D2:Builds:Barbarian:Ultimate WW Barb
So after finally making my very first WW barb in all the years of playing D2, here's the result. Surprisingly, he's far more effective than I was expecting, as well as being far more fun to play than I had anticipated as well. Granted, the gear certainly helps, but even with lesser, cheaper gear, I'd imagine he'd be reasonably effective, at least enough to be useful in large Hell games.
This build focuses on trying to maximize damage as well as applying it as fast and in as large an area as possible. This theoretically should overcome any side deficiencies you may feel exists with the lower health and DEX/DEF/AR that the stat point allocation may indicate. This build is also fairly heavily gear dependant, so I'd only recommend taking this route if you're fairly well off, as sub par gear will dramatically impact his effectiveness (and to some degree his survivability).
- STR: Everything you can
- DEX: 100
- VIT: 100-150
- Energy: Nothing
I decided to take a min/max approach to the build, as really, it's only if you do so, that the build becomes truly effective. If you opt to take a more marginal or balanced approach, he'll still be survivable and capable, but he'll simply be less effective for a little safety that you generally won't/shouldn't need.
Strength is your primary stat with this build. For every point you drop into STR, with the end game gear listed below, you'll increase your damage significantly (exact numbers will vary based on gear and levels). Just don't neglect point placement in other stats early on.
Dexterity is brought up to 100 solely to be able to equip gear. You'll be using a 2 handed weapon, so block is completely irrelevant, as well as bringing AR to a reasonable level with the aid of gear.
Vitality, unlike many other barb builds (even other WW builds) is raised only to 100-150 (100 is the absolute minimum IMO). This may seem rather low (and it is), but will ultimately be adequate for our needs. Feel free to raise it if you feel it's simply too low, but honestly, if you're having health issues with 150 VIT, you're either doing something wrong, or your gear just sucks ;)
Energy is irrelevant for this build (not to mention you get only 1 Mana per point dropped into Energy) and like pretty much every Barb build, should be left at base. You'll be gaining all the mana you need from gear/charms.
- 20 Whirlwind
- 20 Polearm Mastery
- 20 Shout
- 20 BO
- 1 Battle Cry
- 1 Berserk
- 1 All Mastery skills excepting individual masteries
- 1 Prerequisites
Fairly self explanatory, though you may be wondering about maxing Shout (though I'd think it's fairly obvious). Shout grants a significant defensive boost, which when considering the gear you'll be wearing, will be non trivial (def of around 18k with Shout). Truthfully, there are very few skills you will even need to drop points into, and by 82+ you'll be wondering where to spend the remaining points, so there's really no downside to maxing Shout.
Once you do place all your skill points, place all remaining skill points into Iron Skin. No other skills will grant you any reasonable improvement over Iron Skin (per point) with your +skills total.
Lastly, I doubt I need to explain this, but the single point in Berserk is there to handle those pesky physical immunes. Even at a single skill point, you'll be doing some massive one shot damage. You won't receive any leech from it due to the magic damage conversion, but you can't have everything.
- Helm: Upped Arreats
- Armour: Fortitude
- Gloves: Steelrends
- Boots: Upped Goreriders
- Belt: Verdungos
- Amulet: Metalgrid
- Rings: Dual Ravenfrosts
- Weapon: eBotD Great Poleaxe
As I mentioned in the introduction, this build is fairly gear dependant, and some of it can be rather expensive (especially the merc gear). A cheaper version can be built based around this build, but really should have stat points reassessed to cover deficiencies (specifically with regards to DEX and VIT).
For the most part, don't settle for second best in base items, nor in the uniques listed above. For instance, be sure the Arreat's has at least 6% LL and an ED of 195+. The build banks on the items being of the higher end, but at the same time, don't be a nub and pay triple price for perfects (that's just retarded).
All the items should be fairly self explanatory, but just in case some of them seem like odd choices, here's a breakdown as to why.
Helm: For a WW barb, there simply is no other helm which can compare in usefulness. A CoA really doesn't give as much of a value add, and a Guillame's (while adding respectable CB, FHR, and Strength) simply doesn't add up in direct comparison. With the possible exception of an uber rare 'godly' circlet, there really is no other helm which gives as much value to the build as an Arreat's.
Armour: There are a few other possibilities here, but when compared to the massive damage boost offerred by a Fortitude, everything else simply falls short. There are a few armour types which add more utility and survivability, but in the long run, you simply won't need it.
Gloves: Again, aside from an extremely rare pair of Rare gloves, Steelrends really are your best choice here.
Boots: The boots are one of the few items which are somewhat interchangeable. Gores offer several useful mods and generally rounds out the build nicely considering it's core intent, but really won't make or break the build, so feel free to consider other options. At the same time, other options really aren't as useful in comparison, so Gores are more of a 'not having anything better' choice here.
Belt: Another item which simply lacks any other competitors for usefulness. With all the useful mods on a Dungo's there simply is no other belt which offers more value. You may be thinking an upped String of Ears could be more beneficial due to it's Life Leech, but considering you'll have a minimum of 18% LL and will be doing well into the +10k damage area, the small bonus a String provides, simply doesn't compare to a Dungos for the other mods it supplies. Further, don't even look at an Arach. If you're considering an Arach, you may as well wear a Goldwrap.
Amulet/Rings: These 3 items are rather critical to the stat point allocation. Without them, your AR will drop markedly, and will drop your effectiveness from exceptional to almost inconsequential. The base AR boost they provide in total is the bare minimum required to maintain a high chance to hit throughout hell, against everything including act bosses, which is critical to both survivability and killspeed. The endgame level and projected math indicate that these 3 items make you viable longterm, thus replacing even one of them will drop your effectiveness significantly. They are simply not optional. Further, for the Ravens themselves, don't settle for anything less than +225/20.
Lastly, the most critical part of the gear is the base weapon used for the BotD. Do not opt for an alternate base weapon type (like a Ghost Spear, or a Cryptic Axe). The Great Poleaxe is the optimal base weapon for this build for several reasons (and is arguably THE best weapon for a WW barb). Range 5 weapon, 0 base weapon speed (absolutely critical), and is among the highest average base damage weapons, all of which are critical to WW itself. Obviously, opting for a non eth version is also not an option, as the eth bonus applies to BASE damage which all other modifiers like enhanced damage will apply towards.
Unlike most other builds, this one uses a NM act2 Offensive merc (Might). Compared to any other merc, this is the only one which gives the largest benefit, especially when you add in his gear. Oddly enough, his gear will likely cost you more than your own.
 Merc Gear
- Helm: Andariel's
- Armour: CoH
- Weapon: Pride
Both the helm and Armour should be self explanatory as to why they're the best choices. The one oddity is the Pride. One of the lesser utilized runewords, the primary reason for it, is to add a Concentration aura. If you get lucky and roll a 20 on the aura, that will rise to 24 with the Andy's and CoH, raising your damage by another 400%. Along with the Might aura (assuming the merc's level is 85), will raise your damage by a further 320% and will rise as he gains levels.
As you can imagine, the merc is a rather critical element to the build, and one which will bring your damage up even higher than most Hammerdins. Expect to break upwards of 16k damage with the gear and merc listed above.
There are several aspects to WW that should be touched on that explain both the reasoning behind some of the gear selection, as well as gaining an understanding of how/why things work the way they do, which will hopefully in turn make your life easier as a WW barb.
 Frame Breaks
Unlike many other skills, WW is based on a fixed frame break that is only affected by the base weapon speed and the IAS on the weapon. All other IAS bonuses are disregarded in calculating how many frames WW takes.
Frames 1H 2H 7 0 0 6 -10 -30 5 -35 -60 To determine your IAS breakpoint, simply subtract weapon IAS from the base weapon speed
It also should be noted that whether you use a sword one handed or two handed, the breakpoint calculations are always based on one handed weapons.
As you can see, when selecting a base 2 handed weapon, you MUST select a weapon with at most a base weapon speed of 0. Anything higher than this will reduce your effectiveness by a full 20%. The only other weapon which compares to a Great Poleaxe is a Ghost Spear, however, with a minimum DEX requirement of 163, this in itself negates it's possibility as a reasonable alternate.
As you may know, Hell (and to a lesser extent Nightmare) receives a penalty to the effectiveness of leech. Both life leech and mana leech are reduced to 33%, so if you were receiving 6% life leech in normal, in Hell, you would only be receiving 2% life leech. Obviously, this can have a dramatic impact in how survivable you are if your leech levels are minimal. In the case of the WW barb listed above, this should pose little problem, since at a minimum you'll have 18% life leech which translates to 6% in Hell. While that may seem low, 6% of a minimum of 6k damage is not insignificant and will fill your life orb in under a second. At the upper end of damage, you'll likely be filling your life orb in 2 hits. Suffice to say that leech will not be a problem excepting extreme cases (such as somehow getting one shotted, or being struck by several massive hits simultaneously), in which case no amount of health nor leech will alter the outcome.
Mana leech can theoretically be a problem due to the fact that ALL your leech will be coming from a measly 7% on the BotD itself. This works out to just over 2% leech in Hell, but again, even such a small amount of leech will be significant when applied to 10k damage (over 200 mana per hit). The result is that unless you get tagged by mana burn JUST as you come out of a WW, you'll likely experience no problems with mana either.
 The Importance of Range
Something that many people fail to realize (especially all the WW barbs who use dual CBs or Zerks) is that range is a critical factor in making WW effective. As you would imagine, the lower the range, the less area you can effect, which has a direct impact on how much damage you can apply. While skill and experience in using WW will certainly play a factor here, in the end the basic logic of having a longer reach simply cannot be dismissed. You can certainly get by with a lower range weapon, but it's only with a range 5 weapon that you can maximize your effectiveness and in essence, for each range drop, you essentially reduce your effectiveness by 20%. Opting for a lower range weapon is simply not an option.
 The Zen of Whirlwind
For anyone who's never actually used the WW skill, there is some finesse involved and will require a little experience to maximize your effectiveness with it.
To begin with, there are two basic schools of application when it comes to WW. The first, is the simple and obvious 'line' application. Basically, you pick a spot past the target and simply click the WW action. You can't get much more simple than that.
The second method is sometimes referred to as the Dance of Death. Rather melodramatic name I know, but essentially what it describes is a non stop WW. Assuming you have WW on your right action, simply right click somewhere on screen (not on a monster), hold down the mouse button, and move your mouse where you want your WW to travel. Assuming you have sufficient mana (or can maintain your mana via leech), you can theoretically keep WWing forever.
At this point, I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Why would I ever use the line method when using the non-stop method would obviously let me keep fine control over the WW?"
An excellent question, and a very valid point. Generally speaking, you normally wouldn't do this, but there are however, a few reasons why you may wish to do so. One of the drawbacks of using a continual WW, is that you cannot drink potions, use any other skills/items, and even if you take enough damage to kill you outright, you will continue to WW until you stop. Obviously if you are in the middle of a WW, and you find yourself desperately in need of a potion, you'll need to wait until you come out of the WW before you can down said potion, which could lead to your demise. Obviously, a shorter fixed distance WW will allow reasonable breaks between WWs to allow you to assess and re-evaluate your tactical situation, whereas a non-stop WW will likely either mean you're perfectly fine, or dead, with no room for middle ground.
Further, by using a continual WW, you likely will not be able to gauge where your WW will stop once you disengage it. Normally, this isn't an issue, however, in the situation above where you are desperately in need of a potion, it wouldn't be too helpful if you suddenly came to a stop in the middle of a mob because you got tagged by mana burn. With the line method, you know where your final destination is going to be and can anticipate/react based on knowing where you will come out of the WW.
It's also important to understand that generally speaking, you don't usually want to go diving into a mob of monsters down the middle. Granted, in many cases you'll likely come out smelling like roses, but while this may be the case, it's also quite likely that you'll be killed doing so. This is where we are introduced to something called shaving or fringing. What this entails, is a continual WW along the edges or fringes of a mob, so that you are continually striking some monsters on the edge of the mob, while not being engulfed by the mob. Note that this will not always be possible, and that skill/experience will teach you how to prolong this action without being surrounded. At the same time, with the amount of sheer damage you can apply (and assuming the monsters aren't physical immune), sometimes it simply is faster and easier to just dive in face first. It's the experienced player who will know when one is more suitable to use over the other.
And there you have it. A WW guide that should hopefully answer several questions and give you ideas on how to go about building one (whether you use the gear laid out above or not).