This guide is intended to cover the wizard class in inferno; i.e. what the popular builds are and how to gear your wizard in a general sense.
A friend of mine just hit 60 on his wizard and asked me to write something up for him so I decided to make it into this post in case anybody else is interested.
It’s a general guide; if I don’t mention your build or your strategy it doesn’t mean I think it sucks, I’m just posting general information on what I perceive to be the popular builds and strategies. The guide is geared towards preparing for and clearing act3/4 inferno, and eventually farming act 3.
1) BLIZZARD KITING BUILDS
This build’s strength comes from the use of two combos: Blizzard’s strong 60% slow + Venom Hydra’s stacking DOT pools, and Teleport + Illusionist. To play this build you want to engage from max distance (preferably the very edge of the screen) by dropping a hydra about halfway between you and the mobs and then dropping a blizzard on top of them and then a line of blizzards between you and them. This way the mobs will walk through your blizzard trail while slowed and take continuous damage from both the blizzard and the venom hydra. When possible, you spam your signature spell to add damage.
Continue this while kiting. When/if the mobs eventually get to you, you take a hit (which is reduced to 35% of your HP by force armor) and then teleport away. Since you have illusionist, you can do this every time you take a hit. For sustainability in the longish fights vs. elites you need some form of healing - life regen/sec is the most effective in combination with force armor.
This is the build I used to clear inferno and after trying numerous other builds its what I’ve come back to and currently use to farm act 3. A lot of people find it boring but its very efficient. Since 1.0.3 I have not had to skip a single elite pack in act 3 while farming and I generally die less than once an hour farming act 3.
+Least gear dependant of all the builds, great for new 60 wizards, but still scales well
+Extremely safe due to permanent Blizzard slow + Illusionist/Teleport
+Great AOE damage from Blizzard + Venom Hydra + Piercing Orb
-Some people find it boring
-You have to kite a lot, you can’t stand and tank like the prismatic armor builds
-Relies somewhat on skillful play to avoid taking hits
Signature Spell - I like Piercing Orb for better AOE damage and for shielding/invulnerable minion packs, but some people prefer Magic Missile - Seeker.
Blizzard - Stark Winter is a viable alternative to Snowbound.
Teleport - Some people prefer Fracture to Wormhole, both are fine.
4th Skill - I recommend Force Weapon at lower gear levels, but once you get enough DPS you can switch to Diamond Skin, or if you find yourself dying too much. Some people think Familiar - Sparkflint is better than Force Weapon. Some people like Mirror Images or Frost Nova here too, but I don’t think they are as strong.
Guide continued after the page break..
2) CRITICAL MASS BUILDS
These are the builds I have the least experience with, so I would refer people to the In Depth Critical Mass CDR Wizard Guide for more specifics on what’s probably the most popular variant of the build.
+ Much less kiting required, can often stand still and spam abilities
+ Some consider it more fun/exciting, possibly more fast paced depending on the variant
+ Able to put out massive dps - see the video of the Belial kill on the link above
- More gear dependant than the force armor builds
- Not nearly as safe as the blizzard/vhydra build since you are in melee range and don’t have teleport
- Requires careful play to make sure the combo doesn’t “fizzle out”
These builds are kiting builds similar to the Blizzard build above, but replace Blizzard with Arcane Orb + Temporal Flux for the slow. At higher gear levels it’s possible to drop Temporal Flux altogether due to the damage output of Arcane Orb. The basic strategy is similar to the Blizzard build above; engage from max range, drop Hydra and spam Arcane Orb while kiting. When you get caught, you rely on Illusionist + Teleport to get away.
+Less gear dependant than the Critical Mass or Archon builds
+High burst damage from hard hitting Arcane Orbs
+Fairly safe kiting build
-Not as safe as the Blizzard build since you are using a weaker/less reliable slow
-More gear dependant than the Blizzard build
-Relies on kiting, which some find boring
Orb - Tap the Source is the most popular rune for Arcane Orb, but some people use Obliterate or Celestial Orb. To use these you probably need to add a signature spell, likely Magic Missile - Seeker.
Hydra - Arcane Hydra can be used instead of Venom Hydra to make the build safer by adding a more reliable slow. It is less damage, but not tons less and is perfectly viable/safer. Probably better at lower gear levels.
Teleport - Again, some prefer Fracture to Wormhole.
3rd and 4th Skills - Any combination of Diamond Skin / Force Weapon / Familiar - Sparkflint / Frost Nova / Mirror Images is fine.
Passives - At higher gear levels you can drop Temporal Flux for something else.
4) ARCHON BUILDS
These builds revolve around being in Archon the most time possible and using it to quickly melt everything. They are the most gear dependant, but probably also the most efficient at the highest levels of gear. Your buffs such as Energy Armor, Force Weapon and Familiar persist into Archon form, which itself also adds 40% resists/armor. The goal is to buff your dps as high as possible, pop archon, and maintain it by killing tons of mobs to get a bonus to the duration from each kill.
Once Archon ends your goal is to refresh it as quickly as possible so that you can do it again. Actually killing things with Archon is self-explanatory, just hold down right click and point at the mobs. Don’t forget that you likely don’t have an escape or CC spell though and will quickly die if you allow anything to actually get to you and hit you.
+Insane speed/efficiency at high gear levels
+Hilariously fun to melt entire screens of enemies in 1-2 seconds and champ packs in 5-10 seconds
+Great AOE damage, great single target damage, trivializes certain boss fights
-Most gear dependant build
-Not very safe while in Archon form due to no escape spell or CC
-Weak/vulnerable when Archon is on cooldown
Choices / Variants:
Archon Rune - I think Improved Archon, Teleport or Pure Power are the best. Some people use Slow Time. What you do when you aren’t in Archon is up for debate. Some people take Arcane Orb and try to farm or at least clear white mobs with that while Archon is down. Another strategy (the one in the build linked above) is to take Critical Mass and either Wicked Wind or Spectral Blades to try to refresh Archon as quickly as possible. I prefer the latter.
GEARING YOUR WIZARD FOR INFERNO
The Wizard DPS spreadsheet, the best way to compare gear and decide on potential DPS upgrades:
The EHP calculator, an essential tool if you’re using force armor and very useful regardless:
The maximum values of stats which can appear on gear of different slots:
Offense - Your primary offensive stats are int, crit chance, crit damage, attack speed and bonus damage, and not necessarily in that order. The relative value of all of these stats depends entirely on how much of them you already have, and the only good way to figure it out for you individually is with the DPS spreadsheet I linked above.
Just as an example, for me with my current gear my equivalencies are as follows: 1% crit = 27.28 int, 1% crit damage = 4.47 int, 1% IAS = 22.29 int, and 1 average bonus damage = 2.52 int. Bonus damage is an often overlooked damage stat that can be very valuable and can often be found on jewelry for less cost than its worth because people overlook it.
Stacking crit + crit damage is really the only way to get very high dps.
2h vs 1h + source is an endless debate, but after trying both extensively I prefer 1h + source, mostly because you can get crit chance on the offhand which I think at higher gear levels pushes 1H+OH over any 2h. If you are just starting out in inferno a good 2h may be cheaper and a better way to go initially.
Defense - Your primary defensive stats are vit, % life, bonus armor (which includes strength), resistances (which includes intellect), life regen, dexterity (everybody should have at least 100), movement speed (which includes IAS), and for some builds life on hit. Which of these stats and how much of them you want depends very much on whether you are using force armor or prismatic armor, which I’ll address more below.
Gearing by slot:
As you’ll have noticed from above, various different stats can appear or can not appear on different slots, and in different amounts. That means there is a strategy for which stats you want to look for on each slot. Generally, the slots you should focus on for offensive stats are your jewelry, helm, bracers, gloves, weapon and offhand, while you should focus on defensive stats on your shoulders, chest, legs, belt, and boots because, except for legendaries, those slots can’t spawn the good dps stats. Every slot should have some amount of int.
Helm - You want the highest int and crit chance you can afford. A socket is nice, but not necessary and sometimes artifically inflates the price. Use a calculator to compare your gain from the % life on the socket to what you can get on an unsocketed helm in terms of vit and % life. This is one of the two slots (gloves are the other) that can spawn particularly high int, so this is a relatively cheap place to get a lot of it.
Gloves - You really want int, crit chance and crit damage all on this item. This slot, along with the amulet and the weapon, is the best place to look for crit damage. These three slots (gloves/ammy/weapon) are likely going to be both the most expensive and the most worth spending on. Again, one of the two slots that can spawn especially high int.
Bracers - Again you want int and crit chance here. There are a lot of these on the market, probably due to crafting, so this is a slot you can get a very good value on.
Amulet - Similar to the gloves, but more expensive. Int, crit chance and crit damage are all mandatory. Bonus damage is a nice plus as well, and can lead to you getting more of a bang for buck on this slot. For example, an amulet with +15-25 damage adds 20 average bonus damage, which for me would equate to an additional 50 int in terms of dps. IAS would be great but unless you are super rich you aren’t getting all of that on one amulet.
Rings - Crit chance and crit damage both spawn on this item, but the crit damage modifier on rings is fairly low and adds a ton to the cost of the item. Its often a better idea to skip it in favor of getting more crit chance, some bonus damage, or some IAS.
Weapon - If you’re just starting out this is going to be one of your biggest purchases, and is also your biggest opportunity to both get a ton of value or to vastly overspend. Basically, weapon DPS is highly overvalued by a lot of people, and the stats on the weapons are undervalued, although that is becoming less true as more people are figuring this out.
For example, with my current gear I could replace my 789 dps weapon (with 126 int, 65% crit damage and a socket with a 90% crit damage gem) with a 1450 dps blue weapon with no stats and I would lose dps. A 1500 dps blue weapon with no stats would very slightly raise my dps. Obviously such weapons don’t even exist.
The point is to use the spreadsheet when you make this purchase and actually figure out which weapons are best before you overspend for listed dps. Another thing is that weapon speed on a 1h matters when you are using an offhand and have bonus damage from gear, so you are generally going to want to buy either a sword, wand, or dagger.
The 1.3 speed 1h axe can be acceptable too if it has good enough stats, but a 1.2 speed mace or spear needs much higher stats to be better so they probably won’t be cost efficient for you.
Offhand - Bonus damage is king on this item. Basically at a minimum you want the numbers on the offhand to add up to 400, for a total of 200 bonus damage, bare minimum. Don’t buy anything less than that. 450 total is better and what you’ll want eventually, and 500 total is near perfect. The biggest stat to look for on this item is crit chance. You really want a source with the highest bonus damage and crit chance that you can afford.
Shoulders - Int/vit/resists/life regen. Nothing special here, probably the most boring slot for wizards. I wore a blue archon spaulders with 170 int / a bunch of vit for the longest time, because there just isn’t anything special here. Probably best to pick up something like that if you’re on a budget. Good slot to get your resists as they are usually cheaper here than on chest/pants.
Chest - One of the two slots that can spawn a particularly high vit, the other being the pants. Also the slot that can spawn the most life regen. If you’re using a force armor build you want life regen here. Also, its almost always best to get one with 3 sockets.
Belt - Sort of like the shoulders, nothing really special here. It can spawn high strength so sometimes that’s a good find as strength = armor and you get 65% more of it from energy armor. Like shoulders, a good slot to get your resists as they are usually cheaper than on chest/pants.
Legs - Another slot to get your vit from. Get one with 2 sockets, it's almost always better.
Boots - 11%+ movement speed is mandatory, and 12% is better. This is a slot that can spawn high dex so it’s a good place to make sure you’re over 100. Another good spot to grab resists potentially.
Force Armor vs. Prismatic armor builds:
If you’re going for prismatic armor you’re going to need a lot more EHP and resistances. If that’s the case, there really isn’t much to say other than just get as much as you can afford. However, for force armor its much more tricky.
Force armor reduces any hit to 35% of your HP, but it cannot reduce the hit by more than 100% of your HP. Therefore, Force Armor does one of four things when you get hit:
A) The hit is for less than 35% of your HP. Force Armor does nothing.
B) The hit is for more than 35% of your HP but less than 135% of your HP. The hit is reduced to 35% of your HP.
C) The hit is for more than 135% of your HP but less than 199% of your HP. The hit is reduced by 100% of your HP and you live with a varying amount of life left depending on how hard the hit was.
D) The hit is for more than 199% of your HP. Since Force Armor can only reduce it by 100% of your HP, you die.
The short story is that for Act 3 inferno you want 117.5k EHP in order to not take more than 35% of your life from any hit. This is fairly easy to obtain. Also, fire and physical are the most common sources of damage so you can fudge a little bit by getting those to 117.5k EHP while shorting the others a little.
Obviously, there are various ways to get to 117.5k EHP, because vit, % life, resistances and armor all contribute. However, the optimal way to do it is by raising resistances and armor as much as possible while reducing vit and % life. You will still need a good bit of HP, probably at least 20k, but if you can get to 117.5k EHP while keeping your life low your survivability will increase dramatically because you will get a much larger benefit from heals.
This makes the life regen stat very strong. If you can get to 117.5k EHP with 20k hp, then 1k of life regen will full heal you in 20 seconds and heal a hit that is absorbed by force armor in 7 seconds.
AP on Crit:
This stat is important for some builds and only appears on Wizard Hats, Sources, and Wands. It’s expensive on good items and part of what makes the critical mass and arcane orb builds more gear dependant.
I’ve played a wizard as my main character since release. I cleared inferno on 6/7/12, pre-patch: http://imgur.com/4bbB6
My current stats in my farming gear: http://imgur.com/Zdgs3 / http://imgur.com/njzBh
My current gear: http://imgur.com/tfMya
The build I’m using in the previous screenshots: http://imgur.com/iJaPi
My follower for Act 3 soloing: http://imgur.com/jOclZ