Blizzhydra is the 3rd series after MMhydra and Galehydra. All three were tested in PTR, but MM and Galehydra got officially nerfed when 2.1 went live. The good news is that Blizzhydra is doing well and is currently being used by most of the top wizards on the leaderboards. At its core, Blizzhydra is, well, blizzard + hydra. The combination worked well for me in high-level mob environments, and the reason why I did so well (top 3 in U.S. Wizard GR solo, 1 and 2 were using meteor instead of hydra) when GRs first started since not many people knew about the build except for those that read and used my work on forums. Here, I'll go more into detail about the build.
*The 4th passive (evo) is the optional one. I've also seen people replace BH with PoNR bubble. If you're going the Force Armor route (high GRs where things 1-shot you with blur+prismatic+mit+life), then other skills can be swapped. Other variations I've seen is Blazing hydra + TnT. Some like to use fracture instead of calamity (and use BoP instead of trapped). The build is fairly versatile.
In this guide, I'll talk about the build and why it works. I also want to take this time to thank all the people who have helped shaped/tweaked this build as it matured and got better over time. The build's main strength is in GR solo runs and thus this guide is written in that orientation. If you're after T6 rifts, I suggest a variation of the meteor-molten impact build based around the work done by ximae and CKbrah. My variation would be http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/wizard#NQSPlf!Zdhb!YZYcYc using war bracers.
If this guide can help you push through a GR barrier, then my job is done. The first thing you need to know is that high level GR levels are easy to beat. Hopefully, by the time you get through this guide and play around with the build, you'll understand why people who don't even main wizards are pulling off at least GR39 and up.
Gear is important, but it's not that important. It's key that you understand this because I feel people use it as an excuse as to why they can't progress. Wizards can do GR40s with a sunkeeper, ss, maximus, etc. So upgrades are good, but just because you don't have the best gems or the best gear, it doesn't mean that that is what is holding you back. 100 int won't make a difference. A mediocre FB glove will get the job done just as good as great FB glove.
The gear you choose reflects your goals or what you're trying to accomplish. For GRs, BIS is largly based on mob difficulty and personal perference; however, BIS for one player might mean something different to another. Thus below, I'll go over the vanilla set so everyone has a baseline standard they can use and compare.
The ideal weapon for Blizzhydra is the Furnace. The skills you use for this build (Blizz, Mammoth hydra) do not rely on increased attack speed (ias), so if you have the ias affix, it's a wasted slot (with the exception of Blazing Hydra). The only thing ias offers is faster animation and faster spamming, which the build doesn't really do. Some like the 1H SK/Devastator/SS + FB OH because you can potentially get a lot of fire % dmg as well as the freedom to use a non-FB piece of gear for even more fire damage. But a quick RG/boss test will reveal that the Furnace will handily beat them all, mainly because it has elite % damage (which you will need in a RG fight) and less attacks per second, so your attacks are a lot stronger than a comparable high dps 1H/OH combo.
What should a perfect Furnace look like?
-1439 to 1788
Damage, int, and OS are obviously good to get. As for the vit choice, 1k+ vit is very handly in GRs, much better than elite % dmg, area damage, etc.
How do I know which affix on the Furnace to reroll with RGift?
This is a case-by-case scenario, but it comes down to maximizing your damage first. Vit can take a back seat to dps. There's a popular dps equation online:
overall dps = [base dmg] * aps * dmg%
I'll just pick the most recent post about Furnace reroll as an example and we can plug in the numbers: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/14926473086
option #2: "re-rolling damage on the second furnace"
The best min-max rolls for Furnace is 1439 to 1788. Let's see how much you are off by..
For min: 1439 - 1181 = 258
For max: 1788 - 1490 = 298
258 + 298 / 2 = 278 avg dps
Your base dmg is 3160 (see how I got it in option #3). So...
(3160 + 278) * 1.0 * 1.07 = 3678.66
option #3: "rolling 7%->10% on the second furnace"
First figure out what's your base dmg. We work backwards.
base dmg * 1.0 * 1.07 = 3381.2
Your base dmg = 3160
So, plug in the numbers.. 3160 * 1.0 * 1.10 = 3476
Option #2 would win.
What is the second best weapon?
The problem with the Furnace is that it's a very rare item. It also has to roll decently well. So if you can't get the Furnace, the second best item is the Sun Keeper (1H) along with FB OH (high fire %, cc, int, vit). It also has a good amount of elite damage and is fairly slow (good).
Finally, the Furnace is very helpful, but it's not a make-or-break item. If getting to a higher GR level is your goal, then mob/map luck will be a much bigger factor than if you have a Furnace or not. People have been reaching GR40+ with SKs and even a Maximus.
Firebird Helm. You will want int (750), vit (750), 6 cc, and OS. The gem is usually a diamond to gain CDR because you are going to find yourself casting Black Hole often in higher GRs. Others might want to put an Amethyst gem for more life.
BIS varies for this setup based on preference. The general stats you need are:
Fire % dmg (20)
You can substitute Fire % dmg for int (750) if needed since amulets often come with the int primary roll.
The following are some good suggestions:
-Eye of Etlich: A surprising high number of attacks are ranged (e.g. magic) and this offer great protection.
-Hellfire amulet: A bit hard to get and hard to roll well, but a good one with a nice passive can be helpful.
-Immunity amulets: Countess Julia's Cameo (arcane), Xephirian Amulet (lightning), etc are all good amulets that can help you greatly in GRs.
-The Flavor of Time: For damage, this could potentially be BIS since it allows you to get one more affix (750 int)
Firebird shoulders. Int, vit, and an optional roll that could be %life, CDR, RC (reduced cost), AR/armor.
Firebird chest. Int, vit, 3 OS, the last primary can be %life, armor (the amount on chest is typically better than 100 AR), and AR. For secondary, I perfer 7% melee dmg reduction and 7% ranged dmg reduction
Firebird gloves. Int, vit, cd, cc. Gloves are a good source of int/vit (750) so we want to maximize that as much as possible. Again, ias here is a wasted slot.
Strongarm Bracers. Fire % dmg, int, vit, cc, up to 30% damage on knockback. Bracers also have a secondary that has a chance to roll 7% melee or ranged dmg reduction, which I highly recommend.
Fire SOJ. Fire % dmg, cd, cc, OS, up to 30% elite dmg.
Unity. cd, cc, OS, 15% eltie dmg.
There are two options, String of Ears (defense) or Witching Hour (offense). WH does have ias, but the 50% cd offers extra dps. SoE provides a very high amount of melee dmg reduction. My preference is always SoE unless you really that extra dps (very high GRs). The reason is that defense and staying alive are crucial in GRs.
Firebird pants. Int, vit, armor, 2 OS. Pants have a chance to get high armor and in this case, it generally, the max amount given here will beat out AR.
Firebird boots. Int, vit, AR, armor. Note that if you have AR as an affix, you cannot get elemental AR in secondary and vice versa.
What about skill % damage such as hydra, blizzard?
So some gears like shoulder, boots, and chest come with skill % damage (15% hydra, blizzard). These are actually good in T6, but not in high level GRs. The reason is because most of your attacks are based on infinite DoT. Getting skill % damage speeds up the time getting to DoT, but doesn't increase the DoT tick damage. You can test this for yourself in a boss fight. 15% extra hydra might sound like a significant boost in dps, but your kill times will be similar to those without.
How much damage should my DoT be doing?
Let's break this down into initial DoT and infinite DoT. The latter is what we want, meaning once we procced the infinite burn, what kind of damage are we doing without any other applied damage. This number should be consistent. The initial DoT can ramp up higher and players can apply more damage on top of the DoT, but we are not including those. We just want the base infinite damage. As a general rule of thumb, that infinite DoT on a decently well geared wizard should be above 100k.
What's the best way to get these gears?
Lots and lots of 4-man T6 rifts. Use kadala. Run with other wizards that already have the items you are looking for and are willing to give them to you.
For a different take, Pallis has also written a popular guide on FB gearing for T6/GR. You can see his view here:
part 1: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/14730033593
part 2: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/14926913090
3. Follower gear
Your follower gear turns out to be important. I use BoT (leg trapped gem), so I need my Templar to provide a lot of cc. Thus a favorable stat here is ias. CDR helps too.
Leg relic that prevents your follower form dying. Second most important stat is 16% block (to help proc cc on shield). Favorable affixes: strength, cd
1H Thunderfury or Azurewrath
Both provide cc. If Azuerwrath, go with Oculus Ring for double ias. If Thunderfury, go with Wyrdward for stun time. If you have an OS, add a ruby rather than an emerald for more damage, tho follower damage is very limited. Also consider getting Cold damage on your Thunderfury since it procs BoT (leg gem).
Freeze of Deflection. Provides cc based on block. Reroll for extra block chance if you can. 1.5 sec block.
The Ess of Johan. Primarily used to vortex in mobs (very helpful).
Unity for your double unity protection.
Wyrdward or Oculus ring for reasons discussed in 1H.
4. Legendary Gems
The four gems I recommend are:
1. Bane of the Trapped (BoT)
2. Gem of Efficacious Toxin (toxin)
3. Zei's Stone of Vengeance (zei)
4. Bane of the Powerful (BoP)
I personally like BoT, toxin, and zei. The BoP damage boost is ok, but it will stop after some time when you're fighting the RG, which could take several minutes. BoT gets procced a lot by your follower and by itself at Rank 25, so you're constanty getting the buff. Zei's play well with the technique of our build. Toxin helps with dps.
5. A word on luck and mob/maps
This is something you really can't control, but can possibly have a significant impact on your rankings. You can do more GRs over and over again until you get an favorable rift/RG, but every top wizard should be able to repeat a lower max GR with ease. I did GR39 a total of three times and passed all three. You don't want an "easy" map. You want a dense and elite filled map. Elites are your friends. They help you move that progress bar up. Some of my fastest times were from annoying A5 mobs in nasty maze maps, but it helped because density and elite population was high. The only things I don't like are mobs that hide like ground worms and Orlash RG. While I do believe that there are better maps/mobs, a good wizard (what I want you to be) should be able to pass high level maps fairly consistently. Maybe not 100%, but fairly high.
I'm not sure if other people do this or have their own techniques, but I've had success with this one. So the first thing I want you to do is look at the leaderboards at the GR40s.
You'll see (if they haven't advanced to 41 already) that people are doing GR39-40s in 10/11/12 minutes. You need to wrap your head around this fact. Don't think, oh they got lucky and used a conduit. A lot of people are actually making those times legitimately. Those times include the RG boss and at GR40, they take a few minutes to kill. There's no easy way around that for wiz. So that means they are clearing GR40 content (pre boss) in like 7 minutes. That's what our goal is.
Let's start with the "Double Stun" technique.
illustration: you ... A ... mob pack ... B
Like most aoe dmg techniques, gather a mob size that you can deal with. I usually start with Blazar and concentrate the group. Cast hydra in front of the mob [A], blizz on mob pack, and when the mobs "regains" itself, I calamity jump across the mob to [B], cast hydra in the back of mob [B], and then I move on. At that point my cooldown for blazar has finished (around 10 sec). If it's an elite pack, I remind myself to listen for the ding "elite died" sound, turn around, and pick up the purple balls. Then repeat.
So what's going on here and why are we doing it this way? The first thing you want is map control. You don't want to be in a place where the mobs are just surrounding you where you get hit by 10 ranged mobs or where you just get lit up from everywhere. You're breaking it down into manageable clumps. And that clump has to be on be on infinite burn from your FB set. So something you might have noticed is that blazar/apoc or blazar/hydra doesn't always proc the burn, depending on a lot of things. In lower GRs, you might think it does, but it's probably just blizzard's strong DoT. We want to be sure that pack bakes in hydra. So they bake in blazar and bake again from the calamity jump (double stun). The front and back hydra should cover most of the mobs in that pack.
It's this alternating infinite cc at a good pace that is what is driving your progress.
The calamity stun should also give you some space to engage the next pack and by then, Blazar will be back up from cooldown. If not, you can start herding that next pack. Unfortunately, in a real game, it's not that clear cut. You could get a really dense rift and the mobs are just everywhere. Here, instead of moving linearly, your path becomes circular. So you're moving from pack to pack until you can manage those groups. Don't keep on jumping forward. It could work, but you may end up being overwhelmed, leading to death.
That technique will help, but it's not going to push you to really higher GRs. What will push you through is pace. You need to be aggressive and move forward. The last step in that technique is: move on. You cannot stick around and wait for things to die, unless it's an elite pack/champ that's close to dying. Sometimes I would herd 3 elite packs at once. I can because I know they are burning infinitely . Remember that 7 minute pre-boss goal? The only way you can get that is by cast-n-forget. So 1) make sure they procced the infinite burn and 2) move on. You don't want to just beat the time, you want to smash it. Some do not like this playstyle, but unfortunately, this is the reality of high level GR runs for wiz at the moment. By cast-n-move, you are greatly increasing your overall efficiency. To help with this, I stack a good amount of CDR so Blazar is up and ready.
What level can I expect to reach consistently?
The level breakdown for Blizzhydra curves around 38. So almost any wizard should be able to clear 38 without a problem. If you can't finish 38, then the problem isn't that you're a bad wizard, it just means you don't know how to use the build. Every level after that starts to push the build back, so if 38 is almost 100% pass, then 39 gets lower, 40 gets lower, etc. A video of a high ranked wizard (43?) doing GR40 was posted awhile back. But he barely made it and he had a lightning immunity amulet fighting lightning mobs and lightning GRs. So in essence, his playstyle is no different than the top 100 wizards in the US. They just play high GRs more often, so they have a better chance at the lottery, much like what the top barbs are doing.