Ok, so at the 'encouragement' of a few, I'm going to do a brief write up on my build - namely, how to utilize Plague Bats.
By no means definitive, it is hoped it can be used as a springboard for some to start exploring them a little, and that others will help shape it into something more informative and useful for the wider WD community. This is a post created with a lot of opinion and a little fact. It comes from the view of my experience and playstyle, and hopefully others will be able to bend and extend what gets posted here so that others may see it as a solid option for a future build.
They are not the be-all and end-all. They have their charms, and are a superior choice in some circumstances, but have their faults as well. I can happily do MP10 runs with my build/gear, but at no point would I consider them better than Bears at that level. The areas Bats shine in just can't be replaced by the brute force of Bears in higher MP. For me, the weaknesses of bats become apparent in MP7 - give or take. But if you're doing lower level runs and want a bit of speed, and are using Bears - listen up. For some of you, this is a better option.
Alright, let's look at the Bats first, then the build itself.
Cost: 98 Mana
Call forth a swarm of fiery bats to burn enemies in front of you for 180% weapon damage as Fire.
Diseased bats fly towards the enemy and infect them. Damage is slow at first, but can increase over time to a maximum of 270% weapon damage as Poison.
So, the numbers themselves aren't spectacular, but solid enough. The casting cost can seem a little high, but it's actually very workable. In many circumstances, you will get a better DPS:Mana ratio that you will with Bears. Plus, as I'll show later, there's the tried-and-true tricks to get costs down, and is remarkably easy to get to the stage where you can spam indefinitely without gimping your gear - well, not much, anyway. But it's a bit of a moot point - a good Bats player won't stand there and spam Bats all day long, as it's the least efficient way to use them. Plus, our build will support them, both in mechanics and mana.
First thing to remember is that the strongest point of PB is that it's a DoT. And it's weakest point is the bloody tool-tip. Slow at first? Up to 270%? STOP DROWNING ME WITH FACTY STUFF, BLIZZ.
Right, opinion time - this is the bit where one of you lot jump in with the real numbers. A spray of Bats will last about 3 seconds. First couple of ticks will hold at 180%, a median jump, then into 270% territory. And the single most important thing to remember here is that it stacks TWICE. This is hugely important, and this is why a Bats player won't spam all day long - it's pointless. Spray mob for a second, do something else, spray again. Spamming is great in areas like The Keep, where you can spray through a door as mobs keep funnelling down hallways and hitting the cone of death, but in open areas, elites etc, think of Bats as a bad case of the runs - you just want a quick spray and get out of there. Easiest way to illustrate this is to go spam bats til you run out of mana. Keep holding your button whilst waiting for your mana to regen. Bats will kick back into life after a second, give or take. See that monster health bar? Yeah, it's going down.at the same speed with this intermittent routine as it does when you spam it. Keep this in mind.
Animation speed is a clincher. Near-instantaneous, and with a little attack speed - 1.6 or so - it can feel like the damage is being done before you press the button. Fire into a mob and keep on running. You get to the stage when you know you can smack a mob a little and leave them with a third health or so, knowing that they're toast in the next second due to Guano of Doom.
They go through walls, doors etc. Nothing quite like having a pet barrel around the corner, get stuck into something, and you've unloaded a sea of death before line of sight has been reached. Coupled with WoS, as I do, you have a very potent combination of smashing mobs, mopping up stragglers, really putting the hurt on Elites, and all without being encumbered by the usual obstacles - yeah, I'm looking at you, Waller.
So there is a very brief summary of Plague Bats. The build to milk the most out of them will be written about later today or tomorrow, as I haven't slept for 24 hours and I feel like I can see through time. So opinions on what I've written thus far are more than welcome, but keep in mind the nitty-gritty stuff is 'Coming Soon'...
Alright, 'soon' has come.
The build itself: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/witch-doctor#gcdUTR!Wfc!Zbcaca
Two 'main' offensive - WoS and Bats
Three 'passive' aggressive - Garg, Harvest/Vengeful, Acid Rain
And the 'Oh Sh!t' - Walk/Jaunt
As you can see, it's not a defensive build, which is more indicative of my play style rather than sound theorycrafting. I will run similar in MP10 with different builds. Hex/Horrify/Confusion et al are not my cup of tea, although there are certainly spaces to put these if you wish.
The main damage engine is obviously Bats and Barrage. Bats take care of mobs and melee, with WoS there to pick up the stragglers, runners and Elites. However, it is wise play to pepper Bat spam with intermittent Spirit bolts. With the Bats being a DoT, your total dps output increases significantly - targets hit with Bats melt extremely fast with Wos coming in over the top. And it's not just to maximise dps, it's to smooth out the mana too. Ye Olde Rush of Essence absolutely shines in this build.
For those who play/are familiar with the SpiderBear build, it plays out much the same - instead of bears-bears-spiders-bears, we now have bats-barrage-barrage-bats. Just make sure to spray bats for more than a tick to maximise dps, although depending on what MP you are running, a quick flick of Bats can melt white trash very quickly.
Now this little dps engine is backed up by skills that are certainly offensive, but arguably less aggressive.
Garg. The lad hits like a truck, is a champ at tanking Elites, and the Stun from the Bruiser rune is gold. However, for many, Dogs will be a better choice. I'd suggest Lifelink rune. And I'd never suggest the Leeching rune. For any build. Ever. It's just bad. But I digress. Dogs are a solid fit for the build - tank mobs with you standing behind giving the spray and slay. I like Gary, you may like the hounds. Choose what suits.
SH/Vengeful. Not much needs to be said. Great fit for most builds, and it's no different here. In fact, it fits here a little better than most, given you need to be quite near mobs to use Bats effectively. Tons has already been written about the skill, but I'd gently remind the naysayers to have their stat screen open when they pop it - that dps boost is to be ignored at your own folly.
Acid Rain. Again, a personal choice here, but there is synergy with the ethos of the build. Procs LoH/Freeze for me like crazy. Pop Harvest, dump Rain for procs and DoT, spray Bats, move on. Feel free to use the slot for Hex or Grasp or whatnot. You play style and gear will determine what suits.
Spirit Walk. You know why. No reason to use a different rune for the build.
Pierce the Veil. Not often the best choice - currently being used as I'm running with a couple of others at a lower MP level, and I have the mana to support it. Higher MP gives a few choices - notably Bad Medicine (Bats are Poison) and JFort - but Gruesome Feast takes the spot for me. I run with no PUR, and whilst not necessarily intentional, it fits the build. You're generally running around a fair bit anyway, so running over globes doesn't bother me. Having said that, I'll be more than happy to see it on a future bit of gear. But it's a luxury, not a necessity. Bats also proc Sycophants like no other, so if you're down for upping the fun factor, knock yourself out.
Blood Ritual. We love it, it's great, it works. If you've stacked Max Mana above 1100 or so, Spiritual Attunement will be better in many cases, depending on how quickly you're melting stuff.
Rush of Essence. Take a crazy player to try and make it all work without this. Keep in mind, whilst I'm talking specifically about Bats in this post, this is essentially a WoS build with Bat support. RoE makes the Baby Jesus smile.
And there we have it. The BatBarrage build. You'll notice there's a fair amount of flexibility to add your own flavor - this is purely my take on it, and hopefully illustrates Bats can be completely viable. Bats requires a little more 'active' playing than a Bears build, and because of this, it's a lot of fun to play. It's not ground breaking, it's not the most efficient, but it is crazy good fun to mess with. They are a unique play style, and do take a little getting used to. But that moment when you stand in the middle of a mob, mashing the left button, and do a 360 spin to wipe out the entire room is a fine one.
Will leave it there for the time being, but will happily expand into gear territory if requested.