How do I determine which difficulty my max level Diablo 3 character should play?

The easy answer would be try a few difficulties and see how hard they are and how I feel about playing character X at difficulty Y. But that is subjective. I am looking for something as objective as possible: I know this question is not strictly objective but I am sure the community has some sort of guideline.

Perhaps a chart or table that says "to get the most out of Master, your character should be in this stat range. Below this you will struggle, above this you are wasting your time."

For example, I have a 70 (32) wizard with 232k damage, 4.4m toughness and 15k healing (this question is NOT about my wizard, just using it as an example). If I walk into a Normal game I would expect people to tell me it is a waste of my time, just as I would expect players in Torment VI to say this character is not ready yet and needs more time on lower difficulties to gear up. What I have found is Expert seems to be the right place, but I cannot explain why using objective means.

Part of the reason for asking is this: if I enter a game that my character's gear says I should breeze through but I do not, perhaps the problem is between the chair and the keyboard and I need to evaluate skills and strategy.

My goal is to be able to play in the highest Torment difficulty possible for the better loot and the prestige of being able to handle the highest difficulties. Along the way I want to gear up from drops and gambling (so Expert would help with bonus blood shards) as well as gain paragon levels (although that is more a side effect of grinding for gear than anything). I just want to have some objective idea of where I should be along the way.

  • You didn't mention healing, but healing is just as important as toughness for survivability. Toughness is the amount of raw damage it would take to kill you, on average, and if you notice is generally an order of magnitude or more greater than your HP. Each point of healing is therefore worth ten times that much toughness per second. Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 13:37
  • You are good around 4-5 mil toughness and 250-300k damage in your charscreen. Below might work, depending on your class. But take it as a general guideliine. Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 13:40
  • @StrixVaria I added healing.
    – user69603
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 13:46
  • DPS/Toughness/Healing tell very little. Depending on you build and, more importantly, Legendaries, you may be able to dish out 10 to 30 times more actual DPS than what character sheet says. So any ranges given without a specific build are bound to be very approximate.
    – Orc JMR
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 4:03
  • @OrcJMR you are correct, there is more to it than that. My wizard's primary abilities are all area of effect, so the damage is applied to more monsters at a time. Legendaries that buff abilities (damage, piercing, etc) can also cause damage to be understated. Toughness/healing can be understated by abilities that make it easier to avoid damage without boosting stats that show up in those aggregate numbers.
    – user69603
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 23:28

4 Answers 4


This depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

If you want to farm for gear, then you should play on either Normal or Torment 1. If you want Torment-specific items, then play on Torment 1, otherwise play on Normal. The farm speed on Normal is so fast compared to other difficulties that you're going to get so many more rolls of the dice that the minor differences in drop rate are easily overcome. You want to play on the easiest difficulty that can still drop the items you want.

If you want to farm for experience, then you should play on the hardest difficulty where you aren't challenged. This will increase over time as your gear and player skill go up, so there's no rule for how to approach this. You will just have to try all the difficulties and see which is the highest one that you can plow through without stopping.

You can't judge anything based on your Damage, Toughness, and Healing, because these equate to entirely different amounts of DPS and survivability depending on class and skill build. There is no rule like what you're asking for except to just try and see what happens.

  • Thanks, that is a good explanation. The idea of sticking to Normal for farming matches what I have read elsewhere. Even if it does not strictly answer my question it is still good advice.
    – user69603
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 13:48
  • I would like to add that as far as farming gear, even on normal the upgrades definitely slow down (minus gambling). I noticed that after a while I had zero upgrades and my stats were not changing significantly. So I had to jump to Torment I for the Torment-specific legendaries. So maybe one indicator is "I am farming Normal two hours a night and went a week without a single upgrade." Perhaps at that point, the entire non-Torment difficulty curve is insufficient.
    – user69603
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 3:37

This website is filled with good information for Hardcore.

In addition to StrixVaria's answer I would add:

It is important to note whether you are playing on Hardcore or Softcore and the Class you are using, the progression numbers will be different based on those.

I concur with Strix in saying the fastest way to gear up your character is doing speed runs on Normal. On Hardcore, you are going to progress into Torment 1 later than you would on softcore.

Important Class Notes for Hardcore:
- Wizards have a built in resurrection from passive skills (that make progression a little more safe).
- Witch Doctors also have a built in resurrection from passive skills.
- Monks also have a built in resurrection from passive skills and have a built in (hidden) 30% damage reduction.
- Barbarians also have a built in (hidden) 30% damage reduction.
- Crusaders have a hidden toughness bonus from Shields. (other classes too if they use shields) - Crusaders also have a built in resurrection from passive skills - Demon Hunters have... mobility and inflated toughness.

Personal Experience
I play on Hardcore and have level 70 Crusader, Demon Hunter and Witch Doctor. It would not be safe/wise to give an absolute value (say 10 or 12 million toughness) for what you need in order to be safe in Torment 1 for a few reasons:

The Demon Hunter's toughness has Dodge built into the value from Dexterity, but when you do not dodge you are taking a higher amount of damage (compared to your EHP or toughness than the other classes), so I consider their toughness to be inflated.

The Crusader's toughness does not factor in Shields (which 99% of crusaders probably use). So the crusader's toughness value is actually understated.

That said, my group of friends on Hardcore moved into Hardcore Torment 1 with a minimum of 10 million toughness and between 400-500k damage. At around 12-14 million toughness and 600-800k damage, farming Torment 1 feels pretty safe (even when pulling a double pack). We have 5 people who play together regularly, all with 2-4 level 70's and so far no deaths. We each only have 1 that we comfortably farm Torment 1 with currently though.

I can't speak from experience regarding Softcore progression but maybe someone else can offer similar guidance in a separate answer.

  • My answer is already the Softcore point of view. Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 12:32
  • @StrixVaria as a softcore player, I still value the hardcore opinion. I do not like corpse running or staring at a respawn timer. The hardcore mentality brings survivability, which has value in softcore as well.
    – user69603
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 2:57
  • @JohnGaughan I do build for survivability in softcore; dying isn't fun even if the penalty isn't that steep. I think the main difference is that in hardcore you build up a ton of "buffer" survivability. I really have no trouble not dying on Torment 1 in softcore either. You shouldn't push yourself to farm Torment until your gear is ready for it. Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 3:09
  • This answer would be incredibly useful if it were updated for the more recent patches where Dexterity doesn't increase dodge, legendary gems make a large impact on DPS/toughness, and there are many more ways to have a "second chance" at living. I play Hardcore and would love to see an update here. Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 16:06

After almost three years since I posted this question (which I asked soon after Reaper of Souls was released) a few changes to the game have been made: most relevant is to rifts. This information is for the revamped rift system.

"Difficulty" is a bit of a fuzzy line, now that the real progression is in greater rifts. Greater rift difficulty is now determined not by the difficulty of the game you spawn, but the drop-down list of the rift: furthermore, difficulty roughly corresponds with game difficulty, but with additional granularity: level 10 corresponds with Torment I, level 13 with Torment II: there are two difficulties in-between.

To determine the proper difficulty, simply push Nephalem rifts and see what you can complete: then see what difficulty of Greater Rift you can complete efficiently: 7-10 minutes for more rift completions per unit time, but certainly under 15 for the gem upgrades. Nephalem rifts are great for seeing what you can survive, while greater rifts are great for what you can clear efficiently. With greater rifts being Diablo 3's endgame, the answer to my question is "play whatever greater rift difficulty you can while completing it in under 15 minutes."

Note: if you run bounties, run either Torment I or Torment VII. The difficulties in-between reward Torment I crafting material quantities while being more difficult. In terms of act-specific crafting materials per unit time, Torment II-VI are not efficient.

  • I would disagree about 15 minute benchmark. Playing a rift for full 15 minutes (i.e. at the limit of your power) is not efficient item-wise, so unless you are grinding paragon experience or pushing the GRift level (for achievements, upgrading gems or leaderboards), I'd say tune it down to when you clear a rift in 7-10 minutes. The difference is usually 2-3 GRift levels - not much difference item-wise, but very noticeable from speed and survivability standpoint.
    – Orc JMR
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 8:15
  • @OrcJMR agreed, I added text to that effect.
    – user69603
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 18:54

The method I use to determine if my DPS is ready for a certain difficulty level is by observing if I can kill a goblin on that difficulty. And if you can kill a goblin, how fast, if you kill it right before he disappears, then your DPS is just about there. If you kill it earlier, then you're prepared to farm in that level. Toughness wise, just fight some elites and see how you fare against each type.

  • I pretty strongly disagree with this. I've got the DPS to kill goblins on T4, but a rift boss might take 4-5 minutes to kill. It's just not terribly efficient.
    – Sterno
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:07
  • I will not say that "can kill a goblin before it disappears" should be the primary means of establishing readiness for a difficulty (especially if you clear around it first and are not sacrificing safety (toughness/healing) for loot). However, it is an interesting indicator and one that I have noticed myself. I would also add to this that "can clear 100 monsters during a cursed chest event" is an interesting one as well.
    – user69603
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 23:31
  • I would like to add after another week or so playing that I can handle Torment I just fine, but cannot kill a goblin before he disappears (at least not solo without some ringers helping). Elites and bosses definitely take extra time, but given careful play, I can down them without too much difficulty.
    – user69603
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 3:35

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