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DiabloMay 9, 2015 4:00 pm CT

Pick a Diablo 3 class to play

Diablo 3 class

Last week, we talked about the various game modes you can play, but come on, what good is all that if you haven’t picked a character to play yet? Which Diablo 3 class should you play — and what makes them any different from the classes you find in WoW?

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls currently has 6 classes, compared to World of Warcraft’s 11. Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, and Wizard were the original 5 classes, and Crusader comes with the Reaper of Souls expansion. Some are very familiar with the classes you can play in WoW — Barbarians, like Warrior and lore columnist Matthew Rossi likes to point out, are basically Warriors at their finest — but others are less familiar, or combinations of what we Azerothians know.

Another difference is Diablo 3 doesn’t have the same tank-healer-damage trinity that WoW class specializations are built into. Every player in Diablo 3 heals themselves through a potion cooldown or through class abilities and passives, as well as by picking up healing globes that drop from monsters. Picking up a healing globe by one person will heal the whole party, so there’s no need for a specific healer role. There are no specific tank class restrictions; the party role you fulfill depends on what class build you choose to use. Typically, class builds involve doing as much damage as possible, but there’s always one or two designated as a tanky or pure CC/support build, typically referred to as a “zero DPS” or “zDPS” build.

Class builds can be named for many things:

  • By party or self role, such as zDPS, tank, or solo builds.
  • By the level of play involved, such as a starter build for new 70s or an advanced Greater Rift build like GR40.
  • By key abilities involved, like Whirlwind Barbarian builds.
  • By key legendary gear involved, like Witch Doctor builds are often named after the Voodoo Mask or Crusaders with the class set they use (e.g., Carnevil mask or the Armor of Akkhan class set).
  • By the main elemental damage dealt, such as Cold or Lightning builds.
  • By the creator’s player name or handle, such as DatModz’s Monk builds.
  • With silly but thematic names, much like WoW Arena composition names can sound funky, but make sense after a stretch once you understand the specs involved.

Unlike WoW, where weapon types are limited to class, only class-specific items have class restrictions — so, yes, your Witch Doctor really can use that Bow if it rolled half-decent stats. Each class also has a unique resource, so you don’t need to know ability names or icons to tell what a streamer or player is playing — just look at the right orb’s color(s).


  • Resource: Fury
  • Class-specific items: Mighty Weapon (1H or 2H weapons), Great Belt (belt)
  • Sample starter build: Whirlwind

Barbarians use the yellow Fury resource, which is generated by specific attacks or by taking damage and is spent on everything. As a melee class in Diablo 3, Barbarians already take 30% less damage from monsters. But their abilities can improve further on that, and even deal damage back based on what they took (called Thorns damage). Barbarians stick to either two-handed weapons or dual-wielding weapons. Barbarians like to shout, smash, slam, and generally rage their way to victory.

Barbarians most resemble WoW’s Warrior class by far.


  • Resource: Wrath
  • Class-specific items: Crusader Shield (off-hand), Flail (1H or 2H weapons)
  • Sample starter build: Captain America (a modified Akkhan’s build)

Crusaders use the bright white Wrath resource, which is generated by specific attacks and then spent using other abilities. As a melee class in Diablo 3, Crusaders take 30% less damage from monsters. Crusaders have auras called Laws that affect certain attributes, and many of their abilities and builds revolve around using shields and Holy damage.

Crusaders most resemble WoW’s Paladins, especially Protection or Retribution specs, though Protection Warriors may come close because of all the shield play going on.

demon-hunter-bar-d3Demon Hunter

  • Resource: Hatred / Discipline
  • Class-specific items: Cloak (chest armor), Hand Crossbow (1H Crossbow), Quiver (off-hand)
  • Sample starter build: Cluster Arrow – Maelstrom

Demon Hunters have a dual resource system. Hatred, the red half of the orb, is quickly generated using attacks and is spent on offensive abilities. Discipline, the blue half of the orb, is slowly regenerated passively and is spent on defensive abilities. Demon Hunters excel at dodging and evasion while dealing great damage to their enemies. Demon Hunters are considered a ranged class, but they have a few melee builds available.

Demon Hunters most resemble WoW’s Hunters in their preference for shooting arrows or bolts and also for their offensive Hunter-like abilities like Caltrops, Rapid Fire, Multishot, and Companion. But they also resemble Rogues with their defensive abilities like Fan of Knives and Smoke Screen.


  • Resource: Spirit
  • Class-specific items: Spirit Stone (helm), Daibo (2H weapon), Fist Weapon (1H weapon)
  • Sample starter build: DatModz’s starter build

Monks use the milky yellow-white Spirit resource, which is generated mostly by melee attacks and is spent on both defensive and offensive abilities. As a melee class in Diablo 3, Monks take 30% less damage from monsters. Monks are known for their party-buffing Mantra auras and their fast-moving playstyle, often dashing from one enemy to the next.

Diablo 3 Monks are perhaps best classified as WoW’s Windwalker Monks for general ability playstyle — with a whiff of Paladin for Mantras and Holy abilities and a whiff of Rogue for their fast dashing and high capacity for dodging attacks.

witch-doctor-bar-d3Witch Doctor

  • Resource: Mana
  • Class-specific items: Voodoo Mask (helm), Ceremonial Knife (1H Dagger), Mojo (off-hand)
  • Sample starter build: anything with Zombie Dogs + Gargantuan (see the levels 49-70 section), leading into a Fetish pet build

Witch Doctors use the blue Mana resource, which is passively regenerated over time due to items stats or using a Mana-free Signature spell and spent on offensive abilities. Although Witch Doctors can run petless — typically in a DoT-based build — they are often seen wandering Sanctuary with a horde of zombified pets and fetishes. Witch Doctors are typically made for damage dealing, but they do have a great tanky/zDPS build often used in groups.

Witch Doctors most resemble WoW’s Warlocks, with their affinity for pets, DoTs, and the death/soul arts. Death Knights could also arguably apply, what with all the zombies running around.


  • Resource: Arcane Power
  • Class-specific items: Wizard Hat (helm), Wand (1H weapon), Orb (off-hand)
  • Sample starter build: Arcane Disintegrate

Wizards use the purple Arcane Power resource, which is spent by all but Signature spells and regenerates passively. Wizards are masters of the magical elements, often dealing massive damage from afar while specializing into damage-reducing and crowd-controlling passives to avoid danger.

Wizards most resemble WoW’s Mage class, though you could argue they are like Shamans with their totemic elemental preferences and Ascendance-like Archon ability.

create-hardcore-toon-d3-diabloSound off!

All of the action bar images above are of my Softcore characters, old and unplayed as some of them are. But while I focus on playing my Witch Doctor, I’m sure commenters out there can persuade you to join the ranks of other classes. So comment with why you play your favorite Diablo 3 class and share some of your builds to get others started!

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