Recently, I gave the Unhallowed Essence Hellcat Waistguard build a go since a friend of mine had been playing it a bit. The main motivation was my friend describing the build as being quite tanky. After giving the build a shot, I will admit that he was right.
With the Hellcat Waistguard being revamped with the grenades ability enhanced, two new builds have opened up for Demon Hunters with Marauders gaining Cluster Bombs as one build and Unhallowed Essence getting pure grenades. Unhallowed Essence works nicely with Grenades with the 2 set bonus providing additional Discipline while the 6 set bonus giving a boost of damage in conjunction with Discipline.
Now, the 4 piece set bonus is a little bit trickier with grenades as grenades feels more like a melee/short ranged ability. So you have to play around a bit to get the increased damage and damage reduction buff with this build.
The thing with this build is that you forgo Multishot completely and use dual wielding hand crossbows with Dawn being one and Fortress Ballista being the other. Obviously, Dawn continues to provide the cooldown reduction to Vengeance while Fortress Ballista adds an absorption shield that provides a huge degree of survivability. In addition, you use Buriza-Do Kyanon for the projectile piercing of the Grenades that bounces through enemies and creates a multiplier effect when combined with the Hellcat Waistguard.
One notable thing is that you forgo a spender in this build and use just grenades as your main attack. As a result, the build requires a Ring of Royal Grandeur so you can use Depth Diggers for the damage multiplier to your grenade attack as well as Simplicity’s Strength for a combination of damage and healing. Hunter’s Wrath provides increased attack speed and additional damage to your grenades while you’re able to maintain damage reduction from your Wraps of Clarity bracers. Also, you use the Endless Walk ring/amulet set for both damage reduction as you move through packs and damage increase that ramps up when you stand still and nuke things down. Your final slot for your ring is dedicated to a Convention of Elements for that boost in periodic burst damage.
The way you play this build is to maintain 100% uptime on Vengeance which will apply the Dark Heart rune for even more damage reduction. You Vault into groups of enemies and drop a Caltrop with the Bait the Trap rune to boost your critical hit chance by 10% as well as slowing enemies. Then you use Fan of Knives with Bladed Armor to boost your defenses a little and spam grenades around you. Using the Numbing Traps passive in conjunction with your Caltrops, Fan of Knives and Grenades boosts your defense even further while you await your Hellcat Waistguard belt to create this massive multiplier effect with all the grenades that you can dish out. As you spam click grenades, your Simplicity’s Strength and Fortress Ballista will provide some defense that allows you to stand in dangerous spots as your main shield from the Endless Walk swaps over to damage mode.
So how is this build in practice? I think for low level rifts, it clears very slow. It should not be used to farm Death Breaths. However, for pushing higher Greater Rifts, this build is really nice. The thing I appreciate is surviving precarious situations where a high amount of damage is going on like explosions. You still shouldn’t expect to survive everything but you can escape quite a few scenarios that the Multishot build will not.
Hatred no longer is a problem with this build but Discipline becomes a regular issue where Vaulting and dropping Caltrops can suck away your Discipline quickly. And of course without Discipline, you lose a good deal of damage. But it does take a bit of time before Endless Walk’s damage bonus kicks in so you pretty much need to be standing still for a bit in order to clear groups of monsters.
The build is exceptionally effective with high density. In some way, this reminds me of the old Uliana’s Exploding Palm build where tossing out numerous grenades leads to your enemies getting vaporized. Unlike Uliana’s though, you neither have to worry about your primary resource from being depleted nor a cooldown from impacting you too badly.
Fan of Knives acts more like an enhancement or get out of jail card when Vengeance inadvertently goes down and you need that extra bit of toughness while waiting for a second or two for Vengeance to recover. The nice thing though is that Fan of Knives’ cooldown isn’t that long so you should be able to recover quickly.
Vault is main issue that I find causing me resource issues followed by Caltrops. The two make your Discipline suffer quite a bit, especially in instances with low pockets of density and long stretches of space. As a result, I found myself slowed down considerably in trying to balance the two. In turn, my damage might take even longer to ramp up as I recover Discipline and await Endless Walk to kick in.
But I found myself to be far more confident playing this build than using Multishot at higher greater rifts ranks. I never felt in danger of dying; if anything my real enemy was encountering barren instances where enemies were sparse. I can easily see myself pushing higher still. Without augments a 60 feels like a 55 using nearly all augments for a Multishot build. So certainly with all augmented gear at 50, I should be able to clear 65-70 without much difficulty.
I do think that Multishot still is better overall for farming for Death Breaths and bounties. It just takes too long to ramp damage up with Grenades and you require huge packs surrounding you. On the other hand, Multishot just clears large and small areas indiscriminately, making it the far more efficient clear build. I’m sure even for Torment 13, you’re really just better off doing Multishot (or T11 for clear speeds)
Doing Grenades though has been fun and the difference in play style make it reasonably exciting. It’s not an awkward build like Witch Doctors with Soul Harvest. The difference between Caltrops and Soul Harvest is that Caltrops isn’t required to boost your defenses for survival whereas Soul Harvest requires density and enough cooldown to not be annoying.
Overall, I feel that Unhallowed Essence with the Hellcat Waistguard is pretty neat and gives Grenades a real usage. Probably, the only remaining ability that doesn’t have a place in any upper feasible build at this point for Demon Hunters is Rapid Fire. Maybe we’ll see that in an upcoming build/patch.