I hear a lot of talk about needing absurd gear to beat inferno, having to farm your life away if you want to "finish the game," etc, etc. I'd like to put that to rest, and hopefully help some of the frustrated people out there finish the game with the resources they already have available.
Generally when a person hits level 60, they'll have around 300k-500k gold if they haven't been dumping it on the blacksmith or something. So I set 300k gold as my target gear level for beating inferno.
Gear selection is simple. Prioritize three stats:
1. Intelligence. Our primary damage stat. We need to do damage to win, so, yeah!
2. Resist all / armor. Yes I consider that one stat. An item with a bunch of resists is the same as an item with a bunch of armor as far as I'm concerned. The exact relationship between armor and resists depends on your current gear (find out exactly what it is for you with an effective health calculator), but generally 1 res all = 10 armor. If your armor is higher than your resists (IE 7k armor and 500 resists) then resists will be relatively more valuable than the aforementioned ratio. If instead your resists are higher than your armor (IE 5k armor and 700 resists) then armor will be relatively more valuable. It also matters whether you're using force armor (favor armor) or prismatic armor (favor resists). We're not going to be too concerned with min-maxing in this guide, however, so I generally just recommend buying whichever item is cheaper between a resist piece and a bonus armor piece.
3. Vitality. We do need some hitpoints, after all. Mitigating damage only helps so much if you don't have enough of a pool to take the hit.
The above are all you need to look for on armor pieces. Sockets are great insofar as you can get int and vitality from them, or %life with a helm socket.
Weapons have slightly different priorities. On high end gear, everybody is looking for critical damage and/or life on hit on their weapons, but for our budget wizard we don't need that (and the huge price premium that comes with it). We're happy with a blue sword that gives nothing but raw damage. If it has int/vit on it that's fine too, but not necessary. Likewise with our offhand, we just want damage, and if we can get int/vit that's fine. Crit damage or a socket (mainhand) and crit chance (offhand) simply cost too much for us, and we won't have enough crit to take advantage of the crit damage anyway.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so how about an example set of gear:
The stats shown on the right are with force armor, and without glass cannon.
The fancy spec these days is critical mass, but gearing that spec costs an arm and a leg. For getting through the game as cheaply as possible, nothing beats the tried and true Blizzard/Hydra spec. I have a Blizzard/Hydra guide that is detailed (if dated - it is from 1.02 patch), which you may want to look at, but I'll give you the highlights below.
We may want to shift our spec around on various bosses to make them easier, but our general purpose spec for clearing our way through the acts will be the following:
Blizzard (Snowbound). A spammable snare that does damage too. The damage is really an afterthought, it is dwarfed by the damage output of hydra and your signature spell. The primary reason for having blizzard is that it is one of the few snares in the game that can be spammed. Snowbound makes it cheaper, so we can spam it more. A no-brainer.
Hydra - (Venom Hydra). Hydra deals damage while you kite. The perfect spell for a kite-centric build. Venom hydra does by far the most damage of any of the runes. Particularly to slowed enemies as the venom pools collect (and stack) under their feet. The lion's share of your damage output comes from this spell.
Hydra - (Arcane or Frost). The 1.04 patch has made other hydras than venom viable. Venom still deals the most damage to a stationary target, but a group of moving enemies will take a lot more damage from arcane hydra. For an additional snare, frost hydra can be useful, but I recommend arcane since you have a spammable snare anyway, and arcane does a lot more damage. Mammoth and lightning hydras are still not much use. Mammoth might be situationally useful, but you're not gonna respec just to kill some trash that happens to be lined up in a hallway.
Magic Missile (Seeker). A kite-friendly signature spell. You don't need to target it to have it hit stuff, just cast in the general direction of enemies and keep moving. Unlike the other spells in this build, you can swap this for a different signature and be just fine. Shock Pulse (Piercing Orb) is another common choice, for a more area damage focus.
Illusionist + Teleport (Wormhole) + Mirror Image (duplicates). I call this the "holy trinity" of wizard defense. You really can't do better than this combo for surviving against ridiculous stuff. Almost every time you get hit, wormhole and duplicates will be available. You simply spam duplicates every time you can, and they will tank lots of hits. Duplicates absorb missiles, tank fast enemies that you can't otherwise kite, etc. Duplicates also clears all status effects off you. That includes frozen, jailed, damage over time effects, everything. Wormhole is obvious, you can switch kite directions, or get yourself out of a jam with wormhole.
Energy Armor (Force Armor). Force armor has kind of gone out of style since 1.03, being replaced in most builds with prismatic armor. Prismatic is a fine choice if you have high resists, and enough total EHP that nothing you're fighting can hit you for more than ~half your life. With our budget gear, that might describe you in acts 1 and 2, but in acts 3 and 4 you'll be wanting force armor to keep yourself from getting one-shot-killed. (Oppressor charge, ouch!)
Cold Blooded. To spite the description, cold blooded will increase your signature spell damage against targets in blizzard. It won't increase your hydra damage, for some reason. This can be swapped for glass cannon for better hydra damage if you're comfortable with your defensive stats.
Galvanizing Ward. We don't have any life per second or life on hit gear, since that costs too much, so we pick up galvanizing ward to keep our HP topped off. The increased duration on our armor spell is nice too. This can be swapped for anything else (glass cannon for a1/2 or blur for a3/4 most likely) if you have enough healing from other sources.
We're generally going to favor the templar, because our cheap gear doesn't give us any LoH or L/S healing. Spec him for all the healing abilities, plus charge. If you have enough healing from other sources, the enchantress for 15% armor and 3% attack speed is nice. The scoundrel with multishot and a cold damage bow for more snares doesn't hurt either, although his crit bonus isn't particularly good for us.
What guide would be complete without a video? I used the gear described above to clear all of the elites in act 4, and then kill Diablo with the 5 stack. I didn't bother with the other bosses because none of them can be 5 stacked (and the video was already pretty long), however if you're interested in a particular boss let me know and I'll make a video of it.
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As you can see, it certainly isn't as fast and easy as a critical mass wizard with 10s or 100s of millions worth of gear, but it gets the job done. If your goal after hitting 60 is just to beat inferno, without doing a bunch of farming, here's your solution.
Questions, comments, or corrections are welcome.