Season 21 / Patch 2.6.9 of Diablo 3 brings a whole lot of new items and changes, and in this article we focus on the new Demon Hunter set, Gears of Dreadlands.
Diablo 3 has always been a game that stood in the shadow of its predecessor, Diablo 2. It has taken more than year since its release before it reached a version with what can be considered a minimum acceptable gameplay, and even longer before it reached a version that can be called “stable”.
However there is no denying that, while a far cry from its predecessor, Diablo 3 has built a loyal following of gamers who continue to look forward to the next release of the game, which has now taken the form of “Seasons”. Each season brings new items, rewards, game re-balancing and another opportunity for each player to rise up the game’s leaderboards.
With Diablo IV on the horizon, and everyone expecting Blizzard to be focused on developing its next (hopefully) AAA game title, it is always a pleasant surprise to know that Blizzard still finds time to shoehorn in a release that has some related lore from its other game IPs into the current Diablo 3 game ecosystem.
Season 21 and Patch 2.6.9
Typically, new patches and new seasons in Diablo 3 follow each other closely in order of release. One of the new equipment sets introduced into the recently released Patch 2.6.9, the Gears of Dreadlands, is certainly a cause for celebration for players who use Demon Hunter as main characters.
The abbreviation of this set’s name, “GoD”, hints at a set that can enable high-tier builds for just about any purpose – speed farming, Torment 16 (T16) rifting, and even pushing Greater Rifts (GRs) to higher levels. In other words, god-mode gaming.
As a Demon Hunter main, I’ve had the opportunity to try the Gears of Dreadlands set out myself this early, and I am very surprised and elated. It has outperformed my previous Unhallowed Essence Multishot build in terms of Greater Rift pushing, and I can even comfortably farm in T16 with gear that is not fully optimized in terms of stat rolls.
Gears of Dreadlands mechanics and set bonuses
So, let’s look at the mechanics of the Gears of Dreadlands set to find out why it is performing so well, even for a casual gamer like me. Below is the complete equipment list for the set, as well as the 2-pc, 4-pc and full 6-pc bonuses:
The set consists of 6 items, which pretty much includes all armor pieces equippable to a Diablo 3 character, except for the belt. There are no weapon or off-hand pieces or jewelries in the set, which opens up various possibilities in terms of character build around this new set.
2-piece set bonus:
Gain 4 seconds of Momentum when attacking with a Primary skill, at a maximum duration of 20 seconds. Your Primary skills deal 10% increased damage per second of Momentum.
Here we have a buff called Momentum, measured in seconds, that is gained when attacking, and stacks up to a max of 20 seconds. Primary Skills get a 10% damage buff per second of Momentum, which means an additional 200% damage whenever the Momentum is at its max stack.
As seen below, Primary Skills generate a Demon Hunter specific resource called “Hatred”.
Here’s the caveat: Momentum is a constantly depleting buff. This means that, to get the maximum damage buff from this bonus, you have to be constantly attacking with a Primary Skill in order to keep your Momentum at or near the 20-second max stack. This bonus will greatly benefit from really fast attacking 1-hand crossbows, especially one that has additional increase in attack speed in its stats.
4-piece set bonus:
Strafing against enemies will automatically shoot your last used primary skill, and also give 60% damage reduction while strafing and for 5 seconds after. While Strafing, you gain 8% increased movement speed for each second of Momentum.
Strafe is an Archery Skill that spends Hatred, and is affectionately called the Demon Hunter’s Whirlwind, for the similarity of its movement to that iconic Barbarian’s skill.
While the 4-piece bonus doesn’t bring any damage buff while it’s in effect, it does bring a big 60% damage reduction while the skill is in use AND 5 seconds after ending the use of the skill. This gives you a few seconds for prep work / Momentum resets without having to worry about big damage spikes that can potentially kill your character. The 8% increased movement speed per second of Momentum also helps offset the inherent slowdown experienced when using Strafe.
Strafe also fires your last used Primary Skill, and this brings a very good offensive potential. If you have a weapon with good rolls on damage and attack speed, this bonus effect will turn your Demon Hunter into a spinning agent of damage, regardless of the Primary Skill used. Imagine shooting out Hungering Arrows all over the place at max damage buff (155% base skill + 200% from 2-piece bonus)! Now you see why Strafe is called the Demon Hunter’s Whirlwind.
6-piece set bonus:
Your primary skills deal 10,000% increased damage.
Yes, you read it right, that’s not a typo, that is 10,000% increased damage to your Primary Skills. It is a flat out BIG damage buff applied to your Primary Skills just for wearing the 6-piece set, without even triggering the 2-piece or 4-piece set bonuses!
Speed runs are suddenly so much easier, even with sub-par weapon and other gear. Trash mobs melting left and right on Strafing runs, and you get from point A to point B in relatively much faster time. I really hope this set doesn’t get nerfed…
My Demon Hunter Gears of Dreadlands Build
Of course it goes without saying that using the Gears of Dreadlands set straightforward, without proper skills setup or other optimized stat rolls on gear will be a very inefficient use of the set. As of this time, there have been many variations of the build around this awesome set, but I will discuss my own setup, and give you some explanation why I went with these particular gears and skills in my build.
I went for a combination of 2 sets, namely the Gears of Dreadlands set, as well as Captain Crimson’s Trimmings, since we are going for a more defensive build, which this set seems to have a lot of bonuses for:
The 2-piece bonuses are mostly utilitarian in nature, ensuring uptime in terms of skill usage, while the 3-piece bonuses are offensive and defensive in nature. As some of you will see, all of these bonuses will of course benefit greatly from good stat rolls for cooldown reduction and resource cost reduction on the various pieces of gear equipped by the character.
However, if you have also noticed, my sets are 1 item short each to complete the respective sets. How do I get the full set bonuses in this case?
This is where we use Kanai’s Cube to equip an important Jewelry effect, namely the Ring of Royal Grandeur:
This ring basically “adds” in the missing items in my 2 sets equipped, thereby completing them and my character getting the full set bonuses from both Gear of Dreadlands and Captain Crimson’s Trimmings.
Weapons, jewelry and gems:
For the weapons, Patch 2.6.9 brings another important update to an existing Demon Hunter equipment, The Ninth Cirri Satchel, making it the mandatory quiver for this build:
The guaranteed pierce becomes a critical effect when using Hungering Arrow just before a Strafing run, and coupled with the all the set bonuses in effect especially that 10,000% damage buff on all Primary Skills means you hit a monster more than once at any given time with that level of damage.
For the weapon, I chose Fortress Ballista for the defensive buff:
For the jewelry, I chose the Bastion of Will Set (Focus and Restraint) to take advantage of the alternating cast between a Hatred-generator and a Hatred-spender, which is the playstyle for this build:
And to round it all up, I used Squirt’s Necklace to provide some more much needed defensive buff for this build:
Gems to be used are greatly dependent on current equipment stats and whether you are going for Greater Rift push or casual T16 farming. However, I find that the combination of Simplicity’s Strength, Bane of the Stricken and Bane of the Trapped works well for my build, and we shall see why when I discuss the skills after this section:
Make sure these gems are upgraded to at least Level 25 so that you will be able to gain their secondary effects.
The skills and setup:
It was already established based on the gear used that Hungering Arrow and Strafe will be the skills alternating in use to take advantage of the Gear of Dreadlands set bonuses.
The Devouring Arrow rune was selected for Hungering Arrow in order to take advantage of the guaranteed pierce of each Hungering Arrow fired. This will work especially well for mobs in higher GR levels that may not be killed in one shot. The gem Simplicity’s Strength will further boost the damage output of this Primary Skill.
The Drifting Shadow rune will ensure a 100% movement rate while using Strafe, and will help a lot more with mobility around mobs and the more tougher boss packs.
Vengeance is like the super mode of a Demon Hunter, and the Dark Heart rune brings in some additional damage reduction while active.
Other skills are: Companion – Wolf, which brings an additional damage buff when activated; Shadow Power – Gloom and Fan of Knives – Bladed armor for some more additional defensive buff.
Numbing Traps and Cull the Weak take advantage of the procs for Slow or Chill from cold skills in use, and will make enemies affected take more damage. The Bane of the Trapped gem synergizes well with these passives.
Ambush will ensure that mobs or boss packs at or near perfect health will take more damage from your attacks, and make it easier to whittle away at their health.
Finally, Awareness is a cheat death skill, for those situations where a damage spike from an enemy mob finds you unaware.
Kanai’s Cube stats
We’ve already mentioned Ring of the Royal Grandeur as one of the stats to be set in Kanai’s Cube, so I’ll proceed to the other two.
Dawn in the weapon slot is a MUST, since you want to be at or near 100% up-time in your usage of Vengeance. An alternative here is if you can find a perfectly rolled Dawn (65% cooldown reduction for Vengeance), then you can probably swap this slot out for a Fortress Ballista instead.
Finally, rounding it all up is Hunter’s Wrath in the armor slot will benefit your Primary Skills greatly, giving your Hungering Arrow an additional 30% faster attack speed and 200% increased damage.
As previously mentioned, the play style for this build hinges greatly on the alternating casting of Hungering Arrow and Strafe. However, to kick things off, you would want to put in a few shots of Hungering Arrow to build up your Momentum stacks.
Once your Momentum is up to 20, you can start your Strafing runs, keeping a close watch on your Momentum stacks and not let it fall far too low. Pause your Strafing run to fire a Hungering Arrow or 2 to bring the stack up again to max.
Take advantage of Strafe’s increased movement rate to weave in and out of mob packs. Your character is immune to any Immobilize effects while performing Strafe, but it can’t be used to break out of root or any other immobilizing effects, so be mindful of stopping your Strafing run when fighting boss packs with the said ability.
Always make sure Vengeance is up all the time. If you don’t have enough cooldown reduction, you can augment this by activating Fan of Knives or Shadow Power for damage reduction while Vengeance is on cooldown. Make sure to time your Companion – Wolf activation as well to kick that additional damage buff for those big mob packs or bosses.
More room for growth and improvement
My build is far from being the best one out there, but it is what works for my current stats and set of equipment. Feel free to play around with your own build around the Gears of Dreadlands set, and experiment with other Primary Skills in use.
Here’s another look on the build as equipped on my character, this time close up to better appreciate the badass, steampunkish look:
If you want to see my build for reference, check it out in this link. Do note that as I am still in the process of fine tuning this build, there may be changes to it on a day-to-day basis.
You can also check out the Patch 2.6.9 notes in this link to get more info about this new set, or any other items that changed with this patch.
Thank you for checking out my Gears of Dreadland build! Stay tuned for more reviews of Diablo 3 equipment sets and character builds.