[3.2 kinda] Meatball Mage — Volatile Dead/Cremation Trickster

3.2 Update

Goodbye Zerker casters! The best way I can find to resurrect this build is actually by going Trickster, and it's pretty good. You now have to rely on a Warlord's Mark on hit Elder ring, and have a bit less damage, but your leech gets superpowered and you move faster. Take that as you will. I'm leaving this here and will no longer be updating the guide.

3.2 Path of Building is here

If you want the detail of a full guide, check below. It's slightly outdated in places but still useful.

Complete build guide from 3.1
Another build guide, another food related name. Mmm.

This is a guide for a fairly basic Volatile Dead build with a good mix of damage and tankiness and the ability to do pretty much any content. Berserker is used to grant unconditional life and mana leech to fuel Mind over Matter, as well as a good chunk of damage. I ran this as my starter for Abyss and it's one of the most robust starters I've ever played.

I'm sorry the guide isn't as detailed as it could be, but this is all I have time for right now. I'll try to respond to any posts here, PMs, etc.

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CONTENTS

1. Pros and Cons
2. Skill Tree and Path of Building Import
3. Gear
4. Gems
5. Pantheon
6. Levelling
7. Playstyle
8. Stats
9. Videos



1. PROS AND CONS

Pros:
  • Really easy to play. No need to carefully manage buffs or flasks, positioning is just a matter of keeping your distance, and you barely have to aim your skills. Also very forgiving due to being able to facetank most content.
  • Great damage. DPS is very hard to estimate due to the mechanics of the skills, but you can get north of 200k Shaper DPS without too much effort and push past 500k with a bit more spending. Boss DPS numbers are very similar to squishier, harder to play crit versions.
  • Great AoE coverage. Volatile Dead homes in on enemies from over a screen away. You'll never miss stragglers.
  • Tanky. Over 8k EHP, and you're constantly leech capped on both life and mana (even against single targets) due to hitting very frequently. Facetanks most of the game if you so desire, including most bosses up to T15. Can survive all guardian skills except for Phoenix Discharge.
  • Can do just about all content. Have to avoid ele reflect and no-leech maps, and slower recovery can be annoying for hard bosses. Have personally done Atziri, all Guardians, Elder, Vaal Temple, etc with ease. Should be fine for Shaper (but I suck at Shaper so cannot confirm). Would not recommend for Uber Atziri due to Volatile Dead's target splitting mechanics making split phase awkward.
  • Easy to gear. No uniques required or even strongly recommended, completely SSF viable, can do well on a budget.
  • This can be a pro or a con depending on your opinion, but plays differently to most builds in that you don't just hold down one button. You have to use three different skills in combat, and none of them are particularly spammable.


Cons:
  • Clear speed is fine but not great. Have to use two skills to kill a pack in most cases. Somewhat made up for by having long range homing missiles seeking out packs that you aren't focusing on, but obviously not a top tier clear speed build.
  • This can be a pro or a con depending on your opinion, but plays differently to most builds in that you don't just hold down one button. You have to use three different skills in combat, and none of them are particularly spammable.
  • Can't do ele reflect and no-leech maps.
  • Can't really do Uber Atziri, and a poor choice for Uber Lab farming as you will almost always accidentally destroy Izaro's helpers and lose keys.
  • Can't use Volatile Dead for early levelling like other variants can. Have to wait until level 40+.



2. SKILL TREE AND PATH OF BUILDING IMPORT

Firstly, kill all bandits.

The final level 90 skill tree looks like this.

Levelling tress look something like this:

27 points
48 points
66 points
92 points

Path of Building data for a cleaned-up version of my actual character: https://pastebin.com/9qMnhCB9.

If you don't know what Path of Building is, learn all about it here.



3. GEAR

Note: Don't pigeonhole yourself into one of these tiers forever. You can start off with low budget gear, farm up some currency and then buy better gear, and so on.

Low Budget/SSF
You really only need very basic gear to get rolling with this build. Wearing entirely rare gear is fine. Look for spell/elemental/fire damage on weapons, life, resists and a good base for the socket colours you need on armour (don't worry at all about armour/evasion/ES), movement speed on boots of course, and life and resists on jewelry too. Getting flat mana on any pieces of gear you can is helpful.

Flask setup is pretty much constant. See sample gear below for what you want there.

Tabula Rasa deserves a mention for being a super cheap 6L that you can also just farm yourself in Blood Aqueduct. Would recommend if you can afford to lose the stats on your chest.
Medium Budget
This is pretty much the sample gear below. If I don't mention a particular piece of gear, assume just a standard damage/life/resists rare item.

Weapon: Doryani's Catalyst is pretty much the perfect weapon, as it is a huge damage boost to both the balls and the corpse explosions (the latter really helps with pack clearing). If you're like me and hate Shield Charge, you can even dual wield them.

Helmet: Since we have two primary damage skills, it would be nice to have them both 6Led. This makes an Elder helm with Concentrated Effect and Immolate mods a very attractive proposition and absolutely best in slot. Try to get as much life and res as your budget permits in addition to those two mods.

Rings: Both ring slots can be used for something special here. Essence Worm lets you run a "free" Anger to keep our mana pool free to take damage. In the other slot, try to pick up a corrupted ring with a damage taken gained as mana implicit. This prevents you from ever being caught out of mana while taking damage, which can leave you unable to cast and in a bit of a sticky situation. It's also great survivability when taking sustained damage.

Flasks: The Wise Oak provides a solid chunk of damage, if you can be bothered to fiddle with your resists.

Jewels: A Clear Mind provides a great big damage boost, since we already aren't reserving any mana. Otherwise, rare jewels with damage, life and mana are lovely.
High Budget
Again, this is adding onto the medium section. Only discussing stuff with specific high budget options, rather than just better versions of the above.

Body Armour: Worth upgrading to a 6L unique once you can afford it. Since this build is quite tanky as is, I would recommend a 6L rare over a 5L unique. Potential options include Shroud of the Lightless, Cloak of Defiance, or Carcass Jack. Belly of the Beast sucks for colours but is of course good as well.

Boots: Shaper boots with increased cooldown recovery will help out your Desecrate usage over long fights.

Belt: Can also get cooldown recovery, as above.

Flasks: Dying Sun ups the damage of Cremation a fair bit.

Jewels: Watcher's Eye can have 10-15% fire pen while Anger is active. This is really really good. Also provides life and mana for extra value.
Sample Gear
Your gear does not have to look like this, or cost even 10% of what this did (roughly 250c on Abyss at the time). Please follow the suggestions above based on your budget.




4. GEMS

All gems should be levelled to 20 unless otherwise specified.

Spoiler

Your main damage setup. Gems are listed in order of importance, so for instance if you were on a 5L you should drop Controlled Destruction. Concentrated Effect is used all the time, not just for bosses — try Increased AoE if you like, but I find that it makes no real difference to your coverage and I'd rather have the damage against nasty rares. Some people seem to prefer Spell Echo to Spell Cascade, but I've tried it and it feels slower. Give it a shot if you wish.

OR

Single target and immobile fight damage, and Elemental Overload enabler. Use the first setup if you have it socketed in a random item, or the second if it's in an Elder helm with Conc Effect and Immolate. Spell Cascade might be a bit controversial because it actually considerably lowers your maximum possible damage output from Cremation. However, I find it very valuable to be able to drop max stacks instantly and go rather than having to place all three, which takes time and is potentially dangerous. Try swapping Fire Pen in instead if you want.


Corpse generation! Even though Unearth lacks a cooldown, I wouldn't recommend using it instead. It has an awkward delay before the corpses are created, and clusters them too closely together for a Spell Cascade VD to detonate more than three. Desecrate's cooldown is rarely an issue anyway. Make sure you keep Arcane Surge at level 7.


Only use if you have an Essence Worm to socket it into - not worth the mana loss otherwise.

The rest of the gems are up to you to some extent. Here are some suggestions.

AND/OR

Movement skills! Recommend carrying Flame Dash as well if you use Shield Charge, for those pesky walls and gaps.


High level CwDT setup to automate some random utility. Whoo, laziness! You can also use Blood Rage in here for the Soul of Arakaali trick - see below.



5. PANTHEON

Every major god has potential usefulness to the build. However, I would suggest either Lunaris for the clear speed bonus, or Arakaali for the regen trick. Specifically, if you use CwDT Blood Rage + Immortal Call, you can trigger the "stopped taking damage over time" part pretty easily, and boost your leech rate by 50%! Plus frenzy charges are cool.

For minor gods, either Garukhan for the speed or Shakari for poison immunity. Nothing too exciting.



6. Levelling

Here are the levelling trees again:

27 points
48 points
66 points
92 points
Final

In terms of skills, I found VD a bit weak early, particularly because we pick up very few damage nodes early. Would not recommend until you are level 40-50 and can put it on at least a 4L. Until then I just used Sunder + Ancestral Protector, but if you want to stay as a caster I would recommend Firestorm + Flame Totem. And make sure to kill all bandits!



7. Playstyle

Best way to get an idea of the playstyle is to watch the video below. However, a few tips from my experience with the build so far:
  • Drop your corpses under mobs if possible! The corpse explosion damage is very significant, and can often one-shot packs if you stack enough elemental damage.
  • Try to chain VDs when you can, but don't worry too much about it. It can often be quicker to Desecrate under a pack and blow them up than wait for the VDs from your last pack to hit them.
  • In breaches, abysses and similar situations you can often forget about Desecrate and just spam VD. It's glorious.
  • Spell Cascade repeats in a line out from you. If you want to cluster Cremations on top of each other, cast Cremation at a 90° angle to your Desecrate and they will stack up nicely.
  • Don't forget that Cremation is there to proc Elemental Overload as well as deal damage. It's very important to keep it running while doing bosses.
  • Cremation is not just for bosses! It's great for abysses, and even for packs in very confined spaces when you know they won't move much.
  • You benefit hugely from having setup time. Cremations last 8 seconds and VD balls maybe 5. Whenever you can (e.g. strongboxes, phased bosses, bosses with a small aggro range), try to have your Cremations running and some VD balls waiting before you start the fight. Check out the video below to see this used to great effect against Dominus' second phase.
  • You have to cast two spells to deal damage against a fresh pack, and your stun immunity is only if you've killed recently. Be careful about wading into packs and getting stunlocked.



8. Stats

PoB Damage Calculations

Volatile Dead Effective Damage vs Shaper



Obviously you aren't spamming VD, but the takeaway is that you're dealing 48k damage per ball, and have 9 balls per cast. So that's about 433k Shaper damage per cast, plus the corpse explosion if you can get it. Not bad.

Cremation Effective Damage vs Shaper



Each Cremation shoots 8 projectiles per second, so ideally that's about another 210k DPS. Realistically, a quarter to half of them will actually hit except against big, stationary bosses.
In-Game

Hideout Volatile Dead



Hideout Cremation



Combat Volatile Dead with EO + Arcane Surge + Atziri's Promise + Onslaught



Combat Cremation with EO + Arcane Surge + Atziri's Promise + Onslaught



Defense



9. Videos

T14 Palace Run — Likely the only video I'll ever record due to time constraints. At least you get to watch the build's boss deletion in action — for context, each phase of Palace Dominus has about 2.5 million life.


Thank you for reading! I hope this guide is useful and you enjoy the build.
Have you done something awesome with Sire of Shards? PM me and tell me all about it!
Last edited by viperesque on Mar 1, 2018, 1:56:53 AM
Last bumped on Mar 27, 2018, 11:06:06 AM
If I wanted to could I switch out Volatile dead for any fire dmg aoe skill and still do well with this tree?
"
Completed 13 ChallengesGameTasticc wrote:
If I wanted to could I switch out Volatile dead for any fire dmg aoe skill and still do well with this tree?


Sure, I don't see why not. Would have to change the support gems accordingly but the tree should work for any old thing.
Have you done something awesome with Sire of Shards? PM me and tell me all about it!
What are some skills you'd say would work well? And with what supports?
Hey man!

First, thank you for this build. I returned in game from a long pause and have had a lots of fun with this build. Just finding helmet to make transition to volatile from sunder.

I have some questions from gems.

In arcane surge you have a mention NOT TO level it over 7, thats pretty clear.
But i was wondering how come you have immortal call on lvl-1? Also you have some others, like gmp which are lvl 17. I quess those are because requirment or that they simply werent full lvl when you made this.

But about that immortal call, is that supposed to let be lvl 1?



And thanks again, this is really really really fun build to play =)
Spoiler
"
I_K_S wrote:
Hey man!

First, thank you for this build. I returned in game from a long pause and have had a lots of fun with this build. Just finding helmet to make transition to volatile from sunder.

I have some questions from gems.

In arcane surge you have a mention NOT TO level it over 7, thats pretty clear.
But i was wondering how come you have immortal call on lvl-1? Also you have some others, like gmp which are lvl 17. I quess those are because requirment or that they simply werent full lvl when you made this.

But about that immortal call, is that supposed to let be lvl 1?



And thanks again, this is really really really fun build to play =)

I would like no know aswell :)
Good writeup once again viperesque.
"
Completed 13 ChallengesGameTasticc wrote:
What are some skills you'd say would work well? And with what supports?

Perhaps Firestorm with the same supports, or Magma Orb with a damage gem instead of Cascade and swapping to Increased AoE for clearing?


"
I_K_S wrote:
How come you have immortal call on lvl-1? Also you have some others, like gmp which are lvl 17. I quess those are because requirment or that they simply werent full lvl when you made this.

But about that immortal call, is that supposed to let be lvl 1?



And thanks again, this is really really really fun build to play =)

Glad you're enjoying the build! Immortal Call can be left at level 1 or levelled, it doesn't matter since the only benefit levels in IC gives is tied to endurance charges (which we don't use). The random levels on other gems are my fault — as you guessed, I simply hadn't levelled them up to 20 again after converting them to 20Q. I've made a note in the guide that gems should be level 20 unless otherwise specified. Thanks for the catch!


"
Completed 19 ChallengesIsdp wrote:
Good writeup once again viperesque.

Thank you!
Have you done something awesome with Sire of Shards? PM me and tell me all about it!
Last edited by viperesque on Jan 9, 2018, 6:32:52 PM
Sorry if this is a stupid question but does VD and cremation have to be corrupted?
And what is the benefit of that?

"
bokelund917 wrote:
Sorry if this is a stupid question but does VD and cremation have to be corrupted?
And what is the benefit of that?


In an ideal world you would have both corrupted at level 20 so that they hit level 21 (which is a roughly 1/8 chance when you corrupt). However, this is a high-budget upgrade so just use uncorrupted unless you have a ton of currency to spend. The gems linked in the guide are failed attempts at getting level 21.
Have you done something awesome with Sire of Shards? PM me and tell me all about it!

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