Hey, in this guide we will go over the Tiger Tail Martial Arts Assassin. I’ve also included a section on how you can download the character file for single player so you can try it yourself.
I didn’t invent the spec, but this is how I’ve come to refine the gear, gameplay, and skills. When geared correctly, it’s possible to make Dragon Tail hit for more than 100k Fire dmg over 4 yards AoE, and that’s before resistances is taken into consideration. The spec can be very powerful and doesn’t require high runes to be efficient.
Here’s how I like to play and build the char:
Current Version = Patch 2.4 PTR
Guide Coming when 2.4 is live
The spec can struggle in places with lots of fire immunities, like the Chaos Sanctuary, but it’s still capable of clearing it fairly efficiently once high end gear is obtained. Where the build really shines in areas like Cows or Frigid Highlands where you can really utilize the Fire Dmg from the kick without those expensive items.
Players 7 Chaos Run, “perfect” Gear:
Players 3 Cow Run, “basic” gear, no Death Sentry:
No DS just to highlight Tiger Tail’s raw power even with basic gear
1.0 Gear and Stats:
1.1 D2Planner Gear Sets:
There are 3 different gear sets in there; 2x basic sets, and what I consider to be perfect gear. These are examples of how you can build your char to achieve the required stats. One thing to note, is that you will want either Myrmidon or War Boots for max kick dmg, be Shadow Dancer, up’d Gores, up’d Aldurs, up’d War Travs, Crafted Safety Boots, etc.
Disclaimer: you don’t need these exact stats and pieces of gear, these are just examples, use the best of what you have. Ex 11% Fire Res SC’s aren’t required, but any XX% Fire Res SC will help
1.2 Attack Speed:
Obtaining the final breakpoint for both Charge Skills and Dragon Tail kick, while being slowed by Decrep/Holy freeze, is the most important thing to focus on. We do not want our Attack speed to ever be hindered, it slows the spec down, reducing dps, way to much. To do this we will use BoS and stack a decent chunk of IAS. Section “3.0 Animation Breakpoints:” will go over this in much more detail.
1.3 Damage Modifiers:
When gearing up we want to stack as many + skills as we can while also obtaining some +XXX% increased damage (Might Merc, Fort, etc) on what ever slots are reasonably available. The reason we want to stack increased damage is the Fire Explosion’s damage from Dragon Tail is based off of the physical damage your kick dealt. The Kick cannot crit, so Deadly Strike can be ignored.
1.4 Mana/Resource Management:
Mana isn’t a huge issue for this spec, but we still require some way to supplement it. We can rely on a few different things, I recommend you pick at least one:
This is your best way to fuel the character. If you use Tiger Tail with some mana leach, you can fill you mana globe quite quickly and easily with the heavy hitting Kicks. It’s definitely the best way to maintain mana with the character.
% Damage to Mana:
The more you have the better, it can easily be obtained from Naj’s chest, and on your IAS Jewels. It doesn’t provide constant mana, because you need to be hit for it to work, but it will definitely help offset mana costs. It also works great to negate the mana burn from Stormcasters, giving you back some mana as you get damaged.
Mana per Kill
Mpk can be useful with this spec because it will return mana when ever you use Tiger Tail, but if you kill things using CoT or Death Sentry’s Corpse Explosion, it will not return resources. So it’s not the most reliable method.
Ultimately, you will want some mana leech from somewhere.
1.5 Defensive stats:
Since we are melee, it is important to be quite durable. You’re going to want to max out your resistances as best you can, the higher the better. The chest piece is often a great slot to do this. Obtaining some physical damage reduction is also vital, we’re gonna be hit quite often so getting it on String of Ears, Shako, or Verdungos can help.
Stacking life leech on slots can also help here, our kicks can heal us quite consistently.
We’ll definitely want to use the Might Merc for this spec. It provides a massive increase in damage to our kicks. Infinity is the best in slot choice for this spec, but Reapers Toll is also extremely useful. It amplifies the damage of Dragon Tail and Death Sentry by 50% and provides the slowing and damage reduction effects.
Your kick damage is amplified by strength with +20% efficiency. This means every point of Str you have will provide 1.2% more dmg, stacking upwards of 500 str can result in 600% more dmg to your kicks. I highly recommend you obtain either 1000→1250 HP before BO, or 1500 after BO, and then dump the remaining points in Str for the increased kick damage.
You’ll only want just enough dext to hold your claws/weapons.
Like mention prior, if you don’t have CTA obtain enough stats to equip your gear, then dump the rest here. If you do have CTA, I recommend picking a lower HP point before BO and dumping into Str for more kick dmg and attack rating.
3.0 Animation Breakpoints:
3.1 What are breakpoints?
Breakpoints is a term used to describe the threshold value in which increasing a stat actually corresponds to faster animations when playing the game. When stacking stats like Faster Cast Rate, Faster Hit Recovery, or Increased Attack Speed, you aren’t always guaranteed to actually increase the animation speed. You must stack an amount equal to or greater than specific threshold values to see an increase in animation speed.
For example: if you have 60% Faster Hit Recovery because of your 2x bartuc’s claws, you are currently at the 48%→85% FHR breakpoint meaning if you’re put into hit recovery, it will take 5 frames to recover. Any value of FHR between 48%→85% will always equate to a 5 frame hit recovery, you must obtain 86%, or more, to move into the 4 frame hit recovery breakpoint.
Faster Cast Rate works in the exact same manor, but also have a thing called the Action Frame. This is the frame, during the Frame Rate length, in which the character will actually cast the spell. The sooner the Action Frame comes up, the less likely you are to be interrupted when casting and the earlier you will actually cast the spell during the animation. Some Action Frame breakpoints fall in between Frame Rate breakpoints, meaning you’ll cast the spell sooner, but it will still take the same amount of frames to finish casting the spell. Action Frame breakpoints are good to be aware of, but Frame Rate breakpoints are much more important. I’ve included a table in both sections to reference the breakpoints.
Attack speed functions in a similar fashion, you must pass certain thresholds of IAS on gear, skills, and weapon to hit different frame rates, but it’s a lot more complicated overall. You’re best to just use an APS Calculator or Character builder to figure those out.
You can use this attack speed calculator here:
3.2 Attacks per second = 7 Frame Breakpoints:
We want to attack as fast as we can, while also being able to negate the IAS slowing affects from being Cursed by Decrepify or Holy Freeze.
Depending on the amount of IAS on your gear, you will need a varying level of Burst of Speed. Having a Shael or IAS jewel in your claw will help towards reaching those BPs, but we’re short on resistances and it’s not required to max out our APS. Since they aren’t required, if geared correctly, you’re better off putting all resistance jewels in the claws. If you can afford IAS All Resist jewels, even better, but once again, not required.
You can use this table to figure out your BoS lvl req when using these combos of IAS on Gear and Claw:
Burst of Speed Level
IAS on Claw 0% 15% 20% 50% 26 13 11 IAS 55% 21 11 9 on 60% 15 9 8 Gear 65% 13 8 7 70% 11 7 6
The current downloaded able character (1 Basic Gear, in D2 Planner) has 70% IAS on Gear, with 0% IAS on Claw. Following the chart, we’ll see we require a level 11 Burst of Speed to negate Decrepify/Holy Freeze. With the perfect gear (2 Perfect Gear, in D2 Planner), we have 50% IAS on Gear, and an IAS Jewel for 15% IAS on Claw; so we require a level 13 Burst of Speed. There are many possible combinations, just make sure you can’t be slowed by Holy Freeze or Decrepify when gearing.
3.3 Faster Hit Recovery = +86%:
Between 2x Bartucs and Shadow Dancers, you obtain the final 86% FHR breakpoint with a total of 90%. Verdungo’s can be paired with some small charms, or only your Martial Art GCs if you wanted. But they’ll be hard to find or more expensive to trade for. There’s many ways to achieve this and you should always be over 86% FHR when playing this spec.
Her FHR Breakpoints are:
FHR Frame Rate 0% 9 7% 8 15% 7 27% 6 48% 5 86% 4 200% 3
3.4 Faster Cast Rate:
This will help with when casting Mind Blast, but FCR is not necessary, it’s just a luxury stat. You can get some on your Amulet or Rare ring, and it also comes with Arachnid Mesh or Vipermagi. There’s a few slots where you can obtain some FCR, but like I mentioned, its not a necessity.
Her FCR Breakpoints are:
FCR Frame Rate Action Frame 0% 16 9 8% 15 ↓ 15% ↓ 8 16% 14 ↓ 27% 13 ↓ 39% ↓ 7 42% 12 ↓ 65% 11 ↓ 86% ↓ 6 102% 10 ↓ 174% 9 ↓
Charge skill = Tiger Strike, Claws of Thunder
Release skill = Dragon Tail
Utility skills = Death Sentry, Shadow Warrior, Dragon Flight, Burst of Speed, Blade Shield, Mind Blast
Passive skills = Claw Mastery, Weapon Block
4.1 Order to Max Out Skills:
- 1 point into everything needed to unlock all required skills
- Obtain the appropriate Burst of Speed level, and then max in this order: Tiger Strike, Dragon Tail, Claws of Thunder, max Phoenix Strike last
- Dump remaining surplus skills into Death Sentry as you continue to level up
Level 91+, and all skill quests completed, are needed to unlock and max out all required skills.
4.2 Tiger Strike:
This skill will be used to amplify the damage of Dragon Tails Explosive Kick. Each orb doesn’t deal equal damage either; 3 charges results in a max power DT, which progressively get weaker as you consume charges.
For example if your skill reads:
Charge 3 = +2700% Dmg
It’s not 3x charges of 900%, totaling up to +2700%. It’s actually:
Charge 3 = +2700% to 1st kick
Charge 2 = +1800% to 2nd kick
Charge 1 = +900% to 3rd kick
This means that each kick has a different amount of power, so it’s best to try and build to max before releasing. Overall it provides a massive damage increase per charge and makes it so your kick deals a ton of physical damage which results in massive fire aoe damage. It also allows your kick to leech back a lot of Life and Mana from the target you kicked.
4.3 Dragon Tail
This will be our release skill of choice. When combined with Tiger Strike, you can make each kick deal 3-10k physical dmg and the explosion can deal in the ranges of 25k-114k fire dmg, over 4 yards, depending on how many TS charges you have. And that’s before resistances are taken into consideration. With 3 charges saved up, you can unleash a lot of physical and fire damage really quickly.
The knockback from this skill can be annoying, but it also makes the spec extremely safe to play, interrupting enemies, ensuring you’re never surrounded, and can make them get hit by an extra charged bolt with CoT.
If a monster is physical immune, you will see an explosion, but it will deal 0 damage, because the explosion is based of the physical kick damage you deal to the monster. Hitting a non-physical immune monster beside, a phys immune, will kill it with fire
4.4 Claws of Thunder:
This will be used as our back up element if we run into Fire or Physical immunes. The nova can reach out very far, hit multiple enemies, and the charged bolts can deal a lot of damage. When combined with Dragon Tail, you can actually knock monsters back making them take damage from the Nova and Charged Bolts. Next Hit Delay can definitely hinder this skill a bit, but because of the difference in travel speed of Nova vs Charged bolts, it isn’t that big of a deal.
4.5 Death Sentry:
We will use the Death Sentry’s Corpse Explosion to help increase our damage, but we don’t want to cast them to much or we will burn out all of our mana. Only drop 1 or 2 of them once there are some bodies to consume, and then just let them do their thing. Hopefully the Shadow Warrior will cast more for you as you fight, and if not, just make sure 1 is always active if there are corpses.
Death Sentry’s Corpse Explosion deals both Fire and Physical damage, so they are quite effective for both a budget setup using Reapers Toll, and a more expensive setup using Infinity.
4.6 Shadow Warrior:
We’re going to use the Shadow Warrior, instead of the Master, so that we can get her to consistently cast Death Sentry for us. If you leave Death Sentry on right click, so it’s always active, the Shadow Warrior will cast Death Sentries for you. This both allows you to focus on using Phoenix Strike, and save mana on spawning Death Sentries. She will die a fair bit, but that’s okay, she’s only around to spawn free Death Sentries for you.
4.7 Dragon Flight:
It can be used to release charges, but we will use this primarily to control our merc’s position, making sure he’s fighting who we want while providing his aura’s for us. We can also use this for some mobility to cross gaps/walls. It can also be used defensively to escape combat, but it has a huge ramp up time and isn’t very safe or reliable for this. In theory it’s good, but in practice, not the best. It can still be done in the right moments, but the skill is best to be used offensively.
4.8 Burst of Speed:
This skill is required to hit the 7 frame attack speed breakpoints for Phoenix Strike and Normal Attack while affected by Decrepify/Holy Freeze.
refer to section “3.0 Animation Breakpoints: Attacks per second” for more details
4.9 Blade Shield:
The damage output for this skill isn’t very important, but what it does provide is a ton of life leech when you accidentally get surrounded. This skill will save you from a bad Dragon Flight, and help you survive a lot more than you’d think. Definitely worth the 5 points to unlock.
For this to work, you need at least 4%+ Life or Mana steal. BS reduces your LL and ML by 1/4, rounded down. So: 3 LL / 4 = 0.75, rounded down, = 0% LL. It requires at least 4% so that you achieve 1% after reduction
4.10 Mind Blast:
This skill helps a ton, and can be key for outputting lots of damage when fighting lots of enemies. It allows you to distract monsters by converting some to your side, adding to your meat shield, and you can attack the stunned/distracted ones, allowing you to easily manage your charge stacks. This skill is based off of FCR, so stacking a bit can be nice; 20-30% FCR is ideal, preferably from Arach’s.
a “distracted” monster is just a monster fighting someone other than you; be it your merc, a converted monster, an ally, or shadow if you have one
4.11 Claw Mastery:
The attack rating boost is great, and the crit chance is nice, but we aren’t too concerned with our physical damage.
4.12 Weapon Block:
We’ll want this to help us survive better, it’s too good and just 1 point adds a ton of survivability. The blocking can be annoying when trying to stack charges, but it’s worth the defense it adds
5.0 Game play:
5.1 Quick Cast Skills:
To enable Quick Cast Skills go to:
Pause → Options → Gameplay Tab → Gameplay Section
and enable Quick Cast Skills. I recommend also enabling “Display Active Skill Bindings”, it will help when playing.
QCSs is a new setting they’ve added in D2r that allows you too: press a hotkey, it will instantly change to the skill, cast it, and change back to what the Left or Right Click was originally assigned to.
This can be extremely useful when playing this spec. It allows you to have very precise control of both charging skills and Dragon Tail. It also lets you quickly cast mind blast, and other skills, while still leaving Death Sentry active on your Right Click for the Shadow to cast.
Using this setting can be a little awkward at first, but once you get used to it it allows for much smoother gameplay. Try it out, and don’t give up on it right away.
Left Click: Throw (Force Move)
Right Click: Death Sentry
Left Click Hotkeys:
Hotkey 1 = Claws of Thunder
Hotkey 2 = Tiger Strike
Hotkey 3 = Dragon Tail
Hotkey 4 = Dragon Flight
Right Click Hotkeys:
Hotkey 5 = Mind Blast
Hotkey 6 = Death Sentry
Hotkey 7+ = All Other Skills
I like having “throw” as my main left click skill so I can run around without accidentally stacking or releasing charges. You could also use one of the charge skills or dragon tail if you wanted, using throw isn’t necessary. You then use the Quick Cast Skills setting to actively cycle between the appropriate charges and Dragon Tail.
You will want Death Sentry to always be active on the right click so that your Shadow Warrior will cast them for you. I like to have mind blast be the next hotkey, after my charge and release skills, so it’s quicker to access and cast. Death Sentry can be further down the line, it’s our active right click so its hotkey order isn’t as important.
5.3 Engaging packs of enemies:
- Mind blast the pack of monsters if needed
- Target a stunned/distracted monster on the edge of the pack: run up to it or telekick onto it
- Charge and release the appropriate element, preferably Tiger Tail in most situations
- Drop 1 or 2 Death Sentries, if the Shadow hasn’t already, once there are some corpses
- Use mind blast if starting to get attacked too much
- Try not to get surrounded, if you get surrounded, do what you have to to get out of the pack and back on the edge of it. I often mind blast, or just spam Dragon Tail for Knockback. The quicker you can get out and start attacking the better
- herding packs together also helps this spec a lot, making the most out of each charge release and DS’s Corpse Explosion
The reason you want to fight stunned/distracted monsters and on the outside edge of the pack, beyond safety reasons, is getting hit/blocking attacks can greatly disrupt your flow of stacking and releasing the correct element. The more smoothly you can charge and release the better.
6.1 Can you use Blades of Ice instead of Claws of Thunder?
You can use Blades of Ice instead of Claws of Thunder if you’d like, but frozen bodies don’t leave copses, they shatter. So you will indirectly nerf your damage output by not having corpses for your Death Sentries. CoT also has a lot longer reach and can damage more enemies, use BoI if you’d like, but I think it’s counter productive to the spec.
6.2 What is Next Hit Delay?
NHD makes it so a monster becomes invincible to all other projectiles and spells for a short period of time. In the case of Claws of Thunder, both the nova and charge bolts have a 4 Frame NHD. This isn’t a huge issue fortunately, because DT’s knockback helps out, and the travel speed for the two skills are drastically different.
6.3 Why don't you use Treachery?
Treachery may seem like a good item for this spec at first, it has: +2 assassin skills, much need 45% IAS, Venom, but unfortunately it also has Fade and lacks resistances. We require BoS to negate decrep/holy freeze and Fade can proc at very inopportune moments. Potentially leading to deaths, and just being annoying overall. It will proc a lot because of us being melee, use it if you’d like, but be ready to recast BoS.
6.4 Why don't you use items like Facets, Griffon's, and Phoenix?
They can be utilized for Dragon Tail, but not Claws of Thunder. Charges do not count as “you” and do not benefit from things like +/- elemental damage, mpk, etc. You could use Phoenix for its -fire resistance, and juicy enhanced damage, but it will consume corpses and using only 1 weapon makes your CoT a lot weaker, it swings half as fast, charges twice as slow, and ultimately its just harder to use.
6.5 The APS calculator says I need less IAS and a lower BoS level, what gives?
You most likely forgot to apply either Decrepify or lvl 12 Holy Freeze to the attack calculator. Our goal is to maintain the 7 frame breakpoint while under the affects of slow.
With heavy reliance on Fire damage, the spec can have difficulty in some areas of the game but when supported with Death Sentry’s and Claws of Thunder, Tiger Tail is capable of clearing a lot of areas quite effectively and efficiently with mediocre gear.
Once you finally do obtain some end game items, most importantly Infinity, you will be able to clear high player counts. It’s not as fast as meta specs like the hammerdin, javazon, or sorc, etc, but it is still capable of doing it at a decent rate.
Thanks for reading and watching my guide.
8.0 Downloading and Setting up Character for Single Player:
@admins; if this section is unacceptable can you please remove it with a warning instead of deleting and locking the post please? I’ll happily rework this section if that’s the case. Thanks for your consideration!
If you’d like to try the spec out in offline single player or PTR, you can download the character files here:
To set it up do the following:
- Close D2R
- Download the “TigerTail.d2s” file from the link
this is the character file, the game will generate the rest of the files for you
- Paste the .d2s file (NOT THE FOLDER!) into your saved games folder; most likely at:
C:\Users\Current User\Saved Games\Diablo II Resurrected
- Now launch D2R
- Go to the “Offline” tab
- Start the game on Hell; Cow portal is ready to open in cube
The character is set up to use the “1 Basic Gear” setup, but also has the gear sets “2 Basic Gear” and “3 Perfect Gear” available in the inventory. To equip either set, use a reset token and redo stats and burst of speed skill level accordingly. You could also switch the Merc to a Nightmare Act 2 Defensive Merc for holy freeze if using Infinity, but blessed aim will still be useful.
9.0 Other Guides:
10.0 References and Links:
Martial Arts - Tiger Tail P3 Cows, No Death Sentry - YouTube
Attack Speed Calculator:
Detailed Game Mechanics:
Link to download single player char:
Please ask any questions and I’ll be happy to answer and discuss.