Thorns Builds - Theorycrafting

  • #1
    Disclaimer: I am not in beta. Therefore...

    I'm thinking of doing a Thorns build for Hardcore, with the intent that my defense will be my offense. Thorns builds, though, typically have a few caveats depending on how the game is designed. I recall trying to run a Vengeance/Thorns Paladin in Diablo II and I barely made it past Act II /p8. The damage output for Thorns was just too low. It was a relatively fun and unique build but didn't feel viable.

    Thorns had this damage % reflected pattern:
    Damage Return +% 250 290 330 370 410 450 490 530 570 610 650 690 730 770 810 850 890 930 970 1010
    (stolen from Arreat Summit)

    Those are not small numbers. But, unfortunately, at 500% damage reflected, you still don't do shit.

    The problem with this is that the way balancing is usually done, monsters often do very little damage to you compared to their health, so you can multiply it by 10 but it will still be too low damage. By the time you get decent damage output from Thorns you have taken way too much damage yourself. It also seems like in Diablo III, you will need to get Thorns damage mostly from items, which will affect your effectiveness in other areas. For a Thorns build to work, they should constitute a significant amount of your overall damage output. If the game doesn't provide enough damage this will simply not work just like it didn't work in DII.

    Another issue is how much various damage reduction mods factor in. Ideally, Thorns would take the raw damage you are dealt prior to any armor or damage reduction. In that case, stuff like Nerves of Steel will not hinder you. Otherwise, this will really not fly with Hardcore if you have to reduce your armor. Fortunately, Diablo III removed chance to hit so we don't have to care about being hit anymore (Thorns favors basically always being hit). I also intended to use a shield here, but I'm wondering on the effects of blocking and if a specialization in low-block shields is possible. My Thorns pally was a 2hand user because of that. I kinda forgot that Thorns builds do not favor shields. Using a 2-hander should give you pretty good damage output, though.

    So this is some theorycrafting here I'm doing for fun, trying to outline all the possible options for a Thorns build. This is a Thorns oriented build, not a "Thorns on the side" build (I'm not sure if there's a point to that, tbh). I definitely see a lot of room for adaptability here, i.e., if you're low on armor, you'll take one passive over the other in a real (virtual) life situation. This is an attempt to do something balanced. Active skills are bold and reddish, rune effects are italic and reddish, passive skills are just bold. Feel free to give advice on better coloring lol.

    To start, skills, that, I believe, fly out the window with a Thorns build:

    Wrath of the Berserker. The 20% dodge chance just seems counterproductive.

    Call of the Ancients. If they are hitting those 3 guys they are not hitting you. Good skill for builds that want to disperse damage, but that's not what we're trying to achieve here.

    Since I'm taking out 2 of the big skills, Boon of Bul-Kathos is probably not very useful, either.

    Threatening Shout (potentially), if the damage reduction reduces Thorns damage.

    Bloodthirst. Thorns builds preclude low damage output, so damage-based lifesteal is meh.

    And these are the skills I foresee using:

    Tough as Nails seems like a must-have passive, and Ignore Pain with Contempt for Weakness a must-have skill (granted, that rune is very high level, so until then, I'd take either Iron Hide or Ignorance is Bliss). Those are the only two Thorns-enabling skills for the Barbarian, iirc, and they both also help with damage reduction. I really don't know how widespread Thorns modifiers are on items so I'd figure these are key.

    Revenge also seems very useful since you'll be hit a lot, possibly with Vengeance is Mine or Retribution. Seems like this could be a significant damage skill, but not sure how useful single target since it probably won't proc often from a single target (maybe switch to Provocation). Although, with adds, it could be all right.

    Of course, we also need to worry about survival, both because we take lots of damage and as I've said this is with HC intentions.

    One side of the issue is just improving your defenses, and we have skills like Nerves of Steel, which seems amazing because you end up raising your health and armor at the same time. As HC, it's quite obvious one would look at Juggernaut. The life recovery and protection from movement impairing effects seems hard to skip. But, I wonder if with a sufficiently protected build, this would actually be an issue. A Thorns Barbarian intends to be sort of in the middle of the battle, not as concerned with positioning as other builds, and perhaps not as vulnerable to snares or stuns and what not because, hey, you're just dealing damage to them. Pop Ignore Pain and be happy. With that in mind, I'm wondering if I'd prefer to grab Superstition instead. It's my wild guess that magic damage doesn't get reflected, and ranged damage is typically useless, as well. That's the stuff we don't want, and being armored-centered, we may miss out on resists a bit. Relentless is an option but I don't like it, I prefer to never get that low, and Ignore Pain does essentially the same thing.

    The other side of the issue, from what I can see, is lifesteal. But, since a big chunk of our damage output isn't from hitting stuff, damage based lifesteal isn't particularly useful. Fortunately, there are a few maximum life based skills on the table. Aforementioned Revenge already heals you for 5% of your maximum life, with Vengeance is Mine raising that to 8%. Depending on how Revenge procs and when the life increase is applied, this can be extremely useful. Then there's Overpower with Revel, same thing.

    Juggernaut gives you a chance to recover 15%. Depending on how often effects of that nature are applied on you, this may or may not be useful. I'm not sure on the usefulness of Pound of Flesh, kinda ignoring it right now, will be easier to say in-game. Inspiring Presence is another passive that regenerates 1% of your maximum life, depending on one's use of shouts, may be useful.

    Whirlwind has a rune option Blood Funnel, which restores 1% of your maximum life every critical hit. I've actually considered using this, but I'm not sure on the efficiency of critical hits, especially without something like Weapons Master + Axes/Maces. I'm also not sure how being hit works in the middle of Whirlwind. Revenge also has Best Served Cold, a rune that increases your critical hit chance. Then there's Ruthless, with its 5% critical strike increase, but Weapons Master is more effective. There's also Overpower with Killing Spree. Critical chance can also be increased via Battle Rage, but 3% seems like a joke, and I'm not particularly impressed with Battle Rage overall. But, if this is where you want to go, it's here.

    While I don't like Battle Rage, War Cry, while increasing your armor, has a number of nifty rune effects (I see a lot of potential for rune switching here...). Impunity gives you some nice resistances, and you could potentially use this instead of Superstituion and grab Inspiring Presence instead, so you have your armor, resistances, and life regeneration. Invirogate gives you really nice raw life benefits (which is potentially useful against magic as well). Hardened Wrath just gives you a good raw armor bonus. Nothing wrong with Charge!, while we're at it. On the other hand, Threatening Shout, I'm not sure. While the wording of Ignore Pain is "damage taken", here, it's "damage done by enemies", which leads me to believe this will affect Thorns damage negatively. This shout does have an interesting rune Demoralize, but I'm not sure if it will be that difficult to get everybody to attack you tbh.

    (Fury considerations are not present here because I don't have experience with Fury, and because two of the main skills and main damage do not even use Fury)

    I think that's more or less it on Thorns skills. From there you're left with 3 skill slots for w/e the heck you want to use for w/e reason. I can't go too far on this because I feel this will strongly depend on one's experience with the game, and I'm not even in beta. My personal plans would probably be something like this:

    I may grab Bash for single target depending on how things pan out. Onslaught seems good for overall damage, maybe Punish to empower a future Revenge or something. Depending on how effective Revenge is, I may not need Bash at all. In that case, I'd probably grab Cleave with Broad Sweep instead. Or I can just grab Overpower.

    Take Rend with Mutilate. I would generally call this "clean up damage", something that you put on all the mobs and if they didn't die from something else they'd die from this. Also good to put on random annoying side mobs you don't want to deal with so they die eventually.

    I do see myself grabbing Whirlwind depending on how it works with being hit. Whirlwind has Volcanic Eruption for fire damage.

    I'm actually tempted to grab Earthquake with The Mountains Call for "oh shit!" moments or something, and since it deals fire damage for a change (or cold with Chilling Earth). I may just take Ground Stomp with Deafening Crash instead, but I probably do want some sort of crowd-control.

    Something like this: http://us.battle.net...hRkT!bVe!YbccbZ

    What do you all think?
  • #2
    i dunno, you want to take as low dmg as possible in hardcore which doesnt really cooperate well with thorns build
  • #3
    Thorn armour only works against melee attackers. What are you going to do about the range attackers?
    Check out my Diablo 3 videos! --> http://www.youtube.com/Gr1mTV
  • #4
    Quote from X_Gr1m_X

    Thorn armour only works against melee attackers. What are you going to do about the range attackers?


    you are in beta and im not but i think this is not true :P i hope its not true actually
  • #5
    Quote from Barrier

    Quote from X_Gr1m_X

    Thorn armour only works against melee attackers. What are you going to do about the range attackers?


    you are in beta and im not but i think this is not true :P i hope its not true actually
    It is true. But i'm sure there's armour for range attackers also. Maybe you could have a mixture of both?
    Check out my Diablo 3 videos! --> http://www.youtube.com/Gr1mTV
  • #6
    Quote from X_Gr1m_X

    Quote from Barrier

    Quote from X_Gr1m_X

    Thorn armour only works against melee attackers. What are you going to do about the range attackers?


    you are in beta and im not but i think this is not true :P i hope its not true actually
    It is true. But i'm sure there's armour for range attackers also. Maybe you could have a mixture of both?


    what do you mean armor for range attackers? armor works on melee range and even spells, we are talking about thorn dmg: Attacker Takes Damage of 1-3
  • #7
    Quote from Barrier

    Quote from X_Gr1m_X

    Quote from Barrier

    Quote from X_Gr1m_X

    Thorn armour only works against melee attackers. What are you going to do about the range attackers?


    you are in beta and im not but i think this is not true :P i hope its not true actually
    It is true. But i'm sure there's armour for range attackers also. Maybe you could have a mixture of both?


    what do you mean armor for range attackers? armor works on melee range and even spells, we are talking about thorn dmg: Attacker Takes Damage of 1-3
    Currently in the beta Thorn armor is solely for melee attackers.
    Check out my Diablo 3 videos! --> http://www.youtube.com/Gr1mTV
  • #8
    Quote from X_Gr1m_X

    Quote from Barrier

    Quote from X_Gr1m_X

    Quote from Barrier

    Quote from X_Gr1m_X

    Thorn armour only works against melee attackers. What are you going to do about the range attackers?


    you are in beta and im not but i think this is not true :P i hope its not true actually
    It is true. But i'm sure there's armour for range attackers also. Maybe you could have a mixture of both?


    what do you mean armor for range attackers? armor works on melee range and even spells, we are talking about thorn dmg: Attacker Takes Damage of 1-3
    Currently in the beta Thorn armor is solely for melee attackers.


    This is incorrect, thorns affects anyone hitting the character including ranged attacks.
    Redkoolaid -ALL 2 MINUTE COOLDOWNS
  • #9
    I think a summoning WD makes for the best Thorns build. With Zombie Dogs, Gargantuan, Fetish plus the Zombie Handler and Fierce Loyalty passives your 'meat shields' would generate good offense as well. Best of all your WD his or herself doesn't have to sacrifice defense.
  • #10
    Quote from Swampmonkey5

    I think a summoning WD makes for the best Thorns build. With Zombie Dogs, Gargantuan, Fetish plus the Zombie Handler and Fierce Loyalty passives your 'meat shields' would generate good offense as well. Best of all your WD his or herself doesn't have to sacrifice defense.


    Wrong forum.
    Redkoolaid -ALL 2 MINUTE COOLDOWNS
  • #11






    Thorn = Only Melee Attackers.
    Check out my Diablo 3 videos! --> http://www.youtube.com/Gr1mTV
  • #12
    Also, this is a pretty sweet video I put together, using full thorn at Jar of Souls.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfttfcbljjI&list=UUyCfamWRmnLSE1Ph-VVAflA&index=23&feature=plcp
    Check out my Diablo 3 videos! --> http://www.youtube.com/Gr1mTV
  • #13
    Quote from X_Gr1m_X

    Also, this is a pretty sweet video I put together, using full thorn at Jar of Souls.


    Okay, that is just ridiculous.
  • #14
    The build will only be useabel in coop, to tank monsters. I do not belive you can farm with the build because you will have to low dmg output, but you never know unless you try it.
  • #15
    Quote from X_Gr1m_X
    Thorn armour only works against melee attackers. What are you going to do about the range attackers?
    Obviously ranged is not considered. I'm more concerned with the magic attackers, tbh, since that's not defended by armor, while ranged should be.

    Quote from Sxnderjyden
    The build will only be useabel in coop, to tank monsters. I do not belive you can farm with the build because you will have to low dmg output, but you never know unless you try it.
    Yeah, as I said, it relies heavily on the monster damage vs health balance. If monsters deal too little damage, it will be very difficult to make it work. Which is a shame.

    Nothing like walking into a room and having everyone die from hitting you.

    Quote from X_Gr1m_X
    Also, this is a pretty sweet video I put together, using full thorn at Jar of Souls.


    Yeah, exactly what I mean. Unfortunately, that doesn't show much for the future. Thorns were pretty effective early game in Diablo II, as well.
  • #16
    Quote from Equinox

    Quote from X_Gr1m_X
    Thorn armour only works against melee attackers. What are you going to do about the range attackers?
    Obviously ranged is not considered. I'm more concerned with the magic attackers, tbh, since that's not defended by armor, while ranged should be.

    Quote from Sxnderjyden
    The build will only be useabel in coop, to tank monsters. I do not belive you can farm with the build because you will have to low dmg output, but you never know unless you try it.
    Yeah, as I said, it relies heavily on the monster damage vs health balance. If monsters deal too little damage, it will be very difficult to make it work. Which is a shame.

    Nothing like walking into a room and having everyone die from hitting you.


    Armor reduces ALL damage (including magic).

    I'm guessing you can probably get up to 700+350 (50%) thorns damage with tough as nails. I think this will be more viable in PVP than PVE....
  • #17
    Quote from Sabvre

    Quote from Equinox

    Quote from X_Gr1m_X
    Thorn armour only works against melee attackers. What are you going to do about the range attackers?
    Obviously ranged is not considered. I'm more concerned with the magic attackers, tbh, since that's not defended by armor, while ranged should be.

    Quote from Sxnderjyden
    The build will only be useabel in coop, to tank monsters. I do not belive you can farm with the build because you will have to low dmg output, but you never know unless you try it.
    Yeah, as I said, it relies heavily on the monster damage vs health balance. If monsters deal too little damage, it will be very difficult to make it work. Which is a shame.

    Nothing like walking into a room and having everyone die from hitting you.


    Armor reduces ALL damage (including magic).

    I'm guessing you can probably get up to 700+350 (50%) thorns damage with tough as nails. I think this will be more viable in PVP than PVE....


    That's not quite true, I was looking on Diablonut (http://diablonut.inc...em/archon-armor) and found some nice affixes for chest armor:
    Melee attackers take (1713-2544) damage per hit.



    So if we make a quick calculation:
    Chest: 1713-2544
    Head: 980-1454
    Shoulders: 1713-2544
    Cloak: 1243-1712
    Wrist: 980-1454
    Hands: 980-1454
    Waist: 1243-1712
    Legs: 980-1454
    Feet: 980-1454
    Neck: 1243-1712
    Ring: 711-979
    Ring #2: 711-979
    Shield: 1713-2544
    Weapon: 1243-1712

    Total: 16433-22729
    With the passive: 16433-22729*150%=24649-34094

    Something tells me that this might actually be vailable before inferno!

    A small comparison (not really a fair one but still :P ) earthquake with a normal titan axe will do about 12000 damage per hit.

    I would make a build like this one:

    Because you cannot only rely on thorns, I picked frenzy and whirlwind for magic and ranged attackers.
  • #18
    Quote from Sabvre
    Armor reduces ALL damage (including magic).
    WHAT?!

    Well, see, this is why I have the disclaimer in my thread.

    Quote from Sabvre
    I'm guessing you can probably get up to 700+350 (50%) thorns damage with tough as nails. I think this will be more viable in PVP than PVE...
    Haha, maybe, but PvP is a long way off.

    I wonder if Blizzard intends for a Thorns build to be viable at all.

    Quote from koetjeka
    That's not quite true, I was looking on Diablonut (http://diablonut.inc...em/archon-armor) and found some nice affixes for chest armor:
    Melee attackers take (1713-2544) damage per hit.
    This may be the most important thing here. I am, in fact, relying on something like this existing, otherwise it just won't fly. These affixes make me wonder, though, if Ignore Pain is not worth taking, because the affixes may quickly overcome that bonus.
    Quote from Barrier
    i dunno, you want to take as low dmg as possible in hardcore which doesnt really cooperate well with thorns build
    This isn't necessarily true. The idea here is to get abnormally high amounts of armor and compensate for the decreased damage (due to less damage-dealing skills) with Thorns.
  • #19
    1) First of all, Thorns doesn't reflect damage, it does a flat damage amount as you can see in the post referencing diablonut above.

    2) I believe that thorns does damage to any attacker that is within melee range. So if you're being hit by an archer but you're in its face, it'll take thorns damage. I was under the impression that thorns doesn't affect ranged attackers who are beyond a certain range.

    3) It's unclear whether thorns benefits from +% damage abilities... and personally I'm not sure if it can crit or not.

    4) Thorns is based on enemy attack speed of course. It'll be better against weaker, fast attacking enemies and probably be particularly bad against bosses. I don't think thorns will ever do high damage endgame. But it'll do good enough damage to make a build around it. But you're not going to kill most things as quickly as someone who stacks damage would. As said above, solo farming might take a lot longer than you'd want, but in groups people will like you because you'll have tanking + damage output. On the other hand though, it's unlikely you'll die with a tanking/thorns build which could make the game more enjoyable.

    5) You obviously need life regen for a thorns build, armor alone isn't going to cut it. But then, most builds will need life regen I would think. Again, it's unclear if thorns works with life on hit or life leech.

    6) Thorns works poorly with any ability that reduces enemy attack speed, or frankly anything that snares an enemy beyond a certain extent. Also, knockback/stuns/dodge, etc aren't going to help your damage output. And obviously you'll use a shield and focus on block pretty heavily.

    7) Thorns is interesting... but it really feels like your damage will end up being so low that it might not be so fun to play. You'll always have to be grouped with damage dealers if you want to clear things faster than what you can solo.
  • #20

    I would make a build like this one:

    Because you cannot only rely on thorns, I picked frenzy and whirlwind for magic and ranged attackers.


    in my opinion the rune on whirlwind is pretty useless cos 99% of the time you will be at full fury anyway, you should pick a damage boost for it or blood funnel, for extra life regen.

    Edit: my bad, Tought Whirlwind had a 3-8 sec CD, man all the barbarians will be pretty dizzy after a day of spinning :P

    P.S: would love to see this build work, in someway, if its not god enougth for late hell/ inferno it could work good enought for maybe a boost character, but i think i would use a WD for that anyway :P

    Good luck building.
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