Builds are a major component of the Diablo franchise, and with Diablo 2: Resurrected, that includes skill trees, gear, and runewords. For the Diablo 2 novice though, it can be tough to know where to begin with runewords, as they come in so many combinations.
What is a runeword?
A runeword is a combination of multiple runestones to create a certain buff for items (weapons, shields, armor, etc.). There are 33 runes in total across the game. Players can find them as early as Act 1 on normal difficulty, so knowing the best basic combinations can make a world of difference for the early game, which we’ll call roughly levels 1 to 21.
The beginner’s runewords
Steel (Tir + El) – This runeword is used for weapons like swords, axes, and maces. It increases damage and attack speed, while also giving a 50% chance to Open Wounds, an effect that makes the enemy bleed more. Suiting classes like the Barbarian, Druid, and Paladin, Steel is a great way to buff any early battle master. Requires 13.
Nadir (Nef + Tir) – Nadir buffs the defenses of all classes, but it does have particular relevance to the Assassin’s Cloak of Shadows, so they particularly should use this in their helms (especially when building pro-cloak builds like the Dragon Talon Kicksin build). Nadir also boosts strength, gold, and mana. Requires 13.
Malice (Ith + El + Eth) – Used in melee weapons, Malice is a particularly brutal early runeword. Like Steel, it buffs damage and applies the Open Wounds effect. However, it also decreases an enemy’s defense, drains life, and prevents a monster from healing. Melee classes like the Assassin, Barbarian, Amazon, Paladin, and Druid all benefit from Malice. However, in the rare cases that your Sorceress or Necromancer has a melee weapon, it can work for them, too. Requires 15.
Stealth (Tal + Eth) – Fitting for its name, Stealth is a great runeword for Assassins in particular, but any class can benefit from its life-saving boosts. The player puts it in body armor and it helps make the character faster with walking and mana/life regeneration, as well as increased resistance. Requires 17.
Leaf (Tir + Ral) – While many of these runewords are pro-melee, Leaf is the best runeword for low-level mages. Despite its name, it buffs cold resist, mana leeching, and most importantly, fire skills. Every young, fire Sorceress Build should build this easy, two-part rune into their staves. Requires 19.
Holy Thunder (Eth + Ral + Ort + Tal) – Just like the name suggests, this is an early Paladin’s bread and butter. It buffs defense and damage, as well as applies a host of different damage types to the enemy. This includes fire, lightning, poison, and Holy Shock damage. While it helps boost lightning resistance, it also gives the user Level 7 Chain Lightning, making one powerful scepter. Requires 21.
Zephyr (Ort + Eth) – Every low-level bow and crossbow needs Zephyr. This runeword is a utilitarian champion. It boosts damage, defenses, attack speed, walking speed, and has a chance of casting a level 1 Twister. Amazons are arguably the best bow-masters, so this runeword is life-changing for them. Requires 21.