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Starym

Blues on Addons and Bots, 10,000+ Paragon, Brawl Leveling and Angel Squishiness

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It seems there's been a major shift in community management for Diablo 3 as we've noticed over the last couple of weeks, as Associate producer Matthew Cederquist is replying to basically every relevant active thread on the official forums. After a long time of very few responses and poor communication with the community, it seems the Diablo 4 reveal re-prioritized things and we now have some proper blue representation for D3. While a lot of these replies are just "we are aware and working on it", we can't really expect a lot more from the very small dev team still working on D3 so this shift is pretty significant if you take that into consideration. Today we have a look at the topics we've gotten a reply on over the holiday weekend - an upcoming brawl leveling trick, the party XP bug, 10,000+ paragon level Barbarians and Crusaders, addons and bots and, of course, Angel squishiness.

Matthew has been very active over the holiday break and responded to a whole host of popular topics, starting with an interesting one - it seems there's a way to get to 70 in around an hour through brawling! You just set the difficulty to T6 in a 4 player party and brawl away until you ding max level pretty fast. Obviously speed leveling isn't anything new as players can be power leveled by others very quickly anyway, but apparently this method wasn't intended and will be fixed, as you don't need a higher level player to boost you for it to work.

Blizzard LogoBrawling XP Fix (source)

Hey all,

This definitely isn’t the way we want players to level in the game and will most likely be fixed for the next patch.

Then there's the party joining bug that was supposed to be fixed a few days ago but apparently wasn't:

Blizzard LogoParty Joining Bug (source)

Thanks everyone for the responses. We’ll continue to look at it and get more things into testing so we can squash this bug.

Sorry for it taking so long with the holiday weekend and all.

There's also been a lot of discussion about balance and Barbarians and Crusaders in particular, with two specific examples being used as a debate/whine point on the forums, as one Barb managed a 142 GR within 12 minutes (and of course was used as proof that Barbs are fine) and one Crusader at 146 GR was pointed out as OP. It turns out both of these are non-seasonal and have over 10,000 paragon levels, but Matthew had two very differing comments for them starting with the Barbarian:

Blizzard Logo10,000+ Paragon Level Clears (source)

Hey folks,

Just to chime in here. At 10,288 Paragon, this specific Barbarian is +1 GR over the proposed balance of the game. Looks like absolute fantastic design and balance to us.

Thanks for pointing out someone who has immense dedication and awesome gear!

...

Definitely not fantastic design and balance. This one particular Crusader at 10,176 Paragon is about +5 GRs above our expected.

Something to look into for next patch!

Not to put too fine a point on it, but at those paragon levels and THAT high a GR clear, with the amount of factors going into builds etc, classes are never EVER going to be that balanced. Not in D3, not in D4 or any other game ever made by anyone. Seriously. People asking for that level of balance in an ARPG are just begging for a watered-down, +0.3% to damage affixes and talents systems, because those are the only ones that can ever be balanced to such a degree. Just accept the fact some classes will be more powerful than others and let there be actual builds and creative uses of them in the damn game and shut the hell up on this eternal balance quest that's basically ruining RPGs.

Ok, not sure sure where that rant came from but I stand by it!

Then it's on to a discussion on addons/mods, with TurboHud being the focus of discussion, and it seems we'll be getting a larger post on the topic of mods soon as well, with bots being in the cross hairs as well:

Blizzard LogoTurboHud Addon (source)

Hey Dtune -

TurboHud has some cool features, but on the other hand, has some features that give players more of an advantage. In the past, TurboHud fell by the wayside and didn’t catch the attention of anti-cheat programs.

We’ll have more to say on this in the very near future, but to answer your question, TurboHud is seen as a program that should not be used in the game in its current state.

As for bots, their time is coming.

And finally we have an answer to the age old question: Just how squishy are Angels? It seems some players aren't happy with the 500 killstreak ability proc as their feathered friends die too quickly to the Rift Guardian:

Blizzard LogoAngel Squishiness (source)

Yes. Angels should die to the RG. If untouched, they can also produce massive damage.

 

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Related Diablo 3 articles:

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So just because he’s a lower paragon but got to push 5 levels higher it’s OP there is a lot of variables in this , like what’s the gear ? You already stated 

how many times did these players die

what and how many shrines were grabbed during these runs 

I’m 700 paragon on seasonal and pushed 103 and wouldn’t have been able to if I didn’t grab 1) power pylon and 2) conduit , the conduit by its self does a lot more damage at higher paragons my whirlwind might do .9% of a elites health off first hit but the conduit does 5% just an example .

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1 hour ago, Cntrl said:

So just because he’s a lower paragon but got to push 5 levels higher it’s OP there is a lot of variables in this , like what’s the gear ? You already stated 

how many times did these players die

what and how many shrines were grabbed during these runs 

I’m 700 paragon on seasonal and pushed 103 and wouldn’t have been able to if I didn’t grab 1) power pylon and 2) conduit , the conduit by its self does a lot more damage at higher paragons my whirlwind might do .9% of a elites health off first hit but the conduit does 5% just an example .

Exactly. Gear, map (the usefulness of class mobility abilities vary by map), pylon/shrine placement, paragon allocation of prime stat vs hp soak (a lot of people favor a 10:1 ratio), mob types and elite/champion affixes, all make it extremely difficult to have consistency of runs at max rift.

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Blizzard really needs to get rid of leaderboards in D4. It just fuels the toxicity of the community towards primarly PvE-oriented game. "Boo hoo this class is too OP, nerf plis".

Edited by Valhalen

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On 12/1/2019 at 7:27 PM, Starym said:

Ok, not sure sure where that rant came from but I stand by it!

 

The thing is, There's a difference between "This build deals 30% more damage than any other build" and "This build deals 80x the damage of the best build of another class". There's a difference between whining about balance and mathematically flawed.

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6 hours ago, Yridaa said:

The thing is, There's a difference between "This build deals 30% more damage than any other build" and "This build deals 80x the damage of the best build of another class". There's a difference between whining about balance and mathematically flawed.

But people here are whining about a 4 GR difference at the 140 level. Soooo....

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8 hours ago, Starym said:

But people here are whining about a 4 GR difference at the 140 level. Soooo....

isn't 4 GR difference a huge difference at that level? 😄

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6 hours ago, Koxsos said:

isn't 4 GR difference a huge difference at that level? 😄

I mean I guess it depends on how you look at it. It's certainly not the 8x more powerful thing Yridaa was talking about. My point was that that's some extreme late-game stuff that the vast majority of players won't ever get to notice, but all these amazingly pro people that do the max paragon 10,000 clears get the community riled up. Or wait, not, it's not actually the 10k paragon guys, they're just playing the game, it's the random theorycrafters that probably didn't even clear GR 120 that point to these crazy high clears and start whining about balance.  It's just sad, really, because these people form the communities opinion on what is and isn't "OP" and then everyone thinks that, despite never having experienced it themselves.

There's no way you can get that level of balance with this many factors, and whining about stuff like this is begging to have a dumbed down game (which is exactly what's happening in gaming overall, with a few exceptions).

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It does make me wonder, how much time would it take to get to max paragon nowadays?
I mean if people saw 5k paragon a year ago, it was automatically with high probability a botter.

Are we making design choices based off botter (or botter-level dedicated) player with a pylon chain rift?

From my perspective, as someone who does not even have 1k paragon off season in spite of getting to 900ish paragon in seasonals I still find it daunting and near impossible to achieve through average player means.

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      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.   
      Content helps out a lot, as doing various different things to obtain gear keeps it feeling fun. Specific game modes or dungeons can completely revitalize a game. For example, if you came across a dungeon with really good rewards, but weren't allowed to use any of your top items, that would make you instantly have to change your build and playstyle, play with what you have available and adapt. Balancing said dungeon would be a nightmare, but it would be doable. Even separating the loot pool into different game modes is an option, so certain content is only accessible with the "worse" loot. It still rewards you with desirable items, but in order to get a chance at it you have to make sub-optimal builds with items that are weak. There are many different ways to do this and use content to liven up the itemization game, force players out of their comfort zone and get them thinking.
        My solution
      While most of the above is only applicable to a new game I've found a solution that works for me in Diablo 3 specifically. It's still a tough sell to some of my more hardcore-minded friends who physically can't have fun unless they're pushing the absolute highest GR possible, but I'll force/threaten convince them of this new way eventually. So what is it? Well it includes a bit of patience, unfortunately, but basically you make your own tiers and see how far you can get with them. If I stumble upon Ancients for my old reliable Cyclone + every single passive legendary possible that deals damage to everything around you Monk build I'm going to play it until it's no longer fun and try to see what GR level is the maximum I can get with it. Basically that Cyclone set is my own endgame. But here's the thing - I can have MANY endgames this way. Whenever I stumble upon an interesting combination of legendaries that might work well together, I'm going to try them out (or keep them in the stash because I need one or more additional legendaries to make it work) and if it's a fun build, then bam, I have another endgame goal for myself - take THAT build to it's maximum potential and gather items for it.
      I'm actually going to make a spreadsheet for this purpose (yes, it's a bit much, but I have to keep myself away from those damned optimal builds somehow), charting what builds make it how far and how I can improve them.
      All of this might seem like a lot of work and mental discipline for just one game when there's so much else to play, but it's worth it for me. Diablo 3 has many flaws and issues, but at its core, it's still the best in the genre and if I have to put in a little effort on my end to get it fresh again I'm absolutely willing to do that. Having tried literally every alternative out there in the genre for significant amounts of time, I keep coming back to D3 and there has to be a reason for it. That's not to say the other games are bad, but they're just not what I'm looking for - perhaps I truly am a gameplay snob.
       
      The real name of the game
      Creativity. Creativity and build diversity are the one and only solution in the end. Everything else I wrote about is just trying to emphasize that one aspect. If a game's items spark your imagination, make you think "OMG, if I just combine these 2 legendaries, and add this third one in, and then another and another, it'll be amazing. I can't wait to get them and try it out!", that's it, the game has you. Discovering new ways to play and creating them by yourself is what makes these games fun in the long term. As good as the gameplay can be and as good as the individual items are, they all have a pretty short expiration date. Finding new builds that change the way you play extends that to the extremes. There's nothing better to me than finding an item or items for a different class that immediately has me thinking I HAVE to try this class out now, look at how great this item is! Then, every once in a while, hop on to your optimally built destruction monster and stomp some crazy high GRs and Torments for some catharsis, just for good measure.


      Conclusion
      In closing, obviously you should play EXACTLY the way that you want to, and if pushing the high GRs and using the absolutely best gear that is available in a season is what's fun for you, then that's great, I'm actually envious of you! If using the same build all the time is what makes the game fun for you who am I to tell you different! This was just about my personal issues with the game and genre, and potential solutions to it. If you found any of this useful (or at all comprehensible), great! Let me know what you think of the whole thing above, from the paradox to the potential solutions and if I missed something in my reasoning. A big part of why I wrote this article (and hope to write more) is to see what other current Diablo 3 players think after 7 years, and to potentially be able to tell Blizzard what we want from Diablo 4, as they seem to not really have a firm idea themselves.
      Why optimal builds hurt the game (for me) and how we can move away from them.
    • By Starym
      The XP/paragon farming meta is changing this season, as the extremely popular Rat runs are no longer the top dog and Demon Hunters are taking on Necromancers for the throne. We have our own guide writer Impact taking us through all the details, from the start, through the Haedrig's set and on to the actual group compositions and builds for the optimal group XP runs in the endgame!
       
      The Rat Run
      For many seasons now the “Rat Run” has held the top spot of being the most efficient and best group composition for farming XP in d3. “Rat Runs” refer to the 3x Necromancer and 1x Barbarian group composition that focuses on the two supports spawning as many health globes as possible so that the two DPS Necromancers, using Reaper's Wraps, can pick them up for quick essence gain. This enables them to continuously summon full essence Skeletal MageSingularity for insane damage potential early on. They  get their name from the Rathma set that Necromancers have, which boosts their Skeletal Mage damage. Over time the build has evolved into using the Legacy of Dreams gem instead for even higher damage potential, but the name stuck. These runs were so off the charts efficient that no other group composition could ever come close to touching them, until now. With the nerfs to Reapers’ Wraps in Season 21 through a 2 second cooldown, the Necromancer has been dethroned. In its place, the Demon Hunter rises.
      Demon Hunters Arrive
      Season 21 is the season of the Demon Hunter.After many long seasons of the Necromancer and “Rat Runs” reigning supreme in the XP grinding meta, the DH is here to take the throne. For those of you planning out your season start, if you are looking to be the most optimal that you can be, then you should be looking to maximize efficiency in whatever you will spend the most time. During a season start, your time playing can generally be broken down into three stages.
      Leveling 1-70 Starter build at 70 with Haedrig’s Gift End-game build While Necromancer is still far and away the best class in the game for a swift 1-70 leveling process, level 70 is where the Demon Hunter will truly take over. Demon Hunters get access to the Shadow’s Mantle set this season, allowing them to access the Impale build as a starter build. The Impale build has a huge multiplier baked into the 2-set for the build, allowing you to start dishing out huge number straight out of the gate. You also can upgrade level 70 rare daggers in your Kanai’s Cube which has a 50% chance to get a Karlei's Point, providing yet another easily accessible multiplier to the build and the best weapon that you will want to use. Finally, if you save your challenge rift bloodshards until level 34, you can try to roll quivers which gives you a 25% chance to get a Holy Point Shot when you roll a legendary quiver. If you do get lucky, you can easily jump straight into t8 or higher once you get your 2pc bonus, giving you a huge start at 70.
       
      The Endgame Build
      Demon Hunters up to this point are arguably the best class, but now we get to where you will spend most of your time in Diablo: your end-game build. It is fun to optimize your season start and getting good builds early is great, but regardless of how you start you can always get to an end-game build within a couple of days, or even within the first day if you are lucky enough. For Demon Hunters, that means playing the GoD Hungering Arrow build.
      Once you have your end-game build, you should be able to clear t16 Nephalem Rifts without much trouble. This means your main source of progression will be in greater rifts. Once you have your full set of correct pieces in your end-game build, your main source of power progression is going to come from farming ancient pieces, getting gem upgrades, and farming XP for paragon levels. The last two specifically are done primarily in greater rifts. With an optimized 4-man group, you can clear higher greater rift levels, much higher than you would be able to achieve solo early on in a season. This enables you to rack up the paragon levels, with some of the more optimized groups even reaching 1000 paragon within the first 24 hours of a season launch. This XP farming meta is where Demon Hunter really shines this season. The optimized 4-man group for farming XP consists of the following:
      1x Support Barbarian 1x Support Demon Hunter 2x GoD Hungering Arrow Demon Hunters The true power of this group lies within the Support Demon Hunter. Thanks to the update to Leonine Bow of Hashir, your Bolas will not instantly explode, pulling in enemies within 24 yards into one spot. The DH can speed through the rift due to the movement speed that the GoD 4 piece bonus brings along with Smoke Screen, creating large, dense groupings of enemies ahead of the support Barbarian and Hungering Arrow DHs. You map out the rift for your team, create nice density of enemies through your Bolas, and then spin on top of the groups using Entangling Shot and Odyssey's End to put a 150% damage amplification on every enemy you hit. This is the single largest support buff that any class in the game can give, making DH an incredibly strong support early on when you need the extra damage.
      The support Barbarian is there to do their normal job helping to toss elites onto the packs for better positioning for Area Damage, while also using all of theirs shouts and the 2 pc HotNS for double effectiveness. Finally, your two GoD DH’s can spin around without stopping, utilizing Blood Vengeance for all their hatred generation so they do not have to stop channeling Strafe.
       
      The true devastating damage potential of this group comp lies within the innate damage that the GoD Hungering Arrow set provides. Thanks to your Devouring Arrow rune, your arrows will gain exponential damage each time they pierce enemies, but can pierce infinitely, only limited by the number of targets you have grouped. The crazy grouping potential that your two supports bring allows your arrows to pierce huge numbers of targets, which means your damage scales more than most classes would even without accounting for Area Damage.
      The GoD Hungering Arrow Demon Hunter build is the best solo-pushing build this season, and the insanely high base movement speed that the build offers without any support items allows you to build for full damage while still moving fast enough to do speed clears without missing a beat. While other speed compositions often must sacrifice damage for better mobility and speed, the Demon Hunters will never need to make that trade. You can abuse the base mobility that the build offers, building full damage, and push higher greater rift levels than any other group composition would ever allow for speed clears.
      If your goal is to be as optimal as possible in Season 21 with a group, you need to be playing the Demon Hunter meta to abuse it for all it is worth.
       

      Related articles:
      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 Starym
      Season 21 is almost done (although we might be seeing some delays/extensions) and it hasn't been the most popular of seasons, but it did have many unique aspects to it, from the almost-kinda-exploits to the crazy 10K+ gathering of the seasonal stacks outside Greater Rifts, and much more. Today we'll be taking a look back and discussing what the issues with this and similar themes, how they potentially ruin the core concept of the game, how this type of seasonal power should be done in the future and much more.
      To do this we have our own guide writer Deadset and special guest sVr, an EU player and top theorycrafter who has been concocting guides and mechanical analysis to the benefit of the whole Diablo community since the dawn of seasonal play. You might remember him for unleashing the Bazooka Wizard onto Sanctuary, breaking down the veil of obscurity on Spirit Barrage, and many other math-heavy feats and word-laden reddit posts. You've certainly seen him on Twitch, both as a regular caster and a Blizz-sanctioned invitee to Gamescom and BlizzCon broadcasts. He likes crunching numbers, crunching hugs and horrible Californian iced tea. So let's get to it as the two take on the Trials of Tempests.
       
       
      Introduction
      Deadset:
      Season 21 bears the name “Trial of Tempests” and uses a mechanic that is closely related to the one from Season 19, the “Season of Eternal Conflict” — it is once again based on abilities spawned by the game, but based on a timer rather than kill count. The goal was, once again, to make the effect Season-defining in terms of power, and the developers have matched — and even surpassed — the powers of the former mechanic. It has certainly led to a spike in build potential within the 10+ Greater Rift tiers range, with certain builds of course benefiting more from the theme than others.
      Whenever a proc-reliant, percentage damage-based power gets introduced to the game, it opens a window for ‘clever use of mechanics’, or outright exploitation, and it requires careful monitoring by the developers. And while I can certainly commend the teams for squashing out abusive strategies in a timely manner, I can safely say that with two proc-based Seasons behind us — the sheer potential for abuse and the diminished feel of player agency stemming from themes like these bring down the morale of casual and veteran players alike. The visual treat of these effects fades away in the early stretch of a Season, leaving players to a prolonged period of visual fatigue, lessened screen readability, and even technical issues in certain cases.
      sVr:
      The Trial of Tempests seasonal theme had a very similar feeling to S19, where generated (not-selfcast) abilities would spawn after a certain condition is met. A couple of severe issues were identified on the PTR and were fixed appropriately. As an example, the theme itself scaled with Area Damage equipped on one’s character, and a player was able to teleport out of the GR, safely wait in town for the countdown, re-enter the GR and “idle in the immunity phase of entering a rift” while the seasonal theme would proc and kill everything. These issues were fixed, but I feel that the general concept of auto-generator themes are flawed and they simply brick the core concept of Diablo 3 for me.
       
       
      Theme Behavior and Relation to Core Gameplay
      Deadset:
      All this, of course, is not to say the theme lacks strategizing potential; simply that it externalizes the potential from the capabilities of the character and the build choices you’ve made along the way, and shifts decision making all too much in the direction of effects that feel even more arbitrary and unpredictable than the “usual suspects” of rift layout, monster composition and elite affix RNG.
      To put this in perspective, a Greater Rift pushing attempt that falls into the “stars have aligned in your favor” category — one with desirable open spaces, monster density and decent Pylon spawns — can be completely ruined by a bad proc of the Seasonal theme. Some work mostly to your advantage, like the Beam proc and the decent amount of control you can apply to its effect. Some of the procs are reliant on the spaces you choose to fight in — the Twisters and Snowball, for example, benefit greatly from small, closed off spaces and tight corners. And others still require plain luck — maybe the Meteor strikes the cluster of monsters you prepared... or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the Fire Wave melts the Elite pack ahead of you, or maybe it bugs out and doesn’t spawn at all, and ends your push then and there. To make matters even worse, the harder you lean into the Seasonal theme to make the Rift clear — very understandable considering its ubiquitous power — the more you open yourself to bad RNG from the procs, inevitably leading to some very unsatisfying pushing sessions where you have played your build to the maximum of its potential, played around Rift RNG, and still fall prey to an additional layer of randomization.
      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.
      Paragon and Augments: Increasing one's damage via the (1 + mainstat/100) multiplier, as well as one's toughness via the respective defensive mainstat bonus (All Resistance via Intelligence, Armor via Strength/Dexterity).  Gear and Affix Quality: Increasing one's damage via appropriate primary affix rolls (e.g. quadfecta weapons or gloves, trifecta jewelry) and high legendary affix rolls. Increasing one's toughness with appropriate primary (All Resistance, Elite Damage Reduction %) and secondary (Reduction of damage from melee and ranged sources, Crowd Control Reduction %, single element Resistance) affixes. Main Gems: Increasing one's damage/toughness via high gem levels. There isn't any other “dimension” that gives power to the overall capability of one's character. Sure, there is the “capability” of a player on how well one can play his character, however, for the sake of this argument, assume that everyone has the same exact skill; everyone is a god tier gamer. In this scenario, each time a player logs in to play his goal is to progress his character making it stronger. One chooses to scale these three pillars over the span of a season progressively to reach higher and higher in GRs.
      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.
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