[Guide] - SPF 99er Compendium


Well-known member
Guide Author
Mar 14, 2020
SPF 99er Compendium

A major challenge or goal for many members of the SPF has been to take a character to level 99.

There is lots of great knowledge relevant to attempting a 99er in numerous threads, most notably The quest for level 99, 99 theorycrafting and stuff like that [dead link], original untwinked 99er challenge [dead link] by @Kestegs, and Revenge of the 99ers, the recent reboot of the untwinked 99er challenge by @Kitteh (not to mention the character writeups for completed 99ers). But getting that knowledge means reading through all the posts in all of the threads, and then remembering which thread contained which pieces.

This SPF 99er Compendium is an attempt to pull out the key tidbits, findings, and theory about 99er progress. Hopefully, it will be a useful resource for longstanding SPF members and newcomers alike who are looking for, or have undertaken, a new challenge. It’s also a tribute of sorts to this forum, those who’ve made it to 99, those who’ve attempted it, and the many who have supported others along the journey. (Note: The Compendium has not been updated to account for build differences in D2R 2.4+; once we start seeing untwinked 99ers in D2R, I will try to work those details in.)

It’s broken up into four parts:
1. The Basics
2. The SPF’s 99er History
3. The Journey
- 3.1. Questing and Character Development
- 3.2. Early XP Grind (through Level 93)
- 3.3. Levels 94-98
- 3.4. Levels 98-99
4. Tidbits and Pro Tips
- 4.1. Class-Specific Deets
- 4.2. Gear Basics
- 4.3. Merc Issues
- 4.4. Play Tips
- 4.5. Untwinked Considerations
- 4.6. Remember, It's About Fun

There is no new knowledge or insights here, only the collection of what others have said or found. I may add some editorial comments along the way, but will try to keep that to a minimum. Also, if I leave out some key points or fail to attribute things properly, no offense is meant!

As an appetizer to show what it’s all about, let’s feature a vid or two (or three), along with a cool character screen:

Thank Yous
I have to start by thanking the forum members who built up the knowledge base and began 99er projects after v1.10 came out. Hardly any of them are still around, and there are too many to mention. But you will see some mentioned in the Guide and their 99ers are listed in the Quest for 99 thread. This guide simply summarizes the learnings of many others.

Beyond that, special thanks to the untwinked 99er reboot crowd, who were very helpful in developing the compendium and improving the initial draft. Special mention to @Cyrax and @Corrupted, who provided very helpful feedback and perspective for someone who's only done this 99er thing untwinked in v1.13

Version History
-March 3, 2018 – Original version posted.

-June 17, 2018 – Updated to account for two new completed 99ers; also added more info to The Journey, XP Table for levels 91-99 in the Play Tips section of Tidbits and ProTips, and general tidying.

-January 16, 2019 – Updated to account for six (!) new 99ers over the past six months; also updated The Journey and Class Specific section of Tidbits and ProTips to reflect increased knowledge gained about non-sorc builds in that time.

-January 26, 2020 – Updated to account for six (!) more new 99ers over the past year; also updated The Journey and Class Specific section of Tidbits and ProTips to reflect continued new info from testing and new build approaches.

-March 21, 2020 – Migrated to new site.

-August 9, 2020 – Updated internal links and migrated those posts; minor edits; updated numbers to account for new 99er.

-December 25, 2022 – Updated to account for new 99ers; updates to ProTips to reflect further info on build options; broader update and tidying, including to note D2R changes not accounted for in this version
Last edited:
1. The Basics

So what’s this 99er thing?
Level 99 is the highest a character can reach; once the character hits 99, there is no more experience points (XP) to gain. It’s one way of thinking about “completing” the game.

What’s the big deal about reaching 99?
In v1.10+, it’s a major challenge and commitment of time due to the mechanics of XP gain. In particular, the combination of three XP mechanics make the climb to 99 daunting.

First, the amount of XP needed per level escalates at each successive level. For illustration, getting from 10 to 11 takes 18,036 XP; getting from 50 to 51 takes 5,059,147 XP; and getting from 90-91 takes 159,218,965 XP. The table below from the Arreat Summit shows XP needed from 90-99 (full XP table is in the link).
Rich (BB code):
Lvl        Total XP          XP to Next Lvl
90         1,618,470,619     146,072,446
91         1,764,543,065     159,218,965
92         1,923,762,030     173,548,673
93         2,097,310,703     189,168,053
94         2,286,478,756     206,193,177
95         2,492,671,933     224,750,564
96         2,717,422,497     244,978,115
97         2,962,400,612     267,026,144
98         3,229,426,756     291,058,498
99         3,520,485,254     -
So, a character basically needs 2x the XP to get from 98 to 99 as from 90 to 91.

Second, there is an XP gain penalty at higher character levels. In essence, starting at level 70, the character gets successively less XP for killing monsters at each new level. As with the amount of XP needed per level, this character-level penalty escalates drastically, ultimately reaching 0.59% at level 98. So that means that level 98 characters get slightly more than ½ a percent of the XP the monster would otherwise give. The table below from the wiki shows the character-level penalty.
Rich (BB code):
Level    Experience    Level    Experience    Level    Experience
70        95.31%        80        48.44%        90        5.96%
71        90.63%        81        43.75%        91        4.49%
72        85.94%        82        39.06%        92        3.42%
73        81.25%        83        34.38%        93        2.54%
74        76.56%        84        29.69%        94        1.95%
75        71.**%        85        25.00%        95        1.46%
76        67.19%        86        18.75%        96        1.07%
77        62.50%        87        14.06%        97        0.78%
78        57.81%        **        10.55%        98        0.59%
79        53.13%        89        7.91%         99        ---

Third, there is a penalty if a monster’s level is more than 5 levels below the character’s level. Again, this level-difference penalty escalates until it caps out at gaining only 5% of the available XP when the difference is 10 or higher. The table below from the wiki shows the level-difference penalty.
Rich (BB code):
lvl diff exp%
6        81%
7        62%
8        43%
9        24%
10+      5%
Boss packs in A85 areas are level 88, so that’s the max level-difference penalty for the last level. The only three monsters with levels >88 are Diablo (level 94), Nihlathak (level 95), and Baal (level 99).

Putting it all together, level 98 characters need the maximum XP for that level (more than 290 million), get the max character-level penalty (getting less than 1% of XP from kills), and get no real XP gain except from the three targets above due to max level-difference penalty for all other monsters. At 98, those three targets give roughly 52k (Diablo), 22k (Nihl), and 80k (Baal) per run. (A more exact breakdown and link to handy XP tables is in The Journey section below).

For context, the table below shows the number of Baal runs needed for each level from 90 to 99, the total/cumulative runs, and percent of the overall total for each level. The numbers are based on testing by @jjscud and @Reborn (now in the wiki but from early in the 99er progress thread). Although no longer considered an efficient approach for most characters, Baal runs provide a concrete illustration of how the three XP mechanics make the climb to 99 so steep.
Rich (BB code):
Start Lvl  End Lvl  Baal Runs  Total Runs  % Complete
90         91       20         20          0.36%
91         92       30         50          0.90%
92         93       45         90          1.63%
93         94       60         155         2.61%
94         95       110        265         4.8%
95         96       210        475         8.6%
96         97       450        925         16.7%
97         98       1100       2025        36.6%
98         99       3500       5525        100%

I see. That's a lot of runs.
And this doesn't account for character deaths. In Hell, the XP penalty for dying is 10% of the total XP for the character’s level, which is reduced to 2.5% with a successful corpse recovery. A death at high levels, even with corpse recovery, means loss of several hours of running. At 98, a death without corpse recovery means loss of >29M XP.

So it takes a while?
Various estimates are 50-60 hours for level 97 and then 100-120 hours for level 98 (in v1.13+). It will generally take longer if attempted untwinked.

Why do people do this, again?
Because it’s fun? Some common reasons that SPFers have mentioned over the years are: (1) it’s a major challenge; (2) it’s a nice goal to take a character all the way to “complete”; (3) early on, many SPFers made the climb through multi-player games and, more recently, through the untwinked challenge, so it’s a way to engage the SPF community; and (4) the journey is lucrative due to the drops that will happen during that many runs.

So what’s the history in the SPF around this?
That’s actually the next section.

Oh, okay!
Last edited:
2. The SPF’s 99er History

As of December 25, 2022, there are 68 documented 99ers. Write ups for almost all of them are included in the quest for level 99 thread, with this post including links to the write-ups (as of December 25, 2022).

A quick shout-out to the HC 99ers in that list, which include all of three of the characters by @DarkChaos, hammerdin by @wielanja, hammerdin by @Corrupted, and the untwinked (!) Fire Druid (!) by @Pb_pal and untwinked Sorc by @D30D043. And a special mention for the 26 untwinked 99ers in the list, given the additional challenge that presents.

Of particular interest also are the 99ers prior to v1.13. The first 15 were completed before v1.13 came out; presumably, at least the next several had also made significant progress prior to the patch release. This was the era of OKs with Iron Maiden. So the melee characters are pretty remarkable, and even for casters, IM was dangerous for mercs. Also, it was before respecs, which opened up different leveling strategies with different builds at different stages. Finally, it was before the increased drop rates for runes, so Enigma was much less common. As a result, Baal was generally the target because it was possible to get the throne room without teleport on a good map. (One recent 99er was made in v1.10b via time traveling.)

As discussed in The Journey section, Baal is the least XP-efficient option for the last level, and generally less XP efficient from 94-98 than other options. The time investment was therefore much greater for the early 99ers. There is an interesting discussion within the 8 posts here that sum up the evolution from the “early years” to v1.13+. Certainly, the SPF knowledge base has increased. But v1.13 also made other targets more realistic alternatives, particularly CS, because OKs were much less of a threat and the higher rune drop rates made Enigma common.

That said, it’s also interesting to see how some things now taken for granted were learned. It apparently wasn’t until November 2005 (after the first two 99ers were completed and several others were very far into the journey) that the XP cap for Baal (which also applies to Diablo) was discovered. Before that, it looks like everyone killed Baal on p8, even though it gives the same XP as p3, adding lots of time to Baal those runs.

In a similar vein, the first mention of not hitting Baal at earlier levels (because the XP/hour is faster to just target the waves) came more than a year into the 99er progress thread in this post by @jjscud. It had presumably been figured out before then, but it apparently wasn't widely known within the SPF as a leveling strategy until then.

As noted above, v1.13 brought a number of important changes. But it wasn't until shortly before v1.13 (relatively speaking) that leveling strategies beyond Baal runs became widespread within the SPF. DX and @jjscud discussed leveling in Chaos Sanctuary, and the value of saving the Ancients XP reward for level 98 when XP is hardest to get, here in May 2009. That appears to be the first time it was discussed at length in the 99er thread.

@Corrupted noted, however, that the idea was not new and had been mentioned in other threads and among the irc crowd long before. @Ragnarod had also leveled his hammerdin exclusively in CS, as early as 2005, but his motivation for doing so was different (and he didn't have Enigma, so it was probably slower for him than Baal runs would have been).

A couple months later in 2009, here, DX referenced experimenting with Nihl runs and that they could be even faster XP/hour for level 98 (but found them boring). Theorycrafting around Nihl runs started in earnest in August 2009, after which it became commonplace for characters to target CS or Nihl, both as a way to save Ancients and for greater XP/hour.

The benefits of v1.13 became apparent quickly, with these two posts giving a fun little example.

Since then, further testing within v.1.13+ has expanded the knowledge and led to what is currently considered the "most efficient" way for characters to level. That term is somewhat misleading actually, because it involves testing targets (and variations on how to run certain targets) to account for differences in build and equipment, rather than a categorical assertion of what's best. And it also includes comparable options that may meet a player's broader goal beyond peak efficiency.

Of particular note is the development of 2-seal runs in CS by @Gripphon (now called "Gripphon runs") and additional testing around peak XP efficiency for certain builds, starting with this post from the 99er theorycrafting thread and continuing for the next dozen or so posts. That has been confirmed and expanded upon by the untwinked 99er reboot crowd, in particular @Nano and @Pb_pal shown in this post and this post (and this one that is linked there). The Journey section includes a detailed breakdown of current leveling strategies from different stages (based largely on the posts noted above). But it seemed appropriate to include them here also because they are a key part of the SPF's 99er history.

To wrap things up, below are some stats about the SPF 99ers (current as of January 26, 2020), first broken down by class, then by build, then by target for 98-99, and finally noting the SPFers with multiple 99ers.

SPF 99ers by Character Class
Amazon: 9
Assassin: 3
Barbarian: 7
Druid: 4
Necromancer: 4
Paladin: 18
Sorceress: 23

SPF 99ers by Build*
Hammerdin: 14
Lightning Sorc: 12
Furyzon: 9
Blizz-based Sorc: 7
Concentrate Barb: 6
Trapper Assassin: 3
Fire-based Sorc: 4
Windy: 3
Summoner Necro: 2
Poison Necro: 2

* At least two 99ers. This may be somewhat misleading due to respecs. For example, Hiatus was pure Blizz until 98, then lightning for the last level (I counted her as lightning). The numbers above are based on final build for 98-99.

SPF 99ers by Target for 98-99*
Baal: 14
CS/Diablo: 2

Baal: 14
CS/Diablo: 13
Nihl: 25

*Again, a grain of salt, as several characters mixed and matched through the last level. But this shows where the most amount of XP was picked up (as best I could tell).

SPFers with Multiple 99ers
PhineasB: 7
Cyrax: 4
DarkChaos: 3
ffs: 3
grogs: 3
strijdje: 2
Marvel: 2
jjscud: 2
zgpmf: 2
Grape: 2
Bewitch: 2
Pb_Pal: 2
Last edited:
3. The Journey

There are four general stages to the quest for 99:
3.1. Questing and Character Development
3.2. Early XP Grind (through Level 93)
3.3. Levels 94-98
3.4. Levels 98-99
3.5 Untwinked Considerations

The subsections below address the general strategies for each stage, with detailed data around XP and number of runs for different targets included for the last two stages. Variants and special considerations for untwinked play are noted at the end. (A more abbreviated version of the untwinked approach can be found in this post from @Pb_pal.) Note: The focus is on v1.13+ and therefore assumes availability of respecs and the higher drop rates for high runes.

3.1. Questing and Character Development
This consists of building the character (i.e., finishing Normal and Nightmare difficulties), pulling together core gear for the build, and then some early leveling at key targets in Hell (Pits/AT/Pindle). For twinked play and with respecs available, this can be pretty straightforward: pick your highest level character for the class you want, respec, and equip, using your most efficient runner for relevant targets (MF runs or LK/Trav for runes) if missing key gear ;)

For early leveling, hit Pits/AT/Pindle as necessary. Eldritch (superunique just north of first WP in A5) is also a nice target into the early-80s. It’s possible to go with Baal runs right away. But it’s better to focus on other targets while they give efficient XP and save the Ancients quest XP bonus for later in the journey when the XP penalties ratchet up.

3.2. Early XP Grind
Once the basic gear is gathered for the build, the focus turns to running targets that give good XP at high p-settings, generally as high as possible. But the balance of speed versus p-setting is important, as underpowered characters may gain XP faster on lower p-settings due to faster run times and less risk of death, which slows things down quite a bit (the XP penalties aren’t as harsh in 80s and even early 90s, but it’s still there, and dying simply slows down the average run time). It’s generally worthwhile to test out whether lower p-setting might be better, especially if p8 “feels” slow. Here are the most common targets:

- Pindle is a great target into the mid-to-late 80s and even up to 90 or so.

- Most builds, however, will do better to transition to A85 areas in the 80s, most commonly Pits or AT. The approach is to hit boss packs (boss + minions), because they give more XP (in absolute terms and because they are level eight-eight, while normal monsters are level 85, making the level-difference penalty less later in this stage). A good map has dense concentrations of boss packs, similar to a good MF map. Characters with cold damage will do well in AT, while Pits is generally the choice for others. As noted, p8 will give the best XP return in theory, but lower p-setting might work better.

- Beginning with level 90 through level 93, the A85 areas (Pit and AT) are the general choice for leveling. Powerful characters may transition to CS at some point as well (see the next stage for more detail on these runs).

- Others transition to Baal runs in earnest for this stage (and the next one). As confirmed by @Gripphon here, focusing on the waves generally gives better XP/min at this stage. It may be more efficient to end the runs with Ventar if Lister is a challenge. But, as noted above, other options are generally more efficient, if for no other reason than allowing the Ancients XP reward to be saved for later when the XP penalties are higher. Tips for efficient Baal runs are included in the next section.

- Trav runs also give decent XP, with the added benefit of potential nice rune and jewelry drops.

3.3. Levels 94-98
At this point, there are generally two paths: CS/Diablo or Baal. They are discussed in detail below, with some notes on other options following that. Based on current knowledge, there is consensus that players should test out which option (and variation of each option) is best for their particular character and goals. This section concludes with detailed tables, created by @Nano and explained in this post, that show XP per run for various targets, and examples of how forum members have used the information captured in those tables to determine which approach to take.

CS/Diablo: The general approach was to hit the seals at p8, taking out boss packs along the way, and then hitting Diablo at p7 (max experience from any monster is capped in the game code, and p8 exceeds that cap; so using p8 for Diablo only adds more HP). Some players just run on p7 to avoid switching p-settings over the course of thousands of runs. At p8/p7, you are looking at ~3300 runs for 94-98. @Corrupted and others skipped Diablo at earlier levels for faster XP/min.

More recently, @Gripphon did extensive testing to show that a particular type of CS run (now called a Gripphon run) is the most efficient way to gain XP for classes that are the most popular for 99ers (Sorc and Paladin) and potentially a great option for others (e.g., Necro).

In short, these runs involve using the tele-trick (see Tidbits and Pro Tips for an explanation) to reach the Pentagram in the middle of CS, then hitting only two seals (Vizier and Infector) and taking out boss packs along the way. Further testing has confirmed that hitting the seal for de Seis and then Diablo gives less XP/min for some builds than just focusing on the other two seals and boss packs, although the calculus changes a bit for 97-98 due to relative XP gain due to XP penalties (I think Sorc is likely only class where sticking with Gripp runs for 97-98 will win out, but as noted below, this is worth for testing for each character). The best maps for Gripphon runs have boss packs clustered together near the seals so there is less time taken to stop between the seals.

It’s difficult to calculate the number of Gripphon runs exactly (or p8/p7 runs, for that matter) because the number of boss packs (and monster types) hit in addition to the seals changes the XP gain/run. But the number of Gripphon runs needed is much higher than p8/p7, for which, assuming no boss packs are hit (which is very unlikely), it would take ~6750 runs. That number drops significantly when the average XP/run from boss packs are factored in and, because the runs take less than half as long for certain builds, you can see why this can be a faster than p8/p7 runs.

(A quick note: Gripp is one of the best runners in these forums and his characters were equipped for max killing power (i.e., no MF). So the actual XP/hour numbers will be lower for most mortals. But the findings hold true.)

A couple thoughts on running CS, whether p8/p7, Gripp runs, or hitting all three seals and skipping Diablo: (1) be sure to max fire resists (for character and merc), as Infector's pack is tricky; (2) +max fire resist and/or absorb equipment is helpful for the same reason; and (3) convicted Infector can be nasty, so a little bit of caution to confirm he *isn't* convicted can save you some deaths (less important if you are overstacked with +fire resist or have absorb per (1) and (2) above).

Finally, the untwinked 99er crowd has expanded on Gripphon's original testing and several members confirmed that it was fastest option from Blizz sorc. Based on my experience with a hammerdin and Neksja's approach with his hammerdin, Gripphon runs are definitely faster for 94-97, but p8/p7 was substantially faster for 97-98. I suspect the same would be true for javazons and other builds that can take down de Seis and Diablo. So just another example of the importance of testing for your particular character.

Other builds may do better at lower p-settings for the seals. In particular for 97-98, Diablo runs with p1 seals (or p1 for Infector and/or de Seis) may be a good option to test.

Baal: The general approach for Baal runs is to find a good WSK map. “Good” means a WP right by the stairs, and then stairs down from WSK3 again very close. With teleport, this can often mean going through a wall to reach the stairs down quickly on at least one of the WSK levels.

Running to and then clearing the Throneroom is on p1, then p8 for the waves, then p3 for Baal (the XP cap applies to him also, so going above p3 only adds to his HPs). Depending on the character’s strength, the p-setting may be decreased to speed up Lister’s wave.

@Corrupted pointed out that hitting boss packs at p8 along the way, particularly with Greater Mummies in WSK 2, can be worth it for XP early on (I found that to be true also with Mercy, who had steady boss pack spawns on one of her WSK maps, while also netting some nice drops as a result). But it involves an extra change to p-setting.

As @ffs noted, the map seed can impact how many monsters spawn in the Throne Room. (I haven't seen definitive testing to confirm this, but I've had the same experience.) Seeds with fewer monsters can speed things up noticeably, especially when considered across 1000s of runs. If you find lots of monsters spawning in the Throne Room regularly, it might be worth re-rolling, even if you have good WSK maps.

There are a couple strategies for speeding things up:

- First, the time between Baal spawning the waves slows the runs down a lot. Delerium’s ctc confuse can speed this up, as when it triggers Baal treats the wave as complete as long as the super unique in the wave has been taken out. Mileage may vary on this, as it involves gear tradeoffs. But some people swear by it.

- Second, Lister’s immunities can slow runs down, especially for elemental builds. Although unbreakable Lister spawns can be “parked” (retreating outside the throne room and then moving back into the throne room so he doesn’t follow), it often will increase the XP/hour to bail immediately and start the next run.

- Finally, as noted in the previous section, focusing on the waves will probably be more XP efficient at the earlier levels. The tradeoff is losing the drops from Baal. I’ve seen different takes on the inflection point where hitting Baal becomes efficient, and that is likely due to differences among builds and run times.

Miscellaneous: The other A85 areas are also options, although they are generally slower XP/hr. Several forum members have noted that characters that have done extensive p1 AT runs to make progress toward a grail will be level 96. As noted in this post, Mercy gained decent XP at level 97 from p8 pits with a good map that wasn’t too much worse than her XP from Baal runs but had better drops.

So staying in Pits/AT past level 93 is definitely an option. With a good map, it might not be less efficient than Baal runs, allowing the character to save Ancients for level 98. This idea was kicked around in the 99 theorycrafting thread, and @zgpmf hit 98 on p8 AT runs with his HC Sorc, getting around 4M/hour for 97-98. And Pestilence leveled to 98 in the Pit, largely due to no other option being faster for him as a poisonmancer and not wanting to run Baal.

Finally, Nihl may be a solid option for 97-98 (and possibly comparable to the most efficient options) if the build struggles with other areas. @ffs found Nihl to be comparable to Baal runs with a necro (venom for Nihl vs. Summoner for Baal), and switched to Nihl runs for most of 97-98, as did @Pb_pal with Klaus (Fire Druid) and me with Septimus (Windy).

XP Tables: @NanoMist created tables that allow players to determine the best path for them, based on their goals and playing style (e.g., max efficiency, MF goals, safety, intensity). They are embedded below and this post includes an explanation for how they can be used. The first table reflects p8/p7 CS runs and p8/p3 Baal runs, the second p1/p7 CS runs and p1/p3 Baal.
Table 1
Table 2

The basic idea is to time a run captured in this table, which allows an estimate of the amount of time needed to complete a level for that approach. Timing another type of run and figuring out how long it will take to complete a level using that approach allows a comparison to that baseline to see which approach is faster/slower.

This can also be applied to a type of run not captured here – say, Masoleum runs. By timing those runs and XP gain, I could get a rough gauge about how it compares to all of the other options in this table.

This can also be used to guestimate how a type of run would compare to another option. For example, it’s not possible to test Baal runs without burning the Ancients quest reward. Instead, I can figure out the time/level for whatever approach I’m using and compare that to an estimated time/run for Baal to see if it would be worth it to move to Baal now.

3.4. Levels 98-99
The options here are Nihl, Diablo, and Baal, listed in descending order of XP efficiency for most characters. They also are in descending order of dangerousness and risk of death, which is particularly painful at level 98. That said, for many (except HC characters :p), the increased efficiency of Nihl more than offsets the chance of dying. Put differently, even with a death or two, Nihl will generally be faster (assuming successful corpse recovery).

Here’s a decent general ballpark using the 3.0M/hr benchmark for Nihl, 80s/run for Diablo, and 2.5 min/run for Baal (which is quite solid):

- Nihl: 97 hours; 84 hours with Ancients quest saved

- CS/Diablo: 124 hours; 100 hours with Ancients quest saved

- Baal: 160 hours

Nihl: As noted earlier, Nihl gives ~22k/run. With characters that take out some monsters around him, it is ~23k, and closer to 23.5k for builds that take out everything on his platform (e.g., trappers). The basic benchmark of XP/hour is now 3.0M, with many characters exceeding it. @ffs has recently shown that > 4M/hr is possible with a lightning sorc (and on a Mac that avoids S&E lag). S&E times and amount of lag are key to each player’s benchmark.

A couple key points for Nihl runs:

- There are fixed maps for Nihl, most importantly for the Halls of Pain as explained here. Map 3 is the shortest of the options and easiest to spot because the room with the WP has pillars. It’s a point of personal preference about Halls of Vaught for where Nihl’s platform is, or more likely a function of shrines.

- Having an XP shrine active when Nihl drops increases XP gained by 50% for that run. It is possible to roll maps with up to 3 shrines from WP to Nihl. There are different views about the value of picking up shrines. @Nano had a pretty thorough breakdown here. The bottom line seems to be the time taken to check shrines roughly balances out to time saved by more XP, but that means fewer runs total and lower risk of dying. But finding a 3-shrine map that doesn’t take the character off a straight teleport line seems highly unusual. So 2-shrine maps that are on a direct line may be optimal – more testing is necessary to confirm.

- Vipers are dangerous with their not-bugged physical damage from poison clouds. It’s explained in this post by @onderduiker). The danger from vipers can be minimized by always stepping back (or sideways) from the merc after teleporting to the landing spot hear Nihl’s platform. -integer damage reduction gear also helps.

- Equipping merc with Delirium is key for the confuse proc to minimize ranged attackers (which include the viper clouds and witches with red stars of death). This isn’t needed if the character has a crowd control skill (trappers with CoS or Necros with Confuse/Dim Vision).

- In terms of tactics, this post covers some of the key issues: finding a good landing spot (which may involve rerolling maps), the side-step technique discussed above, dangerous rolls that should lead to immediate S&E (e.g., witches with might Nihl), and not-ever-teleporting to pick up items (risk of viper clouds is very high, especially if amp’ed).

- This post by @Pb_pal covers or reinforces a couple other points: don’t be shy about S&E’ing and make sure to have a solid landing spot. It also notes that resists aren’t critical, except FR to account for Nihl’s corpse explosion.

- Finally, Nature’s Peace is a key peace of equipment unless the character relies on corpse explosion (trapper or Necro). That said, my experience with Septimus (see Thoughts and Reflections section) showed that it wasn't essential for a character that's telebombing Nihl or otherwise has decent life (i.e., needed for Sorc, but maybe not others). The extra +skill for faster damage to Nihl may offset risk from his CE; it's definitely worth testing out to see if CE is a real risk before committing to that gear.

CS/Baal: The general approach is p1 seals and p7 for Diablo, targeting only the seal bosses and skipping boss packs unless they’re collateral damage. Some people prefer straight p7 to minimize changes to p-settings and better chances of drops, but de Seis will be more dangerous.

Otherwise, the only difference for 98-99 is shrine hunting. From a post by @Pb_pal: If you run Diablo you should roll a map with as many shrines as possible both in the CS (max of 4 I believe) and in another area (typically an A1 area by a waypoint, or the Travincal). You can check these areas for XP shrines while Diablo spawns and it literally costs your run no time at all.

You’re looking at ~5600 runs for the last level on p1/p7, not accounting for shrines.

Baal: There isn’t anything different from earlier levels here. Only another >3600 runs :p

3.5 Untwinked Considerations
For untwinked play, there are three general approaches to starting out and early leveling (the first two stages):

Option 1. Moving through Normal and Nightmare as quickly as possible by completing only what’s absolutely necessary on p1, leveling on Pindle or another target as needed before moving to the next difficulty. MF is generally ignored until Hell, when the character reaches either an area (AT/Pits) or target (LK/Meph) that can be taken on low p-setting and help the character gear up.

Option 2. Questing straight through to Hell LK/Meph/Pindle on p7/p8. The character builds up MF and improves gear along the way, without re-running areas or targets. This guide for untwinked tourney playthroughs, which is based on another guide by @jiansonz, gives useful pointers for this approach. The player has the choice of clearing as much or as little of each Act along the way. The more direct the playthrough, the more time is likely to be spent on running targets to gather gear (as described in #1 above) before moving into the next stage.

Option 3. Doing MF runs along the way, such as NM Meph. Whether proceeding under option 1 or 2, the character builds up an MF rig and pauses at various targets in the leveling process to improve gear along the way.

There are pros and cons to each approach, especially depending on the build. For example, option 1 is probably only a good idea for characters that can run Pindle on higher player settings with limited gear. So it’s an especially good option for sorcs (Blizzard is ideal) or trappers; melee builds may have more trouble. Similarly, some builds struggle to take down act bosses without good gear (e.g., necro summoners), so gathering gear while playing through or from area runs may be the best bet.

But either way, there will usually be a stop in LK for runes and charms and some dedicated MF runs to pull the necessary gear together before fully transitioning to XP grinding, and the boundary between this stage and the next one is blurry for sure. Additionally, there may be some frustration trying to pull the core gear together due to randomness of drops.

For reference, @Pb_pal and @Nano went with option 1, as seen here and here. My untwinked 99ers have tried all three routes, and there was always at least one point where the character felt underpowered and questing/running targets was a struggle at times.

But, in the grand scheme of things, as @T72on1 noted in this post (which also includes a good overview of early leveling), this stage represents a negligible amount of time in the total journey. So pick the approach that sounds most fun.

Finally, a quick word on how LK fits into untwinked character development: The most time-efficient approach is probably questing straight through to Trav to take out the Council and destroy the compelling orb (this makes the zealot packs in LK run away from the character). Then run LK as many times as needed to gather runes needed for key runewords (for non-sorcs, this usually means Enigma; for almost all characters, it also includes HoTo and/or CtA). Having these runewords will lead to faster leveling, and LK is about the number of runs (whether early or late in the process).

That said, the number of LK runs needed for Enigma, on average, is 3855 as @Gripphon explained in more detail here (that post is wealth of other great information). And it may take more than that (or less), depending on variance. So players may find breaks from LK welcome. And they may luck out with a needed high rune while leveling at Pits/AT/Pindle, even if efficiency of those runs isn’t optimal due to missing key runewords.

As examples, @NanoMist and @Pb_pal have taken the more direct approach to LK, as seen here and here (RIP Stevesy!). My 99ers mixed things up, with a Jah from the Pit speeding up Mercy’s process quite a bit, but with Hiatus ultimately returning to LK at level 95 to get CoH because CS was too challenging and the runes hadn’t dropped leveling in AT, and Phaedrus finally going back to LK at 93 to complete Enigma after slogging through the early 90s.

The other difference for untwinked characters as they transition into leveling for 94-98 (the third stage) is that they may also be missing key pieces of gear (e.g., Arachnid’s or +skill rings). So players may choose to mix in some MF runs to round out the kit. That said, the general advice is to focus on the XP runs because those items may well drop along the way and time spent on MF runs doesn’t move the XP bar.
Last edited:
4. Tidbits and Pro Tips

This section covers useful information not addressed previously. It is broken down into the following sub-sections:
4.1. Class-Specific Deets
4.2. Gear Basics
4.3. Merc Issues
4.4. Play Tips
4.5. Untwinked Considerations
4.6. Remember, It's About Fun

4.1. Class-Specific Deets
This subsection provides some additional information about common approaches for particular classes to get to 99. This focuses on options that are popular (empirically speaking) or promising (theoretically speaking, i.e., there isn't an actual 99er). So it covers more efficient options and approaches for each class.

That said, this is not intended to describe the full range of options for reaching 99. There are certainly plenty of other builds that can get 99. If you have any doubts, check out the 99er paladins by Asmo and WoRG here and here. It's really about picking a build that's fun and committing the time. (Within reason. Yes, I'm looking at you, blaze sorcs and artic blast druids ) A more extended discussion on this topic, with great input from several participants in the untwinked 99er reboot is here (archived from earlier version of this Compendium).

Amazon. Furyzons. Actually, that's kind of it. All eight 99er zons were furyzons and, I think, all of them focused on Baal up to 98, with running Nihl exclusively for the last level, one mixing in Nihl and Baal, and others continuing with Baal runs. Furyzons should also be strong for CS up to 98, with Gripphon runs likely most efficient to 97 and p8/p7 runs likely most efficient for 97-98 due to ease of taking down de Seis and Diablo. Although the prominence of 8 99ers shows the strength of furyzons, bowazons can definitely work with enough commitment.

Assassin. There are 3 trappers, a build that is near and dear to my heart. The approach will be Baal up to 98 (CS just isn't as efficient due to autotargeting of Lightning Sentry making it hard to efficiently target boss packs). Trappers are very powerful for Nihl with CoS shutting down vipers and witches, and high life pool and Death Sentry allowing her to slug it out with Nilh's corpse explosion (and the broad damage leading to relatively good drops from Nihl runs). A kick/trap hyrbid is theoretically faster at taking down Nihl (and could work reasonably well for CS/Diablo and Baal runs); there will be gear tradeoffs though of trap switch vs. CtA switch, to pair with the kick switch (probably Stormlash). A kick/trap build would likely just focus on Nihl with kicks, so CtA might be preferable to having buffed traps, as DS will probably be plenty strong enough for mobs.

Barbarian. Not much detail to share. The second 99er was a wolfbarb, and the untwinked crowd is going WW route to 98, then single-target concentrate for Nihl at 98-99. WW for Baal runs seems to be quickest leveling approach (focusing on waves up to 96/97 if desired for more XP but worse drops). CS for a WWer should also work reasonably well. @scrcrw showed how a concentrate Barb can shine for Nihl (although I still don't understand how that was safe, teleporting to Nihl with a merc--I guess beta CtA and Delirium are really that much stronger).

Druid. Windy, I guess, with three different Windy 99ers each hitting one of the three lvl 98 targets showing the versatility. Until Pb_pal's HC untwinked 99er Fire Druid (!), Windy was the only Druid build to make 99, and the first 99er for the SPF, so go figure. But a Windy can level nicely on Baal runs, although, as noted earlier (and in that post), this is the build where testing showed that Ventar runs may be faster, particularly early on. grogs showed CS works, and Septimus was plenty safe telebombing Nihl. @Pb_pal showed that Fire Druid can tackle Nihl but will be slower leveling up to that point than Windy. A wolfbarb made it 99, so shifter builds are an option, but with an annoyance of having to teleport and then shift before engaging.

Necro. This is probably the most interesting, and the class where respecs opened up different leveling options. Both 99er necros prior to untwinked 99ers were summoners who ran Baal. But a poisonmancer to 98 in CS should work well, as @Gripphon has shown, but one I couldn't get to work for my untwinked Necro. For level 98-99, however, Baal is likely the best option for summoner, while @ffs showed a venomancer for Nihl is a strong option indeed (which was consistent with my experience). Bonemancer for Nihl also is also an option.

Paladin. Hammerdin + Gripp runs to 97 + p8/p7 runs to 98 + p1/p7 CS/Diablo to 99 = win! It's hard to argue with the most prevalent build in the SPF 99er history. That also is a nice option for drops, especially sticking with p7/p7 for the last level, with @Corrupted getting close to 3M/hr with this approach for 98-99. As noted above, my experience matched that of @Neksja that p8/p7 is better XP for 97-98 than Gripp runs. Finally, Nihl is also a strong option for the last level, and @ffs recently showed a dual dream vengeance build is more than capable. The three melee pally 99ers (all leveling on Baal) also show that approach is workable. Tele-smiters could also be a strong option for Nihl.

Sorceress. Blizz sorc is the fastest option to 98 based on current knowledge, doing Gripphon runs in CS. Light sorcs can also get very fast Baal times for those interested in that route. All three elements are strong options for Nihl runs for 98-99: Blova, pure lightning, and pure fire have all proven strong options. As of now, light sorc may be the fastest for the final level, with potential of >4M/hour from Nihl.

4.2. Gear Basics
A few quick words on gear for the 99er journey are below. Check out the write-ups of 99ers here or the Mat/Pat threads here if you are interested in more details on gear for specific builds, particularly earlier in the journey. The summary below focuses more on casters due to their prevalence.

Body. Enigma is key for most builds (except Sorcs) to allow for fast runs with teleport. A key consideration in putting together the rest of gear often focuses on the FCR breakpoints as a result. As noted, some 99ers ran to Baal's Throne Room without Enigma, so it's definitely doable without. For Sorcs, Chains of Honor, Skin of Vipermagi, or Ormus Robes are the most common.

Head. Shako and Griffon's are the most common options, with +skill rare circlets another possibility. Melee builds will include other options such as Guillame or Andy's Viasage.

Gloves. FCR gloves are common (Trangs or Magefist), with Blood Fist a good option for builds not needing FCR (for FHR). Rares with resists and MF, or even Chance Guards, are also options if the focus is more on MF and FCR is addressed by other gear.

Belt. Arachnids is the go-to. Other options are Verdungo's (DR, Vita, FHR) or Goldwrap (MF), plus many other possibilities.

Boots. This gear slot seems to have most variability and options to mix-and-match, particularly based on charms. Aldur's boots are popular for fire resist, vita, and fastest run/walk. Sandstorm Trek give vita, strength, and FHR, while War Traveler gives MF, vita, and strength. Hotspur is popular for CS-based builds due to increased fire resist and +max fire resists to neutralize risk from conviction Infector. Rare boots are also an option here.

Amulet. Mara's is a good choice, or a caster amulet. Rising Sun is an option for fire absorb if running CS. Melee builds will generally appreciate the IAS from Highlord's. For Nihl, +3 class specific skills with damage reduction are an option.

Rings. +skills from Stone of Jordan or Bul-Kathos Wedding Band will up damage for casters, with +mana or +life needs determining which option to use. Nature's Peace is a must for many builds running Nihl, both for DR and for rest in peace mod. Depending on FCR needs, rare rings can be added to the kit.

Weapon and Shield. There are too many variants, based on build, to cover comprehensively here. But a special shout-out for Heart of the Oak and Spirit shield are needed, due to their versatility and killer mods. For elemental builds, weapons with +element damage/-enemy resist are good options. For melee, Grief will be hard to top in most instances. Also, special shout-out to Call to Arms for great option on switch and used my most (but not all) 99ers that weren't Barbs.

Backpack. For GCs, Skillers, Gheeds, and any good secondary mod +30 resist options or Shimmering, as needed. For SCs, whatever mods are needed to round out resists and FHR breakpoints can be filled in, and then it's generally either +vita or +MF to fill things out.

4.3. Merc Issues
A2 mercs are the go-to option due to their auras and ability to wield polearms (and give another aura). Holy freeze seems to be most popular option for casters due to added safety, with Might an option for extra damage if relying on the merc to take out monsters (often due to immunity issues, although it may be faster to just abort rather than relying on merc to deal with immunes). Prayer mercs if equipped with Insight are also a solid option for life heal, and I actually have found defiance merc to be a reasonable choice for safety due to avoiding hits, particularly in CS.

As for gear, Insight or Infinity are the main choices, with Reaper's for builds like Windy's or melee characters that rely on physical damage. For Insight or Infinity mercs, life leech will come from armor or helm. CoH for armor opens up Delirium for helm, while Vamp Gaze and Andy's are generally paired with Fortitude. If relying on physical damage, some people like Treachery for faster attack, with Reapers already providing life leech. Other options or combos are obviously possible, but these are the most popular. For CS runs, Steel Shade can be very helpful if you have trouble keeping merc alive for Infector due to fire absorb.

A note on Delirium: for Nilh, it's a pretty important element for non-assassins (CoS) or necros (Dim Vision). There are mixed views on using it for CS or Baal runs. As noted in The Journey, some people swear by it on Baal runs to speed up waves, and the same is true for CS runs due to confuse helping manage large mobs. But, as explained in more detail in Play Tips below, Delirium will cause occasional crashes related to merc converting to bone fetish mid-attack, which can get frustrating and be potentially disastrous if it happens when trying to recover a corpse.

4.4. Play Tips
Below are some general tips/tactics for speeding up play and/or avoiding disaster at later levels. They are kind of random and didn't fit neatly anywhere else, so here they are:

Saving Ancients. It's been noted earlier, but worth repeating: Figuring out a leveling strategy that saves the Ancients quest as long as possible is well worth it. Saving it until level 98 makes a big dent on the XP climb for that level, which is why CS/Gripphon runs is such a good option if you can make it work. Self-MPing can also allow saving NM Ancients (20M for quest reward), although some consider that cheesy.

Tagging WPs. When doing lots of runs for a single target, it can help to not tag other WPs in that Act. Basically, by not tagging the other WPs, it minimizes the risk of misclicking and ending up in the wrong area at the start of the run. It's most common for LK as explained here. But I also found it helpful for Nihl runs when I tagged only the first WP, Nihl's WP, and the last two for the level.

Teletrick. Also referred to as "C/T" or "extended teleporting," this is a way to make each teleport cover ~33% more ground. The gist is to start teleporting in the direction you want to go, open character (if going left) or inventory screen (if going right), and hold mouse in the corner where you want to go. Each teleport then covers more ground, with Esc allowing a quick return to normal teleporting. It's explained concisely by @pharphis here, and the vids in the 99er write ups from @Pb_pal and @Corrupted show how it works (here and here).

Holding Alt while teleporting. This is a tip to avoid accidentally hitting a popable or shrine, which stops the teleporting and can lead to dangerous situations, not to mention slowing down runs and being annoying. This incident from @ffs highlights the potential value.

Quick finger on esc. Deaths are a major setback at higher levels, so save and exit (S&E) is a common strategy to get out a really bad roll (e.g., cursed Nihl with might and lots of witches and vipers). Generally, it's not worth the risk to try to complete the run. But death can come really quick depending on mobs and spawns. So some people prefer to keep finger on/over the Esc for especially quick S&E. If you use Esc to minimize the inventory or character screen for the tele-trick, this means just keeping your finger over Esc when not using it. There's a brief discussion of this tactic here.

Body Recovery Kit. Recovering the corpse following death reduces XP penalty from 10% of the character's current level to 2.5% of the level. Failed corpse recovery = another 10% XP lost. So for later levels in particular, many people keep a corpse/body recovery kid in the stash, often consisting of an extra HoTo and other items to raise resists and hit FCR breakpoint. A belt for potions and FHR gear can also be important.

Delerium Crash. As noted, Delirium can cause a crash when the merc converts to a bone fetish in the midst of attacking. This can be particularly painful if attempting a corpse recovery, as @ffs experienced (I did too resulting in loss of gear on top of XP). So if you are attempting corpse recovery and have a merc wearing Delirium, you should strongly consider unequipping the merc's helmet.

XP Chart. Below is a table I put together to track progress in 1/10 increments from 91-99. It can be depressing to pay too close attention to XP gain at later levels, but I found this helpful when calculating progress to the next level at various times as I went along.
XP Chart.png

4.5. Untwinked Considerations
There are two key points here:

Larzuk (Socket) Quest. Do. Not. Waste. These. It may be tempting to use them early on to speed up gear accumulation, but that will lead to regret. Trust me (check early in the spoiler). Save these for items that you know (or at least are pretty sure) will be end-game gear. Given the number of runs at later levels, the sockets and extra killing power/safety are more valuable then.

Respecs. This is another area to be thoughtful. If your character doesn't plan to run Baal, you only have three or else you'll have to burn the Ancient's quest early to farm an essence from Baal.

4.6. Remember, It's About Fun
A final word on what may be the most important topic: Fun. The journey to 99 is enough of a commitment (time and number of runs), that you are likely to burn out if the character isn't fun, etc. Numerous members have emphasized this point in one way or another over the years. Rather than attempting to restate the point, I'll just quote from a post by @T72on1 that I think nails it on this topic:

Which brings us to another point: fun !!! Everyone will be very motivated when they start this journey. But when the real grind kicks in, you have to stay motivated as well. After all it's still a game, and one you play to have fun. It would be a shame if someone burns out on D2 on the whole because the grind drives him or her insane. So despite the fact that we all have been talking about and giving tips about efficiency here, don't neglect the fact that you should still be having fun. It's not as refreshing as starting a new character, it's not as exciting as participating in that MFO or RFO and get awesome drops quite often, it's not as cool as trying out that new runeword on a concept character ... it will always be a grind up to a certain degree. But try to find things that keep it fun for you. Alternate targets for a while if you feel like it. Switch CS with Baal if that's what keeps you going. Get back to AT for a while. Hit Travincal in search for runes, jewelry and gold like I did, even if your 99er runner doesn't need it, because you never know what you get (a Cham in my case) and the drops might allow you to start brainstorming on other D2 projects or characters.
Last edited:
Posting again since the community has moved over here...

What an excellent, excellent guide!

I was there (3000 years ago) when Strijdje made it to 99 and I remember how in awe I was of his and others’ achievement at the time. My memory might be biased by my own poor rune luck, but as I remember it only a handful of forumites had Enigma back then, and even if I considered myself an avid player it seemed out of the realm of possibility to get it. Later when LK running was popularized, or at least entered my consciousness, it felt more possible.

The updated rune drops, respecs and (for melee characters) the removal of Iron Maiden were truly game-changers. I was always a big melee character enthusiast and I remember well how those pesky OKs would insist on dying outside of the area where Baal clears the bodies but within range of Achmel the bastard.

But it’s also amazing how much innovation that happened in the years after I stopped coming to the SPF regularly and how many cool 99ers that have been built. I had gleaned from some of the threads that running p8 Baal is not state of the art anymore and found my way to this guide. This was all I needed to know and the history section brought back many dear memories. Thank you!
@PhineasB im not sure if i missed a comment somewhere or if im doing something wrong, but infector is giving my hammerdin exactly 33,444 xp each run at level 97 on /p8 (whereas nano's table mentions 29,917).

The vizier, de seis and diablo numbers do seem to match though.

Do you know anything about this?
Hey ziambe, interesting observation. I didn’t track XP for each seal boss pack because I had other packs mixed in at the seal spawn on my maps. So it’s possible that’s a possible factor, but it wouldn’t be consistent per run as you report.

Another alternative is that the base XP for Infector’s minions matches his. The number in Nano’s table is 5x the base Venom Lord XP. It seems a little odd that it’d be lower than Infector’s XP, which is directly reported as the number in Nano’s table via the wiki and other sources. They are the same monster type, and bosses are supposed to be 500% base monster type, the same as minions, as far as I’ve understood. So maybe whatever causes his base XP to be higher also applies to the minions.

But with quick calculation, that would only be around 30,800 per run at 97, not the ~34,000 you are seeing.

Tagging @Nano in case he can shed more light on this.
  • Like
Reactions: ziambe
One thing I can see is that Nano added "+2" to MinGrp and MaxGrp from Superuniques.txt for both Vizier and de Seis (both Infector and Vizier have 9 "base" minions and get +1/+2 in NM/Hell) but only "+1" for Infector. That should explain a difference of 2.787 XP (this is the XP a lvl 97 character gets from Infector or his minions at p8, I calced that myself using the base XP given on the AB wiki and checked with the german experience calc)

I thus get 33.444 XP per Infector pack with the 11 minions while for 10 minions (Nano's number) I get 30.657 XP. So @ziambe is right, there is a mistake in the table.
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: ziambe
Not sure why the minion experience was off, but I revised the tables:



Infector Minion count is now 11 with base experience 332765. De Seis Minion base experience 255975. Hopefully this is now correct.
Updated to account for new 99ers and some general tidying.
  • Like
Reactions: ffs
Diablo 4 Interactive Map
Estimated market value