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!

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.

Killing the Fun

As we all predicted, patch 1.0.5 will herald in yet another nerf which will squash yet another insanely fun build for the wizard. First Wicked Wind, now Storm Chaser. How did Blizzard not realize that when they nerfed the proc coefficient on wicked wind that they should take a gander at the other runes for Energy Twister? What makes this even more perplexing is the fact that wicked wind was nerfed from a 0.25 proc coefficient to 0.125 meanwhile storm chaser was sitting there at 0.5 … ZERO POINT FIVE peoples.

What a 0.5 proc coefficient translates into is a spammable Archon – Arcane Destruction with a fast one-hander and enough IAS (improved attack speed), CHC (critical hit chance) to trigger Critical Mass procs, and APoC (arcane power on crit) to fuel the engine of spamming tornadoes. I witnessed this over at Good Idea Gaming and was blown away by how insane the proc chance of storm chaser; I had to try it out.

While my secondary wizard, Aiom, didn’t quite have the gear to preform at the absolute REDONKULOUS level, it was decent enough to get a good taste of how crazy-fun the build was. I was literally piano-keying my keys for Frost Nova and Diamond Skin – Diamond Shards while spamming a fairly inexhaustible supply of tornadoes. Each large pack of mobs would melt underneath the tempest of tornadoes and what remained would turn to vapor upon the detonation of arcane energies upon unleashing the archon form.

It was exciting. It was fun … It was over-powered, but not invincible.

One key thing Aiom’s gear was missing was LoH (life on hit) along with your standard survival traits of vitality and AR (all resistance), but Act I Inferno literally melted in her wake. Only deaths were self-imposed by exploding upon reflects damage champions and elites. Every time Aiom blew herself up I couldn’t help but laugh. It was high-larious. Sooooo much fun.

Beyond Act I Inferno it became crystal clear that despite how seemingly overpowered the build was, gear was holding it back from being a face-roll. This presented me with a predicament, let Malnevicent borrow Aiom’s APoC gear and give it a go in Act II Inferno and beyond, or scour the AH for better gear for Aiom. Fortunately the decision became easy to make after the PTR (public test realm) patch notes for 1.0.5 were updated with the nerfed to oblivion storm chaser (from 0.5 to 0.125).

Malnevicent was going to give it a whirl.

I figured that since the build was going to be gutted I should attempt to get as much enjoyment out of it as possible. Which also gave me a little piece of mind in not having to worry about Aiom cutting into Malnevicent’s play-time. So with Malnevicent’s far superior survival gear I hopped into Act II Inferno … and died.

Erp. Okay. Looked like I needed to adjust my play-style and once I got some of the kinks out it was still apparent that even Malnevicent’s gear wasn’t up to snuff to face-roll stuff without as much care into survival traits. You see, with the insanity of being able to spam my defensive skills I decided to swap out some of Malnevicent’s passives for moar DPS. I had swapped Blur out for Glass Cannon, making her much, much squishier.

Just how squishy? Well I’ll let Lanntonio tell you on the next Shattered Soulstone podcast (episode 24 to be exact).

Yes, I’m a tease. Deal with it ^^;

Malnevicent was squishiest while in Archon form which replaces your action bar removing her ability to lock stuff down with frost nova and shield herself from incoming damage with diamond skin. This meant that without enough DPS and life steal I needed to cancel the Archon form when things got hairy, which they often did. This isn’t an issue when running solo, but when you’re running with a barbarian and a monk the five buff display limit would often mean Malnevicent’s Archon form buff icon wouldn’t be visible to right-click off.

Often I would have to click off the storm chaser buff (sometimes something else as well) in order to get the Archon buff to be visible in order to right-click it. Sometimes this would result in the erroneous right-clicking off either the barbarian’s War Cry – Impunity or monk’s Evasion Aura further increasing the precariousness of the situation. This is where I wish Diablo 3 had WoW’s macro system … but no matter in wishing for it, come 1.0.5 the Archon-explosion build will be dead.

Which brings me back to the beginning. WHAT THE HELL BLIZZARD? Why you kill our fun?

Okay, okay. So a 0.5 proc coefficient on something like energy twister – storm chaser is wildly broken … but only at very high levels of gear. How many people do you know that are dealing well over 100k dps, have over a 50% chance to crit, and enough APoC (annnnd well AR as well) to face-roll anything beyond Act I Inferno?

Allllllright, so there are enough people out there able to break the design fundamentals of Inferno with their redonkulous gear to warrant the change. Storm chaser was broken after-all. Yet I do recall Jay Wilson, the man himself, saying that life steal would make you feel like you’re breaking the game once you hit a high enough gear level. So why is it okay for that to be okay and not an easily spammable ability with a high proc coefficient?

Oh right. Because that really does break the game begging the question on how was this little facet over-looked even after the broken-ness of wicked wind was fixed? It also begs the question on why does the Diablo 3 development team nerf broken abilities into oblivion? Why the heavy-handed approach when trying to promote build diversity?

Right, if everything is mediocre, then it’s balanced … eh?

At least I can take some comfort in knowing that I can commiserate with Run Like the Wind barbarians; their proc coefficient was nerfed as well — though it appears their sprinting build will still be viable. I would have rather seen slightly more conservative adjustments made. Instead of nerfing storm chaser to a 0.125 coefficient I think 0.2 or 0.25 would have been substantially more fair. It’d be enough to reign its craziness in without completely destroying the build. I would have also preferred to have seen wicked wind adjusted to a 0.18 coefficient but at least that nerf wasn’t as catastrophic, it’s still somewhat viable … at least with my build and play-style.

Anyhoo, it was fun while it lasted … right? There’s still some time to get some enjoyment out of the Archon-explosion build. I bet the gear needed to pull off this build successfully will become a lot cheaper on the AH as other players liquidate some of their gear for the next broken build. Welllll … maybe not, that gear is still pretty damned expensive. On the positive side at least Spectral Blades are getting a pretty large buff … and I might be able to swap out Energy Armor for my beloved Ice Armor – Frozen Storm with the 25% reduction on monster damage in Inferno … well I can dream can’t I?