Firebird 101: Solo Wizard Greater Rifts

Wizard
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Starting to see a lot of these pop up everywhere.

Here's the TL;DR: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/wizard#lQiNSO!Zdbh!YacYZc
- Progress forward, not backward, unless you are close to being overwhelmed
- Never stay in one spot, unless you managed to trap the Rift Guardian
- Maintain minimum 50 yards distance as best you can
- Squeeze in debuffs during burst in order to snapshot prior to infinite DoT kicking in
- Always assume Kormac has poop for brains

Variations may swap out Blur for Glass Cannon or Elemental Exposure, Prismatic Armor for Force Armor, Spellsteal for Blazar, Calamity/Fracture for Safe Passage.

Credentials: #1 non-season clear worldwide in Era 2 (GR49) using this setup

SAMPLE VIDEOS
Jaetch - GR45 (2.1.2; standard Apocalypse with Spellsteal):
http://youtu.be/iC8m16NWmtA
Jaetch - GR45 (2.1.2; dual Hydras Serpent's Sparker):
http://youtu.be/CCmLiRPmjCA
Boozor - GR41 (pre-2.1.2; standard Apocalypse):
http://youtu.be/2NhtUKRG9R8
http://youtu.be/a1vcv4wJq-0

*Not gearing guides.

SKILLS & GEAR
ACTIVES:
    LMB: Blizzard - Apocalypse: You don't spam this, as much as I see players do this. First of all, it's a DoT, so the damage is normalized. You cannot fish for critical hits. Second of all, it doesn't stack, so there's zero point in casting it in the same spot over and over unless you're refreshing it against a single target. You will only cast this more than once in a given instance if you want to cover a bigger area >30 yards.

    RMB: Teleport - Safe Passage/Calamity/Fracture: I prefer Safe Passage, others Calamity because it's an easy way to guarantee the bonus from Bane of the Trapped and also use with Elemental Exposure. Safe Passage can really help prevent 1-shots (chain Jailing, Executioner/Punisher windups, Butcher's AOE fan attack, etc.) and can almost serve as a third life beyond Unstable Anomaly and Firebird's 4-piece. I also see use in Fracture as the decoys can absorb dangerous attacks (especially stray projectiles).

    1: Hydra - Mammoth Hydra: More reliable source of DPS against Rift Guardians, ramps up Firebird's DoT fairly well, great passive damage alongside Apocalypse. Easy to set up.

    2. Black Hole - Blazar/Spellsteal: Blazar is the more popular choice as it greatly helps ramping up fire damage for Firebird's DoT. Sets up for Apocalypse and Hydra. Triggers Strongarm Bracer's debuff. Spellsteal sees alternative use since 2.1.2 as monster density has drastically increased in general. High stack Spellsteal buffs greatly increases damage potential from skills like Apocalypse and Mammoth Hydra. Bonus for being arcane and adding to Elemental Exposure. Downside is lower damage against Rift Guardians.

    3. Magic Weapon - Force Weapon: The deeps.

    4. Energy Armor - Prismatic Armor/Force Armor: Prismatic for more sustain if you're already running decent levels of mitigation. Force Armor if you cannot withstand 1-shots. The latter is weaker against DoTs like Plague, Molten, Frozen ticks, etc. Generally, Force Armor becomes mandatory in higher levels as you will inevitably reach a point where incoming damage cannot be mitigated.


PASSIVES:
    Blur/Glass Cannon/Elemental Exposure: Same thing as Prismatic vs. Force. If you're gonna get killed in one shot anyway, you might as well run Glass Cannon for more DPS. If you can take an extra hit with Blur, use it for the insurance. Anything's better than dying and waiting to revive. Elemental Exposure is harder to pull off, but the debuff is extraordinary with Firebird's. Even 10% is preferable.

    Evocation: Helps with Teleport and Black Hole upkeep. More cooldown reduction directly translates to more DPS and survivability..

    Illusionist: Mandatory for keeping Teleport up.

    Unstable Anomaly: Necessary unless you enjoy taking long walks or staring at your corpse.

    Hellfire users: Picking whatever you ditched amongst Blur, Glass Cannon, Elemental Exposure. If you get one of the mandatory passives, lucky you.


KEY ITEMS:

    Firebird 6-piece - Helm, Shoulders, Gloves, Chest, Pants, Boots



Alternate Item Combos:







In general, your order of choices would be:
1. Furnace
2b. Sunkeeper + Firebird's Eye
2b. Serpent's Sparker + Firebird's Eye
3. Devastator + Firebird's Eye

The reason is because a good chunk of your 15 minutes of allotted time in the Greater Rift would be against the Rift Guardian. As a result, you really want to prioritize elite damage. If you don't have a Furnace, use a Sunkeeper. Go down the list until you reach a Devastator, which can be crafted with relative ease.

If you don't have an ancient Furnace, however, go with ancient one-handed weapons if you have an ancient Firebird's Eye. Based on my experiences, it's still worthwhile to use a non-ancient Furnace over an ancient one-hander without the ancient source. Again, this is because of elite bonuses. If you decide to run an ancient one-hander over a non-ancient Furnace, you'll gain kill speed against regular mobs, but lose DPS against elites.

However, all that said, in 2.1.2 it's arguable that Devastator could be preferable over a Sunkeeper because of the drastic increase in trash density. Because the majority of the progress you get in a Rift will be from trash, you may want to prioritize your base fire damage. You'll gain time throughout the Rift fighting trash, but you'll lose time against the Rift Guardian. Think carefully about what you have more trouble with and pick your weapon.

GEMS:




Follower Spec (Templar): http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/follower#0101
Just pick heals (Heal, Guardian) and crowd control (Intimidate, Charge).

Follower Main Gear (Templar):



Follower Optional Gear:




    Legacy Puzzle Ring - http://us.battle.net/d3/en/item/puzzle-ring-43Ch3f - No longer available as a drop, but vanilla players, the goblin spawn can trigger at least once per Rift run. If killed, it provides a hefty amount of progress (that's if you can kill it)


GEAR RECAP:
Plan A:
Helm: Firebird's Plume
Shoulder: Firebird's Pinions
Chest: Firebird's Breast
Gloves: Firebird's Talons
Pants: Firebird's Down
Boots: Firebird's Tarsi
Bracers: Strongarm Bracers
Belt: The Witching Hour
Amulet: anything with fire bonus/CHC/CHD/socket or intelligence in place of fire if you don't have the choice
Ring 1: Stone of Jordan
Ring 2: Unity
Weapon: The Furnace

Plan B:
Helm: Firebird's Plume
Shoulder: Firebird's Pinions
Chest: Cindercoat/Firebird's Breast (if using Serpent's Sparker)
Gloves: Firebird's Talons/Tasker and Theo (if using Serpent's Sparker)
Pants: Firebird's Down
Boots: Firebird's Tarsi
Bracers: Strongarm Bracers
Belt: The Witching Hour
Amulet: anything with fire bonus/CHC/CHD/socket or intelligence in place of fire if you don't have the choice
Ring 1: Stone of Jordan
Ring 2: Unity
Weapon: Sunkeeper/Serpent's Sparker/Devastator
Off-hand: Firebird's Eye

GAMEPLAY
Firebird's for high Greater Rifts takes a lot of practice and isn't exactly easy to master. It requires a keen sense of positioning and involves quick reaction times. The faster you can adjust to the situation and your surroundings, the better you will fare. No exaggeration. You have to constantly make decisions throughout the entire Rift from beginning to end.

All serious GR attempts follow a system similar to driving on the road. It involves repeating three phases over and over and over again:

    Phase 1: Scanning
    Phase 2: Predicting
    Phase 3: Reacting

In Phase 1, you will be scanning your surroundings. In terms of GRs, you will be constantly checking the minimap and your character's immediate vicinity for enemies and patterns. In addition, checking on the progress bar for how much time you have remaining is important. You have to factor in the time it'll take you to down the RG. As soon as you get an idea of what type of tileset you're in (e.g. Caverns tileset, Keeps tileset, Sewers tileset, etc.) and what mob combination populates the Rift level, you move on to Phase 2.

In Phase 2, you will be predicting the best and worst outcomes for the current Rift level. Based on the mob types and the level tileset, you have to decide whether to attempt to trigger Firebird's on the enemies you encounter or skip them. For low density levels in long, intricate map layouts (e.g. levels that resemble Act II's Sirocco Caverns), you may have to decide to speed through it to get to the next level rather than waste time picking off the occasional enemy. Depending on how any of these levels roll, you move on to Phase 3.

In Phase 3, you react to situations based on your predictions in Phase 2. This is where players adapt. Sometimes things will go as planned (mob composition is exactly what you expected), sometimes not (encounter mob types you did not expect, hit a dead end, etc.).

As of Patch 2.1.2, changes to monster compositions, density, map layouts, and Pylons have made Greater Rift attempts far easier than it has ever been before. The roadblocks are the same, though, as you will eventually hit a DPS wall and will no longer be able to progress due to gear limitations. The ceiling is simply higher than pre-2.1.2 days.

In terms of actually playing the GR Firebird build, you need to develop some good habits. The first is to remember to move forward as much as you can, rather than kite in circles, or worse, backward. Walking through empty levels is the worst for GR progression. You always want to have something to kill. As a result, when you find clusters of mobs, you want to be able to "herd" them toward other mobs you come across deeper in the Rift level.

In Patch 2.1.2, mob density has been increased to the point where kiting forward incessantly can easily overwhelm you and get you killed. As a result, you have to be fully aware of your character's limitations. As soon as you reach a threshold where you feel you're out of space and a single misstep will guarantee death, you need to take a step back and whittle down the enemies around you in order to create space. Positioning is always key and if you have no space for optimal positioning, you're asking for a lot of trouble.

Example scenario: You see a cluster of Lacuni Slashers, Fallen Masters, and Fallen Soldiers in front of you. Instead of casting Black Hole and Apocalypse on them and then running in circles while the DoTs kill them, you need to aggro them with Apocalypse while moving ahead of them, all while covering the path in front of you with additional casts of Apocalypse. This will keep the DoT on the targets while also maintaining the aggro necessary for the mobs to follow you. In some cases, you will have to move in a zigzag route for slow mobs that have a difficult time keeping up, such as skeletons and zombies.

However, if you're in a situation where you find massive clusters of mobs ahead of you with more incoming from behind, you must pull the mobs in front toward you and combine them with the ones you herded from behind. Combining clusters of mobs and then whittling their numbers down before progressing is a decision you have to make. Investing some seconds to conservatively build up progress, speeding ahead with greed to obtain more progress, or speeding ahead and get overwhelmed by sheer numbers, can be the difference in making or breaking your Rift attempt.

The same herding concept applies to elites. You do not want to sit around waiting for elites to die. In higher GR levels, e.g. 40+, elites regularly have several billion HP. Even if you are dishing out 500M eDPS on elites, it'll take time for them to die, and that's assuming they do not have deadly affixes you need to avoid.

You will set up with Apocalypse to aggro the elites, much like you would for regular mobs. While the elites are within Apocalypse's AOE and under CC effects from your Templar, gather them up with Black Hole and set up Mammoth Hydra AHEAD of them. Remember, you always want to try and go forward, not backward. By the time Apocalypse ticks away, Black Hole nuked and debuffed the elites, and Hydra attacked a couple of times, you will start leapfrogging both Apocalypse and Hydra while moving ahead of the elites. The infinite DoT from Firebird's should have kicked in if you managed to land all your fire spells. If not, the sequence must be repeated, again, all while moving forward.

In the best situations, while moving forward, you will be able to herd multiple elite packs together. The more targets you combine, the more you can utilize area damage for Apocalypse (Firebird's DoT and Hydra attacks do not benefit from area damage) and Black Hole can help cluster multiple high priority targets together. In addition, more threats to hit you allows you to spam Teleport more often to get yourself in a better position.

To repeat, remember despite always wanting to progress forward, there will be instances where you obviously cannot do that. At some point, you will be aggroing and herding up mobs faster than you can kill all of them. In those situations, it's necessary to just bear down and make sure a good number of them die before you continue on. Many players end up dying simply because of being overwhelmed.

There are also specific types of enemies that you should not attempt to herd. These include Winged Assassins, Lacuni Huntresses, Burrowing Leapers, and their kin. These types of enemies will more than likely always outrun you unless you attempt to spam Teleport beyond their aggro range (which would mean you're not going to be killing them with the DoTs anyway). So if you end up with an elite pack of Winged Assassins, you have two choices. Deal with them on the spot by tanking the best you can and running in circles, or Teleport as far away as possible and skip them if you think you're going to end up dying to them. Granted, trying to skip them could put you in the "overwhelmed" situation if more mobs of the same type are located ahead.

TIPS & TRICKS
1. If your goal is to place as high on the leaderboard as possible and you have a lot of time on your hands, you can "cheat" a little by gathering up a group of DHs + zDPS crusader to speed farm Trial Rifts. It is incredibly easy to pick up GR40+ keys by doing this. While it is pretty lame, you can binge on these keys by opening GR after GR, picking your map layouts and mob types until you get the one you think you can clear. Doesn't always work, but by skipping the maps and mobs you think will cause you more of a headache, you save time.

2. Always clear maps that are filled with high progress-to-effort ratio mobs. Basically, these enemies provide a lot of progress for little effort. Example mobs include:
- Moon Clan Ghosts, Warriors, and related - 0.3% per kill
- Dust Eaters, Grotesques, Lacuni Warriors - 0.5% per kill
- Disentombed Hulks - 1.25% per kill
For a longer list: http://www.forum.vizjereiclan.com/index.php?/topic/241-greater-rift-progression-data/

3. On the other hand, skip the ones with low progress-to-effort ratios. Basically these are mobs that either take too long to kill for their progress or offer little to no progress at all. If you try to herd them and kill them, you're going to be wasting a lot of time. However, there are low progress mobs that may be in your best interest to kill alongside others, such as Skeletal Archers, as the more you end up herding, the more they can become major headaches.

4. When fighting a Rift Guardian, try to kite it to narrow corridors or corners with doors so your Templar can block it, allowing you to move into blind spots outside aggro range. This will allow you to place your Hydra and for you to stand at max distance to get the most out of Zei's, and also allow you to freely cast your Apocalypse and Blazars for guaranteed hits. However, the Templar will be stupid and run to your side if you move too far away, so be careful.

5. Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice!

For more information:
T6 Firebird basics by BDF: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/15083138357
T6 Firebird efficiency guide by Boozor: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/15539136116
________________________________________________
Diablo III MVP | Forever a Wizard
YouTube Channel: http://youtube.com/Jae7ch
Twitter: @Jaetch | Clan Page: http://vizjereiclan.com
Great post Jaech, will be keeping this in my favorites to quote for the forum newcomers!
No Video??? Gasp
09/15/2014 11:02 AMPosted by Ivan
No Video??? Gasp

Yeah, I've been meaning to record stuff, but...

Reasons.
________________________________________________
Diablo III MVP | Forever a Wizard
YouTube Channel: http://youtube.com/Jae7ch
Twitter: @Jaetch | Twitch: http://twitch.tv/jaetch
Small typo. Oculus ring* you put Obsidian.
Nice write up, I know I still have alot to learn with regards to specific mob types and I need to get better at herding rather than running in circles and killing.

Might want to include a clause about when you should or shouldn't cast hydras on white mobs, or positioning the hydra to maximize its use of Zei's.
A popular alternative to mammoth hydra is molten impact. The primary advantage of this is an insta-perm firebird DoT with guaranteed snapshotting of strongarm, from the blazar -> molten combo. Snapshotting strongarm with mammoth instead is more of a crapshoot.

The down side to molten is of course somewhat lower RG damage. Mammoth is as much as a ~20% DPS boost on the RG.

Conduit weapon instead of force weapon is an interesting option. The AP it generates when you have a big swarm of dudes under your apocalypse is quite substantial, allowing you to more liberally lay out apocalypse all over the map, without taking the massive damage (SoJ) or survivability (Unity) hit required to run cindercoat (via RoRG).

Something I've been meaning to test: Band of Hollow Whispers should be a good option for an additional snare on your follower. I never held on to one before, and haven't picked on up yet since 2.1 to try.
09/15/2014 11:05 AMPosted by Jaetch
09/15/2014 11:02 AMPosted by Ivan
No Video??? Gasp

Yeah, I've been meaning to record stuff, but...

Reasons.
________________________________________________
Diablo III MVP | Forever a Wizard
YouTube Channel: http://youtube.com/Jae7ch
Twitter: @Jaetch | Twitch: http://twitch.tv/jaetch


Great post -- Very respectable work and effort.

Everyone's got to draw a line somewhere. It's not like random internet strangers are owed a video.
This is awesome.

in b/f Kiza. Thanks Jaetch!@!@!!!@!@!$@!@!!!!
can't always kite foward.

u ll aggro more and more mobs.

1. u ll get overwhelmed and get ur self killed, esp lots of ranged mobs.
2. the mobs that are following behind u will get their dots fall off if u keep moving forward.

low density, just move to the next level.
medium density, kite foward.
high density, kite in circles.
+1

Probably should mention some substitutes for the items listed:

1) Substitutes for Furnace: SK/SS/ ETC
2) Azurewrath / Wyrmward for follower
3) Stat allocations or stats to have on said items.
09/15/2014 11:10 AMPosted by vishnu
A popular alternative to mammoth hydra is molten impact. The primary advantage of this is an insta-perm firebird DoT with guaranteed snapshotting of strongarm, from the blazar -> molten combo. Snapshotting strongarm with mammoth instead is more of a crapshoot.

I personally prefer Molten Impact in T6 Rifts, not GRs. If it doesn't crit... oh geez. It's also a slower playstyle and requires you to wait on CD for not 2, but 3 spells.

09/15/2014 11:10 AMPosted by vishnu
Conduit weapon instead of force weapon is an interesting option. The AP it generates when you have a big swarm of dudes under your apocalypse is quite substantial, allowing you to more liberally lay out apocalypse all over the map, without taking the massive damage (SoJ) or survivability (Unity) hit required to run cindercoat (via RoRG).

I thought about this, but realized that AP really shouldn't be that big of an issue unless you over-spam Apocalypse. It's really a DPS issue in higher GRs (at least for me, personally), so I'd take Force Weapon over Conduit.

09/15/2014 11:10 AMPosted by vishnu
Something I've been meaning to test: Band of Hollow Whispers should be a good option for an additional snare on your follower. I never held on to one before, and haven't picked on up yet since 2.1 to try.

A few of us were talking about this on Mumble last night. The Haunt from Band of Hollow Whispers apparently isn't the WD's Haunt, so it's not cold damage.
________________________________________________
Diablo III MVP | Forever a Wizard
YouTube Channel: http://youtube.com/Jae7ch
Twitter: @Jaetch | Twitch: http://twitch.tv/jaetch
09/15/2014 11:13 AMPosted by CKbrah
can't always kite foward.

u ll aggro more and more mobs.

09/15/2014 10:56 AMPosted by Jaetch
Now, there are instances where you obviously cannot keep going forward. At some point, you will be aggroing and herding up mobs faster than you can kill all of them. In those situations, it's necessary to just bear down and make sure a good number of them die before you continue on. Many players end up dying simply because of being overwhelmed.

________________________________________________
Diablo III MVP | Forever a Wizard
YouTube Channel: http://youtube.com/Jae7ch
Twitter: @Jaetch | Twitch: http://twitch.tv/jaetch
Gem of Efficacious Toxin: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/item/gem-of-efficacious-toxin - DoT damage is nice, debuff is even better. Triggers Corrupted Angel elemental shield. Does not get triggered by Hydra.


Wait, does that mean if I use Apocalypse, Blazar or Mammoth Hydra, the Gem's poison effect kicks in first and triggers the Corrupted Angel's shield, changing it to poison resistance?
you also want to blazar whites, particularly when there are a lot of them. otherwise they take too long to die off.
09/15/2014 10:56 AMPosted by Jaetch
Squeeze in debuffs during burst in order to snapshot prior to infinite DoT kicking in


please explain what this means?

and what is aggro?
09/15/2014 10:56 AMPosted by Jaetch
5. Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice!

Kid you not, this is the best advice to newcomers.
Good stuff, thanks Jaetch. Any rules of thumb 're HP, all res etc (beyond more the merrier)? Is it worth sacrificing some all res for 30% Blizzard across chest and shoulders, for example?
So, assuming you don't have strongarms or TF for your follower would you still recommend a black hole build? I find I get much more reliable CC out of my slow time bubble and I simply haven't been blessed by the RNG gods on my season wizard to get these items yet...
09/15/2014 11:15 AMPosted by Jaetch
I personally prefer Molten Impact in T6 Rifts, not GRs. If it doesn't crit... oh geez. It's also a slower playstyle and requires you to wait on CD for not 2, but 3 spells.

Thanks to the double-counting of so many debuffs and effects in the firebird ramp, I've found that a non-crit molten still gets me perma-DoT. I also don't really see how slow play is a problem, you can keep kiting forward with apocalypse while you cool down. Certainly if it is fast enough for T6, then it is fast enough for GRs, which are already much slower.

The main problem with molten to my mind (the only problem, really), is RG sustained damage output. I find I clear elites noticeably faster with the insta perm DoT with guaranteed strongarm snapshot. That said I've been leaning towards mammoth lately for RG damage. Kiting elites for longer isn't necessarily a problem, the fast elite kill speed with molten is mainly only important if the elite has bad affixes.

09/15/2014 11:15 AMPosted by Jaetch
I thought about this, but realized that AP really shouldn't be that big of an issue unless you over-spam Apocalypse. It's really a DPS issue in higher GRs (at least for me, personally), so I'd take Force Weapon over Conduit.

I've gone back and forth a lot on this one. I can't say as I've honestly made up my mind yet, but the ability to pop out apocalypse any time you see a monster not currently covered by it feels very nice. Feeling AP starved all the time is pretty irritating.

09/15/2014 11:15 AMPosted by Jaetch
A few of us were talking about this on Mumble last night. The Haunt from Band of Hollow Whispers apparently isn't the WD's Haunt, so it's not cold damage.

That's good to know. What damage type is it? If it inherits from weapon type we could still fix it to be cold.

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