Assassin Martial Arts Feedback

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.


I think this is hard capped in the game at 50%. I think this cap can be achieved by just using Nat’s set and the fade skill. This stat is pretty much required for melee because assassins also have hilariously low life :frowning:

I still say Martial Arts elemental attacks are horribly weak considering the effort and danger of using them. If all the elemental damages were doubled I think it would still be underwhelming. And the physical side is severely limited by the weakness of one-handed claws. Tiger strike works with non-claws, and historically has been more popular to use with non-assassin weapons :man_facepalming:


Gotcha, that makes more sense

for sure, the gear is definitely gg, but that was the point, P7 ~5 minute chaos runs with gg gear is kind of a decent standard and not all specs can do it. With the basic gear set from my guide (and infinity, its really slow on high P# without it) P7 chaos takes like 7-9 minutes. Without infinity I’m able to do P3 chaos in ~5 minutes. Infinity makes the spec so much more forgiving, the other pieces aren’t nearly as influential or important.

My build guide actually is built with more basic gear (no high runes used at all), the video uses what I consider to be perfect gear. The downloadable character has 2 different basic sets, and perfect gear available for messing around with.

Yeah, I can agree with those sentiments. Like you were saying you needed to do, I recommend maxing resists, dmg reduction as much as possible, and even recommend stacking “damage reduced by X” to beef it up even more.

With all that said, you got me curious how far I can push the Basic Gear sets now. Maybe it’d be worth doing some runs with a more basic set to test it out more:

I played more last night on the PTR trying different MA builds.

One thing that is a little disheartening is as I progressed in the game the trash mobs were getting harder to hit. 70% to hit with a maxed out skill. I wish we had all acts unlocked so I could see how bad it is in Act 5.

That said I ended up using the Cube to up the bartucs and ran with that and the Jade talon for resists, otherwise it was fortitude, shako, and other ptr gear. Played with the holy freeze act 2 merc with reapers toll, duriels shell, and andy’s helm.

I decided instead of dumping points into all the elements to try to focus on 1 element, physical, and a finisher.

MA (86 Points)
20 - Tiger Strike
20 - Dragon Claw (finisher)
20 - Claws of Thunder
20 - Phoenix Strike
6 - 1 pt in all the others

Rest of the points in Shadow tree down to shadow warrior 1 pt. This time I played with 1 pt in blade shield and after a respec left it off.

Running through act 1 was pretty easy. Act 2 started to slow things down a little but overall felt good. I finished in Act 3 smashing the orb. I did have to respec in act 3 and dumped 200 points into Dex just to get my chance to hit up to 80% on trash mobs.

What I really liked
This maybe a not popular opinion but I liked that dragon claw used 2 charges. It was fun to see the 2 novas go off, then I just had to attack again (and hopefully hit) to fill the 2 back up. This also helped me because I was mostly interested in the chain lightning portion of phoenix strike, so with full charges I know I am getting lightning.

For lightning immunes I would just use tiger strike. 3 charges and a maxed finisher felt great on trash mobs. It was single target but overall it was a way to progress when faced with lightning immunes. The physical immune ghosts in the arcane sanctuary were really only an issue due to the mana drain.

I tried to weave in cobra strike as needed. Would love to have more points into this or just have it be a passive that works for any charge (though that would op I’m sure). But something along the line of charge up skills have a chance to add a cobra strike charge up.

I think most disco sins will agree it’s pretty fun to see 9 charges spent at once.

What I didn’t like
Chance to hit was rougher than I thought as I got further in the game. Maybe claw mastery has to be maxed and angelic 2 part mandatory? Over all seeing that x pop up on a missed charge was sad every time. I also was debating trying the act 3 fire merc but was enjoying reapers toll and the slow of holy freeze.

Never felt like I have enough points. There are just too many thing to add. Trying to remove the cold and fire from the mix freed up some skills at the cost of my phoenix strike not really being as good as it could be.

I wish dragon flight let me move as soon as I land. I felt like there were times I used it and tried to reposition but had to wait a second. Didn’t really test fully but just something that I felt while playing.

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What do you guys think if they made charge up skills always hit and revert finishers to requiring AR to hit again. I always found the worst part of the MA experience is the time it takes to charge, missing is annoying. I don’t mind spamming finishers multiple times, they hit hard and fast anyways. Normal attacks with charge ups just isn’t that exciting.

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I’d be on board for this.

Another hidden thing about Charges, beyond the 15 second timer, is that they each give +25→50% AR to finish moves, but the fact they always hit makes this buff pointless now.

Switching it so charge up skills always hit, and finisher used AR would be soooo much better; it’d make charging way more consistent, make the AR bonus charges give be useful again, and the release skills typically have solid AR bonuses already.

I agree, that would make gameplay a lot smoother. I find that in group play it’s hard to charge up before mobs are nuked, anything to make charging quicker is a big plus.