A reader named Set sent in the image you see to the right. It’s the millionth “D3 uniques suck” argument made this week since release, but as I looked over the image I found some points worth debating. I agree on the general issue, which is that D3’s legendary items are lacking. This is most obvious with the weapons, which are grotesquely underpowered, compared to good (much less great) rares, and this becomes all the more true in the end game. D3’s legendary armor isn’t that bad though… is it? Not as bad as the Stealskull vs. Giant Skull image would imply, at least.

    Obviously the two helms in that image aren’t comparable in value, but comparing just one D2 helm (one of the better ones) vs. just one D3 helm (one of the not-better ones) is pretty uneven. Even the helm in the picture isn’t a fair comparison, since Giant Skull has 2 random affixes, and in the pictured example they came up snake eyes, granting Poison Resistance and Attacker Takes Damage on hit — which are two of the least useful mods you’re every likely to see. Imagine that same helm with 90 Vitality and 40 Res All… that would make for quite a different valuation, eh?

    There are several other contributing factors I want to discuss, before I turn to an analysis of every unique helm in the game. Yes, I said all of them.

    1) D2X’s unique and set helms are generally very overpowered, compared to the stats on comparable other armor types. (Basically, if you didn’t have a great hat in D2, your gear sucked. This wasn’t necessarily true of your belt, boots, gloves, etc.) I always liked the Stealskull myself, since the IAS was a nice boost from the hat slot, but it’s got relatively low leech values, no resistance, no +skills, and no hit points, which leaves a lot of room for improvement.

    Just to name a few off the top of my head (hah!) compare that to Tal Rasha’s Horadric Crest, the Harlequin Crest (SHAKO!), the Vampire Gaze, Andariel’s Visage, Kira’s Guardian, Griffin’s Eye, or pretty much any of the Barb or Druid helms, or runewords. And that’s not even mentioning rare circlets that could spawn with dual leech and numerous other great stats, and were quite affordable to gamble repeatedly.

    In other words, Stealskull was not the best helm, largely since there were a crazy number of other helms with even more outrageously-great stats. A fairer comparison would be to select one of the better (but not the best) of D2’s unique belts, boots, body armor, etc, which would almost certainly give you something much less desirable to all classes than the Stealskull.

    2) Ironically, Stealskull is *not* an example of the other big problem with D3 uniques; their blandness and lack of flavor. This is because Stealskull has very good stats, but they’re very generic and thus useful to all of the classes, though much less so to the Sorc and Necro who get nothing from the leech. Stealskull is equivalent to a very good rare circlet, but one of the main complaints about D3’s legendaries is that… they’re only equivalent to very good Rares, and that’s boring. Many of us want the D3 uniques to be better quality, but also specialized and flavorful. Like this D2X unique Druid helm:

    – +120-150% Enhanced Defense
    – All Resistances +15-25
    – +3 to Elemental Skills (Druid Only)
    – 20-30 to Energy
    – 10-20% to Enemy Fire Resistance
    – 7 to Raven (Druid Only)

    Not the best hat in the game, and most Druids would take a SHAKO or several of the others I mentioned previously over a Ravenlore, but it’s pretty good, and it does some interesting things you can’t get easily (if at all) from other items, and not at all from Rares. Which is exactly what most of us liked so much about D2’s uniques/sets/runewords.

    3) Inferno Says No! Diablo III’s Inferno difficulty and the integrated Auction House exacerbate all of the D3 Legendary item problems in a variety of ways. Inferno’s high difficulty functions as a “gear check” on Acts 2-4, which makes players VERY aware of the lacking quality of their gear. The AH makes that great gear very visible and drives home the fact that A) you can’t find it in game and B) you can’t afford it in the AH. The biggest problem though, is one I’ve only come to realize over time. Their scarcity, which is directly related to the D3 economy, which is directly related to the Auction House.

    D2 didn’t attempt to create a balanced long term economy. In that game top quality gear dropped MUCH more often than it does in D3, which was the item slot machine that kept so many of us addicted for years. The downside was that all those great items dropping led to rapid inflation and required regular ladder wipes and new seasons with a fresh economy. D3 aimed to change that dynamic and to create a long term stable economy, and so far it seems to be doing pretty well at that. But, and this is a bigger butt than yo momma’s, to make D3’s economy work and to keep the GAH and RMAH viable, the game must drop top quality items much less frequently than D2 did. Which leads directly to the much less common and much lower quality uniques and sets.

    It’s funny how unintended consequences work, eh? We all complained about D2’s economy and lack of viable currency, and D3 comes along and correct most of D2’s problems in those areas, and it turns out that the cure is much worse than the disease.

    Read on for coverage of every single legendary helm in Diablo III, some of which actually aren’t that bad. (Unlike the jokes…)

    Diablo III Legendary Helm Analysis

    All the above was a short intro that grew overlong. My whole point here was just to skim over the unique helms in D3 and see if their stats really were all that awful. So here goes.

    (You should be able to hover on all of the linked names and load a tooltip popup style box that shows the full item name and stats. If you don’t see this, you’ve probably got some script blockers working on your browser and you need to enable this site and IncGamers and DiabloNut to see the full content. And turn make IncGamers an exception to your ad blocker while you’re at it; what do you think, the Internet Fairy pays for our hosting and operational costs?)

    All the following comments are based on a character using the item at or around the minimum level. One of the most obviously changes in uniques from D2 to D3 is that nothing in D3 is ever meant to be useful for very long after it’s found. In D2 there were any number of normal difficulty uniques and sets that were still quite useful, even in the end game. Mostly these were Magic Find items like Tarnhelm, Goldwrap, Chance Guards, and others, but even things like Sigon’s gloves, Bladebuckle, Frost Burns, Stone of Jordan, and Ume’s Lament were all findable and equippable by level 25, and remained viable in Act 5/Hell. You could do better with higher level gear, but you could certainly do worse.

    I suppose one could argue that this was a flaw in D2’s item system, and that it didn’t properly reward higher levels and character improvement, and that it was lame to find or equip an item at level level 15 and then never upgrade it again… but oddly enough, no one seemed to make that claim while actually playing the game.

    See No Evil
    – Increases Spirit Regeneration by (1.00-1.17) per Second
    – +(6-11) Vitality
    – Monster kills grant +(7-8) experience.
    – 3 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item level 13
    – Required level 10

    This is a Monk-only hat, and well… maybe. With decent mods this would be far better than 95% of rares you might find at that level, but due to the way low that only low level affixes spawn on low level gear, there’s no way this item could have useful stats past about level 20.

    That’s an interesting thought, though. What if low level uniques still dropped later in the game in D3, and were upgraded in their item level to possibly get high level affixes? Say this item could drop as a level 60 item, and it spawned with +100 to a pair of stats, and was socketed? Yeah, you’re right, it would still suck…

    Split Tusk
    – Monster kills grant +(7-8) experience.
    – Regenerates 1 Life per Second
    – +(20-29) Maximum Mana
    – +3 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item level 13
    – Required level 10

    This one holds a special place in my heart, since it was the first legendary I ever found, and I actually found it while playing a Witch Doctor, in early Act Two, and my WD wasn’t twinked… and it was still useless!

    Also, I misspelled “colon” in the first sentence of the last paragraph.

    Broken Crown
    – Monster kills grant +(9-10) experience.
    – +(18-23) Vitality
    – Attack Speed Increased by (3-4)%
    – +3 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 19
    – Required Level: 16

    Much like the first unique helm… maybe. At the level. Depending on the random affixes. That said, it’s the same problem with most of the legendaries in D3… it’s basically a Rare. Nothing to make it stand out or do anything different.

    One possible fix to the D3 legendaries is to hugely upgrade the stats on low level items. Say this helm had +15% faster attack speed, instead of the piddling 3-4%. A helm with that much IAS for the end game would probably be IMBA, but since this item can’t get any big bonuses to anything else, it wouldn’t be viable to wear in Inferno just for that IAS. But it would be awesome in Normal and probably into Nightmare.

    (Yes, this directly contradicts my suggestion for rolling higher ilvl affixes on low level uniques if they could drop later in the game. I never promised you consistency.)

    Gyana Na Kashu
    – +(3-4)% Life
    – (7-8)% Better Chance of Finding Magical Items
    – Gain (0.5-0.6) Life per Spirit Spent
    – +3 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 21
    – Required Level: 18

    Another class-specific, this is a Monk helm and it’s not awful. Another issue with D3’s legendaries is the junior versions of end game bonuses. So you get .5% life per Spirit spent, and 3-4% life. Which sounds fine, until you realize a character at this level has like 400 hit points and is spending 10 or 20 Spirit. Which works out to a whopping +12 to total life and a massive 5 hit point heal every time you use say, DiabloWikiBlinding Flash. Woowoo!

    Leoric’s Crown
    – Critical Hit Chance Increased by 1.5%
    – +(64-72) Armor
    – +(3-4)% Life
    – +3 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 25
    – Required Level: 22

    In a better world, this item would have 1) a really good chance to drop from King Leoric, and 2) stats that had some relevance to King Leoric. A bonus to damage against the undead? Bonus damage to Cleave? Some % chance to spawn a skeleton minion? +1 to annoying laughter and +2 to Metconned sons?

    – Increases Mana Regeneration by 4 per Second
    – +(42-47) Intelligence
    – Attack Speed Increased by (3-4)%
    – +3 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 29
    – Required Level: 26

    Another class-specific helm. Do you realize you’ve got to go all the way to level 45 to find the second unique helm that’s not only for WDs or Monks? As for this one… eh. At least they gave it a pair of WD-specific mods.

    The Mind’s Eye
    – Attack Speed Increased by (4-5)%
    – +(48-53) Dexterity
    One of the following:
    — Reduces resource cost of Cyclone Strike by 1-2 Spirit.
    — Increases Way of the Hundred Fists Damage by 5-6%
    — Increases Sweeping Wind Damage by 5-6%
    — Increases Exploding Palm Damage by 5-6%
    — Increases Crippling Wave Damage by 5-6%
    — Increases Deadly Reach Damage by 5-6%
    — Increases Fists of Thunder Damage by 5-6%
    – +3 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 35
    – Required Level: 33

    Another Monk-only hat, and lookie there, some bonuses to specific to a Monk skills! The damage increases are pretty tiny, but my favorite is the reduced cost to cast DiabloWikiCyclone Strike. A mildly-useful utility attack skill that costs fifty Spirit to cast. So clearly, cutting 2-4% off the casting cost is precisely what legendary items were created for.

    Tiklandian Visage
    – Regenerates (8-11) Life per Second
    – +(48-53) Intelligence
    – +(11-15) Poison Resistance
    – Monster kills grant +(17-18) experience.
    – Health Globes Grant +(295-459) Life.
    – +1 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 35
    – Required Level: 33

    Another WD hat, and another grab bag of “good but not great” rare mods. At least it’s colorful and sure to enhance all of your dog bone and coconut shell clothing.

    The Swami
    – +(11-12)% Extra Gold from Monsters
    – +(54-59) Vitality
    – +(11-20) Resistance to All Elements
    – +3 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 41
    – Required Level: 39

    Adding some variety to our headgear, this one’s a Wizard-only helm. Nice to see a third class get nothing in particular from a unique helm.

    Blind Faith
    – Regenerates (29-35) Life per Second
    – Melee attackers take (41-69) damage per hit
    – (1.0-2.0)% Chance to Blind on Hit
    – +3 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 47
    – Required Level: 45

    One of the cooler looking helms, with a blank face covered in spikes, like an inside out Iron Maiden. (Or some sort of really odd kitchen tool worn like a gas mask.) And it’s even got two themed stats; attackers take damage on hit and chance to blind. Happily, both are low enough that you’ll never really notice them.

    It would be nice if D3 had some sort of headbutt attack that this one greatly enhanced the damage of, the way spiked shields had higher Smite damage in D2. Alas, not even the Monk rolls martial arts in that style.

    Erlang Shen
    – Reduces duration of control impairing effects by (7-8)%
    – Increases Spirit Regeneration by (1.00-1.83) per Second
    – +(16-62) Dexterity
    – +(16-62) Vitality
    – +3 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 47
    – Required Level: 45

    A Monk-only hat, and I’d have guessed that Erlang Shen was the Jeweler’s long lost son/brother/evil twin, but alas that lore implication seems to have been overlooked. The stats are nice, and would make for a great legendary Monk helm… at about level 15.

    Giant Skull
    – +(60-65) Strength
    – +(127-217) Armor
    – (1.0-3.5)% Chance to Knockback on Hit
    – Empty Socket
    – +2 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 53
    – Required Level: 52

    At last we’re to the hat that prompted this whole article, and it was certainly worth the wait! The +str pretty much sends this purely to Barbarians, and like the last hat, it would be quite nice with about 1/3 the level requirement. Even level 30ish, this could still be pretty good. At 52, though? Seriously? At least it’s got a socket, which is more than most of the legendary helms can say.

    Bezoar Stone
    – +3% Life
    – Melee attackers take (132-208) damage per hit
    – (10.0-30.0)% chance to inflict Bleed for (73-147)-(74-294) damage over 5 seconds.
    One of the following:
    — Reduces resource cost of Cyclone Strike by 1-3 Spirit.
    — Increases Way of the Hundred Fists Damage by 5-8%
    — Increases Sweeping Wind Damage by 5-8%
    — Increases Exploding Palm Damage by 5-8%
    — Increases Crippling Wave Damage by 5-8%
    — Increases Deadly Reach Damage by 5-8%
    — Increases Fists of Thunder Damage by 5-8%
    – +2 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 54
    – Required Level: 53

    Bezoar stones are actual things; objects a bit like human pearls which are found in the intestines and stomach. In the medieval days they were believed to cure any poison, and they’re commonly used in fantasy stories. One made an appearance in Harry Potter, when Ron was poisoned while being cured of a love potion, and Harry saved his life by stuffing a bezoar stone down his throat.

    Naturally, this being a Diablo III legendary item, every thematic opportunity is missed, and there’s absolutely nothing in the item stats that has any connection to poison resistance, or even poison damage. So did they get the name from a random word generator? Or just the stats?

    The Eye of the Storm
    – +(31-40) Resistance to All Elements
    – +(66-71) Dexterity
    – Adds 4% to Lightning Damage
    – Increases Spirit Regeneration by (1.00-2.00) per Second
    +2 Random Magic Affixes
    Item Level: 57
    Required Level: 56

    Yet another Monk helm, and now we’re getting high enough level to start fairly evaluating gear vs. end game stuff. In this case it’s not a terrible comparison, since this hat can actually have some pretty decent stats. Decent Dex, nice Res All, and even a slightly-interesting bonus to lightning damage. With good random affixes this could be comparable to a good (but not great) rare.

    Yes, I just said something positive about one of the items. Sorry, it just slipped out.

    The Grin Reaper
    – +(11-20) Resistance to All Elements
    – +(327-569) Life after Each Kill
    – (9-10)% Better Chance of Finding Magical Items
    – +(90-104) Maximum Mana
    – +3 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 58
    – Required Level: 57

    Decent stats, but at level 57 you’d need to strike gold on all 3 random mods to make this one viable. Note also that it’s a reaper of the “grin” not “grim.” What that means, I’m not sure. Sounds like something to do with making someone laugh before chopping off their head. Naturally, nothing in the stats gives any hint towards what the name means.

    (There is a DiabloWikiGrim Reaper in Diablo III, but it’s nothing to do with the legendary scythes, as you might expect. Instead, it’s a rune effect in the Demon Hunter’s DiabloWikiMarked for Death. The rune effect has nothing to do with the name, but it’s at least associated with the name of the base skill.)

    Dark Mage’s Shade
    – Critical Hit Chance Increased by 3.0%
    – Reduces duration of control impairing effects by (9-10)%
    One of the following:
    — +(22-75) Intelligence
    — +(22-75) Vitality
    One of the following:
    — Reduces resource cost of Hydra by 1-6 Arcane Power.
    — Reduces resource cost of Arcane Torrent by 1-3 Arcane Power.
    — Increases Critical Hit Chance of Ray of Frost by 2-5%
    — Increases Critical Hit Chance of Explosive Blast by 2-5%
    — Reduces resource cost of Disintegrate by 1-3 Arcane Power.
    — Increases Electrocute Damage by 5-9%
    – +2 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 58
    – Required Level: 57

    This one is potentially viable with good luck on the random affixes. Critical hit chance is nice, and it’s got Int and Vit, though not very much. The bonuses to specific Wizard skills are kind of cool, though much too paltry.

    Andariel’s Visage
    – Critical Hit Chance Increased by 3.0%
    One of 3 Magic Properties (varies):
    — +(112-129) Dexterity
    — +(112-129) Intelligence
    — +(112-129) Strength
    – +(31-35) Poison Resistance
    – Attack Speed Increased by (5-6)%
    – Regenerates (81-99) Life per Second
    – +1 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 59
    – Required Level: 58

    Since we’re up to level 58 now, how about 2 of the 3 magical properties? Or even 3 of the 3? It’s nice that they at least threw in some mention of poison to go with Andariel, though I think poison damage would be more appropriate. But since putting damage on a hat would have been weird and different and interesting… close call, there.

    Mempo of Twilight
    – +(6-7)% Life
    – Attack Speed Increased by (5-6)%
    – Reduces duration of control impairing effects by (11-12)%
    – +(11-20) Resistance to All Elements
    – +2 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 61
    – Required Level: 60

    Item level 61, so we’re into the end game, should be kick ass stuff, and yet… where’s the beef? They should have called it Meh-po of Twilight, cause that’s the sound you make when you see it. You’d need 2 fantastic random affixes to make this one end game viable.

    Just out of curiosity, I just checked the GAH on this one and through 10 pages, the highest auction price was 3.2m for one that rolled random mods for 135 Str and 56 Dex. Which is about 3m more than I’d pay for it. The majority with buyouts were in the 150-200k range, also known as the “because buying Fiery Brimstone directly is boring” price point.

    Tzo Krin’s Gaze
    – +3% Life
    – +(60-65) Vitality
    – Gain (15.1-29.8) Life per Spirit Spent
    – Attack Speed Increased by (5-6)%
    – +2 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 61
    – Required Level: 60

    Another Monk hat, and a perfect example of the “this is a Rare with orange letters” school of D3 legendary design.

    The Helm of Command
    – +8% Chance to Block
    – +(84-89) Vitality
    – +4 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 62
    – Required Level: 60

    This one is created from a Blacksmith recipe that you’ll never find, hence the high degree or randomness. This could actually be turned into a viable Legendary pretty easily, just by adding another good preset mod or two, while retaining the unpredictability of 4 random affixes.

    As you’d expect, the prices on this one vary wildly. In the first ten pages of the GAH check I just did, I saw them ranging from 200k to 98m, though that one was laughably overpriced. There were quite a few in the 6-10m range though, and they were more or less in line with market realities.

    – Regenerates (161-234) Life per Second
    One of 2 Magic Properties (varies)
    — +(84-89) Dexterity
    — +(11-20) Resistance to All Elements
    – Increases Spirit Regeneration by (1.00-2.33) per Second
    One of 7 Magic Properties (varies)
    — Reduces resource cost of Cyclone Strike by 1-5 Spirit.
    — Increases Way of the Hundred Fists Damage by 5-12%
    — Increases Sweeping Wind Damage by 5-12%
    — Increases Exploding Palm Damage by 5-12%
    — Increases Crippling Wave Damage by 5-12%
    — Increases Deadly Reach Damage by 5-12%
    — Increases Fists of Thunder Damage by 5-12%
    – +1 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 62
    Required Level: 60

    Visage of Giyua
    – +3% Life
    One of 2 Magic Properties (varies)
    — +150-169 Intelligence
    — +84-89 Intelligence
    One of 4 Magic Properties (varies)
    — Reduces cooldown of Summon Zombie Dogs by 1-8 seconds.
    — Increases Critical Hit Chance of Acid Cloud by 2-7%
    — Increases Locust Swarm Damage by 5-12%
    — Reduces resource cost of Firebats by 4-10 Mana.
    – Increases Mana Regeneration by (10-11) per Second
    – +2 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 62
    – Required Level: 60

    I’m naturally predisposed to like any item with “visage” in the name, because it’s a cool word and because the grim visage was an item type with a superb unique in D2. (Actually, when I got the link I realized that the awesome D2 unique hat was the grim helm, and the elite item type was the bone visage. But close enough for 10 year old memories.)

    That said, I don’t get the variable properties on some items, where they’re the same bonus, but one is much bigger than the other. This just seems mean; so you find this damn thing on your 1 in 50,000,000,000 drop, and then you get 87 Int, instead of 165 Int. Why such a big range, when the lower one is enough to basically doom the item to junk status?

    Also, why are the reduces cooldowm time and reduces resource cost bonuses on all of these helms so utterly irrelevant? It’s like the devs set all those stats for Normal difficulty, and then just never raised them for higher levels.

    Storm Crow
    – Critical Hits grant (9-10) Arcane Power
    – +(84-89) Intelligence
    – +(84-89) Strength
    – +(84-89) Dexterity
    – +(84-89) Vitality
    – Each Hit Adds +(55-94) Life
    – Adds (5-6)% to Lightning Damage
    – Increases Damage Against Elites by (3-4)%
    – +2 Random Magic Affixes
    – Item Level: 62
    – Required Level: 60

    Well, it’s certainly a well-rounded item. Nothing a Wizard wants more than +86 dex and strength on a level 62 legendary hat. At least the +AP from critical hits is kind of different, though high level wizards aren’t real known for their difficulties maintaining sufficient Arcane Power, given how many other ways there are to generate it.

    And that’s it. All 23 legendary helsm, as of v1.0.3 Diablo III. There are also nine Set helms, but this is way too long already, and they’re just more of the same as the legendary helms. Equivalent to good (but not great) rares if they roll very well on the random mods.

    As has often been lamented by fans, there are no ilvl 63 legendaries or sets in Diablo III, and no ilvl 63 crafting recipes either. Seems like the devs wanted to leave the best possible items to monster-dropped Rares alone, and that’s a viable theory, but in practice it seems more frustrating and limiting than anything else.

    Not one of the legendary helms has anything has that really changes the game play, and virtually none have any mods that aren’t also found on Rares, almost always in the same range of potential values. That’s what really surprises me about them; if the devs didn’t have the time/interest to create interesting Legendaries, with themed mods and stats you can’t get otherwise, why didn’t they at least crank up some of the values? Where are the helms with +50% magic find, or +15% skill damage, 2-4 gem sockets, or anything along those lines? It seems like the D3 devs had their huge spreadsheet of allowable item mods and values, all carefully marked out to progress slowly and gradually

    On the bright side, they’ve admitted the Devs have admitted that they have a problem and they’re working to fix it. Besides, as lame as the Legendaries are now, anything will seem a huge improvement. It’s like if your current girlfriend is a 300 pound crack whore — you might crave a nuclear physicist supermodel, but just meeting a normal woman will seem like a huge upgrade.

    And there’s your tag line for v1.0.4 legendary improvements; “Better than a 300 pound crack whore!”

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