Martyr Guide

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1. Overview

2. Introduction

2a. Description

A martyr is simply put a paladin using sacrifice as his main attack skill. For all you who like melee paladins but are tired of the fifty-eleven zealots and twenty-thirteen avengers, this is a nice change. Also, it's way funnier than zealots and avengers to play. Lastly, it's very good.

A martyr has less life than any other paladin, less than most other builds of other classes too, he has quite lousy defense, no blocking, and every attack hurts him. While this may seem suicidal, a martyr is so devout to his cause that he shrugs of most damage inflicted to him; slashes that would kill a normal man are ignored for the sake of the greater good, and for the sake of the higher powers, who protect him from harm.

The build is highly customizable, since sacrifice gives the martyr all damage he'll ever need, and it only requires 30 points. Other one-point wonders will take ~10 points. This leaves at least 70 points (for players who don't want to level the char very high) to be spent at really anything.

For a sample Martyr, you can check out HenryHandsmek in the Hall of Fame.

2b. Strengths and weaknesses


  • Highly customizable, very fun to play with lots of skills.
  • Easy access to crowd control
  • Immune to physical when attacking
  • Can run high-level areas easily


  • Vulnerable to hit recovery and stun
  • Requires active playing
  • Somewhat vulnerable to elemental attacks
  • No area of effect at all

3. Skills

3a. Sacrifice

As I said earlier, if you just max sacrifice you'll have enough attack power to bring down any demon that might come in your way. It gives a whooping 40% + 40% per level damage, which means at slvl 30, you'll have +1240% ED. On top of that, it gives 5/4 your damage. It also give 35% + 15% per level attack rating, which is pretty much anything you'll need.
Sacrifice also makes you immune to physical while attacking, or rather, it gives you Damage Reduced by 10000. That is in reality immune to physical. But these great abilities comes at a price; in Lord of Destruction, it was 8% of your attack damage were dealt to yourself. In ES, that would one-hit kill you more often than not, and it has been changed to 8% of your current life. All attacks you do deals you 8% of your current life in damage. This works like static field; the less life you have the less you lose. If you have 5k life and are at full health, you'll lose 400 life when you attack. When you've attacked yourself down to 1k life, you lose 80 life when you attack. Thus, having a high life doesn't really help against this.

3b. Other important skills

While you could put the rest of your points in whatever works for you, a few skills are HIGHLY recommended, as they are amazing one point wonders. I recommend putting at least 1 point in each of these skills:
Hypno Blast. Even with one point, it'll be your primary crowd control, and believe me, you want to control crowds. Zeal is a prerequisite to this, and that skill can be handy in certain circumstances. It's also a synergy, albeit a small one, to Sacrifice.
Anointed Bear: Worth getting especially if you can get it as a staffmod or oskill.
Prayer: At one hard point, with a bunch of +skills and +defensive auras and on equip Meditation and Cleansing, you'll get hundreds of life every second. This, together with leech, is your primary way to stay healthy.
Aura of Divinity: A single point will give you an aura that provides +2 to all skills and a whole bunch of extra experience. Remember that +skills is great to this build, giving you 80% ED and 30% AR, as well as 40 life every two seconds from Meditation and Cleansing. Extra experience is always wonderful.
Redemption: Dispose of corpses and get a free Full Rejuvenation Potion as a bonus! That's not bad. Also, you Vigor is a prerequisite to this and Vigor is amazing, better than Redemption in itself.
Salvation: Put a point in this. I mean, why not? It will solve most Conviction or Lower Resist problems you might face.
Holy Shield: Put a point. With +skills, you’ll have a great defense due to the 2-hand melee skill.

3c. What to do with spare points?

If you've maxed sacrifice and put a point in each of the skills I recommended, you've only used 41 points. You'll have lots of points left at the end of normal. Here are some ways to spend them, although there ought to be more.

Regeneration (29 points)
Your wounds heal before the sword even leaves them. By maxing prayer, you negate any risk of losing considerable amounts of life to the sacrifice cost. I went this way, and with +32 to my skills, and both Meditation and Cleansing Aura When Equipped, I heal 956 life every two seconds. That’s more than half my life.

Preacher (7-15 points)
While Hypno Blast is useful with its level 1 radius of 2 yards, it takes more to make it great. Hypno Blast gets +0.67 yards extra radius per four hard points, and so eight hard points gives it a radius of 3.3. At that point it's GREAT. By putting an extra 8 points, the radius is up at 4.6 yards. More than that wouldn't be needed, ever, I believe. I went with 8 hard points, that's enough for me, but I'm quite reckless to.

Thou Shall Not Pass! (10+ points)
Defense and resistance are both great. By putting points into the Protection from Fire, Protection from Lightning, or Protection from Cold skills, you gain both. Pick an element, and get at least 10 points in it. Get Defiance Aura When Equipped. For every two points, you get a passive bonus of +1 to max resistance in that element. Also, every point increases the Defense bonus of defiance by 10%. Thus, if you put 10 points in protection from fire, you'll get 100% defense to you and your minions, and +5% Maximum Fire Resistance. As a bonus, you'll be kickin' any fire-heavy enemies butts! You can go very far on this road, you can max two of the Auras for a bonus of +15% max resistance to each and a 600% defense bonus. Holy shield is also a possible route, for much more defense but no resistances or absorb. Every point will add 19% enhanced defense. Also, defiance itself is nice whenever you don't use sacrifice (for example, when using hypno blast).

Burning Faith (23 points)
Can't get enough power you think? Then go for fanaticism. It'll give you a nice bonus of damage, and especially, of speed. On slvl 50, it gives 634% ED and 39% EIAS, and your minions get 539% ED. Together with Guenwhyvar, the bear packs a real punch.

Heironeous' Gaze (19 points)
Max Aura of Divinity. It'll give you and your minions an additional +2 to all skills when active, and more experience. While the increase in experience is very small, if you use this aura a lot, then you might as well go for this.

Guenwhyvar (19 or 43 points)
While not a panther, the bear is a tough companion and good at taking the heat of your back. Max Anointed bear for more damage and life, and if you're really devoted to the furry friend, get a second by putting 25 points in Holy Ward.

4. Stats

For a martyr, offense is the best defense, since damage decides how much can be leeched. Getting high damage is more important than getting high life, since you'll lose a percentage of it every attack. Put most points into strength. I went all strength, but if playing hardcore or untwinked that may be too little life, so a 4/1 distribution might be better. I advice strongly against going farther away than 3/2, life isn't to hard to find on charms and equipment anyway, and can be forged unto jewels. All my way through nightmare, I had less than 2000 life, including special areas on high player settings.

5. Mercenary

Among the warriors for hire, two in particular stand out: The act 1 Cold Rogue, and the act 3 Cold Iron Wolf. Both help with crowd control, which is essential to the build, and while the cold rogue can really pack a punch, the Iron Wolf is wonderful defensively.

Act 1 Cold Rogue has great damage capabilities, tends to stand far away from combat, and can freeze multiple enemies at once. She also has inner sight to increase the physical damage and help break PI monsters. This one clearly shines if you’re going to use the character for farming, and have twinking gear.

Act 3 Cold Iron Wolf comes with Protection from Cold aura, granting you a large amount of % cold absorb, which is really wonderful, and even better, it also grants you cannot be frozen so you don’t have to think about that in your equipment. It can slow many enemies at once, but doesn’t freeze them as often even though Glacial Spike does a great work whenever it’s fired. While not very high-damaging, the aura in combination with being able to use a shield makes him the clearly most durable. If the martyr is untwinked, or goes for the Fanaticism aura, there should be no doubt; this one is the best.

Others could of course be used, both the act 5 Defensive Barbarian and the act 2 Might Mercenary come to mind, but I do think that those two are the finest companions you can get. They’re really cool (pun intended)!

Lately, I've tested the act 5 Defensive Barbarian, because I feel that the hardest opponent are large groups, and they often kill rogues, while I still need someone to trigger Amplify Damage. So far he's been great, and while he can't tank perfectly (he has very suboptimal gear), I recommend it to anyone who doesn't go with a bear and doesn't want to wear amp-gear himself.

6. Equipment

6a. General equipment advice

There aren’t any real must-have items for this build, but certain abilities are very good and some I consider necessary to survive. The build isn’t very item dependant, most of the abilities can be gotten on rares and even magics. But one thing is very important: The weapon. When you choose weapon, remember that while sacrifice is slow and you are vulnerable to knock back, hit recovery, and Holy Freeze, sacrifice costs a static percentage of life for every attack; to minimize that loss, you need high damage, not high speed; it’s a fine balance between speed and damage. I say: Keep away from weapons with WSM below -20 or above 20. Also, range is important. You want to never risk getting hit before you start attacking. At least 3, preferably 4, would do the trick. Most 2-hand axes, poles, mauls and spears will do the trick.

6b. Must-have offensive abilities

Off-hand Flat damage mods – +to max damage and +to minimum damage is the way to go for high damage. Your sacrifice will give you easily 2500% ED, and your strength 500%, so flat damage is better than %ED, though of course %ED is great too.
Where to get: Jewels, Suffocation of Indifference gloves, charms

Weapon damage mods – Everything. Getting a high base damage is of course the way to slay the demons.
Where to get: Jewels, Diamond-melding

CtC Amplify Damage / Decrepify / Weaken / Iron Maiden – A must for breaking immunities, and greatly enhances killing speed against others. I opted for a Fury runeword in a Jeweled Edge on swap, together with a CtC Amp ring.
Where to get: Fury runeword, rare rings ilvl 24-48, Casca’s Deadly Bolts

Inner Sight – Works the same way as the curses, but stacks with them.
Where to get: Rare rings, Act 1 mercenary, or, if you’re filthy rich, a Moonlight runeword. Wish I had one… With Casca’s Deadly Bolts, that’d be heaven.

Skill bonuses – Martyr is one of the few melee builds who do get a LOT out of +skills. 40% ED and 15% AR is just the beginning; stronger bear, more life/second healed, more defense…
Where to get: Forgings and Jewels, rare/unique jewelry.

6c. Nice-to-have offensive abilities

Off-hand %ED – Nice to have, but flat damage is much, much better.
Where to get: Wa-forged gauntlets, charms, jewels

Deadly Strike – While CB is a great bonus, DS in on the verge of a must have. Every percent of DS practically increase your total damage with a percent on average.
Where to get: Rare charms, Arthur’s Crown helmet, Herculean Grip gloves.

Crushing Blow / CtC Static Field – Although this build isn’t about speed, CB is always great. Nice against bosses, nice against minions. Especially nice against special minions like Wyverns.
Where to get: Herculean Grip gloves, Battlecharge belt, the Hands of Atlas gloves

Increased Attack Speed – While damage has higher priority, speed is never good when you get it cheap :)
Where to get: Tsu-forged jewels, weapon mods, Herculean Grip gloves.

Oskill Close-Combat / Melee Mastery – A bunch of %ED, %AR, and Deadly Strike. That’s never bad of a single mod!

6d. Must-have defense abilities

Cannot be Frozen - Big must, probably biggest. If you get slowed, you're dead.
Where to get: The act 3 cold merc, Fox runeword, Fu forging.

Resists / %Max Resist – Try to get your resistance level to at least 90, preferably all the way to 95. Getting the full 95 resistance should be enough, if you face Lower Resist or Conviction, just use Salvation aura.
Where to get: Elemental Jewel ring, rare belts/boots, Nexus Star jewels.

Meditation / Cleansing when equipped – You want this, even with just 1 point in prayer, each will give you about 100 life/second regeneration. That’s thousands of +Replenish Life. The lower curse duration is also nice.
Where to get: Arthur’s Crown helmet, Meditation runeword, Aura forged amulet.

% Life Leech – Needs no further explanation. If you go by the Prayer route, you’ll only need 15%-20%. If you don’t, get at least 30.
Where to get: Ya-forged jewels, Lady Eboshi’s Greed, Suffocation of Indifference gloves.

Faster Hit Recovery – And it’s clones faster block rate and improved chance of blocking. With the 2-hand melee passive, the two last get converted to faster hit recovery. Get a lot of this, I’d opt for the 86% breakpoint (4 frames)
Where to get: Ruby-melding, Tsu-forged jewels, BlackKnight’s Holy Signet.

6e. Nice-to-have defensive abilities

Absorbs – Even with a 95% resistance, you’re going to have lousy life so absorb will help you avoid getting toasted. With enough of it and resistance, you’ll be nearly invincible when attacking.
Where to get: Protection from (Elements) aura, Deflective Spikes armor, Daylight runeword (great in charms)

Defiance when equipped – If you put points in Protection from (Element) or Holy Shield, get this. Otherwise, it’s just groovy.
Where to get: Rare torso/helmet, aura forging.

Oskill Dodge – Nice, nice, nice! Not dependant on defense, this is a great way to avoid chargers.
Where to get: Rare jewelry/torso/helmet.

+Life and +%Life – Get a bunch of this. Even with immunity to everything, you want at least a few hundred life.
Where to get: %Life d-stoning, Ruby-melding, charms

7. Tactics

Against most enemies, just run up to them with vigor and swat them. Always be prepared to swap between vigor and your primary aura; getting to the enemies before they can kill you is sometimes the hardest thing with this char.

Against large masses: Hypno blast them a few times, especially if they are ranged. Any group of more than five archers/mages should be hypnoed (hehe, new word) ASAP.

Against shamans and necroes: Against anyone who can revive, just switch to Redemption and the problem is solved. If you can’t have it on all the time (for example if they’ve got Conviction), swap to it now and then to clear the ground.

Against chargers: Against Mud Runners and all other kinds of chargers (and stunners too), hypno them, make sure your bear is among them, and focus on lone targets. Keep some hypnoed until only a few remains. Against the Shriekers in Nihl's domain, Hypno them, they are of great help to you as they stun all enemies within sight.

Against physical immunes: Amp/Inner Sight them. If that doesn’t help, hypno blast them, switch to Aura of Divinity or a defensive aura against their type, and stand there tanking while your merc does the job (he/she benefits greatly from AoD).

One last word of advice: Be careful with Holy Freeze enemies. Really careful. Getting frozen is the worst thing that can happen to you, and nothing helps except high attack speed (Blinn has suggested using mountain dews). If a unique show up with HF, hypno EVERYONE and stand back and let them kill him. If you’ve got a bow, make use to it, otherwise, just keep hypnoing. You’ll do around 1k damage, wonderful!
Or, just switch to Vigor and run past them.

8. Last word

I just want to say that I really enjoyed playing this character (that's why I wrote the guide) and that's something rare, it's the first melee character that I ever take above nightmare and level 70. It's great fun with all the auras, and it's something different from the click-kill, click-kill of the avenger of werewolf.
I hope someone reads this and decides to check the build out. Oh, and I'd like to take the chance to thank some people, although it isn't some novel I've written I feel that they deserve thanks; Perfect Cell and tsuru for making the best mod of all times, and all the people on the forums who are so nice and helpful (a trait unheard of on the rest of the internet). And a thanks to my girlfriend for not killing me for playing diablo instead of playing with her. Cheers!


  • Thanks :) I love comments. -- SajberHippien? 04-06-2008 (Sun) 11:40:01
  • Great guide, SH. Very well written. I've always been impressed with Sacrifice and now I've got a nice blueprint to make a Martyr. Thanks for writing the guide. -- Metro? 03-17-2008 (Mon) 00:07:33
  • Thanks for comments. Good idea with the Mountain Dews, though I feel when you get them, you're already past most HF enemies. But having a few in reserve is a great idea :) -- SajberHippien? 03-16-2008 (Sun) 22:25:59
  • I first heard this from Nameless, he suggested using Mountain Dews against monsters with Holy Freeze. The massive boost to run/walk and skill IAS will counteract the slow effect, so it might be good to have a few in your belt if you're expecting to face a lot of Duriels or something. -- Blinn? 03-16-2008 (Sun) 21:51:13
  • Nice guide, well laid out. I may have to try one of these in a tournament sometime! -- Freykin? 03-16-2008 (Sun) 15:06:45

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