Guide:The Tao of Poison v1.09, by Bkelly
From Diablo Wiki
Guide on everything to do with Poison in Patch 1.09. For 1.10+ info, check out Calculating Poison Damage by onderduiker.
Diablo II Strategy Guide Info:
- Patch: v1.09
- Gametype: PvE/PvM and PvP
- Guide Topics: Poison damage and Baal
- Class: Amazon, Assassin, Barbarian, Druid, Necromancer, Paladin, Sorceress
- Author: Bkelly
- Pages: One, Two, Three, Four
- Related Article(s): Update to 1.10 by onderduiker
Ah, the wonders of poison, a marvelous form of attack which allows you to stand back and witness your prey turn green and slowly wither and die. It is a glorious sight to see your enemy's life slowly slip away, powerless to change the inevitable outcome. Plus, powerful creatures are rarely resistant to its effects unlike the other elemental attacks. It's truly simple, effortless and avoids an awful lot of mess unlike lightning or ice. Poisoned Diablo
 Poison Overview
The element of poison is a toxin that continues to damage your target for a period after its application. Items or skills that generate poison damage, called poison sources, have their toxicity described by how many total hit points (hp) they negate and the duration for which the poison is active. For example, the unique light belt Snakecord is rated "+12 Poison Damage Over 3 Seconds". If you strike a monster while wearing this belt, the fiend will turn a brilliant green for the next three seconds during which the poison consumes twelve of the creature's hit points. If the poison drains its last hit point, the target will die miserably- what a shame that would be.
It is the duration of poison damage that makes it the true artistic killing tool. There is no need to continue to pound on your opponent, waste more arrows or drain your mana on spells. One quick thrust and your work is complete, extremely convenient with lightning enchanted creatures. You can watch your prey suffer from a distance and when it eventually falls you will receive the glory for the battle including experience and mana regeneration for kills.
The only downside with killing by poison is that items that steal health and mana only function with physical damage. Your initial blow will leech some if it has a physical component, but your toxins are elemental and will steal no health or mana. With poison gas attacks, you do no physical damage so you will leech nothing at all.
If you are someone who prefers to quickly bludgeon your opponent to death, then you lack patience and should never hope to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of poison. A light toxin would prevent your target from replenishing its life (although it can still be healed by another creature or by teleporting), but I believe your uncouth and inelegant killing style would best be served by the impetuous and chaotic elements of fire and ice.
Hit points and duration are terms for the layman, for people who only use poison to remove the bugs from their houses or the stench from their feet. The old system is a poor approximation of poison's effects and is useless when mixing poisons. Better tools are needed to understand the process of poison and to handle more complex scenarios.
You must first understand that Diablo II poison generates damage by interfering with a specific bodily function called a Fundamental Respiratory And Musculature Event, or frame. All organic systems experience exactly twenty-five of these per second. Any useful measure of poison characteristics must consider the number of frames for which the poison will be effective. This count is known as the poison length.
Many of the weaker poisons only consume a fraction of a hit point in a frame, so a smaller measurement of damage is needed. Our new scale measures in bite damage (bd), a name created in honor of the late snake charmer, Swami Otis. It takes two hundred fifty-six points of bite damage to equal one hit point. This unit is the smallest measurable amount of damage, so it gives a very accurate picture of how poison will perform.
Yet knowing how much total bite damage a poison will do is not very helpful since it may not get the opportunity to run its full course. Instead, poisons experts seek to know the poison rate, which is the bite damage done during every frame. These rates are fixed, meaning every toxin does the same damage for every frame it is active, even if the monster is chilled or frozen.
You may already be familiar with the concept of rates because other items use it. For example, a "+3 replenish life" ring would restore health as quickly as a 3 bite damage per frame poison would consume it. These rates can be converted to hit points per second by dividing by 10.24 (256 bd/hp / 25 frames/sec). So, a replenish life rate of +3 would heal about .29 hit points per second (3 / 10.24).
Knowledge of rates and lengths is the first step to understanding your poisons. To help illustrate these new concepts I will list the poison values on some basic items:
|Item||Rate [bd/frame]||Length [frame]||Damage [bd]|
|Small Charm of Blight||21||75||1575|
The first item on the list is a small charm of blight with a rate of 21 and length of 75. This means the item will generate 21 points of bite damage every frame for 75 frames. A quick conversion shows that this is about 2.05 hit points per second (21 bd/frame / 10.24) for 3 seconds (75 frames / 25 frames/sec). The last column is the total poison damage generated, assuming the poison runs for its total duration, which is just the product of the rate and length. For the small charm, it is 1575 bite damage (21 bd/frame * 75 frame) or about 6.15 hit points (1575 bd / 256 bd/hp).
Do not fall prey to the belief that a higher damage rate always means more damage. Total damage can be determined by multiplying the rate by the length, so if a source with a high rate has a low duration, it may not be able to take down as large a monster. Compare the perfect emerald and the TAL rune. The rune drains 7 more bite damage per frame than the emerald (154 bd/frame - 147 bd/frame), so it kills almost a 5% faster ((154 / 147) - 1); however it only does 19250 total bite damage (154 bd/frame * 125 frame) while the emerald negates 25,725 (147 bd/frame * 175 frame), or 33% more. One must decide if the increase in killing speed is worth the loss of killing power. I think there is no question in this choice since a faster death results is less time to relish in the horrified and panicked expression of your victim.
A high damage rate does have one advantage. Normally when a new toxin is introduced into a creature that is already poisoned, the new dose neutralizes the previous one leaving the creature to suffer with only the new poison's length and rate. However, if the rate of the existing poison is higher than the new toxin's rate, the old rate and length remain and the new poison has no effect. Using a high damage rate insures the venom in your strike will not be supplanted by someone else.
For example, the poison from a perfect emerald will replace any toxin doing 147 bite damage per frame or less. If the target is currently suffering from a hit with a TAL rune, the perfect emerald poison would have no effect since its rate is lower even though it would do more total damage. Instead, if the target were experiencing a previous perfect emerald hit, the new infection would replace the old, effectively "resetting" the length since the rates are the same.
For this reason poison is a poor choice for fast hitting brutes like Paladins. Let us consider a character with a small charm of blight striking his opponent every 10 target frames, or 2.5 times a second. Although the 21 bite damage toxin could last for 75 frames, it is replaced after only 10 frames by the next strike. So, instead of the 6.15 hit points of damage it could do, each strike of poison only has the time for 210 points of bite damage (21 bd/frame * 10 frames) or .82 hit points (210 bd / 256 bd/hp). Compare this to any other type of fire, ice or lightning charm that would always do at least one hit point of damage.
 Effective Poison with Melee Weapons
Many of my eager young students wish to know about the more potent forms of poison. Like any neophyte, their desire to kill quickly will fade as they mature and obtain more exposure to the joys of torture, but it serves as a good introduction to this craft and keeps their minds intrigued.
To take down opponents quickly, you must use a high damage rate. This results in more poison damage for every frame causing your target to run short on life sooner. This can be done with many strong poisons from several sources. Whenever you hit a target, all sources of poison delivered through physical damage combine into a stronger toxin. With melee weapons, this new effective poison has a rate equal to the sum of the individual source's rates while the length is an average of all the lengths.
For example, assume you are using a melee weapon containing a perfect emerald (147 bite damage for 175 frames) and a Snakecord (40 bite damage for 75 frames). The effective poison rate is the sum of the individual rates or 187 bite damage per frame (147 bd/frame + 40 bd/frame). The effective poison's length is the average, so when we add up the individual lengths and divide by the total number we get 125 frames (175 frames + 75 frames / 2 items). So, if the target survives the full length of the effective poison, it would do 23375 bite damage (187 bd/frame * 125 frames) which is around 91.31 hit points (23375 bd / 256 bd/hp).
It is very important to remember to add up the rates when combining poison sources and not the total damage. Many people understand that a perfect emerald does a total of 25725 bite damage and a Snakecord does 3000, but then foolishly conclude that these will do 28725 bite damage (25725 bd + 3000 bd) when used together. This is an amateurish mistake and anyone caught doing it will be mixing up antidote potions after class for a week. Remember to sum poison rates, not their total damage!
If we add a small charm of the blight to the previous example (21 bd/frame for 75 frames), things get a little more complicated. The rates are still added together for 208 (147 bd/frame + 40 bd/frame + 21 bd/frame) but the effective poison length must be rounded down because creatures do not experience partial frames. So in this instance, instead of being active for 108.33 frames (175 frames + 75 frames + 75 frames / 3 items), the length is rounded down to 108. This makes our maximum effective poison bite damage to be 22464 (208 bd/frame * 108 frames), or 87.75 hit points (22464 bd / 256 bd/hp).
The type and location of these sources do not matter. Every item that creates poison damage is its own source, like each emerald in a socketed weapon or one of a dozen charms carried around. This means a melee weapon with two perfect emeralds will do 294 poison bite damage every frame (2 items * 147 bd/frame) for 175 frames (175 frames + 175 frames / 2 items). If employed with three small charms of the blight, the total damage rate will be 357 ((3 items * 21 bd/frame) + (2 items * 147 bd/frame)) for 115 frames (((2 items * 175 frames) + (3 items * 75 frames)) / 5 items).
The bottom line is that adding poison sources to a melee weapon will always increase your poison damage rate, so it will kill faster (Childish, childish! I only hope maturity comes swiftly for you). However, avoid combining high damage rate sources with a few small, short length items. Although this does increase your damage rate, the length drops resulting in less total damage. For example, a perfect emerald does 25725 bite damage on its own, but when combined with short length small charm of the blight, the effective poison becomes 168 bite damage per frame (147 bd/frame + 21 bd/frame) over 125 frames ((175 sec + 75 sec) / 2 items) or only 21000 bite damage, almost a 20% loss in potential dilapidation.
 Effective Poison with Ranged Weapons
The method of delivery is also an important consideration with poison. For some unknown reason, poison from multiple sources lasts a lot longer when delivered by a bow or thrown knife. Just like melee attacks, the ranged weapon must do physical damage, so if the attack is misses or is blocked, the poison sources are ineffective. Poison gas is a ranged weapon, but it does no physical damage and will not be made stronger with additional poison sources.
With a ranged weapon, the rate of the effective poison is the same as with a melee weapon; the sum of the individual rates. However, the effective poison length becomes the sum of all source lengths instead of the average. Take our first example in the melee section, a perfect emerald and Snakecord. If the damage is delivered by a bow, the rate remains the same at 187 bite damage per frame, but the lengths stack. Instead of the previous 125 frames, the poison will now last for 250 frames (175 frames + 75 frames). Maximum damage jumps to 46750 bite damage (187 bd/frame * 250 frames) or 182.62 hit points (46750 bd / 256 bd/frame), double the hit point loss with melee delivery.
This can create massive amounts of poison damage when many poison sources are used. Consider our melee example with two perfect emeralds and three small charms, which resulted in 357 bite damage per frame for 115 frames. If delivered with a ranged weapon, the length increases from 4.6 seconds (115 frames / 25 frames/sec) to 23 (((2 items * 175 frames) + (3 items * 75 frames)) / 25 frames/sec), increasing the maximum damage by five times. This makes the poison wielding Amazon, quaintly referred to as a Poizon, one of the most dreaded adventurers says 4 out of 5 Fallen.
So, to increase either the speed or damage from poison delivered with a ranged weapon, just add more sources of poison since each item adds to effective poison rate and length. If your goal is to kill as quickly as possible, pick sources with higher rates, like the TAL rune. To maximize damage, you should instead use items with the highest total damage, like the perfect emerald.
I thank the great goddess of procedures and flow charts for this bonus in poison length because I can infect my target from a safe distance and watch him suffer over the long, extended length. I do expect the great gods of the Santa Anas will soon swoop in and change things for there are indicators that this was not how they intended things to work. Do not whine when they do! Anyone who is an ineffective killer without this prolonged suffering time is not a worthy to be my student.