Major Changes to Firebats in Patch v1.08

Wyatt Cheng shared some details and theory about big changes to the Witch Doctor’s Firebats in Patch v1.08. The change is only half-in on the PTR; the mana cost changes are in but the damage buff is not, but both will be fixed before the patch goes live, for both people who are still playing the WD.

Buffs are nice, but I wonder why they nerfed Witch Doctors’ firebats.
Wyatt: The DiabloWikiFirebats changes were halfway done when we snapshotted the PTR patch. The mana cost change was one change. The other change is buffing the damage of Firebats. The mana change made this PTR patch, the damage change did not. Look for it in the next PTR patch after this one.

It’s not exactly a nerf and it’s intended to change the way the skill is used (long channeling as opposed to short bursts).
Wyatt: Pretty much this.

Bears is great for high damage in quick bursts when you can get close to your enemy and sustain the mana. Acid Cloud is great damage you can apply at specific locations, good for AOE, and also good if your playstyle can maximize the DOT component.

Firebats is not intended to step on either of those roles. Since it is a channeling skill, and some of the runes already play into standing still, we want to make Firebats a solid damage choice if you find you can stand in one spot for a few seconds. Will it be for everybody? No. Will it replace Bears and Acid Cloud? Hopefully not.

What we’d like to see is some new approaches that make use of Firebats’ niche advantages. An easy example would be high MP group play. I can stand still thanks to my allies, and we want to do a lot of damage due to the high MP. In a situation like this there is room for Firebats to outperform Bears and Acid Cloud. Hopefully creative players will find even more builds and playstyles in which Firebats finds an enjoyable home.

Note that the reduction in the continual mana cost looks small on paper, but is very large in practice. This is because your “net cost” you pay per second is relative to your regeneration. So the reduction in continual cost means that most witch doctors can channel for significantly longer than before. Whereas before maybe you could channel Firebats for 3 seconds before you ran out of mana, now you can go for 6 seconds, 10 seconds, and for certain builds – indefinitely. So the goal of this change is to put a little more emphasis on where you position yourself to start casting, and letting you cast for longer periods once you’ve started. Is it any good for “run and gun” builds? No, but there are other skills for that. We’re not trying to introduce more powerful choices for existing playstyles (ie. I play the same way as I did before but I spew bats instead of bears), instead, we’re trying to introduce alternate mechanics to create alternate playstyles. It may not be for everybody, but it should be for somebody.

Click through for more on Firebats and crit damage via stream attacks.

In a long term channel it might be considered a buff, right? I’m sure they will explain their rationale.
Wyatt: Spells such as Disintegrate, Ray of Frost, and Firebats DO crit. You don’t get big yellow numbers, but they absolutely crit.

The reason is a technical one. Internally many of these powers are classified as “continuous damage over time” spells. The idea being that between really wanting a visceral sense of “applying” a DOT, some of our DOTs apply damage extremely frequently (I think it’s 60 times a second under the hood, but don’t quote me on that). The upside of this approach is that as you hold your mouse over the target, you get to really feel like you are melting your opponent.

The downside of this approach is that the floating damage numbers became impossible to read at 60 damage amounts per second. Not to mention it was a stream of extremely small numbers. When you first get Firebats you might be doing 11 damage with your Poison dart, and then you’d get a stream of floating 1s for Firebats when the damage was being applied in these very small increments 60 times a second. So to solve that issue we “batch up” all the damage your continuous DOT did over the last 0.25 seconds and present that to you as a floating damage number.

Under the hood, each individual tick can crit (with the ticks being done at this 60 times a second rate), but because the numbers are batched up, there’s no clear definition of when to make the number “yellow”. In a 0.25 second period you might get 2 crits, 8 crits, or 15 crits.

I’m joking at the top; obviously there are more than two people playing the WD now, though I am constantly amazed at how much lower a price I get for items with INT than comparable gear with DEX or STR for the mainstat. Partially driven by that, I’ve been considering doing a WD for my next HC char.

My HC Monk is up to P24 and I have a DH at 52, but I’ve done those chars to very high levels in SC already. My SC WD is P15 or so, but I haven’t played him in months, and my build is very fast farming high risk, and thus entirely unsuited to HC. Thus I’m curious to try a new class in HC, one I haven’t previously experimented thoroughly with, and WD seems the best option there.

Anyone recently dived into the WD, or any WD players excited about trying out Firebats, or does that play style seem unbearable?

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22 thoughts on “Major Changes to Firebats in Patch v1.08

  1. I will surely try tje bats anls i am a little done with the build we all have.

    zunimassas gear with the tal rasha amulet and an echo fury (was that the name?)

    tonight the enemy is on firebat’s menu heh

  2. I have a low level WD and finally got around to giving him another go recently. I really enjoyed levelling him up, I did use the AH and without spending too much one shotted Belial in nightmare at about level 30 something. I have used the firebats and quite like them, so reading they’ll be buffed is nice to hear.

    My other main character is a DH and I like to turret, hence I’ve enjoyed the WD ‘turreting’ using bats with my WD.

  3. Just yesterday I took my WD out of the closet and tried a new skillset, due to finding a (ok, but not good) Zunimassa’s Vision, which allowed me to get all the setboni available. The bats are part of it – and it’s quite fun to play (at the moment), although I’m still missing the one or other +pickup-radius item, am at +12% movement speed and got no life on hit on him at the moment:

    LM, RM: Leaping Spiders, Cloud of Bats
    1,2,3,4: Leeching Beasts, Death is Life (GotD), Healing Journey, Bruiser
    Passives: Gruesome Feast, Pierce the Veil, Grave Injustice

    As long as trash mobs come along, I COULD channel Cloud of Bats indefinitely, though.

  4. I stopped playing my wizard or put him on hold because the gear with int/vit all res was ridiculously expensive while dex/vit gear was much cheaper so I rolled a Monk. I am now playing bot and switching back and forth but I am not sure a WD would be cheaper. Many high levels are WDs since spirit walk and spirit vessel are amazing in HC.

    I am in the process of leveling my WD next.

  5. I play my WD now and again, trying to do different builds, which is kinda my thing, I don’t like to do the cookie cutter builds/most common builds. I tried a lifesteal WD the other day with the lifeleech rune added to firebats, turns out my gear is not quite good enough – at least for that, and it didn’t work out. Best thing about WD is having pets, they make soloing so much more easy with less ‘sustainable’ gear.

    • “Best thing about WD is having pets, they make soloing so much more easy with less ‘sustainable’ gear.”

      At low MP sure, but at high MP good luck!

      I’ve only played WD since release. Love the class, but the only viable option is bears. Which kinda sucks. I did run a dire bat + vision quest (old version of vision quest) pre 1.03 but nothing comes close to the damage output of zombie bears.

      Looking forward to the bats change, as with any WD improvements.

      • Although partially true, I did see a WD make a vid on youtube, and he was running MP6 easy with gargantuan and zombie dogs[as well as damage spells etc], he had all the pet boosting passives I believe and had lots of life regen as well as damage and res etc etc. His pets pretty much stayed alive the entire playthrough[due to the pets gaining his life regen], and he had quite a lot of fights with champs and bosses, I was going to do a life regen/thorns build and see how that works, but I don’t have enough money to ues the AH 🙁 I always use the gear I find on my chars!

  6. “The mana change made this PTR patch, the damage change did not. Look for it in the next PTR patch after this one.”

    Well, this needs no comment. This explains the failure of Diablo 3 and the malfunctioning development team by itself.

  7. Doctors are definitely better against a ton of weak enemies vs a few tough ones. The only way to get good mana is by killing, but if you’re up against an Extra Health Mallet Lord on MP10, you’re hosed. Yes, there is Vision Quest, but compared to Gruesome Feast or Grave Injustice, it’s just not good enough. And the mana-leech skills do not scale up w/ your mana pool. If you stack up mana and/or Spiritual Attunement, your silly Spine Dart ain’t doing squat.

    • And to go off the deep end here, I think in the xpac they need a total overhaul of all the resources/stats except Fury. Before beta, they had energy, and it was the general resource stat for everybody. Initially, I wondered about it, b/c Barbs and Monks could pretty much ignore it, and later Hunters (who were given almost the same deal for Hatred). But the more I play around w/ the 5 classes, I think there needs to be better resource/gear synergy.

      First of all, the Hunter and Monk need a new gimmick. The Monk getting a watered down Fury mechanic is lazy beyond belief, and really trivializes the combo system. Proposal: Combo Points. Spirit is tuned to be more like Arcane Power, but combo skills generate combo points on the Monk. When you pop Bell or SSS or Breath or some other big skill, it does more damage/heals more, etc. The Energy stat would buff Spirit pool and regen, and certain passives/actives/gear would generate Spirit, proportional to Energy as well.

      Hunter’s Discipline is fine. It works well, and I like the dual-resource nature of it. But Hatred is kind of boring. Maybe make it like “demon radar” where it doesn’t really regenerate unless there are monsters nearby. Also can be tied into pick up radius. Basically, do something other than another generator/spender system.

      And of course, Wizards and especially Doctors need more ways to boost their resources. Bringing in an Energy stat which is the basis for all sorts of passives, actives, gear synergies (mana leech, APoC, etc) also allows another knob to dial in order to better balance things. If something is too simple (like crit and crit damage) then it is way too difficult to tweak things to fix them. Instead, you need big, full blown revisions/revolutions to fix things. Tying things to a base allows you to slightly tweak coefficients. I think the same applies to the current base stats; they need to be linear/additive boosts instead of the all or nothing percentage based boosts.

      • With your proposed changes it comes down to Vitality being the root source behind fueling all abilities, instead of Vitality and Emotions, as it is now. I agree that some systems are not realized in a fully satisfying way, but your idea sounds like dumbing down the game even more than it already is to me…

        • No, Energy, a new stat. Not Vitality. They also should consider a different stat that effects healing from all sources, globes/potions, skills, and hit/kill. Get percent based life leech out of the game. Get most pure percentages out of the game. When you deal w/ geometric relationships, small changes create large consequences. Imagine if they were stupid enough to introduce a percent strength or percent dexterity affix. Insanity, yet that’s how most of the DPS stats work.

          • I knew the moment I sent out the post that I should have chosen the wording “lifeforce” instead, to clearly identify that I’m talking about the philosophy (, from a roleplaying perspective, ) behind the mechanics of the game. My fault. (And fault of the missing possibility to edit one his posts.) I humbly beg for apology.

      • I like the idea. It certainly would complicate choices a little bit more. If you wanted to stack Energy, you could possibly get a build where you hardly ever run out of resource, so your damage is nearly constant, but it might not be as big or bursty as someone who would rather dump a huge amount of resource in one go and then slowly gain it back. Hm.

  8. I like the bat skill a lot and I use it in my build (paragon72) so I’m pleased they buff it, finally some love for the Witch Doctor!

    Of course, we won’t know if it’s good until we know the big numbers behind this buff.

    • I can only see it as being a massive buff, getting 66MP/s is quite easy with just the head and offhand, as well as your passive regen, and if u have main hand as well as the 4 set bonus, then you’re laughing, as well as the passives if you so choose! Plague bats are pretty sexy, doing a large amount of damage, plus the channeling of long range dire bats forever sounds awesome, you wouldn’t need to use a ‘min mana’ spell such as poison dart and could then free up for another spell!

      • Very true, but Bats problem has always been standing still. Of course, if you have a super tank Barb/Monk friend w/ you, go bonkers.

  9. i’m excited for this change. I already have a witch doctor that soloed inferno MP5 focusing on lifesteal and cloud of bats. I can basically sit still permanently as long as i’m hitting something, and this is only going to make it better.

  10. I just got my HC witch doctor to Inferno after failing with a monk and barb. If you can make it to 54 and get bears, you get a huge bump in power. Spirit Vessel hasn’t proc’d yet for me, but it’s nice having that buffer just in case (plus the lower cooldown on Spirit Walk). Definitely a good class to choose for HC.

  11. One rarely gets a chance to stand still and cast bats for 9 seconds, which is the cross over where the new initial mana cost + channelling cost are better than the old cost.

    One could use pets to keep enemies still, but this change ruins the basic mechanics of bats:
    1. Fire and maneuver. Enemies are dangerous, you need to move. Dire bats are an obvious example. I rarely get to channel bats in high MP.
    2. Plague bats applies a dot. Just apply the dot for 2s and then use another attack for 2s.
    3. Enemies die quickly. I can channel Cloud of Bats, clear out trash and move to the next group. But that would be fucking expensive.
    4. Mobile enemies: Plague Bats and CoB have a very short range and require constant movement to track mobile enemies.
    5. The initial cost is now much higher than Acid Rain, which is most used as a DoT applied once every 3s or 6s, at least for battles where enemies have reasonable HP.
    6. Elites/enemies with knockback, vortex, frozen, and/or nightmare interrupt your ability to channel. If it’s been less than 9s, then it’s worse than before.

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