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Witch Doctor Zombie Bears Build with Helltooth (Patch 2.4.2 / Season 8)

Last updated on Oct 21, 2016 at 09:00 by Deadset

Table of Contents

Reworked into a top tier Witch Doctor set in Patch 2.3, Helltooth puts a strong emphasis on spellcasting playstyles — and along with a few helpful legendaries, brings back the vanilla darling Zombie Bears build. This bursty, AoE playstyle is available in both solo progression and speedfarming variations, explained in that order.

The build requires the following set pieces:

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. Builds

Solo Progression Speedruns
Active Skills
Left Mouse Button Haunt Icon Haunt Poisoned Spirit Poisoned Spirit Right Mouse Button Zombie Charger Icon Zombie Charger Zombie Bears Zombie Bears 1 Soul Harvest Icon Soul Harvest Languish Languish 2 Spirit Walk Icon Spirit Walk Jaunt Jaunt 3 Piranhas Icon Piranhas Piranhado Piranhado 4 Wall of Death Icon Wall of Death Fire Wall Fire Wall
Passive Skills
(battle.net link)
Active Skills
Left Mouse Button Haunt Icon Haunt Poisoned Spirit Poisoned Spirit Right Mouse Button Zombie Charger Icon Zombie Charger Zombie Bears Zombie Bears 1 Soul Harvest Icon Soul Harvest Soul to Waste Soul to Waste 2 Spirit Walk Icon Spirit Walk Severance Severance 3 Piranhas Icon Piranhas Piranhado Piranhado 4 Wall of Death Icon Wall of Death Fire Wall Fire Wall
Passive Skills
(battle.net link)

3. Rotation

This potent AoE build squeezes maximum advantage of the Helltooth set buffs of Zombie Charger Zombie Charger and Wall of Death Wall of Death, weaving their alternating use into a landscape of AoE destruction. Your primary goal is to lure as many monsters as you can into your line-shaped DPS output, optimising the potential of Zombie Bears Zombie Bears and Fire Wall Fire Wall whilst gaining massive Toughness benefits from Swampland Attunement Swampland Attunement. Positioning both the player and the AoE is also key, as Fire Wall Fire Wall damage stacks even if triple casted on the same location, and Zombie Bears Zombie Bears will travel in a straight line if you put your back against a wall. Haunt Haunt will be used to make enemies more susceptible to damage, as well as to proc the cubed Ring of Emptiness Ring of Emptiness. The Witch Doctor staple Piranhas Piranhas Piranhado Piranhado shows up yet again, grouping and debuffing the monsters for your AoE convenience. Another mainstay, Spirit Walk Spirit Walk Jaunt Jaunt, is necessarily adopted for mobility and escapes. It can also be used to reap a better Soul Harvest Soul Harvest, diving into the enemy to maximise the Languish Languish benefits.

4. Skills, Runes and Passives

Half of your damage output and the namesake of the build, Zombie Charger Zombie Charger Zombie Bears Zombie Bears is a hard-hitting poison skill that gets amplified by the Helltooth set, the Scrimshaw Scrimshaw spear and various skill percentage rolls on your gear. Note that Zombie Bears Zombie Bears heavily rewards positioning: if cast in the open, the skill splits into triple lanes with low range; if cast with your back against a wall however, it travels in a focused, longer reaching line.

The other and more consistent half is found in the Helltooth set centerpiece, Wall of Death Wall of Death. We will be taking the arsonist favorite Fire Wall Fire Wall rune, its considerable DoT amped by Helltooth and Jeram's Bracers Jeram's Bracers combined. It is important to remember that you can spread the AoE or create zones of focused DPS, as individual walls stack their damage even if cast in the same area.

While seeming out of place in a non-Jade Harvester setup, Haunt Haunt is included in the build mostly as a trigger to the damage multiplication of the cubed Ring of Emptiness Ring of Emptiness, along with a cubed Wormwood Wormwood. Even so, you gain a minor active benefit in the form of the Poisoned Spirit Poisoned Spirit debuff, adding to your overall damage.

A utility packed cooldown right to its core, Soul Harvest Soul Harvest makes an excellent fit in the build. It acts as a damage buff by default, increasing your Intelligence by up to 15% for the modest requirement of 5 harvested enemies. With the Languish Languish rune, it attains additional crowd control and Toughness buff properties, putting it right at home in this close range playstyle. Add its naturally overlapping duration on top, and you can see how it earns a skill slot — but do not hesitate to reapply it on cooldown, as the shorter lasting Armor buff is by far the biggest benefit. In speedruns, the additional protection of Languish Languish will not be needed; you should bolster your movement speed instead with the rune Soul to Waste Soul to Waste.

The only Witch Doctor ability to offer mobility, invulnerability and free passage through enemies, Spirit Walk Spirit Walk is a staple in most builds. While its cooldown is not the lowest among its peers for other classes, it makes up with the solid 3-second duration of the Jaunt Jaunt rune. If you value mobility over a lengthier invulnerability window, you can freely alternate into the Severance Severance rune — especially preferred in speedruns.

While it can be considered part of the spenders affected by Helltooth or a trigger to Bastions of Will, the reason to take Piranhas Piranhas lies in the grouping and debuffing capabilities of Piranhado Piranhado. As the build relies heavily on enemy positioning within the Zombie Bears Zombie Bears and Fire Wall Fire Wall AoE, the benefits from a pulling ability are undeniable — and Piranhado Piranhado is a standout in the field.

This concludes the overview of the active skills, now let us look through the passives.

Swampland Attunement Swampland Attunement is a play on the selective resistance mechanic (also observed on the Tal Rasha set), and offers considerable defenses — but only against elements Witch Doctors can use. Protecting within a starting radius of 20 yards and extendable by Pickup Radius on gear, this passive is yet another reason to pay close attention to secondary stats. Note the absence of Lightning or Arcane Resistance, and strive to obtain it wherever you can.

Among the most dynamic and interesting passives in the game, Grave Injustice Grave Injustice is a Cooldown Reduction engine that feeds into the damage output (faster Fire Wall Fire Walls) and survivability (more Soul Harvest Soul Harvests) of the build. It delivers a neat package of CDR, health and mana regeneration upon killing an enemy within a starting radius of 20 yards, extendable by Pickup Radius on gear.

Spirit Vessel Spirit Vessel is a mainstay for Greater Rift pushing, being the Witch Doctor cheat death passive. It saves you from the death screen once every minute, healing you back to 50% of your maximum Life and puts you in a Spirit Walk Spirit Walk-like state, allowing you to quickly reposition. If this fail safe feels like overkill — very likely during speedruns — you can swap this passive out for the considerable damage increase of Gruesome Feast Gruesome Feast.

A straightforward addition to the build, Confidence Ritual Confidence Ritual increases your damage by 25% against enemies within 20 yards. Relatively matching the fighting range of the build, especially with Zombie Bears Zombie Bears in mind, this passive will be up most of the time.

5. Best in Slot Gear and Alternatives

This build incorporates the complete Helltooth set, taking all six available pieces and opening the jewelry for the damage multiplication of the Endless Walk set. Rolls-wise, this spender-heavy playstyle makes good use of skill bonuses across gear. Wall of Death Wall of Death % bonus is sought after on the Helltooth Tunic Helltooth Tunic, alongside Toughness stats; on the Helltooth Mantle Helltooth Mantle, it is ideally paired with Area Damage. Zombie Charger Zombie Charger % is the perfect fourth primary on the Helltooth Greaves Helltooth Greaves, and can be considered on the Helltooth Mask Helltooth Mask — but it is unlikely that you can spare the Vitality loss. The Helltooth Leg Guards Helltooth Leg Guards are strictly a source of protection, and the Helltooth Gauntlets Helltooth Gauntlets are best taken with a hefty Vitality roll alongside the usual Intelligence and double Crit stats. With the current class design, secondary stats have become quite important for Witch Doctors, and Helltooth builds are no exception: try to offset your Swampland Attunement Swampland Attunement weaknesses with Lightning or Arcane Resists in your secondaries. Another thing to note if you opt for Henri's Perquisition Henri's Perquisition (discussed below) is that pickup radius becomes an important secondary stat — and it is recommended you get a total of at least 10, spread across several pieces.

Not skipping on any of the six available set pieces to obtain the full Helltooth set bonus allows you to split between offense and defense in the jewelry slots. One of the 2.4 reworks, the Endless Walk set — The Compass Rose The Compass Rose ring and The Traveler's Pledge The Traveler's Pledge amulet — adds a unique mechanic that slowly increases your damage by up to a 100% if you remain stationary, and drains it away and increases your damage reduction while moving. This mirrors the Zombie Bears playstyle, which goes from extended periods of drawing agro with Corpse Spiders Corpse Spiders spam into static Zombie Charger Zombie Charger Zombie Bears Zombie Bears channeling.

The Ring of Emptiness Ring of Emptiness will occupy your second ring slot; while seemingly an odd addition to the set, this ring dramatically increases your damage against enemies affected by both Haunt Haunt and Locust Swarm Locust Swarm. You will be applying the former manually, while the latter will be spread by the cubed Wormwood Wormwood.

This is by no means a pet build, but the Belt of Transcendence Belt of Transcendence is still adopted to give you a better Fetish Sycophants Fetish Sycophants passive at the cost of a gear slot. With its guaranteed trigger, this belt will quickly take you to the cap of 15 summons that act as a solid meat shield and distraction for your enemies. When doing Torments, you can swap this slot out for Goldwrap Goldwrap, which paired with Avarice Band Avarice Band and Boon of the Hoarder Boon of the Hoarder will render you practically invulnerable.

Undeniably best-in-slot for the build, Jeram's Bracers Jeram's Bracers increase the damage of Wall of Death Wall of Death by up to a 100%. As if that was not enough, they also enable the use of Wall of Death Wall of Death thrice within one cooldown period, allowing you to cover an entire room in incinerating flames. Stat-wise, seek Intelligence, Crit Chance and Fire damage.

The reworked Scrimshaw Scrimshaw legendary spear has been tailored for Zombie Charger Zombie Charger builds, eclipsing any potential competition with a natural skill bonus roll of up to 80%, along with a unique resource cost reduction property of up to 50%. Notice the large roll ranges of both stats and aim to obtain as close to the maximum values as you can, along with high damage range, damage %, Intelligence and Area Damage.

The offhand slot remains open for a mojo of your choice; your best option is Henri's Perquisition Henri's Perquisition, offering a significant source of upfront damage reduction and crowd control. Alternatively, you can wield a Thing of the Deep Thing of the Deep, whose uniquely large pickup radius property will maximise the benefits of Swampland Attunement Swampland Attunement and Grave Injustice Grave Injustice. If not for GR progression, Thing of the Deep Thing of the Deep should be favored at least in speedruns, where it will synergize with the similar effect from Avarice Band Avarice Band to the ultimate benefit of speed and efficiency. Regardless of your choice, aim for high damage range, Intelligence, Vitality, Crit Chance and Wall of Death Wall of Death skill roll.

Slot Pieces Stat Priority
Head
  1. Socket
  2. Intelligence
  3. Critical Hit Chance
  4. Vitality
  5. Zombie Charger %
Shoulders
  1. Intelligence
  2. Wall of Death %
  3. Cooldown Reduction
  4. Vitality
  5. Armor
Torso
  1. 3 Sockets
  2. Intelligence
  3. Wall of Death %
  4. Vitality
  5. Armor
Wrists
  1. Fire Damage
  2. Intelligence
  3. Critical Hit Chance
  4. Vitality
  5. Life on Hit
Hands
  1. Intelligence
  2. Critical Hit Chance
  3. Critical Hit Damage
  4. Vitality
  5. Cooldown Reduction
Waist
  1. Intelligence
  2. Vitality
  3. Armor
  4. Life %
Legs
  1. 2 Sockets
  2. Intelligence
  3. Vitality
  4. Armor
Feet
  1. Intelligence
  2. Vitality
  3. Armor
  4. Zombie Charger %
  5. All Resistance
Amulet
  1. Socket
  2. Intelligence
  3. Critical Hit Chance
  4. Critical Hit Damage
  5. Fire Damage
Ring #1
  1. Socket
  2. Critical Hit Chance
  3. Critical Hit Damage
  4. Intelligence
  5. Area Damage
Ring #2
  1. Socket
  2. Critical Hit Chance
  3. Critical Hit Damage
  4. Intelligence
  5. Area Damage
Weapon
  1. Socket (preferably from Ramaladni's Gift Ramaladni's Gift)
  2. High Damage Range
  3. Zombie Charger Cost Reduction
  4. Zombie Charger Damage %
  5. Intelligence
  6. Damage %
Off-hand
  1. High Damage Range
  2. Intelligence
  3. Crit Chance
  4. Area Damage
  5. Zombie Charger %
  6. Vitality

6. Paragon Points

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

7. Gems

The fixture in your legendary gem choices will be Bane of the Trapped Bane of the Trapped. Your remaining gem slots will vary according to content — Esoteric Alteration Esoteric Alteration and Bane of the Stricken Bane of the Stricken for GR progression, and Bane of the Powerful Bane of the Powerful plus Boon of the Hoarder Boon of the Hoarder for Torment speedruns.

  • Bane of the Trapped Bane of the Trapped is a potent source of additional damage, as it is its own multiplier in your total damage calculation. The gem procs itself with its level 25 property when in range, and is otherwise triggered by Languish Languish and the Wall of Death Wall of Death necrosis effect from the Helltooth set.
  • Esoteric Alteration Esoteric Alteration is the strongest mitigation gem available, and its impact is noticeable in this close range caster build. Improving your elemental resistances with every gem level and adding an emergency toughness spike through the level 25 property, Esoteric Alteration Esoteric Alteration ensures that enemies will have a hard time bursting you down in higher Greater Rifts. When doing Torment runs, the toughness provided by this gem can be easily replaced and overshadowed by the interaction of Boon of the Hoarder Boon of the Hoarder with Goldwrap Goldwrap.
  • Introduced in Season 4, Bane of the Stricken Bane of the Stricken occupies the third and final jewelry socket. Building up your damage multiplicatively in prolonged fights and with a level 25 bonus specifically targeting Rift Guardians, this gem is designed to assist AoE heavy builds in their struggle against single target, high HP enemies. While Zombie Bears WDs do well in 1v1 combat, it is a testament to the quality of the gem that it still comes out as the biggest damage increase for the setup. During speedfarming, the damage buildup mechanic of this gem will be too slow, and is best replaced by the well-rounded damage and toughness increase of Bane of the Powerful Bane of the Powerful.
Slot Gems
Jewelry
Helm
Torso and Pants
Weapon

8. Kanai's Cube

The Kanai's Cube recommendations are as follows: Wormwood Wormwood for the weapon slot, The Grin Reaper The Grin Reaper for the armor slot, and Unity Unity (GR progression) or Avarice Band Avarice Band (Torments) for the jewelry slot.

  • While greatly efficient at it, automatically spreading a generic Locust Swarm Locust Swarm with a cubed Wormwood Wormwood might seem an odd choice. However the combination of Haunt Haunt on your skill bar and Locust Swarm Locust Swarm in the Cube unlocks the potential of Ring of Emptiness Ring of Emptiness multiplication, which is far too high to ignore.
  • The Grin Reaper The Grin Reaper has been consistently buffed throughout the 2.3 testing phase, casting almost the entirety of your skill selection at an improved rate and range. The mimics will also benefit from the Helltooth 6 piece bonuses, turning into a significant, independent source of damage for the build.
  • Functioning exactly as if you wore it, the cubed Unity Unity ring offers 50% damage reduction when paired with another on the follower, plus an immortality item for him (i.e. Enchanting Favor Enchanting Favor). In Torment runs, the protection of Unity Unity will be excessive, and the slot is best left to Avarice Band Avarice Band. Its effect will greatly synergize with almost all of your passives, as well as the worn Goldwrap Goldwrap and the gemmed Boon of the Hoarder Boon of the Hoarder.

9. 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.

10. ChangeLog

  • 21 Oct. 2016: No changes needed for Season 8.
  • 29 Jul. 2016: The build has been updated with skill, item and gemming recommendations, as well as speedrun options.
  • 05 May 2016: The guide has been revised to include improved gearing and gemming recommendations.
  • 13 Jan. 2016: The build remains unchanged with Patch 2.4, but it is still competitive.
  • 21 Oct. 2015: Updated the guide following community recommendations.
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