The Ball Lightning Demon Hunter is a really popular leveling build. It’s very strong throughout the leveling process and even into the lower Monster Power levels. It uses just two skills: one for single targets and one for groups of monsters. The other skills just serve to buff the character and improve efficiency. The main Elemental Arrow skill costs very little Hatred but does insane Area of Effect damage.
Entire rooms of monsters can be killed in seconds, which is much faster than most other classes while leveling. Moreover, since you don’t need any special stats for this build to work, the Ball Lightning Demon Hunter is a great beginner build.
- Works with any gear setup.
- Easily cleans rooms of monsters with a cheap Area of Effect skill.
- Can be boring with only one Hatred spender skill.
- Does not do enough damage for high Monster Power levels.
Mouse Left Click – Hungering Arrow (Cinder Arrow or Devouring Arrow)
Hungering Arrow is the best single target Hatred generator. Even compared to the Hatred spenders, it’s one of the best single target skills. The 115% weapon damage may seem low, but the piercing effect actually increases it quite a bit. Cinder Arrow or Devouring Arrow will both give you around 230% weapon damage. You can replace Cinder Arrow with Devouring Arrow when you reach the appropriate level. Use this to pick off Elite monsters when they are not grouped close together that Elemental Arrow would hit most of them.
Mouse Right Click – Elemental Arrow (Ball Lightning)
The namesake for this build is the Ball Lightning rune. Ball Lightning is one of those runes completely changes the look and effects of the skill. The normal effect is just a single target arrow much like Hungering Arrow, but Ball Lightning turns it into an Area of Effect powerhouse. Each ball does two hits per monster totalling the 155% damage over a small area, but it only costs 10 Hatred. You can spam them all over the field and knock out entire rooms full of monsters in seconds. It is also good against Elites when there are a bunch of them stacked together.
Keyboard 1 – Vault (Tumble)
This is a great utility skill to dodge the massive damage attacks that Elites do, such as Arcane Beams and Poison pools. It even works to counteract Prison. You won’t be able to move normally, but Vault will still move your character to a safer location. Combined with the Tactical Advantage passive skill, it also is a great movement skill. You can backtrack to an unexplored part of the map to check for more Elites without wasting much time.
Keyboard 2 – Companion (Bat Companion)
The Companion helps a little bit with damage, but it is mostly for the Hatred regeneration. This comes from the Bat Companion. It gives 3 Hatred per second. The Bat cannot, so you only need to cast this once per game that you join or create. The Hatred regeneration helps to counteract the Hatred cost of Elemental Arrow (Ball Lightning). This is especially the case with high attack speed, you can run out of Hatred very quickly.
Keyboard 3 – Preparation (Backup Plan)
Most Discipline skills aren’t that great, so you would think a skill that refills Discipline would be useless. Fortunately, Shadow Power happens to be an extremely powerful Discipline skill. It only lasts 5 seconds and costs nearly 50% of the Discipline. Normally, you would only be able to get 10 seconds of Shadow Power, but Preparation doubles that to 20 seconds. In addition, Backup Plan sometimes removes the cooldown on Preparation for another 10 seconds of Shadow Power.
Keyboard 4 – Shadow Power (Gloom)
This is the big survivability skill of the build. With high damage you can basically tank Elite monsters with ease. The Lifesteal is great while leveling. It becomes weak when you first get to Inferno, but can become fairly strong once you get high DPS. The Gloom rune greatly improves the skill though to add 35% damage reduction to all attacks for the 5 second duration. Not only are you gaining life, you also take less damage. Shadow Power uses up half of the Discipline globe per use, but Preparation extends it to 20-30 seconds, long enough that you can destroy most Elite packs before you are fully out of Discipline.
Passive 1 – Tactical Advantage
This passive greatly speeds up the efficiency of leveling and killing monsters. Sometimes it even keeps you alive in a hard fight, but it’s mostly used to reduce downtime between packs of monsters. The less time spent travelling and more time spent in combat, the faster you get experience, gold, and new items.
Passive 2 – Archery
This is a great skill to improve all damage you do. The 15% damage bonus for Bows is the best for leveling. The other ones are based on critical hit chance or critical hit damage, which don’t become good until you can really start stacking them high. You won’t always find Bows though. The bonuses will for Crossbows and Hand Crossbows will have to do.
Passive 3 – Steady Aim
Archery is a more reliable damage bonus than Steady Aim, but Steady Aim is still good in most situations. Against Elite monsters you usually won’t get this bonus. They are just too fast to stay 10 yards away from. You definitely get this bonus when fighting the weak monsters and Act End Bosses. Those bosses usually have the most Life of everything in the Act, so it can make progressing through the story faster.
Any weapon type will work for this build, though Two Hand Crossbows will use the least Hatred. That will give you the most longevity against high health monsters but make kiting monsters harder. At endgame if you have some Hatred regeneration on your items, you can get away with faster weapons and not worry about running out of Hatred.
While no stats are required for this build, critical hit chance will help if you choose some of the Alternatives below. If you plan to use this build at all in Inferno, you will be getting critical hit chance anyways. No reason not to switch out runes for the powerful ones reliant on critical hits. For general gearing that applies to all characters, check out The Stats You Want in Diablo 3, my quick guide to stats that all characters should have.
- Hungering Arrow (Spray of Teeth) instead of Hungering Arrow (Cinder Arrow or Devouring Arrow) – When you get to endgame, you will inevitably start gearing for critical hit chance because it opens up a lot of build possibilities. You can replace your Hungering Arrow rune with Spray of Teeth. With high enough critical hit chance, it will do more damage than any of the other runes.
- Night Stalker instead of Steady Aim – This is another skill you can take if you have high critical hit chance. Night Stalker can potentially give you infinite Discipline, allowing you to spam Shadow Power non-stop every 5 seconds. Most endgame Demon Hunter builds go this way.