A look back in time : Design of Cloak of Defiance

Hello everyone. Quite a while ago, I helped with the design of Cloak of Defiance as well as the keystone, Mind over Matter. I had originally not intended to post up something with insight into it's design, because I had intended for the item to be one of those niche items that only a few fanatical users would cling onto and use.

However, of late it's been at the forefront of this league and I have read a lot of people having problems with it, as well as some suggesting it needs to be nerfed/removed/changed. Hopefully this post will provide some insight into what went into this item.

Also, to preface, the design process and experience I had will be very different to what more recent diamond/eternal supporters had. I actually had a fantastic time and felt like all my ideas were discussed and considered.

The background

For those of you who did not play back then, it is important to understand the state of the game at the time. The design of this item began in open beta, during the challenge leagues of Anarchy/Onslaught. For those of you who were not playing at the time, Energy Shield dominated the game. Kaom's Heart was another similarly powerful item, but it did not drop in the challenge leagues. The most powerful builds tend to rely on Energy Shield, usually low-life with Shavronne's but Chaos Innoculation builds also were common.

Mana was a very different animal at the time. The only use mana had was to reserve as many auras as humanly possible and that was it. Eldritch Battery was not used a lot, except in very specific builds. I sought to change this.

On the 20th of July, 2013, I sent the following to Rory to begin the process.

I have a goal in mind already, my only question is how to reach this goal. I love items that you are forced to build characters around, ones that create a niche of their own. Even ones that make you need to perform a lot of calculations to make it perfect in a build. One example I can think of off the top of my head is the Facebreaker item. It is truly unique, spawns a number of builds based on this item and this item alone. At the same time, it is not an end game unique that almost every build wants to get (like a Kaom's heart).

When it comes down to it, I am not too interested in creating a very powerful unique, I only wish to create a very unique item that spawns creative thinking into building characters around it. I have been thinking about it for the last few days, and I feel that there is not enough of an incentive to stack as much mana as possible. If you are familiar with the skill Energy Shield from Diablo 2, it was one of the few builds that encouraged stacking energy over vitality. One idea I had was making my item do something similar. Perhaps make the item work in such a way that instead of stacking health (or energy shield) you have the option to stack mana if you use this unique. I don't believe even with Eldritch Battery anybody has tried to really push the limits of how much total mana one could stack.

Sounds reasonable enough? I had also requested a way to IM with Rory in order to brainstorm ideas easier. It was great that he agreed, I truly believe it wouldn't have turned out half as nicely without that.

Let's begin.

Early ideas

It seems odd that after talking about D2's Energy Shield that we talked about a slew of different ideas on how to make mana a more desired resource, doesn't it?

At the beginning, I was given to understand that health and mana worked off different systems and could not be made to easily interacted with each other. So we had to be creative with it came to making mana a defense.

One of our first ideas was armour getting boosted by your maximum mana. It sounded simple enough on paper and seemed to allow mana to be slightly more desirable, but the problem was that it was simply a case of it being too boring. Did it really matter after a certain point of armour? This idea was scrapped soon after.

Moving on, another idea that I pitched was a mod that checked how much damage the character took, and if it exceeded x% of your health, it hit your mana instead. This was also quickly scrapped because not only was it similarly annoying to code, it was also incredibly wordy to put on an item!

Now we come to the idea that we stayed with the longest. I suggested that it might be cool for the item to be found an a low level and "grow" with the character. Rory suggested the idea that the item gave you benefits for specific plateaus of maximum mana reached.

For example, when you reached 1000 mana, it would give you a defensive boost. When you reached 2000, it would give you another one on top of that. When you reached 5000.. you get the idea.

This was an incredibly neat idea, to be honest. It allowed us to let the item drop at a very low level, because it really did grow with the character. Problems came up when we talked about how long the item could scale with future additions to the game. What if, in the future, 5000 mana was something everybody and their dog could reach? The item would be worthless. Call it a selfish desire to see the item not possibly fall into obscurity, but there you have it. We chose to scrap this idea too.

Finally, another idea we had was a mod similar to Cloak of Flame. The mod was going to be x% of physical damage taken as cold, where that x was determined by your mana. There were two problems with this. One was that Lightning Coil was due to come out soon. The second was that, once again, it was incredibly wordy.

Settling on the mod

Eventually, we circled back to the original mod that I pitched. What about % damage taken as mana before life? Was there a way to creatively program this? Rory eventually asked them because he agreed that it was probably the most interesting idea we had come up with and they agreed to program this interaction. Success!

We talked about the number a little, starting with 50%, before coming back down to 30%, fearing that it might end up being too powerful. With this starting point, testing began.

Initial screenshot of the test item. The flavor text is awesome!

The product of testing

Feedback was incredibly positive. I was told that playing with this mod was incredibly fun and rewarding. So much that GGG wanted to make this affix a keystone. I was incredibly taken aback, but quite happy.

We talked about allowing the keystone to stack with item, but decided against it. While it would have been cool to have a dedicated mana build that focused, we were concerned that it would lead every build that ever took the keystone to need the unique, and vice versa.

Similarly, we talked about it's interaction with energy shield, and chose to not allow it to interact. This was for two reasons. For one, we were unsure how popular the item would actually be, and chose to err on the side of caution and not add on to current ES dominance. Secondly, degen effects were one of the biggest drawbacks to this build, and we were concerned going CI would completely negate that.

Finally, we had to talk about what would differentiate the keystone and the unique. I had known from the get go that the keystone would be far away from Eldritch Battery, so saving points was certainly a thing. In addition, since the item did not have any defensive options such as life or resists, we decided to give it Mana Regen, which was incredibly unique and remains one of the only ways to get mana regen on a chest. We also made it 10% stronger than the keystone.

Do keep in mind that despite all this, Rory was not sure if it would be used a lot. He was right. During the first league that it released in, the item was barely worth a few chaos orbs. It took people a long time to recognize how to build around the item.

The release trailer and leak

Everybody who played close to release probably remembers the teaser videos that followed. One of them happened to mouse over the keystone, which was called Mana Shield. It invited huge speculation into it's properties and everything else. I tried to resist the desire to post anything, and for the most part succeeded.

Of course, Mana Shield was just a placeholder name, but nobody knew that!

Base Item and Rarity

Recall that I had no intention of creating an end game overpowered unique. I wanted something accessible and easy to find, like Facebreakers. However, I had to balance between easily accessible and a high enough base item so that it's base stats were not horrible.

Merciless Ledge was one of the most popular farming spots, so I just requested that the item drop there. This would allow most people to start focusing on the item as soon as they entered merciless.

Originally, I had requested a pure INT base. However, we later changed this because Rory suggested that giving it a DEX/INT base might inspire Evasion builds that made use of this affix. In fact, some believed that Evasion builds would make use of the affix the best. I agreed. It was a choice between Crimson Raiment and Lacquered Garb, and went with the Garb.

Artwork and Flavor Text

I had always wanted the item to be a shadowy cloak. The artwork really does reflect that. I think they did a great job. The blue runes that lie on the item was an idea a friend of mine had to enhance it's mystique.

Above was the finished concept artwork. I loved it.

I had left the flavor text entirely up to GGG, and think they did an amazing job.


Interestingly, I had always intended for the item to be called Cloak of Defiance, so that was not a very long discussion. Daresso's Defiance was also coming out soon, so there was some concerns as to name clashes. However, it was soon clarified that there were no issues, and the name stuck.

The keystone had a much longer history. From my understanding, the names changed quite a lot.

As you can see, the keystone had yet another name when I was shown the finished product!

Eventually, the name was changed to Mind over Matter, which is the name it released with.


As stated, my goal was always to make mana something more than an aura dump. I wanted to create a different defensive option available to players who built around it.

Creating a keystone was a simple side-effect that I had not intended. It was really cool to contribute to the game in an immortal way like that. I hope it was towards the improvement of the game and not otherwise.

The item itself, as I stated, was supposed to be very niche. It was never supposed to be popular or FOTM or anything of the sort. You can imagine my surprise when it became so over the last league. If it's power has to be tuned down, so be it. As long as it is a niche build-around-me unique, my goals have been accomplished.


Rory was amazing to work with. I can't tell you how much fun it was to brainstorm with him. We spent quite a bit of time discussing ideas. I have heard that newer designers don't have the same level of interaction, and that's a shame.

To future designers, be very clear with what you want your item to do. It is the best way to make it a reality. Don't jump from idea to idea, have a focused path and a focused goal. As long as that focused idea is inherently an interesting one, you can be sure that the item has the capacity to turn out amazing.

I hope plenty of people have enjoyed playing with both the unique and the keystone. I put a lot of time and effort into it. Rory was also responsible for a lot of it. Hopefully it's something people enjoy using for years to come!

- Hrishi

Last edited by Hrishi on Oct 19, 2014, 10:53:12 PM
Last bumped on Mar 17, 2016, 6:38:21 PM
Great artwork and design if used properly.

Absolute shit if not which maybe had ppl shying away. Love it. Thanks for the story, enjoyed.

Oh and it's not OP. To use it right need huge mana pool (which means less auras) and T1 regen every slot. Big time sacrifice like all good defensive setups have some. Cept LL shavs maybe - only sacrifice there is price.
Git R Dun!
Last edited by Aim_Deep on Oct 19, 2014, 11:15:23 PM
That ring :O
I am sending you this message to let you know that I have removed your signature as it is designed to mislead others. Please refrain from using similar signatures in the future. - Rob_GGG
Aim_Deep wrote:
Great artwork and design if used properly.

Absolute shit if not which maybe had ppl shying away. Love it. Thanks for the story, enjoyed.

Oh and it's not OP. To use it right need huge mana pool (which means less auras) and T1 regen every slot. Big time sacrifice like all good defensive setups have some. Cept LL shavs maybe - only sacrifice there is price.

it is fucking retardedly op, you only need eldritch battery and you don't need t1 regen in every slot at all

but you know, keep talking about things you're not familiar with

edit: i can sustain a lvl 27 AA:

and a 1.6k+ unreserved mana pool with only this for regen and my wand:

Beyond league.
Last edited by SEXYSUPERSATAN on Oct 19, 2014, 11:58:55 PM
CoD is like a babysitter to me while playing as a spell caster.
Almost every streamer has a VOD about they 6L a CoD with few fusings.

Now I can take off CoD from some of my casters, not because I hate CoD, but I'm more experienced and ready to test and find out what really fits my build.
I just want to say that when the cloak of defiance was released I was so excited about it that I spent multiple exalts buying one even though the price continued to plummet and if I just would have waited I could have spent far less. I was just worried that the potential would be unlocked and its price would be sent into oblivion. I didn't even have a plan for it yet, it just say in my stash for awhile. Of course now my favorite build is using it!

I knew it was amazing when I first laid eyes on it.
Standard Forever
Last edited by iamstryker on Oct 20, 2014, 12:22:13 AM
I think this is one of the best designed unique items in the game. If there is a nerf, I would see it being something like changing the extra 10% to 5%. I don't think it needs one though because it's quite balanced already in my opinion. I would account the recent popularity in it due to it just getting more recognition as an item with a lot of potential. It also had some popularity last league as well so it's not a sudden rise in interest.
last time people asked to nerf an item similar to this, GGG nerfed the whole life on the skill tree. Then after nerfing the tree, they made it legacy (kaom)

We might see mana nerfed in the next future if more people are complaining.

Btw this item is op, but only if you look at with the eyes of a BM user. Mana users have now a really good protection and I hope an item like this would exist for BM keystone.

Forum pvp
a great item that exposes the flaws in ggg's itemization for defenses on rares. armour needs to be looked at yet again.
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Last edited by ログよし on Oct 20, 2014, 2:30:57 AM
I still remember back then I said this cloak is OP and no one listen to me, then Streamers start to working their builds and it became a must in almost every popular builds...
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