How to get started with the Barbarian in Diablo 4
Are you considering starting your Diablo 4 journey as a Barbarian? The class is a solid archetype — Barbarians are big, brawny, and they carry an arsenal of weapons — and I happen to think they’re a lot of fun. In fact, you should play a Barbarian in Diablo 4, and I’ll help you get started.
The entire Barbarian experience in Diablo 4 can be boiled down into four simple steps:
- Hit things to get Fury.
- Once you have Fury, use it to hit things harder.
- Don’t die. This is what Defensive and Brawling skills are for.
- See #1.
This is the playstyle of the Barbarian in Diablo 4 broken down to its simplest expression. It conveys the basic truth of the class and what it’s all about — generate Fury, then use Fury to deal destruction to your enemies — but of course it leaves quite a bit out for the sake of brevity. Barbarians can also go berserk on their enemies, pick up piles of weapon buffs, and load up on passive skills to provide all kinds of buffs.
Let’s talk about how to get started with the Barbarian class in Diablo 4.
Barbarian basics in Diablo 4
Here are some basic terms and tips to get you started playing your Barbarian.
- Barbarian skill types. Basic skills on the skill tree are for Fury generation. Fury is the core resource used by Barbarians to power their other abilities — if you have a full Fury orb but keep pounding away with Basic skills, you’re not making the best use of your abilities. Core skills are for damage and help you create a playstyle — Whirlwind is an entirely different kind of attack compared to Rend, for example — and Defensive skills are various abilities that help you not die. There are more skills down the tree — Brawling, Weapon Mastery, Ultimates, and Key Passives — but those open up around level 20 or so as you get enough points to acquire them.
- Consider your Ultimates. Ultimates are powerful capstone abilities, and in Diablo 4 they can be used often which makes a big difference in certain fights. Think of them like Ultimates in games like Overwatch 2 or big DPS cooldowns like Recklessness in World of Warcraft. You may want to plot out which Ultimate you’re going to head for as soon as you roll your Barbarian and aim to get it at as soon as possible, because these can define your playstyle.
- Pick a good balance of abilities. You have lots of choices, but it’s important not to get overwhelmed. You want a strong Fury generator, a good way to use that Fury, a solid Defensive for when things get hairy, and then you can start moving down to Brawling and Weapon Mastery options.
- Make the most of the Arsenal system. Barbarians can and should equip four weapons — a pair of 1h weapons used in dual wielding attacks like Double Strike, a 2h hammer or mace used in powerful crushing strikes like Hammer of the Ancients, and a 2h slicing weapon (Axe, Sword, or Polearm) used for powerful attacks that cause enemies to Bleed for extra damage. Many of your abilities switch up which of the three categories you use.
- Don’t ignore more passive abilities, like Berserking, Weapon Expertise, or straight-up passive skills. Remember, you only have so much room on your actionbar for attacks and defensive cooldowns. These abilities make you stronger without having to hit a key or remember to use them.
Planning your Barbarian’s build
The skill tree is flexible, and to an extent you can build in whichever direction seems fun. (And if you pick a talent you don’t like, just refund it and try another one.) Getting a Fury generator is key, so look over the four Basic skills and pick the one that most approximates what you want your Barbarian to be about. A Lunging Strike build doesn’t have to worry about what kind of weapon you have equipped and can be talented for a self heal when you hit a Healthy enemy, and you have the choice of making it give you the Berserking status effect (more on that in a minute) or add the Bleeding effect to your attacks.
Each Basic, Core, and Defensive ability can be upgraded in similar ways — and has similar trade offs built in, letting you pick the direction your character takes right from the beginning. Early on you can reset your talent points for free to try something new, but after level 8 it will start costing money, and at very high levels it can be prohibitively expensive. So be sure to look at your skill options and think about what you’re doing before you click. Your first 20 levels are the ideal time to take various Basic and Core skills out for a spin and change them if they aren’t to your liking.
As an example, here’s a build that can get you down the tree to your Ultimate before level 30. It focuses on the Basic skill and gets that to max — you’ll be hitting that Basic a lot as you level, so it’s important that it do as much damage as it possibly can, and I chose Flay because it can provide damage resistance and thorns. Frenzy, Lunging Strike, and Bash all have different ways to use them and buff them, so don’t think this is me saying Flay is best, just that it fits a specific playstyle goal I was aiming for.
That’s not the only build you can use, but it’s an example of how to mix and match skills to create the playstyle you want.
But you can only have so many active skills at any one time, so we need to talk about how to modify your abilities and potential without adding more buttons to your action bar. These passive systems will power up your other abilities with a variety of buffs, so it’s important to know how to use them:
- Berserking is a status effect Barbarians can get, and it adds 25% extra damage and 20% movement speed. It’s one of the best ways to increase your damage output that doesn’t rely on gear, and anything you can do to increase your Berserking time is good. I heartily recommend getting it as often as possible. Berserking uptime is probably the ultimate defensive ability of the class, because doing an extra 25% damage means that everything dies 25% faster, and that means they get 25% less chance to do anything to you.
- Weapon Expertise is a core system for Barbarians that you’ll be improving as you play through the game. For example, as you use a 1h axe, you’ll gain ranks in the 1h Axe Weapon Technique, which will give you bonuses when using 1h axes. It essentially rewards you for doing what you’re doing anyway and hitting things.
- The Arsenal System unlocks at level 15 through the Barbarian: Masters of Battle quest, which takes you to the Dry Steppes and teaches youArsenal Techniques, letting you essentially equip Weapon Techniques regardless of what you’re wielding. I don’t care what you’re doing at level 15 — drop it, go to the Dry Steppes, and get that quest chain knocked out.
- Passive skills are skills that do not require you to make an action, like Endless Fury (more Fury when using a 2h weapon) and skill-modifying Passives like Combat Flay (makes the Flay skill grant Damage Resistance and Thorns when used). You’ll want to augment your other skills with passives to strengthen them.
Get your Ultimate ability as quickly as you can, but don’t worry too much about builds
Remember, you will need to spend 23 points to get to your Ultimate abilities. This means that you can get there by around level 24 — less if you’re really working on Renown for bonus skill points — but it will also mean leaving pretty much everything down the tree either below max rank or not boosting them with passive effects or other enhancements. But even though those lower level skills won’t be as strong as they could be, I advise rushing to your Ultimate as quickly as you can. These powerful abilities will really help you on bosses and other tough enemies. Fights are very movement reliant in D4 and can be somewhat difficult for such a melee focused class. Having a 40 second cooldown to pop once the boss comes out of their ultramegakillyounow phase is pretty sweet.
As you get further down the skill tree you’ll hit the various abilities that allow you to really customize and flesh out your build. You won’t be able to really pick up all of the passives you want until later, but you can start working on these builds as early as the mid 20’s. Remember, you have 58 total skill points to spend between leveling and completing zone objectives, so you’ll have plenty of points to spend (eventually), and you’ll start picking up paragon points (rather than skill points) starting at level 50.
For Barbarians, I don’t think you can really start worrying about a specific build until closer to level 50. Pretty much any build will work, but you have to remember to pick options that get you Berserking, get down the tree in a reasonable amount of time, and don’t waste time doing stunts like putting a point in every Basic skill. I understand the temptation, but it’s a distraction, and it will spreading out your points early will limit your power later. Also, there are certain pieces of gear that reward you for switching weapon types — one example is a legendary aspect that grants you Overpower damage after switching weapons six times — and so it can be rewarding to make sure your Basic and Core abilities use different weapons.
You cannot get every skill or passive you want, and that’s okay. Pick things. Don’t be afraid you’ll make a mistake — you probably will. That’s what respeccing is for. The biggest mistake you can make is refusing to commit and ending up making things harder for yourself than they have to be. Barbarians are not generalists in Diablo 4 — you’re not going to be great at everything, but you can make a lot of choices to be great at anything.
Now you should know more than enough to get started playing a new Barbarian in Diablo 4, so get out there and hit things.
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