Guide [Demon Hunter]: Beating Hardcore

Posted by Radoslav "Nydra" Kolev at 27 August 2012 11:42
Today, we have something special for you - a guest article by one of world's first Demon Hunter to beat hardcore solo! In this first chapter of his guide, MUSE lists his build and teaches itemization, mindset and playstyle.

1. Introduction

Playing a Demon Hunter solo on Hardcore is one of the bravest things one can do. Truly, if you are not an experienced Demon Hunter, your deeds of valour will be remembered many times.


Sometime during July, I found out that no DH has completed Hardcore yet. I was then playing hardcore on a Monk but as I hated playing it, I decided to switch to Demon Hunter and complete the game in that way. ImMortal managed to beat the game on hardcore before me but as he was doing this in a group, I would still be among the first to do it all by myself, Monsoon being the other.

2. Skill builds

a. Main progression build

Main progression build


Now I know there’s some surprises in here so let’s go over them:

Hungering Arrow:
Puncturing Arrow

In case you didn’t know, Puncturing Arrow averages on ~230% weapon DPS, Cinder averages ~234% weapon DPS, and devouring averages on ~234%.
It’s all preference really.


Puncturing Arrow: More consistent damage, higher chance to hit cricts and ‘mini-stun’ mobs more often as a result.
Cinder Arrow: Slightly more damage, GREAT Life on hit coefficient(130%).
Devouring Arrow: More damage, burst damage at times.


Puncturing Arrow: Less damage than the other two.
Cinder Arrow: Needs 3 seconds to deal full damage per arrow.
Devouring Arrow: Very inconsistent damage.

Elemental Arrow
Frost Arrow

More DPS than Ball Lightning? Check.
Slows enemies? Check. Easy to aim? Check.
AOE? Check.
Cheap hatred cost? Check.


You won’t be using Vault too much during progression. However it is absolutely necessary as an emergency skill for some scenarios:

1. When you need to run out of an area with a tough elite and you are low on discipline OR the Elite has the Fast Affix OR the exit is REALLY far away.
2. For maps with tight corridors, if you somehow get stuck in between mobs or need to cross a few enemies, you can vault your way through.
3. Cheaper alternative for mobility boost to Smoke Screen.


Focused Mind

I find that Focused Mind is the best rune if you have below 45 max discipline and even better overall. How so?

When your discipline reaches, say, 7 and you can’t cast a Smoke Screen, you’re forced to use Preparation and that 7 discipline is wasted. However, if you use Focused Mind, your discipline gradually regenerates, allowing you to make use of that 7 discipline, potentially casting one more Smoke Screen.

It is also more consistent but do not rely on Backup plan when planning your fights with elites or bosses – at least not on hardcore.

Rain of Vengeance

This basically gives you 5 seconds of pure DPS time against Blue & white elites when cast properly. Not only that – it saves you kiting space which is oh so important in progression when your DPS isn’t insanely high.

NOTE: Stampede does not work against Yellow Elites and Bosses. The Flying Strike rune does (provides a 2 second stun) but it’s much harder to aim with it.

Smoke Screen
Lingering Fog


Passive abilities
b. Other useful skills

There are a few skills that are interchangeable with the main build based on your preference, but I feel that the main build I have provided is the best for solo progression. Nevertheless, let's go over them quickly.

Elemental Arrow [Ball Lightning]: This is actually great when you do not need to kite much i.e. in a party. The AOE of the ball is much bigger than Frost Arrow, allowing you to hit groups of mobs more consistently than Frost Arrow.

Cluster Arrow [Cluster Bombs]: Difficult to aim but great for Act I farming where the monsters are usually slower and you can afford to go nearer to the elites. It has insane DPS and you can literally 2-shot elites if done right with 40k DPS in Act I. Not recommended for progression.

Caltrops [Torturous Ground]: Interchangeable with Rain of Vengeance but I don’t like it too much because the mini-stun only lasts for 0.5s in Inferno.

Shadow Power [Gloom]: Combined with Nat’s Set this might actually make playing Hardcore as a DH easy. Also good against Reflect Damage if you’re feeling lazy to manage your HP and globes.

c. Enchantress

Bring your Enchantress along, specced like that. She easily gives you ~5% EHP and DPS boost AND her skills do insane damage (I believe they are bugged to include some of your DPS at the moment). Stack her with some cheap INT items and a high DPS 2h + INT.

3. Itemization

Check out Athene’s video on EHP, even if you don’t like him. He’s a good theorycrafter and everything he says here makes sense.

Essentially, when getting upgrades, you want to balance out between EHP and DPS. Whichever gives you an overall bonus for the two and at a cheaper cost, get that.

In Hardcore, you can almost equate 1 DEX = 1 VIT, so your calculations will be much easier. However, take into account that Amethyst gems are way more expensive than Emerald gems so you might want to value VIT on items a little more just for cost-effectiveness’ sake.

I would value Bows more than Crossbows on HC, for two reasons:

(a) It’s easier to kite with a Bow
(b) 15% increased damage bonus from Archery is better than 50% CD because it’s likely that you cannot obtain high enough Cric chance in HC without sacrificing some defensive stat or overall DPS.

4. Mindset and playstyle

Your mindset is super important for Hardcore. I want you to get this into your head: Be OBJECTIVE! Your goal is to progress safely, to get to the next map. Respec if you have to for certain elites or even thrash mobs. You’re not farming, lose your Nephalem Valor if you have to. Even skip the champ pack if you can.

Whenever you hear your Enchantress going “Do you see that enemy over there...”, check the affixes of the pack first. As much as possible, try not to aggro it until you have checked. If you have to, reset the map. Some affixes make fighting the mob rather risky (the big 3 are Waller, Arcane, Vortex), especially if the mob is a fast one.


An example: I killed this champ pack’s white minions with Stampede but the yellow elite lived and I struggled to finish him off because of reflect damage + extra health. I thought for awhile and decided to respec to a single-target spec, namely Elemental arrow: Fear Skull and Rain of Vengeance: Flying Strike.

a. Discipline management

How do you know how much you can commit in a fight? Your Discipline determines that. No matter what, you must have enough discipline for one Smoke Screen. Get out if you don’t.

Always wait for Preparation to go off cooldown before moving on. Heck, if you want to be ultra safe, always wait for your Discipline to be near full before proceeding.

Always monitor your blue globe. Don’t go ‘by feel’. Be disciplined about your discipline.

b. Patience

Play the game as if it’s your life. As an archer, would you shoot at a monster from point blank range? Probably not. Keep your distance, even from trash mobs. Kite and sutterstep constantly.

Always wait for your cooldowns before progressing. For DH, it’s probably only Rain of Vengeance and Preparation.

When going around corners, especially in a dangerous place such as The Keeps, consider Smoke Screening in and out to peek. Corners are very dangerous. I have died once after turning at a corner and getting insta walled. I died even though I had 7 Smoke Screens.

These are just examples of how slow you should be playing in Hardcore progression.


Not a situation you want to get yourself in

c. Fighting elites

The first and most important thing you want to do is to check the affixes. Don’t only realize its affixes after the champ starts using it.

In general, KITE OFF SCREEN. Even Mortar and Vortex can’t touch you if you stay far enough. Prior to 1.0.4, it was much harder because when the monsters can’t ‘see you’ i.e. when they're not on your screen, their HP might reset. It’s really much easier now when you can permanently kite off screen, so make full use of it!

Always know where to back up to, prepare your kiting path in advance.

What I usually like to do is to fight in a long corridor where I can cast Rain of Vengeance and just stand there and DPS for 5 seconds. In Act I, the pack would already be dead. In act III they’re already usually at less than half health.


Where do you think you're going, baby?

5. Conclusion

These are the most basic tips for progression as a DH. Please do leave your comments and questions and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability.

Also, stay tuned for Part II, where I’ll be talking about the different Boss Fights – specs, strategy and item check.

You can find MUSE's stream at twitch.tv/mgmuse or follow him on Twitter at @IanAang.