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Whirlwind Assassin Guide

Introduction

Do you love the spin to win playstyle of whirlwind but the Barbarian isn’t your cup of tea? Try out the Whirlwind Assassin as one of the few builds that can successfully use a damaging Skill from a different Class. In this case, the Assassin steals the iconic Barbarian Skill whirlwind and calls it her own through the Claw-exclusive Runeword Chaos.

Along with Whirlwind she uses the powerful Corpse Explosions of Death Sentry to deal devastating Area of Effect (AoE) damage.

Whether you want to clear out whole areas or simply hunt Elite Monsters, this guide has you covered.

Note: Be aware that this build is very item dependent. It requires quite a bit of investment, especially on your Charm Inventory.

Ideal Standard Setup
Whirlwind
Death Sentry
Teleport
Fade

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 ✔
Fast Paced ✔
Unique Playstyle ✔
Rewards Excellent Gameplay ✔

❌ Very Gear Dependent
❌ Dangerous Melee Combat
❌ Not The Best Act Boss Killer
❌ Very Technical And Difficult Gameplay



Sunder Charm Setup

This build does not benefit from the new Sunder Charm because the Assassin cannot apply any additional -x% Damage Reduction to enemies herself. Her Mercenary can apply Decrepify or Amplify Damage, but this is too unreliable to farm areas with monsters Immune to Physical. It also becomes much harder to survive with the Whirlwind Assassin playstyle.


Terror Zones

The new Terror Zone mechanic opens up a wide range of farmable areas. Since this build doesn't benefit from Sunder Charms, the best and worse Terror Zones apply to all variants. Learn more about Terror Zones here and see how they stack up in our Terror Zone Tier List.

Best

The Secret Cow Level - High Density, No Immunities
Flayer Jungle + Flayer Dungeon - High Density, Low-Life enemies, No Immunities
Tristram - High Density, No Immunities, Many Elite Groups
Catacombs ONLY - High Density, Many Elite Groups, Bosses
Pit - High Density, No Immunities

Worst

Arcane Sanctuary - Immunities, Trash Mobility, Few Elite Groups, Tanky enemies
Durance of Hate - Low Density, Trash Mobility, Few Elite Groups, Tanky enemies
Worldstone Keep + Throne of Destruction - Immunities, High Physical Damage, High Elemental Damage
River of Flame + City of the Damned - Trash Mobility, Few Elite Groups, Tanky enemies
Ancients' Way + Icy Cellar - High Physical Damage, Hard to Leech Life


Skills

Put 1 Skill Point into each of the following Skills:
1. Cloak of Shadows
2. Mindblast

Max out the following Skills in this order:
1. Claw Mastery
2. Weapon Block
3. Fade
4. Death Sentry
5. Fire Blast (Only to Level 18)
6. Remaining Skill Points into Venom

Use the Scroll Bar to see Skill Point Progression

Damage

Whirlwind* is your main Damage Skill. The Character spins around, "phases" through monsters, and deals damage to everything around them. While active, you cannot consume Potions or change anything in your Inventory.

Venom* adds powerful Poison Damage to your attacks. This Damage over Time (DOT) deals with Physical Immune monsters for us.

Death Sentry* is used as a secondary damage source in all versions. Its damage comes from casting Corpse Explosion on slain monsters.

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

Utility

Fade* provides you with a massive boost in Damage Reduction %, All Resistances, and Curse length reduction.

Mindblast* stuns your enemies in a small squared-shaped 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* can be a real lifesaver. For a period of time, the area around the Assassin becomes extremely dark and blinds enemies. This drastically decreases their aggro range and their Defense.

Weapon Block* provides an alternative way to block attacks when dual-wielding Claws.

Claw Mastery* increases your damage, Critical Strike chance and Attack Rating when using Claws.

* 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

Do not allocate any Stat Points into Energy. Mana costs are covered by “x% Mana Stolen per Hit” or “+x Mana after each Kill” on gear.


Miscellaneous

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 review the recommended Items and more easily identify the Most Important Stats on them.

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

Gear/Base Notes: Any Items with specialized or niche uses have a superscript that refer to a Note listed here.
1) This is the build enabling item that cannot be replaced. Feral Claw is the best base, but other claws can be an option too. +1x% Enhanced Damage is desirable as a Superior Mod.
2) Only used in full Natalya's Odium setup!
3) Only used in combination with the other Angelic Jewelry piece.

SlotItem OptionsDesirable Stats
WeaponChaos1+x% Enhanced Damage
+x to Weapon Block
+x to Death Sentry
+x to Venom
Off-HandShadow Killer (Jewel)
Jade Talon (Jewel)
Chaos
Rare Claws (Jewel)
Natalya's Mark (Jewel)2
+x% Enhanced Damage
Ignore Target's Defense
+x to Weapon Block
+x to Death Sentry
+x to Venom
x% Mana stolen per hit
All Resistances +x
+x to Mana after each Kill
Repairs 1 Durability in x seconds
Ethereal
Sockets (x)
Weapon-SwapCall to Arms+x to All Skills
+x to battlecommand
+x to battleorders
+x to battlecry
Off-Hand-SwapSpirit Monarch+x to All Skills
HelmetsGuillaume's Face (Jewel)
Crown of Ages
Kira's Guardian
Vampire Gaze
Rare Helmet
Natalya's Totem (Jewel)2
+x to Character Skills
+x% Enhanced Damage
+x% Mana stolen per hit
+x% Life stolen per hit
x% Chance of Crushing Blow
All Resistances +x
Damage Reduced by x%
x% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items
Socketed [x]
Body ArmorEnigma Mage Plate
Fortitude
Chains of Honor
Duress
Guardian Angel
Natalya's Shadow (3x Jewel)2
+x to All Skills
+x% Faster Hit Recovery
+x% Enhanced Damage
+x% Damage to Demons
+x to Teleport
+x to Life
X Resist +x%
+x% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items
GlovesLaying of Hands
Trang-Oul's Claws
Blood Crafted Gloves
Rare Gloves
+x% Increased Attack Speed
x% Bonus to Attack Rating
+x% Damage to Demons
x% Chance of Crushing Blow
+x to Strength / Dexterity
BeltsString of Ears
Verdungo's Hearty Cord
Trang-Oul's Girth
Thundergod's Vigor
Arachnid Mesh
Goldwrap
+x to All Skills
+x% Faster Hit Recovery
+x% Life stolen per hit
+x to Vitality
Damage Reduced by x%
x% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items
BootsWar Traveler
Shadow Dancer
Waterwalk
Sandstorm Trek
Gore Rider
Natalya's Soul2
+x% Faster Run/Walk
+x% Faster Hit Recovery
Adds x-X damage

X Resist +x%
All Resistances +x
x% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items
AmuletsHighlord's Wrath
Metalgrid
Angelic Wings3
+x to All Skills
+x to Attack Rating
X Resist +x%
All Resistances +x
RingsRaven Frost Ring
Wisp Projector
Angelic Halo3
Crafted Ring
Rare Ring
+x to Strength / Dexterity
+x to Attack Rating
X Absorb x%
Cannot Be Frozen
CharmsGrand Charm
Large Charm
Small Charm
+x% Faster Run / Walk
+x% Faster Hit Recovery
+x to Maximum Damage
+x to Attack Rating
+x to Attribute
+ Life
X Resist +x%
x% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items
Unique CharmsGheed's Fortune
Hellfiretorch (Assassin)
Annihilus
+x to Assassin Skill Levels
+x to all Attributes
All Resistances +xx%
x% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items

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
Pit-All Item Types
Max Area Level
Leveling
Andariel-Uniques
Sets
Jewelry

Act 2

AreaStarterRewards
Ancient Tunnels-All Item Types
Max Area Level
Leveling

Act 3

AreaStarterRewards
TravincalGearing
Runes
Charms / Gems / Jewels
Gold
Mephisto
(Durance of Hate Level 3)
-Uniques
Sets

Act 4

AreaStarterRewards
River of Flame-All Item Types
Max Area Level
Leveling
Chaos SanctuaryAll 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
Nihlathak-Key of Destruction
Leveling
(Level 97-99)
Worldstone Keep / Throne of DestructionAll Item Types
Max Area Level
Leveling
Baal / WavesUniques
Sets
Max Area Level
Leveling
(Baal for Level 97-99)

Mercenary

Your Mercenary can serve an incredibly important role to the overall success of your build. Whether it’s serving as a front line tank, bringing a pivotal Aura to your arsenal, or employing Physical Damage to kill monsters with an Immunity to your skillset.

Act 2 Desert Mercenary

The Act 2 Desert Mercenary can be 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 Reaper's Toll

Reaper’s Toll, Might

We recommend the Might Aura version, as it provides us with a significant damage boost to our Physical Damage attacks.
The Reaper’s Toll has a 33% Chance to cast Decrepify on striking, which slows your enemies down as well as increase any Physical Damage dealt to them. Decrepify can also break some Physical Immunities (Immunities Resource).

Gear Progression

Early-GameMid-GameEnd-Game
Insight
(any Polearm)
Insight
(Elite Polearm)
The Reaper’s Toll (Ethereal)
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
(Ethereal)

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

Playstyle

General

  • Buff yourself with Burst of Speed and proceed to your farming location of choice.
  • Switch the buff to Fade and approach your targets.

Density Clearing

  • Pull together enemies to create density for your Death Sentry Traps.
  • Lay down 2-3 Death Sentry Traps before jumping into battle. They are the key ingredient for blowing up big monster groups.
  • Engage the mobs with Whirlwind. Ideally you just spin through the middle dealing as much damage as possible, but there are scenarios you need to be careful in:
    • When faced with Mana Burn or high damage melee attacking monsters, use Whirlwind on the edge of the density.
    • When faced with numerous ranged enemies, use Cloak of Shadows to blind them or Mindblast to convert some of them. This decreases the damage you take during Whirlwind. Remember - You cannot use Potions while spinning!

Boss Farming

  • When engaging bosses, use Whirlwind in small triangles around them. This gives you moments to use your Potions if necessary. The main goal is to reduce the time “spinning into the void” (Not hitting anything of importance).

Immunities

  • When you are fighting in the recommended farming spots, you won't face many Physical Immune monsters. Death Sentry's Corpse Explosion deals 50% Fire Damage and can dispose of any you encounter.
  • Chaos also provides you with some Magic Damage and you gain Poison Damage from Venom.
  • Your Mercenary uses The Reaper's Toll which has a chance for Decrepify on hit, which often removes the Physical Immunity.

Late Game

  • Cast Battle Command twice and [/d2planner-skill]Battle Orders[/d2planner-skill] in your Weapon Swap before engaging in combat. Refresh these buffs as soon as they run out.
  • Use Teleport in your Weapon Swap. Your damage setup does not have any Faster Cast Rate, which feels terrible.

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.

Faster Cast Rate (FCR)

Faster Cast Rate (FCR) is not required for this build, but early breakpoints can be utilized. Note: FCR only controls the animation speed of the Character, and not any internal Cooldowns spells have.

Frames161514131211109
FCR0816274265102174

Increased Attack Speed (IAS)

Increased Attack Speed (IAS) speeds up your attack animations. Weapon bases have different IAS breakpoints. Values for recommended weapon options provided below. Consult the d2planner for other bases. You reach the highest Breakpoint of every Claw with the recommended gear.

Frames864
Gear IAS - Weapon Speed Modifier -20 / -30000
Gear IAS - Weapon Speed Modifier -10003
Gear IAS - Weapon Speed Modifier 00013
Gear IAS - Weapon Speed Modifier 100123

Faster Hit Recovery (FHR)

Faster Hit Recovery (FHR) increases survivability. Aim for at least the 27% FHR Breakpoint.

Frames9876543
FHR0715274886200

Hardcore

For all Hardcore gameplay, your primary concern 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.


Build Variants

Starter

Setup

Getting the Whirlwind Assassin started is already a somewhat expensive endeavor. Chaos is the build-enabling item. Jade Talon is a well-rounded Off-Hand that helps with Resistances and Mana recovery. Make sure to put a Shael Rune into it to reach the highest Attack Speed Breakpoints!

The Angelic Ring + Amulet combination gives you a much-needed boost in Attack Rating. Laying of Hands, Duress, and Charms with +x to Maximum Damage, Attack Rating and Life bring you up to a decent amount of damage.

Raven Frost (or any other source of Cannot Be Frozen) is required for this build to feel smooth because it relies on its Attack Speed. With all of this out of the way, you only need to worry about Life Recovery, which can be handled by a string of ears that also grants much-needed Damage Reduction.

Mercenary

The minimum equipment of the Mercenary evolves around The Reaper's Toll for the Chance to cast Decrepify on striking. Add some Life recovery and Resistances from Tal Rasha's Horadric Crest and Attack Speed from Treachery he should stay alive permanently. His Might Aura provides you with a nice damage boost as well.

Skills

Put 1 Skill Point into each of the following Skills:
1. Cloak of Shadows
2. Mindblast

Max out the following Skills in this order:
1. Claw Mastery
2. Weapon Block
3. Fade
4. Death Sentry (18 Skill Points)

Attributes

Allocate enough Strength and Dexterity to wear all of your gear. Put any remaining Attribute Point into Vitality for maximum Life.

Standard

Setup

This variant hits a great balance between high damage output and decently high mobility. It excels in areas with many Demons. The Charm inventory and the Off-Hand are EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE! Enigma provides the Assassin with Teleport and Faster Run/Walk for mobility. You only have Faster Cast Rate in your Weapon-Swap, so switch to it for teleporting!

Highlord's Wrath and War Traveler provide great boosts in damage. A Rare Ring or Blood Crafted Ring fills up the second Ring slot. f you don't care for mobility as much, slap on a Fortitude for maximum damage!

Mercenary

With an Ethereal The Reaper's Toll (socketed with a Jewel), Fortitude in an 800+ Defense Base, and an Andariel's Visage (socketed with a Jewel) he becomes virtually immortal and hits his maximum Attack Speed Breakpoint to proc Decrepify often.

Skills

Put 1 Skill Point into each of the following Skills:
1. Cloak of Shadows
2. Mindblast

Max out the following Skills in this order:
1. Claw Mastery
2. Weapon Block
3. Fade
4. Death Sentry
5. Fire Blast (Only to Level 18)
6. Remaining Skill Points into Venom

Use the Scroll Bar to see Skill Point Progression

Attributes

Allocate enough Strength and Dexterity to wear all of your gear. Put any remaining Attribute Point into Vitality for maximum Life.

Magic Find

Setup

We found a use for Stealskull! This Helmet provides us with Mana Leech, Life Leech, and Magic Find. It opens up the second Ring next to Raven Frost and the Belt slot for even more Magic Find!

By replacing all Charms with a Gheed's Fortune and Fine Small Charm of Good Luck to increase our Magic Find to a whopping 450+%!

Mercenary

With an Ethereal The Reaper's Toll (socketed with a Jewel), Fortitude in an 800+ Defense Base, and an Andariel's Visage (socketed with a Jewel) he becomes virtually immortal and hits his maximum Attack Speed Breakpoint to proc Decrepify often.

Skills

Put 1 Skill Point into each of the following Skills:
1. Cloak of Shadows
2. Mindblast

Max out the following Skills in this order:
1. Claw Mastery
2. Weapon Block
3. Fade
4. Death Sentry
5. Fire Blast (Only to Level 18)
6. Remaining Skill Points into Venom

Use the Scroll Bar to see Skill Point Progression

Attributes

Allocate enough Strength and Dexterity to wear all of your gear. Put any remaining Attribute Point into Vitality for maximum Life.

Natalya's Odium

Setup

... And we found a use for Natalya's Odium! This setup is a lot cheaper, but also suffers a big damage loss compared to our standard version.

Use the Angelic Amulet + Ring combination for a massive boost in Attack Rating and get Cannot Be Frozen from Trang-Oul's Girth. With this combination, it keeps up with the Magic Find variant of this build.

By replacing all Charms with Fine Small Charm of Good Luck and a Gheed's Fortune you can get yourself up to ~230 Magic Find.

Mercenary

With an Ethereal The Reaper's Toll (socketed with a Jewel), Fortitude in an 800+ Defense Base, and an Andariel's Visage (socketed with a Jewel) he becomes virtually immortal and hits his maximum Attack Speed Breakpoint to proc Decrepify often.

Skills

Put 1 Skill Point into each of the following Skills:
1. Cloak of Shadows
2. Mindblast

Max out the following Skills in this order:
1. Claw Mastery
2. Weapon Block
3. Fade
4. Death Sentry
5. Fire Blast (Only to Level 18)
6. Remaining Skill Points into Venom

Use the Scroll Bar to see Skill Point Progression

Attributes

Allocate enough Strength and Dexterity to wear all of your gear. Put any remaining Attribute Point into Vitality for maximum Life.


Mechanics

Death Sentry

Death Sentry uniquely combines 2 Skills, (Lightning Sentry and Corpse Explosion). Death Sentry has a maximum attack count, which 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 gains +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 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.

Summary

  • Allocate enough Strength and Dexterity to equip your gear. Put any remaining Stat Points into Vitality.
  • Pre-Buff yourself in this order: 2xBattle Command, Battle Orders, Fade, then activate Venom
  • Make sure to refresh your buffs whenever they run out!
  • Before using Whirlwind, place some Death Sentry Traps, so they can immediately work when you start killing monsters.
  • Use Whirlwind in short distances through your enemies or in long strides along the sides of big monster packs.

Chaos gives you the unique opportunity to use an off Class Skill in a build. This is especially great because the Assassin lacks build variety!

Good luck!


Credits

Written by Teo1904
Reviewed by Raxxanterax


Changelog

Sep 19th 2022
Updated to Patch 2.5 - Added Sundered Charms and Terror Zones

Apr 12th 2022
Updated to Patch 2.4 - Nothing changed for this build