Obviously, Diablo 3 has come a very long way since the vanilla days where you practically had only 1-2 viable class options and limited useful items in terms of builds and gear. The game has been moving towards a far more flexible game play where gear options are a lot more interesting with legendaries having special abilities that syngerize well with certain abilities and other gear pieces. That said, this post will talk a bit about my own experiences with the various classes and gear combinations based on the 6 (7) 70s I have.
One good thing at the moment when you compare the current system to vanilla Diablo 3 is that every class truly has a viable end build/gear setup. Some classes/gear builds may outperform others but generally speaking once you get enough pieces, you can hit your T6 and moderately difficult Greater Rifts (say R26-30). Both set items and the legendary gems provide enough of a foundation to let players farm more difficult content.
However, I feel it’s a bit unfortunate that the primary 6 piece set bonuses are what can make a class build. Right now, 6 piece set bonuses (or 5 piece since the Ring of Royal Grandeur ends up becoming near mandatory to run almost all of these builds) are practically a must-have. Two of the 6 piece sets really have no efficacy with the Crusader Roland’s set and the Witch Doctor’s Helltooth set at least from what I’ve seen. The only exception I think is the Monk’s set where the Sunwuko set ends up becoming better.
Part of the issue I have is that the set 6 piece set bonuses pretty much lock you into a certain play style, not all of which are enjoyable and some of which require even more specific gear to be competitive at all. I would say Demon Hunters and Wizards enjoy this benefit more than anyone since obtaining the 6 piece bonus allows them to play a less risky kiting style that gets them into upper torments. Crusaders maybe a close 3rd but they actually enjoy the most flexibility in terms of end game build. Barbarians and Witch Doctors are probably in the worst place here. Barbarians require one less piece of gear but end up focusing on a very specific shoulder piece that probably should’ve been including as part of their set bonus while Witch Doctors really need a good off-hand and specific mask.
When it comes to other set gear, some are hit and miss depending on when you end up finding them. Barbarians and Wizards can possibly enjoy an early advantage with lesser requirements for the Might of the Earth and Vyr’s Amazing Arcana sets. Prior to Patch 2.1 with the Greater Rift element introduced, both sets actually looked a lot better than their classes’ 6 set counterpart. In fact, Might of the Earth still looks like a very fun end game build since you pretty much are leaping all around the place as a barbarian. Vyr’s looked like a good early on set but Archon’s current state makes the wizard squishy, which is an absolute shame since Archon has always been an incredible ability to take.
The only exception that I’ve seen are monks. Admittedly, I’ve only been able to obtain 2 of the 6 Raiment of A Thousand Storm pieces for my monk so my views are based on popular streamers that I’ve seen. Thus far, the 4 piece Sunwuko set seems to dominate. I’m not entirely sure what goes on as most monk builds with this set seem more tanky. Thus far, I’ve been using a lightning build that can handle up to T4 just fine but most of that is due to Blackthorne’s, Ice Climbers and elite damage reduction. I have seen a Pillar of the Ancients distance type of build which I would like to try sometime once I get the gear.
At any rate, the way gear works in the game ends up not making too much sense for the end goal at times when it comes to set pieces and so-called regular legendaries. Take Vile Wards as an example. I don’t quite get how and why this isn’t part of the Raekor’s set rather than an independent legendary item. Quite clearly, it’s designed for the Raekor’s set and you pretty much have to use it despite the Raekor’s set only needing 4 of the 5 pieces (in comparison to most 6 piece sets). What happens in the rare event that a non-barbarian finds this piece? It pretty much is a waste since only the barbarian can get the secondary effect. I don’t even get why this piece of gear even bothers rolling dexterity and intelligence.
Hwoj Wrap is another piece that really just belongs with the Jade Harvester set. I was fortunate enough to find one on my Demon Hunter and thankfully it rolled intelligence rather than dexterity. Still the piece of gear does fall under a generic legendary category which at the end of the day makes it pretty useless for anyone but a Witch Doctor to find and use. Both of these items should’ve just been part of a complete set of gear, not just 6 pieces if the game makers had a specific end game build style in mind. I mean, you could randomly find these items before even starting a specific build and use them. However, most people go with other builds like a pet build, making an ability like Haunt practically use except when they decide to focus on the Jade Harvester build.
Also, in many ways we’re still locked into a paradigm similar to the old Skorn/Echoing Fury weapons where there’s very few really worth while weapons. Don’t get me wrong we’re still in a far better state than during Vanilla. But I’m seeing people still go for very specific weapons like Etrayu for Demon Hunters, The Furnace or Maximus for Barbarians, Crusaders and Wizards even. I suppose my beef about the situation is that I kinda want to believe that no legendary should ever be bad. However, the average legendary ends up being worthless so I’m not even sure why some are even branded as legendaries. Perhaps, there should be a new category like Uniques that put extremely exclusive items in a special folder. It really makes little sense for me that a generic legendary like The Furnace ever should be BiS over a class specific item such as a Crusdader 2-H flail. I like that I can trade these items between classes (I have a decent Furnace that my barbarian uses and my Crusader can use) but they definitely need to put some of these items into a special category somehow if they’re just that good.
Going back to gear/build combos, I feel that the Crusader and Demon Hunter are in the best places. Crusader gets my nod because you have a pretty decent variance once you obtain your Akkhan 5/6 set piece bonus; after that your direction depends on your weapon and shield, which isn’t too bad. The Stampede/Phalanx, Condemn and Holy Shotgun (Heaven’s Fury) builds are good in that they give you some freedom to play around. So far, I’m a pretty big fan of the Stampede/Phalanx build, although it probably gets annoying as hell in group play. But allowing Crusaders a good end game ranged attack is pretty cool. My only beef with the Akkhan build is that you end up focusing more on cooldown reduction and ensuring the uptime for Akarat’s Champion. The game play ends up boiling down to just ensuring you have enough Wrath through spamming cooldown type of insta-generators or resource reduction for Wrath.
Demon Hunters by far are in the best spot just because of the nature of sentry and the Marauder’s set. Although this aspect may seem obvious, the thing is that gear simply allows you to progress faster. But just starting off with cluster arrow, multishot and either a generator or Elemental Frost Arrow gives you two pretty interesting paths. The biggest change occurs once you get your first Bombadier’s Rucksack since you can put up more sentries. After that it really depends on your weapon since you can either go for cold or fire damage. But the good thing is that you still can do reasonably difficult content with even shoddy versions of this.
The bad thing about Demon Hunters is that once you get the really high end gear, you end up becoming an exclusively kiting class. Since you probably end up losing a generator to Elemental Frost Arrow, you will find yourself waiting most of the time for your hatred to regenerate so you can place your next sentry down. Kridershot can help with this so it boils down to being more active vs passive (if you end up having to decide between a Kridershot and Etrayu since your Etrayu boost you for cold % damage and Kridershot turns Elemental Arrow into a generator). I personally have no issue with this play style because I enjoy the strategic placement of my sentries. However, I can see how some people might grow bored with it too.
Wizards are in a decent state although they play style does take some time to get used to. With the 6 piece set bonus for the Firebird set, you move into a kiting style not too dissimilar from the Demon Hunter. I think in group play the Wizard becomes an awesome compliment to any group. Pretty much I noticed that even with my Demon Hunter, the most kills in a group are with Wizards who have the full 6 piece set bonus just because of the DoT. Wizards here can quickly nuke groups efficiently. Probably not as fast as a Witch Doctor hitting a pack immediately, but they can just spread their dots across a map and destroy things.
Like the Demon Hunter’s M6 set, the Firebird set pretty much turns Wizards in a destruction machine, capable of farming T4 right off the bat due to the DoT. You end up though locked into a fire build. However, I found getting that gear to be easy and I had built up a lot prior to getting every single piece. There are a few pieces that could make the build better like the Serpant’s Sparker for the extra Hydra or even a Furnace just because I’ve heard about it’s goodness with the massive elite damage boost. However, I think the main weakness is that most people end up going with a Black Hole type of build. While you can get some crazy DoT damage going, for Rift Guardians, this build still doesn’t come close to a DH at the really high end of the spectrum. You still can run out of harms way as a kiting class but actively nailing down Black Hole vs letting something like Sentries handle everything really make it a no contest at least in solo mode that I can tell.
Now, Witch Doctors are in a very odd state. A good witch doctor can do insane burst DPS and just annihilate packs of enemies all at once. However, you do need a lot of damage mitigation to do the Jade Harvester Nuke Build since you’ll be in melee range quite often. Most people use this build in combination with Spirit Walk so that they can safely apply their dots and hit Soul Harvest. But it is really tricky and you have to really master the rotation. I think for high level Greater Rifts the build is really tough just because the Greater Rift Guardians are the only creatures left (unless they spawn adds). In that case, you constantly face danger while waiting for your cooldowns to reset. Not to mention, you’re forced to get into melee range which can make things really sketchy. If Soul Harvest was a ranged attack, this build would be truly OP (and either to manage)
Unfortunately, the one build that I wanted to try was the pet build. Formerly, the pet build was one of the easiest and best ways to hit T6 for any class and I heard that even if you didn’t have all the gear, it was still doable. Now, pets for Witch Doctors are far too squishy so high level Greater Rifts just become infeasible since your fetish armies die too quickly, even with the Enforcer legendary gem equipped.
Monks are also in a kind of weird state. From what people have said, they make the best tanks once you’re able to get Epiphany (I believe) up to 100% uptime and they end up working very well with a group of Demon Hunters for Greater Rift progression. Soloing I’ve found my lightning Blackthorne build to be a good side project. However, the common element about monks in terms of complaints (and I’m included in this) is how bad one’s hand hurts playing them. I think the intention of the monk was a street fighter type of play style where you constantly are spamming certain attacks. On an arcade machine, this works well. On a mouse, your hand cramps up fast especially when you take Mystic Rhythm. This is a horrible UI skill because it forces you to keep up mentally with how you spam your attacks. Since you’re rapidly firing off shots in succession, your index finger just grows tired very fast and these days I’m uncertain if it’s even worth taking as a skill. It feels almost like someone’s sadistic inside joke to hurt people intentionally.
Beyond that I’m still out with regards to group play. I did mention how monks end up being great tanks in groups but I’m still skeptical for myself in higher difficulties. Part of the reason is that I don’t have the gear and depend heavily on the Unity working in conjunction with items that make him virtually immune to almost all the worst affixes (cold, molten, plague, desecrate). There’s a certain comfort of being immune to various things vs taking things down quickly. And because my monk is melee focused at the moment, I’m worried about how he’ll be able to handle higher difficulties without the crutch of a Unity while outputting reasonable damage. I suppose I’ll cross that bridge once I get enough gear to go down that path but the only spec that truly interest me is that Pillar of the Ancients build because of the range. But I’m guessing it’ll be a while before I get there.
Finally, there’s the barbarian. I finally managed to get enough gear and output enough DPS to handle T2 easily. That said, I’m not really sure I’m looking forward to the full Raekor’s set. Most Barbarian streams that I’ve seen (which are not named Alkaizer) make the class seem really painful to play and force you to get really lucky in higher level Greater Rifts. The end build really requires you to have near perfect gear and decent skill to pull off surviving of the worst affixes as a melee class. But the 6 piece set bonus itself is more like a suicide bomber than something effectual. The 4 piece bonus is useless compared to other class builds by only giving the barbarian an additional 500 strength. That part should’ve been redone into some form of melee immunity based on Reckless Charge. For the most part if you’re clearing anything but bosses with certain affixes, this build can do some serious damage and fast clears. Hopefully, they can redesign the set bonus and either get rid of the 500 bonus strength or push it down to the 2 piece bonus and make the 4 piece bonus into a more useful passive.
Now, one thing that kinda miffs me is the lack of combo set item builds. I know it’s possible because I kinda do it myself with my Demon Hunter where I use M6, and get the 3 piece bonus from Blackthornes for some elite damage mitigation, general toughness improvement and a little more elite damage. But on average, people don’t really use set gear combos for really high end stuff. An example would be using the Firebird set with a Tal’Rasha amulet and belt, thus getting the 3 piece bonus (you could try pushing it by sacrificing the helm but I don’t know if that meteor effect for the 4 piece bonus makes it worth sacrificing say a Cindercoat’s +fire% damage boost). I might give one or two a try like Innes and Sunwuko but on average none of these builds seem all that viable towards the end.
The last little bit I want to discuss is the Hellfire Ring and Amulet. I finally managed to get my first Hellfire Amulet and passed it on to my barbarian. It totally stunk so I gave it to my other barbarian who is still leveling up normally. Both of these items might seem like a great idea on paper but they’re very poorly executed. The Hellfire Ring is more like a novelty for leveling and serves no purpose because the stats are too randomized while the secondary effect pretty much is useless at the upper echelon. I’ve heard people on forums say that the secondary should be the same as the Ring of Royal Grandeur. I think if they want to go that route, the way the Hellfire Ring should roll is give the bonus set item reduction similar to the Ring of Royal Grandeur as well as provide a definitive socket. It can still contain the bonus XP aspect but the end game really is defined by sockets for legendary gems and the bonus set item reduction.
The Hellfire Amulet is in a near state of terribleness. Most people opt for affix immunity amulets like the Countess Julia’s Cameo. So even with the bonus passive, the amount of work to get one of these along with perfect rolls end up making this a pretty poor choice for the average player. You pretty much have to roll an end game passive (like a cheat death style proc) along with a socket, critical hit and critical hit damage to make it a better choice over an affix immunity amulet. Because the rolls are just random it’s just easier to pick up other amulets that have better rolls than farm this one. I think if the amulet guaranteed a socket and critical hit damage then it would be worth the effort of farming. Or if the amulet also had an affix immunity passive. Without those attributes, both these items pretty much are best given to an alt who you want to level up quickly without being power leveled.
At any rate, to sum up everything, the game ought to have more varieties of set bonuses or bake in more types of set bonuses into gear (even items like Vile Wards). Melee builds need a vast improvement with emphasis on doing something to make barbarians worth something (ignoring how they’re climbing back up the Greater Rift ladder). Builds need more variations for end game progress as well as providing more options for weapons. And the Hellfire legendaries need massive retooling to be worth something beyond a leveling gimmick.