Diablo 2 Guide: Concentrate Barbarian

Introduction

Things have changed drastically in the world of Sanctuary over the past few months. With the coming of the 1.10 patch, virtually everything we previously knew about how to construct powerful characters has changed, and the developers have introduced us to many new challenges. As a result, there have been frequent requests in the forums for strong and stable builds that are fully capable of surviving the harsh new environment in which we play. This, in combination with some prodding by several friends and colleagues, pushed me to sit down over the past few months of beta testing and create just such a build. As a long-time fan of the barbarian class, and of high defense builds in particular, I decided to experiment with the newly improved Concentrate skill and all of its synergies.

The main problem we are faced with in the patch is the sheer difficulty; nearly every aspect of the game has changed, with enemy AI, speed, damage, and other vital statistics being raised across the board. As a result, many of the old standards have become a good deal less powerful (such as the traditional Whirlwind build), while many of the under-appreciated skills have finally come into their own. Concentrate is just such a skill. For years now, defense oriented characters have fallen to the wayside, thanks to several bugs and weak enemies that undermined the importance of the stat. Now, however, defense is a beautiful, beautiful thing, and thus it has become the focus of this build.

My main goals when developing the Concentrate Barb were as follows:

  • Achieve a large amount of defense, rendering enemy accuracy as close to 5% as possible
  • Reach max resists
  • Obtain maximum blocking, for those enemies that ignore defense
  • Achieve a decent level of physical damage reduction
  • Obtain a pool of 2000+ Hit Points, in order to survive any blows that make it past defense
  • Create a character that meets all of the above requirements, while still maintaining the capability to deliver quick, accurate, and powerful attacks
  • Create a character with a mix of skills which will allow him to handle any situation encountered, with emphasis on flexibility and versatility

The original build, developed during the beta, met all of these criteria. I was thus very excited to see that none of the synergies of the build were changed between the beta and the final, and I am pleased to present you all with my outline for the 1.10 concentrate barb.

Disclaimer

Note that the purpose of this guide is to provide you with a template that works extremely well in 1.10, along with filling you in on general tactics for playing and providing you with an idea of what types of equipment to look for. The intention of this guide is not to tell you when to place which point where, or how to go about gaining your levels. I feel that in doing so, I would’ve taken the fun out of playing, removing the personal connection between the player and his character. This guide is thus more of a template for your build; use it to get an idea of where you’re going and why.

Glossary of Commonly Used Game Terms

AR: Attack Rating
BP or BPS: Breakpoint(s)
BotD: “Breath of the Dying” Rune Word
CBF: item property “Cannot be Frozen”
Clvl: Character level
Dual Leech: an item that has both Mana and Life leech
Echoing: prefix found on magic items; grants +3 to warcries
ED: Enhanced Damage
FCR: Faster Cast Rate
FHR: Faster Hit Recovery
IAS: Increased Attack Speed
ITD: item property “Ignore Target’s Defense”
LL: item property “Life Leech”
MF: Magic Find
ML: item property “Mana leech”
PDR: item property “Physical Damage Reduction”
PMH: iem property “Prevent Monster Heal”
Prismatic: a property on an item that gives +all resists
PvM: Player versus Monster
PvP: Player versus Player
R/W: Run/Walk (as in run/walk speed)
Slvl: Skill level
TP: Town Portal

Stat Point Distribution

The most important things to consider before assigning stat points are what weapon you plan to be using at endgame, and whether or not you’re going to use a shield. This will give you some idea of how much strength and dexterity to aim for. I personally prefer berserker axes, thanks to their base speed of 0, wonderful 1 handed damage, and ability to obtain up to 6 sockets, meaning you can create virtually every Rune Word weapon available. This will be discussed more in the equipment section.

Strength

Enough to use your biggest item. If you’re following this guide to the letter, I’d suggest getting your strength to exactly 156 base and stopping, as that is the requirement of Stormshield, the biggest item you’d be using. You can alternately use your other gear to reach your targeted amount, though I personally feel 156 is a good, safe number – not too much, and yet not too little, either. Massive strength isn’t so important, since most of the end-game items you’ll be looking for give 20+ strength bonuses (arreat’s, CoH, Stormshield, etc), and because your main concern is survival.

Dexterity

If you’re going with shields, you’ll need a hefty amount of dexterity to maintain max blocking. Stormshield, for example, requires 222 dexterity at level 99 to achieve max block. Whether you make that you base amount or get there with items is up to you, just so long as you have enough to maintain max block.

Dexterity has several desirable effects on your character. Aside from assisting in determining your block rate in the formula, every 4 points into dexterity gives you 1 extra defense, which is useful to the build. Likewise, dexterity gives you ar at an exchange of 4 points per 1 stat. If you ever decide to pvp with the build, you’re going to want as much ar as you can get; thus, you can never really waste a point of dexterity on a concbarb.

On the other hand, if you’re not planning to use a shield, then you need only get enough dexterity to use your weapon. You can leave it at base for big mauls, since there are plenty of ar boosting skills and items in the game, and one of our “tools” — battle cry — knocks off 50% of an enemy’s defense, making him much easier to hit.

Vitality

Everything you have left. While in the past, Ironbarb variants didn’t really require a lot of life, things have changed in 1.10. There are several types of creatures who ignore defense, and with damage from enemies increased across the board, you’ll want a hefty amount of HP to soak up magic and elemental damage in the later parts of Hell.

Energy

None. All of your skills use at or around 2-4 mana, so this is not an issue, even vs. mana burn uniques.

Skill Point Distribution

Here is where we get into the blood and guts of the build. As I stated before, this template is a variant of the Ironbarb, though it forsakes some of the traditional steps taken by its forbearer to max defense to instead become more versatile and balanced. The basis of this is the synergy chain: Concentrate is your main skill, which chains with Battle Orders, which chains with Shout, which chains with Berserk, which chains back to Concentrate. Thus, just about every skill in the template works with another one, making the barb operate much like a well-oiled machine.

Below is a list of all the skills you will need, as well as my reasons for selecting such. Keep in mind that this is a skill point distribution for the entire 110 points acquired by level 99; as level 80 is a more reasonable estimate, I will provide my suggestions of what skills should be worked on last.

The Big Four

Regardless of what little changes you want to make to personalize the build to your tastes, there are generally four main skills that are the main strengths of the character. Whatever path you take, make sure you max these four skills.

Concentrate: 20 skill points

Concentrate is the engine of the build. This skill, once overlook for its poor damage and slow killing speed, has become a powerhouse in 1.10, with synergies boosting its damage to very large proportions, along with massive defensive boosts and the inability to be interrupted. Plus, at the meager cost of two mana, you can get by with little to no mana leech when using it as your main skill.

Battle Orders: 20 skill points

Even with your huge defense, max block, resists, and pdr, your character will take quite a pounding from magical and defense ignoring enemies. Thus, the more life the better. Battle Orders likewise has several very important synergies in the patch. For one, it gives concentrate an incredible +10% damage a level, which alone would justify it’s use. Furthermore, the skill grants a +5 second/level bonus to Shout and Battle Command, both of which are critical to this build plan. So for your 20 point investment, you get a skill that gives +200% damage to your main skill, doubles your life/mana/stamina, and increases how long your defense and skill boosting warcires last by an excellent 100 seconds. It’s also party friendly, benefiting you, your group, your merc, and any other summons/hirelings/friendly npcs in the area.

Shout: 20 skill points

Shout boosts the defense of you and your party by huge amounts, which will help you survive the harsh environment of the patch. Also, just like Battle Orders, Shout has some valuable synergies to take advantage of. It too features the wonderful +5 seconds/level boost to Battle Orders and Battle Command, so with both this skill and BO maxed, you’ll get +100 to each of them, and +200 to Battle Command, making that skill last over 3 minutes with only ONE skill point invested in it. The skill also provides a 10% damage/level bonus to berserk, which you’ll want a point of anyways for dealing with those pesky PI’s later in the game.

Weapon Mastery: 20 skill points

A lot of people will tell you that boosting a mastery is a foolish act in the patch, that working with synergies is a much better idea. However, with this build you are already maxing the three skills that do the most using synergies in your build: BO, Concentrate, and Shout. The only other skill you could really consider working on is Bash, but all that does is give you 5% damage/level, while a weapon mastery gives you 5% damage, 8% ar, and increases your critical strike chance. Thus, it is the humble opinion of this writer that every player should pick a weapon to specialize in and work on maxing it out. Which one you pick is totally a matter of personal opinion, though I sincerely feel that axes offer the most to the template, as they have the most powerful one handed weapon in the game in the berserker axe, can use most every Rune Word, have very low requirements, and are the only candidates for use with the blood weapon recipe, which can create some insanely powerful weapons, should you get lucky. I’d like to note that because of the difficulty of gaining levels in the patch, I would suggest making this the second-to-last skill you work on; the three preceding skills should be your top priority.

The One Point Wonders

The next section of skills are the ones you’re definitely going to want one point — and typically only one point — of. Make sure you pick up all of these over the course of your barb’s career.

Battle Command

BC always deserves a point of investment, just because it is so useful. BC first, then use Shout and Battle orders for a lovely +1 skill boost to both of those when they are cast. BC also receives some nice synergies that make it much more powerful in the patch: +5 second/level boosts from Shout and BO. Thus, once you max those two, you can cast BC, Shout, BO, and then BC again to get the +skill boost to it, increasing all of your skills for a good 4 minutes!

Howl

One of the main issues with playing a Concentrate barb is the fact that it’s a “one enemy at a time” skill; thus, you don’t have much in the way of crowd control. That’s where Howl comes in. When swamped with enemies, a blast from Howl will throw them into a panic, forcing most (if not all) of them to flee from your character. While most of the time this won’t be necessary for your barbarian, thanks to his huge defense, you will run into several occasions where you are pitted against an enemy class that ignores said defense (like Moon Lords, Gore Bellies, and their kin). A quick spamming of this will give you some time to breath, and thin out the mod quite a bit, making it much less frantic and more manageable. This skill works wonders with Taunt as well, and tactics combining the two have been explained in the Gameplay section.

Howl has a limit on its terror inducing ability, designated by the formula slvl + clvl + 1, as compared to the monster’s level. Likewise, certain enemy types, as well as all act bosses, champions, and unique/super unique enemies are immune to this skill.

Taunt

Ok, this is probably going to turn out to be a somewhat lengthy rant. Taunt is, without a doubt, my favorite skill, one that is so under-appreciated that it is ridiculous; it is a skill that has so many applications that I feel it should be a staple for nearly every barbarian made post-1.10.

So what’s so great about Taunt? Here we have a skill that forces an enemy to stop what it is doing and move into melee range to attack you, while lowering his damage and accuracy. While it may not seem too great at first, to an ironbarb, is an incredible, incredible tool! Following activation of the skill, one of three things is going to happen:

  1. The enemy will swing, and the attack will be negated by your blocking
  2. The enemy will swing, and miss, thanks to your huge defense
  3. The enemy will swing, make it past your blocking and defense, but do meager damage, thanks to pdr from the skill and your equipment

But wait, there’s more! Taunt is also extremely party friendly, allowing you to pull enemies off of your weaker compatriots and onto yourself. You can also use this to your advantage when working with your merc, as you can use it to keep heavy hitters off him. Furthermore, use of the skill causes enemies to abstain from using special attacks, and taunt works wonders against ranged attackers, forcing them to stop shooting and walk right up to you. and, you can use it in combination with Howl for some incredible crowd control. Howl to scare off the crowd, taunt to pull back the ones you want to deal with as you feel like it. All of this for just one point!

Berserk

This one doesn’t really need much explanation…it’s been a staple of every barb build since Blizzard introduced PI’s into the game, and since it converts all of your damage to magical, it is totally unaffected by the deadly Iron Maiden curse. A one point investment is plenty enough, as you’ll get an additional 200% damage from your shout skill and it will be boosted a level by battle command, though you may decide to come back and put points into this later in your career; see the spare point section for more detail.

Battle Cry

For one point, you get a skill that significantly lowers the damage dealt by enemies and halves their defense, making them much, much easier to hit. Battle Cry has the added bonus of working on nearly everything in the game as well, making it a wonderful tool to use against bosses like Duriel and Diablo and other high-defense, high-damage uniques. Also nice for when you are being mobbed, because even with your defense and equipment pdr, it’s nice to get every possible edge you can in combat in 1.10.

Note: Battle Cry works in PvP

Increased Stamina/Increased Speed/Ironskin/Natural Resistances

All of these skills provide powerful passive boosts to your character. While in previous versions of the game, it was prudent to play a good 5+ points in Increased Speed and Natural Resistances, this is not the case anymore thanks to synergies. One point in each one is enough; with +skill items, battle command, and good equipment/charms, they will all be upwards of 7 or more with just one point invested.

Other One-Pointers of Interest

Here I’ll list a few potential skills you might look into getting, if you feel like it. Previous versions of the guide had these listed in the main build, but seeing as how people have different tastes, I’ve decided to separate them out and let the player decide if he wants them or not.

Find Potion/Find Item/Grim Ward

I’ll just lump all of these together. Find Potion and Find Item are listed for obvious reasons…you never know when you’ll score that Zod rune or high-end unique using FI, and FP will let you stock up on potions for long excursions when you don’t have a TP.

Grim Ward is a whoooooole other story. I know most of the readers of this guide would probably see this as a wasted point, but it is actually quite the contrary. GW is a very powerful tool in the right hands. While most of the time, you’ll rather use Howl instead, the ward shores up for Howl’s weaknesses. For example, in close quarters, Howl will scare off the enemies, but if they hit a wall, they will just turn around and come right back, attacking you regardless of the fear. Grim Ward handles this case very well, putting up a defensive zone that nothing will enter for 40 seconds; thus, when the enemies hit the wall and come running back, they’ll just turn around again and scurry off. This is nice to use when you come up against a powerful unique boss as well, giving you 40 seconds to dance with him alone. You can also employ some very powerful tactics involving the ward: Set a few up in a perimeter and any enemies trapped within will become panicked, running back and forth between the wards while you take them apart. It’s also really nice for parties, since you can create safe zones for casters, archers, and throwers, and use it when at lower levels to safely navigate dangerous terrain, or ensure your retreat by throwing one up while on the run.

A nice bonus to all three of these skills is that they provide you with a form of corpse disposal, which is extremely useful when facing mobs of resurrecting foes.

Leap Attack

Another staple for most barb builds, LA is basically barbarian line-of-sight teleport. Lets you get across rivers, gaps, hills, groups of monsters, and many other obstacles you will encounter in the game. Of course, if you’re using something like Enigma for your armor, or a teleport amulet, this skill loses its luster, so keep that in mind when planning your strategy.

Remaining Skill Points

At this point, you should have anywhere from 14-19 points left over in your build. After you’ve got your one-pointers down and the core skills taken care of, you’re free to spend these however you’d like to strengthen yourself in the late game (8x-99). Below I’ll list a few of the more popular alternatives, just to give you an idea of what to look at.

Offensive-Oriented Barbs: Bash

The sole reason for working on this late game is to take advantage of the 5% damage/level boost to your concentrate skill. With a powerful weapon, high levels of bash can net you upwards of 500+ extra damage, which is then multiplied by deadly and critical strikes. Keep in mind that synergies are only affected by actual investment in the skill, and not by adders, so in that regard it is sometimes more prudent to put points into Bash over Ironskin for those players seeking more of a balance between the two. The downside, of course, is the aforementioned requirement of high-weapon damage for this skill to shine. If you’re swinging something with a max damage of around 150 or 200 or so, this skill really isn’t going to help you much, so keep that in mind when picking a filler-skill.

Defense-Oriented Barbs: Ironskin

Those of you interested in bvb or in possession of extremely high-defense armor pieces might consider Ironskin for your investment. With really good gear, points in ironskin can net you another 5-7k defense easy, which is really nice, especially when you aren’t swinging. The downside is that defense works on diminishing returns, so if you already have a high amount (17k+), the bonus is likely to only lower your change to be hit by a small amount (3% or so, for example), and then you have to keep in mind that when you swing for conc, you’re adding even more defense which may already take you to the dodge minimum of 5%. Defense is likewise worthless against certain enemy and damage types, which one must take into consideration when deciding how to build their character.

Hybrids: Berserk

For those players looking to create more of a hybrid-style barbarian, Berserk is an excellent option. The 1% magic damage/level conversion is nothing to sneeze at, as it can help you get around the resistances of some creatures (and players). Likewise, more points will lower the duration of the skill’s flaw, and increase the damage and ar to massive proportions. It can also make taking care of PI’s and IM enemies that much easier, and is nice in pvp against defense-ignoring enemies like smiters and hammerdins who can drop you in a matter of seconds; one or two huge hits from berserk, with its irresistible magic damage, is often your only hope for victory with the build in such scenarios.

Other Options

Of course, you can always just take your spare points to work up skills that are lacking. You might be more of a magic-finder, in which case you could look into Find Item. Or, you might want to invest in some of your other skills, like Increased Speed or Natural Resists, if you’re lacking in either of those departments late in the game. You could even think about picking up entire new skills, like whirlwind or throwing mastery, if you wanted to be able to do a bit of everything. The point is that after you get the main 4 skills of the build set, you’re pretty much done, and anything else you invest in is more frill-material, so have fun with your character and make him whatever you’d like!

That should all add up to 110 skill points, the maximum amount you can acquire whilst playing through the game. Since it’s rather difficult to level past 80 in the patch, I would recommend working on your weapon mastery and sub-skills last, as they do not provide much other than increased AR and frill-material; all of the other skill point investments provide you with useful tools for handling your foes.

Outfitting Your Conc Barb

Now we come to the fun part of the build: the equipment. While it is important to have the skills you need to survive, you’re going to need the gear to capitalize on them. In this section I will list good equipment for each slot, as well as what I consider the best for the character and why. Note that I generally make mention of uniques and set items, as I have no way of knowing what properties you will stumble upon as far as mods on rare and magic items goes. When in doubt, use a blood crafted item.

Keep in mind that since this is still technically an Ironbarb, a good property to look for in all of your equipment is high defense. This, along with good resists, will help you make the most of your skill distribution. Also, you need to think about the breakpoints for Concentrate, which vary depending on the weapon. I have included a section that gives basic numbers for the two most popular one-handers, colossus blades and berserker axes, in the “Gameplay Tips” section; for other weapons, consult the Weapon Speed Calculator located at the top of the diabloii.net forums.

General Properties to Keep an Eye Out For

  • +skills
  • enhanced defense
  • physical damage reduction (this caps at 50% total for the character)
  • +% resists (lightning, and fire in particular)
  • magic damage reduced
  • mana/life leech
  • +stats (strength and vitality in particular)
  • increased attack speed
  • cannot be frozen
  • crushing blow/deadly strike
  • prevent monster heal
  • % damage to demons/undead
  • +life

Properties to Avoid

  • Knockback; you’re a melee-range character, pushing the enemy away is a bad thing.
  • +Light Radius: this mod isn’t really so bad, it just has a feature that is worth mentioning: increasing the light radius around your character also increases the range at which enemy monsters can detect you; this can be troublesome early in your barb’s career when his defense is low, as you could accidentally stir up a nest of archers while attempting to handle a small group of melee-range enemies. On the upside, these items are worth a good deal of gold early in the game, and are fairly common, so you can sell them off for a healthy profit and use the gold for shopping or gambling.

Helm

There are several possibilities when it comes to the headgear section. Anything that provides nice resists and defense is a plus, though since you’re a barbarian, you’ll more than likely want to look to barb helms for the +skills. At lower levels, some of the smaller sets like Sigon’s are great, and any of the normal uniques will carry you forward quite well. At mid-to-high level, Guilluame’s Face stands out with its deadly strike/crushing blow and strength boosts, along with the ever-popular Vampire Gaze. The Rune Word “Delirium” can likewise be excessively powerful, socketed into the right helm. Overall though, I still believe that nothing really beats the good ol’ Arreat’s Face; she provides huge defense, stat boosts which will help with damage and accuracy, life leech, +skills, 30% faster hit recovery (which I will discuss more in the charms section), and wonderful resists.

Several of the new high-level unique helms are very nice, though none of them have mods that really outpace the mid-level helms in terms of the level-requirement-to-useful-ability department.

  • Low-level: Sigon’s helm, Dusk Deep, Tarnhelm, Biggin’s Bonnet, a decent Rare
  • Mid-Level and up: Rockstopper, a good Rare barb helm, Arreat’s Face, Guilluame’s Face, Vampire Gaze
  • Endgame: Arreat’s Face

Gloves

Glove selection really depends on what your weapon is, as you will more than likely need some extra IAS to help you hit a decent frame rate. Thus, anything with 20% ias is wonderful. At lower levels, the Hand of Broc and Bloodfists are great, along with Sander’s Folly with the +40 life/20%ias. Sigon’s set gloves are very nice in combination with another piece (like the shield) for the 30% ias. Lavagouts and Venomgrips stand out for the mid-range, the ‘gouts in particular for the increased attack speed and fire resist. Laying of Hands is nice at higher levels for similar reasons, as well as Dracul’s Grasp (life tap!). Steelrends are very powerful with the damage/cb, strength, and HUGE defense, and as always, blood items are excellent for any slot.

  • Low-levels: Hand of Broc, Sander’s Folly, Sigon’s Gage
  • Mid-level: Lavagouts, Venomgrips, Magnus’ Skin
  • High-level: Dracul’s Grasp, Laying of Hands, Steelrends
  • Endgame: Blood Gloves or any others with 20% ias if you need help hitting breakpoints, Dracul’s or Steelrends if you don’t

Belt

Early in the game, Death’s Sash, Lenymo, and Nightsmoke are all great items to stumble upon, though you will more than likely just end up using a strengthong rare belt until you get up in the 30’s. String of Ears is very popular at the mid-level, thanks to the leech and pdr (which, when combined with Stormshield, can take you to max). I am personally very fond of Thundergod’s Vigor, as the +20 strength/vitality adds a lot of life/damage to the build, it has nice defense to capitalize on, and the lightning max resist boost/absorb will keep you alive when you go up against Gloams and such in later acts. Hwanin’s belt is also very, very nice for a mid-level Concentrate barb, with the Prevent Monster Heal and +defense per level.

Nosferatu’s Coil (now renamed Siggard’s Stealth) is great at higher levels with the slows enemy, leech, strength, and ias mods, and the new Arachnid Mesh spiderweb sash is very, very powerful for the +1 skills and 20% fcr (which you will appreciate when you’re surrounded by a huge group of defense ignoring enemies and REALLY need to get that howl off). Verdungo’s Hearty Coil is probably the best overall, however, with the added pdr to bring you to max, that HUGE vitality bonus of up to 40, nice defense, and the 10% fhr to help you hit breakpoints with less charms.

  • Low-level: Death’s Sash, Lenymo, Nightsmoke
  • Mid-level: String of Ears, Thundergod’s Vigor, a good blood-crafted belt
  • High-level: Siggard’s Stealth (Nosferatu’s Coil), Arachnid Mesh, Verdungo’s

Boots

The old favorite, Treads of Cthon, are extremely nice boots that you can pick up at level 15 and wear throughout the game, though until you get a decent amount of base stamina, Vidala’s Fetlocks (level 9) would probably serve you better. Goblin Toe also gives a good deal of crushing blow.

Mid-level introduces you to Gore Riders, which are some of the best boots you can get for a barb now that the critical hit bug is gone. War Travelers are still very nice though, and Marrowwalks are becoming increasingly popular in the PvP circuit.

  • Low-level: Treads of Cthon, Vidala’s Fetlocks, Goblin Toe
  • Mid-level: Gore Riders, War Travelers, strong blood boots
  • High-level: Marrowwalk, any of the mid-level boots
  • Endgame: Gore Riders

Amulet

A lot of nice options for this slot as well. A good rare or blood amulet can provide you with resists, +skills, and dual leech (plus life and run/walk on the blood amulet), along with other nice mods. Eye of Etlich is pretty nice on the low end, and Cat’s Eye picks up a lot of ground later on for the ias, defense, and r/w increases. However, Highlord’s Wrath would be much more useful in the patch, for the same reason I mentioned in the boots section: no more critical strike bug. +1 skills and 20% ias on it helps out a lot too, assisting you in getting to your targeted frame-speed. Of course, for PvP, the Angelic set amulet with two of the rings can add literally thousands of ar to your character, so keep that in mind if you plan on dueling and you find your hit % lacking.

  • Low-levels: Eye of Etlich
  • Mid-level and up: Cat’s Eye, strong rare/blood amulet, Highlord’s Wrath
  • Endgame: Highlord’s Wrath
  • PvP: Angelic set amulet, in combination with two copies of the ring

Rings

Early on in the game, the mods you can find on rings are pretty limited. Rings with the +max damage mod are fairly common, and very useful to early in the game, until you can manage to get a nice rare, set, or unique ring, like Cathan’s Seal or Manald Heal. Other than that, just keep an eye out for physical/magical damage reduction, as well as leech of any kind.

For the more advanced characters, the typical rule of thumb still applies: unless you have a Cham in your armor or something, you’re gonna want at least one Ravenfrost. Cold damage for corpse disposal, AR, dexterity, cold absorb, and that tasty “cannot be frozen” mod make it one of the best all around rings you can get. As for the other slot, there are several possibilities. Bul Kathos’ Wedding Band is lovely with the + skills, life leech, and HP boost. Blood-crafted and rare rings are awesome now as well, since with some luck you can get one with mana leech and +all resists as the mods, which means it will be dual leech, prismatic, +strength and +life. You’re definitely going to want to get mana leech on one of your rings if it isn’t already on your weapon.

As mentioned in the amulet section, the Angelic set ring in combination with the amulet adds a huge amount of ar per character level; thus, if you’re suffering for hit %, you might consider the amulet with two of the rings for your jewelry.

  • Low-levels: Manald Heal, Cathan’s Seal
  • Mid-level and up: Ravenfrost, blood/rare rings, Bul Kathos’ Wedding Band
  • Endgame: Any combination that makes up for your weaknesses, namely leech and Cannot Be Frozen
  • PvP: Angelic set ring x2, in combination with the amulet

Shields

The main purpose of the shield is to give you that 75% max blocking, so anything with a high block rate is excellent. Sigon’s Guard is superb at any level, with the huge block, low requirements, and +1 to all skills; it can carry you a long way. For MF, “Rhyme” is very nice for the block, resists, and magic/gold find rates. Further on down the line Moser’s and Gerke’s pick up a lot of steam, and upgraded versions of these (using the exceptional-to-elite cube recipe on the ladder) are very powerful endgame items. And of course, you can’t discuss shields without bringing up the king of them all: Stormshield. This is *the* shield to aim for, thanks to its huge block, 35% pdr, resists, and +30 strength (which really boosts that one-handed damage a lot).

  • Low-level: Sigon’s Guard
  • Mid-level: Gerke’s Sanctuary, Moser’s Blessed Circle, Whistan’s Guard
  • High-level: Stormshield
  • Endgame: Stormshield

Body Armor

Ok, there are a ton of good options for this slot, and a lot of people may not agree with my personal decision, but let’s go through the choices.

During the low levels, any high-defense piece of equipment will serve you well, with notable instances being Sigon’s Shelter, Iceblink, and especially Twitchthroe. For the extremely low levels, simple armor socketed with chipped rubies does a great job.

The mid-to-high levels open up many, many more options. Since you’re a defense oriented character, anything with huge defense is obviously of interest. Godly elite armors of the whale and titan are of particular interest, with their huge defense and nice bonuses, along with the possibility of getting two sockets on them for jewels/runes. An ethereal version would just be insane.

Old favorites like Arkaine’s Valor and Gladiator’s Bane are likewise very good, and ethereal zod’d versions are awesomely powerful. Also, several of the exceptional level armors are very nice with the new unique upgrade cube recipe. Duriel’s Shell and Black Hades come to mind, Duriel’s for its awesome mods and Hades for the 3 sockets and huge defense.

“Enigma” Rune Word armor is a great piece of equipment…nice defense, the teleport skill, r/w bonus, mf, a large +strength bonus, and several other noticeable properties will more than likely make it a staple for barbarian pvp combat. The “Stone” Rune Word is likewise very nice, and can give some insane defense totals to a character; the runes are fairly common to boot, so it makes a good mid-level armor for those of us who aren’t as financially well off in the world of Sanctuary.

Finally, “Chains of Honor” Rune Word armor is of special interest. I know a lot of hardcore defense nuts will argue that this thing doesn’t have enough for an ironbarb, as it only grants the user and additional 70%. But, I stress again: 1.1 is about balance, and this armor is about as balanced as it gets. You get the enhanced defense. You get Life Leech. You get 65 to all resists. You get 8% pdr. You get +20 to one of your main stats, and +7 to your life restoration rate. Throw in the damage bonuses to demons and undead (which make up well over 2/3 of the enemies in LoD), and the +2 skills which, as I mentioned above, gives you boosts to virtually everything (resists, defense, stats, ar, damage, life, mana, run/walk, etc), and you have what is quite possibly the best armor around. The runes are a bit high though, with Ber and Ist being the most expensive, but if you managed to get them all and cram them in an archon plate, wire fleece, great hauberk, or other elite LIGHT armor with high defense (light because it doesn’t affect r/w speed or stamina drain), you’ll have one godly piece of gear.

  • Low-level: high defense magic/rare armor, Sigon’s Shelter, Iceblink, Twitchthroe
  • Mid-level: Guardian Angel, Shaftstop, Duriel’s Shell, “Stone” Rune Word
  • High-level: “Enigma” and “Chains of Honor” Rune Words, anything with good stats/high def
  • Endgame: either of the high level armors

Weapons

Regardless of what mastery you go with, you’re going to want two echoing weapons on the switch for using your warcries. Any two will suffice. Don’t waste your time with “Call to Arms,” as the runes are excessively expensive, and the BO/BC bonuses do not stack; you’re much better off with a cheap pair of echoers.

Now, as for your main weapon…well, it all depends on which mastery you pick. With axes and swords, you can make strong, one-handed weapons that will let you hold a shield. Both of these are candidates for the “Cresent Moon” Rune Word (Shael Um Tir), which is a very cheap, very effective piece of equipment with the static field, chain lightning, and lower lit-resist effects; its only downside is the high repair cost, which can be negated a bit by sticking it in a normal quality weapon instead of a superior. “Beast” is likewise very nice, though a bit more expensive; the fanaticism aura is wonderful, though.

Rare and Blood weapons are likewise very powerful, since they can get the cruel, quickness, and master’s mods all on the same weapon, with sockets and leech, meaning that in theory you could end up with the most powerful weapon in the game. Larzuk and Halbu are also reliable sources of cheap, powerful magic weapons (as you gain levels, good mods like cruel and quickness will come available), which can be used to great effect if you can’t swing a high-end Rune Word or unique item.

Of course, the best possible weapon you could hope for, overall, would be “Breath of the Dying” (Vex Hel El Eld Zod Eth), which is godly when socketed into an ethereal elite weapon. The damage and speed are insane, the +30 to all stats is amazing, and the dual leech makes picking out other equipment a lot easier (good-bye, mana leech ring). Of course, it requires Zod…I believe someone did the math once, and you have a better chance of getting hit by a falling plane that was struck by lightning than you do of finding a Zod.

  • Possibilities: anything with good damage and speed. That’s all that really matters. “Cresent Moon” is an excellent choice for crowd control.
  • Endgame: “Breath of the Dying,” if you can get the runes!

Socketing

For low-level gear that isn’t terribly valuable (like store-bought socketed items), rubies of any type are nice for the +life, and diamonds in shields for the resists. For your nicer stuff, anything that boosts your damage is very useful, such as high % ed jewels. Thus, I’d probably cram those in your helm and shield, as well as anything else you have an open socket in. Look for nice second mods, like ias (to help get your frames down) and +life. Alternatively, you could stick a cham in, freeing up a ring slot, or ber or pul to help you get max pdr/boost your defense. Also, if you’re overly rich and feel like it, you can socket your echoing weapons with something like Ist runes or MF jewels, for when you use Find Item.

Charms

There isn’t too much to worry about in the charms department, just throw in anything that helps you out a lot, while leaving at least 8 slots open for picking up items.. Faster run/walk, vita, and max damage charms are always nice, and Mastery and Warcry charms can also help out (mastery more-so than warcry, since masteries have no synergies). And of course Annihilus, if you can manage to get one.

You will, however, want to have at least one 100+ small poison damage charm, to help combat monster life-regeneration rates in the patch (if you don’t have pmh somewhere else in your gear). Also, I’d suggest throwing in one large or two small faster hit recovery charms…these, in combination with Arreat’s Face and Verdungo’s belt, will bring you up to the 48% fhr breakpoint. While this doesn’t help you while using concentrate, since it is uninterruptible, it does help with berserk and your warcries.

Mercenary Selection

Act 2 mercs are your best bet, thanks to their good stats and auras, which help you and the rest of the party out a lot. There have traditionally been three big choices:

Act 2 Normal/Hell Defensive

These guys give you the defiance aura, which can take your defense to insane proportions when combined with Shout and Concentrate. With decent gear and a high-level Shout from you, you can get this guy up around 20k defense, and yourself to 30k base, which makes both of you massive tanks.

Act 2 Nightmare Defensive

Always popular for their Holy Freeze aura. Slower enemies mean less swings, less swings mean fewer hits. They were an excellent choice prior to the patch, but now, I would never hire one, for two reasons: one, some enemies cannot be frozen, and thus they are useless against them; and two, the “Doom” Rune Word. This thing is incredible. With it, any merc can be a holy freeze merc, thanks to the passive aura it provides. It also gives +2 to skills, making the merc’s personal aura that much stronger. Thus, there is really no reason in hiring a Holy Freeze merc, if you can get your hands on the runes for “Doom”.

Act 2 Nightmare Offensive

Ah, the Might Merc, staple of the barb class. Regardless of the fact that his aura has been nerfed down a lot, it still tops out at level 20 by level 99, which gives a very respectable boost to your damage, and there are no enemies that ignore damage (except maybe an immune to physical, immune to magic unique that would nullify both concentrate and berserk). With good armor and your massive Shout, he’ll have no trouble surviving, and will greatly increase your killing speed. Throw on a “Doom” ethereal pole, and he’ll be kicking some crazy ass. Think about it: between this merc and your cries, you’ll have a health/mana boosting aura, a defense boosting aura, a skill boosting aura, a damage boosting aura, and holy freeze…my God.

So, in short, while the Defiance merc is nice, with your big defense, you won’t really need that much more. Go ahead and get some more damage from the Might merc.

Outfitting Your Merc

Anything with big defense is a plus, and you should try and make sure everything he’s wearing is ethereal, since his gear doesn’t get damaged. He’ll need some life leech from something, but other than that, it’s up to you. Vampire Gaze and Shaftstop are nice for the pdr and leech. Crown of Thieves is very nice as well, and an “Honor” weapon is a powerful, east-to-make weapon for earlier in the game. I’d definitely try and get the runes for “Doom,” just because that will make the merc much more powerful and useful. For the super rich, “Chains of Honor” is a nice choice for body armor, with the +2 skills (which will boost his aura) and life leech, and “Delirium” Rune Word is an incredible helm, with the % chance to cast Confuse. Doom, Delirium, and CoH, all in ethereal gear, would probably be the optimal equipment, though there are certainly many other options.

Gameplay Tips

Well, now you have the build, and you have the gear. So just how do you use them together to traverse the harsh new environment of Hell 1.10?

For the most part, the build is pretty straightforward. Enter the battlefield, cast Battle Command twice, then Battle Orders and Shout, and go to it. Concentrate will be your main skill for killing, alternating with Berserk when you go up against a PI. Not too bad. I do have a few pointers though that should help you through some of the tougher parts of the game:

1. Use a Shield

I cannot stress this enough. Shields are, literally, a wall at arm’s length. High blocking will allow you to nullify up to 75% of all physical attacks thrown at your character, which includes Meph’s ice orb. Likewise, just because you have huge defense with this build doesn’t mean you’re immortal; there are several enemy types that totally ignore defense, so you need to have something to fall back on to keep from getting whipped. Likewise, on the occasions where you have to use Berserk, your defense drops to 0, so you need to have some sort of protection. Enemies in the patch are much, much more dangerous, and a group of archers can tear you apart before you even get to them; thus, it is now more important than ever to use a shield. Shields likewise provide you with another slot for modifications and socketing, helping you get more ias/cannot be frozen/resists/stats. The benefits of a shield are far, far too great to pass up.

2. Don’t run with sharp objects

When heading into a high traffic area: walk, don’t run. When running, your block rate drops to 1/3rd, and your defense drops to 0. If you DO have to make a quick escape, spam Howl first, and then tp out or start running. If pursued by a fast monster, drop down a Grim Ward or two to cover your trail, and keep going.

3. Use provocation to your advantage

Ranged attackers are a pain, since you are a melee range warrior and they typically tend to run when you get near them. Counteract this with a health dose of Taunt. That will force any enemy to stop whatever it is doing and walk right up to you, making those Imps, Bone Archers, and Quill Rats, and cat warriors from act 5 a helluva lot easier. It’s also useful on Fallen and other enemies that light to run away when you kill one of their buddies.

4. Crowd Control Techniques

Howl and Taunt are two of the BEST tools in your arsenal, and deserve hotkeys. Whenever you find yourself faced with overwhelming odds, just spam a few howls and take care of the mob at your leisure. Practice using the two in tandem, and you’ll find that there truly is nothing in the game that you cannot handle.

When facing large groups of enemies headed up by a Might, Blessed Aim, Fanaticism, or Lightning Enchanted unique, use Grim Ward to your advantage. Either attempt to kill off one of the minions, or run back to a previous corpse, then throw one up. That will scare off the troops, leaving you alone with the boss. Then, spam Battle Cry to bring down his damage and defense, and have at ’em.

Finally, you occasionally come up against large groups of defense ignoring, fear immune enemies (such as Lister and his minions). If you have max blocking and decent damage/leech, you should be fine, just bunker down, spam your Battle Cry to take their damage and defense down, and wail into them. If you’re not very comfortable with your barb’s stats and gear, however, you’ll want to divide and conquer. Use the terrain to your advantage, separate them off and try and handle one or two at a time. It’s times like these you’ll be glad I told you to get a shield.

5. He’s got your back, you get his

Regardless of how aggravating he can be, keep that merc alive. Sure, he may die a lot in the beginning, and cost you a good deal of money, but in time, he will develop into an awesome, awesome side-kick, what with his improved stats in 1.10. Give your merc some good gear, keep him ressed, and do whatever you can to make life easy for him (via taunt and howl), and he’ll pay you off in the long run.

6. Things that will give you trouble, and how to handle them

So you’re standing in the Chaos Sanctuary, hacking your way unscathed through a huge horde of undead, whistling merrily and thinking “Man, that Halciet has set me up with a tight build!” when suddenly your life bulb empties and you drop. Wtf?!

Iron Maiden is one of only two real dangers to this build. Even with all the defensive measures we’ve taken, you cannot protect yourself from yourself. Any curse slinging enemy can totally screw you over if it throws up Iron Maiden while you are in mid-swing, and unfortunately for us, most of them are immune to Taunt, so you can’t make it come to you. Thus, you must take extra care when venturing into any area inhabited by these creatures.

In previous versions of this guide, I suggested using Leap Attack to take care of enemies possessing the capability of casting IM. Unfortunately, it has been brought to my attention that Leap Attack is no longer flagged as a ranged attack, so it will easily get you killed. On the other hand, we’ve learned that magic damage is NOT affected by the curse, and thus Berserk is your quick and easy solution to this problem. Whenever you approach any group of enemies supported by a caster (such as the infamous Oblivion Knights), switch off to Berserk, and bing! – life is good.

The gloam-class enemies located in various places throughout the game pose the second threat to our build. Their ranged lightning attack can take you apart in a matter of seconds, and they are often surrounded by a large group of melee-range enemies that will get between you and your quarry.

Luckily, the gloams can and should be taunted, which will draw them to you, where they won’t cast their lightning attack. Run into the area spamming howls to disperse any crowds in the area, and then taunt them back one at a time. Make sure you have max lightning resist, and, if you have it, throw on Thundergod’s Vigor for a bit more support. Just don’t let them stay at a distance or they will rip you to pieces, no matter how stout you are. It also helps out a lot if you have a mercenary with “Doom” and/or “Delirium,” as that will slow them down, and a blast of Confuse will get them targeting each other instead of you.

Other than that, the only thing you might have trouble with are mobs of Balrogs and such of their type, as their Inferno attack can do a hefty amount of damage. Grim Ward and Howl tactics make them easy enough to deal with, however, so you shouldn’t have any real problems with them once you get the hang of the build.

7. Fighting the Diablo Clone

Due to his huge block rate and massive resistances to all physical and elemental attacks, your best bet is to go in with weapon and shield, throw up a Battle Cry, and start whittling away using Berserk. Almost all of his attacks are fire based, so make sure you have this resist maxed, and you’ll want decent lightning resist as well, in order to survive his Armageddon and Lightning attacks. “Prevent Monster Heal” helps out a ton, and when you spawn him, try and do it in an area with weak enemies, like Bishbosh in the Cold Plains. Just make sure you have a good amount of potions (since the Clone is immune to leech), and throw up a portal, and you should be ok. For reference, I’ve soloed him several times, taking an average of about 6 minutes, using 6-9 rejuvs between my merc and myself each time, and neither of us have died yet. He’s nowhere NEAR as tough as everyone makes him out to be, so while you should respect his power, don’t be intimidated.

FAQ

Q. Is 9fps really worth it?

A. It really depends on how wealthy you are. 9 fps is definitely a very nice thing to have, but it usually involves socketing your gear with some extremely valuable jewels and such to get there. It is definitely worth getting there, if you can, but in most circumstances, you should definitely worry more about creating a more balanced and stable character and settle for 10 frames.

Q. Two-handed weapon for damage, or a shield?

A. While you can get a massive amount of damage with some of the new weapons in the patch, it is my humble opinion that nothing really beats a shield. They just provide you with so much diversity. It provides an extra slot for mods and socketing, as well as nullifying 75% of almost every hit thrown your way. In hardcore or laggy situations, this can mean the difference between life and death, especially in the new environment. Furthermore, the dexterity required to reach max block helps boost your accuracy up a ton, and every 4 points gives you another point of defense. Plus, between Shout, Ironskin, and Concentrate, you can easily add a good 3000-5000 defense to your build with the addition of a shield. Sure, you may kill a bit slower, but patience is a virtue, my child, and it is better to live to deal the damage than to die before you can.

Q. Why Bash, and not Ironskin?

A. Two reasons: one, synergies do not benefit from +skill items, so if you don’t put points into Bash, you don’t get any real bonus to damage, and Masteries don’t synergize with anything anyways. Two, there are several enemies in the game that totally ignore your defense when attacking, thus there are several occasions where it won’t help you at all. Nothing ignores damage, on the other hand, so more damage is always good, plus harder hits = more life leeched on attack. Besides, if you followed the guide and have decent gear, you should already have a good 24-30k defense anyways.

Q. How does howl work?

A. The formula for howl is as follows: clvl + skill level + 1. If this total is less than the level of the enemy in question, howl will fail; else, they will run off in terror. Under most circumstances, you should be at a comparable level to your foe in the patch, if you pace yourself, and it is fairly easy to find items with +skills on them, so you should be fine with just one point in howl. On the other hand, if you feel that your howl isn’t working as well as it should, you can consider dropping some points into it (instead of bash), or even going back and leveling in an easier area for awhile.

Q. How should I distribute my stats/skills as I level?

A. I personally feel that it is the purpose of a guide to give an outline of where one should go with a character, rather than how to get there; it seems to take a lot of fun and personalization out of playing a character if you follow a strictly dictated path of creation. However, since I get a lot of questions about this, I’ll give a rough outline of creation.

In the early levels, you should focus mainly on getting your pre-reqs and saving skill points for when you hit higher levels. If you already know exactly what weapon you want to use, you can go ahead and start pumping a mastery; else, you may just want to save those points until later (make sure you save at least 3, so you can pick up Berserk, Battle Command, and Natural Resist as soon as you hit 30). Put a point in all of your general skills as they come available. At 18, pick up Concentrate, and drop a point in it each level through 23. Once you reach 24, you can start heavily pumping BO; this should be the first skill you max, as it will greatly boost your life, and provides more damage per level than Concentrate does alone. After that, I would work on Concentrate until it was finished, and then Shout. Your mastery and bash should come last, as the other skills are much more important to your survival.

As for your statistics: strength will be the most important stat early in the game, so for the first two levels, I would go 2 strength/3dex and 3srr/2 dexterity respectively. This will allow you to wear Studded Leather right off the bat. After that, for balanced play, you can drop into the 2-2-1-shift rhythm, where you put 2 points in strength, 2 points in dexterity, and 1 in vitality for a level, then the next level, all the number shift one position to the right (becoming 1 strength, 2 dexterity, 2 vitality, and then 2 strength, 1 dexterity, 2 vitality, and so on and so forth). Do not be afraid to drop full levels into strength or dexterity if needed to use equipment or obtain max block, of course. After awhile, you’ll have enough strength to suit you, and by the end of your character’s career you will have fallen into a 2dex/3vit routine that will keep your life up and blocking maxed.

Q. My newbie barb is so poor! What do I do for money?

A. There are plenty of things you can sell early in the game to get yourself some cash. Stacks of throwing knives and javelins usually sell for around 460 gold, and magic staves/wands/scepters with +skills can net you several thousand a piece. Likewise, fulminating potions and rings/amulets with +light radius on them are worth a good deal, and more or less useless to your character.

Q. How important is max pdr?

A. Physical damage reduction is a very nice thing to have when you go up against defense-ignoring enemies, though not as important to your survival as it is in other builds. Try to get as much as you can, but don’t sacrifice other good mods in exchange for a few more %.

Q. Is that a picture of you in your Avatar?

A. Yep.

General Tables and Recipes for Blood Items, FCR, FHR, and BPs

Barb casting frames/Fast cast needed (taken from the Barbarian FAQ)

  • 13 : 0 to 8
  • 12 : 9 to 19
  • 11 : 20 to 36
  • 10 : 37 to 62
  • 9 : 63 to 104
  • 8 : 105 to 199
  • 7 : 200

Estimated frames/fhr required tables (taken from the Barbarian FAQ)

  • 9 : 0
  • 8 : 7
  • 7 : 15
  • 6 : 27
  • 5 : 48
  • 4 : 86

Concentrate Weapon Breakpoints (determined using the IAS calculator located at stats.diabloii.net):
Note: these bps vary depending on the base speed of the weapon used; thus, I have just listed the most popular one-handed weapons. Check the link to calculate for other weapons.

Berserker Axe (frames/ias needed)

  • 15: 0
  • 14: 9
  • 13: 18
  • 12: 30
  • 11: 48
  • 10: 75
  • 9: 125

Colossus Blade (frames/ias needed, when used one-handed):

  • 16: 0
  • 15: 6
  • 14: 15
  • 13: 24
  • 12: 39
  • 11: 58
  • 10: 89
  • 9: 147

Blood Item Recipes

Note: all recipes require a perfect ruby and any magical jewel, along with the following reagents:

  • Weapon: magical axe + Ort rune
  • Ring: magical ring + Sol rune
  • Amulet: magical amulet + Amn rune
  • Helm: magical helm/casque/armet + Ral rune
  • Armor: magical plate mail/templar coat/hellforge plate + Thul rune
  • Shield: magical spiked shield/barbed shield/blade barrier + Ith rune
  • Gloves: magical heavy gloves/sharkskin gloves/vampirebone gloves + Nef rune
  • Boots: magical light plate boots/battle boots/mirrored boots + Eth rune
  • Belt: magical belt/mesh belt/mithril coil + Tal rune

Conclusion

Well, there you have it. Hopefully somewhere in all this text you’ve found enough information to put together a character you’ll be proud of, and have a good time playing. Special thanks to Justin, Nick, and Adam for their help in testing, creating, leveling, and equipping the barb, and to everyone in the forum who encouraged me to write this guide. I would also like to thank Zoso for answering some of my questions regarding posting the guide, and Scotty P. for always providing a laugh when needed. Furthermore, extra special thanks go out to all the readers of the first iteration of the guide; your comments and suggestions have helped me to make it all the more better.

I wish you the best of luck with your new barb! If you have any questions or corrections to the guide, feel free to pm or email me at [email protected].

Good luck, and God bless,

Add a Commment