Reaping Chronicles

I know. I get it. I’m a horrible blogger. It has been difficult to sort out the time to set aside to blog when there are so many other things calling out for my attention. Well, that, and possibly allowing Diablo III to suck away any free time that I do have where I could be sharing here. If anything, you could probably say that Diablo III is in an amazing place if I’m not blogging about it. YAH, let’s go with that.

As I sit here typing these words I can hear Diablo playing in the exact same room. No, I’m not hearing things. It is actually being played, and not by me. I’m serious, it really isn’t me playing … it’s my daughter.

Her dive into the Diablo universe has been short so far but with the release of Reaper of Souls her interest in picking up the Xbox 360 version (her first taste of demon-slaying and looting addiction) has hit an all-time high. I just can’t. I just can’t go back to the old version of Diablo III, not when Reaper of Souls is here and available to play.

So as I sit here, my daughter sits at my desk playing on my computer with my Reaper of Souls. She loves the wizard the most. I’m a proud daddy.

So anyhoo, a thought had crossed my mind just the other day on how I could make some sort of amends for my consistent neglect of my blog: why not chronicle the builds I have been trying based upon the items I find in this post-RoS Diablo world we all live in?

Sounds great, right? RIGHT!

There’s only one problem, I haven’t quite figured out how to go about chronicling these builds just yet. At least, not how to best format them, but that’s never stopped me before, so let’s just dive in.

Prior to the closure on the Reaper of Souls closed beta my wizard hadn’t really found anything incredibly spectacular and “build-changing” but I had more or less decided going into RoS that I would run with a ranged “machine-gun” build making heavy use of Electrocute (Lightning blast), Familiar (Cannoner), and Arcane Orb (Frozen Orb) to provide some heavy artillery and a modicum of crowd snaring.

This worked fairly well and with a healthy amount of All Resist my level 70 RoS-beta wizard was cruising through Torment II with approximately 700k DPS and 13mil toughness. I liked it,  a lot actually and I did enjoy using this build up until Blizzard nerfed the heck out of my Familiar’s (Cannoner) rate of fire.

After the nerf to my familiar I decided to shift away from that build and see if I couldn’t find another build to suit my fancy. Enter my hardcore wizard who I got back up to promised land of 60 prior to RoS’ release.

With the acquisition of a Wormwood staff I decided that with the resource cost reduction that I would stack that along with as much as arcane regeneration as possible and go with a signature-spell free wizard build. It worked and was quite a lot of fun, but ultimately didn’t quite tickle my fancy.

Then a Moonlight Ward dropped … and I got a crazy idea … let’s build a “swirl to win” wizard.

What’s that? Well Moonlight Ward has a chance to produce four moonlight shards that will rotate around your character and explode on contact with an enemy. Combine that with Arcane Orb (Arcane Orbit) for extra swirling ‘splodey bits and you have the basis for the build.

There are a couple of variations based on personal preference and gear that you have, but should you ever obtain the Warzechian Armguards the build becomes an absolute … wait for it … BLAST! when coupled with Ice Armor (Frozen Storm). Running like a bat straight outta hell wrecking everything in the environment while ‘sploding the meanies dumb enough to attack you is just tooooooo much fun (and well … *cough* maybe a lil dangerous for a hardcore character :)

But let’s get back to my softcore progression in Reaper.

I did attempt a similar build with my main wizard as I was fortunate enough to have a Moonlight Ward drop in softcore as well but without the Warzechian Armguards to pull it together I decided to go a different direction. Instead of using Electrocute (Arc Lightning) as my main attack I decided to see if I could once again go signature-free and pull every idea I’ve tried up to this point together into a singular build.

While I don’t have quite enough resource cost reduction to truly cast Disintegrate (Entropy) indefinitely I do have enough between the 5% from my shoulders and 8% from Paragon point bonuses along with Storm Armor (Power of the Storm) to allow my arcane regeneration from the passive Astral Presence and my 3 APoC from my source to offset enough the cost to where I can sit and channel Disintegrate for a long time.

I do have other options to improve my channeling time if need be. When running solo I’ve adopted to using the Templar for his “Inspiration” and when in a multiplayer game if I’m having issues with resources I can always switch my Familiar from the raw damage output of Sparkflint to arcane regeneration of Arcanot. If even that isn’t sufficient I can further extend my endurance with swapping out the rune of Magic Weapon from Force Weapon to Conduit.

Love this build. It’s so much fun to play.

Rounding everything out is the Audacity passive for more damage, Blur since you have to get up in the demon’s grills to deal your damage and Evocation for shortening the cool downs of my “I WIN!” button Archon and the greatest addition to the Wizard’s repertoire, Black Hole.

Gearing improvements are still plentiful as my wizard is still primarily in rares, but I am hoping to add some pieces of cool down reduction to help with up-time of my Black Hole (Spellsteal) buff.  Some +Arcane damage would be much appreciated as well, but for the time being I am quite happy with my wizard’s 650k’sh damage (depending on whether or not I’m using my +Attack Speed gloves) and 7.6mil toughness.

Torment I is pretty much a face roll for me though my All Resists could use to be a bit higher (lowest is around 1500) before jumping into Torment II full time. I’m in no hurry to run Torment VI, though I would love to really boost my XP/hr and climb the paragon levels (currently sitting at paragon 193). Some day, some daaaaay …

Reaping the Chocolate State-of-Mind

In case you’re not already a follower of mine on the Tweeters, last night I had my first table-flipping moments with the Reaper of Souls Friends and Family beta. Okay, maybe that’s a bit too dramatic; I was frustrated, but clearly not to the point of flipping a table. What was I frustrated about? I was still approaching Reaper of Souls with the mindset that I was still playing Diablo III Chocolate.

You can’t do that, or at least you shouldn’t. In the conversations I had with Wyatt Cheng at Blizzcon I should have been better prepared for what I was going to experience, yet clearly hearing about the changes coming and experiencing them are completely different things. You will likely fall into the same pitfalls and experience similar frustrations as I did, yet if you take my initial experiences to heart then you will quickly adapt and overcome the shift in combat pacing.

BUT before I go into that, I should preface everything that I’m about to jot down that this is still Friends and Family BETA. BETA. Things can and will change and we could very well see some major overhauls still as Reaper of Souls is still very much in development. So while some of myimpressions will remain true when we all are reaping monsters and demons for really reals, things will be different when everything is live.

With that out of the way, let’s get on to what you all are clamoring for, my impressions so far.

You’ve heard me state it on the post-Blizzcon Live From Anaheim episode of the Shattered Soulstone and I will restate it here for emphasis: ADVENTURE MODE IS AMAZING. Ahh-maze-zinggg-geh. Being able to jump from act to act and kill any boss solves many problems we experienced in Chocolate. Adventure mode is probably responsible for the death of Nephalem Valor since jumping in and out of games to farm bosses (well, who actually farmed bosses anyways?) is moot.

Forcing us to get five stacks of NV was merely a means to prevent quick game creation and now with adventure mode, why would you want to? Adventure mode allows everyone to play as little or as much as they want and ALWAYS have something productive and rewarding to do. Between Bounties and Nephalem Rifts there is a lot to do in a single session. Some bounties are super quick and easy and some take a bit more time to complete, but they feel meaningful and rewarding yielding sizable chunks of gold and experience, Blood Shards for gambling (yes, gambling is back though sadly Gheed’s personality isn’t), Horadic Caches that yield random and varied rewards, and chances for Rift Keystones to open up Nephalem Rifts.

Phew. That was a mouthful. Yes, bounties yield quite a bit of rewards for your efforts and if you’re looking to get from 60 to 70 as quickly as possible, stick to adventure mode as the experience boosts from completing bounties is pretty absurd at the moment. Granted this is still early beta, but as things stand at the moment, bounties seem to be the quickest way to grind experience.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that when RoS is live Act V will most likely be locked in adventure mode until you complete it in the campaign. And let’s be honest, we all want to see what Malthael is up to right? I should also state that for my own sake of avoiding story spoilers I will NOT be touching the campaign mode AT ALL until I have my Reaper of Souls Collector’s Edition in my hands. I don’t want to ruin that experience for myself with the beta. Playing the game and learning the ins and outs of all of the new mechanics and systems introduced is one thing, but spoiling the story is another.

Anyhoo, let’s move on to my actual personal experiences with the gamplay itself since there will be better sources of information to familiarize yourself with all of the new mechanics and systems in the game. I haven’t dug into all of the new crafting stuff enough to give you in-depth reports on them, but I assure you that should you want to dig into it, there are plenty of resources out there. I will say this though, HOLY MOLY there are a lot of new crafting materials to start worrying about.

OKAY. FOR REALLY REALS I WILL GET TO MY IMPRESSIONS NOW.

After I copied my characters from live over, I quickly got to work with my main wizard, Malnevicent, that recently hit paragon 100, (good thing too ^^). Her gear isn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but she was able to easily handle MP6 and could handle MP8 decently enough by switching to a hybrid CMWW build. With this in mind, I decided to embark my journey to 70 at Expert difficulty. It’s hard for me to say what the equivalent monster power would be, but given how easy it felt early on I would say MP3-4 would be a good guess.

In case you’re wondering the current difficulty selections go Normal, Hard, Expert, Master, Torment (which has multiple levels, I-V, but is locked until you hit 70 with one character). So there is some parity with the ten levels of monster power, but obviously in going from ten settings down to nine, there are some differences especially since the benefits are quite different from the monster power system.

Going from 60 to 66 was an absolute breeze for my wizard and in retrospect I am wishing that I had gone with Master initially as it yields the added benefit of increased chances of legendary recipes to drop (that I would assume would have very little chance, if any at all, to drop at a lower difficulty). As soon as my wizard hit 67 things changed, dramatically.

With the removal of the difficulty modes (Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno) monsters will automatically scale to your level no matter where you are in the game.

Up to this point I hadn’t found much in the way of upgrades for my wizard, or at least what I thought were upgrades for her. I was unwilling to give up some of my bonuses for Toughness and Healing upgrades and in retrospect was my initial undoing. At Expert (67) things start hitting HARD, very very hard. And the poop on the ground? OUCH.

Suddenly I was having lots of issues staying alive against elites and champions, but I could power through them without too much difficulty if I played more conservatively and employed kiting tactics. BUT bosses? OMG. My wizard’s lack of focus on improving those toughness and healing metrics became CRYSTAL clear. It was one-shot city. I couldn’t even briefly skirt through one of Araneae’s poison puddles without being gibbed.

At this point having sub-100k HP and 700 AR wasn’t enough to survive in Expert. Toss in the nerf to life-steal (which honestly I no longer had at all since I never had a LS weapon and Magic Weapon – Blood Magic is no longer a thing) and having very little Life on Hit or Life Regen and the issue I was having was apparent: I needed survival gear, again.

Remember in the old days of Diablo III Chocolate when you needed survival gear and defensive abilities? Yup, those days are back. Or at least they probably will be depending on inevitable number tweaks that we will experience as the beta matures.

Once I hit 68 and then later 69 it wasn’t only bosses that were giving me problems. Ohhhhh no. Now elites and champions were getting their share of one-shots on my poor defenseless wizard. I also ran into a new monster affix that has become the bane of my wizard’s life: THUNDERSTORM.

Holy moly does Thunderstorm hit like a truck and worst of all, it strikes randomly from range with little you can do to avoid it. YUP. It’s pretty much the most devious monster affix that I’ve ever experienced and I think, or at least hope, it will be changed or tweaked to bring it more in line with other affixes.

So what was my poor wizard to do? Gear wasn’t raining down upon her and with monsters becoming increasingly dangerous with her prospects of farming gear looking more grim with level 70 rapidly I realized there were two options, dropping the difficulty level or making use of the blood shards she had been saving up.

As I mentioned earlier there are new NPCs in town that accept blood shards as a currency to buy ??? gear. Costs are pretty reasonable for most gear slots (most armor slots save jewelry are 5 blood shards each) for the shot at rolling a random piece of gear. Yup, gambling is back. I probably spent about 60-70 shards and upgraded my wizard’s chest, shoulders, belt, and pants and now she’s sitting at ~420k DPS, ~260k HP and an effective Toughness of ~1.4 million (whatever that means).

I haven’t taken her new gear out for a spin yet, but I am hopeful that she’ll be a bit less squishy as she inevitably hits 70 today. I’ve seen some chatter that you will want ~1mil DPS for Torment but I haven’t hit 70 yet to give it a shot yet.

As for legendaries, I’ve only had one drop from a random mob in the world and had two drop from (mini)bosses earlier in the journey to 70 (back when bosses were trivial for my wizard). So I haven’t had much luck on the legendary front, but I’ve only dumped maybe three’sh hours into getting up to 69. Still too early to make any assumptions on drop rates, but I can state that it feels weird to no longer have NV stacks and guaranteed rares from elites and champions.

I have dabbled with the enchanter a little bit and, again, while I don’t have enough experience to give solid advice, I can state that for those of you chomping at the bit to enchant your amazing legendaries from the outset, think again. To enchant legendary items you need a new material, Forgotten Soul, which you get from salvaging legendaries. I salvaged my stash of existing legendaries which only yielded ONE.

If this remains the case for when RoS goes live, there’s ZERO reason to hold onto your existing legendaries for enchanting purposes. Besides, as previously stated, you really should aim to replace most, if not all, of your existing gear by level 68 or so.

Another thing that caught me off guard was that almost as soon as my wizard hit level 62 marquise gems started dropping like candy. Seriously. I’m not joking. So if you, like me, are hoarding gems for RoS, don’t. Just don’t. They will be utterly pointless in RoS unless the way gems are currently handled is completely broken; it is definitely not finished as the costs associated with removing and combining gems have clearly not been touched yet.

So yes, you should probably take everything I just said with a massive grain of salt, but I would say with near certainty that hoarding gems right now on live is a waste of time and effort.

Alright, now on to skills and runes.

As you all know I am a huge lover of lightning spells and I am loving the direction that the wizard is going right now. Being able to easily create elemental synergies is fantastic with almost every spell in the wizard’s repertoire having numerous elemental flavors to them. Lightning meteors? Lightning arcane orbs? OMG. YES PLEASE. And the lightning flavor to the new Wizard spell Black Hole is just amazing. Crowd control and damage? YES, YES, YES. I love it.

I have given a fire build a shot, but I didn’t like the synergy with Spectral Flame Blades. 1% bonus per monster hit seems pretty cool, but it only lasts as long as you have monsters to constantly hit (buff lasts 3 seconds) which leaves little room to weave in big hitters and creates a massive warm up period if you really want to apply the hurt. Going fire also doesn’t give you any of the CC opportunities that going frost, arcane and lightning easily yield.

Sorry budding fire wizards, you’re probably not going to have fun, at least not without some help from gear that can provide some CC. But don’t give up all hope, there is a fire variant of Black Hole, at least I think so, and the small amount of CC it provides is pretty fantastic.

Currently Paralysis feels fantastic, perhaps a bit too fantastic though as a 20% chance to stun can stop a lot of monsters and even some bosses in their tracks. It synergizes amazingly well with Electrocute – Forked Lightning at the moment as forked lightning dumps a TON of charged bolt sparks on the ground (though this could be a by-product of my wizard having ~60% crit). Either way I do expect that we will see some tweaking to both paralysis and forked lightning as my wizard can pretty much lock down large packs thanks to stun procs going off almost constantly.

In addition to that I am loving the synergy between tossing out an Arcane Orb – Spark to give my Black Hole – Supermassive a boost. It’s a ton of fun to toss a spark through a large pack of monsters and then drop a black hole in the middle and watch them all convulse and melt as they get sucked in.

It’s just so much fun as a lightning wizard right now. And you have other options with Wave of Force getting a lightning flavor that almost feels like Lightning Nova from Diablo II but gets the added benefit of causing all monsters hit by it taking additional lightning damage for 4 seconds. Like I said, lots of new elemental synergies that will likely fit a number of different play styles. And this is just from runes, imagine the possibilities with build-changing legendaries (I can only imagine right now since I haven’t found any yet ^^).

All in all so far my preliminary impressions have been overwhelming positive. There are a few detractors and critiques in there, but it is still early and I guarantee there will still be a lot of tweaks made in the coming weeks and months as the beta matures. I am extremely excited with the direction that Josh Mosquiera and crew are taking Diablo III in and I don’t think I can go back to Chocolate anymore.

And with that folks, I think I need to get back to it. I’m amazed I took the time to actually blog about my impressions so far, but rest assured I will probably be back more frequently to apprise you of how things progress in the beta. Closed beta is quickly approaching, so you too will soon have the opportunity to join in on the fun, (especially if the Shattered Soulstone gets some keys to give away). So until then, stay tuned!

Updates, Hiatuses, and the Future

It’s funny how certain things in your life simply get moved around in priority for everything else. Take my blog for example, it always experiences long periods of time where I don’t make the time to pen down my thoughts. I’ve certainly had ideas and opinions that I could have blogged about, but I didn’t have the motivation to sit down and type.

Instead I’ve been making a push to get my softcore wizard up to paragon 100 that up until recently was going really well. As of yesterday my main wizard, Malnevicent, dinged 93. Things really, really slow down once you’re up into the nineties as going from paragon 91 to 100 is over a quarter of the total experience required for paragon 100. Now if I had better gear for my wizard I could speed things up quite a bit by running at MP10, but as far as her gear is concerned, MP6 seems to be the sweet spot for me for running an Archon build.

I had toyed with a hybrid CM build utilizing Meteor and Living Lightning instead of Wicked Wind and Explosive Blast. It was a lot of fun and could handle up to MP8, but it didn’t compare in efficiency as running as Archon. The added benefit of running Archon is that I could effectively play one-handed, freeing my left hand so I could drink coffee, or wine, or water while playing.

There’s only one issue, Archon is mind-numbingly boring to play as … sometimes. When the game becomes a mind-numbing grind, I tend to lose focus and drift a little. And drift I have.

Diablo III has been out on PS3 and Xbox 360 for almost two weeks now and surprisingly I’ve sunk a bunch of time into it. For being mostly the same exact game it still feels like a breath of fresh air with the tweeks they’ve made to the loot system. Due to the lack of an auction house and offline play the loot that drops has to be better and my console wizard – yup, she’ll be my 4th level 60 wizard – has found no less than 15 legendaries so far after chumping Belial in Nightmare last night.

I’m not going to lie, the console version has killed a bit of my enthusiasm for playing on PC. It feels less rewarding when 99.9% of what drops is virtually worthless and Loot 2.0 is still in all likelihood months upon months away.

Blizzard has been very cagey when it comes to letting us know just how far along they are with development on Reaper of Souls. Just two days ago a new build containing a metric-ton of RoS strings appeared on the PTR which would lead one to believe that a beta could be seen Soon™. Then just today I saw a thread in which Travis Day commented that work on game/build-changing affixes is still far from being complete and we saw at Gamescom wasn’t an exhaustive representation of what is coming.

Wait, what? Weren’t we teased with Loot 2.0 late last year? Oh right, this is Blizzard that we’re talking about. I am surprised, however, that they have already announced the new expansion. My money was on them debuting it at Blizzcon.

With Reaper of Souls being a known commodity what does that mean for Blizzcon? Beta by the end of the year? I wouldn’t expect to hear anything remotely close to a release date for the expansion because that is still too far away; at best we will know two months before. Besides, Nate Kenyon’s Diablo: Storm of Light is currently set to release in February 2014 and given that the book is set between the events of Diablo III Chocolate and Reaper of Souls, it would make sense for it to be released ahead of – or possibly along side with – the expansion.

Are you excited? I am. Frozen orb is coming back? AND GLACIAL SPIKE? Color me excited. Now let’s hope that there will be an item that will grant all projectiles the ability to pierce. I would love to have a piercing spiketress again … SO MUCH FUN.

Now back to getting my 4th wizard to 60. Oh wait, I mean paragon 100. Oh wait, maybe some hardcore wizard action? I do need to get my 2 HC wizards up to Inferno. OH TIME, WHY ARE YOU NOT KIND TO ME?

 

Your Deeds Shall be Remembered

It has finally happened. I’m not talking about my returning to this blog after another notch on the bedpost known as Nevik’s Lapses in Blogging. While that may indeed be true, I’m referring to my dear beloved Malnevicent, my solo, self-found, no auction house, hardcore wizard was finally defeated in combat.

Things had been going well for my hardcore wizard with Act I Inferno (MP0, of course) no longer posing much a challenge and after the plans for the Archon Spaulders of Intelligence dropped, I got a little … too confident and tried pushing to see how far my wizard could go in Act II.

Black Canyon Mines. That’s how far.

On the positive side – if there could be one – was that my wizard wasn’t done in by a champion pack. No. It took THREE champion packs to take her down. Now before you think I was being reckless with her, I wasn’t, it was just by pure unfortunate luck that she garnered the attention of three different packs.

It started off with a Fallen champion pack (jailer, vampiric, mortar, waller) that she encountered on the northern end of the canyon, Due to the positioning of the walls she was forced to proceed east into uncleared areas to avoid being bombarded to death with mortars. Travelling east led to a Fallen Overseer champion pack (knockback, frozen, electrified, health link) joining in on the party and poor Malnevicent ended up being knocked close enough to a second Fallen champion pack (avenger, knockback, frozen, arcane enchanted).

With three champion packs hot for her there wasn’t much Malnevicent could do, especially when getting jailed, trapped by walls and then ultimately chain frozen and then sliced to death by lasers. Not even her Unstable Anomaly could save her from the combined might of three champion packs.

I sat there for a couple of minutes dumbfounded by what had transpired. I wasn’t angry. I didn’t even exclaim when Malnevicent fell. Just sat there.

After it sank it I will admit that I felt down, mayhaps even a tad depressed, about losing my hardcore wizard. Things were going well and I was feeling pretty confident about going all the way and clearing Inferno. Malnevicent after approximately 78 hours vested was sitting at 50k health and 21k DPS and while that definitely wasn’t enough to safely clear Inferno, it was enough that I felt confident about moving into Act II and hazarding the risk for better loot.

Obviously I was wrong, but again … THREE CHAMPION PACKS? Oids. Bad luck is bad, I suppose.

So what will I do now? Will I run away from hardcore with my tail tucked between my legs? Or will I dust myself off and get right back into the frey?

I re-rolled of course. Long live Aiom, the second coming of my solo, self-found, no auction house, hardcore wizard. Though I am trying to decide on whether or not I will allow myself to twink Aiom with the gear I kept while leveling and how I’m going to handle the availability of having the ability to craft the iLvl 63 BoA intelligence shoulders. What say you? Should I prohibit myself from using them?

Below the Gargoyle’s Chin

Last night I experienced my first genuine OH NO, OH NO, OH NO moments with my hardcore solo, self-found wizard. Yes folks, it was CLOSE. Just how close? Let’s just say my wizard’s health dipped below the gargoyle’s chin.

That’s how close.

Had it not been for the fact that my wizard had just over 38k health at level 56 she would have died a very sad death in the sandy desert outside of Caldeum. A frozen, shielding, jailer champion pack of Lacuni Warriors along with some Lacuni Huntresses and a handful of Sand Wasps almost did her in.

Act II has always proven to be a fairly large step up in difficulty over Act I and thought my wizard was geared enough to handle it, but alas it appears that my wizard will need to spend some more time in Act I farming the Butcher in a desperate attempt to get some better gear.

I know, I could hit up the auction house and just blow through the remainder of Hell. I know I can. I just don’t want to. I want the satisfaction of overcoming the trials and tribulations of relying on finding ALL of my hardcore wizard’s gear. I may even attempt to do this in Inferno as well … well maybe, we’ll see.

In the meantime I did decide to switch up my wizard’s build and gear a little. Gone is the wand and triad off-hand, replaced with a two-handed staff with 4.7% life steal. Still using Electrocute – Forked Lightning and Blizzard but I switch out the rune on the latter to Stark Winter for the larger area coverage. Swapped out Ice Armor for Energy Armor – Energy Tap and replaced my beloved Wave of Force with Familiar – Sparkflint.

There was a (very) brief stint where I got the bug to attempt an Archon build, but without having +24% movement speed quickly killed that idea. I was finding myself spending a lot of time outside of Archon waiting on Critical Mass to pull it off of cool-down so I just decided to keep Diamond Skin – Enduring Skin and be on my merry way.

So far I’m still pretty happy with how things are going, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that my wizard will likely hit 60 before venturing into Act II Hell. At least not without a metric ton of luck in having well rolled rares drop for me that drastically increase her damage and survivability. It’s a real shame 1.0.8 won’t be bringing much in the way of itemization changes. Oh well … at least I like Act I and it’s different than endlessly running the same areas in Act III.

Always at Risk

If you’re at all familiar with who I am, then you know that I drive for a living; either in a van or bobtail box truck. Being a driver comes with the acceptance of the fact that you’re always at risk of being involved in a vehicle collision, be it minor or major. Even if you’re a careful defensive driver that is aware of your surroundings, there will always be a chance for the unexpected to occur.

Something that you can cannot control; something that could potentially take your life.

For me this occurred exactly one year ago, approximately around this time of day. But before going into the details (based from my recollections and the highway patrol collision report) let me go back to before the accident.

It was a beautiful and seemingly normal Friday. I had completed the morning half of the cart route and was returning back to the branch I work out of to unload and then eat lunch (a “footlong” Subway chicken sandwich that I picked up during my break). I was running slightly behind schedule as I had encountered an issue at a previous stop, but otherwise everything seemed normal, or as normal as you might expect it to be.

Shortly after merging onto westbound US-50 I was witness to a large tractor-trailer tail-gating a very small Volkswagon coupe or sedan when suddenly the driver of the Volkswagon had the balls to brake check the semi.

Quck note: this was not the cause of my collision, but it is somewhat related. Or at the very least gives some more flavor to my story.

Naturally the driver of the semi did not take too kindly to the brake check and began driving rather aggressively to attempt to keep up with the Volkswagon after speeding off following the brake check.

Folks. Don’t ever brake check a semi. It’s just stupid. REALLY STUPID. You won’t win that battle. So just don’t. EVER. Okay?

At this point traffic was rather light, so I didn’t think too much of what I witnessed other than noting that the drivers were both assholes. Major ones at that. I carried on as usual listening to whatever podcast I was listening to (amazingly I’ve completely forgotten what I was listening to).

Being that it was right before lunch-time traffic did increase after crossing over one major street and approaching another. Traffic became rather congested in the #4 and #5 lanes (of 5 lanes) with cars merging on to the freeway and other cars preparing to take the next exit. Prior to this I had moved into the #3 lane which was devoid of cars to avoid the congestion.

Being that I was driving a bobtail box truck I was on high alert for drivers that love to dart out in front of you, sometimes with a short indication with their turn signal, but usually without. As such I was focused on what was in my right-frontal cone that I did not expect to suddenly feel an impact near the rear-passenger side of the truck I was driving.

It came suddenly and without warning and with so much force that instantly the bobtail I was driving began to turn to the right after the initial force of impact moved the rear of the truck to my left.

My initial thought was that the semi (possibly the same that was brake checked earlier) I was passing in the #4 lane had struck my truck. The force of the impact certainly seemed to support that theory, but at that point it didn’t really matter. All I could think about was “WHAT. THE. FUCK?” as I held on trying to fruitlessly correct the massive momentum shift of my truck.

Considering that the truck was fully loaded (more so than usual, actually) there was nothing I could to prevent the truck from overturning on to the driver side and skid along the freeway for what seemed like an eternity. Now had the trajectory of my truck not changed following the initial impact this story would be far less scary and would be now over.

But nope. There’s more.

Like I said, my truck started to turn to the right after the impact and prior to overturning which changed the trajectory of the skid towards the shoulder of the freeway, which just happened to be a concrete barrier near the top of an overpass.

Now here’s where my recollection is a little hazy. I’m not sure if the truck had completely overturned prior to impacting the side barrier or after. What isn’t hazy is that had I been in one of the older cab-forward bobtails I would probably be dead following the impact with the side barrier. Instead I was driving one of the newer, more traditional bobtails with the engine in front of the cab.

That engine saved my life.

The force of the impact with the side barrier then caused the truck to “bounce” off and spin/rotate on the driver side, finally coming to a rest blocking the #4 and #5 lanes with the nose of the truck pointing towards the center divider after a third (much smaller) impact with a concrete sound-barrier wall on the overpass as it declined.

After coming to a complete stop and realizing that I had survived the multiple collision I took stock of my condition which fortunately was surprisingly good. No broken bones that I could tell at the time, just a massive burning sensation on my left thigh from when the truck overturned and my body impacted the interior of the driver side door.

Now at this point many people ask me as to how I was able to exit the truck considering that the truck had overturned on to its driver side. Well, that my friends is pretty easy: I just walked out where the windshield used to be. You see, the impact with the side barrier was so violent that it sheered much of the engine cabin apart which compromised the integrity of the cab causing the top of the cab to separate from the dash.

I almost wish I had pictures of the damage, but then again it’s probably better that I don’t. The damage was extensive and it’s a miracle that I walked away from the accident with abrasions and a large contusion to my left thigh caused by having my personal keys in my left pocket.

So what caused the accident? My initial theory of the semi proved to be incorrect as the only other vehicle directly involved in the accident was a red Toyota Camry that had struck the truck I was driving.

Yes folks. A CAMRY. A flipping Camry hit me with enough impact to move my truck.

WAIT. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT? HOW?

Yah, good question. It wasn’t until I got the highway patrol collision report that it became a little more logical to as how a small Toyota Camry could have caused the resulting collision.

According to the testimony of the driver of the Camry (note: I’m not going to go into specific details here for obvious reasons) there was a semi travelling in the #4 lane that came into her lane possibly impacting the front of her vehicle, causing her to lose control and then veer sharply across the #4 lane and impact the rear tires of my truck.

Due to the lack of information which could identify this semi beyond “a brown tractor-trailer” the collision was ruled a hit and run felony by an unidentified brown semi-truck.

Yup. Felony hit and run by an unidentified third party involved. Case closed. Awesome, right?

Anyhoo, I just thought I’d finally open up and share this story on the anniversary of my accident. Figured it might be a little therapeutic since I have been feeling slightly more anxious prior to today arriving.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering. Yup, still driving for a living (though usually in a van) but I have gotten behind the wheel of a bobtail numerous times since. There will always be risks in everything you do. I decided to control my anxiety, not let my anxiety control me.

(Though that was after a couple of visits with a psychiatrist shortly following the accident) 

Crawling Through the Nightmare

If you’re wondering if my venturing into the hardcore world was a fluke, it hasn’t. My HC wizard is still progressing along nicely (and slowly) through Nightmare having just downed the Butcher without too much difficulty. Granted I’m keeping the game set at MP0 as my wizard is playing exclusively solo and self-found.

Yes, that’s right. I’m staying away from the auction house other than to sell stuff to augment my gold income since I’m still working on opening up the third tab. This might be a strategy that will come to bite me in the butt later down the road, but I’m determined to not resort to farming the AH and trivialize my hardcore experience. I want to experience going through the game as it was intended.

Now granted, if I do lose my wizard at some point along the way, I may not be as idealistic as I am now and pick up some gear to speed up the process of catching back up to where I was, but for now I want to remain completely self-found.

So with this self-inflicted limitation you might be wondering what kind of build I’m using with my wizard. So far I’m pretty much sticking with Electrocute (Forked Lightning) and Blizzard as my main attacks. As for my hotkeys I’m using Wave of Force (Force Affinity) as my GET AWAY FROM ME button along with Diamond Skin (Crystal Shell) for when WoF is on cool-down, or I just need to be able to absorb some incoming damage.

I’m still using Ice Armor (Chilling Aura) and Magic Weapon (Force Weapon) but these two skills I may change out since I’m now in Act II Nightmare, aka where I originally started having massive problems during my first playthrough. I am gearing differently than I did back when I first played, so perhaps my run through Nightmare won’t be as … *ahem* nightmarish.