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    This week’s forum watch post hits on a single issue that’s animating threads in all five of the class forums; what should be done (if anything) to improve Diablo 3 Passive Skills? Which overly popular DiabloWikipassives should be nerfed or changed or “baked in?” Which unloved passives should be improved? Can some be combined or merged to create new options? And how about more passives that are impactful and encourage/allow a whole new styles of play, rather than just adding slightly more damage or hit points or defense, etc.

    The whole debate was begun in the Demon Hunter forum by Vanadin, who took a Blue comment about “baking in” the all-but-mandatory One With Everything Monk passive and extended the concept to the Demon Hunter. The question spurred some good replies, so I extended the concept to all five classes and made a post in each class forum for discussion. Each post has a table showing the most/least used passives for that class, for easy reference and skill hover tooltip info.

    Someone+is+wrong+on+internetSo what are the results? The conversations are still going on and you’re welcome to join in, and this is the Internet so opinions differ, but there are some interesting and insightful posts. Just to defy the conventional alphabetical order, let’s start off with the Wizard.

  • The Wizard passive skills thread shows a real division with the class’ passives. The most popular by far is Critical Mass at 65%, but there’s a decent amount of variety, with Glass Cannon, Cold Blooded, Evocation, Blur, Astral Presence, and Galvanizing Ward all over 27% usage rate. After that things drop off a cliff, and the other 8 passives are all between 2-7% usage rate. So should some of those be combined? Reworked? Or should Critical Mass just be “baked in” for the Wizard so the class would once again have 3 passive slots to fill? You can find arguments for all those opinions in the thread.
  • The Demon Hunter passive skills thread finds more agreement, since the class has one obvious passive skill problem. It’s Archery, which 85% of Demon Hunters use. As I see it, there are two problems with this. The first is that 15% of Demon Hunters are unconcerned with greatly increasing their DPS and should probably go play Minesweeper. The second is that Archery is flawed — a passive that adds big DPS is fine, but the bonuses are unbalanced since +50% Critical Damage by far the best, especially since by far the best ranged weapon in the game is the xbow Manticore. Thus we get the current state of the Demon Hunter, where most players feel all-but-forced to use a single weapon if they want to succeed.

    After Archery the 20% damage-adding Steady Aim has a 51% usage rate, with Perfectionist, Tactical Advantage, Sharpshooter, Vengeance, and Night Stalker also popular. After those the floor drops out, and the last 8 are all under a 6% usage rate. So what should be done? Aside from some sort of rebalance of Archery (ideally combined with an across-the-board buff to bows and one-handed xbows), there’s some support for combining or baking in some of the 3% used passives which grant cool bonuses… but aren’t quite good enough to spend a passive skill slot on. (I vote for Hot Pursuit.) Bonus points to Ivan E for theory-crafting entirely new functions for all of the passives.

  • The Monk’s passive skills thread is the liveliest of the five, with a lot of competing theories and ideas. The obvious one in OWE, which is used by 75% of Monks. (Ironic that it’s got a lower usage rate than 2 Barb and 1 DH passives, and yet OWE is the one that Bliz always seems to mention as in need of nerfing or changing.) Seize the Initiative isn’t far behid at 66% usage rate, but after that there’s nice variety, with the top 11 Monk Passives all over 7% usage rate.

    So what to change/improve? The main request is to add some offensive passives. As is obvious by viewing the other classes, the best DPS-boosting passives are always the most popular. This can be overdone to the point of ruining variety, as we currently see with the Barbarian, but virtually all the Monk passives now are about defensive boosts or Spirit regen, and that’s boring. The class would enjoy some straight out +DPS passives like the Barb has, or at least something akin to Glass Cannon or Pierce the Veil — a DPS-booster that comes at a price.

  • The Barbarian passive skills thread shows clearly that the Barb’s passives are the worst in the game in terms of variety, since they’re the best in the game in terms of results. If you look at the most-used Barb skills it’s not even funny, with Weapons Master and Ruthless both above 80% usage rate, and the last 8 all below 4%. For obvious reasons, since the big two are fantastically powerful DPS-boosting abilities which basically function as the chocolate chips atop the cookie cutter DiabloWikiSpin2Win build. (Are those 2 passives so popular because of S2W? Or is S2W so powerful because of those 2 passives?)

    We were joking about this issue on the podcast last week, when comparing the Monk’s passives to the Barb’s and noting that half a dozen of the Barb’s were better than *any* of the Monk’s, while not a single Monk passive would even fit into the Barb’s top 5. Even something like Brawler, used by a whopping 4% of Barbarians, would instantly become far and away the most powerful Monk passive skill.

    The counter argument is that since Monks get a ton of AoE and multi-hit attacks they don’t need more DPS, and that Monks get a lot of great defensive boosts from their passives. That last part is certainly true, but 1) higher DPS cures all ills in Diablo 3, 2) defensive bonuses are much easier/cheaper to get from gear than offensive ones, and 3) the Barb has a bunch of great defensive passives too. (Which are ignored since when Diablo 3 is the question, higher DPS is always the answer.)

  • As for the Witch Doctor’s passive skill debate… it’s got a different tone than the other four classes since the WD’s passives are by far the most evenly-used. The WD’s most popular passive is Pierce the Veil, but it’s just at 41% usage rate, and all but one of the WD passives is used by more than 5% of characters. Thus there aren’t any passives that everyone hates or everyone loves, and the comments in the thread are informative, with several players explaining why their favorite passive is under appreciated.

    I wanted to quote a comment from Ivan E which I think goes to the heart of what sort of changes would be best made to Passives, aside from nerfing some of the OP and buffing some of the UP:

    I don’t think it’s just the WD’s passives that need a rework, in case that wasn’t clear — I think the entire concept of a “passive” should shift less from a boring stat boost and more to a huge buff to something specific, or something that encourages you to play in a way that you wouldn’t without taking that passive.

  • An excellent point with which to end this post, and hopefully one that’ll spur some comments or theory crafting type ideas or examples from you guys, here or in the individual forum threads.

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