My decision to speak about a melee oriented Witch Doctor does not stem from my desire to make one, but rather because of the inevitability that somebody will attempt it. The Witch Doctor is already somewhat of an oddball of a character and those wishing to build a character completely on novelty alone will probably shoot for this build at some point in their Diablo 3 career. This is my best guess as to how such a build will be accomplished. It uses the current information on skills and runes as well as my own conjecture of how these skills and runes will function in tandem.
None of the Witch Doctor's skills are inherently melee oriented, but if one looks they can see that it may very well be a possibility. The Spirit Tree is host to a number of crowd control spells, a spell for movement called Spirit Walk, a spell for temporary invulnerability called Death Pact. The Zombie Tree and Voodoo Tree do not seem to be focused on control or regeneration as the Spirit Tree is, which is why I am not including skills from those skill trees.
These Spirit skills do not lend themselves to close quarters combat when viewed alone, but with the right skill rune setup, I believe that together they will provide enough crowd control to prevent the Witch Doctor from taking damage while he whacks away at enemies. The focus on regeneration, protection, and movement within the tree also leads me to believe that it will lend itself to melee combat. This, coupled with skill rune effects, could potentially turn these seemingly tame abilities into deadly Damage over Time skills or enhance their effects for even greater protection.
Known Rune Types
The description after each rune is my estimation of what each rune will do or already does.
* Energy Rune - Not Known. I am guessing it will add buffs or debuffs.
Perhaps refills health/mana/skill resource on ability hit/activation.
* Viper Rune (named Lethality before) - causes additional effects upon enemy death
* Hydra Rune (named Multistrike before) - causes abilities to create copies or hit additional enemies
* Force Rune (named Power before) - causes abilities to be more potent
* Striking Rune - causes abilities to deal additional damage
Examples of Possible Effects:
We do not yet know what this rune does, but it seems to be named correctly for what I have in mind. This combination could possibly allow it to steal health as well as mana when using the Soul Harvest skill. It could become a nice Area of Effect skill that heals the Witch Doctor when his health is low.
Spirit Walk could function not only as a way to escape combat, but perhaps as a way to restore health or add a defense buff, if say, an energy rune was added to it that allowed rapid health regeneration while Spirit Walking, or perhaps a temporary boost to defense immediately after Spirit Walking.
Mass Confusion or Horrify coupled with a Striking Rune could possibly add stun or slow to the spells, or perhaps even damage, allowing additional crowd control or more effective crowd control. Did you ever wish the Necromancer had a curse that directly damaged an enemy? This would be an example of that.
If Striking Rune works the same with with Spirit Walk as it does with Teleport for the Wizard, Spirit Walk may become an important opening move for the Witch Doctor, causing a large explosion of damage as he exits the spirit world.
These rune-enhanced crowd control skills would turn the Witch Doctor we all know as being a summoner/caster into a defensively oriented, crowd controlling melee warrior when equipped with the correct armor and weapon. Since the passive skills within this tree help with mana management, energy resources could be kept at minimum, allowing equipment choices to be more focused on Damage, Defense, and Life instead of magical capability.
The Witch Doctor starts the battle by using Spirit Walk to sneak into a large group of enemies. The Witch Doctor explodes into existence, damaging all nearby enemies and attracting their attention. The Witch Doctor then uses Mass Confusion to have the enemies turn on each other. With the enemies distracted, he is free to use his melee weapon to attack the enemies which are still focused on him. When he gets low on health, he uses horrify, and quickly follows it up with Soul Harvest to regain some of his health and mana.
I have been looking at the Voodoo skill tree and Jungle Fortitude and Hex have caught my eye.
Jungle Fortitude could boost the WD's life bar quite high if properly equipped, the skill would provide a sizable boost to Vitality as it would increased by 9% of your Strength, 9% of your Dexterity, and 9% of your Willpower. Since a melee WD would have a large amount of Strength and Dexterity from items, his vitality would be quite a bit higher than most other classes, enabling him to be much more effective at close range.
Hex is interesting because we do not yet know what it does. If the Hexes turn out to be debuffs, they could very well serve a melee WD, providing yet another source of crowd control.
I would appreciate feedback. Please use the forum to discuss the plausibility of such statements, the viability of such a build, and the appeal of playing a melee Witch Doctor. Additional hypothesis on rune/skill combinations will be very helpful, as well as insight into the uses of skills in the other two trees. Weapon and armor combinations would also be helpful.