The Summonmancer (a.k.a. Zookeeper, Overlord, Skelemancer, Skeletor, Lord of Mages, Summoner) is a build for the Necromancer that relies on a large number of minions to overwhelm and deal damage to enemies. The role of the player in this build is to support his army by inflicting enemies with curses, replacing fallen minions and by casting Corpse Explosion. When partying with other players, the Summonmancer enhances their strengths by casting appropriate curses on enemies and distracting foes with his minions.
The Summonmancer build is quite effective thanks to the synergies added in Patch 1.10. Prior to this patch, maxed out skeletons were weak. The Summonmancer frequently relied on revive monster skill because the monster's life scaled with the amount of players in the map. If there were eight players, the summoned monster's life would be eight times greater.
Since version 1.10, skeletons and skeleton magi became much more effective. With an Act II Offensive mercenary from Nightmare giving an aura, the skeleton army became quite powerful. It is even able to last until Hell in Act V, although Hell is generally the point at which having optimized equipment becomes necessary.
The Summonmancer had certain complimentary skills. This build can generally get away with no energy, so points will go towards enough strength to use equipment, enough dexterity to use Homunculus for max block (roughly 193), with all remaining points spent on vitality. Even though the Iron Maiden curse might seem good for this build, it will not make his minions last long. In Hell mode Act V, the minions die from enemies, so skeleton mastery and items that give +skill are needed to keep them alive. Decrepify is a great curse for a summoning necromancer when fighting Act bosses because it decreases the boss' damage output by slowing them down and in some cases, allow their attacks to be interrupted. Using a good blocking shield with high dexterity is recommended - the percentage-based block chance scales naturally, unlike skills such as Bone Armor.
The Summonmancer provides an excellent meat shield. If the Summonmancer has maxed out skeleton skills, and the proper plus-skill equipment, they can have 13+ skeleton warriors and 13+ skeleton mages (Thirteen is a typical average although up to seventeen has been proven possible, with a fully optimized +26 to summoning skills with grand charms). This vast number of minions acts as a multi-faceted tank, absorbing the damage. Since there are so many minions, it is easy for companion players to avoid getting hurt.
A drawback in online play of a Summonmancer is the lag, giving it the alternate name of the Lagromancer because of the amount of minions on screen forces all computers synchronized to slow down to the speed of the slowest computer. This is a less of a problem now, for three reasons. First, there were early bugs that caused serious slowdown with lots of minions but they were fixed. Second, computers are much faster now than in Diablo 2's early days. Third, patch 1.10 reduced the number of skeletons by about a third while scaling up their power. Most players do not have problems with the large number of skeletons, as they contribute greatly to the party and in their current numbers, are generally much less than the enemies the party faces. It should also be noted, that too many minions/spells/projectiles at once affects Frame rate, which when low enough, simulates lag.
Core Summonmancer Starting Guide
When starting a new Summonmancer, put your first skill point into Raise Skeleton and your second into Amplify Damage. Pump Raise Skeleton while putting any extra into Skeleton Mastery. At level 6 learn Clay Golem. Put the rest of your points into Raise Skeleton, then Skeletal Mastery. Initially you will get greater returns per skill point by pumping Mastery, but once it hits level 15 the percentage increase to damage from Raise Skeleton will become greater and will also increase your army size. At the same time place one point into the following utility skills as they become available: Terror, Dim Vision, Decrepify (which will be your primary curse against bosses in Nightmare and Hell), Summon Resist, and Revive.
With respecialization added to the game, the summoner starting guide is an excellent guide for any starter necro since leveling with a summoner is gear independent and easy to do solo.
- 20 Raise Skeleton
- 20 Skeleton Mastery
- 1 Clay Golem
- 1 Blood Golem
- 1 Iron Golem
- 1 Golem Mastery
- 1 Summon Resist
- 1 Revive
- 1 Amplify Damage
- 1 Terror
- 1 Dim Vision
- 1 Decrepify
- 1 Teeth
- 1 Corpse Explosion
- Total Spent (including Prerequisites): 52
- Remaining: 48
Due to some of the limitation of classic Diablo II gameplay (mainly the lack of a powerful hireling and items), creating a skeleton army becomes considerably more difficult, especially in Act IV. That is why the Necromancer has to use an extra skill to kill his first few monsters. This is best done with Bone Spear or Bone Spirit - spare as many skill points for these as possible.
Another option is using the Confuse or Attract curse, which causes monsters to fight each other. This is a more difficult strategy, yet it requires spending fewer additional skill points than Bone Spear/Spirit.
Once the skeleton army is up, gameplay proceeds the same way as in Expansion.
- Max Corpse Explosion to maximize its effective range and maximize potential damage output of the build. Explosions deal half fire and half physical damage. Keep in mind that the mana cost will rise considerably, so always carry a few Mana Potions with you.
- Max Raise Skeletal Mage to add a mix of elemental damage including a very long duration poison to shut down regeneration on tougher mobs. The cold magi can be very useful against Act Bosses, as they slow them down.
- Max Golem of your choice and Golem Mastery for a 'pure' summoner at the cost of damage output.
- Put a few points into Dim Vision for a very cheap, very effective counter to powerful ranged enemies with a massive radius.
- Add Lower Resist to the repertoire of curses to help party members who depend on elemental damage. This curse has the capability of breaking immunities
- Learn to maximize curse usage. Although Amplify Damage will likely be the curse used most often, there are situations where Life Tap, Lower Resist and Decrepify have their place, even in Hell difficulty.
Things to avoid:
- Lower Resist should only ever have 1 point at most due to severe diminishing returns.
- Magic damage bone skills like Bone Spear or Bone Spirit without full synergies will be very weak and much less mana efficient than Corpse Explosion.
- Additional points in Amplify Damage or other curses where the only change with level is radius. There's absolutely no reason to spend points on a skill rather than just cast it twice. Dim Vision is an exception due to the fact that hitting targets well off of the screen is a huge benefit with that curse while for other curses is just a waste.
- Summon Resist has steep diminishing returns. Often, just one or two points are enough for it.
- Corpse Explosion does have increased mana consumption as the skill increases so adding points too early can be detrimental and counter productive. An Insight for the mercenary can be very helpful.
Summoner Necromancers are quite gear independent. Often, a player stacks all the +skill gear, summons their army, then swap to magic find gear. Minions may get lost due to the lower maximum number of minions, but the remaining minions are still the level they were summoned at and should be strong enough to deal with nearly any monster in the game.
A Summonmancer generally relies on items with a lot of +skill bonuses, which enable him to create more powerful skeletons.
- Weapon: Wand with the Golemlord's prefix, Carin Shard, Arm of King Leoric, Heart of the Oak, Beast (for switch), Call to Arms (buffing), Spirit
- Armor: Trang-Oul's Scales, Enigma
- Helm: Harlequin Crest or Andariel's Visage
- Boots: Marrowwalk, Sandstorm Trek
- Shield: Homunculus, Spirit, Boneflame, Darkforce Spawn
- Belt: Arachnid Mesh
- Gloves: Magefist, Trang-Oul's Claws
- Rings: Stone of Jordan, Bul-Kathos' Wedding Band
- Amulet: Mara's Kaleidoscope
- Charm: Necromancer Hellfire Torch, Annihilus, +1 Summon Skill Grand Charms