Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Diablo 3: It's all Fun and Games until you hit Nightmare Level

The title pretty much says it all.  I've been leveling one of each type of character (yes, I'm an altaholic) but given the limited amount of space in the stash, I'm now only leveling two characters.  The others are acting as extra storage space at the moment -- because you often find a piece of gear that would be Just Perfect for another class when you get around to that.  Right now, my Barbarian's level 44 and my Wizard is level 37 and both are in the Stinging Winds area.

I think my Wizard is plotting to have me eaten by a grue.

With equipment donated by his good friend (my Barbarian, who is level 45 and stuffs all the mage-y junk in the Stash chest), my mage blasted through the Normal levels and splatted Diablo to bits as he hit level 30.  The build I chose was effective but not perhaps the best, using Frost Nova (ice snap), hydra (Arcane), ice armor (Chiling Aura), Mirror Image (simulacrum), Magic Missle (charged blast), Ray of Frost (snow blast) on my casting bar.  Evocation, Astral Blast, and Blur for the passive skills.  It wasn't a very high-powered build.  My armor was 1088 and the official stats say my damage was 586.17 -- so not very high, actually.  Since I'd killed him once (after many tries) on my Barbarian, the experience I had on how to manage the fight actually made it possible to solo Diablo at a much lower level on the Wizard.

Well, that and the gold and knowing how to use the Auction House.

So it was with great confidence that I started the Nightmare level with Azumi (my Wizard) and as expected, most of the mobs in the first quest fell over and died nicely before they even got near him.    I was feeling tough as nails and ready for the next act.  The poor Barbarian had gotten chewed up during the first few acts on Nightmare level and has just stumbled off to Caldeum at level 45.  The mage was obviously made of sterner stuff and was going to leave the Barbarian in the dust, right?

As you might have guessed, this was totally wrong.

I finally rescued Tyrael at level 38, and the skunk only paid me 480 gold for it.  I spent about 5 times that much in repairs.  Used a Frost build, took the Scoundrel (highest DPS) with me, and set up for Slow Time, Hydra, Familiar, Mirror Image, Electrocute, and Frost Ray on my casting bar.  Now he's in Stinging Winds and dies rather promptly at almost any excuse.

I can almost hear himAzumi plotting MY demise every time I hit the wrong keys and he falls over dead.

One of the big issues in playing a wizard at Nightmare Level in Diablo 3 is that now there's no "one size fits all" solution.  I change my casting bar and talents for different types of encounters.  Things that work well for splatting things in an area around you (frost trap, then wall of force) don't help much on blue level casters or gold level casters -- or bosses.  The lack of a single "good build" also means you're hunting and fumbling for keys when something comes after you.  The "Turn into an Archon and level everything" works rather nicely on most gold level characters and bosses -- but isn't practical on regular mobs because of the cooldown time.  And if you hit one of those higher level mobs unexpectedly, you spend your time Running Away (also called "kiting" -- same thing, just sounds better) and hoping that your follower can slow them enough for you to stop and blast them again before running away again.

Generally what happens is that your scramble to safety takes you into a place where some of those things you just killed have respawned... and are coming back to find you and hit you just because you nuked their friends.

The Hydra is a useful creature, even if a bit short-lived.  I will target a blast into an area and then call up the hydra (which appears right about where the blast landed.)  Frequently the Hydra will start blasting at the mobs, giving me a chance to slow them with blizzard or blast them with lightning or frost.  At this point the two best choices for follower on mobs are the Scoundrel and the Sorceress because of their crowd control abilities.  The Templar doesn't do much against the mobs and he's not very effective as a healer.  His taunts are so-so -- he's best used in solo boss encounters.

Choosing gear is another big issue -- I generally use socketed gear unless there's something REALLY great about a piece of armor or a weapon.  Both the offhand and weapon have red (strength) gems, and the helmet has a purple (vitality) gem.  Everything else uses the yellow (intellect) gem.  I generally try to pick "Thorns" gear for my wizard when appropriate, because that does extra damage to the monsters but if I'm dying quickly, I go for "Reptilian" (extra life) gear.

So I'm almost halfway through the Nightmare level.  I'm sure things will change once I reach the Keep. 

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