Walked out of the encampment into the Old Fields to obtain zombies and ran immediately into Shivershell. Pretty easy fight since I had 7 levels on him, just had to stay off the pile of his friends' corpses so detonate dead didn't hit me.
Went back to the Blackwood to head toward the Western Forest, and immediately found Granitecrush. He wiped the minions immediately so I decided to just reset the zone rather than spend the time to kill him. The next instance spawned a Hexproof Secluded Copse of Endurance (monsters immune to curses, monsters get endurance charges). Looks reasonable! Advanced *very* cautiously through the snakes and spiders to get to the boss, but unfortunately "Kutec, Vaal Fleshsmith" was just too risky to take on. He summons zombies and casts Desecrate and Corpse Explosion, which meant it was basically me against him while the minions fought among themselves. Not a good risk to take, especially since his minions were wiping the floor with mine.
Made it to the Western Forest without incident after that, and had no problem with either the guards or Alira. Hit 24 and picked up Might (30 str) and Death Attunement (8% attack/cast speed for minions, extra spectre) with the level point and the quest reward. I needed the strength for Decoy Totem, which is still extremely useful, and it'll also be handy later when I switch to using Spell Totem with my skeletons. Also, found some rare gloves with life leech and a 6% quality Flicker Strike during my trek westward. Useless for this character, into the guild stash with them.
Decided on the Crypt next, to fetch the Hand for Yeena. The necromancers casting Elemental Weakness reminded me that I have no curse as of yet. Found a couple of gems through the crypt run, but no curses and nothing useful for a summoner. If I don't find anything before Act 3, I'll probably pick up Enfeeble then (as the reward for Clarissa/Tolman).
Didn't see any Invasion stuff until the very end of the Crypt level 2, when Glassmaul spawned just in front of the Archbishop. Fortunately I was already moving slowly and moved back as soon as I saw his aura, so only Glassmaul aggroed initially, and I was able to fight them individually. Pulled the Archbishop and his blue spider guards with the old totem-at-the-top-of-the-stairs trick, and then triggered the spider ambush after they were down. Found a rare evasion/energy shield boots with a blue/green link, +mana, life regen, 7% increased rarity, and 15% movement speed...about the best I'm likely to manage at this level.
Hit level 25 sometime during that last fight. Passive tree now looks like this
. I'll come back for that last 10% minion life node in the Death Attunement cluster later.
Next up, Chamber of Sins 2-3. Hit the waypoint and was immediately attacked by a bunch of invading miscreations...fortunately not the boss. The devs really ought to think about resetting the spawn points near the waypoint there; it's one of the few zones where you can be attacked immediately on zoning into a new instance. While looking for the stairs to level 3, found and killed both Strangledrift and the giant spider unique. Also found a Cast on Death gem; I suppose there might be a more useless thing to find in a hardcore league, but I can't think of one right now.
Got level 26 on the way through Chamber level 3. Spending my next 3 points on those life nodes in the witch starting area, then it'll be time for some more minion buffs. Took all the possible wrong turns, so explored the entire level before finding Fidelitus. Killed Strangledrift again in the process; dude gets around. He's fairly easy if you can hide around a corner from him and summon skeletons that blow up in his face. No issues with Fidelitus either, just hid behind a pillar and cast skeleton/totem repeatedly.
Spectres with LMP obtained, thanks to the quest rewards. Won't be too long before I get to the Vaal Ruins and those nice projectile constructs. First, though, I decided to beat on Kraityn up in the Broken Bridge. Easy fight, and I didn't see any invading mobs on the way through.
Moved on via tree-poisoning to the Vaal Ruins. Found an Ample Quicksilver Flask of Heat (dispel frozen/chillen, 17 extra charges) on my way, very pleased with that. Got my revived constructs once in the ruins; great artillery revives, best you can do in Act 2. Still fragile at this level, though. Hit 27 along the way and got another life node. Also found an Acceleration Shrine, which is great fun with Summon Raging Spirit. Wish those lasted longer. Killed Glassmaul (again) in the ruins level 2, otherwise an uneventful trip to the Wetlands.
Found Oak and helped him out for the +40 life, then moved on into the Caverns. Between Oak and my level 28 life node, I'm up to 721. Next priority will be the small minion life cluster that ends in Grave Consequences. The minions are surviving a bit better with the life leech and regen from the Death Attunement cluster, but they still need help. Also switched up revives to the Shaggy Monstrosities bears with the chaos damage aura, since they survive a lot better than artillery-type revives at this level.
Into the Pyramid. Met Balus Stoneskull, the flicker-strike bandit, and demolished him. Hit 29 on the way up, and after a brief trip back to the caverns for a bear spectre refresh, destroyed the Vaal Oversoul in a fairly brief fight. Chaos damage and raging spirits for the win! He killed off a bear early, but otherwise everything went as planned.
Revived a couple of the Oversoul's constructs and rolled through the City of Sarn to the Sarn Encampment. Stayed the heck away from the upper portion of the zone to avoid Perpetus. Forward into the Slums, where life became difficult rather quickly. First there's the snakes, which in numbers can destroy a minion army in no time. The key to those is to get a skeleton or totem in behind them so they aren't all shooting the same direction, then the zombies/revives can survive long enough to do damage. Then there was Mother of the Swarm, spawned next to a rare Carrion Queen. Ran away from that and found another rare Carrion Queen, with multiple projectiles, and sent about a gazillion zombies and skeletons at her before she finally died. Discovered I'd hit a dead end and had to go through Mother of the Swarm after all, causing the sacrifice of another gazillion or so minions; fortunately I was able to maneuver both bosses into an alleyway where skeleton-explosion-in-the-face was their downfall. Fought two more rare Carrion Queens before I found the Crematorium...not an easy zone at all.
Took a brief trip back in the City of Sarn to hit 30 before proceeding. Found and killed the Harbinger of Elements, and had just gotten the level when freakin' Perpetus came running out of nowhere from behind me. I was lucky; a minion sprung his bear trap instead of me, so I could run around a corner and summon a totem to keep him distracted, then keep the minions coming to kill him off. Not exactly the easy trip to get the last 10% of a level that I was expecting!
Next stop, Crematorium. Even slower and more careful than usual is the name of the game here, because A) my fire resist is only 59%, not yet capped and B) all that fire means a witch can find herself alone and minion-less in a hurry. Especially when you hit a group of those fire-bomb throwers. And it's a good thing I was going slow, since Hatebeat made an early appearance, and I ran into two different groups of fire-bombers that wiped out all the minions and reduced me to hiding behind a doorway, dropping skeletons in front of them until the whole mess blew up. Also found a corrupted zone, but no way was I going in there with only one level advantage and not-max fire resist. Compared to the fire bombers, the Piety fight was easy; stayed out of Lightning Storm range, dodged the occasional ball lightning, and summoned totems and skeletons until she went away. Picked up that Enfeeble from Maramoa's quest reward, so now I have a curse for those all-the-minions-are-dying situations.
Into the Slums Sewers, where poison-bombers were everywhere. One or two wasn't bad, but when I got to the bust room a group of about a half-dozen (one rare) gave me some trouble. Had to run away and resummon a few times to take them down. Otherwise, an uneventful zone except for running across The Duchess. I gave the fight a go, but her minions were still too strong for mine, so in the end I had to leave her alone.
First rogue exile spotted in the Warehouse sewers: Jonah Unchained. He killed all my minions eventually, but by then he was so far down in life that a few skeleton explosions finished him off. He's a lot rougher to fight in higher difficulties when he's got more life leech. Found the waypoint and then the stash room in quick succession after that, which is a nice change from my usual make-every-wrong-turn method of map exploration. Even worse in the bust room this time, as a rare discharger and Cintiq the Inescapable were waiting for me. Fortunately Cintiq didn't live up to her name as I was able to get away, resummon the minions, and send them back in while my hand hovered over the quicksilver and life flasks, in case she flicker-striked to me. Only had to run once more before she went down.
And then the Warehouses. Maybe it's just me, but the graphics in that zone just hammer my video. I hear the fan spin up on my graphics card every time I zone in. Rough zone for fighting, too. Three more rare Carrion Queens...those are welcome to stop invading and go home any time, thanks. More snakes, with multiple projectiles this time; at least those make fun revives once you've killed them. After those, running into Glassmaul again was a bit of a relief; easy kill. On the upside, hit level 31 and got my extra zombie with Grave Consequences.
More Carrion Queens in the Marketplace. Only found a single rare one before the waypoint, fortunately. Took down Marceus the Defaced without incident, didn't even lose a zombie. And I ran across the ornate chest holding Fairgraves' hip flask, so I won't have to come back for that later.
Found the Battlefront entrance next, so decided I'd get the waypoint before going back to the Market Sewers. First mob in from the entrance...Mother of the Swarm with accompanying Carrion Queens. Sigh. Defeated her with some judicious kiting and lots of skeleton explosions. Also found a corrupted area, but since I'd have been the same level as that zone, didn't even think about going in. Not worth the risk. Found the ribbon spool before I found the waypoint, so I guess I'll carry that around for a while.
Went back to the Marketplace and fought through several more Carrion Queens, including yet another rare. Into the Market Sewers, and almost immediately ran smack into a group of grapplers led by Wonderwalker, who wiped out the minions almost in one shot. Ran away, resummoned, and took him down once all his buddies were dead; he's a lot less scary once he stops getting charges as you kill them, as his inherent power-charge-on-hit seems to build up a lot slower than the power-charge-on-kin-slain. Had to kill two rare grapplers on my way to the bust room, one of which got me to about half life with a discharge that shocked me...hooray for the Quicksilver flask as I ran several rooms away before he finished the job. Grabbed the bust and got out of there.
Hit level 32 during all that, plus the book from Hargin's quest reward, so I put two points into intelligence nodes on the way to Grave Expectations. I'll pick up that minion cluster and the Holy Strength life nodes next.
Did a quick Catacombs run for the XP. Nothing exciting except another run-in with Cintiq, which was fairly easy. Once you hit her with Enfeeble and drop a Decoy Totem, she loses a lot of the fear factor. Got about half a level.
Back to the Battlefront, which was kind enough to spawn invading Flame Sentinels. Double-edged sword, though; great revives, but they just destroy zombies at this level since they don't have much resistance yet. So lots of resummoning, but I have my favorite artillery spectres up and running. Also came across another corrupted area, but when I stepped inside and realized that Neglected Cellar was the one with Rima, Deep Temptress (cold traps, ice storm), turned right around and walked back out. Fighting her without about a 20-level advantage is asking for a one-way trip to Standard.
On to the Solaris Temple. Getting Enfeeble on those Flame Sentintels really helps; it won't keep the zombies from falling, but it slows the rate down enough for me to keep up the resummoning. Moving along just fine until Corrector Draconides leaped into the middle of my minions and set everything on fire; didn't even see him until he landed. Was fortunate enough to run away and resummon before he got me with a bear trap. He did trap me when I came back, but I had all the minions up that time, who killed him before he could follow it up. Hit level 33, convenient since it keeps me two levels higher than the next zone.
Solaris level 2 is a very large zone, and I saw all of it. Fought the Goddess of Purity, fairly easy as long as I kept the decoy totem on the side of her away from the artillery corps and enfeebled the holy waters as they spawned. Also ran into Grath, who isn't so bad by himself, but this time he spawned right next to a pack of Flame Sentinels. That was an adventure, unkillable fast-attacking sentinels with a giant skeleton boss and his accompanying minions. In the end I won, but through no fault of the skeletons and zombies, who were all over the place and didn't stay upright for long. Flame Sentinels, decoy totem, and raging spirits for the win on that one. Eventually as I ran around the map I noticed one tiny unexplored bit, which happened to have a door in it, which led to the waypoint and Diala. She likes that I listen.