Grimborn's 1.10 Frenzy Barb Guide
A Frenzy barbarian is one of the most difficult characters to design, and one of the most fun to play. Steering him through the game requires proficiency in both melee and casting techniques, executed at a pace faster than for virtually any other character.
If you want a cookie cutter build that will dominate throughout the game, a Frenzy barb is not for you. If you want a character that will shine with any old equipment, in solo and party play, and without much knowledge of game mechanics, then you won't enjoy a Frenzy barbarian.
But if you thrive on life in the fast lane, if you want to stare Death in the face when there's no room for error, and if you're willing to set your skills against the toughest challenges in the game, then you're ready to strap on a Frenzy barb.
I. Frenzy Basics
Frenzy is a level 24 skill on the right side of the Combat tree. Frenzy works only when your barb is dual wielding, and will attack with any combination of weapons a barb can simultaneously equip.
Frenzy amplifies a weapon's physical damage, increases attack rating and attack speed, and dramatically adds to run/walk speed. It is triggered by attack hits and is the only barb skill that charges up, much the way a druid's Feral Rage or an assassin's Tiger Strike charge up. (Only the speed bonuses of Frenzy need to charge; the damage and AR bonuses are full from the first swing.)
A single Frenzy attack consists of two swings: One with each weapon. My testing of how many hits are needed to reach maximum speed led to inconclusive results, but generally four Frenzy rounds that hit at least once always fully charge the Frenzy skill.
Once charged up, Frenzy is on a 6 second timer which resets upon every additional hit so long as the timer has not expired. The 6 second duration is unaffected by graduation to Nightmare and Hell.
The timer is also unaffected by changing to a different Combat skill. Once Frenzy is charge up you get the benefit of Frenzy's faster run/walk for the entire 6-seconds regardless of whatever skills you use. You likewise get carryover of Frenzy's IAS to other attacks while the timer lasts (although the IAS bonus does not carry over to Whirlwind because Whirlwind does not benefit from off-weapon IAS). And if you switch back to Frenzy and score a hit before the timer expires, it resets to a fresh 6 seconds. However, Frenzy's damage and AR bonuses don't carry over to any non-Frenzy attacks.
Level 1 Frenzy gives a 90% physical damage bonus, 100% AR bonus, 7% IAS and 47% faster run/walk speed. Each additional skill point adds 5% to the damage bonus, 7% AR, more IAS and more frw.
Counting Combat Mastery, Frenzy has 4 synergy skills: Mastery, Taunt, Double Swing and Berserk.
The first point in your weapon's Mastery gives a 25% bonus to physical damage, 28% bonus to AR, and a 3% chance for Critical Strike. Each additional skill point adds 5% to the damage bonus, 8% to AR and diminishing additional chances for Critical Strike. The full table is here.
The synergy effect of Taunt gives an 8% bonus to physical damage for each skill point invested. Points in Double Swing give exactly the same synergy bonus.
Each point invested in Berserk gives a synergy bonus that converts 1% of your physical damage in a Frenzy attack to magic damage. So if Berserk is max'd, every Frenzy hit converts 20% of the physical damage to magic damage. This is the only non-physical damage bonus from Frenzy synergies, and it can be useful in dealing with PI's and highly physical resistant monsters.
Getting the most out of your build requires an understanding of how each weapon contributes to speed and damage for each Frenzy attack. In a single Frenzy attack each weapon has an independent chance to hit, and each hit scores damage based on the individual weapon's characteristics (combined with modifiers from non-weapon gear). The damage characteristics of the second weapon (the one that doesn't score the hit) don't affect the hit's damage.
A different set of rules apply to the speed of each Frenzy attack. Attack speed is the result of three factors:
- The average base speed of both your weapons.
- The on-weapon IAS of just one of your weapons. (Any IAS on the other weapon gets ignored.)
- All off-weapon speed modifiers, like Frenzy at your skill level, Fanaticism and off-weapon IAS on other gear.
Because IAS on just one of your weapons applies to every Frenzy attack, it can be useful knowing which one the game counts and which weapon gets ignored. There has been a surprising amount of misunderstanding on this score, and it stems in large part from how the speed formula presents itself.
The Frenzy speed formula is here.
It describes a calculation that considers “right hand” weapon IAS, and ignores IAS on the “left hand” weapon. Naturally, people wonder whether the “right hand” weapon is the one equipped on the left or right side of the inventory screen. That's where the misunderstandings arise. Frequently the “right hand” weapon has nothing to do with which weapon is on which side of the inventory screen. The rules for which weapon counts as the “right hand” weapon are more complicated than that.
Whenever a barb equips two weapons the game considers one of them primary and the other one secondary. With each Frenzy attack the game treats the primary weapon differently from the secondary weapon in three important ways:
- The primary weapon always swings first.
- IAS on the primary weapon applies to the entire Frenzy attack, so both swings benefit from it. IAS on the secondary weapon doesn't count at all.
- When you switch from Frenzy to any 1-handed attack skill (like Berserk), the primary weapon is always the one you swing.
The game also treats the primary weapon differently in one additional, trivial way:
- The graphic for the primary weapon always appears in the Barb's right hand.
There are two different ways that the primary weapon is established, both of which you control. Under the first way, establishing the primary weapon has nothing to do with which weapon is on which side of the inventory screen. Under the second way, the primary weapon has everything to do with which weapon is on which side of the inventory screen. Confused? All will be made clear in a moment.
When you equip one or both of your dual-equipped weapons, the primary weapon is always whichever weapon was equipped first. The secondary weapon is the one equipped last. You can instantly change the primary weapon to the secondary weapon by un-equipping it for a moment and then re-equipping it in the same slot. This is the “equip” method of setting your primary weapon, and by this method it makes no difference which side of the inventory screen you equip each weapon to. The primary weapon is whichever one you equipped first.
The easiest way to test this for yourself is by taking a barb to Gheed in Normal and buying a dagger and a sword. Open the inventory screen and equip the dagger (it doesn't matter which side of the screen you use) and then the sword. The dagger was equipped first so it is now the primary weapon, and it appears in the Barb's right hand. Now un-equip the dagger for a second and drop it back in place. The dagger is now the weapon equipped last, so it is now the secondary weapon, and it's now in the Barb's left hand. Play around with equipping both weapons, on different sides of the screen and in different orders. You'll find that whichever weapon is equipped first is always in the Barb's right hand (it's the primary weapon), and whichever weapon is equipped last is always in the Barb's left hand (it's the secondary weapon).
The second method of setting your primary weapon is the “switch” method, and as soon as you use it (whether intentionally or not) it overrides whatever primary weapon was determined by the order you equipped your weapons. To execute the “switch” method you just switch to your backup weapons (whether or not you have anything equipped there) and then switch back to your dual-equipped weapons. When you switch back, the weapon that was equipped on the left side of the inventory screen is automatically set as your primary weapon, and it appears in your barb's right hand. In effect, switching off your dual weapons is like unequipping them, and switching back to them is like equipping them at the same instant. Since neither one was equipped “first,” the “equip” rule doesn't work to establish the primary weapon. So the game chooses the weapon in the left slot on the inventory screen to be the primary weapon, and displays it in your barb's right hand.
You can confirm this by playing around equipping and switching a dagger and sword in town.
To avoid confusion, think of your inventory screen as a face-to-face view of your character (left side = right hand). Equip the weapon you want to be primary to the left side of the screen AND make sure the other weapon was equipped last. The one you want as your primary weapon will then always be safely in your barb's right hand.
The mechanics of primary/secondary weapon selection make a huge difference to your Frenzy attack when one of your weapons has a lot more IAS on it than the other. Generally you will want the high IAS weapon as your primary weapon. But other factors come into play, especially when there is little or no difference in IAS adders on both weapons.
In deciding which weapon to make your primary one, here are the main factors to consider (in diminishing order of importance):
- If one weapon has more IAS than the other, make the one with more IAS your primary weapon (see discussion above).
- If you are going to rely a lot on a second attack (generally Berserk) and one weapon is much better than the other one for that attack, make the better one your primary Frenzy weapon.
- If one weapon is much more likely to score a Crushing Blow you want the better CB weapon as your primary one because it will always get the first swing. A CB-hit/non-CB-hit sequence nets a little more damage than the same hits in the reverse order.
- For the same reason, a chance to cast Static is a bit more valuable on the primary weapon than on the secondary weapon.
- Chance to cast other effects, particularly Amp, Glacial Spike and Dim Vision, are more valuable on the primary weapon because the earlier you trigger them the more useful they are.
In practice, I recommend paying careful attention to the first two of those factors and feeling free to ignore the rest.
For calculating equipment options and resulting attack speeds for Frenzy barbs I recommend the calculator here.
II. Designing Your Frenzy Build
Creating a Frenzy build is unlike designing any other character. There isn't any “best build.” In fact, a terrific build for one person could easily be unplayable for someone else.
Frenzy barbs face the same monsters as everyone else, but don't get the advantages of the other classes. Palys block. Sorcs and Zons deal standoff damage. Sassys hide. Necros stand behind minions.
Frenzy barbs can't do any of that. They have no shield. They have no viable ranged attack. Their only way to deal damage is in chin-to-chin melee.
Fortunately, the barbarian toolkit includes skills that handle every eventuality. Unfortunately for the Frenzy barb, he has nowhere near enough skill points to take advantage of more than a couple of those tools. So designing a Frenzy barb involves making tough choices about which challenges you will handle with skills, and which you will solve through other resources, tactics and strategies.
In approaching a Frenzy build it's useful briefly to summarize the major obstacles you have to overcome.
Once you arrive in Hell the monsters have huge hitpoints. To lay on the hurt you must be able to deal out serious smacky-face.
Since every lick of damage you dole out will be from inside melee range, you are going to get hit. A lot.
So you need defense. But except for its cousin Double Swing, Frenzy is the only melee attack automatically disqualified from use with a shield. So forget about using the normal source of blockage, resist-age, and the second biggest slot for DR-age.
Picture a flock of Flayers charging up to your shins with those fat little blades that turn Barbarian legs into sushi faster than a Benihana chef. Visualize Lister's Delinquents spawning in your lap as Fanatic, Cursed, Extra Fast amigos.
That would not be the ideal moment to start planning your crowd control abilities.
Frenzy deals all physical damage, all the time. When PI's are laughing at you because you can't dent their life bar, that's a problem.
You don't need much mana to keep your Frenzy engine going, but you always need some. Mana burners are generally just a nuisance. When they're also PI, they're a serious problem. When they're in the Wraith family they're a huge problem, since they're inherently MB/PI in hell, and have the endearing quality of stacking so they can all whack you at once.
This is your brain:
This is your brain on IM:
This is you right after a Frenzy while your brain is on IM:
Although designing a build isn't like ordering off a Chinese menu (“Pick one from Column A, one from Column B . . .”), it's useful to see in one place your main options in addressing each of those challenges.
- Skill points in Frenzy plus Mastery, Taunt and/or Double Swing: But that's as much as 83 points!
- High physical damage weapons.
- High percent Crushing Blow equipment.
- Critical strike.
- Deadly strike.
- Chance-to-cast Static equipment (Crescent Moon (7%), Stormlash (15%), or Schaefer's Hammer (20%)).
- Might or Blessed Aim merc.
- BO - imho the most potent skill in the game.
- Shout and Iron Skin.
- Elemental resists via equipment.
- Elemental resists via charms. FR and LR are crucial: LR for the Willowisp family; FR for FE's.
- Elemental resists via Natural Resists. An investment of two precious skill points (one for the prerequisite) get you 12% All Resistance, and 4 adder skill points take that to 40%.
- Physical Damage Resists (Shaftstop (30%), String of Ears (10-15%), Verdungo (10-15%), Vamp Gaze (15-20%), Rockstopper (10%), etc.).
- High DR equipment. Lots of options, from cheap to ultra expensive.
- Life leach gear.
- Defiance merc.
- Act 2 merc, especially with Holy Freeze, though Act 1 and Act 3 cold mercs are possibilities as well. (Equipping a Holy Freeze merc with Reaper's Toll at level 75 brings monsters to a virtual halt when Decrep triggers.)
- War Cry and Taunt, with Battle Cry, Howl and Grim Ward also available.
- Frenzy with Berserk synergy points (converting a fraction of physical damage to magic damage).
- Ctc amp damage (Atma's Chance (5%), Lacerator (33%)).
- Ctc Decrepify (Reaper's Toll (33%)).
- Double Swing (virtually mana free at slvl 3 and totally mana free at slvl 9).
- Crushing blow.
- Mana regen equipment.
- Mana leach.
- Insight polearm on an Act 2 merc (overkill in my view as far as your mana needs go, but it's an easy and very powerful runeword).
- Blue pots (dedicate a column of your belt to 'em. It's worth it!).
- Berserk (it converts 100% of your physical damage to magic damage, so IM has no effect on you).
- A lethal merc to kill for you (and for Act 2 or 5 mercs, lots of cash to revive them).
- Low damage CB setup (like 2 Crush Flanges, etc.). However, CB is affected by physical resists, and the entire OB Knight family has some physical resistance in Hell.
Yet even with too few skill points and without terrific gear, a variety of Frenzy builds remain viable. No matter what your weaknesses, you can always (outside Single Player) overcome them by teaming up with a party. <Insert shameless promotion of Basin games here. >
For Single Player, you can hide many weaknesses with advanced play skills. Indeed, one of the attractions of the Frenzy barb is that he takes skill to play, when so many other builds are all about uber gear and little else.
In a later section I'll cover playing techniques. For now, having outlined the main challenges your build will face and the options in tackling them, let's take a look at build parameters.
You can take your build in any of three different directions: Offense, Defense, or (for lack of a better term) Combat. The build you end up with depends on how much you emphasize or deemphasize those 3 poles.
I think of the options available to you as a triangle, with the most extreme builds at the perimeter.
The red dots represent builds that are so extreme they are super-strong at what they emphasize, but are virtually unplayable because of weakness in what they deemphasize. (Actually, you could play even the most extreme builds as a party character, since the rest of the party would compensate for your build's shortcomings.)
Here is my vision of what those 3 “extreme” builds look like in a lvl 91 character. (Only invested skill points are shown; all adder points from equipment and charms would be on top of these):
Skill_____________Offense_____Defense_____Combat Howl______________1___________1___________10 Taunt_____________20__________20__________20 Battle Cry____________________1___________1 War Cry___________________________________20 Shout_________________________20__________1 Battle Orders_________________20__________1 Battle Com'd__________________1___________1 Mastery___________20__________1___________20 Iron Skin_____________________9___________1 Nat Resists___________________6___________4 Bash______________1___________1___________1 Double Swing______20__________1___________1 Double Throw______1___________1___________1 Frenzy____________20__________20__________20 Stun______________1_______________________ Concentration_____1_______________________ Berserk___________17______________________
Designing the build you want involves compromising on the strengths of one extreme to improve on its weaknesses. Here are the major factors to consider.
1. Party vs. solo play. If you're going to run with a pack then you can do almost anything you want. If you invest points in BO your party mates will love you all along the way.
But if you play a lot on your own you've got to make some compromises and create a well rounded character. An all-offense Frenzy barb can kill quickly, but will die before beating a lot of inevitable encounters. A defensive barb is durable, but can't kill very well on his own.
2. Equipment. No matter how you allocate your skill points you'll have some glaring weaknesses. Good equipment goes a long way toward overcoming them. I talk about specific equipment options later, but for now just ask yourself how “uber” will be what you have access to. Super-good equipment lets you move toward some of the more extreme builds. Moderately good gear keeps you more in the middle of the triangle. (Lousy gear means you either play in a party or you don't plan on getting very far into Hell.)
3. Skill. Success in LoD is now heavily weighted toward itamz. Knowledge of character skills, game mechanics, and monster characteristics is probably the second biggest factor to how well a build plays. Actual gaming skill doesn't often count for much. Playing a Frenzy barb is an exception, which is one reason I like playing them. The more skilled you are, the more extreme a build you can get away with.
All in all, you'll want to make decisions on where, within the build's triangle, you want to be. Offensive-oriented builds go for huge killing power. Defensive builds excel at tanking. Combat builds emphasize crowd control.
Decide what you want to emphasize and chart your build. Just below are three actual builds I've played and find quite viable. (To make the builds easy to compare I take them all to level 91, though my actual barbs all finished Hell in their 80's.) I plot them within the build triangle where you see the green dots:
Here are the builds (only invested skill points are shown; I leave out all adder points):
Skill_____________Offense_____Defense_____Combat Howl______________1___________1___________1 Taunt_____________17__________20__________17 Battle Cry____________________1___________1 War Cry___________________________________20 Shout_____________1___________20__________1 Battle Orders_____15__________20__________12 Battle Com'd______1___________1___________1 Mastery___________20__________8___________20 Iron Skin_________1___________1___________1 Nat Resists_______1___________3___________1 Leap__________________________1___________1 Bash______________1___________1___________1 Double Swing______20__________1___________1 Double Throw______1___________1___________1 Frenzy____________20__________20__________20 Stun______________1___________1___________1 Concentration_____1___________1___________1 Berserk___________1___________1___________1
Character Point Allocation
Energy. This is easy: None.
Strength. Only enough to equip your end gear. If you don't know what it will be, devote only enough for your current gear.
Dexterity. Same as with STR, though DEX is harder to manage because DEX requirements of weapons can vary wildly. Most builds benefit from extra DEX by better block percentage. You don’t. Except for daggers and throwing weapons (which a Frenzy barb doesn’t use), you get no damage increase from DEX. You get 5 AR per DEX point, but by the time you get to mid-Hell you’ll probably regret having invested any DEX beyond what your equipment requires.
Especially if you’re hardcore, starve your character of excess DEX. It’s tough because from mid-Nightmare onward you’ll wish your AR was higher. But there are better AR solutions (like Battle Cry and AR charms) than throwing away character points. (Softcore players and anyone willing to end their build in Nightmare can ignore this and invest in DEX as they see fit.)
Vitality. Everything else goes here.
Leap. With no prerequisites, 1 point in leap is a worthy investment. It will get you out of many a swarm, especially if you're not building War Cry. It also does knockback to all monsters. Even with the small radius of a single point (more with adders), the knockback effect gives some crowd control to you and your merc when you're surrounded by baddies.
Leap Attack. Same advantages as Leap, covering a lot more ground but lacking knockback. Leap is a prerequisite, and you need skill points more than jumping range.
Berserk. It's extremely useful since it deals magic damage, but points-wise it's extremely expensive. You spend 4 skill points to get 1 point in Berserk. Bash is the first prerequisite for both Frenzy and Berserk, so there's no loss getting it. But the other two Berserk prerequisites (Stun and Concentrate) aren't on the Frenzy side of the tree, so they're useless except to reach Berserk. Frenzy's 6 second speed bonus carries over to Berserk, making it even better as a solution to PIs. It also gives you something to do in the Chaos Sanctuary and anywhere else OB Knights are found.
Howl. The first prerequisite to BO. Any more points would only be found on a very Combat-oriented build.
Shout. The second prerequisite to BO. This skill is central to Defense. Max'd Shout, high DR gear and a Defiance merc will have monsters whiffing at you most of the time.
Taunt. A synergy skill to Frenzy, making it worthwhile for that reason alone. Taunt gets ranged monsters to stop firing and sashay right up to melee range, and it reduces an attacker’s physical damage and AR. It gets revivers like Shamans to stop reviving. It stacks with War Cry, too. It won’t auto-target multiple enemies, so if you and a monster stay in place, multiple taunts will just overwrite one another on the same monster rather than Taunting new targets. But you can manually target different enemies, and you can even do it while staying in right-button mode by just hovering your mouse over enemies you target while Taunt is selected by hotkey. If you’re willing to target your Taunts either of those ways, it’s a great skill. However, it has no effect against OB Knights.
Battle Cry. Reduces enemy defense and damage. A single point (plus adders) does wonders for your to-hit percentage. It stacks with War Cry and is especially useful against bosses, which aren’t affected by War Cry.
War Cry. Stun enemies in melee range, Frenzy them, stun them, rinse and repeat until you're all that's standing. If you're willing to divert the skill points, it's a great skill. It also stacks with Battle Cry (so you hit them more often while they're stunned), Taunt (sucking enemies to you) and Amp (if you have a way to cast it).
Battle Command. Unless you're skipping BO, one point here is a no-brainer.
Iron Skin. One point never hurts for the extra DR. More important, it's a prerequisite to Natural Resists.
Natural Resists. You'll almost certainly want at least one point.
Increased Stamina & Increased Speed. Some players spend two points to score some Increased Speed, but I suggest you shouldn’t even think about it. When you build Frenzy you’ll be looking to rein in your r/w speed, not ramp it up further. You’ll get more benefit using those points somewhere else.
Find Potion & Find Item. Puh-leeeze. If you want to find stuff, make a sorc.
Grim Ward. This is a cool skill, but not practical for a Frenzy barb. You don't have 3 skill points to waste to reach it, you won't always have a disposable corpse when you need it, and Howl casts the Terror effect more reliably so long as you're not playing in an area much beyond your current level.
You are going to wield axes, maces or swords. To get the most out of your mastery skill points you want both weapons to be from the same class.
Plan your build around your end-game gear. If you don't have any and can't reliably predict what you'll end up with, don't worry about it. Postpone investing points in Mastery and see what comes your way.
But if you have some control over the gear you'll use, your best options hinge first on whether you can get runes for the insanely powerful 1.10 ladder runewords. If you can get items with Beast, BotD, CtA, Doom, Eternity, Famine, HoJ, Destruction, Last Wish or Phoenix, then you don't need a guide to tell you what to equip, nor what weapon class to use. Those runewords are so strong it's hard to go wrong with them (though you have to get your barb well into the 60's to equip them using the elite weapons they deserve).
If you're like the rest of us and those runewords are out of reach then the general calculus is:
- 1. Axes are generally best because their STR/DEX requirements are low and speed/damage are generally high. Oath (Shael + Pul + Mal + Lum) in an ethereal weapon is terrific and is available to all 3 weapon classes, but a 4-socket ethereal ax is easier to find, create and equip (**cough** Small Crescent **cough**) than any 4-socket mace (Legendary Hammers are too slow) or Sword (a Conquest or Cryptic sword would work well, but then you'd want to commit to a sword for the second slot as well). Death (Hel + El + Vex + Ort + Gul) is tailor made for a Frenzy barb, and is available on axes (**cough** ethereal Ettin Ax **cough**). It isn't available on maces at all, and is hard to create on a sword (only possible on a Phase Blade with 5 of 6 sockets (high STR/DEX), Colossus Sword and Colossus Blade (huge STR/high DEX)).
- 2. Maces are generally the second best class. They have very low STR/DEX requirements (more VIT!), good speed, and decent damage. There are also more usable unique maces for a Frenzy barb than axes or swords.
- 3. Swords are generally the least useful weapons for Frenzy barbs, simply because their STR/DEX requirements are so high. If you're willing to divert the points they require, though, elite unique swords have a much greater array of tasty mods than do axes or maces. Dual swords also look wicked cool. And in the case of two particular exceptional unique swords, for the price of an upgrade (Lum + Pul + perfect emerald, ladder only) they become every bit as “uber” as the most expensive 1.10 runewords.
Crushing Blow, Critical Strike and Deadly Strike
A typical Frenzy build generates around 4 swings per second. With such a high rate of attacks (and, hopefully, hits), CB, CS and DS each bring the potential for greatly augmented killing power. An understanding of how and when they work helps you decide what equipment best suits your needs.
1. Priority and stacking of CB, CS & DS
When a swing scores a hit, the game checks first to see if it is a crushing blow. A successful CB has no effect on whether the same hit is a critical strike or deadly strike. In other words, CB stacks with either DS or CS on the same hit.
After checking for CB the game next checks for Critical Strike. If the hit registers as CS, the game does NOT check for Deadly Strike. But if the CS check fails, the game goes ahead and checks for a deadly strike. So CS and DS can never both be on the same hit.
2. Calculating likelihood of CB, CS & DS
The chance of any hit being CB equals the sum of all CB percentages on all equipped gear (except any CB on the weapon not making the hit doesn’t count toward the chance for a crushing blow). So if your character is equipped with Guillame’s Face (35%), a Crushflange in one hand (33%), a Death ax in the other (50%), and Duress armor (15%), the game makes a single check for CB at the rate of either 83% or 100%, depending on which weapon scored the hit. Any CB percentage in excess of 100% is wasted, since you can only get one crushing blow per hit.
Calculation of the likelihood for a successful critical strike works as with CB: The game makes a single check based on the sum of the percentage chances of CS available to your character. Because CS is not available on equipment, on a Frenzy barb it comes only from your Mastery skill points. If the CS check fails, the game proceeds with a check for a deadly strike, which is likewise calculated using the sum of all DS percentages available to your character, including all gear except any DS percentage on your non-hitting weapon.
3. Damage calculation
The game calculates Crushing Blow damage before applying the normal damage of a hit. Technically, CB doesn't do any damage, but rather causes life reduction to the target. After the CB effect is applied, the game applies the normal damage of the hit (including CS or DS if the hit is either critical or deadly).
In a 1-person game against a normal monster with no physical resistance, a melee CB hit reduces the monster's current life by 25%. Hits by a missile weapon cause only half the CB effect of a melee CB hit.
CB hits against bosses and champs do only half the life reduction that they would against a normal monster. So a melee blow against a Champ with no physical resists removes 1/8th of his life before the normal damage of the blow is applied.
CB effectiveness is further reduced by physical resistance. Although negative physical resistance doesn't increase your CB damage, positive resistance reduces it. CB has no effect on PI's.
CB effectiveness is further constrained by the fact that it does not scale up with additional players in the game. So while monster hit points scale up with more players, a CB hit removes only the same number of hit points as if it scored in a 1-player game. This makes CB much less effective in multiplayer games.
Critical Strike adds 100% to the total physical damage in a hit. Because the CS multiplier applies after all other physical damage modifiers (weapon ED, DEX/STR bonuses, etc.), it can be enormously powerful.
CS does NOT apply to CB damage where CB and CS apply to the same hit because CB is not physical damage.
If a Critical Strike occurs on a Berserk hit, the CS multiplier is calculated just before all physical damage (including the CS 100% increase) is converted to magic damage. So CS doubles the magic damage in a Berserk attack hit.
DS damage is calculated the same way as with CS, and adds 100% to total physical damage just as does CS. But remember: DS can never apply to a critical strike.
III. Play Techniques
As a Frenzy barb you are living on the edge, where your playing skills can shine or stink. Getting the chance to shine is why I like this character build.
Let's go straight to post-graduate technique. In a battle, you will not be clicking your mouse. That's right! You are going to be a dashing/slashing/shouting/melee blur, all without clicking your mouse. Get ready for the wonders of Frenzy on your right mouse button.
When you load Frenzy on your righthand button and hold it down, Frenzy auto-targets on nearby enemies. You guide your barb by moving the mouse, not by clicking. So long as you don't highlight-click a target you will auto-target for as long as you keep holding down that right mouse button and have your barb in melee range of a target. You can start using the technique with Double Swing at level 6, and from then on you become a Frenzy Weed Whacker, damaging everyone in range as you swing the barb around by moving the mouse.
But that's just the beginning of the Zen of Right Button Play. When you need to yell out a war cry you still don't click. While keeping the right button down you just hit the hotkey for the skill you want and the barb yells it without missing a beat. Hit the Frenzy hotkey and you're back into Frenzy Weed Whacker mode faster that you could ever do with a left mouse attack. So in the middle of a mob you can Frenzy/War Cry/Taunt/Taunt/War Cry/Frenzy without an instant's hesitation, just by rotating through your hotkeys with your left hand while holding the right mouse button down with your right.
As if that's not enough, Frenzy is an un-interruptible attack, so even when you're hit it doesn't break off the blizzard of blows you're inflicting. (Your targeting can get interrupted, though, if your merc or someone else knocks back an enemy you're engaged with.)
If you need to disengage, no problemo. Push the mouse where you want to go, hotkey to Leap, and you're out. Change hotkeys in mid-air and you'll execute the new skill as soon as your toes hit the ground. Or you can disengage by switching to any attack skill on your left mouse button. Or just let up the right mouse button and left click on a target or left click away from the action.
“That sounds too easy,” you are thinking. And you're right. This is post-graduate technique because the undergrads get washed out of the class. The entire time you hold the right mouse button down you're denied the monster information you get from hovering or click-locking on an enemy. You can't see his life bar, so you don't know how low he's getting. You can't see his immunities (which is kind of important when he's a physical immune). You can't see his mods (if he's a boss), nor whether he's a minion or a Champ. So you can't tell if you're standing next to an FE boss whose death explosion will kill you.
But that's for lesser players to fret over. If you're steeped in the nuances of the game (which you obviously are, since you're playing a Frenzy barb!), you recognize the graphics of bosses and champs and know to hover over bosses to check their mods and react accordingly.
If you haven't memorized monster immunities, hover the cursor before engaging. When you see a boss pack, hover and look at the mods. If you're not sure whether a boss is in the pack, try howl (if you have it): Normal and minion monsters will run in Terror (if they're not much higher in level from you), but bosses won't be affected.
Another shortcoming of right-button play is that you can't execute a weapon switch. The switch executes only when an attack is over, which for Frenzy means after both swings in an attack. As long as you're holding the right button down in Frenzy melee, you can't reliably execute a weapon switch after one Frenzy attack ends and before the next one begins. So you can forget about switching to backup Echoing swords for a few war cries in the midst of melee. You wouldn't generally want to take the time for it, anyway, at the pace you'll be playing.
Decide whether to load secondary attack skills (typically DS and Berserk) on your right mouse button. The advantage is switching to them via hotkey without interrupting your auto-targeting. But that can be a disadvantage as well, since you may want to go to manual targeting (or break off entirely) when something forces you off the Frenzy skill. The choice depends more on how active a style of play you prefer. Loading secondary attack skills on the left mouse button means much more active right hand work in melee, and somewhat less left hand hotkeying.
As your barb hits his peak (in his 40s and 50s), this play style will seem unstoppable. Don't grow over confident, or you'll get spanked in late Nightmare and throughout Hell. Right-button play at higher levels requires the same control as advanced Whirlwind does: Keep your barb in small, tight patterns; work the edges of packs; keep a safe exit zone available.
You also need to combine your melee with your merc's. Even with max'd BO neither one of you can survive alone against the full-tilt clobbering of a large, potent mob. A great habit to develop is fighting at your merc's shoulder. The closer you stick to him the less damage each of you take. If you're fighting beside one another, you're each taking just half the blows you would otherwise receive, and are knocking down enemies much faster than by fighting apart.
Use your mouse to engage a new pack of monsters simultaneous with your merc. Advance ahead with your barb to attract an upcoming pack. Then as your merc is walking up to you (and the pack), run back behind him, circle around again, and advance right along with him to meet the pack together.
Use standard melee/WC/melee to stun enemies in melee range of both of you. If you don't have WC, hotkey a series of hippy-hop Leaps right around your merc: The knockback will give you both a bit of time and breathing space (though it's a meager substitute for War Cry).
Above all, keep your merc alive. Unless you're in a party, he's the only friend you've got. I keep two belt columns for fat purple potions and Shift-hotkey them for my merc when he gets low.
Starting in Nightmare, begin using walls and halls to position yourself. When you and your merc have a wall at your back, you cut down the number of hits you can take by 50%. When you're behind a doorway or other choke point, it's more like 80%. Even in open terrain you improve your odds by fighting next to an obstruction. In Hell those techniques keep you and your merc alive. Use them in Nightmare so they will be second nature by the time you really need them.
Be conscious of the spaces you pass through. When you clear a small area that space becomes an asset. In solo melee you and your merc will retreat a lot: It's the quickest way to control the merc's AI and it spreads the opponents out so they're easier to kill. Sometimes, though, your best option is to sprint through an area and leave particularly nasty foes behind. You want to be sure to stay well away from them as you clear a safe patch beyond so they don't climb up your back.
Another skill worth developing is managing run/walk speed. With Frenzy fully charged, running may have your character careening wildly around the screen like a cue ball in a game of 3-cushion billiards. Stripping off frw gear doesn't hurt, but won't make much difference. The easiest solution is to set your character to Walk. Once charged by high level Frenzy, walking speed is easy to control, plenty fast for melee, and even fast enough to get from one area to another. Walking also gives you the full benefit of your DR, which goes to zero the instant you start running.
The trouble with walking, though, becomes obvious the moment Frenzy expires. Your barb's movement drops to a crawl. Either you put up with glacial transit to the next fight or you give up on walking.
With practice you can learn to control your barb's movements in Run mode even at full Frenzy. But you've got to have the discipline of precise, fractional mouse movements.
Instead of leaving your character set on either Walk or Run, you can toggle between the two. While in melee, walk. While transiting between areas and fights, run. It's more of a chore than it sounds, but decide for yourself whether it's worthwhile to maximize both the benefits of DR and the warp speeds of Frenzy running.
Party play requires different techniques than solo play. Generally your character is most valued as a BO-belching tank. Stick to what the others need, keep a watch out for characters that are lagging or getting into trouble, and you'll be a hero.
Equally important, avoid “bad” party play. A sorc can quickly earn a bad reputation by teleporting away from the group, awakening a ton of unexpectedly tough monsters, scurrying back to the party and drawing all those monsters with her. A poorly played Frenzy barb can commit exactly the same sin. Your super speed lets you zip ahead of the pack, but you're not a good scout and aren't built to become one.
A lot of other players have never seen a Frenzy barb and aren't used to his speed. If you're not adept at controlling his movements you'll drive them nuts. Walk more than normal, keep your movements tight and controlled, and transit areas with the left-click/pause technique every other character uses rather than the screaming-fast right-button running-on-Frenzy technique.
Choosing backup weapons is largely an equipment issue, but can also involve technique. Generally I go with dual Echoing weapons: +6 to BO, Shout and Battle Command is huge. But you can equip a big 2-hander for Berserking PI's, taking advantage of the carryover IAS bonus from Frenzy. More exotic backup weapons are also possible, but executing weapon switches smoothly while using Frenzy is no easy feat.
Because Frenzy builds vary dramatically, equipment options are endless. A guide can't begin to discuss them all. So I'll limit myself to naming some generally useful items, particularly items that are easily overlooked. For convenience I'll try to identify at least one “Best Value” item (typically easy to acquire), a “General Favorite” among Frenzy players, and a “Novelty” item for a change of pace. For the most part I'll skip the super-rare and super-expensive options.
Best Value: Coldsteel Eye and Headstriker. These aren't expensive but they're not entirely cheap either, particularly because you REALLY want them to upgrade at levels 52 (for Coldsteel) and 65 (for Headstriker). As exceptional uniques they easily carry you through Nightmare. As upgrades to elites they are just about equal to super-expensive runewords like Beast or Breath of the Dying. With its Deadly Strike taken into account, an upgraded Coldsteel does well in excess of 300% ED, is very fast, and has 30% Slows Target. An upgraded Headstriker keeps getting better every level you advance, and with its Deadly Strike and increase to max damage it does 400% ED +/-.
General favorite: The biggest, fastest weapons available.
Other options: Notables for low levels are Crushflange (33% CB), and General Tan's. For mid levels, Bloodletter, Sureshrill, Fleshrender, Black runeword (goes great in a Tyrant Club), Honor rune word (goes well in a Twin Axe), Butcher's Pupil, Aldur's Rhythm, Earthshaker, Baezil's. For high levels, Oath and Death are both well suited to Frenzy barbs, are both extremely good in ethereal weapons, and are somewhat more accessible than the super-high runewords. Rune Master, Death Cleaver, Nord's, Demon Limb, Baranar's, Stormlash, and high damage rare elites are all serviceable in Hell.
Novelty choice: Dual Lightsabres. Gloams won't ever be a problem again.
Best value: Dual echoing weapons (+3 Warcries). I have good luck shopping for them with a high level character in the Rogues Camp in Nightmare.
General favorite: Dual echoing weapons.
Other options: A big 2-handed weapon for Berserk attacking while still on the Frenzy 6-second clock.
Novelty choice: A Lacerator as the primary backup (33% chance to cast level 3 amp) with an echoing weapon in the other slot. However, equipping the Lacerator requires 122 DEX, so it's unthinkable unless you're using high DEX primary weapons.
Best value: Arreat's Face. Expensive, but by far the best possible helm.
General favorite: Arreat's.
Other options: Rare or magic barb helms. Look for plus Barbarian Skills, which are much more useful to Frenzy barbs than plus skills to a single tree. Resists and leach are desirable. Sazabi's, Rockstopper, Stealskull and Vamp are worthy choices. Guillaume's Face (15% DS and 35% CB) is a contender as well.
Best value: Eye of Etlich.
General favorite: Highlord's.
Other options: Any +2 barb skills ammy. Because Frenzy barbs rely so heavily on skill points and get a big lift from crucial skills in all three trees (at a minimum, Frenzy and Berserk, BO and usually WC, Mastery and Natural Resists), a plus to all skills is more valuable to this build than virtually any other. Atma's is useful as a PI solution.
Novelty choice: A magic ammy with Teleport charges.
Best value: Bloodfist.
General Favorite: Dracul's. The 5% ctc Life Tap sets these gloves apart, and make a big difference to your barb's (and your merc's) ability to stand and wail away against normal monsters in Hell.
Other options: Blood crafted gloves, Magnus’ Skin, Sander’s Taboo, Laying of Hands, Lava Gout, Venom Grip.
Novelty Choice: Steelrend (10% CB).
Best value: Smoke.
General Favorite: Shaftstop (great for upgrade in Hell, too).
Other options: Duriel's, Skin of Vipermagi, Naj's Hellforge Plate, Arkaine's, Lionheart, Prudence, Gloom, Duress and Stone runeword armors.
Novelty choice: Blue Tyrael's Might. It's nowhere near as good as it is rare, but the “Slain Monsters” mod is fun against revives, and the armor looks incredibly cool.
Best value: Cathan's Seal.
General Favorite: Bul Kathos.
Other options: Rare and Blood crafted rings.
Novelty choice: Wisp Projector. The extra boost from Oak Sage is great, though it dies quite a lot during melee.
Best value: Nightsmoke.
General Favorite: Verdungo's, though String of Ears is better for this build and cheaper to boot.
Other options: Credendum, Immortal King's Detail, Wilhelm's Pride.
Novelty Choice: Arachnid.
Best value: Hotspur boots. A level 5 item, these are end game gear because of their +15 to max Fire Resistance, which is great against one of the biggest threats to Frenzy barbs: FE explosions. Their 45% Fire Resists are gravy.
General Favorite: Gore Riders.
Other options: Tearhaunch, rare and crafted boots are all likely to fill holes in your build.
Novelty Choice: Marrowwalks. As they say in the ad, “Reviving your merc . . . 50,000 gold. Unsocketing an item . . . 1 Hel. The look on Lister's face when you cut him off from his minions with a level 33 bone prison . . . priceless.”
Some players go with 4 Immortal King items (armor, belt, gloves and boots, sometimes also with the maul for backup weapon for use with Berserk). Together those items offer some big bonuses and mods, but you're then committed for those four slots.
With a well thought out build, good equipment and great technique you’ll have nothing but fun playing a Frenzy barb.
Good luck, and good hunting.
Grimborn, Feb. 2005. Reprinted with permission from this thread.