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?

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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.

Always at Risk

If you’re at all familiar with who I am, then you know that I drive for a living; either in a van or bobtail box truck. Being a driver comes with the acceptance of the fact that you’re always at risk of being involved in a vehicle collision, be it minor or major. Even if you’re a careful defensive driver that is aware of your surroundings, there will always be a chance for the unexpected to occur.

Something that you can cannot control; something that could potentially take your life.

For me this occurred exactly one year ago, approximately around this time of day. But before going into the details (based from my recollections and the highway patrol collision report) let me go back to before the accident.

It was a beautiful and seemingly normal Friday. I had completed the morning half of the cart route and was returning back to the branch I work out of to unload and then eat lunch (a “footlong” Subway chicken sandwich that I picked up during my break). I was running slightly behind schedule as I had encountered an issue at a previous stop, but otherwise everything seemed normal, or as normal as you might expect it to be.

Shortly after merging onto westbound US-50 I was witness to a large tractor-trailer tail-gating a very small Volkswagon coupe or sedan when suddenly the driver of the Volkswagon had the balls to brake check the semi.

Quck note: this was not the cause of my collision, but it is somewhat related. Or at the very least gives some more flavor to my story.

Naturally the driver of the semi did not take too kindly to the brake check and began driving rather aggressively to attempt to keep up with the Volkswagon after speeding off following the brake check.

Folks. Don’t ever brake check a semi. It’s just stupid. REALLY STUPID. You won’t win that battle. So just don’t. EVER. Okay?

At this point traffic was rather light, so I didn’t think too much of what I witnessed other than noting that the drivers were both assholes. Major ones at that. I carried on as usual listening to whatever podcast I was listening to (amazingly I’ve completely forgotten what I was listening to).

Being that it was right before lunch-time traffic did increase after crossing over one major street and approaching another. Traffic became rather congested in the #4 and #5 lanes (of 5 lanes) with cars merging on to the freeway and other cars preparing to take the next exit. Prior to this I had moved into the #3 lane which was devoid of cars to avoid the congestion.

Being that I was driving a bobtail box truck I was on high alert for drivers that love to dart out in front of you, sometimes with a short indication with their turn signal, but usually without. As such I was focused on what was in my right-frontal cone that I did not expect to suddenly feel an impact near the rear-passenger side of the truck I was driving.

It came suddenly and without warning and with so much force that instantly the bobtail I was driving began to turn to the right after the initial force of impact moved the rear of the truck to my left.

My initial thought was that the semi (possibly the same that was brake checked earlier) I was passing in the #4 lane had struck my truck. The force of the impact certainly seemed to support that theory, but at that point it didn’t really matter. All I could think about was “WHAT. THE. FUCK?” as I held on trying to fruitlessly correct the massive momentum shift of my truck.

Considering that the truck was fully loaded (more so than usual, actually) there was nothing I could to prevent the truck from overturning on to the driver side and skid along the freeway for what seemed like an eternity. Now had the trajectory of my truck not changed following the initial impact this story would be far less scary and would be now over.

But nope. There’s more.

Like I said, my truck started to turn to the right after the impact and prior to overturning which changed the trajectory of the skid towards the shoulder of the freeway, which just happened to be a concrete barrier near the top of an overpass.

Now here’s where my recollection is a little hazy. I’m not sure if the truck had completely overturned prior to impacting the side barrier or after. What isn’t hazy is that had I been in one of the older cab-forward bobtails I would probably be dead following the impact with the side barrier. Instead I was driving one of the newer, more traditional bobtails with the engine in front of the cab.

That engine saved my life.

The force of the impact with the side barrier then caused the truck to “bounce” off and spin/rotate on the driver side, finally coming to a rest blocking the #4 and #5 lanes with the nose of the truck pointing towards the center divider after a third (much smaller) impact with a concrete sound-barrier wall on the overpass as it declined.

After coming to a complete stop and realizing that I had survived the multiple collision I took stock of my condition which fortunately was surprisingly good. No broken bones that I could tell at the time, just a massive burning sensation on my left thigh from when the truck overturned and my body impacted the interior of the driver side door.

Now at this point many people ask me as to how I was able to exit the truck considering that the truck had overturned on to its driver side. Well, that my friends is pretty easy: I just walked out where the windshield used to be. You see, the impact with the side barrier was so violent that it sheered much of the engine cabin apart which compromised the integrity of the cab causing the top of the cab to separate from the dash.

I almost wish I had pictures of the damage, but then again it’s probably better that I don’t. The damage was extensive and it’s a miracle that I walked away from the accident with abrasions and a large contusion to my left thigh caused by having my personal keys in my left pocket.

So what caused the accident? My initial theory of the semi proved to be incorrect as the only other vehicle directly involved in the accident was a red Toyota Camry that had struck the truck I was driving.

Yes folks. A CAMRY. A flipping Camry hit me with enough impact to move my truck.

WAIT. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT? HOW?

Yah, good question. It wasn’t until I got the highway patrol collision report that it became a little more logical to as how a small Toyota Camry could have caused the resulting collision.

According to the testimony of the driver of the Camry (note: I’m not going to go into specific details here for obvious reasons) there was a semi travelling in the #4 lane that came into her lane possibly impacting the front of her vehicle, causing her to lose control and then veer sharply across the #4 lane and impact the rear tires of my truck.

Due to the lack of information which could identify this semi beyond “a brown tractor-trailer” the collision was ruled a hit and run felony by an unidentified brown semi-truck.

Yup. Felony hit and run by an unidentified third party involved. Case closed. Awesome, right?

Anyhoo, I just thought I’d finally open up and share this story on the anniversary of my accident. Figured it might be a little therapeutic since I have been feeling slightly more anxious prior to today arriving.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering. Yup, still driving for a living (though usually in a van) but I have gotten behind the wheel of a bobtail numerous times since. There will always be risks in everything you do. I decided to control my anxiety, not let my anxiety control me.

(Though that was after a couple of visits with a psychiatrist shortly following the accident) 

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.

Sitting Down to Nothing

Ever have those semi-extended periods of time where you have every intention to do something semi-productive only to sit down to do said thing and lose all motivation or focus? That’s been my week so far. I have a semi-excuse in that I’ve been sick for what seems like weeks if not months now with a sinus cold that WILL NOT DIE.

I have projects and games piling up that I need to get to and it seems like I can’t get anything done. It’s super frustrating and the energy that I’ve been able to scrounge up has be devoted to pulling my ass into work and trying to be a parent to my two young children. There have been moments when the cold ebbs and I do get something done, but never as much as I would like.

This blog post in of itself is a miracle and yet at the same time is another sterling example of my lack of focus. I should be editing a 90 minute interview that Lanntonio and I of the Shattered Soulstone conducted with the awesome Sibcoe and Dred of Red Team Gaming and Diablo Expressions respectively. Then there’s the fact that episode 35 of the Shattered Soulstone is still need of being setup to record. OIDS.

Alright, enough whining and/or bitching. Time to be productive as much as I can during this lull in the “storm” as provided by the miraculous medication known as Sudafed. *snort*

Approaching 60

Now before you jump to any conclusions I am most definitely not approaching the age of 60. Nor am I implying that I’m leveling yet another wizard that is approaching level 60 in Diablo 3. Well … I do have my hardcore wizard but she’s only level 34, hardly worth mentioning in terms of approaching the level cap.

What are you implying then?

My main wizard, Malnevicent, is sitting at paragon level 59 and is maybe four or five Act III farming runs away from having a new portrait embellishment. To put this is perspective of the whole paragon level grind, once she hits PL60 that is only 28.52% of the total experience required to reach the end, paragon level 100. Another interesting factoid is that leveling from PL90 to PL100 requires slightly less experience that it took from PL1 to PL60. If you want the exact percentage of the whole PL90 to PL100 is 27.13% of the total experience required.

So yah, still a ton of work to do to get to the fabled PL100 for my wizard. Will I make it? I’m sure somewhere down the road I will, but considering that the paragon leveling system has been around for just over 6 months it will be quite awhile before I’m scratching at that last “quarter” of the pie.

What about the monster power bonus xp buffs that came in 1.0.7?

You’re right. The buff that monster power bonus xp received in the latest patch was massively appreciated. I’ve noticed a marked improvement in my farming runs at MP3 which is a large part of how quickly I’ve been grinding through the 50s with my wizard. My wizard can handle MP4, but the decrease in killing speed and increased chances of a time-consuming death make MP3 a better fit. Granted my wizard still occasionally dies when cornered or the stars align or I’m not paying attention to what’s going on.

Then there’s the fact that I’m still picking up rares, gems, tomes and health potions. So you could say that my time isn’t quite as efficient as it could be while grinding xp, but what’s the rush? Also what good would it be to wait until PL100 before attempting to farm for great items? Sure, 99.9% of what drops is pure garbage but if I didn’t pick anything up and identify it, I might be missing out on that 0.1% item that dropped that could be worth millions of gold.

That being said, I haven’t had much luck with the RNG demon and 95% of the legendaries that have been dropping for me have been salvaged into fiery brimstones. Even more disheartening is the fact that I seem to be cursed with tons of Hellracks dropping, a completely worthless 2H crossbow. Where’s my Manticore? Witching Hour?

If the drops are as abysmal as you say, why are you still playing?

It might seem foolish that I continue to farm hoping for that amazing piece of loot to drop, but I don’t necessarily play for that reason. Sure, it’s a huge motivating factor as that next demon could drop a well-rolled Echoing Fury, or Mempo of Twilight, or … well you get the idea … but I continue to play because the game is FUN.

Even better is when my game time lines up with my good friends of the Shattered Soulstone community and we do fun things like full act clears, or Uber runs, or just shoot the shit on mumble, or play a game of “OH LOOK! DEATH WATCH MANTLES!”

While Diablo is, and always be, all about the loot it is also all about having fun. Fun with friends, fun with wacky builds, fun with commiserating with others about your horrible luck with RNG. As long as Diablo 3 remains fun, I shall play it and given that I’m now over 800+ hours invested, I doubt that the day I stop will be anytime soon. Besides, there’s always Maghda … alwayssssssss …