[3.8] Herald of Agony Mana Guardian With Spectre Tanks | Cheap | Deathless Uber Elder | Delve 1000+

Mana Guardian caught the POE world by storm when POEDan took it to a whopping 1359 hardcore delve level in Legion. He had something like 27K energy shield, 40K armor, and well over 1 million in Shaper DPS.

Since then POEDan got bored with the build and went back to self-curse Juggernaut. I am making a guide for this build because I truly believe it is the best all-around build in the game, especially if you don't have a lot of money to spend, hate dying and want to level to level 100 while farming T16/Uber Elder without ever reading map mods.

I looked around and there is only a 3.6 version of the guide from Unlimitation which is a shame for one of the strongest builds in the game to go under the radar. My take on this build is significantly more damage than a pure tank, and takes advantage of minion update to add some extremely powerful tanks for our build.

Full credit goes to POEDan and Unlimitation and many others who built mana guardians before! Special thanks to MonkiGW2 who inspired me add minions to this build to make it even more powerful! Check out his comments and POB on page 9 if you want more minion variety like Chieftain for frenzy/power charges and Animate Guardian with Kingmaker for fortify.

For this guide we will keep it simple and take four Stoneskin Frayers, as they require little investment, 175,000 life (not a typo) each to tank anything for you, and add 25% MORE damage to your crawler thanks to onslaught, feeding frenzy, and elemental army cold resistance reduction. Please see the Choose The Right Spectre section.

3.8 Changes:

Thanks to the minion update, now with four Stoneskin Frayer Spectres to trigger Onslaught and Feeding Freezy for our crawler! It is 20% MORE damage overall plus expendable meat shields that add another 20K damage x 4, brings our total damage to over 2 million once you count the Skitterbot 20% more damage from shock aura. They also taunt all non-bosses with meat shield support.

Healthy Minds changed to unique is not a big nerf. In reality, Grand Spectrum with a different passive tree is just as good. Guardian ascendancy also received some minor buffs. Players are still hitting >30K energy shield if they went for maximum energy shield instead of more balanced builds. But our build will do 4-10 times more damage.

How This Build Works

Herald of Agony has always been a low-maintenance, high damage skill that requires very little passive tree investment. Despite several nerfs it is still one of the strongest skills in the game. So you see defensive classes like Juggernaut, Occultist, Raider, Gladiator, and of course Guardian all use it and put all of their gear and passive points into defense. The skill only really cares about gem level, so you need very few investment in offensive stats.

Mana Guardian has always been one of the strongest defensive classes in the game. By reserving our mana, we get much higher energy shield numbers than Occultist. Thanks to Memory Vault helmet, we have massive armor for 90% physical damage reduction, and it also allows us to pop huge molten shell & vaal molten shell's which make us nearly invulnerable outside of their short cooldowns. We also have very high block chance. All of this make us much more tanky than say, an Occultist with similar amount of energy shield.

For tanking, our only real competition is Juggernaut with self-temporal chains or dual Nebuloch at delve 1500+. However I believe Herald of Agony is a far less clunky day-to-day build when it comes to map clear speed and bossing. We have a lot more margin for error because we are playing at range and our damage is full screen pierce. Our damage and clearing speed is also much higher. Our build is also way cheaper since we don't need a headhunter.

How This Build Plays & Sample Videos

You get to cast balls of lightning from long range to poison your enemies, hide behind your four indestructible Spectre tanks, and your crawler kill everything on the screen. You have much more defense than a Necromancer or even Occultist, you can pop Vaal Molten Shell and face tank better than just about all other classes in the game if you feel like it.

Uber Elder Deathless Run - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgFGKsPR1qs

Very sloppy run but shows you how many Shaper balls we can take in the face with Time of Need and still make it deathless. This is one of the few builds that can farm T16 / Uber Elder non-stop AND level at same time in late 90's. Our margin of error is huge with our amazing recovery!

General T16 Mapping - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Coo4imYchQQ

General demonstration of playing style and clearing speed on a T16 map.

Pros & Cons



1) Cheap to start with a very basic set of unique items, scales well with end game gear if you want to spend more currencies, but not ultra expensive as we use very few rares. High mana no life items are also niche so we don't have much competition for gear.

2) As tanky as any deep delve build, if not tankier, an Occultist with similar energy shield is glass cannon by comparison:

a) 17-18K energy shield, 30-35K armor (50K when we flask)
b) 7K molten shell / 20K vaal molten shell (10K and 30K when we flask)
c) High block chance, OR an extra 6000 energy shield regenerated every 5 seconds.
d) Four tanks with 175,000 health each as your indestructible front line!
e) 500 energy shield regeneration per second, 800 when standing still, 1500 when standing still and block a hit last 4 seconds
f) Immunity to chaos damage thanks to CI

It is as good of a defensive resume as it gets outside of maybe self-curse Juggernaut. Best of all? You use ball of lightning so you can cast from full screen range so you don't need to face check things like corpse explosion from a strongbox on a map with huge damage mods.

3) Full screen clear with Herald of Agony pierce and 2 million shaper damage and you clear really fast for such a defensive build! Herald of Agony is also invulnerable, so you don't ever worry about things like damage reflect or zombie dying in deep delve. I am not even counting the frenzy charges you can get if it is not a single target boss fight which brings you to 2.5 million Shaper damage when mapping/delving.

4) Low button press, no clunky mechanisms, no preparation needed.


1) At 1500, Juggernaut self curse temporal chains is tankier with their insane reduction. At 2000+ delve level, defense no longer matters. Builds like raider scourge arrow perform well with "kill them before they touch you" mentality and RNG based defense. However these are also a lot more expensive builds.

2) Unblockable attacks, such as heavy ground damage can still kill you. Your reflex will go down from playing this build so you may die from standing on too many ground effects.

3) You may get bored of the game if you literally can not die, and it is a mindless playing style without aiming, and low number of active skills to press and maintain.

4)You are playing an old bald man, perhaps this is why guardian has never been super popular compared to cooler classes.

I played plenty of meta builds like arc mines, cyclone slayers, 1000+ strength zombies, and various occultist energy shield builds when these builds were at their peaks. Nothing felt anywhere near as safe as mana guardian. It is an insane combination of high energy shield, high damage reduction, high block, AND high sustain, plus very respectable damage and clear speed. All of my previous builds felt way more fragile in comparison. It is one of the few builds that allows me to actually level up in the late 90's doing pure T16 maps and farming Uber Elder on every cooldown.

Starter Gear - Strongest Level 68 Ever


Level 68 will get you 8000+ energy shield, 15000 armor, and over 1 million shaper damage. It is as strong a level 68 as you can get with cheap gear listed below.

Helmet - Memory Vault

Fundamental to all mana guardian builds as we reserve huge amount of mana, this allows us to have 80% physical damage reduction and the huge molten shell / vaal molten shell.

Gloves - Shaper's Touch

Fundamental to all mana guardian builds, converts our strength to mana and energy shield, great synergy. You can get started with a basic pair for super cheap during leveling with discipline and dread banner, upgrade to a corrupted pair with +1 gem level to use Hatred. Buy the cheapest one with +1 level and you can easily re-color with vaal orbs at your work bench, this is the cheapest way to activate Hatred with Herald of Agony. This is where we keep Hatred, Enlighten and Generosity.

Once you get your Circle of Nostalgia, the final socket can be either blue for Skitter Bot in late game or red for Flesh and Stone . Please be aware you will need either a Circle of Nostalgia or +1 gloves or +4 enlighten to activate Hatred. And you will need all three of these to use Skitter Bot.

Body Armour - Skin of the Loyal

"100% increased global defense" basically doubles the armor we get from our helmet which is well over 10K in this build, which translates into bigger molten shell as well. +1 gem level is basically +2 to Herald of Agony skill gem level because we use empower. Buy a super cheap vanilla one with 3 Red 2 Green 1 Blue. When you have money you can upgrade to a corrupted one with another +1 level to gem levels which is 25% MORE damage overall.

If you can't find the perfect color, 2 Red 3 Green 1 Blue will allow you to use vicious projectile instead of maim, but it will cost more mana and you will not be able to use Hatred + 35% aura like skitterbot or discipline unless you can get 36% mana reduction on your Circle of Nostalgia. For Maim you only need 34% mana reduction so keep that in mind.

Amulet - Astramentis

Perfect pairing with all attribute based builds. Very hard to beat for the price. Strength and intelligence are great for mana guardian. We also need to meet Herald of Agony's 159 dexterity requirement so that 100+ dexterity allows us to not worry about it. Price varies a lot depends on total number of stat points. +100 to all three stats is a lot cheaper than +115 for example so you can start with a budget one and upgrade later.

Weapon - Cold Iron Point Dagger or Rare Wand

Cold Iron Point dagger is a great starter weapon, as it is a whopping +3 levels to Herald of Agony. You will also be able to play Cyclone with poison/fortify/blind support (see skills section) if you hate ball of lightning. It also saves you a skill point in elemental equilibrium.

A minion wand with +1 minion skill gem and triggers socketed gems on skill use, and minion damage/attack speed. You can actually do better than me and pick up something with +150 mana on top of this. Auto cast curse, desecrate and spirit offering just makes the build so smooth and lazy to play.

Shield - Whakatutuki o Matua

2500 energy shield, 10% MORE damage thanks to aura buffs. You also get 5% energy shield per second for 4 seconds after you block which is good sustain as well for both you and your minions. Best in slot for your Spectres.

Boots - Rainbowstride

Really great boots as 6% chance to block spells is 12% with Lethal Pride, and excellent resistance. Great value for the money. You can also get a rare boots with more resistance, intelligence and mana, and even can not be chilled/frozen, but you will lose 12% spell block.

Rings & Belts

You will want rings and belts with high resistance, mana, intelligence, strength and energy shield. Because you don't want life, you can get these for really cheap. This is where you cap your resistance. Remember later on you will upgrade one of the two rings to Circle of Nostalgia which does not come with any elemental resistance, so having extra resistance well above 75 to the point you can hit 75%/80%/76% with only one ring is not a bad idea.

Lethal Pride

Doubles our block chance which makes our sustain and damage reduction much more consistent against all contents. Half damage off with heal trigger makes our defense much more stable.

High Priority Upgrades


Circle of Nostalgia

Allows you to activate a second aura like Flesh and Stone, or Skitterbot with +1 glove gem level and +4 enlighten. Please see the mana reservation section later. You should aim for 34% mana reduction or higher if you use maim, 36% mana reduction or higher for vicious projectiles, but do play around with POB to see how much you can squeeze in.

Level 21 Herald of Agony and Level 4 Empower are must have damage upgrades.

You will also need a Watcher's Eye with "+16-18% of your maximum mana as extra maximum energy shield when affected by clarity", a fundamental item for all energy shield based builds.

Enlighten 4 and Shaper Glove +1 Socketed Gems to turn on Skitter Bot in addition to Hatred.

Ultra Luxury Upgrades


An expensive rare belt with +12% attributes and 40+ strength, plus some extra mana and resistance will give you another extra 800 energy shield.

Corrupted Skin of the Loyal with 2 levels of socketed gems instead of 1, it is 25% MORE damage overall, it is that big of an upgrade. But it is hard to find. This is how you get to more than 3 million single target Shaper damage, and 4 million when mapping/delving.

Bottled Faith will give you a much bigger area of effect for consecrated ground healing, and another 8%-10% MORE damage. It is the new head hunter for every build.

Helmet Enchant with Herald of Agony reservation reduction will free up passive points needed for mana reservation reduction, or even enable a third aura like Flesh and Stone's OP sand stance. It is very hard to buy this enchant so you will most likely need to run Uber Lab yourself.

+1 to minion skill AND +1 to chaos skill wand, yes these do exist and it will give your agony crawler two extra levels instead of one.

See the POB section for ultra luxury version of this build!



Golden Rule: Must have to double your poison applications. Herald of Agony is all about maintaining your virulence stacks. I use this even during early leveling without CI.

Healthy Mind: Huge mana increase and we found a perfect spot for it, right next to the life nodes around Cruel Preparation.

Tempered Spirit: Huge mana increase and we found a perfect spot for it, right below Mind Drinker, ton of unallocated dexterity points there.

Grand Spectrum: Pick up three of these and it is 90 mana each.

Lethal Pride: Not supported in Path of Building yet, but this will double our block and make our defense much more consistent. Taking half of blocked damage is not a problem as we heal right back up thanks to our shields. Min max this with better passives is a huge pain so I just bought the cheapest one. Put it in the socket below Pain Attunement and allocate it.

Watcher's Eye: "+16-18% of your maximum mana as extra maximum energy shield when affected by clarity", a fundamental item for all energy shield based builds. Expensive upgrade for late game.

Skill Links


Body Armour: Herald of Agony | Minion Damage | Damage on Full Life | Empower | Pierce | Maim

Change pierce for vile toxin for single target boss fights. Although very few boss fights don't come with adds, so I just use pierce for everything. To use something like Vicious Projectiles instead of Maim, you will need 36% or more mana reduction on your Circle of Nostalgia if you want to use Hatred plus a second 35% mana reduction aura. With Maim you only need 34%.

Glove: Hatred - Generosity - Enlighten - Flesh and Stone OR Skitter Bot

Glove needs to come with +1 to gem level OR enlighten needs to be level 4, otherwise you will not be able to use Hatred even with full mana reservation skill points until you get Circle of Nostalgia. Once you have all three, you can use Skitter Bot.

Skitterbot (or Discipline) + Dread Banner is a great substitute during leveling before you can turn Hatred on.

Weapon: Poacher's Mark - Desecrate - Spirit Offering

You can use another curse like Projectile Weakness, or a defensive curse like Enfeeble & Temporal Chains. However frenzy charges will add another 25% MORE damage for your crawler so I prefer to use that instead. Since I am now using Spectres and have Onslaught all the times, I use spirit offering as it is a little more damage and provides elemental resistance.

Offhand - Whakatutuki o Matua: Raise Spectres - Meat Shield
- Feeding Frenzy

What makes this build special, try it and you will never go back to any other flavor of Herald of Agony!

Helmet: Convocation - Vaal Molten Shell - Increased Duration - Clarity

Add levels to clarity as needed to reserve all except maybe 50 points of your mana, you don't need it until Watcher's Eye.

Boots: Ball of Lightning - Poison Support - Faster Casting - Flame Dash

Herald of Agony itself is 20% poison chance, combined with Poison Support it is already 80% poison chance, with Golden Rule it is enough to keep stacks up. Notice you will need lesser poison support instead of poison support until you can add chaos damage to your spells, Circle of Nostalgia provides this. During leveling you will likely want to have both Poison Support and Lesser Poison Support. Faster Casting is great as it benefits both Ball of Lightning and Flame Dash.

Choose The Right Spectre


We are much more durable than Necromancers, but our minions are a lot more fragile. So to compensate for this, we will take the most tanky spectres in the game.

The best spectre for our build is Stoneskin Frayer from Delve 250+, you will find them in Primeval Fortress or Primeval Chamber. Just desecrate, press A to target corpse and summon. They have 175K health and 75 elemental resistance with this build, and will tank anything for you with fast movement speed. You get free onslaught and feeding frenzy buff for your crawler, and free taunt with meat shield support.

Until you are that far in Delve, I like Towering Figment from Grand Arena in Act 4, they don't show up in desecrate for some reason, so you will need to walk around to kill them, target corpse with A and summon.

For general mapping, you can always use Carnage Chieftain and Host Chieftain from Act 7 Ashen Field. Change your curse from Poacher's Mark to Projectile Weakness. I have a very hard time keep them alive in deeper delve, but they are great if you want to maximize mapping speed for day-to-day grind.

You can take any Spectre with this build as we are really just using them to buff our crawler! Experiment and I am sure in future updates we will have more toys to play with!

Flasks & Oil


a) Remi's Concoction adds 20% chance to block spell damage with our build, and another 10K armor on top of it. Try to pop this before Vaal Molten Shield during boss fights and you can face tank everything. Shaper slams don't even dent me.

b) Sulphur Flask is like a healing potion for our build as long as we stand still, and I added bleed removal onto it.

c) Jade Flask provides a lot of evasion and I added armor on top of it. You can use something like freeze removal instead or whatever utility you prefer.

d) Remaining flask can be whatever you like, I chose quicksilver for movement speed.

For Oil, Utmost Might (huge strength increase) is the most popular choice, Soul of Steel (huge armor and +1 maximum resistance) is a good secondary choice. Diamond Skin if you need resistance.

Path of Building & Skill Trees


Level 68 POB: https://pastebin.com/9CX91tcU
Level 68 Talent Tree: http://poeurl.com/cBUX
8000 energy shield, 1 million Shaper damage, 15K armor, not bad for a level 68! You will only be able to use Hatred if you have either Circle of Nostalgia, Enlighten Level 4, or Shaper +1 Gem Gloves.

Level 95 POB: https://pastebin.com/Et6swqW2
Level 95 Talent Tree http://poeurl.com/cB9K
Once you buy Circle of Nostalgia, you can at least use Flesh and Stone's blind aura. You can switch to Skitter Bot later once you have +1 Gloves and Enlighten 4, which takes you over 2 million single target Shaper damage, 2.6 million in mapping/delving situations when you can give your crawler consistent frenzy charges thanks to Poacher's Mark.

Ultra Luxury POB: https://pastebin.com/UZnuyeYY

3.3 million damage (4.2 million when mapping thanks to Poacher's Mark giving consistent frenzy charges in map/delve, please notice POB currently can not track Skitter Bot shock accurately, just add 20% MORE), double curse, being able to use Hatred, Flesh and Stone, and Skitter Bot at same time. Thanks Laughing8ull!

Ascendancy, Pantheon & Bandits



Radiant Faith

=> Radiant Crusade

=> Unwavering Crusade

=> Bastion of Hope vs Time of Need

As we now added spectres to this build, you need to take Soul of Lunaris against chain attacks. Stun immunity and 20% spell block vs high (albeit slightly random) recovery is personal choice. I took Time of Need as I am using Spectres to tank, I don't go on the front line nearly as much as I did before, and the huge recovery boost is helpful vs Uber Elder.


Soul of Lunaris, as you need to protect yourself against chain damage.

Soul of Tukohama if you enjoy stationary face tanking like I do.

Bandits: Kill all, we need the two skill points.

Leveling & Mana Reservation


Use a melee skill like cleave or molten strike until level 18, once you have Herald of Agony, leveling becomes trivial. 4 link is a lot of damage already. Switch to CI at level 68 once you can equip all of your core equipment for a big power increase.

You will need enlighten level 4 (expensive) or +1 skill gem level corruption on Shaper's Touch (cheaper), and ALL mana reservation skill points to use Hatred without Circle of Nostalgia's Herald of Agony mana reservation reduction.

Until you do, discipline (skitter bot if you prefer offense) and dread banner are great filler choices. Remember you want to keep your unreserved mana as low as possible to maximize your energy shield and armor. So use higher Clarity level to allocate as much of the last 1-2% as possible.

FAQ & Alternative Builds


1) Why did you allocate Pain Attunement?

This is because POE Ninja and Path of Building currently do not display Timeless Jewels correctly. We are using Lethal Pride on the socket next to Pain Attunement which converts it into Glancing Blows. This is also why you see weird keystones from POE Ninja characters.

2) I can not poison any act bosses with my level 1 poison gems!

Make sure you have at least a few levels of lesser poison support gems, otherwise chaos damage are rounded into zero against act bosses.

3) Why elemental equilibrium?

Ball of Lightning will lower the fire and cold resistance of your enemies, this is 20% MORE damage once you turn on hatred with generosity. You should not equip any item that adds cold damage to your spell or attacks, other wise you will increase the cold resistance of your enemies.

4) I love Guardian's durability, I hate Herald of Agony, any other suggestions?

Try Baron Zombie Guardian, good for Delve 1400+ in HC!

1400+ Delve: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/507892314
1350+ Delve With Build Explanation: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/507452792

HC Delve 1400+ POB: https://pastebin.com/nBh051dA (very creative use of soul ripper, molten shell head enchant and determination to run a max out vaal molten shell with almost no cooldown)

Budget Friendly Setup: https://pastebin.com/MpCheBQy (unless you have that set up, pride or hatred is better than determination by a huge margin, here is a more budget friendly set up, emperor's jewels can be replaced with rare jewels with strength)

Questions & Suggestions welcome! I hope to keep this guide updated as I absolutely love Guardian's playing style!
Last edited by hitmantb on Nov 19, 2019, 9:36:46 PM
Last bumped on Dec 12, 2019, 2:46:41 PM
Thanks for updating the build for 3.8! Over the past months I lost interest in this game and couldn't get myself to theorycraft a 3.8 update to this build.
Came here from the other thread, so thanks for updating the original guide for 3.8. Build is super tanky and fun to play. Got really lucky with my jorgin bench craft and just made this talisman to replace my astramentis so hoping to break 20k ES soon.

I've bought this items. Now it's time to level and try the build. Gonna post some feedback soon ^^ Thanks for the build.

20c gloves (need to change colors with some vaals lulz)
stephenp1983 wrote:
Came here from the other thread, so thanks for updating the original guide for 3.8. Build is super tanky and fun to play. Got really lucky with my jorgin bench craft and just made this talisman to replace my astramentis so hoping to break 20k ES soon.

Added your amulet to upgrades section :)
Last edited by hitmantb on Oct 13, 2019, 6:47:32 PM
Why Pain Attunement
UpperForPOE wrote:
Why Pain Attunement

Lethal Pride converts it into glancing blows:

Last edited by hitmantb on Oct 14, 2019, 2:31:05 PM
Hi, in act V I had big problems with High Templar Avarius and Kitava (chaos immune) no chance to poison them ( ball lightning, Poison and LessPoison lvl 1). Any suggestions?

mon1620deo wrote:
Hi, in act V I had big problems with High Templar Avarius and Kitava (chaos immune) no chance to poison them ( ball lightning, Poison and LessPoison lvl 1). Any suggestions?


You sure they are chaos immune? I just leveled my character recently, didn't notice any issue and not aware of any monster in the game with chaos immunity.

Try level up your lesser poison level 1 as it does not add any more mana cost to your ball of lightning. It is possible they are resistant to chaos damage so you don't have enough chaos damage on ball of lightning? Just purely guessing.
Just hit 80 - great job with the guide. Destroying everything so far. Just did a red elder and only Eradicator even considered damaging me. No flasks on Elder (level 82). Going to spawn Uber elder next and give it a go.

Edit: Was terrible to level though. I think if I do this again, I am going to do something else until 68 and I have access to Memory Vault (and Shaper's touch at 66). The other stuff you can get around and work towards more easily I think.

I should also add that I chose to go dagger/mace and shield to use shield charge for faster mapping and play overall. I still have enough DPS so far though.
Last edited by Perce79 on Oct 14, 2019, 8:41:20 PM

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