[Guide] New with the Kanai cube: Viable ungeared builds!


Diabloii.Net Member
I posted this article on the PTR Feedback forum but maybe it can interest somebody here.

Diablo 3 Patch 2.3 and Kanai cube -- Viable ungeared build


The addition of the Kanai cube in patch 2.3 allows diablo 3 player to renew with an old tradition of the diablo franchise: going to battle ungeared.

Before Kanai cube, as all damages are linked to the weapon damage when going with bare hands it turns around 6 DPS), going ungeared into battle was not possible. Yet Kanai cube allows to bring three legendary power to the character and this, with skills and paragon points, is enough to deal sufficient damages to kill mobs, both elite and trash.

First a bit of motivation. What is the interest of going bared into battle:

A complete change of play style
Remember the begining of D3, when the game was tough? When you were saving healing orbs -- Blizzard made the gold pickup radius more than the orb pickup radius to allow this; Sounds strange with the current game huh.
Remember in D1, the first time you get with your sorcerer to the level with bowed skeleton? Or in D2 the beginning of Act 2?
Same here. Advance with caution, be on guards and have lightning reflexes is the key to stay alive.

Rediscover the pleasure to completely clean a dungeon
The more you go through act, the more difficult it gets. So enjoy the pleasure of clearing completely each map, with its dungeons. No more rushing through a rift or following an arrow to clear the bounties as fast as possible.

A new challenge
The challenge is simple: reach level 70 without dying. You choose your play style, hardcore of softcore. We have various way of metering the progression: level, gems (type and number), materiels, forgotten souls.

For hardcore players (my case)

The removal of the major death penalty: no more loosing of equipment! Levelling back into battle is only a matter of a few hours watching TV at the same time.
I also remember one of the key point of "beyond naked" characters in diablo 1: if you get pkilled, all the pkiller gets is trash.

How to do damage without equipment

I first tought about thorn damage, but this only affix which grants a fixed thorn damage is the 2-piece bonus set of the Invoker set which grants 4000 thorn damage. Also, even though it is not always written, pets (and even rescued NPC which join you for a short period of time) are doing poor damage if your character is not wielding a weapon (tried the fallen lunatics of Nagelring).

The only other source of damage which does not rely on weapon damage and is a legendary affix comes from one of the insta-soul legendary item: Death's bargain. It is legendary pants found in Act 5 horadric cache which grants an "aura of death that deals 1000% of your life per second as physical damage to enemies within 16 yards. You no longer regenerate life.". And life per second is something we can get with paragon points and skills!

So all we have to do is:
  • get the life per second as high as possible
  • find out how not to die without an armor
Get the life per second as high as possible

Firstly, you can spend up to 50 paragon point in the defense category to get raw life per second.

Secondly, there are two kind of skills which grants life per second. The first kind give you a raw amount of life per second which increase while you level up to 70. The second kind gives you a percentage of you life per second. The latter is nice since the more you have life, the more you are dealing damage. And you can increase your life by some skills, but also paragon point. You can add 5 point of vitality for each paragon point in the core tab. And you can add +% vitality for points in the defense tab (same as raw life per second so better check was is better, unless your account is plvl greater than 399). Yet the bonus to damage from life with paragon points is slow since you deal about 10 more DPS per paragon point.
See next section for the list of available skills for each class.

Find out how not to die without an armor

Without an armor, you life bulb decrease rapidly when you are hit so you have to refill it efficiently. There are several way available for that (life per second is disabled by Death's bargain):
  • Potion
  • Life per Hit via paragon points and skills. This means you will have to hit monsters, but not for damage, just for life. Better is to have a ranged skill to trigger life per hit.
  • Life per spirit/wrath/fury spent
  • Skills which grants life
Of course, the other kind of skill to consider is the skills performing crowd control, escape and temporary immunity or damage reduction. And remember that slowing or stopping monster does not prevent them from hitting you. You have to stun or freeze (not chill) them.

The classes

Five classes have life per second skills. The barbarian, daemon hunter and witch doctor have percentage skills. The barbarian, monk, daemon hunter and crusader have flat life per second skills.


To me the easier to play is the barbarian because it has both kind of skills: 2% of life + a flat amount maxing at 8315 at level 70. Moreover as a melee class, it has a natural 30% damage reduction.

The skills are:
  • passive skill "inspiring presence" grants 2% of maximum life of life per second for 60 second after a shout has been made (like war cry)
  • active skill "war cry" rune "Invigorate" grants up to 8135 life per second.
I have leveled a barbarian in hardcore up to level 50 using the following skills. I triggered the death cheating passive only once (in the Sescheron ruins)

* Active skills
  • "Weapon throw" rune "Throwing hammer" for the stun effect and the range attack. I paired it with the affix of Arreat's law which grants up to 20 more fury to Weapon throw. This helps keeping fury up and healing with life per fury spent.
  • "Ground stomp" rune "Wrenching smash" which stuns all enemies around for 4 seconds and bring them close to you. This one is good at killing elite and champions.
  • "Ignore pain" rune "Contempt for weakness" which frees you if you get CC (frozen, stun) altogether with a damage reduction. As you can die rather fast, better have it ready. The rune allows to heal youself for 35% of your life but is available at level 58 so for now I use the rune "Ignorance is bliss" which grants more life per fury spent
  • "Sprint" rune "Gangway" which grants high speed for escape. The rune allows not to be blocked by mobs and it consumes 20 fury so you can use it also for healing
  • "Leap" rune "Death from above" which allows to jump in the middle of monster, stunning them and grant fury (except it is currently bugged). The rune Death from above is only available at level 60 so I currently use no rune (almost died when I tried rune Call of Arreat which pulls enemies toward you).
  • "War cry" rune "Invigorate" grants life per second (flat and triggering the passive skill Inspiring presence)
* Passive skills
  • "Nerves of steel", the cheating death passive
  • "Inspiring presence", which grants 2% life per second
  • "Bloodthirst", which grants life per fury spent
  • When I reach level 70, I will try Superstition (-20% elemental damage) or Brawler (+20% when surrounded by 3 or more enemies)



The Monk is also really a good class for this build because of the high amount of flat life per second with skills. You get a base (up to, at level 70) 31000 life per seconds. The drawback is the lack of healing skills without cooldown (like spending fury for the barbarian).

The consequence is having (for my build) no damage skill but Dashing strike and has an impact on play style:
- move with the "force move" key (to be enabled in the key bindings option)
- destroy the doors with Dashing strike (wasting two stacks only for this, and three for the kazra drums)

Here is the build.

* Active skills:
  • Binding Flash - soothing light: allow to blind enemies for 3 seconds preventing them from attacking. You also get up to 26821 life per second + 90% of what you already have for a burst of damage.
  • Breath of heaven - circle of life/Zephyr: allow to refill you life bulb/and have a speed burst
  • Dashing strike - quicksilver: used to dash on enemies (ranged attackers and elite) before blinding them. The rune allows to have 3 charges.
  • Serenity - peaceful repose: allows to keep you safe for hit and crowd control, breaking any crowd control effect you are under and healing you. At high level, the combo for elite is dashing strike-serenity-blinding flash (and possibly dashing strike again to flee if they are not dead)
  • Mystic ally - enduring ally: gives you 10728 life per second. Though the ally sometimes breaks the effect of envious blade, the added damage to the aura of death is worth it.
  • Mantra of healing - sustenance: which adds up to 21457 life per second and is your main damage skill. It can also provide a shield for 50 spirits (6 casts of 2 seconds with the exalted soul passive).
* Passive skills:
  • Sixth sense which reduces elemental damage by 20%
  • Chant of resonance for spirit regeneration to cheaper use Mantra of healing
  • Near death experience which is the death cheating skill of the monk
  • When you reach level 70, you can use beacon of Ytar which reduces cooldowns by 20%
Note that the passive skills Relentless assault and Momentum which should increase the damage output by 20% (the former to blinded ennemies and the latter when you move more than 25 yd) is not working with Death's bargain so it is not useful.

Kanai cube

Jewelry: star of Azkaranth which prevents all fire damage. Bosses are starting to be more dangerous as they get more affixes. You can take one or two hit and not more and the mortar affix is impossible to avoid. You are also immune to molten explosion which I find deadly together with vortex

Weapon/off-hand: envious blade which makes critical damages for full health enemies. With the maximum paragon points in the critical damage stat, it's doubles the first hit which can help oneshotting many enemies and save the use of serenity for the biggest and elite.

I tried various other stuff which proc defensive capacities (the burning axe of Sankis, wall of bone) but as we finally are rarely hit, it almost never proc and it not predictable enough to be of use..

Witch Doctor


The witch doctor has the passive skill "blood ritual" which grants 1% life per hit but add a life cost to your mana spending skills. I tried it up to level 20 but it felt really squishy. Moreover, it is currently bugged and does not take into account the life bonus you get from paragon points.

Demon Hunter

The daemon hunter is really nice in this setting because it has many life replenishing skills (rune to preparation and smoke screen) and movement skills. It has its boar companion which grants up to 5364 life per second. The passive skill "brooding" grants up to 3% life per second. The main drawback is that you have to stay stationary for 3s to proc it and it last only 5s. I think there really is a way to do an efficient ungeared daemon hunter but this requires talent so I'll continue with her after training with the barbarian and the monk. It reminds me about the "beyond naked rogue" in diablo 1.


The crusader only has the law of hope which grants up to 10728 life per second. I have tried but he seems a bit weak in damage for higher level. Yet, its death passive skill "Indestructible" grants immunity for 5 seconds so, with steed charge, the fastest motion skill, it is difficult to get killed.

The affixes

In addition to Death's bargain slot in Kanai cube, it remains the jewelry slot and the weapon/off-hand slot.

For the jewelry, the affix which has an impact on ungeared character are:
  • One of the "immune to an element" amulet. This is one of which I am using. I have chosen fire since it allows to replenish life bathing in fire and be. guarded against the deadly "vortex + molten" boss affixes.
  • Bul Kathos ring which performs life steal.
  • Rogan huge stone which up to double your life per second depending on your remaining life (mostly for softcore I guess).
  • For the weapon/off hand stop, the affix which has an impact on ungeared character are:
  • Arreat's law which grants fury for weapon throw. This is the one I am using.
  • Eun-Jang-Do which freezes low life enemies. Surely not that efficient.
  • Fjord cutter which chills surrounding enemies. Chilling mean they can still hit you so not that efficient to me.
  • Madawc's Sorrow which stun enemies for 2s. This one looks nice but I do not know if it procs with Death's bargain hit. With the barbarian, weapon throw have enough stun skills but may be for other classes
  • Envious Blade which make Death's Bargain crit when enemies are at full health. Pretty well if you have no pets or followers.
    Note the broken promises however does not crit.
To sum up, no that many choices but some fine tuning to do.


If you do not consider cheating having a ungeared follower (without a weapon and jewelry, it has roughly the same stats as your ungeared character), you can consider having Kormark. One of its passive grants life per second and the other heals you. It really corresponds to playing with another ungeared real player so it does not seem to be cheating. Yet, the fact that Kormak is in complete armor does not make it feal really "ungeared".

Starting and playing

Clearly, you cannot start ungeared in a new season. You need first to unlock at least Death's bargain in the Kanai cube. It is one of the cache item of Act 5 so it is rather simple to get it. Also, you need a bit of paragon points to be able to reach the level necessary to unlock the first skill which grants life per second (around 20ish). I started with plvl 250 and felt pretty comfortable in normal difficulty.

When you start, think to unequip you default weapon (and possibly shield) and remove the "auto-equip" option in the gameplay tab.

After, each level from 1 to 70 grants you more life and more life per seconds in skills. Once you reach level 70, each paragon point in life per second grants you again a little more power. For the demon hunter, barbarian and witch doctor, you can also add point in vitality and +%life to increase your damage. For the monk and crusaders, once reached plvl 199, you get the maximum you can have.

Depending on your paragon level, the beginning is really simple: you get close to monsters and they are dead. Later,

you have to heal regularly (potion or skill) but the progression is still simple. When one hit start to clear a

third of your life bulb, things are getting tricky. Here are some advice:

* Know your enemies:
  • monsters with more hit points than the damage your are dealing since they'll have time to hit you (e.g. Unburied)
  • ranged attackers which are the major threat. You'll have to leap/dash... to them to kill them before the hit you
  • of course elite and champions.
It is best to look for these before they see you (big difference in D3 compared to D2 and D1, you can see monster before they see you), to read the elite/champions/purple affixes before the attack to act consequently. This is why it is better to progress from down to top of the screen.

* Beware waypoints:
Retreat is fundamental. Passing through a waypoint requires two clicks (and the second of the camp) which is guaranteed death if your death cheating passive has fired, you are low on life and all healing skills on cooldown.

When it gets tough, simply start from town and walk.

* Boss fight:
Better not risk it because you cannot escape a boss fight but if you like challenge. In mistakenly fought Leoric with a lvl 61 monk and won but I do not think I will try this again.


Thanks for reading. I hope you will give it a try. It is a nice way of playing which changed from the material farming and rifting. I created a community "Ungeared" on the PTR just in case someone would like to give it a try and share about it.

And for Blizzard, my Santa wish for new legendary item in season 5: A piece of armor (thorn crown?) which grants a flat amount of thorn to be used with the Hack axe.

You can find several videos on my YouTube channel. Here are some.

And reaching level 70:

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In the name of Zod

Diabloii.Net Member
I love it, we used to have a name for this style of play in D2 single player forum. I think it was called Iron Man or something like that. You've got me thinking now and I will give this a lot of thought. I'm guessing normal difficulty right? I also really like the use of Death's Bargain, finally someone has found a non-glitch purpose for them ;)

I'll prolly post back again later with more thoughts, this is going to exercise my knowledge of the game. Off to do some research. Thanks.

edit: I'm guessing movement speed will be pretty important.
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Diabloii.Net Member
Thank you. Yes normal difficulty for me. For now I use more escape skills than movement speed because I prefer to add vitality. While leveling, one has to change paragon points. At the beginning, you need the life per hit but it may be better to add elemental damage resist (armor is a percentage so I doubt it is useful but I'll test it) when you get enough life per second from skills.

Also, someone on the official forum found that Envious Blade make the death aura crit (first hit for each mob).

In the name of Zod

Diabloii.Net Member
So you're saying that you get your critical damage applied to death aura, that's going to give +50% damage. I was thinking of just using those bracers that grant experience for picking up gold, would make you level up pretty fast early game. Could just put paragon points into gold find which would effectively be experience. Could be combined with Kymbo's Amulet for healing. Don't know how it would work though as I haven't access to the PTR. It would only leave the weapon slot in the cube. The witch doctor also has the mass confusion skill that charms monsters and makes them fight for you whilst taking more damage. That's another source of non-weapon damage that could be used.

What I can't work out is the best source of gold with minimal risk.

With the Gidbinn you can summon fetishes without having to be in combat, you just stand there and attack the air and you can summon these guys.
Soulsmasher: When you kill an enemy, it explodes for 450–600% of your Life per Kill as damage to all enemies within 20 yards. You no longer benefit from your Life per Kill.

Soulsmasher might trigger with deaths. I'm guessing death's doesn't have a proc co-efficient so you cant trigger anything with it except maybe on kill. Also a lot of the witch doctors skills increase the damage the enemy takes and can charm the enemy into fighting for you.

Another option is to use acid cloud skill with acid rain rune for its huge proc rate (280%) for triggering item per hit procs.


Diabloii.Net Member
The problem is that the armor slot is taken by the death's bargain pants so you cannot put another armor affix in the build. Healing with the amulet could be an idea. I do not know if we will find enough gold since we have to heal a large amount of hit point rather often.

If the gibdin allows to get plenty of fetishes it is something to try since my first attempt with the with doctor proved that having pets ease to kiting (not a big surprise). I'll give it a try (hope they will correct the WD bug with the % healing) together with mass confusion. I have never seen a monster being efficient at killing another but maybe if we let it time.

About soulsmasher, I confused life per hit and life per kill so it is not usable since the amount of life per kill is 0.

In the name of Zod

Diabloii.Net Member
I think I'm beat for ideas, there's only the legendary potion that grants life on kill but you probably can't cube them unfortunately. So I wish you the best, I might pop back to see how things go. :)


Diabloii.Net Member
I tried the confuse thing and it works well, not because of the power of the confused monster (seems linked to weapon damage) but because it gets killed by other monsters. And also because it stops attacking you.


Diabloii.Net Member
Hey. Thank you Elly for the editing! I updated the article with my experience of naked play, the monk build, and a better teasing in the introduction. I lost two heroes from now on, both on my mistake, no lag, no "one shotted".


Diabloii.Net Member
Finally reached level 70 with my ungeared monk so it is doable!

I edited the main post to add a video of it and replace naked by ungeared since hardcore + naked has a different signification on the net.
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Diabloii.Net Member
Just discovered that Chant of resonance is much better than exalted soul... Article updated :)