Updated 5/23/2012: Now that I have actually had the time to play the Demon Hunter in the live version of the game I’m going to answer the question what is the best Demon Hunter build? The best build may vary based on whether you’re farming, playing hardcore, leveling, planning to PvP, fighting a certain boss or trying to beat a certain pack of mobs. The build you see below is a core build built to specialize into all of these specializations.
The best build for a Demon Hunter is going to require a careful balance between survival, direct damage and AoE damage. If you’re interested in more Demon Hunter stuff, check out my Demon Hunter Builds.
Some players will lean towards Bola Shot with Chemical Burn to help maintain high Discipline, but with the Smoke Screen nerf on 5/23 you might not need all that discipline anyways and you might want a more effective way to snare your enemies. I find that Entangling Shot works great in almost all situations. Any of the later skill runes work great: Heavy Burden, Justice is Served and Bounty Hunter. I prefer Justice is Served since it amplifies the main purpose of using this skill; which is to generate more Hatred. Second to that it’s a great single target snare which will save your ass in many situations.
Chakram. I wrote a whole article as to why Chakram is better than Impale. In breif: Chakram deals more damage per Hatred used, allows plenty of mobility (Impale provides more) and does multi-target multi-damage. I don’t know how you beat that. If you have an absurd amount of extra Hatred (why?) then go ahead and use Impale. This might happen if you’re kiting Diablo or something and don’t have the time to cast Chakram (it’s slightly slower). Rapid Fire is a coop skill, keep it out of solo and leveling unless you think it’s neat looking and are in Normal and can get away with it. Elemental Arrow with Frost is awesome too, but I don’t see the need for another snare unless you’re dropping Caltrops.
Caltrops is the best for most situations. This is similar to the Hunters traps in World of Warcraft. You toss one of these downs and it can snare and immobilize or damage nearby targets. This seems like a must have for hardcore play or solo play when you need to kite targets around or just manage your targets better. Smoke Screen was a pretty awesome choice until it got nerfed on 5/23. Caltrops with Torturous Ground is the cornerstone of my kiting skill.
I’m a huge fan of Vault because it can get you out of sticky situations and help you reposition in combat. It’s a great ability for hardcore, PvP, farming, solo’ing and cooperative play. The problem with Vault is that if you get in the habit of using it too often you might find yourself Vaulting into a situation you’re not ready for. Be extremely careful if you use this ability in hardcore, only Vault when you know it’s going to help you and not get put you somewhere you don’t want to be.
The Rattling Roll skill rune will help reduce the risk of jumping into a bad situation, since it knocks back targets at the destination. From level 16-49 Action Shot seems to work best since it adds a little bit of damage to the game. Trial of Cinders becomes available at level 49 and gives you tactical advantage in some situations where you want to bounce around in combat. We’ll grab Preparation (a Hunting ability) next.
Enable Elective mode in your Options Interface and grab Preparation in this slot. Preparation is an oh-shit backup to get out of harm’s way. It gives you Discipline enabling you to Vault or Caltrop and therefore save your life. If you’re so good that you don’t need this back. Great. Good. Wonderful. Tell me about it. If you use the Battle Scars skill rune then you can use Preparation as a second heal to your health potion.
I have at times used Impale in this slot for special situations where a quick jab to the kidney of some unwanted foe is called for. Using Chemical Burn Impale does a lot of damage but costs a lot of Hatred. This is a slot where you can swap in your favorite extra-damage ability. I choose Rain of Vengeance with Stampede because it mixes shit up and when there’s just too much going on. It knocks back enemies left and right and does damage across the screen. Good stuff. You can use anything here though. Grab Sentry for all I care.
My favorite passives are as follows: Steady Aim (best for cooperative play), Brooding (great for solo and hardcore), Archery (all around good damage boost), Number Traps (great for solo play), Vengeance (Hatred+Discipline heals form health globes) and Sharpshooter (more damage). Hot Pursuit and Tactical Mastery are also great for specific situations like farming and leveling through easy areas. The best approach to picking your passives is to go through the list carefully every time you unlock a new one so that you know what is available for each specific situation.
What I’m using now is Sharpshooter, Vengeance and Archery.
That’s the best Demon Hunter build I’ve come up with. You can customize your own build here: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/demon-hunter
Finally, here are some videos showing off variations of these builds:
Effective Use of Caltrops and Chakram
Impale vs. Chakram:
Watch me die kiting (I need Rain of Vengeance):
Click here to see the rest of my Diablo 3 Builds.
Important: Many of the strategies and tips I share here were originally inspired by the people at the Diablo 3 Gold Secrets Forum. If you're serious about making the big bucks in Diablo 3, or just being the best players, you need to signup ASAP.