LoD Skeletal Mage "Rat" Necromancer Guide

LoD Rat DPS for Rat Runs

Introduction

Welcome to the longest lasting group XP farming build in Diablo 3: the Legacy of Dreams Skeletal Mage "Rat" Necromancer. Standing on top of the mountain for 10 straight seasons is no easy feat, but the Rat has proved too strong and fast to be dethroned.

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 ✔
Gearing allows to skip Haedrig's Gift ✔

❌ No Survivability
❌ Difficult To Execute
❌ Sensitive Towards Supports
❌ Hard To Recover From Death
Terrible For Solo Progression


Core Setup

Core Item Build

Items
This build is based around the Legacy of Dreams gem, meaning we need the most powerful legendary items without having any Set Bonuses. The critical items are:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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. Goldwrap
  2. Tasker and Theo
  3. Steuart's Greaves
  4. Requiem Cereplate
  5. Razeth's Volition
  6. Nemesis Bracers and Warzechian Armguards
  7. Any Legendary Phylactery, preferably Lost Time
  8. Krysbin's Sentence, Circle of Nailuj's Evol and Convention of Elements
  9. Hexing Pants of Mr. Yan
  10. 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. 2-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 3: Avarice Band
  • Act 4: Can drop any bounty item from any act
  • Kill Malthael to acquire the Reaper's Wraps crafting recipe.

Item Stat Priorities

SLOT ITEMSTAT PRIORITY
Main-HandScythe of the Cycle
Reilena's Shadowhook (Cubed)
Trag'Oul's Corroded Fang (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
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
Swamp Land Waders
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
The Flavor of Time
Haunted Visions
1. Socket
2. Physical Damage
3. Critical Hit Damage
4. Critical Hit Chance
BeltThe Witching Hour
Goldwrap
1. Intelligence
2. Armor
3. Vitality
4. Life %

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. Critical Hit Chance2. Life %2. Area Damage
3. Intelligence3. Attack Speed3. All Resistance3. Resource Cost Reduction
4. Vitality4. Cooldown Reduction4. Life Regeneration4. Life per Hit

Follower

The Templar is recommended for this build due to his melee range and aggressive AI. When there's a monster in range he will always stand still and fight it, making him very predictable and easy to play around.

For the Skills pick Heal, Loyalty, Onslaught and Inspire. All the alternatives, except Intimidate, include AoE hard-CC, which makes mobs harder to manipulate.

Follower's damage is completely irrelevant, so we stack Attack Speed for more on-hit procs and Cooldown Reduction for more Heal. The Items are:

  • Enchanting Favor to make the Templar immortal.
  • Oculus Ring for 85% multiplicative damage boost.
  • Justice Lantern for the additional Block Chance.
  • The Ess of Johan to pull mobs together.
  • Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker for the Attack Speed slow.
  • Freeze of Deflection for extra survivability.

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

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. 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!

Setups
If you are getting upset at fighting against the hardest boss, doors, you can cube Firewalkers, which will give you a burning fire at your feet that can open them. If you're having trouble keeping your mages up, drop Squirt's Necklace, wear Haunted Visions, and cube Circle of Nailuj's Evol.

Bounties
Bounties with LoD Rat

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 Circle of Nailujs Evol 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. A more cut-throat setup is the incorporation of Nemesis Bracers instead of Reapers Wraps, but it has limited benefits due to In-geom not being part of the build unless you want to swap it in for Messerschmidts Reaver.

GR Solo Push
Solo Push with LoD Rat

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.

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.

GR Group Speeds (Rat)
LoD Rat for Rat Runs

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 Cooldown. 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).


Video Guide

Guide Video

Mechanics

Land of the Dead

  • Pulses twice a second, applying a 2 second freeze to all enemies within 60 yards range with line of sight. This means that when you teleport forward, monsters can have up to 0.5s to attack or use an ability.
  • Enemies frozen by Frozen Lands become completely immune to all other forms of Crowd Control, making it impossible to pull them after they have already been frozen.

Devouring Aura + Requiem Cereplate

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

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.

Simulacrum

  • Haunted Visions will make this skill drain 1% of your maximum life every second. If you are unable to pay this cost (e.g. you are below 1% health when the cost is applied), the Simulacrum will despawn. This means you will very rarely have the event where your Final Service did not proc, however, you lost your Simulacrum and it will be on Cooldown.

Summary

  • Level your Legacy of Dreams to 99 immediately and hunt for ancient items.
  • 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!
  • If you're looking for a tankier solo build, check out the Bone Spear Necromancer!

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