Tips for Early Seasonal Play

With season two being so short, there’s a decent chance that maybe you haven’t hit your personal goals for season two. Even if you consider yourself a “casual” Diablo player, if you’re participating in seasons, you more than likely have some goals. Be it as simple as hitting level 70 or maybe reaching Torment VI there are some tips I can share that will help you attain those goals a little more efficiently and painlessly.

Leveling Tips

  • You may be tempted to boost the difficulty setting as high as you can manage, but in all honesty the ideal setting is to stick to Hard. You’ll level faster when killing things in one or two hits.
  • But HARD? You start with ZERO gear! So as long as Adventure Mode is unlocked, start your seasonal character in Adventure mode and grab your followers weapon. It’s an easy and instant upgrade that should make Hard feel easy even without any gear at the outset.
  • Gem leveling is mostly a waste of effort early in the season as Marquise gems will start dropping when you hit level 61. BUT, they are a small increase while leveling up and thankfully upgrading low level gems is extremely cheap. Use rubies in your helm and weapon for the biggest impact while leveling up. If you’re going Hardcore for the first time ever, use amethysts in your chest/leg armor to give you a larger margin for error.
  • If you have a bunch of friends coming back for season three (and patch 2.2) grouping up and playing together will make the process faster and more enjoyable.
  • Use a two-handed weapon. No other combination will outshine a 2H while leveling. They will make all of your skills hit harder and decrease your resource consumption which will indirectly increase your killing efficiency. The only possible exception would be if you have an amazing build-changing/defining 1H legendary weapon/off-hand drop.
  • Speaking of legendary items, don’t be afraid to experiment and mix-up your build based off your luck with legendary drops. Leveling is a great time to try out those legendary items that don’t see a lot of play at the end-game.
  • If you’re doing bounties in Adventure mode to level to 70, save those Blood Shards. Ideally you want to have 500 by the time you hit 70.
  • Mix in a rift every now and then while leveling to break up the staleness of running bounties. Don’t be afraid to full-clear the rift either.

Level 70, now what?

  • First goal is to become Torment I viable which should be fairly easy to do if you have 500 blood shards at your disposal when you hit 70. Look at your gear and find the weakest piece of equipment you have that isn’t jewelry or a weapon. You don’t necessarily need to get a legendary to become T1 viable; rares are strong enough to get you running T1 quickly and efficiently.
  • Speaking of rares, you may want to consider sticking with rare-quality jewelry as you will be able to more easily attain sockets on them to stick legendary gems into.
  • To be T1 viable you’re going to want to attain at least 300k DPS and 4 million Toughness – though this is a more of a YMMV thing depending on the class/build and luck with legendary items.
  • Until you’re T1 viable, run rifts in Normal difficulty as there are no increases to legendary item drop rates until T2+. Also don’t exhaust your materials/gold on enchanting gear to get T1 viable. You’ll just be wasting materials on gear that you’re going to quickly replace.
  • When T1 is doable start running rifts until you get a Keystone of Trials from a rift guardian. Take that trial key to the Nephalem Obelisk and as soon as you’re in the Realm of Trials, town portal out. When the timer expires, you’ll be given a Greater Rift Keystone (1).
  • Start slow-rolling your greater rifts by clearing up to spawning the greater rift guardian. Leave the guardian alive and kicking until there is less than 4 minutes and 30 seconds remaining on the GR timer. Then choose to upgrade your keystone which will be +1 from the level you cleared.
  • Purpose of slow-rolling GRs is to quickly attain the majority of the legendary gems which will provide a decent power increase. You will also obtain a lot of legendary items and blood shards from the guardians themselves. Additionally you’ll be slowly increasing your blood shard cap if you’re running GRs solo (+10 cap per your personal best GR level).
  • While waiting for the timer to dip under 4m30s go run some bounties. Just be sure to pull up the map to portal back to town otherwise you will override your portal back to the open greater rift.
  • Running bounties for Act-specific Horadric cache legendary items is not a good time investment until you’re quickly running T4+. You’re better served running rifts for legendary gear to get you running higher Torment levels efficiently.
  • Don’t forget to spend those blood shards at Kadala in hopes of getting set items. With patch 2.2 many sets have had their set bonuses adjusted to make even running 2/4 piece worth it.
  • Crafted set items can also be worth it, especially since they always have a 10% chance to roll Ancient, but given their high material cost, you may want to hold off on going crafting-crazy ^^.
  • Level your legendary gems. While you may not be able to get them to rank 25 early in the season, the incremental bonuses will help you on your journey to T6 (roughly equivalent to GR25).

With these handy tips you should be finding your journey to T6 (and beyond) a little quicker and at the very least less painful. May RNGesus bless you and your season 3 characters.

Things to Do

Season Two is winding down (much, much sooner than I expected) and there’s still a few things I have put off that I want to do and/or need to do to prep for the season roll-over. Namely I’ve been occasionally been attempting the Avaritia conquest (50 million gold streak outside of the Vault) and I still haven’t cleared the campaign in S2 to cheese those seasonal cheevo points.

I finally got the last of the seasonal monster slaying achievements (Act III Blood Moon clan) which was surprisingly more annoying than any of the others. All of the other acts I achieved quickly and easily through rifts, but for some reason RNG did not give me a glut of Blood Moon clan monsters in an Act III tileset to progress the achievement. But it is done.

I’m also nearing Paragon 500 (I should have it today, if I can pull myself away from Heroes of the Storm) but my dream of clearing a GR40 is going to have to remain a dream and carry over to S3. May also have to carry over the dream of getting that damned gold conquest, because … well it’s frustrating and I’m not sure that I’m glad to see it come back for S3. BUT I am glad to see difficult conquests that truly are achievements. Which reminds me, have you seen the other S3 conquests? OIDS.

All that is left is to prep for the roll-over by going through and salvaging what I truly don’t need to keep and creating another S2HC character to act as a vessel for carrying all of my (legendary) gems, materials, and miscellaneous gear that won’t fit on my other S2HC characters.

Sure, I could rely on the mailbox for the item roll-over, but I don’t want to. It’s clunky and I’d rather just quickly go through a dedicated item-mule character’s bag to transfer my seasonal items to non-season. It was an idea that served me well when S1 ended, and I would highly suggest it to everyone participating in S2.

Welp. Off to speed-run through the campaign … I think. BUT DAT STIMPACK IN HEROES …

A Weird Place

It happened. I rolled a seasonal hardcore monk and leveled him to 70 in less than two hours. Yet for some reason I am feeling largely disconnected from him. Maybe power-leveling a character isn’t a good idea for me … at least when I don’t already have tons of back-up hand-me-down gear waiting for them.

Sure, when my monk hit 70 I decked him out with tons of crafted gear … but he’s still in a weird place where I haven’t found a build that works for me with what he has. He can handle Torment 4 and even Torment 5, but his kill-speed is all over the place and really only feels fast at Torment 3. Buuuut I don’t want to farm for gear at T3 when I’ve been farming T6 for over a month now with my wizard(s). Then there’s the issue of leveling legendary gems. This is something I neglected to do prior to my main wizard dying.

FOLKS, take my advice: level up some back-up gems prior to pushing higher level Greater Rifts.

If you don’t know what I mean by that, or how to obtain back-up gems. All you need to do is move your high level legendary gems to another character and then complete a few low level GRs to acquire duplicate (but non-leveled rank 0) gems. When you have them you can then more your leveled gems back to your main character.

Just make sure to level up the duplicates to at least rank 25 to minimize the impact of losing your main … if you’re playing Hardcore, of course.

Anyhoo, I’m in a weird place with my Season 2 progression. I’ve more or less resigned myself to using my back-up wizard for farming xp/gold/mats/etc and I’m wanting to shift my focus and attention to my monk. Yet, without spending much time with him and not having any monk-specific gear to put together a build around I feel like he’s in a weird limbo.

Slowly things are coming together, but it doesn’t feel organic. I’m farming up blood-shards for my monk to spend at Kadala and leveling gems for my monk with my wizard … and it doesn’t feel right. This is probably another reason why I advocate for slow-leveling a Hardcore character. That attachment isn’t there when you don’t do that … and/or don’t have build-defining gear awaiting them at the promised land of level 70.

Even more interesting and/or weird is my initial plans to play as a barbarian in season 3 is shifting. I am actually thinking of going wizard in season 3. Why? BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE TO PLAY AS A FLIPPING CHICKEN WITH ITS HEAD CUT OFF.

*Ahem*

Sorry. I am just not a fan of the Firebird’s playstyle when it comes to high-level GRs. And with all the reports of how fun Tal Rasha’s is from the PTR … yaaaaaaah, I think I will. PLUS, there’s this little nagging issue with how it seems like EVERYONE is going barb in S3.

Call me a trend-bucker, it’s fine. I tend to not want to play the flavor-of-the-month which is why and how I initially fell so deeply in love with the monk prior to Reaper of Souls which then became reaffirmed with patch 2.1.2 and the changes to Sunwoko’s.

Now I just need a flipping Torch to drop for my monk … especially after having TWO Ronald McDonald Happy Meals (Ramaladni’s Gift) drop for me last night while leveling gems. Yup, I’m lovin’ it … ?

Shout out to my good friend Leviathan (@sastewart111) of Blizzpro fame and co-host of The Westmarch Workshop for planting the Happy Meal seed in my brain. 

Fearing the Sentry

There was a time where playing Hardcore (that’s with a capital H folks) was the opposite of what I wanted in Diablo III. Then it was a side-project, and then a distraction from the early days of farming for a Ring of Royal Grandeur. Now Hardcore is my main-stay. Have I gone HC-exclusive? Maybe. HC-elitist? Definitely not.

Both modes suit different needs and wants, I bear no ill-will towards those that prefer not losing nearly everything with a character’s death. It’s just that there’s something to be said for risking everything, or at the very least a substantial setback to progression. Mind you, I’m not talking about the progression from Normal to Torment VI, rather the progression of chasing those seasonal leaderboards.

Quick caveat: I’m about to sound rather elitist on the SC vs HC “debate” but coming off as pompous is not what is intended.

You see, climbing the leaderboards in Hardcore has inherent risk because you’re pushing yourself to the limits at the risk of losing all that gear you’ve accumulated and the gems that you’ve spent countless (T6+) greater rifts running to rank up. There’s no complaining about the resurrection timer … if you die, you die. That’s it. Finito.

That’s where I found myself yesterday. There I was with two GR39 keys sitting in my inventory and in danger of falling out of the Top 100 on the Season Two Hardcore (solo) Wizard leaderboards. While I wouldn’t say I was actively chasing to get in to the top 50/25/10 on the boards, I did want to at least maintain a top 100 position until closer to the end of season two.

Up to this point my wizard had run at least 5 GR40s – all unsuccessful – and needing to complete a GR40 to remain in the top 100 was staring me in the face. One of those unsuccessful clears was by a mere 2 or 3 seconds so I felt confident that given the right density of safe mobs and some luck with getting Stonesinger I could easily complete a GR40. My reward? A few more days of relaxing T6 farming before needing to push once more.

At least that was the idea.

Of the two GR39 keys my first ended up being a hellish GR filled with winged assassins, exarchs, anarchs, and oh yah, some corrupted angels as well. Frustrated I slogged my way through to an unsuccessful clear. While unable to upgrade to a GR40 key, I did manage some luck with 2/3 gem upgrades, so at least all was not lost.

Then came my second GR39. Didn’t think too much of it at first despite being a lucky guy with the Act III Ice cavern tileset. Almost immediately I fell behind the timer with my first pack being wasps that were nightmarish, illusionist, arcane enchanted and something else I didn’t catch. After a quick UA proc from TWO arcane sentries being dropped at my feet and then a fear into another sentry my Firebird proc things got real, real quick.

I wasn’t too worried since the elite’s buddies were dead and the elite, itself, appeared to not be too far behind. So on I went since with the Firebird playstyle you’re always wanting to be moving forward (when safe) and with both of my safety nets depleted I needed to create some distance for safety’s sake.

Well, I made a wrong turn and ended up going down a dead end path which forced me to turn around, back into the loving arms of the nearly dead elite wasp. Oh, did I mention there were phase beasts? Well there were, and when I returned to the fork in the cave my wizard was once again feared straight into the cavern wall where a lovely arcane sentry dropped.

RIP-Azula-S2HCwizardRIP. Your Deeds of Valor Shall Be Remembered. And thus ended my hopes of retaining a Top 100 spot.

This one stung; still stings actually. Not only did I lose a wizard I’ve invested 162 hours into, but I lost 3 gems that were all rank 40+ … oh and an ancient 4372dps Furnace that I spent 200 million gold on trying to get +10% Damage.

S2HC-AncientFurnaceYeah, you might say I was a little salty … okay, okay … VERY SALTY over this one.

Sure I already had a backup wizard capable of farming T6, but I think the salt came more from the playstyle of Firebirds; it’s not one that I enjoy when pushing the limits. It lacks large consistent chunks of damage that I looooooooooooved with my Holy Bell Monk. Everything was setup for running around like a chicken trying to keep everything burning and dying over time.

It was also nearly impossible to gear for toughness as you more or less were forced to rely on your two safety-nets to get you through. No, you needed a metric ton of damage since the entire build is so heavily DoT-based. I was running with just shy of 12 million toughness (relying on Energy Armor – Force Armor), but somewhere in the range of 3.7-4.3 million fire/elite DPS.

AND YET IT STILL FELT EXCRUCIATINGLY SLOW.

Now okay, let’s pull in some perspective; it would take my S1 monk a good chunk of time to kill a guardian, but he had the virtue of substantially more toughness but still deal really hard-hitting attacks.

After my wizard died the thought of rolling a monk crept in … and I’m still thinking about it. I made the decision to go wizard in S2, but with all of the upcoming changes in 2.2 maybe I should have waited until S3. Don’t worry, I haven’t completely sworn off the wizard yet, but I’m at a point where trying to chase the leaderboard with that playstyle is so unattractive that I think I’ll just relax for the remainder of S2 farming XP and gold … and maybe roll a monk, Hardcore of course🙂

Reaping Chronicles

I know. I get it. I’m a horrible blogger. It has been difficult to sort out the time to set aside to blog when there are so many other things calling out for my attention. Well, that, and possibly allowing Diablo III to suck away any free time that I do have where I could be sharing here. If anything, you could probably say that Diablo III is in an amazing place if I’m not blogging about it. YAH, let’s go with that.

As I sit here typing these words I can hear Diablo playing in the exact same room. No, I’m not hearing things. It is actually being played, and not by me. I’m serious, it really isn’t me playing … it’s my daughter.

Her dive into the Diablo universe has been short so far but with the release of Reaper of Souls her interest in picking up the Xbox 360 version (her first taste of demon-slaying and looting addiction) has hit an all-time high. I just can’t. I just can’t go back to the old version of Diablo III, not when Reaper of Souls is here and available to play.

So as I sit here, my daughter sits at my desk playing on my computer with my Reaper of Souls. She loves the wizard the most. I’m a proud daddy.

So anyhoo, a thought had crossed my mind just the other day on how I could make some sort of amends for my consistent neglect of my blog: why not chronicle the builds I have been trying based upon the items I find in this post-RoS Diablo world we all live in?

Sounds great, right? RIGHT!

There’s only one problem, I haven’t quite figured out how to go about chronicling these builds just yet. At least, not how to best format them, but that’s never stopped me before, so let’s just dive in.

Prior to the closure on the Reaper of Souls closed beta my wizard hadn’t really found anything incredibly spectacular and “build-changing” but I had more or less decided going into RoS that I would run with a ranged “machine-gun” build making heavy use of Electrocute (Lightning blast), Familiar (Cannoner), and Arcane Orb (Frozen Orb) to provide some heavy artillery and a modicum of crowd snaring.

This worked fairly well and with a healthy amount of All Resist my level 70 RoS-beta wizard was cruising through Torment II with approximately 700k DPS and 13mil toughness. I liked it,  a lot actually and I did enjoy using this build up until Blizzard nerfed the heck out of my Familiar’s (Cannoner) rate of fire.

After the nerf to my familiar I decided to shift away from that build and see if I couldn’t find another build to suit my fancy. Enter my hardcore wizard who I got back up to promised land of 60 prior to RoS’ release.

With the acquisition of a Wormwood staff I decided that with the resource cost reduction that I would stack that along with as much as arcane regeneration as possible and go with a signature-spell free wizard build. It worked and was quite a lot of fun, but ultimately didn’t quite tickle my fancy.

Then a Moonlight Ward dropped … and I got a crazy idea … let’s build a “swirl to win” wizard.

What’s that? Well Moonlight Ward has a chance to produce four moonlight shards that will rotate around your character and explode on contact with an enemy. Combine that with Arcane Orb (Arcane Orbit) for extra swirling ‘splodey bits and you have the basis for the build.

There are a couple of variations based on personal preference and gear that you have, but should you ever obtain the Warzechian Armguards the build becomes an absolute … wait for it … BLAST! when coupled with Ice Armor (Frozen Storm). Running like a bat straight outta hell wrecking everything in the environment while ‘sploding the meanies dumb enough to attack you is just tooooooo much fun (and well … *cough* maybe a lil dangerous for a hardcore character🙂

But let’s get back to my softcore progression in Reaper.

I did attempt a similar build with my main wizard as I was fortunate enough to have a Moonlight Ward drop in softcore as well but without the Warzechian Armguards to pull it together I decided to go a different direction. Instead of using Electrocute (Arc Lightning) as my main attack I decided to see if I could once again go signature-free and pull every idea I’ve tried up to this point together into a singular build.

While I don’t have quite enough resource cost reduction to truly cast Disintegrate (Entropy) indefinitely I do have enough between the 5% from my shoulders and 8% from Paragon point bonuses along with Storm Armor (Power of the Storm) to allow my arcane regeneration from the passive Astral Presence and my 3 APoC from my source to offset enough the cost to where I can sit and channel Disintegrate for a long time.

I do have other options to improve my channeling time if need be. When running solo I’ve adopted to using the Templar for his “Inspiration” and when in a multiplayer game if I’m having issues with resources I can always switch my Familiar from the raw damage output of Sparkflint to arcane regeneration of Arcanot. If even that isn’t sufficient I can further extend my endurance with swapping out the rune of Magic Weapon from Force Weapon to Conduit.

Love this build. It’s so much fun to play.

Rounding everything out is the Audacity passive for more damage, Blur since you have to get up in the demon’s grills to deal your damage and Evocation for shortening the cool downs of my “I WIN!” button Archon and the greatest addition to the Wizard’s repertoire, Black Hole.

Gearing improvements are still plentiful as my wizard is still primarily in rares, but I am hoping to add some pieces of cool down reduction to help with up-time of my Black Hole (Spellsteal) buff.  Some +Arcane damage would be much appreciated as well, but for the time being I am quite happy with my wizard’s 650k’sh damage (depending on whether or not I’m using my +Attack Speed gloves) and 7.6mil toughness.

Torment I is pretty much a face roll for me though my All Resists could use to be a bit higher (lowest is around 1500) before jumping into Torment II full time. I’m in no hurry to run Torment VI, though I would love to really boost my XP/hr and climb the paragon levels (currently sitting at paragon 193). Some day, some daaaaay …

Reaping the Chocolate State-of-Mind

In case you’re not already a follower of mine on the Tweeters, last night I had my first table-flipping moments with the Reaper of Souls Friends and Family beta. Okay, maybe that’s a bit too dramatic; I was frustrated, but clearly not to the point of flipping a table. What was I frustrated about? I was still approaching Reaper of Souls with the mindset that I was still playing Diablo III Chocolate.

You can’t do that, or at least you shouldn’t. In the conversations I had with Wyatt Cheng at Blizzcon I should have been better prepared for what I was going to experience, yet clearly hearing about the changes coming and experiencing them are completely different things. You will likely fall into the same pitfalls and experience similar frustrations as I did, yet if you take my initial experiences to heart then you will quickly adapt and overcome the shift in combat pacing.

BUT before I go into that, I should preface everything that I’m about to jot down that this is still Friends and Family BETA. BETA. Things can and will change and we could very well see some major overhauls still as Reaper of Souls is still very much in development. So while some of myimpressions will remain true when we all are reaping monsters and demons for really reals, things will be different when everything is live.

With that out of the way, let’s get on to what you all are clamoring for, my impressions so far.

You’ve heard me state it on the post-Blizzcon Live From Anaheim episode of the Shattered Soulstone and I will restate it here for emphasis: ADVENTURE MODE IS AMAZING. Ahh-maze-zinggg-geh. Being able to jump from act to act and kill any boss solves many problems we experienced in Chocolate. Adventure mode is probably responsible for the death of Nephalem Valor since jumping in and out of games to farm bosses (well, who actually farmed bosses anyways?) is moot.

Forcing us to get five stacks of NV was merely a means to prevent quick game creation and now with adventure mode, why would you want to? Adventure mode allows everyone to play as little or as much as they want and ALWAYS have something productive and rewarding to do. Between Bounties and Nephalem Rifts there is a lot to do in a single session. Some bounties are super quick and easy and some take a bit more time to complete, but they feel meaningful and rewarding yielding sizable chunks of gold and experience, Blood Shards for gambling (yes, gambling is back though sadly Gheed’s personality isn’t), Horadic Caches that yield random and varied rewards, and chances for Rift Keystones to open up Nephalem Rifts.

Phew. That was a mouthful. Yes, bounties yield quite a bit of rewards for your efforts and if you’re looking to get from 60 to 70 as quickly as possible, stick to adventure mode as the experience boosts from completing bounties is pretty absurd at the moment. Granted this is still early beta, but as things stand at the moment, bounties seem to be the quickest way to grind experience.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that when RoS is live Act V will most likely be locked in adventure mode until you complete it in the campaign. And let’s be honest, we all want to see what Malthael is up to right? I should also state that for my own sake of avoiding story spoilers I will NOT be touching the campaign mode AT ALL until I have my Reaper of Souls Collector’s Edition in my hands. I don’t want to ruin that experience for myself with the beta. Playing the game and learning the ins and outs of all of the new mechanics and systems introduced is one thing, but spoiling the story is another.

Anyhoo, let’s move on to my actual personal experiences with the gamplay itself since there will be better sources of information to familiarize yourself with all of the new mechanics and systems in the game. I haven’t dug into all of the new crafting stuff enough to give you in-depth reports on them, but I assure you that should you want to dig into it, there are plenty of resources out there. I will say this though, HOLY MOLY there are a lot of new crafting materials to start worrying about.

OKAY. FOR REALLY REALS I WILL GET TO MY IMPRESSIONS NOW.

After I copied my characters from live over, I quickly got to work with my main wizard, Malnevicent, that recently hit paragon 100, (good thing too ^^). Her gear isn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but she was able to easily handle MP6 and could handle MP8 decently enough by switching to a hybrid CMWW build. With this in mind, I decided to embark my journey to 70 at Expert difficulty. It’s hard for me to say what the equivalent monster power would be, but given how easy it felt early on I would say MP3-4 would be a good guess.

In case you’re wondering the current difficulty selections go Normal, Hard, Expert, Master, Torment (which has multiple levels, I-V, but is locked until you hit 70 with one character). So there is some parity with the ten levels of monster power, but obviously in going from ten settings down to nine, there are some differences especially since the benefits are quite different from the monster power system.

Going from 60 to 66 was an absolute breeze for my wizard and in retrospect I am wishing that I had gone with Master initially as it yields the added benefit of increased chances of legendary recipes to drop (that I would assume would have very little chance, if any at all, to drop at a lower difficulty). As soon as my wizard hit 67 things changed, dramatically.

With the removal of the difficulty modes (Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno) monsters will automatically scale to your level no matter where you are in the game.

Up to this point I hadn’t found much in the way of upgrades for my wizard, or at least what I thought were upgrades for her. I was unwilling to give up some of my bonuses for Toughness and Healing upgrades and in retrospect was my initial undoing. At Expert (67) things start hitting HARD, very very hard. And the poop on the ground? OUCH.

Suddenly I was having lots of issues staying alive against elites and champions, but I could power through them without too much difficulty if I played more conservatively and employed kiting tactics. BUT bosses? OMG. My wizard’s lack of focus on improving those toughness and healing metrics became CRYSTAL clear. It was one-shot city. I couldn’t even briefly skirt through one of Araneae’s poison puddles without being gibbed.

At this point having sub-100k HP and 700 AR wasn’t enough to survive in Expert. Toss in the nerf to life-steal (which honestly I no longer had at all since I never had a LS weapon and Magic Weapon – Blood Magic is no longer a thing) and having very little Life on Hit or Life Regen and the issue I was having was apparent: I needed survival gear, again.

Remember in the old days of Diablo III Chocolate when you needed survival gear and defensive abilities? Yup, those days are back. Or at least they probably will be depending on inevitable number tweaks that we will experience as the beta matures.

Once I hit 68 and then later 69 it wasn’t only bosses that were giving me problems. Ohhhhh no. Now elites and champions were getting their share of one-shots on my poor defenseless wizard. I also ran into a new monster affix that has become the bane of my wizard’s life: THUNDERSTORM.

Holy moly does Thunderstorm hit like a truck and worst of all, it strikes randomly from range with little you can do to avoid it. YUP. It’s pretty much the most devious monster affix that I’ve ever experienced and I think, or at least hope, it will be changed or tweaked to bring it more in line with other affixes.

So what was my poor wizard to do? Gear wasn’t raining down upon her and with monsters becoming increasingly dangerous with her prospects of farming gear looking more grim with level 70 rapidly I realized there were two options, dropping the difficulty level or making use of the blood shards she had been saving up.

As I mentioned earlier there are new NPCs in town that accept blood shards as a currency to buy ??? gear. Costs are pretty reasonable for most gear slots (most armor slots save jewelry are 5 blood shards each) for the shot at rolling a random piece of gear. Yup, gambling is back. I probably spent about 60-70 shards and upgraded my wizard’s chest, shoulders, belt, and pants and now she’s sitting at ~420k DPS, ~260k HP and an effective Toughness of ~1.4 million (whatever that means).

I haven’t taken her new gear out for a spin yet, but I am hopeful that she’ll be a bit less squishy as she inevitably hits 70 today. I’ve seen some chatter that you will want ~1mil DPS for Torment but I haven’t hit 70 yet to give it a shot yet.

As for legendaries, I’ve only had one drop from a random mob in the world and had two drop from (mini)bosses earlier in the journey to 70 (back when bosses were trivial for my wizard). So I haven’t had much luck on the legendary front, but I’ve only dumped maybe three’sh hours into getting up to 69. Still too early to make any assumptions on drop rates, but I can state that it feels weird to no longer have NV stacks and guaranteed rares from elites and champions.

I have dabbled with the enchanter a little bit and, again, while I don’t have enough experience to give solid advice, I can state that for those of you chomping at the bit to enchant your amazing legendaries from the outset, think again. To enchant legendary items you need a new material, Forgotten Soul, which you get from salvaging legendaries. I salvaged my stash of existing legendaries which only yielded ONE.

If this remains the case for when RoS goes live, there’s ZERO reason to hold onto your existing legendaries for enchanting purposes. Besides, as previously stated, you really should aim to replace most, if not all, of your existing gear by level 68 or so.

Another thing that caught me off guard was that almost as soon as my wizard hit level 62 marquise gems started dropping like candy. Seriously. I’m not joking. So if you, like me, are hoarding gems for RoS, don’t. Just don’t. They will be utterly pointless in RoS unless the way gems are currently handled is completely broken; it is definitely not finished as the costs associated with removing and combining gems have clearly not been touched yet.

So yes, you should probably take everything I just said with a massive grain of salt, but I would say with near certainty that hoarding gems right now on live is a waste of time and effort.

Alright, now on to skills and runes.

As you all know I am a huge lover of lightning spells and I am loving the direction that the wizard is going right now. Being able to easily create elemental synergies is fantastic with almost every spell in the wizard’s repertoire having numerous elemental flavors to them. Lightning meteors? Lightning arcane orbs? OMG. YES PLEASE. And the lightning flavor to the new Wizard spell Black Hole is just amazing. Crowd control and damage? YES, YES, YES. I love it.

I have given a fire build a shot, but I didn’t like the synergy with Spectral Flame Blades. 1% bonus per monster hit seems pretty cool, but it only lasts as long as you have monsters to constantly hit (buff lasts 3 seconds) which leaves little room to weave in big hitters and creates a massive warm up period if you really want to apply the hurt. Going fire also doesn’t give you any of the CC opportunities that going frost, arcane and lightning easily yield.

Sorry budding fire wizards, you’re probably not going to have fun, at least not without some help from gear that can provide some CC. But don’t give up all hope, there is a fire variant of Black Hole, at least I think so, and the small amount of CC it provides is pretty fantastic.

Currently Paralysis feels fantastic, perhaps a bit too fantastic though as a 20% chance to stun can stop a lot of monsters and even some bosses in their tracks. It synergizes amazingly well with Electrocute – Forked Lightning at the moment as forked lightning dumps a TON of charged bolt sparks on the ground (though this could be a by-product of my wizard having ~60% crit). Either way I do expect that we will see some tweaking to both paralysis and forked lightning as my wizard can pretty much lock down large packs thanks to stun procs going off almost constantly.

In addition to that I am loving the synergy between tossing out an Arcane Orb – Spark to give my Black Hole – Supermassive a boost. It’s a ton of fun to toss a spark through a large pack of monsters and then drop a black hole in the middle and watch them all convulse and melt as they get sucked in.

It’s just so much fun as a lightning wizard right now. And you have other options with Wave of Force getting a lightning flavor that almost feels like Lightning Nova from Diablo II but gets the added benefit of causing all monsters hit by it taking additional lightning damage for 4 seconds. Like I said, lots of new elemental synergies that will likely fit a number of different play styles. And this is just from runes, imagine the possibilities with build-changing legendaries (I can only imagine right now since I haven’t found any yet ^^).

All in all so far my preliminary impressions have been overwhelming positive. There are a few detractors and critiques in there, but it is still early and I guarantee there will still be a lot of tweaks made in the coming weeks and months as the beta matures. I am extremely excited with the direction that Josh Mosquiera and crew are taking Diablo III in and I don’t think I can go back to Chocolate anymore.

And with that folks, I think I need to get back to it. I’m amazed I took the time to actually blog about my impressions so far, but rest assured I will probably be back more frequently to apprise you of how things progress in the beta. Closed beta is quickly approaching, so you too will soon have the opportunity to join in on the fun, (especially if the Shattered Soulstone gets some keys to give away). So until then, stay tuned!

Updates, Hiatuses, and the Future

It’s funny how certain things in your life simply get moved around in priority for everything else. Take my blog for example, it always experiences long periods of time where I don’t make the time to pen down my thoughts. I’ve certainly had ideas and opinions that I could have blogged about, but I didn’t have the motivation to sit down and type.

Instead I’ve been making a push to get my softcore wizard up to paragon 100 that up until recently was going really well. As of yesterday my main wizard, Malnevicent, dinged 93. Things really, really slow down once you’re up into the nineties as going from paragon 91 to 100 is over a quarter of the total experience required for paragon 100. Now if I had better gear for my wizard I could speed things up quite a bit by running at MP10, but as far as her gear is concerned, MP6 seems to be the sweet spot for me for running an Archon build.

I had toyed with a hybrid CM build utilizing Meteor and Living Lightning instead of Wicked Wind and Explosive Blast. It was a lot of fun and could handle up to MP8, but it didn’t compare in efficiency as running as Archon. The added benefit of running Archon is that I could effectively play one-handed, freeing my left hand so I could drink coffee, or wine, or water while playing.

There’s only one issue, Archon is mind-numbingly boring to play as … sometimes. When the game becomes a mind-numbing grind, I tend to lose focus and drift a little. And drift I have.

Diablo III has been out on PS3 and Xbox 360 for almost two weeks now and surprisingly I’ve sunk a bunch of time into it. For being mostly the same exact game it still feels like a breath of fresh air with the tweeks they’ve made to the loot system. Due to the lack of an auction house and offline play the loot that drops has to be better and my console wizard – yup, she’ll be my 4th level 60 wizard – has found no less than 15 legendaries so far after chumping Belial in Nightmare last night.

I’m not going to lie, the console version has killed a bit of my enthusiasm for playing on PC. It feels less rewarding when 99.9% of what drops is virtually worthless and Loot 2.0 is still in all likelihood months upon months away.

Blizzard has been very cagey when it comes to letting us know just how far along they are with development on Reaper of Souls. Just two days ago a new build containing a metric-ton of RoS strings appeared on the PTR which would lead one to believe that a beta could be seen Soon™. Then just today I saw a thread in which Travis Day commented that work on game/build-changing affixes is still far from being complete and we saw at Gamescom wasn’t an exhaustive representation of what is coming.

Wait, what? Weren’t we teased with Loot 2.0 late last year? Oh right, this is Blizzard that we’re talking about. I am surprised, however, that they have already announced the new expansion. My money was on them debuting it at Blizzcon.

With Reaper of Souls being a known commodity what does that mean for Blizzcon? Beta by the end of the year? I wouldn’t expect to hear anything remotely close to a release date for the expansion because that is still too far away; at best we will know two months before. Besides, Nate Kenyon’s Diablo: Storm of Light is currently set to release in February 2014 and given that the book is set between the events of Diablo III Chocolate and Reaper of Souls, it would make sense for it to be released ahead of – or possibly along side with – the expansion.

Are you excited? I am. Frozen orb is coming back? AND GLACIAL SPIKE? Color me excited. Now let’s hope that there will be an item that will grant all projectiles the ability to pierce. I would love to have a piercing spiketress again … SO MUCH FUN.

Now back to getting my 4th wizard to 60. Oh wait, I mean paragon 100. Oh wait, maybe some hardcore wizard action? I do need to get my 2 HC wizards up to Inferno. OH TIME, WHY ARE YOU NOT KIND TO ME?