TDLR: because you have to invest a lot of time in running a normal rift to get a GRkey and in between rifts running your rifts under 3 minutes may not be the best way to get as much XP per minute.
I believe the accepted consensus is that you should farm GR at a level that you are sure to complete under 3 minutes for maximum efficiency (see icyveins guide for example).
While that sounds like good advice I believe that it is not taking into account all the investment in time that you need to run a GR:
- you need to run a regular rift that will yield quite low XP to get a GR Key (I timed a few regular rift and recorded the amount of Keys/XP i would get: it took me on average 80 seconds to get 1 GRkey with very little XP);
- the downtime between rift is more important than I initially expected: running 3 GR before emptying my stash / Blood-shards and trying to be fast, it nevertheless took me on average 60s per GR between ending and opening a new one (picking up, upgrading gems, TP, closing rift, clean-up every 3 GR, opening new rift).
his is a total of 2min20 for running a GR in less than 3 minutes this is a huge factor i feel is overlooked.
As such I believe longer but higher GR will be more profitable in terms of XP per minute.
With my barb I used to run fast GR85 (avg 2m22s, always below 3 minutes as advised) and as you can see in table below it would be ~20% less efficient than running a series of GR 100 lasting 5 minutes each (at the cost of upgrading less gems) – see table below
total XP = XP of GR + XP gained in reg rift to get one GR Key, total time = completion time of GR + 60s for clean up +80s of normal rift
EDIT: same table with significantly less downtime (90s total vs 140s – 35% less than previously) to help the decision for the faster ones among us that can sustain that rhythm
95 remain the level of choice but its getting closer but the threshold seem to be ruining rifts between 3 and 4 minutes
so when i want to play solo because there is no Rats/meta available I believe I will now run GR95 (only slightly less profitable than GR100 but more reliable (death etc).
Different character class / Paragon will have varying results but the big takeaway for me is that you need to account for downtimes better. Hopefully those tables will be helpful in determining your strategy and if you gather your own data in terms of min per rift you will be able to optimize the solo GR that works best for you.
I recorded the XP per level myself but this table could be helpful
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