Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Witchdoctor: How To LoN Gargs

How To LoN Gargs. 
The other day I was trying to switch from LoN Gargs to LoN Firebats, so I made a post asking about playstyle changes between the 2.

I got some good answers from some great firebats players, but I got a lot more questions about LoN Gargs. Apparently a lot of people don’t know about LoN Gargs, how it works, or how to play it at a high level.

By the time I finished replying to all of them I had basically written a very disorganized guide. Here I’ve tried to organize it with my observations. I tend to reread and revise my posts, so don't be surprised if things get added/rearranged.

LoN Gargs is not Firebats lite or a Firebats trainer. Its a completely different playstyle. The learning curve at the begining is easier than Firebats, no argument there. Mastering the intricacies of it makes it a totally different build though, and its a blast to play. Far more interactive than it first appears.

First, let’s get a few formalities out of the way:

What is LoN Gargs?

It is a WD Pets build using Legacy of Nightmares. With good gear, it can push into 80s with far less than 1000 paragon and using legendary gems it can level itself. At time of writing it holds several spots on the seasonal solo leaderboards, including #3 on the NA leaderboards @ grift level 86.

The route to the season 5 WD leaderboards goes through Gargantuan –Humungoid. LoN Gargs is no exception. All the gargs builds share a common theme of “Buff the gargs, group the mobs for them and try not to die while they kill stuff.”

Its non-obvious at first, particularly in the lower 70s where the sheer power of the gargs and the survivability of LoN + Harvester will just carry it, but as you push higher it’s a very interactive build with a lot of strategy.

What is LoN Gargs not?

LoN Gargs is not LoN Firebats without Firebats. On paper it looks like that, but the playstyle is very different, with a lot of intricacies and interactions that are non-obvious when you first start playing it.

At a base level, it actually plays a lot more like Helltooth Gargs than Firebats, but it is also not Helltooth Gargs without Helltooth. Full disclosure, the leaderboards say Firebats is a little stronger, or at least has a slightly higher ceiling in its ideal rift layout/mob composition. If your only goal is to be #1 on the leaderboards, you should probably be playing firebats.

Helltooth Gargs is easier to gear for. If you don’t want to do a million bounty runs to get a nearly full set of ancients before you start pushing, go with helltooth. You’ll still want full ancients in helltooth eventually though.

But if you’ve got the time, and your goal is to push high grifts with a lot less fishing than Firebats, with the potential to get high on the leaderboards and have a lot of fun doing it, LoN Gargs might be the build for you.

What business do you have writing a guide about LoN Gargs?

I don’t claim to be an amazing player. In fact I usually describe myself as a terrible player, but I’ve played this build a lot, and I think I play it pretty well.

I’m not a casual player, but I’m not insane either. I’m not a streamer. I have a day job. I usually get 7+ hours of sleep. I don’t have 1500+ paragon or any legendary gems above what I can level solo in my gear, let alone to burn on augments.

Friday I cleared 79 after 8 attempts, and Saturday I got 80 in 5 to snag 137 on the solo seasonal leaderboard at the time. I think that’s pretty good. I had hoped to do 80 before I hit 900 paragon, but I ended up actually hitting 900 during the run. I'm confident if I had understood the build better early on, I could have done it somewhere in the 700s or low 800s. (edit: earlier I had said 901, but I just checked. Nope. 900 on the dot.)

I’ve taken a break from pushing the last few days, but I’m pretty sure I can push it to at least 82 without any more upgrades.

*edit: 25 or so attempts and 42 paragon levels later, just got 81 in 12:20 for rank 74 US.

Additionally, I’ve had enough high end Firebats players say things here and in other venues about LoN Gargs that don’t make any sense to me to think maybe a lot of people don’t understand it.

The Base Build

Here’s my current profile showing typical gear and talents:

D3planner isn’t importing my augments, but 12/13 are augmented, all somewhere between level 60 and 70, so add about 4000 intellect to that.

My gear is far from perfect. I have all the right pieces, but several slots have all resist where I’d prefer they were armor with physical/arcane/lightning in a secondary resist. A few secondary affixes are useless things like gold find or thorns. My hellfire is terrible, but it’s the first ancient hellfire I’ve seen with a usable passive that was a mathematical upgrade, even with the LoN ancient bonus over the near perfect non-ancient I cleared 80 with.

Gear and skill variants are covered at the end of the guide.


Rift 75 and below is where you learn the basics of the build and get a feel for it while collecting upgrades and leveling random gems for augments. You don’t need augments yet, but if you have a really nice piece you won’t replace for awhile, do it, probably with a gem around level 65. Don’t waste time augmenting stuff you know you will need to replace.

First, forget everything you know about LoN Firebats. You need to group stuff up for gargs. You wear a lot of the same gear. The similarities end there.

Firebats channels. You move around.

Firebats facetanks with it’s crazy sustain and taeguk armor. You dodge.

Firebats runs past Knockback/frozen/teleporters/other crap and looks for something else. You smash their faces.

Assuming decent gear and paragon 500+, it initially plays a lot like the helltooth gargs that probably got you this far. Wall of Death is gone, but now you have mass confusion or horrify and Grin Reaper mixing things up. I mostly play mass confusion, so thats where I'm coming from. Just personal preference. Horrify has the goods too.

To start, run through the grift aggroing mobs and collecting them together with pnado for your gargs. Focus your attention on learning to stack BotS on elites/rift guardians with firewalkers without getting killed.

Try to save mass confusion for when you have all 3 gargs beating the same big pack of mobs with an elite in it, but don’t hold it for too long. If you are staying in the right range, Grave Injustice brings it back up pretty quick.

The damage debuffs from pnados and mass confusions that you cast will stack with the debuffs from the ones your mimic’s cast, and everything in the range gets the damage debuff even if they have diminishing returns on CC. The debuffs of your own casts won’t stack with your own casts, so if GI brings it back up really quick, wait till the first one wears off before casting it again.

Learn to manage your garg and spirit cooldowns. You shouldn’t have too much trouble with them dying yet, but still learn to get everything you can out of Grave Injustice.

Live dangerously, resummoning gargs for moderate positioning improvements. When you can, use spirit walk offensively to create a bigger pull or to instaport your gargs a long distance. It will cost you a few grifts when it goes bad, but you are trying to learn the limits now.

Learn which mobs can kill your gargs and which affixes you should consider skipping. The list is a lot shorter than firebats. Mallet lords hit boxes are too big to get a good cleave going. Unburied/Gorgons have enough HP and hit your gargs hard enough that sometimes its better to just skip them if you can’t pull enough whites, but you absolutely don’t have to. Shielding mobs are annoying for the time loss. For all of those, if all the whites are dead and they still have high HP move on. If they follow you to the next pack, great, otherwise leave them behind.

Low HP/high damage mobs will randomly kill your gargs too, but they tend to come with enough trash that the surviving gargs will be killing enough to bring the cooldown back up fast.

Best Follower at high levels is a thunderfury enchantress with attk speed, wydward and occulus ring. At lower levels you can get away with some other follower builds if you want, but the templar causes just as many problems as he solves. Further explained in other sections.

That covers the basics. There's a mastery section further down.

Rift Guardian Tactics

If something here doesn't make sense, read it again after reading the mastery section further down. You want to learn these tactics while learning the basics, but you can get away with just hiding while your gargs finish it in 75-

Learn to dance with the rift guardians sub 75 (or even in TX with your pets unsummoned!) where you can survive a hit. Over time you’ll learn to read their attacks and know when to move a bit, when to spirit walk, and when to run for your life.

I rarely get hit by any rift guardian attack that is avoidable anymore. My 76/77/78 first clears the rift guardian didn't hit me. I didn't die on the 79 either, but I had a shield pylon for 98% of it so I won't count it. I died once on the 80 rg because I did something stupid. *edit: Didn't die on 81 either.

Almost all of them have a place you can run in tight circles near enough for firewalkers safely, usually behind them or to the side. For example, Man Carver will never hit you if you stay right behind him. When he turns to face you, all his attacks have a windup that gives you time to get to the side or run through him. Perendi is too slow too as long as you step out of the add spawn circles and have spirit walk up for the ceiling collapses.

If its something that's too dangerous to be right next to, find a safe area 10-15 yards out to spin in circles and jump in for a moment and then back out every few seconds to keep stacking firewalkers. This works fantastic for Bloodmaw... stay behind him, dart in after he takes a swing and spirit walk off the screen when he starts jumping. It also works for Infernal Maiden... Stay out of her point blank melee, make quarter circles back and forth about 10-15 yards out darting in after she swings. When she starts to cast any of her 3 aoes (spin, jump and fire projectiles) get out to about 25 yards until they are past. The last time I got Blighter I realized this may be a workable strat for him with his slow melee attacks you can run in after. I had some success, but I don't have a perfect pattern yet.

Several of them you can just run circles around them varying distance around them in and out by about 10 yards and they’ll almost never attack between turning to face you, chasing you and randomly getting stunned by your follower. It is easiest to see this in action on Orlash, a joke as long as you don't stand in the beams. With slight modifications to your pathing based on their attack patterns it works reasonably well on any guardian without a devastating aoe. Sand Shaper is another one who just gets demolished by this. Both of them can be killed without taking any damage at all. Tethys gets wrecked by this tactic. Eskandiel too, but you'll need to manage the adds and dodge arcane sentries. If it gets too crazy run a few screens away and he should come to you.

It also works for ones with aoe until you get high enough that your pets can't survive it while you dodge. For example, Cold Snapand Rime are both wrecked by this until 79/80, where their aoe can kill all your pets in 1-2 ticks and you have to find a new tactic. If you have 3-4 minutes left when he spawns, Rime can be kited around a very large area(multiple screens). You basically always stay far away. As soon as the aoe casts, run farther to port your pets to you and keep running until he follows you out of the aoe. Your pets will still get picked off, but you'll get several attack cycles before they're all dead. When all the gargs are dead, run in and do the firewalkers dance to build stricken stacks using spirit walk to not die until the gargs come back up. Then repeat the cycle. I don't have a workable 80+ strategy for Cold Snap yet.

Voracity you can use something like the 80+ Rime tactic above except not as extreme. Stay closer. When the aoe starts stacking up too deep, run a few screens away and make him come to you. You should be able to keep your pets alive, but if they do die, make sure you continue to stack firewalkers while you wait for the cooldown.

Knowing telegraphs for boss projectiles is important. You need to dodge anything you can, and slow projectiles should never be allowed to land on you. If its something you can control the direction the boss shoots, you actually want him to pick you and then dodge it so your pets don't take damage. Sand Shaper's tornados, Rime's ranged attack and Bone Warlock's orbs are at least semi targeted on you and completely avoidable in flight.

Fast multi-directional projectiles that you know are coming but don't know where until its too late, you may need to use your follower/dogs/gargs as a meat shield. If the telegraph is long enough just get farther away when its coming, but for some you have to dive behind your pets. For the most part they can take the hits, but if your gargs have a lot of cooldown left be smart about it. Always prefer follower over dogs over gargs to take the hit.

For guardians that summon a lot of adds, use your pnados to keep the adds right under the guardian as much as you can. This will keep your pets from wasting boss dps killing adds, and actually add some aoe dps. If things get too spread out, resummon on top of the boss or run a screen away to port your gargs and then try to coax them back onto the boss when he follows you. Don’t worry if your dogs are off killing some random add. As long as they are hitting something, they are doing their job of healing you and allowing your gargs to focus on the boss.

For Hamelin treat it like a trash pack with a high damage elite and a lot of high damage whites. Run around and through him and don't stand in the rat swarms and he'll just die.

Mix and match all those tactics and you with 2 exceptions noted below you can pretty much wreck every boss., if I didn't mention a specific guardian its probably because some combination of the above works and they arn't notable at all.

2 exceptions for me: Peredition and Blighter are assholes. Theoretically they telegraph their attacks just like all the others, and I know some people have mastered Peredition. Nobody likes Blighter. His attacks can 1shot pets en-masse several grift levels before any other rift guardian is even a realistic threat to one. Some tactics help with him, but not one obvious strat.

How to master LON Gargs

Okay, so you’ve cleared 75. Maybe even scored a fast 76 or a 77 and got yourself a spot on the bottom of leaderboards. 78 might not have happened yet, but it feels possible. Your primary gems are all leveled to 75+, whatever you can clear through reliably. You’ve got 13/13 ancients and most of them are pretty good rolls even. How to push this build?

First prepare. Get your augments in order. By this point some of your gear is already augmented, and the rest is good enough to make it worth it. There’s still room for upgrades, but its mostly random chance at this point. Spend a few hours grinding 5 minute 60s-70s with a few friends and level some garbage gems to the mid-60s. If you have a near perfect piece, push the gem for that a little higher before you augment it. You can go higher without full augments, but at this point there’s no reason not to.

You can wear nemesis bracers or strongarms and a red gem in your helm while you do this. It’s not much XP, but 4% is 4% and paragon is paragon. You won’t need the survivability for anything below 70 anymore.

After your gear is augmented, make sure you’ve stacked 20+ rift keys before you push. It burns when you have a few good rifts but just miss the timer, but you are psyched and in the zone. Nothing sucks more than to be so close you can taste it and realize you are out of keys.

Now you push. Here’s what’s different than the lower levels.

Your gargs are going to start dying a lot more, so all that time you spent learning to manage the cooldown and maximize grave injustice will be your new best friend. At first it will just be one here and there. As you go higher, it gets harder. Sometimes one will die right after you summon you'll just be stuck running with 1 or 2 gargs trying to get your cooldown back.

Eventually you’ll want swampland attunement. I felt it was necessary at 80.

You are a support class for your gargs. Pay attention to where your gargs are and what their health pool is like, and when they are about to get slaughtered, save them. Keep track of where all the health globes are, and if your gargs are at full health, delay the pick up until they take some damage.

You should already be using pnado/confusion on what they are fighting to max their dps, but now a well timed one will also save your gargs from a killing blow, or at least buy them a few more swings before they go down.

If necessary, outrange them to force them to port them somewhere safer with less aoe. Don’t worry, the mobs will follow, and you can either run your gargs right back to them or build them a new pack with whatever you ran into while the ones they were fighting catch up to you.

And while you are porting them, keep pulling more mobs, always moving through the grift. At higher levels, LoN Gargs ceases to be a series of pulls and turns into an endless marathon of slaughter where you are always pulling more.

Bring whites that are cooperative and elites with you to the next room, but abandon individual stragglers who wont cooperate. Keep 2 or 3 loose packs on the screen or just adjacent that you can move your gargs between when the aoe gets too hot. The constant flow of mobs doesn’t just move your progress bar. It keeps your gargs alive.

The steady stream of trash mobs is maximizing your aoe/cleave damage to explode the trash, which gets you more health globes to heal the gargs and power through the heavy hitters. The random whites running around will also be in the way of the big ones so the gargs don’t get surrounded entirely by power hitters at once. A garg can facetank one or two big ones and a bunch of trash even at 80. By keeping a big pack of trash in the fray, you aren’t just increasing your damage, your are mitigating incoming damage on your gargs while aoe damage pecks away at their health.

Your follower is a lot more instrumental at this level too. I’m pretty set that a thunderfury enchantress with wydward and oculus is the right pick at this level. Templar heals are nice, but you shouldn’t need it. He tends to create the wrong kind of chaos with all his charges and stuns. Enchantress creates the right kind, and amps your damage too.

Occasionally your enchantress will proc ess of johan and collapse the whole screen on one point. Before they spread out again, If your gargs arnt in the middle, resummon them on it immediately. The aoe damage when the whole screen is stacked on 3 gargs is comical.

Your enchantress should also have an Occulus ring at this point. I still don’t entirely understand how that proc works, but with so much constant chaos in the higher rifts, you’ll get quite a few pools during a typical rift. Since this build never needs to stand still, you can utilize them a lot more than other builds that rely on you stopping to cast. Book it to the pool, pnado everything near your gargs and dance in circles as you enjoy the explosion of numbers.

Oh look, you're at the rift guardian. You've got 3 minutes left. And he doesn't know how to hit you. Have fun!

Basic Gear Priorities

Cold damage on bracers and ideally hellfire. Crit and Crit Dmg everywhere you can get it. Aim for the standard 1:10 ratio. With perfect gear you’ll have high 50’s crit and low 500’s crit damage. If one is way higher than the other and you can’t balance them any further with the gear you have, you can sacrifice some of the higher one for area damage or possibly a bit of life on hit.

Garg Damage everywhere you can get it.

Area Damage 70% - 100% wherever it fits. You have 50 from paragon so it should be pretty easy. Really you want as much as you can get but going past 70-75 tends to eat into something else you’d rather have.

Int everywhere you can get it without losing cold/crit/crit dmg.

Stack survivability everywhere else, ideally with a bit of life on hit. A bit of life on hit > Vit > Armor > % life.

Attack Speed isn’t a bad thing, but you already have 45-57% from taskers depending on how its natural attack speed and bonus pet attack speed rolls.

For secondary affixes, get a 30-40% cc reduction roll somewhere, which really cuts down on the dps loss when your gargs get stunned/frozen/jailed, and will save your life if you fail to dodge the same.

For resists, stack arcane/lightning/physical resist. Really you’ll have enough all resist from intelligence that you can just use whatever you find up to the mid/high 70s, but when you push higher you’ll be glad you have it. Around 80 you’ll start using swampland attunement to keep your gargs from dying too fast, so fire/poision/cold will be fine. There is no such thing as too much physical at that level.

A bit of pickup radius. You don’t need much since you are so mobile, but a little helps to pluck the globes out of the mess.

Gear Specifics / Variants

If you are lucky enough to get a high base damage Sacred Harvester that has 10% dmg/life on hit or area damage/life on hit, use that. Otherwise, the highest damage one you can find with vitality.

If you are getting 1 shot by unavoidable damage, use string of ears instead of witching hour.

If you are getting whittled down, or even 2 shot, find some life on hit. Leeching beasts is a force multiplier for life on hit. Paragon only gives you ~9K which is nearly unnoticeable. Getting up to 20K by getting it on bracers makes it very noticeable. More than that is a lot more expensive to your damage stats, but anything that doesn’t kill you will be healed up almost instantly.

If I were to get an ancient taskers that already had Int/crit/crit dmg but only a 5% normal attack speed, I would consider rolling off the attack speed for more life on hit.

Skill Variants

More and more people seem to be running Horrify – Frightening Aspect over Mass Confusion – Paranoia, trading CC/Damage for CC/Damage reduction. This even seems to be the case in the high 70s. The 50% armor should have close to 100% uptime, so its huge, but I don’t feel like the extra reduction is necessary to clear 80. I'll let you know about 81 once I try it.

edit: Got through 81 still using mass confusion. The incoming damage in 81 was a much bigger problem for both me and the gargs, but still survivable. The push took about 25 attempts. Finished about half of them, with most ending in the 15-17 minute range. There's still a mix of horrify and mass confusion on the leaderboards above 81. I can see a horizon coming where the armor from horrify is clearly better just to survive unavoidable damage.


This build really wants 5 passives. A Hellfire is mandatory.

Ideally it should be Socket/Cold Dmg/Crit Dmg/Crit. If that isn’t an option, use Socket/Crit Dmg/Crit/Int or Socket/Cold Dmg/Crit Dmg/Int. If none of those are an option, you are probably better off using a non-ancient one that has Socket/Cold Dmg/Crit/Crit Dmg until you can farm a better one.

Grave Injustice and Midnight feast are mandatory.

Spirit Vessel is theoretically not mandatory if you play perfectly and get a perfect rift, but since gargs are 99.9% of your damage, if you die while your gargs have a lot of cooldown left, it’s basically GG. You’ll have no way to proc Grave Injustice, so you just have to wait it out while the timer ticks down.

Some people use Pierce the Veil over Confidence Ritual. I don’t like that, because you want to be right in there with the mobs as much as you can for Bane of the Trapped, Grave Injustice and Firewalkers already.

Gruesome Feast > Swampland Attunement until somewhere in the high 70s. Around 79 or 80, your Gargs need the extra resist to survive.

For speed leveling gems in the 60s – low 70s, you can drop all survivability passives to fit Gruesome Feast and pierce the veil. The extra damage really speeds things up as long as you don’t stand in things.

Gear Specific Notes and Variants

Hexing Pants: Never. Stop. Moving. Always know your escape route. If you are in a very tiny hole, run back and forth. If you get boxed in, even if you don’t die, your damage is going to drop by 50%. If you do get boxed in, use pnado to open a hole or spirit walk out. If pnado and spirit walk are on cooldown, resummon your gargs and if necessary your dogs right on top of you. It will force the mobs to reposition a bit which might open a hole, and the sudden burst of cleaves will hopefully open a path for you.

Firewalkers: The damage is nominal, but it builds Bane of the Stricken stacks super fast in a build that doesn’t have other options. To get max damage, you really need to spend as much time as you can dancing around next to/under as many mobs as you can.

This is particularly the case with high hp elites and rift guardians who will basically never die without it. This is the difference between a 1 minute guardian and a 5 minute guardian at 80.I’ve seen 1 or 2 people high on the leaderboards using Illusory Boots but still running Stricken. They know something I don't. If you know, please tell me.

Frostburn instead of Taskers or Grin Reaper, wearing a Mask of Jeram

I’ve heard good things about this but it didn’t work for me. I ended up using a non-ancient taskers until I got a good ancient one. Taskers is more or less mandatory Grin Reaper seems gimmicky and isn’t strictly necessary, but the extra cc and damage amplification it adds is crazy.

Corruption or Pauldrons of the Skeleton King instead of Homing Pads:

Corruption is a lot less stressful to play and is still really good. For Homing Pads to work you need to hold down force move while spamming town portal as fast as you can while continuously running around. Force move prevents town portal from ever casting, but the damage reduction for a moment. I didn’t use it until 78. I’ve seen other people 80+ with corruption or pauldrons, so empirically it is not necessary, but it is very strong.

I bind town portal to mouse wheel and force move to one of the side buttons on my mouse, and even then I can only stand to use it when the shit hits the fan. For anything below 78, I just use corruption for the extra pickup radius.

I expect this will get patched out of the game at some point, probably in 2.5 at the same time they’ve said they’ll address Furious Charge/animation cancelling for Barbs. Enjoy it while it lasts, or don’t, its pretty annoying do. A good ancient Corruption or homing pads are both really easy to get. Corruption is craftable and homing pads are a really common legendary shoulder so upgrading 20 rare shoulders or burning a few thousand blood shards should get you one without much trouble.