I’ve been dabbling with a lot of builds as my Demon Hunter has progressed through Legion.
At the start, with low gear level and low understanding of the class, I took what has come to be the traditional newbie build. Feast of Souls gave me a decent amount of extra clutch healing, Feed the Demon kept Demon Spikes up a lot and refreshed charges when I was popping it too much, and Last Resort (ahh, to have the 7.0 LR back!) basically was a saving throw against any huge mistakes I could make.
This build served me well into Emerald Nightmare. I actually kept up until about halfway through our Heroic progression, at which point I went to a DPS build.
“A tank with DPS build?” you might be asking if you are unfamiliar with the class.
Yes! Through talents like Razor Spikes, Fel Devastation, and Burning Alive, you can make a Vengeance DH turn into a monster…of tank DPS. Granted, it’s not as high as you’d get even being Havoc around -35 item levels, but it was a lot of fun, and legitimately helped push progression. It is more stressful though.
You see, playing a Vengeance Demon Hunter is like learning to master ping-pong – of your health bar. When your gear level is low, your stats are messy and un-prioritized, and you are new to the class, the newbie build mitigates any massive mistakes, but leaves one element that becomes a staple of the class – moreso than any other tank, even the self-healing Death Knight, your health bar will constantly bottom out and fill up quickly. This is why, near the start of Legion, so many healers hated us. The class is built around this rapid shift in health total, with tools to mend in on their own. The mantra that I had to tell my healers was this, “if I’m at 60 pain and 30% health, it’s like I’m at 90% health. If I’m at 30% health, with less pain, and Last Resort hasn’t gone off, I’m at like 60%. If Last Resort has gone off, I’m at 30% health and low pain, you better do something!”
Because the newbie build, such as it is, has big recovery saves like Last Resort, but is mainly made up of smaller, low skillcap options that often passively aid your efforts to mitigate damage in return for correct gameplay. You hit Soul Cleave, as you should, Feast of Souls adds a little bit of healing after. The expectation for a newbie as such, is that you might Soul Cleave on lower pain, or when the heal won’t be maximized, and so FoS comes in to provide a little extra after that.
But now, let’s talk about my current build!
It became obvious to me around Star Augur Etraeus that the DPS build would not always be sufficient. He hits solely with magic damage, and Demon Spikes only helps mitigate damage from the comet impacts he does in each phase, along with reducing physical damage dealt by the Thing That Should Not Be. I could switch a few of my talents around just for that fight, but then I started playing with a fun build. “Fragments.” (I call it that because I haven’t seen a build name discussed for it – correct me if there is one!)
Fragments, like the name implies, hinges on mastery of soul fragments. The talent choices revolve around abilities that either generate more soul fragments, or spend them for more than just Soul Cleave.
The key talents are Fallout, Fracture, Spirit Bomb, and Soul Barrier. These form the core of the strategy when playing – two new ways in which you can generate soul fragments, and two new ways you can spend them. Your other talent tiers are optional – you can take any tier 1 choice and be well served, and the same goes for tiers 3 and 5. I take Razor Spikes in tier 1 because I enjoy the extra DPS and it serves my raid well to bring up our overall DPS as we have a couple of underperforming damage dealers. In tier 3, I take Felblade because I enjoy having an additional pseudo-charge to aid my mobility on bosses, and because the pain generation it provides smooths out my mitigation. Tier 5 ends up being Quickened Sigils because I find fewer uses for Sigil of Chains in Nighthold, and because I need to be able to place Sigils away from my character, ruling out Concentrated Sigils.
The playstyle as I’ve learned it revolves around maintaining Fraility via Spirit Bomb on any target you can hit in melee, maximizing healing done, using Soul Barrier at 5 fragments as often as possible to mitigate large incoming hits or to smooth damage intake, and then to rapidly generate fragments to be able to Soul Cleave for large amounts of healing done (amplified by the fragment consumption, maximal pain usage, and Fraility supplemental healing on all of your melee targets).
So with all of that, what is the key difference that makes me enjoy this spec so much?
I feel like mastering it will take some time, and when I have moments of great gameplay, it rewards me massively with significant gains in HPS, reduction of damage intake, and, for the first time in my tenure with the spec, almost no ping-pong of health. (Disclaimer – my two legendaries are the Archimonde absorb trinket and Prydaz, so these have significant impact as well.)
For the first time all expansion, my HPS rivals and in some cases beats that of my DK co-tank, and on many simple farm fights I can beat healers with my HPS. In dungeons, I need no direct healing anymore, and I would attribute much of that to this build and playstyle.
I’ll probably make a video about this at some point, because I still have some challenges with the build.
- When to Spirit Bomb vs. Soul Cleave? This question feels like a bit of a trap. Spirit Bomb offers excellent damage as well as applying and refreshing Fraility, while leaving enough Soul Fragments to be able to apply a high healing Soul Cleave right after. If I don’t have enough pain, or high enough pain to Soul Cleave well, the choice is simple, but when I’m at 60 pain, Demon Spikes up, and ready to use one – the choice becomes more difficult.
- Maintaining Demon Spikes! The early part of my setup on a boss tends to see me forgetting Demon Spikes altogether, smashing on Felblade, Shear, and Fracture to set up a Spirit Bomb and a 5-frag Soul Barrier. During this period in dungeons, I never am in danger, but on a raid boss, if I am the first active tank…oh man. I just have to discipline myself to do better at this.
- Soul Barrier timing – this one is a bear. (Not guardian Druid). Knowing the correct moments in the fight to use Soul Barrier is proving harder than expected for me. It has a short cooldown, but enough of one that if used incorrectly, you’ll be without for a while and may take increased damage to teach you that lesson. I have an additional layer to this problem, though, as given that I have two legendaries that provide absorption effects, it is also possible for me to use Soul Barrier and get no added benefit, as the legendary barriers can shield me for 1-2 million damage. I probably need to find a Weak Aura or other tracking mechanism for Prydaz in particular, as without a timer buff like it had when it was based on damage intake, it can be hard to predict.
Feel free to let me know with a comment or tweet if you try out the build and like it!