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Summons are fun, however they do not seem viable in Hell or Inferno

We recently started Hell, and none of my summons survive more than a hit or two, even the Gargantuan, which is supposed to be the Witch Doctor's tank

Furthermore, I feel many of the Witch Doctors skills are mandatory to survive Hell+, such as Soul Harvest to prevent my dps from being laughable, or Spirit Walk to survive, or Vision Quest to keep mana up, which makes me feel like I have to play a Witch Doctor with a specific build if I want to play at higher difficulty levels.

Is it possible to be an effective summoning Witch Doctor in Hell or Inferno? And if so, how?

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I've seen some Inferno-level WD's indicate that Soul Harvest is less useful at end-game, and isn't worth the DPS gain. Here's one interesting thread that mentions it. –  Beofett May 24 '12 at 14:53

8 Answers 8

up vote 14 down vote accepted

EDIT: Due to changes in Patch 1.0.4, WD pets have received major buffs. I'm updating my answer to include the new information on pets.

Pets are certainly viable in Hell and even Inferno. With the introduction of patch 1.0.4, pets receive a number of benefits that will make them competitive again:

  • Increased base damage: gargantuan base damage is increased to 100% weapon damage, and humungoid, wrathful protector, and bruiser runes receive additional damage buffs
  • Decreased damage from elite effects: pets and followers now only receive 10% damage from plagued, molten, and frozen effects
  • Increased health: at level 60, gargantuans now receive an additional 50% of the player's maximum health; zombie dogs receive an additional 35% of the player's maximum health
  • Decreased max damage received per hit: the amount of damage zombie dogs and gargantuans can take from a single hit has been capped, and the cap both scales with level, and decreases with the player's armor and resistances.
  • General availability of the pets has been improved: Zombie Dog cooldown has been reduced from 60 to 45 seconds, Circle of Life passive has been buffed to give a 30% chance for a zombie dog over the old 5% chance, Tribal Rites now also reduces the cooldowns on Zombie Dogs and Gargantuan skills, and Grasp of the Dead's Death is Life rune now gives a 10% chance to spawn a health globe or zombie dog (previously it was 5% for a health globe)

The downside is that pets have a drastically reduced ability to proc abilities from gear, so pet-based crowd control and life on hit is no longer a viable main strategy (gargantuans can no longer proc effects at all, and zombie dogs have had two major nerfs to proc coefficients: rabid dogs went from a 1 coefficient to a 0.10, and burning dogs went from 1.0 to 0.05).

(source)

My original answer remains below:

Pet builds do appear to be viable, at least in Hell:

lv 58 WD here, zombie dogs are ok, i use them with the life leech rune along with my gargantuan plus the passive that allows them to take advantage of my life regen and thorns stats. They do last long enough for me to kill a huge mob, the only thing that kills them in a spilt second in hell is them dam elites and arcane sentries, and poison clouds. Just gotta have good items according to you level, high in armor vit and intel. btw let me know what you guys are rocking..

The issue is proper gear.

Contrary to rumor, Vitality does not impact pet health. However, Strength and Intelligence add armor and resistances. This makes a huge difference in pet durability. A number of people are claiming good results using builds with the Fierce Loyalty passive, stacking health regen to extend pet lifespans. Thorns effects can be stacked to add much needed damage to the pets.

Based on these discoveries, there is speculation that pets are viable through Inferno... with the right gear and build. At least one person claims to be using this tactic in Act 3 of Inferno:

Currently playing as a Minion Reflector WD in Inferno. Stack as much Life Regeneration + Thorn + Int gear as you can.

Left Click - Haunt + Resentful Spirit Rune
Right Click - Firebats + Plague Bats Rune
1 - Spirit Walk + Honored Guest Rune
2 - Summon Zombie Dogs + Rabid Dogs Rune
3 - Gargantuan + Restless Giant Rune
4 - Soul Harvest + Siphon Rune

Vision Quest / Fetish Sycophants / Fierce Loyalty

I don't have to tank a damn thing. Just stay back, haunt and spray. Reflecting 4k back on damage, and healing back 3k+ health per second which also applies to my minions.

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Here's the Skill Calculator build that forum poster is using; it looks extremely interesting! –  Jarrod Dixon May 25 '12 at 18:17
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I added excerpts to your answer for the forum posts you cite: Blizzard has completely nuked their forums in the past and I wouldn't trust them to be around forever. –  user3389 Jul 8 '12 at 16:07

You might read many people dissing summoning, saying that their pets get one-shotted once they hit Hell. Contrary to belief, Vitality doesn't improve pet health! If you wear gear that helps improve your strength (armor rating) and dex (% chance to dodge), you will find the pets will live a little longer.

The real trick with pets is to wear gear that has a chance to cast "fear/blind/freeze" on hit. Also the best pets for this build are flaming dogs and big stinker zombie as they have a further % chance to hit per second with their auras. If you can focus on getting your % chance to hit over 10% you can potentially have 4 dogs, 1 zombie, 2 auras and your own spells creating havoc all over the screen. That is the build I've found works for me and I'm in act 3 Inferno. Have fun!

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I've got a level 60 Witch Dcotor and I've been playing in Hell and Inferno for a bit, and honestly I find the pets mostly useless (especially while playing in groups). The only time I find Gargantuan useful is using him for as a stun bot with the Bruiser rune.

You could easily make a Sacrifice AoE build with Zombie Dogs, but you'd probably still be using Zombie Charger or Firebats more anyways. You'd also give up a lot of other survivability options that you'd normally use in a Zombie Charger or Firebats build, though.

There are certain builds that don't really require Vision Quest. Spirit Walk is probably our best defensive ability. Soul Harvest also isn't a requirement if you're using DoT effects because damage gains are not retroactively applied to DoT damage (as in if you gain weapon damage or INT while DoTs are already applied you won't gain any damage on the DoT).

The Witch Doctor summon build is rather weak though IMO, so it is hard for me to think of a useful way to use it in Hell/Inferno. Which is sad because it is a fun build to mess around with.

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Sadly that's what I'm finding out as well... it doesn't really seem possible to be an effective Summoning Witch Doctor at higher difficulty levels. –  Rachel May 24 '12 at 18:07
    
Yea =/ The summons don't hit for enough damage, and don't have enough health. It is really sad because I feel like it is the most unique thing that the Witch Doctor class has, but just isn't as effective as alternatives. –  Klokworkk May 24 '12 at 18:14

So far in Hell difficulty (Act III at the time of writing) I have had very few issues with a summoner build. My currently used abilities are:

Left Button: Poison Darts - Splinters
Right Button: Soul Harvest - Soul to Waste (you could use anything that suits you for the rune, i.e. health gain, more damage, etc.)
1: Locust Swarm - Searing Locusts (468% fire damage over 8 seconds)
2: Spirit Walk - Healing Journey (7% max health)
3: Summon Zombie Dogs - Leeching Beasts (For that little extra health for me and my minions :3)
4: Gargantuan - Bruiser (I've used Big Stinker and Humongoid as well, they seem to work just fine, Restless Giant for bosses)

Passives:

Blood Ritual
Zombie Handler
Fierce Loyalty

My Stats are:

Armor: 2974 (50.20%, I do use a shield) Damage: 4302.25 (unbuffed, about 6k fully buffed)

Dodge Chance: 18.1%
Physical Resistance: 507 (63.23%)
Cold Resistance: 477 (61.80%)
Fire Resistance: 511 (63.41%)
Lightning Resistance: 501 (62.95%)
Poison Resistance: 479 (61.90%)
Arcane/Holy Resistance: 505 (63.14%)

Thorns: 193

Life per Second: 1337 (Seriously)

Observations: I didn't focus on Dexterity or Strength and even took gear with some lower Intelligence for +All Resistances. It seemed to make quite a difference. My pets used to die in 2-3 shots, sometimes even in one, and when fighting elites and champions? Wouldn't even stand a chance unless I kited them for what seemed like forever. Now I may lose 1-2 pets if I hit a group of about 20 normals (and that's when I'm not paying too much attention to them :) ) For elites and champions I lose about that many but only on ones that are arcane or have mass amounts of plaque circles about.

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I found a build that seems to play amazingly using garg poision,dogs life, spirit walk, fetishes while spammin bears..with 300% mana regen its infinate bears aoe damage and fast clearing through hell while u hardly get hit...bosses work the same as long as u have 4 abiluties on cd bear spam works

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Burning "Wrathful Protector" Garg for 15 seconds and Fetish Army for 20 just to keep them on cooldown to use Vision Quest so you can spam bears is not at all a summoner build (bears aren't a summon, really; they're purely a direct damage spell). –  Beofett Jun 7 '12 at 15:38
    
Its a build using lots of summons while spamming a direct damage spell never said bears was a summon :-) –  seth Jun 7 '12 at 20:49
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The idea of a "summoner" build is to rely on pets for damage, tanking, cc, or all three. The build you describe does none of those, and is not at all what is generally considered a "summoning" build (you have pets up less than half the time, at best). –  Beofett Jun 7 '12 at 21:41

rest my case.

... apparently I can't rest my case until I've written 30 characters here.. ;)

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Hi @Tjrne. Would you care to write a little bit about the video here? –  ElfSlice Jul 12 '12 at 22:36
    
well actually I don't know much more than whats written on the youtube page. Personally I've been having a great time using a "summoner build" for my WD. At times I've been dying quite alot, which made me wonder if it was sustainable to go with such a build. This has led me to this page and also the video I posted in my previously reply. I just found the video tonight and I am quite impressed by how fast he kills Butcher. As well as this guy crit'ing 220k!? It instantly made me wanna keep trying with my pets. I believe almost any build can work with the right gear and tactics. –  Tjrne Jul 12 '12 at 23:16
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While an entertaining video, the Butcher is not really a good indication of overall Inferno viability. Also, according to the title of that video, the WD had 165k DPS, in which case just about any skill would make short work of that fight. Even with that DPS, though, the build used (a sacrifice build) would require significant downtime due to the length of the cooldown on any content not on "easy farm" status, even with tricks like Next of Kin and Devolution. –  Beofett Jul 19 '12 at 19:56

Absolutely, I'm in inferno act 1 and I only use the garg - it's all about gear. I can solo with a summon build, no bears primary is splinters still, firebats are secondary but hardly used unless its a really full on elite pack.

I dont use any of the passives for pets either. I use potv, jungle fort and spirtual attunement. Just need to experiment but extra vitality and gear, gear, gear...

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Extra vitality does nothing for your pets (at least for the time being). –  Beofett Jul 19 '12 at 19:57

This is a cheapo + extremely low mana pet build using Gargantuan, Zombie Dogs, Spider Queen and Rain of Toads. The strategy here is to stack Intelligence using Soul Harvest and Gruesome Feast, self-healing with Life/hit + Siphon; and selectively casting Spider Queen at the right enemy (in this case, inferno Iskatu) for maximum damage. The gear used is nothing fantastic either.

Use Pierce the Veil to increase your base damage. With this build, you will NEVER run out of mana. But expect a longer killing time though since the dps is not awesome :(

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