The Barbarian is the other melee class in Diablo 3, offering a different playing experience in comparison to the Monk. Although the Barbarian endgame builds are gimmicky, and there is very little variation from build to build in a specific set, the class is still a lot of fun to play. That level of fun exists both in the ascent from level 1 to level 60 and in said gimmicky builds. This guide will, as the last did, focus on recommending skills and gear to make the level grind as easy as possible for a new player. The Barbarian receives sufficient skills for a viable defensive build earlier than the Monk and can, with a build based off of only one skill, make it through the higher Monster Powers in the first three difficulty levels to speed the journey to Inferno.
At level 60, the Barbarian generally splits into two types of build designed for the endgame, Whirlwind and Hammer of the Ancients. Both try to deal as much damage as possible while using Life Steal or skills that give life to survive. However, these builds are not a necessary part of the climb to Inferno, and as both do require time investment to master, are not ideal for a new player.
As with the first steps for the Monk, Monster Power is an important factor to leveling your character as quickly as possible. The bonus gold, magic items, and experience play a very important part in accelerating your leveling as well as accelerating the growth of your character’s fortune.
Barbarian skills: the Barbarian has a good assortment of skills available from a low level that make early progression through the game very easy. Unlike the Monk, many of the Barbarian’s skills are fantastic in the early stages of the game, making it difficult to run a truly broken build. The reason why this is significant is that although this guide does recommend certain skills over others, variability is always an option based on your playstyle due to the fantastic skill pool available.
Skill #1: Cleave allows you to hit multiple enemies for high damage, and is available from level 3. It’s extremely early availability and high power makes it a feasible option through much of the main game, and even into the endgame. All three primary Barbarian skills are options during the entire game, Inferno included. However, the main reason to use Cleave is the earlier availability of good, practical runes. Rupture increases your damage output fairly substantially, and is very helpful in mowing down enemies in packs at higher Monster Power levels.
Skill #2: Hammer of the Ancients is one of the two skills seen most often in endgame builds, and is very useful early in the game. Whirlwind requires a specific set of gear that is not available until the end of the game to be maintained, leaving Hammer of the Ancients as the go to secondary skill. Combined with any rune depending on your needs, it makes a versatile damage skill throughout the entire game.
Skill #3: Ground Stomp and Leap make good skills until Ignore Pain is unlocked at level 22. It acts like Serenity does for the Monk, although it reduces damage taken significantly instead of granting invulnerability. Although it does require a higher waiting time, coming in 18 levels after the slot is unlocked, it provides a valuable defensive skill that can be the difference between life and death.
Skill #4: Revenge. This skill is the bread and butter of a defensive Barbarian build, dealing high damage to enemies when triggered and healing you for a percentage of your health for each enemy hit. The downside is that it only triggers 15% of the time an enemy hits you, but the first rune, Vengeance is Mine, increases the health gained and adds Fury to help it stay useful.
Skill #5: Battle Rage offers a significant damage ramp-up, and even though it isn’t unlocked at level 22 makes a significant difference in a fight, boosting your base damage and critical hit chance. The first rune it offers at level 26 doubles your damage bonus, making it a worthwhile skill to have offensively.
Skill #6: The final skill slot for the barbarian offers three Rage skills that deal significant damage but have extremely long, 120-second cooldowns. Earthquake is the best spike skill, Wrath of the Berserker turns you into a more powerful being for a short time, and Call of the Ancients summons Barbarian elders to fight with you. Earthquake is the best option for this build, as it is unlocked earliest, at level 19, and offers massive damage that is enough to take out most elites and champions very quickly, as well as dealing significant damage to bosses. However, if the cooldowns are long enough that you don’t feel comfortable using these skills, adding War Cry as an additional skill in slot 6 will work well, providing a 50% armor bonus.
Passive skills: as this guide focuses on the development of the Barbarian instead of the endgame, the passive skills go through significant changes as a character levels. Three runes that are unlocked fairly early and offer significant bonuses both offensively and defensively are Ruthless, Nerves of Steel, and Weapons Master. The first and third boost your damage via critical hit chance/damage for the former and through weapon-type specific bonuses for the latter. Nerves of Steel provides a significant defensive boost that increases as you put more points into vitality. As you come closer to Inferno, Nerves of Steel can be swapped out for another offensive passive, as unlocked runes and skill swaps make up for the loss.
Barbarian Gear: I need to stress once again that this guide focuses on the climb to level 60 and not how to play the Barbarian in Inferno. I say this because the gear required for the first 60 levels is vastly different from the gear required to play comfortably in Inferno. The Barbarian is probably the most gear-reliant class in the game and will require a fairly substantial time investment at level 60 to raise the funds to purchase gear for Inferno. That said, the first three difficulties require a focus on four things: Strength, Vitality, All Resistance, and Life on Hit. Critical hit chance, critical hit damage and attack speed become very important at level 60 but aren’t a must before that. So long as strength and vitality are high for the first 30 levels and life on hit/all resist is used for the last 30, mid-range Barbarian Gear is more than enough for a complete playthrough.
Putting it all together: The Barbarian allows for a lot of variability in builds early in the game, and although my guide details what worked very well for me in my journey to Inferno, it is not set in stone. If something isn’t working for you, look through your skills and make changes.
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