Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down to speak with Skulm, a dedicated Diablo speed runner and the current world record holder for Uber Lilith, tied at 47 seconds with a few other notable players, including Playdohbear, another well-known Necromancer player. We discussed Diablo IV speed running and covered a variety of questions surrounding the topic.
Why Necro? Is it the best for Speedrunning?
For Skulm Necromancer has a deep sense of personal identity, he initially gravitated towards the class when he started playing Diablo 2 at 14 years old. Necromancer being the only dark edgier class at the time he thought it was easily the coolest and decided to stick with it. From there he got into speed running, starting with Uber Tristram runs, and began to build his fanbase around Necromancer speed running content. Today he remains a dedicated Necromancer player. While he certainly takes the time to try out other classes he always finds himself enjoying the priests of Rathma most of all, and his community certainly feels the same way. Skulm notes that Necromancers don’t have some special advantage when compared to other classes for speedrunning, each has its own pros and cons, so he recommends you start with what you enjoy most and build from there.
What do you recommend for someone approaching Diablo IV speedrunning?
Skulm noted that speed running is different for each Diablo game. For Diablo games, specifically Diablo IV, the primary focus is having a fast clear speed while ensuring you survive long enough to do so. Some of the highest challenges in the game require you to stay alive pulling large enemy packs while dealing massive damage. If you’re new he recommends taking the time to learn the fundamentals of both your class and the game. Importantly, approaching different speed running challenges require a certain high-level understanding of build archetypes, where each archetype excels, map layouts, ability cooldowns, aspects, affixes, seasonal mechanics, enemy attack times, and much more. All of this also depends on what content you’re looking to speed run. Uber Lilith builds and runs differ wildly from Nightmare Tier 100 runs. All of this culminates in a refined ability to make quick judgment calls, which is easily one of the most important skills to have when speedrunning. When making an attempt you will constantly be faced with different choices, based on your RNG, and you’ll have to decide, depending on all the factors listed above, how you want to approach that decision. It is how you approach these little judgment calls that will determine your success.
Between casual play and speed running skulm noted that things jump up to a whole new level when learning how to speed run. There is usually no room for mistakes, whereas in casual play you can sit back and wait for cooldowns, when speed running every consideration needs to be made with optimization and efficiency in mind. Each judgment call is crucial and within a few seconds you need to decide if you’re going to skip enemies, clear larger packs, pull elites, or rush to the end objective. However, before jumping right in Skulm recommends that you hit level 100 and optimize your gear stats.
Making sure you’re level 100 with optimized gear is very important, speed running is dependent on RNG in some aspects which is entirely out of your control. So, if you do get lucky, and get that one run with a perfect map layout, mechanic, and elite density, it would really suck to not be level 100 and not have optimized gear. Completing the run you’d know that if you had just spent the extra time to hit level 100 and optimize your gear you’d have gotten a better time, and nothing stings worse than wasting a perfect RNG run when you’re not optimized. Besides, getting to level 100 is a speed run in itself, check out our Race to World First for more info!
How do you approach build crafting as a speedrunner?
Skulm highlighted what he feels are the three most important principles when it comes to theory-crafting a speedrunning build.
- On-demand high single target and AOE damage.
- This is incredibly important as your primary goal is to dish out high damage onto enemy elites, or bosses, depending on the content you choose to run. Either way, you’ll need a build that can clear out very large packs of trash mobs quickly, and that can ideally quickly deal with elites and shred bosses.
- Survivability and versatility of the build.
- Important firstly because you’ll need to be able to survive pulling large packs of enemies or spamming attacks on a particular boss. Versatility comes into play as it gives you more options when making quick judgment calls. So consider carefully the skills you choose to take, as they’ll be your options when the time comes to make a decision.
- General Mobility
- This is speedrunning after all, and you need to move fast. So having high mobility, either from your skills, or movement speed, is all around an important thing to ensure.
How does the Diablo Builds Calculator assist in the build crafting process?
"The calculator helps with previewing my build before I start investing in it. If you have good knowledge about how items and affixes work in Diablo 4, you can envision your character. The calculator lays out everything in detail so you can do some fine-tuning before fully committing to your desired build in-game. This saves a lot of gold and most importantly, time. The calculator also allows me to share my build with my community, which helps me receive feedback. There have been cases where members of my community pointed out a different path to certain paragon nodes, essentially saving 1 or 2 extra nodes. Having a calculator and being able to share your build with the community essentially allows you to take one more step towards perfect optimization."
Looking forward, what are your thoughts on next season’s new bosses?
Skulm was very excited to talk about the addition of new Uber bosses, as Uber boss speed runs provide a pinnacle challenge for runners. He stated:
"The addition of new uber bosses will definitely be welcome. These new bosses should bring some freshness into Diablo 4’s end-game content. While we currently do not know what will be the new uber bosses, it is speculated that some of them will be campaign bosses. In any case, these new uber bosses will have certain lethal mechanics, just like Uber Lilith. Depending on the fight, we may be required to make some modifications on the builds but I think there are certain main build archetypes that will simply outperform other builds. For example, a mendeln summon necromancer and a bone spear necromancer will be at the forefront for killing bosses because they both deliver high AoE and single target damage. An infinimist or blood lance build on the other hand usually lacks single target damage. These may change in Season 2 but as of now, I believe all classes have their boss killer build archetypes already discovered. When fighting Season 2 Uber Bosses, we will most likely see these builds or some version of them, unless Season 2 powers massively buff another build."
The big focus will be on mechanics, as that can dramatically change how runners approach a fight. Take Uber Lilith as an example, the famous 47-second world record, held jointly by Skulm, Playdohbear, and a few other players is made possible only by skipping the mechanics of the fight. For Necromancer this requires dropping her health to a specific threshold and using bone prison at a specific spot under the boss to entirely skip her platform mechanic. If done incorrectly the run is lost, and similarly in Lilith P1, not skipping her but bursting her HP down to below 40% prematurely can even make the boss entirely immune to damage, making the fight impossible to complete. There is no room for error. Note that this method has since been patched for Necromancer, and a similar skip has been patched for other classes as well.
Ultimately, the builds used, and strategies for speedrunning the five new Uber bosses will depend entirely on their mechanics and if any mechanic skips are discovered. Even then players will be at the mercy of Blizzard and any potential patches for these skips that float downriver.
Skulm noted that another important factor in speed running next season will be the seasonal powers. This season, malignant hearts such as the Barber, Revenge, and Decrepit Aura, were essential for runners. For anyone who used the hearts consistently during the season, this comes as no surprise. It would be an understatement to say that some of them were strong. Some, such as the Barber, literally defined entire builds. So, with that in mind, if Blizzard continues this philosophy around having incredibly powerful seasonal powers, it follows that the Vampire powers coming next season will without a doubt be very important when build crafting. Some will likely provide new options for survivability, while other will bring new damage options forward.
Skulm also noted that Uber Uniques are another important consideration. During season 1 items such as Lidless Wall were paramount for some of his builds as it provided both insane additional barrier when paired with the Shielding Storm Aspect, and some nice AOE damage. Other unique items like the Ring of Madeln are quite literally build-makers in their own regard. So any new uniques will be an important factor to consider.
The Future of Speed Running in Diablo IV
Skulm is excited for what is to come. He feels strongly that speed running provides a higher level of replayability for endgame content. Hopefully, in the future, when leaderboards are implemented, Skulm would like to see separate boards for Nightmare Tier 100 runs, and Uber Boss times, so players can continuously compete and improve. Until that day comes he quite enjoys running the current content, and sharing those runs with his community, while he discusses what’s next in the road ahead.
I’d like to thank Skulm for taking the time to sit down with me and discuss Diablo IV speed running. Check out his channel here for more speed-running content!