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Lead Writer for Reaper of Souls Leaves Blizzard

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Brian Kindregan, the lead writer for Diablo III's expansion Reaper of Souls, is no longer working for Blizzard Entertainment.

Brian Kindregan announced in his blog that he is no longer working for Blizzard. Kindregan is the leader writer for Diablo III: Reaper of Souls and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm. He has also worked as a writer on Bioware's Mass Effect 2. Here's what he had to say:

Quote

After seven years and three major releases (as well as some small ones,) I have decided to leave Blizzard. (Indeed, I’m already gone!) Where I’m going is also (wait for it,) the topic of a future post. But I wanted to touch on my time at the house of Blizzard.

At seven years, it’s the longest job I’ve ever held. Most of my time in film was spent going from project to project, and there were times I had three or four jobs in one year. (Taxes were fun.) And my BioWare stints were about a year and a quarter each.

In 2009, I came to a studio that was wildly successful and had their own way of doing things. It would have been easy for them to tell me to keep my mouth shut and learn their way. And there were times that I felt that was being said, but for the most part the StarCraft team welcomed me with open arms, told me to do what I did best for the good of the game, and helped me get to work.

On both the StarCraft and Diablo teams, I had the pleasure of working with people who are at the top of their craft. And indeed, every team I worked with met that standard – Cinematics, Franchise Development, Audio, QA, and many others. Passionate and skilled, they challenged me to constantly do better, and taught me so many lessons. Some of those lessons came through gentle prodding, and some were drenched in blood, but all were incredibly useful for a creative individual who always sought to be better.

I won’t go on too long, nor get too nostalgic. But I’d like to say it was an absolute honor to work at Blizzard all those years, on incredible projects, with amazing people. All good things must come to an end, and I decided that it was time to move on, learn new things in a new environment, and face new challenges.

But a part of me will always reside at Blizzard.

-BTK

(source)

While we don't cover the StarCraft universe here in Icy Veins, it has one of the strongest stories in all of Blizzard's gaming universes. It really is worth checking out, even if you haven't played the games; in my opinion, it would make a really good movie or TV series. On the other hand, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls has a simpler, shorter and more stereotypical story. Still, Reaper of Souls' story avoided the extremities and the weak plotlines and clichés of vanilla Diablo III.

This isn't the only loss the Diablo team has gone through recently. Diablo 3 lost three major devs on April (one left Blizzard altogether, while two were moved to the WoW team). Jay Wilson - lead designer of vanilla D3, who was later moved to the WoW team - left Blizzard as well a couple of weeks ago.

Did you enjoy the story of Reaper of Souls? And if you are familiar with the StarCraft II games, did you like their story?

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Reaper of Souls had a better story than vanilla D3 but man oh man did Starcraft have a rough time with it. I don't know, I feel like Blizzard is always struggling to find GOOD writers. For vanilla D3 it has, hands down IMO, the single worst story Blizzard has ever put out, with absolutely laughable writing and suddenly the characters we play are demi-gods? Ah..okay I guess..RoS had a more straightforward story but honestly that's exactly what we needed after vanilla. Two lords of hell that are absolute morons and strike zero fear into the hearts of players? At least Malthael wasn't screwing around. The reapers were going to kill you, no matter what, and we saw evidence of their ruthless nature. Much more intimidating.

Starcraft's story is filled with too many tropes. Vanilla SC and Brood War set up so much cool stuff but it flopped pretty big with the story direction of WoL and after that, well, they couldn't just change the story. So they had to follow through. And while each campaign is enjoyable the overall story is so lackluster.

Also, is D3 dying or what? It's been so quiet on the development front, with only some patches to tide over fans for a while now.

Edited by Khalidus
Fixing grammars
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RoS was the only reason I played D3 after the first two months after the release during MoP. D3 is terrible, even adventure mode is horrid. RoS was nice and I hope they can somehow build on that style of play and storytelling.

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Another D3 guy gone... I really hope they announce something soon for that game, like a new expansion or even Diablo 4. Right now Diablo 3 is awesome, it would be stupid not to build up on it.

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I feel like D3 might be in that winding down stage, with its current content remaining fairly static over each season. Another expansion would be good - I'd like to see Runewords and maybe the necromancer make a comeback. Who knows though. I never really played D2 or D3 for the story, but I enjoyed the stories nonetheless.

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    • By Starym
      A lot of the comments on my last article got me thinking (and btw, thanks to everyone for reading and hopefully enjoying it) and opened up a whole lot of ideas for followups. But the biggest takeaway from them has to be something I've been struggling with for a long time now: the paradox of Diablo-likes, as I like to call it. Just to put a huge disclaimer at the top here: all of this is my personal opinion and preference, obviously, and there are many people who prefer to play differently, be it use the same build over and over (WW Barb comes to mind) or just push to the maximum GR every single season no matter what. This article is for the rest of us who are at least somewhat conflicted.

      The what of Diablo-likes??
      Ok, so bear with me here. A Diablo game is composed of three basic parts: the combat, the skills and the loot. Everything else is set-dressing and enhances (or diminishes) those three parts. I've already gone over how Diablo 3's combat is almost pitch-perfect and hasn't been matched yet in the genre (sorry Lost Ark), the skill system is problematic in most games in the genre so we'll skip that, which leaves us to focus on the real problem of (current) Diablo 3 instead - the itemization.
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      The Loop
      In Diablo 3, it goes a little something like this: you get the set that buffs you with infinity-gillion% damage and it's really fun to play, whether it's from the seasonal journey or from farming it the regular way. Then you play it some more and more and it gets less fun, as every repetitive activity does. Now if the set you have isn't the MOST optimal one you get to farm for the next one and when you get it, the loop repeats. But it only repeats once. Now you're stuck with this optimal set, and, ok, you can now search for the ancillary pieces of the build, the few legendaries and cube items that complement the set. Usually though, these don't add much to the build in terms of gameplay, they just make that way of playing more powerful. This is the end of the loop in terms of gameplay gains, unfortunately, as you're now farming for small percentage upgrades, that perfect roll with the maxed affixes that give you that +137 Strength or 1.5% crit chance that will push you to that next GR level (don't even get me started on Greater Rifts and their litany of issues). Now, don't get me wrong, this issue isn't related to just Diablo 3, it's a problem in all loot-based games. The better ones manage to distract you from the issue and possibly downplay the need for being optimal.

      For Diablo 3 specifically, the issue really only appeared after Reaper of Souls, because that's when the excellent new legendary system was introduced. This is one of the best additions in an expansion I've seen to any game I've ever played, as it took the potential of ARPGs and put it into overdrive. Until then we had stat sticks for items and that was fine, that was the way it's always been, with the very occasional legendary that actually had an ability (ah, Maximus, you were ahead of your time), or sets that gave you just more of the same stats. But with RoS, every single slot you had was now an option for deep customization of your gameplay style. Sure, not all legendaries had gameplay changing abilities, but they all added something to your build, at the very least visually. I'd say that initial Reaper of Souls period was the absolute best in terms of itemization and build diversity (although I'm sure there were plenty of optimal and "must-have" builds even then), because legendaries were pretty scarce so you had to make do with what you had and create builds based on that.
      Then came the enemy. The sets system in Diablo 3 is just bad, there's no way around that. It takes the loop and just speeds it up infinitely. When the change to sets to make them actually viable was first announced, I was thrilled. Permanent Call of the Ancients with a 6 set for Barb? Sign me up! I didn't even think of the fact that that was 6 slots immediately gone, with additional ones having to bend to the now Ancients focused build. The deathblow came when sets became infinitely powerful with the various nonsensical +28193463184327423% buffs and legendaries weren't buffed alongside them.

      The bonus is now 75,000%.
      Now look, obviously a lot of this isn't the developer's fault. The team is ridiculously small and was getting smaller ever since RoS, so tweaking % numbers is an easy way to make it seem as if something is being added. I get that, that's fine, you do what you can with what you have. But it's not just Diablo 3 that has this issue. The more power vs. more fun is an eternal struggle in the whole genre. The glaring thing with D3 isn't that its itemization is bad, it's that it has SO much potential with all of these legendary powers that's being squandered.
       
      Unsolvable?
      Is this even a solvable issue though? Yes and no, unfortunately. The basic loop I mention above will always be there, there will always be an optimal build, no matter how hard developers try to avoid it. However, there are things that make it either last longer, make it a more smooth loop or make it less noticeable. There are plenty of potential solutions, too many to write up here, but the below are the ones I feel are most relevant (and easy to explain).
      The easiest way to resolve the issue is to simply not care. Take whichever combination of items you enjoy playing, head to the difficulty those items allow you to play and have fun! I'm sure plenty of people do this already, but I've tried many times and everyone I know has as well - we never keep at it. We always end up defaulting back to the "good" builds.
        Items HAVE TO be hard to get. Of course everyone wants to get to play with the big toys and it's not actually fair that only people that spend insane amounts of hours in a game get to use the most powerful items. But, once you remove rarity as an issue, other than small % upgrades, the system collapses in on itself. Once the powerful builds become easily available to all, those are the ones that will be used. By all. They are supposed to be the goal, the carrot that keeps you playing and farming and enjoying the gameplay.

      Now of course the reason things are as they are in D3 at the moment is because it's a 7 year old game and the hardcore players (again, not the game mode) have already had all the powerful items, so it's completely ok for more casual players to get them too, but I'm talking in general here. Making tiers of power (not tier sets, mind you) as incremental goals is the way to go. So casual players get to play with powerful things, but they know there's more out there. Getting one full complement of gear from a single tier allows you to start going for the next one and so on. Just to clarify, by tier I don't mean the same items with bigger stats, but you take your legendary pool and see which are more or less powerful and sort them that way. This is already a thing, as you can always find tier lists for items in any game, ranking them by their power. The problem there is that you can skip huge parts of that if you get lucky with a drop. So, if you get a really good top tier item, that's it for that slot, you just completely ignored the other options available there. There are so many fun and interesting legendary combinations in D3 that are simply ignored because they aren't powerful enough.   
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      Why optimal builds hurt the game (for me) and how we can move away from them.
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      Introduction
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      sVr:
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      Deadset:
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      sVr:
      To elaborate on my comment about ‘bricking the core game concepts’, this is how I see it: the power of one’s character in Diablo 3 comes from three different sources.
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      For the first pillar (Paragon) people would choose to run XP meta runs, such as Rats runs (or historically Vyr Wizard XP groups, Charge Barbarian XP groups, Rend Barbarian XP groups, etc.). For the second pillar (Gear/Items) people would choose to run Bounties in "teched out 4 Man groups" (quad-Unhallowed Essence Multishot Demon Hunters) to ultimately reforge their gear into the desired rolls. For the third pillar (Main Gems) people would choose to run 1%ers (mostly solo) or group meta (GR150) to level their Main Gems to max cap. While 1%er runs are, quite frankly, a “thing of the past” nowadays, back in the days these runs constituted another end-game activity with a different group setup. Technically speaking, only solo self found players regularly play 1% runs to increase their gem levels.

        How the Theme Circumvents Progression
      Deadset:
      Over the course of the Season, experienced players have learned a great deal about the inner workings of the Season 21 theme, and using them to their Greater Rift pushing advantage. The theme even enables the tantalizing proposition of dropping Bane of the Stricken — one of the game’s staple pushing Legendary Gems, which is often single-handedly responsible for taking down Rift Guardians with its damage stacking mechanic — and going all in with the proc RNG, hoping circumstances and its damage would be enough to obliterate the biggest HP obstacle in the Rift.
      The general strategy for S21 Rift progression got distilled to the maximization of trash pulls, with heavy emphasis on getting the most out of the initial proc in terms of stacks, and snowballing that effect into future trash pulls — with the added factor of their even spacing and preparation for the 90-second interval of the theme effect. The timing aspect attains some additional complexity in groups, where synchronization of the procs between party members comes into play. Killing elites got relegated to (mostly) collateral damage in favor of building momentum via trash throughout the clear, although exceptions could be made when stacks were deemed high enough, elite health got low enough from circumstances, or a combination of both. The overall principle for elites, especially in a Stricken-deprived build, was to simply skip them.
      If we were to summarize the optimization of the Seasonal theme’s effects, it would be to:
      Amass a huge monster pull to kickstart your stacks as soon as the first proc comes into effect. Chain trash pulls for every subsequent theme proc, trying to keep your stacks well above a 50 stack minimum — although ideally, much higher. Chain trash pulls with careful positioning and judgment of your surroundings to squeeze the most of the upcoming effect. With some practice, rinsing and repeating steps 2 and 3 will take you much higher into Greater Rift progression, but also translates into half of the time spent in a GR push attempt or more being spent on proc setup and positioning, instead of using the capabilities of your own character. This is very reminiscent of the gameplay loop forced by exploitative mechanics, and I’ll once again leave it to the capable hands of SVR to walk you through his definition of the term (that I also share), as well as some of its history in Diablo 3.
      sVr:
      Each of the gameplay pillars I described before aren't entirely perpendicular to one another, but they all serve to increase one's power — allowing for higher GRs to be DPS-ed. Once a mechanic short-circuits all those three pillars (you don't need to scale the pillars anymore to go "higher in GRs"), it fundamentally breaks the feedback loop and core concept of the game. One technically doesn't need to "scale one's character" (or in other words, play the game as intended) to increase one's power.
      Historically, this was always my train of thought on how to "identify an exploit" that is clearly not just “a clever use of game mechanics” (as often postulated by 'exploit'-defenders). An example would be the “Necromancer’s Frailty curse plus Demon Hunter’s Marked for DeathGrim Reaper debuff” exploit after the Necromancer's release, where an entire screen would get one-shot by the interaction of both skills, regardless of what gear, paragon and main gems the Necromancer and Demon Hunter players had equipped. The Necro and DH were the damage dealers in that scenario - yet, their damage was "un-scalable" by any ingame playtime investment: regardless of how much time those players would've put in the game, they would've always executed the entire screen by the maximum damage value the game could apply. This mechanic short-circuited the entire concept of "power", hence, an exploit in my books.
       

      Conclusion
      Deadset:
      There is depth to be found in Season 21’s mechanics and what they bring to the game; certainly, an argument can be made that it forces you to play differently, to think differently of the things you do during the Greater Rift pushing attempts, which has always been the highlight of ‘hard’ content in Diablo 3, the proving ground of your heroes. In my book however, the shift from the intrinsic qualities of the aRPG genre — gradual character development, set and legendary item interactions, proactive use of abilities and their synergy — into a thinly veiled management of timers, is the wrong one to make. I greatly appreciate the practice of “themed Seasons” and the additional developer thought and effort spent, but in the future I’d be happy to see more player control and agency over the things happening on screen.
      sVr:
      Unfortunately, the S21 Theme, while not technically an exploit, nominally behaves the same way as an exploit in its current iteration. No amount of time investment scales your character's capability in GRs. While this is not entirely true and definitely and over-exaggerated statement, since you still get tankier and can increase your non-theme damage output, the core of the issue remains the same: there is no reason to play, besides playing the S21 Theme itself until you clear GR150 with it. To me this fundamentally breaks what Diablo 3 and GR progression is about; a journey of your character’s progression.
    • By Starym
      Season 21 starts today!  It's going to be quite a season, especially for Demon Hunters. We've already taken a look at the top builds for solo pushing, speedfarming and group compositions, as well as the meta-breaking new 3x DH-based XP farm setup which dethroned Rat runs, so now its time to head for the full guides themselves, and we have them ready for all classes!
      Barbarian
      The Support build still reigns supreme, as it retains it's place in the new XP farm meta, and the rest of the rankings haven't changed since the last season, as Barbarians didn't get many changes.
      Support Barbarian (Raekor + HotNS + Istvan) (Top Tier) Speed Farming Variant Rend Barbarian (WotW + Istvan) (Top Tier) Speed Farming Variation Seismic Slam Barbarian (MotE + Endless Walk) (Top Tier) Speed Farming Variation Frenzy Barbarian (HotNS + Endless Walk) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Hammer of the Ancients Raekor Barbarian (Raekor + Endless Walk + Istvan) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Hammer of the Ancients IK Barbarian (IK + Endless Walk) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Furious Charge Barbarian (IK + Raekor) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Leap/Earthquake Barbarian (MotE + Bastions) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Hammer of the Ancients GR Barbarian (Legacy of Dreams Gem) (Mid Tier) Whirlwind Wastes Barbarian (WotW + Bul-kathos) (Mid Tier) Speed Farming Variation Frenzy Thorns Barbarian (LoN) Speed Farming Variation
        Crusader
      Crusaders also didn't get a big shift in rankings, as the seasonal power doesn't really affect the individual builds.
      Heaven's Fury Crusader (Aegis of Valor) (Top Tier) Speed Farming Variation Blessed Shield Crusader (Legacy of Dreams Gem) (Top Tier) Thorns Crusader (Invoker + Endless Walk) (Top Tier) Speed Farming Variation Condemn LoD Crusader (Legacy of Dreams Gem) (High Tier) Condemn Akkhan Crusader (Akkhan + Bastions) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Hammerdin Crusader (SoL + Endless Walk) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Sweep Attack Crusader (Roland + Endless Walk) (Mid Tier) Speed Farming Variation Fist of the Heavens Crusader (Aegis of Valor) (Mid Tier) Speed Farming Variation Bombardment Crusader (LoN) (Mid Tier) Speed Farming Variation Shield Bash Crusader (Roland + Bastions) Speed Farming Variation
        Demon Hunter
      Season 21 is very much the season of the Demon Hunter, as their new Gears of Dreadlands set brought them 2 top tier builds, both for solo pushing and XP farming.
      Support Demon Hunter (GoD + Marauder) (Top Tier) (New) Hungering Arrow Demon Hunter (GoD + Bastions) (Top Tier) (New) Bolas Variation Rapid Fire Demon Hunter (Legacy of Dreams Gem) (Top Tier) Rapid Fire Natalya Demon Hunter (Natalya + Endless Walk) (Top Tier) Impale Demon Hunter (Shadow + Endless Walk) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Group Progression Variation Sentry Demon Hunter (Marauder + Natalya + Endless Walk) (High Tier) Multishot Demon Hunter (Unhallowed + Bastions) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Cluster Arrow Demon Hunter  (Marauder + Bastions) (Mid Tier) Speed Farming Variation Rockets-based Progression Variation Grenades Demon Hunter (Unhallowed + Endless Walk) (Mid Tier) Speed Farming Variation Rain of Vengeance Demon Hunter (Natalya + Bastions) (Mid Tier) Speed Farming Variation Fan of Knives LoD Demon Hunter (Legacy of Dreams Gem) Chakram Demon Hunter (Unhallowed + Bastions) Speed Farming Variation
        Monk
      Monk support is still on top as the class build rankings stay the same as last season.
      Support Monk (Inna + Born's Command + Captain Crimson) (Top Tier) Tempest Rush Sunwuko Monk (Monkey King + Captain Crimson) (Top Tier) Speed Farming Variation Tempest Rush Patterns Monk (Patterns of Justice + Captain Crimson) (Top Tier) Speed Farming Variation Wave of Light LoD Monk (Legacy of Dreams Gem) (Top Tier) Wave of Light Monk (Monkey King + Captain Crimson) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Inna Variation Generator Monk (Rainment + Endless Walk + Captain Crimson + Shenlong) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Inna Variation Seven-Sided Strike Monk (Uliana + Captain Crimson + Endless Walk) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Lashing Tail Kick LoD Monk (Legacy of Dreams Gem) (Mid Tier) Lashing Tail Kick Monk (Monkey King) (Mid Tier) Speed Farming Variation Exploding Palm Monk (Inna + Endless Walk) Speed Farming Variation Mystic Ally Pets Variation
        Necromancer
      The Necromancer may have gotten the shorter end of the new set stick, but they did get plenty of new toys to play with, resulting in a new build at the top of the list and two more top tier ones, with a whole lot of LoD!
      Corpse Explosion LoD Necromancer  (LoD) (Top Tier) (New) Key Farming Variation Support Necromancer (Pestilence + Captain Crimson) (Top Tier) Poison Scythe LoD Necromancer (LoD) (Top Tier) (New) Trash Killer Variation Corpse Lance LoD Necromancer (LoD) (Top Tier) Skeletal Mage Singularity/Archers LoD Necromancer (LoD) (Top Tier) (New) Speed Farming Variation Key Farming Variation Corpse Lance Necromancer (Pestilence + Endless Walk) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Trag'Oul Variation Group Progression Variation Skeletons Thorns Solo LoD Necromancer (LoD) (High Tier) Generator Necromancer (Inarius) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Skeletal Mages Rathma Necromancer (Rathma + Jesseth) (Mid Tier) Speed Farming Variation Group Speed GR Variation Skeletal Mages Trag'Oul Necromancer (Trag'Oul + Jesseth) (Mid Tier) Solo Progression Variation Blood Nova LoD Necromancer (LoD) (Mid Tier)
        Witch Doctor
      The WD's new set from a while ago has crept up the rankings and landed on top, edging out the ever popular Poison Dart build.
      Spirit Barrage Witch Doctor (Mundunugu + Endless Walk) (Top Tier) Speed Farming Variation Carnevil Poison Dart Witch Doctor (Zunimasa + Aughild's Authority + Endless Walk) (Top Tier) Speed Farming Variation Carnevil Poison Dart Dagger of Darts Witch Doctor (LoD) (Top Tier) Soul Harvest Witch Doctor (Jade Harvester) (Top Tier) Speed Farming Variation Spirit Barrage Witch Doctor (Legacy of Dreams Gem) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Group Progression Variation Firebats Witch Doctor (Arachyr + Endless Walk) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Group Progression Variation Gargantuan Zunimasa Witch Doctor (Zunimasa + Endless Walk) (Mid Tier) Speed Farming Variation Gargantuan Helltooth Witch Doctor (Helltooth + Endless Walk) (Mid Tier) Speed Farming Variation Zombie Bears Witch Doctor (Helltooth + Endless Walk) Speed Farming Variation Acid Cloud Witch Doctor (Helltooth + Bastions) Speed Farming Variation Grasp of the Dead Witch Doctor (Helltooth + Endless Walk)
        Wizard
      Wizards retain their rankings from last season, with the ubiquitous Archon remaining on top.
      Archon Wizard (Vyr + Chantodo) (Top Tier) Speed Farming Variation Mammoth Hydra Wizard (Legacy of Dreams Gem) (Top Tier) Frost Hydra Wizard (Typhon's Veil) (High Tier) Meteor Wizard (Firebird + Endless Walk) (High Tier) Speed Farming Variation Tal Rasha Variation Star Pact Variation Frozen Orb Wizard (Delsere + Endless Walk) (High Tier) Energy Twister Wizard (Delsere + Endless Walk) (High Tier) Manald Lightning Archon Wizard (Tal Rasha + Vyr) (Mid Tier) Group Progression Variation Solo Progression Variation Archon Wizard (Firebird + Chantodo + Endless Walk) (Mid Tier) Speed Farming Variation Arcane Torrent Manald Wizard (Tal Rasha + Endless Walk) (Mid Tier) Electrocute Variation Spectral Blade Variation Arcane Orbit Wizard (Delsere + Endless Walk) Speed Farming Variation Explosive Blast Farming Wizard (Tal Rasha + Sage) Greater Rifting Variation
        Those are all the class guides we have, the season start in a matter of hours and we hope you have a great time!
       

      Related articles:
      The Rat Is Dead: Long Live the Demon Hunter Speed Meta
      Which Class to Play in Diablo 3 Season 21? Solo, Group and Speedfarm Rankings
      Diablo 3 Season 21 Start Times
      Demon Hunter Set Guides Spotlight for Season 21: Gears of Dreadlands
      Diablo 3 Patch 2.6.9 (Season 21 Precursor) Is Now Live + Patch Notes
      Diablo 3 Ban Wave: June 19th
      Is the Season 21 Power Too Good? ZDPS Barb Can Solo GR 150 Without Area Damage
    • By Stan
      Wudijo scored the world's fastest Solo Greater Rift 150 in time in Season 21 with his Demon Hunter after 5,500 used keys and weeks of attempts. Congrats!
      UPDATE: This is currently the world's second clear of Solo GR150, not world first as we thought, we apologize for the confusion!
      Placeholder for tweet 1289929742800449540   The player completed the rift and killed the Infernal Maiden with 1 minute and 4 seconds remaining on the timer.

      Here are the final moments of the run!
      (Source)
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