Many have enjoyed the wonders of whirlwind throughout the days of barbarians and recently many have embraced the newly renovated concentrate barb builds, but what of our old friend Frenzy? How many times have you looked at a barb swing at his measly 9 or 10 frame pace and pondered giving his weapon to a druid or paladin? Hopefully never, but for those that have been tempted, there is an answer. For some of us speed is everything, we have become spoiled seeing that which can be reached by other classes, and we have seen those classes steal our skills, be they whirlwind sins or generic CtA weapon switchers. As barbarians we must reclaim what is ours, the dual wielding glory that is FRENZY!
In this guide I hope to cover all the potential builds that one can create focusing around the frenzy skill. While 1.10 brought many changes, quite possibly my favorite is that it is forcing us to make better use of our warcries, adding a new level of strategy that had been missing in the world of barbarians, and so I hope to explain them all well enough that you will feel comfortable using them in future frenzy builds, as they can be quite indispensable.
The concentration of this guide will be upon PvM and survivability with little attention given to PvP, so consider yourself warned of this.
My qualifications? I’ve played many frenzy barbs over the years and most recently have taken a ladder frenzy barb through hell, killed Baal solo and in 8player games and have handily dealt with Diablo Clone. I mention this only to demonstrate the viability of frenzy builds when used with skill and adequate equipment. This is a guide to finish the game, not to get stuck in Act 1 Hell
A) Combat Skills
Frenzy: Frenzy will be the central skill for any build one attempts through this guide and as such it will require 20 points. Each level it receives 5%ED and 7%AR bonus compared to weapon mastery’s 5%ED and 8%AR bonus. As important as AR is I advise pumping frenzy as best you can before maxing mastery as the increased attack and run/walk speed associated with frenzy will prove invaluable.
Double Swing: Double Swing is a prerequisite and synergizes with Frenzy adding 8%ed/lvl. Double Swing is also a useful skill early in the game particularly if you are playing untwinked and without being rushed. The mechanics of DS are often debated but from my experience the skill will cost 0 mana by lvl9. This will be useful later in the game if you find your mana pool burned away or have been chilled/decrepified and need a quick way to boost your attack speed. I like to put 9-10 points into DS and have it as a backup to frenzy when I have to attack unleachable objects or mana burn enemies. The skill could be maxed for a pure damage build.
Double Swing=1-20 points
Leap/Leap Attack: I find the leaps to be useful for escaping unpleasant situations or speeding through the Durance of Hate. A single point in them will do.
Leap Attack=1 point
Stun/Concentrate/Whirlwind/Berserk: For the purpose of my frenzy barbs I left the middle of the combat tree empty not giving a point to any of these skills. Some would advocate whirlwind as a good means of escaping enemies and possibly leaching some life back on the way out, but I see no need to sink the points when I can escape or avoid a mob with a War Cry and a leap away. Berserk may be good for a single point if PIs are causing you grief, in the past I have had a 2-hand weapon on weapon switch for berserk and, if frenzy speed bonus is still active you can get off some quick zerks at those pesky PIs before it wears off. Stun and Concentrate are of little use to Frenzy builds and should only receive points if you insist on using the skills they are prerequisites to.
Bash/Double Throw=prerequisites=1 point each
B) Combat Masteries
Weapon Masteries: Polearm and Throw Mastery are right out since you’re using one hand weapons only, theoretically throwing spears are one-handed but their damage is poor and only plausible if you desired to do some kind of frenzy/double throw hybrid, which, since I have not experimented with, I am not covering in this guide. This leaves sword, axe, and mace mastery as likely candidates. Each has its own bonuses, with swords there are plenty of uniques available and two-handed swords can be used, axes can be utilized in every 1.10 weapon runeword except Heart of the Oak and in this they provide great versatility, maces includes 1-handed mace weapons and scepters, providing a long list of potential weapons for your character to choose from, including some rather useful uniques.
Some builds may entail that points not be used in mastery, or perhaps, if this character is untwinked, you cannot plan out the potential weapons you will have down the road and are forced to abandon mastery for lack of appropriate gear; however, the AR/dmg/crit strike bonuses of masteries are extremely beneficial and even in an untwinked build I advocate saving points to be spent into masteries once end game weapons are obtained.
Weapon Mastery=1-20 points
Increased Stamina: Using Frenzy you will cover a lot of ground at high speed and stamina will not be an issue, but Increased Stamina is a nice skill as soon as it becomes available and it is a prerequisite for Increased Speed.
Increased Stamina=0-1 point
Increased Speed: It makes you run faster, which never hurts, but it isn’t absolutely necessary.
Increased Speed=0-1 point
Iron Skin: A single point will do, if you choose to go for a defensive build, Shout will be more useful for its synergy bonuses.
Iron Skin=1 point
Natural Resist: Without a shield as a source of resistance Natural Resist becomes that much more important, but +skills and battle command will generally make a single point useful enough, although if you play hardcore you may want to consider a few additional points as safety is your primary concern, but diminished returns make anything more than 5 points wasteful.
Natural Resist=1-5 points
Howl: It can be useful in an emergency to drive enemies away, but I prefer to bring them in most of the time. I don’t often find myself using it, but it is a semi-useful prerequisite.
Find Potion: The ability to buy potions has essentially removed any usefulness of this skill but it is a prerequisite to the more useful Find Item.
Find Potion=0-1 points
Taunt: A potentially useful skill and a synergy to frenzy, Taunt will be getting at least 1 point. Taunt can be used to target individual enemies and lure them towards you, causing them to cease ranged attacks. Taunt can be useful for separating minions from their bosses or gather ranged attackers like fetishes into a circle around you so that they can be stunned with War Cry and then given a proper barbarian beating, and it gives 160% enhanced damage to frenzy when maxed. Of minor importance is the synergy it also shares with War Cry adding damage, which may be of use to builds with strong leanings towards singers. Taunt does not work on Act Bosses or uniques.
Shout: Shout will increase your defense for its duration and is a very useful skill even with only 1 point. Shout synergizes with Battle Orders such that the inherent issue of low Shout duration is removed thanks to the duration synergy provided by max BO. Shout can also be maxed for more defensive oriented builds and will in turn add to BO duration.
Find Item: Far more useful than its prerequisite Find Potion, Find Item can be used after every kill, which could be tedious, or it could be saved for particular uniques or boss packs for a chance at a second drop from a slain enemy. A single point is often useful enough with +skills to increase the chance for successful item finding. Find Item does not work on Act Bosses.
Find Item=0-1 points
Battle Cry: Battle Cry is a skill that should be exploited by any PvM barbarian, it will lower the defense and damage of enemies and it works on Act Bosses. It’s duration is poor so some would advocate multiple points into it for sake of its usefulness. If used with the aforementioned Taunt strategy of gathering enemies into your proximity Battle Cry could then lower their defense and damage while War Cry stuns them leaving them doubly vulnerable and easier to hit.
Battle Cry=1+ points
Battle Orders: The granddaddy of warcries, virtually every barbarian build will utilize maxed BO and I advocate the same. Battle Orders will double your life which… keeps you alive. Lacking a shield, life becomes that much more important to a Frenzy Barb and BO synergizes with Shout and Battle Command.
Battle Orders=20 points
Grim Ward: I don’t want to scare monsters away or isolate certain areas, as such I never used this skill and I don’t feel I would have greatly benefited from it if I had.
Grim Ward=0 points
War Cry: A centerpiece of the frenzy build, War Cry will prove indispensable when properly used. Adding to the skills potency in 1.10 is that it will not suffer a duration penalty in nightmare or hell, making it a very useful skill for protecting a shieldless barb. War Cry has reduced effectiveness vs. champions and uniques and will not stun Act Bosses but its usefulness vs. groups of enemies is unparalleled, and for a barbarian not using whirlwind it will become an integral part of dealing with these groups.
War Cry=5-15 points
Battle Command: Battle Command will grant you an extra +skill, which is always useful. Use BC right before casting Shout and BO to increase their level of effectiveness. Every Barb should have a point into BC, any more are wasteful as BO synergy takes care of BC duration and BC will always only grand +1 skills.
Battle Command=1 point
With these skill descriptions and recommendations I have left a lot of room open to customize your own build, but here are a few sample skill placements in which I will still assign only 90 points to leave some room for flexibility but they should give you an idea if you are still unsure how you want to build your frenzy barb.
20 battle orders
10 taunt/double swing
20 battle orders
10 double swing
10 War Cry
Max damage build
20 battle orders
20 taunt/double swing
10 double swing/taunt
I have not attempted a build to maximize frenzy damage but I have found the first two builds to be highly successful at dealing with enemy packs and bosses. If you wanted to attempt PvP with a frenzy barb then War Cry would be ignored in favor of finding a balance between damage and defense. These are only sample builds and there are plenty of other variants to be experimented with so do not feel constrained.
Strength: Strength will obviously be dependent upon your equipment, 189 is usually the maximum to equip one handed weapons, but then one must consider that sacred armor can have up to 232 strength required. This said, enough strength for your equipment is what I would suggest, if you do not know what your equipment shall be then I would advise saving points until you have a good idea.
Dexterity: Many one handed weapons, particularly swords, have high dexterity requirements such as phase blades at 136. If you opt to go the mace route you will find many items with low or non-existent dexterity requirements with the same being true of axes. As with strength, use enough dexterity to equip your weapons, as you do not block it will not behoove you to spend any more points than this.
Vitality: Everything else should be placed here. The new manner in which Battle Orders works makes points spent into vitality all the more important towards the amount of life your character will possess. Vitality keeps you alive, without a shields blocking and resists you will find high life to be of great value.
Energy: Energy gives 1 mana per point spent… so why spend points on it when you could get 4 life per vitality? A worthless stat for barbs, never touch energy!
Here comes the toughest part for the Frenzy barb, finding him the best gear you can. If you are anything like me, you lament the inability of %chance to cast to work with whirlwind. If this be the case you will be delighted to see it working in full force with frenzy and I think anyone using frenzy should take advantage of this as there are many potentially useful skills to be harnessed.
Atma’s Scarab: Atma’s provides a 20%AR bonus and most notable, a 5% chance to cast lvl2 amp damage.
The Cat’s Eye: Faster run/walk and increased attack speed, very useful mods for a frenzy barb, and a bonus of 25dex is always helpful for meeting your item requirement needs.
Highlord’s Wrath: +.375/clvl% deadly strike, this will surpass 30% deadly strike when you reach the 80s and deadly strike is a highly useful mod for increasing ones killing power. As you will be striking quickly there will be many opportunities for it to come in to effect. 20%ias and lightning resist are golden, as is a +skill that makes this amulet hard to pass up.
Metalgrid: If you play the ladder then you will find this amulet very useful, high AR bonus, resists and defense will come in handy.
Rare Amulets: Mods to look for on rare amulets include +skills/barb trees, mana steal, resist all, stat bonuses, and Magic Find.
Ravenfrost: A high AR and dexterity bonus is very useful as is cold absorb but CANNOT BE FROZEN is of paramount importance to frenzy as your attack speed will be slowed when you are chilled. If you cannot get CBF from other gear then this ring is an excellent source.
Bul Kathos’ Wedding Band: A plus skill and 3-5%LL along with a solid life bonus can be handy.
Carrion Wind: 6-9%life steal and 55% poison resist make this ring stand out, and 10%damage to mana is also a nice stat to have for a frenzy barb when mobbed by mana draining enemies.
Rare Rings: Mods to look for, life and or mana steal, +AR, resists, stat bonuses, Magic Find. The ability to, once again, find dual leach on rare rings makes them a good choice as a 2nd ring.
Arreat’s Face: Still the king of barb helms Arreat’s provides +skills, 30 resist all, 40stats, FHR, and life steal.
Crown of Ages: +skill, damage reduction, resists, this helm is an excellent alternative to Arreats, sacrificing Arreat’s skill bonuses and life steal for damage reduction and potentially 2 open sockets.
Andariel’s Visage: +2 skills, 20ias, up to 10%life steal and a healthy strength bonus make this helm a very tempting choice if you play on the Ladder.
Harlequin’s Crest: +2 skills and a hefty life and mana bonus along with damage reduction also make this a solid helm of choice.
Cheaper alternatives include Tal Mask, IK Helm, Rockstopper, Steelskull, Vampire Gaze, Crown of Thieves, and Blackhorn’s.
Chains of Honor: Dol Um Ber Ist creates this runeword in 4 socket armor and it is immensely useful to a frenzy barb for its +2 skills, 8%life steal, 8%DR, and most importantly, 65% resist all.
Gloom: For the relatively inexpensive price of Fal Um Pul you can get 200-260%enhanced defense and 45% resist all.
Naj’s Light Plate: This armor gives a +skill, 25%resist all and 45%dmg to mana as well as life and mana bonuses.
Resists are of added importance to a shieldless frenzy barb and armor is a nice place to find them, also consider Duriel’s Shell, Smoke(Nef+Lum), Lionheart(Hel+Lum+Fal), etc.. There are many fine armors available.
Verdungo’s Hearty Cord: Damage reduction and vitality make this belt a favorite.
Nosferatu’s Coil: Increased attack speed and life steal as well as other fine bonuses make this belt worth considering.
String of Ears: Damage reduction and life steal, another winning combination for a barbarian belt.
Belts can also be a good source of absorb or resists. Early in the game consider Death’s sash which grants cannot be frozen. In conjunction with Death’s gloves you will find an excellent partial set.
Dracul’s Grasp: While there are many useful gloves, these should be your end game gloves. Life steal, open wounds, +strength and life/kill are all very useful mods, but it is the 5% chance to cast lvl10 life tap on striking that is most valuable. These gloves are life savers and can even the odds whenever trouble arises. The frenzy barb is a strong build, but with these gloves it’s survivability increases tenfold.
Life steal is easily gotten from gloves be they uniques such as Venomgrips, Soul Drainers, or crafted blood gloves.
Gore Riders: Crushing Blow, Deadly Strike, and Open Wounds all add to your killing power and with your speedy frenzy strikes there will be many opportunities for these useful mods to come into effect.
War Travelers: Once the staple of barbarians these boots are still quite useful with their stat bonuses, +dmg and magic find.
Cheaper boot alternatives include Waterwalks, IK boots, Natalya’s boots, Cow King’s boots, and Aldur’s boots.
Annihilus SC is an excellent source of stats and resists and its +skill and experience bonus are of great aid. The remainder of your charm space can be used to address resistances, AR, damage, and life needs. Magic Find is also always a fine mod to have around when it doesn’t compromise survivability.
Your most important items saved for last. There are many weapons to choose from amongst one-handed swords, axes, maces, scepters, and two-handed swords. Only a few most notable weapons will be mentioned.
Azurewrath: LADDER ONLY-The high speed and immense magic damage make this an excellent weapon but the physical damage is low, it excels at killing high resist enemies like Diablo Clone.
Death Cleaver: LADDER ONLY-High damage, good speed, and oodles of deadly strike make this a tempting weapon.
Schaefer’s Hammer: Not the fastest weapon, but good IAS gear will compliment its excellent damage and 20% chance to cast static. Static, AR, and lightning resist make this an excellent weapon and a top-notch boss killer.
Stormlash: Take the high damage and static of Schaefers, speed it up, and add crushing blow and you have yourself quite a weapon.
Beast: Ber Tir Um Mal Lum-Transforming into a bear is of no use to a frenzy barb but, Fanaticism, Open Wounds, Crushing Blow, Prevent Monster Heal, and a healthy strength bonus make this an excellent weapon that can be used in tandem with a slower weapon to speed things up with Fanaticism.
Breath of the Dying: Vex Hel El Eld Zod Eth- An expensive and popular weapon, 350-400%ED and 60%IAS along with +30 all attributes, dual leach, and PMH make for an absolutely ridiculous weapon.
Crescent Moon: Shael Um Tir- A cheaper alternative to Stormlash and Schaefers, this runeword gives 7% chance to cast static field and a solid 180-220% enhanced damage and will work in Swords or Axes.
There are many, many other quality weapons to choose from. When making your selection focus first on damage and speed, then look for AR and life steal. The more useful mods on your weapon, the more flexibility with the rest of your equipment.
War Cry is your basic skill for dealing with crowds, depending on points used/build you can easily attain 3-5 second stun duration, during which time you can whip on baddies without fear of reprisal. Effective use of War Cry to prevent swarming is essential to success against large numbers. If you do not use War Cry with your particular build you will have to rely on defense alone to save you from attackers, keep in mind that your defense drops to zero when you run. IMHO the ability to prevent attacks from beginning is superior to the ability to reduce the chance an attack will land. War Cry has reduced effectiveness vs. Champions and Uniques and will not work on Act Bosses. Battle Cry can also be handy for lowering defense and damage of enemies and works well in conjunction with War Cry on enemies in close proximity.
Fetishes, Black Souls, and other ranged attackers can be very pesky, but the Frenzy Barb has a means of dealing with them. Taunt is an excellent skill to halt ranged attacks in favor of melee as taunted opponents will cease fire and approach, bringing them into range of War Cry and Frenzy! Taunted opponents can then be dealt with the same as any other group of attackers with War Cry and Battle Cry. WARNING: certain effects such as Sanctuary aura upon taunted undead will reset enemy AI and cause them to resume ranged attack, so be wary if using Azurewrath, and be aware of any other curses or effects that may overwrite Taunt.
One option for PI enemies is to have a large 2-handed weapon on switch and a single point in Berserk, I have employed this tactic with some success in the past. If your particular build does not make use of Berserk then one of the great strengths of the Frenzy barb might need to come into play, as you run away at high speed! For Physical Immune monsters I often relied on equipment and elemental damage to take them down. Some would choose to utilize the synergy of Berserk towards Frenzy but 20 points for a measly 20%ed did not need worthwhile to me and I have yet to attempt this approach.
Basic Frenzy Use
Frenzy can be a difficult skill to control; when fully charged and moving at high speed one may have trouble targeting enemies without accidentally running past them. One tried and true method for a Frenzy Barb is to hotkey Frenzy as a right-click skill and hold down while steering with the mouse in order to attack any enemies that come into range without having to specifically target them. This approach can make for an easier time as it can be frustrating to have Frenzy duration expire because an enemy failed to be targeted in time.
With little to no PvP experience with Frenzy in 1.10 I dont feel terribly qualified to address this issue, but I can tell you that it wont be easy. No shield means 4x the damage from physical attacks, relegating the PvP Frenzier to a role of Mage-Killer. It is difficult to speculate how well a Frenzy barb could perform in this role, but I certainly wish you the best in getting enough resists and absorb to survive as you chase down Sorceresses and Enigma wearers.
This section will hopefully be more informative in future versions of the guide but at this time my testing is still incomplete in terms of more technical questions.
Q: Do both weapon speeds matter for Frenzy attack speed?
A: From preliminary tests it appears that YES, weapon base speed is calculated independently for each weapon, but further testing is needed to completely verify that base speed and IAS both function independently of the other weapon.
Q: I heard that varying weapon range makes Frenzy ineffective, is this true?
A: While I have not actually tested the precise difference with Frenzy regarding different weapon ranges, it still functions discrediting this rumor for the most part.
Q: If I were to only max one, which Frenzy synergy, Taunt or Double Swing, is most useful on it’s own?
A: Taunt’s usefulness has been explained, further points lead to greater DMG & AR penalties on your opponent while Double Swing is of great use early in the game and can re-emerge in the later stages as an emergency skill vs. mana burn or unleachable enemies for its 0 mana cost. Given the choice between maxing either of these skills I would put 10 points in each instead .
Q: I’ve seen that Double Swing is supposed to give a negative mana cost, how does this work?
A: According to my testing Double Swing’s mana cost is incorrectly listed. It appears that the skill still cost mana at lvl6 even though it should not have, prompting me to believe that Double Swing obeys the same mechanics it followed in the 1.10beta, that at lvl9 it drops to a mana cost of zero and remains there, dropping no further. I have yet to test this at high levels of Double Swing.
Q: Would Bul-Kathos Children set swords work well for Frenzy?
A: Knock back on the Colossus Blade is disturbing but some use can be made of this set, but it’s bonuses are unremarkable and many superior weapon combinations are available.
Q: I can’t afford godly gear, can I take a Frenzy barb to Hell?
A: My Frenzy Barb began as an untwinked ladder barb in the hopes that I would be able to write a guide for untwinked characters and he made it fairly far without outside help. In his mid 40s my Frenzy Barb found he had outgrown his pitiful weapons and needed help. Patience and resourcefulness are musts for untwinked melee characters, your ability to kill may be slowed by poor weapons, but War Cry and Natural Resist can certainly help your chances to survive. Even without great weapons or great armor or resists a Frenzy Barb has a good chance to make it to Hell, hopefully acquiring some adequate weapons to aid with the difficult journey ahead.
Q: You mention several Frenzy variants, which is your favorite?
A: My favorite Frenzy variant is a Singing Frenzy Barb exemplified by his penchant for War Cry to protect him from harm. His construction was meticulous, yet open ended as end game weapons were not available until he was well into his 50s.
His skill breakdown at lvl86 is as follows
20 Sword Mastery
1 Axe Mastery
1 Mace Mastery
1 Increased Stamina
1 Iron Skin
1 Increased Speed
1 Natural Resistance
9 Double Swing
1 Double Throw
1 Leap Attack
1 Find Potion
1 Find Item
1 Battle Cry
20 Battle Orders
7 War Cry
1 Battle Command
*all future skill points go to Taunt
Life with BO=3009
He is less than ideal, but he is an excellent PvM character despite untwinked origins and should be a fair example to those who are initially trying to create a Frenzy Barb with less than ideal equipment.
VI. Conclusion and Thanks
A lot of time went into this guide and I hope people are interested enough to read it and find something of use within it. Frenzy is an excellent skill and I am optimistic that people will realize the Frenzy Barb is a Hell viable character with the right know how and skill. Enjoy your Frenzy Barb!
Thanks to the following people who donated items, offered advice, helped with quests, or helped with dead body retrieval anyone who feels left out, let me know and you will be thanked doubly in later guide versions.
Harbinger of Souls