Patch 1.0.4 Class Preview: Witch Doctor

  • #1
    Patch 1.0.4 Class Preview: Witch Doctor
    Blizzard has just posted the final class preview for patch 1.0.4. You can check the Barbarian's preview here, the Wizard's preview here, the Monk preview here, and the Demon Hunter preview here.

    Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

    Out of the five Diablo III classes, witch doctors are receiving the most attention in patch 1.0.4. The goal for this patch, like for many of the other classes, was simple: identify the unpopular or hard-to-use skills, figure out what’s not working, and then make them better. In some cases, skills only needed slight tuning -- a little more damage here, or some increased durations there. In other cases, more significant changes were required. For the purpose of this preview, we'll focus on the bigger changes, which can be broken down into the following categories:
    • Pet survivability
    • Vision Quest design flaws
    • Splinters and Zombie Bears are way more appealing than most other skills

    Pets
    One of the core play styles for the witch doctor (and indeed the reason many people chose to play a witch doctor to begin with) is to have pets. Unfortunately, while witch doctor pets do pretty well in Normal difficulty, their survivability has been virtually non-existent in Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno. From our perspective, this isn't acceptable, so we're making some significant buffs to pets in 1.0.4. The goal of these buffs is to make pets not only more viable in those later difficulties, but also more enjoyable for players who prefer to base their builds around them.

    From a design perspective, we want your pets to be durable enough so they can tank for you, but we don't want them to just be automatically immortal. The cooldown on summoning pets is there for a reason. Speaking more specifically, we'd like for there to be times when your pets have died, your cooldowns haven't refreshed yet, and you have that period of increased tension as you wait for the situation to stabilize again. On the other hand, we'd also like for there to be noticeable improvements for players who put thought and effort into their skill and gear selections to make their pets as strong as possible.

    Trial and Error:
    One of the first things we tried internally was to have Zombie Dogsscale their Life directly with their owner's Life (Zombie Dogs already inherit Armor and Resistance from their owner). This had mixed results. For example, if the player stacked a large amount of Life, Armor, and Resist, it was possible to have Zombie Dogs tank most of Act I and parts of Act 2 in Inferno. As much as it made sense to have Zombie Dogs scale directly with your gear, it actually inhibited a completely different playstyle: players who wanted their witch doctor to be more of a glass cannon, but still have their Zombie Dogs able to tank. And with that we went back to the drawing board.

    The next time around we gave the Zombie Dogs a base amount of Life, and in addition to this base value, they would also receive 35% of their owner's Life. So, you had a Zombie Dog that could scale with your gear, but if you were built as a glass cannon you’d still have that base amount of Life to fall back on. To help with general survivability, we also gave Zombie Dogs some innate passive Life regeneration. This test was much more successful. The Zombie Dogs could survive through most parts of Act I and Act II of Inferno just fine and died only occasionally to really difficult encounters. In Act III and Act IV, however, they could take maybe one or two hits, but the outcome was always the same: dead Zombie dogs. We tried increasing the bonus to 100% of their owner's Life -- and even to 150% at one point, just to see what would happen -- but it was to no avail. The incoming damage just scaled up too high in those later Acts.

    So, we made some more adjustments to their scaling, we gave them more passive regeneration, and we made pets resistant to even more AoE effects (such as Plagued, Frozen, and Mortar). The result was positive, but not perfect: Zombie Dogs could now tough out Acts I and II of Inferno, but they were still melting in Acts III and IV.



    The Final Product:
    Our final iteration was to give Zombie Dogs their own version of the wizard skill Force Armor, which limits the amount of damage a wizard can take in a single hit up to 35% of their maximum Life. Much like the rationale for reducing damage for AoE effects, pets take more damage from melee than players. Pets also don't back off when they’re low, make use of doorways, or avoid big attacks.


    When translating "Force Armor" over to Zombie Dogs, we wanted to make sure they could still scale with the player's Life, Armor, and Resistances. So, rather than a flat 35%, the damage cap per hit is based on inherited Armor and Resistance values, and rather than scaling with the total Life, the mitigation amount is calculated on the base health of the Zombie Dogs, allowing additional Life to actually scale exceptionally well.

    This might be a bit confusing, so let's set up an example using a level 60 witch doctor. Let’s say this witch doctor has 32,000 Life, 45% mitigation from Armor, and 30% mitigation from Resistances. (For clarity, this means that 55% of incoming damage gets past the player’s Armor, and 70% of the incoming damage gets past Resistances.)
    • The base Life of a level 60 Zombie Dog is 10,000 Life
    • With scaling, each Zombie Dog will have 21,200 Life (10,000 [base] + 32,000 * 35% [scaling])
    • The maximum damage the Zombie Dog can take in a single hit will be 3850 Life (10,000 [base] * 55% [damage not mitigated by armor] * 70% [damage not mitigated by Resistances])
    • Ignoring passive Life regeneration, this means each Zombie Dog will always be able to take at least 5.5 hits (21,200 [Life] / 3850 [damage])
    Once you factor in some passive Life regeneration and healing from health globes, Zombie Dogs can do reasonably well in Inferno. Players who decide to go with a glass cannon build while using Zombie Dogs will have pets that can tank for short periods of time. Meanwhile, players who build with some survivability and choose pet-oriented passives like Fierce Loyalty, Zombie Handler, and Jungle Fortitude will find their pets to be extremely durable and very capable of handling all Acts of Inferno.




    Vision Quest
    As it stands now, without Vision Quest, many builds feel like you never have quite enough Mana.
    Don't get me wrong: feeling like you always want more Mana can be a good thing, otherwise the resource system isn’t really doing its job. Even so, there are two major issues with Vision Quest that we want to address. The first is that it can feel very "feast or famine" when you're using it; sometimes you have near limitless Mana and at other times you're starved for resources. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it forces you to keep four skills on cooldown in order to be useful. This can be frustrating for a witch doctor who wants to use a cooldown skill strategically, but ends up casting the spell early for the Mana regeneration benefits.

    Let’s use Big Bad Voodoo as an example. Big Bad Voodoo might be ready to go, but you need it on cooldown for Vision Quest to stay active. So, you cast the skill with only a handful of enemies on the screen. Then, no more than 20 seconds later, you come across a nasty Elite pack. While this would be a great moment to drop a Big Bad Voodoo to help you kill everything in sight (and ultimately avoid being killed yourself)….the skill is, of course, on cooldown. This can be a very aggravating experience! This isn't a dilemma we want players to face on a regular basis, so Vision Quest is getting redesigned for 1.0.4.

    What’s Changing:
    We're keeping the focus of the skill on Mana regeneration, but we're going to shift the way you get that regeneration away from needlessly spamming cooldowns to attacking and doing damage. The first thing we're doing is increasing the baseline Mana regeneration of all witch doctors from 20 Mana per second to 45 Mana per second. Not only does this help to alleviate the "feast or famine" effect, it also acts as a big buff to witch doctors who choose to skip Vision Quest. As for Vision Quest itself, it will increase Mana regeneration by 30% for 5 seconds after dealing damage with Firebomb, Corpse Spiders, Poison Dart, or Plague of Toads. One of the fun things about this set up is that you can combine it with a Spider Queen (Corpse Spider rune) or a Pyrogeist (Firebomb rune) and they’ll keep Vision Quest active for you the entire time they’re out.


    Of course, Vision Quest going down to 30% can seem scary. Base Mana regeneration is increased, and the new mechanics actually allow for Vision Quest to have a very high uptime, but is it enough?

    As we continue internal testing, one of our checks to determine how well Vision Quest is performing is to see if a level 60 player can still summon hordes of stampeding Zombie Bears. While we can't accommodate every skill and build combination out there, the goal for Vision Quest is that a player who has chosen the right passives and gear will still be able to summon waves of stampeding bears for at least a few seconds. The new Vision Quest is a lot less "feast or famine" than before, which means some players won't be able to spam Zombie Bears for quite as long, but the tradeoff is you’ll have a more consistent stream of Mana coming in, and (more importantly) you'll have your cooldown-controlled skills available to use strategically for maximum effect. A more reliable Mana stream, being able to use your cooldowns, and having the option to use other active and passive skills seems like a better design for the class as a whole for the long term.




    Skill Options
    In case you're wondering, we’re not touching Splinters or Zombie Bears this patch. While these are the two most popular witch doctor skills right now, it’s probably not just because people love the sound of Splinters or the look of Zombie Bears (though both of those are pretty cool). Instead, their popularity is likely due to how attractive these skills are, both in terms of damage output and overall feel. To help compensate and open up more build options, we’re buffing a lot of other skills to make them as appealing as Splinters and Zombie Bears.

    Speaking of how a skill feels, the reason players avoid many of the lesser used witch doctor skills have more to do with the skill feeling "slow." For example, Firebomb, Plague of Toads, and Corpse Spiders all have animation timing issues which are being improved for 1.0.4. In general, all of these skills will cast faster, which will make the class feel snappier and more responsive. We're also doing a straight damage increase on many skills including (but not limited to) Acid Cloud, Firebats, Firebomb, and Spirit Barrage.

    That wraps up the witch doctor, and all of our class previews! We hope you're excited about these changes and look forward to hearing your feedback.




    Be sure to check out our other class previews for patch1.0.4: Wyatt Cheng is a Senior Technical Game Designer for Diablo III. He doesn't always fold on a K-10 offsuit.
  • #2
    super big images!!! ( 1 sec)
  • #3
    better pet scaling/survivability, reworking of VQ and base mana regen, faster cast animations for abilities i want to use, but didn't because they felt awkwardly slow...yeah that's pretty much my checklist down to the letter.
  • #4
    I can't say I was happy with every class preview, but this one was SPOT ON! I think I'll be switching from my monk to my WD in the patch.
    GJ blizz
  • #5
    While it was said that WD's are getting the most attention out of 1.04, I feel like this was given the least attention in terms of this post. But with that said, we haven't even seen the patch notes. Hoping for tons of information there!

    One of the bigger things I hope for, more than the adjusting the class in terms of damage/mana regen/etc, is tooltip cooldowns showing the correct cooldown according to runs/passives, and Fetish army rune/passive for reducing the cooldown working properly. Last I checked, having the rune decreased the CD, but then having the passive (which reduces the CD for it, hex, and Big Bad Voodoo) increased the CD.
  • #6
    wait what just happened?

    cause it looks like one of the classes actual issues got addressed.

    odd... either way, one down, 4 to go
  • #7
    Looks cool. I will check out the patch.
  • #8
    HAPPPYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY
  • #9
    sweet, definitely looking forward to be being able to enjoy corpse spiders
  • #10
    yes!!!! to mana regen!!!!

    and my summons can finally come with me to inferno!!!

    Find any Diablo news? Contact me or anyone else on the News team  

  • #11
    better pets? good enough for me
  • #12
    If they TRULY tested their content before releasing the game to the public, the pets not being viable for NM, Hell and Inferno would have easily been spotted.

    Took them 3 months to figure out a solution to all these problems that could have been resolved by doing more testing in the beta rather than limiting us.

    I just do not understand why they released a BETA to the public rather than a full game. It should have been sold for 15$ not 60$.
  • #13
    Quote from Benegesserit

    sweet, definitely looking forward to be being able to enjoy corpse spiders


    I've really, really tried

    SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH

    I mean, they're definitely cool

    SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH

    but I'd really prefer it if they just

    SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH

    lost the 'clay jars' things and just had us

    SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH

    tossing baby spiders around like arachnid confetti.

    SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH

    Because OMFG that sound.
  • #14
    Quote from RookOyb

    If they TRULY tested their content before releasing the game to the public, the pets not being viable for NM, Hell and Inferno would have easily been spotted.

    Took them 3 months to figure out a solution to all these problems that could have been resolved by doing more testing in the beta rather than limiting us.



    I agree, most of D3 felt heavily untested past the parts that the "beta" part of the test. Many of the issues that came up should have been easily spotted if anyone would have actually played the game, which I highly doubt anyone truly did.
    What are you willing to sacrifice?
  • #15
    Wait wtf is going on here? Yeah they're buffing pets like they promised months ago, but they are killing mana regen and people are celebrating it as a buff??? Maybe there's other changes to mana regen that they didn't mention, but the post sounds like they don't want us to ever be able to have enough regen to be able to spam bats/bears. While the old mechanic was indeed "feast or famine" and I myself suggested many ways that could smooth it out, this change is completely gutting it. Before you could get over 250 mana/sec with gear and talents but from what they've told us it will now be limited to about 100 mana/sec.

    This preview is worse than the wizard preview that said CM build is getting half as much AP procs from tornados. They're forcing WD to use primary spells, so everyone is likely going to be forced into splinters/firebomb builds and not care about mana dumps like they want us to.
  • #16
    Quote from phuzi0n

    Wait wtf is going on here? Yeah they're buffing pets like they promised months ago, but they are killing mana regen and people are celebrating it as a buff??? Maybe there's other changes to mana regen that they didn't mention, but the post sounds like they don't want us to ever be able to have enough regen to be able to spam bats/bears. While the old mechanic was indeed "feast or famine" and I myself suggested many ways that could smooth it out, this change is completely gutting it. Before you could get over 250 mana/sec with gear and talents but from what they've told us it will now be limited to about 100 mana/sec.

    This preview is worse than the wizard preview that said CM build is getting half as much AP procs from tornados. They're forcing WD to use primary spells, so everyone is likely going to be forced into splinters/firebomb builds and not care about mana dumps like they want us to.


    I know. Forcing everyone to take VQ and use long-cooldown abilities for no other reason than to compensate for low base mana-regen was awesome!

    /sarcasm

    When an ability is so good that people use it to exclusion of all else, and use other abilities for no reason other than to trigger that one good one, that's bad design, and either the ability or its triggers are going to get nerfed. That was true for WW+CM, and it's true for SQ. Hell, it'd be true for OWE if Blizzard could fix it without causing an unholy shitstorm.
  • #17
    Quote from RookOyb

    If they TRULY tested their content before releasing the game to the public, the pets not being viable for NM, Hell and Inferno would have easily been spotted.

    Took them 3 months to figure out a solution to all these problems that could have been resolved by doing more testing in the beta rather than limiting us.

    I just do not understand why they released a BETA to the public rather than a full game. It should have been sold for 15$ not 60$.


    STFU - $60 isn't that big a cost.... I bought my wife a copy for $55 -- she played through normal only and I don't even care. You and everyone else on this board played for at least 200+ hours and got more than a great value for your money. Even if you didn't... we've all bought those 8 hour playthrough console games for $60....
  • #18
    Quote from Catalept

    I know. Forcing everyone to take VQ and use long-cooldown abilities for no other reason than to compensate for low base mana-regen was awesome!

    /sarcasm

    When an ability is so good that people use it to exclusion of all else, and use other abilities for no reason other than to trigger that one good one, that's bad design, and either the ability or its triggers are going to get nerfed. That was true for WW+CM, and it's true for SQ. Hell, it'd be true for OWE if Blizzard could fix it without causing an unholy shitstorm.

    Nobody was forced to take VQ, there has always been the divide between either splinters+PtV or bat/bears+VQ. Now that divide is gone and people will just choose either splinters or firebomb and forget about regen completely.
  • #19
    Quote from phuzi0n

    Nobody was forced to take VQ, there has always been the divide between either splinters+PtV or bat/bears+VQ. Now that divide is gone and people will just choose either splinters or firebomb and forget about regen completely.


    If you're arguing that the re-worked VQ is actually too weak to make it worth bothering with anymore, then that is something I agree with. +30% isn't a hell of a lot. It feels like it should be a passive that compliments a bursty CD-based spec... 30% is just background noise.
  • #20
    Quote from Catalept

    If you're arguing that the re-worked VQ is actually too weak to make it worth bothering with anymore, then that is something I agree with. +30% isn't a hell of a lot. It feels like it should be a passive that compliments a bursty CD-based spec... 30% is just background noise.

    That's only part of my point. As I said, currently you can get over 250 mana/sec with mana regen gear+VQ which can support spamming high mana cost spells, but the new 30% VQ and increased base mana regen can only get you to slightly over 100 mana/sec. 100/sec is not nearly enough to support spamming any high cost spell for very long so you can not just use something like spider queen to keep VQ active while you spam as they suggested in the preview, you have to use darts/firebomb so that you have something to spam the other half the time when your OOM. If you're forced to spam darts/firebomb half the time anyways, then why not spam it all the time, get a more attractive passive instead of VQ, and get another utility spell instead of a mana dump?

    They're taking away the ability to make specs viable by gearing mana regen. They might have killed CM wizards the same way but they at least claimed that with high crit (and presumably high AP on crit) that CM wizards will still work. They also said they're not touching blender barbs at all which is another spec that has to gear for regen (through crit chance). But this preview outright says that WD will not be able to gear enough regen to support spamming bears forever.
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