Diablo 3 Wizard Comprehensive Guide

Diablo 3 Wizard Comprehensive Guide by Rolfson

Hey there everyone, Rolfson from MMO-Mechanics here. I’ve been around gaming for quite some time now, wouldn’t call myself an expert (and there are certainly some of you much more knowledgeable than I out there!), but I am getting a little annoyed with all of the misinformation out there on the forums. So I’ve decided to try to write a guide / FAQ to assuage all of your fears, answer all of your questions, and hopefully point you guys in the right direction! Please let me know what I can change / add to improve the overall guide. That being said, let’s get into the gritty details:

Elective Mode

So you see all these neat little builds, but WOAH! They’ve got two or more skills from the same skill page in your skill book! How’d that happen??

There’s a neat little option called “elective mode” that you can enable (hit escape or go to the menu, then go to options, gameplay, and enable “elective mode” under the Interface column) to allow you freedom to place virtually any skill wherever you want, and place multiple skills from the same page on your bar. The more you know :)

Table of Contents

Section 1: A brief overview of the Wizard
Section 2: Your role in each difficulty
Section 3: Your Stats, and what they do for you
Section 4: Your damage number explained
Section 5: Where to go from here? (Inferno strategies)
Section 6: Attack Speed and you
Section 7: Previous ‘gimmick’ builds and why they no longer work
Section 8: Crit and your spells
Section 9: On-hit Effects

Section 1: A brief overview of the Wizard

You picked a wizard – congrats! Now what does this mean, for your (likely) next couple hundred hours of gameplay? Well the wizard is obviously a mage archetype and can be played as such throughout the entire game, from normal to inferno. However, there are also some very successful Battlemage / Melee builds based around shields, stuns, damage reduction, and any other sort of utility abilities you have coupled with fantastic AoE damage. I’ll get into all of those details later, this is just a very overly simplified intro.

Section 2: Your role in each difficulty


Pretty much anything you want. Normal is meant for you to learn the class, figure out what you like doing, and make it work. You can run anything from a pure glass cannon channeled spell build to a full out melee tank with castable spells and insane tankability. You should be around lvl 30 by the time you finish Act 4 of normal, give or take a few levels based on how quickly you cleared it all.


Like normal, you can still do almost anything you want here. The damage has increased slightly and champion mobs have an additional attribute (such as jailer, waller, etc) but you will still be successful running pretty much everything. Some fights, specifically bosses, may be easier in one spec over another but again, you can be successful with anything. You will be in the upper 40s / lower 50s upon completion of Nightmare mode.


With Hell comes the beginning of the end for some of the more fun but DPS low builds. Mobs begin to hit much much harder and survivability becomes an issue for the first time in the game. Melee tanking is still a very viable / competitive option provided you start to gear up properly and don’t try to run a 4k health melee build. You will begin to learn how to kite, a skill that you absolutely need in Inferno, towards the end of Hell. Act 4 Hell and Diablo will pose a pretty significant challenge, giving you a taste of what’s to come!


Oh boy, Inferno. All of it is doable, just…insane. Act 1 isn’t too bad, and even act 2 is somewhat easy compared to 3/4. Melee tanks are all but phased out here and a pretty common complaint is that you’re almost forced to run a kiting build centering around Blizzard / [enter damage type] Hydra. In groups you can run more pure DPS, but solo it’s essential to have slows / getaway spells to keep from being instantly killed. Some builds focus on getting tanky enough to survive a hit or two, while others just focus on not ever being hit and go full out glass cannon. More detail on Inferno builds later

Section 3: Your stats, and what they do for you

Every class has a ‘main stat’ that increases their damage by 1% of their “weapon damage”, where that “weapon damage” is defined as (1 + passive skill boosts)(Weapon Damage + (minimum damage bonus + maximum damage bonus) / 2). For wizards, it’s intelligence, which also increases all of your resistances by .1 per point. This will be very significant if you want to be somewhat tanky in later inferno acts.

The other two main stats, dexterity and strength, do not affect your damage whatsoever. However, dexterity gives bonuses to your dodge at .1% dodge per point of dexterity up to 100, .025% dodge per point up to 500, .02% dodge per point up to 1000, and .01% dodge per point past that.

Strength gives +1 armor per point, where the % of damage reduced by armor is given as
Physical damage reduction = Armor / (50 × Monster Level + Armor).

Vitality is your health stat, determining how much health you will have. Before level 35, your health is given by the formula:
Life when player level < 35 = 36 + 4 × Level + 10 × Vitality
Post lvl 35, the formula changes to:
Life when player level >= 35 = 36 + 4 × Level + (Level -25) × Vitality

Section 4: Your Damage Number explained

Damage calculator / equipment compare available here, http://mmo-mechanics.com/diablo/compare.php . Should be fairly self explanatory, if you have any issues please let me know

Your damage number, shown on your character screen, is often pretty misleading. People think that this number is the modifier that their spells go off of, when in reality it’s quite the opposite. The following is copied and pasted directly from http://mmo-mechanics.com/swtor/forums/Thread-Your-Damage-number-and-how-various-stats-affect-it :

What exactly is the “damage” number comprised of?
As given via the mouseover ingame, “The amount of damage per second you can deal based on your weapon, attributes, attack speed, Critical Hit Chance, passive skills, and dual-wielding attack speed increases”

Basically, this is the max damage you can deal per second if you were casting a spell that has no additional damage modifiers

The formula for damage is:
(1 + passive skill boosts)*(Average Weapon Damage + ((minimum damage bonus + maximum damage bonus)/2))*(Weapon Damage Multipliers)*(Attack Speed)*(1 + ( crit% * crit damage %))*( 1 + (main stat / 100))

For Dual Wielding:
((1 + passive skill boosts)*(Weapon 1 average damage + ((minimum damage bonus + maximum damage bonus)/2))*(Weapon Damage Multipliers)*(Attack Spee)*(1 + ( crit% * crit damage %))*( 1 + (main stat / 100))*(average attack speed of both weapons / weapon 1 attack speed) + (1 + passive skill boosts)*(Weapon 2 average damage + ((minimum damage bonus + maximum damage bonus)/2))*(Weapon Damage Multipliers)*(Attack Speed)*(1 + ( crit% * crit damage %))*( 1 + (main stat / 100))*(average attack speed of both weapons / weapon 2 attack speed)) * 0.575

or to simplify a little bit:

Find the damage of weapon 1 using the general damage formula, then multiply it by the average attack speed of the two weapons and divide by weapon 1’s attack speed. Do the same for weapon 2, add the two numbers together, and multiply by 0.575

So how does each stat affect the “damage” number?

Primary Stat
Your primary stat increases “all damage” done by 1% per point. What exactly does this mean?

“All damage” is calculated simply by taking your weapon DPS (the number that shows up on mouseover of your weapon) and multiplying it by 1 + (crit % * crit hit %). So if you have 5% crit and 50% crit damage with a 100 DPS weapon, your “all damage” stat will be 100 * (1 + (.05 * .5)) which will come out to 102.5 DPS.

The damage bonus provided by your main stat is given by:
(Weapon dps)(Weapon multipliers)(1 + (crit chance % * crit damage %))(main stat / 100)

Attack Speed
Attack speed is a flat increase, given by Damage * (Attack speed / Weapon speed). This is why a 5% increase in attack speed may be a much larger damage increase than 100 of your main stat.

Critical Hit Chance and Criticial Hit Damage
As seen earlier with the damage modifier for your main stat, crit chance and crit damage affect your base damage modifier, given by (Weapon DPS)(1 + (crit chance % * crit damage %))

Additional Damage from Rings / Amulets / Offhands
I’m sure all of you have come across a ring with +1-3 damage on it and thought “Ah, useless!” But when you compare it to current gear, it’s helping more than your +50 main stat ring. What?!

Bonus damage affects your Weapon DPS modifier through the formula:
((minimum bonus damage + maximum bonus damage) / 2)*Attack Speed

What does this mean? +Damage rings / Amulets increase your overall damage number significantly more with high attack-speed weapons, as it provides a larger percent of the normal weapon damage.

Ok, so what number is used for Spell Damage?

The number used for spell damage is:

(1 + passive skill boosts)(Weapon Damage + (minimum damage bonus + maximum damage bonus) / 2)(1 + (main stat / 100))

Note: the weapon damage mentioned here is NOT your DPS. This is the numbers on your weapon, giving you a range of damage from
(1 + passive skill boosts)(Min Weapon Damage + (minimum damage bonus + maximum damage bonus) / 2)(1 + (main stat / 100)) to (1 + passive skill boosts)(Max Weapon Damage + (minimum damage bonus + maximum damage bonus) / 2)(1 + (main stat / 100))
Your spells’ multipliers act on that number, so a spell doing 175% damage will hit for around
(Average Weapon Damage)(1 + (main stat / 100)(1.75) damage

Applying your Damage modifier to various spells

This has been brought up quite a bit, and I guess I should have addressed it previously. Some of the spells / skills you’ll use are not simply cast and run. So I’ll break this down into two categories:

Channeled spells / constant damage skills (hydras included here)

Your channeled spells are pretty simple. They have a set damage modifier and they apply their damage continuously. The issue arises in that attack speed increases seem to make their ticks larger, when the formulas say attack speed has no say in the damage. What’s happening?

Ticks are shown on screen at a fixed rate, approximately 2 per second. And yes, an increase in attack speed shows larger ticks. Reason behind this is your spells are applying the same damage as before, but at faster intervals since their damage is done by:
(1 + passive skill boosts)(Weapon Damage + (minimum damage bonus + maximum damage bonus) / 2)(1 + (main stat / 100))(Spell Modifier)(Attack Speed) damage per second. The ticks will show larger numbers because the damage is being applied quicker.

Also important note for hydras: their attack speed is constant. Increases in attack speed DO increase their tick damage, since their rate of attacks never changes[/b]

Of important note: Spells that do a set amount of damage over a set duration (Blizzard), do NOT have any increase in damage from attack speed. Their damage is pre-calculated on cast and is not applied any quicker / slower due to attack speed.

Castable Spells

These spells are very simple: it’s simply the multiplier shown on the skill times (1 + passive skill boosts)(Weapon Damage + (minimum damage bonus + maximum damage bonus) / 2)(1 + (main stat / 100))

Since your “damage” number is only a theoretical damage per second you can do with a 1.00 modifier attack, sometimes it will be much more useful to drop some of your actual damage number to pick up more on-hit damage. I dropped two rings with +15% attack speed on each of them for some rings with +16-32 damage and lost quite a bit of numbers from that “damage” number, but my spells hit much harder and since I’m constantly kiting and only getting off one shot every couple of seconds, that is a very necessary increase and an actual benefit even though my damage number dropped.

Also of note: Right now, it seems that magic weapon for wizards is increasing the damage by twice what the tooltip says. Regardless of intellect, critical chance, attack speed, critical damage, and weapon dps, the stock bonus is a 21% increase while the runed to 15% increase is giving 32% bonus damage. I will keep looking for a reasonable explanation (no, it is not applying the bonus to main weapon and off-hand) and try to keep this updated .

Figured it out! Magic weapon is currently applying a 15% increase to weapon damage AND a 15% increase to passive bonuses. This is causing it, when applied solo, to add a (passive)(weapon modifier), or (1 + .15)(1 + .15) = 1.322 modifier. When applied in conjunction with glass cannon, a passive modifier, the damage is calculated as (1 + (.15 + .15))(1 + .15) = 1.49487 modifier.

Section 5: Where to go from here?

Quoting from Arktem, Arktem provided a wonderful guide for Inferno for wizards and it’d be a shame if I didn’t include most of that here

So you made it to Inferno, breezing through everything with the power of arcane magic and hydras fueling you – what now? Well, the floor is open! You are free to experiment all over to find a build that works for you (personally, my favorite is http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/wizard#acQSlR!XYU!cYYZba and I use it to farm Inferno whimsyshire / act 3). There are some proven to work, though, such as the following –

Diablo 3 Wizard Inferno General Guide

Section 6: Attack Speed and You

Apparently I wasn’t quite as clear as I could be here, so I’ll make AS its own section.

Spells and how they are affected by Attack Speed

Casted spells: Arcane Orb, Explosive Blast, all signature spells, Arcane Torrent and runes, Wave of Force, Blizzard, Meteor, Energy Twister

All of these spells, in terms of damage per cast, are completely unaffected by attack speed.

The only thing attack speed does for these is increase the rate at which they can be casted, thus increasing their potential damage per second, but not damage per hit.

Channeled Spells: Ray of Frost, Disintegrate, and Archon right click

These skills do their damage constantly, with ‘ticks’ of damage showing up approximately every .5 seconds

Since the ticks occur at a constant speed, and increasing your attack speed increases the rate at which you do the damage (and consequently, the Arcane Power spent), your tick damage will increase with increased Attack Speed. If your skill originally did 22% weapon damage every second, and you have +50% bonus attack speed, then it will do 1.5x, or 33%, weapon damage every second now. Thus your ticks will show 50% more damage


As hydra is the cause of the most speculation, I’m giving them their own section here.

With the hydra, the attack speed of the heads is constant. Imagine each attack being a ‘tick’ of a channeled skill. It follows the same logic as the channeled spells then, that since attacks are done at a constant rate, that increased attack speed increases the rate at which they do damage. Therefore, and this has been proven with testing, increasing attack speed 50% will increase the damage per shot of the hydras by 50%. They will still, however, attack at exactly the same speed regardless of attack speed

Section 7: Previous ‘gimmick’ builds and why they don’t work anymore

Energy Armor [Force Armor] + Health Per Second / 0 Vitality

The world first inferno diablo solo clear was done using this build, which dropped vitality to as low as possible, approximately 4.7k health in total, and stacked health per second. Using Energy Armor + Force Armor reduced the amount of health you could lose per hit down to 35% of your max life. This meant that you would lose, at most, 1645 health per hit. Stacking health per second to absurd levels (anything over 1200 really) meant that you could get hit about once a second and still regen to full health before taking more damage. Abuse of this build gave essentially an invulnerability to wizards against single targets, specifically bosses.

The Nerf

This build was nerfed by a simple change to Force Armor. The rune still states incoming damage will be reduced to 35% of max life, but what it doesn’t say is that the amount of damage mitigated (as in, the difference between the raw incoming hit and 35% of your life) will never exceed your max health. Confusing?

“Force armor will only mitigate UP to 100% of your health.

This means that if you take between 36%-135% damage you will take 35% instead.

If you take between 136%-199% damage you will take Incoming Damage – Total Health Pool.

If you take 200% damage you will die.

For instance, if you have 10k health and take a 19k hit, you will now be reduced to 1k and you will take 9k damage instead of the 3500.”

Critical Mass variants

The Critical Mass build was built around, you guessed it, the Critical Mass passive. This passive reduced the cooldown on your skills by 1 second on occasion when you crit. By stacking crit chance to high levels and then spamming spells such as Shock Pulse [Living Lightning], Spectral Blade [any rune], and Energy Twister [Wicked Wind] to get a large number of crits in a very small amount of time, then spamming Frost Nova / Diamond Shell to stay untouchable.

The Nerf

The nerf was very simple, Critical Mass now procs much less frequently, rendering the entire build useless. You will now no longer get enough crits in a short enough time to keep mobs perma-frozen and keep diamond shell up indefinitely

Section 8: Crit and your Spells

There has been a lot of confusion (on my part too!) on whether or not some skills benefit from increased crit / crit damage, as in whether or not they can crit. Cursory testing seemed to show that no, they cannot crit as many minutes spent Ray of Frosting mobs proc’d no yellow numbers. But, what I failed to realize is, as Crow pointed out,

“I have seen that one of the posters asked, if channeled spells crit, and you said that as far as you know – no. I have not tested this personally, but I did see few reports, claiming it does. The way it works, is that as we know the damage that is displayed in ‘ticks’ is the total amount of damage that was dealt in 0.5 second time. If a real tick (while this is not visible to us, the damage must be applied in some sort of ticks) crits it just adds to the total damage you did over 0.5 second. So, the tick is still displayed in white number, but an actual crit has happened and so channeled spells benefit from crit as well. This was tested with Critical Mass before nerf – channeling Disintegrate did proc CM.”

So in the end, every spell can crit. Channeled spells just, similar to the IAS discrepancy, do more damage in that set time and the white ticks will show larger numbers when you crit on a channeled spell.

Section 9: On-hit effects

Just to clear up a little confusion here: There are plenty of on-hit effects that you can get, whether on your weapon or ring or whatnot, such as “2% chance to knockback on hit” or “x% of damage converted to life”.

These effects apply to all skills, not just your signature skills. Also note that the percents shown below for life on hit also apply to arcane power on crit (say it says 30% below for a skill, and you have 10 AP on crit. When you crit with that skill, you will get 3 AP back) as well as critical mass procs.

A comprehensive Life-on-Hit spell % list is given here Diablo 3 Wizard Life on Hit Percentages for All Skills

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2 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    All Resistance? Also, what happens, when dual-wielding, when you have 2 x 1-hand weapons each with 100% crit damage bonus? is that # simply 200% x .57 = 114%?

  2. Thank you very much for your efforts to put this comprehensive explanation together. Was very useful.

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