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 …

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.

Profoundly Romantic?

As I sit here stewing over the fact that this blog has barely been a thought that has crossed my mind I’ve come to realize part of the problem. My problem is that over the past few years I’ve shifted away from just blogging whatever to blogging about something important, or at least to say something profound. That wasn’t how this blog started, but as time passed that drive to immortalize what I did became more of a drive to say something that was interesting. It became less of a gaming diary and more of a soapbox.

I remember back when I started this blog, almost nine years ago now, I would just give a recap of what I did in Final Fantasy XI. Sure it may not have been interesting to everyone and I certainly did not intend my posts to make profound statements yet as time by and I saw what other bloggers were doing and saying I became intrigued with trying to be that blog that people would turn to and say to themselves “whoa, he’s made some really great points.” 

Blame it on my natural tendencies on wanting to fit in and yet at the same time stand out among the crowd. This idea of my blog becoming a beacon in the community became a romantic fantasy, something that came to cripple my stream-of-consciousness style that it originated from. Sure, there were times where I didn’t try to say anything profound and just let the words flow from my fingers and those times would be where I think my blog worked best.

Just me being me. A big silly gaming geek.

So folks, that’s what I’m going to try to get back to. Not going to try to continually refine my thoughts into overly idealized and profound statements. I’m not quite that … *ahem* smart. Well okay, I’m not a dummy either, but I’m not going to try to be a genius.

Occasionally I might accidentally say something really profound, but it will just be a matter of happenstance when the mood strikes me. I am definitely capable of doing so, but like I said earlier, that’s not how this blog started nearly nine years ago.

Wait. Let’s let that soak in. This blog has been around for nearly a decade! And what do I have to show for it? A mere 260’sh posts? Yup. Definitely been a bit too … up-tight about what I’ve been blogging. I certainly don’t act up-tight on the Shattered Soulstone, so why should I do so here?

Right. So what does this mean going forward? It means you’re going to be getting a lot more of me and what I’ve been up to with my life, in-game and out. Are you excited? I am, I think. I just hope I actually take the time to immortalize what I’ve been doing in Diablo 3 ^^; Oh don’t worry, I still play WoW as well as other games … sorta.

Wait. I got it! By blogging about what I’ve been up to in Diablo 3 I can turn that around and use it for the Shattered Soulstone! YESH. PERFECT. It all comes back to how good I look in stillettos. Mrowr!

Okay, yah … that was a lot funnier in my head ^^;

Back to the Drawing Board

Yesterday Mr. Angry Robotics, Jay Wilson, himself dropped a bombshell on the Diablo 3 community: Team Deathmatch wasn’t where they wanted it so until they figure out something up to their standards they’re going to give us dueling in patch 1.0.7 … and that’s it.

Now before I jump off into my rant, let me state that I was not surprised at all by the revelation that PVP arenas are still a long ways off. I knew prior to Jay Wilson’s blog post that the dev team had an insurmountable problem to figure out with itemization as it exists today. There’s zero chance that PVP as it would exist today could be remotely close to being balanced without MASSIVE changes to itemization.

No, I wasn’t blown away by the blog post for that revelation; I was blown away by the lack of anything substantial or useful about the development of PVP arenas.

Instead what we got was a shallow wordy excuse as to where the development of the PVP arenas is. Mr. Wilson even insisted that he was giving us some insight on what’s going on but failed to deliver on that promise leaving us with insightful comments of “it’s not where we want it” and “it falls short of our expectations for a high-quality Blizzard experience.”

Okay. Right. The a-typical Blizzard cop-out when it comes to delivering, the insistence that if it isn’t up to the high-quality Blizzard experience standards, it isn’t ready to go. While I do agree that Blizzard has a proven track-record when it comes to delivering polished experiences, but that’s not always the case as Diablo 3’s rocky development would attest to. Error 37 anyone? Legendaries being worthless prior to 1.0.4?

Alright, I am being somewhat snarky, but needless to say that despite my love of Diablo 3, the game in a few aspects didn’t live up to those high-quality Blizzard experience standards when it launched. Where Diablo 3 is today feels a lot closer to those standards and should have been when it launched, but would I have rather waited until October 16th to be able to play?


That’s kind of my point with this rant. While Diablo 3 shipped with numerous issues, it was still an exceptionally fun product — except for Inferno prior to the introduction of Monster Power — when it launched back on May 15th. I would argue that the real reason for PVP arenas going back to the drawing board has everything to do with itemization of the game. They haven’t figured out to fix the problem so that PVP isn’t a completely BROKEN disaster when it launches.

Which then brings up the question as to why they’re including dueling at all. Dueling brings no depth or reward to the game other than for epeen bragging rights. So why include it if team deathmatch didn’t live up to their standards for depth and time-investment rewards?

It just doesn’t make sense, or does it?

By including the ability for us to duel, the devs can get a small glimpse into the results and problems with how itemization is today. How could they possibly balance those with massive damage outputs or effective health and damage reduction (or avoidance) against those that don’t? They can’t. They won’t. Or at least not with sweeping changes to itemization itself and that’s a huge undertaking that will be difficult for the community to swallow … unless … those massive itemization changes come packaged with an expansion.

Yes folks, I’m calling it here. PVP arenas will be delayed until the expansion.

By rolling it into an expansion it will be a lot more palatable to spend a huge amount of development time to fix the problem. We saw it in World of Warcraft with old world flying coming with the Cataclysm. On the books it looks a whole hell of a lot better to investors when large amounts of development time directly yield additional revenue.

So does that mean we will absolutely not see PVP arenas before an expansion? Not necessarily. Back in episode 30 of the Shattered Soulstone Breja and I got into a pretty lengthy discussion about PVP and potential ideas on how it could be implemented. Out of this discussion I brain-stormed an idea where PVP could exist without being broken and offer enticing rewards: make PVP a completely separate mode and take gear out of the equation.

By taking gear out of the equation you eliminate the extreme imbalances in the community and put everyone on an even playing-field. This also has the added benefit of PVP not affecting the PVE content of the game. But how do you reward players for the time they invest in PVP content if not through better gear? Well, that’s easy … with gear!

Wait, hold on, I’m not talking about gear that increases player power, I’m talking about better more bad-ass looking gear. Make PVP rewards completely cosmetic and I think you have a system that is rewarding and fun. It works in games like Halo, why not Diablo 3?

Okay, but what about carrying those rewards over to the PVE aspect of the game? A long time ago there were screenshots from the alpha version of Diablo 3 where as you progressed through the game your banner would become more decorated and not just through sigils and accents. What if that were brought back with PVP? (Or heck, even through PVE progression too)

It’d be pretty cool right?

Why stop there though? Let’s bring WoW’s transmogrification system into Diablo 3. I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to tire of seeing just about everyone I know running around with Vile Ward shoulders — but that’s a problem that can be addressed by other means. It would be pretty amazing to run around showing off your PVP prowess while slaying demons with friends, right?

Sadly I have a feeling that these suggestions won’t become reality. Instead the dev team will insist on tying PVE and PVP together to allow for singular character progression through either system making itemization a crucial problem to fix. At the very least some itemization changes could be for the better, or at least we can hope.

Where’s the PVP?

Let me start this massively procrastinated blog post with a really quick rant: patch 1.0.6 only contained two bug fixes and some background “road work” for improved chat features? REALLY? And then to top that off we’re teased with 1.0.7 news will be forthcoming … soon’sh? Boy does the Diablo 3 development team sure know how to keep us all on pins and needles with anticipation.

Okay, I’m being a little harsh. Patch 1.0.5 was a massive improvement to the game in just about every single possible way and 1.0.6 hopefully fixed the bug that allowed duping to happen. BUT WHERE’S THE PVP JAY WILSON? Prior to release Mr. Angry Robotics stated that PVP should come well before the end of the year and if it didn’t that it would be considered a disaster.

Well, by looks of the calendar on the wall there’s only just over a month to avoid a disaster.

So it’s pretty obvious that with all of the clamoring for a better end-game focus on PVP took a back seat and I agree completely with that decision. At this point PVP is going to be almost impossible to attain any shred of balance with the massive gear gap present in the game. If you’re a have-not you’re going to be instantly decimated by the haves.

Critical strike chance and critical strike damage are so incredibly broken that even if they were to cut those stats by 75+% that those without good gear still won’t be able to compete. And there will be a LOT of have-nots returning to Diablo 3 and jumping into PVP once it finally comes out.

So what’s the solution? Sadly I don’t think there’s a good one.

Awhile back there a PVP vendor was data-mined which would definitely lead us to believe that the D3 team will be taking a page from the WoW team by creating PVP gear for PVP. This gear will likely mirror what is currently in WoW today with two new stats on gear: PVP Power and PVP Defense. These two stats will presumably put everyone on an even playing field since no one will have PVP gear initially, but again those that have will easily decimate those that have-not and will be able to attain all the PVP gear they need to widen the gap.

Perhaps balance will be thrown out the window since it clearly won’t be easily attained and I’m sure we’ll hear things like “PVP is something to do on the side — for fun — and is in no way to be intended as an end-game progression system.” It’ll be a cop-out but we all know what the forums will look like after PVP is introduced.

If you thought the QQ present on the forums today is bad, just wait until PVP is launched.

So what’s the solution? You can’t back down from bringing PVP to the game, but there’s little chance for it to NOT be broken when introduced. Is PVP destined to be a massive failure and disappointment? Will it take months of tweaks to get right?

I’m sure these questions are the reason that we haven’t seen PVP yet. If they rushed PVP out without addressing these potential problems it could do far more harm than good. A broken PVP system would permanently drive everyone that has been waiting for it.

So while I am disappointed that we still don’t have PVP and haven’t heard much about the progress being made to get the system in game, I’d rather the dev team took their time to get it as right as they can before unleashing it to us. I want smashing puke doctor faces in to be fun, not frustrating ^^;

Extinguishing the Inferno

Oh boy. By the looks of the calendar I’ve come awfully close to not updating my blog for two months. TWO MONTHS! That’s absolute madness. It wasn’t for a lack of potentially having something to blog about as I’ve been up to plenty of things. All the things? Some of the things? Who knows? Definitely not me.

Anyhoo, what could have possibly kept me away from jotting down words for all of prosperity … or at least for my own sanity? I’ve been in somewhat of a funk for the past two months from the lack of being allowed to work resulting in my coping with several bouts of insomnia and a general feeling of aimlessness. I just felt like I was spinning my wheels and getting no where. Fortunately my daughter started 2nd grade (although that was weeks ago) which enforced some structure in my daily routine and my bouts with insomnia have been curbed.

So what have I been up to?

As I initially alluded, I’ve been up to lots of things. Well okay, maybe not a ton of things, but interesting things nonetheless. Probably the most interesting thing that has developed in the past week and a half is the fact that I’m filling in on my good friend Rioriel’s blog, Postcards From Azeroth, while he’s taking a much-needed hiatus from the game to recharge his batteries. I’ve always admired Rioriel and his blog so being able to contribute in my own way has been electrifying. Having an outlet for my artistic juices has revitalized my drive to get back to what I do best: art and design.

Wait. Is that what I truly do best? Well, perhaps procrastination is what I do best, but art and design would be a close second … maybe. Gaming, blogging, podcasting and living definitely wouldn’t be up there. Oh heck, who am I kidding? Getting under Rilandune’s skin deserves mentioning — I’m exceptional at that — but I digress.

So other than scouring through my screenshots and transforming them into pretty postcards for everyone to enjoy I’ve been playing a lot of Diablo 3. A. LOT.

I knew going in to D3 that I was going to become addicted to it, I just didn’t realize that I would invest over 500 hours to it in only four months. Granted there were a few occasions where I burned out a smidge on grinding and farming for little benefit, but there’s just something about the Diablo formula that GETS ME as a gamer. I’m always chasing after the “something amazing could drop from the next demon” and with patch 1.0.4 at least I can channel that into grinding Paragon XP. As of this moment my main wizard, Malnevicent, is sitting halfway through paragon level 18 and my newly minted wizard, Aiom, is paragon level 2.

Yes, folks. I do indeed have TWO level 60 wizards. Why? Why not? Everything little thing she does is magic.

My reasoning behind the madness it is actually quite simple, I want to enjoy more than just one playstyle with the wizard. Malnevicent is my tanky melee wizard whereas Aiom is my shits n’ giggles wizard where I’m not afraid to experiment with wacky builds. I could elaborate on that a bit more, but I think I’ll save blogging about Aiom for another day. I’m still honing a REDONKULOUS wizard build — which I’m sure will get nerfed come 1.0.5 — so I’d rather blog about it separately.

As for my main wizard-squeeze, Malnevicent, I recently completed all of Diablo 3 with her. Yup, that’s right. Malnevicent slayed Diablo in Inferno last week with the help of a few friends of the Shattered Soulstone podcast: Swaying Mango and MDB3. It wasn’t quite the walk-in-the-park that a lot of D3 elitist have made it out to be, but in the end we stood there victorious … err, well at least Swaying Mango and I did since sadly MDB3 had to drop immediately preceding our victory. Perhaps MDB3 was dragging us down? I kid, I kid.

If you’re familiar with the Diablo encounter, the sticking point in our multiple failures was always the Realm of Terror. Diablo isn’t too much of a threat, but man those shadow clones of ourselves … THEY HURT. BADLY. No I don’t think you quite understand the depth of which they hurt you. Getting gibbed from two simultaneous wizard’s meteors is … depressing. There was also this little issue that since both Swaying Mango and I were more tanky wizards, our DPS was rather low.

After two failed attempts I swapped out Wave of Force for Archon – Arcane Destruction for slightly better DPS burns. I lost my stacks of Nephalem Valor but getting phat loots from Diablo wasn’t my goal. My goal was to complete Inferno in its entirety, preferably before any further nerfs to its difficulty happened. Needless to say when Diablo finally toppled over for us to kick his/her limp body I jumped out of my chair and fist-pumped, repeatedly.

I know many, many, many people have long since had this accomplishment under their belts but it in no way diminished my feeling of accomplishment. Inferno is HARD without amazing gear and to finally clear it out with my moderately decent gear felt amazing. I did it, ME, and it felt great.

Now with Inferno completed I can go back to farming … and fighting the urge to switch Malnevicent over to Aiom’s build. How’s that for a tease?

A Warning to Would-Be Exploiters

Have you heard? There’s a bug that has been discovered in Diablo 3 that grants a wizard complete invulnerability. I’m not going to go into detail on how to execute this bug because I’m certain beyond a shred-of-a-doubt that by the time you read this Blizzard has escalated fixing this bug to the #1 priority of the day. In addition they’re probably monitoring activity of wizards in Inferno to see how wide-spread exploitation of this bug has gotten.

If you’re using it right now STOP doing it. You WILL get your account banned.

Exploiting bugs is not fair game under the EULA and TOS and putting the ownership of allowing such an egregious bug on Blizzard is foolish at best. Bugs WILL slip through the cracks; it is impossible to ship a bug-free product. Even then, new bugs can and will crop up with each patch cycle. We see it all the time, so don’t step up on your soap-box decrying Blizzard’s development team for the existence of this bug.

I’ve worked as a QA tester and QA lead for Namco and know the QA process pretty well. With a game such as Diablo 3 I’m sure the QA team has documented hundreds of thousands if not millions of bugs into their bug database. Not every bug is going to get squashed and even then when one bug is fixed, it could potentially create new bugs. Some bugs are hard to nail down on the execution and/or just so hard to recreate that they’re left in the game. It’s just the nature of development; a priority system has to be in place otherwise a product will NEVER be shipped.

While this bug will be quickly fixed there will be others that will crop up. It is a never-ending cycle with a product such as Diablo 3. Get used to it. Better yet, if you do discover something as exploitable as the wizard invulnerability bug, report it as soon as you can reliably recreate it and then STOP using it. Do not post the steps on recreating it to any forums. Do not make a youtube video explaining how to do it. Blizzard doesn’t take it lightly when players exploit their games.

You have been warned.

Breaking Through the Brick Wall

Finding the motivation to progress past Act I Inferno was becoming increasingly more difficult as the persistent nature of horrible drops continued to plague me. With each piece of complete garbage iLvl 63 gear that dropped so did my hopes. Would Act I Inferno be the furthest I’d get without luck on my side? Sure, eventually something good would drop, but even then would it be suited for a melee wizard? Then even if it wasn’t, would it actually move on the auction house?

As more and more players jump ship the potential market of buyers on the auction house gets more and more picky making it harder to sell anything that isn’t ideally rolled. This problem is compounded by the moronic sellers out there thinking that their decent wares will sell for millions upon millions of gold. It creates a false representation of how much gear is truly worth. Routinely I see decent to good gear go for far too much and great gear for obscene amounts of gold. Although I can’t say for certain, I would hazard a guess that many of those auctions expire.

Sadly day after day the perception of inflation continues to grow and create false expectations in the economy. Eventually it’ll level out and it’ll be somewhat reasonable to buy equipment, but when that day does come who will be left to reap the benefits? By that time I’d suspect that most of the remaining active player-base will be well into Inferno where actual upgrades will be perfectly rolled gear and therefore be worth all the golds.

Fortunately I have moved a few pieces of gear on the GAH and have accumulated about 13 million gold which gives me some buying power but not enough to afford true upgrades. With my still being priced out of the market to get good gear this has led to many, many farming runs with my melee wizard in Act I Inferno, rarely yielding anything of any value to me or anyone else.

That was until a fateful run with a Shattered Soulstone lisenter, Udonrun, joined one of my insomnia-fueled farming runs.

It started as many of my co-op farming runs seem to, he benefited almost immediately by having a legendary drop from the very first champion pack we ran into. Sure, it was a junky legendary, but a legendary nonetheless. We continued to farm and farm with nary a trouble as many of my farming runs go these days — a melee wizard is actually surprisingly effective — and on one of my trips to town IT happened: a one-handed 900 dps mace with INT, LoH and a socket dropped for me.

It wasn’t the most perfect weapon I’d ever seen, but it was a great weapon nonetheless which immediately improved my DPS a ton when I dropped a 70% critical damage green gem into the socket. Now my melee wizard was as lethal as she looked. Champions and elites in Act I Inferno were no longer a match for my wizard which motivated me to splurge a little and buy a few bargain pieces to put together a progression set of gear.

With a progression set of gear equipped I decided to see how my wizard would fare in Act II Inferno. I did, afterall, have plenty of gold reserves to cover the repair costs and if things did go horribly wrong I’d pull the plug on the experiment before racking up a horrifically large repair bill. What I didn’t expect, however, was for my wizard to progress through Act II Inferno as easily as she did culminating in one-shotting Belial.

Yes, you read that correctly. My melee wizard one-shot Belial in Inferno. It was surprisingly easy since the only thing that I had to worry about was the meteor phase (even then I could actually survive one blast). Only occasionally was there any resistance in Act II Inferno with particularly nasty champion/elite packs (or two of them at the same time) which is a testament to just how gear-dependent Inferno is.

Sadly my wizard’s gear isn’t quite there to progress through Act III Inferno comfortably as her resistances still need some more improvement. I actually laughed at how quickly my wizard could die if RNG wasn’t on her side and didn’t get a block or dodge when frost nova and diamond skin were on cool-down; one second full of life, the next DEAD. So there’s still plenty of work to be done to be able to finish out Inferno, but for the first time in weeks I actually have hope that I will succeed.

It’s only a matter of time …

Getting Closer

There seems to be a growing trend with the soul-sucking symbiotic relationship I have with Diablo 3: every time something fantastic happens, something else happens to pull me closer to the breaking point. If it weren’t for the carrot dangled in front of my face and how incredibly addictive the actual gameplay is I might be inclined to shelve D3 until some actual content updates start happening.

Whoa. Even the great Diablo proponent, Nevik, is reaching his last straw?

To a certain extent yes, I am. Progression in Inferno is becoming less and less desirable. Between the sky-rocketing inflation on the GAH and abysmal randomness of loot, finding decent upgrades is excruciatingly painful. Yesterday I was searching for a halfway decent shield for my melee wizard with critical chance, intelligence and either vitality or all resist (though I’d prefer to have all four but you can only select up to three criteria when browsing the AH, making that a chore in-of-itself) and the only shields I could afford with my pitiful 3 million gold were downgrades from what I already had.

So either I need to get extremely lucky with the loot drops or buy to win now that gold can be bought and sold on the RMAH. Oids.

To be fair, I have found a couple of small upgrades while farming, but they haven’t been particularly amazing. It is really frustrating to finish a Butcher run in which you have multiple iLvl 63s drop and ALL of them are junk. There’s just too much randomness with the behind-the-scene rolls when items drop to which the highest iLvl items can be completely worthless (iLvl socketed rings with no stats, I’m looking at you).

That’s another problem with finding the motivation to progress beyond Act I Inferno, sure I could shoot for it to have better chances of having higher iLvl gear drop, but for what? To have complete junk drop one after another after dying many more times than I would in Act I? Why would I bother with the repair costs and stress of dealing with Act III and IV champion/elites that are downright unfair?

Standing in the bad without a care …

I mean, sure, I do want to continue to progress and complete Inferno in its entirety just so that I can say that I did it, but what after that? Unless I can completely trivialize Acts III and IV there’s little in it that I couldn’t potentially get out of Act I for far less effort. With the adjustments I’ve made to my melee wizard build I finally have Act I Inferno on farm status. That is to say that other than the occasional death from really nasty affix combinations on champion/elite packs I breeze through my farming runs.

Act I Inferno no longer holds any challenge for my melee wizard. However, conversely, Act II still punches me in the face and then kicks me in the groin while on the ground. My melee wizard’s gear still isn’t good enough to safely — well maybe safely isn’t the appropriate word — comfortably progress through Act II. Between all of the wasps and the increased damage and health pools of the mobs Act II is still very un-fun.

If it weren’t for the fact that I’m completely in love with the playstyle of the melee wizard I’m not sure I could say that I would still be playing Diablo 3. That’s saying a lot coming from me; I routinely state that D3 has consumed my soul and to be this disenfranchised is worrisome. Now don’t fret, it’s still not my time to pull the plug on the game. Diablo 2 experienced similar itemization problems (remember how lances wouldn’t drop AT ALL for the longest time?) and D3 is still very young in terms of design iteration.

I still have plenty of faith that Blizzard will address the issues at hand and turn D3 into an amazing soul-sucking product beyond what it has already accomplished. We will just have to give it time (and hopefully the AH market will settle down by then) which is extremely easy to do considering there’s no monthly subscription involved. IF I do get to the point where I’ve had enough I can take a break and come back to the game later down the road.

And that rocks, period.