[3.6] Zombies/SRS Occultist - HC SSF Friendly

This is my first build I’ve ever managed to get to lvl 100 in hc ssf. I considered it rather generic, but as opposed to strength-stacking Necromancers, it didn't seem like this specific version got much attention. So, I thought maybe it's worth to share and discuss it.



Intro

A little background: back in Harbinger/Abyss I started getting into this whole mapping thing, but I'd get bored in sc pretty quickly and I prefer solo playstyle overall. Therefore, my goal was to get level 90 in a hc ssf temporary league. I started to experiment with the Necromancer focused on zombies. After a few failed attempts, I achieved that goal in Bestiary. Later on, I tried to improve the idea in Delve - but this time with the Occultist and it worked much better for me.

Delve/Betrayal summary

My purpose was to achieve high survivability in the endgame content as a summoner while not relying on uniques as far as possible. As turned out, I never hit any walls in the process of progressing my Atlas with this build. I didn't go for the top clear speed, but surely it was T15/16 viable. I think it worked fine in the Azurite Mine too, although I didn't delve much far past depth 300. It killed normal Atziri, the Mastermind in a monster lvl 79 map, the Elder in a monster lvl 80 map, and Guardian of the Chimera. I didn't try it against the other guardians or the Shaper, just to not risk the character.

The basics
Raging Spirits are temporary minions characterized by their mobility and aggressiveness. We can have 20 of them at the same time, so they can focus on a single target or disper when dealing with a pack of mobs.

Zombies are persistent minions which trade mobility for higher individual damage. Their AI also is different - usually they will follow the character unless we directly point the enemy to them. We can have 3 of them at the same time by default, but that number can by increased in various ways.

I've tried playing these skills separately, but in the end I enjoyed their complementarity the most.

If you're not familiar with Ascendancy classes in PoE, please follow this link.

A character employing SRS and zombies usually would be the Necromancer using a few unique items, probably The Baron as the cornerstone. My intention was to check if that build can be translated into a viable version under ssf conditions and the Occultist seemed suited to the job.

Videos
These are from 3.5. Mind that in 3.6, due to changes affecting curses, we get some damage buff against unique bosses, but rare enemies will be somewhat more dangerous.

Casual mapping

Pit of the Chimera (map)

Pit of the Chimera (boss)

Highlights (for the beginners)
I utilize Chaos Inoculation and Energy Shield recharge mechanics.

CI is a passive skill that sets our maximum life to 1, but makes us invulnerable to chaos damage, which is the only type of damage that normally bypasses ES. In other words, it allows us to focus entirely on getting more ES.

ES recharges constantly, unless we take damage. If so, it won't recharge for a delay of 2 seconds by default. By reducing this delay and increasing the chance of avoiding taking damage, we make sure it will re-start recharging as fast as possible. Then, with Occultist's Wicked Ward passive skill, ES recharge is not interrupted by damage if it began up to the past 4 seconds. On the top of that, Vaal Discipline can take away the delay completely in an emergency.

Additionaly, thanks to Occultist's Vile Bastion passive skill, we get up to 30% ES regeneration as long as our minions kill enough enemies and we can't be stunned.



My means for avoiding taking damage include:

- Combined evasion/block/dodge. Details change depending on the current gear and level, but it feels nice to have at least around 80% chance to avoid an attack with the flasks up, as calculated in Path of Building (tab Calcs). Sometimes I'd enhance evasion by using ghastly jewels with #% chance to blind on hit with attacks for minions.

- Cast When Damage Taken Support (lvl 1) + Immortal Call (lvl 1) + Temporal Chains (lvl 5). With this setup both IC and TC procc when we take 528 damage. IC makes us invulnerable to physical damage for a short time, allowing a part of ES recharge delay to past safely if we deal only with physical damage at the moment. TC slows enemies down, providing a safer environment.

- Curse on Hit Support + Enfeeble + Arc. Enfeeble is a general, defensive curse that has a synergy with evasion. It’s linked with Arc for the purpose of applying another curse and effects of Elemental Equilibrium at the same time (look below).

- Correct positioning. A lot of people like using Shield Charge for the defensive bonus of Fortify Support linked with it. It would be nice to squeeze in Fortify, but I don’t rely on that, I don't recommend Shield Charging right into packs of mobs at all.

People often refer to zombies as "meat shields" and it may work that way if you have enough of them and use CWDT + Convocation. I didn't really try it before, but Convocation gets its cooldown halfed in 3.6, so maybe it's worth noticing.

As for auras, my basic setup is Discipline + Haste. Discipline gives us additional ES and increases ES recharge rate. Haste increases our movement, attack, and cast speed. I was able to add Aspect of the Avian in Betrayal league as an additional source of movement speed/damage. All these auras grant bonuses to our minions as well.



I boost the minions in a few specific ways worth mentioning here. These include:

- Elemental Equilibrium. I like to focus my zombies and Raging Spirits on fire or fire and cold damage. EE is a passive skill which in that case allows us to decrease enemies’ resistances to those types of damage by hitting them with lightning damage. My personal preference is to apply it with Arc, as it gives a lot of freedom for positioning.

- Carnage Chieftain Spectres. They grant us and our minions frenzy charges, which are even more powerful on them than on us. In order to get corpses to raise them in the first place, we can go to The Old Fields (Act 2). Then, using Desecrate, we can raise them in a high level area – the Azurite Mine (accessible in Act 4) serves this purpose well. By linking them with Blood Magic Support, we allow them to grant frenzy charges more often.

- Spirit Offering. A spell that consumes corpses (which helps with dealing with some on-death effects, like corpse explosion) and grants buffs making it easier to keep zombies and spectres undead and happy.

- Elemental Weakness. A curse reducing elemental resistances, that one is rather straightforward. I apply it together with Enfeeble by using Curse on Hit Support + Arc.

- Mon'Tregul's Grasp. A unique Void Sceptre that greatly improves survivability of zombies and makes enemies killed by them explode, dealing fire damage to other nearby enemies. It’s the only unique I consider necessary, but it’s easy to get one by farming its divination card, Death. You can find it in maps like Flooded Mine (T4 in 3.6) or Marshes (T5 in 3.6).

- Profane Bloom. Occultist’s passive skill that has a similar effect to Mon'Tregul's Grasp, but requires the enemies to be cursed first and grants only a 25% chance for explosion. Also, it allows us to apply curses to enemies with hexproof mod. Remember that some enemies, like totems, can never be cursed anyway.

Mind that both Mon'Tregul's Grasp and Profane Bloom don’t actually remove corpses, so they don’t protect against any on-death effects. They exclude any need for Melee Splash Support that SRS usually has though.

Changes in 3.6 (curses changes and SRS buff)
Despite the initial hit in the patch notes with the mana cost, we're actually getting a buff to SRS (source). We can expect the cost to stay the same as before and their base accuracy to be doubled.

Other than that, not much changes in the tree for now. Arcane Will passive skill got Gain 4% of Maximum Mana as Extra Maximum Energy Shield, probably worth checking.

Convocation will have its cooldown reduced by 50%, but I learned to not rely on it, so I don't know yet hot useful it could be.

As compared to their effects in 3.5 applied by 20/20 (gem level/gem quality) gems, involving both old and new effects of boss "resistance" to curses:

[Initially I expected gem quality to improve the separate effects on rare/unique enemies, but it seems it's not the case, so Temporal Chains got hit harder.]

- Debuff applied by 20/20 Temporal Chains, causing enemies to have less action speed, will be ~64% less effective against rare enemies and ~40% less effective against map bosses, Incursion architects, Betrayal targets, and Breachlords.

- Debuff applied by 20/20 Enfeeble, causing enemies to deal less damage, will be 50% less effective against rare enemies and ~16% less effective against map bosses, Incursion architects, Betrayal targets, and Breachlords.

- Debuff applied by 20/20 Enfeeble, causing enemies to have reduced accuracy rating, will be ~51% less effective against non-unique enemies and ~18% less effective against map bosses, Incursion architects, Betrayal targets, and Breachlords.

- Debuff applied by 20/20 Elemental Weakness, reducing enemies' elemental resistances, will be ~68% more effective against map bosses, Incursion architects, Betrayal targets, and Breachlords.

As a result, I'll have to consider investing more into passive skills increasing curse effectivness, but I want to play for a bit and see how actually it is now first.


Passive Tree
www.pathofexile.com link (3.5): https://tinyurl.com/y2c97p37

PoB link (3.6): https://pastebin.com/EdMZPB9G, last edited: March 6, 2019.

Gems and Links
I've been trying two setups for SRS:
SRS + Spell Echo + Minion Dam. + Added Cold Dam. + Elem. Dam. with Attacks + Elem. Focus
or
SRS + Spell Echo + Minion Dam. + Immolate + Combustion + Multistrike.

I prepared a spreadsheet which should help you check if you can sustain mana for SRS. Just download it to use it.

Zombies:
Raise Zombie + Minion Dam. + Minion Speed + Added Fire Dam.

Curses:
Arc + Curse on Hit + Enfeeble + Elem. Weakness,
CWDT + Immortal Call + Temporal Chains.

Spectres (Carnage Chieftains):
Raise Spectre + Blood Magic.

We can't use skills supported by Blood Magic as a CI character (but it won't accidentally kill us either), so we need to remove the gem each time we raise the spectres.

Auras:
(Vaal) Discipline,
(Vaal) Haste.

Other:
Flame Dash,
Desecrate,
Spirit Offering.

Gear

Mon'Tregul's Grasp is very easy to obtain by farming a divination card named Death in maps like Flooded Mine (T4 in 3.6) or Marshes (T5 in 3.6).

This Vaal Regalia here is a result of crafting gear with Dense Fossils, which can be found in Fungal Caverns in the Azurite Mine. They make it easier to roll regular ES modifiers and have the potential to provide some modifiers that normally can't be found on rare items, like
- (25-50)% increased energy shield; suffix that can be rolled on helmets, gloves, boots, and body armours,
- (10–16)% increased energy shield from body armour; suffix that can be rolled on rings, amulets, and belts.


I think a helmet with +2 to level of socketed minion gems starts becoming noticeably helpful in T12/13 maps (or rather you start noticing a lack of it if you don't use one).


Keep an eye on Shaper belts, which drop in Shaper-influenced maps. They can have interesting modifiers, like:
- up to 10% increased maximum energy shield,
- up to 20% increased energy shield recovery rate.

Crystal Belts are distinguished by their implicit providing 60-80 to maximum ES. They can be found in particular region of the Atlas (it's for 3.6, but caution please, the map isn't 100% confirmed yet).


Rumi's Concotion can be obtained by farming Earth Drinker divination card, but a swap for a Quartz Flask works just fine too. I use such with suffixes 'of Dousing' or 'of Grounding' in maps with the high risk of getting ignited or shocked respectively.

Leveling
You can try going for the build directly, but zombies and spectres tend to die very often early on, and it may be hard to sustain enough Raging Spirits. I’d say it slowly starts rolling in Act 5.

You are probably better off going as a spellcaster (Arc works well), target Spiritual Aid passive skill as fast as possible, approximate the tree, and just fix a few nodes around the point of reaching maps.

I'm going to add more specific outline and break the passive tree by stages in the future. For now, here's a short description of how advancing the tree may look like if you stick to SRS and zombies from the beginning:

"
First, I go to Death Attunement through Cruel Preparation. Then, it's the quite long route between Witch's and Templar's areas of just travelling to Elemental Equilibrium, Potency of Will, and Gravepact. You can grab Quick Recovery on that way.

Next, you can go towards Purity of Flesh and then take (some part of) the wheel with Righteous Army, Spiritual Aid, and Redemption. As soon as I can get Curse on Hit Support gem at the end of Act 4, I take Whispers of Doom and use it with Enfeeble and Elemental Weakness. Don't use any curses on Doedre Darktongue btw!

Then, I go towards Templar's starting area to grab Retribution, Discipline and Training or Precision, and Sancity.

From there, you can take missing minion nodes and get closer to Chaos Inoculation. At the end of Act 10 you can quite easily have 4-5k EHP (life + ES). I think I take Zealot's Oath when my ES hits ~2k, but that forces you to be a bit more careful about chaos damage.

Usually, I level up as a hybrid life/ES character until I get gear providing overall 6-7k ES, then I switch to CI.
Last edited by Aeui on Mar 8, 2019, 11:47:38 AM
Last bumped on Mar 11, 2019, 9:25:25 AM
end-game viable? (softcore)
Last edited by dollygm on Mar 7, 2019, 11:32:51 AM
"
dollygm wrote:
end-game viable? (softcore)


The Mastermind (red maps tiers) - yes.

The Elder and his guardians (red maps tiers) - yes and protecting the Shaper shouldn't be a problem.

The Shaper's Guardians - yes. The Shaper - probably yes, but I haven't tried it yet.

No idea about Uber Elder.

Delve - I got to depth 319, could go further. I'm a bit worried about rare monsters in the mine regarding the nerfs to Temporal Chains and Enfeeble, but we'll see.

[edit] I added a few videos, so hopefully it's not totally groundless.
Last edited by Aeui on Mar 7, 2019, 8:11:31 PM
Trying SSFHC for the first time in 3.6. Saw this guide and gonna give it a shot. One of the few, well written SSFHC guides. I'm sure I'll be messaging you to pick your brain at some point lol.


Could you maybe add some level progression passive trees? I'm sure I could wing it prioritizing life and whatnot, but that would be super helpful..

Also I assume you kill all bandits? And what pantheons do you utilize?
Last edited by ruth1ess on Mar 8, 2019, 10:21:09 AM
How viable would this build be without using Raise Specter? I don't really like having to hunt down specific mobs to raise myself.
"
ruth1ess wrote:
Trying SSFHC for the first time in 3.6. Saw this guide and gonna give it a shot. One of the few, well written SSFHC guides. I'm sure I'll be messaging you to pick your brain at some point lol.


That's cool, good luck!

"
ruth1ess wrote:
Could you maybe add some level progression passive trees? I'm sure I could wing it prioritizing life and whatnot, but that would be super helpful..


The plan is to add the details as I level up in Synthesis. Unfortunately, I won't have much time in the first days. For now, I just added a short description in Leveling section, check it again please.

I'd like to emphasise on the fact that zombies and spectres are fragile early on.

You probably shouldn't even bother with spectres until Act 6. You can use some random offensive ones earlier, if you don't mind raising them now and then.

Before you get Mon'tregul's Grasp, your zombies need rather defensive support gems like Fortify, Minion Life, and Minion and Totem Elemental Resistance. Especially, burning damage just deletes them if you don't raise their resistances. Minion life leech on the tree or ghastly jewels can help a bit.

If you happen to find some uniques, like Wraithlord or Skullhead, that can significantly change things though.

I haven't tested using Bone Offering instead of Spirit Offering early on, but I'm curious if that works better during leveling.

"
ruth1ess wrote:
Also I assume you kill all bandits? And what pantheons do you utilize?


I help Alira for resistances and mana regeneration. You can change that decision later if your gear allows you.

From the minor gods, Tukohama. In the lab you can switch to Rakalesh.

From the major gods, Solaris, but I guess Lunaris isn't a bad choice either.

"
SimianChaos wrote:
How viable would this build be without using Raise Specter? I don't really like having to hunt down specific mobs to raise myself.


They're rather a significant support. You don't really need to hunt them: when you don't have them, using Desecrate in the right area will eventually spawn their corpses. When you have or just had them in your current area, it will do that too. And they aren't gone when you log out. So, you need to repeat the process from scratch only if they die and you loose the last area you had them in.

Using Spirit Offering helps a lot with keeping them alive in maps. It may be a good idea to not use Blood Magic during leveling though, at least not before you grab enough minion life nodes and level up the gems.
Last edited by Aeui on Mar 8, 2019, 3:58:12 PM
having fun with the build :D thx for the guide.

can you talk about the setups for srs? cyaa
"
dollygm wrote:
having fun with the build :D thx for the guide.


Great to hear!

"
dollygm wrote:
can you talk about the setups for srs? cyaa


Both setups have similar DPS on paper.

But first of all, the one with Immolate + Combustion is more aesthetically pleasing (single elemental damage type). Then, Combustion introduces a synergy with zombies - they will deal more fire damage to every enemy ignited by Raging Spirits.

The downside is that I think it requires a 6-link. You should also be worried if they can ignite smoothly enough in maps in which monsters have a 90% chance to avoid elemental ailments. That can be annoying to some degree, but if you give 5-6 those Spirits a second to ignite the target, it will burn in over 90% of trials anyway.

The other one is just more reliable in comparison. You can cut out the last socket or two, if you can't use them at the moment, and it still makes sense.
Last edited by Aeui on Mar 10, 2019, 10:56:34 AM
What Order Do you Get your ascendancies in.
I can't imagine doing maps without Vile Bastion.
But the extra curse seems pretty important too.

I've never done a minion build before. this one looked cool. so i'm giving it a go.
"
DeathSabre wrote:
What Order Do you Get your ascendancies in.
I can't imagine doing maps without Vile Bastion.
But the extra curse seems pretty important too.

I've never done a minion build before. this one looked cool. so i'm giving it a go.


Wicked Ward -> Vile Bastion -> Profane Bloom -> Malediction

I think I'm always already CI in uber lab, so Vile Bastion first it is.

Of course, in softcore you have more freedom regarding curses. If you feel like you don't need that much defense, you can try using Vulnerability instead of Temporal Chains or Enfeeble.

Best of luck!

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