Demon hunter build

This is as close as I’ll come to a Demon hunter ‘guide’. As usual it’s just ‘how I play my toon’. After reading last night that there is a huge variation of different class builds in Diablo 3, I thought I might record the one I’ve been using for the last couple of levels.

I just hit 60, and haven’t even looked at my lvl 60 runes yet. As soon as I hit 60 we killed some champs and I didn’t want to lose my nephalem buff!

In any case, here is the build I’ve been running with my demon hunter. It’s a fairly offensive/mobile build, as I’m playing with a very tanky Monk, but I’ll explain my playstyle below.

The build

Link to the battle net calculator with the build I’m running:!YeT!YYbbbY

I’ll run through these choices in more detail below, as I explain the play style.

The set up

I play with a Naga, and have 1-4 bound to thumb buttons, so the only time I’m using the keyboard is for potions and to lock my position. I play with my left hand hovering over shift and everything else is mouse driven. This allows me a lot of flexibility for stop-go style fighting, which I use a great deal with Hungering arrow.

The play style

I’ll run through these skill choices in detail here, outlining how/why I use each, along with the rune choices I’ve made.  I like to use positioning and angles to my advantage, and hence prefer piercing, mobility and strategic snaring and this specific playstyle heavily biases my preferred skills.

Primary skills

Left mouse button: Hungering Arrow, runed with Devouring Arrow

Hungering arrow gives me a great ‘homing’ primary attack, with piercing for extra damage, especially when the mobs are bunched up on a tank target or being forced through narrow corridors/doors. It’s a solid single target damage dealer wit the occasional extra target from piercing.

Dodging around ground effects while throwing Hungering arrows

But why I really prize Hungering arrow is as a kiting tool. As I mentioned above, I play a very staccato style demon hunter: I’m constantly stopping for an instant and firing a shot behind me as I kite, or dodge mortars et al. Hungering arrow is a shoot-and-hope skill: as long as I fire roughly ahead of the mob’s pathing, it will eat an arrow. In Hell, I can kite a high powered mob effectively indefinitely while throwing Hungering arrows, and it’s almost solely for this reason that it’s become my primary skill.

Right mouse button: Rapid Fire, runed with High Velocity

I’m a huge fan of Rapid fire, but it struggles a bit with the stop-go style I outlined above. Sometimes I force myself to stand still and dps hard – and Rapid fire is a satisfying way to do just that.

I love it because it’s a very powerful single target damage dealer, it’s great for focus fire on bosses/champs/treasure goblins and, as long as I am able to stand and unload for the whole duration, it’s a very efficient use of hatred.

I hate it because it’s very inefficient if I have to move. Knowing when it’s safe to stand still can be tricky, so it pays to know the damage patterns of the creatures you’re fighting – or you can end up attempting to start a couple of Rapid fires and end up with an empty hatred globe and nothing to show for it.

I rune this with High velocity as I am partial to piercing shots. It turns Rapid fire into a pretty reasonable multi-target ability on tightly clustered mobs. It can be also really useful for things like shooting through a mob pack to kill the pesky rezzer at the back.

Piercing through a cluster with Raipd fire + High velocity

And you can stand in one spot and slowly rotate Rambo-style, spraying bolts across the screen. Oh, yeah.

Action Bar Skills

1: Preparation runed with Battle Scars
This isn’t really about Preparation, it’s about Battle scars. I just find it impossible to say no to a 60% heal. The ability to top up my discipline, especially while kiting, is a bonus… but that’s not why I take this. A big heal on a reasonably short cooldown, thank you kindly.

2: Vault runed with Tumble
My second hunting skill, but one I find I can’t play without. This is when my thumb sits on my mouse, I vault…. a lot.

Vaulting. Before: bad room, very bad room

I’m not really a huge fan of any of the runes for this, Action shot doesn’t do enough damage to feel anything other than gimmicky, and the runes that effect the path are wasted, as I use it to tumble away from things, not through them. And adding a cooldown to tumble would leave me crippled, hobbled, lame!

Vaulting: after! Nice empty room, space to stand and shoot.

I use vault to:

  • move out of ground effects,
  • to deliberately move through ground effects,
  • to move to the clustered mobs to drop a caltrop and then quickly out again,
  • to kite,
  • to catch up to the combat after I’ve died,
  • to get a good angle for piercing,
  • to make myself look cool like Jason Nesmith.

Okay, maybe not the last one.

I use vault often, I use it reflexively, it’s a big part of why I enjoy the demon hunter.

3: Caltrops runed with Jagged Spikes
I’ve only recently forced myself to go back to using caltrops, so I’m still learning the ropes, but I’m already finding it hard to imagine playing without them. This kind of goes back to my choice of primary shot. Now that I’m using Hungering arrow rather than Entangling shot, I’m adding back a snare via the placement of caltrops.

Caltrops actually allow me to be more strategic about snaring that Entangling shot did: they can be pre-placed in bottle necks or planned kite paths. They can be dropped on the run. Tumble in and place them and then tumble back out. Very versatile!

Making a nice line of caltrops to edge the mobs back over.

I’m still playing around with the runes, I like most of the options: especially the extra snare, but I find having a place-able AOE is extremely useful. Especially in cases where I can’t get line of sight (hello wallers!) being able to drop a caltrop on the edge of terrain and still do decent damage is great!

Dropping a caltrop under the edge of a waller wall.

The damage from Jagged spikes isn’t trivial, I’ve even killed myself a few times kiting damage reflectors back and forth through spikes. Ow.

4: Multishot runed with Full Broadside
Ah multishot. Now I feel like a D2 bowazon. Well, a little.

I’ve bounced a bit between this and Rain of vengeance as my AOE skill, but have settled on this as I just find it easier to target. This isn’t to say that I don’t occasionally waste a big chunk of hatred by multishooting off in the wrong direction… sigh. But RoV just feels clunky. I hate the demon-bombing versions as they are static and we fight so much on the move. Dark cloud is the only runed version I used consistently, as it moves with you – but even then it’s hard to get all the mobs you want by the time the duration is over. I admit to feeling shackled by the cooldown.

Multishot. So delicious.

Multishot has it’s own ‘cooldown’ in that it’s very expensive runed this way, but I can manage that myself. It’s extremely powerful and flexible to be able to choose when to unload three multishots and emptying all your hatred, or whether just to throw in one to finish off a few low level mobs and then go back to generating hatred.

I have had a play with a few runed versions, I particularly like Arsenal and Fire at will, and have switched between these three quite a bit, but am favouring the raw damage output of FB at the moment.

Passive Skills

Steady Aim
A flat 20% extra damage when there’s no enemies within 10 yards. This is pretty much all of the time for me. Delicious free damage!

If you want to check what the 10 yards looks like, you can play for a bit with your character sheet open and watch your dps dynamically update as you move in and out of range. I wish this was displayed more ‘transparently’ with a buff, but it doesn’t take long to get a feel for your minimum distance.

Note that it doesn’t pay to let this dictate your positioning too much. There are times when being point-blank range is good, for example when fighting a mortaring mob, it can’t mortar you in melee range. The loss of dps being face-first would probably out weigh the running around you’d be doing at range.

More free dps! I’m using a crossbow at the moment, so that equates to extra crit damage. I haven’t looked at any maths for this, so not sure if it’s wonderful, but it ties in well with my last passive.

I have a love-hate relationship with this passive. It makes me think I have UBER DPS when I’m standing around in town and my crit chance has stacked to 100%. And as I’m doing extra crit damage, my character sheet is all OVER9000dps! Well actually much more than 900 dps is what it tells me, but I know it’s all lies.

Sharpshooter and the deceptive dps numbers

Well it’s is only partly lies. I do relish wandering around a quiet dungeon only to be suddenly jumped by one million scorpions. HAHA scorpions! Eat my 100% crit chance multishot with extra lasers and sharks! PEW PEW! Oh, they all died. Muahaha.

But despite the glorious funtimes, it does mean that my ‘in town’ character sheet isn’t telling the truth about sustained combat (which is where your damage really matters). Again, you can get a better feel for how your dps changes during sustained combat by opneing up your character sheet during combat; it sawtooths up and down as the crit buff builds up and drops. Again, another passive that I wish was an obvious buff on your toon.


So that’s my demon hunter for the moment. This is the build I’m running in Hell, so I might need to switch up to a whole lot more defensive group of skills/passives once I hit Inferno, but I don’t think I’ll be dropping my 1-3 action bar skills in a hurry.

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