LoD Skeletal Mage "Rat" Necromancer Guide

LoD Rat for Rat Runs
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Introduction

Welcome to the longest lasting group XP farming build in Diablo III: the Legacy of Dreams Skeletal Mage "Rat" Necromancer. Season after season it has proven itself to be among the top tier in experience farming.

Initially "Rats" were played with Bones of Rathma, which is where its name originates from as people were too lazy to search for a "+1 Rathma" and simply referred to it as a "+1 Rat". While the main multiplier shifted from Bones of Rathama (6) Bonus to Legacy of Dreams the name "Rat" still persisted to depict this specific team composition for grinding experience (and gear for Necromancers).

The gameplay of a Rat is "High Risk, High Reward" as it’s purely offensive and dies to anything that hits it. Therefore, playing Rat DPS requires a decent amount of practice, dedication and the patience of an angel if your zNec is playing suboptimally. When Rats go well, they feel amazing, but when things go wrong it's one of the worst experiences you'll witness in any group setup. The guide at hand is a resource for you to succeed with your ratting!



Extremely Fast ✔
Best XP Farmer ✔
Mages Go Pew Pew Pew ✔

Rewards Excellent Gameplay ✔

❌ Squishy
❌ Difficult to Execute
❌ Sensitive Towards Supports
Terrible for Solo Progression


Core Setup

Core Item Build

Items

  • Haunted Visions alllows Simulacrum Reservoir to last forever, buffing Reilena's Shadowhook.
  • Reilena's Shadowhook provides 330% increased damage based on our total Maximum Essence, which is why we need this specific secondary on our Main and Off-Hand.
  • Scythe of the Cycle provides a 400% increased damage multiplier to Skeletal Mage.
  • Circle of Nailuj's Evol allows you to get two Mages with every cast and make them last longer, great to get started with the build.
  • Hexing Pants of Mr. Yan for 25% increased resource generation and damage while moving.
  • Tasker and Theo for 50% increased attack speed to our Skeletal Mage.
  • Requiem Cereplate for 100% increased life and essence on Devour.
  • Reaper's Wraps for the resource gained on health globe pick up.
  • Lost Time is the only Off-Hand that does something, however, any other Phylactery will do just fine. Bone Ringer is the only one pre-rolling with Critical Hit Chance, which is why it's most commonly used early in a season.

Season 24 Ethereals

Ethereals are powerful rare weapons that can only be found during Season 24. They have incredible stats, a random Legendary power, and a free passive for your class. Read our Ethereal Mechanics Guide for full details on how they work and our Ethereal Farming Guide to learn how to acquire them. What you should prioritize on them is the following:

  1. The Legendary Power
    This build requires Scythe of the Cycle and Reilena's Shadowhook to be functional. We need our Ethereal to roll one of these powers so we can cube the other. We also want a good roll on our Legendary power if it has a range. For speed content it is always helpful to have Ethereals with In-geom or Messerschmidt's Reaver powers, so keep those if you find them.
  2. The Ethereal Itself
    There are 3 different weapons available to us, each with its own benefits:
    • Soul Harvest - This is by far the best Ethereal for most variations of this build. The extra Essence, Attack Speed and other stats all provide great bonuses.
    • Blackhand Key - This is the next best option and very useful for solo farming. The fear effect allows you to crowd control enemies without Frozen Lands. See more about the setup in the solo variants below.
    • Blackbog's Sharp - This is a back-up option in case you haven't found any of the other two.
  3. The Ethereal Stat Rolls
    Each Ethereal comes with its own fixed set of powerful affixes. While some have a static value, many have a wide stat range. This means the difference between good and bad rolls is significant and something you should look for.
  4. A Useful Passive
    This is just icing on the cake because a fifth passive is not going to make or break your build. You're better off hunting for the things above. Check out the Passives section down below to see which ones you're looking for.

Global Stat Priorities

Our offensive priorities are: Skeletal Mage Damage > Critical Hit Damage > Physical Damage > Critical Hit Chance > Attack Speed > Area Damage > Cooldown Reduction (CDR). Cooldown, in comparison to previous iterations of LoD Rat, is absolutely not needed anymore. At best CDR helps you when you fail your Blood Rush or when you miss your Bone Armor. When Land of the Dead is up our Devour Devouring Aura will instantly refill our essence due to a bug with Requiem Cereplate and allow us to throw fully powered Singularity Mages.

Attack Speed does not make our mages cast faster, but it does let us summon mages faster and gives them higher damage. Area Damage does work with Skeletal Mage and can be taken on items, but it's better to prioritize the other offensive stats first as you cannot guarantee monsters will be grouped in such fast-paced runs. Lastly, Devouring Aura does scale with additional Pickup Radius, which is quite beneficial, however, make sure you first have appropriate primary rolls before aiming for more Pickup Radius.

Assembling the Build

1. Do the Challenge Rift for the materials to cube Legendary Powers. You can complete this once a week for additional resources and we always update the guide for you!

2. This is a Legacy of Dreams build whose success is heavily dependent on this gem's rank. The first order of business is to equip a Legendary or Set item in every slot to take advantage of its power. Make sure to not have any Set Bonuses equipped or the gem will be nullified and you will deal no damage! Farm speed Greater Rifts (in under 5 minute clears) to find the items and get this gem as high as possible. Above Rank 25 ancient pieces of gear will give you even greater power.

3. Gamble from Kadala in this order:

  1. Create a level 1 Necromancer and gamble for Circle of Nailuj's Evol
  2. Goldwrap
  3. Tasker and Theo
  4. Steuart's Greaves
  5. Requiem Cereplate
  6. Razeth's Volition
  7. Nemesis Bracers and Warzechian Armguards
  8. Any Legendary Phylactery, preferably Lost Time
  9. Krysbin's Sentence and Convention of Elements
  10. Hexing Pants of Mr. Yan
  11. Leoric's Crown and Andariel's Visage

4. Craft using Recipe 3 in Kanai's Cube in this order:

  1. Scythes to get Scythe of the Cycle and Trag'Oul's Corroded Fang
  2. Two-Handed Scythes to get Reilena's Shadowhook
  3. Amulets to get Haunted Visions and Squirt's Necklace
  4. Create a level 1 Demon Hunter and upgrade Swords to get In-Geom
  5. Two-Handed Axes to get Messerschmidt's Reaver
  6. Anything from the Gamble list in Step 3 that you haven't already acquired

5. Do Bounties to acquire several important items for this build:

  • Act 1: Ring of Royal Grandeur (for your follower)
  • Act 2: Gloves of Worship
  • Act 3: Avarice Band
  • Act 4: Can drop any bounty item from any act
  • Bounty Turn In: Recipes for Sage's Journey and Cain's Destiny (for your follower)
  • Kill Malthael to acquire the Reaper's Wraps crafting recipe

6. At this point you can somewhat comfortably farm Nephalem or Speed Greater Rifts where you can find all the remaining items you need for different variants of the build. Spend your materials getting items with better rolls and/or ancient quality.

Item Stat Priorities

SLOT ITEMSTAT PRIORITY
Main-HandSoul Harvest
Blackhand Key
Blackbog's Sharp
Scythe of the Cycle
Reilena's Shadowhook (Cubed)
In-geom (Cubed)
Messerschmidts Reaver (Cubed)
1. Damage Range
2. Socket Ramaladni's Gift
3. Damage %
4. Attack Speed
5. Maximum Essence (Secondary)
6. Intelligence
7. Cooldown Reduction
Off-HandLost Time
Any Legendary Phylactery
1. Critical Hit Chance
2. Skeletal Mage Damage
3. Maximum Essence (Secondary)
4. Elite Damage
5. Area Damage
6. Intelligence
7. Cooldown Reduction
Ideally, you want Maximum Essence as Secondary on Weapon and Off-Hand for Reilena's Shadowhook.
HelmAndariel's Visage
Leoric's Crown
1. Skeletal Mage Damage
2. Physical Damage
3. Critical Hit Chance
4. Attack Speed
5. Intelligence
6. Socket Flawless Royal Diamond
GlovesTasker and Theo
St. Archew's Gage
Stone Gauntlets
1. Critical Hit Chance
2. Critical Hit Damage
3. Attack Speed
4. Area Damage
5. Intelligence
6. Cooldown Reduction
ShouldersRazeth's Volition1. Intelligence
2. Area Damage
3. Cooldown Reduction
4. Armor
5. Vitality
Chest Requiem Cereplate1. Intelligence
2. Sockets Flawless Royal Topaz
3. Armor
4. Reduced Elite Damage
5. Vitality
PantsHexing Pants of Mr. Yan
1. Intelligence
2. Sockets Flawless Royal Topaz
3. Armor
4. Vitality
BootsSteuart's Greaves
Ice Climbers
1. Skeletal Mage Damage
2. Intelligence
3. Armor
4. Vitality
Ring 1Krysbin's Sentence
Avarice Band (A3 Bounties)
1. Socket
2. Critical Hit Damage
3. Critical Hit Chance
4. Attack Speed
Ring 2Convention of Elements
Circle of Nailuj's Evol (Cubed)
1. Socket
2. Critical Hit Chance
3. Critical Hit Damage
4. Damage Range
BracersReaper's Wraps
Nemesis Bracers
Warzechian Armguards
1. Physical Damage
2. Critical Hit Chance
3. Intelligence
4. Armor
AmuletSquirt's Necklace
Haunted Visions
1. Socket
2. Physical Damage
3. Critical Hit Damage
4. Critical Hit Chance
BeltThe Witching Hour
Goldwrap
Krelm's Buff Belt (Cubed)
1. Intelligence
2. Armor
3. Vitality
4. Life %
PotionBottomless Potion of the UnfetteredTo avoid Crowd Control effects
during your DPS phases

Gems

  • Legacy of Dreams is the basis of the build and should be leveled to 99 immediately for a ridiculous 9,750% damage increase and 52% reduced damage taken with full ancient gear.
  • Bane of the Trapped for 60% increased damage.
  • Enforcer for 60% increased damage.
  • Boon of the Hoarder for gold and movement speed in T16 farming.

Skills

  • Skeletal Mage Life Support is our main damage dealer. We already get the Singularity rune from Razeth's Volition, which is the basis of the build. We take the Life Support rune for the extra duration on the mages.
  • Simulacrum Reservoir duplicates our Skeletal Mage, doubles our Maximum Essence and therefore grants us a significant damage boost from Reilena's Shadowhook.
  • Land of the Dead Frozen Lands freezes all the monsters on the screen and lets us Devour infinitely for its duration.
  • Bone Armor Harvest of Anguish gives us a nice defensive buff and makes us run faster. It also activates our Scythe of the Cycle damage bonus.
  • Blood Rush Metabolism lets us move through the rifts quickly.
  • Devour Devouring Aura gives essence back when we run over corpses. This is extremely effective at replenishing our essence while Land of the Dead is up.

Passives

  • Overwhelming Essence gives 40 more essence to further buff Reilena's Shadowhook.
  • Dark Reaping gives us 2% essence and life on kill to summon more mages and stay alive.
  • Final Service allows us to cheat death.
  • Extended Servitude increases the duration of our Skeletal Mage.
  • Blood is Power reduces our cooldowns by 20% after we've lost 100% of our life.

Paragon Points

CoreOffensiveDefensiveUtility
1. Movement Speed1. Critical Hit Damage1. Armor1. Pickup Radius
2. Maximum Essence2. Attack Speed2. Life %2. Area Damage
3. Intelligence3. Critical Hit Chance3. All Resistance3. Resource Cost Reduction
4. Vitality4. Cooldown Reduction4. Life Regeneration4. Life per Hit

Follower

Patch 2.7.0 revamped the follower system giving all 3 hirelings new powers and the emanate system. The first thing you should do is read our complete follower guide and remember the key takeaways:

  1. The emanation system allows followers to share certain legendary and set powers with you. The most important ones are: The Flavor of Time, Nemesis Bracers, Avarice Band, Sage’s Journey and Cain’s Destiny. Click the guide above for the full list.
  2. Follower’s powers are based on their mainstat (maxed at 25,000, but they have a 2.5x multiplier so you only need 10,000). This means we stack Intelligence on the Enchantress, Dexterity on the Scoundrel and Strength on the Templar.
  3. Followers share 20% of their Experience, Magic and Gold Find stats with you.
  4. Legendary gems do not work on followers, except Esoteric Alteration and Mutilation Guard.
  5. With Enforcer equipped on the player it's much easier to keep followers alive even without an immortality relic. The 90% damage reduction counts for them, too.
  6. Cooldown Reduction does not work for any follower skill except the Templar’s Heal.
  7. Followers never deal significant damage; you’re on your own to clear the content.

With these in mind, let’s get into our recommendations for this build.

T16 Enchantress

T16 Enchantress

For T16 we recommend this Enchantress setup because she is the only follower that gives Cooldown Reduction, allowing you to spam your abilities more. Since this is T16 content, she’ll stay alive with Esoteric Alteration and Mutilation Guard and use Hand of the Prophet to gain all skills. This will give us Cooldown Reduction, Elemental Damage, Reduced Damage from Ranged Attacks, Armor, Attack Speed, and a Cheat Death.

Stat Priorities:

Since we do not have the immortality focus, we need to stack survivability on our Enchantress.

Intelligence > Vitality > Life % > Armor > All Resistance > Life Per Hit > Attack Speed.

Key Items:

  • The Flavor of Time: For double duration on Pylons.
  • Nemesis Bracers: For extra Elites, Death’s Breaths and In-geom procs.
  • Avarice Band: For the insane pickup radius.
  • Ring of Royal Grandeur: To complete our sets.
  • Gloves of Worship: For 10 Minute Shrine Buffs.
  • Sage’s Journey: For double Death’s Breaths.
  • Cain’s Destiny: For 25% more Greater Rift Keystones.
Speed GR Enchantress

Speed GR Enchantress

For speed Greater Rifts we recommend this Enchantress setup because she is the only follower that gives Cooldown Reduction, allowing you to spam your abilities more. Since this is speed content, she’ll stay alive with Esoteric Alteration and Mutilation Guard and use Hand of the Prophet to gain all skills. This will give us Cooldown Reduction, Elemental Damage, Reduced Damage from Ranged Attacks, Armor, Attack Speed, and a Cheat Death.

Stat Priorities:

Since we do not have the immortality focus, we need to stack survivability on our Enchantress.

Intelligence > Vitality > Life % > Armor > All Resistance > Life Per Hit > Attack Speed.

Key Items:

  • The Flavor of Time: For double duration on Pylons.
  • Nemesis Bracers: For more progression from Elites.
  • Oculus Ring: For 85% increased damage.
  • Ice Climbers: To make your follower immune to Freeze and Immobilize effects.
  • Hellfire Ring, Leoric's Crown and Cain's Destiny: For more Experience and Attack Speed.

GR Pushing Enchantress

GR Pushing Enchantress

For Greater Rift Pushing we recommend this Enchantress setup for the Slow from Temporal Pulse, Cooldown Reduction from Prophetic Harmony, Damage Reduction and Armor from Powered Shield, and the Attack Speed from Focused Mind. When she is equipped with good items she can also stay alive without the immortality relic as we are using Enforcer.

Stat Priorities:

Since we have the immortality relic, we do not need to stack survivability on our Enchantress.

Intelligence > Attack Speed.

Key Items:

  • The Flavor of Time: For double duration on Pylons.
  • Nemesis Bracers: For more progression from Elites.
  • Oculus Ring: For 85% increased damage.
  • Unity: For 50% damage reduction if you're also wearing one.
  • Ice Climbers: To make your follower immune to Freeze and Immobilize effects.
  • Mempo of Twilight and Cain's Destiny: For more Attack Speed.

Gameplay

The Rat Necromancer has some of the fastest-paced gameplay around. The main concept is to keep 10 Skeletal Mages up at all times while dodging any dangerous affixes and attacks along the way. To give them maximum power you'll want to summon them every time your essence is full because of the Singularity rune from Razeth's Volition. The rotation is:

  1. Summon your Simulacrum at the start. You shouldn't have to recast them unless you die because you're more fragile than they are.
  2. Activate Land of the Dead to maximize your essence returns from Devour. Recast this when it's back up any time you need more essence or you need to survive as it will freeze the entire screen with the Frozen Lands rune.
  3. Run close to enemies and activate your Bone Armor for a defensive, movement speed, and damage buff from Scythe of the Cycle. Refresh this several times during the rift by running up to enemies and activating it.
  4. Cast Skeletal Mage every time your essence is full. The mages will attack whoever you put your mouse cursor over as you summon them, so always try to aim them at elites.
  5. Use Blood Rush as needed to move around the map and keep up with your team.
  6. Remember that Devouring Aura doesn't have an infinite radius, so be mindful about stepping over the corpses of the monsters you kill to get more resources. Additional Pickup Radius on your equipment will greatly help out here, however, make sure to focus on primary affixes first.

Hardcore

Do not play this build in hardcore unless you have experience with it and are confident in what you are doing. No matter what this is a complete glass cannon and the chances of you losing your character are extremely high. If you're going to play it, place more paragon points into Vitality, and take the Potency rune on Blood Rush.


Variants

Nephalem Rifts
Nephalem Rifts with LoD Rat

Ethereals
If you don't have any Ethereal Item use Scythe of the Cycle.

Concept
For speed content pump up our movement speed with Fueled by Death, and we'll wear Leoric's Crown for extra cooldown. The combination of Goldwrap + Avarice Band + Boon of the Hoarder will make us invincible once we kill an enemy and pick up some gold.

Gameplay
The gameplay is very similar to what we discussed in the general gameplay section above. The nice part in Nephalem Rifts is that we 1 shot everything we see, giving us lots of essence back from Devour and Dark Reaping to continuously summon mages.

Setups
If you want more damage at the cost of convenience, you can cube Reilena's Shadowhook. This makes cooldown management more important, as you might have to wait sometimes when you can't chain kills to produce corpses and globes for you.

For group play, change Fire Walkers to Nemesis Bracers and Stone of Jordan to Avarice Band. When you encounter breakable doors make sure you cast Skeletal Mage directly on top of the door (with your mouse cursor above it) to get through them. Nothing is harder than the door boss with this build!

Bounties
Bounties with LoD Rat

Ethereals
If you don't have any Ethereal Item use Scythe of the Cycle.

Concept
The combination of Goldwrap + Avarice Band + Boon of the Hoarder is something we also utilize during Bounties to make us invincible. Warzechian Armguards provide a nice movement speed buff that will continuously be procced by "popping" all the breakables on the screen once Plaguelands is active.

Gameplay
The gameplay is very similar to what we discussed in the general gameplay section above. The nice part in Bounties is that we 1 shot everything we see, giving us lots of essence back from Devour and Dark Reaping to continuously summon mages. You cover as much ground as possible during one cycle of Land of the Dead while being at full mages, which is significantly easier with Circle of Nailujs Evol.


Setups
If you are starving for additional DPS you can swap back Convention of Elements to Krysbins Sentence and additionally Plaguelands to Frozen Lands. This will significantly help out early on, but in the long run the above standing full movement speed setup is recommended.

GR Solo Push & Speeds
Solo Push with LoD Rat
Solo Speeds with Blackhand Key

Ethereals
If you don't have any Ethereal Item use Scythe of the Cycle.

Concept
In solo, everything that even looks at us will 1 shot us, so the only options are to freeze monsters at distance with Land of the Dead Frozen Lands and burn them down. We will wait for our big cooldowns before charging in praying nothing sneezes on us.

Gameplay
Solo is the most challenging version of this build as we have to pull everything, stay alive, and kill everything all on our own. The biggest advice here is don't be greedy. We cannot YOLO into a giant group of monsters with our Land of the Dead down and hope for a miracle. It won't come, we have to play very defensively. When Land of the Dead is up, dive in, activate Bone Armor and unleash a major attack on as many elites as possible before escaping to a safe spot before it's 10 second timer is over. Rinse and repeat until the guardian is dead and you'll win.

When you know you are most likely about to die, make sure to die as early as possible or you might waste time with your cooldowns ready when you press "Revive at Corpse", which resets them by the amount of seconds you'd otherwise have to wait. The great part about it is that most push runs don't last longer than a few minutes until you find out whether you have a chance or not, as you are effectively advancing in time much more quickly than other builds.

Setups
Some people drop Blood Rush for Bone Spikes which will let you generate essence and summon Skeletal Mage when Land of the Dead is down, at the cost of mobility. The advantage here is you will be able to fight consistently throughout the rift. Play around with both and see which playstyle you like better.

Season 24 Solo Speeds
Here you can see a setup that is exclusive to Season 24 using the Blackhand Key ethereal weapon. Unlike all other variations of this build, you will rely on Frailty Aura of Frailty to crowd control enemies and activate Krysbin's Sentence. This allows you to make a fairly efficient solo speed setup for the duration of the season and drop all Cooldown Reduction rolls in favor of other stats. To make it more smooth, try to acquire as much Health Globe Pickup Radius as possible to increase the size of the aura.

GR Group Speeds (Rat)
LoD Rat for Rat Runs

Ethereals
If you don't have any Ethereal Item use Scythe of the Cycle.

Concept
In groups we can be far more offensive with our itemization because we have supports keeping us alive. We will stay behind our zNecromancer who will freeze everything for us and provide a window to kill everything. If we venture out exploring on our own without the safety and protection of our supports, it'll be the last time they see us alive. We'll also have health globes everywhere which will help us regenerate our essence with Reaper's Wraps.

Gameplay
The gameplay here is exactly as we described above in the general section. Make sure you are running over the slain enemies to get maximum essence back from Devouring Aura. Summon your fully powered mages onto the elites by hovering your mouse over them as the elite affixes are the main things that will kill you. Finally, be very afraid of Juggernaut yellows who cannot be frozen and will be free to attack you; skipping a Juggernaut can be the correct choice, however, this is a choice the zNec has to make.

Setups
We will pick up Andariel's Visage for the Physical damage, but if you can't find a good one Leoric's Crown is a good replacement for more Life (Flawless Royal Amethyst). For newer players incorporating more Cooldown rolls is definitely beginner friendly; especially due to the long Cooldowns on Bone Armor and Blood Rush when you happen to "miss" these skills entirely (e.g. Bone Armor no targets, or Blood Rush into a wall). If you are struggling to constantly move and are willing to give up the resource generation of Hexing Pants of Mr. Yan, you can swamp them for Blackthorne's Jousting Mail to stand still in the Oculus Rings.


Video Guide

Guide Video

Mechanics

Simulacrum

  • Haunted Visions will make this skill drain 1% of your maximum life every second. If you are unable to pay this cost (i.e. you are below 1% HP when the cost is applied), the Simulacrums will despawn. In case you are running Final Service, this means you will very rarely have the event where your cheat death did not proc but you lost your Simulacrum and it will be on cooldown.
  • Simulacrums will cast your Secondary Skills (Skeletal Mage) when you do.
  • They are affected by Circle of Nailuj's Evol, meaning they will cast two Skeletal Mages that last longer as well when you do.
  • Your Simulacrums scale with your character's toughness and can die from monster damage when it's too low. Especially large bursts of damage (e.g. Grotesque explosions) can rip them apart easily even when you could survive that damage yourself, so be mindful about such situations as the cooldown to resummon them is very long.

Razeth's Volition

  • These shoulders give us the Singularity rune for Skeletal Mage, which is the basis of the build. When we use the Life Support rune, every mage cast will continue to drain all of our essence to power up the mages.

Land of the Dead Frozen Lands

  • Pulses twice a second, applying a 10 second freeze to all enemies in line of sight within 60 yards range. This means that when you teleport forward, monsters can have up to 0.5 seconds to attack or use an ability.
  • Because Frozen Lands applies a 10 seconds freeze, frozen enemies instantly cap out at 95% crowd control resistance and become completely immune to all other form of Crowd Control, making it impossible to pull them after they have already been frozen.

Devouring Aura + Requiem Cereplate

  • The interaction between these two mechanics is bugged, giving you way more essence back than it should when you consume corpses.


Summary

  • Put together the core items and level up the Legacy of Dreams gem.
  • Learn the rotation and how to keep up 10 fully powered Skeletal Mage by always having enough essence between Devour and Land of the Dead.
  • Practice staying alive on the squishiest build in Diablo 3 history.
  • Enjoy being a higher paragon than everyone on your friends list!

Guide by Raxxanterax with contributions from Rob. Updated by wudijo.