Okay gang, some updates and plans! Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful input.
I played for a bit last night using the build I have up at the moment. So let's talk Zombie Bears. Yeah...they're the best. There's really no alternative ;) My issue with them was that I used them to level to 60 (with poison dart) right when the game came out. Some might say...I was using them back when they "sucked." And I loved it! But then I wanted to move on to something else. And lo and behold, down the line they fixed some of their pathing issues, and maybe some other tweaks? Regardless, to wield the power of the undead bears once again...it's like hanging out with a best friend you haven't seen in a while but who got really buff and tan and has a super hot girlfriend now.
Looks like I've got to chuck my Thing of the Deep :(
Shoulders - I miss the protection and fringe benefits. I'm putting my Vile Wards back on, though I'll lose 4500 dps AND 4500 health IIRC. I made another 10 last night without getting anything resembling a hint of useful, so I think I'll just take a break on those for now. And focus on CC elsewhere. Thanks MCP and Sky, give me confidence here. (sky, I think your VW's are special!) Bonefish, your crafteds are insane btw - can we all agree on that?
Gloves - Made 6 more, nothing close, but will keep working here. I guess this actually means I'm going to start salvaging my rares now instead of vendoring them! Def need to take off the AS, at least for now while I'm ramping up those zombie bears. I may switch back to my +313 int 9.5 CC gloves.
Neck - I've crafted about 10 in total, really nice INT and even LoH but no nice dps affixes yet. I may keep crafting here as well, per your advice BigRed.
Question - Life on Hit. I know I need more CC - should I sacrifice any/all of my LoH gear in pursuit of this? I still use Acid Rain (blobs), so that gets some procs - but from what I've read, spiders and bears are terrible at proccing? It's been nice to have ~1000 LoH, but maybe it's not actually doing that much for me anymore.
Goals - I've decided to play through the game again on MP5. It's a level that's slightly uncomfortable for me survivability-wise going solo, especially without a pet (I tried, I failed). So I went back to dogs, Leeching Beast...is Life Link better? Also, hence the JF for the moment. But - do I choose that, or a mana passive?!
Mana passives - I get one extra cast from SA over BR (13 to 12) during a hold-down-bears-spam, so I'm assuming that's just from the extra max mana. Regen seems similar. I really like the idea of VQ again though, since I'm using mana-spiders anyway, why not double their utility? It just seems like a better synergy, but I'll mess with it. One cast every 5 seconds isn't so bad right...
Last note - I switched from being a longtime Jaunter to Honored Guest. Wow, look at all that mana! Annoying to pop out a second 'early', but an emergency need-mana-now-button seems like it will help survival more in the end than just additional time in the spirit realm...
Thanks again for your time - please help me get all squared away and ready for this full solo MP5 run and then I'll get back to the forum with results and tweaks.