Best Diablo 4 Necromancer build: Strengthen your minions and get thorny

Diablo 4 Necromancer build - A necro wearing armor with a sickle
(Image credit: Blizzard)
Best Diablo 4 builds
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Diablo 4 Sorcerer build: Element-ary
Diablo 4 Barbarian build: Stay buffed
Diablo 4 Rogue build: Need for bleed
Diablo 4 Druid build: Air and weres

The best Diablo 4 (opens in new tab) Necromancer build was likely corpse explosion, but since Blizzard sadly nerfed all necros from having too much fun with bursting bodies, players now have to look elsewhere. Luckily, there's no shortage of powerful necro skills, not to mention your horde of undead minions ready to fight at your behest. The best build for our money utilises the necro's Thorns and ability to reflect damage on attacking enemies.

The soon-to-arrive Diablo 4 beta (opens in new tab) is capped at level 20 this time around, so slightly lower than the previous weekends. With that in mind, you might not be able to unlock every single ability included in this build, but either way, it should give you a strong foundation on which to forge a powerful master of the undead.

Thorn Necromancer build guide 

  • Skills: Bone Splinters, Bone Spear, Corpse Explosion, Golem, Skeletal Mages, Army of the Dead
  • Summon Upgrades: Skeletal Warriors (Skirmishers 1), Skeletal Mages (Bone 3), Golem (Bone 1)
  • Legendary Aspects: Needleflare Aspect, Aspect of Frenzied Dead, Aspect of Hardened Bones, Unyielding Commander’s Aspect

Blizzard said no to the ridiculous corpse explosion build (opens in new tab) that many Necromancer players ran during the beta weekends, so it’s time for the next best thing: a Thorns build. Thorns, if you’re not familiar, is a stat that determines how much damage you passively deal to enemies who attack you. By stacking the stat on every piece of gear you can, you’ll build up enough damage that you can almost sit AFK while your minions clean everything up.

Instead of thinking of this as a completely hands-free build, I like to think of it as a versatile one depending on what you want out of it. You can park your character at a world event and passively farm XP or items as, by default, you will use none of your skills except to resummon your minions or pop Army of the Dead, though it's worth noting that you won't unlock the latter during the Server Slam. Alternatively, you can use Bone Splinters, Bone Spear, and Corpse Explosion to make fights go faster. 

As this build heavily relies on your minions, there shouldn't be a need to constantly manage essence regeneration, but if you do find yourself short, you can throw in a cast or two of Bone Splinters. You also won’t have a ton of access to legendary items in the upcoming Server Slam playtest, so slaying a room full of demons might take a bit longer if you’re not lucky enough to get a good drop.

As far as gear and skill points go, you are mainly looking for anything that enhances either minions or Thorns damage. Aspect of Frenzied Dead, for example, increases your minion’s attack speed each time they damage an enemy. Be sure to pick up Hewed Flesh to occasionally spawn corpses to explode against bosses. Spiked Armor is a must for the extra Thorns. Skeletal Warrior and Mage Mastery are also key for their survivability. And the Necrotic Carapace passive will help your minions survive with all the corpses you make.

For the Book of the Dead, the Necromancer’s unique class mechanic, I’d go with the Skirmishers upgrade for the Skeletal Warriors and get the one that gives you one more. Your Skeletal Mages should have the Bone upgrade that makes them live longer and deal 40% increased damage after being alive for five seconds. And for your Golem, take the first upgrade that spawns a corpse when they’ve taken up to 20% damage. 

All of these upgrades empower your minions to do a lot of the work for you. With that said, it’s entirely up to you how involved you want to be, which is sort of the beauty of any Thorns build.

Associate Editor

Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.

With contributions from