Barbarian Community Compendium

Barbarian Community Compendium

This is a compendium of information regarding game mechanics as they relate to the Barbarian (and other classes, in part) including a discussion of the skill builds and gear that has worked best in Hardcore mode. This information has been gathered via in-game testing and data mined formulae, and reflects my experiences as a level 60 Barbarian in Hell difficulty on hardcore mode (though most of the information is relevant for softcore play as well).

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a living document, meaning that it will be updated over time as new information emerges. This is not a place for us to dictate information; if something is incorrect or has changed, please help us maintain this as an accurate, up-to-date reference for all players.

TL;DR Summary
Spreadsheet: to compare mitigation across builds (file -> save as)
Sample Builds: Full Tank, Solo Farming, Party Tank, Bosses, Stun-heavy/Kiting, Very aggressive AOE farming, Pure-Ranged
Stat Priorities: Vitality > Strength > Dexterity (avoid Intelligence)
Gear Priorities: +Armor / +%Armor, +Resistances, + %Health % Damage Reduction, Vitality, Strength

DR – Damage Reduction
Clvl – Character Level
Mlvl – Monster Level
Str – Strength
Dex – Dexterity
Int – Intelligence
Vit – Vitality

Table of Contents
1. Survivability Mechanics

1.1 Armor
1.2 Resistances
1.3 Dodge
1.4 Block
1.5 Damage Reduction

2. Barbarian Mechanics

2.1 Damage over time
2.2 Dual wielding
2.3 Slows and Snares

3. Builds

3.1 Components of a build
3.2 Vital abilities
3.3 Sample builds for hardcore

4. Gearing Considerations

1. Survivability Mechanics

1.1 Armor

  • Reduces all incoming damage by a percentage
  • Increased by items, strength, abilities
  • 1 point of strength = 1 armor

1.1.1 Armor Damage Reduction Formula:

%DR =[Armor/(Armor+Mlvl*50)]*100
Where Mlvl is the level of the monster attacking you

1.1.2 Armor against a level 60 monster


1.2 Resistances

  • Reduces damage of an element by a percentage
  • Works on physical damage as well as elemental
  • Increased by items, abilities and intelligence
  • 1 intelligence = 0.1 resistance

1.2.1 Resistance Damage Reduction Formula:

%DR =[Resistance/(Resistance+Mlvl*5)]*100
Where Mlvl is the level of the monster attacking you

1.2.2 Resistance against a level 60 monster


1.3 Dodge

  • Percent chance to avoid all damage of an attack
  • Melee, ranged, missile, magic missile and AOE attacks can be dodged
  • Increased through items, abilities and dexterity

1.3.1 Dexterity to Dodge Conversion
Dexterity does not provide static amounts of dodge like Strength and Intelligence. Instead, the more Dexterity you have the less dodge you will receive.

0-100 dex gives0.10%dodge per pt.
100-500 dex gives0.03%dodge per pt.
500-1000 dex gives0.02%dodge per pt.
1000-8000 dex gives0.01%dodge per pt.

Resulting in the following:

100 Dexterity gives10% dodge
500 Dexterity gives20% dodge
1000 Dexterity gives30% dodge
2000 Dexterity gives40% dodge
3000 Dexterity gives50% dodge


1.3.2 Example Dodge Calculation
Assume: 600 Dexterity, +10% dodge from ability

100 Dexterity @ 0.1% per point = (100*0.1%) = 10.00%
400 Dexterity @ 0.025% per point =(400*0.025%)=10.00%
100 Dexterity @ 0.02% per point =(100*0.02%)=2.00%
Total from Dexterity:(10.00%+10.00%+2.00%)=22%

Combining this with the 10% ability dodge we get

=1-[(1-Total from Dexterity)*(1-Total from Ability 1)]
=1-[(1-22%)*(1-10%)] =30% Total Dodge

1.4 Block

  • Provides a chance to block an amount of damage from each attack
  • Three primary shield stats: armor, block chance and block amount
  • Block test occurs after damage reduction calculation
  • Magical attacks can be blocked
    • There has been some speculation on this – if someone can find evidence that this is incorrect, let me know and I’ll update this! -Jom

1.4.1 Blocking Mechanics
Shields provide a line of defense after your armor, resistances and damage reduction is taken into account. If a shield block is rolled, damage you would take is reduced by your shield block amount. If you would take damage less than the shield block amount, you take no damage.

Due to the nature of the damage calculations, armor synergizes very well with blocking. That is, a character with high armor will see more benefit from blocking than a character with very low armor.

1.5 Total Damage Reduction

  • Combines all sources of damage reduction multiplicatively
  • When testing for survivability, be sure to calculate both physical and elemental damage
  • The total damage reduction is an average over time due to block and dodge being random events

1.4.1 Other Damage Reduction Sources

  • Barbarians and Monks have an innate 30% damage reduction
  • % armor bonuses are calculated including all static armor adjustments

1.4.2 Basic Formula

Total DR%=100*[1-(1-DR1)*(1-DR2)*(1-DR3)…]
where DRX (e.g. DR1, DR2, etc.) is a source of damage reduction

1.4.3 Basic Formula Example
Assume: 60% DR from armor, a shield with 15% block chance and 1000 block amount, 10% dodge from Dexterity and 20% resistance to all magical damage
Assume: Monster hit deals 5,000 damage
Note: All melee classes receive 30% damage reduction from all sources

Shield Damage Calculation:

Shield DR=15%*1000 = 150 average damage blocked

Physical Damage Reduction:

1) Find Non-avoidance DR: 100*[1-(1-60%)*(1-30%)]=72.00% (1400 damage)
2) Determine Block DR: 150/1400=11% DR
3) Combining it all: 100*[1-(1-72%)*(1-11%)*(1-10%))=77.57% Total Physical DR

Magical Damage Reduction

1) Find Non-avoidance DR: 100*[1-(1-60%)*(1-30%)*(1-20%)]=77.60% (1120 damage)
2) Determine Block DR: 150/1120=13% DR
3) Combining it all: 100*[1-(1-77.60%)*(1-13%)*(1-10%))=82.46% Total Magical DR

1.4.4 Spreadsheet Calculator

  • Download here
  • Adjust variables in yellow cells to compare mitigation across different builds



2. Barbarian Mechanics

2.1 Damage over Time

  • DiabloWikiDoT effects from the same ability (e.g. Rend) do not stack
  • DiabloWikiDoT effects from multiple abilities can be applied to a single monster at the same time
  • Higher attack speeds cause each DoT in a channeled ability to “tick” more frequently – total length of time does not change
  • DoT effects scale from weapon DPS, not weapon damage (i.e. slow, high-damage weapons aren’t necessarily better than fast, low-damage weapons)

2.2 Dual Wielding

  • Alternates attacks between each weapon
  • 15% attack speed bonus while DiabloWikidual wielding
  • You never attack with both weapons at the same time
  • Some abilities always use the damage from the main hand weapon
  • Weapons with the +X attacks per second affix provide the bonus speed to both weapons

2.3 Slows and Snares

  • Attacks with cold damage slow enemies
  • Slows do not stack, only the highest is used



3. Builds

3.1 Components of a good build

  1. Some form of mobility/control to prevent being surrounded
  2. “Emergency buttons” for elites/champions/bosses
  3. Percent-based Healing
  4. As much armor/resistances/passive defense as you can fit

3.2 Important Abilities

Effect: 30% chance when hit to activate an ability, which when used heals 5% of max HP per enemy hit

As soon as you possibly can, rune this with provocation. The healing this ability provides is enormous, especially against packs of mobs. To top it off, there’s no cooldown.

DiabloWikiIgnore Pain
Effect: 65% damage reduction for 5 seconds

You’re virtually unkillable for 5 seconds, on a 30 second cooldown. That means about 15-25% of the time you’re nearly immune to death (depending on rune – either extend time to 7 seconds or gain 20% life steal).

DiabloWikiWar Cry
Effect: Increases Armor, along with HP, resistances, or dodge

This will fill in any stats you’re missing from your gear. Due to diminishing returns, we want to gain damage mitigation from multiple sources. For instance, if you’re heavy on armor and doge but low on resistances, rune this for resistances. If you’re heavy of armor and resistances, rune this for dodge.

DiabloWikiWrath of the Berserker
Effect: 10% crit, 20% attack speed, 20% dodge, 20% movement speed, (rune for 100% damage or 60% dodge)

Every two minutes you’re a god. Or..nearly so. This is the cornerstone of your champion/elite killing power. It can also be used as an emergency button to escape with, as it breaks frozen and various other debuffs.

Furious Charge: DiabloWikiDreadnought
Effect: Dash forward, healing 8% for every enemy hit

Mobility and healing – this can be used in many builds to kill two birds with one stone.

3.3 Example builds for Hardcore

Note that these builds are the ones I’ve found to work best for hardcore play. In softcore, you can likely get away with quite a bit more damage and less survivability. These are templates to help you as a starting point in building your own build that suits your playstyle – adapt them as you see fit.


Keep in mind that, currently, hardcore Barbarians don’t really have a single build to “rule them all” – certain areas require certain abilities to stay alive. You should almost always be using either Full Tank, Bosses, or Stun-Heavy/Kiting.

3.3.1 Full Tank

Use when: You’re in hardcore, under-geared in softcore, exploring new content, or have a high-DPS friend

You’re giving up a large portion of your damage potential for raw staying power. Ignore Pain, Wrath of the Berserker and Leap all provide very high levels of damage mitigation for elite and champion packs, while frenzy and revenge provide your damage.

If you feel like you’re hurting for more damage, consider swapping Tough as Nails for Berserker Rage and the Wrath of the Berkserker rune for Insanity.

3.3.2 Solo Farming

Use when: You’re well-geared and farming comfortable content quickly (e.g. magic finding)

Relies more heavily on healing than mitigation and kills more quickly than the full tank. You retain Ignore Pain for emergencies, but gain Furious Charge in lieu of Leap for mobility and healing.

Frenzy: Sidearm provides your main source of damage, which is useful for both single-target and AOE damage (the additional projectile can hit your main target, and often does). Wrath of the Berserker: Insanity provides a huge damage amp, especially paired with Berserker Rage.

3.3.4 Party Tank

Use when: You’re in a heavy-DPS group that lacks survivability. Not recommended for Hardcore.

Gives up most of your damage and mobility in exchange for more stunning and group buffs. Build relies on having other damage dealers to do the killing while you keep things busy.

3.3.5 Bosses

Use when: You’re fighting a boss

Due to boss enrage mechanics, it is imperative to kill them quickly. This crux of this build is maintaining a very high attack speed with Frenzy: Smite for frequent stunning, in combination with Wrath of the Berserker + Earthquake. Take the life steal rune on ignore pain instead of revenge, as revenge isn’t terribly attractive against single targets.

3.3.6 Stun-heavy/Kiting

Use when: You’re in tight corridors or areas without room for much maneuverability. Try to funnel mobs into a choke point, then stun them to keep them at a distance.

Gives up some healing from Revenge (you won’t be in the thick of things if you can help it) and takes a number of additional stunning abilities. Primary heal is now Furious Charge: Dreadnought.

Focus on using abilities to generate rage quickly, then spam Seismic Slam: Stagger to keep things stunned and at a distance. Due to the hit-and-run nature of the build, Unforgiving is taken as a passive to keep rage from decaying while you move.

3.3.7 Very aggressive AOE farming

Use when: You vastly over-gear content, are extremely comfortable and want to quickly group-up mobs and AOE them down

Be careful with this one – it provides an immense amount of damage over a short period of time, but gives up quite a bit of mitigation to do so. Ideally, round up a bunch of mobs and burst them down before your power abilities run out.

3.3.8 Pure-Ranged

Use when: Melee attacks simply aren’t an option

This is an interesting variant I’m still testing. This build relies heavily on crits and cooldowns to generate fury, and doesn’t have nearly as much mitigation as other Barbarians would typically have. You’re still more beefy than a Demon Hunter, but try to avoid getting into the thick of things.

Leap: Launch and Ancient Spear: Rage Flip are your escapes, and you keep War Cry and Ignore Pain for emergencies. Practice your stutter-step micro, because you don’t want to be anywhere near monsters for this.



4. Gearing Considerations

  • In general: Vitality > Strength > Dexterity > Intelligence
  • Due to the high amounts of resistance available on gear, intelligence is a very poor stat for Barbarians and should be avoided
  • Armor and Dodge both suffer from diminishing returns – use the spreadsheet to determine which stats provide you with the most mitigation.
  • +% Health (e.g. gem in helm) is a great way to get your health pool up


To be added:

  • Damage Calculations
  • Demo videos
  • Best Affixes
  • Boss Strategies
  • Gems discussion
  • Life steal vs. life on hit vs. life on kill

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34 thoughts on “Barbarian Community Compendium

  1. Great write up. Similar thinking and spec to me and my hardcore barb.

    Out of interest, have you experimented with gems, particularly in your main-hand weapon? I’ve stuck with rubies so far, but am potentially going to ditch it for amethyst for the extra leech in inferno.

    The relatively modest flat damage increase from a ruby seems to be terrible relative to the damage range of high-end weapons.

    • Enki’s been taking a look at item affixes lately, and has come to the conclusion that sockets are pretty awful compared to other affixes that could replace “socketed”, largely because gems are so terrible.

      That said, when I have a socketed weapon I’ve always use rubies (though adding ~30 DPS to a 600+ DPS weapon makes me cry). I could see there being a few exceptions:

      1. Dual wielding with two topaz’d weapons in a thorns build (sounds fun, but doubtful that it will have much power/viability)
      2. Crit-focused barbarian with emeralds (perhaps with the throw weapon build that relies on crits?)
      3. Super-fast-attacking barbarian with amethyst (I’m thinking really high attack speed + whirlwind or something) 

  2. One suggestion. When you will be writing about affixes could you clarify differences between “life steal” (% dam) vs “life on hit” vs “life on kill”. I’m guessing “life steal” will be most efficient on higher levels when base DPS is huge but on the lower levels it’s not that clear. How does “life on hit” work with AOE attacks like Cleave? Does it return given amount for every enemy hit by a single attack? How does “life steal” and “life on hit” work with DOT attacks like Rend? Do they return health for each tick of timer?

  3. I’m a level 60 Barb stuck at the beginning of Act 2 in Inferno. My health is 52,000. Damage is 22,000. Am I doing fine? or are my stats too low?

  4. Very good writing, it helps a lot. Although I’m a bit confused on the reduction/resist part. So armor reduces ALL kind of incoming damage (meele, ranged, magical), and we have resist for every kind of elemental dmg and even to physical damage. So who exactly this works? Also there is no talking about how vitality scales by level. As I experienced it gives more HP on higher levels. But maybe I’m just wrong. Thanks for the document, I hope it’ll grow by time.

    • Armor increases damage reduction from ALL types of damage.
      Resistances can also reduce damage from ALL types of damage.

      These are combined using the formula in the article, but you generally want to have a roughly even mix of both due to diminishing returns.

      I’ll do some testing on vitality scaling and add it in, thanks! 

      • If Armor reduces ALL damage, then a Barb at level 60 will typically have enough armor for about 65% reduction. Resistances alone can contribute about 40% for most Barbs, as a conservative value. So by your logic, the total damage reduction is 0.35 x 0.6 = 0.21. That’s equivalent to a net reduction of almost 80%. AND STILL….the damage i take is crazy!!

  5. Just a quick correction I noticed

    100 Dexterity @ 0.1% per point = (100*0.1%) = 10.00%400 Dexterity @ 0.025% per point =(500*0.025%)=10.00%100 Dexterity @ 0.02% per point =(100*0.02%)=2.00%Total from Dexterity:(10.00%+10.00%+2.00%)=22%  

    the 500 should be a 400. The calculated value is still correct. Also, awesome guide. 

  6. According to “Shields provide a line of defense after your armor, resistances and damage reduction is taken into account.” , the %damage reduced by shield blocks should be calculated using the damage reduced by everything else (except dodge), but in the example you calculate it using the 5k base damage “%Shield DR=[15%*(5000-1000)]+[85%*5000]=4850″.

    • You’re right, the shield calculation should include all (non-dodged) damage. I’ll fix that up. The calculation in the spreadsheet is correct, but my brain was a bit fried from looking at numbers most of the day, whoops!

  7. Nice summary thanks. Would be nice if someone is able to calculate or make a graph of softcaps for Armor and Resistance, just to easily have some number where to aim.

  8. What is considered magical attack? I’m pretty sure i saw “block” text while walking over those poisonous flowers left by wood wraiths. Not sure about the green puddles left by plagued monsters.

  9. Awesome read, helped my Barbarian out a lot. Can’t wait for the Witch Doctor. 😀

  10. Theres an easier way to see what the average shield damage reduction is its %block chance*amount blocked.
    Assume: 60% DR from armor, a shield with 15% block chance and 1000 block amount, 10% dodge from Dexterity
    Shield blocks 15%*1000=150 average damage blocked (assuming mob does at lest 1000 damage).
    BTW your calculation assumes that block comes first in damage reductions everything I head says its comes last, so in this case your %shield reduction calculation is useless. <- The Spreadsheet makes the same mistake of applying the shield damage reduction straight to the monster hit damage.

    Assuming monster does 5000 damage and putting block last (where everything I seen says it is)
    Its 5000*(1-.6)*(1-.1)*(1-.3)-(1000*0.15)=1260-150=1110 average damage taken = 22.2% of damage taken or 77.8% damage reduction on average.
    Shield is giving a damage reduction of 150/1260*100=11.9%

    PS where have the next/previous topic arrows gone?)

    • This methodology is correct – I updated the article (and will be updating the spreadsheet) to reflect this. Thanks!

    I’ll call it a vampiric lawnmower, it’s a build I’ve been using (spamming) through nightmare and hell.
    Pre-requisites are Mighty Weapons with socketed Amethyst gems and gears with life on hit stats. 
    Dash to the center of the mob with Furious Charge/Merciless Assault and then group them up with Ground Stomp/Wrenching Smash and let them explode after few hits with Cleave/Rupture, you gain some fury after that and use the Whirlwind/Wind Shear with longer duration due to the use of a Mighty Weapon and the Passive Skill Weapon Master and Whirlwind/Wind Shear (you gain fury while hitting enemies instead of only spending it).
    You also gain life while you’re at it.

    With Overpower/Momentum or Crushing Advance, you gain some extra fury to continue with your Whirlwind attacks.

    In emergency, you can use Call of the Ancients/Duty to the Clan… it heals you x times faster than alone when they’re attacking and it helps get rid of the mobs faster while your other skills are at cooldown.
    With the Passive Skill Relentless – you can practically have a long Whirlwind duel with the Skeleton King while you’re under 20% life. I had some 45 sec. to 1 minute Whirlwind duel with the Skeleton King. It was funny.

    And for the Act II and Act III Bosses, I just switch my main to Frenzy for faster healing while taking damages with Vitality 1:1.30 Strength stat ratio.

  12. Hi guys, great write up for survival mechanics.

    But are you really sure whether shield block is only versus magical. The way that every other mechanic in the game does not make distinction between melee, magical, elemental, skill, weapon, etc.., I would expect block to work against pretty much anything, the way dodge does.

    Also higher attack speeds to do not make dots tick faster, rather it multiplies dot damage. or to put it in a more straightforward manner you could say dot damage scales with weapon dps rather than weapon damage. 

    • glad you raised this, I was confused by the DoT/attack speed thing in the OP:

      “Higher attack speeds cause each DoT to “tick” more frequently – total length of time does not change”
      so I guess what this boils down to is there is no advantage to using a big 2-hander for something like earthquake, the damage is based on DPS not absolute wep damage.

      Whether its calculated by more faster ticks or each tick scaled by some other multiplier, probably not noticeable in-game?

    • On shield block: That was a typo in the article, shields CAN block anything (as far as I know?). If this is incorrect, please let me know and I’ll update.

      On DoT ticking: See Bashiok post here:
      He indicates that, for channeled spells, DoT ticking is faster with high attack speed weapons. However, for other abilities (e.g. Rend) you’re correct – my wording was poor/misleading. Thanks!

  13. Nice work!
    However i have one question.

    In terms of getting High dmg red, why not use  Threatening shout? That alone reduces enemies dmg against you, plus with initimidate Rune, you also reduce there attack speed, which further reducer the amount of dmg you would take. Combine that with Inspiring presence, shout will last longer AND it gives you some life back.
    Im just guessing, i don’t own a computer and i have only played D3 once (18 hours straight) 

    Edit: sorry, not initimidate Rune but Falter rune

    • Threatening shout is a great tool. My biggest problems with it are:

      1) The AOE isn’t terribly large, so I found it frequently missing a whole bunch of ranged/moving mobs.
      2) It takes away an active skill, limiting the Barbarian’s ability to react to various situations. I just found that it was the easiest to replace when I needed to work in other abilities, and then found that I simply didn’t miss it. 

  14. Shield DR calculated from a raw “monster hit deals 5000 damage”, while article says blocking is checked after armor and resistances.

    I’d suggest to clarify with something like “assuming a monster does 5000 damage through your armor and resistances” or kinda that… After double-checking blocking mechanics I am convinced of block-armor synergy, but it’d be cool to elaborate.

    • The shield DR calculation problem was pointed out a few times, and has been updated in the article. Thanks! 🙂

  15. I have a question for you:
    Dual wielding weapons that each have the “gain X life on hit” affix. Do I get the combined effect of both affixes on each hit, or does the weapon only give its specific affix when it hits.
    For example lets say I’m dual wielding swords and each sword has the affix “Gain 200 life on hit”.  Do I get 400 life each time I hit the enemy with either sword, or just 200?

    • Hmm.. that’s a good question. I believe we do know that IAS on a weapon applies to all your attacks with both weapons. Naturally stats like +str also applies to all your attacks. I would assume that +life on hit would also apply to all your attacks. But then again things like +damage only apply to the weapon in question. So now I am not so sure about the +life on hit affix.

      Also about the same affix:

      We now know that the game scales many things with attack speed so that 1) a fast / slow weapon with similiar dps have similiar performance and 2) IAS is always a beneficial affix and improves all your skills in some manner.

      I recently changed my barbarian’s setup and equipped fast weapons with +life on hit, and i was expecting to leech very large amounts of health. But i feel that it has not been the case. Can there be some kind of scaling on this affix so that fast weapons are not over-valued?

  16. So just to be clear, our actual character level takes NO part in the calculations (other than the inherent attribute increases)?  You list Clvl in the abbreviations, but don’t use it anywhere. 

    Also, I was just looking at the spreadsheet & it is using 0.01 (not 0.1) for the intelligence factor in places.

  17. Can you add a timestamp at the top or bottom for when you update? just so we know the last time there was an update incase there is a patch or something and we can determine how new the info is. 
    Also this is awesome, its helping me out alot in Hell, thanks. 

  18. Just looking at the spreadsheet for the numbers of dodge:

    We all know dodge from different sources stack multiplicatively as mentioned on the bottom of the spreadsheet.

    Is there a reason why Total Dodge on the Formula and Results table takes the sum of Bonus Dodge and Dodge from Dexterity instead?


    • Ah, that’s an oversight on my part! Thanks for pointing that out – will update!

  19. Quick correction: I beieve that at:

    2.2 Dual Wielding
    Weapons with the +X attacks per second affix provide the bonus speed to both weapons

    This is no longer the case as of 1.03.

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