Diablo 4‘s Season 1 update is…not great. The much-anticipated wave of new content is burdened with questionable new features that have slowed down the pace of the game and weakened already weak classes. However, many fans are still looking to still get the most out of the new content and experience as much of it as quickly as possible. That brings us to the Necromancer.
Necromancers are arguably the best leveling class at the start of Diablo 4: Season 1. Though they’ve always been powerful levelers, changes to both the Necromancer class and competing leveling classes have made them that much better at this specific area of the game. If you’re looking to breeze through the bulk of Diablo 4‘s recent update as quickly as possible, they’re your best option.
Just note that we’re only looking at pure leveling builds in this article. This Necromancer build will smoothly get you to level 50 and World Tier 3. There are no Paragon points included in this article, and all of the Legendary Aspects can be found in the Necromancer Codex. While you can use a variation of this build in the endgame, this particular build will certainly not get you to World Tier 4 without some notable upgrades/alterations.
Skills: Reap, Blight, Corpse Explosion, Corpse Tendrils, Raise Skeletons, Raise Golem
Malignant Hearts: Malignant Pact, Prudent Heart, The Sacrilegious
Key Legendary Aspects: Aspect of Reanimation, Requiem Aspect, Aspect of Empowering Reaper, Aspect of Grasping Veins
Truth be told, this Necromancer build isn’t that much different from previous leveling builds we’ve looked at. That speaks to the bigger problem with Diablo 4‘s Season 1 update. However, this is a truly exceptional leveling build that does greatly benefit from a couple of new items/features.
This build is all about Shadow damage and minions. In fact, we’re actually taking an extra minion (the Golem) in this version of the build. Why? In the long term, the short answer is “The Great Feast.” A high roll of that Malignant Heart grants your minions a whopping 75% damage increase at the cost of 1-2 Essence per second. Given that previous versions of this build “suffered” from an excess of Essence, that downside is more than worth the effect. Granted, you won’t be able to acquire that heart until later in the game (World Tier 4), but it ultimately just enhanced what is already a very powerful Necromancer strategy.
That’s the thing about this setup. It’s just a really good leveling build that just got a little better thanks to the recent patch. Now that Golems are able to move around the battlefield a bit more easily, it’s much easier to use them as the tanks they were meant to be. Furthermore, a quality-of-life update makes it easier to use this build’s three key skills: Raise Skeleton, Corpse Explosion, and Corpse Tendrils.
More importantly, nothing that this style of build relies on was seriously nerfed in the latest update. That means that the strategy of this build is the same as it ever was. Generate corpses, use Corpse Explosion and Blight to pollute the area, and let your minions do most of the dirty work. The various benefits you’ll be taking along the way will offer valuable minion buffs and enemy debuffs. Your minions will benefit from fighting in the cursed areas and your enemies will not be able to escape them. It’s a hilariously powerful way to clear dungeons in record time.
Actually, this is one of the rare builds where you don’t want to grab new skills over upgrading old ones while leveling. Instead, you should fully upgrade Blight and Corpse Explosion as soon as possible. Those abilities will do the majority of work in this build for the majority of the leveling process. They’re the skills that turn the battlefield into an inhospitable wasteland, so you want to maximize their effectiveness as early as possible.
Corpse Tendrils offers a natural extension of everything else this build is doing, though you can get by without it for quite some time. It will make your clears even more efficient, but Corpse Explosion and Blight are the undisputed stars of the show.
Reap is an interesting flex piece in this build. Like many people, I prefer it for its ability to easily generate valuable corpses. However, Decompose offers an interesting ranged option that is still Shadowblight friendly. If you’re looking for pure damage output, Bone Splinters may be your best option. Ultimately, though, Reap and Decompose just synergize a bit better with everything that this build is really trying to do.
Army of the Dead is the biggest “missing” piece of this build. Theoretically, you could replace either Corpse Tendrils or Golem with Army of the Dead (probably Golem). Ultimately, though, it just never felt that necessary during the leveling process. I could see an endgame version of this build ultimately preferring to run it, but it’s kind of a glorious luxury until then. It’s there if you want it, though.
So far as weaknesses go, it’s worth noting that this build can struggle with some of the campaign boss fights. That’s obviously only a problem if you’re actually playing through the campaign, but it can be an annoyance from time to time. It’s ultimately just a relatively minor roadblock in the grand scheme of everything else that this build does so well, though.
Finally, we should talk about defenses. This build doesn’t really have them. You might get lucky and acquire a couple of Aspects that help your natural defenses, but you are very squishy compared to other Necromancer builds. Of course, your minions end up eating most of the damage in this build, so your lack of natural defenses doesn’t tend to be a big deal.