The Art of Archery If you have a deep interest in trying out a bow in Diablo II, there's nobody better to wield it than the Amazon. The Amazon is a very versatile character with many bow-specific skills. Coupled with proper development and use of tactics, the Amazon can certainly be a deadly ranged attacker. This guide will go over the basics and the not-so-basics of Bowazon strategy.
Assigning Skill Points Here is a sample of the skill points for a level 30 Bowazon: Critical Strike: 6 Inner Sight: 1 Slow Missiles: 1 Dodge: 2 Avoid: 3 Evade: 2 Penetrate: 1 Decoy: 1 Valkyrie: 1 Jab: 1 Magic Arrow: 1 Multi-Shot: 6 Fire Arrow: 1 Exploding Arrow: 1 Immolation Arrow: 3 Cold Arrow: 1 Ice Arrow: 1 There are a few notes on the above. First, the point in Jab is for use with a spear against Duriel, and perhaps other tough bosses.
It's not necessary, however, especially if you have someone else to take the heat for you. Second, I have chosen Multi-Shot over Strafe in this example, but it's still your choice. I'll go over Multi-Shot vs. Strafe in the next section.
Bow and Crossbow Skills As the game progresses, you'll find that you will need to make use of skills in this tree more and more. The cold-type arrows work nice to slow down tough monsters and make them easier to handle. The fire-type arrows aren't too great, except for Immolation Arrow. Immolation Arrow works well against bosses who are standing still while engaged with your Valkyrie or another ally. At some point mid-late game you should start using Multi-Shot or Strafe as your main attack. You'll need sufficient mana steal to be able to handle this. A nice tactic to use in the late game is to have Ice/Freezing arrow on left click and Multi-Shot/Strafe on right click. Remember to set hotkeys so that you can switch between skills easily.
Multi-Shot or Strafe? Multi-Shot is available at level 6, while Strafe is available at 24. With Multi-Shot, you have more control over your attack, and it costs less per arrow than strafe at early levels. Strafe automatically aims, and does extra damage. However, you can't control whom you attack, and you are consequently locked in place until all shots are fired off. That's the basics of the debate, so it's up to you in the end.
Attribute Point Distribution The most important attribute for the Bowazon is Dexterity. Dexterity will increase your ranged attack damage and increase your chance to hit. Strength is required to use better bows, but it is not as important to the Bowazon as the Barbarian. A good rule of thumb is to invest three points into Dexterity each level, while splitting the rest between Strength and Vitality. You need mana to fire off your special arrows, but you are better off finding items that raise your mana total.
Early Game You start off with some Javelins, but that's not what you want. Ditch the Javelins once you find an adequate bow. Crossbows are also bow class weapons, but they are generally too slow to be of any worthwhile use. However, if you do find a Crossbow with good attributes and attack speed, go ahead and use it. Your bow is your most important piece of equipment. Primarily, you want a bow with good damage and attack speed.
Most of the monsters aren't too tough in the early stages of the game. Employ hit and run tactics on tougher monsters when they get too close. If you want to avoid accidental running, hold down the Shift key while you click, and your character will be locked in place until you let go. Keep in mind that you should imbue only bows, and that you probably will want to wait until later to use your imbue.
Mid-Game If you've chosen to develop Multi-Shot, you should be using it a fair amount in the middle stages of the game. Use Ice Arrow on tougher monsters to slow them down. Keep in mind that just because you're a ranged attacker doesn't mean that you can't take any hits, just don't stay in the fray too long. Keep your eye out for mana steal items that you can use. You probably want to keep a good spear in stock for special situations. Use Slow Missiles whenever there are many ranged attack in the area.
Late Game In the late game, you probably won't be able to kill most monsters before they can run up to you. The damage on your bow becomes very important, and if your bow does cold damage, it's a bonus. Use decoys or Valkyries to keep enemies off of you. Use Multi-Shot/Strafe as your main attack in most, if not all situations. Immolation arrows will deal major damage to any monsters standing still while attacking your Valkyrie. Freezing arrow works well in many situations because of its exploding freeze effect.
Nightmare and Hell Modes Monsters are much tougher now, and your resistances are lowered. However, not too much needs to be changed in your tactics. If you're afraid of dying, you can stick around in normal mode for a few more levels. Think more about resistances, especially against lightning and fire. Just keep on firing while your Valkyrie takes hits for you, and don't hang around for long when enemies get close. It might be a good idea to keep full rejuvenation potions in your belt. You can make your own full rejuvenation potions in your Horadric Cube with three healing potions, three mana potions, and one gem. Neither gem nor potion quality matters in this case.
Conclusion The Amazon is definitely just as strong with the bow as any other class with another weapon. Use your range to your advantage as much as possible, and keep firing. Lastly, be sure to implement all the useful skills that are available to you. A wise investment of points and items can be to your advantage.