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How I consistently farmed Headhunters for a few leagues (The ghostchaser method)

2022.01.28 00:13 zamrai How I consistently farmed Headhunters for a few leagues (The ghostchaser method)

This is one of the lesser-known methods of farming a headhunter, and now that Prophecy is getting the boot, I don't feel like I need to keep this method private anymore so you can try it before it's gone.
I had used this technique to farm several headhunters until maybe about 4-5 leagues ago, until it got mind-numbingly boring.
Much of the credit for the discovery goes to user Syndrome, with whom I spent a lot of time theorycrafting how to make this farming method more efficient.
The key interaction goes like this:

The setup: 1) The map choice here was crucial; as there are a lot of ways to brick your map. The most important part is not to have any areas in which your graverobber can get trapped, this includes different levels (like Tower), boss rooms where monsters can spawn (like Pit) or master missions like Alva (where ghosts can spawn in the temple). Einhar was also a big no-no because of his own damage.
The best choice of maps were the ones that had high density and didn't have a lot of obstacles (because of the terrible ghost AI), so for example, Desert, Mausoleum and Cemetery were some of the good options to pick from.
The idea here is similar to nemesis farming, i.e. maximize the number of rares possible, so you can refer to those guides if you want a more in-depth way on how to roll the maps. However, keep in mind that the initial investment here is entirely dependent on the cost of sextants, maps and materials. From my experience, graverobbers were about 1 in 50 to 100, and they take some time to roll, so I usually tried to go for a moderately juiced up map (maybe 30c cost per).
I would generally pick T1 to T6 maps so that it's both easily survivable and so monster HP doesn't fluctuate much (we'll see why later). In the same vein, mods like "increased HP" would generally require me to tweak my damage, so I would avoid doing them.
2) I would then roll simple sextants until I got the "Tormented Graverobber" on one of my watchstones, then general pack size mods using awakened sextants for my other three.
3) A critical item to use for ensuring a smooth run was Southbound gloves, as they provide a way to snap all monsters below a certain HP threshold (your freeze threshold), and the key to that was to have low damage variance (so I would get a 36-44 attack damage rolled southbound), as well as high cold res reduction/penetration to smooth out the variable monster resistances.
4) I would then tweak my damage (mostly trial and error, but only needed to do it once) until I could kill all but the lowest HP rares (like sirens or ribbons were a great indication as they have super low HP). Some magic monsters had higher HP than rares, as well as some rare minions from monster types that have unusually high HP, so it wasn't always super smooth.
5) Then to kill off rares or high HP magics I would use a high level bane with concentrated effect.
The method: I would bring ~ 50 forceful exorcisms with me into the map, then go through the whole map and kill off any ghost that is NOT the tormented graverobber, this could get very chaotic if the two were very close together, and I've lost a few maps that way (i.e. if I can't get the graverobber in a rare, or if both spirits inhabit the same body).
Then, once the graverobber is safely tucked into a rare, I would begin to clear a nearby section of the map of all but the rares and high hp blues. The amount of monsters I would kill would entirely depend on how many nemesis unique bosses I would spawn, as they added as significant amount of chaos and screen clutter to the process.
After I have a nice patch of rares, I would pop a Forceful Exorcism, hit bane and start popping the ghost from one host to the next, making sure I pop a prophecy in-between each, clearing new patches and bringing in more prophecies from the hideout as needed.
Bonus tidbit: you can dupe the ghosts if you have multiple people with the same prophecy on (not sure if they fixed it since), so in theory if you have a lot people, you can save some time with this method, but it does add a significant amount of chaos to the process so I wouldn't recommend it (it's useful for having an insurance ghost in case you mess one up though).
The results: In my peak, I could clear about 100 prophecies per hour, though I think if I'd stopped using beyond, and instead significantly increased the investment on my maps, I could have reduced the amount of chaotic behaviour coming from the unique beyonds and maybe run these 50 to 100% faster. It's a trade-off of time vs cost, so ultimately that would depend on the supply of Forceful Exorcisms on the market (I could sometimes go days without prophecies). Also, if I took less time to pick up items looking for perfect rolls, I would have cut a significant amount of time, but then I would get a much lower steady stream of income in favour of spikey income (which is not always good early league). Also with the torment atlas nodes they had added (increased ghost duration), I could have significantly improved the QoL for my runs.
I would generally buy the prophecies at 0.5c to 2c per when buying bulk (most of the time 1:1). I would contact people who I noticed were selling bulk prophecies, as most of them would not actually save these (demand was extremely low, which makes me think I was the only one doing this at that scale); my ability to run these was entirely dependent on these brave and courageous RSI-resistant folks so a special thanks to them.
My maps would generally cost about 20-60c depending on how much I juiced them, how fast I wanted to go and how much sextants cost at the time, and I would on average run about 60-80 forceful exorcisms per map (closer to 80-100 if I invested on the higher end).
I would also get a steady stream of league-specific uniques (this was before they started dropping in the regular pool), and I would easily more than cover the cost just from selling the common ones that dropped (The Primordial Chain was probably my biggest steady money-maker overall).
As far as headhunters go, I would find maybe one every 800 to 1500 (before they were added to the regular pool, never tried since), I never really kept track of the exact numbers, but it was around that area. I found 2 the first two leagues I did it, 3 the third league and 1 the fourth league, so the sample size isn't extremely high, but it can give you an idea. Among those, I found several T1 uniques that were worth a significant amount (like badge of the brotherhood, maloney's, etc).
I did have one league where I made a little experiment by keeping all the jewelry I would find (this was maybe 1 or 2 leagues before badge of the brotherhood came out), you can see the results here: https://imgur.com/a/EVseP2p (I don't see Berek's respite there so I may have sold those, should be the same tier as Shavronne's ring though). If you have a particular use case that requires you to know the relative tiers of some of the other non-jewelry items and want to exchange information, feel free to reach out.
It would be interesting to see how the stats changed after they've added all the uniques to the pool of regular items, so if you're willing to try the technique out and have several thousands of forceful exorcisms to burn, I can walk you through the method in more details to accelerate the process.
You can make your own assumptions on the estimated exalt per hour, but I would gut feel it around 5-15 ex per hour all included, depending on how early I would do this in the league.
Conclusion and tl;dr: While it was a lot of fun finding the method and coming up with ways to improve the efficiency of the process, I've got to say it's one of the most mind-numbingly boring farming techniques I've done, and yet I consider myself lucky compared to the brave prophecy farmers who will soon be out of a job, whose thankless job is to click a button repeatedly thousands of times per hour (I'm sure a lot of them are botting, but a special thanks to those who weren't).
One thing it did have going for it is the extremely low investment cost in terms of character requirements and setup relative to a lot of other farming techniques, so it was definitely a good one early league, the main issue I was having is not being able to progress any of the other content, so I was often very far behind atlas-wise early in the league (but hey, I usually had a HH by week 2).
tl;dr:
  • Get a metric shitton of Forceful Exorcism prophecies
  • Get the "Tormented Graverobber" sextant on your atlas
  • Get southbound gloves and a specific amount of cold damage to only kill non-rares
  • Pop the graverobber in and out of every rare on the map
  • Get headhunters, win the game
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