So you’ve decided to walk the path of the arcane and become a Wizard. I can’t say I blame you, the temptation to wield the unkempt crackling essence of creation, the primal elements, is strong. Sure you may lack the hardiness of the Barbarian or the Monk, the meat shields of the Witch Doctor, or the mobility of the Demon Hunter, but you’ve got more tools at your disposal than the whole lot combined. You can freeze your foes in their tracks, scorch them with wicked flame, or paralyze them with bolts of lightning.
At first the class may seem a little overwhelming, with a wide range of abilities that vary from amazing to seemingly useless. As you power through Normal mode, you’ll find yourself gravitating towards certain abilities, the content not difficult enough to require any serious consideration about ability builds. As long as you’re spewing magical death in the general direction of something with horns, you should be able to make it past Diablo in his most mundane form.
It’s Nightmare mode where things get interesting. Monsters start hitting harder and taking harder hits. In the face of this sudden influx of difficulty, many budding magic-users find themselves overcome by their lack of survivability. Doing your best Cyclops impersonation isn’t cutting it anymore, it’s time to start considering the rest of your toolkit.
Here’re 5 tips to help neophytes to the arcane arts in their pursuit of greater and more powerful loot:
1) The best defense is a good offense.
Until you hit Inferno, your best option is simply to try and kill everything before it can reach you. In some cases, this isn’t possible (stupid Teleport or Shielded elites) but for the vast majority of your fights you’ll be unloading everything you’ve got on a group and wiping them out before they can get anywhere near you. To this end, you’ll want to pick up as many percentage based damage increases as possible. Two of these stand out for your early leveling experience: Magic Weapon and Familiar.
Magic Weapon provides a flat 10% bonus to your damage, increased to 15% with the Force Weapon rune at level 35. You may lose a potential defensive skill by giving up a valuable spot to this self-buff, but it’s totally worth it, especially as your DPS numbers start climbing. Another great damage self-buff is the Familiar skill with the Sparkflint rune, which increases all damage by 12% while active in addition to providing some minor damage from the little glowing Gradius reject itself.
Combined, you’re looking at a flat 27% damage increase just from hitting two buttons every now and then. When you’re sitting at 100 DPS this might not seem much, but imagine how much damage that is when you’re pushing 10,000 DPS and you might find yourself at least somewhat impressed.
If you keep your equipment somewhat up to date using the Auction House, you should have no problem wiping out entire groups before they can even give you a dirty look.
2) You aren’t stuck with the default bar skill categories.
You may already know this, but the game doesn’t actually TELL you this at any point, so you might have missed it. The game initially restricts you to certain skill types per quickbar slots such as only 1 defensive skill, 1 force skill, 1 secondary skill, etc. This isn’t too bad for Normal mode, as it gives you a chance to really play around with all the different skills available to you.
If you head to the Gameplay section of the Options menu, there’s a button labeled ‘Elective Mode’. Select this and you’ll be able to put any skill in any category regardless of its initial placement. Want to place Teleport on your Right Mouse Button? Go on and make your dreams come true!
3) Know when to use a channeled spell versus a projectile spell.
There are two primary categories for Wizard attacks: channeled beams and projectiles. Your beams are Ray of Frost and Disintegrate, two spells that you’ll be doing a LOT of damage with depending on your build. It’s tempting to use either one of them for the vast majority of your playing, both on normal trash packs and bosses. This isn’t always the case once you push into the higher difficulty levels, where even a single hit from a boss can wipe out your entire health pool. I learned this lesson the hard way after 15 attempts on Nightmare Belial while desperately trying to channel my red beam of arcane doom during his various attacks.
The other side of the coin are projectile attacks like Arcane Orb or Magic Missile, which you only have to stop momentarily to let lose before continuing your frantic sprint. Arcane Orb with the Obliteration rune can do sizeable damage to bosses while allowing you to focus almost entirely on dodging the various fatal attacks they’re putting out. Spells like Hydra and Blizzard also fall into this category, as you’re able to throw them down and continue moving while they do their damage. Don’t underestimate the power of plinking away at a boss’s health while you do your best Heisman trophy impersonation.
4) Venom Hydra is your best friend.
I can’t stress this enough. Use Venom Hydra. Once you unlock it at level 38 this glowing green triumvirate will become your greatest ally in your quest to kite the hordes of hell. You may balk at the thought of losing the massive AOE damage of your Arcane Hydra (or not even have this amazing skill on your hotbar!) but fear not, as there’s a hidden benefit to this seemingly underwhelming ability: the puddles of poison left behind by each putrid bolt STACK. That’s right folks, if you can keep a target locked down, the damage from this ability will suddenly skyrocket.
For the vast majority of enemy packs you won’t see the same massive damage output as with Arcane, but any time you have to tank something (which is very possible through most of Nightmare and Hell assuming you’ve got Diamond Skin up) you’ll start doing massive damage using this guy. If you really want to see it shine, pull it out on Belial and laugh as he crumples in less than a minute.
5) Cold Blooded is up all the damn time.
When it comes to control, there’s nothing better than the icy grip of frost spells for the Wizard. Until level 30, frost spells are pretty underwhelming compared to their arcane or lightning counterparts, not quite doing the same level of widespread damage. Ray of Frost doesn’t pierce like Disintegrate does, Blizzard lacks the knockback that Wave of Force provides, and nothing compares to Venom Hydra.
Then you get Cold Blooded as a passive skill and the game changes. Cold Blooded increases all cold damage dealt to frozen or chilled targets by 20%. With Blizzard applying a constant slow effect to anything caught in it and Ray of Frost applying a snare itself, there’s no reason you SHOULDN’T be benefiting from the extra 20% damage.
If you’re going for a kiting build based on keeping enemies locked down using Blizzard, there’s no reason to not have Cold Blooded. The other elemental passives are similarly useful if you’re focused on using that element, but none of them provide the kind of massive flat bonus to damage that Cold Blooded does.