The Season One leaderboard race quickly turned into a farce (in Softcore, at least) when players exploited the huge exp provided by several bounties that could be completed by undergeared characters on Torment 6. All people had to do was party up (for the greater exp) and keep creating games until they got the proper bounties, rush through and click the NPC or object to start the bounty timer, and then run and dodge, or die, until the bounty timer ended and they received a huge exp reward without having to kill a single enemy.

    Shut that barn door tight, now.

    Shut that barn door tight, now.

    No one seemed to enjoy this cheesy style of play, even the people who were doing it since it was the only way to keep up. Our vote showed a strong majority in favor of a fix, and as they usually do these days, the D3 devs listened. The four bounties that were so exploitable, granting huge experience without requiring any monster killing, have been temporarily removed from the pool until a more lasting/satisfying fix can be patched in. (All of those events remain in the game; they just will not spawn as bounties and thus will not deliver the huge EXP boost for bounty completion that they were providing last weekend.)

    The question some players are asking now, that those bounties are gone… what’s the best way for a new character to level up quickly? That’s not such an urgent question now as it was last weekend with Season One about to commence; at this point most players interested in seasons have a level 70 by now, or have friends who could help them power level. But not everyone had the hours last weekend or this week to zoom up to 70, and long term, plenty of players who are evaluating how things went last weekend as they prepare their strategy for the (coming soon™) Season Two leaderboard rush.

    If we only had softcore, it would be hard to say what worked best for fast leveling up the new seasonal characters, since exploiting those bounties was so much faster than playing for real. Happily, we’ve got a control group. The same bounties were available in Hardcore, but since the exploit was most profitable when rushed through on Torment 6, which inevitably resulted in a lot of character deaths, it wasn’t viable in Hardcore. (Not that the exploit required constant death; characters into their 30s and 40s had enough gear and skills that they could often duck and dodge and CC and run for 30 seconds until the bounties triggered. Not many HC players are willing to take that risk, though.)

    So, how can you level up a new character quickly, without constant death or huge exp gain from exploiting bounties on T6? It’s Diablo 3’s best cheese-free level 1-70 strategies:

    First, some general tips.

    Play on Lower Difficulty Levels

    Lower difficulty is NOT the way to go if you’ve already got high level characters and can twink gear (and gems). With twinks, it should be much faster to play on the highest difficulty level on which you can still kill quickly. (Most players can manage Master or T1, at least until level 40 or so.) It doesn’t take a full suite of amazing gear either; just a decent weapon with a hole in it + a high level Ruby will put your new character way above the difficulty curve, enabling one shot kills on almost everything for the first 30 or 40 levels. (Big +mainstat or +vitality gems socketed in your armor also make a huge difference, and obviously a ruby in your hat is mandatory, for the faster exp gain.)

    That’s with twinks, though. The novelty of Season One was that everyone had to start from scratch, and when starting off naked, without even Paragon Points (y u no max Movement Speed!!1!?), it’s much faster leveling if you stick to Normal, or Hard difficult. Yes, you can go old school and start off a naked character on T6, and it’s possible and challenging and fun to kite and CC and use all kinds of strategy to survive when even the trash mob zombies have Uber Diablo type hit points… but it’s a very slow way to level up. (Though quite fun to ding about every third kill.)

    If you want to get to 70 quickly, play on a lower difficulty. Even with more players in the game, it’s better to stick Normal or Hard and steamroll enemies and finish a lot of bounties, than it is to kill much more slowly and get more exp per kill. (And you won’t die, which matters greatly in Hardcore.)

    Here’s how the lower DiabloWikidifficulty levels increase the basic monster stats and exp returns:

  • Hard: 200% Health, 130% Damage, 75% extra gold bonus, 75% extra XP bonus
  • Expert: 320% Health, 189% Damage, 100% extra gold bonus, 100% extra XP bonus
  • Master: 512% Health, 273% Damage, 200% extra gold bonus, 200% extra XP bonus
  • Click through for much more…

    As you can see, Hard doubles enemy hit points for 75% more exp, which is a pretty good sweet spot if you’re playing a class you know well. Expert is much less profitable, since it more than triples hit points for only a slight 25% exp increase over Hard, and Master is foolish, with more than 5x the hit points for less than triple the exp. Stick to Hard, or even just Normal, since you want to maintain a killing speed where you can one-shot trash mobs solo, or gang-crush them very quickly in multiplayer.

    Another aspect of lower difficulty is that you don’t want any “down time.” Any time you spend not actively dealing damage (or hurrying to the next bunch of enemies), is wasted time, when you’re in a level up race. So you don’t want a difficulty that forces you to kite or retreat or maneuver, and you don’t want enemies with enough hit points that you’re regularly emptying your resource and having to use less-damaging skills while it refills. That’s true at every level of the game when you’re playing for speed, whether with a brand new Seasonal Hero at level 14, or at level 70 in a high level Greater Rift.

    Just to digress on that point, as you can see in the highest level Greater Rift Leaderboards today, the Demon Hunters are the strongest solo class. And as John Yang related on last week’s developer live stream, that’s not because Demon Hunters have the biggest offense. It’s because they have the most constant offense (via Sentries) and great evasive skills.

    John Yang: Players are noticing that the Demon Hunters are clearing 2 or 3 tiers above everyone else in the Greater Rift Leaderboards. That is a slight problem. We’d love all classes to be within 1 or 2 GR tiers from each other.

    Some people have pointed out that Demon Hunter’s damage output is not too far higher than everyone else. The problem is they have really good sustain, (via Sentries) and they can do damage while being out of range or line of sight. And they’ve got Smoke Screen for invulnerability and can cheat death via their new passive.

    So take it from a developer and from the empirical evidence of the highest Grift boards… for great success, you want to deal damage as much of the time as you possibly can, whether you’re level 10 or 70.

    Move Fast and Use Teamwork

    Fast Movement is obvious and enjoyable, and many players were a bit shocked to get into the Season, without their Paragon Points, and find their new characters moving as though dragging a piano. There’s no easy fix for that; few early game skills give much movement speed and the ones that do, like Vault and Fleet Footed and Steed Charge are hugely useful. Boots are the only item that provides movement speed early on, and when you’re ladder rushing, MS is much more important than any other possible affix on boots.

    Also remember that movement speed is handy to survive, but it’s also the best way to cut the dead time between battles. The whole point is to spend as little time as possible *not* killing enemies or moving towards a bounty completion. That means taking 5 seconds instead of 4 to move to the next group of enemies (multiplied 5000x per game). It also means time spent in town, talking to NPCs, dithering over skill changes or gear upgrades, AFK getting a snack, taking an extra minute creating a game, etc. Players who would never use boots without MS might save a few minutes a game because of them, and then give triple that time back while lingering over a smoke break.

    Multiplayer is a Must

    It should go without saying that you want to play in a party if you’re trying to level up fast. More players in the game boosts the experience gain. More players also boost the monster hit points, but by less than the number of players, so if everyone (or even 3/4) is together, more players = bigger damage output than you can manage solo. And that’s not even considering actual teamwork; using complimentary skills and tactics.

    That was something all the ladder running guests talked about on our recent Seasons podcast; how much fun and how effective it was playing with four players all together. Not just in the game at once, or all off on different bounties split farming Act One, but actually concentrating their attacks on the same enemies, on the same screen. Obviously the characters don’t have their full suite of skills at lower levels, but there are plenty of party buffs and other ways to compliment each other. On the podcast, Wolfpaq talked about playing in a group with two Crusaders who took turns using Condemn; Vacuum, each time pulling all nearby enemies into a tight bunch which the other characters could then lavish AoE affections upon. Obviously a Monk(s) with Cyclone Strike could serve the same function.

    We’ll have more discussion about the best party types and skills/builds when we get closer to Season Two. The point for now is that parties working together is the best way to maximize clearing speed and exp gain. And fun, if something as irrelevant as that factors into your equation.

    All Act One Bounties

    Players often do all five Act One bounties with their level 70 characters as a normal game play option. This can be done with new characters to level up, but it’s not ideal for leveling speed. Individual quick bounties, yes. All five, when one always seems to require a trip to the damn Spider Caves? Not so much. (Pro tip: If you’re doing all of Act One solo and you get Spider Caves, do it first. That way all the others will feel like you’re running downhill.)

    There’s no big exp reward for completing all five bounties, and while the gems and Rift Keys from Tyrael’s goodie bag can be helpful, they’re not the priority when you’re trying to level up fast. As for items from the Horadric Cache, do you really want to risk finding a DiabloWikiRoRG at like… level 37? You’d wind up staring at and cursing it for weeks as your A1 split farming found you every legendary in the game except for the one you really wanted. (Well, probably not, as much as the drop rates for legs from bags have been boosted on T1 and up.)

    So those are the general tips, most of them common sense. What about the leveling, though? What should you actually do in the game and where should you do it? There are many options and opinions, but some are clearly faster than others.

    Skimming Selected Bounties

    This can be a very good way to level up. Create a game, look over all the bounties on offer, and do the 4 or 5 or 8 that offer the best exp for time spent. This requires that you know all the bounties and have a sense of their return for the time required. Not that you always want to do the shortest bounties, since they’re worth a lot less exp. At low levels though, before you’ve got all of your movement speed and gear and skills, your options are more limited.

    A big drawback of this technique in MP games on a ladder rush is that it requires good communication, with everyone in the same room or at least on Skype. You can’t be wasting time debating which bounties to do, or waiting around for players to catch up at the waypoint, and with so many players these days ignorant of most content outside of Act One and Rifts, good luck finding a party for this.

    Nephalem Rifts

    This was the recommended approach by many players, and it’s fast, but there’s debate about how well it works. At their best, clearing Nephalem Rifts from say level 40-70 *can* be the fastest technique. Obviously you’ll have to do bounties first, to build up Rift Keys on your new seasonal character, but monsters in Rifts are worth more exp than non-Rift enemies, and the exp reward for each Rift is a healthy chunk on top of that. Legendaries drop more often in Rifts as well, so your character should find better/faster upgrades.

    The real drawback to Rifts is their randomness. Good Rift levels with high monster density are definitely the fastest way to level up a sub-70 character… And then you get two straight Panda Fort levels with Corrupted Angels and no spawners and after 8 minutes you’re still at 21%.

    I’ve read and heard player reports who said they did awesome in Rifts and it was definitely faster than bounties. And I’ve heard others who said they tried a rift or two, got a bad spawn or map, and felt like it was a waste of time. RNG is fun!

    Repeating the Same Level

    The Seasons Race Podcast was funny. The first two guests were Katniss and N3rdwords, followed by Rankil and Wolfpaq, all talking about their busy Friday night (and subsequent weekend) after the Season began.

    Katniss played a hardcore Crusader and tried a variety of approaches, including running RIfts. He finished around #300 (in the race to be the first 1000 to hit lvl 70) Hardcore, in about 8 hours.

    N3rdwords had less fun, since he tried to run Act One bounties with 3 friends… but in softcore. They were zooming along, leveling quickly and he hit level 29 in about an hour and a half… just before the first level 70s dinged, via the T6 Bounty exploitation discussed above. At that point N3rdwords and his party gave up playing legit and went to cheese the bounties like everyone else, but were much too far behind to get into the top 1000.

    Rankil was up next on the podcast, and he described a variety of play styles and choices, which ultimately took him to around #200/1000 in the Hardcore race to 70. His final point was describing a method he heard some other guys were doing, which was not bounties or Rifts, but just repeating the Act One Halls of Agony level 3, over and over again.

    Wolfpaq then took his turn. He’s not usually a Hardcore player, but he wanted to go Hardcore for the Season rush, and found 3 other guys to party with. There were complications, two of them dropped out, the other guy left a while later, and for a bit in the high 40s, Wolfpaq was actually playing solo. Listening his narrative, I was expecting a sad ending… But then Wolfpaq took the 4th spot when it opened up with another member of our IncHCW clan. There he found the party repeatedly running… the Halls of Agony level 3.

    They played co-op, it was glorious, and they all hit 70 in the same game, fast enough that Wolfpaq wound up earning the #99/1000 slot. Faster than anyone else on the podcast! (Definitely including me.) That despite the fact that Wolfpaq was playing practically his first Hardcore character ever, despite his initial party disintegrating, despite him actually playing solo for a while, and despite him not happening into the “run Halls 3” strategy until nearly level 50.

    Single Level FTW?

    So… how about that strategy? Just clearing the same level repeatedly? Wolfpaq’s party was doing the same one level every game, and paying zero attention to bounties, unless some “Kill the Purple” just happened to spawn on that level. Wolfpaq specifically noted that they were *not* doing the Butcher if/when he was a bounty, since the time it would have taken to run down the stairs to his level, wait for the level to load, pass the animation/intro, and kill the fat bastard, would not have been worth the exp reward from the bounty.

    Grinding the same (very dense monster) level seems insanely old school. Like D1 Hell clears, of D2 Cow Runs… but of course that’s what everyone did to level in the Paragon 100 days of Diablo 3. Initially no one did it in Act One, since the A1 density sucked back then and that was before the scaling difficulty system. (Though the other acts were buffed late in the DiabloWikiDiablo 3 vanilla days.) Initially everyone just ran parts of Act Three, mostly the famous DiabloWikiAlkaizer Run levels, and while those are no longer so useful due to various game changes (especially due to nerfed exp from Scorpions) the concept is the same.

  • Find a very dense level with good exp.
  • Repeat.
  • Bounties are great exp early on, and Rifts give more exp than normal areas, but they’re unpredictable and vary from game to game. Doing the same level (or levels) over and over again is fast, predictable, you can refine a strategy since the monsters are the same variety every time, and it’s fast to coordinate with the other players, since everyone knows where you’re going and there’s no wasted time deciding which bounties are worth doing, in which order, teleporting to catch up to the others, etc.

    As mentioned above, saving time by eliminating dead time is of huge importance in a ladder rush, and just clearing the same level over and over again has to save many seconds per game, and those really add up over multiple games. I’m sure the maximum exp per minute is better from the best bounties, or from a dense Rift, but you can’t get those every game, get all 4 players there without delays, etc.

    The Best Level to Run?

    This is a question I’m curious about, but after some thought I can’t think of anything obviously better than the Halls of Agony 3. I’ve run through there a number of times in the past week, in light of Wolfpaq’s strategy and speedy result, and it’s a lot better than I remembered.

    Halls of Agony 3 always has roughly the same mixture of Skeletons, Zombies, and various Cultists, they spawn in large numbers, and they’re all melee attackers who will come to you, or at least stand still in zombified confusion. The layout of the level is also helpful, with wide hallways, open rooms, fairly common Cursed Chests, and not a lot of dead ends.

    Compare to something like the A3: Keep level 2, which was probably the best single level for exp in the D3v days since the skeletons spawned with crazy density. Keep 2 is still very dense in the current game, but it’s a maze-like layout so it’s easy to run into long dead ends, the constant narrow doorways and small rooms make it impossible to keep four players all fighting the same enemies at once, all the walls block ranged characters from shooting very far, the quill beasts roam around and require you to run after them, and the green bomber Fallen can be dangerous or at least inconvenient. The issues of layout aren’t a real problem playing solo, but they are a big hindrance to speedy four player co-op, which is what makes a ladder rush go so fast.

    Are there other good farming levels? Certainly, and I’m curious to hear reader recommendations or disagreements.

    The rest of Act Three was Scorpion-nerfed for exp (Crater 1 and 2 and Core of Arreat), or has the same problem of layout as Keep 2 (Keep 1 and 3, Bridge), or has levels that are too small (Tower levels, surface areas).

    Act One has the easiest monsters, but none of the other areas are as good as Halls of Agony 3. Keep 2 has less monster density, the Weeping Hollow’s monsters aren’t that valuable, the Fields of Slaughter is good density but large and requires a lot of exploration, plus there are slower/harder monsters (Trees, Beasts), and the other Act One surface areas (Highlands, Hunting Grounds) are too spread out and don’t have enough monster density.

    Act Two has some good farming areas with high density, like the Dhalgur Oasis, but it’s huge and requires a lot of exploration, the density varies, and there are Fallen Shaman and invisible Naga that sometimes run away or turn invisible/intangible, delaying their death. The skeleton-filled desert tomb under the Dhalgur Oasis is a great farming area, but there’s no waypoint right to it.

    Act Four doesn’t have any areas with enough density and the monsters are a pain in the ass.

    Act Five has no areas with enough consistent density, most of the levels are huge and/or spread out, and there are always annoying monsters.

    So… I guess Halls 3 really is the best farming level? I want to think of something else, but um…. hmmm.

    I still think skimming bounties or doing Rifts could be faster, since the exp for bounties is such a big boost, but it would take lucky good spawns and great multiplayer communication/coordination. I’m curious to see how it goes next Season, as I’m sure many more players more dedicated than I have been number-crunching on this very issue for the past week or more.

    What do you guys think?

    What are your Diablo 3 Best Level 1-70 Strategies, Cheese-Free?

    Anyone got any play styles that you think are faster/better than the ones I cited? Can skimming bounties be done efficiently in a 4 player game, if you’re all communicating? Are Rifts valuable enough to outweigh the inevitable low density Rift spawn? Or do you think one of a the single levels is better than Halls of Agony 3?

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