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 🙂

Your Deeds Shall be Remembered

It has finally happened. I’m not talking about my returning to this blog after another notch on the bedpost known as Nevik’s Lapses in Blogging. While that may indeed be true, I’m referring to my dear beloved Malnevicent, my solo, self-found, no auction house, hardcore wizard was finally defeated in combat.

Things had been going well for my hardcore wizard with Act I Inferno (MP0, of course) no longer posing much a challenge and after the plans for the Archon Spaulders of Intelligence dropped, I got a little … too confident and tried pushing to see how far my wizard could go in Act II.

Black Canyon Mines. That’s how far.

On the positive side – if there could be one – was that my wizard wasn’t done in by a champion pack. No. It took THREE champion packs to take her down. Now before you think I was being reckless with her, I wasn’t, it was just by pure unfortunate luck that she garnered the attention of three different packs.

It started off with a Fallen champion pack (jailer, vampiric, mortar, waller) that she encountered on the northern end of the canyon, Due to the positioning of the walls she was forced to proceed east into uncleared areas to avoid being bombarded to death with mortars. Travelling east led to a Fallen Overseer champion pack (knockback, frozen, electrified, health link) joining in on the party and poor Malnevicent ended up being knocked close enough to a second Fallen champion pack (avenger, knockback, frozen, arcane enchanted).

With three champion packs hot for her there wasn’t much Malnevicent could do, especially when getting jailed, trapped by walls and then ultimately chain frozen and then sliced to death by lasers. Not even her Unstable Anomaly could save her from the combined might of three champion packs.

I sat there for a couple of minutes dumbfounded by what had transpired. I wasn’t angry. I didn’t even exclaim when Malnevicent fell. Just sat there.

After it sank it I will admit that I felt down, mayhaps even a tad depressed, about losing my hardcore wizard. Things were going well and I was feeling pretty confident about going all the way and clearing Inferno. Malnevicent after approximately 78 hours vested was sitting at 50k health and 21k DPS and while that definitely wasn’t enough to safely clear Inferno, it was enough that I felt confident about moving into Act II and hazarding the risk for better loot.

Obviously I was wrong, but again … THREE CHAMPION PACKS? Oids. Bad luck is bad, I suppose.

So what will I do now? Will I run away from hardcore with my tail tucked between my legs? Or will I dust myself off and get right back into the frey?

I re-rolled of course. Long live Aiom, the second coming of my solo, self-found, no auction house, hardcore wizard. Though I am trying to decide on whether or not I will allow myself to twink Aiom with the gear I kept while leveling and how I’m going to handle the availability of having the ability to craft the iLvl 63 BoA intelligence shoulders. What say you? Should I prohibit myself from using them?

Below the Gargoyle’s Chin

Last night I experienced my first genuine OH NO, OH NO, OH NO moments with my hardcore solo, self-found wizard. Yes folks, it was CLOSE. Just how close? Let’s just say my wizard’s health dipped below the gargoyle’s chin.

That’s how close.

Had it not been for the fact that my wizard had just over 38k health at level 56 she would have died a very sad death in the sandy desert outside of Caldeum. A frozen, shielding, jailer champion pack of Lacuni Warriors along with some Lacuni Huntresses and a handful of Sand Wasps almost did her in.

Act II has always proven to be a fairly large step up in difficulty over Act I and thought my wizard was geared enough to handle it, but alas it appears that my wizard will need to spend some more time in Act I farming the Butcher in a desperate attempt to get some better gear.

I know, I could hit up the auction house and just blow through the remainder of Hell. I know I can. I just don’t want to. I want the satisfaction of overcoming the trials and tribulations of relying on finding ALL of my hardcore wizard’s gear. I may even attempt to do this in Inferno as well … well maybe, we’ll see.

In the meantime I did decide to switch up my wizard’s build and gear a little. Gone is the wand and triad off-hand, replaced with a two-handed staff with 4.7% life steal. Still using Electrocute – Forked Lightning and Blizzard but I switch out the rune on the latter to Stark Winter for the larger area coverage. Swapped out Ice Armor for Energy Armor – Energy Tap and replaced my beloved Wave of Force with Familiar – Sparkflint.

There was a (very) brief stint where I got the bug to attempt an Archon build, but without having +24% movement speed quickly killed that idea. I was finding myself spending a lot of time outside of Archon waiting on Critical Mass to pull it off of cool-down so I just decided to keep Diamond Skin – Enduring Skin and be on my merry way.

So far I’m still pretty happy with how things are going, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that my wizard will likely hit 60 before venturing into Act II Hell. At least not without a metric ton of luck in having well rolled rares drop for me that drastically increase her damage and survivability. It’s a real shame 1.0.8 won’t be bringing much in the way of itemization changes. Oh well … at least I like Act I and it’s different than endlessly running the same areas in Act III.

Crawling Through the Nightmare

If you’re wondering if my venturing into the hardcore world was a fluke, it hasn’t. My HC wizard is still progressing along nicely (and slowly) through Nightmare having just downed the Butcher without too much difficulty. Granted I’m keeping the game set at MP0 as my wizard is playing exclusively solo and self-found.

Yes, that’s right. I’m staying away from the auction house other than to sell stuff to augment my gold income since I’m still working on opening up the third tab. This might be a strategy that will come to bite me in the butt later down the road, but I’m determined to not resort to farming the AH and trivialize my hardcore experience. I want to experience going through the game as it was intended.

Now granted, if I do lose my wizard at some point along the way, I may not be as idealistic as I am now and pick up some gear to speed up the process of catching back up to where I was, but for now I want to remain completely self-found.

So with this self-inflicted limitation you might be wondering what kind of build I’m using with my wizard. So far I’m pretty much sticking with Electrocute (Forked Lightning) and Blizzard as my main attacks. As for my hotkeys I’m using Wave of Force (Force Affinity) as my GET AWAY FROM ME button along with Diamond Skin (Crystal Shell) for when WoF is on cool-down, or I just need to be able to absorb some incoming damage.

I’m still using Ice Armor (Chilling Aura) and Magic Weapon (Force Weapon) but these two skills I may change out since I’m now in Act II Nightmare, aka where I originally started having massive problems during my first playthrough. I am gearing differently than I did back when I first played, so perhaps my run through Nightmare won’t be as … *ahem* nightmarish.

Never Say Never

Don’t worry folks, this isn’t going to be a blog post about Justin Bieber, though would that really be so awful? No, this is about how I swore up and down (especially with the difficulties my wizard experienced in Nightmare) that never would I play a hardcore character. Granted I dabbled in hardcore months ago for a gaming night with folks from the Shattered Soulstone community, but that was with the express intent of dying. Never would I actually consider it as something that I would actively care about.

Well folks, somehow all that changed.

Now before all you hardcore purists get too awfully excited I do not want to oversell my interests in playing hardcore. I still have yet to experience my first death so I’m not sure how I will react to it, especially if I get pretty far. So far my hardcore wizard is progressing slowly and carefully and I can honestly say that it feels like I’m playing a “new” game.

I’ve had maybe one or two close calls so far and I think I’m starting to get the allure of it. Again, though, this may change after my first death but there’s something about knowing if you die that’s it. As such I’ve built and geared my wizard differently than I would where death just means a small monetary and time loss. I value gear that’s heavy on VIT and other defensive bonuses over DPS focused stats. I’m also (re)learning to love and use Wave of Force to either push enemies away or reflect projectiles back at their launchers.

Did you know that you can actually reflect Diablo’s fireballs back at (s)him? I didn’t until I tried it when I cleared Normal with my wizard. It’s a lot of fun even if it doesn’t damage Diablo.

Almost feels like Burning Crusade all over again.

Now that my wizard is in Act I Nightmare I’ve slowed the pace at which I’ve been pushing with her. Her survivability is pretty decent, but her damage output is just low enough that slow and careful is the name of the game. As it should be, right?

Not having a sugar daddy/mommy to twink out my wizard has me wondering if I should go back and start a secondary hardcore wizard just in case. Also to free up some more stash space being clogged with gear that I’ve saved along the way just in case. It’s weird to be in this position of not having gold and stash space again. It’s also just as weird that I’m approaching playing hardcore with the mentality of just in case. Does this signify a true transition to the hardcore lifestyle?

I’m not sure what it means, but I will definitely keep everyone updated. I am, however, pretty certain that I will not be giving up playing for fun where a death doesn’t mean hours and hours of invested time go down the drain. I still play a little too carelessly for that, especially in Inferno. There are also times where is prefer to just “veg out” and not have to stress over making silly mistakes.