Diablo 3 Season 21 SSF Hardcore Guide

Diablo 3 Season 21 SSF Hardcore Guide

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This guide will discuss the best options for players who intend to play 100% solo and hardcore for Season 21. I will continue updating this guide as more information becomes available and throughout Season 21 as the SSF meta evolves.

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Solo Self Found (SSF)

Solo Self Found is a category of playing aRPGs where you play 100% solo at all times. In Diablo 3 this means NEVER joining a game with another player during the season. No powerleveling, no shared bounty runs, not even helping other players is allowed. The satisfaction from playing this style comes from the idea that ALL of the effort put into your character came from YOU and you alone. Your character?s power, items, and performance are entirely dependent on your game knowledge, level of preparation, dedication to the grind, and your in-game luck. If StarCraft 2 1v1 gameplay is like a 100 meter dash, then SSF Diablo 3, is like a marathon. Diablo 3 does not have an official SSF game mode, so it?s up to the individual player to keep themselves honest. The community keeps track of SSF leaderboards through their own spreadsheet. The community SSF season lasts usually 1 month from the start of the season, but you can continue to do SSF yourself the entire season. The community SSF Discord can be found here: https://discord.gg/A2yDvkc

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Builds ? Solo Paragon Grinding

The most important build for a SSF or 100% solo player is the paragon grinding build. Optimizing this build is important because you are going to play your paragon grinding build for hundreds of hours in a season. For season 21, there are 3 possible contenders for the top solo paragon grinding build.

It?s unknown exactly what will be the best build at this point ? we will have to wait for the official patch notes for Season 21. As of PTR 2.6.9, I rank the top 3 paragon builds as follows:

#1 ? DH GoD

#2 ? Monk PoJ

#3 ? Barb WW

Keep in mind that this can all change at a moment?s notice with new patch notes and changes.

Demon Hunter GoD Solo Paragon Grind

Ranking: #1

Performance: GR 107 in 3?4 minutes (Paragon 1500)

Total playtime with this build: 150 hours

D3 Planner:Fortress Ballista: https://www.d3planner.com/755487646Odyssey?s End: https://www.d3planner.com/295049633Valla?s Bequest: https://www.d3planner.com/450505010

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There are several variations of this build to consider. First, is the variant with the center piece of Squirt?s. Normally, Squirt?s needs to be protected by a strong shield to ensure we have as much uptime on the 100% damage buff as possible. When you?re starting to put this build together at the beginning of a season, using Fortress Ballista for it?s shield is a good idea. Fortress Ballista is much stronger than Molten Wildebeast legendary gem for shielding because it gains shields on each attack instead of waiting to refresh the shield on a 4 second no-damage period. It?s also easier to see how tall the shield is because you gain stacks on your buff bar, making high level play much better as you can always peek at your buff bar. Keeping Squirt?s up is critical for the speed of this build.

The second variant of this build will require you learn how to use Odyssey?s End and generate weave with Entangling Shot. This is actually exciting because it means that high level play will be rewarded with more damage than other paragon grinding setups. The basic idea here is to find a big group of enemies, spend a few seconds using Entangling Shot on all of them, then fire around 4?5 Hungering Arrows with weaving before casting 1 Entangling Shot to refresh the debuff. Using this technique is difficult to learn, so we don?t know right now how powerful a well-kitted SSF Demon Hunter will perform. You?ll use Flavor of Time because keeping Squirt?s up is nearly impossible for speeds without a shield.

Valla?s Bequest Variant: https://www.d3planner.com/450505010The third variant drops both of these ideas for Valla?s Bequest. Instead of using Fortress Ballista/Squirts, or Odyssey?s End, you?ll use Valla?s Bequest as a second hand crossbow. Currently it seems that Valla?s Bequest allows more primary shots to fire than intended ? it?s uncertain if this will be patched out in the near future, or if this behavior will be allowed to continue for Season 21.

In an ideal solo paragon farming setup, you want the enemies to die roughly at the same rate of your movement speed. Slowing your movement speed and trading out for more damage can be a good thing as it lets you get more complete kills and not have to backtrack. The GoD set actually gives you tons of movement speed, so you can afford to drop Strafe: Drifting Shadow for Icy Trail. If you?d like, you can swap back to the Drifting Shadow rune, but you will need to make other changes to ensure you can trigger Bane of the Trapped / Cull The Weak / Numbing Traps.

Vengeance Cooldown and Dawn

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GoD 4 Piece Optimization

A critical thing to understand about the GoD set is exactly how the 4 piece bonus works. The GoD 4 piece bonus essentially will fire your last used primary skill when using Strafe. But how often does it fire? It turns out this is VERY complicated, and optimizing this damage is extremely difficult. In order to explain how this works we need to break down a few concepts.

Internal Cooldown: The GoD 4 piece set bonus has an internal cooldown of 9 frames (as determined by the Diablo 3 Server, not your Diablo 3 client). What this means is that you can fire a primary from Strafe at an absolute maximum of once every 9 frames.

Scheduling: The GoD 4 piece set bonus will only fire additional primary shots if the previous shot hits the target. This means you could fire a primary from Strafe, but the primary doesn?t reach the target until 10 frames later, causing you to miss or skip a primary. In addition, it?s important to note that the Diablo 3 Server only checks for updates on this scheduling once every 30 milliseconds.

Attacks Per Second: This is the attacks per second listed on your character detail pane in game. The number of attacks per second matter because they must align with the internal cooldown as best as possible. This alignment, along with the itemization that goes along with it, is similar to a backpack problem (which is why GoD 4 piece optimization is feel so complicated).

Breakpoints: Taking the number of attacks per second and dividing by the number of frames for the internal cooldown gives us a breakpoint. The breakpoint determines the maximum amount of primaries we can fire assuming we have perfect scheduling.

Frames Per Action (FPA): This is the number of frames it takes for an action to take place, in this case, we?re talking about the proc of generating an Primary from casting Strafe.

Filler (Valla?s Bequest / Rocket Storm / Buriza): Some abilities or items will fire additional projectiles, and these projectiles can actually trigger the 4 piece set bonus, even if you missed the 9 frame window due to unfortunate scheduling. In other words, if you fire a primary from Strafe and it doesn?t reach the target until 10 frames later, but on frame 11 an additional filler projectile hits any target, you?ll get an additional primary when normally you wouldn?t. For this reason, even if you have a very good breakpoint, it can be optimal to use a filler to trigger additional primary shots that may otherwise be missed. It?s important to note that not all fillers are created equal and they work differently. Valla?s and Buriza only works when you have 2 or more targets to hit, and Rocket Storm?s rune can work inconsistently (but works on single targets, like the Rift Guardian). In practice, a filler will never perfectly replace perfect scheduling, but will give you coverage for most of your missed primaries due to imperfect scheduling.

The next question is, ?What are the breakpoints and which one should I use??

These are the currently known breakpoints:

Currently here?s what I recommend:

2.15 Breakpoint ? The best breakpoint I think is 2.15 with a hand crossbow (Fortress Ballista + Squirts + Ninth Ciri Satchel). Not only does this breakpoint do 7 FPA but also it allows you to optimally use Speed Pylons. Under this breakpoint, speed pylons do around 20% more damage and since you can use them, you get the movement speed you?d otherwise miss. For solo play with this breakpoint, you should use a 1 hand crossbow + quiver. This is quite nice because you can roll a 20% or primal Ninth Ciri Satchel, whereas at other breakpoints you may need to roll 19% attack speed (making a primal or well rolled Ninth Ciri Satchel unviable).

It?s important to note that every breakpoint has quirks with how it interacts with the speed pylon, *except* the 2.15 breakpoint.

Why Not Dual Wield?

Duel Wielding *is* better for group XP metas due to the increased Crit Damage and from group buffs, however for solo you end up getting more stats from wearing a quiver. Your weapon stats when dual wielding are also halfed, so you don?t benefit nearly as much from rerolls on weapons, unless you are going for cooldown reduction or area damage. Since we can already fit area damage in for a hand crossbow, it?s a waste of a reroll slot that could be better used on a quiver. All that said, the quiver (Ninth Ciri Satchel) is the toughest item to roll in the build, so if you don?t get a good one, you could benefit early on from Dual Wielding.

Monk PoJ Solo Paragon Grind

Ranking: #2 (PTR 2.6.9)

Performance (PTR 2.6.9): GR 109 in 3?4 minutes (Paragon 3000)

Total playtime with this build: ~300 hours

D3 Planner: https://www.d3planner.com/416704393

The Monk PoJ solo paragon build is centered around 3 pieces, Squirt?s, the PoJ set, and Echoing Fury. You need to maintain Squirt?s uptime for the 100% damage bonus, you need to maintain Echoing Fury?s bonus for stacking Tempest Rush: Flurry stacks as fast as possible and movement speed, and you need to maintain Tempest Rush at all times to get the bonuses from PoJ. So, even though the build itself may look simple to run, running it very quickly does take some skill.

Tips for PoJ Paragon Grinding

  • Bind your spacebar to force move. When you need to use the Flurry explosion from Tempest Rush, do not let go of right click. Continue holding right click, and simply hit spacebar to trigger Flurry. This allows you to very precisely trigger the Flurry explosion without losing your Tempest Rush bonuses, and is also very fast (usually only a couple of frames).
  • Be mindful that any interaction drops your Flurry stacks. Clicking on a pylon, opening doors, using dashing strike, getting teleported by the Wormhole affix all drop Flurry stacks.
  • There is a bug where moving at high speeds (such as using a speed pylon) and quickly turning your character can drop your Flurry stacks. For this reason you may want to skip speed pylons, but if you?re running Nemesis, it?s usually better to take them and learn how to avoid the bug by taking larger turns.
  • When killing the Rift Guardian you will typically freeze the Rift Guardian in place for the first 10 seconds or so. During this time, build your Flurry stacks. As soon as you see the Rift Guardian move (or flinch), go ahead and use your stacks. This way the Rift Guardian doesn?t hit you with a powerful attack, causing you to drop all of your Squirt?s stacks.
  • If you face an elite pack with Molten, Fire Chains, or other dangerous affixes that threaten to drop your Squirt?s stacks, then peel the elites off one-by-one using the Won Khim triggered Cyclone Strike instead of jumping in the middle of the pack.
  • If you lose your Squirt?s stacks on an elite pack, then don?t run away to wait for Molten Wildebeast?s shield to come back. Simply do tight circles on the elite, or if the elite is particularly troublesome, skip it altogether. Avoid backtracking!

Barbarian Whirlrend Solo Paragon Grind

Rank: #3

Performance: GR 109 in 5?6 minutes (Paragon 3000)

Total playtime with this build: ~100 hours

D3 Planner: https://www.d3planner.com/659318139

The Barbarian Whirlrend Solo build is centered around the Wrath of The Wastes Set, Echoing Fury, and the supporting items for the build. Unfortunately, the season 20 theme allowed the Barbarian to be one of the strongest solo paragon grind builds last season, so this season it loses Focus and Restraint and has to make other compromises. That said, it is still a very strong solo build for precisely the same reasons that Monk PoJ?s build is ? it kills fast without slowing down, it is able to target damage on elite packs to kill them quickly, and it benefits from movement speed from Echoing Fury. It is a little easier to play than the Monk and Demon Hunter variants, because it uses Flavor of Time instead of Squirt?s. Unfortunately, the build requires trigger Rend on enemies by being right on top of them without any freezing mechanics, making Squirt?s not too viable.

Tips for Barbarian Whirlrend Grinding

  • Mash Furious Charge and Sprint together to ensure you have 100% uptime on both of these speed buffs.
  • Don?t backtrack! Keep moving forward and only stop for elite packs. If you aren?t killing enemies at the same speed that you are moving, then consider lowing the GR 1 or 2 levels.

Builds ? Torment 16 and Bounties

Demon Hunter GoD Shatter Shot t16

Rank: #1

Performance: t16 rift in 1?1.5 minutes

Total playtime with this build: ~2 hours

D3 Planner: https://www.d3planner.com/936749421

The Demon Hunter GoD Shatter Shot t16 build is a variant on the Paragon Grinding version of the same build. It uses the GoD set, but instead trades out significant amounts of damage for speed. You may find yourself able to trade more and more damage items away as you gain higher and higher paragon.

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Seson 21 SSF Hardcore Leveling Choice ? Demon Hunter

I believe the Demon Hunter is the strongest leveling choice for Season 21 (SSF/Hardcore) for a few reasons:

  1. It gets access to Wraps of Clarity at a low level, allowing 50% damage reduction from level 13 and on.
  2. Haedrig?s Gift for Season 21 for the Demon Hunter is the Shadow Impale set, an extremely strong early season set which will let you progress quickly.
  3. The new GoD set is the #1 fastest t16 and bounty set in the game as of PTR 2.6.9 ? building this set early in the season will not only be great for paragon grinding, but will give you easy access keys for GRs, and allow you to get great loot out of the gate.
  4. Demon Hunter?s main stat is Dexterity, which is shared with Monk, the other best solo paragon grinding class. This means you can share more loot with your own Monk (in the event that Monk paragon grinding is stronger later on in the season).

Leveling Tips

  • Progression is limited by Damage Reduction: It?s important to note the huge difference between Hardcore and Softcore early progression. While Softcore progression is mostly limited by damage (and it?s easy to build damage early on), Hardcore progression is gated on Damage Reduction. You may be stuck farming a lower Torment level in Hardcore until the appropriate Damage Reduction item drops (2 Unity + Follower Relic / Band of Might / Elusive Ring / Wraps of Clarity / etc?). Most early Hardcore deaths can be attributed to the fact that players new to Hardcore mode push too early too fast and end up wiping their character.
  • Last Known Good Equipment: Keep at least one backup copy of your equipment in your stash at all times. Sometimes crazy things can happen. Save yourself lots of pain by keeping your last known good equipment. Got an upgraded weapon? Save the last one you had.
  • Gem of Ease x2: Get 2 copies of Gem of Ease to level 25 quickly. If you need to level another character, this can turn a 3 hour grind into a 20 minute walk in the park.
  • Plan Multiple Builds: Don?t just look for gear for *one* build. Doing that, especially early on, is limiting your loot options. You can quickly build multiple sets and multiple options. Even if you ultimately want to build for your endgame build, a lucky drop could push a different build much higher for a time, allowing you to quickly farm Torment 16 or higher while you?re waiting for your ultimate build equipment to show up.

Demon Hunter Solo Hardcore Quickstart Reference

If you?d like to start Season 21 with the Demon Hunter, this guide is designed to be opened on your second monitor while you play the opening night. You may want to copy and paste this Quickstart Reference to your own local notepad.

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Quickstart Checklist

  2. Create a seasonal character first. The purpose of this is to make sure the season is LIVE before doing the challenge rift. You may need to restart your game client if the season is not appearing for you.
  3. Do the challenge rift!
  4. Start adventure mode on normal
  5. Equip your pet and wings
  6. Get your follower?s weapon (Scoundral), Hire the Templar
  7. Open challenge rift bag, upgrade blacksmith / mystic
  8. Do Boss Bounties (Do 2-4) ? Do short travel bosses, like Zoltan Kulle, Skeleton King, Asmodan, Maghda
  9. Get Kanai?s cube ? On the way, use caltrops / entangling shot to dodge mobs, don?t worry too much about killing stuff
  10. Do rare item upgrading- Get a level 70 dagger, upgrade it for Greenstone?s Fan or Kalai?s Pointe (Greenstone?s Fan is preferred)
  12. Bloodshard gambling
  13. High Level Rare Craft, Level 70?2H Bow (Create another class to make this item) OR 1H Mace
  14. Begin rifting. While waiting for the rift to close, do Fields of Misery for Massacre Bonus xp. Make a new game and repeat.

Priority Order for Bloodshard Gambling

  • Bracer / Wraps of Clarity
  • Pants / Pox Faulds
  • Helm / Leoric?s Crown
  • Belt / Hellcat Waistguard (Can also roll Vigilante Belt / Goldwrap, but these aren?t as useful)

High Level Rare Craft Tips

  • Want a crowd control stat
  • Reroll the non-crowd control stat at Mystic
  • Don?t reroll too much on one item. Re-craft if you hit 3 rerolls without a reduced level requirement stat
  • Go for Reduced Level Requirement by 20?30 (This avoids the increased xp curve at level 50)
  • Don?t try to min-max at Reduced Level Requirement 30. You?ll need those mats for other things

Suggested Level 20 Loadout

  • Chakram ? twin
  • Preparation
  • Vault / Tactical
  • Companion
  • Hungering Arrow / More Hatred
  • Impale or Fan of Knives

Other Tips

  • Borns + Cain?s Set is good for leveling, craft it you can
  • Optional: Shrine Gloves from Act 2 bounty cache at level 12
  • Optional: At level 60, consider cubing one additional item if you have the mats / Death?s Breath
  • You may decide to spend your bloodshards from rifts if you?re having bad luck and don?t have a good item yet. In that case, I?d suggest using the below list when considering blood shard gambling at higher levels.
  • Item Pools ? https://www.d3planner.com/game/66666/kadala

Items to look for when leveling


  • Valla?s Bequest (level 30)
  • K?mar Tenclip (level 34)
  • Balefire Caster (level 31)


  • Hellcat Waistguard (level 15)


  • Aquila Cuirass (level 23)
  • Cindercoat (level 34)
  • Beckon Sail (level 34)
  • Blackfeather (level 34)


  • Magefist (level 34)
  • St. Andrew?s Gage (level 34)


  • Leoric?s Crown (level 5)


  • Pox Faulds (level 11)


  • Spines of Seething Hatred (level 31)
  • Ninth Cirri Satchel (level 34)
  • Holy Point Shot (level 31)
  • Emimei?s Duffel (level 34)


  • Leoric?s Signet (level 15)
  • Broken Promises (level 31)
  • Nagelring (level 40)
  • Rechel?s Ring of Larceny (level 34)


  • Mantle of Channeling (level 34)

Level 70+ Reference

  1. Once level 70, start doing the season journey and making progress towards Haedrig?s Gift. At this point you will want to start looking for end game equipment. If you?re not sure what you want to keep, stash everything and work it out later.
  2. Upgrade rares into legendaries. If you have the mats, craft a few. You can use Kadala?s item pools to help decide what you want to upgrade: https://www.d3planner.com/game/66666/kadala
  3. If you?re lucky enough to have Captain Crimson?s set or Aughild?s Set plans at this point, consider crafting these right away. Even better if you manage to pick up RORG from your first Act 1 Bounty Cache.

Suggested Level 70 Loadout

Prioritize your highest damage bonus attacks based on the legendaries you have so far, and dump all your other skills into toughness and mobility.

  • Shadow Power : Gloom
  • Vengeance : Dark Heart
  • Vault : Tumble
  • Preparation : Battle Scars
  • Generator
  • Spender
  • Tactical Advantage
  • Awareness
  • Perfectionist
  • Hot Pursuit

Level 70+ Next Steps

  1. Do a full set of Act 1?5 bounties. You?ll need the mats in order to extract legendary powers into the cube. You can also get Gloves of Worship or Illusory Boots right away from Act 2, which can be quite good on hardcore. You might already have some from leveling that are worth cubing right away, and using a better stat item on your character (like Wraps of Clarity).
  2. Continue rifting and upping the difficulty level slowly as you get more and more suvivability. Your damage will outpace your survivability, so don?t ramp things up too fast. Working towards maxed diamonds in your gear can help with early survivability. An early Elusive Ring / Clarity Wraps / Unity combo can be game changing.
  3. Finish Season Journey Chapter?s 1?4
  4. Safely push towards solo GR 70 for Primal unlock

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