Hammer of the Ancients Barbarian Leveling Guide

Last Updated: August 3rd 2023

Season 1 - Malignant

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Welcome to the Hammer of the Ancients Leveling Guide! This is a fan-favorite skill that returns to the franchise for Barbarians. While it has a small AOE, we can solve this almost immediately though by obtaining Offensive Aspect of Ancestral Force. It does tremendous AOE damage for a relatively cheap cost. Fury generation is a major problem early on, but once that's solved this build can clear anything in the game.

To support Hammer of the Ancients we take a lot of the standard tools for leveling. Lunging Strike is our generator because it gives us an infinite dash. Then we load up on 2 shouts: Rallying Cry for Fury generation and movement, and War Cry for Berserking and extra damage. The final skill we take is Leap which gives us a tremendous mobility boost and generates resources. This kit makes leveling smooth and enjoyable.

This guide takes you all the way through the campaign to Level 50 so you can blast the endgame. Let's get started!

Hammer of the Ancients Leveling Barb

Lunging Strike

Hammer of the Ancients


Rallying Cry

War Cry

Call of the Ancients

Two-Handed Sword Expertise

Big Smash
Low Fury Cost

Godly in Group Play
Codex Power in Act 2

Melee Range
Weak at the Start
Mediocre Single Target
❌ Some Positioning Required

Season 1 - The Malignant

Players on the Eternal Realm should ignore this section of the guide. This build is designed to work without Caged Hearts, though it can be enhanced by them.

Diablo 4 Season 1 introduces a new questline to hunt Malignant Monsters across Sanctuary. Defeating them drops Caged Hearts that are placed in Jewelry infested sockets to gain build-altering powers. Check out the full Season 1 The Malignant guide from Chewingnom to learn more!

  • There are 32 Caged Hearts divided into 4 different colors, 1 color for each type:
    • Vicious: Orange, Offensive Power
    • Brutal: Blue, Defensive Power
    • Devious: Pink, Utility Power
    • Wrathful: Black, Super
  • The first 3 must be socketed into their respective infested socket color, while the 4th can be placed into any infested socket.
  • Once socketed, they cannot be removed. Instead they can be broken down into Invokers to target farm the Caged Hearts you want inside Malignant Tunnels.
  • Higher powered Caged Hearts drop at higher levels.

The available hearts for Barbarian are mostly bad news early on, these are unfortunately the best options. World Tier 3 & 4 have much better options when you get there.

With this in mind, let's look at the best Caged Hearts (and alternatives) for this build:

Best Caged Hearts

  1. Caged Heart of the Malignant Pact - The all around utility and diversity form this Heart make Barbarian leveling a breeze. This Heart is quite rare but will enhance your gameplay across the board.
  2. Caged Heart of Focused Rage - Barbarians are always using a ton of fury quickly when using their non-basic skills. This works well with this heart giving you a ton of crits quite often.
  3. Caged Heart of the Picana - Pairing this with Focused Rage allows you to trigger the lightning often, helping out with AOE clearing.

Alternative Caged Hearts

  • Caged Heart of Creeping Death - This provides a decent damage buff if you haven't found The Malignant Pact.


Hammer of the Ancients is our main damage dealer that has a big AOE once we acquire Offensive Aspect of Ancestral Force from the Codex of Power in Act 2. We run past our enemies to gather them up before turning around, applying our buffs, and sending them to the afterlife. It's not the strongest skill on bosses in the early game, so we have to rely heavily on Lunging Strike for Fury generation, extra damage, and to activate Furious Hammer of the Ancients.

Skill Tree & Gameplay

Getting Started

To start off we have to put 2 points into Basic Skills to unlock the Core Skill section. Lunging Strike is easily the best choice because it doubles as a mobility skill with infinite dashes. This also increases our damage and Fury generation on mobile Bosses.

Point 1: Lunging Strike
Point 2: Enhanced Lunging Strike

Unlocking Hammer of the Ancients

Hammer of the Ancients is the centerpiece of this build. It becomes a shockwave after we acquire Offensive Aspect of Ancestral Force that deals significant damage. Make sure to hit Elites and Bosses near full Fury to take advantage of Furious Hammer of the Ancients.

Point 3: Hammer of the Ancients
Point 4: Enhanced Hammer of the Ancients

Point 5: Furious Hammer of the Ancients
Point 6: Battle Lunging Strike

Adding Shouts, Leap & Damage

Our quality of life increases as we pick up our shouts. Rallying Cry is incredible because it gives us Fury generation and Movement Speed. War Cry gives us a nice damage boost and the invaluable Berserking buff for 25% Damage and 15% Movement Speed from Enhanced War Cry. We spam Rallying Cry all the time, while saving War Cry for Elites and Bosses.

We grab Leap to increase our movement, jump over terrain, and to generate Fury from Power Leap. Make sure you land on an enemy or you don't get the Fury!

Hamstring is a critical passive to place 1 point in to make our Bleeds apply Slow. We always have Bleeds from our Two-Handed Sword power in the Technique slot, so we can now take advantage of Damage to Slowed, Damage to Bleeding and Damage to Crowd Controlled enemies. Winning!

Finally we pump up our damage by maxing Hammer of the Ancients.

Point 7: Rallying Cry
Point 8: Enhanced Rallying Cry
Point 9: Tactical Rallying Cry
Points 10-11: Hammer of the Ancients
Point 12: Leap
Point 13: Enhanced Leap
Point 14: Power Leap

Level 15: Place 2H Swords in your Technique Slot to apply Bleeds and Slows from Hamstring.
Point 15: War Cry
Point 16: Enhanced War Cry
Point 17: Hamstring
Point 18: Mighty War Cry
Point 19-20: Hammer of the Ancients

Passives & Call of the Ancients

Now we head toward our ultimate: Call of the Ancients. This provides a tremendous damage boost to Elites and Bosses that we are in dire need of. It is possible to win hopelessly lost fights if you can kite Bosses around until they come back up. A win's a win no matter what!

From there we grab a bunch of critical passives that bring our build online. Booming Voice extends the duration of our Shouts, while Raid Leader gives us tremendous healing.

Point 21: Booming Voice
Points 22-23: Raid Leader
Point 24: Call of the Ancients
Point 25: Prime Call of the Ancients

Point 26: Supreme Call of the Ancients
Point 27: Raid Leader
Levels 28-29: Booming Voice
Points 30-33: Rallying Cry

Capstone Passive & Final Touches

We have to take Unbridled Rage as our Capstone Passive for the massive damage increase, but this is going to limit our HOTA casts until we solve our Fury issues. From there we pick up the best passives we can to gain resource, damage and defense.

Point 34: Unbridled Rage
Points 35: Aggressive Resistance
Points 36-38: Prolific Fury
Points 39-41: Pit Fighter

Point 42-44: No Mercy
Point 45-47: Heavy Handed
Point 48: Thick Skin

Spending Renown

After gathering all Renown in Diablo 4 you have 10 extra Skill Points to spend on every character. Your first priority is to spend them toward the leveling progression we've shown above. Once you've reached the end, put them into these nodes to build toward the Hammer of the Ancients Barbarian Endgame Build Guide.

Point 49-51: Counteroffensive
Point 52-54: Guttural Yell

Point 55: Tempered Fury
Point 56-58: Invigorating Fury

Check out our Renown Guide to unlock all your additional rewards efficiently. 

Barbarian Arsenal System

The Arsenal System allows Barbarians to use a specific weapon for every attack skill, each granting different Bonuses. The Technique Slot grants us 1 additional Arsenal Power of our choosing for every attack. The logic here is to use our 2 most powerful weapon bonuses to crush our enemies!

Unlocking the Arsenal System

The Arsenal System automatically unlocks when you reach Level 5. Opening the Expertise tab (Shift + C) shows all the different weapon types and their bonuses when using them. The Technique Slot unlocks at Level 15 via the Masters of Battle quest in the Dry Steppes which is very easy to complete. Simply walk northeast of town, kill some enemies, then walk west to a cave to slay the beast. After returning to town the Technique Slot will be yours!

How the Arsenal System Impacts Leveling

Our choices are simple to make while leveling as HOTA. We automatically get a weapon power from our 2H Bludgeoning Weapon, which makes the Technique Slot the 2H Sword to apply the Bleed. Remember that you must have a weapon leveled up to at least 1 before it can be equipped in the Technique Slot!

Weapon Power - Use the Weapon Power that correlates with your strongest Two-Handed Bludgeoning Weapon. This changes constantly as you Level Up and find new items. Always choose a weapon for its DPS & stats, and never for its Arsenal System Power while leveling!

Technique Power - We will ALWAYS take the Two-Handed Sword power because this makes every attack apply a Bleed. This combined with the Hamstring passive makes every attack also apply a Slow. Now we can take advantage of stats like Damage to Slowed, Damage to Bleeding and Damage to Crowd Controlled enemies on our gear. Finally, it opens up passives like No Mercy for even more damage.

Learn more details in our full Barbarian Arsenal System Guide.

Gear Progression & Global Stat Priorities

Leveling up in Diablo 4 is similar to most other ARPGs and MMOs - we're at the mercy of what drops. For the most part this means replacing Rares with better Rares all the way up to 50. If you're lucky enough to find some Legendaries or Uniques they can provide a significant power boost (discussed in the next sections). Assuming you don't find any of those, let's look at some key stats to look for along the way:

Hint: Press SHIFT over an item to compare it to what you're wearing!


Since Hammer of the Ancients requires a Two-Handed Bludgeoning weapon, that's the only slot where the DPS matters. All other weapons become stat sticks to fuel its power. The stats to look on these for are:

  • 1-H Weapons: Critical Strike Damage, Sockets.
  • 2-H Weapons: DPS (Bludgeoning only), Core Skill Damage, Critical Strike Damage, Sockets.

Only upgrade the weapon you're using for Hammer of the Ancients at the Blacksmith and socket them with Chipped Sapphire.


Armor pieces typically grant us Defense and Utility stats, except the Gloves which offer a tidal wave of Offense. Here are the important stats to look for:

  • Helm: Cooldown Reduction, Skill Ranks, Strength.
  • Armor: Life, Strength, Armor.
  • Gloves: Hammer of the Ancients, Attack Speed, Critical Strike Chance.
  • Pants: Life, Strength.
  • Boots: Movement Speed, Strength.


Jewelry provides powerful Offensive stats that help us on our leveling journey. Pay close attention to the rolls as higher leveled pieces aren't always better:

  • Amulet: Defensive Skill Ranks, Fury Cost Reduction, Damage, Damage, Movement Speed.
  • Rings: Critical Strike Chance, Critical Strike Damage, Physical Damage.

Do not upgrade Armor or Jewelry while leveling. Socket Armor with Rubys and Jewelry with Skulls or better yet Caged Hearts!

Read more about itemization in our Damage Explained, Defense Explained, and Stats Explained articles.

Codex of Power

The Codex of Power is a collection of Legendary Aspects you can imprint onto Rare or Legendary items at the Occultist. They unlock after completing specific Dungeons located around Sanctuary. For leveling there are a few powers that can significantly help us if we have the funds to imprint them:

Top Codex Leveling Powers in Order:

1. Offensive Aspect of Ancestral Force Must Have!Sunken Ruins
2. Edgemaster’s Offensive AspectOldstones
3. Offensive Aspect of the ExpectantUnderroot
4. Resource Aspect of Echoing FurySirocco Caverns

Warning: DO NOT imprint your Weapons as they are constantly replaced while leveling. Put Offensive Aspects on your Amulet, Rings, or Gloves instead.

Learn more details in our article covering the Codex of Power.

Helpful Legendary Powers

If you're lucky enough to find a Legendary while leveling, chances are it'll be an upgrade for you and you should equip it immediately. However, they are not all created equal, and some of them can accelerate your journey tremendously. Let's look at the top 5 powers you could find and how to take advantage of them:

  1. Bold Chieftain's Resource Aspect is the jackpot for this build! This essentially gives you infinite shouts and makes leveling trivial. If you find this, drop Leap for Challenging Shout.
  2. Offensive Aspect of Limitless Rage is another nice power for any extra Fury you generate.
  3. Resource Aspect of Echoing Fury provides us with Fury per second while a shout is active. Even a low roll can make a drastic difference to Fury management on a Barbarian!
  4. Defensive Aspect of the Protector provides us with a Barrier which greatly boosts our survivability.
  5. Conceited Offensive Aspect provides us with a damage boost while a Barrier is active.

Discover every Barbarian Legendary Power in our Barbarian Overview.

Leveling Tips and Tricks

Before we end this leveling guide, let's look at some general tips and tricks to remember for all classes and specs!

Complete the Campaign or follow our Leveling Guides. Follow the Campaign if you haven't completed it yet. If you have, use our Alt Leveling Guide and Renown Speedrun Guide to progress your character quickly!

Level Up Your Potion. Many players don't know that you need to farm materials to upgrade your character's potion. Make sure you collect all materials as you explore Sanctuary, especially Gallowvine which is used in many recipes!

Alchemist location in Kyovashad

Compare your Items... Literally. Press Shift over an item in your inventory to compare it to what you're wearing. This makes it easy to determine what is and isn't an upgrade.

Renown is your Friend. While exploring the different zones, take time to gather Renown along the way. It has long-term benefits for your entire account, including more Skill/Paragon points and Potion charges. Renown is gained by activating Waypoints, finding Altars of Lilith, completing Side Quests/Dungeons and rescuing Strongholds.

Be Careful with Gold. A lot of endgame processes, like extracting and imprinting Legendary Aspects, are extremely expensive for a brand-new character. Don't spend all of your Gold along the way!

Don't Imprint Your Weapon. The most critical piece of gear while leveling up is your weapon, which gets replaced constantly. This makes imprinting a Legendary Aspect on it a waste of resources. Instead, put your best offensive Aspect on your Amulet, which can be used for a long time.

Video Guide

Next Steps


  • The Hammer of the Ancients Barbarian is a fantastic leveling build in Diablo 4.
  • Generate Fury with Rallying Cry, Leap and Lunging Strike to unleash Hammer of the Ancients on density, Elites and Bosses.
  • Save Call of the Ancients for Elites and Bosses. If needed, kite them around until their cooldown is back up.
  • Your Two-Handed Bludgeoning weapon determines the DPS for Hammer of the Ancients. The other weapons are then used as Stat Sticks.
  • Look out for helpful Legendary Powers in the Codex of Power. Offensive Aspect of Ancestral Force is a must have from the Sunken Ruins in Scosglen!
  • Read the Next Steps above to continue your journey.


Written by Raxxanterax
Updated by Facefoot
Reviewed by Aristotelian

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