PTR Feedback: Runeword's concerning approach towards class balance

Edit: See responses to posts in this thread by going to the bottom of this post (or click PTR Feedback: Runeword's concerning approach towards class balance - #2 by Slomo4shO-1943 then scroll up)

Hi all, as I write this, we’re just a few hours into the first PTR for patch 2.6 and presumably a few short weeks away from a live 2.6 patch and Season 3 of Ladder.

At this point, we’re only made aware of the new runewords but have not been provided PTR or interim patch notes, so we do not yet know what this “other portion of content” is that will ship with 2.6.

Based on the runewords that have been announced, the following things can be observed or reasonably inferred:

  • early helm runewords provide options for playthroughs (ladder start, speedrunning) to navigate around specific problems that your character may be struggling with
  • early helm runewords provide easier access to farm certain areas with a lower gear ceiling - ie, Temper (fire) for farming travincal - to keep yourself or your merc alive
  • Mosaic provides an avenue to improve the viability of an AoE based martial arts assassin
  • Metamorphosis provides an avenue to forge a new shape shifter sub build where the druid can utilise both Werewolf and Werebear in different situations
  • Hustle provides “early mobility options” but in actuality also extend out to end-game use (more on this later)
  • The intention of the runewords have been stated as

To summarise, the new runewords are designed to help players progress easier while potentially opening up new sub builds and providing end-game pre-buffing options, and it’s clear that these runewords were created primarily with melee based characters in mind

On that note, I’ll try and cover these aspects in my feedback below.

Helps players get out of jams

Nothing really controversial here.

Nothing introduced from the new runewords pose a problem to make the mid game too easy to plough through for melee characters.

The helm runewords can be used for easier access into using a sunder charm until better items are obtained by players.

Early to mid game options to help characters get out of a jam so that they can continue to be competitive in the ladder race are fine.

Opens up new sub builds

Potentially opens up new sub builds, as well as makes existing but clunky ones viable.

The ones I see from these new runewords are:

  • AoE based Martial Arts Assassin using dual-wield Mosaics
  • Dual-form Shapeshifter Druids using Metamorphosis

These are changes in the right direction in my opinion, though aside from possibly needing separate buffs, there are still unique challenges with these builds that need to be addressed:

  • Martial Arts Assassin: repair costs on claws, especially superior ones with staff mods are absurdly expensive
  • Shapeshifter Druid: add the ability to shapeshift between forms without needing to go back to human form first, allow teleport while in shapeshifted form

End-game pre-buffing options

Metamorphosis and Hustle provide extra options on top of CTA to pre-buff characters.

For Metamorphosis overall, unless you’re a Shapeshifter Druid, this pre-buffing process is time consuming and convoluted and requires 2 or more extra items to carry into the battle field to use while hitting targets.

And for the Shapeshifter Druids, given their lack of AOE, this pre-buff for Druids is not substantial enough to be concerning.

For Hustle’s Burst of Speed:

  • For melee builds, the pre-buff is time consuming and requires hitting monsters multiple times that it’s likely not appealing enough to use or not a big enough concern
  • For throwers, Hustle cannot be made in throwing weapons, so weapon swap timing is needed to proc this. Given that throwing weapons do not have a fast attacking skill, this method of procing is not appealing enough to use or not a big enough concern

A possible exception to the above is a melee Barbarian, who can either use Frenzy for fast on striking effects with dual-wielded Hustles, or (more clunky) use Zeal from Passion + Hustle to proc the effect. While Frenzy and Burst of Speed have overlapping purposes, Burst of Speed lasts much longer than Frenzy.

For bowazons, this is where it’s really problematic.

As confirmed in the PTR this morning, Burst of speed can be proced easily using one of the following methods:

  1. Use a hustle bow and strafe with it until it procs.
  2. Use any hustle weapon and strafe with your main weapon and use weapon swap timing to land the proc.

In both cases, strafing into a medium sized group from afar procs Burst of Speed no problems. Because of this, a simple change to restrict Hustle to be made in melee weapons only will still have this issue.

And for the bowazon, Harmony is currently the best support weapon to have on swap for that Vigor aura, so Hustle will cleanly take Harmony’s place for that Burst of Speed proc, providing both a huge amount of attack speed and movement speed to the bowazon for basically for free.

Given the ease of ability to proc AND the impact that Burst of Speed has on the build, this has huge ramifications in a number of areas for the bowazon class that I’ll cover below… but is also a huge red flag that highlights a glaring flaw in the approach used to balance the classes.

Problem 1: Hustle skews and diminishes logical item upgrade paths

Currently, the Faith runeword in various bases is the top-tier bow option for any physical bowazon based character, followed closely behind by Windforce - a much cheaper option on the trading market, and overall an easier item to come by (depending on the grade you get).

For the sake of argument, let’s compare Windforce vs Faith Grand Matron Bow (GMB).

With Hustle’s Burst of Speed, a Faith GMB gets no offensive benefit, but Windforce gets a permanent 28% damage-per-second (DPS) gain! This DPS gain puts Windforce ahead of Faith GMB in DPS by between 10 to 20%. For higher character levels, this is also the case for a Windforce that is not socketed with any socketable item what so ever.

A strive item like Faith that no longer performs up to par with Windforce just doesn’t make sense for a game like Diablo 2.

The net result is, Faith becomes redundant to get for bowazons, which is very unfortunate. I fondly remember when I made my first Faith bow, and was very happy with this achievement and it increased my enjoyment of my character (it certainly helped that it rolled perfect too!)

And not only does this defy logical item progression, it also reduces item choice. With Faith now redundant, there really is only 1 end-game bow to use for a bowazon now, and that’s Windforce (rare bows are another possibility, but you’re more likely to win the lottery twice in a row before you find a suitable contender).

There are many examples where there are rare, underperforming unique items in Diablo 2 that the community has been requesting to overhaul for this exact game reason. This example just adds 1 more example to the pile.

Problem 2: Hustle makes faster item bases obsolete

Item bases that are fast but softer hitting will be obsolete for builds that use Hustle as a pre-buff option. That argument almost exists for Faith, but:

  • Faith’s aura requires Faith to be actively equipped. While GMB’s are the most popular bases to make Faith in, the effects of Fanaticism don’t spill into other weapon options (like Windforce), creating a neat separation. Burst of Speed is a buff that stays on you no matter what gear you decide to change to.
  • A level 9 Burst of Speed grants a much higher attack speed bonus than a level 15 Fanaticism aura, while also granting a higher movement speed bonus than a level 10 Vigor from Harmony. The degree of impact Burst of Speed has on builds is substantial

This in turn skews the relative strengths of the available item options out there, much like it does for Windforce and Faith in Windforce’s huge favour.

This also means that Faith bows in anything other than a GMB are less desirable.

Problem 3: Hustle erodes the unique aspects of the Assassin class

Fade and Venom exist as procs outside of the Assassin already as well. Hustle adds Burst of Speed to that list, which aside from being one of the two popular buff options for an Assassin, Burst of Speed is also the most iconic trait to the Assassin character archetype.

Problem 4: Hustle further complicates game balancing

With on-and-off buffs like Burst of Speed where the conditions of these buffs being triggered are subject to players finding use cases for these buffs (both currently known and not yet discovered) it potentially creates unforeseeable side effects that are also very awkward to correct down stream.

Contrasting this to balancing classes via skills, skill adjustments are a MUCH better way to approach class balance.

Solution 1: Balance classes through Skill Adjustments

If the intent is to address class balance, then this should be the very first place to start. This worked very well for patch 2.4 so why deviate from that?

Why? Because skills are:

  • More flexible to tweak, as both the skill itself and their synergies can be targets for change
  • Much easier to fine tune numbers with any level of precision to get balanced calibrated correctly, both baseline effects and scaling per skill level
  • Much easier to localise to specific skills, so that underperforming skills can be targeted for buffs, and overperforming skills can be targeted for nerfs
  • Much more predictable to determine the outcome of, and to reduce spill over effects into unintended areas (did Blizzard not see that bowazons would be impacted by Burst of Speed in this way?)
  • Less permanent and can be easily reverted if later on are found to be a flawed change. Items once in the wind stick around, unless deleted by Blizzard, making affected players unhappy
  • Less likely to change relative item metas, and don’t force players to build their character around specific items
  • Already in the game

So really, skills are a much much better tool for addressing class balance issues than granting new pre-buff options to classes.

For melee based classes (any class where their damage from their skills is determined by their weapon), adding flat damage is a great way to help their skills. Specifically:

  • +damage per level helps relieve the pain of needing to find a higher weapon option to progress through the game. Casters typically just need to level up to gain offensive power, so this goes some way to help bridge that gap
  • +damage per level makes skill points and +skill gear more meaningful for melee based classes. It’s paining to put whole skill points into something like Strafe and the damage only goes up by a miniscule amount

Even something like +1 damage for most melee skills, or +2 for the severely underperforming ones would be a good start. This benefit works great for the Magic Arrow skill, so it would be nice to see this across more melee skills.

Solution 2: Help classes by making Basic Item Tweaks

There are also more basic and benign item based changes that can be done to help classes that use them, depending on what problem is being addressed.

Underused item types

Crossbows and slower 2-handed weapons are underutilised, these items can have their base damages raised slightly to make them more attractive options.

For example only, normal crossbows bumped up by 1 average damage, exceptional crossbows bumped up by 3 average damage, elite crossbows bumped up by 5 average damage.

High repair costs and poor durability

Repair costs and low durability on weapons are quite harsh and should be reviewed. It makes no sense that some weapons cost more to repair than the amount of gold accumulated during the use of the weapon.

The frequency of repair on items also detracts from actual game play. Repair costs should be made cheaper for superior items, and durability on weapons adjusted upwards.

These changes are justified considering that pure caster classes do not consume durability on their weapons at all.

Solution 3: Help classes by improving movement speeds

The following are good cases for improving their movement speed:

  • Amazons don’t have any skill based movement bonuses what so ever. They also have poor teleport speeds for Enigma. Adding +1% movement speed to the Evade skill will help with this
  • Shapeshifters are stifled with not being able to teleport while in shapeshift form. If for some reason Blizzard do not have the appetite to allow teleport for shapeshifters, then add a +1% movement speed bonus to Lycanthropy and add a longer duration to Feral Rage (tied to skill level)

Solution 4: Change Hustle

Hustle’s armour is too underwhelming, but weapon too game breaking. These 2 items should be changed.

For example only:


  • Remove Burst of Speed completely
  • Add +5 Increased Speed (oskill)
  • Add a further +25% increased attack speed
  • Add +250 attack rating
  • Add +45 flat damage


  • Add a further +15% increased attack speed
  • Add +15 minimum damage
  • Add +10% chance of deadly strike

So in summary:

  • Hustle weapon in its current form MUST CHANGE to have Burst of Speed completely removed
  • If class balance is the motivation behind some of these runewords, then that has to stop - explore skill based changes first
  • Hustle armour needs some improvements
  • No concerning feedback about the other new runewords; Mosaic and Metamorphosis provide potential avenues to open up new sub builds if capitalised on properly through needed quality of life changes
  • Metamorphosis should be closely tested in the PTR for unintended or sharp power spikes

Thanks for taking your time to read through this feedback.

Comments welcome. Agree to disagree if you must, but any comments that display attitude or are uncivil or mean-spirited in any way will be completely ignored or in some cases reported.

Response Tracker:


I proposed damage on the new physical h
helm. It’s interesting that you are also suggesting the Increased Speed passive in place of BOS or Vigor Aura. My thoughts were that it fit better on the armor:

At this point I don’t think the devs care about balancing, they are going with their gut. The gut of game design theory is what they are running on.


This mostly sounds good to me. I share your concerns re Hustle weapon and BOS proc. It’s the equivalent of level 60 fana (not including Ed) and level 80 vigor (or maybe it’s the other way around).

Balancing IAS, FCR (where applicable), res, etc on a build is what makes gearing interesting in D2. If you can just ignore IAS and slap on a Hustle on swap to automatically hit max IAS BP, that makes it a lot less interesting… Plus ko + windforce outperforming Faith which can have exorbitantly expensive bases makes no sense…

I think your idea about increasing damage more via skill points is ok so long as they don’t overdo it and make it so that literally every class is just looking for +skills for DPS. Having +skills for casters and +dmg/max/min/ed etc for melee does make the game a bit more interesting and varied and make different items useful for different classes. I don’t think it should get to the point where +skills is meta for all builds. Just think of all the items that would become trash instantly, charms, rings, jewels etc etc. Just food for thought :blush:


That works too, but I would say instead of the additional suggested mods instead of in addition to. The runeword only requires a Ko afterall.

Well, I have no choice but to remain optimistic here.

Well said regarding the balancing of IAS, FCR, etc. The EIAS from BoS would make things less dimensional in that respect.

I still support max damage charms being the go-to charm for melee builds, hence literally suggesting +1 or +2 damage only per skill level and no more.

I don’t think rings, amulets or jewels will become trashy if this were excessively buffed, since they don’t provide +skills, at least enough to replace current options anyway.

1 Like

Yeah that’s what I mean, they can’t roll plus skills so they could be worthless if +skills overrides +dmg or whatever. But yeah. I like what you’re saying :+1:

1 Like

I DO NOT understand why they push the idea to have an item around which a build should be created…
I DO NOT understand why we have new useless runewords, when we have SO MANY useless existing runewords and unique/magic items?
I DO NOT understand why they are pushing the idea for pre-buff items?!?

  1. The helms are useless I will not bother to even explain why
  2. Hustle armor is useless
  3. Hustle weapon is pre-buff item, so just adding clunkiness to the game… disgusting!
  4. Claws are useless!!! It just showed us that either they have never played MA or have no idea how the build works…
  5. Metamorphosis - pre-buff item… disgusting!
    Apply fixes on the skills itself - add CB to bear skills, make MA skills chance to NOT consume charge, etc.
    Update exiting items so they can be actually used instead of considered as trash (runewords/magic items/rare items/unique items) … This is going to be MUCH BETTER than adding new useless items…

While I do appreciate someone sitting down and making a long thought out argument against this runeword it can be shortened down immensely:

This runeword in a weapon Off-Hand is broken beyond belief and shouldn’t make it to the game. It’s not fun - it just overpowerd. It removes Faith as a chase item. And that’s coming from someone whose favorite character in this game is a bowazon.
Thanks but no thanks.

edit: and yeah - just remove Burst of Speed as a procc from this weapon and make something else. Sorry, but it wasn’t a good idea to begin with.


This game is most fun when we’re not concerned about meta gaming and number crunching analysis.

The fact that items exist with other problematic oskills, or auras, ctc effects etc, why is BOS the issue? I’m looking forward to hitting max ias bp with a lot of new bows, regardless of how the meta bow power actually shapes up. I prefer windforce to be the best bow, but if its BOTD/Mist/GSA instead of Faith, that’s fine too. Faith gets the max frame bp with no other IAS gear on and BOS, which can mean something if new runewords open up that other bows can’t use due to lack of IAS. Regardless, it’s a change that after over a decade, it’s nice to even contemplate the ramifications of a new ‘meta’.

Phys bowa is a very expensive build to get going, and comparable to other builds it’s a very weak ladder start character. If a new runeword comes out and addresses that, and it lets the phys bowa have a better time earlier, where’s the problem? In a world where casters get spirit/lore right out of the gate (easy +skills), who really cares if a new class gets help early.

Honestly, it’s apparent that new runewords need to either be grossly overstatted, present an inherent oskill/access to a skill, or ctc/on strike effect in order to be deemed as ‘good’ ‘meta changing’. If they are making new runewords that don’t have that, the community is bashing the developers for ‘unimaginative’ ‘underpowered’ runewords.

And if you have an issue with swapping, we already swap with harmony much more often than we would with hustle, so why aren’t you upset with harmony?

I’m just saying, if you have an issue with BOS because it changes the bow meta, then you should have an issue with Faith because it made obsolete every other bow. And if you say it didn’t, then you’re free to continue using Faith while the rest of us use BOS swap and get to use other bows.

Here’s to hoping the developers allow ‘fun’ and realize BOS will not be ‘breaking’ anything, other than a few NL zons faux currency.


BoS isn’t just a problem for bowazons, it changes and hinders a lot of others existing mele builds as well and it just makes it so you need to prebuff in order to be efficent. I wouldn’t mind having BoS on my mele characters, but having it such on swap is just making it seem like yet another prebuff stick, which we dont want. Id rather see a real change so that smth can be used rather than making us prebuff with 10RWs before every run so that we may be efficent in clearing as caster builds are. Noty sir, I’d much rather have that BoS on equip rather than a cast on strike.
It doesn’t add anything new to the game, apart from yet another prebuff stick.

1 Like

PRO TIP! MA skills should NOT consume charges Imo. MA are extremely BAD so even this change wont change them too drasticaly.


I’ve seen this cited a few times.
“Class Identity”
Is it not ironic that you say this while also talking about using a Primary Bow with a 12-15 Fanat Aura? Or a swap with Vigor Aura?

As far as “Class Identity” - Mr. Paladin says: "Here, hold my :beer: "
Outside of CtC/effect or +X skill, the Paladin has their “unique aspect” spread across a wide variety of Runewords.
Fanaticism x2
Thorns x2.
Holy Freeze x2
Defiance(Doesn’t count as it’s Paladin only item)
Holy Fire x3
Holy Shock x2

I think this is a case of conveniently ignoring an elephant in the room because it’s long since become meta and accepted. Oh and it benefits a favorite/all builds.
This is a GOOD thing - these auras. Who doesn’t absolutely LOVE making their first insight etc?

Step outside of the Game for a moment and imagine a D2 where Mercs were the only units that had access to Auras outside of Paladin.
In that world Paladins would be an incredibly integral part of various team compositions and their auras would be warmly welcomed.
Imagine that this patch introduced ALL of the above Runewords with said Paladin Auras…
Talk about identity loss!

While Pre-Buffing is certainly clunky - I’m personally excited for the Hustle Weapon and the BoS and hope it doesn’t change.
I’m sure many Barbarians and Druids are also happy for this addition.
I’m not wealthy in-game. I often don’t acquire all the toys and gg 10, 20 - 100+ Ber items that the hardcore traders/players and PvP scene manage to “acquire”.

But am I super excited to maybe, just maybe, be able to hit a reasonable BP with a 2h Barbarian? or heck maybe try to dual wield Legendary Mallets?? Something utterly unheard of!(The math will have to be done by those more knowledgeable than myself ofc but the possibility is THERE for 2h aps Viability).
As for Druids - Metamorphosis is likely far out of my reach… But pre-buff Hustle might shake things up for the SS crowd and open up more weapon options.

There’s more to this than: Don’t shake up MY meta. Don’t devalue MY gear. Which I’ve seen oft repeated.

I think much more testing needs to be done to see if the benefits of this Runeword subsequent BoS proc outweigh the negatives, whatever they may be.
If shaking up the meta lends more options to other classes - I don’t see this as a bad thing.


Totally agree.
I’m afraid the dev’s responsible for D2 now don’t play the game. They could make it easier by reaching out to the community for ideas but that would hint that they don’t know what they are doing themselves.


While I agree with you, I also think that we are past point where D2 RE have anything in common with D2 beside maybe names.

That being said I may actually play this season if they leave BoS on the bow. Seem like with this RW and Sunder charms I have some, not yet polished, plan around Exploding Arrow, and some stuff like Hand of Justice, Phoenix, Dragon, Flickering flame, Demon Limb and such. If I stay around long enough I may also try Ice and Brand (with latter being most stylish weapon for strafer :slight_smile: )
While it indeed seems to make Faith obsolete, it does seem to buff elemental bowas.

make burst of speed a charged skill

1 Like

Don’t like pre-buffing or giving class skills to other classes. However I love that WF will outpace Faith. I have probably found runes to build at least 10 Faiths in the same time I have found a total of 2 WFs. If that could be done without Hustle I would be happier but Imo Hustle is less of a problem than CTA and Infinity anyway :stuck_out_tongue:

1 Like

I appreciate the effort the OP put into this post, doesn’t change the fact most of his points are dead wrong. I do agree, in part, with Point #1, Windforce will eclipse all other bows for a bowazon by a considerable margin. But I don’t think this is a WF problem, per say. I think this is a how difficult it is to roll good itemization in rare weapons in Diablo 2.

If it were up to me, I’d UP the chance of casting hustle on weapon on striking, and casting it on being struck on armor.

I don’t buy into the fact windforce is much easier to find than Faith, but I have no statistics to support that. I think very rare tc85 windforce should be better than a runeword. I think runewords are too powerful and runes are too rare, or some combination thereof.


Personally, I love how powerful the WF end game is due to this.

What worries me is that it’s not clear to me that was the intention was to shake up the end game high end bowazon gearing. In a bowazon world, this is as big a deal as if Grandfather all of a sudden overtook grief for barbs.

That said, I’m generally happy about the bowazon buff, my concern is more about if this was intentional or an indication of how well thought through the changes are. If it’s intentional, there’s the ever-present speculation of new harder content on the horizon where we do in fact need the buffs.

1 Like

One approach to the prebuff issue I’ve seen suggested that I really like is have any buff/debuff skills granted by CTC procs, charges, or oskills immediately end if the item they came from is unequipped. Credit to whoever it was who suggested, I unfortunately can’t remember.

This creates a compromise where weapon swap prebuffing works but there is a strict limit of 1 weapon swap worth of prebuffing you can do.

1 Like

Hustle as a weapon was meant as a midlevel weapon. It was not meant as another buff tool, from my understanding.

Obviously, a lot of players do understand this as a buff tool, like Call to Arms (which was not necessarily meant as a buff tool, look at CTA stats, it is a decent weapon).

This is because of the Burst of Speed proc. And this proc leads to a lot of possible influences on balance and itemization that were certainly NOT intended.

The right solution is to remove this.

But Hustle (as a weapon) needs more +damage to compete with other midlevel runewords (Honor, Harmony…). Give it +100% ED will not break anything (and reducing cost + level req a bit will not break anything either).

From my understanding, Metamorphosis was meant as a buff for shapeshifter druids. It is received as another buff tool.

Please make this a druid only thing (limit to druid helms) and remove the need to change to human form when changing from bear to wolf (and vice versa).

Giving shape shifters more love (teleport while changed) will not break balance, too.