How to select skills freely in Diablo 3

It’s another month and like clockwork Markco over at the Diablo 3 Goldguide has another one of his Diablo 3 Blogging Carnivals. This time around he’s asking us to answer a question we got from Diablo 3 players. As I’d already planned to cover the topic I’ll be writing about in one of my posts, that one’s a no brainer for me. The question I’ve by been asked (or told about) the most by now is: “Can I choose my character’s skills freely?”

Short answer: Of course you can! To streamline the whole skill thingy, Blizzard introduced the concept of skill categories halfway through the beta.Naturally people were instantly angered by the fact that their choice in skills would be limited by this. What most didn’t see, was that at the same time the Diablo 3 developers introduced an option called “Elective mode”. Elective mode allows you to freely choose which skill goes into which slot. And here’s how you activate it:

I – Press Esc and select “Options”

II – Go to the “Gameplay” tab and check the box “Elective mode”

III – Switch through the categories and choose skills freely

So there you have it. With this little change to Diablo 3 you can have as many mantras on your monk as you want (although you still can only have one active), play your demon hunter without any (or just) hatred generators, have just defensive cooldowns for your barbarian, take all your pets on your witch doctor’s journey, or play your wizard without any secondary spells like Arcane Orb. Especially once you reach Level 60 and don’t want to lose stacks of your “Nephalem Valor” by changing skills, this one might come in handy when creating the perfect all-round build.

As with a lot of things this one seems pretty trivial to people who’ve been playing and following Diablo 3 for some time, but even some of my crewmates didn’t know about this until they started wondering how they could copy builds posted on sites like Diablo 3 Builds. Enjoy the choices this’ll give you.

I actually like creating small guides like this. Do you have questions I could try to answer or stuff you’d like to see small guides about? Leave me a comment.

Dark and deadly – the Demon Hunter

So far I’ve been pretty underwhelmed with what Blizzard did with the Demon Hunter. Compared to classes like the Barbarian and the Wizard, her gameplay feels a little bit off. That doesn’t mean the Demon Hunter doesn’t have a special place in my heart. I am totally into both her visual style and overall class concept. I just hope that, with a few tweaks here and there, they’ll manage to get her just right before the game gets released.

The Demon Hunter has two resources. The fast regenerating Hatred and the slow regenerating Discipline. Her abilities come in three flavors. We got Hatred Generators, Hatred Spenders and Discipline based abilities. I looked for:

  1. a single target Hatred Generator
  2. a single target Hatred Spender
  3. a travel ability (cause you can’t just not have one)
  4. some utility and buffs/debuffs

On my first visit to the skill section, I considered “Grenades“. But I couldn’t picture my Demon Hunter permanently throwing stuff, instead of just shooting the crap out of everything. With just 6 active skills, there isn’t any room for 2 Hatred Generators – so Grenades got the axe. I also liked the idea of dropping a “Sentry“, just to let it mess with all the baddies while I was busy focus firing stuff. Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice it for the benefit of more single target badassery. What I ended up with was a Discipline heavy, critical hit based build. Let’s have a look at it.

If you’re looking for straightforward single target damage, “Hungering Arrow” is your Hatred Generator. Paired with “Impale“, a no-funny-business single target Hatred Spender, you got your left-click/right-click damage routine all set up. On a successful crit, the Alabaster runes we put in both of them will provide AoE damage on the former, and extra damage on the latter. Most of “Vault“s runestones are pretty gimmicky. While Indigo and Golden both offer us more travel distance, “Acrobatics” (Indigo) takes us 25 yards further. Unfortunately, “Shadow Power” stays active for just 8 seconds. But with the lowered Discipline costs of “Well of Darkness” (Golden) we should be able to recast it at least a few times. I am still not sure about the rune selection for “Marked for Death“. “Grim Reaper” (Crimson) brings some additional AoE without sacrificing single target damage, giving us exactly the collateral damage we look for. Both “Valley of Death” (Obsidian) and “Contagion” (Indigo) provide us with a form of AoE Debuff that makes it unnecessary for us to cast the debuff again after our victim’s death. Especially the valley would be quite handy, as the enemies should be all in one spot anyways. What I miss with both of them is the actual marking the spell does for you – simplifying target selection for the whole crew. Last but not least is “Preparation“. Discipline starts at 30 points. Recasting “Shadow Power” will deplete our Discipline reserves pretty fast, and a complete “Invigoration” (Indigo), bringing us up to 42 Discipline again, should come in handy.

We decided to go a crit heavy route with taking Alabaster runes in both our Hatred abilities and “Shadow Power” and our marks need a steady supply of Discipline. So we’ll try to build our passives around that. “Sharpshooter” constantly increases our crit chance, while “Night Stalker” gives us back one point of Discipline with every crit we make. Combined with the reduced Discipline costs from “Perfectionist“, we should be peachy.

You can find the full Diablo 3 Demon Hunter Inferno Farm Build here

So we know what Gunvar, our friendly Barbarian is doing. But what about “Cassandra, the deadly Demon Hunter”? When the combat started, we had full Health, Hatred and Discipline. About two minutes earlier we clicked our Preparation, bringing our starting Discipline to a neat 42 points. The moment Gunvar’s shout is coming in, we mark a focus for everyone and cast Shadow Power. Being at 24 Discipline, we go with a few Impales, until our Hatred drops below 25. We switch to our arrows and alternate between both abilities. Eight seconds into the fight our buff drops, getting renewed at 9 – bringing us to 11 Discipline. At 16, our mark dies and we need another target (6 Discipline). At 17, we mark another target, before we pop Preparation at 18 and follow up buffing us again. Now it’s just renewing our selfbuff on 27, 36 and 45, while marking one more target at 42. This brings us to a total auf 44 Discipline. The 2 points we miss should be covered be natural Discipline regeneration. If we’re lucky and get 13 crits in those 30 seconds after Preparation, we might just be able to cast a last Shadow Power. Even if not, the Buff will be active for most of the fight.

The Demon Hunter relies a lot more on timing and coordination than our Barbarian. On the other hand, she doesn’t have to bind or control opponents – so with a little bit of training she should be fine. We should also keep in mind, that this routine isn’t something that’s supposed to be done for hours on end. It’s just for specific mob packs. What do you think? Are my calculations correct? Did I miss a skill? Are there cooler runestones I could use? As always I am waiting for your comments.

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Center of the action – the Barbarian

The Barbarian will be the center of our group. He’ll be our shot caller and the first person to engage our enemies. At first, I went through the spells and simply jotted down the ones sounding crisp – ending up with way too many. So I went through the list again, this time looking for:

  1. a decent opener I can use at the start of the fight
  2. a basic attack to smash the shit out of whatever we’re focussing
  3. “long cd, tremendous effect” spells
  4. useful buffs and debuffs

This brought me down to eight spells. Being able to take six abilities, I only had to get rid of two more. With “Bash” and “Frenzy“, I had two Fury Building Basic attacks. While “Bash” might generate 3 more Fury and deal 45% more damage than the first Frenzy hits, Frenzy builds itself up to a neat ~5 Fury and about 175% dmg (+75% attack speed = 75% more attacks = 75% more damage) within 5 hits. This, combined with the fact, that I wouldn’t have to remove the knockback effect of “Bash” via runestone, made me give “Frenzy” a go. Second ability that got scrapped was “Ignore Pain“. Although it’s a decent ability, with its 5 seconds active time (3.5 runed, with “Mob Rule”), it’s simply too short to be more than an “Oh Shit” button.

We just have one opener to choose from – and it’s excellent. “Leap Attack“, becoming “Call of Arreat” with a Crimson Runestone will not just catapult us into the middle of the action, but it’ll draw all opponents within 33.8 yards towards us, generating 15 Fury. Cast just a moment before you engage, “War Cry” grants you 30 additional Fury and buffs you and your party with 100% armor and 50% resistance against everything (Obsidian – “Impunity”) for the whole fight, with the possibility of an additional 30 Fury after 30 seconds. I already talked about “Frenzy“. With a Crimson Rune, it becomes “Maniac” and gives us an additional 15% damage per stack – lovely. With “Frenzy” fuelling it, you should have no problem recasting “Threatening Shout” every 30 seconds. Depending on the mob behaviour, you could settle for either a “Demoralize” (Crimson) to taunt the group or “Terrify” (Obsidian) for a 16% chance to loot additional shinies. For a whopping 1200% of 18 yards AoE(!) damage, we’ll throw in an “Earthquake“. All runestone effects seem small compared to the base effect, but by choosing either Alabaster or Obsidian, we could add some more damage. Or free up a Passive slot by taking Golden’s cost reduction. After throwing some numbers back and forth, “Insanity” (Crimson) makes a lot more sense on our last spell, “Wrath of the Berserker“, than “Thrive on Chaos” (Golden) would with it’s three to five more seconds duration. The Spell’s our 15 seconds “click and forget” harder, better, faster, stronger buff.

With “Unforgiving” and enough preparation, we’ll start the fight with full Fury. If not, we have two Fury generators that should close the gap. “Inspiring Presence” doubles our “Threatening Shout” duration, having to remember it just once every 30 seconds, and gives us some handy life reg. With “Animosity” now, we’re ignoring the 10% Fury generation increase, but take it for the 20 extra max Fury we gain from it – bringing us to exactly the 120 Fury we need for a nice and smooth start.

You can find the full Diablo 3 Barbarian Inferno Farm Build here

The whole idea is to get a build that maximises damage by utilizing buffs, debuffs and long cd’s and therefore, not requiring too much skill alternation. But how will this look? Well – let’s see.

Our Barbarian friend and his crew encounter an unsuspecting group of blue mobs. They’re all at full health and aside from the Barbarian, all their resources are at max. Our friend “Gunvar the Barbarian” mentally prepares himself for battle, waiting until his Fury has replenished up to 75 points. He lets out a War Cry and leaps into the group of enemies, drawing them all in. With a Threatening Shout, he lowers the incoming damage, moments before an Earthquake shakes the ground, damaging every enemy around him. After casting Wrath of the Berserker, he starts focussing down his opponents one by one in a Frenzy. This is only interrupted by a leap every 10 seconds and the recast of Threatening Shout at the 30 second mark. Our Passives give us the 120 Fury we need to cast all our spells in the beginning. After that, the Fury generation from Frenzy will be enough to fuel another shout.

I am thinking about putting in a decent Fury spender, as I see Fury ramping up pretty quickly and staying at 100%. Maybe “get” the 20 Fury from Earthquake’s Golden cost reduction and take “Berserker Rage” instead of “Animosity“? What do you think? Leave me a comment.

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Diablo 3 Endgame/Inferno Group Farming Builds

A lot of people seemed to like my post regarding skills. This time, I went a little further and created both a viable endgame group farm scenario, as well as the builds I deem most useful to beat it. This will be a five part mini series, hopefully allowing me to release more articles within a shorter time frame – which I won’t be able to, with the research time that goes into those articles, otherwise.

The setting

Apart from farming bosses, named (blue and yellow) groups of mobs will be your primary target, when it comes to farming. Blizzard plans to make them the main source of fantastic drops. Of course, you’ll have to find them, but that’s something we’ll talk about later. For now, we’ll assume we found a group. It’s a blue, heavy hp / heavy dmg, 5 mob group, carrying the suffix “enchanted”, accompanied by a decent amount of regular trash. The strategy of our setup will be to single target brute force the whole thing. I’ve always been a fan of well executed “all or nothing” encounters. Like Vaelastrasz or Staghelm. That’s what we’ll focus on here.

We’re assuming there’s been fights before. Resources and cooldowns had enough time to charge, recharge, or get ready again. We’ll assume the fight takes around 60 seconds. Taking into consideration the AoE damage from secondary spell effects and misfired spells, we’re also assuming that enemies will go down 16, 30, 42, 52 and 60 seconds into the fight.

Of course, there’s only room for 4 people in a group. I am totally aware of that. But for the sake of usability – and because there might be people out there who actually like the Witch Doctor – I will include every class in this article.

Part 1 – The Barbarian

Part 2 – The Demon Hunter

Part 3 – The Wizard

Part 4 – The Monk

Part 5 – The Witch Doctor

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Simple Diablo 3 Class Spell Synergy

After a few weeks of abstinence, we jumped back into the Beta yesterday. A fair amount of stuff has been changed since the start and so it was time to reevaluate some of the curves and mechanics. When we discussed group composition we started thinking about possible spell synergies – and realized we didn’t have a clue. So I went over to Blizzard’s Official Website and looked at the spells and their Runestone variations, to find those especially beneficial to group play.

What qualifies as synergetic

There’re a lot of different effects you can use to aid you in bringing pain to your foes. But I didn’t look for AoE, Direct Damage, Crowd Control, or DoTs while scanning through the spell database. I focused on the group wide buffs or debuffs. Why do I consider them synergetic? Well that’s easy.

Let’s have a look at something simple like the Demon Hunter’s “Marked for Death”. If you are soloing your way through D3, there’re just a few occasions you wanna use this skill. Mainly bossfights. It gives a 20% damage increase to one person. Thanks to the 300% Buff to Enemy Health in full groups, even blue or yellow enemies put up quite a fight. Here, the Mark not just helps focusing enemies by visually marking it. The 20% damage buff to the whole group, instead of just one character, ends up being a huge amount of extra damage. That’s what I call Synergy.

So without further ado I present to you the Top Five Classes – from worst to best – when it comes to Synergy / Group Play:

Number 5 – The Demon Hunter

With just two active and one passive Synergy Skills that are all earned after level 20, the Demon Hunter earns the last spot in our Ranking. We start with “Sentry” at 21. Both “Guardian Turret” and “Aid Station” provide some decent bonuses, shielding or healing the party. At 23, we get the aforementioned “Marked for Death“, adding a decent 20% of damage dealt to the target. So far “Contagion” (Indigo) sounds like the best upgrade for party play, as it’ll speed up the farming of named groups a lot by spreading the Mark to another five targets after death. As Passive, we get a decent “Custom Engineering“, buffing the duration of the previous abilities.

Number 4 – The Witch Doctor

The WD’s “Hex” not only disables your enemies, but also adds 20% to their received damage – 50% if you use an Alabaster Rune to convert it to “Jinx”. Pretty awesome – but the shaman’s target is chosen at random and it has to be recast pretty often.  A “Mass Confusion” lets your enemies attack each other, while “Paranoia” (Crimson) adds another 30% of damage. With “Big Bad Voodoo” you’ll get a local movement- and attack speed buff. If you add some Runestone mojo, you’ll either get 30% damage with “Slam Dance” (Crimson), or an area heal with “Ghost Trance” (Obsidian). Here, it’s the passive “Tribal Rites” that decreases the cooldowns of “Hex” and the “Voodoo”.

Number 3 – The Wizard

The Wizard needs Runestones to get any Synergy at all. “Frostnova“, which you get at Level 2, becomes “Bonechill” with the help of a Crimson Runestone, putting a 35% damage bonus on its victims. “Slow Time” on its own creates a zone, that debuffs your enemies. As “Stretch Time” (Alabaster), or “Time Warp” (Crimson), it additionally offers an attack speed buff, or a 30% damage enhancement. Our third active spell is the level 24 “Familiar“, becoming a 30% general damage buff as “Sparkflint” thanks to a Crimson Rune. The Wizard’s the first class to have a direct synergetic passive Skill with “Conflagration“, granting 15% damage increase on affected targets.

Number 2 – The Barbarian

The Barbarian’s party abilities are mostly about damage reduction and utility. While “Threatening Shout” lowers the damage of attackers by 50% for 15 seconds, the “Mob Rule” (Obsidian) version of “Ignore Pain” lowers incoming damage by 65% for 5 seconds. With “War Cry” buffing the party’s armor, there’ll be a lot of damage mitigation. The “Force March” (Golden version of “Sprint“) ability then gives us a movement speed buff for a few seconds. “Inspiring Presence” passively buffs both our “Threatening Shout” and “War Cry”.

Number 1 – The Monk

While the first four places are pretty much my subjective opinion based on levels the spells are gained and effects, no one will be able to argue against our winner. With a clear margin, the Monk is the Gosu of Groupplay, our Saint of Synergy, the Master of Marvellousness. If you want to play with others, you’ll want to play – or play with – a Monk.

Although you can only have one of them active at any given time, Mantras are kick-ass. Starting with “Mantra of Evasion“, over to “Mantra of Retribution“, “Mantra of Healing” and “Mantra of Conviction” they are your premium shiny gotta-love-em damage/healing/utility auras for every situation. While solo and duo play won’t need much healing, in bigger groups every bit of extra health will be appreciated. Here, our Monk can pitch in with “Breath of Heaven“, “Cyclone Strike“‘s “Soothing Breeze” (Obsidian), “Inner Sanctuary“‘s “Safe Haven” (Golden) and the “Tranquility” (Golden) provided by “Serenity“. As if that wouldn’t be enough, “Breaking Wave” (the Alabaster version of “Crippling Wave“), “Exploding Palm“‘s “The flesh is weak” (Obsidian) and “Circle of Protection” (Inner Sanctuary with Obsidian flavor) offer two outgoing damage buffs and an incoming damage debuff.  And just because you’re the Monk and people love you, you get two Passives that support group play. While “Chant of Resonance” buffs the duration of your Mantras, “Guiding Light” applies a damage buff every time you directly heal someone.

I gotta be honest. I wasn’t a massive fan of the Monk before. I always thought it was lacking something. But when I look at its party synergy, I don’t think I’d leave the house without one. What do you think? Did I misjudge some of the capabilities? Did I miss a spell? Leave me a comment.