As a ranged class, Demon Hunters are already good survivalists. This takes it to the extreme with multiple escape tools and ways to keep enemies away from melee range. The main skill is Caltrops, used to slow enemies down while you stay far away pelting them with arrows or bolts. In total 4 skills are dedicated to survivability with 2 for damage.
With so much survivability from skills, you can afford to go with a more damage heavy set of gear with less defensive affixes. This means you can forgo a shield for a couple Hand Crossbows, the fast attack speed allowing you to kite enemies easier.
- Kite most enemies endlessly.
- Gear can focus on damage instead of defenses.
- Less need for Resist All makes gear cheaper.
- Lower damage skills than other Demon Hunter builds.
- Some monsters are too fast to kite or have unavoidable attacks.
Mouse Left-Click – Entangling Shot (Heavy Burden)
Caltrops only affects a small area, so this skill is needed to slow down monsters that aren’t in the area or won’t be moving through it. The damage is only 90% weapon damage, so it’s not a skill for damage. It is only to supplement Caltrops. You will definitely have to use it when you run out of Hatred, but this shouldn’t be more than a few castings.
The Heavy Burden rune is simply here to even out Entangling Shot with Caltrops. You see, Caltrops lasts for 6 seconds, but Entangling Shot only lasts for 2 seconds. Heavy Burden increases that to 4 seconds, so it becomes a little bit more reliable. This allows you time to use other skills in between slowing enemies down.
Mouse Right-Click – Caltrops (Hooked Spines)
This is the big survivability skill for the build. Use it in choke points to slow all enemies coming through. When in an open area, target it to hit the most enemies. Then use Entangling Shot to slow the other enemies. Hooked Spines further improves the slowdown. Once most enemies are slowed, you can move on to using damage skills. You have 4-6 seconds to use damage skills before recasting Caltrops with a few Entangling Shots.
Keyboard 1 – Impale (Impact)
This is the main single target skill. Use it against bosses and champions. Cluster Arrow will do more damage to a group of champions, but sometimes you just want to pick one off first. Impale does 40% more damage to a single target than Cluster Arrow with half the Hatred cost. The Impact rune’s knockback + stun help a lot with survivability. You can use it in choke points to completely cut off enemies behind from getting through. You just keep knocking back and stun the first target and the others are stuck. Eventually you will run out of Hatred and have to fall back to Entangling Shot. Regular enemies will die quickly enough, but champions and bosses might require that extra Hatred regen.
Keyboard 2 – Cluster Arrow (Dazzling Arrow)
Cluster Arrow is really the bread and butter damage skill for this build. Almost always it is prefered over Impale. Only if enemies are very spread out would you want to use Impale. Otherwise, it is all Cluster Arrow. Again we add a stun effect with the Dazzling Arrow rune. It has a lower stun chance than Impale’s rune, but it can stun the entire group of monsters, not just one. The high Hatred cost does limit the skill’s use. You will have to fall back on Entangling Shot quite a bit.
Keyboard 3 – Vault (Tumble)
While Caltrops does a good job keeping the monsters away, it won’t always work. Sometimes get around it or you accidentally place it in the wrong spot. In those situations you have Vault to get away from them, followed by Entangling Shot to slow them down. Be careful not to use Vault too often. You always want to have some extra Discipline for when Caltrops expires. The Tumble rune helps this by making a second vault only use half the Discipline cost.
Keyboard 4 – Smoke Screen (Breathe Deep)
In dungeons, you may not have the open space to Vault away, so you can use Smoke Screen. This will cloak your Demon Hunter for a short time. The monsters will basically ignore you. The duration is pretty short but it’s enough to use a couple skills before it wears off. The skills you use with it is based on the situation. Almost always that will be Caltrops or Entangling Shot to slow the enemies down, but you might want to use the damage skills to stun enemies or finish them off.
Both Impale and Cluster Arrow will use up Hatred fast. Breathe Deep counteracts this by turning Smoke Screen into a small Hatred potion. Every time you use Smoke Screen will give you 12 Hatred. Since Smoke Screen uses half your Discipline total, only use it as a potion if you will have around 50% Discipline left. That will leave some for Caltrops and Vault, which are usually more important than 12 Hatred.
Passive 1 – Steady Aim
This build already allows you to use higher damage gear. This passive improves that even further. It also helps make up for not having as many damage skills. With the 4 survivability skills, you should have no trouble staying at long range. You should be able to get this bonus almost all the time. Only fast champions should give you trouble, and that will just be bad luck for this build.
Passive 2 – Cull the Weak
Cull the Weak is another obvious passive for this build. You should try to have all enemies slowed down. Caltrops will get most of them, but Entangling Shot can pick up the others. Then, you get 15% more damage on all those enemies. To get the full effect out of this passive, you should try to maintain the slowing on monsters as much as you can. I try to save as much Discipline as I can for Caltrops.
Passive 3 – Custom Engineering
This is a great passive skill to go with Caltrops. The duration is doubled from 6 seconds to 12 seconds. This gives you more time to do damage skills. You will still want to cast Entangling Shot here and there to slow down monsters that didn’t run through the Caltrops. The other benefit of this is not needing as much Discipline. This essentially cuts the cost in half giving you more Discipline for Vault and Smoke Screen.
It is hard to do damage to monsters while on the run, but it is much easier when using fast weapons. The best weapons for this build are thus two Hand Crossbows. They have the fastest attack speed in the game: 1.60. Dual-wielding adds 15% to that to make it 1.84. Quivers only give a maximum of 12% attack speed bonus, and Shields are not needed because of your escape tools, so always use two Hand Crossbows. For the rest of the items, you can refer to The Stats You Want in Diablo 3, my quick guide to gearing that applies to all characters.