There are three types of life stealing buffs on weapons. On hit, on kill and percentile. I am looking towards the harder difficulties (Hell and Inferno) and loath having to use a shield. I would rather stack as much life steal as I can as that fits my preferred play-style with the barbarian.

Which form or forms of life steal should I focus on and which stats should I look for on items and with gems to make that form more effective? Is attack speed good for all of them or just the on hit/percentile ones?

3 Answers 3


Life Steal is scaled per difficulty level

Life Leech gets passivly deminished every difficulty level to counter high damage builds which could achieve 9 or 12% ll with dps numbers close to 100k.

Life Leech Effectivity:
normal = 100%
nightmare = 70%
hell = 40%
inferno = 20%

So unless you do some really amazing dps, I would definitely build for attack speed and go with life-on-hit

Life-on-kill isn't very good for big champion groups, which is usually where you'll need it most

  • This is a very simple and quick look at the answer but the information in @philipp's answer is also worth the time to look into.
    – James
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 5:51

Life steal for Barbarians: There are three ways to gain life by attacking monsters.

  • Life on kill
  • Life on hit
  • % of damage converted to Life

Life on kill isn’t as good as the other two for barbarians. Imagine the scenario where you have 3 huge hitting guys on you that take away 20% of your life each hit, after 5 hits you are done if you haven’t killed one of them yet and then you don’t really get much health back. If you had Life on hit or % of damage converted to life, every hit you deal you heal yourself again. So you would definitely survive more than 5 hits even if you haven’t killed one of the three at that point.

So that leaves us with on hit and life steal.

As I see it, you use on hit if you rather go the defensive way (which is in my experience the only way to survive inferno act 2 unless you got just incredible gear with dps and resistance stats) and if you use % based life leech you obviously want to do a lot of damage so that life leech really kicks in.

Edit: And as others have mentioned in their answers: your life leech gets reduced by 80% in inferno. So assuming you do 100k dps and had 10% life leech you would heal for 10k second before scaling down now if your life leech was only 20% as effective you end up with about 2k healed per second.

For on hit healing consider a fast weapon and frenzy so you get those heals incoming fast and steady. And no matter what dps you got, you get your promised heal for any hit you do.

For % I reckon it doesn't matter too much you either hit fast and get smaller heals or you slower with better heals. But your dps needs to be high or it won't suffice.

I myself will try a on hit build as soon as I find gear and a weapon that supports it and doesn't cost a billion gold a piece but the barbarian that has killed diablo on inferno did it with about 5k dps and roughly 1k heal on hit.

Barbarian solo, Diablo on Inferno difficulty

  • Well.. that is just disappointing.. I was hoping that life steal would supplement the need for a shield but it seems that you need life steal AND the shield. Blizzard has been lying for all these years as I do not ever recall seeing a barbarian with a shield :D
    – James
    Commented May 31, 2012 at 0:20
  • @James Not necessarily... duel-wielding gives you a 15% attack speed bonus and lets you generate fury faster, which I think outweighs the extra defense and small block chance you'd get from a 1H + Shield. I duel-wield on my monk-tank because I find the atk-speed and spirit generation better for me. Which you choose is up to you.
    – Rachel
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 13:05
  • @Rachel In practice I have found a dual wield being a large challenge to keep alive vs getting a shield with 25% block chance making the game fairly easy again. I am just a bit disappointed things seem so stacked to very high end gear or defensive gear as the only options in Diablo right now and posts from blizzard on the subject seem to back up that that is by design.
    – James
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 16:49

From what I understand the % on hit is reduced on the higher difficulties, up to 80% at the end of the game, meaning that you really don't get much from that stat. I would focus on Life on Hit.

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