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The Lazy Guardian 99er [Retrospective]


New member
Mar 16, 2020
[Note: I'm not sure how kosher it is to link threads from the other place, but this is a wrapup of a project that I posted about on the old forum. Mods, let me know if I need to take the link out!]


Four patches (1.00, 1.07, 1.09b, 1.09d), five characters, five hundred hell cow runs, five thousand nightmare meph runs, a couple thousand hell meph runs, and about 300 hours later, I dinged 99 on a hardcore character. In the previous thread, I covered pretty exhaustively the history of the character(s), so I'm just going to use this thread to give my comments more generally on this project.

The first thing that I will say is that playing hardcore on 1.09 is very stressful. In 1.10+, it's pretty easy to manage threats - does it explode when it dies? Is this a monster that does an unusually large amount of melee damage? Does it have "soul" or "viper" in its name? etc.. In 1.09, I found it much harder to control the situation, and thus even after a lot of experience and practice I was still dipping uncomfortably low into my health pool with startling regularity. At level 98, I dropped down to <50% health in cows once, which in my mind meant that I'd had a reasonable prospect of losing a character that I'd invested triple digit hours into. This hasn't happened to me in a current patch in a long while.

This is to say nothing of the few times I almost died at lower levels. My character was almost instantly deleted on the way to hell baal by those enemies that explode for no discernible purpose in 1.10+. In 1.09, they do very real damage. Also, every single death I had en route to the character that ultimately succeeded involved a character dying unceremoniously from full health, either to Duriel or MSLE. These were stressful times. This stress was exacerbated by the fact that 1.09 is, minute-to-minute, much easier than 1.10+ (it's very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security) and also the necessity of spending a lot of time in hell cows, which proved to be quite dangerous.

Having said all that, I would say that this project accomplished the two goals I'd set out to accomplish. The first goal was to get a level 99 guardian, which I rather evidently did. The second goal was to do this in a way that was considerably faster than a comparable project on a current patch. I was also successful in this respect, but that success needs to be qualified somewhat.

As I have somewhat alluded to previously, I was wholly unprepared for the reality of playing hardcore in 1.09 when I started this. Although I had actually played 1.09 a ton when it was the current patch, I'd played it online and thus had no real concept of, y'know, what it would take to actually get to hell cows without the assistance of other characters. Consequently, I seriously underestimated the amount of MF I'd have to do just to get through the game. My sorc ended up with nearly endgame gear for this patch, and it was probably necessary for me to get close to this point to be able to safely get through the game. As an aside, I may have been able to go a little faster by concurrently raising a barb for BO, but then I would have lost a ton of time (and introduced a ton of danger) by not having fixed maps.

Figuring out a way past hell Duriel also proved to be a big problem. In fact, hell Duriel is the single biggest reason this took as long as it did. He killed one of my attempts outright and parked another when it became evident that an untwinked amazon had no real hope of killing hell Duriel. Although the amount of grinding I did to get past hell Duriel was perhaps a bit excessive, I wasn't interested in losing another character to him. I also had to deal with MSLE, but a rather fortuitous tgod's drop - something like 1:5000 odds off of nightmare meph with the setup I was running - conveniently solved this and, in all likelihood, saved me several hours down the line.

I should also say that my initial plan didn't account at all for how important it is to figure out a way to deal with mana. This would have taken much longer if I didn't have access to frostburn and a +32mpk ring from 1.07. Seriously - I can't even imagine how much time I would have had to spend farming for potions and/or rerolling maps just to avoid mana-related hiccups. Oftentimes, I would try to replace frostburn with something else only to find that doing so made the task of staying topped up so unreliable that I had no choice but to keep them on. For example, without frostburn I couldn't reliably do meph without running out of mana, which increased my run times by as much as ten seconds. Unlike in current patches, you can't just chug a potion and keep on trucking, because that means pausing every few runs to find some potions. Similarly, doing cows without frostburn increased the risk of running out of mana while novaing, which is a very dangerous circumstance indeed.

Having said that, this was definitely faster than anything I could have done on 1.13. The universal experience penalty just makes everything glacial. A /p8 hell cow on 1.09 gives a level 98 character 14k experience, which works out to about 8 million a run if you can find an exp shrine and are careful to maximize its potential. I could eventually do a full cow run in about 6 minutes (note: You lose a lot of time to clearing Rakanishu away from the red portal over the span of that many runs), resulting in an experience rate that feels absurd if you're used to how the game is presently calibrated.

It was also a lot of fun. I'd originally planned to bump this character up to 1.13 and turn her into a lightning sorc, but I've decided to keep her where she is for awhile because nova/FO is such an entertaining build to play. The fact that FO requires such precise aim to get optimal damage in 1.09 means that you're always engaged with what you're doing, and nova is just so destructive that it's always a joy to use.

I also liked MFing in 1.09. Although the drops are quite a bit worse overall, what keeps me coming back is that the best item in most slots is a unique item, so when you're farming for uniques it's always possible for you to hit a big drop. There's no "I'm farming for a mid-range unique which I will then likely replace with an endgame runeword/magic/craft/etc", and while the post-1.10 world's commitment to a diversity of sources for useful items is commendable (and probably better for the game overall), it definitely makes magic finding less satisfying in my view.

On that note, the fact that even midrunes are absurdly rare is a bit odd and makes it hard to really take advantage of runes more generally. I ended up just putting a lot of gems in things. I did get a vex to drop, but I've yet to figure out what I'm going to do with it. For now, it sits in the stash.

I would recommend this project to others who are looking to get to 99 with a shorter grind. However, I think one should expect the amount of work involved to be roughly the same, because the older patches simply aren't as balanced as the new ones so there's a lot more involved in preparing a character for the journey.

I think that's all I have to say. Thanks for reading!

Gear at level 99
Helm: The shittiest +2 sorc circlet you've ever seen (it's a rare and the other two mods are +%ED and poison resist)
Amulet: 26 Mara's (I found two Mara's doing this and this was the better one)
Weapon: Oculus (No ist to put in it, however)
Shield: Lidless wall w/ pdiamond (No SS and no dex to block)
Switch: Ali baba and Moser's with two pdiamonds
Armor: I mainly used an um 28 vmagi, but I also had a ptopaz vmagi that I used for meph and, eventually, a skullder's, although hardcore concerns severely limited the situations in which I could use the latter
Gloves: Frostburn almost always, although I had trang's
Belt: Tgod's, as far as I'm concerned there's no other choice for .09
Rings: Some combination of a +32 mpk/33% gf magic ring, raven, bk, 25% mf/20%light res magic ring. Most often the mpk ring plus bk, except for meph where the mpk ring would be replaced by the mf ring
Boots: Trav's. I had a very good rare that I rolled in 1.00 (close to 50% fire and lightning res, 25 mf, 20 fhr) but I ended up not needing the resistances.
Charms: A bunch of 7% smfcs, a couple of allres gcs, one light skiller (I did a ton of gc rerolling. I got about a dozen useful skillers but only a single sorc one), a few health lcs
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