Beginner's Guide to Seasons in Diablo 3
Seasons in Diablo 3 allow players to experience the game with a fresh start, with no gold, materials, items, or characters carried over from the non-seasonal section of the game.
This page goes over the basics of Seasons, how they work, and the season-specific mechanics that do not appear in the normal areas of the game, such as the Seasonal Journey.
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 written with seasonal play in mind, many of the strategies carry over to all forms of play, and will be applicable if you are just starting out a non-seasonal character as well.
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.
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 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 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 bonus. 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.
You have two major options for activities during leveling in Adventure Mode: bounties and rifts. 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 your leveling method. There are several viable paths to get to max level, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.
Leveling by Standard "Nephalem" Rifts
For groups and players that do not stress losing an hour or two in a 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 the 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.
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), Eternal Woods (Act I), Halls of Agony Level 3 (Act I) and most notably, Fields of Misery (Act I) and Temple of the Firstborn (Act II). 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 for Barbarian, Blessed Hammer for Crusader, Multishot for Demon Hunter, Wave of Light for Monk, Locust Swarm for Witch Doctors, 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.
Leveling by Halls of Agony Blades
This is one of the faster strategies, clocking in about the 1 hour mark, but is widely acknowledged as one of the more annoying strategies and is available only for softcore players, as it will involve some (or a lot, depending on your experience with it) dying in the process.
The strategy requires that you go to the Halls of Agony Level 1 (Act I) and find the giant cleaver blade traps, lure enemies to them, and enjoy the passive experience as the environment itself kills the unsuspecting monsters. Any form of crowd control over the enemies, be it stuns or slows, to keep them in check and within the trap radius, will be extremely beneficial.
Leveling by Cursed Chests
This is one of the faster methods, clocking in under the 1 hour mark with experienced groups that have a Necromancer with them. The reason for the inclusion of the Necromancer is the supremely strong class-specific legendaries that are able to be gambled from the get-go — namely, Grasps of Essence to amplify the damage of Corpse Explosion, and Bloodtide Blade to amplify the damage of Death Nova. Either of those lucky finds can carry an entire group on up to Torment VI difficulty. Ideally, the remaining teammates will support the DPS carry with buffs and as much crowd control as they can muster.
The preferred way to level through Cursed Chests is to have individual party members make their own games, and invite the rest of the group when they stumble upon one of the Cursed Chests from the list below. Note that Act IV has no suitable spots.
- Act I - The Cursed Cellar - The Old Ruins (dangerous for Hardcore characters due to lack of space)
- Act I - The Cursed Court - Cathedral Level 2
- Act I - The Cursed Bellows - Halls of Agony Level 3 (dangerous for Hardcore characters due to fire traps)
- Act II - The Cursed Spire - Archives of Zoltun Kulle
- Act II - The Cursed Pit - Archives of Zoltun Kulle
- Act II - The Cursed Moors - Shrouded Moors
- Act II - The Cursed Temple - Temple of the Firstborn
- Act III - The Cursed Garrison - The Battlefields
- Act III - The Cursed Bailey - The Ruins of Sescheron
- Act V - The Cursed Peat - Paths of the Drowned (dangerous for Hardcore characters due to high damage monsters)
Leveling by Shadow Clones (Exclusively in Season 22)
This tactic is only available in Season 22, and relates to the Shadow Clones that you get after clicking any shrine or pylon. The clones are AI controlled, high damaging allies that persist for 1 minute before disappearing, but are able to comfortably carry you on difficulties up to Torment VI for extremely fast leveling (~40 minutes with some luck and a good route).
To execute this leveling strategy, all you need to do is check for shrines at specific waypoints in Adventure Mode — ones that are relatively safe and will not risk your character's life. Once you find the clone, simply run around the zone and let him wreak havoc, leveling you up with a tremendous speed in the process. Note that the Shadow Clones scale with your equipment, so you can check vendors to supplement their damage with some very basic equipment.
The following is a list of relevant waypoints (note that they are not fixed spawns, so move down the list if you do not find one):
- Act I - Southern Highlands (down from WP and to the left before the bridge);
- Act I - Leoric's Manor Courtyard (several spawn points, explore the area a bit);
- Act II - Howling Plateau (run up from the waypoint, along the upper rim of the map);
- Act II - Road to Alcarnus (run through the area; spawn point near Maghda entrance);
- Act III - Bridge of Korsikk (at the waypoint itself; other spawns in the Fields of Slaughter optional);
- Act III - Rakkis Crossing (right at the waypoint; optionally run up the bridge);
- Act III - Tower of the Cursed Level 1 (along the upper and lower rim of the first section of the map, near WP);
- Act III - Tower of the Damned lvl 1 (along the upper and lower rim of the first section of the map, near WP);
- Act IV - Realm of Fractured Fate (explore the area near the waypoint, multiple spawn chances);
- Act IV - Lower Realm of Infernal Fate (explore the area near the waypoint, multiple spawn chances);
- Act IV - Gardens of Hope lvl 1 (near Rakanoth; check right above and right below the waypoint);
- Act IV - Gardens of Hope lvl 3 (explore area near waypoint; wells do not work like shrines for shadow clones!)
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 Necromancers, 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.
As previously noted, crafting should not be overlooked as a source of weapon upgrades — and is especially important during leveling, because it can be combined with the completion of a Challenge Rift right at the start of a Season (Challenge Rifts are explained a little further in this guide). Saving the weekly Challenge Rift completion and doing it right when the new Season starts on your fresh character is an easy way to gain a bunch of crafting materials and gold. This allows you to boost your Blacksmith and Mystic to Level 12 and to craft and reroll Level 70 weapons to use during leveling — the single biggest boost you can give yourself. Level 70 weapons can roll with a Reduced Level Requirement affix — up to 30 — in their secondary stats, skyrocketing your DPS for nearly half your leveling and allowing you to bump up difficulty for better XP gain.
First, pick a solid, cross-class two handed weapon category like a Two-Handed Axe, Two-Handed Sword, or a Two-Handed Mace, and select the highest tier rare weapon to craft. In order to conserve crafting materials and gold, craft weapons in small batches of 5, or even one by one when strapped for cash, and check their affixes. Be on the lookout for the following affixes:
- Reduced Level Requirement — of course, this is the ideal natural roll, especially if it's a high value.
- High Mainstat (Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence) Roll — this is a tremendous DPS boosts due to the way mainstat scales on a high item level weapon, compared to your stats during low and mid character levels.
- % Chance for Crowd Control (Slow, Stun, Freeze, Knockback...) — This is especially important, because having a single one of these rolls eliminates all other % CC rolls from the Secondary affix pool when rerolling. Simply keep this stat and reroll the other secondary, i.e. "Ignores Durability Loss", and you should have the Reduced Level Requirement roll in just a few attempts.
- Life per Hit in the primary Stats — This prevents Life per Kill from rolling in the Secondary Stats, further reducing the pool of possible Secondary Stats to reroll into and making Reduced Level Requirement rolls even easier to get.
Pay close attention to the gold you spend rerolling, and if possible, keep several items with potential to reroll around. This is done because every additional reroll scales the necessary gold, and you can easily deplete the Challenge Rift cash if you get careless. Note that items that you craft with the intent to get Reduced Level Requirement can be shared among your party members PRIOR to getting rerolled. If you get exceptionally lucky, you can stack several high level weapons in your group and speed up your leveling immensely, but remember to share weapons with potential before they get rerolled. Also, be careful with the Salvaging options in the Blacksmith after a crafting session, especially when you get a good weapon. Salvaging all rares will destroy the fruits of your labor! To prevent this from happening, either stash the weapon immediately to prevent mishaps, or do a quick cheap transmog at the Mystic — transmogrified rare gear will not get destroyed from a Salvage All Rares click.
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. 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, Cindercoat, Unity, Convention of Elements, 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 and 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 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 legendary gem.
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.
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 seasonal chapters II, III and IV 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.
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. Bounties are a decent source of crafting materials, the only way to get cache legendaries (i.e. 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.
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.
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.
A note on Challenge Rifts
As of Patch 2.6, you are able to select a unique activity in the pre-game lobby: Challenge Rifts. The Challenge Rift system pulls a random Greater Rift completion (including from ones too low to be on the leaderboard) — snapshotting the build, gear and even the level layout. All players are then able to compete for its fastest completion on completely even grounds. There is a weekly reward attached to beating the timer of the original run: a cache of 300 Blood Shards, 4 million gold, 8 of the unique bounty materials for Cube recipes, and a stack of regular crafting mats. This is one of the strongest early boosts you can get in the first week of a Season, so do your Challenge Rift as soon as possible. Considering the minimal effort required for the cache, it is also a good use of your time every subsequent week.
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.
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!
- 20 Nov. 2020: Updated for Season 22. Improved quick leveling sections. Added Shadow Clone leveling method.
- 18 Apr. 2019: Minor fixes to the guide.
- 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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