[Guide] Build Efficiency 101 – Overview & Resource Compilation

ffs

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One of the things that make the SPF so great is how many players here try to push the limits of speed and efficiency. Be it magic finding (MF), rune finding (RF), gaining experience or any combination thereof. All of these various purposes have very different builds and characters that are best suited for the task, running a multitude of targets and approaching them in different ways.

There is a myriad of posts, threads, videos and other information on these forums that deal with all kinds of aspects of efficiency: Which targets to run, which build and gear to use, how different builds compare and so on. However, it can be a quite tedious to find all the relevant information in order to get an overview of the different options and approaches. Against this background, I thought it might be helpful to gather some basic information on build efficiency in one place, intended to serve as a holistic overview, reference and resource compilation.

What you will find here is an overview of the following:
  • The most efficient targets (in principle) for magic finding and rune finding
  • The builds most efficient (in principle) at running those targets
  • Basic gearing and gameplay principles for those builds
  • Gameplay videos and links to more detailed guides/write-ups
  • Efficiency benchmarks to get an idea of how different builds/targets compare
What you will not find here is detailed number-crunching (e.g. regarding drop odds, detailed peak efficiency numbers etc.), since I meant to keep it reasonably simple given the purposes above. However, you will find references and links to resources on these forums that deal with such individual aspects in-depth. I will try my best to keep this updated going forward.

Table of Contents

I. Magic Finding
Targets and General Considerations
1. Berserker​
2. Singer​
3. Concentrate/Hybrid Barb​
4. Blizzard Sorc​
5. Fire Ball/Hybrid Sorc​
6. Other Builds and Targets​
II. Rune Finding
Targets and General Considerations
1. Lower Kurast​
2. Travincal​
2.1 WW Barb​
2.2 Blizzard Sorc​
2.3 Other Builds​
2.4 Merc Setup​
2.5 Map Considerations​
3. Cow Level​
3.1 Javazon​
3.2 Necro (PN)​
3.3 Trapper (FB/DS)​
3.4 Other Builds​
3.5 Merc Setup​
4. Arcane Sanctuary​
III. Combined Area Running
Targets and General Considerations
1. PN Necro​
2. Javazon​
3. Hammerdin​
4. Blizzard Sorc​
5. Nova Sorc​
6. Other Builds and Targets​
IV. Further Aspects and Resources
1. Experience Gain​
2. Targets by Gearing Progression​
3. Links and Resources​

Preliminary Notes - Please Read Me!

A Matter of Personal Preference

I know that not everyone plays D2 for the sake of efficiency – and from the outset, I would like to forestall any notion that this thread claims to suggest anything like a "correct" approach to play or being condescending vis-à-vis any other style of playing. There are many ways to have fun and enjoy the game, and certainly I don't focus on efficiency every time I fire up D2. So, while this thread is addressed to players who take enjoyment out of increasing their efficiency, I sincerely hope no one takes this as a slight against their own individual approach to the game.

General Note on Gear
You'll see many of the below gearing choices include some relatively rare gear. In particular Enigma is listed for basically all non-Sorc builds. While it is not required to build strong characters, for better or worse, it is more or less required to achieve high efficiency with any non-Sorc character for most targets. Many sample setups will moreover include stuff like Infinity, Grief, relatively rare S&Us (Griffon's, Death's Fathom, Death's Web) and/or crafts.

It goes without saying it can take a long time to accumulate those, and I'm fully aware that it's ridiculous to assume everyone has those items. For this reason, I will be including more readily available alternatives whenever I can. There is also a brief section addressing gear progression and farming targets along the way of gearing up. Generally speaking though, this is largely assuming relatively good gear. That's because comparing the potential of different builds means looking at characters that are put in a position to realize their potential, so to speak. For example, without Infinity a Javazon is less powerful, and this may change how she compares to other builds for a given task. Without Enigma, it's tough to beat a Sorc at almost anything, and so on... That being said, at least as far as those runewords are concerned: If you don't have them, I really hope this thread will encourage you to farm them, because it can be done pretty quickly. And rare S&Us can always be substituted with apt alternatives. In other words – there is no reason to be discouraged by those setups listing all that "expensive" stuff.

Moreover, I only included current patch gear, given most active forum members don't seem to be time-traveling – in particular newer ones which are more likely to be headed here – and neither do I. I trust that if you have stuff like 1.07 MPK rings, Arkaine's Valor and the like and want to use it, you will also know how to incorporate such items into the relevant setups.

Measuring Efficiency
MF efficiency is measured in "seconds per boss kill" (and accounting for Find Item percentage for Barbarians). The most detailed way is to also include MF into the equation, check the Hall of Records (first post) on information on how to calculate such "adjusted efficiency" for your own situation. I'm disregarding it for the purposes of this thread as players will end up with different MF amounts, while this doesn't change the efficiency of the relevant build per se.

RF efficiency is based on run times here. This is not an ideal method since what actually matters is the number of monsters killed over time (and their rune drop chances). Run times are just an approximation in that regard. Nonetheless, I deemed this simplified method to be sufficient for the purposes of providing some general benchmarks here, but of course always feel encouraged to do your own testing.

The following will include efficiency benchmarks for many builds/targets. These are not quite the best performances documented on the SPF (check the Hall of Records for those), but they are set pretty high, to give an idea of what can be expected with some practice and optimization. You will moreover find very rough "MF benchmarks" below. MF amounts will of course vary across players and characters, but I included some values to give an idea of how much MF the respective build can carry while still running efficiently.
 
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ffs

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I. Magic Finding

Targets and General Considerations

The MF "end game" (i.e. with chances of the rarest S&Us) is pretty much down to two choices: Pindleskin and bosses/champions in lvl 85 areas (A85). As for A85, the Pit and Ancient Tunnels (AT) are by far the most popular choices, since they can be run quickly and easily and compare favourably to other lvl 85 areas due to their higher boss densities. For the sole purposes of MF efficiency, these runs are done on P1, because you will only want to kill bosses/champions, and higher player settings do not improve drops from those.

To Pindle or not to Pindle
He cannot drop three items: Tyrael's Might, Azurewrath and Arachnid Mesh. Except for these, however, Pindleskin is very difficult to beat. We all know he's a great MF target, but it's worth reiterating just how OP he is in terms of MF efficiency (a nerf introduced by Blizzard in 1.10 is in fact bypassed by the game). Pindle drops one more item than A85 bosses, so a Pindle kill is worth ~2 boss kills when running A85, and most characters are able to drop him faster than killing two A85 bosses. Beating Pindle efficiency essentially requires a Pit Barb on a very good map, in fact that is a nice milestone to aim for when doing Pit runs. (Note the very fastest AT Sorcs can also surpass Pindle efficiency when accounting for minion kills, see this post for details.) He is by far the most efficient target for non-Sorc characters before having Enigma, and arguably even the best MF builds on ideal maps cannot beat his efficiency when looking at long-term rather than peak performance.

Act bosses and other areas
For the purposes of this thread, I am disregarding targets like act bosses and lvl 84 areas. Mephisto and (to a lesser extent) Andariel are great when farming relatively common staple S&Us. They're usually run on P1 or P3, both player settings being pretty much equally efficient. However, they cannot drop many of the rare high-end items, which is what we're after, eventually. The other act bosses are too inefficient to run for MF.

Uniques in level 84 areas can also drop every item in the game (though Champions drop like Pindle), and in particular City of the Damned (CoD) has great density if you're looking for something off the beaten path. Run with a Berserk Barb (gameplay vid by @Gripphon), efficiency there can be similar to the Pit and Pindle if you have a really good map. Although champions cannot drop Tyrael's, unique bosses still can, and generally it may be the "better Pindle", especially when suffering from severe S&E delays when running Pindle. Ultimately though, the Pit still delivered better results and is moreover easier to run and gear for.

MF breakpoints
When going after those super-rare uniques, you might want to consider effective unique MF rather than general MF bonus. This MF guide by @Hrus is a good reference in that regard, and GoMule/Silospen's calculator will provide you with the necessary information as well. If you want to calculate your unique MF bonus, use the following formula: (MF*250)/(MF+250). The result (rounded down) will be your unique MF. Most dedicated P1 MF chars tend to carry around 500-800 MF, aiming for one of these unique MF breakpoints:

Code:
MF     uMF        MF    uMF          MF    uMF          MF    uMF          MF    uMF
504    168        552   172          607   177          670   182          743   187
513    168        562   173          619   178          683   183          759   188
522    169        573   174          631   179          697   184          775   189
532    170        584   175          643   180          712   185          792   190
542    171        595   176          656   181          727   186          810   191

MF efficiency spreadsheet
Looking for a specific drop – say Death's Web, Griffon's Eye, Death's Fathom – and want to know the odds, or how long it will take you to find it with a given character running a specific target? If you are after this kind of information for your individual situation, and in-depth number crunching in general, check out @Owlie's MF efficiency spreadsheet.

Teleport path and boss/champion spawn mechanics
The teleport route will impact your boss spawns, though it is only controllable to a limited degree due to superseding seeds. There is more information on how teleport routes affect spawns in this informative post by @Fruit. The TLDR version is that the more you explore a map, the higher the number of monsters that will be upgraded to champions/bosses throughout the run (in theory). In particular for Pits and AT, It is worth noting that there's a maximum number of bosses per level, and in particular that champions count individually towards this limit (excluding the guaranteed packs such as in AT or Pit lvl 2). For example, if you encounter two 4-champion packs early on into a Pit run, this will result in no more monsters being upgraded. This doesn't mean there's no more bosses because other monsters could have been upgraded simultaneaously up to 2-3 screens away, but past that distance you can confidently assume that the area doesn't include any more bosses.

1. Berserk Barb (Pit/Pindle)
Overview
Brought to life and developed by @Fabian, this build is the best known P1 MFer. He excels at running the Pit and Pindleskin, though of course the build can be used in other areas (e.g. CoD). For detailed information, check out @Fabian's write-up and original thread, as well as @Gripphon's Berserker thread with insightful information and explanations.
This is what you want to do if…
…you are looking for maximum MF efficiency, have obtained some key items such as Enigma & Grief and you enjoy the action-packed playstyle.

Setup and build
Based on simulations and the established HoR scoring method, the go-to gearing approach at the top end looks something like this:
  • Shako 'Cham'
  • Highlord's Wrath (HLW)
  • Enigma
  • Grief PB
  • 180 MF PB (6x Ist) (must be a PB due to Berserk attack speed mechanics)
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • Chance Guards or Laying of Hands (LoH)
  • War Traveler
  • Nagelrings/other MF/adds rings
  • Switch: Hoto/Wizzy 'Ist'
Other setups can be quite good, too, see this post comparing various routes.

HLW is very strong and almost always worth incorporating. It will take a weird combination of factors (run times, MF amount, other gear) for any other amulet to be preferable. The further upside is that HLW provides IAS, meaning you don't need another source of it such as Goldwrap, and Grief's IAS roll becomes irrelevant, too. This enables things like Arachnid Mesh (as for the above setup) or TO belt for a much cheaper and nearly as efficient setup that doesn't require a Cham in your headpiece.

While not quite as significant as HLW, the extra damage vs demons provided by LoH makes it a top choice as well. They are essentially interchangeable with Chance Guards, and in certain scenarios even slightly better depending on boss density and run times (some more information here and here).

The "traditional" approach for many years was with craft amulets, which can still get very close to HLW. This usually looks something like this:
  • Shako 'Cham'
  • +Barb/FCR amulet, ideally with MF and ideally 15+ FCR
  • Enigma
  • Grief PB
  • 6x Ist PB
  • Upped Goldwrap
  • Chance Guards
  • War Traveler
  • Nagelrings/other MF/adds rings
Switch: Wizardspike (Ist) and Suicide Branch (Ist) are the go-to options when going with an FCR amulet and without Arachnid Mesh. Provided you get some mana from charms, dual Suicide Branch can make it easier to get 55% FI. Hoto is an option if running with a 15+ FCR amulet or another FCR source entirely. Mix and match as required.

This is of course still a super solid gearing approach, it's just that HLW is both a little better and easier to get and gear around.

Budget options: Apart from Enigma, the other pieces can be replaced without much trouble. Instead of a Cham'ed headpiece you can use Trang Oul's Girth, in particular with HLW that works very nicely and even provides life/mana. Instead of Grief, Oath is amazing bang for your buck. But really, getting one Lo for Grief is done quickly with some dedicated rune finding, so there's little reason to gear around something like Oath. Even a low-roll Grief PB will be better than all other options. Note that Ravenfrost is not ideal, and neither is any other item with cold damage, because this build relies on Find Item (FI, also called "hork") and its cold damage would lead to corpse shattering and thereby denying FI use. However, when starting out and lacking other CNBF gear (Cham, TO belt), it's perfectly fine to use Raven for a while.

Pindle adjustments
For Pindle running you'll likely want to implement a few tweaks. HLW is even more ahead here than it is for Pit running, and Ghoulhide is another common item that improves performance vs Pindle. Dual Wizardspike on switch is ideal unless you have numerous MF/mana charms, as it means you don't have to pot after ending a run being mana burned. The high extra mana means it regenerates enough while running through town to finish the next run. Also CNBF, while still useful, is not as crucial as it is for Pit running. Things like Ist'ed Shako or IK helm and boots combo are further possibilities.

No swap variant
While the above weapon switching approach ultimately the most efficient approach, the below variant uses only one weapon swap, making gameplay much more relaxed with only a very minor downside in efficiency (gameplay video by @Luhkoh).
Shako 'Cham'
Grief PB
Wizzy 'Ist'
Highlord's
Enigma
WT
2x FCR/MF rings
Arachnid Mesh
TO gloves

This will still be above 500 MF and improved run times (from not having to switch weapons), which at the very least makes up for a big chunk of the drop in MF value. You can use the second weapon set to boost BO, or not use it at all to save even more time.

Merc: The ideal setup is Insight in an eth GT/Thresher base, Cham'ed Andy's and a 60 IAS armor, ideally with ED as well. This provides 4.5 FPA Jab and 10 FPA standard attack along with CNBF and some of best damage he can get apart from Fortitude. The problem with Fortitude is the slower attack rate (meaning slower aura triggering) and the occasional corpse shattering, so it's not ideal for this build. Of course there are alternatives, in particular Treachery or CoH are both good. CNBF is very helpful to speed up Might triggering and making him dish out more damage. If you can't or don't want to spend a Cham on Andy's, Kira's Guardian with IAS jewel is another option. Armors like Duriel's or GBane are cheaper alternatives that can help you get started as well, although eventually you will want an IAS boost from your armor.

For Pindle running, you may consider using low damage Insight in a normal (low damage) base. That way you don't have to worry about Merc killing random minions, thus making sure you always hork (only) Pindle's corpse. This approach can also be followed for Pit runnung, if you feel you have to hork too many non-boss corpses. However, the Merc dishing out good damage is helpful for tougher bosses or bigger champ packs, and overall that is likely preferable over the QoL factor of the Merc killing fewer normal monsters.

If you want to dig deeper into Merc setups, check out @Owlie's great Merc damage spreadsheet.

Inventory: Gheed's, MF SCs with useful mods, Cube. When starting out, one or two Sharp or Steel GCs can help if you feel you lack damage/AR.

Build: Max Sword Mastery, Berserk, rest of the points is normally spent to max Find Item (54-56% target range, with 55% being the standard) and Berserk synergies. Life amount is a matter of personal preference, but generally it's a good idea to aim for 2500 life at least. Simulator results show that adding str/dex has only small effects on run times. Most people go for a max vitality build to push to high life amounts of 3-3.3k, which enables a more aggressive playstyle and thereby improves run times more than a rather meaningless increase in damage/AR from heavy str/dex investments.

Basic principles
The gameplay may seem complicated at first, but you get used to it quickly: (1) Teleport on switch to packs and use Howl to chase away non-bosses/champions, (2) switch weapons and kill with Grief, (3) switch back to FCR weapons, use Find Item, start over.

Map considerations
It can take quite some time to find a great Pit map. As a rule of thumb, at least you want to be looking for >7 boss packs average on both Pit levels combined. Any map with an average of >8 boss packs overall is quite rare and surely a keeper, with the best documented maps getting to about ~8.5 boss packs on average (peaking up to around 8.7-8.9). However, the decisive metric is "time per boss kill" and not just number of bosses. This means you will want such numbers on a small map, or at least a small area of boss spawning locations, and one that avoids much backtracking in level 1 on your way to the lvl 2 exit. Having the Pit entrance close to the monastery is preferable, but it's not essential to have it super close.

MF benchmark: 650-750 with HLW, pushing towards 800 and above is possible with caster amulet and very good MF gear.
Efficiency benchmark (Pit): <5s per boss kill (taking into account Find Item %)
Efficiency benchmark (Pindle): <5s per kill (taking into account Find Item % and extra Pindle item drop)


2. Singer Barb (Pit)
Overview

He shines in the Pit as well. Check out @Gripphon's Singer thread, that write-up has a ton of information on the build and how to play and gear him. There's also this updated setup which delivered very efficient results, similar setups have been used by others since. If your run times are getting to 60s or less, you may consider using a Beast axe to speed them up even further (as this will likely improve efficiency more than from extra off-hand MF if runs are already fast).
This his is what you want to do if…
…you want to be closer in efficiency to Berserker than AT Blizzard Sorc, but you either don't like how Berserk Barb plays and/or you don't mind losing some efficiency and prefer the more relaxed gameplay. Under equally ideal conditions for both builds (map, gear, experience/execution etc.), his efficiency can be quite close (85-90%) to a Berserker.

Setup and build
The typical standard looks like this:
  • Shako (Ist)
  • Enigma
  • Suicide Branch (Ist)
  • 180 MF sword
  • Barb FCR craft/MF amulet
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • Magefist
  • War Traveler
  • Nagel/higher MF ring
  • FCR/MF/mana ring
Of course you can easily go with another FCR weapon and replace FCR in other slots to include more common and readily available MF gear like Chance Guards, Nagelrings and Goldwrap.

Beast variant
If your run times are fast, it could be a good idea to save another couple of seconds by using Beast instead of a 6x Ist sword. Beast makes the Merc kill considerably faster. Depending on exact numbers such as run times, boss packs and MF amount, it can outperform a 180 MF sword setup.

Numerous alternatives
Singer is easily the most flexible/costumizable build described here, with many options in basically every single item slot. You can make him more tanky, include more MF, include or drop quality of life things like CNBF etc., great build to tailor to your specific preferences or needs. Just to give an example of a very different gearing route, here's a setup with two 180 MF swords (vid #3 above):
  • Griffon's Eye 'Cham' or Ist/PTopaz
  • + Barb/20 FCR amulet
  • Enigma
  • 2x 180 MF swords
  • 2x FCR/MF/+high Mana rings
  • Magefist
  • Arach
  • War Traveler
Switch: 2x Suicide Branch for 200 FCR teleporting to Pit entrance.

Barb helmets deserve to be mentioned as well, both magic and rare. With ideally 2 sockets, + Barb skills and +Find Item/+War Cry rolls, these items can be of great use to this char and may be worth gearing around. The package provided by Shako is tough to beat, though.

Switch: You could go with a high MF switch (e.g. 6x Ist Crystal Sword (or two) for higher Hork MF) or don't bother at all and just stay on main switch all the time. Seems like most players around here (myself included) prefer the latter when running Singer, using a high MF WC main switch and the alternative switch at most just to boost BO.

Inventory: More personal preference here in particular regarding WC skillers, which help FI% as well. It's a good idea to aim for some 800-1000 WC damage, but can be higher or lower, too. WC doesn't do much of the killing as most of the damage comes from the Merc, and I found neither ignoring nor focusing on WC damage made any noticeable difference either way.

Budget options: Enigma is required again, but otherwise this is an incredibly flexible build with item being clearly "best in slot", much less so being required. In particular weapons offer a ton of options, you can literally run with any combination including items such as Wizardspike, Hoto, Suicide Branch, 180 MF swords, any combination thereof, or Beast with in any of those. The only highly recommended thing to aim for is 105% FCR.

Merc: Roll a very good Insight for him, all stats are important (high Aura, high CS roll and high ED roll). He should be powerful becase a Singer doesn't deal much damage and in fact the Merc will get most kills. Fortitude is likely the best option overall given it does more for your run times, despite the fact that it will deny you a corpse every now and then. The above mentioned Berserker Merc setup works fine as well, and so does Cham'ed GFace and 60 IAS armor.

Build: Max War Cry, max Find Item (or skill as required to hit target %age), rest generally goes to WC synergies or BO. In that regard, BO level depends on what you're comfortable with (one point could be enough). This build also actually stats Energy – yes that's right. :) It's a good idea to aim for ~700-800 Mana after BO.

Basic principles
Teleport to bosses, howl those trash mobs away to make the Merc attack the boss, then start spamming WC – not immediately, since WC's stun effect stops monsters from running away, canceling out the Howl effect and resulting in the Merc attacking random monsters. Battle Cry can help with Stone Skin bosses. Hork after a kill, rinse and repeat.

Map considerations
See above for Pit Berserker, same rules apply.

MF benchmark: 650-750, pushing towards 800 and above is possible but requires very good MF gear.
Efficiency benchmark: <5.5s per boss kill (taking into account Find Item %)

3. Concentrate/Hybrid Barb (Pindle, AT)
Yep, Barb is best for AT running as well, and he's even spoiled for choice for Pindle as pure Concentrate basically does just as well there. For AT running he can either go pure Concentrate or Berserk/Conc hybrid, which seems to do slightly better even.
Pindle running
Essentially, take a typical Berserker with Pindle adjustments (as described in the Pindle Berserker section above), change to Conc build and replace the offhand with Azurewrath for Sanctuary. He will kill Pindle faster than Berserk, and despite the drop in MF will provide essentially the same efficiency as a Berserker.

Setup and build
Recommended go-to setup is this:
  • Shako 'Cham'
  • Enigma
  • HLW
  • Switch 1: Grief + Azurewrath 'Ist'
  • Switch 2: dual Wizzy
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • MF rings
  • WT
  • Ghoulhide
Build: 20 Conc, Sword Mastery, BO, FI, pre-reqs, rest Bash

If you're lacking Azurewrath, simply go with Lawbringer. Great option that merely lacks a socket and +1 skill in comparison to Azurewrath, both of which aren't crucial. Other alternatives and budget options are pretty much identical to the Berserker with Pindle adjustments (see above), such as Trang Oul's Girth instead of Cham'ed Shako.

AT running
Conc and Berserk/Conc Barbs are moreover the best known AT runners. If you want to find out more about pure Conc Barb, check out this post by @Gripphon or the original write-up by @Kimppi. With this variation, @Gripphon first utilized both Concentrate and Berserk, improving the build further. At some point I arrived at the approach explained here: Focusing on Berserk on a single kill/hork switch, with the other slot (Grief + Azurewrath) being used only against Plague Bearers. This avoids the constant knockback from Sanctuary and requires less weapon switching.

Setup and build
The approach with using dedicated Berserk and Conc switches looks like this:
  • Shako 'Cham'
  • Enigma
  • HLW
  • Switch 1: Grief + Wizzy 'Ist'
  • Switch 2: Grief + Azurewrath 'Ist'
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • FCR/MF/adds rings
  • WT
  • Magefist
This drops some MF and FI% in order to still get 105 FCR on Grief/Wizzy switch, which is rather crucial to keep runs fast enough.

When using one switch for both Berserk/Conc alongside a dedicated teleport/hork switch, the setup is essentially the same as for Pindle Conc Barb:
  • Shako 'Cham'
  • Enigma
  • HLW
  • Switch 1: Grief + Azurewrath 'Ist'
  • Switch 2: dual Wizzy 'Ist'
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • Nagel/MF rings
  • WT
  • Chance Guards or Ghoulhide
Build: 20 Berserk, Conc, Sword Mastery, BO, FI.

Granted: In the end, chances are if you want to play the most efficient Barb, you will just go with Pit Berserker, and if you want a more relaxed playsyle, you might favor Blizzard Sorc or Singer Barb. But make no mistake, AT Conc/Berserker Barbs are true MF monsters and at the same time very refreshing and rewarding builds to play.

MF benchmark: ~450-650
Efficiency benchmark AT: <5.5s per boss kill (taking into account Find Item %)
Efficiency benchmark Pindle: <5s per boss kill (taking into account Find Item % and extra Pindle item drop)

4. Blizzard Sorc (AT)
Overview

Despite nowadays being outperformed by Barbs, she is the classic and most popular choice for AT running and probably even the most popular MF character in Diablo 2 overall. Of course a Blizzard Sorc is a very versatile build that can run lots of targets, but AT is the lvl 85 area where she's a top contender in terms of MF efficiency.

I trust we all have played Blizzard Sorcs, so I'll simply refer to @maareek's AT Blizzard Sorc video which explains all the gearing and basic principles very well. For more details in particular on map aspects, check out this AT Guide by @Albatross.
This is what you want to do if…
…you are looking for a more relaxed gameplay and more multi-purpose build which doesn't have specific gear needs such as some of the Barb options. You either don't like how MF Barb plays and/or you don't mind losing some efficiency and prefer the autopilot nature of Blizzard Sorc gameplay.

Setup and build
The established standard route aims for 105 FCR and uses the 3-piece Tal Rasha bonus, for example:
  • Shako 'Ist/PTopaz'
  • Tal Rasha's Guardianship 'Ist/PTopaz'
  • Tal Rasha's Adjudication
  • Tal Rasha's Fine-Spun Cloth
  • Death's Fathom 'Ist'
  • Nagelring/MF ring
  • FCR/MF/adds ring
  • Spirit
  • TO gloves
  • War Traveler
Switch: CtA, Spirit

Another option is gearing around a 180 MF sword like this:
  • Shako 'Ist/PTopaz'
  • Enigma
  • 2/20 FCR amulet
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • 180 MF sword
  • Nagelring/other high MF ring
  • FCR/MF ring
  • Spirit
  • TO Gloves
  • War Traveler
  • Skillers in inventory to reach -180 ECR from Cold Mastery
This hits slightly more damage breakpoints than a typical 105 FCR DFathom setup, but only truly shines with a 2/20 FCR ammy and a good charm collection to provide comparable survivability.

Enigma is a great option in general and the more I played AT Sorc, the more I was gravitating towards using it irrespective of weapon choice. The LPK and high life allow for much more aggressive (and thus faster) runs, which more than makes up for the loss of a couple of MF breakpoints. Apart from the above 180 MF sword setup, an equally strong option is to use Death's Fathom along with Enigma.

Budget options: Hoto or Spirit are very good weapon alternatives. Oculus may seem nice at first glance, but the random teleports make it a no-go in the end, unfortunately. Rare or magic Orbs can be very powerful as well (in fact and something like +5 Blizzard, 20 FCR and 2 sockets can even surpass the above listed weapons).

Merc: Standard setup is Insight, Cham'ed GFace or Andy and Fortitude. Ideal Insight base with this setup is GPA. Infinity Merc is a serious contender, though. Check out @Owlie's Merc damage spreadsheet for the ultimate tool to calculate things for him. When using Insight, Might Merc is the clear choice since he is used to kill CIs, whereas Prayer, Defiance or HF all have something going for them when using Infinity.

Build: Teleport, Blizzard and its synergies, CM for -160 to -180 ECR, pre-reqs. Strength for Spirit, rest Vita. A good way to spend remaining skill points is Frozen Orb (synergy for Ice Blast).

Basic principles
Runs are started in A2 by talking to Warriv, going to A1 and hitting the WP in Rogue Camp (using Telekinesis (TK)) to go to Lost City. As far as general gameplay goes, not much to say, it's a Blizzard Sorc: Spot the packs and kill them as fast as you can. Improvements come with practice on a given map, which in many instances allows for multiple packs to be fought simultaneously, teleporting back and forth while on Blizzard cooldown to check drops/hit the next pack.

Blizzard damage
Both theorycrafting and testing have confirmed that the ideal Blizzard damage is in the 5-5.5k range. See this post for numbers with DFathom, and this post comparing breakpoints for several setup routes such as using a 180 MF sword. In this post I followed up on the alternatives to the Death's Fathom/Tal Rasha combo following the 2020 MFO, and it includes further details on the different gearing options.

Map considerations
The AT guide by @Albatross (linked above) is the main reference for AT map considerations. Short version: You are generally looking for ~5.5+ bosses on your teleport route in AT. As there is only one level in AT (i.e. not having to pay attention to lvl 2 exit location) and it's generally smaller than the Pit, the map layout becomes somewhat less important than it is for Pit runs. Entrance location (distance from WP) has a bigger impact than for Pit running due to the shorter runs, so one should pay attention to that.

MF benchmark: 550-700
Efficiency benchmark: <5.5-6s per boss kill

5. Fire Ball/Hybrid Sorc (AT)
Not commonly used, but an extremely strong AT runner. There are several spins to her: Pure FB, FB/Blizzard with or without Blizzard synergies, and FB/FO. This post contains additional information including FB damage breakpoints.
Setup and build
When going Phoenix with FB focus, a setup that works very well is along these lines:
  • Shako 'Ist/PTopaz'
  • Enigma
  • Skill/MF/adds amulet
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • Wizzy 'Ist'
  • FCR/MF rings
  • Phoenix
  • Magefist
  • War Traveler
Switch: CtA, Spirit
Inventory: Gheed's, cube, MF charms, adding 1-2 Fire skillers can help depending on your FB damage.

With Spirit, gear could look like this:
  • Shako 'Ist/PTopaz'
  • Enigma/CoH
  • Hoto/Fathom 'Ist'
  • Spirit
  • Craft amulet
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • FCR/MF ring
  • Nagel/MF ring
  • Chance Guards
  • War Traveler
If resists and FCR are taken care of, using Fathom instead of Hoto helps Blizzard damage even more.

Build: 20 Blizzard, 1 Teleport/Static/TK, rest pre-reqs and FB + synergies.

The alternative is spending more points in Blizzard synergies (at the expense of FB damage) or FO, which requires some aiming and positioning. It seems to be slightly slower on average, but the difference is small. All variants work nicely and just shift around slightly to one skill or the other.

Numerous weapon/shield combination with something like Wizzy, Hoto, Fathom, Phoenix or Spirit are possible. Viper is a great choice when not going Enigma. Personally I found Phoenix to be my favorite option, with a very powerful main spell with FB which can also be used against broken FIs thanks to Phoenix massive -EFR. Redemption means there's barely any potting required. Wizardspike is fantastic in providing massive resists, a socket for MF, and an extra 10 FCR to hit 105 FCR more easily. Its big mana boost is very helpful as well considering no Insight on Merc.

Merc: Infinity is required for this build since you need to break FIs. Otherwise same as Blizzy Merc described above.

Basic principles
See above for Blizzy regarding maps and running. As for the playstyle with FB hybrid, it's important to be reasonably tanky so that you can "stomp" bosses, teleporting next to them and killing them quickly with FB so that you're not slowed down by monsters obstructing the FB path to the boss.

Dealing with Invaders
These guys are FI by default, which is why spending a few points on cold skills is ideal. With Spirit, Blizzard/FO is the only option to kill them with reasonable speed (apart from the Merc) and should deal meaningful damage at least. With Phoenix they still fall rather quickly to FB spamming, but without chill effects from cold damage, fights can get dicey depending on their mods. What I found works best is to cast Blizzard and a few Statics, then start casting FB on the boss. By this time Conviction is be applied and if you see that the boss remained FI (unbroken), cast another Blizzard and teleport next to him to make the Merc attack him.

MF benchmark: 500
Efficiency benchmark: <5.5-6s per boss kill

6. Other Builds and Targets
The above are generally the recommended high efficiency choices for MF on P1. While there is a considerable gap to other builds, there certainly are further viable ones. Especially, literally any high MF Pindle build is a good choice. Otherwise, noteworthy area runners apart from the above are e.g. AT Windy Druid (also a decent Pit runner), Nova Sorc, AT Windy with Hurricane focus, AT Fissure Druid, Pit Lightning Sorc, WSK Blizzy.
 
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II. Rune Finding

Almost everything there is to know about this is included in @Gripphon's rune finding guide, which should be your main reference. It's incredibly detailed and I considered just referring to it completely. I chose to include this section despite the overlap, given some discoveries and further testing since the guide was written, as well as for a basic rundown and some additional comments with a focus on builds.

Targets and General Considerations
When it comes to rune finding only (i.e. disregarding MF and other aspects), there are essentially four targets to consider: Lower Kurast, hitting the superchests around the campfires, Travincal, killing the council members, clearing the Cow level, and – as a somewhat recent discovery and not included in the rune finding guide – killing ghosts in the Arcane Sanctuary.

Clearing lvl85 areas on high player settings is generally a great way to farm runes as well, and depending on your efficiency will not be too far behind the above targets (while providing better S&U drops). But given this is usually done also with MF and/or XP in mind, and since the above targets are better for runes specifically, area running will be ignored in this section but dealt with under Part III below.

The Countess offers the quickest way to obtain crafting runes (Normal difficulty) and Ist runes (Hell difficulty). However, apart from those aspects she cannot compete with the aforementioned areas in terms of HR drops.

RF calculator: @Luhkoh did great work in putting together a rune finding calculator that you can check out and read about here. It can be used to quickly compare RF efficiency across different targets with your run times.


1. Lower Kurast
Due to the ridiculous amount of superchest drop patterns including Sur runes, LK is by far the fastest option to get runes up to Ber, and potentially even the fastest way to get Jah (depending on exact run times). It's also the best area to farm charms, gems, jewels and crafting materials in general. You can check the rune finding guide for details regarding player settings, but in short: P7/P8 is the way to go, don't bother with other player settings.

Regarding build efficiency, this is pretty much Sorc territory: Fastest casting at 200% FCR and Telekinesis means speedier container popping than other characters. Those can run LK of course, but are always going to be a bit slower. For non-Sorcs going without Enigma (such as untwinked 99ers), just get all FRW bonuses you can get a hold of, like a Harmony bow for the Vigor aura (or natively as Paladin) and Burst of Speed as an Assassin.
Setup and build
200% FCR and Telekinesis is pretty much the only thing you need to take care of, and even 105% FCR is fine. Use an Insight Merc (and CtA once you have it).

Basic principles
See the detailed explanation in the rune finding guide, but here's the short version: (1) Roll a map with two campfires as close to WP as possible, (2) open chests from bottom/right if possible, because items tend to be displayed and clutter in that direction, and (3) check for those "orange flashes" (rune drops) while popping the chests instead of wasting time going through piles of loot on the ground.

This is what you want to do if…
…you are looking (1) for runes up to Ber/Jah as quickly as possible, in particular to farm the real game-changers like your first CtA, Enigma and Infinity, (2) to generally build up your HR stash and/or (3) find charms, jewels and crafting materials.

Efficiency benchmark: Sub 20s (Sorc)


2. Travincal
In comparison to LK, Travincal requires better gear to run and it's inferior for runes up to Ber, though very close for Jah depending on run times. In return, Trav offers direct rune drops up to Cham, as well as many useful extras like facets and rare/unique jewelry.

This is what you want to do if…
…you have already obtained stuff like Enigma and Infinity and are able to build a Trav runner that can handle the council both offensively and defensively. You are not necessarily looking for the same HR drop rate as in LK but are interested in runes up to Cham or direct Jah drops, as well as rare or unique rings and amulets, a good amount of charms, jewels (especially facets) and crafting materials.

Player settings: So far there hasn't been any Trav build that was most efficient on any player setting other than P3, so it's pretty safe to assume that it's the way to go whichever build you choose.


2.1 WW Barb
Probably not the most popular build nowadays (see below for the reasons), in theory he can outperform Sorc in Travincal efficiency. He is of course explained in-depth in the rune finding guide, and here you can find a quick rundown with further optimization by @Gripphon.
Setup and build
The standard variant is to go dual Grief PB as below. However, there are other options, e.g. going axes with Grief/Beast BAs.
  • Arreat's Face 'ED/Demon ED/AR jewel'
  • Enigma
  • 2x Grief PB
  • Highlord's Wrath
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • Laying of Hands
  • War Traveler is a good boot choice for damage and MF. Gore Riders are the obvious alternatives and offer slightly higher damage.
  • Rings: One FCR/leech ring here is great to enable 2x Hoto switch. No Ravenfrost (it leads to corpse shattering, moreover WW Barbs arguably even benefit from being chilled). Another nice mode to have is Half Freeze Duration, a nice tweak introduced by @Gripphon in order to Zerk down PI bosses once you're unchilled, after horking the other council members.
Switch: Hoto/Wizardspike/Suicide Branch to hit 105% FCR (any combination depending on FCR from other gear)

Budget options: Oath is the definitive alternative for weapons. Without Enigma, he can't compete with Sorc but can still run Travincal reasonably efficiently. If you want to do that, get a Harmony bow to run through town and to the council more quickly. Using Leap can save times as well.

Inventory: Sharp GCs are a good option; otherwise MF and/or charms to fill resist gaps and/or life. Note that you might want to pick up a lot of 1x1 square items (runes, gems, rings/amulets for example). So, in addition to not using a full GC inventory, it makes sense to use only a small amount of SCs so you can pick up more of those items.

Merc: See below on Trav Merc gear in general. Standard recommendation is Reaper's + Kira's Guardian + Guardian Angel.

Build: Simple stuff, max Mastery, WW, BO as desired. Double Swing can be used when mana burned to fill up if need be. Max/push Find Item to the desired %age. Stats are personal preference, though IMO with decent defensive stats and rings (life leech) you should be able to push strength a bit for extra damage, as opposed to having to care too much about your life pool.

Basic principles
Start in Act 4, take WP to Travincal, Teleport to Council, WW them to death and use Find Item on them. Back to WP and A4, S&E, repeat.

Cluttering problem
In practice, you will quickly realize that it's easy to run into massive cluttering issues and need to live in fear of missing a drop every once in a while. Find Item will loot the monsters as if killing on P7/8, and it can quickly fill up your screen. As in LK, it's best to move from bottom/right towards top/left and check for those orange flashes. However, it's near impossible to eliminate this issue entirely, especially with the council members spawning closely together (which is generally considered a good thing of course).

Efficiency benchmark: ~35s (comparable to sub 20s for other classes, depending on FI%). Sub 30s is possible but difficult to achieve on average with current patch gear.


2.2 Blizzard Sorc
Nowadays Blizzy seems to be the go-to option for most Travincal runners here, and with good reason: Without much effort she can easily get extremely close to or even surpass the best WW numbers, and most players are more efficient with her than with Barb. She is simple to play, and in particular she avoids any of the aforementioned cluttering issues Barb has, which do slow things down in practice. The last point in particular is why she seems better suited in practical terms.
Setup and build
Starting out you can check out @Gripphon's list of example setups and approaches. There is some consensus that Blizzard damage exceeding ~7-9k only has very small effects on run times, so that's something to bear in mind for gearing (e.g. skiller amount). Further variations include setups with strong MF focus or 200 FCR.

Below is what I think many consider a good standard setup:
  • Shako (Cham, Ist/PT or facet)
  • Death's Fathom (Ist or facet)
  • CoH
  • Spirit
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • +2/10+ FCR amulet
  • SoJ/BK/Dwarf Star (personal preference), FCR if not from amulet
  • TO Gloves
  • War Traveler (for MF, otherwise Waterwalk for higher max FR or something else depending on needs)
Switch: CtA, Spirit

Shako, Nightwing's Veil, 2/20 or 3/20 circlets all have their merits. Socketing 'Cham' is popular to easily pick up things while chilled, and many players have a Cham'ed Shako for their Pit Zerker that they use for this reason. Otherwise, facet or Ist/PTopaz for MF are good options.

Inventory: Cold skillers, Gheed's for MF if desired, and same as for Barb: Try to reduce the number of SCs used in order to have space to pick up those 1x1 square items.

Budget options: Death's Fathom can be replaced by Hoto or Spirit. CoH can be replaced by a Viper or Smoke. Mara's is a good choice as well. Don't be scared to drop to 63% FCR if need be. 105% FCR is desirable, but it only makes a small difference.

Merc: Infinity is required to break the CIs. Otherwise see below for general Merc setup considerations.

Fire Absorb/Lightning Absorb: Not necessary, but it's nice to have. If FCR from gloves isn't needed, Hellmouth is a popular choice, otherwise Dwarf Star and Wisp Projector (vs. LE/Conviction rolls) can be used.

If you're lucky with a 2/20 FCR craft amulet, you could go with something like this which I came to like a lot (see example #2 above):
  • Shako 'cold facet'
  • Death's Fathom 'cold facet'
  • Hellmouth
  • CoH
  • Spirit
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • 2/20 FCR amulet
  • SoJ
  • FCR ring with life/mana, res if needed
  • WT
  • Switch: CtA, Spirit
Main upside of this is maintaining 105 FCR with DFathom while including Hellmouth, which around ~40-50 FR turn Hydras into a healing source for the Sorc (notwithstanding Conviction rolls).

Basic principles
For her efficiency, having the council members packed inside the Blizzard AoE is very important. Apart from that: Teleport, cast one Blizzard, while on first Blizzard cooldown spam Static Field, then cast Blizzards and Ice Blasts until they're all dead. Back to WP and A4, rinse and repeat.

Efficiency benchmark: Sub 20s


2.3 Other Builds
While there are many viable options, in particular Necro has been tested to be quite close in efficiency to Sorc and Barb. Either PN Necromancer or Bonemancer work well (more information). Other builds so far haven't come close in terms of speed, but there are other options such as Trapper (LS/DS or FB/DS), Zealot with Grief +and shield or Zealot with BotD.

2.4 Merc Setup
It's important to gear him right so he survives the council's onslaught. Their hydras deal quite a bit of damage to him since he doesn't benefit from the PvP damage penalty to the council's hydras' damage, which for whatever reason applies to the character despite this being PvM (Hydra damage details).

Barb and other physical damage dealers will go with Reaper's Toll for the Decrepify proc. For Sorc and other elemental damage dealers, Infinity is ideal or even necessary, in particular for Sorc to break CIs (there's still an unbreakable spawn sometimes though). However, Insight is a top choice as well for some builds (e.g. Necro).

As for body armor and headpiece, Kira's Guardian and Guardian Angel is the standard setup. Unless Merc wields Infinity, both should be socketed with FR (ideally with IAS) to overstack vs. Conviction rolls. A cute, but more expensive alternative is CoH + Steelshade for higher damage. For this setup, Cham in Steelshade is the best option since he will otherwise lack CNBF, which is handy given the council's cold explosions. Note that Fortitude is not the best choice for a Barb since it can lead to corpses shattering.


2.5 Map Considerations & Other Aspects
It's explained in detail in the rune finding guide, but as a brief overview: How good your Travincal map is will have a huge effect on your efficiency. "Good" in this case means (1) having the Council members packed together as closely as possible, (2) having that ideally on the lower balcony, and (3) under perfect circumstances, in the left corner of the balcony (in particular for Sorc, so they cannot really move out of the Blizzard). However, "close together" is hard enough to roll, and it's possible to get very fast run times with any map that has that. It's perfectly fine to settle for something like that, and for perfectionists to look for the "perfect" map with a second character (and with lots of time on your hands). ;)

About extended teleport (teleporting back to the Travincal WP with open char screen): Whether to use it or not for a short-distance target like this is personal preference I'd say. If executed well it will result in faster runs, but it's hard to consistently take advantage of it, especially for longer periods of running.

When to kill, when to skip? A question you will routinely run into is how to deal with leftover council members. The best way to approach this is to determine your seconds per kill. For example, any 18s average runner needs ~1.63 seconds per council member kill. If a leftover monsters needs more time to finish off, it's more efficient to start the next run. As a rule of thumb, the faster your runs are in general, the more efficient it tends to be to skip leftovers.

Staircase trick (no Teleport): When running without Teleport with a Barb (or other physical damage character) with Reaper's on Merc, a trick to position the Merc to get that Decrepify proc is to first go down the stairs to the Durance of Hate and immediately up again, resulting in the Merc being next to you. In this case you are of course looking for a map where the Council spawns inside the building. See this video for a demonstration (with a BotD Zealot to boot).


3. Cow Level
Moo.

This is what you want to do if…
…you are looking for high runes in general with the chance of a direct Zod drop, while also looking for runeword bases as well as charms and jewels (no facets, unfortunately).

Map layout: Basically of course "any map will do" given you're not after boss density or something like that. Apart from a Tristram portal relatively close to Stony Field WP, you should look for reasonably narrow corridors in the Cow level, ideally with the middle walled area not having any gaps and taking up a lot of space. Big empty spaces that take long to check are not optimal. Another very impactful thing is having a really circular route – meaning no outer bulges to check, and loactions where you can often herd a lot of cows. Even the best map layout can still be a bad map if you get evenly distributed 5-10 cows per screen. :)

Player settings: While Cows have mostly been run on P7 for runes, it was realized during the 2017 RFL that P5 is in fact the most efficient setting for most characters. (Javazon with high damage is the exception solely because she mostly kills big groups in one or two shots anyway.) Which player setting to go for depends on your build and items – this should always be tested on an individual basis. This post on how to compare different player settings includes the information required as to when one player setting is more efficient than another in an individual case. Note that if e.g. P5 and P7 are essentially the same as per monster kills/drop rates, then P5 is by definition better, given faster and more relaxed runs, as well as less item cluttering.

You can also check out this comparison of some of the top cow running builds for a short rundown.

3.1 Javazon
The cow level is the ideal place to abuse the combination of 100% Pierce and Lightning Fury, and due to her massive killing power she remains a benchmark build for cow running.
Setup and build
Check this post for example setups that perform well (this was for running Arcane Sanctuary, but the gearing approach there is generally the same as for Cow running) and below:

The below is what is I'd consider a straight-forward Cow Javazon.
  • Griffon's 'IAS jewel' (ideal second mod = MPK)
  • Titan's
  • Lidless Wall (facet) or Spirit
  • Enigma
  • +2/8+ FCR amulet, ideally with ML
  • Raven
  • SoJ (FCR/ML if needed or desired)
  • Silkweave
  • Razortail
  • 3/20 gloves
Switch: CtA, 35 Spirit for teleport (if Lidless is used on main switch).

Merc (Might of Defiance): Infinity, ebug Fortitude, Andy's (Delirium for safety fanatics, but it's counterproductive for herding).

This hits the 68% FCR breakpoint on CtA switch. Instead of a faceted Lidless Wall – which is great for its MPK and higher damage – you could also go for Spirit and Teleport with 68% FCR on javelin switch. For Cows specifically, MPK can largely be substituted with ML, given you will only encounter leechable monsters (except for the occasional PI boss).

Budget options: Again, for better or worse, Enigma is required for highest speed. There are several substitute options for Griffon's, though. You could just go with Shako or a rare circlet, these can be very good and provide things like skills and FCR to help hit those unattractive FCR breakpoints (ideally also 2 sockets, mana/life leech etc., but that will remain a dream for most of us). Without Infinity, damage will be significantly lower of course, but Insight is fun in allowing you to spam LF.

99% FCR variants: Personally, I swear by 99% FCR on switch and using full offensive firepower (with faceted shield) on Javelin switch. This can be achieved for example by using Wizzy/Suicide Branch as a switch weapon, but then you'd have to either run without CtA or pre-buff BO. That is perfectly fine for Cow running actually. If you're a little lucky with a 19-20% FCR amulet, you could go with something like this (see video above for a rundown on this approach):
  • Griffon's 'Cham'
  • 2/20 FCR amulet
  • 2x FCR rings with dual leech
  • Head Hunter's Glory (2x RBF, 15 IAS/adds jewel), alternatively JMoD if you have one, or other 4-socket shield
  • Enigma
  • Titan's
  • 3/20 gloves
  • Silkweave
  • Razortail
  • Switch: CtA, Spirit for 99 FCR teleport on switch
Too lazy to weapon swap? There are two alternative 99 FCR setups for main (javelin) switch, which however come with different downsides, albeit not major ones. The first option is to use Spirit on main switch in the above setup. In this case you'll drop one IAS breakpoint because the shield slot can no longer hold an IAS jewel. The second option is to use Lidless Wall with an IAS jewel, which however requires one more source of FCR to maintain 99 FCR, either form gloves or (preferably) belt, meaning Arachnid Mesh. Dropping Razortail may seem like a bad idea, and for cows in particular so. However, I did try and test setups with Arachnid Mesh and maxing Pierce instead of one LF synergy to work reasonably well. But overall the above listed setup is smoother despite the weapon swapping.

Build: Very straight-forward, max LF and synergies, one point in D/E/A and Pierce (+9 after BC for 100% in conjunction with Razortail). No need for skilling stuff like Valk or Jab, just go for the synergies.

32 vs 55 IAS: From my perspective 32 IAS is the way to go and 55 IAS means losing very helpful (or even necessary) stats for little to no gain. I know some people swear by 55%, but to my knowledge no one ever tested it to be more efficient in the end.

Basic principles
In order to maximize her potential, it is essential to abuse the LF/100% pierce combination by herding a lot. Instead of killing every cow on sight, runs should consist of herding a bunch of big groups and killing them, with just a few extra stops to kill "worthy" groups in between. Again, kill from bottom/right whenever possible in order to avoid cluttering issues.

Efficiency benchmark: Sub 3m runs on P7


3.2 PN Necromancer
CE is OP, main damage source of basically all optimized Necro builds, and the Cow level is a great place to abuse it. As for how to get corpses for it, there are several build options – but what puts Poison Nova (PN) ahead is that it allows for seamless transition to CE chains once you get the first corpse. This results in faster runs in comparison to Summoner/Bone Necro builds, but of course those are completely viable as well.
Setup and build
Ideally he runs with 125% FCR, for which a typical setup could look like this:
  • 2/20 circlet (facet/Ist)
  • Death's Web (facet/Ist)
  • 35 Spirit
  • Enigma
  • 2/10+ FCR amulet (ideally 2/20)
  • FCR ring
  • FCR ring if 10-19 FCR from amulet, SoJ/BKWB with 20 FCR amulet
  • Silkweave
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • TO gloves
Switch: CtA, Spirit

Generally it's important to note that PN only deals a small portion of overall damage. Its job is essentially just to assist the Merc in getting the first kill and to soften monsters for fast CE chains. That also means facets don't have as much of an impact as it may seem at first glance, though they do speed things up a little bit of course. Ists are a great choice and preferred by many, in particular considering that basically the exact same character is great for Pit running for combined MF/RF (see below Part III).

Also note that 125 FCR setups usually results in more of a glass cannon style of gameplay. He is rather fragile in comparison to more tanky 75 FCR setups, which aren't much slower and thus could be more to your liking overall.

Merc (Might): Infinity, ebug Fortitude, Andy's. Even with very high PN damage and even with Death's Web, he will almost always be the one to deliver your first corpse for CEs, so make sure he has a lot of punch.

Budget options: Admittedly, apart from Enigma some of the other "ideal" stuff is not that easy to obtain either (20 FCR circlet and good FCR amulet, Death's Web…). Hoto is an extremely good alternative and its FCR allows things like Shako/Mara's at the same time. Infinity is not required either – it's not a major upgrade over Insight, which in turn allows other Golem uses. The 75% FCR breakpoint is fine as well, and makes his gearing options a lot more lenient.

Beast variant: Usually considered for Summoner Necros, Beast is in fact a very strong choice for PN Necros. It will deliver the first corpse faster than DWeb and overall its performance is very close to DWeb. Generally it's an excellent substitute, in particular if you have good FCR gear but are lacking DWeb. The latter has an edge mostly due to the extremely useful MPK/LPK mods and higher CE range.

Build: Get one point in Revive – they make excellent meatshields and improve safety a lot. Otherwise, max PN + synergies and only use Amplify Damage (AD) as curse. It's stronger than Lower Resist even before the first corpse is there, because it helps your Merc deliver said first corpse quicker. Then I prefer to dump remaining points into Golem Mastery for a sturdy IG. Another option is to push AD as well in order to cover more ground for higher CE damage.

Basic principles
You'll find an overview in this post by @Gripphon on a couple of basics. Overall rather straight-forward gameplay: Fly around and herd cows, cast AD and PN, followed by CEs until everything is dead. Try to not teleport much after Merc engages in order to not delay the first corpse. As a non-lightning-based character, he is always in danger of killing the Cow King if you get too close, so make sure to stay clear, ideally rolling a map where he is isolated in his fort and skip it altogether.

Efficiency benchmark:
2m30s runs on P5
3m– 3m30s runs on P7


3.3 FB/DS Trapper
Using Death Sentry's corpse explosions along with Fire Blast, she can actually hang with Necro and Java. As @Nano discovered, Phoenix can be used as a main switch shield on a Trapper relying on DS (while we previously thought that its aura is incompatible with CE-based characters), which improves her quite a bit.
Setup and build
You can check out the following post regarding setup options in general. The approach which Beast delivered the best performance for me. Typical setup for this:
  • 2/20 Sin or 3/20 Traps circlet with facet(s)
  • Beast
  • Phoenix Monarch
  • Enigma
  • 2/7+ FCR amulet
  • Raven
  • SoJ
  • Silkweave
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • Magefist
Switch: CtA, 35 Spirit (or what is required for 102 FCR switch). I also found that herding cows is better done on 65 FCR while using Beast, so that Merc benefits from 100% Fanaticism uptime.

Instead of Beast, you can also use a 6-faceted weapon, the ideal base being Military Pick to easier achieve fastest trap laying. Having tested this (albeit with 6 average facets only), it didn't outperform Beast but was pretty much the same. I reckon in terms of min-maxing your resources, Beast is still be the go-to choice just because it's useful for many builds, which cannot be said about a Military Pick with 6 perfect or at least very good facets.

Build: 20 DS, 20 LS, 20 FB, 1 BoS (or whatever is required to hit last trap laying BP with weapon of choice), 1 pre-reqs/BoS, rest FB synergies

Merc (Might): Infinity, ebug Fortitude, Andy's. Similar to Necro, a strong Merc is vital in helping with quick corpses.

Budget options: The easiest (and still one of the best) variants is to include Hoto and swap in things like Shako for an overall sturdy and fast build that isn't at all far behind the very best setups. Same as for Necro, Infinity is not required and Insight works just fine.

Basic principles
She is in many ways just played like a Necro, except that instead of supporting Merc with AD, she dishes out damage herself with FB. Lay down DS traps – sweet spot is generally 4 – and then spam FB, throwing it at the same monsters the Merc is attacking. Despite FB, the Merc still provides a significant percentage of the DPS required for the first corpse, so normally it's best not to teleport around too much once he starts fighting.

Efficiency benchmark:
2m30s runs on P5


3.4 Other Builds
It's hard to see any build beating Javazon, Trapper and Necro efficiency, because Lightning Fury and Corpse Explosion have no equal when it comes to their "instant WMD" nature. Sorc builds like Meteor/FB and Nova are very close in performance though, and numerous other builds are viable and not far behind either. A few examples:
K/T Assassin builds work well, too (see this video or this one). @Gripphon moreover tested Blova Sorc and Fissure Druid to be strong runners. Of course, AoE builds like Hammerdin or Blizzard are all decent choices.


3.5 Merc Setup
Unless you feel you need it for safety, it's highly recommended to not use a Holy Freeze Merc because he screws up your herding and ultimately slows runs down quite a bit. Same considerations apply to Delirium – use it if you prefer it for safety, otherwise don't. I like the combination of Defiance Merc and eth bugged Fortitude, which really turns him into an almost immortal tank. However, certain characters (e.g. Necro) will want to go Might, and of course this is a good choice for other characters as well. Weapons depend on build of course, again with Infinity or Insight being the top choices generally.


4. Arcane Sanctuary (AS)
Not included in the runefinding guide, this area is interesting because the Specters there have a 3.59 higher rune drop chance in comparison to other A85 monsters. While this was of course known before, people only recently realized that AS has such high ghost density that it's in fact a top-tier target for rune farming.

The initial results indicated AS efficiency is comparable to Cow level, with the caveat that it cannot drop Zod (except for bosses/champions) but generally only up to Cham. On the other hand, the ghost type monsters also have a higher chances of dropping charms, gems and jewels (no facets though). So AS might be a good target for players who are looking for such items while not bothering too much with any slim Zod drop chances.

Builds
Java is generally the top build here, you can check out these setups as well as this one. @Gripphon tested an FB Sorc with godly gear to have similar efficiency as Javazon. For the latter, gearing approach is same as for Cows, though note that you can't leech off of the ghost type monsters (see this post about Javazon setups). Generally, any character that can kill those ghost type monsters quickly will work.
This is what you want to do if…
…you are looking for high runes up to Cham as well as gems, jewels and charms, while looking for a different gameplay experience than Trav/Cows with similar RF efficiency.

Efficiency benchmark: Sub 60s (Javazon, FB Sorc)
 
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ffs

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III. Combined Area Running

The aim of area running on higher player settings is usually a combination of at least two of three things: Magic finding, rune finding and/or gaining XP. That being said, the below is about the first two points, since combining these belongs in the "finding stuff" category. (See below Part IV on the XP gain aspect.) This is a very interesting aspect of the game, and yet again further builds are beginning to shine here. The task of clearing high player settings gives us a nice challenge and things to improve and tweak, even after all those rare S&Us are found and high-level runewords are made. There were several recent tournaments that focused on this combination.


Targets and General Considerations
The obvious targets are level 85 areas since bosses and champions there can drop all S&Us, usually running them on P7 or P5. Apart from Pit and AT, there's also Chaos Sanctuary (CS), which is a great target for runes because of its Finger Mages that also have 3.59 higher rune drop chances than other A85 monsters. On the other hand, CS will be less efficient for MF due to somewhat lower boss kills over time.

Two particularities to consider for CS running are the seal trick/glitch and RoF superchests:
Seal trick: Discussed at length here, this refers to the following: Before popping the last Seal, you can teleport around the CS to "activate" worthwhile groups, then pop the last seal. As a result, all those monsters activated within ~6-8 seconds before the last seal will drop loot (though not grant XP, and always based on 0% MF). In terms of rune drops only, the "big 4" rune finding areas above are considerably better. However, with a character focusing on MF and in particular when running CS including Diablo, it is a good option to increase rune drops.

Note: This technique is officially allowed but discouraged under SPF rules.

RoF superchests: Another tweak is to roll a map with RoF superchests close to the CS waypoint and include it you runs. These chests can drop up to Cham and many like to include them in their runs.

Irrespective of area, the general idea is to focus on bosses as well as large group of random monsters for possible rune drops, though some may focus more on bosses and just kill monsters that happen to be in the vicinity. It's difficult to make out something like a general "balanced" MF/RF optimum (though maybe it's possible to come up with some kind of formula based on drop odds). Builds differ as to their mechanics and prowess when it comes to killing mostly bosses vs. any large group, and more importantly it's down to personal goals and preference in the end to which extent a player will focus on MF (by killing mostly bosses) or RF (maximizing number of overall monsters killed).


1. PN Necro (Pit)
Hard to argue against him – great AoE even on high players settings, and at the same time he can carry a lot of MF. Depending on whether you're more after runes or S&Us, you may want to go for more MF SCs or more skillers. This may also affect whether you want to go P5 (more boss kills over time) or P7. The 75% FCR breakpoint is appealing in terms of MF, allowing Shako and more flexibility to include MF from other slots.
Example setup:
As for a 125% FCR variant, it's more or less the same as Cow Necro. In particular when shifting the focus to runes a little bit, you could just use the gear listed above for Cows and throw in some extra MF here and there as you see fit.

A balanced 75% FCR setup with tendency towards MF focus could look like this:
  • Shako 'Ist/PTopaz'
  • Craft/rare +Necro amulet with MF (Mara's is fine as well)
  • Enigma
  • Death's Web 'Ist' (alternatively Hoto)
  • 35 Spirit
  • Arachnid Mesh
  • Nagelrings
  • TO gloves
  • War Traveler
Inventory: Personally I still go for a decent number of skillers (4-5) for higher CE range and PN damage. However, this also depends on the map. If your boss spawning locations are in narrow areas, you can certainly get away with lower CE radius and higher MF from SCs.

MF benchmark: ~400-500
Efficiency benchmark: <10s per boss kill depending on focus (bosses only vs. high number of non-boss monsters)


2. Javazon (Pit/CS)
Same as for Cows, she is very strong for clearing Pits (and likewise CS) on high player settings. For Pits, it's best to roll a map with several "camp/nest" areas filled with Devilkins, and ideally including boss spawning locations in those. Her downside in comparison to Pit Necro (and generally for MF-oriented running) are her specific gearing needs. She really shines with certain key items (such as Titan's, Griffon's or Razortail) and it can be challenging to include MF while keeping reasonable IAS and FCR breakpoints. This generally results in lower MF in comparison to other builds.
Example setup:
  • Griffon's 'IAS jewel' (ideal second mod = MPK)
  • Titan's
  • Splendor
  • Enigma
  • +2/8+ FCR amulet, ideally with MF
  • Raven
  • Nagelring
  • War Traveler
  • Razortail
  • 20 IAS/MF gloves
Switch: CtA, 35 Spirit (for 68% FCR teleport)

Inventory: Gheed's, MF SCs, skillers as desired.

Merc (Defiance or Might): Infinity, Andy, CoH

The main issue with such higher MF setups is going to be Mana upkeep, and she will likely need to do some potting as opposed to the setups mentioned above. Swapping in things like Silkweave/Lidless Wall helps, but means taking a hit in the MF, damage or FCR departments.

MF benchmark: ~300-400
Efficiency benchmark: <10s per boss kill (depending on focus)


3. Hammerdin (CS/WSK)
He remains a cookie-cutter build especially for running CS. He doesn't run into any immunity issues and it's easy to make him tanky enough to survive P7 with relative ease with good MF.
Example setup:
  • Shako 'Ist/PTopaz'
  • Enigma
  • +2/10+ FCR ammy, ideally with MF
  • 35 Spirit
  • Hoto
  • Nagelrings
  • TO Gloves/Magefist
  • Arach
  • War Traveler
Switch: CtA, Spirit

Inventory: Gheed's, MF SCs, Skillers as needed (personal preference)

Merc: Insight is the usual choice, paired with ebug Fortitude and Andy's. CoH and Treachery are great body armor alternatives. Delirium is a good safety option, same for Reaper's in particular when including De Seis. However, Delirium can crash the game which is annoying to say the least, and it's probably a good idea to skip De Seis in any case unless you want to include Diablo (e.g. for essences or XP in later levels).

MF benchmark: ~450-550
Efficiency benchmark: 10-15s per boss kill (depending on focus)


4. Blizzard Sorc (CS/WSK/AT)
She is a great option for AT and WSK as well as CS (in particular for the now infamous "Gripphon runs" or "2 seal runs" described here). Her only disadvantage is mainly unbreakable CIs, which somewhat reduces MF efficiency depending on the area of choice.
Example setup:
  • Nightwing's Veil or Shako, socketed with Ist/PTopaz/facet/Ber
  • Sorc/10+ FCR amulet
  • CoH
  • 35 Spirit
  • Death's Fathom (alternatively Hoto)
  • TO gloves
  • SoJ/BK
  • FCR/something ring
  • Arach
  • War Traveler
Merc: Insight, Andy, eth bugged Fortitude

There are many other options of course. For example, an interesting approach was taken by @NanoMist's with this setup including Enigma and Dracul's Grasp for some convenient LPK and Reaper's on Merc.


5. Nova Sorc (Pit)
Not commonly used, but a very fast P7 Pit runner if geared with a focus on damage. However, similar to Java, she cannot carry as much MF as other builds. You can find some information on her here.
Example setup:
This is for ES variant, and just one example:
  • Griffon (facet/MPK/Ist/PTopaz)
  • Enigma
  • +2/10+ FCR ammy with MF
  • 35 Spirit
  • Eschuta (facet/MPK/Ist)
  • 2x SoJ
  • Caster gloves with MF
  • Arach
  • War Traveler or Silkweave depending on MPK needs
Switch: CtA, Spirit

Inventory: Gheed's, MF SCs, Skillers as needed (personal preference)

Merc: Infinity, paired with ebug Fortitude and Andy's. Defiance and HF are both good.

In the thread linked above you will find information on the ES variant, but Vita should work fine as well. Also CM setups are worth exploring. Lidless Wall and Silkweaves are great options for MPK (assuming running without 1.07 MPK rings), and so are the often overlooked caster craft gloves. As for sockets, MPK jewels are competing with Ist runes mostly, mix and match as needed.

MF benchmark: ~300-500 (depending on focus)
Efficiency benchmark: 8-10s per boss kill (depending on focus)


6. Other Builds and Targets
There are numerous further characters that can be considered. Again a non-exhaustive list, the below builds can be optimized to quite efficient area runners:
Some additional information on other target candidates in spoilers below.

AT running
AT takes a little bit of a backseat when it comes to combining MF and RF because it's not as strong for runes, due to the overall lower monster number in AT in comparison to e.g. Pit or CS (given masses of Devilkins in the Pit or Finger Mages in CS with their higher rune drop chances). Thus, AT running characters are at a disadvantage when it comes to RF efficiency. That being said, builds like Blizzard Sorc, Fissure Druid, Windy Druid all work very well for these purposes, and are by no means inefficient.

Pindle running
While again worse on the rune front, due to Pindle's incredible built-in MF efficiency he is again a great target for the MF part. Running him on high player settings is moreover a good way to gain good XP until early/mid 90s. Of course many builds work very well for this, to name a few:
  • WW Barb (@Espr) – again a top build due to FI being OP
  • Javazon – for Pindle she can actually load up on MF quite a bit
  • Blizzard Sorc – good for everything
  • Fissure Druid (@Grape)

Nihlathak running
Nihl is getting some love recently, thanks to the untwinked 99er challenge and the fact that he is the best target for the 98-99 stage for most characters. He is usually run on P8 to maximize XP gain. He is a decent target for both S&U and rune drops, though not good enough to come close to or even beat lvl 85 areas run with optimized characters.

Gameplay and setup examples will mainly be 99ers that tend to disregard MF to a large extent, but here's a couple of videos for gameplay reference:
The progress tables in the untwinked 99er thread moreover contain links to the final 99er write-ups, which often include specific information on Nihl running as well.
 
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ffs

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IV. Further Aspects and Resources

1. Experience Gain

Maximizing XP gain is quite different from efficiency in terms of maximizing drops, so it doesn't quite fit with the overall idea of this. But I wanted to briefly touch upon this nonetheless since it is also down to "efficiency" in general. I'm also a 99er fan personally, and there is no better way to get into efficient XP farming – as well as figuring out how to gear up quickly – than joining @Kitteh's untwinked 99er challenge. Doing so is hereby highly recommended.

As opposed to "finding things", going for XP efficiency tends to work the other way around – usually it's not a specific target/build that you want to go for, but rather you want to take the most efficient XP route with a character that you have already chosen. So I decided to not include any specific builds or strategies, but rather fully refer to the 99er Compendium. @PhineasB did incredible work in compiling all of the information in there, including XP gain strategies such as the abovementioend 2 seal runs, general choice of targets and some class-specific gearing and progress tips.

2. Targets by Gearing Progression
For players starting fresh or looking to build up from a specific gearing stage, I thought it could be helpful to give the following overview. It is sorted by what I think most consider the "expected" gearing progression (in terms of runeword priority and rarity of S&Us), and lists the recommended targets depending on gearing stage.

Starting out (e.g. restart, untwinked):
Meph farming, really. :)

Basic S&Us available:
MF: AT Sorc or any Pindle runner
RF: LK Sorc

Enigma + Hoto available:
MF: Singer (Pit), Zerker with Oath (Pit/Pindle) become viable
RF: LK Sorc

+ CtA + Griefs:
MF: Berserker (Pit/Pindle)
RF: + Trav Barb + Cow Necro
MF/RF: Pit Necro, CS Hammerdin become viable

+ Infinity:
RF: + Trav Sorc + Cow Javazon + stronger Cow Necro + Nova Sorc
MF/RF: + Javazon, Nova Sorc, stronger Pit Necro, AT FB/hybrid Sorc

+ Griffon's/Death's Fathom/Death's Web:
Further improving the respective builds and opening up other slots/gearing routes.

3. Links and Resources
Magic Finding

Rune Finding

Others

* * *

Credit and thanks to all those members that contributed to the incredible wealth of efficiency-related knowledge on these forums and the SPF in particular. This includes not only the prominent contributions of @Gripphon and @Fabian and those of other players referenced above, but really the entirety of players engaging in related discussions. Special thanks to @Owlie, @Nano, @Albatross and @GalaXyHaXz for helpful input in putting this together. I hope it's okay I didn't ask everyone for express permission to refer to their contributions – I figured it wouldn't have been feasible given the sheer number and inactivity of many. :)

As stated above, I intend to build up on this and add information and resources over time. Feel free to PM me any time if you think something else (links, builds, videos, anything) should be included.
 
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ffs

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Moving this over from here. Will get to work shortly regarding formatting and copying linked posts to the archives.
 
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Been updating a few things in the MF category recently:
  • Berserker gear (HLW OP)
  • Singer gear (added Beast option)
  • AT Blizzy (Enigma routes)
  • added AT FB/hybrid Sorc
  • added some resources
Credits to @Luhkoh for several of the above ideas and resources (Berserker sim, Beast Singer & hybrid Sorc).

---

I figured I'd just use this thread for some thoughts on certain farming builds... For lack of a better place and not wanting to spam the HoR thread with build-related discussion as opposed to actual results. :)

I've been playing Fire Sorc in AT a lot this last week. I tried a bunch of gear/build routes and spent (too many :)) hours on theorycrafting gear and testing setups, as well as respec'ing her 5-6 times to see how the different options compare. Basically I checked out these routes:
  1. Pure FB with Phoenix
  2. FB/Blizzard/some synergies with Phoenix
  3. FB/Blizzard/no synergies with Phoenix
  4. FB/synergized Blizzard with Spirit
  5. FB/FO with Phoenix
My favorite was option 3: High FB damage with non-synergized Blizzard and using Phoenix. (But option 2 is almost the same honestly, and I also liked option 5.)

With #2 I followed a very simple approach in dealing with Invaders: Cast Blizzard and a few Statics, then start casting FB on boss. If the boss is no longer FI, he will go down super quickly thanks to Phoenix and Blizzard/Static having dealt a good chunk of damage already. If he remained unbroken FI, I cast another Blizzard and teleport next to him with Merc, and that does it quickly as well. Basically, the idea is to use FB against everything including Invaders, using Blizzard once just to chill them and for some extra damage, and only use Blizzard more than once if they remain FI.

After checking about half a dozen setups, crunching numbers and in game testing, I landed on this:

Shako 'Ist'
Wizardspike 'Ist'
Enigma
Rare amulet +2 Sorc, resist, str, life, MF
Phoenix
Magefist
2x FCR rings with MF/resist/life
WT
Arach

Phoenix is key IMO because it means FB can always be used except against unbroken FIs, plus it provides huge QoL with Redemption.

Wizardspike rarely sees use on high-end Sorcs, but in this case I truly think it's the best choice, for these reasons:
  • That extra 10 FCR in comparison to a 40 FCR weapon means a lot when using Phoenix
  • Massive resists means no crazy amount of MF/res charms needed or even resorting to TO gloves (Magefist is reeeaallly good for her).
  • Huge mana boost means mana burn is pretty much a non-issue, again Magefist help here. I didn't get such mana upkeep with Hoto. See below in the brief vid how FB can basically be spammed despite no Insight.
  • I didn't even get a meaningful damage downside in comparison to Hoto. Currently using 2 fire skillers which if replaced with MF charms would translate to max 42 MF, but Wizzy already offers a socket for 30 MF, so that pretty much puts it at -1 already. Then I could easily include Magefist for another +1 (with Hoto I felt I needed TO gloves). Lastly, not having to use an FCR amulet meant I could include even more MF/res/skills/adds from that slot.
Both the mana upkeep and resists/tankiness I felt are crucial for this char, because with FB I really want to teleport next to the boss and hit him in the face. Otherwise when casting FB from a distance, minions walking towards you get in the way and "protect" the boss which slows her down quite a bit.

Some other things I tried:
Griffon's:
I used it in particular for pure Fire Sorc because I figured maybe with stronger Static I could just use Meteor + FB to deal with Invaders and let the Merc finish off unbroken FIs. But it just didn't work as well as the hybrid approach. Then I also used it with the latter because its 25 FCR fit nicely with Phoenix setups. However, in comparison to Shako numbers always ended up being worse overall. It can reach the same damage/MF amounts easily but will always mean lower life and resists.

Spirit:
Ofc this works well and it's what @Luhkoh ran during MFO. Thing is FB deals too little damage vs. broken FIs and it loses a lot of power because of that. It's better used when going for lower FB but higher Blizzard/FO damage, but I figured at this point one might just as well go pure Blizzard. I just saw no reason not to use Phoenix because it's sooo good for fire sorcs.

Hoto (& Eschuta):
See above re Wizzy. Even Hoto has trouble getting to good enough resists to provide the sturdiness that Wizzy does, and again loss in damage (assuming same MF breakpoint) is actually very small at best. With Eschuta's Temper I don't see how survivability can be managed at all.

Finally some breakpoints for FB Sorc using Phoenix in AT (min FB damage vs max HP bosses):
Code:
5125    1-hit (SH) horror mage + MR embalmed
5717    1-hit MR horror mage + SH/MR embalmed
6272    2-hit FE embalmed + SH/MR plague bearer
6720    2-hit FE plague bearer + FE embalmed + SH/MR horror mage
7334    2-hit FE/SH embalmed + 1-hit FE horror mage (7167)
8382    1-hit FE/SH horror mage + 2-hit FE&SH plague bearer
8654    1-hit embalmed
9273    1-hit plague bearer + 1-hit SH embalmed
10773   1-hit MR or SH plague bearer + 1-hit MR embalmed

I found it's best to get to the 6.7-7.5k FB range, which also favored the non-synergized Blizzard route as FB damage otherwise ended up in the 5-5.8k range. That's perfectly fine as well tbh, and the difference between the two isn't that big either way.

EDIT: As for efficiency, I didn't compare pure Blizzard vs FB/Blizzard on the same map yet. I do think I'll get faster run times than with Blizzard, but with ~510 MF as opposed to some ~150 more with pure Blizzard. Whether or not it can truly compete with or even outperform pure Blizzard remains to be seen...

E2: Unlinked vid for now because something seems off with the char, will upload another one soon.
 
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Luhkoh

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Absolutely excellent stuff. I feel obligated to mention that the twitch streamer enpherno told me to test this character. He has run it very extensively. He (and I in MFO) run it with spirit and 15 points in ice blast. I considered trying out phoenix and wizzy on the hybrid (I always love that combo on characters), but assume I would get too low fb, too low blizz, and too small a static range. What was your blizz dmg in the video? And why kiras on merc? And how the heck did you get so much mana? Haha many questions, but I will definitely look forward to trying this setup out sometime soon. Glad you like her. Exciting to have a new sorc running at least near top-tier in AT after so long, especially when loads of people just seem to like fireball.

Do you think that easyzerker is worth a mention since he's likely better than singer? No pressure either way. I plan to write more about a couple of builds I've been enjoying in the future.
 
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ffs

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I considered trying out phoenix and wizzy on the hybrid (I always love that combo on characters), but assume I would get too low fb, too low blizz, and too small a static range.
To me it seemes most of those issues are relevant when using Spirit, but not so much with Phoenix.

Using Phoenix changes the overall playstyle quite a bit. The sturdiness facilitates a more aggressive "in your face" style with FB, and it is simply used against every monster type. Unbroken FIs need to be addressed, but maxing Blizzard alone does the trick just fine I found. So does 1pt Static because you're tanky enough to be close to the boss anyway. I found it more beneficial to have 30% higher FB damage vs everything else rather than ~500 higher Blizzard damage for those very specific situations. Unsynergized Blizzard deals ~1.2k with + skills, whereas it was at ~1.7k when I used the synergized build.

Don't think it's a bad idea to skill Blizz synergies at all though. As mentioned I found it is viable, but that's mostly because I found lower FB dmg breakpoints (5-6k) are fine to aim for as well, rather than Blizzard damage making a noticeable difference. In the end it will result in slightly slower kills with FB but slightly faster Invader kills every once in a while. To me it just felt like stronger FB was a bit more beneficial overall, but it's not a big difference either way.

You should make a simulator so we can be sure. :D

Anyway, my key point is Phoenix means seriously committing to FB
why kiras on merc
I just wanted CNBF and was too lazy to swap around Cham'ed GFace or Andy's. :) I'd use GFace on her as well. I think I ditched Andy's on AT Sorcs for good actually, so much easier to distinguish bosses and minions without the poison novas in terms of performance it appears to be pretty even.
And how the heck did you get so much mana?
Wizzy. Otherwise just Shako and Arach increase mana. Not even charms, I just use plain 7 MF ones. Magefist helps with the regen as mentioned above.

EDIT: Actually there seems to be something off with the high mana, it shouldn't be that high. I wonder if the char file is messed up. This Sorc was part of a save folder that a friend of mine gave to me some 17 years ago when he quit D2... I restarted in 2015/2016 and never used such old files, but kept them around, and some time ago I used this Sorc for testing purposes like these, just because I didn't want to respec/roll maps with my own Sorcs. I'm checking whether the high mana is some kind of bug that can be recreated, but given this background I cannot be sure there isn't something wrong with the char file, so I removed the vid for now. Will talk to maxicek if it turns out the file had been messed with in the past.

Do you think that lazyzerker is worth a mention
Good point, will mention that option as well for the lazy crowd!

Edit: Done
 
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Luhkoh

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@ffs nice nice. I did do several hundred runs with phoenix as a fire-only sorc. Didn't feel substantially more durable or more in-your-face with phoenix over spirit. Or really what I mean to say is I felt just as comfortable playing aggressively with the spirit setup. Teleport right on top of the boss pack, and fb puts the non-invader minions into fhr so reliably that I didnt feel the lack of the life replenish from redemption to any significant degree. Also didnt really have to drink mana pots except for mana burn, which is the same situation as with phoenix. I am a huge phoenix fan, I just did not miss the redemption aura nearly as much with this character. The only disadvantage I see as significant is the broken FI non-invaders. Which aren't that bad since the merc usually takes them out very quickly as my fireballs clear the minions. So anyways, I feel like you're underselling the spirit setup a bit, but I really like the look of this setup you're using, so am excited to test it out sometime soon :). I think I had just under 7k fireball, and a 2.5k blizzard with my setup.

Still confused about your mana total since I have like 600 mana on my fb sorc using phoenix/hoto, and I dont think wizzy adds 500 mana, but I suppose I'll see what I have when I get around to respec'ing her and trying this.

Also I'm still gonna keep calling this character "fizz sorc" :p. A lot more fun than "fb/blizz hybrid".

will mention that option as well for the lazy crowd!
Hey now! I know that's low-hanging fruit when I named him lazyzerker (since have switched to calling him easyzerker), but you play singer don't you? So that's even more lazy crowd :p. Slower and less efficient ;).
 
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ffs

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Fully agreed on Spirit, I didn't mean to sell it short at all. Phoenix just worked best for me and was more comfortable to run with, so I prefer it considering all pros and cons. Indeed it's not like the Sorc is less sturdy at all with Spirit (to the contrary, its FHR and resists help a lot). It's definitely a strong option.

In fact initial run times with all of the 5 options above were within 2-3 seconds of each other for me. The setup I posted above was just slightly ahead, although I ran way too little with either setup to draw any definite conclusions. But apart from FB basically 1-shotting or 2-shotting everything other than Invaders and including broken FIs, I liked the simplicity and running comfort with Phoenix. I value Redemption a lot personally, but it's not essential of course, and indeed I didn't pot a lot with Spirit either.
 
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Luhkoh

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All makes sense to me. Great stuff all around. Really glad you’re testing it and coming up with cool stuff. I already said this to you elsewhere, but I really enjoy how big the problem size gets and how many variables there are to mess with on this build. Loving the thread and the results and the discussion. Keep up the good work!
 

d2lover

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In your first post there's that:

" 4. Concentrate Sorc ", I think you mean Barbar
 
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ffs

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Thanks @d2lover, I changed the order and messed that up, corrected now.

I reuploaded a FB hybrid Sorc vid as the Sorc in the original vid was corrupted (sorted it out with maxicek). Setup is same as described above, though I am still trying out other ones as well as rolling (and learning) maps.

Also uploaded and linked vid for Beast Singer. Neither runs nor map are particularly good either, but it shows how bosses go down faster. Depending on run times and MF amounts, looks like this could be indeed better than running a higher MF setup.

Videos:
 
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ffs

Well-known member
Mar 13, 2020
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Been slowly updating this over the last 1-2 weeks. Nothing major but there were a couple of things I wanted to include.
  • Pit Berserker: We had interesting developments here, thanks to @Luhkoh's simulator. HLW = OP, LoH great as well.
  • EDIT: I've been working on an update Pit Berserker post as well, going more in-depth on the details and map stuff to consider, in light of findings since the last relevant posts/threads/guides were done. Rather than including too much detail here, I hope I'll be able to wrap this up soon and then just include a link here.
  • AT Barb: This was rather rudimentary, now included some more detail, in particular on Berserk/Conc hybrid.
  • City of the Damned included in "other areas" section for now. Not quite sure how to treat this yet, it's hard to factor in the lower chance of finding Tyrael's. Definitely comparable to Pit and Pindle based on Grip's testing.
  • Couple of minor additions/changes in recommended setups here and there.
 
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