Wednesday 22 October 2014

How to: Shield Bash Crusader (Torment VI Detailed Guide)


"What is a better weapon? The sharp one your enemies expect, or the blunt one they ignore?" - The Art of Warrior, Chapter 9

It’s a good time to talk about a Shield Bash build. As former Rally-based Crusaders know well, no build lasts forever at the top, and it’s important to have other ideas beside Holy Shotgun and Fire Starter. Besides, Travis Day (lead game designer of Reaper of Souls) said himself, that Shield Bash is an important part of the Crusader fantasy and that the Diablo team is looking into improving the skill. In my opinion the skill is already strong, the numbers are big enough for Torment VI, and mostly things like the hitbox and wind up animation should be looked over. So if Shield Bash gets improved even further, it’s going to be a strong contestant for a top spot in the Crusader build variety. It’s capable of a lot even now!

Shield Bash with Shield Cross is going to be the primary damage dealer of the build. It delivers a massive blow of 700% weapon damage plus 300% of the shield’s Block chance as damage. On top of that, it erupts into a large, cross-like formation for additional 155% weapon damage and 100% of the shield’s Block chance as damage on any enemy caught within the area of effect. I think Shield Cross is the most reliable of all 5 Shield Bash runes. It lacks the problematic targeting of the other runes and since it shares the physical element of Pound (a stronger single-target rune), you don’t need to re-gear and can easily switch between the two right before the Rift Guardian, like I’ll do in the demonstration.

Condemn with Vacuum is the second damage dealer of the build, but it doesn’t fit the elemental bonuses of the gear and I’m using it mostly as a utility spell that draws enemies towards me and makes them ripe targets for my Shield Crosses. It has a suction range much larger than the 15 yard explosion area – I’d say it’s easily 25 yards – and you’ll see it draw enemies both large and small, which makes it one of the more reliable displacement skills in Diablo. To sweeten the deal, Vacuum procs the Strongarm Bracer effect, which fits perfectly in a build with a discounted spender that doesn’t really require Reaper’s Wraps. I’m using Blade of Prophecy in the demonstration to improve the damage of the build even further, but that’s a bonus rather than requirement.

Laws of Valor with Critical is my law of choice for the build, adding a nice bit of burst on top of our already sizable hits. With the improved uptime of Laws in patch 2.0.5 Critical is guaranteed to be up in any fight that matters. As I already mentioned – the Wrath requirements for the Shield Bash spam are so small that the Holy Shotgunner favorite Unstoppable Force would be a huge overkill.

I favored Steed Charge with Endurance as the mobility skill in the demonstration – with its longer duration it will take you places faster than the other rune options. It’s by no means set in stone and if you feel this choice is deprived of flavor you can put inRamming Speed rune, which has the added bonus of knocking back the enemies you trample and proccing your Strongarms for additional damage.

Provoke with Charged Up is a rather unsurprising choice. Mechanics-wise Provoke is one of my favorite skills of the Crusader , with a trifold effect that is useful in every aspect. It’s the only cooldown that restores Wrath, it attracts your enemies so you have an easier time bashing their skulls in with your shield AND it adds a nice damage bonus for its 4 second duration. In case you’re dissatisfied with your survivability, you can go with the more defensive Too Scared to Run rune, that will limit the damage output and maneuverability of your enemy.

Finally, Akarat’s Champion with Prophet is going to turn us into a defensive juggernaut while still retaining the sweet 35% damage bonus that all Crusaders crave. I picked Prophet for two reasons. First, I wanted to prove that Shield Bash can hold its own without falling on Fire Starter to back up the damage department. Second, the way Shield Bash actually works will constantly put you in danger, right in the thick of the fight, and since we’re unable to maintain the distance that Holy Shotgun and Fire Starter allow, any additional protection is welcome. We won’t need the additional Wrath regeneration from Embodiment of Power, so Prophet is the logical third option.

As for passives:

Heavenly Strength doesn’t need much of an explanation in a two handed build, which is the case here since I’m using a Blade of Prophecy. If you don’t have a BoP but you have a decent Doombringer lying around, you’ll replace this passive with Fervor.

Finery is a nice damage boost, since seven sockets is the norm for most gear sets – it adds a nice amount of Strength.

Towering Shield is an obvious choice; you can hardly argue with a 20% increase to the damage of your main spender. If you feel that the 30% cooldown reduction to Shield Glare is wasted in my setup you can insert it in your own, it simply felt out of place for me.

I picked Vigilant as a defensive passive in the demonstration, which is not a very orthodox choice but the 20% damage reduction from non-Physical sources is noticeable in elite fights. If you’re not a fan, Holy Cause is also an option for the damage boost and the occasional healing from your Condemns. I would say though, that this build benefits little from Wrathful since our Wrath costs are very minimal, and we have to look for sources of healing elsewhere.

Crit Stats: As hard as it will be, try to maintain the 1:10 ratio between Crit Chance and Crit Damage. In my experience Crit Damage has a harder time keeping up with CC, so pay attention to it first.

Cooldown Reduction: Mandatory stat for this and many other cooldown reliant builds. Your sheet DPS will suffer because of it – don’t be fooled! The closer you get to the permanent Akarat dream, the better.

Physical Damage: It will serve you well if you can squeeze it in. You’ll likely have it on the amulet, ring and bracer.

Shield Bash bonuses: Gravy on top; you might get it, or you might not. You’ll most likely have it on your Shield, but you can get it on your Helm and Boots as well.

I won’t surprise anyone by saying that the six pieces set bonus of Akkhan is mandatory for Torment VI Crusaders. I’m using all six pieces – Helm (with Shield Bash bonuses, no less!), Chest, Shoulders, Gloves, Pants and Boots – granting me the 50% cooldown reduction of Akarat’s Champion without the need of a Ring of Royal Grandeur. Some additional cooldown reduction across your gear will be needed if you want to be permanently in Akarat’s Champion form.

I’m using a physical damage Stone of Jordan – with bonuses to an elemental damage of your choice and a huge boost against elites, it has turned into a standard ring for endgame specs.

My other ring is a Unity – the solo player’s other ring of choice. Aside from the bonus against elites, which is always welcome, it offers unrivaled damage reduction when used between yourself and your follower, along with an immortality relic for him. It has already been confirmed by Blizzard that this is intended interplay but if you’re still not a fan – or you play in groups more often – you can replace it with a Ring of Royal Grandeur and go for a crafted Captain Crimson 2 piece, or even a well rolled Justice Lantern for the additional block chance (since it translates into Shield Bash damage).

A Rondal’s Locket rounds out the jewelry – as you can see in the video, it rolled really well and there’s little more you could want from a physical damage amulet. It doesn’t have some amazing unique property, but the raw stats more than make up for it.

Strongarm Bracers are an excellent addition to the build – with a strong displacement skill at your disposal in the face of Condemn, and even an Ess of Johan on your follower if you have one, you’ll have the Strongarms proccing in fights constantly. You don’t need additional Wrath regeneration from Reaper’s Wraps so you’re free to use the bracer slot as a huge damage booster.

Rounding out the armor slots is the usual Harrington’s Waistguard choice – the only belt in the game that can have perfect toughness stats for Torment VI and double your DPS when you open a loot container, such as a chest, dead body, or even a loose tile on the ground.

As for the weapon and offhand; I’m using a Blade of Prophecy as my mainhand, which has the unique property of triggering additional Condemn explosions on enemies that you’ve initially Condemned. I would like to add that this weapon helps but isn’t mandatory for the build to work, easing the gearing requirements at least a little bit. I’ve had success with a Doombringer one handed sword, which has physical bonuses, or even a simple hard-hitting two hander like the Scourge.

The offhand is the true powerhouse of the build – the Piro Marella crafted shield that lowers the Wrath costs of Shield Bash between 40 and 50%. This turns the skill’s hefty initial cost of 30 Wrath to a very manageable 15, allowing you a lot of freedom to go for offensive skills and gear rather than utility. As you can see, I went for a pure damage roll on the shield, with Crit chance, cooldown reduction and Shield Bash bonus – and I’d advise you to do the same, since it’s a craftable shield and you can make them to your heart’s content until you get the desired rolls!

Core: Movement Speed to 25; the rest into Strength.

Offensive: max out Cooldown Reduction, Crit Damage and Crit Chance in that order. (Strive to maintain a 1:10 ratio between Crit Chance and Crit Damage.)

Defensive: max out All Resist; then go for Life % or Armor depending on your needs.

Utility: max out Resource Cost Reduction and Area Damage.