Starting from scratch can either be a pain or a lot of fun depending on what your goal is during a new season. I like the idea of a fresh start because you get to try a few new things here and there as well as see the progress of a character with little to no help at all. But for the solo player, what are some good methods for leveling? If you’re looking for a post on reaching 70 super fast, this probably isn’t the best spot for you. On the other hand, if you want some basic tips on getting to 70 and grabbing your Seasonal set in a timely manner, this blog is suited for you.
For myself, the most important thing in a new season is determining which class to start with. Generally, I’ll look at the seasonal sets for each class and pick someone whose class set does well at the 2 and 4 piece bonuses. At the same time, I’ve come to realize that not all classes are equal when it comes to leveling. Some classes can be very painful in starting from scratch because they either lack AoE or good speed modifiers, especially early on. Some also lack good resource regeneration for more powerful setups. I find these three elements to be important in choosing a good starting class.
On average, I’ve found that the Witch Doctor is probably one of the best leveling classes around especially solo. Their seasonal sets are pretty good since they usually combine a good offense mechanism at the 2 piece bonus with a decent 4 piece defense. Also, they get solid AoE and pets early on. What that means is that you can group up monsters and let the AI takeover. This really helps in adventure mode because you’ll be able to hit those Action RPG monster kill bonuses easier. Once you get a combination of zombie dogs, Acid Cloud and Gargantuan, you’ll have a pretty solid build that can take you all the way until 70 (even without legendaries).
My second favorite leveling class is the Demon Hunter. Though not as AoE heavy early on, what makes a Demon Hunter good around the middle is their Sentries. With Custom Engineering, you’ll get 3 Sentries that will help take down opponents quickly. Combine Polar Station and Cull the Weak, and you’ll have some decent mid game damaging capabilities that can last until 70. Most of the Demon Hunter sets are good to great. I’ve found in the past that Marauders and Shadow Mantle are two of the best seasonal sets early on before you go for Unhallowed Essence or (for godsake) LoN builds.
Now, the bottom of my barrel is basically Crusader and Barbarians. I’ve found Crusaders simply to be extremely slow and outside of their Thorns set, being pretty painful and weak with a lot of work that needs to be done. Certainly, no one will dispute the high end LoN set, but to get the full ancient gear to make that work really requires a great deal of effort.
Barbarians, like Crusaders, are very plodding. Although they get a few movement boost abilities like Leap, Furious Charge and Sprint, the long cooldown and various moments that you need to get out of harms way continue to present issues until you find yourself with a set that helps bring these cooldowns down farther. But the main problem I’ve had with Barbarians is just being able to output enough damage, especially as a melee class where things can easily flee.
Now, once you choose a class (regardless of my opinion here), the first thing you’ll want to do is switch to Adventure Mode. I would say go for normal for a while. If you were in a group, you could pump it up to Hard. Anything more than that, even with a group, means you’ll be struggling to do reasonable damage. In any case, never level in Campaign Mode for seasons. While the layout for Campaign Mode is reasonable for leveling, it’s very slow, too RP oriented and disallows a few early tricks. It’s only really there for you to do once to experience the story.
Once you start your game, go to your followers and grab one of their weapons. Yup, this is a little cheesy trick but the follower weapons are a slight upgrade from you own. You can even hire one straight away, which, of course, means more damage and defense early on.
Next go to the town waypoint and hit Act 1 and enter Halls of Agony level 3. Halls of Agony level 3 is a known seasonal leveling trick because the monsters are easy yet have good density for quick leveling. My rule of thumb is to hit level 10 in trying to clear as many groups as possible. You may have to restart your game a few times to reach that level.
Once you hit level 10, I suggest switching to Bounties for leveling for a while. I know some people prefer doing Rift grinding but Rift grinding, imo, is not as efficient as you might believe for leveling early on. First, you might encounter monsters far beyond your capability. For instance, let’s say you go with a slow Barbarian and hit a rift with bees. You won’t be able to catch them and they’ll just peck you off.
On the other hand, Adventure Mode doesn’t have that randomness of a rift so you can control where you’d want to level. If you’re lucky, you’ll start with Act 1 for your bonus bounties. If you see that, start off with some of the easier ones like killing uniques. Doing this will net you some decent XP, gold and even bonus monster kills in between (whereas Rifts will not provide this).
But the two main reasons to go bounties early are 1) you get crafting materials; 2) if you can clear all 5 acts, you’ll be ready to get your first Haedrig’s Gift once you finish Chapter 2 for the Seasonal Journey. Ever since they changed how you obtain your Haedrig’s Gift, you pretty much need to do one full round of bounties. So it’s quite obvious that at some point before you hit 70, you should do a full bounty run. Also, it’s just far easier to do bounties pre-70 if you’re lacking gear.
In my case, I’ll do maybe 3-4 full bounty runs while leveling. This generally nets me anywhere between 9-12 crafting materials per act with the occasional bounty legendary. If I get super lucky, I might even obtain a precious Ring of Royal Grandeur and will try cubing that early on.
Another reason why you’ll want to do Bounties early on is that they will drop crafting plans. The most important two to get right away are Born’s Defiance (usable at level 21) and Cain’s Fate (usable at level 23). Born’s Defiance at the 2 piece level provides a nice +20% XP boost until level 70 while Cain’s Fate gives +50% XP (along with +10% Magic Find) at the three piece bonus. Both are excellent early sets that are quite usable until around level 60. For the Born’s set, you will want to craft the Chest and Shoulder and for Cain’s Fate, you will want to craft boots, gloves and helmet (you can switch to legs later). The helmet from Cain’s Fate is excellent because there should be a socket available. If you grab a Ruby gem, you can get some additional XP bonus. This combination along with continual upgrading of your Ruby gem will net you from +80% XP boost and above. This is what will help you gain levels the fastest and won’t require you to struggle with trying to find decent gear.
Now, you will want to focus on keeping your Blacksmith upgraded whenever possible. You’ll need a few levels before you can craft Born and Cain’s sets. But salvage all useless gear and save the mats so you will have enough to craft those sets. Don’t worry about selling gear at this stage. Bounties will be providing a reasonable stream of gold that should allow you to craft and keep your Blacksmith upgraded.
Your jewelry crafter and enchantress are less important. But once you get enough gold, start upgrading those as well. Your JC is the second most important. Eventually, you’ll want to maximize all three because they are part of the Seasonal Journey en route to your critical first Haedrig Gift. That also implies that you’ll want to save a few Death Breaths for the last few levels of your crafting stations.
While in Act 3, should you get any bounties in the Ruins of Seschreon, you should also seek your Kanai’s Cube. In this manner, you’re still being efficient as you won’t have to go back. You can get a Kanai’s Cube at any level so if you just do this on normal mode, it’ll be quite easy and totally worth obtaining.
You should keep in mind the Season Journey requirements while leveling. As you near level 70 and completion of the Chapters 1 and 2, you will want to make sure that you have most of those requirements done. They aren’t difficult but it’s far better to check things off your list so that you’ll get your Haedrig’s Gift as soon as possible.
Now, going back a bit to the subject of your Born and Cain’s sets, the thing you should realize is that those items do not scale well. Once you hit level 61+, many monsters’ health and damage output will require you to start seeking out better gear. Your most important item should be a weapon no matter what. Now, if you have a fairly leveled up Blacksmith (or even maxed out one), you could try to craft a level 70 weapon. If you still haven’t found a decent leveling weapon (like a solid legendary), this is the time to craft a level 70 weapon. A two handed weapon is generally a good idea. Then you can reroll a secondary stat so that it’s level reduced. This is also why you want to continuously salvage your items rather than sell them off since the materials for crafting and rerolling will be of immense help.
You could also try crafting additional level reduced gear, but the only one that’s somewhat worth crafting is a helmet with a socket. Truthfully, you’re far better off just hunting for a helmet with a socket since the material cost for rerolling a secondary stat into enough level reduction can get quite expensive. You might even be able to craft a legendary weapon if you have the recipe. However, the material cost for such an item probably will be too high and not worth it at this stage.
At this point, your main goals should be getting enough upgrades for yourself and your follower. Aim for stats like critical hit/damage on gloves, socket/critical hit on helmet, rings and amulets with critical hit/damage, bracers with critical hit and elemental damage. The rest should have decent main stat, vitality, all resist and with boots movement speed. That way you’re doing decent damage and surviving. Your helmet should still use the highest ruby gem available and your weapon should have a socket with an emerald gem so you can get extra critical hit damage.
Now, you should be doing hard difficulty by the time you’re 60+. Normal is good early on for easy bounty farming. But around late 50’s, you should switch over, especially if you start rift farming. You could go expert but I’ve found that without good gear, you’re going to be hurting because of the monster scaling. That could change with a decent group but the hardest things you’ll be facing are bosses and elite packs with nasty affixes.
Once you hit 70 you can start doing expert mode. Again, it really depends on your gear at this stage. If your gear is well optimize, you shouldn’t have many issues with expert mode and even master. But definitely, you’ll need to complete at least one rift on expert mode before claiming your Haedrig Gift prize.
Depending on how much Death Breath and Blood Shards you’ve manage to accumulate prior to hitting 70, you have a few options. First, you can try to craft a good weapon using the Upgrade Rare recipe for Kanai’s Cube (also another Seasonal Journey requirement). Make sure the weapon is one that synergizes with your seasonal set. Obviously, that’s not always possible but you should strive for it.
If you were lucky enough to find a few pieces of highly useful legendary gear while leveling (and did not foolishly shard them), you can extract their properties with Kanai’s Cube. Again, this is partly why you wanted to do Bounties from the start. Don’t waste crafting materials on legendaries that aren’t useful though. Prioritize on items that synergize with your seasonal set if possible or at least provide a very usable bonus (example: don’t use Magefist in the cube but extract a Ring of Royal Grandeur).
Once you get your first set bonus, test drive it with a T1. There are a few boss requirements that only need you to kill them on Master level. So use your discretion on what you feel you can handle. My rule of thumb for doing Torments is T1 = 2 set bonus; T4 4 set bonus; T6 6 set bonus. If you want that 6 piece and final set, you will need to kill the Keywardens on T4, but the other requirements only need you to be at T2.
You will want to get a few Greater Rift keystones though, especially since the 6 set bonus requires that you do a GR20 solo. If you haven’t been able to do a T4 normal rift, you might have to push a few low level Greater Rifts to do a GR20. But also consider doing some low level GRs regardless just to start picking up Legendary Gems and a few possible legendaries.
For myself, I find that once I get my 6 piece set and a few key items (especially a decent weapon), I can hit those higher Torments and GRs. T7 is where the game moves quite quickly since you’ll be grabbing more Death Breaths and Blood Shards. If you get lucky, hopefully you’ll find a Puzzle Ring or encounter a Goblin Rift along the way just to get a Boon of the Hoarder. At that point, even without leveling one, most of your gold issues go away.
After getting enough gear and a rhythm setup, you can start looking towards aiming for the harder gear pieces and meta sets. For myself, that might involve the rare Focus/Restraint and/or Endless Walk. Depending on how many Death Breaths and Blood Shards I have, I might start crafting and/or gambling those items. Never gamble for amulets unless you’re at your peak; crafting Amulets just is more efficient just like crafting weapons.
At any rate, I hope this post is helpful to other players who are looking for a decent way to level and progress early on in Seasons. Good hunting!