Diablo 3 build guide: Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor and Wizard [UPDATED]
May 12, 2012
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Building the best character in Diablo 3, whether you picked Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk or Witch Doctor, can be tough. There are a dizzying number of options, but here are a few of our personal favorites, with full skill builds, playstyle explanations and stat recommendations for each.
As we play each of the classes, we'll update their guides with new builds and improved versions of existing builds. Check back often, and let us know what builds you're using in the comments!
As a melee class, the barbarian has a rough time of things in Inferno, and building him as a pure tank is surprisingly ineffective in terms of keeping you from dying horribly. The biggest dangers in D3's top difficulty are those deadly combinations of prefix mobs you'll come up against (such as Molten Waller Jailer). You need to be tough, but it's just as important to have great mobility and stun resistance. Start with your bread-and-butter
Frenzy/Hammer of the Ancients
combo runed for Triumph and Thunderstrike, giving you some decent lifesteal and a 100% proc stun. Stuns are probably the best tanking abilities in the game in Diablo 3, due to the sheer number of enemies. A stunned enemy is dealing no damage to you at all, making it more valuable than damage mitigation.
with Merciless Assault is something I can't seem to ever justify giving up, no matter what kind of build I'm going for. A spammable (if you aim it right) AoE attack that generates fury and can get you out of sticky situations is just too good in too many ways to not take.
should be used sparingly, only when you know there's a big damage spike coming (such as being stunned next to something that's about to explode and spew acid all over you.)
and the Gangway rune give you one more way to get out of trouble fast, and make sure you control the where and how of each engagement.
, and especially the Impunity rune, will boost your ability to soak all kinds of damage amazingly.
You'll notice the passives here aren't the straight armor buffing ones. The fact is, in Inferno, it doesn't really matter how much armor you have. If you get stunned and/or surrounded at the wrong time, you're going to die even if you're encased in metal and made entirely of granite.
will save you from that nasty elemental damage that bypasses your armor, while
kick in when death is near to give you half a shot of wading out of the fray alive. You may be hearing words like "impossible" getting thrown around in regard to the barbarian on Inferno, but with this build, you'll at the very least make those elites work for their kills.
Vitality, Strength, Armor, Movement Speed
What better role model for your barbarian than the God of Thunder himself?
Hammer of the Ancients
make you feel like a true Asgardian, sending out lightning bolts and shockwaves that stun and toss around your enemies.
is about as close as you'll get to modeling the son of Odin's flight ability. Obviously,
with the Throwing Hammer rune is essential. And when the fighting is the thickest, pop
Call of the Ancients
to summon Thor's loyal companions, the Warriors Three! Your passives make you even mightier when outnumbered and ensure that no foe can escape from Midgard's greatest protector.
RAAAAAGE! This build is all about maximizing your "enrage powers," making you a self-buffing death machine. Your key skills are
Wrath of the Berserker
. The first is your everyday use enrage which, with this build, should be active more or less at all times with only one trigger at the beginning of combat. Wrath of the Berserker is your "hard enrage," which you'll have to use more sparingly. Since crits extend the duration of your Battle Rage, dual-wield works best, with either a mace/axe (crit chance from
) or spear (attack speed from Weapons Master) in the main hand.
, with its quick blows, leads to more crits and is a natural primary skill.
keep you in the thick of things, where you need to be, while generating extra fury.
Hammer of the Ancients
with the Smash rune is a great Elite/Boss killer.
Note: At higher levels, you may want to swap out the Ferocity rune on Battle Rage for Into the Fray, essentially turning Battle Rage into a "piggyback" to extend the duration of Wrath of the Berserker.
Half the fun of playing a Barbarian is watching bodies fly in every direction as you smash your way through the herd. This build maximizes the simple joy of ragdoll physics by giving you every opportunity to proc knockback effects. Your primary skill
has a 20% chance to send people packing while generating Fury to unleash your three major corpse-tossers:
Seismic Slam, Ground Stomp
--all runed to boost the potency of their aoe knockbacks.
ensure you stay alive to keep kicking the undead to the curb. The passives
stops your compulsive need to punt people from hurting your damage output.
Some of us don't want to die. There's no shame in that--you're brave simply for stepping outside your home to battle the hoards of undead. I dare anyone to call you a sissy when you're on the front lines, entering a
and bloodletting everything in sight with
(both of which heal you, don't worry!).
let's you turn incoming damage into an aoe attack with massive health regen. If things get hairy, a correctly runed
can turn most any bad situation around, coupled with a
if your allies are in trouble as well. But a good tank always has a backup plan for his backup plan, so keep
Wrath of the Berserker
in your back pocket for those truly desperate situations. Protective passives like
Pound of Flesh, Inspiring Presence
will help keep you hacking and slashing unfettered.
A lot of your time as a Demon Hunter in Inferno will be spent running away from mobs--don't be afriad to be a coward. Using
as your primary attack is the big secret most DHs don't know about yet: it's not in the Primary category but it generates Hatred, deals damage in a cone, and can even shoot through walls. Even better, it tacks on another escape tool to your arsenal without taking up a skill slot.
are your main damage-dealers--dump your Hatred into them whenever you can afford to stand still.
give you spammable tools to slip away from trouble, with runed
giving you the Discipline you need to fuel 'em. The passives,
all help you kite your way to success.
Dexterity, Attack Speed, Max Discipline, Crit chance, Vitality
You are vengeance. You are the Knight. You. Are. BATMAN!
Okay, well, Batman never kills people. So you're not technically Batman. But this build should make you feel like him nonetheless. The Demon Hunter is perfect for modeling everyone's favorite brooding, caped crusader.
will trip up your foes while Bat-a-rangs... I mean
... shred anyone in your way.
make you a true predator, always in control of the flow of battle.
is your big knock-out punch. Your passives reward you for not getting hit, as Batman should not, and buff your Discipline-based skills.
Dexterity, Weapon Damage, Dodge Chance, Max Discipline/Discipline Regen
You lurk in the shadows watching for your ideal prey. Once you have singled them out, they are merely the whistle of an arrow from death. This is a great Elite/Boss slayer build, focused on staying well out of the thick of things and picking off single targets with massive damage.
Marked for Death
are your 1-2 combo: mark them, then take them out with a quick burst of critical doom.
makes sure you're always six steps ahead of the enemy while also functioning as a Crit "totem" when you cast it at your feet.
gives you an out when they wind up a step ahead of you, while runed
lets you burn Discipline to keep the Impales coming. Your passives ensure that taking time to fall back and line up a shot will always be to your advantage. Hand crossbows give you the best benefit (Crit chance) from
Weapon Damage, Dexterity, Critical Chance, Max Hatred/Hatred Regeneration
Bad guys go boom with this explosives-heavy build for the Demon Hunter.
is your free skill, so chuck those little bouncing bombs like crazy and follow 'em up with endless rockets from
. One rune swap adds homing rockets to your
turret, which'll guard your back while raining down fire.
give you two more volatile chunks of metal to hurl around. (Bonus: the Sticky Trap rune on Spike Trap lets you slam the explosives right onto the enemy's chest and watch his death rain pain on everyone around him.) The passives are absolutely essential to this build:
add a massive damage boost to all those rockets.
The Demon Hunter isn't really a touchy-feely kinda gal—in fact, she'd rather you just never get close to her at all. This build plays right into her nomad, loner image, letting you kite bad guys like a pro—if you've got the skill.
in your primary slot lets you tie up four enemies every second,
with the Frost rune slows down larger packs, and
lets you unleash hell while still running at full speed. Use the ridiculously low-cost
to keep your distance as the pack closes in on you, and if one of the devils catches you off guard,
lets you blast 'em up close and backflip away (+2 for style points). If you manage to screw all of that up—or are facing Sonic the hedgehog zombies—
lets your reset the battle by vanishing.
Cull The Weak, Tactical Advantage
are perfect passives, helping you stay out of harm's reach while boosting damage on hindered foes.
Movement Speed, Dexterity, Weapon Damage, CC reduction
Hardcore mode requires patience. Death is permanent here, so you'll need to take it slow and stock up on defense. Be content to use the slow-but-steady approach and you have a chance to make it to level 60. But anything can happen, so my Hardcore Monk build is all about hedging the bets so that you have the tools to survive as many bad-luck encounters as possible. As soon as you hit level 3, change your primary skill to
. It's a mid-range attack that'll let you kite slower enemies without taking a scratch. At level 5, add
--another mainstay in the Hardcore Monk's arsenal. It may not seem incredibly useful at first glance, but it can be used to escape almost any situation--and unlucky situations are what kill the vast majority of Hardcore characters. At level 8, you can add Breath of Heaven, a fantastic healing ability to your toolset. Spam it as often as you have health missing. You'll unlock the final skill
Wave of Light
at level 12 at exactly the same point as you need it: when you start encountering those huge packs of goat-men in the desert. Use
to corral them into a tight pack and then smash 'em with one well-placed bell. Of the three passives available to you at this point,
is the only one worth considering--it's a flat defense boost.
Inferno isn't easy as a melee class, but the Monk's got a lot of awesome tools to keep himself safe. Your two attacks are both spirit generators—
—runed to debuff your attacker's damage and boost your armor. Swap back and forth between both of these attacks habitually as you fight so that you always maintain both buffs at all times.
is your go-to defensive ability for it's low Spirit cost and runed healing. With a different build, large packs of enemies charging at you is a guaranteed death in Inferno. Here,
Breath of Heaven
are runed to give you the CC, healing, and burst firepower you need to burn down packs before they can mob you. Having high resistances is absolutely vital in Inferno, and
Mantra of Healing
(runed for 20% all resistances) and your
One with Everything
passive ensures you can take a hit--I'd still recommend equipping a shield though.
Sieze the Initiative
is a passive armor bonus and the
passive will give your most regular healing.
Attack Speed, Life per Spirit spent, Vitality, Resistances
Yeah, well, to hell with you too. The Tonk is nearly impossible to hit, unleashing
that make the attacks that do hit her deal a mere pittance in damage.
let you control the flow of battle, chasing down and rebuking enemies who go for your squishier team mates.
is a great "Oh gods, I'm about to die!" button, as all experienced tanks know that sometimes the damage is just too much, even for you. You should dual-wield to make the most of your
passive, though a 2-hander is not a bad choice since this build sucks spirit down like a dehydrated fish.
Dodge chance, Dexterity, Armor, Vitality, Max Spirit
The week of theme builds continues with inspiration from Akira Toriyama's Dragonball universe! Note that you will be required to yell the names of your attacks loudly into your monitor for this build to function. Use
Fists of Thunder
to dish out rapid-fire blows while teleporting all over the place as only a Toriyama character can, before blinding your enemies with
(SOLAR FLARE!) and knocking them back (preferably through a mountainside) with
Lashing Tail Kick
Mantra of Conviction
is guaranteed to raise your power level when it counts, and
will let you become a bona-fide Super Monk for a limited time.
Weapon Damage, Dexterity, Vitality, Max Spirit
Turn your Monk into an unstoppable wave of pain who jumps into the middle of groups to kick-punch everything around him. Every skill in this build hits multiple targets. Soften them up with broad
kicks, and follow it up with a fierce
Lashing Tail Kick
to cut 'em down and knockback any left standing.
Mantra of Conviction
rewards you for fighting in the middle of the enemy pack, and
let's you show them that superior numbers won't help them. If you bit off more than you can chew,
'll absorb damage and reflect attacks back at the hellspawn. Best of all,
turns your metaphorical tornado of pain into a very literal one, creating lightning tornadoes when you score critical hits—very likely with so many aoe attacks. The passives,
Chant of Resonance, The Guardian's Path
, give equal boosts to your defense and attack.
This is as close as Diablo III gets to a full support character, but you still have to punch people to build up the Spirit needed to fuel those refreshing glowy lights. This isn't a viable solo build, but because it's so easy to hop into friends' games, you could easily progress as a healer.
Fists of Thunder
is the perfect primary skill because it regenerates Spirit faster than the others.
are solid preventative measures to keep your friends out of harm's way, and
Breath of Heaven
will help you refill those health bars when preventative measures aren't enough.
Mantra of Healing
's heal-over-time is brought to set-it-and-forget-it status thanks to the
Chant of Resonance
passive that triples its duration to 10 minutes. The best part is that every one of those support skills will hit all allies within range—so everyone's safe. Lastly,
passives boost your Spirit efficiency to let you hang in there on those long boss fights.
Attack Speed, Spirit Regeneration, Max Spirit
Like any caster, the Witch Doctor needs to control the flow of battle as much as possible to survive Inferno. You need to stay in control of where you can and can't stand, and restrict your enemies' ability to do so as much as possible. Summon Zombie Dogs and Gargantuan remain staples, because anything that gives monster a reason to attack something that isn't you is a good thing. Spirit Walk lets you get out of sticky situations in a hurry, although you should make a point of not having to use it very often. Jailer and Waller elites got you down? Show them that you can play that game, too! Grasp of the Dead and Wall of Zombies will make you just as annoying to them as they are to you.
Your passives and runes are focused on spawning and grabbing up health globes, so gearing to increase your pick-up radius will be very beneficial. As will anything that further increases the chance of health globes to drop. Think of yourself as a spooky, Carribbean Pac-Man.
Gold/Health Pickup Radius, Intelligence, Vitality, Maximum Mana
Maybe you think zombies are to be promptly shot in the head, not used as allies. Maybe you don't like pet classes. Maybe both. This build focuses on the Witch Doctor as more of a tribal shaman, giving you excellent damage and crowd control with your spirit spells, plus a nearly endless well of mana. Supercharge your Intelligence with Soul Harvest, then unleash Firebombs and Spirit Barrages for huge direct damage while Haunt ticks away at the harder targets. Horrify and Mass Confusion will give you excellent battlefield control. Your passives increase damage at the cost of more mana, but they also shore up your mana (in addition to almost all of your abilities giving you some back.)
Intelligence, Weapon Damage, Max Mana/Mana Regen
The ten plagues of Egypt got nothin' on this build. Sure, you've got the standard plague stuff with
Plague of Toads
, and flesh-eating
s, but the real key is poison stacking with the right runes. Your frogs and locusts are both poisonous, and
lets you rain less animated liquid death on the enemy.
brings old-school leprosy back with the right rune, and
summons the final plague of death. And while that's enough to drive most civilizations to madness,
will completely shatter any particularly stalwart minds, forcing them to kill each other for you. The
passive is paramount, as it causes your plentiful poison damage to cripple enemy attacks, while
are just small perks to keep things moving quickly.
Intelligence, Weapon Damage, Maximum Mana
There's something especially satisfying about watching minions do your dirty work while you sit back and cackle maniacally—especially when your minions are zombies. There are so many things you can do with zombies in Diablo 3: you can drop them from the sky (runed
Grasp of the Dead
), stack them on top of each other and push the undead tower over (
Wall of Zombies
), bursting from the ground (
runed to make them BEAR ZOMBIES), or stomping all over the place (
). Most of them only stop by for brief encounters, but you can always count on your trusty
to chomp through bad guys. A few passives play into this style perfectly:
Fierce Loyalty, Jungle Fortitude
increase the number of zombies you can control, add your Thorn and Health Regen stats to them and reduce the damage they take. When you run low on corpses, just toss out jars of creepy
to regen mana.
This week is all about builds that will get you through Hell and Inferno difficulty alive. Theme builds are fun, but once you get to a certain point, inefficiency will get you burned to a crisp. This build focuses on Arcane damage and good, sustained Arcane Power along with great crowd control to combat the deadly enemies you'll face.
ensure that you can keep at range while making efficient use of your Arcane Power.
will give your enemies something to hit that isn't you, which is invaluable, while
can assist you in your all-too-frequent retreats before you get pounded into wizard pâté.
is a great survivability increase, and saves you from one-shot kills, which are disturbingly common among Inferno's cast of baddies. Since this build forsakes Teleport, make sure to stack movement speed to make up for your lack of a "GTFO" button.
Weapon Damage, Intelligence, Vitality, Movement Speed
The week of theme builds continues with inspiration from Akira Toriyama's Dragonball universe! Note that you will be required to yell the names of your attacks loudly into your monitor for this build to function. Unleash volley after volley of devastating energy attacks in true Dragonball fashion with
(SPIRT BOMB!) and
lets you zip around the battlefield like a boss. When it comes time to power up,
will take you to the next level. And against the greatest of foes, unlock the transformation power of
-- it's just a shame there isn't a rune that makes it turn your hair gold and spiky.
Weapon Damage, Intelligence, Vitality, Max Arcane Power
Bring the chaos and destruction of the raging storm to bear, unleashing lightning and ice an an unpredictable maelstrom of destruction around you. This build does best at mid to close range, with
flooding the field before you with volatile bolts while your runed
Ray of Frost
send cold annihilation in all directions.
will let you survive to get in close enough for your AoEs to have maximum effect, while also discounting all of your damaging spells significantly, so the storm never really stops raging.
gives you a longer-range option for dealing mass murder.
Weapon Damage, Intelligence, Attack Speed, Max Arcane Power
A primal urge within all of us wants to see big numbers flash on the screen when we attack, and this build lets you get the biggest digits of any class in Diablo 3. Core skills get a bonus effect on crit: your primary,
lash out lightning attacks, and
's molten fire boils over when it crits. The
passive reduces the cooldown on your spells by 1 second every time you crit, and
lets you boost your next attack by 75% to achieve truly absurd single-hit numbers to brag about to your buddies. The other abilities center on making sure you crit as often as possible, with
Disintegrate, Frost Nova
all hitting multiple targets with some absurdly high weapon percentages--each with its own chance to be crit. With all these perks tossed in, an explosion from Volatile blast is doing 800% weapon damage before crit and with no gear stats calculated in (that's 1,200% or higher on a crit)!
Critical Chance, Critical Hit Damage, Weapon Damage, Intelligence
Not every Wizard is squishy, but the battle mage is one of the most coveted archetypes that rarely makes it way into games because, frankly, it's usually way overpowered. The first step is to give your Wizard a melee weapon:
takes it one step further by making your primary attack a massive, magical sword that heals you when it crits. Next, you've got to bolster your defenses so you can stand on the front lines without crumbling like wet tissue paper.
Diamond Skin, Ice Armor, Archon
and the passive skills
turn you into a veritable tank with insane armor and a ton of sweet spells. The last thing you need to complete your battle mage toolkit is a couple devastating aoes to unleash when things get hairy.
can both be runed into the perfect tools, and the
passive gives you a boost right when you need it most.
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