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Hardcore WD guide for beginners

Witch Doctor Class Guide

By littleforce on June 1, 2013

Welcome to HC!

Welcome to my beginners guide to the Hardcore Witch Doctor.  If you're like me, you've probably gotten bored soft core - the lack of challenging gameplay, grinding levels with no real satisfaction, cookie-cutter builds, and ridiculous AH economy.  You've always hated the idea of having to always be careful, scared of a disconnect, and don't want to lose your gear.  

Then you realize that Diablo 3 just isn't fun anymore.  Then you try hardcore, since what the hell, right?  All of a sudden, it feels like the very first time you played the game.  You're tense, on the edge of your seat.  You pick your skills carefully, and pray for good items to drop not so you can throw them on the AH, but so you can put them on yourself.  You analyze enemies.  You even *gasp* retreat after coming up against a scary elite mob.  

You're having fun.  You're emotionally invested in your character.  You think about death, and it weighs on your chest.  Adrenaline surges through you when you see a Act 1 tree.  No more watching tv and grinding Act 3 in the background.  Now you're finally playing.  Welcome to Hardcore.  Enjoy your stay.  Remember, you will die one day.  But until that day...

Why Witch Doctor?

Let's face it - you don't want to die.  And when it comes to not dying, the WD is the king of the hill.  There's no other class with so many survival resources.  It's also an interesting class - high customizability, lots of viable builds and skills, and fun.  You can throw jars of spiders and enemies.  Jars.  Of spiders.  

Build Basics - The stats you NEED

You've just reached lvl 60.  Now you want to farm for end-game gear.  This means Act3 mp0 or Act 1 mp1 minimum difficulty.

The stats I recommend are *my* stats, not THE stats.  How you play hardcore depends largely on how much risk you are willing to take.  I am an CONSERVATIVE player.

You're going to want around 400k ehp.  At this level, you're only really going to be concerned about a few things besides elite/champ mobs.  This is going to be roughly about 50k hp, 3k armor, 600 allres.  Yes, you can farm with a lot less.  Don't tell me about it.  This is just what I recommend.

It's nice that damage is second to ehp for once, it makes gear choices actually difficult and you'll spend a lot of time weighing out options.  Obviously, the more damage, the faster you can farm.  It makes things safer too, since elite mobs won't have as much time to do damage to you.  You'll probably arrive at Inferno with around 30k dps, and you'll want to bring that up to 50k.  More on that later.

So, to summarize, if you have a lot more than:

~400k ehp
50k hp
3k armor
600 allres
50k dps

you probably don't need this guide.  

Active Skills

Let's get started.  You have 6 skill slots to fill. 
  • MANDATORY.  This is your get-out-of-jail-free card.  Your saving grace.  Note: This is not for the movement speed.  If you're impatient, Spirit Walk to go faster, and walk right into a elite mob - you're going to have a bad time.  If it's not up, sit tight until the cooldown finishes.  People loudly complain about dc's killing them, but they're much more quiet about their own impatience killing them.  Use in case of emergencies only.
  • MANDATORY.  Man's best friend.  Dogs give the WD a huge advantage over every other class - they pull aggro like champs.  This means less damage hitting you.  Life Link is an extra 10% mitigation.  Also, they do decent damage and don't ever really die, except to elite packs with ground effects (poison, molten...etc).  
  • Basically a big zombie dog that does more damage.  And it's decent damage too.  Another distraction to keep enemies off you.  Any rune except Wrathful Protector works, but I find that Humungoid is my favorite.  Does pretty well cleaning up trash.  Not as "must have" as zombie dogs, but a nice skill to have. 
  • Where most of your damage will come from.  This is a very large AOE damage spell you can cast from a distance.  Perfect for trash, and lets you keep elites at a distance (they'll engage your dogs).  Acid Rain rune makes farming easy and manageable.  I say this is a MUST HAVE skill.
  • A primary attack should always be on your left mouse button.  Firebomb - Ghost Bomb is the most popular skill, and works well.  This could very easily be substituted for any other primary attack skill.  You won't be using it that much, anyways.  
  • A pretty versatile skill.  Can give your dps a 25-50% boost if you hit 5 enemies with it, and also does substantial damage to enemies around you.  However, it's naturally a close quarters skill, so for new and squishy WD who don't want to run into mob packs I'd recommend passing on this skill.  

Active Skills - Subsitutions

Lots of other skills are viable too, that's what makes this class so much fun!  Let's take a look at other skills you might want to use.
  • But what about bears?  Yes, the big WD dps hitter is here.  Bears are a good skill you can swap with Acid Cloud.  It does more damage, but is harder to use.  Basically, you'll need to be closer.  And positioning is important, hitting targets with bears can be tricky sometimes.  But if you're a WD veteran with a lot of eph, bears work well.  For beginners, stick to Acid Cloud.  
  • Cloud of bats is the most powerful rune, but also requires meeting enemies face-to-face.  Plague Bats work alright too.  My advice?  Try them in a safe environment, see if you like the play style.  I don't really like having to stop to attack, I prefer stutter stepping while attacking, so I don't really use bats much.  I wouldn't take Acid Cloud away for this, maybe switch it with soul harvest.
  • Because you throw a jar filled with spiders.  The spiderling pathing is decent too, they'll go around walls and even offscreen if you throw the jar close enough.  They also prevent mobs from moving if the mobs are surrounded.  I'm not ashamed to throw spiders from one room to another filled with elites.  For those you like the safe route.
  • Apparently procs loh well.  I'm don't really know or use toads much.  But if they're your thing, this is the rune to use.  

Passive Skills

The three I use, then we'll go over other popular choices
  • MANDATORY.  USE IT.  ALWAYS.  This skill gives you a second chance to cheat death.  If you ever have the heart attack of proc'ing this - run away and wait a full minute (or five) to make SURE the cooldown is done.  
  • MANDATORY.  15% damage reduction.  Why wouldn't you use it?
  • Life, mana, and lowers cooldowns.  Not a bad passive.  But also build dependent.  You're going to want a Thing of the Deep to run with this passive, which is going to be expensive if you want a high avg dmg one.  Also, the only skills on cooldown are Spirit Walk and Soul Harvest.  You shouldn't be spamming either, so cooldown reduction isn't that important.  

    If you don't use a Thing of the Deep, I'd suggest taking a look at a different passive.

Passive Skills - Substitutions

For that third slot.
  • The mana cost paid in life is negligible.  The real reason for this passive is life regen.  With 50k hp, that's 1k life per second.  Not shabby.  I use a Ukhaps mojo, so don't see the appeal of Grave Injustice.  This is my third passive of choice, but keep in mind, it's a pure defensive passive.
  • Some bonus dps.  I don't like the inconsistency of it, but no real downside.  
  • Extra mana from your primary attack, which you should be spamming after all your mana runs out using Acid Cloud or Bears.


You're a fresh level 60.  Your gear is crap.  You want Int, Vit, and Allres, but it's not as simple as that.  Here's my gear advice.  First some general stuff, then we'll go slot by slot.

You want to have a goal.  And that goal will include a 4 piece Zunimassa's set.  The bonuses get better and better.  130 int, 55 allres, 20 mana/sec.  You're going to eventually get the mask, chest, boots and ring.  The mojo doesn't come with a natural crit roll, and there are two very good alternatives (Thing of the Deep and Uhkaps).  I bought a starter 4 piece set as cheap as I could get, and it cost almost 70 million gold.  Prices can fluctuate, but for hc they're generally high and don't drop drastically.  

I've seen some people run with Hallowed Defender shields.  I'm not sure about a WD with a shield, but that's a very real possibility.  My advice will be towards someone using a off hand mojo though.  Shields will give a nice ehp boost, but you'll lose out on the average damage increase.  

Your primary weapon.  I prefer the ceremonial knife, and recommend moving up the a Marajuma's Carving Knife whenever you can afford to.  It has natural high crit and life steal, both very nice to have.  Starter ones aren't very expensive, with a 900 dps Knife costing you between 1-3 million gold.  Skorns and 2hXbows are also possible, but less popular since they don't give much defense or crit chance.  

NOTE:  Attack speed is something you don't need.  It's not bad, but doens't add to your true dps and shouldn't be something you look or pay for.  Attack speed simple makes you use up your mana faster, and spend more time waiting for it to regen.  Avoid paying for attack speed.  

Gear in Great Detail

Let's go through piece by piece, starting at the top.

Helm - Zuni's Vision is cheap, you shouldn't have a problem getting one for a few hundred k.  You won't be able to afford crit or allres, so try and get high life %, high int, and either a str or dex roll.  Str is extra armor, and dex up to about 500 will give you significant dodge (up to about 20%).  A double int roll is nice if you can pay a little extra.

Shoulders - hands down, crafted archon shoulders of vitality.  Craft until you get an int + allres roll.  Shouldn't take too many tries.  Shoulders are defense, make sure you have allres.  Armor, life%, and str all are good too, you can settle for little or even no int while you work on other pieces.

Amulet - craft either amulet of vitality or intelligence.  vitality can work for any other hardcore classes.  Either way, you're looking for lots of damage stats here.  The most important stat is probably crit chance.  Crit damage, high int + vit, average damage, life%, allres are all good rolls.  I would settle for anything with crit chance and int/vit (depending on the ammy type) to begin with.  Lots of potential to upgrade along the way.

Chest - You'll want a zuni's marrow.  The cheapest ones are roughly 40m right now, so until you get some gold rolling use rares.  I've heard some good things about crafted chests, but they can be expensive to make.  Simple piece, you just want int, vit, allres (50+) and possibly sockets.  

Gloves - craft int archon gloves.  You want to roll crit chance at a minimum.  After that, look for crit damage, allres, and vit.

Bracers - craft int or vit bracers.  You want allres and either int/vit rolls to start.  After, come back from int/vit/allres/crit chance.

Belt - rare will do.  Look for int, vit, allres, and any other bonus stats (str, armor).  Hint: instead of vit, look up life%.  should save you some money.

Rings - you want a Zuni Pox.  current price, about 30m.  Until then, rares are find.  Rings are extremely flexible, so look for them last to fill in stats your other gear is missing out on.  Also, don't look for trifecta or common popular cominations (ie. int/vit/avg dmg).  If you look for more uncommon combinations, they can be cheaper (i.e. allres/crit dmg/avg dmg).  Try an get at least one crit chance, one crit damage, one avg dmg, and at least one high allres roll between the two rings.  

Pants - high vit, int, allres.  str or armor is a plus.  you won't be able to afford sockets at this point.

Boots - Zuni Trail are about 20m now, so probably get them after the mask.  Until then, you want anything with ms/allres/int/vit.  pretty basic.  Give up int or vit and try to make it up on another piece, this usually saves gold.

Offhand - Thing of the Deeps and Uhkaps are what you're looking for.  Average damage is the most important stat.  These two have natural crit and int rolls, so look for bonus things like mana regen or high dmg to elites.  Focus on avg dmg, you'll eventually want 200+

Main Hand - Manajuma's Carving Knife.  Get the highest dps in your price range, but ones in the 800's are less than a million gold.  The crit dmg and int make up for the lower dps.  If you find a ceremonial knife or rare one hander with 1000+ dps, go with that.  Just keep looking at Carving Knives, and see what's better for your dps. 

Gear Progression

If you're a fresh 60 with all shit gear, here's the basic route of upgrades.  You want to get the cheap stuff first.

1) scrape the gold, and craft 3-5 of each: shoulder, bracers, ammy, gloves.  Pick the best of each batch and deal with it for now.  

2) get a Zuni's Vision for less than a million gold.

3) get the highest dps one handed weapon you can 

4) get any high avg dmg + crit chance mojo 

5) craft some more, pray for an upgrade.

6) upgrade pants and chest, maybe have one focus on vit, one on int.  don't have to get 70+ allres, 50+ is better value.

7) start saving some gold for more zuni pieces, craft for slots if the current piece has 3 or more "useless" rolls (i.e. thorns, mf/gf, single resist..etc)  

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