Diablo 3: Season 9 Evaluation

I haven’t really blogged on the topic of Diablo 3 for a while so I thought it might be good to talk about my current situation with the game, the few changes brought in this patch/Season and maybe looking forward a bit to the next season.

First, I will say that thus far I’ve been having a blast this season. I chose to go with a Demon Hunter as my starting character and thus far it’s been the right way. Last season, I did the Witch Doctor and although it started okay, I just couldn’t get into the season. I think the difference is that with the Demon Hunter, it’s just far easier for me to gear comparatively. With season 8, I had a lot of issues trying to get decent gear for my Witch Doctor. A few items like Sacred Harvester, Compass Rose and Short Man’s Finger just wouldn’t drop. Worse yet, when those items dropped, they were so poorly rolled that I was gimped.

By comparison, the gear that I’ve found for my DH just is more fluid when it comes to pushing fast early on. The Shadow Set isn’t the best but the way the bonuses are structured make it an easy set to hit the early season objectives as well as progress through a few difficulty levels. Also, there’s a few decent items that provide early high damaging builds. With the single target damage being quite good, you can roast a few bosses that will quickly propel you into the harder torments.

Unfortunately, The Shadow Set still isn’t great as an end game meta set compared to Unhallowed Essence or Marauder’s. Unhallowed Essence still is my go2 set when it comes to the all purpose farming and pushing set. The play style is just incredibly smooth compared to most builds out there for what you can do and it’s versatile. Right now, it’s my first set to augment where I really feel the damage output.

Speaking of Marauders, I did give the revamped Hellcat belt a spin. The build is almost identical to the traditional M6 build except that you take Grenadiers and Numbing Traps as your passives while swapping your Loaded for Bear rune on Cluster Arrow for Cluster Bombs. Also, and here’s a key point that I screwed up on initially, you need to swap Evasive Fire: Focus for Evasive Fire: Hardened. The thing with this build is that you end up losing your Garwulf Cloak for the belt to maximize your damage with Cluster Arrow. So the Hardened rune is required to prevent your Demon Hunter from being too squishy.

In my case, I totally screwed up my build when I gave it a spin. I missed out on the Hardened rune from Evasive Fire and found myself dying frequently. There’s a few problems that I encountered. First, Cluster Bombs ended up being extremely slow so I would spam blast it. That would cause so many explosions on screen that I couldn’t see certain affixes on the ground. Second, I kept running out of resources from spam casting. I had no idea how to position myself and without the Hardened rune, my toughness shrunk pretty heavily.

As a result, I ended up swapping back, despite having some really solid gear for this build (just found an ancient Manticore today too). I’d like to return to this build sometime, as I have a solid, near perfectly rolled Hellfire Amulet in my stash containing the Numbing Traps passive. But I’m in the process of augmenting my Unhallowed Essence gear so that might be on hold for a bit longer.

After getting my Demon Hunter up a bit, I swapped over to my Barbarian. Now, the biggest change for Barbarians comes to the Wrath of the Wastes set. With the damage being changed on Whirlwind to multiplicative, Barbarians are enjoying a nice push to what I consider one of the funnest builds out there. I didn’t start with that set initially and went with an Immortal King’s Hammer of the Ancients build. It wasn’t great but I never really gave that build a try up until this point. I will say that for the small period I used it, it was pretty fun too just smashing away at monsters while my Ancients blasted things around me.

Around that time I helped a friend level and gear up a barbarian. I think he started with an odd hybrid build consisting of Immortal Kings, Raekors and Whirlwind. But gradually, we helped build him up to go Wrath of the Wastes. Right now, he’s enjoying the build and finally got his first Furnace of the season while having optimal gear. So I’m certain that he’s going to be able to push further.

For myself, I haven’t really gone the current Wrath of the Wastes build because I’ve forgone a Bane of the Stricken for a Gogok. The idea here is just that I wanted more cooldown overall. But after reviewing the meta, I see that I probably don’t need that. Also, I noticed that my single target damage is severely gimped without the Bane of the Stricken gem (meaning boss fights). So once I fix my build up a bit more, I’ll swap just to see how that goes.

That said, I will say that I’m very pleased with the current state of the Wrath of the Wastes build. The changes to the damage along with the Skull Grasp ring have really made this build quite a bit of fun. It’s still not as fun as the first season it was released. But you can certainly go a lot higher than before. Also, some aspects of the meta have changed beyond the gearing. For instance, you no longer are required to use something like say Ground Stomp for a generator since you no longer are required to use Focus/Restraint. With the massive increase to damage from your Skull Grasp ring, you can focus strictly on whirlwind while using other items like a Convention of Elements and Obsidian Ring. These changes have made the build far more fluid than before.

Looking ahead, I think the biggest complaint at the moment with regards to Barbarians are their lack of competitive damage/resistance output compared to say the Wizard. Maybe with Wrath of the Wastes, there really isn’t an idealistic bracers that synergizes with the build at the skill level at this point in time. The primary thing people are requesting is to return the Wrath of the Berserker bracers (the one that provides all the runes) to the item pool. While those bracers probably were designed for Immortal Kings in mind, certainly other builds and especially the Wrath of the Wastes build could use them. At this stage, there are so many superior builds and items out there that giving Wrath of the Berserker all runes won’t destabilize things too horribly.

Around that time, another friend joined, choosing a Wizard. We helped gear this guy quite quickly and I found out why the Wizard is such a strong force right now. It motivated me to rebirth one of my lesser used Wizards and level her up to 70. It didn’t take that long to get the main pieces for the Tal Rasha-Vyr’s build (I had a killer ancient Tal Rasha Amulet in my stash among other things). So I really wanted to take that out for a spin.

So far I have the main pieces although I am not using the Pig Sticker (i prefer the In-Geom at the moment since I lack the CDR on a variety of pieces of gear). That said, wow. For the first time, I’ve felt that Archon actually has been fun. I hated the previous seasons’ metas with Archon using Firebirds, Chantodos or the buggy Firebirds/Vyr’s hybrid. They were all really gimmicky and slightly clunky. But this build actually is fun.

I think the main point is that it doesn’t feel nearly as clunky as previous iterations. Ironically, the only thing that really changed is the Manald Heal ring which makes the build synergize better next to Starfire. Also, you’re not required to use that Chantodos which I felt was gimmicky and just a pain to work with. Instead, you’re just popping around with teleport, beaming things, tossing a few Arcane Torrents and popping back into Archon. The Obsidian Ring, Gogok and In-Geom make the transition to Archon smoother. Also, adding Vyr’s as a 4 piece bonus with the Ring of Grandeur helps immensely with toughness and the CDR as you get both all runes for Archon and the resistance bonuses. Tal Rasha too helps on the resistances so it just feels better overall.

Probably, the only thing that I don’t like is hopping around too much. It can get a little awkward if you mess up your timing with Teleport. Also, you might have a small amount of down time on Archon. It’s not too horrible compared to other iterations though. Yet I’m impressed by how things just are destroyed so quickly. It’s no wonder why this build is top of the charts at the moment.

Thus far, I would say that this has been one of the best seasons yet for me. Obviously, the amount of new content cannot compare to a few seasons ago where we got things like Kanai’s Cube. However, the sheer number of things to do, the better focus on the seasonal journey and the overall changes to the game have been for the better.

Right now, the game is actually in a great place despite all the naysayers. I think most people complain as a result of the fact that there hasn’t been a lot of new changes. But I’m saying that the total content available compared to say Vanilla or the start of RoS or even the first season can keep you occupied if you space it out.

I will admit that I’m not the type of player that plays 24/7 for the first few days nor the type that does Paragon grinding for weeks on end. I pretty much play on Saturdays exclusively and Friday nights when I’m not exhausted with a few Sundays thrown in. So anytime I’m on I really try to maximize what I can do. At the same time, I don’t really get bored because I space my game time out in a reasonable manner. So for me I feel that the game has really evolved into something that I can enjoy and have confidence in.

Looking forward a bit, I want to talk about some upcoming changes to the game as well as tweaks I would like to see happen. I will not discuss the Necromancer at this point since I never had the opportunity to try it yet. But I would like to talk about the next patch as I did give it a spin on PTR as well as two other major features in the future that is not in the PTR.

First, the biggest two parts in the PTR are the Armory/Wardrobe along with Primal Ancients. The Armory/Wardrobe feature is quite cool. It’s like a load out with other games where you can save a build. It’s not a store for your gear but it’s similar to the way you can gear swap in World of Warcraft. But I think in this situation, it’ll save your build as well. I really like this feature since there’s times where I want to try different builds out. An example is using that Hellcat/M6 build vs my normal UE build. This feature allows me to swap without me wondering whether or not I have all the skills and gems set properly. I do think that with Legendary gems though it might not exactly work as expected since you probably might swap between say a Boon of the Hoarder and a Bane of the Stricken. So unless there’s another feature that will automatically deduct the gold for the gem swaps, it may need a little tweaking.

Now, the other major feature that has been a lightning rod is the Primal Ancients. The last round of feedback made is so that Primal Ancients will be simply perfectly rolled ancients rather than just rarer forms of increased stats. I think the biggest argument people had was the worry of public games where you would be required to have a Primal Ancient before being allowed into certain games. Obviously, that’s ridiculous but public games tend to be a crap shoot when it comes to the sanity of the people involved.

I’m pretty neutral overall towards the idea of Primal Ancients. I know it’s mostly for the high end grinders. For myself, I honestly preferred the first version better. In the end, I’m not the type that will chase leaderboards so whether I get one or not is irrelevant. I think the idea of “perfect stats” can be subjective too. If the game designers have very specific builds in mind, then Primal Ancients would need to roll with that idea. I have a feeling though that won’t be the case and that even though the numbers are the best, you can still roll the wrong stats and be screwed if you find one. So again, it feels a little on the pointless side for someone like myself.

Now, let’s talk about two major features that have been discussed officially or on the side at Blizzcon 2016. The main one is the whole Challenge Rifts. It sounds like what Set Dungeons should have been originally. The idea here is that you’re given a set tile system along with a specific build. From there the rest of the rift functions like a normal Greater Rift. So if you can beat it, you get the rewards. The difference is that you won’t have to gear for these rifts as everything will be provided upon entering.

It’s a very interesting concept and again I’m hoping that with these Challenge Rifts, the Set Dungeon aspect will be replaced. It just makes more sense. Then it’ll be more about just using what you know about a build to beat the timer rather than trying to handle an obscure, poorly thought out puzzle type of environment. I’m hoping that if Set Dungeons get replaced by Challenge Rifts, we’ll see the stash tabs and seasonal journey stuff unlocked through them.

My belief is that the game really isn’t about solving puzzles. You can find other games that do that. People just want to blow things up here mindlessly. So you have to cater towards that philosophy. The intend of Set Dungeons was good just not implemented correctly nor targeting the right audience. So maybe Challenge Rifts will be take over.

Finally, there’s the obscure feature that Wyatt hinted at about taking one legendary’s properties and stripping it into another. I’m not sure how this will work but I figure it’ll at least involve Kanai’s Cube. People will decry this as future power creep, but it’s the right type of power creep since the idea is interesting. I’m hoping that we can do things like scrap additional CDR from a ring as an example onto a ring that doesn’t have it. Like let’s say you get an ancient Convention of Elements with a socket and critical hit chance. Obviously, for most builds people will reroll another stat into Critical Damage while retaining the primary stat. If you’re a Wrath of the Wastes barbarian though, unless you find that perfectly rolled socket + critical hit + critical damage base ring, you won’t be able to get more CDR, which can be critical for your build, especially once you give up your Gogok gem for say Bane of the Stricken or Pain Enhancer. However, if this feature behaves like I described, then maybe you can grab that additional +8% CDR from another ring source and place it on your Convention of Elements. Now, that can be really helpful.

Obviously, the big question is how to balance such a powerful idea. The clearest answer to me is making the mat cost worth the feature. So perhaps you can implement a high cost of Death Breaths or Bounty materials. Also, perhaps you can only strip one property from an item and that property must currently exist with no rerolling. If you want to add more requirements, maybe that item has to be the same item. Either way, the overall idea is to make it so that the cost equals the gain. The gain still will be great but imagine getting an ancient Skull Grasp where you only had a socket. So now you could get that critical damage on top of what presumably would’ve been critical hit that you had rerolled earlier. As you can see, there’s a lot of ways to go about doing this.

I don’t know if we’ll see the ability to strip a useful secondary from the item. For instance, damage multipliers or a bonus like all runes for Slow Time from Crown of the Primus. Personally, I’d love to see that added just because you can do so many more interesting things. Like rather than worrying about whether a weapon has a damage multiplier on a skill you badly need to use, you can just strip it out and put it on another weapon that is meta or that you’d want to use. Also, I would love to see this ability just to hopefully make some currently useless legendaries useful like say Ice Climbers or an elemental damage immunity amulet. This type of feature is begging to come into this game just to broaden up what can be done so players can go ham creatively once again.

Now, for a feature I want to see implemented. I talked a bit about rebirths earlier and want to address that. When Necromancers come into play, we’ll have 7 classes to choose from. Obviously from what’s been said, we’ll be getting probably 2 new character slots. But right now, there’s nothing been said whether the rebirth limit will be increased.

I want to say that I have the most fun in Diablo 3 when I get to play everything. I get bored just playing a single class over and over and enjoy switching things up. Seasons isn’t too bad as I can play 3 characters total without deleting one of my old characters. But that just isn’t enough for me. There’s really no logic as to why we have the current 3 rebirth limit. And once Necromancers come, I’m sure I would like to play those on top of my other seasonal toons. And certainly, we’ll see more changes to classes by the time Necromancers arrive with more revised and/or new items and new metas appearing (especially once this legendary stripping ability comes about). If that’s the case, that just makes me want to experience all of the classes during seasons all the more.

You may say, “Why not just delete the character?” I mean effectively a rebirth is like deleting a character. I suppose I’m just sentimental. The elite kills are the character’s signature and it really just shows how much I enjoy playing a certain class. Sometimes, I’ll just keep a character in non-season with optimal gear. Where do I put that? I don’t do set dungeons so I don’t get the bonus stashes. So I’m somewhat limited here.

At any rate, I think the next few months ought to be interesting. I really hope to see Challenge Rifts and this new legendary reforging idea come before the Necromancers hit. I doubt we’ll see either in the next patch. But I do hope that they occur before two seasons.


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