Absolutely everything about the Witch Doctor is characterized by indirect action and subtlety, except, of course, their choice of attire. Their bag of tricks heavily consists of manipulating others into doing their dirty work, a trait reminiscent of the Necromancer class of Diablo II.
In the hands of the Witch Doctor, Diablo almost becomes a completely different game. Their method of attack is so radically different from all of the other character classes that it begs the question: what type of gamer actually considers the Witch Doctor to be a first choice?
Well, they’re probably the same people who prefer playing a blue Magic: The Gathering deck purely because it involves inflicting slow, gradual psychological torture. In many ways, the Witch Doctor’s voodoo is similar to blue magic: for most players, it’s annoying to use, but possibly even more annoying to play against.
No, YOU do it.
So what makes the Witch Doctor so unique? Well, for starters, most of their attacks involve the summoning or unleashing of creatures to attack your targets so that you don’t have to. As a result, very few of their skills involve attacking the enemy directly. In fact, one of the only early skills involving direct attack is the one the Witch Doctor starts out with: a poison dart with numerous limitations.
First of all, it’s slow. Second, it’s weak. Third: it attacks only one unit at a time at first, and fourth: it doesn’t restore Mana – it actually uses it (albeit in miniscule amounts). Even though it’s the only direct attack skill that your character will wield during the early stages of the game, you might actually be glad to get rid of it – that is, until you see what replaces it.
Arachnophobes Need not Apply
You see, by level 3, you have the option of replacing your poison darts with – get this: jars full of spiders. This attack will actually damage your target in two ways. If your attack is close enough, your target may be hit by the jar, although the damage is minute. Secondly, the spiders that do emerge from the broken jar will swarm around your target, but also for negligible damage. Plus, they don’t travel very far to seek out other targets, and they shrivel and die after only a few seconds.
Even the first rune you’ll acquire, which allows your spiders to perform “jumping attacks”, will not be able to do this skill any amount of justice. The only worth I can gather from this particular skill is the ability to “stack” numerous jars of spiders on the same target. In the long term, this can be devastating, but here’s the problem: in the amount of time that it takes for swarms of giant spiders to completely destroy a single zombie, any of the other classes probably could have killed five of them.
Admittedly, as the Witch Doctor progresses through the skill tree, cooler summon creatures eventually become available. One of the earlier summons calls forth a trio of zombie dogs who, unlike the spiders, actually stick around and fight for you until they run out of hit points (or, in later levels, you can actually choose to make them explode).
It is expected that the creatures you will eventually be able to summon will be so powerful that, after summoning one and letting it loose, your Witch Doctor will be able to relax and read the latest issue of Voodoo Monthly as mayhem ensues in the background.
The Secret of Mana
The juice necessary to summon such powerful monsters is Mana, a staple resource in the Diablo universe since 1996. Unlike the resources of the more physical character classes, Mana replenishes naturally and rapidly. It does not increase through primary attack; on the contrary, primary attacks actually use up Mana, but often more slowly than the rate of natural Mana regeneration. In other words, you won’t even notice the usage.
Although the primary attacks will barely put a dent in your Mana supply, the secondary attacks, which are far more destructive, will burn up your Mana like it’s going out of style. One secondary attack, for instance, unleashes a flurry of fire-breathing bats on your enemies for as long as you hold down the right-click button, but oftentimes, such a sustained attack can last no longer than a few seconds.
Ooo Eee, Ooo Ah Ah. Ting Tang. Walla Walla Bing Bang.
Witch Doctors aren’t for everybody, as their skills and style are an acquired taste that might appeal to a small faction of Diablo gamers. Although there are certain unique qualities that may be initially appealing, the Witch Doctor’s way of conducting business will make it difficult for many gamers to easily do some of the “little things” in the game that physical characters may take for granted. I mean, have you actually TRIED opening a coffin with a jar of spiders?
Still, because of their unique attributes, Witch Doctors will eventually be able to do things with summoned monsters and dark magic that the other classes couldn’t even dream of, and that has to count for something. However, because of the Witch Doctor’s awkward usage and strange limitations, surviving to those later levels in one piece is probably the most challenging aspect to the class.
So, if you aren’t at a point at which you can summon hulking, unholy brutes to do your dirty work for you, why not just recruit some from Battle.net to join your party and protect you in the meantime?
For more class-specific strategy, be sure to check out our other Diablo 3 class mini guides!
More to come!