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DiabloApr 11, 2022 6:00 pm CT

How to get ready for Diablo 3 Season 26 and start the Season off right

The new Season’s start is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s 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 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) on Friday for the new Season’s release date. And since Season 26 starts this Friday, we’re all running out of prep time.

Whether you’re 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 26 kicks off as cleanly as possible.

How to choose your class in Season 26

Class choice is a particular beastie. Some people have favorites that they play every Season and couldn’t 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 quickly. So 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 with your build, group with your friends to run Greater Rifts every weekend, or maybe make the leaderboards for Conquests? Whatever your goals, they can significantly impact 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 you can do a quick search online and project what will be available.
  • What set build ticks most of your boxes? Let’s say you want to start playing solo in Hardcore mode (go you!). Survivability is likely your top requirement for both build and playstyle, so 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: it’s 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 all seven options at this point, so I understand what I enjoy playing, and ordering things gives me a starting point to consider. Next, I review the starting sets from Haedrig’s Gift (and the associated builds), the most valuable 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 on what builds they tested and add 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.

Season 26 Haedrig's Gift Class Sets

Class sets and considerations for Season 26

After weighing all the options, it’s time to choose my starting class, and the sets each class gets this Season could play into it.

I’ve said it before; I consider a few factors, and the top of my list is not necessarily what I play. Here’s a quick list of the sets provided for the coming season:

This is not a world-ending choice. Don’t forget: 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!

As soon as the Season starts, run a Challenge Rift

Hurray, you’ve picked your class for the season start! 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; however, heed these critical caveats, or you won’t be able to claim the reward on your new character:

  1. You have to have completed a Greater Rift in your region. This trick will not work if you are a brand-new player.
  2. You have to create your Seasonal character and log in to that character before completing the rift.
  3. 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 a greater difficulty if you’re comfortable, as you will get a nice increase to experience. With the gold from the challenge rift (and 1 Death’s Breath apiece), you can max level both the Blacksmith and the Mystic, which also knocks out two of the Season’s Chapter 1 requirements. Finally, 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 26 leveling

You can do a few more things to give your Seasonal Character a strong start. I use various YouTube leveling guides as the starting point for the method described. Follow what I set out, 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.

Below is how my typical Season start plays out:

  • 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. (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, especially since the follower system revamp.
  • 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!
  • Get Kanai’s Cube. 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. Next, your biggest priority as you level up is to stay on top of upgrading your weapon. First, 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). Next, 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 are a few known optimal paths for leveling in Season, such as burning through Nephalem rifts in a 4-person group or tackling cursed chests. However, as a solo player, I’ll usually deviate from the optimal party method and level up with the following strategy:

  • After getting Kanai’s Cube, run a Nephalem rift (or two) 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!)
  • After checking the Season Journey, run the Act 1 bounties to see how much progress I can make in Chapter 1! If this doesn’t get you to level 20, knock out a Nephalem Rift.
  • Go to Act 2 to complete the bounty quests, then rifts to 30.
  • Rinse and repeat across all 5 acts.

It may not be the optimal path, but by level 60, I’ve completed most of Chapter 1 through 3’s requirements in the Season Journey. 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 entire set from Haedrig.

Don’t forget out-of-game gaming session prep!

Video games are immersive. Some top-tier players grind the first 24-48 hours of the Season to secure their leaderboard ranking. But 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 plain water is not for you, try adding lemon, cucumber, or mint. Decaf tea and sparkling water are also alternatives to consider.
  • Prep snacks. Usually, I go to the grocery store and get some fruit, baby carrots, and peanut M&Ms, but I also have a fantastic source of recipes right here on Blizzard Watch (more below)! 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. But 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.

We lucked out in that Blizzard Watch has acquired writer Rob Flanagan for all things delicious, so if you’re looking for some magnificent munchies to accompany your weekend leveling binge, enjoy the treats below!

Final thoughts

I approach the game from a solo casual perspective. I’ve focused on my optimal experience in the last few seasons: completing the Season’s Journey for the new pet without blasting for 3-4 months. It proves to be an exciting challenge, and that’s all I want at this point! So regardless of your goals — GR100 on the first day, by season’s end, or never — have fun and be good to yourself. See you in Sanctuary!

Updated 4/10/2022

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