As one of the more uninitiated when it comes to trying to get to 99 (something I've never devoted direct effort to) I'd be very curious to hear more about this evolution that seems to have happened.
I definitely recall in the past there were just lots of stats and figures of how many [P8] Baal runs you'd have to do to get to this level and that, with or without other modifiers (Annihulus and such for Realm players) and that was pretty much the end of it. Chaos Baal runs were a thing, true, although I always assumed at least part of that was done online just to avoid Realm downs from particularly efficient runs of one or the other.
That being said, I would imagine being in single player might change methods somewhat by taking advantage of offline's [legal] benefits, but what else has changed, mechanically and understanding wise? Chaos Sanctuary is more readily talked about, as is Nihlathak and perhaps the concepts of saving Ancients, maybe ideas of sticking to the 85 zones for longer until the real crunchtime? I can think of a few noteworthy changes due to patches but I'd imagine a majority of these shifts would come from better player understandings, more efficient builds/strategies/execution, etc.
Would any of the veterans here care to share their thoughts? For the sake of posterity, would someone mind outlining what the general current strategy is? Obviously not everything is a catch-all, but broad strokes I'm sure there's quite a good deal of overlap, yes?
I didn't keep my ancient because Fordyl wasn't planned as a 99er (that I can remember), but it is nice to keep that for sure... Things like player settings help a lot - for example P1 for seals and P7 for Diablo. Somebody has been doing Baal (Pb perhaps?) at P1 for travel, P3 for waves 1-2 and P8 for waves 3-5. Or something like that haha
Sure, I'll bite on this.
Yes things have changed quite a bit since the good old days, mostly thanks to people like @Gripphon investigating alternate routes and crunching numbers to see what is most efficient. As is usually the case in these games, turns out the fastest way to level is not as obvious as it once seemed.
Good old days:
1) Run Baal.
2) Repeat until 99.
Nowadays if you want to take the fastest route it is much more complex, and as you mention, will vary depending on class, build, wealth, player style, etc etc.
I made a general post for 90+ leveling which gives a pretty decent baseline for a general path to take, with information I compiled from a few different threads (which will be mentioned later). Let's have some fun here though and just outline the fastest possible path to 99 (as far as we know, anyway).
For this I will just assume the character is geared out and built sufficiently to take on any area of the game. The journey will consist of 3 main phases:
1) Pits or Ancient Tunnels (this is just to grind until you can equip your gear and gain some toughness for char and merc)
2) Switch to the CS as soon as your character can take it. (likely ~94, but definitely doable earlier with good items and a strong build)
- runs will be /p8 Vizier+Infector runs as outlined by Gripp. Basically hit those two seals and any convenient boss packs along the way (ignoring champ packs unless layered with a boss pack already). Continue these until 98.
3) Once you hit 98, you run Nihlathak (/p8).
- contrary to what we thought before, @NanoMist and I did some testing and data gathering and found that hitting XP shrines is likely not really much (or any!) faster in terms of actual XP/time, since Nihlathak runs are so short to begin with. They are still beneficial if you can hit them fast enough, as they decrease the total number of runs you'll have to do and therefore minimize chance of death.
That route of course saves the ancient's quest for 98 as well, taking full advantage of the free experience.
Keep in mind though, this is also the most dangerous path you can take to 99 and gives you a pretty damn decent chance to die along the way (mostly due to Nihlathak and his tomb viper friends).
Another level 98 strat which is faster than Baal runs (but slower than Nihl) is running Diablo instead. These runs are done /p1 to clear the seals, and /p7 for Diablo himself (as his xp is capped there, so /p8 just adds more health and therefore more time). This method is preferable for some people over Nihlathak as it's much safer, and still quite a bit quicker than Baaling. 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.
This outline is not applicable to every build however, as some (Lightning Trappers and Wind Druids come to mind) can't handle the CS fast enough to make it worthwhile, and it's actually faster for them to level up running Baal (or Ventar/Lister), even when you factor in having to cash the Ancients in early.
That's alright though, as half the fun is figuring out what works best for your build and playstyle.
Some other good resources:
- The entire 99 theorycrafting thread. Lots of great stuff in there for many different builds.
- Nanomist's XP tables for Baal and Diablo runs. Awesome resource here, and can help you figure out the best path for you depending on your run times.
- Also just the entire Untwinked 99 thread that those tables are from, there's a wealth of information about strats and builds in there, especially as the first few of us started to get higher in level.
Definitely a big difference between SP and online leveling to 99. Take a look at Corrupted's post for fast leveling to 99 online, it's a coordinated group effort- interesting stuff here as well. He's also level 99 #31 in this thread, with a hammerdin, so he's experienced on both sides. His 99 thread was also a great read.
Patches did introduce a few impactful changes though- removal of IM, respec, increased rune drops + orange color, reduced FE explosion damage, etc. In the context of my untwinked 99, increased rune drops were huge in getting towards fast leveling. Of course player knowledge increased too, like you mentioned, which lead to increasingly efficient play. It's hard to quantify how much impact each side made, but I would also pick player knowledge...
@Pb_pal has the general strategy covered much better than anything I would have presented, so there you go! Also, thanks for the shout out, Pb_pal. If anybody wants exp. tables at different player settings, let me know and I'll rerun the numbers.
Corrupted's (hammerdin) 98 strategy was CS runs at P7 all the time. He commented that it was a small difference in exp. compared to p1 seals/p7 Diablo but much better drops. @Neksja could include this scenario in his testing?
@Pb_pal @NanoMist You guys really cleared the path for the rest of us with your analysis, based on your own experience. We can't thank you enough for it. I wonder if the info provided by you guys, as well as @Gripphon 's tests and other info and some other tidbits, can't be pinned as some kind of guide to get to 99. This would be a tremendous resource. Now people always have to start searching and asking again.
A few random notes, mostly based on my own experience.
- Pb_pal covered the journey past level 90. Before that, there are 2 stages: getting through the game, to your target of choice in Hell, and running optional (but recommended) areas for gear.
1) getting through the game as fast as possible actually isn't that important in the grand scheme of things (doesn't matter if it takes you 10 hours or 20, when those last few levels will take hundreds of hours), but it's always fun to maximize efficiency. After all you start out with that one big goal of getting to 99, and you're full of motivation and energy to do so, might as well get efficient asap .
So just make sure to get through the game as fast as possible. Keep player setting at /p1 if necessary. Just get to Normal Pindle as fast as possible, and keep running him on the highest player setting which you can handle while still maintaining good killing speed. Once you are level 40 - 45, move on to NM and to the same until level 75. Only run or rerun certain targets if you really think that it's worth it for that piece of gear which will greatly increase your killing speed. Getting that runes from Countess or that base item from a rack in LK for runewords like Spirit and Insight comes to mind, although usually you'll get those just by getting through the game.
2) In Hell you can go straight for your target, which should be Pit, AT or Pindle (the latter only up to the high eighties, maybe not even past 85). But often your gear won't be good enough to run those efficiently, and you are better off running Meph for uniques like Shako, Arachnid's, Chance Guards, Skullder's Ire, War Travelers, and LK for the runes needed for HotO, CtA, CoH, and if you aren't a Sorc, Enigma. Except for the Enigma for non-Sorcs, none of these are absolutely required, depending on your other gear, but they will make your life a lot easier (especially the CtA), and you should be able to get the necessary runes within' a reasonable amount of time. Since most of the time on this journey is spent on the last few levels, and killing power and survivability is everything at that point, you'll easily win back the time you lost by running LK and/or Meph at those later stages.
- I didn't really care for mf on my gear much, mostly because I found a Shako in early Hell and I figured that most of the other items I really wanted were runewords anyway (CtA, HotO, CoH), but if you also want some specific uniques / sets, it might be worth it to focus on it some more. I also didn't run Meph, like I usually do when starting over, but again this was because of the reasons mentioned above, and I know of others who did and with great success. After all I still don't have that Arachnid's ...
In the later stages, say 95+, killing speed is everything, and you only should include mf if it doesn't take away from your killing speed. At least, for max efficiency. If you don't care to run a tad slower and feel like getting better drops will better keep you motivated along the way, by all means do so.
- 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.
- In the same vein, I plan to include at least some Baal runs when I hit level 98, even if Nihl or CS are more efficient. I have always had that image of getting to 99 means endless Baal runs, so now finally taking on such a big project without a single Baal run ... not's gonna happen . I might switch to lightning sorc for that, if I have found the gear by then, because of the same reason: I used to think that 99ers are Baal running Lightning Sorcs almost exclusively, next to Hammerdins.
Little side note (or question actually): where are Lightning Sorcs in this entire story of getting to 99? There are quite some Lightning Sorcs among the 40 99ers in this thread, but none in the current iteration of the 99ers afaik. Are Lightning Sorcs slow? Just slower compared to Blizzard Sorcs? Or also compared to other builds in this iteration, like Trapsin, Windy, Hammerdin?
- Anyway, on to the tips and tidbits. Try to see what works best for you, and don't assume that what works for others, works for you as well. When I first looked at Gripphon's numbers for CS, I just went like 'let's just quit, I'm so slow'. Until I realized he is one of the fastest runners around these parts, and he was using a fully decked out character for the run, not an untwinked one. I'm slowly upping my killing speed, getting in the 75K/min range for CS runs at level 97. It's still a bit slower than Pb_pal was and quite a lot slower than Neksja, but that's how it is. It makes no sense to keep looking at those numbers, keep on looking at the fact that Gripphon stated that Blizz Sorcs are faster than Hammerdins, while Neksja is faster than me. It's my runs, and I should do it as efficient, fast but still fun as possible in my own power, not compared to others.
- At level 97 I'm not killing boss packs in CS anymore, unless they are really close to the seal bosses, so it requires no extra effort to kill them. I don't stop at packs in between seal packs anymore. Based on some tests I have the impression I get more xp/hour this way, but that doesn't mean it is indeed better for me, let alone for others.
That's all I can think of for now.
@NanoMist, I will definitely try out P7 seals+Diablo once I'm at lvl98. It has been on my mind for a while, mainly so I don't have to play around changing the settings, I can just put p7 at the start of session and be done with it. I'm probably going to spend first 10ish hours to test different scenarios to see which works best for me when it comes to XP efficiency and fun.
@T72on1 very well said above! When it comes to killing speed in CS, I reckon 75k/min is pretty good, I know I get a bit more and I have now adopted a model of killing seal bosses and all Storm Caster bosses (not Champions). Storm Caster boss takes usually 2-3 hammers to die, so they are very quick to kill and doesn't really slow me down more than few seconds per run. Also, I think you still have few gear improvements you can make to make your runs faster, right? For me, I can only add more Paladin Combat skillers to increase my skill speed and only 2 skillers before I start decreasing my survivability (at that point I need to swap life/res charms for skillers), so I can't get much faster than I am now. Just keep trucking, I have a feeling we will have a similar race to @Pb_pal vs @NanoMist coming up
I'd like to add in one thing about my 99 running experience so far. I feel that playing untwinked was not that much of a disadvantage when starting, I think it actually was quite the opposite. With untwinked char, you are constantly upgrading gear, motivated to find that next rune towards that needed runeword etc. With a twinked char, I doubt I'd be here now. There's something more rewarding doing it "from scratch", but I will definitely get a twinked character to 99 as well (yes, I'm repeating this crazy quest once more), just to get the feel of a doing it with a twinked char, all the runes/items available I can find with anyone.
Also, I think running with a twinked char would make me a lot faster just by running without picking up every rune and S/U. That muling time is starting to rack up to quite big number, sometimes I do like 7 runs and my stash is full of Isenharts and I have to spend a minute muling. Not efficient at all.
An extra bonus for P1/P7 is survivability. Granted, a hammerdin shouldn't really die too often, but I have died once between 98 and 99 because for just a split second I was distracted and got swamped by De Sies and his cronies, on P8. So for hardcore, I would suggest that P1/P7 is definitely advantageous.
Since everyone is elaborating on the current running to 99, i'll try to examine the 'old ways' a bit further as i feel some stuff is loosely mentioned, but not quite adequately.
Of course the shift from only Baals to also Diablo or Nihlathak has happened due to players trying out stuff and finding new and improved ways to do stuff. However, what i feel is a bit underlighted is the fact that the main (and maybe even the only) thing that made this possible is the vastly improved rune drops. Before that teleport was a thing only for sorc's. And those had teleport, but lacked things that really makes them shine like infinity.
In the olden days i was one of a very, very small group that actually had a legit enigma (and i got mine just a very short period before the 'runepatch'). Running Diablo and Nihlathak depend heavily on teleporting past a lot of unwanted stuff that slows you down, doesn't get you any measurable experience (at least on higher levels) and in some cases is very deadly (read: vipers at Nihlathak). So those routes only really became viable to 'the common folks' after the patch. Which in turn lead to the earlier mentioned experimenting to find better ways. (Note: I don't mean to put down people with the term common folks, but before the patch it was literally only a handful of people that could afford even 1 enigma or other high RW, where now they seem to be quite readily available. Not to mention that back then the forums contained much more people than they do now so percentage wise the gap is huge.)
So before the patch you needed either a great dose of luck to find the runes to speed up the process or you were slower than you would be now, meaning it would take even more effort then it already is.
So i mentioned why Diablo and Nihlathak only came really into play after the rune increase, why was Baal there before? Well, with a good map, which in SP is static (yay for Single player!), you can roll until you have a really good map. If you have one, you can run past the few things the WSK throws at you without losing too much time to reach and clear the throne. So that was a somewhat viable way to get to 99 without the benefit of teleport.
Updating - Hope to be at 98 by next weekend.
Question for Tweety and jjscud - what /P setting do you kill Baal himself at??? I've just discovered something interesting (I think).
Do you guys at level 97/98 kill baal himself in p8?
Killing baal at p3 gives the same amount of exp that killing him on p8??
Is that what you wanted to say ?
p8, all minions and baal at p8. So ,do tell, what have you found. If nothing else I can help to colaborate it.
Thats weird, p3 Baal gives the same amount of xp as p8, why?
I was killing him at p8, doesn't matter too much in run time, p3 is maybe 10 sec faster.
It actually does? I thought he was joking.
Exactly, at 97 you get 64,208 exp from Baal - on any /p setting, 3 to 8.
It shaves some significant time off a run IMHO, 10 - 15 seconds per run on over 5000 runs (to 99) is ~ 830 minutes.........
For a character that struggles to take large amounts of HP off Baal in one blow (no ready source of crushing blow/ static etc) it is even more significant.............
Maybe RTB could shed some light as to why this is the case??
EDIT: Now another interesting thing with Baal - when killing him with a Bliz sorc you really want him to spawn those annoying appendages - it makes Blizzard sooooo much more effective, have you noticed that Tweety?
Tracul said: "Where do you suggest to run at lvl lower 90's? I'm assuming lower 90's = 90-94?"
Just Baal's minions. Also, 90-93, if you can do pindle runs in under a minute you should be able to gain experience faster than your baal run.
BTW what armor are you wearing?
Started a new palladin awhile ago who is now at lvl 97 replacing my other 97 palladin since he is pretty much retired. Started a new one when Igot my Ber to make enigma. Will try and make it to 99 and keep him champion. Only doing CS runs and occasional pitruns. The Hell Ancients will be done at lvl 98
Updated my wolfbarb too
I haven't done ancients yet, I'm saving them for lvl 98 (in a few years, I hope ), I dislike Baal runs anyways so it's not much of an issue, just slower leveling.
I get around 3 millions per hour, more or less, at players 5, I'm not comfortable doing them at players 8 wearing almost full MF gear, with just 7.5k hammer damage. I don't see that changing unless I find another Sur, and make myself an Enigma, not really likely
Re: The quest for level 99- progress thread
well it's about 50 a day and my diabloruns takes about 2 minutes to complete. 1 hour and 40 minutes a day. And some of the millions came from nihlathakrunning which is even faster counting exp for each minute.
About 22K exp killing nihlathak on players8 and 32 with expshrine and keeping a 30 seconds run it's about 88K exp for each Baalruns which gives about 72K
And Baalruns isnt that effective compared to diabloruns
Re: The quest for level 99- progress thread
Has anyone tried runing Nihlathak to reach 99?
On a good map you shoul be able to kill him in 1 min i guess ( even less with a sorc or Enigma ). How much Nihlathak runs should it take to reach lvl 99?
Re: The quest for level 99- progress thread
Nil's exp at 98:
840804 (Nil's base experience) * 4.5 (players 8) * .0059 (lvl 98 exp penalty) =
And that's makes about 11K runs for 98 - 99 if you save the Ancient's quest and off the cuff I would guess around 20K total
Re: The quest for level 99- progress thread
Now you spoiled my plan! I wanted to run Nihlatak to 99 as the first player ever without others knowing! Only need those runes for Enigma... :whistling:
Re: The quest for level 99- progress thread
well that didnt spoil the plan, my plan was to run nihlathak on p8 at lvl 98 and did get some millions but was too booooring
Re: The quest for level 99- progress thread
Sorry, but I've already planned to try to make a quick turn around after this 99 and go for another running him too.
Of course I've got to finished this one first so who knows how far out that is.
Re: The quest for level 99- progress thread
I did some calculations, and this is what I got:
[highlight]Running Nihlatak to level 99 at /players 8[/highlight] Base XP for killing Nihlatak on /p8: 3783618 [u]Level Penalty XP per run XP needed runs needed %completed[/u] 90 -> 91 0,056463158 213635 146072446 684 1,71% 91 -> 92 0,046936842 177591 159218965 897 3,95% 92 -> 93 0,03312 125313 173548673 1385 7,41% 93 -> 94 0,024865263 94080 189168053 2011 12,44% 94 -> 95 0,019294737 73003 206193177 2825 19,50% 95 -> 96 0,0146 55240 224750564 4069 29,67% 96 -> 97 0,0107 40484 244978115 6052 44,80% 97 -> 98 0,0078 29512 267026144 9049 67,41% 98 -> 99 0,0059 22323 291058498 13039 100% Total 1902014635 40011
From level 90 to 94 there is an additional penalty because Nihlatak is a higher level than you are (it's char level/Monster level), which gets multiplied by your level modifier.
Re: The quest for level 99- progress thread
Interesting, I guess I overlook how much the minions help out early on (and thus fall off later). His runs just don't have the dramatic increase that you see in CS and Baal runs.
On baal, you're only 36% of the way there when you reach 98. Very interesting.
Hmm 6x the total baal runs, you really need to be able to hit sub 45 second runs for it to be even close to as efficient.
Hmm, but with 1/4th the drop odds of pindle, that may only be 10 tc87s for the whole thing, that's discouraging. Ah well, exp running has never been just about the items.
Re: The quest for level 99- progress thread
Yeah, I thought the same while doing those numbers. Considering the number of runs, it seems it would only be worth running Nihlatak from 98 to 99, on earlier levels Baal runs net you far more experience per minute invested.
Some more calculations:
Ratio Ratio Nihlatak Nihlatak + 10 Ice Spawns -------- ------------------------ Level Baal Baal ============================================ 90 -> 91 34,20 24,95 91 -> 92 29,90 23,33 92 -> 93 30,78 25,80 93 -> 94 33,52 30,28 94 -> 95 25,68 25,13 95 -> 96 19,38 18,96 96 -> 97 13,45 13,16 97 -> 98 8,23 8,05 98 -> 99 3,73 3,65 Total 7,24 6,96
So basically, if you can run Baal in 200 seconds average, you'd have to run Nihlatak in under 53 seconds in order to get from 98 to 99 to be more efficient.
But already from 97 to 98 one would have to be super fast: under 24.3 seconds needed to compare to Baal runs.
Even if you're a slow Baal runner with 5 mins per run, you'd still have to beat 36.4 seconds to be more efficient from level 97 to 98.
But for 98 --> 99, Nihlatak seems like a reasonable choice.
Btw, about the items: Considering the minion's and Baal's drop I doubt that they are much better
EDIT: Of course, one would also have to take into accounte the Ice Spawns at Nihlatak's place. But they don't give that much XP: 36607*4.5=164731 on /p8. Let's say you kill 10 of them on each run, that results in (see edited code box above)
As you can see, XP from Nihlatak's minions (which don't even count as minions) is negligible after reaching level 94. That is due to their low monster level (81) which gets upgraded to 84 because of the area level. As soon as you reach level 94, the maximum penalty for level difference kicks in (multiplier of 0.05).
Re: The quest for level 99- progress thread
If it helps any, I got Gul on my second Baal run under 1.13. The runes I hope to get from all those Baal runs is exactly why I upgraded.
Not trying to keep my merc alive against OKs is also pretty nice, but not game-changing for a blizz-pow.
Re: The quest for level 99- progress thread
Well, I thought about upgrading to V1.13c for about 5 minutes. Enough time to attempt two Baal runs, both abandoned due to OK's in the throne room. So I jumped on line and updated.
Three runs later I had a swarm of OK's in the throne room. With Bated breath I zealed my way thru, expecting to see my pally come crashing down at any second. 30 seconds later, 50 odd OK's lay dead on the ground and both Pally and Merc stood triumphant.
Freshly motorvated for Baal runs once again I put the hours in over the weekend. Enough for just over 5 million exp, around 55 runs.
So, what do I think of Baal runs in v1.13c? Well, what do I do with all these festering essenses of destruction? I picked up the first half dozen or so and then started leaving them behind. They are useless, right?
Hydra has been amped up. Wave 3 the councillors are now the most dangerous wave now as they hydra damage is the only thing that threatens my merc and I have to feed him a red or purple to save on 50,000 GP. Not that getting potions is a problem, the drop rate of all pots including full rejuvs has been amped up as well.
Runes? Yeah. Runes. Try a Vex and Mal from one weekend worth not too mention the lower end runes, Shael, Hel, Io, LUm, Fal, etc. I can see the value of runes up to Vex being worth much less now.
Just got to figure out what to do with the runes now!
I'm gonna share some data I collected over certain period of time which I find appropriate for this thread. Warning though, my data is based on assumption that MF is irrelevant, all we want to do is to get experience as fast as possible. I've done testing with certain characters to see how well can they perform. I'm gonna share basic ideas about method of running and equipment as well as information about how good can they actually perform.
CS hammerdin (sub level 98 leveling)
Already wrote about him here and here. So, I've done testing with several methods of running. Video of demonstration
Method of running: tele with character screen to CS (extended teleports), then on vast majority of maps simply ignore any bosspack before you get to the star in the middle. If you have nice bosspack spawns at entrance, kill them ofc. Idea is to focus on 2 seal packs: Visier and Infector. Best map is where you get nice bosspacks between those two seals so you can kill them nicely, even better if you get bosses spawn at seal lairs. Ignore ANY champions unless you are sub level 91 or if they are together with bosses to kill them as you go. Usually ignore fast mage boss cause he will drive you crazy and you will lose time for nothing. Stomp him, if he moves, go on and ignore him.
Possible equipment is with Rising Sun amulet shared above. Other possibility is the gear I'm using right now:
Shako, Enigma, fcr amulet, Spirit, Hoto, Mesh belt, fcr gloves, Hotspur, dual Bkwb rings, 8 skillers, cube, small charms
You obviously focus on fire resist since it's most dangerous in CS. Anything else is not that important. As for merc, mine is Prayer merc with Insight, CoH and Steel Shade. I've used defiance merc and might merc before, also possibly best choice is holy freeze merc for safety. I like regen though.
I've done testing on all levels above 90 and below 96, but I think 94+ are most relevant to present here.
Leveling 94-95: ~15800 xp/sec, 3 hours 37 min to level up. Comparable to 119 s Baal, and 107 s Lister running.
Leveling 95-96: ~9400 xp/s, 6 hours 39 min to level up. Comparable to 114 s Baal, and 99 s Lister running.
Leveling 96-97 (calculated guess): ~sub 14 hours 30 mins to level up. Similar comparison with Baal and Lister as above.
Leveling 97-98 (calculated guess): ~sub 39 hours, comparable to sub 130 sec Baal running.
So overall, quite safe and incredibly fast character to level up with described method.
CS blizzard sorc (sub level 98 leveling)
Method of running: same as for CS hammerdin described above. Addition is to ignore cold immune bosses, they are not important at all. Kill their minions who grant same xp as boss anyway, with exception of mage boss who you don't kill anyway.
There are two possibilities: max block and vita. Max block setup and gear is as in this video. Well Ber is not needed in Ark obviously, but is nice addition for sure. This setup seems very safe and I would recommend it for any sorc that is not using 1.07 Arkaine's Valor as armor.
I'm using vita setup:
Fathom (facet), Nightwing's (facet), Rising Sun, 1.07 Ark, Spirit, Mesh belt, Trang gloves, boots with resists, Bkwb + fcr rings, 8 skillers, small charms, cube. 3.4k life, 6+k defense...
As for skills, simply put points to maximize Blizzard damage, 1 Warmth, 1 Static + Teleport, rest into Cold armor and naturally Cold mastery.
I use holy freeze merc with Insight, CoH and Steel Shade. Special note: don't go might just because you want to kill cold immune bosses, who cares about them. You are here to gain xp as fast as possible, not to magicfind. As for Infinity... don't really see a reason for that, Insight is fantastic for mana purposes, and cold immune boss here and there won't really make any difference. Your cold mastery will reduce monsters cold resist to close to -200 one way or another and you will kill very very fast. If there is some other relevant point in using Infinity, I don't see it. I guess Reaper's Tool is another possibility, but also don't really see reason for that. If you go max block + cold spells + holy freeze, you would be like super safe. And not having mana issues is also great addition for Insight.
Leveling 94-95: ~17400 xp/s, 3 hours 18 min to level up. Comparable to 108 s Baal, and 97 s Lister running.
Leveling 95-96: ~10500 xp/s, 5 hours 56 min to level up. Comparabe to 103 s Baal, and 89 s Lister running.
Leveling 96-97 (calculated guess): ~sub 13 hours to level up. Similar comparison.
Leveling 97-98 (calculated guess): ~34 hours 30 min to level up. Comparable to 113 s Baal running.
Overall, fastest leveling character I've played so far. After her, anything else seems like snail pace leveling .
CS nova nec (sub level 98 leveling)
Main idea behind this nec is to compare him to popular option pitnec. My tests indicate this method is ~15-20% faster for leveling than leveling in Pit.
Method of running: same as described for hammerdin with minor difference. Nec doesn't have power to kill venom lords fast, so when you see isolated venom lord pack, if there are no many minions or if there is no another bosspack around, I think it's possibly best idea to skip them. Naturally you kill Infector pack every time, he comes with tons of minions and therefore offers tons of experience.
Simply cast lower resist and nova. You can then either play with attract curse or recast your bone armor for protection (assuming you take 1 point into it at least, it will be weak however). Idea is to corpse explosion when something dies. Always revive at least 2-3 monsters for more protection. Use random iron golem from whatever you find. Special note: insight golem is not worth it. You will find that CS is not Pit, iron golem dies too often to bother with insight. Recast on white or grey stuff on floor when he dies and voila. You can even use clay golem if you want, but I like iron golem more cause you don't need to cast it at beginning of every run
I didn't really seek most optimal gear, but I think this I use is quite good.
Griffon's Eye (facet), Enigma, Rising Sun, Homunculus (facet), Web (facet), Mesh belt, Trang claws, beta Bkwb + fcr ring, Sandstorm Treks (any resist boots will do), 8 skillers, small charms, cube.
Go max block naturally. Idea of Griffon's Eye is to get 75 fcr breakpoint easily + it offers skill anyway. However if you don't have beta Bkwb, then you can use 2 skills fcr circlet and use 2 fcr rings with whatever mods you find useful. I think Homunculus is sub optimal choice cause you don't have DR on gear except on Enigma, so when you are cursed + fanaticism pack, it can get ugly. Stormshield with facet is much better option for safety. It wouldn't affect killing speed much.
Leveling 94-95: ~10600 xp/s, 5 hours 25 min to level up. Comparable to 177s Baal, and 159 s Lister running.
Leveling 95-96 (calculated guess): ~6400 xp/s, 9 hours 45 min to level up. Comparable to sub 150s Lister running.
Leveling 96-97 (calculated guess): ~ 21 hours to level up
Leveling 97-98 (calculated guess): ~sub 57 hours to level up, comparable to sub 190 s Baal running.
I'm not exactly 100% sure how is CS nec in comparison to best possible summoner nec Baal runner who can be quite fast. I've done testings with Pitnec and got ~8700 xp/s on level 94, but I ran with 500+ MF without a single skiller in inventory. So I'd say even Pitnec with skillers is possibly slower, but overall more profitable for leveling cause you farm much better than with CS nec. Also did some testing with AT poison nova nec to get ~8500 xp/sec on level 94. It is also possible to improve on that, but I don't believe it can get better than CS nec one way or another.
AT Fissure Druid (sub level 98 leveling)
Method of running: get to waypoint, buff BO (I'm not sure is battle command needed, it won't really make difference except for maybe HC players, but you can also cast it when you are killing some bosspack and have nothing else to do) then summon oak and enter AT. There you focus only on bosses and ignore champions unless there are like 4 at a bunch. Also ignore Invader packs with only 3 minions most of the time unless they come with other packs too, they take too much time and offer too little for it. Cast Fissure then you can play with Grizzly (lol) or you can tele on top of boss getting ready to firestorm him as soon as timer is up. Do not underestimate firestorm, it is killing very fast. Fissure is better on many targets naturally. Volcano is also good option for Invader boss. Naturally skip fire immune Invader boss.
What you really want is Infinity on merc, and as much -enemy fire ress as possible.
Ravenlore (facet), Enigma, fcr amulet (19+ is ideal), Phoenix shield, Hoto, Mesh belt, Magefist, dual beta BKWB, War Travelers (you can go with any other boots, I went for a bit of MF). 8 skillers, cube, small charms.
Overall, idea is to have nice - enemy fire ress and 99 fcr breakpoint. First of all, 99 fcr breakpoint is not needed because your spells are on timers and you will just wait most of the time. So lower fcr is very nice too. Lower breakpoint is at 68 fcr, and I even think lower than that can be good too, but I'd stick at least with 68. There are other possible equipment options, but this presented here I find nicely balanced. Phoenix giving life and mana is nice bonus too. Naturally, merc is using Infinity. Mine uses Fortitude and Vampire Gaze with it. Merc is might, because you need something to kill Invaders faster. They are quite tough even after - fire ress from equipment.
Leveling 94-95: ~8400 xp/s, 6 hours 50 min to level up. Comparable to 223 s Baal, and 200 s Lister running.
For comparison, I've done leveling with Pit windy, with, if I recall correctly, something like ~5k xp/s. I just know how much faster AT Fissure druid is than Pit windy, he is even comparable to Pitnec in leveling which is great in my book. But I don't think AT Fissure druid is best possible option for leveling. Windy running Lister is quite safe and quite efficient as well. He needs 3 min 20 sec Lister running to be comparable to Fissure druid according to my tests, and I do believe he can do it. I'm not sure would random player have faster Lister runner or AT runner. Fissure druid requires some positional playing, so I'd say Lister windy is possibly better option to level up the druid for most players.
I have another thing to share, namely it is about Windy leveling on Baal waves. I've made 163 fcr vita windy for leveling. Thing I noticed is how painfully long it takes to take down Lister and company compared to rest of the waves. No wonder, they have most HP of all monsters in waves and most physical resistance, so it takes some time to take them down with Tornado, even with merc using Reaper's. And it can get annoying since they knockback and stuff.
So I've thought, what if I kill only first 4 waves for leveling, would that be faster? For windy I found answer is definitely big YES. I've tried leveling on level 92 toward 93, and killing only first 4 waves. Leveling is as fast as killing all waves and Baal in 3 minutes 15 seconds, and I can't finish killing Lister in that time. So, for windy killing first 4 Baal waves is fantastic. Unless someone has some secret strategy how to take down Lister fastish, ignoring Lister and killing only first 4 waves is considerably faster for leveling. All those waves fall like you cut with knife through butter, only Lister can take tons of time sometimes.
Well I've compared that with my ww barb too, and killing first 4 waves is similarly effective leveling method as killing all Baal waves for him, with slight edge toward killing all waves. And dealing with Lister can actually be dangerous, while other waves are easy. I think this leveling method deserves more research. What to call them, Ventar runs or whatever.
Skill setup CS nec:
20 to all poison spells
20 corpse explosion
1 bone armor
1 iron golem
1 summon resist
1 to all curses (attract is cool sometimes)
rest lower resist
It is possible to mix stuff
His merc: Insight, Chains of Honor, Steel Shade
Note: Infinity is possible, but you will find a lot of problems with mana without Insight, it might be impossible to do running comfortably cause of mana problems or using potions all the time. Golem dies too often to make it worth use Insight, unless there is strategy to keep him alive which I didn't find really. Too much trouble.
Windy merc: Reaper's, Fortitude, 1.07 Valk with cham
Using anything else beside Reaper's slows you down too much, you need that decrepify to pierce through opponents fast. Mana is easily manageable with mana small charms and investing some points to energy (I ended up with 1800 mana and over 4k life with oak for example, but I also use beta Cta). You can also use solar creeper or whatever the name is to replenish mana if in mana problems. First 4 waves are super easy, you will probably never find yourself in danger, except with tons of dolls when clearing throne in some questionable scenario.
You could keep Lower Res at 1 and invest in Golem Mastery. Or you could max RS with 1 mastery and go the hybrid route ( I suspect this might be the best necro version for overall CS running but if you just rush 2 seals raising minions might not be worth it). The advantage of 1.09+ Shako is the mana but it's difficult to get sufficient FCR with it.
There's no reason to put Steelshade on a CS merc if you're not killing Diablo and even then as a Necro I wouldn't bother as you're likely to use either Clay or Decrep to control him.
I think the traditional overlord with max CE may actually perform better than pure Nova necro when it comes to doing all seals+Diablo.
The ideal merc setup in either case is Infinity+Treachery+3s/LL Tiara with Res/IAS/CBF imo.
Even for the druid I'd use Treachery for faster Decrep procs and faster removal of Baals Decrep in case he gets hit by it. The key to Lister is positioning yourself between him and Baal or staying back and resummoning wolves/Grizzly to draw the Decrep but I guess you already know that. Also I hope you're using might merc on both chars.
Could a blizz sorc / fire hybrid work in CS? I was thinking either Blizz baller, or possibly a firewall variant. OK's seem to stand still, thinking a moderate fire skill point investment could allow for full seal clears and big-D. I was thinking going vita route, and using phoenix for mana problems, -efr%, and fire absorb.(Max block with phoenix seems out of the question.) Merc could then use infinity over insight. Other gear options I've been testing are: .07 shako vs. nightwings, .07 skulders vs. arkaine's, maybe .07 wiz for gg resists, mana, and fcr vs. Fathom.
Any thoughts on this? My goal is some faster leveling up to 98, while sporting some MF. I've been testing this a bit with my 95 blizzballer, I don't have a phoenix at the moment, but she still seems fairly safe with decent MF.
Unless you're already 97 there's no point killing Diablo unless you need burning essences. He really doesn't drop much of interest.
The only sorc build that might have the potential to rival pure light or pure cold (with reapers treachery kiras might merc) for "full clearing" p8 CS is Blizzard/Nova if you have the adequate equipment. There's a very high chance of whatever CI you encounter to be FI as well in CS.
Why use iron golem at all if not for insight?
BTW, my golem didn't need to be replaced very often when running nihl, so I think CS is doable
I put ~10 points in golem mastery iirc and had enough + skills and BO for 10k life. BO multiplies the base life just like golem mastery, it's not additive which means it's super easy to get huge amounts of life
Just pick up any 4os insight stick for future use. If you've already got ~20+ sets of runes and a few sticks and are willing to pick up the ingredients you might be low on (tir?) then it should work fine
Steel Shade is great helm, it makes your merc very tough. Try it out if you didn't. I know Froz was also suspicious when I suggested that helm. I simply love it. You don't need any tricks to keep merc alive, those firelords are fountain of healing for both you and merc.
As for your ideal merc setup... how do you think to manage mana? With Insight golem? I mean, try your version with more points to summon resists and see can he actually survive. I can't keep him alive more than 15-20 runs with my variant, and even that is pretty optimistic. Maybe I play too aggressively, but I do want to have as fast as possible running with safety behind it.
As for Lister... positioning is fine, but still even if your tornados hit through most minions, those who are not hit will make you waste too much time on them to kill them after. It can be worth to kill half of Lister pack then I guess, but to kill them all... they seem too tough to me and I waste too much time on them. Ok, so I killed 5 minions relatively fast, but other 3 or whatever have full hp cause they weren't hit with tornado. You understand the rest of the problem then.
As for might merc, I don't use it for necro. I think for general playing random defensive merc >>> might merc. CS is not a cake walk after all. Even if I can use might merc, I would still suggest any player to use defensive merc for more benefits. How much does might merc speed you up after all, 5 seconds most (is even that much)? In my opinion that is totally not worth it. Safety has greater importance.
Because I'm lazy to summon clay golem at beginning of every run, that's pretty much it. And I never use Insight iron golem, even for Pit. I've try it once just to compare Infinity vs Insight on merc, and difference is only 2-3 seconds, so... Don't know how much difference would Infinity make for CS, probably slightly more. Anyway someone go test that with iron golem thingy and let people know.