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Ten of the Best Diablo III Character Builds

3 Jun 2012  by   Tim McDonald
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When we haven’t been suffering from Error 37, Error 1, Error 3007, or Error AnotherRandomNumber, we’ve been playing a lot of Diablo III. We think it’s quite a good game, you see, when it’s actually available to play.

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Sorry about that. Anyway! With that in mind, we thought we’d bring you ten of the best Diablo III builds.

These aren’t necessarily the best builds in terms of getting you through Inferno – in fact, if you’re farming Inferno, I doubt you need any of these anyway – although some are certainly solid character builds.

Some are useful solo builds; others are there for multiplayer. Some are interesting, some are fun to play with, and some are just themed builds for a bit of levity, which are about as viable as a paper Thermos. If nothing else, though, these ten should provide a useful starting point if you’re looking for a new class to try, as well as maybe providing you with a few ideas if you’re looking to try something new with your main class.

When you’re done, feel free to slap any of your own builds in the comments below, particularly if they’re unorthodox. A melee Wizard? A ranged Barbarian? Let us know.

The Wizard

Frost Explosion

Primary: Any
Secondary: Any
Action 1: Frost Nova (Shatter)
Action 2: Wave of Force (Forceful Push)
Action 3: Teleport (Reversal)
Action 4: Magic Weapon (Force Weapon)

This build is based around one thing: dealing damage and then escaping. The general idea is to Teleport into a group of enemies, Frost Nova them into place, hit Wave of Force to do further damage (and hopefully kill one or two, triggering another Frost Nova to freeze any outlying foes) and then hit Teleport again to get back to where you were, with Magic Weapon upping the damage of everything you’re doing so that you’ll hopefully have less to deal with when the freeze effects wear off.

There’s plenty of stuff that can be played with, here. You can swap out Wave of Force for Meteor, if you’d rather, and if you’re a high enough level you can swap out the Shatter rune for Bone Chill. If you want to do these things, then Electrocute with Forked Lightning might make a good primary ability, with Arcane Orb and either Obliteration or Arcane Nova as a secondary. Stick Glass Cannon on as a passive and you’re going to do a whole lot more damage, and Evocation and Critical Mass aren’t bad choices either.

Murdertown

Primary: Electrocute
Secondary: Disintegrate
Action 1: Diamond Skin (Crystal Shell/Enduring Skin)
Action 2: Archon (Arcane Destruction/Teleport/Slow Time)
Action 3: Teleport (Safe Passage/Wormhole/Fracture)
Action 4: Magic Weapon (Force Weapon)

I love this little build. It’s not the most useful thing in the world, but when it works, it’s fun. When replaying my Wizard on higher difficulties, I got a little fed up with exploring overworld areas and stopping every 15 seconds to partake in yet another fight… so I created a build that would let me explore as quickly as possible, and then turn around and murder everything in one fell swoop. And if you’re very, very careful, and lucky enough to avoid particularly nasty Champion enemies, this build will let you do just that.

Teleport and Diamond Skin are there to keep you safe while you’re running around kiting as many enemies as possible. Once you’ve got a nice big group chasing you, Teleport again to get some distance, and then starting burning them down with Archon. If that wears off – as you may be killing enough to keep it going indefinitely – you can Disintegrate (with Convergence, Volatility, or Intensify, depending on your level) until you’re out of Arcane Power, and then it’s onto Electrocute. Magic Weapon, meanwhile, will up your damage once again.

Evocation’s a fairly important passive skill here if you want to stay safe, and Illusionist and Blur aren’t bad choices either. As before, there’s a lot that can be traded out – I’ve had some success using Mirror Image with Duplicates when kiting, and Arcane Orb can be a very useful ability in the place of Disintegrate, particularly if you do bump into some nasty Champions. Likewise, the particular runes you use will probably depend on both your level and the Act you’re challenging; knowing what you’re likely to be up against is fairly important so that you don’t get killed by enemies for which you’re unprepared.

The Demon Hunter

Time Delay

Primary: Entangling Shot (Chain Gang)
Secondary: Rapid Fire (Withering Fire)
Action 1: Caltrops (Hooked Spines)
Action 2: Vault (Tumble)
Action 3: Fan of Knives (Crippling Razors/Hail of Knives)
Action 4: Spike Trap (Long Fuse)

If the Demon Hunter does one thing really, really well, it’s controlling. This build is there primarily for those Demon Hunters who want to support another ranged class, by slowing everything as much as possible.

Entangling Shot and Caltrops are this build’s bread and butter, with the Chain Gang and Hooked Spines runes there to slow as many things as possible, as much as possible. Heavy Burden is a tempting alternate rune, but you’ll probably be using Entangling Shot a fair bit anyway, so Chain Gang generally works a bit better against groups.

Your primary damage comes from Rapid Fire, Fan of Knives, and Spike Trap. Slowed enemies are easy prey for a Spike Trap (with Long Fuse, if you’re level 39), while Rapid Fire can burn down others quickly. Vault gives you the ability to get out of range of any enemies who’re getting a little close, and the Tumble rune makes it easy for you to get in and out if you want to throw out a Fan of Knives.

Plenty of passives work well with this build. Cull the Weak is an obvious choice that’ll work well with this build’s emphasis on slowing, while Vengeance will let you do all of this for longer much more easily. Numbing Traps, Custom Engineering, Steady Aim, and Tactical Advantage will all make it easier for you to either slow or stay out of range, and Night Stalker can be combined with Archery or Sharpshooter to get extra Discipline. And, obviously, Vengeance is always a good choice for ensuring you can do all of this for longer. Decide based on your itemisation, your allies, and the aspects of the build that cause problems.

Buffy the Boss Slayer

Primary: Hungering Arrow (Cinder Arrow)
Secondary: Impale (Chemical Burn/Grievous Wounds)
Action 1: Shadow Power (Night Bane)
Action 2: Marked for Death (Contagion/Valley of Death/Mortal Enemy)
Action 3: Preparation (Punishment)
Action 4: Any

This build is focused on one thing: single-target damage. Impale is your primary damage dealer, with everything else present to support it. I just wish I could claim I named this one, but alas, that honour falls to a friend of mine.

Preparation can give you back Hatred fast, with Shadow Power supplementing this and giving you some health back in case foes get a little too close for comfort. Marked for Death is there to boost your damage against your target; if you’ve unlocked Mortal Enemy then that’s a great rune to attach, but if not, then you can use this (with Contagion or Valley of Death) in combination with Hungering Arrow to deal with packs. If you try that, you may want to swap out Cinder Arrow for Puncturing Arrow instead.

The fourth slot can support a whole lot. If you fancy using Steady Aim as a passive, then Caltrops or Vault would be a good choice (and Caltrops with Bait the Trap is an obvious extra ability if you’re level 54) while Smoke Screen combined with Breathe Deep can give you a bit of breathing room if things get a bit hairy.

As for passives, the aforementioned Steady Aim is a decent choice, particularly with Vault. Archery will up your damage further, and Vengeance and Night Stalker can give you a bit more staying power. Sharpshooter’s a given if you’re at a level high enough to take it, too.

The Witch Doctor

The Summoner

Primary: Corpse Spiders (Leaping Spiders)
Secondary: Locust Swarm (Devouring Swarm)
Action 1: Summon Zombie Dogs (Life Link)
Action 2: Zombie Charger (Wave of Zombies/Zombie Bears)
Action 3: Gargantuan (Restless Giant)
Action 4: Fetish Army (Legion of Daggers)

Come on, you knew this was coming. When I first saw what the Witch Doctor had available, I immediately thought “well, I’m going to have to make a build that lets me summon huge hordes”, and you did too. Admit it.

So, yes, this build is based around summoning everything. In that sense, I’d say the above is pretty self-explanatory, although you may want to throw in Big Bad Voodoo, perhaps with Boogie Man. Fits the theme, and has its own uses.

If you don’t care about a thematic build, then there are a few changes you can make that might help keep you alive. Sacrifice, with either Next of Kin or Pride, can be used to do some extra damage and possibly regain a bit of mana; you might also want to use the Widowmakers rune for Corpse Spiders for the same reasons. Horrify can help keep enemies away from you, as you won’t actually be doing too much damage yourself with this build. I wouldn’t blame you for swapping in Haunt, either, if you actually want to dish out a little pain yourself. But, obviously, you should really just be summoning stuff.

For passives, the obvious: Zombie Handler (for more dogs), Circle of Life (for more dogs), and Fetish Sycophants (for more fetishes).


The Bastard

Primary: Poison Dart (Splinters) / Firebomb (Flash Fire)
Secondary: Grasp of the Dead (Unbreakable Grasp)
Action 1: Horrify
Action 2: Soul Harvest (Swallow Your Soul)
Action 3: Spirit Barrage
Action 4: Any

I wasn’t sure what else to call this build. Large amounts of direct damage coupled with some decent control, as well as harvesting enemies for power? That sounds like a bastard to me.

Perhaps inevitably, Soul Harvest with its massive intelligence boosts forms the crux of this. Grasp of the Dead and Horrify (runed with Phobia, Stalker, or Face of Death) provide useful control, while Spirit Barrage and Poison Dart or Firebomb can give you some decent damage. You’ve got a free fourth slot which you can use as you like; Haunt is a decent choice for some extra single-target damage, although Acid Rain or a summon would also work quite nicely.

The Pierce the Veil passive will help you make use of the extra mana culled from the runed Soul Harvest, and if that’s not quite enough to sustain the massive mana drain then you can tag on Rush of Essence, Spiritual Attunement, or Grave Injustice.

The Barbarian

The Bee Gees Tribute Act

Primary: Frenzy (Triumph)
Secondary: Rend (Blood Lust)
Action 1: Ignore Pain (Ignorance is Bliss)
Action 2: Revenge (Vengeance is Mine)
Action 3: War Cry (Invigorate)
Action 4: Any

Why is this build called “The Bee Gees Tribute Act”? Because it’s based around stayin’ alive. Get your groans out of the way now.

Pretty much everything here is focused on either damage mitigation or health regeneration, with the aim of getting back more life than you’re losing. Frenzy and Rend are both musts, with the Triumph and Blood Lust runes assuring you get life both when you hit something and when you kill something. Ignore Pain will give you damage mitigation and yet more health back when you hit things; War Cry gives you a greater health cap and restores health while active; and Revenge will give you an opportunity to get health back when you get hit.

If you’re a high enough level, Provocation might be a better choice for a Revenge rune, and Hardened Wrath, Veteran’s Warning, and Impunity are also decent choices for War Cry; decide based on both your level and what you’re likely to be facing.

The fourth slot is mostly up to you. Wrath of the Berserker is a decent panic button, particularly combined with Striding Giant; if you’re not high enough level, then Arreat’s Wail can knock enemies away from you and give you a chance to drink a potion, but either way it’ll increase your attack speed and – thus – how often you’re getting health from hits. Earthquake can also provide a bit of breathing room with Chilling Earth or Aftershocks.

As for passives, you’re going to want Pound of Flesh to ensure you’re getting even more health. Bloodthirst is a pretty good choice for some extra health every time you land a blow. Inspiring Presence would make War Cry a little more effective, while Nerves of Steel and Superstition will provide yet more damage mitigation if you want it.

Conan

Primary: Bash (Punish)
Secondary: Hammer of the Ancients (Smash)
Action 1: Ignore Pain (Ignorance is Bliss)
Action 2: Revenge (Retribution)
Action 3: Battle Rage (Marauder’s Rage)
Action 4: Wrath of the Berserker (Insanity/Slaughter/Thrive on Chaos)

This themed build is based around one thing: Conan. How do you make a build based around Conan? By focusing it on crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentation of their women – which I’ve decided to take as literally as possible. And yes, we’re going by the movie Conan as played by Arnie, here.

Bash and Hammer of the Ancients will both crush your enemies, and Bash’s knockback will drive them before you. Conan was pretty good at ignoring pain, and was driven by revenge, so both of those are in; Wrath of the Berserker seemed a good fit, too.

The third power gave a bit of a problem, though, because I wanted something from the Tactics set. While Conan did quite a lot of shouting, Threatening Shout and War Cry would both make it hard to hear the lamentation of any nearby women, so I went with Battle Rage instead. Feel free to swap that out if you find something more appropriate.

With this build, you’re only allowed to use two-handed weapons, and armour that covers the chest or arms is forbidden. Them’s the rules, if you’re a true Conan. And if you actually manage to finish the game like this… well, you may be a lunatic, but you’re a very impressive lunatic.

The Monk

The Party Healer

Primary: Any
Secondary: Lashing Tail Kick (Sweeping Armada)
Action 1: Breath of Heaven (Circle of Life)
Action 2: Inner Sanctuary (Safe Haven)
Action 3: Cyclone Strike (Soothing Breeze)
Action 4: Mantra of Healing (Sustenance)

Did you play World of Warcraft? Were you a healer? Do you want to recreate the thrill of healing your party, and – when they die – being screamed at for not healing them, even though they refused to get out of the fire or avoid powerful attacks? Then this build is for you.

It’s fairly self-explanatory. Mantra of Healing should provide some constant health for your party, while Breath of Heaven and Cyclone Strike give you direct healing, and Inner Sanctuary gives your party a brief save haven (ha ha) that’ll – you guessed it – heal them.

As for your primary and secondary: this build will give you issues with spirit, so your primary should be anything runed to generate extra. Way of the Hundred Fists with Spirited Salvo is a good choice, as is Fists of Thunder with Quickening. Lashing Tail Kick, with knockback and slow, isn’t a bad choice as a secondary, but if your party moves around a lot then Dashing Strike with Way of the Falling Star might also help. Alternatively, you could throw in Serenity with Tranquility to give wounded party members an extra second of protection, so that they can hopefully move out of danger for healing.

Exalted Soul is a must for its extra spirit, and Guiding Light is a good choice for a healer on the go. Beacon of Ytar isn’t a bad choice, considering the cooldowns on Breath of Heaven and Inner Sanctuary, while Chant of Resonance could add a little extra spirit and help you stop watching the Mantra durations.

Fist of the North Star

Primary: Way of the Hundred Fists (Hands of Lightning)
Secondary: Fists of Thunder (Thunderclap)
Action 1: Deadly Reach
Action 2: Exploding Palm (Impending Doom)
Action 3: Seven-Sided Strike (Several-Sided Strike/Sudden Onslaught)
Action 4: Any

For the final build, we’ve gone in entirely the opposite direction to the previous build. That focused on healing. This themed build focuses on explosive, bloody, gory damage, as inspired by Fist of the North Star.

This is a bit of an unorthodox build, as we’ve got three abilities from the primary set in the first three slots. Thematically speaking they’re all fine; Way of the Hundred Fists is pretty much the definition of ATATATATATA, and the speed and penetrating power of Fists of Thunder and Deadly Reach mean they’re more than appropriate, too. Exploding Palm is the stinger, being that enemies killed while suffering its bleed effect will messily explode, and Seven-Sided Strike also ties in well.

The fourth action slot is for a mantra, and most will work okay here. Mantra of Evasion with Hard Target replicates Kenshiro’s borderline invulnerability pretty well, but Mantra of Conviction with Overawe, or Mantra of Retribution with Transgression, would also be absolutely fine.

Then there are the passives, which are what makes this build work. The most important is Combination Strike; with this, those three abilities from the primary set should, if used in succession, boost your damage by a rather lovely 24%. Other than that, you’re fairly free: Sixth Sense, Seize the Initiative, Resolve, and Fleet Footed all work with the theme, although I’m not sure any works quite so well as Near Death Experience. How many times has Kenshiro nearly died?

If you run this themed build then screaming ATATATATATA while using Way of the Hundred Fists is required. If you don’t fancy a themed build, then don’t worry: you can work off this fairly easily to make something that should work rather handily with a bit more damage mitigation. Perhaps Serenity with Peaceful Repose, or Inner Sanctuary with Safe Haven.

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