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Season of the Witch - Chesspiece_face - 09-17-2014 12:37 AM

Willie Tanner’s “Winter is Coming” Witch Doctor*
*Now with more alliteration*


Ever since its release, the Helltooth Harness has been widely regarded as a worthless set, often spoken about in conjunction with such hyperbole as “Useless” and “Unplayable”. Discussions regarding this set generally range from “Get Jade… Herp Derp” to accusations that the existence of this gear is evidence of the outright hatred and contempt that the developers hold for the Witch Doctor community. Upon hearing the announcement of Seasons in Diablo 3 I knew that I would be investing the majority of my game time to this mode of play. I also knew that my first season would be dedicated to playing a Witch Doctor.

The great thing about starting a new character fresh, with no opportunity to pass gear on, is that you often get the opportunity to play with skills and builds that would usually be dismissed outright. You can’t automatically out-gear any obstacle and if what you think should work doesn’t you just have to mix things up until you find something that does. As I progressed my fresh new Witch Doctor the gear I found continuously pushed me towards Helltooth, until at some point along the way I gave in and committed myself to see just how far I could take it. This experience has shown me that the set isn’t nearly as “Useless” as marketed. I’ve dubbed my time with this character as “The Season of the Witch.”

The Build:

The core of this build focuses on strong on-hit effects in conjunction with skills that can trigger them often.

[Image: ZywMl6s.jpg?1]

Because we are using the bonuses from the Helltooth set the backbone of our skill set will obviously focus on the cycling of Wall of Zombies. This skill is not a one-hit-wonder, however, and requires a strong supplementary line-up to maximize its effectiveness. To this effect we have damage magnification from Soul Harvest as well as Piranhas and we have on-hit triggers from Corpse Spiders and Spirit Barrage. All of this working together in a wave of cold, triggering the secondary effect of Frostburn Gauntlets and slowing down the pace of battle so that your damage over time can take full effect.

[Image: hc7fztx.jpg?1]

Additionally, we have a constantly renewed supply of Fetish Sycophants from all of our on-hit triggers which combined with Corpse Spiders and the chill of our other abilities creates a clog which leaves most enemies standing around unable to decide where to go.

The end result is a playstyle which bridges the gap between the pre-RoS Zombie Bear build and the Wizard’s mythical perma-lock Arcane Twister build.


Presently I am farming Torment V Bounties and Rifts and am routinely completing Solo Greater Rifts at 22-23. I have no doubt that upon obtaining a set of Unity rings as well as getting some additional Crit Chance on a RRoG and my Krelm’s bracers Torment VI and upper 20s, possibly low 30s Greater Rifts are possible.

Can this build compete with other top tier builds as it stands? No. It’s not quite that good and there are some very critical issues with the mechanics of Zombie Wall combined with the Helltooth bonuses. Primarily, it appears as if the acid attack triggered by the set bonus is not attributed to the Zombie Wall skill. Not only does this mean that the acid attack doesn’t create a chill effect from the Unrelenting Grip rune on Zombie Wall, but it also calls into question whether this attack is even calculating damage from either elemental damage boosts or skill damage boosts on gear. This is an issue and I question if this is just an oversight in design. I would love to hear from Blizzard if this set bonus is, in fact, calculating damage boosts from gear and if not: Why? This change alone would boost the effectiveness of Zombie Wall and the set greatly.

The second mechanic question I have regarding this skill is regarding where exactly the hit boxes for the acid attack and the wall itself exist. It’s not really possible to test in-game effectively, but it appears that these separate attacks do not overlap in their range of effect. If true, this is also a serious issue. The real in-game playstyle of using Zombie Wall is not to put down the wall and have the enemies advance through your acid and break on the wall. The playstyle is to drop the wall smack dab on top of a group of your enemies and layer up all of your other skills on top of it. This means that if the hit boxes of the acid attack and the wall itself don’t overlap the vast majority of the time you won’t be getting the benefit of the secondary attack. If the hitboxes don’t overlap I would, again, ask Blizzard: Why Not? Making an adjustment to the hitboxes of the attacks could, with a simple change, boost the viability of the set by a reasonable amount.

Additional Thoughts:

This is an unbelievably fun build. There are many instances of action and reaction in a standard play session while you relentlessly fight to maintain your ever advancing influence of ice. I would love to see how this build plays with a quality Azurewrath and how that compares with using a more standard Sun Keeper. I am also interested in seeing how alternate versions of the build play based on Physical or Poison. There are a lot of interesting options and I would love to see future updates focus on advancing playstyles such as this as opposed to a lot of the one-hit-wonder builds such as Jade Witch Doctor or M6 Demon Hunter.

Thanks! (If I get the time and inclination I may record a play video and upload it if anyone is interested.)

RE: Season of the Witch - Aahzmadius - 09-17-2014 01:18 PM

Great post! I've found all of the Helltooth pieces, and they're sitting in my stash, waiting for the inevitable Deeds moment. I would love to see a video of the play-style (at your convenience, of course). Which Lgems are you using? Bane of the Trapped? Enforcer? How does the 'proc rate' feel on Fetish Sycophants? When I was using that passive, I was still defaulting to RoT to summon them.

I've gone down the JH path, which is fun-but dangerous. More options would be interesting to see.

RE: Season of the Witch - Chesspiece_face - 09-17-2014 11:36 PM

(09-17-2014 01:18 PM)Aahzmadius Wrote:  I would love to see a video of the play-style (at your convenience, of course). Which Lgems are you using? Bane of the Trapped? Enforcer? How does the 'proc rate' feel on Fetish Sycophants? When I was using that passive, I was still defaulting to RoT to summon them.

I will try to get some time in the next few days to record some video.

Right now I am using a lvl 15 Bane of the Trapped and a lvl 17 Mirinae. The plan right now is to socket in a Gem of Efficacious Toxin when I get a RRoG with Crit Chance. The biggest detriment to this build right now is the slow kill speed on bosses. It doesn't have a lot of trouble killing them but it takes awhile. Mirinae helps a lot by offering chances to burst on hit. I'm looking forward to seeing how effective a fully upgraded version will be to smooth out the damage curve.

Generally I'm able to keep up a full pack of Sycophants barring going up against a boss or other champ pack that will be able to kill them off. With this skill set I often have 7-8 after the first pull of a rift and am able to stay up above 10 until I either hit the boss or run into an area with low density.