Years ago before I acquired many mid and high runes that are currently on my stash and mules, I was working with what I had at the time. I only had two characters on Battle.net: a cold and fire hybrid Sorceress and a physical Zeal Paladin when it comes to magic finding.
My overall “wealth” wasn’t the greatest back then. Matter of fact, a Call to Arms was really the most expensive thing I had back in those days. I was still chasing so many items I wanted to use for future builds, items to fully optimize my current characters, and of course, trying to chase those desirable high runes.
This guide is for those that are definitely on a budget and is probably not swimming in too many high runes. You probably don’t have a single high rune on your stash or mules or is using runewords that are consists of mid runes.
Another thing about this guide is it is heavily based on my old gear and set up that my physical zealot was using. I eventually upgraded his gear to perfect him, so he’s wearing higher end equipment nowadays.
Why a Zeal Paladin Over a Sorceress?
I know what you’re thinking. Why would I want to use a physical melee build for magic finding when I can use my Sorceress? The answer is variety.
I’m sure there might be moments where it is boring to play your Sorceress so religiously to chase those key set and unique items you’re trying to chase for. Sometimes, it’s good to try out a different character and sometimes that character should be a melee character.
If there’s one great about playing melee builds in Diablo II is they are fairly relaxing to play. There’s generally not many abilities you need to constantly change because you’re just doing a lot of left clicks on your targets.
I don’t know about you, but I find it visually satisfying to see a melee character dive in a crowd of monsters and slices them to death. I think that’s more cooler than looking at a Sorceress casting her spells at a distance, so that’s another reason to play a zealot over your standard Sorceress magic finding build.
Believe it or not, the Zeal Paladin can be an effective character to magic find even with budget gear. The gear I will eventually reveal are generally not that hard to find, and you should still able to magic find effectively.
There’s no doubt that Sorceresses are excellent at magic finding in Diablo II. They can have very good damage per second and still be able to stack a lot of magic find on them. We all know Teleport is the best mobility-based spell, and Sorceress have that without needing the Enigma runeword. However, I ended up finding some very key ticket items on my zealot even though his damage and magic find isn’t quite as effective compared to my Sorceress.
There was a time where I was still hunting for my Tal Rasha’s Adjudication. During those times, my wealth was much bigger and I had more characters to play with, but I struggled finding that set amulet. For whatever reason, my zealot ended up being the first character to find the last piece I needed for my Tal Rasha Sorceress. He probably had slightly under 100% magic find while doing a Travincal run.
My point is Diablo II is a game of chances. Sometimes, you may think having more magic find will help you find the good stuff better, but that’s not always the case when there’s a lot of random elements to it.
The Items and the Skills Part 1
Now, we will go into the two important aspects of the build. We are going to start off with the items because I believe that’s probably the most interesting part of this category. Melee characters are generally known to be very item dependent to do well in Diablo II, so I think it’s only right for me to start off with that.
Back in the early days of Diablo II, the best weapon I had for my zealot was the one and only: Lightsabre. This weapon is easily one of my favorite budget weapon for a melee character to use. There are so many great stats to it whether it’s the lightning absorb, the mana leech, ignore target defense, and it’s fairly easy to find. There are a lot of excellent melee-based weapons that you can find in Hell that aren’t too hard to find if you want an alternative to Lightsabre.
My shield at the time was the Spirit runeword made in a Royal Shield which had max resistances. In Hell difficulty, it is definitely important to give your Paladin a shield with nice resistances. My helmet was Guillaume’s Face which I quest socketed. This helmet is easily one of the best helmets for melee builds due to the massive damage enhancement it gives you. It is also easy to find too, so I recommend that you quest socket it and just put a perfect Topaz in it for the magic find boost.
The secondary weapon and shield I was using was basically a Life Tap wand with charges. I recommend you to use a wand that have at least a level 4 Life Tap. For my shield, it a Moser’s Blessed Circle with two perfect Diamonds. The shield is literally just there to give me good resistances and blocking capabilities against elemental and physical attacks. With this secondary set up, you basically don’t have to rely on so much equipment with life leech. It is also designed to keep your character and mercenary as tanky as possible without needing much damage mitigation. The Life Tap ability also helps out drastically against certain Undead mobs like the skeletons because you cannot life leech.
It’s really hard for me to remember whether I was using a Duress runeword or a Duriel’s Shell when it comes to the body piece, but I think if I was rocking with some really budget stuff, I’d go Duriel’s Shell because the defensive stats of the resistances and extra health might be more appealing to me. You might not have many small charms of life and resistance if you’re on a budget, so it’s obviously better to choose Duriel’s Shell over Duress in that situation. If you happen to find a lot charms to back up your character’s life and resistance, then Duriel’s Shell can easily be swapped for something else.
The Items and the Skills Part 2
For the jewelleries, you obviously need to have a Raven Frost for the cannot be frozen and the other juicy stats like the massive attack rating bonus. The second ring I remembered using was a Nagelring, but if you have a nice rare find with magic find and other additional good stats, I’d rather use that. The amulet I remembered using was some random blue amulet with lightning resistance and magic find. Any sort of amulet with magic find and resistance should be the one you want to prioritize in this situation.
The gloves I used were interesting back then. I found a pair of rare gloves that gave me dual leech, some fire resistances, and reasonable magic find from Eldritch and Shenk. These gloves were definitely nice to use for the mixture of survivability and magic find. However, I also still used the tried and true Laying of Hands because of the offensive capabilities due to the enhanced damage to demons and increased attack speed. Looking back then, I think I’d rather stick with the Laying of Hands just to make the clear speed better because of the increased attack speed is nice. The 50% bonus fire resistance is juicy too and in reality, I don’t think many Diablo II players will find some decent rare gloves that balances magic find and survivability. This gives Laying of Hands an edge.
My boots is none other than Gore Rider. These boots should not be that difficult to obtain, and it’s very much the best boots for melee characters to use because of the bonus Crushing Blow, Open Wounds, and Deadly Strike. If you happen to not have Gore Rider, Goblin Toes are also fine too or any sort of rare boots that’ll give you resistances and magic find at the same time.
For the belt, I was using String of Ears. I need some sort of basic life steal, so you don’t have to constantly swap to my Life Tap wand so much. The other bonuses like the magic and physical damage reduction are additional reasons to use this belt.
The Items and the Skills Part 3
My mercenary was using Might aura and his gear consist of a non ethereal Obedience runeword in an Elite Polearm, Treachery runeword in some random Elite Armor, and Vampire Gaze. Looking back then, I think it might’ve been a better choice to go for Holy Freeze because my gear was simply not the greatest at the time. I think I’d rather prioritize a better defensive set up until I get better gear and then switch to Might aura.
Last but not least, it’s time for me to talk about the skills. The skills are fairly standard for what you expect for a physical zealot build. You max out Sacrifice, Zeal, Holy Shield, and Fanaticism. After that, you have a lot of options of what kind of points you want to allocate. Put least one point into Salvation just in case of dealing with elite packs that has Conviction aura. Some points into Vengeance is also a consideration if you need a counter towards physical immune boss packs. There’s no wrong or right of what to do with your remaining skill points once you max out the important skills. It might be best to put the rest of your points into Vengeance just to deal with physical immune boss mobs.
There will be moments where you do bump into pesky physical immune boss mobs. It’s up to you to decide if you want to kill them or not. I personally would do it because I have the fear of missing out. I don’t want to skip a boss pack mob that can potentially drop something desirable like a Herald of Zakarum.
With this set up, my zealot can farm through many locations from The Pit to Edritch and Shenk. I personally believe this set up is excellent for The Pit, Andariel, Edlritch and Shenk, and for Thresh Socket and Arreat Plateau. Those are the locations I would farm heavily on if I was using this character set up in today’s time. Back then, I was experimenting with a lot of different locations with this equipment set up. The areas I don’t recommend farming are basically any sort of areas from Act IV or the later stages of Act V. You just don’t have enough survivability and damage to farm them effectively, but like I said, this is a budget build after all.
I also remembered farming niche areas like The Palace Cellar level 1 to 3 because I needed spare Harlequin Crests (Shako) and other items. These items include: Vampire Gaze, War Travelers, and more. I was looking for all kinds of stuff to create my future characters, and the Palace Cellar was actually a fairly good place for this build too.
Better in Diablo II: Resurrected
Still though, it is effective enough to run a lot of the popular magic finding locations. Keep in mind, I made this character before Diablo II: Resurrected existed, and it can absolutely be effective in the updated Stony Tombs and Arachnid Lair. If you’re playing the latest version of Diablo II, definitely put those two areas in the ideal magic finding zones with the ones I mentioned. Of course, there is also the Terror Zone feature that Resurrected has implemented which does allow you to have more places to farm. I’d probably say its best to use this character if you get a terrorized Lost City or Tristram. The mobs are easy to kill, and there shouldn’t be too many physical immune mobs you’ll bump into.
All in all, this is a reasonably cheap and effective magic finding Zeal Paladin you can use if you want to take a break from abusing your Sorceress to find those big chase items. There’s no high rune needed to complete this build, and can handle a good amount of the mainstream magic finding zones without too many issues. Yes, you don’t have as much magic find compared to your Sorceress, but that also means, you can potentially have a better chance of finding some nice weapon or armor bases for your high end runewords.
The key items for giving your zealot the magic find boost should come from one of the ring slots, amulet, and helmet. After that, you can easily stack up magic find charms or use a Gheed’s Fortune to further increase your magic find.
There are definitely some better set ups for sure like one can argue you should use a Skulder’s Ire. That particular item isn’t that difficult to find, and can be considered a budget item. Without a doubt, Skulder’s Ire would definitely be an excellent armor choice for this set up. Unfortunately, I remembered I didn’t have one when I only had two characters at the time. But that’s just Diablo II by its nature. Sometimes, there are items that just seem unnecessarily hard to find at times.
With all that mentioned, I hope this guide will help you work with what you have. Hopefully, you’ll have fun slicing demons and finding nice loot. Most importantly, I hope this will make you appreciate melee builds even more!