The start of the third world returned back to easy progress once again. Karthus started by blowing away the Antlion with a pair of Hellwinds, then headed over to Mua village to pick up the Chicken Knife and ran from enough battles to power it up to full. Although I didn't expect that I would need to use it with this character, better to have it and not use it than vice versa. The Cursed One monsters inside the Pyramids unlocked a new Dark Arts spell, with this one being a critical tool in the Necromancer's arsenal:
Drain Touch is a vampiric spell that drains life out of the target and restores it to the Necromancer. This is the only way to heal the Necromancer under normal conditions, and for lengthy battles it's an indispensible spell for the class to employ. There's no way to defeat the final boss without making heavy use of Drain Touch for life restoration. Unlike the standard Black magic Drain spell, Drain Touch never has a chance to miss the target and deals significantly higher damage. However, it can only hit a single enemy at a time and has a spell attack of only 80, which is much weaker than the 190 on spells like Hellwind or Evil Mist. Since the damage is non-elemental it also can't be boosted by items with the Magic Up property, although conversely that also means it can't be resisted or absorbed. With Hellwind dealing 4000+ damage to all targets, it was obvious that Drain Touch wouldn't see much offensive use when the other Dark Arts were so much stronger. Drain Touch does work on undead targets, although that may be due to the undead property on the Necromancer himself. In the situation pictured above, Karthus was able to save himself from a game over by casting Drain Touch right before a Surge Beam went off from one of the robots in the Pyramid. A very useful spell even with the relatively low damage output.
The rest of the opponents in the Pyramid fell prey to repeated castings of Hellwind. Nothing in this area had any resistance to air element, and pretty much every monster group would die in a single casting. After finishing the area, I discovered that Merugene was immune to air and poison elements in all but one of her four forms. The solution here was to switch over to Drain Touch and wear down her health in a series of 1000 damage chunks. The Chicken Knife also would have worked here, not that there was much danger with the Flame Ring equipped to neutralize all but the Bolt 3 spells.
Access to the airship opened up several pieces of new equipment. Karthus stopped in Mirage first to grab the Running Shoes for permanent Haste status and then headed to Kuzar Castle. I wanted to grab the two Legendary weapons that Karthus could actually use (the Wizard Rod and the Assassin dagger) and also pick up another Dark Arts spell. Defeating one of the Exdeath Souls would unlock Dark Flare, another non-elemental spell that functions similarly to the Flare spell that the Black Mage uses. Unfortunately, defeating an Exdeath's Soul proved to be harder than I expected. They use several instant death attacks, and with no Bone Mail to shield Karthus he died several times here. Eventually I was able to make it through the battle without anything too deadly showing up, and Karthus had access to his fourth Dark Arts spell:
This is Dark Flare in action, which has some impressive accompanying graphics. Unfortunately Dark Flare is a fairly useless spell, with a spell attack of 200 that's nominally higher than the 190 of Hellwind and Evil Mist, but which gets edged out by the two of them because it can't get boosted with the Magic Up property. It's also extremely expensive to cast at 52 MP and therefore only occupies a niche role against enemies with very high magic defense. I don't think there's any opponent in the main game where the magic defense is high enough to warrant using Dark Flare over one of the elemental spells, which consigns this spell to variant material. But hey, at least it does look cool!
This picture was taken in the Phoenix Tower, a place that I typically skip with most solo characters. Karthus had two different Dark Arts to pick up here, the first one a reward for defeating the Lemure enemies. That resulted in the spell called Dark Haze, an even more useless spell that I had no interest in using for the moment. The other Dark Arts spell came from defeating the rebooted version of Liquid Flame:
I don't know the monsters in the Phoenix Tower that well since I usually avoid this place, and it took some hunting to find where Liquid Flame was located. This miniboss appears when picking the "wrong" door on some of the floors of the tower, one of four different monsters that can potentially appear. Liquid Flame went down to a series of Hellwinds just as easily as everything else though. Karthus was using that spell as his one-stop solution to everything, and with the Running Shoes for permanent Haste status, he could sometimes get two of them off before the monsters even got a chance to act. Defeating Liquid Flame unlocked the final Dark Arts spell outside the bonus dungeon, the spell known as Meltdown:
This is a fire-based spell with the same damage as Hellwind and Evil Mist, and it also inflicts the HP Leak status ailment. Unfortunately it only hits a single opponent at once, and that makes it less generally useful than Hellwind. Resistance and immunity to fire is also a lot more common in this game than resistance to wind element. That said, sometimes there are situations where the Necromancer might only want to hit a single target, and Meltdown therefore has a minor role as a heavy damaging spell that DOESN'T attack everything at once. As for the rest of the Dark Arts, they can only be found in the Bonus Dungeon that unlocks after beating the game, which meant that they would be off limits for Karthus. There are two spells attuned to ice (Deep Freeze) and lightning (Chaos Drive), along with a status ailment spell (Curse) and another high damaging non-elemental spell (Doomsday). For anyone who wants to see these in action, I'll recommend T-Hawk's own playthrough of the solo Necromancer, which goes into the Bonus Dungeon and takes on some of the optional superbosses.
Karthus used a single casting of Meltdown against Stalker, since the "real" version of the boss always starts in the top right location. Then he used repeated Hellwinds for the rest of the battle, accepting the Blaze counterattacks that came from hitting the false images and tanking the damage to get the battle over faster. Karthus was able to emerge victorious with about 1000 HP remaining, winning the damage race against the boss. Then it was into Fork Tower next, and for once the Minotaur presented a real challenge. Normally this is a simple process of hacking away with the Chicken Knife and then using Elixirs to heal any damage taken. Karthus could do the first and not so much the latter. I tried a couple different tactics here, using the Elf Cape to see if the dodges helped, and even trying the Guard Ring at one point for the extra defense and Regen status. (Spoiler: it didn't help.) In the end, the speed from the Running Shoes still proved to be the best option, and Karthus simply needed to avoid the Minotaur's 1/3 chance to counterattack when taking damage and hope to avoid the Chicken Knife's Flee effect from kicking in. He needed six successful attacks to win and landed it on about the fifth try:
That was an inelegant solution to this problem but it did work. By contrast, Omniscient was a total breeze for Karthus. Dark Arts spells are fully allowable in this boss fight and Omniscient has a weakness to wind element. That countered the Shell status on the boss and allowed Karthus to pound out 4500 damage spells as fast as he could cast them. It was all over in about 30 seconds, and Karthus could have won this battle even without a Wall Ring or any healing capacity.
The Undersea Trench was shockingly easy for Karthus, one of the easiest times of any solo character that I've ever had. Hellwind simply murdered everything, typically before the monsters would ever get a chance to act. Even a battle against three Skeleton Unknowns, often one of the hardest encounters for a solo character, could be easily handled with a pair of Hellwing castings. I don't think Karthus was even hit with Condemn once in the whole dungeon, and the lava floors did nearly all of the damage that he took. The boss trio at the end was the only interesting fight in here. I planned to blow them all away with more Hellwinds only to find that these three are not immune to petrification. That was actually a bad thing here; Karthus used Hellwind and one of them died, them immediately revived and cast Delta Attack which stoned Karthus and ended the battle. I needed to find a way to defeat all three of them at once without using Hellwind until the final blow. The solution was to fall back on Evil Mist, which damaged two of the enemies while healing the third green one (Phobos). Karthus used two Evil Mists to damage the back pair of enemies to near-death status, then used a couple of Meltdowns against the one in the front to even out the damage. This was one place where the single-target nature of Meltdown came in handy. Then one final Hellwind wiped out the group without the possibility of petrification messing things up. This was a fun opportunity to use several different Dark Arts at once.
If the Undersea Trench was an easy area, then Istory Falls was... something even easier? The bats and corals and water gels were all blasted to pieces by more Hellwinds, with the spell now up to about 5000 damage per enemy per casting. With the danger in this area nonexistent, Karthus could break out some other spells for laughs and giggles:
This is Dark Haze, the last Dark Arts spell that Karthus hadn't employed yet. It deals no damage but hits all enemies and has a 75% chance to inflict Old and Confusion statuses. The fact that this spell inflicts two statuses at once turns out to be a bad thing, as immunity to either one of the statuses blocks Dark Haze from being effective. For example, I knew that Omniscient was vulnerable to Old status, but because he can't be Confused Dark Haze was unable to do anything to the boss. By this point in the game, there was virtually nothing that lacked an immunity to at least one of these status ailments, and it basically never made sense to waste time casting a spell that didn't deal damage when Hellwind was so efficient at smashing everything. The "Dark Arts" ability could mostly be distilled down to just the spell Hellwind, as it was what I found Karthus using something like 95% of the time. It was reminiscient of the Summoner's path through the third world, where the endgame consisted of summoning Syldra against virtually everything. Hellwind's massive damage and chance to inflict an instant death petrification status was really hard for anything to top.
Hellwinds, a few Drain Touches, and a Coral Ring removed all danger from the Leviathan fight. Easy stuff.
Karthus was one of the most fun solo characters that I'd played in a while, and I decided that I would fight some of the optional bosses with him. I had already done the Phoenix Tower after all, might as well complete the full set of third world summon monsters. Odin was up first, and I was confident that Karthus could win before the ticking timer ran out. When the battle begun, I became slightly worried because Hellwind has a decently long casting animation, and the timer doesn't stop or slow down while the fancy graphics are playing. I didn't need to worry, however: Odin apparently lacks an immunity to petrification and simply keeled over following the second Hellwind, with no message text or other fanfare. That was easy enough. Then it was off to face Bahamut, where Karthus followed standard practice by equipping a Wall Ring over the Running Shoes. This was necessary since Karthus wouldn't be able to heal up between Mega Flares and Drain Touch couldn't outraces its damage. Bahamut proved to be a simple battle as well, with Karthus using a few Drain Touches to heal damage from random attacks or Snowstorms and otherwise pounding the big dragon with more Hellwinds. The last two Mega Flares were reflected back at Bahamut and it was over and done with in a hurry.
That left only the Cleft of Dimension and the boss gauntlet in the final dungeon. (There's never any point in claiming the Mimic job for solo class characters since the boss fight consists of standing in place without doing anything.) Karthus had the Running Shoes equipped as usual in here, which was important for defensive as well as offensive purposes. Karthus could not equip the Bone Mail and that left him vulnerable to some of the instant death spells in the dungeon, particuarly the Roulette spell in the Lonka Ruins section. By Hasting himself up for each battle, Karthus could get off a Hellwind before any of the enemies had a chance to act, and that would kill everything before it had a chance to kill him. Aside from the prodigious MP cost from so many Hellwinds, even with the Gold Hairpin helmet equipped, Karthus went through this area in almost complete safety. He was rarely hit by anything except on the occasions when surprise attacks popped up.
The first two bosses were a joke. Calofisteri tried an Old spell that failed, then a Drain spell that hurt herself and healed Karthus. That was all she was able to get off before repeated Hellwinds saw her demise. Apanda's weakness to fire element meant that Meltdown was able to come to the forefront, displaying those lovely 9999 damage readouts that everyone always enjoys. Apanda also tried a useless Drain spell before expiring to the third Meltdown. It was a similar story for Apocalypse:
His weakness to poison element meant that it was Evil Mist's turn to shine. Karthus went into this fight with the magical equivalent of guns blazing, dropping the Gold Hairpin helmet for the Circlet to get an additional magic multiplier on the damage. That equipment swap ensured that every single spellcast did 9999 damage, and Karthus only faced a single attack from the enemy Blue Mage (a useless casting of "Guard Off") before the third Evil Mist picked up the kill. This might have been the easiest battle ever against Apocalypse with a solo character, and I've taken a lot of them through this fight. Catastrophe had no elemental weakness to exploit and lasted for five Hellwinds, since Karthus was doing just under 5000 damage per cast. He successfully petrified Karthus during the first encounter, then fell on the second try. For Halicarnassus, I didn't bother to equip a Wall Ring under the assumption that Karthus could get off enough Hellwinds with Haste status to win before the Holy spell arrived from the boss. Even with the need to use an item to cure froggy status, that was exactly how the battle played out. As I've said before, speed is the most important element in this game.
Then there was Twin Tania:
Hellwind's petrification would have downed him with ease during the "Charging up for Giga Flare!" phase, which is weak against pretty much every status ailment and instant death attack possible. Instead, I decided to have Karthus do this fight the legitimate way, which was well within his powers to pull off. Twin Tania has a 1/3 chance to respond to any magic damage with Mega Flare, and that meant that Karthus had to go with a Wall Ring again to reflect that damage back at the boss. Most of the time this counterattack was triggered by Twin Tania's own abilities; it was amusing to see an Atomic Ray get bounced back at the boss for a piddly 200 damage, followed by a Mega Flare which was itself reflected back against for about 1000 damage. Karthus concentrated on using Meltdown repeatedly, then switched over to Drain Touch after he was hit with the big Giga Flare attack. Karthus had more than enough health to survive thanks to that robust Vitality stat, and three Drain Touches would get him back to full HP once again. There was very little danger in this fight, and I had a lot of fun showing off a wider range of the Necromancer's Dark Arts. Twin Tania died halfway through his third overall cycle.
Karthus continued to be a very powerful character in the random encounters fought in these areas. Normally I will have to run from the monsters in the Dimensional Castle because they're so deadly to solo characters, but Karthus just mowed down everything with his Hellwinds. He actually picked up 15,000 XP from one battle with an Iron Giant and three Death Claws that would have doomed nearly any other solo character. Similarly, the monsters in the Void don't give any experience points, and usually that means it's better to run away from them. Karthus found it easier to kill most of them as well, with a pair of Hellwinds doing away with almost anything. He even picked up a kill against the rare Mover encounter for a cool (and useless) 199 AP. This felt like playing a fed Karthus in League of Legends, one of those games where you have five or six kills and a fully stacked Rod/Tear pair by 20 minutes. It was a lot of fun.
Necrophobia turned out to be a joke for Karthus:
Check this out. Karthus had opened the battle with Hellwind and killed two of the Barriers before Necrophobia even had a chance to give his mustache-twirling villain speech. I didn't realize this previously, but the Barriers are also not immune to petrification status and two of them keeled over instantly at the start of the fight. Necrophobia looked completely ridiculous talking about his "invincibility" with half of his Barriers already lying smashed on the floor. The second casting of Hellwind did enough damage that the two remaining Barriers were finished with or without their status vulnerability, and then it was time for a steady dose of elemental attacks for 9999 damage printouts. Necrophobia is weak against all eight elements and dies readily to most of the game's magely classes. Karthus was only attacked one time in total, a double physical attack that posed no threat. Easy victory on the first attempt at this encounter. For the record, Karthus was unable to steal the Genji Armor from Gilgamesh in the subsequent cutscene, not that he could have worn it regardless.
That left only the final boss showdown, and unlike the rest of the third world, this wasn't going to be easy at all:
There was a consistent pattern with the Necromancer class that I had kept running into throughout the quest of Karthus. He had held outstanding offensive power for most of the game, and that had been enough to win most boss battles quickly as well as trashing virtually all of the game's random encounters. When Karthus had struggled, it had come against act ending bosses that simply had enough health to avoid dying in short order, turning those fights into drawn out conflicts where the inherent weaknesses of the Necromancer class began to manifest. I had used the Flame Ring to get some fire-based healing in several of those places, but Karthus had no such crutch to fall back on for the final boss. He was going to need to heal himself repeatedly to avoid death, and that meant using Drain Touch. Now Drain Touch is a pretty useful spell, and it was dealing about 1000 damage per casting at the moment while healing Karthus for the same amount. If the final boss only did normal damage, Karthus could just sit there indefinitely and drain tank the battle until achieving victory.
The problem, as always, came from the instant death attacks that the two Exdeath forms were packing. The initial Exdeath Tree form was a huge pain in the neck here, specifically in the form of White Hole and its petrification status. With no Aegis Shield for Karthus to employ, he could only pull Shell status out of the Wonder Rod and hope for the best on the subsequent dice roll. At Level 58 and with Shell status in place, the odds of White Hole succeeding were around 50%, and every time that White Hole showed up it meant a coin flip chance of having to do the battle over again. There was also Condemn status to worry about, which pops up as an option in the second Exdeath Tree AI routine. That also caused a need to reset the battle, with Karthus using the Wonder Rod to literally Reset the battle and start over again from the beginning. The final Exdeath Tree AI routine also had the ability to pull out Meteo at 1/3 odds, which interestingly wasn't as bad as it sounds. Karthus could almost always survive a casting of Meteo with his high HP total and with Shell status in place to cut the damage in half. It would leave him poorly positioned for the second half of the battle, but he could indeed survive it. Even normal attacks were pretty bad, since they forced Karthus to stop using his 4700 damage Hellwind spell in favor of self-healing for 1000 damage with Drain Touch. I tried to keep his health at close to max as possible without wasting any of the healing from Drain Touch. Ultimately, the Tree form was pretty doable despite a lot of resets forced by White Hole.
The second and final form presented some challenges different from the ones faced by any other character. For starters, this would have been an incredibly easy battle if Karthus could just heal like any other normal solo class. He would have drunk an Elixir when low on health and otherwise kept banging out those Hellwinds. 5000 damage spells that hit everything on the screen at once? Amazing! Unfortunately it wasn't that simple. Karthus took a constant beating from Exdeath Part #2 (Almagest) and Part #3 (physical attacks), forcing him to use Drain Touch repeatedly to keep his health up. This was much worse once his Shell status was inevitably Dispelled away, which doubled Almagest from 800 damage up to 1600 damage. An Almagest followed by a Vaccuum Wave would deal a combined 3000 damage - that was three Drain Touches to heal that back! Argh. Inevitably, Karthus had to spend far more rounds than I wanted Drain Touching back the damage he had taken. On my first few attempts at this battle I didn't realize this, and Karthus simply died from damage accumulation. That never would have happened to another character, but there I was, sitting there with Karthus on 1000 HP with an Almagest about to hit, feeling foolish as I realized it was about to kill him. Whoops. The only real solution was to stay as close as possible to his maximum health of 4700 points, making sure not to waste any healing from Drain Touch but using the spell if health dropped below about 3500 HP. This made the final duel into a slow, extended process that didn't play to the strengths of the Necromancer class.
There was also the challenge of running out of magic points, something that other classes never have to worry about. Elixirs normally take care of that sort of thing. I specifically remembered that the Necromancer can use an Elixir to restore MP, which T-Hawk did in his report, however it will reduce their health to critical in the process like a Maelstrom spell. I tried to pull this off in the second half of the Neo Exdeath battle because Karthus was going to run out of MP if I did nothing, and yet each time I tried using an Elixir it inevitably would get Karthus killed. He could not heal back enough HP with Drain Touch after spending a round dropping it to critical. Eventually I fell back on sneaking Ethers for 40 MP back per item, which was itself an unsatisfactory solution since it wasted a round that could have been spent casting Hellwind. Between the need to heal with Drain Touch and restore MP occasionally with Ethers, Karthus wasn't getting many opportunities to use Hellwind and take the offensive. And while all of this was going on, there was the constant threat of Grand Cross lurking in the background. Karthus had TERRIBLE luck with Grand Cross, with so many promising runs destroyed by one of the status ailments that cause instant death. He was petrified, he was turned into a zombie, he was outright killed, he was hit with Condemn status, etc. For whatever reason, I was not getting much in the way of dice luck from the one portion of the FF5 gameplay that is nothing but a toss of the dice.
I figured out pretty quickly that the key to winning against Neo Exdeath was eliminating the physical attacking section (Part #3) as soon as possible. Like all other solo characters, Karthus would remove the magic casting Part #4 at the start of the battle with an Odin summon from the Magic Lamp, leaving only three remaining parts. Part #1 only uses Grand Cross until it gets very low on health, and Part #2 only uses Almagest at infrequent intervals. It was the steady rain of physical blows that was causing problems for Karthus; remove that part and he could down Elixirs with no issue for MP restoration and then blast away with Hellwinds until the last two parts croaked. Therefore I concentrated on killing Part #3 with Karthus, always using Drain Touch on that particular part in the hopes of getting rid of it. Fortunately it does have 50k health as compared to 55k health for the other two parts to make this slightly easier. Karthus mostly needed to avoid bad luck on the Grand Cross dice rolls until he could work through the large life pool of the physical section. On my best attempt Karthus did manage to defeat Part #3 - which would have resulted in an easy victory except that he had been hit with Condemn status from the third Grand Cross. Argh, what horrid luck! There was enough time left to get off three more Hellwinds though, and I knew that the other two parts had to be very low on health by this point. On the third Hellwind, Karthus was down to 20 MP remaining, exactly enough for one more casting of Hellwind at 19 MP. This was going to be such an awesome finish, winning with 5 seconds left on the ticking death clock and with exactly 1 point of magic left!
Then Hellwind rolled low on the damage and killing ONE of the two remaining parts. The last surviving part immediately flattened Karthus with a Meteor spell and I was starting over again from the beginning again. Are you kidding me?! One part left with something like 500 HP remaining. What a huge pain in the rear. Sigh. Still, this had taught me that the overall strategy I was using had been correct. It really did come down to the Grand Cross dice rolls, and as soon as Karthus wasn't killed by an unlucky status ailment, he had this victory in the bag. Take out the physical attacking Neo Exdeath part, dodge the cheap Grand Cross insta-kills, and he would emerge victorious.
I had another attempt at Neo Exdeath go down a different path. Karthus had been casting Hellwind when he was near full health as usual, only for me to find that there were just two damage printouts appearing on the screen, not three. What had happened? It turns out that Part #2 (the Almagest part) lacks an immunity to petrification status. It has 80% magic evade and the odds of the petrification hitting were lower than that after factoring in the discrepancy in levels between Karthus and Neo Exdeath, but even something like 5-10% odds were going to hit eventually if I kept running this battle. I discovered that having the Almagest part out of the fight made a huge difference. The lack of the damage from that one attack was a tipping point of sorts, allowing Karthus more rounds to go on the offensive and fewer spent needing to heal with Drain Touch. I legitimately thought that this was going to be the victory attempt; Karthus had to survive one final Grand Cross and it went off with no visible effects. Success! Now he only needed to cast the final Hellwind to wipe out the last two parts at once... and the Hellwind did only 3700 damage. What the heck?! Why not the normal 4700 damage? That killed one of the two parts but not the second, leaving it alive with barely 100 HP remaining. Queue the Meteor spell from the last part remaining for another incredible game over situation. I had to piece together what had happened here. It had to have been an Old status out of that final Grand Cross, one that I couldn't see because there's essentially no graphical indication when the Necromancer gets hit with that status. It had drained away just enough damage from Karthus to leave him a miniscule amount short of claiming the victory. Un-freaking-believable.
The long parade of failed final boss attempts continued. White Hole. White Hole. White Hole. Grand Cross. White Hole. White Hole. Grand Cross. Those were the only two things that ever dropped Karthus, and they played out again and again and again in succession. I've truly come to loathe the final boss fight for solo characters that can't equip the Aegis Shield. Way too much of the result comes down to dice rolls that can't be controlled by the player. It's especially frustrating to get wiped out by Grand Cross from a literal 1 in 18 dice roll, where roughly two thirds of the status effects were benign and the other one third were instant death. I was up to more than 50 attempts at this boss by now, and there was nothing Karthus could do about it. Even adding more levels wouldn't do much, since Grand Cross would be unaffected by adding more HP or damage. Karthus simply had the worst luck of any solo character I've ever taken to the final boss when it came to Grand Cross.
I had an interesting situation pop up on another boss attempt. Nothing happened on the first Grand Cross, and then the second one inflicted Mute status on Karthus. This left Karthus unable to heal himself and unable to do much of anything at all. Fortunately he was near full health at the time, and I had to hope that the status would wear off before Neo Exdeath could stack up enough damage to kill him. I drank three Ethers while waiting for the Mute status to disappear for lack of anything else to do. Luck was with Karthus thus time as the physical part chose not to attack for several rounds in a row at 1/3 odds each time. That left enough time to start healing up with Drain Touch and barely survive the next Almagest, then heal up again afterwards. I think Karthus used Drain Touch on something like eight consecutive rounds and dropped as low as 300 HP before climbing out of the hole. By this point the physical Part #3 was nearly dead, and eventually another Hellwind finished it off. Now Karthus was in a race to destroy the last remaining parts before something horrible came out of Grand Cross. I switched to using Evil Mist at this point, which did the same amount of damage and would *NOT* kill Part #2 via petrification. That would have been disastrous at this point with Part #3 already dead. The third Grand Cross had no result, and then the fourth and final one signaled disaster: Condemn status. Are you kidding me?! Almost anything else would have sealed the victory. But wait, Karthus still had 25 seconds on the ticking death clock to work with. The last two parts had a little under 20k health remaining at this point. With Haste status, I thought there might barely be enough time to get off four more castings of Evil Mist and eliminate both of them before time ran out. 15k health remaining... 10k health remaining... Another Almagest went off, but Karthus had enough health to survive and there was no time to waste a round using Drain Touch. One more casting needed... and for once nothing ridiculous popped up at the last second. That did it!
There's the ticking doom clock over the head of Karthus with 7 seconds remaining. It turned out that there was probably time for one more round of action if needed; I sometimes forget how quickly the characters can act with Haste status. Grand Cross had made things interesting right up until the last second. Karthus had survived four of them on the victory run, including two that were pretty bad for him in Mute and Condemn. At least these particular statuses had given him a chance. I could deal with almost anything other than the cheap insta-kills. Good riddance to this battle.
I went back and read T-Hawk's report after finishing with my own playthrough. I'd been deliberately avoiding it to approach everything from an independent perspective, and it was interesting to see how similar our playthroughs turned out to me. Our characters marched in virtual lockstep for most of the run, using the same tactics to take out the same bosses, often at the identical levels where we targeted certain magic damage multipliers. T-Hawk had a better strategy for the final battle though, where he swapped over to the Guardian dagger for some physical evade while using Drain Touch. That would have saved me a ton of time and effort if I had thought to do that, and probably would have seen me win in half as many final boss attempts. That said, nothing can save you from bad luck with White Hole or Grand Cross, and Karthus seemed to have terrible luck with both of them.
In terms of evaluating the Necromancer as a class, I would probably rate this one as a bit above average when compared to the rest of the field. The Necromancer can level most opponents in a flash, and random encounters are easier than most of the other solo characters. However, on those few occasions where the Necromancer can't burst his enemies down quickly, the class runs into major problems. All of the act end bosses posed serious challenges, and the Neo Exdeath encounter was especially painful. That said, outside of the battles with Exdeath this was an enormously entertaining class to use. Crushing the monsters with blast after blast of unholy dark magic is loads of fun, and the inability to heal led to some interesting gameplay mechanics that didn't reflect any of the other classes. The Necromancer stands alone as a unique customer in this game. It's a little bit like the Berserker at times except that the Necromancer is actually fun to play. Thanks for reading!