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Witch Doctor Leveling and Fresh 70 Guide (Patch 2.4.2 / Season 8)

Last updated on Oct 21, 2016 at 07:53 by Deadset 10 comments

Table of Contents

The purpose of the beginner Witch Doctor guide is to provide you with a build and item recommendations that will reliably carry you from leveling, through the pre-Torment difficulties and get you into low Torment farming, without requiring specific legendary or set bonuses. The guide also includes a section for Season 8 Witch Doctors, explaining how best to take advantage of the free set from Haedrig's Gifts.

1. About the Author

This build is presented to you by Deadset, one of the very few professional Diablo 3 players. Deadset regularly publishes video guides on Youtube, where you can see how this and other builds play out in practice.

2. Video Guide

The following video guide was created to accompany the present written guide and demonstrate how to play the build in-game.

3. Why choose the Witch Doctor?

Choose the Witch Doctor if you enjoy outsmarting the enemy, rendering them helpless and broken through hexes and transmutations. Once in control, you can either dive in for the kill with a devastating curse, or revel in the carnage your pets will deliver. Figures misshapen and undead bend to your will, as will reality itself — distorted, blurred and bloodied.

4. Leveling and Fresh 70 Build

4.1. Beginner Build

Active Skills
Left Mouse Button Haunt Icon Haunt Resentful Spirits Resentful Spirits Right Mouse Button Acid Cloud Icon Acid Cloud Acid Rain Acid Rain 1 Soul Harvest Icon Soul Harvest Vengeful Spirit Vengeful Spirit 2 Spirit Walk Icon Spirit Walk Severance Severance 3 Summon Zombie Dogs Icon Summon Zombie Dogs Burning Dogs Burning Dogs 4 Gargantuan Icon Gargantuan Humongoid Humongoid
Passive Skills

Note that while the skills and runes recommended in the build are specifically chosen to be available at an early level and remain a solid pick throughout the leveling and early character progression, you will have to temporarily work with other skills as the build gradually unlocks. To familiarize yourself with the class, experimentation is strongly encouraged. If you are unsure of how to slot more than one skill from the same skill tree, enable Elective Mode under Gameplay Options.

4.2. Rotation

The build begins farming runs with an activation of Summon Zombie Dogs Summon Zombie Dogs and Gargantuan Gargantuan, who are to be kept at your side at all times and re-summoned when killed — which, in the lower difficulties, is almost impossible. You assume an aggressive playstyle, rushing ahead of the pack of minions while dropping Acid Cloud Acid Clouds and Haunt Haunting as much as your Mana allows, as well as Soul Harvest Soul Harvesting big enemy packs to buff yourself up and deal some additional damage. Whenever you feel endangered or have no enemies in sight, you should have a Spirit Walk Spirit Walk available to reposition.

4.3. Skills, Runes and Passives

The basis of every build lies in its chosen damage dealing skills. As they invariably require resource or cooldown management mechanics of some sort, and such are scarce for low level and less geared characters, you will focus on fewer damage dealing abilities early on. The typical early game build will feature dominant damage dealing skill/s (in the Witch Doctor's case, summoning skills are extremely effective), a mobility skill, buffs and/or shields, and resource generators (either active or passive). The recommended split is:

  • Slots 1 and 2 — Summoning skills: The Witch Doctor is one of the strongest early game characters due to his summons, one-time cast abilities that put minions at your side — acting autonomously and dealing considerable damage of their own. You acquire Summon Zombie Dogs Summon Zombie Dogs at level 4, and you will augment them with a stronger damage rune — Rabid Dogs Rabid Dogs as soon as it unlocks at level 12. Further down the leveling line (level 40), you will swap it out to the strongest damage dealing rune, Burning Dogs Burning Dogs. You will complement the dogs' DoTs with the bigger burst of Gargantuan Gargantuan, available at level 19. The most consistent Gargantuan Gargantuan rune, Humongoid Humongoid, unlocks right after at level 22, and you will stick to it throughout the Witch Doctor journey.
  • Slots 3 and 4 — Supplementary DPS: While the minions are responsible for a chunk of your damage and protection, you will be far from idle: the build assumes a proactive, leader of the pack attitude, with the Witch Doctor spreading deadly DoTs and minions cleaning up. Haunt Haunt will be your bread and butter — a cheap and powerful self-spreading DoT, acquired at level 12. For the entirety of your leveling process, you should take advantage of the doubling effect of Resentful Spirits Resentful Spirits (level 23), making the skill even easier on your Mana. It will allow you to run a second hard-hitting spender in the face of Acid Cloud Acid Cloud, unlocking at level 22. Enlarge its effect with the rune Acid Rain Acid Rain at level 26, and stick to it for the remainder of your leveling.
  • Slot 5 — Mobility: Spirit Walk Spirit Walk is the solitary mobility skill for Witch Doctors, and you will add it to the build at level 16. You get the safer, longer-lasting Jaunt Jaunt rune early on (level 23), but it is advisable to switch to the speedfarm-oriented Severance Severance rune as soon as it becomes available at level 47.
  • Slot 6 — Utility: Soul Harvest Soul Harvest is a signature Witch Doctor self-buff, with a base damage increasing effect and additional utility gained through runes. Note its near-melee range and try to time your Spirit Walk Spirit Walk to dive in and out of an enemy pack, maximizing your benefits and minimizing your losses. Soul Harvest Soul Harvest unlocks early on at level 9, and you can freely experiment with its runes throughout the leveling process. Since early game farming is mostly about quick kill speed and movement efficiency, the best runes are Soul to Waste Soul to Waste (level 39) and Vengeful Spirit Vengeful Spirit (level 49).
  • Passives: You can freely experiment with damage buffing (Gruesome Feast Gruesome Feast, Pierce the Veil Pierce the Veil) and damage reducing (Jungle Fortitude Jungle Fortitude, Bad Medicine Bad Medicine) passives early on, until better passives kick in mid-leveling. At level 30, you gain the Witch Doctor cheat death, Spirit Vessel Spirit Vessel, and Fetish Sycophants Fetish Sycophants — another summoning skill, hidden among your passives. Easily maxed out with Haunt Haunt spam, this passive will amass a Fetish army at your side and lay waste to your enemies with an efficiency comparable to your other summons. One of the best movement speed passives in the game, Fierce Loyalty Fierce Loyalty, becomes available to you at level 45 — a solid addition to an early farming setup. Finally, you will add Grave Injustice Grave Injustice at level 50 to gain access to kill-based cooldown reduction and resource regeneration, an amazing bonus you will likely keep all the way into the endgame.

4.4. Gear and Stats Priorities

As the leveling process in Diablo 3 is relatively quick, specific legendary recommendations are impossible. During leveling finding upgrades is frequent, so your gear will be swapped in and out within the span of a few minutes. Following the in-game comparison system and the stat priorities outlined in the tables below will result in a solid character throughout the leveling journey.

Note that skill damage and elemental damage recommendations only apply if the majority of your damage is done through that skill or element. For alt characters however, sockets take priority above all other attributes, since you can slot high level gems and benefit massively from their stat increase. For the purposes of an alt character, leveling a Gem of Ease Gem of Ease to level 25 and socketing it in a level 70 weapon will be the single biggest boost you can provide to the leveling process.

5. Season 8 Starter Build

5.1. Haedrig's Gift

Completion of certain seasonal chapters (II, III and IV in Season 8) yields Haedrig's Gifts, a cache-like reward that drops two pieces of a fixed class-specific set. With the completion of these chapters, you will have a full 6-piece set bonus available to you, skyrocketing your character power well into the mid-to-high Torments. This makes the early portion of the Seasonal Journey your first priority upon reaching max level. The Season 8 Haedrig's Gift for Witch Doctors is the Spirit of Arachyr set.

5.2. Arachyr Starter Build

Active Skills
Left Mouse Button Firebats Icon Firebats Cloud of Bats Cloud of Bats Right Mouse Button Haunt Icon Haunt Draining Spirit Draining Spirit 1 Hex Icon Hex Jinx Jinx 2 Spirit Walk Icon Spirit Walk Severance Severance 3 Summon Zombie Dogs Icon Summon Zombie Dogs Leeching Beasts Leeching Beasts 4 Locust Swarm Icon Locust Swarm Pestilence Pestilence
Passive Skills

Arachyr builds naturally emphasize on creature-related skills, as defined by the 6 piece set bonus. It is recommended to build around Firebats Firebats as the most efficient damaging skill in the category, splitting your skill slots like so:

  • Slot 1 — Main Damage: Firebats Firebats will fulfill the purpose of a primary damage dealer in the build, taken with the strongest rune Cloud of Bats Cloud of Bats. Note that prior to obtaining the 6-piece Arachyr bonus, you will not have any set related bonuses to damage, and you can temporarily work with any Mana spender of your liking until then.
  • Slot 2 & 3 — Supplementary Damage and Buffs: While only Locust Swarm Locust Swarm is affected by the Arachyr set, you will do well to adopt both Locust Swarm Locust Swarm and Haunt Haunt early on, and get used to the dynamic of supplementing your damage with Pestilence Pestilence and restoring Mana with Draining Spirit Draining Spirit. This will best prepare you for Ring of Emptiness Ring of Emptiness, a key legendary item that quadruples your damage against enemies affected by both DoTs.
  • Slot 4 — Set Mechanic: Hex Hex is taken into the build by necessity, as the 4-piece set bonus grants you Damage Reduction that hinges on regular Hex Hexing. The default rune recommendation is the damage increasing Jinx Jinx, but once you obtain the Manajuma set you swap into the speedfarming staple Angry Chicken Angry Chicken.
  • Slot 5 — Mobility: Every well rounded build needs mobility, and for Witch Doctors this means Spirit Walk Spirit Walk; for farming, consider taking the speediest rune of them all — Severance Severance.
  • Slot 6 — Utility: Early on when you are still missing key legendaries, Summon Zombie Dogs Summon Zombie Dogs Leeching Beasts Leeching Beasts can provide some decent sustain and act as meat shields that protect you from the fray. As soon as you acquire Lakumba's Ornament Lakumba's Ornament (and especially when you add a Sacred Harvester Sacred Harvester), you should switch to the Witch Doctor protective mainstay — Soul Harvest Soul Harvest Languish Languish.
  • Passives: Try to balance your passives according to your needs, adding and subtracting offensive and defensive passives as needed. Preferred offensive passives for the build (in order) include: Confidence Ritual Confidence Ritual, Pierce the Veil Pierce the Veil, Creeping Death Creeping Death and Gruesome Feast Gruesome Feast. The preferred defensive passives are Spirit Vessel Spirit Vessel and Swampland Attunement Swampland Attunement. Note that in speedfarming Grave Injustice Grave Injustice trumps pretty much all other passives due to the fast killspeed of normal rifts — even more pronounced if you obtain the Manajuma set, due to the Angry Chicken Angry Chicken resets.

The build above is specifically created not to require any additional sets or legendary items. In order to transition to a late game-oriented spec using the same set, we have a rough list of high priority items to obtain, as well as a link to the build they pertain to.

6. Other Set Starter Builds

While you get a fixed free set at the start of every Season, it is not unreasonable to assume you will attain other sets in quick succession. If you are interested in switching around your playstyle, take a look at the beginner points for other sets below, and note to which endgame builds they point you after.

6.1. Helltooth Harness Starter Build

Active Skills
Left Mouse Button Wall of Death Icon Wall of Death Fire Wall Fire Wall Right Mouse Button Acid Cloud Icon Acid Cloud Acid Rain Acid Rain 1 Soul Harvest Icon Soul Harvest Soul to Waste Soul to Waste 2 Spirit Walk Icon Spirit Walk Severance Severance 3 Summon Zombie Dogs Icon Summon Zombie Dogs Burning Dogs Burning Dogs 4 Gargantuan Icon Gargantuan Humongoid Humongoid
Passive Skills

The Helltooth starter build will be fairly similar to the leveling and fresh 70 build, keeping its rotation and general strategy with minor adjustments. You will be swapping out Haunt Haunt for the Helltooth centerpiece, Wall of Death Wall of Death. Wall of Death Wall of Death is one of the abilities that apply the Necrosis effect of the set, in turn DoTing and slowing enemies from the 2-piece Helltooth bonus and reducing incoming damage by 60% from the 4-piece bonus. More importantly, Wall of Death Wall of Death alone triggers the 6-piece bonus of the set, empowering a good deal of your summons and Mana spenders to a point that will trivialize most in-game difficulties. You have two viable rune choices: Fire Wall Fire Wall will deal the highest damage, which is preferable early on; when you push against your gear's limits, or at any point that you feel lacking Toughness, you can change to the rune Communing with Spirits Communing with Spirits for another 25% reduction of enemy damage. The other swap in the beginner Helltooth build is in your passives; since the set empowers your Summon Zombie Dogs Summon Zombie Dogs and Gargantuan Gargantuan more than enough, you will abandon Fetish Sycophants Fetish Sycophants and buff up your active summons with the passive Midnight Feast Midnight Feast.

The build above is specifically created not to require any additional sets or legendary items. In order to transition to a late game-oriented spec using the same set, we have a rough list of high priority items to obtain, as well as a link to the build they pertain to.

7. Gear To Look For

Certain items can be targeted through the completion of bounties or boss kills. The following is a list of such items, in order of importance for the class.

  • Ring of Royal Grandeur Ring of Royal Grandeur is a legendary from Act I caches that reduces the number of set items required for set bonuses by one. While it might not be immediately useful, obtaining powerful bonuses (such as the 4 and 6 piece set bonuses of the Helltooth set) as early as possible for a huge spike in character power is an opportunity you should not pass up. Doing bounties will be inevitable for crafting materials anyway, so optimize your farming time and get this ring as soon as possible.
  • Avarice Band Avarice Band is an Act III cache legendary ring that extends your pickup radius by up to 30 yards as you pick up gold. This unassuming bonus has the potential to turn in the strongest source of defense during normal rifts due to its synergy with Boon of the Hoarder Boon of the Hoarder and Goldwrap Goldwrap. Their powers combined, they can render your character practically invulnerable even in the highest of Torment difficulties.
  • Illusory Boots Illusory Boots are an Act II cache legendary item that removes enemy collision — a staple of support builds in Greater Rifts, as their precise positioning for party-wide buffs and enemy disables dictates the course of Greater Rift progress. Witch Doctors have decent support character potential, with several party-wide damage buffs and plenty of damage reduction to add to the group, making Illusory Boots Illusory Boots reasonably attractive to the class.
  • Gloves of Worship Gloves of Worship are an Act II cache legendary that extends the duration of Shrines to 10 minutes, a very decent farming effect that is usually stored in Kanai's Cube. The combined power of Empowered Shrines (doubled resource gain, halved cooldowns), Frenzied Shrines (25% Attack Speed) and Fleeting Shrines (25% increase to Movement Speed and 20 yard pickup radius), often refreshing before their 10 minute duration, is a huge buff during normal rifts. Witch Doctors are among the classes that can benefit from Gloves of Worship Gloves of Worship, as the armor Cube slots of their most common farming specs (usually based around the Manajuma set) are flexible enough to fit the item in.
  • Envious Blade Envious Blade is an Act II cache dagger with one of the most powerful speedfarming bonuses in the game — a guaranteed Critical Hit against enemies at full health. A well equipped character using this dagger can oneshot entire screens of enemies in a suitable farming difficulty. Since Witch Doctors can not dual wield and their weapon slots are frequently taken by more important legendaries, Envious Blade Envious Blade is not considered a cache priority.
  • Reaper's Wraps Reaper's Wraps are meant to assist classes and builds with resource management problems. These bracers restore up to 30% of your Mana reserves when you get healed by a health globe — an easy trigger if you keep an eye on the battlefield. Note that these bracers are craftable, and the plan for their creation drops when you kill the Act V boss Malthael on any difficulty. Relying on summons and usually spending less and less Mana the closer they get to endgame, Witch Doctors mostly skip the Reaper's Wraps Reaper's Wraps crutch.
  • Pride's Fall Pride's Fall is a helm obtained through Act III cache bounties, whose legendary effect reduces resource costs by 30% after not taking damage for 5 seconds. Rarely fighting at a range that can abuse this power and never really struggling with Mana, Witch Doctors do not consider farming Pride's Fall Pride's Fall a priority.

The majority of the gear will be found by random chance as you farm normally, by killing monsters, opening chests, gambling at Kadala and upgrading rare items at the Cube. While the list below is not exhaustive, these are some of the pieces to seek, spend blood shards on, or upgrade yellows for — in order of priority:

8. Stat Priorities

Slot Stat Priority
  1. Intelligence
  2. Socket
  3. Critical Hit Chance
  4. Vitality
  1. Intelligence
  2. Vitality
  3. Life %
  4. Cooldown Reduction
  1. Intelligence
  2. 3 Sockets
  3. Vitality
  4. Elite Damage Reduction
  5. Life %
  1. Intelligence
  2. Elemental Damage
  3. Critical Hit Chance
  4. Vitality
  1. Intelligence
  2. Critical Hit Chance
  3. Critical Hit Damage
  4. Vitality
  1. Intelligence
  2. Vitality
  3. Life %
  4. Armor
  1. Intelligence
  2. 2 Sockets
  3. Vitality
  4. Armor
  1. Intelligence
  2. Vitality
  3. Armor
  4. Skill Damage
  5. Movement Speed
  1. Socket
  2. Critical Hit Chance
  3. Critical Hit Damage
  4. Elemental Damage
  5. Intelligence
  1. Socket
  2. Critical Hit Chance
  3. Critical Hit Damage
  4. Intelligence
  1. High Damage Range
  2. Intelligence
  3. Socket (preferably from Ramaladni's Gift Ramaladni's Gift)
  4. % Damage
  1. High Damage Range
  2. Intelligence
  3. Critical Hit Chance
  4. Skill Damage
  5. Vitality

9. Paragon Points

Slot Paragon Points
  1. Movement Speed up to 25% cap
  2. Intelligence
  3. Vitality
  4. Maximum Mana
  1. Critical Hit Damage
  2. Critical Hit Chance
  3. Cooldown Reduction
  4. Attack Speed
  1. Armor
  2. Life %
  3. All Resistance
  4. Life Regeneration
  1. Area Damage
  2. Resource Cost Reduction
  3. Life on Hit
  4. Gold Find

10. Gems

Your armor sockets should be taken up by the highest tier Topaz gems you can afford at the time, while the helm is usually best filled by an Amethyst gem for a boost to Toughness. The weapon is best fitted with an Emerald. When you stumble upon jewelry with good primary stats and a socket, you should start dabbling into Legendary Gems. The Legendary Gems to consider for Witch Doctors are, in order of importance:

  • Bane of the Trapped Bane of the Trapped — staple multiplicative damage increase. The gem triggers upon crowd control (and is self-sufficient in melee range), which the Witch Doctor class excels at with his numerous skill and item-based sources of slows, stuns and disables.
  • Bane of the Stricken Bane of the Stricken — almost mandatory gem for Greater Rift progression, as it is designed to whittle down the scaling health numbers of monsters with a percentage-based increase on successive attacks.
  • Boon of the Hoarder Boon of the Hoarder — synergizing with other farming mainstays like Avarice Band Avarice Band and Goldwrap Goldwrap, this gem will not only keep you rich, but also sped up and safe during normal rift farming.
  • Enforcer Enforcer is a signature Witch Doctor gem, as the class fulfills the summoner role in Diablo 3. It offers a multiplicative damage increase to your minions, as well as majorly boosting their Toughness (important in Greater Rifts).
  • Bane of the Powerful Bane of the Powerful — the speedfarm counterpart to Bane of the Stricken Bane of the Stricken, Bane of the Powerful Bane of the Powerful offers a solid overall damage and survivability increase as long as your killing speed does not fall behind the timer of the gem.
  • Situational gems — Simplicity's Strength Simplicity's Strength is a primary skill empowering gem, strengthening your basic attacks with a multiplicative damage increase and a heal; highly recommended for Poison Dart Poison Dart setups. Esoteric Alteration Esoteric Alteration is sometimes added to close range spellcasting builds (i.e. Jade Harvester setups) to counteract bursty elemental affixes. Gem of Efficacious Toxin Gem of Efficacious Toxin and Iceblink Iceblink are often part of support builds.
Slot Gems
Torso and Pants

11. Kanai's Cube

Kanai's Cube choices are highly build- and content-specific, making them hard to summarize. Generally speaking, Witch Doctors should store the powers of the following items in the Cube as soon as they have the materials available: Wormwood Wormwood, The Furnace The Furnace, Starmetal Kukri Starmetal Kukri, In-geom In-geom, Vile Hive Vile Hive, Mask of Jeram Mask of Jeram, Quetzalcoatl Quetzalcoatl, Carnevil Carnevil, The Grin Reaper The Grin Reaper, Nemesis Bracers Nemesis Bracers, Goldwrap Goldwrap, Ring of Emptiness Ring of Emptiness, The Short Man's Finger The Short Man's Finger, Ring of Royal Grandeur Ring of Royal Grandeur and Unity Unity.

12. Follower

For more information regarding followers, we advise you to read our Follower Guide, which contains detailed advice for choosing the skills and the gear of your follower.

13. ChangeLog

  • 28 Oct. 2016: Revised the guide to include its soloing variation with the Helltooth set.
  • 21 Oct. 2016: Updated the guide with a starter build for the Season 8 free set, Spirit of Arachyr.
  • 31 Jul. 2016: Updated the guide to include leveling, a better fresh 70 setup and Haedrig's Gift use tips.
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