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Leveling a Hardcore Barbarian Through Normal

Hardcore BarbarianI thought I would chronicle my experiences of leveling a hardcore Barbarian. First off I would like to state that hardcore is not that much different than the standard game. Its not difficult to play without dying as long as you change HOW you play. My first play through was a standard Demon Hunter who is now in Act 2 Inferno. I would die constantly... a single shot from anything could kill me. It wasn't until after making an hardcore character that I understood how the game is meant to be played. A bit of tweaking on my Demon Hunter and now those very same mobs that would one shot me are no problem. I actually almost never die, and when I do its because of stupidity on my part. Best part is those minor changes were less than 500k on the AH, and a slight play style change. I would advise everyone to roll an hardcore character at least once, it can vastly change how you play.

Since I am chronicling what I learned as I played hardcore... chances are some sections will be much shorter than others. Act 1 of each difficulty I would imagine would be quite long in comparison to the others. Also feel free to comment on my build and any strategies that you are using. If there is a better way, I'll gladly look into it.

Leveling a Hardcore Barbarian:

Normal: 1 - 32 (6.5k HP, 550 DPS)
-Act 1: 1 - 17

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Act 1 was pretty terrifying. Having never played an hardcore character before I was constantly thinking about "what if I die? I'd lose all my stuff... Oh god". It was actually pretty detrimental to my playing as even basic zombies I would hit once and run away. It wasn't until a bit later that I realized I was being silly and started actually playing. I had forgotten how easy everything in normal was. However in the back of my mind I was always worried about dying. I understood how gearing up in hardcore worked... but I wasn't sure of just how much I should prioritize my stats. (low level - vit>main>int, high level - res>vit>main). It took a bit to get into the swing of things. Pretty soon I was cruising along killing everything. (Always explore the whole map... provides good exp and items. Rushing leads to death).

Barbarian Kills Skeleton King in Act 1Since I was moving along pretty well I stopped really paying attention to gear and just played the game. Once I got to the Skeleton King I realized that I was gearing up VERY wrong. I thought I was doing well up till that point, but I realized that he still hit like a truck... and I was going to have better luck killing him with kindness than with my blade. Turns out that even though I thought i was well geared I really wasn't. I had focused TOO MUCH on vit, and because of that I was lacking in str. Eventually I won, but I learned a valuable lesson. (low level - vit>=main>int) So, a quick trip to the AH and I found that the economy isn't jacked up... since there aren't any people in hardcore farming act 4 Inferno, there isn't an influx of expensive items, so everything is actually pretty cheap. For about 2k I got an awesome wep that made the rest of the run a joke. Lesson learned.

From this point forward I basically breezed through now that I had an understanding of gear and a new play style. When I downed the Butcher I was quite excited... Act 1 completed hardcore style. It was a high that I have not experienced in the standard game.

-Act 2: 17 - 25
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Knowing from SC that Act 2 is unforgiving when it comes to melee I was once again quite scared. I know that in normal you generally don't have to worry much about being hit... but then again, its hardcore. I started out quite cautiously, however a few more levels and I discovered revenge... caution went out the window.

Just before meeting Maghda I ran across a vampiric elite. This fight required a completely different skill set that I wasn't ready for. Once again my fear of death had led me to stack too much vitality, and not enough strength. Basically I couldn't out damage his heals. However Frenzy+alot of stuns allowed me to finally kill him. So it was AH time again. I was able to pick up almost a whole set of gear for around 10k. This let me once again fly through the next few hours of gameplay. When I got to Zoltun Kulle, I destroyed him. It was an utter joke. Dropped down earthquake and ground stop forced everyone to stand in it. Both his minions went down instantly and he was at 50% hp soon after. This is where it finally clicked that "Even if I am unkillable, I still wont be able to progress if I can't kill anything else". I'm doing a bit better focusing on my gear.

My gear was pretty awesome, I got to Belial and just did a nice "Tank and Spank". My HP never went below 90%, had I of thought ahead and used frenzy rather than cleave I would have killed him even faster.

-Act 3: 25 - 30
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I actually didn't learn much here. I have a general understanding of both barb and hardcore play style. All the bosses were tank and spank. No issues. Most annoying bit was Azmodan since I couldn't keep attacking while on the DoTs. Not that they really did much damage... I just didn't want to chance it, just in case.
Barbarian Solo Azmodan

-Act 4: 30 - 32
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Bought some crazy awesome rings/amulets. Boosted my HP up to 6.5k and my DPS to 550. I killed Izual in 5 hits. Diablo went down with only minor hiccups... but I never dropped below 50% HP. I got caught in his bone trap a few times. Melee is a bit harder to move away from a big boss than ranged.
Barbarian tanks Izual
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