Diablo 2 Guide: Iron Man Barbarian


The Ancients. Three Barbarian’s frozen like statues to guard the world stone for all time. Immortal. The premise of the immortal barbarian is most enticing. How many a player has fallen ill of the Unique aura enhanced pack of monsters, parked on a town portal or way point, killing all characters who venture thru within seconds? Who could it be to come to their rescue? Who can step bravely thru the portal and face near certain death face to face and triumph?

The answer that you seek, is the Iron Man. The near immortal Barbarian. The Barbarian you can stand in hell cows, surrounded by mooing bovines while you walk away, to get a drink, have a snack. When you return he is still there, surrounded by frustrated Beefers trying desperately to tear this unbreakable wall down.
And yet still retain the killing power to slay them all easily.

If you want a Barbarian like this, then read on. A word of warning though. This build is not for the new player. The items listed here are expensive, rare at best. I’m not going to spell out the basics for the new players here too much. Though by all means if you are a new player, then please read as well. After all, this isn’t rocket science and it’s a great way to hopefully learn about the game of Diablo 2/Lord or Destruction.

Why the Iron Man Rocks

The Iron Man is the combination of everything that is used in the game to defend a character from death. This comes in a surprising amount of methods. Defence, Damage Reduction, Shield Blocking, Life, Hit Recovery, Leeches, Resistances and Absorbs. The Iron Man has them all. The Barbarian is the perfect vehicle for this. He alone can achieve huge defences from his skills. Resistances are also child’s play as well again thanks to his innate skills. And as far as equipment goes, well the strongest items need the highest Strength to wield and Equip. Another trait of the huge Barbarian. We shall have a look at all these factors, and see just how we can combine them all into one compete package, ready to face death time and time again, and laugh in its face.


Defence is the first Wall of the Iron Man. Being a melee character, the bulk of potential injuries will come from melee directed at the Iron Man. Defence, is the first thing the game will check when ever a physical attack against your character is made. If an attack fails to bypass your defence, You Barbarian continues to kill. He won’t be injured, he won’t do any hit or block animation. He will continue to kill.
For most characters, truly huge defence is virtually impossible. The average Druid, Assassin or Amazon usually only achieves 2,000 or so points of defence. Even the Paladin, Bearer of the Holy Shield struggles to achieve more than 10,000. These defences are fairly easy for the monsters of Diablo 2/LoD to hit. Yet, Defence is capable of defeating 95% of all melee attacks directed at your character. That puts shield blocking to shame. 75% is only 3/4 of all attacks. 95% is 19/20. Huge difference.
So how much Defence do you need I hear you ask?

Defence Formula

Chance to Hit for Melee Attacks:

100 * AR / (AR + DR) * 2 * alvl / (alvl + dlvl)

AR = Attack Rating; alvl = Level of Attacker; dlvl = Level of Defender.

The problem is that monsters in V1.10 have had their attack rating seriously beefed up, and can rival the attack ratings that player characters have. An example is an Abominable from act 5 hell difficulty. It has two attack types, rating of 3,165 & 2,832 for a level 83 monster. Against such a beast a level 85 Barbarian will need a defence of 60,000 approx. And an Abominable is nothing out of the ordinary at the end of the game. A minion of destruction has an attack rating of 7,715 which we will need over 154,000 defence to achieve a 5% chance to be hit by.
But don’t be put off by these figures. It’s a scale of diminishing returns which means that a much lower defence rating for example of 30,000 will give us a 10% chance to be hit by an Abominable and a 22% chance to be hit by a Minion of destruction. This is why we need to achieve every defence point that we can. The Barbarian can easily achieve a defence of well over 30,000. Compared to shield blocking, defence is still a better method of defence, and the two methods of preventing melee attacks combine together to multiply the effect.

Basically, There are four methods to increase the Barbarians defence into the huge numbers needed.

1). Concentrate. The Iron Mans Attack method. Not only does this skill boost Attack rating and damage, But also gives a 10% boost to defence, starting at 100% at level 1. The draw back of this skill is that the defence is boosted only when attacking, so your Barbarians defence will drop in between his attacks. But over all, this is a great skill that any single weapon wielding Iron Man should use.

2). Shout. The Iron Man’s war cry. Another 10% boost to defence starting at 100% for level 1. This war cry is party friendly so that all your party will gain its benefit as well as you and your Mercenary. V1.10 has extended the duration of this skill that starts at 20 seconds for level 1 and gets better by 10 seconds for ever level after that.

3). Iron Skin. A no Brainer this one. Passive skill. Starts at 30% defence bonus at level one and every point buys you an extra 10% boost to your defence rating. It’s passive so it works all day and every day. Only draw back is well, It costs skill points.

4). The Defiance Mercenary. The bearer of the Paladins Defiance aura for you and your party to use for the cost of some gold and a nice suit for him to wear. The Mercenaries level of defiance max’s out at 16, for a total of 220% defence boost but this can be further boosted by items for an extra 10% per +1 to his skills. The only draw back? Well, if you have this mercenary working for you, you can’t have a Might Mercenary.

To achieve huge defence, well, you should choose items that have a high defence. No brainer this one. But, also choose items with skill bonuses. Every plus to your skill level increases your Skill benefits which applies to all of your items total defence overall. If your Iron Man is using Iron Skin, Concentrate and Shout, then every +1 to all these skills means an extra 30% defence.

Shield Blocking.

Next after defence, is Shield blocking. If an attack bypasses your defence, the next check is for shield blocking. Firstly, let me say that 75% chance to block isn’t Mandatory. That’s a big Dexterity ask. Shield blocking is our second wall of the Iron Man. Even a rate of 50% chance to block halves your chance of being hit. 66% reduces it even further and both of these figures are far easier to achieve than 75%. Ultimately, it’s up to you if you can afford the stat points. Given that you will want to boost your barbarians Strength and Vitality as much as possible, you will want to keep your dexterity to a minimum. But again. Careful selection of items can greatly help here. Items can boost Dexterity and your chance to block, so look for these to help reduce your Iron Mans required Dexterity to minimise the amount of points you spend on this. Luckily, our “wish list” of items for our Barbarian will see a big boost to your Dexterity from items so keep these in mind when planing your skill point placements.

Formula for working out blocking rates.

Required Blocking % = (dexterity – 15) shield block.
level x 2.

For example. Level 70 Barbarian with Storm Shield.

X% = (dexterity – 15) 72

Therefore 161 Dexterity needed for 75%
Therefore 143 Dexterity needed for 66%
Therefore 112 Dexterity needed for 50%

Damage Reduction.

When an attack manages to bypass both your Barbarians defence and shield blocking, well he is hit. Now we need to reduce the amount of damage he will take. The third wall of the Iron Man. Damage reduction can only be achieved from item’s which we will look at later on. So how much damage reduction do we need? Well, the cap is 50%. Any more than this is wasted. Is that a good answer? This much Damage reduction is very easy to achieve. The aforementioned Storm Shield provides 35% alone. Can you think of way to provide 15% or so? Couple of runes? Belt? Yeah, I thought so too.
Having Damage reduction of any amount is very valuable to most characters. But to the iron man, its a very distant third priority. Lets face it. If a monster has a 1 in 7 chance to bypass your defence and a 1 in 4 chance to bypass your shield blocking, The damage reduction isn’t going to be used too often, is it?


When the monsters are not physically trying to rend your Barbarian limb from Limb, then they are throwing all manner of energies in your direction, be it Fire, Cold, Lightning, Poison or Magic. We cannot have a mighty fortress if it can be undermined by these energies. Lets have a look at how we can avoid or reduce damage from the elements.

Natural Resistances. The key skill that really reinforces the barbarians position as the king of the tanks. I have never needed more than 3 points in this skill to achieve maximum resistance in hell. But think beyond this. Some monsters will infect you with their auras and tear your resistances down. The more you have, the harder it is to tear them down. I consider 5 points a minimum for the Iron Man here. And then, Pile the items that add skill levels on like no tomorrow. Make sure you rescue Anya each time thru as well. level 5 Natural resistances and two Anya quests is 60% to all resists, or -40% all in hell. That’s pretty easy to build up to max from. Also, look beyond the normal 75% imposed cap of the characters. This can be further raised by items, up to 95% if you choose carefully. Again, remember how damn useful 95% is for defence, well the same figure for resistances is very nice as well.

Keep in mind however, that Natural resistances and items that boost these, only work against the four elements. Cold, Fire, Lightning and Poison. There are items that reduce poison duration by a percentage. Good idea to have at least 50% reduction of poison reduction on our build.
Also, there is the fifth energy that can be thrown our way. Magic. Protecting ourselves against this is harder and should be addressed. All characters have a base resistance against magic of 0% for all difficulties so the amount of magic damage thrown at you, is exactly the amount you will take. Again items can help out here. There are quite a few that reduce magical damage by a set amount. These effects stack so having at least one item with this ability is a worthy consideration.

Elemental Absorbs.

Even after we protect our Iron Man from the harsh elements, we can further reduce their effect with Absorb items. Elemental Absorbs are a very good thing. Basically, some of the damage from the relevant element will heal your character and it’s very possible to actually have enough elemental resistances and absorbs and actually negate all damage from that element and be healed from it! This practice is often called “over absorbing” which is highly illegal in legit PvP play, nothing stopping us using it against monsters though.

The delicate art of Tanking.

Ah yes. What is a Iron Man with out a couple of thousand hit points? Have I mentioned yet that the Barbarian is Blessed with 4 hit points per Vitality point? Now you know why you will want to keep your Dexterity to a minimum. It’s so you can pump your vitality thru the roof. But it gets better. Its called Battle Orders. This war cry multiplies the effect of a huge Vitality effect. If you have a level 23 Battle Order war cry, well every point of Vitality is worth 8 hit points. A couple of thousand hit points is easily achievable. A good Tank will have more than this. An enormous pool of life guarding you from deaths door.
Take a trip to the merchants and shop for blue magical weapons with the “echoing” descriptor. A pair of these in the weapon swap will give a +6 boost to your war cries to really tank the battle orders skill up.
Even so, you would be pretty stupid to have all this, with out life leeches. Every melee character should have leeches. The Iron Man is no different. Combine your Life leeches with a fast attack rate. The amount doesn’t have to be huge either. Thanks to our huge defence, blocking, resistances and other protections we have in place so far, very little actual damage will filter thru and is easily leeched back.
But, don’t rely on this. The game will throw everything it can at you to dump you on the ground in a bloody heap. You can never have enough life leech. Never. Get as much as you can fit. It’s your safety net for when things go wrong.
Mana leech should also be addressed. But this you need very little of at all. Any item that offers Mana leech will do the job. 3% from crafted gloves is enough. The bulk of your skills except for Whirlwind are very cheap to use. Usually 2 points of mana a shot. Also consider items that give a fixed amount of mana after every kill. These items will return mana even when battling Physical immune monsters.

A quick note about running.

Don’t do it. When your character is running your defence is reduced to a big fat zero and your shield blocking is reduced to a third. You run, your gunna get hit. pretty simple. The Barbarian is second only to the Sorceress for getting around quickly with out running. Increased Run/Walk does that exactly. You Walk quicker. Whirlwind is another way to get around with out running, and you will mow a few monsters down in the process to boot. Leap attack is another.
Doesn’t matter what your defence is when your leaping, nothing can hit you while your airborne!

The Must Have Skills

Nothing out of the ordinary here. The veteran players can skip this section. For the new player I will quickly gloss over the essential skills every Barbarian should have. Won’t be too hard to work out why.

Weapon Mastery. Choose your favourite tool of destruction and pump the skill points into the appropriate mastery. It should be said that most Iron Barbarians will choose Swords.
Swords are by far the best choice for the Barbarian, mostly because of his ability to wield all two handed versions one handed. And I should mention the unique swordguard. Upgrade it to elite for a good end of game weapon. Another popular choice is maces.

Leap Attack When you just have to get somewhere in a hurry. Very handy for jumping rivers, pits, and making Mephisto Pee his pants quicker. Oh, and you can attack a monster with it as well!

Increased Stanima/Speed. two very well spent skill points. Run faster and Longer. This tank gets great fuel economy to boot.

The combat skills.

With any melee build, a player must choose one or two primary attack skills, and usually specialize in these skills building them up with skill points, almost always to 20 skill point before items. I guess I’m beating around the bush a bit here. In reality, this is where we look at the three most common attack skills used for the Iron Man, Concentrate, Frenzy and Whirlwind. All three of these skills can work. You can even choose two of them to some degree as they can work effectively with only 1 point allocated to them. The big problem is skill points. 40 skill points pretty much has to be dedicated to building our defence leaving a limited choice when it comes to our offensive capabilities. My advise is to choose one primary attack skill, and a second, back up or secondary skill which you can spend whatever skill points you have left. With all these skills, have a Look at an IAS guide such as the German guide, for details on how to get you Iron Man Barbarian swinging at maximum speed.

Concentrate. This is a nice skill and coupled with a high damage weapon, can drop most monsters in 1-2 hits. Its attack rate can be increased using IAS items and weapons, so you might want to use IAS gloves and/or an amulet to help achieve a decent break point.
This skill works with any weapon config though it’s a bit of a waste using with paired weapons.

Whirlwind. The favourite Barbarian skill. Definitely King when it comes to crowd control and The Iron Barbs huge defence is just what you need while whirlwing thru scores of monsters. IAS on the body is useless which is actually a benefit to the Iron Barb, as we do not have to dedicate any items to IAS except as required on the weapon only. Many weapons abound out there specially for Whirlwind Barb builds so should be easily found, Though the pricing will probably be quite cruel!

Frenzy It is possible to achieve 25,000 odd defence with out a shield. Where as we will not have shield blocking at all, I strongly suggest building Damage Reduction up to 50%. Shafts Stop & String of Ears low defences will work against you here as these almost becomes mandatory so upgrade that shaft stop. Use a Lightsabre for one of your weapons to regain the Lightning Absorb. This pretty much limits you to Swords only but Its a very popular choice so I dont expect too many complaints.


Well, I cant write a guide with out looking at the lovely pretty shiny’s this game has to offer. The Iron Man is very item dependant. I mentioned before it was going to get expensive. Barbarian will want items that have high defence and skill levels. Damage reduction, Life leech, Hit recovery, and combine all this into an equip able package. It’s a tough call and there are a few ways to do it. Make the most of socketing. Socket your shield, armor, Helm and weapon to add as much extra needed bonuses as you can.

The first consideration for all Barbarian players is weapon Configuration. The weapon swap feature gives us the choice of two if we wish. Weapon/Shield is a strong option. The benefit of carrying a shield is very high for this build and very hard to ignore. The choice of what you do with the second switch slot is totally up to you. They all can work and work well.

Leta have a look first at the List. The final end game equipment you should have by the start of hell difficulty. Firstly, Ill start with the must have items. Items so useful in this build that there is no real alternative. You simply must have these items for this build. When looking for these, hunt for perfect, or near perfect examples. Every point of defence will count at the end of the day.

Shield. Storm Shield. Socketing. An Um rune is a good pick here. Those Resistance must come from somewhere after all and this is where a Um rune works best.

Ring.(1) Raven Frost. Far too many useful abilities to ignore. This is our Cold Absorb source, some mana, dexterity and attack rating to ice that cake.

The rest of the Items.

Helm. A few choices available and they are all Expensive! Good old Arreats face is a very good choice but it largely depends if you need its resistances and/or leeches. Andariel’s Visage, Demon Horn’s edge, crown of Ages and Halaberds Reign are all fine choices depending on what your needs are. The helm is what I call the variable so choose your other items first then pick the helm that fills in the most gaps. Keep in mind that this is a great place to gain some hit recovery as well.

Ring.(2)Two ways to go here. Find or trade a good rare. Dual leeches are back in town people. Otherwise hit the horadric cube for some crafting. The life leech from this ring slot will combine with Arreats face for the bulk of your life leeches. Other good choices here are Bul Kathos for its life, Life leech and skill level. Dwarf star is good if you cannot get fire absorb from else where.

Gloves. This is a choice depending on your attack method. If your a whirlwinder, then pick Hell mouth. Fire Absorb, Fire damage for PI and good defence or grab Dracul’s for some dual leech sweetness. If you need the IAS from gloves then keep crafting away. IAS gloves with Leeches are commonly sought and a pair of crafted gloves with 3% mana leech can supply all the mana leech you should need. Lava Gouts and Laying of Hands are another two good choices here.

Amulet.As for an Amulet, High Lords Wrath or The Cats Eye if you must have the IAS. The Deadly Strike will now work, no more mastery bug. Mara’s Kaliadascope For those who have enough Leeches, other wise choose Cresent Moon. This will combine with Arreats Face and solve all your Leech needs. The best amulet really should have +2 to barbarian skills and can be rare or even crafted. These can have leeches as well and is a better choice than Mara’s as the Barbarian can gain resistances easily else where.
The Rising Sun is also a good pick for its fire absorb and Mahim Oak Curio is a surprising low level pick thanks to its defence boost.

Armor. Arkaines Valor is still a good pick. Up to 1,450 base defence and +2 to skills is hard to beat, but the character level of 85 is very hard to swallow. How about a rune word instead?
Stone offers a huge defence bonus as well as other nice bonus’s and is quite easy to get the runes for. Same can be said about Gloom. Both of these rune words need an Um rune as the highest needed. The new Uniques make the cut as well. Tyreal’s & Templars might both offer huge defence as well as the Leviathan and Steel Carapace.
Guardian Angel is a good Pick for huge resistances boost and Shield blocking. Shaft stop is also a nice choice and both of these armor’s can be upgraded for a very nice defense boost.
Gladiators Bane brings up the rear for choices for Iron Man Suits.

Boots. Not much available that can really help. War Travellers for damage, Water Walks for Fire Resistances/Dexterity and life. Inferno stride is also a good pick as well as Cow Kings or Immortal Kings.

Weapon. Far too many to mention here. basically, anything thats big and nasty will do. If its fast, then all the better. Sword guard deserve a mention for its boosts to defence as does Spire of Honor. Both are upgradable too to boost damage.
Most choices will be old cruels or v1.10 rare collosus Blades or similar. Schaefer’s hammer, Doom Bringer and The Grand Father all get mentioned for this job. Rune words are well worth while as well. You can also craft hit power maces which can turn up with all sorts of mods and loads of Enhanced damage. Chelsi is also reputed to turn out the odd 400% + ed rare too and Im sure she has an eye for your barbarian too. :) Basically, you want a big one handed hitter swinging as fast as possible so Choose wisely.

Physically Immune Monsters.

Like most melee builds, dealing with the physical immune monsters in the game is a problem.
But, I’m happy to say that this is very solvable. One point is that you cannot leech from these monsters. Because of this, it is important to maintain our high defences to reduce the amount of damage we take while dealing with hordes of physically immune. Our huge hit point and mana tank will help here thanks to battle orders and I really suggest a couple of rows of healing and mana pots easily bought in your belt. A row of full rejuves for emergencies. I imagine this build will be very popular with the hard core players who all know the value of a purple pot.
Our Iron Man has some good ways to deal with physical immune. lets have a look at each, and study each methods draw backs.

Berserk. Top skill to kill Pi’s with even with one skill point, BUT. using this skill reduces your defence to ZERO. Good bye defence, leaving you with shield blocking and damage reduction as your only defence. Not a good idea. Your going to take damage using this skill, and you cant leech it back from the PI. I’d like to add that using this skill isn’t keeping with the theme of the Iron Man. What’s the point in building a huge wall of defence in the first place?
If you must go this way, make sure you have a high level of Battle Orders to buff with and keep the damage reduction high. Shaft Stop or Storm Shield is the go.

Weapon Swap. Elemental damage weapons. V1.10 has given us a huge load of elite unique and even rune word weapons that have a lot of elemental damage. Combine this with a shield like the good old Tiamat’s rebuke, hey it works for druids, it can work for a Barbarian.
The draw back is that this method on its own is slow at best.

The Back Pack. Full of elemental damage charms. This can be combined with any of the above methods. Best coupled with a very fast attack speed weapon in the weapon swap method. Its quite easy to build up 200 – 400 total elemental damage of various types with charms in the back pack, which will stack with your weapon/shield elemental damage.
The only draw back is that it costs you back pack space. Less room for skill, defence, Life, Stat etc charms.


A subject I briefly touched on before, as the Defiance Mercenary could be a build requirement for the Iron Man. Lets have a look at the best and worst choices for a Iron Barbarian.

Defiance. The number one choice as this Merc has a direct effect on the defence of your Barbarian, The merc himself and anybody in your party. If your using the war cry shout, you could end up creating a Iron Party! Using an Defiance Mercenary can free up valuable skill points that you wont need to spend boosting your defence with other skills.

Might. Ah. Sweet damage. The Iron man Barbarian really only has one disadvantage and that is his damage. Its low. The penalty for all that defence. The might Mercenary can fix this problem but it isn’t worth while. If you want a nice damage boosting aura for you and your mecenary, build yourself a Beast rune word weapon for yourself or the Mercenary and stick with the defiance Mercenary.

Act One Rogue A classic strategy this one. A meat shield and a ranged attacker in a group. Bit of a role reversal as you are the meat shield and your Mercenary is at ranged. Well, should be at range. Being a Mercenary she isnt that smart all the time. Also a nice helper with the Physically Immune monsters. Load up a Kuko Shakuko bow or something with a lot of elemental damage.

Who Is not so Hot.

Act Five Barbarian. Ummm. What can I say? another meat shield competing for the glory? Please. Then again, It would be different. Load him up with a Doom Bringer sword which could make this combination useful.

Act Three Iron Wolf Sadly, I don’t really know of any build that can use this merc. His spells are far too weak to be much use to anybody. The cold version can be fun, when the merc freezes a monster with the glacial spike, you can belt it for instant ice cubes, but it isn’t fun for long when you realise how useless he is.


Well, that just about raps this guide up. This build makes for a very good Cow Killer, for those nostalgic enough to go there. Makes a good pit runner or Ice caveman barb and As I said before, A fantastic “rescue” character to bring in when your questing buddies run into a Fanatism/Holy Freeze/Ultra Leb group of ancients on Mount Arreat. Comments of envy, gratitude and bribery will probably follow when you cast the town portal for them to collect their corpses. Maybe you should have charged them for the rescue??


CNE for suggesting the echoing weapons on the weapon swap.

Add a Commment