Phoenix Strike Assassin Guide

Use the Scroll Bar to see Skill Point Progression

Introduction

The Phoenix Strike Assassin uses the elements of Fire, Lightning, and Cold to send her enemies screaming in terror! Also known as the "PS Sin," she is a devastating force against mass density and Act Bosses alike. She utilizes a unique mechanic of building up charges from Phoenix Strike then expending them with finishing moves such as Dragon Claw and Dragon Flight. Her Skill versatility allows you to pick and choose how many effects to unleash.
In addition to Phoenix Strike she utilizes Death Sentry to add massive Physical and Fire AoE to her kit.
The PS Sin also has a lot of utility through the Skills Fade, Cloak of Shadows, and Mindblast. These skills provide her with great Crowd Control, Resistances, and Physical Damage Reduction, making her quite versatile in combat.



Ideal Standard Setup

Phoenix Strike

Dragon Claw

Dragon Flight

Death Sentry

This build guide assumes you have a Character at Level 75 before transitioning to it. Check out our Assassin Leveling Guide and our General Leveling Strategies to reach Level 75.


Very Tanky ✔
Multiple Damage Sources
Incredibly Unique Gameplay ✔


Requires Build Up For Damage
Hard To View Charges In Combat
Lots Of Hotkeys For Optimal Gameplay


Skills

Put 1 Skill Point into each of the following Skills:
1. Burst of Speed
2. Cloak of Shadows
3. Mind Blast
4. Fade
5. Shadow Warrior
6. Dragon Flight
7. Dragon Claw
8. Dragon Talon
9. Death Sentry

Max out the following Skills in this order:
1. Phoenix Strike
2. Fists of Fire
3. Claws of Thunder
4. Blades of Ice
5. Claw Mastery

Use the Scroll Bar to see Skill Point Progression

Damage

Phoenix Strike* is your main Skill. It gains up to 3 Charge orbs from successful melee hits. Charge 1 drops a Fiery Meteor. Charge 2 gives a Chain Lightning effect dealing Lightning Damage. Charge 3 releases a circular patterned Cold Damage attack that Freezes Monsters. When combined with a Finishing Move like Dragon Claw you can choose when to utilize your charges and how.

Dragon Claw* is a dual-claw attack Finishing Move that expends 2 charges. It naturally grants Attack Rating, but always hits if you have multiple Charges.

Death Sentry* uses Corpse Explosion which causes nearby corpses to explode for Fire and Physical Damage. If there are no bodies to target, it fires off a weak Lightning bolt if it’s close enough to a target.

Fists of Fire is a Fire Charge-up Skill that grants up to 3 Charges. Charge 1 adds Fire Damage to your attack, Charge 2 is an instantaneous AoE Fire Explosion and Charge 3 is an AoE Fire Explosion that leaves a pyre for a duration.

Claws of Thunder is a Lightning Charge-up Skill that grants up to 3 Charges. Charge 1 adds Lightning Damage to your attack, Charge 2 is an AoE Nova, and Charge 3 is an AoE Lightning attack that releases Charged Bolts in all directions.

Blades of Ice is a Cold Charge-up Skill that grants up to 3 Charges. Charge 1 adds Cold Damage to your attack, Charge 2 is a Cold Explosion, and Charge 3 is an AoE Cold Explosion that Freezes enemies for a duration.

* Increased Attack Speed Skills (IAS)
* Faster Cast Rate Skills (FCR)

Utility

Burst of Speed* provides you with a massive movement speed and Attack Speed buff. This increases your mobility and the rate at which you lay your Traps.

Dragon Flight* is a Finishing Move that teleports you to a target and attempts a Kick attack. It naturally grants Attack Rating, but always hits if you have any Charges. This Skill is great for mobility as a pseudo Teleport.

Mindblast* stuns your enemies in a small squared shape area around your cursor and has a % chance to convert enemies hit. Converted enemies fight alongside you for a short period of time.

Cloak of Shadows* Blinds enemies around the Assassin. This drastically decreases their aggro range and their Defense. Incredibly useful in dangerous Areas with large amounts of ranged monsters.

Weapon Block* provides a Chance to Block when dual-wielding Claw type weapons.

Claw Mastery* provides Attack Rating, additional Damage, and Critical Strike Chance when wielding Claw type weapons.

Shadow Warrior* summons a mini-Assassin that mimics your Skills.

Fade* provides you with a large amount of +x All Resistance, Damage Reduction, and Curse Duration Reduction when cast. Each Soft Point grants 1% Damage Reduction. (Soft Points include + Skills from gear and buffs)

* Faster Cast Rate Skills (FCR)
* Skills that do NOT utilize either FCR or IAS


Attributes

Note: This section provides you with the standard Stat Point allocation. Build Variants can require a different allocation!

Strength

Allocate enough Stat Points into Strength to equip all of your gear. Take into account how much Strength your gear provides when equipped.

Dexterity

Allocate enough Stat Points into Dexterity to equip all of your gear. Take into account how much Dexterity your gear provides when equipped.

Vitality

Allocate any remaining Stat Points into Vitality after meeting Strength, Dexterity and Energy requirements.

Energy

Don't allocate any Stat Points into Energy. This build gets enough Mana from gear, buffs, Charms, and Mana Potions.


Essentials

Gear Options

While every Stat in the Desirable Stats column is useful for this build, we highlighted the Priority Stats in Teal so you can easily identify the Most Important Stats on them.

Hover over any Item to see a pop-out with the full Item description.

Gear/Base Notes: Any Items with specialized or niche uses have a superscript that refers here.
1) These Claws ideally have low requirements. Runic Talons and Feral Claws are the best.
2) Death's Hand and Death's Guard together grant Cannot Be Frozen, +30% IAS, and +15 All Resistances.
3) Hsarus' Iron Stay and Hsarus' Iron Heel are great for boosting your Attack Rating in the early game.
4) Angelic Halo and Angelic Wings are great for boosting your Attack Rating significantly. You can even add another ⁣Angelic Halo to stack even more Attack Rating!

SlotItem OptionsDesirable Stats
WeaponBartuc's Cut-Throat
Plague Greater Talons1
Magic Claws
Magic Claws
+x to All Skills
+x to Martial Arts [Assassin Only]
+ to Assassin Skills

+x% Faster Hit Recovery
x% Increased Attack Speed
+x to Attack Rating
+x% Chance of Crushing Blow
+x to Phoenix Strike [Assassin Only]
+x to Death Sentry [Assassin Only]
+x to Fade [Assassin Only]
Socketed [x]
Off-HandBartuc's Cut-Throat
Plague Greater Talons1
Jade Talon
Spirit Monarch
Stormshield
Magic Claws
Magic Claws
Rhyme Bone Shield
+x to All Skills
+x to Martial Skills [Assassin Only]
+x to Assassin Skills

+x% Faster Hit Recovery
x% Increased Attack Speed
x to Phoenix Strike [Assassin Only]
x to Death Sentry [Assassin Only]
x to Weapon Block [Assassin Only]
X Resist +x%
Damage Reduced by x%
Cannot Be Frozen
Socketed [x]
Weapon-SwapCall to Arms Crystal Sword
Staff of Teleportation
+x to All Skills
+x to battlecommand
+x to battleorders
+x to battlecry
Level x Teleport [x/x Charges]
Off-Hand-SwapSpirit Monarch
Lidless Wall
+x to All Skills
HelmetsMagic Diadem
Rare Circlet
Harlequin Crest
Crown of Ages
Lore Cap
Wisdom
+x to All Skills
+x to Martial Arts [Assassin Only]
+x to Assassin Skills

+x% Faster Cast Rate
+x% Faster Run/Walk
+x% Faster Hit Recovery
+x to Attribute
+x Life
X Resist +x%
Damage Reduced by x%
Cannot Be Frozen
Socketed [x]
Body Armorenigma
Chains of Honor Archon Plate
Duress Light Plate
Treachery Light Plate
+x to All Skills
+x to Assassin Skills

+x% Faster Hit Recovery
x% Chance of Crushing Blow
X Resist +x%
GlovesMagefist
Rare Gloves
Magic Gloves
Death's Hand2
+x to Fire Skills
+x to Martial Arts [Assassin Only]
+x% Faster Cast Rate
x% Increased Attack Speed
+x to Attribute
X Resist +x%
BeltsArachnid Mesh
String of Ears
Verdungo's Hearty Cord
Magic Belt
Death's Guard2
Hsarus' Iron Stay3
+x% Faster Hit Recovery
+x to Attribute
+x Life
X Resist +x%
Damage Reduced by x%
Magic Damage Reduced by x
Cannot Be Frozen
BootsAldur's Advance
War Traveler
Waterwalk
Natalya's Soul
Sandstorm Trek
Gore Rider
Magic Boots
Hsarus' Iron Heel3
+x% Faster Run/Walk
+x% Faster Hit Recovery
x% Chance of Crushing Blow
+x Life
X Resist +x%
AmuletsMara's Kaleidoscope
Highlord's Wrath
Blood Crafted Amulet
Magic Amulet
Angelic Wings4
+x to All Skills
+x to Martial Arts [Assassin Only]
+x to Assassin Skills

+x% Faster Run/Walk
+x to Attribute
+x Life
X Resist +x%
RingsThe Stone of Jordan
Bul-Kathos' Wedding Band
Raven Frost
Rare Ring
Angelic Halo4
+x to All Skills
+x to Attack Rating
+x to Attribute
+x Life
X Resist +x%
Cannot Be Frozen
CharmsGrand Charm
Large Charm
Small Charm
+x to Martial Arts [Assassin Only]
+x% Faster Run / Walk
+x% Faster Hit Recovery
+x to Attack Rating
+x to Attribute
+x Life
X Resist +x%
Unique CharmsAnnihilus
Hellfiretorch (Assassin)
+x to All Skills
+x to Assassin Skill Levels
+x to all Attributes
All Resistances +x

Farming Spots

The areas below are efficient farming locations that make use of the build’s strengths. Other farming spots might not be as effective due to immunities or bad layouts.

Anything that has a in the "Starter" column can be farmed with the Starter Variant.

Act 1

AreaStarterRewards
MausoleumAll Item Types
Max Area Level
Leveling
The CountessRunes
Key of Terror
The PitAll Item Types
Max Area Level
Leveling
AndarielUniques
Sets
Jewelry
The Secret Cow LevelRunes
Runeword Bases
Charms / Gems / Jewels

Act 2

AreaStarterRewards
Stony TombsAll Item Types
Max Area Level
Leveling
Ancient Tunnels-All Item Types
Max Area Level
Leveling
SummonerKey of Hate

Act 3

AreaStarterRewards
Arachnid Lair-All Item Types
Max Area Level
Lower KurastRunes
Runeword Bases
Charms / Gems / Jewels
Jewelry
Temple Runs-All Item Types
Max Area Level
Travincal-Gearing
Runes
Charms / Gems / Jewels
Gold
MephistoUniques
Sets

Act 4

AreaStarterRewards
City of the Damned-All Item Types
River of Flame-All Item Types
Max Area Level
Leveling
Chaos Sanctuary-All Item Types
Max Area Level
Leveling
Diablo-Uniques
Sets
Leveling (Level 97-99)

Act 5

AreaStarterRewards
Eldritch the RectifierGearing
Gold
Leveling
Shenk the OverseerGearing
Gold
Leveling
Pindleskin-Gearing
Gold
Leveling
Thresh Socket-Gearing
Gold
Drifter Cavern-All Item Types
Max Area Level
Nihlathak-Key of Destruction
Leveling
(Level 97-99)
Icy Cellar-All Item Types
Max Area Level
Worldstone Keep / Throne of Destruction-All Item Types
Max Area Level
Leveling
Baal / Waves-Uniques
Sets
Max Area Level
Leveling
(Baal for Level 97-99)

Mercenary

Your Mercenary serves an incredibly important role to the overall success of your build. They can be a front line tank, provide a pivotal Aura, and/or deal Physical Damage to kill enemies with Immunity to your Skill set.

Act 2 Desert Mercenary

The Act 2 Desert Mercenary is hired from Greiz. He can be equipped with a Spear or a Polearm, a Body Armor and a Helmet. 
Every Act 2 Mercenary has access to an Aura and uses Jab as his base Attack. The Aura activates once the Mercenary has engaged in combat and remains active between traveling to and from town. The Auras available are based on what difficulty you hire the Mercenary from.

Might, Infinity

Infinity, Might

Use a Desert Mercenary with Might Aura to deal with enemies that are immune to your main damage source.
Equip him with Infinity to reduce enemy Resistances and Defense with Conviction Aura, drastically boosting damage.

Gear Progression

Early-GameMid-GameEnd-Game
Insight
(Any Polearm)
Insight
(Elite Polearm)
Infinity Giant Thresher
Smoke
(Any Body Armor)
Treachery
(Any Body Armor)
Fortitude
(Body Armor, 700++ Base Defense)
Any Helmet
with Resistance / Life
Tal Rasha's Horadric CrestAndariel’s Visage
(preferably Ethereal)

The Mercenary is hard to keep alive until you have the minimum gear recommended in this guide. 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 NPCs in each Act. This does come with an increasing cost, capping at 50,000 Gold. Keep that in mind and decide if the Mercenary is currently worth the cost.

Playstyle

General

  • Start your runs by switching to the Weapon Swap with the most +x to Skills and Cast Fade and Shadow Warrior.
  • Shadow Warrior summons another Assassin that mimics your Skills and acts as a meat shield. Resummon it whenever it dies or as a decoy to get out of scary situations.
  • Use Phoenix Strike to gain charges against enemies, then discharge with Dragon Claw to clear out the first few enemies. When there are corpses, cast 1-2 Death Sentrys to help clear out density.
  • If you get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of enemies, you can use Mindblast to Stun and Convert or Charge 3 Phoenix Strike to Freeze everything in place for a moment.
  • Cloak of Shadows to Blind every enemy within its radius and stop their ranged attacks.
  • The Plague Greater Talons are extremely expensive to repair, use an Ort Rune in the Horadric Cube to repair it.

Immunities

  • If you do not have Infinity equipped on your Mercenary, purchase a Lower Resist Charge Wand from Nightmare Drognan, this is great for breaking some Immune and highly Resistant monsters. Repair this Wand as needed using Gold or the Chipped Gem + Ort Rune Horadric Cube recipe.
  • With this build, we have no monsters that are fully immune to us. If we need Fire Damage, we can use Fists of Fire or Charge 1 on Phoenix Strike.
  • For Lightning Damage we can use Claws of Thunder or Charge 2 of Phoenix Strike.
  • Cold Damage is dealt with Phoenix Strike or Charge 3 of Phoenix Strike.
  • Death Sentry does both Physical and Fire Damage if needed.

Late-Game

  • Start your runs by buffing yourself with Battle Command 2 times then Battle Orders from Call to Arms.
  • Use Infinity to break Immunes and for an overall DPS increase. Your Mercenary also benefits from the increased Chance to Hit and Crushing Blow.

Breakpoints

Breakpoints in Diablo 2 are the minimum values required to reduce the frames of an action. Below are the important breakpoints considered for this build. For more information on the mechanics involved, check out our in-depth Resource: Breakpoints.

Increased Attack Speed (IAS)

Increased Attack Speed speeds up your attack animations. Weapon bases have different IAS breakpoints. Values for recommended weapon options provided below. Consult the d2planner for other bases.

Plague Greater Talons

Frames109987
Phoenix Strike Gear IAS07232660

Faster Hit Recovery (FHR)

Faster Hit Recovery (FHR) increases survivability. Aim for at least the 48% FHR Breakpoint.

Frames9876543
FHR0715274886200

Hardcore

For all Hardcore gameplay, your primary focus is increasing your Resistances, Damage Reduction, Chance to Block and Maximum Life. This can mean sacrificing overall power level for a more secure playstyle.
This build is Hardcore viable. If you are unaccustomed to this playstyle, we recommend trying this build on Softcore to gain experience on how to successfully pilot it.

Skill Point Changes

  • Put the Skill Points from Claw Mastery into Fade for Resistances and Damage Reduction.
  • Allocate at least 1 Skill Point into Weapon Block if you do not have claws with the Staff Mod.

Build Variants

Budget

Setup

The Phoenix Strike Assassin relies on specific stats such as:

Kenshi's Greater Talons grants solid base damage and are very easy to farm from Hell Anya. Wisdom Mask and the Angelic Wings + Angelic Halo combo are powerful budget options that greatly improve the build's performance.

Mercenary

Focus on giving your Mercenary Resistances and Life. Insight is a pretty easy Runeword to farm that gives a great amount of damage and Quality of Life with Meditation. Get the Might Aura Mercenary for extra damage against Immunes.

Skills

Put 1 Skill Point into each of the following Skills:
1. Burst of Speed
2. Cloak of Shadows
3. Mind Blast
4. Fade
5. Shadow Warrior
6. Dragon Flight
7. Dragon Claw
8. Dragon Talon
9. Death Sentry

Max out the following Skills in this order:
1. Phoenix Strike
2. Fists of Fire
3. Claws of Thunder
4. Blades of Ice

Attributes

Allocate enough Stat Points into Strength and Dexterity to equip your gear. Put remaining Stat Points into Vitality.

Standard

Setup

Plague Greater Talons in a nice base claw offers amazing stats and Damage! Important Breakpoints: 48% FHR.
Important stats:

Use Fade to boost your Resistances and Damage Reduction.

Mercenary

Might Aura Mercenary works well for extra damage against Immunes. Infinity Thresher pierces Resistances and even breaks some immunities. Andariel's Visage, and Fortitude provide the remaining damage and survivability needed.

Skills

Put 1 Skill Point into each of the following Skills:
1. Burst of Speed
2. Cloak of Shadows
3. Mind Blast
4. Fade
5. Shadow Warrior
6. Dragon Flight
7. Dragon Claw
8. Dragon Talon
9. Death Sentry
(If you do not have Claws with the Staff Mod)
10. Weapon Block
(If you do not have Claws with the Staff Mod)

Max out the following Skills in this order:
1. Phoenix Strike
2. Fists of Fire
3. Claws of Thunder
4. Blades of Ice
5. Claw Mastery

Use the Scroll Bar to see Skill Point Progression

Attributes

Allocate enough Stat Points into Strength and Dexterity to equip your gear. Put remaining Stat Points into Vitality.

Hardcore

Setup

Plague Runic Talons in a nice base claw offers amazing stats and Damage! Rare Boots and Rare Gloves offer a nice amount of Resistances amongst other stats. Important Breakpoints: 48% FHR.
Important stats:

Use Fade to boost your Resistances and Damage Reduction.

Mercenary

Might Aura Mercenary works well for extra damage against Immunes. Infinity Thresher pierces Resistances and even breaks some immunities. Andariel's Visage, and Fortitude provide the remaining damage and survivability needed.

Skills

Put 1 Skill Point into each of the following Skills:
1. Burst of Speed
2. Cloak of Shadows
3. Mind Blast
4. Claw Mastery
5. Shadow Warrior
6. Dragon Flight
7. Dragon Claw
8. Dragon Talon
9. Death Sentry
(If you do not have Claws with the Staff Mod)
10. Weapon Block
(If you do not have Claws with the Staff Mod)

Max out the following Skills in this order:
1. Phoenix Strike
2. Fists of Fire
3. Claws of Thunder
4. Blades of Ice
5. Fade

Use the Scroll Bar to see Skill Point Progression

Attributes

Allocate enough Stat Points into Strength and Dexterity to equip your gear. Put remaining Stat Points into Vitality.


Mechanics

Death Sentry

Death Sentry is in the unique situation, in which in combines 2 Skills (Lightning Sentry and Corpse Explosion). Both Skill effects have certain conditions in which they occur and use up remaining shots from the maximum shot count. This means that a Death Sentry with a maximum of 7 Shots can use, for example, 5 x Lightning and 2x Corpse Explosion).

  • Base amount of available shots is 5, which can be increased by putting Skill Points into Fire Blast. Every 3rd Skill Point, Death Sentry gain +1 shot to a maximum of 11 (with Fire Blast Base Skill Level 18).

The Lightning Sentry part will only be used, if there are no corpses in the sentries' awareness range (10 2/3 yards).

  • The lightning beam behaves exactly as Lightning Sentry:
    • Monsters are pierced.
    • Travels in a straight line.
    • Every monster on the travel path takes Lightning Damage.
  • Death Sentry shoots at a rate of 31 Frames per cast (Every 1.24 seconds) before they expire. This rate cannot be influenced.

The Corpse Explosion is used when there are corpses within its Awareness Range (10 2/3 yards) with the following mechanics:

  • Death Sentry shoots at a rate of 31 Frames per cast (Every 1.24 seconds) before they expire. This rate cannot be influenced.
  • The Corpse Explosion is weaker than its Necromancer counterpart, dealing only 40 - 80% of the monster's regular base Life.
  • Damage does not increase with higher player count.
  • Its damage is split into 50% Physical Damage and 50% Fire Damage.
  • When the corpse's Monster Level > Character Level the damage is multiplied by Character Level / Monster Level.
  • Within the Area of Effect, the damage is always afflicted. It cannot be blocked by any means.

Teleport

  • Teleport instantly moves you to a selected square on the visible screen in which you can stand. The game tries to to place you within a small radius around your cursor even if it would be impeded normally.
  • Teleport is not obstructed by walls or other impediments but can fail if your cursor is not completely passed those impediments when cast. Your Mercenary and Minions are teleported with you, Traps do not.
  • Certain Minions in large quantities can become “stuck” in position after teleporting. Move away from that position to give them the chance to spread out.
  • You can “extend” the visible screen by opening UI-windows like the Inventory or the Character screen. Continuously cast Teleport and drag your mouse to the edge of your screen.
  • The Mana cost of Teleport decreases with additional Skill Levels down to 1 Mana per cast.
  • You can use “ESC” to open the menu in single player to pause the game after a Teleport to determine if you are safe.

Video Guide


Summary

  • Use Phoenix Strike to build up Charges to the elemental effects you want to expend with your Finishing Move. Different combinations are expended depending on the Finisher (e.g. Dragon Claw vs Dragon Tail).
  • Place 1-2 Death Sentrys after the first monster dies to blow up the surrounding mobs with Corpse Explosion.
  • Keep your Mercenary close by for the Infinity Aura and additional DPS.
  • Utilize Dragon Flight on enemy targets for mobility, similar to Teleport.
  • Keep up Fade / Burst of Speed and Shadow Warrior at all times.
  • Handle different Immunes with Fists of Fire, Claws of Thunder, Blades of Ice and the different Charges from Phoenix Strike.
  • Cloak of Shadows, Mindblast, Shadow Master and Charge 3 of Phoenix Strike are our sources Crowd Control.
  • Battle Command + Battle Orders boost your survivability and damage output.

While Phoenix Strike may be a very niche build, the new graphical improvements and wide variety in farming spots and visual effects, make it incredibly fun! The Assassin's suite of Skills makes it a very versatile Character with easy access to powerful Crowd Control.

Good luck!


Credits

Written by BTNeandertha1
Reviewed by MacroBioBoi

Changelog

Apr 22nd 2022
Published with Patch 2.4