Confessions of a Speed Leveler

As we’re still waiting for information on the current season end date, and next season start. This is just a retrospective on my Diablo 3 experience through the ins and outs of speed leveling. With the Altar now becoming permanent, the leveling competition is pretty much forever gone. Not everyone will want to use their cache, and the Altar removes a significant chunk of time in the leveling process. So while skill is still involved in the leveling process, luck will now play a bigger factor in who has the best season start. While luck has always played a part, there’s a reason why the same people have always landed in the first 100 players to 70, even if they whiffed on Kadala and their Level Reduce Weapon. That’s most likely never going to be the case again.

Like other players, I have played D3 since it first came out, and put a lot of hours into vanilla. So by the time RoS finally came out, I honestly was getting burnt out with it, even though the game had become remarkably better. The conquest Sprinter was really the only thing keeping me interested in Diablo 3 at this point, because it was a puzzle to solve in how to beat the campaign in under an hour. Season 1 was probably the most fun I’ve ever had with Diablo 3, because nobody really knew what they were doing when it came to speed running the campaign, including us. (Our group placed 30th in the Americas.)

But you can really only run Sprinter so many times before you learn the campaign and will never fail it again (bar bugs). Doing it solo, and running as other classes helps, but even then, eventually you’ll master those as well.

My journey into speed leveling started around Season 10. I had taken a break in a few of the earlier seasons, coming back around Season 7. I did what probably most people do, look up the popular Diablo streamers and try to follow their advice. And yet, I was always hitting 70 5+ hours into the season, and it was frustrating me. Leveling was just not fun.

At this point in the game, the very fastest levelers were hitting 70 in under 2 hours. At one point, groups were even getting down to as low as 90 minutes.

But they were super secret about their methods they used for leveling.

Eventually, some people did some investigation, and found out they were using the blades in Halls of Agony 1, and also snapshot leveling some of the early levels.

Leveling with the Halls of Agony blades was just too difficult/annoying for me. And I tried what I thought was snapshot leveling, and thought that this just wasn’t working. I wasn’t gaining any experience. Mind you, there are no videos at all on either of these at the time, only the word of other people who have confirmed these methods worked. So, I kept at it, and kept at it, until one day I notice a massive leap in the early levels. I continued to practice it, until I understood exactly what snapshot leveling was, and how to perform it with relative success. So, here I am, going into Season 10, thinking how this new technique is going to save me at least half an hour. I post LFG, get a few players to start the season with, and I share the post on how to do it.

This was my first major mistake. Sure, they’ll watch videos and read posts, but like myself, might not understand what exactly needs to be done. And they didn’t practice. Season 10 starts, and we end up hitting 70 roughly 6.5 hours into the season, which is worse than the typical 5-5.5 hours it takes to hit 70. So, I’m getting a bunch of them yelling at me how they would have been better off just leveling normally, and how this was worthless advice. And enemies were made in the game. The thing was, it did work for those of us who were doing it. We were level 30+, but the two who didn’t practice were still level 12 & 14 an hour into the season.

I tried again next season, and the same thing occurred. And more Diablo community players who hated me for giving terrible advice. But, out of all of that did come some good news. I did find one player who was willing to practice, and who worked with me, and who was willing to help me learn Season Start leveling tactics.

At this point, I was still naive about a lot of the leveling tactics and their nuances. He’s hitting 70 within 2.5 hours, and it’s taking me 3.5-4 hours to hit 70. Plus, I notice he’s Level 30 by the time I hit Level 12. And he’s talking about how, yeah, this is normal, whereas I’m thinking “how?”. Only at that point do I notice he’s playing a Necromancer, whereas I’m playing a Demon Hunter. I switched to Necromancer, and the leveling came so much easier. But I don’t really want to play a Necromancer. What good is leveling an hour faster if I still have to spend an hour leveling up my real class after? Why not just start with my real class?

Season 14 comes along, and I’m down to 2.5-3.5 hours getting to 70, which is remarkably fast compared to most players. But it’s still noticable to the point where by the time I get Haedrig’s Gift, I’m calling it a night. So I start scouring every YouTube video I can find on leveling in Diablo 3. Eventually I come across a YouTube video in Korean where they had a party of 4 players all hit Level 70 in 1h20m, leveling via Cursed Chests.

I show it to the other guy, and we’re both like, wow, this is some record setting leveling. We go to look for a few more players to make it a group of 4 necros, with one of the requirements being that you need to practice this ahead of the season (we had learned our lesson from previous seasons). Now, we were never able to get a group of 4 practice in ahead of the real season, but at least we got some practice in. But we ran on Europe for our first real practice. Roughly 1h45 minutes to 70. Later that night, we do this again on the Americas, and roughly the same time. Wow, this really works. Now starting Necro? It makes sense, because instead of only 1 hour ahead of my real class, I’m 2 hours ahead, so I can level up my real class and still be an hour ahead of just starting as my real class.

With Season 15, now I start to do what I did last season. I look up every leveling video I can find, no matter how small the channel. And I come across another video. Necromancer running Cursed Chests, solo, and HE BROKE AN HOUR!

This totally amazes me. Sure, it wasn’t at the beginning of the season, and it’s only a practice run, but still… This is the first legitimate run I’ve ever seen of a person, or even group, breaking an hour to 70.

The other person I’ve been running with states that he wants to run solo this season, as he likes to switch up classes, and this isn’t a Necromancer season. I decide to run solo as well. 1h45m is awesome, but you’re still beholden to the weakest group member. Maybe I can do it better. Plus, I wanted to see if this leveling method could be applied to Hardcore as well. And I could always implement snapshot leveling to help with the earlier levels.

This leads me to my second epiphany in the game (the first being, everyone in the group needs to be on the same page if you want to accomplish anything with any real efficiency). I hit 70 in about 80m, and I’m the only player on any of the Greater Rift leaderboards, HC & SC alike, for over half an hour, with an amazing clear of a GR1. So I start clearing the Chapters for Haedrig’s Gift. And I do them in order…

Chapter 1 done, Chapter 2 done, Chapter 3 and bounties coming up…

I create a Normal bounty game. Running a bounty, no one’s joining, then a Level 6 player enters. He’s just waiting in town because it’s a Level 70 game, and everything will one shot him. He leaves, and then a level 8 and 12 player join, pretty much repeating the process. I finally finish the bounties, and complete Chapter 4 finishing running the solo GR20.

Rank 18??? How? I crushed everyone to Level 70, and now I’m behind a ton of people on the GR leaderboards. Here I was, doing the bounties solo, because no one else who cares about public bounties was Level 70 yet. Everyone else already had their group, and even if they hit 70 slower than me, they could make that time up doing split bounties. That’s where I came to the realization that it’s not 1-70 which matters, it’s 1-Haedrig’s Gift.

I make a few changes the next season, with bounties being the very last thing I do, so that by the time I hit bounties, I can at least have a relatively decent shot of grouping up with other Level 70 players. And this overall works well.

(Capture of leveling times, one being bad luck of 85m, one being good luck of 49m to level 1-70. Remember, this is all before the Corpse Explosion buff.

The PTR for Season 17 comes along, and voila, you’ll now get 35 Death’s Breath to start as well. I do testing with the Necromancer on the Live Server (to avoid the XP Buff), but there’s really no real difference in speed. I decide at that point, the solo Necro is done. I’m not going to level faster on just a strategy alone, it’s just going to come down to luck and how well I can perform the strategy. So, I decide to branch into leveling with other classes. I come to the conclusion that using your Death’s Breath at the beginning of the season is detrimental, with the exception of one class, that being the Demon Hunter.

I remembered that there was this one person on reddit, who swore up and down for the past several seasons, that people should be leveling via Temple of the Firstborn. I had tested it, but it was still significantly slower than leveling with Cursed Chests, so at the time, I put it aside. But with a new class, and a guaranteed weapon multiplier to boot, time to reevaluate. After all, even when I found the original Necromancer Cursed Chests leveling video, it’s not like people had not tried leveling up via Cursed Chests before then. Sometimes new approaches open up new opportunies from old tactics.

I run Karlei’s, and ugh, this is horrible. I run Lord Greenstones though, and wow, I’m able to play T6, and the levels just keep on coming. But it’s kind of dangerous. So I make a post in the Demon Hunter forums, hoping that someone can use this knowledge to come up with a useful build which can survive. After all, stuff is fairly seldom done in a vaccuum. Typically one person will come up with an idea, and others will improve on it. That’s what I did with the Necromancer Cursed Chest leveling after all.

Only one major Diablo player took it up, but that’s all it needed. At first, he didn’t understand it, and was failing to break the time compared to Halls of Agony blades leveling. But he gave it a few more tries, and got good enough with it before the season that he made a post on reddit about this being a new leveling tactic. And that post got heavily upvoted, and from there, that got to some major Diablo streamers. Not only was Lord Greenstone’s a leveling method for Demon Hunters, but now Temple of the Firstborn was finally well known as a spot to level in, compared to previous seasons, when they had only been promoting Halls of Agony and Fields of Misery.

Though, I have to admit I felt sorry for the other player who had been promoting Temple of the Firstborn for the past few seasons. His threads almost never got any traction, because he was just another no name player. Now all the credit for leveling via Temple of the Firstborn went to major streamers, even though the streamers were multiple seasons behind in leveling tactics. And the same thing has happened to me as well as other friends of mine. For example, the person I have been grouping up with one day decided to test starting out with fighting a boss and stealing your follower’s weapon. He messages me one day and tells me that both of these are horribly inefficient, and advises me to test it out for myself. I do, and I see he’s right. I make video proof of this, and make a post, only to be rebutted by players telling me the virtues of the other way. You’re spending 5 minutes to get to Level 4 with 2 yellows, whereas I’m going to be Level 10+, and can buy better gear from vendors at that point. The other player tells me he made posts and gave up trying to argue, that it just wasn’t worth it, and advised me to do the same. It doesn’t matter how much proof you have, people only really care about what the major streamers say. I’m just a no name player, so how can I know more than a streamer with thousands of followers? The major streamers are wrong a lot though. At least though they’ve changed some of their advice, such as starting with bosses, even if it took multiple seasons.

But for me, I’m not posting my leveling advice for people who only care about what streamers say. I posted advice for people like me, who were willing to learn. I’ve been wrong before, and other people have corrected me, and I’ve seen even the very top speed runners in this game learn from the most unlikely sources. I have a super small YouTube channel, but one season, I posted a fairly small video I never even made a thread about for a leveling trick I shared with a few players. Some major players in the speed leveling community (who I don’t know) just happened to use this trick the very next season after it was posted. And that’s what makes great players great. They don’t rest on their laurels, and are willing to learn, even from players who might not be better than them, but their ideas are.

I won’t lie though. I’ve been upset before when I see my strategies, which I created, get downvoted on YouTube or reddit, and a streamer posts them, and it gets upvoted like crazy, and they’re given the credit for the strategies. And it hurts me when I’m told by random strangers on reddit or the forums of how to run my own strategies. And yes, I have lost respect for many streamers because of this. There are multiple strategies of mine in which they’ve put videos on, and it’s clear they themselves don’t understand the nuance, and thus not performing the strategy correctly. That’s partly why they really can’t answer questions about it. Because they themselves really don’t know more than the average viewer.

I’ve come to learn that streamers and the people who run major Diablo sites really aren’t theory crafters, despite what the community believes. Rather, they are news reporters. That’s why stuff changes so often, because they’re reporting on what others have done. And most often, typically the true theory crafters are players without a strong following on Twitch, YouTube, etc.

But at the same time, nothing comes from a vaccuum. The Cursed Chest leveling isn’t initially my idea, as I mentioned above. I found it from a Korean YouTube video. And Cursed Chest leveling wasn’t new then either. I was the first person to use Lord Greenstone’s Fan for leveling a Demon Hunter 1-70, but I used a little known zone at the time, Temple of the Firstborn, which was being promoted by another player. Snapshot leveling via Eternal Woods was my method for leveling up characters (except for the Necro) at the beginning of the season, but I got this idea during Season 10 as mentioned above, and the zone from a major streamer who had used it to level up his Witch Doctor. During Season 28, switching to a Necromancer for the first 18 levels was my idea, but it was another player who I was discussing leveling strategies with who brought up snapshotting the zones after I told them they could just run a T1 bounty for a Death’s Breath. The point is, because a few players, even if they’re unknowns, weren’t petty, just getting that information to major streamers was instrumental in allowing us to now be able to level in under 90 minutes, vs previous seasons where 4+ hours was the norm. They might never get the credit they deserve, but their efforts are felt, even if you don’t know who they are.

Around Season 22, I had started to look again at group leveling. At this point, I had been solo leveling for multiple seasons, and while I could be competitive for the first few hours, after 3 hours, groups would just overtake me. The problem arose though, that I didn’t have a set group. I only had one person I could count on, and the other two players would be randoms, and you’re only as good as your weakest players. So, I worked alongside the other player I had grouped with in the past, as this was his Necro season, to try to find a strategy which could minimize the influence of teammates. That way, I could practice and get good, and I didn’t need to worry about having other people practice. It turned out to be the Shadow Clone Shrine season, but he was still willing to go along with it. Now, he wasn’t as good as I was with Necro leveling, so we didn’t hit 70 as fast as I typically would, but it still was decent (about 80m to 70).

Once again though, I approached this as 1-Haedrig’s, not 1-70. And that’s where this shined. Like, this was the last major milestone I had, and it worked well. Everyone else blew all their blood shards, Death’s Breath, etc. But not us. And it paid off. He was Rank 1 on the Necro, while I hit Rank 1 on the DH, on EU, which tends to be the strongest server. Not only that, but I was ahead of everyone, including groups, by a fair margin. And this was the season everyone leveled up extremely quickly.

I wanted to try on the Americas, and he was open to that, as this new method seemed to work amazingly on Europe, but North America had server issues that season, so I pretty much gave up for the night after hitting 70.

The next season, I wanted to see if I could carry a random player to 70. Now, I have Diablo 3 for the PC as well as console, and I still enjoyed running Sprinter on the console, because it’s significantly harder than the PC, so it still posed some challenge for me. A player on the console forums wanted to learn it, so I offered to help teach them. I later found out that they also bought Diablo 3 for the PC, but didn’t play there, because they were use to a gamepad, and the PC was a foreign experience to them. But since I spent countless hours getting them to learn Sprinter on the console, they offered to help me test on the PC. By themselves, they took over 5 hours to hit 70. This is not a top tier player, so they’re perfect to test if my strategy can apply to them as well. We ran on Asia, and they were the 17th player to hit 70 there. This strategy really works! I can now group with anyone, even beginning players, and they can be competitive, at least for the first few hours!

Around Season 25, Sprinter was going to be a conquest again. One player who was on the forums, and in the clan I was in, wanted to group up, as they have now seen me level up pretty quickly at the start of seasons for a while, and see if we could complete Sprinter quickly. Not only did we complete it 2h40m into the season, it was the very first conquest unlocked on Americas.

We had also grouped the previous season, so they had some experience running my strategy. My fourth major epiphany. Nothing ever works the first time. I’ve run with good players and total beginners. No one has ever followed the strategy their first time through, even though they know it works. There’s always someone wanting to try something new, on the fly, during the actual season. Even if they’re right and there’s an improvement in efficiency that could be made, that’s something you do before the season, not during it. Sometimes things will always be slower. Sometimes things will always be faster. And sometimes things will only be faster with practice, but slower without practice. There’s a difference between improvising when you know something went wrong, so you’re forced into that situation, and improvising when things are going smoothly. If you’re after the leaderboards, you don’t take that chance.

For example, we lost the race to #1 in Sprinter by 4 minutes during Season 27. We had leveled faster than our competition. But someone in our group decided they wanted to play a class that they had never played before. They happened to also be the player who was suppose to be our power leveler. And they failed their Greater Rift 20. At the beginning of the season, running rifts are horribly slow. That failure to complete the solo Greater Rift 20 cost us half an hour alone.

Not only that, I was hypocritical here as well. A clanmate asked if I could power level him. Now, we were trying to take #1 on both Speed Racer and Sprinter that season. And our runner for Speed Racer (the Hardcore variant) ended up dying during leveling. I hadn’t opened up my Haedrig’s Gift though at this point, so we made a decision to swap positions on the fly. Since I can level significantly faster than him, and he was better at Sprinter than me, I’d run instead of him in Hardcore (and with another runner), and he could run in Softcore, since I can power level him, and hadn’t started leveling my Sprinter character. (We had to start off with me running Softcore though, as we were competing against the most well-known Conquests group in D3, who was playing Softcore that season, thus leveling in Softcore was a higher priority.)

So I go off to power level our runner, we have our power leveler who’s running a Rift and Solo GR20 again because he failed, leaving 2 spots open with the group running bounties. I tell my clanmate that he can join them for a few levels, just don’t touch the bounties. My teammates agree to allow him to leech, and he agrees not to touch the bounties. He in turn ends up inviting a friend into the fourth slot. And lo and behold, his friend ends up collecting the bounties that my team had been prepping for our runner and myself. So now, due to my mistake here, we have to run another set of bounties. Our runner gets to 70, I go to start leveling in Hardcore, and a Cow Level opens for them from a random goblin while running bounties. I tell them to ignore it, as it’s only T6, but my teammates decide to run the cow level. After all, Cow Levels are great for gear they say. Yeah, for T16, but not for T6. As previously stated, we lost Sprinter by 4 minutes, where we had at least an hour of inefficiencies added because of unnecessary improvisations. None of us though were innocent here in that failure.

After this failure, they went on about let’s not try to compete against the other group, they’re just too good. The thing is, I grouped with them on Asia too. There were also failures there too (our power leveler failed his solo GR20 there, which is why he decided to switch classes on the Americas). But if you put our Asian conquest numbers up on Americas, we would have actually taken 3 conquests against the top conquests group in Diablo 3.

In 29 seasons of Diablo 3, I’ve only had one season in which there were no major flaws, and that was Season 29. And I played on Asia and EU as well for many of the later seasons, where things still went wrong. Season 29 wasn’t my fastest season either. That would be Season 26, in which I leveled 1-70 in 35 minutes, and hit 70 forty one minutes into the season, over 20 minutes faster than the next fastest player on the server (excluding my teammate). Sadly, Shadowplay crashed near the end of the leveling, so I don’t have proof. I only noticed later, after an hour had surpassed, when I was able to restart and was only able to record leveling 1-64 in under thirty minutes. (I have proof I was first, I just don’t have a full run of it.)

Season 29 though, I was the first player to reach Level 70 on Asia as well as Americas. Your first seventy achievement points are going to be your first 70 levels 10 points for every 10 levels you get. All other achievement points require running in a Level 70 game. I wasn’t able to play Europe for Season 29 start, so I only captured the scoreboard. These are all taken roughly at the same time on all the servers, about 55 minutes in.

As with Season 25, we managed to complete Sprinter as the very first conquest completed on the server, 2h16m into the season, so for the very last new season, we went out with a bang.


As a SSF Demon Hunter, my fastest time has been anywhere between 3 - 5 1/2 hours, throughout the seasons.

S30 will be much different, with the Alter. I’ll run a Necro up to level 18 or 20, use the Alter to unlock the Item Level Requirement, then Switch to my DH. I’m no where near as fast as the Speed Levelers, but I should be at Level 70 within 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

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Depending on your luck, you may not need to level with Neco that far - if you drop a soul shard from Zoltun and happen to salvage it to diamonds, you may switch to DH much faster :slight_smile:

Thanks, I’d forgotten about the Souls Shards.

As you mentioned, there’s luck involved.

But I’d probably look at it with several questions.

  1. Are we playing a Soul Shard season?
  2. What is the drop rate of Soul Shards?
  3. Are you using or saving your Challenge Cache?
  4. Are you playing SSF?
  5. Is it really faster in terms of getting to Haedrig’s Gift? (Assuming you’re not going for a Legacy of Dreams approach)

For the first question, unless something changes, we should be.

For the second question, it’s been estimated to be somewhere between 30%-50% on Normal Difficulty. But we’re specifically after a diamond here. That’s somewhere between 7-12 runs on average. The bottom 10% of players though may take anywhere between 22-38 runs. With load times, each Zoltun Kulle run would be roughly about a minute. And while most people won’t take that long, one out of every ten players might take over half an hour to get their diamond if they just start rushing Zoltun Kulle.

But you can convert gems! Yes, but this requires the Cube. And if you’re good with Massacre Bonuses, it is possible to reach Level 18, just running to the Cube. Going to the Cube may take anywhere from 7-12 minutes, which just happens to be the average time to get a Diamond from a Soul Shard, assuming the estimates people made are correct.

Now, there are upsides to going to the cube first.

Obviously you have access to the cube now. So it doesn’t matter if are unlucky with the diamond. Gem conversion is open to you. And if you level up to 18, you also have the bounty chests which can drop diamonds. We’re talking maybe 5 runs at worst to get your 2 diamonds.

Then, gem goblins can appear on your way to the cube. Or a blood shard goblin, which is great (and perhaps more important) if you saved your Challenge Cache.

Finally, you can always end up with a Vision of Enmity. Soul Shards can drop in those, but you can also get Death’s Breath as well, which is needed, if you saved your Challenge Cache. Plus, you could always find some early level legendaries there as well, which might even offset the lack of blood shards if you saved your Challenge Cache.

One major downside to consider starting with farming the Soul Shards from bosses first, if you save your Challenge Cache, is that enemies get stronger, and you’re not going to have much gear. Sure, the previous strategies for Season 28, you still had to fight Zoltun Kulle or Maghda, but that’s only one boss with either two elite enemies, or a few normal enemies. If you time your Corpse Golem, you can pretty much avoid most of the additional enemies. With the Visions, you really need the floors filled with blue elites. While other elites (and there’s one per floor, or the bosses or goblins) can drop Death’s Breath, the drop rate isn’t that great on normal. On the PTR, I was averaging one Death’s Breath per cleared blue elite floor. Only the problem here is that you have to deal with multiple elites all at once. The Corpse Golem will allow you to clear some, but it can get dangerous with dying a very real possibility, in which case you have respawn time, or cooldown time.

Sure, this is going to be the case regardless, even if going for the cube and Level 18 first, but a player who goes for the boss rush first is going to most likely have 4+ extra levels to deal with, making it just that much harder.

If you use your Challenge Cache, I think there’s a case to be made for starting with rushing bosses. Because you don’t have to deal with all the extra scenarios. Even if it takes 20 minutes to get a diamond, the other materials from the Cache will allow you to instantly gear up in Level 70 gear, and you can just rush the cube afterward, and get a ton of easy levels.

If you don’t use the Challenge Cache, it becomes a little bit tougher of a question.

The downside for going for the cube first is that you still need 311k gold to upgrade the Blacksmith all the way. If you don’t use the Challenge Cache, this still requires facing the bosses multiple times to get enough Soul Shards to salvage for gems to sell. And that’s going to take time.

The question then is, why not just snapshot bounties, like in Season 28? This all comes down to risk/reward. Going for 18, and snapshotting bounties is consistent and you’re not reliant on luck. But this will most likely be the slowest approach for 95% of players.

Now, I prefer my approach to the season start to have consistency. I’ve seen players who will level faster than me once every 5 seasons, but every 3 seasons they take forever to reach 70. That’s why one piece of advice streamers give I personally feel is detrimental is to blow all your blood shards. Gamble what you need to gamble and save the rest for when you hit 70. That will save you more time in the end. You blow all your blood shards for that Leoric’s Crown, and sure, you might shave 10 minutes off your leveling time, but when I hit 70, I now will have a Level 70 Legendary, which will grant me more power, allowing me to clear higher difficulties. And higher difficulties mean better drops, which means I gear up faster, which in turn means I can farm even higher difficulties, leading to a snowball effect. That 10 minutes you saved disappears almost immediately.

But I’ll admit, I’m willing to take some risk. A 50% chance to level up 10 minutes faster, and failure leads to 1 hour slower, I’m not taking that. A 90% chance to level up 10 minutes faster, and a failure leads to 1 hour slower, yeah, I probably would take that.

There are other tricks to consider as well, such as some players will have other players donating gear to them, or they’ll snapshot a T6 game (T6 has roughly an 80% chance at a Soul Shard). Some of these tricks are not available to SSF players though.

Don’t get me wrong. If you see a Zoltun Kulle bounty the very first thing you see when you enter, go for it. A few failures won’t make any significant difference, and there’s always a chance for success.

But it also leads to why from Season 30 onwards, you’ll see new faces in the fastest levelers, but most likely never consistent names. Because there’s going to be that player who uses the Challenge Cache, goes to Zoltun Kulle, gets a Soul Shard which salvages into a diamond right off the bat. And if you just have an average season, it doesn’t matter your strategy, they now have what’s most likely an insurmountable lead on you in terms of leveling.

One problem with that tactic at least early in is… Gem conversion requires 9 of the same gem and essence costing 500k gold.

While it is possible to get 3 Soul Shards to salvage into 9 Imperials of the same type right off the bat, that’s highly unlikely. And the cost shouldn’t be that big of a deal. By the time you get 9 of the same gems, there’s a good chance one of the Soul Shards will salvage into a Flawless Royal, which sells for 816k. And if you use your Challenge Cache, you already have the necessary gold. (Previous seasons, most of the gold issues came down to enchanting for a good level reduce, which won’t be a problem from now on.)

Granted, the cost is only an issue for those not using the CC. I did a bunch of testing during the PTR to see what the likelihood of getting a diamond from SS salvage early on might be and it was very, very low. Getting 3 of the same gem 3 times would be even far less.

Unless they change the drop rates from what it was in S25 and PTR, the Rate for getting a SS from act 1 and 2 (Zoltun, Magda, Skel King) is only 25 percent chance of drop. Acts 3 and 4 are even worse at only a 12.5 percent chance of drop (tho if you do get a drop 2 will drop). The only bosses with a 50 percent drop rate are in Act 5, which are much tougher early in.

The amount of time it took to get SS to drop from act 1 or 2 bosses and either get lucky with a diamond or enough to convert would be longer than it takes to get to 18 and get a couple rank 1 or a single rank 2 diamond naturally.

An additional early levelling tip for anyone running classes with a good number of cooldown skills is to go and grab a blank sliver of terror in Act 4 (Rakanoth is the easiest to find). Even without any ranks that helm gem gives a massive benefit if you can keep several skills on cooldown consistently.

I agree with you. I’m just saying the option is on the table if you go for the cube first, even if it’s a ridiculously low chance.

I am personally in favor of going to 18 and then getting your diamond, over rushing the diamond off the bat, though I believe an argument can be made for rushing the diamond if you use the Challenge Cache. (In my tests, going to the Cube, farming the diamond, and farming the gems to upgrade the Blacksmith all the way took roughly 26 minutes on average. The question is, can you find a Diamond in fewer than 26 Zoltun Kulle Runs?)

Without the Challenge Cache, you’re still going to need 4 Soul Shards to salvage to sell to get the gold necessary to upgrade the Blacksmith all the way.

Here, you can always fight him on normal, or if you got the diamonds to unlock the No Level Requirement Node, transfer your gear to a Level 1 character to face Zoltun Kulle on T6 with a Level 1 character wearing your Level 18 character’s gear, as you now have roughly an 80% chance to get a Soul Shard per kill.

I agree with you too, I tested all the ways during PTR. Additionally getting a bunch of rare gear drops right away is also very useful.

As for this 80 percent chance you mention, I have no idea where you are getting that from. Higher Dif does not improve the chances of the SS dropping. It remains at 25 percent whether you do it in normal or T16.

From a small amount of testing:

  • Normal Difficulty: 9/20
  • Master Difficulty: 2/10
  • T2 Difficulty: 4/10
  • T5 Difficulty: 6/10
  • T6 Difficulty: 49/60

While there is a margin of error, to say that it’s 25% on T6 would be a significant abnormality.

9/20, 4% of players will get that at 25%.
49/60, we’re talking 4.925 * 10^-20 at 25%.

I’d just find it hard to believe that I won the lottery with testing Soul Shard drop rates.

Diablo 3:S30 PTR Testing: Farming 3 Gems - Twitch

This is only 4 runs, but I get 3 gems. At 25% chance, that would only have a 5% chance of occurring. (I didn’t stream everything).

Interesting. I didn’t bother to record all the drops during my testing, but my experience was much different. Chalk that up to RNG.

I can’t say whether that was the case or not. I certainly didn’t experience anywhere near that generous a rate, for me the chance seemed to get worse the higher up I went. Who knows if the rates from PTR will even be relevant in terms of the live season.

Normal to T5 all seemed within the same range for me. It was T6+ where the numbers got higher. I mean, I guess there could be a scale factor here, but even if there was, why take a chance on anything but Normal or T6.

Let’s say hypothetically it’s 60% at T5. Instead of taking 30 seconds to kill ZK, it’s 25 seconds. The math just doesn’t justify dropping it down a level, even if it in reality it may be faster. It’s one thing to say something saved 10 minutes in an hour run. It’s another to say it saved 10 seconds in an hour run.

That’s why I didn’t put more time into testing them.

And yes, I’d agree with you. You can’t tell if the PTR will be relevant. This was the case in the Season 25 PTR where the drop rate was 100%.

The same thing with Visions and Death’s Breaths. Both Death’s Breaths and Greater Rift Keys seemed to be nerfed significantly on the PTR. But even then, are those the final numbers? That’s why I still have a T1 bounty on the table for the real season.

Only when the season goes live on Asia will we know for sure. That’s one reason I practice on Asia & EU. There could always be last second changes.

Indeed. The majority of my testing was done on Expert, as for me that seems the best range for getting close to lvl 18 when running for the cube. If Z was a bounty when I created the game then I would try him first to see if I got lucky then off to a cube test run.

I will also add this. During my tests I did get a bandit shrine twice (in different test runs) and various individual goblins several times which totally boosted the levelling curve during those test runs.

My suggestion would be to make the cube run first, since you need that thing one way or the other. Then if yer not 18 upon getting the cube, start doing Z runs to try for shard drops and to reach lvl 18, at which time the chances greatly improve for either getting a shard or low level diamonds for the altar.


Reading your OP takes longer than for you to get from 1-70. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Thank goodness. I have had many, many starts burning my whole cache and getting a level 70 weapon with 2-5 level reduction. Pretty sure I peed my pants in excitement the 2 times I actually got over 20 level reduced. I know it is not mandatory, but it is devastating to the morale to burn all your mats for a basically useless item.

Big gratz on this. It usually takes me 2-4 hours just to hit 70. It is fun seeing you top players unlock all the conquests while I am still getting to 70 most the time. I have a couple of friends who are usually right up there with you guys.

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It’s just a series of thoughts I’ve had over the years about this. I was debating if it should go in the General Forum or Community Creations, being more of a blog post than a quick Diablo post.

As for the weapon, there are tricks. Material conversion. Using specific classes, etc. This was one reason I always pushed against the traditional advice of upgrading a weapon. You lose 15+ attempts at a good Level Reduce weapon by upgrading a weapon. From now on though, that will be irrelevant.

And thanks. Though I feel we’re pushing the boundary of what can be accomplished with Sprinter. You either need 4 piece Raiment or Firebird, or you need an Aether Walker. If you’re going for the 4 piece, you need bounties, or you need to get lucky with Kadala.

Bounties are 45 minutes regardless. There’s just no way to speed this part up. And you need one Master Rift or higher, which is going to be roughly 10 minutes. That leaves 25 minutes to complete the rest of the Chapters as well as reach Level 70. (We started our Sprinter run at the 1h20m mark this season.)

Getting lucky with an Aether Walker can perhaps get a 90 minute into the season Sprinter done, but it’s not repeatable.

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