The Firebats Witch Doctor

This is the cookie cutter max DPS build for Witch Doctors. It follows the general theme of other top DPS builds by having a few high damage skills combined with several damage buffing skills.

The build uses no Primary skills (the low mana cost ones), instead relying on high Mana regeneration to fuel constant Firebats usage with Locust Swarm thrown in here and there. Because base Mana regeneration starts at the maximum rate even at level 1, low level Witch Doctors won’t have to worry too much about running out of Mana using Firebats. At level 60, Mana regeneration skills and items are required to not run out of Mana.

Strengths

  • Current max DPS possible for a Witch Doctor
  • The build works for low levels due to the initially high base Mana regeneration.

Weaknesses

  • Mana regeneration becomes an issue at high levels.
  • Close range of Firebats requires great defenses to survive
  • Don’t get to use any of the fun Witch Doctor summons.

Skills

Mouse Left Click – Firebats (Cloud of Bats)

The damage of this skill was initially weak, but it was buffed in a later patch. That brought it up to the top DPS skill for Witch Doctors. Firebats with the Cloud of Bats rune encircles the Witch Doctor in flaming bats that do massive damage. The damage is increased even further if you can maintain the cast it for a few seconds.  You can use it on weak enemies while leveling. At endgame, that high DPS is better put to Elites. The only downside to this skill is that it has a high initial Mana cost and a constant channeling Mana cost, but that can be fixed with Mana regeneration runes, passive skills, and items.

Mouse Right Click – Locust Swarm (Pestilence)

Locust Swarm is both supplemental DPS when fighting Elites and a good trash mob killer. All those weak monsters will die with one cast of Locust Swarm. While leveling, you probably won’t have the Mana to recast it on Elites mid-fight, but that is the goal at endgame. Use it once at the beginning to soften Elites followed by Firebats for the kill. Locust Swarm will also help with ranged enemies that are not going to be in range of your Firebats cloud.

Keyboard 1 – Soul Harvest (Vengeful Spirit)

This is a very nice buff skill. Soul Harvest steals souls from up to 5 enemies close by to give the Witch Doctor a massive Intelligence bonus. It doesn’t matter which enemies they are; you get the same buff for all of them. While maintained, this skill basically guarantees a 5-15% bonus to Intelligence, depending on how much Intelligence you have. That can translate into 100s of percents in increased damage. I think it is the best damage buff in the game, and only Witch Doctors get it. You are already in melee range for Firebats, so it is very easy to get 5 stacks all the time. The Vengeful Spirit adds some pretty good damage to the monsters whose souls are harvested.

Keyboard 2 – Big Bad Voodoo (Slam Dance)

Here is another buffing skill. By default it gives a 20% attack speed bonus, which translates into 20% more damage. The Slam Dance rune adds a further 30% damage bonus. The only downside is that this buff is cast on the ground and remains stationary for the duration. Always save Big Bad Voodoo for Elite packs. The 2 minute cooldown is too long for regular monsters.

Keyboard 3 – Mass Confusion (Paranoia)

Mass Confusion is a little bit of offense and defense. The confused enemies will both stop fighting you and also sometimes attack their former friends. That high damage they could have done to you is instead done to them. But the real reason this skill is taken is for the Paranoia rune, which gives a damage boost against all enemies within range of the skill for a short time. Like Big Bad Voodoo it’s a stationary buff that won’t move with you and has a long cooldown, so save it for the high health monsters.

Keyboard 4 – Spirit Walk (Honored Guest)

Spirit Walk is a great defensive skill to get out of a dangerous spot and move to a more favorable one. Once activated you can walk through enemies to ensure you get where you want to. The only downside is that you leave behind a Physical form that only has 50% of your Life total. If surrounded by Elite monsters, it might not last long enough for you to move far. The Honored Guest rune is basically a “Mana Potion”, but you can’t attack at the same time. The Mana gained this way will cover the cost of recasting Firebats after repositioning to a safer spot.

Passive 1 – Gruesome Feast

Gruesome Feast boosts both damage and your Mana. The Intelligence bonus it provides can be potentially greater than Soul Harvest, but it is much harder to maintain. At best it is a temporary 5 stack when fighting Elites, but that’s when the extra damage is most useful as well. In addition, it gives Health Globes the dual purpose of refilling both Life and Mana, exactly what you need to sustain Firebats during long fights.

Passive 2 – Spirit Vessel

Spirit Vessel is mostly here to keep you alive longer. Not having to resurrect and travel back to the monsters saves a lot of time in the long run, and, of course, not have to create a new character in Hardcore saves even more time. It also reduces the cooldowns on Soul Harvest and Spirit Walk. Soul Harvests damage rune can be used more often.

Passive 3 – Grave Injustice

This is the perfect passive for the Firebats build. You are already in close range to the monsters you are killing. This one gives you Life and Mana and, in addition, reduces the cooldown on all skills for every enemy killed within range. At the beginning of a long battle with tons of enemies around, Grave Injustice allows you to spam Soul Harvest for 230% damage per cast. Eventually, there will just be a few Elites left, and this passive won’t help much. It greatly increases initial burst damage though.

Weapon Type

The faster you cast spells, the faster you have to pay their Mana costs. That’s a problem when you’re using a Mana hog like Firebats, along with spamming all sorts of other damage buff spells. You can do yourself a big favor by using a slow Two Hand weapon. That can cut Mana regeneration needs in half. A Two Hand mace is best at 0.90 attack speed. This will allow you to use some attack speed affixes without hurting your Mana too much.

Good Stats

Mana regeneration is the big stat you need for this build. Besides a slow weapon and the Mana-generating passive skills, you should look for Mana regeneration on items. Firebats costs 66 Mana per second while channeling, more if your attack speed is higher than 1.0. Witch Doctors have a base Mana regeneration of 45, which leaves 21 Mana regeneration to be picked up by items.

You can get all of that from the Visage of Giyua Voodoo Mask, which increases Mana regeneration up to 14 and reduces the Mana cost of Firebats by up to 12 per second. If you don’t have access to this item, there are Alternative runes and skills below that will boost Mana regeneration.

You will also need high defense for this build. A typical spellcaster doesn’t have as much Armor or Resist All as a melee character, but you are basically a melee character with the Firebats build. Lifesteal is also important, as Grave Injustice won’t heal you much against Elites and Bosses. 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.

Alternatives

  • Firebats (Vampire Bats) instead of Firebats (Cloud of Bats) – At low levels, Lifesteal effects, like Vampire Bats’ 2.5% Lifesteal, are much stronger. You can use this rune while leveling to keep your Witch Doctor alive through Normal and Nightmare. Only Hell difficulty will bring some problems, but by then you will have access to good Life regeneration on items.
  • Soul Harvest (Swallow Your Soul) instead of Soul Harvest (Vengeful Spirit) – Taking the Swallow Your Soul rune will almost negate the Soul Harvest Mana cost entirely, but it loses Vengeful Spirit’s high damage that can be spammed with Grave Injustice.
  • Big Bad Voodoo (Rain Dance) instead of Big Bad Voodoo (Slam Dance) – This is the best rune for Mana regeneration if you need it. For both bosses and Elite packs, it will prevent you from ever running out of Mana with Firebats and still have extra to use the other skills at the same time. You do lose a sizable damage bonus though.
  • Spiritual Attunement instead of Spirit Vessel – If you still need more Mana regeneration, you can replace Spirit Vessel with Spiritual Attunement. Counting the 20% Mana pool bonus, it will give you 8.88 Mana regeneration. I like Spiritual Attunement for leveling and then switching to Spirit Vessel at endgame when dying is more common.
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