[3.2] SSF / League Starter Quad AOE Crit Totem Hierophant (Storm Call or any other AOE spell)


(3.2 Patchnotes: Nothing really important outside of Hierophant buffs, very little has changed to any skill gems or the tree at all so most 3.1 builds should only be affected by ascendancy changes, and nothing else significant.)

Welcome to my theorycraft for a SSF Hierophant in 3.2. Being a SSF build, there are no uniques, and I wont go too deeply into gearing outside of general stats to look for and craft, so this build is not recommended for beginners who want a lot of information about specific gear. SSF starter builds often have to adapt and change to use the gear that you find, and I may also change the main skill to something else if shock nova is not living up to expectations. The tree is pretty generic so any AOE spell should work. A few examples of other spells I will try along the way are dark pact, storm call, lightning tendrils, Ball Lightning and maybe vortex.

That being said the build itself should be pretty easy to play. As a league starter in the trading league, you will have access to more specific items and it should be easy enough to research what you need from other lightning builds.

If anyone has any suggestions on improvements to the build or any questions please leave a message, thanks.

Why Hierophant?

I always wanted to try a quad totem build, and it seems like a good time to try it, with the new changes making Hierophant very competetive.

Why Shock Nova?

The basic answer is that I got a shock nova MTX from a lootbox a while back, and wanted to use it. I will also be trying some other gems to compare. Also a circular shape around a totem seems to make the most sense for clearing packs, as projectile or targetted storm call, sometimes will leave some mobs awkwardly. It was also buffed in 2.6 so it should be ok.

If boss damage is terrible, we might have to swap some gems with a seperate Lightning Tendrils or Ball Lightning setup for bosses. I will update the guide as I test this.

Shock Nova is pretty terrible, while levelling with Storm Call, I found it really strong, for clearing and for bosses, so I have decided to stick with it and adapt the guide.

Storm Call Totems has been a great league starter, it is hard to compare to all the new ascendancies, maybe they are all strong now, but I have found this character extremely easy to level, and absolutely breezes through white and yellow maps, and bosses are dead before they have time to even look at you. The only issue I have had is lack of dex, which you will need to find space for on gear.


I might make a video later when levelling is done if there is much interest in the thread.



+ Hierophant looks pretty strong with changes in 3.2
+ Totems are a pretty safe playstyle, and can do pretty much all map mods, apart from perhaps no regen in this case.
+ 4 totems with huge AOE (71% from tree and ascendancy) and the range of Storm Call totems make it good for mapping. Even with Concentrated Effect the coverage is good.
+ new ascendancy nodes give us some nice mana / life regen for defenses, and a bunch of placement speed so it feels pretty smooth to play.
+ Bosses seem to just melt (at least in yellow maps), and you can safely offscreen most of them.


- Finding good gear in SSF might be tricky for a crit build.
- Damage Tree is a bit squishy
- Tanky tree might not be able to scale enough damage.
- Using Elemental Equilibrium is awkward when using a lightning spell and we lose boss dps from not taking it.
- DPS on bosses might not be enough, it is always hard to tell with SSF theorycrafted spell builds, where you cannot put specific gear into path of building.
- Can't rely on Call of the Brotherhood ring to slow down enemies and provide easy EE in SSF.


My current character / gear at lvl 86 using the dps tree (includes levelling trees)



Templar / Hierophant

Tanky Tree

DPS Tree


These Trees are attempting to squeeze a little more damage from the tree, while keeping more life nodes than the dps tree. You might need to kill all bandits to get the extra points to make these trees work.


Alternative 1

-Some extra Lightning Damage
-Some different life nodes to accommodate this
-One less jewel socket (might be better for SSF if you don't find any jewels)

Alternative 2

-Some extra Crit multi nodes, this will probably be better with good crit gear
-Some extra Lightning Damage
-Some different life nodes to accommodate this, melding nodes are a bit underwhelming
-One less jewel socket


Passive Tree (26 Passives)

Rush that 2nd Totem!

Passive Tree (60 Passives)

From here on in bear in mind you can do things a little differently if you want, but this seemed like the best progression for me.

Take Jewel Sockets whenever you have something to fill them with. I have taken 1 out of 2 at the start since you often will not have anything good this early in SSF or league starter.

Mind Over Matter: there is no correct time to take this, it is strong early, but can drain your mana leading to you being unable to cast in a bad moment which might kill you. The rule of thumb is to take it when you feel that your mana regen is good, and you want some more defense. It really depends on your gear, and if you like to use mana pots.

Passive Tree (84 Passives)

Take life nodes from the scion wheel as and when you need them, I put 2 just to demonstrate this.

Passive Tree (109 Passives)

If you choose the DPS tree, it is pretty simple, first fill out the left side then the top, then head to the right. Skip crit multi nodes until you have decent crit chance, then fill them in.


Skill tree is pretty generic, totem nodes, MoM, lots of life nodes, some area and crit nodes, nothing really special here. You can drop some defenses from the bottom left of the tree for more damage if you want to, probably by going to Melding, Crackling Speed and Throatseeker nodes instead. These are to the right side of witch nodes.

Some Highlights from the Tanky tree:

193% Life
106% mana
305% increased crit chance without power charges
120% crit multiplier

with very average gear you should be able to easily reach 9k effective life, 70% crit chance

The DPS Tree takes much less life on the tree for a bunch of Crit Scaling.


The new Hierophant Ascendancy (yummy):


https://i.imgur.com/3Urj6br.jpg bigger image

You can take these nodes in any order you like, these are just my suggestions.

Normal: Pursuit of Faith

It will be nice to grab a third totem for levelling, and the damage boosts are ok

Cruel: CHOOSE Conviction of Power OR Ritual of Awakening

I don't think that 4 totems will be needed before maps, as you generally just drop one and run, but the placement speed and the regen will make playing feel much better. I will be taking Conviction of Power just for the easy Power and Endurance Charges.

Merc: CHOOSE Conviction of Power OR Ritual of Awakening

whichever is left :)

Uber: Illuminated Devotion

This will just give us some more damage, AOE and make our totems a little more tanky to deal with red maps.

Some other options:

You have to make your decision on which to pick of these sexy nodes. Sadly we can't have all of them. If you want to drop the Power Charge generation you can take Arcane Reverence instead of Conviction of Power. Whichever you pick, you will have to use either Arcane Surge or Power Charge on Crit skill gems with Orb of Storms to do the other part. I think it will depend on whether you are on softcore or hardcore that will decide the best choice. On softcore Conviction of Power seems a better choice since you will value the 5% penetration and being able to map fast with charges up. On hardcore shock and freeze could kill you, so perhaps you will want Arcane Reverence, and this will give you much better uptime on the Illuminated Devotion bonuses. It is worth noting that you only get a lvl 1 arcane surge from this ascendancy though. I will be taking Conviction of Power.

Also if you really don't want to play around Arcane Surge at all, you can take Divine Guidance to become more tanky. That is an option.


Alira - resists will make gearing in SSF much easier, crit multi is always good for crit builds, and mana regen synergises well with MoM and high totem cost.


Kill all - there are lots of great passives around the tree that we need to skip, the 2 points will always be useful, probably for more life nodes.


There are no threshold jewels for this build so just look for life and damage stats such as Totem damage, crit multi, lightning damage, area damage etc


stats you will need on gear:

life & resists obviously
Mana for MoM (effective life)
move speed on boots (less important if you use whirling blades, but essential for everything else)
probably will need DEX for faster attacks and Vaal Haste, but not much else.
attack speed on gloves is ok for movement skill

Amulet: Life + % spell/lightning dmg, crit & multi, cast speed, mana regen, all resist are good things to look out for

Rings: (Call of the Brotherhood if possible)
Diamond rings: Life + % lightning dmg, crit & multi, cast speed, mana regen, all resist. maybe attack speed for map clear speed

Weapons: This build is built around dagger + shield/spirit shield, using whirling blades as movement skill, because I am hoping for a nice crit dagger. However in SSF you often do not have this luxury and have to work with what you find or can craft.

Stats to look for on daggers: % Spell dmg, % Lightning dmg, flat Lightning dmg to spells, crit chance for spells (normal crit suffix applies to attacks only), Crit multi, attack speed

Stats to look for on spirit shields: Life & resists, % Spell dmg, % Lightning dmg, crit chance for spells, mana & regen, cast speed, chance to block / spells

Stats to look for on kite shields: Life & resists, % Spell dmg, % Elemental dmg, mana & regen, cast speed, chance to block / spells

You can also use:

Wand + kite shield (Armour/ES) and shield charge for movement (if you find a great wand & spirit shield you might have to resort to flame dash as your main movement skill)

Stats to look for on wands: % Spell dmg, % Lightning dmg, flat Lightning dmg to spells, crit chance for spells (normal crit suffix applies to attacks only), Crit multi, attack speed

Staff: Personally I have found that getting a good staff drop is close to impossible in SSF, and you will probably not want to waste fusings on linking a mediocre staff when you can farm tabula or craft life with alts/essenses on a 5L chest, which are common enough. However if you do find a 5L or better white staff you can craft a +2 lightning gems or a +1 all gems without too much trouble, either with essense or alterations. There is also a divination card that gives a 5L staff. I also do not like the movement skill options with staff, but the upside is you can take the staff nodes at the top of the tree (Serpent Stance & Blunt Trauma) for some nice crit scaling.

Stats to look for on Staves: +2 Lightning gems, +1 socketed gems, Spell dmg, % Lightning dmg, flat Lightning dmg to spells, crit chance for spells (normal crit suffix applies to attacks only), Crit multi, (mana & regen and chance to shock are ok I guess)

You can also get flat cold damage to spells on weapons to chill a bit for defenses.


Main DPS Setup

To be honest it is difficult to theorycraft the 'perfect' gem setup when path of building is not updated with new changes, and the patch notes might change things further. My advice is to level up lots of support gems in your offhand weapons to future proof yourself.

I will start with something like:

Storm Call
Spell Totem
Added Lightning Damage
Less Duration
Concentrated Effect (inc AOE could be swapped in for maps, but with 71% AOE on tree it is not really needed and the extra damage is better for breaches / abysses etc)
Increased Critical Strikes (until crit chance is enough, then swap for Controlled Destruction)

I will also level up for experimentation:

Controlled Destruction (is usually very good late game)
Lightning Penetration
Increased Critical Damage
Added Cold Damage (might be OK early game)
Elemental Focus (will losing shock be worth it?)
Faster Casting (probably meh)

CWDT Setup

Cast When Damage Taken lvl6
Immortal Call lvl8
(Summon Golem lvl8 any golem you prefer
Increased Duration lvl9
Enfeeble lvl9) pick 2 of these

enfeeble is nice for mapping, where you do not want to self cast curses or orb of storms because its annoying :D and that means you can have a higher level golem. for bossing you will probably want to self cast conductivity, so golem is better.

Mobility Setup

you have some choice here depending on your weapon setups

whirling blades + faster attacks + fortify
shield charge + faster attacks + fortify

These are meant to be on weapons or shield, but if you have a 4 socket you can use blood magic if you think in a dangerous situation you might have no mana do move due to MoM. Our mana regen should be enough I think.

flame dash for gaps


lightning warp + faster casting + less duration for staff users

Aura Setup

Clarity fully levelled

there is not much else to add, and MoM benefits from larger mana pool, but you could use:

Wrath: for DPS it is our best option, with the obvious disadvantage of losing mana pool to tank hits. Use when you need dps, remove when you want to be more tanky. If you find an Essense Worm Ring (as I did in SSF) that is a nice option to get the best of both worlds.

Arctic Armour: in my experience totem users dont stand still much, but this gem is OK, for being stunned/frozen or the ice patches if you need to kite a bit. I would still say not worth the reservation cost.

Herald of Ice / Herald of Thunder, only recieve the flat damage, not really worth the reservation IMO. If you are desperate for more damage then you can try it.

Orb of Storms / Curse / Power Charge on Crit/ Arcane Surge / Enduring Cry setup

This depends on whether you take Arcane Reverence or Conviction of Power ascendency. I will be using the self cast curse option below with a lvl 15/16 Arcane Surge.

If you take Arcane Reverance you will need:

Orb of Storms
Power Charge on Crit
Curse on Hit
(choice of curse) Conductivity, Enfeeble or Temporal Chains

if you want endurance charges you will need to self cast Enduring Cry.

You also have the option to drop the power charge nodes from the tree in favour of something else (more life or damage nodes) if you want, since you wont be using power charges as much.

If you take Conviction of Power then you have some options

Orb of Storms
Arcane Surge
Curse on Hit
(choice of curse) Conductivity, Enfeeble or Temporal Chains

Or you could self cast the curse which might make maintaining a higher level arcane surge possible since you don't need to worry about positioning the Orb of Storms badly when you are far away from the boss to maintain Arcane surge and you can spam curses really fast.


(choice of curse)
increased AOE
Increased Duration
Arcane Surge (level 15/16 recommended)

The support gems can be added to up the mana cost making Arcane Surge more reliable.

After some testing I think self casting curse with the gems above is a better option. If you want Arcane Surge to activate on every curse cast you can use a level 12 Arcane Surge from around the time you enter maps, and you may be able to push it a little further as you fully level your curse gem. For one surge every 2 casts, you should be easily able to maintain a level 15/16 Surge. However casting 3-4 curses over 6 seconds to maintain a level 20/21 Surge is doable as a totem build if you really want want to push it. I will recommend level 15/16 Arcane Surge.

It is worth noting that as our AOE size will change when we have Surge active, it will be very easy to see when it drops off based just on the combat onscreen, and not buff tracking, which is a nice quality of life.

Other Gems

Vaal Lightning Trap
Vaal Haste
Increased Duration

Quality of life gems, for more boss damage and clear speed respectively. You can craft these by vaaling the base gems in SSF, but it is quite expensive at the start of the league.

It may be worth farming aqueducts (act 4) or blood aqueduct (act 9) for humility cards, and the vaal side areas contained within for vaal gems to make the vaal orb vendor recipe (7x Vaal skill gems & 1x Sacrifice Vaal Fragment = 1 vaal orb)


Drop totems, run fast, stay underlevelled for your zone. Not much more to say. Leveling guides for casters are all over this forum, I cant be bothered to write out another one.

I will stress something for new players or slower players, your leveling speed through acts 1-10 has very little to do with how many monsters you kill. This seems strange in a game all about killing thousands of monsters, but your exp can effectively be measured by where your feet are on the ground. That is to say that if you are over-leveled in any way, the time it takes you to kill the monsters is time you have wasted. Totems actually suffer less from this, as you can often just drop 1 totem and keep running and waste very little time. Try to keep an eye on what level the zone is and stay under that if you can. Look for movement speed on boots, from vendors or buy them from other players, and do not be afraid to just skip lots of monsters, particularly annoying ones! Do you hate killing crabs in submerged passage? Just run past and let those poor suckers live.

If you are struggling on bosses because you are used to over-leveling them, try this little tip (if you are in normal league, not in SSF) look in the group finder for people doing that boss, or if you know the maps leading up to it and you see a group close, jump in the party. Often you will get a portal right to the boss and a quick kill from some over-geared or over-leveled people :)

You get shock nova in Act 3, before that pick a spell such as lightning tendrils, firestorm or freeze pulse, craft a +1 magic sceptre 3 link that supports the spell's element.


Thanks to MoarPizza for the template https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1651524

Last edited by dookleeto on Mar 12, 2018 5:55:01 PM
Last bumped on Mar 8, 2018 12:50:27 PM
Nice!, I'm going SSF too and will follow your guide, gonna try dark pact, thanks!
Completed 14 Challengesyakkittu99 wrote:
Nice!, I'm going SSF too and will follow your guide, gonna try dark pact, thanks!

Good luck :) The spell leech and the life regen to totems should be great for dark pact.
Last edited by dookleeto on Feb 26, 2018 4:18:06 PM
Reserved for start league
What I must change for Dark pact?
Completed 25 Challengesgera23ret wrote:
What I must change for Dark pact?

There shouldn't be any changes for the tree, but obviously anything related to lightning damage in the guide is moot.

I haven't played Dark Pact but I imagine links would be something like:

Dark Pact
Spell Totem
Added Chaos Damage
Void Manipulation
Concentrated Effect
Controlled Destruction

You may also want a way of summoning skeletons if the totems kill themselves too fast, but perhaps the leech and life regen from ascendancy will make that unnecessary. Vaal Summon Skeletons might also be good.

You probably also want to use Wither alongside Despair Curse for bossing.

These extra links might put some stress on your socket availability, so I suggest you build it yourself in Path of Building to get everything set up correctly. Path of Building seems to be updated with the new ascendancy changes now.
Updated to focus on Storm Call totems.

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