The Cannonball - A Shield Bash (Pound) build
Contained herein are just my humble opinions and what passes for my sense of humor. Don't get your panties in a bunch just because I've got a weird build and have always loved Shield Bash. I'm just hoping someone finds this informative/amusing. This will be updated as smarter players give me better advice.
Edit: (Patch 2.2) Cleared GR48 in a 4-man setting! Unloading a full tank of Wrath at 8 billion damage crits per bash saw the RG's health drop like a rock. I'm wondering if a role as the "single target specialist" might actually be something to consider for pushing top GRs. Comment here if you have some experiences to share using this!
Edit2: (Patch 2.3) New Patch! Wonderful, wonderful changes. Kanai's cube obviously offers many possibilities to enhance this build (along with every other build, but let's ignore that), so I'll be updating this guide as I test out new combinations of cube powers! Already I'm able to hit 20 billion damage crits with a combination of Convention of Elements and Furnace as the selected cube powers! Clearly you should use this build if you want to become more attractive to the opposite sex (even my wife is starting to become impressed).
Edit3: (Path 2.4) Nothing too exciting, but damage received a significant boost. Crits are reaching in the area of 30 billion at this point (I upgraded my weapon too) when the stars align. Definitely still a viable build in groups, and I'll be you'll stand out in the new season!
I must be the only idiot who had 2 full Rolands Crusaders and three full Roland's sets long before the 2.2 changes were even announced. I love Roland's, Shield Bash specs in particular. My only Akkhans Crusader was a Holy Shotgun, after I trashed my Condemn equipment when the boring and mind-numbing gameplay was starting to dull my senses. Actually, I just hate permanent Akarat's Champion in general. It's a boring skill (press a button every 20 seconds! My daughter could do this!), stacking CDR is unexciting (Yes! I just shaved off 0.5 more seconds off Akarat's Champion!), and it's UGLY (we took all this time to dress up our
dolls Crusaders, and now they have to look like that all the time?? Someone at Blizzard needs to be slapped!).
So I tried Shield Bash, and fell in love with being a human ping pong. I started making Fire Roland's, Holy Roland's, Physical Roland's, trying everything I could to eek out a little more power, so my ponysader wife wouldn't have to carry me through everything. I tried mixing in Trove belts with Mortal Dramas for flaming rocks, Eternal Union and Taskers for supporting bowmen, Depth Diggers and Simplicity's Strength for machine gun hammers, Cindercoats and Maximus for bigger burns. I tried many really terrible ideas that I won't mention here.
Ultimately, I struggled to clear GR32 on my own due to lack of survival (in 440 paragon levels and two seasons, I've never found a Unity), and rather lackluster damage (nor have I ever found a Furnace, Ancient Maximus, or Heart Slaughter of any variety). I know a few other Roland's users have managed to push past GR35, but my lack of skill and lack of luck with good weapons meant I resorted to tagging along after my monk/DH/barb buddies.
Any sort of AOE I tried was pathetic compared to what my wife and friends were dishing out, so I ended up trying to focus on single-target physical damage. I fancied myself the "Rift Guardian Specialist" - my friends politely nodded when I explained this to them. My wife outright told me that I was dead weight, but she carried me anyways because it's in the fine print of our marriage contract. I would squeal in delight at my 180 million damage Shield Bash crits, while my friends gave me polite golf claps and my wife rolled her eyes.
I heard that 2.2 was bringing improvements to Roland's, but with the season ending soon I'd largely shelved the game until the patch arrived and didn't really pay any attention to the details of what was changing. I assumed that Roland's was getting a small damage boost, and didn't really think much of it when I fired up the game today. At first, I thought my eyes were blurry from lack of sleep and that I had misread the 1 billion damage crit that popped up. But then it happened again! And again! Surely these were tricks on my mind.
After seeing this monstrous crit happen about 30 times (and then dragging my wife over to confirm that I wasn't delusional), I realized the impossible had happened - my Roland's Crusader was Awesome. Overnight, the Blizzard Patch fairies had decided to bestow upon me an unexpected gift, and I broke out into a giddy fit (until my wife slapped me). Speaking of my wonderful spouse, she got a physical damage Drakkon's Lesson, and handed it off to me. I sobered up long enough to realize that I had a Bastion of Will set stashed away for no apparent reason, and put on all these new-found glorious pieces.
Bam. 2.5 billion damage crit.
I then popped all my cooldowns and did it again.
Bam. 3.5 billion damage crit.
That was when I brought out the alcohol.
Anyhow, half-drunk and listening to inspiring music, I decided I had to name this build and share it (everyone else is talking about Fire Roland's with Crumble for the AOE). My Crusader would zip across the screen and Pound his unlucky victim into itsy bitsy pieces, just like a cannonball smashing into its target. Cannonball it is.
TLDR - Patch 2.2 + Roland's + alcohol = A very good time.
Skills and Playstyle
This is not a solo build. The AOE is either nonexistent or entirely lacking, and you won't survive long killing monsters one by one. For a much better solo build, check out the various Fire Crumble builds that have already been posted. As a Cannonball, get your buddies to handle the AOE, your job is to smash any champions, elites, and big fat high-hp monsters you stumble across. This includes the Rift Guardian (no jokes about impotence anymore, my friends now truly recognize me as an RG Specialist. The clapping is real.)
With my decidedly humble gear, I've seen crits reach 3.75 billion with all cooldowns applied. Unloading a full tank of Wrath led to some spectacular DPS on the RG. Unbuffed crits hover around 2.5 billion, with non-crits at 500 million damage. I'm certain others with much better gear will attain even greater heights.
- Shield Bash (Pound) - As a human
ping pongcannonball, this gives you the highest face-smashing damage. It almost always strikes less than 3 targets (useful with the new bracers), and doubles as a travel skill given enough monsters scattered along the path.
- Justice (Hammer of Pursuit) - I tried several different generators, but this one proved to be the best for several reasons. First, it's ranged and you don't waste any time running after monsters (even small distances add up to a lot of stuttering in your attacks). Second, it always hits something due to its homing nature, so you're guaranteed the Wrath and Life on Hit. Third, it does damage on par with Punish and is Physical damage, complementing your Pound build. Lastly, it has the best proc coefficient you could ask for: 1.0. I'll discuss Punish vs Justice later on.
- Laws of Valor (Critical) - Attack speed is suddenly your friend (weird, I know) since it will always benefit Justice, which means more damage, faster Wrath buildup, and more healing via Life on Hit. The Laws are affected by the new Roland set bonus of shaving off cooldown when you apply Shield Bash, which means this is coming up quite often. There might be better options depending on your situation, perhaps Laws of Justice (Immovable Object) for another defensive boost if survival is still a problem. Unstoppable Force would give you a period of intense Shield Bashing, which could be a very considerable DPS boost right when you need it. I personally prefer Critical since the damage boost aids greatly in high burst on elites and champs, and wrath generation is plentiful and straightforward on the Rift Guardian (using your generator for just one second will fill up your wrath quite quickly when you're constantly at max stacks of the attack speed buff).
- Shield Glare (Divine Verdict) - Almost present in every build, the CC, damage boost, and low cooldown make this too useful to pass up. Counting as a Defensive skill means every Shield Bash will reduce its cooldown. Add in the Towering Shield passive, this is available almost constantly (and you need it). Zealous Glare is a commonly chosen alternative to reduce the reliance on your generator for Wrath at the cost of additional damage. In order to focus on single-target fights like the Rift Guardian, I prefer to go with the Divine Verdict since Zealous Glare would only return 9 wrath per application.
- Iron Skin (Steel Skin) - This slot is debatable, and probably should be tailored to your needs/wants. Without perma-Prophet, survival is still a major problem even if you're only running in to snipe elites. Shield Glare only buys you 4 seconds at a time, having another solid defensive option greatly enables me to stand toe-to-toe for longer periods of time. The 3rd skill in our lineup with cooldown reduced on every Shield Bash, it comes up quite often, and should be used often. Other runes are certainly viable and possibly better choices, this is just what I found to be the most convenient so far. Flash is a commonly cited alternative, but with the new Mutilation Guard gem providing the same effects, Steel Skin is probably still the best choice.
- Akarat's Champion (Prophet) - sigh Despite being boring, unexciting, and really ugly, Prophet remains our absolute best panic button in the Crusader arsenal. You just can't beat the large damage boost, Wrath generation, and defense improvement with a free resurrection. This is NOT affected by the Rolands cooldown reduction set bonus, so it really will function as a "panic only" button with a lengthy cooldown.
Obviously there might be other skills or setups that are useful or better. I'm wide open to suggestions.
- Heavenly Strength - If you don't know why, you probably need to get help regarding your drug problem.
- Towering Shield - A 20% damage boost to Shield Bash damage and a 30% cooldown reduction on Shield Glare is too good to pass up. Offense and Defense wrapped up together in a single passive.
- Finery - A very substantial damage increase, and (depending on your gear) probably the biggest general DPS boosting passive we have.
- Indestructible - I use this because survival is still a problem at times. Your needs/wants might vary, glass cannonball players (see what I did there?) might want to slot in another damage-related passive.
These four constitute a decent standard, but other skills are useful (and possibly preferable). Again, I'm open to ideas and suggestions. If you manage to snag a good Hellfire amulet, then Hold Your Ground is an excellent passive to pick up to boost Shield Bash damage. Holy Cause will also provide a decent general damage boost. Vigilant and Wrathful are both fine defensive passives. Lastly, Fanaticism is surprisingly useful - a 15% IAS boost to Justice translates to more straight damage, more Wrath regeneration (which is also more damage), and more Life on Hit returns. Righteousness is also similar, as a 60% increase to the Wrath per generator attack translates to many more Shield Bashes.
Gear, Kanai Powers, and Gems
There are many variants to this, particularly if you decide to drop Bastion of Will for RoRG+Unity/SoJ. Here is just what I use, and this has been largely limited by my terrible luck.
- Helm/Shoulders/Chest/Gloves/Pants/Boots - The complete Roland's Set, as that 6 piece set bonus is a must. For a Physical build, there actually aren't that many great alternatives that would justify ditching the Bastion of Will set for an RoRG. I also don't think it's worth using the Kanai jewelry slot on the RoRG. Crumble players of course need to strongly consider Cindercoat, but we're Physical Cannonballs. The usual stats are desired here, except you can completely ignore cooldown reduction. Thank goodness.
- Weapon - Ideally? An Ancient Heart Slaughter or Ancient Furnace, with good rolls and a Gift applied. Naturally, I've never seen either of these even in their non-Ancient forms, so I settled for a reasonably well rolled Ancient Faithful Memory. %dmg, Strength, and a socket (from a Gift), but my 4th stat I rolled into Life on Hit (more on this later)! Honestly, you can get by with any decent Ancient 2h weapon, which ultimately makes this a rather flexible build since it's not entirely reliant on a single weapon, unlike a certain alternative ability also associated with Roland's. coughSweepAttack With Kanai's cube now in play, the Furnace property is likely to be your selected choice, so a good Heart Slaughter is even more important!
- Shield - I just don't see this build getting by without Piro Marella. This shield grants up to 50% cost reduction on Shield Bash, making it much more spammable. Since it's crafted, with enough materials you could simply make enough until you got a decent Ancient version with good rolls. Maybe offer Haedrig a free trip to the Red Light district, the man could certainly use it. Get CHC on this sucker at the very least. Shields count as weapons for Kanai's cube, so don't expect to use a cubed shield power since there are many good weapon options.
- Bracers - The new Drakkon's Lesson. If you don't know why, you probably need to get help regarding your drug problem. Physical % damage and CHC are necessary. Life on Hit would be great.
- Belt - Lots of options here, and you should probably pick something depending on your needs/wants. You don't need the Vigilante Belt anymore (thank goodness). The best belt for us is the String of Ears, as the defensive boost is necessary at high GRs. If you've got absolutely fantastic zdps players protecting you (lucky bastard), then a Witching Hour would be your best damage boost. I've also heard that the new Blessed of Haull belt (yes, that's how it's spelled) that procs Blessed Hammer on Justice attacks is quite fun, this could be a nice source of light AOE for something easy like T6 runs. If you're using a Blackthorne's amulet, the corresponding Blackthorne's Notched Belt could work too.
- Amulet - Again, anything to suit your needs. I'd at least get a socket if possible, and of course Physical % damage is important. CDC and CDH are highly desirable too. I personally like Mara's Kaleidoscope simply because so many RGs, elite affixes, and regular monsters make use of poison that I find this useful in just about every run. A good Blackthorne's Duncraig Cross could match your belt, the Eye of Etlich is yet another defensive boost, and the other elemental "Get Out of Jail Free" amulets (Aranoch, Cameo, Xephirian, etc) are all useful. What's that? A well rolled Hellfire Amulet? Lucky bastard.
- Rings - For straight damage, nothing beats the Bastion of Will set, specifically Focus and Restraint. All the usual alternatives are still fine, including the RoRG, SoJ, and Unity. It's hard to come by well rolled Focus and Restraints, but the damage increase is so significant that it's worthwhile in any case. Usual ring stats are desired, but try and come by sockets, we need those legendary gems.
As always, open to suggestions here.
Note: This section undergoing updates for 2.3!
- Weapon - The obvious choice seems to be the Furnace. Not only is this rare, but it often doesn't roll very well so most players never use it as their actual weapon. The 50% bonus damage to Elites is not to be ignored. If you do have a well-rolled Ancient Furnace (you lucky bastard), then the alternative would be Blood Brother for the added block chance (moar damage) and 30% damage proc (moar damage). Piro Marella counts as a weapon, and could be used if you have another shield you want. Hellskull is another adequate choice for a straight 10% damage boost. Someone suggested the Corrupted Ashbringer for the additional damage proc. If the stars align and you have this, CoE, and all your buffs in place, the crits could reach divine levels.
- Armor - Mobility and proper positioning play a major role for any Shield Bash build. Because of the need to maintain our set bonuses, we could never fit in the Illusory Boots. It makes an excellent Kanai power so that we have fewer concerns when dealing with large packs (Illusion affix, suck it). Drakon's Lesson can be used here if you have another set of bracers that you want to use (not many great options for this build), Ice Climbers can negate Freeze, and Pauldrons of the Skeleton King is another death save.
- Jewelry - Many, many good choices here. Defensively there are too many to list, reference the Gear section for ideas. Negating certain elements (like Poison) with Mara's Kalaidescope is a good example, this makes us viable on certain RGs that we previously would have been dead weight for. Offensively, Convention of the Elements shines in terms of sheer damage output. Sure, the bonus is only up 25% of the time, but when it's on, it's on. The Rift Guardian will wonder what 18-wheeler just rammed into its arse, your friends will have their mouths agape in awe, and the ladies/gents (depending on how you swing it) will be swooning over you. Broken Promises can be nice if your crit chance is low for some reason, and of course Unity is a staple for solo players. I don't see many uses for Ring of Royal Grandeur and it's not worth giving up the Jewerly cube power for it in most cases.
Here is where I do a lot of hand-waving. What? You say I've done a lot of that already? Well... get ready for some more.
- Bane of the Trapped - Being a melee Cannonball, the Slow effect is always going to be affecting your targets, which means you constantly have the damage boost. And it is quite a substantial damage boost. The Slow effect is also nice for some basic crowd control, you can pretend that you're protecting your squishy DH buddy (we all know you'd laugh if they died). You should only replace this gem if your survival is really in question. This gem blows every other offensive gem out of the water (I'll be saying that a lot).
- Bane of the Powerful - sigh I don't use this. Yes, it's effective. Yes, it's also really boring. At least Trapped has the Slow effect, which is visible. Bane of the Powerful is just a straight DPS boost on a timer, use it if you want for speed runs. Nice for some additional Elite damage. Booooring.
- Wreath of Lightning - The damage is decent, the run speed boost is nice. Due to Justice's great proc coefficient, this comes up constantly. Most importantly, it looks awesome. I use this sometimes for the coolness factor. Bear in mind that Wreath is really just a pretty decoration in high GRs, and totally unnecessary in groups. But no other gem has panache like this one!
- Mirinae - Decent damage, much better for single-target damage than the Wreath. I don't use this mostly because I've already got the Wreath, which is considerably flashier (and that's what's important). In all seriousness, Trapped blows this out of the water.
- Gogok of Swiftness - I don't use this. IAS is always helpful for both offense and defense, but I find having to maintain both the Roland's stacking buff and this one to be a pain (remember my thing about skill?). Furthermore, the cooldown reduction isn't as necessary with the Roland's set bonus already taking time off our Laws and Defensive skills.
- Simplicity's Strength - I used to use this, and the reason was because Punish/Justice was actually a big part of my damage back then (pre-2.2). 35 million damage crits on a generator being cast 3 times per second is significant, and the 2% health returns on each attack easily translated to 10-15k additional Life on Hit for the generator. However, with Shield Bash actually hitting like a truck, improving the generator's damage is not efficient anymore, and there are much better defensive gems.
- Gem of Efficacious Toxin - The 10% damage boost is nice, but we're killing things quickly enough that the long damage over time just isn't going to happen very often. Trapped blows this out of the water.
- Pain Enhancer - The increased attack speed is the main draw. However, Pound hits very few targets, as does Justice. This means you aren't really getting much of an attack speed boost. Also, things tend to die quickly and you lose the IAS when the bleeding target dies. Trapped blows this out of the water.
- Taeguk - I don't like this gem. While it's not difficult to maintain (same 3 second duration as the Roland's buff), it takes so long to ramp up to the maximum potential that in practice I wasn't seeing it provide much "oomph". Also, I just hate having too many buffs rely on sustaining attacks (remember my thing about skill?). In high GRs, you are actually going to be spending a good amount of time repositioning, kiting, and looking for a good "in". You're there to unload huge burst damage on single key targets, which means carefully timed attacks, not constant attacking. The Taeguk buff takes too much sustained attacking to keep the buff up at high stacks.
- Esoteric Alteration - You need defensive gems, as without permanent Prophet, we are quite squishy. I use this, and it's excellent. Never take it off, or you risk kissing the dirt. Unless you like that sort of thing (masochist).
- Mutilation Guard - The benefits of this depends on your situation. Survival is of utmost importance, but we can't be gimping our Cannonball damage too much. If your team can do an adequate job of control and damage avoidance, then you should consider more offensive gems.
- Molten Wildebeest's Gizzard - At high ranks, the Life per Second is nothing to sneeze at. And after 4 seconds of taking no damage (oh hey, guess how long Shield Glare lasts for?) you get a 100k health shield? This is a must have in order to sustain yourself past all the damage in high GRs. You really have to have this if you want to keep going like the Energizer Bunny.
- Bane of the Stricken - Added in Patch 2.3, this gem is not to be ignored for us Rift Guardian Specialists. A scaling damage boost on hits with no timer and no cap? That sounds a little too good to be true, and the rank 25 property is a straight multiplicative 25% damage increase on Rift Guardians! Very tempting. This merits some testing, but I'm finding it difficult to squeeze out either of the defensive gems, and Trapped provides a lot of excellent immediate damage on general enemies and elites.
At this point, gem selection should depend on what you need. Survival cannot be ignored, as you do zero DPS while dead on the ground. Esoteric still seems too important to give up, but now I'm questioning the Gizzard's usefulness, particularly when facing the Rift Guardian. If you're able to survive without the Gizzard, then taking both Trapped and Stricken will elevate you to levels reserved for the divine. It remains to be seen if not having two defensive gems is possible at high GRs.
This is quite a lengthy guide, and I'm going to make it longer still! If you've made it this far, then you sir are a scholar and a gentleman. If you're female, then you're a scholar and a gentlewoman. Or something like that.
Punish versus Justice
Both have merits and disadvantages. Long before Patch 2.2 was even announced, I used Punish extensively, coupling it with Depth Diggers and Simplicity's Strength for 35-40 million damage crits and Life on Hit returns of about 46k. However, some aspects of Justice eventually won out after extensive play and testing. In my current setup, Justice crits for much less (25 million), but having it be ranged was ultimately the big kicker.
- Does more damage due to Hardened Senses increasing your Shield Bash damage!
- Defensively, higher block chance helps when you're mired in enemies.
- Punish runes are nice, Celerity being the optimal choice for even moar speed lolz.
- The Towering Shield passive will naturally boost your Punish damage, making it hit harder than Justice.
- Melee attack. Even if enemies are close, you'll constantly see little bits of "stutter" as your Crusader moves around to reposition. Lots of time is lost in those little moments, large quantities are lost if the enemy is highly mobile and zipping around.
- Lower proc coefficient. Celerity is the rune of choice, but the coefficient is 0.33.
- Ranged! Extremely useful in highly dangerous situation (cauldrons of Arcane, Desecration, Frozen orbs, etc) for life returns and Wrath generation while staying away. Also helps avoid time lost on "stuttering" around enemies and mobile targets. Ends up generating more wrath because you don't lose time to moving.
- 1.0 proc coefficient, proccing legendary gems (and other things) with greater consistency.
- Might be really fun with the new Blessed of Haull belt (yes, that's the spelling). Edit - indeed, it's loads of fun! Not real AOE, but we can pretend.
- Less damage than Punish, but not by much.
- No additional block chance, which means less Shield Bash damage.
- Slightly slower since Celerity won't be in play.
Life on Hit
I've had some tell me Life on Hit is no good, especially in really high GRs. I agree that mitigation is very very important (no amount of healing will help if you are 2-shot), but with a full stack of Roland's speed buff and being able to dish out an attack almost 3 times a second, even my modest gear nets me 50k health per attack. That's about 10% of my max life per hit, or roughly 25% health returned per second while under the influence of the speed buff.
There have been situations where I decided (or guessed) that I could out-heal the incoming damage, and simply stood there and watched my health seesaw up and down while I merrily continued my Cannonball duties. I would contest that rolling Life on Hit on an Ancient 2h weapon is very much worthwhile (up to 36k Life on Hit), and forgoing Vitality on your Bracers for it can really help as well. Remember that Life on Hit on gear scales higher if the gear is Ancient.
Play what you enjoy. Ultimately, that's what counts. If you like Shield Bash, play Shield Bash. If the only thing that interests you is pushing high GRs, then find that Flavor of the Month build and get your bragging rights. If this lengthy Cannonball guide has enticed you and you found it fun, then it was worth the time spent typing this up. Cheers!