Before we begin talking about “The Crusade“, I wanted to break the fourth wall and introduce myself to everyone. I am Drixx, a longtime member and supporter here at the Diablo IncGamers site and forums, and going forward I will be covering the Crusader class from the upcoming first expansion of Diablo 3 in depth, with some additional content in other areas. Expect streams, podcasts, Q&A sessions and more to come in the future.
So with that out of the way, welcome to the first installment of “The Crusade“, a feature where we will cover all things Crusader throughout the Reaper of Souls beta and beyond. As one of the centerpieces of the expansion, the Crusader class is obviously a big selling point for the expansion and consequently something that Blizzard has invested greatly into getting just right. In fact they have put so much effort and work into making the class both fun and evocative to long time fans and newcomers alike that it feels a little bit broken at the moment. Just about any haphazard mash up of skills can pretty easily step into Torment difficulty nearly as soon as the class hits the level cap.
After the break I talk about some of the Crusader’s Passive Skills I’m finding invaluable when playing right up into the Torment difficulty levels.
The class features some fan favorites from the forerunner Paladin, Blessed Hammer being the most obvious example. Much like the Wizard; however, the Crusader reimagines the skills it borrows from the past counterpart and reinterprets them in new ways. Sadly you probably will not find yourself running around spamming endless hammers that smite all the evils of Sanctuary in your path, but if you want to use a familiar skill with a new twist, then that option is there for you. It feels a bit like déjà vu by design, much the way the Wizard did when Diablo 3 first launched.
Right now the class is undergoing nearly constant revision, and builds continuously emerge exploiting some skill or feature only to be quickly brought into line, so there are no clear cookie cutter builds and just about every skill is worth some experimenting with. Despite the constant changes, the class remains fresh and feels powerful every time out, and it looks to present a strong case for starting over and leveling up again when the expansion arrives.
Throughout the coming weeks and months, I will be exploring some of the foundational aspects of the class and bringing you all the news and updates throughout the beta and beyond. Be sure to leave your questions in the comments or stop in at the Crusader forum and join in the discussion of the new addition and centerpiece to Reaper of Souls.
Today I want to begin by talking about an area that most players rarely spend much thought on: passives. The Crusader comes loaded with a rather impressive amount of passive skills, many of which currently do a great deal more than the passives everyone has grown familiar with over the past eighteen months. For the most part, the original classes have settled into the same few passives that the less mathematically challenged among us have determined provide the best bonuses to damage or survivability and moved on. The Crusader passives look to turn this dynamic on its head.
Instead of providing simple damage modifiers or survivability modifiers, the Crusader passives focus more on situational bonuses, and a rather solid argument can be made for using almost any of the passives in the tree, and sometimes swapping them in and out for various encounters in Sanctuary. For today we’ll take a look at just a small sampling, and next time we’ll cover all of the passives in depth, along with the primary resource builders.
The first passive I want to talk about, and arguably the one that will be considered absolutely necessary for all Crusader builds, is Heavenly Strength. This passive allows you to use a two handed weapon in your main hand while still carrying a shield, at the cost of a ten percent penalty to your maximum movement speed. This penalty is a little harsher than it seems at first since testing shows that it is applied after all bonuses to movement speed are accounted for, so if you have max movement speed from paragon and from items, the penalty is really quite large. This passive also seems counter-intuitive to most Crusaders I talk to in the beta. Coming from the Diablo 3 vanilla environment where most players are now able to play at very high Monster Power settings, most players are conditioned to want faster attack speeds, and using a slow two handed weapon in the 0.9 to 1.1 attacks per second range seems like a very bad idea.
The reason this passive will almost certainly be considered mandatory for Crusaders; however, is found in the way the Crusader skills all work. While Blizzard hides the actual numbers, testing with various weapons quickly shows that most, if not all, of the Crusader’s skills do damage based upon the damage value of the weapon equipped instead of the DPS and so that slow weapon which has a very large damage number is actually significantly better for the Crusader than a faster weapon which may have a higher DPS but only half the actual damage.
The big drawback from the passive may bother those who are used to literally flying around the maps with the other classes; however, one of the primary utility skills at the Crusader’s disposal is a trusty steed which will allow you to spend just over half of the time moving around in style faster than any of the other classes can even dream of. You can also trade some of that movement time for a nice set of chains and drag creatures along with you so that you drop off the horse and right into combat with a ready-made group of monsters who came along for the ride. All in all, most players who invest their playtime into the Crusader will soon forget their apprehension when it comes to this particular drawback.
The main challenge, then, for the Crusader is figuring out how to regenerate life. With life steal being permanently removed, the Crusader has only a few options for regaining lost life. There is
- Life on Hit
- Life per Kill
- Life Regeneration
- Potions and health orbs (we’ll talk about a passive that helps in a moment).
Life on hit seems like a good choice at first, especially since it is quite easy to amass a very impressive 10k or more life on hit. Unfortunately when you have a health pool of over four hundred thousand and you only swing your weapon once per second, even hitting quite a few mobs makes this approach basically futile as a way to keep your health up. This seems to be an across the board design decision from Blizzard, and not limited to just the Crusader, but it does force you to spend some time figuring out how you are going to regain that lost life.
Ultimately, I think the big design decision by Blizzard to move away from players simply regenerating life faster than the damage can come in shows itself here. Crusaders are going to find themselves struggling to put together gear that allows them to outpace the incoming damage, and this is where the other passives I want to talk about today come in. There are three which all synergize and work quite well together that allow the Crusader to mitigate a great deal of damage, and heal while doing so.
The first of these passives to become available is called Divine Fortress and it increases the Crusader’s armor value by their shield’s block chance. The description on this one is a little vague, but what it actually does is add the shield’s block chance as a multiplicative modifier to the Crusader’s armor value. This may not seem like much but Crusader shields are able to reach 27-30% block chance, which along with their very high armor values combines to give the Crusader some serious armor and very high mitigation. There are other passives which outperform this one if your shield does not have a high enough block chance or has a low armor value, so while this passive is not an automatic, it does provide an incredible boost to survivability to the class.
Not surprisingly, there is another passive which synergizes greatly with Divine Fortress. This passive is called Renewal and it heals the Crusader by a scaling amount every time he blocks. Experimentation with various affixes does not seem to have an impact on the amount healed, but it has continued to go up as my gear has improved, and I will hopefully have an answer for how to maximize this heal value when I talk about passives in depth next time. The reason this passive synergizes so well with Divine Fortress is because you need only improve one thing, your block chance, in order for both of them to increase in effectiveness. When fighting a large horde of monsters, it is not uncommon to block so frequently that the Crusader’s health pool simply never starts to fall until only the last few demons are left standing.
The final passive that works to help the Crusader with mitigating life lost instead of finding a way to heal is called Finery. This passive gives the Crusader 70 to all resists for each different color gem which is socketed into his gear, with an additional bonus of 70 more if all five gem types are used, for a total bonus of 420 added to all resists. In gear that is good enough for Torment 1 bordering on Torment 2, this makes my Crusader’s worst resist score come in at 1189 which means that, along with damage mitigated by armor, cold damage is reduced to a mere 3.85% of its original value. The best resist score is fire at 1345 and combined with the mitigation from armor the Crusader only 3.49% of fire damage makes it through.
So while the passive allowing Crusader’s to wield a two handed weapon in their main hand while still using a shield presents a strong challenge to being able to restore lost health, there are other passives which work together to both reduce the amount of incoming damage to a very small amount and then to heal much of that small amount every time the Crusader blocks.
These are just a few of the Crusader passives, and next time we will take a thorough look at all of the various passives and some compelling reasons why most, if not all, of them are useful at least on a situational basis, even if you might not want to keep them in your build all the time. We will also take a look at the resource generators for the Crusader, which is arguably where the class actually under-performs the rest of the classes.
Please leave comments and questions in the comments section below. If you have any questions about the Crusader, feel free to ask there or visit our Crusader forum and join in the discussion with us there. If you have any major questions or ideas for what you would like to see from The Crusade, please let me know in the comments, and I may feature your question in a Q&A post or even write an entire article to satisfy your curiosity.
Until next time, I’m Drixx and this has been The Crusade. I hope to see you on the forums and in game in the months to come.