Snowbelle Part Five: Glass Cannon
Snowbelle's journey was about to take her into the finishing stages of Adventure Mode. The current version of Diablo 3 only goes up to Torment XVI difficulty and she was getting very close to reaching that mark. My personal goals for her character were to complete a Greater Rift with a difficulty rating of 70 without dying, and then to collect a full set of bounties on the highest difficulty level. This would unlock the chance for Primal Ancient items to appear, and I'd also like to see at least one of those items show up for sheer sake of novelty. None of the online materials that I'd found discussed how frequently they appeared, and I only picked up a general sense that they were quite rare. One unconfirmed source said that they had 1 in 500 odds to appear when a legendary item was rolled, in contrast to the 1 in 10 odds for a legendary item to pop up as Ancient. In any case, I'd have to play the game and find out for myself.
I had made several upgrades to Snowbelle's gear at the end of the last section, finding an Ancient version of her Unstable Scepter and finally completing the Focus/Retraint set of rings for their 100% damage bonus. I decided to re-run the same Rift 60 that Snowbelle had completed earlier as a way of testing out this new equipment. Even though her damage was notably higher now, Snowbelle ended up having a slower rift completion time by about a full minute, with this serving as a good example of how the rifts can vary in difficulty. Sometimes the monsters inside can be a tougher draw than other times, and having good or bad luck with the Pylons inside can similarly shift around the completion time in either direction. The main thing that I was interested in seeing was the new damage output from Frozen Orb, and in this respect the results did not disappoint me. Captured in the screenshot above was a critical hit that landed for 446 billion damage (!) which was easily enough to one-shot the elite opponent. That would be more than enough damage to carry Snowbelle through her upcoming challenges. Her toolbar was getting awfully crowded with all of her stacking bonuses too; from left to right, they were: the Triumvirate stacks, Bane of the Powerful's elite damage bonus, Slow Time's reduced damage, Nephalem Glory, Focus, Retraint, and finally the cooldown on the Haunt of Vaxo shadow clones.
Snowbelle was running low on Horadric Cache crafting materials, and as a result I had her run a set of bounties at the next difficulty level of Torment XIV. Weaker normal monsters had about 10 billion HP on this level and stronger ones had about 50 billion health, all of which remained one-shot territory for Frozen Orb so long as Snowbelle could get her Slow Time field down first. I included a screenshot taken from the Royal Quarters area of Act One above, where the biggest danger came in the form of the arrows fired by the skeleton archers. I've mentioned before that those things would clump up in the Slow Time zones and could be difficult to see with so much action taking place. For example, can you easily see the arrow being fired on the left side of that screenshot? It can be tough to notice everything when there are two dozen monsters on the screen at a time and Frozen Orb ice particles are flying around everywhere. Snowbelle's offensive output continued to be amazing but I was having more and more trouble with her survivability. Just one of those random arrows would take out about a third of her health. Her Unstable Anomaly passive skill (which kept her alive if she hit zero HP and then went on a 60 second cooldown) started to get triggered more and more often. This was an inherently risky way to play a character like her.
An especially difficult challenge came from this particular bounty that asked Snowbelle to clear a series of cursed shrines. One piece of Snowbelle's equipment that I haven't mentioned before was the item in the bracers slot, the legendary item known as the Nemesis Bracers. Its unique property causes each shrine or pylon to spawn an enemy champion. Normally this is a good thing, as it creates many additional elite opponents in the Greater Rifts who can be defeated and then used to help fill up the Rift Guardian meter. However, this same property made it significantly more difficult to finish the cursed shrines challenge, as normal monsters already spawn when clicking on these shrines and the Nemesis Bracers causes an elite opponent with its own mob to show up at the same time. A dozen enemies popping out of thin air on top of your character isn't the easiest thing to deal with. The long story short is that Snowbelle's Unstable Anomaly was triggered by one of these enemy champion groups, I did not make the safe play and return back to town to wait out the 60 second cooldown, and then she was killed afterwards in a fight against another champion. Careless play on my part to be sure but the margin for error was getting more and more narrow at these difficulty levels. For example, if Snowbelle was hit by any of those detonating Molten explosions, she would lose her whole health bar instantly. Although Snowbelle didn't take very many hits thanks to her package of crowd control abilities, she was a fragile customer by this point.
I was trying to brainstorm different ways to solve this vulnerability and thought that I might have found an option when this off-hand source dropped. The Orb of Infinite Depth caused each use of Explosive Blast to increase total damage by 9% and damage reduction by 20% for the next 6 seconds, stacking up to four times in total. That sounded fantastic: Explosive Blast had been one of the skills that I originally planned to be a part of Snowbelle's build, and it was also one of the skills to get the giant 8500% damage bonus from the Delsere's Magnum Opus set that she was wearing. Although it would hurt to lose the 19% extra Cold damage on the Winter Flurry item, everything else on the Orb of Infinite Depth was actually a bit better from a stats perspective. I switched over to this new item and put Explosive Blast back onto the skills bar, taking out Energy Armor in the process. Time to test out this new skill setup.
Long story short: it was a total disaster. My attempts to use Explosive Blast kept getting Snowbelle killed (or more precisely reduced to zero HP), as her Unstable Anamoly repeatedly triggered when I tried to use Explosive Blast. The big problem with the skill was its short range, as 18 yards wasn't very much and forced Snowbelle to put herself in great danger to tag an enemy with it. I also continued to find Explosive Blast's 6 second cooldown to be unwieldy and awkward to use in practice. It was too long to be used again immediately while also being too short to function as an "ultimate" kind of attack in League of Legends terms. I didn't like the 1.5 second delay between casting and explosion either, and Snowbelle's lack of cooldown reduction on this build meant that it was impossible to maintain more than one stack via the Orb of Infinite Depth. I think that this skill needed the Chain Reaction rune to be effective; Chain Reaction is the standard rune that basically everyone uses for Explosive Blast, which causes it to detonate three times in succession. That would make it vastly easier to get the Orb of Infinite Depth stacks going, but it was a Fire-based type of damage and therefore not permitted for Snowbelle. I think that this was the ideal path going forward for Snowbelle, and sadly I just couldn't make it work. Snowbelle was a long-range caster who needed to maintain her distance, not someone who would get up close for Explosive Blast use.
I did make one small change in Snowbelle's skills, replacing Explosive Blast not with the former Energy Armor but instead adopting Ice Armor with the Crystallize rune. The benefit of the Ice Armor itself was almost nonexistent, granting a tiny damage reduction property for melee attackers and chilling them on hit. However, the Crystalline rune added an additional property whereby melee attacks that hit would increase Snowbelle's Armor rating by 20% for the next 30 seconds, and it could stack up to three times in total. This was in contrast to Energy Armor which increased Armor by 35% but did not stack at all. The logic was that Ice Armor would be weaker in a general sense but would provide more benefit when Snowbelle really needed it. Snowbelle was at a point where she didn't need the +20 maximum Arcane Power from the Energy Tap rune of Energy Armor any more, and this seemed like a good time to make a switch. With that said though, I'm looking at the runes for Energy Armor as I type this and there are some other Energy Armor runes (Force Armor and Prismatic Armor) that seem to be much stronger than anything provided by Ice Armor. I need to do some more testing with these options to find out which is the best.
In between hunting for bounties, I was continuing to have Snowbelle take on the challenge of more difficult Greater Rifts. She completed Rift 62 with 8:42 remaining and then had no trouble hopping up two levels and finishing Rift 64 with 8:15 left on the clock. It was clear that she was nowhere close to her limits thus far, and her build was very comfortable here on Rift 65 = Torment XIV difficulty. I enjoyed this particular screenshot from Rift 67 since there was so much action taking place simultaneously. Snowbelle had just started the rift and immediately ran into an intersection of three corridors, with monsters pouring out of all of them at once. Slow Time was worth its weight in gold here, stunning enemies on multiple sides and buying a few critical seconds for Snowbelle to down threats in the other directions before returning to deal with the new opponents. This was Diablo at its best, a wild fight against overwhelming enemy forces converging from all sides.
I wanted to finish up with Snowbelle's Torment XIV bounties before going after the big challenge of Greater Rift 70. I almost always run the bounties starting with Act One and finishing with Act Five, and that last expansion-only area served up Malthael as an opponent. I figured that this would be a pretty good test for Snowbelle and decided to pursue it. This boss fight turned out to be an exceeding cheap setup; Snowbelle had tons of damage, more than enough to cut through his huge lifebar, and it only took about 20 seconds to trigger the cut scene that launches the second half of the battle. However, Malthael came out of the cut scene by charging directly at Snowbelle and I had about 0.3 seconds to react to that. He hit Snowbelle and one-shotted her life globe, instantly triggering Unstable Anamoly. Great, that was totally fair. I kept tossing out Frozen Orbs and managed to down Malthael in about ten more seconds, killing him before he could get off one of his big attacks. Hooray, battle won! Then Malthael's attack hit Snowbelle after he was already dead and I was left staring at the death screen:
Oh come on, that wasn't remotely fair! You can read the text printout on the left side of the screen from top to bottom, I clearly defeated the boss first followed by Snowbelle falling afterwards. And this wasn't some kind of split-second thing either, Snowbelle had been watching Malthael's elaborate death sequence when her own lifebar suddenly dropped to zero. My Potion was off cooldown and I didn't use it because I mistakenly thought that defeating the boss meant that the fight was over. What a cheap shot from the game. Ambushed out of a cut scene with no time to react and then killed after the boss was already dead. See, this is why I'm not interested in trying Hardcore mode for Diablo 3. There are too many moments like this where a bad Internet connection or something ridiculous in the gameplay can off your character for good. I'd already suffered two other deaths on the part of Snowbelle because my Internet had decided to freeze, just for a few seconds, and that was enough for her to bite it. Hardcore mode demands perfection from the player and it's not something that I can achieve at the moment with my setup.
Despite that unpleasantness, Snowbelle had proven that she was up to the task of clearing Greater Rift 70 by methodically collecting all of the bounties on Torment XIV. She had already cleared Rift 69 (needed to unlock Rift 70) in just over half the time required, finishing with 7:09 remaining out of the 15 minute time limit. I paid to empower the rift because hey, why not, and got down to business.
The first floor of Rift 70 spawned using one of the outdoor tilesets, I think it might have been the Shrouded Moors but I'm not exactly sure. This was a pretty good draw because there was plenty of space to maneuver Snowbelle and the Slow Time fields were easily visible against the grayish-brown background. (This might sound trivial and it's not - the Slow Time fields are viritually invisible in some of the tilesets.) The screenshot above captures standard procedure for Snowbelle, advancing forward behind a wave of Slow Time bubbles flinging icy death in her wake. You can actually see the bodies clumped up against the edge of each previous Slow Time area where the monsters ran into the stun and were then ruthlessly eliminated. The enemy draw seemed to be different types of Fallen along with some of the disappearing snakes from Act Two, pretty easy opponents for the most part. I did get some use out of Ice Armor when some of the frog-like monsters shot out their tongues at long range and hit Snowbelle from outside the stun zone of Slow Time. So far, so good.
The second floor of the rift had the tileset from the Bastion's Keep basement levels. I've found this to be somewhere in the middle in terms of the luck of the draw, with the small segmented areas useful in terms of forcing monsters into small chokepoints but also potentially dangerous due to the need to turn around blind corners sometimes. I had gotten into the habit of dropping a Slow Time field every single time that Snowbelle opened a door, protecting against the possibility of a big mob right on the other side. There were more dangers here in the form of the fat monsters from Act One that explode and release snakes upon death, with one hit from their death explosions dealing enough damage to one-shot Snowbelle. Or she could get clobbered by one of the huge mace-wielding giants, which likely had enough damage to kill Snowbelle via a normal attack. At least this area didn't have too much in the way of ranged opponents. Snowbelle's Unstable Anamoly was triggered once and I played things very carefully until it came back off cooldown. I've started to treat that passive skill much like having your Flash on cooldown in League of Legends, with the need to stay out of anything that looks like it might be dangerous.
The meter for the Greater Rift Guardian was nearly full by the time that Snowbelle reached the third floor of the rift. This floor had drawn one of the sandy outdoor areas from Act Two and I didn't get to see very much of it because Snowbelle had less than 10% of the rift left to complete. It was already obvious that time wasn't going to be a factor here, I simply needed to avoid dying. When the meter filled up completely, the "Sand Shaper" showed up as the Rift Guardian, a reskinned version of Zoltun Kulle. He immediately floated himself into the edge of a Slow Time field and Snowbelle used this opportunity to unload on him while he was stunned. Snowbelle landed multiple different 300+ billion damage Frozen Orbs in succession, and the power of those icy balls cut right through Kulle's 1.8 trillion HP lifebar. He was dead before the stun wore off and Snowbelle was the victor.
Greater Rift 70 completed with no deaths and seven minutes of time to spare. It was a great triumph and the culmination of Snowbelle's journey as a character. This was what I had been working towards for all of this time, and everything from this point forward would serve as a bonus. She had unlocked the chance for Primal Ancient items to appear for all future characters on my account (not that the game made any mention of this) and successfully cleared the hurdle that Spyderman had been unable to reach. Now it was time to see how much further I could push Snowbelle without engaging in endless tedious grinding. If she could complete Rift 70 with plenty of time to spare, could she complete Rift 75? How about Rift 80, or Rift 90? I wanted to keep pushing things and see how much further she could go.
The highest rift that Snowbelle could try was Rift 72 and therefore that's what she engaged in next. This rift served up an Illusionist elite group almost immediately after coming down the stairs, leading to this awesome screenshot with a bunch of ghostly monsters clustered together. Even the illusionary elites spawned with about 30 billion HP at this point, with the actual elites coming in around 500 billion health. Snowbelle managed to complete this rift with 6:00 to spare but it was a tough slog at times, the overall rift draw not as friendly as the one that I'd had on Rift 70. There were simply too many things that could deal horrific damage to Snowbelle, with her reaching the point where seemingly everything had the ability to kill or nearly kill her in one blow.
Or take this image from the beginning of Rift 74, which she also managed to complete with a shorter 4:41 left on the clock. For starters, that snowy backdrop made it much harder to see the Slow Time zones, especially when the screen was packed full of monsters like this. Without the stunning effect from Slow Time I'm not sure how she would have dealt with these opponents. Beyond that, however, the damage from the enemy attacks was simply becoming too strong for Snowbelle. A single charge from one of those Act One bull-like monsters would take out her entire lifebar, and they were hard to spot stomping the ground when there were two dozen other critters on the screen. Ranged attacks of all kinds were an ever-present danger due to the way that they clustered together in the Slow Time areas. Walking through the poison field left behind when one of the ghoul enemies died could also kill Snowbelle almost instantly. Heck, a fire trap or one of the exploding plants in the Dahlgur Oasis was enough to kill her in one shot! Here's the dumbest way that Snowbelle died: she killed an elite with the Electrify affix, and the Charged Bolts that it left behind were grouped up together thanks to Slow Time. Snowbelle walked into those bolts and went from 100 to 0 in an instant. It was impossible to track every single threat at all times, and increasingly it felt like any one threat landing was enough to kill her. I spent a lot of time in town waiting out those Unstable Anomaly cooldowns - glass cannon indeed.
With Horadric Cache crafting materials running low, it was time to run another set of bounties once more. Snowbelle saw no reason for further hesitation since she was already knocking on the door of Greater Rift 75, and I dialed up the difficulty to its maximum possible setting of Torment XVI. The game doesn't go any higher in the current build of Diablo 3, and I was heartened by the image of the female Wizard holding aloft a glowing orb on the difficulty selection screen. From this point on, the monsters couldn't get any harder outside of the Greater Rifts. Just as the monsters stopped leveling up alongside Snowbelle when she reached level 70, now the difficulty level couldn't be increased any further and the enemies had been capped out. The one place where they could keep getting stronger was in the Greater Rifts, which go on endlessly forever. (The max level cleared out by a solo character is around Rift 130 and the highest done by a team of four is around Rift 150. Snowbelle had no chance of getting anywhere close to those numbers because I had zero intention of doing the endless grinding needed to reach them.)
My traditional first boss to see when starting a new difficulty is Leoric. He's a common bounty to appear in Act One and that's the place where I almost always start hunting for bounties, making this a natural connection. Here on the maximum Torment XVI difficulty he had just over 6 trillion HP, and the 13 digit lifebar was fully as ridiculous as it sounds. I still can't understand why Diablo 3 uses such absurdly high numbers, much higher than a human mind can grasp easily. Anyway, this was my test of how Snowbelle would be able to handle the massive life totals of the bosses on Torment XVI, and she passed the test with flying colors. Frozen Orbs dealt 300-400 billion damage when they went critical, which was about half the time now, and this meant that Leoric only needed about two dozen Orbs to be defeated. Conversely, Snowbelle would see her whole health globe drained to nothing in a single blow from the boss, which meant that she essentially could take two hits total with her Unstable Anomaly passive. I never let Leoric get anywhere close to her and the whole fight took about 30 seconds of real world time. The whole thing was surprisingly easy. Snowbelle certainly had enough damage to survive here on the maximum difficulty, it was simply a matter of whether she had enough survivability.
One thing that I was keeping an eye out for was the appearance of a Primal Ancient item. I thought that it would be fun to find at least one of these items, which are essentially Ancient items that roll with perfect stats, the maximum possible in every category. Snowbelle had already found dozens and dozens of legendary items since finishing Rift 70, including close to a score of Ancient legendary items, with no luck thus far. She came across the Gelatinous Spawn version of a Treasure Goblin in a Nephalem Rift, and fortunately the creatures ran themselves into a dead end corridor where they could be easily disposed. Although Snowbelle killed all of them and picked up a king's ransom in terms of item drops, she still failed to find any Primal Ancient items. One nice thing about playing on Torment XVI difficulty was the ease of finding some of the crafting materials that were rare on the lower difficulties. Three Death's Breath items were guaranteed to appear from every elite opponent, with four sometimes dropping, and legendary items had become so commonplace that Forgotten Souls were easy to acquire. It was only the Primary Ancient items that continued to elude Snowbelle.
As Snowbelle continued to spend more time on Torment XVI difficulty, it became increasingly apparent that she had more than enough damage to deal with the monster healthbars. What Snowbelle truly needed was more survivability, something to keep her from keeling over and triggering her Unstable Anomaly every time that she took a hit. I looked over her skills list again, and realized that there was a better option when it came to her magical armor:
The Energy Armor skill with the Force Armor rune increased her Armor by 35%, better than what Ice Armor provided until it picked up additional stacks, and it would also reduce incoming attacks that dealt more than 35% of Snowbelle's total health down to 35% of her health. This was absolutely enormous for her character setup, the exact thing that Snowbelle needed to stop taking critical damage over and over again, and I was kicking myself for not seeing this as an option sooner. (I had overlooked the skill because of the decrease to maximum Arcane Power, thinking that this made it a non-starter, but Snowbelle had more than enough Arcane Power regeneration coming in from the rest of her item setup by this point.) Switching over to Energy Armor made an immediate difference, with enemy blows now largely capped at about a third of her total health. Getting three-shotted was a lot better than getting one-shotted!
The screenshot above also demonstrated what Snowbelle's Unstable Anomaly passive looked like in action. That little screaming face above the interface was the symbol that it had been triggered and gone on its 60 second cooldown before it would be active again. Unstable Anomaly kept Snowbelle from dying for a few seconds when she hit zero health, however it did not restore any of her lifebar and I found that I had to be quick to hit the Potion key or Snowbelle would simple die again (for real this time) since she had no HP remaining. I found this skill to be weaker than Spyderman's Spirit Vessel passive, the Witch Doctor version of the same death-defying skill. Every class gets some version of this same setup, and the Wizard rendition felt less useful overall.
The other change that I made was to swap out the Iceblink legendary gem for this new option named Moratorium. This legendary gem had another form of damage reduction: 35% of all damage taken would become a damage-over-time effect and apply over the course of the next few seconds. The initial length of time was 3 seconds and it went up by 0.1 seconds for each additional gem rank, thus the 5.5 seconds listed here at Rank 25. The secondary bonus of the gem gained at Rank 25 was to add a 20% chance to clear all staggered damage on any kill, something that would trigger constantly against large mobs. As sad as it was to give up Iceblink from a flavor perspective, Moratorium was the better option for Snowbelle. Staggering incoming damage for a few seconds meant a much lower chance to be instantly killed, granting me time as a player to react and drink a portion or Teleport away to safety. Anyone who's played competitive Multiplayer games knows that burst damage is better than damage over time, and this was a way to convert incoming monster attacks from the former into the latter.
The combination of Energy Armor and Moratorium essentially made Torment XVI difficulty playable for Snowbelle. These equipment changes allowed her to take at least a few hits without immediately crumbling to the floor, even if Snowbelle still remained extremely fragile overall. She could now make it through an act's worth of bounties in Adventure Mode without having to return to town a dozen times while waiting out Unstable Anomaly cooldowns. That's not to say that things were easy, however. My next big goal was to clear Greater Rift 75 without dying, and that task proved to be quite difficult. Snowbelle died four different times (really died, not just triggered Unstable Anomaly) in the course of trying to achieve this. There were still so many different ways that she could be defeated in a heartbeat and it was hard to spot them all in time and react accordingly. Take the screenshot above, for example. This Electrified elite opponent produced a whole bunch of Charged Bolts, and the Slow Time fields caused them to clump up together. If Snowbelle were to walk through any of those pockets of lightning she would instantly die, and it was really tough to keep track of them during a chaotic fight. Melee opponents weren't much trouble for Snowbelle but anything ranged was a true problem.
Here's another good example of how crazy some of these fights could get. Can you keep track of all those monsters at once? Can you even see the arrows that the skeleton archers are firing? Snowbelle might be able to deal 557 billion damage (!) with a well-placed Frozen Orb, but as I keep mentioning, the trick was staying alive along enough to continue tossing them out. Eventually I realized that this wasn't just a player issue on my part, it was also a hardware issue as well. I was playing Diablo 3 on my beloved laptop from 2015, which had already been refurbished when I purchased it and then saw another four years of heavy use afterwards. The poor laptop was finally in the process of dying, with a frayed video cable forcing me to tilt the screen at weird angles and making it increasingly hard to see what was going on. (We tried to repair the laptop and learned that the video cable was no longer manufactured - not a great sign!)
Finally I broke down and purchased a new laptop, and the upgrade in performance was immediately noticeable. Diablo 3 ran *MUCH* smoother on the new processor and I found that I had much more control in terms of manuevering Snowbelle. I could also finally see what was happening on the battlefield, most of the time anyway, allowing me to dance Snowbelle around enemy arrows and fireballs and energy blasts. She started taking significantly fewer hits, and the ones that she did take were reduced in damage by the Energy Armor + Moratorium combo. I felt as though I had turned a corner once again for her character, finally reaching the point where Torment XVI difficulty was firmly within her grasp.
A combination of careful play, better equipment, and better computer hardware was enough to see Snowbelle through to her immediate goal. She was able to complete Greater Rift 75 with a healthy 4:44 remaining on the clock. I was getting better at adapting her particular combination of skills to the challenges of high difficulty as well, maintaining distance from opposing elites and pelting them with Frozen Orbs at maximum range for safety's sake. There were a whole bunch of elite abilities that were simply too dangerous to face at close or even medium range, with Mortar and Orbiter and Frozen Pulse being some of the worst offenders. The stunning effect from the Slow Time bubbles had similarly become integral to Snowbelle's setup, as she relied on them to lock foes in place for disposal with Frozen Orb. When executed properly on my part Snowbelle was a relentless advancing tide of icy death, never standing still for more than the half second it took to cast one of her spells, mowing down everything in her path. She was also a very mousework-intensive character to play, to the point that my hands would start to get tired after an hour or so. I'll make the comparison again to playing a ranged AD carry in League of Legends, attack-moving constantly while trying to stay safe from a whole host of incoming threats.
I was running out of remaining goals for Snowbelle to accomplish at this point. I did want to collect a full set of bounties on Torment XVI difficulty without dying, however, and this picture was taken at the tail end of that effort. Adria had rolled as one of the bounty objectives for Act Five, and given how many times I'd killed her in the past, she felt like a fitting farewell tribute to Snowbelle's run through Adventure Mode. Despite rolling with a ludicrous 9.3 trillion HP, Adria was unable to put up any kind of a threat for Snowbelle. My Wizard's Frozen Orbs were critically striking for roughly 400 billion damage apiece and the evil witch never had enough time to summon her little red blobs. This battle which had been so lengthy and stressful for Spyderman turned out to be another giant snooze for Snowbelle, even here on the highest difficulty. I think it took about 30 seconds of real world time to land the kill - sheesh, Frozen Orb!
Snowbelle did complete her goal of collecting a full set of bounties on the top difficulty without dying. Each completed set of bounties yields 22 of the Horadric Crafting materials here on Torment XVI, a lot more than the 6 apiece that they provide on the initial Torment levels. Snowbelle had also piled up thousands upon thousands of the normal crafting materials along with just under 1000 Death's Breaths and more than 500 Forgotten Souls. It felt strange to have so many of these crafting materials on hand and little to do with them, especially after having major shortages of them for most of Snowbelle's character history. That's the problem with the extreme lategame though, not much for your character to do once they reach this point. I ended up using these Horadric Cache materials on a series of Law of Kulle crafting attempts in Kanai's Cube, trying to reroll the stats on a legendary item in the hopes of getting it to go Ancient, but without any luck. I had zero interest in grinding endlessly in the hopes of getting slightly more perfect stats on Snowbelle's items, and this was a sign that her quest was coming to a close.
I was hoping to find a Primal Ancient item at some point since Snowbelle had unlocked the possibility for them to appear by clearing Greater Rift 70. Snowbelle turned up several hundred legendary items and dozens upon dozens of Ancient items without any luck. However, it turns out that they are exceedingly rare and Snowbelle never did find one of them. As mentioned at the top of this page, apparently the odds for a legendary item to roll as Primal Ancient are roughly 1 in 500 (0.2 percent) - yikes! There were stories of players grinding for hundreds of hours on the maximum difficulty level and finding only a handful of them. I can understand why they're hard to find since they do have perfect stats and all that, but it still feels pretty silly. I certainly wasn't going to invest a bunch of additional hours just to turn up a Primal Ancient item; I'll have to keep an eye out for one with my next D3 character.
With bounty collection out of the way, I had only one remaining goal for Snowbelle: successfully clear Greater Rift 80 without dying. I thought that it would be a real feather in her cap to be able to go a full ten rift levels beyond Rift 70 and still manage to get the job done. She had to unlock Rift 80 first though, and that meant clearing out a series of preceding challenges. First up was Rift 77 where Snowbelle ended up having poor luck with elites and Pylons, not finding many of either. Normal enemies in the Greater Rifts don't do much of anything to fill up the meter; you need to defeat elites to pick up the little orbs that they drop, and clear pace tends to be slow if they aren't showing up for whatever reason. Obviously good Pylon luck can also speed things up significantly as well. Snowbelle had little luck here but did avoid dying and finished Rift 77 with 3:55 remaining on the clock. Then just to provide a contrast with that venture, I had absurdly good luck with elites and Pylons everywhere on my next run, the one pictured above from Rift 78, and cleared this out with a full 7:41 remaining. Just look at that progress bar screenshotted above! I could have stopped to eat a sandwich and still had sufficient time to polish off that Mallet Lord rift guardian at the end. This gave me lots of confidence that Snowbelle could complete Rift 80 as well.
Finishing Rift 78 with that much time in reserve was enough to unlock Rift 80. I went ahead and empowered the rift just for fun, and look at that cost! 45 million gold for a single additional upgrade on a legendary gem. This is Diablo 3's version of the lategame gold sink, and there genuinely wasn't much else for Snowbelle to spend it on. Let's do this.
The first rift area drew the Arachnid Lair tileset, which I've found to be somewhere in the middle in terms of challenge level. Not great, not terrible. Snowbelle's clear pace was slow but steady, keeping slightly ahead of the moving line on the progress bar at the right. I had to be particularly careful of this boss since the Electrified particles clumped up as usual inside Snowbelle's Slow Time fields. The second floor of the rift had one of the snowy tilesets from Act Three with lots of Fallen and spear goats for enemies. This floor was particularly linear and it was here that Snowbelle started to make better progress, helped out by two different Pylons that she found along the way. Snowbelle was still equipped with the Nemesis Bracers legendary item, causing each Pylon to spawn an additional elite opponent. The net result of these battles was a whole bunch of the boss orbs dropping and Snowbelle getting far out ahead of the needed clear pace. I continued to play carefully and avoided any situation that looked too dangerous.
The third floor had drawn the Pandemonium Fortress tileset, one that I don't care for since it forces the player through a series of short corridors where dodging enemy projectiles can be tough. Fortunately Snowbelle only needed to make it through a couple of rooms before she was triggering the Rift Guardian, the Bone Warlock in this case. I hadn't seen this opponent very often and I still don't really know what he does in terms of abilities. Snowbelle kept her distance, locked him up with stunning Slow Time bubbles, and wore him down with Frozen Orbs. She was a pro at this by now and I captured one of her Frozen Orbs dealing 555 billion damage to the enemy boss. It was a stylish way to wrap things up.
The end result was a complete clear of Greater Rift 80 with 4:02 remaining on the clock with no deaths incurred along the way. In fact, Snowbelle hadn't died even one time since I switched over to my new laptop computer. While I don't think that I could have kept that up for her whole character life, it was a nice sign that Snowbelle had been held back to at least some extent by hardware issues outside of her control. She definitely could have cleared out more Greater Rifts at even higher levels, and it would have been interesting to see how much further she could have gone. I think that Rift 85 was doable, if probably not Rift 90. But I was content to stop here, with her finishing on a high note and making it ten full rift levels further that my original goal of Rift 70. Snowbelle could retire into the sunset with her head held high.
Here are Snowbelle's final character stats; feel free to compare to Spyderman's final character stats here. Snowbelle ended up with slightly less Damage rating (largely because Spyderman was stacking attack speed and that boosts the "Damage" score) despite dealing vastly more actual damage to monsters. I still can't get over the fact that Spyderman was just barely hitting 1 billion damage from his spiders while Snowbelle was routinely critting for 500 times that amount. Frozen Orb is no joke. Elsewhere Snowbelle had more Toughness and Recovery than her predecessor, with the numbers again being deceptive here since Spyderman had much more survivability and regeneration from his equipment setup. Unfortunately the numbers on the character screen aren't all that useful in terms of comparing performance.
Battle.net says that I played Snowbelle for a total of 48 hours and 41 minutes, a little bit more than half of the 94 hours that I invested into Spyderman. She was significantly faster than him at every stage of the game, to no surprise whatsoever since her variant was significantly less restricted. Snowbelle was in no way a crippled variant character, and if anything I was caught off guard at just how ridiculously strong Frozen Orb proved to be. More than anything else, this was a truly *FUN* character to play. I wanted to experience a fast-casting, high damage, physically frail DPS machine, and that's exactly what I ended up getting with Snowbelle. I hope that you enjoyed reading about her as much as I enjoyed playing her.