I actually like lava caves; the big shard one and the first one. They’re best run between 8-10 and not so much after that (if you want to solo with melee). And that’s because the enemies get stuff like BBs and such and there’s such a stark differense between 10-11 it’s almost day and night.
The regular lava caves is tactical. Create a choke point with hireling – I use gold level 10 fighter because he’s cheap and a market bought Favored Soul (because he can fight too). Them both together can hold the intersection with ease and only when the stupid red named rustmonster pops out can it get intense (the warforged level 10 fighter usually gets smacked bad). Unfortunately hirelings are not smart enough to res themselves by the nearby shrine.
I generally start to the right – checking if there are any purple. If there are there’s also generally a teleport circle nearby, making farming a little easier.
Now before I continue I will tell you this; the lava caves are big and open. Making pathing for most part never a issue (except in a few spots). Then I generally go straight ahead. There’s always a good chance for purples up top. Now the best thing about playing a light monk is the heal and stun – and therefore avoiding having to drag the healer around – leaving him to guard the intersection. Then if there’s time I go left in hunt for purples. This nets around 150-200 mats and even 300+ at times.
The big shard one is different; you get mats as usual for picking up shards but you won’t complete until you pick up the big locked up shard. And for that you need a ward seal to turn off the alarm (without it you’re kind of toast soloing) and a bat, scorpion or octopus seal to open the door.
I always go for the top one straight head. Now in order to do this as quickly as possible I usually try to get all workers with barrels, all torches and about 4-5 heal torches. The best way to be able to afford this is to farm to the right if there are purples. It’s generall a quick way to get shards since timewise this quest is shorter.
Then I quickly move up and start mining shards to clear towards the big shard. Here’s the key. As soon as your kobolds pick up the big shards it’ll spawn several Drows nearby, a bunch of lions charging in and a couple of giant shamen.
That’s the one time I let the fighter join and take position in a intersection so he can stop the lions from messing with kobolds and the one carrying the shard (if he dies then the shard is gone and you wasted all that time for nothing). I usually as quickly as possible kill the Drows, help defeat the lions and stun and kill the giants. Hopefully without the homebase being overrun as I do this and when they’re gone and the shard is back I’ll jump back to put my fighter back on home defense.
Now the rest of the time I’ll try to find nearby purples to mine for the stuff you can keep.
This quest generally net 250 mats or so all the way up to 500.
The cool thing is that the teleport circles (or power circles) spawn slightly randomly making the tactic of setting up the shard runs a little different each time. Not so much with the first lava caves, but moreso with the big shard challenge. Sometimes a power circle will spawn relatively close and othertimes much further away, exposing the carrier of the big shard for a longer dangerous trip.
But for most part you’ll enjoy a bunch of really good runs with none stop action.
Word to the wise; use more healing torches for the big shard. Your workers are going to get hit, so while they run around and the one carries that big shard it can be nice to have those torches to make them stay alive longer.
So far I’ve used a outfit with heavy fortification and Natural armor +2. I use my trused Acid Burst of Stunning +8 and sometimes switch over to Flaming Burst of Pure good for the bigger fights. And with shocking blow gloves I do get that little extra lightning damage on a natural 20. And if they’re stunned it’s generally a good 100+. And with the extra mats I’ve bought slayer, guild and XP pots. That’s +5% XP, +10% slayer I think and +20% guild renown. It’s only for 3 hours a pop, but it does add to some extra and well worth the cost of 150 mats. Especially since an hour of challenge nets you a good 500 plus mats and maybe even more when doing the large shard challenge.