As we draw towards the next Season 24, my ultimate goal will be to accomplish the Feat of Strength Ethereal Recollection to gain the Ethereal transmogrification effect. It does seem a bit daunting because of the lower drop rate for Ethereals than Ancients and the requirement of getting all 21, three per class, in order to unlock it. With only three seasonal rebirths and a full roster of characters that I have a great deal of history and limited stash space, I think this Feat will be one of the more interesting ones to handle. But I have a plan for this.
The biggest question I’m debating right now is my starting character. Currently, there are only three choices for me: Witch Doctor, Monk and Demon Hunter. These choices are based on leveling efficiency, power output and the starting set as well as which one will be best for pushing hard and fast early on.
While initially, I was leaning towards a Witch Doctor due to Archyr’s being a reasonably decent starting set and that the Witch Doctor is probably one of the easiest characters to level, I’m starting to believe that this might be a bad idea. The issue for me is that Mundunugu will most likely be the overall better set in juggling between Zunimassa’s Poison Darts but I found it to be a bit sketchy on PTR. I have played it in non-seasons but never felt it was a compelling build. On PTR I had to play it for a few days in building up my gear, gems and levels. However, progression felt slow and the problem with single target damage made me believe even moderate Greater Rifts would take a bit of gear and work. I would like to eventually play this build but as a starter, I’m just unconvinced this will be good for anything outside of the initial leveling or finding the three class Ethereals.
So that leaves Monk and Demon Hunter. I have to be forthcoming in saying I am not a big fan of Uliana’s especially as a starting set/build. You do need quite a few key items before the build feels decent. Besides, the set, you need a cubed Madstone, Binding of the Lost, Gungdo Gear, The Fist of Az’Turrasq, Lion’s Claw and The Flow of Eternity for the basics. Worse yet, Seven Sided Strike is a cooldown ability so you need to get gear for more cooldown reduction. The build still is feasible but I prefer to quickly switch over to the revised Inna’s or the reliable Patterns of Justice builds.
I managed to conduct a small test with Natalya’s using Rapid Fire and just found the build to be unbearable. Resource was one issue but the biggest problem to me was just the speed factor. I ended up converting the build to do Strafe with Demolition and a Hellcat Waistguard for boosting my Grenade damage. While it managed to perform a little better in terms of speed, the resource issue became a thing as well as damage when Rain of Vengeance was down. Thus, I again just feel that going this route initially won’t be that great.
So I think I’m leaning towards a Monk starter character. I’m working on an Uliana’s set right now on Season 23 just to get some practice in. I might even try it with only what I have to get the feeling of a gimped build (and it’s not a fair comparison just because I do have various items cubed already). I might start at a lower torment and work my way up if I feel the gear I have at the moment is too powerful. Should I go this route, I’ll probably start with a Scoundrel for once just to try out the new damage buffs he provides as well as the synergy between dexterity gear with a monk.
At any rate, my leveling will start with Act 1 doing Halls of Agony Level 3 until about level 10. I will look for blues, rares or any improvements but not sell anything and only salvaging gear for components. At level 10, I will start doing Act 1 bounties, possibly doing the Butcher. But I want to get a full round of Act 1 in mostly for the early recipes. What I’m looking for between 20-23 are Born’s Defiance and Cain’s Fate. I do this for the XP bonus mostly and keep my Blacksmith upgraded as much as possible. Also, I keep Ruby Gems for my helmet socket slot for more XP.
However, I do not focus on my Jeweler nor Mystic until my Blacksmith is fully upgraded. My Jeweler comes second and my Mystic is prioritized last. I only buy gear from the vendors early on, occasionally looking for rares or rings until they become a regular drop and I only craft weapons beyond the two XP sets. I want to keep my crafting materials high in preparation for the last 10 levels.
After say 2-3 rounds of Act 1 Bounties, I will start cycling through Acts 2-4 in that order. I tend to skip Act 5 early on just because Malthael and Urzael can be challenging for lower level characters. I might not even make the attempt if I see their bounties pop up until around level 50+. Also, doing Bounties means more plans and the possibility for a useful legendary like a Ring of Royal Grandeur or an Avarice Band (which now is infinitely useful with Emanate). But around level 50, I want to do a full round of bounties to avoid having to go through it again for the seasonal achievement since this is a very time consuming exercise.
Around level 30-ish as I complete a round of Act 3 bounties, I make my way towards Kanai’s Cube. At this point, Kanai’s Cube isn’t very useful without Death Breaths but I simply find it better to get it now than later. And I tend to seek it out after level 30 due to certain monsters being rougher.
Usually, around level 50, especially from 60 onward, I will try to upgrade gear away from the two XP sets. At level 61 and above, the moment I find at least one Death Breath, I will try to upgrade my Blacksmith and may attempt to craft a level 70 weapon to try and level reduce it. Now, this part is a real gamble and there are techniques to optimize this aspect. But a solid level 70 level reduced weapon can really help speed up leveling the rest of the way to 70.
Also, I might begin crafting gear. If I have any 60+ rares, I try to optimize certain pieces like the helmet, gloves, bracers, rings and amulet to get critical hit, critical damage and maybe CDR on them. But at this point, I tend to avoid any CDR builds and just go with a straight generator/resource spender, which commonly rely on critical hit and critical damage. While I’m at it, I’ll pop an Emerald in my weapon (if there’s a socket), and Diamonds in my armor for a bit of toughness boost. For a few spots like legs, chest and shoulders, I may try to get decent vitality and main stat. Also, if I manage to discover any useful legendaries during leveling and have enough Death Breaths, I might consider extracting at least one power.
From levels 61+, I start running Normal Rifts because I find the gear and efficiency are better along with starting to accumulate Blood Shards. I retain enough Death Breaths for upgrading my craft stations and another 25 for a weapon. Any useless legendaries, I’ve found up to this point and kept in the bank, I’ll start sharding for the Forgotten Souls and I’ll sell off low level gems (although I could just discard them).
At this point upon hitting level 70, I’ll look at whatever tasks I have remaining to get my first Haedrig Gift and complete those. It might be upgrading the difficulty the rift difficulty or finding a few loose recipes. Whichever the case, I’m doing what I can to speed through these tasks. If it’s recipes that I need (usually the jewelry recipes), I’ll run a bunch of Bounties, possibly Act 1 to also attempt to find a Ring of Royal Grandeur as well as continue searching for the precious Sage’s set recipe. I cannot emphasize how critical it is to get this recipe early on.
In addition, in hitting level 70, I’m going to craft my first legendary weapon. In this case, since I’m aiming for a monk, I’m hoping to get either The Fist of Az’Turrasq or Lion’s Claw. The Flow of Eternity might be a good choice here too just to get the CDR of Seven Sided Strike down further. But at this point, I’m mostly looking into improving Exploding Palm’s damage as the 2 set bonus is more about applying Exploding Palm.
By this point, hopefully I have around 500 Blood Shards too. Usually after these tasks, I tend to max out my Blood Shards and may even have to gamble early. For an Exploding Palm monk, I would put my efforts into bracers and aim for Gungdo Gear. Since these drop from level 11, I’m hoping that I either would have found them by now or make every attempt to cube some. Spirit Guards would be useful too. And if I had both, I certainly would cube the Gungdo Gear ones if I discovered them beforehand. If I manage to find Nemesis Bracers, I immediately will give them to my Scoundrel (or other follower) because that just means more Death Breaths potentially, which I am in dire need of at this stage.
Another thing I will consider is doing at least two normal rifts for two Greater Rift keys. At the very least, I will want to obtain a Legacy of Dreams gem in case my legendary drop luck had been bad during the entire run. Then I will try to craft as much gear as I can except for set pieces since the Legacy of Dreams can provide a solid boost even with garbage gear until you’re ready to switch over. In that situation, I will try to push to T2-3 and just run rifts to accumulate keys.
Generally, I’ve found that with mediocre gear, once I’m in the T3 range the gearing part becomes a lot faster. Since Uliana’s might be terrible early on without key pieces, I might run something like Wave of Light or some other build that performs better than Exploding Palm until I can get more gear. Or I might run some hybrid build if I encounter set items and manage to scrounge up a Ring of Royal Grandeur (hence why it’s important to find and cube early on)
The major threshold to cross is the T4 one because Death Breaths ramp up around then and with a Follower using the Sage’s set, this can really boost gearing up. Also, being able to complete T4 means that you should be able to do a GR20 solo and the four Keywardens, which are the five blockers to getting the last Haedrig’s Gift. I might do a few more GR’s en route to GR20 in search of good legendary gems like a Bane of the Stricken or Bane of the Trapped and give them a few levels.
However, unless whatever gear I discover is pretty wretched, I mostly will avoid optimizing anything until I can do T7 reliably. By then with the Sage’s Set, I should be getting at least 2 DBs per elite pack reliably. If I haven’t done so by now, I will make an effort to find the Cain’s Destiny recipe and possibly a second Ring of Royal Grandeur for my follower. That way I can run both the Sage’s Set and Cain’s Destiny as I’m completing normal rifts for Death Breaths and Keys.
When I get enough keys, I will start pushing my gems to 25. At this stage, I’m probably getting to GR30-35 solo which should be enough to obtain level 25 gems. Gold might start to become a problem as I would want to run the bonus level per rift. So hopefully, I will have discovered a Puzzle Ring to run at least one Goblin Rift and obtain a Boon of the Hoarder. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a Goldwrap saved somewhere and I’ll start leveling up the Boon. The benefit of this will be to run higher normal rifts and possibly Bounties with the armor bonus than I normally can.
By now, I should also be on the look out for other pieces of gear. The two sets that are important are Inna’s Mantra and Patterns of Justice. I would prioritize Patterns of Justice simply because of how fast the build is. It would make farming rifts, bounties and GRs pretty easy. And you need speed for efficiency.
Also, if I can get to T13-16 at this stage, I’m going to start looking into gearing up a new character. So making sure I have plenty of crafting materials for cubing, making weapons, etc. is going to be important on top of getting a few Gems of Ease prepared. I want three key items that I will be using for the rest of Season 24 in a Hellfire Ring, a level reduced Leoric’s Signet for the bonus experience and finally a level reduced Goldwrap. I will need materials for a Hellfire Amulet and at least one Legacy of Dreams gem at level 25 and a Molten Wildebeest’s Gizzard at 25.
Once I have those things, I’ll rebirth probably my Demon Hunter, craft a weapon, put the Gem of Ease in it and hit Act 1’s Halls of Agony at T6. With some luck, I should find a few legendary items and be able to equip them right away for more of a bonus to my Demon Hunter. Whatever I find during the leveling process, I will keep for future characters that will gain benefits from the Legacy of Nightmares gem.
My Demon Hunter, I’ll gear up using my Monk to run GRs for Blood Shards and getting any legendary gems up for him to use while I search for the Gear of Dreadlands set. But ultimately, my DH will become my main farming character for all things.
After my Demon Hunter is pushed and leveled to the point where I’m capable of doing lower level pushes, I will eventually rebirth a Crusader. My current idea is to use Crusaders for the Invoker dungeon to master after learning just how easy it is. I will be aiming for a Bombardment/Akkhan build again while searching for Ethereals to create a build similar to the one I had on PTR. This build will just outshine the Valor one, in my opinion, because of the raw speed and tankiness, especially once I’m able to obtain a well rolled Ethereal.
Now, the remaining four classes will probably be the result of 3 characters I’ve selected for deletion. One will just be recycled. But each time I will continue to reuse the level reduced gear and possibly increase the Legacy of Dream’s level during the season. I might level a few more Gems of Ease along the way where the new character consumes one Gem of Ease on a piece of crafted gear and then levels a new one for the next character.
Whatever the case maybe, this is the primary pattern that will follow once I get the basic season journey complete. But the order of the characters in which I search for Ethereals will be Witch Doctor, Barbarian, Wizard and finally Necromancer. I might push the Wizard once more just because I found Hydra to be a solid character to use on Season 23. Also, I might give Firebirds a second shot. Build-wise, the Witch Doctor may go either Mundunugu or Zunimassa’s, the Barbarian definitely Whirlwind and the Necromancer most likely Masquerade, although I may look into something else like Innarius. I’m thinking that the Barbarian might be the easiest to farm out the Ethereals of the bunch because of their speed. So that might be the only one I delete to re-create once I gather all three Ethereals.
No matter what, I intend to play each as much as I can for the hunt. However, I do think if I only deleted a single one, the rest of the season would end up becoming a big mess for me because I would probably go crazy trying to play a single character in farming up the Ethereals. I’m hoping that they all have a purpose beyond just farming Ethereals since I tend to only play three classes per season and want to try new builds where possible.