[2.5] Death's Kiss, a Trickster Essence Drain/Contagion full build and leveling guide
2.5 passive tree update
POE's website version for those who are paranoid.
Nothing much has changed in 2.5's passive tree so the tree remains the same.
For gem setup, with the changes to Pierce, you should not be using Slower Projectiles as your 5th link. Please use Pierce instead, has more utility too. The critical 4L remains unchanged in the guide. Empower should be your 6th link if you have it at level 3. If you don't use Slower Projectiles.
Right now Essence Drain should be even more powerful than before with the density of monsters in Breaches. Defenses is going to be a bit tricky as you are forced to be more mobile since everything is coming form all sides.
I’ve never played a DOT build before other than the one in FFXIV as a summoner, but I enjoyed it greatly. When Essence Drain was announced, I was curious but wasn’t sure if it was going to be my thing. After getting bored of my Split Arrow build, I decided to try out Essence Drain and Contagion for a couple of levels just for fun. You know, maybe just clear normal with it and put it aside.
4 hours later, I was at the end of Cruel and was still having a lot of fun with and was determined to push this build further, and right now after a few days, I’m at level 85. The only thing I had was a Lifespring for leveling, which carried me through to Merciless before replacing it with random high spell damage wands.
It’s not the fastest clearing build, but it can do many map mods and has decent clear speed. Build is very tanky with ~173% life at level 83, and you can get additional life nodes. You can check the tree out.
This is a life based, dual blasphemy curse build.
- Very defensive playstyle
- FRENZY CHARGES
- Can do nearly every map mod, even reflect and no regen (with adjustments of course)
- Very low gearing requirements even into maps
- Very satisfying to watch entire packs rot away in chains 1 screen away when timed right
- Does not require specific uniques (Some recommended ones but not needed)
- Clear speed not comparable to split arrow + chain or tornado shot builds, or even CoC ones
- Initial leveling is tad bit slow but totally doable and speeds up considerably
- Inherent cast speed and mana cost might bother some people
- The speed of the projectile can be kinda annoying
- Not really good in groups due to the inherent DOT mechanic of this build, but you are a pretty nice walking curse bot.
The whole concept behind Essence Drain + Contagion is fairly simple. You cast Contagion on a pack, and use Essence Drain on a target. When the target dies, it spreads through the pack, sometimes beyond depending on how big the AOE circle of your Contagion is.
Contagion -> Essence Drain -> Move on and kill any stragglers with additional Essence Drain casts.
When you encounter tougher resistant packs or just unique map bosses in general, you drop the Wither totem to slow the tougher monster down and create stacks on it that causes it to take more chaos damage.
This build utilizes dual curse on Blasphemy that acts both defensively and offensively, using both Temporal Chains and Vulnerability. Curse immune maps are not an issue and you can switch to Arctic Armour for a bit more defense.
I consider this build to be completed at level 83. You can decide where you want to after that depending on your own play style. I've included a bit of guidance later in the post.
This build can be leveled from scratch without any specific leveling gear. If you already have a well geared character, just get a lifesprig or 2. My guide will only be focusing the leveling in Normal as this is where you flesh out your gem setup and need to get a bunch of gems to get your character ready for Cruel onwards.
Gems to get after each quest:
Breaking Some Eggs - Contagion, Contagion (Offhand)
The Caged Brute - Clarity, Wither, Void Manipulation, Flame Dash, Lightning Warp
The Siren’s Cadence - Essence Drain, Essence Drain (Offhand)
Gems that cannot be purchased by the Shadow but required: Spell Totem
Ethereal Knives is my preferred choice as you go through a bunch of nodes that share both chaos and physical damage. It’s also a great skill for destroying breakables like barrels, and you can keep using it even with no almost no support gems. Lightning Warp is for those crevices that you cannot cross via Flame Dash due to distance like some areas in act 2.
I recommend equipping a heavy belt for strength and a jade amulet for dexterity as soon as you can to manage the gem requirements. Use Essence Drain supported with Void Manipulation as soon as you can.
Gems to get after each quest:
Intruders in Black - Arctic Armour
Sharp and Cruel - Faster Casting x3, Controlled Destruction
Gems that cannot be purchased by the Shadow but required: Minion Life
You should be in act 2 after a bit, be sure to purchase a bunch of Faster Casting. Specifically, you need 2, 1 for your spell totem, 1 for your Contagion, and purchase 1 additional one for offhand. You should try to get used to the Essence Drain playstyle and watch everything other than rares and magic packs melting.
At this point, try to find a 3L minimum and have these setup in act 2:
Essence Drain + Controlled Destruction + Void Manipulation
Spell Totem + Faster Casting + Wither
Contagion + Faster Casting
Level 20ish tree
Gems to get after each quest:
Lost in Love - Vulnerability, Temporal Chains, Enfeeble
Severe the Right Hand - Animate Guardian (?! I’ll explain later in the thread)
A Fixture of Fate - Blasphemy, Poison, Rapid Decay, Slower Projectiles, Pierce
Gems that cannot be purchased by the Shadow but OPTIONAL: Blood Magic (off-hand)
This will be mostly happening in act 3 at this stage. Most of the crucial gems are already gained from act 1 and 2, so the ones in 3 will be fill out the rest of your support gem needs and curses. Not much to say here other than enjoying your Essence Drain + Contagion really showing is potential. Help Oak for +40 life. I also recommend leveling an Enfeeble offhand to swap for Izaro, replace Vulnerability.
You will also have access to Blasphemy, Poison, Rapid Decay and Slower Projectiles after clearing an optional question connected to Imperial Gardens in the Library, called Fixture of Fate. If you want to run Blasphemy, just run Temporal Chain for a more defensive option. Do not be shy about the +30 dex or strength node, get them if you need it, you can spec out later.
Find at least 1 4-link item to really buff your Essence Drain, you will need a 2 blue and 2 green socket item to link Essence Drain, Controlled Destruction, Void Manipulation, Rapid Decay.
Gems to get after each quest:
Breaking the Seal - Summon Chaos/Lightning/Stone Golem, Abyssal Cry (optional)
The Eternal Nightmare - Increased Area of Effect
You will be in act 4, and things are going to start getting rough. Cap your fire resist for Kaom, don’t be shy to get a level at Dried Lake if you feel your character is a bit weak. There isn’t much to say here. Use your Wither Spell Totem on the tougher bosses, don’t be shy to use Ethereal Knives during the Summon Raging Spirit phase of Kaom, and don’t die.
Level 40ish tree.
Normal: Help Oak
Cruel: Kill all
Merciless: Help Kraityn
Cruel and Merciless
Level 50ish tree.
Level 60ish tree.
Level 70ish tree.
Congratulations! If you’re still enjoying this build, things will only continue to get better as you get more gems levels. From Cruel onwards, it’s mostly just a matter of gearing up to get more life, more damage, and when you eventually hit Merciless and maps, you ideally want to get a 5L at least to get more damage. You can check lower down the thread regarding recommended gear for what kind of chest piece you should look out for.
For those new to the game, I recommend farming Dried Lake till 70 while collecting maps. It’s doable with a 4L Essence Drain, and 3L Contagion. Cap your resist, buy some gear, and enjoy watching everything rot to your kiss of death.
You really like the build. You want to take it further. But my passive is currently at level 83 only. What are some of the things you can do? The sky’s the limit, here are some suggestions.
1) Fill out additional life nodes.
2) Get Skittering Runes to further increase the potency of your curses.
3) Get Sovereignty to squeeze in Arctic Armour with Blasphemy and run Clarity on Blood Magic.
4) Get Hex Master to increase Blasphemy curse range.
5) Nimbleness and Templar generic spell damage nodes.
6) Get jewel socket near Shaper for more life regen.
7) AOE nodes at the Templar side.
8) Sacrifice some life nodes to get Method to the Madness.
My current gear
There is no specific unique gear requirements. You can gear up mostly with rare equipment. If you are very new to this game, just ignore the rest of the uniques here.
If you are already earning currency and have some to spare, I would strongly recommend getting a Consuming Dark.
Winds of Change
Projectile Damage is always good for Essence Drain, but I personally do not like the lack of resist and life on it, plus the reduction in movement speed kinda sucks.
Nice life bonus, decent spell damage, and some defensive spell block, but I don’t like it because it’s expensive as hell. A rare spirit shield with tons of spell damage and crafted on cast speed by Catarina is a good option.
Mostly a luxury item to boost the area of effect for Contagion, but it’s not needed. If given a choice I would pick a generic rare 6L over this Carcass Jack if I was saving for an end game chest piece.
Cloak of Defiance
Say what? Yes, it’s a nice little option since it’s an ES/EV base which suits our gem links, and it will also give you lots of mana and regeneration, something that would help survivability immensely. Also an optional item if one drops.
Great jewel if your jewel socket at the Witch side is empty, and you want more damage, costs just 1 alchemy or maybe cheaper. Replace it once you get a nice jewel with at least 2 damage mods, or one with life and spell damage, whatever you want.
Get life, mana, and resist rolls.
Body Armour (EV or EV/ES)
Get life and resists, preferably also high evasion or energy shield.
Boots (EV/ES or Pure ES)
Get life, mana, movement speed > 20% and resists.
Gloves (EV/ES or Pure ES)
Get life, mana, resists and maybe an open suffix to craft dexterity when the need arises.
Spell damage, cast speed, projectile speed, mana regeneration.
Spell damage, life, resists, mana regeneration. If you can get one with high flat ES, life and high spell damage, that would be great but it’s going to really cost a bomb.
Life, resists, mana regeneration, mana. Mana regeneration helps a lot in maintaining the flow in maps.
Spell damage (Or Chaos damage), stats for strength, dex, etc, life, mana regeneration.
Strength, life, resists.
It should be relatively simple to overcap since this build does not depend on any uniques.
Essence Drain + Controlled Destruction + Void Manipulation + Rapid Decay + Pierce + Slower Projectiles/Empower
I am personally still trying to see which is better between Empower and Slower Projectiles. My Empower is still level 2 so I can’t say for sure, but right now Slower Projectiles gives me nearly 2k more damage on tooltip at the cost of a really slow projectile. I’ll test further when my Empower hits 3 eventually since Empower is giving me only 800 more damage on tooltip.
Blasphemy + Temporal Chains + Vulnerability + Enlighten (Optional)
There’s no reason not to have Enlighten in there, but you don’t need to blow all your currency on one if you can’t afford it yet.
Wither + Spell Totem + Faster Casting
Just slap this on your wand or shield.
Animate Guardian + Summon Chaos Golem + Minion Life
Just need a 3L on your shield or wand. If your guardian is dying, do a weapon swap to your other offhand gear to prevent his death. More details on the guardian in later part of post.
Contagion + Increased Area of Effect + Faster Casting + Abyssal Cry (Optional)
Just your Contagion setup, if you don’t mind having warcries, Abyssal Cry is great on magic packs since it does damage based on life. You do not need to level Abyssal Cry as the levels only gives more slow, does the same damage.
This is where your other gems should be for movement, Clarity, and the likes. You can also put in blood magic in there if you feel you can't run Clarity on mana. You can ignore the Ethereal Knives gem, it's in my helmet because it's a useful skill to break barrels and vases quickly.
Wait a second, why? Why even bother wasting a socket for this dude? Before you dismiss the idea of having a tanky walking buddy accompanying you on your adventures, read the advantages first.
- He is a walking buff. Equipping a Leer Cast and Dying Breath gives you 15% + 18% increased damage to you and your party.
- His Dying Breath also gives an aura that increases the effectiveness of your dual curse setup on monsters. It’s 18%, nothing to scoff at, make your curses even more powerful. The monsters affected get a swirling green circle on them.
- Using Zahndethus' Cassock, he gets almost 50% chaos resist, and on the occasions he does block, he drops Consecrated Ground that will heal him and you. It’s really nice.
- You just need 1 passive point in the tree for him to gain immense survivability and your chaos golem gets the benefit too.
Minions get 25% resists to fire/cold/lightning regardless of difficulty, and 0% chaos resist. It’s super easy to cap the resists for your dear guardian to make him ultra tanky. How do I gear him? It’s extremely simple, you do not need any life on the pieces, and preferably no movement speed on the boots so he doesn’t rush into danger to get himself killed. What does he need?
- Helmet: Leer Cast
- Body Armour: Zahndethus' Cassock (40% to 50% chaos resist)
- Gloves: 25/25/25 Fire/Cold/Lightning resist
- Boots: 25/25/25 Fire/Cold/Lightning resist, prefer no movement speed
- Weapon: Dying Breath
Best part? Gearing him is cheap. Remember those trashy tri-resist items you get that have no life roll or no movement speed? Keep those! It takes less than 5 chaos to gear him up so even if you accidentally get him killed, which is really hard by the way, you can gear him up with the common uniques.
Some tips to keeping your guardian alive? Sure, here’s some things I’ve learned that really threaten the life of the guardian.
- Strongboxes. Most of the time he can tank all the damage, but certain monster combinations can chunk his life down quickly, so just watch his life and prepare to unsummon him when you open one.
- Shock and Horror boss in Torture Chamber. If he gets aimed by the boss with his beam of death, unsummon him as soon as possible. I usually do not recommend leaving your guardian around for this battle.
- Jungle Valley boss. I’ll just state first that I’ve never really seen him close to death and takes the heat off you when the spiders flicker on your golem and guardian, but with bad combinations of burst damage from the boss, auras from rare spiders, he can get killed faster than you can unsummon him. With proper management you can keep him alive, but if you’re not confident, don’t keep him around when you enter the chamber.
- And if you’re wondering, he is capable of tanking Colonnade’s boss and Residence one without much issues from my testing. Both bosses usually die before the Guardian gets down to 50% life thanks to Wither slowing the bosses down.
- When your guardian gets down to less than 40% or 50% life, it’s a good idea to unsummon him if you’re not confident on keeping him alive. He does not get full life when you summon him back, so watch out. The 1.5% regen will eventually get his life back to full.
- Try not to summon him when there is a lot of loot on the ground. Do it in an area with no loot or at your hideout if possible, or you might accidentally replace his gear.
Other than this, he can tank most damage and heal up really quickly. I recommend only having this guy set up when you hit the minion life regeneration node at the Templar side, and when the gem is around level 14 or 15.
Q: What kind of jewels?
A: Chaos damage, Damage over time, Spell damage, Projectile damage, life, these are all desirable stats on the jewel. Eldritch Knowledge is a good jewel to use at the Witch jewel socket until you get something better. Costs 1c and won’t break the bank while you are alt spamming your jewel.
Q: How is the build in curse immune maps?
A: A bit slower, but still does great damage.
Q: Which map mods will give this build some trouble?
A: Enfeeble is probably one of the most troublesome mods I’ve encountered. Enfeeble by itself is fine, but if you get a curse immune + enfeeble map combination, you’ll probably not have a decent clearing speed. Doable, but troublesome. Another one would be no regen maps, but it’s easily resolved by switching off Clarity, Vulnerability and carrying a mana flask.
Q: Is the Animate Guardian really worth it?
A: Yes. He’s super tanky from my own testing, takes the heat off you with your golem, and the buffs he gives is basically free other than a few chaos. You’ll need to micromanage him by unsummoning him when things get hairy (swap to offhand to unsummon), but he generally heals up quickly and can tank most of the content.
Q: Cost of this build?
A: It can be as expensive as you want it to be, or as cheap as you want it to be. I would say that the wand would probably be the most expensive part of the gearing process along with the shield, but you don’t need to spend that much.
Q: Empower or Slower Projectiles on the 6th link?
A: I would say Slower Projectiles first, until you get Empower to level 3. I’ll need to do more testing, but to be honest, I don’t know if Empower even at 3 will beat Slower Projectiles.
Q: Atziri or hardcore viable?
A: It probably is but I’m not really interested in doing Atziri, and I believe you can get up to 199% life with this build, which should be pretty hardcore viable.
Q: How do I deal with packs or totems with the invulnerability aura?
A: Not much choice, kite and find a way to kill the main totem or rare with the aura.
Q: Is leveling Abyssal Cry required? I don’t like the high strength requirement.
A: Nope, it’s not required, it will still do the same damage at level 1.
Q: Why did you not take Method to the Madness cluster?
A: I personally don’t like the efficiency. It’s 7 total points for a 7.74 per node efficiency, compared to the templar ones which is 3x 10% spell damage. You can take it, but I wouldn’t.
Terrace map run.
Jungle Valley map run.
Last edited by Vulpix0r on Dec 6, 2016 6:40:59 PM
Last bumped on Mar 17, 2017 5:16:46 AM
on Dec 28, 2015 6:53:17 AM
Great summary of normal essence drain build, few points that i´ve noticed playing very similar essence drain:
-Geofris crest is awesome until you can afford good 5/6L
-it´s easy to stack mf
-you can add item rarity to your contagion(confirmed in thread 1528287)
-In parties only thing you can do is abyssal cry, you can link it to AoE, void manipulation and culling -personally i like abyssal cry and use it solo too with poison instead of culling. When you taunt a rare pack, it stacks high poison to kill it quickly
i like ed so far
on Dec 28, 2015 2:10:47 PM
Curious why you chose to ignore a staff with +1 chaos, +1 all gems? This gem scales with levels perhaps better than any others. Surprised to see you skip that big dmg boost!
"Success is not the absence of failure. Success is persistence through failure."
Currently Playing: Contagion/Essence Drain IGN: JddoggAscended
on Dec 28, 2015 3:06:06 PM
Abyssal Cry should have it's own 4 link 100% The skill is insanely powerful with a typical Essence Drain + Contagion build.
Abyssal Cry + Inc AoE + Void Manipulation + Poison = 1 shot entire packs in 6 player party play.
Also. I would NEVER, EVER! Recommend people use Slower Projectiles. Sure, it gives you a lot of damage but at the cost of having your purple snot rocket flying slow as fuck.
Essence Drain already has a atrociously small hit box so hitting quick moving targets is already a problem.
That said. I would use poison in place of slower projectiles until you get a level 3 Empower + corrupted level 21 Essence Drain. Absolute best case would be corrupted 21 Essence Drain + corrupted level 4 Empower. This gives essence drain something like 800+ base damage. It's absolutely insane!
Also. Fuck animate guardian, that skill is not worth the socket space it uses. it's a hassle and a pain in the ass, especially with no minion regen nodes.
on Dec 28, 2015 3:55:18 PM
Hi, really like your build guide :)
Was just wondering why you use poison as fifth link since the skill deals no poison damage on its own and the applied poison from the support gem does not spread as far as I know.
on Dec 28, 2015 5:29:59 PM
It's mostly a personal preference, I don't like staves.
on Dec 28, 2015 7:27:34 PM
I compensated the slower projectiles slow speed by getting a bit of projectile speed on my wand. Surprisingly that 15% helped quite a bit, waiting for my Tora to hit 7 to reroll the %.
Aww, the guardian is kinda cute. I also took a regen node for the guardian in the tree. He's been insanely tanky and there are very few situations that I actually had to unsummon him.
on Dec 28, 2015 7:32:03 PM
The Poison gem deals 10% of the hit's chaos and physical damage as chaos damage per second, and lasts 2 seconds by default. I think it's still worth a link.
on Dec 28, 2015 7:34:39 PM
Alright, today I learned that the guardian cannot tank the super hadoken from the Orchard boss. :(
on Dec 28, 2015 8:40:22 PM
But the poison only applies to the chaos damage of the initial hit, not the chaos dot (which is the main damage). Slower projectiles/empower would therefore be a better choice unless one is using binos for poison spread 'n stack.
on Dec 29, 2015 6:44:45 AM