Tier List Update – THE endgame Demon Hunter build

As part of our ongoing development of the build Tier List, we have received quite a bit of excellent feedback asking for more explanation of each build. We’ll have more updates on the Tier List itself soon, but going forward, we will try to create a full guide for each build on the list that elaborates on the “core” of abilities presented in the Tier List. Today, we’re starting off with the Demon Hunter.

For the last few weeks, this has been THE build most endgame Demon Hunters have been using. I’ve personally used it to great effect up through Act 3 Inferno in Hardcore. As always, keep in mind that this build is focused on the hardcore play style, but should be equally usable in softcore; in the recent Blizzard Q&A, they even recommend softcore players to start taking notes from their hardcore brethren.

The core of the Nether Tentacles build relies on keeping enemies as far away from you as possible and progressing carefully and methodically. This build is more than capable of clearing all content, whether solo or in a group. Read on for the full guide!

In general, Demon Hunters are going to look to have one go-to ability for both single-target and AOE situations; it doesn’t make sense to fill valuable ability slots with tools that fill the same role. This opens up additional opportunities for control and defense.


Evasive Fire: Covering Fire
Possible replacements – Hungering Arrow: Devouring Arrow

Evasive Fire is vastly under-utilized and presents a number of interesting opportunities. This is your primary AOE attack, though it can be used single-target just fine if you find yourself low on hatred.

  • Deals the most damage of any hatred generator when hitting 2+ targets
  • Has a huge range, AOE and no projectile – it is almost impossible to miss
  • Can shoot through walls created by “Waller” monsters
  • Can shoot around corners/doorways
  • Can shoot through obstacles attacks with projectiles cannot (various environment obstacles, doodads, etc.)
  • Synergizes with Tactical Advantage to provide a very cheap mini-vault + speed boost


Elemental Arrow: Nether Tentacles
Possible Replacements – None

This is likely the most powerful ability in the Demon Hunter arsenal right now. While we don’t know if it is working as intended, Nether Tentacles can hit monsters multiple times if their hitbox is large enough. The slow-moving projectile deals damage over time to anything in its path – if the projectile stays inside of a monsters hitbox long enough, it will apply its damage multiple times. Against most monsters, you’re going to get about 2 hits – some more, some less.There was previously a bug with Sharpshooter where all of the projectiles currently in the air would have a 100% crit rate, even after the initial crit from the first projectile occured. This was stealth-hotfixed and no longer works – I repeat, Sharpshooter is a poor choice for this build after the stealth hotfix.


Smoke Screen: Lingering Fog
Possible Replacements – None

This is your primary escape tool. Demon Hunters have no passive mitigation, so keep your finger hovering over this ability and don’t hesitate to hit it. With Tactical Advantage you have a few seconds to get to safety – use this early and often.


Preparation: Battle Scars
Possible Replacements – Preparation: Backup Plan

I like bringing Battle Scars for the emergency heal, as it’s really the only significant source of healing Demon Hunters have currently. It’s also a great emergency button for when you’re low on discipline and need to pop Smoke Screen ASAP. Some prefer Backup Plan, but I find it to be a sub-par replacement for the emergency heal – any situation where you can’t perfectly predict the outcome of an ability is dangerous.


Caltrops: Torturous Ground
Possible Replacements – Vault: Tumble, Caltrops: Hooked Spines

This is your primary control ability, and is largely playstyle-based. Take either Caltrops or Vault, depending on if you like to enhance your own movement or slow enemies down. Our personal favorite is Caltrops: Torturous Ground, as it will prevent any charge-attacks from hitting you at all. As some of these do a TON of damage and require very fast reactions to stay alive, the charge prevention is invaluable in certain situations.


Rain of Vengeance: Stampede
Possible Replacements – Companion: Bat, Marked for Death (any rune), Spike Trap: Scatter

Rain of Vengeance is interesting because it has no hatred or discipline cost – you can use it once every 30 seconds, and it lasts about 10 seconds. It works out to an AOE knockback tool that deals a decent amount of damage, usable offensively or as an escape.

If this doesn’t fit your style, the bat companion can be used with reasonable success, though be aware that the bat can and will pull mobs that you’re not ready to engage yet, and will attack treasure goblins before you’re ready. That aside, you probably just won’t need that much hatred regeneration with reasonable gear.

Spike Trap: Scatter is situationally interesting. It’s something we’re still experimenting with, but it allows you to set up some initial burst damage. If you’re feeling adventurous, give it a shot.


Passive: Tactical Advantage
Invaluable when using your escape abilities – the burst of speed will allow you to pull away from most packs. Positioning and kiting are the most important aspects of Demon Hunter play, and this passive really helps.


Passive: Steady Aim
Passive 20% damage boost – not much to talk about here. Monsters shouldn’t be close enough to you for this buff to ever drop.


Passive: Archery
Passive damage boost, coming in various different means depending on your weapon of choice. You’ll get the most bang for your buck with a Bow, but regardless of weapon choice there aren’t many other really great passive options.


Playstyle Notes
As death is not an option, this build can be a bit “twitchy”. Demon Hunters don’t have any passive mitigation, so we rely heavily on discipline spenders to prevent damage. Try to keep monsters on the very edge of your screen, and stutter-step backward as they close with you. Remember that Evasive Fire can fire through various terrain objects, and monsters can’t! Hide behind things, and keep on kiting.The most dangerous moment is the first few pack clears upon entering a new area. The Demon Hunter playstyle (especially with this build) relies on having room to kite – if a pack looks dangerous when you enter a zone, don’t hesitate to just reload the game. When fighting monsters that have large amounts of HP, prioritize Nether Tentacles over Evasive Fire. In all other situations, use Evasive Fire.

Be careful not to use Evasive Fire while your back is to a wall – your discipline will be spent, but you will not backflip. Note that Evasive Fire is an ability with very high skill requirements – if used incorrectly, you could easily backflip INTO monsters when you’re being flanked. If you don’t have the situational awareness required to use the ability effectively, swap it for Hungering Arrow. You lose out on a lot of power by doing this, but Hungering Arrow is incredibly easy to use and has reasonable damage output.


First and foremost, understand that there is no universal answer to gearing. You need a careful balance of defensive and offensive stats, and it’s impossible to say what you need without fully analyzing your character. In most situations, killing speed requires some tinkering to get just right. On one hand, you want to stack a good amount of mitigation; on the other, if fights are dragging on due to low DPS you run the risk of running into enrage timers and being overwhelmed by a sheer mass of monsters.

  • To determine which defensive stats to prioritize, use our calculator here. Pay particular attention to the “number of hits to die” metric – this is what you really care about.
  • To experiment with offensive stats, use our calculator here. You’ll need to find the right balance for your character and your gear.

Finally, if you have to ask “is X gear good enough for Y difficulty?” the answer is probably no. When your gear and skill levels are both high enough, you will feel comfortable progressing. If you feel uncomfortable with the damage you’re taking from zombies outside of town in Act 1 Inferno, you need to farm more or buy some upgrades from the AH.

Due to frequent requests, here’s what I had when I killed Hell Diablo in Hardcore (solo) and started progressing in Act 1 Inferno:

  • 45,000 life
  • 11k DPS
  • 280 resist all
  • 2.5k armor
  • Bow + Quiver (though in retrospect, I’d give up a bit of damage for Handcrossbow + Shield)
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37 thoughts on “Tier List Update – THE endgame Demon Hunter build

  1. Was sharpshooter bugged? It says it lasts for 1 second after you crit, so you could get 1 second’s worth of all 100% crit hits at the start when spamming an attack. If the already-in-the-air missiles were retaining the crit past 1 second, then that’s good it’s been fixed, but that doesn’t make sharpshooter bad. DH only have 4 good damage boosting passives and 1 depends on slows. The only passive I’d ever drop this for would be getting discipline when you crit.

    • Your description is correct – already-in-the-air missiles were retaining the crit past 1 second, and the fix simply removed that. Sharpshooter isn’t BAD, and if you’re comfortable without Tactical Advantage it’s worth throwing in. I think Tactical Advantage is amazingly good, and Archery/Steady Aim are generally more impactful than sharpshooter.

      • Two points regarding Archery/Sharpshooter:

        If you have a crossbow (for whatever reason) then Archery is pretty cruddy without a decent crit rate. So if you don’t have much crit on gear then I feel like Sharpshooter is better. Particularly when you have attacks that hit multiple targets at the same time – while it doesn’t work with things already in the air anymore, it -does- work with attacks that are still going to hit a lot once it’s triggered (like multishot.)

        It also feels like high dps crossbows are way easier to obtain than bows or hand crossbows. I don’t know if this is just because of the way the weapon works (big slow hots) or what, but it’s something to keep in mind if you don’t have access to many weapons and are stuck with what’s affordable/found. Obviously with bows and hand crossbows Archery is the best.

        Also, I know this is listed as the endgame build, but it stands to reason that with it being the best build at the end, it’s also one of the top leveling builds to go for, particularly in hell where you still don’t have a decent weapon. However Nether Tentacles is a 59 skill. Elemental:Cold arrow is a pretty good replacement, which also works well with Sharpshooter, but my favourite now is Multishot:Fire at Will, again working very well with Sharpshooter. Walk up to a crowd and fire off 2 full crit rounds on all of them.

        Not really important to most people looking at these builds, I know, but I also find Sharpshooter to be way more fun than standard do more damage buffs.

        I know these aren’t essential points, but it’s something to consider if you’re looking at the appeals of this build but don’t have all the necessary parts available to you.

  2. Personally, I agree the build is nice and everything, but I’ve been using something a tad different. *I do like to keep in mind my comment is directed more towards softcore*

    On inferno I find that with caltrops, evasive fire and smoke screen you have good enough survability (even more so if you have over 30k health)so instead of getting Rain of Vengeance: Stampede I would use Multishot: Fire at Will as a second main DPS skill. I understand the great survability of the build and how awesome Elemental Arrow: Nether Tentacles is but when you have a high dmg weapon, some nice armor and high life you can switch that last skill up and you can go faster while keeping a safe and sound rhythm. Also when going agaisnt a boss or difficult elite, I will change Multishot for Impale: Griveous Wounds. Trading up this two skills depending on the situation allows for quicker killing specially if you have higher DPS (over 15k without the Sharpshooter Bonus) and is a great choice if you play softcore.

    For softcore I recommend http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/demon-hunter#fRZYXV!aYe!bccZZb for single targets, http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/demon-hunter#fRQYXV!aYe!bcaZZb for multi target scenarios, since you don´t require the extra survability from Rain of Vengeance: Stampede

    • You’re certainly correct that these builds may be a bit conservative for softcore play, and tweaking things here or there can get some more raw damage out of them.

      Many abilities are simply a matter of taste, and I can see how Multishot is attractive – I simply found it had too much overlap with Evasive Fire to take up that skill slot. Impale, on the other hand, I think will overtake Nether Tentacles in single-target damage when/if NT gets changed to only hit each target once.

  3. Great guide, though it makes me feel a bit bad for the state of the game. This build is almost identical to mine, which was obviously developed independently.

    So it seems that once you hit sixty and put all the runes through the useful-sieve, only a handful are left in the top. Most are essentially useless and are discarded instantly, leaving the quiet sobbing of graphic artists and sound designers hanging in the air.

    • Out of interest, how does your build differ?

      I use Multishot instead of Rain of Vengeance as, especially when combined with Sharpshooter, it very quickly clears out large mobs of weaker enemies. I find it’s more useful for Illusionist mobs, too, since it has no cooldown and can be used to cut down the number of enemies whenever the extra monsters generate.

      I tried using smoke screen for a while but it wasn’t completely jiving… Vault is superior if you get surrounded, since vault will let you escape but Smokescreen won’t. Vault’s also better for moving around quickly. Smoke Screen’s utility is that it allows you to escape from slow or hold (e.g. Jailer), which is absolutely brilliant but comes at quite a high discipline cost. The worst part is that monsters don’t always ignore me when I use it – they sometimes still follow, which is a pain. I try and combine Vault with Caltrops, but I think any two of these three will be very useful choices. I didn’t realise Tortuous Ground stopped charge attacks, which are a nightmare, so I may now favour that instead of barbed hooks.

      Likewise, I’ve been using Hungering Arrow with Shatter Shot, as it’s pretty reasonable crowd control, practically impossible to miss and almost guarantess multiple hits against the main target. But I didn’t realise Evasive Fire ignored obstacles, and so I’ll give that a shot, too.

      Whether or not my build is as good as the above is obviously debatable, but whilst there is a general theme for the best build there are still a lot of options. It’d be nice to think they’re all equally usable at high-end difficulty.

      • My biggest qualm with multishot is that it fills a similar role to both Evasive Fire and Nether Tentacles. I would use Multishot when I’m facing large groups of monsters – the same situation where NT shines. Multishot is a bit easier to aim, as it hits a huge portion of the screen, but is much lower damage than NT.

        That said, that fourth slot could easily go to almost anything. I’ve been debating taking Vault instead, for the rare situation where I’m surrounded. I’ve hesitated to do so simply because if I’m surrounded, I’m also probably dead.

        On Smoke Screen, I use it equally as an escape mechanism and for ranged attack dodging. So many times I’m about to get hit by a giant ranged attack (the meteors in Act 4..ugh!), and can pop SS and be safe. Perhaps better reaction speed with vault could fill this same niche, I just don’t feel as safe without SS.

        • The more I learn about SS the better it sounds. I knew it could be used to avoid frost explosions from the Frozen mod but if it avoids other sorts of projectile too, that’s pretty fantastic.

          I see what you mean about Multishot’s redundancy, but I tried finding a build with a nice wide blast skill and a linear-type skill for when there’s a line of enemies rather than a group – NT fits that bill perfectly. I haven’t tried the above build so I may give it a shot and see if I am being too redundant with my skills.

          BTW what do people find wrong with Sharpshooter? That burst of damage when you encounter a mob can really make a difference, I find, even if it’s just enough to thin out the crowd a bit.

      • A late reply, sorry.

        Instead of Stampede and Steady Aim I use Long Fuse traps and Sharpshooter. If I take my time and move slowly, Sharpshooter is reliably high at the start of an engagement. It’s fun to open with three traps stacked on the same spot. The traps all trigger simultaneously, giving a guaranteed triple-hit of crits, which is very satisfying.

        I’ve also been using Ball Lightning not NT, but it looks like I’m just plain wrong about that. 🙂

        • Regarding traps and sharpshooter – if you’re comfortable moving that slowly, try Bandolier. If you stack 6 (weaker) traps on top of each other, the damage may outshine 3 (stronger) traps. I haven’t penciled it out just yet, but I’d be interested to see what you find.

    • Frost arrow is certainly viable, and the additional snare is nice. Really, the part that bothers me most is that most of our theorycrafting is quibbling over small changes – there simply aren’t enough viable abilities.

      I really hope 1.03 (or later patches) can shake this up a bit.

  4. I have been using a very similar build for a while now (switching between evasive fire/hungering arrow and rain of vengeance/calitrops). Evasive fire is tricky to use because you don’t want it to use up all of your discipline but it is very powerful. I agree that sharpshooter is a poor choice for this build and I think it isn’t that great of a skill anyways. But we will leave that to the thread in the DH forums.

    All in all a great build. I like to get my crit chance up to 30% ish with a >2 aps.

    It is sad that most (if not all) inferno demon hunters use:
    1) nether tentacles, smoke screen, and preparation for 3/4 of their skills
    2) archery and steady aim for 2/3 of their passive skills

    • Perhaps not so much in HC do you think that there are other viable builds that rather than focus on damage, actually make use of the DHs other skills in evasion, maneuverability and slowing enemies? It wouldn’t be that effective soloing, but playing with a group is there any scope in kiting all over the place slowing and trapping enemies to make slaughtering them easier for the rest of the group?

      • I haven’t tried a HC DH yet, but I think that the demon hunters are great for group play because they can stop or slow enemies creating a nice divide between you and them (just like you said). The two skills that I use in single player and they work out well in group play too are: caltrops (torturous ground) and rain of vengeance (the stampede rune is amazing). You could also try putting a turret up with the guardian turret mod, but I really haven’t messed around with that because the only enemies that are real problems are the champ packs. You don’t want to stay in one place under your shield when you fight them.

        Entangling shot is also an option, but again, you are mostly worried about the champ packs and on inferno they move so fast that slowing their movement speed hasn’t been too useful for me. You need to stop them. That is why I use the torturous ground rune on caltrops also.

        I just found a great build and I feel comfortable playing it:
        Mouse skills: evasive fire (covering fire) and nether tentacles
        Keyboard: caltrops (tort ground), ss (lingering fog, i might change this to special recipe), preparation (backup plan), and rain of vengeance (stampede)
        Passive: tactical advantage, archery, steady aim.
        My damage is around 25k with a 40% chance to crit giving a 70% boost in damage (with my current equipment).

  5. Great guide, thanks for sharing.

    Thoughts on Fan of Knives? I like it as a panic button with the 20-yards radius rune. Mainly I like it for the style factor and it seems the closest thing to novas for the DH. I wonder how useful it will be in Inferno (currently just killed Belial in Hell). I’ve been swapping Fan of Knives situationally for Caltrops (Jagged Spikes), even in the Belial fight. Somehow I feel less comfortable using traps; maybe I’ll try Vault again.

    Considering the fairly steady use of Discipline in the build, thoughts on the Sharpshooter/Nightstalker combo for passives?

    • On FoK – I just don’t really feel comfortable getting within 20 yards of enemies. For reference, in Inferno, with fairly good gear given what’s available currently, I would die in 2-3 hits.

      On Sharpshooter/Nightstalker – I don’t find that I need more than two full globes of discipline very often. That aside, using both of those would require that I give up a passive 15% damage – hard to justify.

      • I switched out Fan of Knives for Caltrops (Torturous Ground) to start A3 Hell, and I have to admit Caltrops is a way more effective. Where I really noticed it was versus champion packs. Before I was dying maybe 3/4 of the time versus those packs. It’s a total 180 now; I’m completely untouchable and demolishing these cats. Oddly, I feel like my Caltrops are better tanks than my Templar.

        What are your thoughts on what follower to use with this build (& how to equip them)?

        • Always templar, IMO. Anything you can put between you and enemies is the way to go. Follower damage is pretty awful, so gear them for survival.

          • Use Templar and stack with Dmg / stun on hit and vit / resists. Use him for a meat shield and fire away. also helps to have him able to heal you.

  6. Jom, this is a great guide, can you give us some reasoning behind not using Numbing Traps and Brooding though? I am paranoid so I use these on my hardcore DH. I would think at least one of those would be useful with Inferno? I’ve also had a lot of success with Vault AND Caltrops; trap, run, shoot, repeat.

  7. Of the two, I like numbing traps better. If it had a longer duration on the damage reduction, I could see it being a contender for top-tier usage. As is, I find it so difficult to keep that DR active on monsters.

    Brooding provides a benefit when you’re not taking damage, but also aren’t at full health (said another way, it lowers downtime between monster packs). I’m just not concerned with speed – if I’m not at full health, I’ll go to town and heal, then go back down. Because I would die in 2-3 hits anyway, that small amount of healing simply isn’t as good as the above 3 passives for my playstyle. I could see it being good if you were able to become VERY tanky, but as Demon Hunters have almost no mitigation, I think we’re better off not taking it.

  8. Tried this build and its nice, but I cant escape when mobs surround me and my back is against a wall or corner. Thats why vault imo is a must for every DH in HC.

    On a side note, have you tried 2x hbows with LoH and Shadow power? Like fast life leech and DR from gloom. Maybe even with entangle shot and nether.

  9. haha, what a joke, I’ve been using caltrops with tact advantage and ss since they were available to me, looooonnnggg before it became mass adopted.

    p.s. ball lighting is MUCH MUCH better than nt, has a bigger hit radius and nt heal means nothing.

    vault vs ss, ss is much much better.

    evasive fire, is a meh for me, i find devouring to have much better dmg since u can shoot it from 40 yards and still hit.

    • I’ve tested ball lightning extensively – unless you have some kind of math/video proof that it’s “MUCH MUCH” better, I’m going to have to disagree with you. NT simply has a larger hit radius, and the heal is NOT affected by the Inferno reduction. At high damage levels, that heal is actually quite noticable.

      Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on Evasive Fire and Hungering Arrow – HA is great for lazy/no skill required play, but EF is simply better in most situations.

  10. You mentioned in hindsight using a 1H + Shield approach… How early would you recommend adopting that?

    • I think you really want to start optimizing your gear/build around the beginning of Hell difficulty. With the currently available gear (at least on the US AH), you’re not missing out on THAT much damage going 1H/shield vs. 2H/quiver – though it is a noticeable amount.

  11. Again, thanks, I found your guide useful. I discovered may of the same things you said myself, but also tried out new things based on your suggestions. I’ve found a good rhythm with caltrops, covering fire, and nether technicals. Haven’t figured out how to be best use stampede yet though? I prefer vault over smokescreen, but I can see the use for both and considered trying to fit them both. I also like the bat companion and preparation, but alas there isn’t room for everything.

    At this point, I’m pondering gear a great deal. What directions have you tried? Should I go with life on hit gear for inferno, % attack speed, cold/slow/stun, vit/dex, crit focus? I guess before I commit to spending a good deal of gold to specialize my gear in a particular direction, I’d be curious to know what other people have tried and like.

    Alternately can any recommend some good strategy guides around DM gearing? Thanks.

    • On stampede: it can be awkward to get used to, as it creates a personal-based AOE around the spot where you cast it. Generally, it’s a lot of predicting where monsters will be in the near future, or when I’m running away. I could see easily flipping it out for the companion or Vault.

      On gear:

      1. Life regeneration, in any form, is currently useless IMO. In inferno, if you get hit more than once or twice you’re dead. Hell, most of the time you’re dead in one hit. Avoidance is king, currently.

      2. I would avoid attack speed % until we see how Blizzard nerfs it – they’ve stated that’ll be coming up in 1.03. I expect it will still be somewhat desirable, but perhaps not.

      3. Any form of CC is great – slows, snares, fears, etc. on gear will never hurt, but I’d never prioritize these (though getting a source of cold damage may be worth dropping some damage).

      I would simply wait to buy anything until 1.03 hits. We have no idea what kind of changes are coming up, and things are only going to get cheaper over time.

      • Thanks for the feedback. Do you do any farming yourself with % gold or % magic find gear? Is it worth it? And do you keep a second set for these purposes?

  12. Just an update, it appears that Blizzard has removed the ability for Evasive Fire to go through “Waller” mob walls. I have yet to confirm.

  13. D W, I agree. Evasive Fire was silently nerfed to no longer shoot through enemy cast obstacles. It still shoots around corners however.

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