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Guide [Wizard]: Critical Mass Melee Wizard

Posted by Radoslav "Nydra" Kolev at 05 July 2012 11:54
Welcome to our Build Collector - the episodic column of GosuGamers where we guide and acquaint you with the large variety of class skill builds which are currently popular in Diablo III.

We'll collect everything - cookie cutters, hardcore survival, fun and unorthodox builds, leveling and endgame strats or such designed for one particular act or boss fight. We'll examine how each of these can be customized to better fit different playstyles, what gear to look for, what are the underlying concepts of the build, how to play it (and how not to play it) and its pro's and con's.

For our first issue we take the somewhat unorthodox melee Wizard build revolving around the Critical Mass passive and crit chance gear.

Build, Concept and Playstyle

Critical Mass Melee Wizard

Build Characteristics:
Required Level 60
Difficulty: Inferno
Core skill: Critical Mass
Hardcore Reliability: A bit too risky

Pros
An extremely fun alternative to the cookie-cutter class cannon / ranged wizards
You get to spam more than one skill
Getting lucky Critical Mass procs will keep you alive forever

Cons
Reaching maximum efficiency does not come too cheap
Lacks mobility
Not getting lucky Critical Mass procs will have you dead in seconds

One does not have to think for too long before grasping the general concept of the build. It implements offensive skills which are used in melee range and generate a lot of hits per second (Spectral Blade, Explosive Blast, Energy Twister), hoping that a sufficient percent of those hits are criticals that trigger Critical Mass. The Critical Mass procs in turn lead to more Explosive Blasts and Twisters and/or long chains of Diamond Skin to keep the overall DPS high while absorbing the better part of the damage that is being dealt to the wizard.

Get the Enchantress as the follower of choice and train her Charm, Powered Armor, Erosion and Mass Control. This will add a lot more crowd control to the encounters, plus the Powered Armor is an absolute must for such a Wizard.

Skills and Justification

The build uses four offensive and two defensive active skills to combine an optimal DPS rotation plus enough survivability to stay alive amidst the fray. As mentioned above, the offensive skills in question are picked not because they necessarily deal the most damage but because they have a high hits per cast ratio. Below we go through the rune choices for each skill and justify the decisions.

OFFENSIVE SKILLS:
Spectral Blade [Healing Blades]
Hydra [Venom Hydra]
Explosive Blast [Short Fuse]
Energy Twister [Wicked Wind]


critmass-1-mouseskills.png


Spectral Blade [Healing Blades] – It lashes out a lot of hits in a wide melee range, each of which can crit to proc Critical Mass. It works well with the Prodigy passive and the Healing Blades rune adds an extra survivability.

Hydra [Venom Hydra] – The cheapest offensive non-signature spell of the build. Not only does it cost 15 arcane power, but it’ll remain on the field for 15 seconds, meaning it can be put out of mind for the battle, directing all of player's focus on casting the other offensive spells. Rune for Venom Hydra for the sheer reason that it dishes out the most hits per second out of all the hydras.

critmass-1-offensive.png


Explosive Blast [Short Fuse] – It’s a skill that originates from the caster and damages everything around him and generates, as it has always been the goal with this build, a lot of hits. The skill is runed with Short Fuse to remove the channel time as you’ll want immediate damage which is the shortest path to activating Critical Mass.

Energy Twister [Wicked Wind] – More AoE damage. Using the Wicked Wind rune decreases the damage dealt but let's you control the tornado as it stays where it's cast it and doesn't move away from the mobs.

critmass-1-defensive.png


Diamond Skin [Crystal Shell] – every wizard needs Diamond Skin, no exceptions. The Crystal Shell rune is there to increase the damage absorbed and is best for undergeared wizards as it’ll mitigate low armor or resists to some extent.

Energy Armor [Prismatic Armor] – just like Diamond Skin, Energy Armor is a must. Since the fix for Force Armor, Prismatic Armor has become the best rune for this skill so put it in there and keep it on at all times. 40% resistances and 65% armor is juicy! Yum!

critmass-1-passives.png


PASSIVE SKILLS

Critical Mass – No further words need be said. It’s the core skill of the build, everything you do and everything you equip should increase the chance of this activating.

Prodigy – Having low (or no) cooldowns is directly tied to a higher degree of spamming and, in turn, high Arcane Power consumption. Prodigy is included to fix this. It works well with AoE signature spells (like Spectral Blade and Living Lightning) and it will generate 4 arcane power per enemy damaged by a signature spell. You cast Spectral Blade, you hit five enemies, you get a free Explosive Blast.

Note of importance – The arcane power generated is based on how many enemies are damaged and not how many hits are dealt. If say Spectral Blade has five slashes per cast and hits 5 enemies, the arcane power generated will just be 5 x 4 = 20 (number of enemies hit x 4 arcane power) and NOT 5 x 5 x 4 = 100 (number of enemies hit x number of slashes x 4 arcane power).

Blur – You are a melee wizard. You want to have incoming melee damage reduced. Case closed.


Skill Build Customization


Spectral Blade [Thrown Blade] – Extends the reach of the blades to 20 yards. Trades survivability for more hits and, consecutively, more chances for a critical.

Spectral Blade [Deep Cuts] - Adds an additional damage component in bleed and also has a higher Life on Hit returns than Healing Blade and Thrown Blade.

Shock Pulse [Living Lightning] – Conjures a small lightning elemental that drifts forward and hits a group of enemies for 37% weapon damage. Deals less damage than Spectral Blade but adds mobility in the sense of that you can run away while still dealing damage.

Frost Nova [Deep Freeze] - If it hits more than five enemies, it gives you 15% bonus crit chance for 12 seconds. Trade it for some of your offensive skills if death is often repeating occurrence.

Meteor [Rune according to personal preferences] - Trade it for Energy Twister. It deals more damage over shorter period of time and has higher Life on Hit returns, but is almost twice as expensive in terms of Arcane Power.

Diamond Skin [Mirror Skin] – Reflects 50% of the damage back to the enemy. Use only if your gear gives you enough survivability that you don’t really need the 21K absorbed damage to survive the battle.


Itemization

weapon.png
WEAPON

Get the highest DPS with the largest Life on Hit weapon you can find. Crit Damage and stats are a nice bonus but they will make the weapon extremely expensive.
Search for a fast, one-handed weapon. You want to maximize your hits per second.
If your weapons has a socket, shove in the best Amethyst you have (more Life on Hit!)
This is likely to be your most expensive purchase (or once in a lifetime drop). The item on the image currently sells for eight figures on the AH. For how to gear without getting broke, check the Gearing on a Budget section.

ARMOR

Prioritize Crit Chance over anything else. Aim for 50% crit chance or more. When you achieve this you can start investing more into survivability.
For survivability, search for All resist, Armor and Life on Hit. Balance it out with Intelligence so you don't end up with no damage.
When soloing, socket for Vitality (Amethysts) unless you have so much damage that mobs die before they hit you more than twice. If you prefer playing in parties and you are not the dedicated tank, hammer in all those Topazes (extra Intelligence).
Ideally, you'll want to have your helm with a socket. Radiant Star Amethysts in head gear give +18% life which is too much a bonus to bypass.


Gearing on a Budget


We set on to find some cool gear within 1,000,000 gold. This is what the Auction House offered after ~30mins of searching. We used this class calculator to get the numbers we could not get by hand.

The total:
Gold: 522,000
Life on Hit: 505
Armor: 4204 (6936 with Energy Armor)
All Resist: 222 (311 with Energy Armor)
+ Intelligence: 421 (591 with 5x Flawless Square Topaz)
+ Vitality: 437 (607 with 5x Flawless Square Amethysts). +154 Vitality with Swag Mode On (see below)
Sockets: 6 (+170 Intelligence or +170 Vitality with Flawless Square Gems, sixth socket is a helm socket with +12% life)
Crit Chance: 29% (34% with the innate crit chance)
DPS: 7,627 (9,175 with +170 Intelligence from 5x Flawless Squared Topaz). +800 DPS with Swag Mode On (see below)
Hit Points: ~30,000 with 5x Flawless Square Amethysts

As seen, we've chosen a more tanky item build with a lot of Armor (reaching 69% damage reduction rate), decent resists and above average health pool for this gear cost. The greatest weakness of this gear build is its low Intelligence, which is something quickly fixable by spending a bit more money as seen below. Note that we use Flawless Squares as they are the last tier that drops normally and are dirt cheap to get (~300 gold at the AH).

WEAPON: 250,000 - Most expensive purchase. Searched for Life on Hit (400+), sorted by DPS.

OFF HAND: 50,000 - Searched for Crit Chance and Vitality. Got a bonus socket!


AMULET: 11,000 - Searched for All Resist, Life on Hit and Crit Chance. Got lucky with this one.

BELT: 50,000 - Searched for the highest combination of Vitality, Intelligence and All Resist. Got +5% life which is an amazing bonus.

BOOTS: 7,000 - Searched for All Resist. Sorted out by Armor value.

BRACERS: 10,000 - Searched for 50+ Intelligence and Crit Chance

CHEST: 9,000 - Searched for All resist and Intelligence as I felt I was lacking the latter a bit at that point. The two sockets allow for additional Intelligence / Vitality boost.

GLOVES: 5,000 (Intelligence version) or 10,000 (Vitality version) - Searched for Crit Chance to keep it cheap. Got two good versions with either more damage or more life.

HELM: 50,000 (higher armor) or 30,000 (with Intelligence) - Searched for a Socketed helm and Crit Chance. The first gives a bonus Crit Chance to Explosive Blast as well, making it a bit more expensive.

PANTS: 15,000 - Set a max buyout of 15K and searched for All Resist only in order to fit in said limit.

RINGS: 30,000 for both - Searched only for Crit Chance.

SHOULDERS: 20,000 - Searched for the highest combination of Vitality, Intelligence and All Resist.



Swag mode on

If you want to go up to 1,000,000 gold, you can invest in better boots, chest armor or gloves. These are two items that we found after five minutes of searching:

Boots: 50,000 - Has the cookie cutter mix of Vit/Int/All resist

Gloves: 200,000 - Very high combination of Vitality and Intelligence (100+ each) and high crit chance


For chest armor, cruise the AH for a triple socketed, 100+ vitality, all resist armor. There is an abundance of those within the 100,000 gold limit.

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