D3 Demon Hunter Guide: Class Gameplay, Skills, Leveling, Mechanics & Builds

Published by admin on May 13th, 2012 - in Guides

Diablo 3 Demon Hunter Guide

Demon Hunter is a ranged class that mixes deadly marksmanship skills with acrobatic maneuvers and traps do dispose of their enemies. While they are definitely not the same, I like to compare this class to the Wizard in terms of gameplay and combat tactics: you can’t just run into a massive group of monsters and tank them all at once, but instead you need to always look for some sort of tactical advantage, focus on kiting and always avoid getting hit.



Demon Hunter Gameplay

Demon Hunter is a ranged class in Diablo 3 that used bows and crossbows as primary weapons. Compared to D2 this class is similar to Amazon and Assassin. But unlike in Diablo 2, in D3 you can even dual-wield two hand crossbows, something we haven’t seen before. Demon Hunters are great at both single target and AoE damage. Compared to some other classes, they don’t have as much survivability through abilities, but have quite a lot of evasive skills, and you will have to rely on kiting most of the time.

They have also mastered shadow magic, as they also have abilities such as Smoke Screen and Preparation skills which make this class a hybrid between a hunter and a rogue.


Demon Hunter Traps

Traps are a nice addition to Demon Hunter’s gameplay and add some variety and tactical thinking in order to make the most use of them. They are viable offensive abilities, but can also be used as a defensive escape mechanism.

Two main trap skills are Caltrops which reduce the movement speed of enemies, and Spike Trap that deals damage to enemies that trigger it. Various skill runes can greatly improve these traps and add additional effects.

Dual Wielding

Demon Hunter Dual Wielding Crossbows

Most players opt out to use dual crossbows (also called light crossbows) rather than a single one. There are some advantages and disadvantages to both so below you’ll find out which these are.

I personally just pick depending on my equipment. If I have two really good hand crossbows then I go for dual wielding and use skills and skill runes accordingly. However, you’ll much more frequently find better bows, and by using a quiver you can have just as much damage.

When you’re using crossbows your character will alternate attacks with each weapon, so you’ll want both to be of the same quality. If one is significantly weaker than the other, you will deal far less damage when you attack with it. You also need to remember that many of your abilities scale with your weapon damage. When dual wielding you get a 15% attack speed bonus, but since most quivers have a 10% attack speed bonus by default it isn’t as good as you may think at first. The biggest upside to dual-wielding crossbows is the fact you proc ability effects faster: if you use proper skill rune builds you can knockback or stun enemies more frequently.

If you only care about PvP then dual wielding is typically better for Demon Hunters, even though this has to be extensively tested. For PvE, a bow is in most cases superior, and usually much easier to find than two really good crossbows.

Resource System: Hatred/Discipline

Demon Hunter Resource System: Hatred & DisciplineThis is the only Diablo III class that has dual resources: Hatred and Discipline. Both of these resources have a low regeneration rate over time. Some of Demon Hunter’s abilities cost Discipline, some cost Hatred, while some generate Hatred.


Hatred skills are mostly associated with bow attacks and burst damage while discipline primarily focuses on traps and preparation. Most offensive skills in fact cost or generate Hatred, and Hatred actually regenerates much quicker than Discipline. Hatred starts at 150 and you regenerate 4 per second, meaning it takes 37.5 seconds for your hatred globe to fully regenerate, of course not accounting for any use of hatred-generating abilities.


Discipline resource regenerates fairly slowly so you always need to make sure you don’t waste it. It’s mostly used for defensive skills so when you find yourself in trouble you definitely don’t want to run out of Discipline. Your character starts with 30 Discipline and it regenerates by 1 point each second.

Leveling Tips

Demon Hunter Leveling Guide

  • It’s fairly uncommon to find two hand-crossbows while leveling, which is why it’s usually better not to use dual-wielding while leveling
  • Don’t miss out on attack speed shrines. They increase your attack speed by 25% and will help you kill enemies significantly.
  • Use equipment with Dexterity and Vitality. Other stats aren’t useful for Demon Hunters. For secondary stats, bonus damage, critical strike, hatred bonuses, movement speed and lifesteal are among more useful ones.
  • Use proper skill builds. A good combination of hatred generating and spending skills is necessary, you will need both single target and area of effect damage, and at least one survivability/escape spell.
  • Always pay attention to your hatred. If you’re not in trouble and are fighting singled-out or weaker enemies use your hatred generating skills. When you face multiple or stronger enemies use your hatred-spending spells.
  • Much like hatred, effective use of discipline is necessary as well. It’s mostly used for defensive purposes, meaning when you find yourself in trouble, so always make sure you have a way out of a bad situation.
  • Bosses and quests give more experience than farming weaker enemies
  • Don’t play on Inferno difficulty before you obtain really good level 60 equipment.

If you have any tips of your own, please share them with others in the comments at the end of this guide.

Demon Hunter Skills & Abilities

Below you’ll find a full list of all Demon Hunter abilities broken down by levels.

Demon Hunter Active Skills

Hungering Arrow.png Hungering Arrow Requires Level 1 Generates 3 Hatred
Fire a magically imbued arrow that seeks out targets for 115% weapon damage and has a 35% chance to pierce through targets.
Skill Runes: Puncturing Arrow, Cinder Arrow, Shatter Shot, Devouring Arrow, Spray of Teeth
Impale.png Impale Requires Level 2 Costs 25 Hatred
Impale a target for 250% weapon damage.
Skill Runes: Impact, Chemical Burn, Overpenetration, Awareness, Grievous Wounds
Entangling Shot.png Entangling Shot Requires Level 3 Generates 3 Hatred
Imbue an arrow with shadow energy that deals 75% weapon damage and entangles up to 2 enemies, slowing their movement by 60% for 2 seconds.
Skill Runes: Chain Gang, Shock Collar, Heavy Burden, Justice is Served, Bounty Hunter
Caltrops.png Caltrops Requires Level 4 Costs 6 Discipline
Lay a trap of caltrops on the ground that activates when an enemy approaches. Once sprung, the caltrops Slow the movement of enemies within 12 yards by 60%. This trap lasts 6 seconds.
Skill Runes: Hooked Spines, Torturous Ground, Jagged Spikes, Carved Stakes, Bait the Trap
Rapid Fire.png Rapid Fire Requires Level 5 Costs 20 Hatred + 10 Hatred while channeling
Rapidly fire for 228% weapon damage as Physical.
Skill Runes: Withering Fire, Web Shot, Fire Support, High Velocity, Bombardment
Smoke Screen.png Smoke Screen Requires Level 8 Costs 14 Discipline
Vanish behind a wall of smoke, becoming momentarily invisible for 2 seconds.
Skill Runes: Displacement, Lingering Fog, Breathe Deep, Special Recipe, Choking Gas
Vault.png Vault Requires Level 9 Costs 8 Discipline
Tumble acrobatically 35 yards.
Skill Runes: Action Shot, Rattling Roll, Tumble, Acrobatics, Trail of Cinders
Bola Shot.png Bola Shot Requires Level 11 Generates 3 Hatred
Shoot out an explosive bola that wraps itself around its target. After 1 second, the bola explodes dealing 130% weapon damage as Fire to the target and an additional 110% weapon damage as Fire to all other targets within 7 yards.
Skill Runes: Volatile Explosives, Thunder Ball, Acid Strike, Bitter Pill, Imminent Doom
Chakram.png Chakram Requires Level 12 Costs 10 Hatred
Fire a swirling Chakram that does 150% weapon damage as Physical to enemies along its path.
Skill Runes: Twin Chakrams, Serpentine, Razor Disk, Boomerang, Shuriken Cloud
Preparation.png Preparation Requires Level 13 No cost. Cooldown: 45 seconds
Instantly restore all Discipline.
Skill Runes: Invigoration, Punishment, Battle Scars, Focused Mind, Backup Plan
Evasive Fire.png Evasive Fire Requires Level 14 Generates 4 Hatred, Cost 4 Discipline if you backflip
Shoot for 125% weapon damage. If an enemy is in front of you at close range, you will also backflip away 15 yards.
Skill Runes: Shrapnel, Parting Gift, Covering Fire, Displace, Surge
Grenades.png Grenades Requires Level 15 Generates 3 Hatred
Throw out three grenades that explode for 95% weapon damage as Fire each.
Skill Runes: Tinkerer, Cluster Grenades, Fire Bomb, Stun Grenades, Gas Grenades
Shadow Power.png Shadow Power Requires Level 16 Costs 14 Discipline
Draw in the power of the shadows, gaining 20% of all damage done as Life for 3 seconds.
Skill Runes: Night Bane, Blood Moon, Well of Darkness, Gloom, Shadow Glide
Companion.png Companion Requires Level 17 Costs 10 Discipline
Summon a raven companion. Your raven companion will periodically peck at enemies for 30% of your weapon damage as Physical.
Skill Runes: Spider Companion, Bat Companion, Boar Companion, Ferret Companion, Wolf Companion
Fan of Knives.png Fan of Knives Requires Level 17 Costs 20 Hatred Cooldown: 10 seconds
Throw knives out in a spiral around you, doing 320% weapon damage to all enemies within 10 yards of you. Your knives will also Slow the movement of enemies by 60]% for 2 seconds.
Skill Runes: Crippling Razors, Retaliate, Hail of Knives, Fan of Daggers, Assassin’s Knives
Spike Trap.png Spike Trap Requires Level 17 Costs 30 Hatred
Lay a trap that arms after 1.2 seconds and triggers when an enemy approaches. The trap does 275% weapon damage to all enemies within 8 yards. You can have a maximum of 3 Spike Traps active at one time.
Skill Runes: Bandolier, Sticky Trap, Long Fuse, Lightning Rod, Scatter
Strafe.png Strafe Requires Level 19 Costs 15 Hatred
Shoot at random nearby enemies for 120% weapon damage while moving at 65% of normal movement speed.
Skill Runes: Equilibrium, Drifting Shadow, Stinging Steel, Rocket Storm, Demolition
Elemental Arrow.png Elemental Arrow Requires Level 20 Costs 10 Hatred
Shoot a fire arrow that deals 155% weapon damage as Fire to all targets it passes through.
Skill Runes: Ball Lightning, Frost Arrow, Screaming Skull, Lightning Bolts, Nether Tentacles
Marked for Death.png Marked for Death Requires Level 21 Costs 3 Discipline
Marks an enemy. The marked enemy will take 12% additional damage for the next 30 seconds.
Skill Runes: Contagion, Valley of Death, Grim Reaper, Mortal Enemy, Death Toll
Multishot.png Multishot Requires Level 22 Costs 40 Hatred
Fire a massive volley of arrows dealing 165% weapon damage to all enemies in the area.
Skill Runes: Fire at Will, Burst Fire, Suppression Fire, Full Broadside, Arsenal
Sentry.png Sentry Requires Level 25 Costs 10 Discipline
Drop a turret on the ground. The turret begins firing at nearby enemies for 20% weapon damage. Lasts 30 seconds.
Skill Runes: Spitfire Turret, Vigilant Watcher, Chain of Torment, Aid Station, Guardian Turret
Cluster Arrow.png Cluster Arrow Requires Level 27 Costs 50 Hatred
Fire a cluster arrow that explodes for 200% weapon damage as Fire into a series of additional miniature bombs that explode for 100% weapon damage as Fire each.
Skill Runes: Dazzling Arrow, Shooting Stars, Maelstrom, Cluster Bombs, Loaded for Bear
Rain of Vengeance.png Rain of Vengeance Requires Level 30 No cost. Cooldown: 30 seconds
Fire a massive volley of arrows around you. Arrows fall from the sky dealing 75% weapon damage for 5 seconds to all enemies in the area.
Skill Runes: Dark Cloud, Beastly Bombs, Stampede, Anathema, Flying Strike

Demon Hunter Passive Skills

Tactical Advantage.png Tactical Advantage Requires Level 10 Whenever you use Vault, Smoke Screen, or backflip with Evasive Fire you gain 60% movement speed for 2 seconds.
Thrill of the Hunt.png Thrill of the Hunt Requires Level 10 Every 10 seconds, your next bow attack will immobilize your target for 3 seconds.
Vengeance.png Vengeance Requires Level 13 Your maximum Hatred is increased by 25. In addition, gain 20 Hatred and 2 Discipline whenever you are healed by a health globe.
Steady Aim.png Steady Aim Requires Level 16 As long as there are no enemies within 10 yards, all damage is increased by 20%.
Cull the Weak.png Cull the Weak Requires Level 20 Damage against slowed enemies increased by 15%.
Night Stalker.png Night Stalker Requires Level 20 Critical Hits have a chance to restore 1 Discipline. Discipline is used to fuel many of your tactical and defensive skills.
Brooding.png Brooding Requires Level 25 As long as you have not taken damage in the last 3 seconds you gain 1% of your maximum Life per second.
Archery.png Archery Requires Level 30 Gain a bonus based on the weapon type of your main hand weapon:
Bow: 15% increased damage
Crossbows: 50% Critical Hit Damage
Hand Crossbows: 10% Critical Hit Chance
Hot Pursuit.png Hot Pursuit Requires Level 27 Whenever you are at full Hatred, movement speed is increased by 15%.
Archery.png Archery Requires Level 30 Gain a bonus based on the weapon type of your main hand weapon:
Bow: 15% increased damage
Crossbows: 50% Critical Hit Damage
Hand Crossbows: 10% Critical Hit Chance
Numbing Traps.png Numbing Traps Requires Level 30 Enemies hit by Fan of Knives, Spike Trap, and Caltrops have their damage reduced by 25% for 3 seconds.
Perfectionist.png Perfectionist Requires Level 35 Reduces the Discipline cost of all skills by 10%.
Custom Engineering.png Custom Engineering Requires Level 40 The duration of your Caltrops, Marked for Death, Spike Trap, and Sentry is increased by 100%.
Grenadier.png Grenadier Requires Level 45 Increases Hatred generated from Grenades by 2 and reduces the Hatred cost of Cluster Arrow by 10. Upon death, you drop a giant grenade that explodes for 450% weapon damage as Fire.
Sharpshooter.png Sharpshooter Requires Level 50 Gain 3% Critical Hit Chance every second. This bonus is reset 1 second after you successfully critically hit.
Ballistics.png Ballistics Requires Level 55 Damage from rockets increased by 50%. Rockets are fired from certain skill rune effects.

Demon Hunter Builds

Demon Hunter has a ton of amazing skills, and the only problem is you can’t have more than 6 of them. In almost all builds you’ll need at least 1 Hatred generating ability, and often you’ll want to take 2. That leaves you with four or five spells split between hatred and discipline spenders. There’s a variety of builds for all situations, but below I’ll focus on the one that most players are currently interested in: leveling.

Solo Leveling Builds

Demon Hunter Solo Leveling Builds

Assuming you’ll mostly level up by yourself, the following list will give you a clue on which abilities you’ll want to get. You’ll want to focus on generating as much hatred as possible, dealing both single target and AoE damage, and survive clutch situations.

Active Skills

For generating hatred Hungering Arrow with Puncturing Arrow skill rune is probably the best skill to pick. Entangling Shot is useful, but in my opinion only at level 47 when you can use Justice is Served skill rune which increases Hatred generated to 6 per shot.

Caltrops is a good defensive skill to pick up early on and it’s available at level 4. It’ll slow approaching enemies by 60%. If you need more defense (and you usually will), take Smoke Screen at level 8 or Vault at level 9.

Rapid Fire, available at level 5 is going to increase your single target DPS substantially and if you want to focus your build on that be sure to pick it up. You should wait until level 19 though when you can use Web Shot skill rune, slowing enemy movement speed by 80%. This skill is amazing for killing bosses as well.

At level 14 you get to use Evasive Fire, a very useful offensive and defensive ability. It generates 4 hatred and deals 125% of your weapon damage, and in case there’s an enemy close to you, you will backflip away from them.

Multishot is how I usually prefer to spend my hatred after level 22. It’s a great AoE ability dealing 165% of your weapon damage to all enemies in an area, and it’s best used on weaker enemies. At level 27 Cluster Arrow is even better, dealing 200% weapon damage plus another 100%, which is better for more stronger opponents.

At level 30 you gain access to Rain of Arrows. Since this skill has no hatred or discipline cost and deals a good chunk of damage, you’ll almost always want to pick it up.

Passive Skills

Choosing your passive skills greatly depends on which active skills you have, since many passives have bonuses tied to active skills. For example Tactical Advantage available at level 10 will give a movement speed bonus when you use Vault, Smoke Screen or when you backflip with Evasive Fire. Unless you frequently use those abilities, this passive wouldn’t be as useful to you.

Basically, I almost always pick up offensive passive abilities and tend to focus on defense through itemization and active abilities. That being said, Steady Aim, Cull the Weak and Archery are best to use.

Demon Hunter Melee Builds

Demon Hunter Fan of Knives Ability

I’ve seen players trying to do various melee builds, but in my opinion none of them are really effective at this point. If you do decide to give it a shot though, take Grenade spell with Tinkerer skill rune: it’ll help you generate a decent amount of hatred, ensuring you can use melee hatred-spending skills such as Spike Trap, Chakram and Fan of Knives. You can also use the Grenadier passive skill to further increase hatred generated from using Grenades by 2.

You should note that melee builds tend to only “work” at later levels when you have access to all skills and runes as well as better equipment. But unless Blizzard decides to make some changes to Demon Hunter’s arsenal I don’t see melee builds becoming viable anytime soon, so you’re better off just picking a Monk or Barbarian.

Group/Co-Op Leveling & Farming Builds

Demon Hunter Farming

When playing in a group with other players you will want to focus on one thing and one thing only: damage. When you have someone else tanking for you, Demon Hunter has likely the highest single target damage in the game. You’ll also want to skip most AoE abilities and do what you do best. A great thing about not having to take any defensive spells is that you can take Preparation active skill with the Punishment skill rune, which can restore your hatred bar to full for 25 discipline. You can use this every 25 seconds, ensuring you can continually spam your hatred-spending abilities.

Impale is a good secondary attack you can take. With enough hatred generating abilities you’ll be able to use this quite often and deal 250% of your weapon damage, and even increase that for 125% with Chemical Burn rune.

Marked for Death is a great group ability, especially at level 48 once you can use the Mortal Enemy rune. It’ll help your entire group by dealing 12% more damage to a single enemy, as well as generate 3 hatred for each attack you make on that target. Other skill runes are just as useful, so if your group needs something in particular pick that.

Demon Hunter PvP Builds

Demon Hunter in D3 PvP Arena

It’s hard to say what the best PvP builds are at this point, but I believe the abilities below will be most commonly used:

  • Bola Shot – your primary attack, also generating 3 hatred per hit. You’ll also want to take Thunder Ball skill rune which will add a 35% chance to stun the target when it explodes.
  • Impale – this ability paired with Chemical Burn rune will deal 375% of your weapon damage.
  • Sentry – this feat of engineering will continuously attack your opponent for 20% of your weapon damage per hit. That way you can focus on doing damage and kiting yourself.
  • Vault – it’ll enable you to tumble 35 yards away, making it that much harder to catch. It’s often best to use the Acrobatics skill rune, removing the Discipline cost entirely, but adding a 15 second cooldown instead.
  • Smoke Screen – this skill will make you invisible for 2 seconds. You can use either the Displacement rune (35% movement speed) or Lingering Fog (increased duration to 3 seconds).
  • Shadow Power – sooner or later you will take damage, and Shadow Power will help you gain some life back from the damage you deal. Be sure to have plenty of hatred before you use this so you can get as much life back as possible, and time this ability between your escapes. Gloom and Shadow Glide skill runes are both great.

Need more skill builds with examples? Click here.

Demon Hunter Weapons & Armor

Demon Hunter Weapons and Armor

Demon Hunter class-specific weapons and armor are:

  • Hand Crossbows – already mentioned a few times in this article, hand crossbows can only be equipped by DH class and can be dual wielded.
  • Quivers – another class piece of equipment, increasing attack speed by 10% or more and adding other random attributes
  • Cloaks – all cloaks add armor, and those that are harder to get also give you other random properties

Demon Hunter Stats & Attributes

Demon Hunter Stats and Attributes

Primary Attributes

Much like the Monk class, Demon Hunter’s primary attribute is Dexterity. Each point of it will increase your damage by 1% and also give you more chance to dodge attacks. Second stat you should aim for is Vitality, of which every point will increase your maximum health, giving you some much needed survivability. However, out of all Diablo 3 classes the Demon Hunter needs Vitality the least: if you’re constantly getting hit, you’re doing something wrong. Strength and Intelligence add armor and elemental resistance respectively, and while it sounds useful it’s not recommended to ever aim for these stats. Instead, make sure you get proper items that add defensive stats.

Secondary Attributes

There are many secondary attributes, and below you’ll find the ones that are most useful for Demon Hunters.

  • Weapon Damage – the most valued out of all secondary stats, bonus weapon damage will obviously increase your damage directly, but you should also know that you need a good balance of both Dexterity and Weapon Damage in order to maximize the effectiveness of this stat.
  • Critical Hit Chance and Critical Hit Damage stats are quite useful as well. Notice that some of your abilities and their skill runes have effects that proc when you deal a critical strike, so plan your builds accordingly.  For example, Hungering Arrow’s Spray of Teeth rune deals 50% of your weapon damage in AoE around the target whenever you critical hit.
  • Attack Speed – this stat is commonly found on jewellery, weapons and quivers. Attacking faster means you can generate hatred quicker as well.
  • Lifesteal – converting damage to life can be useful as you don’t need to solely rely on health globes to regenerate health. This can quickly restore your health, especially when using AoE abilities on multiple enemies, so if you need more sustain in combat getting lifesteal is the best way.
  • Hatred Regeneration – obviously having more hatred is useful, but you may not want to sacrifice some other stats on your equipment for it. If you’re using proper builds you should have plenty of hatred to use though, but if you’re playing in groups and don’t need any defensive or other stats you may want to consider getting some hatred regeneration. At later levels you can use an item set with bonus hatred regen paired with a skill build based on low-cost abilities (Multishot, Rapid Fire), effectively ensure you never run out of hatred.

Most other attributes aren’t nearly as useful for Demon Hunters.

Demon Hunter Guide Conclusion

D3 Demon Hunter

Demon Hunters are a fun class to play, and require you to be on your toes at all times. You can’t just run into a group of monsters and hit your face on your keyboard, so if you prefer something more challenging and like doing damage from a safe distance, kiting monsters away from you and using shadowy spells, you’ll feel right at home with a Demon Hunter.

I do hope this guide was at least a little bit helpful for you. If you need a more detailed one, click here: it includes tips and secrets from top players that will blow your mind. Also if you have any tips, tricks or thoughts share them with your fellow players in the comments below!

One Response

  1. ninfected says:

    this gude’s great!
    your rapid-fire+webshot tip really helped me.
    as for hatred-regen, i’m a big fan of bola-shot with acid strike rune. (it’s unlocked on lvl 37)

    just one little correcton: you actually start with 125 hatred, but most of us start and keep using vengeance as a passive skill, and hatred is increased to 150

© D3 Strategy Guide