Diablo 2 Guide: 1.10 HC Barbarian Berserker Guide

1. Introduction

First of all I’ll say some things about the guide in general. It is intended for Version 1.10 final, hardcore, singleplayer and untwinked play. (meaning the character only uses the items he finds, nothing gets muled on) As this is probably as hard as it gets, the build should also work under different rules. (softcore, twinked, etc… You get the idea).

I’d suggest reading the guide completely, rather than just picking out specific parts because I tried to explain my choices along the way and if you just take a look at the final results they might not make a lot of sense to you.

2. The Build

First I’ll give a very brief summary of the Build, I’ll explain the choices in detail later on.

2.a. Stat Points:

Strength (Str): Enough to equip your weapon and armour
Dexterity (Dex): Base (or 58 after items for Heart Carver) (yes, that’s right, no blocking)
Vitality (Vit): All the rest
Energy (En): Base

2.b. Skill Points: Target Values

20 Berserk
20 Battle Orders
20 War Cry
20 Howl
1 Shout
1 Battle Command
1 Taunt
1 Battle Cry
1 Leap
1 Leap Attack
0-1 Mastery of Choices
0-1 Iron Skin
0-3+ Natural Resistances
0-1 Increased Stamina
0-1 Increased Speed
0-1 Find Potion
0-1 Find Item

Build finished at 86-93 Skill Points.

2.c. Skill Points: Progression

I’m not going to give you a detailed progression as we’re maxing our skills one after the other.

The first skill to max is Battle Orders. From level 30 on start working on War Cry parallel to that. This is the second skill we’ll max. Place points in the prerequistes in the combat tree and the one in battle command early on but leave Berserk at 1 for now. After you’ve maxed War Cry and Battle orders work on Berserk. Howl is the last skill to max.

Leap Attack is a great utility skill and a point here early on is a good idea. It can get you past obstacles or can save you when you’re surrounded and can’t escape otherwise.

A few words on Natural Resistances: Make sure you only spend points here if you actually need them. If your gear gives you 75% Res all in hell you’ll have wasted any skill points you put here. I’d suggest putting in 1 at most until you reach hell and if you find that you need more, add the points after you reach act 1 hell. If you find a few + skills items (or a lot of resistances charms) you most likely won’t want to put more than one point here because of the diminishing returns.

Find Item & Find Potion: If you want to save a few skill points, it’s a good idea to do it here. A heart carver is not hard to find and it will give you more points in find item and find potion than you’ll ever need.

You can put one point into the mastery if choice, anytime if you want to. The first point is well spent, more don’t help you a lot.

Spare Skill Points should go into Shout. Not that you’ll have a lot to spare, but if you go for level 99 you might have a few.

You will probably notice that the build is pretty slow going in Normal but once you reach Nightmare you will pick up momentum. Especially if you can find a half decent weapon.

2.d. Skills – Discussion:

Berserk: Berserk deals magic damage. That means we won’t be able to leech life (life tap doesn’t work either) or mana, something we’ll have to consider later on when we pick our gear. The good thing about berserk is that it deals quite a lot of damage. The bad thing is that it lowers our defence to zero, something we’ll compensate for with War Cry and Howl. As we won’t be using a shield we’ll need some serious crowd control.

War Cry: In normal you might actually be able to damage monsters with this skill, but don’t forget that the main point is to stun your enemies. At level 21 it stuns for full 5 seconds which is pretty good. Just make sure you recast it before the duration runs out. It doesn’t matter much if our defence is zero if everything is stunned. It does not work on bosses or champions most of the time, though. (It works on lister’s minions)

Battle Orders: Well, not much to say about this one. At high levels it doubles your life and mana. This works on items that give you + life and + mana, but not on items that increase your vitality, energy or on items that give you X life or mana per level. (In other words, it works on the +14 life small charm that you just found but it doesn’t work on duriel’s shell or verdungo’s belt).

Howl: Another awesome skill. Don’t underestimate it. With this you’ll be able to scare a lot of enemies at high levels. Now why is this a good thing? Well, if you meet boss packs you can send the minions running and just deal with the boss. This is especially handy if you meet multiple packs with dangerous mods. Careful though, it doesn’t work on listers minions.

Battle Cry: Even though we left it at 1 we’ll cast it frequently. -50% Defence will ensure that you hit if you’re AR is low and -25% target damage will help you survive if you forget to recast war cry in time, or if war cry doesn’t work on your target.

Leap Attack: Great skill for jumping over things. Very useful in act 3 and in the arcane sanctuary. Later on it will help you escape when surrounded. A well spent skill point.

Taunt: I never used taunt with this build. (other than to test if it was useful or not) I found it more convenient (and quicker, too) to just stun my enemies and smash them to bits. Taunt is too subtle for me. :p (I’ve heard good things about it, though.)

Battle Command: Another no-brainer. +1 to all skills, no reason why we shouldn’t spend one point here. Make sure you cast this war cry before casting shout and battle orders.

Increased Stamina & Speed: I didn’t spend points here because I don’t really have to have those two skills and I prefered having another 20% more damage for Berserk and the bigger radius for Howl.

Find Item & Potion: Same as above. I didn’t spend the points because I knew I’d be running NM meph for a while and as he dropped a heart carver I didn’t need to spend points here. If you can’t find a heart carver you might want to spend those points, though. Using Find Item on bosses can get good results (though I never found anything decent) and find potion is definetly helpful, too.

Natural Resistances: At first glance it looks like an awesome skill and it is useful, but be careful not to spend too many points. If you find a few + skills items you’ll notice that the “hard” points you spent actually don’t do a lot for you, due to the diminishing returns. And if you find good resis gear you might notice that you could as well have made do with zero points. My advice is to enter hell with a few spare skill points and if you don’t have good resis take a look at this skill.

3. Equipment:

As this is intended for untwinked play you won’t find any mention of high level items here. But as it is intended for hardcore we can’t make do without putting some effort into getting good items. The better your gear, the better your odds of beating the game.

Pick up items and identify them. Especially charms and jewels. Keep the resistance charms that you find, even if they don’t look that grand at first glance. I keep grand charms of 20% or better, large charms of 10% or better and small charms of 5% or better. If they give resistance to all elements I’d keep lower charms, too. Keep an eye out for life / mana charms, too. Especially mana charms can prove useful.

Modfiers we are looking for on our equipment are in order of priority: Resistances, Damage Reduction (percentile), Damage (on our weapon), Attack Rating (AR), % Damage goes to mana, Increased Attack Speed (IAS), Fast Hit Recovery (FHR). And with low priortiy: + skills, Cannot be frozen (nice, but not necessary).

3.a. Two-handed Weapon vs. one-handed / Shield

We’re going with a high damage two-handed weapon on our berserker. The reason for this is simple: We want to deal a lot of damage, and thus we need a weapon with high base damage. Remember, all the Enhanced Damage (ED) from the weapon itself, other gear, skills and strength bonus gets applies to the base damage of the weapon. That is why we don’t want a one-handed weapon. A concentrate barb with a two handed weapon would probably beat a berserker with a one handed weapon in terms of damage while being at least as safe as we are. We’ll get our resistances from other sources than a shield, don’t worry.

3.b. Gambling:

Since we’re going to be untwinked we’ll need to make do with what we buy / gamble or find along the way.

For starters you might want to gamble on things that are relatively cheap but can still do a lot of things for you: Gloves, Belts and Boots. Modifiers we are looking for are Resistances (on all three items), Magic Find (Gloves, Boots), Fast Hit Recovery (Belt, Boots), Fast Run/Walk (Boots) and IAS (Gloves).

Gambling weapons can also get some decent results. Once you get your act 2 merc you might want to try to gamble a better weapon for him, preferably one with life leech.

Later on once you have more money you might want to try your luck on circlets.

3.c. Sets & Uniques:

I’m limiting the unique / set side of recommended gear to stuff NM Mephisto can drop. Getting to him and runing him a few times is very easy and shouldn’t pose much of a problem. You certainly don’t need all of the things I’m mentioning. If something is very, very good to have I’ll say so.

Weapons: Bonesnap, Steeldriver and Bloodtree Stump are three Mauls that I used to beat the game. The first and the last come with crushing blow. The second is your perfect weapon to beat the game. The runes for the first upgrade are easy to get and you should be able to upgrade whichever of these that you find once. The second upgrade is tricky. If you somehow manage to get the runes for that, save them for steeldriver. (Upgraded it needs 127 Str, level 77 and does impressive damage). Don’t worry if your steeldriver is low end, that doesn’t matter much.

Now, where to find these things: I got my bonesnap from normal Baal, but your best bet is probably NM Mephisto. You should be able to reach him without problems.

Rings and Ammys: Only one recommendation here: 2 Angelic Rings and the Angelic Halo. That gives you insane AR – you’ll need it. If you keep the Angelic Sickle on switch, the rings will give you another 50% MF each. Pretty handy if you ask me.

I ran NM Andariel to get these. She drops rings and ammys very often.

Armour: Whatever you can find that has resis or damage reduction. Shaftstop would be ideal but is a little hard to find. (NM Meph can drop it but I never got lucky). Other choices are Duriel’s Shell, Skin of the Vipermagi, Rockfleece (10% DR) or a smoke runeword (NefLum).

I ran NM Meph until I had some sort of decent armour. Duriel’s Shell in my case.

Headgear: The perfect choice in this case is relatively easy to come by: Rockstopper. I got mine from NM Andariel and a few more from NM Meph.

3.d. Crafted Items

Crafted items are useful for a lot of builds but for our berserker they don’t do much. We don’t really need blood items for their leech as we don’t leech in the first place. We don’t need a saftey amulet for blocking as we don’t block, we don’t need open wounds from a blood belt because we’ll have smashed everything to bits before open wounds would even start working.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t use crafted items at all. After all, a crafted item is a rare item with a couple of extra modifiers. So, if we can get the modifiers we want (remember, the ones I listed under gambling items) on a crafted item, then why not?

I’m not going to list them all, check the arreat summit for the recipies. Especially interesting to us is the Hitpower Belt (frost nova + damage goes to mana). Blood and caster items can be interesting for the life / mana they add. But all in all crafted items don’t do a lot for us, compared to what they can do for other builds.

4. Mercenary

We’ll go with an Act 2 Might Merc. As for his gear… Try to give him a big damage weapon, life leech, resistances and damage reduction if you you can. Also try to keep his level close to yours. Once starts lagging behind too badly chances are that he will never catch up again.

Now I’ll explain why we took the might merc and not another one.

Why not blessed aim? Well, Berserk gives us an insance bonus to AR, adding more here wouldn’t help us much. What we need is something that adds base AR, not something that multiplies what we got.

Why not defiance? Because we don’t have defence… The merc himself survives just fine without defiance.

Why not holy freeze? Between Howl and War Cry there is really no need to slow down enemies. Seriously, if they are stunned they don’t need to be slowed.

I don’t think I need to go into details why we don’t want prayer or thorns?

So, that leaves us with only one real choice, the trust might merc.

5. Tactics & Tips

There’s not a lot to say about tactics, really. Playing a berserker isn’t exactly subtle. Just run up to your target of choice and war cry. Smash things until the war cry duration is almost up and war cry again.
If you’re fighting several packs it makes sense to use howl to seperate the bosses from their minions. Once you’ve dispatched the leaders just stun a few of the running enemies, kill them, stun a few more, etc…
Take care when fighting archers. Those can rip you up pretty fast if you start berserker before most of them are stunned. When meeting melee fighters and archers, stun the melee guys first, then run to the archers, stun those and kill them. If the melee monsters come after you just stun them, too.

Recast your warcries. Make sure your warcries don’t run out on you. Especially battle orders. Recast them all before they actually run out. This applies to both, war cries that work on you and war cries that work on enemies. Don’t forget to cast battle cry if you’re facing something that can’t be stunned. Well, even if you can stun enemies using battle cry isn’t a bad idea.

Killing act bosses is pretty straightforward, too. Get some crushing blow, either from the mauls I mentioned, from a Strenght weapon (AmnTir) or maybe even from goblin toe. Now approach the boss and smash him. None of the act bosses was really dangerous to me.

Potions: Some people use only full rejuvs. Personally, I found that to be a bad idea for my style of play. If I have only rejuvs, I tend to wait too long before using a potions. I used 2 rows of health potions, one row of mana potions and one row of rejuvs. (1+2 Heal, 3 Mana, 4 Rejuv). Bascially I used a health potion as soon as I lost about ¼ of my life and reserved rejuvs for emergencies. Mana Pots are handy against mana burning enemis, against normal enemies getting hit should fill your blue orb.

Gloams , the nemesis of a lot of characters are not really a problem for us. First, keep your LR at 75% and battle orders active. That should make sure you survive long enough to get close to them to either stun or scare them. Use howl (and then use war cry on your targets) if you face larger packs, especially if there’s a conviction aura. Go with war cry alone if there are fewer enemies

Fire Enchanted Enemies: These are known to be bugged in 1.10, use extreme caution here. In Nightmare, you might survive their attacks and explosions. Don’t expect to tank them in hell. It doesn’t matter if you have 3k life, maxed resis and DR. They will get you if you try to take them head on. Let your mercenary deal with these enemies, he is immune to the bug.

The Ancients: Again, beware the FE bug. Try to get your merc between yourself and Madawc when you spawn them so that you don’t get the first blow. Check their mods quickly and respawn them if they are Fire Enchanted. So long as they aren’t bugged you shouldn’t have any major problems.

Another thing that might help you on the ancients: You might have noticed that potions that are dropped on the floor disappear very quickly. That’s bad because we might need a few potions and might want to pick them up in a hurry. Well, we can work around that to some extent: Fill your inventory and the cube with potions you want to use. Then, when you start running out of potions, drop the cube and all but 4 of the potions that were inside the cube will drop on the floor that can now be picked up. It’s not much, but it is faster than most other options.

6. Hotkeys

Well, this will be a short one, but I does need mentioning as having a good hotkey setup will make you just that much more efficient. Here’s what I suggest, it may seem a bit weird at first, but once you got used to it you will not want to go back, I promise you that.

(Note, the point here is not to assign the skills the way I did, the point is using the letter keys for hotkeys. I do have some thought behind assigning them the way I did but maybe you’ll find that it doesn’t suit you.)

Q: Skill 1: Concentrate
W: Skill 2: Berserk
E: Skill 3: Leap Attack
R: Skill 4: Find Potion
A: Skill 5: Howl
S: Skill 6: Shout
D: Skilll 7: Battle Orders
F: Skill 8: Battle Command
Y/Z: Skill 9: War Cry (“Z” for americans, “Y” for germans)
X: Skill 10: Battle Cry
C: Skill 11: Find Item

F12: Town Portal

T: Skill Tree
Z/Y: Character Screen (“Y” for americans, “Z” for germans)
U: Quest Screen
I: Inventory
O: Merc Screen

Number keys 1-4: Potions (1+2 Health, 3 Mana, 4 Rejuv)

7. Breakpoints

Make sure that the IAS or FHR that you add actually do something for you.

Here’s the table for Fast Hit Recovery, copied and pasted from where I found it (forgot where that was). I’d try to shoot for at least 5 frames, that’s easy to reach and helps you a bit. 4 is better but not necessary.

Frames -    %FHR
9             0%
8             7%
7             15%
6             27%
5             48%
4             86%

IAS table is to be added in the next version.

Appendix A: Twinking Gear

This is not really part of the guide as it is intended for untwinked play, but as a couple of people asked for a section like this, here it is.

Weapon: Elite Steeldriver (Shael)
Helm: Rockstopper (Res All Jewel / PRuby)
Armour: Shaftstop (Res All Jewel / PRuby)
Belt: Verdungo’s Hearty Coil
Gloves: Laying of Hands
Boots: War Travellers
Ammy: Angelic Wings
Rings: 2 x Angelic Halo

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