What features should a Witch Doctor weapon have? (listed in order of most desired)
Damage/DPS – This is the number one feature of all weapons in the game. If a weapon doesn’t have high enough base damage, then it is just vendor slag. Generally speaking a WD weapon needs over 800 DPS to even be considered as a main hand WD weapon at Inferno Level.
Life Sustainment - This is the only place a WD can have life steal. So if you want it, it must be on the weapon. Life on hit is also a good choice, but life on hit needs to be triggered (procced) by skills e.g. Rain of Toads or Acid Rain.
Critical Hit Damage (CD) - The damage percent that results from a critical hit. Very important for a good WD weapon to have this, as CD is otherwise only available on jewelry, gloves, or Witching Hour belt. If not available on the weapon, then can be added with an open socket (see below).
Intelligence – Intelligence is a damage and resistance multiplier for WDs. Nuff said.
Open Socket – Used to put an emerald in for additional CD damage or to put a ruby in for more base damage. Ideally one would have CD damage on the weapon itself and an open socket to get additional CD damage or more base damage.
How do you know if you should use a ruby or an emerald in the socket? You use a good damage calculator like D3up.com and use the simulate function on the weapon you want to buy. Be aware that changes in your crit chance, crit damage, and even the skills you like to use can play into the decision on which jewel to socket in a weapon.
This is a discussion I started regarding using an emerald or a ruby in a new Skorn I had purchased http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/8518013020
Mana – Mana regeneration or Max Mana are both very nice and desired features on a one hand ceremonial knife (two handers do not have mana modifiers). Most WDs however are willing to give up mana modifiers for increased damage because mana modifiers can be found on other gear and in active and passive skills.
Black Damage – Explained below.
What if I can’t get all these features on one weapon?
Then you can’t. Then you get the best weapon you can for whatever gold you have.
Hint: Never give up life sustainment for another weapon feature, unless you want to rely on life on hit jewelry (or Blackthorn’s pants) to keep you alive.
What is all this noise I hear about Black Damage weapons? Don’t I want one of these?
What is a Black Damage weapon? A weapon that only has physical damage on it – it does no damage from any of the game elements e.g. fire, cold, holy, or poison. Hence the name “black damage” because the weapon itself has a black background in its picture and no elemental glow.
What is so good about a Black Damage Weapon? A black damage weapon is good for those trying to get the most damage out of their +elemental damage gear items like Zuni boots, Tal Rasha’s amulet, or Stone of Jordan ring. Only non-elemental weapon damage (black damage) receives the damage multiplier from these items.
So if I have a pair of Zuni boots with +8% poison damage, and a poison based weapon, then I get more more poison damage?
No you don't. The +%elemental damage modifier just increases the damage on the non-elemental portion of the weapon as shown in the example below. (And before you ask, no you cannot chill things with a cold damage %modifier. WDs cannot get cold damage from these items no matter what skill is used.)
Black Damage Example:
Zuni boots which add +8% poison damage
Weapon - Manajuma’s Ceremonial Knife:
386 -1036 Damage
1.4 Attack Speed
+282 – 618 Poison Damage
So in this example the 282 – 618 Poison Damage on the Manajuma’s would not get the additional 8% damage from the Zuni Boots. However, the non-poison damage part of the weapon does get the 8% damage, so subtracting out poison damage from total damage would give 104 – 418 black weapon damage times the 8% multiplier.
Why did you list Black Damage last in the most desired weapon features?
Because finding an all black damage 1 hand weapon with all of the desired features is extremely difficult and extremely expensive. Most WDs that use a 1 hand weapon will never find, buy, or own, an all black damage ceremonial knife (the only weapon that has mana modifiers) that is suitable to be their main hand weapon.
So which weapons are the best for a WD and why?
Manajuma’s Ceremonial Knife – Comes standard with life steal, CD%, intelligence, and can also have mana modifiers. Can also have a socket, but then it is very expensive.
This is a very available WD weapon in the auction house and there is certainly one available for everyone that wants one.
People ask, “Why own this weapon, when an all black damage ceremonial knife would be better?”
Answer: You would be lucky to even see someone else using an all black damage ceremonial knife with high damage and all the required features, as they are extremely rare and expensive.
Echoing Fury – Nothing is standard except chance to fear. However, It is an all black damage weapon, and it can have life steal, LoH, intelligence, and a socket. It is an abundant weapon, however some do not like the chance to fear.
Other Legendaries and Rares – Any other weapon that has most of the requirements is certainly a viable choice and can be a good WD weapon.
Skorn – The most widely used WD two-hander, only features that are standard: CD% over 100%, bleed damage, and an open socket. However, it is all black damage, can roll high intelligence, and can roll life steal or life on hit.
One of the best features of a Skorn, or any two hander with life steal, is that they can have up to 6% life steal. This is double the maximum amount (3%) that can be rolled on a one-hander.
Another good feature of any two-hander is that they are extremely mana efficient becasue they do more damage per cast than a one-hander. So a Skorn user does not have to rely on bear reduction or plus mana items, becasue the two hander is so mana efficient.
Some don’t like the Skorn because it has low base speed (1.0 attacks per second) and it uses up the off-hand slot that could be used for a mojo or shield, however it is possible to speed up a Skorn with 2,3, or even 4 + attack speed items, so to me the "it's too slow argument" is very weak.
Other Legendary Two-Handers and Rares – Other legendary two-handers can roll with high damage and other desirable features, however they are not common. It is theoretically possible to roll a better rare than a Skorn, however I have not seen one.
Which is the best weapon for you?
The best weapon for you is the one that meets all the listed requirements. If you have to start giving up needed or desired features because of your budget, then that is what you have to do. But never give up DPS or life sustainment on a weapon.
How do I choose between two weapons?
If they both have all the suggested weapon features, then it comes down to which weapon is capable of the most damage. I suggest you use a good damage calculator like D3up.com to compare the two weapons.
I like my weapon, “Why didn’t you list it?”
I only discussed the more available WD weapons, if you would like to point out why you like your weapon by making a comment to this post, please feel free to do so.