Defenses for Beginners

Last Updated: June 10th 2023

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In Diablo 4, dealing damage is the most important thing for dealing with Hell's minions, but you shouldn't forget about your defense. After all, staying alive is necessary to deal any damage at all. In this article we dive into different stats and mechanics that help you protect yourself even against the toughest minions of hell.


The most basic way to increase your total defense. Your Life stat measures how alive you are. When it hits 0 you die, and at that point the only thing you can do is respawn at the last checkpoint or get revived by your party members.

You get some Base Life for leveling up, starting at 40 Life at level 1, up to 420 Life at level 25. There are several other ways to increase your Maximum Life:

  • +Max Life roll on your items (scales with item power)
  • Rubies in armor (scales with gem quality)
  • Enhanced Challenging Shout (Barbarian Only)
  • Imposing Presence (Barbarian Only)
  • Rathma's Vigor (Necromancer Only)
  • Golems - Blood (Necromancer Only)
  • Ursine Strength (Druid Only)

Restoring Life

There are also a few different ways to restore your life after you take damage. First of all, every class has access to Healing Vials. Using one will instantly restore some flat amount of your Life (based on the level of the Healing Vial) and also 35% of your Maximum Life over the next 3 seconds. You can store several charges at once (boosted by the Renown system) and you regain these charges by killing enemies or damaging Elites and Bosses past a certain threshold.

Other than Healing Vials, there are some more ways to restore Life:

  • +Life Regeneration while Not Damaged Recently rolls on Helmets, Pants, and Rings
  • +Life On Kill rolls on Helmets, Amulets, Rings, and Focuses and from Skulls in weapons
  • Lucky Hit: Chance to Heal rolls on Gloves and off-hand items.
  • A number of Skills and Passives that can heal you for a percentage of your Maximum Life
  • Healers in towns
  • Healing Wells

On top of that, you can boost all these different ways of gaining Life with the Healing Received stat, which can be rolled on Amulets, Helmets, Pants, and Off-Hand items, and also comes from Skulls socketed into armor.

Life On Kill and Life Regeneration bonuses are very weak compared to the damage you take, so unless your build can make very good use of the few skills and passives that can restore Life, you will be healing mostly with Healing Vials.

Barrier on your Life Orb


Barrier is a mechanic very similar to Life, except it only lasts for a certain duration. When you take damage, it first depletes your Barrier and then the remainder goes into Life. When you have multiple Barriers their amount is added together, but the duration of each Barrier is tracked separately. When one of your Barriers expires, your total Barrier goes down. Your total Barrier cannot exceed your Base Life. So far we've found only 9 ways to gain Barrier:

  • "While Injured, Potion Grants 30% Maximum Life as Barrier" roll on Pants
  • Defensive Aspect of the Protector
  • Defensive Aspect of Shielding Storm (Necromancer Only)
  • Snap Frozen Defensive Aspect (Rogue Only)
  • Iron Skin (Barbarian Only)
  • Ice Armor and Prime Deep Freeze (Sorcerer Only)
  • Protection (Sorcerer Only)
  • Earthen Bulwark (Druid only)
  • Temerity

You can increase the amount of Barrier you get from any source with the Barrier Generation stat that can roll on Rings, Helmets, Off-Hand items, and also comes from Diamonds socketed into armor. However, since nearly every Barrier scales with your Maximum Life, it's usually better to just focus on your Life to make your Barriers stronger.

Armor & Resistances

Armor is one of your main ways of reducing damage. You get Armor from every armor piece and its amount scales linearly with the item power. Additionally, you also get 1 Armor for each point of Strength. You can further increase your Armor by socketing Skulls into Jewelry. All these sources of flat Armor can be increased by percentage-based bonuses from your Pants, Helmet, Chest, and Amulet, as well as Defensive Aspect of Disobedience.

Armor reduces all incoming Physical damage by a percentage that is based on your total Armor and on the level of the attacker. Against enemies of the same level, Armor's damage reduction scales linearly with your Armor. This damage reduction cannot exceed 85%, meaning that your Armor has an effective cap, but the amount of Armor you need to gain 1% damage reduction keeps increasing as you (and your enemies) level up.

At level 20 you get 0.0525% damage reduction per point of Armor and by level 25 this number goes down to 0.042%. To max out your damage reduction at these levels you need to get 2425 and 2930 Armor respectively. We don't know exactly how this scales on higher levels but we have this graph from one of the developers' livestreams:

While the numbers in the 20-25 level range are not completely correct, they are roughly in the same ballpark. If we trust this graph then we'll need about 7300 Armor to reach the cap against level 100 enemies. However, enemies in Nightmare Dungeons can go up to level 150 so even more Armor is needed to reach the cap.

For Elemental (Cold, Fire, Lightning, Poison, and Shadow) damage, Armor is less effective. In PvE the damage reduction you get from armor is halved for Elemental damage, while in PvP you get 65% of your Armor's damage reduction.

To reduce Elemental damage further, you need to stack corresponding Elemental Resistances. Unlike Armor, Resistances don't come as an enigmatic number that transforms into damage reduction percentage through a complicated level-based formula. Instead, Resistances come as a percentage already. 10% Fire Resistance sounds pretty self-explanatory, but there are a few caveats:

  1. Resistances stack multiplicatively. If you get two sources of +50% Fire Resistance, you don't become completely immune to Fire damage. Instead, incoming Fire damage is cut in half and then the remaining half is halved again, so you only take 25% of original damage. In other words, the outcome is 75% Fire Resistance.
  2. Resistance works at reduced effectiveness. Since your Armor already reduces some of the elemental damage, the Damage Reduction you get from Resistances is multiplied by the inverse of your Armor's contribution. In PvE you get half of what you'd expect from your Resistances, while in PvP it's even worse: you get only 35%.
  3. Resistance is less effective at high world tiers. In the World Tiers 3 and 4 (Nightmare and Torment) all your Resistances are reduced by 20% and 40% respectively.

This makes Resistances quite weak as defense stats. Usually you'd only take Resistances when they don't compete with anything else.

Damage Reduction

The most important way to reduce incoming damage is Damage Reduction. This stat comes in a certain percentage and it does exactly what it says: reduces all incoming damage by that percentage if the conditions are met. You can get damage reduction from:

  • Barbarians get 10% base Damage Reduction
  • Every class gets an extra 93% Damage Reduction in PvP
  • Chests and Pants can roll Damage Reduction, Damage Reduction from Close Enemies, and Damage Reduction from Distant Enemies
  • Chests additionally can roll class-specific versions of this stat such as Damage Reduction from Enemies that are Bleeding.
  • Pants and Boots can roll Damage Reduction while Injured.
  • Amulets can roll all of the above stats.
  • Skills
  • Passives
  • Legendary Aspects

Similar to Resistances, Damage Reduction stacks multiplicatively. That doesn't mean that Damage Reduction becomes less effective as you stack it. If you get a new effect that gives you 20% Damage Reduction, you will take 20% less damage than without this effect, simple as that. What it does mean is that it's impossible to become invincible just by stacking Damage Reduction.

The only time when Damage Reduction stacks additively is when it comes from the same source. For example, when you put multiple ranks into the Mana Shield Sorcerer passive, or when using the Rogue skill Dark Shroud, which gives up to 5 shrouding shadows and a stacking Damage Reduction value for each shadow you have.


Barbarians, Druids, and Necromancers have access to a unique source of Damage Reduction that comes with its own set of mechanics to increase their defense. There are a number of skills, passives, and Legendary Aspects that can give you some amount of Fortify. When your Fortify is greater or equal to your current Life, you become Fortified. Fortified characters have 10% Damage Reduction. This number can be increased by the Defensive Stance passive and by Sapphires socketed into armor. When you are Fortified, incoming damage reduces both your Life and your Fortify by the same amount. The amount of Fortify you get can be increased by Bonus Fortify rolls on Rings and Helmet.


When you are hit by any attack you have a chance to dodge it, completely nullifying all damage and other harmful effects. You can't dodge individual ticks of Damage over Time (DoT) effects, but you can dodge the initial attack and prevent the DoT from being applied to you in the first place. There are a few ways to get dodge chance:

  • 0.025% Dodge Chance per point of Dexterity
  • Rolls on Pants and Boots
  • Assimilation Resource Aspect
  • Escape Artist's Aspect and Aspect of Elusive Menace (Rogue Only)
  • Agile (Rogue Only)

Much like Damage Reduction, Dodge Chance stacks multiplicatively, so it's theoretically impossible to become invincible.

Defense Summary

Understanding how defense works in Diablo 4 is very important if you want to spend your time slaying monsters rather than decorating the carpet. To put it simply, defense comes down to stacking your Life and/or Barrier as well as lots of different kinds of Damage Reduction and not chugging Healing Vials like your life depends on it (because it does).


Written by Northwar
Reviewed by Echohack, Teo1904, wudijo, snail

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