Diablo 3: PTR For Season 30

I finished up my excursion on the Season 30 Diablo 3 PTR today. I gave most of the classes a whirl (except Necromancer which simply does not appeal to me) and a few builds before returning to my trite and true favorite, the GoD demon hunter. I might give a few more builds a try just because there’s a few additional things I wanted to look at such as Slow Time/Delsere’s, maybe the revised Helltooth Gargantuan build and possibly goofing around on my monk a little more. But I wanted to write about my experience thus far on the PTR and my general assessment for season 30.

As per my usual, I started off with a Demon Hunter. Because of the Dank Memes trader, I managed to push pretty fast once I obtained 50 Blood Shards. I bought a weapon pack which allowed me to cruise through more of the content. Early on though, the key was to unlock the first levels of the Altar. The first level is kinda meh to me just because it’s more about keeping up the XP buff. But the level reduction aspect is where it’s at because that will allow you to unlock higher level items. On the PTR, that simply meant being able to use what’s in the trader’s bags.

Truthfully, one of the best items to buy from the trader on PTR is the last bag of goodies because that unlocks a ton of materials. Unfortunately, if you get it too early, you might find yourself unable to use any of it because you still need gold to upgrade your Blacksmith. That’s partly why I wanted to buy the weapons bag as that would allow you to do T1 or so. The other good early on bag is the legendary gems bag just to grab the LoD gem. However, if you manage to get the level removal aspect from your Altar, then you’re better off using a full set.

Obviously, once season 30 goes live, you won’t be able to employ the same strategy. However, getting the level removal part still will be a huge thing because you should be able to craft a few high level items, especially if you manage to farm Vision areas and get some Death Breaths. That also indicates that you will want to get your Kanai’s Cube unlocked soon too. I tend to go for that between levels 30-40 because of certain mob types in that zone.

Since Visions are returning as a permanent feature, you might be tempted early on to run them. The one major issue is that the mobs there are far more dangerous, especially if you encounter bosses. They aren’t impossible but fighting three bosses at once sub level 10 or whatever means you’ll just be poking them and barely doing any damage. If anything around level 20 is where you might want to give those a shot just because you’ll have more gear. Also, early on Visions don’t really give great gear. So unless you can do those efficiently and reliably, they really aren’t worth it except to snag a few items here and there.

I would start farming them around level 40+ though because of the potential of Death Breath drops as well as bounty mats. Death Breaths early on are quite precious and with a little luck and some planning, you might be able to craft a high level weapon that you can convert into a legendary that will boost your progress much faster. Also, one of the major unlocks requires a Greater Key Riftstone and you won’t need any pre-70. Getting one from a Vision will give you another quick unlock.

Now, the big thing that was uncovered in the PTR was the addition of Soul Shards from Season 25. While the Altar itself was nerfed from season 28, the counterbalance was reintroducing Soul Shards. The pretty much replaces normal gems in your helmets and weapon and gives you all the effects once you sufficiently upgraded them. But their 3rd upgrade can mean a massive boost in power like the AoE poison on death debuff. So far in my experience, these feel far rarer than in the previous season where they were introduced. Also, the upgrade consumable is quite rare too. But combining these powers with the Altar and it’s quite a general boost in power.

With the Altar, I did manage to complete the entire thing today. Probably, the biggest snags will end up being the Challenge Rift cache, which will impinge upon the rift that gets introduced and the Staff of Herding. The Staff of Herding is more about a time consuming activity. However, the Challenge Rift potentially can be difficult or extremely easy. Luckily for the PTR, it was a FoH/AoV type of build which made the rift fairly trivial. Then the only other issues were doing a GR110 and getting a Whisper of Atonement level 125. Now, there is a particular unlock that might end up being a pain which is the legendary dungeon paper one. For that you just have to remember to retain all your sets for a single class. Other than that, it’s fairly easy.

Build-wise, there were a hefty number of nerfs, some which impacted the overall leaderboards. Probably, the nastiests were the ones to Tal Rasha, Chicken Bomber and AoV. However, there were a few key buffs namely to Helltooth, Jade, etc. GoD DH remained unscathed as Natalyas is the top build. But Maurader got hit hard too as did WoL monk. But GoD DH does very well with with the Soul Shards so it’s near where Natalyas is.

Now, my favorite PTR build was the GoD build. It’s simply the best one out there in terms of reliability and consistency. You can practically do everything with it so I’ll definitely stick with it for the actual season 30. The other two that were incredible were Whirlwind Barbarian and Fist of Heaven Crusader. Whirlwind Barbarian in combining with the poison shard feels great. Single target damage isn’t at the top still but the explosions are quite satisfying. I’ve also felt that you can do most content with this build, although it probably isn’t as fast as the GoD DH build. Raekor, Mote and Savage are still higher overall but the only one of those three I enjoy is Savage/H90. The other two are pretty bland to me.

In place of the Fist of Heaven build, Phalanx crusader is back. I gave this one a try and have played it in the past. But compared to Fist of Heaven, this build is boring. Too much cooldown management and weird interactions between Condemnation, Judgment and Phalanx. Your only two “movement” skills are a Law and Punishment so it just feels slow and clunky. Granted I didn’t put too much effort into but it wasn’t as obvious about what it needed to do to really capture my attention. Also, Fist of Heaven with the pony just feels far better. Even without the autocast and pony/mount aspect, just dropping big lightning zones and lighting up your enemy is far better than that stupid Phalanx build.

How about Spirit of Arachyr? Is that any good? The chicken aspect supposedly received a giant nerf so it’s not really seen at the moment. Instead, I went Corpse Spiders, recalling that Season 25’s interaction made this build decent. Unfortunately, I guess after playing Chicken, this build doesn’t feel as novel. It just felt slow and clunky. I think the thing that would make this build work a little better would be the 4th Kanai’s Cube slot just to get Wormwood for the auto Locust Swarm cast. Otherwise, you’re still worrying about casting Locust Swarm AND Piranhas AND Soul Harvest. I think that this set has a major identity crisis and they should’ve broken it out into a different set altogether. Too bad Blizzard won’t devote more resources into finishing things like this because they certainly can’t balance the way its works.

I might give the Helltooth Gargantuan build another shot though. I saw that on the leaderboards along with Zombie Bears (Chargers). I didn’t quite enjoy the whole Zombie Bears build but I’ve had a fond spot for Helltooth since the original Firewall build was quite fun. Since then, it’s been a confused set and the whole Gargantuan aspect, for me at least, just felt awful when breakaway doors became the biggest enemy for a witch doctor. Nonetheless, I haven’t done that build in a long time and with the Soul Shards and Altar, I might have to give it another shot.

For Wizards, I was playing Tal Rasha. It’s still quite a powerful build but it’s just horribly boring and slow. This set would benefit greatly from the 4th Kanai’s Cube slot (where you keep both staves in the cube, use the Tal Rasha offhand along with the teleport wand and shuffle around other pieces to make room for the Guardians set and Aughild’s set. Oddly, the build that’s been ranking has been the LoD version of Meteor. Some people have called for a nerf to the individual meteor items rather than Tal itself. But I personally have no desire to play Bazooka.

Instead, the set that might be a thing for me is Delsere’s. I did end up shredding a primal helmet (the slow time one) but I haven’t been convinced to really play wizard for this season. I did like the last changes to Delsere’s but it only shined in that one season with the Sanctified buff since you could call large number of magic missiles or Frozen Orbs. I don’t know how Delsere’s will play with the season 25 soul shards though. I think between Tal Rasha and this build, Delseres is probably better for farming.

Then there’s monk. I tried Innas and there’s a general build that I found okay but slow and boring. The one I prefer is Justice but I haven’t really fudged with it enough to make it a semi pusher. I think with the right Soul Shard (the poison one) it might end up being really fun though. As for the other three, they never resonated with me. And LoD is kinda dead at the moment.

For my final comment, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised in obtaining the Soul Shard when it first dropped. I thought it was a bug. So far, the devs have neither confirmed nor denied whether or not this will be a permanent addition to this season. However, my thought after obtaining the first one and seeing more drop was that I honestly wished I could have seen more items like this drop such as the Sanctified consumables, the 4th Kanai’s Cube slot and the Ethereal weapons. Along with the Altar and Visions, these are the only other seasons that haven’t been made a permanent part of the game that really matter. No one is going to care about double Goblins, double bounty caches, etc. because those are built into the Altar or have been superseded by another feature. But getting a 4th Kanai’s Cube slot, having certain Sanctified items, etc. will probably make most builds more competitive and interesting to one another. I feel like there’s such a low hanging switch the devs can pull which would make the final journey of D3 great if they don’t intend to put anymore effort into the base game from here on out (like more emanating items, sets or turning useless legendaries into useful ones)


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