This page will recommend the base item bases for various runewords, items you should keep an eye out for and collect to ensure you’ve got them on-hand for when you finally get the runes you need.
Runewords dominate the endgame meta, and much effort is spent farming these wondrous slabs - a process we discuss on the page How to Find High Runes, while the process of creating runewords is covered in the page How to Make Runewords. Scoring those sweet high runes is all well and good, but they’re of little use if you don’t have anything to put them in, and tossing runes in the wrong base item can have subpar results or worse, waste the runes entirely. Fortunately, it will likely take a lot of farming to collect the high runes you need for the best runewords, and that means a lot of potential base items will drop. Don’t waste those drops through ignorance - know what base items work best for each runeword and you can avoid suffering the most odious of fates in Diablo 2: having the runes to make a potent runeword, without having a proper base!
Below you’ll find a table of items you should look out for, if you don’t really care about reading the explanations why:
|Any Polearm (Ethereal)||4||Insight|
|Archon Plate||4||Chains of Honor|
|Archon Plate (Ethereal)||4||Fortitude|
|Balrog Blade (Ethereal)||4||Oath|
|Colossus Blade (Ethereal)||4||Oath|
|Colossus Sword (Ethereal)||4||Oath|
|Crystal Sword||5||Call to Arms|
|Flail||5||Heart of the Oak|
|Grand Matron Bow (+3 Skills)||4||Faith, Ice (Amazon Only)|
|Great Bow||4||Faith (Mercenary version)|
|Great Thresher (Ethereal)||4||Infinity|
|Ward Bow||4||Faith (Mercenary version)|
Arguably the best suit of armor in the game is [Engima] (Jah + Ith + Ber), which is quite expensive in terms of runes. Given that expense, you’ll want a good suit of armor to put it in. Normally the routine for such gear would be “get the best armor your Strength allows”, but Enigma is an oddity in that it adds +0.75 Strength per Character Level, meaning it’d be foolish to overinvest in Strength for an item which, frankly, will account for a large portion of your Strength.
The Strength needs for different characters varies, but many characters will want to hit 156 Strength for a Spirit Monarch and this armor will give +67 Strength by Lv90, which means you’d need about 90~ Strength. Of course, you factor in Annihilus and Hellfire Torch and you’re easily looking at another +20 - 40 Strength in charms alone. Suffice to say, your resources will determine what minimum Strength you can get away with, but it’s pretty safe to shoot for some elite armor like a Dusk Shroud (360 - 460~ Defense, 77 Strength required). If you care more about style points and/or you want to reduce Strength requirements further, you can always go with Mage Plate (220 - 260~ Defense, 55 Strength required).
|Chains of Honor||Fortitude|
|Archon Plate||Archon Plate (Ethereal)|
Enigma isn’t the only game in town, there are 4-socket runeword armors worth crafting, as well. Case in point, Fortitude (El + Sol + Dol + Lo) and Chains of Honor (Dol + Um + Ber + Ist), which both have different ideal armor bases.
Fortitude is mostly used as mercenary armor, which means its Strength requirements can be fairly high - your mercenary will gain Strength every level, anyways. It also means you might as well seek out an ethereal suit of armor, as it won’t lose durability while equipped on a mercenary. Pretty much anything up to Lacquered Plate will work fine, but if you want to keep Strength requirements down while still ending up with high base Defense, seek out Archon Plate (410 - 520~ Defense, 103 Strength required). Ethereal if it’s for a mercenary, normal if not.
Chains of Honor is great for melee combatants and casters alike, giving a boost to cast rate, life leech, +2 skills, +65 all resistances and 8% damage reduction. No, it won’t give you Teleport, like Enigma, and the Magic Find is lower, but it adds significantly more survivability. It also gives a +20 bonus to Strength, making it a decent boost to that stat. If you’re aiming to hit that sweet spot of 156 Strength for a Spirit Monarch, you’ll probably want to shoot for an Archon Plate (410 - 520~ Defense, 103 Strength required).
4-socket Balrog Blades, Colossus Swords and Colossus Blades
|Colossus Sword (Ethereal)|
|Colossus Blade (Ethereal)|
|Balrog Blade (Ethereal)|
One of the cheaper runewords on the list is Oath (Shael + Pul + Mal + Lum), which grants some pretty insane bonuses for a runeword whose highest rune is Mal - something legit players can expect to find/cube up to with moderate grinding. These mods include up to +340% Enhanced Damage, +50% Attack Speed, and most importantly, Indestructible, lowering the requirements of this weapon, voiding repair costs, and encouraging you to look for an ethereal base.
This, alas, complicates matters somewhat, as while 4-socket weapons aren’t hard to find, a prime specimen for Oath might be harder to find than the runes itself. Frenzy Barbarians are arguably better served by trying to create Grief, so this analysis will mostly focus on Whirlwind Barbarians, although with some tradeoffs you can easily use a prime Whirlwind Oath blade on a Frenzy Barbarian.
There are three good candidates bases for Oath: a Colossus Sword has the highest average damage, while a Colossus Blade and Balrog Blade have lesser damage, but are both faster (not that it should matter too much with the Attack Speed Oath offers). Getting an ethereal Colossus Sword is probably the best option (bonus if it’s superior with +Enhanced Damage!), but it can have a maximum of 5-sockets, while a Colossus Blade has a max of 6-sockets. Both the Colossus Blade and Colossus Sword will need to drop with the exact number of sockets you need, you’ll have to take your chances adding sockets via the [Horadric Cube]. On the other hand, a Balrog Blade has a max of 4-socket, meaning a trip to Larzuk is all you need. Given the low cost of Oath, you probably won’t be hurting too much if you take the first ethereal Balrog Blade you find to Larzuk.
4-socket Broad Swords, Crystal Swords and Long Swords
Given its constituent runes and the benefits it confers, the Spirit (Tal + Thul + Ort + Amn) runeword is probably the most broken runeword in the game - and this is a game full of broken runewords. +2 skills, up to +35% Cast Rate, +100~ Mana, all that good stuff.
The Spirit requires a sword with 4 sockets, and this narrows things down quite a bit, as only Broad Swords, Crystal Swords and Long Swords (and their exceptional/elite variants) can reach that many sockets, and even then, only when their Item Level (iLv) is high enough, so don’t expect to see a 4-socket specimen to drop until Nightmare difficulty.
In this case, Broad Swords and Crystal Swords are ideal, as they have very low requirements: 48 Strength for the Broad Sword, 43 Strength for the Crystal Sword. The Long Sword on the other hand requires 55 Strength and 39 Dexterity, which is… fine if you’re playing a class that wants Dexterity (the Hammerdin comes to mind), but almost everybody else will want to stick with the other two swords.
|Heart of the Oak|
Heart of the Oak (Ko + Vex + Pul + Thul) is one of the best caster runewords in the game, and moderately expensive due to its Vex rune requirement. It’s worth the cost, however, due to its +3 Skills, +40% Cast Rate and +30 - 40 All Resistances. It can only be built in 4-socket maces and staves, and while this sounds fairly flexible, we don’t want to create it in staves, as we want a one-handed weapon so we can use a shield in our off-hand, so maces it is. Of course, “maces” is a bit optimistic, as hammer don’t count as maces, and most other true maces cannot have 4 sockets. This leaves only one option: Flails. Keep an eye out for a 4-socket specimen and you’ll be good to go when you get the runes for Heart of the Oak.
|Grand Matron Bow (+3 Skills)||Grand Matron Bow (+3 Skills)|
There are at least two great endgame bows worth mentioning in Diablo 2: Resurrected: Faith (Ohm + Jah + Lem + Eld) and Ice (Amn + Shael + Jah + Lo). Given their Jah rune requirements (not to mention Ohm and Lo), these are pricey weapons, but their stats speak for themselves:
Faith: Lv12 - 15 Fanaticism Aura when equipped, +1 - 2 Skills, +330% Enhanced Damage, +120 Fire Damage, +15 All Resistances, +10% chance to reanimate dead.
Ice: 25% chance to cast Lv22 Frost Nova on Striking, +20% Attack Speed, up to +210% Enhanced Damage, +25 - 30% Cold Skill Damage, -20% enemy Cold Resist, 7% Life Leech.
Faith is unchallengeable as a pure damage weapon, while Ice is more for the dedicated Frostmaiden Bow Amazon build. Both deserve as good of a base as possible, which all but rules out any other bow besides a Grand Matron Bow. This weapon not only has the highest base damage of all bows, but it also can spawn with +3 to Bow Skills, which is what you should shoot for.
Spirit (Tal + Thul + Ort + Amn) is a great mid-tier weapon due to its silly good mods: +2 skills, up to +35% Cast Rate, +100~ Mana, but what’s better than using one Spirit? Using two! That’s right, you can create Spirit in 4-socket shields as well. Unfortunately, 4-socket shields are much harder to come by than 4-socket swords… unless you’re a Paladin. Paladin-only shields can drop with 4 sockets in Normal difficulty (bonus points if you find a base with +all resistances!), but everybody else only has three options: a Monarch, an Aegis or a Ward. All of these are elite shields, and all of them have high Strength requirements. There’s no good reason to get a heftier shield than you need for what is essentially a caster shield, so Monarch it is, and even this demands 156 points of Strength.
|Any Polearm (Ethereal preferred)||Thresher (Ethereal)|
|–||Great Thresher (Ethereal)|
There are two frequently used runewords that require 4-socket polearms as bases: Insight (Ral + Tir + Tal + Sol) and the far more expensive [Infinity] (Ber + Mal + Ber + Ist). Two Ber runes makes Infinity one of the more expensive runewords in the game, and Mal and Ist aren’t anything to throw away lightly, either. Needless to say, you’ll want an ideal base for Infinity.
Insight, on the other hand… well, you can afford to be more profligate.
Both Insight and Infinity are almost exclusively given to Act 2 mercenaries so the player can benefit from its effects, namely the Meditation Aura granted by Insight and the Conviction Aura granted by Infinity. That being the case, ethereal polearms are ideal for both.
Insight is fairly cheap, with the most expensive rune being Sol - something you can find in Normal difficulty. It grants Lv12 - 17 Meditation Aura, up to +260% Enhanced Damage and other useful modifiers, but the Meditation Aura is particularly sought after for casters, as it’ll give them nearly unlimited Mana… assuming your base Mana is high enough to gain sufficient Mana regeneration from Meditation, anyways. This is a boon you’ll probably want sooner rather than later, and the low cost of Insight means you can freely pop these runes into any 4-socket polearm you find. Even a lowly Scythe! With a required Lv of 27, there’s no good reason to wait - you can always make new, better Insights as you level up and find better base polearms.
You will want to be much, much pickier with Infinity, although the ideal endgame base for Insight is the same: elite, ethereal polearms. For Insight, all such weapons are fine, but the two best weapons (hence ideal candidates for Infinity) are Threshers and Giant Threshers - they might have the lowest average damage, but they’ve got the highest Attack Speed… not to mention passable Strength and Dexterity requirements that won’t need supplemental gear to attain by Lv90.
5-socket Crystal Swords
|Call to Arms|
Call to Arms is one of those rare universally-used runewords, and this is due to the fact that it grants is wielder access to Battle Command and Battle Orders. Normally exclusive to the Barbarian, the former will give you +1 Skills and the latter will give you hefty bonuses to Life, Mana and Stamina. Alas, the former varies from sLv2 - 6 and the latter from sLv1 - 6, with Battle Orders being generally considered the most useful stat on the weapon. Even at its lowest sLv, Battle Orders grants a +35% boost to Life/Mana/Stamina, while a max roll of sLv6 will give +50%. This can be further boosted by +Skills gear (it must be +All Skills, not a bonus to specific class of skill tree).
Since Call to Arms is an ideal weapon swap for almost any character, you’ll want to keep the requirements low. Despite the great boosts to Enhanced Damage and Attack Speed this weapon gives (not to mention Life Leech), hitting foes with it is really not what it’s commonly used for. You also want a one-handed weapon so you can wield something in the offhand - like a Spirit Monarch, which will boost the efficacy of your Battle Orders.
5-socket Phase Blades
Grief (Eth + Tir + Lo + Mal + Ral) is a fairly expensive and, at a glance, unassuming runeword. It grants no Enhanced Damage, instead relying on its +Damage modifier, which isn’t well represented on your character screen. This massive bonus to damage, however, makes Grief one of the most potent physical damage weapons in the game, especially when combined with other forms of Enhanced Damage (like the Fanaticism aura), making it an ideal weapon for the Smiter Paladin (the +Damage is added to Smite attacks!), Zeal Paladins and Berserk Barbarian.
Since the weapon’s base damage is irrelevant, the only thing that matters is Attack Speed, and that calls for a Phase Blade. Bonus points for the weapon being naturally indestructible, which will save you money on repair costs.