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Diablo > Diablo 4Jun 7, 2023 2:00 pm CT

How to die less and live more as a Barbarian in Diablo 4: A Barbarian’s survival guide

Diablo 4 comes hard, and it might just be the most brutal and unforgiving combat the series has seen since Diablo 2, which can be difficult if you’re a Barbarian who just wants to bash things with your arsenal of weapons. If you aren’t playing with an eye towards controlling how much damage you take, you will likely explode before you get to deal much damage to anything. Playing with a mind towards defense is an adjustment, but not a steep one — situational awareness is a higher priority than, say, Diablo 3 but it’s not that bad. However, if you’re struggling with staying alive in Diablo 4, I have some advice.

So let’s talk about how to not die — or at least, to die less often —  as a Barbarian in Diablo 4.

Invest in abilities that Fortify

Fortify can be applied by specific Barbarian skills or certain Legendary Aspects. When you have a Fortify ranking higher than your Health (say you have 110 Health and 154 Fortify) you take 10% less damage from all sources. Once your health goes above your Fortify, you lose the 10% damage reduction, and moreover, you might end up losing all the Fortify without ever getting the damage reduction from it back if you never end up with more Fortify than Health.

Here’s an example of how Fortify works:

If you have Aspect of Tempering Blows on your Amulet and Steadfast Berserker’s Aspect on your Helm. When you’re fighting, you’ll naturally trigger these effects. Barbarians naturally switch up weapons, so in a fight when you’re switching between your dual-wield weapon (because Frenzy is your basic skill) and hammer (because Upheaval is your core skill), after switching six times you get 190 Fortify, but that’s below your 275 health. Because of this, when you take damage, you also take Fortify damage and you don’t get the 10% damage reduction. So if you get hit by an attack that does 75 damage, you’ll have 200 health and 115 Fortify — Fortify remains under your maximum health, so you don’t get any damage reduction. But then you manage to trigger Berserking, which gives an extra 200 Fortify, putting you at 315 Fortify and 200 health. Now you take 10% less damage from every source.

Fortify suffers from attrition just like health, so every time you take damage while you have Fortify, you lost Fortify as much as you do health. And you can only get Fortify from things like skills and Legendary affixes that grant it. You can tell you have Fortify reducing your incoming damage when you can see a spiky metal circle around the Health globe in the Diablo 4 UI.

So how do you get more Fortify? Well, the easiest way is to get it on gear, either as a base stat or as a Legendary effect. But in addition, there are four skills that provide Fortify:

  • Rallying Cry with the Strategic Rallying Cry skill upgrade
  • Bash with the Enhanced Bash skill upgrade
  • Iron Skin with the Strategic Iron Skin skill upgrade
  • War Cry with the Mighty War Cry skill upgrade
  • The passive skill Thick Skin gives Fortify as a baseline.
    • Defensive Stance, which requires one point in Thick Skin to unlock, increases the Damage Reduction granted by Fortitude by 2%, stacking three times for 16% DR from Fortitude at 3 points in Defensive Stance.

Pick up solid defensive skills

You should always be scanning the area you’re fighting, keeping an eye out for incoming adds and where the big puddles of bad on the ground are going to be. You also need to save your big damage abilities for those windows where the boss becomes vulnerable, because if you don’t, you’ll end up dying because you ran out of health potions and the boss just wasn’t dropping fast enough.

Watching for ground effects and dodging out of them is crucial. Abilities like Evade and movement boosts like Charge or Leap are exceptionally useful to help minimize the damage from abilities that take up a big portion of the floor. Sometimes I chain a Charge and a push of Evade while trying to kite a boss that chases you and does a big melee strike or a Charge of their own — bosses that do this kind of thing often take off a big hunk of your health.

But your defensive abilities play a big part in helping you survive. Some are passive skills that simply buff your survivability in various ways, while others are more active and affect things like maximum Health, self-healing, or Thorns damage. After all, if everything hitting you takes damage for doing it, they’ll die faster. Here are key abilities to consider if you’re having trouble keeping your Barbarian alive:

  •  Challenging Shout  gives you a solid 40% Damage Reduction for 6 seconds.
    • Strategic Challenging Shout give you half of your max life as Thorns every time you use it.
  • Combat Flay gives you 3% Damage Reduction and Thorns every time it deals direct damage and it stacks 4 times, for a total of 12% DR.
  • Aggressive Resistance is a passive skill that grants 3% Damage Reduction while Berserking. It stacks up to three times for 9% total.
  • Pit Fighter grants 2% Damage Reduction against enemies attacking you from a distance, stacking 3 times for 6% total.
  • Imposing Presence grants 5% Maximum Life and stacks 3 times for 15% total.
    • Martial Vigor requires a level in Imposing Presence to unlock, granting 3% additional DR against Elites and stacks 3 times for 9% total.

I have a spec I’ve been running for World Tier 3 with a lot of talents aimed at reducing damage from Bosses and Elite mobs. This may not be the build I use forever, though, as the game will keep developing as I build Paragon points and collect new Legendaries.

A Barbarian survival checklist

It’s worth trying to create certain habits when playing D4 on your Barbarian. You’ll want some things to be second nature, so you don’t have to waste precious seconds of reaction time remembering to do them.

  • Be familiar with your Evade button (space bar on PC, if on console it will be mapped to a controller) and comfortable knowing when to use it.
  • When you pick a Defensive Skill, use it. (Seriously, don’t forget about that skill, whatever it is. I am not saying I often forget to hit Challenging Shout, but I’m not not saying it either.)
  • Health Potions are there to be used. Don’t let their scarcity convince you not to.
  • Mobility is very important. In addition to Evade, you will at times want to simply run out of a ground effect or kite an enemy until one of your abilities is off cooldown.
  • At lower levels, certain skill choices prioritizing self heal or damage absorb abilities over Fortify may well be better for survival. Fortify works well as a synergy with other abilities, but it doesn’t actually prevent damage or heal you and at lower levels those may serve you better.
  • Your Ultimate attack should also be used. When a fight starts getting hairy, hit that button, because dead demons can’t hit you.
  • If you have a Brawling skill like Leap or Charge, remember to use it to escape things if Evade is on cooldown. Yes, these are often skills you use offensively, but if it can be used to escape death, use it to do that.

So there you have it. Pick skills that give you ways to reduce or mitigate damage, don’t forget to use them, and keep your eyes peeled for the proper moment to get out of the way of incoming big damage, and you won’t die — at least, you won’t die as much — while playing your Barbarian in Diablo 4.

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