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Diablo 2: Resurrected Runes and Runewords explained, plus the best Runewords in Diablo 2

Diablo 2's Runewords are a key component of the gear system - here's how they work

Trying to wrap your head around Runes in Diablo 2: Resurrected? Runes are the cornerstone of Diablo 2’s gear system. As there are no balance changes in Diablo 2: Resurrected, longtime players will be familiar. If you’re new, however, this system will look entirely unfamiliar, even if you’ve played Diablo 3 or Path of Exile. There’s nothing quite like Diablo 2’s Rune system in the ARPG genre. If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around the quirks of Runes and Runewords, we’re here to help.

Runes Explained

In Diablo 2, many gear pieces will drop with one or more sockets. You can fill those sockets with Gems, Jewels, and Runes. Each of these socketable items provides different stat bonuses depending on the type of gear they are socketed into. Runes, however, have some additional properties that make them uniquely powerful.

Runes in Diablo 2 each have names, like Nef, Tal, or Shael. On their own, Runes provide stat bonuses to gear. However, combining certain Runes in the correct order on normal rarity gear will transform the item into a powerful Runeword. These potent items carry over some of their base stats and take on the properties of the Runeword embedded within. Runewords can ONLY be created from normal (white name) quality items with EXACTLY the required number of sockets to create the word.

For example: take a normal scimitar with two sockets and insert the Runes Tir and El to create the Steel Runeword. This version of Steel you’ve created will keep the base stats (damage, attack speed, attribute requirements) of the scimitar, and gain:

  • 20% Enhanced Damage
  • +3 to Minimum Damage
  • +3 to Maximum Damage
  • +50 to Attack Rating (chance to hit)
  • 50% chance of Open Wounds
  • 25% increased Attack Speed
  • +2 Mana on kill
  • +1 Light Radius

As you can see, this is a massive power upgrade over a basic Scimitar. Steel in particular is a great early game Runeword, as the bleed effect from Open Wounds provides a lot of free damage that will scale with your character’s level. Runewords create huge power spikes for your character and can help carry you through the game when your other gear is lacking.


A scene from Diablo 2: Resurrected

Best Runewords in Diablo 2: Resurrected

To help you figure out which Runes to be on the lookout for, we’ve compiled some of the best Runewords in Diablo 2. These particular combinations are powerful options on many build types, though some will be best-in-slot in certain cases. Steel, mentioned above, makes for one of the best early-game weapons on most melee builds. The rest of our list is ordered alphabetically below. Remember, the listed Runes must be socketed into a normal item with the exact number of required slots in the exact listed order.


Ancient’s Pledge (shield)

  • Runes: RalOrtTal
  • Level requirement: 21
  • +50% Enhanced Defense
  • Cold Resist +43%
  • Lightning Resist +48%
  • Fire Resist +48%
  • Poison Resist +48%
  • 10% Damage Taken Goes to Mana

Ancient’s Pledge is one of the best overall shields in the game and should be an early target for all shield users. The huge resist bonuses are invaluable. The added mana sustain is the cherry on top.


Chains of Honor (body armor)

  • Runes: BolUmBerIst
  • Level Requirement: 63
  • +2 To All Skills
  • +200% Damage To Demons
  • +100% Damage To Undead
  • 8% Life Stolen Per Hit
  • +70% Enhanced Defense
  • +20 To Strength
  • Replenish Life +7
  • All Resistances +65
  • Damage Reduced By 8%
  • 25% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items

Chains of Honor is arguably the best armor in the game, with Fortitude and Enigma as its closest competitors. +2 to all skills is a huge bonus on basically any build, magic find is heavily desired for farming, and every other stat is generically useful on essentially any character. Chains of Honor is even best-in-slot on most mercenaries. You can hardly go wrong with this Runeword, though keep in mind it’s a late-game target.


Enigma (body armor)

  • Runes: JahIthBer
  • Level Requirement: 65
  • +2 To All Skills
  • +45% Faster Run/Walk
  • +1 To Teleport
  • +750-775 Defense (Varies)
  • +(0.75*character level) To Strength
  • Increase Maximum Life 5%
  • Damage Reduced By 8%
  • +14 Life After Each Kill
  • 15% Damage Taken Goes To Mana
  • (1*character level)% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items

Enigma may not have the stats to keep up with Chains of Honor, but it makes up for that with Teleport. If your build doesn’t provide good mobility, Enigma is going to feel incredible. Not getting hit also happens to be the best defense in the game, and Enigma is a huge help in that department. Whether speed and comfort are worth the trade-off of skipping Chains of Honor is up to you.


Fortitude (body armor, weapons)

  • Runes: ElSolDelLo
  • Level Requirement: 59
  • Both body armor and weapons:

  • 20% Chance To Cast Level 15 Chilling Armor when Struck
  • +25% Faster Cast Rate
  • +300% Enhanced Damage
  • +200% Enhanced Defense
  • +((8-12)*0.125*character level) To Life
  • All Resistances +25-30 (varies)
  • 12% Damage Taken Goes To Mana
  • +1 To Light Radius
  • Weapons:

  • +9 To Minimum Damage
  • +50 To Attack Rating
  • 20% Deadly Strike
  • Hit Causes Monster To Flee 25%
  • Armor:

  • +15 Defense
  • Replenish Life +7
  • +5% To Maximum Lightning Resist
  • Damage Reduced By 7

Fortitude is one of a few Runewords that can be used in multiple gear slots, but it’s typically used in body armor. The raw stats on Fortitude armor are just absurd. On builds that don’t scale well with skill levels, that 300% damage bonus will actually provide more than Chains of Honor too. Chains is usually better, but Fortitude is great on the right build.


Grief (swords and axes)

  • Runes: EthTirLoMalRal
  • Level Requirement: 59
  • 35% Chance To Cast Level 15 Venom On Striking
  • +30-40% Increased Attack Speed (varies)
  • Damage +340-400 (varies)
  • Ignore Target's Defense
  • -25% Target Defense
  • +(1.875*character level)% Damage To Demons
  • Adds 5-30 Fire Damage
  • -20-25% To Enemy Poison Resistance (varies)
  • 20% Deadly Strike
  • Prevent Monster Heal
  • +2 To Mana After Each Kill
  • +10-15 Life After Each Kill (varies)

Grief is hard to get your hands on, but it’s the best weapon choice on many melee builds. It provides a pile of stats, but don’t overlook “Ignore Target’s Defense.” That is just a massive damage increase against Hell difficulty targets. If you can get your hands on a 5 socket weapon, build Grief right away.


Insight (polearms and staves)

  • Runes: RalTirTalSol
  • Level Requirement: 27
  • Level 12-17 Meditation Aura When Equipped (varies)
  • +35% Faster Cast Rate
  • +200-260% Enhanced Damage (varies)
  • +9 To Minimum Damage
  • 180-250% Bonus to Attack Rating (varies)
  • Adds 5-30 Fire Damage
  • +75 Poison Damage Over 5 Seconds
  • +1-6 To Critical Strike (varies)
  • +5 To All Attributes
  • +2 To Mana After Each Kill
  • 23% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items

Insight is the go-to weapon for mercenaries in Diablo 2: Resurrected. The provided Meditation Aura boosts mana regen for nearby party members. If you’re building an aura-based character for party play, Insight can be a nice choice. When playing solo with your mercenary though, Insight is invaluable.


Leaf (staves)

  • Runes: TirRal
  • Level Requirement: 19
  • +3 to Fire Skills
  • Adds 5-30 Fire Damage
  • +3 to Inferno (Sorceress Only)
  • +3 to Warmth (Sorceress Only)
  • +3 to Fire Bolt (Sorceress Only)
  • +(2*character level) Defence
  • Cold Resist +33%
  • +2 to Mana after each Kill

Leaf is a great leveling weapon on pretty much all Sorceress builds. Even if you’re planning on playing a cold or lightning Sorceress, the fire skills are great to use early on then spec out of later. Leaf will provide you a nice damage boost if that’s your plan.


Sanctuary (shield)

  • Runes: KoKoMal
  • Level Requirement: 49
  • +20% Faster Hit Recovery
  • +20% Faster Block Rate
  • 20% Increased Chance of Blocking
  • +130-160% Enhanced Defense (varies)
  • +250 Defense vs. Missile
  • +20 To Dexterity
  • All Resistances +50-70 (varies)
  • Magic Damage Reduced By 7
  • Level 12 Slow Missiles (60 Charges)

Sanctuary is an excellent shield for characters planning to max out their block chance at 75%. You’ll get some nice defenses, block rate, and block chance. This is a quality midgame target for many Paladin builds.


Smoke (body armor)

  • Runes: NefLum
  • Level Requirement: 37
  • +20% Faster Hit Recovery
  • +75% Enhanced Defense
  • +280 Defense vs. Missiles
  • +10 to Energy
  • All Resistances +50
  • -1 to Light Radius
  • Level 6 Weaken (18 charges)

Smoke is a great midgame body armor that can hold you over until you get your hands on your endgame target. +50 to all resists is massive for a single item slot, and the Weaken skill will help reduce incoming physical damage. Plus, Smoke is easy to create with only two Runes. Keep an eye out for two-socket body armor as you near the end of Normal difficulty.


Stealth (body armor)

  • Runes: TalEth
  • Level Requirement: 17
  • +25% Faster Run/Walk
  • +25% Faster Casting Rate
  • +25% Faster Hit Recovery
  • +6 to Dexterity
  • Regenerate Mana 15%
  • +15 Maximum Stamina
  • Poison Resist +30%
  • Magic Damage Reduced by 3

Stealth is the best body armor you can build for casters in the early game. While you get fewer defenses than with Smoke, the mana regen and faster casting rate are tremendously valuable stats. Plus, you can get these Runes and equip Stealth much earlier than Smoke. Some players will hang onto their Stealth well into the higher difficulties.


A scene from Diablo 2: Resurrected

That's it for Runes and Runewords in Diablo 2! This list is meant to be a starting point rather than exhaustive, so get out there and explore the game to find more great Runewords for your build. Speaking of builds, if you don't yet have a character picked out check out our guide to the best classes and builds in Diablo 2: Resurrected. Once you're ready to farm up those Runes, hit up our guide to the best farming spots too! We've even got a guide to finding the secret cow level if you've never yet witnessed the silliness in person.

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