Perfecting the Act3 run - an empirical study

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Everyone seems to have an opinion on what the best act3 run is, by capturing data, we can systematically determine which zone is best.

If you ask someone prior to looking at this data, what is the best act3 zone for archon, 99% of people will say it's Keep Depth 2, and they'd be wrong. KD2 suffers from low xp mobs, your kills are worth 75% of mobs in other zones. So even if it seems like you're killing more, you're not getting more xp. Crater 1 and 2 are good zones also because this zone is fueled by "stygian crawler herds", you're bound to run into a few of these herds on your way through craters.

Zone XP(k)/sec
crater2 19.69
crater1 17.56
keep2 16.73
skycrown 16.72
rakkis 16.67
damned 14.23
fields 14.22
cursed ~13
stonefort 12.21
core 11.98
keep1 9.06
keep3 8.15

[condensed run] <-- this is now my preferred route of choice for efficiency

[standard run] <-- not most efficient, but offers more variety
Cursed(skip if full nv)
field of Slaughter
stonefort(if you want key, HC folks, stop trying to kill KW at mp0, it's very inefficient!)

Right now, I pretty much do the "Condensed Run" only as I find it more efficient than long run. SC folks can stick to the big three, KD2, Rakkis, Crater2. Because they can go higher MP where NV bonus isnt as important. For HC, people generally dont have the GG gear, so it's better to do Skycrown and build up NV there.

Archon specific:
The general idea is to alternate between your 'good zones' and 'bad zones', in terms of sustainability. That way you have left over archon time from good zones to help smooth out your run in the bad zones.

Final Analysis:

Each zone can be grouped into different tiers.

XP++ (~18k xp/sec)

XP+ (~16k xp/sec)

XP(~14k xp/sec)
damned(level 1)

XP-(~12k xp/sec)
cursed (level 1)

XP--(cant sustain archon due to lack of mobs)
other towers

XP values From diablo3blog

3375 XP – Demon Trooper, Fallen Mongrel, Dark Skeletal Bowman, Skeletal Marauder, Icy Quillback
4500 XP – Fallen Prophet, Fallen Grunt, Soul Ripper, Swift Skull Cleaver, Blood Clan Warrior, Blood Clan Spearman, Reviled, Fallen Soldier, Stygian Crawler, Succubus, Blazing Ghoul, Tormented Stinger, Phasebeast, Winged Molok, Blood Clan Occultist
5625 XP – Fallen Overlord
6750 XP – Herald of Pestilence, Demonic Tremor, Demonic Serpent
11250 XP – Bloated Malachor

General Tips:
- #1 rule, if you're not constantly killing stuff, you're wasting time, and your results will suffer.
- Start the run by choosing Kill Azmodan quest, so you have access to all waypoints. Bosses are not worth killing.
- Note these things do NOT give xp or loot, so dont bother killing them. The Exploding Mounts, the "Tongue mounts" that grab you, the mount that breaks into 6 scorpions, the mounts dont give xp, but the scorpions do. The "summoning constructs" in craters does not give xp, summoned mobs do. Basically, if it's inorganic, it doesnt give xp.
- Fallen Imps that get revived by Shaman do NOT give xp/loot, so try to kill off Shaman asap, or they just give u extra work for no reward.
- Walking while not killing is time wasted. General idea is to kill densely packed areas in each zone, do not go into every little corner to make sure you do a full clear, it's not efficient. There'll be more demons for you to slay when you remake game!
- Do not backtrack too much, i do a little backtracking in craters and keep2 if i see map hasnt been half cleared. if you back track more than 10 seconds, it's not worth it. Go to next area.
- Dont open normal chests/corpses/breakables, dont pick up blues. It's called Opportunity cost. Your time is better spent killing more mobs.

Archon specific:
- Use flamers in Crater areas to trigger Scramble rune, if you use that.

[Tips on each specific zone]
Port in from waypoint. Make the run to complete the circle. You want to run it counter-clockwise, this way you can see if there is a pack near the exit area, so you dont have to run down there to check. You can shoot stuff from the ledge overlooking the mobs in exit area. Complete the circle, then go back to way point, or head up and goto backdoor of Crater 1.

Fairly straight forward, note there's a high chance of phase beast pack here, so if you cant handle them, avoid this area. For archon run, you want to get check point near Azmodan area, so you start your run here, and run backwards to waypoint, saving portal time. Not advisable for hardcore because you will get ambushed when you login and there's little area to run.

Start the run by using Portal to Stonefort and run backwards. Fairly straight forward, there are areas where you can take a 'long route' to kill more mobs. There are staircases where packs or globs of trash can hide, learn those areas, takes a second to check. Just dont side track too much.
Archon specific: right before stair case that lead to 'original entrance' is densely packed with mobs, good time to refresh your archon here.

Keep Depths 2
Start your run by using Portal to Keep Depth1 and walk to KD2 area. The trick to doing this zone is to find "the square" in the zone, after you complete "the square", run to a dead end, you covered 75% of map, end your run here.
HARDCORE ALERT: Hardcore folks might want to skip this area due to Exploding Fallens. I've seen so many people die in this area, take caution, don't mess around in this area, you've been warned!

Crater 1
start from regular entrance, purposely go away from exit route and find a deadend.
start from tower of damned entrance , go back to crater 1, go to another deadend.

start from regular entrance, go find exit(north'ish), then when you see Azmodan's head pop up, usually there's a fork here that leads you to exit and another to a dead end, back track a bit to find another deadend. Or just end here if you covered most of map.

crater 1 is slightly less dense than crater 2.

Crater 2
After you do enough of the crater zones, you start to recognize which paths lead to dead ends, and which lead to exit. For example, always go Right on initial split, the left is deadend. By finding exit, you covered most of map in Crater2.

Portal to Rakkis Crossing WP and run backwards. If you see Door open and man crawl out, there's pack inside. The Spyglass quest is worth doing ONLY if it's at end of run, because walking back down is waste of time, this purple mob has high drop slots(10) for a purple. And NO, it does not drop more Legends than usual.

Field of Slaughter
There are a lot of Ranged type monsters here and the dreaded Tremor pack. So if you cant handle this, skip this zone. Just make a tight circle, do NOT try to kill everything on the map, it'll just make your run less efficient.

Other notable areas:
- Back track from Crater2 WP into Heart of Damned, there's usually a pack here and/or gob. Might be dangerous to HC due to limited area to maneuver.
- Tower of Cursed WP, zone is kinda sparse in the middle, so just walk until u find first pack, usually near entrance, then TP out. There's usually a pack hidden in out of reach area in middle of map, you can scout out area from top ledge without actually walking there.

So how do I increase my xp per hr?

In order of effectiveness:
- Increase your dps. faster kill = faster runs = more xp.
- Get xp bonus items, leoric/hellfire ring on you and your follower, ruby gem in helm
- Pickup less stuff. id/sell sessions are very time consuming and inteferes with your xp session. When you stop picking up items/rares or even gold. Your runs will be MUCH faster, resulting in more xp.
- Increase your MP ONLY after you've done facerolling previous MP. Most people push up in MP and only end up hurting their xp/hr. Your optimal MP might very well be MP0.

General Pitfalls, these are the most common problems I see with people's runs.
- Refer to #1 rule, you should be constantly killing stuff. Most glaring mistake I see is people back track too much on their runs, or they tend to go into every little corner of the zone. When you back track, that means you're on 'idle' time, you're not killing stuff, thus less xp/items. Your route should be one straightline, covering most(but not all!) of the zone, with as little overlap as possible. Dont worry that you're 'missing out' on some of the zone, because when you start a new game, there'll be more stuff for you to kill!
- They pickup too many items.
- They tend to go kill a particular boss or breakable/lootable because they got a great item from it long ago. As your investment adviser would tell you, past performance does not guarantee future results!
supporting data

environment: MP2, 170k buffed dps
equip: ruby+hellfire ring, hellfire on follower
all data captured is with full 5stacks.

zone start end total time(sec) xp/sec
keep3 32247 32714 467 63 7.41
keep2 32714 33890 1176 90 13.07
rakkis 33890 36811 2921 180 16.23
fields 36811 39748 2937 195 15.06
skycrn 39748 43282 3534 210 16.83
keep1 43282 44128 846 105 8.06
crater2 44128 46256 2128 100 21.28
sfort 46256 48556 2300 170 13.53
damned 50163 51644 1481 100 14.81
crater1 51644 53865 2221 150 14.81
keep3 53865 55069 1204 105 11.47
keep2 55069 57263 2194 135 16.25
keep1 57263 58483 1220 105 11.62
sfort 58483 60950 2467 200 12.34
rakkis 60950 62923 1973 120 16.44
fields 62923 65494 2571 200 12.86
crater2 65494 68143 2649 160 16.56
core 70170 71156 986 80 12.33
damned 71156 72015 859 65 13.22
keep3 74678 75233 555 105 5.29
keep2 75233 77113 1880 120 15.67
sfort 77113 78541 1428 150 9.52
skycrn 78541 81799 3258 210 15.51
keep1 81799 82997 1198 150 7.99
rak+field 82997 88112 5115 310 16.50
crater2 88112 89777 1665 90 18.50
damned 91626 92773 1147 80 14.34
crater1 92773 93905 1132 65 17.42
crater2 93905 96739 2834 180 15.74
cursed 96739 97559 820 60 13.67
keep2 97559 99495 1936 120 16.13
sfort 99495 101850 2355 180 13.08
rakkis 101850 104208 2358 150 15.72
fields 104208 106862 2654 170 15.61
core 106862 107552 690 60 11.50
crater1 109563 110814 1251 60 20.85
crater2 110814 114535 3721 140 26.58
cursed 114535 115151 616 80 7.70
keep2 0 3812 3812 210 18.15
rak+field 3812 9376 5564 360 15.46
skycrn 9376 11946 2570 180 14.28
core 12623 13342 719 60 11.98
keep2 16189 18116 1927 110 17.52
skycrn 18347 21830 3483 190 18.33
crater2 21830 25433 3603 170 21.19
rakkis 25433 27606 2173 120 18.11
fields 27606 29999 2393 180 13.29
crater1 29999 32732 2733 150 18.22
crater1 35039 37101 2062 110 18.75
keep2 38929 41646 2717 150 18.11
crater2 41646 44144 2498 130 19.22
skycrn 44144 47686 3542 190 18.64
rakkis 47686 50266 2580 150 17.20
fields 50266 52940 2674 185 14.45
keep2 105217 107993 2776 180 15.42
keep2 11383 15370 3987 240 16.61
crater1 31636 33057 1421 90 15.79
keep2 33057 35782 2725 145 18.79
crater2 36917 39474 2557 135 18.94
keep2 48396 51911 3515 210 16.74
crater2 51911 54261 2350 170 13.82
crater1 54261 56083 1822 70 26.03
fields 58661 61445 2784 150 18.56
keep2 64889 68029 3140 190 16.53
crater1 68029 69643 1614 90 17.93
crater2 69643 72968 3325 180 18.47
fields 75675 78689 3014 190 15.86

Thanks again eliminator!

So based on your suggested run in the OP
"best act3 route based on above data]core damned cursed(half) to fill NVcrater2 crater1 keep2 skycrown rakkis field"

how long does that take you? what XP/hour are you getting on average?
After your five stack, you're saying do this:

crater2 19.69
crater1 17.56
keep2 16.73
skycrown 16.72
rakkis 16.67

I'll try it.
This is my route
- Tower of the Damned
- Skycrown Battlements
- Keep Depth2
- Rakkis
- Crater 2
- Crater 1

Anyways, how about MP level ? At which do u efficiently farm ?
I have 290k with scramble rune - using archon teleport - farming MP3 at ~40-45 XP/hour (plz no exaggeration in empirical study)
Can use pinpoint barrier sitting at around 316k and archon teleport farming MP4 but haven't recorded the result, not sure which one is better.
OP: thanks for all this data.
Your route has been my exact run for quite some time.
(core/damned till 5NV then crater1/2/DK2/Rakkis south to circular Fields clean/Skycrown.)

@Inspy: I'll post it again here, archon XP farming netting you 40-45M/h is not competitive. You should be aiming to 60M/h at least, with a single-cast blizzard build at MP0. 250K dps required, high mitigation required (GC is used, no Archon AR/armor bonus).!YWX!YYYcYZ

Never stop running, wormhole on cooldown, single-cast-of-death entire areas with your blizzard.
Healing blades get some use on elites, when you need health or when mobs block your path (barbs noclip ww is op).
im not sure but i seem to run out of archon a lot when in crater 2 than in keep depths 2
11/07/2012 03:41 AMPosted by yems
im not sure but i seem to run out of archon a lot when in crater 2 than in keep depths 2

You need a fighting spell to use until you find your first 20+ crawler pack. Usually once you hit one of those you're all set for the rest, unless you hit something like an EH/Shielding Occultist pack.

Eliminator's path is similar to what I run, though I am wishy-washy on Skycrown due to occasional huge gaps that lose archon.

If I get the motivation, I might challenge the Crater>KD2 data. Your point about the pathing selection is the key. A) I have a good feel for loop pathing there, and B) I'm willing to clear 80-905 and TP out if I left a bit way off by itself. Dead End = TP, end of story, if you want efficiency.

It would also be interesting to see an aggregated summary of entire runs, since how you transition between zones and your 5NV build-up time influence long-term xp/hr efficiency.

I'm continuing to average roughly one PL per day despite the increasing XP costs. Recent upgrades have allowed me to swap to my Hellfire Ring without disastrous loss of killing speed.
My route- Core, tower cursed, tower damned, Crater 2, Crater 1, keep 3,2,1, Stonefort, NG. it seems to be good for exp and farming.
The only thing that surprises me on that list is how low Keep 1 is. Keep 2 and 1 are always the same map: a square with opposing branches containing the exit and entrance and additional dead ends branching off. I found very good xp/hour in both of them by always entering the exit first, completing the square (simple rule: at the second split turn the opposite direction from the first, or if your first split is three ways go straight), completing the adjacent dead end, teleporting out, and then running from the entrance to the explored portion. This gives ~90% map completion with no back-tracking.

I got 60 mill/hour (195% bonus xp) doing this:
Start at Tower of the Cursed waypoint, usually a shrine or pack here.
Port to Keep 3 and explore until 2 more stacks (not the whole thing), exit to breach
Keep 2 and 1 as explained above
Skycrown - hint: don't run from town, use the Stonefort waypoint
Stonefort - this is not great for xp, but has the keymaster
Arreat 1 - one pass
Tower of the Damned 1
Arreat 2 - two passes by intentionally running into a lengthy dead end, then resuming from Tower of the cursed and going backwards
Resume game starts at the checkpoint for Tower of the Cursed, repeat

Core, Stonefort, and Fields always gave me the most troubles for archon uptime, so I assumed they were lower, and I can't comment on Tower of the Cursed.
No where keep 1 comes close to keep 2

mob density is lower, not considering the route and those annoying firewalls..

Btw, nice route there I'll try it tonight (But excluding keep1 and core for sure)
Keep 1 is lower than Keep 2, but I would have expected it to be objectively higher on the list, up in the 12-14 range. I also would have expected Keep 2 at the top. I believe there may be a discrepancy based on map pathing.
^ I have a feeling that even the mobs density are higher in keeps, but they give much lower exp compared to those scorpions.
ok, updated post with my run and reasoning.

this is what works for me, so your results might be different, that's why I encourage everyone to map their data and see what works best for them. the more data we have, the more accurate this study will be.

it's very possible that I'm not doing a zone as efficently as possible, as shelendil pointed out, my ranking of keep2 is lower because i dont know how to pick the correct path, and i still dont!

simple rule: at the second split turn the opposite direction from the first, or if your first split is three ways go straight

i have no idea what this means, lol

Another reason for this study is for "xp efficiency", everyone seems to have their own idea what "efficient" is. 50m xp/hr is extremely vague, and i think people are inflating their numbers by rounding up. by using this type of normalized data, we can finally be able to compare apples to apples.

This sets a baseline as to what efficent is, but I dont want people to take this data as gospel , I want people to challenge this data, tell me where i'm wrong, so we can all learn from it and improve our game.

I would LOVE to see this data for people doing MP6 and above. So all you godlike CM wizzies, please send in your data for your MP8 or MP10 runs!
Thanks for doing this - for exp Archon is king.

I did a few runs as CM last night, I was making like 15-25M an hour. Compared to 28-35M an hour as Archon. I'm new at this even those my gear is solid. I feel like I'll be staying archon for farming and cm for groups and ubers.
it's very possible that I'm not doing a zone as efficently as possible, as shelendil pointed out, my ranking of keep2 is lower because i dont know how to pick the correct path, and i still dont!

simple rule: at the second split turn the opposite direction from the first, or if your first split is three ways go straight

i have no idea what this means, lol

If you like, add me, and I will demonstrate ingame.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on what the best act3 run is, by capturing data, we can systematically determine which zone is best.

If you ask someone prior to looking at this data, what is the best act3 zone for archon, 99% of people will say it's Keep Depth 2, and they'd be wrong. KD2 suffers from what I call "zone variance", the way KD2 is designed, you can get a great run if you pick the right routes, or you can get a lousy run if you run into a deadend early. Crater2 is the best zone because there's less variance, the xp in this zone is fueled by "stygian crawler herds", you're bound to run into a few of these herds on your way through crater2.

this is completly wrong.
keep2 is very easy, its a square, you know that on the left upper or down corner there is the path to keep 3, so you can figure out very easy were are the dead end routes. you are just showing that you didnt did too much keep2 runs.
on crater 2 is more harder, i mean you know that the exit is always on the upper side, most of times on the upper right side, but it has lots of dead end path on the left side or when you see a route going south. and if you decide to do them you lose time going back after clear them.
i think you dont understand keep2 layout, i avoid always the dead end routes there, its very easy.
@Shelendil - congrats on making p100 as a wizard. Respect to you because your not a barb and still did it in style!

Could you show me this run that you speak of?

How long is the run?

And how on earth do you get 60M/hour and 195% bonus exp??!! It looks like the only place to get that is MP10?
i can get 60m xp per hour too but my run is as follow:

core <-5stacking
keep 3 <-5stacking

this run only takes me 15-20 mins in mp1 and nets me 17-20m xp...
NEVER run out of archon. I manually reset it when my storm armor expires...
24% MS + scramble for max mobility.

i have a vid of this run recorded as well:

part 1 -
part 2 -

edit: i forgot to mention i have max xp ruby + hellfire, follower with hellfire.

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