Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Diablo 3 Season 5 & 6 Musings

In my last year's Diablo III post I mentioned that I might continue playing the game when season 2 hits. I did -- as crusader of course. I did not look up any guides or builds better players had made, and just rolled with my own. I had some success but hit the impassable wall quite soon. I continued playing in season 3 -- as crusader again -- but ended up only leveling to 70 for the transmogs and then quitting. During season 4 I did not touch the game at all and missed the introduction of the Kanai's Cube, which is bit like the Horadric Cube in D2.

Game keeps getting improved

Season 5 brought in new features as well and made me finally launch the game again. Among other changes, a season journey with a set of goals was added. Completing the first four sets of challenges rewarded one with 3 Haedrig's gifts that had each 2 set pieces in them for the class they were opened with. For the crusader, the pieces were of the reworked Invoker set whose theme is thorns damage.

Completing the four chapters and the class set turned out to be rather easy. I progressed through greater nephalem rifts at great speed and quickly had full set for an invoker crusader build someone had put together. I was finally able to experience that incredibly fast killing speed I had only seen in videos previously. My character felt powerful and the game amazing.

Some quality of life changes also increased the amount of enjoyment gotten from the game. The greater rift progression had been made more sensible. Multi-kills and killing sprees had also been reworked and the sound effects removed, which was quite the welcome change. They had been getting quite old indeed.

I am not so sure if the new set dungeons were that great of an addition, though. There were quite a lot of complaints on forums. Luckily the invoker set dungeon was from the easier end of the spectrum, although I did get my ass handed back to me when I first tried it. And when I returned later on more powerful, I had to gimp my character to not kill the enemies too fast. But mastering the dungeon in the end was not as complicated as many of the rest apparently.

Quest for more stash space

After awhile, I decided to check what the season journey involved after the four chapters and noticed the second to last step, conqueror, would give another extra stash tab (in addition to the 2.4 patch one), which is a pretty nice reward considering how little space there is to store your loot in D3. (Or in any ARPG in general.) While I was able to do most of the conqueror challenges with ease, there were couple steps that were not as simple.

I completed The Thrill (reach GR45 without any class set pieces) as one of the required conquests and as for the second, I planned to do Avarice (50 million gold pick-up streak outside rifts and the Vault). I tried different places (the cow level for instance) but finally Ruins of Corvus turned out to be the best location. The Boon of the Hoarder gem (gold from every monster killed) and the great number of little monsters that spawn in the map were the keys to success.

Build switch

The final missing challenge for me was 4 Minutes to Save the World. (Finish a Torment X rift under 4 minutes) Now, that one is rather easy with other people (or as another class), but as I prefer playing the game by myself, I had some difficulties with it. While my build was quite capable of killing any single monster in TX, it was not that great for clearing masses of them quickly. In g/rifts I would always just jump from an elite pack to another.

So I started looking for an alternative build. LoN bombardment one seemed like the logical next step as it involves thorns damage as well and I had most of the key ancient legendaries for it already. (The Legacy of Nightmares 2-ring set gives you 100% damage bonus and 4% damage reduction for each equipped ancient legendary if the rings are the only set items you are wearing.) Gearing up for the build can be bothersome due to any legendary having a fairly low chance (5 or 10%, I think) of being an ancient. But as I said, I already happened to have most of the important ones.

The build did not seem that much faster for clearing greater rifts but bombardment killing every monster around made normal rifts definitely faster. The act V cemetery map turned out to be the easiest one for a quick clear and I got my stash tab. I was quite hooked on the game still and continued playing for the whole season and the no-season period after too, to get all the perfect items as ancient. (Still no ancient Ice Climbers...)

Season 6: Wizard

Then season 6 began and I decided that I had finally experienced enough of crusader and it was time to move to a less perfectly voiced character. After some consideration, I decided to roll a wizard whose gift set this season is Delsere's Magnum Opus that focuses on the Slow Time skill.

The Invoker set at least has the area effect bonus damage from having 2 pieces but DMO's only damage bonus comes from wearing full 6 pieces. That resulted me having trouble completing the four chapters of the journey for I did not have enough damage to clear grifts fast enough even though I had no trouble with survivability. Then I found the build's main and off-hand items from two consecutive rifts and my damage output grew just enough to complete the chapters to get the final 2 set pieces.

After that I progressed quite nicely. The DMO 6-piece bonus increases the damage of a few skills by a whopping 2000% against enemies inside Slow Time. That of course means that one will have to keep casting the bubble everywhere to be able to kill things in higher GRs. Arcane Orb and Explosive Blast also need non-brainless recasting. All in all, the build requires quite a lot of effort to play optimally.

I feel that all the classes besides the crusader have such, slightly too complicated gameplay. The only thing I needed to eye up in season 5 was Convention of Elements buff cycle for physical bonus to maximize damage.

The wall

My wizard hit the wall at greater rift level 64. An ancient main hand might have pushed me maybe couple levels higher but the main problem was surviving rift guardians. Some of them were really hard as the build's survivability mainly relies on having frozen enemies around to benefit from the Ancient Parthan Defenders. The way Slow Time traps projectiles inside it also often caused me to accidentally run into multiple ones at once.

I would have liked to get up to greater rift 75 solo for it is one of the conquests this season. The extra stash tab again requires the completion of at least two. The one I was able to do was On a Good Day (Level 3 legendary gems to level 65.) even if it took some extra work as the chance to upgrade drops from 100% after rift level is less than gem level+10.

The third conquest I deemed possible to complete was Curses! (Kill 350+ monsters in a cursed chest event on Torment X.) The DMO Arcane Orb build unfortunately seemed to be unable cover large enough area at once to reach 350 kills even at the Path of the Drowned chest in act V. And so I started looking for a new build once again to complete either one of the conquests.

Flash fire

I tried two different Archon builds. Both seemed incredibly fragile and rely on perfect rift layouts and densities to max out their effectiveness nor did they seem very good for the chest event. The builds were far from the stable performer the crusader is and I did not like them at all. I was starting to lose hope for getting the stash tab this season as solo wizard and considered rolling a demon hunter because the chest event seemed to be really easy for them.

I decided to try Quin's Flash Fire Wizard before that, however. Not for the greater rift (the build relies on gold drops for survivability and grifts have none) or the chest conquest (no elite spawn for In-Geom) but for Speed Demon (Finish a T10 rift under 2 minutes) as the build is meant for speed farming and maybe could do a rift fast enough even in solo.

The idea behind the build is to use In-Geom in the cube to basically remove cooldowns for 15 seconds after killing an elite pack and then spam all your skills (different elements for Tal Rasha's set) as fast as possible, especially the chain reacting Explosive Blast (it gets beyond silly), while looking for the next elite pack. The build indeed cleared T10 rifts at ludicrous speed but not quite under 2 minutes. I decided to not give up until I got to try the act V cemetery map, however.

It actually took quite few attempts to find the rift. I gathered 103 greater rift keys (rift guardians drop 1 to 2 on T10) before I got the cemetery again. I focused only on killing enemies as fast as possible, ignoring even legendary drops, and managed to achieve what had seemed nigh impossible. In total it took me 68 hours of playtime on the wizard to get the stash tab. I hope the next season will be less of a struggle.

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