One life to live #9: Lord of the Mongrels(or is it zombie dogs?)


As we soldier on boats against the current of beta news, delays and contests, we can still look on the horizon and postulate our future characters. I’ve flip-flopped a few times with the Witch Doctor. I was dead set against him at the start, enamored with him a year ago and anxious now. My first character in D2 was a Necro, throwing minions out to sacrifice their life while I stayed out of the fray seemed appealing. After watching my minions do all the work I found myself wanting to get in action, but my wand wouldn’t cut it. The Witch Doctor brings that balance with short term summons and offensive power. Will that be the right balance for hardcore, or will we see our hardcore Witch Doctors hiding behind summons still?


Active Skills

IconZombieCharger.pngZombie Charger
Physical Realm
(Level 5)
 

Cost: 229 Mana

Call forth a reckless, suicidal zombie that deals 150% weapon damage as Poison to all enemies in its way.

The epitome of a short summon. Not only can it be a zombie but  depending on the rune you choose a wall, a leper and a bear oh my! Is there anything more deadly than a zombie bear? Perhaps a zombie shark, but either way throwing zombie explosives at enemies seems like a great strategy to me.

IconCorpseSpiders.pngCorpse Spiders
Physical Realm
(Level 7)
 

Cost: 282 Mana

Summon 4 spiders to attack nearby enemies for 20% weapon damage as Physical.

 

When in doubt throw spiders at it! Runed with alabaster you can slow your enemies, while you of course throw zombies at it.

IconFirebats.pngFirebats
Physical Realm
(Level 9)
[e]

Cost: 352 Mana per second

A swarm of fiery bats burn enemies in front of you for 130% weapon damage per second as Fire.

Firebats are cool but you can rune it to form Vampire bats netting you 35% life return.

IconWallZombies.pngWall of Zombies
Physical Realm
(Level 27)
 

Cost: 352 Mana

A line of zombies emerge from the ground, attacking nearby enemies for 40% weapon damage per second for 5 seconds.

Another skill that defines the class, walls of zombies stopping and mauling your enemies. In the first video we saw of Diablo 3 this skill is the on that stood out most in my mind. It harked back to the old bone walls I used to cast as a Necro with a more deadly tone.

IconHaunt.pngHaunt
Spirit Realm
(Level 4)
 

Cost: 106 Mana

Haunt an enemy with a spirit dealing 500% weapon damage as Arcane over 15 seconds. If the target dies, the spirit will automatically haunt another nearby enemy.

You may have up to 3 Haunt effects active at once.

A nice damage over time spell that when runed (crimson) will net you 45% life gain from damage done. It can also net you 100% of damage done as mana with a golden rune. Either way you are getting something back you need while killing off what ails you.

IconHorrify.pngHorrify
Spirit Realm
(Level 8)
 

Cooldown: 20 seconds

Don a spectral mask that horrifies all enemies within 12 yards, causing them to run in fear for 5 seconds.

A great skill for some crowd control and when runed you can extend it’s duration(obsidian) or gain mana for each enemy you fear(golden). Seems like a good take for hardcore to keep enemies off you when it gets rough, or a decent “oh shit” button when things are really hitting the fan.

IconSpiritWalk.pngSpirit Walk
Spirit Realm
Movement (Level 12)
 

Cost: 176 Mana
Cooldown: 15 seconds

Enter the spirit realm for 3 seconds. While in the spirit realm, your movement is unhindered.

Your link to the spirit realm will end if you cast any spell or your physical body sustains 50% of your maximum health in damage.

The standard movement skill seems like a must take. Tack on a Alabaster rune and you find yourself gaining 16% of your life back while fleeing danger. I’ve said it before but we can’t get stuck and anything that gets us out is needed.

IconMassConfusion.pngMass Confusion
Spirit Realm
(Level 24)
 

Cooldown: 60 seconds

Incite paranoia in enemies, causing some to fight for you for 8 seconds.

Another good crowd control spell that pits your enemies against each other. Toss in an alabaster rune and you have a 99% percent chance to spawn a zombie dog. Save mana on the summon, kill enemies and distract them, makes sense to me.

IconSummonZombieDog.pngSummon Zombie Dogs
Support
Summon (Level 2)
 

Cost: 176 Mana
Cooldown: 60 seconds

Summons 3 zombie dogs from the depths to fight by your side

The summon we’ve seen since day one. Not only do they damage enemies; they tank them as well. An alabaster rune gives them and you life leech, while an indigo has them sap 70% of the damage dealt to you. For me this seems like a must take, having something distract and whittle down health as I zombie bomb whatever they are gnawing on.

IconSacrifice.pngSacrifice
Support
(Level 16)
 

All of your zombie dogs explode, each dealing 200% of your weapon damage as Physical to all enemies within 12 yards.

Oh yeah, I can also blow up those dogs and do a heap of damage in the process. Anyone else remember the days when Corpse explosion was overpowered? While i doubt we’ll see that level of power in this skill, with a the right rune choices we can get our dogs back for free( alabaster) or give our health a boost (Indigo).

IconGargantuan.pngGargantuan
Support
Summon (Level 18)
 

Cost: 528 Mana
Cooldown: 120 seconds

Summon a large zombie follower to fight for you. The Gargantuan swings for 30% of your weapon damage as Physical damage with every swing.

Another cohort to your undead army. Another body taking the blows means another hit you don’t take and more life to live.

IconFetishArmy.pngFetish Army
Support
Summon (Level 29)
Cooldown: 120 seconds

Summon an army of Fetish creatures to fight by your side for 20 seconds. Dagger-wielding fetishes attack for 28% of your weapon damage as Physical.

I can not stress how much I hated fetishes in Diablo 2. I would do everything i could to get out of Act 3 as quickly as possible mainly do to them and their undead counterparts. The fact that I can summon them to fight along side of me seems very appealing, as long as they don’t turn against me.

 

Passive skills:

Very few of the Witch doctors passives scream Hardcore to me. Obviously Death Trance has hardcore implications to help reduce your damage, but none of the others seem intent on keeping you alive. As we finish up our fourth class perspective I can really look back and see how over powered the Monk’s skills seem to be in Hardcore. Every class we’ve looked at thus far seems able to make a go in hardcore but only one has a get out of death free card, wait he has two!

 

Reader builds:

The first is sent by PC guy with his explanation after the link.

http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/witch-doctor#acdQPU!ebU!ZacZbY

This build emphasizes strong, single-target damage from a distance.
The build is well rounded with Fire, Arcane, Poison, and Physical
damage types, as well as limited crowd control and summoning
abilities. 

Flaming Dart and Resentful Spirit are the main damage dealers here,
offering a high increase to weapon damage for very little mana.

Hex offers a strong crowd control ability with the additional bonus of
a Poison AoE. Tribal Rights lowers the cooldown to a 7.5 seconds,
which enables Hex to be out constantly.  The Witch Doctor will have to
focus on Hexed targets while using Flaming Dart, as Hexed targets take
an additional 20% damage and will explode upon death.

Big Bad Voodoo’s sole purpose is to boost your ability to cast Flaming
Dart as fast as possible.  The additional damage added by this ability
allows your Flaming Darts to do an insane 399% of weapon damage at an
additional 15% casting speed. This skill is especially helpful when in
a party, as the bonuses are transferred to all allies.  Tribal Rites
reduces the cooldown to 90 seconds, meaning you can cast this spell
once every 70 seconds. The long cooldown means you should save this
for tougher encounters.

Fetish Army was mainly added to take advantage of the Tribal Rites
cooldown reduction.  They serve as an additional source of physical
damage, distractions, and meat shields.  If they are in the ritual
area of Big Bad Voodoo, they will deal additional damage.  The reduced
cooldown from Devoted Following and Tribal Rites enables this skill to
be active most of the time, with a downtime of only 8 seconds in
between casts.

Spirit Walk allows the Witch Doctor to reposition himself when
cornered or snared.  Additionally, if all of his other skills are on a
cooldown timer, it serves to activate the passive ability Vision
Quest.  It is also useful when he is low on life, or if his temporary
army becomes unstable or completely dissolves.  Since the duration is
increased to 10 seconds and the cool down is 15 seconds, the downtime
between casts is only 5 seconds. This will serve to make him an
extremely mobile and slippery opponent

Another build from Archie

http://eu.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/witch-doctor#XVgYbU!Vfc!ccZbYa

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.

Hardrock’s build

http://eu.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/witch-doctor#bThjci!XYW!baccZY

I really like this build, because (thanks to Zombie Handler) you have 5 permanent and strong summons to keep your enemies busy.

Your main, multi-target attack is Spirit Barrage with Well of Souls, while Haunt should be used as a life stealing attack if you get damaged in small increments. Since the most used abilities in this build’s arsenal is two spirit skills I chose Rush of Essence for mana management, which may not be necessary and could be swapped out for more defense or damage if needed.

Mass confusion is awesome when you encounter dangerous elite monster packs, since it gives them even more dummies to hit and with Mass Hallucination it also deals extra damage to them.

Now, the really interesting part is that Sacrifice is set up to resurrect some of your dogs. This can be used offensively by chain-sacrificing or even defensively, since thanks to Final Gift when dogs die, they have a good chance to drop health orbs. By doing this you can heal yourself between battles, without using your potions and activating their cooldown, so potions can be reserved for true emergencies. Oh, did I say that health orbs will also boost your damage? Gruesome Feast is awesome, and with this build it can be used to pre-buff yourself before a battle.

The way I see it this build has amazing staying power and it’s damage should be more than adequate to clear areas.

and RexCogitans

!Xdf!aaZcYa

Ok, so I’ve been trying to make a decent Hardcore build for a while. Instead of posting the build first, I think its more insightful if I walk you through my build step by step.

  • Summon Zombie Dogs (A) – Its great to have some meat between you and the horde, as long as we can make it sustainable. (A) improves their survival and is a reliable source of healing (not really bursty, but thats what pots are for).
  • Zombie Handler – Makes the entire difference between having meat between you and the horde and not.
  • Gargantuan (A) – Great synergy with Zombie Handler to keep something alive besides you when **** really hits the fan. Having a source of stun’s is very handy.
  • Sacrifice (C) – When we already have 4 dogs, lets take maximum advantage of that. 180% more damage, at all times. The cost: having to cast Summon Zombie Dogs every 60 seconds. Side-benefit: we are guaranteed our dogs are back at full health once every minute.
  • Grasp of the Dead (O) – My favorite active Hardcore skill, helps with zoning the mobs, giving us time to run or our pets to catch up.
  • Horrify (I) – Our final holy crap skill. Only keep use this when you are in serious trouble, we don’t want it on cooldown when we are about to die.
  • Haunt (A) – Our damage / spamming active skill. Advantages: Light on mana, does not require standing still, in fact gives us some room to move around without messing with our damage output.
  • Pierce the Veil – The mana drains of this build are very limited. Dogs once a minute minute doesn’t cost much, grasp is dirt cheap and Haunt is the cheapest damage spell in the Witch Doctor arsenal.
  • Death Trance – You’d have to have some extraordinary reasons for not picking this in a hardcore build.

Haunt isn’t the most damaging spell the WD has, but its decent and with 200% more damage from Veil+Sacrifice it should give us sufficient killing speed. The pets damage isn’t over the top either, but again tripling the damage should help.

Not picking:

  • Fetish Army (G) & Tribal Rites – too many skills for a non-permanent buffer.
  • Spirit Walk – seems too fragile to me. I’d hate to rely on it in scary situations.
  • Soul Harvest – going into the fray, rather than staying back, does not do well on my nerves.
  • Mass Confusion (G) – could replace Horrify, but doesn’t seem as reliable.

Concern: AoE

  • Sacrifice does big AoE every 60 sec, but by casting it on every cooldown, it will likely not be available at need.
  • Could swap out the rune in Gargantuan to indigo for cleave, but that is a very limited area still. We could swap it for obsidian, but that seems weak.
  • Locust Swarm (I) or Acid Cloud (A) seem like good choices provided we don’t use them too often (due to cost), but they don’t fit as well into the build as the other elements. Whatever they would replace would be a loss to the build.

Each build brings up great ideas and shows the versatility of the class. Thank you to my readers and keep the ideas coming!

The Witch Doctor isn’t a Necro, and I’m okay with that. I look forward to a play style that relies on limited summons and good decision making. I won’t be able to stand back and watch something else kill stuff. I’ve done enough of that watching streams and youtube videos. The hardcore Witch Doctor has a lot of choices to make, amount of summons, which crowd control to take, and what offensive spells to hurl. It’s those choices that make it appealing and  I expect the Witch Doctor to be my first class of Diablo 3, and look forward to zombie blasting the crap out of this game.

As I finished writing this I am proud to report I received my first phasing email for the Diablo Beta. I was beginning to think it wouldn’t happen but the stars truly aligned. Still I thank those who sent it, it was nice to have that moment of brief excitement, excitement I’m sure we all have for this game.

 

Next week: The Demon Hunter 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.

Comments

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  1. So many builds to choose from, not to mention I can make my own ^_^

    Choosing between Witch Doctor and the Monk is gonna be hard. … core.   *bad joke is bad*

  2. The witch doctor seems remarkably straight forward concerning hardcore.
     
    Mongrels (fkn zombie dogs…) are a must have, the -70% damage rune is beyond amazing and will probably be nerfed, but even if they lower it to like 40%, that’s still mandatory.
     
    Spirit Walk, theres no other skill to reliably get out of tight corners, horrify suffers from low range and the fact that if you’re unlucky you’re still in the middle of mobs when the effect ends. Coupled with the health rune (why would you choose duration, 10 secs is way too long for that skill) it’s a powerful heal and the drawback of spirit walk (physical body stunned, can take damage) is partly remedied.
     
    Beyond that, choose 2-3 damaging skills to take care of single target and AE damage, choose a CD (fetish army, confusion etc) for those moments where you get several tough groups and if you have a point leftover, Gargantuan is probably a good way of keeping you/your mongrels alive a bit longer. Whether you need to place runes for mana return can only be determined once it’s actually live, but at that point it’s just tuning.
     
    Except the obvious zombie handler, passives are sorta free to choose. Voila, any build with that formula should do very well in solo hardcore and even in group hardcore most of the assumptions still count, you may just want to choose different damage skills/runes.

  3. Here is my new demon hunter build:  

    http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/demon-hunter#dUQZik!fgY!YZbacZ  

    My idea here was to make the worst build possible; a build so terrible that no one would ever choose it for any reason. The guidelines I adhered to when making this build are as follows:

    – All Discipline skills. No Hatred generators or spenders.
    – No skills which do any damage or improve my character in a meaningful way.
    – No skills or runestones that generate Discipline or lower Discipline costs.
    – Lots of Hatred generating runestones, because they will be useless in a build with no Hatred skills.
    – The worst passive skills possible, particularly ones which improve the skills I’m not using.

    Thjis was actually kind of hard to make. Once I had filled up 5 skill slots it was difficult to pick the last one because there aren’t really that many terrible skills in the game. Picking the 3rd passive skill was also difficult for the same reason. Try it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

    It was also tricky (in some cases) to find a runestone which didn’t improve the skill in a useful way, so I tried to pick whichever effect sounded the least impressive. I will say that being able to turn Preperation into a Hatred generator that costs Discipline was perfect!

  4. Not interesting post, author do not understand that summon need to be unit not fancy looking spell and that WD is closer to Druid from D2 than Necro in terms of playstyle.

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