That's it, I swear I am done with playing main characters in HC leagues once this one's over. See previous. RIP me. (Of course, we'll see how long that resolve lasts, next time...) I suppose at least I have a map-capable SC character now. Maps are harder than cruel Dominus, who knew? >.>
I still think the difficulty spike at Sceptre is too steep. But as of the time of typing this, I'm standing at the top of the tower, a freshly minted level 50, about to wake up Dominus's minions. I've been playing solo all the way, using 2h ST linked with life on hit. It's a great leveling build, and I'm told it's great for killing Dominus as well. Guy I talked to yesterday said he was selling cruel Dominus kills at level 60 as ST.
For the past couple of days, I've been selling cruel Piety and Dominus kills. It bought me a headhunter, a really good armour piece (now in SC, incidentally) and start-up currency in Domination. The buyers are mostly of two kinds: the ones who simply can't be bothered to go it solo, since they're leveling new characters, and the ones who don't dare to play him. Considering my first few attempts at Dominus, I can hardly blame them. And I most definitely can't blame the former group either - I've probably had as many characters act rushed as I have levelled the regular way.
You know what the most interesting thing about it was? In however many hours of runs, totaling maybe a couple days' worth of playtime, I got to know Dominus really, really well. People fear what they don't know, see. At level 71, know or not, I'm not going to get killed that easily.
Someone else's cruel Dominus log (blue items only) and thoughts on the matter
Yeah, I'd rather pay someone than end up fighting the way he did. No offense intended. And as for practising on normal Dominus? Uh, I kind of did that at Cruel. After I ripped, the first thing I did was take my entire setup the exact way it was and go finish off the couple of merciless quests I hadn't done. (Two out of sheer laziness, and one was Dominus.) Died once at merc Dominus, and this when I know everything he does and the actual range of his skills and everything. Nothing really prepares you for the damage you can take. Of course, part of the reason is that I played it with the SC mentality: just try it, and if it gets you killed then try it again but a little bit more carefully, and if that doesn't work then try something else. The HC mentality is much closer to "don't try it if you don't have an escape route", and considering the amount of damage Dominus does when you're at the level "appropriate" to fight him, you don't always have an escape. You can get killed in 200ms - even before the information reaches your computer from the server, on a bad day.
This is with a build I am completely confident can take on (almost) all the content in the game, having extensively tested it on SC prior to playing it on HC. There are builds which simply cannot do some content at any level, mostly map-exclusive like Weaver, Shock and Horror, Piety, Megaera. But while I'm confident my FP build could probably take on normal Dominus at level 50, I'm not at all confident it could do the same for cruel at the same level. First form Dominus is something of a pain for me, second form is a cakewalk and I stall it while waiting for customers to get through the portal. First form is a cakewalk for my dual totem buddy, second form he can't reliably do at all without portals. Even Lunaris Piety can be a significant issue for certain builds, such as (some) totem and summoner builds. And don't get me started on normal Crematorium Piety as a summoner. Honestly.
Different builds are strong at different level points and at different content, and that's all there is to it. If you're playing a build not suited to it, why not get someone else to do it for you? There's no functional difference between paying for a kill and joining a party to do it if you're not going to contribute much, except the party is less reliable, slower and will proc Dominus with more HP. I do actually have a bit of a problem with taking that easy way out before trying it the regular way, mind. But there's no shame in trying, failing (including realising you won't succeed) and then paying someone to get you through the gate to the next level.
All comes back to the difficulty setting, doesn't it? Which I still think is overtuned for a3x in general and Sceptre/Dominus in particular.
Here's to reaching merciless on my future bow templar. This has been an entertaining interlude. I'm going to start the fight now.