Offensive and defensive balance is vital in Diablo 4. Swapping gear upon encountering "Green Numbers" might work for a while, but learning to optimize early in your character can increase your level rate, decrease your travel time, and prepare you to make critical gear decisions as you march into the middle and end game.
This guide shows how to use defensive optimization to prepare for challenging end-game content in Diablo 4.
Understanding Defenses in Diablo 4
The first step to understanding defensive stats is breaking down the hidden mechanics behind Diablo 4's damage reduction. Don't worry, we'll keep it light and approachable.
In Diablo 4, there are two categories of damage that you can take; Physical and Non-physical.
If you take Physical Damage, your armor will contribute all of its damage reduction value to the initial hit. So if you have 20% damage reduction from armor, 100 initial physical damage would become 80 final damage taken by your character.
Armor would also be half as effective against other forms of damage (so 100 non-physical damage would become 90 final damage if you had no resistances).
When taking any sort of non-physical damage, your resistances and armor will both be used to calculate the initial damage you take.
The sum of half of the value of your resistance and half of the value of your armor will be used to calculate the initial damage.
For example, you have 20% damage reduction from armor and 40% fire resistance. Against fire damage, add those numbers together (20 + 40 = 60%) and divide by two. In this example, you end with 30% damage reduction before considering other sources.
Other Sources of Damage Reduction
Any other source of Damage Reduction you have, whether it be from paragon nodes, glyphs, or from modifiers on your gear, will scale multiplicatively with each other. These will be explored in the following sections including the math behind Damage Reduction.
Important Defensive Modifiers
The stats listed below are great additional sources of Damage Reduction. They all apply separately but come at the cost of diminishing returns.
Getting bonuses from each of these is a great way to increase your defenses. Pants and Chest Armor can roll a wide range of these modifiers. These slots are typically used to roll 3-4 of these modifiers.
- Damage Reduction against Close Enemies is one of the more important defensive modifiers. The majority of damage taken in this game will be from Close enemies, especially for melee characters.
This can also be some of the most dangerous damage because it is easiest to lose control of a fight when many enemies mob you at once! Ranged enemies are easier for most classes to avoid, dodge or escape in a bind.
- Damage Reduction from Distant is another important source of damage reduction since enemies that are out of reach are usually the last enemies killed in a pack. While you’re dealing with other enemies, ranged enemies are constantly hitting you, so reducing this damage is crucial.
- There are many other sources of Damage Reduction that will be granted given a specific condition.
For example, Damage Reduction from Vulnerable Enemies is great for any build with consistent sources of Vulnerability. Another example could be Damage Reducton from Burning Enemies that Sorcerer's can utilize and work into their builds in many ways. These sources will vary from class to class, but have a very important spot in each build.
- Damage Reduction while Fortified will increase your fortify bonus. This is one of the most important stats for any build using fortify. This can be rolled as a modifier and can also be added to your gear by socketing Sapphires in your armor.
- Flat Damage Reduction can also be found on gear and is an amazing choice since it fits in every single build for every character.
- Damage Reduction while Injured is a fantastic stat since it rolls at incredibly high values. While Injured bonuses trigger when you drop below 35% health and give you a massive amount of additional damage reduction, boosting your survivability when you need it most. This is one of the most sought-after modifiers on boots next to resource cost reduction and movement speed.
- Damage Reduction while Control Impaired has grown in popularity and can be found in every single build for Rogues. Any class that struggles with any sort of immunity and unstoppability can utilize this stat.
Rogues struggle with any sort of crowd control due to having no source of unstopability or immunity, and this will save you from death when getting crowd controlled. A large source of this stat comes from socketing Topaz in your armor.
- +%Armor is always a great modifier since armor is the most important stat for damage reduction. Any percent increase a fantastic way to increase your defenses.
- Max Life is always important since maximizing your life pool on top of all damage reduction bonuses will make you incredibly tanky. Rings can roll very high values of Max Life and should always have a place on your rings.
Helmets can also roll large Max Life values as well. You can avoid Max Life rolls if your ring only has 3 modifiers, but look to add this in on close-to-perfect rolled rings since Max Life is so hard to come by. There are also many sources of %Life in your Paragon tree to increase these bonuses.
How do these Stats Scale with Each Other?
To understand how these stats scale together, you must understand the formula used to calculate damage reduction.
Initial Damage Reduction
The Initial Damage Taken is reduced by your armor and resistance values, depending on the type of damage you take.
Physical Damage Reduction
Initial Physical Damage Reduction = 1 - ArmorDR
"ArmorDR" means the damage reduction rating of your armor. This value can be found by hovering in your characters tab.
Non-Physical Damage Reduction
Initial Nonphysical Damage Reduction = 1 - (ArmorDR + ResistanceDR ) / 2
Total Damage Reduction = 1 - ((Initial Damage Reduction) * (1 - DR1) * (1 - DR2) * ... * (1 - DRn)).
'DRn' refers to the 'n' amount of Damage Reduction sources you have. If you have 4 Damage Reduction sources
Damage Reduction Calculation Example
To best understand the formula above, lets create a scenario where your character is taking damage from a non-physical damage source. We will make the following assumptions:
- The enemy hits you with an attack that does 500 Fire Damage before damage reduction is taken into account.
- Your damage reduction from armor is 50%.
- You have 30% Fire Resistance.
- The enemy is Close and you have 15% Damage Reduction from Close Enemies. (DR1)
- The enemy is Vulnerable and you have 10% Damage Reduction from Vulnerable Enemies. (DR2)
- The enemy is Burning and you have 17% Damage Reduction from Burning Enemies. (DR3)
- You are Injured (<35% HP) and have 35% Damage Reduction While Injured. (DR4)
The Damage Reduction would be calculated as follows:
Initial Nonphysical Damage Reduction = 1 - (ArmorDR + ResistanceDR ) / 2
Initial Nonphysical Damage Reduction = 1 - (.5+.3)/2 = 0.6
Total Damage Reduction = 1 - (Initial Damage Reduction * (1 - DR1) * (1 - DR2) * ... * (1 - DRn)).
Since we have 4 additional sources of Damage Reduction, we will have up to DR4 in our equation:
Total Damage Reduction = 1 - (Initial Damage Reduction * (1 - DR1) * (1 - DR2) * (1 - DR3) * (1-DR4))
Total Damage Reduction = 1 - ((.6) * (1 - .15) * (1 - .1) * (1 - .17) * (1 - .35)) = .7523695
This means that you will reduce the incoming damage by roughly 75.2%. To calculate how much damage you will take, we will multiply this value by the damage of the attack to see how much we are reducing the attack by:
500 * .752 = 376
This means we are reducing the incoming damage by 376.
500 - 376 = 124
Therefore, we would only be taking 124 damage after taking all of our Damage Reduction into account.
These pants are an almost perfect example of the type of items you are looking for. This item has three seperate Damage Reduction modifiers as well as a max roll on Total Armor. Ideally, you would want to reroll the % Total Armor to another source of Damage Reduction. In this case for my Barbarian, I would want Damage Reduction while Fortified. But, for the time being, the % increase to armor is not bad to have since as a Strength class, I have an incredibly high armor value. This item alone provides a massive increase to the defenses of my Barbarian.
These pants aren't a perfect roll, but they are definitely extremely useful. A high Maximum Life and Total Armor roll will benefit you greatly while you farm for that perfect roll. Finding a perfect roll on your gear with all 4 BiS (Best in Slot) modifiers is incredibly difficult, so it is important to read each item and make use of what you have. Also, remember you can always reroll 1 modifier at the occultist.
Here is an example of an amulet I used on my Barbarian for a very long time, even through World Tier IV. I imprinted a high roll of the Aspect of Disobedience on it for an insanely high increase to my armor. As a Strength class and having over 1000 strength, this bonus provided an incredible amount of survivability. I had a hard time finding another amulet of Sacred or Ancestral quality with rolls for Damage Reduction, Armor, and Fury Cost reduction and this amulet stayed with me for a very long time.
- Aspect of Disobedience on an amulet can roll up to a 75% bonus to armor. If you feel like you are lacking defensively, this is a great way to give a nice boost while you sort out your defensive stats on your gear. Finding a high roll of this Aspect is important, so make sure you don’t salvage or sell a piece of gear with a high roll. Always extract these rolls at the occultist and save them for later.
- Paragon trees also have many fantastic sources of damage reduction. Some of these range from conditional defensive stats to flat armor and resistance bonuses.
- Every class has access to some great defensive abilities and passives inside their skill tree. If you feel like you are stugging to survive, trying to reallocate some points to defensive options may contribute some much needed defense to your character.
- There are many Elixirs that can provide bonuses to Resistances, Armor, Maximum Life, etc. Most of these can be crafted at the Alchemist while others may be found from side quests, chests, and can even be dropped from monsters.
- Another great option for extra defenses are Incense. These can be crafted at the Alchemist and provide boosts to Armor and Resistances. These effects are further increased if you are using them in party play.
It is without a doubt that to be successful in Diablo 4, you must understand how to optimize your characters defences. Understanding the mechanics of damage reduction and utilizing various sources such as armor, resistances, and specific modifiers is key to enhancing defenses. Additionally, leveraging item modifiers, paragon trees, defensive abilities, and consumables like elixirs and incense further strengthens defenses. By implementing these strategies, players can improve survivability and progress more efficiently in Diablo 4.