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  1. #1
    IncGamers Member
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    Jun 2010

    Critical Mass Melee Wizard

    Edit 1.05:
    Wicked Wind still works, but now you need boatloads of attack speed to make it work. Attack speed plays double duty with wicked wind, increasing the rate at which you can cast twisters (so you have more active at a time) and also increasing the rate at which they tic. This quadratic scaling with attack speed makes it the most important stat for the build. Hitting the 2.73 attacks per second breakpoint is what really makes a critical mass wizard shine these days.

    A table of Wicked Wind breakpoints follows (taken from here):
     Minimum    Tick
       APS      rate
      5.0001      72
      4.2858      60
      3.7501      52
      3.3334      45
      3.0001      40
      2.7273      36
      2.5001      33
      2.3077      30
      2.1429      28
      2.0001      26
      1.8751      24
      1.7648      23
      1.6667      22
      1.5790      20
      1.5001      19

    Critial mass tanking has become a very popular wizard spec recently, and there's a lot of questions floating around about it. This thread is an attempt to condense the answers to most of those questions into one place, in the form of a guide.

    Why critical mass?

    Critical mass is a passive that has a chance to shave 1 second off all active cooldowns each time you crit. The idea of the critical mass wizard is to essentially spam spells that normally are cooldown limited. The spamming of diamond skin and frost nova essentially turns wizards into tanks, greatly increasing the damage we can soak, while simultaneously shutting down the damage output of enemies.

    The playstyle is very aggro, in your face, and button-mashy. It is a nice change of pace if you're tired of kiting. However, mistakes can lead to very very fast deaths, so expect to have some frustrating deaths as you learn to play the build, and get the gear in place.

    Build options:

    Primary "proc" skill:
    This is the skill you use to trigger critical mass procs. The common options are:

    Energy Twister - Wicked Wind: Wicked wind does horrible damage, but it is the best proc spell there is. Its strength as a proc spell scales quadratically with attack speed, making high attack speeds mandatory for the build.

    Meteor - Star Pact or Liquefy: This skill has a reasonably high proc rate, and unlike wicked wind, it does good damage. However, the lead time on meteor casts can make it annoying, and the lower proc rate can leave you more vulnerable as you wait on cooldowns. Some of these concerns can be mitigated by combining it with wicked wind in a hybrid build.

    Spectral Blade - Deep Cuts: The proc rate of this skill is the best of all signature spells, but nothing close to wicked wind. The advantage of this skill is of course the fact that it doesn't cost arcane power.

    Some builds will include deep cuts and one of wicked wind or star pact / liquefy, but any serious melee wizard should collect enough arcane power on crit gear to simply omit a signature spell. Because of the incredible proc rate I highly recommend wicked wind as your proc spell, and will assume that's the one you'll be using for the rest of the guide.

    For a complete list of critical mass proc rates for all spells see: 0E#gid=4

    Tanking spells:
    The spells that keep you from folding over like a wet paper bag.

    Diamond Skin - Crystal Shell: This makes you a tank, absolutely not optional. With enough energy twisters out you can easily cast diamond skin once a second, or more. If you are out-gearing content, you can change the rune to Diamond Shards for another source of AoE damage.

    Frost Nova - Cold Snap: This shuts down the damage output (and movement!) of enemies. Also not optional, if you want to tank, you have to use frost nova. Some people use Bone Chill for added damage, but I recommend starting with cold snap for the enhanced lockdown. Once you're comfortable with that, you can give other runes a try and see if you can maintain a good lockdown.

    Damage Dealer:
    If you're not using star pact as your proc spell, you need a damage dealing spell. If you are using star pact, you can skip this.

    Explosive Blast - Chain Reaction: 291% weapon damage to all targets within 12 yards with every activation, and you can activate it very often thanks to critical mass. Short fuse may seem tempting, but short fuse is attached to the swing timer, and chain reaction isn't - that means you can spam it without getting in the way of wicked wind spam.

    Armor Spell:

    Energy Armor - Prismatic Armor, Force Armor, or Pinpoint Barrier: Each of these has their use. On MP10 ubers I like force armor, mostly because maghda's bugs take most of my HP without it. Pinpoint will help your lockdown out, particularly if you are a little low on crit from your gear, and is my general purpose choice. Prismatic is okay, but since the nerf I don't really care for it all that much.


    Storm Armor - Shocking Aspect: If you are out-gearing content, and want to trade safety for damage, try shocking aspect. It will up your damage output quite a bit, particularly against bosses.

    Flavor to taste:
    There's a lot of possible options for your last active spell slot.

    Teleport - Wormhole or Fracture: My personal favorite, for a number of reasons. It gets you out of tight spots, it lets you skip trash more easily, it cuts down on your travel time. All around just good.

    Slow Time - Stretch Time: Faster attack speed. Wicked wind's quadratic attack speed scaling means this is awesome, if it will bump you up a breakpoint.

    Meteor - Liquefy: I know it is listed as a proc spell, but it is a good addition to the regular wicked wind build, having two proc skills, one with high damage and high AP cost, one with lower damage and lower AP cost. You can mix them together, casting more liquefies in situations where you have a good lockdown going and are getting lots of APoC returns, or focusing on wicked wind if you are getting a lockdwon set up and are AP starved.

    Magic Weapon - Blood Weapon: A little extra damage, and particularly some life leech. A great choice if you haven't been able to get a decent amount of LoH on your gear (or simply want to pursue other gear priorities).


    Critical Mass: Herp derp. Mandatory, obviously.

    Evocation: Shorter cooldowns means less critical mass procs are required to bring spells up again, thus I highly recommend this skill, especially if you're just starting out. If you have experience and feel comfortable with your lockdown, you can try other passives for more damage.

    Blur: You're a melee wizard, so it behooves you to have melee damage reduction. Highly recommended if you're just starting out. If you're well geared you can drop it to gain damage.

    Cold Blooded: To spite the wording on the description, this increases all your damage done to frozen targets, regardless of type. As such it is pretty much strictly better than glass cannon, except against bosses who won't stay frozen.

    Glass Cannon: More damage, obviously. Use with care. It can be good if you're out-gearing content, but you're almost certainly better off with cold blooded.

    Astral Presence: If you're having arcane power issues, this can help. However once you have a decent amount of arcane power on crit it should be a non-issue.

    If you're using Liquefy.

    Notes: If you intend to use glassy variant by using shocking aspect or diamond shards, but not both, go with shocking aspect. Diamond shards basically just does what chain reaction does, but not as well. Shocking aspect is a considerable single target dps increase for bosses - and losing prismatic armor, while bad for your survivability, isn't as bad as cutting your diamond skin's HP in half. Of course with enough gear you can do both, for even more damage.

    Final Build:
    From here on, I'm going to assume you're using this build:!Zbg!YZcaZZ
    This is the safest choice. If you want to trade safety for damage in one of the ways mentioned above, that's up to you.

    Gear Priorities:

    Critical Hit Chance: Obvious right? We need to stack the heck out of crit. I recommend at least 40% crit chance before you even try this build. Once you've hit 40% crit you need to start worrying about attack speed.

    Attack Speed: A high attack speed is mandatory. I recommend 2.74 attacks per second for the build to really work well. It can be done with less, but hitting that breakpoint really kicks things into high gear. Without a doubt the best way to get a high attack speed is using Chantodo's wand, which will give you a huge head start on attack speed, and is really the only way to achieve the higher wicked wind breakpoints. You can see the various attack speed breakpoints for wicked wind here:

    Arcane Power on Crit: 20 APoC is pretty much the way to go. You can get away with a little less (18ish) but not much. The more your attack speed scales up the less rigid the APoC requirement is, but you're always going to need it on at least two of the three slots for which it is available.

    Armor and Resist All: As much as you can get of both. These stats increase the effectiveness of your diamond skin dramatically. When choosing pieces, pick whicever gives you the most effective HP contribution from armor and resists. Effective HP from vitality and %life is far less important, because it doesn't effect your diamond skin. Effective HP from dex (dodge) is okay, but remember that it doesn't effect things like molten, desecrate, plague, arcane, etc - so it isn't as good as EHP from armor or resists. An EHP calculator can be found here:

    Vitality and %life: Because you rely on diamond skin spam for tanking, your life pool is not very important. Think of it as a buffer for when you make a mistake, because when things are going correctly you shouldn't be taking any life damage. That said, it is very irritating to have zero fault tolerance, so don't completely neglect these stats.

    Life on Hit: Generally you want this from at least one item, to get your HP filled back up when you do take health damage. It isn't super important that you have a ton of it, but 500-1000 LoH will make life much nicer.

    Crit damage and Int: Take whichever gives the most damage, slightly favoring int because of the resist all bonus. A socketed weapon is a good place to pick up a bunch of crit damage, so long as it also has the vital ap-on-crit, and is fast.

    Strength and Dex: Value strength exactly the same as armor (1str = 1armor), simply look at it as part of the EHP calculation. With dex there's some room for interpretation, but I value it at roughly half its EHP contribution as compared to other mitigation stats, because of damage that can't be dodged.

    Shield vs Source: Source. Either a rare source with APoC and crit, or a Chantodo. If you go with Chantodo and aren't rich, you'll need APoC on your hat and wand.


    Now that all the foreplay is out of the way, lets talk about how the build plays!

    The general strategy is simple, walk or teleport up to stuff, freeze it, and blow it up. Your first goal is to get stuff frozen so you don't die. Your next goal is to get energy twisters down so that they hit (and crit) as many enemies as possible. You don't want to necessarily spread them around, so much as you want to drop them on the area with the most monsters in it. Then you just spam frost nova, diamond skin, and explosive blast, while keeping energy twisters up. Frost nova has a larger area of effect than explosive blast, so you may have to move around a bit to kill enemies you've frozen out of range.

    Trash monsters are pretty easy, so I'll mostly just go on to talking about elites.

    Elite Mods and Types:

    The easiest elites are melee types, as they'll walk up to you, and are easily clustered so that all 3 (or however many if it is a rare pack) can be grouped in range of where your energy twisters spawn, and all be hit with frost nova and explosive blast. When they're grouped up like this, they can be completely locked down and destroyed without ever getting to do anything. Of course you don't need help killing the easy packs, so lets look at some affixes and how to deal with them:

    Fire Chains: Fire chains does lots of damage, so you can't stand in it. Normally you'd like to just drop yourself on top of the pack and spam away, but you can't do that here. Standing in a doorway to prevent them getting behind you and then locking them down with frost nova works well. If a doorway isn't available, any kind of choke point works. Corners work to some extent too, but are dangerous if you don't have teleport. They can also be locked down out in the open, particularly if they're a melee pack, but you need to be very aware of positioning and don't be afraid to displace if they start moving around. Once you get the lockdown established you're good to just spam until dead.

    Molten: Mostly the same problem as fire chains, but not quite as bad. Having them walk behind you doesn't really hurt any, you just can't drop yourself straight onto them with teleport, so walk up next to them and start spamming. Teleport away if something goes funky and you start taking molten damage. Also walk/teleport away when they're about to explode, unless you're over-gearing the act you're in.

    Electrified: Electrified eats up diamond skin pretty good, as freezing them doesn't stop the electrified spam from happening. With enough resists and armor you can just stand in the center and spam, but if you're having trouble, try to stand as far away as you can and still be hitting them. You may notice that the bolts tend to follow the same lines away from the monsters over and over, so you can displace slightly and have most of them miss you.

    Various Ground Effects: If they hurt, don't stand in them. For the most part plague doesn't hurt. Desecrate hurts some, but you can stand in it if you've got 3+ enemies standing in your energy twister spam, probably. Mortar isn't a big deal, you can soak it with diamond skin (and avoid most of it by being in melee).

    Vortex: Can be annoying with ranged attackers as they vortex you away from what you're locking down, and then scatter. Even with ranged it isn't much danger on its own, mostly it is a problem only when paired with frozen or arcane - in which case I hope you have wormhole, because the solution is to GTFO (repeatedly). You can also sometimes find bumps or edges in the terrain that will prevent vortex from pulling you all the way to the enemy.

    Teleport: Sort of annoying, as it makes them tougher to group up for lockdown. Still not really a problem unless paired with fire chains, in which case you have to be ready to move, fast.

    Horde and Illusionist: Candy! Lots of targets, lots of critical mass procs, easy and powerful lockdown. Horde with ranged types can sometimes be annoying though. For example the witches tend to spread out very effectively. The solution is often just to pin a few at a time rather than trying to get the whole group. 2-3 will set up a good enough proc rate that your diamond skin spam and frost nova spam will keep you alive, even with the ones out of range shooting at you.

    Knockback: Particularly annoying on ranged attackers, as when they knock you back it gives them a chance to scatter, and then you have to round them up for lockdown again. If you have wormhole, try to immediately teleport back to them and frost nova before they can get away.

    Nightmarish: Not much worse than knockback, except when it is paired with something like arcane or frozen, causing you to run into the arcane/frozen and get smoked. Particularly dangerous on ranged attackers in these cases, as you'll be trying to kite away from these effects and get feared back into them. Be extra careful to dodge projectiles while running away in such cases (and hope diamond skin is enough if it goes bad).

    Reflect Damage: Does nothing to you, basically. You're stacked on resists and armor, and spamming diamond skin. If it is combined with for example plague and electrified you can start to lose diamond skin faster than you can refresh it, forcing you to be a little more cautious about where you stand, but no big deal.

    Bad Affixes:
    None of the above are particularly bad, even when paired up. Sure teleport vortex molten fire chains can be annoying to lock down, and can hurt pretty bad if you're not on the ball, but it isn't the sort of thing you end up pulling your hair out over. The following 4 affixes are the ones I find cause the most trouble.

    4. Arcane: Arcane does more damage, and covers a larger area, than any other ground poop. You can't tank it unless you're out-gearing the content, so you're forced to displace when arcane drops, which breaks your lockdown and makes you start over.

    3. Frozen: Shuts you down hard. You can still cast diamond skin when frozen, but you can't cast frost nova, or refresh your energy twisters. As such, you need to GTFO any time freeze balls go down, which breaks your lockdown, making you start over. You also often have to displace quite a ways to avoid them. If you pick up mirror image instead of teleport freeze becomes easier, but a bunch of the other above affixes become way harder, so I don't recommend it.

    2. Invulnerable Minions: You can't crit invulnerable minions, which makes the boss (and any trash you can drag to the fight) your only source of critical mass procs. Fortunately the boss is a steady source of procs, and to spite being invulnerable the minions can be frozen by frost nova. Still, it is difficult to maintain any kind of a lockdown with only one enemy to proc off of.

    1. Shielding: The number one most annoying affix. When they're shielded, you can't proc off them, you can't freeze them, you can't do anything really. When shields go up it is generally time to displace. A lockdown against a shielding pack is unlikely, but sometimes it can be pulled off if they are melee. If you get them grouped up, and all unshielded at the same time, you can start the lockdown, and as long as the lockdown doesn't slip, they won't be able to cast their shield. In the more likely event that a lockdown proves impossible, you simply walk up to one that isn't shielded, spam your buttons until it shields, then walk over to a different one that isn't shielded. If you start taking a lot of hurt you may have to kite until your cooldowns come up the old fashioned way.

    Of course any affix isn't too bad on its own, but when it is paired with other bad affixes it becomes a problem. Shielding + Arcane + Vortex + Frozen? Ouch. All the same, these things can be dealt with. Lots of wormholing, using terrain to block vortex, kiting, and patience. However, in a farming run, you're better off skipping that sort of pack if possible.

    edit: new 1.04 video
    Describing gameplay works to a point, but it is better to just show it, so I made a video of a small segment of my act 3 farming run. The video covers zoning into tower of the cursed to killing azmodan. Total eleven and a half minutes counting killing trash. There are a few different types of elites in there, including a ranged type with shielding and molten as affixes - typically a pretty annoying combination - at 4:15. Hopefully it gives an idea of how the build plays:


    A thread with a lot of info and discussion on critical mass:

    Two different EHP calculators (choose your favorite):

    The build:!Zbg!YZcaZZ

    1.03 (Wicked Wind) Videos:
    Act 4 Full Clear
    10 minute Cydea + Azmodan
    Face Tanking Ghom
    Act 3 Elites

    Questions, comments, suggestions, and corrections are welcome.
    Last edited by magicrectangle; 26-11-2012 at 18:37.

  2. #2
    IncGamers Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Ramat-Hasharon, Israel

    Re: Critical Mass Melee Wizard

    Nicely written!

    Just noticed that latency seems to seriously affect the damage of this build. In addition to the time it takes for you to click from the moment it's ready due to your spamming speed, there seems to be a noticeable delay from the moment you click until it casts and the cooldown starts. Looking at a video I recorded frame by frame, this seems to vary a lot, but generally can be equal or longer than the cooldown itself. This means that attack speed and crit chance might not have as great of an effect as you would imagine (aside from the obvious damage increase from more crits).

  3. #3
    IncGamers Member cheerupemokid10's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    BattleTag pizzle-1873

    Re: Critical Mass Melee Wizard

    Very nicely done. I just respec'd and regeared to be able to try this out last night and I was doing pretty well, but I think my crit rate is a little too low. These guidelines definitely help to nail down what is missing. IIRC, I was close to 35 and it was working pretty well for the most part. I was trying to nail down which skills to keep up too as my damage is still pretty low for A2. I'll try what's laid out here and see if I have any better luck.

    I'm definitely going to be trading out some of my regen gear for +int, @res, and armor though. Let's hope the AH has some cheap gear.

  4. #4
    IncGamers Member Hoopiness's Avatar
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    Jun 2003
    BattleTag Hoopiness

    Re: Critical Mass Melee Wizard

    Excellent guide. Been using this for the last week or so (since reading the other thread) and it's superb.

  5. #5
    IncGamers Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2004

    Re: Critical Mass Melee Wizard

    I am going to try this out because I am pretty bored with blizz/hydra. I have a long way to go though because my crit rate is substandard. There are probably some pretty cheap solutions until I get enough gold to buy some higher end weapons. Thanks for the write up and video!

  6. #6
    IncGamers Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2008

    Re: Critical Mass Melee Wizard

    Archon is also nice with Critical Mass, and doesn't need Arcane Power. (not Melee though)

  7. #7
    IncGamers Member cheerupemokid10's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    BattleTag pizzle-1873

    Re: Critical Mass Melee Wizard

    Update: Went through a pub game in A1, carried it over to A2. Was pretty much destroying everything with some good partners. Main problems were the firechains groups mixed with any other combo. Hit a shielding, vortex, reflecting, firechains group and it was dang near impossible. Had party skills up too instead of tele-wormhole so I couldn't sneak past them. Someone else got by and we were fine after that.

    My main problem was that I was not literally button mashing and was instead just trying to key each skill as it appeared to come off cooldown. Once I started mass punching diamond skin, frost nova, and explosive blast everything got much, much easier. After about two hours though my fingers were wore out. My party was very sad to see me go to bed because everything was at a standstill the whole time.

    There was a monk in my party for a while using the vortex skill and it made for an awesome combo. They vortexed, I tele'd into the group, spam away. Anything that tried to run away got sucked right back in and refrozen.

    I was running with about 13k dps (still low, but safety came first in my shopping), around 34% crit, 4.8k armor with energy armor, 700+ resists, and only 17k health. Without energy armor throughout A2 I had a little over 3k armor and only ~350 resists. I did not have any deaths unless I hit a really tough combo that usually included fire chains.

    Last thing, if you're playing through A2 with any party, I suggest dropping something for the slow time. Unless your poison resists are epic, being able to bubble up and put all the poison bees at a standstill was one of the biggest lifesavers for me and everyone else in the group. Once I hit A2 I switched out armor for the clones that do damage, but didn't end up using them except to get out of frozen; and switched tele for slow time. Next time I'll probably just switch out armor for slow time and keep tele for those tough groups.

  8. #8
    IncGamers Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2012

    Re: Critical Mass Melee Wizard

    Awesome Guide! I have recently switched builds to Crit Mass and have been trying to follow the 3-4 threads that have been floating around the forums for any good information. Now its all in one spot. Thanks!

  9. #9
    IncGamers Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    San Jose, CA

    Re: Critical Mass Melee Wizard

    monk vortex is easily our best friend...

    also, lol at the non-frozen and/or arcane that vortexes me. are you freaking crazy???????? ;-)

  10. #10
    IncGamers Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2010

    Re: Critical Mass Melee Wizard

    Yeah partying with a monk who uses 34 yard cyclone strike with a heavy spirit generator like rising tide so he can spam it, and then overawe for good measure. Mmm...

    Partying with other critical mass wizards for even stronger frost nova lockdown is fun too.


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