The True Fire Witch: Explosive Arrow


"What is this madness?" you ask, "a fire witch that uses explosive arrow isn't the true fire witch". Well you're not entirely wrong, however it is definitely one of the strongest fire builds if not the strongest, it has good range, large aoe, good single target damage and makes use of one of the most overlooked mechanics in the game, the Ignite burning status ailment. While this build requires the use of a bow, the bow is only there to shoot quasi-spells and not actually do physical damage but pure aoe fire damage. There's a few other guides for explosive arrow but this one has a few particularities, specifically it's mana based so you can run certain auras and it uses Elemental Equilibrium to increase single target damage(and potentially aoe damage).

Before we start, note that this build isn't recommended as a starting build. It doesn't require insane ressources, but it requires a bit. I'd say it's an intermediate level build. You will need at least a Quill Rain unique bow, an Explosive Arrow skill gem(preferably a quality one), a Concentrated Effect skill gem and an Elemental Proliferation skill gem and a Reduced Mana skill gem as well as a bunch of Auras you get as quest rewards but you might want them earlier(Discipline, Purity, Clarity, Grace).


The first point to discuss on this build are the mechanics behind explosive arrow. Explosive arrow is a 2 part skill. I'll explain each part separately.

The first part is the attack part. You shoot an arrow at the monsters, which does 100% damage(basically the same as a normal attack). This part is a normal attack and as such is affected by all attack modifiers such as life gain on hit and lifeleech(both the supports and the item stat), flat damage addition you can find on rings/gloves/amulets and certain uniques, the weapon elemental damage mods assuming you have some elemental damage on your bow or on your gear and so on. This is literally like if you used a normal attack.

However, for this particular build, this part is almost entirely irrelevant. In fact for most people until you can find the perfect godlike endgame bow(which I'm not sure even exists yet on HC), this damage will generally be between 1 and 20. Yep, even at lvl 90. The only important aspect of this part of the skill is the fact you can apply elemental damage mods, which will proc Elemental Equilibrium.

The second part is what's really important. Once the attacks connects to a monster(or a wall), the arrow becomes an explosive charge which will detonate after 1 second. This delay can only be increased, not reduced and it's generally not a good idea to increase it. Hitting the same target again, assuming they're a monster, will reset the timer to 1sec again and will add another charge to the explosion, for a maximum number of 5 charges. If you keep hitting the monster, the timer will keep resetting but no additional charges will be added. Once the timer runs out, the arrow explodes, dealing AoE damage in a small AoE. The more charges there were on the target, the larger the aoe is, both in damage and size. The explosion is always a single hit, even with 5 charges.

Now the hard part is what affects the explosion. The explosion is a non-weapon, non-spell, fire aoe projectile. Non-weapon means it's not affected by anything that affects attacks only such as Life gain on hit(both on gear and support), Life leech on gear only, any passive which specifies Bow or Attacks in their description(point blank, iron grip, heavy/deadly draw etc). Non-spell means the same thing but for spells, anything that specifies spells will not work on the explosion, such as Spell Damage%, Doomcast(crit% for spells) and whatever else. What does affect the explosion are passives and mods that affects projectiles, fire(or elemental since fire is an element) or aoe. This is for example the Perfect Aim passive for projectile damage, the Blast Radius passive for aoe or the many fire% and elemental% damage nodes you can find.

I touched on a singular point of the ability before too, but the explosion is always a single hit, even with 5 charges. What that means is that while it does the damage of 5 abilities at once, unlike say GMP Fireball, it does that in a single very large damage hit. The point of interest is that assuming it procs an Ignite(from a crit or from the various other ways to increase the chance to ignite), the Burn generated by that very large hit will also be massive, unlike the Burn generated by typical fire abilities like Fireball and Firestorm. This aspect is basically what the build relies on.

The build

First thing first, links to the build at various levels:

Level 20(2skill points from quests): Eldritch Battery is post poned at the moment, you will take it when you actually can use supports on Explosive Arrow and the cost is too high.

Level 40(6skill points from Normal, helped Oak for +health, 2skill points from Cruel Act1):

Level 60(6points from Normal, 7points from Cruel killed all the bandits, 2points from Merciless Act1):

Level 90+ "Endgame"(6points from Normal, 7points from Cruel, 7points from Merciless killed all the bandits):

Now as you can see, this is an extremely defensive build early on. You might want to grab more damage oriented nodes if you play softcore or if you don't mind the risk, however it is recommended to respec to defensive nodes once you enter Merciless until you have finished the defensive core, at which point you can grab the offensive nodes again. Matter of taste and dependent on gear of course, but do not underestimate Vaal's damage on a squishy build like this. You can also grab any of the +30 dex nodes or resist nodes at your convenience, or drop the totem life node if you don't use Decoy or use a quality Decoy or just if you don't like it(I do ^^).

The build relies on a few key offensive nodes to increase the damage, but mostly all the damage will come from the supports as well as the raw damage of Explosive Arrow. That's why even without any offensive nodes, you can still kill stuff without much of an issue.

Skill Gems

The main skill gem combo of this build is: Explosive Arrow - Concentatred Effect - Chance to Ignite - Elemental Proliferation. For a 5L and 6L, the options vary but Fire Penetration is probably a good idea and Faster Attacks is another. Item Rarity/Quantity are also acceptable choices since the build doesn't really require more than this 4L.

This combo gives you a high chance to ignite the target even when you don't crit(which you can't do anyway due to Resolute Techniques). When all skills are maxed and assuming 20% quality explosive arrow, you will have a 78% chance to ignite on hit. When you do proc the ignite, Proliferation will spread it in a fairly large aoe and will keep spreading it for a couple of second so even if a mob that wasn't originally ignited comes into the area, they will start burning(even if the original mob is dead already). Concentrated Effect is there to increase the damage by a large amount and multiplies all other damage modifiers you have from passives. The AoE reduction isn't a big deal since the Burn will be spread in a large area anyway and eventually the AoE passives will increase the AoE even further than its original size.

The second important part of this build are the auras, because you use Eldritch Battery, you will use multiple auras. Originally you'll want to use Clarity(for mana regen), Discipline(for maximum mana since ES is converted to mana, which also increases mana regen) and Purity for resists since this build is otherwise low on resists due to no shield and little resists nodes in the Witch area. It also increases your maximum resists, which will help with Elemental Reflect mobs so you don't kill yourself. As you get more mana, you will want to add Grace since it's a cheap aura that gives a decent survivability boost as well as Haste aura which will increase your DPS and movement speed. You could use Determination instead of Haste to increase your armor depending on how you gear yourself up.

You will want Reduced Mana linked to these auras, but since you use more than 3, you will either need 2 reduced mana, or use a little trick: link reduced mana to your auras, cast the auras so they reserve the reduced amount, then move the reduced mana gem to another link with another aura, and cast that one. Repeat as needed for all your auras. This saves you money and isn't too big of a hassle since you only need to recast auras when you relog, when you die or when you want to update their stats after they've leveled.

On curses, Flammability is an obvious choice and your main curse choice. You can and should probably level Enfeeble too, for these specific times where you'd rather not die than do more damage(bosses like Brutus, Kole, Vaal, Piety, Kraytin, flicker mobs and so on). You don't necessarily need it on your bar at all times but keep it leveled so when you need it you can swap it in and use a powerful version.

Finally, you can use many other skills that are not necessary but quite useful, here's a non exhaustive list:

Poison Arrow is a great skill that you will use to level from 2 to 19, but you can keep using it, like Explosive Arrow, it does not matter what damage you do with your weapon you will still get the same cloud of chaos damage, it's a great complementary aoe.

Fire Trap is another early AoE you can get that scales well into late game for this build, since you will reduce resistance to fire quite a lot from Flammability and EE.

Lightning Arrow is also an option for Elemental Equilibrium aoe procs, you will need to link it to a LMP or Fork(chain is unnecessary for the purpose of this build but works probably better).

Molten Shell is a nice defensive buff, unlike Molten Shell builds, you will mostly use it to provide armor which with Inner Force will be quite a decent amount. It also benefits from all your fire and aoe passives so if it does pop, it'll do quite a good amount of damage. You will want to link it to a Faster Casting and possibly an Increased Duration support however.

You will also want one totem for diversion purposes since you're not very tanky, this will be Decoy or Skeleton Totem. I prefer Decoy because it only takes one socket and I can link it to Faster Casting with Molten Shell and save me some more sockets. Faster casting on Decoy is also a must since you will need to recast it often as it doesn't tank very well, but it does taunt mobs which makes them group up which is excelent for your explosions.

Raise Spectre and Conversion Trap are also potential options to provide additional diversions and added damage.

Really it's up to you what you fill the rest of the sockets you have with, be inventive and use what you prefer. If you don't have great gear and as such not enough sockets, it's also fine to not use anything.

Here is my current setup:

You can see I have 2 unlinked sockets on my helm for Fire Trap and Poison Arrow, my chest has 3 of the auras with a red link for Reduced Mana which is linked the rest of the time to Grace and Enfeeble/Flammability but that link is fairly unnecessary. I don't have the mana yet to use Haste so it's on my alternate weapon set for now. My gloves are sadly not 4L so I can't add increased duration to molten shell but it works well enough, and I have a Spectre+Minion Life link on my chest but that's entirely optional stuff, I just like the spectres in act3.

In terms of quality gems, the only quality gem that really matters is Explosive Arrow, and you should try to look for one asap. They're not that expensive comparatively to other gems, so aim for a 15+% right away. I got both my 14% and my 16% EA gems for 1GCP each, but you might have trouble being that lucky, still 2GCPs should net you a ~15%. The other notable quality gem that actually matters would be Concentrated Effect for the reduced mana cost on Explosive Arrow. You don't need quality on chance to ignite, flammability or elemental proliferation as those only increase the duration of the burns, which is generally not useful since the mobs will either be dead or you will be reapplying another ignite before the first one wore off anyway.


There's a few key elements to make this build work. First, you will need a Quill Rain unique bow as mentionned before. This isn't an option, Quill Rain is the best bow until you can somehow find a fast thicket bow with +1 all gems and +2 bow, which I'm not sure exists yet and if it does it's extremely rare and won't start dropping until at least lvl 74 anyway.

What you want to look for on your Quill Rain is a good dex roll(18-20 is preferred). The other stats don't really matter, but you might want a decent ilvl to roll more sockets on it, assuming you have that kind of money. If you don't, it's ok, you don't need many links in your gear anyway until endgame, and you will need a few random green sockets so even 2-3 non linked sockets is good enough on a Quill Rain. Hell my first EA witch had a 1socket ilvl 8 Quill Rain.

This is the one I'm using currently.

On my chest, you might have noticed in the skill gem links, it's a Cloak of Flames. I chose this particular item for a few reasons, but mostly because of the physical damage conversion. It converts 20% of the physical damage you take to fire. I will eventually have 85% fire resist(at the moment still 82% until purity levels enough). That means that I get a 17% physical damage reduction from the chest alone. However unlike armor, this works regardless of the strength of the attack, which is great and probably better than any sort of armor I could have gotten on the chest. It does not have health however so that's the main downside. The high fire resist is quite helpful, and it also increases damage by quite a good amount by adding 10% chance to ignite, pushing my maximum theorical chance to ignite to 88%, pretty good. This unique is not needed however for the build, I just liked it a lot.

You will need a Light Quiver, possibly with a double dex roll. This is because as a Witch and using the build I provided, you will have very little dex. You will need a lot of dex on your gear. Luckily, a good Light Quiver can have around 70dex alone, which along with Quill Rain covers most of your needs. Currently I'm using a Light Quiver that doesn't have 2 dex rolls because the stats are insanely good on it and I'm lucky with other pieces of gear that provide dex in the meantime. Finding an adequate quiver for this build isn't necessarily an easy task however, as most people tend to vendor quivers that don't have good stats for the more typical Lightning Arrow builds. I've been rolling Light Quivers for a long time now, basically every Light Quiver that dropped in Felshrine merciless and higher, I've looted and Alched. Then when I get a few of them, I go to the vendor and use the recipe that lets you sell 5 rares of the same type for a new random one. I generally wait until I have 6-7 quivers, so I can swap them around to find a combo that will grant me a +40dex one in return.

For the rest of the gear, it's pretty standard stuff. You will want health and resists, movement speed on boots, attackspeed on gloves if possible(but absolutely not needed so don't spend a lot of currency for attack speed gloves which are expensive). Try to focus on gear with ES to get mana, or just gear with mana, so you can run more auras. Obviously, any piece of gear with dex is also great. You have to pay attention to +damage mods however, anything with + fire will proc fire EE on your attacks, reducing the damage of your explosions, so that's a big no no. Try to avoid them, but you will want at least one item that gives +lightning or +cold damage, to proc EE to reduce fire by -50 before the explosion. If you cannot find specific gear, using a level 1 Wrath aura will work too, it only costs 50mana.

Playstyle and videos

The playstyle is in my opinion pretty fun. Unlike most builds which tend to mindlessly spam their aoes, you have to "count" the charges, and then wait for them to detonate. This adds a certain depth to using this build effectively. You will want to gauge how many charges are needed to kill the current mobs, if you should add some to increase the aoe or the burning damage aoe to kill mobs that are not close enough, which mob to target to create the largest aoe. The general combo will be to stack 2-3 explosive arrow charges on a single mob, then quickly cast a Flammability curse on the pack before the arrow explodes, then cast a poison arrow or firetrap as you see fit. Casting a Decoy totem first is also an option. Bosses will generally require a 5charges explosion, and depending on the ignite procs and the mob type, might require a few more. If you use Lightning Arrow, use it before the explosions to debuff all the mobs with Elemental Equilibrium.

Here are a few videos I shot while I was leveling:

Felshrine farm on my older Explosive Arrow char, had the AoE passives

The Ledge Merciless first run on the newer Explosive Arrow, only did 2 runs though then straight to Felshrine, started Felshrine again at 55 ^^

First map, technically second since I did one during closed beta, was just checking out the place, still need a few levels before I can do maps efficiently(I'm only 68, map is 66). Also quality is pretty crap I had issues with my computer and it was laggy so had to reduce the size, should be fixed for future videos

Level 71, now with the AoE passives, farming merciless Docks to try out Lightning Arrow

Second map, still no idea what to do but this one was easier, no stupid flicker strike mobs

Last edited by PyrosEien on Feb 21, 2013, 10:32:37 AM
Looks like a cool build I'm surprised no one has replied.
I'm playing the same build atm. quite similar to yours but i think is a little bit of an improvement

here is an 87 point build, basically this is the full build with acess to Many nodes / keystones and is very customizable to suit your needs.

Need 30 more strength? no problem, 1 click away, 30 dex? 1 click away. 1 click away for chaos resistance, additional 8% nodes are right there and another one is 2 more points away.

Having troubles with mana? pick up soul siphon for 3 points at a low level and respec out of it when you no longer need it.

sits right infront of 2 resistace "trees" to pick up additional resistances.

If you desire burning damage there is 80% more you can achieve for 5 points for use with fire traps.

You can forgo the 10 energy shield nodes below the witch starting spot for additional damage.

The idea is to use energy armor for defense as its more accessable for a witch. I take the 3 elemental weapon damage points in the templar tree because I use elemental hit for dealing single target damage with a Quill Rain.

Last edited by Kwanzaa on Feb 20, 2013, 11:17:09 PM
Yeah I wouldn't do that on HC for one. And you'll need to go CI at some point, there's no way you'll live against chaos mobs without CI and no health, I assume you forgot to put the point. I don't know about CI without GR or a shield though(which gives the largest ES per slot once you have shield defenses nodes).

The other issue is you have no mana and soul siphon alone won't cut it, and definitely won't late game when you add more supports to your EA. EA is one of the most expensive skill in the game AND you fire it super fast due to Quill Rain, about twice as fast as any other skill. Both of these issues mean you require very large amounts of mana and mana regen, or blood magic. Going a Blood Magic gem makes the skill very costly on health and the delay makes it risky to run on a Life Leech support since you have to attack 5times at like 200health a pop, then wait 1sec until Life Leech finally heals you. So unless you go passive Blood Magic I don't think it's very viable either(and isn't in your build was just pointing that out).

Have you played that build at high level? I wonder how you manage to run EA, even in my build where it's fairly cheap since the supports aren't too expensive, it still costs like 75mana per shot, at 3.11 attacks per second that's 233mana per second, even with EB and a lot of mana regen+disc+clarity leveled up, I'm only at 130mana/s regen at the moment.
Last edited by PyrosEien on Feb 21, 2013, 1:21:49 AM
So basically your witch might as well be a templar.
Rit_ wrote:
So basically your witch might as well be a templar.

Considering I go to both starting areas, yeah sure. I wouldn't drop the witch start even if I was a templar though, 60% mana regen 20% mana and some health nodes is too good to pass up imo in a mana intensive build that uses many auras. Eventually I go to the marauder starting area too, so it could be a marauder as well.
Last edited by PyrosEien on Feb 21, 2013, 6:30:55 AM
Gameplay looks like lot of fun need to try that build :)
Awesome0 2000
Added a couple more videos now that I'm higher level and have killed Piety so I have more skill points, specifically into AoE passives.
Is the ignite damage not reduced by elemental equilibrium?
Habber_Dasher wrote:
Is the ignite damage not reduced by elemental equilibrium?

Only on mobs actually hit by the explosions, and that's why I've started using Lightning Arrow now that enemy actually have enough health to survive the burning in some cases(mostly fire resistant mobs though). Lightning arrow procs a lightning EE in a large aoe with the aoe passives, so they're back at -95(45 from the curse and 50 from EE) right after the explosion.

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