This is your comprehensive guide for building a deadly warrior covered in magical thorns, pulling enemies to their deaths as every strike made against the warrior only brings more pain to the one who caused it. Welcome to our Thorns Endgame build. This build challenges any enemy, even Bosses and Elites, to stand and fight you as your thorns shred through them, leaving them in a bloody mess. With great mobility, you’ll use Aspect of Grasping Whirlwind to pull all your foes on top of you.
Our guide will cover all basic mechanics and deep dive into the optimal setup for skills, Paragon and gear for the build.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- Amazing single-target and group DPS
- Easy to play
- Strong defenses
- Good mobility
- DPS can feel slow against certain enemy types
- Must manage Fury
To see how this build compares to the other builds on our site, you can check out our build tier lists.
This build has several Legendary Aspects that are required before it will function properly. The Legendary Aspects you will need the following at a minimum to make the build work at its most basic level. These Aspects are all non-codex, which means you will need to find them on a Legendary Item then imprint them onto specific gear. This build also requires the Unique chest Razorplate and uses Gohr’s Devastating Grips as an optional slot for the gloves.
To even begin this build, we recommend you have these Aspects ready for imprinting at a minimum. For the build it become fully functional, we recommend you have all the Legendary Aspects listed further in this guide for the build to work optimally.
Season of the Malignant
Season 1 Patch Updates
This build was created within the current Season and utilizes the current in-game information and Aspects. We will note any future changes to this build here.
The second major update for Season 1, Patch 1.1.1 released on August 8th 2023, brings some positive changes to Barbarian. This includes adjustments to Basic Generator Skills, Key Passives, Skill passives and Legendary Aspects. The changes that directly affect this build are listed below.
- Gushing Wounds – Bleed damage dealt based on Critical Damage bonus increased from 100% to 115%.
- Flay – Fury gained increased from 10 to 13.
- Aggressive Resistance – Damage reduction increased from 3% to 4%.
- Death Wish Aspect – Thorns increased from .5-.75 to .65-.85.
The theme for Season 1 introduces a new form of legendary gem called Malignant Hearts. There are three types of hearts that need to be socketed into matching colored sockets on all equipped jewelry and one type of heart that can be placed into any socket. For more information about the Malignant Hearts theme for Season 1 check out our Malignant Hearts guide.
Listed below are the Malignant Hearts that are useful for this build, ranked by importance. Stats displayed reflect what a Level 20 character would receive as a drop. Note that this list is based on our early opinions on the Malignant Hearts, and we will update it as and when it is necessary.
Skill Tree Points and Skill Bar
Follow the points allocated in the image above for the complete 58 point build. The additional 10 skill points are completed using the Renown system.
|Flay Level 1, Enhanced Flay, Combat Flay||Basic Skill|
|Whirlwind Level 5, Enhanced Whirlwind, Furious Whirlwind, Pressure Point Level 3||Core Skill|
|Rallying Cry Level 1, Enhanced Rallying Cry, Tactical Rallying Cry, Iron Skin Level 1, Enhanced Iron Skin, Strategic Iron Skin, Imposing Presence Level 3, Martial Vigor Level 3, Outburst Level 3, Tough as Nails Level 3||Defensive Skill|
|War Cry Level 1, Enhanced War Cry, Mighty War Cry, Booming Voice Level 3, Guttural Yell Level 3, Aggressive Resistance Level 3, Prolific Fury Level 3||Brawling Skill|
|Pit Fighter Level 3, Thick Skin Level 1, Counteroffensive Level 3, Hamstring Level 1||Weapon Mastery Skill|
|Wrath of the Berserker, Prime Wrath of the Berserker, Supreme Wrath of the Berserker||Ultimate Skill|
|Gushing Wounds||Key Passives|
Weapon Expertise – The Barbarian Specialization
Weapon Expertise is a set of benefits tied to which weapons you use as a Barbarian. To unlock your Expertise, simply hit Level 5 and the tab below will be made available. By using a certain weapon type, you will begin to gain ranks with that weapon as you fight. The ranks are from 0 to 10 and will level up moderately quickly as your character gains experience. Once your expertise hit rank 10, you will be maxed out on the benefit for using that weapon with your skills. As a reminder, to swap your assigned weapon to the skill you are using, go to your Skill selection list (not Skill Tree) and you will see how to switch it. For mouse and keyboard users, you can access this by pressing the middle mouse button. At Level 15, you will unlock the Masters of Battle quest. This quest will be available in the township of ‘Ked Bardu’ from the Forgemaster Gerti. Upon completing this quest you will unlock the Technique slots as seen below. This will offer you an additional permanent bonus from one of the weapons regardless of whether you have it equipped to a skill or not.
For the Thorns build, we will be focused using the expertise of Two-Handed Axe for the bonus damage against Vulnerable Damage.
We recommend using these Legendary nodes and Rare Glyphs to truly take this build into the endgame. Note that each Rare Glyph’s information listed below is for the Level 21 version.
|Exploit||– For every 5 Dexterity purchased within range, you deal + [3.85%] increased damage to Vulnerable targets.|
– Additional Bonus unlocked after 25 Dexterity points are purchased in the glyph’s range: When an enemy is damaged by you, they become Vulnerable for 3 seconds. This cannot happen more than once every 20 seconds per enemy.
|Territorial||– For every 5 Dexterity purchased within range, you deal +[9.6]% increased damage to Close targets.|
– Additional Bonus unlocked after 25 Dexterity points are purchased in the glyph’s range: You gain 10% Damage Reduction against Close enemies.
|Revenge||– Grants +% bonus to all Rare nodes within range.|
– Additional Bonus unlocked after 25 Willpower points are purchased in the glyph’s range: Dealing Thorns damage to an enemy increases all damage it takes from you by x1%, up to x8%, for 10 seconds.
|Might||– Grants + [120%] bonus to all Magic nodes within range.|
– Additional Bonus unlocked after 40 Strength points are purchased in the glyph’s range: You deal x8% increased damage while wielding Two-Handed weapons.
|Marshal||– Grants +[125%] bonus to all Magic nodes within range.|
– Additional Bonus unlocked after 40 Strength points are purchased in the glyph’s range: After casting a Shout Skill, the active Cooldown of every other Shout Skill is reduced by 1.2 seconds.
|Disembowel||– For every 5 Willpower purchased within range, you deal +[8%] increased Bleeding damage.|
– Additional Bonus unlocked after 25 Willpower points are purchased in the glyph’s range: Killing a Bleeding enemy has a 10% chance to reduce the Cooldowns of your Non-Ultimate active Cooldowns by 1 second.
|Seething||– For every 5 Strength purchased within range, you deal + [8%] increased damage while wielding a Sword.|
– Additional Bonus unlocked after 40 Strength points are purchased in the glyph’s range: While wielding a Sword, you gain 3 Fury when you kill an enemy.
Let’s break down each of these beneficial nodes and where our Paragon Points are positioned in each of the Paragon Boards we use. This part of the build is presented in order of importance. If you do not have enough Paragon Points to use in your Paragon Tree, just slowly work towards each step.
- Take the pathway up the left hand side of the board towards the open Glyph slot.
- Along route pick up the Rare Node Tenacity, this boosts our Armor and Maximum Life.
- Insert the Glyph Territorial, and take the Dexterity nodes shown to get the bonus. This will help us with our Weapon Mastery skills, but also gives us bonus Physical Damage.
- Inside the Glyph radius we will take both Rare Nodes, Raw Power and Iron Strength, for the Physical damage and Armor boost.
- Now take the pathway back down out of the glyph radius and take the Brawn Node.
- Finally, path towards the connection point at the top of the board and attach our next Paragon Board, Decimator.
Decimator (2nd Board)
- Path towards the open Glyph slots and pick up the Rare Node Destroyer along the way.
- Now go straight to the open Glyph slot and insert Might. This Glyph will boost the Magic Nodes in our Glyph radius and help increase our Two-handed attacks. It is Strength based so be sure to take the Strength nodes shown above.
- Next we will take both Rare Nodes inside the Glyph radius, Demolish and Arrogance, both of these Nodes will give us advantages against Vulnerable enemies. Be sure to take the correct Magic Nodes.
- Head towards the right hand side of the board and pick up the Rare Node Pillage, this node will give us another increase in damage to Vulnerable Enemies.
- Complete the left hand side pathway as well picking up the Rare Node Brawn, this will increase our Physical Damage and add some Life.
- Finally, use the right hand connection point to attach the next Paragon Board Blood Rage.
Blood Rage (3rd Board)
- Take the pathway towards the Glyph slot and pick up the Restorative Node.
- Finish pathing towards the open Glyph slot and insert Revenge into the Glyph slot. This Glyph will boost the Rare Nodes within the radius and increases our damage as Thorns hits our enemies.
- Inside the Glyph radius take both Rare Nodes, Grit and Revel, these Nodes will grant you an increase in offenses and defenses against Bleeding enemies.
- Now path towards the top connection point and attach the next board, Carnage.
Carnage (4th Board)
- Head up towards the Open Glyph slot and insert Marshal into the slot and take the needed Strength to ensure its bonus.
- Now take both Rare Nodes inside the Glyph radius, Brash and Fierce. These will help our defenses against Close Enemies and our offensive Berserking state.
- Return to the Decimator board and attach Bone Breaker to the left hand connection point.
Bone Breaker (5th Board)
- Take the Rare Node below the Glyph radius, Tenacity, for the Life increases.
- Select the Nodes towards the open Glyph slot and insert Exploit, this will increase our damage to Vulnerable Enemies. Be sure to take the needed Dexterity Nodes within the Glyph Radius.
- Next, take the Rare Node Vigor for the Damage Reduction against Healthy Enemies and a small damage increase.
- Now head to the upper side of the board and attach the Weapons Master board.
Weapons Master(6th board)
- Select the nodes towards the open Glyph slot, and insert Disembowel for increase in damage towards Bleeding targets.
- Take the needed Willpower Nodes to get the bonus to help with our cooldown timers.
- Now take the two Rare Nodes, Raw Power and Iron Strength, this will increase our Physical Damage and Armor.
- Finally, go to the left hand connection point and attach our final board, Hemorrhage.
Hemorrhage (7th Board)
- Take the nodes towards the open Glyph slot and insert Seething, this Glyph boosts our Fury by adding a Fury gained on Kill effect. Be aware this effect only occurs while using a Sword.
- Now take the needed Strength nodes.
- Include the two Rare nodes, Grit and Butcher, increase our offenses and defenses while fighting Bleeding targets.
- This completes the Paragon Tree for this build.
Paragon board images courtesy of d4builds.gg.
Build Mechanics and Playstyle
The great thing about a Thorns build is how much fun it is to play. Thorns has very little setup and all it needs to start working is you, and some angry enemies. First, you want to activate both of your shouts, Rallying Cry and War Cry. The first shout is going to boost your movement and Fury generation so you can maintain your Whirlwind. The second shout is going to put you in a state of Berserking. At this point of your skill rotation you have a choice to make with the Ultimate Skill Wrath of the Berserker. It offers a massive boost in damage and movement speed, and makes us Unstoppable, which can help us reposition or charge through packs of enemies. You can either use it for large packs of enemies or save it for Elite mobs.
Once you are in a Berserking state through either War Cry or Wrath of the Berserker, you can begin to Whirlwind. This offers us a vacuum to pull all enemies towards us with Aspect of Grasping Whirlwind and an explosion of fire every two seconds because of our Unique Gohr’s Devastating Grips. The other important element of using Whirlwind with Thorns is the Needleflare Aspect. This Aspect gives us a high percent chance of triggering an AoE of Thorns to all enemies around us. This is very important, as Whirlwind has the ability to hit so many times that we will see this proc quite often, adding a huge amount of damage to the enemies surrounding us.
Lastly, we have our two remaining skills: Iron Skin and Flay. Iron Skin offers us a great defensive tactic to use in tough situations and Flay will actually build up our Damage Reduction and Thorns Damage, making it a great skill to weave in and out of Whirlwind attacks.
Berserking gives us a base increase of 25% damage and 30% movement speed. We also benefit from the passive Aggressive Resistance for an increase in our Damage Reduction. We will gain the benefit of more Thorns through the Death Wish Aspect. Berserking also allows for an interesting combination to happen through the Aspect of Berserk Ripping and our Key Passive Gushing Wounds. This will not only give us added bleed damage on top of every Thorns retaliation, but it with Gushing Wounds these strikes can now be Critical Strikes.
Thorns is a Unqiue type of damage in the Diablo 4, as it is limited in the ways you’re able to boost it’s damage output. First, of course, is Thorns damage which can be found on Pants, Chest, and Amulets gear slots. It can also be added to your gear through the Royal Emerald gems for your Armor pieces. The next way Thorns can be boosted in damage is through our Strength Stat. Strength acts as a multiplier for Thorns, the more Strength you have, it directly correlates to an increase in Thorn damage. Lastly, Thorn’s damage will be increased as Physical Damage increases are taken either through Gear Affixes or Paragon Tree Nodes.
Gear Choice and Stat Priority
As you begin to farm in World Tier 3 and 4, Rare and Legendary item drops will begin to appear with some regularity depending on your luck. We recommend saving the targeted Legendary items that have the needed Legendary aspects listed below. We also recommended to keep multiple copies of the build’s Aspects in your Stash for future upgrades.
As for the Rare items, you will need to inspect each one for targeted affixes for use in each specific slot and do your best to match the recommended rolls. We have listed our targeted affixes in order of importance. Check the chart below and make note of what affixes you are searching for when you see a Rare gear piece drop.
|Gear Slot||Targeted Affixes|
|Helm||1. Cooldown Reduction|
2. Maximum Life
3. Attack Speed
5. Damage while Berserking
|Gloves||Gohr’s Devastating Grips|
2. Damage Reduction while Fortified
3. Damage Reduction while Injured
4. Maximum Life
5. Damage Reduction from Close Enemies
|Boots||1. Movement Speed|
2. Damage Reduction while Injured
3. Fury Cost Reduction
5. Movement Speed for 4 seconds After Killing an Elite
|Amulet||1. Cooldown Reduction |
4. Rank Up Outburst
5. Movement Speed
6. Fury Cost Reduction
|Rings||1. Vulnerable Damage|
2. Maximum Life
3. Critical Strike Chance
4. Critical Strike Damage
5. Damage to Close Enemies
6. Damage while Berserking
|Weapons||1. Vulnerable Damage|
3. Critical Strike Damage
4. Damage to Close Enemies
5. Damage to Bleeding Enemies
6. All Stats
Please note that these affixes are the recommended picks for this Thorns build, but that is simply our opinion. Other affixes could certainly work instead of the ones listed above, but may not be optimal. Also, there are several very specific affixes that are required to make the build work, they are as follows:
- Rank ups to selected Skills
- Maximum Life
A final point on acquiring the right Affixes and Legendary Aspects, use your Obols to target farm them. Obols are awarded from many different activities in the game, you will always stockpiling them until you hit your maximum. Instead of just randomly spending them on a random pick, use them to target what you might be missing from this build. It is a great way to target a specific slot of loot and find what you need.
If you are interested in checking out a new tool for gambling Obols check out this link below from Icy Veins.Obol Gambling Optimization Tool
Listed below are all the best-in-slot Aspects found on Legendary items that are important for the Thorns Barbarian build. Aspects from the Codex of Power can be used if you cannot find the proper Legendary drops, but they have weaker effects. Extract Aspects from lower level Legendary items and imprint them onto better Rare items with preferred stats. The endgame itemization goal will be to imprint Aspects with the best values Ancestral Rare items with Item Power above or as close to 800, then upgrade them through the Blacksmith. Each aspect is listed with its matching gear slot. Do your best to keep each aspect in the slot it was posted with.
|Gear Slot||Legendary Aspect||Legendary Aspect Power|
|Helm||Aspect of Disobedience||You gain [0.25-0.50%] increased Armor for 4 seconds when you deal any form of damage, stacking up to [15.00-30.00%].|
|Gloves||Gohr’s Devastating Grips|
|Pants||Aspect of Numbing Wrath||Each point of Fury generated while at Maximum Fury grants [X] Fortify.|
|Boots||Aspect of Grasping Whirlwind||Whirlwind periodically Pulls enemies to you.|
|Amulets (50% bonus)||Aspect of the Dire Whirlwind||Whirlwind’s Critical Strike Chance is increased by [3-8%] for each second it is channeled, up to [9-24%] .|
|Ring||Aspect of Echoing Fury||Your Shout Skills generate [2.0-4.0] Fury per second while active.|
|Ring||Bold Chieftain’s Aspect||Whenever you cast a Shout Skill, its Cooldown is reduced by [1.0-1.9] seconds per Nearby enemy, up to a maximum of 6 seconds.|
|Bludgeoning Weapon (200% bonus)||Death Wish Aspect||Gain [.65-.85] Thorns while Berserking.|
|Slashing Weapon (200% bonus)||Needleflare Aspect||Thorns damage dealt has a [20-40%] chance to deal damage to all enemies around you.|
|Dual-Wield Weapon 1||Conceited Aspect||Deal [15-25%] increased damage while you have a Barrier active.|
|Dual-Wield Weapon 2||:Aspect of Berserk Ripping||Whenever you deal direct damage while Berserking, inflict [20-30%] of the Base damage dealt as additional Bleeding damage over 5 seconds.|
Listed below are the best gems to socket into gear for each slot type.
- Weapon: Royal Emerald for critical strike damage to Vulnerable enemies.
- Armor: Royal Emerald for increased Thorns.
- Jewelry: Exclusively using our Malignant Hearts for these slots.
Elixirs and Health Pots
Visit the Alchemist in any main town to craft helpful Elixirs that increase stats, and experience gain for 30 minutes. Make sure to forage plants and pick up the necessary crafting materials during your adventures; they randomly spawn around the world. Use an Elixir providing any Resistance you need most, or the Assault Elixir to increase Attack Speed.
Return to the Alchemist again when you reach Level 20, 30, 45, 60, 70, 80 and 90, to upgrade your potion. The extra healing is essential to survival.
- August 29th 2023: Build Creation Season 1.