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As I near the end of Nightmare, I have come to realize that the single most useful skill I have is Spirit Walk.

I use it constantly, and it has saved my life more times than I can count.

It is also the only ability Witch Doctors have that breaks crowd control.

I believe that there are items that add crowd control resistance, or reduce the duration of crowd control, but I just don't see how Spirit Walk isn't going to be more and more necessary as I get to Hell and then Inferno.

Are there viable strategies for Witch Doctors that don't require this skill, or is it really as important as it seems? How do you handle Hell and Inferno champions/rares/uniques without Spirit Walk?

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Spirit Walk is a skill that fits into a category that I like to call "Panic Button". These skills can have other uses, but they're generally skills that are very good at getting you out of a bad place.

The Witch Doctor has a few other ones.

Horrify

This will pretty immediately clear the space around you of enemies. It will give you a few seconds to catch your breath and set up for the battle to continue. If you rune it for 100% bonus armor for 8 seconds, that will give you an additional boost for 4 seconds as the battle continues. Alternatively, you could rune it for move speed to help you get out of there as fast as possible.

Hex

If you are being chased by only one enemy, Hex will immediately chicken that enemy and allow you to catch your breath and get some bonus damage in. You can heal up and space yourself appropriately while he's a chicken so you can be ready when he comes back into his normal form. This particular tactic was the only way I was able to beat Izual on Hell difficulty solo. For some reason, Izual can be chickened, although I don't think any other bosses can. It's also particularly effective against rare monsters.

Grasp of the Dead

You need to either rune this for 80% slow or reduced cooldown for it to be particularly effective as a defensive ability. Both of these are solid choices, but the 80% slow against any enemy without the Fast affix is as good as just stopping them outright. This is very effective as a pre-emptive panic button. If you see a huge horde of enemies running at you, retreat to a choke point and cast Grasp of the Dead to prevent them from coming near you.

Fetish Army

The Fetish Ambush rune will get you out of a bind quite effectively. You spawn 6 fetishes, each dealing 250% weapon damage in an area when they spawn. This will usually kill everything in your immediate vicinity, and then you will have an army of meat shields to help you position yourself properly afterwards.

Spirit Vessel

This passive will save you from death once, but it really works best in conjunction with Spirit Walk. If you're using Horrify or Soul Harvest, however, this can definitely be a viable choice even without Spirit Walk.

Ultimately, however, Spirit Walk accomplishes multiple things at once, which none of these other spells do. Out of all of these options, none have the sheer utility of Spirit Walk. I recommend, if you insist on not using Spirit Walk, using at least two or more of these other abilities. I actually use Spirit Walk, Grasp of the Dead, and Hex most of the time for maximum survivability, and I still occasionally get cornered and have nothing to do but maximize my DPS before I die. Spirit walk is really, really good.

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How do you handle Hell and Inferno champions/rares/uniques without Spirit Walk?

I can think of a few:

  • Die a lot.

  • Teaming up with classes other than Witch Doctors.

But seriously, Spirit Walk has one other benefit: there is a rune, Honoured Guest, which makes Spirit Walk restore 15% of your Mana every second spirit walk is active, and that on a short cool down!

Therefore I can't see any serious end game build without Spirit Walk. It has both emergency and mana regeneration, which is almost too good to be true.

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Does teaming up with other classes (or multiplayer in general) really help? Does having a Barbarian in melee still help with a pack of mortar jailer arcane fast champions? –  Beofett May 24 '12 at 14:43
    
I would say teaming up might help a bit, but you will still die an awful lot without Spirit Walk just because of the way threat (or rather, lack of threat) works in the game –  Rachel May 24 '12 at 15:30
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There are some ways to work around using Spirit Walk. I've had decent success without using it and using the Spirit Vessel passive and Soul Harvest with the Siphon rune.

It seems like Blizzard's website is currently down, so I'll post the build in the calculator after it returns.

The build is:

Actives:

  • Zombie Charger - Zombie Bears rune (increase AoE damage and turns charger in a pack of bears!)
  • Grasp of the Dead - Unbreakable Grasp rune (increases snare effect)
  • Soul Harvest - Siphone rune (Heals X health per unit hit by the ability)
  • Mass Confusion - Mass Hallucination (Giant Spirit attacks people for 35% Weapon Damage for duration of ability)
  • Big Bad Voodoo - Ghost Trace or Rain Dance (Regains Health or Mana)
  • Horrify - Frightening Aspect (Increases Armor by 100% for 8 seconds after using the ability.

Passives:

  • Blood Ritual
  • Vision Quest
  • Spirit Vessel

This build really works best in multiplayer though, when having the extra CC is really valuable. Spirit Walk is still the best defensive ability that you can use for playing solo though, so I'd probably suggest just keeping it there.

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