Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Some thoughts on the Witch Doctor

My first (and so far only) character to level 60 in d3 is the Witch Doctor. Back in d2 I always preferred the Necromancer, and so I chose the Witch Doctor because it seemed like the most similar option, what with the pet handling and everything, one of the features I loved most about the Necromancer. I have mainly been playing the game co-op, and up until Inferno the Witch Doctor-Monk combo that I have been playing has worked awesomely. We've seemed to compliment eachothers weaknesses, making most encounters a breeze. Up until now I haven't really tried any other class except Barbarian, and seeing what a Demon Hunter and Monk can do. Compared to these classes I think Witch Doctors are ok, but they seem to suffer from one huge issue - they're considered a ranged class but many of their skills, if not a majority, require you to be pretty dang close to the enemy to be able to use. My main issue right now is trying to survive mobs that two-shot me, mobs I'd rather not be anywhere close to. The difference in survivability between me and my Monk bf is huge, I can easily die five times more often than him on most elites eventhough he is right up there in the fray with them, and I am trying to keep melee range to a minimum. We have similar stats, I have a lot more resistances and he has the 25% damage reduction from being a melee class (that I heard they were going to remove?). Why is the difference so huge?

Yes, I am pink for the achievement.

I definitely enjoy playing my Witch Doctor, but I am not sure it's the class I am going to enjoy playing the most overall. Most of the WD skills and spells are interesting, fun and original, but then there are a couple that just are a little bit too weird to feel useful. This is not me saying they don't have a use or that they're bad, but like I don't really get how to use them. Plague of Toads is such a skill. I am certain they have their areas of use, but most of the time I just don't see the point of having a handful of toads jumping around doing some slow ass damage right around my feet. Again, I do not want to have to stand right next to the mobs to be able to do damage to them. Other skills are quite enjoyable, like Flashbomb. Seeing that thing jump around wrecking havoc on unsuspecting jars and urns with the Flash Fire rune just never gets boring.

I am also disappointed about the fact that the pets quickly lose their usefulness as the difficulty level of the game increases. I know having a pet is a huge advantage, not so much for their damage but for the fact that they avert attention from the mobs, but making them basically useless towards the end of the game did not make me too happy.

At the moment I am struggling to find a balance between enough cc, enough aoe damage and enough single target damage. In normal, nightmare and hell difficulty it often sufficed to just switch skills before a boss fight to whatever suited that fight, but I find that in Inferno I constantly feel like I need more of everything - more cc, more aoe and more single target damage. And definitely more of any skill that will heal me. Which is another issue, because when I use runes that allow skills to heal me, it often means sacrificing damage or even worse, mana regen runes. I have serious issues with ooming, all the time.

The core concept of attacking and moving with the same key, or mouse button, is something that is starting to become a big problem as well. You can use a key to make sure you attack rather than move, but now I feel like what I really need is something that allows me to move instead of attacking, or preferrably move while attacking with my mouse button attack. At the moment I am having too many situations where I furiously scream at my own character to move the fuck out of fire, and when fire kills me in two shots that quickly becomes  extremely frustrating. I have already moved around my "stand still" button, because using shift was cramping up my little finger. Unfortunately it seems like Move/Interact/Primary Skill are locked to left mouse-button, but I have to figure something out because it isn't working the way it is now.

Let's take a look at the skills;

Poison Darts - I am quite fond of this skill, and it seems to be one of the skills that most people use, but at the moment I am choosing to use the Corpse Spiders instead because I have noticed that mobs sometimes attack the spiders instead of me and that is priceless. Also the spiders seek out mobs and don't require much aiming, which is great when I run around screaming like a headless chicken. Although a headless chicken probably wouldn't do much screaming...

Grasp of the Dead - Using the rune that adds extra slowing to this skill, this skill has saved my ass countless of times. It has a short cooldown and doesn't cost too much mana, allowing me to kite around mobs and/or flee from them when needed, and trust me, it is needed.

Corpse Spiders - One of the skills I currently use. It has served me very well all through Nightmare and Hell, but now I consider using the Poison Darts for more damage instead.

Zombie Dogs - Very useful throughout Normal and Nightmare, mostly because they kept the mobs off my ass. In Hell and Inferno I find that they die way too fast for me to want to use them unfortunately. They also have a tendency to pull things I'm not ready to fight yet, something that can be disastrous in Inferno.

Firebats - Some people seem to really like this skill, but I think it is clunky and difficult to use compared to other skills. It does deal a lot of damage, but it is difficult to aim and I usually prefer the aoe skills or single target skills instead, this is some sort of inbetween that just doesn't work for me.

Horrify - One of my favorite skills, and another that has saved me countless times. Most things seem to be fearable, unlike in many rpgs where special skills just don't seem to work against special mobs (yes Final Fantasy, I am looking at you).

Soul Harvest - I really liked this skill, and used it throughout all of Nightmare and most of Hell until having to run into melee range became too much of an issue and I tried to get skills that would avoid that. All that extra damage is great of course, a full stack can increase my dps my a thousand last time I looked (not to mention the extra resistance), but having to stick out my neck like that to get it was getting very uncomfortable.

Plague of Toads - Like mentioned, this skill really never hit home with me. It's stiff and weird to use, and I've mostly avoided it since the first time I got it. If you know I am wrong about this skill and feel it deserves a second chance, becomes some skills become more or less valuable depending on what you're fighting, give me a shout.

Haunt - This used to be one of my "use when fighting bosses" skills, alternating with Spirit Barrage. All through Nightmare and Hell I prioritized aoe skills when on the maps but now I am feeling like Haunt is becoming more and more valuable. I can set it to heal me and place it on several mobs which gives me a small, but desperately needed income of healing.

Sacrifice - This is one of the skills I have yet to fully understand the usefulness of. I realize it is best coupled with passives that spawn Demon Dogs and the Summon Demon Dogs skill, but I just don't see how a skill that requires me to have so many other skills can be any kind of useful compared to everything else I have to choose from. Sure it deals a lot of damage, but surely the overall dps can't be very high? someone who can explain this one for me?

Zombie Charger - I found that the usefulness of this one was quite dependant on which rune you decide to use. The original zombie charger isn't very good, being slow and difficult to aim. The Explosive Beast and Zombie Bears rune however are quite good, if pure damage is what you're after. Zombie Bears was one of my favorite skills throughout Hell.

Spirit Walk - Definitely one of the skills which usefulness changes depending on difficulty. Not very useful in Normal and Nightmare, I find this to be a must have in Hell and Inferno. I couldn't even say how many times this has saved me, and with either the mana regen or life regen rune this is priceless.

Spirit Barrage - Much used by me in boss fights, like mentioned I often used this or Haunt. Both Spirit Barrage and Haunt are comfortable in that they travel big distances and aren't bothered by obstacles, which is quite handy.

Gargantuan - I loved my Gargantuan all through Normal and Nightmare, then in the beginning of Hell I noticed him dying way too often, making him more on cooldown than actually in field. It is a shame, and I miss him dearly.

Firebomb - One of my favorite skills, especially with the Flash Fire rune which allows you to smoothly off-shoot mobs while targeting a main target. This proved especially useful on bosses that summon adds, where I can just focus on the boss mainly while my Firebomb jumped around wreaking havoc everywhere. The only reason I am not using it at the moment is because I have to find a mana regen skill to replace my spiders. And using Spiders and Firebomb simultaneously doesn't seem like it would work well either, but hey, it might.

Locust Swarm - I am worried Locust Swarm is one of those skills that is amazing but that I just haven't been able to handle properly and therefor dismissed as a pretty bad looking skill. My problem with it is the range and targetability, I just can't get it to do what I want. Another issue with it is that I can't really see where it is either, and the fact that D3 lacks a UI for dots placed on mobs (as far as I know anyway) I suspect that I recast this more often than needed or maybe not as often as needed just because I don't know if it is up where I want it or not.

Acid Cloud - Heavily used by me throughout Nightmare and Hell, it is still one of my favorite skills. Very good targetability and aoe damage, I especially enjoy that it follows a target ever when the target teleports or is knocked away (yes I am looking at you Monk) right at the same moment that I am casting the skill. The biggest drawback is that it uses a lot of mana, and now that two casts of this baby no longer wipes out a group I find myself too oomed to be able to use this as I used to.

Hex - Another skill that has saved me countless times. I love the fact that elites and even invulnerable minions are hexable. Sometimes my little fetish seems to get stuck in thought and not engage in combat properly, otherwise this is an amazing skill. At the moment I am alternating between this and Horrify, using the Hedge Magic rune. The heal is quite minor however so I might check out other options for this skill.

Mass Confusion - I'd love this skill if it wasn't for the long cooldown. Even with the rune that lowers the cooldown to 45 seconds rather than 60 I find it too long to be as useful as other skills I am currently using.

Big Bad Voodoo - BBV suffers from the same issue as Mass Confusion, with the cooldown being too long for me to want to use it anywhere but for very specific fights. The buff does up my and my bfs dps by a thousand each, but it is not only with a cooldown but also in a limited area. I'd definitely prefer this skill a lot more if it was an aura rather than an area.

Wall of Zombies
- One of my favorite skills, not only does it deal a good amount of damage, but it also prevent those nasty mobs from reaching me for a short period of time, if placed properly. I have a few issues with Wall of Zombies, none of which have turned out to be big problems. First of all, it is stationary, so if my Monk bf decides to do a knock-away just as I cast this he might very well have wasted that entire cast for me. That could be solved with some better communication between us, possibly. Secondly, there is no way for me to decides in which direction it gets placed, meaning it can randomly decide to go in a direction that is more or less useful. Most of the time it does what I want it to however.

Fetish Army - I've tried to use this from time to time, but I don't feel like the damage warrants the cooldown. Eventhough having a bunch of fetishes running around dealing damage can be useful, especially since it doesn't really require me to think to do damage, I actually prefer having a little more control over my damage, especially now in Inferno. Maybe this is yet another misunderstood skill, but I feel like there are a lot of other skills more useful than this.

That's it for the active skills. Since I don't want to exhaust you too much, I will leave the passive ones for my next post, along with what will probably be a lot of whining about how frustrating Inferno is. Until I find that balance of skills, and possibly better gear, it is almost more frustrating than fun at the moment. Any suggestions or thoughts on what skills to use are very welcome.


  1. Actually, you can bind "move" to a key in the options so you can just move instead of starting to attack by accident. For example, I use space bar.

    1. Yeah I found it and will be trying it out, hopefully that will make it a little easier to survive.

    2. Patch 1.0.3 is also reducing Inferno Act 2,3,4 mob damage. So, I guess that will make it easier to survive as well.

  2. Thanks for the post! I love the ambiance of the witch doctor. The weird summoned pets, the off-hand fetishes, spirit walking out of fights while the enemies attack your shadow.

    However, I have found the moves very hard to understand how to use. Your breakdown is much appreciated.

    Meanwhile, I've been playing a ton of barbarian, which is rather simpler to understand.

  3. Our friendly neighbourhood gaming boy recommends Gigant Fire Bat as the holy grail of WD skills. Don't know if he's told you that in private yet but I did tell him to tell you. =)

  4. OK so I haven't played a which doctor yet. What skills should I start out with?

    1. For a Normal run I definitely liked the pets (Zombie Dogs and Gargantuan). What you want to use is quite dependant on your level however, for instance Firebomb is very useful once you get the Flash Fire rune, but before then I would probably go with Poison Dart (splinters rune). Grasp of the Dead is another recommendation, with the extra damage rune, also Acid Cloud with extra range rune. It also depends on your game style, so play around a little. Personally I preferred pets and aoe skills for the easier difficulties.