Welcome and hello!
First off, this isn’t a “what’s the best build” guide, Icy Veins does an excellent job of covering that aspect. This article is more, “things I’ve learnt”. Things that few share because “everyone knows”, but actually, no, they don’t, because unless you actively search for things you don’t know, or that aren’t obvious, how can you? So they are pretty much open/hidden power-levellers “tricks”.
Note that I’m not a power-player, I’m not a raider, I do NOT like stress, or being rushed. Some players like the buzz of the rush, pushing the limits of their character, their keyboard skills, their future RSI. Been there, done that. It might be fun and challenging at 15, 20, 25, but by 40, 50+, not so much. We didn’t spend millions of years evolving to walk only to spend our lives hunched up over a keyboard; your mind might like it, but your body disagrees. But I digress!
Some might read this and say, “Pttt, I’ve known this for years”. Yes? So why are you here? I played the original Diablo, and on and off, I played iterations of Diablo ever since and I’ve still learnt more in the past fortnight of playing (since quitting Warcraft) than I have in the past decade. In my case, I have a form of OCD that makes failure not an option after a trigger. I wanted the extra tab for my stash from seasons, I wanted the wings, so I had to learn, fast. Things like:
How to level from 1 to 70 in 10 minutes – without being boosted.
How to get a Primal Ancient item in the shortest time.
How to get unlimited treasure rifts to farm.
The optimal way to gem up, and just how much difference it makes.
How much the right bracer or belt can radically improve your game.
What the single most important ‘achievement’ is, and why.
The sheer power of Kanai’s Cube
Optimal use of blood shards with Kadala
The importance of sets, set pieces, and rerolling.
How to tell is you are “ready” – or not.
The best path for new starters – or not.
What all those cryptic messages mean – and why I don’t care.
Not all players are arseholes. (But some are).
Shall we begin?
Begin at the beginning
I am systematic, it works for me, and I suspect a lot of players starting Diablo take the same route. You begin in campaign, on normal, not on seasons, and most definitely not on Hard mode, and meander through the expansions to the end. Perfectly reasonable, and an excellent way to get a feel for the game. (Might also unlock things for adventurer mode. Not 100% on that).
The thing about Diablo, though, is it’s all about settings. RNG is a big thing, but – unlike Warcraft and some other games – it’s a factor, not a mechanism. It’s an important distinction and quite bizarre that Blizzard owns both franchises and can’t see this, but one has a monthly sub and sells all it can via a cash store, and the other doesn’t. Telling, I think.
I’ll start with difficulty settings, which you can change at almost any point, even, to a degree, mid instance! At present these range from ‘normal’ to ‘torment I’ to ‘torment 16’ (soon to be ‘torment 19’, I heard. And at level 70 you have the option of Greater Rifts, which go from 1 to 150.
There’s a handy table here at D3 resources, but I’ll give an overview below. There is some level of debate as to whether a Greater Realm of level ‘x’ is equal to a Torment level of ‘y’, but Blizzard set the comparisons, so we’ll go with that. Numbers are rounded, campaign mode is similar, but less loot, less xp, less gold, etc.
Mobs at 100% health, 100% damage, 0 bonus xp,
25% chance of a legendary
Hard rifts (=GR1):
Mobs at 200% health, 130% damage, 75% bonus xp,
25% chance of a legendary
Torment I (=GR10):
Mobs at 819% health, 575% damage, 300% bonus xp,
44% chance of a legendary
Torment X (=GR45):
Mobs at 200,000% health, 10,000% damage, 4,000% bonus xp,
461% chance of a legendary
Torment XV (=GR70):
Mobs at 6.3m % health, 58,000% damage, 13,000% bonus xp,
1,400% chance of a legendary
Torment goes up to T16, which you should aim for, while Greater rifts go up to level 150 and, well… Watch this video of a team at GR150, pay attention to the damage numbers – in tens of billions! I can solo GR100, but at GR115, even in a party, I’m out of my league.
One thing I can’t answer at present (because I’ve played for years) is whether, in Adventure mode, you automatically get the gem trader, transmogs and the cube unlocked, or if you have to do the campaign first.
The important thing is this: unlocks are account-wide. The stash (bank) is account-wide*. Experience gains after level 70 – Paragon levels – are account-wide* If you have a level 1,000 warrior and decide to try a monk, your monk starts at level 1 +1,000
*Hardcore (permadeath!), seasonal, and regular are separate. At the end of a season your character(s), all their gold, loot and xp are passed to your ‘regular’ account, so not lost. Of course, you start the next season butt naked, hence this guide.
Some people only play seasons, then walk away from the game until the next season. I avoided seasons for years, myself. I also avoided groups, but I’m funny like that.
Thus, your initial options are season or regular, but season – if you do the achievements – includes a free set of armour and pet (reasonably easily), an extra stash tab (hard), a pair of wings (harder but not such a huge jump, in hindsight, with experience). Also, hence guide.
My suggestion: get to level 70 as fast as possible, boosted or not, then play the game.
Next stage, which I’ll come to, is to get to GR70 solo.
After that, everything gets easier.
Why rush to 70? To GR70?
Because of RNG. Gear and RNG. Or ‘luck’ if you prefer. But I don’t believe in chance, as such, I put more ‘faith’ in facts.
Here’s my Demon Hunter’s dagger: A perfectly rolled, BiS, weapon.
Achieving a Greater Rift 70 solo unlocks the chance for Ancient gear to drop. And it unlocks the chance for Primal Ancient gear to drop.
Here’s where it gets a bit tricky, ‘cos RNG. An ancient weapon is nominally vastly superior to a regular legendary, which is vastly superior to a rare item. And a Primal Ancient is perfect in almost every way. Almost.
Almost never remember this myself, but if you press right-alt you can see the range of points an items attributes can have, thus:
If you the item into Myriam’s enchant table you can see all the options you can could have with a re-roll. For some items and options this can be a very long list of possibilities, each being on a range of x to y. On a primal item this will always reroll to the highest value. Here, I could as easily roll 10% spike trap as anything else. Each try pushes the price up. It’s very easy to reach a million gold, ten million, even a hundred million or more. There is no upper limit to the cost, as far as I’m aware.
But every item has up to 6 attributes, and you can only reroll one of them. A common item with the ideal attributes is often better than an ancient or even primal item with all the wrong attributes. Chance. More on this on the cube section.
Essentially, you want to achieve GR70 to beat chance on the head with grind. Also, when you get the achievement, you drop your first primal ancient! It might be complete garbage, it might be excellent for a particular build, or in the case of something like the Traveller’s Pledge, with the right attributes, arguably the absolute best item in the game for almost every class and build, because of a set bonus.
Talking in terms of drops, while generalising, and depending entirely on difficulty level:
Every rare has roughly a 1 in 10 chance to be legendary.
Every legendary has a roughly 1 in 10 chance to be an ancient legendary
Every ancient legendary has a roughly 1 in 100 chance to be primal.
To sooner you unlock, the sooner and more frequently better gear drops, or can be farmed.
Sharing is caring!
Or why you should (or should not!) group up. Oversharing here, but I have a number of mental health issues, which makes being in groups hard for me ‘cos I don’t like arseholes (which are a factor in MMOs), but actually, statistically, computer games and MMO’s seems to attract a lot of people with mental health problems: autism, OCD, anxiety, so forth.
You don’t really have the ninjaing problem of other games (it can happen), but you do have players that will boot you for being too low for their liking, or set the level ridiculous high for the group and either rush through it like a madman (keep up or die) and close it without giving others a chance to loot, or anything, or else pull half the rift on you and leave. If that’s a problem for you, then maybe groups aren’t such a great idea. The game’s fine solo anyway.
That said, you also get easy-going groups that are happy to help or boost. For me, with a primal chest, an ancient chest drop is simply garbage to be reduced to mats, for a newer player it’s a considerable upgrade.
Working on a new alt, a wizard, I joined a group that was running Torment V rift and were happy to ‘boost’ me. One of the players just wanted a ring (Compass Rose) to complete his build. He was beside himself ‘cos RNG… I said, provided it wasn’t a primal, he could have the next one that dropped for me. It dropped on the second rift we did. It was actually a 6% upgrade on the one I had (despite this being normal and mine being ancient, ‘cos attributes), but, for him, it was a 100% boost to his overall damage. With that one item, he went from Torment V to completing GR70 and holding his own in some Torment 16’s I ran with him on my main.
You pay it back down the line. (Unless you’re an arsehole, of course, then it’s all about YOU, eh!)
On the matter of sharing, you can drop crafted items for people, but not bounty items. And all other drops can only be shared if they were with the party at the time and their name is on it. There is a time limit too. You don’t have to identify to share, but you really should, in case it’s something you might need.
As you can see, there’s a list of who can pick up the item, and a timer.
A word on builds
Diablo isn’t WoW, people, your gear isn’t locked behind time gates, RNG, and grind it’s… OK, there’s grind and RNG, but it’s in your control, not in the empty, soulless hands of fixed loot tables.
You can just amble happily though the game, wearing whatever mismatched gear drops, playing at whatever (low) level you are comfy with, or you pay attention to the set items that drop (or can be crafted) and see how it pans, or, by extension of this, you can use online guides and drill down to the nitty-gritty, such as this BiS for a Vyr Wizard on Icy Veins, and say, “OK, I’m ‘here’ with gear, what do I need to do to get to ‘there’.
I won’t tell you what character or class or build, that’s your choice, but I will help you get BiS geared, if that’s what you want.
The systematic, scientific method of gearing
This is why I hate WoW, now. They removed this. RNG, I can live with, Grind, OK, but when you take the ‘science’ out of it, you have nothing left.
It’s an important distinction. In Warcraft (or GW, or RIFTS or whatever), there is/was a system, if you wanted ‘this’ item you farmed ‘this’ recipe (or it’s there anyway), and you farmed or bought the mats and/or bought/sold the crafted item. Blizzard ripped the auction house out of the Diablo, which is a shame (especially for those who could earn real money on it, legally), but they significantly improved crafting, so I’ll take that as a win.
I am not going to go through all the items in the game, there’s too many, so I’ve picked two, initially, a dagger: Karlei’s Point, and a polearm: Bovine Bardiche.
Just as a reminder, unless and until you achieve GR70, it will never be better than ‘legendary’.
Kadala’s blood shards:
(Blizzard wrong here, given RNG, they, like rings, should only be 50).
*Weapons (well, isn’t that just a catch-all, they cost 75. Again, there’s scores of potential results, don’t waste shards on weapons.
*Rings, cost has dropped to 50 shards, but the number of rings in the game still makes this a wasteful gamble
Armour, off-shields, and shields are only 25 shards, use your shards here.
So, get the recipe (easy enough, do a few bounties, nearly all the recipes from in bounties now), craft a rare dagger, or polearm, and take it Kanai’s Cube and upgrade. OK, yes, you have to farm the recipe and the mats and the mats to upgrade, but the higher the level you farm at, the faster and easier it gets, so it’s not an issue.
Here’s the thing – and you can do your own research for the rest – there are only two daggers in the game for a demon hunter, which you will be if you are crafting Karlei’s Point for the impale build. That means you have a guaranteed 50:50 change of crafting and upgrading to the legendary weapon you want. There’s an element of RNG in terms of attributes, but you can reroll one of them, at least.
Suppose it’s garbage. There are two options here, which need different types of farming. You can repeat the process, this at 50:50 is painless, or you can “reforge”. My dagger above was a reforge, achieved on the third attempt. I was ‘lucky’, unbelievably lucky. Some people try hundreds of reforges and get nowhere.
Here’s where science helps. I was lucky. Being ‘lucky’ is stupid. I tried in for my bow. I tried it a LOT of times. My bow is still ‘ok’, but not primal.
You need to understand statistics and chance. People have this (not illogical) notion that if the chance is 1 in a 100, then after 99 tries, you should finally get it. This is a psychological trick, one widely used and abused by gambling and gaming companies alike for conditioning. It’s a mind ****. I’m not going to get into the maths (or psychology) of it, here, but, in a nutshell, here’s what it means:
You have a 1 in 100 chance of rolling (say) 100 to get the prize.
On the second try: You have a 1 in 100 chance of rolling 100.
On the 99th try: You have a 1 in 100 chance of rolling 100.
Still not dropped? Never mind, keep going.
On the 999th try: You have a 1 in 100 chance of rolling 100.
What about ‘luck’?
You have a 1 in 100 chance of rolling (say) 100 to get the prize. And you get it! WOHOO!
Depending on your mindset (also used and abused by businesses) you either think you are ‘on a roll’ and keep going. Or you understand that the chance of getting 100 twice in a row is 100×100 or 1 in 10,000 (statistical inference) so don’t try.
But that’s not quite how it works, and it’s something to get your head around. The chance of getting 100, then 100 is indeed 1 in 10,000, BUT the probability of the next roll also being 100 is still 1 in 100.
Funny but true story: One day my wife came in, soaking, and asked why I hadn’t fetched the washing it, ‘cos it was pouring down. I glanced out the back and pointed out that it wasn’t raining, nor had it. Seems the rain was only happening on one side of our house! I mean, what are the odds! Incalculable! But the fact is all rainstorms have a leading edge, they all have a start and stop point. It was 100% guaranteed it would happen, somewhere. Just rolled to a stop there. Never see that again in a million years, eh! Yet I’ve seen it, or similar, at least three times. Given how often it rains in this country (UK), it’s probably more common than you’d think.
Which takes me to the other item I was trying to force a roll for, the bow. Different maths, you see. There’s about 10 bows in the game, so using the Cube upgrade is 5 times the farming. Using a reforge it’s still the same 1 in 100.
So the Bardiche, which we will return to later:
There are only 3 polearms on the game. If you upgrade 30 rare polearms you are likely to get 10 of the Bardiche you want. Take tossing a coin, you can toss heads 6 times in a row, but 60…, 600, not going to happen unless it’s double-headed. A third of polearms with be the bardiche. Maybe not for you, in ‘this’ run, but over 100 players, 10,000… yes.
On a similar most, for most classes (not Demon Hunters as they can’t use it), one of the best weapons to set for the Cube is The Furnace, which increases damage against elites by 50%. Getting it to drop, by farming, via RNG. NO! However, there’s only a small number of two-handed maces in the game, so for all other classes the chance to get it from the cube is about 1 out of 10. I got in on about the 4th try if I recall.
Count the items of that type, do the ‘back of a cig pack’ maths, take the path of least work.
Forcing chance: optimal use of Blood shards, and the Cube
By design, and it is reasonably balanced, having the full set for bonuses is much better than two half sets, so, ideally, that is what you aim for. Seasons make it easier because you can get a free gear set, but you have to work for it, and maybe you decide you’d rather be a different class or spec ‘cos that one doesn’t work for you.
Running bounties and rifts and greater rift for a specific item or items because they ‘might’ drop is madness. You can’t force that level of RNG, well, perhaps with time, but that’s not healthy, or sane. I watch people farm GR115, GR130 plus for primals. The higher the rift, the better the chance of “a” primal. Not ‘the’ primal, not the ‘BiS’ primal, but ‘a’. Each run perhaps there’s a 1 in 100, or 1 in 1,000 chance to get something with random attributes from a list of over a thousand items, covering all classes and builds. I have loads of these primals in my stash; most useless and saved because I’m a hoarder.
Again. Maths. Hammering 5+ t16’s in an hour is a better yield than 3 or 4 GR100s in an hour, where one or more fail. You do GR100s for gems, not loot. The loot is better, agreed, but it’s from only one boss, and while you get the loot if you fail of time, but still complete, if the group fail badly everyone leaves and you must too. Run greater rifts for xp and legendary gems, not primarily for loot.
So, first stage, for gear, I use Kadala, and I upgrade. Most of the stuff from Kadala is garbage, but even garbage is a source of mats. Plus there’s always a chance of a set piece or legendary, which can ‘proc’ to ancient or primal.
Next, if I didn’t get the item I wanted, I take the rares and use the cube to upgrade. It’s a guaranteed legendary, of the same generic type (e.g. chest), but beyond that it is RNG. Or perhaps you get a set chest, but it’s too poor to be useful, so you keep going.
But it doesn’t stop there. If you don’t have the full set you can use the cube again (reasonable mats) to convert the set item. It can’t be ancient or better but it’s a start. It will get you the bonus.
Now you are at the starting point of progressing. Repeating the Kadala and reforge is an option, and if you have the mats to use/waste one worth trying, but – maths.
If you take the set piece and ‘reforge legendary’ there’s a 1 in 10 chance it will be ancient (1 in 100 primal).
Mats take a lot more farming, but you have the loot drops as you go. Plus, at Torment XVI, in group bounties, it’s quite fast, if anyone is pulling their weight. Focused, RNG allowing, you can go from a regular set to full ancient in a few hours.
But be smart about it, ‘cos RNG:
Each try will cost you 50 forgotten souls and 5 of each of the bounty runes. Statistically speaking, that’s 50 (each) x10 (5 chance) x6 (set items), so 3,000 forgotten souls, plus 5 x 10 x 6 x 5 bounty runes (1,500, or 300 of each).
Something like 30 t16 bounty runs, if my thinking is right. Curiously enough, if you wanted the Avarice achievement, you can do it painlessly with 31 T16 chests:
A lot solo, a lot less in a group. But instead of farming a batch, trying, farming a batch, trying… farm the lot before trying – because every single mob you kill, every vase you smash, every boss you kill has a small chance to drop a set piece or normal or better quality. You kill enough mobs for 30 Horadric chests, especially at t16, you are going to see scores legendary items drop. Might save you some reforges.
Just found this video by chance, not watched it all yet, but it includes a lot of the things I suggest and do, so probably worth a look.
How to farm primal ancients and paragon levels:
Watching the above video, two things are apparent:
First, he sees the focus of the game as pushing one character, one build. This, of course, is fine, if that’s how you play, but some of the achievements, such as unlocking tabs, or getting the wings, require two or more alts because of their requirements. There are other options, but in general, for seasons (which is his focus), you need two or more characters.
Secondly, which again is fine if that’s your play style, his opinion is that town (here or in any game) is ‘lava’, it’s poisonous, it will burn you down if you stay, so get right back out there, farm more, do it, do it NOWWWW.
That particular obsessive mentality explains some of the more toxic players you may encounter. There again, I don’t work, and I don’t like pressure, so prefer to play lazy but smart, rather than manically.
One thing I do note, and I don’t quibble on, he puts the primal rate at 1 in 400 to 1 in 500 (according to forum and board chat). Grind type, RNG, ‘luck’, settings are all factors though, (reiterating that ‘luck’ is a perspective, not real).
He also sees the absolute focus as Greater Rifts – because they give the best xp top gain paragon levels. Personally, not being focused on level 150 metas, I think paragon 800 is incredible, it ticks all the boxes, everything after this is icing to push boundaries. Paragon 800, ancient set, maybe the odd primal if you are lucky, you have the game covered. Beyond T16, it’s for ladder climbing, streamers (that make money off of it, like this guy), and obsessive raider types.
The video is great, well worth watching, but – for me – he ticks the ‘arsehole’ box. I am being generous and assuming what he’s describing is as part of a regular team that are fully on-board with the method, but his mindset is, for rifts, “the second the boss is dead, teleport out, close the rift, teleport back in, grab what you need, get out, start the next rift, it will save you a few seconds and those seconds add up. Town is lava.” So, in a pug, one that you helped complete, if you aren’t fast enough to get the end items, tough, because time is money, he needs to move on – to be ready to be at the top of the ladder at the end of the season.
He – as he admits – can’t understand the mentality of people (like me) that amble along, looting, wasting (his) time. In contrast, I fully understand his mentality, I don’t like it. I don’t like it for me, and I don’t like it in others.
As it happens, the start of the above video includes a tip for the cow level! The goblin puzzle level works the same way. Drop a puzzle ring or Bardiche in the cube (nothing else) and press the button and it opens a portal to a mob filled treasure zone. Thus:
For the treasure goblin zone, kill the little buggers as fast as you can, or they escape and take their goodies with them! The goblins must die! As a note of warning. Loot BEFORE entering the final room. It’s only a small zone, start, middle, end. Basically three small rooms. Once you kill the boss (unless he kills you first!) the portal closes. So loot all the gold, gems etc. BEFORE tackling the end boss. (See also my note above about arseholes!)
The puzzle ring does seem to drop often enough, but is RNG.
The Cow level is the same, but a) no timer, b) loads of chests, instead of goblins to kill, and c) a lot more gold. (Hint: loot all the dead farmers).
The Bardiche hardly ever seems to drop for my alts, but, as pointed out, it is craftable, so you can open unlimited number of these to farm. It’s almost like have the Whimsey level on tap!
How do I know if I’m ready for…
Bear in mind this is focused in soloing and NOT support roles like a tank or healer. I have my own set of rules, which do coincide with others I’ve seen, so here’s how:
Can you kill a treasure goblin before it escapes?
Can you kill a treasure goblin before it escapes – when the little sod is running around a group of mobs and hazards?
Ditto for a gelatinous sire (treasure goblin) and all it’s spawns (up to 9 splits)?
In the chest challenges, can you kill 100 in the 5 waves, in time, without dying? (Hard for some builds, easy for others).
Can you kill The Butcher?
Can you kill Belial? (I usually have trouble with this one!)
Can you kill Urzael?
And can you kill Malthael?
Can you solo t16 bounties (etc.)?
And, of course, can you solo GR70?
If the answer to any of the above is no, you need better gear and or rotation. (Or keyboard skills). Sometimes, especially the bosses, it also depends on your class and build, glass cannon vs tank.
Primal loot exploit, or “working as intended”?
I’ll have to test this one, but, as I have with other exploits that I’ve found and reported* I will have a play, see how it goes and report it.
If I’m right – and I usually am – they will respond in one of two ways, neither of which will make me popular, but hey…
And there’s the right way, in which case they make it an account lock after the first time in the season (or game).
Obviously, there’s a time commitment here, but the maths will out. Yon chappie, drooling over his primals to get to the top of the ladder, sees his target as a primal dropping at the rate of 1 in 500, he plans to save thousands, tens of thousands of mats for the end of season rush to try and get the last pieces. I see a primal – legitimately, if questionably – dropping every 15 to 20 minutes.
That, to me, is an absolute explicit exploit. However, the tools to do so are added, by design, and are fully working as intended. They both involve the farmable ‘gem of ease’. In its socketed form, it is an xp multiplier – the higher the level, the faster the gain.
Solo – as intended – a newly created level 1 character, entering a T6 rift – will (with say a level 90 gem) jump to level 11 with the first mob kill. A few secondly later, depending on the rest of his gear, he will hit 20, a minute after that 40; he will level almost faster than the game can keep up. Within 5 to 10 minutes he will be level 60.
Now – also straight off the bat, you can equip a socketed level 70 Hellfire ring. And a socketed level 70 Hellfire necklace. Your character is now godlike for his level.
Let’s not stop there. Again, as designed, you can drop a level 25 gem of ease into the Cube with a level 70 ancient to primal ancient weapons – socketed via Ramaladni’s gift – and your level one alt now has something ridiculous like 50m health and 25m.
If you extend this to the logical extreme, it is, with a lot less work than you might imagine, possibly to have a level 1 character in level 100+ rifting gear. Tearing through T6, then ripping through a GR70 like it was nothing. Rinse and repeat.
I might try this, well, ‘cos it’s absurd, but I have reported it first. Arrogant, but the safe money says they’ll hotfix this as soon as I tell them. And if they don’t… (Noting that, at present, their anti-cheating page is 404!)
The next day I pushed a new alt, a wizard this time, to GR70, then G75, and got no achievement primal, so it seems they listened to me and acted straight away.
What’s with all the cryptic messages?
The game keeps changing with time, as does the community, the current communities often revolve around progress. Hard, brutal, unforgiving progression.
There was a time when the focus was on auctions, but that’s long gone. Then it was recipe farming, rendered obsolete when they added most of them to bounties and completely overhauled crafting.
Now it’s all seasons and push. It looks something like below. All day, all night.
At first, I didn’t know what the heck, then I understood, and thought, “What? No, no thank you.” There’s a certain appeal to being uber-geared and doing top gear run, but me, personality, I’d rather be uber geared – and just run lazy content, thanks.
Here, for instance, “+1 tr monk 146 push” means they need a Tempest Rush monk to complete a party for level 146 greater rifts.
In mere mortal terms, that’s around a Torment 31 – bearing in mind the highest torment is currently 16 and monster health and damage pretty much doubled with each Torment, or each 5 levels in greater rifts. I dare say my assessment is off from the actual multipliers, but trash have billions of health, so it’s a moot point.
If you enjoy that intensity of play, hat’s off to you, but most people don’t find that ‘fun’. But it’s nice for those that do.
Greater rifts and legendary gems
For me, at least, it’s the only reason to push GRs. I am, at heart, a hoarder, so a slow pace, looting absolutely everything, while not time efficient, is relaxing for me. But once you latch on to how game-changing legendary gems are you have to run with them. The next patch, incidentally, adds a number more.
Until you have a full set, you get one legendary gem per completed greater rift. Rift level is not a factor, you do not get duplicates. When you have the set on your character and/or stash, no more drop.
However, if you pass a gem to another character, it’s it will drop again for the one without it. Similarly, the other character will see gems that he doesn’t have in the (shared) stash, his bag, or equipped drop. It’s possible, and legitimate to have, for ease, a dozen gem of ease on an alts, if you move them around your alts.
This is not, as I understand it, an exploit, as the gems are unique-equipped. But if you have a lot of alts, it’s handy.
Which takes me to levelling the things. There are rules for boosting the gems. You can, for instance, on completing the first, choose to raise 5 gems by one point, or 1 gem by five points, depending on the level of the rift and the gem, because unless the rift is 10 or more levels higher than the gem there’s a rapidly diminishing chance. 90%… 60%… 1%… zero chance. Given the option, at high levels, to boast 3 gems by 1, or use all the tries to boost one gem with a 15% chance, I’ll spread. There are people, pushing the rifts, who will go with 1% and gaining only 1 point on 1 gem after 100 tries. Not for me, thank you.
That’s are higher levels though, at low levels, just aiming to get a level 1 gem to 25, you only need to 5 fast GRs with empowered on (for gold), or 7 runs without being empowered. On a high level alt, that’s about a 2 minutes a run. I stagger the rifts too. So I start at GR 10, and every time the gem goes up 5, I add 5 to the next one (so GR15). Cheaper, faster. Or you can run as high as you like for better end loot. Whatever works.
What else can you do with Kanai’s Cube
Kanai’s Cube does seem to be gaining in power over time. It was nothing like this in the past. The abilities now include:
Upgrade rare items to legendary.
(Randomly) Convert set items (e.g. a boot into a chest, of the same set)
Convert gems. Handy this, if you have a load of gems of a type you don’t use. The transform dust is expensive though, and it only does 9 gems at a time, so I find it’s best to convert base gems up to flawless ones and convert those.
Convert crafting materials. This is very handy. For example, if you run out of white dust but have 9,000 spare purple or yellow, you can convert them, 100 at a time. Saves some farming.
Remove item level. This is god-mode power levelling!
Augment ancient or primal ancient.
Needs a moment of explaining for this. For a start (this season certainly) you have to do it at least once for the achievements, which is a nice way of getting your notice, I suppose. There are rules, but as an example, if you boost a gem of ease to level 50 it will, doing this, add 250 main stat to your item. A gem of ease at 100 would add 500.
It’s iterative though, not incremental, so if you add a 50 gem to one with a plus 100, you don’t get the +750 stat, it drops to 250 (unless they at fix or have fixed that).
It takes 3 flawless royal gems (of the same type) each time, so it’s not cheap, and it’s a lot of gem farming.
Note that usual rules do not apply. You can’t use white gems (so no cooldown reduction), you can’t add critical chance, or anything but main stats:
Red for Strength,
Green for Dexterity
Yellow for Intelligence,
and Purple for Stamina.
On the plus side – which is how some people are running at level 150 – you can apply it to every item: rings, amulet, armour, weapons and off-hands. That’s up to thirteen slots. If you used level 50 gems, everywhere, that’s plus 3,250 strength (or whatever), using level 100 gems of ease would be plus 6,500. That would increase your damage by 6,500%, and your resistance by 650, not exactly chump money. But it is probably best to save them for perfect BiS primals on a main, eh!
Plus, of course, the Easter egg ones, like the puzzle ring and bardiche to open a portal to goblin and cow levels. (But not the Whimsey ones).
Talking of which, while the Whimsydale place with the Horadric hamburger (dagger/transmog) can now only spawn in the realm opened by killing the rainbow goblin, the parts for the staff to (repeatedly) open the Whimsyshire realm – where the spectral sword drops – are still farmable, with the recipe dropped by Izual (low drop rate): Farming the Staff of Herding in Diablo RoS
(Note that the linked staff of herding article was written in 2014, a lot has changed in the game in those 5 years, but the basic information (who, what, where) remain about the same. My grumbles, of which there were many at the time, they have fixed over time.)
As a parting gift, here’s one of my monks, wielding a Horadric hamburger and a spectral sword: