Wizard Beta Skills Mega Report Part Two


Here’s the second half of my giant-sized Wizard beta skills report. No intro on this one, just right into the skills. I’ll start off with Spectral Blade, because I skipped over it in part one since I hadn’t had time to edit all the screenshots together yet. Click through to read detailed hands-on descriptions of the function, use, tactics, and potential runestone utilities of Magic Weapon, Arcane Orb, Diamond Skin, Energy Twister, Disintegrate, and Storm Armor. There are brand new screenshots for almost all of those as well.



Spectral Blade

DiabloWikiSpectral Blade
Signature Skill
(Level 5)
Cost: 0 Arcane Power
Description: Summon a spectral blade that strikes all enemies in your path 3 times causing 35% weapon damage with each hit. This is a Signature spell. Signature spells cost 1 less Arcane Power every time you gain a level.

Spectral Blade is a very cool skill with a great sound effect, a cool graphic, decent damage, and a nice visceral feel. And I have no idea what players will do with it.

I can’t see glass cannon style Wizards using it since it’s a melee range attack and getting that close is very risky. It’s physical damage, so that might give it some utility, but with very few monster immunities and a ton of types of spell damage, that’s not a real selling point. Spectral Blade does good damage to a single target, but not as much as most ranged spells do, and numerous skills are better for crowd control.

So it’s for battle mages, then? I dunno. I mean sure, it’s a nice melee attack, and I think it’ll be better than a Wizard can do using any melee weapon, even with the help of the melee damage buff DiabloWikiMagic Weapon. But wouldn’t a battle mage consider it cheating? Generally speaking, the whole point in doing a melee builds of a caster class is to use melee weapons, not just to cast spells at close range.

So is Spectral Blade a cool skill that doesn’t fit any long term play style? Could be. I hope I’m wrong, though.

As for the skill itself, it’s very fun to use, and demanded extensive testing since it’s the only Wizard skill in the beta that factors weapon damage into the skill damage. All of the updated Wizard skill tooltips say that weapon damage matters, but that’s not been implemented into the beta yet. I don’t know if Spectral Blade can serve as a preview of how weapon damage will work in spells in the full game; the math might be totally different in the full game, or on other Wizard skills.

The actual skill casting is odd, given that weapon damage matters, since the Wizard doesn’t actually use her weapon. As you can see in the screenshots, the weapons are tucked on her back during the fight, and she casts the spell by scooping up her arms, like she’s lifting a garage door.

Refer to these cropped composite screenshots for facts and figures. All of them show the weapon stats, plus a pic or 3 of that weapon in use. In the action shots the white numbers are normal hits, while yellow are crits. All of the shots were taken with a Clvl 13 wizard without overly-specialized gear, which did not change except for the weapons. There was an orb with no damage boosting stats in off-hand slot when using one-handed weapons.

Some observations:

  • There was no difference in Spectral Blade speed with any weapon, as far as I could tell. Not on the cast, not on the delay between casts, not on the hitting speed mid-cast. There was no difference in range or to/hit or anything else either.
  • Spectral Blade lands, at most, 3 hits on a single target. It almost always does that many, if you’re in melee range; there doesn’t seem to be any kind of to-hit or other check other than range. If you’re further away you’ll only get 1 or 2 hits, but you never get zero hits on a target in range. There’s nothing that changes the reach of the Spectral Blade; longer or shorter weapons make no difference to the spell’s appearance/function.
  • The number of hits delivered to multiple monsters varies. The spell can do 2 or 3 each — I repeatedly got 5 or 6 hits with two targets, if they were right in front of me. I think there’s some limitation on the hits per monster when there are more targets in range, though. I don’t think I ever got 9 on 3 monsters, usually just 6 or 7, at most. You can get lots of hits on a big pack, but good luck figuring it out exactly. Lots of monsters die from just 1 or 2 hits, you can’t tell which monster the damage numbers are tied to, the monster locations for the calculation may differ from what you see, etc.
  • Magic Weapon works weirdly with Spectral Blade. The normal damage is not affected; I’d see the same damage from the white numbers with or without the Magic Weapon buff active, but critical hits appeared in purple (the spectral color from Magic Weapon), and they were a bit higher than usual. For instance, if I was doing 5 normal damage (white) and 7 crit damage (yellow), I’d do 9 purple damage when I got crits with Magic Weapon active.

One other cool tidbit. I tried this with a bow, and when I had it equipped, with Spectral Blade on my LMB and a ranged spell on my RMB, the Wizard did not carry the bow with an arrow, as though she was going to shoot it. She carried it like a staff, holding the weapon in the middle, as though she was going to use it as a club. There was no arrow visible, or string drawn to fire, etc. I thought that was a nice touch on the realism of the animations. The Wizard can use a bow for a ranged weapon, and she holds it the normal way when you have it equipped with the normal attack selected — the Spectral Blade carrying difference was clearly intentional.


Click through for a great zoomed screenshot of Spectral Blade in use, plus discussion of its skill rune effects. Plus all the other Wizard skills in the rest of this lengthy report.

Note the multiple zombie decapitations, with the heads flying off to the left and right.

Runestone Effects

The effects on these don’t do anything that radical. Nothing changes the total function of the skill; and it’s surprising there isn’t just a “make it do bigger damage as fire” type rune. Every rune still does physical, and still does a melee attack.

Alabaster’s DiabloWikiHealing Blades, add considerable life leech. Whenever the blades do critical damage, you are healed 100% of the damage caused. Golden’s DiabloWikiSiphoning Blade takes the other approach, adding Arcane Power leech. Every enemy hit grants 7 Arcane Power. Note that Spectral Blade has a low AP cost to start, and it drops to zero long term, so this bonus is clearly meant as a supplement to AP cost from other attacks.

Crimson’s DiabloWikiDeep Cuts adds some DoT. Enemies hit by the blade will bleed for an additional 45% weapon damage done over 3 seconds. Not sure how useful this would be, since anything in range is practically touching the Wizard already, and will take numerous additional hits in the next three seconds. Possibly if end game monsters have huge hit points, you’d want/need to add all the damage you possibly could.

Obsidian’s DiabloWikiImpactful Blades grant another bonus that’s clearly meant for dangerous monsters in the late game. Hits have a 45% chance to cause knockback and slow the movement of enemies by 60% for 2 seconds.

The only one that really changes things is Indigo’s DiabloWikiThrown Blade. Extends the blades out to reach everything within 20 yards dealing 72% weapon damage. That’s a lot longer. A lot. There’s no range listed for the base skill, but I’d say it’s about 5-7 at max, and that monsters need to be 1-3y, and right in front of you, to take 3 hits. If this rune upped the max range to 10y, that would make a huge difference. But 20 (At Clvl 60/Rlvl 7, it’s undoubtedly much less at lower levels.) basically turns this into an AoE attack with as large a range of effect as any Wizard Spell in the game. I assume the range will fade out as it does now, though. So you’ll get 3 hits on monsters within like 10y, then 1 or 2 on monsters further out.


Magic Weapon

DiabloWikiMagic Weapon
Utility
(Level 7)
Cost: 8 Arcane Power
Description: Imbue your weapon with magical energy granting it 20% increased physical damage. Can only affect melee weapons. Lasts 60 seconds.

A modified version of DiabloWikiEnchant from Diablo II, this skill is activated like a buff, rather than cast on a target (thus it’s only of use to the Wizard and can not be shared to others). The base version in the beta is purely of use with melee attacks; the skill can’t even be cast (it’s grayed out) unless the Wizard is equipped with a melee weapon, and if you cast it on a sword and switch to a bow or a wand, the effect dissipates.

Yes, I said “wand,” since Wizards can not use Wands with the basic attack ability. Wizards, by default, grant Wand Throw as their base skill, a ranged attack that shoots a magic wand at the enemy, basically resembling a less damaging, no-AP cost Magic Missile.

When the Wizard does equip a weapon that can be blessed with Magic Weapon, the item turns purple, glowing and dripping with an Arcane light, as though it had been dipped in purple bubble bath. The damage added is fairly minor, certainly compared to just about any spell attack, and this is purely of use for battle mages. (As has been observed on the known Diablo III legendary items, the amount of +%weapon damage found on gear is much lower than it was in Diablo II, and figures like +25-35% are the best to be found on even the Inferno-quality legendary items. Thus on that scale, +20% is a fairly big bonus, akin to something like +200% in Diablo II terms.)

Magic Weapon does not work with DiabloWikiSpectral Blade; the weapon glows purple, but the damage when casting Spectral Blade is not improved. With one odd exception; critical hits. Those are higher, as though the base damage was increased by Magic Weapon, and then that was doubled. Experimenting with this while using a basic club, my Wizard did around 20 damage per hit with the club + Magic Weapon. That damage dropped to 15 or so without Magic Weapon. When using Spectral Blade, the 3 hits landed with that attack were usually 5 with the same club, with or without Magic Weapon in effect. The only difference was on critical hits, which did 7 without Magic Weapon, and 9 with it.

This same oddity repeated with all the melee weapons I tried, and the slightly improved DiabloWikicrit damage wasn’t present when I used a wand or bow while performing Spectral Blade. The odd part is that the Wizard does not use her weapon for Spectral Blade; though she holds it all the rest of the time, when casting Spectral Blade the weapon goes into her back holster and the cast is made empty-handed, with a sweeping upward motion, like a man trying to lift a curtain overhead that’s hanging to about his knees.

Runestone Effects

The various effects hew pretty closely to the original skill in function. Nothing that changes it radically, which makes sense, since the base skill is so different than anything else the Wizard can do. It’s kind of a pity that all of these are on the same skill, since any battle mage would surely want 2 or 3 of them to switch between during combat. It reminds me again of the player suggestion that characters have the same skill available more than once, each with a different rune.

Alabaster’s DiabloWikiBlood Magic, Melee hits recover 45% of damage caused as Life.” This would be great every now and then, but doesn’t seem something you’d want on every single hit, when dealing damage will be at a premium. How useful this is will also depend on how common life leech is, and we don’t know about that yet.

Crimson’s DiabloWikiIgnite, “Melee attacks burn enemies with fire for 70% of weapon damage for 3 seconds.” And Indigo’s DiabloWikiElectrify, “Melee attacks cause lightning to arc to 8 nearby enemies dealing 18% of weapon damage as Lightning damage.” Both seem redundant to the point of parody. Wizards do not exactly lack for elemental damage opportunities. If the goal were to add fire or lightning damage, there are dozens of better ways than with runestones in Magic Weapon.

Golden’s DiabloWikiConduit, “Melee hits restore 10% Arcane Power.” This seems almost entirely useless. A battle mage will never have any shortage of AP, and should she somehow be dry, a Wizard would probably regenerate 2/3 of the bulb in the time it took to make 2 or 3 melee swings, regardless of what kind of AP leech this rune adds.

Obsidian’s DiabloWikiForce Weapon seems like the clear winner for a battle made. This one, “Increases damage bonus to 34% physical damage, and gives a 45% chance to knock back any enemies hit.” So, nearly double the damage, +knock back. There’s no telling if the knockback is a good thing or not. It can be helpful, especially when it stuns, but it removes the chance of numerous rapid hits to the same enemy, ruining stunlock, if a battle mage can even hope to achieve such a thing in Diablo III.


Arcane Orb

DiabloWikiArcane Orb
Offensive
(Level 8 )
Cost: 35 Arcane Power
Description: Hurl an orb of pure energy that explodes when it hits, dealing 225% weapon damage as Arcane to all enemies within 10 yards.

Arcane Orb is a large, slow-moving projectile that packs a big boom. It’s not really comparable to Magic Missile except that they’re both Arcane damage, but just for the sake of comparison, MM is 110% weapon damage to a single target for a very low AP cost. Arcane Orb does more than double MM’s damage, with a big explosion that can hit easily a dozen targets, but it moves much more slowly and costs a lot of AP. And 35 is quite a bit, since the whole pool is only 100. A Wizard starting with a full resource bulb can fire three of these very quickly (105 AP, since you regenerate more than 5 in the time it takes to cast.) and then do nothing for several seconds, while the AP refills.

They do hit with a big boom, and if you get one to the edge of a big pack, it will deal substantial damage. The tricky part about using them (aside from the huge AP cost) is that they are large and move very slowly. This makes it hard to miss. Say you have a big clump of monsters, with several individuals scattered in front. You want the Arcane Orb to hit the big pack, not the solo enemy, but it’s hard not to. In that situation you’d be better off using some other skill, even Magic Missile, to kill the individual before launching your Arcane Orbs into the bigger cluster of targets.

You don’t have to. You can blast Arcane Orbs at everything, but you’ll spend a lot of time out of Arcane Power. Besides, there are numerous other Wizard skills that kill single targets or small groups much more quickly than Arcane Orb, given the slow travel time of this projectile.

Incidentally, the Orbs travel quite a distance, easily to the edge of the visible screen, and they take a long time to get there. It’s fun to cast one in an empty area and run after it. It’s like having a friend, a glowing purple virtual pet! Except that it blows up without a trace, like a real life friend you just texted to see if they can help you move this weekend.

Runestone Effects

Three of the rune effects are basic modifications of the skill. Crimson’s DiabloWikiObliteration, “Increases the potency of the explosion to deal 495% weapon damage as Arcane.” Golden’s DiabloWikiTap the Source, “Reduces casting cost to 21 Arcane Power.” Indigo’s misleadingly-named, DiabloWikiArcane Nova, “Modify the orb to deal 398% weapon damage as Arcane to all enemies within 16 yards.” I have to admit that Crimson’s mega-damage is tempting, though so is the increased radius and damage of Indigo. Either of those would be more useful than the Golden reduced cost, since Arcane Orb is only the best skill to use in certain situations. Most of the time you’d be better off using something else to set up your huge Arcane Orb killshot.

The Alabaster effect is a bit more unusual, as it turns the orb into a piercing projectile. DiabloWikiCelestial Orb, “The orb will pierce through targets, damaging any enemy it passes through dealing 256% weapon damage as Arcane.” That’s only a slight increase in damage from the base, and is hardly more than half the damage of Crimson’s aptly-named Obliteration. The question about Celestial Orb though, is not clear from the description. Does it explode on each target? Or is it just a really big, slow-moving Magic Missile? I can’t see the later being that attractive an effect, if it doesn’t explode on each target you’d probably do more damage, on average, with the base skill. One explosion of that can easily hit 8 or 10 monsters, and you’d need really big packs to get that many with just the piercing orb itself.

The biggest change comes from Obsidian’s DiabloWikiArcane Orbit, which, “Creates 4 Arcane Orbs that orbit you, exploding for 270% weapon damage as Arcane when enemies get close.” That’s 1080% weapon damage, for all 4 balls at max level. More than double the damage of the Crimson effect, for the same AP cost. I can see it as an awesome boss killer, used in conjunction with some other skill.

We don’t know how far out the balls orbit, but presumably they’d hit melee attackers. So imagine you’ve got these rotating around you, while you’re using other skills against a big boss or boss pack. Your other skills are tearing into them, and every half second or so, another Arcane Orbiter blows up, dealing better damage than the base Arcane Orb, at 1/4 the AP cost.

http://diablo.incgamers.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/6623/title/arcane-orb/cat/633
http://diablo.incgamers.com/gallery/data/633/medium/arcane-orb-max3.jpg


Diamond Skin

DiabloWikiDiamond Skin
Utility
(Level 9)
Cooldown: 25 seconds
Description: Transform your skin to diamond for 5 seconds absorbing up to 2661 damage from incoming attacks.

Like all defensive skills, this one is fairly irrelevant in the beta. It’s actually quite a powerful ability, but with just 5 seconds of shield and a 25s cooldown, you’ve got to be really on your toes to cast it at any time you’ll actually want it. If you’re that quick with the reflexes and damage anticipation, you’ll probably just avoid it with better spacing or slowing skills or a strategic retreat. Still, if you could train yourself to remember that you had this one, and remember to use it in emergencies, it would be a life saver.

Honestly though, that’ll be hard to learn. After all, what are you doing as disaster strikes in Diablo? Probably fighting frantically, or trying to escape/avoid the hell. Thinking to stop and cast a skill instead will require some brain retraining, but for those who manage it this will be a very powerful ability. And award you bonus cajones points if you can do it successfully in Hardcore. Especially if your friends see you standing in there, like a boss, while they desperately scramble to get to a safe distance.

Click it just as the Skeleton King commences his sweeping melee attack. Click it just as you polish off a pack of Arcane Enchanted champions and laugh as their Arcane Hydras break their teeth on your shiny exoskeleton. Click it a second after a Molten or Frozen boss dies, and just before their death explosions nova across the screen. Etc.

Perhaps the most likely use for Diamond Skin would be in PvP, where a few seconds of damage mitigation could make or break a battle. You play defensively with a Wizard in the Arena, always dodging and firing from a distance and staying out of reach. But every now and then a Barbarian or a Monk will catch you; how delightful it would be to pop your Diamond Shield just as they unloaded, completely erasing their opportunity to do pain unto you.

One last comment… the graphics suck. It makes the Wizard look blindingly white, like someone’s turned up the levels too high in Photoshop. I didn’t see much beautiful subtlety, even in zoom mode. I guess it has to be a very obvious graphic though, to be noticeable even in the heat of combat, without creating a huge aura or other large effect.

Runestone Effects

Indigo’s DiabloWikiEnduring Skin, “Increase duration to 21 seconds.” And Obsidian’s DiabloWikiCrystal Shell, “Increase the maximum absorption amount to 6919 damage.” Are the two more practical, with the basic increased duration and function. Obviously one rune that did both of these would be the ideal, but that would be too powerful, I guess. I suspect most players would get more benefit out of the Indigo effect, since the hardest part with this skill will be remembering to cast it just an instant before you get pounded by something. Giving yourself 21 seconds of protection would ensure you used it much more frequently.

Two other effects fall under the, “nifty, but not worth it for just 5 seconds of action.” Crimson’s DiabloWikiMirror Skin, “Reflects 160% of damage absorbed back at the attacker.” And Golden’s DiabloWikiPrism, “Reduces Arcane Power cost of all spells by 14 while Diamond Skin is active.”

I don’t see much use for Alabaster’s DiabloWikiDiamond Shards either. “When Diamond Skin wears off, diamond shards will explode in all directions dealing 50% weapon damage as Physical to enemies nearby.” Okay, that’s kind of cool, but the whole point in the skill is to protect you when you can’t escape. Now you’re supposed to remain nearby, just to hit them for 50% weapon damage? You can do 3 or 4 or 10x that much damage with any number of skills, launched from a safe distance.


Energy Twister

DiabloWikiEnergy Twister
Offensive
(Level 11)
Cost: 35 Arcane Power
Description: Unleash a twister of pure energy that deals 60% weapon damage per second Arcane to everything caught within it.

Energy Twister looks pretty, and it’s kind of fun to play with. I took more screenshots of it than of most skills, since the visuals were nice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work very well, and I’m not honestly sure what the skill is supposed to do well. The tornadoes aren’t any good at AoE damage (too small a radius), they take a long time to reach even close targets, they move erratically and can’t be aimed, they have some slight stunning effect that draws monsters in, but it’s not strong enough to have much effect, and they don’t deal that much damage even when they do hit something.

Using them in the beta, one thought kept popping into my thoughts. “Damn but the runestones bonuses better be awesome.”

I did mention that they look great, right? Because they do. They are nice in still images, but you really have to see them in the game to appreciate it. They’re like tropical fish, shimmering and iridescent, and they’re shot through with bands of gleaming colors. I ran and stood in a few on zoom view, but sadly that didn’t look as good. I could see the details too clearly in zoom, while at the normal view the tiny filaments of color are all merged together.

The twisters appear right at your feet when you cast them, move forward slowly, and they are constrained by architecture. Twisters bounce off of walls and even low railings will fence them in, which makes a narrow corridor the best place to cast one. Well, to cast several, since they’re clearly meant to be spammed. Only by casting a bunch, in a small area, when you’ve got a lot of targets, do you get any kind of decent damage over time. Using them outdoors, or in large open areas, is nearly useless since they scatter everywhere and any monster that moves at more than a crawl will just walk through them and take minimal damage.

Even in ideal circumstances, this skill is pretty weak. Energy Twister is easily the slowest killer of any skill available in the beta, and they cost a lot to cast. The base version will set you back 35 AP, the same as Arcane Orb. Energy Twister has fairly high potential damage, if you manage to cast a bunch of them through a really large crowd of enemies, but they’re so iffy on the targeting. There’s no way any Wizard could use this as their main skill, though I suppose it might be possible to find some use with this as a support skill; something you toss out a few of when a big pack is approaching, to soften them up for your actual killing spells.

Runestone Effects

While observing the failings of this skill, I tried to think what would fix it. If enemies were stunned, or chilled, or if the tornado pulled them in (much more strongly than it does now), that might work. Either that or they could simply make the tornado much larger for a bigger AoE. What did Blizzard offer?

The most useful sounds like Alabaster’s DiabloWikiWicked Wind, which makes the twister stay in one plce, dealing 84% weapon damage per second as Arcane to everything caught within it. That would be useful, but it’s kind of lame, eh? I mean it’s just turning this skill into a windy version of Meteor or Arcane Torrent or any other stationary AoE effect. The big unknown is where the Wicked Wind twister appears? The unruned version goes out from the Wizard like any other projectile. Does the WW version appear right on top of you? Or can you summon it anywhere you click?

The least useful is Golden’s DiabloWikiMistral Breeze which lowers the casting cost to 14 AP. I don’t think Crimson’s DiabloWikiGale Force, which doubles the damage, would really help either.

Indigo’s DiabloWikiRaging Storm is more interesting. “When two twisters touch they merge into a tornado with an increased area of effect that causes 100% weapon damage per second as Arcane.” Now if you could cast that right from the start, we might have something. I guess the odds of the “merging” might not be too bad, though. You can cast these quite quickly, and as slowly as they move I think you’d get a fair number of merges. Realize that the base cost is 35 AP though, and that the Wizard only has 100 total. You’d want to cast two at a time, every time, then use something else to let the AP regen.

The last runestone effect also requires a quote in full. Obsidian’s DiabloWikiTrail of Destruction. Casting Energy Twister grants you a Wind Charge. You can store up to 5 Wind Charges at a time. Casting a Signature spell releases all Wind Charges as a giant Energy Twister that deals 25% damage per Wind Charge. Signature spells are: Magic Missile, Shock Pulse, Spectral Blade, Electrocute.

Most of the “signature skills” have one runestone effect that does something wacky like this, and I don’t really care for the concept. It just seems so arbitrary; why should these few unrelated skills have some special classification? It’s reminiscent of synergies; Skill X suddenly becomes useful just because you’ve also got Skill Y.


Finally… maybe the theory is to save all the goofy runestone effects for the Witch Doctor, but how is there not a Flying Cow effect here? Didn’t any the developers ever see Twister? I’m not suggesting some kind of bovine transformation effect, (that would be too WD style) but why isn’t there a skill rune that periodically snatches up a monster and rips it to pieces or hurls it across the screen? Someone on the dev team please bring this unacceptable oversight to the attention of Wyatt or Jay, please.


Disintegrate

DiabloWikiDisintegrate
Offensive
(Level 12)
Cost: 20 Arcane Power per second
Description: Thrust a beam of pure energy forward dealing 150% weapon damage per second as Arcane and disintegrating enemies it kills.

This skill was iconic as soon as it was revealed, and served as the primary Wizard attack in the 2010 Blizzcon PvP demo. The description of Disintegrate was much more complicated in earlier versions of the game, with the skill increasing in damage the longer it focused on the same target, and we spent months going frame by frame through the Arena gameplay movie, trying to figure out the mechanics. Unsuccessfully!

It should have been easy, since the damage popped up in an overhead, but the Disintegrate beam sometimes turned purple for a few frames, and sometimes doubled in damage, but not always at the same time, and neither of them always correlated to the beam hitting the same target for more than a few frames. There were even occasional triple damage hits, apparently from critical strike + double damage for locked on shot, but these didn’t always appear when the beam was purple. Click the thumbs for full size image series, with captions.

Those days of mystery seem to be behind us now, as the skill no longer has a “bonus damage with longer target lock” component, it doesn’t seem to ever turn purple anymore, and it only occasionally pops a double damage critical. Critical damage shots are now shown in yellow numbers.

The other earlier Disintegrate info was that the damage decreased by 20% with each additional target it hit. Thus it was maximum damage only for the monster in the front, and if you had a big mob the damage would be greatly reduced for the ones in the back. That property is no longer listed in the tooltip, but I think it’s still there. It’s hard to tell in the beta with everything dying so quickly to this skill, but it seemed like when I swept Disintegrate over a big pack, the ones in the front almost always died first. (Like 1 frame ahead of the middle, who were 1 frame ahead of the back, so it was still all but instantaneous.)

As for the targeting and range, Disintegrate still works just like it did, and it’s still very effective. It’s not outrageously good, if only because Electrocute is even more overpowered, but Disintegrate absolutely lays waste to any number of normal monsters in the beta, and only Leoric has the hit points to last more than a second or two in the direct beam. (He lasts at least 20 seconds, not that you can hold it on him that long since your AP will run dry less than halfway there.)

As fast as the spell moves, it can feel slow to target, at least compared to Electrocute, since the beam only goes right where you point it. Electrocute jumps between targets, so if you click a spot in the middle of a pack, it will hit everything in an instant, without you even moving the mouse. Disintegrate doesn’t do that, so you have to move the cursor to move the beam, and that can feel ponderous. Your character pivots in place, and while you can rotate pretty quickly, it’s slow enough to feel slightly realistic, like you’re actually turning and moving, not just flipping instantly from left to right.

Bonus shot to the right shows the maximum range of Disintegrate. It usually goes off the visible screen, but that pic is from an odd elevation angle that gives a longer view.

Runestone Effects

Double beams of Disintegrate were seen in a recent gameplay movie, yet none of the runestone effects list that property. The closest seems to be Indigo’s DiabloWikiConvergence, “Increase the width of the beam allowing it to hit more enemies for 195% weapon damage per second as Arcane.” That sounds like one extra large beam, rather than two parallel beams, but perhaps the beam grows fatter before splitting apart?

Another odd way to increase the range comes from Golden’s DiabloWikiChaos Nexus, “When casting the beam you become charged with energy that spits out at nearby enemies doing 80% weapon damage as Arcane.”

The most visually-pleasing sounds like Alabaster’s, DiabloWikiVolatility. “Enemies killed by the beam have a 35% chance to explode, causing 200% weapon damage as Arcane to all enemies within 8 yards.” So a third of the monsters you kill with it will blow up, dealing considerable AoE damage. Which will, naturally, soften up the other nearby monsters, making them easier to kill with Disintegrate, triggering more of these explosions… To paraphrase Jay Wilson, that sounds fairly awesome. It should work very well against bosses also; herd them into packs of regular monsters and blow up all the little ones and the boss’ minions, packs also; just target all the minions first, and as they blow up you’re taking bites out of the boss.

The biggest drawback of Disintegrate is the lacking damage to single hard targets, and Crimson’s DiabloWikiIntensify seems themed to correct that. “Damage increases slowly over time to inflict a maximum of 330% weapon damage per second as Arcane.” I’m fairly certain this will be my first choice, in a Disintegrate runestone effect.

The biggest change comes from Obsidian’s DiabloWikiEntropy. “The beam fractures into a short ranged cone causing 255% weapon damage per second as Arcane.”


Storm Armor

DiabloWikiStorm Armor
Utility
Armor (Level 13)
Cost: 25 Arcane Power
Description: Bathe yourself in electrical energy, shocking ranged and melee attackers for 127% weapon damage as Lightning. Lasts 120 seconds. This is an Armor spell. Only one Armor spell can be active at a time.

As unnecessary as most of the other defensive skills in the beta, this one’s biggest drawback at this point is the lame, easily-missed graphic. Though it sounds a lot like a recreation of the Sorceress’ DiabloWikiThunder Storm skill from Diablo II, there’s a key difference. While that (highly useful) skill zapped some random enemy with lightning once per second, Storm Armor only hits enemies that are attacking you.

Just how the game defines “attackers” is not clear; I used this for a while and sometimes saw it hit monsters that I thought were not yet in melee range, while at other times it very slow to trigger even when I was getting swarmed. It’s hard to tell though, since the graphic for the shock it delivers to enemy monsters is very inadequate. It just gives them a little charge near the feet, almost like the Charged Bolt graphic from Diablo I. That’s very easy to miss if there’s a pack of enemies, much less if the Wizard is using lightning spells at the same time.

Why they didn’t just reuse/update the awesome “bolt from the heavens” graphic that Thunder Strom had in Diablo II, I don’t know. I can only think the Diablo III version is not in final form yet, since it’s mild, hard to see, almost silent, and irrepressibly drab and awful.

I will only single out the graphics for a handful of skills in the entire game for special condemnation. This is one of them. The shot to the right shows the skill activated, and yes, I included the buff icon since otherwise no one would believe it was legit. Seriously, that’s it. A light blueish glow, as though you’re standing near a bug zapper. Very easily missed given all the colored light changes in the dungeons.

Runestone Effects

The rune effects for Storm Armor are a mixed bag. The most simple is Crimson’s DiabloWikiStrike Back, “Increase the damage of the shock to 280% weapon damage as Lightning.” Just the base skill, +damage. Not good enough!

Obsidian’s DiabloWikiReactive Armor, “Whenever you are hit you are enveloped with a lightning shield for 8 seconds that shocks nearby enemies for 153% weapon damage as Lightning.” So when you get hit you basically turn on a Holy Shock aura. Okay.

The Indigo effect, DiabloWikiStatic Charge, is kind of an odd one. “Increase your movement speed by 20% for 5 seconds whenever you are hit by melee or ranged attack.” So you get a burst of speed whenever you are hit. Potentially useful for escaping tight spots, I guess, but since the vast majority of times you get hit you just ignore it; arrow or spell from a distance, one melee monster you’re about to destroy, etc… you’d hardly ever use this one.

Ignore those first three though, since two of the most powerful Wizard bonuses in the entire game are tucked in amidst Storm Armor’s rune effects.

Alabaster’s DiabloWikiShocking Aspect, “Whenever you cast a spell that critically hits, you also shock a nearby enemy for 319% weapon damage as Lightning.” So every time you land a critical, with any skill, (which happens almost constantly), you get a huge bonus lightning shock to something. Delightful, although it would be nice to have a distance in yards for what qualifies as a “nearby enemy.” If the enemies are all halfway across the screen, does nothing happen? Would you learn to modify your play style, always ignoring one or two weak monsters near you, while attacking the big packs at a distance, just so the bonus shocks would have something to strike?

The biggest one though, has global implications. It’s Golden’s DiabloWikiPower of the Storm, which throws in a radical, “Reduce the cost of all abilities by 7 Arcane Power while Storm Armor is active.” Seriously, all abilities? Whenever this skill is active? Which is always, since it’s got a 120s duration and no cooldown. So this is essentially an aura that chops 7 Arcane Power off of every Wizard skill in the game!

Remember all those other skills with one rune effect that reduces their AP cost? Remember how many of those don’t even drop it 7 AP by themselves? Wow. We don’t have much idea about AP costs for late game Wizards, but Power of the Storm here seems like a game changer for any number of builds. Play styles and skill choices that would never have worked otherwise may well be enabled by this one rune effect, though if your wizard style was not regularly exhausting your AP, this one would be completely useless.


Wizard Conclusion

That’s it for the wizard skills available in the beta. There are 13 to choose from, more than half of the class’ total amount, though only three passives. Of those, DiabloWikiGlass Cannon is the instant winner. Increases all damage done by 20% but decreases armor and resistances by 10%. Once you put a point in that spell damage jumps dramatically. The hover says 20%, but the actual damage numbers for my wizard increase at least 33%, and often up to 40 or 50%. This is probably due to some odd order of operations in the calculations, with the “spell damage” tabulated early, and then modified by the wizard’s stats, thus a 20% increase in one place turns into a much larger total boost.

The worst thing about getting to Clvl 13 in the beta is that you can’t go up any higher, which there are so many other awesome-sounding skills just ahead.

I’ve always enjoyed mage classes in the Diablo games, and even with just this much of the game to judge from, I’m fairly certain I’ll like the Diablo III wizard the best of all. There’s just so much spell variety; even the spells in the Beta give you a lot more types of attacks than were present in all of Diablo 2. Fast small projectiles. Slow large projectiles. Single target damage. Splash damage. Beams that hit everything. Super fast chain lightning. A new style melee attack. Randomly-moving projectiles. And more. MOAR! And we don’t even have any turret type skills yet, or death from above spells, or any stationary AoE effects.

Also… runestones! OMG the runestones…

You can argue about the Wizard’s balance, and say she’s overpowered, but anyone who complains about the variety of spell types and styles is a fool. Or on the outside, looking in.


Next up: The Barbarian. Parts one and two should be posted later this week, time permitting.

Tagged As: | Categories: Diablo 3 Beta, Diabloii.Net Articles, Wizard

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  1. “You can argue about the Wizard’s balance, and say she’s overpowered…”
    hey, don’t discriminate against male wizards.

  2. my wizard will destroy pvp lol

  3. In the Blizzcon PvP videos, Diamond Skin could break crowd control (fear, stun, etc). I wonder, is that still possible?

    • It seems like they may have removed that component from some stuff… they were saying the barb’s ignore pain skill did that as well but the current description just has it reducing damage…

  4. Whenever I see this —> ‘nearby enemies’ in the tooltip of any Wizard skill/runes (such as in Disintegrate and Storm armor runestone effects), I tend to think that Blizz means the effect will hit something in close proximity (within melee range, and/or slightly beyond) of the Wizard. Perhaps they will clarify what they are referring to (near the Wizard vs. near the target of the spell) because, Battlemage builds aside, the class is primary a ranged damage dealer and it seems counterintuitive to have to be in a position where you are threatened by encroaching mobs to take advantage of many of these effects.

    • Well, they are obviously a battlemage build bone.
       
      However, if you are feeling feisty, you could theoretically rely on Frost Nova, Wave of Force, and Mirror Image to make use of these closer range attacks.

    • You don’t aim to take advantage of these effects, they’re there to back you up. You don’t plan to run into a pack of Fallen, but it’s virtually impossible to play Act 1 as a Sorc and not find yourself surrounded by them at some point. You don’t plan to run into a tomb and get surrounded by skeletons, but it’s virtually impossible to avoid that happening in act 2 as a sorc. You don’t plan on charging into the fray against those Flayers in act 3, but, well, when 25 or 50 of them come flying at you at super speed, even cool down free telee isn’t going to stop you from getting surrounded. The Sorc, and thus, the Wizard will find themselves surrounded in melee combat more often than most players seem to realize… The ranged glass cannons initiate combat from afar ideally, but it quickly moves into melee range thereafter.

      • In that situation, imo, it would still seem better if the effects hit enemies ‘nearby’ the target of the spell, rather than nearby the Wizard. Since you will be surrounded, targets will be just as close in proximity to eachother as they will to the Wizard (unless I’m missing some fundamental change in how being surrounded will work in D3). I imagine, in that situation, it would be your priority to target and kill the stuff swarming you first so that you don’t end up dead. In the Battlemage scenario, I think that concept would still apply, even if there is less urgency.

        • Except that if you have enemies on all sides, they are not as close to eachother as they are to the character… the target of a spell on one side is not as close to the monster on the opposite side of you as they are to you… it’s better to wait or move so that you can hit things on all sides at once than to chip away on one area then another… sure it’s easy to do it that way in act 1 where most of the stuff is slow moving undead, but in later areas with faster moving monsters than can surround you more easily, having the skills centered on you will come in handy…

  5. Just play with barb, go max glass canon barb goes life steal GG

  6. “Most of the “signature skills” have one runestone effect that does something wacky like this”
    I don’t see any signature skills have any kind of runestone effects that if you use A skill B skill will be better.

    There is only one “Offensive skills” that after a targets are hit they take more damage from the same source. (Arcane Torrent Crimson Runestone “Disruption” any arcane damage done is increased by 120%)

    In the “Utility skills” you have Slow time’s Crimson runestone “time warp”

    Arcane Dynamo is the only other true synergietic effect.
    So I am not really sure what you are talking about. 

  7. How long do energy twisters last?

  8. Thanks for the info on How Spectral blade + magic weapon that was the one question I could never find the answer too.

    • I assume it’s buggy in the beta, with the critical increasing but the regular not. At least I don’t see how that could be the intention of the devs. Or why it would be, at any rate.

      • Spectral Blades + Magic Weapon is not buggy from what I can tell, I did some testing and found it does increase the damage. Clearly hitting for 5-11 without magic weapon and 6-13 with magic weapon. Also, the weapon’s attack speed does increase casting speed of Spectral Blades, go equip a Dagger (1.5 speed) vs a Crossbow (1.0 speed) and tell me you don’t see a difference.

  9. I think the look of Diamond Skin fantastic.

  10. This whole skill is pointless now. It used to be the only one that scaled with weapon damage, which was neat and the whole reason it existed was to lend a hand to people that wanted to make a melee build. Now it is just a melee-like skill that doesn’t differentiate from the others much besides dealing normal damage. Hopefully it at least does lifesteal and other weapon effects…

  11. A couple things bother me about spectral blade… first, that its damage seems lacking compared to the other signature skills now that they all scale off of weapon damage and second that it acts so weird with magic weapon… one would think that the bonus damage would just be a flat boost to spectral blade since it seems to take on the elemental damage of weapons so why not a direct buff to the weapon? Maybe blizzard thought it shouldn’t effect any other skills, but if any skill made sense to directly benefit from magic weapon it would be spectral blade… also the graphic doesn’t match… the animation shows 5 slashes but it only actually hits up to 3 times… but anyways…

    “There’s no telling if the knockback is a good thing or not. It can be helpful, especially when it stuns, but it removes the chance of numerous rapid hits to the same enemy, ruining stunlock, if a battle mage can even hope to achieve such a thing in Diablo III.”

    Are you sure that knock back has an inherent chance to stun in Diablo 3, becuase I doubt it… 

    “The question about Celestial Orb though, is not clear from the description. Does it explode on each target?”

    Um… what?

    “The orb will pierce through targets, damaging any enemy it passes through dealing 256% weapon damage as Arcane.”

    Seems pretty clear to me… it just becomes a big piercing arcane missle… If it exploded on every enemy it passed through it would probably say so…

    “It just seems so arbitrary; why should these few unrelated skills have some special classification?”

    Um, because they are all lost cost spells that have their costs reduced by 1 every time the wizard gains a level… it says that in all of their descriptions and they are grouped together in the wizard skill window… you seem to think they classified them like that just for this rune effect…

    “Just how the game defines “attackers” is not clear; I used this for a while and sometimes saw it hit monsters that I thought were not yet in melee range”

    Well it says it hits ranged attackers as well so yeah… they probably hit you with a ranged attack…

    “We don’t have much idea about AP costs for late game Wizards,”

    How is that? We can see all of the costs of the level 60 versions of each skill on the official site… gear so far doesn’t reduce ap costs, only increases the ap cap or gives ap on crits…

    And I’d say that energy armor with the indigo rune that increases your max ap by 40 is probably superior to storm armor for it’s function (+20% defense on top of the extra ap) considering how fast ap regens…

    • Energy Armor’s Energy Tap is superior, if you want to cast multiple AP heavy spells in quick succession, like Hydra, Meteor or Blizzard. However, Storm Armor’s Power of the Storm is much better when you are using channeled spells, or want to use Teleport with the Wormhole effect.

  12. “There was no difference in Spectral Blade speed with any weapon, as far as I could tell. Not on the cast, not on the delay between casts, not on the hitting speed mid-cast. There was no difference in range or to/hit or anything else either.”

    From this video it’s quite clear, that Spectral Blade’s speed is affected by your attack speed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNYOMQNOO-E&t=184

    “It’s reminiscent of synergies; Skill X suddenly becomes useful just because you’ve also got Skill Y.”

    Synergies were passive, these bonuses are not. They promote active use of multiple skills. I really like them, and from my experience in WoW I can say, that they can make the game much more interesting.

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