Ultimate D2R Mercenary Guide

02.06.2022 - 05:46:08
D2R Gameplay Guides , Diablo 2: Resurrected , Game Guides

Ultimate D2R Mercenary Guide

The Ultimate D2R Merc Guide (for 2.6)

Table of contents

1. Overview
2. General Information
3. A1 Mercenary (Bow)
4. A2 Mercenary (Spear)
5. A3 Mercenary (Spell)
6. A5 Mercenary (Barbarian)
7. Mercenary Breakpoints
8. Best Merc Weapons (A1)
9. Best Merc Weapons (A2)
10. Best Merc Weapons (A5)
11. Best Merc Armors
12. Best Merc Helmets
13. A3 Merc Gear
14. Choosing your merc
15. Conclusion

1. Overview

Mercenaries are a fundamental aspect of D2R PvM gameplay, providing useful utility, and an additional damage outlet and damage decoy. Mercenaries are additionally utilized for auras through either equipped items, or through the passive abilities of the Act 2 Desert Mercenary. The importance of the Mercenary is especially prevalent in Hell solo farming or single player where you can't rely on your party to provide a variety of damage sources and buffs. Characters built on a single elemental tree especially rely on a mercenary, to progress or farm effectively in high immunity areas. Like your character, mercenaries have customisable gear. This is limited to the helmet, armor and weapon/shield slots. They also benefit from increased stats from leveling, and are subject to item restrictions (e.g. level or strength requirements).

2. General Information

  • Hiring a new mercenary replaces all of your existing mercenary's equipment.
  • You can always hire a mercenary one level below your character
  • Completing the A1 Normal quest - Blood Raven, will reward you with a bow mercenary
  • Mercenary gear doesn't lose durability. Ethereal options are always preferred for the increased damage / defense, and lowered requirements.
  • Mercenaries can have a maximum of 2 active auras at a time, including passive auras, any additional auras will not work.
  • Mercenary revive costs are dependent on their level and are capped at 50,000 gold.
  • Mercenaries can be healed with healing or rejuvenation potions.
  • On-hit effects (e.g. % chance to cast x on striking) granted by gear are effective on mercenaries (note: a mercenary will not use ability charges granted by an item).
  • Teleporting with your character relocates the mercenary to your current location. This is a useful tool for ensuring correct targeting and aura dispersal; additionally the mercenary provides additional safety while teleporting as a damage shield.
  • The passive aura of the A2 Desert mercenary varies based on the difficulty you are hiring him in

Hire your mercenary by speaking to:

Kashya A1 (Rogue mercenary)
Griez A2 (Desert mercenary)
Asheara A3 (Iron Wolves mercenary)
Qual Kehk A5 (Barbarian mercenary)

Much like D2 Characters, mercenaries of each class have unique abilities, stats and gearing options.

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3. Act 1 Rogue Merc

Abilities: Ice or Fire arrow and Inner Sight (which lowers defenses of enemies).
Equipment Slots: Bow, Helmet, Armor

The A1 Merc provides useful ranged DPS, and has improved AI in D2R when compared to D2, so has improved survivability. As a ranged mercenary she provides little in the way of tanking. An Ice arrow rogue is standard given the extra CC provided. However if using corpses is part of your character's kit (i.e. corpse explosion, find item, redemption aura), then consider using a fire arrow rogue to prevent shattering corpses. An example of this is a Faith mercenary for an MF Barbarian where you need to use Find Item. A1 Mercenaries are typically used by tankier builds that don't require the extra auras from the A2 mercenary. A Faith-based merc is also popular among summoners who don't wish to wield a Beast runeword for Fanaticism.

4. A2 Desert Mercenary

Abilities: Passive auras available based on difficulty. Jab as their main damaging ability.

Normal and Hell - Prayer (passive healing), Defiance (defense), and Blessed Aim (attack rating)

Nightmare - Thorns (physical damage reflection), Holy Freeze (crowd control with freeze), Might (physical damage)

Equipment: 2-handed Polearm, Helmet, Weapon

The A2 Merc is the most widely used due to the additional passive aura they can provide. Holy Freeze provides a safety blanket that is particularly useful in Hardcore, enabling safer farming, and is the most common PvM aura. Prayer is used by some when the merc wields an Insight, due to the doubling effects to prayer (meditation synergy). Might can be used by physical damage characters (Zealers, Barbarians, Bowazons), while Thorns, Defiance and Blessed Aim are rarely used. Desert mercs are excellent tanks, providing much needed frontline to fragile builds, like Sorceress who do not have minion summons. It's important to remember not to stack more than 2 auras, or you will lose the effects of any additional auras. The Infinity A2 merc is the most popular merc setup in the game, given the prominence of elemental builds, and the immunity breaking effects Infinity provides, enabling efficient hell farming.

5. A3 Ironwolf Merc

Fire: Enchant, Firebolt, Fireball
Ice: Shiver Armor, Ice Blast, Glacial Spike
Lightning: Static Field, Charged Bolt, Lightning

A3 Mercs are the least used, and boast the lowest damage out of the options. They have the lowest base stats which means equipment is more difficult to equip. However, they do have the highest base resistances which make them good at surviving at range. While lacking the aura utilities of A2, and the damage of other merc classes, A3 offers an alternative elemental damage source with useful specialized utility. Fire merc is primarily used for his enchant, which boosts AR and fire damage on hit for physical classes. Ice is primarily used as a CC merc, though lacks the efficiency of a Holy Freeze A2, or the damage of an Ice A1 merc. Lightning can be useful for her static field ability which will help reduce life totals (especially helpful for bosses). A3 mercs are not optimal for end-game builds, and would be advised only for leveling, or if you're looking for something different. Gearing differs for the A3 Merc compared to other classes given they are casters that don't hit with their weapon.

6. A5 Barbarian Merc

Abilities: Frenzy, Taunt, Ironskin (Dual-wield) or Bash, Battlecry (Single-wield)

Equipment Slots: Two handed sword (one or two), Armor, Helm

The A5 Barbarian merc is the highest DPS merc option and best tank when properly equipped. While it lacks the utility functions of every other merc class, due to the lack of inherent auras or CC, the A5 merc offers the most single target DPS with a powerful Frenzy attack, and the ability to equip powerful two hand weapons. While the Bash variant is viable, it is not recommended due to having only one sword slot, diminishing your end-game optimization. The barbarian merc can be considered the least ancillary merc, offering less utility in exchange for more individual strength and agency.

7. Merc Breakpoints

Just like your main character, your mercenary has breakpoints which determine IAS and FHR. Though less important to optimize this for your mercenary, it is useful to keep in mind, especially if you want to optimize merc attack damage.

FHR Breakpoint (All Mercenary)

Faster Hit Recovery












Hit Recovery Frames












IAS calculations are a more complex calculation, and are based on their weapon and auras in use. It is recommended you use the below IAS calculator provided by D2.LC to reach your desired breakpoints with the selected weapon type.
D2.LC IAS Calculator

8. Best Merc Weapon (Act 1)

Ladder store links below. For non-ladder or hardcore, ensure you select the correct category when making a purchase.

Faith Runeword
The Faith runeword is the primary reason the A1 rogue is utilized, providing a high level (10-15) Fanaticism aura that can’t be found or equipped on any other merc. The fanaticism is helpful to hit certain high level IAS breakpoints, as well as providing a great physical damage boost. The bonus skills to amazons provided by a Grand Matron Bow base now works on mercs.

Ice Runeword
The Ice runeword makes your A1 rogue a powerful CC tool by providing a level 18 Holy Freeze aura. Additional cold damage buffs make this a great synergizer with the A1 Cold rogue, and a plausible merc choice for Cold-Based characters (noting that A2 Infinity is the priority choice for elemental based characters).

Wrath Runeword
Wrath runeword is used for the chance to cast Decrepify and Life Tap on striking. While lacking the raw physical damage output of the other suggested runewords, Decrepify procs at 30% offering significant enemy damage and move speed debuff, which should improve your survivability. Life Tap offers significant life vamp on cursed targets.

Harmony Runeword
Harmony provides a mid level vigor aura which is great for additional speed while farming. Use where extra damage or defensiveness isn’t required and where speed is the priority, i.e. when farming less challenging areas, or where you’re running through mobs to reach a certain boss.

Windforce Hydra Bow Unique
Windforce is a powerful bow providing good physical damage. While not providing the auras of the other suggested items, it is a viable option given its raw damage output. It also provides a useful knockup. While this isn’t a low drop, it is a fantastic temp until you can find your desirable runeword if you do stumble across one.

9. Best Merc Weapon (Act 2)

Infinity Runeword
The Infinity runeword is a powerful option for many elemental classes, and would be the most commonly used A2 Merc weapon in the game. This includes non-lightning based classes, due to the Conviction aura it provides which lowers all enemy elemental resistances. It is the standard choice for Sorceress, Trapsins, Javazons, Fire Druids and even some necromancers (due to the damage amplification for the fire component of Corpse Explosion) This offers a powerful immunity breaking aid, on top of your Sunder Charm.

Pride Runeword
Pride is the best option for any physical damage based class wanting to maximize damage output, due to the benefits from a powerful level 20 concentration aura. This is commonly used in builds where Fanaticism is already attained from some other source, either directly from a Paladin, or by a self-wielding Faith bowazon. Barbarian’s who wield beast might also consider a Prider Merc for additional damage. The IAS boost from fanaticism is required to reach the highest IAS breakpoints for end game builds, so should be considered a priority.

Insight Runeword
Insight also sees high usage given the usefulness of Meditation Aura (negates the need for mana potions), and its relatively low cost and attainability. Note, Meditation provided by Insight synergizes with prayer merc, doubling his prayer heal. While it is still recommended you use a Holy Freeze merc in Hardcore, you may consider prayer, for a useful health regeneration in between combat. The healing from it is not significant enough to be your single source of healing.

Reaper’s Toll Unique
A powerful choice for the high % Decrepify proc which greatly negates danger, especially of single targets and bosses. The Deadly Strike provides a significant damage buffer, while the high % Lifesteal offers sustainability, and allows your merc to wield a helm that doesn’t have lifesteal (like Guilaume’s Face for additional damage). The extra socket you gain from not using a runeword is useful for additional Enhanced damage jewels, or IAS if required to reach a desired breakpoint.

Doom runeword
Doom offers a powerful Holy Freeze aura as well as significant negative resistances to cold. This offers Holy Freeze without the merc passive freeing up a different option. Given the strength of the auras offered by other weapon choices (Pride - Concentration, Infinity - Conviction, Insight - Meditation), it is less used in current meta builds.

Breath of the Dying Runeword
Lacking the Aura buffs that the other options, BOTD provides the greatest raw damage output from any polearm, while also giving significant life leech for sustainability. Given the relatively high cost of this runeword, and the inferiority of the A2 Merc when compared to the A5 Frenzy merc for raw damage output, this is typically not a highly utilized option.

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10. Best Merc Weapon (Act 5)

Plague Runeword
Plague offers a whole host of useful mods including its powerful lower resistances curse proc, and powerful poison synergies (including its own poison nova proc which occurs on ¼ of hits). This is especially powerful with poison based builds and even wielding a Grief (venom proc) on his off-hand. The sword provides Open Wounds, Deadly Strike, Freezing on hit, and a powerful Cleansing aura which will provide your character party a curse and poison negation. This is a staple A5 Merc item and can be considered his most widely utilized weapon.

Last Wish Runeword
Last Wish is considered another staple due to its powerful level 17 Might aura. In addition, Last Wish grants a huge boost to crush blow (up to 70%), and useful Life Tap and Fade procs, both aiding hugely in survivability. Preventing monster heal and the big boost to Magic Find, make this a great choice for PvM, particularly for MF based characters.

Grief Runeword
The highest one-handed damage weapon in D2R, this is a no-brainer if optimizing for raw damage output if you’re opting into a dual wield Frenzy merc. The 35% Venom proc means this is the perfect damage synergizer with Plague for an A5 Frenzy Merc. The benefits of Last Wish Might offsets much of this damage difference so keep this in mind, especially if your main character benefits from Might as well.

Lawbringer Runeword
Lawbringer provides a powerful Decrepify curse proc, and useful Sanctuary aura if you are frequenting high undead dense areas. The lack of direct damage enhancement makes this a lesser damage option offering significant utility and survivability. This is a popular choice to combine with Plague or Last Wish.

Breath of the Dying Runeword
This is the standard choice for a single wield A5 Bash merc. An Ebotd offers the highest damage in the game for a 2-handed weapon, with significant stat and life leech benefits. This is a fantastic option to create a high damage Bash Merc that can sustain himself and deal crushing damage.

11. Best Mercenary Armor (Act 1,2,5)

Fortitude Runeword
The best armor for your merc to optimize damage, while providing decent defenses and additional chilling armor proc buff. The huge enhanced damage boost makes this a mercenary staple. This is the standard choice for the A1, A2 and A5 merc. With the removal of ladder only runewords in D2, Fortitude is also more affordable than Chains of Honor, only requiring Lo as its highest rune. If your merc doesn’t die often, choose this armor for them.

Chains of Honor Runeword
A high end defensive option providing massive boosts to resistances and some damage reduction. The best choice if you are having problems with your merc dying to casters, or other elemental damage. The strength, minor damage reduction and additional MF, make this a strong PvM option for surviving areas like Travincal, Chaos Sanctuary, or the Worldstone Keep and Throne of Destruction.

Treachery Runeword
A great budget option offering a chance to cast fade when struck (boosting resistances and damage reduction). A fantastic choice for early leveling given the low cost and easy attainability of the runes. Venom, Cold resistances, IAS and FHR are other useful mods.

Shaftstop Unique
Shaftstop offers the highest defense and damage reduction of the options making it the strongest option vs physical attackers. With an additional socket available, this offers some flexibility as to additional mods you might desire, or be deficient in (for instance, an Um rune for resistances, Ber for more DR, or any number of Jewels (ED, IAS, Res, etc).

Duress Runeword
Duress is an interesting specialized offensive option offering Open Wounds, and Crushing Blow and a cold enchanted attack at the cost of most defensive mods other than the resistances offered. The FHR is useful but not a priority stat for increasing merc survivability. This can be considered for boss, uber specialist, or Dclone hunters.

Stone Runeword
Another interesting option offering the potential for the highest raw defense armor offering, and a useful damage reduction from missiles. Additional raw stats and resistances make this a good mid-range option given its relatively low rune cost to make. This will likely find use on an A5 mercenary being utilized as a tank.

12. Best Merc Helms (Act 1,2,5)

Andariel’s Visage Unique
Andariel’s Visage is the most popular merc helm choice for the most popular classes of merc (A2, A1 and A5). This is due to its substantial lifesteal, which is essential to a merc’s self-sustainability, as well as its IAS and str (which allows for heavier armors to be equipped, and to reach desired IAS breakpoints). The -30 to fire resists, should be noted, especially for fire damage dense areas like Travincal (Hydras). This can be offset by socketing a Ral rune (+30 fire resists).

Vampire’s Gaze Unique
This option offers two powerful buffs but little else. Life leech and Physical Damage Reduction are Vamp Gaze’s primary assets, while Magic Damage Reduction and cold damage for on hit chilling effects are secondary mods offering minor utility.

Giant Skull Unique
The Giant Skull offers the most flexibility of any of the options here given the 2 open sockets that can be found on them. The knockback is useful particularly for A1 Mercenaries. Consider resistances jewels or Um rune for additional elemental survivability, or IAS/ED jewels to optimize damage. Ber runes are also viable for additional DR, but Vamp gaze is the superior option if you are going that route.

Guillaume’s Face Unique
Gface is our damage orientated option, offering both Crushing Blow and Deadly Strike, amplifying a merc’s damage output. It lacks the traditional mods we look for in a self-sustaining merc (life leech or defensive mods predominantly). What is lost in survivability is gained in raw damage output. Additional FHR and Strength offer minor benefits to your merc.

Delirium Runeword
Delirium is an interesting option offering an assortment of on hit CC procs including Mind Blast, Terror and Confuse. There is also the Delirium/Morph proc which provides a very rare 1% chance to turn your merc into a stygian doll which attacks with headbutts. Use this for more varied and entertaining gameplay.

13. A3 Merc Build Discussion

The Act 3 merc stands alone as the only non-physical based damage dealing mercenary. Though she wields a sword, she doesn’t hit with it, meaning caster swords are the preferred option. For weapons consider the Spirit Runeword for its fantastic caster benefits, and due other caster options not being available in sword form (i.e. Heart of the Oak). Likewise a Spirit Monarch Runeword provides a good shield option. Phoenix and Sanctuary are viable choices.
A Chains of Honor, or Skin of the Vipermagi are good armor options providing sound defensive stats and useful +skill mods for your merc damage. Given lifesteal isn’t relevant to the Ironwolf mercenary, opt for more resistances, Damage Reduction, or + skills. Shako is a fantastic well-rounded option.

While the A3 Merc isn’t used in any current-meta build, and boasts the least amount of damage of any merc variant, they can be useful as utility or a source of elemental damage. Cold spells provide CC, fire provides additional damage and Enchant for melee, and lightning provides the useful static field for reducing monster and boss life %.

14. Which Mercenary for my build?

Because of the depth of merc gearing options, there is a huge opportunity to customize your merc based on preferences, playstyle, or off-meta build deviations which may require a corresponding customization for your merc. Feel free to mix and match from the suggested list; it’s important to trial to know what works for you.

Here is a general outline for what is considered the in-meta optimal setups:

A2 Infinity Merc: Use for Trapins, Fire Assassins, Javazons, Fire Druids, Sorceress (all types).
Note: Poison Necros (Conviction does not reduce enemy poison resistances but does increase the damage from the fire component of corpse explosion).

A2 Insight Merc: Sorceress (all types, particularly Energy Shield variants), Hammerdins, Poisonmancers or Bone Necros, or leveling characters.

A1 Faith Merc: Barbarians, Non-Faith wielding Bowazon, Spear or Jabazons, Melee Druids, or niche Paladin builds like the Holy Freeze Zealer which don’t self-use Fanaticism.

A5 Plague Merc: Poison based damage types, including the Poison javazon, Rabies Druid, or for general use by characters wanting the lower resist proc. It should be noted that Conviction offers approximately -20 more lowered resistances while not requiring attacks from your merc to proc. This should not be considered for the Poisonmancer given he already utilizes the curse.

15. Conclusion

Your merc is an extension of your main character, and should be treated as a means to further amplify the strengths of your character, or cover up the weaknesses. The information and build options laid out in this guide should provide a useful foundation to build your perfect merc

Related Guides

Ultimate Mercenary Guide | D2R Rune Farming Guide | 4 Socket Monarch Farming Guide

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