Diablo® III

1.0.4 Witch Doctor Thorn Builds

(This was previously a response to someone's question regarding thorns being successful in the end game)

Hi fellow witch doctors, I wanted to use this topic to be the starting ground for current and future thorn builds for the voodoo user we all love/hate. Its in my opinion that thorns is still very much underrated and under appreciated as a stat (which is usually the case in many games, but more so in D3).

The recent buff to pets survivability made me incredibly excited to finally test the build out. Feel free to post your own builds as well, as this is a community effort to inform others. Please also include information as to why you chose what you did, the general gearing pattern, and the results thus far. Thanks!
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I'm currently (as of 8/27/2012) running a thorns/dot attrition build and its been a cakewalk farming act 3 and 4. I focused my gearing to be mostly tanky at first, with each piece having at least 1k thorns damage.

As of now though, I'm experimenting with raising my dps with soul harvest stacks and keeping my LoH acid cloud up for me and locust swarm simultaneously. My gear is currently reflecting the dps gear testing, but it was originally way tankier.

Im getting used to the ring around the rosie aspect of it and feel I can squeeze more dps at the cost of a little of my survivability, since the dogs still live forever unless they get exploded by keep depth banelings or champ packs with 3+aoe affixes, with the latter still taking a decent amount of time to do, given that I health globe hunt like no other.

All in all, I'm loving the build. It certainly is not the fastest to level but the efficiency lies in the durability. My role in it all is usually just the combat looter/health globe healer. Feels like a pretty close pure summoner role, which I love.
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http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/witch-doctor#RhYUdT!gdc!aaccYa

Disclaimer: Its currently the build I'm using to test some aspects of the overall thorns setup, so some choices (such as blood ritual) are questionable to some and rightly so. It should have a degree of variance in choices, and hopefully there will be more over time.
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Pros/Cons:

  • Pets are way tankier than you are. I'd go so far to say that they have the potential to be the best tanks in the game, given that they have the passive life regen & force armor on top of what we pass along to them.
  • These pets are amazing at pulling off some hilarious zergling surrounds and blocking off choke points (eg. doors in Keep Depths). They allow a nice atmosphere many times, given the overall lack of aggro control we have of them.
  • The gear is somewhat of a pain in the !@# to find in terms of finding a nice roll of stats (Vit/All Res/Armor/1k Thorns primarily). Price ranges from annoyingly expensive to dirt cheap, depending on how the seller views the value of thorns.
  • HP is a pretty important stat, if not the most important. I'm currently 45kish, but started at 52k. Seeing as how the zombie handler increases their HP by 20% after the transferred HP, its a damn good amount of health.
  • For multiplayer parties, the build is pretty good, allowing the others to go a little more glass cannon sometimes. I feel more like the tank and healer aspect in the party, with the pets keeping the mobs busy while I'm dancing around grabbing health globes, since my dps is dot based. (See Above: Surrounds & Bottle-necking Choke Points) Also, feel free to substitute Soul Harvest for more CC oriented abilities like Grasp or Zombie Wall. The dps aspects of the build can be lowered if you want to really control the field and let your party do the heavy damage.
  • For this current experimented build, I'm running blood ritual to increase the life regen of the pets. My gear (other than my weapon) has hardly any life regen, if any at all. Feel free to use Pierce the Veil/Jungle Fortitude/etc. to your liking.
  • As mentioned above, I'm testing life regen through skills and passives and less on gear. Spirit Walk for me was originally Jaunt, but I ended up going with Healing Journey to increase my life regen, which transfers to my pets in emergencies. Any will work though and its still being tested. Honored Guest is nice too for more dps and healings with LoH Acid Cloud.
  • You are tanky too, but not even close to them. They can have a dance party on plagued/electric/molten, but I take pretty moderate damage with my setup. That's why I use a decent amount of LoH to keep myself up while doing damage. I had originally 1.2k+, but this experimental gearing is around 700ish.
  • The playstyle might resemble kiting builds, but works somewhat like a middleground between kiting and RoT tanking. Your role is to run around and dodge aoe's from yourself. The pets will be fine by themselves. While you're running, be sure to have the 5 stacks up and keep locust swarm & acid cloud up (spamming more clouds for LoH when needed).
  • If you solo, your follower should be the enchantress imo. Her armor increase and atk speed buff are invaluable. The charm and polymorph are experimentation aspects right now. No matter which follower you choose, build them dps primary stat and protect them. By protection, I mean to maneuver how you move as to have them stationary AWAY from you, so the champs target you with the aoe's (eg. desecrate) but avoids them dying and losing potential dps time. Ranged followers are better at this since you have melee pets already.
  • If the mob cleaves, stand in the cleave and take some hits yourself to give out more thorns damage.
  • The builds strength is also its weakness. You rely on your pet getting hit to do the primary damage. However, when you clear that wave of scorpions and are left with one big yellow elite, the damage fall off is unfortunate (especially if they dont cleave, leaving only 1 pet to reflect) The experimenting with the gearing and build I've been working on is attempting to remedy that one flaw in the overall core of the thorns.
  • Reply Quote
    Thorns should be effected by main stat damage increase. Or else their dps will always be cripplingly low.
    Reply Quote
    You make one hell of a good point Justaman.
    Reply Quote
    What is your total thorns damage?

    Edit: nvm, just checked your profile, I have a ways to go. What's the breaking point where you really start noticing it?
    Edited by Hein#1492 on 8/27/2012 4:51 PM PDT
    Reply Quote
    08/27/2012 04:27 PMPosted by Justaman
    Thorns should be effected by main stat damage increase. Or else their dps will always be cripplingly low.


    I agree on the stat damage increase, but would have to disagree on it being cripplingly low because that's inferring that the build does not work or has too low dps to kill before being killed. However, I'll agree to disagree. If anything, I figure its a start in the right direction to first get some awareness of the stat in the first place by trying out some builds. Maybe they can put more focus onto that stat in future patches to make it more appealing to others.

    What is your total thorns damage?

    Edit: nvm, just checked your profile, I have a ways to go. What's the breaking point where you really start noticing it?


    Yeah, I've messed around trying with character dps which unfortunately lowers thorns a bit. I'd say 20k is a good range to aim for, but finding good rolled thorns gear with loads of int has been a waiting game. :P Just working with what I can afford with gold.

    I plan on making a video once this week is over, as I'm currently cramming for my GRE this Thursday. Thanks for the input so far though. I appreciate it and look forward to more discussion over it.
    Edited by Rhest#1504 on 8/27/2012 8:08 PM PDT
    Reply Quote
    I just hit 60 the other day on my WD and immediately went for a thorns build. Very similar to what you have done here.

    http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/witch-doctor#WZRUYT!dga!bZZcca

    My gear isn't the greatest but so far it is has gotten me through Act I and the first part of Act 2.

    So far I've been using grasp to group enemies into one area while my pets attack. While that is going on, I spam RoT and I throw in Acid Cloud Lob Blob. Usually I only need one to two round of Acid Cloud Lob Blob to take out trash mobs. When I get to elites or a boss, I stack up 3 blobs as they do indeed stack (from what I've seen). RoT seems to give an Ok amount of LoH with what I'm currently running.

    My weakness right now is life regen. I think I might drop jungle for blood rit.

    I am curious though OP, how do you maintain mana with the two primary attacks consuming so much?
    Reply Quote
    Thorns can work, but whether or not they are efficient is another thing. For example, with the amount of effort you put into getting thorns, would your build be better with an equivalent effort into getting, say, raw intelligence?

    Don't get me wrong, I also planned on going the thorns route before you created this thread. But I have mixed feelings.
    Reply Quote
    I've always been interested in a Tank/Thorns build.... just so much work to regear from a Cannon with pets. I also think I'd miss the suicidal excitement of releasing my stampede of bears at melee range.

    My only suggestion for you and your gear would be to hunt for Shoulders and a Shield with %Life. That would boost your hp something fierce.

    I think thorns scaling with damage could be over powered... if they did it wrong?

    Does thorns work off of AOE? Does molten, plague, arcane trigger thorn hits?
    Reply Quote

    So far I've been using grasp to group enemies into one area while my pets attack.


    This is interesting. When you slow them down like that, do they stop targeting you and go after your pets instead?
    Reply Quote
    08/28/2012 06:54 AMPosted by Eatmonster
    Does thorns work off of AOE? Does molten, plague, arcane trigger thorn hits?


    Only from melee attacks, so most likely no from those elite affixes.

    Which makes thorns ideal for waves of mobs. But even in those situations, some of the mobs will go after you instead.
    Reply Quote
    I started my WD just so I could try this out, but in the process of leveling found too many other builds to try, and this slipped onto the back burner. Last night however, I decided to test this out. I picked up some cheap rare gear (everything under 80k) to go with my legendary and got to about 10k thorns damage.

    I'm only in act 1 inferno, but already can see a difference when fighting elites. They tend to focus on the pets longer than they were with my other gear. I bet with some better (more expensive) gear you can get pretty decent stats for everything. Right now my life regen/health globe bonus is pretty bad. I have the life stealing dogs to help offset that at the moment
    Reply Quote

    So far I've been using grasp to group enemies into one area while my pets attack.


    This is interesting. When you slow them down like that, do they stop targeting you and go after your pets instead?


    Usually, what I do is let my pets run up and then I cast grasp. I very rarely get aggro to come towards me, but I do get the occasional stray. However, with all of the thorns damage, I just sit there and spam RoT on the group of mobs while the single ones hit me. Life regens with LoH and thorns kill of the strays.

    The best thing I found, is to try and cast the grasp so that the group is in a doorway, corner, etc. This way, you can continue to spam your AoE while your pets attack. All of this combined with the Garg Cleve seems to work so far.
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    Do fetishes from passive, army, and gidbinn get the thorns as well? That would be pretty interesting...
    Reply Quote
    Prior to 1.0.4 I was farming act 2 and struggling through act 3.

    5 minutes after 1.0.4 I switch to a Thorns/LoH/Pet build I wanted to play since release.

    After the switch I finished inferno that night. Haven't looked back. It might not be the highest dps/efficient build, but its sure is a lot of fun. My 80K DPS DH friend laughs his !@# off as my pets tank for us. I might lose one pet on the hardest of elite packs.

    If I die its to laziness not difficulty of elites. I have to seldom kite. Can stand and tank, drop toads/rain for the occasional heal.

    Good times...
    Reply Quote
    08/28/2012 07:00 AMPosted by Peter
    Only from melee attacks, so most likely no from those elite affixes.


    If the elites reflect off of AOE attacks, I think that thorns should reflect off of AOE attacks.
    Reply Quote
    08/28/2012 08:43 AMPosted by Eatmonster
    Only from melee attacks, so most likely no from those elite affixes.


    If the elites reflect off of AOE attacks, I think that thorns should reflect off of AOE attacks.


    After playing this game for a bit it is apparent that the design decisions that SHOULD have been made, weren't made.

    I really like the idea of thorns being affected by your damage too. Instead of a base 2k dmg it could be like 1-5% of your weapon damage or whatever. That would make a thorns build way more appealing.
    Reply Quote
    It's good to see there's other people using the thorn path! I've already tested it, n I like it so much!
    Currently, after spending 400k gold (about 10k to 100k per piece) to test out, I manage to get
    - almost 9800 thorn
    - 46k life
    - armor 4k++
    - 990 vit
    - 21 pick up radius
    - 895 Int
    - 480+ All Res
    - 7k Health Globe bonus

    My profile :
    http://us.battle.net/d3/en/profile/Imhotep-6272/hero/6850886
    Skill :
    http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/witch-doctor#bZTYXU!adg!YbacYc

    I focused on getting Thorn>Vit>All Res>health globe Bonus>Pick Rad. I dont search for INT at the moment because my plan was making my pet do all the "dirty" work. I only got 1k INT. As this only a test out build. But surprisingly, thank god everything going into plan. However, I tested it only in act 1 & early act 2...Hopefully this build will last..

    My initial plan was :

    1. High thorn damage + fierce Loyalty + Leeching Dogs (main attacker) + gargantuan
    - This combo already giving life about 11k p/sec when my dogs receive damage. Pls take note that even AOE damage will trigger the thorn and reflect the damage to the caster (as far as I tested out, correct me if I'm wrong). 1 dog reflect about 10k damage when hit, 4 dogs + gargantuan doing kind of acceptable damage for my opinion. i also notice it triggered very frequent, even the monster did not ferociously attacked my pets. I wonder why..

    2. Vit + All Res +Zombie Handler +Jungle Fortitude
    - Giving the extra Health to my pets (tanker)

    3. Health Globe + Grasp (Death is life) + Pick Up Radius + Healing Journey (escape + emergency healing for pets)
    - Because of I wanted Jungle Fortitude and cant afford to have Blood Ritual, but i still need healing source for the pets, so hence the solution. The pick up radius is just a safety measure in case in the future i want to change into Sacrifice + Gruesome + Grave combo.

    4. Grasp the Dead + Medusa Spider + Horrify (add defense)
    - This combo just to keep me busy or otherwise i'll bored to death running around collecting gold n health globe.. Haha. Just kidding. This set of skill help supporting my pets greatly. Grasp the dead help slow down n give extra health globe, Medusa also to slow down monster, and activate horrify before getting into elite fights.

    Thats all for now. The play style is kinda simple. Just avoid all attack n let the pets do the job. Kinda feel like a mafia boss protected by underlings. haha. Hope this can help everyone.
    Edited by Imhotep#6272 on 8/28/2012 8:18 PM PDT
    Reply Quote
    I have been slowing puttering away on this build as well. I focused on Life Regen + Thorns + All Res. After these stats I looked for int and vitality. I am most of the way through Act 2 now, it has been pretty easy going. I have roughly 2220 life regen and 12k thorns. My hope is to get up to 2500 life regen and about 18k thorns. I dont play a ton but I watch the AH for deals whenever I get on and have picked up most of this gear for 50k-300k. It seems like the prices are edging up on this kind of gear, I have had a really hard time finding pants that work and helms with good stats and a socket are silly expensive these days. With the life regen I hardly ever have to worry about the pets dying. There are a few isolated circumstances where they get hurt but otherwise they are more or less invincible. I am still trying t figure out my skills. Right now I use Dogs + Garg + Spirit Walk for sure. That fourth skill slot is a bit of a loose cannon for me. I have tried a couple of variations, any ideas?
    Reply Quote
    Thanks all for the input and commentary so far on the thread. I appreciate it!

    I just hit 60 the other day on my WD and immediately went for a thorns build. Very similar to what you have done here.

    http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/witch-doctor#WZRUYT!dga!bZZcca

    My gear isn't the greatest but so far it is has gotten me through Act I and the first part of Act 2.

    So far I've been using grasp to group enemies into one area while my pets attack. While that is going on, I spam RoT and I throw in Acid Cloud Lob Blob. Usually I only need one to two round of Acid Cloud Lob Blob to take out trash mobs. When I get to elites or a boss, I stack up 3 blobs as they do indeed stack (from what I've seen). RoT seems to give an Ok amount of LoH with what I'm currently running.

    My weakness right now is life regen. I think I might drop jungle for blood rit.

    I am curious though OP, how do you maintain mana with the two primary attacks consuming so much?


    I usually just roll the pestilence swarm in the start and one to two acid rains, and refreshing them when they expire (or I need LoH from walking into bad stuff while grabbing health globes). I just let the now reworked mana regen do the rest for me. Once I figure out whether or not to include more self dps and pet damage NOT from thorns, I'll consider other spells possibly.

    Prior to 1.0.4 I was farming act 2 and struggling through act 3.

    5 minutes after 1.0.4 I switch to a Thorns/LoH/Pet build I wanted to play since release.

    After the switch I finished inferno that night. Haven't looked back. It might not be the highest dps/efficient build, but its sure is a lot of fun. My 80K DPS DH friend laughs his !@# off as my pets tank for us. I might lose one pet on the hardest of elite packs.

    If I die its to laziness not difficulty of elites. I have to seldom kite. Can stand and tank, drop toads/rain for the occasional heal.

    Good times...


    Well said. It's definitely not the fastest, but its a fun and unique twist to the typical ZB/VQ build I've grown tired of lately.

    It's good to see there's other people using the thorn path! I've already tested it, n I like it so much!
    Currently, after spending 400k gold (about 10k to 100k per piece) to test out, I manage to get
    - almost 9800 thorn
    - 46k life
    - armor 4k++
    - 990 vit
    - 21 pick up radius
    - 895 Int
    - 480+ All Res
    - 7k Health Globe bonus

    My profile :
    http://us.battle.net/d3/en/profile/Imhotep-6272/hero/6850886
    Skill :
    http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/witch-doctor#bZTYXU!adg!YbacYc

    I focused on getting Thorn>Vit>All Res>health globe Bonus>Pick Rad. I dont search for INT at the moment because my plan was making my pet do all the "dirty" work. I only got 1k INT. As this only a test out build. But surprisingly, thank god everything going into plan. However, I tested it only in act 1 & early act 2...Hopefully this build will last..

    My initial plan was :

    1. High thorn damage + fierce Loyalty + Leeching Dogs (main attacker) + gargantuan
    - This combo already giving life about 11k p/sec when my dogs receive damage. Pls take note that even AOE damage will trigger the thorn and reflect the damage to the caster (as far as I tested out, correct me if I'm wrong). 1 dog reflect about 10k damage when hit, 4 dogs + gargantuan doing kind of acceptable damage for my opinion. i also notice it triggered very frequent, even the monster did not ferociously attacked my pets. I wonder why..

    2. Vit + All Res +Zombie Handler +Jungle Fortitude
    - Giving the extra Health to my pets (tanker)

    3. Health Globe + Grasp (Death is life) + Pick Up Radius + Healing Journey (escape + emergency healing for pets)
    - Because of I wanted Jungle Fortitude and cant afford to have Blood Ritual, but i still need healing source for the pets, so hence the solution. The pick up radius is just a safety measure in case in the future i want to change into Sacrifice + Gruesome + Grave combo.

    4. Grasp the Dead + Medusa Spider + Horrify (add defense)
    - This combo just to keep me busy or otherwise i'll bored to death running around collecting gold n health globe.. Haha. Just kidding. This set of skill help supporting my pets greatly. Grasp the dead help slow down n give extra health globe, Medusa also to slow down monster, and activate horrify before getting into elite fights.

    Thats all for now. The play style is kinda simple. Just avoid all attack n let the pets do the job. Kinda feel like a mafia boss protected by underlings. haha. Hope this can help everyone.


    Nice input and build. Never thought of using horrify much as well as medusa spiders. How is the self-healing without LoH going for you?

    08/28/2012 08:56 PMPosted by Cold493
    I have been slowing puttering away on this build as well. I focused on Life Regen + Thorns + All Res. After these stats I looked for int and vitality. I am most of the way through Act 2 now, it has been pretty easy going. I have roughly 2220 life regen and 12k thorns. My hope is to get up to 2500 life regen and about 18k thorns. I dont play a ton but I watch the AH for deals whenever I get on and have picked up most of this gear for 50k-300k. It seems like the prices are edging up on this kind of gear, I have had a really hard time finding pants that work and helms with good stats and a socket are silly expensive these days. With the life regen I hardly ever have to worry about the pets dying. There are a few isolated circumstances where they get hurt but otherwise they are more or less invincible. I am still trying t figure out my skills. Right now I use Dogs + Garg + Spirit Walk for sure. That fourth skill slot is a bit of a loose cannon for me. I have tried a couple of variations, any ideas?


    I had that same issue with dps spells. I'm still working with that in testing, but for now I'm liking the dot attrition of Swarm and Acid Cloud (with Acid Cloud being my go to LoH spell and overall oh !@#$ button when Spirit Walk is down).
    Edited by Rhest#1504 on 8/28/2012 9:27 PM PDT
    Reply Quote
    i wonder if there was any way to implement a thorns build for a wizard... i might level up my WD to try out this build thanks (:
    Reply Quote

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