One Life to live #7: Tender is the Wizard

One Life to live #7: Tender is the Wizard

We’ve covered the monk, the barbarian and now we slow time with the wizard. Flinging lightning and fire around at will, while teleporting out of danger, those are staples of the spell casting class. With great power also comes great weakness, the term glass cannon is a reasonable moniker for the class and a fair warning for hardcore players. So what will your wizard bring you in hardcore good times and hoards of loot? Or pain, suffering and continual new characters around level 35?

Out of all the classes from D2 I can honestly say I never played a sorceress. Sure I saw them, zipping by me, picking up piles of loot, and spamming hydras at all my waypoints, but I never chose to play one. It’s ironic since I loved my Sorcerer from Diablo 1, but in the transition from D1 to D2 I never could pick up the staff and start firing off lightning bolts. D3 has however changed my perspective and the Wizard has piqued my interest like many others, and while I still can’t commit to a character having never played the game ( hint Blizzard ) I will say the Wizard is in my top two ( bonus Xanth bucks if you guess the other one*). So what’s so appealing for the hardcore set, and what’s going to save my life?

Active skills

IconWaveForce.pngWave of Force
(Level 5)

Cost: 0 Arcane Power

Summon a spectral blade that strikes all enemies in your path 3 times causing 35% weapon damage with each hit.

This is a Signature spell. Signature spells cost 1 less Arcane Power every time you gain a level.


A simple offensive spell but when combined with an alabaster rune it grants 100% of the damage done as health back to you. Hardly going to be a game breaker, but a little health here and there can be the difference between life and permanent death.


(Level 4)

Cost: 25 Arcane Power
Cooldown: 15 seconds

Explode a wave of pure energy that repels projectiles and knocks back nearby enemies. This also slows the movement of enemies by50% and deals 92 – 107 physical damage to them.

A nice knock back skill to push off the baddies in a tight situation. Not only does it push them away but slows them as well, allowing for you to get out of dodge quickly if needed. Not really useful against a range attacker but extremely helpful against swarms. It can be runed to increase distance and add a secondary knock back wave as well.


(Level 19)

Cost: 60 Arcane Power

Summon a multi-headed Hydra for 9 seconds that attacks enemies with bolts of fire dealing 18 – 22 Fire damage per attack.

A diablo 2 classic! No longer trapping waypoints but saving your butt from the demons around you. A nice addition to help bring down any swarms and possible take a little attention off yourself.


IconRayFrost.pngRay of Frost
(Level 21)

Cost: 29 Arcane Power per second

Project a beam of frozen ice that blasts 142 – 167 Cold damage per second to the first enemy it hits, slowing the target’s movement by40% and attack speed by 30% for 5 seconds.

A nice offensive beam that will slow down it’s target’s movement and attack. Downside is it seems to be a single target slow, perhaps best used on bosses and rare monsters.


IconFrostNova.pngFrost Nova
(Level 1)

Cooldown: 12 seconds

An explosion of ice freezes nearby enemies for 4 seconds and causes 28 – 50 Cold damage.


Another stun! This time we can freeze them in place for four seconds. Might be enough time to sling a spell or two and clear out what ever may be bothering you or enough time to get a head start for the exit.

IconIceArmor.pngIce Armor
Armor (level 2)

Cost: 25 Arcane Power

Surround yourself in a barrier of ice that increases armor by 50%, and causes 7 – 9 Cold damage to melee attackers, chilling them for2 seconds. Lasts 120 seconds.

This is an Armor spell. Only one Armor spell can be active at a time.


A glass cannon needs some protection and this might do the trick. 50% increase on armor and when runed with a golden rune it can jump to 85% on hit stacking three times. This seems like a logical pairing since you’ll obviously be using this skill in case you get hit.

IconDiamondSkin.pngDiamond Skin
(level 9)

Cooldown: 25 seconds

Transform your skin to diamond for 5 seconds absorbing up to 2661 damage from incoming attacks.

A good “oh shit” button when things are looking rough. When runed with obsidian the damage absorption can go as high as 6919 damage! I have no real idea if that is enough for later difficulties, but at the moment I will go out on a limb and say it is.


IconMirrorImage.pngMirror Image
(level 15)

Cooldown: 25 seconds

Summon 2 illusionary duplicates of yourself that last for 15 seconds and have 25% of your Life. The images may cast some of the same spells as you, but those spells deal no damage.


A good diversionary skill. Runes can garner you 6 of these images or increase their life substantially. It is no where near as nice as the monk’s runed lethal decoy for hardcore( I mean seriously!), but could still draw you out of the line of fire in a tough spot.

IconSlowTime.pngSlow Time
(level 16)

Cooldown: 30 seconds

Invoke a bubble of warped time and space for 10 seconds, slowing the movement and attack speed of enemies by 35%. This bubble also slows the movement of enemy projectiles by 90%.

We’ve been seeing this spell for years, but soon we’ll be able to bend time in our own homes. Does anyone else remember the D3here guy saying we’d be able to rewind time hen we runed this spell? For the life of me I though we actually could, was actually bummed to find out we can’t. What we can do however is slow those pesky arrows and fireballs while slowing enemies as well. Seems very situational but very useful.

(level 18)

Cost: 15 Arcane Power
Cooldown: 16 seconds

Teleport through the ether to the selected location up to 35 yards away.

You’re going to want to take this for hardcore. As I’ve said before with the barbarian and monk, each class has a movement skill, this is it for the wizard. We can’t get trapped in a tight corner or corridor and this is how we get out. When runed we can drop a few mirror images to distract or take 25% less damage either seems like a safe bet.

IconEnergyArmor.pngEnergy Armor
Armor (level 22)

Cost: 25 Arcane Power

Focus your energies, increasing your Defense by 20% but lowers your maximum Arcane Power by 20. Lasts 120 seconds.

This is an Armor spell. Only one Armor spell can be active at a time.

Another armor and you can only have one! Which to choose? When runed you can boost your resistances to 180% or reduce any attack that would do more than 26% of your life to 26%. Both seem viable depending on what you are doing, and both might be enough to sway me from Ice armor.

Summon (level 27)

Cost: 20 Arcane Power

Summon a companion that will attack your targets for 5 – 9 Arcane damage. This companion cannot be targeted or damaged by enemies. Pet lasts 60 seconds.

Where this skill has a strength is when combined with alabaster rune, the familiar will absorb 8 attacks for you when you are below 25% life, perhaps enough damage to keep you out of the grave.


(level 29)

Cost: 25 Arcane Power
Cooldown: 120 seconds

Transform into a being of pure arcane energy for 15 seconds. While in Archon form your normal abilities are replaced by powerful Archon abilities, and your armor and resistances are increased by 40%. Every enemy killed while in Archon form adds 1 second to the duration of Archon.

15 seconds of pure awesome and 40% increase armor and resistances. Tack on 1 second for each monster killed, a runestone that drops the cool down to 80 seconds and you might be able to ride this out for a bit.

Passive skills

IconGalvanizingWard.pngGalvanizing Ward
(level 23)
Increases the duration of your Armor spells by 120 seconds. As long as an Armor spell is active, you gain 32 Life per second.

The following skills are improved:
Energy Armor
Ice Armor
• Storm Armor

Seems like a logical choice, longer armor duration and life gain.With only three slots for passives this for me is a must take.

(Level 25)
Decreases melee damage taken by 20%.

While it may be only melee damage, 20% reduction is nothing to scoff at. Those situations in which you are surrounded, more than likely it’s melee damage and more than likely that 20% may save your life.

IconUnstableAnomaly.pngUnstable Anomaly
(Level 30)
When reduced below 20% Life release a shockwave that knocks all enemies back. This effect cannot occur more than once every 60 seconds.

A nice pushback to get you out of trouble. The best part is that it comes in when you need it most.

Possible Builds

A few readers last week were kind of enough to send me their builds which I’m happy to showcase here:

  • Brian’s Build.
  • RexCogington’s build.

Both builds look good and have me wondering just what to choose, much like the monk I could easily overload on the defensive end and have no pew pew in my cannon( upon rereading that sentence I have to chuckle). With the beta out ( not for me) hopefully it will only be a matter of time before we get to make these choices for ourselves.

The Wizard is not a defensive wall like the Monk, won’t be sapping life like the barbarian, but still should be able to thrive with the technique, and right skills. I may never play a sorceress but I will play a wizard.

Next week: The Witchdoctor, send me you build ideas, or post them in the comments!
One Live to Live covers the Hardcore play and life style in the Diablo community. It is written by Xanth and published weekly. Post your comments below, Follow me on Twitter @HCXanth or contact the author directly.

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13 thoughts on “One Life to live #7: Tender is the Wizard

  1. My first HC build (cross-posted from the forums):…ijY!dbW!acbYbZ
    Maybe not the best against bosses, but seems like a helluvalotta fun. Long horrify and 4 second cooldown confusion along with grasp of eels will make it so that nothing is without CC for very long. Haunt and Soul Barrage are the damage dealers here, and runed for such. Pierce the Veil gives extra oomph to our few damaging spells, along with mana leech Soul Harvest, Spiritual Attunement, and Rush of Essence to make up for the higher mana costs. The star of this build is the 4 second cooldown on confusion…who needs pets when you can spam that and make foes into friends?

      • Sorc was the last class I tried. My favourite has always been Necro and Pally, and then Barb, Zon. I only started a sorc because.. I heard Meph run is very very easy on a MF sorc. And they’re right. It also seems like the easiest to start out.. but I can see why someone would never play one.

  2. Watch out for that Slow Time. You think you’re safer in there, donchya? Donchya? Well, I’ll bet a lot of people will die trying to keep their chr in those small confines of the dome (instead of running the hell away like they should).

  3. Ton of grammar/spelling/linguistic (simply using the wrong word–I don’t need a bonus to my remittances, lol…) errors in this, proofread your stuff.


    Zombie Charger: Leaves a nice poison trail for gaggles of baddies to blunder through.

    Firebats: If I’m able to stand and channel, this spell lets me further nuke the crap out of enemies in the ZC’s poison trail 

    Soul Harvest: Bumps damage up and heals me.

    Spirit Walk: A fast move that heals me to boot.

    Grasp of the Dead: An AoE snare w/ a 4.5 sec cooldown lets me control enemy movement, so I can slow their movement through my AoE’s or keep them from bashing my face in.

    Zombie Dogs: Turns the dogs into damage sinks so that I’m harder to kill

    Fierce Loyalty: Helps keep my doggies alive longer so I can stay alive longer.

    Death Trance: Makes me harder to kill.

    Blood Ritual: Rewards me for stacking +hp and hp regen items, while alleviating dependency on +mana and mana regen items.

    I understand the point of HC characters is to stay alive longer, not gimp their survival. So Blood Ritual may not seem like a stellar choice of passives. However, with enough hp, the 2% hp a sec could eclipse any expenditure that I could make against my hp in a sec. I’m not sure what kind of hp we are looking at come level cap, but theoretically I could be getting free 1/2 off spells when I cast and extra life regen when I’m not. Seems like a win, win sorta situation to me.

  5. How is increased armor duration any good on a Hardcore Wizard?  Who is going to forget to turn on their armor regularly?  The cost is so low.

  6. How is increased armor duration any good on a Hardcore Wizard?  Who is going to forget to turn on their armor regularly?  The cost is so low.

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