2 MAN-IRONMAN: CAVE’IN TRIPLECROWN
Played: 04.January - 28. January 2015
° Plague and I managed to earn a two-man Triple Crown in Lock-In Ironman, playing a Warrior/Mage duo, with Plague as the Warrior and Foxhound as the Mage. We went through Normal (almost giving up because of Cabalists on 15), continued on through Nightmare, and finally took it into and conquered Hell mode. Our struggles were great, our pain immeasurable, and the satisfaction of triumphing over insurmountable odds and achieving total victory, oh so sweet. Sit back and enjoy a cold beer as we share our memories of the journey.
Note: Some of these may not be completely accurate, and Plague might remember differently, but the overall outcome was the same. We were tired and delirious at some points, some levels took us four or more hours to clear, so give us a break.
Note 2: In the interest of wanting to save time and, since the game was not a tournament entry and was not being scored, Plague and I used trainers to get our characters to the appropriate levels for higher difficulties and skipped the training sessions. In the event that we do a tournament game at some point we will abide by standard rules then.
Warrior: IM-Tsun (Plague)
Sorcerer: IM-Fox (Foxhound)
° The following rule set has been used: Stairway To Hell II - Rules
° At the start of our game, we sell the staff of CB for 130 gold and buy 3 ID scrolls. With the leftover 30 gold we get rags 5 and skull cap 4, and Plague gives Foxhound his club.
° Pretty uneventful. Butcher was stairtrapped and killed, Leo was taken in a door with Mage Shotgun and Holy Bolt, he dropped a Thinking Cap which we carried with us the whole game. All the important books, HB, HO, 1 Heal for me, and FW. Staff of Healing and Staff of HO dropped as well, which we saved for later. Three res scrolls and lots of potions, but very few ID scrolls, maybe 5 for the whole game.
° Don't remember much about the catacombs, I think I had one death here to a gaggle of goat archers. It was a range-heavy dungeon and Plague was annoyed at all the chasing he had to do. Stone Curse, Lightning, and several FW books, but the lack of ANY form of Mana Shield was unsettling.
° Again, don't remember much here, we each had a death here on different floors, myself to weavers and Plague to a combination of dogs and storms, who quickly shredded him without his blocking bonus or any decent armor. What I do remember is the very fortunate Staff of Resurrect with 9 charges that dropped. Another HO staff appeared as well, which I pocketed for later. Plague took the remaining res scrolls while I kept the res staff. A Stone Curse staff also dropped with 16 charges, which would turn out to be extremely handy for the continuation game. Not a single MS scroll. Was getting seriously worried here. We decided to ID an amulet for Plague, got a Gold amulet with 2x% to-hit, which helped Plague immensely.
° Floor 13 and 14 were pretty uneventful. 15 is where things got frustrating, with Cabalists all over the place and no resistance against them or the Soul Burners. Out of desperation (Plague was nearly ready to give up here), we decided to ID another amulet and ring. We ended up with a Crystal Amulet of the Heavens for the Witches, and a ring of Perfection +21. Both items gave Plague a serious boost to his to-hit and allowed him to engage the hordes of 15 with renewed confidence, with me reserving my mana and my position for the occasional HO. We FINALLY found one Mana Shield scroll here, which I preserved for 16. When we came upon Lazarus's cage, we drew Vex and Jade out and handled them with Stone Curse, used shish-kebabs for the corner Hell Spawns, while Firewall did fine work against the Advocates. When we finally had to engage Lazarus, I took a corner while Plague slowly bowed him down. Nothing notable dropped off the bosses, but with so many jewels we could ID and only two scrolls remaining, we went for a ring from one of the Cabs. Ended up being Crimson 31%, and gave Plague much-needed fire resistance for 16.
° The stairs were in the southern half of the level, closest to cage 4. We took to the wall, I popped MS immediately and and cleared around there first, using the weaker HO staff to preserve potions and let Plague engage the Advocates head on. Meanwhile I was using my own mana for Telekinesis, to tag BK's for experience. We debated on our last ID and what we should use it on, and eventually agreed that the Thinking Cap was a "sure" thing and used our last one on it, bringing my TK cost to 11. Unfortunately it was soon lost to some stunluck from an ill-fated pull, but I did manage to hit clvl21 in the process, giving me 70% stun against Diablo with HB, while Plague was able to reach clvl24. As we had no form of teleportation, parking Diablo was out of the question, so we decided to mark his cage and fish for Advocates instead. We threw the levers and rounded the cage to bring out the knights, then he got out his bow and his gold jewels and started fishing along the markers. After 15 minutes we had completely cleaned out his cage of 12 advocates, 11 BK's, and 1 black knight. We geared up and took formation right in front of his cage. We used Mage Shotgun with me standing directly one tile behind Plague to prevent knockback. I fired the first shot and Diablo came running. When he finally stepped up to Plague, I laid down the firewalls and unloaded, no potions required. Diablo is spewing blood, and we get booted from the game sporting shiny new dots and in need of facial reconstruction.
° We brought some 30,000 gold with us when inventory space finally allowed us to carry it down. After our town identifications, we were shocked at the quality of the jewels we had.
Amulet of the Heavens 13
Crystal/Heavens Amulet 44/12
Ring of the Zodiac 16 (!)
Ring of Perfection 21
Amulet of Perfection 23 (!)
Gold Amulet 2x
Gold Ring 2x (only Plague knows what these were exactly)
Snakes Ring of Brilliance (!, lots of mana for Foxhound)
Crimson Ring 31%
Steel Ring of the Moon 12/6
Ringmail of the Tiger 43HP
Gold Bastard Sword of something (Sorcery, I think)
Gothic Shield of the Tiger 47HP
° While we were somewhat disappointed at the lack of decent weapons and armor, the jewels more than made up for it, and ended up being what allowed us to play on.
Pickings were somewhat slim from Griswold, but we did end up buying a Lapis Mail of the Moon 32/5 (which ended up being a nice item for the entire campaign), and an Amber Helm 16, which I kept slotted when I could (needing the zodiac jewel at times to be able to use it) Wirt offered Plague a Crown of the mammoth, 61HP, which he accepted. With our gold somewhat low we stocked up on potions, as many big yellows as we could, I went for big blues while Plague went for big reds. We also bought 3 Mana Shield scrolls and 1 ID scroll. No decent books or staves to consider, but we recharged the ones we had (one heal, one HO, one res, and one Stone Curse). As we had the res staff and Plague could now use it with his jewels, we passed on res scrolls, making sure to drop it at the beginning of each floor. We repaired our important items at Gris, namely the gold bastard sword and the tiger shield. No bow for Plague at this point (but we reconsidered soon after).
° Finally, we descended down to the church and began the Nightmare game. Pathetically easy start and Plague had a free for all, although the lack of armor meant Plague did have to be cautious about getting swarmed. He took the Lapis/Moon mail while I wore the Tiger mail for the added HP and security, since I had precious few MS scrolls, and he neede me for the occasional freeze-fire on archers. Butcher was taken at his own doorstep, Leo and his pack of captains at a gated door. Only 3 ID scrolls, and saw no more for that entire game. We decided to take a bow early for Plague incase he needed one for archers or dogs, so we grabbed the first long battle bow we saw until a plain LWB eventually replaced it.
° Goats were somewhat of a threat but the catacombs were fairly uneventful. A couple of Heal books for Plague but nothing decent for the Mage. Two MS scrolls, bringing my count to 5, enough to be comfortable with. A book of Phasing did show up, which we didn't realize would be useful until later.
° We put our serious faces on for the Caves and traded gear, I took the Moon mail (but we switched back when we saw Storms on 2 levels), while Plague went for extra HP. I used MS scrolls on 9 and 10 so I didn't need them anyway, and I got the benefit of resistances most of the time. The MS scrolls were wisely spent, with Red Storms on 9 (and a highly dangerous boss), and Illusion Weavers on 10, which cost Plague his life in an out-of-nowhere ambush when he was scouting and least expected it. The levels winding layout was initially deceptive and we nearly lost the game because of it, but I was able to fend off the first ambush with MS and Lightning spam. Later Plague died to a mixed swarm when a Flayed One completely blocked his only escape. He could only die and save the potions for later while Foxhound had to cut down at least 10 different enemies with Lightning before it was safe enough to bring Plague back to life. A stone curse staff with 12 charges dropped, which we decided to bring with us (although later used up and did not carry it into Hell mode). I believe we had storms/dogs/witches on 12 but I only remember the succubus. It's possibly we had snakes instead, but firewall did a lot of work here, including Witchfire the Unholy. Also, a Staff of Golem with 32 charges dropped here. We were unsure about this spell and questioned its usefulness in Ironman, but we decided that it might have some use for 16, breaking up Advocate packs, and decided to keep it.
° 13 and 14 were absolutely terrifying for us, both of which had dogs, storms, and witches (with Hell Spawns on 14 making it even worse, as Firewall, shish-kebabs, and the 4-tile rule were all unreliable against their AI). After we had some space 13 wasn't so bad, but the labyrinth layout of 14 made scouting a nightmare, (the first set was particularly awful as an early firewall would simply cause a storm to circle the stairs and ambush us from behind, forcing us to scramble) and even a single maelstorm was a serious threat to Plague with his questionable block chance. It got deadly when more than 1 came, and I had to lay firewalls to thin them out. We went very slowly and Plague had holes in his boots by the end, but we managed to clean both floors without a death.
° 15 looked better for us with snow witches and something else, possibly doom guards or some sort of snake. But they were MUCH easier than the circus-show of goons we had on 13 and 14. We had both a good starting set and I could lay down stone curse in an emergency, which we didn't need much of. Lust, Jade, and Vex were against handled with Stone Curse, Advocates firewalled, and Lazarus was SC'd as well after we ID'd the Demonspike Coat (!!!) that dropped from Jade. He posed little threat to Plague, who was now toting 75% fire resistance with the coat and the crimson ring. As we already had good jewels and needed better actual equipment, we decided to ID a shield and helmet, looking for some dexterity. The shield was some crappy resistance that we didn't need, while the helmet was Blessed, and worthless to Plague. We saved the last ID for Gorash.
Nightmare Floor 16
° The stairs were in the south again, alongside Cage 4. The only difference was that there was a small room dividing the north and south quadrants this time, and Gorash was right in the middle. Note: We didn't know we could actually "freeze" advocates with their AI, and so the level was a lot longer and more complicated than it needed to be. Golem ended up being our savior, though. Although Plague had 75 fire resistance, Advo fireballs still stung him fairly hard (about 25 damage each) and I kept an HO stick ready at all times for him. He could engage single BK's comfortably with his jewels but needed SC support when more than 1 showed up, as his AC was no good against them. When we needed to break up Advo packs, I broke out the Golem staff, and my pet "Sheldon" forced them to scatter, allowing Plague to slowly chase and corner them, one by one. It took us two hours before we had the outside of c2, c3, and c4 clear, and we could finally work the open (and VERY advo-dense) c1. After 2 more hours and lots of Golems, we had cleared C3 and were ready for Diablos cage. As we had found a Phasing book in the Catacombs, we decided to try parking Diablo instead. Plague took to the farthest corner of C1 with his perfection jewels ready, I drew a lone Diablo with a HB and took off for the center of C2. Thankfully my HP was so low that his melee wasn't stunning me, but the apocs stung fairly hard and I spent 2 big blues getting him to the center. A lucky Phasing cast got me out from the edge of the wall, and Diablo sat at the end of where I teleported out. From there we slowly work C4 until its clean. Only thing to consider for an ID was a great helm, so we went for it. Absorption, -3 DFE, and useless to us. When we were all clear and packed up, we took up the same formation we used in , except this time we went tile by tile, hugging the outer wall of C2 until we stepped inside. At the first corner turn, Diablo saw us and came running. I laid down the FW and threw up a Golem, and all of that combined with HB brought him down without much effort. We get booted with double dots.
At this point we both use Doom Gaze to get our levels to 30 so we didn't have to waste weeks doing training games (if we ever do a tournament game well do it by the standard Fresh Meat rules), and began our Hell continuation.
° The ID pickings were slim this game and most of the jewels we brought sucked, but there was one that stood out from all of them: Jade Ring of the Stars 25/10 (!!!)
Plague could wear this with Demonspike Coat, have 75% Fire Resistance AND a stat boost, so we decided we no longer needed the crimson ring and sold it (and the tiger mail) for gold. Plague and I would trade off in this game a LOT with the jade/stars and zodiac rings. After all the crap we didnt need was sold, we had about 120k of gold or so.
Wirt offered junk to us, but Griswold had something nice for both of us:
Plague: Knight's Broadsword of the Heavens +12 stats (!!!)
Foxhound: Jade Helm of Sorcery 26/19 (!!!)
° We also went for a Long War Bow of Lightning, thinking it might prevent health regeneration like Burning does. We were disappointingly wrong, but nonetheless Plague carried it for the entire game. We passed on a Platinum Bow of Precision (only 1-6 damage), which we now regret.
Recharged all staves, repaired all equipment. We bought as many big yellows and blues as we could, with Plague buying enough big reds for his belt and filling his inventory with big blues for me to use later, and 3 MS scrolls (I saved 1 from Nightmare, so I had 4). No ID's from Adria (cheap bitch). After double checking and spending our last gold hoping for some slightly better items (and not finding anything), we abandon the remaining 10k and descend into the Church.
° The crowning shrine we had hoped for showed up on Floor 2, an Eldritch. We converted some 60 big potions into full juvs, which lasted us the ENTIRE GAME.
Demonspike Coat is perfectly valid down here. Plague later has an incident with Butcher, thinking he can solo him. He manages, but drinks a few doing so. We are more careful from that point on. Thankfully Leo only had melee guards, and while HB no longer stunned him, it was still an easy encounter. More Heal books for Plague, who had enough mana for 1 cast. 4 ID scrolls, 1 MS scroll.
° Plagues armor was valid until floor 7, where we had both fire and night clan archers. Thankfully we found their bosses late in the level, so it was our choice of a set. Blightfire was taken solo by Plague at the door he was found behind (the set blocked almost all of their shots), while Gorestone was brought further back into a field of firewalls. Chaoshowler was Mage business with FW as well, although a bow-wielding Plague was heartbreakingly mowed down by a charging Horned Demon out of nowhere (for 150 damage!), which nearly killed me as well (I didn't have MS up). I burned an MS scroll when Plague went down as a safety precaution, and after we brought him back we worked more carefully, choosing only sets that I could heal him at.
° Buttclinch time, we did not expect to make it through here. 9 was quite simple with the enemies, Mudmen, Mud Runners, and Poison Spitters I believe. Mud runners were still a serious threat with their charge but nothing was particularly bad up close and there were enough winding corridors to make the runners workable. FINALLY a Poison Spitter on 9 drops the one item I was looking for, a Book of Mana Shield! I read it and recasted immediately, and I finally felt like I had some security.
° Floor 10 was by far the worst of it and the game nearly ended there. As soon as we come down the stairs I pop MS, and not even three seconds later we're swarmed from all sides by at least a dozen Illusion Weavers, and Plague wipes instantly. Very bad news. However, since my Life is so low, the Weavers are unable to stun me with their attacks, and I am very fortunately able to fend them off with some blues and lightning spam. I kill at least 20 weavers before the scene is safe enough to bring Plague back on his feet. We work VERY SLOWLY from then on as we also have Flayed Ones and Poison Spitters meant PW was around. Plagues Dex isn't that good and he has problems holding against more than one, and ends up dying two more times to Weaver swarms as a result (he was getting pretty pissed off by these guys towards the end). Both times I had to drink blues, gun down everything with lightning, and ensure the scene was safe to res. PW was fortunately found across a lava river and after giving Foxhound the Crystal/Heavens ammy, a few firewalls mopped up the posse. With Plagues armor useless, his Dex somewhat lacking, and his to-hit becoming questionable, our confidence is shaken and we descend to 11.
° 11 proves to be more workable with just Flayed Ones and Death Wings, however Death Wings hit disgustingly hard and Plague goes down to a lone DW that slips in 2 blows for all of his 300HP. He decides switch from his gold amulet to his amulet of perfection, which helps him stand against foes, but his tohit suffers for it. We find a staff of HO here with 29 charges, which starts seeing use immediately.
° 12 has Guardians, but with 75 fire resistance they aren't much of a threat to Plague unless they slip past his block. HO was readied the entire floor, but the level ended up not being so bad with just Guardians, Pit Beasts (for which Plague used his Crystal/Heavens ammy), and Flayed Ones (again). Interestingly, a Mindcry drops on Floor 12, and after some debate about whether Guardian would be a useful spell (spoiler alert, VERY useful), we decided to ID it simply because the spell level boost and overall stats would help soften the ranged attacks and the mana cost of HO and SC. We also find two books of Fireball, which, as it turned out, proved useful later on.
° At long last we had made it through the caves and had earned the right to step into Hell one last time.
° Floor 13 had Vortex Lords and Cave Vipers, we couldn't ask for a better mix of enemies. Plagues 75 fire resistance was doing fine work and while some HO was needed, these enemies weren't a serious threat unless more than 1 came, but SC was ready just incase. Several books of SC dropped on 13 and 14, bringing my SC slvl to 5 and the mana cost to 48 with Mindcry, allowing for 12 casts on a full globe. No bosses, no incidents.
° Floor 14 was rougher and we had to take it carefully. We had Fire Drakes, which still weren't too bad as long as Plague had the right jewels on, Snow Witches, and Hell Spawns, which forced a lot of switching and clutch healing. The Hell Spawn's AC was beyond Plagues to-hit with a bow, even with gold jewels, so he eventually resigned to cornering them, and it got dangerous when more than 1 showed up, forcing some SC. Lots of HO and SC on this floor, which cost Foxhound some yellows. HOWEVER, when it was just Snow Witches, we were able to make good use of Mindcry's Guardian charges, which could kill one with two casts. The four tile rule was very helpful in this regard. After we had some space things got more manageable. Stareye was SC'd and double-teamed with some Mage melee, which we found out was actually quite useful for softening SC'd targets.
° Floor 15 was rough at the beginning, with a mix of Steel Lords and Soul Burners, both of which were beyond a reasonable chance to hit for Plague even with his gold jewels. I was SC'ing everything and had spent 5 potions until he works into quadrant 2 and tells me to follow him for a surprise, a PURIFYING SPRING! We carefully clear a path into the room, I drink deep, and we SC everything that we find. Sadly, Plague still has a death to mourn when we get careless and pull too many to the spring, and I don't have the mana to keep them all frozen. I'm forced to bail on the scene and get the res staff, and 3 blues and some Phasing later I'm able to ditch the crowd of knights and res Plague (who has to scramble to get his gear to face the chasing knights). Together we hunt them down with SC and a steady hand. A Steel Lord drops a Staff of Apocalypse with 12 charges, which we pack up with smiling faces. Bloodlust is found right outside of Laz's cage and two SC's and some melee brings her down easily. Then, Plague gives the Mage some room and Foxhound gets to shine against Vex and Jade. Vex comes first and with one SC and some lightning, she's dust. Then Fox draws out Jade, SC's, and finally gets his one chance to use Fireball, and toasts her instantly. Thereafter we used SC for all the advos, the two remaining HS, and Laz himself. We try a zerg rush at first but reconsider after a hail of fireballs drive us back, and work the advocates carefully after that. Jade herself drops a Bountiful Staff of Chain Lightning with 180 Charges! WHERE THE HELL WAS THIS THING IN NORMAL OR NIGHTMARE!?
° With our 4 ID's, we decide to ID a helmet, an armor, and a bow, hoping for some to-hit or some dex. Our luck sucks, we end up with absolutely nothing noteworthy. With 48 potions remaining 2 heal staves, an HO stave, and a res stave , we descend to 16 for the final showdown.
Hell Floor 16
° This time the stairs were next to cage 2, and we decided to clear around it first, it turns out to be light on enemies. We try to let Plague engage a single BK but it proves unworkable (killing him in 3 hits), and Foxhound sighs and resigns himself to SC every BK that comes. He has more than enough mana potions to spare for it. Advocates are "frozen" when able (Plagues to-hit is reasonable against their low AC), and SC'd when not, Golem proves useful in breaking up a few dense hordes of them. HO saw hardly any use here, so I mostly stuck to Mindcry for the cheaper SC. One BK drops us a very welcome scroll of ID. One death occurs in a a desync frenzy when Plague pulls too many BK's and gets gunned down by stray fireballs in the scramble. Foxhound is forced to flee and ditch the BK's, and is able to lose them around C2 and bring Plague back to his feet. Together they hunt down and kill their pursuers. After that, we use corner freezes for the Advos in C3 until its clear.
Before we attempt to park Diablo, I break out the Apocalypse staff and take the north side of his cage. I'm able to hit everything except Diablo, and I kill at least half a dozen Advo's and several knights from here. Then I do the same on the south side and kill at least 6 of each enemy. I don't have enough remaining for the front or back, but it cleaned up the cage enough that we didn't have to park Diablo, and we instead marked the cage for fishing. Our last ID is spent on a plate mail from a random BK, of the Tiger, 40ish HP. Plague decides its worth using for the final battle.
° We threw the levers and began patrolling the cage for the remaining knights, about 4. For the remaining 2 Advocates, desync worked in our favor for once and their spastic teleporting brought them far enough outside the cage for us to SC and crack.. When the cage was clean, we took formation in front of his cage and Plague swapped his gear one last time. He retires Demonspike Coat and switches to the Tiger plate for enough HP to (hopefully) survive two blows from Diablo. Since his to-hit is basically no good even with gold jewels, he goes for maximum dexterity instead, which ends up being 132 with his perfection jewels and zodiac ring, not what we were hoping for, but we had to make do. He had 353 HP at least and he casted Mana Shield to buffer the first hit.
Our stats before the final fight:
(I had a Jade Ring of the Stars and Amulet of the Heavens in those empty slots)
° We wished each other the best luck and Foxhound fired a lone holy bolt to a waiting Diablo. He throws an apoc and wades right in. Foxhound laids down an armada of firewalls, throws up a golem, and unloads with holy bolt while Plague sits and tanks, drinking after every hit, just trying to survive. After about 30 seconds, 4 potions from Plague, and 1 from Foxhound, Diablo was felled for the final time, Foxhound is screaming incoherently on Mumble, and we're both booted from the game sporting three dots, endless happiness, and we're both homeward bound.
Thank you for the incredible adventure and memories, Plague. You play an amazing Warrior.
Plague the Unbreakable and Foxhound the Immortal, Lock-In Ironman Triple-Crown forever.