Assassin Leveling Guide

Assassin Leveling

Introduction

The Assassin Leveling Guide provides you with all the necessary information to get your favorite Character started!
Not every Skill is suitable to be used during early leveling for three reasons:

  • Only a number of Skills work well without any previously farmed gear.
  • A lot of builds lack damage during the leveling phase. It can become a big struggle or even straight up impossible to progress starting with an end game build.
  • Some builds have a hard time transitioning into hell due to Immunities.

We provide you with step by step Skill trees and easily accessible items that help you in your play through. Additionally, you get tips and insights on how to deal with Immunities and the more difficult fights.

Gear used in this guide
Wake of Fire
Lightning Sentry
Death Sentry
Burst of Speed

At the end of this Guide you'll have a Level 75 Assassin that used 1 out of the 3 respecs the game provides. You can use these to transition into your build of choice.
If you like the build at the end of this guide, check out the Lightning Sentry Assassin Guide, which continues this build to the end game.


Skill Trees

The Assassin Leveling Guide utilizes Fire Blast and Wake of Fire in Normal then transitions into Lightning Sentry and Death Sentry for Nightmare and Hell.

Hint: Below the Skill trees you have a slider which you can move around to see the Skill progression!

Level 1 to 32-35

The Assassin has arguably the best starting Area of Effect Skill across all Characters - Fire Blast. Your Skill Point allocation is straight-forward prior to your respec:

  • Levels 2-4: Fire Blast (+ the Skill Point from Den of Evil)
  • Level 5: Claw Mastery
  • Level 6-7: Burst of Speed
  • Level 8: Fire Blast
  • Level 9-11: Burst of Speed
  • Level 12+: Wake of Fire from Level-Up Skill Points, and Fire Blast using Skill Points from Quest rewards.

Wake of Fire, the "set and forget" Trap, is your main Damage Skill against both single and multiple targets. Max out Wake of Fire and put every additional Skill Point from Quests into Fire Blast. Fire Blast serves as a Synergy for your main Skill, increasing its damage. In certain situations, Fire Blast is also used to supplement the damage to Wake of Fire.

Level 32-36 to 75

Between Level 32 and 36, use your respec to switch from Fire to Lightning Traps. Lightning Sentry in combination with Death Sentry are the Skills of choice.

Skill Point allocation at respec:

  • Burst of Speed - 6 Skill Points
  • Cloak of Shadows - 1 Skill Point
  • Mindblast - 1 Skill Point
  • Fire Blast - 1 Skill Point
  • Shock Web - 4 Skill Points
  • Charged Bolt Sentry - 1 Skill Point
  • Lightning Sentry - maximum Skill Points
  • Death Sentry - maximum Skill Points

Note: We are not going to use every Skill Point we have at the respec. This is not a mistake! It allows you to put Skill Points into Lightning Sentry and Death Sentry simultaneously while you are leveling up!

Skill Point allocation after respec, in order:

  • Lightning Sentry until maxed out (20 Skill Points allocated)
  • Death Sentry until maxed out (20 Skill Points allocated)
  • Shock Web until maxed out (20 Skill Points allocated)
  • Charged Bolt Sentry (remaining Skill Points)

Hardcore tip: If you want to have a decoy, only use 1 Skill Point into Shock Web and put the Skill Points you gain from this into Shadow Master at the respec.


Playstyle

During the leveling process, the Assassin employs slightly different playstyles depending on the Skills they have access to. This section describes the playstyle for each Skill set.

Level 1 to 32-35 (Fire Blast / Wake of Fire)

Until you reach Level 12, use Fire Blast for damage. Try to gather some monsters and "throw" them into the center of the packs. After Level 6 make sure to keep up Burst of Speed at all times. This buff shows as an animated graphic underneath your Character. Put Strangling Gas Potion in your Weapon-Swap and use them against Elite Groups for additional damage. Switch back to your main Weapon that has a Dagger equipped when you are using Fire Blast.

Tip: While kiting monsters, aim your Fire Blast between you and your enemies. They explode at the location the monsters are at if done correctly.

When you reach Level 12, start using Wake of Fire as your main Damage Skill. While progressing through the game, lay your Wake of Fire to the left and right and continue to move. Most regular monsters die from 1-2 Wake of Fire Traps. You don't have to wait and see if they do, keep moving forward.

To optimize your damage output, especially against single targets, place 2 Wake of Fire Traps and use Fire Blast to supplement their damage. The reason for this is the so-called Next Hit Delay mechanic. A monster that has been hit by Wake of Fire doesn't get hit by another Wake of Fire hit, or any other Next Hit Delay-Skill, for 0.16 seconds. 2 Wake of Fire Traps overlap enough to constantly keep Next Hit Delay active.

Level 32-36 to 75 (Lightning Sentry / Death Sentry)

Keep up Burst of Speed at all times.
To maximize your damage output, stack up 5 Lightning Sentrys in one spot. This causes them to hit the same target, bursting it down. When the initial target dies, lay down 1-2 Death Sentrys as far away from enemies as possible. This causes it to use its Corpse Explosion, dealing a percentage of the monster Life as Area of Effect damage.
Against single targets such as Act bosses, only use Lightning Sentrys and try to keep them in the line of fire at all times. When perfectly executed you should be able to draw a straight line between the Traps, the monster and you. If you can get them stuck somewhere (like the Mephisto moat trick) you can lay down the Traps right next to them.

Mindblast can make your life a lot easier. It stuns your enemies and has a chance to convert a monster. A converted monster fights for you for a few seconds, acting as a tank and providing you with some breathing room. You can't deal any damage to a monster that is converted. Use the opportunity to stack up your Lightning Sentrys and blow everything up with Death Sentrys.

Cloak of Shadows can also be a lifesaver. Use it when you are entering spicy Town Portals to blind your surroundings. This makes it easier for you and your party to survive, and you can fight your way out of a tricky situation. Cloak of Shadows is especially strong against ranged monsters.

Keep Yew Wand of Lower Resistance in your secondary weapon slot or at the very least in your inventory / Horadric Cube. Use your Lower Resist charges against Act bosses, tanky monsters, and Lightning Immunes to break their Immunity. This greatly increases your effective damage against any monster that is affected. Lower Resist also increases the Fire Damage done by your Death Sentry Traps for even more DPS.

One hurdle that a lot of builds face are areas with lots of Immune monsters. The “trick” is to avoid them as much as possible. In some places, your only choice is having a Gnarled Staff of Teleportation to skip them entirely (e.g. Maggot Lair). Other areas can be rerolled to reduce the amount of Lightning Immune monster types. Some areas naturally spawn tons of Lightning Immunes, like the Spider Forest, Flayer Jungle. Don’t waste too many Lower Resist Charges to kill them. Refilling these charges is extremely expensive.

In Hell Chaos Sanctuary, you have no choice but to kill at least one Lightning Immune monster, Grand Vizier of Chaos. With specific boss Affixes (Lightning Enchanted, Magic Resistant) you are not able to break his Immunity. Unless your Mercenary is rocking some powerful Damage Weapon, it is faster to restart the Chaos Sanctuary until you can break the Immunity. The three Seal bosses (Grand Vizier of Chaos, Lord de Seis, and Infector of Souls) roll new Affixes when spawned. Lord de Seis and Infector of Souls can also spawn with unbreakable Lightning Immunity, although less often than Grand Vizier of Chaos.

Tip: You can kill the Lightning Immunes with a bit of planning. Lure monsters towards the area in which the seal bosses spawn and kill them only with Lightning Sentry. Activate the seal afterwards and use the pile of corpses you created to blow them up with Death Sentry.

In the Ancients fight in Act 5 Hell you have to face Madawc, who is naturally Lightning Immune. You most likely have to reroll him a couple of times, as you can’t kill him with some Affixes (namely: Lightning Enchanted, Magic Resistant, and Spectral Hit). Even if you can break their Lightning Immunities, they can still have very high Lightning Resistances. This can happen because of the items all the Ancients spawn with. A Mercenary with Strength is highly recommended. Keeping him alive, however, might prove difficult. Use the Mercenary glitch before you start the fight to make this easier! This makes him "invisible" to a lot of enemies.


Miscellaneous

Assembling the Build

This guide only uses items you can easily get during your play through. In this section, we show you where and why you get the items that are used.
Warning: When we are talking about socketed items for Runewords, be aware that the vendors can sell Magic Items with 2 Sockets. Runewords do NOT work in Magic Items!

Dagger:
Where?
- Buy a Dagger from Charsi in Normal Act 1 or find it in the wilderness.
Why?
- The speed of laying Traps is determined by your Attack Speed. Dagger is the fastest Weapon you can get early on.

Stealth:
Where?
- Buy a 2 Socket Body Armor from Charsi in Normal Act 1.
- Find the Runes from The Countess in Normal Act 1, The Forgotten Tower (Black Marsh).
Why?
- Stealth is arguably the strongest Runeword, we use it on literally every Leveling guide.
- 25 % Faster Run / Walk and 25% Faster Hit Recovery bring significant Quality of Life and this Body Armor should not be replaced until the end of this guide.

Leaf Short Staff
Where?:
- You can buy a Short Staff from Akara in Normal Act 1. Make sure to use a Short Staff. It’s the fastest weapon base available from Akara, which is important for your Trap laying speed.
- Find the Runes from The Countess in Normal Act 1.
Why?
- +3 to Fire Skills applies to Wake of Fire and Fire Blast, resulting in a massive damage increase!

Spirit Crystal Sword:
Where?
- Find a Crystal Sword in The Secret Cow Level and use the Socket reward from Act 5 Quest 1.
- Find the Runes from The Countess in Nightmare Act 1, The Forgotten Tower (Black Marsh).
Why?
- Spirit provides you with +2 to all Skills, Mana, Faster Hit Recovery and Faster Cast Rate.

Ancients' Pledge Kite Shield:
Where?
- Buy a Superior Kite Shield from Farah in Normal Act 2.
- Find the Runes by completing Quest 2 in Act 5. They are provided as a reward.
Why?
- Ancient's Pledge provides a large amount of Resistances, which makes you extremely tanky.

Alternative Shield: Rhyme Bone Shield:
Where?
- Buy a Bone Shield from Drognan in Normal Act 2.
- Find the Runes from The Countess in Nightmare Act 1, The Forgotten Tower (Black Marsh).
Why?
- The “Cannot be Frozen”-Affix gives you some Quality of Life because trap setting speed is decreased when affected by a Chill effect.
- The Affix 25% Better chance of getting Magic Items (MF) never hurts.
- Our Hardcore friends also benefit from the 20% increased Chance of Blocking to add a defensive lair to their build.

Heavy Gloves of Alacrity:
Where?
- Buy Heavy Gloves of Alacrity from Charsi or Gheed in Nightmare Act 1. A minimum Character Level of 37 is required.
Why?
- To keep up the fastest Attack Speed possible when using Spirit we need the 20% Increased Attack Speed. This is optional, but it’s a worthwhile min-max.

Lore Cap:
Where?
- Buy a Cap or Skull Cap from Charsi in Normal Act 1.
- Find the Runes from The Countess in Nightmare Act 1, The Forgotten Tower (Black Marsh).
Why?
Lightning Sentry and Death Sentry benefit a lot from +x to All Skills on our gear. Lore provides +1 to All Skills as well as Lightning Resist +30%, which makes this Helmet a strong offensive and defensive option for this item slot.

Gnarled Staff of Teleportation:
Where?
- Buy the Staff of Teleportation from Ormus in Normal, Act 3. A minimum Character Level of 19 is required for him to sell them.
Why?
- A Staff of Teleportation provides us with higher mobility. We utilize this to get past moats, rivers, and other blockades. In the Hell difficulty, we can use it to skip the Lightning Immune monsters (most notably in the Maggot Lair).
Tip: Buy the Staff of Teleportation before you hit Level 24. The Staff has a Level requirement of 24 which means they appear with a red background in the vendor screen. It speeds up the process of shopping for it significantly!
Hardcore warning: When you switch to the Weapon slot with your Staff of Teleportation, you lose a lot of Resistances.

Wand of Lower Resistance:
Where?
- Buy Wand of Lower Resistance from Malah in Normal Act 5, Akara in Nightmare Act 1, or Drognan in Nightmare Act 2. A minimum Character Level of 30 is required.
Why?
- Lower Resist is very important for this build to get past the Lightning Immune monsters you have to face in Hell.
- You can also use Lower Resist to increase your damage against tankier monsters and Act bosses.
Tip: Buy the Wand of Lower Resistance before you hit Level 36. The Wand has a Level requirement of 36 which means they appear with a red background in the vendor screen. It speeds up the process of shopping for it a lot!

Strength Spear (OPTIONAL):
Where?
- Buy Spear from Charsi in Normal Act 1.
- Find the Runes from The Countess in Nightmare Act 1, The Forgotten Tower (Black Marsh).
Why?
- This item is used by your Mercenary in the fight against Madawc.
- You don't require this item in group play!

Ocher Heavy Boots of Haste:
Where?
- Buy Boots with 20% Faster Run / Walk and Resistances from Charsi or Gheed in Nightmare Act 1.
Why?
- Massive Quality of Life.
- Resistances helps you stay alive easier. Lightning and Fire Resist are your priorities!

Belt of the Colossus:
Where?
- Buy a Belt with Life and Resistances from Charsi or Gheed in Nightmare Act 1.
Why?
- Massive Quality of Life.
- Resistances help you stay alive. Lightning and Fire Resistances are your priorities!

Attributes

Strength
In this build, we only allocate enough Stat Points to Strength to equip all of our gear.

Vitality
After you put your points into Strength and Dexterity, make sure to check if it is recommended to put Stat Points into Energy. Meet the suggested amount of Energy and put any remaining Stat Points into Vitality.

Dexterity
In this build, we only allocate enough Dexterity to equip all of our gear.

Energy
In this build, we highly recommend putting around 10 Stat Points into Energy until Level 12. When you respec don't put any points in Energy.

Breakpoints

For more information on the mechanics involved, check out our in-depth article on Breakpoints.

All builds rely on specific Breakpoints for effectiveness throughout the game. Meeting Breakpoints for Cast Rate, Hit Recovery Rate, and Block Rate increases the rate of casting spells, recovering from big damage, and block by 1 Frame per Breakpoint.


Faster Cast Rate (FCR)
We do not target a specific Cast Rate Breakpoint in this build. We do not rely on spells to deal damage.

Cast Rate Breakpoint

Increased Attack Speed (IAS)
Increased Attack Speed controls how fast our Character can set traps. In this build we aim for the 20% Increased Attack Speed, which is achieved with the suggested Gear. Using other weapon bases requires different Increased Attack Speed to have the same effect. Please consult the (d2planner) to determine what values your alternative base requires.

Faster Hit Recovery (FHR)
Faster Hit Recovery controls how fast our Character finishes the Hit Recovery animation. In this build, we aim for 25% Faster Hit Recovery, which is achieved with the suggested gear and Charms.

Hit Recovery Breakpoint

Faster Block Rate (FBR)
We do not target a specific Block Rate Breakpoint. We do not rely on Chance to Block in this build.

Block Rate Breakpoint

Faster Run Walk (FRW)
There are no Breakpoints for Faster Run / Walk. With the recommended gear, you reach 45% Faster Run / Walk. Please refer to Run / Walk Mechanics for more details.

Mercenary

During the leveling process, the Mercenary rarely has any use. It is very hard to keep any of them alive.

In solo gameplay, the Assassin relies on the Mercenary for the fight against Hell Ancients (namely Madawc). Using the Mercenary bug, which makes him not targetable by certain monsters, he is able to provide massive damage against Madawc. For this, he only needs to be equipped with Strength Spear. 25% Chance of Crushing Blow reduces his current Life by 1/8 with each proc. Due to the fact that Madawc has massive Lightning Resistance even after Lower Resist, Crushing Blow reduces the duration of this fight significantly.

To help survive various scenarios, remember you can drag Healing Potions onto the portrait, or shift + 1/2/3/4 to directly feed them a Healing Potion from your belt. The Mercenary also gains bonus Resistances from Thawing Potions and Antidote Potions.

If your Mercenary dies in battle, you can revive them from any of the Mercenary NPC in any Act. This comes with an increasing cost, capping at 50,000 Gold. Keep that in mind and decide if the Mercenary is currently worth the cost.

Hardcore

All our Leveling Guides are viable for Hardcore.
Changes to consider:

  • Over Level before you enter Nightmare / Hell. Suggested Target Levels are ~38-40 for Nightmare and 65+ for Hell.
  • This build is using Ancient's Pledge for a large amount of Resistances. This gives us the option to go for maximum Vitality.
    Alternatively, you can use Rhyme and go for Chance to Block. We recommend going for 50% Chance to Block, saving you from Physical Damage hits. With its Cannot Be Frozen Affix, it also increases your mobility! All this doesn't come without a cost. Going for Chance to Block sacrifices Resistances and Life, which make you more volnurable against ranged elemental spells.
  • Make sure to have your Cold, Fire, and Lightning Resistances capped at 75% when you enter Nightmare and Hell. The easy way to check this is to enter the difficulty you want to play and open your Character screen.
    • We recommend farming Flayer Jungle or The Secret Cow Level in Nightmare for Charms. They make it easy to cap your Resistances.
  • During the respec you can choose to go for Shadow Master right away. To make this possible, you only put 1 Skill Point into Shock Web.

Gear Options

With a shared stash now available, this might not be your first Character. In this table, we list items that are nice to use if they are available to you:

  • Death's Hand + Death's Guard provides you with 30% Increased Attack Speed, All Resistances +15%, and Cannot be Frozen. You should use Ancient's Pledge with this Set to gain large amounts of Resistances.
  • Ravenfrost can be another source for Cannot be Frozen at Level 45+.
  • Hsarus' Iron Heel and Sander's Riprap are strong options for the Boots slot. Both provide you with Faster Run / Walk and are very common drops.
  • Another source of Increased Attack Speed can be Twitchthroe while also providing you with 20% Faster Hit Recovery and 25% Increased Chance of Blocking. This is an extremely powerful Body Armor, especially for Hardcore. Use this if you want to go for Chance to Block early on!
  • The Stone of Jordan provides you with +1 to All Skills, which scales our damage up significantly. It's an expensive option, but if you have one, put it on!
  • A rare Amulet with +x to Assassin Skills or +x to Trap Skills are very powerful. Unique options for the Amulet are The Eye of Etlich and later a Maras Kaleidoscope
  • Splendor can be a really nice option if you can get high Resistances without the help of Ancient's Pledge.
  • Smoke is an extremely strong option to get Resistances for cheap.
  • Another Body Armor option is Skin of the Vipermagi. With the additional +1 to all Skills as well as all Resistance, it's a very strong item.
  • While using the Fire Traps, Magefist could be used for another +1 to Fire Skills.
  • Treachery is one of the few Character specific Runewords that actually is used in many builds. Funny enough, it is least useful on the Assassin as it overwrites your Burst of Speed. It can still be used for the +2 to Assassin Skills.

Farming Spots at Level 75+

The areas below are well suited for this build to farm efficiently. While this build can also farm other areas, we’ve selected these specific areas to make the most use of the build’s strengths. Please take special note of the danger level, clear speed, item types, and Immunities that define these areas.
Grayed out areas are not recommended for this build!

Act 1:

AreaDangerRewardsImmunities
MausoleumLowAll item types
Leveling
Lightning
The CountessMediumRunes
Key of Terror
Fire, Cold
The PitMediumAll item types
Leveling
Fire, Lightning, Cold
AndarielLowUniques
Sets
Jewelry
The Secret Cow LevelMediumRunes
Runeword Bases
Charms / Gems / Jewels

Act 2:

AreaDangerStrengthsImmunities
Ancient TunnelsMediumAll item types
Max Area Level
Leveling
Magic, Fire, Lightning, Cold
Maggot LairMediumAll item types
Max Area Level
Physical, Lightning, Poison
Arcane Sanctuary
(Specters/Super Chests)
MediumRunes
Charms/Gems/Jewels
Jewelry
Physical, Fire, Cold
SummonerLowKey of Hate

Act 3:

AreaDangerRewardsImmunities
Lower KurastLowRunes
Runeword Bases
Charms/Gems/Jewels
Jewelry
Fire, Lightning
TravincalHighGearing
Runes
Charms/Gems/Jewels
Gold
Fire, Lightning, Cold
MephistoMediumUniques
Sets

Act 4:

AreaDangerRewardsImmunities
City of the DamnedHighAll item typesFire, Lightning, Cold
River of FlameHighAll item types
Max Area Level
Leveling
Fire, Cold, Lightning, Poison
Chaos SanctuaryHighAll item types
Max Area Level
Leveling
Fire, Lightning, Cold
DiabloMediumUniques
Sets
Leveling (Level 97-99)

Act 5:

AreaDangerRewardsImmunities
Eldritch the RectifierLowGearing
Gold
Leveling
Cold
Shenk the OverseerMediumGearing
Gold
Leveling
Cold
PindleskinHighGearing
Gold
Leveling
Poison
Thresh SocketLowGearing
Gold
Cold
Drifter CavernHighAll item typesFire, Lightning, Cold
NihlathakHighKey of Destruction
Leveling (Level 97-99)
Fire, Lightning, Cold or none
(Depends on his Affixes)
Worldstone Keep/Throne of DestructionHighAll item types
Max Area Level
Leveling
Physical, Magic, Fire, Lightning, Cold, Poison
(Depends on monster spawns)
Baal/WavesHighUniques
Sets
Max Area Level
Leveling (Baal for Level 97-99)
Magic, Fire, Cold, Poison
(on Waves)

Gear Progression

Level 1 to 32-35

Until we reach Level 19 we use a Dagger due to its fast Attack Speed. Allocate 10 Stat Points into Energy to make your Mana management a little easier.
At Level 6 you can use Strangling Gas Potions in your secondary Weapon slot. They are useful against boss groups until Level 12. At this point, you can remove the Strangling Gas Potions from your secondary Weapon slot.
At Level 17 you equip your Stealth. Switch out the Dagger for Leaf Short Staff. It is important that you use a Short Staff as the base for Leaf otherwise you can't reach the maximum Trap laying speed. This is the reason why we allocate 5 Skill Points into Burst of Speed.
Remember to purchase a Gnarled Staff of Teleportation before Level 24 and equip it in your secondary Weapon-Swap immediately.
A lot of item slots are not filled in. You can use them as you find useful items with stats like:
Resistances > Life > Faster Run Walk (Boots) > Faster Hit Recovery
Allocate your Stat Points to reach these Attribute values at Level 35 (Less Vitality if you respec earlier!):

Level 32-36 to 75

After the respec and when you are done with your shopping list you can switch to Spirit (Wand of Lower Resistance in Singleplayer) as your main Weapon-Swap. Complete the Off-Hand with your Ancient's Pledge.
Your Staff of Teleportion is sitting in your secondary Weapon-Swap at all times. Use it whenever you need to get past obstacles. When using Spirit[/d2plann-item] put your [d2planner-item profile=730106fz id=9]Wand of Lower Resistance into your inventory and swap it in, whenever you need to break an Immunity or when you fight a boss.
Gloves with 20% Increased Attack Speed, a Life / Resistance Belt as well as Faster Run Walk Boots complete your gear until Level 75.
Useful Rings and Amulets are not easy to come by. Use anything that gives you Life, Resistances, Mana, or + to Skills.
Focus your Skill Points into Lightning Sentry and Death Sentry. After these 2 Skills are maxed out, go for the Synergies: Shock Web and Charged Bolt Sentry.
To fight Madawc make sure to equip a Strength Spear on your Mercenary!

Allocate your Stat Points to reach these Attribute values at Level 75:
Note: Use more Strength (Less Vitality) if you find good replacements for the items you bought at the start of Nightmare! Just don't go past 60 Strength!


Video Guide

Comming soon.


Summary

  • Farm Stealth / Leaf from Normal Countess.
  • Use Fire Blasts and Wake of Fire until you respec.
  • Keep Burst of Speed up at all times.
  • Buy a Gnarled Staff of Teleportation between Level 20 and 24.
  • Respec into Lightning Sentry and Death Sentry is recommended at Level 32+.
  • Farm Nightmare Countess for Lore and Spirit.
  • Buy a Wand of Lower Resistance between Level 31 and 35 and use it to break Immunities or increase your damage output against tanky enemies.
  • Build a Strength for your Mercenary before you fight the Ancients!
  • Lightning Immune can be a problem. Reroll boss Affixes if you have to!

Good luck!

Guide by Teo1904