In Diablo 3, items are broken down into types and tiers, similar to the way they were in Diablo 2. However, the distribution of these items is very different than it was in Diablo 2. This Diablo 3 items guide will cover what the different types and tiers of items are as well as how itemization in Inferno Mode works.
Item Types (Quality)
The quality or type of an item in Diablo 3 is the most similar aspect of itemization in Diablo 3 in comparison to Diablo 2. Here is a run down of how this works:
- Inferior – Items with a gray color nameplate are inferior and are not not even worth picking up. They usually have some sort of debuff which makes them worthless.
- Normal – Items with a white nameplate are of normal quality. You might use one of these for the first 30 minutes of gameplay if the stats are good.
- Superior – Items with a white nameplate that have a prefix like “Balanced” or “Masterwork” are of superior quality. These weapons can actually be decent for the first few acts of normal mode if you find a high-tier item with a good roll. Fast weapons with the “Balanced” prefix can actually be quite valuable as they make good off-hand weapons.
- Uncommon – Items with a blue nameplate are of uncommon quality. These have 1-3 magic bonuses, depending on your luck and the item slot. If you get a “perfect roll” with these (i.e. the max possible primary stat (i.e. strength, dexterity, etc), Vitality, and Magic Find on a helmet), these can have quite a bit of value. If you play within the first month or so around release, blue items will make up the bulk of your leveling equipment.
- Rare – Items with a yellow nameplate are of rare quality. Rare items are just like magic items except they have 4-6 bonuses instead of just 1-3. Rare items can easily be worse (and frequently are) than blue items of the same tier. For example, imagine you have one uncommon and one rare Broadsword. If the uncommon one has +5% increased attack speed and the max possible bonus damage, it is going to be a lot better than a rare Broadsword which has +radius on health globes, less damage, less increased attack speed, and a small amount of a primary stat your class does not use. Don’t be blinded by the rare nameplate, as most rare items are no better than uncommon ones. When you do find a rare item with multiple good stats, it can be worth a fortune.
- Set – Items with a green nameplate are set pieces. Set pieces are items which give players a bonus when they equip multiple items from the same set. These items have pre-determined stats, though sometimes they are on a range. For example, if a weapon in a set has +Damage, +Attack Speed, +Health Drain, and +Strength, every weapon in that set will have those same 4 stats.
However, there could be a range such that a set item could be anywhere from +20 to +80 damage or +20 to +80 strength. “Perfect” items in sets like this are much more valuable than imperfect items. Often, individual pieces of a set are much more valuable than other pieces of the set. Most items in a set are valuable not because they provide set bonuses but because the stats of the individual pieces are good.
- Legendary - Legendary items are items with an orange nameplate. These items have pre-set stat allotments (some with ranges) much like set pieces. However, since Legendary items do not provide set bonuses, they tend to have even better stats than set pieces (though there are exceptions to the rule). Legendary items are likely to be the “best in slot” item for a lot of your character’s item slots. These are the “Uniques” of Diablo 2.
Diablo 3 Item Tiers
In addition to item types, there are tiers of items. Tiers refer to the base stats and potential of a given item type. The higher the tier, the better the base stats (damage for weapons, armor for armor) and the larger the rolls can be for various prefixes. Larger rolls simply refers to the fact that top tier armor can potentially have a lot more +Vitality (or any other affix/prefix) than lower-tier armor.
In Diablo 3, there will be 18 tiers of armor at release. As an example, let’s take a look at two-handed mace. Here are the tiers for this weapon type:
- Tier 1: Two-Handed Club: 15.7-16.6 DPS
- Tier 2: Two-Handed Mace
- Tier 3: Two-Handed Hammer
- Tier 4: Maul
- Tier 5: Mallet
- Tier 6: Great Hammer
- Tier 7: Dire Club
- Tier 8: Dire Mace
- Tier 9: Sledgehammer
- Tier 10: Great Maul
- Tier 11: War Mallet
- Tier 12: Rock Breaker
- Tier 13: Wrecker
- Tier 14: Dread Mace
- Tier 15: War Sledge
- Tier 16: War Maul
- Tier 17: Slag Hammer
- Tier 18: Doom Hammer – 613.3-624.1 DPS
Each tier of item will slowly increase in damage or armor, as you can see above. There were also item tiers in Diablo 2, though the same item tiers were recycled across the three acts. In Diablo 3, each item tier is supposed to have its own unique graphic.
Item tiers just refer to the base item type that gets modified by the quality. You can find uncommon and rare versions of each item tier, though there may not be a legendary or set item from each tier. Item tiers tend to be far more important in the grand scheme of things than item quality. For example, Boneshatter is a legendary Two-Handed Mace (tier 2). While it is a legendary item, an uncommon Maul (tier 4) with a good roll is going to deal more damage.
Item Tier Drops By Monster Level
Which monsters drop which item tiers depends on the level of the monster. Level 30 monsters will generally drop tiers of items that can be used by players level 30 and below. A monster will not drop an from an item tier that is higher than its level. A level 12 enemy will never drop a Two-Handed Mace of any quality, since you need to be level 13 to use a Two-Handed Mace.
Any monster that can drop a given item’s tier and is a higher level than an item’s required level will be able to drop uncommon, rare, set, and legendary armor from that given slot. What I mean by that is if a monster is level 15 and it drops Two-Handed Maces, it will be able to drop Boneshatter, which is the Legendary level 14 Two-Handed Mace. Legendary drops are not restricted to Rares, Champions, or Bosses – they are just more likely to drop from these enemies.
In addition to level restrictions on items, there are also difficulty restrictions on items. This means certain tiers of items can only drop in Nightmare mode, some in Hell mode, and some in Inferno mode, regardless of the level of your opponent. Here is the way items are restricted by difficulty:
- Normal Mode: Tiers 1-6
- Nightmare Mode: Tiers 7-12
- Hell Mode: Tiers 13-15
- Inferno Mode: Tiers 16-18 (sort of, explained in the next section)
As you might expect, higher difficulties drop better items. The jump in base stats between tiers of different difficulty levels is significant, which is why yesterday I recommended farming for gear in Act 1 of higher difficulty modes rather than Act 4 of the previous difficulty.
Inferno Mode Item Tiers
Unlike the previous acts, where tiers of items were based on monster level within that difficulty level, things are a bit different when it comes to Inferno Mode items. Here is how it works:
- Act 1: This act can drop items up to tier 16. Monster levels here are level 61.
- Act 2: Drops up to tier 17. Monster levels here are 62.
- Act 3 and 4: Drops up to tier 18. Monster levels here are 63.
This means if you want Tier 18 items (the best base stats in the game), you have to get them from Acts 3 and 4 of Inferno Mode. They will not drop in Act 1 or 2 or in Hell Mode despite an old Blizzard post that said they would. The latest Blizzard info says this is how Inferno drops break down.
I don’t know whether or not lower tiers drop in Inferno Mode, but I am assuming they do. What I mean by that is I am assuming Act 3 and 4 Inferno mode enemies will drop Tier ~14-18 items rather than exclusively drop Tier 18 items. This is relevant because there will definitely be Tier 16 and 17 legendary items which will be very valuable or even the best in-slot for damage, magic find, resistance, or some other useful stat and you would not want to be forced to farm easier content in order to get those drops.
There will be Legendary tier 18 items. These will be the Diablo 3 equivalent of the powerful D2 Uniques like “Windforce” and “The Grandfather”. In Diablo 3, these items will be exclusively found in Act 3 and 4 of Inferno mode, which is rumored to be very difficult.
Item Progression in Inferno Mode
Item progression in Inferno Mode is actually pretty steep. Let’s compare the Tier 15, 16, 17, and 18 two-handed Maces (all have the same attack speed):
- Tier 15: War Sledge – 315.9–326.7 DPS
- Tier 16: War Maul – 437.8-448.6 DPS
- Tier 17: Slag Hammer – 518.4-529.2 DPS
- Tier 18: Doom Hammer – 613.3-624.1 DPS
As you can see, this is a huge difference in damage as you move from Act 1 in Inferno to Act 2 and finally Act 3 and 4 – on the order of about a 18% increase in damage per tier. The difference from Tier 15 to Tier 16 (late Hell to Act 1 Inferno) is even bigger with the DPS increase being a whopping 35%!
The developers have stated that they expect players to need to farm for gear in Act 1 Inferno before moving on to Act 2 Inferno, and the large differences in the base stat between item tiers helps explain this. After all, the damage of your items literally doubles between Act 4 Hell and Act 3 & 4 of Inferno!