All Spelled Out - Arkana the Untwinked Sorceress Reaches 99

Luhkoh

Diabloii.Net Member
Arkana, my untwinked sorceress, and my first character made after resetting to join the SPF, reached level 99 on Sunday!

Start: January 4, 2019
End: March 1, 2020




First, here is a video of the final few nihlathak runs, dinging 99 on ancients, and getting matriarch afterwards.


I aborted two nihlathak runs in totally non-dangerous situations in the video, but I was getting really nervous about screwing something up on video :p. Also I thought about making it so that i got the finally 99 ding on Baal himself, but decided I didn't want any increased risk. My ~500 hp in the throne room makes me think that was a solid decision ;).

Gear and Build
Fire Sorceress (98-99)

Code:
Harlequin Crest (Sol)
Mara's Kaleidoscope (30@)
Heart of the Oak (40@)
Skin of the Vipermagi (Shael, 30@, 13mdr)
Phoenix Monarch
Swap: Call to Arms (4bo), Spirit
Magefist
Arachnid Mesh
2x 11 PDR Nature's Peace
Sandstorm Trek
Gheeds (40mf)
4x fire skillers (1 with 12fhr)
Assorted life/fire res/fhr sc's
Merc: Delirium, Infinity, Treachery
Corpse Recovery: hoto, 1bo cta, spirit, shako, vipermagi, 30@ amulet, natures peace, raven (for the dex), 24 str belt, bloodfist, aldurs boots
Build: max fire ball, fire bolt, meteor, fire mastery, 1 in warmth, and teleport, enough in static to hit nihla from distance, rest into inferno
Video of sample runs and gear:
Approx avg exp/hr: 3.5 million

Gomule dump (to be added later):

Blizzard Sorceress (pre 98)
From 94-99 Arkana was a blizzard sorceress running Chaos (2 seal runs) with the following:
Code:
Harlequin Crest (PTopaz)
Mara's Kaleidoscope (30@)
Heart of the Oak (40@)
Skin of the Vipermagi (PTopaz, 30@, 13mdr)
Spirit Monarch (35fcr)
Bloodfist
Snowclash (did first half with string of ears)
Stone of Jordan
Dwarf Star
Aldur's Advance
Gheeds (40mf)
3x cold skillers (started with 1)
Assorted life/res/fhr sc's
Merc: Delirium, Insight, Chains of Honor
Corpse Recovery: similar to above
Build: standard blizzard sorc
Video of sample runs and gear:
Approx avg exp/hr at lvl 97: 4.6 million

The Journey
Beginning/Questing/Gearing
I started Arkana on January 4th, 2019. I played diablo 2 for the first time when a buddy convinced me to try it out in May 2018. After playing a few months, I realized the SPF was the place to be, and reset to join following SPF rules. Arkana was the first character I made, looking forward to joining @Kitteh's Untwinked 99er Tournament. I honestly didn't have any aspirations to finish the project in the foreseeable future, but ended up making nice progress.

After starting the character, I set myself many restrictions, most of which were totally unrealistic. I did stick with questing throught game on p8, just for some extra challenge, and using no extended stash just during that questing period. I think I mentally underestimated how much effort goes into 99ing a character and these long term restrictions such as no LK, hydrid spec, and no hell Mephisto were quickly ditched. I blame the noobness :p. Now I would recommend a player going for 99 leave their options open. There is a LOT of time to change your mind on stuff in such a long journey.

Anyways players8 questing went smoothly and at a reasonable pace. I started hell with some reasonable gear and finished questing on February 8th, as a meteorb sorc. I saved a link to what I call my D2 existential spiral, where I realized this project would take some serious effort. And shortly after, I started LK. For the next couple of months, I played Arkana more sporadically, as I was questing characters of the other classes, and trying to get budget characters up and running for the 2019 RFL. Sometime in the midst of this though, I did some Mephisto runs and found arachs. I had already found a shako really early on from a handful of mephy runs. I then did a focused LK grind over a week or so, and got the gear I needed for hoto and cta at the beginning of May, so 4 months after starting. At this point, I also decided I wanted to just be a full blizz sorc. Cookie cutter ftw (but at the moment I would say blizz sorc is still my favorite d2 character, so no regrets :) ).

Ancient Tunnels (lvl 86-94)
After that, I moved into the Ancient tunnels and did runs on p3 or p5 with plenty of mf in hoped of more nice finds on my way into the mid 90s. Shortly after that, I got lvl 90, and a 30@ maras! Then in the beginning of june, Arkana scored an soj from a couple of random pindle runs. I continued to do my ancient tunnels runs. Here is a video of what the runs looked like. They now look super super slow to me. At least that means I've gotten better :). I tested some exp vs mf efficiency of the different psettings for my runs, and dinged 94 in mid June.

Chaos Sanctuary (lvl 94-98)
I took a little break from the character till mid July, as I knew I wanted my next step to be starting chaos running. I started asking some questions about how to gear for it. Thanks to everyone who helped, but especially to @Bewitch, who helped me decide on most of my setup while chatting on his twitch stream. He also conveyed to me the importance of delirium. While not needed on an hdin in my opinion, I would say delirium is pretty much necessary for comfortable chaos runs on a sorc. Unless you're a pro and/or have some sick gear, but if that's you, then you know who you are. Anyways, I got my gear together and started the runs. It was a learning process, but went well. I finally found my first eth elite 4os polearm for an insight base early in the chaos runs.

I also started asking questions about what other sorcs in the tourney were getting for exp/hr in chaos. My runs were pretty slow at that point, and extrapolated to 3.7m exp/hr at lvl 97. Fortunately after some advice, I was able to speed up my runs to ~4.6m/hr during lvl 97. Which isn't quite as nice as the rate some of the other sorcs achieved and is a far cry from the speed of Gripphon's twinked sorceress mentioned in the 99er compendium. But I was glad of the improvement anyways. Also took a break from the character in august to prepare my budget pitzerker for the 2019 mfo and to participate in that tournament. I also think I finished questing my untwinked playthrough of all classes during that time. I was back to Arkana soon though.

Between 97 and 97.75, I had no deaths and was starting to think I might make it through the lvl without one. Then I died to stupidity shortly after. Then at 97.98, I got one shot by a fanaticism stormcaster in vizier's pack. Don't think that one was really avoidable, but I sure was angry. I'm sure I died a few times pre 97 too, but the penalty (provided you have a successful corpse recovery) doesn't feel too bad till 97. I found the mental grind during this stretch much more taxing than I expected, despite having a good idea of the time involved. I was eager to get lvl 98 so I plowed through it, but I wanted to show again how much effort these final two levels take. Much respect to the madmen with more than one 99er in this thread, and especially @PhineasB of course. Lvl 97-98 ended up taking ~65 hours with the deaths. Not an impressive rate, but these runs made me rich in runes, and I had ancients saved for the last level, so no regrets at all. I always knew I wanted a character who ran chaos rather than baal, and that paid off nicely for me. Here's a video of what my runs looked like near the end. And here are the updates I posted during that time in chaos.

Level 96.3 (July 28)
Level 97.5 (end mini-RFL) (October 22)
Level 97.75 (November 4)
Level 98 (November 15)

Runes found from 97-98: cham, cham, jah, sur, sur, lo, ohm, ohm, vex

Nihlathak (lvl 98-99)
I then had a big theorycrafting session, debating and estimating the difference between going light and fire sorc for nihla running. Made a very thorough spreadsheet for the analysis and had a lot of fun. I ended up choosing to go with a fire sorceress, and am glad I did. I died once in the first ~50 runs since I was experimenting and trying to see how hard the snakes hit and such. So no loss there. Then I died again at ~4% into the level, trying too hard to pick something up in a pile of loot. This prompted some reconsideration of my picking behavior, and I made this post of the safety setup I chose to run as well as my (reduced) picking choices during the run. I didn't die again, so I would say that was a success!

I really liked my build for nihla. I had fire sorc with phoenix, with 29 pdr, 85 fire res, 105 fcr, and 60 fhr. Now that I'm done running nihlathak, I feel like I can finally say this without jinxing myself. I think nihlathak runs were pretty easy and pretty safe with this setup and behavior. Yes safe :p. I had far fewer NDE's than I did in chaos. The runs are just so repetitive and short, it feels easy to s/e in most situations in plenty of time. I think the pdr was huge for safety. However since I was too scared to do some runs without it, I don't know for sure. I'll plan to do some nihlathak test runs with other gear in the next couple of months though. Also I made my mercs infinity in an elite base. With the 85 fire res, CE's usually did very very little dmg. Ofc CE has a very wide dmg range. I remember a single time where I saw a CE chunk ~1000 of my hp. Which was scary, but I had plenty of hp left, and think I even finished the run.

My key points, were ALWAYS insure the step-away from merc to avoid nextdelay issues. If I didn't achieve this, if there were no snake clouds, I would teleport to a new spot and try again. If there were snake clouds and step-away was screwed up, I would s/e. Next is with a character like this, picking items up is by far the most dangerous part of the run. I minimized the items I was picking up, and when I did pick one up, I really took my time clearing the room before doing so. So my runs with no pickups were ~22s, and runs with pickups were 30+. Also s/e immediately on might witches. Just not worth it. Ofc might/fana snakes and be careful when cursed etc. Here's a video of some sample runs. Also here are the updates I posted during my time at nihla.

Level 98.25 (December 31)
Level 98.48 (February 3)
Level 98.58 (February 10)
Level 98.66 (February 17)
Level 98.78 (February 24)

Runes found from 98-99: jah, ber, sur, ohm, ohm, ohm, vex
Noteable S/U's from 98-99: astreons (from a minion), dragonscale, azurewrath, spirit keeper, boneflame

Also random point, but I did not roll a map with shrines on the way to nihla. It has been discussed elsewhere that it's dubious if they decrease your time overall, but that its helpful in that it lessens the total runs, thereby reducing your opportunities for death. I think I disagree with the last point. Seems to me im just as likely to die stopping to check/tag a shrine as I am on nihla's platform. Another random point. I don't know anyone else who plays with the perspective setting on (in video settings if you're using glide), but I do since I like the look of it. I realized after i was already 10k runs in, that turning it off allowed me to see more of nihla's platform, reducing the chance of missing an offscreen drop. Doh!

Anyways, if I had to do it all again, I might go light sorc (even though I didn't have griffons), solely to have the option of doing some chaos or baal runs for variety when bored. I'm glad however I went fire sorc this go-around, because not having the opportunity to do chaos/baal made me buckle down and focus. And plus I think my fire build was more tanky, and the extra minions kills likely led to more runes, as well as that astreons. Here's screen of my runcounter. Was very happy with the runtimes, despite ~3s additional time from s/e and loading. Was averaging around 3.5m exp/hr. Note that maybe 400-500 runs were done off the runcounter while trying to get a Hall of Records entry.

Conclusions
Was loads of fun and I'm so happy I reached 99! Big thanks to everyone who makes the thread fun, as well as to @Kitteh for hosting it. I will say though that 97-99 was quite a grind, and one that I am not eager to take on again. I'll never say never, who knows what I'll want to do, but I don't plan to start another character for the thread. I don't plan to grind for 99 in any sort of focused fashion on twinked characters either.

Now Arkana's gear is mixed in with the rest of my characters, which I found sooo satisfying. I don't love working to keep gear sequestered. And Arkana will likely respec and reappear as my trav sorc for RFL round 2 this year. Thanks everyone! Let me know if any of the links in the writeup don't work or point to the wrong address.
 
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PhineasB

Diabloii.Net Member
Congrats @Luhkoh and very thorough write up. Thanks for taking the time to memorialize the journey, and good luck on future endeavors!

Interesting point on the shrines with Nihl runs. I think it's assumed/unsaid that map should be rerolled if shrine has regular boss pack spawn nearby (or shrine skipped if lots of monsters spawn on any given run). At least, I didn't tag the XP shrine on one of my maps (can't remember if it was Pestilence or Quinta) if I saw lots of monsters after a few frustrating attempts of getting mana burned. I could see how it could also be unsafe. I'll try to remember to add that point in the Compendium next time I update it.

Also, the hyperlinks to posts don't seem to work in the code boxes (CS and Nihl sections). I think they need to be embedded directly in the post.
 

Luhkoh

Diabloii.Net Member
Thanks guys! Yeah I was delaying getting this typed up because it can feel like a bit a chore, but getting a nice and thorough post up is super important to me. Whats the point of grinding 250+ hours and then slacking on the writeup? :p

@PhineasB thanks I embedded the links while typing the thread without realizing the code block would make them not work. Fixed now! Makes sense on the exp shrine points. I have a couple of other suggestions/discussion points too. Might post over on your thread!
 

ffs

Diabloii.Net Member
Congrats!! Now start another one... :) What are the plans for the runes?!

To be honest I don't understand why there are doubts as to whether shrines are worth it for Nihl. Getting 2 in direct route is not hard to roll and you don't lose any time whatsoever by teleporting past them, stopping only if XP spawns (which is obviously always worth it unless it adds 15 seconds or so). :D The only other point I see is if someone wants to use extended teleport all the time, but whenever I tested this for Nihl it never actually improved run times, and even when it does it's still worth it for XP to add 2 teleports per run to briefly have full vision at shrine locations...
 

Luhkoh

Diabloii.Net Member
@ffs yeah honestly I'm wondering more and more these days why I made the decision I didn't care about the shrines. I stick to my doubt as to if they increase safety, since i feel like pausing at any point except your landing spot during tele'ing is more dangerous than some extra runs. But its hard to believe they wouldn't increase efficiency if they're directly on path, especially since I was not using extended tele. I think I was intimidated at the start and just wanted the runs to be as dirt simple as possible, which I do think is great for safety. Ah well won't be grinding it again anytime soon :p.

Runes plans: some have already been used on other chars (always short on bers). But I have a stash with 3 chams, 4 jahs and several vex's waiting to be used. 2 chams will go in shako and andys soon. The jahs and vex's will be at least partially used up soon in a runeword grail update ;). "Soon" used loosely.

@peytron lol love it. Thanks!
 

Kinkara

Diabloii.Net Member
They grow up so fast, don't they? ;)

Gz, dude!

Also everyone is congratulating Luhkoh, but it seems to me that Arkana did all the work :p

So gz to Arkana as well!
 

SevenArkZ

Diabloii.Net Member
Way to go Luhkoh! Such a detailed write-up, I read it while at work this morning and enjoyed it very much!
 

Yng

Diabloii.Net Member
@ffs my map had 2 shrines with both manageable to view while C/Ting, I’d definitely try to get them outside of some terrible streak of map rolls without it

e: grats @Luhkoh
 
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