So, here I am, all amped to start season 18 of Diablo. I log in. I click “new seasonal” character… or not, because we have to wait until 5pm.
"Why you do dis to me, Blizz!?"
What to do?
I was deciding between practising languages on Duolingo, or playing Pillars of Eternity, but, while Googling start times, up pops all these suggested articles, ‘expert’ articles on how best to progress in Season 18. So I started reading:
Q) What is the perfect class?
Guide: “Play Barbarian, Barbarian is my favourite class, it is my soulmate, forget all the lesser classes”.
Me: “You, sir, are an idiot”
Q) What is the fastest way to level
Guide: “Get boosted”
Me: “But what if there’s no-one to boost you?
Guide: The alternative ( rolls eyes), if you must, is you use the gems of ease, for xp, and to reduce a level 70 ancient legendary to level one.
Me: “No, I take that back, you are a complete moron.”
The problem here, which the guide was oblivious too, is bootstrapping. The gem of ease can only be acquired in Greater Rifts. Greater Rifts can only be done at level 70. Telling someone to do Greater Rifts to get their first character to level 70 to do Greater Rifts is moronic. So be fair they did, some time later, and in minimal detail, briefly (pack of a faq packet notes), comment on levelling up without being boosted.
I’m a ‘casual’ player: I do not like pressure, or stress, I have no interest in ladders, I have no interest in or desire to be streamer, I just play. Occasionally, like now, I share things I believe others may find useful. Like this.
Whether new to the game, or a new Seasonal character, you start with nothing. Basically a pointy stick and cloth sack. At the start of the season everyone is in the same boat. By tomorrow there will be players at level 70 and Paragon 1000+, the ladder chasers and streamers, mostly, plus the odd OCD. I’m approaching this on the assumption that you don’t have or don’t want someone to boost you.
First off, there is no ‘best class’, merely the best class for how you like to play, and what you want to do. That said, especially as higher settings, some things, while not quite impossible, are firmly in the realms of "Sod this, I give up!" If you are chasing achievements for stash tabs and wings etc you’ll find a few challenges that tick this particular box. Here’s a few generalisations though:
Melee types (barbarian, paladin, monk) can take a long more beating before they die.
Assisted ranged types (necromancer, witch doctor, demon hunter) are squishy, but the pets give a level of separation..
Unassisted ranged types (the wizard) are delicate little flowers.
You might, perhaps researching, see that "No way, that’s rubbish, Wizards are top of all the league tables."
No, a wizard with 2,000, 4,000, 8,000 paragon levels to pour into vitality and intelligence might be highly ranked, a wizard, even one with 1,000 paragon levels, is bone china. At high Torment levels, the slightest tap and they shatter. They are called glass cannons for a reason.
The first point is:
Forgetting set bonuses a moment, gear is everything. The prime attribute matters (e.g. strength, dexterity, intelligence), but 9 times out of 10 an item with max crit etc will trump it. If your burly, manly paladin does more damage and has more health in a ponsy mage’s dress, wear the dress, no-one cares.
The second point, for further and later progress:
Unless you want to take the meandering, scenic back roads approach -and there’s nothing wrong with that at all – your focus wants to be … *
I WAS going to say: *(on your first character getting to level 70, then getting to complete a Greater Rift at level 70, solo because this unlocks the chance of ancients and primal ancients to drop for you. You want these.)
Well, perhaps not! This* was written hours before the season started and it appears appears not to be the case now, as I’ve had several ancients so far from drops, upgrades and crafting set pieces, on simply reaching level 70. Don’t recall anything in the patch notes about this, but perhaps I missed it. That said – and I assume they changed this back – I got my first primal ancient with loot on completing a greater rift at 70, solo. Achievement. Primal. How it works. again.
The third point, and one of the most important, is learning to Cube:
In adventure mode it’s a quick mission to unlock the cube, while in campaign it is only later on in the game (act iii) that you unlock Kanai’s Cube. The Cube allow you to reroll, change, and upgrade items (RNG allowing) and, importantly, gives you three extra buffs. First though you have to unlock (extract) the buffs, which needs Bounties (for mats). You also need the right legendaries to sacrifice, so keep an eye on these too, as they drop.
Fourth point: remembering!
If you have them available, remember your follower, remember your companion pet (they gather gold for you, which saves time, for one), remember your Cube.
The number of times I’ve worked on a new character and got to level 50, or 60 and thought, "Ah bugger, follower…"
Fifth point: Which follower?
Mostly I use the Templar because he heals you, but the sorceress is good too, the scoundrel, meh. Depends on your character which follower is best though, really. For instance, one of the stronger necromancer builds relies on debuffs (slow, blind, charmed, etc) which can all 300% to damage. The sorceress, with her spells, in clearly the best follower here. Whichever you get, remember to gear them as well as you can, including socketing a crit gem in their weapon. That especially means looking out for a relic with:
On equip: your follower cannot die
Sixth point: difficulty level.
You options are currently limited to normal through torment (i), and torment i through vi. Higher levels are unlocked at 70 and completing the requisite Greater Rift solo. Below are 3 short videos of a newly made Barbarian racing to level two (or not). The first is a little longer and includes a glance at the Cube, if you aren’t familiar with it. No follower, no pet, no paragon points added.
Default setting: Normal. Difficulty level: Hold my beer
Default setting: Torment I. Difficulty level: I got this.
Default setting: Torment VI. Difficulty level: OMG OMG I’m going to urkkk… *THUD* *Wormfood*
And, as a bonus, and wildly silly, here’s a level 1 twink character, in full level 70 ancient gear, on Torment 6. Once he gets going, pay attention to the levels in the top left corner rather than the ones in the middle of the screen:
Seventh point: How, and with whom?
Setting aside the question of campaign verses adventure, you have the following options:
2. Rifts or bounties (greater rifts, remember, need level 70).
A lot depends on the type of person you are: private or open, introverted or extroverted, casual or driven, easy-going, or, well, an arsehole. MMO’s cater for all types! Being withdrawn I am not comfy with groups, myself. I am happy to run about and clear levels / boost others, at their pace, but running after some manic over-achiever, being boosted and left for dead all the time, not being given even a chance to loot, no thanks. Occasionally, if I am focused on one specific thing (death’s breath, or “this” drop”) I can bear it for short periods, longer in a good group. Can’t help you on this one other that to say this: play to your comfort level. If it’s not fun, don’t do it!
That said, you need to be doing bounties in groups as it’s five times quicker, all things being equal. That’s no small saving. You all pick an act and go to it. If you can look for the Rainbow Goblins at the same time, all the better. Many do. You do get bots and leeches, but you also get people that, if you are slower, will jump to other acts when their’s is complete, if only because they want it done so they can relog and start another set.
End focused groups, probably streamers, with a finely balanced party, perhaps even on Teamspeak (or similar), were making level 70 within an hour, higher level achievements (some of which I still don’t have!) and world’s first within two or three hours. I assume there worked at Torment I for fast rifts, and if it wasn’t a ‘open’ rift – where they could split up for kills – they’d relog. Faster, more efficient. As long as they are on the same level, all get the same XP. As you can see in the Witch Doctor video (below) it’s quite easy to clear a rift to the end boss in under 15 minutes, starting with zero gear. A party of four would have done it in under four or five minutes, probably even under three.
Parties also allow loot sharing, so you will see groups and bounties that just want ‘monks’ (or whatever). Efficient, but slow to form, I find.
Bounties should also be an early priority and these rewards hold the vast majority of recipes for crafting various legendaries, sets and gems.
Rifts are for faster levelling, and drop farming.
(Greater rifts, when you can do them, are for xp farming, and legendary gem drops and pushing).
Class Wars: Torment II
Returning to the question of ‘which class is best’, bearing in mind the examples below use new starter characters with no talents, gear or bonuses, and allowing for the randomness of the spawned rift, it simply asks: Who survives the longest, who gains the most levels?
Crusader: made it to level 2, lasted just 53 seconds
Demon Hunter: died at level 1, lasted just 17 seconds.
Monk: died at level 1, lasted just 18 seconds.
Necromancer: made at level 3, lasted 2 minutes, 21 seconds
Witch Doctor: made it to level 8, lasted over 23 minutes
Wizard: died at level 1, lasted just 28 seconds.
I’m not interested in:
"If *I* had been playing that…"
Or "If it has been a better rift"
Or "If it has been for that waller / boss / end boss"
The rifts and fights were as random as the game is, the question was who lasted. Arguably, I agree, the barbarian may have done a lot better but for the waller, but the crusader has no waller, so I’m not buying that. My high level barbarian is too squishy for my liking, dies all the time at T16, my Crusader and Monk, not so much. My Wizard is still pathetic at T16, but my Witch Doctor and Necromancer have no trouble. And my (Impale) Demon Hunter is good up to level 100 Greater Rifts, solo. Which ain’t bad, for a casual. Of course you may find the opposite, the little test was simple to see how they faired.
Fact is, especially without gear and so forth, up close and personal, melee, early on, are weak. Wizards are pathetic. Demon Hunters, until they get their pet and a good bow, are weak. Necromancers are very powerful and moreso once they get their pets. Same for the Witch doctor.
Also, and this is a big point, the fights would have been a lot different and lasted a lot longer even dropping to just Torment 1.
Finally, while the Witch Doctor died to the rift guardian at the end, I allow her to die. I could have gone back to town, bought or perhaps crafted more equipment and won the fight, and/or ran off to the next level, away from the rift boss, levelled up more and returned to beat it.
Noting that I’m current around paragon 500 and still playing with new builds and ‘only’ capable of soloing around Torment XVI and GR75, here’s what the solo ladder leaders look like 3 days into the season (26/8/2019):
Crusader: (alcholic, paragon 898), GR112 in: 13m 57s
Demon Hunter: (Crimson, paragon 1325), GR113 in 12:32
Monk: (JamBo, paragon 1078), GR110 in 11m 45
Necromancer: (SEMA, paragon 1141), GR111 in 10m 40s
Witch Doctor: (Baskenator, paragon 1157), GR120 in 14m 40s
Wizard: (AEon, paragon 1368), GR128 in 14.58
Most of these have full or near full ancient sets and several have one or two primals as well.
Video of the Torment II fights, by class
Reaching level 70, and beyond: Dummies guide to powering up in Diablo 3
Blizzard’s Diablo 3 forums
And one of my favourites, Icy Veins, under update for s18, starting with: Barbie, Crusader and Demon Hunter.
Also just found this on Reddit, which is well worth a read: Season 18: zero to hero
(Personally I’m curious to see if they (above) include Vyr wizard builds floating around Messerschmidt’s Reaver, which lower cooldowns by 1 second for every kill. Certainly as lower levels it’s possibly to keep Archon permanently up, albeit at the cost of ‘The Furnace’. Playing, I reckon you can get round it via 2 pieces of the (new) Aughild set1 and swapping a ring for the Stone of Jordan (+30% verses elites), but we’ll see.
1 From 2.6.6 patch notes:
2 set: Reduces damage taken by 15%, increases damage dealt by 30%
2 set: Reduces damage from elites by 30%, increases damage against elites by 30%)