Where in the world do I go after lair branches and d:15 (and elf:2)?

This is my first time getting this far, and I tried to do elf:3, but I just ended up doing a brief sojourn through the abyss… (Got out now) Where should I go?

Either Elf or Vaults, generally. So, if you’re having trouble with Elf, I’d try Vaults.

It does depend on the character.
Vaults 1:4 is probably good.
After that, perhaps Slime and Elf:3 before you do Vaults:$

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i’ve gotten almost formulaic with my route:
after S: branches I clear Elf (though if Elf:3 doesn’t go well I’ll skip it), then Vaults:1-4, then Depths. Then it’s time to decide on the 3rd rune

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