Character Builds


NinjaBaby is my untwinked HC character for the Runewords/Gemwords tournament, and successfully finished Hell Difficulty. She uses Shuriken almost exclusively as her attack, pelting enemies from behind the cover of a shadow warrior, a clay golem, and depending on her mood the shadow master. Shuriken is a rather "lone wolf" skill in the assassin's assortment of skills, with few other assassin skills to compliment it. As a result, items are rather important to this build. Everything I write below is based off this HC character, so things may be different for Softcore or twinked characters.

A few points of comparison alongside her more powerful counterpart, the strafing bowazon:

Shuriken Pros:
You get a strafe-like attack while also having shade armor, a 75% block shield, and probably excellent resists.
You can get throwing mastery oskill.

Strafe Pros:
Strafe increases in damage much more easily since it is physical, thus benefiting from Dexterity and damage modifiers.
Arrows refill much faster than knives, and I'm pretty sure the range is longer too.
Strafers have a much easier time getting good bows, good throwing knives are very tough to get.
Since they have the pierce skill already, strafers can get huge oskill auras from glove/belt/boots, such as triple +12 might gear.

As you can probably guess, a Shuriken assassin will never be on par with a Strafer given equal resources. But, thats not the reason to use Shuriken anyway. Why use Shuriken? Well because it just looks so good!


Put 20 points in Shadow Master to give you a second shadow. If you do this early like I did, the level 20+ Shadow Master may act erratically but she will be a tremendous help in normal difficulty and some of nightmare.

Lets look at Shuriken. It gives no physical damage or AR bonus whatsoever, remember this well because it has to be compensated for. The only damage bonus is a small amount of magic damage per level. Since relatively few monsters are immune to magic damage I chose to max Shuriken even though it isn't much of a boost for the cost of 40+ points including synergies. Shuriken missiles/knives also do not get any benefit from Melee Mastery. To recap, Shuriken itself does not help physical damage or attack rating, and none of your other skills will be of much help to it either. So this skill, although fashionably cool...needs some extra help. If you need skill points to branch out your build, Shuriken is probably fine with just 1 point and some skill boosts from items enabling it to reach 10 targets.

Poison Stream is a synergy for both Venom and Shuriken, so I maxed this after finishing Shadow Master and Shuriken. Leave this at 1 if you are not maxing Shuriken. Poison Stream is also useful on Izual due to no ammo usage, I just put a weight on my mouse button and go do something else...

Blade Sentinel is sort of redundant with Shuriken, so leftover points go here strictly for synergy. Leave at 1 if you're not maxing Shuriken.

Shade Armor will be the prebuff of choice in the end game, 1 point is enough to give you a little extra safety net. If your resistances are truly atrocious, you can opt for using Fade instead.

Cold Wave is useful for chilling and knockback, but don't look at the damage. This is an optional 1 point but nice to have in some situations.

Shadow Master
Blade Sentinel
Poison Stream
Shade Armor
Cold Wave
0 or 1
All prerequisites for above

Spending Stat Points

At level 88, NinjaBaby runs around with 931 life and 501 mana, pretty low and dangerous for Hardcore. Dex is the all important stat. With no natural AR or damage boost from Shuriken or melee mastery, you will need to look for dex to raise your hit rate and damage. NinjaBaby for example, has 87 STR/520 DEX/130 VIT/25 ENR.

Minimum Required for Equipment
As much as possible, you NEED all the dex you can get.

100-150, or however much you need. Skimp as much as you can to save for Dex.



Some of NinjaBaby's pieces are forged/D-stoned/socketed, alot are not. She is making use with what she has though...

Balanced Daggers are the best type of throwing knives, so reroll a rare set using blemished gems until a suitable rare comes up. Do NOT reroll ethereal knives with the Ancient Scroll recipe, it is a waste of perfect gems needed elsewhere. Although the base damage is much better, throwing knives run out blazingly fast and if they're ethereal you cannot refill them aside from waiting (and only if they have self replenishing). Normal knives can be quickly refilled to 255 with the horadric cube in between battles (or heaven forbid during battles).

Some of the important mods to look for:

  1. +pierce oskill - from high level rare gloves, up to +8
  2. +throwing mastery oskill - up to +4 from rare gloves, AS recipes exist to change one of the gloves to belts or boots.
  3. Ignore Target's Defense. Easiest to use Se runes to either socket or forge gloves. This mod is virtually a must for this build because it is so difficult to get high attack rating.
  4. Knockback - Great safety measure, I actually haven't gotten this yet but I should. 2/3 Rune Forge onto a Magic or Rare jewel.
  5. +str/+dex - damage boost, dex also adds AR. You will have ample dex to maintain full 75% block with your shield.
  6. +min/max/EDamage%/AR/%CB/%DS - Shuriken needs the help, so give it all you can.
  7. Amp Damage or Decrepify procs - Not 100% necessary, but its VERY nice to have and well worth going after to get. These will overwrite Cloak of Shadows.
  8. +might/annihilation/fanaticism oskills - if you have spare equipment slots, any of these will make nice RMB skills since you can use Shuriken with your left.
  9. Cannot be Frozen - If things go south and you need to run, being chilled can kill you.

Here is NinjaBaby's set of gear, mostly rares. Remember that this is a tourney character, so I didn't have everything available to use.

Brimstone Hew Balanced Dagger with 2 Perfect Obsidians
+1 Tribal Skills (Barbarian only)
+20% Increased Attack Speed
+388% Enhanced Damage
+220% Enhanced Maximum Damage (Based on Clvl)
+176 to Maximum Damage (Based on Clvl)
+352 to Attack Rating (Based on Clvl)
12% Deadly Strike
-15 Monster Defense Per Hit
Replenish Quantity
Requirements -30%
Level Req. +30
"Archdimeron" gemword helm
"Sorrow" runeword armor
"Medicine" runeword shield
Corpse Knuckle Gauntlets
+1 to Martial Arts (Assassin only)
+8 to Pierce
+132 Defense (Based on Clvl)
+55 Dexterity (Based on Clvl)
Lightning resist 28%
Cruel Touch Heavy Belt with a rare jewel
+2 to Bow and Crossbow Skills (Amazon Only)
+20% Increased Attack Speed
+126% Enhanced Damage
+22 to Maximum Damage (Based on Clvl
Ignore Target's Defense
+14 to Attack Rating
14% Deadly Strike
+4 to Throwing Mastery
+44 Defense (Based on Clvl)
+44 Dexterity (Based on Clvl)
Poison Resist 24%
Attacker Takes Lightning Damage of 70
Repair 1 Durability Every 33 Seconds
Level req +56
Brimstone Stalker Chain Boots with a rare jewel
24% Faster Run/Walk
39% Enhanced Damage
34% Bonus to Attack Rating
+4 to Golem Mastery
+12 to Clay Golem
175% Enhanced Defense
+22 Strength
+60 Dexterity
Cold Resist 40%
Lightning Resist 35%
Half Freeze Duration
28% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items
Level req +48
Beast Mark Assassin's Choker
5% Mana Stolen Per Hit
+2 Death Sentry (Assassin only)
+1 Steam Sentry (Assassin Only)
+44 Dexterity (Based on Clvl)
+66 Life (Based on Clvl)
+47 Mana
Regenerate Mana 25%
Poison resist 19%
Ghoul Grip Assassin's Spiral
+1 Assassin Skills
+124 to Attack Rating
11% Life Stolen Per Hit
15% Deadly Strike
+3 Dragon Flight (Assassin Only)
+1 Poison Stream (Assassin Only)
Regenerate Mana 50%
All Resistances +42
Lvl 6 Teleport (60 charges)
Lvl req +28
Ring of Vengeance, D-stoned to 37% Piercing


Due to tournament restrictions on mercenary equipment slots, I decided to use a ranged merc. NinjaBaby journeyed for a long time with a Cold Iron Wolf, but eventually switched to a Lightning Iron Wolf. For Normal and Nightmare the Cold Merc was wonderful, but he lost a lot of punch in Hell. The freeze duration penalty made Glacial Spike nearly useless, Tornadoes often missed stationary targets, and Winter Fury wasn't too useful.

Since you will attack from long range and you have castable minions, any of the mercenaries is viable. Act 5 Defensive Barbs particularly look like a good match for this build. Given the low vitality, Battle Orders would be very welcome to provide much needed life. Not to mention that these Barbs are probably the best tanks out of all the mercs. Might or Fanaticism Act 2 Desert Mercs are also a decent choice. Act 1 and 3 mercs will stand beside you and add their firepower to yours, helping to shoot down enemies that get too close.

cLod "SPIRIT" runeword sword
"Thought" runeword
"Insight" runeword
"Conquest" runeword

Strategy & Tips

Early game:
NinjaBaby used a low level Tiger Strike with Dragon Tail and Blade Sentinel for a long time, since Shuriken needs to be built up before you can rely on it. Playing untwinked, it took a while before I decided it was safe enough to permanently switch over. In the meantime, the high level Shadow Master and a low level Shadow Warrior had to compensate. Getting those 2 minions early allowed me to get away with fighting half-heartedly while I waited for Shuriken. Note that I did use Skill Point Reallocation, Tiger Strike and Dragon Tail would be 2 completely wasted skill points otherwise.

Getting Shuriken going:
Acquiring Archdimeron allowed me to switch to Shuriken, since it provides Conviction to lower monster defenses and once my AR is up to par I can switch over to Might. Once Shuriken can hit fairly well and cover its own mana cost, it becomes almost classic Strafezon play. Against most regular monsters, you can take more risks than a bowazon thanks to the shield. The main thing to remember is refilling the stack of knives, a good habit to do after several battles. Don't wait to see the red indicator or you might find yourself facing an Extra Fast Fanaticism boss pack with no more ammo.

Be sure to have Shadow Warrior on a hotkey, and get a Clay Golem oskill if you can. The Shadow Master is unreliable as a tank, and the Shadow Warrior is not very durable. Very often the Shadow Master would stand behind throwing traps and then my Warrior would die, leaving me staring at the oncoming monsters. Adding a Clay Golem to the mix makes things much safer when the Shadow Warrior dies, allowing you the time to recast her.

When facing potential stairtraps, such as the Countess Tower Levels, Bookstore Sarina, and Baal's Chamber, go in with Cloak of Shadows on your RMB. Immediately cast it when you go in, this could very well save your life.

Tough spots:
Lost Farm and the Cow Level can be troublesome due to the density of monsters. Be very careful about positioning before starting up Shuriken. Shuriken is generally going to be less powerful than Strafe and pierce oskill will not be available until late in the game. Consequently, it takes many repeated volleys to bring down the cows. Refill your knives as often as possible, and use Cloak of Shadows when your tanks start having trouble. Be ready to recast Shadow Warrior (and Clay Golem if you have it), with Milk Maiden's Amping you constantly Shadow Warriors just melt away when they face cows.

Baal's Chamber is very dangerous. Duriel's minions can take down the shadows and clay golem relatively easily, so being ready to recast them is a must. Killing those Hellspawns first would greatly ease the battle with Duriel. The triple Mephisto pack is bad news no matter what mods they have. Separate them as much as possible, as fighting all 3 of them and the Tamer at once is going to be too much to handle. Diablo is a pain due to his block and defense. He is so hard to hit, that I resorted to using Poison Stream and killing him the slow way.

As for Baal himeself, the first order of business is to cast Cloak of Shadows when entering the Chamber. Actually, first I would say is to take a step or two North and then cast it. The reason is Hidden's often squeeze off a volley of Lightning while you're entering. By taking a step upwards immediately you can avoid most of the lighting thrown at your spawn spot, and then cast CoS before they are able to fire again. I do this everytime I face Baal, since dying from ambush is a lousy way to end a run after spending all the time and trouble killing the 5 previous boss packs. If you are Softcore and you die to the Hiddens, just quit the game and recover your body in town. With -100% resists, there is absolutely no way you can go back into the chamber and expect to survive the Hiddens.

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