(1) A side note: in playing through the game extensively with every class, I have come to the conclusion that, assuming decent equipment (either through mfind runs or twinking), Amazon is the easiest class to beat the game with. Followed by Barb and Sorc, then Paladin and Druid, then Assassin, then Necro. I may get around to specifying how I think one should go about doing this. Then again, as it is all going to change when 1.10 comes out, I might not bother. --SteveHaas
A bowazon may be the easiest. The ancients suck balls as a javazon. (I only have 160 projectiles on me at any one time, this is not enough to finish one of them on Nightmare players 8, even with lightning fury). Now admittedly i don't have the godly equipment you clearly do, but my javazon isnt entirely happy to have to enter hand to hand with the ancients. In fact, its quite high on my list of ways to suffer sudden death. (And they only hit me about 8% of the time, what with dodging and shield.) They really need to increase the number of thrown weapons in a stack, cause bows not only get really cheap ammo, but you can carry a lot more of it, and can replenish it without any loss of performance on the battlefield (whereas picking up random thrown weapons is not exactly ideal). At least with Baal i can leave and come back.
The actual build I find optimal is a hybridzon. Multishot(10 points or so), Guided Arrow (20) and Lightning Fury (20). Oh, and Pierce, of course... at least 15, but more is better. Admittedly this character does benefit excessively from good equipment, but even things that can be found within a few hours of mfinding are entirely adequate for such a character. Titan's Revenge is the closest thing the build has to essential equipment, and frankly that's mostly to save money on replenishing javelins. --SteveHaas
I'm of the opinion that Titan's Revenge is almost essential, mainly because it's just incredibly annoying to play a javazon without it. I tried, and while my character wasn't weak, I did spend way too much time going back to town to get more javelins. I suspect that the optimal path for a hybridazon is to start with the arrow skills and then get Lightning Fury after having a solid amount of Guided Arrow, Pierce, etc.--CurtisVinson
My typical build involves taking all prereqs as you get to the relevant level, putting 5 points in multishot pretty early on, and pumping guided arrow every level from 18 to 27. With the four bonus skill points in normal, this works out (if I recall correctly) to giving you three skill points at 30th level so you can get LF, Pierce, and Valkyrie. I then pump pierce for about 5 points, and then go after lightning fury. Ideally you want 10-15 ranks in LF by the time you hit Nightmare, as it will clear just about everything in players 8 nightmare trivially at that point.
As for the Titan's Revenge issue; I never have played this build without it, given that I found a Titan's fairly early in my Diablo career. However, having read guides online, I am of the impression that it's not actually too bad without; the reason being that the damage on the javelins is more or less irrelevant, particularly if you are using a bow to kill small groups. The damage from LF is entirely skill-based; even Titan's doesn't make the physical damage terribly relevant. Thus, all you need to do is buy two stacks of javelins with the replenishes-quantity affix, regardless of what other stats they have, and trade off whenever one runs low. Particularly with good herding, that should be adequate for most purposes. The only real problem, then, is mana, as with a low-damage javelin you wont leech enough to cover the cost of LF. But for that, whenever you start to run low on mana from spamming LF, just switch to the bow, as guided arrow is basically free at high levels and multishot leeches a ludicrous amount. Between the two you can replenish your mana in seconds. Once you're full, back to LF. Thus, it's harder, as you need to switch back and forth more and pay attention to more things; but it still should be very doable.
I remember seeing a mod where arrows and bolts could be magical or even unique items (Legolas' Quiver, anyone?) That seems like an interesting touch. --JeffBrenion
I'm bored, so I shall now fill in my case for why the zon is the best class for beating the game, and since 1.10 is still a few weeks off it won't be a complete waste of time.
So, in beating the game, there are four important considerations. First, ability to kill crowds. Second, ability to kill bosses and other single enemies, particularly act bosses, Izual, the Ancients, and other monsters with lots of hit points and decent attack. Third, the ability to do damage with a number of different elements, so as not to be too screwed over by immunities. And fourth, the ability to not die. Lets go through these in order.
First, crowd control. Lightning Fury is SICK. 6 Javelins can take out 50 cows in an 8 player hell cow game. While its not quite that ridiculous everywhere else, any group 5 or bigger will just get destroyed by it, particularly if they aren't lightning immune. For the things that are, there's multishot, which, with only 10 points and a decent bow, proves a viable crowd control skill. If you want it to work quickly on players 8, you need a pretty good bow (Buriza or better) but on players 1 even a random rare elite bow will probably be enough, and given the existance of the imbue quest, that should be managable even without twinking. And frankly, with a little knockback (which can be gotten by socketing the bow with a nef rune, which isn't exactly rare), even if it takes a while, you will be keeping them at bay and, as such, won't be dying.
Second, single target killing. Guided arrow is the way to go here, particularly if your bow is decent. Since you can hide behind a corner and snipe most things without even seeing them, its easy to stay alive and, due to the bugginess of pierce, is really quite potent.
Third, elemental damage. This is probably the biggest weakness of this character without good equipment. On crowds, lightning fury is too expensive to keep using on physical immunes, and multishot just plain doesn't work. For single enemies, guided arrow is cheap enough to spam against a physical immune, but you need some way of making it to elemental damage. There are a couple solutions here. You can pump an elemental arrow. You can get adequate pierce, lightning fury, guided arrow, multishot, and a point in every passive skill by 65th level (counting quest bonus skill points). One generally does not beat Hell Baal till 75th level or so. Thus, you have 10 skill points to throw into... whatever. Pumping passives is one option, but starting in on Exploding Arrow, Immolation Arrow, or Freezing Arrow is also a possibility. This will work, but you probably need to pump mana some as these arrows aren't exactly cheap. Second, a single point in fire arrow will help. Fire arrow converts a portion of your bows damage to fire damage. Thus, with a decent damage bow, a point in fire arrow will do modest damage at minimal mana cost. Finally, getting elemental damage charms/equipment. Then guided arrow will work directly, which is a good thing. Depending on how much elemental damage gear you have, it will likely be slow, but it will work. Basically, this character will be somewhat slow against physical immunes, but in general will tear through them eventually.
Fire arrow is bugged. It converts all your physical damage to fire damage, so 1 point is enough.
Finally, defense. This is where the power of the zon really shows through. There are other classes that have the above advantages. Sorcs, for instance, deal damage ludicrously quickly to both groups and single targets (with the correct skill selection, anyway) and have three elements to choose from, but have no particular provisions built in to help them not die; really their only option is running around and teleporting a lot. Which usually works, right up to the point when they slap blood mana on you. Then, you have a problem. And given that Baal casts blood mana, this is actually really annoying. But a zon has all that offensive capability, plus a passives tree that is incredible for staying alive. Dodge, Avoid and Evade, even with just a few points, cut the damage you take by a third, right off the top. Valkyrie and Decoy give enemies something to attack that isn't you, and Valkyries are beefy enough even at one point that you can run around until all the monsters latch on to your valkyrie and then kill them all at once. Furthermore, you have slow missiles to allow easy dodging of missile attacks, which makes areas like the Chaos Sanctuary and Frigid Highlands much more palatable. And just to be truly excessive, we note that the average amazon is pumping dex a fair amount anyway, such that assuming your shield is at all decent, you will have a blocking percentage up around 75%, which further reduces the damage you take.
Blood mana/magic maiden doesn't work if you have more HP than MP. It isn't terribly hard to be over 1000 in both with halfway decent equipment. Also, don't underestimate energy shield.
In conclusion, the zon is well equiped to deal with all but elemental damage, and fares decently there. Among the other classes, the Assassin is excellent in the third and fourth areas but weak in the first two, the Barb is good at the latter three but miserable about the first one, the Necromancer is excellent at the latter two and horrible at the first two, the Paladin, depending on build is either good at crowds but not single monsters or vice versa, and almost universally struggles against physical immunes, and the sorc is short on defensive capability. The zon is the class that comes closest to excelling in all four areas.
(2) Normal Diablo is a little bastard. Well, okay, a big red bastard.
Noticed, did you? It has been my experience that for most characters he is the second hardest fight in the game, between Hell Ancients (Hardest) and Hell Baal (3rd Hardest). Those are the only fights in the game where I consistantly die. --SteveHaas
Nithlathak's a little bitch, but nobody bothers killing him on Hell so they can keep Pindleskin viable.
Any character can beat normal diablo easily. Two methods: (1) stand there and drink potions while your act I mercenary pummels him with arrows. (Normal Diablo isn't very proactive about killing her). Return to town as necessary. (2) Get yourself a decent bow and pummel him with arrows. Heck, remove the decent requirement. This method works even if you have never pumped a stat or skill the entire game. Be prepared to dodge. (Played an Assassin through normal Diablo with no stat or skill pumps on players 8, then decided it was time to make some decisions about what the character was going to do. Deaths to Diablo: 0). Note this method, in combination with the no pumps, requires you to be very anal about everything. --NickJohnson
Yeah, well, the other two aren't so bad either. Hell Baal is trivial so long as you aren't playing a crappy Necromancer with approximately no good equipment whatsoever (which is all I had played through with as of when I wrote that. And possibly a poorly designed Druid). Any class not Necromancer, and even Necro with decent design and equipment, can beat him without dying as well. And even the Ancients aren't so bad... you just need a well-designed character. The majority of my characters beat him without dying (or maybe once and only because I got sloppy). All the fights are winnable without dying assuming good design and arbitrarly good micro. Check the B.net ladder for level 99 hardcore characters that have beaten the game for an example of this. Its just that some take more effort than others. I personally think normal Diablo is up there. Your mileage may vary. --SteveHaas
I didn't say that I'd died to Diablo when I wrote that; I hadn't (although I certainly have with other, prior characters). The three characters I've tried him with recently, however, each had their own problems in killing him: (a) the melee Amazon had perhaps the easiest time, although I found Thawing Potions essential and had chugged all of my full rejuvs by the time he died; after an initial long run, I couldn't keep my Act I merc alive for any time at all, but admittedly I was running around in circles so as not to get incinerated. (b) the melee Assassin... pretty much sucked; I don't recall what I was trying to use on him. I didn't quite run out of potions, but I came a lot closer to dying a lot more often due to having less life. (c) a poison-based bow Assassin, who didn't have a particularly good bow at that point; my main complaint was that he's hard to hit. --AndrewSchoonmaker