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The Wall (Crowd Control Build)

Barbarian Class Guide

By pergatory on August 31, 2012
Last Updated: September 2, 2012

Introduction

The purpose of this build is to provide a way for Barbarian to become a tank in the true sense of the word. There are several classes in the game that rely on ranged damage, and this can often result in long kiting battles. Crowd control is often overlooked because it does not increase your DPS on paper, nor does it increase your EHP. The Wall provides a way to slow the enemies' advance so that ranged DPS builds can rain death and destruction over your head without much worry. For this reason, it is primarily a multiplayer build, but it still works extremely well in solo play if you have good equipment (easily farming MP5 Inferno, although killing Treasure Goblins can be difficult due to the complete lack of spike damage). This build also works equally well with other crowd control builds like frozen Wizards; they will love your Wrenching Smash!

Skills

  • Gathering Storm is quickly overlooked by most, but it's extremely useful in a crowd control sense. It's similar to having a cold-based weapon which auto-snares. This can make chasing ranged attackers and treasure goblins much less painful, as well as help keep enemies from attacking your allies. (If you snare them, it effectively increases the distance between them and their potential targets, which I'm fairly certain makes them more likely to attack closer targets which means you instead of your Demon Hunter buddy.)
  • The primary use for Leap is for general mobility. Don't forget that you can even leap over unpassable terrain as long as you have a decent line of sight. Sometimes you can take some pretty good shortcuts with it. The best use is when you see allies in trouble, you can Leap to their defense. Another powerful use is for the stun effect. If you've got all the enemies gathered up properly like you should with this build, Ground Stomp is on cooldown, and enemies are waking up from stun, Leaping in the pile can be a great way to re-stun the group until Ground Stomp is ready again.

    Lastly, if you have good timing, Leap can also be used to avoid frozen orbs dropped by elites. If you're mid-air when the orbs explode, you will not be frozen even if you're directly above them. With a little practice, this can be done fairly consistently.
  • Ground Stomp is honestly pretty useless by itself because the radius is so low you'll only hit a couple enemies most of the time. Wrenching Smash expands the radius to be quite large as well as giving the added bonus of sucking everything into a pile, making it easier to hit multiple enemies at once with area attacks.

    One of the nice bonuses for stunning enemies is that it benefits not just you, but your whole team. Time spent stunned is time spent not popping arcane sentries, dropping desecration and plague under your feet, vortexing your buddies, and so forth. This is the key aspect that makes stun so much better than self-buffs like Ignore Pain which only benefit yourself.
  • This is simultaneously your best damage and your best life recovery. Keep Rend up at all times, it's a life saver. The only thing to note here is that Rend relies on weapon damage; thus in terms of increasing Rend damage, attack speed doesn't matter. Another thing to note is that Rend only calculates crit chance when it first lands. Rend either crits for the entire 5 seconds, or it doesn't crit at all. So if you have a good boost to crit damage, pay attention to how fast your enemy's life is decreasing. Sometimes it's rather apparent when Rend crits, and you'll want to avoid overwriting it with a non-crit. Because of the nature of Rend working better with slower weapons, an approach I've used for lower-MP farming where all this survival is overkill, is to use a Skorn instead of a 1-handed weapon and shield. Skorn with Rend is ridiculously powerful, so this makes a great option for MP0 farming after you get a good build going.
  • No explanation necessary. Keep it up, always! Good fury-builder for Rend as well.

Passives

  • Note that when you get a pretty good build going at Lv60, this passive tends to provide less armor than Tough As Nails, and as such you should drop this before Tough As Nails. There's a caveat with the second armor passive, which is that Superstition is much more effective at damage mitigation against Lv60 targets than a second armor passive. However, against Lv63 targets, a second armor passive tends to be superior.

    The take-away here is that if you're doing PvP, Superstition is probably the better choice; If you're doing PvE, Nerves of Steel is probably the better choice.
  • This passive is optional but I personally like having it so that I don't need to run away from frozen orbs and such, which risks breaking the front line you're ever so delicately attempting to maintain. The less moving around you need to do, the more DPS your allies will be able to do. However, if you prefer a more damage-oriented passive like Ruthless, or your equipment isn't good enough to stand in affixes even with Juggernaut up, feel free to switch it up. Another nice tanking alternative is Inspiring Presence for some life regen.

Controlling the Flow of Battle

Since this is a crowd control build, the most important thing to learn is how to control the flow of battle in order to maximize efficiency. The single most important aspect of this build is not your equipment and not your skills, but your positioning. Positioning is everything. It's more important than dealing damage. Always be aware of where your allies are, where enemies are, where enemies are going, etc. You must be ready as soon as someone sneaks past your front line to reposition and block the attacker from reaching your allies. This often means switching targets, especially during elite battles with ranged attackers like those annoying occultists. Always stay between your ranged allies and whatever they are attacking.

Keeping Hate/Aggro
A key aspect of the build is what I call "hate" which refers to how enemies choose which player to attack. (It is often referred to in other games by many different terms like "aggro" or "threat.") The more hate an enemy has for you, the more likely they are to attack you instead of one of your allies. Hate is tricky to hold on multiple enemies in this game because they have a very short memory. There are two primary factors that determine an enemy's hate level:

1. Your damage dealt over the last second. This includes the sum of the total duration of any DOT (damage over time) effects you've applied within the last second, and also seems to include DOT affects applied longer than 1 second ago. In other words, DOT effects almost appear to be double-counted. For this reason, Rend is a fantastic hate-building tool because it will apply 700% weapon damage over its duration. Once hate is established through damage, you're unlikely to lose it as long as you continue dealing damage, but after 1 second of no damage the enemy will lose all hate. If no one else is damaging it, that's fine, but if anyone else touches it after that 1 second it will run for them instead of you. So keep Rend up, and keep the damage coming! If you need to reposition or chase an enemy, be aware that you will likely lose all accumulated hate. This can lead to a ping-pong of you going back and forth between two enemies, each losing hate as you attack the other. It's important to pick the biggest threat and stick with it in order to maintain hate.

2. Your proximity to the monster. The monster will give preference to attacking players which are closer to it. This is especially true at extremely close ranges; note that when you click on a monster to attack it your character will move only as close as necessary to swing, but you can actually get a few steps closer and doing so will greatly assist you in holding hate over other melees. This is not a universal rule, though. If the person farther away is dealing significantly more damage, it's still possible for them to pull hate. Sometimes you can even exploit this by blocking the enemy's path. If they can't reach your ally, but your ally has hate, they won't even attack you. They'll simply stand there, frustrated. Another caveat here is that movement speed is factored in, thus if you can snare them it will greatly increase your ability to hold hate away from allies who are not in melee range.

Keep in mind that after recovering from a crowd-control effect like stun or fear, an enemy's hate list is reset, similar to what would happen if everyone stopped damaging it for 1 second. Because of the short memory that enemies have, it can be difficult to hold the attention of all the enemies in a group. You may cleave one half of a pack, but if you turn around to cleave the other half, the first half will almost immediately lose hate on you and likely go chasing one of your allies who is still damaging them. The best tools at your disposal to prevent this from happening are your stun tools, as well as Rend because of its excellent hate-pulling ability. Stay in front of the pack and try to keep the pack far enough away from your allies that they aren't pulling hate off you even with vastly superior DPS.

There is a very positive benefit to the short memory of enemies. If your allies also understand the mechanics of hate in this game, they can use this to their advantage. If they are raining destruction down on a group of enemies, and one of them breaks rank to come and attack the ally, that ally need only (1) stop dealing damage for 1 second and (2) ensure that the enemy is closer to the tank (you) than to themselves. Both of these can often be accomplished by them simply running a half circle around the tank. As the enemy passes the tank, it will switch targets to the tank because the ally is no longer dealing damage to it.

Bottlenecks
A lot of maps in the game have natural bottlenecks, especially the indoor areas of the game. Bottlenecks are places where the natural terrain forces advancing enemies through a narrow opening which is easy to block. If you can find a narrow enough spot, such as a doorway, you can effectively block the entire width of the bottleneck with your big fat barbarian, thus preventing any enemies from getting around you and reaching your allies.

There's one thing to be aware of when utilizing a bottleneck: Wrenching Smash can actually pull enemies past you if they're close enough when you use the ability. This can cause you to unintentionally pull enemies through to the other side of the bottleneck.

The Cycle
Another way to control large crowds when there is no natural bottleneck available is by slowly retreating your front line as you fight. For example, you might initially run straight past the first row of enemies (or what's even more fun is to Leap into the center of a huge group of enemies) and then use Wrenching Smash to pull everything into a tight pile and stun it. You are then free to Rend the pile and start Cleaving it. However, as this goes on, enemies from the rear ranks will continue moving forward and may begin to circle around you and head toward your allies. The Gathering Storm rune for Cleave is good at slowing this advance, but eventually you may get overwhelmed. When this happens, Leap backward onto the advancing line so that they're stunned and you're once again facing the enemy front line, and begin Cleaving them from there. By the time they start to overwhelm you a second time, Ground Stomp should be up again and you can repeat the cycle. Doing this you can keep enemies heaped in a nice pile and prevent them from advancing very quickly even in the open battlefield.

Stop Running You Bastard!
Ranged attackers are probably the most frustrating enemies for a face-tanking build like The Wall. They run and run, often tempting you to abandon the enemy front line and chase them around. In multiplayer, this is bad. Do not abandon the front line for any reason. Pick the most intimidating group of enemies you can and engage them head-on. Let your allies clean up the outliers. If there are ranged attackers behind the enemy front line chucking spears at you or whatever, just ignore them. You have no choice. Their turn will come once the enemy front line has been adequately decimated.

Another thing to know about enemies that run away from you is you need to learn to anticipate which direction enemies will run and when. If the enemy's front line has been destroyed and you're just down chasing the runners, then crowd control becomes even more important. For example if an enemy is running away, you can Leap in front of them and they will change direction to run away from you. Often they will run away from the closest player to them, so if you get up in their face you can control which direction they run. You can use this technique to herd them straight back toward your allies so that your allies can tear them up, or you can use it to pin them into a corner where they can't run away. This technique also works well on treasure goblins; while your allies are trying to zerg the goblin down you can spend your time preventing him from getting very far away. If your allies don't even have to move the whole time, their increased DPS output will more than make up for the fact that you're hardly doing any DPS as you play shepherd.

Fire Chains
Enemies with fire chains will often try to configure themselves so that they hit you with as many fire chains as possible. What this usually means is that one of the group will try to get behind you, one will try to move to the opposite side of the first, and the third one will try to stay in front of you, thus creating a triangle with you inside it; a "Triangle of Doom" as it were.

If they're ranged attackers spreading out a lot, or if you can't handle the fire chains, the best thing you can do is focus on the one in the pack that's trying to get behind you and keep repositioning so that they can't lock you inside the Triangle of Doom. If he tries to move to your left in order to get around you, mirror his movements and go left as well. There will be one taking the lead and one who's not really trying to get behind you but just to your side, so make sure to identify and focus on the one trying to get behind you. Sometimes they will trade roles.

Equipping Your Wall

The basic requirements for The Wall are fairly simple, and in fact, it uses a lot of the same stats most Barbarian builds use with one exception: criticals. Critical hit chance and damage are two extremely popular stats for increasing DPS, and for activating special gimmicks on specific skills such as those whose cooldowns are reduced by crits. The Wall doesn't really benefit from crits in any way except DPS, and in that regard crits are not as valuable to The Wall.

That's not to say you shouldn't bother with any crit bonuses; Just that you should be more inclined to choose other bonuses first. For example, strength not only adds more DPS, but also increases your armor. Similarly, attack speed not only increases your DPS, but also increases the frequency which you land hits, which means that if you have Life On Hit, it will activate more.

That being said, the five main stats you are looking for are:
  • Strength
  • Vitality
  • All Resistance
  • Life On Hit
  • Attack Speed
Here's a link to the reference build that was used to create this guide: The Wall

For those who are adept at equipping their Barbarian for various builds, this will probably be all you need to know and you can probably skip the rest of this section. For those who aren't, I'll go into a little more detail about specific gear choices.

General Rules of Thumb
Armor and Resistance are the two main factors for reducing damage. What many may find counter-intuitive is that armor does, in fact, reduce magic damage. Similarly, "all resistance" includes physical resistance, which reduces physical melee damage as well. In other words, these two stats are more or less interchangeable (with 1 resist all being roughly equal to 10 armor), and further, they are multiplicative. So for example, if you have armor that provides 80% damage reduction, and resistance that provides 60% damage reduction, then the net damage taken will be: (1 - 0.80) * (1 - 0.60) = 0.08, in other words you will take 8% damage. If an attack would normally hit you for 1000 damage, you will instead take 80 damage. For this reason, it's usually better to have a balance of the two stats over a lot of one and not much of the other.

Here are the general values you will need to farm each Inferno act in this build. Note that you can progress with lower stats, but to farm consistently with no deaths, this is roughly what you'll need:

Act I - 4000 armor, 300 resist all, 30000 life, 7000 DPS
Act II - 8000 armor, 600 resist all, 35000 life, 15000 DPS
Act III & IV - 10000 armor, 1000 resist all, 40000 life, 22000 DPS

If you meet these requirements and still struggle to stay alive, then you are probably lacking in life recovery. Do not underestimate the power of life on hit, life steal, or even straight life per second. You should be able to recover at least 3k life per second while attacking for Act III and up, although with good DPS and multiple enemies, Rend can often provide at least half of that. Don't neglect life per second; many people overlook this stat but getting a good 700-1000 of it can make a huge difference.

What to Aim for in Specific Slots
Here I'll cover what you should shoot for in specific gear slots, based on what stats are available in those slots and in what ranges.

Weapon: You're looking for a pretty standard weapon, here. One with at least 600 life on hit, or 2.5% life steal, is preferable. Alternately, you can get one with a socket and put an amethyst in it for life on hit. However, it's not mandatory to have life recovery on your weapon if you can get enough from other slots. Sky Splitter and Echoing Fury are the preferred legendaries for this slot, as they both have fast attack speeds and good face-tanking stats. Sky Splitter has 500 life per second and an extra ability to smite enemies, while Echoing Fury has the chance to fear enemies it hits. You might think the fear is a bad thing for melees, but all the crowd control abilities this build has makes it less of an issue.

Shield: Aim for a minimum of 25% block chance. Absolute bare minimum. Block chance is everything here, which is why Stormshields are a great option as they can block well over 30% of the time. Additional stats to look for are at least 100 Strength, 60 Resist All, and potentially Vitality, Life %, or Crit Chance.

Head: The most important thing here is not to buy a helm without a socket. Always have a socket in your helm, whether you use it for an experience gem, magic find gem, or life % gem. Other things to shoot for are at least 70 Strength, 60 Resist All, and 70 Vitality or some Life %. If you can get a helm with both socket and Life %, that's a really good find. You can also get a little bit of Crit Chance here. If you have a lot of money, an even better option is the Mempo of Twilight legendary which can have all of the above plus up to 9% attack speed. Alternately, if you don't have a Stormshield, or your Stormshield block rate is low, then you might consider a Helm of Command here to increase your block rate.

Amulet & Rings: Amulet and Rings can receive the same stats, so I've grouped them together here. It doesn't matter what stats you get from which of these three slots, as long as the three together provide at least: 300 or so Strength, 150 or so Vitality, 600 or so Life On Hit, and 15% or so Attack Speed. You can forgo some of the attack speed here at your discretion, especially if you prefer a crit-oriented build, just be aware you'll need more life recovery elsewhere to make up for it. Increasing attack speed reduces the amount of Life On Hit you need to survive. As usual, use these slots to cover any shortcomings your other equipment might have.

Shoulders: Aim for good strength, as it's easy to get 200+ strength from shoulders. Good slot to pick up 200-300 life per second, as there isn't much else to aim for here.

Gloves: Aim for a pair with 9% attack speed and some other good stats. They can also get crit chance/damage which boosts DPS nicely, but attack speed is more critical to this build.

Chest: Chest armor can have a lot of vitality and up to 3 sockets, so you can get a lot out of this slot. You can also get over 500 life per second from this slot, as well as over 10% Life bonus.

Belt: You can get some rather unique bonuses on your belt, such as life steal and bonus to Barbarian skills such as Cleave. I'd shoot for something with strength, vitality, resist all, and life steal.

Pants: Pants can have a ton of vitality, so aim for that more than strength here. Very similar to chest armor.

Boots: 12% Movement Speed should not be overlooked. If you can get a legendary like Immortal King's Stride, Fire Walkers, or Ice Climbers, all three are great options. I'd say Ice Climbers are the best match for this build due to the Life+10% they provide, but the Crowd Control Reduction on Immortal King's is also really nice, and of course everyone wants to be molten so the Fire Walkers will always be a popular choice.

Tips & Tricks For Specific Enemies

With all the basics covered, let's talk about specific enemies and how to deal with them. If you have any requests for monster types you don't see listed here, let me know and I'll look into writing a section for them.

Uber Boss - Skeleton King & Maghda
In this fight you will be focusing entirely on the Skeleton King until he dies, and only then will you worry about Maghda. The Skeleton King himself is pretty straight forward to fight, there are just two things to remember. One is that he has a specific sequence of forward-attacking movements that makes him immune to crowd control, so learn to recognize that sequence of attacks and avoid wasting a stun on it. The second is more important but also difficult to react to, which is that he is able to teleport around the arena very quickly. Learning to predict his teleport is the key to effective tanking in this fight. As he is about to teleport, you will see mirror images appearing in front of him like he has already begun to move even though his body is still in its original place, and he will often simultaneously point in the direction he's moving. If you stun before about the 4th mirror image appears, he will not teleport. Sometimes if you're just a fraction of a second too late, he will still teleport but will appear at his new location stunned. It's easier to do this with Ground Stomp as it's a faster skill, but it is possible to do it with Leap. The key is to anticipate when he'll use the ability so you're ready for it. He uses it VERY often, especially if there are any players more than 1 screen away, which can make it very difficult to resurrect fallen allies in this fight. A good stunner can make a world of difference on keeping the Skeleton King stationary.

Once the Skeleton King is dead, Maghda is pretty straight-forward. She is handled like any ranged attacker; it's best to pin her in a corner although her arcane sentries can sometimes make this difficult. Every 25% she will shield herself and summon a few pets. Just like normal Maghda, the pets must be killed before the shield wears off. Best thing to do here is simply save Ground Stomp for when she pops her pets. As soon as she pops them, stomp them into a pile so your allies can kill them quickly.

Uber Boss - Ghom & Rakanoth
Of the various uber battles, this is the one where The Wall shines the most. Few builds allow the ability to stand in Ghom's poison clouds without occasionally escaping for a breath of air. The Wall goes beyond that, in that the best thing you can do in this battle is hold both enemies together. The opening move in this fight is key, as Rakanoth will immediately advance toward your allies if you don't act quickly, whereas Ghom is more lethargic. As soon as the battle begins, Leap directly between Ghom & Rakanoth, stunning them both before they have time to do anything. You should have enough fury from Warcry & Leap to immediately Rend. As soon as Leap's stun wears off, do a Ground Stomp and begin cleaving Ghom. Do not ever stop attacking Ghom, he's your main concern. Continue stunning both bosses as often as possible. The idea is to focus on Ghom and only hold Rakanoth as much as you can. If an ally damages Rakanoth, he may zip away from you and disappear for a while, that's fine. Ignore him and continue tanking Ghom. Your allies should have no trouble kiting Rakanoth back onto you so that you can tank both again. Or maybe Rakanoth will just stand in the corner attacking absolutely nothing for a while, he's not terribly bright.

There's really only one skill in this fight I'd caution you to watch out for, and fortunately it's very easy to identify. It's a move Rakanoth uses in which he lifts up off the ground, then spins in a circle hurling blobs which knock you back. Knock-back is annoying, so I try to stun this move whenever possible. All you have to do is watch for when Rakanoth lifts his feet off the ground, and stun him immediately. He doesn't do this move more than about once every 10-15 seconds, so I just tend to stagger my stuns so that one is available shortly after the previous one wears off. You have plenty of advanced warning to stun this move.

Uber Boss - Kulle & Siegebreaker
Kulle in this battle is much like Maghda in the Skeleton Battle: as a tank, you will not be able to control his movement much, nor will you be able to prevent him from attacking your allies. For this reason, you should simply grab the Siegebreaker and keep it distracted while your allies kill Kulle. After they kill Kulle, they can join you and assist on Siegebreaker. There really isn't much to say about this fight aside from keeping your back against a wall so that Siegebreaker isn't knocking you all over the battlefield while you hold him.
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