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Witch Doctor - my experience from beta

Witch Doctor or Shaman immediately associates with Diablo 2's Necromancer class. When considering the arsenal of his skills, this comparison seems quite obvious. It ranges from summoned creatures, through destructive magics of poison and spirit realm, up to powerful curses. Resource used for casting Shaman's spells is Mana, similar to the previous parts of the Diablo series. Utilizing this resource, however, is different from what we have seen in D1 or D2. Majority of spells can't be spammed due to their high cost and limited resource. These spells are much more powerful though. Generally, spells that can be used freely and without delay are those of the first group. This first group has been named Primary – not very original.

When it comes to pvp gameplay, the only primary skill thats seems to be of any use is Poison Dart modified by Splinters or Flaming Dart rune, which increase the raw damage output of this spell. Other spells of this group seem to be less helpful in pvp because both Corpse Spiders and Plague of Toads are too slow and secondly, these spells are better suited to taking out great number of enemies at once because of their area-of-effect capability. There is also a Firebomb spell, but like the previous two, it seems to be easy to predict and thus avoid by your opponent.

The other group of spells (bearing similarly not very original name) are the Secondary spells. It gets interesting here, because every single spell of this group looks like it can be of use in pvp.

Grasp of the Dead apart from it's damage can also slow your opponents down – which is useful against such classes as Monk or Barbarian. Rune modifications for this spell include raw damage buff, increase of the slow's percentage or cast time reduction.

Firebats is a spell that provides massive damage in exchange of relatively large mana cost. What I'm interested in, is this spell's mechanics after its been modified by Hungry Bats rune. The tooltip says that this spell will now become a homing missile and will acquire, then search and destroy it's target. This is similar to Necromancer's Bone Spirit spell and those who played Necromancer in D2 will definitely love this spell.

The other two spells of this group are somehow similar to one another because they are DOTs (damage over time), thus being spells that deal damage over an extended period of time (x seconds). We cast such spell on our opponent and they keep receiving damage from it even when you decide to spam other abilities in the meantime.

So for example Haunt spell looks interesting when combined with Grasping Spirit rune, which slows your opponent down by 30% (providing a kind of permanent slow for your opponent). In my opinion, this is heavy against Monks and Barbarians.

The last spell of this group – Locust Swarm, when improved by Draining Spirit rune, becomes the strongest DOT in Shaman's arsenal.

Obviously apart from simply unloading damage on our opponents we need some survivability and here comes the next group of spells – Defensive.

Summon Zombie Dogs will probably be useless in pvp if the “doggies” are as weak as in beta, as they can be cut down by any decent spell/ability. The worst part is that this spell can be cast once in 60 seconds so if the dogs die, we just lost a spell in our 60 second window. Not a very good perspective I would say.

The most useful spell in this group seems to be Horrify. It's a cc kind of spell (crowd control), and this kind of spell “incapacitates” our opponents. When combined with Frightening Aspect rune – our armor gets increased by 100%.

Next comes Spirit Walk. Casting this spell makes us immune to immobilize effects. It's usefulness will be determined by the fact if this spell can be cast while already immobilized. If not, there is no use for it in pvp I think.

I'm skipping Hex spell because, as tooltip suggests, this spell can be used in pvm/pve only.

The next group of spells in Shaman's arsenal are Terror spells. I believe this groups is the weakest in terms of pvp and seeps rather poor in terms of number (only 3 spells). To me, Sacrifice spell is useless. It detonates all of our Zombie Dogs, provided our opponent has not done it so far.

Soul Harvest is also a medicore spell, as it's range is small and secondly, in pvp a single opponent can be affected only by 1/5 of the spells power. When combined with Vengeful Spirit rune the damage is rather low. The other possibility is to improve it by Languish rune – giving the spell a 3 second slow. All in all, not a very strong pvp option.

There is one more spell in this group called Confusion. Casting this on a group of opponents makes them instantly attack one another. So what does this spell do when we are faced with a single opponent? I'm not sure this spell will work in pvp, but if so, how?

Yet another group of spells goes by the name of Decay.

Zombie Charger will probably serve as a nuke spell (if we didn't already get a spell from the Secondary tab ex. Firebats). This combined with Zombie Bears rune will do even more damage. The answer to how useful this spell will be depends on the animation speed.

Next one is Spirit Barrage and looks very interesting when improved by Manitou rune. It's because it will have a similar to Mage's Storm Armor, shooting automatically generated bolts if your opponent happens to get too close to you.

Acid Cloud serves as more of a pve/pvm spell because of it's large area of effect. Useful, but I think Spirit Barrage will do a better job here.

The last one of this group – Wall of Zombies – is well known from the previous part of the series (Wall of Bones). The previous version helped to block enemies but the new one has a major flaw. It can be cast once ever 25 seconds. It has to be timed perfectly. This spell will be of great use in pvp but it's true usefulness will be determined by the player's skill.

Voodoo is the last group of Shaman's spells. It consists of 3 spells only and each spell has a relatively long cooldown. I assume these spells will be very situational.

Usefulness of the Gargantuan spell will be determined by the durability of the monster we are currently summoning. It can be of great use to us or be a complete waste if we summon a monster that gets killed instantly by 2-3 hits.

Big Bad Voodoo is a spell that behaves as kind of trinket similar to World of Warcraft series. After activating it we receive a “free” movement speed and attack boost and when modified by Slam Dance rune – it will provide a 30% increase in damage towards all our attacks. This ability has a massive 120 sec cooldown and there is a possibility that we can get to use it only once in a duel. So here is my idea to compare it to trinkets – great boost, but short in duration and having a long cooldown.

Fetish Army works similar to the above. It's also a free boost. In this case it provides additional damage to our opponents, but I believe Big Bad Voodoo to be the best of these two.

Passive abilities are worth mentioning at this point. There is a great number of them, but not many will be of much use in pvp. We are able to use 3 abilities of this kind. Jungle Fortitude is a strong pick. It reduces damage taken by us and our minions by 20%. Bad Medicine will be a good option for poison uses as it will reduce enemy's damage by 20% for 3 seconds. Pierce the Veil increases the damage output of our spells while increasing their cast cost. The real worth of this ability will be determined by the actual amount of damage increase it provides.

Summing up, Ive come up with an example build for a pvp Shaman:


Poison Dart (Splinters rune) will be our main source of damage. Haunt is our DOT spell and if empowered by Grasping Spirit rune – our target will be slowed by 30%. Horrify will help us gain some distance from enemies additionally increasing our armor by 100% (Vengeful Spirit rune). Spirit Barrage buffed by Manitou rune is supposed to deal damage whenever we are not able to use or basic attack or when we are running away to gain distance. Finally, Big Bad Voodoo, modified by Slam Dance rune, will increase our attack speed our movement speed and our damage. Passive abilities focus on reducing damage taken while providing an increase to damage we dish out.

Here is a different variation of the above build:


The following 2 spells have been changed here: Haunt was replaced by Firebats (Hungry Bats rune) and the other switch was between Spirit Barrage and Wall of Zombies (Barricade rune – increases the area of effect).

The game will verify how effective and useful are the spells and combos presented here. It is extremely fun to play Shaman, at least judging from the limited experience available in beta. Those who loved Necromancers in D2 should not be disappointed, unless they preferred the looks of the former. This is only the manner of aesthetics rather than the gameplay itself.

Mantas 2012-05-08 21:49