I hesitate to call this a guide, or even a mini-guide, because those words carry certain connotations. I've spent a lot of time running Travincal under different conditions in the last year or so, and have had some success with it. I've received many PMs lately asking for advice regarding Travincal running. This thread is simply my attempt to summarize what I think is important about Travincal running and pass on what I've learned to those who are looking to get into it. I sort of assume you're semi familiar with some stuff though, or this would get too long and detailed with me explaining things I'm sure most of you have a pretty good grasp on already (why Find Item is good, etc).
Please keep in mind that there obviously are many possible successful approaches to most things, Travincal running included. This is just me outlining things/strategies which have worked for me, and if you have a different approach, good for you. Let us know, maybe we can all learn something
I'm going to be talking about one specific build; the Whirlwind Barbarian. I want a Barbarian because of Find Item, and Whirlwind is the most effective killer. Others have had varying amounts of success with a Frenzy build, or a Warcry build. If you prefer something like that, by all means, but this will focus on what I know, which is Whirlwind.
As for skills, you want to max Whirlwind and your Weapon Mastery. I recommend maxing Battle Orders to help with safety. I recommend maxing Find Item to help with efficiency. I recommend putting a point in Increased Speed to help with efficiency (speed), and a point in Natural Resistance to help with safety. After that, it comes down to what your specific character needs. If you're struggling with resists, more points in Natural Resistance would probably be well spent. More points in Increased Speed could very well be worthwhile, especially without Enigma, but keep in mind that too many points in Increased Speed could make it tougher to Whirl effectively, as you'll move through and past the Council members quicker. Experiment and see what works for you and what you need.
My opinion is that an effective WW Trav Barb will need these basic things:
* High damage per second
* A combination of life and resists high enough to operate safely
* A source of Life Leech and a source of Mana Leech
* A source of Teleport
The second point might seem obvious, but I think it's an important one, as my experience has been that as soon as you have to deviate from your plan to get to safety, the seconds will add up very rapidly. You want to execute the same plan run after run, and if you constantly have to adjust your play to avoid death, it will be impossible to be as effective as you'd like.
You want to always start the fight in the same place, and you want the fight to be the same way every time. The best way to ensure this happens is a source of Teleport. It will place you and your merc (which is very important) in the exact same place as always, meaning you will know how the Council members will attack you, and you will know exactly how to whirl to hit the maximum amount of members at all times. It will also mean that Decrepify will trigger from your merc within a few seconds, rather than having the merc lag horribly behind, probably never triggering Decrep and mostly just attracting some council members away from you, prolonging the fight. Not good. Note that one Teleport per run is enough if you're playing with Teleport Charges, I would typically run from the waypoint to the point where I can just teleport inside the Council house, where the members would be waiting for me.
Mana leech and life leech are fairly self explanatory, anyone with melee experience will know how important they are to keep fighting. I recommend keeping some mana potions in the belt for Mana Burn, which is annoying and will disrupt your fight.
After having received so many PMs about gear choice for a Trav Barb, I want to put that information in one place and write a bit about the popular choices. In general though, this is my philosophy:
You want Teleport, you want dual leech. After that, you want AR to hit, and you want damage so your hits are effective. You also want to make sure that you're safe at all points. Keep these overall goals in mind when choosing your gear.
Helm: Some sort of insane rare Ciclet (especially with Teleport charges) is always possible I suppose, but Arreat's Face is really tough to beat. Note that Arreat's has Life Leech, which solves the first of the three must-haves, at least with a good roll. Then again, more life leech can only help with safety, so if you can find more on your gear, all the better. I have mine socketed with a rare Jewel with the Diamond affix (+ED and AR against Demons), and some other helpful stuff. Damage, regular ED, stats, resists, it's all good. Do note that the bug with %ED and +damage in a jewel socketed in a non-weapon does NOT exist when that %ED comes in the Diamond or Pearl prefix. Ragnarod tested this for me (thanks!), and these jewels work as they should.
Amulet: This is the easiest place to get Teleport charges. Ideally, you can get Mana Leech here too, or maybe more Life Leech (blood crafted amulets are great for this purpose as they will automatically spawn with a small amount of Life Leech to supplement the leech from Arreat's. If you don't go with a rare/crafted amulet, Highlord's Wrath is a very good choice despite the IAS being useless. 30+ DS still has a huge effect. Mara's should be fine if you need to focus more on safety, and the 2 skills means it has some offensive qualities as well. Crescent Moon is another possibility to solve any Leeching problems. I'm a fan of either a great rare/craft, or Highlord's.
Body Armor: There are some good choices here, unfortunately they're all expensive. Enigma is fantastic, and certainly not only because of the Teleport. The huge Strength bonus helps with damage output, as do the Skills. FRW, DR% and MF are just gravy. Fortitude is great, as is Chains of Honor. As far as cheaper alternatives go, I'm not so sure. Lionheart seems like an ok combination of offensive and defensive mods. Arkaine's Valor? Your guess is as good as mine. Any of the three expensive runewords will be great here, but note that Duress is not so good because of its Cold damage.
Weapons: You want to hit the last WW breakpoint with both weapons you're using. I've seen people swear by Death despite it being slow, and while I'm sure it's a fine weapon, I'm not sold and I'd prefer an Oath over it. I recommend Oath, Grief, Beast and Breath of the Dying (sounds insane, but I'm sure we'll see them once 1.13 has been played a while). Keep in mind that weapon range is important for WW; for this reason I recommend you making Oath in either a Balrog Blade (sword) or Berserker Axe (axe). I recommend using 1.07 bases, as etheral weapons from 1.07 do more damage in later versions than their 1.13 counterparts. If you make Grief, the only reasonable Sword alternative is Phase Blade, which unfortunately has a range of 2. In a Phase Blade, the IAS roll on the Grief won't matter, which is a nice bonus. You could make it in a Colossus Blade, however you'd need an IAS roll of either 39 or 40 to hit the last WW breakpoint, plus it would need constant repairing. The first ebugged 1.07 eth Grief 39+ IAS Colossus Blade I see on this forum will get massive style points from me For axes, again Berserker Axe is the base item I recommend for Grief, again 1.07 ethbugged. Note that these axes will not reach the last WW breakpoint if the IAS roll is 30-33, so making one is a bit of a gamble. Note that Grief is particularly good for a Travincal runner as it carres a huge amount of %ED to Demons on top of its already huge damage. I've heard some decent things about Death Cleaver, so that could be worth trying. A nice bonus with Death Cleaver would be getting an extra socket; your Mana Leech could probably come from here with a Vex rune. This is all untested though, I think Oath and Grief are more effective personally.
Belt: A 1.07 Mavina's Tenet is probably very nice here, because of the 40 FRW and huge Mana Leech. I haven't tried it myself though. String of Ears is another good choice if you want more Life Leech. A great rare/crafted belt could probably work as well. I use String of Ears, myself.
Gloves: Laying of Hands, period. It provides more damage than Fortitude does, and I don't think any other alternative comes close. The 1.07 version has 50% Fire Absorb instead of 50% Fire Resist, which is probably more beneficial.
Boots: My preferred choice here is Gore Rider, for its huge offensive bonuses and its FRW. I'm sure other choices would work here, though, depending on your character's needs.
Rings: These slots are great for adding leech if you don't have it elsewhere. Mana Leech especially might be tough to come by from other places on your gear, so if that's the case, this is your chance. I prefer rare rings packed with things that your character needs; for instance leech, AR, stats, life, resists, damage, FCR etc. There are very many mods a Rare ring can have which benefits your character. I use two rare rings on my runner, which add mana leech (which I don't have elsewhere) and lots of AR and Strength, as well as FCR and some resists.
Weapon Switch: A popular choice is dual Ali Baba's socketed with Lem's or Ist's. I don't particularly like this choice, instead preferring dual Echoing weapons or HoTo's if you have them. The Warcries will help with your and your merc's safety, and will raise your hork% by 2% (probably), effectively making your runs around 1.3-1.5% more effective depending on run time. If this is significant enough for you to choose over other alternatives is up to you; for me the choice is easy as HoTo also makes teleporting to and from the council significantly faster, as well as casting war cies (both Battle Orders and Find Item).
Merc Setup: The mercenary typically gets into a lot of trouble when Conviction spawns. In general, he will mostly take elemental damage from the Council. For this reason, I like the Kira's/Guardian Angel combination to raise his resists to 90 across the board. Another armor I've tested to moderate success is Gladiator's Bane. My recommended setup is Reaper's/Kira's/Guardian Angel though. Reaper's is the only weapon I recommend, the Decrepify makes an enormous difference in effectiveness. With some practice you will learn to always target the Decrep'd monsters, and the council will drop that much faster as a result.
Charms: This can be a great place to make your character well rounded, fixing any holes you think he might have. More often that not, I believe you will want to focus on AR and damage. I've done a lot of math to figure out which kinds of charms actually help the most, unfortunately the results vary based on the rest of the characters. Specifically, max damage from charms is more helpful the less damage the rest of your gear does, in general. It's probably smart to either do the math yourself (which is fun!), or not worry too much about it and just use whatever good Sharp and/or Steel charms you have. It's worth nothing that my best 1.07 damage charms (+23 max damage GC, +20 max damage, 3 Str GC) are the two "worst" GC's I'm wearing for my characters, and my plain +20 max damage GC doesn't make the cut. I use 5 Steel GC's and 1 Sharp GC, as well as the two 1.07 charms.
Some more thoughts:
The council is no joke, especially at higher player settings. They're level 88 monsters, so I recommend that you level up as far as you can/feel like. Especially your merc will have trouble if your character level is too low. This will severely impact your run time, as you will expend too much energy on keeping you and/or your merc safe.
Don't be afraid to place stat points in either Dexterity or Strength, as you see fit. I had 4343 life for a long time, then I respecced and placed some of those points into Strength. I'm just as safe at ~3900 life, and next time I respec I'll probably go down further still. I prefer this method over putting fewer points in Battle Orders, as I have nothing else to spend the skill points on anyway. Right now I have everything I want, skill point wise, and I have 14 points remaining to spend. That's with 0 points in Increased Speed (Enigma and teleporting back to Act IV after each run means I don't feel like it would help more than it'd hurt when whirling), 1 point in Natural Resistance (enough for me), 1 point in Double Swing for Mana Burn and 1 point in Berserk for when Ismail spawns PI.
I know that's a lot of text. Here's the gist of it:
Get dual leech, high damaging weapons, and a source of Teleport. Put Reaper's on your merc, then load up on AR and damage and make sure to stay safe. From there, just focus on being efficient, which means having a high level Find Item and practicing.
There's more stuff I could write, but this is more than long enough as it is, and it'd mostly be concerning micro optimizations most people probably don't care about anyway
Hope this block of text helped you, or gave you some ideas or different ways to think about something. If you have questions or comments, please ask away and I'd be glad to answer. Thanks for reading!