Andariel and Mephisto) however is also extremely efficient in the Cow level, Travincal and even the Chaos Sanctuary once you obtain a Cold Sunder charm – so really you can farm wherever you want!

The playthrough on a Sorceress is also extremely fast and efficient, once you hit Level 18 and gain the Teleport skill you fly through the game gaining levels as you go. The most efficient early game build is described in both the Fire and Nova Sorceress sections, switching to Blizzard in Nightmare difficulty and never looking back!

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