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Improving Acolyte Skills: Sacrifice and Drain Life

Both of these skills are very rarely used, even though both of them have a very decent niche for Necromancer builds: Sacrifice can synergize with all sorts of minion “on-death” effects such as Skeleton’s “Immortal” + “Empty the Grave,” while Drain Life is one of the few Necrotic-based single-target spells Necromancer has access to, as Death Seal is exclusive to the Lich, and the Health Leech is decent if you’re playing a caster Necromancer. I have not seen any discussion on any of these skills other than “they’re bad,” so I wanted to give my hand in some ways to improve these two.

Sacrifice has a ton of synergy within the Necromancer tree, especially with Volatile Zombies having a chance to Sacrifice a nearby minion when it explodes. One of the best things about it is that Sacrifice counts as “your hit,” so that you can apply things like “Fire Resistance shred per hit.” It is a 2-year old tree, so there’s barely any synergy within the Sacrifice skill tree itself, so I wanted to propose some ways to better synergize the skill.

Blood Spectres

In my opinion, the Blood Spectres from Sacrifice should be replaced with the Blood Spectres from the Harvest tree. There are simply too many mandatory nodes in the Harvest tree to really specialize in the Blood Spectres (you’d like, at the very least, the Skull stacks for minion buffs, the Necrotic shred, the increased Crit chance for yourself so that you can use the minion Critical chance nodes), so giving Sacrifice the Blood Spectres would allow you to summon minions with a lot of flat Necrotic damage and a lot of increased Critical Strike chance.

Fire Damage

The Fire damage seems to be tacked on, and there’s little that you can do to have it synergize with other Fire minions. There’s not even a full conversion, just adding some flat Fire damage. Worse off, you’re spending 3 points on a simple 100% chance to ignite, when many other skills can provide 200% easily for similar point cost. The best synergy I can think of is having a chance to apply Infernal Shade on an enemy when Sacrifice is used, especially as Infernal Shade can be used for both Fire/Ignite and Physical/Bleed.

Drain Life has the problem of doing far too little damage to be useful as a single-target ability (as opposed to Sentinel skills that give flat damage per Vitality, Drain Life only has a small Intelligence boost). Also, the entire Contempt node is practically worthless, as well as the draining minion aspect of it now that there are no longer 100+ Wraith builds. Since there is a big opportunity cost to channeling skills, it would be nice to provide some real benefits to replace the “Contempt” line of skill nodes.

Curse Application

This may be wishcasting on my part, but it’d be nice if Drain Life can apply curses like Spirit Plague onto the enemy, as you can’t spam Spirit Plague itself since it only does 1 tick per second, so you need to find a way to apply single-target burst damage. Having Drain Life apply Spirit Plague would help Drain Life be more of an AoE clear ability while simultaneously boost the single-target portion of it since Spirit Plague scales well with Intelligence. Additionally, Spirit Plague provides a nice global damage over time buff, which would help Drain Life increase its single-target damage.

Minion Sustain

There are already more than enough ways to kill off your minions, so I would propose a way for Drain Life’s sustain to also heal up your minions as well. It would work great for hybrid caster/minion builds who can’t afford spending too much in having equipment affixes like Minion Health. There is already synergy with minions attempting to provide Damned (Necrotic damage over time), so maybe there’s a way to code it as “Drain Life can target your minions, but heals them over time using your Health Leech. You can only target 1 enemy using Drain Life.” That way, you’re using Drain Life to “connect” with your minions, while the minion leech is balanced by only applying to the amount of Drain Life targets - 1 (So that, realistically, you’re only healing up to 5 minions, for example).

Death Seal is virtually the only offensive skill that is Lich exclusive, since Reaper Form is not a damage skill itself.

Necromancer has access to the same offensive spells as Lich, be it necrotic or physical ones.

Unholy Mass (more damage per Damned stack on the target) is really good
Lay Waste (40% more dmg, but no baseline leech) also gives a huge damage boost

I would agree that Drain Life is mostly used for AoE clear, but you can very much use it as a single target ability, you will most likely pair that with some passive damage over time, like Wandering Spirits and Spirit Plague on top though.

The new vitality flat damage scaling is really strong, but it’s main purpose is to give VK’s the option to play with a non-caster weapo nand still scale spells.

Virtually every other skills, except some very few outliers get 4% increased dmg per attribute.
If you want to scale damage, attribute stacking is not the main source of damage anyway.

You don’t need 100 Minions to make Grim Harvest (Drain Minions for Mana) worth. Even 2 or 3 minions can make you sustain some other spender, like Voaltile Zombies or Wraiths.

The entire contept branch is really powerful and should not be replaced IMO.
The big downsides of channel skills is standing still, but the defensive properties together with the guaranteed stun is really powerful

What I meant by that is that there are multiple Acolyte skills that scale far better with Lich than Necromancer because of the different passives and synergies that you get by being a Lich. Reaper form gives a ton of damage bonuses, mobility, and an extra Health bar. Death Seal allows for things like give off Hungering Souls, which allows you to invest more in the single-Soul node tree and give off damage that way.

Necromancer, on the other hand, has few spells that synergize with minions outside of outright killing them. There’s a few skills that have “more damager per minion you have,” but the more minion skills you have, the more gearing conflicts with each other (taking Volatile Zombies means that you’d want to invest in Volatile Zombie gearing, Skeletons require their own gearing, and so forth)

That’s the set-up I have now. Spirit Plague doing most of the clear, Drain Life doing single-target, and Wandering Spirits for the Necrotic Resist shred and mana regeneration. Wandering Spirits just move so slow that I have a hard time seeing them actually hit enemies that I want, meaning that fighting bosses like Oorobyss and Necrotic resistant enemies takes ages to kill.

It’d be nice if Bone Curse had something like “4% increased Curse effect per point of Intelligence” as I’ve tried using it alongside Spirit Plague, but I had the same problem of not having enough single target damage. Drain Life was really the only thing that gave me enough damage to proceed past Majasa.

That’s the thing - if you’re playing full minions, then Summon Skeleton’s “Mana on kill” gives you much more bang for your buck. If you’re not going full minions, then Wandering Spirits does far better as a Mana regenerator. Then there are whole sorts of skills that give mana - Rip Blood, Transplant, Soul Feast, Hungering Souls. There’s just little reason overall to use Drain Life specifically for draining your minions.

As for the contempt branch, killing things faster has a far better impact on survivability than that particular node. I understand that guaranteed stun is powerful, but without any damage, you eventually just run out of Mana and you’re back to square 1 again. Hence it’d be nice to find ways to better synergize with Drain Life so it can be a good damage-dealer.

That’s because the Lich is a caster archetype and the Necro is a summoner. Are you complaining that the caster mastery has more dps spells than the minion mastery? You could build them the other way round but they’d be less effective due to less passive support (like a 2h melee Rogue).

It would be nice to see a new tree for Sacrifice.

Apart from a few skill specific prefixes on the chest/helm/relic and idols the gearing for Skellies and Zombies would be identical, minion HP, minion damage & maybe minion regen.

Mobs have no resists and I can’t think of any base types that are resistant to necrotic but if there are it’s likely to only be 1.

Bone Curse already gets 4% damage per int, the “only” thing a 4% curse effect would do differently is increase the:

  • damage your minions take if you take that node
  • armour shred
  • ailments (bleed, chill, freeze)
  • duration
  • cull

In order for these to be kept to reasonable values, they’d need a nerf to the tune of a factor of 4 to keep the Necro version inline (since the Necro can get up to ~80 int → 320% curse effect → x4.2 times the effect) which would screw over the Lich version.

I’m saying that there is both passive and gear support for both caster Necromancer (%increased spell damage per Skeletal Mage) and minion Lich (the passive that gives 20 melee and spell necrotic damage to minions), but most skills don’t have the proper synergy to take advantage of this (with the exception of Harvest, which has too many minion nodes that you can’t take advantage of all of them at once).

A good number of node paths are inherently weaker than the standard paths (which is why they’re standard in the first place), and I like figuring out exactly how these unconventional paths go short and what they can do to be improved. Who knows, with creative enough ideas, we can campaign for a Unique / Legendary that ties it all together to make unique ideas work. After all, there are 2 “Bee”-related Legendaries that are going to be part of the game, even when few people have tried to make Bees a real thing.

I’ve tried looking around the Builds section to see what a stronger Bone Curse would look like. Bone Curse only has around 20% added spell effectiveness, though I assume that’s for every hit you and your minions do, which makes it strong if you’re having a ton of attacks per second.

I thought there was an “initial hit” part of the Curse that was raised by INT, but then a separate Curse part of it that does things like “increased damage taken” like Mark of Death does, but it looks like that’s not the case at all. Some skills are simply more “intuitive” than others, and it’s nearly impossible to get the hang of certain skills without doing a good amount of training dummy work to get the more intricate parts of a skill down.

Don’t forget, that bone curse hit’s that are triggerd by yourself, are 3 times as effective.

The major problem I have with Sacrifice, and why I don’t ever use it, is that it doesn’t stand alone. There’s probably a really strong personal preference factor there, but having to summon a bunch of minions first before I can cast it just does not feel good to me. Sure, there are a couple of nodes that make Skeletons and Wraiths summon more than one at a time, but my feeling is that if I’m gonna use that, I’d rather just run Mages to cast Sacrifice - weaker, but faster, more often, and with better targeting - so my attention isn’t split.

It’s not just worthless, it’s deceptively worthless, and I think that’s worse. It seems like it could be good but it’s actually a big f’ing trap.

Three seconds is a really long time to be channeling on any given mob. If it’s not a boss or a big chunker, and you’re taking three seconds or longer to kill it, you definitely shouldn’t be giving up damage nodes to take Contempt. So, it’s really only going to be in play for boss fights and sometimes briefly during trash clear? But then, you can only gain a single stack from a single target, and you lose all stacks when you stop channeling. So it’s just an absolute dumpster as a standalone node. They do give you Enduring Contempt, but four points to make a single point node barely usable is a pretty awful value proposition.

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