Congratulations! You’ve made it to Inferno difficulty. Pssh and you thought Hell was hard, just wait. Inferno Act 1 is by far the easiest act in Inferno but it is still a significant step up from Hell. If you find yourself dying early and often in Inferno, stop. Go back to Act 3 or Act 4 in Hell and grind for some gear. This is a hard gear check and I have seen many Witch Doctors simply not ready for the pure intensity and brutal deaths of Inferno. Blizzard set out to make this difficulty hard, and they have undoubtedly succeeded. Some skill sets in Inferno simply stop working (summons, lol?) but unlike the other two ranged classes the Witch Doctor is capable of doing glass cannon like builds as well as more defensive builds focused on damage mitigation. Abilities like Grasp of the Dead and Spirit Walk are some of the best skills in the game and help the Witch Doctor to be the most eclectic class in Diablo 3. Don’t worry, we’ll be covering exactly what you need to do to make it through Act 1 in one piece, but first let’s talk about Inferno and some of its features.
So what makes Inferno so difficult? Put simply, while normal mobs are more difficult they are still very manageable. Guess what? Similar to the jump up in previous difficulties, elite mobs have gained an additional attribute. These attributes really stack on top of each other making them much, much harder than the puny foes in Hell. What else? Well, you’re done leveling and unlocking skills/runes so you’re stuck with many of the tools that you had in Hell for Inferno. This means that every single mob in Inferno is a higher level than your character. You’ll be facing level 61 mobs in Act 1. Each act in Inferno is a significant step-up in difficulty on its own. To add insult to injury, Blizzard also increased the difficulty of mobs when new players join your group. In Normal difficulty this was only 75%, now we are at 110%. The only ways to improve at this point, are simply to improve your gameplay or to get better gear.
Thank god for Nephalem Valor. Without Nephalem Valor, Inferno would simply be hard with hardly any payoff. Nephalem Valor increases your magic and gold find and helps you to find that sick loot that you’ll be needing. In addition to this, Nephalem Valor stacks up to 5 times. Taking advantage of this mechanic is a necessity to progress further in the game. You’ll need to be getting sick loot, selling items on the auction house and then purchasing even better items. What are the best ways to take advantage of Nephalem Valor? We’ll be covering this very thoroughly in the items section.
Skills & Runes
Once you reach Inferno you have a much smaller selection of viable builds for you and because of the mechanics of Nephalem Valor you need to be able to pick and choose a build (Nephalem Valor goes away if you switch skills). This is especially tricky for the Witch Doctor because up to this point, we’ve been working from a wide array of perfectly viable builds, some much better suited for certain situations than others. Every class is working with this mechanic and as a Witch Doctor you have access to more solid and viable builds in Inferno than any other class. I’ll be covering four of the best and most commonly used builds within the Inferno Act 1 guide.
Zombie Bears is a very aptly titled rune and this is by far the most muscular build at your disposal. For what Zombie Bears lacks in utility and diversity it makes up for in pure, raw damage.
- Poison Dart (left mouse click, Splinters) – Your most versatile primary damage spell. It costs a little bit of mana but is largely meant to cover your ass when Zombie Bears isn’t appropriate (i.e. Act 2 Wasps/Lacunis). Luckily in Act 1 Bears is appropriate for most mobs.
- Grasp of the Dead (right mouse click, Unbreakable Grasp) – Somebody call for a snare!? This has a short cooldown so make sure you cast it immediately before you go into mad Lion King mode.
- Zombie Charger (1 button, Zombie Bears) – Time for the big guns. This skill might be limited in range and versatility but man does it do some serious damage.
- Hex (Hedge Magic) (2 button, Hedge Magic) – This grabs all the single target mobs that come towards you while you’re doing your Zombie Bears thing. It works very well with Grasp of the Dead to snare incoming enemies.
- Spirit Walk (3 button, Honored Guest) – Your escape and your mana regen skill. If you mess up and run out of mana with no Vision Quest then this is your ticket back to a full mana pool. This also helps you to position your self right before unleashing da bears.
- Soul Harvest (4 button, Siphon) – Helps to do more damage. Great to cast in conjunction with Spirit Walk and Zombie Charger.
- Pierce the Veil – More damage please.
- Spirit Vessel – Your escape. Gives you the flexibility of messing up a little bit.
- Vision Quest – This is really important for the sustainability of Zombie Bears. Get Grasp, Hex, Spirit Walk, and Soul Harvest on cooldown and call the bears.
Using Zombie Bears is all about positioning. The ideal positioning is right in front of incoming enemies, putting in situations where it’s kill or be killed (no we don’t recommend this build for hardcore). The best Zombie Bears users are skilled at gauging enemy strength and putting the Witch Doctor in situations where they can kill the maximum amount of enemies without being killed. You can read the analysis and breakdown of the Zombie Bears build on our article specifically covering this badass build.
This is my personal favorite of the four builds covered in this guide. In many ways it works very similar to the Zombie Bears build with a little less damage but much more survivability and utility.
- Firebats (left mouse click, Dire Bats) – Great, versatile damage spell. Less damage, but better range than Zombie Charger.
- Wall of Zombies (right mouse click, Barricade) – Great zoning tool. Higher cooldown than all your other spells, use selectively. If you are farming in dungeons, this really works to block out opponents.
- Hex (1 button, Hedge Magic) – Your single target snare. This acts much differently than Wall of Zombies and Horrify, making it a great complement. The healing is also a nice addition (sub Jinx if you don’t have healing issues).
- Horrify (2 button, Frightening Aspect) – Another good crowd control spell. Along with Hex this works really well when enemies are close. Frightening Aspect is a great rune , acting similar to a temporary Force Armor for your Witch Doctor.
- Spirit Walk (3 button, Honored Guest) – Your escape route + mana regen. A must have.
- Soul Harvest (4 button, Siphon) – Additional health and DPS. Another staple in most Witch Doctor builds.
- Pierce the Veil – More damage.
- Spirit Vessel – Cheat death.
- Vision Quest – Practically required for any high DPS Witch Doctor build.
Because this build allows you to have five different cooldown, you will always be able to choose a spell to keep off cooldown while you spam Firebats. 5CD Firebats is much more intricate and cerebral than the muscular Zombie Bears build. Depending on the time of type of elite mob you’re fighting, you’ll be varying up your spell casting significantly. Make sure you gear up for mana regen (see the items section below) and please refer to our in-depth 5CD Vision Quest Firebats article for more in-depth analysis.
This was the first viable Witch Doctor build in Inferno because it still works when undergeared. Splinters has great kiting potential and while it is not as nearly as popular as it once was, it is still perfectly viable in the top levels of Inferno.
- Poison Dart (left mouse click, Splinters) – Hardly any casting cost, and good damage. Spam this spell whenever Firebats is on cooldown.
- Firebats (right mouse click, Dire Bats) – Good damage and high mana cost. Because you drain mana so quickly you’ll only be able to spam this when you’re not low on mana.
- Hex (1 button, Jinx) – Great immobilization tool. You can also target this on specific monsters by casting it when they are in close proximity. Jinx works really well with both your ranged damage spells because of their targeting ability.
- Grasp of the Dead (2 button, Unbreakable Grasp) – Your best snare. This is your AoE snare and it is one of the best in the game.
- Spirit Walk (3 button, Honored Guest) – More mana please. Also your escape. Just great utility. Switch to Jaunt for more survivability and Healing Journey for health regen.
- Soul Harvest (4 button, Swallow Your Soul) – DPS + health regen.
- Pierce the Veil – More damage.
- Spirit Vessel – Cheat death.
- Spiritual Attunement – Because we’re not using Vision Quest we need this extra mana regen.
Because Splinters traditionally doesn’t use Vision Quest it gives you much more flexibility with your cooldowns. This allows you to use your snare more optimally and doesn’t require you to spam them. Unlike Zombie Bears it also doesn’t require you to stand in one place making it a much better kiting build (more survivability).
Sick of managing your mana perfectly to spam your mana/damage away at once. Well, Leaping Spiders might be the build for you. Unlike our other three builds this build hardly consumes any mana at all. You don’t even have to target enemies with this build (Leaping Spiders does that for you!). It’s a great crowd control build and does a slow steady stream of damage to enemies.
- Corpse Spiders (left mouse click, Leaping Spiders) – Very low mana cost. Spam this spell as much as possible. You don’t even need to target, just push that shift button down and click away.
- Grasp of the Dead (right mouse click, Unbreakable Grasp) – A great snare and the damage actually works really well with Corpse Spiders (they do damage in similar ways).
- Hex (1 button, Hedge Magic) – Single monster snare + heal.
- Horrify (2 button, Frightening Aspect) – Your panic button. Use this when you are being bombarded with projectiles as the armor from Frightening Aspect also significantly helps your survivablility.
- Spirit Walk (3 button, Healing Journey) – Escape and positioning tool.
- Soul Harvest (4 button, SwallowYour Soul) – DPS + health regen.
- Pierce the Veil – More damage (you hardly consume any mana at all).
- Spirit Vessel – Cheat death.
- Fetish Sycophants – Your spiders will be attacking often so this triggers at nice rates. These fetishes really help to clog up and mess with mob pathing.
This is a great example of a diverse Witch Doctor build (compared with the other mana heavy ones). Despite using several of the same skills it plays out much differently than the others. As a result, you can gear this build much more cheaply and easily than it’s mana-intensive counterparts. Read the items section for information on how to gear for each of these build.
Quests & Bosses
In Inferno all of the acts become much, much more difficult to progress through. Every single monster in acts of Inferno are the same level (i.e. all monsters in Act 1 are lvl 61), whereas in the three other difficulty levels, monsters gain levels further along the act. This means, that monsters at both the very beginning of Act 1 and the Butcher will be the same level. Theoretically this would make everything relatively the same difficulty, but in most acts (including Act 1) mobs do increase in difficulty purely because the inherent monster traits simply get tougher. In Normal, Nightmare, and Hell you probably just played through the content and maybe had to do a couple runs in order to complete a level up. Inferno is all about the runs. Not only will you likely have major issues going straight from Hell Act 4 to Inferno Act 1 (read more about how to overcome this in the items section), but even if you are skilled enough to make it through Act 1 you will be in for an extremely unpleasant surprise when you reach Act 2. As a result of this gear wall, the Quests & Bosses section will be very different from the equivalent sections in the other three difficulties. Instead, we’ll be focusing more on which runs you will want to do so you can build up enough gold and gear to progress through Act 1 and into Act 2.
OK. This part is easy. If you find that things are extremely difficulty, there are two options. If you have money (ideally ~1 million gold), then visit the items section and read about how to cheaply gear up your Witch Doctor. If not, go back to the furthest part in the game that you can easily beat (Inferno Skeleton King or Hell Act 4) and start to find gold and items (to sell primarily) and work up a bankroll. Most often, the easiest road to progression in Diablo 3 Inferno is the gear. Progression is the goal of the game, but the majority of your time should be spent farming via runs (this is how you get the gold and gear to progress).
This is likely to be the most dynamic portion of this guide as these are likely to continuously change throughout the lifespan of Diablo 3. The goal of runs are to earn items and gold, not to immediately progress. These items (which should be converted to gold via the Auction House) can be used to buy the gear necessary to ultimately progress in Act 2. I’ve written an older post on Act 1 runs, so feel free to refer to that for more details on each of these specific runs. After patch 1.03, farming in Act 1 has become much more different. Previously the focus was on getting 5 stacks and killing a set boss (Skeleton King, Butcher). It has since changed to farming elites. There are a number of locations in the current state of the game that have close to guaranteed elite kills (see the elite run section). Killing a set boss is still an option but is not necessarily recommended. Here’s the most popular Act 1 runs:
Skeleton King Run
This is the easiest run and you can still do this if you are having trouble progressing through Act 1. It’s not super popular these days because the level of loot is a little bit lower and it occurs early in Act 1. Only do, if you are trying to gear up for the more lucrative runs in Act 1.
The old staple. Pre-1.03 this was the primary run done for Act 1. You get your 5 stacks of Nephalem Valor (in the Halls of Agony, Highlands Passage, Cursed Hold) and then kill the Warden and Butcher. It’s not as popular these days because you now get a guaranteed rare from elites after you have 5 stacks of Nephalem Valor.
OK. So this can be a little more free-flowing than either of the other runs. Elite packs now guarantee 1 rare (once you have 5 stacks of Nephalem Valor) and set bosses . Generally, you want to select a point far along in the act. This allows you access to more waypoints than if you selected a quest early in the act. In these runs you should get 5 stacks and then continue to farm elites as quickly as you can. It’s largely up to you if you want to farm everything in Act 1 or just the easy to find mobs. Here’s some spots that spawn guaranteed elites that are easy to find:
- Festering Woods – 2 guaranteed dungeons (1 elite in each, often another elite via sidequest or in the area)
- Leoric Manor – 1 guaranteed elite in the courtyard (often 1 inside the manor too)
- Cemetery of the Forsaken – 3 guaranteed dungeons (1 elite in each, often one wandering the Cemetery as well)
Usually, you’ll run through these areas and then do a normal Butcher run so you can have a full 5 stacks for every pack you run into on the way to the Butcher/Warden. There are a number of other locations that will have elites, but these are currently the smallest and easiest to find locations.
In the current state of the game (I’m almost certain this will be nerfed) you can search for the Watchtower in the western portion of the Northern Highlands. This area spawns between 1-5 elites, a ton of treasure goblins, and resplendent chests. Search for this area first thing and remake if you’re not lucky enough to have it spawn (it’s that good!).
This is another section that dramatically changes between the previous difficulties and the Inferno Act 1 guide. As you progress further into the game, you’ll find that the Auction House is paramount to move further along. Items that drop can be very valuable, but perhaps not for your class. This means you should sell it on the Auction House. This guide will focus more on how to efficiently gear up your character for the grind in Act 1 and the different attributes that you should be looking for. For selling at the Auction House, please check out our guide on how to price your item on the Auction House (or our gold guide).
Buying (in the auction house)
Making the incorrect decision here can you set you back for days and often weeks. You must be prepared to improve your gear as a collective whole. Don’t blow your whole load on one weapon. The most efficient way to progress and improve is to improve your character’s items collectively. The time to pimp him out completely is soon to come. Different items will have different caps and limits, this will help you to properly attribute the correct costs. To see a hypothetical purchasing for an int based character in Inferno Act 1 please see the items section in our Wizard Inferno Act 1 guide. Let’s first break down the attributes that we are interested in (bolded items are ideally where you get these attributes).
Goal: 23k+ DPS
Displayed DPS metric on inventory tab. Make sure you get high damage values for your weapon and off-hand. After that, it’s all about stacking int.
Goal: 25k HP
Combination of vitality and life %. This is good, but you need to balance it with armor and resists to improve your effective HP.
Goal: 40 mana/s
Items to look for: Ceremonial Knife, Voodoo Mask, Mojo
If you are doing a Leaping Spiders build please ignore this section as mana regen isn’t important for your build. All the other builds require significant mana regeneration and this should be one of the first things you look for. It also multiplies with Vision Quest, making it even more effective.
Goal: 2400 Armor
Items to look for: Chest, Pants, Helm, Bracers, Boots, Belt, Shoulders, Gloves, Ring Amulet
Theoretically it’s good to get this to 1/10th of your All Resist value. Because we’re going to be stacking int your AR value tends to naturally be much higher than Armor. Frightening Aspect will also temporarily make your armor very large!
Goal: 350 AR
Items to look for: Shoulders, Chest, Belt, Pants, Bracers, Boots, Helm, Gloves, Ring, Amulet
Another damage mitigation factor that is often neglected by newer players. Both this and armor have significant diminishing returns. Your int will go a long way in helping this (10 int = 1 AR). Get this on 3-5 pieces of armor and you should be set!
Goal: 1500 Int
Items to look for: Chest, Pants, Belt, Shoulders, Bracers, Boots, Gloves, Ring, Amulet, Off-hand, Weapon
This improves both your DPS and resistances. You should be getting this in nearly every single piece of gear you buy with the exception of your weapon. Even though you can get an extremely high intelligence boost (up to 350) from your weapon it should be secondary to the actual damage output of your weapon. The same goes for your offhand.
Goal: 600-900 Vit
Items to look for: Chest, Pants, Belt, Shoulders, Bracers, Boots, Gloves, Ring, Amulet, Off-hand, Weapon
Appears on the same items as int. This should be your secondary attribute to stack.
Goal: Depends on Vitality
Items to look for: Helm, Chest, Belt, Shoulders, Amulet, Ring, Off-hand
Used in conjunction with vitality to improve your HP. The best place to get this is in a Helm with a socket. You can then socket an Amethyst into the Helm giving you a very large and significant Life % boost.
Move Speed %
Items to look for: Boots
A must have. As a ranged class it’s really important that you have maximum maneuverability and speed. This is the easiest way to get it (and the only way outside of legendary/set items).
Attack Speed (IAS)
Goal: Depends on DPS
Items to look for: Gloves, Ring, Amulet
Get this if it’s cheaply available or if it drops. IAS is a relatively easy way to increase your DPS.
Critical Chance & Damage
This is an awesome stat, but I don’t recommend building for it until you are at a higher stage. The attack speed nerf significantly bumped up the cost of gear like this. You really begin to benefit from crit gear once you stack it and build for crit in multiple items.
I would recommend choosing either the Scoundrel or Templar. It’s interesting to note that giving a follower a cold damage weapons lows enemies down and you get 25% of the Magic Find that a follower equips. Benefits of Templar:
- Healing, stunning
- Can wield shield (higher MF potential)
- Projectile buffer
- Crit Chance Bonus
- Slows enemies (with ability + cold bow)
- Much smarter AI (not always dead)
I prefer the Scoundrel because Witch Doctor’s already have abilities like Hex and Soul Harvest that offer healing runes. The Scoundrel’s additional slowing ability and DPS boost are invaluable. In the end, the final decision largely boils down to your personal preference. It’s also important to note that your follower should not be optimized for DPS. Instead, they should be optimized for survivability and magic find. Attack speed is also nice if you are using the Scoundrel (so his slowing ability triggers more).