Electrocute is a Primary Wizard skill unlocked at Level 15, which electrocutes an enemy over time. This is a Signature spell. Signature spells are free to cast.
Electrocute functions like a continuous Chain Lightning, with a bolt that remains active as long as the Wizard keeps it going. The beam locks onto the targeted enemy, or any enemy in close proximity to the target, and chains to others as well, dealing damage every pulse. The hit rate is determined by the Wizard's attack speed.
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Electrocute functions much like a beam weapon, locking onto the target and zapping until dead.
is basically a beam weapon, one that the Wizard fires as long as she keeps the mouse clicked. You can not move while using Electrocute, but you're unlikely to want to, since it locks on and keeps zapping the target until it's dead, or you're out of mana. The second happens before the first more often than you'd like, and it's basically unusable on bosses, or even moderately tough targets like Dune Dervishes and Dark Demons, since mana would run out long before their health. Other Wizard spells deal far more damage per mana, but few are as much fun to use as this one.
Electrocute was simply awesome for small stuff, especially on evasive enemies like the fluttering Sand Wasps, or those last one or two Fallen Imps who always scattered away from the battle when their Overseers and Shamans went down. Just aim at the monster, or anywhere near it, and the beam locks on, draining that monster steadily. Smaller monsters usually died in less than a second, and I found this one far quicker than the higher damage Arcane Orb to clean up groups of weak enemies. Some screenshots show this one chaining to multiple targets, but higher levels in this spell only listed more damage.
Note that lightning damage critical hits will stun targets. This one stuns (very briefly) at least every two seconds, so there must be a lot of hit checks going on, to trigger the critical hit so frequently. That stunning is, of course, highly useful when you're locked onto an enemy trying to charge into melee range.
Electrocute was first shown at BlizzCon 2008, where the lightning could hit a string of targets at lesser and lesser damage. Back then, it was at Tier II on the Storm Skill Tree.
This was changed in the demo displayed at BlizzCon 2009, where it became focused on a single target. The change seemed to have been done briefly before BlizzCon, since the description of the spell had not been completely updated; it didn't show a mana/sec cost, and a damage/sec stat. Flux found it fun but very expensive:
You can not move while using Electrocute, but you’re unlikely to want to, since it locks on and keeps zapping the target until it’s dead, or you’re out of mana. The second happens before the first more often than you’d like, and I found this one unusable on bosses, or even moderately tough targets like Dune Dervishes and Dark Demons, since my mana would run out long before their hit points. Other Wizard spells deal far more damage per mana, but few are as much fun to use as this one.
Unfortunately, by BlizzCon 2010 this spell still had a disturbingly high resource cost, as mentioned by Flux:
It’s not very high damage, so you’ll need to cook for a while on tougher targets, and at low levels this one isn’t very useful against bosses or champions; it’s just to AP expensive for big enemies; you’ll be out of resource before they’re out of hit points.
Skill tiers were removed for the July 2011 Press Event, allowing skills to unlock steadily from levels 1 to 30. Consequently, all skill levels were adjusted and Electrocute became a level 6 skill.
The Diablo III Beta started in September 2011, and while it ran, all of the skills continued to undergo extensive iteration. Skill changes varied from changing the levels the skills are unlocked, to changes in resource cost, damage, and even function. A few skills were removed altogether, and a few new ones were added. Also, the entire skill system received an overhaul with the Beta Patch 13 update in February 2012, with physical runes replaced by rune effects that automatically unlock at various levels for the different skills.
Electrocute remained a level 6 skill when the beta started. Flux found it very useful:
Electrocute is great fun to use, and would be so even if it wasn’t so powerful. The skill works a bit like Chain Lighting, with a single electrical bolt fired out that hits a target and then jumps to other nearby enemies. Electrocute moves much more quickly than Chain Lightning ever did though, and while the damage is quite variable in the beta, it’s generally high enough to wipe out any normal monster with a single flicker.
With the Beta Patch 8 of December 2011, all signature spells became free to cast, and Electrocute was bumped up to level 13. With the Patch 13 changes, it was classified as a Primary skill and dropped to level 11. For March's Beta Patch 14, it moved to level 15, making it unplayable in the beta.