Assassin Martial Arts Feedback

Hello, I am excited to see updates to Martial Arts Assassin. I very much enjoy the tree, but I have some commentary about things that have yet to be changed, as well as the posted changes you’re starting with.

First, the changes to the duration of abilities for QOL, and the adjustments to the blade skills in the trap tree are fantastic, so let’s not talk about that.

I’d like to point out that Cloak of Shadows is an extremely potent and beneficial ability for MA assassins, especially on lower levels of gear. It would be great QOL if either casting delay was removed, or casting delay was a static amount not tied to the duration of the ability. As it stands now, additional points in the ability actually tend to make the skill worse to use even though it increases the +Defense / -EnemyDefense effects. That is because it tends to be after around rank 5-6, you will likely be moving off screen from where you cast the effect initially, and now the new mobs cannot be affected until you wait for the delay to end. High ranks of the ability like 10, 15, or higher actually lead you to use the ability much less frequently in practice, and if you are relying on the extra AR due to weaker gear, makes it one of the only skills that gets functionally worse with a higher rank. Alternatively to messing with the casting delay, make the skill have a static duration at all ranks.

To the MA tree ; The change to the charge consumption is an interesting choice. It has some odd side effects with multi-strike abilities like dragon talon and dragon claw. Additionally due to the next-hit delay caused by some of the abilities, when the multi-strike abilities trigger charges repeatedly you are not actually getting any benefit. The best benefit to this change is for phoenix strike, allowing your playstyle to be more along the lines of “hold phoenix strike key for a couple seconds, hold finisher key for a couple seconds, repeat”, which isn’t that different from now.

The guaranteed hit on the finisher skills when an ability is charged is not as significant as it might sound. The charges already gave you a substantial amount of AR, so you were rarely missing with charged finishers anyway.

Let’s talk about charge gain/use. MA assassin is a bit weird compared to other classes as it involves build up then spend, making you change through abilities pretty frequently. If the idea of consuming one charge at a time was to get MA to use more than one charge up ability at a time, it’s not likely to be as effective as one hopes. On live, it’s really hard to get use out of Tiger or Cobra strike, and the single-elemental abilities end up being inferior to Phoenix strike.

There’s a few reasons for this on live;

  • When dual wielding, only the single-element abilities attack with both weapons, slowing charge gain.
  • Next-hit delay from some of the elemental abilities making them briefly immune to other sources of elemental damage.
  • Multi-strike finishers only benefit on the first strike.
  • Trying to visually see how many charges you have while in the fray of mobs can be challenging.
  • Attack Rating / Stagger from incoming Damage making time to gain max charges (or the correct charge, for phoenix strike) inconsistent.
  • Limited duration of charges cause some to expire if attempting to stack multiple different sets.

While consuming only one charge level at a time with finishers does help a little bit with this (more so for Phoenix Strike than any of the others), there’s more that can be done to help with the QOL and general strength of MA. Here’s some things to consider during this PTR cycle;

  • Make all the strikes use both weapons when dual wielding, which (as based on the current effect of single-elemental attacks now) will allow the gain of up to two charges per single attack animation.

  • Remove next-hit immunity from MA elemental attacks.

  • Take some inspiration from the druid Maul / Feral Rage ability, and slightly redesign the charge attacks. Reduce their effect per charge level, but allow them to stay up indefinitely for a duration based on skill level. This allows for a far more practical method of using multiple charged skills from the tree at the same time.

  • Convert some of the tree away from active abilities, into either passives, auras, or long-duration cast-once buffs. Regardless of your point investment into MA it typically becomes the use of only one or two abilities in the tree.

I look forward to seeing more things done with Assassin. It would be especially grand if they were to have more practical access to a greater array of runewords. As it stands now, for MA you will generally only use claws unless you’re using exclusively the kick abilities, due to the huge significance of claw mastery. Claws have very few runewords available to them, and weapon block is largely superior to standard shield block as it can block spell abilities.


I agree with the below points:

  • When dual wielding, only the single-element abilities attack with both weapons, slowing charge gain.
  • Make all the strikes use both weapons when dual wielding, which (as based on the current effect of single-elemental attacks now) will allow the gain of up to two charges per single attack animation.
  • Trying to visually see how many charges you have while in the fray of mobs can be challenging - very annoying, sometimes I have no idea what I will trigger…
  • It would be especially grand if they were to have more practical access to a greater array of runewords

Other than that, I feel that there is actually a big improvement of the Martial Arts skill tree. From my perspective the guaranteed last finisher hitting is HUGE help, I was missing often before. If the multi-strike finishers would trigger charges on each consecutive hit, that would be too op, so it makes sense as it is. My ASSASSIN was a Champion and I will now manually complete Hell, yesterday I finished Act I and it felt… FUN :slight_smile:

Also, Kraeftig, can you clarify the Next-hit delay concept? I never heard of this before.
In any case, let’s test a bit more and see…


Right now on the PTR, multi-hit finishers will consume a charge for every hit. So, as an example, if your Dragon Talon has at least 3 kicks, it will consume all three charges in a single use. While pretty cool, with guaranteed-hit for all charged finishers it has the effect of making all finishers other than Dragon Talon be generally useless for Phoenix Strike once you have enough points or +MA Skill to have DT have 3 kicks. I’ve mixed feelings about it, because while getting all three effects of Phoenix Strike at once finally makes it feel similar to the other charge skills, it feels a bit weird to not be able to even consider using the other skills. However this is just a Phoenix Strike problem, other charge skills still have mostly the same relative value across all finishers.

Next-Hit Delay is tied to certain damaging abilities (there’s a list) that limits how frequently these abilities can deal damage. Claws of Thunder is a prime example of Next-Hit Delay ; Mobs that are closer than about 2/3rds of the maximum radius of the Nova (charge 3) are unable to take damage from the Charged Bolts (charge 2). Shock Web in the traps tree is another one. There’s a few frames (length depending on which ability) where a mob struck by these abilities can’t take damage again from any ability in the NHD list.

Generally this wasn’t too big of a problem in the MA tree since really only Claws of Thunder was able to notice it, and you weren’t able to trigger CoT fast enough repeatedly for it to really be a big issue. However, enter the new change to charge triggering with Dragon Talon and Dragon Claw - You can now trigger an ability like CoT a second time faster than the next-hit delay with the finisher.

I am not 100% certain, but it seems like it was affecting the Phoenix Strike + Dragon Talon combo, where the Chaos Ice Bolt Nova (Charge 3) and Chaos Lightning (Charge 2) were stomping over each other with Next-Hit, as these are both on the 4-frame NHD. The Meteor came late enough that it almost always did its damage, though there was some initial appearances where it seemed like the lightning would strike and force a next-hit delay that caused the meteor impact to not do any damage. However, the meteor is not known to be on the NHD list, and without sitting there pouring over a recording repeatedly, I can only make an initial estimated impression.

I wasn’t having a huge problem having my finishers land before the PTR. The extra AR you gain per charge tended to be plenty once I had enough AR to relatively consistently (>85%) land the charge skill itself. I was noticing some odd behaviors tonight against Baal with attacks that should have been guaranteed hit, but without taking a few more rounds there I’m not quite sure what I was seeing. One example being cobra strike did not seem to ever give me any health or mana when consumed with DT, and the “attack missed” icon would flash up. While Baal does have 20% drain effectiveness, a single cobra strike DT on other monsters was enough to completely fill my health and mana from nigh-empty, so I should have seen at least a sliver of return. We’ll have to do some more tests.

One last QoL thing that I would whine about personally, is that with the removal of the Casting Delay from Dragon Flight, it would be nice if it would have a more reasonable cast animation, hopefully one tied to IAS. As it is, the ability takes so long to execute it’s nearly impossible to use while already in melee range of a number of enemies. The casting delay was hardly ever an issue, since the animation was so incredibly long.


Gaining and consuming chargers still feels very clunky and in no way a smooth progression. There are a few reasons that I have found in my game play testing for this.

First, it is very difficult to see how many charges are available at any given time. Attacking a single target, in front of the target, is the only time that I can readily see charge build up. Even behind a single target hides the charges available. I have two suggestions to help with this.

First, have an icon on the screen showing current charges much like the druid summons, but not in the upper left of the screen, building and spending charges happens to fast to have to constantly look there.

Second, is to change the system to the finishing moves no longer consume a charge, but simply trigger the current charge value. Using a charge up skill cycles through the charges (1-3) and hitting a finishing move activates that charge value. Building multiple charge values of different charge up skills to have available to finishing moves would also give players a reason to use multiple charge up skills along with phoenix strike. Multiple skills being triggered with a finishing move would also help with the underwhelming damage in its current state.

Is the elemental damage decent? I never fully gave it a chance because the numbers looked low to me and scaled slowly at lower levels in the past.

(Comparing to a sorceress who is ranged and has masteries)


Has anyone else noticed that dragon talon no longer makes use of lifetap procs? Not sure if this is a bug or a planned change.

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So, I just completed Act 2, 3 today. Act 1 was fun, I was doing good damage and it felt good. Act 2 was okay. Act 3 is where I started dying.
The close combat just feels so underwhelming in this game. I stand there in one place, Ghouls shoot lightning right at me, and Stygian Dolls are splashing in my face, while I am switching skills and charges like crazy to just do moderate damage and avoid immunities. At the same time, I need >50% resist Fire and max Lightning AND at least like 30% Damage Reduction, otherwise I just die in the melee when a stronger boss comes up.

The physical damage of the Martial Arts Assassin is just ridiculously low. I upgraded my Bartuc’s, gave me like 15 max damage. The claw damage is 90-150 or something like that. That is just not enough. So I am left with my maxxed Claws of Thunder and Phoenix Strike. These do okay-ish damage for p1. But lightning immunes are a problem in Act 3. I can only use Phoenix, but I can’t see the charges to trigger the meteor, which is the only one that does good damage. So I end up shifting and Dual Clawing like crazy just to kill a normal monster pack.
Another problem were bosses. It took forever to kill any Act boss without Crushing Blow. I tried CoT, Phoenix, Fire Claw, Tiger Strike. No. Just scratches them. On p1…

The best Assassin skill is still – by far – … yes, you guessed it, Corpse Explosion. Without it I wouldn’t be able to endure to Act 4. And I have absolutely no idea how I will complete Act 5 with its Moon Lords and Crawling Dead. And the Ancients. It just looks painful. :frowning:

I am using the best from the unique and set items they gave us. No OP runewords as Enigma since we won’t have this on the ladder for a while.

TL;DR: Phys dmg is very bad, elemental is often hard to time and apply. It is very APM-heavy and you die often. It’s just not worth it at this state, when you have auras that auto-kill almost everything or one-click spells like Blizzard/Lightning Fury.


I found that even though dual claw is more physical damage its just too squishy. I’m running what would normally be kicksin gear with lots of crushing blow and 50% damage reduction just to have a chance at staying alive. Honestly, I cannot find a charge up skill/finisher combo thats anywhere near as enjoyable and smooth to play then a traditional riftsin.

edit: with even more testing I have found the best way for myself to play the current changes and its every bit as smooth as a kicker hybrid. Survivability really is the only issue currently with MA that I see.

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I don’t agree that it’s hard to get use out of tiger/cobra strike

I use dragon talon with tiger and cobra strike on live server now and I can do ok in hell. with 3 charges of tiger strike, my dragon talon gets up to like 19k damage. I use death sentry so obviously that’s a humongous help while walking, but this is still my favorite build in the game by a long shot. very involved and requires strategy and attention unlike most builds that just spam one single very strong skill.

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I wish they would make it so charge up skills can passively gain a charge every 3 or 6 seconds in addition to gaining charges normally. It would help front load the damage a bit more in group play so you charge up just to have the mob cleared before you even set it off. You still would charge up the skills the normal because it’s faster so game play would change much. Just more front loaded damage for engaging mobs and less APM to maintain charges

Hello again. Today I finished all quests on Hell difficulty with my provided lvl 85 Champion Assassin. In total I played around 10 hours with this hero on the PTR. These are my thoughts.

The build

  • Elemental dual-claw Martial Arts:
  • Claw Mastery 20
  • Phoenix Strike 20
  • Claws of Thunder 18-20
  • Fists of Fire 18-20
  • Dragon Flight, Death Sentry, Burst of Speed, Fade, Weapon Block - 1 point
  • Finisher - Dual Claw mostly, some Dragon Flight
  • Items - the best uniques and sets they gave us (I think reasonably close to self-found gear for lvl 85)
  • Playstyle: I constantly cycle through PS, CoT, FoF according to the pack immunities/weaknesses, jump around with Dragon Flight and during all of this cast Death Sentry around me for Corpse Explosions. I don’t have enough APM to include Mind Blast or Cloak of Shadows to all of this.

The journey
So with this build I was aiming to become a real Assassin, jumping in packs and killing them swiftly with the highest possible AoE dps, then moving on. Goal was to play solo - without hireling, because Assassin’s don’t have mercenaries, right? :slight_smile:
It worked and was fun on Act 1 and 2. I started dying often on Act 3-5, on average 6-10 times per Act. Had to save & quit several time to loot my body. I wouldn’t be able to finish Hell without the OP Barbarian hireling gear helping me on some choke points and mostly because of Death Sentry all the way.


  • Overall the changes feel good for me and the MA Assassin feels better than before. I like the added AR, the guaranteed finisher hit with charges is an excellent idea
  • More charges are triggered for a given time, although I am not sure if the next-hit-delay doesn’t negate some of my added damage - please check this


  • Current charges count is often hard to see. You are surrounded by a crowd of creeps, have Meteor fire at your feet and tons of other spells on you most of the time. I just trigger finishers on intuition/timing
  • Barb and Rogue Archer mercs felt stronger than me - died slower, did more phys. damage
  • Mana Burn destroys this build. I have 200 Mana. When I get burned, I can’t hit with the added Attack Rating and use regular attack, which just does nothing, I lose my charges, get surrounded and die. Every time. It is VERY bad. With Barb merc this problem was alleviated

Main issue
From my perspective, the Assassin felt too all or nothing. I either killed them fast, or they killed me faster. I am ok to be squishy, but I really need the few seconds of surprise when I attempt the assassination to DO the damage. Otherwise it just becomes brute force hitting and sometimes the monsters are bigger and stronger.
The way Elemental charges damage works I need to be in the center of the melee, which simply isn’t possible on Hell without Cannot be Frozen, High Fire/Lightning res, high Damage reduction, high Faster Hit Recovery, high Faster Block rate. You need ALL of these to consistently survive.
Overall my playthrough was painful, with too high danger, very high skill intensity and not fun and enjoyable from Act 3 onwards.

Side note: I tested the build with the best gear I could get - Life tap, 10+ to skills, Enigma etc. Life Tap was a game changer. I was able to survive and this gave me the upper edge. It was actual fun.

Elemental Martial Arts Assassin is cool, but needs a bit more survivability. A temporary Life Tap-like skill, 3 seconds invincibility against monsters with long cooldown, removed Knockback on Mind Blast or something like this are some of the things I think would work to make her the fun and enjoyable silent killer she should be.

Thanks for reading!

bosses are bugged, atm, they have insane HP. That’s not an issue with Martial Arts skills, thankfully.

Not trying to be rude, but you’re doing something wrong then. I can clear players 7 chaos runs in 6-7 minutes in the current patch with Phoenix Strike. Without infinity, I can do players 3 chaos in about 6-7 minutes, Infinity makes a massive difference obviously. Thats also admittedly a bit slow, compared to other classes like Light sorc and Javazon, but still reasonable imo.

Check out my guide on the the Phoenix Sin, and you could even download the single player character and try it out yourself in PTR:

The phoenix sin is fine in the current patch, and its even better in the next one IMO. It is a little more difficult to play, but using certain hot key bindings and using Quick Cast Skills can really help smooth out the game play. I will admit, its a little harder to cast lightning storm consistently, but at least over charging allows you to drop back down to it now.

I would also love to see them get rid of the Frame Delay associated with Lightning Storm and Frozen Orb, it would help the dps of the spec a lot. As much as I think it’s fine in the current form, I do think it could receive some dmg buffs regardless.

I do still need to try other skills though.

I agree that our physical damage leaves much to be desired, but thats a lack of items imo. Some better phys dmg claws would be nice.

I also dont think its a bad thing at all that some spec requires more APM. Having some specs actually force you to pay extra attention and be very active is a good thing imo. Having the choice to just spam lightning on my sorc or swap over to a martial arts assassin and work a little harder to spam lightning storm is fun to me. If you want to do nothing and stand around super safe, you could play a trap assassin. Variety is good imo.

Here’s a players 7 chaos run with my phoenix sin in the PTR. I clear the chaos (not including river) in 5:30, but Diablo takes forever because of the current bug. My gameplay was definitely super sloppy, I casted the wrong skill a lot, but this was just 1 take, no warm ups, no editing. Also sorry about the visual bug, its extremely ugly and annoying, but I can’t fix it.

I also have this other spec, Tiger Tail, I haven’t pushed it on P7→8 but it works great:

I was really excited to hear this. Then I checked out your video and saw the constant use of death sentries. I think its great that you like this playstyle, but I want to be a martial arts assassin. Not a hybrid having to worry about trap upkeep.


I used to play it without Death Sentries, it’s still definitely viable without them. You also don’t need to worry about keeping them up all the time, because your Shadow Warrior will cast them for you if you use my hotkey assignment. They’re also only needed for CE, in the ptr the bolt is dealing 1-200 dmg. So just drop 1 when a monster dies, if the shadow hasn’t already, and go back to using PS. I played super sloppy in the video and was way over using them.

You can play without death sentry if you want, it’s not required at all because of the variety of elements you have. But it’s just not optimal to play without them, so I’m not sure what to tell you there. Even if they buff PS more, it’ll always be faster if you have Death Sentry. I also only put 1 point into the skill, it isn’t a focus at all, as much as it does help a lot. But the same could be said for mind blast, 1 skill point, different tree, huge dmg increase when utilized.

/shrug; To each there own, you don’t need it, but any MA spec is not optimal without it

Which is exactly why I feel Blizz should receive this as feedback to improve a pure MA spec to not require the use of traps to be optimal. Maybe some nice MA runeword claws since claw choices are so limited.

Anyways, I do appreciate your input regardless.


MA is my favorite build and I think a lot on how to make it more on par with the other top builds.

I feel like those new changes are in the right track but doesn’t improve enough. The main issue with MA is you waste 1 to 3 attacks to build up charges.

My suggestion is as follow:
1 - Each charge up skill give a charge like now and does his current charge effect. (ex: Phoenix Strike cast meteor on first hit, lightning second hit and ice third)
2 - The skill activated only use its own effect (if you have multiple charges of different abilities it doesn’t use other abilities, but the one use, ex: activate fire claw, if you have lightning claw charged up it will only do fire claw effect.)
3 - Finisher use all charges
4 - Tiger Strike affect other charges on the finishing move (ex: 3 charges level 1 TS increase by 300% damage every charged skill released with a finishing.) Will surely break the game and might need to nerf TS by a lot, but it would fix the issue of damage and bring the synergy unique of charges. Could be also good if it increase every damage, same like viper strike leeching every attack made with other abilities like Fire Claw or Phoenix Strike, making TS and VS more of a support skill than a single charge up ability.

What is the change in gameplay? Instead of charging up on small monsters on wasting it to clear a big pack, you charge up and clear packs at the same time and once you have a boss you unleash for massive damage, then you slowly rebuild on boss if it didn’t die. Making it similar to crushing blow or static field, you start the fight with an advantage or in combinaison with it would be a good finisher if you burn the boss with crushing blow first than finish the boss with your finisher fully charged.

Dragon Claw should trigger Charge-Up effects on both hits, like it was always meant to do(read description text).

For example: Let’s say you have 3 charges of Tiger Strike and use Dragon Claw. Then both Dragon Claw hits should gain full effect of Tiger Strike. Efter the attack has finished, you should now have 0 Tiger Strike charges remaining. - This is how Dragon Claw is supposed to function.

With 2.4 patch. Using the same example as above, you should have 2 Tiger Strike charges remaining, after one successful use of Dragon Claw(2 hits).


I’ve been playing around with PTR Assassins trying to find what would work well.

Shadow Warrior
I can say the damage of Shadow Warrior is garbage. Tried lots of setups to make them shine and at best they were a distraction to the enemy. I was kind hoping me and my warrior could bro down and destroy. I did some research and the internet says the calc for skills is 1/3 shadow warrior skill + 1/2 your skill level. Even with Maxed warrior and maxed tiger strike the damage was weak. Not sure if it’s the gear on the warrior that was part of the issue. The “best” (or at least most things happening) setup I found for shadow warrior was Right Click Blades of Ice, Left click phoenix strike. Just fun to see things pop off even if the damage was like a wet pool noodle.

Charge Ups
I couldn’t really get anything the felt like I should be melting act one on the elemental side. Tiger Strike seems like it was where it was at for me.

I could not land on what I liked best. I ended up using the teleport one the most I think.

The build: Tank-a-Sin
Since my damage wasn’t anything special I decided to see what it would be like to try to be a tough as possible.

I got up to Damage Reduced by 83%! Gear was Shako, Fortitude, Storm shield, Chaos rune word claw, String of Ears, Dracs, Maras, Raven Frost, and some other ring.

Skills were
Marital Arts -25
20 - Tiger Strike
1 in All finishers (4 pts total)
1 in Cobra strike

Shadow - 65
20 Claw mastery
20 Fade
20 Venom
1 Shadow Warrior (3 pre-reqs)

Traps -5
1 Blade Shield (4 prereqs)

I took the act 3 fire merc which added fire damage via enchant. Blade shield did like 1-2k damage. 3k damage tiger strike and ~3k damage teleport kick. The Fire kick was about 8k with 3 charges.

I am not saying this is a good build or anything it’s just where I ended up after running around act 1. Could not test past Act 1 since the sin didn’t have everything unlocked. Probably more ideal to max a finisher and use treachery for venom and fade. I just wanted 20 points in venom and fade to make the shadow warrior cast them. Also the + damage on Fortitude was nice.

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I tried CoT, Phoenix, Fire Claw, Tiger Strike. No. Just scratches them. On p1…

I meant to the bugged Act bosses, man. It does good damage to regular monsters.

My build is almost 1:1 to yours. And, I watched your video with Infinity, CTA and don’t know what more pro gear. But with your kind of gear it is hard to NOT be able to kill content. I just did a regular playthrough with regular unique items and these were my feelings about it (check my last post above).

Other than that, I think we share the same perspective. My main issue was the survivability, elemental damage was okay.

@Trolddom, if you have 3 charges and use Dragon Claw, it uses up 2 of the charges. This I am 100% sure about and I think it is how it should work.

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Not really imo - it should use only one charge but add it to both attacks.