Freeny Barb Gooback StyleIntroduction:
I have built theory crafted and played pretty much every major diablo 2 build there is, and a lot more minor ones. I like a lot of different builds, but I have a soft spot for melee characters, and a frenzy barb is my favorite. Why a frenzy barb? Frenzy barbs are durable, super party friendly, can solo hell and ubers (PI are a huge pain even if you gear for them though), and, they are not some boring mainstream build that everybody plays *cough* zealot *cough*. Pretty much all of the info in this guide can be found elsewhere, but I hope to bring all of my vast knowledge together in a single thread regarding skill and stat point allocation, gear advice, how to manage curses to take your play to the next level, gearing for specific areas, how to build your barb for MF, and how to tweak your barb to your own liking. I will also explain why grief is good, but over rated, and some suggested dual wield synergies.
Pretty Standard here. You want enough strength and dex for gear, and all the rest in vita. When gearing you have 2 options. The high strength, and the low strength. If you opt for higher strength, you lose life, but you gain a bit of damage, and some pretty decent defense. Remember, each point of strength is 1% enhanced damage.
Ideally, a frenzy barb would max frenzy, both it's synergies, weapon mastery, battle orders, shout, and iron skin. We don't have the 150 skill points for this, so things must be trimmed. We start by cutting out shout and iron skin to 1 point each (for now). We can max 4 skills, and partially max a fifth. We start by maxing battle orders, the extra 57% life and mana is too much to give up. Lets look at what our offensive skills offer us. We get 5% damage, 7% attack rating, some faster run walk, and some attack speed for each point in frenzy. We get 5% damage and 8% attack rating for each point in weapon mastery, and we get 8% damage for each point in our synergies.
You should always max frenzy as it provides the most, and I highly reccomend maxing a synergy as the 160% enhanced damage is quite a dps boost. The last skill I max is weapon mastery for the 100% dps and 140% attack rating boost. From there on I would reccomend putting points into your second synergy, or shout. Shout and iron skin provide the same defense boost, but shout helps the whole party out, be a team player. Lastly, if you don't have any +skills, you can put a few extra points in natural resists as getting a few levels out of the skill is very helpfuly before you get to diminishing returns. Other useful skills are increased stamina and faster run walk (optional). Iron skin and natural resists are mandatory. And of course, 1 point in battle commands for the + skills is always used (1 skill point will give you like 15 skill points, do it). And a final addition, find item can be used if you plan on MF.
This leaves us with:
Taunt: 1-20 (recommend 1)
Shout: 1 (can put more in as last skill, don't recommend)
Battle orders: 20
Battle command: 1
Find potion: 0-1
Find item: 0-1
Weapon mastery: 1-20 (recommend 20)
Increased stamina: 0-1
Increased speed: 0-1
Iron skin: 1
Natural resistance: 1-5
Double swing: 1-20 (at level 9 this becomes free, great for levelling when mana is a problem)
The core of any build, the items. I will try to cover all budgets.
Arreats Face Slayer Guard: The only helm I will recommend. A cheap one is worth pgems, and it is the best helm in the game for us. It provides 30 all res, 2 to all skills, 2 to combat skills, huge FHR, 20% attack rating, strength and dex, nice defense, life leech, and what may well be your only open socket. All in one, pretty little item. If you choose to go the high strength option and upgrade it, you may want to note that the base defense can roll slightly lower, and result in a worse item. You have been warned. If you can't afford it, use whatever rare you have found. I will not suggest a guil face as it is no cheaper, and barbs can easily pick up CB on their weapons. Get this helm.
Budget choice, Smoke (Nef + Lum): Not the best of options, but for on a budget, the 50% all resistance solves almost all of your resist problems, and you get that nice FHR combined with a little extra defense. Mediocre armor, great on a budget.
Budget choice, Lionheart (Lum + Fal): Not too expensive, fal is worth 1-2 pgems and should be available for anybody. You get 30 % all res, a little less than smoke, and you lose the FHR. But you pick up str dex and vita. This is essentially 60 extra vita. Combined with the 50 life on the armor, this works out to 290 extra life pre BO. To top it all off, you get 20% enhanced damage. If Smoke can be thought of as a lesser version of chains of honor, this is a lesser version of fortitude (without defense). Did I mention the lower requirements? On par with smoke, get it if you aren't as strained for resistances.
Mid Budget Choice, Duress (Shael + Um + Thul): With the requirements of an Um rune, this may be out of reach for some super low budgets, but this armor is the real deal. A minimum of 150% enhanced defense, some faster hit recovery, open wounds, 15% all resistance, 10-25% enhanced damage, 33% open wounds, 15% chance crushing blow, a little cold damage (helpful as a defensive stat for the slow), this armor will breeze through end game content. For resists, you have to look elsewhere, but for a mid budget, this souped up rattlecage is amazingly effective for its cost.
High Budget Choice, Fortitude (El + Sol + Dol + Lo): The Lo rune makes this quite expensive, however if you can afford it, this armor is my personal reccomendation. It offers nice resistances, 300% enhanced damage (the best damage), 200% enhanced defense, nice life per level, and not to be ignored, 5% max lightning resistance. This is a 20% reduction in lightning damage if you have maxed resists, and is not to be overlooked (burning souls, LOL). Finally, chance to cast level 15 chilling armor will be a nice defense boost. The defense bonus is based on the base defense of all of your gear, but should work out to a few extra thousand defense, very nice on a character with no block. The 2 options for this armor are archon plate and sacred armor. This will dictate if you are going for high or medium str. If you go sacred armor, you can up all of your gear for a nice armor bonus and the expense of a little vita. 232 strength might seem like a lot (and it is), but the extra damage and armor certainly make it worth considering. I personally choose sacred armor because everybody else uses archon plate and I like to be different, but if you go sacred armor, make sure the bast is at LEAST 560 defense or you are wasting your time. make in non superior armor or the repair costs will make your head spin.
High Budget Choice, Chains of Honor (Dol + Um + Ber + Ist): Not going to go too in depth, but the skills are nice, the resistances are nice, the 8% physical damage reduction is really good, the enhanced defense is nice, and the armor is all around pretty good. But, this is slightly more expensive than fortitude, and sacrafices a lot of damage. If you can afford this, you shouldn't have much problems for survivability, so fortitude is probably better. I would only use this in 2 circumstances. Either you are running ubers and you are hurting under mephistos conviction aura and getting bursted, or you want the extra MF for magic finding. The former case is a legitimate concern, although it will slow your klling speed a lot. The latter case, you should really consider if it is worth sacraficing that much kill speed.
High Budget Choice, Enigma (Jah + Ith + Ber): Ahhh, the famous enigma armor. If you don't know what this is, you haven't been in the Diablo 2 community long. The faster run walk is overkill as your barb is hard enough to control as is with full frenzy stacks. The +skills are always useful, but enigma is known for 1 thing really. Dat teleport. Barbs offer surprisingly fast cast speed for a melee char, but they suffer sever mana problems, so unless you have an insight merc, a wizzy in your off hand, and some SOJ's, I would leave the teleporting to the casters. This armor is for you, if, and only if, you are a MF barb. The MF on enigma make it superb MF armor, although there are better MF chars out there.
There are 4 main belt choices for the barb. If they are out of your budget, just use a rare that you find, these belts differ in price from pgems - um for low rolls.
Nosferatus Coil: The lifesteal strength and slow make this belt appealing, although the main appeal is that it offers 10% IAS, not something that usually spawns on belts. If you can't get another belt, or if you need that IAS for a breakpoint, go for it, but it's not my personal choice.
String of ears: A cheap one can go for pgems, superb on a budget. This belt offers very nice damage reduction and life steal, and can be put on at level 29, but as it offers no strength dex or vita, many barbs find themselves looking elsewhere. Continuing on to the major 2 belts.
Thundergod's Vigor: Commonly known as tgods, this belt has a lot to offer. 20 str and vita each equate to 160 extra life pre BO if you use the str to meet other gear requirements. Most of the mods are just for show, but there are 2 mods that make this belt stick out. 10% max lightning resistance, and 20 lightning absorb. If you are wearing fortitude, you have 80 lightning resist. This belt will take it to 90% provided you have the resistances, effectively halving incoming lightning damage. The absorb takes place after resistances. How absorb works is, it first stops that much damage, then, if it doesn't kill you, it heals you that much. This belt uses something called integer absorb, which means there is no cap, so you can actually be healed. Example 1, no tgods belt but with fortitude: A burning soul hits you for 500 lightning damage. It is reduced by 80% and you take 100 damage. 7 other burning souls in the area do the same, you take 800 total damage, OW. Example 2, you wear this awesome belt: A burning soul hits you for 500 lightning damage, you reduce it by 90%. Your absorb then stops 20 of it, leaving you to take 30 damage. Since the damage does not kill you, you now heal for 20 damage, leaving you to be hit for only 10 damage. The other 7 burning souls hit you for 10 damage, and you take 80 total damage to the large pack, leaving almost no dent in your health globe. Problem?
Verdungos Hearty Cord: The main stats on this belt are the 30-40 vita, the FHR, and the 10-15% damage reduction. If you roll a perfect 40 vita, you get the same +life as the tgods. The FHR is not super useful in pvm, but comes in handy. The 15% damage reduction, however, is a gift from god on a character with no block. This will help with heavy hitting melee monsters (baal minions, LILITH, giant act 5 rampaging monsters, MINIONS OF DESTRUCTION, STYGIAN FREAKING DOLLS). The rule of thumb for belts, outside of ubers, is as follows. Burning souls ow, tgods make better, stygian dolls hurt, wear verdungos belt.
I'm doing jewelry altogether as it makes things simple.
Budget Choice, double angelics ring, angelics amulet: The following will offer you approximately 1 metric buttload of attack rating, on top of a decent bet of life. It is very important to note that doing such sacrafices cannot be frozen, which means you MUST pick it up elsewhere using non conventional means such as Kiras Tiara, Trang belt, or a cham rune (budget?).
Budget Choice 2, angelics ring + amulet + ravenfrost: All of these items are either free, or pgems (for a low ravenfrost). This is my personal recommendation for budget chars. It offers a nice boost to attack rating, cannot be frozen, and 20% cold absorb (aka 40% less cold damage, aka suck it mephisto's cold attack).
Option 3, dual ravenfrosts: This offers less attack rating than the angelics option, but we hit the cap of % cold absorb meaning we take 80% less cold damge if we can not get 1 shot, a nice boost to dex, a moderate amount of AR, and, a free amulet slot. This is my personal recommendation to those with a few runes to spend. Worthwhile to note that 20 dex ravens are more expensive, but we really like the attack rating, so a lower dex raven with 200+ ar is a good pickup.
Option 4, ravenfrost + bul kathos ring: A little more expensive, and a little less attack rating, this offers us a little more leech, a little more skills, and a little more life. I personally find this overpriced and over rated, but if you are struggling on the leech, go for it.
Option 5, ravenfrost + dual leech ring: Mana leech is pretty much needed somewhere on a frenzy barb, so if you don't have it anywhere else, this is a more advanced option that offer cannot be frozen and a free amulet slot, but not necessarily better, and dual leech rings that are good can get EXPENSIVE.
So lets pretend you have an open amulet slot, what amulet can you get?
Option 1, Higlords amulet: This is worth about a pul rune, not super expensive. What does it give us? 1 to all skills (not too bad as barbs like to hit around +6-8 skills), lightning resist (very useful for hitting the cap, especially if you use fortitude and tgods like me), and DEADLY STRIKE. The deadly strike is amazing. This will add 25-35% percent to your average weapon damage at higher levels (you have deadly strike elsewhere that math gets a little funny to work out exactly how much). This is the best offensive option out there, hitting double damage is what lets you swing for over 10K damage in good gear. Works great with life leech. Oh yeah, did I mention the 20% IAS?
Option 2, Metalgrid: Metalgrid is a pretty sick amulet, but a little more niche. In a nutshell, it offers you huge resistances, lots of defense, and a lot of attack rating (not as much as angelics though). This is what I think of as the uber trist amulet. I like to use highlords outside of uber trist, or if I have super good charms, but the stats on this amulet scream out kill ubers. Conviction? Resistances. High attack rating and level 110 hitting me a lot? High defense. 65% chance to hit ubers, that all? Lots of attack rating. I only use this if I'm struggling to clear an area though, as highlords offers a LOT more damage, but metalgrid is amazing defensively.
Option 3, Atmas scarab: Flat out, straight up, +3 to light radius = gg no re. Okay, maybe not, but this little treasure has a few tricks up it's sleeve. The 20% attack rating and huge poison resist are gravy mods, what we like here is the 5% chance to cast amp damage. This is what I call a sustainable source of the amp damage curse. more on this later
Option 4, Maras: So you read a bad guide that included this overpriced amulet that is inferior on melee chars, and I have singled out this item in my guide, to tell you to NOT GET IT. Bad on melee chars, especially for it's price, no discussion.
Option 5, Rare amulet or other unique, if you want to, then go for it, but I wouldn't recommend it over highlords or metalgrid unless you found some uber powerful rare amulet worth like a bazillion HR's, even then, highlords is more damage (deadly strike too good).
Budget option, Blood crafted: You don't even need a good roll to have a decent pair of gloves. These will give you 5-10% crushing blow, 1-3% life leech, and 10-20 life. I would make 3 or 4 pairs and pick the best ones as they are cheap to make. Even without any bonus mods these gloves are alright, great for a budget character. I would pick them over bloodfist heavy gloves as I view the crushing blow as far too important on a budget character to give up.
Mid budget option, Laying of hands: These gloves are mostly picked for 2 modifiers. 20% IAS, and 350% damage to demons. The damage to demons will cut through certain monsters, (demons) like butter, and these gloves are great if you need the ias to hit a breakpoint. Unfortunately these gloves don't have a lot more to offer, but they are also a great switch if you find yourself killing act bosses slowly or if you want to uber trist faster.
Dracul's grasp: These well known gloves, also my gloves of choice, are used for a few reasons. Large amounts of life leech, 25% open wounds, a little bit of strength are all nice, but there is 1 primary reason for picking them. Sustainable lifetap, more on this later.
Other options would be steelrends or a good pair of bloodcrafted gloves, but they both have their own drawbacks, so I won't recommend them.
Budget option, Goblin Toes: These should either be free, or a couple pgems. These are used for 1 reason and 1 reason only. 25% chance crushing blow. I like these on budget characters for 2 reasons. The first reason, they are dirt cheap. The second reason, budget characters will have less damage and be more reliant on crushing blow, making crushing blow relatively more useful than deadly strike. Also, crushing blow is harder to get on budget weapons, so might as well get your fill here.
Main option, Gore riders: These are the only other boots that I can recommend. Unless you are really starved for crushing blow or are poor as somebody who is like, really poor, get these. Well they have 10% less crushing blow than goblin toes, they pick up 15% chance deadly strike, 10% open wounds, - requirements, and a substantial defense boost. A 200 ed pair is only marginally better than a 160 ed pair, so unless you really have cash to spend or found a nice pair yourself, get yourself a nice cheap pair and spend your currency elsewhere.
I don't care what you've seen or heard, these are your options for boots. Anybody can afford goblin toe boots, and the only boots that beat them are gore riders, so don't get any other boots, k?
Well, we finally get to the interesting part of the itemization, the meat and bones, and pride of any melee char, the weapon. Before going into what weapons we want, lets look at what stats we want. First we must learn how frenzy works. The attack speed of frenzy is based on a couple things. The average base speed of our weapon, the IAS (increased attack speed) of our left weapon, and our IAS on all other gear except for our right weapon. So we ideally want 2 fast weapons, and lots of IAS on our main hand weapon. All of these worked together will give you a "frames per attack" number, where 5 is the best possible, and anything higher is, well, worse then 5. Here.
The calculator is a little buggy. Note you want to input your weapon IAS for your main hand in the right hand weapon slot (the left weapon in your character screen is the weapon your barb holds in his right hand, confusing huh?). Don't forget to input your frenzy level, and be vigilant, whenever you change anything anywhere, the calculator will reset your right weapon IAS to 0, just to **** with you, so make sure it's value is correct. Well a 5 frame attack is ideal, a 5.5 frame attack is still acceptable, but do NOT go any lower if you can help it. Now on to the good stuff.
Due to the number of weapons, I will not be posting every stat of every weapon I recommend, and will trust in your ability to look them up yourself (link to useful tool: www.google.ca), but will comment on all of the weapons.
Budget option 1, Razors edge tomahawk: A nice fast weapon here, easy to find yourself, or pick it up for pgems. This has decent damage, nice deadly strike, lower target defense, open wounds, and lots of increased attack speed, a solid main hand or off hand weapon.
Budget option 2, Death Cleaver: Might be a little more pricy as it is harder to find, but not what I would call super expensive. Get a non ethereal one as we can't afford a zod rune. This sports ridiculous amounts of deadly strike on top of nice ias, solid damage, and -33% target defense (works on bosses, sweet). It is worth noting that any combination of death cleaver and razors edge will hit the 5.5 fpa bp (frames per attack breakpoint) with 20% ias, or the 5 fpa bp with 65% ias. I recommend hitting the 5.5 as the 5 will require a 15 ias jewel in our gear (aka our helm), nosferatus coil, higlords, and laying of hands. On the other hand, 5.5 is gotten with only highlords.
Budget option 3, Lightsabre: If you are like me, you like swords more than axes (not because they are better, just because). Unique swords, for the most part, are pretty weak, but lightsabre has some nice mods. It offers decent damage, some nice added elemental damage in the form of lightning and magic, and mana steal (you want mana steal somewhere, this is a good place to get it). Due to it being in a phase blade, it is indestructible, so you don't have to repair it every 5 minutes, this gives it major bonus points for convenience. The 5% chance to cast chain lightning is more just for show, but this thing has 2 more tricks up its sleeve. Even with only 20% ias, this thing is a phase blade, it's fast. Put a phase blade in your offhand and you hit 5.5 fpa with no other gear, and only require 14 ias to hit the final 5 fpa breakpoing. Last but not least, the 25% lightning absorb lets you take 50% less lightning damage, take that burning souls. It is also worth noting that budget options 1 and 2 will put out a lot more damage per swing due to the high enhanced damage and deadly strike.
Mid budget option 1, Azurewrath: A great weapon, pairs up nicely with a lightsabre. This offers pretty solid enhanced damage, indestructible, and 750 average elemental damage pre swing (can actually kill physical immunes, errr, slowly that is). with 30% ias this is in the same boat as lightsaber for ias, you hit 5.5 fpa, but require 4% ias to hit a 5 fpa. Any source of ias will do.
Mid budget option 2, Crescent moon (shael + um + tir): Not the most common of weapons, but it does offer some nice mods. Decent enhanced damage, a little increased attack speed, ignores target defense (doesn't work on bosses, but it's great against trash mobs), open wounds, chance to cast chain lightning, and the real specialty of this weapon, chance to cast static field. The static field will do wonders against bosses for a budget character, even with little dps, this along with crushing blow will take bosses down to half life pretty quickly. Make it in a berserker axe or in a phase blade. If you make it in a berserker axe, you should use it as an offhand only.
Mid budget option 3, Stormlash: I would probably get murdered for not including this. This little beauty is known as the budget uber killer. Offering solid damage, 33% crushing blow, and 15% chance to cast static field, this thing cuts ubers like butter. The reason I don't like it is that it's a boss killer, and while it's stupidly good as a budget uber trist weapon, it's a mace, and it's hard to find good maces to pair it with (except another stormlash). If you want to do budget ubers, pair this up with a black scourge, if you want to run chaos or other non uber areas, I would stick to swords and axes, although I'm only saying what I would do, and heavily encourage people to build their characters their own way. This weapon will still do you fine anywhere else in the game.
High budget option 1, Grief (eth + tir + lo + mal + ral): The famous, powerful, and slightly over rated grief. Built only in a phaseblade (don't build berserker axe grief for pvm, you will have to repair it every 5 minutes). The reason greif is so good is it adds a flat amount of damage. The amount of damage if quite high, and is consistent, making grief the highest minumum damage weapon in the game. There are, however, weapons with damage comporable to grief that have good other stats. Grief also has nice ias making it a really good main hand weapon, ignores target defense (trash mob ownage), -25% target defense (bosses), and 20% deadly strike. You really can't go wrong with this weapon.
High budget option 2, Breath of the dying (vex + hel + el + eld + zod + eth): Another solid 1 hander. This is pretty much the only PvM rival to grief. The damage is not as high, but it is still my weapon of choice. All in all, grief is probably better, but I like to be different, and this weapon still does have a lot to offer, so hear me through. the 60% ias make it possible as a main hand weapon, although you have to make it in a slower weapon base, either a berserker axe or a phase blade. It can be tricky to hit a 5 fpa with this weapon, but it is achieveable. What this weapon does offer is utility. The shining stats of this weapon or the 30 all attributes, and the dual leech. The dual leech will offer you more sustainability without lifetap, and is all the mana leech you need. Also, the 30 to all attributes ends up getting you 90 extra vitality. This is in turn 360 life, or around 700-750 life after battle orders, not to be ignored. If you want damage, go grief, if you want more defense with solid damage, or to not be the same as every other melee character in the world of diablo 2, get this. Oh yeah, it won't break.
High budget option 3, Beast (ber + tir + um + mal + lum): In my opinion, over rated. It's non eth and the enhanced damage is low. It's shining stat is the fanatacism aura, making it easy to hit a 5 fpa with this a mainhand weapon. However, the 186% enhanced damage is not as good as you would think, as the damage works outside of weapon damage, adding to all your other enhanced damage. It might mean a 20% increase in damage, but the base weapon damage less than half of what you would get out of a grief, and the final add of 20% crushing blow just doesn't do it for me. Use if you find ber runes expendable.
High budget option 4, Last wish (jah + mal + jah + sur + jah + ber): An uber weapon. If the 4.5 HR price on this weapon doesn't turn you off immediately, this niche weapon has a little to offer. Lots and lots of crushing blow and a might aura, but as this is normally built in a phaseblade, the damage is pretty low. Often paired with grief this will make ubers really easy, but not always the fastest. The fade is alright, but if you aren't to lazy to prebuff with treachery, it's nothing that you can't get elsewhere. It's final glimmer of hope is it's chance to cast lifetap, something easily cast from a wand, and sustainced from dracs gloves. This is for lazy people that want to uber without weapon switches and prebuffing, but you can get it's defensive stats elsewhere for much cheaper, and higher damage with other weapons. Easy ubers, but not needed. Did I mention a perfect one does less than half the damage of grief?
High budget option 5, Doom (hel + ohm + um + lo + cham): Mostly used in PvP since holy freeze slows people with cannot be frozen (because, they really can be frozen). This doesn't work as well against bosses since they have low chill effectiveness, and trash mobs are easy enough anyways, and you can always get a holy freeze merc, but if you want to I won't stop you. It also sports decent ias all skills open wounds and deadly strike. Use to be different, not to be optimal.
High budget option 6, Death (hel + el + vex + ort + gul): My recommended offhand of choice. Make it in an eth berserker axe, eth colossus blade, or eth colossus sword (to be different). This offers so much in an off hand weapon. The glacial spike will slow down enemies quite nicely, the deadly strike adds a lot of damage, the weapon has a ton of enhanced damage in an eth weapon, you get mana leech, 20% bonus attack rating, and to top it all off, 50% crushing blow. Lets compare this to offhand grief for a second (for all you double grief users). a perfect grief in a 15 ed phase blade has 438 average weapon damage. At level 90, you have 68.75% chance deadly strike with gore riders, highlords, and grief. Giving you an effective weapon damage of 739 (438 *1.6875). Now lets look at death. 356 average weapon damage for 400% ed. we have a 93.75% chance of deadly strike, this gets us 690 effective weapon damage. The perfect rolls while wearing highlords actually favors grief. If you take the higlords off, death will do relatively more average weapon damage compared to grief. This gives grief a 7.1% increased damage over death. But that's before crushing blow. So what it comes down to, is would you rather have 7.1% more damage (at best), or 50% chance crushing blow. Personally, there is no comparison in my mind that death is better, but I won't stop you from going double grief.
Weapon switches and prebuffs:
Prebuff armor, Treachery (shael + thul + lem): Great for uber barbs that find mephs conviction aura a lot to deal with. This will give you around 4 minutes to get meph down from the time you encounter him (allowing 44 seconds in town to swap to your armor and get in the portal and get to meph) Basically you take damage until fade triggers, and for a few minutes you get a lot of resistances (60), making uber meph easier.
Weapon swap 1, BO sticks: BO sticks are weapons shopped from anya in act 5. You use the nihlathak portal to keep switching what anya has for sale until she offers you echoing weapons. A pair of echoing weapons will give you +6 to battle orders, meaning a lot more life and mana when you cast it. Swith weapons, BO, switch back.
Weapon swap 2, dual isted ali babas: what allows MF barbs to work. You kill a high level area, switch to these weapons, and use find item on every mob. Ideally you have some +skills elsewhere so you have enough levels in find item, or you put hard points into find item. These 2 weapons can give you up to 318% magic find (more likely 280-300). That's a lot of MF, combined with gheeds, enigma, and a few mf sc's, you are hitting 500%+ MF easy.
Weapon swap 3, charge wands: These are wands with charges of a curse that you want to cast, most likely life tap. Switch to lifetap wand, curse mephisto, laugh at his 0% drain effectiveness (more on this later).
Charms are very good to all budgets of barbs. They help budget characters overcome weaknesses they have from their gear, and high end barbs to maximize their potential. The most important charm on any barb of any budget, is a torch. Why? a low end barb torch in an established ladder is quite often free, if not pgems, and the stats you gain are unmatched price for price from any other gear in the game. The all skills gives you more armor, damage, and probably most importantly, those crucial extra points in natural resistance that lets you get up to the point of diminishing returns. Top it all off with 10 to all attributes and 10 to all resistances, and you have yourself a charm. After this, there are a few things you want. Max damage, attack rating, life, and resistances. A budget character will get low all resistance GC's practically for free to top his resists up, play max damage attack rating gc's almost for free, and 16-18 life sc's almost for free. If he has problems with mephisto, he can also opt for 9-11% cold and lightning resist sc's. As you get more money, you can invest in max ar life gc's. I get grand charms as they are cheaper then getting 3 comparable sc's, and offer similar stats. Do not underestimate the usefulness of attack rating on charms. My current mediocre geared barb gets 400-500 attack rating from a single GC due to all the %ar bonuses you will have. A full inventory of charms can boost your attack rating by over 5000, nice.
Full gear sets:
Through all this jumble of information, it can be hard to pick out what gear goes well with each other, so I will recommend a few gear sets.
Set 1, full budget: While not capable of running ubers, all of the gear here can be picked up for pgems. Our thrifty barb is running a low end arreats helm, smoke armor, nosferatu's coil, blood crafted gloves, a low ravenfrost, angelics ring, angelics amulet, goblin toes, and 2 razors edge tomahawks. He has socketed his arreats face with a plain 15 ias jewel which combined with the belt gets him a 5.5 fpa, and he has 30-35% crushing blow between his boots and his gloves. Using a low barb torch, all res gc's, plain life sc's, and a few plain max ar gc's, with a lifetap wand and 1 bo stick on his weapon switch, our barb is capable to struggling through chaos runs, all by himself. Were proud of you thrifty hero.
Set 2, cheap ubers: Not as cheap as a low end uber smiter, this guy lacks a shield and hence struggles with physical damage blocking and resists, but with some clever use of charms he makes it through. He is running an arreats face helm, smoke armor, thundergods belt, laying of hands, 2 ravenfrosts, the cheapest metalgrid he could find, goblin toe boots, a stormlash in his main hand, and a black runeword flail in his off hand. He has a lifetap wand on swap with a BO stick, he prebuffs with treachery, he has an all resist jewel in his helm, all resist gc's (lots of them), and lots of plain life sc's. With good use of warcries and lifetap he completes the ubers, what a hero.
Set 3, high budget general barb: Arreats face helm, fortitude armor, thundergods belt, drac's gloves, dual ravenfrosts, highlords amulet, grief phaseblade main hand with 35% ias, death colossus blade offhand, gore rider boots, a barb torch, and some max are life gc's and all res life sc's, this is the ultimate barb of destruction. treachery prebuff with a lifetap wand and add in a metalgrid for meph, this guy laughs in the face of all evils he encounters. He laughs the most at physical immunes. Why? Because they take a long time to kill which leaves him more time to laugh at them.
Curses, Chance to hit, and other important info:
First an introduction. You are running through the matrons den, when all of a sudden a pack of extra fast extra strong black lancers surrounds you. To make things worse, 2 packs of succubi come along and curse you lowering your defense. The one pack is fire enchanted cold enchanted, and the other pack is extra strong. To make things worth, Lilith now sees you and starts to attack. Oh, but the horrors grow worse, you notice the black lancers are aura enchanted with holy freeze slowing your attacks, and one of the succubi packs has fanatacism. But wait, you are all out of rejuv potions, and you can't move since you are surrounded. Super awesome player Jonny Ego has a perfect rolled fortitude, an inventory full of 3/20/20 charms, a perfect grief, and lots of other perfect gear including dracs. He is quite sure with his leet gear these incredibly unlikely scenario will be no problem whatsoever, and he left cliks on the closest thing to him. But his lifetap does not trigger in time, and he is cut to ribbons by the incredibly powerful red dots of destiny making their way across the floor to him being spawned by the succubi, and by the evil matron Lilith.
Somewhere, in a parallel universe, Jonny thrift has encountered identical mobs. But his gear is not worth 100 HR's, it's only worth an ist rune all together. Surely with his inferior gear, he does not have any chance of survival. But with his inferior gear, this Jonny has had to resort to tactics, and knows his barb inside and out. He switches over his hotkey to howl, and casts it a few times causing most of the lancers to run away. He now has room to maneuver as he runs over to the succubi while dodging their attacks He casts battlecry on the 2 superuniques he is not attacking at the time since they are immune to howl, and this will decrease their damage. He then switches to a lifetap wand that he has and lifetaps the third superunique and focuses it down. He repeats this process for the other 2 super uniques, then kills the trash mobs nearby, life taps Lilith, and takes her down lastly without dying. Thanks to our heroes knowledge of curses (and warcries), instead of dying, he kills all of his enemies and is rewarded with the dismembered body part of a demonic overlord. Huzzah.
My anecdotal evidence above is complete 100% undeniable proof that curses and war cries are awesome, and can be used to escape stick situations and maximize your survivability/ damage output.
Any monster can be afflicted by a maximum of 1 curse at any time. If a cursed monster is afflicted by another curse, that curse is over written, and the second one applies. War cries such as howl, taunt, and battle cry, are also curses, in that they over write curses such as amp damage, life tap, and decrepify. Most guides will either not mention curses, or mention the 3 necro curses, normally saying lifetap is defensive, decrepficy is a mix, amp damage is offensive. But there is so much more potential. For a barb, there are 6 potential curses, the 6 listed above. All 6 have their uses. Additionally, curses have 2 sources, sustainable, and charge. Sustainable means you can cast it as many times as you like. For example, the lifetap on dracs should trigger on average once ever 5 seconds (less if creates have high defense and block), but has a duration of over 30 secodns. So once lifetap is down on that creature, it's there to stay unless you are horrendously unlucky. Taunt, being a natural barb skill, is also sustainable as you can cast it as many times as you want. A lifetap wand, though, uses charges, and when you are out of charges, you have to repair it. Charges are moderately expensive to repair, so you only use them in tight sitations. A good barbarian knows when and how to use all 6 of his available curses, especially if his gear is only mediocre.
Lifetap. This is the first and most powerful (In my opinion) curse available to the barbarian. First we need to understand how life leech works, and how chance to hit works, a short tangent if you don't mind.
To get the effects of life leech or lifetap, you need to hit the monster. The equation for chance to hit is broken into 2 parts that I like to view seperately. The first part is (2*clvl/(mlvl+clvl)). What is that jumble of words above? clvl is your level, and mlvl is the level of the monster you are fighting. In this example, we will use uber baal. Uber baal has a level of 110, we will pretend we are level 90. In our formula, we get 2*90/(110+90). This is equal to 180/200, or 90%. This number, for a monster higher than you, will always be under 100%. For lower level monsters, it will be over 100%. The second part of the equation looks like this. AR/(AR + def). Where AR is your attack rating, and def is the monsters defense. This number will always be less than 100% (or 100% if the monsters defense is 0). Lets say we have 10000 attack rating, and uber baal has 3150 defense. We get 10000/(10000+3150), = 76%. To get our final chance to hit, we multiply the two numbers together, giving us a 68.4% chance to hit. You can never change a monsters level, and leveling becomes very tedious after 90. So to improve our chance to hit, we have two options. Increase our attack rating, or lower our monsters defense. The war cry battle cry lower monsters defense, greatly increasing our chance to hit (isn't it cool how all this ties together). However, battlecry will over write life tap. So this is best used against monsters that you want to hit better that you can survive on with your life leech. Back on topic.
So we have a 68.4% chance to hit uber baal, but wait. He has 55% chance of blocking. Since we don't use overpowered abilities like smite, we can't ignore block or reduce this in any way. So we multiply our chance to hit by the chance to not be blocked, which means we hit baal 30.8% of the time. It sounds low, but believe it or not, this isn't too bad. So lets say we swing our weapon for 6k damage on average. Baal has 50% physical resistance. This is already reduced to 3k (luckily we can change that with amp damage, but then we can't life tap). However, life steal works at 1/3 efficience in hell, so reduce that to 1k for figuring out life steal. Lets say we have 20% life steal. That means we get 200 damage per hit. But wait, have you heard of drain effectiveness? All monsters have drain effectiveness, and the ubers, have very low of this stat. You must multiply our 200 damage by baals 20% drain effectiveness. That means we only get 40 damage. But not always, only on the 30.8% chance that we hit, will we get an average of 40 life back. So we actually get around 12 life per swing. Factoring in 4-5 swings per second, we get around 55 life per second. If you've ever fought the ubers, you will know that that will not keep you alive. Certain monsters have 0 drain effectiveness, which means they can't be drained at all?
So life leech works well on things that are easy to hit, have low physical resists, and high drain effectiveness, but what if they dont? Enter lifetap. Lifetap gives cursed monsters 50% life leech from things that hits them, that ignores drain efectiveness. Lets go back to our uber baal example. We hit for 3k damage after his physical resists. We ignore drain effectiveness and the 33% hell reduction, and get 50% of that back, 1500 life. Going with the same swings per second and chance to hit, this works out to around 2000 life per second. This is almost 40 times better than life leech (in this specific case), and will be able to keep us alive. Sustainable sources include drac's gloves and last wish sword. Non sustainable includes lifetap wands on your weapon switch.
Our next curse is amplify damage. Amplify damage works by lowering a monsters physical resistance by 100%. Lets say a monster has 50% physical resistance. You hit for 5k damage, and it's reduced to 2.5k. That's no good. What if we cast amp damage, his physical reduction is actually negative 50% now, so we hit for 7.5k damage. Nice. This also triples our life leech off of this character. This is very good for increasing our kill speed. However, it's hard to find. The only sources of this are amp damage weapons (will have low damage, low chance to cast), atma's scarab amulet (5% ctc, will over write life tap, only for super buff barbs), and 3 charges on the unique item the gavel of pain. The gavel of pain is an acceptable weapon swap, however it is 2 handed meaning we can't put anything else on swap such as BO sticks or a lifetap wand. If you want to be really fancy. You can have a lifetap wand on swap, the gavel of pain in your inventory, open up on a boss by lifetapping it, attacking it normally, and when it is low on life, you swap to your wand, open up your inventory, swap in the gavel, amp damage the boss, go back to your weapon, and finish it off. This is a lot of effort to save yourself a few seconds, but if you want to try and break a speed record on your barb, or want to feel like you are super gosu, then go for it. For me, I don't bother with amp damage.
Decrepify. I won't say much on this curse other than you need the unique polearm reapers toll, and that it is part offensive part defensive. The reason I don't bother is that it's not reliable to get down, and mercs tend to die in uber trist, the only place you would really use this.
Howl. People say that lifetap is 100% defensive. Lifetap is only effective on creatures that you are currently attacking. A lifetapped skeleton archer half a screen away is no different than a normal skeleton archer attacking me. I call this the truly 100% defensive "curse". Howl has a chance to cause monsters to flee. Contrary to popular belief, even with 1 point in this skill, this will make monsters run. Note that this is a chance to flee, so casting it a few times will get best results. If you are under attack by a large group and are feeling threatened, howl a few times, and a lot of them will run away. A monster not attacking you does no damage, hows that for 100% defensive. Note this does not work on superuniques, bosses, and certain champion spawns. Super useful against uber meph, howl and his skeletons run away.
Battle cry. This is part offensive part defensive and 100% awesome. It works on all monsters. How it works is it lowers their armor and damage output. The radius is small, but it super effective. If you don't have a lifetap wand or don't want to use charges as the threat is not high enough. cast this. It makes a boss easier to hit and reduces their damage before your drac's get a chance to cast lifetap, at least, with my setup. If you don't have any lifetap or other curse, this is even better, as at least it's something. Do not underestimate it's usefulness. All it costs is a little mana, and you have mana leech (hopefully).
Taunt. While it does lower monsters damage and attack rating, battle cry does it better. Use this to make those annoying ranged characters stand still (aka those things in chaos that will kite you for miles). If battle cry is part offensive part defensive, howl is 100% defensive, this is 100% saved sanity.
That's it for now. I know there is more to add, but I can't think what, if there is anything wrong or missed let me know and I'll add it.