Sacrificing my Necro's minions is the best thing I've ever done in Diablo 4

Diablo 4 Necromancer with some skeletons
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Since Diablo 4 launched, my Necromancer has been running around Sanctuary with a posse of scythe-wielding skeletons, icy mages, and a big iron golem. Having a pack of murderous undead at my back has gone a long way to making activities feel less daunting. After all, one of the main reasons I chose to be a Necro—besides superior bone-based fashion—was so that I could bring a little backup into dungeons while running solo.

There's some great interplay between the Necro and their minions, letting you customise their role in the Book of the Dead and tailor them via the legendary aspects you apply to your build. The Viscous and Blood Getter's aspects, for instance, give you two extra warriors and mages—three if you whack either on an amulet—and the Coldbringer's Aspect grants your cold mages the ability to summon a blizzard that freezes enemies. 

There are even two Unique items that empower minions; the Ring of Medeln gives them a lucky hit chance at explosive attacks, while Deathspeaker's Pendant casts a mini-Blood Surge around each when you use that skill. I had fun building my minions alongside my character as I played through the campaign and Nightmare world tier, but once I started doing Nightmare Dungeons and got to Torment, they began to feel like more of a hindrance than a boon.

There are some minion-focused Unique items (Image credit: Blizzard)

I realised how much they were holding me back when I swapped out my skeletal servants for a solo Shadow build, and was immediately able to start doing tier 32 Nightmare Dungeons—13 levels above—where before I'd been struggling with tier 21 due to minion survivability. Ultimately, I think the issue is that minions require you to sacrifice far too much in order to make them viable.

You've got to dump a tonne of skill points into passive nodes aimed at increasing their health and healing, strengthen them with aspects that would otherwise buff your own survivability and damage, and one of the biggest issues I found in endgame activities is that raising minions relies on corpse production, so if you die, it's actually quite difficult to get them all back. Sure, you can bring Army of the Dead to instantly resummon all your minions, but you're then sacrificing your ultimate or the survivability of something like Bone Storm and its barrier creation.

The worst part is that most elites in high-level activities ignore your minions anyway and make a beeline straight for you, so your skellies are an ineffective meat shield at best. The perfect example of this is if you've ever had to fight The Butcher as a Necromancer; an experience which boils down to a comical chase while your skeletons desperately try to catch up and help. In those situations, you're often worse off because your aspects are focused on buffing your minions rather than yourself.

My biggest discovery was how much of a detriment it is to only have four abilities. As a minion-summoning Necro, you're obligated to take Raise Skeleton and your Golem ability, which takes up two of your six slots. Having two fewer abilities to use massively impacts your ability to stack debuffs on enemies and deal extra damage; you end up only playing half a class because there are ability nodes you have to ignore due to lack of space.

Howl From Below is good at making minions feel more disposable (Image credit: Blizzard)

Don't get me wrong; I love my minions, I'm just sad to discover that you have to give up so much to make them feel viable in the endgame. If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say that the issue is partly to do with scaling. You're often pushing against enemies above your level in higher difficulties, and maybe that's what has such a detrimental effect on your minions' effectiveness. But minions should feel disposable—why can't I have a giant horde of weak skeletons? Or some kind of spawn ability where I whack down a bone pile and it just keeps making new ones?

My current build uses Howl From Below, the amazing gloves that create kamikaze skeletons, and sending them sprinting off to explode against enemies feels more like what a minion-summoning Necromancer should be, rather than worrying about minion health and unit cap. Either way, minions in their current form could definitely use a little extra help, or at least some more inventive abilities and passives for creating them.

Sean Martin
Guides Writer

Sean's first PC games were Full Throttle and Total Annihilation and his taste has stayed much the same since. When not scouring games for secrets or bashing his head against puzzles, you'll find him revisiting old Total War campaigns, agonizing over his Destiny 2 fit, or still trying to finish the Horus Heresy. Sean has also written for EDGE, Eurogamer, PCGamesN, Wireframe, EGMNOW, and Inverse.