My plan for getting better at these races was to watch one guy who does quite well (he's currently tied for first in overall points earned) while I'm eating. Helman streams every race on Twitch and they're archived so I can watch them afterwards and see what he's doing. It also helps that the stream contains a feed from his voice chat server so sometimes I get to hear top players talking strategy. Mostly I get to hear them make fun of each other and call RIP when someone dies, but you take the bad with the good.
I don't know that he necessarily has the best plan (Scions in general seem to place higher than Duelists do) but he has a very good one and I've been able to piece it together and implement the basics of it myself. Being the best overall doesn't really matter that much, especially since I know I'll never get there. Most of the bonus points are for doing well compared to other people of the same class anyway. So focusing on one class seems like it makes sense.
To summarize the plan you rush as fast as you can to a point where you can get the leap slam skill and then you use that as both your movement skill and your area damage skill for the rest of the game. Pretty much every choice on the skill tree and for gear is focused on leap slamming more often and hitting harder with leap slam. So there's a premium put on attack speed (attack speed impacts how long you spend in the air with any given leap slam) and on ramping up the damage done with a 2 handed weapon.
Races are played with hardcore characters so if you die you get eliminated and get no points at all. So my first instinct was to spend my skill points on extra health. Lower the chances of dying and increase the chances of scoring points! This is definitely true, but it also pretty much guarantees you get no bonus points and get to a lower level. If it takes you 3 or more hits to kill an enemy you're going to engage fewer enemies to stay safe and you're going to level slowly. If you kill enemies in one hit you can take on as many as you can reach at a time because they die too fast to kill you back. The glass cannon may well be taking four times as much damage per attack but as long as they don't get bursted out immediately they'll kill all the enemies and just drink a potion to heal to full. Because you get flask charges based on how many enemies you kill you get to heal so much more by killing faster. There is definitely the danger that you do get bursted out in one round of attacks but that's what player experience with the different areas is for, right? Helman comes really close to dying all the time, but he knows the signs of danger and bails quickly enough that he survives a pretty high percentage of the time. And by running right up against that line he's faster than safer builds.
What tips have I picked up from my stream watching and experimenting myself?
- Chest armour slows your movement speed down. 8% for a strength or strength/int chest and 4% for any other chest. The solution? Don't wear a chest until you get leap slam. It's right to carry one around for hard fights (Brutus in particular) but wearing a chest while walking through a zone is a big mistake. Shields do the same thing, but wearing a shield really slows down your killing speed so it's a double whammy. Don't wear those either!
- You can CTRL click on things as a shortcut. At a vendor CTRL click will move an item from your inventory to the vendor. On the skill tree it will lock in the selected point without needing confirmation. This lets you skill up as you walk if you're fast enough!
- Logging out and back in will respawn you back in town, and is faster than a town portal scroll. So unless you need to go back through the portal the other way, just log out. You get the waypoint after a boss when you kill them (like Brutus) so logging out and taking the waypoint is faster than walking out, nevermind that you need to go to town to claim the leap slam quest reward.
- You can sell an unidentified blue item for 2 transmutation shards. You can sell those for 2/5ths of an identify scroll. Identify scrolls let you buy critical items from a vendor! Things you wouldn't buy in a normal game like a small mana potion or a white ring/amulet/belt but that you need to buy in a race. Belts are only 2 scrolls each, the others are 3. So if Hillock drops the right stuff and I get 5 scrolls in town I can open with iron ring + rustic sash for more damage! Later on I'll buy some potions if I didn't get the right ones to drop.
- You need a two red link item early because you want to connect added fire damage to leap slam as soon as possible. You need a two red link and a green link to add in double strike. I used to take life on hit as my support gem because it would keep me alive but it also made the mana cost go up too much and I can stay alive better by doing more fire damage and one shotting the enemies! If you don't have the 3 link you can make do by using a R-R and a R-G and swapping the added fire damage around for bosses.
- If you're fast with a mouse you can input a move command and then rearrange your inventory as you walk in order to swap gems and gear around or use orbs. I am not good enough to do this. I think it's growing up with a SNES controller instead of a mouse but I simply can't make those precise movements. It's also why I'm mediocre at StarCraft II!
- Your weapon is the most important thing. You want to constantly be on the lookout for white 2-handed weapons above your level that you can pick up and use if you level up without finding a good weapon. Use an alch, or a chance, or a transmute on it. The stats you want are IPD (improved physical damage), attack speed, or added elemental damage. Until you have leap slam you need to stick with a sword or axe for cleave.
- Resist rings are really important. Cold resist for Merveil, lightning resist for chambers of sin 2/3... Boss fights are sketchy regardless. Run up, double strike a couple times as you chug your best potion. When you get knocked down low enough that you'll die in one hit you kite the boss away as you drink to full then you can leap slam back in and double strike some more. With a good enough weapon you probably only need to do this once or twice. With a worse weapon you probably need to be cheezy and use a portal scroll to refill your flask.
- Once you have leap slam and some attack speed you don't need movement speed. So you can throw away quicksilver flask and movement speed boots! Skipping the flask quest is therefore a really good idea.
- The really early zones just aren't worth enough experience. Run through them. Maybe stop and kill blue packs? I think you want to be level 3 by the time you get into upper submerged passage so you need to kill enough to make that happen? I know I kill too many things but I just can't help myself!
- The +2 range on Master of the Arena does not help cleave, sweep, or leap slam. It turns out it only helps cyclone and actual single target attacks. It's still good to have on double strike for bosses, I think, but it isn't as nutty as I thought it was.
- Thinking on the fly is bad. Having a mental checklist of things to do and a precise build order has helped me by removing some of the things I need to think about and letting me focus more on just running through zones killing things quickly.
1 - axe - Stone Axe
1 - sword - Corroded Blade
1 - maul - Driftwood Maul
8 - sword - Longsword
8 - maul - Tribal Maul
9 - axe - Jade Chopper
12 - sword - Bastard Sword
12 - maul - Mallet
13 - axe - Woodsplitter
17 - sword - Two-Handed Sword
17 - maul - Sledgehammer
18 - axe - Poleaxe
22 - sword - Etched Greatsword
22 - maul - Spiked Maul
23 - axe - Double Axe
27 - sword - Ornate Sword
27 - maul - Brass Maul
28 - axe - Gilded Axe
32 - sword - Spectral Sword
32 - maul - Fright Maul
33 - axe - Shadow Axe