Thursday, April 3, 2014

On being a Witch Doctor and gearing up

The Diablo 3 expansion has really improved the overall experience of the game, particularly when it comes to farming speed and gearing up.  It used to be that gear scaled exponentially due to how everything multiplies together and the difference between someone with weak gear and someone with top end gear was utterly absurd.  I remember looking at my character at one point after doing quite a lot of farming and seeing 23k Damage and figuring that the best players in the world must have maybe 50k, or even 100k.  It turns out the actual answer was more like 450k.  That is, I was doing 5% of their damage and finding half of the stuff they were per kill due to me having low Magic Find.

The new gearing model is hugely better for a few reasons.  Firstly the powerful stats that strongly affect damage and toughness are restricted to four per item and items regularly have four powerful stats.  Secondly with the new ability to change one of the stats to a new one it is drastically easier to get a really good item.  The perfect item with everything maximized and an item that is reasonably easy to attain simply aren't that different anymore, so it is fairly quick and easy to get a character geared up to be able to play on the fifth difficulty setting where the good drops are all available and then gearing up suddenly gets a lot slower.

This much flatter gear model seems excellent to me.  It gives a very reasonable way for a new player to play along with friends who are veterans and still feel relevant.  There is still plenty of progression beyond that point but the upgrades are generally much smaller and extremely random because they are based on finding legendary items with crazy bonuses that are both cool and very unpredictable.  I think Blizzard has done a great job at setting a baseline that everyone can get to without worrying much about luck and making sure that people running that baseline have a solid experience.

So far I have found three different Witch Doctor builds that I like and they require very different gearing strategies.  One is a traditional nuker with a couple pets as blockers and this is by far my current favourite.  I am tough and do plenty of damage.  (Vampire bats, Spirit Barrage - Manitou, 2x pets, and cooldowns)  One real sour note is that the other build I was leaning towards doesn't work because Witch Doctor pets are bugged and don't benefit from Critical Damage.  This ends up halving their damage and so a pets and dots focused build is inferior at the moment.

However, there is a completely nutty build that tries to push cooldown reduction to the maximum in order to maintain nearly 100% uptime of four amazing cooldowns and in a group situation it looks to be completely insane.  It should be able to keep half the enemies mind controlled all the time, keep all enemies taking 20% more damage, boost allies to have 20% more attack speed and 30% more damage, and be amazingly tough as well as supplying 12 blockers to keep enemies tied up.  I wouldn't even have an attack spell on my bar with this build so it would need friends around to be useful but I would certainly be a popular sort of person.

The best metric to my mind is that I am constantly thinking of new approaches I should be taking and new builds that particular drops will make work.  If a game is keeping me up at night thinking about optimization something has to be going right.


  1. "It used to be that gear scaled exponentially due to how everything multiplies together."

    I'm doubtful.

    If it's damage*crit chance that's quadratic (x^2)
    If it's damage*crit chance*crit damage that's (x^3)
    damage*crit chance*crit damage*attack speed (x^4)
    damage*crit chance*crit damage*attack speed*fire damage (x^5)

    But all of these are polynomial. I'm trying to imagine what damage formula would be exponential (2^x).

  2. Argh, you are correct. Very powerful polynomial scaling, not exponential.