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 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.
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)