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Beginner's Guide to Seasons in Diablo 3

Last updated on Oct 19, 2016 at 09:00 by Deadset 9 comments

Table of Contents

The purpose of this beginner seasonal guide is to get you acquainted with the basics of Seasons, as well as introducing you to fast leveling, gearing and farming tips that maximize your seasonal experience. While this guide has been created with Patch 2.4.2 and Season 8 in mind, many of the strategies carry over between patches and seasons, and will be applicable if you are just starting out in non-seasonal play as well.

1. What is a Season and why should you play it?

Seasons are an optional, recurring game mode that allows you the opportunity to start fresh every few months, leveling a Normal or Hardcore character from scratch without previously earned items, paragon levels, materials and gold. A great positive of the Season is reliving the initial progression, and seeing a character grow in great strides. Seasons are separate much like the Normal and Hardcore game modes, and it might seem intimidating that your Seasonal character will have to start his own stash, experience and artisan progression. None of your efforts will be wasted however, as all your endeavors within a Season — characters, items, paragon levels, gold, etc. — will be rolled over as non-seasonal once the Season concludes. A unique incentive of Seasons are the trackable Seasonal Journeys, exclusive Transmogrification awards, and a separate Leaderboard that allows everyone to compete on even grounds.

2. Leveling 1-70

2.1. Pre-Game

You make three important choices in the pre-game: forming a party, choosing game mode and setting a difficulty. Starting a Season in a group rather than solo is a bit harder to organize, but comes with the highest recommendation: not only do you receive a party-wide loot and XP buff, but experience bonuses are now shared between members and lucky rolls for one will benefit you all. Another important consideration is that monster health does not scale proportionally to player number, giving you an edge in overall damage (not to mention utility in the form of CC and buffs). Nevertheless, if you prefer (or simply end up) playing solo, check out the 'Massacre leveling' opportunity outlined below in the Playstyle section, as it will be your fastest option to reach level 70.

When it comes to game type, Adventure Mode is vastly preferred over Campaign due to its faster pace and more bountiful rewards. The only acceptable detour you can make is starting a Campaign game early on, as the Skeleton King drops a guaranteed Leoric's Crown Leoric's Crown at level 5+ when killed in this mode. This helm doubles the bonuses from the gem socketed in it, so add your highest tier Ruby in for a significant increase in XP gain. Wear this Leoric's Crown Leoric's Crown for as long as you can handle the stat loss, since you will quickly outlevel it — in most cases, you can take it all the way to 70.

Another pre-game choice is setting your difficulty, and the widely accepted leveling difficulty is Hard: a good combination of negligible challenge and a decent 75% experience bonuses. You can consider bumping the difficulty to Master or higher only if you have received a huge power spike, such as crafting a reduced level requirement weapon (discussed below). As a final note, avoid leveling on Expert difficulty, as the experience gain to monster health increase ratio is heavily unfavorable in comparison with Hard.

2.2. Playstyle

You have two major options for activities during leveling in Adventure Mode: bounties and rifts. To maximize leveling efficiency, consider doing the bounties in the Act with an active bounty bonus; the game will automatically start the game in it, and the act will be tagged as such when you open the world map. There will always be an active bounty for a random act Boss; ones that do not require a lot of running to find them are particularly attractive (i.e. Zoltun Kulle, Maghda, Belial), but completing the Boss bounty in general will net you good experience right at the start, as well as a chest that contains nice starting loot. After the Boss bounty, consider finishing the remaining bounties in the Act with active bonuses for a chance at the Cain's Fate and Born's Defiance crafting plans; both are sets craftable at the blacksmith, whose bonuses yield additional experience to speed up leveling.

After you complete the above, it is time to consider leveling by Massacre bonuses. The Massacre bonus XP system was revised in Patch 2.4.1 into a multiplicative experience bonus that rewards you for chaining kills of monsters. The caveat is this bonus only works in bounties — and not during Rifts. To successfully pull of long chains of monster kills, pick highly populated zones — the Cathedral (Act I), Halls of Agony Level 3 (Act I) and most notably, Fields of Misery (Act I). The tactic is to always be on the move, leading monsters into one another, abusing Cursed Chests for monster spawns, and generally using skills with DoTs or high AoE (Rend Rend for Barbarian, Blessed Hammer Blessed Hammer for Crusader, Multishot Multishot for Demon Hunter, Wave of Light Wave of Light for Monk, Locust Swarm Locust Swarm for Witch Doctors, Blizzard Blizzard for Wizards). While Massacre leveling will require frequent restarts of the game (every 5-10 minutes), it will result in some of the fastest leveling in Diablo 3, clocking under the 2 hour mark when you get the hang of it. Due to its individual nature and the level of coordination required to pull it off in a multiplayer game, leveling by Massacre bonuses can only be recommended for 2+ players if they are experienced and have voice communication; this is predominantly a solo leveling technique. It also has the considerable downside of losing the increased legendary drop rate and blood shards of rifting.

For groups and players that do not stress losing an hour in the 1-70 race, the general recommendation is to stick to rifts for the 1-70 journey. Rifts grant you increased legendary drop rate, blood shards for gambling, and a hefty 'hand in' bonus at the end. While rifting has a higher degree of randomness than bounties (map layout, monster density and composition are all RNG), the removal of Rift Keystones as a requirement to open them allows you to simply remake if you get a bad (difficult or slow) rift.

A lesson best learned early in Diablo is focusing on larger groups of enemies and ignoring stragglers to the best of your ability — take advantage of the fact that only individual enemies you must fight are Rift Guardians. In the endgame, this will translate in efficient skipping of bad fights and better farming results; during leveling, it will result in you hitting max level faster. To summarize, adopt AoE spells and teach yourself to concentrate fire on larger packs of enemies, luring stragglers to them.

And finally, minimize your own downtime — this is a common pitfall that is hard to realize, because it is unique and personal for everyone. Whether it is out-of-game distractions like TV or a second monitor, or redundant in-game activities like excessive crafting, that downtime will drag your leveling process unnecessarily. As a rule of thumb, remember that pre-70 gear will be quickly outgrown and pondering between items of similar power — or rerolling any of them — is more than likely a waste of your time. Good leveling times fall somewhere in the 2 to 3 hours range, so anything over that points at downtimes and skipping one or more of the recommendations above.

2.3. Gearing

Setting the game at a difficulty that will not make you struggle for survivability allows you to concentrate on one thing only: fast and efficient clearing, which is directly tied to your damage. Its biggest contributor will be your weapon, so allocate resources and focus your attention accordingly. If you have not upgraded that slot in about five levels, consider crafting yourself one at the Blacksmith. A small tip right when you start would be to steal appropriate weapons from your followers — you can grab a spear from the Templar, a crossbow from the Scoundrel and a dagger from the Enchantress. At level 1, they are stronger than your default weapon.

Classes are spread across several main stats: Strength for Barbarians and Crusaders; Dexterity for Demon Hunters and Monks; and Intelligence for Witch Doctors and Wizards. Adding to your main stat has major influence on your damage in Diablo 3, and even more so during leveling where high-end modifiers like crit, attack speed and elemental damage are infrequent and at low values. The importance of the basic Toughness stat, Vitality, and leveling amplifiers like Additional XP cannot be disregarded, but they should always be considered second to main stat gain.

To solidify your DPS, check vendors for rings and amulets adding flat damage. These give you a huge damage boost in the early game, where your weapon damage is in the double and triple digits. Fence merchants in towns sell jewelry, available at around level 6 for rings and around level 10 for amulets. Do not zealously check back and forth however, and only make merchant trips during natural pauses in gameplay — like Rift closing times.

While it is easier to write them off as a level 70+ concern, do not forget the existence and importance of gems during the leveling process. Most importantly, save up and upgrade two Rubies to the highest available tier at the time, and slot them in your weapon and helm. Adding a Ruby to a weapon adds flat damage, which is the best DPS increase in pre-70 gameplay, where Crit chance rolls are scarce and low, and the Crit Damage boosting Emerald gem reaps lesser benefits. A Ruby in the helm increases experience gain, shortening the time necessary to reach max level.

As a quick tip, there is a good chance you go over your 500 Blood Shards cap before you reach level 70, where you want to do your initial burst of gambling. To avoid wasting your rewards, do not hesitate to gamble a little bit, dipping just enough to hover at the 400+ range. Look over your gear, pick your worst slot — the one you have not upgraded for a while — and gamble 1-3 pieces. It will not hurt your progression, and you will feel the difference during leveling.

2.4. Crafting

As previously noted, crafting should not be overlooked as a source of weapon upgrades — and is especially important twice during leveling. At level 42 and with a level 10 Blacksmith, you can sink some of your hard-earned crafting materials into crafting level 60 weapons. They can roll with a Reduced Level Requirement affix — up to 18 — in their secondary stats, skyrocketing your DPS for a dozen levels and allowing you to bump up difficulty for better XP gain. The same principle is applied at level 60 and with a level 12 Blacksmith, this time crafting level 70 weapons.

Salvaging everything that is not an upgrade should be a priority, as crafting resources will be in high demand for the vast majority of your Seasonal playtime and salvaging items of all levels yields universal materials. Salvaging has the added benefit of returning any gems socketed in your gear to your inventory for free, so do not make the mistake of unsocketing your old items when you are starting out and scrounging for gold. The only acceptable item to un- and re-socket is a Leoric's Crown Leoric's Crown, for better XP gain.

An exception to the salvaging rule should be made for legendary items with valuable affixes, whose consumption in Kanai's Cube is more important than the immediate crafting material. An exhaustive list would be hard to compile, so take a look at the endgame and farming guides for your chosen class and note some of the key legendaries. This will ensure that The Furnace The Furnace, Cindercoat Cindercoat, Unity Unity, Convention of Elements Convention of Elements, Obsidian Ring of the Zodiac Obsidian Ring of the Zodiac or other superb items will not accidentally end as Forgotten Souls.

Another exception from the salvage pile should be two legendary items: Bovine Bardiche Bovine Bardiche and Puzzle Ring Puzzle Ring. Their unique effects can be considered irrelevant or amusing depending on your mood, but their Kanai's Cube recipes are quite useful at the Season start. Putting a Bovine Bardiche Bovine Bardiche in and pressing Transmute opens a portal to the Cow Level — a Rift-like area filled with XP-heavy cows, as well as normal and resplendent chests. Doing the same with a Puzzle Ring opens a portal to the Goblin realm, netting you excellent starting gold and the Boon of the Hoarder Boon of the Hoarder legendary gem.

3. At Level 70

Your overall strategy will not alter much immediately after hitting 70; rifts continue to be your best source of gear, and bounty runs should be delayed until you need to craft a set or store a unique power — both of which require bounty-specific materials. An exception would be prioritizing the Seasonal Journey up to the relevant Chapter to acquire the full class-specific set from Haedrig's Gifts, and acquiring your Kanai's Cube for the first time from the Ruins of Sescheron area in Act III, which you can do at any time and will only have to deal with once.

3.1. The Seasonal Journey and Haedrig's Gifts

The Season Journey consists of series of achievements which grant cosmetic rewards, including profile borders, item transmogs and cosmetic pets. The Season Journey is divided into Chapters with separate achievements that are roughly similar in difficulty and relevance to character progression, giving some additional incentive and structure to seasonal gameplay. The Journey is available only to seasonal characters, and is shared account wide with the exception of the Softcore and Hardcore divide.

Completion of certain seasonal chapters (II, III and IV in Season 8) yields Haedrig's Gifts, a cache-like reward that drops two pieces of a fixed class-specific set. With the completion of these chapters, you will have a full 6 piece set bonus available to you, skyrocketing your character power well into the mid-to-high Torments. This makes the early portion of the Seasonal Journey your first priority upon reaching max level.

With the early Season Journey out of the way, you have three significant types of farming: Bounties, Normal Rifts and Greater Rifts, each with its own distinctive benefits.

3.2. Doing Bounties

This is also referred to as splitting bounties after the prevailing strategy for its completion: getting in a party of four people and dividing the bounties of each act between yourselves, one person per bounty. Splitting the bounties at the highest difficulty you can handle solo is considered the most efficient way to obtain the Horadric Cache rewards. Note the 'Bonus' property attached to one of the game's 5 Acts, easily identifiable on the map. Finishing that act nets you an additional cache and shifts the bonus to another act, giving you an incentive to finish them all in bonus order to reap the most rewards. Bounties are a decent source of crafting materials, the only way to get cache legendaries (i.e. Ring of Royal Grandeur Ring of Royal Grandeur), and perhaps most importantly — the unique materials that fuel Kanai's Cube recipes. As such, prioritize bounty farming when you need to extract a game changing legendary power (examples above) or craft a legendary or set item at the Blacksmith. For general farming, choose one of the following methods.

3.3. Running Normal Rifts

This is you bread and butter at the start, and will remain a staple in your farming well into the endgame. Rifts no longer require keystones to open, and you can start one anytime; their universal structure and clear goal (progress the bar by killing the monsters until the Rift Guardian appears, kill him and loot him, close the rift and repeat) only reinforced by their better drop chance compared to Bounties. While you can continue the Rift past the Guardian, it is advisable that you end once you finish him off — entering a new one is free, and getting as many Guardian kills and Rift close rewards as you can yields more experience, gold and blood shards per hour. You should prioritize normal rift farming for the vast majority of your early playtime, adjusting the difficulty to the highest you can handle while still being efficient — killing elites in less than 10 seconds is a good metric. Normal rifts are best at gearing you up and supply you with Greater Rift keystones, the next important step in your progression.

3.4. Fast ("Speed") Greater Rifts

Greater Rift keystones are generally used for three purposes: pushing for Leaderboard placement, upgrading Legendary Gems and farming Paragon levels. When starting out, the latter two will be done at once, with the added benefit of getting a guaranteed Legendary Gem at the end of every Greater Rift until you have a complete collection. In Greater Rifts monsters still grant progression, but the activity is unique in its timed nature, and only grants you loot from the Rift Guardian kill. To compensate its lesser material gain, Greater Rifts produce scaling Blood Shard rewards and multiply experience bonuses on gear, making them ideal for Paragon leveling. When you should do your first GRs and how many of them is up to personal preference, but it is advisable to start weaving them in as soon as you can handle the early Torment levels. As they invariably grant you the vital Legendary Gems and allow you to upgrade them upon completion within the timer, Greater Rifts will gradually take a larger and larger role in your routine.

3.5. Gambling

Befitting the name of the activity, spending Blood Shards at Kadala is not an exact science. You can slightly influence this luck-heavy endeavor by applying any of the following strategies:

  • Gambling for your current worst slot: best done in the very early 70 game, this strat will quickly max you out when it comes to stat rolls, but is less effective in attaining specific legendary bonuses. Drop it as soon as you stabilize low Torment farming.
  • Gambling for generic set slots: a solid strat that minimizes frustration, this approach suggests to research the competitive specs of your class and gamble for the slots that powerful sets have in common. Most 6 piece sets have helms, chest pieces, pants and gloves, increasing your chances to gather a 2 and 4 piece bonus in a short time span, leading to a significant spike in power.
  • Gambling for the hardest gear slots: this approach is only adopted with high endgame perspective in mind, and suggests you know your class and playstyle in and out. The basic idea is that you will invariably stumble upon the more common gear pieces through massive farming sessions, and you can concentrate all of your Blood Shard efforts in the rarest slot — the one that can take you a whole Season to farm, as it requires being Ancient and having very specific stats (usually a weapon). Only attempt this strat if you plan on active and competitive participation in the Season.

Kanai's Cube brings a more refined aspect of gambling, allowing you to roll rare items into legendary items of the same type, as well as rerolling the very legendary items. Transforming a rare item into a legendary is an excellent way to target class-specific items (wands, mighty weapons, ceremonial knives, etc.) and has the potential to roll them as Ancient, making it a great mid-Season recipe to assemble gear. Rerolling a legendary item is an expensive recipe targeted towards mid-to-late Season, where acquiring a specific Ancient can make the difference at a shot for the Leaderboards. Finally, the set conversion recipe is a relatively inexpensive method of assembling a set through redundant pieces, but cannot produce Ancients, and as such can only be considered an early 70 booster.

4. A Final Note

However you decide your approach to Seasons, make sure you do it for the right reason: having fun and experiencing character growth. The meta has been frequently criticized for its RNG-heavy endgame, but that can hardly explain the same people appearing time and again at the top of the Leaderboards. Rest assured that they are the ones that treat the Season as a marathon and not a race, easily surpassing the ones that go extremely hard at the start and burn themselves out by week two. Consistency, research and minimizing downtime will be the three biggest contributing factors to your Seasonal progress and your endgame achievements. Happy hunting!

5. ChangeLog

  • 19 Oct. 2016: Guide is up to date for Season 8.
  • 29 Jul. 2016: Revised the guide to reflect updates to Season structure and the Massacre leveling option.
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