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[DRAFT] SPF 99er Compendium

Discussion in 'Single Player Forum' started by PhineasB, Dec 30, 2017.

  1. PhineasB

    PhineasB Diabloii.Net Member

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    Since there is no time like the present, I thought I’d start rolling out sections of the draft compendium discussed here.

    As you’ll see, it will be broken into an intro and four sections. In the final, I plan to break those into five separate posts to allow direct linking to posts for people who wish to skip ahead or if it’s referenced in other posts later.

    To the get the ball rolling, here are drafts of the intro and first two sections (basics and SPF history). I hope to push out the next section (The Journey, which covers leveling strategies) sometime next week, and eventually the final section, which will include some miscellaneous info and tips.

    I very much welcome feedback and suggested additions or changes on these draft sections before finalizing and reposting. :)

    * * *

    INTRO
    A major challenge or goal for many members of the SPF has been to take a character to level 99.

    There is lots of great knowledge relevant to attempting a 99er in numerous threads, most notably The quest for level 99, 99 theorycrafting and stuff like that, kesteg’s original untwinked 99er challenge, and Kitteh’s recent reboot of the untwinked 99er challenge, Revenge of the 99ers, not to mention the character writeups for completed 99ers. But getting that knowledge means reading through all the posts in all of the threads, and then remembering which thread contained which pieces.

    This SPF 99er Compendium is an attempt to pull out the key tidbits, findings, and theory about 99er progress. Hopefully, it will be a useful resource for longstanding SPF members and newcomers alike who are looking for, or have undertaken, a new challenge. It’s also a tribute of sorts to this forum, those who’ve made it 99, those who’ve attempted it, and the many who have supported others along the journey.

    It’s broken up into four parts:
    1. The Basics
    2. The SPF’s 99er History
    3. The Journey
    4. Tidbits and Pro Tips
    There is no new knowledge or insights here, only the collection of what others have said or found. I may add some editorial comments along the way, but will try to keep that to a minimum. :) Also, if I leave out some key points or fail to attribute things properly, no offense is meant! :p

    As an appetizer to show what it’s all about, let’s feature a vid or two (or three), along with a ping shot for 99:
    99.jpg

    * * *

    1. THE BASICS
    [Edited 12/31/17 to add Baal run tables]
    So what’s this 99er thing?
    Level 99 is the highest a character can reach; once the character hits 99, there is no more experience points (XP) to gain. It’s one way of thinking about “completing” the game.

    What’s the big deal about reaching 99?
    In v1.10+, it’s a major challenge and commitment of time due to the mechanics of XP gain. In particular, the combination of three XP mechanics make the climb to 99 daunting.

    First, the amount of XP needed per level escalates at each successive level. For illustration, getting from 10 to 11 takes 18,036 XP points; getting from 50 to 51 takes 5,059,147 XP points; and getting from 90-91 takes 159,218,965 XP points. The table below from the Arreat Summit shows XP needed from 90-99 (full XP table is in the link).
    Code:
    Lvl   Total XP         XP to Next Lvl
    90    1,618,470,619    146,072,446
    91    1,764,543,065    159,218,965
    92    1,923,762,030    173,548,673
    93    2,097,310,703    189,168,053
    94    2,286,478,756    206,193,177
    95    2,492,671,933    224,750,564
    96    2,717,422,497    244,978,115
    97    2,962,400,612    267,026,144
    98    3,229,426,756    291,058,498
    99    3,520,485,254    -
    
    So, a character basically needs 2x the XP to get from 98 to 99 as from 90 to 91.

    Second, there is an XP gain penalty at higher character levels. In essence, starting at level 70, the character gets successively less XP for killing monsters at each new level. As with the amount of XP needed per level, this character-level penalty escalates drastically, ultimately reaching 0.59% at level 98. So that means that level 98 characters get slightly more than ½ a percent of the XP the monster would otherwise give. The table below from the wiki shows the character-level penalty.
    Code:
    Level Experience  Level Experience  Level Experience
    70    95.31%      80    48.44%      90    5.96%
    71    90.63%      81    43.75%      91    4.49%
    72    85.94%      82    39.06%      92    3.42%
    73    81.25%      83    34.38%      93    2.54%
    74    76.56%      84    29.69%      94    1.95%
    75    71.**%      85    25.00%      95    1.46%
    76    67.19%      86    18.75%      96    1.07%
    77    62.50%      87    14.06%      97    0.78%
    78    57.81%      **    10.55%      98    0.59%
    79    53.13%      89    7.91%       99    ---
    

    Third
    , there is a penalty if a monster’s level is more than 5 levels below the character’s level. Again, this level-difference penalty escalates until it caps out at gaining only 5% of the available XP when the difference is 10 or higher. The table below from the wiki shows the level-difference penalty.
    Code:
    lvl diff  exp%
    6         81%
    7         62%
    8         43%
    9         24%
    10+       5%
    
    Boss packs in A85 areas are level **, so that’s the max level-difference penalty. The only three monsters with levels >** are Diablo (level 94), Nihlathak (level 95), and Baal (level 99).

    Putting it all together, level 98 characters need the maximum XP for that level (more than 290 million), get the max character-level penalty (getting less than 1% of XP from kills), and get no real XP gain except from the three targets above due to max level-difference penalty for all other monsters. At 98, those three targets give roughly 52k (Diablo), 22k (Nihl), and 80k (Baal) per run. (A more exact breakdown and link to handy XP tables is in The Journey section below).

    For context, the table below shows the number of Baal runs needed for each level from 90 to 99, the total/cumulative runs, and percent of the overall total for each level. The numbers are based on testing by jjscud and Reborn (now in the wiki but from early in the 99er progress thread). Although no longer considered an efficient approach for most characters, Baal runs provide a concrete illustration of how the three XP mechanics make the climb to 99 so steep.
    Code:
    Start Lvl  End Lvl  Baal Runs  Total Runs  % Complete
    90         91       20         20          0.36%
    91         92       30         50          0.90%
    92         93       45         90          1.63%
    93         94       60         155         2.61%
    94         95       110        265         4.8%
    95         96       210        475         8.6%
    96         97       450        925         16.7%
    97         98       1100       2025        36.6%
    98         99       3500       5525        100%
    

    I see. That's a lot of runs.
    And this doesn't account for character deaths. In Hell, the XP penalty for dying is 10% of the total XP for the character’s level, which is reduced to 2.5% with a successful corpse recovery. A death at high levels, even with corpse recovery, means loss of several hours of running. At 98, a death without corpse recovery means loss of >29M XP.

    So it takes a while?
    Various estimates are 50-60 hours for level 97 and then 100-120 hours for level 98 (in v1.13+). It will generally take longer if attempted untwinked.

    Why do people do this, again?
    Because it’s fun? Some common reasons that SPFers have mentioned over the years are: (1) it’s a major challenge; (2) it’s a nice goal to take a character all the way to “complete”; (3) early on, many SPFers made the climb through multi-player games and, more recently, through the untwinked challenge, so it’s a way to engage the SPF community; and (4) the journey is lucrative due to the drops that will happen during that many runs.

    So what’s the history in the SPF around this?
    That’s actually the next section.

    Oh, okay!

    * * *

    2. The SPF’s 99er HISTORY
    As of December 30, 2017, there are 45 documented 99ers. Write ups for almost all of them are included in the quest for level 99 thread, with this post including links to the write-ups (as of December 30, 2017).

    Of particular interest are the 99ers prior to v1.13. The first 15 were completed before v.1.13 came out; presumably, at least the next several had also made significant progress prior to the patch release. This was the era of OKs with Iron Maiden. So the melee characters are pretty remarkable, and even for casters, IM was dangerous for mercs. Also, it was before respecs, which opened up different leveling strategies with different builds at different stages. Finally, it was before the increased drop rates for runes, so Enigma was much less common. As a result, Baal was generally the target because it was possible to get the throne room without teleport on a good map.

    As discussed in The Journey section, Baal is the least efficient option for the last level, and generally much less efficient from 94-98 than other options. The time investment was therefore much greater for the early 99ers. There is an interesting discussion within the 8 posts starting here that sum up the evolution from the “early years” to v1.13+. Certainly, the SPF knowledge base has increased, but v1.13 also opened up the possibility to test other targets, particularly CS, because OKs were much less of a threat with IM removed and higher rune drop rates.

    That said, it’s also interesting to see how some things now taken for granted were learned. It apparently wasn’t until November 2005 (after the first two 99ers were completed and several others were very far into the journey) that the XP cap for Baal (which also applies to Diablo) was discovered. Before that, it looks like everyone killed Baal on p8, even though it gives the same XP as p3, adding lots of time to Baal those runs. :eek:

    A quick breakdown of the classes and builds for the SPF 99ers (as of December 30,2017):
    Code:
    Amazon: 7
    Assassin: 3
    Barbarian: 2
    Druid: 1
    Necromancer: 2
    Paladin: 14
    Sorceress: 16
    Most common/popular builds (at least 2)*:
    Code:
    Hammerdin: 11
    Lightning Sorc: 10
    Furyzon: 7
    Blizz-based Sorc: 6
    Trapper Assassin: 3
    Summoner Necro: 2
    * This may be somewhat misleading due to respecs in v1.13+. For example, Hiatus was pure Blizz until 98, then lightning for the last level.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
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  2. Cyrax

    Cyrax Diabloii.Net Member

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    I've only skimmed it so far, but perhaps you should/could expand the xp table? Lots of numbers but i don't think they'll mean much to most people. Perhaps adding the number of Baal runs would give people a better insight in that. Taking Baal here as it was the standard and it's well documented on how many runs are needed per lvl past 90. If you got the numbers you could expand it with Diablo and Nihlathak for comparison sake.

    Like the initiative. :) (now why did they remove the thumbsup?)
     
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  3. Kitteh

    Kitteh Diabloii.Net Site Pal

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    Good stuff my friend! I think that it would be interesting to include some statistics on the 99ers that we have. Number of time a build has been used, number of times a target has been used etc - to show the diversity.
     
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  4. ffs

    ffs Diabloii.Net Member

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    Nice! I like the proposed sections. Not too much to comment on regarding intro and sections 1 and 2, although the latter ends a bit abrupt in 2005. :p

    I guess section 3 (The Journey) will be the most expansive, and also probably where others will provide the most input. Have you thought about how to break it down into subsections? I think it probably makes the most sense to break it down per class and lay out the most efficient routes for each build. This makes sense in particular for untwinked/starting fresh play which IMO of course deserves some special attention. ;) Also as @Cyrax said it probably makes sense to dedicate a separate subsection to number of runs and XP gain with different builds in different areas.

    Anyway, cool project! I'm sure it will become an extremely helpful source of information.
     
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  5. NanoMist

    NanoMist Diabloii.Net Member

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    Good stuff indeed. If you need any help with the experience/runs table, let me know! I still have my excel sheet somewhere and I can always expand the targets and level range beyond the table I've posted before.

    I'm still amazed that the first 99er in SPF is a Druid, since I consider that to be the most difficult class to reach 99 with. To this day it remains the only Druid, although that 2nd 99er, a WolfBarb, is an hononary Druid I suppose. Still insane in both cases.
     
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  6. PhineasB

    PhineasB Diabloii.Net Member

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    Thanks for the good feedback, all! :)

    @Cyrax - I had planned to put all the info about XP based on targets and character level in The Journey section. But you're right that a little context in terms of # of runs would be helpful up top, and Baal runs are the easiest reference point. Also, if you send me the screenie of your character screen with 4 99ers, I can include it either in the intro or in an expanded SPF history section ;) (see below)

    @Kitteh and @ffs - I wasn't sure how interested folks would be in making the SPF history section too detailed. For example, the 99er progress thread is nearly 150 pages and there's lots of good and funny stuff in there. I had more notes, including when people starting testing out other options besides Baal and how the testing by @Gripphon set the baseline for what is now common practice for figuring out the most efficient approach for different characters. I had also thought about adding something along the lines of @NanoMist above about the first two characters being classes that weren't repeated (until @zticazzy finished his Barb last year). I will build that section out a bit more and repost a revised version. And I like the idea about including a table with leveling targets (probably broken into pre- and post-v1.13). I need to go back through the 99er threads to compile that info and will add it to the revised draft.

    As to The Journey, I was thinking about a main section with general info, broken into four rough "stages" of leveling (pre-90, 90-94, 94-98, and 99, with a special sub-section at the end specific to untwinked). This would include the XP/run info for different targets at different levels because it's generalized across all classes. I had mostly planned on quoting and direct linking posts other have made that includes those details because it's been covered pretty thoroughly in posts over the past few years. Based on feedback, I may end up distilling content into this thread with links/credit for underlying info noted as appropriate.

    @NanoMist -- it could be really helpful to expand your XP/runs table to other variations. Thanks for the offer! The main additions I have in mind are: (1) to include "Ventar runs" and "Lister runs" as alternatives to full Baal runs (for consideration at earlier stages) and (2) to add a section for Gripphon runs (Infector and Vizier only), recognizing that won't give full picture due to inability to account for other boss packs that are usually hit on those runs. I plan to link to a couple posts where people have used your table and their own run times/XP averages to inform their leveling strategy.

    The Journey would also have a secondary section with class-specific info, potentially including common builds and build-specific running strategies. This will be more extensive for certain classes where there is more info, of course.

    Edit: Updated "The Basics" section in opening post to include Baal run table per feedback. I also added headers to the initial XP table. I'll repost the SPF History section as a new post with additions, hopefully early next week.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
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  7. Cyrax

    Cyrax Diabloii.Net Member

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    IIRC the screenshot you're requesting is also in my last 99-thread. If it's not let me know and i'll see if i can dig it up.

    Same goes for the # Baals. Got that info stashed somewhere so if you need it let me know.
     
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  8. T72on1

    T72on1 Diabloii.Net Member

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    Very nice. So looking forward to it.

    Not much to add. Two things maybe.

    1. Try to get the level eighty eight thing in another way than the ** . Obviously it would even be better if we would get rid of the filter for that thing alltogether.

    That's 50-60 hours for lvl 97-98 and 100-120 hours for 98-99, right?​
     
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  9. PhineasB

    PhineasB Diabloii.Net Member

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    @Cyrax - The link was down on your necro's 99er write up when I checked not 4 days ago. :) But it's working now, so I guess Photobucket may be back up and running :confused:

    @T72on1 - Yeah, I was wondering the best way to deal with the level 8_8 thing. I think I'll just spell it out. And you are correct on the hour estimate in terms of which levels I meant. So I'll clarify that also.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  10. PhineasB

    PhineasB Diabloii.Net Member

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    Here's an updated draft of the SPF history section, expanded with more info on SPF 99er evolution over the years.

    * * *

    2. The SPF’s 99er HISTORY
    [Edited Jan 1, 2018 to fix table on targets for level 98-99
    Edited Jan 18, 2018 to add mention of untwinked characters]
    As of December 30, 2017, there are 45 documented 99ers. Write ups for almost all of them are included in the quest for level 99 thread, with this post including links to the write-ups (as of December 30, 2017).

    A quick shout-out to the HC 99ers in that list, which include all of three of the characters by DarkChaos, wielanja's hammerdin, and Corrupted's hammerdin. And a special mention for the 6 untwinked 99ers in the list, given the additional challenge that presents.

    Of particular interest also are the 99ers prior to v1.13. The first 15 were completed before v.1.13 came out; presumably, at least the next several had also made significant progress prior to the patch release. This was the era of OKs with Iron Maiden. So the melee characters are pretty remarkable, and even for casters, IM was dangerous for mercs. Also, it was before respecs, which opened up different leveling strategies with different builds at different stages. Finally, it was before the increased drop rates for runes, so Enigma was much less common. As a result, Baal was generally the target because it was possible to get the throne room without teleport on a good map.

    As discussed in The Journey section, Baal is the least efficient option for the last level, and generally much less efficient from 94-98 than other options. The time investment was therefore much greater for the early 99ers. There is an interesting discussion within the 8 posts starting here that sum up the evolution from the “early years” to v1.13+. Certainly, the SPF knowledge base has increased, but v1.13 also opened up the possibility to test other targets, particularly CS, because OKs were much less of a threat with IM removed and higher rune drop rates.

    That said, it’s also interesting to see how some things now taken for granted were learned. It apparently wasn’t until November 2005 (after the first two 99ers were completed and several others were very far into the journey) that the XP cap for Baal (which also applies to Diablo) was discovered. Before that, it looks like everyone killed Baal on p8, even though it gives the same XP as p3, adding lots of time to Baal those runs. :eek:

    In a similar vein, the first mention of not hitting Baal at earlier levels (because the XP/hour is faster to just target the waves) came more than a year into the 99er progress thread in this post by jjscud. It had presumably been figured out before then, but it wasn't widely known within the SPF as a leveling strategy until then.

    As noted above, v1.13 brought a number of important changes. But it wasn't until about a year before that patch hit that SPFers started discussing other targets for leveling. DX and jjscud discussed running Chaos Sanctuary, and the value of saving the Ancients XP reward for level 98 when XP is hardest to get, here in May 2009. That appears to be the first time it was mentioned in the 99er thread.

    A couple months later, here, DX referenced experimenting with Nihl runs and that they could be even more efficient (but found them boring). Theorycrafting around Nihl runs started in earnest in August 2009, and then it became common for characters to target CS or Nihl as a way to save Ancients and for greater XP/hour. Even then, however, CS runs were generally discussed as full clears/hitting all three seals and then Diablo, and some attempts included running Nihl for levels earlier than 98-99.

    So it was only shortly before v1.13 (relatively speaking) that SPFers started exploring leveling strategies beyond Baal runs. That said, the benefits of v1.13 became apparent quickly, with this post and the one by Asmo two posts below giving a fun little example.

    Since then, further testing within v.1.13+ has expanded the knowledge and led to what is currently considered the "most efficient" way for characters to level. That term is actually somewhat misleading because it generally involves testing targets to account for differences in build and equipment. And it also includes comparable options that may meet a player's broader goal beyond peak efficiency.

    Of particular note is the development of 2-seal runs in CS by @Gripphon (now called "Gripphon runs") and additional testing around peak efficiency for certain builds, starting with this post from the 99er theorycrafting thread and continuing for the next dozen or so posts. That has been confirmed and expanded upon by the untwinked 99er reboot crowd, in particular @NanoMist and @Pb_pal shown in this post and this post (and this one that is linked there). The Journey section includes a detailed breakdown of current leveling strategies from different stages (based largely on the posts noted above). But it seemed appropriate to include them here also because they are a key part of the SPF's 99er history.

    To wrap things up, below are some stats about the SPF 99ers, first broken down by class, then by build, then by target for 98-99, and finally noting the SPFers with multiple 99ers.

    A quick breakdown of the classes and builds for the SPF 99ers (as of December 30, 2017):
    Code:
    Amazon: 7
    Assassin: 3
    Barbarian: 2
    Druid: 1
    Necromancer: 2
    Paladin: 14
    Sorceress: 16
    Most common/popular builds (at least 2)*:
    Code:
    Hammerdin: 11
    Lightning Sorc: 10
    Furyzon: 7
    Blizz-based Sorc: 6
    Trapper Assassin: 3
    Summoner Necro: 2
    * This may be somewhat misleading due to respecs in v1.13+. For example, Hiatus was pure Blizz until 98, then lightning for the last level.

    Below are the targets that the 99ers hit (broken out for pre-v1.13 and v1.13+)*:
    Code:
    Pre-v1.13
    Baal: 14
    CS/Diablo: 1
    
    v1.13+
    Baal: 14
    CS/Diablo: 8
    Nihl: 8
    *Again, a grain of salt, as several characters mixed and matched through the last level. But this shows where the most amount of XP was picked up (as best I could tell).

    Finally, the table below notes the SPFers with multiple 99ers (special shout-out to @Cyrax who has 4 and a fifth class that is at level 93 on the progress table):
    Code:
    Cyrax: 4
    DarkChaos: 3
    strijdje: 2
    grogs: 2
    Marvel: 2
    jjscud: 2
    zgpmf: 2
    PhineasB: 2
    Several others have a second 99er actively in progress (CRG and Grape), so this table may expand. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2018
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  11. T72on1

    T72on1 Diabloii.Net Member

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    Maybe interesting for the tidbits and pro tips section, the fact that holding down 'show items' button prevents you from accidentally hitting poppables and such, and could even prevent death that way.
     
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  12. ioupainmax

    ioupainmax Diabloii.Net Member

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    Tips on certain Merc gear combos would be helpful, weighing up the pros and cons.
     
  13. PhineasB

    PhineasB Diabloii.Net Member

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    Yes, very good ideas for miscellaneous tips section. I was also thinking of including the tele-trick, some general thoughts about untwinked play (e.g., don't waste the socket quests and being thoughtful about respecs if planning to save Ancients for 98), and links to a number of posts over the last decade+ reminding people that D2 is about having fun and therefore the importance of picking a character that will be enjoyable for X-thousand runs and having fun on the journey to 99 :). It's actually shaping up to be a pretty short section, so other ideas on info to include would be most welcome!
     
  14. ffs

    ffs Diabloii.Net Member

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    @PhineasB Just checking in on you -- go on! :)
     
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  15. PhineasB

    PhineasB Diabloii.Net Member

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    Very hectic work schedule the last two weeks. I hope to finally have some down time this weekend and get The Journey section finished and posted for feedback. Thanks for the nudge @ffs -- still alive here! :p And my wrist/hand is feeling better, so maybe a few CS runs with the pally this weekend also :)
     
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  16. Dezrok

    Dezrok Diabloii.Net Member

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    I'd been putting off checking this thread out until I had a bit of time for a decent read. Glad I waited. Great work @PhineasB !
    I just want to add that you have a great writing style and make what could be a very disjointed mass of details into a fine story.
     
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  17. PhineasB

    PhineasB Diabloii.Net Member

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    I ran out of steam on the class-specific details, but wanted to go ahead and get this posted. I'll edit in (or more likely post separately) the class details later. Feedback is most welcome, both on substance and formatting. I may play around with fonts, etc. of headers to see if it can be easier to find info of interest and less of a wall-o-text.

    [Edit 1/18/2018: added missing links and various other edits, including mention of Baal Throne Room spawns/mapseeds]

    * * *

    The Journey

    There are four general stages to the quest for 99:
    - Questing and Character Development
    - Early XP Grind (through Level 93)
    - 94-98
    - 98-99

    The sections below address the general strategies for each stage, with detailed data around XP and number of runs for different targets included for the last two stages. Variants and special considerations for untwinked play are noted. The final section provides class-specific information on leveling approach and build options. The focus is on v1.13+ and therefore assumes availability of respecs and the higher drop rates for high runes. A more abbreviated version of this can be found in this post from @Pb_pal.

    Questing and Character Development
    This consists of building the character (i.e., finishing Normal and Nightmare difficulties), pulling together core gear for the build, and then some early leveling at key targets in Hell (Pits/AT/Pindle).

    For twinked play and with respecs available, this can be pretty straightforward: pick your highest level character for the class you want, respec, and equip, using your most efficient runner for relevant targets (MF runs or LK/Trav for runes) if missing key gear. ;)

    For early leveling, hit Pits/AT/Pindle as necessary. Eldritch (superunique just north of first WP in A5) is also a nice target into the early-80s. It’s possible to go with Baal runs right away. But it’s better to focus on other targets while they give efficient XP and save the Ancients quest XP bonus for later in the journey when the XP penalties ratchet up.

    For untwinked play, there are three general approaches to this stage:

    1. Moving through Normal and Nightmare as quickly as possible by completing only what’s absolutely necessary on p1, leveling on Pindle or another target as needed before moving to the next difficulty. MF is generally ignored until Hell, when the character reaches either an area (AT/Pits) or target (LK/Meph) that can be taken on low p-setting and help the character gear up.

    2. Questing straight through to Hell LK/Meph/Pindle on p7/p8. The character builds up MF and improves gear along the way, without re-running areas or targets. This guide for untwinked tourney playthroughs, which is based on another guide by @jiansonz, gives useful pointers for this approach. The player has the choice of clearing as much or as little of each Act along the way. The more direct the playthrough, the more time is likely to be spent on running targets to gather gear (as described in #1 above) before moving into the next stage.

    3. Doing MF runs along the way, such as NM Meph. Whether proceeding under option 1 or 2, the character builds up an MF rig and pauses at various targets in the leveling process to improve gear along the way.

    There are pros and cons to each approach, especially depending on the build. For example, option 1 is probably only a good idea for characters that can run Pindle on higher player settings with limited gear :). So It’s an especially good option for sorcs (Blizzard is ideal) or trappers; melee builds may have more trouble. Similarly, some builds struggle to take down act bosses without good gear (e.g., necro summoners), so gathering gear while playing through or from area runs may be the best bet.

    But either way, there will usually be a stop in LK for runes and charms and some dedicated MF runs to pull the necessary gear together before fully transitioning to XP grinding, and the boundary between this stage and the next one is blurry for sure. Additionally, there may be some frustration trying to pull the core gear together due to randomness of drops.

    For reference, @Pb_pal and @NanoMist went with option 1, as seen here and here. My untwinked 99ers have tried all three routes, and there was always at least one point where the character felt underpowered and questing/running targets was a struggle at times.

    But, in the grand scheme of things, as @T72on1 noted in this post (which also includes a good overview of early leveling), this stage represents a negligible amount of time in the total journey. So pick the approach that sounds most fun.

    Finally, a quick word on how LK fits into untwinked character development: The most efficient approach is probably questing straight through to Trav to take out the Council and destroy the compelling orb (this makes the zealot packs in LK run away from the character). Then run LK as many times as needed to gather runes needed for key runewords (for non-sorcs, this usually means Enigma; for almost all characters, it also includes HoTo and/or CtA). Having these runewords will lead to faster leveling, and LK is about the number of runs (whether early or late in the process).

    That said, the number of LK runs needed for Enigma, on average, is 3855 as @Gripphon explained in more detail here (that post is wealth of other great information). And it may take more than that (or less), depending on variance. So players may find breaks from LK welcome. And they may luck out with a needed high rune while leveling at Pits/AT/Pindle, even if efficiency of those runs isn’t optimal due to missing key runewords.

    As examples, @NanoMist and @Pb_pal have taken the more direct approach to LK, as seen here and here (RIP Stevesy!). My 99ers mixed things up, with a Jah from the Pits speeding up Mercy’s process quite a bit, but with Hiatus ultimately returning to LK at level 95 to get CoH because CS was too challenging and the runes hadn’t dropped leveling in AT, and Phaedrus finally going back to LK at 93 to complete Enigma after slogging through the early 90s.

    Early XP Grind
    Once the basic gear is gathered for the build, the focus turns to running targets that give good XP at high p-settings, generally as high as possible. But the balance of speed versus p-setting is important, as underpowered characters may gain XP faster on lower p-settings due to faster run times and less risk of death, which slows things down quite a bit (the XP penalties aren’t as harsh in 80s and even early 90s, but it’s still there, and dying simply slows down the average run time). It’s generally worthwhile to test out whether lower p-setting might be better, especially if p8 “feels” slow. Here are the most common targets:

    - Pindle is a great target into the mid-to-late 80s and even up to 90 or so.

    - Most builds, however, will do better to transition to A85 areas in the 80s, most commonly Pits or AT. The approach is to hit boss packs (boss + minions), because they give more XP (in absolute terms and because they are level eight-eight, while normal monsters are level 85, making the level-difference penalty less later in this stage). A good map has dense concentrations of boss packs, similar to a good MF map. Characters with cold damage will do well in AT, while Pits is generally the choice for others. As noted, p8 will give the best XP return in theory, but lower p-setting might work better.

    - Beginning with level 90 through level 93, the A85 areas are the general choice for leveling. Powerful characters may transition to CS at some point as well (see the next stage for more detail on these runs).

    - Others transition to Baal runs in earnest for this stage (and the next one). As confirmed by @Gripphon here, focusing on the waves gives better XP/min at this stage. It may be more efficient to end the runs with Ventar if Lister is a challenge. But, as noted above, other options are generally more efficient, if for no other reason than allowing the Ancients XP reward to be saved for later when the XP penalties are higher. Tips for efficient Baal runs are included in the next section.

    - Trav runs also give decent XP, with the added benefit of potential nice rune and jewelry drops.

    For untwinked, the only difference may involve LK runs, as noted in the prior section. Characters may also be missing key pieces of gear (e.g., Arachnid’s or +skill rings), so players may choose to mix in some MF runs to round out the kit. That said, the general advice is to focus on the XP runs because those items may well drop along the way and time spent on MF runs doesn’t move the XP bar.

    94-98
    At this point, there are generally two paths: CS/Diablo or Baal. They are discussed in detail below, with some notes on other options following that.

    Based on current knowledge, one type of CS run is generally agreed to be the most efficient option for most characters at this stage. But it’s more accurate to say that there is consensus that players should test out which option is best for their character. This section concludes with detailed tables, created by @NanoMist and explained in this post, that show XP per run for various targets, and examples of how forum members have used the information captured in those tables to determine which approach to take.

    CS/Diablo: The general approach was to hit the seals at p8, taking out boss packs along the way, and then hitting Diablo at p7 (max experience from any monster is capped in the game code, and p8 exceeds that cap; so using p8 for Diablo only adds more HP). Some players just run on p7 to avoid switching p-settings over the course of thousands of runs. At p8/p7, you are looking at ~3300 runs for 94-98.

    But @Gripphon did extensive testing to show that a particular type of CS run (now called a Gripphon run) is the most efficient way to gain XP for most characters. In short, these runs involve using the tele-trick (see Tidbits and Pro Tips for an explanation) to reach the Pentagram in the middle of CS, then hitting only two seals (Vizier and Infector) and taking out boss packs along the way.

    Further testing has confirmed that hitting the seal for de Seis and then Diablo gives less XP/min than just focusing on the other two seals and boss packs. The best maps for Gripphon runs have boss packs clustered together near the seals so there is less time taken to stop between the seals.

    (A quick note: Gripp is one of the best runners in these forums and his characters were equipped for max killing power (i.e., no MF). So the actual numbers will be lower for most mortals :). But the findings hold true.)

    It’s difficult to calculate the number of runs exactly because the number of boss packs (and monster types) hit in addition to the seals changes the XP gain/run. The number of runs needed is much higher than p8/p7; assuming no boss packs are hit (which is very unlikely), it would take ~6750 runs. That number drops significantly when the average XP/run from boss packs are factored in and, because the runs should take less than half as long, you can see why this would be faster than p8/p7 runs.

    Baal: The general approach for Baal runs is to find a good WSK map. Good means a WP right by the stairs, and then stairs down from again WSK3 very close. With teleport, this can often mean going through a wall to reach the stairs down quickly on at least one of the WSK levels.

    Running to and then clearing the Throneroom is on p1, then p8 for the waves, then p3 for Baal (the XP cap applies to him also, so going above p3 only adds to his HPs). Depending on the character’s strength, the p-setting may be decreased to speed up Lister’s wave (this should only ever apply to untwinked characters).

    As @ffs noted, the map seed can impact how many monsters spawn in the Throne Room. (I haven't seen definitive testing to confirm this, but I've had the same experience.) Seeds with fewer monsters can speed things up noticeably, especially when considered across 1000+ runs or more. If you find lots of monsters spawning on the Throne Room regularly, it might be worth re-rolling maps, even if you have good WSK maps.

    There are a couple strategies for speeding things up:

    - First, the time between Baal spawning the waves slows the runs down a lot. Delerium’s ctc confuse can speed this up, as when it triggers Baal treats the wave as complete as long as the superunique in the wave has been taken out. Mileage may vary on this, as it involves gear tradeoffs. But some people swear by it.

    - Second, Lister’s immunities can slow runs down, especially for elemental builds. Although unbreakable Lister spawns can be “parked” (retreating outside the throne room and then moving back into the throne room so he doesn’t follow), it often will increase the XP/hour to bail immediately and start the next run.

    - Finally, as noted in the previous section, focusing on the waves will probably be more efficient at the earlier levels. The tradeoff is losing the drops from Baal. I’ve seen different takes on the inflection point where hitting Baal becomes efficient, and that is likely due to differences among builds and run times.

    Miscellaneous: The other A85 areas are also options, although they are generally less efficient. Several forum members have noted that characters used for extensive p1 AT runs to make progress toward a grail will be level 96. As noted in this post, Mercy gained decent XP at level 97 from p8 pits with a good map that wasn’t too much worse than her XP from Baal runs but had better drops.

    So staying in Pits/AT past level 93 is definitely an option. With a good map, it might not be less efficient than Baal runs, allowing the character to save Ancients for level 98. This idea was kicked around in the 99 theorycrafting thread, although I don’t think anyone has actually done it.

    XP Tables: @NanoMist created tables that allow players to determine the best path for them, based on their goals and playing style (e.g., max efficiency, MF goals, safety, intensity). They are embedded below and this post includes explanation for how they can be used. The first table reflects p8/p7 CS runs and p8/p3 Baal runs, the second p1/p7 CS runs and p1/p3 Baal.

    Table 1
    exp1.png
    Table 2
    exp2.png

    The basic idea is to time a run captured in this table, which allows an estimate of the amount of time needed to complete a level for that approach. Timing another type of run and figuring out how long it will take to complete a level using that approach allows a comparison to that baseline to see which approach is faster/slower.

    This can also be applied to a type of run not captured here – say, Masoleum runs. By timing those runs and XP gain, I could get a rough gauge about how it compares to all of the other options in this table.

    This can also be used to guestimate how a type of run would compare to another option. For example, it’s not possible to test Baal runs without burning the Ancients quest reward. Instead, I can figure out the time/level for whatever approach I’m using and compare that to an estimated time/run for Baal to see if it would be worth it to move to Baal now.

    Examples of how players have used the info in these tables are shown here, here, and here. The second one focuses on 98-99, but collectively they still give the basic idea.

    98-99
    The options here are Nihl, Diablo, and Baal, listed in descending order of efficiency for most characters. They also are in descending order of dangerousness and risk of death, which is particularly painful at level 98. That said, for many (except HC characters :p), the increased efficiency of Nihl more than offsets the chance of dying. Put differently, even with a death or two, Nihl will generally be faster (assuming successful corpse recovery).

    As one example, @ffs theorycrafted time difference among the three targets here for a light sorc here. But here’s a decent general ballpark using the 2.5M/hr benchmark for Nihl, 90s/run for Diablo, and 2.5 min/run for Baal (which is very solid):

    - Nihl; 116 hours; 100 hours with Ancients quest saved

    - CS/Diablo: 140 hours; 120 hours with Ancients quest saved

    - Baal: 160 hours

    Nihl: As noted earlier, Nihl gives ~22k/run. With characters that take out some monsters around him, it is ~23k, and closer to 23.5k for builds that take out everything on his platform (e.g., trappers). The basic benchmark of XP/hour is 2.5M, with many characters exceeding it. @ffs has recently shown that 4M/hr is possible with a lightning sorc (and on a Mac that avoids S&E lag).

    A couple key points for Nihl runs:

    - There are fixed maps for Nihl, most importantly for the Halls of Pain as explained here. Map 3 is the shortest of the options and easiest to spot because the room with the WP has pillars. It’s a point of personal preference about Halls of Vaught for where Nihl’s platform is, or more likely a function of shrines.

    - Having an XP shrine active when Nihl drops increases XP gained by 50% for that run. It is possible to roll maps with up to 3 shrines from WP to Nihl. There are different views about the value of picking up shrines. @NanoMist had a pretty thorough breakdown here. The bottom line seems to be the time taken to check shrines roughly balances out to time saved by more XP, but that means fewer runs total and lower risk of dying. But finding a 3-shrine map that doesn’t take the character off a straight teleport line seems highly unusual. So 2-shrine maps that are on a direct line may be optimal – more testing is necessary to confirm.

    - Vipers are dangerous with their not-bugged physical damage from poison clouds. It’s explained in this post by @ioupainmax (and the post linked in it by @onderduiker). The danger from vipers can be minimized by always stepping back (or sideways) from the merc after teleporting to the landing spot hear Nihl’s platform. -integer damage reduction gear also helps.

    - Equipping merc with Delerium is key for the confuse proc to minimize ranged attackers (which include the viper clouds and witches with red stars of death). This isn’t needed if the character has a crowd control skill (trappers with CoS or Necros with Dim Vision).

    - In terms of tactics, this post covers some of the key issues: finding a good landing spot (which may involve rerolling maps), the side-step technique discussed above, dangerous rolls that should lead to immediate S&E (e.g., witches with might Nihl), and not-ever-teleporting to pick up items (risk of viper clouds is very high, especially if amp’ed).

    - This post by @Pb_pal covers or reinforces a couple other points: don’t be shy about S&E’ing and make sure to have a solid landing spot. It also notes that resists aren’t critical, except FR to account for Nihl’s corpse explosion.

    - Finally, Nature’s Peace is a key peace of equipment unless the character relies on corpse explosion (trapper or Necro).

    CS/Baal: The general approach is p1 seals and p7 for Diablo, targeting only the seal bosses and skipping boss packs unless they’re collateral damage. Some people prefer straight p7 to minimize changes to p-settings and better chances of drops, but de Seis will be more dangerous.

    Otherwise, the only difference for 98-99 is shrine hunting:
    You’re looking at ~5600 runs for the last level on p1/p7, not accounting for shrines.

    Baal: There isn’t anything different from earlier levels here. Only another >3600 runs :p.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2018
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  18. ffs

    ffs Diabloii.Net Member

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    Amazing stuff! This is looking to turn into a goldmine for people starting or planning this journey. Wish there had been a source like this when I went for this madness. :) Will give it a thorough read tomorrow and some more thought, as I'm sure others will too, but at first glance it seems to cover really everything that comes to my mind, and then some. Great job!
     
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  19. Gynli

    Gynli Diabloii.Net Member

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    Awesome. I definitely needed this =P. will save me lots of time rummaging through 100's of pages of information on the forum.

    nit picking smth i saw on the 1st read.
    should also be descending order of risk. Nihl = most dangerous , then diablo, then baal. ifaik.

    also,
    I never knew that! i've always thought they were like Fallens, where they only run away if i kill smth near them. =P
     
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  20. ffs

    ffs Diabloii.Net Member

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    @PhineasB this is the post with the rough comparison of time difference of the three targets for 98-99. Not sure how accurate it is though, it's based on my own numbers that again weren't based on many runs. Also Lightning Sorc is more or less equally well suited for all of these runs, so the ratios are likely pretty different for other builds which might more clearly favour one target over the other.

    Comment/question regarding Baal maps: I liked the map I settled for until 98 mostly due to the throne room being rather empty most of the time, and periodically completely empty. I'm actually not sure about whether spawning/density mechanics behave any differently there? Because while WP/exits were rather close on both levels on my map, it took some ~15-18 teleports to get to Throne, and I certainly could have rerolled for closer distances. I just didn't do that because I felt on my map I could trigger the first wave faster because of the (presumed) below average density, whereas a few teleports less to get there wouldn't have made such a big difference.

    When reading through the questing/untwinked part I also thought about the Larzuk quests (don't socket Monarch for Spirit etc. :)) but I imagine that's going into the tips section. Same thing I guess regarding Delirium for Nihl, as to avoiding the Delirium bug/crash, in particular for corpse recovery -- it doesn't hurt any more, but there are scars to tell the story. :)
     
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