This guide is for the expansion set, though if you've played classic you're likely familiar with a build similar to this, though not broken like this one is. Now, before you're like wow this must be the best build ever there are of course some caveats. 1. You won't kill super quickly. Your kill speed is fine for a few players, but you're not going to solo 8 player games that quickly. 2. You can't pick up anything, though you have zero MF so it's really not going to matter much. 3. People are going to tell you your build sucks, because they don't know how to play D2. 4. You won't be able to wear your ideal gear until 85 and won't be super viable until the mid-90's.
So without rambling on further, the build:
20 Frozen Orb
rest into cold mastery (max at 99).
You're wanting tank gear, and the gear you want is probably not the gear you're used to. You want the following stats: integer damage reduction, magic damage reduction, FHR, DR, resist, block, sorb/stack. Lol does this even do damage? Actually yes. My sorceress does 360/bolt. While this isn't an enormous amount compared to your 1,200+ pvp orb sorcs, it works fine for PvM.
There are plenty of gear choices with these stats but I've been using the following setup for a few levels now and it's working out well:
Helm: Artisan's Diadem of Life Everlasting (25 integer DR, 3 sockets, Ber Ber Ber)
Chest: The Gladiator's Bane (Ber)
Belt: Thundergod's Vigor
Amulet: Arch Angel's amulet of Life Everlasting (+2 sorc, 25 integer DR), prefix doesn't matter much here. Mana is fun too.
Shield: Gerke's Sanctuary (Ber), if you can get one a prepatch safety shield would rule.
Rings: 2x Dwarf Star
Boots: Treks, if you can get them prepatch boots are cool too.
Weapon: Wizardspike, fhr/@res jewel, stats are good too. Switch: I use memory, everyone else has BO anyway.
Charms: Add scs to hit 86FHR Breakpoint, 70 resist all OVER the hell cap, dex for max block, str to wear gear, and all in energy. Torch/Anni then fill your inventory with life scs.
Fort, Andy's (FR/IAS jewel), Insight.
You're basically going to regen mana faster than you can take damage to it (like 1150% mana regen), and you're not going to take damage versus many enemies at all. I've tanked ancients, crazy packs of multiple uniques, and bosses for fun. I've survived mobs that have total party killed full Baal games, and I haven't died after equipping gear and not afk leeching to 85. I should probably just play Hardcore.
I'm approaching 98 atm, legit ofc, so I'm looking forward to actually doing my Baal quests and being able to rush people on my character.
So why is this so broken?
Well, most monsters don't actually deal much damage per hit. While rare packs of uniques can deal ~500 per hit, you're going to find ~100 is the common range for most monsters in the game and that damage is reduced to zero. Let's work with 500 though, physical damage only:
75% chance to just block it. NOTE: always walk.
90% of damage absorbed by energy shield. (50 left)
50 damage absorbed by PDR, zero damage taken.
Or without ES:
75% chance to block
~85 absorbed by PDR (415 left)
40% absorbed by DR (249 left) (of course with a 75% chance to block it anyway. But it gets even better.
Monsters that do this kind of damage are generally of the type or unique with mods that makes them do both a type of magic damage and physical damage; so you're MDR and PDR are both applied to the attack. In addition, if the damage overflows one; say all magic damage is absorbed by MDR, a bug in the game makes the MDR absorb physical damage at its full amount so you take even less. I just tank dolls while friends kill. They're totally harmless.
I hope you have fun with this not so cookie cutter build and let me know how it goes. I'm happy to offer hints or help for anyone who asks, or show you my character in-game on USEast.
You're basically going to regen mana faster than you can take damage to it (like 1150% mana regen), and you're not going to take damage versus many enemies at all.
There's at least one important exception: due to a bug, Mana Burn Unique monsters (and their minions in Nightmare and Hell) apply 256 times more mana damage when it's applied by a melee attack. In level 85 areas of Hell, even with level 35 ES if you have less than 7,392 mana, then even a single melee hit from a minion will drain all your mana and your Energy Shield will expire; obviously you can cast ES again, but equally obviously the next melee hit will do exactly the same thing. ~1/4 random Unique monsters in Hell will have the MB bonus, and any Super Unique monster with two or three bonuses already will have an even better chance of having it, so while this isn't commonplace it isn't unusual either.
Well, most monsters don't actually deal much damage per hit. While rare packs of uniques can deal ~500 per hit, you're going to find ~100 is the common range for most monsters in the game and that damage is reduced to zero.
It's not limited to Unique monsters, or even Champions: for example, a bog-standard Unholy Corpse in the Worldstone Keep Level 1 in Hell applies ~214-432 damage when charging, increasing to ~304-619 in an eight-player Ladder or Single Player game; there's 5% chance of a critical hit doubling this damage, and it always hits and cannot be blocked.
Monsters that do this kind of damage are generally of the type or unique with mods that makes them do both a type of magic damage and physical damage; so you're MDR and PDR are both applied to the attack. In addition, if the damage overflows one; say all magic damage is absorbed by MDR, a bug in the game makes the MDR absorb physical damage at its full amount so you take even less.
Only excess MDR is applied to physical damage (albeit after DR %). Based on the equipment you list, maximum MDR 68 is applied. In level 85 areas of Hell, Unique monsters with elemental enchantments apply 66-100 fire, lightning or cold damage, while their minions apply 33-50. In the absence of ES, this will rarely result in any excess against the Unique, but against minions MDR 16-35 would normally be applied to any physical damage left after DR 40%.
Of course, when ES absorbs 90% of this damage to life, 66-100 is reduced to ~6.6-10 and 33-50 is reduced to ~3.3-5, greatly increasing excess MDR applied to any remaining physical damage.
I just tank dolls while friends kill. They're totally harmless.
In the Throne of Destruction in Hell, a Unique Undead Soul Killer and its 3-6 minions each apply 307.5-513 physical damage within 3 1/3 yard radius upon death, with 5% chance of a critical hit doubling this. 25% of random Unique Undead Soul Killers will be Mana Burn, which will almost certainly drain your mana completely with a single hit and drop your ES.
You still have maximum DR 86 and DR 40%, after which each death explosion applies ~132.9-256.2 physical damage. If you get a little unlucky with maximum 75% chance of blocking, then two explosions will apply ~265.8-512.4, or one critical hit will apply 318-564.6.
If you're cursed with Amplify Damage (DR -100%) by this or another Cursed Unique at the time (it'll last for almost a minute (59 seconds) in level 85 areas), or any Hell Witch or Oblivion Knight, then maximum DR 86 and DR -60% result in each death explosion applying ~354.4-683.2 physical damage (~708.8-1,366.4 for two), or ~846.4-1,504 for one critical hit.
If you've invested in Energy at the expense of Vitality and you aren't buffed by Battle Orders or Oak Sage, then it's likely that kind of damage will either kill you outright or finish you off.
It really doesn't take damage tanking dolls it's quite hilarious.
I've no doubt this is true while Energy Shield is up, and you don't necessarily go all the way from hero to zero when it goes down due to melee Mana Burn, but I thought it was worth pointing out that there are still situations in which you could average more than 1,000 total damage even after your remaining defences, and while these aren't common they aren't unusual enough to be totally harmless.
See that's what I thought doing the numbers myself when I initially made this character but after thousands of runs it just hasn't happened. I had to juv/s&e out of 1 situation with 3 unique packs. the mob needs mana burn/extra strong/amp to see to do much at all to me. I don't have a good mathematical explanation for this. Perhaps it's the order mana damage is applied? is it applied after the normal damage? my orb regens to full in ~1 second. Is it possible that mana draining attacks simply don't break ES? I'll need to test this but it is really sturdier than I thought it would be.
According to my notes on Energy Shield, redirected damage is applied before mana damage, and if there's sufficient mana to absorb redirected damage but mana damage subsequently results in 0 mana, redirected damage is absorbed in full beforehand. Hmmm...
Mana regenerates from empty to full in ~120 seconds or 2 minutes, so total Regenerate Mana 1,067% (700% level 17 Meditation, 342% level 27 Warmth and 25% Magefist) should result in 11.67 times mana regeneration and reduce that to ~10.3 (120/11.67) seconds. This is also what I observed in the game, so I'm not sure how you're regenerating in ~1 second unless it's not from empty, there's some sort of lag or you're drinking mana or rejuvenation potions at the same time.
However, I've done some preliminary tests which indicate even overwhelming mana damage doesn't always cause Energy Shield to expire, and I suspect you're right about Energy Shield not expiring unless redirected damage itself reduces mana to zero. This may mean that as long as you regenerate enough mana between hits to absorb redirected damage in full, ES may not expire even if (massive) mana damage subsequently reduces mana to zero.
It's been a few years since I tested ES, but when I did I think I eliminated mana regeneration (by modifying Meditation to apply Regenerate Mana -100%) so that I could measure mana loss accurately, so mana regeneration may also be a factor. I'll do more testing when I get a chance over this weekend to see if I can come to a firmer conclusion.
Thanks for the offer, but I wouldn't be able to see your mana globe (or health globe) and I could replicate your Sorceress pretty easily in Single Player based on the information you've already supplied (although exact life and mana aren't posted).
Testing in SP, I've found that even in the absence of mana damage and damage reduction (other than Energy Shield), even a Sorceress with 5 mana (minimum to cast ES without modifying that as well) and base mana regeneration can sustain more than enough damage to reduce mana to zero without ES dropping immediately. However, it won't provide the same protection if there's insufficient mana to absorb the redirected damage (so this isn't just a graphical glitch), and it may still go down after subsequent hits.
While searching the Phrozen Keep, I came across this post by Nefarius:
Not that I know of, although the ES code is so bugged that this is the least you should worry about.
There's nothing further, I haven't found more detail elsewhere and I'm not particularly motivated to try to work it out empirically without further coding guidance, so I'll leave it at that.