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 🙂