(Disclaimer: I am in no way a top 10 player, I have never finished a season higher than rank 600 on the 4 player leaderboards. I am however a D3 veteran with extensive knowledge and experience. If you find information you know to be wrong it is most likely me that is misinformed. Feel free to correct any mistakes via the comments – including grammar).
Diablo 3 Seasonal Mega Guide
It’s finally here! After having written a number of guides detailing the leveling process I make use of every season, as well as a few additional steps that cover the question of “I hit 70, what now”? I thought it time to combine all this information in this “mega” guide (slightly click-baity title I’ll admit).
As of now, my plan is to update and repost this guide every season, rather than rewriting basically the same thing every few months. Since this guide is… uhm… pretty damn wordy! I’ll make it easier to navigate with table of content and spend a lot more time on layout.
With that in mind this guide will contain a lot of information, some of it very in-depth, and my general idea is that you simply go to the section of the guide that interests you. In other words my goal with this guide is to make it the “default” place to come for the general strategies and information on playing seasons in Diablo on a somewhat competitive level. With that said I don’t necessarily recommend reading this beast of a post in one go; take it in small steps. Also, before posting any questions keep in mind that I have a Q&A at the very end – I won’t be responding to questions already answered in the guide.
Note: I play on PC. The information in this guide might not be relevant for console or switch users.
Table of content:
Links and Resources
Meta Predictions and builds
Preparing for the Season
Leveling Guide 1-70
Post 70 Progression
Additional Notes (includes list of abbreviations)
Links and Resources
Season 20 (PTR) Patch Notes:
I highly recommend you read these for in depth information on the new items / sets and changes to existing items.
D3 Planner (Diablo 3 ressource):
The undisputed most in-depth tool for more or less anything Diablo 3. Unsure if your 20% Cold Damage roll is better than 100% crit damage? Simply copy your Battletag into this brilliant calculator and compare:
D3 planner Kadala drops:
An additional addon to D3 planner. This page covers the possible drops from blood shards.
After a bumpy road and temporary shut down, Diablofans is back up and fully functioning. This site is a great place for builds, discussions and Diablo news.
Diablo 3 season tracker:
A site that makes it easy to navigate and plan your season journey ahead of time. It’s a simple resource, but very useful. This site keeps up to date and often posts the season journey guide pre season launch.
sVr – streamer and youtuber:
sVr is a Diablo 3 GOD. If you are looking for super in-depth information about D3 make sure to watch his videos and his streams on twitch. For end game, meta information few people come close to sVr's expertise.
Raxxanterax is an up and coming D3 youtuber who does a great job at methodically explaining and breaking down the meta builds for end game. Rax’s videos cover both solo builds and group builds alike. For more in depth knowledge and great guides have a look at his youtube channel!
Bluddshed (Diablo Youtuber and streamer):
Blud is probably my favorite Diablo 3 youtuber; he is laid back, enjoyable to watch but most importantly of all his content mirrors some of the higher-end strategies and meta-builds in the game. If you have questions for the specific playstyle of any builds posted on this guide I recommend you browse through Blud’s videos.
Rhykker (Diablo Youtuber):
If you are new to the game and enjoy playing solo I also recommend giving Rhykker’s channel a once-over. Whereas Blud covers the high-end group builds, Rhykker covers some of the more casual builds, leaving out almost nothing in his extensive tier lists for each season. Also, if you want to learn more about the ins- and outs of Blizzard, Rhykker usually keeps you up to date on everything from job announcements to D4 blog posts.
The last couple of season Blizzard have done a great job at creating much more variety in viable builds. Both the Monk, Barb, Wizard, Demon Hunter and Necromancer have strong builds that are able to compete with each other for various roles in the end game.
PTR Builds (Highest Solo Clear + builds):
https://www.diablofans.com/builds/106523-season-20-lod-hydra (Group version)
- Witch Doctor:
https://gamestoday.info/pc/diablo/season-19-whirlwind-barbarian-item-guide-for-new-players/ (Slightly altered when season 20 kicks off but basically the same)
https://www.icy-veins.com/d3/crusader-aegis-of-valor-heavens-fury-build (Slightly altered when season 20 kicks off but basically the same)
https://www.icy-veins.com/d3/monk-tempest-rush-build-with-patterns-of-justice (Slightly altered when season 20 kicks off but basically the same)
- Demon Hunter:
There is a new Trash Clear capable of clearing Gr 150’s for season 20:
Speed GR Meta:
I belive that we for the 100’s season In a row will see a lot of competitive players doing rat-runs for the first 2000 paragon levels before opting into other builds for the end game 150 clears.
Preparing for The Season
Before the season kicks off it’s always a good idea to have a general plan of what you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to reach a minimum of 2000 paragon levels or complete the season journey, whatever your goals might be it can be helpful to know pre season kick-off.
Deciding on a role:
I typically create several characters each season. The first character I create is usually a DPS-class that I run as my main. However, starting your season by setting up a dedicated support build for your group is a tactic not to be underestimated. Support characters make or break the speed and efficiency of a group and mastering a support build is a great way to learn the dynamics of playing Diablo on a high level. It is generally stated that support barbarians (zbarb) is the most difficult role to master for high-end GR pushing so if you decide to roll support take some pride in that fact! People will love you! Before the season starts I therefore recommend having already decided on what build to run from the get-go.
Joining a Group
Another big part of D3, and the aspect of the game that makes it so damned enjoyable for me, is it’s competitive multiplayer nature. In Diablo being in a 4 man party is vastly superior to playing on your own both in terms of XP gain (experience gain), speed and item drops. I can therefore only state that joining a group is a must if you want to be as fast and efficient as possible.
A good way to find a group is by joining an active guild. Most guilds have dedicated discord servers and spreadsheets for individuals seeking leveling groups. If you’re not in a guild there is usually also a bunch of people asking for leveling partners in the general chat up to season start.
The best way to find a guild is by asking in the various communities in-game; make sure to clarify what type of guild you are looking for. Example: “I am a moderately skilled player looking for a seasonal guild to run groups with” etc.
If you intend to really push your capabilities it is paramount to have a 4 man party that you play with for at least the first weekend; if everyone rushes into their respective builds you’ll be able to run GR 105’s in 3 minutes within a day or two – especially if your group is set up with meta builds so that you can start speed runs as soon as the relevant gear has been collected.
Now that you have a group and you know what build to play I recommend getting tons of sleep and exercise before season start. If you’re anything like me you’ll be looking like a zombie after the first weekend.
Leveling Guide 1-70
This leveling strategy is not the absolute fastest, but after having done some serious testing I find it the most solid strategy to use at the beginning of a season due to item drops, materials and easy progression. My average time from 1-70 is about 1.5 – 2 hours in a 4 man group with experienced players.
- Create a new character and rebirth when season goes live. This is faster than creating a new seasonal character.
- (Optional) Enter game and leave immediately. This is done to be 100% certain that your seasonal character has been recognized by the server. I have heard from several people that this might not be necessary, so really it is up to you.
- Complete the weekly challenge rift. There are usually guides for these ready for season launch. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU COMPLETE THIS ON YOUR SEASONAL CHARACTER!
- Exit to main menu, set gamemode to adventure at hard or master difficulty, enter the new instance.
- Equip the templar-follower’s weapon (and shield if your class allows it).
- Collect materials (mats) from Challenge Rif Cache and roll blood shards at Kadala (recommended blood shard rolls for each class listed below). Challenge rift cache contains:
475 Blood Shards, 4.6 Million gold, 35 Death’s Breath (DB), 100 Veiled Crystal, 300 Reusable parts, 300 Arcane dust, 15 of each bounty material
- (Optional) Complete a boss bounty. Magdha, Zoltun Kulle, Belial and Skeleton King are the best options, if these bosses have a bounty attached to them (Kill “boss name”) then complete the bounty for guaranteed rare item drops and bounty XP reward. If they don't have a bounty attached, skip this step.
- Go to act 3 Ruins of Sescheron and collect Kanai’s Cube (cube). Focus on maintaining a massacre bonus for additional experience whilst you progress to the cube.
- Fully upgrade blacksmith and craft a level 70 item of the type you wish to upgrade via cube. Extract the legendary power via cube if you get an item with a decent power attached. Here is a video on how it is done: https://youtu.be/JbTiESQvigA?t=167
Blood Shard and item upgrade recommendations
Note: DH and Necro both have 100% chance for getting a significant multiplier and are therefore the fastest classes for leveling 1-70.
- (Choose one) Continue to do massacre bonuses until level 24. This gives faster experience, but is difficult to pull off in a 4 man group.
- (Choose one) Run Nephalem Rifts (rifts) until level 24. This gives more item drops and materials / gold but slower XP. Also note that massacre bonuses are much faster for solo play as maintaining the streak is much easier.
- Check town vendor for +damage rings and amulets. Check blacksmith for weapon upgrade every 5 levels (not a priority).
- Set difficulty to a level where killing regular mobs (trash / trash mobs) is done in 1-3 hits. If the difficulty becomes too easy reset the game and tune it up!
- Run rifts for experience, focus on speed. Make sure that 1 party member closes the rift when the Rift Guardian (RG) dies and continue to kill mobs in the 30 second window before the rift closes.
- Make sure not to waste any valuable time doing anything but killing mobs. When you get an item upgrade equip it in the rift. For leveling gear it’s a good idea to hover your mouse over the items you pick up to see the % increase to stats – this tooltip should be ignored later into the game since the tooltip is not accurate but it does help for quickly deciding on the best items as you level.
- Equip gear upgrades in the rift and salvage everything else at the blacksmith before entering the next rift. Pick up as many items as possible for the highest amount of materials.
- Make sure to socket red gems in weapon for flat damage increase (this is much more powerful than green gems whilst your crit chance is low).
- Leoric's Crown usually drops for most paty members in the first 25 levels in my experience, make sure to add a red gem for more XP. I recommend keeping the crown equipped unless you find a serious upgrade like a powerful legendary item.
- Note on XP: "XP bonus from items is averaged between the players of the group. So if I'm running a fictional item which gives +100% bonus xp and noone else in the group has any bonus xp on their items, then all 4 of us will get +25% while we are playing together." – u/gerx03
- At least 1 member should run Leoric’s Crown with a red gem (this will usually drop for at least 1 party member within the first 25 levels) as XP is shared there is no need for everyone to run a Leoric’s.
- Fully upgrade mystic.
- At level 40 craft a level 70 yellow two handed weapon at the blacksmith. You want a weapon with a % secondary roll (1.5% chance to fear, stun, freeze etc.). On the other secondary stat roll for “reduced level requirement”, the goal is to get as close to 30 as possible. If you get a roll that reduces level requirement by 23+ keep that weapon. Here is a video on how its done:
- Keep leveling via rifts until at least 1 party member can equip their level 70 weapon.
- Change difficulty to between Torment 3+ (T3+) and T6. Be aware that you will be able to kill mobs fast, but that mobs will be able to kill you just as fast. Don't overextend the difficulty if playing on Hardcore mode and make sure to use a “cheat death” passive.
- Continue grinding rifts until 70.
Post 70 Progression:
It’s important to understand why the top players of D3 view the start of a season as a rat race. It's important to be able to get into that same mindset. Basically, the more swiftly one can obtain power (in terms of DPS, paragon levels, primal items etc) the more desirable you become for other groups to play with – making it much easier to join top groups and thus stay ahead of the competition.
If you find other players at your own skill level don't be afraid to add them as friends so you can play with them in the future. This way you’ll gradually build up a community of skilled and active players to play the game with – making group finding much easier and the game much more enjoyable.
Rushing Haedrig’s Gift:
As a fresh level 70 my immediate goals is therefore to power up as fast as possible. This means rushing the free seasonal set for your selected starting class and the main multiplying items for the set (such as Dead Man’s Legacy and Yang’s for an Unhallowed Essence build). I typically choose my starting class based on the sets available; I will also include a tier list for the Haedrig's sets every season below this section.
It takes me about 30-60 minutes to obtain my final Haedrig’s Gift and most beneficial couple of legendaries. Typically the only time consuming challenge here is to complete all bounties – make sure to be in a 4 man group for this or it will take a very long time to get done.
Getting the first gear upgrades:
At the beginning of a season it can be difficult to obtain the gear pieces you need for your build. It’s a good idea to focus on the biggest multiplier items first. By running nephalem rifts on T13+ you’ll be able to farm a boatload of DB’s. Use these in the cube to upgrade yellow items of the item-base you need into legendary items. If you are lucky you'll be able to drop the desired item pretty fast – keep in mind that GR’s are a good way to gain items also.
Furthermore I recommend communication within your group. If you get a decent Legendary that you can’t use link it in group chat; someone else might need it – and this will help the group as a whole gain power much faster.
Reaching Late Game Build:
Once I have a starting build set up (capable of speeding at least T13) I begin focusing my attention on obtaining the items for an end game build, or the build I desire to run for the season (in some cases I skip the Haedrig’s entirely and simply rush for my end game). The nature of this build is determined by what me and my group have decided pre season launch – that is to say, am I going to run Rift Guardian Killer (RGK) for my group? Or maybe I will be Support Barb? In any case I will know this before season start and aim to gear for that specific role ASAP.
Once all the members of my group have reached their desired build (usually after 4-6 hours of hitting 70) we will start focusing our attention on Paragon farming by powering through high GR’s in 3-5 minutes – usually around GR 90-105 at paragon 400-500.
Gear Optimization and Late Game Grind:
From here on out the primary focus is to level Legendary Gems for Augments and additional damage, as well as converting our terrible opening equipment into Ancient Legendary items. Each item slot has a different priority when it comes to upgrading Legendaries to ancients:
- Mainhand (Biggest damage boost)
- Gloves (Offensive item slot = large damage boost)
- Helmet (Offensive item slot)
- Remaining set items
After obtaining Legendary gem levels and a few Ancient Legendary items it is time to augment. Usually you want to augment items using gems at a minimum level of 95-100 and the augmentation priority is the opposite of the ancient legendary priority – you want to augment simple item slots (such as cest, boots and shoulders) first. The reason for this is that the simpler the rolls on an item slot are, the smaller the chances of finding a meaningful upgrade are thus allowing your Augments to stay relevant for a longer period of time.
Now that my group has ancient legendary items with a few augments we have more or less arrived at end game. The goal from here on out is to reach around paragon 1500, full augments and push for that 150 GR clear.
Rift = Nephalem Rift
GR = Greater Rift
Key / Keys = Greater Rift Keystone
Para = Paragon level
DPS = Damage / Damage Pr. Second
Monk = (you Guessed it) Monk class
DH = Demon Hunter
Wiz = Wizard
Nec / Necro = Necromancer
WD = Witch Doctor
Barb = Barbarian
Crus / Cader = Crusader
BIS = Best in slot
Rat = Necromancer builds that use Skeletal Mages (Nec skill) as main DPS
Z-build (example: Zbarb etc.) = Zero DPS builds / support builds
CDR = Cooldown Reduction
AoE = Area of Effect
CC = Crowd Control
Trash Clear / TK = Builds that specialize in killing large quantities of mobs
RGK = Rft Guardian Killer
WW = Whirlwind (Barb skill)
SGR = Speed Greater Rift (Greater rifts cleared in >3.5 minutes)
Why rush so much, why not just take it slow and enjoy the game?
Personally I enjoy the game the most by playing it competitively, scoring high on the leaderboards both in solo and groups is what gives me the biggest sense of achievement within Diablo. With that said I believe that you should play the game in the way you enjoy it the most. However, this guide is primarily focused on players that want to play D3 competitively, who are willing to put a lot of hours in at season start and who want to push their capabilities.
Why don't you craft XP gear, it's much faster?
There are several reasons for this. First, getting hold of the recipes for the bonus XP sets is hard during the leveling process and its not worth the time to clear bounties for them. Second, the amount of XP at low level is very small, so a 3% XP increase from a red gem in Leoric's counts for almost nothing when each mob gives 2 XP points. Third, crafting the gear will force you to wear it, and you’ll find much stronger items as you level, forcing you to run low level gear for bonus XP but making you kill things much slower – the trade off is, again, not worth it.
What items should I run for this and this build?
I don't know, you’ll have to read more about your specific build. However, feel free to ask in the comments.
Can you explain what you mean about upgrading a level 70 weapon and extracting it in cube?
Sure, watch this video: VIDEOLINKMUCH
Why not run massacre bonuses all the way to 70?
Massacre bonuses are faster for solo play. In a group, however, it is difficult to keep up the massacre bonus and the lack of item drops and materials will ultimately set you back once you reach lvl 70.
I don't agree with A, B and C!
That's fair enough. Keep in mind none of this is definitive, all the information is based on my personal experience. If you disagree and think you have a better way of doing things feel free to share in the comments.
Why play those specific builds?
If you want to stay relevant in D3 it's important to follow the meta like so many other games, if you don't the fact is that people will not invite you to groups and you'll have a hard time getting paragon levels.
Source: reddit.com for game
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