The past few days, I've been trying out the hydra set on the PTR with the self-imposed restriction of not using any channeling abilities, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences. I'm not one of those players that pushes 4k paragon and runs GR150s regularly, but I do typically get to GR100-110 each season, and this season I got to GR 126 (using Crusader so take that with a grain of salt).
Before getting into it, I acknowledge that the set bonus is supposed to have an ICD on the hydra head death mechanic, and that shields are supposed to prevent hydra heads from dying. I have tried to gear/build as though the set works as we have been told it will when it goes live, although I've obviously had to adjust my play somewhat.
The first thing that stands out when gearing with the hydra set is that you need The Magistrate, but you also really want Tasker & Theo. Outside of the seasonal bonus, this is only possible with RoRG. So while RoRG isn't strictly mandatory, it's "mandatory".
The next hurdle was complementary weapon legendaries. Serpent's Sparker is an obvious fit, but since I'm not running DeathWish+Etched Sigil, the only options that have obvious synergy are Starfire and Orb of Infinite Depth. However, you probably don't want both, since one is for ranged builds, while the other is for melee builds. Aether Walker, The Oculus, or Cosmic Strand may be okay choices, if you want them for teleport, but they're not really fundamental to the build. All in all, the weapons are clearly the reason everyone's running channeling builds, since you give up a ton of damage to run anything else. Maybe if the set gave some additional benefit to Frost Nova, then Winter Flurry might be usable. In the end, I tried out a few variations, and I think the choice mostly comes down to long-range or close-range. It's good to have a choice, although I definitely found the close-range build ended up performing significantly better. I'll get into that below.
For bracers, Ashnagar's are an obvious choice, assuming shields end up working how we've been told they will. I'll take a moment to say that I really like how this build (is supposed to) take advantage of shields. Usually, I don't really enjoy the wizard reliance on shields, probably because there's basically no feedback on how much shields you have. But since this build actually has a benefit to not taking life damage, the shields feel more rewarding – although they still have the problem of not giving any feedback on how much shielding you currently have.
For the second ring, Halo of Karini, Unity, or Halo of Arlyse feels necessary, although it's hard to know until they get the hydra head mechanics working properly. This is pretty much on par with most wizard builds, so it felt reasonable.
None of the belts are particularly noteworthy either. There are some that are definitely useful, but not in the way that Archon or Channeling builds are. Belts aren't as often game-changing, though, so it didn't feel like a problem, so this may be reasonable. There's definitely room for a complementary legendary belt, but the options may be fine as is.
For amulets, it's all the usual suspects. Squirt's Necklace is particularly noteworthy, since it benefits from shields in the way the hydra heads are supposed to.
As I mentioned, the few okayish weapon legendaries seem to pull you in opposite directions. I ended up trying three variations – 6TV-4TR Ranged, Ranged, and Melee.
BUILDS – 6TV-4TR – Long-Ranged
Since the belts and off-hand options were so lackluster, I decided to put Squirt's in the cube and wear three pieces of Tal-Rasha's. Combined with the RoRG that is semi-mandatory with this set, this gives the 6 set bonus of Typhon's Veil and the 4 set bonus of Tal Rasha's. I had hoped that this could serve to mitigate the lack of defense due to the bugged hydra deaths.
This build was tough to assemble, since it's not always clear which elements are active for the 4pc TR, but once the Typhon's 4pc works properly, it might be a decent option as a tanky build. It has the usual challenges that TR builds have where you have to work four different elements in, despite only using one element for damage, but since only Hydra deals damage with Typhon's, this works semi-decently. I ran this with Starfire in the cube, so I used Lightning Hydras, Ice Spectral Blades, Arcane Black Hole, and Fire Magic Weapon (which it turns out doesn't proc 4 pc TR – oops. Maybe Twister or Meteor could work. This build works fine for T16, but as you push GRs, the damage starts to lag behind. I was still able to push to GR90 without too much difficulty, but that was when I tried to change things around.
BUILDS – Long-Ranged
By dropping Tal-Rasha's, I was able to use a different off-hand, equip Shame of Delsere for Barrier Blades (which will hopefully be more useful when the 4pc Typhon works), and equip Squirt's which freed up the cube for CoE. I was also able to get skills that worked better with the hydras, although the core was still Lightning Hydras, and Black Hole for grouping. For the off-hand, I used Orb of Infinite Depth, even though explosive blast doesn't work as well for ranged builds, I figured I'd get some enemies close enough to trigger the effect, while still keeping the main targets at range.
This build definitely performed better, but it seemed very dependent on the buff from Orb of Infinite Depth. Because of that, I decided to try a more melee-range build.
BUILDS – Melee-Range
The biggest change here was to drop Starfire and Lightning Hydras. I was worried that I'd be losing a bunch of damage, but it turns out Ice hydras are just way better than Lightning Hydras. Probably because they have an AoE damage. For my cubed weapon, I used Wand of Woh because… well because I didn't know what else to use. The extra damage from Wand of Woh is useless, since Typhon's Veil only buffs Hydras, but the extra blasts make keeping the buff from Orb of Infinite Depth really easy. With these changes, I was just barely able to push to GR100. If the 4pc set bonus worked, I suspect I could have pushed somewhere in the range of GR105-110 without too much difficulty, since the biggest challenge was the fact that a single elite could kill a run if it had the wrong affixes.
I also tried Blazing Hydras, which claim to have an AoE, since they should get damage bonuses from Fire Blades and Flame Twister. Unfortunately, it doesn't work how I thought, and it couldn't keep up with damage. It's too bad, too, since I was kind of enjoying trying to keep all the different buffs up. But even when they were all maxed out, the damage just wasn't there. I think I cleared a GR88 with that build.
Well this ended up longer than I expected, so I'll try to wrap it up here with the key points. The Non-Channeling builds for the Typhon's Veil set were enjoyable for T16 content, and once the fixes to the 4pc go live, it should be a comfortable set to play. However, it pushes the limits of being over-specialized, since it only boosts hydras. Any other abilities are included because they have natural synergy already. This ties into what was probably the biggest issue I had, that there aren't a lot of great legendary powers in the available slots. Most notably, the weapon and off-hand options for a non-channeling build are pretty much Serpent Sparker, and Orb of Infinite Depth. Starfire worked okay-ish, but the single-target nature of the Lightning Hydras made it struggle with higher GRs. It really feels like there should be some additional legendary items to help the non-channelling builds along – either that or this build was intended to be played with a channeling build.
Because of this lack of supplementary powers, I capped out around GR100, although that would go a bit higher when the 4pc set is fixed. For reference, I did my testing on a fresh PTR account, and by the end of my testing I had around 800 paragon, ancients/primals in 11 of 13 slots, and no augments. My legendary gems were around level 30-35.
Regarding the over-specialized nature of the set, I think there is some potential to add some kind of interaction with some other skills – either in the set or in some complementary legendary power (ideally weapon, off-hand, or belt). Some of the options that seem like they would work to me are Frost Nova, Teleport, Black Hole, or Explosive Blast, but just about any ability could be used.
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