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DiabloMar 12, 2020 5:00 pm CT

Everything you need to do to prep before starting Diablo 3 Season 20

The start of the new Season is one of my favorite times of the year, like a mini gamer holiday for Diablo 3 players. I spend the time between Seasons cleaning up my stash (ugh), enjoying my newly increased Paragon numbers, and just generally trying to push the limits that much more. I also plan because I want to have everything together come 5:00 p.m. Pacific (or earlier, if you play in the Europe or Asia regions). And since the season starts tomorrow, March 13, we’re all running out of prep time.

Whether you are at that bleeding edge start line or kicking off your Season weeks later, here are some things you can do to make sure your Season 20 kicks off as cleanly as possible.

Choose your class

Class choice is a particular beastie. Some people have their favorites that they play every Season and could not care less about how they may have changed at the patch. Some are looking to kick butt and take names and want to optimize from the get-go. And some fall in between those two extremes. I tested the waters of Seasonal play in Season 10 and never looked back. I know what I like to play, but I also want that initial grind to go pretty quickly. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting a class:

  • What are your goals? Do you want to farm as many Death’s Breaths as possible, be the top solo Crusader, group with your friends to run Greater Rifts every weekend, or maybe make the leaderboards for Conquests? Whatever your goals, they can have a significant impact on your first steps in the new Season.
  • What are the Starter Sets for the Season? Class sets are effectively on a rotation per Season, so even before the announcement, you can do a quick search online and put forward a solid guess as to what will be available. Keep in mind that this rotation is probably changing in the next few Seasons with the introduction of another class set for everyone.
  • What set Build ticks most of your boxes? Let’s say you want to start off playing solo in Hardcore mode (go you!). Survivability is likely your top requirement for both build and playstyle, so that you may look for a class with more defensive skills. Knowing how you want to play is just as important as knowing what you want to do.

From here, you can order the class list in your brain, farm through YouTube videos, or make a spreadsheet. Guess which one I do? (Hint: all of them)

In my spreadsheet, I rank different facets for each class from 1 (lowest) to 7 (highest) to get an idea of what may work best for me. I have played every class at this point, so I have a feel for what I enjoy playing, and ordering things gives me a starting point to consider. I take into account the starting sets from Haedrig’s Gift, the associated builds for both the starting sets and the strongest builds for the Season, and what classes I have the most fun playing.

Once I have a rough idea of my thoughts, I hit YouTube to see where other folks are leaning. Many streamers and YouTubers analyze classes/builds as part of their living, and they are brilliant people. I check out their feedback, what builds they tested, and add that to my spreadsheet. Their opinions add another data point for me to consider. The whole process is another way I engage my mind with the game.

Now to make the call. Believe it or not, the top of my list is not necessarily what I play. As you make your choice, keep in mind that Barbarian, Witch Doctor, and Wizard each received a new set in patch 2.6.8. Barbarians remain a reliable choice in Season 20 — Rossi did not pay me to say that — with Whirlwind continuing as an incredibly powerful build. Barbarians also get the Immortal King’s Call set as their starter, which already starts them off on a strong Hammer of the Ancients build. But, as previously noted, I’ve tried to love the Barbarian, and we just don’t click.

If you want to get in creatures’ faces and do some real damage, the Crusader and their Hammerdin build with the Seeker of the Light starting set could be for you. And of course, the Monk gets to dash around with Seven-Sided Strike as part of their starter set (Uliana’s Strategem). My old faithful has been the Necromancer; while the starting set (Trag’Oul’s Avatar) has a frustrating play style for me, you could rock harnessing the power of blood magic (Lilith, anyone?) and your health pool could.

I had a blast in Season 19 burning through rifts and rifts of demons on my Demon Hunter. There’s a possibility I will give this a shot again, especially with the seasonal theme and starting set (Natalya’s Vengeance). But my strongest inclination (much to the detriment of my survivability) is towards the Wizard or Witch Doctor. The WD’s starting set (Spirit of Arachyr) is OK, but the new WD set was so much fun to play on PTR. The Archon build that accompanies the Wizard’s starting set (Vyr’s Amazing Arcana) is incredibly powerful, especially when paired with the Chantodo’s weapons set.

Keep in mind: Unless you want to push the tops of the leaderboards, you can move on from your starting choice. You always have the option to get to 70, grind Greater Rifts for a Gem of Ease to add to a level-70 weapon, and power-level another class!

Getting started

Hurray! You figured out your class and are ready to go. There is a reliable way to give yourself a leg up on your Season: the weekly Challenge Rift.

Completing the week’s Challenge Rift grants you a cache full of resources to get your Season started, but with some important caveats:

  1. You have to have completed a Greater Rift in your region. If you are a brand new player, this trick won’t work for you.
  2. You have to wait until the Season starts before completing the Challenge Rift.
  3. You have to create your Seasonal character and log in that character before you complete the rift.

Trust me; it’s worth the wait to boost your start-off. The Challenge Rift cache drops:

  • 35 Death’s Breaths
  • 475 Blood Shards
  • 5,100,00 Gold
  • 125 Veiled Crystals
  • 350 Arcane Dust
  • 375 Reusable Parts
  • 15 of each Act’s bounty crafting materials —  Khanduran Runes, Caldeum Nightshade, Arreat War Tapestries, Corrupted Angel Flesh, and Westmarch Holy Water

Once you complete the Challenge Rift, log back in on your Seasonal character in Adventure Mode. Start on Hard if you are comfortable with raised difficulty, as you will get the automatic increase to experience.  With the gold (and 1 Death’s Breath), you can max level both the Blacksmith and the Mystic, which also knocks out two of the Chapter 1 requirements for the Season. Spend the blood shards at Kadala for gear roulette based on your class (and another Season requirement in Chapter 3); you can see what is available for your class at level 1 on D3 Planner.

What’s next?

There are a few more things you can do to give your Seasonal Character a strong start. I use Raxxanterax’s Seasonal leveling guide as my starting point for my method that I have described. Follow what I set out, watch Rax’s video, check out other Season starter build videos on YouTube, or ignore all of it and go gangbusters in your way! It is a game, after all.

I always start in Adventure Mode; while I enjoy the story in D3, it doesn’t bring anything to the Season for me. Hire a follower — Enchantress, Scoundrel, or Templar — and hit the merchants to get an upgraded weapon. Some recommend grabbing the weapon from one of your followers; you can do this, but the merchants may have better options, and you have the gold from your challenge cache. Live a little!

Once you have got your weapon settled, check your bounty map in Act 2. You will be looking for the bounty to kill Zoltan Kulle or Maghda. Both are low-effort/high-reward, with a short run to get to your target and a reward chest popping after you kill the boss. Yay starting gear! If you don’t see their bounties initially, you can log out and back in (which resets your bounty quests). Alternatively, go straight to grab Kanai’s Cube (after talking to the spirit of Zoltan Kulle in town) from the Ruins of Sescheron in Act 3. You will need it for the next steps.

Your biggest priority as you level up is to stay on top of upgrading your weapon. First thing, use the challenge cache materials to craft a level 70 rare weapon for your class and upgrade it to legendary using Recipe 3 (Hope of Cain). Then use Recipe 1 (Archive of Tal Rasha) to extract the legendary power and equip it in your Kanai’s Cube. A boosted ability is yours, right from the onset! Remember to check back with your Blacksmith every 5-10 levels. You will be able to craft a new weapon for yourself with an impressive damage boost; two-handed items are your best bet on this front.

There is a known optimal path for leveling in Season — burning through Nephalem rifts in a 4-person group. For those living the solo player life, here is how I knock out my quest to 70:

  • After killing Zoltan Kulle or Maghda, run a Nephalem rift (or 2) to hit level 10.
  • Go to Act 1 to kill Leoric for his crown. From here to 70, equip the highest level ruby gem you have handy for an awesome XP boost. (Thank you, andreios!)
  • Knock out the rest of my Act 2 bounties, then grind rifts to 20.
  • Choose another act to complete the bounty quests, then rifts to 30.
  • Rinse, repeat.

No, it’s not the optimal path, but by level 60, you complete half of the Chapter 1 requirements. If you want to increase the experience boost you are receiving, try increasing the difficulty every 10 or 20 levels. Before you know it, you will have all four chapters completed and your full set from Haedrig.

Out-of-game prep

Video games are immersive. Some top tier players grind the first 24-48 hours of the Season to secure their leaderboard ranking. Don’t forget — you still need to take care of yourself during your Diablo binge! Here are some tips to make the most of your Season start:

  • Hydrate. Water is your friend. If straight water is not for you, try adding lemon or cucumber or mint. Decaf tea and sparkling water are also alternatives to consider.
  • Prep snacks. For me, this means going to the grocery store and getting some fruit, baby carrots, and peanut M&Ms. For you, it could mean a giant bowl of popcorn. Just make it something easy to munch on while playing (breaks for meals are good too).
  • Move around. You don’t need to hit the gym for an hour, that may not be your thing. It’s still important to stand up every so often. Changing positions makes it easier to play for long stretches. Bonus points if you go outside!
  • Sleep. Yes, even if burning through the first 48 hours with your team. If you are 100% committed to that level of play, clear your Sunday for a stretch of sleep.

Final thoughts

I approach the game from a solo casual perspective. A common Season goal for me is getting Paragon 1,000. For others, that’s their goal for the first day of the Season. No matter what — have fun. See you in Sanctuary!

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