The Whirlwind Barbarian

The Whirlwind Barbarian is the most popular Barbarian build at max level. There are two very good reasons for that: it does the most damage and it isn’t that hard to gear for. The basic idea is to utilize high critical hit chance and the high tick rate of Whirlwind to proc the Into the Fray skill rune. That gives infinite Fury, allowing Whirlwind to be used constantly and making the Wrath of the Berserker buff permanently active.

Strengths

  • The max DPS build for Barbarian
  • Extremely fast movement speed equals superb farming times

Weaknesses

  • Can get boring using the same skill constantly
  • Requires high critical hit chance to work properly

Skills

Mouse Left Click – Bash (Instigation)

Whirlwind will build your Fury, but you need a little bit of Fury to get the skill buffs up and Whirlwind started. That’s where Bash comes in. With the Instigation rune, it generates the most Fury out of all the Fury generators. Get enough Fury to use Sprint, Wrath of the Berserker, and Whirlwind. Then use the skills in that order with Whirlwind last. From then on you use Whirlwind until everything is dead. Only when moving to another pack of monsters do you need to use Bash again.

Mouse Right Click – Whirlwind (Hurricane)

Whirlwind is your bread and butter skill. It does somewhat weak damage. You would think it wouldn’t be very good, but with buffs from other skills it does around 250% weapon damage, not counting any gear bonuses. It scales up higher with attack speed, critical hit chance, and critical hit damage.

When attacking with Whirlwind, skirt the outside of the pack of monsters rather than going straight through them. You want to hit enough monsters to keep your Fury globe full, but not take too many hits from monsters. This takes some practice to do well, but it will reduce the number of hits you take from monsters.

Whirlwind has a 50% movement penalty by default, so it is a very slow farming build normally. The Hurricane rune makes it much faster and has great synergy with the Sprint skill below.

Keyboard 1 – War Cry (Impunity)

War Cry is purely here for defenses. With the Impunity rune it increases both Armor and Resist All by a significant amount. While using Whirlwind you can’t really dodge monsters. You need to be in close range for its little area damage effect to hit monsters. War Cry will keep you alive. It also generates a little bit of Fury that you can put towards Sprint. Use it on cooldown if you need the Fury.

Keyboard 2 – Battle Rage (Into the Fray)

The Into the Fray rune of Battle Rage is the true Fury generator in this build. With enough critical hit chance, you can be at max Fury constantly. That lets you use Whirlwind non-stop, spam Sprint constantly, and have Wrath of the Berserker up permanently. Battle Rage itself is also good too, with some very nice damage bonuses.

Keyboard 3 – Sprint (Run Like the Wind)

This is the best movement speed skill in the game providing an incredible +50% movement speed. Normally you wouldn’t have the Fury to use Sprint all that often, but not with this build. You can spam it as needed for a permanent movement speed bonus. The Run Like the Wind rune is a small damage bonus that works well with Whirlwind. As you are skirting the edges of the monster pack, little mini-Whirlwinds will sprout up behind you for a little extra damage.

Keyboard 4 – Wrath of the Berserker (Thrive on Chaos)

Wrath of the Berserker is a major damage and defense bonus. It adds roughly 50% more damage and 50% more to your defenses. It gets better. With the Thrive on Chaos rune and other skills in this build, it is a permanent buff! You will only need to cast it once and it will last until all the monsters are dead. Just refresh it when starting up combat on a new pack of monsters. It would not be a top DPS build without this skill.

Passive 1 – Ruthless

This is the best passive skill of all the classes when it comes to damage bonuses. Critical hit chance and critical hit damage scale extremely well. This goes for all classes, but only Barbarians have a passive that increases both of them by a large amount.

Passive 2 – Weapons Master

The power of Weapons Master depends on the weapon type you use. I describe this in detail in the Weapon Type section below, but as far as highest damage, the weapon types are in this order: Maces/Axes => Swords/Daggers => Polearms/Spears. Mighty Weapons don’t even provide a damage bonus, so don’t use them.

Passive 3 – Bloodthirst

Lifesteal is the best way to get Life back when using area damage skills. It scales much better than Life on Hit with area damage skills like Whirlwind and Run Like the Wind.

Weapon Type

You can use any weapon configuration, whether that be a Two Hand weapon, dual-wielding two One Hand weapons, or One Hand + Shield. The weapon type does matter because of the Weapons Master passive skill. Avoid Mighty Weapons. The 3 Fury per hit is useless when the Into the Fray rune gives you endless Fury already.

Of the remaining weapon types, the order of power is Maces/Axes followed by Swords/Daggers and finally Polearms/Spears. This is because critical hit damage can be stacked extremely high. This makes critical hit chance scale much better than a simple damage or attack speed bonus. At 150% critical hit damage, Maces/Axes is even with Swords/Daggers. Any higher critical hit damage pulls Maces/Axes ahead.

Good Stats

The key to this build is critical hit chance. A minimum of 40% critical hit chance will let you use Whirlwind constantly with a little extra Fury to maintain Sprint every 5 seconds. That may seem high, but the basic skills in this build give you 28% if you use Maces/Axes (18% without). You are well on your way to 40%. 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

  • Tough as Nails instead of Weapons Master – If you need a defensive passive skill, Weapons Master is probably the best option. This would be if you are not using Maces/Axes. The 10% critical hit chance from Maces/Axes is probably too hard to pass up, but if you use other weapon types, you can get away with replacing Weapons Master for Tough as Nails.
  • Superstition instead of Ruthless – I would not suggest this unless you are really undergeared. Superstition is not the best defensive passive and Ruthless’ critical hit chance bonus is really nice for getting enough Fury to make the build work. You will be able to survive but probably won’t be able to keep Whirlwind going constantly.
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