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One life to Live #50: AlexanderBarin’s guide to Hardcore Inferno Mastery

Posted 3 Aug 2012 by

We’ve seen Kripp take down Inferno Diablo, but the 16 hours a day play style doesn’t suit everyone, and unfortunately watching someone play doesn’t give you the needed information to succeed on your own. If it did I would be an Olympic Gymnast by now. Thankfully our very own Alexanderbarin has put together an awesome guide to completing DiabloWikihardcore DiabloWikiinferno. It has videos, reading, and more information than you can shake a stick at.

When I first approached Alex I was expecting a short write up on what he did to clear inferno. What I got was an opus on clearing inferno. It is a bit Barb specific but a lot of what he says can be applied to all classes. I’m not going to lie and say it’s a quick read but get your bookmark tabs ready because it’s worth the read. Stay awhile and Listen!

 

Diablo 3 Inferno Hardcore Guide

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Full List of Inferno Hardcore Videos
  • Part 1: Inferno HC Details
  • Part 2: General Inferno HC Attitude
  • Part 3: The Future of D3 Hardcore

Introduction

Hi, my name is Alex, and I’m a D3 HC addict.

I did the number crunch and figured that I spent roughly 50% of my free time in the past 2 months playing Diablo. I’m up to over 500 hours played in Hardcore. I have over 150 million HC gold, 6 lvl 60s, 2 lvl 57s and a lvl 56 barbarians dead, and one level 60 barbarian finally done with Hardcore from lvl 1 to Inferno Diablo, solo, in 19 hours of some very nail biting gameplay.

I’ve decided to write this guide to hopefully help existing players, inspire or interest new players and simply contribute to the HC community, which, I think is amazing and I’d love nothing more than to see it grow through the years.

Only 1/3 of this guide will be technical. The reason I’d rather not spend too much time writing (or waste readers’ time) is because the game is very early in the cycle, and the game may change a lot within days or weeks. 1.04 patch is coming soon and I suspect the difficulty will shift significantly, either due to new items/drop rules, or skill buffs or simple monster changes. Since I’d want this guide to stay relevant for as long as possible, I’ll probably end up having to update it for 1.04 anyways. Also, since this was done using a barb, but I’d still like to give something to all other classes, Parts 2 and 3 deal with much more general information.

Originally I thought of doing a full video guide and, but then I realized that there is plenty of that already on the tubes and will be probably a bit boring to watch. So this is going to be an old fashioned write up/guide + a bunch of videos showing key fights or techniques, like we had in them olden days. That said, if anyone has a specific request for more fraps of a specific fight or feature, let me know and I’ll see what I can do! Just don’t ask me to fraps a Waller Arcane Jailer Fast Golgor pack. Seriously, not doing it!

Lastly, feel free to hit me up online, I love adding new contacts to my friendslist. If you’re active, love D3/HC, you’re very welcome!

Full List of Inferno Hardcore Videos

All videos available in the 1080p HD quality.

Double Nuke Spec for A1/A2:

 

 

Cookie Cutter Tank Spec for A3/A4:

 

 

Belial:

 

 

Ghom:

 

 

Siegebreaker:

 

 

Cydaea:

 

 

Rakanoth:

 

 

Izual:

 

 

Diablo:

 

 

*I’d prefer not to record the Iskatu and Azmodan fights, since they are very FPS-conscious, and only a second of FPS stutter caused by fraps could mean death. You can always look them up on other HC or SC video channels though, in particular I recommend Kripp’s videos.

 

Part 1: Inferno HC Details

 

This section will be very barb-specific. I’d hate to give out wrong information about other classes because I know little about them. Nevertheless, hopefully even non-barbs can gain a little insight about the walkthrough.

What you need to have on your skill bars:

 

  1. Revenge and Frenzy. Bread and butter, nothing better. Frenzy runed with Sidearm if you don’t use Earthquake and Maniac if you do.
  2. Escape skill. Charge or Leap. Or both. I like Charge because I’d rather be at 100% life than at 20% life with 4 seconds of extra armor. Leap allows you to jump over wallers, however. Note, both skills can bug out and leave you in the same place (akin to Tempest Rush rubberband), due to a small, often invisible object in your way (Example video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHc-8uXmXPQ&feature=plcp). This can make a difference between life and death!
  3. “Shieldwall” skill. Shieldwall is a WoW term, meaning a skill which give you near-immunity for a short period of time. For barbs, this is Ignore Pain (7 seconds), or Leap runed with Iron Impact for extra armor (4 seconds). Yes, it is possible to play without a shieldwall skill. I barely used Ignore Pain even when clearing A3/A4. But you know what – shit happens. And it only takes 1 happening of shit before seeing the deeds screen. So might as well be ready for it.Note, you can use a shieldwall offensively, meaning pop it, and go into the aoe (Arcane sentry, molten, desceration) for extra dps time. Without it, you’re kiting away (e.g. avoiding plague/molten), losing dps time. This may be critical to avoid enrage. To me, this is essential.
  4. Nuke skill. WOTB, Ancients or Quake. Long cooldown, huge burst. This is what you need to use to burst down an elite goatman spearman or succubi locked in a corner before their molten/desecrator buddies force you to back off. Once again, essential to avoid enrages.I believe WOTB is the best one, providing tons of dodge/LOH procs/immunity to CC. Also, WOTB + Quake together gives exponentially more damage, than using them separately.

 

Non essential skills:

 

  1. Debuffer – Demoralizing Shout. The only time I used this was on Rakanoth, but it turned out to be mostly unnecessary.
  2. Buffer – War Cry, with Impunity. Yes, it’s very nice, and even more awesome in teams, but not critical. It’s is probably best used in first-time progression, but it is perfectly acceptable to substitute either a second escaper or nuke skill instead. All of them achieve same purpose: killing the enemy before the enemy kills you. I still recommend using War Cry for all of A3 and A4, unless your gear is extremely good, meaning 20k DPS, 60k+ life and 800-900 All Resists unbuffed, along with good LOH and Life Per Second (LPS).
  3. All other skills – Sprint, Rend, Whirlwind, etc.Passives: Nerves of Steel and Tough as Nails are basically essential. The third is up to you. I like Inspiring Presence because I want my non-Revenge regeneration as high as possible (I hate hate hate relying on a chance based heal). A dps passive like Berserker Rage is great, or simply Superstition if you want more survival. The exception to this is Diablo, where I went for Nails, Superstition and Presence instead, just because there is so much elemental damage flying around.

 

Specs:

 

1. Progression spec, slower but safer : Stat Shout, Shieldwall, Nuke, Escaper, very simple and efficient (build):

(7 bosses)

(3 bosses)

(1 boss)

2. Two-minute wonder: Same as #1, except with double nuke, no need for shout, Maniac instead of Sidearm for nuke boost (build):

3. Double escape skills if you like to kite (build).

4.No shieldwall, but popular, not recommended unless you’re VERY confident (build).

There are variations of these, of course, with passives or escaper changed up.

Gear:

Every, or almost every piece of gear needs to have the following:

 

  • Strength
  • Vitality
  • All Resistances(AR) +Bonus Armor(if possible)
  • For solo barbs, I consider 1 Str = 1 Vita, also 10 Armor = 1 AR. This allows me to translate every piece of gear into basic Stat + Defense calculation.

I don’t like sideway upgrades. It’s very difficult to translate, say, stat into AR. Yes, there are EHP calculations, but they aren’t always right, not in every situation. They are also extremely complex and running an EHP simulator for every item comparison is simply unreasonable. So unless the difference is very clear (e.g. 10 vita vs 30 AR), I simply don’t upgrade. Same goes for things like individual resistances, crit hit, life %, movement speed, block %. If you like to crunch numbers and simulate every potential upgrade, all the power to you. The only one I personally was interested in was 11% block on Justice Lantern and it was very clearly a significant upgrade to my otherwise great AR STR VITA ring.

The exceptions to the general stat/defence rule are LOH and LPS (life per second) stats. These can make an otherwise average item – good. You don’t really need these stats, but they do make the game less reliant on chance of proccing Revenge, and you will also spend less time kiting and more time fighting.

Here’s what worked for me:

600 LOH, using a 1.4 speed weapon (or 750ish using a 1.2)
900 LPS, using Inspiring Presence and the rest on gear.

This lets me generate around 1500 per second in combat and 900 per second out of combat. This means staying at full health against Inferno Diablo, almost all of the time. This means standing in Molten and taking very little damage, and only running out of Plagued after it stacks 5-6 times. So although these are defensive stats, they actually translate into more dps as wel!. This is the reason I chose a low dps weapon (920) over a 1060 with 140 vita on top.
Ideally, I wanted to hit A3 Inferno with the following stats:

60k life
1k AR
20k dps pre-maniac
600 LOH@1.4 speed
1000 LPS

This didn’t happen. I couldn’t find more than 900 LPS, and had to choose between 62k life/20.5k dps and 600 LOH @ 1.47. I did achieve a bit more AR than I needed. My final stats:

The tradeoff worked – I finished the clear with comfort and not stressing out over every single elite pack/boss. But I think the lowest I’d go for would be 15k dps/50k life/1k AR. This would be pushing it.

My strategy to obtain this gear was to farm hard and keep an eye out on AH for pieces to buy. I ended up buying 3 out of 13 pieces, all of which were minor but very expensive upgrades (I’m talking 27 million for gloves), however at that point I simply wanted to clear HC, not count coppers.

I’ve started to farm from near-scratch in 1.03, with under 10 million, and around 150 hours and 2 dead MF barbs later, I was at 160 million gold, with a gear set ready to hit Inferno in, in itself worth another 200-250 million (difficult to define prices, because on one hand no one will ever pay this much gold for the items, but on the other, this kind of gear is almost never on the AH, and if it is on AH, it’s horribly overpriced, like the gloves).

If you are now in A1 Inferno and looking to clear HC solo, I’d suggest following same method: putting on as much MF as you can without dying, and running an efficient A1 routine (aim for 5-7 ilvl 63s per hour). Alternatively, I’ve heard of people chain-running a2 goblins in teams of 4, I’ve done this myself in A1 some time ago and didn’t really enjoy it. I don’t know if team gobos are more efficient than A1 – if anyone is doing them, let me know how many 63s do you average per hour, long term (e.g. over 30 hours of farming), I’m very curious how they compare.

Act 1

Act 1 is very reasonable in terms of prep time, and I’d estimate, can be cleared within 20 hours of farming. You don’t need all that much, around 40k hp, 300-400 All Res, and 7-10k dps is enough to be safe and quick. All of this can be either farmed in Hell or bought from AH for under 2 million total gold. I’ll go over the key encounters in the act:

1. Cathedral

This place is notorious for fresh 60s dying due to being walled in or otherwise crowded in very narrow corridors. Watch out. Go slow unless you’re confident that you can kill the boss within the duration of your Shieldwall skill (Ignore Pain for barbs, 7 seconds)

2. Leoric

Very simple, dies quick within 2 rotations of WOTB + EQ, or even with WOTB alone. If you are new to A1, you can start farming with NV up to him, going Cellar/Cath 1/Cath 3/Hollow/Crypts.

3. Goatmen Spearmen

These can drive you mad. Mad, I say, MAD. Pop WOTB? Running away from you for 20 seconds. Dropped Quake? Yeah, seeya. I’ve been frustrated by them almost to the point of simply skipping anytime I see a boss pack during normal farming. That said, if the terrain allows it, you can trap them and burst them down. Oh and best part? You’ll see them again in Act3 (I dedicated an entire video to Act3 goats: maulers, spearmen, wizards).

4. Horned Beasts, Berserkers, Unburied elites

These can kill even a geared barb in seconds, if they have right affixes. My strat is to always use 2 nukes to kill them through Ignore Pain duration. Simply not worth the risk to try and kite.

5. Butcher

A bit of a dps check, but dies very fast to WOTB + EQ after his charge into a wall. Unless you have under 8k dps, I wouldn’t worry about hitting enrage at all.

Act II

Act I was practice, this is where it gets serious. Not pre 1.03 serious, but tough still.

My gear guideline for A2 would be 15k dps, 50k hp and 600-700 AR, especially with EQ instead of War Cry. The nice thing about double nuke 2 minute-wonder spec, is that the elites here are still low-ish on HP, and so you can burst them down instead of kiting around from their high damage. War Cry spec makes the gameplay a bit more challenging and alternatively either more frustrating or fun. The four legged caster elites will have a lot of fun with you, I promise.

2 minute wonder spec will still pose some challenge, against certain boss affixes. A scary moment for me in A2 Inferno was when I entered Crumbling Vault, got a pack Swarm with Arcane/Waller and realized that there is no exit, after blowing my WOTB/Quake in a wrong spot. 2 minutes of very sweaty kiting afterwards (the pathways there are very narrow and I couldn’t leave the room), I had both nukes reset and this time finished the job right.

Shielder elites will also make you waste nukes, so it’s important to be ready to do it the old fashioned way. The monsters here are around 3-4x more difficult than A1, so a nice way to practice would be to equip a really weak weapon and armor to try a few packs in A1 just to get the feel of it.

Key issues:

1. Dark Berserkers and Shatterbone

You want to burst them down fast. Note, that furious charge breaks their casting. On Shatterbone, I suggest blowing EQ + WOTB to get him down ASAP. This is a nice gear check for the rest of the act, and if you see that he isn’t dying, and swinging faster and faster, and your IP is running out, the waypoint is very close.

2. Dungeons

Almost all dungeons in A2 have very narrow hallways, stairs and bridges where a waller can lock you in for good. Proceed very slowly. The good thing about this, you can use same choke points to your own advantage when fighting elites without life-threatening affixes (Arcane/Desecrators).

3. Kulle

Once again, I think double nuke spec is best here. The 2 giants can do a lot of damage if you take too long to kill them, but WOTB + EQ combo drops them in seconds. Afterwards, Kulle is defenseless and you should have plenty of time before his enrage.

4. Belial

Belial is the first serious dps check for your solo barb. Tanks with 70k hp and 7k dps need not apply*. I recommend 15k dps for a safe Belial kill, to go with both nukes, a shieldwall, and a charge for Phase 1 adds (can quickly change to leap for Phase 2, but this isn’t critical). This should allow you to kill Belial around 2:30, after second rotation of WOTB + EQ, with 30 seconds remaining on the timer. The reason I want IP is because you’ll be tanking all his smashes and in theory you can drop low without an orb for some time. Also, mistakes happen and IP comes handy during explosion phase.

*Yes, you can do Belial even with 7k dps, by switching up to a few dps passives and using double or even triple nukes. I wouldn’t recommend this in HC, being too risky, but it’s been done.

Acts III and IV

Act III is where fun begins. Here, the monsters have around 6-8x more HP than A1 , or 2x more than A2. But honestly, it feels like even more. Even with recommended amount of dps (16-22k), you will feel like you’re just giving the champions a massage, and only when using WOTB will you actually see their bars move more or less quickly.

First thing to understand when soloing A3, is that no boss here is going to die fast. With almost every pack you will risk running into Enrage, not because you can’t kill it due to insane mods, but because you can’t kill it fast enough, regardless of how easy or difficult the mods are. As mentioned above, I recommend 20k dps for A3 solo, although I did it with around 17k, personally, and never hit enrage. That being said, I did it only twice, and of course could not experience every potential boss affix combination out there. Some affixes allow you to tank and spank (See tank spec video for tank and spank elites), others will require you to run around more than actually attack.

There are several ways of dealing with enrages/difficult elites.

1. Full on coward mode

Upon seeing a scary combo (arcane waller frozen fast), hit wotb and leap away , run out and reset the game.

2. Exploit mode

chip away at the pack slowly and carefully. When close to enrage, exit instance, wait 20-30 seconds outside, then enter again, repeat
I do not recommend either of these. They will make you feel cheap. Since I was running this as a personal challenge, I wanted to avoid anything like this. I allowed myself to reset the instance only 3 times before giving up on the clear entirely and waiting for nerfs, and would quit if I hit enrage.
There are other, less severe methods:

3. Valet parking

clear about 1 minute into the dungeon, open a portal, then take last WP from town and run back manually. What this allows is when you meet a tough pack, you can run it back to the entrance, park it there, run out of the instance and to the nearest WP, out to town, then take the portal you opened earlier. From there, you can either skip the pack, or regroup/respec/reconsider your strategy against it. It’s very close to the #1 option (coward mode), but a little more honorable, imo, and obviously you can’t do this twice in the same dungeon (in fact, if you do encounter another hard pack later on, and try to go back to the first, you are very likely to die). Personally, I’ve used this method once, but it failed on me because one of the champs lagged behind and was right on my portal. Seconds later, all 3 of them were on me, and I simply took a deep breath and killed them (was a waller arcane pack, but thankfully no other scary affixes).

4. Pack splitting

I do not condone this one either, but it sometimes happens by itself. An elite will sometimes get stuck behind a barrel or corner, and you can simply kill the minions/champs separately, making the encounter trivial. Some players do this intentionally by leading the packs in certain patterns. I don’t consider this exploiting, as it’s fully within game’s rules, but I personally don’t/wouldn’t do this.

5. Choking
Chokepoint video:

The strategy here is to use terrain to your advantage: by leading packs into chokepoints you can fight only 1-2 of them at a time. This is not always possible due to certain affixes (e.g. arcane, desec) forcing you to move, and release the choke.

6. Goading
Also known as “goating” primarily used on goats. Two types of goats (spearmen and wizards) LOVE to kite you endlessly. Vampiric Arcane Molten? Good luck? Waller? Seeya! The strategy here is to burst down one or two of them very quickly by using WOTB + IP or WOTB + EQ+ IP if you’re using TwoMinuteWonder spec. The problem with this, is that goats will run from you constantly, and since even with WOTB you can’t really catch up, you will end up wasting 5-12 seconds of the duration (no, Leap/Charge aren’t a solution, you will need those to escape when shit goes wrong). So, you need to goad the goats into a location where they’ll become trapped, and have nowhere to move, and die very quickly to your WOTB/EQ. This comes down to understanding pathing and terrain you have at hand.

Act 3 Spec:

(build) – I think this one is the safest Act3 spec. Variations are possible. Note that Wallers are the biggest threat, because neither WOTB nor FC can break walls.

Act 3 and 4 specifics

1. Ramparts

Tight stairs, long runs back to the waypoint/exit, a pretty brutal entry to the toughest act in the game. Go slow, consider Leap as an escape for emergency jumps over the stair cases.

2. Keep depths

Once again, lots of tight areas to get trapped in. Also: Skull Cleavers. These guys hurt and have tons of HP. Also: Lunatics. Don’t fight them. Run. If you know you’re going to get hit, Ignore Pain, your only hope. Also: trapped elite in level 3. A Tremor boss with Dark Berserker minions. You never see them anywhere else in the act, so it’s a bit of a surprise you should be ready for.

3. Ghom

Arguably toughest inferno boss in the game… unless you’re a barbarian (build)

Stat requirements for safe HC kill:
900 AR; 50k HP; 15k dps; 500 LOH
Extra crit for Overpower and of course Crushing Advance. Spam this as soon as it pops. Your health will go up to full, and you need to survive another 9-11 seconds using both shieldwalls.
This boss has an enrage timer, after enrage he will spawn the clouds even faster, although this shouldn’t matter with the Overpower tactic. 15k dps + Ruthless + WOTB should be enough to avoid it, though.

4. Siegebreaker

Tank and spank with a 4 minute enrage. His supposed nuke attacks barely hurt. I’d recommend same stats as for Ghom above. Extremely simple and yawn-worthy.

5. Cydaea

This is where it gets more fun. Cydaea herself won’t hurt much. She sprints around and disappears for a few seconds regularly. She does have a supposed enrage but it is currently listed as bugged, and may or may not occur, due to an exploit or not – I don’t know, nor care. Assuming you’d like to kill her legitimately, you will want her down by 3 minutes, meaning you will have 2 cycles on nukes. I’ve killed her at around 2:15 using WOTB only.

The real threat on this fight are the spiderlings, and I recommend the normal walkthrough spec, however if you feel like you lack dps (once again you’ll want 15+), you can switch Ignore Pain to either Ancients or Quake. I don’t recommend Quake, because she may sprint out of it, but then Ancients can focus on her spiderlings.

Spiderlings hurt. A lot. You’ll want high stats to be safe here, and either be confident about not getting hit much, in which case you can go either without WC or without IP, but with second nuke, or just use the normal spec and hit IP if your health suddenly spikes down – and you have more room for error.

Cydaea, IMO, is second toughest Inferno boss solo, and you’ll want solid 55-60k HP, 1k all resists, 16-20k dps and hopefully some LOH/LPS to kill her without stressing out or hitting enrage.

6. Azmodan

Normal tank spec is once again fine here. There is no enrage, no hard nuke (only an instagib nuke, hah!). The boss is not a gear check and can be done even in A1 gear, if you really feel like it (it’ll just take longer). Just be sure not to get hit by the fire orb when coming back from the pool kiting run-around. If you get hit by it, you die, simple as that.

7. Iskatu

This encounter is very quick. The boss doesn’t have much health, but you will be taking tons of damage, due to being swarmed by shadowfiends and likely Desecrated. One cool way of doing it is to put on Rupture Cleave, and take out tons of shadowfiends in every swing. Alternatively, put on WOTB/EQ/IP, and when Iskatu shows up, pop all three at the same time. He should die before EQ runs out.

8. Rakanoth

There is an enrage on this fight, but if you’ve completed A3 using my recommended stats, you will have absolutely no issues here. If you’re lower than recommended stats, I can suggest putting on Demoralizing shout to reduce both his damage and attach speed. Tank and Spank with rotating shield walls.

9. Izual

I was a bit concerned about this one due to his near-instant freeze and potential for chain freeze, but it turned out to be very easy. Basically a tank and spank and since you’ll stay in melee, you won’t care about his or summoned oppressors’ Charge nuke. Recommended stats faceroll him, lower stats may have a little trouble, but not difficult by any means.

10. Diablo

At first glance Diablo isn’t difficult. Phase 1 and 3 can be done using A1-level gear, by simply rotating Leap and IP and using the wells every minute. There is no enrage, the damage is manageable as long as you don’t get caged. So… what’s the issue?

Phase 2 will force you to fight your Shadows, three times. The Shadows have unique abilities, such as very long stun, nuke and life leech charge. They are tough. If you’ve ever wondered why some barbs has sprint on in some of their Diablo kills, this is why. The damage output is brutal, fast and you have to go through it 3 times.

There are a few ways of dealing with shadows:

  1. Sprint Exploit. Don’t do this. Seriously. If you’ve got this far solo, you deserve better.
  2. Tank and spank. Possible. Rotating IP and Leap you can tank the shadow with good stats. The problem is, Diablo will pop back up if you don’t kill it fast enough, and then you will have the Shadow AND Diablo on you. That’s not good.
  3. WOTB/EQrotation. This is my strategy. I’ve used EQ on first and third shadow, and WOTB on the second. This worked great, because with my 17k dps, my IP lasted just long enough for Shadow to die without doing too much damage. Note, that this means you will have to sacrifice some part of your core build for EQ. You do want IP, Leap and Warcry to safely survive the encounter. This leaves Revenge.My build for this option:
  4. WOTB only, low-damage high LOH weapon. Yes, low damage weapon, but only in between shadows. The reason for this is: if you have too high of dps, you will cause the next shadow to pop sooner, while your WOTB is still down. On the other hand, you can’t just kite Diablo, because his curses and nukes will wear you down.

So the process here is:

  1. Kill first shadow with WOTB
  2. Switch to low dmg high Life On Hit weapon ( you can buy a cheap one on AH)
  3. Chip away at Diablo, wait for WOTB to come back up
  4. Put on high dmg weapon and push Diablo’s HP
  5. Nuke second shadow, and repeat for third

This option allows you to retain a survival skill, like Charge, Stomp, Revenge or whatever you want, really. I’d recommend this option to those with good dps but lowish defenses (AR or HP or armor).

11. Bugged mobs. Yep, tougher than Diablo.

Golgors (the dough boy giants) and Oppressors currently do multiples of their normal damage.
Also, ground based AOE ignores some of your defense and does around 50% more than it should. You can either fight it out (possible, I killed an Invincible Minion Frozen golgor using a choke), or run/reset. Up to you. Using my recommended stats, you will not die instantly, it will just hurt a lot (as in, a non-elite Bloated Golgor will take out 30% life per hit, and you don’t really want to get hit by an Elite without Ignore Pain up).

Final notes on A3/4 Inferno:

 

  • Cherish the shrines. The protection/frenzy is a HUGE buff. Don’t pop them until you need them, remember where they are and take them when time comes.
  • Don’t worry about NV stacks unless you’re confident that you can do everything in one spec. The items aren’t worth it. You can get same crap in A1. This isn’t a farming run, this is progression/challenge.
  • Remember about the pause. If you feel like you’re in a tough spot (walled/trapped/have 2 boss packs agroed), pause. Sometimes, it’s important to take a few moments assessing the situation. Few gamebreaking things aren’t immediately obvious (e.g. waller, vortex). Sometimes you can’t just run away, and you need to LOS instead. Sometimes you can’t just leap, you need to wait for a wall/vortex/freeze, and then leap.

 

Part 2: General Inferno HC Attitude

 

  • Hardcore is really an artificial challenge.
  • Completing Inferno is an artificial challenge.

Meaning, you can play Softcore and still simulate the same challenge. If you die, just start a new character and pretend like you don’t have any items again. Or, give yourself three “free” deaths before you have to delete. And then what does “completing Inferno” mean? Could you have a friend give you the waypoint to the last boss, kill it and call it a day? And after all that, then what? Besides the achievement, there is no reward. Your name doesn’t go on a ladder like in D2, there is no “King” title…

Since this game is pretty loose on boundaries to the supposed goals, I like the idea of setting up the challenge level for myself. I like to decide what I want to achieve, then prepare for it, and do it.

Deciding to complete Inferno Hardcore was the basic goal, but I further defined it by certain boundaries, and I suggest that anyone undertaking this, also does this.

I call this “the attitude”, and it can range from 100% honorable/”die fighting” samurai, or a cowardly “screw you guys I’m going home” resetter or even exploiter. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle.

Here are a few examples of how I’ve defined my challenge.

1. Class

I’ve decided to play the easiest class. Barbarian and Monk are by far the easiest to play HC solo with, and I just couldn’t handle the risk of a solo ranged. My hat’s off to anyone who attempts a full solo clear with, say, a DH (I’ve seen a solo WD, extremely impressive).
I believe, in order of difficulty from hardest to easiest, it goes like this:

  1. DH
  2. Wizard
  3. Witch Doctor
  4. Monk
  5.  Barbarian

Barb solo is still no walk in the park, but DH is on a whole other level. I’ve defined this part of my challenge this way because I wanted a reasonable challenge. Kind of like playing Doom on Ultraviolence, rather than Nightmare.

2. Solo vs Team.

I’ve decided to play this out solo, from beginning to end. Every teammate reduces the difficulty by about 50% (e.g. 4 champions will all go on you when solo, in a team of 2, each teammate has to tank only 2 champions, that’s 50% less damage taken, 50% less boss skills to kite;). Building a team barb is very simple: load up on armor, resistances and HP, and you’re set. Doesn’t matter if you have 5k dps or 20k. Building a solo barb is much more of a challenge: you need both solid dps and crazy survival stats, because you’ll be tanking every champion all by yourself AND you have to kill them before enrage.

The other problem I have with teams is that the risk is not distributed equally, unless both players are of same class. Barbarians and monks typically bear the least risk. Ranged classes bear the most risk. I think I would feel pretty horribly if my ranged teammate died, and I managed to escape. YMMV on this one, of course.

3. Exploits

I’ve decided to not use any exploits. Specifically, I assumed that Cydaea will enrage, and that I have to fight Diablo’s shadows, and I changed my spec to fit these constraints, although the fights could be easier if I simply went full tank for Cydaea or Sprint for Diablo. These are important for me, because I like the feeling of doing it right. Diablo shadows are perhaps the most difficult part of the encounter. Avoiding them entirely using Sprint just feels… wrong. I didn’t want to do that, plain and simple.

There are also what I call “borderline” exploits. I was a little more iffy about those. For instance, Ghom’s Crushing Advance tactic is legitimate as a spec and works fine as an expensive alternative to Revenge. It makes this one specific fight a gear check (a rather high one, if you intend to not hit the enrage) instead of an intense repositioning exercise, however. Seeing how this tactic is only available to barbarians, I’m inclined to call it an exploit. Nevertheless, since I chose barbarian as my character, knowing full well that it is the easiest class, I decided to accept this and killed Ghom using Overpower-CA. Perhaps I’ll try it again using a less cheesy spec/class at some point later on.

The other “borderline” exploit, is of course the elite enrage reset. The deal here is to kill 1-2 champions/minions, then run out of the instance and reset the timer, giving yourself more time to actually finish the pack. This is an important one, because barb tanks are notorious for having very low dps and thus have trouble with enrage timers (which, I believe are around 5-6 minutes). When defining this part of the challenge, I knew that I was not prepared to die to an elite enrage, when I had a chance to run out. It’d take honor of a samurai to accept slow death, while knowing that it was a matter of popping Ignore Pain and running to the waypoint 5 steps away, to save weeks of gear farming. That being said, I made sure to prepare for this. I knew that I could cheese my way through elite enrages by having no more than 8-9k dps, but I aimed for 20k. And it paid out. I didn’t hit a single enrage all the way through (although I think I came close a few times, just gut feel). And I feel good about that!

4. Level resets

The constraint here is to decide whether or not you’ll reset the instance if you encountered a tough pack. I was iffy on this one. This is a hard decision to make, knowing how much time went into farming all that gear, for this one shot at an Inferno HC clear.

In the end, I’ve decided to give myself 3 instance resets. If I used up all 3, I’d stop there and wait for 1.04 to play through the nerfed version instead. This way, I didn’t sacrifice my gear on an impossible pack, but also didn’t achieve what I felt I didn’t fully deserve.
I used up 2 of those resets.

First time was in Keep Depths 3, where a wounded guard locked up a boss pack behind a door. It turned out to be a Tremor Waller Frozen Horde (and 1 more affix I didn’t even see), with a Horde of minion…. Dark Berserkers. Yes, the guys from A1/A2 with that slow nuke smash, which you can dodge easily… except this is A3, and they have 8x the HP of A1 minions. And they do about 3x more damage each. And this is Keep with almost no room to kite. And the boss is a waller, Frozen. And they have extra life. I couldn’t kill even one minion after my WOTB + IP ran out. This was suicide. I reset.

Second time was in A4, when I pulled one of those “Aspect” bosses. Suddenly, a bunch more non-elite mobs were upon me, and my HP was dropping very quickly, and Revenge wasn’t proccing. Since the exit was 2 steps away, I charged out, and reset, although this one was very easy to clear using EQ + WOTB.

5. Respec vs D2-style clear

This is one is not exploitative at all, and is fully within the intended rules of the game.

I’ve taken the easy way, by allowing myself to respec as I saw fit for every boss. The more challenging way would be to maintain a single spec all through the clear. Kudos to anyone who tries this (using solo DH!) A Hardcore among Hardcore, for sure.

I will touch upon the specific specs I’ve used in the Part 2 of the guide. Thinking back, though, I do think that single-spec clear is possible. Ghom would no doubt be the #1 issue for it, Rakanoth would be somewhat tough unless you have very good gear, and Diablo would be a little tougher than otherwise.

6. Softcore practice

I think this one is very reasonable either way, but, of course, going in blind is a lot more risky. I went half-blind, in the sense that I didn’t practice Softcore (except Diablo, where my SC undergeared barb died within seconds, hah!), and only watched videos of others doing the bosses. Kripp’s videos were particularly helpful.

So these are the constraints I’ve set for myself. I think they fall somewhere in the middle of actual difficulty, equally far from a Solo DH playing honorable with 0 resets, 0 respecs, 0 exploits, and a Kripp style team using anything and everything possible to achieve a world first (still a humongous achievement, no argument).

You can also imagine the difficulty level as a 6-dimensional matrix (I obviously can’t draw that!):

Lowest Highest

  • Team or Solo 100% team Mostly team Part team Part solo Mostly solo 100% solo
  • Class Barb Monk WD Wiz DH
  • Exploits All exploits Most exploits Some exploits Minor exploits No exploits
  • Resets Reset anytime Many resets Some resets Few resets Never reset
  • Respecs Respec anytime Only on end bosses Allowed a few respecs 1 respec 1 spec from start to finish
  • Practice Full SC practice Some SC practice Watched youtube videos Read the wiki Going in blind!

So, anyone excited about trying Solo DH with no exploits, no instance resets, 1 spec from start to finish, going in blind with no SC practice on any boss? Just a thought!

Lastly, I wanted to mention the second component of Hardcore Inferno attitude. This has to do, more generally, with how Hardcore is, and what we need to accept, what differentiates HC players from all others.

  1. You do not own your character or your character’s gear. Your character is going to die, and you will lose you gear, whether due to your own fault, or due to Blizzard, one way or another. Unless you park your character and never use it again, that is.

    This one is hard to accept for many players. Especially the “due to Blizzard” part. I’ve lost an incredible MF barb (340 with no switching) capable of averaging 6-7 ilvl 63s per hour due to a video-related crash, many times reported and yet unfixed by Blizzard. And you know what – it felt fine. It felt better than losing a character due to being Frozen and Walled in. I’ve lost 6 lvl 60s, and 3 others in 50s, and in 500+ hours only 1 died to Blizzard’s error, not my own.

  2. Tying in with #1, the gear required to clear Inferno comfortably is expensive. It cost me 150 hours of my life to obtain the gear I went through with. Depending on how you define your constraints, it may be even more… or less, if you go a little softer on the rules. 150 hours is a lot of time.
    When I went in to clear Inferno, I knew that there were bugs, like the ground based AOE not being affected by resistances, like some mobs (Golgors, Oppressors) doing bugged amounts of damage. But I didn’t care. I’ve decided that I’ll accept all those things as part of the challenge and if I die, and lose all the crazy gear, I’ll accept that as well and try again post 1.04.
    So, consider it: imagine the situation where you lose it all, and think about your reaction.
  3. Understand, that there is pretty much no reward other than your own satisfaction.
    Yep, all the risk for nothing. The achievement is worthless, you can buy the achievement on the b.net forums. The drops are… well, do I really need to tell you what Inferno HC Diablo dropped for me? No, I don’t think I do.

Conclusion: create your own HC challenge, then one YOU would feel you’d be happy about, if you accomplished it. And then accomplish it.

Part 3: The Future of D3 Hardcore

 

I have great faith that D3 and D3 HC will eventually be refined and have great longevity. Blizzard has never made a game that didn’t last, and I think D3 will not be an exception. Even in the current state, D3 HC is absolutely the best game out there right now and even if no changes are made, I think I’ll be playing it for a long time. But changes are coming. We have 1.04 with some promising stuff, and of course 1.1 when Hardcore will become even more hardcore (assuming they allow permadeath PVP). Yeah, yeah, fanboy alert, right?

That’s not to say D3 and HC couldn’t be made better. I do have a few dreams about D3 HC and who knows…

  • 8 player public games make a return. Not likely, but hey, WoW raids went down from 40 to 25 to 10. It might work the other way too!
  • PKing will be possible. Let’s face it, most people already play private. If Blizzard adds incentives to play public, they might as well add risks too! My principle is: give the players many choices of their gameplay.
  • Low level dueling and dueling in general will be possible. This is huge for me, because I need that PVP challenge to work towards in HC, after all the PVE content is done with.
  • Ladder rankings are back. Just rankings, not seasons! I see no need for seasons without rampant botting/duping (yes I know D3 is being botted, but not to the extent of D2, not even close). Rankings will give HC a HUGE incentive to grind, just to see your name in white, not black somewhere near the top.
  • Ladder grind. This can be extra levels for very minor stat/cosmetic rewards, D2 lvl 99 style, or perhaps something like elite kill counter. Anything works here, really. As long as people compete to be near the top, HC will survive, and the cycle of life and death will persist. The wheel turns…
  • Loot duels. Yeah, I’m dreaming!
  • Itemization revamp – not really a dream, it’s pretty obvious that it’s coming (parts of it even as early as 1.04!)
  • Class difficulty revamp. Right now, DH and Wizards and to lesser extent WDs suffer from instakills under certain circumstances. It’d be nice if the game allowed every class to be a DH-style glass cannon as well as Barb-style tank. Choice is nice!
  • Inferno difficulty revamp. I think Inferno should be nerfed to the ground. There, I said it, It’s too much. A3/4 offer best drops rates of high level items, but they are simply pointless to farm in HC, when A1 or gobos can offer better and safer rewards. So yeah, A3/4 should be nerfed down to the difficulty of around 2x of A1, no more than that. With that said there should be fifth level of difficulty (call it … Uber Inferno), which has no extra drops, no new item tiers, just a plain challenge for those of us who want this challenge. Uber Inferno should be a bit harder than current Inferno. This should be pretty easy to implement, since it’s just a dumb stat boost. It could be spiced up too, by introducing guest monsters. Golgors in Act 1 anyone? Pure challenge, no waypoint sharing, no boss kill buys, just a plain dungeon crawl solo or in group from A1 to Diablo. Ultimate challenge. Perhaps rewarded by a title, like “King” ?
  • Additional endgame content. Endless dungeon with increasing difficulty/drops, or Uber-style gathering exercise. I think this is coming in some shape or form, likely around 1.1.
  • Hardcore RMAH for Gold only. Yeah, I’m not opposed to it. I think this would be a nice way to keep the community alive (those who make gold can make gold with a purpose, those who buy gold don’t need to go to a black market site and buy it safely instead, Blizz gets a cut). I know a lot of people would oppose this, because HC is more “winnable” than SC, but I disagree. Going back to my very first argument, HC is an artificial challenge. There is no real reward. Yes, if a scoreboard gets implemented, people will want to “win” by being at the top, but honestly, does it really matter? It’s a game of time, rather than skill. Someone investing 1000 hours isn’t more skilled than someone investing 100 hours. And as long as someone investing 100 hours has real life money, and be willing to spend it, they’ll find a way to spend it. Best give them a way to do so legitimately, instead of getting hacked/scammed and then taking up Blizzard support’s time. You know, kind of like acknowledging that war on drugs does more evil than good. But that’s getting political, so let’s not go there.

Lastly, for me personally, the end is far. I think I’ll be playing a bit less until 1.04, and maybe even less still until 1.1, but I’m not done. I’ll be leveling all classes to 60 next, and probably dying A LOT, and my next challenge is to conquer inferno on a ranged character. I’m looking at a Wizard, but I might try a DH. I’ll be likely making a few videos and depending on where 1.04/1.1 takes the game, doing more videosl! Stay tuned on the net and keep in touch in-game!

One Life to Live covers the Hardcore play and life style in the Diablo community. It is written by Xanth and published weekly. Post your comments below, Follow me on Twitter @HCXanth or contact the author directly. For all the archived news about Diablo 3 hardcore check our Archives!