Thursday, September 10, 2015


I was reading some comments on a thread about Diablo 3 Witch Doctor builds that illustrated how much the average person misunderstands games.  The commenter was complaining about how the best possible Witch Doctor build had become widely known and that there were no creative ways to improve it.  Essentially the best build is using the Helltooth Harness set, doing half of your damage with Wall of Death - Firewall and half with either Zombie Bears or Acid Cloud.  What this commenter, and presumably a lot of other people, wanted was a bunch of tricky ways to make the build even better that the top players were not already using.

For example, I had thought about using the Corpse Bomb rune instead of the Slow Burn rune that everybody at the top is running.  Corpse Bomb does 700% damage up front, while Slow Burn does 300% up front, then 720% over time.  While Slow Burn does more overall, the damage comes in slower and the damage type of Corpse Bomb is more favourable, so there seemed to be a really good argument for doing something different.  After doing some research though, I discovered that Slow Burn puts three puddles on the ground that do that 720% damage, but a monster standing directly in the middle takes damage from all three puddles, ratcheting up the damage over time to 2160%.  This was discovered by people taking videos of a monster taking Slow Burn damage and then watching them on super slow speed to see every tick of damage that landed.  It doesn't matter that much when nuking down a big group of mobs but it is huge when killing a singular boss like a Rift Guardian.

Those people, the ones who will watch videos of their spells at 1 frame per second, are out there.  They are testing absolutely everything to find out how it works, and what strange or buggy behaviour is happening that you could not possibly anticipate from looking at tooltips.  Any normal person is never going to be able to 'discover' some new way of playing that the hardcore people don't.  It can't happen.  There simply aren't enough ways to play.  The number crunchers and video makers and 16 hours a day players will find out everything within a few days and all the casuals (like me, in this case) will just see that all the top players are doing exactly the same thing and wonder why.

I wondered why everyone used Slow Burn when it seemed that I could alter the build a bit to run a Corpse Bomb fire build and be better.  Turns out they weren't all just sheep, or foolish, but rather they were better informed than me.  Some of them were informed by numbers, and some were informed by the fact that when they tried Slow Burn they were able to push one level higher than before.  They didn't care why, they only cared that it worked.

In fact I think the Witch Doctor Helltooth build is actually in a pretty good place in terms of variability.  There are two main nukes you can use with the build and I see top players running both of them.  There are a couple of different primary skills (Pyrogeist, Blazing Spiders) and a pair of different utility skills (Pirahnado, Jinx) you can use depending on your style.  There are nine passives or so that see play depending on your gear and skill choices.

The gear for the spec is pretty much locked in, with only two different weapons, a couple of weapon cube options, and the amulet being flexible.

We all have to face the fact that when there are hundreds of thousands (millions?) of players trying to do the same thing, trying to optimize the same relatively straightforward problem, a very small number of best solutions will arise.  You can't just walk in and expect that you, in your very unique and special snowflakey way, will be able to do something all those other people were not.  Unless you are one of those people who live and breathe that singular thing you really might as well just accept the answers they have derived.

Which does not mean you have to do what they say!  You can play a Corpse Bomb fire build.  It will be fine, and you will totally blow up the enemies with exploding corpses.  But you will only clear level 56 when you could have cleared level 57 if you used the slightly more optimal Slow Burn.  Kill demons with exploding corpses, have fun, but don't get all grumpy when you find that your custom build isn't as good as the build that all of the madmen have discovered.  Thankfully, it doesn't need to be.

(I am totally going to run a Corpse Bomb fire build, btw!)

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