Monday, 14 September 2015

Archon Stacking

Somehow I got suckered into playing some more Diablo 3. I think it's nearly ready for release now. The main things they have to do still are delete campaign mode and get rid of leveling to 70. I kid, a little. But given that they have seasons where people start over, it seems like they should do something, anything to the leveling game to make it not seem pointless.

Anyway, once an Archon wizard, always an Archon wizard, apparently. Archon with massive cooldown reduction seemed like a pretty good way to play with bad gear back before seasons and such started. This season it looks like Archon wizard is probably the best wizard build, or at least it is among the best. Plus it was the first set I found, so obviously I went with it.

Diablo 3 is basically a completely throwaway leveling game and an endgame composed of putting together item sets that multiply the damage you do by 20. That is more of an understatement than an exaggeration. If there were an item set that simply said, "Disintegrate does 20 times as much damage" then I really don't know if the Disintegrate build would be competitive. This seems pretty dumb to me as a concept, but I guess it's working okay as a game. It's almost like you have a skill tree that supports a few different builds, but instead it's gear you can just take on and off.

Most of these builds are focused around a six piece set. Usually the six piece set bonus provides you with some kind of absurd damage increase, like Tal'Rasha's set that provides you with a flat 600% damage increase for jumping through a few hoops. The six piece set bonus of Vyr's, though, isn't a times seven multiplier. Instead it's a fairly good but not absurd multiplier most of the time, and a very strong multiplier against high health opponents, which is good. But if you put on Vyr's with a strong set of legendary gear to fill your other slots you wouldn't be able to do high tier greater rifts. The Archon build's damage comes from Chantodo's set instead, which adds a completely passive damage source to Archon mode. Other important legendaries include a belt - Fazula's Improbable Chain - the Swami hat, and the Obsidian Ring of the Zodiac. Clearly if you don't wear all six pieces of Vyr's you need the Ring of Royal Grandeur.

Put all that together and what do you get? You begin Archon with 15-20 stacks of the Archon buff which makes you deal 6% more damage per stack and increases armor, resists, and attack speed by 1% per stack. Every time you hit an enemy with an archon ability or kill an enemy, you get another stack. Also, every second you expel a 30 yard wave of destruction that deals 7000% weapon damage. When Archon runs out your Archon stacks continue to function for 20 seconds. During this time your job is to cooldown Archon by casting resource spending spells which, thanks to the zodiac ring, reduce the cooldown of Archon by 1 seconds. Before your stacks run out you have hopefully cooled down Archon and returned to Archon form at which point you will start a second stack of Archon buffs while the first one expires.

For example, if you get 70 stacks of Archon then every second you expel a wave dealing 7000% times 5.2 to your enemies. Then you leave Archon form with a 70% increased attack speed buff on your 1.4 second attack speed, allowing you to cast about 2.4 times a second, meaning you pass 3.4 seconds of your remaining cooldown per second. If you have about 50% cooldown reduction then you had 30 seconds left on your Archon cooldown when Archon ended, so about 9 seconds later you are back in Archon, starting with 15-20 Archon stacks and with 11 seconds of 70 more stacks around, allowing you to attack faster and restack.

But key to understanding all of this is understanding how all of these different benefits stack. Archon increases your damage by 20% and your armor and resists by 20%. Energy armor increases your armor by 35%, and possibly your resists by 25%, depending on rune. Glass Cannon increases damage by 15%, and Magic Weapon by up to 20%.

In Diablo 3 there are a few different categories of damage increase. Setting aside attack speed and critical hits, your damage is the sum of the damage listed on your items, multiplied by one plus Damage From Skills, multiplied by one plus Elemental Damage, multiplied by one my Skill Specific Damage (e.g. Arcane Orb does 13% more damage). Within these categories, all bonuses are added. So if you have one item with 20% increase fire damage and another with 20% fire damage you get 40%, not 44%. Magic Weapon and Glass Cannon both add to the Damage From Skills category, so 20% + 15% = 35% rather than 38%, though that's a fairly small difference. I don't think Glass Cannon is a real option for the build anyway, so that doesn't actually matter, it's just an example.

What does matter, however, is that the 20% extra damage from Archon form and the extra damage from Archon stacks are also in the Damage From Skills category. If you have 100 stacks of Archon, that doesn't multiply your damage by seven, it adds 600% to that category which already has at least 20% from just being in Archon form. Instead of dealing 840% damage you deal 720%. The more stacks you get, the more anything that adds to that category loses importance. For most wizard builds Magic Weapon is a 20% damage increase. For the wizard build that basically doesn't use it's main bar and for which passive buffs seem like automatic includes, it is much weaker.

Also weaker is Energy Armor. It turns out that the basic Archon bonus, the bonus from stacks, and that bonus from energy armor are also additive. So if you have 70 stacks then rather then that 35% more armor, 20% more armor and 70% more armor come out to a total of 125% more armor, not the 198% more armor it would be if they were each applied separately. We can compare this to the 600% damage increase buff from Tal'Rasha's set. That doesn't show up anywhere on your character sheet, instead it just actually multiplies your damage by 7 after the fact. If you also have the 300% increased Arcane Orb damage from Triumvirate buff, then your Arcane Orb is multiplied by 4, then by 7 for a total of 28.

But when your base damage is 7000% per second, you can do with worse multiplication rules. Of course it isn't really 7000% per second either. Instead, it is each second - really each 59/60 seconds - you do 7000% of your weapon's damage - really 6883% - with a chance to crit. Attack speed increases don't make the waves happen more often, nor do they get averaged into your damage beforehand. When you have 100% attack speed increase, that's a pretty big deal.

Attack speed is especially bad for this build. Not only does it stack badly with archon attack speed increase - 70 stacks and 15% increased attack speed makes 85% increased attack speed, not 96% - but it also doesn't affect your primary source of damage at all.

Basically Archon doesn't stack well with anything. Magic weapon provides only a 4-6% increase in damage with the Force Weapon rune. Energy Armor with Prismatic Armor gives only about 18% more armor and 13% more resist. But on the other hand you can't really do damage when you aren't in archon mode, no matter what you put on your bar. You also don't want anything with a cooldown because that interferes to the Ring of the Zodiac resetting your Archon cooldown. So I use passive buffs after all, because there just isn't anything else to do. All this stacking information is great for making a spreadsheet, but it is not great for making decisions about while abilities to use, because there aren't really decisions to be made.

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