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Zombies + Sacrifice: unbeatable burst AOE?

Posted 8 May 2012 by

The DiabloWikiwitch doctor has the ability to summon Zombie Dogs and Sacrifice them, obliterating everything nearby in a similar fashion to corpse explosion in Diablo 2. At first glance, Sacrifice seems strong, but not overwhelmingly so; however, its greatest feature is the high level of synergy it has with a number of other abilities.

With the appropriate skill selection, a flurry of zombie-explosions can net 25,000%+ weapon damage in a matter of moments. Skeptical? We were too – read on for the gory details.

As with all pre-launch content, keep in mind that much of this is pure speculation and theorycraft; much can change between now and the 15th.

TL;DR: Conservatively, 10,000-25,000% weapon damage burst is achievable by using:
1. Soul Harvest – 5 stacks
2. Sacrifice – Next of Kin
3. Zombie Handler (passive)
4. Pierce the Veil (passive)

Round up a bunch of mobs, spam the sacrifice button – that’s all there is to it. Dogs will keep passively resurrecting, so keep smashing that sacrifice button. Our assumptions to get these numbers are very conservative on the low end, and more realistic on the high end – read below for details.


Skill Selection and Build Efficiency

The idea behind the Zombie Dog/Sacrifice build is pretty basic – you summon Zombie Dogs and blow them up, damaging everything around them in an AOE (12 yards). Various skills allow the dogs to resurrect themselves, allowing you to blow them up again. You’ll notice below that there are two categories of damage: “1 cast” and “2 cast”. This refers to the idea that you can summon your dogs and wait for the summon spell to come off cooldown before blowing them up, effectively allowing you to re-summon and sacrifice them again. “1 cast” assumes the summon is on cooldown and you can only use this attack combination once, “2 cast” assumes you can re-cast Zombie Dogs immediately. All results will be expressed in terms of percent of weapon damage.

The core build:
1. Summon Zombie Dogs
2. Sacrifice – Next of Kin
RESULT: 1,265% (1 cast), 2,530% (2 cast)

There are several abilities that provide additional direct sources of potential damage for this build, though they are not equal in terms of the amount of damage they provide. The following abilities are listed in order of the amount of  their damage potential:

1 cast 2 cast Dmg Boost
Core Build 1265% 2530% -
Soul Harvest (5 stack) 3163% 6326% 150%
Zombie Handler 1678% 3356% 33%
Soul Harvest (1 stack) 1645% 3290% 30%
Mass Confusion 1574% 3148% 24%
Big Bad Voodoo 1574% 3148% 24%
Pierce the Veil 1518% 3036% 20%
Circle of Life 1306% 2612% 3%

Key assumptions here are that Big Bad Voodoo and Mass Confusion will be affecting 75% of the enemies in the pack. If this number is more or less, these abilities are more or less valuable. At 100%, they are even with Zombie Handler and at 50% they are worse than Pierce the Veil. We also (conservatively) assume that each sacrificed dog is hitting 1 monster per explosion and killing 1 monster per explosion.

  • Soul Harvest is the clear winner in terms of potential damage, adding roughly the same or better than any other option and has the potential to provide much more.
  • Zombie Handler is the clear second choice, as it provides more damage than other options and has a guaranteed effect

Making those changes leaves us with the following build:

The efficient build
1. Summon Zombie Dogs
2. Sacrifice – Next of Kin
3. Soul Harvest (5 stacks assumed)
4. Zombie Handler
RESULT: 4,194% (1 cast), 8,388% (2 cast)

And leaves the following options:

1 cast 2 cast Dmg Boost
Efficient Build 4194% 8388% -
Mass Confusion 5225% 10450% 25%
Big Bad Voodoo 5225% 10450% 25%
Pierce the Veil 5033% 10066% 20%
Circle of Life 4331% 8662% 3%

Here things get a bit trickier – the only obvious choice is to remove Circle of Life. Pierce the Veil provides a 20% damage boost to every spell you have, but comes at the cost of some mana. Mass Confusion and Big Bad Voodoo can provide more damage than Pierce the Veil, but requires that you kill monsters affected by their respective debuffs.

Overall, Pierce the Veil seems to be the winner, but at this point it’s down to preference.

The all-out build:
1. Summon Zombie Dogs
2. Sacrifice – Next of Kin
3. Soul Harvest (5 stacks assumed)
4. Zombie Handler
5. Pierce the Veil
6. Mass Confusion – Devolution
7. Big Bad Voodoo
8. Circle of Life
RESULT: 6,600% (1 cast), 13,200% (2 cast)


Playing with Assumptions

Note again our conservative assumptions:

  • Each dog hits 1 monster per explosion
  • Each dog kills 1 monster per explosion
  • 75% of enemies are affected by confusion and/or ritual zone
  • 5 Stacks of Soul Harvest
  • 0% Bonus weapon damage from other sources

If we change these to something more realistic for an AOE bomb on a monster pack:

  • Each dog hits 2 monsters per explosion
  • Each dog kills 1.5 monsters per explosion
  • 75% of enemies are affected by confusion and/or ritual zone
  • 5 Stacks of Soul Harvest
  • 50% Bonus weapon damage from other sources

Or take a look at ideal conditions:

  • Each dog hits 3 monsters per explosion
  • Each dog kills 2 monsters per explosion
  • 100% of enemies are affected by confusion and/or ritual zone
  • 5 Stacks of Soul Harvest
  • 50% Bonus weapon damage from other sources
Assumptions Core Build Efficient Build All-Out Build
Conservative 2530% 10065% 13200%
Realistic 7590% 24156% 31680%
Aggressive 11385% 36234% 47520%

As you can see, the damage scales upward rapidly as conditions improve. Click here to download a spreadsheet that allows you to tinker on your own (File, Save As).


Important factors for calculation:

  1. Pierce the Veil damage is multiplicitive
  2. Soul Harvest damage is additive
  3. No more than 4 dogs can be alive at any given time
  4. Each “cast cycle” assumes all monsters are dead after two cast cycles – Big Bad Voodoo and Mass Confusion will allow this combination to be chained for a longer period of time.

Page 2: Show me the math!

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