Everything you need to do to prep for Diablo 3 Season 21
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. But I also do my prep homework, 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 July 3, 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 21 kicks off as cleanly as possible.
How to 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 their most useful 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.
Strong class options for Season 21
After weighing all the options, it’s time to make a choice.
Believe it or not, the top of my list is not necessarily what I play. As you make your choice, keep in mind that Necromancer and Demon Hunter each received a new set in patch 2.6.9, wrapping up the wave of new gear sets for each class. Barbarians continue to be a reliable choice in Season 21 — Rossi did not pay me to say that — with Whirlwind-Rend remaining an incredibly devastating build choice. The starting set, Might of the Earth, has a particularly strong Seismic Slam build associated with it, so your onset is going to be gangbusters as well. That said, I have tried to love the Barbarian, but we just don’t click.
If you want to get in creatures’ faces and do some real damage, the Crusader’s Thorns of the Invoker starting set is going to be your friend. Monsters get punished for hitting you! It’s very straightforward as far as play goes. Monks will also have a strong start with the Monkey King’s Garb (aka Sunwuko’s). You’ll be able to leverage the Tempest Rush, or Wave of Light builds here; it all depends on how you want to play. Either way — speed farming, Greater Rift solo progression, and Death’s Breaths farming are available just with this starting set!
Now, I’ve dubbed the Necromancer my “old faithful” class, and the new Masquerade of the Burning Carnival set is freshly out! I had a lot of fun testing it on PTR, but the associated build is not friendly for leveling. The starting set for Necros is Grace of Inarius, which turns your Bone Armor into an insane death dealer; it’s one of my favorites. Sadly, the Wizard is not likely to be a popular caster choice in Season 21 as the class has seen a lot of nerfs the last few patches. The season’s starting set, Firebird’s Finery, is perfect if you enjoy a Meteor build. And of course, if you love playing a pure caster, the Wizard is your BFF.
Personally, if you love casters, I’d point you to trying the Witch Doctor. The WD’s starting set (Raiment of the Jade Harvest) has a decent associated build, but the new WD set was so much fun to play during Season 20 that I would cheerfully do it again! However, I’m currently leaning towards the Demon Hunter, as the new Gears of the Dreadlands set is supposed to be amazing (plus Strafe is such fun). With the elemental theme and Shadow’s Mantle starting set, Demon Hunter is going to have a fantastic Season 21.
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!
Get started with a Challenge Rift
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 critical caveats or you won’t be able to claim the reward on your new character:
- 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.
- You have to create your Seasonal character and log in that character before you complete the rift.
- You need to wait until the Season starts before completing the Challenge 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.
Kick-start your Season 21 leveling
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.
These is my typical Season starting session:
- Play in Adventure Mode. I always start in Adventure Mode; while I enjoy the story in D3, it doesn’t bring anything to the Season for me. (Plus it lets you dive straight into bounties for big rewards.)
- Don’t forget the follower. Hire a follower — Enchantress, Scoundrel, or Templar — to lend a hand as you go.
- Upgrade your weapon. 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!
- Do quick boss bounties. Once you have 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).
- Get Kanai’s Cube. 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.
- Extract a power for Kanai’s Cube. From there, 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 with Kanai’s Cube 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.
Easy leveling for solo players
There is a known optimal path for leveling in Season — burning through Nephalem rifts in a 4-person group. But for those living the solo player life, here’s 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 impressive 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, I have half of the Chapter 1 requirements completed. If you want to increase the experience boost you’re receiving, try increasing the difficulty every 10 or 20 levels. Before you know it, you’ll have all four chapters completed and your full set from Haedrig.
Don’t forget 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.
I approach the game from a solo casual perspective. A common Season goal for me is getting Paragon 1,000 and knocking out a GR 100 solo. For others, that’s their goal for the first day of the new season.
No matter what — have fun. See you in Sanctuary!
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