In Depth Barbarian Inferno Act 2 Guide

In Depth Barbarian Inferno Act 2 Guide submitted by ADWCTA.

We all know that melee characters are a bit underpowered when D3 hits Inferno difficulty. This is true, but it doesn't mean you can't progress.

I was frustrated too after hitting a brick wall in Act 2 Inferno, but then I reminded myself that Blizzard took what Inferno difficulty testers said was the right level of difficulty for a very hard game, and then doubled all the stats.

This process inevitably favors ranged classes because thier "move out of the way and not get hit" skills and play style is still essentially 100% damage reduction if they are quick enough, and position themselves smart enough. Melee classes will always have to get up close and personal and TAKE HITS, so once the "tank" framework breaks down, melee classes tend to become completely useless.

This is why in D3, tanking is the most gear-intensive build to make. With the best gear (the gear that goes for 10mil+ in the AH right now), I am sure Monks and Barbarians can tank Act 2 Inferno and Act 3 Inferno. Unfortunately, most of us will not have access to this great gear until many weeks from now (when more of these items are generated by those players farming various parts of Inferno).

So, I re-evaluated the Barbarian and decided to play in a style that does not involve standing in the middle of a large group and taking hits, a style that I can advance with and take down champions/uniques/bosses without the most elite gear.

I switched to Dagger/Shield combo, focusing on faster hit for all of my items (Amulet, Ring, Gloves, Weapons) and specced Smite (20% chance to stun on hit). Faster hitting allows me to retreat quickly if things go bad (no long attack animations), and to trigger stun more often.

I can stun-lock almost any single enemy that can be stunned. The two downsides to using a dagger (and they're pretty big) is a lower DPS than other 1-handed weapons, and a VERY short attack range. I decided that having a short attack range would be offset by my high run speed, and will force me to learn the enemy animation and positions and be more careful. Frenzy and Sprint are my main skills, and the idea was to avoid all avoid-able damage, much like a Demon Hunter with Vault or Evasive Fire, while still dealing melee damage.

I also started heavily using stun, fear, and other crowd control mechanisms in the game to try to help my party out in crowd situations and to help my survivability in solo. When in group play, I have also started speccing ranged attacks for when I cannot close the distance in a safe way (Ancient Spear, Weapon Throw).

Here is my Solo Play build:!acY!Ycbaaa
Here is my Group Play build:!acT!Ycbcbc

Guide continued after the page break..

And... after 6 hours of Act 1 Butcher runs and AH trading... down goes Act 2 Inferno =D. Beat Act 2 Inferno with some buddies last night, solo-ed a bit in Act 3 today. It was hard, but it became very do-able after getting better gear, slowing down to play more carefully, and changing my strategy. I don't think this will be a great "final" build for Act 4 Inferno with elite gear... but for now, it works well. It actually works the best out of any skill combinations I have tried.

Here are some things that I found useful to know, which not everyone may know. Hope some people find this helpful: 

1. There is a gear wall. You will not just naturally get good enough gear by the time you hit level 60 to run through Act 1. And, if you were that lucky/skilled, you certainly won't get enough good items to go through Act 2 without going back to grind for items in Act 1.

Get that Neph Valor, do some Butcher runs, AH yourself some gold, buy some better gear, and THEN go do Act 2. I see people trying to do Act 2 with rather pathetic gear. You WILL need to grind, and use the Auction House to buy appropriate gear for you to beat Act 2.

2. There is no shame in dying. Keep trying new things. If you keep running into the brick wall the same way, you're going to get the same results. This game is NOT Diablo 2. Actual skill is MUCH more important (e.g. quick reaction times, proper spacing on the battlefield, moving to the right spots, using health globes intelligently, having tactical party syngergy beyond "i tank, you dps from far").

When you try new things with your party, or solo, you will die a lot. It will cost you only a few hundred gold if your gear is not good, a thousand if your gear is good. Well worth the cost for lessons on D3 enemy AI and your skill mechanic, hit boxes, terrain traps, and other things that are difficult to explain without experience.

3. There is diminishing returns to Vitality, but not Armor/Resists. I don't want to go into the whole thing here, and it's not diminishing returns to how much life Vit gives (that's constant). But, at a certain point, more life is not all that important, and that point comes a LOT lower than you would expect. This is true for almost every MMO/RPG, and doubly true for Diablo 3. Remember, by buying items with less Vit in AH, but spending the same gold, you should presumably be able to get better Armor, Resists, Strength, or other useful things that make enemies take away less of your health per hit.

Since affixes such as +life on hit, +life per health globe, and life leach all return a set amount of HP regardless of what your max HP is, have low-ish health and high-ish Armor/Resists means you can get more efficiency out of those skills, and thus, live longer.

I see so many complaint threads that start with "I have 60k+ health, 10k damage, and I can't do ANYTHING in Act 2 Inferno". Well, if you swapped 30k of that health for more damage, more Armor, more Resists via the auction house, then you would probably do much better. Counter-intuative, but true. Since you can't tank anyway, there's no reason to try to absorb more than 3-4 hits before you die. That's just item value that is better spent on other mods.

The correct amount of HP to have for a melee character that is NOT tanking (and you are NOT tanking) is enough to absorb a small handful of hits. If you are getting hit for more than that before you get away, heal, etc, then you are starting to tank and that is bad and will not work without super-elite gear, which you do not have yet.

Also, unless you have a ridiculous resist all stat already, resists are ALWAYS better than Armor for the Barbarian. (And both are better than Vit, or +% life). If given the choice, take 1% resist all (or 10 Int) over 8 Armor. It's a math thing. The stat (between Armor and Resist) that is the lower damage reduction will have the most efficiency gained by improving it.

4. Move. Cautiously. This is no longer normal. It is not even hell. This is inferno. Move slowly in open areas, along walls, pull one mob to you at a time. Kite backwards to buy valuable seconds for your cooldowns. Move inward to get enough safe ground to run in a circle. In corridors, try to find circle/squares that allow you to kite in a circle indefinitely. Do not run in stupidly. Do not run away stupidly. In parties, do not run away in different directions (and then inevitably back into each other) when things go south. 90% of the time when the "plan" breaks down, the situation is still salvagable if all 4 people work together with good communication.

5. Move. Seriously. Move. Barbarians like to jump/charge/run into action, then only start running away when things go bad. Well, this is Act 2 Inferno and you have crappy gear. Things are always bad. So, you should always be moving. More than half of the attacks in Diablo 3 can be dodged. Yes, melee attacks CAN be dodged by the player, giving you 100% damage reduction on these attacks.

The Demon Hunters do it, and it works great for them. Why don't you do it? There is this ingrained idea that a Barbarian is a tank, and should just stand there and whack things. But, in Diablo 3, the Barbarian has MANY "movement" skills, that sets up an entirely different play style... a playstyle much less gear dependent (more on this later). These skills are: Leap, Charge, Sprint (and Wrath), Ancient Spear.

People are very closed minded about how certain skills "look". Sprint may not be the sexiest skill, but it is probably the most useful. And, while Leap and Charge look like skills used to get into battle, they are just as effective for getting OUT of battle.

In Diablo 3, whether an enemy hits you or not is based on where you are when the enemy hits a certain point in its animation. For all quick attacks, this is the instant the animation begins, which means you can't dodge it. Even if the damage is not dealt until the end of the animation, you can run 5 screens away and that damage will still appear on top of your head in red, and you will be hurt. This is not lag. Blizzard has said that this is not a bug. This has been there throughout beta.

This is just a (bad imo) game mechanic. But, there are many attacks that have short wind-ups where you CAN avoid the attack by moving out of the way before a certain point in the animation. You will learn the timing for each enemy type as you pay attention to this, but a quick rule of thumb, is that whenever an enemy leans back, run away. If you are not gone from his hit box by the time the swing starts, you will be damaged. These quick wind-up attacks are some of the most damaging melee hits in D3. You attack in melee range, but that doesn't mean you have to keep attacking when these animations start.

6. Run. Seriously. Run. Away. The more time you spend running away, the more your cooldowns finish, and you can wait to re-engage. Leaping, Charging can be used to escape, but you still need to maintain good run speed afterwards, so fast run walk affix on boots are heavily recommended.

In Diablo 3, there are many special guys who drop traps on the ground (poison, freeze, fire, arcane). You have about .5 seconds after the glow starts to get away from the area for poison and fire, 2 seconds for freeze, 1 second before arcane sentry sets up and starts firing). Since you only have to watch the area below your character's feet and immediately around him/her, this should not be hard to avoid 100% (or near 100%).

In the same way, don't stand there dumbly hitting an enemy when an arcane sentry is about to hit you. I look for the right opportunity to run as soon as the Arcane balls appear. Enemies will follow you, away from thier traps in Solo play; in group play, if an ally is trying to tank, first, congradulate him on his excellent gear, then, if he needs help or retreats, help out by using Ancient Spear to reposition at least one enemy away from the traps, where you can safely hit from. Mortar enemies are tricky but can also be outrun (preferably in a circle) while you wait for cooldowns, but it is much safer to engage close up.

here is a sweet spot in the middle of most Mortar enemies where Mortar does not trigger and the enemy cannot hit you. Try to keep that distance if you can, but otherwise, just out-running the Mortars works if you have space.

In general, there is only one downside to running: Lower DPS, so you may be more likely to trigger the enemy's enrage timer. But, if you are not speccing Vit heavily, that should naturally mean you have higher +Str and thus decent DPS (at least 15k-20k) and this should not be a problem.

7. Don't be useless when running. When solo-ing, no one cares if you run away. You are on your own time, you pick your own battles. With a group, sometimes the group picks battles for you, and if certain enemy affix combos destroy you, there is no need to directly engage the enemy to help out. Some enemies are easily kited, but difficult to engage in melee, some enemies have Molten. You can be useful while running by:

1) Not running into unexplored territory, dragging back more mobs,

2) Revive fallen allies and pick up health globes,

3) Using Ancient Spear to reposition enemies, or to pull one for you to assassinate single-target,

4) Keep War Cry on everyone, Give everyone Ignore Pain / Sprint group bonuses, Keep threatening enemies under Threatening Shout,

5) If an enemy is chasing you, run in a circle in open fields or kite in a hallway to keep the enemy(ies) on you while your group takes care of the rest. An enemy out of battle is less DPS on the rest of your group. With 4 players facing a champion pack of 3, occupying 1 is 1/3rd the burden, more than your share, even without a single drop of DPS!

8. Explanation for the Passives that I use

Pound of Flesh - There is a bug here, I am sure of it. With this on, I see at least double the amount of health globes dropping. I hope Blizzard does not fix this bug and instead just changes the description to match what it actually does. It is imo the best Barb healing mechanic in Inferno (we are not monks, and this game killed life leech), especially for Solo play.

Instead of worrying about balancing cooldowns on Ignore Pain or Wrath, you can focus on hitting enemies to generate health globes. I see it as the new life leech, even better for party play, but still vital imo for solo. Note: Does not work on bosses who do not spawn minnions, like the Butcher. But, bosses usually come with healing wells on the stage, so an innate healing mechanic is not terribly important if you have good movement abilities.

Berserker Rage - There are very few Fury spenders in the Barbarian that are not on heavy cooldowns, and there are many Fury generators (including taking damage). So, if you do not take many Fury spenders, this is a great way to up your DPS. Also, the only time you would actually care about having more damage is for difficult enemies that you have to hit a lot (generating more Fury), so this works very well for Inferno.

Juggernaut - Combining this skill with + control reduction items can really make Frozen/Jailer type enemies worthless. Since you are generally running, not being held in place is very important. It is especially important in parties where any extra living person can help revive the other party members, if squishy DPSers die. On the other hand, Charge can get out of Jailer, so if you take that skill, it may be anti-synergetic.

Weapons Master - With a Dagger, the +15% passive damage is multiplicative damage and not additive, so combine with other +damage skills, it outperforms 15% base. I use this instead of Juggernaut for Solo because enemies hit less hard in solo, and with my already good reduction of crowd control gear, I do not die very often to those enemies anyway.

9. Explanation for the Actives that I use.

Core Skills:

Frenzy (Smite) - Stunlocks enemies. Very nice single-target DPS. Generates Fury. Since even champions can be stunned in Diablo 3, this has become a usable mechanic. Most special enemies are stunned at least 50% of the time, and when initially stunned, the interrupt is very helpful. For longer wind-ups, I can continue to attack for a few crucial hits of DPS, hoping to stun, before I have to move out of the way and re-engage.

Sprint (Marathon) - Allows me to get away from anything and everything if I choose to. I may be attacking at melee, but I can Kite around like I am ranged for many enemy types. This also allows me better battlefield positioning in open fields and to avoid projectiles. I try to keep this on at all times I am not actively hitting an enemy.

Group Play Skills:

Ancient Spear (Rage Flip) - I have used Grappling Hooks in easier areas for speed, and Dread Spear in difficult areas as a secondary heal. But, Rage Flip provides by far the best control of the battlefield. It is not just a Scorpion "get over here!" move to pull single targets to my location so I can single target DPS/stunlock them to death, but it actually flips them to the other side of you, so you get even safer distance from the rest of the crowd. Even better, it breaks Fire Chains. It also gives you a little distance so you can run after pulling without taking damage. Overall, this skill is the best way to separate a troublesome enemy from the herd, to protect your DPSers from enemies that pop up from behind, or avoids an ally's crowd control mechanism.

War Cry (Impunity) - The defensive bonuses from this skill are just TOO good, especially when the entire party gets this bonus. In Inferno, each additional player raises Monster HP by +115% and damage by +15%. War Cry should instantly offset the additional enemy damage, which is VERY useful and much appreciated by the party.

Threatening Shout (Terrify) - The damage reduction on this is very clutch to combat the +45% enemy damage in 4-players. You will generally only be able to keep it on enemies you are dealing with and champions/bosses, but even those benefits are useful. The 2.5 second fear provides a nice relief if any enemies get too close to you after you pull a single target to you with Ancient Spear for DPS. They are often engaged with your allies by the time this effect wears off.

Weapon Throw (Throwing Hammer) - This is for those times when for whatever reason you cannot get close to an enemy (traps, Butcher fire, Beliel poison) and Ancient Spear is on a cooldown. This is also helpful for chasing down a dodging/fast enemy. Sprint is good, but with fast enemies, they may be able to get several hits on you before Frenzy builds up to a stun-lock attack speed. Ancient Spear needs to be aimed and can miss, still triggering the 10 second cooldown. Since we are no longer jumping into enemies with Leap, this is a good Stun mechanic before you close the distance or use Ancient Spear to pull.

Solo Alternative:

Leap (Death From Above) - The only crowd control enemy affix that the crowd control mod on items does not cover is Waller. Leap leaps over walls for easy escape. Additionally, it allows me to enter battle with a 3 second stun. In battle, it can be used again when cooled down

Ignore Pain (Bravado) - This reduces more damage than War Cry, but can only be activated in spurts. In Group Play, even with Mob Rule, you often are not close enough to get everyone (or sometimes anyone), so War Cry is imo supurior. I like the Bravado mod because I only use this during "oh crap!" moments (and partially to make up for not having Juggernaught in Solo) and the knockback is very useful. Additional seconds from Iron Hide are not as useful because enemies will be stunned before 5 seconds is up. Healing is not needed because health globes are plentiful.

Ground Stomp (Deafening Crash) - This is superior to Terrifying Shout in the lower cooldown and the .5 longer duration of control. Feared enemies will return to you anyway in Solo play, so stun is sufficient. I use Deafening Crash rune and time it so when my Leap stun wears off, I ground stomp and when that wears off, I run away and wait for cooldowns (4 seconds). It was very effective. In a group setting, people tend not to wait for you, or are inefficient at kiting along with you (since they run slower). If you and your friends are on a string, with good communication, I think this could be effective in Group Play as well (spec Sprint - Forced March with this).

Battle Rage (Marauder's Rage) - This is purely for the additional DPS. I have more than enough Fury to upkeep this. Since no one else is distracting the enemies, and enemies can die at a pretty normal pace, this speeds it up so I can kill a couple before they un-stunlock. I sometimes switch this to Terrifying Shout for more crowd control, but it is usually not necessary.

9. 4-man Group Inferno play is MUCH harder than solo play. Much harder. Assuming that no one is abusing glitches, cheesing, or has very elite gear... there is really no comparison. I would say that difficulty by number of players from hardest to easiest is: Four Players, Three Players, Solo, Two Players. Besides the fun factor, there is no reason to play with three friends if you are trying to progress (magic fund and runs in areas you are already comfortable with are a different story). There is absolutely every reason to NOT play with randoms. The lack of communication and synergy makes the game far too difficult in 4-man Inferno.

10. TL;DR. I just wanted to share some tips and strategies for those who are struggling. I hope some people will find this useful. The Barbarian is not the best class, but it is certainly not a "broken" class as many have claimed.