Thursday, June 21, 2012

Witch Doctor - Defensive Skills Guide

Zombie Dogs - Level 4

60 Second Cooldown
49 Mana

Summons 3 Dogs (4 if you couple it with the Zombie Handler (level 24) passive) that attack enemies for 9% weapon damage per hit.

Thoughts:  The skill itself lets us Necromancer-nostalgic Diablo 2 players get close to the glory days of a skeleton army.  Unfortunately that reminiscent thought is fleeting, as the skill itself is barely usable outside of the normal difficulty.

Sure, you can do a quick Google search for Zombie Dogs and Inferno, and find Witch Doctors stacking strength equipment and life regeneration in order to keep their pets alive on the hardest difficulties - but those Witch Doctors are idiots.  Even if these dogs were completely invulnerable to enemies, they still deal awful damage - nowhere near enough to constitute them taking up a coveted skill slot as part of an end-game/inferno build.


Rabid Dogs (Level 12) - Makes the 9% weapon damage occur over 3 seconds as poison damage instead of all at once as physical damage.  The only reason to use this rune is to couple it with the Bad Medicine passive (level 20) which debuffs the target's damage by 20% when they take poison damage, making your dogs somewhat of a crowd-control element.  Now if only you could get them to survive more than two seconds.

Final Gift (Level 19) -Never use a rune or ability that gives you health globes, or a chance to get health globes.  Ever.

Life Link (Level 28) - A cool idea, allowing your dogs to take 10% of the damage dealt to you.  It would be even cooler if the dogs could take any damage at all.  They die far too quick for this rune to even be considered viable.

Burning Dogs (Level 40) - Makes your dogs do 2% Point Blank Area of Effect Fire Damage as well as their 9% weapon damage as physical per attack.  Again, very nice (and cool looking!) but useless, as the dogs don't live long enough for the extra damage to matter.

Leeching Beasts (Level 54) - Gives your dogs 50% life steal, of which you receive half as healing.  Again, a nice idea, but it really needs to be 500% life steal, and forget about it healing you.  The dogs die humorously quickly on Hell and Inferno difficulties, rendering this rune useless.

Over All - Zombie dogs are fun, but under no circumstances are they in any way viable after you complete the Nightmare difficulty.  Don't be tempted by the other forum posts.  Even if you could make them live forever, you'll severely limit your damage dealing capability doing so (getting +strength gear over +intelligence gear) AND giving up a skill slot.  We all want zombie dogs to be good, but they just aren't.

Horrify - Level 8

20 Second Cooldown
37 Mana

Fears all enemies around you, causing them to run away.  It's a fantastic panic button and a part of many Inferno Witch Doctor builds.

Phobia (Level 14) - Extends the fear duration from 4 seconds to 6, which is a lot of time to throw some quick damage on your enemies.  A solid choice.

Stalker (Level 21) - Increases the enemies movement speed by 20% as they run from you.  It's important to note that mathematically, if you want them far away, you still want to use Phobia over Stalker, as running for 50% longer means you cover more ground then if you moved 20% faster.  This rune is useless.

Face of Death (Level 34) - Makes the radius of Horrify 24 yards.  Useful for big packs of enemies that you can't quite control long enough with other spells.  An OK rune selection with nuanced use.

Frightening Aspect (Level 44) - Easily the best rune available for Horrify, this increases your armor by 100% for 8 seconds after it's use.  You don't even have to fear a single enemy for it to be awesome - but if you do, know that when the fear wears off, you'll have some extra durability for four additional seconds.

Ruthless Terror (Level 56) - Gives back 27 mana for every enemy hit.  All Witch Doctors need to use the Vision Quest passive, as it gives nearly infinite mana and is arguably the best passive in the game.  Using abilities to get mana back is counter productive and produces significantly less DPS in all circumstances as a result, making you in effect use more mana anyway.

Over All - Horrify is an excellent skill to vision quest builds, the survivability from Frightening aspect and/or the extra fear duration from phobia can be valuable additions to your arsenal.  The cooldown is short enough for practical use but long enough to keep your Vision Quest passive operational throughout almost every fight.

Spirit Walk - Level 16

15 Second Cooldown
49 Mana

The only absolute, must have, no exceptions skill in the Witch Doctors arsenal.  Also the only one that breaks all forms of crowd control immediately.  Nothing else will save you a trip back from resurrection more times then Spirit Walk.

In short, you leave behind an image which has 50% of your hit points.  For two seconds, you can move around unimpeded by enemies, free to cast spells or move about the battlefield and re-position yourself.  If somehow your image is killed in those two seconds, spirit walk immediately ends.  I've had this happen maybe twice in 80 hours of playtime.

Jaunt (Level 23) - Extends the duration of Spirit walk from 2 seconds to 3.  A cool idea, but this is really a learning rune.  Once you get the timing down, the original two seconds will be just fine, leaving you to use a better rune in place of this one.

Honored Guest (Level 29) - Restores 15% of your mana per second.  Useless in a Vision Quest build, which you should have.  Don't worry, we'll cover more about passives in a future guide!

Umbral Shock (Level 38) - When spirit walk ends, your image explodes for a meager 85% weapon damage to everything in 10 yards.  You're much better off just casting a spell or two for 2-4x of the potential damage of this rune.  Cool to see though.

Severance (Level 47) - Causes you to deal 100% weapon damage when you walk through an enemy.  Why on earth would anyone who can do math use this skill?  100% is nothing compared to some other abilities, if you're looking for damage, use an ability or two while spirit walking - like Zombie Bears, or Dire Bats - once during the effect for more damage.

Healing Journey (Level 53) - Heals you 7% of your health per second while spirit walking.  Since you're usually using this skill to prevent a death and make an escape, a little extra healing can't hurt.

Over All - Again, the only absolute must-have skill in the Witch Doctor's arsenal.  Breaks all crowd control and can heal you a little bit as you make your getaway.  15 second cooldown fits right into a Vision Quest build.

Hex - Level 22

15 Second Cooldown
49 Mana

Summons one of the ungodly-strong fetish shaman everyone hated from Diablo 2, Act 3, and causes him to run around for 12 seconds turning enemies into chickens that take more damage and can't do anything but run around helplessly.  Hilarious, and super-useful.

Hedge Magic (Level 26) - Gives you a little healer minion that's available for 12 out of every 15 seconds.  Perfect cooldown length, AND he can even turn rare monsters and ALL bosses EXCEPT for the ones located at the end of every act, into helpless chickens over and over.  So, he's got the best instant-healing, and best crowd control ability at your disposal.  He'll also heal pets and party members, if they need it more than you do.

Jinx (Level 31) - Makes the chickens take 30% additional damage instead of 10%.  Nice, but not very useful.  The target he chickens is random, so the extra 30%, while useful on a boss, isn't useful on a minion.  I'd rather just have the healing - after all, the chicken can't hurt me back, so what if it takes me 5 more seconds to kill it.

Angry Chicken (Level 36) - Proving once again that Blizzard has a sense of humor, this turns you into a chicken bomb and lets you explode on enemies for mediocre damage (215%).  There are skills that you can spam for more damage.  But, it's something everyone should see once, so have fun with it!

Painful Transformation (Level 43) - Not as bad as it sounds initially, it actually will deal some sizable damage over time(12%), but it deals this damage to an enemy that can't fight back, and in doing so loses its ability to heal you.  Once again, who cares if it takes me 2 seconds longer to kill a completely disabled enemy.

Unstable Form (Level 58) - Just useless.  135% weapon damage to everything within 8 yards if you manage to kill the enemy while its still a chicken.  At level 58, 135% weapon damage in a single hit is about half of what you should be looking for in a rune/skill investment.  Stick with the healing.

Over All - I put hex on my hot bar when I got it at level 22 and didn't switch it out until act 2 of Inferno - the healing and crowd control is unparalleled in usefulness.  The only reason it's no longer there is I've substituted some gear and found that the extra heals aren't really necessary, and that chickening one enemy isn't too much of a help anymore, it's best to near-suicide into a pack of rares then try to single out one and get slaughtered when the other two come pounding.  Don't get me wrong, it's still useful even in Inferno, it just doesn't suit my play style any more.

  NOTE: This article was originally featured on - you can find the link to it, as well as many other great Diablo 3 articles, here.