guide to elemental damage in diablo 3

    Elemental Damage in Diablo 3 and Reaper of Souls is a huge factor in character performance and build selection. While the traditional trifecta affixes remain essential for a quality DPS — with Attack Speed much reduced in value for many builds — smarter players are supplementing that with items that add +damage% to skills of ________ element, and making sure their skills and rune effects match that elemental damage type.

    There are a lot of items that grant damage bonuses to the seven elemental damage types that can be boosted with +damage% affixes — Physical, Arcane, Fire, Cold, Poison, Holy, and Lightning — and every one of them is now listed and sorted by damage type on the Elemental Damage wiki page.

    The best element to boost? Fire is what most players prefer now, due to a combination of which legendaries grant fire damage and which skill runes output it. However, Lightning actually has the most items that boost it, and some classes have skills and builds to take advantage of it. I’ve done the calculations and it’s possible to add up to +290% damage to Lightning Skills, on top of all your boosted damage from crit and mainstat and the like. It’s tricky to achieve that; you’ll need to wear 4 amulets and 3 bracers at once, while playing a half-Monk half-Wizard to equip all the specialized gear… but a true min/maxer won’t let minor details like those get in the way!

    Also keep in mind that the +elemental damage% boosts do *not* show up on your Character pane. (Nor does +damage% from specific skills.) This is the infamous DiabloWikiPaper DPS problem that we’ve been arguing about for months, and that Blizzard keeps insisting they’re not concerned about.

    (BTW, DiabloWikiSheet Toughness is as dumb or dumber. Playing my DH last night on EU, I had 13.9m Toughness in-game while my profile showed 4.7m toughness, leading people in the game to wonder why I wasn’t dying as I stood blasting away without much bothering to avoid the Elite attacks. The error on Profile Toughness display is mostly that set bonuses aren’t included, and my DH has 2 items of 4 different sets equipped, plus a Ring of Royal Grandeur.)

    All that said, here follows the newly-updated Elemental Damage article from DiabloWiki.net, which should function as reference and a sort of Guide to Diablo 3 Elemental Damage. There are a lot of figures and links and though we double checked, it’s quite possible we missed some items or typoed some of the numbers. If you see any errors, please mention them in comments so we can get the wiki page as accurate as possible.

    Elemental Damage is an item bonus property with much expanded importance in Diablo 3 version 2 and Reaper of Souls. The in-game terminology is always “_______ skills deal X% more damage.” which means that any skill rune with that type of damage will be boosted in total damage by the item.

    Fire damage and reduced fire skill costs.

    Fire damage and reduced fire skill costs.

    The damage from Elemental damage bonuses (available on a variety of items) are added last in the damage calculation, after damage is determined by all the usual sources, chiefly skill property, mainstat, crit chance and crit damage, +damage gear, etc. Thus a player with +50% damage to one element would add literally 50% to their damage output when using a skill of that elemental damage type, taking a 1,000,000 crit up to 1,500,000 damage.

    Elemental Damage Non-Differences

    During Diablo 3’s development, the design plan was for all types of elemental damage to make a big difference. The developers wanted numerous types of elemental damage and different effects from them, especially via their DiabloWikicritical hit DiabloWikiprocs. Fire damage crits were going to set targets alight dealing additional DiabloWikiDoT. Lightning crits stunned targets. Cold crits briefly froze enemies.

    • See the DiabloWikiCombat article for more details.

    These effects were all scrapped during development, and in DiabloWikiD3v all the different types of elemental damage were cosmetic; different colors that resulted in nothing more than varied monster death animations.[2] The only element that had a function in Diablo 3 was cold, which chilled and slowed enemies, and which the developers set to deal a bit less damage to offset that.[3]

    According to Blizzard, this mostly resulted in players not using cold damage weapons, so in DiabloWikiD3v2 cold damage weapons have been normalized to the other elements, and many types of items can roll with “% chance to slow target,” or “% chance to freeze target”. Cold skills may add a chilling/slowing effect to targets as well.

    The biggest change to elemental damage in DiabloWikiDiablo 3 version 2 and DiabloWikiReaper of Souls is the diversification of skills and rune effects into different elements, the addition of many more items that deal +damage% to skills of a specific element, and the way these item and skill properties blend together to provide greatly increased damage output, for players wise enough to tailor their gear and skills to match.


    Elemental Damage Types

    Elemental damage of any type.

    Elemental damage of any type.

    There are numerous types of damage in Diablo 3, but all item bonuses and skill effects are sorted into just seven types. They are:

    • Physical damage
    • Arcane damage
    • Cold damage
    • Fire damage
    • Holy damage
    • Lightning damage
    • Poison damage


    Sheet DPS

    Though +elemental damage does *not* show in the character window (the “sheet DPS”) it can be quite impactful, and for most players, adding 20% to the elemental damage of their main attack skill adds as much or more effective DPS than 10% critical hit chance or 75% critical hit damage. The exact benefits and values vary depending on play style, attack speed, and the relative level of other stats, but on the whole +elemental damage% is a very valuable stat. One many new players do not value properly, precisely since it does not get factored into the sheet DPS, and can only be seen by the pop up damage numbers or by judging relative kill speed in game.

    Elemental Damage Availability

    Items with bonuses to elemental damage are very valuable in Reaper of Souls, as they enable players to unlock much higher total damage than is possible with just the traditional trifecta and mainstat forms of attack. Those affixes are still essential even with elemental damage, but since the elemental damage multiplies the total sheet DPS, the total damage can be raised much higher with elemental bonuses.

    All Elemental Damage

    Only two item slots can roll elemental damage as a random affix. The bonus to any 1 type of elemental damage may appear as a random affix on any bracer or amulet. (Aside from a few legendary amulets where one type of elemental damage is inherent.)

    • Bracers (db): 15-20% any elemental damage from random affixes.
    • Amulet (db): 15-20% any elemental damage from random affixes.

    Several legendary items always roll with 1 of the 7 types of elemental damage, randomly selected. These items are also listed in each damage type below for easier element by element reference.

    Arcane Damage

    Arcane damage is exclusively a DiabloWikiWizard damage type and nearly all the items dealing bonus Arcane damage are Wizard-only.

    Cold Damage

    Fire Damage

    Fire damage is not the most common bonus on items, but it’s second to Lightning in frequency, and players feel that most of the best skills in the game hit for Fire damage.

    • Andariel’s Visage (db) — 15-20% more damage to 1 or 7 elemental types. Helm.
    • Eye of Etlich (db) — 15-20% more damage from 1 or 7 elemental types. Amulet.
    • Lidless Wall (db) — 15-20% more elemental damage, 1 of 7 types. Shield.
    • Stone of Jordan (db) — 15-20% more damage from 1 of 7 elemental damage types. Ring.
    • Cindercoat (db) — 15-25% more damage from Fire skills. Chest Armor.
    • Devastator (db) — 15-20% more damage from Fire Skills. One-handed mace.
    • Magefist (db) — 15-20% more damage from Fire skills. Gloves.
    • Maximus — 15-20% more damage from Fire skills. Two-handed sword.
    • Triumvirate (db)– 7-10% more damage from Fire, Lightning, and Arcane skills. Wizard orb.
    • Firebird’s Eye (db) — 15-20% more damage from Fire skills. Orb. (Wizard only.)
    • The Burning Axe of Sankis (db) — 15-20% more damage from Fire skills. One-handed axe.
    • Tal Rasha’s Relentless Pursuit (db)Item Set, two piece bonus. (Amulet, Helm, Belt, Chest Armor, Orb.)
      • Arcane, Cold, Fire, and Lightning skills deal 5% more damage.

    Holy Damage

    Crusader only Holy damage.

    Crusader only Holy damage.

    Holy damage type is mostly seen on Crusader skills.

    • Andariel’s Visage (db) — 15-20% more damage to 1 or 7 elemental types. Helm.
    • Eye of Etlich (db) — 15-20% more damage from 1 or 7 elemental types. Amulet.
    • Hallowed Barricade (db) — 15-20% more damage from Holy skills. Shield.
    • Holy Beacon (db) — 11-20% more damage from Holy skills. Amulet.
    • Lidless Wall (db) — 15-20% more elemental damage, 1 of 7 types. Shield.
    • Stone of Jordan (db) — 15-20% more damage from 1 of 7 elemental damage types. Ring.
    • Golden Scourge (db) — 15-20% more damage from Holy skills. One-handed Flail (Crusader only.)
    • Skycutter (db) — 15-20% more damage from Holy skills. One-handed sword.

    Lightning Damage

    The largest number of item types with +elemental damage give it to Lightning. Only the fact that more of the best/most popular skills in the game deal Fire damage keeps this from being the #1 elemental damage type. (Up to 290% Lightning Damage could be achieved, though a character would need to be multiple classes at once and wear up to 4 items in the same slot.)

    Physical Damage

    Physical damage is dealt by a number of skills and by most [[pets]]. Witch Doctors get the most benefit from physical damage bonuses, if they go with a heavy-summoning zookeeper build.

    Poison Damage

    Poison damage gets by far the least elemental damage bonuses from gear, and is fairly uncommon as a skill damage type as well. Players who want more of this damage type often joke that Blizzard assigns the bonuses alphabetically and thus there are none left by the time they finally get to Physical and then Poison.

    Elemental Damage Balance

    The utility and sheer number of items with each type of bonus is nowhere near balanced as of Patch 2.0.5 (May 2014.) There will never be total balance, since some elemental types are much more common than others, but the Diablo 3 developers have stated their goal to achieve a relatively equal balance between the elemental damage types.

    At launch and up through DiabloWikiPatch 2.0.5 Fire damage was the biggest of the damage types, followed closely by Lightning. Many patches at and after release have tweaked the skills damage types and item damage bonuses, and more are yet to come.

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