Blizzard Argues For the First Class

Which class will you play first? It’s the eternal question, one we’ll be posting a final vote on Monday, and debating during our live show countdown.

How do the Diablo developers feel about it, though? Blizzard posted a feature today with five of their developers each advocating for a different class: Jay Wilson the Barbarian, Clayton Vaughn the Wizard, Wyatt Cheng the Demon Hunter, Jill Harrington the Witch Doctor, and Matt Panepinto the Monk.

I’ll quote someone other than Jay on top, since 1) he’s wrong, and 2) the Barb gets enough love already. Let’s do the Monk up here, since that class gets little love in these popularity contests.

Monkey Business

by Matt Panepinto, Production Assistant

When Diablo III is unleashed on the world, I’ll be facing the Lord of Terror’s minions with the iron fists of the monk. The day I found out we were doing a monk class was the same day my class choice was made. I was happier with my choice after playing the class for the first time, and more so after witnessing the excitement for the monk at BlizzCon 2009. Since then, I’ve grown a “diableard” and, because I also shave my head, I’ve been told that I look like the male monk. People have even asked if it was modeled after me. It’s like we were made for each other.

I primarily play melee characters in most RPGs, including a death knight in World of Warcraft, or the fighters, barbarians, and monks I’ve played in D&D. I love being in the center of a battle, but also agile enough to control the engagement while still doing lots of damage. Playing a monk feels faster and smoother to me compared to the other classes, and I love that. This is due in part to the variety of skills the monk has that close the distance between you and your enemy, as well as flurries of punching and kicking attacks. Of course, this may be mainly due to the fact that the monk is the only class with a passive ability that increases their base movement speed. 😉

The monk’s combo skills feel very much like a fighting game to me, and the ability to mix and match those skills makes it really fun to experiment. For example, I can use Way of the Hundred Fists with the Fists of Fury rune, which adds a short dash to the first attack, to quickly get to my foe. Throwing myself into the center of a huge group of enemies, I can then use Blinding Flash to disorient them, while weaving in Sweeping Wind with the Cyclone rune, which has a chance to spawn vortexes that sweep outward, decimating all in their path. If anything is still alive after that, I can clean them up with a well-placed Seven-Sided Strike. There are so many different styles of play for the monk — even while I’m writing this, I’m remembering other ways I’ve played my monk, and thinking of new ways to alter my build.

I also like having a little bit of “magic” or support skills to complement my melee attacks. For example, I enjoy having pets, but I don’t like having to manage them. Fortunately, since Diablo III is designed to be fast paced, we’ve designed it to accommodate this style of play. Mystic Ally fills this role perfectly for the monk. Slotting Mystic Ally with the Air Ally rune variant makes it even more powerful, surrounding the Ally with a constantly damaging aura and providing a huge amount of Spirit recovery when it hits. I can also use any of the Mantras to bolster my group with more dodge, healing, or damage, and use Breath of Heaven to heal my group when things get rough.

The armor themes that our artists made for the monk further solidify how insanely amazing this class is. I cannot wait to load up the game on May 15 and start finding those armor sets for my monk, making him look like the total demon-killing badass that he is. I will definitely be using the class-specific fist weapons the monk has available to him, too. While there’s nothing wrong with the other weapons he can use, I think the monk really shines when he uses his fists as his weapons.

My name is Matt Panepinto and I am the Monk. Feel the wrath of Ytar!

Click through for the other four, and see if anyone’s discourse sways you from your chosen path?

Jay Wilson on the Barbarian.


by Jay Wilson, Game Director

When Diablo III unleashes itself on the world there is only one choice for me when it comes to the first class I will play. While I enjoy playing all of the classes, one in particular really speaks to the soul of who I am. Each of the heroes of Sanctuary has been blessed with powers and abilities that allow them to right the wrongs of the world. Some use magic, others are skilled with a bow, but the class I’m going to play at launch excels at one thing above all others: breakin’ stuff. That’s what speaks to who I am, and that’s why I’m playing the barbarian at launch.

The barbarian is all about destroying enemies with overwhelming power, and he has a host of awesome abilities to do just that. He can cut through groups of nearby enemies with Cleave, devastate scores of enemies as a spinning Whirlwind, and shake the very ground with abilities like Seismic Slam and Earthquake. If he gets “really” angry he can activate Wrath of the Berserker, transforming himself into a red, fury-filled giant that crushes everyone around him. Crushing things makes me happy. 🙂

We spent a lot of time working on making sure that this feeling of massive physical power was relayed in all of the barbarian’s actions. When the barbarian hits enemies, they fly further and explode bigger. The barbarian will hit you so hard your grandchildren will get headaches, and that’s conveyed in the massive physics that come into play when he attacks. For those who like the core meat and potatoes of taking down demons with trusty axes and a strong arm, there is no substitute.

Being a barbarian means never having to be afraid. You aren’t some skirt-wearin’ caster, hiding behind spells and pets. You’re tough enough to take a ton of damage, and you have a host of powerful mobility skills, including Leap, Furious Charge, and Sprint, all of which get you to the enemy fast. If you’d rather the enemy come to you, then harpoon them with Ancient Spear and drag them into chopping distance. The barbarian gets up close and personal, and when he does, it’s the Lord of Terror who should feel fear.

The barbarian is a fantastic class to play in groups as well. All Diablo III classes deal damage in equal measure, so you don’t take a back seat to anyone, but as one of, if not the toughest class in the game, you can use your mobility and resilience to lead the charge against your foes and keep enemies off your more fragile allies. Everybody likes to be first, right? Just look back at your team and tell them, “It’s OK, I’ve got this.” You also have several powerful war cries that can bolster the defenses of your party or weaken incoming monsters, making them easy pickings. Also, you’ll be the biggest and most imposing person among your friends

In the unlikely event you do run into something you can’t handle, you have a host of different control and defensive abilities unique to the barbarian. Stomp the ground to shake and stun all the enemies nearby. Steel your resolve with Ignore Pain, allowing you to shrug off the worst enemy attacks, and use abilities like Revenge to turn incoming damage into healing for you — and pain for your enemies.

The final and best reasons I have for wanting to play the barbarian are the glorious armor and weapon choices available to him. Whether you are a dual-wielding berserker or a two-handed hammer swinging juggernaut, the massive melee weapons you get to wield, from axes, to swords, to maces, are awesome to behold. The barbarian is the only class that has access to the ‘Mighty Weapons’ category of items. These weapons are so massive that no mere mortal could heft them, but to a barbarian they’re just the right size.

While I can’t wait to level every Diablo III class up to and into Inferno, the class I will be playing first is the barbarian.

Clayton Vaught on the Wizard.

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

by Clayton Vaught, Software Engineer

When Diablo III comes out, I’ll be playing a wizard. Why, you may ask? Who doesn’t like the ability to call down fiery meteors from the heavens, summon beams of ice, and unleash tornadoes of pure energy at a moment’s notice? (Hint: No one.)

In short, I just really enjoy the archetype. I climbed the ladder as an orb sorceress in Diablo II, PoM Pyro’d my way to victory as a mage in World of Warcraft, and played and PvPed as a ranged caster in any game that would let me. Additionally, of all the classes, the wizard brings together an awesome set of skills for support, survivability, and raw damage, which appeals to me.

I love that the wizard’s ability to kite is second to none. Too many things chasing you? Shield yourself with Diamond Skin or knock them away with Wave of Force. Need to outrun a pack of things slowly gnawing away at your important bits? Slow Time and move out of range. Or, if the rest of the group is down and death is looming close, simply Teleport away and heal up. A prepared wizard is rarely caught in a situation that they can’t turn in their own favor — a trait that is very useful in both PvE and PvP!

The wizard also provides excellent group utility. When I’m playing with my friends, I get to excel as a “glass cannon.” Combining monster control abilities with the awesome power of Disintegrate and the ability to transform into a being of pure energy with Archon, I can lay waste to almost anything threatening Sanctuary in short order, literally reducing them to ash. Wizards also have great synergy with the other classes. With a barbarian or monk to tank large packs, wizard area of effect (AoE) damage is fantastic; pretty much all of my builds contain Blizzard or some other type of AoE skill for this reason. Why smite only one minion when I can smite all of them?

Another thing I have grown to love is the lack of Arcane Power cost of Signature abilities. This means that there’s never a moment when you can’t be melting demon faces off. Whether you’re standing your ground or on the move, the wizard can always deliver monster-smashing damage, which is something I’ll definitely look forward to doing in group games, PvP, and solo play.

And that’s why when Diablo III comes out, I’ll be playing a wizard.

Wyatt Cheng on the Demon Hunter.

This is my BOOMstick!

by Wyatt Cheng, Senior Technical Game Designer

When Diablo III comes out I’ll be playing a demon hunter. I know I’ll eventually level all five heroes to 60, but the demon hunter will be my first. From a pure fantasy point of view, I like the archetype of the demon hunter — she’s a vigilante of sorts, a protector of the innocent, a slayer of evil — but I love the gameplay even more.

The demon hunter is fundamentally a ranged class and, although I’m sure a lot of players will explore melee options, I fully intend to exploit this natural strength, focusing on one-handed pistol crossbows. These signature weapons are both versatile and powerful (and look incredibly badass). I can dual-wield them when I want to pump out extra damage or drop the off-hand crossbow and replace it with a shield when I need a little extra survivability. Pistol crossbows are also the fastest weapon in the game, and can be combined with a quiver for even more attack speed. Quick attack speed isn’t just about damage, though — the fast-action nature of the demon hunter means superior hit-and-run mobility.

I love kiting enemies with my demon hunter. One of my favorite things to do in StarCraft II is “stutter-stepping” marines, and it turns out you can stutter-step a demon hunter too! Being able to reposition myself on the battlefield in between shots lets me kite enemies when I’m solo, or position myself perfectly in co-op play. Played well, I can dodge projectiles or get out of fires with little to no loss in DPS. The demon hunter can truly shine in the hands of a skilled player, but you need a good strategic sense to manage your resources responsibly, excellent micro to maximize your damage, and intimate knowledge of your skills to wreak maximum havoc on your enemies.

In terms of mobility, the demon hunter’s ability to escape damage is unparalleled, and is perhaps best exemplified by Vault. Not all of my builds use Vault, but most of them do, and what’s not to love? Most of the mobility skills for other classes bump up against cooldown limitations, but Vault is an on-demand button that gets me out of trouble in a pinch. If I Vault out of danger, and then three seconds later a Vortex monster pulls me back in, I can use Vault again to avoid incoming attacks — no other class has that kind of escape tool. When I’m not running Vault on my bar I’m usually using Smoke Screen (or sometimes both). Smoke Screen is also an incredibly versatile skill. I can use it defensively to avoid a big attack, break CC effects, or I can use it to attack while stealthed ,which is incredibly powerful in the right situation.

Speaking of Smoke Screen, one of my favorite combos is Smoke Screen with Rapid Fire. Rapid Fire has an up-front cost, so you want to stand still as long as possible to maximize your damage output. When danger approaches, I cast Smoke Screen, which doesn’t break my Rapid Fire channel, allowing me to attack nearby enemies for a few more seconds before I need to move out of harm’s way. In reality, the demon hunter has an offensive skill for almost every situation: Strafe when high mobility is needed, Cluster Arrows for burst damage, or Multishot when you want to clear a room quickly. When paired with tactical maneuvers (like Smoke Screen), these abilities can make the demon hunter a near unstoppable force.

The demon hunter brings fantastic group utility as well. On top of doing amazing damage and providing a ton of personal survivability, Marked for Death increases the damage dealt by entire group, and Sentry can be runed to provide group benefits (such as Healing or Damage reduction).

So, when it comes to combining raw damage potential with strategic options there is no question — my first class will be the demon hunter.

Jill Harrington on the Witch Doctor.

You Do That Voodoo That You Do

by Jill Harrington, Senior Technical Artist

Reasons to play a witch doctor at launch:

  • Most armor is made of organic, renewable resources
  • What happens in the spirit realm stays in the spirit realm
  • Zombie dog needs to be walked? Sacrifice it instead
  • Gargantuan has surprisingly lovely singing voice; gives good backrubs
  • Toad phlegm is excellent moisturizer
  • Zombie bears don’t smell all that bad
  • Batman? Does he summon clouds of bats engulfed in flames? Didn’t think so
  • Reasons not to play a witch doctor at launch:

  • Acid pools damage hardwood floors
  • Fetishes occasionally lose control; will chase casters around home attempting to stab them
  • Hexing boss generally considered a terminal offense
  • Too awesome; other players jealous
  • Spiders
  • If that isn’t quite enough information for you…

    While I have been playing a barbarian lately in our internal builds, and I love the visceral combat and sheer fun of seeing zombie corpses fly through the air when I smash them with a hammer, the witch doctor has a certain flavor that just can’t be matched. Anyone can run around hitting things with swords, but can anyone else summon acid-vomiting disembodied heads or hurl jars of spiders at their foes? Besides, why do the dirty work yourself when you can send your minions in to do it for you?

    It’s very satisfying to know that your damage-over-time abilities will spell the inevitable doom of your enemies, even when you’ve retreated out of range of their claws and teeth. A well-built witch doctor can also be almost unbeatable in PvP. Combining passive skills such as Zombie Handler with skill runes such as Life Link on your Zombie Dogs can make it very frustrating for your opponents to try to harm you.

    In short, if you’re looking for a ranged caster with a lot of survivability, a pet class with a lot of options, or you just think toads are really cool, the witch doctor might be for you!


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    1. Witch Doctor one was pretty funny, even if he was my least favorite class in beta.

      • I actually liked the WD the most and it will be my first character.
        However, the Witch Doctor review was extremely underwhelming. She didn’t even take it seriously, she just made a mockery of the class… it was sad 🙁

        • I disagree, the WD review was the only one that stood out. The rest of them were bland. Good job, Jill.

          • Yeah it stood out as sucking a**. 
            She just mockingly talked about all the pets you can have and what it’s like to “have them around the house”. Seriously? You liked that? I don’t believe you. 

            • Yes, I enjoyed her review a lot, it was funny and personal. The rest of them were boring walls of text, they read like something their marketing team would put together.

            • She opened with a few jokes and then gave a couple of paragraphs explaining her (legitimate) appreciation of the WD in detail. That’s not “making a mockery of the class”, it’s just having a little fun. She even mentioned the Witch Doctor in PVP! Did you bother to read past the point-form section?

            • ???, I enjoyed her view the most, it actually had some humor. I have become totally convinced after reading so many hateful comments like these (and almost always appearing when a female says or does something), that some men just flat out hate all females. Oh well, I guess that just leaves more of them for me! 😈

            • Calm down, man. It is ok to have a sense of humor, you know.

            • “The rest of them were boring walls of text”

              I have some bad news for you, son.


        • Witch doctor’s also my favorite after open beta. But that’s why i’ll play him 2nd ^^. First runthrough will be with a wizard, getting the artisans up and running for the wd to then get him smoothly to the end of hell.

    2. I’m with Jay Wilson.

    3. I was a *little* torn between Wizard and DH before, leaning heavily to the Wizard, but Wyatt had me at BOOMstick.  We’ll see if I flop back to the Wizard by Tuesday.

    4. ive said i love dh the most since the day it was announced, nad it still is on top. Theres probly nothing that would sway my position, unless halfway thru the game i found out dh needs some gear support from other char to be efficient quickly…… but i doubt it. Im very sure ill enjoy my DH.

    5. It’s going to be a hard decision to say the least. Won’t be an easy three days 🙂 

      I may just start with a Demon Hunter. I was surprised how much I enjoyed that class in the Beta.


    6. I’m leaning toward Demon Hunter and Wizard. Was gonna do Barb, but my brother will most probably be playing barb, and we’ll play together a lot hopefully so I’m picking a different class.

      My concern really is who could get to the endgame fast.. because I want to there and be there fast. 

    7. Tuesday: Witch Doctor
      Wednesday: Barbarian
      Thursday: Wizard
      Friday: Monk
      Saturday: Demon-Hunter

      Yeah… that’ll be a rockin’ 5 days methinks. 😀 

    8. Really enjoy this site but the length to which you guys go in order to keep people from leaving it is disturbing. Credit where credit is due – if you didn’t write it yourself, only put a portion of the text and then link to the orginal blog article on D3 community site. Peace!

    9. Jay said all the classes deal damage in equal measure…but that doesn’t really make sense. If the barbarian can dish out as much damage as the wizard but has far more survivability, why would anyone want to play a wizard? Just for the flashy spells? The classic tradeoff for a wizard’s fragility is that they deal more damage than anyone else.

      • I think the choice of class really has to do with the archetype that you identify with the most. I played all the classes in beta and felt they were all about equally powerful. I feel that Blizzard did an excellent job in making all of the classes have a different feel to them.
        If I was to choose the class that I think will be the most powerful, I would go for the Witch Doctor. With high damage output and lots of meat shields, it may even be imbalanced. And the spells are really pretty cool. Regardless, I still plan to play a male Wizard as my main because that is the archetype that I identify with.
        I suspect that may be important later in the game when I need to react quickly without thinking. With an archetype that I identify with, I will be in harmony with my avatar. Especially important since I play almost exclusively HC. 😈

      • He is the Game Director. Obviously, from countless hours of testing the game, he knows where he is coming from.

        The classes are meant to be balanced. Meaning, no class is meant to be any stronger  than anyone else.  With your logic, a group of 4 Wizard can kill Inferno Skeleton King within 1 minute and a group of 4 Witch Doctors can do it in 2. 

        While it is true that Wizards are glass canons, I do believe that they don’t necessarily do the highest damage among all classes. Most of the Wizard’s spells are direct damage and AoE so they can kill mobs a lot faster. Then again, Witch Doctor’s Poison Dart might seem weak but you have to factor in the damage from the Zombie Dogs as well. What I’m saying is, each classes are meant to have equal amount of damage to be done, it is just a matter of how to do it. Some are direct and fast, others are slow and steady. In short, gameplay and style.

        • Glass Canon, with equal damage, who wants to use a glasscanon with equal damage.
          “Glass” means weak defense “Canon” means strong attack
          Put it together means Strong attack with weak defense.
          If they do equal attack, then its not glass canon.
          i see them rather weak after blizzard nerf them on patch 14…
          On open beta i play all classes, Wizard are among the most boring class i ever played.
          Damage isnt that good, feels kinda weak imo.
          Their skills looks cool but their damage weak….
          Kind of a show off class with flashy skills..

          BTW, their range isnt that big, notice that when your enemy is out of screen, your spells just stop hitting them.
          Thats the difference between D3 and D2.
          in D2, that FireBolt can hit you from far away even when the caster is out of your screen.
          I tested(Wizard and DH range) this on Zombies in Open Beta.
          All Range classes(DH and Wizard) attack range is very short(only 1 screen)
          You cant shoot out the screen hoping to hit. You cant arcane bolt your enemy while he is out of your screen.
          This makes all D3 Range class a pseudo melee character with Close Combat to Medium Combat(as long as your screen sees him).
          Different like on D2, when amazon sprays Cow level with Windforce to hit cows that are far away out of screen.

      • I think you’ve missunderstood. He said the Barb can take more raw damage while dealing equal damage than other classes. Still means the barb doesnt have have massive ranged AoE, teleport, nova, diamond skin or a myriad other abilities that allow the other classes to avoid damage. End-result is that all classes are equally survivable, not equally though.

    10. Whut? How are you supposed to stutter-step a Demon Hunter, when you don’t have a cooldown on primary skills? SC2’s marines basically shoot with a cooldown, attack animation being irrelevant… I call bullsheet.

    11. That’s a stretch… you’re talking balance, but you’re only looking at damage output in the example you used. The group of 4 wizards you reference as an example in Inferno… they would likely get wiped because they cant take hits well. They don’t have a melee fighter. The Skeleton King’s summoned mobs would overwhelm them. And that’s how it should be. Melee fighters should do less damage, because…they can take more hits. It’s a classic archetype that is in pretty much every fantasy game ever created. Glass cannon implies exactly that while they’re weak and fragile, they deal extraordinary amounts of damage. If you can accomplish the same thing by being a armored blender, then why choose the glass cannon route? Because you like shiny lights and particle effects? Balance doesn’t mean the classes are all identical. It means they all have strengths and weaknesses that make no one class more powerful than the others. In the case of a wizard, pure damage potential is offset by low hitpoints and armor.

    12. Getting a bit touchy are we? Just because they are taking a different approach than what you yourself described as being universally prevalent makes them what they are. I’d call destroying archetypes while keeping you hooked is a win. All this debate aside, i loved to rip the guts of demons with fury in my claws in D2(LOD). To get that feeling of up, close and personal again i have to start with the monk. And i still remember one of those early accounts of abd al hazir(is that right?) where he wrote that the monk was laughing while he took out his foes. Well, he’s my kind of mad! 😈

    13. Hello, I am a Blizzard employee. I was told, along with others in the department, to write about my favorite class, and explain why I like this class. In reality, what we were told to write was a description of the class that we “like.” After I typed this boring post, I realize that it reads like a cheesy campus magazine article. It just feels as if I was forced to type this…perhaps to advertise the game further. I now look like an idiot after having written the post, and I am left vulnerable to well-deserved negative criticism. I hope you enjoyed reading about the back-story of why we had to write this senseless, impersonal story about why we are playing a particular class. I thank you all for wasting you time. Love, Blizzard employee. Xoxo.

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