The Hammer of the Ancients Barbarian

Hammer of the Ancients has the potential to do the most damage in a single hit for Barbarians, so, naturally, I wanted to make a build based around it. It can do 400% weapon damage just by itself. Combined with a few other skills, you can quadruple that and be one-shotting Elite monsters. It does have the disadvantage of your character being in melee a lot and taking a lot of hits. If you don’t have good defenses, this build can be frustrating.

Strengths

  • Get to see massive critical numbers and sometimes one shot tough monsters
  • Fits the theme of the Barbarian hammering monsters into the ground.

Weaknesses

  • Plays much slower than most builds
  • Need good defenses at max level to survive

Skills

Mouse Left Click – Cleave (Rupture)

Cleave turns out to be a really good skill for this build. Hammer of the Ancients is mostly a single target skill and you won’t have the Fury to use it constantly. Cleave helps out with the area damage. It can do well against Elites also, if they are in an arc in front of your Barbarian. The Rupture rune takes the area of effect damage to the next level. Many times one monster dying will cause another to die and so on until a large group is dead. This ability to “chain” it greatly speeds up killing the weak monsters.

Mouse Right Click – Hammer of the Ancients (Smash)

Hammer of the Ancients is the highest damage skill for Barbarians. It has a small area of effect too. Usually you will only be able to hit one or two enemies at once. Sometimes the monsters will stack on top of each other and you will hit 3-5 enemies for even more damage. You can influence this with positioning. If you can get enemies into a small line and it the one in the back with your longer Two Hand range, you can hit the closer ones as well. It takes some practice to see this situations and take advantage of them, but they will speed up the killing.

Keyboard 1 – Sprint (Marathon)

This is purely for efficiency. Travel times make a big different at max level when you are just wanting to kill the next pack of monsters for loot. Sprint cuts out that wasted time considerably, but this does mean you start most fights with an empty Fury globe.

Keyboard 2 – Battle Rage (Into the Fray)

Battle Rage gives a very nice damage bonus. For Hammer of the Ancients you want all those damage bonuses because even a small percentage increase in damage turns out to be much more with a base of 400% damage. Battle Rage has another important feature, and that’s the Into the Fray rune. With a big Two Hand weapon, your attacks will be slow and Fury generation too. Into the Fray gives Fury most times that you get a critical hit. Even if you have low critical hit chance, the Barbarian passives will fix that.

Keyboard 3 – War Cry (Impunity)

Since you will be in melee range all the time, it is nice to have a skill that boosts your defenses. War Cry happens to be a very good one. The base effect increases Armor a sizable amount. Then the Impunity rune boosts Resistances. On top of all that, War Cry actually generates Fury when you use it. For the most part, you should use it whenever it is off cooldown, as long as your Fury globe is not full.

Keyboard 4 – Earthquake (The Mountain’s Call)

Damage over Time (DoT) effects are always really strong with Two Hand weapons. Unlike normal attacks, DoTs are not based on weapon speed at all. Two Hand weapons with their higher damage, have no downside at all when using a DoT skill. I especially like Earthquake because its The Mountain’s Call rune removes the Fury cost. Fury is hard to come by when you use slow weapons. It’s nice to have a really powerful cooldown that doesn’t suck Fury away from Hammer of the Ancients.

Passive 1 – Ruthless

This is one of the best damage passive skills in the game even compared to all the other classes. Critical hit chance and critical hit damage, both of which provided by Ruthless, are the main source of high damage at level 60. Stacking them high exponentially increases damage. The critical hit chance also combines well with Battle Rage’s Into the Fray rune.

Passive 2 – Weapons Master

Weapons Master is weaker than the Ruthless passive, but it can still be strong. Maces and Axes with the critical hit chance bonus is the best of the four possibilities because it works well with the Battle Rage – Into the Fray rune, but sometimes you have to use a non-optimal weapon that is a big upgrade. I also the Mighty Weapon Fury bonus. It counts per monster hit with Cleave, so it can fill your Fury almost as fast as Into the Fray

Passive 3 – Bloodthirst

Lifesteal is always nice at max level. Life on Hit scales better for Hammer of the Ancients, but Lifesteal scales really well with Cleave, the Rupture rune, and Earthquake. Note that Lifesteal has a penalty on Inferno difficulty. Its effectiveness is reduced by 80%. This means the 3% Lifesteal is only 0.6% Lifesteal on Inferno.

Weapon Type

Any Two Hand weapon will work but a Maces and Axes are preferred. Maces and Axes will give you the best overall benefit because of their Weapons Master bonuses. That critical hit chance increases both damage and Fury generation through the Battle Rage – Into the Fray rune. Swords and Polearms will give lesser damage increases at max level with good gear. Mighty Weapons don’t get any more damage but do get more Fury, which can make up for less Into the Fray procs.

Good Stats

You will need fairly good defenses to survive with this build. Hammer of the Ancients requires you to be up close. The slow attacks of a Two Hand weapon make it impossible to dodge many attacks. I recommend 60% Physical damage reduction from Armor, 60% Elemental damage reduction from Resist All, 1000 Life regeneration per second, 3% Lifesteal (in addition to the 3% from Bloodthirst), and 1000 Life on Hit.

You can level up Normal through Hell difficulty fine without amazing gear, but in Inferno things are much tougher for a melee character that can’t avoid taking a lot of hits. For general gearing that applies to all characters, check out The Stats You Want in Diablo 3, my quick guide to stats that all characters should have.

Alternatives

  • War Cry (Invigorate) instead of War Cry (Impunity) – Invigorate is a good rune to take while you are still leveling and don’t have access to Impunity. That little bit of Life regeneration will keep you alive through Normal, Nightmare, and Hell difficulties.
  • Wrath of the Berserker (Insanity) instead of Earthquake (The Mountain’s Call) – If you want to make your Barbarian into more of a tank in combat, you can use Wrath of the Berserker. It will give your Hammer of the Ancients even bigger critical hits. It will also keep you alive, but Earthquake will usually hit more enemies.
  • Rend (Blood Lust) instead of Sprint (Marathon) – While Sprint will greatly speed up travel times, Rend with Blood Lust will both do good damage and heal your character a lot. Keep in mind the Blood Lust is only 1.8% healing in Inferno difficulty, but that’s more than enough. I find that the Fury cost is hard to make room for unless you have pretty high critical hit chance. If you are well geared, you should have enough Fury.
  • Superstition instead of Ruthless – Superstition is a pretty good defensive skill if you are having trouble surviving. This would mostly be for leveling. Your eventual goal should be to replace Superstition with Ruthless, but sometimes you need a defensive passive skill to survive.
  • Tough as Nails instead of Weapons Master – Much like Superstition, Tough as Nails is a good defensive skill. If you are really undergeared, you can take both of these defensive skills. You should have no problems then, but you will lose 15-25% damage.
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