Diablo 3 Witch Doctor Guide: Skills, Builds, Leveling

Published by admin on May 2nd, 2012 - in Guides

Witch Doctor Guide

Witch Doctor is a phenomenally exciting class to play in Diablo 3. If you’re a fan of curses, hexes and summoning devious pets, this class is definitely for you. In this guide I’ll focus on providing you information about Witch Doctors, including their skills, builds, combat strategies and more tips.

Witch Doctor Gameplay

Witch Doctor is a ranged caster class, in a way similar to Wizards. However unlike them Witch Doctors are expert at several different play styles:

  1. Using poison attacks you can slow and paralyze opponents before they even have a chance of reaching you
  2. Using debuffs like curses and hexes to debilitate your enemies and pick them off
  3. Summoning pets to aid you in combat

Witch Doctor class is also great for grouping with other classes for speeding up slaying monsters, and they usually have great synergy with either of the other four classes due to their debuffs. Some people also compare this class to the Necromancer in Diablo 2, but I feel like it’s very much different.

Witch Doctor vs. Wizard

Witch Doctor ScreenshotThe Wizard and Witch Doctor are both unique classes in Diablo III, even though they have similar playstyle. Some players prefer one over the other, and this short explanation will tell you the basic differences between these two caster classes:

  • Pets: Wizard’s pets can either tank or do damage, not both. Pets are just a minor part of the Wizard class, while for Witch Doctor class it’s extremely useful and almost always a must have.
  • Damage: Witch Doctors excel at single target damage, at least compared to Wizard. Wizard on the other hand excels at AoE spells.
  • Survivability: neither of these classes does well in melee combat, but both fortunately have abilities that can help with that. However, Wizard is much better at escaping and kiting due to more mobility spells (Teleport, Frost Nova, …), as well as various shields that can absorb damage or increase defensive attributes. Witch Hunter doesn’t do nearly as well in either aspect, but that’s what pets are for.

Witch Doctor Strengths & Weaknesses

There are many reasons why you’d want to play or have a Witch Doctor in your group, but the main ones are great single target and area of effect damage, and great crowd control. With abilities such as Poison Dart and Soul Harvest you can deal insane amounts of damage, and keep doing it until you run out of mana, which will take awhile, particularly because you have great passive skills that improve your regen. Another upside to Witch Doctors are their pets, which not only deal damage but also tank for you or your group members, sometimes quite efficiently.

As for downsides, Witch Doctors do have them just like every other class. The biggest one is their lack of survivability: with the proper skill set and runes monsters should rarely reach you, but when they do you could be in a world of hurt. The problem here is that if you take too many survivability and crowd control skills, your damage output will suffer, so you need to find the right balance.

Witch Doctor Skills & Abilities

Witch Doctor skills are divided into three main categories: Physical Realm, Spirit Realm and Support/Command abilities and Passive Skills.

Witch Doctor Active Skills

Poison Dart.png Poison Dart Requires Level 1 Costs 176 Mana

Shoot a deadly poison dart that deals 46 – 67 Poison damage and an additional 57 Poison damage over 2 seconds.

Skill Runes: Splinters, Numbing Dart, Spined Dart, Flaming Dart, Snake to the Face
Plague of Toads.png Plague of Toads Requires Level 2 Costs 211 Mana

Release a handful of toads that deal 71 – 99 Poison damage to enemies they come in contact with.

Skill Runes: Explosive Toads, Toad of Hugeness, Rain of Toads, Addling Toads, Toad Affinity
Summon Zombie Dogs.png Summon Zombie Dogs Requires Level 2 Costs 176 Mana Cooldown: 60 seconds

Summon 3 zombie dogs from the depths to fight by your side.

Skill Runes: Rabid Dogs, Final Gift, Life Link, Burning Dogs, Leeching Beasts
Grasp of the Dead.png Grasp of the Dead Requires Level 3 Costs 53 Mana Cooldown: 8 seconds

Hands reach out from the ground slowing enemy movement by 50% and dealing 21 physical damage per second for 8 seconds.

Skill Runes: Skill Runes: Unbreakable Grasp, Groping Eels, Death Is Life, Desperate Grasp, Rain of Corpses
Haunt.png Haunt Requires Level 4 Costs 106 Mana

Haunt an enemy with a spirit dealing 355 Arcane damage over 17 seconds. If the target dies, the spirit will automatically haunt another nearby enemy.

Skill Runes: Consuming Spirit, Resentful Spirit, Lingering Spirit, Grasping Spirit, Draining Spirit
Zombie Charger.png Zombie Charger Requires Level 5 Costs 229 Mana

Call forth a reckless, suicidal zombie that deals 71 – 99 Poison damage to all enemies in its way.

Skill Runes: Leperous Zombie, Undeath, Wave of Zombies, Explosive Beats, Zombie Bears
Hex.png Hex Requires Level 6 Costs 176 Mana Cooldown: 10 seconds

Summon a Fetish Shaman for 8 seconds that will hex enemies into chickens. Hexed enemies are unable to perform offensive actions and take 20% additional damage.

Skill Runes: Hedge Magic, Jinx, Angry Chicken, Painful Transformation, Unstable Form
Corpse Spiders.png Corpse Spiders Requires Level 7 Costs 282 Mana

Summon 4 spiders to attack nearby enemies for 7 – 21 physical damage.

Skill Runes: Leaping Spiders, Spider Queen, Widowmakers, Medusa Spiders, Blazing Spiders
Horrify.png Horrify Requires Level 8 Don a spectral mask that horrifies all enemies within 12 yards, causing them to run in fear for 5 seconds. Cooldown: 20 seconds

Skill Runes: Phobia, Stalker, Face of Death, Frightening Aspect, Ruthless Terror

Firebats.png Firebats Requires Level 9 Costs 352 Mana per second

A swarm of fiery bats burn enemies in front of you for 57 – 85 Fire damage per second.

Skill Runes: Dire Bats, Vampire Bats, Plague Bats, Hungry Bats, Cloud of Bats
Firebomb.png Firebomb Requires Level 11 Costs 264 Mana

Lob an explosive skull that deals 64 – 78 Fire damage to all enemies within 8 yards.

Skill Runes: Flash Fire, Roll the Bones, Fire Pit, Pyrogeist, Ghost Bomb
Spirit Walk.png Spirit Walk Requires Level 12 Costs 176 Mana Cooldown: 15 seconds

Enter the spirit realm for 3 seconds. While in the spirit realm, your movement is unhindered.

Skill Runes: Jaunt, Honored Guest, Umbral Shock, Severance, Healing Journey
Soul Harvest.png Soul Harvest Requires Level 14 Feed on the life force of up to 5 nearby enemies within 15 yards. Gain 126 Attack for each affected enemy. This effect lasts 30 seconds. Cooldown: 15 seconds


Sacrifice.png Sacrifice Requires Level 16 All of your zombie dogs explode, each dealing 107 – 178 physical damage to all enemies within 12 yards.
Skill Runes: Black Blood, Next of Kin, Pride, For the Master, Provoke the Pack
Gargantuan.png Gargantuan Requires Level 18 Costs 528 Mana Cooldown: 120 seconds

Summon a large zombie follower to fight for you. The Gargantuan swings for 18 – 25 physical damage with every swing.

Skill Runes: Humongoid, Restless Giant, Wrathful Protector, Big Stinker, Bruiser
Locust Swarm.png Locust Swarm Requires Level 19 Costs 352 Mana

Summon a plague of locusts to assault enemies, dealing 25 Poison damage per second for 3 seconds. The locusts will jump to additional nearby targets.

Skill Runes: Pestilence, Devouring Swarm, Cloud of Insects, Diseased Swarm, Searing Locusts
Spirit Barrage.png Spirit Barrage Requires Level 21 Costs 141 Mana

Bombard a target with a spirit bolt that deals 36 – 71 physical damage.

Skill Runes: The Spirit Is Willing, Well of Souls, Phantasm, Phlebotomize, Manitou
Acid Cloud.png Acid Cloud Requires Level 22 Costs 528 Mana

Acid falls down dealing an initial 57 – 78 Poison damage followed by 14 Poison damage per second to enemies who remain in the area.

Acid Rain, Lob Blob Bomb, Slow Burn, Kiss of Death, Corpse Bomb
Mass Confusion.png Mass Confusion Requires Level 24 Incite paranoia in enemies, causing some to fight for you for 8 seconds. Cooldown: 60 seconds

Skill Runes: Unstable Realm, Devolution, Mass Hysteria, Paranoia, Mass Hallucination

Big Bad Voodoo.png Big Bad Voodoo Requires Level 25 Summon a fetish to begin a ritual dance that increases the attack, casting and movement speeds of all allies in the area by 15% for 20 seconds. Cooldown: 120 seconds

Skill Runes: Jungle Drums, Rain Dance, Slam Dance, Ghost Trance, Boogie Man

Wall of Zombies.png Wall of Zombies Requires Level 27 Costs 352 Mana

Raise a line of zombies from the ground that attacks nearby enemies for 80% weapon damage as Physical for 5 seconds.

Skill Runes: Barricade, Unrelenting Grip, Creepers, Pile On, Dead Rush
Fetish Army.png Fetish Army Requires Level 29 Summon an army of Fetish creatures to fight by your side for 20 seconds. Dagger-wielding fetishes attack for 20% of your physical damage. Cooldown: 120 seconds

Skill Runes: Fetish Ambush, Devoted Following, Legion of Daggers, Tiki Torchers, Head Hunters

Witch Doctor Passive Skills

Circle of Life.png Circle of Life Requires Level 10

Gain 10% of your maximum Mana whenever you are healed by a health globe.

Vermin.png Vermin Requires Level 10

Your Plague of Toads, Corpse Spiders and Firebats abilities do 20% more damage.

Spiritual Attunement.png Spiritual Attunement Requires Level 13

Maximum Mana is increased by 20%. Regenerate 2% of your maximum Mana per second.

Mana is the fuel you use to cast offensive and defensive skills.

Gruesome Feast.png Gruesome Feast Requires Level 15

Gain 10% Attack for 10 seconds whenever you are healed by a health globe. This effect can stack up to 5 times.

Blood Ritual.png Blood Ritual Requires Level 17

50% of Mana costs are paid with Life. In addition, you regenerate 2% of your maximum Life per second.

Zombie Handler.png Zombie Handler Requires Level 19

You can have 4 Zombie Dogs out at once. The health of your Zombie Dogs and Gargantuan is increased by 60%.

Pierce the Veil.png Pierce the Veil Requires Level 20

All of your damage is increased by 20% but your Mana costs are increased by 30%.

Rush of Essence.png Rush of Essence Requires Level 23

Spirit spells return 200% of their Mana cost over 10 seconds.

Vision Quest.png Vision Quest Requires Level 25

Anytime you have 4 or more skills on cooldown your mana regeneration is increased by 300%.

Fierce Loyalty.png Fierce Loyalty Requires Level 26

All your pets gain 100% of the benefit of your thorns items.

Death Trance.png Death Trance Requires Level 28

Reduce damage by 20% whenever you are below 50% of your maximum Life.

Tribal Rites.png Tribal Rites Requires Level 30

The cooldowns of your Fetish Army, Big Bad Voodoo and Hex abilities are reduced by 25%.

Witch Doctor Builds

The following section will go over leveling, PvE, PvP and co-op builds.

Witch Doctor Leveling Builds

Witch Doctor Leveling Guide

For leveling you will want to focus first on survival and crowd control, and then on damage. You don’t have to go full defense and pick skills like Spirit Walk, but having some crowd control and snares is definitely helpful.

For the first 10 levels you shouldn’t have much problems with slaying monsters, so any build should work fine. Before level 10, I recommend you use the following abilities:

  1. Poison Dart (physical): great for single-target damage, Recommended skill rune is Splinters.
  2. Plague of Toads (physical): Even though it costs quite a bit of mana, when you encounter enemies in larger numbers (and you often will), this AoE skill will quickly clear them. Recommended rune is Addling Toads; confuses enemies for a short duration giving you plenty of time to pick off any stragglers.
  3. Summon Zombie Dogs (support): this is the first summoning spell you’ll get. Summoning these canine helpers will increase your damage a lot, but will cost quite a bit of your mana. For runes I recommend Burning Dogs, which will slightly increase their DPS.
  4. Vermin (passive): Vermin will increase the damage of some of your other frequently used abilities.

After level 10 you get access to a few more abilities, and these are my recommendations:

  1. Firebomb (physical): at this point you can replace your Poison Dart because it has more damage, and you can use the great Conflagration rune which increases its area of effect range significantly.
  2. Soul Harvest (spirit): this skill is available once you reach level 14, and it drains significant amounts of intelligence from your enemies, giving you a great damage boost for half a minute. I recommend using Swallow Your Soul rune which will also give you A LOT of mana when you use this skill, making sure you have as little downtime as possible when farming.
  3. Locust Swarm (physical): Locust Swarm paired with the Devouring Swarm rune will not only enable you to do good AoE damage, but also refund mana, and if you use it efficiently you will almost not use any mana at all casting this.
  4. Spiritual Attunement (passive): again, having as little downtime as possible between monster groups is helpful, and this passive skill will further help you regenerate mana.

After level 20 or so you should take another look at your available abilities and change them accordingly as the game gets more and more challenging. Here are some of the abilities you should be looking at:

  1. Acid Cloud (physical): typically I get it as soon as possible and replace Plague of Toads with this ability which deals more damage. A good rune to use is Corpse Bomb which will deal additional 200% damage.
  2. Wall of Zombies (physical): this ability is great because it makes sure enemies have a hard time reaching you, along with dealing damage. Paired with the Unrelenting Grip rune it’ll additionally slow down enemies, giving you a second chance to slay them before they get into deadly range.
  3. Grave Injustice (passive): this skill regenerates your life and mana each time an enemy is slain near you, in addition to reducing the cooldowns of your other abilities by 1 second.

Here are also some links to decent PvE builds you can use:

For updated builds recommended for specific purposes and broken down for every level I recommend you read this guide which is much more detailed.

Witch Doctor PvP Builds

For PvP you should consider having (some of) the following skills: Poison Dart, Grasp of the Dead, Horrify, Spirit Walk, Wall of Zombies, Gargantuan. You should focus on crowd control and single damage nukes. Every Diablo III class is different when it comes to PvP: some classes will run away from you while some will want to get into melee range, so the builds can be tricky at time. Exact skill builds best suited for PvP will be posted soon, but until then you can take a look at the guide linked at the end of this article.

Witch Doctor Co-Op Builds

If you’re grouping with other players, you will want to focus less on survivability of your own character (leave that to others), and more on damage. A good combination of single-target and AoE spells should do the trick, but it depends on your groups composition and your personal preference: you can start with Fire Bomb, Grasp of the Dead, Soul Harvest, Hex, Wall of Zombies, Zombie Charger, Big Bad Voodoo, Gargantuan, as several good examples that are helpful with any class(es) you might group with.

Witch Doctor Weapons & Armor

Witch Doctor Weapons & Armor

Like every other class in Diablo 3 the Witch Doctor has its own set of special items:

  • Mojos: mojos are carried in your off hand and improve your damage and can add additional stats
  • Ceremonial Knives: your basic melee damage weapon
  • Voodoo Masks: they give you protection against various types of attacks and enable you to commune with spirits

You should know that damage over time (DoT) abilities don’t stack, meaning if you cast for example Haunt twice on the same target, it will only refresh its duration, not deal additional damage. Also, it’s important to note that your weapon damage on certain DoT skills is spread over the full duration of the spell, meaning it’s often better to equip a weapon with slow attack speed, as they typically have more damage than those with faster attack speeds. Grasp of the Dead however is better used with faster attack speed weapons, and it doesn’t make much difference with skills such as Poison Dart and Firebats which you constantly cast.

Witch Doctor Stats & Attributes

Diablo 3 Witch Doctor Attributes

Witch Doctor’s primary attribute in Diablo III is Intelligence; for each point of intelligence you attain your damage will increase by 1%, more or less. It is subject to diminishing returns, so the more you stack it the more other stats become valuable: it’s a flat percentage based on the base damage of your weapon and spell.

In addition to intelligence, every point of Strength increases your armor by 1, every point of Dexterity increases your chance to dodge attacks and every point of Vitality of course increases your maximum health. There are also many other stats that benefit this class, some more and some less. Below we’ll take a look at some of them:

  • Damage – +Damage will significantly increase your damage output, especially when wielding a fast attack speed weapon.
  • Attack Speed – this usefulness of this stat depends on which skills you use. For example, if you take a look at the description on Grasp of the Dead you’ll notice it deals “20% weapon damage for 8 seconds”. It’s affected by attack speed, therefore this stat improves its damage. Locust Swarm on the other hand isn’t affected by increased attack speed and its damage will remain the same.
  • Armor & Resistances – more armor and spell resistances is always useful, however you shouldn’t aim for these stats, especially in the beginning. You should instead focus on kiting mobs and keeping them away from you, and if you do it properly you won’t need any armor. Resistances can be useful in all situations, but you’ll in most cases get them while actually aiming for other stats.
  • Bonus Experience – obviously, if you want to level up your Witch Doctor as fast as possible aiming for bonus experience stat is useful, but so is more damage, as killing faster also means you level faster. It’s a matter of personal preference, but if you do gain this experience increase on some of your items, you don’t necessarily have to throw it away.
  • Lifesteal – converting damage dealt into health is useful as you don’t have many ways to heal your lost hit points. At later levels you’ll come across this stat often and it can be helpful.


I do hope that you found this Witch Doctor guide helpful. Some of the information from this guide may be from beta so in case you need a more detailed and updated one with strategies, tips, builds and more click here.

One Response

  1. T says:

    How can I equip a dagger or other weapon instead of using spiders, etc.?

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