UPDATE 2011: While a Werebear using Hunger has a 4 frame maximum attack animation, due to a bug only every other attack is actually executed: maximum attack rate is thus actually 8 frames. 
You have played druids. You have harnessed the raw forces of nature, and sent out a call for assistance to the great spirits of the woods around you. You have become the wolf, the silent assassin, stalking your prey and killing them quickly and without mercy. You have become the Grizzly, lumbering along, radiating threat, rending your foes limb from limb with one mighty heave of your powerfully muscled shoulders. You have asked nature for tools to deal with this growing demonic threat throughout the land, and nature has answered adequately. You grow convinced that you have truly mastered all of the power of nature…
But somewhere, deep inside the wilderness, a creature stirs from his slumber. He is the mighty Kodiak, largest and strongest of all of the bears. He awakens from his hibernation, opens his eyes, and scans for prey. Deep in the darkest recesses of Hell, demons quake with fear. The Kodiak is awake… and he is hungry.
Introduction and a brief history
Ah, introductions. I’m SSoG, I’m reasonably new, and I’m certifiably insane. My biggest love in Diablo is making builds that are… different. Some might call them ugly. Heck, even I call them ugly. So there it is. I make ugly builds.
If you’ve read some of my other guides, all of this is familiar to you, from the guide formatting to the opening paragraph. I’m about to throw you for a loop though… because while this build was based around an ugly skill, the end result is anything but.
The Kodiak got started by a simple test. I wanted to find out if the -75% damage from Hunger operated like the damage penalty on Multiple Shot (modifying the final damage), or if it operated like a simple -75% Damage (turns out it modifies final damage, which was a bummer). However, that one simple test spawned another simple test (does it modify elemental damage?), which spawned another (how fast can it go?), and so on, until all of these simple tests spawned a very simple, very elegant build. Interested yet?
Why a Kodiak?
“but SSoG, I don’t share your love of ugly skills,” you might say. “Why should *I* play a Kodiak?” you might ask. That’s a very good question, and as such, deserves a very good answer.
- Like all of my builds, the Kodiak requires a very low base skill-point investment. That leaves a lot of unspent skill points for you to express yourself with. You’ll never see me say “This is how you spend all of your skill points”. You’ll see me say “This is how you spend 20-30 skill points to establish a base. Here are some suggestions for the remaining skill points. Do what sounds fun”.
- The Kodiak is the second fastest melee attacker in the entire game. Zealots, Frenzy Barbs, Double Swing Barbs, even Fury Wolves… all of them envy you. The only characters that can possibly beat you in terms of number of attacks per second are Whirlwinders, Throwers, Strafeazons, Dtalon Assassins with 8 or more kicks (slvl 42+ Dtalon). And of those, only Throwers can cancel out of their animation in a hurry if they need to. Well, Weresins can get faster than you, too, but they require a Ber to get off the ground and running.
- Leech. Imagine having a 100% chance to cast Life Tap on every attack. Imagine, while we’re at it, that the life tap allows you to leech mana, too. Now imagine having all of this without using up a single gear slot. Welcome to the world of the Kodiak.
- You’re a Werebear, so that little red ball… isn’t going to be so little, after all.
- Bosses are big, but you are bigger. You roar, they whimper. You kill them faster than anyone, except for an EXTREMELY high-end Kicksin or Ursa Major (but you’re a lot more durable, in exchange).
- I don’t think you understand just how fast a 4-frame normal attack is. Seriously, it’s CRAZY.
- This may be built around an ugly skill, but it’s not an underpowered build. In fact, quite the opposite, I’d go so far as to say that this build is OVERPOWERED. Seriously, we're bordering on cookie-cutter territory here.
- Unlike Lifetap, Hunger doesn’t leech off of unleechables.
- You’ll have very low physical damage compared to other builds.
- Some of the more fun Kodiak ideas can be very gear-dependent (although there are usually cheap alternatives).
So... a Kodiak. That's, like, a Werebear, right?
Yeah, that’s like a Werebear. In fact, it’s just a Werebear who uses Hunger as his one and only attack (except for the Mauling Kodiaks, who charge up Maul before going into Hunger-mode). You lose some physical damage, you gain a whole lot of leech.
Please note that I said that you lose some PHYSICAL DAMAGE. I said nothing about your killing speed, which with some creative gear setups will range from undiminished to greatly ENHANCED. Like I said earlier, *nothing* takes down bosses faster than an angry Kodiak. In fact, that’s how he got his name- the Kodiak is the largest bear on earth, size-wise. Polar Bears weigh more, but I figured Polar Bear would create the assumption that the build used Artic Blast or Cyclone Armor or Hurricane… so Kodiak it is.
I know that this bear is more quick than strong… but he has to be pretty big, to eat as much as he does and still be hungry.
Brief look at available damage options
“So, SSoG, how are we going to keep our killing speed up when our main attack drops our damage by 75%?” Another very good question, and one that I will be more than happy to answer.
Our main attack *ISN’T* dropping our damage by 75%. It’s dropping our PHYSICAL damage by 75%. The solution? Load up on other types of damage and use our ridiculously fast Hunger attack to deliver them as quickly as possible.
The Kodiak is going to have FOUR concerns. The first is going to be cranking Hunger up to ridiculous speeds, which will be done almost entirely with Weapon IAS. Later in the guide, I’ll have an appendix that has all of the important speed values. Anything slower than a 6-frame attack should be viewed as a huge disappointment and avoided if at all possible. Even if you’re poor, as long as you can afford a fistful of shaels, you can afford a 6-framer or faster.
The second concern is boosting Physical damage. Yes, it’s cut to a quarter, but this is still where we get our leech from, so it’s nice to load up. Besides, if your weapon averages 100 more physical damage, and you’ve got slvl 20 Werebear and Maul, you’re still adding an extra 136 damage, even after the Hunger penalty. That’s a decent amount of damage, and a whooole lotta leech.
The Kodiak’s third concern will be boosting Elemental damage. Remember that you’ll have a 4-6 frame attack, so all elemental damage will be applied 4-6 times per second. If you’ve got 1000 average elemental damage, this really adds up.
The Kodiak’s final (and most important) concern will be Crushing Blow. Load up on as much as you can. Best case scenario (and uber boss-killing mode) would be 95% crushing blow applied on a 4-frame attack (i.e. 6 crushing blows per second). When you face a decision on whether you should load up on crushing blow or speed, remember that speed increases your crushing blow, too. 100% crushing blow on a 6-frame attack is roughly equivalent to 67% crushing blow on a 4-frame attack.
Core skills and stats
Now, as I mentioned at the beginning, a Kodiak is going to have a lot of different roads he can take. I’ll get to those later. Right now, let’s discuss the points that ALL Kodiaks will have in common.
1 point in Werewolf, 1 point in Feral Rage- Prereqs. Yawn.
1+ point in Lycanthropy- Extra points means more life and a longer shapeshift duration. You’re going to want to boost this one a lot.
1+ point in Werebear- Extra points means more defense and more physical damage. Boost this if you are disappointed with your defense or leech.
1 point in Maul- A prereq, as well as a solid utility skill which can be charged up to increase your leech from Hunger (and the stun can be applied to a lot of enemies in a hurry, too).
1+ point in Shockwave- Not really necessary for the build, but it’s a ridiculously useful skill. Don’t sweat the damage, just invest enough to get a sufficient stun length (and keep in mind, despite what the description says, Shockwave's duration is capped at 10 seconds, achievable at slvl 15).
1 point in Fire Claws- Another prereq.
1+ point in Hunger- Ah, the meat and potatoes. You can get by with one point, although additional points will increase your leech (which suffers from somewhat mild diminishing returns) and your AR (which suffers from no diminishing returns). A nice point to aim for is 9 in Hunger after +skills (after which the diminishing returns begin to accelerate), or however much is needed to boost your chance to hit (which is one of the most important considerations with this build). Don’t be afraid to max Hunger if necessary.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 8+ points used for the core of the Kodiak build, with more points used to increase your duration, life, damage, or stun length. If you’re planning on getting to Lvl 85, that leaves up to 88 skill points unspent. I told you this was going to be flexible.
Str- enough for gear. This’ll probably be a lot, since like most weredruids, we’ll be wielding big fat Mauls, Threshers, and 2-handed Axes most of the time.
Dex- Enough for gear. Don’t go for max block, since blocking means you’re not leeching anymore. I’d rather just take the hit and leech it back, personally.
Vit- Lots and lots and lots. You’ve got the Werebear bonus, and you’ve potentially got an Oak Sage… you’ll have a lot of life. And that’s a good thing.
Energy- Base. Your main attack will cost 3 mana and leech at least 30. Do the math.
Every melee class in the game lives and dies by its equipment. Again, the Kodiak, like all of my other builds, is actually even more gear dependent than the standard melee character. He’ll be looking for very specific pieces of gear. Although most of these items aren’t too hard to find, there’s not much room for compromise.
Under each category, I’ll list the absolute tastiest items you could possibly find, but I’ll also include a bunch of acceptable alternatives for those on a budget. Keep in mind that this is all general gear recommendations. There will be more specific recommendations under each of the sub-classes.
Before we begin, here’s a quick list:
Mods we need- Crushing Blow, Elemental damage, Enhanced Damage, Defense, Resists, absorb, AR, Cannot Be Frozen, FHR, some form of PMH/Open Wounds/Poison Damage.
Mods we like- Magic Find, Gold Find, DR (straight or percentage based, to help keep us out of hit recovery), Life, +skills, +strength, Faster Block Rate, Slows Target, ctc effects, faster run/walk.
Mods ranging from unnecessary to undesirable- Leech (life or mana), Increased chance of blocking, off-weapon IAS, knockback, hit causes monster flee, faster cast rate, +mana, regenerate mana.
A note: We will need a little bit of off-weapon IAS to reach certain breakpoints, but never more than 30%, so it’s better just to punch some holes in uniques and drop in a pair of jewels of fervor than to look for it as an actual item mod.
Duress. Duress duress duress. Duress? Duress. Duress duress, duress duress, (duress duress duress). Duress duress? Duress!!!!!!1!1!!!2!
Why duress? Could it be that duress is pretty affordable, and has Fantastic defense (further boosted by your Werebear skill), great fhr (important because Werebears have HORRID hit recovery rates), one of the few non-weapon sources of Open Wounds, enhanced damage, a little bit of resists (but not much), and some of the best elemental damage in armor form? Actually, no, that’s just icing. It’s because Duress has 15% crushing blow, making it one of two armors in the entire game with the mod.
If you’re on a budget… there’s always Rattlecage, the other armor with crushing blow. It’s less desirable because the other mods range from very weak (+45 AR) to downright annoying (hit causes monsters to flee 40%), but it has better crushing blow and is a decent armor switch against bosses. Treachery’s IAS is useless, but the resists and %DR are welcome, and the poison damage isn't reduced by Hunger's penalty. Or just go find anything that nicely fits the mod list above.
For most characters, one of the primary concerns is finding one of the highest-blocking shields possible. The Kodiak is something of an exception. Personally, I like looking for one of the LOWEST-blocking shields possible. Why? Well, if you have a shield equipped, that means you’re wielding a phase blade and your main attack takes 4 frames. Blocking in Werebear form takes 12 frames. Every time you block, you lose out 3 attacks, which means 3 chances to kill your enemies, and also means 3 chances to leech. Personally, I’d rather just take the hit and leech it back. This isn’t to say that max block isn’t viable, it’s just to say that it’s not as important.
As for shields to look at… Swordback Hold (50% open wounds) is a nice, cheap option if you need some way to prevent monster regeneration. Mosers offers great resists, and Tiamat’s offers great elemental damage packaged with a pleasantly low blocking percentage. Of the Elite Uniques, Storm Shield is (obviously) fantastic, but don’t overlook Blackoak Luna (life, dex, 50% faster block, and cold absorb) or Spike Thorn (30% fhr and 15-20% DR), both of which have a very nice 40% chance to block, which is FANTASTICALLY low for a unique (only Tiamat’s and Lance Guard have worse). Or you can ignore my preferences and go for max-block anyway, snagging Whistan’s.
Guillame’s face. 35% crushing blow, 30% faster hit recovery. This is the beginning and the end of the discussion when it comes to Kodiak helms, unless you somehow manage to get 100% crushing blow without it (Windhammer, Goblin Toe, Rattle Cage, for instance). Other great helms are Rockstopper (40+% to all main resists, 10% DR, 30% fhr), Blackhorn’s (slow target, PMH, Lightning absorb), Vampiregaze (paltry elemental damage, 15-20% DR, 10-15 MDR), Shako (skills, life, 10% DR), and Crown of Ages (with skills, 10-15% DR, fantastic resists, and 30% fhr, it’s probably the best non-guillame’s… but also the most expensive). Giant Skull is the only other source of CB in helm form… but I don’t like it because of the knockback. Jalal’s has FHR, Skills, resists, and a small AR boost. Cerebus’ has open wounds, skills, and a HUGE AR boost. Both are very good, too. Delirium is fun because the Confuse will trigger CONSTANTLY. Really, there are a ton of quality choices for the helm.
If you’re on a budget and can’t afford ANY of those… gamble circlets. Check the mods list above for what you want, and try to focus on elemental damage.
Angel Ammy and Ring if you have trouble hitting things. Boosting your chance to hit will do more to boost this build’s effectiveness than almost anything else you could do. Outside of that, just check out the mods list and see what you can get. Ravenfrost is also very handy for the Cannot Be Frozen (have you ever seen a chilled bear? It’s slow).
If you’re on a budget… talk to Gheed.
Verdungo’s is your best bet for the dr% and the fhr (in case you hadn’t noticed by now, you want some fhr. Seriously, we’re talking a 13-frame hit recovery if you don’t get any). Barring that, String of Ears also has dr%.
If you’re on a budget… don’t cry yourself to sleep if you can’t get either of those. Craft a blood belt for the Open Wounds if you don’t have it anywhere else, or use any old belt you want.
Dracul’s Grasp offers Open Wounds, and with a 4-frame attack that ctc lifetap will be going off all over the place. Most of the time it’s just overkill, but it lets you continue leeching against unleechables. Steel Rend has 10% crushing blow (best in glove form) and 30-60% enhanced damage (i.e. more leech). Lavagout and Hellmouth are both very fun choices, since they add substantial elemental damage, and both have ctc effects that will trigger frequently (lavagout boosting your AR and fire damage with enchant, Hellmouth boosting your elemental damage with firestorm and meteor). I prefer Lavagout for the AR (AR is important for this build), but Hellmouth is a very fun (and pretty) choice.
If you’re on a budget… Bloodfist offers life and FHR. Venom Grip offers 5% crushing blow, although the other mods aren’t as tasty. The best budget gloves, however, are crafted Blood gloves, which offer 5-10% crushing blow, a little bit of life, and any other mods you happen to spawn.
Goblin Toe (25% CB) or Gore Riders (10% open wounds, 15% crushing blow, 30% faster run/walk). I prefer the Gore Riders for the fr/w (because, in case you missed the theme here, bears are very slow), but Goblin Toe is fantastic if you have less than 100% crushing blow.
If you’re on a budget… it doesn’t get much cheaper than Goblin Toe, but use whatever you want.
Anni and Torch are both no-brainers if you have them. I mean, duh. What build wouldn’t love them?
Resist charms and life charms are, as always, appreciated. Faster Run/walk and Faster Hit Recovery charms are also fantastic for this build. The hit recovery breakpoints you’re going to be looking at are:
13 frames (0%)
12 frames (5%)
11 frames (10%)
10 frames (16%)
9 frames (24%)
8 frames (37%)
7 frames (54%)
6 frames (86%)
5 frames (152%)
4 frames (360%)
The 4-frame is probably going to be unreachable, but the 5 frame is doable, the 6 frame is good, and the 7 frame is probably the minimum you’re going to want to go with. Remember, time spent recovering is time NOT spent leeching.
Like all melee builds, the Kodiak is more dependent on his weapon than any other piece of gear. As a result, we've got an entire section devoted to weapons! They'll range from super-cheap (6os Phase Blades or shoppable Giant Threshers of Quickness) to the super-expensive (yes, there is an obligatory BotD reference), so there should be a weapon for all budgets... but just because there are so many options doesn't mean you have a lot of flexibility. We are looking for very very specific mods (specifically, obscene amounts of WIAS), so we're pretty much limited to one of the weapons on this list. Which one doesn't matter, but you do have to pick one.
Whites, greys, blues, and yellows
(aka Kodiaking without the twink)
First off, let's establish a list of base weapon types that are sufficiently fast for our purposes, as well as the relevant speed breakpoints. Please understand- and this is very important- when I say "IAS" what I really mean is WIAS (or IAS that is actually on your weapon). If I'm talking about off-weapon IAS (such as the 45% ias from treachery, for example), I will specifically refer to it as "OIAS" or "off-weapon IAS". Again, very important- all "IAS" means weapon-based IAS, unless I explicitly say otherwise.
6 Frame Attack- (30% IAS + 10% off-weapon IAS) OR (40% IAS)
5 Frame Attack- (45% IAS + 10% off-weapon IAS) OR (55% IAS)
4 Frame Attack- 85% IAS
Chu-Ko-Nu or Demon Crossbow-
6 Frame Attack- (15% off-weapon IAS) OR (10% IAS)
5 Frame Attack- 25% IAS
4 Frame Attack- 65% IAS
Great Axe / Gothic Axe / Champion Axe-
6 Frame Attack- (45% IAS + 5% off-weapon IAS) OR (50% IAS)
5 Frame Attack- 65% IAS
4 Frame Attack- (80% IAS + 10% off-weapon IAS) OR (85% IAS + 5% off-weapon IAS) OR (90% IAS)
War Scythe / Grim Scythe / Giant Thresher-
6 Frame Attack- (45% IAS + 5% off-weapon IAS) OR (50% IAS)
5 Frame Attack- 65% IAS
4 Frame Attack- (80% IAS + 10% off-weapon IAS) OR (85% IAS + 5% off-weapon IAS) OR (90% IAS)
6 Frame Attack- 40% IAS
5 Frame Attack- 60% IAS
4 Frame Attack- 75% IAS
These are the only weapons capable of reaching a 4-frame attack with Hunger (actually, you can reach it with mauls and speed 0 Axes/Polearms, too, but it requires too much of a gear sacrifice to be worthwhile). You will want to use one of these if you are dealing large amounts of elemental damage, or if you have 67% or more Crushing Blow. Now let’s compare the white versions of the 4 “fast” hunger weapons:
Both the Phase Blade and Demon Crossbow deal 33 average damage. The Elite Axes/Polearms will deal around 75 average damage, making them far and away the best leechers of the pack. The Phase Blade has the advantage of coming with a shield, which makes it the preferred weapon for Kodiaks who like blocking or who use their shield as an additional source of elemental damage. The Phase Blade has 6 sockets and can hit top speed using 3 jewels, 2 Shaels, and one open socket . The Demon Machine has 5 sockets and can hit top speed using 3 jewels, 1 Shael, and one open socket. The Champion Axe and Giant Thresher have 6 sockets and can hit top speed using 4 Shaels, 2 open sockets, and 10% off-weapon ias (or 3 Shaels, 2 jewels, 1 open socket, and 0% off-weapon ias). The Feral Axe has 4 sockets and requires all 4 to hit top speed (3 shaels and 1 jewel of fervor). Neither the Phase Blade nor the Demon Crossbow requires repairs. Stat point wise, the Feral Axe has no dex requirement, the Champion Axe requires 59, the Demon Crossbow requires 98, the Phase Blade requires 136, and the Giant Thresher requires 140. Considering all of that, the best weapons of the bunch are the 6os Phase Blade (if you want a shield), the 6os Champion Axe (if you want more damage/leech with low stat reqs), and the 6os Giant Thresher (if you want to max out your damage and range).
With all whites and greys sufficiently covered, let's take a look at blues and yellows. First off, I ignore all Jeweler's ________ Of Quickness combos, because they're very hard to find and offer no advantage over socketed versions of the same base weapon type, anyway. I'm only discussing blues and yellows that are actually better than their socketed counterparts. Anyway, here's the list of Blues/Yellows to be on the lookout for.
- _______ Champion Axe/Thresher/Giant Thresher of Quickness with two sockets from Larzuk stuffed with Shaels, and 10% oias
- Jeweller's Champion Axe/Thresher/Giant Thresher of _______ with 4 Shaels and 10% oias
- Jeweler’s Feral Axe of _______ with 3 Shaels and a Jewel of Fervor
- _______ Feral Axe of Quickness with two sockets from Larzuk stuffed with a Shael and a Jewel of Fervor
- Mechanist's Champion Axe/Thresher/Giant Thresher of Quickness with any four other affixes, 2 Shaels, and 10% oias
- Mechanist’s Feral Axe of Quickness with any four other affixes, a Shael, and a Jewel of Fervor.
As you can see, once you start factoring in magic items, the Feral Axe, Champion Axe, and Giant Thresher quickly outpace the other “fast” hunger weapons in terms of raw power. Theoretically, one could get a rare Cruel Mechanist’s Feral Axe of Storms Of Quickness with a Shael and a Ruby Jewel of Fervor that had 340% enhanced damage, 75% ias, and 6-120 lightning damage that attacked at 4 frames per second and leeched 100+% of the physical damage dealt. Champion Axes and Giant Threshers have the advantage because they can become just as good... but they're the only 4-frame Blue Elites that are actually SHOPPABLE (Feral Axes and Threshers cannot be purchased). Champion Axes can be purchased from Hratli, while Giant Threshers can be bought from Halbu and Larzuk. If you were patient enough, you could actually shop Larzuk for a Cruel Giant Thresher of Quickness and then pray for 2-sockets. That's a lot of shopping, waiting, and praying, though- so consider yourself warned.
Greens, golds, and Rune Words
(aka "where's the fun in no-twink?")
Please note- these are in no particular order here.
Azurewrath- Shael’d and with 5% off-weapon IAS, Azurewrath will reach a 5-frame attack. This makes a PHENOMINAL Kodiak weapon (best in the game, in my opinion), since it has great physical damage (compared to any of the non-magical 4-frame weapons) and deals 750 average combined magic damage per hit (3750 per second). It also has +1 to all skills (nice), and carries the Sanctuary Aura, which is INCREDIBLE for this build. You see, Sanctuary is bugged and doesn’t do a lot of the things that it’s supposed to do (such as increased damage vs. undead)… but there are two things that it DOES do. First, it lets you ignore the physical resistances of undead (including PIs). Second, and even more importantly… it lets you leech off of normally unleechable undead. It won't work on Skeletons, who have their leech factor actually set to 0, but any undead unit that was normally unleechable because of physical immunity (Wraiths, anyone?) are suddenly leechable again. As a reminder, you probably have 100+% dual leech from your main attack. Just something to think about.
Lightsaber- Some people like Lightsabers for their hunger druids, but they are far too slow, incapable of getting higher than 6 frames per attack. And yes, I realize that only a Kodiak would consider that slow for an attack without a startup animation. It’s a shame, because the mods are very tasty, otherwise. The biggest strength of Lightsaber, though, is its clvl 58 requirement, which is far lower than most other end-game Kodiak weapons, and makes it worth a look for late nightmare and early hell no matter what.
Breath of the Dying Phase Blade- In the interest of being complete, a Breath of the Dying Phase Blade (Hah!) would have a 5-frame attack speed. Beyond that, it would be entirely inferior to Azurewrath in every single way imaginable (far less elemental damage, no bonus vs. undead). All other BotD weapons would be 6-framers or slower. So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen- a melee build that doesn't have BotD in its top-10 weapon choices. Feel free to marvel.
Buriza-Do Kyanon- The infamous "Blizzard Cannon", beloved weapon of shifter druids everywhere. With a Jewel of Fervor, it'll be "swinging" at 6 frames per attack, which is good enough. The physical damage is phenominal, *especially* given the level requirement (clvl 41). The cold damage is also handy in Nightmare, although not great enough to be relied on in Hell. Did I mention that it freezes targets yet? Because it does. It's really handy. Not the best end-game weapon, but easily the best mid-game weapon.
Aldur's Rhythm- A triple-Shael’d Aldur’s Rhythm will reach a 6-frame attack with 5% oias. Replace one of those Shaels with a Jewel of Fervor and you need 10% oias to hit 6 frames. With solid lightning damage, this makes a great Twink weapon for the Kodiak. If you throw on the Helm or the Boots, as well, you get a huge 150% AR bonus, which comes in really handy (boosting your chance to hit is often more effective than boosting your damage, speed, or crushing blow).
Ribcracker-A Shael’d Ribcracker (or a Jewel of Fervor’d Ribcracker and 5% oias) will get you a 6 frame attack, 50% crushing blow, 100% enhanced defense, and great physical damage. Upgrading it kicks its damage into the "FANTASTIC" range, but also slows it down (so you'll need 25% oias to get back to a 6-framer). This is a very popular choice for Hunger druids, and with good reason. While it may not be as powerful as some of the more elite weapon choices, it’s cheaper, has lower requirements, and isn’t far behind.
Windhammer- A Shael’d Windhammer reaches a 6-frame attack with only 15% off-weapon ias (i.e. one jewel of fervor in your helm or armor). The 50% built-in crushing blow gives you a LOT of freedom with the rest of your gear, and the twister will actually deal a lot of damage if you use some points to synergize it (450+ damage when fully synergized, triggered at a rate of better than once per second). Remember, though, that a 6-frame attack with 100% crushing blow is only equivalent to a 4-frame attack with 67% crushing blow.
IK Maul- A Double-Shael’d IK Maul with 15% off-weapon IAS, or a double Jewel-of-Fervor’d IK Maul with 25% IAS (what a coincidence- that's exactly how much IAS we get from the gloves...) reaches a 6 frame attack, too, and is probably an even better choice than the Windhammer. You get a bit less Crushing Blow (35-40% instead of 50%), and lose out on some physical damage (barely less average ED, but no Twister), but you will MORE than make up for that once you start adding more IK pieces and get those insane Elemental damage boosts. My favorite pieces to use are the Belt (good fire and lightning resist, big str bonus, 25% fhr with 2 other pieces), then the Gauntlets (+str and dex, 25% ias), then the boots (life and 40% faster run-walk), then the armor (resists, enchant, and fhr), in that order. That’s mostly because of what you have to give up than what you gain (there are no fantastic Kodiak belts, few fantastic Kodiak gloves, but several great Kodiak boots, and the Duress should never be taken off, IMO).
Tomb Reaver- With two Shaels (and potentially a third open socket), you're at a 5-frame attack, which is great given the physical damage you'll be dealing. Aside from the damage and the chance to revive enemies, the big draw for the Reaver is the 30-50% resist all. Resistances are normally very hard to get with a 2-hander build, and that does a TON to help out. Plus, as I said, it's speedy, deals great damage, and can potentially have a third socket. What's not to love? Other than that clvl 84 requirement, of course.
Oath runeword in an ethereal Champion/Feral Axe- 6 frames per attack, and the best physical damage Kodiak weapon in the game- 505 average on a perfect roll. The PMH is nice, and the Bone Spirit is nice (it'll trigger better than once a second and deal ~355 damage per hit), but Oath is all about the physical damage. One big warning- not only is it expensive, but it also has a very big damage range, so if you DO make one, pray for a fantastic ED roll.
Harmony runeword in a Demon Crossbow or Cho-Ku-No- you might think I put this in just to get a reaction... but I really didn't. This is actually a very viable Kodiak weapon. 20% oias will get you to a 6-frame attack, and 322.5 rainbow elemental damage per hit is really tasty (1344 per second if all attacks hit). Not the best weapon, but a very fun twink weapon, and around IM you can always shift back to druid form and actually fire instead (warning: much slower, and not really recommended).
Athena's Wrath Battle Scythe- The damage isn't anything to write home about, but the clvl 42 requirement certainly is. It hits 6 frames when Shael'd, though, and the +1-3 Druid Skills are fantastic. Upgrading it gives it a much more solid damage range (about 200 + .5 per clvl), but bumps the clvl requirement to 60. Still, an upgraded Athena's is definitely Hell-viable.
Final thoughts on weapons
If you just want to know what's the best without running all the numbers, here are my thoughts from extensive playtesting.
A 4-frame weapon combined with 95% crushing blow (best you can get with a 4-framer) is among the best boss-killers in the game (topped only by the Ursa Major, in my opinion). Of course, that requires putting on Rattlecage, which is annoying against standard monsters. Still, it's a fantastic setup to keep in your stash for big baddies.
Against normal monsters, Azurewrath is head and shoulders above the rest of the weapons, especially when paired with a good shield (good meaning low blocking and lots of tasty mods). There'd be a two-way tie for second best between the IK Maul and a good Magical/Rare Feral Axe/Giant Thresher/Champion Axe (such as a 2os Cruel Giant Thresher of Quickness). After that, my list would read Ribcracker, Tomb Reaver, Windhammer, Lightsaber, Oath Ethereal Champion Axe, and then everything else (Harmony, Athena's, Aldur's, etc) in that order. Of course, this is just my opinion, so feel free to disagree.
As far as twinking goes... Shaels and a 6os Grim Scythe or Gothic Axe will get you a 4-frame attack as early as clvl 29. That'll carry you to clvl 42, when you can replace it with Shaels and a 4os Feral Axe (4 frame attack, 74 average physical damage), a triple-shael'd Aldur's Rhythm, which gives you a 6 frame attack with 76.5 average physical damage and a chunk of Lightning Damage as well, Athena's Wrath Battle Scythe (Shael'd), which has acceptable physical damage and +1-3 Druid Skills, or a Buriza-Do Kyanon, which pairs a 6-frame attack with a ridiculous 163+ average damage (that scales with your level) and a not-to-be-scoffed-at 114 average cold damage (8 second duration) and Hit Freezes Target +3.
As far as your weapon switch... lots of choices here. You can either get the fastest weapon you can find with lots of elemental damage to use against PIs, or you can use an 'Obedience' runeword polearm or a Demon Limb so you can cast enchant on yourself (greatly increasing your AR and adding a little bit of fire damage). Or you can get creative, it's up to you.
Core playing strategies
- Don’t play timid. You have a MASSIVE life pool, a crazy-quick attack, and ridiculous amounts of Leech. And this is with a mere 8 skill points! You are a beast, and fear pretty much nothing except 1-hit kills (nightmare doll bosses). And you don’t even fear those as much, since they don’t actually kill you, they just shift you back to human form with 1 hp.
- When leveling, it’s usually best to use strong mauls and the Maul attack. Hunger won’t be fast enough or deal enough damage to actually kill well before you get your hands on the suggested gear, which means pretend you’re just any old Werebear until that time.
- CRANK YOUR AR. Since you’re swinging so much, you can get by with a little bit lower chance than most classes, but the true power of the Kodiak will not be unleashed until you have an 85+% chance to hit. Drop Eth runes in open sockets, get ITD weapons, party up with a Battle Cry Barb, a Conviction Pally, or an Enchantress. Don’t be afraid to crank Hunger through the roof, even if you are getting minimal return-on-investment leech-wise.
- Use your right-mouse button to attack. Assign Hunger to your right click, right-click the ground, and hold the button down. You’ll run around and then swing at any enemy that comes into your range. I suggest this because, with a 4-frame attack, you aren’t going to be able to click fast enough if Hunger is on your left mouse button. What’s the point of having that speed if you aren’t going to put it to use?
- When you’re holding down the Right Mouse button, you typically can’t read boss mods. That’s where this little trick comes in handy…
Step 1: keep the button depressed and press the Alt button (or whatever button illuminates items on the ground). Continue holding down both the RMB and Alt.
Step 2: Mouse over the boss.
Step 3: Release Alt. This will reveal the boss’s mods without causing you to stop swinging.
Step 4: Move the mouse off of the boss. Since you highlighted him without namelocking him, his name should just disappear. If it doesn’t, hit Alt again, move your mouse off the boss, and then let go of Alt again.
- You might be tempted to ignore Iron Maiden, since you’re using Hunger. After all, the OK’s Iron Maiden only returns 102% of the damage you deal back to yourself, and you’ll probably be leeching more than that from Hunger, anyway. Don’t kid yourself. Because of Leech penalties (including issues with unleechable monsters), you will still continue to hurt yourself if you attack while IMed. Not as much as other classes, of course, but it *WILL* hurt. If you choose to continue meleeing while IM’d, do so at your own risk, and pay very close attention to your red ball. A good idea is to switch to a white Phase Blade to reduce the physical damage you deal (while keeping the CB and Elemental high), or to fall back on whatever secondary skills you may have developed.
This misleadingly-labeled Werebear combines the basic Kodiak build with Armageddon.
Why an Armageddon Kodiak?
Armageddon passively deals huge elemental damage without forcing you to break from your attack to keep recasting it. It only really works on builds that are right in the thick of things, and nobody’s in deeper than the Kodiak. Plus, it’s really darn cool. It'll benefit from the glut of unspent skill points that you have, it'll deal crazy damage when it hits, it's castable in bear form, and it gives you a great PI/IM solution.
Skill and stat suggestions
Start with the basic 8-point Kodiak build. Add in a point each to Firestorm, Molten Boulder, Artic Blast, Fissure, Cyclone Armor, Twister, Volcano, Tornado, and Hurricane (prereqs). Max Armageddon. At this point, you have choices. Either boost Lycanthropy to boost your Werebear duration and life, Boost Werebear to increase defense and damage, boost Hunger for more leech and AR, boost Fissure to boost Armageddon’s duration, or boost Firestorm/Molten Boulder/Volcano to boost Armageddon’s damage. Personally, I bring Fissure up to slvl 5 (doubles Armageddon’s duration), Lycanthropy up to 5-10 (to increase Werebear duration), and sink the rest into Armageddon’s synergies (Volcano first, Molten Boulder last). This gives a very powerful Armageddon and very strong secondary attacks (for instance, to use against OKs), but a weaker Kodiak (low chance to hit, lower life, low physical damage, low leech). There’s no wrong way to go about it, though, so play around until you settle on a setup you’re happy with.
You could also leave Armageddon low and pump up Fireclaws, but that would make you a Fireclaw bear and not a Kodiak.
With the Armageddon Kodiak, suddenly there’s a much stronger emphasis on Enhanced Damage (to increase leech), AR (or ITD or -% monster defense, although those don’t work on bosses), and +skills (which can boost his damage from good to great).
Also, consider keeping an Obedience weapon on switch. This actually isn't a bad weapon to keep on switch for ALL Kodiaks. It's a horrible Kodiak weapon (ridiculously slow), but when you kill something you'll cast a slvl 21 Enchant on yourself, which will crank your AR way up and give you a nice fire damage boost. Anyway, the reason we're keeping it on switch is because it packs -25% enemy fire resistance, which means when we're in an IM or PI area and aren't swinging, we can switch to it to increase our Armaggedon damage.
Armageddon works best when you're either running away with a pack of monsters on your heels (boo), or else surrounded by hordes of enemies (yay!). Intentionally getting surrounded isn't always the smartest of ideas in HC, but is a very effective maneuver in SC. Usually your leech will be able to keep you alive, and it ensures maximum Armageddon accuracy.
This is a Kodiak who uses a high level Hurricane. Again, I apologize for the incredibly misleading name.
Why a Hurricane Kodiak?
Hurricane is almost as good as Holy Freeze in terms of chilling enemies (it doesn’t work against Cold Immunes like Holy Freeze, though), which gives you more flexibility with your Merc. Hurricane won’t deal as much damage as Armageddon, but it’ll deal its damage a lot more consistently. Oh yeah, and it gives you a very well-synergized Cyclone Armor, which is always a very good thing.
Skill and stat suggestions
Basic 8 point Kodiak. 1 point in Artic Blast, Hurricane Armor, Twister, and Tornado. 20 points in Hurricane. All additional points should go into either Lycanthropy to boost your Werebear duration and life, Werebear to increase defense and damage, Hunger for more leech and AR, Shockwave for stun time, Cyclone Armor for safety and Hurricane duration, or Twister/Tornado to increase hurricane’s damage. Personally, I’d put 20 in Cyclone Armor, 20 in Tornado, about a dozen into Lycanthropy, a dozen or so into Hunger, 8-10 in Shockwave, and the rest into Twister… but you can change it as you see fit. I'd really recommend at least putting 20 in Cyclone Armor, though, because you have to unshift to cast Hurricane. It's really annoying if you have to do it every 20 seconds. Pumping Cyclone increases the Hurricane duration, which is nice.
Same basic equipment, except place some more emphasis on +skills. Even fully synergized, Hurricane really isn't going to deal noticeable damage without a lot of +skills. Hurricane Kodiaks will be pretty sturdy, so feel free to make some sacrifices in terms of security to fit them on. If you use the Windhammer, you’ll have a 33% chance to trigger a ~470 damage Twister on each hit (which looks really cool, but isn’t enough to push Windhammer up the weapon charts). I believe Hurricane is prebuffable (although don't hold me to it), which makes the Earth Shifter a fantastic switch weapon.
Your secondary damage is going to be pretty paltry, but that’s not the big selling point of this build. The big selling point is the mini-Holy Freeze effect and the 1,000+ point Cyclone Armor. Make sure to keep them on at all times.
A Kodiak who summons. I know, it should be criminal the way I keep fooling you guys with these crazy names, right?
Why a Summoner Kodiak?
Because it’s cool, safe, you have the points to spare, and summoning is one of the few things you can do in Bear form.
Skill and stat suggestions
1 point in Raven, 1 point in Oak Sage, 1 point in Spirit Wolves, 20 points in Dire Wolves, 20 points in Grizzly. With your additional points, either boost Lycanthropy, Werebear, Shockwave, Hunger, Poison Creeper, Spirit Wolves, Oak Sage, or Heart of the Wolverine. The Carrion Vine and Solar Creeper are probably a little superfluous, considering the ridiculous levels of leech you’ll have, but might be handy in places stocked with Skeletons or other unleechables. Put points in them if you want- it’s not like you’ll break the build. Again, personalize it. Have fun.
Actually, since your summons are really just walking distractions, there's not a lot of gear changes involved. Give some consideration to a Might Merc or perhaps a Thorns Merc (or an A1 Merc with Edge) if you want your summons to become a better source of supplemental damage. Also consider keeping some +skills gear on switch (perhaps Dual Spirits?) so you can summon your minions at higher levels.
Either keep the Grizzly up for extra damage, or keep the Dire Wolves up for extra distractions. Personally, I prefer the Wolves, but some people hate resummoning very often, and will prefer the meatier Grizzly. Oak Sage will boost your life to insane levels, or Heart of the Wolverine will go a long way towards solving any AR issues you might have. Both are good, but I prefer HoW. When you’re leeching this much, better AR = more successful hits = more leeching, which is just as good as more life in my opinion.
Finally, a build that you couldn’t immediately tell for sure what it was before hand! A “Pure” Kodiak specializes entirely in the Shapeshifting tree to maximize his Kodiak efficiency.
Why a Pure Kodiak?
Because some people are too lazy to be bothered with lots of hotkeys. A “Pure” Kodiak will only ever worry about 4 skills. Also, they might not do a whole lot, but they're definitely the best at what they do.
Skill and stat suggestions
20 points in Lycanthropy, 20 points in Werebear, 20 points in Maul, 20 points in Hunger, 20 points in Shockwave, 1 point in Werewolf/Feral Rage/Fireclaws (prereqs).
Just go with standard Kodiak equipment. +Shapeshifting skills don’t really boost your efficiency enough to bother with.
Keep your Maul charged up at all times. Once the green ball is full, switch to Hunger and let ‘em have it. Keep Shockwave on your left mouse-button as a great emergency skill.
Other suggestions for spare skill points
These are all ideas that you can use with one of the above builds (by saving a few extra skill points), or you can just eschew the above builds altogether and slap a couple of these ideas together. Be creative, as I said, you have a TON of flexibility here (up to 88 unspent points at clvl 85, up to 102 unspent points at clvl 99). You could build 20 Kodiaks and not have any of them turn out the same.
Idea #1: Play it safe.
What it costs: 5-24 points
What you do: 1 point in Artic Blast, Twister, Tornado, and Hurricane. 1-20 points in Cyclone Armor.
What you get: A 20 point Cyclone Armor is pretty hefty. It also synergizes Hurricane’s duration, leaving you with a skill that does little damage… but lasts for 50 seconds and provides a mini-holy freeze aura. This is one of the best uses of skill points for a Kodiak. Additional points can be placed in Hurricane to boost its damage and synergize Cyclone Armor.
Idea #2: Grab a spirit.
What it costs: 1-21 points
What you do: Max either Oak Sage or Heart of the Wolverine.
What you get: Either a hefty life boost (Oak Sage), or a hefty AR/Damage boost (HoW). I prefer the HoW, since extra damage is the same as extra life when I’m leeching that much, and because the extra AR is really handy… but Oak is probably a more party friendly skill, and nice to have in Hardcore. Additional points would be wasted.
Idea #3: Make a friend.
What it costs: 5-24 points
What you do: A point in Ravens, Spirit Wolves, Dire Wolves, and Oak Sage. After that, max Dire Wolves or Grizzly to give you somewhat flimsy buddy to distract the baddies away from you. I like maxing Dire Wolves, since a single Slvl 20 Dire Wolf will have almost as much life as a Slvl 20 Grizzly with no investment in Dire Wolf, which means DW gives you three targets instead of one. Of course, they won’t kill anything without Grizzly maxed, but they’re more for distraction purposes than anything else.
Idea #4: Don’t forget the “weaker” summons!
What it costs: 5-25 points
What you do: Boost up Ravens and Poison Vine. 5 points in Ravens maxes them out. Keep them running at all times. They won’t kill anything, but they’ll always be passively blinding enemies, which does a lot to keep you safe for a meager 5 point investment. Sink between 1 and 20 points in Poison Vine and use it as a free source of Prevent Monster Heal. More points increases its durability as well as its damage (a combat-cast slvl 30 Poison Vine can actually kill in hell), but you’ll probably get the most bang for your buck by keeping your Vine at slvl 1-5. It’s pretty healthy already, since it spends all of its time underground. A 5-10 point investment here will do a lot to passively aid your build.
Idea #5: Beef up your Kodiak some.
What it costs: up to 95 points.
What you do: Not happy with Lycanthropy duration? Put some points in it. Not happy with your Werebear’s defense or damage? Put some points there. Not happy with your Hunger Leech or AR? More points. Want even more damage? Points in Maul. Not happy with your stun length? Points in Shockwave. Basically, just build your bear to taste.
A thousand thanks to The Dragoon. Without his wereform attack speed calculator, this build would never have been born.
A thousand more to Heather, whose Shadow Knight guide I blatantly copied in order to learn wiki formatting.
SSoG, April 2006. Additional suggestions and tips were offered by various posters in this thread in the Druid Forum, from April to June, 2006