Guide:Magic Find Barbarian 1.09, by Flux Part I
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Diablo II Strategy Guide Info:
- Patch: v1.09
- Gametype: PvE/PvM
- Guide Topic: Mephisto
- Class: Barbarian
- Specialisation: Magic Find Barbarian
- Author: Flux
- Pages: One, Two, Three, Four
- Related Article(s): Magic Find 
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Abbreviations and Terms
- 3 Barbarian Creation
- 4 Sword Barbarians
- 5 Long Term Goals
- 6 Hotkeys and Controls
- 7 Inventory Management
- 8 Mercenaries
- 9 Skills Overview
- 10 Stats
- 11 Navigation
This simple formula has been proven time and again by D2X players, and if you don't have a hell item runner, you probably want one. This guide will tell you exactly how to do that, and all the best equipment and techniques to use. There are lots of other things that are great to kill besides just Mephisto, but he's the fastest and best Item farming target. Eventually you'll grow bored with him and want to try Baal or Pindleskin, for the potentially higher level items, stuff that Meph can't drop, and that's all covered here as well.
The Barbarian is one of the best characters for MF'ing, probably the best for Hardcore play. He has a number of skills that help him a lot in getting the equipment set up, making his way to the boss kill, and of course actually killing the monster.He is definitely the best at it Hardcore, since he can go full out MF and still be quite hardy. The Sorceress is probably better for Softcore, she can kill super fast in full MF gear, but she becomes quite fragile then, and death is inevitable.
This guide is written from my playing experience in Hardcore, but the build is virtually identical Softcore, with just a bit less emphasis on hit points. Even if you've been playing for a long time, and have lots of high level characters with good gear, once you begin doing Mephisto runs at high speed with high MF, you'll very shortly have much better gear and will be upgrading all of your characters with new stuff you've found. I did that myself, as I had a couple of chars in the 80's, a Javazon over 90, and good MF on most of them, and didn't think I'd really benefit much by doing those "cheesy Meph runs". After a few days of it with a Barb at around 450% MF, I had found better equipment for at least two or three slots on all of my characters, and proven myself quite wrong.
Mephisto is the most popular such item run, since he drops very well, and can be reached very quickly. However there are lots of other good places to find items, and Baal runs, Pindleskin runs, and various Nightmare boss runs are also quite profitable and popular. All of these are covered in detail in this guide.
This guide also covers the creation and stat/skill planning for a MF Barb, how best to level him up, selecting his equipment, and the strategies you should use when playing him to ensure the best success in your item finding.
You can see much more info about various types of Magic Finding characters in our full Magic Find Guide.This guide covers the Barbarian exclusively, but many players have very good luck using other characters for this purpose, and you can see tips and strategies for that in our Magic Find Guide.
Abbreviations and Terms
- MF = Magic Find
- GF = Gold Find
- AR = Attack Rating (to/hit)
- lvl= level. Mlvl, Ilvl, Clvl, Slvl: Monster, Item, Character, Skill
- Str/Dex/Vit = Strength/Dexterity/Vitality, character stats.
- BO/WW/Hork = Battle Orders/Whirlwind/Find Item, Barb skills.
- Seed = Refers to the variable stats on an item. For example a Stealskull can spawn with 30-50% Magic Find. 32% would be a poor seed, so 43% would be a good seed, 50% would be a perfect seed.
- 1s/2s/3s/4s = Number of sockets on an item, 1-4.
- HC/SC = Hardcore/Softcore. Mortal/Immortal char types.
- A = Act. A1, A2, A3, A4, A5.
- NM = Nightmare, H = Hell. Difficulty levels.
- MP/SP = Multi-player, Single-player.
- 1H/2H = One-handed, Two-handed.
The best possible way to make your MF Barbarian is to create him from scratch, with this as his long term goal. You can of course convert an existing Barb to an MF'er, but there might be some skill or stat points wasted on things you don't really need for your MF'ing.
The equipment is extremely important for such a character, and you'll really do well if you have all or most of his long term gear ready before you begin. If you are just getting started finding good gear you'll have to work your way into it, and you will find better stuff as you go, but it's better to have enough good stuff to plan most of your equipment out in advance.It's much faster also.
A Sword Barbarian is the best option for an MF-Barb, for two reasons.
Ali Baba: The best way to kill a boss is while dual wielding The Blade of Ali Baba Unique Tulwar. If you have points in Sword Mastery you'll have better damage and Attack Rating when you switch from your main weapon to the Ali Baba(s), and that makes it quicker to get that last hit. If you have a different weapon mastery it's not impossible, it will just take more swings. You might offset this with AR gear, or more points in Berserk or Whirlwind.
Shield: Sword Barbs can easily use a shield, since a Barbarian can use any sword one-handed with a shield. A Shield is very helpful (almost mandatory) for dedicated MF'ers, for the defensive and stat bonuses. Hardcore characters need to pay special heed to this, of course. If you are running through Durance two with a 2H weapon, it's just a matter of time until you lag out or get desynched and die. There are good one-handed axes and hammers, but you'll have to switch from the two-hander you use for faster leveling, and you'll still have the low AR problem with Ali Baba.
A third, lesser reason is that it's generally easier to find/make a big damage sword than a Polearm, Spear, Blunt, or Axe. If you already have one this is irrelevant, of course. More on this in the equipment section.
Long Term Goals
You can begin doing Hell Meph runs at Clvl 65 or lower, but you'll need pretty good equipment to be safe and successful at that point. We'll use Clvl 75 as the base level here, for the amount of skill points and stats you'll have then, so subtract some if you are looking at a lower target Clvl. Your Barbarian will of course level up from Meph kills, but slowly, and hardly at all past 85.
I began doing Hell Meph runs with my current MF Barb at Clvl 71, and he's 79 now, almost exclusively from killing Meph.Being higher level helps in many ways; you get more hit points, you have a better to/hit based on the Clvl vs. Mlvl comparison, you get more skill points (though you should be pretty well set for Meph runs by Clvl 70), etc, so leveling up never hurts. My last Barb was doing Meph runs at 72, and with virtually the same equipment at 86, he was MUCH faster at the Meph kill, and I'd added to nothing but Vitality.
Being a higher level helps a lot on your to/hit against very high level monsters.
Your MF-barb gear will contain few, if any, +skill items, so you'll generally just have the amount of skill points you've placed.
At Clvl 75 you'll have 86 total points (74 points +12, 4 for the skill quests on each diff level). Here are where your skills should be at that point. This is 71 skill points at the minimum levels recommended, leaving you 15 more to assign. You can add more to WW or Berserk or Natural Resistance or Faster Run, or try some of the optional skills listed in the skills section.
The main attack skill I recommend most is Whirlwind. You can also use Berserk or Frenzy.
More on that in the skills section. WW is the easiest to use, and the fastest to use when you are leveling up from 30 to 70+, and is best for Super Uniques or Baal runs. Berserk is best for Meph runs.
- Battle Orders: 20
- Sword Mastery: 20
- Whirlwind: 10+ (if this is your main skill)
- Berserk: 1+ (requires Whirlwind, 6-8 if this is your main skill)
- Frenzy: 0, or 15+, if this is your main skill
- Natural Resistance: 10+
- Iron Skin is a pre-req.
- Faster Run: 1+
- Increased Stamina is a pre-req.
- Find Item: 8+ (optional)
- Find Potion is a pre-req.
You should have around 1500 max damage on your WW, with about 2500 AR. Less of each is possible, but will slow things down.Try adding AR on a Charm or two if you are taking too much damage from Meph, more hits will increase your leech and speed considerably.If you add 200 AR from charms (Grands can have up to 125) that will be worth 800 or more AR once modified by your WW and Sword mastery, and should make a noticeable difference.
Hotkeys and Controls
The MF Barb doesn't need a lot of hotkeys. At the most simple, you'll have Concentrate and Berserk on your left click, and WW, Leap Attack, Battle Orders, and Town Portal on the right click. Shout and Battle Command should be on the right click also. Optional Warcries such as Battle Cry and War Cry might be hot keyed as well as Attack or Concentrate on the left click.
You can put all of the skills on the right click, including Berserk, Concentrate, and/or Bash, but I find it easier to keep direct melee attacks on the left click. Hotkey Attack to the left also if you will need to use it sometimes.
When casting your Warcries, you should always cast Battle Command (for the +1 to all skills) first, then cast Battle Orders and Shout.You must remember to always cast Battle Command first though, if you cast Battle Orders later without the bonus, you'll reset your hit points, which can be bad.
MF'ing runs are generally very quick, create a game, do the run, exit the game when it's over. You don't need town portals, identify books, or space to pick up more than one or two items. I generally carry town portal scrolls in one slot of my belt, and you can put one or an ID scroll in your cube if you think you'll need them. You won't very often, especially as you get used to doing fast runs and get a technique for it.
Your inventory will be almost totally full of charms eventually. When leveling up, charms that add to your AR and damage and hit points are most useful. At higher levels you'll want as many MF charms as possible, and possibly some AR, resistance, and hps ones also, if needed.
An ID tome is very convenient, and necessary if you are doing Cows. Other places you can wait and get your loot ID'ed by Cain in town if you really need another 2 spots for charms. Doing Meph runs you'll be running right past Ormus at the beginning of each run, so you can buy ID scrolls, use them, and sell the ID'ed stuff right then, or run over to Cain first.
I always carry a Horadric Cube for the storage space bonus. It takes up 4 spots in your inventory, but you can put 12 spots into it, so it's +8 spaces, end of story. It's nice to have 12 (or more) empty spaces in your inventory, so you can unload a full cube at once.
If you are going full out MF'ing, especially if you are just doing Pindleskin or Meph runs, you can totally fill your inventory with charms, and have just a Cube for storage. If you get two good items at once you'll have to do some maneuvering, but two good drops from the same run aren't all that common (though often there will be several items you want enough to pick up and sell next game).
If you have no space to pick things up, you'll have to open your inventory and click on the item. This will pick it up, and you can then drop it into your Cube directly. If you are really out of space, you can pick up an item, and exitthe game with it still on your cursor. When you next join a game you'll have to drop it to move, but if you create your own game this isn't a problem, and it's certainly better than not bringing the item, or dropping some charms to carry it.
Most Whirlwind Barbs don't use a merc, since the merc dies so often. As the WW barb spins through and around huge packs of monsters, there will always be a few beasties who target the merc instead of the Barbarian, and will beat him to death while you are killing other things.Also you don't really *need* a merc, being such a powerful character.A Might merc is very helpful for the added damage, especially when leveling up, but if you are spending all of your time and most of your potions to keep him alive, he's not exactly helping you level faster.
Berserk and Frenzy Barbs benefit more from a merc, and have an easier time keeping him alive, since they can tank for the merc, rather than spinning all around like a WW barb does. For those types of Barbs, a Holy Freeze or Defiance merc would be most useful, though they could also benefit from artillery support, such as from a rogue or Act 3 merc.
It's not uncommon to use one Merc while you are leveling up, and then switching to another type once you reach Clvl 75 or 80 and are going to do MF'ing full time.If you are just leeching your Exp all the way, then this and most other strategy points are irrelevant.
All Barbs can greatly benefit their mercs with beneficial Warcries.Battle Orders doubling your Merc's hit points is always a good thing, but you will often have to go back to town to get a heal and quickly fill the merc up all the way. And don't forget to refresh them before they run out, often times when you refresh your own Battle Orders your merc can be out of range, if he's stuck on a corner or still fighting one last monster, so you need to be sure the merc is getting the benefit.
Merc MF'ing Selection and Tactics
You can use a Merc for the MF'ing bonus (let the merc get the kill and their MF adds to yours) but most Barbs aren't real good at this.You'll generally have to lower the monster to a sliver, then let it beat on you while you wait for your merc to get the last hit.This can be painful, especially since you are probably equipped with dual Ali Baba at that time (for the maximum MF upon death) rather than your normal sword/shield.Meph hurts a lot when you have no blocking, no damage reduction, low no-shield resistances, and you aren't hitting him to leech back.
For Merc MF'ing, a high level Might Merc is the best bet, in my experience.Some players recommend the Barbarian Mercs, if you are only using them for boss killing. They won't do as much damage as a Might merc, but they hit very quickly with a sword, and that much leech can keep them alive.They also have higher stats than the Act 2 mercs.Might mercs are more useful elsewhere, for example you can keep one along when you are doing Bloody Hills runs, and your damage will be increased dramatically.Also you'll be hitting Meph or other bosses for double the damage you normally would, which makes the fight much faster.Might mercs are great for SuperUniques also, since those monsters don't do so much damage, and will die quickly to the Mercs attack.Pindleskin with a Might merc is very easy, almost as fast as doing it solo.
The problems are in keeping the merc alive on Meph, and getting the merc over the blood moat in the first place.When you enter Durance 3 you'll run to the blood moat and leap over, but your merc won't warp over to join you, since he's not far enough behind.He'll be stuck on the peninsula or other side, often with the chasing mob of Dolls or Bremm and company next to him, which usually results in a very quickly-dead Merc.
There are three ways to deal with this:
- Teleport. If you have teleport charges on your Amulet or Circlet you can use one here, and your Merc will pop right next to you when you do.The drawback is the expense and detour it takes to get it repaired.
- Run to the back. This is the easiest way, when you leap over the moat, you just run up past Meph, to the back room where the gold on the floor and chest are.Your merc will be far enough away and will warp over. The drawback is it takes some time to do, and there are very often Blood Lords up there that are annoying, and can cook your Merc with their Meteors.
- Town Portal. This is the method I find easiest.You just leap over, and as soon as you land, cast a TP, pop to town, and then back down again. Often the Merc will be low on hps after being pounded some on Durance 2, or he might not have filled up fully from your Battle Orders, and in either case, you can run to Ormus to get a full heal for you and the Merc in just a few seconds while you are in town.Keep the town portal scrolls in one row of your belt so you aren't giving up MF charms for that inventory space, and just buy a new one each game when you hit Ormus for healing potions or to sell loot.
Whether this is worth it depends on how fast you can do it, and how much MF you have.If you've already got 800%, then adding to 950% with the Merc isn't going to make much of a difference, due to the diminishing returns. Letting the merc get the last hit generally takes 25% longer, much longer than that if he dies and you have to resurrect, so do it if you are the type that agonizes over every blue or yellow Shako and Crusader Bow, but otherwise you might just want to do 15 more runs in an hour, and hope for better luck on quantity, rather than merc-added quality.
Berserk and Frenzy Barbs have better luck with mercs for the MF, since they can run up and tank the monster, taking all the damage themselves, while their merc gets in free hits.It's very hard to use WW with a merc, since the monster will target the merc as soon as you start spinning around.Mercs and minions take huge bonus damage from Act Bosses, so don't be surprised if your merc seems to be dying much faster than he does normally.
The main survival problem for Mercs comes from their equipment.Since you are using him here for the killing blow, you must have good MF on him, or there's no point in doing it at all. But if he has MF gear on (the easiest is a 3T helm and 4T armor) he'll be low on resistances and hit points, and therefore die more quickly. It's nice to have 250% MF on your Merc, but if he's dying constantly due to no resistances, you might have to compromise some on equipment, giving him a Smoke or Lionheart, rather than a 4T or Skullder's.
The best merc MF'ing gear is pretty obvious, it's the same stuff you'd like to wear.If you have enough of that stuff to stock up your Merc, then go for it, but most players don't.This is a bigger issue Hardcore, since you have to consider that if you die, you'll lose everything on your merc (and most likely yourself, since MF runs are almost always done in solo games).Losing your gear sucks, losing good stuff on your Merc also is really painful. A Harlequin Crest is probably the best single Merc MF'ing item, since it gives great MF, damage reduction, and a huge hps bonus.
Life Tap: One clever suggestion we've gotten from several readers is to get a wand with Life Tap charges, and use that on Meph. With Life Tap on, your Merc will fully heal himself with every hit he lands, and can tank the boss solo if need be. Ideally you sliver Meph, then back off and switch to your dual Ali Baba while the Merc gets the last few hits.The wand is best equipped in the second slot with your main sword.Cast it before the Merc gets hit, and it'll last for the rest of the fight, most of the time. (Life Tap = 16 seconds at Slvl 1, +2.4sec per Slvl.) Wands can come with 100 or more charges of this, and they aren't expensive to repair.
The main drawback is you are giving up your shield to equip this wand instead, and that's risky if you are Hardcore.It's not recommended that you hold the wand instead of an Ali Baba, since the whole point to using a merc is to add to your MF. You could switch to the wand from your Inventory, then back to your main sword or shield, but that would take a bit of time.You can try to do Baal with Life Tap, but he has so much elemental damage that Mercs rarely survive to get the last hit, especially if they are frozen by his Cold Wedge, so they are best used on Meph and SuperUniques.
Merc MF'ing Gear
Mercs only have three equipment slots, so their options are limited.Much more info and details on all of these items in the Equipment section, later in this guide.
Remember that mercs can wear Ethereal equipment forever, since nothing takes any durability loss when they are using it.So if you find a good item that's Ethereal, always consider it for the Merc.In many cases items that you wouldn't use even if they weren't Ethereal can be great Merc gear.
The Merc's MF adds to yours, but keep in mind how diminishing returns work on your MF, as seen in the table below. Use this calculator to see your exact totals.
|Magic Find||Magical||Rares||Item Sets||Uniques|
The point of this is that if you have very high MF on your character, adding more from your merc is not a big benefit.If you have low MF, then your merc's MF makes a big difference.If you have 700%, and your merc has 200%, that only takes your Unique MF up 14% if you let the Merc get the kill.If it takes you a minute longer per run to let the Merc do it, and he dies half the time, then it's probably not worth the trouble for the tiny increase.
Whether you bother with a Merc or not relies heavily on the "what if" factor.If it drives you nuts when you get a magical or rare Crusader Bow, or Loricated Armor, or other potentially great Set/Unique item, then you'll want all the MF possible so at least then if you get a Rare Hydra Bow, you won't curse yourself for not having just a smidgen more MF on your merc, that might have succeeded on making the item Gold or Green.
All items mentioned in the merc gear are covered in the main items section of this guide, with links and stats.
Mercs get the most from MF from Skullder's, which also has good defense. Tal's Armor is probably the ideal, for the 40% to fire/cold/lightning, as well as huge defense and 112% MF with a topaz. But it's almost impossible to find, so you'd probably be using that armor yourself if you had it. Four topaz armor is easy, try to get an elite ethereal with good defense for the merc.Another option is the Set Ornate Plate, Griswold's Heart (of Griswold's Legacy), which has over 900 defense and 3 sockets. If you could somehow find Griswold's Valor as well, the set Corona, which has very good MF and defense, wearing both at once would give your Merc a bonus of 20 strength and tons of defense, with nearly as much MF as plain socketed 7 Topaz items.
A 3 Topaz helm is the easiest to find.Other good helms are the ones you'd want, a Harlequin Crest, Stealskull, or even Tarnhelm.Harlequin is excellent for the damage reduction and huge hps bonus, and Stealskull adds more life leech and IAS, both of which help a lot. You can also find rare Circlets with good MF along with other bonuses such as resistance or stats or hit points or leech. Griswold's Valor (of Griswold's Legacy) would go well with Griswold's Heart, as mentioned in the Armor paragraph, but it's virtually unfindable.
This varies by the merc type. The ultimate merc MF'ing weapon would be the Runeword Silence. It's got 30% MF, in addition to great damage, lowered requirements, and 75% resistance to all.This would be the best possible weapon for just about any merc situation, (short of a 6-Ist weapon) but with Ist and Vex required, it's very hard to put one together.
All Mercs can equip a 6-socket weapon with 6 Ist runes, giving 180% MF, or more realistically put MF jewels in, getting up to 60% or so. Act One Mercs want the best damage, fastest firing bow possible.They can't use crossbows or Amazon Class bows, which rules out Buriza or Lycander's Aim. The +3 skill Lightning Inferno trick isn't very useful for Meph, since it's not all that much damage, and he's got a lot of lightning resistance. In any event, these mercs kill slowly and tend to run into danger, especially if you are using WW, so they aren't real good options.
Act Two Mercs use polearms or spears. Just about any unique excep Spear or Polearm is a good option, especially if you have an Ethereal one you can't use yourself.Look for ones that add to defensive bonuses, such as the Unique Lance, Spire of Honor, which has a bonus to defense. IAS and life leech are very helpful also, and a big ethereal cruel would be great.. The Unique Fuscina Kelpie Snare and the Unique Battle Scythe Athena's Honor, both have bonus hit points. Meatscraper, the Unique Lochabar Axe has 30% MF, as well as decent damage, life leech, and IAS bonuses, so it's probably the best option, if the damage is enough for your needs.
Act Three Mercs use a sword and shield so have the highest possible MF (Ali Baba, unsocketed, and Rhyme would be good for 105% at level 80.), possibly 180% sword and 75% shield (got 9 Ists?), but their elemental spell attacks don't pack enough punch for effective boss killing, so they aren't a real good option.
Act Five Merc Barbarians benefit from +Barbarian skill equipment, and can wear Barbarian class helms, though nothing on those really helps much with MF'ing.They equip swords, so same as the Act Two guys, any Ethereal Unique is a nice weapon for them, or if you have a spare Cruel sword, they'll go well with it. They can use an Ali Baba for the big MF, but the damage on it isn't much.
See our Character Section for recently-updated and very extensive info about every Barbarian skill. Warcries are here.
All builds will want to max out Battle Orders. The main decision to make is about Find Item. If you are going to be doing nothing but Meph runs, there is no need to put any points here. However Hork (the onomatopoeic nick name for Find Item) is mandatory if you are going to be doing any SuperUnique runs, such as Pindleskin, or if you want to profit doing the Cow Level, or want to improve your finds leveling elsewhere. I highly recommend it.
Warcry is another optional skill that's very useful.It stuns and damages monsters for a short time, and can be a life saver if you get mobbed.It's very helpful in places like the Cow Level also, but again, if you aren't going to do those areas, you don't need it.A good connection to Battle.net (no lag) and a shield helps a lot to replace War Cry.If you are going to add it, you can wait until Hell to do so, though the Clvl 18 pre-req skill, Battlecry, can be quite helpful as you are getting to Clvl 30.If you know you are going to do Warcry eventually, put a point in Battlecry as soon as possible and use it.
More in the strategy section.
When casting your beneficial Warcries, always cast Battle Command first, for the +1 to all. This will make your Battle Orders and Shout more effective. You must remember to cast BC before BO every time though, or you'll reset your hit points.
- Howl: 1 point, pre-req.
- Shout: 1 point, pre-req.
- Battle Orders: 20 points, know it, love it.
- Battle Command: 1 point, well worth it.
- Find Potion: 1 point, pre-req.
- Find Item: 8+ points, optional. More in the strategy section.
- Taunt: 1 point, pre-req for Warcry
- Battlecry: 1 point, pre-req for Warcry (helps on early leveling also)
- Warcry: 1+ points, at least 3 or 4 are most useful. Optional (add at high levels, if at all).
- Grim Ward: No points, not recommended. Of possible use in the Cow Level or for Pindleskin runs.
The type of Barbarian you are going to play must be decided in advance. I generally recommend going with [Whirlwin]d for your main skill, since it's the fastest killer most of the time, especially if you go two-handed with your sword. Going from Clvl 30 to 70 is far faster with WW than Berserk or Frenzy, and it's safer, leeching back a ton, keeping you moving and less likely to be hit, etc.
Once you are actually doing just boss runs, especially Meph runs, Berserk is actually better, since it has a huge AR bonus, lets you tank so your Merc will be more viable, and does enormous damage.There isn't any leech, but you can use Concentration for that, when needed.However going from Clvl 30 to 70 or 80 hitting monsters one at a time, one swing at a time, is very tedious. Berserkers will need a lot more patience than I possess, or else will want to try and party leech exp quite a bit.Berserk is so effective (overpowered) that you can save a lot of skill points using it.Just 6 or 8 is plenty to slaughter anything with Berserk, and you'll save 10 or more skill points.Stick them into Find Item, Faster Speed, Natural Resistance, etc.
Frenzy isn't recommended for Hardcore, since you have no shield and are standing toe to toe, so any bit of lag could be your last.You also need two good weapons for Frenzy, and it's harder to find 2 big swords than 1 big sword.It's great for boss killing though; 20 points in this and you can use your dual Ali Babas all the time, if you want, and easily take down bosses with them.
All three of these work well for MF'ing Barbs, I recommend Berserk if you have the patience to level up with it, WW if you don't have as much patience and want to be a powerful killing character elsewhere (such as doing Baal runs, which are very hard with a Berserker), and Frenzy if you just want some variety, and are softcore or very confident in your connection.
- Leap: 1 point, pre-req.
- Leap Attack: 1 point, pre-req and mandatory for Meph Runs.
- Bash: 1 point, pre-req and useful for boss killing.
- Stun: 1 point, pre-req.
- [[Concentrate]: 1 point, pre-req.
- Whirlwind]: 10+ points, more adds damage and AR.
- Berserk: 1+, 4 or 5 is plenty.The best boss killing skill. Go to 10 or more if you are using it full time.
- Double Swing: 1 point, pre-req for Frenzy.
- Double Throw: 1 point, pre-req for Frenzy
- Frenzy: 1+ points, can be useful for boss killing with dual Ali Baba, but it's not needed, and is not as effective as Berserk.
Sword Mastery is best for reasons mentioned above. If you do Axe, Mace, Spear, or Polearm, you'll want at least 15 points, and most max them out for the damage, AR, and critical hit bonuses. Points in your weapon mastery are generally better than points in Whirlwind or Berserk since your mastery adds damage and AR to everything: WW, Berserk, Concentrate, Bash, etc.
- Sword Mastery: 20 points.
- Increased Stamina: 1 point, pre-req.
- Increased Speed: 1+ points, optional, but very helpful for Meph runs.
- Iron Skin: 1 point, pre-req for Natural Resistance.
- Natural Resistance: 10+ points, how many depends on your other equipment. Past 13 diminishing returns really start to come in, but more points here gives you much more freedom in your equipment choices, to go all out for MF.
- Mace Mastery: No points or 20 points, depending on your weapon.
- Spear Mastery: No points or 20 points, depending on your weapon.
- Polearm Mastery: No points or 20 points, depending on your weapon.
- Axe Mastery: No points or 20 points, depending on your weapon choice.
- Throwing Mastery: Not useful.
More on how to use the skills in the Strategy section, later in this guide.
The MF Barbs's stat distribution is pretty simple. The more hit points (especially Hardcore) the better. You'll want to plan your weapon in advance (since it will almost certainly be the biggest Str/Dex req of any of your equipment) and add just enough stats to use it, and no more. More Dex is not so bad, since it'll help with your blocking and AR, but more strength is basically a waste, since it just adds to your damage, and you aren't really after massive damage.
You can also look to go with less than the biggest Elite weapon. A big Cruel Executioner sword would do enough damage, and save you 19 Strength compared to a Colossus Blade, which you could turn into 19 Vit, worth upwards of 160 hps, once you factor in Battle Orders. A Champion sword is 163/103 Str/Dex, compared to the 189/110 Str/Dex of a Colossus Blade. That's 33 stat points saved, which is worth around 264 hit points! The lesser damage might take you a few more swings, but for the huge hit points boost, it's worth it, especially Hardcore.
You will not likely have much, if any, equipment that adds to your stats (since you'll be all magic find gear) so you will probably have to achieve the minimum requirements naked, or nearly so. War Traveler has +10 Strength, but few other top MF items have any bonuses to stats. If you have some great rare with MF you are planning on wearing long term, then incorporate that into your final Str/Dex figures.
Ideally you'll have around 2500 AR and 2000+ hps when you're doing Meph runs, though you can go with much lower hps and survive. You don't really need more than 1000 or 1200 for Meph, but more gives a margin for error, especially if you get some lag running through Durance 2 or 3.
Strength: As much as your heaviest item requires, and no more. Generally this will be your sword, since none of the top MF armor is all that heavy.
Dexterity: As much as your sword/weapon requires. You'll probably need around 100 to have sufficient AR. If you have more points in Berserk or WW you can get away with less Dex, and you can add tons of AR with with charms or equipment, if you need to.
Vitality: As much as possible. Once you've met your equipment requirements, usually around Clvl 60, you'll put every point from there on into Vitality. Barbarians get 4 hps per vitality point, more than any other character, and that 4 turns into about 8 with your Clvl 20+ Battle Orders, giving you 40+ hps per Clvl. Do that for 20 levels and you've got 800 more hit points.
Energy: Never add a point here. You only get 1 mana for a point in Energy, and if you need more mana you can very easily add it with a charm or two. One small charm can have 15+ mana, which is equivalent to 15 stat points. In comparison, one small charm with 15 hit points is equivalent to about 2 stat points in Vitality. If you have to ask if it's better to make up 15 stat points or 2 stat points with a charm, you should probably stop reading right here and go play checkers or something less complicated.
This very long guide is spread over 3 pages.