Melee Punisher


******* UNDER CONSTRUCTION ************

This is a build that tries to bring out as much as possible of the melee* aspect of the crusader class.

When I first played the crusader, I came up with (another) great disappointment in Diablo 3: supposed to be one of the melee characters, the crusader had almost no melee skills! Besides 2 or 3 primary skills, you basically cannot make your knight swing his weapon in a melee way! Of course he is not supposed to be a pure melee fighter – I know he is a warrior of divine power and mixed melee and magic abilities. But is there no way to actually fight with that giant flail or sword of his? Everything is magic tricks? This is pathetic!
I understand that a lot of people like fancy skills, and that many (most?) of the players are happy with the class as it is right now. But I really wonder, am I the only one that thinks the melee feel of combat is seriously lacking in this game? How much would it hurt, if there were a few decent skills that actually felt “melee”? Anyone remembers the Zeal skill of the paladin (D2)? His mighty, brutal Charge? Hell, even Vengeance, an elemental imbue on your weapon, displayed and felt like a melee swing of your weapon. How bad was that? Aren’t you supposed to have chosen some kind of a knight, a melee fighter? There are tons of skills in each class, why every single of them has to be magical?
And btw, what is this joke with every class copying each others gameplay? I mean, you have pure magic with Black Hole playing the wizard, and then the same magic skill is copied to the crusader (Condemn). Even the barbarian has the same skill (Earthquake -which I very much like). Should I continue with Meteor (wizard), turning into Bombardment (crusader) and Avalanche (barbarian)? Or Akarat’s Champion (crusader) being a similar skill to Wrath of the Berserker (barbarian), not very different to Archon (wizard)?
Am I the only one who loves the melee feeling of a melee fighter? Why everything needs to be magic buttons automatically doing the job? I CALL UPON ALL THE OLD SCHOOL MELEE FIGHTERS OF DIABLO!..


Oh, well…


  • Get rid of the magical, fancy skills of the crusader, or limit their use as much as possible. Bring back a D2-paladin feel, where while you used magic, you never really felt like a mage (except maybe the hammerdins -blessed hammer- and those rare builds with huge use of Fist of Heavens).
  • Punish your attackers through shield-blocking. Quick spread of damage while under Hardened Senses.
  • Supplement damage output through Sweep Attack.
  • Manage to survive with ease at least at Torment 6 difficulty (currently trying to move higher than that).

This is a relatively easy build to itemize and lets you use a lot of alternatives if you please.

Gameplay-wise, you are playing like this: hit one time with Punish to get the Hardened Senses buff, then use your skills to increase block chance and attack rating, and finally start a circle of Sweep Attack and Punish, the first to use your wrath, the latter to restore it. A lot of attack-blocking creates a lot of consecutive auto-damage to your enemies, while Sweep attacks deal a big amount of additional area damage. And there is room left, to spicy things up to your flavor.

##video gameplay





(Note that when a rune is not determined, it means that you can have anyone you want. Read through the guide, to have a better idea.)

Left mouse Button: Punish

Right mouse Button: Sweep Attack

Your right and left click, embody your basic idea: Punish grants you Hardened Senses, while you have fast area damage with Sweep Attack.
(Note: while Sweep Attack can be considered a magical skill, it still gives a melee feeling to your attacks. To me, it is ok. Unfortunately you cannot find any other secondary skill with melee feel into it, except maybe Shield Bash.)

The rest four skills are:

Slot 1. Provoke (Hit me)

Since you rely on Hardened Senses, you will need high-block chance. The higher, the better. Note that the game says that it maxes out on 75%, but in fact you can reach higher values through your skills, for a short period of time. This works the same as with the run speed of your character: you can have only a 25% faster run speed through items and paragon points. But when under certain buffs (skill or shrine effects), you can actually reach much higher values.
Another important factor is to leave the monsters active and aggressive. You want them to hit you! Casting Provoke makes them focus on you, which combined with the Hit Me rune and generally your high-block chance, lets Hardened Senses do the job. So, crowd control effects like freeze or stun, need to be used with care: you want the enemy to stay aggressive. Relying only on your sweep attacks, makes you slow. Sometimes you will find that in co-operative games your damage is greatly reduced, because other heroes will freeze or stun the monsters. Maybe it is then better to find another game. It has happened very rarely to me, but be warned.

Slot 2. Laws of Valor (Critical)

A nice damage buff, especially with that Critical rune. Helps your crusader attack like crazy, especially if combined with the full Roland’s bonuses (set).
This skill is not mandatory, but helps a lot. If you find it that you are lacking, eg. in elemental resistances or in life, you can always try one of the other two laws, at least until gearing your character as intended.

Slot 3. Iron Skin (Explosive Skin)

An obvious skill, that aims to reduce the amount of damage you take, since you will be exposed to a lot of attacks. It’s duration is very short (4 seconds), so use it wisely. You will not need it, most of the time, so keep it available mainly for champions and bosses. The rune is not mandatory again: choose the one that suits you most. Explosive Skin gives a nice damage bonus, while Steel Skin offers a nice almost double duration addition. The Reflective has a meaning only if you choose to play the ###avenger alternative build (see “Alternatives” section below). If you find that you cannot crowd-control the mobs easily, maybe you should consider that stun effect of Charged up rune, but generally, as said, idle enemies is not a good thing for the Punisher.

Slot 4. Falling Sword or Consecration

This is entirely optional. Again, choose something that suits your play style and your current gear. For example, I currently have stacked up some good lightning buffs, so I decided to use this skill with Part the Clouds rune. Pick you own, doesn’t matter; in fact, this is one good aspect of this build, that it lets you have a lot of freedom and alternatives. You can even pick a different skill, Akarat’s Champion (a much more effective, but much more “fake” in my point of view of a knight), Bombardment, Steed Charge… so many to choose from. Again, try avoiding those that make enemy mobs inactive (freeze, immobilize, etc).
My personal alternative to this, is the Consecration skill (Bathed in Light). Main reason for this is that I have tried to keep my damage output out of magic tricks as much as possible. I tried to create damage in a melee way (I consider Sweep Attack a melee skill, obviously), and to use the rest of this warrior’s magic defensively: block, defense, resist, life and the such.



Disclaimer: I have no idea if this is a well-known build, already covered by others. Everything written here is done solely by myself, and played and tested by me.


* Of course, defining which gameplay has a “melee” feeling to it, and which not, is kind of subjective. I personally consider producing damage without using your weapon, to not feel “melee” but magical. I will list here the skills that feel “melee”, more or less:
– Punish (primary)
– Slash (primary)
– Shield Bash (secondary)
– Sweep Attack (secondary)
– Steed Charge (utility)
– Falling Sword (conviction)
– Akarat’s Champion (conviction)