The creature wakes to sounds of distant cries and screaming. The cries of a man thing maddened by fear. With two yelps the creature awakens its minions, hungry from the night when their previous prey had evaded them.
Breaking into a gallop, the minions fall in behind the leader of the pack as they head towards the sounds of the man thing. As they round a cluster of trees, they see the man thing. Large it stands covered in blood and dirt and wearing the shiny hard skin they sometimes do. A mere obstacle to be torn off in the feeding frenzy of the pack. The man things yells grow louder, fear the leader thinks to itself. This kill will be easy.
The leader of the pack makes eye contact with the man thing. Freeze the victim with fear in its place while the pack surrounds the man thing for the kill. A tactic the creature has used before. But, In this man things eyes, the leader does not see fear. It sees the Berserk.
The leader yelps to break off the attack but it is too late. The pack has closed in quickly, eager for the taste of man thing.
The wastelands echo to the sounds of crunching bone and warm blood spraying across the ground, all in chorus with the death screams of the pack and the chaotic roars of the Berserk.
Berserk. The strongest melee attack available to any character. Make no mistake about that. Yet using this skill to slaughter monsters in this game is a task normally fraut with peril. The beserkers only defence usually is his powerful offense. Kill before being killed.
Or is it? Can the Berserker overcome his weakened defenses and be a powerful and survivable killing machine as well?
Yes he can. Keen to read about how to do it? Good.
What is an Iron Berserker?
Originally I started rewriting my original Iron man guide. The Iron man is a tough character, virtually unkillable designed to utilize as many survival attributes as you can possible cram into a single character. An interesting concept but one with some serious flaws. For a start, physical damage and the Iron maiden Curse. How Ironic it is that Iron maiden is the down fall of the Iron man.
Not only that, the one handed Concentration Barbarian is a slow killer unless you equip him with an uber weapon, EbotD, Grief or Zodded Ethereal this or that. If you want to make an Iron man, there is little difference to the Iron Berserker. Simply swap Berserk for Concentrate and Howl for Iron skin. It’s that easy.
But the Iron Berserker is the better Iron man. The killing speed is 2-3 times faster and he laughs at Oblivion knights and their curse. Life and Mana leeching can be replaced. So we are left with this one final question. Would you swap Armor Defense for immunity to The Iron Maiden curse? Yeah. Now you know what the Iron Berserker is and why I wrote this guide instead of rewriting the Iron man guide.
Strength is damage true, but for the Berserker we will have plenty of damage available. Our only requirement here is to equip weapons and equipment. Typically you will want a final strength of 170 or more for the really nice toys available, so work on around 140 or so for your characters strength before items.
An important stat for the Iron berserker as it provides attack rating, shield blocking chance and item requirements. I recommend a minimum of 100 points here before items though you may want to go as high as 140-150 depending on your preferences and chosen equipment.
Another important statistic to any character. More hit points equals better survivability. The rule of thumb here is what you don’t spend on your berserkers dexterity you will spend on his vitality. The trick here is to find a balance between how much dexerity you want for shield blocking versus vitality for those all important hit points. The decision comes down to how much single handed weapon & shield you plan to use. If this is your primary weapon config then concentrate on dexterity for shield blocking. Or if you plan to use a two handed weapons then ignore dexterity except for attack rating and item requirements. Or strike a balance between the two depending on your preferences.
None. As far as you should be concerned, this statistic does not exist.
The power of the Berserk.
The main reason why berserk is the most powerful melee attack in the game is that it converts all of the barbarians damage to magical damage. Monsters and players have none or next to no resistances to magical damage. Magical resistance is an all or nothing deal. Monsters either have no resistance to it or are completely immune.
But the power of the berserk goes further than that. Have a look at the skill itself. At level 20, berserk offers a huge 385% bonus to attack rating and 435% bonus to damage. That’s massive. In comparison to another skill, concentrate offers 250% bonus to attack rating and 165% bonus to damage. In fact, if you where to combine a typical weapon mastery skill at level 20 plus concentrate, you have 430% to attack rating and 288% bonus to damage. Better attack rating, but far worse damage. Now lets make it an equal comparison with 40 skill points each. (disregarding pre requisite skills) Lets spend 20 points in Berserk, 1 point in a weapon mastery and 19 points into a berserk synergy. What do we get? 413% bonus to attack rating and a massive 653% bonus to damage. Similar attack ratings, but the damage! That’s more than double the bonus to damage of Concentrate combined with a weapon mastery.
Nothing can compare to berserk when it comes to outright damage. Chuck another 20 skill points into the other berserk synergy skill and you are up to 863% bonus to damage. (total of 40 points in both synergies)
Then add skill modifiers from items and charms. 1,000% and more enhanced damage is very possible.
Berserk will cost you 23 skill points. Bash, Stun, Concentrate and 20 points in Berserk. While you are in the Combat tree, add another 3 skill points in Leap, Leap Attack and Whirlwind. Why not?
Berserk synergy skills.
Is the obvious first pick for Berserk synergy skills. It adds 10% enhanced damage per skill point and it is quite useful for crowd control. One howl at level 20 will send all the minor monsters running leaving the nasty boss/unique/enhanced beasties. Enjoy the private party with them and by the time their corpses are bleeding on the ground, their minions will return for you to smash into the ground right next to them.
Howl will cost you 20 skill points. There are no pre requisite skills.
On the other hand is next to useless to the Berserker. Don’t know why it is even a synergy for Berserk. If you didn’t know, when you use berserk, your defense is reduced to zero. So what’s the point of raising it higher only to reduce it to nothing when you attack something? It doesn’t matter in any case because you want the extra 200% bonus to damage from this synergy as well.
I do say next to useless for shout. It is of use when your Berserker is not using Berserk which will happen from time to time and it will help your Mercenary and party members and only takes a moment to cast. Might as well.
Shout will cost you 20 skill points. It’s only pre requisite skill is Howl which you have already.
You’re a Barbarian. You have Battle Orders. Unless for some reason you don’t want to double your berserkers hit points. Hmmm nope. I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t.
Battle Orders will cost you 20 skill points. It’s pre requisite skills are Howl and Shout and you already have those.
One point wonders.
Battle Command, Increased Stamina, Increased Speed, Iron Skin, Natural Resistances and a Weapon Mastery.
These will cost you 6 skill points. There are either no extra pre requisite skills besides what you already have.
Extra skill points.
So far we have spent 92 skill points. Done deal by level 81. That means that there are a few spare skill points left by the typical end game character level of 85 and beyond. Where to spend them?
You really only have a couple of choices left of any real use. Increase your Weapon mastery or Natural resistances. Some of the best items for our Berserker do not offer a lot of resistances, so gaining resistances via skill points is a viable option. Otherwise just boost your mastery skill or maybe another weapon mastery? Handy if you decide to go the two handed weapon swap option. You can have two different weapon types and spend skill points in both applicable weapon masteries.
Keeping a Iron Berserker alive.
It is amazing how important life and mana leeching is to melee characters particularly when you make one without them. For the Iron Berserker it is not enough to simply equip a good weapon, load the belt with potions and have good resistances to all elements.
So what makes an Iron Barbarian so survivable? Lets have a quick look.
75% chance to block is a very useful ability for our Iron Berserker. The right equipment can grant extra dexterity or shield blocking chance so a good chance of shield blocking can be achieved without making a heavy investment into dexterity. You can accept a lower amount if you wish. 66 or 50% though I do not recommend anything less than 50%.
Physical damage reduction.
Available as either percentage reduction or a reduced by a certain number, another valuable tool to keeping our Iron Barbarian alive. Physical damage reduction is capped at 50% where as damage reduced by is uncapped and stacks both with itself and percentage damage reduction. Magical damage reduction is also another useful attribute to have.
+xx to life/mana after kill
There are a few items that offer this attribute. Unlike leeching, every monster you kill rewards your character with the listed Life/Mana and it does not matter what you kill or how you kill either including Physical immune, Skeletons and others bad guys that normal Leeching does not work against.
Resistances and absorbs
Simply increasing your resistances up to the 75% cap is not enough for a Iron Barbarian. The cap can be raised up to 95% with certain items. There are also energy absorbs. Without getting too technical, when your character is damaged by the listed energy, part of the damage heals your character as well. There is no absorb for poison however but you can get poison length reduced by items and are a very good idea. My recommendations? A minimum of 85% resistance to all or 75% resistance with an absorb item. You can have both as well as the effects stack.
Leeching and potion drinking.
When your Iron berserker gets low on health well you can drink a potion or switch to another skill that does physical damage such as Whirlwind or Concentrate. Make sure you have an item with life leech or chance to cast life tap. Shouldn’t be a problem to get either or both on your Iron Barbarian.
You may scoff as usually life replenish is pretty pathetic. For the record if an item for example offers “Life replenish +10” this is the total amount of life replenished every 10 seconds. Not huge but keep in mind that this attribute stacks with both item and skill based means of life replenish. Skills such as Prayer offer a far better means of Life replenish than what item based replenish items offer.
A question of weapon swapping
One handed weapons with a shield or two handed? All D2 characters get the choice of two weapon swap slots so you could have both.
The Weapon plus shield Iron Berserker is a strong character. His killing speed is roughly equivalent to the two handed concentrate barbarian for killing speed. It’s enough to get the job done.
Two handed berserkers are the stuff of legends when it comes to damage. One hit kills are the normal event with the Two handed berserker. Ordinarily a two handed berserker is also known as a “glass cannon”. Huge damage and very fragile. But with the equipment and set up of the Iron Berserker, you can have the big damage and a good degree of survivability as well.
There is only one reason not to have a two handed weapon and a weapon plus shield set up in both weapon swap slots. That reason is the paired echoing weapons for +6 to war cry buffs. Choose which ever you like. The Iron Berserker works either way.
Ok, time for the pretty toys. I am not going to try and list every toy that can work on an Iron Berserker. The items listed here are those I found to be the best and I will tell you why I have selected them, so if you cannot get these then you can determine suitable substitutes you can use until you can gain them. The Iron Berserker is very item specific and his items are critical to his survival. I have listed some Battle.net only rune words. If you don’t have the RWM mod then don’t worry. You can make a very effective Iron Berserker with single player only rune words and unique/set items. My own Iron Berserker used only one Battle.net rune word, “Death” in an Ethereal collosus sword and this is easily replaced with any unique or single player only rune word.
Grief phase blade, Tomb Reaver, Ethereal Edge.
Grief is the clear winner for beat sticks for the berserker. Straight out of the box a grief phase blade swings at 10 frames per second (worst IAS roll) and offers huge damage. But what really gets Grief, Tomb Reaver and Ethereal Edge into the recommended weapon rack is” +xx to life after kill”, though it is only after demon kills in the case of Ethereal edge. All of these weapons offer decent damage as well as other useful attributes such as resistances, IAS, Attack rating etc.
Apart from these three, pretty much any weapon with bulk damage that your Berserker can swing at a decent rate will suffice such as Oath, Death, The grandfather, Doom bringer, Stone crusher, Rune master, Death cleaver, just to name a few.
Got the runes for this puppy? Because level 10-15 Redemption is just what the doctor ordered for a killing machine without any life and mana leeching. There are a couple of other attributes this rune word offers, but the main reason it is king of the picks is a 71-80% chance to redeem 75-95 points of life and mana every second or so.
Drawbacks are many. Lousy block chance, no resistances and so on. But if you can make this rune word then build your Berserker around it.
Seriously, this item is purely dream ware. Our Iron Barbarian can do without it. It is nice sure but my Iron Berserker doesn’t have one and he survives just fine.
Storm shield, Sanctuary, Gerkes Sanctuary.
In this trio, Storm shield is the clear pick. Physical damage reduction, Strength and good blocking chance. Gerkes Sanctuary is the Poor mans Storm shield. Sanctuary? It has a good blocking chance with Dexterity to help it along and bulk resistances making it better than most other shields apart from Storm Shield and Gerke’s.
Arreats Face, Halaberds Reign, Vampire Gaze, Rock Stopper.
Arreats you expected. Name a Barbarian build it isn’t the best pick for. Halaberds is an interesting helm as it offers Replenish life. Socketed with resistances it isn’t a bad helmet. Probably half as good as an Arreats. Vampire Gaze offers Physical damage reduction and magical damage reduced by. Rock stopper offers resistances, Vitality, Damage reduction and fast hit recovery and is quite easy to get.
Highlord’s Wrath, Mara’s Kaleidoscope, Metal Grid, Cat’s Eye, Saracen’s Chance.
IAS is hard to get for our Berserker making Highlord’s a very wise choice. Anything else really will do depending on what you need.
Without a doubt, this is the best armor for an Berserker. Raises all resistances caps to 90% and reduces the Dexterity needed to achieve 75% chance to block with a shield. Less points in Dexterity, more in Vitality.
Enigma, Bramble, Chains of Honor
Three expensive suits for our Berserker which all offer “+xx to life after kill” or life replenish along with other very useful attributes. Expensive, now you know why. Again, Dream ware. My Iron Berserker does just fine in his Guardian angel.
Arkaine’s Valor, Leviathan, The Gladiator’s Bane, Shaft Stop.
You can see the pattern here can’t you? Physical damage reduction or damage reduced by, bonuses to statistics and other attributes which will help your Berserker survive.
Verdungo’s Hearty Cord, String of Ears, Thundergod’s Vigor.
Verdungo’s wins the pick here. Bulk Vitality, damage reduction and Life replenish, which will stack with Halaberds Reign if you don’t have an Arreat’s face. But, String of ears has Magical damage reduction instead of bulk vitality. Hmmm. Might be worth keeping a string of ears in the stash for those pesky Succubi and other magic damage chucking nasties along with Thundergod’s for those Lightning Emitting Bothersomes.
Quite simply far too valuable to ignore. +5-10 to life after kill. If that wasn’t a good enough reason there is also a chance to cast life tap as well. These gloves where clearly made for the Iron Berserker and anything else simply cannot compete. If you don’t have these then grab the usual IAS/Crushing blow/whatever you like to use until you get these gloves.
Raven Frost, Wisp Projector, Bul katho’s Wedding Band, Dwarf Star, Rares.
You get the picture here. Elemental absorbs. Raven Frost is a given thanks to can’t be frozen, bonus to attack rating and Dexterity. The other ring? Wisp projector given how nasty Lightning damage is or other wise a Dwarf star, Bul Katho’s or a good rare. Your choice.
Water Walks, Gore Riders, War Travellers.
Water walks offer a pile of life and dexterity making them a good pick. Other wise grab the usual melee character preferred foot wear for kicking behind with.
Attack rating, Life, Skills, Resistances.
If you haven’t got the resistances via your equipment then use resistance charms. Attack rating is valuable to the Iron Barbarian for using other skills such as Whirlwind or Concentrate. As one pointers these skills will have trouble hitting anything and there is nothing wrong pushing Berserk’s attack rating up either. Demon Limb in the stash for Enchant buffs works as an effective attack rating boost as well.
Yes, you should have one. And your faithful hireling will be wielding one of two pole arms meaning you hire him from Act two – the town guard. The two pole arms to choose from will be either The Reapers Toll for it’s chance to cast Decrepify on your opponents or the rune word Insight which will ensure your Iron Barbarian will never run out of Mana or quickly replenish it when he does.
So which aura to choose? Again, one of two choices. Might or Prayer. Might is the damage choice. It has been said time and time again that a good defense is a good offense.
The best choice however is Prayer and is the unusual choice and not a normal now is it? You hire a “combat” mercenary in Normal or Hell difficulty to get one. Normally Prayer costs mana to run which isn’t a problem for a Mercenary. The radius is huge as well starting at 10.6 metres out at a whopping 30.6 at 16th level. Prayer offers a far better method of life replenish than items do. At high level, Prayer will heal the listed hit points every time it pulses which is approximately every 1-1.5 seconds.
Trouble deciding which one to use? Here is a tip. Prayer if you plan to use two handed weapons primarily. You sacrifice a bit of damage for survivabilty. Might is better suited to weapon + shield users. A good shield helps the survivability so in this case the extra damage could be the way to go.
The Iron Berserker’s Weaknesses.
Surprisingly, there are a few but none of them are a serious problem. Most really only slow the Iron Berserker down and only the first two may cause a death.
– Nilathak’s Corpse Explosion.
– Bugged poison damage from claw vipers in Nilathak’s level.
– Physical and magic immune monsters such as the Wendigo wailing beasts encountered in the kurast area.
– Attack interruption
– Stun, knockback and other such attacks.
Now you can see how an Iron Berserker stays alive while smashing everything in his path into a pulp.
We can replace Life leeching with a bit of this and a bit of that. A bit of life back every time the Iron Berserker makes a kill, a bit more every time the Prayer aura from the mercenary pulses. A scrap more every second from life replenish. Coupled together with damage reduction, high resistances and absorbs, shield blocking and three of four thousand hit points the Iron Berserker is a tough hombre indeed.
Those are the facts and I can tell you that it works very well in game. How about Hell Baal runs solo with a berserker using the “/players x” setting? I laugh when I see the throne room crammed with Oblivion knights. In fact I usually turn the “/players x” setting up even higher when I see them. They can’t hurt the Iron Berserker.
I am left wondering is the Iron Berserker is the best melee character in the game? Probably not. But either way he is a strong character both for killing power and survivability.
If you don’t believe me then try one for yourself. You’ll be both surprised and amazed with the Iron Berserker as I am.
The renowned german weapon speed calculator which is used to determine how much IAS you need for any character, skill and weapon.
Blizzard’s own official web site for Diablo 2 and contains much information on characters, items, monsters and the many aspects of this great game.