Greater Rift Mechanics

Content of this article:

  1. General
  2. Scaling
  3. Map Pool
  4. Monster Pool
  5. Rift Guardian
  6. Pylon Management
  7. Fishing


Greater Rifts (also refereed to as GR) play the biggest role in Diablo III's Endgame. In this post we will look at the in-depth mechanics of this system.

Torment LevelGreater Rift Level

1. General

To open a Greater Rift you need a Greater Rift Keystone obtained in Nephalem Rifts. The higher the cleared Nephalem Rift is the higher the amount of average keys you will receive as reward. On Torment 16 you will receive 3 or 4 keys with equal probability. Cain's Destiny set can increase your average number of keys by 25%.
Click the Nephalem Obelisk next to Orek in town to open a GR & choose a Rift level. You will unlock the first tiers by completing Nephalem Rifts on certain difficulty levels.

On top of that and further along all the way to GR150 (which is the cap) you unlock new tiers by completing the Greater Rifts. To complete a Greater Rift you need to kill monsters until you reach 100% progression and then kill the Rift Guardian (also known as RG) within a 15 minute time window. The remaining time is displayed by a timer on the right side. Depending on how fast you complete the GR, you will unlock +1 (10:00-15 minutes completion time), +2 (5:00-9:59 minutes completion time) or +3 (0:00-4:59 minutes completion time) tiers.

Every time you complete a Greater Rift in time you are also placed in the in game Leaderboards if you are within the top 1000 Players for each individual category. The categories on the Leaderboards are: Solo for each of the 7 classes, 2-Player and 3-Player and 4-Player.

Once you kill the Rift Guardian of a Greater Rift in time all your transmogrification, gear, skills and passives will be snapshotted onto the Leaderboards. Every player watching your clear on the Leaderboards can see your full setup except your Follower. This has not always been the case. In past clears only the transmogrification of the players setup was shown and the actual META build remained hidden in some cases. This was changed for the sake of more transparency, but also leads to some problems where a lot of people just copy paste whatever the Rank 1 player is using without understanding the builds or the mechanics behind it. In the end this feature is useful to get a general idea of what builds the top clears played, especially for newer or returning players.


GR tier compared to Gem's rankChance of upgrading
+10 or higher100%
-5 to -151%
-16 or lower0%

Monsters killed in Greater Rifts don't drop any loot. All the Gold-generating effects (such as Boon of the Hoarder or Goldskin) are also disabled. Instead you get massive amount of loot when you finish the rift by killing the Rift Guardian.

The Rift Guardian drops Gold, Gems, crafting materials and Blood Shards, amount of which scales linearly with Greater Rift tier. It also drops up to 12 items of varying quality. The average quality of these items increases with the Greater Rift tier but somewhere around GR100 it becomes high enough that virtually every item dropped will be a Legendary or Set item. From that point on the item drops effectively stop scaling.

If you do not have all Legendary Gems collected, the Rift Guardian is guaranteed to drop one of the Gems you are missing. The first gem you get this way is always Bane of the Powerful. Legacy of Dreams has significantly higher drop chance compared to all other gems and is usually found soon after. Otherwise the order is completely random.

If you complete a Greater Rift on time, you can attempt to upgrade your Legendary Gems by talking to Urshi (who will spawn next to slain Rift Guardian). You get 3 upgrade attempts baseline, one more if you don't die for the entire rift and another one if you pay Gold to empower the rift before entering it. You can spend these attempts on any gems that you have on your character or in your shared stash. The chance of successful upgrade depends on the Greater Rift tier and Gem's rank. Refer to the table above for the exact chances on each level.

After you kill the Rift Guardian (and upgraded your Gems if able), you can talk to Orek in town to finish the quest. This will close the rift and award you a large amount of Gold and Experience scaling exponentially with the Greater Rift tier.

New personal solo records will also unlock a new maximum Blood Shard cap the player can carry at a time. You start with a base cap of 500 and get an increase of +10 Blood Shards per cleared Greater Rift level. That means if you manage to clear a GR100 solo you get: 500 base + GR100 * 10 = 1,500 Blood Shard cap! In a fresh season or on a new account you will also get access to the best items in the game: Primals by clearing a GR70 Solo!

Competing a Greater Rift 75 solo will also unlock Torment 16 difficulty in Public Games for your character. This is done to ensure that you are capable to clear certain content before being assigned to a public group of your power level.

Death Penalty
The penalty for death inside a GR is the additional time it takes to respawn: On the very first death you can respawn instantly without losing any time, but every death beyond that will increase your respawn timer by +5 seconds, up to a maximum of 30 seconds. The Greater Rift timer of 15 minutes will keep counting during your respawn time.

The Greater Rift 150 cap ceiling problem
When introduced the Greater Rift System was supposed to be an "infinite scaling system". This has been the case for many years as there was no way to reach the theoretical cap. But patches and patches came by while each one brought more and more power creep to the game which lead to players clearing the highest possible Rifts. In recent seasons it has even become the rule rather than the exception that GR150 is cleared within the first days of a fresh season and speed cleared within 2 or 3 minutes in the final season push.

Blizzard has stated that the Greater Rift cap of 150 is here to stay as it is and rather focuses on adding new builds as well as improving existing ones to further add variety to Diablo III's endgame. Here is Blizzard's official blog post regarding this issue.

2. Scaling

Greater Rifts get more and more difficult but also more and more rewarding the higher you go.
Each level you go up the multiplicative increase is:

  • Monster health:  
    GR1-150: x1.17
  • Monster damage:
    GR1-25: x1.13185
    GR26-70:  x1.07177
    GR71-150: x1.02337
  • Experience gain:
    GR1-25 handpicked numbers
    GR26-70 x1.08
    GR71-150 x1.05
  • Blood Shard gain:
    127 base + ( Greater Rift Level * 3)
    On Greater Rift 100 you gain 427 Bloodshards
  • Gold gain:
    1.03 % per Greater Rift Level, same for the Empowered Costs just rounded

Most of the time you will be playing Greater Rifts above level 70 there the scaling can be illustrated as follows:

  • Monster Health doubles every 4.5 tiers
  • Monster Damage doubles every 30 tiers
  • Experience gain doubles every 14 tiers

Blood Shard's and Gold costs to empower for +1 gem up increases with every level as well as the Gold reward for completing the Greater Rifts.

Multiplayer scaling
The monster life further increases by 100% for each Player beyond the first one who joined the Greater Rift when it was opened. The monster damage remains the same. As there are some amazing group synergies and combinations available as well as the Strength in Numbers buff the group benefits far outweigh the monster life gain. You can check the full Multiplayer scaling here.

Trials 78 Key

History & Trials
Back when Greater Rifts got introduced you had to farm Bounties in order to open Torment Rifts. Then you had to farm these Torment Rifts in order to get a Trial Key to access the Trial Realm.
The Trial Realm was a relatively small area where the Players had to clear waves of monsters in a certain time window. Depending on how high a wave of monster you or your party cleared in a given time you would be rewarded with a Greater Rift Keystone of the cleared difficulty level. A unique playstyle that was required to gain the highest keys resulted in an entire META revolving just around the Trial Realm.
This system was changed pretty quickly in 2015 to the system we know today as Players had to go trough a lot of effort to actually play the real Diablo III endgame: Greater Rift!

3. Map Pool

There are a variety of different maps that randomly appear when a Greater Rift is opened. There are some exceptions like the Sewer & Westmarch map layouts that cannot spawn as Greater Rift floor 1. Generally Players are looking for open map layouts where it is easy to build up density of trash monsters while damaging Elites and dragging them along to finish them off. On top of that the top Rift layouts have plenty Pylon spots for very flexible use. Here is a full list of Maps with a chance to be opened as floor 1 (sample-size of 1000 runs) and a short description of each map in the pool, sorted by potential:

Greater Rift Map Pool

MapCountChanceShort Description
Top Tier10510.5%Best maps you can get
Festering Woods515.4%The best map in the Game! It has it all: Great density,
many open areas (especially the 4 corner version), plenty of Pylon spots and many Elite enemies
Battelfields545.5%The second best map, very open as well (again possible
4 corner layout), decent amount of Pylon spots
Good10610.6%Still very good
Shrouded Moor555.5%Always medium size with a 4 corner layout where
it is easy to build density and drag Elites along
Desert515.1%Also decently open map with a medium size that is filled
with good density and many Pylons spots
Potential13813.8%Can be good if they have the right layout and size
Plague Tunnels454.5%Can be very large with open rooms, but very narrow as well.
Layouts are possible with plenty of dead ends
Act 2 Cave40.4%Also known as the "Wudicave", Big open cave but
with lots of holes in it and some narrow passages
Silver Spire444.4%The layout can be very large and open but is often
riddled with bridges and obstacles. Has very limited
Pylon spawns, some layouts go as far as
not having any Pylon spawn points whatsoever
Arreat Crater454.5%Wide variety of layouts here, can be very narrow with bridges
and dead-ends but also very open with decent Pylon spawns
Meh31031.0%Very rare to be any good
Temple of the Firstborn292.9%It's meh because it is usually very short and can be skipped
no problem, very narrow map that can have a few open rooms
here and there but overall hard to impossible to kill Elites
Eternal Woods292.9%Can be "openish," but there are loads of trees
blocking the ability to pull and drag monsters along
Vault151.5%Can be very short or very long, decent layouts are possible
Sand doors and bridges make it difficult to drag monsters along
Storm Halls474.7%Similar to Vault, can be decent but mostly not as it is too narrow
Greyhollow Island323.2%Looks similar to Cave layouts , can have open rooms but too
narrow overall
Hell Rift393.9%Super short, only 2 possible layouts, kill some trash and go next
Halls of Agony666.6%The most common map layout in the game, can be very very bad
to pretty decent, if you have open rooms with zombie pits
Pandemonium Fortress535.3%Shock towers are very problematic here, the layout has a few open
rooms but small bridges that connect these rooms making it
difficult to drag Elites along
WestmarchN/AN/AUsually pretty bad, sometimes can contain good rooms
New game34134.1%If you wanna push high on the Leaderboards better leave these
Crypt575.7%Can have open rooms but generally to narrow with very
underwhelming density
Keeps585.8%Many doors, super narrow, not good
A1 Cave101.0%Many narrow corridors, hard to drag monsters along
Ice Cave50.5%To many holes in the group with narrow passages
Spider Cave50.5%Only 1 open room with a long entrance & exit,
very bad and hard to skip fast
Green Cave30.3%Too many caves in this game - narrow and no density
Water Cave131.3%Too many caves in this game - narrow and no density
Winding Cave101.0%Too many caves in this game - narrow and no density
Realmwalker575.7%Also knows as "spaghetti", to many bridges, very rarely you can
see open rooms here, usually only at the end
Cathedral696.8%Only a few open rooms here and there but most likely narrow
Corvus555.5%Possibly the worst map, very narrow like keeps
On top of that you have to click every single door individually
and wait for them to open 🙁
SewersN/AN/AExtremely long, narrow and contains few enemies

Note that Westmarch and Sewer maps don't have numbers in this list as they simply cannot spawn in the first Greater Rift floor that is opened!

You can see by the data that you roughly have a 1 in 3 chance to get a playable "openish" map on the first floor.

A couple things that have changed from the past:
Maps that have been great, like the Spider Cave for example have been reduced from a possible 2 room layout to only 1, making it one of the worst maps nowadays.
A lot of map layouts like the 4 corner Arreat Craters that you can see in Torment Rifts are just not possible to spawn in Greater Rifts anymore.

Here you can see the maps data showcased in a video by wudijo:

Best Maps in GRs

4. Monster Pool

There are a variety of different monsters with different progressions that appear inside a Greater Rift:

Monster Sets

Monster SetsNicknameNotes
Best Monster Sets
Vile Swarm, Brood Hatchling, Webspitter SpiderVile SwarmsFocus on the Vile Swarms
Dark Vessel, Revenant Soldier, UnburiedTransformersWait for Dark Vessels to transform into Unholy Thralls
Good Monster Sets
Tusked Bogan, Maggot Brood, Moon Clan ImpalerBig Bogans, MaggotsFocus on the high value Maggots
Ice Porcupine, Ice Clan Warrior, Ice Clan ImpalerPorcupines, Ice ClansKill the melee Ice Clan Warriors
Savage Beast, Scavenger, Quill Fiend, Tomb Guardian, Arachnid HorrorSummoners Chargers, Petting zooFocus on the Savage Beasts
Scavenger, Burrowing Leaper, Returned Executioner, Maniacal GolgorFroggies [and Skeletons] Let the Tomb Guardians summon extra progression
Spiderling, Bile Crawler, Arachnid Horror, Moon Clan ImpalerMini SpidersDo small fast pulls
Grotesque, Risen, Returned ExecutionerZombie GrotesqueBe aware of the Grotesque explosions
Lacuni Huntress, Warping Horror, Ravenous Dead, Hungry Corpse, Retching Cadaver Lacuni PhasebeastsLet the Retching Cadaver spawn additional progress
Dune Stinger, Accursed, Grotesque, Fallen Peon, Fallen Cur Bees AccursedDangerous but high progression monsters
Ghastly Gravedigger, Ghostly Murderer, Dark Zealot, Enraged PhantomGhost PeopleBe aware of the Ghost's leeching attacks
Armored Destroyer, Plague Carrier, Corpse Raiser, Skeletal BeastChickens, Salad, DestroyersThis monster type groups up super nice
Dark Hellion, Foul Conjurer, Dark Berserker, Crazed CultistDark Hellions, GG-Comp, GOD CompThis monster type groups up super nice
Lacuni Slasher, Horror, Foul Conjurer, Blood Clan MaulerLacuni SlashersLoads of progression, be aware of the Horror explosions
Quill Fiend, Skeleton, Blazing Ghoul, Tomb Guardian, UnburiedQuill Fiend + SummonersLet the Summoners spawn additional progression
Mediocre Monster Sets
Toxic Lurker, Death Maiden, Stygian CrawlerBig SpidersFew small monsters, hard to kill the Toxic Lurker
Bogan Trapper, Tusked Bogan, Shrieking TerrorBogan TrapperBe aware of traps and Tusked Bogan charges
Disentombed Hulk, Dust Eater, Dust ImpHulks + Red ZombiesMake big pulls, Hulks follow nicely
Barbed Lurker, Dark Berserker, Dark Hellion, Skeletal Beast, PunisherEmpty Set, Dark BerserkersVery few monsters in general
Fallen Master, Reviled, Vile Revenant, Blazing Swordwielder, Demon Raider, Exorcist, Returned ExecutionerBlue FallensUsed to be one of the best monstertypes, now medium
Crazed Summoner, Fallen Firemage, Fallen SlavelordFallen ShamansAvoid the Fire projectiles
Anarch, Carrion Bat, Death Maiden, Fallen Overseer, Summoned Soldier, Summoned Shield Guard, Skeletal Archer, Executioner, ExarchAnarchs + ExarchsFocus on the high value Death Maiden
Scorching Creeper, Disentombed Hulk, Winged Assassin, Oppressor, Mallet Lord, Lacuni StalkerRed SpidersMany Winged Assassin can spawn here for decent progression
Fallen Overseer, Anarch, Fallen Hound, FallenRed FallensFocus on the high value Fallen Overseers
Bad Monster Sets
Unburied, Moon Clan Warrior, Moon Clan Shaman, Moon Clan Impaler, Ghoul, DarkmothMoon Clan, Unburied Goats Only very few Unburied
Skeletal Archer, Blazing Bone Warrior, SkeletonRed ArchersBarely any progression
Blazing Guardian, Barbed Lurker, Dark Berserker, Returned ArcherBlazing GuardiansDo not stand in the same position for to long
Stygian Crawler, Voracious Zombie, Spewing Horror, Quill Fiend, Demon Trooper, Dark HellionStingers, CrawlersCan be okayish with decent pulls
Blazing Ghoul, Fallen Overseer, Moon Clan Impaler, Oppressor, Subjugator, Vile TemptressRed Balls, OppressorsAvoid the Vile Temptress projectiles
Morlu Legionnaire, Morlu Incinerator, Mallet Lord, Demonic Hellflyer, Hell WitchMorlusKill the Morlus before they can heal back up to full hp
Blood Clan Warrior, Blood Clan Spearman, Colossal Golgor, Blood Clan Sorcerer, Tormented StingerBlood Clan, Spearman, Comedy CombWorst monstertype in the game, barely any progression
Spellwinder, Soul Lasher, Noxious Guardian, Fallen Overlord, Copperfang Lurker, Abomination, Brood HatchlingLightning SnakesBeware of the Snakes' lighting attacks
Fallen Slavelord, Quill Fiend, Soul Ripper, SubjugatorLickers, Green FallenBe aware of hungry Tounges!

5. Rift Guardian Pool

The Rift Guardian spawns after 100% progression is reached and is the final boss of the Greater Rift. They all have the same amount of hit points, count as Elites and are different monster types. There are a total of 25 Rift Guardians each with different and unique mechanics. You can find a full list with all the Rift Guardian Mechanics explained here.

Force Teleport the Rift Guardian
If you need the Rift Guardian in another spot from where he originally spawned the whole team but the zBarb should run to the preferred spot. The zBarb stays on the Rift Guardian and keeps the focus on him, then starts teleporting out of the Greater Rift after casting Ignore Pain to not get interrupted. As soon as he is in town the Rift Guardian no longer has a target in range. This forces the Rift Guardian to teleport to your far away party members in the spot you want it to. Once that has happened the zBarb can go back into the Greater Rift and join up with the group again for buffs. The only Rift Guardian you cannot use this trick on is Vesalius as this boss cannot be force teleported.

Bane of the Stricken
The best gem to engage in a longer Rift Guardian fight is Bane of the Stricken. While having a base 25% multiplicative damage boost against Rift Guardians is great, the primary effect is what makes this legendary gem a true powerhouse when it comes to boss killing:
For each attack you do against an enemy the more damage it takes form all your next attacks stacking up to infinity. As most of the Rift Guardians have no or only a few Minions this effect works wonders in a long Rift Guardian fight!

6. Pylon Management

Another powerful tool inside GRs are Pylons. There are 5 different Pylon types:

Channeling Pylon
Effect: Channeling Pylon reduces resource costs by 100% and all cooldowns by 75%.
Duration: 30sec
Best use: Offensive for high cooldown burst skills like the Necromancer's Land of the Dead and to skip maps quickly by spamming movement speed abilities.

Maximizing Conduit

Conduit Pylon
Effect: Conduit Pylon releases Lightning from your character damaging monsters scaling with the Greater Rift level. Deals reduced damage to Rift Guardians.
Duration: 30sec
Best use: At the end of open maps after dragging Elites along side

Shield Pylon
Effect: Shield Pylon grants immunity to all incoming damage and control impairing effects.
Duration: 60sec
Best use: In huge prepared pulls or on the Rift Guardian

Speed Pylon
Effect: Speed Pylon increases Movement Speed by 100%, Attack Speed by 30% additive, grants the ability to ignore monster hitboxes while moving and knocks monster up in the air applying a Crowd Control effect onto them.
Duration: 60sec
Best use: This Pylon is skipped by most builds and often in group play because of the added Crowd Control effect, but it still can be used to skip floors fast or to stack Bane of Stricken on the Rift Guardian faster. This is also the only Pylon buff that does not drop off when leaving the Greater Rift.

Power Pylon
Effect: Power Pylon increase your damage by x3.5 multiplicatively.
Duration: 30sec
Best use: In huge pulls timed with Convention of Elements damage rotation or on the Rift Guardian after stacking Bane of the Stricken for some time.

Here are some more facts about Pylons in GRs:

Mechanic summary by wudijo
  • 2-4 Pylons spawn each Rift
  • No Pylon can spawn twice
  • Pylons effects will disappear once the Player exits the Greater Rift (with the exception of Speed Pylon)
  • After the Rift Guardian is spawned Pylons cannot spawn anymore
  • Pylons have fixed positions inside the Greater Rift map pool
  • Spawn rate increases with the Greater Rift progress
  • It is possible to get a Pylon at 0% progression but very unlikely
  • Pylon spawns can be lost if you do not discover new Pylon spots frequently while progressing trough the Greater Rift
  • The only item to increase the effect of Pylons is The Flavor of Time, which doubles their duration for the wearer of the amulet

6. Fishing

Getting a high rank on the Leaderboards usually requires a huge amount of GR fishing. You are looking for a top tier map with a top tier mob type, usually a Conduit Pylon and a decent boss for your individual build. Sometimes you even rely on some more RNG factors like seasonal themes (S21) or Elite Affixes like Missile Dampening. Here is a list of RNG-Factors that go into Greater Rift fishing and we can "build" our dream Greater Rift with roughly estimated chances:

Dream Rift Layout in Festering Woods

1. You need a good Rift tileset: Festering Woods - the best one
~ 5.4% chance

2. You need a good tileset layout: Festering Woods - the best tileset very open 4 corner layout
~ 20% chance

3. You need a good mobtype: Transformers with Hellions & Unburieds for example
~30% chance

4. You need a good amount trash monsters: Many Transformers and Unburieds for example
~ 33.3% chance

5. You need good Elite Affixes: Preferably no Wormwhole or Juggernaut Elites
~ 20% chance

6. You need good Elite types: You want to have mostly melee Elites (these usually stay inside the pull and follow very easily) or Summoners, Mothers, Vile Hives, Maggots to spawn additional progress
~ 15% chance

7. You want to finish the Rift in 1 to 3 pulls ideally to lose not to much time moving
~ Covered in 1. 2. 3. & 4.

8. You need good Pylons: Ideally Conduit Pylon for the Rift, Power Pylon and Speed Pylon for the Rift Guardian
~ 25% chance

9. You want to get 100 % progression on one map to not lose times with loading screens, travel times and grouping up monsters
~ Covered in 1. 2. 3. & 4.

10. You need a good Rift Guardian depending on your build, either competently stationary single target or melee with Minions for AoE heavy build.
~ 24% chance

That leaves our rough chance to getting close to a dream Rift scenario:

0.054 * 0.2 * 0.3 * 0.333 * 0.2 * 0.15 * 0.25 * 0.24 = 0.000001942056 %

Or 1 in around 500,000 for the "absolute perfect" Rift. For reference Rob has played this game for more than 10,000 hours since launch and cleared "only" 78,000 Rifts on his account. Of course you do not need a perfect Rift by any means to get a top rank, it is rather just a theoretical best case scenario. You can roughly get a decent Rift every 100 keys.

Below you can find suggestions to reduced this RNG load inside of Greater Rifts and make the journey to push a high Leaderboard rank more fun for the player.

Suggestions to reduce the amount of fishing required


Greater Rifts are very RNG heavy and are a huge part of the game. Getting a high Leaderboard rank requires a lot of fishing and determination from the player. The system around the Greater Rift cap and the randomness factor could be greatly improved, but it has already come a long way since its launch and has been improved tremendously. Overall Greater Rifts are a great endgame tool and are fun to play solo as well as in groups with your friends.
May the RNJesus be with you on your Diablo journey! Cheers, Rob