Here’s part one of my giant-sized Wizard report, based on extensive testing and skill analysis in the Diablo 3 Beta. The opening remarks on the Wizard offer some overall evaluation, before the remainder of the report goes into great detail about all 13 available skills. Their pros and cons, the best strategies to use them, now they compare to the other skills, and what their runestone effects promise for the future. Plus screenshots, most of which I took myself in order to get ones that showed just what I wanted to talk about.

    Part two covers the the remainder of the Wizard’s early game abilities and can be seen here.

    Wizard Diablo 3 Beta Mega Report

    The wizard has polarized opinion amongst the beta testers. Some people love the class and think it’s laughably overpowered, while others hate the class and think it’s laughably overpowered. So at least everyone can agree on something.

    Having played a Wizard up to Clvl 13 and extensively tested every skill in every area of the beta, I’m somewhere between the two camps. I like the class a lot, and many of the skills are really fun to use, but there’s such a lack of balance between the Wizard’s skills, and between the Wizard and the other characters in the beta, that it’s weird.

    I didn’t expect that all the classes would be balanced, at least not at Clvl 8 or 10 or 13. Hopefully they’ll be at least somewhat equivalent in power (however you measure that) in the DiabloWikiend game, but obviously they’re going to vary in strength as they level up. Even at that, everyone but the Demon Hunter is roughly even in the early going. The Wizard is the fastest killer, but it’s not as if the Monk, Barb, and Witch Doctor struggle to dispose of the monsters.

    What worries me is how totally uneven the Wizard’s skills are. Some are laughably overpowered, IMBA, as the kids say in the forums, while others are practically useless. It’s like the skills in the beta arrived from different versions of the game, and some are 10x better than others, as if they’ve never been balanced for the current state of the game.

    Click through to continue reading…

    The Witch Doctor’s attack spells certainly aren’t all equally-useful, nor would I ever expect them to be. That wouldn’t be any fun, since skills should be good at some things and bad at others. That’s the whole point in having different skills. But while some of the Witch Doctor skills are weak and some are strong, none are junk and none are solid gold, and they all seem fairly integrated. None give the impression that they were dropped down from a higher difficulty level to bring instant death to all the forces of darkness in, around, and beneath the town of Tristram. Several of the Wizard skills do, though I’m sure some of that is an artifact of testing them on such early game content.

    While writing the Witch Doctor report, I noticed that the better skills seemed to gain fairly little from the rune effects, while the lamer skills usually had a few effects that totally changed things around, in what sounded like big improvements. I don’t get that impression with the Wizard. The great skills seem to only get better, and while the less useful skills gain cool rune effects as well, it doesn’t sound like they take the huge strides forward necessary to catch up in function and fun.

    Premature balancing worries aside, the Wizard is great fun to play. There are 13 Wizard skills available by Clvl 13, 9 of those are direct attack skills, and none of the have a redundant function or style. All do their own thing, in their own way, with their own strengths and weaknesses additional strengths.

    Looking at the rest of the DiabloWikiWizard skills, there are only 7 more direct attack skills in the entire game (more utility and defensive skills come in after Clvl 13) so beta testers are getting to try out the majority of the class’ attacks. And almost all of them are awesome. Diablo III is going to be truly amazing at a high level, when all of the rune effects are available. Just the base skills are so much more varied and interesting than the skills were in Diablo II, and we’re hardly even scratching the surface at this point.

    As for the Wizard in the here and now… it’s not all IMBA. Despite the class’ overly-powerful spells and killing capacity, the glass cannon approach is in evidence. Even at Clvl 13 in the beta, you can run dry on Arcane Power in a blink. Furthermore, the Wizard remains fragile; death is always possible in the beta, and that’s not something I can say about the Witch Doctor. I don’t believe I have ever been below 50% health with a Witch Doctor, even during every sort of skill testing, when I was doing all kinds of risky foolish stuff, playing without any minions, etc.

    The Wizard takes damage more quickly, has fewer hit points, has no minions, and the super strength of her skills kind of leads you into mischief. You want to get more monsters on the screen to kill more at once. You want to get all surrounded so you can see how many one Wave of Force or Frost Nova will take out. Etc. The Witch Doctor can have fun killing a ton of enemies, but never with just one skill, at least not the extent that the Wizard can. Thus you’re not tempted to get your Witch Doctor so surrounded and endangered.

    All that said, the Wizard is a blast to play and still would be even if skills like Disintegrate and Electrocute weren’t so overpowered. It’s just fun to use Wizard skills; to watch the sizzle and crackle and explosions. I think the class would be just as much and perhaps more fun if the killing weren’t so instantaneous. I’m sure I’d like it more, since then there would be a need for strategy in positioning, skill use, etc. I assume we’ll get that later in the game, but I don’t know to what extent. The design goal of the Wizard was to make a blasty glass anon, and doesn’t that mean that the Wizard will always be able to deal out mega damage? (As well as always being able to die from a moment of incaution or excessive DiabloWikiMassacre bonus seeking greed.

    On to the skills rundown. Half of them in this part one, the other half tomorrow in part two. Almost all the skills have new screenshots I took myself during beta play, carefully selected to illustrate points I wanted to make in my commentary.

    Wizard Skills Video

    Thanks to FludDaStud for the following movie, which edits together footage of all the Wizard skills available in the beta, so you can see them in moving color before you read about their function. He was a recent interview guest on the Diablo Podcast, if you missed it.

    Magic Missile

    DiabloWikiMagic Missile
    Signature Skill
    (Level 1)
    Cost: 0 Arcane Power
    Description: Launch a missile of magic energy causing 110% weapon damage as Arcane. This is a Signature spell. Signature spells cost 1 less Arcane Power every time you gain a level.

    Magic Missile is the simplest Wizard skill in the game, and basically parallels the Witch Doctor’s DiabloWikiPoison Dart in function and style. (But not at all in runestone effects.) With MM, the Wizard hurls a single glowing purple projectile in whatever direction you target. The missile moves quickly and in a perfectly straight line and it has excellent range; early on you can mow down zombies before they even know you’re there. Plus it’s all but free, with a very low AP cost even from the start, and that cost decreases with ever Clvl gained, until it becomes free to cast at higher levels.

    Naturally, the base version of Magic Missile isn’t all that powerful. It’s great for single targets, and has nice range and quite respectable damage, but with just a single projectile per cast the Wizard can not keep up with fast spawning enemies, and MM isn’t much good for bosses either. I’m not just estimating about that either, since I actually put it to the test. MM was fine for 95% of the beta areas, including the lower levels of the Cathedral, but when I got boss packs, or set event areas of summoners, there were too many fish for my skillets, and I got overrun and had to retreat or use other skills.

    That’s not a surprise; even the beta content isn’t so easy that a single target Clvl 1 skill can clear everything. That’s why you get other, more powerful/multitarget skills, after all. MM works great even if you just supplement it with other low level skills like Arcane Orb or Frost Nova or Wave of Force. Which is the whole point in Diablo III’s combat style; the lower level skills aren’t supposed to kill everything by themselves. That so many of the Wizard’s do, is why the class is fairly overpowered in the early going.

    And I was using vanilla Magic Missle. It can be improved with runestones, you know.

    Runestone Effects

    Alabaster offers DiabloWikiSeeker, Missiles track the nearest target and damage is increased to 198% weapon damage as Arcane. I’ll be curious to see how this works in the final game, since it sucked at Blizzcon last year. It wasn’t at all a homing missile; instead the MM just changed direction, once, at a semi-random point in its flight, to aim at a nearby monster. It made it impossible to accurately target anything distant, since the MM would usually change course halfway there, and at the same time the change wasn’t predictable enough to really use; you couldn’t shoot off to the right of a pack and count on the MM banking back to the left and hitting the shaman in the back.

    Better is Crimson’s DiabloWikiCharged Blast, Damage increased to 242% weapon damage as Arcane. Obsidian’s DiabloWikiPenetrating Blast is another interesting one, Fires 8 missiles that each deal 55% weapon damage as Arcane. Missiles have a 100% chance to pierce through their target and hit additional targets. It’s not clear if there’s any limit on how many pierces; this might be basically a particle form of Disintegrate, but get a bunch of enemies in a row and go to work.

    How that one compares to the Indigo Fork, which is basically a shotgun blast of reduced damage multishot MM, remains to be seen. Can more than one of the Indigo shots hit the same target? Since the damage is exactly half of a normal MM, you’d need to put 2 on an enemy just to break even, or 5 to do better than the Charged Blast effect, so Fork sounds like it’s meant purely for large packs.

    Golden’s DiabloWikiAttunement, Whenever Magic Missile hits a target you gain 14 Arcane Power. That’s a huge AP bonus, and it would be more than 14, since MM is free to cast at higher levels, and in the time it took you to cast one, you’d regenerate at least 5 AP. Thus 2 or 3 of these would nearly top off your resource bulb. That said, as quickly as AP regenerates, you’d have to be using some very heavy cost skills to need this, as you’re essentially devoting an entire skill just to occasional AP refills.

    Frost Nova

    DiabloWikiFrost Nova
    (Level 2)
    Cooldown: 12 seconds
    Description: An explosion of ice freezes nearby enemies for 4 seconds and causes 75% weapon damage as Cold.

    A familiar skill returns, and does about what you expect. The damage is higher than it was in D2, where it was basically just a defensive option. You can kill with Frost Nova in Diablo III, but it’s far from a high damage skill, and the lengthy 12s cooldown in the beta reduces it to a support tactic. Which is fair, since it freezes (not chills) all non-bosses, and it would be overpowered if you could spam it. And there certainly aren’t any IMBA Wizard skills!!1!

    Besides the cooldown time, Frost Nova is limited by having a fairly short range. You have to be in the middle of a big pack or right at the edge in order to hit more than just a few enemies with this one, and the freeze time is just 4 seconds. Like most of Diablo III’s defensive skills it’s not a “cast it and relax” type thing. You’ve got to drop this one and immediately continue your attack with other skills, since those monsters aren’t going to hold still for long. Plus the radius of effect isn’t that large, so there will usually be monsters outside of it who will reach you even before the frozen ones thaw out, or ranged attackers who were out of the range of the Frost Nova in the first place.

    400px. Shows wide variety of damages, and how varied even crits can be. Hardly more dmg than the usual, while often crit is nearly double. Usually less, more like 70 or 80% instead of 100% (doubled), so the 34 crit here was probably a 20 or 21 damage hit that got the bonus.

    A fun combo in the beta is Frost Nova with Wave of Force. Use Frost Nova first to freeze, then a Wave of Force creates the Crazy Ice Machine effect, as cubes are sent flying in all directions.

    Runestone Effects

    A nicely-varied batch of effects, for this skill.

    The simple one is Golden’s DiabloWikiCold Snap. Reduce cooldown to 5 seconds. Dubious value to that one since Frost Nova is one of the least damaging Wizard skills, so you should only be using it for defense anyway. If you need it more often than every 12 seconds, the trouble is your tactics, not your Frost Nova cooldown.

    More intriguing is Crimson’s DiabloWikiBone Chill. Enemies take 110% more damage while frozen or chilled by Frost Nova. That sounds like a short term Cold Mastery, but it only affects the enemies in range of the fairly small nova, they only stay chilled/frozen for 4 seconds, and they’re mostly dead from one Frost Nova anyway. Next.

    Obsidian’s DiabloWikiFrozen Mist doesn’t freeze. The Frost Nova no longer freezes enemies, but instead leaves behind a mist of frost for 8 seconds that deals 50% weapon damage per second as Cold to enemies standing in it. This has great potential; imagine casting it while a big pack streams towards you, retreating to the other side, and lacerating the pack with your other skills while they slowly trudge through the circle of cold. Imaging pairing that with Slow Time and not retreating; everything would keep coming towards you, but in slow motion. They’re surely be stuck it in for the entire 8s, providing you didn’t kill them first.

    Indigo’s DiabloWikiShatter. A frozen enemy that is killed has a 21% chance of exploding in a smaller Frost Nova dealing 90% weapon damage as Cold. This sounds like an effect that would be beautiful to behold, especially while doing something like rushing a friend, where the low level monsters would die very quickly to your effect. But the damage of the Frost Nova, much less the secondary smaller novas, isn’t high enough to make this very long term viable.

    Alabaster’s DiabloWikiDeep Freeze is the trickiest. If Frost Nova hits at least 5 targets, you gain 45% chance to DiabloWikicritically hit for 12 seconds. It’s not hard to hit 5 targets at once; in fact there are few scenarios for casting Frost Nova when you don’t have that many in range. Thus you can count on always getting a big bonus to your crit chance any time you like. Interesting strategic options there.

    Ice Armor

    DiabloWikiIce Armor
    Armor (Level 2)
    Cost: 25 Arcane Power
    Description: Surround yourself in a barrier of ice that increases armor by 50%, and causes 10% weapon damage as Cold to melee attackers, chilling them for 2 seconds. Lasts 120 seconds. This is an Armor spell. Only one Armor spell can be active at a time.

    Like all defensive skills, the only reason to use this in the beta is out of curiosity or thoroughness. I did it for both those reasons, and was underwhelmed. It does chill melee attackers that get to you, but so few do that it’s hardly of need. The dangers to a Wizard in the beta come from exploding bosses and ranged attackers. Obviously the utility of Ice Armor may differ in other areas of the game, but those aren’t available for testing just yet, alas.

    The initial casting graphic is pretty cool, as a sort of hexagonal scaled globe rises up from the ground and vanishes over the Wizard’s head. After that though, there’s just a sort of blueish mist around your feet, which isn’t real impressive. They probably had to leave some cool visuals for the rune effects, and at least it looks 50x better than Storm Armor.

    Runestone Effects

    Crimson’s DiabloWikiJagged Ice is a pure upgrade: Attackers take 42% weapon damage as Cold and are chilled for 5.5 seconds. Golden’s DiabloWikiCrystallize is an upgrade as well, but just of the defense bonus. Whenever you are struck by a melee attack the bonus armor granted by Ice Armor is increased by 85% for 10 seconds. This effect can stack up to 3 times. Battlemages take note!

    Indigo’s DiabloWikiChilling Aura has an interesting effect. Lower the temperature of the air around you. Nearby enemies are chilled, slowing their movement and attack speed, for 3.0 seconds. That sounds nifty, but it only lasts for 3 seconds. Since the duration of the buff is 120 seconds, I wonder if you can back up and get the same monsters to run into the cold mist and get chilled for 3s again and again?

    Obsidian’s DiabloWikiFrozen Storm is basically a bigger version of the Indigo effect. A whirling storm of ice builds around you that deals 57% weapon damage per second as Cold for 16 seconds after casting Ice Armor. The added damage is negligible, but the long chill time should make this useful in some scenarios.

    The only one that really changes things around is Alabaster’s DiabloWikiIce Reflect. Attacks have a 55% chance to create a Frost Nova on the attacker dealing 115% weapon damage as Cold. That could be really interesting, especially if it works against ranged attacks. If you could cause half of the monster archers, or even the casters, to explode in Frost Novas, which would naturally freeze all the other monsters near them, this could be a very powerful defensive skill.

    All of these effects add a lot to the PvP theorycrafting as well. Anything that’ll chill enemy attackers, especially melee attackers who land hits on you, would be hugely useful for a fragile Wizard trying to deal with a Barbarian or a Monk getting all up in their grill.

    Shock Pulse

    DiabloWikiShock Pulse
    Signature Skill
    (Level 3)
    Cost: 0 Arcane Power
    Description: Release a pulse of 3 unpredictable charges of electricity that deal 95% weapon damage as Lightning to enemies they hit. This is a Signature spell. Signature spells cost 1 less Arcane Power every time you gain a level.

    The unnecessarily-renamed Charged Bolt lives on. In the beta the damage is much like lightning was in Diablo II, dealing highly variable 1-50 type hits. Sometimes a single bolt kills anything, other times it hardly takes off a sliver. That’s going to change in the final game, apparently, when they get weapon damage incorporated into the spells.

    The targeting will presumably not change, so it’s worth worrying about. The main change to Charged Bolt in D3 is that you only get 3 bolts now. They still come out fairly widely-spread, before moving erratically forward. They do not move that far; the screenshot to the right shows the furthest extent of the charges, and they don’t cast that fast. Without a bunch of faster casting gear, the Wizard can only cast three in a series before the first one vanishes. So just as you’re casting the 4th, the 1st is vanishing at the extent of it’s range. (Which looks to be about 25 yards, in Diablo 3’s very short yard measuring system.)

    Needless to say, with fewer charges and less range on them, it’s not possible to lay down that gorgeous crackling carpet that made this skill so powerful in Diablo 2. The overall spread of the bolts is a little less than in D2 though, with the charges to the sides never going off diagonally very far. They start out widely-spread, but then more or less move forward. This skill actually works better in open areas; in dungeons it’s very easy for the left or right bolt to hit a wall and vanish (no bouncing off of them in D3), while out in the open you get all three bolts every time.

    Shock Pulse is the Wizard’s fastest DiabloWikiboss-killing skill in the beta, despite the fact that you can not hit a single target with more than two of the bolts, and only that many by standing at point blank range. (Because the targets aren’t large enough. Presumably you’ll be able to bowl all 3 into a DiabloWikiSiegebreaker-sized enemy every time.) This isn’t due to some massive damage of Shock Pulse, just the lack of other unruned skills that hit multiple times per use.

    Runestone Effects

    I was hoping for something that would basically turn this into the Diablo II version of the skill, giving me the ability to extend a lovely static carpet of death for about one-third of the screen. No such luck, though there are some very imaginative rune powers.

    Golden’s DiabloWikiLightning Affinity turns this into a resource regenerator. Every target hit by a pulse restores 7 Arcane Power. That seems very powerful, and it’s interesting to compare it to 14 AP granted by Attunement (Golden rune in Magic Missile). MM is a much faster shot that can be aimed precisely. Shock Pulse’s charges are much slower and move erratically, but there are 3 of them per cast. So the MM +7 is something you’d do on purpose, now and then, while this could just be a good skill to throw in every few seconds, when you’ve got a bunch of bogies in sight. Let the bolts snake forth and then unload with your more expensive skills, counting on some charges to hit and give you a quick resource refill.

    Crimson’s DiabloWikiFire Bolts is the biggest damage boost. Casts out bolts of fire to deal 195% weapon damage as Fire. More than double the damage, though it’s unknown of the fire changes the speed or movement pattern at all. Nor do we know if fire or lightning is more useful long term, in terms of monster resistances/immunities.

    Indigo’s DiabloWikiLightning Orb, “Turn the bolts into a floating orb of static lightning that drifts directly forward, zapping up to 5 nearby enemies for 46% weapon damage as Lightning.” Obsidian’s DiabloWikiPiercing Orb, “Merge the bolts in a single giant orb that oscillates forward dealing 95% weapon damage as Lightning to everything it hits with a 100% chance to pierce through enemies.” Well then. We kinda need to see those in action to make any judgment on their effectiveness, but they’re certainly creative changes to the base skill.

    My favorite though is the Alabaster DiabloWikiExplosive Bolts. “Slain enemies have a 100% chance to explode dealing 450% weapon damage as Lightning to every enemy within 10 yards.” What do they explode as? Lightning novas? Do enemies that die from those create more lightning novas? This sounds like a visual delight, with magnificently-sparkly damage potential. Want.

    Wave of Force

    DiabloWikiWave of Force
    (Level 4)
    Cost: 25 Arcane Power
    Cooldown: 15 seconds
    Description: Explode a wave of pure energy that repels projectiles and knocks back nearby enemies. This also slows the movement of enemies by 50% and deals 180% weapon damage as Physical.

    A wall of air blasts out from the Wizard and shoves everything back, slowing them briefly and dealing substantial damage to boot. It’s basically Frost Nova, except that it does a lot more damage and insults the monsters by throwing them backwards as well. The damage is quite useful as well; in the beta it will almost always kill every single non-boss in range. This is a guaranteed one button DiabloWikiMighty Blow, and it’s great fun to devastate entire rooms full of destructibles. All the chairs, all the tables, all the stacks of books, all the candelabras, etc.

    For all that power, it’s purely a support skill in the beta. The long cooldown ensures that, and even if not, the range is fairly limited, compared to your real attack skills like Arcane Orb, Electrocute, and Disintegrate. By the time you get close enough to hit any ranged attacker with Frost Nova or this, your Wizard is getting nailed by all incoming projectiles, not to mention the melee attackers you are running past to get to the back row.

    Runestone Effects

    Alabaster’s DiabloWikiImpactful Wave is a considerable defensive upgrade. “Increases the distance enemies are knocked back and stuns all affected enemies for 5.0 seconds.” Golden’s DiabloWikiForceful Affinity easy to understand. Reduce casting cost to 11 Arcane Power and cooldown is reduced to 8 seconds. Lower cost + shorter cooldown = MOAR. Probably not the best for strategic improvement, but if you really enjoy casting Wave of Force, at least Blizzard is empowering you to do more of it.

    Crimson’s DiabloWikiForceful Wave further weaponizes an already deadly attack. Increases damage to 369% weapon damage as Physical, but reduces knockback. This seems the least useful to me; there are tons of spells that damage monsters, as much or more than WoF, but without lowering the cooldown you’re just upping the damage without changing the essentially support nature of the skill.

    Obsidian’s DiabloWikiTeleporting Wave seems like a bit of a wildcard. “Enemies caught in the wave have a 70% chance to randomly teleport to somewhere else nearby.” How nearby is “nearby?” That might not actually be very helpful, especially if they’re not stunned for more than a second or two. Though it would be funny, especially to use when bosses were nearby, since it would presumably affect them as well.

    The coolest though, is the Indigo DiabloWikiExploding Wave. “Enemies hit have a 100% chance to cause a smaller Wave of Force that deals 90% weapon damage as Physical and knocks back enemies caught in its wake.” So every monster you hit has another smaller WoF cast from it, which does less damage than the original, but retains the pushback. How much can this stack? I mean if there are 4 monsters in a tight group, do they take the first WoF, and then all hit each other with their individual WoFs? Just the visual should be great on this one, watching monsters invisibly shoved in every direction as the waves all pop off at once.

    Spectral Blade

    DiabloWikiSpectral Blade
    I’m skipping this one until part two, since I did a ton of testing and screenshots on this one, and haven’t had time to collate and organize them all yet.

    This is the most complicated Wizard skill in the beta, in terms of how the damage is calculated and varied by your weapon and other equipment. Briefly, the weapon damage is directly translated into the spell damage, as are any elemental charges on the weapon, though critical strike increases don’t seem to work, and some attributes seem buggy as well. It has some weird interactions with the Magic Weapon skill as well.


    (Level 6)
    Cost: 0 Arcane Power
    Description: Lightning arcs from your fingertips towards an enemy dealing 150% weapon damage as Lightning. The lightning can jump, hitting up to 2 enemies. Damage is reduced by 30% for each jump. This is a Signature spell. Signature spells cost 1 less Arcane Power every time you gain a level.

    The consensus most-powerful skill in the entire beta, (Disintegrate would probably be #2 on that list, giving you an idea of how IMBA the Wizard is at low levels.) Electrocute is great fun to use, and would be so even if it wasn’t so powerful. The skill works a bit like Chain Lighting, with a single electrical bolt fired out that hits a target and then jumps to other nearby enemies. Electrocute moves much more quickly than Chain Lightning ever did though, and while the damage is quite variable in the beta, it’s generally high enough to wipe out any normal monster with a single flicker. Bosses don’t last a good deal longer, and in the entire beta, only the Skeleton King has enough hit points to last more than a second or two against this attack.

    Leoric actually lasts quite a while (at least 15 or 20 seconds, and the Wizard will run dry on Arcane Power at least once or twice during the battle) against Electrocute, since the strength of the skill is not the big damage to a single target. Electrocute is better against small groups of enemies, thanks to its instantaneously-fast casting speed, the almost as quick chaining (up to 4 targets in the beta), and the reasonable Arcane Power cost. It is not ideal for large groups either, since it must be recast repeatedly. Disintegrate works better on very large groups, as it passes through any number of enemies with a single cast.

    (I am vexed that I could not get a good Electrocute screenshot, despite many attempts. The bolt moves faster and fades more quickly than it used to, so you can not see the whole stream anymore. You get it coming out of the Wizard, or bouncing between the monsters, but not all of it, as seen in this older shot from our wiki.)

    Incidentally, as with all of the Wizard skills in this report, the quoted description refers to the function of the skills in the current game client. These descriptions vary greatly from how spells worked in previous builds of the game. The beta is an older build, and in it, all Wizard (and Witch Doctor) skills except DiabloWikiSpectral Blade do not include weapon damage in the calculations. In the beta, all skill damage is derived from factors such as Clvl, attributes, and equipment bonuses such as % chance of critical strike, and +% Wizard spell damage. But not weapon damage.

    Electrocute has changed considerably during development. Back in the Blizzcon 2009 demo, it was essentially a beam weapon that worked a bit like Disintegrate. Players held down the mouse button and moved the mouse to sweep Electrocute from side to side. When the beam hit a valid target, it locked on, engulfing the enemy in purple light and dealing steady, if somewhat variable, damage over time. Electrocute cost a lot of mana (the resource at the time), and thus it was quite expensive to try to kill anything with a lot of hit points. Even a normal boss would entirely exhaust the Wizard’s mana long before it was dead. The chaining was limited to one target then, though (IIRC) more could be added with more points invested. The check for lightning critical hits was almost constant as well, and thus most enemies were repeatedly stunned, rendering them almost motionless while the beam was locked on.

    Virtually none of those features remain in the game at this point, as the skill has changed radically during development. Much as I like it now, I sort of miss the earlier form, since I dearly loved the locking on to an individual target and holding it in the beam as its health melted inexorably away.

    Runestone Effects

    Like few other skills in the game at this point, it’s almost hard for a beta tester to imagine a runestone improving Electrocute. It’s so awesome already; what more could it possibly need?

    Indigo’s DiabloWikiChain Lightning ups the number of targets the bolt will jump between to 10, at maximum Clvl/Rlvl. If the skill still works as quickly as it does in the beta, that’s a crazy number, and would make Electrocute absolutely devastating to any large group. In the beta any pack of non-bosses smaller than about a dozen is simply erased by just 3 or 4 clicks of Electrocute, since it jumps to up to 4 targets now.

    Golden’s DiabloWikiSurge of Power adds 7 AP for each target hit by Electrocute. Again judging this by the beta function, that’s insane. Casting this skill twice, hitting 3 or 4 targets each time, takes maybe a second. At most. And that’s almost a full AP refill? It puts the various other AP refilling Wizard skills miles back.

    Alabaster’s DiabloWikiForked Lightning is another big upgrade to the basic skill. “Critical hits with this skill cause an explosion of 5 charged bolts in random directions, dealing 210% weapon damage as Lightning to any targets hit.” Shouldn’t they change that description from “charged bolts” to “Shock Pulses?” At any rate, this adds quite a bit of additional chaotic lightning spray to the base skill, which should be awesome for more crowd killing chaos. Me gusta.

    The last two runes make major changes to the function of Electrocute. I generally like runestone effects that are bold and transformative, but as awesome as this base skill type is, I wonder that anything derived from it could be better. Crimson’s DiabloWikiBall Lightning, “Creates a streak of lightning that pierces targets, hitting all enemies in its path for 180% weapon damage as Lightning.” So that basically turns the skill into the Lighting Bolt from D1 and D2, making it very useful against large groups or in narrow corridors.

    Finally, Obsidian’s DiabloWikiArc Lightning changes Electrocute to a short range attack. “Blast a cone of lightning that causes 165% weapon damage as Lightning to all affected targets.” This is almost a melee range attack, and I can’t see any way this is an improvement over the original. The base skill casts so fast, to any location on the screen, that limiting the range for just slightly more damage seems a terrible trade off. Perhaps it hits more quickly, or can hit many more monsters, if they’re close enough to be in range of the cone?

    That’s it for part one. Part two can be seen here.

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