S21 COMMENTARY AND THOUGHTS
As the flavorful thext of the Season ever so eloquently puts it, the air is thick with demonic stench, and Sanctuary crackles with elemental chaos – the Trial of the Tempests is nigh! This Season's power, as you might have already realized, evokes the S19 theme of devastating procs that dictate the flow of battle. Unlike S19 however, where those powerful effects were beholden to the mayhem of your own character, this time they answer to one thing only – the unrelenting flow of time itself!
Or, in short, it's a time-based proc. Of reasonable power, and quite a bit of RNG. We think. Its final version was never really shown on the PTR.
But I digress! It would be a lie to say I didn't have fun with S19's screen-obliterating procs, and if S21 manages to take me back to those blissful, post-D4 announcement BlizzCon days, I would be satisfied. Once again, we have two new sets to play with, and much like Season 20, it feels like one of them got the short end of the stick.
Necromancers got the Masquerade of the Burning Carnival set, a valiant attempt at freeing the class from the Land of the Dead, hyper-cooldown optimization tyranny. To the developer's credit, the playstyle is well constructed, and despite my early PTR gripes that "it's another Bone Spear thing, Pestilence exists, grr!", the interplay with Simulacrum provides just enough of a difference to really make it stand out. The changes to Simulacrum as a whole are one of the patch's highlights, and it finally stands toe to toe with other summoner options for Necros in terms of flavor, flexibility and enjoyment to play. And even though a considerable bump in damage would reaaaally be nice, I can't imagine Necromancers would be displeased by S21 – not after seeing how the new Legacy of Dreams-based Corpse Explosion and Poison Scythe builds trample the highest tiers of content.
Demon Hunters got the real sweet deal in my book though. I have long championed Strafe as the coolest skill in the class' arsenal (I might have watched the Matrix one too many times as a kid), and even though you could and maybe even did play a RoV Natalya's build with it back in the day… it just never really did it justice, did it? (No wonder Natalya DHs jumped ship to Rapid Fire first chance they got.) Now we have the real Strafe set in the face of Gears of Dreadlands, and I will be rocking this stylish 6-piece in order to style on demons and make pincushions out of them all Season long! I only wish Chakram got some love alongside Hungering Arrow and Bolas, but eh – there's always next Season.
Have a great Season 21, and as always – happy hunting!
>>LIST OF DETAILED GUIDES EVERY CLASS AND EVERY ACTIVITY<<
THE COOL NEW STUFF, AND OTHER CLASS' HIGHLIGHTS
Haedrig's Gift Beginner Build: The Shadow's Mantle
Using the powers of the Gears of Dreadlands set, this Demon Hunter build combines the deadly precision of Hungering Arrow with the elegance of movement and battlefield maneuverability of Strafe. The end result is one of the most versatile, agile and honestly – just visually appealing playstyles in the game. Whether the interactions with Valla's Bequest are intended or not remains to be seen, but this is a guaranteed contender for the most played build this upcoming Season, and with good reason!
Using the combined might of the Gears of Dreadlands and Marauder sets, this support Demon Hunter build combines the strong damage buffs and pulling utility from the Entangling Shot and Bolas barrage with the myriad utility and toughness buffs coming from the Companion synergy. I never thought I would include a support build as something to be excited about, but it has been so long since Demon Hunters were this desirable and this versatile in the meta, that I can't help but highlight it. Now if only they made Calamity good again. Sigh.
Testing the full capabilities of the dedicated Masquerade of the Burning Carnival set, this Necromancer build focuses on a unique amalgamation of Simulacrums and Bone Spear to produce a crafty sniping playstyle that can take its time setting up fights due to its impressive endurance. While a tad underpowered for the highest of high endgame pushes, this is still a capable – and most importantly, Land of the Dead-independent (hurrah!) – build for all the CDR-weary Necromancers out there.
Legacy of Dreams – Corpse Explosion
Basing itself on the versatile and adaptable Legacy of Dreams power and stacking a bunch of empowering and synergistic legendary items, the Corpse Explosion Necromancer provides another supremely powerful and visually striking playstyle this Season – and this one relishes on exploding cadavers, which is about the coolest and most Necromance-y thing you could say. High contender for my second build this Season, I've wanted a top tier Corpse Explosion Necromancer ever since this class came into existence.
Emerging from a combination of the Season 21 changes to the build-defining Haunted Visions amulet, the adaptability of the Legacy of Dreams bonus, and the plethora of Poison-themed skills at the Necromancer's disposal, this Necromancer build offers a simple-yet-deadly playstyle that reaps enemies without a thought for cooldowns. Will this build tickle your fancy for mechanical mastery? Nah. Will it cause theorycrafters to break down build minutae in endless excel tables? Nah. Is it the strongest and laziest Necromancer thing since Bone Storm from ages ago? You betcha.
Built from the ashes of a very old Rend/IK mixture, the Rend Wastes Barbarian truly shows the potential and terror of this DoT build. An unstoppable machine that whirls, cleaves and guts demons like Barbarians were always meant to do. With the newfound powers of Ambo's Pride, this build bleeds his enemies dry in an instant, turning what was once an unassuming bleed into a fearsome nuke that gets applied every second. Couple that with the savage elegance of Whirlwinding, and it's no wonder people will return to this build time and again when it comes to Barb progression.
One of the two new sets from Season 19 ascended Crusaders to a whole new level, and evoked the times when the Holy Shotgun was considered OP, because it was the only Reaper of Souls build that demolished T6. Hundreds of millions of damage and health spikes later, this (un)holy amalgamation of items delivers a mixture of Fist of the Heavens and Heaven's Fury Shotgun shots with righteous ferocity that have earned this build the one rigthful nickname: God Crusader. In short, it's still pretty damn OP, even with two Seasons in a row worth of nerfs.
Rooting its powers firmly in the TR-dedicated Patterns of Justice set, this alternate take on Tempest Rushing gives its Sunwuko brother an equal competitor. The set empowers Sweeping Wind to astronomical proportions, stacking all the runes and swelling the vortex of destruction to a veritable cyclone.
Haedrig's Gift Beginner Build: Jade Harvester
The Mundunugu set empowers one of the most visually satisfying builds of Witch Doctors, Spirit Barrage, to a ridiculously powerful level that will (barring any unexpected changes) seal the WD's spot in group play for much longer than the flavor-of-month Poison Nova will for Necros. To top it all off, this build is very versatile across all game activities, and can be adapted to everything from bounties, through keyfarm and speeds, to high end solo and group pushing as the Trash Killer.
Transforming the Wizard into an unstoppable being of Arcane destruction, the Achon build simply has it all – power, mobility, versatility. For the modest investment of two relatively easy-to-obtain sets – Vyr and Chantodo – this build will take you into the highest of Greater Rifts, and with a relatively simple to grasp playstyle to boot. This remains one of the strongest builds you could go for on a Wizard, and has an excellent character power-to-time-invested ratio.
GETTING STARTED THIS SEASON, OR HOW TO GET TO THE COOL STUFF
We can clearly see an influx of new and returning players – people looking for guidance and advice on early crafting, gambling, and character building foundations. This is my attempt to convey as much information as I can in a single thread.
At the very start of the Season, your first job is, naturally, to create a new seasonal hero. While this first choice does not lock you down too terribly, note that the Seasonal Journey rewards you once per Season – only for the character that completes the chapters first. Bearing that in mind, pick your character and go in game.
While in town, approach one of the followers that most closely matches your class (Templar for Barbarians, Monks and Crusaders, Scoundrel for Demon Hunters, and Enchantress for Witch Doctors, Necromancers and Wizards), select the "Inventory & Skills" option, take their weapon and equip it yourself – it is a significant upgrade over the base weapon that you start with.
Note that once you reach level 7, vendors in all towns – the ones with the nickname "the Fence" in their names – will start selling rings. Each of them has a chance to sell rings that increase your Average Damage (i.e. 2-4 Damage), which is a massive DPS boost early on.
Challenge Rift Completion and Kanai's Cube
After your character is created, head to the Game Settings menu, go into the Challenge Rifts and start the current weekly run. Note that you have to have completed at least one Greater Rift on your account (either in non-seasonal or previous seasons) to have Challenge Rifts unlocked. Challenge Rifts are a weekly challenge that provides a fixed character and a build (usually using quirky skills and/or heavily unoptimized stats and items), and challenges you to beat the Greater Rift completion time of its original owner.
The completion of the Challenge Rift is usually trivial and can be completed either solo or in a group, and will net you a Challenge Rift Reward cache. Open it up in-game with your brand new seasonal character and claim its contents: Death's Breaths, a couple hundred of each of the base crafting materials, Blood Shard, a couple million gold, and 15 each of the Act-specific bounty cache materials. With your newfound riches, upgrade both your Blacksmith and your Mystic craftsmen in town to their maximum rank.
Your next important step is to acquire Kanai's Cube. Kanai's Cube is found in The Ruins of Sescheron – the waypoint in the top right corner of the Act III map. From that waypoint, run left towards the city and make your way around the ruins; one of its far corners (typically upper right, lower right, or lower left) will have the entrance to the next zone, the Elder Sanctum. Once in the Elder Sanctum, make your way through the zone, practically to its other end. When you find the Cube and click it, it automatically transports itself back to town.
While you are at it, take a look at the
Kanai's Cube guide for additional details on its use – it is an incredibly important part of your character progression at any point of the game, so make sure to acquaint yourself thoroughly with its properties.
Which Item to Craft and Extract in the Cube?
One of the strongest early game boosts that you can obtain while leveling is to craft a yellow (rare) level 70 item at the blacksmith, then try to upgrade it into a valuable legendary at Kanai's Cube, and finally extract its property for one of the Kanai's Cube legendary power slots. Note that this strategy is stronger for some classes over others, particularly favoring Demon Hunters, Necromancers, and somewhat Barbarians. The remaining classes can skip this step and directly go to gambling, sparing themselves some disappointment and saving some materials for level 70, since you can do this recipe exactly once at the Season's start (you only have so many Death's Breaths).
When choosing which rare item to craft, keep in mind that you are looking to upgrade them into a legendary that provides some form of skill damage multiplier that will skyrocket your leveling efficiency. Every class has a different set of valuable items to attempt for:
- Craft a rare level 70 Two-Handed Mighty Weapon, and use the Upgrade Rare recipe in the Cube to try to obtain either a Fury of the Vanished Peak or The Gavel of Judgment.
- Craft a rare level 70 One-Handed Flail, and use the Upgrade Rare recipe in the Cube to try to obtain either a Darklight, Gyrfalcon's Foote or Johanna's Argument.
- Craft a rare level 70 Dagger, and use the Upgrade Rare recipe in the Cube to obtain either a Karlei's Point or a Lord Greenstone's Fan. Demon Hunters are excellent at this strategy since they only have 2 daggers, and they are both great for leveling.
- Craft a rare level 70 Daibo, and use the Upgrade Rare recipe in the Cube to try to obtain either an Incense Torch of the Grand Temple, Balance or The Flow of Eternity.
- Craft a rare level 70 Two-Handed Scythe, and use the Upgrade Rare recipe in the Cube to obtain either a Bloodtide Blade, Maltorius' Petrified Spike, Nayr's Black Death or Reilena's Shadowhook. Necromancers are excellent at this strategy since they only have 4 legendary Two-Handed Scythes, and they are all great for leveling.
- Craft a rare level 70 Staff, and use the Upgrade Rare recipe in the Cube to try to obtain either a Staff of Chiroptera or Wormwood.
- Craft a rare level 70 Wand, and use the Upgrade Rare recipe in the Cube to try to obtain either a Fragment of Destiny, Starfire, Unstable Scepter or Wand of Woh.
Note that this part of the leveling strategy requires some amount of luck for non-DH and non-Necromancer players. Leveling in a group minimizes the risk of RNG screwing everyone over, but sometimes you will be unlucky; this is nothing to be bothered by, as leveling in Diablo is still a fairly easy and straightforward process.
If you are lucky, however, and obtain one of the items outlined above, you will have just about enough Death's Breaths to use the Extract Legendary Power recipe in Kanai's Cube. Do that, and then slot the (now maximized) legendary power of the item in the Cube, netting yourself a considerable leveling bonus. Needless to say, adjust your build accordingly to the legendary power, i.e. if you get Guard of Johanna as a Crusader, make Blessed Hammer your main damage dealing skill throughout leveling.
Spending the Challenge Rift Blood Shards
Your next step is to try and gamble for valuable items from Kadala at level 1. Since not every legendary is available right from the start, the legendary item pools for some classes are restricted in a beneficial way to obtain another strong damage multiplier right from the start. If you do not consider the legendaries listed for your class particularly attractive, you can always gamble for Helms for a considerable chance at obtaining Leoric's Crown; extracting its power and socketing rubies in your helmets throughout leveling will net you a hefty amount of extra experience.
- Gamble for Bracers, trying to obtain either Bracers of Destruction or Bracers of the First Men. Spend any remaining Blood Shards on Boots for a chance at Lut Socks.
- Gamble for Bracers, trying to obtain Gabriel's Vambraces. If you are lucky to get them quick, you can also spend some (or all, if you are feeling lucky) on shields for Guard of Johanna or Denial. At level 31, if you have any Blood Shards saved over, or new ones you are willing to spend, you can try your luck at Pants for Hammer Jammers.
- Not many great options; you can gamble for Belts, trying to obtain the Hellcat Waistguard, although Grenade comes a little later in the leveling process. Otherwise, either go for Leorics Crown (helm) or the damage proc of Pox Faulds (pants). Another gambling strategy you can attempt is saving shards for level 30, when you can gamble on Quivers for a chance at Sin Seekers, or level 31 – for the additional chance at Holy Point Shot and Spines of Seething Hatred.
- Gamble for either Boots (hoping to obtain Rivera Dancers or The Crudest Boots) or Bracers (hoping to obtain either Pinto's Pride, Cesars Memento or Gungdo Gear). Adjust your gambling strategy for Monk depending on the item you obtained (if any) on the previous step, where you upgraded a rare item (i.e. gambling for bracers if you got an Incense Torch of the Grand Temple, hoping to get Pinto's Pride).
- Gamble for Gloves, trying to obtain Grasp of Essence.
- Not many great options; you can gamble for Mojos, trying to obtain a Gazing Demise, but its usefulness is rather limited in early character progression. Otherwise, either go for Leoric's Crown (helm) or the damage proc of Pox Faulds (pants).
- Not many great options; you can gamble for Bracers, trying to obtain Ashnagarr's Blood Bracer, but its defensive properties are not very useful early on. Otherwise, either go for Leoric's Crown (helm) or the damage proc of Pox Faulds (pants). Another gambling strategy you can attempt is saving shards for level 31, when you can gamble on Rings for a chance at Manald Heal,or level 33 – for Source gambling for Etched Sigil.
Crafting a High Level Rare and Reducing Level Requirement
Pick a two-handed weapon category of your choice (2h Axes, Maces, Swords…) and craft a level 70 weapon of the chosen type. Avoid class-specific weapons, since they add a class-specific roll to the secondary stat pool (i.e. Max Fury), making this strat harder. You are looking for a roll with:
At least a Crowd Control secondary stat – Chance to Stun, Slow, Fear,.. etc. On Hit;
Ideally, also a Life per Hit primary stat;
If both these stats are present, you have eliminated a large part of the possible Secondary stats on the weapon. Thus, you can easily reroll the other Secondary stat (the one that is NOT the crowd control stat) into Reduced Level Requirement – making the item wearable up to 30 levels prior to level 70. This is a tremendous damage increase for a large chunk of your leveling process.
Of course, if you are very lucky, the Reduced Level Requirement can roll onto your crafted item outright.
Complete a Boss Bounty
An easy early boost to your character in Seasons is to check your bounties for any easily completed act boss killing bounties – the most famous examples being Zoltun Kulle (at the Archives of Zoltun Kulle waypoint) and Maghda (down from the Road to Alcarnus waypoint) in Act II. Another option is Azmodan at the very end of Act III. Simply run past the mobs and go straight for the boss kill.
The boss bounties reward you with a Diabolic Hoard chest that is guaranteed to drop you a couple of rare items; they will boost your overall character power nicely right at the beginning.
And this is it! You've made it to the actual leveling part! 🙂 Outside the Cursed Chest strategy that requires Necromancer presence in the group, you have three major class-agnostic options:
Torment VI Traps Method
Turn the difficulty up to Torment VI and go to the Halls of Agony Level 1. Run and dodge past monsters that come in your way until you reach the falling blades traps; there, lure the monsters towards these traps and watch as they get slaughtered, netting you tremendous experience.
This method, while extremely efficient time-wise, is also (arguably) quite unfun and counter-intuitive, not to mention prone to mishaps. Needless to say, this strategy is not Hardcore-friendly and will result in the (frequent) death of your character.
Via Massacre Bonus
You can also consider leveling via Massacre bonuses — a very potent strategy in solo play. The Massacre bonus XP system was revised in Patch 2.4.1 into a multiplicative experience bonus that rewards you for chaining kills of monsters. The caveat is this bonus only works in bounties – and not during Rifts.
To successfully pull of long chains of monster kills, pick highly populated zones – the Cathedral (Act I), Halls of Agony Level 3 (Act I), and, most notably, Fields of Misery (Act I). The tactic is to always be on the move, leading monsters into one another, abusing Cursed Chests for monster spawns, and generally using skills with DoTs or high AoE (Rend for Barbarian, Blessed Hammer for Crusader, Multishot for Demon Hunter, Wave of Light for Monk, Locust Swarm for Witch Doctors, Blizzard for Wizards).
While Massacre leveling will require frequent restarts of the game (every 5-10 minutes), it will result in some of the fastest leveling in Diablo 3, clocking under the 2 hour mark when you get the hang of it. Due to its individual nature and the level of coordination required to pull it off in a multiplayer game, leveling by Massacre bonuses can only be recommended for 2+ players if they are experienced and have voice communication; this is predominantly a solo leveling technique. It also has the considerable downside of losing the increased legendary drop rate and blood shards of rifting.
For groups and players that do not stress losing an hour in the 1-70 race, the general recommendation is to stick to rifts for the 1-70 journey. Rifts grant you increased legendary drop rate, blood shards for gambling, and a hefty "hand-in" bonus at the end. While rifting has a higher degree of randomness than bounties (map layout, monster density and composition are all RNG), the removal of Rift Keystones as a requirement to open them allows you to simply remake if you get a bad (difficult or slow) rift.
And this is it! Thank you so much for reading this megathread and my guides! Good luck and have a great Season 21!
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© Post "Deadset’s All Characters Cheat Sheet & Endgame Guide Compendium, Season 21 Edition" for game Diablo 3.
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