With the Season 24 patch 2.7.1 PTR closed now and having given all classes a test run (though not all builds), I decided to put together some thoughts on the upcoming Season 24 as Season 23 was announced to be ending on July 18th. This will include some builds I got to try, leveling I managed to accomplish and how one can go for the Feat of Strength Ethereal Transmog.
First, I’m extremely excited to see Ethereals making their way into the realm of Diablo 3 as they have some excellent potential for altering some Metas up while providing a clear cut goal to play Season 24 with the Feat of Strength transmog reward. While farming for a useful Ethereal is going to be tough, it certainly will be highly rewarding once you uncover a useful one.
The basic affixes I think are pretty amazing, being able to roll up to 12 affixes for a single item. Most of these will have damage rolls that beat Primal Ancients, which will make them highly sought after. In addition, the type of affixes on these weapons will be a huge boon and can help with situations where items like Amulets or other pieces of gear do not roll well (e.g. lacking Critical Hit but still being useful). Because of that, you can substitute a piece of gear that isn’t rolled optimally if you have an Ethereal.
Another major benefit is the chance that you can encounter one during the leveling process. I think for a starter character, finding an Ethereal early on will make a massive difference as you try to get through your first level 70. In my case, I encountered one on Normal mode with my Witch Doctor that I kept until much later towards the upper levels. But at least for the 1-60 levels, I never had a need to switch weapons simply because the affixes on the weapon were so good that I did not feel a need to upgrade for a while.
The unfortunate part of all this will eventually be the hunt for a well rolled Ethereal. The biggest issue here is finding one of the three Ethereals that work well with a build along with a good legendary power and passive. In some cases, a weapon base type might not necessarily synergize all that well with a build. Such as finding a 2-handed weapon where a build may call or be better off with two one handed weapons. Or perhaps you might need a 1-handed crossbow as opposed to a bow. With the chance being between Ancient and a Primal (that is 10% – 2% if I’m not mistaken), getting an ideal Ethereal will take some time.
On the other hand, Ethereals will have limited number of powers from a particular list that I managed to find. The Ethereals themselves mostly will roll class-specific powers with a small pool for a few non-class specific legendary powers, which should make finding a useful one that too terrible. That leaves getting a good passive to be the primary issue along with finding the right base type.
Leveling-wise, I’m still on the edge between using a Witch Doctor and Monk. On PTR at least, I found a bare bones Witch Doctor to level very smoothly. Probably, because I discovered an Ethereal early on, that experience was trivialized and with the PTR vendor, I was able to bypass needing to complete the basic season journey parts for collecting a Haedrig’s Gift. However, I went straight to Mundunugu’s Regalia rather than the seasonal set, which made bumping up the difficulty quite easy. While I managed to get through my basic goals reasonably fast, I did feel that even with the Ethereal, Mundunugu’s Regalia wasn’t such a great starter to push. I did make a few mistakes early on (such as not realizing I had the wrong passive on my weapon which lead me to use a redundant passive rather than Grave Injustice as well as sharding my set boots which made a GR feel bugged). So I’m not sure if I’ll stick with the Witch Doctor any longer.
My second character was the Monk. It did take me a big longer to prepare my Monk because I had to do all the Keywardens, level up a Gem of Ease, Molten Wildebeest’s Gizzard, Legacy of Nightmares and Boon of the Hoarder, which also took more time since I needed to collect enough gold and GR keys. But it was all worth it. Monk was certainly faster and I probably spent too much time overthinking my leveling strategy. However, I did manage to uncover a new twink leveling technique.
My newest twink leveling technique is to prepare at least three Gem of Eases with a minimum of 25 each, have a goldwrap and Leoric’s Signet ready and use the level reduction on the item to get it so your twink character can use it. Also, you’ll need at least 1 Hellfire Ring and a Hellfire Amulet. In turn, you will want three legendary gems: Boon of the Hoarder, Legacy of Nightmares and Molten Wildebeest’s Gizzard. Pretty much with this combination, you can take on T6 out the gate, be immune to damage, collect a ton of gold, do plenty of damage and hopefully find a few non-set legendaries to help boost your leveling with the Legacy of Nightmares in place. That is, of course, in addition to probably having a few key legendary powers pre-extracted in your Kanai’s Cube.
For the most part, I leveled the rest of my characters in this manner on PTR. On occasion, I would level a new Gem of Ease and do the level reduction Cube recipe on a support item like a Wizard’s Orb or Crusader shield. But in general, this was probably overkill and I would hit level 70 very quickly.
That said, I want to talk about the builds I had the opportunity to try on the PTR. Some were based on a few metas I saw pop up. Others were things I wanted to try or were familiar with.
- Mundunugu’s Regalia and Spirit Barrage – My starter build. I should have gone with Arachyr because that is the starter Witch Doctor set. With the Ethereal, I felt this set was still pretty meh. Leveling was great but I just never felt confident about the power of this set. The WD set that was top tier on PTR was Zunimassa with Poison Dart. So I might end up switching over to that if I decide to use a Witch Doctor as a starter. Also, I was not able to find a Captain’s Crimson Trimmings to complete this build so that hampered my cooldowns a bit and possibly my squishiness. Single target felt bad especially against bosses and speed was constantly an issue.
- Inna’s Mystic Ally – This is the one build I really wanted to try. I gave it a test run on non-seasonal in PTR and it didn’t feel great. So I decided to try it on seasonal to obtain a few Ethereals and see if there was any major difference. I did feel I managed to correct some squishiness. But without Mystic Air Ally, I constantly was resource starved. It was very easy to get 10 Fire Allies (which is the best thing with this build) and not die but I did not attempt to try for higher difficulties as I lost interest in the play style of this build. Honestly, the build felt more like a version of Exploding Palm.
Usually, Inna’s employs the Daibo as part of its arsenal since Mystic Ally is a high damage affix that comes with the Daibo. With Ethereals, you want to go two one-handed weapons with probably a Flying Dragon attack speed power either unlocked in the Cube or on the Ethereal. For the 2nd one-handed weapon affix, I chose an Echoing Fury for the Frenzy affix. For the last affix, I’ve seen the Crystal Fist used for damage reduction after Dashing. This makes a lot of sense as the initial moment you roll into a high level GR, you might get 1-shot by foes without all 10 Fire Allies out. I think this ability can be traded for an In-geom as well for cooldown reduction in non-GRs.
My other major concern in general with this build was overall speed. It just felt very slow compared to Tempest Rush. But I have a feeling it might end up being the better pushing build since Tempest Rush has that strange issue where turning at a certain angle causes stacks to drop off. Nonetheless, I still think Tempest Rush might be better as an overall build.
- Demon Hunter Gears of Dreadlands (GoD) – Despite the nerfs, I still feel this is the best overall build and a well rolled Ethereal make this far superior than most. For my money, nothing comes close to the GoD build in terms of versatility, speed, tankiness, damage, clear and just overall fun. Even with crap gear, I was able to hit GR75s like nothing, which makes it exceptionally tempting to go with a Demon Hunter again since that means farming and accomplishing any goal will be easy.
For the most part, I used the Fortress Ballista power on my Ethereal that came with Ambush on a Doomslinger (1-handed Ethereal). My offhand had a well rolled ancient Dawn and my cube used The Ninth Cirri Satchel. In turn, I had Archery and Blood Vengeance as my main passives to keep up my Hatred and Discipline. An interesting thing I could have done would be to have used a Flavor of Time in my amulet slot and gone with a Rakoff’s Glass of Life for my Follower to generate ton of Health Globes. Also, I saw that many Demon Hunter builds used Drifting Shadow as their rune of choice for Strafe to make this build ultra speedy.
Overall, this still is my favorite build of all and I probably will end up re-birthing one of my Demon Hunters just because I want someone who is consistently good for running things at a high level in all situations. And with the Follower updates, everything just makes Demon Hunters just that good in my book.
- Barbarian Wrath of the Wastes and Whirlwind – If Barbarians weren’t a pain to level in a seasonal start, I would do one this coming season. That said, the Barbarian Whirlwind build was one of the adjusted metas I was interested in examining because of how one might use the Bul-Kathos set Mighty Weapons. Without those generating wrath and keeping good speed becomes a chore for Barbarians.
So with an Ethereal, you have to re-think how you want to keep Whirlwind up. In reality, this build changes quite a bit from a weapons point of view and a few key passives. One consistent thing I saw was how most people used Ambo’s Pride as the Ethereal legendary power. This pretty much is a must have, whether you Cube it or have it in one hand.
The off-hand of choice, I think, is an Echoing Fury while the Cube power might vary on mileage. I ended up choosing Messerschmidt’s Reaver because I found maintaining Fury to be troublesome and needed a weapon to ensure my cooldowns were kept minimal. In turn, I depended upon Wrath of the Berserker which seemed to help with Fury generation a bit but I was able to keep Wrath up most of the time. Also, I frequently kept up War Cry for Fury generation.
One thing you will not be able to do without the Bul-Kathos weapons is keep up Whirlwind 100% of the time. So Sprint becomes imperative with possibly Marathon in those situations where there are no enemies to help generate Fury. Also, I use Unforgiving just to keep some level of Fury while War Cry is on cooldown.
I didn’t get to really see this build push far but I thought it was one of the more interesting changes to the standard Whirlwind build. I think when I get to play it, I’ll have to make further adjustments if I want to use it in any serious capacity.
- Wizard The Typhoon’s Veil – Since I had used a Wizard in season 23, I didn’t prioritize playing a wizard on PTR. Eventually, I just decided to give one a try. The main thing I wanted to see was this build in action with an Ethereal. The meta doesn’t change much outside of being able to grab an extra passive and do far more damage. So it wasn’t truly exciting for me outside of knowing that it’s still reliable and probably can take me a bit further if I chose to play another one for season 24 (beyond just going for the Ethereal Feat of Strength)
- Wizard Energy Twister Legacy of Dreams – I started out with a modified Legacy of Dreams Energy Twister build. I think the only thing I messed up on was the Energy Twister rune. But not much changes here neither. It’s still very powerful but dull.
- Crusader Akkhan/Invoker Bombardment – Like the Barbarian Wrath of the Waste build, the Akkhan/Invoker Bombardment build will change in a very positive and interesting manner compared with Season 23. In the current setup, Norvald’s Ferver set is the current choice of weapon/shield. Since there is no set equivalent of Norvald’s Ferver with an Ethereal, the manner in which this changes is to use an Ethereal with the Mortal Drama legendary affix. Your shield will be Akarat’s Awakening for the cooldown reduction through blocking damage. You will take Hold Your Ground to improve your block chance as a passive (hopefully acquiring this as a passive in your Ethereal). Then you will want to use a Justice Lantern for some nice damage reduction from blocking. And finally for your Cube weapon slot ability, you will either want to choose The Furnace for the increased damage to elites, Messerschmidt’s Reaver for cooldown reduction to your Steed Charge and Bombardment (since you will no longer have that from Norvald’s Ferver at least in terms of Steed Charge) or a Blood Brother for the increase block chance and additional block damage and damage reduction.
I didn’t get that much of a chance to play this version but I can say that I liked it a lot more than when I was using Norvald’s Ferver. I felt this build was much tankier with the Justice Lantern, I was able to keep up my cooldowns better and felt it wasn’t as sketchy at times. I definitely want to give this build another go and will be rebirthing my Crusader for season 24.
- Necromancer Masquerade of the Burning Carnival – My necromancer was the last character I had a chance to play on PTR so I didn’t get too much to do. I will say that this build still feels pretty strong, maybe a stronger with the Ethereal. I only was lacking the Brigg’s Wrath ring to pull together my enemies. But I did not feel the need for it most of the time. However, I did not have the opportunity to push much and just ran out of time.
The other builds I wish I could have tried were Rathmas, Natalyas with Rapid Fire and the Valor set build now that it has been nerfed. Valor would have been another build that I wanted to look into because of the use of the Ethereal whereas the current high end meta employs once again the Norvald’s Ferver. My main comment on seeing the swap with Valor is that I was seeing Shield of Fury in the offhand slot commonly used while Ivory Tower was being used in the Cube. I wish I could have tested that build but I have a feeling it was much slower than the current meta due to not having Steed Charge up as much.
Natalyas, I feel, would never be at the level of Gears of Dreadlands just because of how you’re forced to stand still in using a channeled Rapid Fire. You could still use Strafe but Strafe itself does not have the same damage boost as Rapid Fire’s upgrade has so it’ll just be a far lesser version of GoD with a shitty cooldown in Rain of Vengeance. That said, as a seasonal starter set build, it might not be that bad because of how you can find a few Rapid Fire items early on during leveling. Also, with some luck you can find Natalya’s during leveling since it’s one of those pre-RoS sets that can drop before 70.
I should say there is an honorable mention somewhere for an LoD version of one of the Necromancer builds. I think either Poison Nova or Bone Spear. From reports that I’ve heard, it’s quite squishy and pretty much a kill or be killed type of build. I think if you’re going to take a Necromancer but don’t intend to push, Masquerade still is quite valid especially with a decent Ethereal.
Lastly, let me tackle the issue of the Feat of Strength. Now, I know many people are complaining about the time consumption for a transmog or the problems of not having more than three rebirth slots (which I think should definitely be adjusted in the future). First, let’s clarify that the transmog is defined as a Feat of Strength so it’s meant to be a bigger than usual challenge.
Second, it is meant to make Season 24 special and hopefully prolong the season by creating a very special item hunt. Now, I’m not a huge fan of item hunts but I think with the upcoming Diablo 2: Resurrection release, it is not a terrible way to commemorate the event and get Diablo fans salivating a bit.
Next, it is not mandatory. The fact that the reward is transmogs that are only unlocked from this Feat of Strength means that the value on this is mostly for those wishing to show off their pride for their efforts. This reward is simply a matter of putting time into the game because it’s just an item hunt. The chances of finding an Ethereal I think are not bad. At least on T16 on PTR, I was finding one roughly one per rift. Now, of course, on T16 on PTR, the drop rate for legendaries is boosted quite a bit. But I think the rate at which you can get an Ethereal is still the same. So it’s really a matter of efficiency in the number of legendary drops you can find at a time.
The only real challenge with Ethereals will be finding ideal ones with the right legendary power, passive and base type. I think part of the idea of having this pool is to help motivate people into trying new builds once they obtain an Ethereal. In most cases where an Ethereal rolls bad, I think people will just shard them because the normal builds will still be effective en route to finding the ideal one.
Of course, the other challenge is just having builds that can farm higher difficulties with good efficiency. So having that starter build that can farm fast is going to be critical. You want to not only have that starter build capable of doing basics, but capable of gold farming, leveling up side gems for new characters, getting mats from Bounties to extract more, being able to quickly pick up materials since blues and whites are going to be the rare ones ironically. So making that choice with the long term goal in mind will be what can get you that Feat of Strength asap.
Lastly, there’s the issue of rebirth capacity. If you’re like me with a variety of characters and a sentimental history, you’ll have a hard to close to impossible time deleting anyone permanently. Also, you might want just want to play a character or two for the long term and that might exceed your three regular slots for the season. In this situation, you’re simply going to have to suck it up and dedicate at least one slot to be a transient character. There’s no way around it so prepare yourself emotionally to kiss at least one character adieu.
With PTR, I didn’t really care because it’s all temporary there. But I hope that with this Feat of Strength requirement, enough will complain that we need more rebirths per season. It doesn’t even have to be for the stupid set dungeon mastery challenges. We just need a way to get more life out of our characters when we want to try something out on seasons (like missing out on the 4th Kanai Cube slot on Season 22). Given more stash space vs rebirths, I’d prefer more rebirths.